People in entrepreneurship circles talk a lot about creating (and capturing) value. It’s a pretty decent model for business: make something valuable, or perform a valuable service, and then “capture” enough of that value to be profitable. Value is created, on net, when the outputs of a system or process are more valuable than the inputs. Magic! Extropy! But this is a real thing, and it applies much more broadly than business.
So this post is basically a list of easy ways (aka ‘low-hanging fruit’) to create value in the lives of people around you. I’ve also considered reasons why people don’t do this more, and offered suggestions as to why those reasons don’t matter, and ways around them.
I have an affordance for massaging shoulders. It’s also something I enjoy doing, at least for a few minutes. Also, most people I’ve met really like having their shoulders massaged. So I’ve started just casually massaging my friends’ shoulders (making sure they’re into it first of course) and I was struck by just how much value gets created in a few seconds of massage. The cost of me giving a massage is very low, and the benefit is massive.
So why doesn’t it happen more?
I kept massaging people, but up until a week ago I hadn’t really thought of anything else—admittedly, I hadn’t put much effort towards doing so. Then I got an email from a friend giving me positive feedback for a tiny user experience delight in one of the complice emails. It put a huge grin on my face, and made me realize that simple, positive feedback is another epic low-hanging fruit for making other people feel great.
I’m using “positive feedback” here to refer to when someone does something that isn’t personally towards you, but that you’re really glad about, and you want to tell them to keep on keeping on.
I think the main reasons people don’t do this more are:
A twist on positive feedback. In this case, someone has done something, likely specifically towards you, and you want to tell the world how great they are. Facebook is one great medium for this. Last Mother’s Day, my friend Ben “Compass Rose” Hoffman wrote a long post about how great his mom was. And then this followup:
A friend posted: “Why are you telling me that you appreciate your mother? It’s none of my business.”
Public praise is more meaningful because it’s an act of affiliation. Praise in private is cheap – but if you praise someone in public you’re committing yourself to being the sort of person who likes the object of your praise.
Mother’s Day is a day in which it’s considered especially appropriate to publicly appreciate our mothers. If you’re feeling left out of the appreciation today, or any other day, ask me and I’ll be happy to write a Facebook post about how I appreciate you.
Or if you prefer, I can send you your letter privately.
Fascinatingly, I only counted myself and one other person (Edit: Ben says about 5 now) who actually took him up on this offer. Maybe some people feel weird about the idea of requesting appreciation? But hey, it was great—he wrote me over 700 words, and it totally brightened my day!
Hmm, why don’t people do this? I mean, the 700 word thing is kind of a lot, so I wouldn’t even consider that to be low-hanging fruit. But why don’t we see more simple shoutouts, like “I just wanted to say thanks to Jane for helping me edit my resume :)”?
This blog post is a delightful meta-example of this thing too: when you learn something that might be generally useful, share it with people! Even if it kind of seems obvious.
Main reasons people don’t do this:
Another thing just occurred to me: if you have blogger friends, and you like their blog posts, share those posts on Facebook! This is both appreciation and sharing learning. I get a substantial fraction of my traffic from Facebook, so I really love when people share my posts. On that note, if you’re thinking “that public appreciation thing is a great idea, but I can’t think of something,” here’s one solution: Share this post on Facebook 😛
Four new things to try! Oh no, how will you ever remember to actually do all of the things? My advice on that:
Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace.
Creator of Complice, a system for achieving your important goals.