Have you found your rhythm?

Like that invisible hand, these cadences, these metabolisms, determine what happens next.

Have you found your rhythm?
Photo by SHOT / Unsplash

Judging by my sidebar, I'm more of an Inbox 13,714 person.

But what if Inbox Zero weren't a personality type?  And what if we interpreted it so strictly that everyone dealt with their email the moment it arrived?  

At 6:42am EST, Samantha sends an email to Jack; Jack, not letting time zones get in the way and being the eager beaver that he is, deals with it immediately; Samantha receives the reply and copies in Emma and Javier; Emma and Javier don't miss a beat and get back to all 3 instantly.  Those 3 respond with a mixture of comments and questions, bringing more people into the loop, only as-needed, of course.

Each person becoming more hellbent on preserving their tranquility, the replies get quicker, and a bit more curt.  Like a military state reaching for its stockpiles, every keyboard shortcut is unleashed.  Cloud monitoring alarms blare inside mail server farms; this spike in their utility consumption, already stressing a taxed environment, tilt Earth into a tailspin.

With the world sending 347 billion emails daily, there is no hope.  Within a fortnight, our laptops and brains — the entire working world and our personal lives with it, melt under the fervent heat of this runaway reaction.  The singularity arrives, fueled by the raw bleeding fingertips of each transfigured Icarus.  

"This is better and worse than I ever imagined!" Samantha shouts.  Her twitching, glowing eyes lend credence to her confession, arms bent in a premature rigor mortis that suits the never-ending flow of her outbox.  

But no one can hear her anymore.  They're too focused.  

Just before the productivity supernova absorbs us, every office app reaches its promised valuation; but it's far too late to be rescued by a liquidity event.  Six billion stress-induced strokes replace the roaring cacophony of clickety-clack-click with silence.

An alien chronicle sums our destiny:

Promising Civilization, Typed Themselves To Death

Like I said, I'm more of an Inbox 13,714 person.

You're welcome.

Metabolic Morality

In the mid-1700's, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant tried to warn us:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

Inbox Zero is immoral: we just can't have everyone behaving this way.

And yes, if you're still with me, loyal zeroer, I know — you don't just send every reply right away.  Heck, you don't even check your email constantly!  "That's the whole point!"

No no, now you know the point.  

If we left you unchecked things could get crazy.  Preparing for this, we the non-zero convened in mid-2004 to settle on a series of features to contain you.  Remember the arrival of Send Later and Focused Inbox?

That was us.

Okay, But Really Matt

This has been cathartic to get out, and I appreciate you reading.  

Now on to the point I promised when you signed up for this Content.

You know that the business world, the one your startup operates in, is a complex system.  Each participant exists in a webbed constellation; within each participant are more of these patterns; inside those patterns are individuals; inside those individuals are incentives, motivations, desires, hunger, feelings.

These all relate to how the market is arranged 🐙 — its structure.

But there's another element that only the best begin to grasp, often later in their careers after many scars: each participant, each prospect you engage, has a different rate at which they absorb, process, and relay information (like email).  And so do you.

This creates equilibrium.  It also creates mess and friction.  That mess may be beautiful by accident, as companies fail forward and succeed despite themselves.  More often it is chaos 🐙.  

Sometimes ... and this is very hard to accept: sometimes people add value to their organization by being slow.

Bill is Inbox Haha, Screw You.

Bill is also the SVP Engineering you need to convince to buy your solution.

What are you going to do?

Your challenge — on the front lines of an early-stage startup, is to figure out how to marry and couple these diverse metabolic rates.  You're trying to give, they're trying to receive.  You need a sale now, they can't buy for 3 months.

Like an invisible hand, these cadences, these metabolisms, determine what happens next.  And so the most successful founder-sellers make progress by interrogating these processes.  By mapping the metabolic pathways of the organization they're trying to land and injecting themselves into those.

"You can't buy for 3 months?  I get it, I get it.  So when will you meet to decide what you'll buy?  Oh, you're setting a budget?  When is ... oh, that happened already?  I see, when is that?  Okay, great.  Why don't we ..."

You aren't going to change how they behave.  But you, shapeshifter 🐙, can change how you behave, one minute, and one email, to the next.  That plate is spinning too fast?  Slow it down for them.  That one is too slow for that deadline?  Your team needs to speed up.  Is your target segment too slow to sustain you?  You may need to update your plans.

As the founder, we must learn to juggle these diverse rhythms, transmitting insight to the team when, where, and how they can hear it, while giving value to our prospects when, where, and how they can receive it, and then synthesizing for everyone.

This hard work of harmonizing across cadences creates the first fruits of fitness between your company and the market.