THE LOST LAWS OF ROBOTIC DEVICES

Recently I have been re-reading the classics. Like I, Robot.

After having re-read the book I soon realized that I too had, over the years, discovered at least two of the (lost) Laws of Robotic Devices.

The Lost Law of Robotic Devices:

“No computer, file, or robot shall function, or allow any function whatsoever to operate as normal, without at least one full reboot. Upon reboot no computer, file, or robot shall fail to function normally or through omission allow a user to come to harm through failed function. Normal biological functions, such as heart attacks triggered by ignorance of this law, are not covered by the workings of this law.”

Second Lost Law of Robotics:

“No computer, file, or robot will ever fail or will ever need to be maintained, serviced, or backed-up until a moment of absolute and optimal disaster and/or complete failure for the end-user at which point it will have needed to have been maintained, serviced, and/or backed-up three weeks ago.”

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LEARN TO DO, DO TO LEARN

A good article with some sharp tips from my friend Phil Bogan

3 Audacious Tips to Learn to Be a Consultant (Ransom Note, Optional)

Learn to be a consultant - Ransom Note Fake

Those of you who don’t read a lot of ransom notes may have a little trouble making out exactly what this one says.

Let me spell it out for you:

I know the exact location of Jack Kilby’s lab where he invented the integrated circuit. Will reveal all for a price.”

And it’s a great object lesson for how to learn to be a consultant before you ever take the plunge. Here’s how I did it.

Ransom Notes and Learning to Be a Consultant

A few years ago, when I worked as Creative Services Manager for Texas Instruments (TI), I came across some information about the location of Jack Kilby’s original laboratory.

Kilby was an American electrical engineer who created one of the biggest inventions of the 20th century, the first integrated circuit.

And I had located the TI lab where it all happened.

I had communicated with a facilities manager in TI’s Semiconductor Building for several months about the possibility of doing something special on the anniversary of this invention.

We discussed reconstructing Kilby’s 1958 lab—the manager had the old furniture, some of the electronic equipment, the carpenters and electricians, and the budget to make it happen.

He also had early building configuration blueprints showing the location of Kilby’s lab, along with photos of the office. I had even verified the location with a couple of retired engineers.

At this point, the anniversary was about a year out.

But before I get too far into the story, let me tell you a bit more about Jack Kilby—and while I’m at it, the success tips we can learn from my experience recreating his lab.

Kilby was important, so I especially want to share his story.

One of the Rock Star Inventors of Our Time

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a Kilby “groupie.”

There are few men who can lay claim to have invented something so significant that it truly “changed the world.” Jack Kilby was one of these men.

His invention of the microchip helped pave the way for the entire field of modern microelectronics and gave rise to the modern computer era.

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First integrated circuit, invented by Jack Kilby. (Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments).

Kilby’s patents as an engineer totaled more than 60 during his lifetime, including the microchip, the handheld calculator, and many more.

In 1982, Kilby was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame, alongside Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. In 2000, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in the invention of the integrated circuit.

Jack was a 6-foot 6-inch gentle giant of a man who could often be seen strolling the halls of the Semiconductor Building where I worked. When he was spotted, people left their desks and poured into the halls to get a glimpse of him. Jack never seemed to notice. He was usually deep in thought.

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Jack Kilby (Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments).

But what about the ransom note?

I’m coming to that! First, let me finish the story.

I had missed the 35-year anniversary of “the chip” several years prior. Beautiful brochures, ads, and more had all been produced by our advertising agency.

The large and very capable internal creative group hadn’t even been considered for the job.

As we approached the 50th anniversary of Kilby’s invention in 2008, I was determined we would have a seat at the table. I wanted the assignment. But how to get it?

Consulting Tip #1: Know What You Want!

The Kilby story perfectly illustrates that you don’t have to wait until you quit your job to learn to be a consultant.

  • First, grow where you are planted.
  • You can learn to shine as a consultant on your current employer’s dime. (And maybe get a promotion out of it.)
  • Always approach your current job as if you are a consultant and your employer and fellow-employees are your customers or potential customers. It’s all about the mindset.
  • If you want to work on a project of interest, ask. Tell them why you should be considered.
  • Hold up your hand in meetings. Volunteer.

Now for the Ransom Note

I was up late one night, unable to sleep, just searching the internet, when I accidentally stumbled across a software program that converted whatever you typed in into a ransom note. It was totally unique. I experimented with it, and then a plan hit me!

The next day I dropped an envelope containing the ransom message you see above into TI’s internal mail. It was addressed to Kathryn Collins, TI’s Worldwide Communications Manager. Fortunately, there would be no way it could be traced back to me. I hoped.

My plan was to keep sending notes like the first one, but with increasing levels of urgency until I figured out how to actually approach Kathryn with the idea.

I knew what the call-to-action would ultimately be. I wanted to spearhead the reconstruction of Jack Kilby’s lab

As I wrote each note, I was worried the FBI would come knocking at my office door at TI. Or that HR and a guard would escort me out of the building permanently.

Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is scary. It’s okay. We all feel that way.

One week later, I received a surprising reply!

Kathryn and her inner circle of communication managers had discussed the note and finally determined it must have come from me. Her handwritten response said:

Hey knucklehead, next time you send me a ransom note, give me an address so I can get the money to you!”

I was startled—I hadn’t even sent my follow-up ransom notes yet.

How had they figured out who sent it?

Consulting Tip #2: Be Certain You’re Well-Qualified

As a new consultant, you’ll reach out to a lot of people in your search for clients. You need to be sure you’re well-qualified to do the project you propose.

Here are a few tips:

  • The customer’s business should be something in which you have depth of experience and knowledge.
  • You should have a deep interest in their business.
  • You should believe that you can help them grow their market share.
  • If you want to work with a particular customer, first get to know their products or services.
  • If you believe you are the right fit for a company or one of their projects, find a way to let them know about you and your qualifications as a consultant.

When I proposed the Kilby lab recreation, I felt well-qualified to be the lead on the project. Here’s why:

In 2005, TI’s 75th Anniversary had taken place. I had worked with a team of retirees and current TI employees—Max Post, myself, and Amy Treece as leads to research and produce a 266-page history book of the company’s first 75 years. The book opens with a congratulatory letter from President George Bush.

Every employee (at that time there were more than 35,000 worldwide) received a copy of the book.

In addition to the history book, which took nearly two years to complete, there were dozens of other communications pieces produced for that occasion, including:

  • An award-winning, interactive history website.
  • Banners that highlighted TI’s achievements, which were hung up and down hallways in the company’s buildings around the world.
  • An online education campaign.
  • A month-long series of full-page historical ads in the Dallas paper.
  • Online contests about TI’s history, with prizes.
  • Worldwide celebrations in every country where TI had a plant.

For its efforts, Texas Instruments won 25 International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) awards in the 2006 competition—one Gold Quill award, eight first-place Silver Quill awards (regional competition) and 16 first-place Bronze Quill awards (local competition). It was the most awards won by any company.

I am not claiming or desiring any credit for any of this. It was a huge team effort. My point is simply that I felt like I had done my homework on TI’s history and was ready for the Kilby lab challenge.

Kathryn confirmed it was my involvement with the history project that led them inexorably, breadcrumb by breadcrumb, to my door.

I Was Given the Go-Ahead

It took just one quick meeting with Kathryn Collins to get the approval to recreate Jack Kilby’s lab.

My good friend Max Post, a TI retiree with whom I had worked on the history book, and I visited the TI archives to pull out significant artifacts that could be used in Kilby’s new old lab.

The lab was constructed on a major hallway in the Semiconductor Building where hundreds of TI engineers and other employees would pass daily on their way to the cafeteria for lunch.

When the construction was complete, it was essentially left up to me to fill the office space with items appropriate to the era.

Kilby Lab 1958 Recreation Capture

The recreation of Jack Kilby’s 1958 lab.

Magazines from the 1950s are displayed. Bookshelves are filled with books that Kilby would have read. Family photos hang on the walls and sit on the desk. Jack’s ever-present coffee cup, ashtray, lighter and pack of cigarettes are there

His briefcase sits open on a workbench, as if he was preparing for a business trip.

Finally, one of the working models of the original integrated circuit is placed in the center of Kilby’s desk, next to one of Jack’s lab books—the one he used to create the first schematic of his famous invention.

The TI history book sits on a stand facing the glass wall, displaying the page that shows Kilby receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics from His Majesty the King of Sweden in December, 2000.

We unveiled the lab on a day that was devoted solely to honoring Kilby and celebrating his achievements. The Kilby family was invited, along with friends, fellow engineers, and dignitaries who knew Jack.

I remember, after the event, one of the Kilby daughters saying to me, “It looks like dad has just stepped away for a moment.”

That was perfect.

