Idea Broker: Issue #2

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I’m an idea broker. I connect people with valuable ideas that I generate, find, and share.

If you subscribe to my Idea Broker newsletter, I’ll be happy to share them with you.

Here’s a look at this week’s ideas…

1. DON’T LET “WORK” GET IN THE WAY OF WORK

“Real work doesn’t look like work.”

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and have become increasingly interested in as my career has evolved. Long story short: most people and companies still operate the way the world worked 50 years ago and those practices are actually doing more to prevent good work from getting done than enabling it to happen.

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2. THE BEST COMMENCEMENT SPEECH I’VE SEEN IN A WHILE

“Things don’t happen for a reason. But they do often happen because nobody has yet found a better way.”

Jeff Huber is an ex-Googler who is currently CEO of Grail, an organization dedicated to early cancer detection. The speech he gave at the University of Illinois this year is absolutely amazing – in both heartbreaking and inspiring ways – and well worth a read.

His challenge to recent graduates and all of us is simple and based on the belief that has guided his life and career: Find a better way.

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3. ALICE BOYES IS A PERSON YOU SHOULD KNOW

“Overthinking doesn’t usually equate to insight or deliver solutions.”

Alice is a columnist for Psychology Today magazine who literally wrote the book on anxiety. In addition to a list of her 50 strategies to beat anxiety, you can also learn from her how to feel calmer at work, how to be more authentic on social media, and how to use your strengths to improve your weaknesses.

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4. A BIT OF VIRTUAL REALITY SKEPTICISM

A lot of people have a lot of excitement about the future of virtual reality right now. But most of those people seem to be affiliated with brands (see: Samsung) or social platforms (see: Facebook). I don’t hear a whole lot of “regular” people talking about our impending VR future.

I’ve also noticed that most of the people diving into the deep end of VR content creation seem to be brands – not artists/filmmakers. It remains to be seen, but it’s tough to imagine this is a good thing for the development of the medium since brands interests rarely align with artists and the public rarely enjoys the things brands cram down their throats.

I’m not saying VR is going away any time soon, but I’m not 100% convinced of its future success the way so many of my peers seem to be. Then again, when you see people have a reaction like this to their first VR experience it’s possible I could be VERY wrong.

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5. YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE

“Having people tell you they value what you create is the most valuable metric.”

When I sent this newsletter last week it prompted some responses from subscribers, one of which then prompted me to write this post about the assumptions creators make about their audience and vice versa.

Most of those assumptions are wrong.

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6. THIS WILL MAKE YOUR FACEBOOK FEED MORE INTERESTING

You know all those ads in your Facebook feed? Well, Facebook tries to show you ads it thinks will be relevant to you. But it turns out you can help them do that.

This link goes to an article that explains how you can easily see exactly what Facebook thinks you’re interested in AND change those interests. While you can’t remove ads completely, changing your interest settings will drastically change the types of ads you see and make sure that you actually see stuff that’s relevant to you.

Even if you don’t change the settings, it’s interesting to see what Facebook thinks you’re into regardless.

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7. JEREMY COWART IS A PERSON YOU SHOULD KNOW

“The more you build things, the more confident you get.”

Jeremy’s one of the most successful photographers in the world and theoretically there was no way he should have gotten to that point in his life.

But he did and my profile of him explains some of how he did it, including his thoughts on how to take a good photo, how to become influential on social media, and how to keep stumbling forward when you make mistakes.

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8. WHEN RUN DMC AND AEROSMITH MADE “WALK THIS WAY” THEY HATED EACH OTHER

“I had no idea whether this was good or bad. It sounded like it could be great. It also sounded like it could be a disaster.”

This oral history of the making of “Walk This Way” is good, but what’s absolutely fascinating is the video piece that accompanies it and includes previously unseen footage of the day they recorded the song.

What becomes instantly clear is that both groups hated each other, thought the collaboration was an idiotic idea, and that Rick Rubin is an even bigger genius than you think.

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9. THE POST OFFICE WAS INNOVATIVE…UNTIL THEY FIRED EVERYBODY

“This thing doesn’t need reinventing…its mission is hard copy delivery, and all it needs to do is be sure it gets there.”

