Complexity and Utility – Drop Dead Condition

Complexity and Utility -

Don’t give yourself an out.

So, we are dealing with the idea of complexity and utility, and I can think of no better example than our closet. It’s something that we all have and deal with, no matter our style or sense of self.

If you live in an area with other people, you have to dress every day.

When you deal with your closet, we give a lot of thought to the adding clothing part.

When we want to buy something, we head to our local mall or fire up an online retailer we like, and pick something to bring home.

We don’t think about removal and end up with a closet that is a way too complex.

The complexity gets so crazy that it affects our day. This matters and high performers account for it, and it’s why people like the president don’t even deal with their closet. 

Today, I want to talk about a tool I use to make sure I keep myself in check.

Drop dead condition

Whenever I get clothing, I think, with intent, on how it goes with the rest of my closet. I take it a step further and reflect. I think about removal. What is a reason I stop wearing it?

If I cannot come up with any ideas, then I assign a date that I have to think about it again.

I make the reasons clear, with no wiggle room. They become bright line rules.

It keeps me honest and gives me clear instructions on how to make something happen. This rule that I set prevents me from relying on emotion.

Tomorrow I am going to show you how to take the DDC and put it into action in your life now.

Today, I want you to think about some DDC in your life you can apply to your closet.

Complexity and Utility – Offload When You Can

Vitamin C+

Offload when you can.

Think of your closet – it’s easy to organize your closet when it’s one piece of clothing in there.

Great, except one piece of clothing, is boring.  So you add stuff. A pair of pants here, a sweater there, and soon your closet is full.

Once full, everything about the closet changes, even the questions you ask when you open it. Before, clothing was a yes or no proposition.  Now it is about colors, fits, sizes, and moods.

With a full closet comes complications.

Sometimes, this level of complexity creates something unique and fresh, but often it creates fatigue. We just go back to wearing the same thing we wore before, anyway.

The key here is the balance. How do you keep the art while maintaining utility?

The solution is to offload when possible.

We talk about an exercise tomorrow to help decide how to offload.

Today, I want you to think about how this applies to more than closets.

Context & Medium – Important, Don’t Get Trapped.


Medium and context affect how we see something, so think of both.

Each one of us goes into each situation and assesses it differently based on a few factors.


How we engage with the world based on the things happening to us. It is important to realize that we don’t take in things based in “reality.” We create a picture based on the information we know and approve. Our brain does this type of processing subconsciously. In this mental algorithm, things like our previous experience, emotions, and how we perceive the other person comes into play.


How we engage in the information. It’s how we receive the incoming. The medium you are taking in this information in is likely electronically, in your browser.

Context and medium don’t play fair. If the context is the emotions and impulses we feel while eating a steak, the medium is the restaurant is how it comes. Filet Mignon on a trashcan or hearing awful soul crushing news before eating at Le Bernardin both kill the experience, no matter how high-quality everything else is.

Recognize that both of these things change at a whim. The right night and all is beautiful. It’s the reason one time isn’t significantly significant.

Both matter in our decision-making and how we see the world, but shouldn’t leave a crystallized impression on us.

We aren’t robots.

“Say What You Mean…When?”

Vacation on an island

There is freedom in clarity, so take opportunities to make it

At the moment, it’s hard to say what you mean.

Think about the last time you talked to a coworker, spouse, or friend and the phrase “say what you mean” hopped into the conversation.

Did that make things clearer or did you come up with something based at the moment that would satisfy the people engaged with you?

I am betting on the latter.

We have complicated brains. Sometimes they are too fast for our good. A phrase like “say what you mean” can get us to focus on all the stimuli at the moment and concoct a response.

We then hold that response to the truth, even if it was just fleeting and in the moment.

It makes things complicated and in response to the phrase “say what you mean” we often do the opposite.

It’s hard to break that programming because it’s our lizard brain playing fight or flight.

Don’t succumb to the reactive moment that happens.

When you can, take a step back, and restate the points in the conversation.


When you hear “Say what you mean”:

  • Ask the other person what they are interpreting
  • Listen to how they understand the conversation
    • Don’t fight it or fix while they explain
  • When you hear it all, paraphrase what they said back to them, so they feel heard
  • Fix the gaps with this “I didn’t mean ‘X‘ when I said ‘Y,’ My intention was ‘Z.'”
    • I didn’t mean that you were awful when I stated that you didn’t bring call, my intention was to let you know I care about those things.

