Friday, February 16, 2007

Making it up as You go Along

For me, there is no greater sense of freedom and relief than when I am given permission to be who I am. I suspect that this is true of all humans, and if you haven't experienced it seek it out now. Today I had that experience again, and a new model for making your being successful in the world is now forming.

It started with my completion of the Kolbe-A Index at This index gave me permission to be a idea guy who communicates by building things. Can you say "prototype?" This was always a problem in corporate America. I couldn't get permission to build something without building it to communicate what it was.

A strategy of asking forgiveness instead of getting permission will get you fired.

This morning I read Richard Oliver's unfortunately titled manifesto "Purposive Drift: Making It Up As We Go Along." Discover Suddenly, about seven things that have been part of my life for years came into focus:

  1. My friend at Enterprise Teaming who has created this teaming software that is so open and free-form that it boggles the mind--and defies project management sensibilities.
  2. My recent adoption of David Allen's Getting Things Done, and consumption of the 43 folders podcast.
  3. My recent decision to stop beating my head against the corporate career ladder and do what I do best.
  4. The emergence of Web 2.0
  5. My wife's utter disappointment at my failed career.
  6. That kid in 4th grade.
  7. An audio book or podcast I heard on the topic of sex.
  8. The job I took and was fired from where the boss told me about the Kolbe Index.
  9. The Seth Godin Blog post in 2004 that introduced me to ChangeThis.
  10. My decision to start a blog (so I could post this).
  11. Walks I took with an investor and friend who felt ideas were where the value was, not in building companies.

Why Isn't Sex on Your Calendar?

What keeps us from being great managers of time, projects and life in general? It's the mismatched metaphors. Those of us who make things up as we go don't think in terms of tickler files, reference libraries and inboxes. Calendars are only useful in guiding us to connection points with others.

Why isn't sex on your Calendar? If you're married or in a sexually active relationship, how would your week be different if every Thursday was sex night? Sex is one of the most amazing experiences in life, yet it's taboo to plan it. What other amazing experiences can't be planned, organized, or moderated?

Make-it-uppers look at everything like sex. I'll put it on my calendar, but will I be in the mood? What else will have happened that day? Will I have changed my mind? What if something more interesting arises?

We need a different set of metaphors. Why? We organize under a different set of rules.

Rules of the Make-it-Uppers

The following is a proven way to live an organized life if you are making it up as you go.

Rule 1: Everything is of equal importance. How is a brief encounter in 4th grade as important as losing a job? Somehow it is this morning.

Rule 2: The universe--fate, serendipity, possibility, probability--should get a vote in every decision. If success is 90% luck, why not factor it in?

Rule 3: It is absolutely imperative that you be firmly committed to a goal until you decide to change it.

Rule 4: Everyone is equally important, whether you like them or not. You don't have to meet with anyone, but if you agree to, be on time.

Rule 5: Success is only measured by the amount of fun, happiness or peace you are experiencing right now.

Rule 6: Make it up. What is your Rule 6?

The Organizational Structures of Make-it-Uppers

It is obvious to make-it-uppers that the only valid organizational structure is the one that they make up. It should be a synergy of the things learned (Rule 1) that have been put in front of you (Rule 2). Once in place, it should provide peace of mind, not an additional stress (Rule 5). If it causes more stress, change it (Rule 3).

None-the-less, I'd like to throw some thoughts your way to throw to the stew.

Tickler File: The universe is a big tickler file. You know something is important when you run into them or they ask you for something.

Reference: Since everything is important (or nothing is important) we don't want an organized reference system with categories, taxonomies and such. We want a boiling pot, a kettle or a cauldron. Think folksonomies, tagging, mindmaps.

Actually, my favorite reference system is called a pile. It's free-form organization with a dash of time--stuff near the bottom is older..

Calendar: A calendar helps you keep your commitments. More importantly, it is where you "cross the streams" with other, helping ideas to germinate and mature. If it's on your calendar, show up and be on time.

Priorities: Everything is the highest priority, you just don't know why for some of them. The will all be important, you just don't know when. If something can't be put on your calendar, toss it into a boiling pot or let your tickler file remind you.

Projects: Projects are not multi-step activities, they are activities that require others to help you complete. I highly recommend having people around you that don't make things up as they go. They can help you with steps and planning.

A project is your opportunity to set commitments and ask for others to do things for you.

Set your commitments, meet them, and ask others to do the same.

An Idea is like Love

An Idea is like Love. When you give it away you don't lose anything, but both the giver and receiver gain something.

Luck never happens in the future. In fact it doesn't exist.


  1. Nailed it Brian! But didn't you say, "Suddenly, about seven things that have been part of my life for years came into focus:" AND then mention 11?

    ChangeThis and GTD two major forces in my life as well. And then there is Kathy Sierra and Creating Passionate Users. That's the mantra I keep preaching at every place I land. We'll see what Dell has to say about that... Their is pretty cool. They are really trying. Hey, they gotta do something.

    Anyway, I start my Dell trek tomorrow as part of the global eComm group. See ya there...

  2. Wow, John. DellIdeaStorm is almost... transparent.


Subscribe and Share