The Neural Grind

In the trenches of the neural tug-of-war

When Was the Last Time Your Guilty Conscience Helped You?

A guilty conscience is a strange thing. Our brain is telling us something isn’t right and it can be difficult to pinpoint the underlying reason. If left unchecked, that uneasiness can prevent us from living a full life.

There’s nothing more useless than harboring a guilty conscience. It does no good except for the sweet relief of getting rid of it. So why are so many letting such a useless feeling get in the way of happiness?

Guilt is cancer. Guilt will confine you, torture you, destroy you as an artist. It’s a black wall. It’s a thief. Dave Grohl

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If You Don’t Put Your Employees First, You’re Not a Leader

My girlfriend had recently broken up with me and I wasn’t handling it well. I was struggling to the point where I couldn’t do my job properly. Sitting at my desk with stomach pains, finding it hard to breathe, I realized I had to tell my boss. His response shocked me beyond words.

I laid out the whole emotional mess and didn’t hold back, telling him I was depressed to the point where I couldn’t perform. He thought about this for a while. “The most important thing right now…” he replied, taking a long pause. “… Is that we deliver your current project within the deadline. How can we make sure that happens?”

“The most important thing right now… is that we deliver your current project within the deadline”
— A boss, not a leader

I was stunned and had no idea how to respond before a few seconds passed. I gave him a good enough solution, all while thinking I could not believe how that was his main priority. That was the end for me. There was no way I was staying after that.

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How One Simple Process Mistake Risk Destroying Your Best Work

How One Simple Process Mistake Risk Destroying Your Best Work
The deadline was in four days and I had never been so excited about anything I’d made before. The process had been painless. The animations were gorgeous, the attention to detail unmatched, the story entertaining. Everything was coherent and matched the soundtrack down to every little detail. Even the project handoff went great. In short, a great product that matched spec perfectly, something I was proud of. Can you imagine why I had to do it over again?

The shocking message came after they had shown our product to their boss for the first time. Turns out she hated it.

She hadn’t been part of the process. No one had thought about that part somehow. The person sitting on the bag of money wasn’t informed while the project progressed. Sure, the boss had given the project managers full authority to manage the project after we had agreed on the budget. But when she saw the result, it wasn’t what she had imagined. It’s not that she thought it was bad – it just didn’t match her own image of what she was buying. Who can blame her, really?

A Great Process With One Cardinal Sin

We had all done our part, everything in writing, every step of the process. But we still had one unhappy paying client. What could we do? We delivered everything we had agreed upon and had successful sign-offs. Enthusiastic sign-offs even. But the project managers didn’t have the authority they thought they had, so it didn’t matter.

How could we please the boss? We had to make some changes and the client was willing to compensate us (a little) for the extra work. They understood after all that it was a mistake on their part not having gone through the proper channels.

But the changes didn’t improve the end result. They made it different, something other than it was. But they made the CEO feel as if she had played an instrumental part in making it. She mattered. Her opinions changed the outcome. And so when she got the new hybrid, lifeless and anemic product, a shadow of its former self, with more corporate music, more generic titles and less edge, she was happy.

“Do you want a new logo? How many people has to say “yes” to the new logo? If it’s “I don’t know” then don’t even start.”
Seth Godin

Define the Real Authority, Early

What did we set out to do? Make something magical for our portfolio and make our client happy. We failed at both. Not because we didn’t communicate clearly enough, nor because we didn’t get everything in writing. Not because we didn’t deliver something outstanding. We failed because we didn’t talk with the real decision-maker, and decision-makers want to make decisions. Many believe they can delegate tasks, but only to a certain point. When they see something that’s supposed to represent their company, something the public will witness and respond to — they won’t let it go without having had their say.

I had some of my greatest work turn into something less than mediocre as a result. A great portfolio piece that I’ll hide away instead. Next time, I’ll make sure I’m dealing with the real authority and not her minions.

Have you ever lived the same story? Do you have the antidote for these situations? Please leave a comment below or read about why stupid people are smarter than you.

Escalators Reveal Two Kinds of People

Escalators Reveal Two Kinds of PeopleEscalators reveal two kinds of people: those who walk and those who stand. Those who see it as a chance to do nothing, and those who see it as a means to reach their goal faster. Which one are you?

I never understood those who stand still. If you’re old, pregnant or otherwise disabled, you rest and relax. If you’re healthy and able, why do you just stand there, staring into nothingness letting time pass?

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Why Stupid People Succeed More Often Than You

Why Stupid People Succeed More Often Than YouA friend of mine says the same thing when confronted with people enjoying success: “Why do so many stupid people get ahead in this world?

It’s the latest pop sensation chewing bubblegum. The new loudmouthed sales rep who’s landed a big deal, or the CEO who doesn’t even know when to use “your” and “you’re”.

Upon closer inspection though, he doesn’t really think they are stupid. They just seem like that to him. They’re loud, unrestrained and have no problem laughing at themselves.

To people who consider themselves smart, it’s easier to call someone too direct and outgoing “simple-minded”. Surely, the smartest men are composed, calm and weigh every word before they speak.

Well, no. And even if they were, for the sake of argument — so what?

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Should Soft Skills Be Part of Our Education?

How would you rank your soft skills as a twelve-year-old?  I didn’t even consider being natural around others a skill.

I had no idea I could improve by seeing every social interaction as an opportunity for practice, and stop avoiding every possible chance of awkward moments by keeping my mouth shut.

The Kids Table

If you ever attended a social gathering as a kid that included grown-ups, you probably remember the infamous “kids table”. I know I do.

I remember the feeling of being set aside, denied a glimpse into the grown-ups world by being banished to a smaller table, where other people of small size had to sit next to each other while eating.

The only thing we had in common was the fact that we weren’t adults, and as such had limited experience with small talk. Sparking up conversations with strangers doesn’t usually come naturally for twelve-year-olds, especially when left to their own devices and there’s no playing involved.

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