“Say what you mean” is a trigger.Making the pieces fit leaves both sides wondering what happened, and feeling lost.The break in the conversation gives both sides the opportunity to catch up and get back into a responsive model.

Get Your Head Out Of The Sand


Don’t succumb to “bliss.”

I like looking at ostriches. They are an odd bird. Land bound. Big Smiles. A little goofy. They remind me of me.

Unfortunately, most of the people know them due to an awful saying. The world knows the bird as a coward. People think ostriches put their head in the sand. They don’t! They are brave animals!

As much as I don’t like the narrative, the metaphor that springs from its still good advice.

While our first instinct is to crawl under the bed and hope that the safe space we choose comes with evil repellant.

Resist it.

That comfort is holding you back, because our ability to deal with uncomfortability not only helps us grow as people but give us stories that help the people following us.

Furthermore, the best case scenario of the “head in the sand” strategy is nothing moves, including you.

And as a result, if you resist movement, you welcome regression.

Regression is death.

Listen To Yourself

Vantage Points

Sometimes your body is screaming for attention.

There are many reasons why we feel unsettled.

We can’t deny these things, even though sometimes we try our hardest.

It’s best to deal with it the first time. When you deal with an emotion immediately, there is far less chance of lashing out and pushing that energy elsewhere.

We can try to ignore it.

The best thing that comes from ignoring ourselves is a temporary respite. This moment of “bliss” comes with a cost. There is nothing free, and the penalty for shoving things down often is worse than dealing with the emotion in the first place.

Take the time to take care of yourself, because this stuff does not go away.

When we try to hold them down, we end up holding ourselves back.


Blame Keeps Us Trapped


We don’t investigate, so we don’t learn

Life isn’t simple, at least without great work.

Without that work, we create undue tension.

One of the ways we create that undue tension is when we blame people.

It comes with complications. The tendency to blame tries to flatten those complications into a story about a hero (you) vs. a villain (them).

That “flattening” of the story isn’t reality. You replace it with something that is flattering. It’s designed to spare your feelings and show the world how much you “were wronged.”

If it seems dramatic, that’s because it is.

When we straighten out the story, we lose the nuance. When the nuance drops, we consider it as “straightforward” and nothing to see there, all the while.

It leaves an opening for you to make the mistake again. It’s a cycle.

When you blame someone, you are making sure you don’t learn. Dangerous stuff.

Blaming someone takes the recording button off. You lose yourself in the action instead of winning the lesson.

Don’t Emulate Robots


Our efficiency relies on “no.”

When new projects happen, I keep three things in mind:

  • Every day we walk around with a limited supply of energy.
  • Every task we take on consumes a part of that energy.
  • There is a willpower tax for doing things we don’t want to do.

The last one is important because we all have things we don’t want to do but have to anyway. Often, we have no choice in the matter.

It serves as a reminder to create buffer time around and allow myself to relax.

We aren’t robots, and we don’t work at our best when we emulate them.

It’s OK to Ask

it's ok to ask questions

“Dumb questions” make US smarter.

There is a mistake most of us make when talking about questions.

We think of simple questions as “dumb.” This is a major mistake.

There is a great value to someone who asks the simple questions. Simple questions aren’t “dumb,” but that isn’t the case at all.

There is beauty in pure simplicity. Simple questions are clear and as a result, those questions make sure everyone is on the same page.

It also helps everyone in the room.

  • The person who asked: An answer
  • The person who responded: If the answer is available, this lets her know there is an opportunity to make it more available.
  • The rest: The answer and the insight!

Simple questions open the world around us, and if you intend to create change and often hold gold mines in the answers that people give.

School Daze

school daze

It’s OK to Ask

The primary education system in the United States sucks.

When you head to school, the first thing you learn is your ABC’s.

The second thing is to shut up and the third, don’t stand out.

This behavior reinforces itself throughout your time there. Once a child reaches a certain age, the students take over the reinforcement. It’s important to “fit in.” This behavior leaves everyone with a sense of cognitive dissonance, even the popular kids.

The entire class is looking, better get this right.

Raise your hand and “shut up and don’t stand out” is reinforced. The system teaches you not to ask questions, but the “good” ones. It intellectually slows us down.

It’s like driving in the slow lane and not realizing a simple lane shift makes you faster.

This programming follows us, from college to the first “adult” job. This programming “kicks in” during a meeting, where no one has to tell you not to talk. Ditto for the “open door policy” most places say they have.

The danger this programming creates is it stunts our intellectual growth and at its worst, has us fearing a tool that creates the most leverage for us, questions.