Consulting Tip #3: Do It! And Do It Sooner than Later

  • It isn’t enough to simply recognize opportunities that present themselves. You have to take action on them.
  • As soon as you believe you’re ready, take the action of asking a prospective customer for their business.
  • If you can do this in a creative way—one you feel comfortable doing—do it!
  • Speak up when the right opportunities present themselves. If you don’t, someone else will. You can count on that.
  • If you don’t speak up, they’ll get the project or the customer. And the credit, too.
  • Be the consultant that helps turn heads in the marketplace. Do it with flare and impact!
  • Be a problem solver. Always be on the lookout for solutions to your client’s problems.
  • Always put honesty and ethics at the top of your dealings with employees, customers, and prospective customers.
  • Be careful what you put on social media.
  • As you have promotional successes for one customer, find ways to adapt them for other customers in different industries or niches. This is one good way you can scale your business.
  • If you can approach a prospect in a creative way—one you feel comfortable doing—do it!
  • Don’t forget to go home to your family at night. They miss you. 

And never rule out the power of a good ransom note!

The Rest of the Story

Interestingly, after Jack retired, he became a consultant to Texas Instruments and other companies.

His consulting advice for us would be:

“Pick something you’re interested in—and go as far as you can with it.”

Click to tweet

Here’s a short video about the Kilby lab recreation.

If you’d like to learn more about Kilby’s life and achievements here’s an interesting video about him.

This project was incredibly important to me. In fact, it probably laid a foundation for my own consulting business, forcing me to be creative in asking for the job.

What creative ways have you used to ask for the job, both as an employee and as a consultant?

What are your thoughts about learning to be a consultant before quitting your job?

Phil Bogan
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Phil Bogan

Creative Writer at Bogan Communications
Phil is an advertising and direct marketing consultant with decades of experience. While offering his services as an advertising copywriter and creative director, he writes children’s stories. He has also been an exotic parrot breeder, a soda jerk, and a professional musician.

A GRAVE AND SUPERSTITIOUS ERROR

It is a grave and superstitious error to consistently draw out universal truths from circumstantial observations. Yet it is a common practice of modern men.

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

VISUALIZING ANALYSIS

Summary

The first article in this series described the concept of Business Architecture, and went on to introduce two powerful models used to build sound, robust architectural views, being the Capability Model, and the Value Stream. This second article seeks to solidify these models in the context of Business Analysis.

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) have identified a set of competencies they consider necessary for a practicing business analyst to be effective at their job. This article builds a capability view using these competencies as a foundation, and then considers the value streams that a business analyst uses to co-ordinate these competencies to perform their job.

Two distinct value streams emerge, one showing how a business analyst realises value on a project, and one showing how a business analyst realises value at an enterprise level.

What Do You Do?

As a business analyst, have you ever been asked to explain what you do for the organisation? The question may have come from a co-worker, but more likely you were asked by one of the more senior members of staff. The question can be quite a daunting one.

Since the field of IT business analysis is still relatively young, false impressions of what exactly a competent business analyst is, and more importantly what value they bring to their organisation generally, and their projects specifically, are rife. It is therefore important that the answer given to the question is clear and accurate.

Competency or Capability?

Before moving forward, we must first understand the difference between a capability and a competency.

Although often used interchangeably, “capability” and “competency” are quite different. Ulrich and Smallwood[1] make the distinction that individuals build competencies, while organisations exhibit capabilities.

The intention article is to produce a strategic view of the business analyst, describing their competencies using a capability model and value stream maps. In doing so, the aim is to provide a concrete example showing how to construct these two models using concepts that are familiar to analysts.

For the remainder of this article we are going to treat the individual BA competencies as analogous to organisational capabilities, whilst understanding the key difference highlighted above.

The BABOK, and the IIBA’s Competency Model

Let’s get back to the question that we posed to start with: “What Do You Do?”. The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge[2] (BABOK) is an excellent place to look to begin in formulating an answer.

The BABOK, and its supporting Competency Model[3], describes the knowledge, skills, abilities and other personal characteristics that an effective analyst perfects in time. Also laid out is a roadmap for an analyst to plan their career trajectory from junior to master analyst.

In addition to underlying competencies expected from a professional knowledge worker, the IIBA has identified 6 core knowledge areas that a business analyst must home in order to progress from beginner to competent to master in the practice of Business Analysis.

The competencies that we will use to build our model come from these 6 knowledge areas.

Strategic Modelling Step 1: The Business Analyst Competency Model

Let us start our example by considering the analyst to be an enterprise, and the competencies presented in the BABOK to be our Analyst-Enterprise’s capabilities. Our first step is to build a capability model that represents ‘what’ the Analyst-Enterprise is doing to create value.

This example is built using the Business Architecture Guild’s Level-1 Capability Model as a foundation for categorising each competency. For the sake of clarity, the Underlying Competencies are presented separately.

Since we are considering the ‘what’ and not the ‘how’, we must exclude all of the techniques that the BABOK list. Techniques are very much a ‘how’, and a senior analyst will use several techniques interchangeably, according to the needs of the project at hand.

The model is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Business Analyst Competency Model
Figure 1: Business Analyst Competency Model

You will immediately notice two things in the model:

  • first, the competencies, named as capabilities, have been renamed, and;
  • second, ‘Transition Requirements Definition’ is highlighted in red.

Naming Capabilities

The reason for the name-change is that capabilities are named using nouns[4]. Remember that capabilities are an external, ‘black box’ view of a business function that encapsulates the people (stakeholders in our case), process (think of the techniques described in the BABOK), and platforms (in our case this includes such things as CASE tools or document repositories).

To assembling our capability model we are defining what is being done, not how. By using nouns we build in a cross-check that we are not including processes or value streams into the capability model.

During analysis, it is quite easy to get tangled in naming capabilities that you are identifying in the business. If you find yourself questioning whether you have identified a capability correctly, remember that you are working towards building a view of ‘what’, and not ‘how’. Take a step back and ask: “Does my capability encapsulate people, process and platform, or have I fallen into the ‘how-trap’ by describing process?”

Identifying Duplication

The reason that ‘Transition Requirements Definition’ is highlighted in red is that capabilities are unique, and must occur only once on the capability model. Let’s analyse ‘Transition Requirements Definition’ by refering to the BABOK definition:

Purpose: To define requirements for capabilities needed to transition from an existing solution to a new solution.

So, this competency talks to requirements definition, but with the narrow focus of transitioning a solution into the organisation. Therefore, it is comprised several of existing requirements-centric capabilities already on our map; it is in essence a specialisation that combines existing competencies.

This composite capability must thus be eliminated from the capability model.

Benefits of the Capability Model

Now that we have produced the model, let us consider the benefits of having produced a capability model for our hypothetical Analyst-Enterprise.

  1. The model provides us with a talking point. We can refer to it during discussions, and importantly it drives a common vocabulary into those discussions. Moreover, it is easy to discuss individual elements of the role, whilst not losing sight of the whole.
  2. We can quickly see, on a single page, the competencies that make a business analyst. Using this view an analyst can quickly focus on weak areas, and they can take steps to address these weaknesses.
  3. Further, the model can aid the planning that the analyst may do by allowing objective prioritisation of actions to address their areas of weakness.

The capability model is our blueprint. The model is a stable reference point throughout our career. We may need to change a great deal, through learning and experience, to cultivate mastery in the role, but the model remains the blueprint against which we will plan to develop ourselves further.

Strategic Modelling Step 2: The Business Analyst Value Streams

When considering how an analyst delivers value to an organisation, it emerges that there are two distinct levels that the analyst engages at.

The first emergent focus is bounded by a project, and the analyst works within the ambit of the project. Working at the project level, the analyst’s deliverables address the specific needs of their project.

The second focus is at an enterprise level, where the analyst is working with business leaders, and key decision makers. At this level the analyst is working to distill strategy into clear objectives. They work to understand the current state of the business, and to formulate the actions needed to achieve the desired future state. This analyst will often be responsible for the business plans that give rise to the projects mentioned above.

Junior and intermediate analysts will tend to have a project focus, while senior analyst will likely be found bringing their depth of experience to bear at the enterprise level.

Value Stream: Plan-to-Solution

Using the competencies identified by the IIBA, the value stream that expresses value delivery in the project context is presented below.

In the interests of simplicity, the ‘Transition Requirements Definition’ competency has not been decomposed into its discrete elements.

Since value streams are designed with improvement in mind, we can start to leverage our view of Plan-to-Solution for the purpose of improvement. Our goal may be to reduce cost by eliminating waste (maybe arising from poor upfront planning), or to produce the solution in time with customer expectation (by better managing scope and communication). Our goal is likely to vary from project to project.

Value Stream: Vision-to-Plan

Next up, let us examine how an enterprise analyst delivers value while conducting their duties.

Figure 3: Vision-to-Plan Value Stream
Figure 3: Vision-to-Plan Value Stream

In this example we can see that the enterprise analyst is using many of the same value stream stages as the project analyst. This makes sense, as in both cases the analyst must plan, they must engage with identified stakeholders to elicit requirements, the must communicate and they validate outcomes. The main difference is the scope of the initiative, and the desired outcome.

Looking at both of the examples I am sure that you get a sense that the value stream presents a dynamic view of value delivery.

