Archive of posts from September 2020

September 30, 2020     Daily Post

We learn when we’re surprised

We learn when we’re surprised

In school and in sales letters, it’s that which surprises and relates to us that we remember most.

A company that has a new and improved product for a low low price? Yawn, seen it all before, and we’ll see it all again.

An internet marketer with an ‘irresistible offer’ of a limited-stock ebook? Yawn, next.

A company that features our world, our story, our pains and our goals right on the homepage? Gosh, how did they know? We’re surprised, we’re interested, we remember.

It just so happens that the most surprising – and delightful – experience our audience is likely to encounter, is one that ought to be the least surprising and least exciting: the story of the world they already live in, told right back to them.

September 30, 2020     Daily Post

Story Over Logic

Story Over Logic

“Logic is an invention of man and may be ignored by the universe” – Will Durant, historian

Self-interest is a powerful force. People don’t move to act, buy or change because of logic, but because of their emotional enrollment.

And emotional enrollment doesn’t follow the greatest works or the greatest ideas. It follows great stories that paint a picture of their own world, where they like the ending.

Logic may be ignored be the universe. It may be ignored by you, too, in your pursuit of meaningful and powerful world that changes people’s lives. Look for the story.

September 29, 2020     Daily Post

Remember to Check Both

Remember to Check Both

If you ever give or receive feedback, consider this:

If you give real feedback to your team members and your clients: If you “check them” in their thinking and their direction, but don’t “check yourself” in the process (and before you click ‘Send’) then you might find that you’re given the moniker of ‘Jerk’.

If you receive feedback from your team and your clients: if you “check yourself” in your thinking and direction, but don’t (fairly and without ego) “check them” in the process, then you might find that you’re given the moniker of ‘Pushover’.

But if, in either of these scenarios, you check both – yourself and others – to fairly and clearly assess what is really going on and where to go next (without ego or emotion clouding replacing reality with delusion) then you might find that you’re given the moniker or ‘Leader’.

September 28, 2020     Daily Post

Best & Worst

Best & Worst

Whatever you’re working on in your team, project or business:

It’s the best it’s ever been, if you’ve given it time, attention and care so far. It won’t be perfect but to not acknowledge the progress made to date is to embrace a toxic freneticism that kills great work.

It’s the worst it’ll ever be, too, if you’ve a commitment to progress. Progress comes from a continual marathon approach to our craft, rather than a hasty sprint that steals our energy and enthusiasm to progress over the long-term.

It’s the best it’s ever been, and the worst it’ll ever be. And that’s a good thing.

September 27, 2020     Daily Post

“How’s it going?”

“How’s it going?”

These are words we should never hear from those we serve.

For clients, “How’s it going?” means you dropped the ball. They’re anxious because they’re counting on you, and you haven’t shown up enough. They don’t know what’s going on. You’re not communicating enough.

For past clients, “How’s it going?” means you dropped them. You got the cash, rendered the service, then walked away. They don’t know what more is possible for them, and you didn’t show enough care to pursue their goals with them.

For prospects, “How’s it going?” means you dropped your leadership role. They don’t see a clear path to how you can solve their problems. You’re beating about the bush instead of making things better.

We all drop things sometimes. Silly, butterfingers. But there’s a line past which we become “clumsy”, and that’s a place that’s tough to come back from.

Hold on tight.

September 26, 2020     Daily Post

On Being A Fool

On Being A Fool

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. — Richard Feynman

If you think your product is the greatest, watch out. Your audience isn’t coming at it with that perspective, and the void between your thinking can make it difficult to empathize with their needs or what they need to hear from you.

If you think your marketing is fine the way it is, watch out. Your potential outsized your thinking somewhere along the way, which holds everything back until you expand your mind.

You’re easy to fool, we all are. Until we become aware that we’re easy to fool, that is. Then maybe, just maybe, we can see our true potential and make the impact we’re capable of.

September 25, 2020     Daily Post

We All Go First Sometimes

We All Go First Sometimes

What do you like to go first on?

