"We want so desperately to believe that those who have built great empires set out to build one. Why? So we can indulge in the pleasure of planning ours"
- Ryan Holiday
If you'd rather watch this newsletter, or do so while you read, you can hear me talk through it here 👇
Before I get started, in the 6 seconds I have to grab your attention, I would LOVE some feedback on these newsletters.
I appreciate many of you have kindly subscribed to this out of support for me as a friend, ex-colleague, or you're an interested/ kind stranger and I'm really grateful. However I'd really love to know if this is working.
I've seen others publish stats on newsletter which I found interesting - part of the Build In Public ideology.
So for Collecting Dots - 📈 Sprint 1 Open Rate 53%, Sprint 2 Open Rate: 49%.
Thank you for engaging - I see you and appreciate your being here.
I'd love to know if you are one of the people that did open it - what made you? Did you read any of it? Much of it? All of it?
If you didn't no problem! Was it not the right time? Not an interesting title? Or just quite frankly not really of interest?
I love lean product development which finds its roots in the scientific method.
A scientist doesn't experiment to succeed, they experiment to learn.
With this in mind, I have an hypothesis with Collecting Dots (that what I have to share about my journey and l the dots along the way are of value to others), I have my experiment (a fortnightly Sprint Update newsletter), and now I'm looking to make some observations. This time I've changed up the order, focused less on my story and more about value.
I want to make what I learn, do, hear, listen to valuable for you and others - I'd love to hear from you - WhatsApp, email, LinkedIn message - whatever works.
📚 What I've been reading
I started Ryan Holiday's Ego Is Your Enemy at the start of this Sprint and am definitely gaining some valuable insights.
Ego is what limits nearly everyone. I say nearly. I mean everyone.
With every ambition and goal we have - big or small - ego is there undermining us on the very journey we've put everything into pursuing.
Ryan by no means implies we are all egomaniacs, alive just for self-interested personal gain, but instead, through telling stories of others that have had their lives obstructed by their ego, makes you think a little more about what your ego is doing for you - "if ego is the voice that tells us that we're better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us".
There is a huge amount to be said here so I'll just share what jumped out at me, and seems most relevant to my thinking. In the second part, focused on success, one chapter is centred on the story of life we tell ourselves - "myth becomes myth not in the living but in the re-telling".
Central to the idea of Collecting Dots is that we should focus on the present experience - the journey unfolding rather than the journey that has unfolded or is to unfold. Ryan digs into our love of speaking in narratives - how we got to where we are:
"We want so desperately to believe that those who have built great empires set out to build one. Why? so we can indulge in the pleasure of planning ours"
In other words, we focus too heavily on the connecting of dots in the future and failure to realise that imagining the connection alone won't do.
It takes work, discipline, belief, confusion, frustration, perseverance.
Yes we can set intentions, but we can't imagine our lives into existence, we must create it. I know I've spent way too long in the past thinking and planning what I want to do when really there is no better time than now to take action. It's ego that gives you the comfort of thinking things will just turn up.
So, instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on execution - "we must shun the false crown and continue working on what got us here".
🤷♂️ What I've been working on
For some time I've been fascinated by the the idea of interdependence. My interest in this has gone in waves, however it seems whatever I do always return back to this theme.
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey talks about the maturation of humans as a linear process from dependence to independence to interdependence. I liked this idea for individuals as it captures the true nature of what I believe it is to be human.
We are not striving for independence in our thinking, actions, and development. In a sense my obsession with dots, which I feel you are likely well aware of by this point, is also rooted in the idea of interdependence.
Our lives are not a linear set of dots but a web, a network, a system of dots - interdependent and constantly working with and for each other, even at moments it really doesn't feel like it.
I believe as individuals we should strive for interdependence in all aspects of our lives - an awareness of our place as individuals within the outside world. So how might this thinking apply to an organisation?
More and more I come to realise the key challenges and greatest risks in organisations large and small comes down to a lack of alignment, connection and trust.... a lack of interdependence.
Capability models created to help organisations more accurately demonstrate where their skills and talents lie end up creating silo's, resulting in a lack of clarity and in turn a total lack of connection and trust.
This Sprint I've taken time to research system thinking, system design and a system mindset. It's not necessarily a new area, but one I have recently dived into. A system is a relationship of parts that work together in an organised manner to accomplish a common purpose.
Every product is a system of parts working together to accomplish a common purpose, whether in the graphic display of typography, images, colour, and pattern in a poster; the integrated workings of a physical artifact; the sequence of planned activities, communications, and exchanges of a service or any other human interaction; or the complexities of dynamic and evolving organisations, environments, and systems.