Key Principles of Value Streams to Remember[5]

The value stream is customer-focused. Our customer in either instance above is the Project Sponsor, and ultimately the business itself. You may choose to represent the customer in a number of ways, whether in the map directly, or in your supporting documentation.

Keep in mind that the value stream is value centric. At each value stream stage we should be able to identify at least one customer for whom we have created value. If we are not delivering value then we are wasting time and money. It is sometimes helpful to include a purpose and value statement below each value stream.

The value streams are a business-centric view of value creation. They are aimed at strategic decision-makers, and are intended to be simple to understand and interpret. Avoid making overly complex value streams that are more process-centric than is necessary. Getting back to the initial question posed in this article: Think how quickly you could answer the question with a value stream. The high-level nature of the steam does not put off senior members of staff, and they are able to quickly understand the value delivery mechanism.

Value streams are holistic, end-to-end views of value creation. They are by nature cross-cutting, and inclusive of external parties. This allows decision-makers to formulate a common approach that can be rolled out across the organisation without needing to be tailored for individual divisions, departments or sites.

Moreover, the value streams aggregate the underlying processes from across organisational silos, and even organisational boundaries. This allows similar processes to be rationalised and consolidated. Decision-makers are empowered by the holistic view to recognise redundant or duplicate process, and to implement common solutions in these identified areas. The business as a whole becomes more streamlined and efficient.

We can decompose the value streams. This allows the value stream to be tailored to meet the specific needs of an individual product line, or business unit in the context of the value delivery highlighted by the value stream.

Lastly, we can quickly understand how the value creation process leverages business capabilities. Resources can be brought to bear, in an objective way, on capabilities that are underperforming. For instance, we may quickly realise that we are not planning our activities well enough as we are weak in the ‘Business Analysis Activities Planning’ competency. We could then plan to work at improving this competency in upcoming projects.

Conclusion

By using our capability model and value streams we can lay down a blueprint that lets us envision ourselves in terms of what we do, they facilitate planning of a successful approach to improving our skill, and then guiding our development of these skills.

Crucially, we are able to express complex ideas simply, and effectively. The models tend to drive out a common language, and by allowing discussions to revolve around the models we can avoid ambiguity. Armed with these models it should be easy for an analyst to clearly answer the question ‘What do you do?’.

Exactly the same principles apply when you view the enterprise through these two lenses. The opportunities for improvement become quickly obvious. Business Architecture is becoming ever more important in linking the business strategy to explicit, achievable results. As this field matures it is going to become ever more important pillar that supports the overall Enterprise Architecture.

PROSPERITY AND ACTION

A good article from my friend Steve. You should pay his site(s) a visit and read his advice.

5 things prosperous copywriters do all day

Steve Roller, prosperous copywriter trainer

One of my favorite blog posts ever appeared exactly eight years ago in the Daily Reckoning, titled, “The Three Things Rich People Do All Day.”

In the piece, Chris Mayer concludes that reading, conversing with people who know what you’d like to know, and thinking are the three things rich people do all day.

After hanging out with some pretty high achievers the last couple years, and aspiring to be one of the wealthy myself, I have to agree with him.

On the ride home from my Ultimate Writing Retreat™ in Chicago nine days ago, I came up with my own list of 5 things that prosperous copywriters do all day:

1. Read. Read classic copywriting books by Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy, and Claude Hopkins. Read contemporary classics by Dan Kennedy, Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton.

Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and your local paper (if you have local clients.) Read classic literature by Hemingway and Hugo, as well as airport paperbacks by John Grisham and Stephen King. Read!

2. Think. You simply have to spend time deep thinking about Big Ideas. How else are you going to come up with a new angle for a client promotion? It’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone, furious writing time that accomplishes that.

Or think about Big Ideas for your own business.

How are you going to convince your prospects to do business with you instead of the dozens of other copywriters who are just as good as you, in the same niche? How can you provide more value while working faster and making sure your clients get a good return on investment? What is your Big “off the chart” Idea that could send your business soaring?

3. Talk to interesting people.

I spent 67 hours recently hanging out with some very interesting people in Chicago. We coined at least three new terms that you’ll probably be hearing about in the next few months. We launched two new businesses, re-launched two more, and came up with strategy that could turn two of them into million-dollar businesses.

When I’m in my office, I probably spend two hours a day on average conversing with copywriters who are trying to get to the next level. I ask  questions to get them thinking in a different way. I challenge them. I offer critiques if they ask. I give offbeat advice.

Once in a while, I inspire someone to go out and do really big things. Very rewarding, all of it. I benefit from these conversations, too.

Be selective about the company you keep, and spend the time in meaningful discussions.

4. Write stuff that other people will pay you for. Ask yourself at every turn, “Is this making me money?” or “Is it leading me quickly to a place where I’ll make money doing it?”

If you’re writing a special report that prospects will download to get on your mailing list, which you’ll then use to market your other services to them, the answer is “yes.” Writing an article for “exposure” and the promise of possible work down the road? Your call, but I’d say “no.”

5. Write things that build your own business. One of the “eureka” moments at the Chicago retreat was that you don’t have to figure out how to write copy for clients. Create a business around something you love, and write all the marketing copy for it.

When you’re writing copy for your own high-end luxury watch tours to Basel, Switzerland, or for helping CEOs become insanely great at presentation skills, things get pretty fun! Think of copywriting as a means to an end.

If you were a fly on the wall of my office, those are the five things you’d find me doing every day. Reading, thinking, talking to interesting people, writing stuff that people pay me for, and writing to build my own business.

Do you have any others you’d add to the list? Any you’d take off this list? Where can you do all five of these at once, in a three-day intensive writing experience like you’ve never seen before? Asheville, North Carolina, of course. July 17-20.

It’ll be another one for the ages: http://cafewriter.com/asheville/

Hope to see you there. I have a few ideas of what we’ll talk about.

the copywriter's life

the copywriter’s life

RELIABILITY from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Reliability breeds profit. Unpredictability predicts collapse.

THE GREAT ENTERPRISE from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Do not seek permission to undertake any Great Enterprise. Let the High Quality of your Work be your True Qualification.

TO STRIVE, OR NOT from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Without something to really strive against few people ever bother to strive. Without something to truly strive for few people ever bother to overcome their lack of striving.

 

ANY PROBLEM from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Any problem is soluble if you act upon it properly.

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

I have been experimenting with a new way of Working that is succeeding quite well. I have narrowed down all of the really important things I do every Work Day plus on my 3 Sabbaths and reduced them to 4 (or less) Essential Items. I therefore get up every day and do these 4 Essential Items every day first thing.

Then, and only after these 4 Essential Items are done do I go on to the rest of my schedule and whatever else I have to do. This assures I do the most Essential things first and foremost without excuse or interruption or interference.

This system has worked out extremely well for me… I highly recommend it. This is my Personal System (below). Of course develop one of your own to cover what is most essential to achieve for you.

________________________________________________________

DAILY AND WEEKLY ESSENTIAL THINGS

Monday

Blog
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Writing Submissions

Tuesday

Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Gaming Project
Business Submissions

Wednesday

Site Commenting and Sharing
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Invention Submissions

Thursday

Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Songwriting and Composing and Poetry
Songwriting Submissions

Friday

Blog
Idea and Invention and Investment Generation and Mental Sabbath
Meetings and Networking and Travel and Field Trips

Saturday

Sharing and Reblogging
Recreation and Psychological Sabbath and Rest

Sunday

Spiritual Sabbath and Church
Prayer, Study Bible, and Theurgy and Thaumaturgy
Rest

NATIVE PR?

Why PR Firms Shouldn’t Be Worried About Native Ads

Why PR Firms Shouldn't Be Worried About Native Ads
Image credit: Shutterstock.com
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On a recent trip to New York, I took the opportunity to attend a digital publishing summit that brought together key digital players including The Huffington PostThe Onion, Buzzfeed and others to discuss trends in publishing. I was interested to learn more about how the media landscape is changing as a result of digital.

Changing reader habits, geared towards a preference for consuming media online and through devices, have led to the decline of print and a subsequent decline in revenue for media outlets. Unsurprisingly, the number one issue up for discussion at the conference was revenue models, most predominately native advertising.

Is the wall between editorial and advertising coming down?

Many critics suggest that native advertising has led to one of the most significant shifts of our times, the gradual breakdown of the wall that used to exist between editorial and advertising. Editorial has never stood completely independent (after all we have a whole industry, public relations, which has given interest groups a platform through editorial), the line has certainly begun to blur.

On the other hand, one could also argue that native advertising leads to more transparency about corporate interests, unlike public relations where corporate interests are buried in editorial. Critics could argue that indeed the wall remains intact.

What does this mean for public relations practitioners?

In any event, native advertising is already sending earned media opportunities into decline. We’re already seeing fewer opportunities to secure media coverage for clients through traditional means—pitching for interviews, guest blogging, op eds, media releases etc.—without paying for it.

