Sat, 14 October 2017
A definition shouldn't be a barrier to your progress, should it? Yet, the moment you hear people talking about passion, you're stuck. And that's because their definition is all wrong. How do you redefine the term "passion"? And what does one-buttock have to do with passion? Let's find out.
Direct download: 161-One-Buttock_Passion_How_a_Simple_Redefinition_Can_Help_You_Move_Forward.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12
Sat, 7 October 2017
Most of us are told to start up a business doing what we're passionate about.
There's just one problem. We don't know what we are passionate about in the first place. How are we supposed to find something we know nothing about? Let's explore the concept of passion and how to stop looking for it, and get it to find you, instead.
Read the podcast on the website: Passion:Let it find you
Imagine a person who can sniff a perfume and instantly identify the brand
That person is my wife, Renuka. She can quickly work her way through as many as 150 fine fragrances. Fine fragrances are perfumes made in the classical style, by companies such as Chanel, Givenchy, Estee Lauder, Calvin Klein, etc. If you asked her if she's passionate about perfumes, her answer is clearly, yes. She worked in the perfumery industry for well over ten years, spending as much as half an hour to an hour each day, just tuning her nose to the subtleties of every perfume.
Would that count as passion? It should, shouldn't it?
All your life, you're told to follow your passion. To dig deep and find that one thing that makes you ecstatic. Somehow, you're supposed to know almost at the point of leaving school, what you're going to be good at, and to go after that passion. And Renuka didn't fit that bill at all. The only reason she took on the job at the fragrance company was because she was sick and tired of travelling and wanted a marketing job that involved little or no travel.
So how much of a newbie was she at the job?
In Mumbai, India, wearing flowers in your hair is a common trait among women. Whole market spaces are designed just to sell flowers. And two of the most popular flowers worn in women's hair are “mogra” and “jasmine”. When put to the test, Renuka couldn't identify their fragrance. It came as a complete surprise to her when she discovered that soap contained perfume. In short, this was a really miserable start to any kind of passion-hunt.
Success feeds passion, more than passion feeds success
Those are the words of Scott Adams, author and creator of the highly successful cartoon strip, “Dilbert”. And he's right, you know. Passion is a slightly ridiculous word because very few of us know what we're going to be passionate about, and especially so early in life.
If you speak to my nieces, who are 8 and 13, they seem to have a range of things they love. One loves dancing and music to the point where she'll stop chattering and start singing along to the music. Another loves animals and is really fond of the idea of the romantic version of being a vet until she has to do all the un-romantic bits as well.
And that's because success feeds passion I remember going to Fotosoft, a computer training school to learn Photoshop.
Photoshop itself was barely five or six years old having first been released in February 1990. However, I was keen to learn Photoshop. I went to the class, learned what I could and then promptly forgot most of it. To say I was passionate about it, was an incredibly silly statement to make.
Not many years later I needed Photoshop almost all the time. Instead of using the archaic system of creating a sketch, taking photocopies by the dozen and colouring each photocopy, I was able to do a single illustration, scan it in, and colour madly on the screen itself. Then along came the Wacom tablet, and I bought the ArtZ II. I was soon head over heels with Photoshop—a passion that has remained strong for almost 21 years.
Most people don't get hit by a passion bolt of lightning
Instead they fumble, stumble and grumble their way into a whole new world. Along the way, they suddenly run into a whole new world, and they start an exploration process. They look to solve either a problem that has loomed large in their own life or they set out to help someone else. Or like Renuka, they get a highly unusual assignment and then go through the process of falling in love with the skill.
Take someone like Michael Phelps, for instance. Surely he was born to be a swimming champion, right? Nonsense. Phelps hated water as a kid. But he had a problem at school. He had trouble concentrating and was constantly fidgety. When his paediatrician diagnosed him with ADHD, he was expected to take the drug, Ritalin.
When Michael Phelps was in the sixth grade, he was fidgety and had trouble paying attention in the classroom. His paediatrician diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. To burn off all of that excess energy that Phelps seemed to have, he was told to “swim it off.”
Except for the fact that he hated water
“It's wild to kind of think about how far we've come,” he said in an interview with ESPN. “From my mom putting me in the water safety — I hated the water. I didn't want anything to do with it. I learned on my back.” Now with 23 Olympic medals to his name, we'd all be forgiven for believing that he was born with a passion for water.
Even once he more than made his mark in swimming, his so-called passion flickered wildly. In the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, he routinely skipped practice for days on end. He got into intense arguments with his coach, Bob Bowman. Bowman told Dateline that he wished Phelps would have quit right at that point: “I didn't want him to go through this and I thought it was going to end badly,”.
If you pick successful people at random, you're sure to hit those who knew they were going to make it big
Some people, it seems, were either groomed, or got really good at a skill, and they went on to huge success over time. That's more the exception than the rule. Akio Morita, the founder of Sony first started out making rice cookers that were flops.
The inventor of the pacemaker, Wilson Greatbatch, had no interest in getting the heart to function well. Instead, he spent his days as a young man, absorbed in radio technology. Thomas Knoll, one of the Knoll brothers that invented Photoshop, was a doctoral candidate in computer vision, with no desire to create one of the world's most loved photo retouching tool.
So where do you go to find your passion?
When you hear how Renuka got into the perfumery business, it might seem like a lucky break. The reality is that she sold discount debit cards, to begin with, then timeshares with a company called Dalmia Resorts. Her lucky break was like any other lucky breaks. It wasn't lucky at all.
It was just a matter of getting involved with a project for long enough and finding you're hopeless at it at first, but are willing to stick it out for the duration. Most people start out in one field, get into another, and another and the passion grows, and even wanes over time. One thing is clear: you're not going to find your passion anytime soon.
You'll just have to do what almost everyone before you has done
You'll have to start solving a problem for yourself or someone else. Just writing on a blog or creating a website might be baby steps, but it's probably not going to solve the primary goal of business. A business tends to figure out what a client needs and then create the solution for that problem. To address the problems of the clients, you'll often to get moving past the computer screen.
To get a business going, start those cooking classes, make those guitar videos, teach someone how to do the stuff you know. For starters, all you're doing is going down the road to find success. And success is simply being able to do something decently well. So well, that you're almost starting to enjoy it.
I had no idea I'd like marketing I was positive I hated writing.
I didn't speak very well, cook or dance very well. I started out with a passion for drawing, and that I still do to this day, but not as a profession. Instead my passion hovers around marketing, writing, and yes, I love to dance, cook and I'm a really good speaker.
Forget looking your passion
Learn something well. Solve a problem. Your passion will find you, instead.
Does your neighbour know how to mow a lawn better than you? I'd say if you walk across, you will find the answer. Whether they do a better job or not, it barely matters.
At some point, that neighbour is likely to pay you for the job if you offer to mow their lawn. Most businesses don't start solving some amazing problem. Most businesses are remarkably mundane in their approach. You need to get a package across, let's invent a business like FedEx. You want to learn how to get rid of the cracks on your feet, let's make a crate called Heel Balm. You want to go to Mars? Well, that's an amazing problem, but most of the time, you're not trying to rewrite history.
Take for instance the book “5-Minute iPhone Magic”
That's a book, and yes we sell it on our website. How many pages do you think that book contains? It promises a 5-minute makeover, so it can't have many pages, can it? But wait, surely I must be a great photographer to write a book on photography, right? Even as you hear those words, you know it ‘s not true.
I'm an excellent cartoonist. My writing skills are way above average, and photography is something I do on the side. Unlike any of the books you see on Amazon, this book isn't promising you'll learn about any technical stuff. In fact, what makes it so very palatable is that it takes the 50 odd features that exist in the software and gets rid of 47. When you have only three things to learn, you are on your way to taking some wonderful, if not excellent pictures with your iPhone.
The most mundane job will get you started as an entrepreneur
Which is why so many successful people talk about those mundane jobs. They delivered papers, they worked as waiters, they brushed down a dozen horses—jobs like that. And while they were lucky enough to get their mundane job earlier in life, every job, every business has an overwhelming amount of mundane moments.
The reason why most of us don't start is because we think have to be outstanding, or at least superior in some way.
No one is saying you have to be mediocre, but when you start out, by golly, you're going to be average at best. And there's this funny story to tell at this point because it involves photography. A few months ago, my cousin came over to visit from Dubai. For some reason, the discussion about my sister's wedding came up. And since I've been such a keen photographer/videographer, I'd taken pictures and video of their wedding.
It wasn't easy to find the DVD of the recording, but I was persistent. It only took 30 seconds of video for me to realise I was terrible back then. My video flipped aimlessly from side to side. The photos were devoid of composition, story and didn't resemble anything close to what I can achieve now. Would someone hire me back then as well? The answer is yes. Even when I was turning out what I now consider terrible cartoons, abominable logos and probably ugh articles, someone was willing to pay for it, because it solved their problem.
The reality is you'll never know something well enough for yourself
Or to put it another way, what you think is horrifying, is pretty good for someone else. The reason why successful people get that way is because they are either ignorant how bad they were (I was that way for sure) or they expect to get better as time marches on. If you wait to get better, the wait extends interminably. You'll never really get off the ground. And that passion, your passion, will go find someone else more deserving.
Harsh words? Sure, but that's how passion comes into being
Instead passion starts at the bottom of the heap being really crappy. Renuka didn't know about perfumes. Even you probably know that soaps have perfume. Even I, who have zero interest in fragrances, could identify a “mogra” and “jasmine” flower fragrance. Renuka's start wasn't at the intersection of knowing something well and solving someone's problem. There was nothing. Then there was a little bit. Then there was more. Then she was offered a job as a perfumer.
You don't get asked to be a perfumer unless you have knowledge of chemicals
She knew nothing about it. She didn't take the job because life veered off in another direction. But one thing we know for sure. She'd start at crappy, no-knowledge and work her way up. It took her six months to get to a point where she was ready to rock and roll from not knowing anything to being pretty confident. It might take you three months, or nine.
However, if you wait for that intersection; that intersection of knowing something well and solving someone's problem. Well, that's a long wait. A wait that will last forever.
So, stop looking for your passion. Knowing something well and solving someone's problem is more commonplace than you believe.
Next up: Whenever you have a deadline, somehow you're able to stagger towards it and get the job done. But other tasks never seem to move forward. In life we need to complete projects that are urgent, but also projects that are good for the soul. Find out how do we get these projects going and how can we sustain them over the long term? How To Avoid Overwhelm (And Systematically Complete Projects)
Direct download: 160-Why_You_Cant_Find_Your_Passion_And_How_It_Finds_You_Instead.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12
Mon, 2 October 2017
How many books do you read in a year? Most people boast about how they read hundreds of books a year. That's what I used to do as well. Until I found that I wasn't really absorbing any information. So is speed reading a bad idea? Well, not entirely, but you need to know when to use it and why. Find out how speed works for you and more importantly, when it fails.
