Proposal Land

One Genius Tip

Ready for the one genius tip
that will make you a better winter driver?
Here it is:
Look where you want to go.

This Popular Mechanics article goes on to explain why we drive into the very thing we want to avoid: the thing we’re staring at. Apparently this phenomenon even has a name: target fixation.

The road tests to get your motorcycle license in the United States requires that you make tight, low-speed turns without touching your foot on the ground. In my group, the people who passed this portion of the test did what the instructors said: point your chin in the desired direction, and look a couple seconds into the future. The students who watched their front wheel and tried to avoid the closest cone didn’t pass.

In Proposal Land, keep your focus on the deadline. Look a few days or weeks or months into the future instead of the few seconds that applies in cars and motorcycles, and you will automatically adjust your standards, expectations, and priorities so that you make it. Well, maybe not quite automatically, but at least you won’t be staring at the snake/pit/snake-pit at your feet.

Excerpt: Buddy & Me - scheduling


Your Choice

Leadership is a choice: It’s such an odd thing to say.
The benefit of the doubt is withheld from many of us, options are unevenly distributed, and indoctrination is real.
And yet… no matter where we begin, we each get the choice, every day, to choose to lead.

Today Seth is selling courses as well as making a valid point: We can all lead.

It’s tragic that the brainwashing runs so deep that we’ve hidden that choice from many people. But it’s there, in areas big and small.
The world is changing faster than it ever has before, and we can choose to lead those changes or simply follow them.

In Proposal Land, we can choose:

  • To learn and use new apps, new techniques
  • To communicate openly
  • To be cheery, even when we’re tired
  • To speak up when we think the consensus is wrong
  • To respect someone else’s dissent when they think we’re wrong
  • To appreciate others’ contributions generously
  • To look for our point of maximum leverage
  • To accept imperfection
  • To work hard but not stupidly so

Or we can choose to follow the existing path in our organizations, whatever it is.

We can all lead. By example if not by fiat. No matter where we begin.


Buddy & Me: The Great Font Debate

Seth has a nice post on the point of maximum leverage, where he argues that we often put time and attention on things that don’t give us the best bang for our buck.

We can’t fix this problem until we see it,
and then we need to be clear with ourselves
and with our colleagues about where that leverage point is.

In Proposal Land, this happens all the time. Doing the high-return, maximum-leverage work is hard, you know? So we drift into doing what we can: Something easier. No one is immune, not even executives.

The (Great) Font Debate

The Legacy

The great novel by the great Nevil Shute? Not this time. A great blog post by the great Seth Godin.

To get a new job, you’ll need to leave the old job behind.

Often, we try to pretend that growth comes with no goodbyes, but it does.

Perhaps we can go in with our eyes open, understanding that what we begin will likely end.

And when we plan for it, we’ll do it better.

And this great post about a mid-life/mid-career crisis. By, well, me, great or not. Hey, sometimes it comes together.

What I saw clearly, though, for the first time, was that my work output—as important as it was to my bosses, my compensation, and my sense of self—was not what would last. No matter how my career went, after I retired no one would care about the documents I had contributed to, or the processes I had established. Then as now, what would last was the people and what we meant to each other: the challenges we overcame, the fun we had, the things we taught each other, professionally and personally . . .

Sometimes, proposal careers are limited by company policy; sometimes (more often I expect) by personal capacity/exhaustion. In either case, Seth’s question is a good one:

What will you leave behind?


Once Upon a Time

Patient has chest pain
if she lies on her left side for more than a year.

Well, who wouldn’t?

This illustrates one of the rules of clear writing:

Put together stuff that goes together.

The corollary to that rule is this:

Separate stuff that doesn’t go together.

It can be hard to place modifiers clearly: where they can’t be misinterpreted. Here’s a list of some things that can go wrong and how to fix them. (As a general rule, shorter, simpler sentences are easier to keep clear. Just saying.) Anyway, in proposals I pull out the time references that are often scattered from hell to breakfast and put them all at the front of their sentences. After all, every fairy tale starts with this set piece:

Once upon a time . . .

If there’s a whole series, the resulting parallel structure can lead the reader through the sequence and even lead the editor to a timeline (fewer words) (hurray):

Twenty years ago we founded this business.
Ten years ago we were recognized as industry leaders.
For the last year, we’ve been the dominant player in the market.

Some people like to put the time references at the end of the sentence, figuring that the event is more important than the when. Whatever.  I mean, it absolutely can be and sometimes surely is. Just don’t leave that patient on her side, not even in your notes.

For more than a year,
the patient has had chest pain
when she lies on her left side.

Simple, eh? Yes. And clear.