Leaving Someone’s Campsite Better That You Found It

I spent most of my childhood
summers at sleep away camp.

And looking back at all my
years of canoeing and hiking and collecting wood and making fires and eating
foil packs of undercooked ground beef, I remember the biggest life lesson that
stuck with me:

Always leave the campsite better than you found it.

Ask any counselor in the
world. It’s the number one rule of camping.

But it’s also a great rule
for relationships.

If you want to contribute
meaningfully to the growth and well being of every person connected to you, you
need to leave them better than you found them.

Emotionally. Intellectually.
Physically. Spiritually. All of the
After every interaction you have with someone, that person should walk
away better. More alive and confident and connected and elevated and seen and
heard and infected and speechful and encouraged and wanted.

Which sounds like a lot of
work––and it is––but once you install the right awareness plan, the art of leaving people better becomes second

Awareness plan. Let’s talk
about that.

Psychologist Herbert Leff
originally coined the term as, “A metacognitive procedure or mental recipes for
perceiving and thinking about the world around us.”

An awareness plan is a lens
for your interactions. A plugin for the human operating system. And when used
consistently and respectfully, it can change what you see when you see
people. More importantly, it can change what they see when they see themselves.

One of my favorite awareness plans, one that always leaves people better, is unearthing a valuable new opportunity in the
midst of a conversation.
As someone who has mentored hundreds of artists, entrepreneurs
and business professionals in the past decade, I’ve discovered this process to
be a combination of three skills:

Affirming, noticing and offering.

Think of them as the tools
for leaving someone’s campsite better than you found it. Let’s see how each plays out in a conversation:

Affirming. I
come from a family of yeasayers. Relentless affirmation, instant encouragement,
permissionless participation and radical acceptance are in our blood. And
because of that temperament, I’ve never met an idea I didn’t like. Not unlike
the golden rule of improv comedy, fun
is always on the other side of a yes.

The exciting part is, when it
comes to a conversation with someone, being fundamentally affirmative becomes a
form of optimism––because saying yes to everything increases your field of
perception. It’s what allows you to better notice valuable opportunities.

Imagine how many ideas you could
generate for another person if you regarded everything they said as a possible inspiration
for a work of art? Or a new creative idea? Or a business system that could
change the world? Think of yourself as living in a shared pool of thoughts,
from which opportunities can blossom. You can’t say yes fast enough.

Noticing. The
whole reason I started wearing a nametag everyday is, I just wanted to see what
would happen. That’s all. It was an
exercise in curiosity, nothing more. But that’s who I am. I’m a giant question
mark. I’m the annoying kid who raises his hand before the question is done
being asked. And it all boils down to three simple words:

“Now that’s interesting.”

Noticers say things like that. Out
loud. Especially in conversations. If there’s something normal to one person,
but fascinating to you, point it out respectfully and inquisitively. That’s
where opportunities come from. Noticing what people are too close to themselves
to see. Being willing to dwell in the novelty of the situation. Being a mental omnivore.

And, always watching for reactions, not
opinions. That’s huge. Once you start looking
for subtle, external, physiological cues about what people are really like,
what’s really important to them, it’s amazing how quickly new ideas bubble to
the surface.

How many valuable opportunities could you unearth by watching what people do
with their bodies during the conversation? Look for recurring cycles of
activities or repetitive patterns in your interactions.

Offering. I
used to have a problem adding too much value. Hijacking the conversation. Projecting
my own meaning onto the other person and trying to solve their problems too
quickly. But I quickly learned that, if you want to leave people better, it’s
not about prescriptions
and formulas and superimposing yourself onto them. That’s just annoying.

Unearthing valuable
opportunities is a gentle act. And since you’ve already affirmed people’s
perspective and noticed interesting things about them, they’re ready for the
final step. But they might need a little push. Something that delightfully disturbs them and compels them to take action on their new idea.

