Discovering Your Core Values Addendum: Rules for Inspiration

Hey, social change agents!

You know how I always talk about core values? Well, I made a handy worksheet downloadable for those who wanted to create their core values and put it to the test. I got some great feedback from one of amazing clients who ‘showed her work’ in moving through the worksheet. After going through her work, it became clear that I needed to create some additional rules for core value statement creation since my original wasn’t as clear as I had hoped.

I’m actually ecstatic that she helped me see some flaws as one of MY core values is a commitment to continuous innovation. I’ve since updated my worksheet with new information and a brand new design, which you can get for free by signing up for my mailing list. With that, let’s get into it!

Rules for Inspiration

I recommend employing the following rules to help you judge whether you have built clear and actionable core values statements:

  1. Does the phrase inspire others? Inspiration is a tricky thing to pin down, but what I mean by inspiration is the act of expanding one’s thoughts beyond the current task and into where the task aligns with the mission. This can be quantified by the number or percentage of times someone goes above and beyond what is strictly their job to provide additional resources or insight that can support teammates and the organization’s overall mission.
  2. Can the phrase be measured via specific metrics? This is important to be able to report on your organization’s health and commitment level to practicing what you preach. Measurable means being able to point to key performance indicators that have a numerical value to establish a baseline by which you can continue to measure your progress. No numbers, not measurable.
  3. Can the phrase be used as a lens through which behavior is modified? People have to be able to embody this core value trait. An outside person should be easily able to look at individual and organizational habits as a means of identifying the core value being exercised.
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This is How We Do It!

Here’s a handy exercise I like to use to help ground the core values statements in real-world situations. Envision specific job roles that aren’t as clearly mission-aligned with program, service, or initiative delivery such as an accounting, sales, operations, or even custodial. Think about whether they can also participate in embodying those core values and subtly tweak their actions or performance to reflect those values.

An accountant comes to their position (presumably) with a whole host of skills they learned through their accounting training. They can clearly do their job without the core values, but they should be inspired to emulate the qualities of the core values while doing their job.

Instead of just creating profit and loss (P&L) statements for given activities, a core value of collaboration may drive them to take 20 minutes to speak with those who enacted those activities to learn about how expenses could be decreased and income could be increased. They might provide a P&L that displays the numerical outcomes but accompanied with suggestions that could make the activity even more profitable or more efficient so as to reduce the administrative load on their teammates.

This core value of collaboration coupled with a core value focusing on service to a specific minority community could further morph this P&L with efficiency recommendations to a P&L with both efficiency and structural improvement suggestions that address a specific struggle of that community so that the activities require both less administrative oversight and more impact on the communities identified in the mission, vision, and core values.

This is an example of core values that inspire even the most routine and regulated team members and act as a lens through which behavior is modified. Further, both collaboration and service to minority communities can be measured by the number of minutes spent discussing continuous improvement between two job roles and the % improvement in key performance metrics the resulting collaboration created for target populations, respectively.

This is a short example of what core values can do to an accounting role. When crafting your core values, think about how you would inspire a cross-section of your organization’s functional roles like sales, community organizing, customer service, engineering, accounting, and custodial.

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By taking core values seriously and to their logical conclusions, you can build an organizational culture focused on the the exact things you want your organization to model in your community and in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my upcoming free webinar on Finding Your Social Enterprise Mission and Vision. I’m guest speaking for an amazing organization called the Ron Brown Scholar Program (RBS), a scholarship which provides African-American high school students with $40,000 to attend college AND an active, supportive community for college persistence!

Click here to sign up for the webinar, and click here to learn more about RBS.

How to Definitively Prove How Much You Know and How Disruptive You Are in Your Field

Hey, social change agents!

After I’ve finished all previous 4 levels of the Roadmap for Deeper Work, I’ve arrived at arguably the most exciting part – Level 5: Creation. I’ve validated my conceptual MVP and am about to make huge strides toward realizing the career capital I’ve developed through this process.

Get ready to Level Up!

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Level 5: Creation

This is where I put into action the logical conclusions derived from the the Analysis phase. The goals of this phase are to 1) validate the the adjacent possible implied in the theoretical underpinnings of the previous phase, and 2) measure the inherent value of the skills developed during this entire process from level 1 to level 4  – the resulting career capital.

Action / Inputs

By creating products, services, and initiatives that use the previously validated conceptual MVP as its baseline, I can make actionable recommendations that can further validate assumptions and hypotheses and lead to a breakthrough adjacent possible.

For example, a social scientist may discover a curious pattern of actions and reactions that result in a disproportionate number of people in a given community performing socially undesirable actions. Moving through the levels of deep work, they might do the following:

  1. Establish consistency and the discipline in their observation methodologies to form a hypothesis (Level 1: Consistency)
  2. Research related subject-areas that may shed light onto the source of the behaviors, making note of any assumptions made in the hypothesis formation(Level 2: Experimentation)
  3. Integrate that new knowledge into a framework of cause and effect to explain the current behavior patterns and validating or invalidating assumptions (Level 3: Comprehension)
  4. Document and obtain feedback on potential opportunities to tweak that behavior within the aforementioned cause and effect framework (Level 4: Analysis)
  5. Design an experiment that tests these opportunities, lists revised assumptions, and makes recommendations for larger social policy (Level 5: Creation)

There are several ways I’ve identified that I can further validate my hypotheses and assumptions and thus the value of my career capital. I’ll continue using the example of the social scientist in explaining these avenues:

