I originally called this newsletter “The Feifer Five.” I later dropped the name because:
a) It limited the potential audience to people who already know my last name, and
b) Five what!?
But now I’m realizing something: I come across some much great advice every month — only some of which I write about! — that a list of five could be handy sometimes.
That’s why, right here, I’m debuting a new feature of the Build For Tomorrow newsletter: I will pull together a wham-bam bundle of advice to share with you every month. I meant to send this one out at the end of October, but then some news (funeral photo woman, work-from-home survey) got in the way. So we’re doing it now.
Normally we get one lesson per newsletter. In this post, we get five!
Here we go.
When you’re grappling with change, your decisions are often fraught with feelings and attachments. That makes them hard to evaluate. It’s helpful to give yourself some distance — and even pretend the decision you’re making belonged to someone else. Or better yet, what if your problem actually did belong to someone else?
Here’s advice from Wharton’s Katy Milkman, author of the book How to Change, who I recently interviewed:
“If you’re thinking about, How do I make a change? or, What’s the right change?” Milkman says, “try to think, Is there information I can gather from other people who’ve pursued a similar path? And what can I copy and paste that worked for them?’” In studies, she's found this to be more effective than people just strategizing on their own.
What a relief: You don’t always have to start from scratch! That’s just one piece of very good advice in a whole list of tips from Milkman. Find the rest here.
Milkman’s insights also touch on a topic we covered in the newsletter this month: the lurking danger of what you don’t know.
Quick recap: I told the story of the Swedish military spotting a mysterious shape in the ocean, which it believed to be a high-tech Russian submarine. Military experts couldn’t figure it out, so they eventually called in some scientists… who cracked the case. The mysterious shape was actually a school of fish.
Our personal biases can steer our decision-making, sometimes to catastrophic effect. If you think you know the problem, then you think you have the solution. But if you’re wrong about the problem, then you’ll simply compound it by trying to solve a misunderstanding! Instead of diving further down your own rabbit hole, why not simply ask for an outside perspective?
“Do the hard thing first and the rest of the day will go much more smoothly–and productively!”
That’s advice from the brilliant finance writer (and my good friend) Nicole Lapin, who wrote this nice truth in her newsletter. She approaches this principle through the lens of personal finance — she talks about paying your bills before you splurge on a fancy dinner — but the idea can be applied to all kinds of work.
You know what I’m talking about: You have a meaty, challenging task looming over you, and instead of tackling it, you respond to emails, catch up on reading, find some other fluffy task to occupy you while you feel guilty about pushing off the hard thing. But after all that nice stuff, have you really accomplished the most meaningful work? No.
Do the hard thing first and the rest of your day is downhill.
What makes a good podcast? The same thing that makes a good anything.
That’s what I realized after speaking with Jen Sargent, CEO of Wondery, a leading podcast network (Dr. Death, Dirty John, etc) that was acquired earlier this year by Amazon. I asked her what makes a good podcast and she replied, “Everybody's really busy, and you're asking for people's time — their most valuable asset. So what's the WHY behind your podcast? Why should someone take 20, 30 minutes to listen? You better have a strong answer for that.”
How true that is. Whenever we create something — whether a product, a service, or even a tiny piece of content like this — we must remember that we’re doing it for the person consuming it, not for us. Why would they want to spend their time (or money) on this? Know that answer.
I wrote recently about how to define success for yourself, and used my novelist friend Andi Bartz as an example. But she made a wonderful point that got buried in all the other takeaways, so I’m resurfacing it here to make sure we all get the full bang for our buck.
Let’s return to how Andi defines success: It isn’t by reaching the New York Times best-seller list, or having her work optioned by Hollywood (both of which she's now done). Instead, here's success to her: getting to keep doing what she’s already doing.
We spend a lot of time envisioning success, or what it will feel like to hit certain milestones. But that’s just setting ourselves up for disappointment. The only way to build a sustainable (and rewarding) work life is to enjoy the process. And better yet, to make the process the reward all by itself.
🕵🏻♀️ Looking for more lessons to help you change? Check the archive.
💬 Got something to share? Leave a comment! I always respond.
🎧 Latest podcast: Everything you've heard about dopamine is wrong.
Cover credit: Getty Images / Christina Hemsley / EyeEm