“Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality…” (Jim Morrison of The Doors)
We have a winner!
Actually, the winning answer to last Friday’s quiz crashed the gates within ten minutes of the post going live.
But it was good to let the test string out, anyway… because the hard-core thinking and pure cogitation going on was excellent mental exercise.
… there was so much fresh thinking in the over 200 responses (as of right now — they’re still trickling in)…
… that I feel compelled to bestow THREE prizes.
One, for the first right answer. And two more for honorable mentions — one for Best Exhibit Of Pure Kick-Ass Attitude… and another for Cracking Me Up with real wit and cleverness.
I’ll reveal the winners in a moment.
First, though… let’s unravel what we’ve all learned here from this little brain teaser.
Revelation #1: James Surowiecki, in his book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, pointed out how often polls and crowd sampling is dead-on correct.Read more…
“Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.“ (HAL to astronaut Dave in “2001”)
Okay, let’s do a quickie quiz, what d’ya say?
It’s Saturday evening, after all… and I just got my ass whupped by Michele at Scrabble (her first win, ever, in 10 years of trying) (and I don’t expect to ever hear the last of it anytime soon).
(What’s the time limit on doing the “Ass Whup” dance, mocking your partner, anyway?)
So, to keep my mind off the misery of such a wrenching loss (she accidentally used all 7 letters in her third turn, and that bonus 50 points is what beat me), I’m hiding in my office.
I’ve got maybe 10 minutes before I have to come out and face more taunting and jublilation.
Thus, a quick blog post. (“Get out of here! I gotta work…”)
I’m giving a prize away, of course.
Let’s se… how about a fresh copy of “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” to the first right answer.
I’ve got a nice new one burning a hole on the shelf across from my desk. It’s got your name on it, Mr/Ms Winner. I’ll sign it, and have Diane ship it out asap.
Okay. Here’s the quiz:
The most common question I get from entrepreneurs who are stuck on some part of their marketing…Read more…
“I yam what I yam.” (Popeye, avoiding introspection.)
Are your routines helping you… or slowly murdering you?
As with most of life, it’s complicated.
And you’re gonna have to spend more than your normal 38 seconds cogitating on this issue if you’re ever gonna make peace with your natural inclination to habitualize your ass into oblivion.
(Side note: During my excellent interview with StomperNet founder Andy Jenkins yesterday, he revealed the startling statistic that most of us now live in 38-second segments. This, apparently, has been discovered by guys in white coats with clipboards. The Web has installed a permanent ADD virtual chip in our brains, limiting attention spans to that of a gnat.)
(This is good info for marketers to have, especially when deciding how to position copy, testimonials, video, graphics and other elements on a website for maximum attention-grabbing. But it’s damned depressing when any conversation requires deeper thought… and you must construct your position with constant virtual shiny objects to hold the interest of otherwise bright people.)
(I just lost half my audience with that aside, didn’t I. Sorry.)
Ah… where was I?
Oh, yeah. Habits and routines.
The omega and alpha of trying to live well.
Routine has both saved my life… and backed me into corners that threaten to ruin me.
So it’s good to stop and examine your routines (and your habits) every so often. Not just glance at ’em, and pat ’em on the head. But really dig into them…Read more…
“Buttula spruiks arrival of Spork at his new gig.” (Actual headline in last Thursday’s “The Australian” newspaper)
Reporting in from the fringes of the Outback…
… okay, I’m actually comfortably settled in an intriguing old hotel in Melbourne, nowhere near the Outback.
It still feels like I’m far from home, though.
Two weeks into this March Across Australia now, part of a bedraggled troupe of speakers, and I’m thrashed. Don’t get me wrong — this is a great country, and we’ve been warmly embraced by the locals and shown amazingly-generous hospitality daily.
It’s just a long damn trip… made longer by that nasty plate of deep-fried snapper I had Saturday night at what looked like a decent little upscale restaurant downtown. I forgot the old rule of traveling: Never eat stuff that arrives with the eyeballs still staring at you.
I deserved the ensuing bout of immune-system-destroying dysphoria, I suppose. Last December, in Dubai, a bunch of us sauntered down to the bad part of town to sample “native” fare the night before we spoke… and nothing happened. We gobbled questionable curries and unidentifiable chunks of stew, and lived to tell the tale.
Afterward, we all looked at each other and said “What have we done?”
For most of my life, I’ve had little angels (or maybe just confused demons, I dunno) looking out for me… so I somehow managed to stay one step ahead of the Federales in Mexico, just-missed by the would-be hit-and-run jalopy in Hollywood, and usually slightily out of reach of the snarling bugs everywhere else yearning for a vacation in my intestines. (To name a few examples out of many.)
So, this time I got caught. It’s not Oz’s fault. It’s all on me.
And, I’m recovering fairly quickly. We have a couple of days to dig deeper into Melbourne’s wonders (my second time in the city), and then travel to Brisbane for the final leg of this preposterous journey.
Seems like Sydney was a month ago.