I've been thinking about how to bring this system research into my approach to building out my services and products with Ross Power Consulting, and, using Elliott Callender's 'Talent Stack' as a base which I serendipitously stumbled across, have built out some initial thoughts on what I think key areas and connections between these need to be. Find out more about the talent stack here - a really worthwhile exercise if you're a little confused of where you skills and interests may be and how they could connect.
This is a quick draft, MVPesque and a little fluffy - but if you have any thoughts I'd love to hear them (I've left my pondering notes on here too - true BuildInPublic style
Oh, and I bought a van soon to be camper (if this is what a quarter-life crisis looks like I think everyone should have one...)
🧠 What made me think and feel
We're all spending a fair bit of time with much less human interaction than ever before for obvious reasons. Although of course we have the interaction with those we live with and calls of course, one thing I thought about after having a well overdue haircut this week is the value of speaking with strangers.
For me there is something wonderful about a conversation with a stranger - be it on a train, bus, plane, in a shop, or wherever you end up in this situation. I know what you're thinking.... oh christ Ross is THAT GUY that starts conversations which people really don't want.
Well yes, and...yes. I guess I do, and I guess sometimes people aren't as keen, but I'd say I'm intuitive enough to know when's not the right time...I hope.
Anyway, I felt quite refreshed after some stranger interaction after a few weeks of lockdown in Wales and came across some research (thanks TJ).
Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other. Why? Well, we know one reason now, but there are two others that seem likely: Either solitude is a more positive experience than interacting with strangers, or people misunderstand the consequences of distant social connections.
Aristotle famously argued that man is by nature a social animal, but people in the company of strangers often look to be anything but social. Instead of treating each other as possible sources of well-being, strangers in close proximity often ignore each other completely, treating each other more like objects than like fellow social beings. For one of the most highly social species on the planet, whose members benefit significantly from forming connections with other people, this seems paradoxical. Why would highly social animals in the company of strangers so routinely ignore each other?
Through a series of experiments Epley and Schroeder found that there is a consistent disconnect between the anticipated and actual consequences of connecting with a stranger.
Humans may indeed be social animals but we may not always be social enough for our own well-being. Of course, life is not always lived to maximise well-being. People may therefore put off positive interactions because it comes at a cost for some other goal.
When commuting, a person may want to get work done. When riding in a cab after a long plane flight, a little sleep might be rejuvenating. When sitting in a waiting room, homework may need to get done. Indeed, in these experiments participants predicted that their socialising would come at a cost to productivity, expecting they would have a less productive commute if they connected with a stranger than if they sat in solitude. Neither experiment, however, found that participants who actually connected with a stranger reported having a less productive commute when they connected with a stranger than when they sat in solitude.
Either people do not get as much done on the train sitting alone as they expect to, or forming a new connection comes to be defined as a reasonably productive use of time after having done it.
So, make sure you speak to a stranger and connect next time you go out. We all need connection. You'll be doing yourself, them a favour everyone else a favour - we are all interdependent after all.
I for one can't wait until I can talk to strangers once more (I can hear your laughs, I know, get the hell away from Ross!)
🔦A spotlight on Jamie Roy
This Sprint's spotlight is on long-standing friend, mentor, coach, and according to a drunken teenage Ross the future god father of my children.
Jamie Roy lived with my family when I was 14 after my mum was unable to drive for a while due to some serious operations on her foot. He quickly became like an older brother to me and remains so.
Jamie has a perspective on people, connection and relationships that I really love. As a 'Connection Facilitator' Jamie believes networking should be so simple yet so often we turn up with the wrong mindset, leading us to the wrong conversations and the wrong outcomes. Jamie works with individuals and teams to help create and nurture better 'Relationship Environments'. So what are relationship environments?
"When you build something there is usually a plan. Something to follow to allow you to achieve the desired result. Building is energy intensive — you put one brick on top of the other and it is very process driven. Environments on the other hand already exist. They are always evolving and everything, including ourselves, are embedded within them. Relationship environments do not come together, they coexist with a deep understanding of connection and reliance on everything around them."
Find out more about Jamie's views on connection and relationship environments in the video below.
As always, thanks for being here. I hope there are some aspects of this which might prompt an idea or new habit in you, or perhaps spark a conversation with someone you're living with.
If you'd like to hear more of this subscribe to Collecting Dots and join the growing community.
Life is in the dots collected as much as it is in the dots connected - Keep Collecting Dots.
All the best,