Sat, 9 December 2017
Even if you have the best idea in the world, analysis-paralysis can stop you in your tracks. You feel frozen, not sure what to do. So you research. Then you do some more research and educate yourself even more. But that doesn't get you very far, does it? Even famous people like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo would get stuck in this mode, just like you. But they still went on to create great art. So how do you create great "art" as well? Find out and beat the analysis-paralysis once and for all.
Direct download: 169-Replay_2-How_to_Validate_Your_Idea.mp3
-- posted at: 12:00pm +13
Sat, 2 December 2017
When writing headlines, you often get stuck.
Can grammar come to the rescue when under pressure? Find out how grammar class helps you write outstanding headlines in a jiffy.
Sun, 26 November 2017
In 1970, two psychologists did a very interesting experiment called the “The Good Samaritan experiment”.
It was meant to determine whether we're kind other some conditions and oblivious at other times.
What makes us kinder, more generous?
Is there something that's been under our nose all along that we've been missing? Let's find out.
You can read the transcript here: #167:The Incredible Power of Kindness (And Why It Has Nothing To Do With Business)
A few months ago, my brother in law's house was burgled.
What do you say to someone when their house has been burgled? What do you say when you run into a friend, and you find she's lost her father? We live in a world that's filled with kindness, or else we wouldn't function on a day to day basis.
However, as one writer wrote: We're only one generation away from anarchy. We're all born selfish. Kids hang on to their toys and bawl at the need to control the entire ice-cream stand.
We have to be taught to be kind.
And kindness comes in different forms
It's not just about charity or letting the other driver cut into your lane on the motorway. In today's episode, we go all philosophical, simply because of a book I'd been reading (which I didn't complete, of course). It's a book by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
Sandberg and her husband, David were on vacation to Mexico. David was on the treadmill exercising when he collapsed and died alone. In her book, Option B, she recounts the horror that inhabited her brain at the time of the accident, and for months later.
This episode isn't about business. It's about kindness and its many forms.
Let's find out how we can be adults in a world of “kiddy tantrums”. And how we can be kind as children, in a world of jaded adulthood.
Here are three things we'll cover. I promise it will change the way you look at kindness from now on.
1) Not asking what we should do, but doing something instead
2) Telling someone how they changed your life and being very specific
3) Slowing down, because kindness can be heavily dependent on how much you slow down.
1: Not asking what we should do, but doing something instead.
In 2010, my father in law; Renuka's father, passed away.
I don't remember much about the day. What I do remember was the act of our friend, Cher Reynolds. Somewhere after the funeral, Cher showed up to the house with muffins. “I baked these muffins”, she said. Cher then stayed a while and left. So why did the incident of the muffins stay in my head?
I only realised it when I read Sheryl Sandberg's story.
The difference between Cher and so many people is that Cher left out a question that so many people tend to ask in times of crisis. When there's a disaster, death or sudden misfortune, we feel helpless. And our helplessness shows because we all make a similar sort of statement.
We say: If there's anything we can do to help, please let us know.
On the face of it, such a statement is exceptionally kind. In effect, we're writing a sort of blank cheque. We're saying we'd go completely out of our way to help, no matter what the request.
And yet in its kindness, the statement becomes a bit unkind. It's asking the person who's under enormous stress, to let you know what they need.
The stress is so high that the person is often cut off from reality and can barely function. It's at this point that we misguidedly ask them to “think up a list of what they need”. Author Bruce Feiler writes, “that the offer while well-meaning, shifts the obligation to the aggrieved”.
Cher didn't ask if she could bring muffins
Instead, she took a decision, made the muffins, drove halfway across town and gave the muffins. In the book Option B, Sandberg talks about her colleague Dan Levy. Levy's son was sick and in hospital. That's when a friend texted Levy with a message that went like this: What do you NOT want on a burger?
Levy could see how the friend has not dumped the obligation. “Instead of asking if I wanted food, he made the choice for me but gave me the dignity of feeling in control”. Another friend texted Levy saying she was available for a hug if he needed one. She added that she would be in the hospital lobby for a whole hour, whether he came downstairs or not.
Kindness comes from specific acts, writes Sandberg
“Some things in life can't be fixed. They can only be carried.” My brother-in-law and sister-in-law weren't the same people I'd met just a few days before the incident. They were shocked beyond belief that someone had violated their space.
It's at times like these that we sip from our cup of helplessness and ask that question, “how can we help?” It's at this time that we have to step up and act.
That's just the first act of kindness, however. There's more. Like letting someone know how they changed your life. And be specific about it.
2: Tell someone how they changed your life and be specific
At the end of every Psychotactics course, we do something quite unconventional.
We ask for feedback. What's so unconventional about that, you may ask? This act is unusual, because clients are expected to give about 1000 words of what went wrong, and suggestions on how to fix the course.
Which means that if there are 35 clients on the course, we get a mind-boggling 30,000-35,000 words of feedback. And it was on one of these courses that I got feedback from a client named Gordon.
Here's what Gordon wrote to me, separately in an e-mail.
“Whenever I do an assignment incorrectly, you take a lot of effort to tell me what's wrong. You help me get back on track when I'm struggling. And I really appreciate that a lot. However, when I do an assignment, or part of an assignment well, you simply say, “That was good”.
You get what Gordon is saying, right?
He wants specifics both when he's going off the road, but also praise when he's done something correctly. And then for good measure, he wanted to know exactly which part he got right and why I thought it was so very good. In hindsight this request seems so very obvious, doesn't it? Look how quickly we snarl when the coffee's cold, but never stop to tell the barista when the coffee is perfect, and why we think it's so well done.
Every day we get countless opportunities to get mad—and probably just as many where we can be exceptionally kind
Being specific is the key because just a pat on the back, while helpful, is nowhere as good as telling the person why they earned it. Baristas, waitresses, the chef that you never see at the restaurant, they all count.
Even the guy who is trying to get you to buy something at the doorstep counts. And within our own families, our kids, our friends, they all do little things for us, and we often forget to be specific. We forget to tell them how they changed our day, often our lives.
I've learned a lot from my nieces, Marsha and Keira, for instance.
Keira runs in like a typhoon every Friday, turning off all the switches where devices are not charging. I have to remember to tell her how she's changed my laziness with keeping switches on.
Marsha has told me how she often doesn't force her opinion in a discussion, even when she knows she's right. And I've learned to be less pompous as a result. I think we can all be slightly more kind to the people we run into every day.
No one is saying you need to be a saint, of course. We all need our moments of anger and frustration, but when we turn on our faucet of kindness, let's make sure we turn it all the way up and tell people how they make a difference to our lives.
Which takes us to the final aspect of kindness
Strangely, this has nothing to do with how we choose to act. Instead, it examines what causes us to stop and be kind. It's the odd phenomenon that's now known as the “Princeton Seminary Experiment”. But what was this experiment about? And how does it determine our ability to be kinder people?
3: Slow down, because kindness is mostly dependent on an unusual factor
If a traveller is assaulted on the road, who stops to help?
If you've ever read or heard the story of the Good Samaritan, you'll be familiar with how a traveller is assaulted by thieves and left to die. A priest and a Levite pass the injured traveller but don't stop. The Samaritan stops to help the traveller, bandage his wounds and takes him to an inn, where he proceeds to pay for the care of the traveller.
In the 1970s, Princeton social psychologists John Darley and Dan Batson decided to run a modern-day Samaritan test
The students of the Princeton Theological Seminary were asked to deliver a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Once they had reached a reasonable level of preparedness, they were expected to deliver a sermon on that very parable. However, in order to give that sermon, they need to get to a studio, in a building across the campus, where they were told they'd be evaluated by their supervisors.
Bear in mind that all of the students were studying to be ordained priests. And every one of them had already been buried in their preparation of the story of the Good Samaritan. Both these scenarios would suggest that if they ran into a scene where someone needed help, this group of all people, would be more inclined to help than any other group.
However there was a little monkey wrench thrown into the mix
As the student prepared to go across to give his sermon, he was given one of three sets of instructions:
“You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You’d better hurry. It shouldn’t take but just a minute.” This was the high-hurry condition.
“The (studio) assistant is ready for you, so please go right over.” This was the intermediate-hurry condition.
“It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over. If you have to wait over there, it shouldn’t be long.” This was the low-hurry condition.
The students—all the students—were then expected to walk by themselves to the studio
In every case, the student would encounter a “victim” in a desert alley, just like the injured traveller in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The victim was a plant, but the seminarians didn't know that. All they could see was a slouched, destitute-looking person who desperately needed assistance. In such a scenario, and bearing in mind how they were influenced by the parable, how many seminarians would stop to help the “victim?”
The research findings were startling
Only 10% of the students in the high-hurry situation stopped to help the victim. 45% of the students in the intermediate-hurry and a whopping 63% of the students in the low-hurry situations stopped to help the victim. The researchers concluded, “A person not in a hurry may stop and offer help to a person in distress. A person in a hurry is likely to keep going.
Ironically, he is likely to keep going even if he is hurrying to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan, thus inadvertently confirming the point of the parable. Thinking about the Good Samaritan did not increase helping behaviour, but being in a hurry decreased it.”
Time, or the lack of time, that was an overwhelmingly important factor when it came to being kind
To be kind, we all need time and energy. This isn't to suggest that someone with more time will be a kinder person, but when we're in a hurry, we are definitely more aggressive. Tunnel vision comes into play, and we fail to see how we can help others who are in need of our kindness.
It's scary to realise that our lack of time could make us inadvertently selfish
And the anguish that comes from the lack of time isn't new either. Way back in 1911, poet, Henry Davies wrote about how we lead a life of care, and we have no time to stand and stare. Over a century ago, time or the lack of it was still the problem. There's no easy way to solve this problem, of course. We have to hurry up, but there are moments when we can decelerate, so that we have time to be kind.
Kindness isn't something we're necessarily born with. We learn kindness along the way.
To get more kindness in our lives, we need to look at three core aspects.