Sat, 23 September 2017
Do you have a bad memory? Well, so does the memory champion of the US Memory Championships. How's that possible you may ask? But that's exactly the point. We have misconceptions about learning and memory that need to be wiped out and replaced with accurate representations of how our brain works. In this first episode we look at two of the mental blocks that cause us to stutter, if not fail. And we transform them from failure to success. Let's find out how.
Direct download: 158-Mental_Blocks_That_Derail_Your_Progress-Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12
Sat, 16 September 2017
Whenever you have a deadline, somehow you're able to stagger towards it and get the job done. But other tasks never seem to move forward. You fall behind on your reading, your fun projects, even that movie you'd promised yourself. In life we need to complete projects that are urgent, but also projects that are good for the soul.
How do we get these projects going and how can we sustain them over the long term? Let's find out in this episode.
Click here to read it on the website: How To Avoid Overwhelm (And Systematically Complete Projects)
I remember lying in bed on a Sunday morning and realising I was a hypocrite.
My niece Marsha says she loves reading, which is why we bought her the entire Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson and the Kane Chronicles. She stuttered through the Harry Potter series but made her way to the last book. And as of this moment, she's been stalled on the first book in the Percy Jackson series.
When I ask her if she's been reading, she always nods happily, but she's barely progressed further than 10-15 pages in the last month or two. It bugs me, because I know that reading isn't just about reading. It's about spelling, structure, storytelling and imagination. As you'd expect, I'd nudge Marsha at every chance I got, encouraging her to read, but she still gives me a happy smile and makes little or no progress.
Until that Sunday morning, I didn't think the lesson of the nudge applied to me I'm one of those crazy people. I go for a walk, and sometimes I'll listen to music, or Renuka and I will talk all the way. Even so, I'll get at least between an hour to two hours of audio every week.
I'll read before I go to bed, and sometimes on weekends. I'll even spend Friday morning planning and then get an hour's worth of reading. I'll even watch a TED Talk on while making breakfast every day. Marsha's situation doesn't apply to me, so why did I feel like a hypocrite?
It just so happened that I was browsing through my Kindle collection that Sunday morning As I scrolled through the books, I realised I hadn't read at least 30% of what I'd bought. That among those I'd read, there were several that were half-abandoned.
A good chunk was complete, but how's that different from Marsha?
How's that different from all of us? We start out with good intentions.
We buy stuff; we save stuff onto our computers or devices for future reading and then suddenly it seems to be too overwhelming. We're reading through one book when you get a recommendation to read five others. You're leafing through one article, and a stack of one thousand seem to be trying to be trying to get through the front door.
I don't like the feeling of being a hypocrite, so I devised a system.
And since I like naming systems, I called it “TBM”: the bare minimum. It even sounded nice when written on a piece of paper. Or better still on a car plate. In my crazy mind, I read it as “T BM”. As in the “the bum”. The kind of guy who is lazy and won't do much more than needed to get by. This mindset of doing the bare minimum was my own invention, it seems. And yet it's not. Many years ago I'd read about the financial advisor, Dave Ramsey who talked about his own bare minimum method when paying back loans.
When you have several loans to pay back what advice do financial planners give you? They tell you to pay the biggest loan first. Which means if you have loans of $500, $2000, $200,000, it makes a lot of sense to whittle down the biggest loan, as it also has the largest portion of interest. Ramsey works on a seemingly counter-intuitive method. He gets you to pay the smallest loan first.
Here ‘s How the Debt Snowball Method Works As he explains on his website, it's a bit like a snowball, a debt snowball. The debt snowball method is a debt reduction strategy where you pay off debts in order of smallest to largest, gaining momentum as each balance is paid off. If the task is too big, it's easy to give up. After all, a $100 payment is barely going to tickle a $200,000 loan. But put that $100 towards the $500 loan and you've wiped away a chunky 20%.
TBM—The bare minimum. The idea gelled in my brain on a Sunday morning.
And this series is a bit counterintuitive as well. It's not about achieving any big goals. Instead, it's about chipping away small wins. It's important because we all seem to fall by the wayside when it comes to long term goals. The more personal the goal, the more likely it is to fall into the cracks. Reading a book that you dearly want to read, goes into the must-do-in-future list. And the future comes and goes, and the book is unread.
So what are we and Marsha to do? The world isn't getting less complicated.
How do we roll this bare minimum plan out and keep at it? Let's find out.
The three things we'll cover are:
1) What is the bare minimum? And why it's not a mind trick to do even more
Almost every one of us has seen a progress bar on our computer, haven't we?
It's that little bar that goes from left to right, telling us that a program is opening, or a file is being saved. What many of us might not know, is that the progress bar doesn't quite give us the real situation because let's face it, we're impatient. To counter this impatience, then-student, Brad A. Myers decided that progress bars made computer users less anxious, more efficient and could possibly help them relax at work.
He then got his fellow students, 48 of them, to take a test with and without the progress bars. 86% said they liked the bars. They loved knowing that progress was being made. They were told that the progress bar wasn't an accurate representation of what was happening within the computer, but they didn't care. They still preferred the progress bar, to not having anything at all.
Let's rewind that last line, shall we? Still preferred the progress bar, to not having anything at all. That's what it says, doesn't it? And when we look at the tasks we have before us, we see nothing at all. We haven't started on the job, because we know there's a lot involved. Just the thought of the steps needing to get to the end point seems to overwhelm us immediately.
And we're not talking about learning a complicated program or writing a book. We're referring to something as simple as reading a book. We look at the book, knowing full well we'd like to read it, but absolutely nothing happens. And one book piles up on another, until we have books and e-books that we'd like to read, but can't get started. Or if we get started, a distraction comes along, and we chase down that butterfly-like-distraction right away.
When I first started out in marketing, I didn't have many butterflies to chase
Back in the year 2000, almost all marketing was done offline. You'd get a big package in the mail. Pages, lots of pages, talking about some program that would help you become more successful. But that's all the post box held—one big set of pages.
There was nothing else to see. Unlike today, where you can easily find two dozen courses and programs in your inbox, there was just this one package. You paid a small fortune for the program as they all seemed to start at around $1500 or so, and some were $5000 and even higher. Then you got these three ring binders, your cassette tapes, later CDs and that was that. You didn't see any butterflies and didn't have to invest in any Butterly net.
Today, you and I have a sea of stuff that we can download in minutes, and buy in seconds
And that's only part of the problem. Learning, yes, that's really important, but then so are the other things in your life. They're all piling up, and you can't seem to figure out how to beat that overwhelm. So why not borrow a concept from the credit card companies?
Let's say you have to pay $5000 on your credit card. Logically speaking, you should be getting Mastercard or Visa to deduct the amount directly from your account. But the credit card companies seem like Santa Claus, don't they? They say: Don't worry, just pay $125 on your credit card, and we're good. You and I know there's not a lot of good in paying off the minimum amount, but hey, sometimes we do. And then the insidious debt creeps up.
It may be insidious for paying off credit card bills, but it's perfect for getting things done
Going back to that book that you haven't read, you don't have to do anything but the bare minimum. Let's say the bare minimum is one paragraph. C'mon, you say. One paragraph is a cop out. You're not going to get very far with one paragraph, are you?
Well, there's this story about John Grisham, the famous author. “If I had 30 minutes to an hour, I would sneak up to the old law library, hide behind the law books and write A Time to Kill”, he said in a USA Today interview with Dennis Moore. It took him three whole years of 30-minute segments, but a thousand days later he was done. If Grisham weren't famous and hadn't sold 250 million books, this story might have never been told, but now we know that his entire career was built on 30-minute increments.
And yet, for many of us, 30 minutes seems like a lot My friend, Campbell Such and I had a mini-tussle over meditation.
I happily boast that you need at least 30 minutes of meditation to get any momentum. For the first 20 minutes or so, it seems like you're swatting flies in the vast Australian outback. But as you get to the 30-minute mark, things start to happen. Campbell disagrees. He spends 5-10 minutes every morning, meditating. “That's all I can manage,” he says. And he's right. I disagreed with him at the point we had the discussion. I thought that 10 minutes was barely a warm up and that if a person couldn't do at least 30 minutes, it's better to avoid it altogether.
Which is the flaw with a lot of productivity plans, when you think about it
They seem to suggest you fool your brain. That if you want to go for a walk, you should put on your shoes and then you'll end up going for a 30-minute walk. And the concept of the bare minimum is entirely the opposite. It's pure sloth behaviour. It's not asking you to fool your brain at all. It's saying: do the bare minimum, just like those credit card companies ask of you. Do nothing but the bare minimum. No mind tricks, no additional time, no extra effort. Just the smallest possible thing you can take on, and that's all you should do.
I tried this method for my website In July 2015, I started on the revamp of our website.
I'm super fussy, but I did outsource the website. I got quotes, I got designs, and they were so terrible, I was tearing my hair out in frustration. Anyway, in 2015, I did the website designs in Photoshop and Stresslesweb (they're our coders) put together the site so I could get on with my fussy ways. Two years ticked by. Every chance I got, I thought about the website, but nothing happened.
Then in August 2017, I decided to do the bare minimum. Some days, I'd merely list what I had to do on the website. The next day, I'd do a headline and the first paragraph. Another day, I'd add a cartoon or two. To my surprise, I started getting that silly momentum. I'd want to do more, but most days I resisted like crazy.
It's because I have a lot of other long-term projects as well I paint every day in my Moleskine diary. But that too was falling apart because I felt the burden of painting. So instead of doing another painting, I'd just do the bare minimum. It could involve simply doing a sketch. Maybe later in the day or next day, just doing a wash. It seems almost tedious because you're literally watching paint dry, but I've begun to turn out some amazing art work. I'm painting better than ever before.
And guess what? The web pages are getting done, and I'm going through the book list as well. I read just one or two paragraphs, and then my progress bar is complete.
The bare minimum may not seem like much, but we all need to push psychological boulders
When faced with the task of taking a walk for 30 minutes, writing a book, or doing any long term project, it seems like we're never getting anything done. But think of your progress like the progress bar. You might get just 2% of the task done, and the progress bar in your brain feels like it's 100%.
You follow up the next day, and whammo—another 100% is done. It may make no logical sense, but this isn't about addition or logic. It's about the satisfaction not just of getting something done, but 100% of that something. It's tiny, that something, but you don't care. The goal isn't to take the second step. It's to take the step you need and stop right there. No fancy motivation or momentum—just one step.
My niece Marsha doesn't need to go through the Percy Jackson series
She needs to go through a paragraph or two. That's it. Campbell Such doesn't need 30 minutes of meditation. If 5 minutes is all he has, that's all that he needs to do. The bare minimum, that's all we need, and it's amazing how much slow progress we make.
However, there's still a problem with planning to get all these activities, right? Which is where triggers come into play. Instead of fancy alarms that you merely ignore, how about aligning your bare minimum to a trigger that shows up every day? Let's find out how.
