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5 AI tools, Shakubuku, Loyalty today
I try every AI app that comes out that I can get my hands on. A review of a few that I’ve used in the last month or so:
Imagica: Still in invite-only beta, this one is going to be big. You simply tell the AI what you want to build and it begins to sketch out the various steps needed to accomplish the objective. Want to start a company? Enter the idea for the company and it names it, makes a logo, makes a checklist of tasks to complete, connects them and groups them by person responsible, writes a business plan and presents it all within 30 seconds. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, but let it get more data into it, APIs into other companies in the legal, design, accounting, no-code computing, outsource sales and marketing and recruiting space and you’ll have an instant company.
Inflection: The holy grail for AI developers for a while has been the Personal Assistant. Having that assistant perform tasks and accomplish results instead of just reporting information, or providing notifications seems like one of those things that once established will be a default requirement. Inflection aims to be exactly that. You can trial it and it will move you toward an upgrade path. I didn’t bite but that doesn’t mean I won't in the future.
Axiom.Ai: The greatest promise in the regular lives of people in business today is AI for smart automations. I have friends who currently employ a Virtual Assistant whose sold task is to scrape user data for lead generation from TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, etc. This browser plugin allows you to do with 3 clicks. That’s the level of productivity we are talking about here … from 8 hours a day to 35 seconds and the results are as good or better. This isn’t perfect, none of these are, but like all of them, they are getting better the more people use them.
TinyWow: Sometimes you have these little tasks that you just know shouldn’t take up a ton of work to accomplish but you just can’t do it as easily as you want. Here comes TinyWow, a collection of about 75+ little applets that do really useful things that you usually have to pay for. Convert PDF to Excel, write a cold outreach email, add color to a photo, all kinds of useful things to overcome productivity roadblocks.
Rows.com: The missing piece of perfection for Excel. Just import your data to the site, and then use the buttons to create charts and graphs instantly. There is an AI chatbox where you can ask questions and receive analysis about the data. This site allows you to become the data scientist that small businesses could never afford. I used this with a client this week to show him how his low ticket sales were taking up too much bandwidth and weren’t converting to high ticket sales. We agreed to 5x the low ticket sale, lose the customer that wouldn’t pay the higher amount. All told, our decision will drop about $40k to the bottom line, enough for him to add another salesperson to his staff. One question to the AI, and then 25 minutes of discussion for $40k.
“Many receive advice. Few profit by it.”
In Buddhism there is a concept I think about all the time. Shakubuku is a swift, sharp spiritual kick to the head that alters your perception of reality forever. Memorize that definition and be on the lookout for them, because they come when you are open to them.
A coaching client of mine had a shakubuku this week. For years he’s been enmeshed in building a business that has grown too large for him to be involved in every piece of minutiae that comes through his office door. But, like most executives in that stage of business, his inability to deal with those items has put a cap on his growth, and he’s had to learn to delegate, a skill which he thinks he does more than he actually does.
This week, we tried an exercise where he wasn’t allowed to do a single piece of productive work directly. He had to have someone do everything for him. He couldn’t order lunch, his EA had to do it. He couldn’t answer emails, directly, he set an autoresponder and forwarder to his COO. He couldn’t go down to the production floor, he could only ask managers about what they saw in the reports. It was brutal and he thought it would cost him the business, honestly.
When we debriefed, he was off-balance in a big way. I told him he’d either tip back to his old ways, solidify himself as the bottleneck in his business forever, or he’d make a play to do the hard work of building a business that ran whether he was there or not. “My only job is to lead others,” he said bewildered. He didn’t know that. Now he does, and he sees the world differently.
It’s not an overnight thing for him to accomplish, but now he has the vision for what his business would look like if he wasn’t the most important person in the building. My gut tells me that once his corporate development work is done in 6 months, he’ll build a trajectory to 7x the business. I’ve seen it happen many times … but only after the shakubuku hits.
“The most important stories we tell are the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves.”
I’m playing around with the concept of loyalty a lot lately. I’m asking questions to get to the root of a virtue that you don’t hear extolled much. In reading classical literature, loyalty was one of the prime virtues that the ancients venerated. Across almost all cultures, loyalty to a cause or person was held to be the highest valued behavior a person could display.
I’m wondering … why has it fallen from grace in our times? I cannot remember the last time I heard anyone praised for being loyal. I’ve heard people praised explicitly for not being loyal. A neighbor’s wife left him last year for the yoga instructor and her friends praised her self-reliance, her fortitude and her gumption for making herself the center of her own life. I know nothing of the marriage, of course, but it doesn’t seem that being loyal to the institution for the larger sake entered her thinking.
I’m cataloging stories as I come across them. Marius and Sulla come to mind. While they were loyalty to each other, Rome stood strong. When they fell out and quarreled, putting personal ego above the civic institution, Rome became an empire within a single generation.
I’ve seen it happen in companies too many times to count. The owner puts his own needs and wants above the good of the whole and the employees walk out. Ask both groups about loyalty and they’d blame the other party for its lack.
Guan Yu, a figure blending historical facts and legend, is one of the most emblematic characters in Chinese history, literature, and folklore. He is primarily known for his role in the Three Kingdoms period of China, which spanned from 220 to 280 BC.
Born in what is now Shanxi province, Guan Yu was initially a farmer and later a local militia leader. He came to prominence when he swore an oath of brotherhood with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei, two other key figures of the period, in a peach orchard. This oath pledged their mutual loyalty and their shared commitment to bring justice to the Han dynasty, which was riddled with corruption and besieged by internal and external strife. Guan Yu served under Liu Bei, who aspired to restore the legitimacy of the Han imperial line.
Guan Yu was not only renowned for his combat skills but also his extraordinary loyalty to Liu Bei. He was once captured by Cao Cao, another warlord and one of Liu Bei’s chief rivals. Cao Cao admired Guan Yu’s skills and virtues, and tempted him over and over with exotic food, beautiful concubines, and the most prized gift in his court: the famous horse named Red Hare. Despite the temptations, Guan Yu never wavered in his loyalty to Liu Bei attempting time and again to escape the pleasurable life at court to escape back to the hardships of the battlefield in Liu Bei’s service.
On his final successful escape, Guan Yu had to pass through five fortified mountain passes gates to return to Liu Bei. He was eventually captured and executed by during the siege of Fan Castle. Liu Bei, his friend and commander, wept at the loss of Guan Yu and his legend spread until he was was deified and is worshipped today as a god of war, loyalty, and righteousness. Temples dedicated to him can be found throughout China and in various Chinese communities around the world even today.
His persona has transcended the boundaries of history and literature to become a cultural icon, symbolizing unwavering loyalty and honor. The tale of Guan Yu serves as an instructive narrative in the study of leadership and integrity, encapsulating the virtue of loyalty so deeply revered in Chinese philosophy and folklore.
I don’t know where this line of enquiry ends for me. I’m toying with a book on the topic but it needs fleshing out. Whether that comes about or not, one question remains with me every day: “Am I doing the right things to show loyalty and deserve it in my own life?”