Conversation

I was six months into training Jiu-Jitsu when I found myself standing across from my first opponent in a state-wide competition.

He had trained much longer, and I simply wasn’t on his level.

So he submitted me.

Looking back, I lasted much longer than perhaps I should have.

The fight taught me a valuable lesson. Not in the four and a half minutes of sloppily trying to defend myself while failing to implement the one technique I was half-good at, but in the opening ten seconds of the match.

The referee said ‘Combach!‘ And we were on. I locked eyes with my opponent as we each hesitated. We stared each other down for less than three seconds before my coach’s voice pierced my ear with a nugget of wisdom which has been bouncing around my head ever since;

‘Be first Luke. Be First!’

Without thinking twice, I took his advice. I closed the distance, took my grips forcefully, and executed the guard pull which I’d drilled for weeks leading up to the comp.

I caught my opponent completely un-prepared, and I had the fight where I needed it to be.

I created opportunity by seizing initiative.

I didn’t win, but I put myself in a position where I could have. A position I wouldn’t have found myself in had I not bitten the bullet and committed to action.

It’s unlikely that I would have lasted as long as I did had I not seized control of the fight at the start.

The importance of this extends far beyond losing Jiu-Jitsu fights slower than you could have.

We all have moments every day when we could use a coach to prompt us into action, but hiring someone to follow you around whispering ‘be first every forty seconds is expensive.

In life, we have to be our own coaches.

Remind yourself constantly.

Carpe diem translates to ‘seize the day’, but it means seize the moment.

Seize every moment possible.

You bump into a friend on the street and you’re both waiting for the other to extend their hand, or offer a hug?

You and a stranger are both politely waiting for the other to get on the bus, and now you’re holding up the queue?

Your lecturer asked a remedial question that everyone in the class should know the answer to, but nobody wants to risk answering?

Be. First.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone will be thankful you did.

What have you risked? Nothing.

The only think you’ve risked the one-in-a-hundred chance of an awkward three seconds, and you’re probably better for it.

Being first is always better than waiting for someone else to be.

Who’s the most decisive person you know? Who’s the most confident? Next time you see them, notice that they’ve made this a habit.

Try and think of one person you look up to who doesn’t put their front foot forward. Can you? I can’t.

Be first friends. Start now.

I’ve been on a Seth Godin binge, and I can’t get this Q&A out of my head. I adore it.

I had flirted with this idea of ruckus before I encountered Godin’s work, but it had always plagued me with a sense of vagueness.

I liked making ruckus. I wanted to make more and I knew it was important. I believed in it, but I couldn’t explain it succinctly – until now.

The central premise of ruckusmaking is that in the modern age;

It’s free to be wrong.

The required cost to start something; whether that’s a business, a blog, a charity, a community, an anything, is now little-to-none.

The internet provides the means to connect to almost anyone on the planet for a fraction of the cost it would have just a few decades ago.

People know this is the case, and so we’re craving connection more than we ever have before. Everyone wants groups to be inside. Whenever we make a purchase, whenever we show up somewhere, we are actively seeking out a feeling of belonging.

A feeling of; people like us do things like this.

The result is an economy where good ideas that connect people are immensely valuable, as long as they get followed through.

How do you know if an idea is a good one if you don’t tell anyone about it, and then try it?

You don’t. Herein lies the problem.

To illustrate this point Godin metaphorically refers to the game Pictionary – charades with pictures.

Ruckusmakers are amazing at Pictionary, because they start guessing from the second the first line is drawn.

They guess, because it’s free to be wrong, and the rewards for being right are high.

They continue to guess, thinking out loud and unfiltered, until they get close. The drawer then gets excited, and with a flurry of pencil tapping and minor adjustments, they bring the ruckusmaker across the line.

People who sit back silently while they watch their partner slowly recreate starry night might end up with a much better hint for the Pictionary card which reads ‘Vincent van Gogh’, but they will have done so in fifteen times the time of someone who drew this;

The ruckusmaker brain generates a volley of ideas until they find the right one;

Person, hat, cowboy, depressed, monkey, ear, cowboy ear?, cutting ear (the pencil tap-tap-taps), OH! It’s Van Gogh.

The starry night folks might have ended up with a beautiful picture; but the ruckusmakers beat them to the punch, and win the game. Every time.

This is making ruckus.

In this economy, people who make a habit out of generating ideas and commit to the right ones do better jobs at connecting people, and inevitably come out on top.

So make ruckus.

Seth has published an accumulation of work which centres around ruckusmaking on his blog, which I highly recommend reading if this resonated with you in any way.

Honesty is not the best policy.

It’s a good policy. It’s the foundation of all productive relationships, but it doesn’t work on it’s own.

Honesty is not as productive by definition as we give it credit for.

When we ask people for their honesty, we are usually asking for their candour.

Candour = Honesty x (Respect + Empathy)

Candour is honesty charged with the productive forces of empathy and respect.

Candour insists that the sum of your respect and empathy must be positive if you are to expect a positive response from your honesty.

Ed Cartmul, the driving force and former President of Pixar (also the first person to render 3D animated movie on a computer), discusses how fundamental candour is to Pixar’s creative process in his book Creativity Inc.;

Candour isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves.

Honesty is only risky when it’s cruel.

‘Brutal’ honesty is a self-serving practice which tears people down. This serves no practical use outside of stroking ones own ego.

People don’t like people who are unnecessarily cruel, especially when that cruelty is self-serving.

Don’t be brutally honest.

Instead, use candour to build people up.

Discuss the mistakes of others remembering that have made your own.

Mistakes usually feel awful. If someone knows they made a mistake, don’t waste your breath reminding them how awful they should feel.

Motivate them to fix it, to innovate, to work harder, to feel better.

Telling a stranger on a bus that they smell like cat food is rarely going to help anybody.

Firstly, you don’t know them and therefore have no rapport to soften the edges of your honesty.

Secondly, your chances of alerting them to something they weren’t already aware of are much slimmer than the chance that you’ll hurt them.

You don’t know enough about their situation to know that they shouldn’t smell this way.

Perhaps they know they smell like cat food because earlier in the day some other cruel person decided it would be funny to throw some at them.

You’ve been complely honest but no help at all, they still smell like cat food, and now you’ve further ruined their day.

If your best friend shows up to your house one day smelling like cat food, that’s a different story.

After waiting enough time for them to mention if something strange has happened to leave them smelling this way, you gently mention that they smell a bit off. You let them know about a great cologne which might suit them, and you speak kindly with them until you figure out how they’ve managed to collect such an oddly specific wretched scent.

This kind of honesty is more likely to be met with productive action. This is candour.