With January under our belts, is anyone still feeling the “new year, new you” energy? No? That’s because, every new year, you’re still the same you… but the way you approach your life and work can always improve.
In the past month, I’ve learned a lot about how to improve connections — with yourself and the people around you. Some of that happened in the newsletter; some of it happened elsewhere. So here, for your convenience, I’ll highlight five to insights in handy place. I hope you’ll carry these into the months ahead:
I was knocked off my seat recently when, after interviewing Jimmy Fallon, I came back to ask some follow-up questions. I expected him to find this annoying; I had already taken a bunch of his time, and now here I am asking for more? Because I didn’t make the most of it the first time? But Jimmy was actually delighted to get back in touch. He said he often makes himself available for follow-ups, but nobody ever takes him up on it. I did — and to him, following up is a sign of thoroughness.
He appreciates thoroughness.
Consider this a lesson for us all: Questions aren’t a burden. Wanting to know more isn’t a burden. Thoroughness is not a burden! These things show that you’re invested and that you’re committed to doing justice to whatever you’re working on. So while still respecting everyone’s time, give yourself permission to be curious.
A publicist recently asked me what drives me crazy about publicists. Oooooh, do I have an answer for that — and it’s so long, I decided to release it as a podcast.
I make many points in that episode, but here’s one of the biggest: The worst publicists pitch all their clients. Meanwhile, the best publicists pitch me very infrequently. They’re in touch only in touch when they need to be. They’ve taken the time to learn my interests and my audience, and they only reach out when they’re sure they’ll have something of value to me. As a result, when I get an email from these people, I always read it — because I know there’s a higher percentage chance that it’ll be of interest.
Here's another way of putting all that: These publicists have trained me. They taught me to equate their names with value, rather than to equate their names with noise. And that lesson applies to anyone in any industry. When you’re consistently valuable to other people, they notice. They’ll come to trust you as an additive presence. All it takes is a little background work — and a lot of restraint.
If you know that you’re getting work done, but you are not feeling a sense of accomplishment, then good news: You are not alone. In fact, your experience has even been given a name: productivity dysmorphia.
Here’s more good news: There is nothing wrong with you. There’s a good reason why you’re not feeling that wham-bam gold-star moment — and it’s because actual, substantive achievements are gradual. When you’re finally over the finish line, you’re pretty much the same as you were yesterday, even if a lot has changed over the course of your project. So naturally, that feeling of sameness can be a let-down.
The solve? Pause to take stock of your accomplishments — today, this week, and over time. As I wrote: When you look back over your year, or two years, or five, you can start to track where you accomplished the specific things that have contributed to building the path that you’re on. And when you take that zoomed-out view, even smaller accomplishments begin to take on meaning, because they feed into a broader trajectory. That zoomed-out view helps you appreciate the small stuff, which adds up to big stuff.
Did you know there’s a literary genre called “hopepunk”? According to the Collins English Dictionary, it is "a literary and artistic movement that celebrates the pursuit of positive aims in the face of adversity". For example: The Lord of the Rings is hopepunk. So is Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
This isn’t just a clever organizing principle; it’s actually a great insight into the stories we tell. The word was coined by the fantasy author Alexandra Rowland, who realized that most of our literature is based on cautionary tales. That can leave the world of readers feeling defeated and cynical — which is an incomplete way to move through the world. Hopepunk offers a kind of sci-fi optimism: It is a relentless pursuit of solving, rather than a sinking into problems.
This makes me think about the stories we tell ourselves. Are we casting ourselves as the hero in a hopepunk story, or as the victim in a different narrative?
We worry a lot, don’t we? It’s been a defining component of the last couple of years, and is a constant component of entrepreneurship. But is it good for anything?
That’s according to Towson University psychologist Sandra Llera, who studies worry. In her own experiments, which I wrote about, she’s found that worriers are worse at solving problems and are slower to implement solutions. So what can you do instead, when there’s a problem you’re worried about? Stop engaging in hypotheticals, and take action on what you can. Gather data on the parts of the problem that are here right now, and leave the rest until you have actual data to gather. That’s a good way to train yourself to feel that actions are more powerful than your worries.
That's officially a wrap for Month One of 2022. I’ll be back next week with more smart solutions to help you move forward.