What does this mean for today’s public relations practitioner? Practitioners must be well versed in digital, social, content and paid media. Borrowing the tactics of other disciplines is now the norm. This doesn’t mean, however, that public relations doesn’t have its place.

Ultimately, public relations brings to the table a crucial focus on understanding target audience and crafting messages and content which cuts through with that audience. This is also paramount for a sound content, digital or social strategy. Public relations also understands the unique role of a brand’s reputation and credibility, which goes beyond simply building brand awareness.

Native advertising won’t mean the end of public relations, but it will mean that public relations will start to look very different.

A NEW AND BETTER DESIGN from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

A new and better design is not really possible unless one first acknowledges that a new and better design is necessary and required.

image from nuturenergy

OBJECTIVES AND GOALS – THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

What I have to say below on the topic of Objectives and Goals (and the differences between the two) was sparked by a Linked In post on a Consulting Blog. What follows is my response to the question posed on the blog:

 

OBJECTIVES AND GOALS

To me these words have very specific, practical definitions for my own Work, though they might very well be used interchangeably by clients or others. By my own definitions, which are pragmatic and geared towards utility, an Objective is a wide-scale enterprise or endeavor, strategic in nature, and therefore separate and distinct from a Goal which is carefully and tightly targeted and tactical in nature.

Let me use a warfare analogy. An objective might be to “take a town,” (I am using a narrow strategic objective, whereas it could just as easily be that my objective is wide-scale, to “defeat an enemy”) but my goals in doing so might be as follows: cut off enemy resupply routes, attrit enemy forces, reduce the number of enemy fortified hard-points, and constrict enemy fuel and power resources. Each Goal then is a clear and very specific and tactical aim which when taken all together, and if each is successfully executed then I achieve my overall Objective (which is strategic in nature.

I could use the very same type of analogy and apply it to a business or investment enterprise. Suppose I or my client wanted to begin a new start-up. The Objective would be to obtain sufficient Capital and investment to properly fund operations thereby increasing the odds of a successful launch and the building of a profitable enterprise.

My specific goals therefore in pursuing this strategic Objective would be as follows; construct a viable business plan with acceptable financial projections, create a pitch capable of exciting investors, secure angel or venture capital sources to fund the project, develop a strong operational team to run the day to day business operations of the Start-Up, etc.

Each goal to me therefore has a very specific and tight aim which I can easily measure and that contains a very specific time-frame for completion. Complete all of the Goals successfully, or most of them successfully, and you eventually reach your Objective which is also successfully concluded and obtained.

Therefore to me Objectives are always strategic and large-scale (and because of this somewhat flexible in nature), whereas Goals are always specific and targeted and tightly measured.

Objectives to me are always Objective (in nature, as is implied by the denotation of the word) and general but state the desired end-point aim, whereas Goals are always tactical, pragmatic, (and to some degree subjective in nature) and consist of the necessary sub-components used to achieve the overall Objective.

The point to me is a pragmatic and practical one, to differentiate between the overall strategic Objective and the specific and tactical Goals necessary to obtain that Objective.

In that way you neither confuse your Goals and how they operate, nor do you lose sight of your True Objective(s).

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Ardbrin Enterprise Goals Optimisation Platform

ARE OBJECTIVES AND GOALS THE SAME THING?

Ok, so let’s be pedantic for a minute. Are goals and objectives the same thing? Their usage seems to cause a certain degree of debate, and this is certainly the case amongst our own team. Both words describe things that a person may want to achieve or attain but are used specifically at certain times and situations for differentiation. Some would argue that goals are broader than objectives as goals are general intentions and are not specific enough to be measured, whereas in most cases objectives are measurable. Or some would say that goals are longer term with objectives being used on the short to medium term.

 

Regardless of whether we choose to use the word ‘goal’ or ‘objective, in order to get the best results, they must all be measurable. At Ardbrin, we have drawn our own conclusions and use the word ‘goal’ in our model, but only because it’s shorter and easier to spell! All of our goals are measurable as we apply SMART criteria to them. For us therefore smart goals = objectives. In case you need reminding, SMART is the acronym for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time related. So when we speak to our customers, our advice would be to have the confidence to use either word interchangeably, as when it comes to strategic planning we know what you mean.

THE BOOK OF PLANS – BRAINSTORM

THE BOOK OF PLANS

It’s a very interesting process (the process followed in the video) but also extremely complex, expensive, and time consuming. Over time and as I have aged I have learned that simplicity, not complexity, is in my opinion, what actually yields both more productivity and more profit on most enterprises and projects and endeavours. Therefore I tend to eschew complexity nowadays. Plus, complexity tends to be both highly redundant and very expensive. For instance if you want intact copies of each book in your library then you have to buy two copies of each book to execute this process.

 

Not that I don’t think this process would yield valuable results, especially the fact that he reviews books while his heart rate is up, etc. (his data absorption process) but my information preparation and absorption process is extremely simple by comparison.

 

I simply take a book, go through it as he said early in the video and highlight everything that is useful and practically applicable. Then I distill each highlighted chapter or section or paragraph or item into a single sentence which contains an actionable premise or instruction set. In this way I can distill a single book down to a Single Plan of perhaps 8 to 12 Actionable Points (sometimes also containing some side-notes explaining the most relevant new information). I also tend to place each plan in Chronological Order so that each plan can always be followed in the most logically progressive manner. See this entry for more detail on what I mean: 8 to 12 Point Plan.

 

In this way, over the years, I have created literally hundreds of Plans of various types of information, processes, and actions (derived both from my own experiences and from information obtained from books and other sources) which when they are all combined together in a single source I call my Book of Plans. (Again, as I have aged I have become far more interested in how information can be practically and usefully and profitably applied than in “information” as a principal or principle or component in and of itself.

 

I also sub-divide my Book of Plans into chapters relevant to what most interests me in a given Field. For instance I have chapters on Business, Art, Invention, Technology, Science, Religion, Exploration, etc. and each chapter may have 30 pages (or more or less depending on the subject matter) of plans in it with each page being a separate plan on a particular subject.

 

That is my method. It is simple, fast, data-targeted, actionable, inexpensive, and when necessary it is extremely easy to review each plan in order to follow my Plans or to pick back up again from where I had previously left off operations.

PROPER MONEY MANAGEMENT from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

When you engage in proper money management even the seemingly impossible often becomes certain in time. When you engage in improper money management even the probable becomes impossible in time.

NEW BUSINESS PROPOSAL – BRAINSTORM

Much of my morning will be spent writing up my proposal for a new business project and the functional and operational structure of the business itself. Or, to be more accurate, transcribing my formulation notes into a proper form for developing the body of the actual proposal.

Later today, in the afternoon, I’ll be devising much of the pitch, assessing the projected financials (it should be able to generate more than one income/revenue stream, and should be able to be funded in more than one way), and so forth.

By the end of the week I plan to present the idea to some potential partners and maybe even an investor or two.

I’m looking forward to this as it is an excellent idea and in a field/industry that interests me a great deal.

12 PROFITABLE DOCUMENTARIES

12 documentaries on Netflix that will make you smarter about business

Freakonomics documentaryScreenshot from Netflix“Freakonomics” looks at how economics explain what motivates people.

Here’s a quick and fun way to enrich your business knowledge: streaming documentaries on Netflix.

The online movie and TV service has a vast cache of business and tech documentaries that anyone with a subscription can watch instantly. The topics range from profiles of great tech innovators like Steve Jobs to deep dives into industrial design.

Each of these 12 documentaries offers an entertaining storyline, as well as valuable insights into business success.

Alison Griswold contributed to an earlier version of this article.


How lifelong dedication and obsession with quality can pay off

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” profiles Jiro Ono, a Japanese sushi chef and restaurant owner who is widely revered for his skill and $300-a-plate dinners. It follows the 85-year-old master as he works with vendors to secure the finest ingredients, manages and mentors his staff, and prepares his son to succeed him when he retires. The movie brings viewers inside the dedication, obsession, and decades of hard work it takes to achieve perfection.

The best tricks to transform your life

The best tricks to transform your life

TED

TED Talks: Life Hacks” is a collection of 10 popular TED lectures that offer tips and insights for success in life and business. You’ll learn body-language secrets from Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, research-backed productivity tricks from positive psychology expert Shawn Achor, and more.

How to stage a dramatic turnaround

How to stage a dramatic turnaround

Screenshot from Netflix

Inside: Lego,” a short 2014 film by Bloomberg, takes viewers inside one of the greatest turnaround stories in recent history. Lego, the Denmark-based toy maker, was in trouble in the early 2000s. It had overextended, lost its identity, and was bleeding money. After executing CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s strategy to refocus on the core business, Lego rebounded to become the world’s fastest-growing toy company.

How to adapt constantly to stay relevant

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” takes viewers deep inside the business of the late Joan Rivers. After following the comedian for a year, filmmakers reveal the highs and lows of Rivers’ decades-long quest to stay relevant. What does it take to get to the top and stay there? From meticulous organization systems to her willingness to take any job to make sure her staff got paid, the movie shows the fierce determination necessary for success.