So, anyway, I’m just checking in to let you know that I believe I’ve found the answer to the long suicidal swan dive that American newspapers are taking.
And it’s very simple: Read more…
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” (Ansel Adams)
I grew up in a photo-loving family.
Pop still has his trusty Kodak folding camera — a true antique now — and I cannot yet bring myself to dig through that box in the garage with all my old cameras (cuz I know it’s time to start assigning them new fates somewhere else).
I swear to you I still have a box of Polaroid film in the butter drawer of the fridge. Might even be the last batch they ever made (and R.I.P. Polaroid, dear departed friend).
Mom was the photo archivist of the family, and even as other families gravitated toward 16mm film, I retained a purist’s preference for the snapshot over the home movie.
(Side note: I remember meeting someone 20 years ago who mentioned that they were on video from the moment of their birth, and it was unsettling.
Now, it’s rare to meet anyone under the age of 30 who isn’t cataloged on film through their entire childhood. I can’t even imagine watching myself being born. I have a hard time watching old seminar footage of me from ten years ago, for cryin’ out loud.
Anyone out there hauling around a library of self-referenced film with them? What’s it like?)
I believe I fell in love with photography the moment I saw my first photograph… and realized it was actually a moment in time captured forever.
And I formed some very intense ideas about what makes a “good” photograph as a third-grader thumbing through the still-amazing stack of Nazi photos Pop brought home from his stint as a rifleman during WWII.
(There’s no way to tell for sure, but those two dozen shots seem to be a German officer’s front-line cache of “Here’s what I did during the War” snapshots. Fascinating subject material that forced us to imagine what the story actually was behind those uniformed men… especially the one with the open bullet wound in the dorsal lat.)
As I grew up, I would become captivated by very few photos in the piles coming back from the drugstore of family and friends and pets and outings.
I never questioned why I found those few snapshots so iconic.
Later, one of my first jobs in advertising was overseeing the photography for a computer supply catalog every quarter.
That job meant gathering all the equipment (cables, monitors, furniture, floppies, etc) and spending a week or so with a professional photographer in Palo Alto trying to make plastic crap look good.
(I won’t bore you with the hassle that pre-digital photography presented — the need to refrigerate film, manually load it, and nurture it like a fragile duck egg until it could be color-separated and made “camera-ready”, which means ready for the printer to fuss with during the offset process of applying wave after wave of ink until the correct color was achieved.)
(Okay, sorry, I think I just bored you there.)
Anyway… I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography (like using mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream, cuz the real treat wouldn’t survive under the required hot lights for a good shot).
Pro photographers in the ad field earned big bucks. They knew the voodoo.
But you know what?Read more…
“It was never part of our plans not to play well… it just happened that way.” (Ron Barassi, Hall O’ Fame footballer & Carlton coach)
In about 10 days, my biz partner Stan will morph into Road Dog Stan, and we’ll both be off to the Land Down Unda.
Three weekends, three cities, three seminars to speak at.
We fly into Sydney… will drive up to Melbourne (where my old pal Ed Dale has previously shown me the amazing hospitality Oz residents offer)…
… then fly up to Brisbane (“Brzbin” to locals, I hear).
I’m kinda freaked just listing it all out. Fortunately, Stan and I have left our womenfolk behind many times before to go trudging off like Victorian explorers… into the dense, scary jungles of Seminar Land.
Armed only with laptops, Powerpoint, iPhones, wireless cards, Kindles, iPods, Dopp kits and a wad of clothes stuffed into carry-ons.
I’m telling you, it’s almost barbaric, the way we have to live by our wits in luxury hotels and biz class jets.
I really empathize with Livingstone and Stanley. (Or was that Stanley and Oliver?)
We will be one step above subsistence on the Maslow scale.
So hey…Read more…
Thoirsday, 9:43pm Reno, NV “Ask not for whom the dog barks. It barks for thee.” (Motto on our doormat.)
And welcome to the new blog.
I’ve pretty much just moved in.
And, as you can see, we hauled every scrap of crap from the OLD blog over here, and dumped it willy-nilly all over the joint. Coming up on five freaking years of archives over there on the lower right.
You could get lost in that Basement Of Wonders.
Be careful… should you muster the courage to go rummaging. (I dare ya.)
Jeez. I must be one of the longest-tenured bloggers in Read more…
“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” (Mae West)
A friend, who is briliant at marketing, asked me a question today about writing that has implications for most people.
This guy is a decent writer… but it takes him forever to get copy down on paper. It’s just agonizingly slow, and he hates me because I do it so fast.
Everytime we talk, he sneaks in a question about my writing “habits”, hoping to find the hidden magic secret to getting copy knocked out in record time. This time, he asked about my notoriety as a night owl, and whether I wrote best late at night.
I am a night owl. Even as a kid, the late evening hours held special allure for me. I suffered in the “real” corporate world, because arriving to work by 8 am was just an ordeal. I nearly flunked several courses in high school and college, because they began at 9 am.
Night owls get no slack from anyone.
