Can You Recognize a Click Moment?

We watch athletes and performers who have put in the 10,000+ hours of practice time (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) rise to the top of their field. Then we see Richard Branson launch Virgin Atlantic Airways on a whim, despite having NO experience running an airline. What is the explanation for these very different paths to success?

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Frans Johansson suggests in his book, The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World, that success is more random than we want to believe, and there are some specific actions we can take to capture this randomness for our favor. Serena Williams and Yo-Yo Ma can focus their efforts and practice in a way that no entrepreneur, scientist, or artist can. They are playing the same game, with the same rules over and over again. But the rest of us live in a world where the rules are constantly changing. In 2004-7, Nokia dominated the mobile phone industry. Then the iPhone hit the market on June 29,2007.

A company with zero experience swooped in to dominate the market in less time than it takes to earn a law degree. The difference? The rules can change and be changed in the mobile-phone industry. A tennis player could never walk on the court and change the basic structure of the game, but the rules for competing in the mobile-phone business morph all the time. They are up for grabs. At one point phones were supposed to be robust and sturdy, the next moment they were cool and sleek; then they had to take amazing pictures and play music, and now you have to be able to edit those same pictures while playing a game with your friend on another continent and then hand the phone to your grandmother because she needs to check her Facebook status…Want to change your business model with a new online play? Go ahead, try it. If it works, you’ve just changed the game. The implications of this difference are enormous, because they suggest that in the real world, as opposed to the world of tennis, you have no real clue about what it takes to win at any given time. The rules can change so quickly that success is essentially random. This is true virtually everywhere.

While Click moments are a fact of life, they have a mystical quality to them. We accept them as the “AHA” moment of an idea or the moment of love at first site, but, it’s hard to incorporate into a business plan. Johansson has some ideas on how to create Click moments:

  1. Take Your Eyes Off the Ball – explore things not connected to our immediate goals.
  2. Use Intersectional Thinking – purposefully explore different fields, cultures, industries.
  3. Follow Your Curiosity – listen to your intuition.
  4. Reject the Predictable Path – whatever solutions you come up with will set you apart.

In the second section, Johansson explains the idea of placing purposeful bets with one of the points being to calculate affordable loss rather than ROI. He goes on in the third section to talk about types of complex forces and how to harness them:

In order to harness complex forces you must first to create something for these forces to latch on to. You must actually do something, even if you are not sure where it will lead. This tactic is based on the idea that the most important part of the purposeful bet is the fact that you took action. Once you start executing, whether or not the bet actually works in your favor, you are exposed to complex forces that can pave the way for future success. Even if you do not have a crystal-clear goal in mind, it is still better to do something – and to tell people about it. The complex forces of the world will now have a concept to work with, and you will have exposed yourself to the possibility of positive unanticipated consequences, cascades, and self-reinforcing loops.

I recommend this book for business owners and artists that have struggled to come up with perfect business plans or been told that you cannot succeed because “that’s never been done before”.

Pure Lake Michigan

A beautiful day at my beach. Lunch with the wonderful man who has, unbeknownst to me, been taking care of my beach for years. Thank you.

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This is the view from atop the dunes.

Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire)

Can’t Have a Parade Without Tractors

Saturday was the Byron Center Days Parade. I thought I could just saunter up to the sidewalk and catch the 20 minute parade.

I was way wrong. Like Chicago streets after a snow, people had come early to place their chairs along the route before going over to the pancake breakfast. The 5K race was ending with the last of what must have been over 1500 people by the looks of the race numbers pinned to each participant. The runners, at this point in time, were the walkers and the people who took this as a huge challenge just to finish. When I saw a friend from my high school class cross the finish line, I turned to my husband and said, “we’re doing this race next year!” Now, we both would be winded to run across the street – but we have a year to work up to this.

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The parade started with the sirens of the lead police car and the honking of the fire trucks following it. As the first fire truck went by, I saw an emblem on the door of the truck for the memory of the NY firefighters of 9/11. Brought me to tears.

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The whole parade was something that can only still happen in certain small towns. Every business that had a truck – had it in the parade. Businesses without a truck borrowed an antique car or a tractor or had a float. The Byron Center High School marching band was there, as was an even larger band made up of the homeschooled. Many local churches had floats with worship bands and singers.

The constant for the one hour and fifteen minutes of parade was the candy. Every entity, every vehicle, every person (even the drivers) threw pieces of candy out for the kids along the route – like trick-or-treat delivery. All kids brought cloth grocery bags for the haul – and filled them up.

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I ducked into the little diner to get some coffee and watched groups of people – the lines between friends and family blurred. A new baby was being passed around.

I am proud of the little town I grew up in. I know that there are not many like this left. Farmers, small business owners, factory workers. The farms still supply fruit and vegetables for the region – I could find produce from Byron Center and Hudsonville at the Meijer or Jewel in Chicago – but many have been sold and have really big houses on them. The small businesses have either gotten much bigger or closed. The factory workers have taken early retirement as their jobs were sent to other places around the globe.

Family is the biggest thing. Staying together, having good schools for the kids, potlucks and parades.
Brings me to tears.

Is Chicago style with mustard?