2) How to use triggers to get the bare minimum going
In many Western countries, Christmas brings carols, chaos, and carrots.
Carrots for Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And Rudolph, of course. They also leave a plate of milk and cookies for Santa. That tradition seemed to have originated in the 1930s when the US was deep in the Great Depression. Parents tried to teach their kids that was important to give to others. And also to show gratitude for the gifts they'd received. But what sets off the milk, cookies and carrots? Why, Christmas Eve, of course. It's the trigger that requires no alarm or reminder.
And that's because alarms and reminders don't work very well anyway
You know how it works, right? You put a reminder on your phone, but as the reminder pops up, you swipe it away. If it's e-mail, you're likely to jump right into reading it, possibly even answering it, but any reminder to do a task gets a look of disdain. The way around this system is to have no alarm at all. Instead, you do something when something else happens.
So for instance, I paint right after breakfast No matter what time I have breakfast, I will sit down for about 5-10 minutes and sketch or paint. Renuka on the other hand sketches every time she drops her mother off for Tai qi. When we go for a walk, we talk until we hit the first traffic lights. Then, it's time to put on the headphones and listen to audio books or podcasts. The same applies on the walk back from the cafe. We walk to a certain point, hit the dentist's clinic, and it's back to headphone time again.
This system of triggers is important because we rarely keep to a fixed plan
No one ever has breakfast at the very same minute, and hence if your breakfast is early or late, it's easy for you to ignore the alarm. When an activity like breakfast is itself the trigger, then you know what comes shortly after. We do take our vacations.
Every 12 weeks we're off for a month, and that means the triggers go out of whack. But since I'm not working on vacation, nothing else matters. I can ignore the painting after breakfast, choosing to do it at noon helped by a bottle of Cabernet, instead. Or not do it at all. However, once I get back, and the triggers go off, it's back to normal.
It's important to point out that you should not start with many items on your to-do list
Right now I have about 4-5 long term projects going. I know the website won't last forever. And in a month or two, I should be able to get the hang of how to use ePub. My painting, however, has been on since 2010 and that will go on for a long, long time. Some long terms projects come and go while others need to be done every day.
To make things a habit, you need to choose just two or three things to do in a day
Five minutes each and you've only spent fifteen minutes of activity. And even the busiest person has fifteen spare minutes in a day. Over time, some things become so much part of your second nature that you don't even think of them as part of your to-do list.
Take brushing your teeth, for example. When was the last time you needed an alarm or trigger for that activity? I now wake up to the sound of the meditation chant. It's part of what happens every day, and so that's not even part of the list anymore.
However, when you're starting out, just set up one trigger and the bare minimum time you can spend on that task. And get going. But there's one last caveat. All of these bare minimums are not for urgent or important tasks. They all need to be used only for long-term projects. Let's find out why that's the case.
3) Why Use The Bare Minimum Only For Long Term Projects
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, don't we?
They both set off on race, and the tortoise is slow, taking step by step. As the story goes, the hare falls asleep, and the tortoise wins the race. The story may sound remarkably like a bare minimum tale, and in a way it is. But it's important to note there's a big point of difference as well. A race is not a long term project. It's reasonably finite, in the sense that there's an end point and in many cases, a deadline.
We tend to drop things that have no deadline
There's really no point in learning Spanish, or painting or doing many of the things that you and I do. We do it for our own happiness. You may, therefore, join a dance class or a cartooning course and then find you've given up somewhere along the way. The photographs you planned to put in that photo book—that didn't get done either. We smartly prioritise what's important to us. Things that are revenue-driven, client-driven or have fixed deadlines can't wait, and so they get done. Things that are often essential to the soul, that gets tossed into the corner.
It's sad, isn't it? We feel that sadness.
We feel the pain of taking a course that feeds our soul and then finding we've either abandoned the course or having finished it, don't get the joy of continuation. It's the same with books we haven't read or documentaries we would love to watch.
However, sometimes even the work-related projects, like my beleaguered website, end up in that same to-do pile. Doing just the bare minimum keeps the project going. At all times, however, the bare minimum should be reserved for the long-term project. No one needs to tell you how wrong things can get if you do the bare minimum on something that's governed by a deadline.
But if the project isn't something that has a line in the sand and probably goes on forever, it's best to simply plod along step by step. It's the journey of a thousand miles.
But it's not about taking steps. The bare minimum is about taking just one step.
And then you're done for the day. When you have to take just one step, there's no overwhelm. Yes, the list of things that you need to do can and will pile up. But you're just taking one step. The rest of the world can drive themselves crazy. Like Marsha, you read two paragraphs at a time. Like me, you finally get down to building your website.
You achieve a lot with a single step per day. TBM—The bare minimum. Now do it.
P.S. Ready to start working on your bare minimum taking action plan?
Direct download: 157-How_to_Avoid_Overwhelm_with_the_Bare_Minimum_Method.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12
Sat, 9 September 2017
Writing a report for your website can be quite a nightmare
How are you supposed to put 20-30 pages together? And what system should you follow to get great results? That answer is remarkably simple, and plainly effective. And instead of just one way, why don't we look at three ways you can put together a great report! Let's go into report-land, shall we?
Read this episode on the website: Three Ways To Write A Stunning Report Overnight
Many, if not most of the meals we'd have when I was growing up, consisted of a what you'd easily call a well-rounded meal. But as a teenager, I couldn't wait for dinner. I was ravenous by the time I got back from school at 4 pm. I'd head to the pantry, and pick out my favourite noodles: Maggi Masala.
Boil the water, toss in the noodles and the tastemaker and “two minutes” later, I'd be well on my ate to satisfaction-land.
When creating information, it's easy to get lost in a “rice, curry, pickle, papad land”.
However, complexity is the last thing you need, because it slows you down. What you need is something that's quick, yet effective. Something you can put together for your website, or as goodies to attract clients.
In this series, we're going to look at three ways to create a report, seemingly overnight—if you have a small or even disconnected content. And we'll also look at what to do when you don't have any content at all. It might not take “two minutes” but you can put together a report that will create a solid impact.
Let's take a look at the three types of reports you could put together.
Type 1: Report that goes from C to A
Type 1: Report that goes from C to A
How do you make a delicious rice dish in under five minutes?
Step 1: Take a cup of cooked rice.
Notice where we started?
We didn't start with the cooked rice. Our goal was to make a delicious rice dish in under five minutes. And then we worked our way backwards, didn't we? We didn't go from A to B to C. Instead we started with the goal in mind, then rewound the steps and it wasn't very difficult to get a very tasty result.
When writing a report, it's easy to feel like you have to cover a lot of information
When I started writing marketing articles back in the year 2000, I had no idea what to write about. I'd read a book about positioning, and then borrow some of the ideas and write my own version of positioning. I'd talk to someone about how they needed to brand their product or service and then rush home to work my way through an article.
These were early days. I was struggling just to get 500 words on a page. I wasn't exactly worried about which articles got more attention than others. Even so, it was hard to ignore how some articles got far greater views than others.
One such article was about how to write headlines in three steps.
Another winner seemed to be how to tell if your business card was too busy. Again, three steps.
We added some graphics, made the report look all pretty and then put it on the website as an incentive to sign up to the newsletters. If you've ever subscribed to the Psychotactics newsletter, you're likely to have seen and read this report. The reason why it works is because it's short, but more importantly it starts with Point C.
It shows you how to build a headline in a few minutes, that's what it does.
With the goal firmly in mind, it walks you through Step A, Step B and then in a matter of 8-10 pages you're at Step C. It's not unlike the method used to make the yoghurt rice, is it? You're not creating a complex document. All you're really doing is getting a client to get to a specific point, no matter how small the point.
We might believe a report needs to be more detailed, certainly more complex to be taken seriously
Instead what you'll quickly realise is that clients want the quick wins. And if the quick win is small, so much the better. If I were to give you a recipe of a biryani (another rice dish), with 30 ingredients, you're not likely to make that dish, are you?
Yet, a 5-minute shot at yoghurt rice couldn't go so terribly wrong, could it? In the worst possible scenario you'd waste five minutes, wouldn't you? Having a simple report that starts at C and works its way backwards in about three steps is what makes it easy to create a ton of reports—if you want to do so—that is.
But why create a ton of reports?
Let's say your site covers different topics, or has different products or services. Let's say you get to the Psychotactics site and land on a page about resistance. Would you be more likely to sign up for a report on resistance or on a topic like consumption? And if you were to land on a page about consumption, would you want more information on consumption or suddenly be fascinated with the topic of resistance?
Having multiple pages with reports embedded in them helps a client land on a page, read an article, and then find a report that's closely matching up with the article itself. Best of all, that report doesn't promise a tonne of information, but instead has three tiny steps to get the client to a result.
If you're wondering if you have to create a report for every page, no you don't. We have topics such as websites, article writing, consumption, uniqueness, etc. And if you have five-seven broad topics, you can create five-seven quick reports on each individual topic.
But back to the headline report
That report itself has been responsible for getting tens of thousands of clients over the years. When I put up a figure, I say it's been downloaded over 55,000 times, but that's being overly conservative. That headline report has been downloaded at least over 100,000 times and possibly a lot more. What's important is that the report didn't take time to put together. And when you look back, it didn't even have much of a strategy.
If you're teaching Photoshop, show your clients how to get from A-C in three steps.
If you're selling blue-tac, show your clients how to use it in three-steps.
But that's only one way to create a report.
Let's look at the second option where you have a report with content that's diverse and seemingly completely disconnected.
Type 2: Diverse, Disconnected Topic Report
“Bring a plate”.
Sometimes, when you go to a party in New Zealand, you're told “bring a plate”.
For anyone born in Kiwi land, such an expression isn't very odd. But you have no idea how many immigrants think it's a crockery problem. They somehow think the host must have just a few plates, and bringing a plate along will help ease the dinnerware issue.
“Bring a plate” just means bring some food along, because we're having a potluck party
And if there's anything I detest when it comes to food, it's a potluck party. Barbecue chicken mingles with wontons, and chickpeas with some tomato-ketchup concoction. For me, it's a culinary nightmare. The textures, colours, and especially the tastes are a complete mishmash.
But really, no one cares about me
They're having too much fun with their chickpeas and tomato-concoction. And sometimes being a little stuck up at a party, is similar to being stuck up when creating a report. It's easy to believe that a report has to go from C to A, or has to work with a single topic. In reality, reports just do fine, potluck style.
We tried this in the membership site at 5000bc
One of the perks of 5000bc is something called the Vanishing Reports. At first, I was an absolute stickler about the reports. They all had to have a sequence. They all had to somehow take you from one point to another. Then, I realised that's hardly the way I read anything.
At this very moment, I'm reading about the “butterfly effect”, “the moons of Jupiter,” “creativity” and “confidence”. That sounds very mishy-mashy, doesn't it? Which is why we trialled reports that had a combination of “pricing, conversion, starting up, and a whole bunch of topics that seemingly didn't sit side by side with each other.