  • Package and sell the idea and implementation techniques: The social scientist could become an advisor to those who have the power to implement social policies. In this position, the social scientist would have additional opportunities to test their solutions in the form of social policy recommendations. With greater resources, they can observe their theories in practice, identify oversights, and modify and improve their overall theory and recommendations by making trip through the deeper process. For myself, that means consulting or volunteering with individuals and organizations to test social business models, revenue models, governance practices, and online community methodologies. This strategy is most closely aligned with the paid engine of startup growth explained in The Lean Startup.
  • Presenting at conferences: Academia has perfected this avenue of career capital validation. Like their peers, the social scientist can submit papers and projects to academic conferences as a form of peer review and rigorous testing. In my case, that means attending and speaking at conferences whose audiences are closely aligned with my research areas such as conferences focused on fundraising, business transformation, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, and online communities. This strategy is most closely aligned with the sticky engine of startup growth explained in The Lean Startup.
  • Mentoring social entrepreneurs in implementing their social change ideas: This option is, by far, the most closely aligned with the viral engine of startup growth explained in The Lean Startup as it directly relies upon one’s ability to teach another and compound the effects as that student becomes a teacher to another. The social scientist could validate their career capital by teaching others their methodologies and having them teach others as part of a cycle of knowledge. In my case, that means mentoring social entrepreneurs in implementing social enterprise principles so that they can be additional examples and advocates for what I’m trying to achieve: a world where ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘philanthropist’ are synonymous, where business success is determined by both the financial bottom line and the social one.
I see a world ...

You’ll notice that every output item can be linked to a startup engine of growth.The process of deliberate practice in Deep Work is, in effect, the process of innovation accounting in The Lean Startup. Just as a company can chart and meticulously engineer their growth, I think a knowledge-worker can do the same through the acquisition of career capital. Sticky, viral, and paid operate as both engines of corporate growth and of career capital validation.

With that in mind, I propose the following metrics for each engine of growth where each group judges the creation phase successful according to the rate of recognition of career capital.

Sticky – Rating: Medium

  • Super important metric: Sticky % = # Active Users / Total Users
  • Goal = 100%
  • Optimize: Engagement time or frequency

Viral – Rating: Hard

  • Viral Co-efficient:
  • Goal = >1
  • Optimize: Ease of sharing, leveraging of social proof (that the produce/idea/service/initiative is good)

Paid – Rating: Easy

  • Marginal Benefit = Lifetime Customer Value (LTV) – Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Goal = >0
  • Optimize: Marginal Benefit by increasing the amount betweenLTV and CAC

In another post, I’ll go into these ‘engines of career capital’ using the social scientist and myself as examples.

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The Cycle Continues

It’s important to note that getting to Level 5: Creation, and thus acquiring one bit of career capital is not the overall goal. The Roadmap for Deeper work is intended as a framework by which I keep pushing myself to ask questions and create more and more value for my industry and for the world.

The authors of Deep Work and The Lean Startup stress this point by noting that:

  • Mastery is asymptote by which you can get closer and closer, by you can never really reach (Deep Work)
  • And engines of growth run out, so there should be an emphasis on research and development to discover pivot points that can keep the organization relevant and growing in an ever-changing market (The Lean Startup)

Now that both you and I have a clear process for career acquisition, there’s no reason why we can’t create the future of collaborative philanthropy. Right now.

I’ve got an updated version of the Roadmap for Deeper Work with your name on it! Just  sign up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups of blog posts and this important tool for career success!

Are you still here? You should be changing the world. If you were signing up for my mailing list, you get a pass, but I’ll expect some big ideas tomorrow! ;D

How to Set Yourself Up to Thrive in the Knowledge Economy

Hey, social change agents!

Now that I’ve spent the time training my brain to concentrate, doing something just past my ability to understand or implement, and consolidating my learning, I move on to the Analysis phase. This is the the point where I pick up on the ideas generated in the experimentation phase and develop them fully by integrating them with what I already know.

Let’s get analytic!

Level 4: Analysis

In effect, I analyze the new subject or idea in a wider context, constructing mental systems that try to get to the implications of this new knowledge. This is the starting point of building my own personal and unique career capital as one who can work creatively with intelligent machines AND one who is a star in my field.

Action / Inputs

The point of working the new knowledge into my established systems of knowledge is to construct new frameworks of understanding and implementation, the core outcomes of the the learning goals discussed in Level 2: Experimentation and Level 3: Comprehension.

In the process of constructing these new frameworks, my primary goal is to judge internal consistency with existing knowledge that has already been validated as effective in practice and in theory. As in the the Comprehension phase, I can construct a conceptual minimum viable product (MVP) to demonstrate this internal consistency. Using The Lean Startup vocabulary, this would be considered using the conceptual MVP to reach validated learning in the market (of established systems of implementation or understanding).

I do this in two ways:

  1. Testing the MVP against many markets: By describing the conceptual MVP to general audiences (as I am with this series of blog posts), I can judge whether a new framework is general enough to validate that it can be applied universally in practice. In social sciences, this is the process of crafting a hypothesis and using surveys and experiments on the general public to validate that hypothesis.
  2. Testing the MVP against one expert market: By comparing my conceptual MVP to established frameworks constructed by experts (as I will do by emailing my ‘personal advisory board’ following the the completion of this series of blog posts), I can judge whether a new framework is consistent with already validated theory. In social sciences (or in any sciences), this is the process of peer review of ideas to validate that the new framework’s hypothesis is both in line with validated theory and a logical evolution of that theory.

