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First Thoughts

So I got roped into coaching t-ball. No, I don't have a kid on the team. Or a kid. But, you know, why not? So far, we've played one game and had a couple of practices and I can say with certainty it's a learning experience. When I was growing up, like nearly every other baseball player, I had major-league dreams that usually involved some form of a 'bottom-of-the-ninth, two outs, do-or-die' scenario. Of course, in this scenario, I'm the hero. I had the winning hit or the winning strikeout. Conversely, I don't know of anyone who dreams about being the bullpen coach. And I certainly don't know anyone who aspires to become a world-famous t-ball coach. 

But maybe that's because our concept of success is broken. We've constructed a reality that usually involves, "if I could just..." or "when I..." We view anything short of this as having settled. The truth I have to confront in my own life, day in and day out, is that I'm not ok with 'small.' For better or worse, I want scale. I want impact. I want to make a difference. What I'm learning is that 'making a difference' is more qualitative than quantitative. You could calmly walk across a floor made of LEGO, but ever step on just one?

As I stood in left-center field (well, technically we were still on the infield), coaching one of my pint-sized players, I realized I was missing the trees for the forest. This kid won't remember me 6 months from now, but what I say has the potential to change the way he sees the world. And this is true for all of my work. When you invest in a person, you alter their reality. You have the ability to change the world. But it's far too easy to overlook the phenomenal impact you already have in pursuit of some greater influence. Too easy to miss that influence is about change individuals. To expand your influence, you need to influence many individuals. Not the masses. Small isn't just ok, small is necessary. And maybe, just maybe, small is the goal.

Reader's Digest


Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

Derek Thompson

When you read a book and, weeks after you finish, you're still thinking about it, mulling over its ideas and theories, you know it's made an impact. That's the case for Hit Makers...
  • 'Going viral' is a myth. If things truly 'went viral,' it would take ages for us to see or hear about it. Mass media just needed a new way to describe a broadcast that wasn't theirs.
    • Seriously. Pretty much everything that seems to be an overnight success actually has a massive amount of work behind it with strong connections that are able to push it out to the masses.
  • Much like Adam Grant's work in Originals, there's an emphasis on the need to make the familiar, surprising and the surprising, familiar.
  • Exploring the idea that most changed the way I think about my work: MAYA (most advanced, yet acceptable)

Key Quotes

“Most consumers are simultaneously neophilic, curious to discover new things, and deeply neophobic, afraid of anything that is too new. The best hit makers are gifted at creating moments of meaning by marrying new and old, anxiety and understanding. They are architects of familiar surprises.” 

“The mere observation that something is popular, or even that it became so rapidly, is not sufficient to establish that it spread in a manner that resembles a virus. Popularity on the internet is driven by the size of the largest broadcast. Digital blockbusters are not about a million one-to-one moments as much as they are about a few one-to-one-million moments.” 

Around the Web

Small is the New Big

Seth Godin

This post is 12 years old. And as relevant as ever. Do you ever find yourself equating big with impactful? Powerful? Better? Faster? A big company is better than a little company, right? A big-name university better than the small college? A big personality better than being shy?

Before you read, ask yourself why you have those biases? What around you has convinced you that bigger was better? (Note: Try to be objective. Why have we ascribed value, good or bad, to size?)

Church (Sanctuary, Part 1)

99% Invisible, Delaney Hall

The pilot and Shibboleth episodes of The West Wing notwithstanding, immigration is perhaps one of the best examples for us to consider the effects of size. (And no, this isn't a political stance/statement.) Not to over-generalize here, but immigration has almost always fallen into two camps: personal and abstract. 'Personal' is about the small. Personal is when we cite specific groups, like farm workers. 'Abstract,' on the other hand, is about the large. Abstract is when we speak in broad categories without distinction relative to personhood. It would be easy to think that Personal and Abstract are in and of themselves distinct. It would make our lives much easier if we could operate fully within one or the other with a well-defined line between the two.

But you and I both know that isn't how it works. They are shades of gray and it is up to us to decide how to handle this ambiguity.

Just for fun:

This video has 9.5 million views. But I've never heard of Shopkins. Maybe you haven't either. It's ridiculous. But at least 9.5 million people have. And yes, there are products.

(Oh, and if you read Hit Makers, think about Shopkins as another example of something being massively popular within a well-defined audience.)

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