How to make decisions under enormous pressure

Few people know pressure better than Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and the US Secretary of the Treasury during the height of the financial crisis. “Hank: 5 Years from the Brink” explores the momentous task Paulson was handed in September 2008 — saving the global economy — and how he dealt with it.

The psychology behind great industrial design

The items you think the least about may have the most effective designs, according to the 2009 film “Objectified.” Take the Post-it note. Have you ever considered that someone put a lot of time into its appearance? The movie explores the unconscious but influential relationship we have with the objects around us, and why the smallest tweaks in design make an enormous difference.

How to rise to the top of an ultra-competitive industry

If you’ve ever thought about starting a restaurant, Danny Meyer knows a thing or two about success in the business. “The Restaurateur: How Does Danny Do It?” offers a behind-the-scenes look at Meyer, the New York City restaurateur and man behind Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern. The movie shows how Meyer’s philosophy of putting great food first launched his career.

How early venture capitalists helped build American tech giants

Something Ventured” portrays some of the most successful and prolific venture capitalists, who through genius or luck made big early-stage bets on tech companies like Apple, Google, Atari, and Intel. For a crash course in venture capital or a modern business history lesson, this 2011 documentary shows how entrepreneurs partnered with investors to build some of the greatest American companies.

Behind the scenes of the business world’s biggest scandal

Behind the scenes of the business world's biggest scandal

Screenshot from Netflix

The 2005 documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” is a cautionary tale. It’s a deep dive into the fall of Enron, the energy company that was at one point valued at $70 billion but filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It’s become one of the most well-known cases of financial corruption and accounting fraud, and this film explores the psychology behind and fallout of the collapse of an empire.

Why showmanship and great marketing is just as important as the products you sell

Steve Jobs was one of the most revered entrepreneurs and designers of our time. In the PBS documentary “Steve Jobs: One Last Thing,” the filmmakers trace Jobs’ inspiring career and lasting legacy in technology and retail, as well as his legendary product presentations.

How Silicon Valley became a hub of innovation

How Silicon Valley became a hub of innovation

Screenshot from Netflix

The 2013 PBS documentary “American Experience: Silicon Valley” chronicles the beginning of the modern technology age. It follows a group of eight technologists who took a risk and decided to start their own company in 1957. It’s a telling look at the history of the Valley and the birth of a culture characterized by openness, innovation, and idealism.

How economics explain what motivates people

Why do people do the things they do? “Freakonomics,” a 2010 film based on the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, explores the scientific and economic concepts behind human behavior. It will open your eyes to what motivates your customers, employees, and coworkers.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-business-documentaries-to-watch-instantly-2015-5?op=1#ixzz3bp4Fratp

UNREMARKABLE MARKETING from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Marketing is no substitute for capability and talent, but then again capabilities unmarketed are capabilities unremarked upon, and talent unknown.

THE PIIN – BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

This is part of the Abstract and Introduction I wrote for a paper for the DHS on PIINs, a concept of my own. I am writing a much lengthier essay/paper (perhaps even a small book) on the same subject which will include information on how to form PIINs of various kinds and in different industries using the same basic techniques and procedures and networks.

I use these same principles in the development of all of my PIINs regardless or industry or purpose. Although each PIIN is modified to service the particular requirements of how it is constructed and what exact purpose it serves.

Although this is a little out of order for my publishing schedule I offer this post up as my Business of Business post this week.

 

First of all, let me summarize the nature of the PIIN. The Personal (or Private) Intelligence and Investigative Network, like all networks is almost entirely dependent upon a series of established contact points. This is both the strength of the PIIN and the inherent weakness thereof. Therefore it is imperative that high-quality and functionally useful, as well as accurate and practical contact points be created, assessed and reassessed, and maintained over time. This is true whether the contact point is physical, biological, communicative, informational, electronic, technological, or computational. Every asset is a tool and the quality and functionality of those tools are the essential elements in the creation, maintenance, and performance of your PIIN. The Value of any Network is circumscribed by the acute and chronic qualities of those components, which within themselves compose the actual circumference, and separate elements of that real network. If the components of the network are of inferior grade, if the contacts are defectively impositional or of little practical use, or if the contact points are weak or insecure then the entire network is suspect and prone to failure at any and every point of transmission. The PIIN therefore should avoid both obvious and subtle deficits at all times by being practically and pragmatically useful, flexible, adaptable, in a state of constant positive growth and change, accessible, composed of superior components and contact points, secure, and most of all accurate and reliable.

Each and every network is therefore dependent upon the depth and breadth of the human contacts established interior to and exterior to that particular network and subject to the limitations of accuracy and the quality and quantity of valuable information that network can generate. The first real action needed to establish any PIIN and to make it fully functional is the recruitment, development, and maintenance of quality contacts. Contacts are always of the most absolute importance in the establishment of any PIIN. In addition the nature and quality of those contacts should be viewed as central and formative to the capabilities of every other contact point in the configuration and to the network as a whole. After an initial establishment of contacts those contacts should be immediately vetted and/or tested for accuracy and quality. This process of discrimination should be both an immediate tactical and testable undertaking and a long-term strategic process of recurring verification and reverification. Do not expect any particular source to be always accurate, but do not allow any particular source to function in an important role unless it has proven itself capable of both consistent reliability and trustworthiness.

After establishing a few reliable and trustworthy contact points the network must grow in order to gain new sources of information and intelligence as well as to develop and generate new capabilities. Therefore always view already established contacts and contact points as generators of new contacts, informants, intelligence and perhaps even secondary and tertiary networks, or sub-networks. Consider as well every potentially useful new contact or acquaintance as a possible future contact point in your greater network. Contact points should also be capable of redundancy and potential verification of information and intelligence gathered from other points along the nexus and for information gathered from sources outside the network. This is to say that contact points are more than simple sources of information; they will also function as multi-capable nodes along the operational structure of the entire network. I will expound upon the importance of and briefly discuss some of the details regarding contact points later in this paper. For now it is important to remember that contacts and sources provide information and possibly intelligence, but contact points can potentially serve many varied functions, such as; information retrieval, intelligence gathering, analysis, communications, coding, encryption, decoding/decryption, collation, research, as reliable and secure relay points, as information nodes, computational capabilities, disinformation and misinformation dissemination, and even serve as a sort of network disguise, and misdirectional cover or front.

Constantly look for, search out and develop new contacts, contact points, information and intelligence sources, and informants in order to successfully grow your network. Your network’s ultimate effectiveness will depend upon both the quality and quantity of your contacts, contact points, and your contact’s network. In the initial stages of building and developing your network concentrate on the quality of your contacts and contact points, but in the larger and long term concentrate upon both the quality and quantity of those contacts and contact points which comprise the elements of your network. Always develop and maintain quality to the greatest degree possible within all elements of your network, but also always grow and encourage quantity in the most consistent manner possible throughout all aspects of your network. This will assure that your network has both great depth and breadth and that it is capable of the widest and most valuable range of flexible and functional capacities possible.

It does not matter what the major focus of your network is, what it is most well designed to do, what it in actuality best does, or what the functional intent(s) or objective(s) may be, this introductory advice applies equally well to any possible network you might desire to establish in any field of activity or enterprise. The PIIN is a potentially invaluable tool for both the amateur and professional alike, for both citizen and official agent, and no matter the function or objective, the real capabilities of any established PIIN will be determined by the inventiveness, innovation, flexibility, enterprise, imagination and quality of the component parts of the network. And those component parts are composed and arranged by the originator of the network, that individual who is responsible for first establishing the nature and parameters of the own individual PIIN. The originator therefore will establish the genesis of the network and how well it grows and develops in the initial stages, but as the network grows it will develop capabilities never earlier imagined by the originator and will eventually become functional in an almost independent sense, as long as quality contacts and sources are developed and as long as those contacts and sources continue to grow and establish new capabilities and contacts of their own. A PIIN begins therefore as an idea and individual construct but over time develops into an almost biological organization of vast complexity and capacity. Drawing upon the collective skills and capabilities of the PIIN for whatever is desired or needed makes the PIIN a worthwhile and profitable venture for all individuals associated with that network, and because of the potential for continued and even exponential growth the PIIN is an extremely advantageous system of achieving complex objectives rapidly and of multiplying capabilities well beyond the individual level.

Because of the limitations of space regarding this essay I cannot describe all of the potential advantages that would possibly be gained by the formation of individual PIINs, either those advantages that would be enjoyed by agents or officers in the service of some official organization, or those advantages that would be enjoyed by citizens who have formed and are employing their own personal PIIN. But the potential advantages would be numerous, and such networks could beneficially overlap, inform, and service each other in times of national emergency or crisis. More importantly, if such networks were allowed to “cluster” and interact/interface in an efficient, secure, and positive manner then they would serve as invaluable intelligence gathering and investigative tools for the anticipation of disaster and the effective prevention and thwarting of many forms of malicious harm intended by the enemies of the United States.

