Rands Carefully calibrating the new test

Five Thousand Stories

The first book I purchased for myself. When I understood the science fiction genre. Getting beat up as a kid and how the marbles helped. My favorite pen. When I learned why typography mattered. Why I care about bears so much. Why Tribeca matters to me.

When I was a kid, I had nightmares. Saying that “every kid gets nightmares” doesn’t matter to a seven-year-old on week two of dread-filled nights who doesn’t understand if he’s being punished, if something is wrong with him, or something worse.

My Mother gave me a small trinket before bed one night. I don’t remember what she said, but what I remember is I believed if I held that trinket when I went to sleep that I would not get nightmares. It worked. For an entire summer. One night while I slept, the trinket fell between the bed and the wall. I can not tell how quickly I tore apart my entire room looking for that trinket and how relieved I was when I found it.

The only book about dragons that matters. Gifts from dear friends in New Zealand. The seven books I will always recommend when asked. Every Field Notes I’ve ever received and used. A framed silver dollar. The back of the frame reads, “Remember Las Vegas, June 1959. Golden Nugget.”

The trinket lives in a small wooden box next to my bed, along with small gifts I’ve collected over the past decades. When life is excessively complicated, I open the box, pull the trinket out, and place it in my pocket for the complicated day. I am neither a religious nor a mystical person, but, yes, I do believe the day will be more manageable with that trinket in my pocket. Because it reminds me of the story of unconditional love a parent has for a child. When a child suffers, all a parent can do is work to ease their suffering. I got this.

The best vinyl I could steal from my parents. A history of Apple boxes. Every book I’ve written. Every book I’ve published. That copy of the Dungeon and Dragons Monster Manual I begged my Mom to buy me in Hawaii when we had no money. Moon Knight #1 — thrown away two decades ago by my Mother but found and given to me by family this Christmas. When Wanda made Marvel so much better with a single phrase.

I collect objects which contain stories meaningful to me. I’ve done so since I was a kid. How do I know if the story is meaningful? I hold the object in my hand, and I remember the story and how it makes me feel. Some items pass this test for a few years before the stories fade, whereas others are as real as when I first experienced them.

You’ve seen some of these objects before:

That’s the southern wall of my office, and those were two seven-foot-tall bookshelves that dutifully collected stories. Roughly a year ago, as we were starting a remodel of a bathroom, I spun around in my chair in my home office dreaming. The bookshelves were full, but I had a lifetime of other stories that belonged in the Cave.

Spin, spin, spin. The ceilings of my office are just over thirteen feet high. The southern wall was mostly bare. You know. Why not shelves? An entire wall of shelves. All the way up to the ceiling? I conferred with my wife, who promptly added, “And you’re going to need a ladder.”

A LADDER. Of course, a rolling ladder. That’s the dream.

Why I love journalism. The importance of short stories. How I learned how to make hard decisions. The Winter Soldier codebook. The first object I put on my desk at work that I cared about. The second thing, too. Ginormous black notebooks. Severus Snape’s wand. Why my son is named Spencer.

Our interior designer recommended a furniture maker. He made a good first impression, but the process of getting the shelves built was endless weeks of silence punctuated with moments of hope. Three times during the long silence, I told myself, “Well… better find another craftsperson,” which was promptly followed by an out-of-the-blue text giving us hope once again.

We dared to hope more when the money finally exchanged hands for materials, and questions regarding stain were asked. Then, another month of silence. As Fall approached, my wife laid down the law, “We need to be done by Thanksgiving.” We’re weren’t, but it was close, and it doesn’t matter now.

When I knew writing was for me. Anything Steve Martin has ever written. My father’s life’s work on the cover of a book. Too embarrassed to write it down. None of your business. The ironic book that got me started on writing about leadership. That book I’ve read 100 times. Three NHL All-Star hockey pucks. The story that meant the Internet was a big deal.

Before the day of installation, I emptied all the existing shelves. This was an excellent warm-up exercise. Hold it in my hand and see if I could hear the story. Day of the installation, I was at work and instructed my wife to tell me nothing. I broke halfway through the day and asked, “Is the stain ok?”

“You’re going to love it.”

My favorite piece of Apple hardware. That notebook. The picture that best expresses our love. The prettiest ocean wave on the planet Earth. Why bridges matter. My grandfather’s last gift to me. My Mother’s copy of Magic of Oz – signed by her at age seven.

Here’s before and after the installation process:

A custom-made knife from a dear friend. The Stephen King years. The encyclopedia we had as kids. What redwoods tell me about life. Why leadership has very little to do with management. That silver box. The writers who taught me the Rands voice.