1) Stop asking what we should do, but doing something instead.
2) Tell someone how they changed our lives, and be specific about how they did it.
3) Slow down, because kindness is mostly dependent when we're not in a hurry.
The motto of 5000bc is “Be kind, be helpful or begone”. Kindness is a lot of work and I'm very grateful for everyone that pitches in. All of those who ask questions are being kind because you're helping others who are reluctant. Those who help out in the critique section or in the Taking Action forum, or in the Technology forum—you're all taking the time to be kind.
The way you welcome a new member, that's an extreme act of kindness, because nothing is better than feeling safe in a new environment. And there are the Cave Guides who voluntarily step in to help new members navigate their way, plus the Cave Elves that step in to make sure all is well while we're away on vacation.
Every one of you makes a big difference.
Thank you for your kindness.
Thanks very much.
Next up: Why Happiness Eludes Us: 3 Obstacles That We Need To Overcome
Sat, 18 November 2017
What causes clients to keep coming back?
Is it information?
Or could it be entertainment?
For too long we've treated teaching and learning as an activity that needs endless slides, pages and work. But what if clients get better results having fun? And what if you had a ton of fun as well?
Let's find out how to speed up client learning with some pretty minor tweaks in your e-books, courses, presentations and webinars.
Click here to read the transcript on the website:
#166: How To Speed Up Client-Learning With The Incredible Power of Infotainment
When my mother-in-law, Preta, was in her twenties, she was teaching at Sunday school.
Like most Sunday schools, the kids were there to learn about the Bible. However, my mother-in-law decided to teach the girls how to sew tiny dresses for their dolls.
Within weeks of her starting up, all the girls wanted to be part of her class. Ironically, this made the other Sunday school teachers jealous. They complained to the “higher authorities”, and Preta was called in to explain herself.
“We've heard you're not teaching them about the Bible, and instead only involving them in play”, said the person in charge. “You can come in and test the knowledge of the kids,” retorted my mother-in-law, “and you'll find they know they're well-versed in their Bible studies”.
You can clearly see the wisdom of play in this story, can't you?
You can also see how people in charge resist it a lot, even though it's apparent that we all have a maddening streak of playfulness we can't seem to shake. That when learning something, we want the trainer to bring a sense of joy into our learning. Instead, most education is soulless, incredibly dull and it's not surprising that clients drop out. The problem is that we're pretty sure we're guilty of this callous training and teaching as well.
But what if we were to make fun the core of our system?
What if we postponed designing the information-based section and thought about the fun elements, instead? What if fun wasn't an afterthought but part of the entire structure of learning? How would we do things differently, if this were the case?
In this series, let's look at:
In this series, let's look at:
1) How to create Infotainment
2) Why we need to understand the goal
3) How to place the fun elements in your training
1) How to create Infotainment
If you were in charge of getting a kid to write, would you start with “slimy, oozy eyeballs?”
Here is a story of Jen Jackson from Seattle. She'd started a small English tutoring business aimed at kids that were being homeschooled. One of her students was Michael, Michael clearly despised writing, despite being able to read well. His mother tried “everything”, but her methods weren't working, so she called Jen to help Michael write.
Except for the fact, that Jen didn't make Michael write at all.
The two of them read joke books, challenged each other to tongue twisters and did everything but write. The second meeting involved fun drawing games and drawing a monster. Still, no writing was included. It was only the third session where a Monster Cafe was created, apparently to accommodate Michael's monster.
That's when Michael wrote out a short menu that included slimy, oozy eyeballs. In the sessions to follow, Michael went on to create many menus for different monsters. Today, Michael is not exactly prolific, but he willingly writes short paragraphs and is eager to keep improving.
When we read this story, we can see how entertainment has led to information success, can't we?
Yet, as an educator it somehow feels scary. Even if you embrace the power of entertainment as the doorway to learning, how are you supposed to implement it? If you did what Jen did, wouldn't Michael's parent look at you funnily, wondering if you were just wasting their time and money? What are you supposed to do when you're not dealing with kids, but adults instead—and in serious fields like marketing or finance?
The core of entertainment is to take the pressure off, completely
Let's say you wanted to learn Photoshop. If you've never looked at Photoshop before, that sounds a bit intimidating, doesn't it? So how do you make it fun? You look at the what causes people to freeze. Incredibly, it's the computer and Photoshop itself.
When I'm showing clients how to use Photoshop for the first time, I usually take them to a cafe—without the computer. We sit down and work our way through some core shortcuts. If the client wants to learn to draw, what alternatives would they need? Wait, you're reading this, so you can easily play along.
Let's say you want to get the brush tool. Which letter on your keyboard would you press? Yes, you're right, it's the letter B.
What if you wanted to change the opacity of the brush to 30%? What number would you press? Some clients say 30, but of course, the answer is 3. What about 50%. Yes, it's 5. And 70%?
I'm teasing. Of course, you know the answer. Let's move on to the brush size. If you wanted to increase the brush size and you had to choose between the left and right square bracket, which one would you choose? Most of us correctly select the right square bracket, which means that the left one will reduce the brush size.
Imagine you're sipping a cup of coffee, there's no computer in sight, and you're told to create a theoretical drawing in Photoshop. You have to get to the brush, get the opacity to 90% and then reduce the brush size?
Notice how much fun that whole exercise turned out? The first way of taking the pressure off a person or a group is merely to get them as far as you can from the activity. When you put yourself (and the student or client) in a different setting, the pressure is instantly off and a sense of play sets in.
However, not everyone can waltz their way into a cafe or garden
Some teaching needs to be done at the venue itself. What do you do, then? One of the best and most effective ways to get the pressure off is to get the clients to do something wrong. Let's take an example. Of the many workshops we've had over the years, one of the more intimidating ones is the uniqueness workshop.
The fact that we were going to take three days to get to uniqueness didn't help. How do you take the pressure off? You get the uniqueness wrong, that's what you do. Within minutes of starting the workshop, I gave each client an advertisement for a local business.
They all had the same ad, and they had to figure out the uniqueness of the company in under 10 minutes. However, before they started, I informed them, that all of them, no matter how hard they tried, would get the assignment wrong.
Imagine you're in the room right at this very moment
You can hear the hush, can't you? You have an assignment, but you're going to get it wrong. But that quiet lasts only for a few seconds. Everyone has a big smile on their face as they take on the assignment that they just can't get right. The pressure to get it all correct is gone, and they can have a jolly good time.
They start the assignment, complete their version of it, and then they're all chattering away and having a great time. After which everyone is called upon to give their answers, and a logical explanation follows. They've been entertained as well as informed! Tah, dah, infotainment!
Good teachers know the value of play.
Good workshop trainers will take the pressure off as quickly as they can.
Excellent writers and speakers will use the power of stories to get their audience smiling, long before the main guts of the information comes along. The more pressure you put on a student, client or audience, the more the brain goes into shut down mode. Which is why we have to release the tension.
But more importantly, it's because you need to understand the real goal. But what's the purpose? Ah, that's easy. You want the client to want to go forward of their own accord. You want them to beg you to continue. They must enjoy themselves so much that what you're teaching them must feel like a bowl of warm, chocolate muffins. Understanding the goal is what makes the client—or student come back repeatedly.
Let's find out how we can get this goal going, shall we?
2) Why we need to understand the goal
“‘Better, faster, cheaper.’
That was NASA's mantra around the year 1999. And it was in this very year that the Mars Climate Orbiter was destroyed. On Nov 10, 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter, a $125 million satellite was supposed to become the the first weather observer orbiting over another world. For the orbiter to do its job, it needed to get into a stable orbit around the red planet.
But something had gone wrong. The software was required to control the Orbiter's thrusters, and it did so, using the system of measurement of “pounds”. However, a separate software was processing data in the metric unit—”newtons”. The two systems of measurement threw the entire mission entirely out of whack, and atmospheric friction likely tore the fragile satellite apart.
From the outside, it might look like a doofus-plan: that sophisticated scientists didn't notice that the software was calculating in two completely different units.
And just like that, the mission—the $125 million mission—was no more.
When training clients, the burnout rate is consistently like the Mars Orbiter
That's because we're using completely different systems of measurement in our teaching methods. The goal isn't necessarily to get the ideas or learning across. Yes, that's the final goal, but not the primary goal. The primary goal of any training system is to get the client back.
Remember the story about Jen Jackson and how she tackled Michael's writing problem?
Remember how my mother-in-law got her students to get all excited about Sunday school?
When you think about education in an objective sense, you may feel that it's your job to get the information across. But knowledge is tiring. It's frustrating. It's the wrong system of measurement. And it's most often what causes the client to burn up before the mission so much as gets underway. Instead, think of how you can get the client back using fun and a factor of entertainment.
Entertainment doesn't just mean you're rolling out tacos and a Mariachi band
But then again, who says learning has to be all work, work and more work?
In the headlines course, for example, we start off with an assignment that goes like this:
Day 1: Introduce yourself
Day 2: Watch three videos—and these videos are from the movie, Karate Kid
Day 3: List five topics and many sub-topics
And what does their list look like?
• Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
• Brown Cow
• Whipped cream
By Day 5, clients are clearly having fun
Mermaids, dinosaurs, deep sea aliens (yes, deep sea aliens exist, you know)—they all make a list. And everyone is having a blast. They're getting to know the members of their tiny group; they're coming up with all of these crazy topics and sub-topics. And it's a lot like what happens at our place every Friday.
On Fridays, for the past four years, we've taken our niece Marsha to the food market
The assignments could involve walking to the veggie section, weighing an object and writing down the weight. Or we might have to skip—no walking, just skipping—to the dairy section to find out how pricing works, and how Swedish rounding of prices works. In short, Marsha (and I) have been running, jumping and skipping through our learning exercise.
She's learned about frozen, dried and fresh foods. She's learn about weights and measures, about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Then when we get home, we do spellings in the garden or walking around the car (yes, I get sneaky steps on my Fitbit when I do that activity).