As just one small example of how PIINs would make highly effective and useful tools for the benefit of both the citizenry and the government let me outline this scenario. A hostile entity decides upon a coordinated and simultaneous cyber-attack against both the American civil government and the Pentagon. These attacks overwhelm official servers who are the obvious targets of offensive action. During such periods of particular and isolated cyber attack against governmental and/or military networks, or even during periods of general and on-going netcentric engagement or warfare the PIIN can act as an emergency secondary or redundancy system of information and communications exchange, intelligence gathering, an investigative force as to who is attacking, why, from where, and how, and for coordinating a necessary and effective counteraction or response. While main systems are under attack, disabled, or malfunctioning PIINs can serve as ancillary and even secretive means of continuing vital operations or responding to attack. It is relatively easy to attack and at least temporarily paralyze large-scale and centralized networks efficiently given the proper time, coordination, planning, resources, incentives, and information on system vulnerabilities, but it would be nearly impossible to simultaneously disable all small-scale private and personal networks. PIINs are the private enterprise of innovative intelligence and investigative networks.

Other examples of the potential usefulness of the PIIN are easy enough to construct, such as creating and fostering “bridging links” between individual citizens, law enforcement agencies, governmental entities, and the military. PIINs can also be used as investigative networks and resources, as research hubs, as communication nodes, as a pool of expertise (both amateur and professional), as an emergency system of collective and clustered capability, as a functional and ever growing database of information, as an ancillary or auxiliary analytical network, and as an exchange for valuable contacts, sources, and useful informants. Perhaps just as important to the overall value-added aspect of the usefulness of the PIIN is the fact that most PIINs can be constructed at little to no cost using already available personal, technological, and organizational resources. It is simply a matter of redirecting already available resources to the construction and maintenance of the PIIN, or of simply reformatting the way in which contemporary networks are thought of and how they currently operate, or fail to operate, effectively.

The next administration would do very well to consider encouraging the development of Private and Personal Intelligence and Investigative Networks throughout our society, and to encouraging the exploitation of such networks for the benefit of all the citizens of the United States of America.

 

 

CREATION AND DISCOVERY – INVENTION AND INVESTMENT

A very interesting perspective and one I agree with to a large extent. Actually I think one should set out to create a Brand – with a certain type of Vision, and adapt accordingly as one meets particular circumstances in and through the world. (Which is basically what he says later in the article.)

In other words one begins with a Vision and then discovers and develops as one goes along. It is not either/or, but both…

 

You Don’t Create Your Company’s Brand — You Discover It.
Matt Hanses

Contributor
Writer & Consultant

April 15, 2015

Over $500 billion is spent on advertising each year. The average American is exposed to an estimated 3,000 ads per day. Fifteen minutes out of every hour of television programming is devoted to commercials.

Branding: 2 Key Lessons in Brand Building

That’s a lot of marketing. And a lot of marketers. With six million companies in the United States alone, that’s a lot of people competing to get their message out. How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you get noticed?

This is where branding comes in.
What is branding?

Branding is the art of distinguishing a product or service from its competitors. It’s the term for creating a recognizable “personality” which people will remember and react to.

A company with poor branding is throwing away marketing dollars. Why? Because without a focused message, companies weak in branding are invisible. Nobody remembers them and they blend in. They become just another leaf swirling in the wind, amid all those marketing messages consumers see each day.

In marketing, the point is to actually reach someone, to connect. The way to do this is by focusing attention, not dispersing it.
Discovering your brand

Too often, people try to “dream up” a brand for their company. However, a brand isn’t something you dream up — it’s something you discover. Specifically, it’s something you have to discover about yourself.

True branding must be based solely on the mission and culture of the organization. When people try to create branding separate from the company itself, the result may be pretentious, clichéd or ambiguous marketing. It waters down the company’s message.

Instead, a brand should reflect the company’s business plan, its mission and values. It has to be authentic. Therefore, when you brand a company (or anything else for that matter), you’re trying to capture its core identity. You have to look past the clutter and opinion and distill its true essence. This is what you convey to consumers — your brand. And your fonts, your design, your writing — all aspects of your marketing — should all align with that central concept. Now, you have focus. Now, you have penetration, because you’ve conveyed your company’s identity by first discovering yourself.

Related: The Basics of Branding
The ingredients of a brand

While there is probably no foolproof formula for discovering a company’s brand, there are pathways to accomplish that. Consider the following points the “ingredients” that go into making an authentic brand:

Company mission. This is the most important element of branding. Your mission is the spirit of your company, it’s the beating heart of what you do. In fact, your brand can be thought of as the outward expression of your company’s internal mission. Think of it this way: Why does your organization exist? What is it there for? You have assets, employees, vendors, relationships and internal systems. . . but why?
Values. What’s important to your company? What do you stand for? Every company has certain ideals that define what it is and does. These ideals could be environmental, social or ethical or could be standards of quality Whatever your company’s values are, they’re the very center of why you’re unique and are a crucial part of your brand.
Culture. Each company in the world has its own ethos — a particular style or panache. Whatever you call yours, embrace it. There may be a million competitors in your market space, but there’s only one you. Your company’s group culture is part of the fabric of who you are.
History. Your history tells a lot about you. Look to the company’s founders to help define your identity today. What were their values? What were they trying to accomplish? Every company came from somewhere. Your roots are an integral part of your company’s brand.
Plans. When you look at your next 10 years, where do you see yourself going? Your business plan and marketing strategy both influence how you present yourself and should be included in your branding. If you’re going after an entry-level market segment, don’t position yourself as a luxury brand. Your brand must encompass your real-world objectives.
Consumers. This is really what it’s all about. Your customers are the reason you exist. What are their needs? What do they think? Understanding your customers is a vital part of branding. Because if you don’t know whom you’re talking to, why bother to say anything at all?

It might take a bit of soul-searching to get at the essence of what makes your company special. The trick is to take a clear-eyed look and see what’s actually there. Because every brand is beautiful, every brand is inspiring.

Each just has to be discovered.

 

UNFINISHED PROJECTS

Had a superb idea for a new on-line business venture (start-up) called Unfinished Projects. I’m going to be approaching some potential partners with the idea later this week.

At this point I am merely creating the design sketches and outline for the business, but in a relatively short period of time I could easily develop both business and operating plans.

BIAS, BUSINESS, AND HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY

I can attest, from personal experience, both the powerful bias effects of some of these items listed below, and to their disastrous effects on the behavior and psychology of certain people…

In my experience, as well, not all of these biases are equally dangerous or even problematic, but they can all be barriers to success at one time, or in one set of circumstances, or another, if you allow them to be.

Especially when such biases become habitual and completely unexamined. Bias is bad when it comes to critical and acute assessment, but it can also be catastrophic when habitual and stubborn.

 

58 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Everything We Do

Follow Business Insider:

smoking couplemoriza via www.flickr.com

We like to think we’re rational human beings.

In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we’re rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.

The study of how often human beings do irrational things was enough for psychologists Daniel Kahneman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and it opened the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics. Similar insights are also reshaping everything from marketing to criminology.

Hoping to clue you — and ourselves — into the biases that frame our decisions, we’ve collected a long list of the most notable ones.

 

Affect heuristic

The way you feel filters the way you interpret the world.

Take, for instance, if the words raketake, and cake flew across a computer screen blinked on a computer screen for 1/30 of a second.

Which would you recognize?

If you’re hungry, research suggests that all you see is cake.

Anchoring bias

People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear.

In a salary negotiation, for instance, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. Any counteroffer will naturally react to or be anchored by that opening offer.

“Most people come with the very strong belief they should never make an opening offer,” says Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that’s completely backwards. The guy or gal who makes a first offer is better off.”

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias

NOAA

We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions — one of the many reasons it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation about climate change.

Observer-expectancy effect

A cousin of confirmation bias, here our expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations. That’s why the “double-blind” experimental design was created for the field of scientific research.

 

Bandwagon effect

The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. This is a powerful form of groupthink — and it’s a reason meetings are so unproductive.

Bias blind spots

Failing to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.

Notably, Princeton psychologist Emily Pronin has found that “individuals see the existence and operation of cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves.” 

Choice-supportive bias

When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if the choice has flaws. You think that your dog is awesome — even if it bites people every once in a while — and that other dogs are stupid, since they’re not yours.

Clustering illusion

This is the tendency to see patterns in random events. It is central to various gambling fallacies, like the idea that red is more or less likely to turn up on a roulette table after a string of reds.

Conservatism bias

Where people believe prior evidence more than new evidence or information that has emerged. People were slow to accept the fact that the Earth was round because they maintained their earlier understanding the planet was flat.

Conformity

Conformity

Drake Baer/BI

This is the tendency of people to conform with other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things, as shown by the following experiment by Solomon Asch.

Ask one subject and several fake subjects (who are really working with the experimenter) which of lines B, C, D, and E  is the same length as A? If all of the fake subjects say that D is the same length as A, the real subject will agree with this objectively false answer a shocking three-quarters of the time.

“That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern,” Asch wrote. “It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”

Curse of knowledge

When people who are more well-informed cannot understand the common man. For instance, in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s difficult for scientist Sheldon Cooper to understand his waitress neighbor Penny.