There have been numerous studies proving that “night people” do exist — our body temperature, alertness and problem-solving abilities actually increase after dinner. A few savvy schools have even identified kids who were like me, and by moving thier classes to the afternoon, reversed their academic decline.
When I first went out on my own as a freelancer, one the of HUGE benefits was being able to work all night, and not worry about having to show up at anyone’s office looking bright and spiffy the following morning. I would frequently work until dawn.
The guy asking me about working at night is also an admitted night owl. He’s also a married man with kids, and a nocturnal work habit wouldn’t go over so well with the family.
So I told him to forget about trying to find the magic of writing fast and good by staying up later.
Because, early in my career, I made a discovery that I didn’t want to be true: I could write juust as good, and just as fast, just as easily, in the morning… as I could in my so-called “peak” hours late at night.
This discovery ruined my best excuse for not writing during the day. Turns out, once you become a craftsman at a skill, you can crank it up whenever it’s needed.
You may pay a price — such as getting exhausted faster, or screwing up your sleeping habits… but you CAN do it. You are NOT a slave to preconceived working hours.
However… I do recommend that you find a time in your day, every day, where you can arrange the space, peace and equipment to write. A two-to-four hour slot of uninteruptable time.
It can be first thing in the morning (as many famous writers insist on), or at the end of the day, after everyone else has turned in (as many other writers end up doing). Get the social implications of your choice in order, so that time becomes sacred. Phone off the hook, locked door, drapes pulled, whatever it takes.
It’s using the power of ROUTINE. There are two reasons why routine works for writers:
1. It becomes an addiction. At whatever-o’clock, you will quickly feel like you need to be at your desk, writing. Anything else that comes up, short of the house burning down or a visit to the ER, gets second billing. You’ll be back to the “real” world right after your writing session. But for now, you’ve got an appointment with a blank page.
2. You actually train your body to dump the internal stew of hormones and chemicals that aid in the kind of focused concentration and mind-play required to write.
It’s the same reason you should exercise at the same time every day — your body will actually do a little preparation as you head to the gym, gearing up the broth needed for lifting and sweating and grunting.
Sleep experts say the best way to get more deep sleep, while sleeping less total hours, and feeling more energy while awake… is to simply have the same bedtime and rising time, every day of your life. So your body isn’t freaked out — like a dog anxiously wondering if we’re ever gonna go to bed tonight — by changing patterns, and so doesn’t overdose or underdose on REM and dreams.
Same with diet. Bill Phillips, author of “Eating For Life” and a guy you do NOT want to argue with about diet, eats six meals a day, at regular times. So his body doesn’t gobble up each opportunity to store fat, thinking he’s starving. And it learns to function at optimum capacity on smaller portions.
So… the key to pumping out reams of great writing, is to set up routines. For some reason, the last few generations (startng with mine) have scoffed at routine, like it’s some cute relic of our grandfather’s time.
It’s not. You can spend the rest of your day being unpredictable and spontaneous and wonderfully whacky… but when it comes to your designated writing time, no one and no thing interferes.
This is a primary element of Operation MoneySuck: Do what you need to do to get the important stuff done, efficiently and regularly.
Side note: You won’t find your groove immediately. You may have to try finding your solid two-to-four hours at different times in your day, through trial and error.
The key is to find a time where you won’t be interupted. My assistant, for example, sometimes arrives while I’m still in writing mode. She knows not to disturb me, doesn’t take it personally, and even takes steps to make sure nothing else disturbs me either.
People will cooperate, once they understand what you’re trying to do.
Sort of. There will also be people in your life who cannot abide the idea that someone (like you) might actually be doing something proactive with your life. And they will find ways to screw with your routine.
It will become important for them to find a way to make you NOT establish a routine. Trust me on this. Mostly, they’re doing this unconsciously… but sometimes they’re well aware of what they’re doing.
When you start establishing radical routines like this, you’ll start producing stuff at an alarming rate. Your life will begin to move faster, and things will begin happening to you. Goals will start getting met, money will start pouring in, your status and position will grow.
This frightens those people in your life who fear change. Watch for this trap. Don’t fall for it.
Side note #2: It will take a while for you to realize when you’ve found your groove, too. People tend to forget that it takes time to get over being the new kid on the block… no matter what you apply that metaphor to.
The first few times I went to my new gym, I felt like the New Guy. Because I WAS the new guy. There was some awkwardness, everyone was a stranger, I got lost trying to find the men’s room.
Then, one fine day a few weeks later, I realized I was totally comfortable at this place. I had a routine. I waltzed in, and said hello to the attendant, who had my towel and bottle of water already waiting for me. All the regular staff nodded hello to me as I passed them. I breezily established my position at my usual warm-up bike, nodded at the other regulars (all on their favorite machine), and drifted easily into “I’m exercising here” mode.
Don’t sweat being the New Guy. It’s just a transition period you must go through. It’s the way it works.
Same with your writing routine. It won’t feel exactly right at first. May take you months to get settled in the right time, with the right routine. So what?
Once you do find your groove, you are off to the races.
Go get ’em…