These two testing scenarios provide for me a test in theory and in practice in line with my aforementioned learning goals rewritten here for your convenience:

  • Can I produce an easily understandable description of  the concept in 1 sentence?
  • Can I cite at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments?
  • Can I produce a drawing that accurately addresses key tenants of the concept?
  • Can I accurately diagnose systems that are incorrectly using this concept or introduce this concept to systems through a custom implementation plan?

Judging internal consistency can be quite a challenge. That’s why I’ve created a set of activities I can conduct that will help me test my conceptual MVP in both theory and practice:

  • Creating a set of FAQs that could negate hypothesis and think through solutions: This exercise forces me to try to undermine my own arguments, thereby providing me insight into possible disagreements individuals might have to what I have to say. By trying to poke holes in my own arguments, I can put internal consistency to the test.
  • Free thought times to make new associations: In Deep Work, Cal Newport discusses productive meditation (trying to solve a specific professional problem mentally while your body is engaged physically) and walking in nature (an intrinsically interesting stimuli) as means of supporting focused, but free association periods for solving problems. These methods of structured free thought can provide an even steadier understanding of my conceptual MVP by rooting it in even more existing validated learning.
  • Creating worksheets and guides: This activity puts  the implementation learning goals to the test. By teaching others and receiving feedback on those teachings, I can solidify my own understanding of my conceptual MVP. It forces me to ‘show my work’ in arriving to and using my conceptual MVP and is both a test of theory and a test of practice.
  • Proposed thought experiments: During free thought, I can try to invalidate my conceptual MVP by proposing scenarios where its basic tenants are called into question. If I can find gaps in my understanding or implementation of my conceptual MVP, I can create addenda that restore internal consistency, and thus, make my arguments stronger. If I find gaps that, over many sessions of productive meditation, I can’t fill, that could be a sign that I need to rethink my framework or enlist others’ brainpower to help me find a solution.
  • Book summaries re-imagined through the conceptual MVP’s lens:  This exercise combines both Level 3: Comprehension and Level 4: Analysis. It requires me to accurately understand and describe another’s career capital (comprehension) and then re-interpret it it through my own MVP as a means of building my own career capital (Analysis). For example, Cal Newport mentions levels of depth in Deep Work, but he doesn’t clearly define those levels, just that they exist. One exercise I might (and may!) undertake is to create a chapter by chapter book summary through the lens of my Roadmap for Deeper Work.
  • Soliciting opinions via submission to online publications, polls, newsletter, LinkedIn, and ‘personal advisory board’: Just as I needed to solicit opinions on my own understanding in Level 3: Comprehension, I need to do the same with my conceptual MVP in Level 4: Analysis. The communication tools listed can be used strategically to provide both the general and expert feedback I need to validate my conceptual MVP in theory and in practice. However, I have to be careful of certain network tools as they have been engineered to pry your attention away from your purpose and toward personally curated clickbait designed to keep you on their platform for as long as possible.

The Analysis phase is judged by the strength of the conceptual MVP. To calculate that, I’ve compiled a few metrics that I can use to give me an informal assessment:

  • Quality of feedback rated from 1-5 (many markets): This metric would be similar to the same metric in comprehension. It requires an additional rubric for evaluation. I would judge the quality of the feedback based upon the % of times the critic provided feedback on my argument’s structure or its logical conclusions. A block of feedback would be evaluated on its structural arguments ranked 1-5 where 1 is never noted and 5 is noted many times throughout. The same goes with the evaluation structure for logical conclusions. Both numbers would then be averaged to get an overall quality of feedback score. Both the structure and the logical conclusions are important to me to be able to ensure that my understanding is both communicated elegantly and consistent with my own set of core values (check them out here!). This metric primarily serves one the learning goal which requires me to know at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments.
  • Industry diversity of feedback (many markets): The industry diversity of feedback is helpful to understand the ability of the conceptual MVP to adapt to many different industries. It helps validate product-market fit with the target market.
  • Bounce-rate on conceptual MVP content (many markets): This is a simple metric that can be pulled using Google Analytics. The bounce-rate is the rate at which people visit that page and then leave the site without visiting other pages. This can be particularly relevant when promoting the content on social media or via paid advertising to see how compelling the conceptual MVP is overall.
  • Interaction rate of experts with conceptual MVP (expert market): The interaction rate would need to be calculated manually by tracking the emails and exchanges with experts in the conceptual MVP’s field. This process, for example, would require tracking emails with productivity experts. The rate would be determined by the number of responses divided by the number of requests for responses. This is important because experts in productivity who, as described in Deep Work are likely not nearly as active on email,  respond find the content compelling enough to provide an answer. To receive an answer can point to an intrinsic value of the content. As with other rates, it is important to establish the baseline, so I will calculate the rate with my first outreaches to productivity experts, but I won’t assign a quality value as that first round is the baseline. With subsequent conceptual MVPs, I’ll be able to evaluate the rate of interaction more meaningfully within the context of the baseline.
  • Average # of exchanges with experts (expert market): Again, because productivity experts are less likely to respond as frequently or at all on email, the number of exchanges is a metric that points to the value of what I am requesting feedback on. As with the above metric, I will need to establish a baseline to know what is ‘good’.
  • Rate of exchanges with everyone (many markets): Pulling from my knowledge of online communities, I know that 90% of people on any given site are lurkers, those who do not communicate on the subject, but who read and consume the content. Further, 9% of the remaining 10% are people who will participate while the rest (1%) are content creators – those who remix the provided content and provide commentary. With that in mind, I can measure the rate of exchanges in a percentage and compare it to the ideal (10%). This is important to validate the conceptual MVP against many markets.

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Analysis is the point where one transforms from a content consumer to a content producer. It is where you test the new information against already validated hypotheses and your own personal world view. This level of depth speaks to the human (and Lean Startup!) feedback loop of learn – build – measure.