Decoy effect

Decoy effect

Mario Tama/Getty Images

A phenomenon in marketing where consumers have a specific change in preference between two choices after being presented with a third choice. Offer two sizes of soda and people may choose the smaller one; but offer a third even larger size, and people may choose what is now the medium option.

Denomination effect

Denomination effect

People are less likely to spend large bills than their equivalent value in small bills or coins.

Duration neglect

Duration neglect

When the duration of an event doesn’t factor enough into the way we consider it. For instance, we remember momentary pain just as strongly as long-term pain.

Availability heuristic

When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them.

For instance, a person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy on the basis that his grandfather lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day, an argument that ignores the possibility that his grandfather was an outlier.

Empathy gap

Where people in one state of mind fail to understand people in another state of mind. If you are happy you can’t imagine why people would be unhappy. When you are not sexually aroused, you can’t understand how you act when you are sexually aroused.

Frequency illusion

Where a word, name or thing you just learned about suddenly appears everywhere. Now that you know what that SAT word means, you see it in so many places!

Fundamental attribution error

This is where you attribute a person’s behavior to an intrinsic quality of her identity rather than the situation she’s in. For instance, you might think your colleague is an angry person, when she is really just upset because she stubbed her toe.

Galatea Effect

Galatea Effect

en.wikipedia.org

Galatea by Raphael

Where people succeed — or underperform — because they think they should.

Halo effect

Where we take one positive attribute of someone and associate it with everything else about that person or thing.

Hard-Easy bias

Where everyone is overconfident on easy problems and not confident enough for hard problems.

Herding

Herding

YouTube

People tend to flock together, especially in difficult or uncertain times.

Hindsight bias

Hindsight bias

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A model poses with the new Nokia “E90 Communicator” phone during its launch in New Delhi June 28, 2007.

Of course Apple and Google would become the two most important companies in phones — tell that to Nokia, circa 2003.

Hyperbolic discounting

Hyperbolic discounting

Tony Manfred/Business Insider

The tendency for people to want an immediate payoff rather than a larger gain later on.

Ideometer effect

Illusion of control

The tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, like when a sports fan thinks his thoughts or actions had an effect on the game.

Information bias

The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action. More information is not always better. Indeed, with less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.

Inter-group bias

Inter-group bias

AP

We view people in our group differently from how see we someone in another group.

Irrational escalation

Irrational escalation

REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

When people make irrational decisions based on past rational decisions. It may happen in an auction, when a bidding war spurs two bidders to offer more than they would other be willing to pay.

Negativity bias

The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones. People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation.

Psychologists argue it’s an evolutionary adaptation — it’s better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.

Omission bias

Omission bias

Speaker Pelosi via Flickr

The tendency to prefer inaction to action, in ourselves and even in politics.

Psychologist Art Markman gave a great example back in 2010:

The omission bias creeps into our judgment calls on domestic arguments, work mishaps, and even national policy discussions. In March, President Obama pushed Congress to enact sweeping health care reforms. Republicans hope that voters will blame Democrats for any problems that arise after the law is enacted. But since there were problems with health care already, can they really expect that future outcomes will be blamed on Democrats, who passed new laws, rather than Republicans, who opposed them? Yes, they can—the omission bias is on their side.

Ostrich effect

Ostrich effect

The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich.

Outcome bias

Judging a decision based on the outcome — rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment. Just because you won a lot at Vegas, doesn’t mean gambling your money was a smart decision.

Overconfidence

Overconfidence

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives.

Overoptimism

When we believe the world is a better place than it is, we aren’t prepared for the danger and violence we may encounter. The inability to accept the full breadth of human nature leaves us vulnerable.

Placebo effect

Where believing that something is happening helps cause it to happen. This is a basic principle of stock market cycles, as well as a supporting feature of medical treatment in general.

Planning fallacy

Post-purchase rationalization

Post-purchase rationalization

Alex Davies / Business Insider

Making ourselves believe that a purchase was worth the value after the fact.

Priming

Priming

NFL Network

Priming is where if you’re introduced to an idea, you’ll more readily identify related ideas.

Let’s take an experiment as an example, again from Less Wrong:

Suppose you ask subjects to press one button if a string of letters forms a word, and another button if the string does not form a word.  (E.g., “banack” vs. “banner”.)  Then you show them the string “water”.  Later, they will more quickly identify the string “drink” as a word.  This is known as “cognitive priming”

Priming also reveals the massive parallelism of spreading activation: if seeing “water” activates the word “drink”, it probably also activates “river”, or “cup”, or “splash”

Pro-innovation bias

Pro-innovation bias

Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

When a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations. Sound familiar, Silicon Valley?

Procrastination

Reactance

The desire to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do, in order to prove your freedom of choice.

Reciprocity

The belief that fairness should trump other values, even when it’s not in our economic or other interests.

 

Regression bias

People take action in response to extreme situations. Then when the situations become less extreme, they take credit for causing the change, when a more likely explanation is that the situation was reverting to the mean.

Restraint bias

Salience

Our tendency to focus on the most easily-recognizable features of a person or concept.

Scope insensitivity

Scope insensitivity

This is where your willingness to pay for something doesn’t correlate with the scale of the outcome.

From Less Wrong:

Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2,000 / 20,000 / 200,000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved — the scope of the altruistic action — had little effect on willingness to pay.

Seersucker Illusion

Over-reliance on expert advice. This has to do with the avoidance or responsibility. We call in “experts” to forecast when typically they have no greater chance of predicting an outcome than the rest of the population. In other words, “for every seer there’s a sucker.

Selective perception

Self-enhancing transmission bias

Self-enhancing transmission bias

Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

Everyone shares their successes more than their failures. This leads to a false perception of reality and inability to accurately assess situations.

Status quo bias

The tendency to prefer things to stay the same. This is similar to loss-aversion bias, where people prefer to avoid losses instead of acquiring gains.

Stereotyping

Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual. This explains the snap judgments Malcolm Gladwell refers to in “Blink.” While there may be some value to stereotyping, people tend to overuse it.

Survivorship bias

Survivorship bias

AP

An error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we haven’t heard of all of the entrepreneurs who have failed.

It can also cause us to assume that survivors are inordinately better than failures, without regard for the importance of luck or other factors.

Tragedy of the commons

We overuse common resources because it’s not in any individual’s interest to conserve them. This explains the overuse of natural resources, opportunism, and any acts of self-interest over collective interest.

Unit bias

We believe that there is an optimal unit size, or a universally-acknowledged amount of a given item that is perceived as appropriate. This explains why when served larger portions, we eat more.

Zero-risk bias

Zero-risk bias

The preference to reduce a small risk to zero versus achieving a greater reduction in a greater risk.

This plays to our desire to have complete control over a single, more minor outcome, over the desire for more — but not complete — control over a greater, more unpredictable outcome.

THE 20/88 PLAN

THE 20/88 PLAN

Today is the first official day of my Spring Offensive. I had planned to begin yesterday but a back injury prevented my proceeding.

In conjunction with my Spring Offensive I have developed a new Operational Plan for further building both my Businesses (including my inventions) and Careers (as a fiction writer, songwriter, and poet).

The new plan is what I call the 20/88 Plan.

It covers most all of my efforts during my current Spring Offensive. It is very simple in construction and should be simple in execution, though it might also possibly be somewhat time-consuming in execution, at least to an extent, depending on how events actually transpire.

I developed this plan as a result of my experience as a Contacts Broker and a Consultant. Basically it says this,

“Every month I will submit to 20 potential Agents or Contacts who will be able to help me achieve my ambitions. At the same time I will seek 8 Partners to work with me on various projects.”

Since I am basically pursuing Four Basic Fields of Endeavor, or Four Separate Types of Enterprises for my Spring Offensive that will equal twenty agents, new clients, etc. in each field, and two partners for each enterprise.

Four times twenty in each Field of Endeavor equals 80, plus the overall eight partners (two in each Enterprise) equals eight, and added all together equals 88.

Therefore 20 in each Field plus 8 partners equals 88.

If in the first month I fail to secure at least one agent or client or so forth in any given Field of Endeavour or at least one partner in any given Enterprise then I will just move on to the next list of 20 or 2 that I have prepared until I secure worthwhile, productive, and profitable agents or partners.

These are the actual details of my Current 20/88 Plan.

General Fields of Endeavor:

20 Agents Contacted (for my Writings)

20 Publishers Contacted (for my Poetry, Songs, and Writings)

20 New Clients Contacted (for my Business Enterprises and for Open Door)

20 Capital Partners and Investors Contacted (for my Business Enterprises, my Crowdfunding Projects, and my Design and Inventions Laboratory)

Enterprise Partners:

2 Songwriting Partners (composers primarily, since I am primarily a lyricist)

2 Publishing Partners (for my books and writings)

2 Business Partners

2 Major Capital or Investment Partners

THE NEW MARKETS ARE THE OLD MARKETS

At this point in my Business Career I am moving more and more back into the fields of Brokerage, primary Contacts Brokering, and Consulting.

