Ruckus

Brené Brown’s research shows us that vulnerability is a necessary prerequisite to courage.

There is no courage without vulnerability, no innovation without failure and no greatness without risk.

You don’t become a master at anything by bathing in comfort or skirting around failure.

If you’re comfortable with a reality in which you enjoy the modest comfort in choosing not to strive, all the power to you.

As for the rest of us, it’s time we stopped kidding ourselves and started making a ruckus.

Writers less creative than you have published books.

Producers less organised than you have made movies.

Entrepreneurs less intelligent than you have built million dollar businesses.

You are not the sum of all your parts.

You are the sum of how well you work. Not how hard, but how effectively.

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.

We don’t run out of time, we simply fail to seize enough of it.

That big project you’ve been meaning to get around to for weeks isn’t finished for one of two reasons:

Either It’s not as important as you think it is;

Or you’re scared.

Both are entirely valid, but it’s important to know the difference.

If it’s not that important, kill it. Then find something that is.

But if you’re scared… It’s probably an indicator that you’re onto something special.

You’ll never be rid of the the fear involved with doing important things. But you can dance with it.

Thank it for turning up. Be grateful that it’s alerted you to the importance of the task at hand. Then send it on it’s way.

You’ve got more time than you think you do.

Get to work.

Our senses are constantly filtering data which we use to decide what we’ll do next. The fact that humans are so predictable is a testament to their ability to do this effectively. 

If you boil that down for long enough, our lives are nothing more than a long string of decisions, actions and inactions. 

Is this depressing? Maybe. Reductionist? Definitely. Could it be useful? I believe so. 

There are a million reasons we might choose to do one thing over another; we have ethical frameworks to pass quick judgement on wrongdoings of others; a moral compass to ensure that we align ourselves with internal principles of right and wrong; a relentless self interest which keeps us safe and ensures we can pass down our genes; and every now and then, we just do stuff because it feels good. 

The mental gymnastics our brains perform while making these decisions are but small parts of the lifelong games we use to define ourselves.

In the same way that ‘you are what you eat’ is true of the body, ‘you are what you do’ is true of the soul. 

There comes a time in every leader’s tenure when it’s time to start letting go.

Time to pass the batton, or risk letting their team die.

A good leader makes themselves replaceable.

A bad one leaves their project to perish along with their involvement.

If you’re not replaceable, your project isn’t sustainable, and unsustainable projects aren’t worth much investment.

It’s fine to start things on your own. Sometimes it’s the only way things get made.

But your ceiling operating alone is far lower than working alongside a group of compassionate people you trust.

Find your tribe.

Make a ruckus.

Get to work.

When people get lucky breaks, it’s easy to dismiss as pure chance. They were just in the right place at the right time… right?

But what if there was an art to being in the right places at the right times?

What if it took hard work and determination to put yourself in positions where your chances of a lucky break increase?

What if you could cultivate serendipity?

Jason Roberts thinks you can.

He believes that luck is governed by a pretty simple formula;

Luck = Doing x Telling

What does this mean?

It means that if you start doing something, you’re going to get better at it. You’ll continue to get better at it the more you do it and after you’ve done it for a long while, and got pretty good, your chances of having a lucky break get better also.

The other side of the equation is telling, and it’s as simple as you think it is. The more you tell people about what you’re doing, the better your odds are that someone is going to swoop in with a serendipitous offer or opportunity.

If you want your project to take off, Roberts suggests you focus on maximising your luck by doing more and telling more people about what you’re doing.

Copyright © 2010 Jason C. Roberts

The shaded rectangles in the above diagram represent what Roberts calls your luck surface area.

The more surface area you have, the more likely you are to succeed (or get lucky).

Doing without telling might lead to isolated genius, but it’s no way to sell your album.

And telling everyone what you’re doing even though you’re doing nothing at all is the trademark of a perpetual procrastinator.

Doing and telling are each necessary because they magnify one another.

Figure out which you do more often, and work on the other.

When it comes to finite play, the way we approach games has much to do with how well prepared we are for surprise.

Speed, trickery and deception are all most difficult to deal with when they can’t be anticipated.

True mastery is being adept enough at the particular game that nothing comes as surprise.

“A true Master Player plays as though the game is already in the past, according to a script whose every detail is known prior to the play itself.”

James P Carse

Further, being prepared for surprise and bracing for surprise are entirely different things.

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is the be educated.”

The goal then, when playing any finite game, should not necessarily be to win; it should be to become so educated in the given game that you no longer experience surprises which result in loss.

In such a situation, surprise would not be met with any resistance, as it would only be a detail in script which already resulted in victory.

Play not to win; play to continue playing, all the way to mastery.

We’re at our best when we’re creating.

We create at our best when we’re connected.

We’re most connected when we surround ourselves with brilliant people who care.

And we attract those people by being brilliant ourselves.

Next time you’re wondering what to do, think about what you have to give.

Then give it.

Minus the obvious, terrifying, life threatening fears which demand immediate attention, most of the stuff we’re afraid of really isn’t that scary at all.

Spiders don’t often actually want to bite you, food is generally fine to eat the day after its use by date, and being high up doesn’t mean you’re going to fall.

Fear is a signal. It’s a choice to pay it mind. Unless it’s the unavoidable, terryfing, immediate kind, there is always something you can do.

Clear up the cobwebs in your house. Organise your fridge better. Learn some breathing exercises.

The same applies for fears about the future.

There’s always something you can action immediately which can aid to mitigate your fear – the question is whether you’re willing to do the work?

Rejecting fear is a short road to more fear.

Instead, we have to dance with it.

Even if that entails exhausting, detailed and repetitive work.