You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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Don’t wait for things you think you deserve

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

When I think about mistakes I’ve made, one of the common causes of my blindness that led me there is entitlement. I thought something was going to happen because I deserved it.

Not because I had done the crucial work of understanding that outcome was good for all involved. Not because I worked to get a clear agreement or that I negotiated for it by offering something someone else wanted. No.

When I’ve really gotten something wrong, when I’ve been blindsided or made a miscalculation, a lot of times I just plain thought something was coming my way because I perceived I was owed it. Maybe I thought I had put my time in or I thought I was close to the person with power. Sometimes I admire the idea of how good for me it would be if this happened, or my friends tell me how great it would be.

And hey sometimes you do get what you think you deserve. But I’m here to remind you that in those moments, we are so less assured. The world — a place of chance and chaos — hasn’t the time nor the physics to care much about what you think you deserve.

So people who spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what they deserve are a terrible bore. These tend to be people who are deeply uncomfortable with accepting blame — the worst of us will avoid blame with a psychotic self-reverence. If something doesn’t break their way, it’s the world’s problem, or better yet, it is some person or organization who is holding them back. They pray to their own self-image and do a lot of talking.

We all fall into the trap, at least I know I do. So remember, if you don’t get what you want, don’t blame someone else — not your clients or your employees or your boss or your neighbor. Did you put any extra effort to understand the full picture? If you cared so much about the outcome, did you have something to offer, a genuine case to be made? Or are you just there waiting?

I’ve been on a lot of planes the last month. After several days in the Baltic country of Lithuania, my wife had one of those divine vacations abroad, a mystical and breathless and brain-melting week in Morocco. Then I had a work trip to San Francisco. It all reminded me of a line from Jason Isbell (the Grammy-award-winning blues-country musician I adore) during an interview with writer and author George Saunders (a beloved present torch bearer of the English language). During the hour-long conversation (which I shared in a recent newsletter), Isbell says: “how did you forget you won the lottery?”

We all fall from heaven into the hands of luck and privilege, some lots more than others, but not a one of us hasn’t had some. Some will sit around waiting for more good fortune to come our way. The rest of us are too busy running ahead as fast as we can.

It’s hard to hate up close

A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

A mentor of mine said in a meeting recently: it’s hard to hate up close.

It’s really not in our nature, she said. Distance (including the anonymity of the web and the imprecision of written communication) is so often involved in conflict, both big and small. So the message is whenever you’re in conflict, you need to get as close to the source of that conflict as you can.

Continue reading It’s hard to hate up close

There’s no such thing as a safe investment worth making: ‘Personal Finance Day’ notes

I’ve shared before what a strange nerd I am. I tackle learning in a full-force kind of way, and I love to pair seeing old friends with new experiences and ideas.

For the third year, two childhood friends and I came together Saturday for dinner and drinks and elaborate slide presentations sharing lessons we had learned about the difficult and tricky and complex world of business and retirement planning and, yes, wealth creation.

Indeed, it was the third annual Personal Finance Day.

I wanted to share a few things we talked about that might transfer well. And use this as a reminder: when something as stressful and arcane as personal finance intimidates you, find friends, make whiskey sours and dive in and discuss. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have.

Continue reading There’s no such thing as a safe investment worth making: ‘Personal Finance Day’ notes

What is your passive jobseeker hiring strategy? [DisruptHR]

Typically, hiring managers use the phrase “passive jobseekers” to mean people happily employed elsewhere whom they chase down because they have the right credentials.

Since these people don’t quite want the job, most of the research about these kinds of candidates shows they’re crummy: when approached by recruiters, they ask for don’t stay long and ask for too much money and, after all, they’re so hard to find they’re costly. Plus, most of this is happening on an ever more crowded LinkedIn.

But as we at Technical.ly have done more reporting and, actually, more work for clients on talent sourcing, I’ve found the established talent acquisition industry has a pretty rotten definition. It’s way too limited and that leads to limited strategies. That was the focus of a five-minute lightning talk I gave in October to more than 300 HR professionals at a DisruptHR event.

Continue reading What is your passive jobseeker hiring strategy? [DisruptHR]

Wow, I’ve been writing here for 10 years. Here’s what I’ve learned

This month marks the 10th anniversary of my first publishing on this personal site of mine. That’s a decade of publishing at least once every single month for 120 consecutive months. That sounds batty to me.

Scan my archives here.

I first bought my name as a domain in 2005 and built a little site using Dreamweaver, when it was still  Macromedia, sitting in my university computer lab, but I let it lapse. I had no body of work, and even the compressed versions of short videos I was creating then were too big for my early hosting package — this was before both YouTube was at scale and Amazon Web Services had even launched, you’ll remember.

By December 2007, I felt like I had a greater purpose. I was an undergraduate active in my college newspaper, frequently writing fiction and learning as much as I possibly could. So on December 4 of that year, I bought a domain and redirected it to a WordPress.com blog template, starting with this post. I was an active and early Google Reader user, following and reading a growing array of bloggers I admired and wanted to join the conversation. I was super excited by RSS feeds.

During the next 10 years, this blog has been a major part of my personal and professional development. To look back, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Continue reading Wow, I’ve been writing here for 10 years. Here’s what I’ve learned