My favorite move is to pull
out my notepad, write down a quick summary of the opportunity we’ve unearthed
together, rip out the piece of paper and hand it to them. Then I’ll either say,
“No charge,” or “I’ll send you an invoice.” Both lines usually get a laugh,
although rarely a check. But what matters is, it’s a positive way to place an
exclamation point at the end of the conversation. And we often reconnect a later date to see how things are progressing.

That’s an awareness plan.

Affirming, noticing and offering.

It’s how you unearth
valuable new opportunities in the midst of a conversation.

And it’s a surefire way to leave someone’s
campsite better than you found it. 

The Difference Between Instinct & Intution

We use the words instinct and intuition interchangeably.

And while they do exist on the same
spectrum, there’s still a crucial difference between the two ideas.

Instinct comes from the word instinctus, or,
“impulse,” meaning it’s a biological tendency. It’s the transient reaction that
happens in our bodies, apropos of right now.

Intuition comes from the word intuitio, or,
“consideration,” meaning it’s an accumulated belief. It’s the ongoing
collection of experiences, apropos of everything up until now.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference.

I’ve worn a nametag every day for the past fourteen years.
Just for fun. It’s my constant social experiment and unique way of interacting
with the world. And it’s never failed to add a layer of social interestingness
to my daily life.

But it’s also shaped me, both physiologically and
psychologically, both instinctively and intuitively.

Remember the kid from The Sixth Sense who
saw dead people?

Well, I see friendly people. And they’re everywhere. And I
always know exactly when I’m about to meet another one. That’s the spooky
thing. Wearing a nametag has become my sixth sense.

Every day, a millisecond before somebody responds to my
nametag, I can literally feel it in my body. Whether it’s a flight attendant
greeting me as I board, a waitress using my name at the table or a yoga
instructor calling me out during class, I can biologically predict when a
“nametag moment” is about to happen.

It’s the strangest thing.

Then again, it helps me anticipate interactions. Which allows me respond to
people’s comments quickly. Which allows me to be a more engaging communicator.

That’s instinct.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s intuition.

With my nametag, I’ve been running the same social experiment, tens of
thousands of times, for well over a decade. And at this point, I can learn
everything I need to know about somebody, solely based on the way they respond
to my nametag.

It’s my instant inkblot test. A small, repeatable, portable filter that helps
me make sense of the people I meet.

If someone points to my nametag asks me if I have a memory problem, I suspect
they’re playful. If someone yells hello out of the window of a passing car, I
suspect they’re extroverted. If someone rolls their eyes and looks at me like
I’m an alien, I suspect they’re closed minded. And if someone walks up to me
and rips my nametag off in the middle of a crowded room, I suspect they’re
insecure. Or drunk. Or both.

The thing is, I’m usually right. My accumulation of
experiences from the past fourteen years makes for an insanely accurate filter.

That’s intuition.

Same spectrum as instinct, but the manifestation is
different. It’s a psychological construct, not physiological one.

The question is, how do you sense, refine and express your
instinct and intuition?

Here’s a collection of strategies that have helped me:

You are what you expect. When you trust people,
they become what you tell them you expect. Likewise, when you trust yourself,
you tend to prove yourself right. And when you believe in the availability of
your own answers, they tend to show up at the right time. That’s how
expectation works. It’s not magic, it’s a psychological primer for future
performance. And it’s been scientifically proven that there’s a positive
correlation between expectation and performance.

Proclaim yourself as a seeker, practitioner and believer
in the power of instinct and intuition, and you’re already ahead of the game.

Take the training you already have and apply it. Think
about where you’ve logged tens of thousands of hours. Think about what activity
you’ve practiced more than anyone you know. Think about the experiment you’ve
been running day in and day out for decades. That’s your filter. That’s your
nametag. That’s the fertile soil where your instinct and intuition will
flourish. Hard core formative time­­—wherever you spend it—fosters dreams,
informs what you do and lays groundwork for the years to follow. It’s
accidental preparation at its finest. And everyone has their version of it.

