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.

Posted on March 10, 2014 by

Write For Free?

Yeah, go ahead and do it…

The age old question for writing professionals like myself is “should someone write professionally for free?”

For context, I’m referring to writing for a client for free. If you publish a blog, free newsletter, etc… there is a calculated return on investment with those activities if you’re truly in business.

I’m also NOT speaking of charitable acts, where you donate your time professionally.

So, when I’m asked this question by up and coming writers, clients etc…

My answer is: “Yeah, go ahead, do it…”

Go ahead, write for free.

Invest hours of your time producing work, get the “publicity” that comes along with it. Write that article, short story, heck… even ghostwrite a book for free once in awhile because you know… marketing.

Right?

Go ahead and do that interview, and let that content be put into a DVD published by another company for their success, because they will sell millions of copies, and people will flock to your website and buy your books as a result of the interview buried deep on that DVD.

Yeah, go ahead, do it. Work for free.

Go ahead and “joint venture” with someone, investing more of your time writing for their website, and share those profits as a result. Because, you know, they don’t have a budget for your talent today… but after you help them make millions they will hire you for future projects.

Of course, they don’t fully understand marketing either, so you’ll have to help them with that, too.

So yeah… go ahead… work for free, that is, until you decide to quit being an amateur writer, and turn into a professional writer. Then do what Harlan Ellison recommends.

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