And it worked!
Sometimes the report will have super-duper-ultra focus. Like Report No. 59: The Magical Time-Saving Powers of Evernote. Or Report No.6: Three Core Steps To A Viral Campaign. But Report No.60: How To Keep Learning and Growing for Success, or Report No.45: Good Business Habits ,can have a bit of bacon baguettes jostling with the wontons.
This revelation shouldn't have surprised me because that's how I read, and how a lot of people tend to read. A newspaper, for instance, is a bit of a mishmash, isn't it? A magazine, that's definitely all over the place. Blogs, podcasts, videos: they all seem to follow a slightly random pattern without us so much blinking an eye.
What does this mean for you, however?
It means that you may not have ten articles on a single topic. You may run a yoga site, and some articles might be about stretching, some may be about shavasana, some may be about what the client needs to do on a full moon night. They're seemingly disconnected, but it still makes for a splendid report, doesn't it? And better still, you don't even need ten articles.
Just three-four, okay five articles. That's just fine because every article will probably span 2-3 pages and if you slip in the introduction and a bit of an epilogue, you're looking at a decent fifteen to seventeen pages of content.
And despite the mishmash, you can create a strong feeling of cohesion within the report
There are two elements that create a connection. The first point of focus is the title. If you're going to put together a bunch of unconnected pieces of content, the title must somehow tie the content neatly together. Interestingly, you can veer down the non-specific route when creating a title.
E.g. How to create “hidden magic” in your business. Or “Good Business Habits”. As I veer my chair to my left to look at the titles of some books, I see a title like “The Non-designers Design Book” by Robin Williams. Or “Design it Yourself” by Chuck Green. Or “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins.
All of these books may, on the face of it, look incredibly focused, but one look within the pages and they're a disparate bunch of articles that have a workable title and one other element that is probably more important. In most of the books—and this applies to reports as well—there's a bridge between the chapters.
This second element isn't utterly crucial, but it's nice to have
Notice how this piece of content connected from the first type of report to the second? A bit earlier in this piece, you read about the report that goes from C to A. And then as we got to the end, we could just stop dead, or create a bit of a bridge. The last few lines spoke about how the C to A report is potent, but what if you wanted more variety? And then it suggested that there was a second kind of report—the report that had diverse, disconnected topics.
It's the kind of thing you should be doing: creating a bridge
As you come to the end of your piece in the report, build up the anticipation for the second piece. As the second piece winds to a close, it's time to shine the spotlight on the third, and so on. A simple set of lines at the end of the content create enough of glue to bind seemingly random topics together. We're not talking about mixing auto-repair and gardening in a report on business, but you get the point, don't you?
That isn't to say I like potluck parties. I guess I never will. Yet, as we've seen, it works just fine with reports.
Are we done, yet?
Not quite. There's still one more kind of report. Which as you might have guessed is the most obvious one of all. It's the report that consists of a single topic. It seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn't it? Still, let's take a look at why that kind of report is much-loved and how to go about creating it in a way that is pretty magical.
Type 3: One Topic, Many Angles Report
On 29th March 1974, farmers in the Xi'an district of China stumbled on a treasure that was to rival the Great Wall of China.
The farmers real goal was to find water for their crops, when they stumbled on a beautifully sculpted head. The more they began to dig, the more they found hundreds, and then thousands of soldiers—terracotta soldiers. This was the army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China.
Over 8000 terracotta warriors, cavalry, charioteers, foot soldiers and archers, were built to accompany the emperor into the afterlife. These terracotta soldiers were created using moulds and seem to have an early assembly-line construction.
And this is where the story gets really interesting
Most of the hands of the Terracotta Army appear identical. Yet, when you look closer ever single soldier seems to have completely unique facial features. Every one it seems came from similar moulds, but somehow got tweaked just a little bit to create a high level of uniqueness.
When creating reports, a single mould; a single topic can be tweaked in dozens, possibly thousands of ways as well
Which is why a report on a single topic can be so very powerful. The information that seems to emanate from one source suddenly creates a wealth of sub-topics that become very attractive to the reader. What is being suggested here, is that you can you have a single topic and have dozens of sub-topics. Each sub-topic represents an article and several such articles become a fascinating report. To get the one-topic report going, all you have to do is first start with the topic and add a few sub-topics.
Let's take a topic like headlines, for starters.
What kind of sub-topics could we generate?
Testimonial Headlines: How To Get Your Clients To Write Your Headlines
What you're experiencing is the creating of a Terracotta Army
The topic, in this case, headlines, is pretty mundane. Even so, if you leave your computer, and your Internet connection behind and head to the cafe, you're likely to be able to come up with several sub-topics for any given topic. You may not end up writing great headlines right at the start, but you'll have a bunch of topics nonetheless. Let's take an example from Photoshop, for instance. Let's not get lost in the Photoshop universe, however.
If you've done just a bit of homework, you'll quickly figure out that you can just pick one sub-topic in Photoshop. Let's say for instance, that sub-topic is “Selections and Layer Masks in Photoshop”. Ready, let's run through the sub-sub-topics, shall we?
Okay, Selections and Layer Masks, here we come!
Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
Granted that all of the above topics may seem alien to you at this point, but just talking about Photoshop does bring up an interesting story.
When I first got to New Zealand I had a job as a web designer
Within six months, I was made redundant and needed to get some work as a cartoonist. This took me to several ad agencies, and in these ad agencies you tend to deal with art directors. As they were leafing through my portfolio, I would tell them how I used photoshop to do my illustrations. And how I would use Photoshop without the toolbar and double my speed and productivity.
This little nugget would get them instantly interested and at least a few of them asked whether I could teach them how to speed up their own use of photoshop. It led to jobs where I would charge $60 an hour training them individually.
However, it's not like I was outstanding at Photoshop. For instance, all of the points that we have just covered with layer masks would have been beyond my reach. Even so, I would be able to watch the videos several times, get fluent at the skill, and then in turn be able to teach it.
Any topic quickly cascades into sub-topics
And sub-topics in turn become a bit of an avalanche as you dig just below the surface. What's extremely exciting when you sit down to write a report, is that you don't need the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang. A report can be extremely powerful with just three-four articles.
However, it's still an excellent idea to go into caffeine-land and brainstorm the topics and sub-topics needed. You may use the bare minimum needed for a report, but you can use the others to create more single focus reports in the future.
All of this brainstorming has a wonderful series of side effects
When you sit down to brainstorm the topics and sub-topics, you realise that you know quite a lot and can write about several topics for your report in detail. However, this very same brainstorming session may be a cause for intimidation. When I was called upon to teach those art directors, I knew a bit of Photoshop, but by no means was I well versed in every facet of the program.
For instance, “Selection Layers and Masks” were definitely something that I hadn't learned about.
This exposed my weakness and there are two ways to handle any weakness. You can pretend that you were not born with innate Photoshop skills, or you can simply pick up a book or video and learn the skills. I have no inborn skills, as far as I know, so I just learned and taught and learned an taught.
To this day, a decent chunk of what I do is something that I've learned along the way. If I find any gaps, well that's what learning is all about isn't it? I learn and then I teach and that is the lesson you can use for your report as well.
This learn and teach method is slower, no doubt
However, we are all beginners at some point in time and having information to share is not going to be at our fingertips. In such a scenario, it's a better idea to simply use the “learn and teach” method. It's more tedious, but I can assure you that almost everyone has to go through an almost identical method when they run into new material.
Not knowing enough about a topic is pretty normal, but what's also normal is that a lot of people intimidate themselves and give up. If you're made of sterner stuff, you'll quickly realise that you can put together a report just by learning about the topic, trying it out yourself and then tying it all together in a nice little PDF, or even a video or audio report.
Having a single topic is a great way to focus, if you're creating new material
If you've already created content in the past, it's easier to find as well. For instance, if I needed to write about topics like pricing, planning, productivity, etc, it would be quite an easy task to go digging through the archives and finding three-four articles on just one topic.
And there you have it
You might have to slog a bit if you aren't familiar with the topic or sub-topics, but it's not an earth-shattering task. For instance, I still don't know a lot about layer masks, and that list I got from the Lynda.com site.
If I wanted to move deeper into the world of layer masks, I'd have to have access to the site (which I do) and about 43 minutes of learning. Even if I were to go over the videos thrice over, that would still require fewer than two hours of work. But that scenario only arises if you're a complete newbie.
If you've been creating content for a while, it's really a matter of collation, some tea or coffee-drinking and you've got yourself a report that's pretty single-minded. It's no army but you don't need an army do you? You don't even need a corps or division, no brigade, regiment, battalion or company. Not even a platoon, squad. Just a section—just 3 or 4 little foot soldiers will do the job just fine, don't you agree?
And that brings us to the end of “how to create a report”. Let's review what we've just learned.
There are three ways to cook up a quick report.
The report that goes from C-A starts at the very end—and yes, three steps are usually enough of a journey for the client. Start with C and work your way back to A because it ensure a result. Anything that you can achieve in three quick steps is a good enough target. Ideally it needs to pertain to something you're selling.
For example, if you're in the business of gardening then your report would consist of three steps to get something done quickly and effectively in the garden. You don't want to name the report: “3 steps to a better blah-blah-blah”. It's better to give it a curious title, instead. E.g. The title of the headline report on the Psychotactics site is “Why Headlines Fail” and then it goes on to give three steps within the report, anyway. The C-A report is powerful because it has an end point.
However, the diverse, disconnected report seeks no such end-point clarity
If anything, it's a bit of a potluck party. You put in various pieces of content that seemingly don't have any sequence or relation to each other, but come under the broad umbrella of a topic. For instance, the podcast series at Psychotactics is called the “Three Month Vacation”. One episode of the podcast can be about pricing, the second about productivity and the third about software. Even though they're quite diverse topics, they're still bound under the topic of “marketing and business”. The concept of potluck that you hear on the podcast can just as easily be a sure-fire method of creating reports.
Finally we looked at one topic and many angles
Or let's call it topics and sub-topics. Or even sub-sub-topics. A bit of a brainstorm session, and time away from the office can do wonders. Even if you're no pro at the topics or sub-topics, you can quickly spot where you're weak. You can then learn and master the topics, and pass on the knowledge in your own style, tone and language to someone else. In case you're wondering, this isn't plagiarism.
Plagiarism is when you simply “photocopy” someone's work and pass it off as your own. This method of learning and teaching is what everyone needs to follow, and it's simply a form of “tracing” or “copying” and then using your own method to get it to your eventual client. It's why yoga teaching aspirants go to yoga training centres, or why we attend workshops and seminars. We learn, so we can teach.
Which brings us right back to the yoghurt rice. Remember the recipe?
Step 1: Take a cup of cooked rice.
Go try it. You'll love it. Oh, and if you like, keep it in the fridge for an hour or so. It's delicious when it's cold.
Next Step: With tens of thousands of similar products or services in the market, it seems impossible to make your product stand out.
