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Up To Us

Sometimes we choose to focus on those things that no amount of energy and enthusiasm can change. By doing so, we miss the opportunity to have more impact, both on our own lives and in the lives of others.

All progress comes from discerning where our effort is best applied, then taking the small steps each day that will make the most difference.

Where should you apply your effort today?

Image by Bruno Mascimento

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The Future We Want To See

Sometimes we fail to act because we’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

So we say and do nothing and wait for the discomfort of the moment to pass.

It’s easier to turn a blind eye than it is to simply say: ‘This is not okay.’

But the future we’re building together depends on every one of us being brave enough to say those words.

The courage to say and do what’s right is the foundation upon which we will build the future we want to see.

Image by Guy Bassabose

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Stories For Good

Stories are our most persuasive technology. The stories we tell can be powerful catalysts for change. But the stories that silence us are the most potent of all.

The stories we choose to believe and believe in are the making of us.

We can use our voices to raise the voices of those whose stories have been ignored.

We can choose the narratives that survive and thrive.

We can use stories for good.

Image by Tamarcus Brown

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Leveraging Our Mistakes

Each day we overlook some opportunity to see or to serve. We fail to challenge our assumptions and hold fast to our opinions. The result is that we sometimes miss the opportunity to do better.

This feels like bad news. But it doesn’t have to be.

What if instead of saying; ‘I could kick myself for missing that,’ we got into the habit of leveraging our mistakes instead?

‘What can I learn from this?’ is a powerful question.

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To Whom It May Concern

When an aspiring author is pitching her work to a publisher or agent, she needs to address the agent directly.

In her query letter, it’s not enough to be aware of her book’s strengths—she must also know who it’s for and why this particular agent will care enough to read the first few chapters.

It doesn’t matter what idea you’re selling—it could be a logo, financial services or behaviour change, the same rules apply.

You’ll always get a better result when you open your pitch with the words, ‘Dear Someone Specific’ in your mind.

Act as if you’re writing a letter to a person you know, not a marketing message. Because you are.

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A Small Great Thing

We’re usually excited about growing our audience or expanding our customer base.

It’s hard to close the door on what might look like an opportunity to serve or scale.

But we do our best work when we know exactly who will get the most benefit from it and who it brings us joy to serve.

It’s easier to imply that our work is for everyone than it is to say this isn’t for you.

It takes courage to specialise and build a small great thing.

Image by Kenny Luo

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Start To Finish

Conventional wisdom states that you can never have too much information when solving a problem or executing on a plan.

But we all know that information and data alone won’t get us to where we want to go.

All problem-solving and innovation require us also to imagine a future we can’t yet see. And perhaps harder, to have the courage to act despite what we don’t know.

Knowledge allows us to get our bearings, but it’s imagination and action that give us the forward motion we need to to start and finish.

Image by Gaelle Marcel

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On Ambition

Before I went to high school, everyone in our year sat an aptitude test. We were eleven years old, and the assessment took place over three hours one morning early in summer.

The goal was to identify each student’s potential and stream girls into year groups based on their IQ. The theory being that matching teaching to students’ abilities would deliver better educational outcomes.

It wasn’t only a pronouncement about our aptitude for learning that was consolidated in our minds, that summer. There was also a levelling of expectations about what was possible for each one of us—not just from our teachers, but in ourselves. Our ambitions were set at the age of eleven.

Career guidance conversations about going to university to study medicine and engineering rarely happened with girls who were not in the top stream. During the five years I was in high school, I saw only a handful of girls moved from one stream to another. Mostly down, hardly ever up.

In subjects like art and music, students’ potential was also identified early, so resources could be devoted to helping those most likely to succeed. We learned very early on to keep our ambition in check—to keep pace as much with our perceived limitations as our proven ability.

These lessons learned at a young age are hard to unlearn. The stories we tell ourselves can make us fearful of being ambitious for the future. Like some of our teachers, armed with the knowledge we have in front of us, we fail to see what might be possible.

Our mistake then, and still now, is our inability to be ambitious for each day. To match our effort with what we aspire to be and change now—not with some projection of our future-self or a future we cannot yet know. We shape the future we want to see in the present. One day at a time.

Image by Victoria Heath

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Your Goal Is To Matter To The People You Serve

I once worked with a startup in the financial services industry. The foyer of their office building was all polished floorboards, high white walls and minimal seating. Inspirational magazines were strategically arranged on low tables, next to the espresso machine.

The walls were completely bare apart from a big decal that declared how many customers the company had acquired. Proudly serving a million customers, it read.

That number was the story the company’s leadership team chose to tell. It was a story about growth, success and their upward trajectory. The goal was to build trust with visitors and excitement among the team. The number said something about the company’s values and aspirations, but it didn’t tell the whole story.

As part of our work together, I helped them to find and amplify individual customer stories. They went from talking about how many people they served to showing how they helped one small business at a time. Finding, owning and sharing their stories enabled them to demonstrate that they were not just a company that measured—they were a company that mattered.

That opportunity is open to all of us.
What stories can you tell today to show people why your work matters?

*Today is the last day to enrol in The Story Skills Workshop. You can join us at the special discounted rate for my blog readers using this link. Here are some of the stories of the people we’ve helped to become better storytellers.

Image by Hayley Phelps

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The Human Advantage

Consider the things we value in our interactions with others—kindness, honesty, patience and empathy, for starters. Now, think about how often you experience them.

How many opportunities will you have today to amplify these qualities in your everyday interactions? How many will you take advantage of?

We get to shape the future we want to see—one ordinary, everyday moment at a time.

Image by Rachel

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