However, let's make this really boring. Let's hunch over a desk or dining table and you get the idea why most kids detest having to study. There's zero entertainment and a lot of screaming and do this, do that, involved, instead.
So what would Marsha want to do the following week?
And the week after? Doesn't take much imagination, does it? If our goal is to educate, to train, to impart knowledge, you and I are sure going about it the wrong way. A workshop doesn't need your audience to reverentially worship you as you show them slide after slide. At Psychotactics workshops, clients go for walks and do their assignments.
They sit by the pool. We have games, we have soft toys like Jordan the otter, and of course, Elmo comes along wherever we go. At one workshop, two our clients, Jessica and Alia, who happened to be belly dancers, taught one part of the group to dance, and the other to clap along and create the mood.
Would you want to go to another dull, reverential note-taking-workshop or come to a Psychotactics workshop, instead?
If it sounds like too much fun, and no work, that's not the case at all
Every course online, every workshop, every book you write needs to be result-oriented. If the client buys your product or service to get a result, a result needs to be the finale. But why does it have to be boring? The only reasons why any learning is boring is because the trainer doesn't realise that fun is possible, or they take the easy route and do what they've already done a million times before.
To create a fun-based situation takes a lot of work on your part. It's not as if to suggest that a serious training session isn't a lot of work. It's just that you need to do so much more planning when fun is involved. Entertainment is great for the learner or the audience, but it's a hard grind for you to put into place.
However, the results of information + entertainment are incredibly predictable
Clients come back repeatedly. If you were to attend a Psychotactics workshop, you'd find close to 50% of the audience are back for a second, third, fourth helping. Clients travel long distances just to be at the workshop. And they sign up even before we have time to put up a sales page. For instance, if you take the Singapore Landing Page workshop, ¼ of the seats are already gone.
With the Brussels workshop, ¾ of the seats were taken before we completed the sales page. A similar trend plays out when we're conducting courses online.
There's the Article Writing Course—yes, the live course online—in July 2018
The seats would go on sale by early March. And before you know it, and often within 24 hours, that course is filled to the brim. If you look at a presentation, there are compelling videos, loads of cartoons, a touch of animation—all designed to give the audience respite, even though the presentation may be under 40 minutes long.
And if you've read a book from Psychotactics, you know that once again there are cartoons, a recipe in the middle of the book and an epilogue at the end of the book telling you the process of how the book was made.
What's the goal of education?
To come back, that's what the goal should be, shouldn't it? Imagine you as a kid wanting to race to school every day, because, hey, school was so much fun. Imagine desperately wanting to continue a video series on a topic like Photoshop, because the presenter is so amusing. Now make no mistake. It's not about pure entertainment.
You're there for the information as well, but why on Earth does the process of imparting information have to be so boring?
“Better, faster, cheaper”
That was the mantra, the chant that caused the Mars Polar Lander to fry just 23 days after the Mars Climate Orbiter. According to an article in Wired Magazine, vibrations in that craft’s legs may have convinced the craft’s on-board computer it had already landed when it was still 100 feet in the air.“The specific reasons [for that failure] were different, but the underlying parts, this overly ambitious appetite, were the same.”
“NASA made some “big-time” changes after that,” said NASA engineer Richard Cook, who was project manager for Mars exploration projects.
They got rid of several other missions, including one that involved bringing rocks back to Earth. NASA, it seems, reevaluated what they were doing, based on strategies and concepts that had stood the test of time.
When teaching, what stands the test of time better than entertainment?
Would you rather go back to a place that is boring, or one that is a fun-learning experience?
Which one are you most eager to go back to, time and time again?
Well, since we're on the same page, let's go to the third part. Now that we're pretty sure that fun is part of learning, let's move to the third part and find out just where we can put fun parts in the learning.
3) How to place fun elements in your training
Rob Walling has an unusual video in the middle of his presentation that takes the audience by surprise.
In May 2017, I spoke at the Double Your Freelancing conference in Sweden. Rob was one of the speakers, and his topic was about the topic of “how to launch a startup.” Rob's a pretty easy-going speaker, with well-thought-out slides and a gentle progression. Until midway, when the entire presentation seems to stop for an intermission of sorts.
Walling decides to show the audience a video of how his son solves a problem progressively. It's a home video, nothing flashy, yet the audience laughs as they watch the story unfold.
How did the video show up in Rob's presentation?
It's the same question that could be asked when you attend a Psychotactics and go off scampering for a scavenger hunt. Right in the middle of the workshop, there's a peculiar assignment. The pre-assigned groups are given 30 minutes to go out and find a whole bunch of items, return and then upload the pictures to the blog.
The next day each group makes a presentation; the best entry is chosen by popular vote, and there's a tiny little prize ceremony.
You noticed the fun element in both the examples, didn't you?
The question is: how did they get there? And the answer becomes pretty apparent even as the question is being asked. Someone has to put it there, because yes, it may show up quite by chance. However, in most cases, the creator of the product or service has to be proactive enough to put in the fun elements.
Your product or service needs this break as well Why should it be?
When I went to school, we had a short break of 15 minutes, then a lunch break of an hour. We'd race out of the class at break time, so we could get onto the playground. Was the play connected in any way to our biology or physics class?
Of course not, but the fact that someone decided to have the short and long break enabled us to study and play on every given day.
Your product or service needs this break as well
The way to go about creating the entertainment factor is to sit down with the book you're about to write. If you could make it fun, more interesting, what would you do? If you're about to conduct a course online, what do the assignments look like? Is there any space for play?
What about your workshops or seminars? Are the participants like prisoners listening to you drone on forever? Or is there some factor of entertainment and play?
If you remember picking up a copy of the Reader's Digest, you have this example with “The Lighter Side of” and “Laughter the Best Medicine” in the middle of some pretty serious articles. Someone sat down and said: “Ooh, all of this stuff is intense. We need to lighten up”.
Not everyone appreciates the entertainment, of course
A scavenger hunt may not go down well with 100% of the participants. Cartoons in a marketing book sound a bit crazy, doesn't it? A door that creaks open on a website (it's going to be on our new website) may seem outlandish. And there are always going to be naysayers.
However, by and large, those are the people who wanted to stay in and do their homework while we ran out during school breaks. If they're unhappy with the entertainment factor, don't go around chaining the rest of your group to ol' grumps. Instead, design the event, the book, the product or service with a bunch of fun elements.
Look through other books or situations to find inspiration
Esquire Magazine may have a joke section—just one joke told by a supermodel. Could you be that supermodel in your book? If you've got a video course, why do you have to be Ms.Serious or Mr.Let's-Get-To-The-End? Have a couple of videos that tell a joke, or show something funny around your neighbourhood.
Maybe take a leaf from Rob Walling's book and put in a video about your kid's crazy jokes. The fun part doesn't always have to be disconnected. It can connect quite easily as well.
In The Brain Audit, there are sections where there's a whole page of cartoons, and they connect quite precisely. There's also a total disconnect with a butter chicken recipe.
Do what you please: connect or disconnect at will.
• Crossword puzzles
• Funny home videos
• Case studies
These are just some ways to entertain your audience while educating them
As this article demonstrates, entertainment isn't just a nice-to-have. Instead, it's a necessity. Sometimes it is the reason why people show up. Sometimes it's the reason why they stay and continue.
And sometimes the entertainment may be right at the end, like when David Attenborough and his crew put in the “how we made this documentary” as an epilogue of their film.
When you see an idea you like, make sure you borrow it and use it well. We've used ideas from video and used it our books. We've been to a Sting concert and used some of the concepts in our podcasts. You can get ideas from everywhere if you look out for them—and more importantly—implement them.
My mother-in-law's Sunday school story didn't end well.
She managed to get the kids interested, but jealousy worked against her. She was told to stop the fun bits and focus only on the serious religious teaching, instead. You, on the other hand, aren't going to be pulled up if you add entertainment to your work.
However, you have to plan in advance. The entertainment isn't likely to just work its way into your syllabus. Sit down, create the entertainment. Start small and build from there.
Work is fun.
But play is just as educational, if not more so.
Sat, 11 November 2017
Procrastination is bad, right? Well, not quite. If you break up a project, you're likely to find most projects have five distinct sections. To get to the end of the project, you're going to need a form of managed procrastination. But how do you go about this form of procrastination? And why is it seemingly better to keep you focused? Let's find out in this episode, shall we?
Read the transcript online: #165: How to use procrastination to your advantage
Imagine you're sitting down late at night to get ready for your presentation the next day. And you find your slide deck is empty.
That's precisely what happened to me when I was conducting a workshop in California many years ago.
Usually, I'm very thorough, making sure everything is in order at least four-five days before we board the flight. This time, however, I'd somehow put off what I needed to do, confident I'd have enough time when I got to the U.S.
When preparing for workshops, I go through my slides anywhere between 10-15 times, and complete full run-throughs at least thrice, on the day before. So how come the slide deck was empty? Our workshops usually span three days or more, and the slides for Day One were just as they needed to be. But who looks for Day Two slides on Day One? Not me, at least.
Which brings us right to the evening of the first day, when I sat down to prepare myself for Day Two. That's when I realised many of the slides had incomplete information.
Procrastination doesn't have a good rap.
And rightly so. Just because we've pushed something out into the future, doesn't mean it's gone away. In fact, there's a good chance that unfinished task is a mega-energy drainer.
If I have to go for a medical checkup, and I can see that white slip in front of me, it bugs me. If you need to finish writing that chapter in your book, you spend enormous amounts of energy just pushing that task out on a future to-do list. However, there are times when procrastination can be good for you.
In this series, we'll cover three points:
1) How Deadline-Based-Procrastination Helps Formulate Better Thoughts
2) How Procrastination Can Help Manage the Email Deluge
3) Why Procrastination Can Be Good For Energy Levels (And When It’s Bad)
1) How Deadline-Based-Procrastination Helps Formulate Better Thoughts
In 1966, there was a study on the Ju/’hoansi bushmen that wander around the borderlands between Namibia and Botswana.