Oh and before I go
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Wed, 30 August 2017
Competition? That's the enemy isn't it?
Why would you sell or worse, give the competition your ideas? It doesn't seem to make sense at all and yet it's a very solid business strategy—and especially for small business.
In this episode, you'll find three solid reasons why competition can change your life for the better.
You are read the transcript on the website too:
Approximately every month we take our nieces, Marsha and Keira for dinner, but Keira always does something very curious.
Since the girls were little, my wife Renuka and I have taken them to dinner
After dinner we head to the mall, where they buy themselves an ice-cream. The first thing Keira does when she gets her ice-cream is offer me the first bite. “Not too big a bite”, she'll always say. But yes, I do get the first bite, before she continues to devour the rest of the ice-cream. In doing so, Keira is sharing what's rightfully hers to keep. She doesn't need to have a chunk of her ice-cream bitten off, no matter how small.
Like Keira, our business is our ice-cream
We don't need to share our secrets with someone else, do we? Yet, the smaller your company, the bigger the upside in sharing the secrets and knowledge you've gained over the years. Big companies can thrive on muscle power alone and sell solely to their customers. A smaller business, on the other hand, needs to learn to share; to teach the competition what they already know.
I know, I know, this strategy sounds really odd. However, there are very solid reasons why you should wade right into the unlikely world of “teaching your competitors”.
Let's find out why and cover three main points.
1: Clients Come And Go, Competition Remains Longer
Part 1: Clients Come And Go, Competition Remains Longer
Imagine you dominated 90% of your market. Would you be happy?
About 20 years ago, I heard of a lumber company that was hugely successful. So successful, in fact, that the competition was reduced to just 10% of the share of market, while this lumber-company gobbled up the rest. Ideally they should have rested on their laurels.
A 90% stake signifies a healthy bottom line and lots of champagne, but they were restless. Their restlessness arose from their unusual plight. Being a lumber-based company, they could only operate profitably in a certain geographical area. If they tried to sell outside that area, they would run into increased transportation costs and other additional taxes, which made it unprofitable to go outside their boundaries. In short, they were “trapped” and could never expand or grow their business.
What would you do in such a situation?
Marketer, Jay Abraham, came up with a solution. He suggested the lumber company sell their secrets. As you can imagine, such a suggestion meets with instant pushback. The lumber company was the market leader because they had a system to treat the trees.
I don't remember the story very well, but it went a bit like this: If they overdid the treatment, the lumber would be “overcooked”. If they were too cautious, the wood would be “raw” and unfit for any use. Every year, companies lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of precious lumber, because they hadn't perfected this system of treating the lumber just right.
And now the company was being asked to sell its secrets
You'd recoil if you were asked to do the same, wouldn't you? Like some crazy grandmother defending her precious recipes, you'd refuse to give away your secrets. What if the competition learned all of the methods and put you out of business? Why should you sell something that has taken you so much pain to acquire? Giving away, or selling your secrets to the competition seems like the most dimwitted thing to do.
Selling to competition may seem foolish, but competition is an exceedingly powerful source of revenue and longevity.
My friend Julia used to own several bed stores. Over the years she learned how to run the stores very effectively. So effective was she that she'd make 200-300% higher profits over other stores. What's interesting about a bed store is that the goods aren't terribly unique. If you look at a brand like Sealy or Sleepyhead, you're likely to find the same beds in practically every bed store.
Yes, her profits were higher than other stores, but there's a limit to how much stock can be held in a store
Unless Julia were to lease a new space, get the franchise rights, hire new staff etc., there seemed to be no way to increase her profits with clients. However, there was a spectacular, if slightly hidden opportunity to sell the secrets to the competition.
Clients come and go. You buy a bed, and you're not exactly rushing out to buy another one tomorrow, are you? So clients buy the product and leave, but what does competition do? They stick around. If Julia were to sell her secrets to the competition, they'd stick around for as long as they were getting results. The “result” might mean greater profits, more time off, less staff turnover, or less chaotic management systems.
Which is what the lumber company did as well
They realised their geographical boundary was going to inhibit their growth, so they started having seminars. At first, the seminars were modestly priced at $5000 per head. Then in barely a year or so, the very same seminars shot up to $25,000 per person. Would you find the price of the seminar prohibitive? Lumber companies lost hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Badly treated wood was taken as the “cost of doing business”. Once this lumber company showed them their methods, the other lumber companies were in a position to make a small fortune by not consigning the wood to waste. And it wasn't just the lumber companies in that district, or city, or even country. Lumber companies around the world wanted to pay for that information so that they could reduce waste to the bare minimum. The competition would stick around as long as it was finding the information profitable.
Every bookstore on the planet is an example of this concept of selling to the competition
When confronted with the fact that you may need to sell your secrets, the idea may seem unpalatable, but look at the bookstore in your city. Those videos, the books, the magazines—they're all filled with secrets that are being given away.
Grandma kept her secrets and she's highly revered in her own family, but Grandma's only clients are her immediate family. The clients of the books, videos and magazines are the entire world. And you know as well as I do how the systems start chugging along once you buy a book.
You rarely buy one book and never buy another one again
When a business owner gives you their “secrets” and you get value from the information, you want to go back for more. However, as we've experienced in the past, we rarely restrict ourselves to just books. We buy into a lot more.
The lumber company continued to make steady profits from their sale of lumber to their customers, but it's the competition that needed more information on a regular basis. They were not only able to give information in the form of treating lumber, but on many other topics that the competition needed to succeed as well.
However, the most important bit of all is the longevity of the competition
Customers tend to come and go. Whether you're selling a bed, lumber or consulting, a customer will show up, take what they need and leave. And truly speaking, so will a competitor. However, in many cases the competition will come back to get even more information.
They'll consult with you, buy your courses, attend your workshops, and want to get as much as possible from you. If you're already ahead of the competition, they will keep coming back. No matter whether you have a brick and mortar business or something online, the principle remains exactly the same.
Customers come and go.
The lumber company was seemingly trapped
Yet, it's that very trap that transformed their business. Instead of dealing solely with clients, they moved to competition and operated in a completely different universe. However, a red flag does pop up, doesn't it?
What if the competition takes your stuff and makes it their own? Is it possible to muscle in, on your market? What if you don't recover from your weapons being used against you? Let's find out in this second section on why you're always ahead of your competition, even when you're teaching them everything you know.
2: You're always ahead of the competition (even when you tell them what you know)
Let's say you started walking down the road, six months ago
Somewhere along the way you learned a lot about the road, the pit stops, the method of walking, rehydration methods, etc. Now you're teaching your competition who's coming down that same road. If both of you were to keep walking, you'd still be many “months” ahead of the competition. Even though they've bought all the videos, read all your books and followed your plan in extreme detail, they're still going to be many months behind, even with you giving away all the tips that will help them move faster ahead.
However, if you're still feeling a bit paranoid about the competition, there are two factors that will keep you ahead.
The first factor is that time marches on.
Let's say you've figured out how to make social media ads get a great return on investment. By the time you teach your competition everything you know, time is ticking away. Things change all the time. What worked for Facebook yesterday, may be different today.
The same would apply for any business. Every so-called “success case study” is only a record of the past, and whatever you teach is likely to have changed anywhere from a tiny fraction to quite a lot. Even if you're teaching in an area that's not changing everyday—let's say watercolours, for instance—there's still some change in tools or equipment.
Something in your technique, material or sequence will change all the time, often without your knowledge. And the competition can't keep up.
The second point is one of mistakes
We all have been lost at some point or the other—even with a GPS. Why is this so? A map is a map is a map, right? We're not supposed to get lost when we're given precise instructions. However, human error, and often, human creativity comes into play. Even when it seems you're following the map with a great deal of precision, there's always some possibility that it will be interpreted in an incorrect manner. Your competition is going to have to work out those mistakes and fix them.
It's easy to believe that selling information to competition is risky
What if the competition takes your ideas and uses it as their own? The reality is different. No matter how generous and detailed you are with your ideas and systems, you will always be ahead of the competition. When we did the Protégé sessions back in 2006-2008, most of the “customers” were really our competition.
For most of our courses we get clients to fill in a form before, or right after they join. In this questionnaire, many of them revealed the primary reason why they wanted to be part of the course. As you've already guessed, they didn't want to reinvent the wheel. They wanted to use the system that we already had in place.
If you stay stagnant, the competition will catch up
They'll show up, they may overtake you and you're likely to be left in their dust. Yet we know that few of us intend to remain stagnant. As we learn and implement, invent and re-invent, we move ahead always maintaining enough of a lead. Plus, a lot of what we do depends on our strategy.
Staying ahead is a weird concept, because we're not running parallel races with our competition. In reality we're chapping and changing our strategies all the time and any comparison with the competition is odd, at best.
You can't really compare one restaurant with another. You can't throw one author in the same bull ring as another. Comparison itself is a super-weird activity to contemplate. Anyway, if the competition really wanted to copy your work, there are ways and means of doing so.
Instead, selling your work to competition is a much saner idea
It earns you revenue, builds up your authority and no matter how much you give away or sell, there's still an astounding amount of information that remains to be explained. If anything, selling the system is a far superior way to grow a business, as it draws in both customers and competition on a much bigger scale.
But here's one of the biggest reasons why you need to sell to your competition: it is called “expanding the market“. Most of us think of competition as a bad thing, but it's quite the opposite. It makes the market more viable. Let's find out how.
3: Why selling your information makes the market more viable
In 2014, Tesla Motors did something very revolutionary. They gave away the patents to their electric car.
What are we to make of news like that? Is Tesla just being generous?
Or does it have an ulterior motive? We know electric cars are a tiny fragment of the market. Despite being superior in almost every way to the petrol-driven car, they're still to make big inroads. But as an article on Forbes Magazine pointed out, Tesla's real competition is not another company.
Instead it's the archaic petrol engines that are being manufactured in the millions around the globe, every single day. By giving away the patents, the competition doesn't have to figure things out. More importantly, they don't have to get into yet another patent lawsuit that would slow them down. Even when the other car manufacturers start to work on Tesla's patents, Tesla should be well down the road.
James Part is the co-founder and CEO of Fitbit, a wireless fitness tracker.
When Fitbit entered the market, they had bigger, gruntier competitors like Nike and Jawbone with the potential to crush an upstart like Fitbit. But here's what Park says. “You need some critical mass to legitimize what you're doing.” And Ben Yoskowitz, an angel investor told Inc. Magazine: “If nobody is competing in your space, there's a very good chance the market you're going into is too small.
Any reasonably good idea has 10,000 people working on it right now. You may not even know they exist because they're as small as you.”
But what's all of this got to do with you? After all Fitbit didn't give away or sell its information, did it?
We grow up in an us vs. them environment. Which means that many, if not most of us, believe that competition isn't a good thing. We also believe that too much competition causes a saturation in the marketplace.