It’s taken weeks, but the first draft of the shelf arrangement is done. Thousands of decisions. Carefully calibrating the new test of shelf-worthiness. Placing related objects together to tell meta-stories for each shelf. This is a wonderful wonderful task that will never end because…

We are the stories we remember.

Writing Edited, modernized, and pandemic-enabled

Managing Humans, 4th Edition

Just in time for Christmas, I’m happy to announce the 4th Edition of Managing Humans. It appears that four years is the sweet spot for new editions of this book.

The process of getting this edition out the door was the least painful of the four unless you factor in, ya’know, the pandemic. Edition notes:

  • I broke my streak of hating every single first draft of the cover. I was pretty OK with the latest. I will miss the pencil, but it was time for it to go.
  • There are 33 more pages and 11 new chapters. 33 might not seem like many pages to you, but those 33 pages changed the feel of the book. The 4th edition crossed a pleasing heft threshold that you will only understand when you hold it in your hand. It’s this weight that is my favorite attribute of this edition.
  • There’s an epilogue.
  • I nuked two chapters: The Monday Freakout and Avoiding the Fez. They did not stand the test of time.
  • My favorite new chapter is The Metronome. You can read it here right now.
  • There was another deep cleansing edit to correct errors, modernize, and acknowledge the multi-year pandemic vastly affecting how we lead. There are also several pandemic-inspired new chapters.
  • The glossary remains my favorite bit of the book. It, too, has been edited, modernized, and pandemic-enabled.
  • The promotion website is kind’a janky, but I love it. It’s up to date.
  • In publishing four editions of this book, I have not met a single human in person who is responsible for its publication. Really.
  • Covers quotes have returned, and I’m deeply thankful to John Gruber and John Dickerson to the two thoughtful quotes for the cover.

O’Reilly and I are in the process of rebooting Being Geek. That’ll land next year.

Again, thanks to all of you who continue to appreciate Managing Humans. You are the only reason there is the fourth edition.

The Important Thing What the hell is going on here?

The One About Those Shelves

Welcome back. In our 46th episode, we’re talking about the new shelves in the cave. They’re big. Like huge. It’s so good to be talking with you all again. Spend time with Lyle and Lopp talking about important things.

Enjoy it now or download for later. Here’s a handy feed or subscribe via Overcast or iTunes.

(p.s. There’s a blog post regarding the building and installation of these shelves being written right now. Contains pictures.)

Rands Wearing us out

Rands Charity Shirts

Coming to the end of another complicated year. Each time I think we’re getting back to normal, something else horrible goes sideways. It’s wearing us all down.

Over at the Rands Leadership Slack, we do an annual donation program where we ask those who are finding value in the community to make a donation to their favorite charity. This year I’m doing it a little different.

All of the shirts I’ve produced over the years are available via our friends at Cotton Bureau.

As has always been the case, all profits for these shirts go to charity, but this year, I’ll match every single penny of profit that results from these sales. While I’ve supported various charities over the years, I’d like focus this year on mental health and will donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

If you don’t need another thing and would like to just donate, please drop me a mail at feedback AT randsinrepose.com and we’ll sort a Venmo – same policy, I’ll match all donations through 12/25/21.

I’ve worked hard to write things down that might inspire and educate all levels of leaders. I’m thankful for the community here and within the Rands Leadership Slack.

It continues to be a privilege. I’m looking forward to seeing you again.

Happy Merry.

Management A name for a thing

The Sabotage List

Imposter syndrome. It’s the feeling that pure happenstance or just dumb luck is the reason you’re in this current role. It’s a sense you don’t belong, you aren’t good enough, and – real soon now – everyone is going to see you for who you really are.

You might have felt this before, and I’m sure many of your peers are feeling it right now. When the topic comes up amongst friends and co-workers, when someone asks, “How many of you have felt Imposter Syndrome?” I’m surprised how many confident, talented, and hard-working humans raise their hands instantly.

Where does it come from? Why does it exist in talented and experienced humans?

I don’t know. Not a psychologist. Just another human. Trying to figure it out. A little bit at a time.

It’s one of the items on a terrifyingly long list of irrational human behaviors that I don’t understand. Still, where I’ve had success is giving the behavior a name so I can see it. This allows me a chance to succeed at Step 2.

The Untitled List

There’s a list on the last page of my current personal notebook. It has no title. Each time I finish a notebook, I dutifully translate the current version of this list from old to new notebook.