As American futurist and writer, Alvin Toffler, notes:

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Make sure you don’t miss level 5 by signing up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups. I’ll also be modifying the chart as I test with others to make it more universally adaptable (which you’ll get first … if you’re on my mailing list that is!)

How Walking in Someone Else’s Career Shoes Helps You Build Your Own Career Capital

Hey, social change agents!

In the last post, I described my process for deliberate practice – routinely pushing my brain to its limits as a means of uncovering more and more processing power. Today’s post is a continuation of the process of going deeper. Level 3: Comprehension is a depth where the discipline of Level 1: Consistency and the curiosity of Level 2: Experimentation is truly put to the test.

Let’s get comprehensive!

Level 3: Comprehension

Following the rigorous expansion of my mind in the Experimentation phase, I had to ensure that I was meeting my learning goals described in my last post:

  • Can I produce an easily understandable description of  the concept in 1 sentence?
  • Can I cite at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments?
  • Can I produce a drawing that accurately addresses key tenants of the concept?
  • Can I accurately diagnose systems that are incorrectly using this concept or introduce this concept to systems through a custom implementation plan?
Action / Inputs

The Comprehension step is primarily focused upon acknowledging and understanding the career capital of others. To do this, I spend time recreating the conceptual prototype of the idea by following the process the author or source created when they put forth the idea (an understandable description of the concept). I then ask for immediate feedback on its accuracy from experts in that field in order to gain immediate feedback on my own understanding (drawing that accurately addresses key tenants).


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By writing this series of blogposts on what I learned from Deep Work, The Lean Startup, The Power of Habit, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I am creating a conceptual MVP reproduction of the concepts originally shared in these books. The chart I created is the drawing proving understanding of the key tenants of the process. As I write, I solicit the expert opinions of others who regularly enter a state of flow or deep work to perform in their fields.

For example, the fantastic actress and writer, Lillian Isabella, was gracious enough to provide her feedback on this process. Once I am finished writing this blog post, I intend to look at my LinkedIn for individuals who specialize in productivity and ask them for their opinions.

This feeds into my next specific output, which is a personal advisory board on the topics of which I am going deep. This advisory board doesn’t have to be “official” in any capacity, just a group of individuals who are recognized within and without their fields as superstars. Individual on my personal advisory board for productivity are: Omar Zenhom, Paul Minors, and Cal Newport. I don’t know them personally, but in my quest to obtain expert feedback, I can work on deepening my relationships with them as fellow adherents to deep work.


As mentioned in my Experimentation post, I judge Comprehension based upon the fidelity with which I can reproduce a conceptual prototype of the ideas expressed in the topic explored in the Experimentation phase. I calculate a prototype’s fidelity to the original concept in terms of expert opinion and effort with which I expended to obtain these expert opinions.

As described in Deep Work, I am not emailing or contacting those I have made part of my personal advisory board with the expectation of a response as I know they have designed their lives around the ability to go deep (which doesn’t necessarily mean emailing me back). However, I do require feedback to help me answer my learning questions regarding the 1-sentence description and a drawing that addresses key tenants. Therefore, I need to measure the feedback in the following terms:

  • Number of pieces of critical feedback received per conceptual minimum viable product or prototype: The target number depends upon the number of responses I receive with feedback. For example, I would like 10 pieces of unique advice on how I can improve my understanding of a process for deeper work. At the beginning, that may take 5 emails to 5 people or it might take 50 emails to 50 people.  As I build relationships with other adherents to deep work, I would likely receive more critical feedback in fewer emails.
  • Quality of feedback ranked from 1-5: This is a bit of a tricky metric because it requires an additional rubric for evaluation. I would judge the quality of the feedback based upon the % of times the critic provided feedback on my argument’s structure or its logical conclusions. A block of feedback would be evaluated on its structural arguments ranked 1-5 where 1 is never noted and 5 is noted many times throughout. The same goes with the evaluation structure for logical conclusions. Both numbers would then be averaged to get an overall quality of feedback score. Both the structure and the logical conclusions are important to me to be able to ensure that my understanding is both communicated elegantly and consistent with my own set of core values (check them out here!). This metric primarily serves one the learning goal which requires me to know at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments.

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Comprehension can best be described as an exercise in accountability to oneself. It is where 3 of my 4 learning goals are addressed and measured and where, from my experience, many arguments fall apart through inadequate commitment to these learning goals. It is also where I struggle with the question “How do I prove that I know what I know?”.

This process of rigorously testing and evaluating what you know is the first indication of career capital. You have learned something hard and proved to yourself (and others) that you do know what you’re talking about in your particular area of expertise, especially if tested with the four learning goals I described previously.

Knowing today’s breakthroughs helps you chart a path for tomorrow’s. 

Make sure you don’t miss levels 4 and 5 by signing up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups. I’ll also be modifying the chart as I test with others to make it more universally adaptable (which you’ll get first … if you’re on my mailing list that is!)

How Pushing to the Edge of Your Understanding is Key to Getting What You Want in Your Career

Hey, social change agents!

In Level 1: Consistency, I walked you through how I whip my brain into shape and keep it sharp for the challenges ahead. Today, I’m explaining my second level of depth in my work which identifies how I choose career capital to pursue, how I judge its value and rarity, and specific activities I undertake to help me identify and push past the limits of my understanding.

Let’s get experimental!

Level 2: Experimentation

I designed this step to push myself outside of what is familiar and into what is closer and closer to the cutting edge of my field. Without the first step of Consistency, I would not be able have the discipline to keep pushing despite the difficulty of a new subject.

