The Locksmith Paradox, Sparking Creativity, & More
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Today at a Glance
- Quote: Dare great things.
- Framework: The Locksmith Paradox.
- Tweet: The line standing business.
- Article: Liminal creativity.
- Podcast: The effects of alcohol.
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"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Helen Keller
Life is meant to be a daring adventure.
Dare great things.
The Locksmith Paradox
The Locksmith Paradox is a situation that tends to arise when we conflate time and results.
The Origin Story
Imagine a junior locksmith who initially takes about an hour to complete a basic lock fixing task for the customer. The customer pays $100 for the task and is happy with the service.
The junior locksmith continues to perform this basic lock fixing task on a regular basis. By the following year, the junior locksmith is now a senior locksmith.
The same customer calls the locksmith back for another basic lock fixing task. Due to the accumulated experience, the senior locksmith is able to complete the task as before in just 30 minutes this time. He asks for his $100 and the customer stares at him, confused.
The locksmith has improved at his craft, but the customer has become increasingly upset by the lower time input required to deliver the fixed output.
The results are the same, but the customer's perception of value changed.
The Base Logic
The basic logic of the Locksmith Paradox is:
- It takes you 60 min to do X
- Customers pay $100 for X
- You improve at X, so it now only takes you 30 min to do X
- Customers want to pay you $50 for X
Same output, but perception of value is 50%. You are penalized for proficiency!
Where Do We See This In Action?
This focus—on time over results—plagues most companies.
It leads to an unfortunate "game" that employees have to play:
- Do X in 30 minutes
- Read ESPN for 30 minutes
- Charge $100 for X
Basically, create the illusion of work and long hours that mask productivity and efficiency gains.
In general, industries that rely on "billable hours" or professional services are rife with examples of the paradox in action. Just ask any investment banking analyst about those infamous 100-hour workweeks:
- Arrive at 9am
- Random work until 12pm
- Surf the web until 7pm
- Get PPT dropped on desk—"need edits by tomorrow AM thx"
The hours and output are dislocated. Face time is used to create the perception of value.
The classic story of Picasso in the market—which I've highlighted in the past—is a clear example of the Locksmith Paradox at play.
The woman's perception of the value of his work is impacted by the short amount of time it took him to produce it.
What Can We Do About It?
The most critical suggestion for how to manage this paradox: Focus on Outputs > Inputs.
Traditional corporate culture has an obsession with input—hours worked, etc.—when what really matters is the output. It seems obvious, but as a manager or employee, always push for a focus on outputs vs. inputs. It takes time to shift cultures, but it's worth it in the long run.
As a solo entrepreneur or freelancer, seek to detach earnings from hours. Rather than charging by the hour for your service or offering, charge based on deliverables. As you find new leverage in the system, you'll be able to scale your time efficiently and rapidly increase your income and wealth creation potential.
I'd love to hear from you:
- What are some times when you've seen the Locksmith Paradox at work in your own life?
- What other suggestions do you have for managing it?
Reply to this email or tweet at me @SahilBloom and I'll do my best to get back to everyone.
This is a very good thread:
- Business Insight: Robert realized that there were really long lines for specific items in NYC, including the famous Cronuts (a big fad from ~10 years ago). He figured that not everyone would want to stand in those lines to get the products, especially not people with a lot of money.
- Bias for Action: Rather than just thinking about it, Robert started charging $25 per hour for him to stand in line for people. He would text them when he was at the front of the line and they would come get the item.
- Expansion: He saw an opportunity to expand beyond the initial products he was in line waiting for. He grew to new Apple launches, limited edition sneaker releases, and more. He grew the team, marketed by writing in chalk next to long lines, and saw a bunch of growth.
I find stories like this quite inspiring. There's no shortage of opportunity out there—just a shortage of people willing to capitalize on it.
Be like Robert!
This was a really interesting article on the creative power that comes during times of transition. Liminality is the in-between stage—the period or space where we are at the threshold between an old and a new.
A few ideas it sparked:
- Liminal Spaces: I generally found the concept of "Liminal Spaces" to be very interesting. These transitions appear frequently, but I never had a word or phrase to place on them. I experience it in the context of new projects—the period after you have decided to take something on but before you've gotten started.
- Uncertainty Breeds Creativity: The article asserts that liminal spaces foster doubt and discomfort, but also growth, discovery, and creativity. This is a general balance of life. You cannot have the good without contending with the bad.
- Liminal Seekers: The idea that there are certain people who are more comfortable in liminal spaces—and actively seek them out—was interesting. I would guess that entrepreneurs over-index into this group, as the ability to tolerate uncertainty and change is a key success factor in startups.
Really neat article and a topic I want to dive into more in a future piece.
I've been working on a "Creativity Guide" of sorts for several months. If you'd like to see a deeper piece on harnessing your creativity, reply Yes to this email!
What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain, and Health
I recently cut alcohol for 3 months around the birth of my son. I wouldn't say I had a problem with it before, but I had noticed that I was having an evening whiskey too many nights each week, and it was impacting my gym performance and sleep quality.
The physical results from the 3 month dry spell were pretty amazing: materially improved resting heart rate, respiratory rate, body fat, REM sleep, and testosterone levels. I don't plan to cut out alcohol altogether—I still love a good whiskey!—but I do expect my overall consumption to be permanently reduced by 90%.
This episode was a great breakdown on the science around alcohol.
A few takeaways:
- Worse Than Sugar: Alcohol is truly empty-calories and is actually far more destructive to the human body than consuming sugar. Alcohol is water and fat solvable which means it can pass into any organ or cell in your body.
- Damage to Brain: It is well known that chronic heavy alcohol consumption is associated with negative impacts to the structure of the brain and can increase the likelihood of developing certain diseases. A recent study in the UK showed that even chronically consuming as little as one drink per day leads changes in brain structure and results in memory loss, increased likelihood of neurological diseases.
Worth a listen. I would personally recommend experimenting with a dry period (even a week) and seeing the impact it has on your life. The social and bonding components of sharing a drink may remain, but we can definitely all seek to engage in moderation.
Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.