It found that the bushmen only worked seventeen hours a week, on average, to find their food. An additional nineteen hours were spent on domestic chores and activities. In all, their 36-hour week might seem pretty excessive when you consider that most working people aim for a 40 hour week.
However, our week is a lot longer
Even back in 1966, a comparable week in the United States was roughly double. 40 hours were spent at work, and about thirty-six, on average, on domestic labour. Today, adults employed full time in the U.S. report working an average of between 47-50 hours per week. That's more than a whole working day as compared with 1966.
All of this extra work only means one thing
The working brain of the Ju/’hoansi and the busy business owner in Beijing, is similar. But the demands on energy, distractions and travel have made procrastination an imposing part of our lives. Even if you were to go back just to my father's time. He ran a business, a secretarial college and while he put in a long workday from 8 am to 8 pm, he didn't have Facebook or a mobile phone.
Once he got on his train at night, he'd be eating roasted peanuts and nodding off as he made his way back home. In comparison, we have to battle all sorts of crazy stuff, just to get through the day. It's inevitable that as our energy depletes, our procrastination levels skyrocket.
Even so, procrastination can be a great ally when it comes to formulating thoughts
Take this article for instance. I write most of my articles within 5000bc, right in the forum, on forum software. Which means every member of 5000bc can see the progress of the article. This article, for example, started on 19th September. It was just an announcement of the article.
By the 20th, I'd only managed the three topics I was going to cover. As the 21st makes its way to another sunset, four paragraphs are in place. And then there's a “to be continued” added to the unfinished piece. If you look at this form of article writing, you can either consider it to be procrastination or progress.
I think it's procrastination and it's good when you're trying to maximise your creativity
Creative work, according to Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, there are five steps to getting to a sort of finish point. They are:
When you and I look at that list, there are five whole levels of procrastination
Tiny tasks would blur those five elements together in a matter of seconds. However, the moment you have to write an article, compose some music, or even put that plant you bought last week, it all requires five chunky steps. Trying to rush a project of some complexity through those stages, is likely to be counterproductive.
Even so, every stage of the procrastination process needs to be long enough, but not so long that you completely forget about it. The bigger the project, the more likely you're to push it to the back burner and then it just lies in a corner, unfinished.
Properly managed procrastination seems paradoxical
Procrastination by its very nature is putting off something for the future because you don't want to deal with it right now. Managed procrastination, however, is where you do a tiny bit, then put off the rest for just a little while. In some cases, you may start on the task in the morning, and continue your task a lot later in the day.
For other tasks, it might be a lot better to hit the pause button until the next day. While you're seemingly stuck on the pause button, your brain will come up with different angles to solve the problem. If you're writing an article, you'll have different examples, possibly even a different way of expressing yourself.
The more significant the task, the more the complexity
Writing an article might be no big deal for one person, but for you, it might mean a lot of sweat, tears and a bit of beer too. Even so, professionals tend to have some system that will take them through preparation, incubation, and insight. The job gets done as a first draft, then you come back to evaluation and for some elaboration.
The more we find ourselves working through these steps, the greater the procrastination. However, it's a managed form instead of simply putting things off, like we usually do.
Distraction has a bad name and rightly so
We're off on a tangent when we should be working on our project. Unlike the Ju/’hoansi Bushmen, we have too much to cope with all at once. When you accept distraction as part of your day to day life, procrastination becomes even more vital. You realise that once you're done with a pre-designated chunk of work, you're going to reward yourself with some distraction, so your brain doesn't slip into a downward spiral.
Hours later, or even a few days later, you're fresh, filled with a range of ideas and examples (that you no doubt jotted down) and the very same project has a raw new energy. The distraction, unfortunate as it may seem, is not quite so ugly if you plan for it in advance.
In previous versions of the Article Writing Course, I'd get clients to write an article every day
Then around 2016, someone mentioned that she was taking 3-4 hours to finish the article every night. I was appalled at the idea, because in my mind, clients should be taking between 60-90 minutes at best, to write an article.
If you spend 3-4 hours, you merely get exhausted, and the material isn't 300%, and often a lot worse than if you're not so exhausted. Hence I went about re-engineering the Article Writing Course. On Monday, the clients only write topics. On Tuesday they outline the topics.
As the week winds its way to Wednesday, they chip away at the article using the system of procrastination. Instead of writing five articles a week, they may end up with just two. However, those articles are of a higher quality, and the student isn't dreading the following week as much. Make no mistake; learning a new skill or working on a project with twists and turns, is never going to be easy.
However, slaving your way through it is a silly strategy. Going through several stages makes more much more productive, more valuable content and finished projects.
And if procrastination worked for projects alone, it would be wonderful. However, there's another excellent application for managed procrastination. I use it for my e-mail. How? Let's find out.
2) How to use procrastination to deal with the deluge of e-mail.
On Sunday nights, I sit down to go through my e-mail.
That way when I wake up on Monday, I expect my inbox to be empty or at least sparse.
Hah, I should be so lucky.
No matter how much you and I deal with e-mail, there's always more coming through. And easily the biggest problem with e-mail is that it drains you. If you're doubtful about this, start up a new e-mail account and look at the vast blankness of that account. Not a single e-mail sits in your inbox in that new account. And if you sneak back later, maybe 20 minutes later, there's still nothing to be seen.
Now if only you could make your current inbox so neat and tidy, eh?
Well, you can. And it's all a matter of managed procrastination. Email software has gotten very smart over the years and some of it is free, while some of it requires a subscription of some sort. What most modern e-mail software allows you to do is to push e-mail away until it's needed. Maybe someone is requesting an article that I won't tackle until next week.
Normally I'd just let it sit in my inbox, because it needs to be done. Or I may put it in a folder that I won't ever see again. But at this point, and because of e-mail software, I can push it away. In other words, procrastination comes to the rescue.
On any given day, I'll deal with the urgent e-mails right away.
Everything else gets pushed for later. Either later today, which is about 3 hours after reading it, or for the evening, weekend, next week, next month, or at a specific date and time. Like Friday, 29 Sep at 3:13 pm, for example. No matter how important you are as a person, most of your e-mail can be allocated to another time zone, when you're more likely to be able to tackle what needs to be done.
For instance, some emails that require more effort, I'll either deal with right now, or push until later. It's hard to say which ones you should keep and which ones you should push away. How you defer your e-mails depends on your work load and your mood.
But one thing is clear
If you've ever had an inbox with zero e-mails or just a couple of e-mails, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You feel like a burden has been lifted off your shoulders. You feel free. You feel excited—ok, ok, I'll stop. And yet, all this procrastination, managed as it is, may seem like you're just fooling yourself. We all put reminders and alarms and when we're supposed to do the task, we swipe away that reminder.
Won't the e-mail that comes back be just an excuse to swipe it away for somewhere in the future?
I once had a few e-mails that kept coming back
At first I'd send them off for a week, as they were not urgent. But I soon found myself pushing them away for a month. They showed up in the inbox in January, February, then again in March. April, May—which is when I decided I was never going to act on them and simply archived them to pull up, should I ever need them again. If you're never going to read that e-mail now or later, you may as well get rid of it or archive it (because you never know).
E-mail is a fact of life
We don't expect to get less. We're always going to get more. And it sucks our energy to keep scanning e-mails in our box, often opening some we've already read. Much better to clear up that box so that the e-mails appear later, or as when needed in the future. To get this job done, I used Boomerang for Gmail (which is a paid service and costs about $5 a month).
On the Mac, you also have Spark, which does an excellent job and strangely is free. I know nothing about the PC because I walked away from PCs back in 2008, though Boomerang works with Outlook and should be PC-friendly.
All e-mail isn't the same
Some need to be dealt with right away. Some can do with managed procrastination. Use the procrastination and you'll be more relaxed and you'll have that new e-mail account feeling yet again.
Which takes us to the third part—and probably the biggest reason why procrastination helps.
3) Why Procrastination Can Be Good For Energy Levels
If you head to Uluru, also known as Ayer's Rock, your first experience as you leave the airport, is an invasion of bush flies. Within seconds they're swarming all over your face and in some misguided effort, you try to get rid of them. Do what you will, but they keep coming and you have the sense of losing the battle.
Work can seem a bit like bush flies, at times
You try swatting it away, but it comes back with gusto. And as you take on the day, your energy keeps edging downward. That's how our brains function; first at reasonably high efficiency, and then we seem to get slower, even making more mistakes. Procrastination, managed procrastination makes for a great energy reboot.
Which is why I'll work for a couple of hours in the morning, then go for a walk. Then I'll work for another couple of hours and then go cook lunch. All of these breaks may well seem like “wasted time” but it's “time well wasted”.
But even within that “work time”, I'll mix up activities
For instance, I may start writing an article, but then move to answering e-mail, and then to writing detailed answers to questions asked by 5000bc members. Every activity is different and disconnected. The article writing might create the highest demand on my brain, which is when I have to procrastinate after a while. Trying to take on the article on the very same day might be totally counter-productive, so I'll go build the website or go to 5000bc, instead. The activities will vary between high energy and low, all day long.
However, in between there's a clear sense of adding chunks of procrastination.
Going from one end to the other is seen as focus
Most of us revere the concept of focus, but focus doesn't mean that you have to start and finish everything at one go. A lot of activities both work-related and non-work related could all do with the break up of the activity. For instance, when I'm talking a complex dish, I'll make sure I do it in phases. That phase by phase method is really nothing but a form of managed procrastination, and a good use of high energy vs. low energy tasks.
Procrastination is often seen as a form of laziness
And for some of us, that's just what it can turn out to be. We are either so drained by the activity that lies in front of us that we choose to avoid it, causing a further drain on energy. We know it's still on our to-do list and that drives us crazy, even though it's hard to admit it to ourselves.
However, managed procrastination is a whole different kettle of fish. When used well, it can keep your energy high so that at 5 pm every evening you're still raring to go, instead of feeling washed out and unable to do much.
Use procrastination to your advantage.
Use it to formulate better thoughts and better examples.