Treat your instinct and intuition as the appendix to a
lifetime of training and foundational development.

Establish a daily internal dialogue with yourself. Journaling
has proven to
be a therapeutic tool for lowering stress and improving health, but it’s also a
fast, free and effective practice for getting current with yourself. Writing is
a gateway to your inner and higher truth. By collecting, confronting and
co-mingling your instincts and intuitions on paper, you start to notice
personal patterns and motivations and choices. And as you make reflection a
daily ritual, you begin to establish healthier pathways to pinpoint precisely
what you’re feeling and thinking.

Develop your relationship with your words on the page,
and you’ll experience greater sense of stability and intimacy with your
instincts and intuitions off the page.

Create a stillness practice. It’s hard to hear
yourself with so many synapses firing. And without a personalized arsenal of
tools for lowering your cognitive decibel level, you’ll never tap into the
deeper currents of yourself. So whether your practice involves meditation,
yoga, prayer, breathing exercises, hypnosis or blazing up, the point is,
doesn’t matter how you do it, only that you
do it. 

From stillness comes lucidity. And from lucidity comes a
direct line to your instincts and intuition.

Listen to your body’s wisdom. It will never lie
to you. For example, think about where you manifest stress. Back pain? Stomach
acid? Migranes? Skin rashes? Also, notice patterns in how you feel when doing
certain activities. Anticipatory waves of anxiety? Immediate biofeedback?
Emotional hangovers? Tune into these clues like an existential radio station.
Think about what’s within you that’s trying to come through right now. 

Direct communication with your body—the one thing that will always
tell you the truth—is the gateway to instinctive and intuitive understanding.

Sound like a lot of work?

It is.

But nobody ever said the truth came cheap.

Use these strategies and resources to help you sense, refine
and express your instinct and intuition.

Blaze a trail within.

My Favorite Four Letter Word

Work fascinates me.

Every time I come into contact with that particular word, it
touches a sacred part of me. It’s interesting, there’s this fundamental part of
who I am as a person that perks up at the idea. Like a hound tracking a scent. Work
is my bacon.

The best part is, once I realized that work was more than a
job, once I expanded my definition of the word and inscribed the idea of work into
a larger circle of meaning, the way I experienced the world on a daily basis changed,
for better and for always.

So what does that definition look like?

Funny you should ask.

encompasses all we do, paid and unpaid, throughout our lives. It’s what a
our life with regular experiences of meaningfulness. It’s an institution that’s a fixture in every stage of
life, but it’s also is the best way of escaping from life. It’s an endeavor that gives us the spirit of continuity and centrality
pays us the psychological
salary of pride, honor and integrity.

Work is the organizing principle of life. It’s the iron rod
in the center and validation of our existence. It isn’t just our plight, it’s
our purpose. It’s where challenges ask us to tap into reservoirs of strength
and patience we didn’t know we had. Work
is how we create fulfillment, limited only by our imagination’s ability to
create scenarios that excite us.

Work is a daily routine that ensures our days have a cadence
and rhythm of movement. It’s a center of belonging where we connect to the
collective human heart. It’s a contribution to the world where we become
productive members of society. It’s where we go to find out what our true self
really is. Work it’s the prime means to
express our sense of who we are.

Work is an outlet
coming alive through the pursuit of our ideas. It’s the thing we do to build
a stable life.
It’s a platform we use to do art, hone skills, build a
reputation and make our mark on other people. It’s a holy arena for our highest
self and a home for all of our talents. Work is our necessity, our
pleasure and our playground.

is where we channel our ambition and satisfy
the most primal and sacred
fundament of our being. It’s
where we practice the act of dreaming, doing and finishing, driving straight to
the heart of what it means to be a person. Work
is what informs our sense of self, contributes to our identity and provides us
with positive personal affect.

Work is what gives us a secure place in a portion of
reality. It’s our human imperative. It’s what gives us the chance to be as
smart as we are. It’s how we find satisfaction by creating value through toil. Work is how we
intentionally mold and fit our experiences in a way that excites us and feed
our soul.

