Mower Boston

About Mower Boston

Tobias conceptualizes visual design strategies for his clients through the channels of typography and pixel-perfection. Holding a degree in Graphic Design, Tobias recently graduated from The New England Institute of Art. Outside of the office, you’ll find Tobias moving weight around the gym and studying the fluctuations of the stock market. Learn more about Tobias

Three Tips for Controlling Your Reactions

Gut reaction. Emotional response. Whatever you call it, it shouldn’t be a stretch to find a time when you’ve experienced it. Encountering an event of displeasure often causes a flood of immediate reactions derived from a place of thoughtless spontaneity. Unhelpful, to say the least.

As Jonathan Haidt illustrates in The Happiness Hypothesis, we are the rider on our elephant’s back. It can be a lofty challenge to control the quick and powerful swings of the elephant’s movement but learning to take charge of our elephant is a gradual process. Here are three steps to get you moving.

elephant-reactions

It’s annoying.
You’re engrossed in finding type combinations, finding the perfect image and… *biiing*, you’re interrupted by a pressing email. Pushing you out of your attentive state (we’ll revisit this in #3), you now have to handle that project that was supposed to be due next Friday, this Friday. Before handling it, you emotionally react, “That’s so annoying!”

So what? To start, you personally being annoyed is much different than an email (1s and 0s) that is annoying. The email you’ve received is in most cases, unaffectable, and in all cases, inanimate. On the other hand, your reaction is very much adjustable. You have become annoyed because of the email and thus have the ability to reverse course. Being willing and able to accept you are the one who is causing your own annoyance allows you to adjust and resolve with a more effective trajectory. That email didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s difficult.
Whether you’re the new kid or a seasoned vet, receiving an overly difficult or complicated task can cause a rush of emotional distress. Almost instantly you spill out, “This is too difficult.”

Think about the things you do that seem to come to you naturally. What is it that you do exceptionally well? You know all the steps; you know all the possible outcomes. When you receive a seemingly difficult task, you really receive a problem without a clear path to completion. Instead of shuddering in the shadow of the task, plot your course. What steps can you take to clear out a path? Where can you apply what you know and learn what you don’t? The difference between a task you can breeze through and one you stumble over is clarity.

It’s boring.
It’s 2:15 p.m. Tuesday is droning on. You’re glazing over a monotonous project. Perpetually distracted, you can’t seem to hold attention to what you’re doing. “This is boring…”

The default perception of boring most likely coincides with dull. And you might be right. But we can find a common thread to the pesky (inanimate) email in how we react to it. Take a wider view and decide what is boring and who is bored. Don’t hinder yourself. Being bored isn’t about a bad project, it’s a lack of attention. Try seeking out a unique approach to the typeface you’re required to use. Involve yourself in finding a dynamic image to fill a lackluster placeholder. Finding a detail or an approach to the project that you can find actionable and involved focuses your attention and reduces boredom. Sometimes you need to create an angle that allows you to be attentive, and that’s OK.

In the end, it’s not about what happens. It’s how you react to what happens. Your elephant may jerk left, and then jerk right, but it’s up to you to recognize a misdirection and bring your elephant back to center. Roll through the punches with an approach you can control and you’ll be surprised how little you flinch.

 

Epidemic Models and Your Brand’s Story

Think of the last influential brand story you came in contact with. Got one? Perfect. Need a little help? How about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the eccentric Old Spice Guy? Now keep those in mind.

The mathematical theory used to predict the spread of diseases is known as epidemic models. The simplest model has two parts, an infection rate (the spread of infection from contagious to non-contagious) and a removal rate (the rate at which those infected become no longer contagious), each with a given value of 0 to 1. After the introduction of one infected individual and a removal rate of 0, the disease follows what is known as a logistics curve.
logistics curveThe infection spreads and slowly gains traction. As more and more become infected, the curve turns upward and eventually reaches a plateau as those who are contagious come in contact with less and less of those who are not.

Now think back to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the The Old Spice Guy. Graph their virality and you will have an outcome very similar to the logistics curve.

The concept is released, the sharing starts and the story begins its ascent as engagement rises. Bouncing from person-to-person, this is the most important stage of engagement. If the removal rate begins to rise, the story never reaches its potential audience and sizzles out to a standstill. With a successful story, it eventually clogs your news feed and maxes out on what’s trending. The story reaches its maximum potential contagious users.

What makes these stories different from the one you told last weekend? The difference is that these stories stick with their audience because they are memorable, vivid and tellable. The Old Spice Guy can be easily communicated to others. The concept is loud, causing a reaction and a connection. With a strong infection rate and a low removal rate, more individuals come in contact with the story and share its message.

A brand’s story is inseparable to its identity. An infectious story will stick with a brand—positive or negative. The Domino’s Pizza Turnaround is a wonderful example of a brand’s identity overcoming negativity through a story their users can connect with. Whether or not you choose to eat Domino’s, the story is crafted to be shared and remembered.

There is no formula for virality, but a memorable story starts at the first infection.

Max Power & Calculating Your Confidence

max-power

In Homer to the Max, Homer Simpson stumbles upon a television show character by the same name. After the character goes through a negative transformation, Homer gets ridiculed for being associated with such a person. In an effort to overcome this, Homer legally changes his name to Max Power. Garnished with compliments about his new identity, Homer embraces it. Improving his image by shopping in high-end retail and befriending the affluent Trent Steele, Homer has convinced himself that his new name improved his lifestyle.

Hubris was Homer’s real identity change. Which may not be as negative as it sounds.

Being overly-confident helps you set and achieve goals that were otherwise unthinkable and seemingly unattainable. Being realistic in your challenges can undermine your ability to meet goals. If you realistically viewed your challenges, there is strong possibility you’d never attempt to overcome them. Allowing yourself to overstate your own abilities can be beneficial in taking a risk you may not have even considered.

Jason Zweig, in his book Your Money and Your Brain, writes that 81% of entrepreneurs gave their own businesses a 7 to 10 chance of success. 33% of entrepreneurs say there is zero possibility their business would fail. Zweig goes on to note, “roughly 50% of new businesses fail within their first five years”. This shows a huge dissociation between perceived success and actual success. Being overconfident in their abilities and challenges allows them to deceive themselves of their own probability of success. Without this mindset, we may have been without such unicorns as Uber or Airbnb. Disrupting the taxi monopoly would have been unthinkable without a dash of over-confidence in Uber’s success. Airbnb was a failing startup before rocketing to success. Confidence in these projects success kept them afloat

Using this knowledge in your daily tasks may not be as reckless at it seems. Calculating your overconfidence is the key to avoiding failure. Do this by asking yourself such questions as: When can I take on more risk to push a project to succeed? When can I tell myself this will not fail (and if it does, not be destroyed along with it)? Being overly-confident can push you over the hills of “It won’t work” and “It’s not feasible”.

In the end, Homer eventually goes back to his original name. I’ll attribute this to a necessity of having the episode end where it started, rather than a lack of confidence.