Use it in your e-mail to keep that inbox clean as a whistle.
And finally keep your energy high right through the day by mixing high and low energy tasks, thus using a slightly sophisticated version of procrastination.
Next Up: Can Resistance be Beaten?
We want to achieve a lot, but as soon as we get started, resistance kicks in. But did you know there are ways around resistance? Resistance loves to play the game of winner. We need to put resistance in second place. Here's how to go about the task of winning the resistance game.
Sun, 5 November 2017
Some days you just feel fed up of your work. You know you shouldn't. You love what you do, but you can't shake the feeling. You almost have to drag yourself to work and you don't know how to turn the day around.
That day can quickly turn into a second day. Before you know it, the week is a puddle of frustration. But there's a way out of this mess and it's incredibly simple. You can turn your day around in 30 minutes. Let's find out how.
You can read the transcript on the website: #164: How To Transform A Miserable Day Into A Happy One, In Under 30 Minutes
How to turn a miserable day around in 30 minutes: Episode 166
Some days you just feel fed up of your work
You know you shouldn't.
You love what you do, but you can't shake the feeling. You almost have to drag yourself to work and you don't know how to turn the day around. That day can quickly turn into a second day.
Before you know it, the week is a puddle of frustration. But there's a way out of this mess and it's incredibly simple.
You can turn your day around in 30 minutes. Let's find out how.
Right click here and ‘save as' to download this episode to your computer.
Sean D'Souza:Three Month Vacation
How to turn a miserable day around in 30 minutes How to turn a miserable day around in 30 minutes
I said it thrice on my walk this morning. And then Renuka pointed out that I was saying it yet again, as I reached the cafe. If you know me well, you probably know I'm always darting around at a squillion miles an hour. As a friend, Kimberley Carroll once said to me: “Sean you're a mad person. You're always busy doing things”.
Even so, at some point all of us hit a wall
It's not the kind of wall you're thinking of. This isn't a spiral into sadness, frustration and depression. It's just a feeling I tend to get into, when I sense I need a break. And instead of paying attention to what my brain and body is telling me, I dig my heels in and go to work.
I turn on my phone and listen to another podcast or audio book. I turn that moment into a learning episode.
Except today, my phone decided to have a mind of its own.
I turned on the phone on my walk back, expecting to continue listening to an audio book. Instead, the phone started playing my favourite music. Admittedly my music tastes are pretty eclectic. They go from quawwali, to African drums, some Turkish music.
Buried in the middle of it all is tango, Taylor Swift and Zhu. However, today my phone decided to play Randy Travis.
Yup, country music.
That's the twangy stuff that comes out of Nashville, Tennessee. The stuff that most people like to turn their noses up at. But for me, country music isn't weird at all. I pretty much grew up with a generous dose of country music.
Think about that; a kid growing up in Mumbai, India, listening to country music. But I didn't just listen to the Randy Travises, George Straits and Ricky Skaggs. I record whole country radio shows and listen to it repeatedly on the sound system
As you can tell, the music floods my brain with subtle waves of joy and growing up. Anyway, my earphones were plugged in, and there I was on my “horse”, listening to country music on my way back home.
But something had changed. I was no longer disgusted. I had a big smile on my face, and Renuka was struggling to keep up with my pace and stride. By the time I was back home, a mere half an hour later, I was a changed person.
The body and brain has a wall
We all run into that wall from time to time. Instead of paying attention to that obstruction, we try to bludgeon our way through it. What the brain is telling us, is that it seeks a bit of distraction; a good dose of downtime.
For most of us, music is an instant mood lifter. Yes, it's an obvious choice to turn our mood around, but strangely we seem to ignore it when we're in a foul mood. But why stop at music? What else makes you happy? I know a visit to the library makes me happy. So does a visit to the cafe, but not with any books or learning to do. Just to sit there and watch the world go by—that's a big fun-trip.
Most days my to-do list is fine, even important, but on some days I need to block my ears.
Instead of listening to my to-do list, I need to pay attention to your brain and body. Bowing to the demands of a to-do list is bound to make me even more miserable. Instead today, instead of wallowing in frustration, I decided to have some fun on a Thursday. I blasted the music, cooked some food, went for a haircut and wandered through the public library. I even thought of driving down to the ferry and jumping on it and going around to the city, for no particular reason.
A miserable day is a miserable day only because we choose to make it miserable
It's not something that can be solved with a tub of ice-cream or half a dozen cookies. Work is a lot of fun for a lot of us, but we often fail to realise that work is a series of projects. Take for instance, the work I've been doing this week. I had to write an entire sales page, draw cartoons, put in videos and organise the layout for a sales page.
We're having a sales page/landing page workshop in Singapore and Brussels next April and clients have been asking for details so they can sign up. Having finished that sales page, I had another chunky assignment. I needed to finish my presentation for a speech I'm giving in Australia in early November. These are big, mind-taxing projects.
What would you do right after you finished this volume of work? I'll tell you what I did. I ploughed right into another project, because just like you I have another twenty thousand things to complete.
Yet that was completely the wrong thing to do and it's no wonder that I was feeling rotten
And that's when my phone decided to take over my life. It played music, instead of yet another audiobook. It's something that we all need to understand if we're to make our work more fun and with greater meaning.
What's really cool is that it doesn't take a lot of effort.
Blast the music.
Do something you really like doing.
In half an hour you'll feel so good, you'll almost feel like going to work. I feel so energised that I came to work, but only to write this article. I'm off to library-land and to drink a coffee with no other agenda in mind for today.
I'll be back tomorrow, re-energised
It's been four days.
Am I still fed up? Or energised?
P.S. It's Monday morning and I forgot that I was irritated four days ago.
The weekend helped as well. I watched a TV series for five, maybe six hours straight on Netflix. I slept at 1 am, woke up at 7. I did a lot of drawings, played with my nieces on the weekend. I suppose that storm has passed for more than one reason.
But the primary reason is that I was jumping from one project to the other.
I wasn't rewarding myself mentally, by taking the time off. And that's when it all feels like too much work. That mental refreshment is underrated these days. We're all supposed to be on the go, go, go, all the time. Instead, just filling in my mind with fun activities and a great deal of no activity, I woke up to a bright Monday with no recollection of Thursday.
I'm still singing country songs.
I must be happy.
If you're keen on turning your day around, this is definitely the way to go
Stop doing work, because work will always be around. Even if you're employed and can't just take the day off, like I could, you can still take a short break, turn on the music and go for a walk. If you're like me, and have your own business, take the rest of the day off.
In all the years I've been in business, I've never ever seen the to-do list go down. No matter how much you do, there's always a lot to be done. Take the day off, refresh your brain, sleep—sleep a lot, because that's what your brain is craving.
And that creates a turnaround. Suddenly work is fun again.
Sat, 28 October 2017
How do you get clients to return?
One of the most underrated tactics is often right under your nose. Yet most people having events don't realise the mistake they're making and have to work a lot harder to get clients to come back.
In this episode we look at what every business should do: not just get a client but get the client to come back repeatedly.
Read online: How to Get Clients To Return To An Offline Event
If you head down to the South Island of New Zealand, you'll run into a little French town called Akaroa.
The story goes all the way back to 1838 when the commander of the French whaling ship Cachalot what can only be called a slightly questionable purchase of the land around the area. Then, the French colonists left France to sail to New Zealand to establish a French colony.
The French did get to Akaroa but found a treaty had been signed between the Māori and the British. The whole of New Zealand was officially a British colony. As the story goes, the French were just a wee bit late.
The French seemingly missed out on yet another colony, and we can feel the impact of being late when it comes to testimonial-gathering as well.
But why testimonials?
Because testimonials are the lifeblood of any organisation, product or service.
The more testimonials you have in place, the more the prospective client can experience your product or service, long before they pay for it. Which is why books have testimonials on their dust jackets, and websites have testimonials on every single product or service.
But back to the concept of lateness
If you wait long enough, the client is unlikely to give you a testimonial, simply because they've gotten too busy. It's also harder for the client to gush as much once they've moved on.
2) How and when to get testimonials
Getting a testimonial for an event is almost as important as the event itself. For one, when a client gives a testimonial, they're ratifying they made the right decision to attend the event. However, it gives you, the person holding the event, a chance to make sure you never have to struggle to fill in seats in future.
Which is why you should get testimonials during the breaks
If you don't have breaks in your event, there's no way to stop the juggernaut from rolling on. At Psychotactics we have workshops, and for information-based events, it's critical to have many breaks or clients simply get more tired.
If you're having an event like a cooking class or a watercolour class, something that's not usually break-oriented, it's easy to forget that every event could do with a break of some sort. People need to get to the toilet; they need just to step outside or reduce the intensity of what's happening.
Most trainers or people hosting events fail to pay attention to the concept of breaks, merely because they think it will stop the flow of the event. What you'll quickly realise is that people regroup speedily and focus better after a short break. It gives you some downtime as the organiser, and it leaves some room should something go wrong during the event.
If you simply go from one end to the other, you're not really planning for any chaos, and as we know, that's a hazardous strategy. Chaos can erupt from nowhere, and it's best to prepare for it in advance, by having at least one, if not several breaks.
It's in this break that you're going to be able to get your testimonial
Usually a client will be having a great time and will come and tell you so. It will quickly be evident as to who's having the most fun, and you can usually go up to them and ask if you can shoot a quick video.
Be prepared to know in advance where you can shoot the video, ideally some places that are slightly quieter and away from the scene of action. I tend to use another room or another area close enough, but far away from the group.
Ideally get 2-3 people to give testimonials, and in about 10 minutes, you can get about three quick testimonials that can be used in a video, audio, or when transcribed, in text format.
Be sure to use the six-questions found in The Brain Audit
The Brain Audit gives you typical questions to ask a client, and when you use the format of the six-questions, you get a client experience instead of yet another sugar-coated testimonial. It also gives you a clear pathway to follow when asking the testimonial. You rarely have time as you have to get back to the event itself.
