Why productivity is such a big deal. ⚡️ Speaking as listening. Reuse. Crazy questions. A new word for what you're feeling. Spread the ❤️.
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Hello there:

Every so often, there's a pronouncement that a particular thing is "dead."

In the early days of social media PR was the thing, which of course it wasn't. I even said that on stage at the New York Times Summit in the middle of a great panel discussion I was moderating that included Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan. (If you're curious, the scene is in the cover photo in my LinkedIn profile, because the reaction from the room was epic). Yes, whenever Brian Halligan speaks at a conference, something dies (it was marketing's turn at the summit).

Then it was Wired magazine that pronounced the web dead, which of course it wasn't. Though it was a good opportunity to rethink how we reach out to customers.

Now it's former hedge fund manager James Altucher pronouncing New York City dead on LinkedIn... from Miami. Jerry Seinfeld fired back with an op-ed in the New York Times. Apparently there was also an exchange on Twitter, in case you missed that, as I did.

This is Seinfeld's money shot if you work in a creative field: "Energy, attitude, and personality cannot be 'remoted' eve through the best fiber optic lines." It's been a challenge for many of us.

Right now, we're all adapting like crazy.

There's a deeper reason behind why productivity is such a big deal. And it's not what Altucher hints at—though short term we do get things done. The deeper reason, for one, has to do with the fact that many of our decisions, interactions, and intentions are affected by the whole working from home and not relating to people in person situation. Plus we stop seeing what happens in a physical space when we're not there.

There's a thing I've been doing ever since I moved to the U.S. and away from my family to keep good vibes going. I'm extra thoughtful. I try to make them feel loved through little gestures. An occasional paper card with prints of photos they shared with me sent just because I was thinking of them. A little gift to the kids for no particular birthday or occasion. And when all else fails, a good sense of humor in our video calls.

Steal this idea. Injecting extra care and thoughtfulness in your dealings with customers and colleagues can go a long way in keeping everyone's energy up. We power each other in culture, and right now the opportunities to build it together are slim and through media that disembodies us.

Be kind, for everyone you talk with (via Zoom, Google Meet, phone, or across the register at the supermarket) is fighting a hard battle.

(The Animals Cover by The Trails Acoustic Trio, Italian)

Have you noticed
how some of the simple, generous things you do
compound over time?

You could say I've done some speaking
over the years.
I'd say I've mostly done listening,
understanding, and asking
good questions.
(yes, you can do that in keynotes as well)

I started on the ground floor, literally.
Accepting invitations to local events.
People felt energized by the discussion
invited me to their events,
and so on.

Regional and national talks and panel moderation,
and international keynotes followed.
At first I got expense reimbursement,
then I got paid as the value of
my questions increased.

Aside from being one of a few women
speaking at any one event,
I offered a different point of view.

If we've met an one of those events,
chances are we're still connected
and touch base regularly.
It's all in the questions.


Are you a fan of reusing?

It's better than recycling. It works for ideas as for things. You notice that a way of doing something in one area of your life works much better than how you do things elsewhere. Apply it somewhere else and you improve that, too.

Reuse is handy because by taking, but not reprocessing, previously used items (or ideas), you save time, money, energy, and resources. This is also a reason why productivity is such a big deal (see link at the bottom).

Increase idea longevity by focusing on quality in the same way you would with investing in something precious to you, and you're golden.

What's old is new again in an industry that has contributed to landfills most in recent years. In Italy, Atelier Riforma is helping people upcycle (it's fashion, after all) while creating a market for collaborators. That, plus some of the industry is shifting to on demand bebcause mass-producing fashion is no longer sustainable.

And if you think reuse doesn't go hand in hand with creativity or is not practical, imagine where IKEA would be without it.

For more eye candy, 70 years of the IKEA catalog. I visited the first U.S. store in suburban Philadelphia a few short months after it opened, in 1985 (I had not yet moved from Italy). I didn't know it then, but 150,000 customers came to that store during opening week.

Crazy questions:

  • Can we detect planes from far away using beams of light? (Radar)
  • Can we convince millions of companies (and individuals) to give us their proprietary data to host? (Cloud services)
Are not so crazy when they lead to innovation that saves lives and data. Or just to discovering that we make the rules. And we get to live with them.

What crazy questions are you asking?

And then what steps are you taking to build into the answers?

(more about innovation in my favorite readings in the links below).
As it's useful to name the action you're going to take after asking your crazy question, it's useful to name the emotion you're feeling.

If you need a name, acedia could be it, given our (mostly) monastic lives. The word was used to express a strange sense of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and the resulting inability to concentrate that monks experienced due to being confined in a space away from social life.

"Naming and expressing experiences allows us to claim some agency in dealing with them." If you need a reason why we need to come with new words, here's a good one.


“I understood then that
to change the world
you had to be there."

- Tina Anselmi
 first woman minister of the Italian Republic
July 29, 1976

Why productivity is such a big deal

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