Action / Inputs

Experimentation is where I tackle a tough subject within my field that I struggle to either understand or implement; these are the items that have already been proven to be valuable but have yet to be learned. It is how I decide where I will concentrate my career capital acquisition efforts.

I use the heuristic of my inability to understand or implement to help me categorize subjects that I can’t immediate access and use to produce additional value in my work. As one who prides myself on the knowledge I have, this step is particularly difficult to be honest about what I truly do and do not know. To help me accurately identify where I know enough to convince another versus enough to convince myself, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Can I produce an easily understandable description of  the concept in 1 sentence?
  • Can I cite at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments?
  • Can I produce a drawing that accurately addresses key tenants of the concept?
  • Can I accurately diagnose systems that are incorrectly using this concept or introduce this concept to systems through a custom implementation plan?

The first two questions are used to judge whether I understand a concept while the last two questions judge whether I can implement that same concept. I give equal weight to understanding and implementation because it is my belief that understanding without implementation is ungrounded theory, and implementation without understanding is living an unexamined life (which is totally not worth living according to both Socrates and myself!).

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I identified five ways I personally enjoy experiencing new ideas: audiobooks, lectures, exploratory meetings, documentaries, and academic papers. These five things are the tools through which I regularly put my brain through its paces, but they may not be the same for others depending upon their preferences and deep work crafts.

As one who enjoys engaging deeply with individuals one on one rather than less deeply with a lot of people, these outputs allow me to have some sense of control in the environment in which I experience new ideas.


Because Experimentation and the next step, Comprehension are done nearly at the same time, the metrics for each are somewhat informed by the other. I judge comprehension based upon the fidelity with which I can reproduce the idea in all of its facets in the form of a conceptual minimum viable product.  An example of this would be the ability to use concepts in Algebra to derive the Quadratic Formula (which, by the way,  is the opposite of b, plus or minus the square root of b squared, minus 4 times a, times c, all over 2 times a) from a quadratic equation (ax2 + bx + c = 0).

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I judge Experimentation, by contrast, by idea flow or what new ideas are created through exposure to this new subject or set of ideas. That’s why I use the following metrics:

  • Number of implication ideas generated per learning session: I use this metric to measure the merging of my existing knowledge and the new knowledge. In addition to the 4 questions I asked myself previously, I can verify that this new knowledge is 1) related to my original expertise, and 2) that I am unfamiliar enough with it that I can generate questions and potential subjects of additional deep work focus. By writing down and tracking the number of new ideas, I can keep myself focused on fully exploring a challenge concept without being tempted to jump ahead in my process in my enthusiasm.
  • Implementation difficulty rating 1-5: This also goes back to the questions I asked myself and assigns a number value from 1-5, 1 being easiest and 5 being hardest, on how difficult I think it will be to implement via drawing a picture and using the concept to diagnose systems. This matters because the point of the Experimentation level is to make my brain work at something it’s not an expert at, so a rating below 3 likely indicates that I’m not tackling a sufficiently difficult subject.
  • Conceptual stretch difficulty rating 1-5: Like the implementation difficulty rating, this rating helps me stay honest with myself on what I actually know and what I don’t. It quantifies the first of the 4 questions I ask myself to judge how well I can communicate the concept and answer a hypothetical FAQ. Again, a rating below 3 indicates that I’m swimming in my mental safe zone rather than exploring deeper and more challenging waters. Both rating systems depend upon your ability to be honest with yourself. No one is cheated but yourself.

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As humans, we naturally try to avoid things that make our brain work hard. We use mental shortcuts to help us remember the 9 time tables; we develop habits to help us get through our days without having to think about every single things; and we even develop unconscious bias to ‘help’ us categorize people and how to interact with them. But, when we take the time to truly challenge our brains in the subjects that matter to us, we are able to unlock a level of curiosity and and knowledge of which we’ve only seen the barest hint.

When you spend time existing in mental discomfort as an exercise in learning,  you push the edge of possible and orchestrate breakthroughs that can propel your career much further and much faster than ever before. You’ve only to develop the courage to know yourself.

Make sure you don’t miss levels 3-5 by signing up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups. I’ll also be modifying the chart as I test with others to make it more universally adaptable (which you’ll get first … if you’re on my mailing list that is!)

Mental Discipline is the First Step on the Road to Social Enterprise Greatness

Hey, social change agents!

One short announcement: to help me stay focused (and slightly less stressed), I’ve decided to make my newsletter  biweekly rather than weekly. Also, Happy Halloween! Image result for halloween pumpkin clipart

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming … 

I’ve discovered the working deeply and challenging my brain regularly not only yields interesting and valuable insights, but is the catalyst for a level of production I’ve never reached before.  I’ve been rather preoccupied with the topic of deep work for some time because I see it as a means of training myself to so solve extremely complex social problems. It’s like a mental bootcamp regime for social change.

For the next 5 blog posts, I want to explain exactly how I get to deeper and deeper levels of work so that, perhaps, you can also apply this methodology to think critically about how you are solving forward toward a better world. Let’s start with none other than Level 1: Consistency.


With this first stage, I wanted to stress the importance of training my brain to concentrate for set periodsof time (1-2 hours to start) and building up a habit to reduce its depletion on my finite store of willpower.



I established a disciplined approach to work by consciously tracking the hours I spent doing work-related things (email, meetings, working on a problem or explaining an idea) to non-work related things (video games, lunch, and even sleeping).