Even so, you may well run out of time, and it's good to schedule testimonials for the breaks, but also for a short time after the event. Despite all your best intentions, sometimes it's not possible to get the testimonials, or all the testimonials during the event.
Even if that's the case, ask people if you can call them on Skype video and get a testimonial. Most people will agree, and that serves as a form of an appointment, and you've more or less got your testimonial in the bag.
Waiting for a testimonial after the event can often be too late
Once people leave, or if they don't make a commitment to speak later, the task of getting a testimonial gets increasingly harder as the days go by. You're eager to recover after your event, and they're keen to go back to their lives.
This means you've lost the one thing that's incredibly important to business: third party proof. Getting a testimonial needs to be almost as important as conducting the event itself.
At Psychotactics we've goofed not once or twice, but often
It's quite tiring getting an event off the ground. You're never quite sure whether clients are quite ready for the testimonial. And notice that break?
That break should give you a breather as well, but you're often using it to get testimonials. However, we've had to learn to structure our testimonial system in a way that we get a bit of a break and get our testimonials too.
There are times when it's all too much to do on the day itself. For instance, we hosted some really popular meetups that were three hours long but went on for six and seven hours.
It was difficult to break away from the fun and chatter to record a testimonial. It does feel a lot like work, and it takes an iron resolve to keep working when everyone is having a great time.
If it's really so hard to break away, simply ask the group to write each of their names on a piece of paper and give it to you. Later, you know who's keen to provide you with the testimonial, and you can call in or video chat and get your testimonial.
Testimonials are how clients decide, so getting them early is critical to your business. But there's one more thing to cover, isn't there? It's about getting the clients back. How do you do that?
Let's find out.
3) How to get clients to come back.
If you were to get a dolphin to do a trick in the pool, would the size of the reward matter?
In the wonderful book, “Don't Shoot the Dog”, author, Karen Pryor talks about how a dolphin would learn and execute a trick. However, the trainer decided to give the dolphin a smaller fish as a reward.
You'd think the dolphin wouldn't bother too much, considering a fish is a fish, is a fish. However, dolphins do care about the specifics too, just like humans. Which is why if you get a client to come to your event once, you're going to have to figure out how to get them to keep coming back.
You've probably heard that getting a new client is the most expensive part of a business, right?
Even if you don't spend any money on advertising or publicity, getting a client to trust you and attend your first event is a huge task. And your mission should be to get the client to come back repeatedly, if possible.
When a client trusts you, they're likely to sign up at higher prices, and without needing you to create a long sales page and endless promotional messages. Which brings us back to the fish, doesn't it? Why do clients tend to come to one event and never return?
There are many reasons why clients may not return, but one of the most significant responsibility lies with you
One of the biggest reasons why clients come to information based events is, ironically, not to get information. We may believe they come to get more knowledge, but YouTube is full of information.
So is Google, Bing and their inbox. The reason they're coming to you is to get less confusion and more skill. Strangely, the information you're imparting can only be less confusing if you just what's required.
When we started out with Psychotactics, we had no idea how to get the client back to an event
We got lucky because we sat down and did some planning in advance. At the very first event, where I presented early concepts found in The Brain Audit, I had an ending section where I talked about follow up sessions.
For $75 a month, clients could be part of a group that learned different concepts just like The Brain Audit. We'd didn't have the money to book a venue, so we asked for help, and people offered their offices since no one was around after 6 pm anyway. But why did clients sign up for the follow-up sessions?
It's because they got their reward, their right-sized fish, the first time they showed up. That presentation, as amateur as it may have been, got them to a result and they were keen to come back.
If you're hosting an event, clients are eager to get a similar sort of reward } If you're teaching them how to do a pose in yoga, please don't spend the evening showing them ten thousand poses. Show them one or two and get them to a result.
If you have a cooking class, don't run around like a headless chicken trying to get five-six dishes going. A single dish, maybe two will do the job. Clients are increasingly going nuts with the level of information that's streaming through their doors.
What they're looking for isn't a bucketload of fish. They just want one—provided it's the right size.
When we did our first event, we didn't expect anyone to sign up for future events
All the same, we put our strategy together and were pleasantly surprised when about ten people signed up and consistently showed up over the year to follow. Some of those clients then attended higher priced workshops and even ended up consulting with us.
All of this information is very important for those of us who've grown up believing that everything can be done online. The internet is a great tool to market our business, but just starting up a blog and hoping people will visit is a strategy that may get you quickly disappointed.
The core of today's world is a factor of overwhelm, but also a sense of loneliness. Which is why an offline workshop or event should deliver not just a factor of skill, but also the chance to meet others on a similar journey.
So what do you do from this point on?
The first thing you need to do is to work out how you can get the client the reward he/she is seeking. If they come to an event that promises they'll learn to make mozzarella, then all of them should be walking out with that mozzarella-making skill.
Once you have them at the event, and possibly get a few testimonials, you need to do them the courtesy of asking them to come back repeatedly. Even if you're hosting an event in a different country, there's a high likelihood that clients will come back to future events.
Over 50% of the attendees at any event, have met with us before or been through our courses or events. We invite them back to another event, and they come along happily because they enjoy the experience.
If you're going to do an event, plan for six, or ten
This is true especially if your audience is local. The key is to prepare, go into the event, give the participants a skill and call them back. That's the way to go about making sure your events are full in future.
Three things to consider:
1) Where you'll get your clients
2) How and when to get testimonials
3) How to get them to come back.
Now go out there and host your event and give your computer a break ￼.
Next Up: Imagine being a hostage at your own workshop!
Imagine not having access to your own venue; having to take permission from someone else just to conduct your event. This is the crazy story of the very first Psychotactics U.S. Workshop. And while it's an entertaining story all by itself, there's a lot to learn as well for any small business owner.
Click here to read more: The Psychotactics Story_The Craziness of The Very First US Workshop
Sat, 21 October 2017
Most of us dream of having an online business
We are led to believe it's fine to just start up a blog and the audience will show up. Reality is a lot different. It takes time for an audience to appear. And when they do appear, it takes time to trust you.
So how do you speed up that process of client acquisition and trust? Welcome to the land of offline events. In this episode we'll see why you should have the event and how to get your clients.
Read the transcript online: Why You Need An Offline Event to Boost Your Chances of Success
I don't like Microsoft Excel. However, my wife, Renuka does.
She can spend hours, even days tinkering with that “weird” program and come up with some statistics that are plainly astounding. One day as we sat down to lunch, as we do every afternoon, she announced the results of her morning escapade with Excel.
“Guess what percentage of our income is derived from workshops and offline events?”
Before I could answer, she revealed her statistics. The income we earned from offline events was barely 2% of our income. This tiny percentage wasn't terribly surprising to both of us, because we knew that conducting international events was an expensive exercise. Even so, I was a bit ambivalent at the thought of putting in so much work and getting a return of just 2%.
That's when Renuka revealed her ace, “Guess how much of our income comes as a direct result of those events?” she continued. And mercifully I didn't need Excel to answer that question, because I've done the hand-raising ceremony at our live events. What's the hand-raising ceremony, you ask?
At workshops, I will ask how many clients have done one online course with us, and at least 50% of the hands go up. Then I ask them to keep their hands raised if they've done two courses and few hands, if any, go down.
Three courses? The hands still stay up. The courses at Psychotactics are not necessarily cheap. While some start at around $900, the hands-on courses can cost as much as $3300.
If at this point you think that it's the online courses that lead clients to come to the in-person workshop, then it's the other way round.
Clients that meet us in person, tend to sign up for the online courses, and then just for good measure come back and attend an in-person event as well. It makes perfect sense to you, when you think of it in terms of dating, doesn't it? A relationship can be formed online, but to make sure you're not picking the wrong person, you and I, we both have to do the offline thing: we have to meet.
The exciting bit about the meeting is that it doesn't always have to be a big event
At Psychotactics, we've had three-day, four-day, even seven-day in-person workshops. At other times, we've had a presentation for between 20-45 minutes. But there have also been situations where we've just spent a few hours in a meetup, given answers to client's questions and then gone for an extended lunch or dinner.
In every case, the results are similar. Clients that get to know us don't bother to go to the sales page with a fine tooth comb. When we offer a product, workshop or course, they sign up instantly. They have met us offline, they get to know us well, and they trust us. When you see and meet someone one the flesh, you can often make a pretty accurate assessment of whether to go ahead or not.
Which is why despite the meagre 2% income from workshops and events, we continue to run offline events.
But what if you're just starting out?
You may not have any books or products to sell the clients who attend your event. You aren't likely to have an online course or training system.
Is it still worth it? Without a doubt, it's one of the best ways to get started, no matter what you're planning to do for a living. In most cases, a workshop will get you to interact with clients, you'll find out what interests them, and you'll get instant feedback. Plus, if you do your budgeting well, you're likely to make more than just 2%.
When we did our very first workshop back in the early days of Psychotactics, we were rewarded for our audacity.
I was part of a networking group, and I cajoled several of the members to show up and bring their friends along. The fee was $75 for the evening. The cafe owner offered to rent us the place for no cost and even provided the coffees free of charge. That event netted us $1500 because 20 people showed up.
But it didn't stop at that point. It's a well-known fact that the hardest sell is the first one, so I'd prepared myself to sell recurring events just like this one. How did we go about this task? And how do you do something similar?
This series will cover three core factors.
1) Why consider planning an event—offline
2) Where to get clients
3) How to get people to sign up and the next step.
1) Where to get your clients
When I was just about eight or nine years old, I had a job on Sundays.
Not every Sunday, of course, but around the months of late May and most of June was when my father needed my brother and me to pitch in, in the family business. Since my father ran a secretarial college, admissions would start in July, which meant that we had to stand outside churches and hand out a leaflet. After reading those flyers, many young women would then sign up for the year-long batch that started in July.
But why churches? As it turned out, most secretaries at the time were almost exclusively Catholic.
