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Cat Lo

24 Posts
New York
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I recently came across Obsidian, a localized writing application with an incredible feature: it visualizes your thoughts and patterns through a dynamic graph. Using this tool, I analyzed the last six months of our newsletter content, which led me to ponder how we process and store information in what some refer to as our second brain.


Cool ain't it? Or am I a nerd? 🤓 From my analysis, I've found that content typically undergoes four phases before becoming a core memory:

  1. Ad Hoc Notes: Quick scribbles and initial impressions.
  2. Researched Notes: In-depth notes sourced from formal references such as research papers or subject-matter experts.
  3. Crystallized Notes: Early synthesis of ideas and findings.
  4. Formal Notes: Fully processed content, often resulting in published articles or finalized thoughts.

Publishing formal notes requires a level of rigor that I can't maintain weekly, so expect the content to largely fall within the first three categories. How do you process the information you consume daily?

This week, an interesting pattern emerged. I received the same question from three different people on the same day:

  1. A new designer struggling with a challenging assignment outside of their desired design tasks.
  2. A designer clashing with stakeholders who are imposing unwanted changes.
  3. A researcher looking to advance their career and gain broader adoption for their vision.

All of these questions circle back to one theme: Influence Without Authority. This means you are not in a position to give orders, make decisions, and have little control of the outcome. I've been contemplating this topic for the past two months, particularly focusing on people with low agency—those who procrastinate, lack confidence, and avoid risks because they feel powerless. They lacked knowledge about how to influence.

Six Pillars of Influence

  1. Assume Allies: Consider everyone to be on your side, even if past interactions have been challenging. You make their goals yours.
  2. Clarify your Goals & Priorities: Make your objectives transparent and help others see your perspective.
  3. Understand Barriers: Be aware of the obstacles in the other person's world, such as different working styles, responsibilities, pressures/worries, career aspirations, how they are measured?
  4. Build Relationships: Establish a likable rapport with those you aim to influence.
  5. Trustworthiness: Cultivate trust by consistently following through on your promises and assuming good intentions.
  6. Reciprocity: Go beyond your job description to solve challenges for others, and substantiate your claims with evidence.

When we make an elevator pitch, focus the benefits about the recipient, not ourselves. “Why should they care about what I have to say?” State your most important idea up front and elaborate only if needed, then minimally. Postpone all complications and elaborations if it's prompted.

Though it's tough, I've found that practicing succinct articulation improves clarity and influence.

I hope you find these insights useful.

By Cat Lo

How to get better at influence

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