Conversation

Those who commit to joviality tend to enjoy happier lives. They aren’t necessarily jokesters or pranksters, nor are they unable to take things seriously when they need to.

What separates the jovial from the rest is an intuitive ability to turn dull moments into joyous ones.

The stakes are rarely so high that we can’t enjoy a laugh. The jovial amongst us are commuted to finding that laugh, and sharing it.

If only we could all commit to joy; we might find less bitterness between us all.

There’s something special about things which are refined; those which are distilled to their purest form. In language is perhaps where that simplicity is at its best.

We each share an intuitive appetite for sentences without fat.

When we receive a direction impossible to understand, or offered compliment so genuine that it doesn’t need to be prefaced, we are engaged in one of the most basic and delightful treasures the human experience has to offer.

The point is to get to the point, with as much precision and clarity as possible.

We make art about the things we most wish to remember; we externalise them in the best ways we know how.

Great art stays with us because it conveys a fragment of the human experience in such a way that it can be re-framed and re-accessed by others. In that sense, art is an act of sharing; art is collaborative memory.

Art is the core of our culture. We should therefore be prepared to protect our art with the same rigour we would muster to protect our countries; because if we don’t, there won’t be much left to protect.

Clarity and brevity are essential.

Respect is more valuable than pride.

People cannot meet your expectations if you don’t lay them on the table, and your expectations aren’t defensible until they’re agreed upon.

Changes to the plan must be made swiftly and decisively, without hesitation or deviation.

Communication is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s make sure we play our part.

Is it better to ask, “what have you been up to?”

No? Still exhausting.

For a lot of us at the moment, both questions beg awkward and uncomfortable answers we don’t want to give.

Nevertheless, chances are that you’ll be hit with at least one of these in the next few days, so why not consider your answer in advance to negate some of that awkwardness. If you don’t like the answer you have to give, chances are you can do something tomorrow to change it.

Me? I’m struggling to keep productive, but coping just fine. And I finally got confirmation that the bones I found stashed in my garden aren’t human… So I’ve been building a garden bed.

Birthdays rub me the wrong way. None moreso than my own. I don’t think this is the right way to feel, but it is how I feel.

Stop me if my desperate need for genuine validation is showing, but the idea of undue celebration or praise makes me sick.

That moment when you realise that the nice person in the foyer after your show is saying all the nice things about your work because they feel like they have to, brings me dread.

I despise my birthday like I despised the football participation trophies I got handed every year as a kid. I was crap at football. I knew it, my Mum knew it, the coach knew it, and my team knew it. But I was celebrated anyway. Why?

Why should I be celebrated for simply surviving another year?

After 23 of these, I think I finally get it.

We should celebrate birthdays because surviving is an act of showing up.

Surviving is hard sometimes. So to be able to do it, year after year, with a steadfast consistency is actually quite incredible.

Birthdays are the markers we can use to measure how well we are undertaking the delicate work of carrying on.

Some stand out, others are bundled up, and some skip by far too fast – but there they are. Every year. One of the only guarantees we have.

I’m doing better at surviving than I was a few of these ago. For once, I’m looking forward to the next one.

If someone knows your name, you have a brand.

What people think and, more importantly, how people feel when they hear your name is that brand.

It’s got nothing to do with who we think we are and everything to do with who we actually are to other people.

Are we reliable? Trustworthy?Charming? Funny?

Not unless someone else thinks so. Self belief might inspire our action, but it’s our actions which inspire our reputations. Which, in turn, define us.

We are responsible for cultivating our reputation, but we don’t get the privilege of disagreeing with it once it’s out there.

We can seek to improve our reputation, but there is no sense in refuting it.

It just is.

If who we think we are doesn’t matter, then perhaps we should do less thinking about who we are today or who we were ten years ago, and more thinking about who we might aspire to be for someone else tomorrow.

Every item in your home, every app on your phone, and every person that you know is represented by brand.

It used to be that things were branded when companies wanted to make sure we understood who owned the product or service in question.

Nowadays, brand is no longer so tangible. Brands are now defined by how they make people feel.

Your brand is the result of the promises you keep. It’s the clarity of what you say you do, and your ability to follow through.

Confused, complicated brands flop. Sure, simple brands win.

Brands caught lying and cheating lose. Brands known for doing the right thing grow.

Imagine for a moment that your favourite brand were a person. What would they look like? What would they wear? How would they speak to you? What do they say?

I’d be willing to bet this person looks and sounds a lot like you’d like to look and sound.

If you can appeal to the interests of the people you want to connect with while proving reliability and fostering trust, you have an effective brand.

When you got your first mobile phone, did you imagine that you’d eventually spend thousands of hours every year looking into one?

I didn’t, and I’m 22.

But the ten year old down the street who got her first phone last week fully expects to spend that kind of time with phone in hand. She’s never know any different.

The game has changed. We’re now more and less connected than we’ve ever been before.