Perhaps it’s new tech? The latest and greatest inventions that bring modest productivity gains at the expense of the financial and emotional investment of committing to beta software and hardware experiments?

Maybe it’s new ideas? Philosophical ideas that may or may not work, or Moleksine productivity hacks designed to potentially make your GTD method faster or more delightful?

Whatever it is, there’s probably something.

You go first and you tell others. That’s what often separates the ideas that succeed and the ones that don’t.

Next question. What do your chosen audience like to go first on?

This too often separates businesses that succeed and the ones that don’t.

Is it you? If not, why not?

September 24, 2020     Daily Post

Thinkers vs Thinker-Doers

Thinkers vs Thinker-Doers

Let’s see which of these three things you are:

What’s a Thinker? Someone who thinks deeply and prehends the universe, ideating new ways of doing things… but doesn’t necessary do a darned thing with those thoughts.

You can spot them from their curation of certificates and lack of output.

What’s a Doer? Someone who takes action. They see things that need doing, and they get them done, as they’re supposed to be done… but doesn’t necessarily think of new, divergent ways of doing them.

You can spot them from their busy hands and lack of (original) output.

What’s a Thinker-Doer? Someone who thinks deeply then takes action on things rather than just talking about it.

You can spot them from their unique work, designed to make change happen in some way.

None are ‘bad’… But it’s nice to know which you are, in case you’re not currently in the bucket you’d like to be in.

September 23, 2020     Daily Post

The Problem With The Eisenhower Matrix

The Problem With The Eisenhower Matrix

Ever seen the Eisenhower Matrix?

Careful, it could turn you into a workaholic robot. Here’s how to avoid that.

It suggests that Urgent + Important = Do Now. In reality, to build work that matters and enjoy the ride, Urgent + Important = A situation you should design out of your life. Who wants to design a life or business based on perpetual streams of critical firefighting?

Same applies for Urgent + Not Important.

Next, it suggests that Not Urgent + Not Important = Delete. In reality, we all need room for this slot. This is where, for instance, reading a book not related to your field that broadens your thinking and helps you to see new possibilities comes from.

Finally, it suggests that Not Urgent + Important = Decide when to do it. This is something we can agree with. This is, in fact, what most of our work should be. We should aspire for this to not be bucket #2, but bucket #1.

Great work happens when we spend time doing things important to the creation of that work, without alarm bells going off in the background all the time.

September 22, 2020     Daily Post

Finished Enough

Finished Enough

When is something “finished”?

When it’s perfect? Every angle considered and addressed to a world-class degree?

When it’s past being criticized harshly? Where you can make absolutely certain that nobody will have a negative word to say about it?

When it’s everything you wanted it to be? Immortalized as the height of your abilities in its respective field?

The problem with searching for “finished” is the temptation to hide it from the world until it gets to “finished”… despite it often being the world’s touch that helps get it there.

It’s probably “finished enough” to publish and come back to. Learning from what people thought about it, or didn’t understand, or want to see more or, could help turn your work into something you can be really proud of.

Sounds like something “finished” to me.

September 21, 2020     Daily Post

New & Improved VS Tried & True

New & Improved VS Tried & True

When we create great work, we (should) nurture a passion for our craft, our audience, and our tools.

But that doesn’t mean we should keep working on all of these things:

Our craft will continue to evolve, trends will come and go. We get to decide whether we want to chase the trends, or focus on mastering timeless disciplines that matter most.

Our audience will continue to evolve, because people are messy and the world continues to change. We get to decide whether we want to chase new audiences all the time – staying shallow for many – or to recommit ourselves daily to the exact same people – going deep for our chosen few.

Our tool belt options will continue to change, there always seems to be a new-and-improved version of something coming around the corner. We get to decide whether we want to keep re-learning how to do basically the same thing with new toys, or master the ones we have to keep our focus on what we do with them rather than merely how to use them.

New-and-improved isn’t always a feature. Sometimes, tried-and-true is exactly what will enable us to do our best work.