I wanted to see where I could trim some  the activities that didn’t directly support the acquisition of  rare and valuable skills. With the 4-hour per day physical limit on deep work described in the book in mind, I only needed to reduce the least important activities like surfing the internet or checking email every 20 minutes.

Just as vital to this exercise was a set of contingency plans for when I wasn’t able to stick to the time limits or plans I had made to concentrate at certain times.  Sometimes when a colleague called or an unexpected meeting is scheduled, I had to immediately stop the concentrated activity. To facilitate my refocusing after the task was done, I started doing a short meditation with my fingers that helped me reduce my annoyance and continue what I was doing.


This disciplined routine was exercised through engaging in activities that produced something of value; these were my outputs. From daily spurts of highly focused attention, I could start and finish a 30-day writing challenge (here’s a summary post linking to everything I wrote and what I learned from the experience!), review business and revenue models  as case studies, and diagnose challenges and recommend solutions for online communities. These were actions I could do that used my existing expertise to produce value.


One can’t really know how well they performed with anecdotal evidence, so I created a set of metrics that could help me collect quantitative (and sometimes qualitative) data.  The success of the Consistency stage should be judged on … well … consistency! For me, that means:

  • Estimating the the amount of time I spend on each deep work and non-deep work activity and comparing that to the expectation in hour tracking.  This will yield a percentage value which describes my adherence to my proposed schedule. At the end of the week, I can dissect why I didn’t meet certain goals and make recommendations for improvement in my deep work habits and routines.
  • Calculating the percentage of successful enactment of disruption contingency plans on a weekly basis. This could be tracked with a simple note card with tallies for disruptions in one column and tallies for contingency plans in the other.
  • Calculating the percentage of time I stick to a documented process to prepare for deep work. This means identifying my habits and routines for deep work and following them every time I want to concentrate. Like the above metric, it could easily be tracked with a small note card during work hours.
  • Tracking the number of new or revised documentations of deep work preparation. In order to measure the above, deep work habits need to be written down in order to be tracked against. By tracking on the number (or percentage) of times I create or revise a deep work preparation technique, I can quantify efforts to constantly improve my overall consistency metrics.

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Before you can do the really mentally strenuous work, you have train your brain to pay attention for extended periods of time. Evaluation of progress with consistency metrics is just as important as executing successful bouts of intense concentration. Your brain has to be battle-tested before you can hope to get to the very limits of your (and your field’s understanding). Boromir sums it up nicely:


Make sure you don’t miss levels 2-5 by signing up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups. I’ll also be modifying the chart as I test with others to make it more universally adaptable (which you’ll get first … if you’re on my mailing list that is!)

How I Made Aquiring Career Capital + Self-Actualization a Formal Process

Hey, social change agents!

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on a framework to help myself perform deeper work. Deep work is not just measured in time, but in mental strain and concentration. The motivation for doing deep work comes from a desire or a craving for acquiring career capital – that set of skills that is rare and valuable and that provides you a sense of accomplishment in exercising your craft.

In today’s post, I’m going to share the events that led me to create this process AND the very first feedback I received from my friend and colleague, Lillian Isabella. Let’s get … dareIsay … deep!

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

A series of unfortunate events … that eventually turned into fortunate ones!

As you’ve heard from me over and over again, I have recently become a devotee of deep work after reading a book by the same name written by Cal Newport. The point of the book is to argue the rarity and importance of deep work in a knowledge economy and to put into context how knowledge workers, particularly, can improve the quality of their work.

For the past two months, I’ve been training myself to concentrate despite a myriad of distractions at work and at home. I’ve begun to see results in the form of habits that support concentrated thought and more precise patterns of speech and reasoning.

What I haven’t seen is a growth in career capital-building activities. I can concentrate and execute on things I already know, but I didn’t regularly push that extra level further into territory that I either couldn’t immediately understand or immediately implement. I felt that my brain wasn’t working hard enough to stretch my abilities and put me further toward building more rare and valuable career capital.

That’s why I decided to combine what I learned from Deep Work, The Lean Startup, The Power of Habit, and So Good They Can’t Ignore You in a diagram to help myself exercise mental deliberate practice AND track my progress.  This somewhat overwhelming chart is my first attempt at “showing my work”.

I’ve broken my process down into 5 stages: consistency, experimentation, comprehension, analysis, and creation and asked my friend and colleague, Lillian Isabella to give me her thoughts. Both she and I are very serious about what we do and regularly seek tools to improve our discipline and skill in our respective fields. I thought she would be the perfect person to provide feedback in an interview since it can also be helpful for her when she adapts it her work.

My very first feedback!

I printed out the chart, explained each level (as I will for you in upcoming blog posts!) and asked for Lillian’s first impressions.

Lillian: I think it’s interesting that you’re trying to mechanize self-actualization in a way.

Kat: Yes, I’m trying to find a way to make myself accountable for my own self-actualization so that I know that I am living my values of continuous learning.

Lillian: I think you’d really enjoy the book, Choose Your Self by James Altucher. He not only talks continuous learning in a professional sense, but doing it through the whole body: the spiritual body, the physical body, the emotional body, and the mental body, so that you’re always moving toward building a complete, well-balanced person.

He had reached extreme wealth multiple times over and then lost everything because of his behavior. He would continuously crash and burn and then build himself up to wealth again. He realized that financial wealth is only a positive if all the rest of the areas mentioned before are also wealthy. I think you’d enjoy the book.

Kat: That’s great! I’m going to write that down.

Lillian: What I really like about this framework is it doesn’t allow room for anxiety or negative thought patterns that are self-destructive. What particularly excites me is the input and output columns. The first three columns are theory; the inputs and outputs are the action; and the metrics are analyzing that action. It’s what makes this whole thing relevant.