Both these beliefs have some truth in them, but it really depends on your point of view. When you teach competition to do something that you already know, you're not only earning an income, but you're doing your own bit to broaden the market.
My friend, and super-graphic designer, John McWade was literally the first one on the planet to use desktop publishing software
McWade ran into some of the earliest Mac computers back in the 80's. He had a job as an art director of a magazine called Reno when he was given a little piece of software by Jeremy Jake. Jake was the chief engineer of a tiny Seattle startup called All This and was writing a software called PageMaker. Today we use the fancy InDesign software for desktop publishing but the heart of Adobe desktop publishing goes all the way back to PageMaker.
But who was using PageMaker?
Literally no one on the planet, except the engineers and John. Which is when John started up Before and After Magazine. And he showed people how to use PageMaker, and to create amazing graphic design. You could safely say that John McWade single handedly expanded the market and created competition.
Today there are tens of thousands of books, videos and courses on InDesign. Selling the secret of how to create great graphic design has given McWade a good life and a huge fan following. In turn, the expansion of the market has been good for almost everyone. However, this advice of expanding the market doesn't just apply when you're starting up. It also applies when you're entering a reasonably mature marketplace.
Which is why no matter where you look, whether it's books, cosmetics, shoes, consulting or training, there's new stuff appearing on the horizon almost endlessly. Which brings us to a very crucial point.
Your competition is going to sell to your competition
If you decide to keep your secrets all to yourself, that's your prerogative. However, your competition isn't exactly going to keep mum. If you have some great knowledge in selling real estate, and you decide not to tell or sell, another real estate agent will write a book, do seminars and give their version, anyway.
If you're outstanding at creating apps, so are a thousand others who will happily put their information out for sale. The market will exist with or without you, so you might as well get your skin in the game because there really is hardly any downside and a ton of benefit, instead.
Selling to your competition may at first seem like a bad idea, but it rarely is.
No one is saying you need to ignore your customers. Your customers are extremely important, but so is the competition. Go out and find the competition. They're good for business.
Next Step: Read or listen to: The Unlikely Bestseller (And Why It Sold 2 Million Copies)
Sat, 26 August 2017
Take time off? Doesn't everyone want that?
So how are you supposed to achieve that force of business?
How do you get to downtime? And what about the passion projects you've been putting off for so long?
In this episode we wrestle with the remaining two forces of business and start on a journey that's been put aside for much too long.
Read the article online: Passion Projects: How They Can Completely Change Your Business
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: Fourth Force of Business—Passion Projects
The fourth force: Passion Projects
In 2010, I got this dazzling idea to do a series of stock cartoons.
As you probably know, I'm a professional cartoonist, and my fascination for Photoshop has lasted for well over 20 years. It seemed like a very good idea to create a unique set of cartoons that clients could use for their blogs, e-books, webinars or presentations. Then, seven years sneaked up, and now it's 2017. The cartoons aren't done.
Passion projects are what feed your soul
A passion project is something that you really want to complete, not necessarily because of revenue or fame. It's just something that you have to do because no one else will do it. The longer you put it off, the more you feel something chipping away at your soul.
I've wanted to write a book on talent; I've wanted to write about real education online with “Teacher vs. Preacher”, there's a website that I started out in 2015, and it's been on ice ever since. So much of what's important to me, to you just seems to circle the airport and never really lands.
However, at least at first, passion projects don't necessarily feed your tummy
If you were to decide to spend time embarking on a photography project on the side, or writing the novel you've always planned to write, there's almost no guarantee that any of it will bring in revenue or clients. It's possible that you may hit paydirt or hit a wall—at least when it comes to any sort of riches or fame. Even so, now and then it's important to feed your soul.
Take for instance, Marcus Stout from Golden Moon Tea
Back in 2011, Stout decided to trash 4 out of 5 of his best-selling teas. As if that were not enough, his company had to re-create 75 of his tea blends? What was the reason for all of this upheaval? It was a passion project that Stout wanted had wanted to put into place for a long time.
Around 2011, he changed the way he was personally eating and found he wasn't keen on drinking a lot of his own tea. “Most people don't realise it,” he says, “but a lot of tea has chemicals, even if they say it's natural.” Since he was keen on getting rid of all chemicals and every last toxin, he decided to scrap his best-selling tea.
It wasn't easy to take on a passion project of this nature
Stout did his homework. He didn't merely jump into changing the teas without seeing if a market existed. Even so, it was an incredibly difficult decision to make as some of the teas had been superstars all the way back from 1995. Some of his clients ask for those teas even today, and he won't stock them or sell them because they don't meet his standards.
A passion project can be a small undertaking or a complete change in the way you conduct your business
No matter how we look at it, it's a plane that's been circling the airport, and you need to get that plane to land. At Psychotactics, this meant walking away from doing courses in the second half of 2017 and early 2018.
The Article Writing Course and other live courses (that means courses that are conducted by me online) won't show up until mid-2018. In doing so, we walk away from well over $100k-$150k of profit. Will the passion projects replace that income? It's impossible to tell. When we walked away from the Protégé Program back in 2009, we also walked away from $150k a year, with no idea how to replace that income.
Whether you're dealing with smaller revenues or substantial revenues, the fear and the excitement are remarkably similar
However, a passion project needs to be done. It can't be postponed forever. All those dreams of what you and I will do when we retire, can't wait for retirement. They might be pushed onto the back burner for a while, but at some point, we all have to do what is important to us, even if we aren't sure it will have a payback.
Getting to New Zealand was a bit of a passion project for us
When we left India, we didn't know what to expect in New Zealand. We'd never been to Auckland and knew next to no one. We were also leaving a very settled and decently luxurious life back in Mumbai. The people we'd met along the way told us that it rains a lot in Auckland and it's really quiet. That to us was our beacon of light. We love the rain and the quiet, and it became our not-so-little passion project.
Making space for “landing those planes” is necessary.
It may not happen right away, but it needs to happen because it's good for the soul. What we've found as well, is that in the long run it's been reasonably profitable. Every time we've walked away from one thing to put our energy into another, we've found it's helped not just our mind, but our business as well.
A business needs so many things and has so many forces pulling at you in all directions
Learning by doing
There's still one thing that we all desperately need, and it's called downtime. It's such a simple concept that it almost requires no explanation, but let's give it a shot, shall we? Let's examine the fifth force of business and why it's incredibly crucial to your business and sanity.
The fifth force: Downtime
In the early days of the watercolour course, I gave everyone a break for a month.
When they came back, almost every participant was painting a lot better than the month before. Did they practice during the break? Did they access other material? Some did, but it didn't explain how almost everyone was better—even the ones who hadn't picked up a brush at all. The only common element between every one of the participants was a factor of downtime.
Without downtime there's a lot of do, do, do and not enough time for the brain to process what's happening. Time away from work is almost as crucial as work time itself. Which is why we plan the year differently from most people I know.
Instead of listing out all the things we need to do and projects we need to complete, we first put in the blocks of downtime. Then we put in the work in between that downtime. It enables us to recharge in a way that's not possible when at work.
Yet most of us don't have the luxury of downtime
When we started mentoring my niece, Marsha, for instance, it was a bit like starting up a new business. There was no time to waste. To get her up to speed, I'd tutor her on the way from the classroom to the car. Then in the car, we'd talk a bit and do spellings and practice multiplication tables.
We worked through the week, and for a couple of hours on the weekend. The school holidays were intensive for her, but also for us, and we often put in 6-8 hour days for five-six weeks on end. When you're right at the starting point, everything is an uphill journey. However, over time, Marsha has zoomed to the top tier of the class. Now she still works as hard as she possibly can, but she also has big chunky breaks during the day, week and in the year.
In business, it's not unusual to have no downtime
The mortgage and bills are starting to grow in untidy piles on your desk, and those payments need to be made. But in time, almost all of us have the ability to take time off. It almost seems like a silly thing to do, to take time off when the business has just started to pick up. And yet, it's what we all need to do. Downtime calms you down, relaxes you, and it helps you come back refreshed.
It's a force of business like the other forces
If anything, like the students on the watercolour course, it helps you come back stronger than ever before. Plan your downtime. Start small. Take a few days off, before embarking on longer breaks. But ignore the breaks at your peril. A tired brain is not quite as good as a rested one. And certainly not as creative.
Which brings us to the end of this journey where we explored five forces that pull us in different directions. It's a tug of war. Get used to it. With a little work and strategy, you'll be on the winning side.
Next Step: Have a look at—Why Anti-Fragility Breeds Success (And How Nature Focuses On It)
Sat, 19 August 2017
No one thinks running a small business is easy
But even so, there are forces that pull you in all directions.
These five forces almost seem to tear at us as we go through our daily work. It's not just a question of coping with the forces. We have to somehow make them part of our lives. Let's find out how.
Read Online: How To Cope With The Five Forces of Business: Part 1
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: What are the five forces of business?
In December 2015, I attended a workshop in Nashville, Tennessee.
The workshop itself was very tedious. There were endless slides, countless examples of TV commercials and no breaks. However, there were these long lunch breaks that spanned almost an hour and a half. With little else to do after lunch, I’d wander around the lobby looking at the signs posted on the walls. The signs were quotes from prominent American politicians.
One of them was attributed to US President, John F. Kennedy.
No one seems to know if John F. Kennedy said it or not. And yet, for me at that moment, the quote was relevant. I’d wanted to get certain things done. I’d wanted to write some specific books on talent; books on teaching etc. And this sign seemed to slap me in the face. If it wasn’t for me, who would do it? If not now, when would it get done?
And yet here we are all these months later, and the battle rages on
Many other projects got done, but some remain almost permanently on the to-do list. How could I, I wondered, make things happen? It was time to take stock. I soon realised that business—at least my business—had five permanently competing forces. To achieve what I wanted, I couldn’t only focus on one and leave the others sulking in the corner.
This wasn’t a question of focus, it was a question of management
For me to feel a profound sense of achievement with every passing year, I knew I had to deal not with just one or two, but with all five forces of business. So what are these five forces of business? The first two involve learning.
The third includes revenue and client retention. The fourth was critical, but often neglected “passion projects” and finally there was downtime. All five of these forces jostled for space, and every one of them was incredibly important.
Let’s take a look at all five of them by listing them out, to begin with.
1) Learning by doing
The first force of business: Learning by doing
Stop for a moment and think of something that kills 842,000 people a year.
Water isn’t supposed to kill. It’s meant to give life. And yet it runs around day after day, year after year like a mutant Jack the Ripper. No one, it seems, is interested enough to stop this killer. No one, except Dean Kamen.
“We could empty half of all the beds in all the hospitals in the world by just giving people clean water”, says Kamen.
And Kamen is the one person who’s uniquely placed to take up this challenge. In Manchester, New Hampshire, where he lives and works, he’s known for the invention of the Segway, Ibot Transporter – a six-wheeled robotic “mobility system” that can climb stairs, traverse sandy and rocky terrain, and raise its user to eye-level with a standing person. Kamen has over 440 patents to his name, but it’s clean water that got his attention.