Young people need to be trusted to flourish in this connection, and protected against its most vile byproducts.

In an ecosystem of dichotomies and extremes, confusion is natural and moderation is key.

Failing feels terrible. It forces us to realise and acknowledge that perhaps we’re not quite as good as we imagined we were, and stings even worse when we know we could have done more to prevent it.

The art of cultivating meaningful pursuits will always involve some level of failure because failing is the most necessary step in getting good at anything. 

So if we need to fail to realise our goals, but the thought or act of failing makes us want to curl up and die, perhaps it’s time we develop a more sustainable relationship with it. 

How we feel at the completion of any finite game can be calculated with a reasonably simple (if not slightly convoluted) equation.

Imagine that the emotional outcome we experience as a result of the game can be measured on a scale from negative ten to positive ten. A score of negative ten involves dark, personal feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment. A score at this end of the spectrum is the type of guttural feeling which could result in someone never attempting a similar game again. Whereas a score of positive ten represents a feeling of such intense, euphoric bliss that it almost overwhelms the body. Scores of positive ten are those once in a lifetime moments of accomplishment which fill us to the brim with joy and pride. Our score along this emotional outcome scale is called our emotional outcome value (O). 

Now imagine another scale, which now only ranges from negative five to positive five. This scale is called the Result Scale. Our result value (R) is determined by how well we performed in the game, where negative five represents the absolute worst, most embarrassing, humiliating failure possible and positive five is the best, most gratifying, outstanding success possible.

At first glance it might seem that these values should be directly correlated; that the result of our efforts should reflect how we feel about the outcomes they produce. But we know from experience that this is often not the case. Both our result value and our emotional outcome value exist only once the game has been completed. 

There is another value, which also exists somewhere along the result scale, that is determined before we even begin playing. Our expectation value (E) represents the result we imagine is most likely to occur, and it is the only aspect of this equation of which we have complete control. Our expectations are influenced by an array of internal and external factors. They’re shaped by what we’re hopeful for, tempered by our previous experience and solidified by the expectations others project onto us. Sometimes we take the time to set them consciously, other times we unconsciously drag them along as baggage into games we don’t yet know we’re expecting ourselves to win. 

Ultimately, the emotional outcome of any finite game is the difference between the result of the game and the result we were expecting.

Result (R) – Expectation (E) = Emotional Outcome (O)

If we’re playing scrabble with a friend and we don’t have a lot of skin in the game, our expectation value might be a neutral value of zero. We don’t expect to succeed or fail and sure, we’d like to win, but we aren’t that fussed either way. In this case, our R value and our O value will be exactly the same. 

Let’s say we win. It was a close enough game, but we had better tiles and won without too much hassle. Our R value is one and so is our emotional outcome. It feels good, but not too good. We say, “Ah! Bad luck. You’ll get me on the next one.”

Now instead, let’s imagine that we’re getting ready to play against a friend who we know possesses an annoyingly Brobdingnagian vocabulary. They’re competitive too, so we’re expecting a challenging game. While we’re sure that beating them is within the realm of possibility, we’re realists. We understand the odds are stacked in their favour. In this case, our E value might be set at negative two. Winning here will definitely be an upset, but stranger things have happened.  

Perhaps we scrape through and secure a modest victory for an R of two. While the success was nothing spectacular, it feels excellent! 

R (2) – E (-2) = O (4)

When you subtract a negative number, it becomes additive. So two minus negative two leaves us with an emotional outcome of four. We’re buzzing after this victory and decide to challenge them to a rematch.

This time around, we’re heading in confident that we can replicate the result of the last game. We know we got a little lucky, but if we were able to beat them first try, they can’t have been as good as we thought they were.

We head into the next game with an E value of positive one.

But we don’t replicate the result of the last game. We don’t even come close. It’s unclear whether or not they were just taking it easy on us in the first game, but after a brief debate as to whether or not ‘katzenjammers’ is a valid english word (which is promptly settled by Google), they annihilate us. R score of negative four.

In this case, there’s no negative subtraction trickery working in our favour.

R (-4) – E (1) = O (-5)

The cost of failure is compounded by the expectation of victory.

It only makes sense to expect success when success is certain (which it almost never is). By placing our E value on the result scale, we’re setting ourselves up for unnecessary suffering.

So let’s change the game.

What if, instead of placing our expectations on the same scale we use to measure results, we designed it its own scale altogether?

How much could we improve our emotional reaction to objective failure improve if we started to set expectations on our growth rather than our success?

Imagine one last scale with me. A basic scale from zero to five which represents how much was learned by playing the game in question.

If we set our R and E values not on the results scale, but on this growth scale instead, it’s far less likely that we’ll walk away dissatisfied. And the less we walk away dissatisfied, the more likely we are to continue to play.

When we aim not to succeed, but to grow, we’re far more likely to fall into success.

Expectation is healthy for as long as your expectations make sense.