In Mumbai, India, masses are held on Sundays, on the hour from 6 am, and then all the way until 10 am. Which meant that we'd often be giving out hundreds of leaflets to everyone coming out of the church.
Some of whom would either become secretaries or would pass on the leaflet to a friend or relative. In effect, to start up any business, you need to show up and make yourself known in places where your future clients congregate.
If you've been brought up on the goodness of the internet, you might think the best idea in the world is to sit behind a computer, write a blog and the clients will come rushing in. In several cases that method of creating content is valid, but it could take a lot of time, money and energy to get that kind of business model off the ground. Which is why you may as well take a deep breath and go offline. Scary as it may seem, it's time to do an in-person event instead.
Which raises a very pertinent question: Where do you get clients?
The answer is not apparent and for good reason Let's say you wanted to start a cooking class. Let's say you're no champ at making Michelin starred meals, but you're no slouch at cooking either.
Where would you go? Do you randomly post leaflets into your neighbourhood boxes? That's one option, but there would be a lot of waste as it's unlikely that everyone in your neighbourhood is suddenly going to be interested in investing a frying pan and heading to your class.
Instead, go looking for a problem that needs solving.
When you look at the leaflets being distributed outside the church, it seems like a scattergun approach, doesn't it? However, as we already noted, there was a method to the madness. The girls were out of school or college and back in the early seventies, those were among the only jobs available to them.
It enabled them to get more independent and earn a reasonable income. When looking for your audience, you too need to look at the problem you're solving and not focus on just the solution. The problem you're likely to address is: unsure of how to make meals that kids love? The answer is “how to make meals that kids will eat in minutes”.
And where would you find kids? Right, you figured it out, didn't you? At the playground, in schools—even in doctor's waiting rooms fighting those millions of germs they seem to attract.
But what if you're selling a product instead, like a microphone?
Again, we don't necessarily start out with an audience, but tackle the problem, instead. What problem does the microphone solve? The Rode Podcaster, for instance, combines broadcast quality audio with the simplicity of USB connectivity, allowing recording direct to a computer without the need for an additional digital interface.
Suddenly finding kids and their parents for a cooking class seems a lot simpler, doesn't it? However, you're more likely to find a group of podcasters that meet locally. If you look up a site like MeetUp.com, you're more than likely to find all sorts of different groups.
But what if you looked long and hard and not a single podcast group shows up? Well, let's go past the technology problem and see what problem a microphone can solve. It helps a business owner record podcasts, or just have better-sounding screen recordings or screen videos for their business. The business owner can simply plug in the microphone, and they're well on their way to recording without needing to get muddled up with digital interfaces.
Every product or service is going to solve a problem
Sometimes you can find clients in an obvious place.
For example, we were able to find clients at our networking group. However, we also went on to meet with a group of coaches who held their weekly meetings not far from where we lived. We found dentists who needed marketing advice. I know this sounds bizarre, but we also wrote and got paid for articles in an alpaca magazine. We didn't get to do a workshop or in-person event with the alpaca folks, but the example is designed to show you how to look beyond the obvious.
In some cases, your audience is likely to be pretty narrow
Kelly Q lives in Australia, and her audience is a relatively tiny niche of “supply teachers”. Know what happens when your kid's teacher can't make it for the day? They get a temporary teacher, don't they? They're called “supply teachers” or “teachers for the day”.
Kelly writes a book that helps them work out the issues that plague supply teachers, and her business has started to take off. Where did she find her audience? Not offline, but online in teaching groups and Facebook groups. In her case, the Internet has come to the rescue and enabled her to sell her book. Yes, it's not an offline audience, to begin with, but over time every audience whether you find them online or offline can be engaged within a real setting, in a real place, and drinking real coffee.
2) What's the first step to finding an offline audience?
Sit down with a couple of friends or someone who knows your business well and write a list of the problems your company solves. Once you have the problem, or problems worked out, you can find out the audience that needs your solution. If you're still struggling a bit, try going to a site like MeetUp.com.
For Psychotactics, I had no luck with volleyball teams, or with potters, but that got me to think of volleyball coaches who might need marketing advice or pottery companies. With a little bit of brainstorming, you should be able to find several groups or at least ideas for where to get started.
But what's next? How do you go about getting people to sign up for your event?
3) How to get people to sign up to your event
You know the phrase that says, “Think Big”? Well, the way to get people to sign up, is to get rid of the idea of thinking big. And I stumbled upon this “think small” idea quite by mistake. When we started out, I'd always compare myself with more prominent marketers, and somehow extrapolate their numbers to my own. If they had 5000 people at their event, I automatically assumed that 150 people at my to-be-event were entirely feasible. Then I ran into a friend of mine, Kushla Martin, excitedly told me about an event she was attending and that she'd paid $75 for the event.
Two things struck me at once
The first thing I realised was that it wasn't some elaborate event that I was always dreaming about. It was a simple speech that would take an hour, possibly a couple of hours. Kushla was more than happy to go out, get inspired and pay $75 for the advice.
The $75 was the second point that stuck in my head. When you have to make a decision that involves hundreds or thousands of dollars, there's a lot of decision-making, fund-checking to be done. With an $75 event price, it was relatively easy to decide to go. Even though my business was relatively new, I too had been to at least two or three events that ranged in the $50 to $75 range.
But how do you get people to sign up for your event?
You merely announce the event, the venue and put a price on it. Remember that clients aren't coming to your event just to support you, though a few friends might just do that. They're there to learn something so that they can use it in their own lives and business. So ask yourself: what will the clients get as a result of attending your event?
Sachie's Kitchen in Auckland, New Zealand started with a simple goal in mind. Run by Sachie Nomura who's Japanese and her husband, Nick (who is Kiwi-Chinese) their goal was to take the most helpless cook and turn him or her into what they call a “black belt of Japanese cooking” in a single 2 ½ hour session.
A cookbook store called CookTheBooks, also in Auckland, turned their backyard shed into a kitchen of sorts teaching (and serving) Sri Lankan, Moroccan, North African, Spanish and other cuisines. The clients that come to their events know exactly what result they'll get. In Sachie's kitchen it's a masterclass on Japanese cooking.
In CooktheBooks, it's a bit of knowledge of the cuisine, but it's a great fun evening out and hence it attracts office groups and friends along.
Should you consider having free events?
You could, but it's hard to get people to show up to free events. Remember those series of sessions we did back when we first started? Those were paid sessions, and you could safely say that between 80-90% showed up month after month. Several years later, we decided to give back to the community and host free monthly sessions of one hour each.
For over a year, participants turned up, and the room was always packed with 40 people, but it was never the same people. When an event is free, it's easier to stay at home if it's a windy, rainy day. We found the same with our meetups worldwide. When we'd announce a free meet up in a city, people would turn up, but not in force.
The moment we started charging a modest fee of $30 or so, everyone turned up. Free events are harder to market and even harder to sell. It's better to restrict your free goodies to something online or also something you can give away at the event itself. By and large, you'd do well to avoid free events.
What do you do next?
Depending on how you publicise your event, you can put details on sites like Eventbrite or EventFinda. Those are event sites in this part of the Pacific. You'll have some event sites on your side of the world.
f you're meeting with a group of people, for example, a group of volleyball coaches, you can get them to sign up and often pay through a mobile device. Finally, don't forget to print a few leaflets that talk about the results you're going to get the clients. If you just want them to meet and have a great time, make that the focus of your leaflet and marketing. If you want it to be deadly serious, that's fine too. I've been to watercolour classes, photography sessions, dancing lessons and even bought a couple of houses as a result of offline events.
However, once you've got the event going, it's time to think of the next step
You'd think the contents of the event are pretty important, right? And they are, but that's what you have to put together. No one can tell you what agenda you need.
You can pretty much work it out yourself, and even if you're feeling reasonably nervous, no one is going to notice. The first 5-10 minutes of any event are reasonably nerve wracking but once you settle in, the crowd relaxes, and everyone has a decent time. However, while settling in, you may easily forget a crucial next step.
Next Up: How do we get clients to come back?
How do you get clients to return? One of the most underrated tactics is often right under your nose. Let's look at what every business should do—not just get a client but get the client to come back repeatedly.
Direct download: 162-Why_You_Need_An_Offline_Event.mp3
-- posted at: 12:00pm +13
Sat, 14 October 2017
How do you redefine the term “passion”?
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.
You can read this episode online: One Buttock Passion
In a TED Talk that's been watched over 9 million times, the conductor of the Boston Philamornic, talks about a seven year-old child.
And this is what conductor, Benjamin Zander, says in his speech.
He talks about a seven-year old child and what he sounds like when he's pounding on the piano. Clearly, the sounds that emanate from the piano border on pain. Even so, if that seven-year old practices for a year and yes, takes lessons, he's now eight. And the piano isn't screaming out in terror any more.
Benjamin Zander goes on to talk about how the child sounds when he's nine, then when he's ten. At which, point, Zander suggests that most kids give up. However, if he'd waited for one more year, he would have sounded pretty wonderful.
Zander takes pain to suggest that it's not that the kid became suddenly passionate, engaged or hit puberty. He explains that when the child was younger, he was playing with an impulse on every note. Then as he got better, he was playing with an impulse on every other note. At 10, it was every eight notes. And the 11-year-old had one impulse on the entire phrase.
Zander calls this the “one buttock” moment
When instead of hogging the piano stool with both buttocks, the music takes over and you're taken over by the music itself, so that you're playing on a single buttock. People who try to find their passion are two-buttock players. At the start of their journey they're struggling to hit the right impulses and this is because of the information they get about passion.
-Stop looking for your passion.
-Knowing something well and solving someone's problem is more commonplace than you believe.
-Why the terminology is all wrong—and hence drives us crazy.
-What if you know too much or too little?
Think about passion for a second and what does it sound like to you?
It sounds remarkably like love at first sight, doesn't it? You don't equate passion with spending five years chasing after a girl or a guy to get their attention. Instead, it's quick, it's instant. You have a new type of drink, possibly a wonderful Pisco sour, and you fall head over heels with it.