This untitled list is my Sabotage List. It’s a list of important projects I’m currently not doing for… reasons. I’ll explain some of the reasons as best I can shortly, but the majority of the hard work is honestly building and maintaining this list.

Important projects I’m not doing. Essential projects. Doesn’t make sense, right? Well, become comfortable with irrationality if you’re going to finish this piece. Yes, they are important. Yes, I am actively not working on them. Yes, under self-inflicted duress and just between you and me, yeah, I acknowledge I’m not actively working on these projects. Why? Here are some world-class, totally reasonable excuses:

  • Next thing on the list! Been super busy.
  • I’m working on step one this week and will report back shortly.
  • Blocked on Person X, who needs to deliver thing Y.
  • It’s on the calendar!

Do you know when someone is spinning you? Not lying, spinning. I do, and I don’t need to hear a single spoken word to sense it. All I need to see is the same instant subtle physical discomfort before they answer the question. The unease accompanied by manufactured enthusiasm designed to be a cover and saccharine excitement deployed as a targeted distraction. I know it because I do it too.

Why am I sabotaging myself? I don’t know. Not a psychologist. Just another human. Trying to figure it out. A little bit at a time.

An easier question is: why keep a list?

The Reasons

As promised, here are some obvious-to-me reasons that are woefully incomplete as to why I might not be engaging:

  • The project doesn’t deliver obvious value. I can’t see why I would execute this project when the return on investment is so low. (Yeah, so, why is it on this list?)
  • The work is complicated, so complicated that I instinctively don’t know how to start. When I consider the project, I’m drawing a blank. (Yeah, so, you’ve completed far larger and more complicated projects many, many times.)
  • There is downstream scariness and/or professional discomfort that will occur for one or more of my team members due to completing this project that I don’t want to face. (NooOooOOow we’re getting somewhere.)
  • … or it’s something else. LALALALlalaLALLALA. I don’t know. Not a psychologist. Just another human. Trying to figure it out. A little bit at a time.

Sabotage is a strong word. It’s declarative. It accuses. That’s why I picked it. The Sabotage List isn’t for you; it’s for me. The goal is not to resolve each item on the list. The goal is to make sure it exists as a visible artifact rather than carefully tucked away in the deep dark corners of my brain. Invisible. Hiding, but with an impressive weight.

When I review the list, I don’t have a proscribed process, but I am always aware it’s there. Occasionally and always unplanned, I glance at the list and wonder for a moment, Why is this here? What is the reason I choose not to act?

Often the silent efficient irrational defense mechanism prevents me from thinking deeper, but sometimes… sometimes in that brief reflection, I find revelation. Oh, I’m not working on this because… 10 years ago, THIS happened, and it hurt, and I’ll never forget that hurt thank you very much. My prior experience left a mental scar, and simply knowing that it exists is immense progress. Not because I found a way forward, but because now I know why I stopped.

A list carries weight. It often documents a set of things you need to do. This is a flaw in the Sabotage List. I sometimes cross an item off the list, but I’m never done. It’s never empty. The Sabotage List, like Imposter Syndrome, is a name for a thing, but also a reminder that there is much I don’t know and, no, I’ll never be a psychologist, but I’ll always strive to figure it out.

A little bit at a time.

Management A privilege of leadership

Ok. So, You Can’t Decide.

Even if you’ve checked your work, asked for all the help, and are moving gingerly, there will be decisions where you can’t decide. You’ve considered and reconsidered your pro/con lists, you’ve had endless debates with informed humans, but you remain mentally paralyzed.

I have an observation regarding this paralysis, and then advice.

First, the paralysis might mean you’re subconsciously aware you’ve missed an essential aspect of the decision, and your brain isn’t letting you decide until you mentally uncover this essential information.

In all your research, conversation, and deliberation, you’ve not found the obvious answer. Worse, you’ve discovered a whisper of a hint there is something important yet to be discovered, and that discovery might push your decision one direction or the other.

This is a subtle slippery mindset. It’s a convenient excuse for the decision impaired. It allows us to stall even longer, but in my experience, the whisper of a hint is experiencing speaking… quietly.

In this situation, I need a very long bike ride. There is no additional conversation that needs to occur. A whiteboard is not going to help. I need to push the entire situation to the very back of my brain. I need to stick it back there where the wild things are because, in this situation, they know better than I.

Maybe you don’t bike. Ok, what is your deep consideration activity? Where do you find random thoughts and inspiration outside of the shower? Do that for as long as is necessary and see what you discover. Don’t force it, just put yourself into deep consideration and see what happens.

