First Loop Fright

“No one is left here that knows his first name, and life barrels on like a runaway train.” — Ben Folds

You and I both know how awesome you are. The problem is that everyone else seems oblivious to the fact. What to do?

Despite your brilliance, you probably got hired not because somebody recognized your talent but because the bullet points on your resume listed the correct 17 flavors of software trending in the market. That’s why Stan, the schmuck in the cubicle next to you got the promotion while you got passed over. The boss doesn’t have the tools to recognize why your oatmeal is brilliant and Stan’s is inferior.

Getting mad at your boss or Stan is wasted effort. Your best option is to do something big, something crazy that leaves little doubt that you and Stan are not in the same league. Your oatmeal might be top notch, but it’s still mush. Ditch the oatmeal.

This is where things get risky. When you break from the standard oatmeal recipe the only thing that is guaranteed is that you will break something. You are either going to break-through or break-down.

The scary part is that it is difficult to know if your first batch of non-oatmeal is going to be great or just a new kind of mush. The first cycle of a doom loop is hard to distinguish from the first turn of a flywheel. How do you de-risk the first loop?

Breakthrough success and catastrophic failure seem random at first, but they are more systematic than they appear. I once worked for a company that went out of business. We all knew that the company was doomed long before the meltdown. We recognized the doom loop even if we couldn’t stop the impending collapse. That’s because the failure wan’t random, doom loops are systems.

Likewise, if you ask someone who has been a part of a massive success how it happened, they will probably tell you about all the effort that went into getting everyone moving in the same direction. Flywheels don’t turn themselves. A flywheel is a system.

When you realize that systems are beneath both thrilling victories and crushing defeat, it makes it a little less scary to step into the void. You don’t have to leave your success completely to chance. Systems are hackable and repeatable if you understand the order. All it takes is inexhaustible energy. How do you maintain that kind of energy? Well, that’s the subject of next week’s post.

Stay creative.

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