Now you want to talk about it to everyone. You want Pisco sour for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if possible. It's all about instant, now, magical moments. And that's what passion sounds like to everyone, whenever it's brought up in a conversation.
But passion for your work is almost never like that It's almost always a kind of slight attraction, a lot of frustration, some joy, some more frustration, some more joy. And then bingo, you look backwards and it's no longer two-buttocks on the seat.
Take me for example. Most people consider me to be a really proficient writer. Without fail and for 40 weeks a year, I diligently turn out at least 5000 words a week. That's the bare minimum, by the way. However, I had no passion for 500 word-articles, let alone 5000. In time, I could turn out 500 word articles while conducting two courses, it was that easy. And may I add, fun too. I was one-buttocking my way to writing.
In 2014, I started writing longer pieces that progressively moved into the 5000 word zone.
As we were having coffee this morning, Renuka reminded me how I was getting upset with her all the time. Well, really I was getting upset with myself. I couldn't come up with topics. Writing 5000 word articles would drain me completely. I'd reach out to her to get ideas, and of course it wasn't something that she was interested in, so it wasn't possible to suggest something as quickly as I needed it.
This would cause me to complain, and quite bitterly at times, that she wasn't helping me at all. In reality, I was a one-buttock 500-word writer, but a two-buttock 5000-word writer. Then, later, much later in 2017, something happened. Yes, you know what happened. I was writing and able to look at the back as well and notice that one buttock was off the chair.
Now I have the opposite problem I have so many 5000 word articles, that I barely have time to write them. I have about 5 or 6 of them outlined and ready to go, and by the time I write them, it will be a week or two from today. By which time, another 5 or 6 will be in the queue, if not more. The passion I'm feeling for writing, just wasn't there when I started Psychotactics, then it came along. Then it wasn't there at the 5000 article mark, and now it's suddenly all fun and games again.
Even so, there's nothing instant about passion. The idea of passion is all wrong.
This one-buttock stuff just takes time. This is not a Pisco sour where you swig it down and you hit an instant high. This is slow, often boring, consistently frustrating progress. One more example and I'm out of here.
I recently bought an app because I love cooking. The name of this app is Paprika (yes, like the spice). And I was instantly in love with it. I could use it on day one and I continued to sing its praises. I even did a double spread cartoon about the app in my Moleskine diary. This experience with the Paprika app is diametrically different to the the experience with Evernote. I didn't like Evernote. I found it hard to work with. I made excuses, I deleted it from my computer, from my iPhone and then installed it again.
Then over time, as I learned how amazingly eccentric it was, I started to love it. And today I'm passionate about Evernote. How do I know that to be true? Because if you gave me the option of deleting one app and keeping the other, the Paprika's head would be on a plate in a second. I would never, ever, ever, ever, give up Evernote, if I could help it.
So all this talk about follow your passion is going to take you nowhere because the starting point is more frustration than one-buttock playing. Which leaves us with a nagging question.
Where do you go from here?
The key is to start learning something you think would work for you. Maybe learn how to do some pottery; or make face cream; or how to build running shoes. Perhaps you're already skilled at something and need to get the message out and need to learn about how to give a better presentation or write better. Wherever you are now, it's where all entrepreneurs are at any point in their lives.
They are almost always in transition. There's almost always that point where you get a bit fidgety and want to do something else, or at least the same thing differently. Whatever it is you have an inkling for, the only way to get the passion to keep going until you look back and see your one buttock.
It's an inexact science, but it boils down to a few simple steps
You start, not necessarily knowing where you're going You run into a lot of frustration until things start to ease up a bit. You aren't doing very well, but you still love what you do, and you persist. Eventually, the tide turns in your favour. You get terrific. And clients think you're close to perfect. It's an inexact science that requires a good deal of focus and persistence.
That's when your passion will find you. And that's all I can really say. The journey is long, but it sure is interesting. You may as well start today.
A few questions on passion:
1) I do have a question: How do you find that intersection passion or even exploring a passion and solving someone's problem? Especially when you have too many interests and passions & can solve several problems just like you can. Or you just pick one and stick with it until you find a reason to change the course.
2. How about people who draw a complete blank on their hobbies, interests or often times they are things like playing tennis but at 50, bodies don't cooperate very well, or a mum who wants to learn calligraphy but fears what's the point of that and where will that lead her, or someone who simply draws a blank? I have met several people like this and it fascinates me that I have a complete different problem to what they are struggling with.
Everyone has either a problem where they feel they know nothing.
Or they know too much. The point is the people who feel they know nothing, haven't really thought things through. I know a woman who for years was just a stay-at-home mother. Technically, that doesn't get you very far if you're looking for a job or want to start a business. She had no intention of starting a business, so she got a job. And how do you get a job if you don't have the skill? That's an easy answer, isn't it?
You look at what you want to learn, and you learn it. Then you apply for the job, and if you meet the requisite needs of the employer, voilà, you have the job. We all know how this system works, don't we? Most of us have had to do some kind of job at some point, whether at home or at work, and we get the skills and off we go.
If you know nothing or believe you know nothing, you have to learn something
This very same person never cooked much. For her a sandwich is as interesting as a fancy meal. Even so, she got herself some cookbooks and took to baking. She now bakes all the time and turns out some great pies, muffins and all sorts of goodies that you and I are not supposed to eat. Once again, no experience, no knowledge magically turns to a high level of skill.
Almost everyone can create something, if they're not physically or mentally handicapped. It sounds trite when someone says the word “simple”, but it's really that simple. To get a skill, you have to learn a skill. To get better at the skill, you have to practice the skill. To get good at muffin-making, you have to burn some muffins before you get your Michelin stars. The same analogy applies to business.
You can sit around thinking that you know nothing, can do nothing and end up doing nothing
The result of all this inactivity isn't nothing. It's a few levels below nothing. Feelings of uselessness wash over you with increasing rapidity. Others see you as directionless and lazy, or just confused. Yet, think of yourself as being 15 years old again and wanted to move into a career. You wouldn't be aimless. You'd pick a college. You'd pick a university. You'd do a professional course. You'd learn, and acquire the skill knowing fully well that it was just a matter of time before you had enough ability to do the task.
There is the flip side to ability, of course.
When I was 25, I felt like I was a bit cursed. I adored Photoshop. I wanted to spend all day with it. But I also drew cartoons. Hey, I could use Photoshop to draw cartoons. No clash of interests, there, are there? But what if you can write, draw, dance, cook, and find there are subsets of everything. Because cooking can involve Italian cooking, but also French. It can involve Sri Lankan cooking, Thai, Malaysian, or Indian.
Suddenly the options are too many. And the excuses increase with every subsequent option. Well, you have to “kill some of your babies”. If you're so very talented, so very skilled, you have to sit down and get yourself a nice big red pencil. Then you make a list of what you can do, by crossing out everything that isn't important right this minute.
You pick one and you stay the course, just like you'd do with a marriage. If things go sour, and you've given it your all, it's time for a change.
The problem with passion is that it changes all the time
When I was growing up, I was a shy kid. All those cartoons you see; all that skill you think is inborn isn't a result of some magical gene in my family. If you go back many generations, you'll find zero cartoonists in our family. All of that drawing came from a lot of encouragement and being much too shy to talk to too many people.
I went through a lot of years, all the way into the first couple of years of university, being relatively shy. If there was one thing I was passionate about, it was drawing. It got better over the years, people complimented me about my talent all the time, and more importantly, it was a perfect “chick magnet”.
While other guys were busy trying to get the attention of the girls in university, I'd sit quietly in the corner of the canteen. I'd drink my chai, open my book and start drawing. Before long, a few girls would be oohing and aahing over the drawings. I didn't have to go and find the girls; the cartoons drew them to me. That's how I got over my shyness, and that's how my passion for drawing cartoons burned even brighter.
But by the time I was in university I wanted to be a copywriter
By the time I'd spent a year and a half in copywriting, I wanted to script 30-second commercials. Then, on a whim, I decided to go back to cartoons. The journey to New Zealand back in the year 2000, caused me to want to get into marketing. Could I end up becoming a chef in the next few years, or find myself obsessed with origami?
It's hard to tell, but look at the story of most entrepreneurs or freelancers, and a common thread starts to reveal itself. Passions change over time, and the starting point of passion is almost always marked by lots of enthusiasm—and a lot of frustration.
It's hard to imagine it now, but back in the years 2000 and 2001 it was really a slog trying to get clients I was passionate about jumping into marketing, but no one else was willing to pay me for it—not for a while at least. And sure we had our website up and running. Sure, we wrote articles. You have to do that for yourself, if not for anyone else.
But the slog continued for quite a while. That frustration is the starting point, and it seems to swirl about like a fog for the longest time. Which is when most people give up and try to find something else.
Something easier, or shinier. And this is where I think the concept of the 10,000 hours really shines.
I don't believe you need to do 10,000 hours to gain a talent
You can get good enough to be hired in a fraction of that time. Even so, the 10,000 hoursmeans you're deep into what you think is important to you. It shows persistence, and if you're spending that much time learning, you will also figure out ways to make things work for you. When I started cartooning, I had no clue how to earn an income. I persisted and found areas where I could make my mark and get paid for it.
The same applies to any skill. At first, if you're floundering, you'll be in that position for a while. If you study your profession well; if you keep improving your skills and more importantly, get away from that computer and into the real world, you'll find that your passion will eventually find its way to you.
In the end it's not about whether you have a passion or not. No one starts off wanting to be an engineer at a waste-recycling plant. No kid runs into the room saying, “when I grow up, I want to sell USB cables to the world”. It's something that you find along the way. That passion comes when you play enough on two buttocks and find you're having fun.
And you know it's one buttock time. For now. Tomorrow, or next year, who knows?
Next up: We are told to start up a business doing what we're passionate about.
How do we know what we are passionate about in the first place?
Let's explore the concept of passion and why you should let your passion find you instead.
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.
But don't you need to know something well before you solve someone else's problem?
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)