Or maybe…

You just need to decide.

Having been through a great many hard decisions, there are two distinct moods around the decision. The great debate before the decision and then the great relief after the decision.

The defining characteristic of the great relief is the sense of immediate progress. After days or weeks of careful analysis, you are suddenly moving forward again and… it’s a delightful relief. You are no longer stuck endlessly second-guessing yourself.

Remember when you accepted the job offer? Remember when you bought the new car? Remember what it felt like the moment after you said “Yes” to the company or signed on the dotted line? A weight is immediately lifted, “Ok, this is happening.”

You instantly become mentally limber. What was an infinitely complicated and unmeasurable set of interrelated pros and cons has now become work. Chances are the decision is so fresh that you have no idea whether it was the right decision or not, but you don’t care because you are no longer stuck. Even if unexpected consequences begin to show up, you eagerly attack them because consequences are more fun than mental paralysis.

Yeah… yeah. I am reluctantly suggesting that the move is sometimes to just yolo decide. There is a real risk here, but if you’ve built yourself a formidable mental block, you’re wasting precious time swirling around your head and it’s time to make forward progress.

A profound change of perspective follows making a decision. It’s no longer theoretical; it’s happening. You are doing something as opposed to talking about doing something. Even better, as potential consequences begin to arrive, you gather initial essential data on the quality of your decision. Remember that aspect of the decision you thought was critical? Yeah, now that the decision is in the wild, you see it is irrelevant. And that allegedly irrelevant detail? Yeah, now it’s loudly and painfully essential. Whoops.

It’s frustrating when the early reactions arrive, and you realize all your forecasting work only provided half of the essential data. Your frustration is doubled when the “I Told You So” humans show up to remind you that you ignored a critical part of their counsel. Ignored is the fact that we only know the critical role of their counsel because your decision revealed the importance.

Yes, some humans are naturally talented at decision forecasting, but there is a critical difference between those critics and you. They sit at a professional, comfortable distance from the decision. They are mostly immune to the consequences, which gives them mental comfort.

Meanwhile, you are accountable for this decision, and, once again, I’ll remind you that most humans believe accountability means responsibility. What it means is “required or expected to justify actions and decisions.” To give account.

The decision you made is entirely yours, and while the work preceding a hard decision can feel like an immense and endless chore, decisions and their subsequent consequences are, in fact, a privilege of leadership.

Management Time to build a quality decision

Check Your Work, Ask for Help, and Slow Down

The quality of your decisions is the currency of leadership.

It starts easy. The stakes are low. There is a legion of leaders around you who understand you’ve just begun, so when they see the decision in front of you, they proactively offer helpful advice. If the decision appears too complicated, excessively risky, or obviously high stakes, your manager raises her hand and helpfully suggests, “I got this one.”

You are thankful because you had… no idea how to decide.

It gets harder. The stakes increase. There are more blank stares from trusted peers when these decisions appear not because they don’t want to help but because they don’t know. They have never seen this type of decision before. However, they can, like you, know the importance of this decision and the necessity of it being your decision. Your manager will offer to help, but she’ll wait longer to offer this help because she understands the value of you learning how to make this decision.

Then it seems impossible. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Trusted peers grin nervously as you walk. They feel equal parts empathy for the difficulty of the decision and relief that it’s not on their shoulders. You have zero intuition on how to make this decision. No, it’s worse than that. You don’t even know how to decompose the problem to start to understand how to make a decision… or decisions?

Easy, hard, or impossible. The decisions merrily show up each day unaware of your ability or availability of time. They just know you’re the leader and it’s your job to decide.

I have advice. Unfortunately, it’s advice for once you believe you have a decision and not how to make the decision. It’s the same advice repeated three times written in different ways.

Check Your Work

Let’s start with the relief that accompanies the discovery of the hint of a decision. The magnitude of relief is a function of the stakes. The glimmer of potential resolution is intoxicating, but my first piece of advice is to check your work.

It’s glorious, right? Your experience or intuition providing you insight into the proper decision. Feels magical to instantly know the correct approach and these moments blissfully increase as you accumulate years of experience.

Oh, this again. I know how to do this.

The situation may seem familiar. They might be using the exact words to describe the situation, but it behooves you as a leader to reflect on the decision and check your work.

Sure, this seems obvious, but last time it was a different set of people. How will the decision affect this set of people? Are there different potential consequences because it is a different group? Is the fact that I can see the decision so quickly because I truly know the right decision or because the stakes are high I feel the need to decide quickly? What am I missing?