Work is the process
of creating something for the purpose of human flour­ishing.
It is the creative
process of operating in the world, making things happen for others in exchange
for the stuff we want. It is the collaborative, purposeful spirit of
enterprise. Work is the mission and
endeavor that captures our imaginations, enlists and transfers our energies.

Work is how we accumulate psychic nourishment, realize our
species character and inhabit and intelligible moral order. It is a practice
that has internal good and engages our attention. It is what opens us up into a
chamber of consciousness that brings some measure of coherence to our lives. Work is done the service of an activity that
we recognize as part of a life well lived.

Work is putting our best abilities into play and having the
fruits of our labor rewarded fairly. It is being in touch with our environment
in a way that benefits our heart. It is the struggle to show ourselves––and the
people around us––our sense of individual agency, responsibility and
competence. Work is what sums up all of
the activities we do that make us the human beings we are.

That’s what work means to me.

What’s your definition?

Narrative Trumps Brevity, or, Why People Would Rather Hear a Strong Story Than a Straight Answer

Storytelling isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Narrative is our basic tool for making sense of the world, the
currency of human contact, the fundamental instrument of thought and the
foundation that psychologically sustains our species.

And yet, in the past few years, social scientists keep reporting
that human attention span has declined to a mere nine seconds.


Tell that to the millions of viewers who watched thirteen episodes of House
of Cards
in a single day. Tell that to the legions of listeners who
made Adam Carolla’s eight hour audiobook, Not
Taco Bell Material
, the top selling album of the year. Tell that to
Kevin Smith’s global fan base, who tuned into Twitter
for his twenty-four hour question and answer marathon.

Perhaps time is an irrelevant construct.

Perhaps when we tell stories, we should be less interested
in how much time we have, and more interested in taking people on a tour of our
heads and hearts, sharing crumb by crumb and clue by clue the universal human experiences
and great sweeps of change that convinced us to believe what we believe, so
that by the time we get to the end of the story, the story that we paid for and
earned the right to tell, the audience is already nodding and yessing and
laughing so much that they’re intellectually and emotional satisfied and can’t
imagine another final action beyond where we’ve taken them.

It all depends.

Do you want to give people an answer that checks their box, or
engage them with a narrative that wins them over?

What’s Your Company Artifact?

My grandfather has a knack for making artifacts.

When he was a kid growing up in the thirties, he found a
poem crumbled up in his father’s roll top desk. The passage talked about how to
live a good life, be a person of character, stuff like that.

But since the poem had such an impact on his life, he kept it
for the next fifteen years. And when he started a family of his own, he turned that
anonymous piece of writing into a bronze plaque for all of his children,
grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Eighty years later, that poem still spurs conversations in each
of our homes. We not only show it to everybody, we tell them the story behind
it. We have conversations around the ideas in the poem. And we think about how
they apply to our lives today.

That’s our artifact.

What’s yours?

The word itself means, “a skillfully made object.”

But it’s more than that. An artifact is a strategically made
social object, too.

Something people can come back to. Something that’s a currency for conversation and collaboration. Something that sets the
standard for everyone around you. Something that becomes a canvas for sharing ideas and
making observations and asking questions. Something that
serves as a
platform for expanding people’s abilities. Something that reflects your brand’s
human purpose. Something that holds up a mirror that demands people look at

Want to create one for your organization? Consider these

Artifacts start with a
Or a process. Or a system. Or a framework. What’s your unique
approach to solving problems or telling stories or building technology or doing
business? That’s the content of your artifact.

Artifacts continue
with a structure.
Make your story visually compelling. Simple enough that
an audience could digest it on their own, but provocative enough that they
would seek you out to learn more.

Artifacts extend with
It’s not an artifact if you can’t hold in your hands and smell it
and touch it and share it. People are yearning for texture. No memorialization,
no mesmerization. Pixels are fine, but tactile is divine.