Kat: Exactly! I’m glad you’re interested. Would you want a copy of it?

Lillian: Absolutely! I want to analyze it and retool it for my specific interest areas for acting and writing.

Kat: Sounds like a great idea! This process is designed to reclaim focus, build an action plan for growing your career capital, and eventually develop a craving for the that lead to career capital,  allowing your skills and abilities to keep up with your ambition.

In level 1, you exercise your mastery in your field, and then, in level 2, you identify the focus of your new career capital. In level 3, you acknowledge and understand the career capital of others, while, in level 4, you’re building your personal and unique career capital. Level 5 is where you validate that what you’ve learned is indeed career capital through the test of it being both rare and valuable.

Lillian: I always wanted to do this, but I didn’t have a tidy step by step process. I’m excited to re-imagine the inputs and outputs to fit the career capital I would like to pursue.

Kat: I would love to see your chart when you’ve finished. In fact, my chart-making process is documented on my blog where I will also go into intense detail on each level and how I understand it. I would love to have you guest post your chart and your journey through the levels. You might have more or fewer levels than I, so having recreate the process for your purposes might give me more clarity on guidelines for anyone to do deeper work.

Lillian: It’s a plan!

Blog Ending

I merged concepts from several books to help myself move closer and closer to the adjacent possible in my field. I followed my own example and asked for feedback and some (really unexpectedly positive… even though she’s my friend, her garbage-detector is fully functional!) feedback. I hope that you can take what I created and create a process for you to get deeper in your work.

Make sure you don’t miss Lillian’s deep work journey by signing up for my mailing list and signing up for hers! I’ll be refining my model and sharing it on my mailing list as well, so, that’s two reasons why you need to go ahead and sign up

A Roadmap for Deeper Work + Career Capital

Hey, social change agents!

I’m 4 days into my new process for deeper work, and I’ve refined the process to something exciting (at least I think so)! Take a look.

Before you recoil in horror at the tiny type and out of context phrases, remember that this is just 1.0 of the framework. I just explained the process and interviewed my friend and colleague, Lillian Isabella, on how it could apply to her writing and acting careers. Tomorrow, I’m going to transcribe my explanation and her brilliant feedback in a bonus blog post. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the audiobooks that inspired this idea:

  • Deep Work: learn how to concentrate amid distractions + how to train others to respect your routines.
  • The Lean Startup: learn how to build a sustainable business model that consistently delivers on market-validated products and services
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You: learn how to build career capital to do a job that you love.
  • The Power of Habit: How to change personal and organizational habits toward mission-driven results.

To stay up to date on this deep work/lean startup experiment and get the worksheets and diagrams I create during this process, sign up for my mailing list!

A Shift in Tone: Deep Work and Deeper Work

Hey, social change agents!

In several previous posts, I mentioned a book I read called Deep Work by Cal Newport. After reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and another book Cal Newport wrote called So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I came to a somewhat upsetting conclusion – the work I thought was great deep work was not really as deep as I could go.

Following Newport’s advice of developing a craftsman mindset toward my work, I thought I was fulfilling the mandate to engage in deliberate practice that pushed the boundaries of my abilities. I delivered highly-praised results to several clients and completed a month-long blogging challenge where I wrote a 500 – 1,000 word blog post every day for 30 days.  While it was difficult, I see now that what I was actually doing for the past several months was more an exercise in disciplined consistency than limit-stretching activities.

Catching feels

I feel two ways about it.

On the one hand, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t doing the work necessary to improve my expertise with tasks that caused some level of mental strain. Sure, I delivered, but what I delivered wasn’t something that transcended current thought leadership or that defined a new cutting edge in social enterprise business models, online communities, or philanthropy. I wasn’t consistently investing in new areas for exploration in a bid to discover the adjacent possible in my field. I didn’t even know what the adjacent possible (an untapped potential of what could be) was until I read So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Image credit: AZ Quotes

Image credit: AZ Quotes

On the other hand, I’m  delighted that I have even more in me than I thought possible.  I feel compelled to hunt down that adjacent possible in order to build disruptive infrastructure for social enterprises in STEM, arts, education, and minority success. I see some interesting parallels between the build-measure-learn feedback loop for Innovation Accounting described in The Lean Startup, the mission-based approach to meaningful work described in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, and the concept of deep work described in Deep Work.

By combining these ideas, I think I can create a process that proves objectively that I am growing what will become a sustainable career that proves the presence of career capital.  It can turn what would have been considered faith-based assumptions of career expertise into a conceptual model to help guide me through mentally-straining deeper and deeper work with an accountability mechanism built in.

The change

Now that I have an interesting new work process to explore, I’ll be turning my blog into progress reports on the process and ideas for adjacent possibles in business models, online communities, and philanthropy in support of STEM, arts, education, and minority success. On Thursday, I hope to have the following items to help explain my idea synthesis:

On Monday, I’ll have my first report on the process including the accountability metrics I used to create it.

Blog Ending

I’m really excited to get started with this as I think it’s going to help me create a system that keeps me doing and contributing to a fields I love: social enterprise and social entrepreneurship!

To stay up to date on this deep work/lean startup experiment and get the worksheets and diagrams I create during this process, sign up for my mailing list!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Social Enterprise Vision Statements

Hey, social change agents!

A vision is a description of the lasting change the achievement of your mission would produce. It is the standard by which you judge whether you have achieved your mission and how you continue to fine-tune your programs, products, and initiatives to be closer and closer to this ideal.