September 20, 2020     Daily Post

The Setback And The Setforward

The Setback And The Setforward

What is a setforward?

It’s a word I made up to mean “the opposite of a setback”.

A setback is normally when things we’re working on are tediously pushed back for reasons seemingly beyond our control. Something went wrong, an unexpected thing happened. We encountered a ‘setback’.

A setforward is another way of looking at the same thing.

A failed presentation or investment opportunity is a setback if we feel it should have succeeded, but it didn’t. But if we make peace with the fact that we can’t control external forces, instead getting to work on refining the presentation or learning from the investment opportunity, we have ourselves a setforward.

A financial blow is a setback if we feel we were somehow owed the funds we no longer have. But if we make peace with the fee and get it processed so we can move on with creating more resources, it’s a setforward.

Setback looks back longingly.

Setforward looks for the forward momentum.

Which direction would you prefer to give your attention?

September 19, 2020     Daily Post

The Tax For The Things You Want

The Tax For The Things You Want

Taxes are part of the trade you made:

If you want to live in a country that provides lots of amenities and protections, you’ll likely pay a hefty tax for that. That tax is optional, it’s a trade, money in exchange for the things you want (to live there).

If you want to grow your body of work to become more profitable, you’ll probably incur more fees, from service providers and the state. Those taxes are optional, it’s a trade, money in exchange for the thing you want (to grow).

If you want to serve more people with the work you produce, you’ll probably incur more challenging clients, simply because more people means an increased likelihood that they won’t all be wonderful. The tax is optional, it’s a trade, patience and grace in exchange for the thing you want (to serve more people).

We don’t have to like it. We get to choose. Pay the tax with grace, after all, you’re getting exactly what you wanted.

September 18, 2020     Daily Post

The Things That Make You Better

The Things That Make You Better

I hear a lot from folks that they want to improve in their craft but don’t know how.

It’s probably not a new tech gadget that’ll make you better. The new iPad does basically the same thing as the last one. The spec boost won’t make you better, but mastering an important skill you use it for will (whether you’re on the new one or not).

It’s probably not the permission you’ve been waiting for that’ll make you better. You’ve always had permission to get better, you don’t need the gig or the to-do or the invite you think you need. You need to simply begin.

It’s probably not the secret technique promised to you in an online course that’ll make you better. You’ve collected enough of those over the years to know it’s not the answer.

It’s probably in your communication skills and/or the mastery of your craft. Doing great work and knowing how to share it with the world are among the biggest sticking points for businesses doing work that matters.

Which is it for you?

September 17, 2020     Daily Post

Complexity Has Its Place…But Not There

Complexity Has Its Place…But Not There

Complexity has its place…

If you’re making Adobe Photoshop, complexity has its place. It’s supposed to be complicated, an interface to learn and return to many times. Something you can use for 20 years and still not know all its tricks.

If you’re making a helicopter, complexity has its place. You can’t sacrifice torque pedals because you think cyclic controls are sufficient. It all has its place, and so the complexity is essential.

But most of the time, complexity doesn’t belong.

Your website is supposed to be the easiest, clearest, simplest way to learn about your thing and how it fits into our lives. Complexity – fancy words, pop-up boxes and 400 pages – doesn’t make it easier to understand. It makes it complex.

Your product delivery process is supposed to feel easy, simple, elegant to those who chose to do business with you. Complexity – forms, ticketing systems and 14 contact addresses – don’t make it easier to do business with you. It makes it complex.

Complexity has its place… but not there, right there, where you’re thinking of making things a little more complicated.

September 16, 2020     Daily Post

But Does It Make Sense?

But Does It Make Sense?

And is it really better?

You can change the landscape of your industry with a breakthrough product. But does it make sense? If people can’t clearly understand what it is, is it really better?

You can uncover a way to change the world for better, a path to a better way of operating as a society. But does it make sense? If people don’t get it and can’t embrace it, is it really better?

You can make a more generous offer than anyone else in the market, with terms and value far exceeding what anyone would expect. But does it make sense? If people don’t see (or believe) the promise you’re making and thus can’t engage with it, is it really better?

Don’t try to impress yourself with your work. Use your skills to serve your chosen market. First, it must make sense.

September 15, 2020     Daily Post

Marketing That Doesn’t “Wear Out”

Marketing That Doesn’t “Wear Out”

For most marketing tricks, there are a few companies that jump to mind that succeeded with it.

Invite-only (scarce) websites? Tools like Dropbox and Dribbble come to mind, at least one of which we’ve all surely heard of.

Sensationalist Facebook ads? Several course creators with claims of outsized success come to mind, complete with whiteboards of untold wisdom.

Email signature placement? Hotmail’s explosion into fame put this one on the map, followed closely by Gmail.

The list goes on and on.

Striking it lucky with a trick who’s time has come, is one way to get the attention of those you wish to serve.

The other way is to simply serve them, creating bonds born from the disciplined pursuit of better understanding your choice of market.

The former can’t compete with the latter, because the latter doesn’t “wear out” like tricks do.

Is your plan to roll the dice again, or to turn your affections away from your products and toward those who might need them?

September 14, 2020     Daily Post

What Makes Your Work Human

What Makes Your Work Human

The race to automate a business or marketing campaign is both alluring and the path to your demise.

When the landing page can be made in only 3 clicks and the rest is done by the machine, where’s the messy human connection?

When the copy on the page is mostly templates, swipe files and generators, where’s the messy human connection?

When the digital advertising is targeted and follows you around the web like a stalker, where’s the messy human connection?

The automated stuff is popular because it creates a stable, predictable (albeit with increasingly diminishing) results for people eager to replace themselves with machines.

That leaves our audiences with a choice to make: to buy from the machine who now appears to run the company, or to buy from someone brave enough to maintain a messy human connection.

What makes your work human is what enables it to connect more deeply with those you wish to serve. Don’t hand over the keys to the machines just yet.

September 13, 2020     Daily Post

Talking With the Dead

Talking With the Dead

Before Zeno founded Stoicism, he was told that to live a good life he needed to talk with the dead.

Books are our way of doing that. Among the best minds in every field of expertise and every school of thought are available to all of us in online bookstores for nominal fees.

When it comes to advancing our work, the question isn’t whether or not we can access the best wisdom. Only whether or not we will choose to access and apply it.

I have a funny relationship with books, though. My favorite subjects are marred with the ramblings of those merely trying to secure intellectual property or bask in their own majesty. It’s a skill to negotiate a bookstore without falling victim to such titles.

And if we want to do work that matters, it’s a skill we must all learn.

What dead people have you talked to lately?

September 12, 2020     Daily Post

Trading in Enthusiasm or Anxiety

Trading in Enthusiasm or Anxiety

Which do you trade in?

Let’s find out:

If you work alongside people who get you precisely what you want because they fear the reprimands of getting it wrong, you’re trading in anxiety.

If you work alongside people who make things that are greater than you imagined, you may be trading in enthusiasm.

It takes guts to do better, to raise the bar, to elevate your work. It might not work. It could backfire. It’s a step into the unknown. But it’s a goal achievable only while trading in enthusiasm.

The alternative – trading in anxiety – makes it too risky to try to do better. The benefits of doing better won’t overwhelm the costs associated with (even being perceived as) being wrong. The work doesn’t get better. Better becomes somebody else’s problem.

We get to choose what we trade. And we get to change course anytime we like.

September 11, 2020     Daily Post

The Problem With Changing The World

The Problem With Changing The World

The problem with changing the world, is that the world is too many things.

Tackling the world shows how little we know about the world. Every pocket of it is filled with rich nuance that reacts to empathy and connection far more than visionary bravado.

Changing the world without understanding its beauty means you’re as likely to make it worse as you are better. In all likelihood, you’ll achieve neither.

But changing the world of just a small group of people – one person at a time – is different. When we connect with their uniqueness, helping to create the world they want to live in, everything changes.

Your business or project has a choice to make. Is it going to help make people’s lives better, or is it going to try to “change the world”?

September 10, 2020     Daily Post

Empathizing With Yourself Is Actually Quite Hard

Empathizing With Yourself Is Actually Quite Hard

It’s easy to promise you’ll eat no chocolate tomorrow after eating chocolate.

We make such a promise because our current emotional state stamps all over our future selves.

It’s easy to condemn yourself for the way you behaved years ago during that thing with that person.

We make such judgements based on how we feel now, with the data we have now, not on how we felt or what we knew then.

These empathy gaps prospectively and retroactively make us terrible at empathizing with ourselves.

And it shows in our marketing messages in business, too.

Your prospects may be afraid to move forward with you today. Or angry when they pick up the phone to you. This is okay. We’re terrible empathizers, remember?

So try harder. Your message will improve because of it.

September 09, 2020     Daily Post

Too Much To Do Or Not Enough Organization?

Too Much To Do Or Not Enough Organization?

If you do work that matters, you probably experience the feeling of “too much to do” fairly regularly.

Perhaps you have 50 things to do today. 50!

50 things to do in one day is a lot of things.

But if it’s actually just 5 things to do with 10 small pieces in each, it’s much easier to handle.

Especially when 4 of those things don’t need doing until the end of the week.

Turns out there was only one thing you needed to do today.

See how that works?

We can achieve lots, with calm, while enjoying the ride, if we slow down enough to organize our thoughts and actions before jumping on them.

As you go through this week, consider how a little more organization can offset a whole load of ill-prepared, unordered, stressful work that could have been either enjoyed or avoided altogether.

Doesn’t that sound more fun?

September 08, 2020     Daily Post

Bill Gates’ Breakfast

Bill Gates’ Breakfast

“Should I be doing this?”

“Is this what more successful people do or would they be doing something else?”

Ever caught yourself asking these questions?

No sweat:

What Bill Gates has for breakfast doesn’t matter. Even if it did, it’s not the thing that made him his fortunes or his philanthropic breakthroughs.

What others are doing only matters if you’re trying to do the exact same thing. And if you are, you’re late to the party. What you’re doing is different and may require you to chart a different course.

What you’re doing today may not be the optimal path to your goal. But if you pursue it with wise council and permission to experience life with a personality, you’ll have a better chance at progress than mimicking other people’s attempts at the same.

(It’s Cocoa Puffs, by the way.)

September 07, 2020     Daily Post

Ship What You Can

Ship What You Can

Every great project brims with an overflow of ideas. They seemingly never stop coming.

That’s a good thing: it reveals a passion to create and a commitment to see it through.

The problem emerges when we either:

A: Try to do it all in version 1: It won’t all fit in version 1, and version 1 isn’t version 1 if it all fits in. The beauty of version 1 is found in the absence of the rest, an exciting reminder of what comes next.

B: Don’t get started because it’s too big: Nothing is big, they’re just small things put together. Seeing the small things gives us the luxury of working on big things, one step at a time.

Ship what you can today. Then do the same again tomorrow. That’s how big things happen.

September 06, 2020     Daily Post

Creative Muscles

Creative Muscles

This is the 1000th consecutive daily post, yay!

That’s a post every single day since late 2017.

What can we learn from this?

Every day you think you don’t have an idea today, but when you train the creative muscle, simply sitting and engaging it is sufficient to produce a flood of creative direction. It’s a muscle, it can be trained. We get stronger.

Every day there are hundreds of other things going on. Each day there’s that niggling suspicion, “Could this be the day that things got too heavy to create?” But we’ve trained the muscle. We get stronger.

Every day it gets easier to create. When I reached the 500th post, 1000 felt impossible. But upon hitting 1000, 2000 doesn’t feel so bad. We get stronger.

Thanks for joining me on the journey to 1000 posts. I don’t plan on stopping just yet. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the ride of listening to (and documenting) the right voices in your head about marketing and business! 💪

September 05, 2020     Daily Post

Make & Shift

Make & Shift

“Makeshift” things – temporary constructs of any kind – get a bad rep.

They’re temporary, created swiftly, and don’t solve a problem for good.

And they’re precisely what effective, permanent bodies of work are built upon.

The product or service you want to build could start with the perfect idea, perfectly executed, with perfect market reception. But those who have experienced success know this is exceptionally rare, and not to be counted on.

More likely, it will start with a workable idea brought to market with makeshift processes – things that deliver on your promise without over-engineering. Perfect execution of something nobody wants is worth nothing, after all.

Success isn’t really built upon success, is it? It’s built upon learning from those makeshift things – those temporary constructs, created swiftly, that doesn’t solve a problem for good.

September 04, 2020     Daily Post

Beliefs Getting In The Way

Beliefs Getting In The Way

In post #671 we talked about “Red Fred Theory”, where we can assert a little alien called Fred is true and there’d be no way to prove (or disprove) it.

Most businesses have a Red Fred hiding inside it; an element we’ve come to believe that others may not, that is totally besides the point:

Your flagship product may be wonderful. But it can sometimes become a Red Fred. If your audience doesn’t actually want that product, you may find yourself trying to peddle it regardless. The less you make it about you and your inventory, the better you can help them.

Your doctrine could promise a universal truth you believe emphatically, but it’s usually a Red Fred. Your audience doesn’t want your belief, they want their problem solved. The less you make it about what you want, the better you can help them.

You may want to change the world, but that desire can become a Red Fred if you’re not careful. Your audience may not want to change the world, only their own world. The less you make it about what you want, the better you can help them… and in turn get what you want.

Don’t let good work turn selfish because you held onto a belief that distracted from truly serving people.

September 03, 2020     Daily Post

Your Business’ Ancestry

Your Business’ Ancestry

You’re a part of it.

You may not feel it right now, but you’re a part of your business’ ancestry.

Your business may fizzle and die in your lifetime. Perhaps it was designed to. Or perhaps it was designed to outlast you and continue for many generations.

One thing is certain: unless it was designed for the latter, it was designed for the former.

While reading a longnow.org essay this evening, I was reminded of such “cathedral thinking” by remembering how they format dates. In their blog, the date isn’t 2020. It’s 02020. That leading zero is an indicator of how long we should consider and plan our work (in their case, “life as humans”).

When I started writing this daily blog, I marked the first post as “001” with an expectation of continuing for a long time. Today, as we fast approach post #1000, it’s clear I should have marked it “0001”.

In the pursuit of better messages and better business practices, another great reason for making it less about yourself and more about your audience exists in the temporary nature of you.

After all, if you’re building something to last, why build it around something that isn’t?

September 02, 2020     Daily Post

That’s Not Always True

That’s Not Always True

In marketing and business, we hear about “truths” that everyone accepts as absolute fact.

Even when they aren’t:

Scarcity creates urgency? Sometimes. Other times, it makes us fear for the future of our investment. We trust our iPhones over newcomer no-name manufacturers because we know for sure that, next year, there will be another that our things will work with.

Premium feel creates desire? Sometimes. Other times, the feeling of accessibility or reliability far outperforms a sector bias.

Success leaves clues? Sometimes. Other times, it leaves a trail of mined opportunities, encouraging you to look for greener pastures.

Sometimes, doing the opposite of “absolute facts” is to reap rewards others were too afraid to explore.

The take-away isn’t to be contrary. It’s to get out of the boxes built by gurus and pave your own creative path uniquely designed for those you serve.

September 01, 2020     Daily Post

On Being Paid To Think

On Being Paid To Think

“I’m not paid to think about that, so I won’t.” With that attitude, you never will be!

Here’s the alternative:

“I’m not paid to think about that, but that’s not the point.” With that attitude, you ultimately, eventually will be.

Because you’re right, it’s not the point. Granted, we’re often paid for our contributions to society, but in retrospect.

The world doesn’t give down payments to those seeking to make it a better place.

Choose what you want to think about and think about it.