Artifacts perpetuate
with social.
The goal is to create a verbal incident. It’s not about the artifact,
but the conversation around it. It’s a sharing device that allows people to
connect with each other.

Looking back, my grandfather was right.

Artifacts matter.

They signal the collective spirit of a culture. They help
create an environment worth passing on. And they engage the people living and
breathing in that world, day in and day out.

And there isn’t a team, company, department, brand or
organization in this world that couldn’t be producing and promoting their own.

Scott’s Sunday Sentences, Issue 004

Sentences are my spiritual currency. 

Throughout my week, I’m constantly scouring and learning and reading and annotating from any number of newspapers, blogs, online publications, books, articles, songs, art pieces, podcasts, eavesdroppings, random conversations and other sources of inspiration.

Turns out, most of these sentences can be organized into about eleven different categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me. And since I enjoy being a signal tower of things that are interesting, I figured, why not share them on a regular basis?

In the spirit of “learning in public,” I’ve decided to publish a weekly digest of my top findings, along with their respective links or reference points. Sentence junkies of the world unite!

Creativity, Innovation & Art 

“People fall in love with the merchandise first, then the art behind it,” from the recently released and fascinating Calvin & Hobbes documentary, Dear Mr. Waterson.

Culture, Humanity & Society 

“No, I’m not going to rush your fraternity,” from the Francis Pedraza article about standing up to the digital cool kids.

Identity, Self & Soul 

“You let go of the dream you killed yourself for,” from John Moffitt’s story about walking away from that which defined him.

Lyrics, Poetry & Passages 

“Drop what you’re doing right now and entertain me,” from the new 37Signals book, Remote, about mobile workforces.

Meaning, Mystery & Being 

“Understanding with your life is fully believing what you understand, but also finding yourself incapable of disbelieving it,” from Psychology Today.

Media, Technology & Design 

“Focused and oblivious to their surroundings, these people unknowingly made the decision to live in new kind of loneliness,” from PSFK.

Nature, Health & Science 

“In science, you are studying truth and have to prove everything,” from the obituary of Nobel Prize Winner, Frederick Sanger.

People, Relationships & Love 

“When they vet people, they need to see more than twinkles, they need sparks,” from the handsome and inspiring Pharrell.

Psychology, Thinking & Feeling

“Generate positive emotions on your own without support from the environment,” from Martin Seligman’s new book, Flourishing.

Success, Life & Career

“Don’t let the bad guys find a narrow opening and bring you down for trivial reasons,” from the Tom Peters blog.

Work, Business & Organizations

Your management style makes me focus all of my energy on staying out of trouble,” from Dilbert.

See you next week!

If You’re Really Good, Your Legacy Will Come To You

Game raising is the quiet catchall.

Just keep getting
better, and everything else will take care of itself.

I learned that from a famous comedian. When describing his
rise to fame, he attributed his success to constant work at the alter of

What I like about that approach to success is, it has the
least amount of glamour and speed––and the most amount of grit and patience. It’s
the gradual ascent. Hustling while you wait. Playing the long arc game. Mastering
the art of not going away. Practicing your way out of obscurity.

And where the advantage comes from is accumulation.

Racking up the nights under the lights to multiply your
talent base. Which allows you to outlast most of the people you hit the starting
blocks with. Because while they were too busy marketing and networking and complaining
and perfecting their personal brand, you were quietly improving.

Proving, that the best way to build your own leverage is to
raise your own game.

It insures that nobody can take away the most valuable asset
you own.

What you’ve become.

Go get good. 

The vehicle of better will drive you to greatness.

The Schizophrenia of Trust

Trust is a reciprocal transaction.

When we ante up first, people follow suit. When we approach others as already being trustworthy, they prove us right. And when we think the best of people, seeing everyone as good until proven otherwise, our belief encourages them to reveal their better selves. And they usually do.

We give what we need.

That’s human nature. Our communal caveman wiring makes trust possible.