I like to go to my favorite evaluation framework to help me with visioning – the Socio-Ecological Model of evaluation. In a nutshell, the Socio-Ecological Model is a lens through which you can view all of the interrelated environmental influences on a person. The model has its roots in developmental psychology, but it can be applied to any sort of social change activity.

This post will help you structure your vision statements to address all parts of this model in an effort to create lasting change.

Let’s get visionary!

Step 1: Get Familiar with the Socio-Ecological Model

As mentioned above, the Socio-Ecological Model is a fantastic framework upon which to build your definition of lasting change. It creates a cohesive view of the factors affecting individual agency and and influence by reconciling one’s environmental microsystems and macrosystems.

If you’re a bit lost, don’t worry! Here’s a picture to help you visualize the spheres of influence that affect an individual from the individual level to the policy level in the context of cancer treatment and prevention.

Image credit: The Centers for Disease Control

Image credit: The Centers for Disease Control

The levels are defined as follows:

  • Individual: pretty self-explanatory
  • Interpersonal: People very close to the individual in the context of the problem to be solved
  • Organizational: the systems and entities that are in place to solve that problem
  • Community: the interactions between organizations about the problem
  • Policy: Laws and ideologies /attitudes that inform those laws

The great thing about this system is that it is extremely adaptable and allows influences to exist in multiple levels at one time. Why does this matter to your vision? Good question! Here’s how: the socio-ecological model is how you are going break down the factors that affect the social challenge you are addressing with your social enterprise.

My friend and impact extraordinaire, Gillian Adler, MPH, is the expert program evaluator who introduced me to this concept. You should definitely contact her if you’d like to know more about the theory or if you have questions about program evaluation, public health, or grantwriting.

Step 2: Focus on the Challenge

Now that you have at least a small grasp of the Socio-Ecological Model (if not, Gillian and I are always a resource for you if you have questions!), take a landscape-oriented piece of the paper or word document and divide it into 5 columns. If you’re using a computer, you can create a chart with 5 columns fairly easily. If you’re using paper, just fold it into thirds and use the front and back.

Above the chart on the computer or on the 6th space on your piece of paper, write out your mission and the societal challenge it addresses. If you need help with crafting your mission, you can always refer to my handy one-page guide.

Next, write at the top of each column a different level of the model: individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy. You are going to define the problem in the context of each area. Refer to the above image if that’s helpful in helping you write out the challenge.

Step 3: Identify the Key Players

In each column, write out all of the different people and entities who are involved with the problem you are trying to solve. In the cancer treatment and prevention example, you can see that the interpersonal level consists of people close to the individual – family, provider, patient navigator, and friends. Go through each level and brainstorm the people, entities, and ideas that re involved with the problem, good or bad.

This may take a bit of time and a lot of mental energy, so don’t worry if you need to set it down and come back to it in sprints.

Step 4: Give Your Key Players a Job

Once you’ve listed your key players, take another piece of paper or move to a new page in your digital document, and write what each level of the model would be doing to solve the social problem in your ideal vision of the world.

For example, in the cancer treatment and prevention example, you might task individuals with getting regular screenings if they are available. On the interpersonal level, you might task providers with knowing the most effective and least invasive treatments. You might task health plans with providing incentives to getting the most effective and least invasive treatments.

Give every group on every level a job to do to mitigate the societal issue you are attempting to solve, but don’t give them more than one just yet. You can quickly send yourself into overwhelm if you start getting too granular too early.

Step 5: Give Your Socio-Ecological Levels a Job

It would not only be overwhelming but nearly impossible to execute on what you’ve just build alone. That’s why your next step will be to summarize each Socio-Ecological Model level’s key players’ actions into one statement that describes what they will do the prevent or mitigate the problem.

Using our cancer treatment and prevention example and moving from the top level this time, we could give the Policy level a job described as: Mobilizing and codifying into law equal access to and implementation of the best cancer prevention and treatment strategies. On the community level, the vision statement could be described as: Cultivating empathy for, awareness of, and deep knowledge of comprehensive cancer prevention and treatment in all community members.

These statements don’t have to be long, only representative of the jobs you’ve given key players in that particular level.

Step 6: Convert the Level-Based Job Statements into Affirmations

Now that you’ve got job statements for each level (you should have 5), you can easily convert them into affirmations that, if you are moving toward your mission, will come to be fact. Take off any –ing items and make them statements. The only way I know how to describe this is through examples.

Instead of “Mobilizing and codifying into law equal access to and implementation of the best cancer prevention and treatment strategies”, you would rewrite it to say something like “The best cancer prevention and treatment strategies are codified into law and public policy and equally accessible by everyone.”

Instead of “Cultivating deep empathy for, awareness of, and deep knowledge of comprehensive cancer prevention and treatment in all community members”, you would rephrase it to be “All members of the X community (could be be a city, state, region, country, etc) are treated with empathy and equipped with the knowledge and awareness needed for comprehensive cancer prevention and treatment.”

Image credit:

Image credit:

Step 7: Review Your Handiwork

You now have 5 statements that paint a picture of a world where your mission has been fulfilled – your vision statements! Compare them with your mission to make sure they accurately describe what you envision. If they do not, start over from Step 2 and ensure you’ve included the right key players. Then double check their jobs and the jobs of the socio-ecological levels.

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By entering into this process periodically (I recommend at least once per year), you, your employees, and your volunteers can keep the finish line in sight and judge any new activity against whether it puts you closer to the state of the world described in your vision statements and embodied in your mission.

Need some more direct coaching through the process? Sign up for The Social Entrepreneurship Hub! Looking for more information on building a social enterprise? Sign up for my mailing list! Have questions? Send me a message at!