I Bet Yo Mamma Can’t Change the World


A while back I said goodbye to an organization I put a lot of time and effort into. At the time my mind was focused on the frustration of seemingly no one striving for excellence. Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” To make matters worse it was my observation that not many knew what was expected never mind knew what excellence looked like.

Yet, maybe the problem was not a lack of excellence. Maybe the problem was growing up where people forgot you could eat impossible for breakfast. A place where the future is defined by the past. A place where, “No, change takes time.” A place where, “No, you can’t do that.” A place where, “No, we don’t want to go there.” A place where, “No, we can never compete with the money they have.” A place where, “No, that does not work in a not for profit.” A place where, “No, this is not a business.”

When a place like this collides with the anomaly that says something different a choice of paths open up. Perhaps some might respond to see that “impossible” really means “I’m Possible.” Or maybe the anomaly gets eaten for breakfast instead by succumbing to the incredible static friction that a lack of movement instills. Or maybe it is just time to go. To go and find a place where your soul can soar and be pulled by others instead of being pushed back. A place where people forgot to grow up and actually look for the impossible to happen.

Striving for excellence is great, but not if you are just trying to do the wrong things well. Dare to think of a new level of excellence where all the rules are broken. Apple changed the world because it created products we did not even know we wanted. Maybe not all of us can put a dent in the universe like Steve Jobs. Ah, but then again, bet me I can’t and see what happens. You just might make yo mamma happy that she changed the world by bringing you into being.

Enjoy the video below. The performance was captured at the XPrize Radical Benefit for Humanity (which has since tuned into Adventure Trip experiences) event on October 20, 2011 and it inspired these words.

Looking back at the above, which I wrote some time ago, reminds of another important aspect of change — that is how it relates to personal self awareness. When things are not going well change is easier. However, what if things are going well? When is massive change still appropriate?

The answer comes down to brutal self awareness. It is not only about betting on your strengths but also accepting your shortcomings. This also means knowing when yours strengths run out of gas. When was it time for me to sell the family manufacturing business? When it got to a scale I could no longer understand and I could use the strengths learned along the way to radically add value to other things now within my touch.

Too many times I have seen people racing to run the department, or run the entire business, in a successful growing, or even troubled, environment only to then become way over their heads and drown with rarely a thought of resetting their goal to something within their core strengths.

Also, adding value is usually a two way street. When was it time for me to leave TEC (now called Vistage)? After being a member for eleven years I was fortunate to grow personally to a point where I needed something beyond what the group could offer and being in a wonderfully close relationship to the group chair it was actually he who helped me find my next step in further growth.

In the words of Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

A general convex (Anti-fragile) heuristic: In your hobbies, be under qualified; when it comes to work with others, and delivering services to them be overqualified.

(The Black Swan was written below the needed level, in words not math & there was the buffer of all these mathematical arguments to support the claims, so those who tried to fuck with it have been humiliated.)

In other words, be aggressive in private, be robust in your public work. You will sleep well at night.

(Originally posted on Medium)