Which is why he set about creating the “Stirling engine”.
The “Stirling Engine” is so amazing, it can generate clean, drinkable water even from water contaminated with mud, even bacteria-filled human faeces. For most people, creating products of such grand simplicity would be an insurmountable barrier, but Kamen’s team at his firm, DEKA, soon came up with a working machine. A machine that only needed the power of a hair dryer. And if necessary, it could even work on fuel sources such as cow dung.
The product was ready; the challenge was met. It was then that Kamen ran into his first major hurdle
For fifteen years Kamen struggled to get his “Stirling Machines” mass-produced and distributed around the world. And yet all he met with was polite smiles and closed doors. The World Bank, the UN, the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many other governmental agencies, and NGO’s—they all realised the problem but couldn’t help.
Too many of these organisations were not set up to help mass manufacture or distribute Kamen’s machine to the poorest parts of the world, where they are most needed.
This is our first challenge in business: We need to learn by doing
At Psychotactics I’ve conducted the Article Writing Course since 2006. It’s called the toughest writing course in the world, and for a good reason. For three months clients have to slog to get to the finish line and be able to write an article in between 60-90 minutes. For me, the workload is magnified several times over.
Every day, I have to look at 25 assignments and lots of questions relating to the assignment. The course itself generates no fewer than 600 articles, all of which have to be read and evaluated. It’s not just the toughest course for the clients; it’s also a mind-bending course for me as the trainer.
So why do it?
The course isn’t cheap at $3000 or more, but it’s not the revenue that’s the biggest driver. It’s easy enough to create one, even two products that would generate a far greater profit, without all the associated hard work. The answer is in the “doing”.
By teaching that course time after time, for the past ten years, you learn things that you couldn’t know or experience by just writing a home study course. Every course brings up brand new challenges all of which have to be tackled.
It’s the problems that create enormous spikes in learning. The secrets of teaching and learning are revealed frustratingly slowly, as I push myself yet into another iteration of the course. Without doing, I’d have no learning, no way to overcome the barriers.
Kamen’s 15-year learning journey to deliver clean water ended in an interesting place too
While the UN or NGOs don’t head out into the tiny villages, there’s one organisation that has found penetration in the smallest pockets. No matter where you go on the planet, you can get yourself a bottle of Coca-Cola. In exchange for a redesign of their age-old dispensing machines, Kamen teamed up with Coke to take the Stirling machines to the far edges of the planet. That’s not as if to say there weren’t more challenges in getting the device to work. Nonetheless, all of these issues can only be overcome by doing.
It’s the reason why you need to blog.
It’s in the doing that we learn the lessons
The reason why so many people fail is because you have to persist for a while before the oceans part and you can walk through to the other side. It’s not like Dean Kamen isn’t well-connected. He’s directly in touch with prominent organisations, US presidents and well-known figures. Even so, it’s taken him a solid 15 years to find any traction. Many of us, swayed by the “double your results tomorrow” bandwagon feel like we’re losers when things don’t happen overnight.
At Psychotactics we’ve had to learn by doing
We’ve held workshops in New Zealand, in the US, in Amsterdam, in the UK. Every workshop is a super-challenge. Why not sit back and just conduct an online course instead? Why not just do the simplest thing possible?
The answer is in doing. You learn most when you push your boundaries. All of this earth-shaking work takes energy and time. A single workshop takes a month of preparation, a month of travel and a month of re-entry time. It's all learning by doing. You can’t make big leaps in your work, and you can’t stand out in the way you’d want to, by taking tiny steps all the time.
It’s these big steps that also cause the greatest chaos
If you were on the Article Writing Course in 2016, it would have been just a course. But if you were part of the alumni doing the course, you might have been slightly horrified. The entire course had changed. Assignments that were usually in Week 11 showed up in Week 4. Whole systems that were used in earlier courses were just dropped and replaced by quite another system. Was the new system tested? Of course not.
It's what learning by doing is often about. When you make significant changes, there’s no way to know how something will work right away. You’re supposed to improvise, and it pushes you to the limit.
Learning by doing easily sucks up the most time in a business
Dean Kamen is a multimillionaire. He flies to work by helicopter every day and has earned enough fame and money never to have to work again. He took on the challenge of proving that clean water could indeed reach the poorest. The only way he could achieve all of this activity was by putting himself on the sword and keeping at it. It’s the core of what drives the business: doing stuff even when the odds are against you.
It’s where you learn the most.
But that’s only one form of learning. There’s also the relatively less strenuous form of learning that can suck up a lot of time. And that’s learning by learning.
Why is Australia hot?
The greatest change in my life in the past 3 ½ years has been my niece, Marsha’s, questions. Renuka and I mentor her, but once she’s done with Renuka’s part of the syllabus, I take over. We sit on the floor near the sofa, chomping cheese, carrots and almonds. And Marsha has questions, lots of questions. In the process, I’ve learned a lot about clouds, countries and their capitals, geology, biology and history.
I learned the Antarctica and Australia were once connected
That they had the same endless forests of Glossopteris. And that with the drifting of continents, Australia moved north. This created space for the Southern Ocean. As Australia floated away, the ocean currents had no landmass barriers. They started spinning around the continent of Australia at an increasingly rapid speed. So quickly did it spin, that the mild climate of Antarctica started to freeze over around 17 million years ago.
Second Force: This is learning by learning and is the second force of business
It’s the one thing that we don’t always have time for. It’s easier to keep doing what we’re doing instead of learning a new skill. Having to dig into the freezing over of Antarctica or how some software program works, can suck up a lot of time. Then there are all those books that we buy that need to be read; all those podcasts that have to be heard; all those courses that have to be looked into.
This year, in particular, I dropped the ball on reading
I benchmark my learning based on where I am with my New Yorker magazine and National Geographic reading. Usually, a New Yorker won’t last more than a few days, and the same goes for National Geographic.
It means I am reading at optimum pace and learning not only through magazines but also have time to read books—a lot of books. Instead, this year, I’ve been behind on New Yorker almost all year. I’ve still got to go through at least four months worth of National Geographic. Somehow it seems, I’ve not allocated enough time for this activity as I did in previous years. I got so tied up with the doing, with the courses, etc. that the learning dropped precipitously.
One of the core forces of business involves learning by learning
To be exceedingly smart at what you do, the learning needs to consist of reading, audio (even if you’re not a big fan), video and learning programs. All of this learning is mind boggling and can be exhausting at times. It's one of the most vital forces of business.
It’s what keeps you on top of things in a way that Facebook or listening to yet another debate about the political madness can never do for you. There is, of course, the downside for this type of learning. I see people who read book after book but never do anything. They always hope to do something, plan to do it, even, but never do. They spend a lot of time in learning from books, audio and video but never doing.
To progress, you need both forms of learning to move together in progression
No matter what the barriers, you need to keep doing. Failure will come, and failure will go, and you’ll learn from it and move ahead. It’s also important to keep your focus on the learning through books, audio and video. I know I slipped in the books department. I am aware that audio has never been a problem, but audio books are not the same as reading a book.
The forces of business pull in all directions. While we’re learning by doing and by learning, we still have to earn a living and keep clients coming back.
Third Force: Revenue generation/client retention
When I just started out Psychotactics, I first heard the definition of the word, “client”.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of client was: one who comes under your care, protection and guidance. For a lot of people this definition rings true. They want their customers to be like their child. They want to care, protect and guide. And yet, you can do too much.
Back in 2006, I started a year long training called the Protégé Course
It covered a lot of disciplines from copywriting, PR, information products etc. And that class alone was generating about $150,000 a year. But by 2008, I’d stopped that course. There were two reasons. The first reason was I felt I was covering too much material in a single year.
Going through the Protégé course was like having to learn five languages a year. But the secondary reason for stopping the course was simply that I wasn’t able to pay as much attention to the rest of the clients.
You’ve seen this in a classroom
A teacher has her favourite students and they get most of the attention and the others are left behind a bit. In a business, focusing a lot on some clients and not on the others is a bad idea. You have to work on the care, protect and guide as many clients as possible. And do it to the best of your ability. It’s only when we worked this out that we realised we could do just fine with a fewer number of clients.
Psychotactics gets about 90% of its revenue from about 500 clients
But it’s always a big balancing act. You have to have time to help clients through their issues, but no matter what you do, there’s always the brutal fact that some of them will leave. When I started 5000bc, I thought that clients would stay forever.
And many stayed for as long as 10 years, which is longer than forever on the Internet. But eventually clients will leave. You’re then faced with a nice big black hole if you haven’t been working on getting new clients.
And this bugged me a lot
Most people are happier getting new clients and then leaving them to their own devices. I’m happier not having to worry about new clients and would be exhilarated if everyone stuck around forever. However, that’s not how things work. Which is why your third big force in your business is dual-fold. It’s to keep clients and to get new clients at the same time.
We’ve tried a lot of stuff along the way
We gave YouTube a shot, started podcasts, then stopped it. And restarted again. We’ve never done much, if any, SEO. No advertising or publicity. But what’s worked for us has been a steady stream of clients from search engines, from a bit of guest blogging and finally, just creating products that no one else wants to create.
In the end, a few activities have made the biggest difference. I know the 80/20 group of people may pop up here, but it’s not been 80/20 at all. It’s just been that we’ve been more comfortable in some areas e.g. podcasting or e-mail, and persisted. Over the years, that persistence and subtle changes in strategy have worked for us.
But this third force of business takes a lot of time
To care, protect and guide your clients takes up a ton of time. And then, in your “free time” you’ve got to go out and get new clients. We’ve been in the business of marketing since 2000. I thought it would get easier over time. It doesn’t. You have to allocate a good amount of time to just keep client and get clients as well. Your strategy is going to depend on what you do.
I do have one quick tip about this point of getting new clients, though
Once you find what you do, do a lot of it. If you decide to write books on Amazon, write lots of books. If you decide to do guitar videos, do a ton of them. And this is because once clients find you and like you, they binge on your work. If they don’t find a lot of your work, they go elsewhere. Which is why you have to decide what you want to do and go for it. There’s no right or wrong strategy.
When we started our podcasts (or rather restarted it) back in 2014, we had no idea if it would work
But we got going all the same. For a good two years, the download figures stayed more or less the same. We got almost no e-mail from clients. Our reviews on iTunes barely made it past 100 reviews. Still, the sales of products kept going up steadily, month after month. And then for some unknown reason the downloads increased by 20%, then up to 25%. Having all these podcasts; all this information; it’s helped us do both things simultaneously. Get and keep the clients.
This getting and keeping—it’s a force of business. You have to allocate time for it as well. And it can distract you and me away from something we actually love. That something is our “passion projects”.