Let the decision swirl in your head a bit. Let it knock around. Let it bump into other ideas. Let it stew, simmer, and evolve. And then…

Ask for Help

I’m miserable at asking for help. It’s not just the introversion thing, but also the stubborn erroneous perception that asking for help is somehow an admission of weakness. They’re looking at me to decide and if I can’t yolo make the right decision then they won’t believe I’m their leader.

In my experience, asking for help, the clear articulation that you don’t know, is a defining trust-building moment with the team. Yes, they like to see you effectively lead, they are proud when you stand in front of the team and explain how we’re going to win, but they, like you, are a work in progress. When you ask your team, your peers, or your manager for help, it levels the playing field and reminds all involved that we’re in this together.

Yes, it is your decision, but no one expects you to bear the entirety of it’s weight. Besides, you have more time than you think because my last bit of advice is to…

Slow Down

My intuition was to put this advice first, but I’m putting it last because it’s the most important. The furiosity with which a high-stakes decision arrives and tells you two facts and a lie.

  • Here’s a big decision,
  • It’s 100% your responsibility,
  • And you better hurry.

The urgency is often the lie. Everyone can clearly see a big decision needs to occur. It’s also readily apparent that it’s entirely yours to make. This combination of the decision’s magnitude and obvious single ownership creates pressure. Don’t confuse pressure with urgency. Don’t confuse importance with urgency.

This last bit of advice is designed to give you the time you need to check your work. Slowing down gives you the opportunity to ask for all the help. Taking time to think on the most critical decisions, in my experience, is how you build a higher quality decision. By slowing down, I drain the emotion, urgency, and irrationality that often arrive with these decisions, and I’m able to see what’s important versus what everyone is urgently yelling.

Big decisions have a fan club. These are the humans swirling around the decision who care deeply about its outcome. They have contradicting motivations: they know enough about the decision area to call themselves experts, but they are also intimately aware (or annoyed) that it’s not their decision to make.

The fan club grows annoyed when you don’t move with – what they perceive as – appropriate urgency, so I’ll repeat myself: the quality of your decisions are the currency of leadership.

It’s not that you moved quickly, it’s that you invested enough of your time to build a quality decision. You won’t be judged on how quickly you decide; you will be judged by the consequences of your decision that appear in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years after you decide. It is these results that build your leadership reputation.

What If I’m Wrong?

That’s the question that shows up in the middle of the night for me when considering a big decision. It’s a good question. What if you’re wrong? What will happen when you decide? Wander those pathways in your head and with your trusted peers because attempting to predict the unpredictable is a critical part of this process. You’ll need to explain these potential consequences when you’re presenting your decision to everyone.

That’s when I know I’ve decided. It’s not that I can explain the decision, it’s that I can tell you the story of how I decide, what I expect to occur as a result, and what we’ll do if I’m wrong. And you understand.

See, because I’ve thought it through, it’s becoming a compelling, thoughtful, and defensive story. When I tell those I trust the story, they believe me.

Management There are no hacks

The Way I Heard It Was…

We’re a team. There’s a mountain that no one has ever climbed before, but you – in your bones – believe we can. More importantly, you can stand in front of us, point at the mountain, and tell us the compelling story of how we’re going to climb that impossible peak.

You talk with your hands, you raise your voice at precisely the right times to punctuate your thoughts. Your pauses build tension. You’re not talking about yourself, you’re talking about all of us and how we are going to collectively achieve this impossible task.

Your story is engaging, but light on specifics. We don’t care because we all desire to achieve the impossible and, more importantly, we just love the way you tell this story. We believe you. This belief washes away the perceived need for concrete next steps. We are emotional beings; your manner and delivery has convinced us to follow you on an impossible task.

This is vision. You are using all your leadership skills to describe a vision.

There is still a mountain to climb. How are you actually going to perform this herculean feat? Thankfully, we have you. Now you begin to plan.

You start with questions: How big is the mountain? What obstacles are we aware of? Where is the top? What is the best path to climb to the top? Are there alternative paths? How many hikers do we have and how fit are they? What are their respective strengths and weaknesses? What is the best configuration of humans to perform each task? What contingencies are we going to need to build for unexpected developments while hiking?

It’s an endless list of questions, so you first determine what questions are critical, which are important, and which are nice to have. Second, you hand the task of answering many questions to humans on your team. You do this by first reminding us of your vision, explaining the relative importance of the questions, and defining when you need to know an answer. Each time, without fail, you finish with I trust you to do this important thing.

You learn not just from the answers, but from how the team discovers answers. Their discoveries update your mental model of not only how we’re going to achieve this impossible task, but also the abilities and nuances of the humans we will need to depend upon.

Conflicting opinions. Confusing data. Unexpected developments. Interpersonal conflict. We sometimes miss the bliss of the vision and despair. I’m not sure I can do this. You respond immediately, “It seems an impossible thing. Of course it’s hard, but we are going to do this together and I’ll explain how.”

And you do.

All of the answers have developed into a draft of a credible plan. You find trusted advisors with whom you test the particulars of the plan — these advisors unabashedly tell you the truth. You eagerly listen to their truth. You iterate. Finally, you stand in front of all of us, describe the vision once more and then tell us how we’ll execute on the plan with a well-defined strategy.

“We are going to climb this mountain. Thanks to all of your hard work, we now have a strategy. We know each part of the climb, how we’ll be organized, and how we’ll tackle each day.” You draw the mountain, you draw the planned trail, and you draw signs along the trail to describe how each step of the climb will go.

We have lots of questions. You eloquently and completely answer our questions, which builds our confidence. We are still scared because no one has climbed this mountain before, but as we stare at the picture we built together we believe it can be done.

This is strategy. You are using all your leadership skills to define a strategy that supports a vision.

We begin the climb.

The execution of the plan, the tactics, is the hardest part, but no one will believe this for a while. We’re optimistic, full of energy, and chasing an ambitious, compelling vision. We’re laughing, patting ourselves on the back, and climbing. We frequently look at the plan that we’ve built, read the signs, and follow the directions. Step after step.

As each day passes, we discover small flaws in our plans. Unexpected developments that our strategy did not take into account. We stop, regroup, and share thoughts on how to proceed. You listen, ask questions, and make a quick decision. We nod – satisfied – and keep climbing.

Days pass and we continue to discover the unexpected. The frequency of the unexpected begins to concern a small group of us. You can hear despair and you show up quickly to talk directly to us. You remind us of the vision. You remind us that no one has done this before, for good reason. It’s not that other humans weren’t smart or organized enough, it was simply that they didn’t believe in the impossible. And we do.

Your words and enthusiasm calm some of us, but others will never come back to belief. They will continue to climb, but the magnitude of the task will never be less than impossible. They will not finish the climb with us.

Disaster strikes. Not just an unexpected development, a complete and total disastrous surprise. Worse, the disaster shines a light on the simple known fact that this task is impossible and our strategy is now clearly, woefully flawed.. All of us are rattled. Including you. Someone asks, “Should we turn back?” and the deep murmurs of agreement show the degree of despair and disbelief within the team.

This started as tactics. You were using all your leadership skills to execute tactics that supported the strategy to achieve the vision. Now you must use judgment if we are to succeed.

Judgment. The accumulation of all of your experiences into wisdom. Readily accessible, informed inspiration. Judgment isn’t just what you rely on to make a decision; judgment tells you when a decision exists. Are we going to stop or continue? What are the costs of each? How much do we risk if we continue? What do we forever lose if we stop? Is now the time to decide?

As you stand in front of us, hearing the echoing murmurs of despair, you make a decision because you are accountable for this journey and while most believe accountability means responsibility, you understand accountability means “required or expected to justify actions and decisions.” Justify to whom? To us. To give account. To tell the tale of why we are here. To justify why we need to complete this impossible task. To make the decision to continue and to explain in understandable detail what changes we’re going to need to make to achieve our goal.

You make your decision. We are going to continue. You explain your decision. And this is how we’ll proceed differently. You repeat the vision, you repeat the now revised strategy and supporting tactics. You feel you’ve done this a hundred times, but you’ll do it a hundred more before you’re done because each human needs a different thing to hold onto at different times in their journey.

Wild enthusiasm is gone. Belief is shaky. Your words can’t prevent a few from turning back, but those who stay take a deep breath, remember why they are there, and start climbing again.

Small steps. Climbing. One step at a time.

The first disaster is far behind us now. The second one, too. More members of the team have left, but others have now joined because they’re inspired by our ambition and also because it’s become well known that we are still climbing.

There are two more disasters ahead of us, but in six short weeks, we’ll reach the summit. The impossible will have been achieved. No one believes this right now. We are singularly focused on the task at hand: the act of taking each small step. The most important thing we do is take another small step.

There are no hacks. There are no silver bullets. The way that you are going to achieve this impossible task is by continuing to climb.