You probably think of the U.S. Postal Service as the least innovative place on the planet and it may be. But in reading this excerpt from a new book about the history of the postal service I discovered that a LOT of innovative people have actually worked there.

And it turns out those innovative people – who early on suggested the Postal Service take the lead on developing things like email – were run out of the organization and then went on to help build super-successful technology companies.

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10. WARREN BUFFET HAS THE BEST SCHEDULING POLICY EVER

“I’m sure many people will say, ‘Well, he’s Warren Buffet so he can do that.’ Yes, he’s Warren Buffet, but no one granted him the power to do that or say that. He decided that.”

Buffet only schedules meetings 24 hours in advance. He refuses to schedule people further out because it allows him to remain in control of his time and ensures that each day he’s filling his calendar with things that are most important in that moment.

Not sure I’d have the balls to implement that policy myself, but I’d probably be a lot happier if I did.

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The Freedom Of Structure

One of the things I like most about TED talks is the opportunity they create for people to share a perspective on the world they otherwise might not have a venue to share.

For example, I came across a new talk from ESPN commentator and radio host Bomani Jones in which he explains what he’s learned over the course of his career – specifically, how he’s come to realize the structure he’s fought against since high school because he thought it would restrain his creativity actually enables it.

Despite the fact that Jones works in the media and theoretically has limitless avenues available to him to share these kinds of insights, I’ve never seen this side of him because it doesn’t really fit the expectations of the outlets he works for. It’s off-topic.

But  a TED talk delivered to high school students offered him the perfect venue to share what he’s learned and it’s well worth a few minutes of your time to check out.

Spring Broke

You ever think about how Spring Break came to be?

Me neither.

Turns out, it’s an interesting story that includes as much business, marketing, and politics as it does partying.

I watched a new Showtime documentary this weekend called Spring Broke that chronicles the history of Spring Break and how it’s evolved over the years and I highly recommend you check it out.

It’s packed with interesting stuff such as the fact that cigarette companies fueled the growth of the Daytona Beach Spring Break scene because it was a cheap (and semi-legal) way for them to market to college kids. And once it was made illegal for them to do so, alcohol brands stepped in and picked up the torch.

It was also interesting to see the impact MTV’s Spring Break coverage had and tons of behind-the-scenes stuff like how MTV always made it seem a lot more wild and warm than it actually was.

While I never went to Daytona Beach for Spring Break, watching the documentary made me think back to my own Spring Break adventures.

Most of my memories of them are appropriately foggy, but here’s a few things I remembered.

I remember my first real Spring Break experience happening when I was a senior in high school.

A bunch of my friends piled into a couple cars and drove down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. None of us had much money, but one of my friends who had a particularly low bankroll decided to spend almost all of it on fireworks at a weird/infamous truck stop called South of the Border on our drive down.

By day two of our trip, he was out of money, but fully stocked with an artillery of fireworks we had no real use for.

I also remember that on one of our first days there, we met a group of girls from Indiana of all places who we hung out with for the duration of the trip. We went on to meet back up with them multiple times in multiple other locations over the next few years.

It didn’t seem particularly odd at the time, but considering this all happened in a pre-Internet, pre-cell phone era, it actually seems like an amazing accomplishment in retrospect.

I have no idea how those friendships were maintained or how those reunion trips were coordinated, but I’m going to guess beepers were involved since that was pretty much the extent of our technology back then.

In college, I found myself in Miami for Spring Break, where I turned 21 and rented a car that I put on my first credit card and am probably still paying off.

Then, my senior year of college I spent my final Spring Break flying to Los Angeles with my Mom. It was the first time I saw the city that would become my home for the next (almost) 20 years and it was the week I decided to make the move.

I even interviewed with a company that week that wound up hiring me a few months later and was my first post-college job.

Based on that, I might have to say the highlight of my Spring Break experiences was a trip with my Mom. It certainly wasn’t my most fun Spring Break experience, but it definitely had the biggest long-term impact.

This is all a long-winded way of saying you should check out Spring Broke – here’s the trailer: