Posted on April 23, 2014 by

The Deeper Thinking Manifesto

It seems like we just need to slow down and think at a deeper level sometimes…

It sometimes seems like most of the population is being lulled to sleep, floating along on autopilot .

You’ve seen it, too. We all have.

You’ve seen the two people, standing less than 100 feet from each other, texting each other… or worse, standing even closer while trying to have a conversation… and texting someone else.

You’ve seen the blog comments left by what we call trolls… senseless, baseless comments that are hurtful to people, and don’t have much thought behind them… or a valid place in conversation.

You’ve seen the rather immature name-calling when it comes to political debates (and other debates)…

“You’re a left-wing nutjob,” “You’re one of those crazy libertarians,” and variations of these for the “other side of the aisle.”

And that is the mild version of these insults.

You’ve seen the lines at the Apple store… millions of people across the country lining up, senselessly, for their 15 minutes of fame as they try to be one of the first to buy an iPhone or other device that doesn’t really have much more to offer than the previous version they bought less than a year ago.

(Apple isn’t the only company with dedicated buyers, either. I think we’ve all fallen victim to this “we’re part of a community” style of marketing)

You’ve seen the news media “reporting”… blathering on about various news bites that really do not stimulate anything really important, rather focusing on how to get more eyeballs for advertisers (when actually thinking about what the viewer truly wants IS that way, rather than psychologically tricking people into watching with hyperbolic and negative headlines).

Now before I continue… let me provide a little context for this Manifesto for thinking…

I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I’m very open-minded. I’m not a scientist, but am aware of (but not an expert of any kind in) the scientific method…

… and finally, what I’m writing here probably isn’t going to make Internet history.

That said… what I’m writing here has a basis (and at least some measure of proof) if you do some light Google searching or discussion with other people (that is… thinking).

I’m not intending this to be an academic essay, so there won’t be footnotes or references within.

I’m going to leave it to you to do the work.

I realize that implies a sort of “trust me” mentality… to which I say for the purposes of this essay, DON’T.

Don’t trust me, do your deeper thinking, do your research, form your own opinions… and if you do, you’re starting (or continuing) on your own path to the type of thinking I’m attempting to inspire here.

Because it is that type of deeper thinking that seems to be seriously lacking in our society, not the science-based, philosophical type of thinking that accomplished professors do in advance of an academic paper of some type, no…

… the kind of thinking that gets us past the superficial, past the marketing messages, past the news bites, past the name-calling, past upgrading our gadgets unnecessarily, past the baseless accumulation of “stuff,” past the senseless impulsive consumerism, past our sense of entitlement, past the need for greed, past our willingness to judge others based on very limited (and sometimes nonexistent) information…

… overall, getting us towards the type of deeper thinking we need to get back to as a society, and COMBINE (not replace) that thinking with technology to allow all of us to prosper as the human family together, genuinely united yet maintaining our individuality as people.

Let’s define that thinking briefly…

If you’re a troll, and publish hurtful comments towards other people, that isn’t thinking (in most cases, at all).

If you run a news media organization, there is a business beyond “clicks and page views”… even beyond selling advertising… you just have to think a little and quit what I call the “Enquirer Mentality” of writing with the sole purpose to get views and clicks (see Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust Me, I’m Lying” for more on that).

I would be VERY interested in a news media organization that focused on accurate reporting, instead of trying to be “first.”

I would be even more interested in a news media organization that could report the news, instead of relying on hyperbole and “Enquirer” – like headlines to try and “get” people to watch or click.

That would represent deeper thinking on the part of the media organization, from my perspective.

For the average person at home (like me), deeper thinking is:

–> Slowing down before publishing comments online, and checking spelling and grammar, at least a bit (no one is perfect, but examine some YouTube comments to get a grasp of what I mean here).

–> Thinking about and formulating a logical, well-thought-out response to something… whether it is online or offline.

–> Thinking about the impact on other people, of whatever you say or do, BEFORE you react (or act) on any information you read or hear. We need to think, not spread rumors and gossip that damages other people’s reputations online.

–> Thinking before contributing to a “self-policing” environment. We don’t need to focus our lives on watching what others do… and please don’t contribute to trying to consistently “catch others” doing something wrong.

(most people are good people, and there will be obvious exceptions to this, all I’m saying is don’t focus on the “policing” part)

–> Thinking just a little bit more about the impact you’re having on other people when you are in face-to-face conversations with them. You do NOT have to “get that call” or “answer that text” while you’re talking to someone… the rest can wait, slow down.

–> Thinking about controlling our technology instead of letting it control us. I’ve seen countless people walking around, and every time their phone “dings” or another email comes in… they respond similarly to the dog in Pavlov’s bell experiments (search “Pavlov’s dog” on Google for more).

Ding… get the phone… RING… gotta answer the phone … Beep… answer that text etc… STOP IT! Slow down, and think a little bit, the devices and their little notifications can wait, I promise.

Not one of us is so important, nor is there any “competition” among us that requires we attend to our technology in real-time.

Maybe “timely,” and I use this term conservatively, but not real-time.

Even business owners need to define what a true “real-time” response is… I agree that your clients need care and the relationship nurtured… but that does NOT need to run your life… or your business for that matter.

Take good care of the people that support your business (it is about the people, that’s for sure)… but be sure to set parameters and expectations early in that business relationship, clearly, so you don’t have to fall into the trap of unknown client expectations.

You don’t need to be available 24/7 in most cases… and your competition won’t want to be either.

Think… we need to think… it allows us to be proactive instead of reactive, and in the instances where reaction is necessary, if we think we can react in a way that makes it easier for everyone involved.

If we think, instead of “pre-judging”… we can open our minds and listen to the other side of a vaccination debate, an abortion debate, etc… instead of immediately classifying that person as an “idiot” or worse, just because they don’t see things our way.

If that person on the other side of the debate is equally open-minded, then we can respect each other’s point of view, instead of pulling up pitchforks and torches… and trying to get our 15 minutes of “fame” on the news.

Calm down, and think. Our society, our world, our governments etc… will be a whole lot more peaceful if we do.

Thinking allows you to love your neighbor for who they are, not what stuff they have.

Thinking allows you to bring your art to the world, to share it with us, because if it is truly valuable… we want to see it. If it isn’t, share it anyway, and if we are all thinking… we might be able to help you make it better.

Thinking allows you to tone down that Amazon, or Goodreads book review, and review the book instead of the author. Thinking also allows you to choose whether or not you really want to leave that review in the first place. Like Grandpa used to say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”

Thinking allows the upper level people at the NSA itself to re-evaluate the “gotta collect it all” mentality, and instead do its real, prescribed job while respecting the privacy of the citizens that make this nation whole.

After all… we are all part of the same country, aren’t we?

Thinking allows the Government to help change the U.S. Healthcare system, by doing its job instead of trying to become another health insurance provider and forcing people to make choices… we don’t need babysitters, we need the insurance companies to think, too.

Because thinking allows the health insurance companies and drug companies to realize they ARE in fact price-gouging their customer, at the short-term benefit of their profits… and the long-term failure of the economy as the middle class erodes away.

(yes, you can have capitalism with respect for your fellow human)

Thinking allows us to redefine capitalism to include “make profit, all the profit you want, but NEVER at the expense or harm of your fellow human being.” Take care of the people who take care of your bonuses and paychecks, and you’ll have more of them.

Even better, you’ll have the most priceless asset of all for your business… the trust of the person who chooses to do business with your company.

Thinking is something we can easily do. It will change a lot of things, mostly for the better, but we ALL have to be willing to get our heads out of our gadgets, and marketing, and the news, and our stuff (only for a few minutes to a couple of hours a day) and think.

I hope you’ll join me in doing so.

If not, I think you’re missing out… but hey, what do I know?

Posted on April 17, 2014 by

On Upgrades

You’ve got to get a late-model car, you’ve got to upgrade to the 5314 LTE model smartphone, because it just came out, and you’ve just got to get Apple’s latest release on launch day.

Bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit on the incessant need to upgrade everything. If you believe the hype and marketing, your life improves every time some new “talk and surf at the same time” gadget comes out.

Wrong.

Aside from the fact we cannot multitask, doing so (talking and surfing the web at the same time) creates a distraction.

How is that “good”?

Who said that doing more and more in the same time frame is good?

Then, there’s examining why we upgrade our cars, gadgets, tools, etc… even though the prior versions probably did exactly what we needed to.

Status.

Yep, you want to show off.

You want to be the one who was there on launch day, the one to drive off the lot in a bright, shiny new model of the car you already have, and you need to get the latest computer because you “need” more speed/memory/etc… (hint: You probably don’t).

Plus, the perception (also created by the marketing companies) is everyone else is doing it too. Come on, admit it, you feel the peer pressure, and run down to the Apple store to get the latest Airbook.

Because you want to feel like a part of something.

So, if what I’ve written seems to relate to you, I’m telling you to STOP. You’ll save money, STILL be able to be productive, and here’s the big point to this article…

… nobody really cares whether or not you have the latest, greatest mousetrap in existence anyhow.

Read the above again.

People are far too busy with their own lives to give a crap about what you have, and when they do acknowledge your latest upgrade… it usually boils down to a mere “15 minutes of fame” for you.

Do you really need your 15 minutes that badly?

Think about that today. I did, and once I stopped “upgrading” all the time, I found:

—> I saved money.

—> Nobody really cared about what I had in the first place, for the most part.

—> The people that did care, really were showing it out of envy, or jealousy.

Is upgrading really that important?

Posted on April 11, 2014 by

The Absolute, Must-Do Blogging Rules You Have To Abide By Or You Don’t Get To Blog … EVER

I’m tired of it.

Blogging, and bloggers, are getting out of hand.  They think they can just blog however they want, turn on or turn off comments, blog for business or personal reasons on the same blog etc…

Bloggers need rules.  Strict rules.  Rules that cannot be broken or they will not be allowed to blog, ever.  If you break the following rules, you will be placed in “blogging prison” and sentenced to forever use Blogger as your only platform from which to publish from.

Ready?  Here are the rules:

There aren’t any.

Weblogs are a tool from which you can publish content, period.

In the 2nd decade of this century, you can do so much more with this tool than you could in the past.  You can post video, text, podcasts … you can use these platforms for publishing books, as a static website, to start a magazine etc…

The options are endless.

So the rather unusual notion that there is some set of “rules” everyone has to follow when using the weblog, outside of normal etiquette and of course moral / ethical / legal guidelines … is a completely misguided notion.

Do what you want with your blog, period.

  • If you want to turn comments on, turn them on… if you want to turn comments off, turn them off.
  • If you want to blog in more than one niche, do it.  If you don’t, don’t.
  • If you don’t want to design your blog, don’t.  Design it to your taste.  If you get feedback after doing so, use it to make changes, or don’t.  Up to you.
  • Use your blog for business, personal, or both.
  • Your audience will choose to read your blog, or they won’t.  Use their feedback or don’t.  Your choice.
  • And on, and on… blogs are a tool.  No one tells you how to use a wrench, so if you use a wrench in a different way that works for you … more power to you.

Test things, try things, take the feedback you want to take, but NO ONE is “the” authority on how to use your blog.  Anyone who says that “comments on” (or “comments off” for that matter) is the only way to blog is simply sharing their opinion, something that might be working for them.

You know what they say about opinions, right?

You’ll make the adjustments you feel you need to make as time goes on.  You’ll use your blog the way you see fit.  In fact, you’ll probably prove all of these “rule makers” wrong.

So get to work, you have way more important things to do than listen to people tell you how a blog HAS to be used, right?

Posted on April 7, 2014 by

Aaron Swartz – A Year Later

In January of 2013, the late Aaron Swartz (@aaronsw) took his own life in response to a combination of over zealous prosecution by our own justice system, and depression.

The following are a few Tweets I put together via Storify using hashtag #aaronsw as a miniature tribute to someone who I didn’t know, but touched my life and others in a dramatic fashion…

Posted on March 31, 2014 by

The Binary Society

Everything is becoming “choose A or B”…

This might be called Part 2 of The Digital Society.

1.

Everything seems to be becoming a choice, but not a choice with many options… a choice where you have to choose “this” or “that.”

And it seems that when you make that choice, that companies like Facebook are monetizing that choice. But it gets much deeper.

You have to be Republican or Democrat, Religious or Atheist… you have to choose what is “good” or “bad.”

And it’s getting to the point where you can make a bad choice.

Choose brand “A” or “B.” And what you choose becomes part of your brand identity. Companies are monetizing that choice too… including the brands you choose.

2.

Why do you have to choose though?

Why can’t you think critically and use something in the middle?

Why can’t you choose in the grey areas?

Why does the discussion always have to polarize into something that results in name-calling, and an “us versus them” mentality where there are two sides in a debate over an issue?

Is technology good or bad?

My answer lies somewhere in the middle. But most people give a binary answer, they hate Facebook or they love it… the Internet rots our brains or it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Easy, binary choices like this are lazy ways to form an opinion.

We need to think more deeply about our choices.

3.

Because we’re heading down a slippery slope here.

Douglas Rushkoff recommends that we become more technologically literate… but I think it goes deeper than that.

I think we need to become more culturally literate.

Not that I think most people are stupid, in fact it’s the opposite…

… I believe that because we are intelligent human beings that we shouldn’t reduce ourselves to binary choices like “A” or “B”.

Instead, we need to realize that A/B choices only need to be made when there is a very specific action to be taken related to only those choices.

You don’t need to be “Republican” or “Democrat”… why couldn’t you take the best ideas in the whole political space and talk about those?

Technology is both good AND bad, and I would say some of it is useless. But if you form an opinion about technology, look at it from not just “both sides of the argument” (which is a weak way to form an opinion), and instead look at technology from a 360-degree perspective.

Look at the positive, the negative, look at how you are using it, look at how other people are using it… then look at all of that at a deeper level.

4.

The resulting opinion you form will be closer to accurate… but never perfect unless it’s scientifically valid.

There is a grey area in most everything.

But my main issue with The Binary Society lies with our identity.

If we form our identity (online or offline) with only a series of binary choices, then our identity becomes easy to manipulate, easy to monetize, easy to pick apart.

We’re smarter than that.

A simple example is “the brand choice.”

Marketing and advertising has conditioned us to make our choices based on a “brand” we like… instead of solutions to problems. It’s easier for “Tide” to market laundry detergent to us if they can strengthen their brand, and we respond in a binary manner “YES” we like it, or “NO” we don’t.

We need to make the choice harder for Tide than that.

We need to always be open to new solutions for cleaning our laundry, not just “switch brands” because they advertise better, or because of slick TV advertising that shows something better.

In short, quit making your choices (at a binary level) based on 15 second TV spots (or quick “we were first to report it” media bites).

5.

Do some research, understand the topic you’re researching is deeper than it appears to be in almost every case.

Even deep subjects like climate change, just because the temperature isn’t changing like we THINK it should, doesn’t mean we aren’t damaging our environment, and shouldn’t discuss the solutions to cleaning it up.

But if you were to make a binary decision on climate, you would either be “for” or “against” climate change as an issue (which comes with its own labels and consequences)… instead of looking at the whole picture and both sides of the argument.

For or against climate change isn’t the issue, the issue is how well we are taking care of our planet, and why we would continue damaging it in the name of “cheap fuel”… when we have the technology readily available as a society to change that situation. Thankfully, we are working on that, and there are lots of variables to the discussion… so the solution won’t be in place overnight.

But forget the changing climate, apply this to anything.

Binary choices, like or dislike, this brand or that brand (or, any brand?), upgrade or be left out etc…

We need to quit thinking like that.

We can always choose to ignore, look deeper into something, think critically before labeling someone or leaving a harsh comment online… etc…

We’re better than being reduced to some binary decision, so let’s all start acting like it.

Posted on March 24, 2014 by

Connecting: The True Secret To Making Money Whenever You Want To

I don’t normally publish articles that show people “how to make money.”

But I do have one “secret” (it isn’t really a secret) to making money in today’s creative economy.  It’s simple, but not easy, easy to understand, but deeper than I can go into if I wrote 1000 articles on the topic.

The secret is connecting people to what they want, while adding your individual value to the process.

Most people get the first part… but completely miss the second part of the previous sentence.  So go ahead and read it again, the pause, and think about the “adding your individual value” part.

Because that part is the part that makes you money.

Let me illustrate…

Anyone can introduce two people, right?

Easy to do… in fact, tools like Linkedin allow you to do that for free.  There’s no value in a simple introduction of two people without those two people creating that value themselves.

There is also more risk involved for those two people in developing that relationship between them, one or both of them could be trying to “scam” the other… they might not be compatible with each other… or worse…

Neither of them will do anything with the relationship being created between them, beyond the cursory introduction.

This is why you cannot simply “flip” introductions on Linkedin or whatever, and make money from the introduction… because you’re not adding any value to the process.

But what if you did add value to the process, and took things away from the “cocktail party” that is Linkedin, and instead curated the relationships you are creating?

And here’s where most people miss the boat… but the few that “get it” will be able to profit from this idea of connecting(Jay Abraham is the master of this domain, you can check his website out for more on this – link opens in a new window)

It seems easy to just make an introduction, set up an agreement where you get a small percentage of profits made from that introduction, and sit back and watch it all happen… doesn’t it?  (sometimes called “Brokering Joint Ventures”… but I actually hate that term)

If it were that easy, everybody with any people skills would be doing this… but it is not that easy.  You have to add value to the exchange:

  • On a small level, you could prime the transaction… you could “sell” the benefits of working with a particular freelancer on a project to the client that needs a freelancer… then you’ve added value to the exchange, and should get a small portion (say, 10%) of the resulting fee collected by the freelancer for making it MUCH easier for them to get work.
  • You could add some consulting to the mix (in very specific situations, you don’t want to be trapped into consulting here).  You could outline a mini-marketing plan, which involves a set of coupons from other business owners, to help build the reputation of a real estate agent when they go to close the house.  You collect a percentage (small) from each of the business owners supplying the coupons (using coupon codes or call in numbers) from resulting sales they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
  • You could add writing to the mix (again, be very specific with your involvement), and put together two business entities that need that writing to benefit.  This “three-way” approach works very well if you’ve qualified both businesses as having complimentary resources to share with each other (like one with a well-developed list, and another with a nicely developed product to sell to that list, you write emails or direct mail to send to the list).  You writing “primes the pump” between those resources, and you get paid (very well if you know what you’re doing).
  • And on, and on… your job as a connector can be very lucrative.

These are basic approaches, when you understand this at a very deep level like I do, you can start to see almost three dimensionally into the businesses you work with.

When that happens, you can do almost anything, and your clients will thank you for it.

Posted on March 18, 2014 by

The Dangers Of The Productivity Mindset

The productivity mindset was born in the 1930′s as a means to produce in factories.

It should have been left in the 1930′s.

Getting more and more done for the sake of getting more and more done is a very dangerous mindset to have.

It’s not “what” or “how much” you get done that matters, it’s how well you do it.

But if you look around, all you see are people using smart phones because they “gotta” send that email, they have to “take that call”… because “work needs them.”

That, or worse, they pull all-nighters  in the name of some deadline they didn’t meet, or was thrown at them by people who aren’t getting things done themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for quality work, but work that is produced in the name of “getting more done with less” or just for the sake of producing mass amounts of something for the masses… that’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous for people (more stress, bad health etc…) and it’s actually dangerous for the final product, and therefore bad for the end consumer too.

I think we need to rethink our mindset as it pertains to making stuff.

Posted on March 15, 2014 by

Medium

I write some pieces on the Medium platform. Note that some of these pieces also appear here on my blog, so they are not exclusive to Medium. They are shareable, and can be discussed on that platform however.

It also contains the latest shared Medium articles that fall under the category of “Challenging The Status Quo.”

Enjoy…

Challenging The Status Quo

Posted on March 11, 2014 by

“Social Media Explained” With Mark Schaefer

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Social Media Explained by Mark W. Schaefer.  It’s an excellent primer on using social media tools to grow a business… aimed at the business owner, manager, or executive.

I asked Mark if I could send him 5 questions about the book, and have published the exchange below (edited for a blog post).

Enjoy…

Hi Mark,

Thanks first of all, for taking the time to answer these questions about your newest book “Social Media Explained.”

On to the questions:

1. Who did you write this book for specifically?

Mark:  This book solves a problem! Everywhere I go I encounter executives who need to learn enough about social media to lead their teams but they don’t have enough time to really understand it. I have been coaching executives for several years now with an entirely new approach to understanding social media … and it has worked, so I decided to help a lot more people by putting it down in a book.

Social Media Explained will not make you a social media expert, but it make a leader comfortable with the channel because they will now the right questions to ask. That’s the essence of leadership anyway. You don’t need all the answers. You need the right questions.

2. The subtitle is “Untangling the world’s most misunderstood business trend”… why did you feel social media, as a trend, was “tangled” so to speak?

Mark:  Oh my is it tangled! Expectations about social media results are often misguided. Timmy from Accounting is running the Facebook page. Nobody knows how to measure this stuff. Strategies are nearly always inadequate.

I can’t imagine there is a more screwed-up marketing channel in the history of business. And yet, it’s really not that difficult. If we cut through the guru-speak, the social media mythology, and the hashtags, at its core, social media is a very human process that allows to us re-capture real personal connections.

I hope when people read this book they will breathe a sigh of relief and think, “OK … that’s not so bad!”

3. My favorite part of the book is Section 2, which devotes a full chapter to each of the five most important questions a business owner (or executive) will face when considering social media. Which one of these questions would you place the highest priority on, if any? Why is that?

Mark:  I think the chapter on measurement and ROI may be the most important chapter in the book. It is the longest chapter and it was also the most difficult to write. I wanted to do it well and give useful and actionable insight on this vital issue.

I’m really proud of this part of the book because it’s a dense and complicated issue and I think I put forward some meaningful, straight-forward guidance that even the most skeptical CFO would understand.

I’m also proud of the section that sets forth the six questions that lead to social media strategy. I’m convinced this will bring clarity to so many people struggling with strategy issues.

4. In chapter 1, you start by diving thousands of years into the past, and examining a typical face to face transaction. The concept is “Humans sell to Humans”… and for those that haven’t read the book yet… can you please give a little taste of what you mean by that?

Mark:  One of the ways I connect the dots for overwhelmed executive is to demonstrate how the basic sociology of buying — the way we have transacted for centuries — is the core business process of the web. When you put it in that context, the light bulbs seem to go off!

The fact of the matter is that social media does not “change everything.” It simply helps us re-connect to patterns that have been there all along.

We want to buy from people we trust. Expressing ourselves in a human way allows to build that trust, which ultimately creates loyalty. And in this hyper-competitive, information-dense world, that trumps everything.

5. Are there any types of businesses that you’ve come across where it ISN’T a good idea to utilize social media tools to help grow that business? Why do you think that is?

Mark:  I actually have some examples in the book that demonstrate this or at least are borderline, but I think you would be hard-pressed to discover a business that can’t find ANY reason to be on the social web, even if it is to connect with the young people who are going to work for them some day!

I think it is a matter of degree. How MUCH should be devoted to the social web? That can vary greatly by business and I think if you follow the process in the book every business can discover the right level and the right priorities.

6. And finally, how can my readers get in touch with you, where do they start?

Mark:  Just about everything you need to know about me is at http://www.businessesGROW.com. There are plenty of free resources for every level there.

Thanks for your time Mark, I really appreciate it.

—————————————————–

Mark’s Bio:  Mark Schaefer is a college educator, blogger, speaker and consultant who specializes in corporate social media marketing workshops. He is the author of three other best-selling books including Return On Influence.

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