I have been invited to a gathering involving grilled animal flesh and adult beverages tomorrow night. I have been asked to bring potato salad. I’d offered a couple other suggestions – but, was asked to bring potato salad.
Simple basic potato salad. For a summer gathering this is like being assigned the sweet potato dish at Thanksgiving. The potato dish is mandatory and everyone has a very set rule about what they like or is traditional. So, really, a minefield.
I don’t make potato salad – I don’t have a recipe. Jewel and Meijer have my recipe. There is no sense making a two person batch. Potato salad is for multitudes. I have counted on the culinary kindness of family and friends to make the vat that is needed for these events. I remember for a time in my 20s,(and still my comfort food now) any gathering menu consisted of ham buns (with butter), potato salad, baked beans, and fruit salad. Just making that list brought me back to summers at Sheldon Dunes with my Dad, Ginny, and Diane. There was much laughing and chocolate chip cookies.
I went to epicurious.com and found a couple candidates for my recipe. Like the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes ( marshmallows or not), so my potato salad (mustard or not). I will have to peel potatoes and hope that I can do some good hardboiled eggs – both things I never do.
If all turns out well, I may post a picture on my Facebook page. If not, this will never be spoken of again.

Memory Triggers

I forget all throughout the day. I guess we all get piled on and there is a lot to sort through to figure out what to even try to remember. I forget all the usual daily things that everyone else my age forgets. But, now I am remembering stuff that my brain must be digging out from dusty boxes under the attic eves in the far reaches of my memory.

As I am meeting with classmates I haven’t seen in 30+ years, I am amazed at what memories come tumbling out. Why did I remember from a visit 26 years ago that you had 3 sons? How did my muscles know from 35 years ago that a stretch of road was familiar and to relax and cruise? Why did I, in all my years of urban living, never lose my farmers’ concern for the weather and its effect on the crops? (By the way, it looks to be a good year for the blueberries here.)

As I continue my interviews, here are two things I’ve heard that freak me out:

1. “I have 9 grandkids.”

2. “I’m financially ready to retire.”

Also, that Ray Stevens is still putting out new songs – on YouTube.  But that’s another issue.

Yes, It’s Been That Long!

I’m a writer and love stories and find myself back where I grew up after living elsewhere since college. Next year will be 40 years since my high school graduation.

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So, I have devised a project where I get to hunt down and interview as many of my classmates as I can. I live in an age of Facebook and email and lots of my classmates stayed in the area. So how hard can it be to find 50-60 of a class of just over 100? Not as easy as it seemed when I came up with this idea. And then there’s finding time in everyone’s schedule to meet/talk for 1-2 hours.
I was just so curious to find out how people navigated through the last 39 years and compare that to some simple predictions that had been made our senior year.
I’ve only done a handful of interviews so far, but here are some initial observations:

  • Very few people have kept in touch with any others in the class except by relation, work, or church.
  • Most had no particular plans or ideas about their life after high school when they graduated.
  • Family is the most important thing.
  • Specialty food and home brewed beer and wine are popular hobbies.
  • I am emotionally drained after re-living their highs and lows with each person.
  • We had no clue what was really going on then in each other’s home life.
  • Never imagined we’d get this old.

I hope to wrap up the majority of the interviews by mid-August and write some blogs/articles for local media after that.

Then we can discuss a reunion.

Office Gypsy

I’m writing this from probably the ideal spot for an introvert to be writing. I have a comfortable chair with support for my lower back, a clean, uncluttered space, and the quiet of a college library from 100 years ago.

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Beyond my immediate space is more quiet and sleek furniture in my favorite colors. There is beautiful abstract art and free coffee that is quite good.

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I think back to some of my other work environments. People crammed too close together in cubicles using speaker phones, tiny smoke-filled rooms with several people all talking at once, retail “break rooms” which means you rearrange some travel-weary boxes of product to create a surface to set your sandwich on. And always the uncomfortable chairs and bad lighting and overhead music that you hate, or the jarring crackle and crash of the intercom.
This is a much better way to work, although I do feel a little conspicuous because I have papers and notebooks and everyone else seems to be sufficient with their laptops and phones. I believe they have phones – haven’t heard any yet and I’ve been here for hours. Perhaps it’s finally the world I’ve longed for – no phones, just text and email.
I’m not in a coffee shop or Barnes & Noble. I’m in (just visiting) the headquarters of a large corporation. I felt I had to wear Big-Girl shoes (translation: They have high heels and the ability to turn my toes a lovely blue).

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It’s all very quiet and civilized here. There is no shouting, or crowding, or anyone running through the space shrieking about an imminent deadline or missed sales goals. The cafe serves its custom meals on real plates and there are glass glasses and metal utensils.
I just went to the “nourishment bar”. It sounds like what laboratory rats press for food but it’s really a place to purchase coffee and energy drinks and energy bars. Except, almost like a covert activity, there were fresh chocolate no-bake cookies ready and a line was forming as word spread.
I have been working today in the “focus zone”, really, there’s a sign.

 

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There are areas for groups to meet, whiteboard, or telepresence. Also areas to work alone in essentially a cone of silence. I look around my little work space and feel that I am probably lowering the property values with my laptop, papers, phone, notebooks, purse, tote bag, coffee mug, and sweater strewn about me. I reason that I would be neater if I were in one of the areas with bright celery green or raspberry pink. I am in a white area – to focus.
Part of the ability to focus here – as opposed to my home office – is that there are none of the usual distractions (wonder how the dogs are doing?) and I am not checking Facebook – in case someone walks behind me and sees me checking Facebook.

It’s very calming here and few sparkly things to distract.

I kinda miss the shrieking.

Nah.