Let’s find out why in Part 2: Why The Five Forces of Business Can be Tamed
Sat, 12 August 2017
Articles can be mundane or enthralling. But what makes an article stand out? The short answer is enthusiasm. Yet, it's not easy to know how to create enthusiasm in an article, is it? In this podcast, we learn how to step through the three phases that makes your article pack a rollicking amount of enthusiasm.
Read the article online:
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: Why you need to outline and how to keep it fresh
What is the definition of sales?
There's are probably a lot of definitions, but back in the year 2003 or so, Canadian-born American motivational public speaker and author, Brian Tracy came to New Zealand. I loved Brian's work and got to know him personally. One of the things I really liked was his definition of sales. “Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another”.
A transfer of enthusiasm.
Wow! I always thought of sales as something grimy
Something you were forced to do to get your product or service in front of a client. With this definition, Brian changed the way I looked at sales. What he couldn't have known is that he didn't just change my perception of sales, but of communication itself. If selling could be enhanced through enthusiasm, then so could writing. Instead of just putting words on paper, an article could come alive with enthusiasm.
There's just one problem, isn't there?
How do you write enthusiastically? Are there stages or steps to follow? Not surprisingly, the stages aren't something you're unfamiliar with. The steps to enthusiastic writing are seemingly so obvious that it's easy to miss them.
Writing can get really grimy without the power of enthusiasm. It's time to find out what makes your words sing, isn't it? Let's take a look at the three steps you're going to need to put that zing in your words.
1: You need an outline. And the outline needs to be fresh.
1: How to write enthusiastically: The “fresh” outline
The week my mother in law came to stay with us, I had to throw out all my spices.
Most people think that cooking is the act of getting ingredients together in a pot or vessel. But we also know that ingredients matter. The fresher the ingredients, the tastier the food. What we seem to forget are the spices. Like many others, I bought bottles of spices and they sat in the pantry for weeks, even months on end. My mother in law was appalled at the lack of freshness. She got me to bin the entire lot and start with a fresh lot.
An outline is a lot like stale spices
Whether you're outlining a big project, like a book, or a relatively smaller project, like an article, you're still dealing with the factor of freshness. If the outline is a week old, it's already getting relatively stale. If it's older, you're likely to be struggling to find out what you outlined in the first instance.
The reason I outline is because it saves me time
I'm not exactly the kind of person that loves to outline. The reason why I do so is because I know it gives me structure and it saves me an enormous amount of time. Even so, there's the curse called “excessive outlining”.
In my desire to create a truckload of content, I'll head to the cafe and outline five or ten articles. If I get down to writing those articles within a week or two, maybe even three, I'd be fine. But as you can tell, it's practically impossible to write so many articles in such a short time span.
Which means that the outline starts to get stale
I get newer ideas along the way, and add to the mountain of outlines and the longer I wait, the more the earlier outlines seem to fade into oblivion. I will look at the outlines; I know they're important, but they're not fresh anymore.
Like those spices in my kitchen cabinet, I can throw them in the dish, but they won't enhance the dish at all. Which is why you need to get an idea, outline it, and then get started with your writing.
If you need to re-outline the material along the way, that's perfectly fine, but the outline must be relatively fresh at all times. The longer you wait, the more you have to battle with what you were really thinking about. And battle takes up a lot of energy, which means that you're less likely to write with any sort of enthusiasm.
Consider that outlines don't vary too much
An outline for an article will tend to have a pretty straightforward construction.
First Fifty Words (Opening of article)
So if you had an article on “How to buy earphones”
First Fifty Words
That article outline isn't going to change a lot six months or even six years from now, is it?
You can still write a great article or create a chapter in a book about it. It makes no sense to say that six years from now you will shy away from writing the article. But this is where the weirdness kicks in.
Intellectually you know you can write the article, but when it comes down to writing it, the fact that you wrote the outline a while ago will prevent you from getting too far ahead. You'll somehow want to write another article—any article—and avoid the one that's stale.
When you're going through so much avoidance it's hard to be enthusiastic
Fresh outlines are like fresh spices.
I will outline on one day and by the next day or two, I'm writing
But why not write on the day itself? You could, of course, but more often than not it's better to keep a bit of space between the outline and the material you're about to write.
Why? Because the outline allows your brain to let the thoughts percolate. A day later your article is likely to be far superior because you've been thinking about the contents as the hours tick by. An outline, a fresh outline, is crucial to get that enthusiasm in your writing, but it's not enough.
The second most important factor is feeling strongly about the issue right now.
2: Feeling Strongly About The Issue Right Now
My friend Cher taught me an important lesson on the day of my father in law's funeral.
When someone close to you dies, most people are uncomfortable around you. They know you're grieving and they feel your pain. It's at this point that almost everyone makes the same statement.
They say something like: “If you need anything, please let me know”. Cher did something entirely different. She baked a whole bunch of muffins, brought them over, stayed for a short while and then left.
I feel strongly about that issue right now
I feel that so many people tend to use words, not actions. That if we were all like Cher, we wouldn't be asking “what can we do?” Instead, we'd be doing something for our friends, our relatives or even that stranger that we may never meet again.
When you feel strongly about an issue, you need to write about it as quickly as you can. Right at the top of my agenda is to write an article about how we need to:
1) Not ask what we should do, but do something instead.
We feel strongly about issues all the time
We may have just run into a problem and the issue is top of mind. Or we may have been the recipient of a great wave of generosity. But you don't always need to be prodded by happy and sad moments.
You could have just heard a podcast and that could have ignited a fire within you. Or in the case of this article, a client may ask you a question that you feel needs to be answered in detail.
There are lots of things that rev up the engines of your brain and the more strongly you feel about these issues right now, the more likely you are to write with a greater amount of enthusiasm.
Yet, doesn't this “feeling” lead directly to the outlining process?
Yes it does. The feeling comes right before the outline. Once you feel the surge, you then get down to outline. However, in many cases, a surge may break the rule of outlining.
Take for instance, when you see something on Facebook or in a forum. There's a discussion going and you need to get an important point across. In such a scenario, outlining may slow down the process and the moment of passion passes.
Instead you need to capture the enthusiasm while it's still fresh. What you tend to write in that moment may be remarkably more lucid than anything that's outlined and planned.
Writing while the “iron is hot” is not an excuse to avoid the outlining process
Outlining is smart because it saves time. Writing an answer quickly is just a way of getting your thoughts out quickly and keeping that fire alive. It's a shoddy excuse if you just want to avoid outlining.
Yet it does feed the flames of your outline. I tend to write quickly, if needed, but then I will create an outline and fit the information into that outline. Later, probably the day after, I will write the article or the chapter in the book.
Enthusiasm doesn't come easily
Yet it does strike from time to time and if you don't go through the process of writing down your thoughts and fashioning them, your writing won't necessarily be dull.
A lot of writing is done by sitting down and just working your way through a project. Yet, that sparkle that comes from frustration, desperation or inspiration comes and goes in quick bursts. Learning to capture those shiny bits in your article is what a great writer does.
All of this outlining and striking when the iron is hot is about structure. It's about discipline. Yet, enthusiasm often shows up when you least expect it. It's at this point that we need to learn to trust the diversion. Let's find out how deviating from the script is a good idea to create a high level of enthusiasm.
3: You need to be able to deviate from your script a bit and make it messy.
When does a concept become a coconut?
When you run into your computer's auto-correct, that's when. Like the other day when I was writing an answer in the forum in 5000bc. I fully intended to use the word “concept”, but as you do, my fingers went on their own journey. And as I typed something that was clearly garbled, the auto-correct suggested “coconut” as a replacement. This is the messiness, the unexpected factor that leads to enthusiasm.
It's not unlike the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
In the book, “Messy”, author, Tim Harford talks about how Martin Luther King Jr valued preparation. By the age of five he was learning Bible passages by heart. By fourteen his dedication to detailed research, outlining and re-outlining was paying off as he won a prize in a public speaking contest.
This attention to sticking to a script paid off time and time again when he started preaching, then later as he snapped up an oratory prize in college, and finally helped him get his job as a minister.
Every sermon started out on yellow lined paper as an idea on Tuesday, would be researched and re-drafted many times during the week, before he delivered it on Sunday. He lavished well over 15 hours a week learning every sermon by heart, just so that he never had to refer to his notes.
Yet the one speech that was the most memorable of all wasn't rehearsed
It was an improvisation. Even though he went through his prepared text for most of the speech, as he came to the end, he started to improvise.
At that moment, Mahalia Jackson shouted: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And then he was off, giving one of the most memorable speeches, that seemed to take a life of its own.
In the world of scriptwriting it's known that scripts take a life of their own
Often writers are astounded to find that the character in the script dictating the series of events. Just like “autocorrect” on your computer, the character decides what to do next.
This concept of the character taking over sounds really odd, until you speak to writers who express how the words on the page seem to come alive in a way that is hard to imagine.
To create enthusiasm in your writing, you need to follow trust the diversion
The outline is crucial, there's not a shred of doubt about that fact. The outline lets you stay within the parameters, but an outline can also be the launching pad for enthusiasm of a monumental scale. Suddenly the words are flowing out of you in a way you can't imagine.
The result is something you're not anticipating, and yet it's extremely pleasing when you get to the finish point. Make no mistake: the results are random when you're first starting out. Martin Luther King Jr. was no average speaker.
Writers, singers, jazz players, sports people—they're not rank amateurs. They've got a bit of practice under their belt and it's only at that point that the improvisation kicks in.
Which isn't to say you should wait until you're a great writer, just to improvise
No one is a great writer. Everyone is still learning their craft and the best way to get started down this path of improvisation is to simply go down the road when you hear “improv” calling you. The enthusiasm you feel for the subject matter will present itself in a way that you don't or can't expect.
Even in the very early stages, you should break free and let the text take over. Unburdened by typos and grammatical errors. Unfettered by whether what you're writing makes sense or not. Writing in a way that a cartoonist doodles, without a care in the world.
I had to learn these lessons of breaking free as well
Take for instance the script of the podcast. When I first started doing the podcast back in late 2014, I'd have a very rough outline, but no script. I'd stick to the points but all of the thoughts had to be improvised as I went along.
By mid-2015, I not only outlined the podcast in great detail, but started reading it off the computer screen and then off a teleprompter on my iPhone called Promptsmart. I thought I was doing a great job until someone suggested I could do better. That comment via e-mail got me thinking about what I'd learned about the diversion; about how letting go was a smart strategy.
And so that's what I did. I still have the outline. I still script and follow the script, but from time to time in the podcast, I'll let the diversion take over. This diversion perks me up when I'm bumping down the side road, but also gives a ton of energy when I get back on track with the script.
It's odd, this advice—even contrary.
And yet we know it to be true. To get enthusiasm you have to doodle, do some fair work, then go back to doodling again. It's what makes for great work, and brings immense power to your words.
Next Step: Find out—Why You Need to Have “Tension and Release” To Create Drama in Article Writing.
Direct download: 152-How_To_Write_Enthusiastically_and_Avoid_The_Dull_Article.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm +12