The Surprising Art of “Surprises”

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Source: Giphy

I was at my desk in deep thought. I had just finished a warm cup of coffee and my only plan then was to switch to a relaxed playlist on 8tracks. There was nothing special about that day.

But then, my doorbell rang. I had received an envelope from a close friend.

To set context, the only time I received envelopes was the time when my college sent a monthly performance report card to my parents. So, when I saw an envelope — and from a friend — I did not know how to react.

When I opened it, I had a huge smile. It had a travel postcard wrapped up with a beautiful message — asking me to explore, to discover, and to be surprised.

Why are surprises good?

When what happens is not what I expect, I have to rethink my understanding of the world.

Surprises create saliency.

They create moments that break away from the clutter and shift our worldview — even if for a brief movement — in a way that rewires us.

One of the reasons birthdays are the most memorable days of the year is because we associate them with surprises. The rest of the year seems boring — until something happens that takes us by surprise. In life, surprises are generally under-rated.

As we age, time passes quickly — or so we feel. This happens because when we are young, we have a higher number of “newer” experiences, things that take us by surprise, like us a first date, first coffee, first failure e.t.c.

Source: Giphy

These new experiences give us a feeling that we are aging slowly.

As adults, the experience novelty wears off and hence, we feel old (terribly old).

Takeaway #1: Surprise yourself or one day you will die without experiencing anything remarkable.

If I were to nominate the best feeling ever it will be the feeling of getting surprised (for the good).

Putting Surprises To Work

Workplaces are crowded. There are a million tasks at hand and everyone is busy running the show. In general, attention span has gone down significantly and we don’t really know how to build it from the ground up.

Source: Yours truly

So, how do we communicate our best work to a crowd who wants to listen but there are cats and business plans who own their attention? Surprise them.

Have a project in mind? Under promise, over deliver. Don’t satiate expectations because they normalize the effort. Instead, deliver above those expectations. This way, you will surprise people and get their attention when it is needed the most.


Your best resume on a paper is still a resume on a paper. Raghav Haran gives great advice on this: Instead of sending in your resume, show the potential recruiter what you can do for them.

Surprise them with you work — show how you can take the company from A to B.

This works because HR professionals receive thousands of applications every year. The only way to stand out is by engineering surprises. Who would expect a 23 year old to proactively attack a pain point by developing an application that solves it? No one.

That’s the thing with surprises — people don’t expect them.

So next time you want to stand out, or make your relationships work, make sure you can’t be predicted. Don’t let them define you.

Surprise people. And yourself.


https://upscri.be/3b9c4d

Thank you for reading! Surprise someone by sharing ❤ this with them.

Where Great Ideas Die

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Source: andrewillustration

The most likely places

In a deck that took 20 hours to create

In that sticky note kept neatly at your desk

In your head

In your boss’s head

In your super boss’s head

In your department head’s head

In drafts

Across deadlines

In an unread book

In a rejected freelance gig

In meeting KPIs

In fear of failure

Don’t let them die.

https://upscri.be/3b9c4d

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7 Things I Tell Myself Every Morning

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And you should too!

  1. Invest in your education: Since college is over, it’s the time to pick up real education. You will not get a degree for this but the world will always test you in coffee shops, bars, conferences, and workplaces.
  2. Learn to ask for help: Dump your ego. Don’t know how to do something? Ask for it. Tim Ferris called up several people (including James Altucher ) to ask for Podcast related advice. Now, he nails it.
  3. Be consistent: Learn to show up. Consistency makes you a winner by default. Read this: air light time space
  4. Learn to say no: Under-rated skill. Sooner you learn this, the better you become at prioritizing things in life.
  5. Entertain wisdom, not authority: Questioning authority will not make you a lot of friends in workplaces but it will always push you toward the right ones.
  6. Take risks: You will hear a lot of people asking you to take risks. Please include me in that.
  7. Travel: Don’t just make a plan. If you can’t find a companion to travel with, travel solo. But travel as much as you can. Travel rewires you in ways little else can. So shut up and book tickets!

Lastly,

Don’t forget to hustle.

https://upscri.be/3b9c4d

Owning Up

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It takes a lot of courage to walk up to someone and admit that you fucked up. It’s much more difficult to say “I am sorry”.

Our mistakes make us look bad — or so we think — and hence, a lot of us put up a white blanket of excuses on them. Every time someone questions our work or the deadline we missed, our natural defense system kicks in and it starts justifying our stance from every corner possible.

“Committed a mistake” can easily top the list of “Things That Make You Look Stupid”. If it’s a “silly” mistake, it’s going to go down in the list of “The Most Embarrassing Things That Happened To Me”.

In certain workplaces, mistakes are frowned upon; after all, failure is the first step to getting fired. Given this, we become too scared of the consequences that come with admitting a mistake.

“Too naive?”, “Incompetent?”, “Impatient?”, “Lazy?”.

We don’t know what category we will get filed in if we own up. But what if we don’t take responsibility for our shit?

In many more workplaces, mistakes are celebrated; after all, a mistake is the first step to a milestone. Given this, by not owning up to our mistake, we risk learning, wisdom, and most importantly, credibility.

When you walk up to your boss and tell her/him — “Hey! I know I fucked up. But now, I am looking for any suggestions/advice you can offer so I can bring this up to speed and close it” — you look far more confident than you did a minute ago.

A genuine apology makes you look credible, trustworthy and human — characteristics that not many can contain in modern workplaces. Owning up is for the courageous.

So today, remember to take up the responsibility for your actions.

Expectations

GROWTH, WORK

One of the most important things we should do before taking a job is to define clear expectations.

Often, the end picture is blurry for individuals on both ends of the spectrum — and this becomes a perfect recipe for misunderstanding and chaos.

Humans are wired to over-promise. You take up a project wanting to shoot for the moon — no matter if you haven’t still figured out where you will get the fuel from.

Why? Because it feels good. The feeling of achieving an ideal target is a state of bliss. But unfortunately, moment driven passion & emotion always get the better of us and don’t necessarily project reality.

What can we do combat this?

Set the right expectations. Under-promise; over-deliver.