The interesting thing is, at this point in our culture, trust is simultaneously at all time low—and an all time high.

On an institutional scale, we’re losing trust in the powers that be.

Government agencies and multinational corporations and mainstream media and religious organizations and financial institutions and law enforcement agencies and political administrations are, statistically, no longer the pillars of trust they once were.

Commanding moral authority has become a side job.

But on an interpersonal scale, we’re gaining trust in the persons that be.

We’re letting complete strangers sleep and eat and bathe in our homes and loaning our bikes and cars to people we’ve never met before and delegating mundane tasks to microfreelancers from across the globe and sharing and trusting our secrets with thousands of people we hardly know and depending on existing customers of a brand to tell us whether or not we should become customers ourselves.

Depositing and withdrawing from our social capital accounts has become a lifestyle.

Holy. Shift.

Random people used to trust big organizations.

Now they only trust other random people.

Consistency is the Ultimate Shortcut

Why do I wear a nametag everyday?

Because I’m obsessed
with consistency.

It’s just how I’m wired.

Since I was young, routine and symmetry and structure have
been the organizing principles of my life. For me, if repetition and continuity
aren’t the answers, I rephrase the question.

But like most things in life, our temperament is both an
asset and a liability.

What we’re good at, we’re bad at.

On one hand, I’m hypersensitive about anything that offends
my sense of order. I’m compulsive about looking for recurring cycles of
activity in my surroundings. I’m regimented about deepening my pattern reserves
on a daily basis. And I’m relentless about twisting myself into a psychological
pretzel trying to compartmentalize the world around me.

Naturally, this frustrates the people in my life. Myself

But, it’s who I am. It’s how I work. And we can’t fight
natural inclination. We can only be who we already are.

On the positive side, my obsession with consistency has fortified
my ability to detect, document and exploit patterns. And in the realm of
business and innovation and art, patterning is everything.

It’s where original thought is born.

It’s where edge comes from.

It’s where success hides out.

And it’s the shortest distance to the finish line.

Are you a hunter and gatherer of patterns?

Are You So Weird That Nobody Knows What To Do With You?

Weird has become the new cool.

Thanks to the simplicity of creation, the ubiquity of connection
and the disappearance of permission, our culture is fetishizing
 and sanctioning individualism. E
scaping the normality trap has become our
country’s national pastime.

It’s never been easier or more popular­­ to be yourself.

Which I can’t help but applaud as a lifelong nonconformist.

The challenge is, uniqueness is a binary construct.

The idiosyncratic part of us wants to be different and stand
out and let the colors of our craziness bubble to the surface so our freak flag
can fly high. And if people don’t get the joke, they’re dead to us.

But the pragmatic part of us needs to be mindful. Because if
our goal is to get through to people, we don’t want them to see us as
terminally unique. Different is good, but we don’t want to be so impossible to
classify that our audience drops the mental ball.

Meanwhile, there’s an interesting pattern going on. Spend a
few minutes scrolling the headlines and streams and news feeds, and you’ll quickly
sniff out a layer of narcissism underscoring this recent surge in weirdness.

And that’s when the questions start to arise:

Are we proud of our
identities, or are we turning personal narrative into a religion, disappearing
down the rabbit hole of our own mythology?

Are we making a meaningful
impression others, or are we crafting a personality that’s intellectually
overwhelming for people?

Are we unconventional in
the right direction, or are we so far out of the box that there’s nothing left
for people to lean against?

Look, from an identity perspective, I know it’s not easy to
let our edges show. We all want to belong. We’re all searching for people and
places that embrace the weirdness we have to offer.

But when it comes down to our individual interactions, high
stakes moments when we’re sitting across the table from someone trying
to earn donations or get a date or win a job, we can’t neglect their cognitive wiring:

A confused mind never

There’s a fine line between purpose driven human uniqueness
and a patchwork of weirdness.

We need to be weird, but not so weird that nobody knows what
to do with us.


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