Think about the downstream ramifications of your actions

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Have you ever solved a problem… then realized you accidentally created five new problems?

This is why it’s important to think about second and third order consequences.

By thinking about potential side effects upfront, you save time by preventing unintentional ripple effects — before they happen.

What are second and third order consequences?

Second and third order consequences are the downstream ramifications of your actions. When you change part of a system, that change can impact other parts of the business, people, or processes.

The scary (and exciting) thing about second order…


Get rid of them and you’ll appear more confident

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Insecure vibes are subconscious clues and signals that you might be giving off when you’re feeling anxious, nervous, or a little uncertain.

We emit insecure vibes when we really want something to work out…but aren’t sure if it will. You might be feeling self-conscious. A little desperate.

Insecure vibes are usually subconscious, which is why it’s important to be mindful. You don’t want your worries to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you appear hesitant, doubtful, or anxious…

The other person picks up on it…

You get more nervous…

They start doubting you.

If you acted normally to start with, they…


The litmus test for whether your story struck a chord

Positioning and messaging is exciting because you’re picking your angle. Of all the ways you could talk about your product, which way should you talk about it?

Even if you’re feeling confident in your brand’s spiky point of view, it’s important to test your story.

At this point, clients will usually ask,

“So how do we know if our story resonates?”

“How do we test our positioning and messaging?”

“How can we tell if customers are excited by this value prop?”

I want to share one of my favorite frameworks because it’s super easy and intuitive.

Here’s the deal:


On the surface, this is a story about a 3 year old. But like all good stories, it’s also about the reader.

Source: Screenshot from Nathan Ng’s Facebook; Image annotations by Wes Kao

Getting someone to change their worldview is hard.

When it happens, that’s a big deal. If you can change people’s worldviews regularly, or even once in a while, you will always be in demand.

My friend Nathan posted a quick story about him and his daughter going to the car wash. He could have gotten on a soapbox to lecture, but he didn’t.

His writing made me pause.

Whenever something makes you pause, think about why. Try to dissect what the person did so you can learn from it.


To create value, you have two choices

To create value, you have two choices:

  1. You can raise the ceiling
  2. You can lower the floor

This applies to generating value of any kind.

Raising the ceiling means you elevate your category

You’ll know you are raising the ceiling if you feel good about people trying to copy you. You think, “At least they’re doing something positive.”

You don’t think “Oh god, what have I done.”


Get past writer’s block

When you have writer’s block, you can stare at a blank Google Doc or talk out loud.

But those options aren’t ideal sometimes.

  1. Talking out loud: We talk fast. So we say a lot. It’s unfiltered and seems to make sense at the time. But your tone of voice, speed, and pauses are verbal — they don’t translate into a written medium. A full page of transcribed audio can be completely unusable.
  2. Staring at a blank page: You think you have a lot to say… until you sit in front of your computer. The blank page. The blinking cursor. …


Learn the skill of pattern matching

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Analytical skills didn’t come easily for me.

In college, my least favorite classes were quantitative. It was a miracle I even scraped by.

Which is why I was so surprised when Gap Inc wanted to hire me, upon graduation, to be an analyst.

The job was 100% about numbers.

Logically this seemed like the worst possible fit.

I thought, “They want me to manage millions of dollars of product and optimize profitability? Using real money?”

Once I got over the surprise, I knew I could do it-I would just have to work harder than everyone else.


A spiky point of view is a perspective others can disagree with

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We live in a noisy world. Whichever industry you’re in, there are thousands of other people like you trying to get noticed.

Unless you distinguish yourself, you’ll never get a chance to show how different you actually are.

To stand out, you need to develop what I call a “spiky” point of view.

What is a spiky point of view?

A spiky point of view is a perspective others can disagree with. It’s a belief you feel strongly about and are willing to advocate for. It’s your thesis about topics in your realm of expertise.

Each person has a unique way of seeing the world.

It’s what…


Why this decision impacts everything about your marketing

Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

There are few philosophical stances that will influence everything about your marketing thereafter.

Deciding to prioritize brand versus performance is one of those things.

This is worth discussing with your team:

“If you could only prioritize brand or performance, what would you pick?”

  • Ask your clients
  • Ask your boss
  • Ask your co-founders
  • Ask anyone who can veto your work

It’s worth getting on the same page about this early. If you don’t, you risk getting push-back and skepticism downstream.

This skepticism is masked as logical criticism or concern.

They’ll say something feels “off.” It doesn’t seem “right.” …


Word choice matters more than you think

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

You make decisions, allocate resources, and make plans-all based on words.

This is why it’s important to be mindful that your language accurately reflects a few things:

  • Intent
  • Meaning
  • Severity
  • Level of certainty
  • Power dynamics
  • Stakes (high or low stakes if you’re wrong)

These elements are even more important to consider if you’re sharing your idea remotely, where you won’t have facial expressions and body language to add context.

Who would benefit from thinking about their tone and word choice?

  • People managers in positions of authority
  • Customer-facing operators (customer service reps, account managers) who want to offer suggestions without overstepping…

Wes Kao

Marketing | Product | Strategy | Prev: altMBA, Seth Godin HQ, Flite (acq by Snapchat), Gap Inc. @wes_kao | weskao.com

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