Yes, I will still engage in Business and Copy Writing, especially as regards producing my own books and works. I will also still occasionally engage in Business and Copy Writing for some clients, old and new, if the project is interesting and profitable enough.

But more and more lately I feel myself being drawn back into the worlds of Brokerage and Consulting. The same for my company, Open Door.

So my new business emphases will lean more and more heavily towards Contacts Brokerage and towards Consulting, specifically with an aim towards Strategic Business Planning and Growth and Development.

Those will once again be my primary Business Markets.

In addition I will still be pursuing my Careers as an inventor, a fiction writer, and a songwriter.

Contact me if you are interested in pursuing projects of this type.

SHARING CONTENT – THE MARKETS

My opinion is that it depends entirely upon the methodologies you employ and the sites you target. As is the case with most anything you do in life.

Is Reposting Blog Content On LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, and Other Sites a Good Idea?

Is Reposting Blog Content a Good Idea

I’ve been questioning recently whether publishing to sites like LinkedIn Pulse and Medium is worth my time and effort.

While the benefit seems obvious (more eyeballs on your content) there’s a big cost—the precious time it takes to create content.

Compared to guest posting on other sites, LinkedIn and Medium use “no follow” links so there’s no link building SEO benefit. The benefit is purely exposure, awareness, and branding. And those are fleeting benefits, unlike the long-term benefits of creating content on your own site.

So what about reposting blog content? It would certainly be more time efficient, but are there drawbacks to that?

When I saw this post on Quicksprout confirming that you shouldn’t repost your content, I shelved the idea. My time would be better spent on guest posting where I could also increase exposure and get links back to my site.

But then I saw Andy Crestodina (one of my favorite bloggers) post the same article I had already read on his blog.

I never walk away from reading his posts without learning something new. So I had to get his take. I was confident he’d have the answers to my burning questions. And he did.

Below is an interview I did with Andy to pick his brain on the pros and cons of reposting blog content.

Chime in to the comments if you have any of your own questions.

Q: What are the benefits of reposting your blog content (verbatim) on sites like LinkedIn, Medium, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, etc?

Andy:

Reach. The idea behind copying and pasting an article into another location is simply to make it more visible to a broader audience. It’s a brand builder and it works. But there are a lot of things that it doesn’t do…

  • Drive traffic to your site (well, it might send a few referral visits if you have internal links
  • Help with your search engine rankings (Google knows that this is the same article you already posted)

So if your goal is branding, but not traffic, the benefits are real.

Q: Ok, we can’t expect it to help our organic traffic, but can it hurt it? In other words, is it bad for SEO to repost an exact replica of your blog content elsewhere?

Andy:

It’s duplicate content, but I actually don’t think it will hurt your search rankings. It’s only a problem if the two versions go live at almost the same time. You want to have the original version on your site to be live for a few days or a week before posting it someplace else. This let’s Google know where the original is and avoids confusion.

Although “duplicate content” is a fairly new buzzword, it’s something that Google has been dealing with since the beginning. Trust me. They don’t get confused easily and I have seen VERY few examples of actual penalties. It’s not that easy to raise flags at Google.

Still, it’s a bit lazy to just hit ctrl+c and ctrl+v. It’s far better to add value and give the article a rewrite. One great way to do this is to write the “evil twin” of the original article. This was one of the tips in our recent What to Blog About article. Here’s how it works.

If the original post on your site was a how to post listing best practices, you can easily write it from the other perspective, explaining what not to do, or worst practices. Although the research and recommendations are almost the same, it will feel original.

Suppose you’re a dog trainer, writing a post about puppies. Here’s an example of a how-to original post, and an “evil twin” that could be posted elsewhere. Same article, different angle.

Evil twin posts help you avoid duplicate content when reposting blog content

The more effort you put in, the more ethical and effective it is.

Q: What if your article on LinkedIn, Forbes, or wherever starts getting a bunch of inbound links and social media buzz. Wouldn’t that be selling yourself short if the larger publication you republished on starts getting all the link juice and social shares instead of your original post?

Andy:

Yes, it would.

It would be a sad thing if the copied version got all the links and shares. But if this happens, don’t feel too bad about it. You already tried posting it on your site and it didn’t win those links, so you really didn’t lose anything. And hopefully, some of the sharing led to a social media benefit for you. Remember, this is more about branding and awareness than measurable Analytics.

If you want to get value from the social media buzz, put the URL into Topsy, see which influential people shared it and go thank them. Since they liked your article, they’re likely to be gracious and follow you back.

Q: Do you think it’s a good idea to republish all of your blog posts, or just a select few? When should you not republish your blog posts on other sites?

Andy:

It doesn’t hurt to republish them all, as long as everything is published in a place where the topic matches the audience. For example, articles with broad-based business advice are good for LinkedIn. Articles with narrow niche topics may do well on Medium.

Don’t just push everything out everywhere. Make it fit. As always, web marketing is a test of empathy.

Q: How do you go about getting your content republished on publications like Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur? I believe LinkedIn and Medium are self-service type of platforms? For the larger publications, what’s the best way to get your foot in the door?

Andy:

There is a two word answer to this question: influencer marketing. There are specific people who have control over the content on these websites. They will post your content (new or old) when they decide they like it and they trust you. So the trick is to impress them with your work and your character.

There are a hundred little steps that lead to these outcomes. First, you’ll need to have a nice body of work on your own site so that once you do get their attention, they’ll take a look at your content and be impressed. Now, we just need to get them to notice us.

Here are a hundred steps that you can take on the path toward getting the attention of a blog editor using social media. It really helps if you’ve taken the time to build up a credible following of your own. Each of these makes you slightly more visible. Some of these make them a bit grateful. They are all about networking and relationship building.

ProTip: This influencer marketing tactic works just as well for journalists, podcasters, event directors and any other influencer who makes content and has an audience they can share with you.

  1. Follow the editor on Twitter
  2. Retweet the editor
  3. Subscribe to their content
  4. Mention them in a Tweet
  5. Follow them on Quora, Instagram or other social network
  6. Comment on their content
  7. Like their comments (Google+, LiveFyre, Disqus)
  8. Add them to a Google+ Circle
  9. Friend on Facebook
  10. Like their content on Facebook
  11. Connect with them on LinkedIn
  12. Mention them in your content
  13. Email them, inviting them to a quick video chat
  14. Invite them to participate in an email interview for your website (this tactic is highly effective!)
  15. Call them on the phone, Skype or Google+ Hangout
  16. Meet in person if possible!

Once you’ve built a real connection, it’s time to pitch. Send them a concise, sensitive email that positions your article in a way that aligns with the goals of their readers. Remember, blog editors care most about the interests of their readers. If that’s also your top concern, the pitch should go well…

Kim:

Thanks Andy! The verdict is finally in. I’ll try reposting blog content on LinkedIn, starting with this post 🙂

Readers…Any more questions out there for Andy?

HIS OWN ENTERPRISE from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

All men are, and should be regarded as, equal in public consideration and general value, but not so in personal behavior, character, and nature.

Equality as a universal concept is psychological and sociological in origin; behavior and character are entirely individual properties and pursuits.

You can make a man equal under the law, but you can make no law that will yield equals, great or small. You can declare a man equal in potential, but not so in action, ambition, or achievement. What a man eventually becomes, high or low, is entirely his own enterprise.

If you understand that then you will attempt great personal enterprises, if you do not apprehend this then no great enterprise will ever yield a profitable you.

STILL TRUE

The Solution to all such problems as this then is very simple: toss away your bad habits and your bad training and replace those immediately with good habits and good training.

The mind is its own place, and if you will not discipline your own mind and behavior, no one will.

 

Hate Your Job? It May Be Your Parents’ Fault

Last Updated Aug 26, 2011 7:55 AM EDT

If you aren’t happy in your job, and weren’t thrilled with your last job either, you may want to think about whether your parents loved or hated their work. A small body of research on twins has found that job satisfaction is at least partially inherited. It is part of the larger field that’s investigating genetic markers for all personality and psychological traits. Now, a new study from the National University of Singapore and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has homed in on two genes that may play a role.

In the study, job satisfaction was significantly associated with two genetic markers, a dopamine receptor gene and a serotonin transporter gene. The dopamine receptor gene is associated with risk taking behavior, weak impulse control and ADHD. Those with this genetic variant had lower job satisfaction. Those with the serotonin variant, which has been linked to lower rates of depression and higher self esteem, had higher job satisfaction. In a yet unpublished study by the Singapore researchers, they found that those with the dopamine gene tend to take jobs with less decision making latitude, which further explains their lower job satisfaction.

The authors warn that the relationship, though significant was small, and that many genes are likely involved in the complicated process of what makes people love their job, including the genes of their boss.

A past study of twins estimated that genetic factors explained about 27% of the variance in the measurement of job satisfaction. If in fact job satisfaction does run in families, some of it could also be explained by attitudes that parents express about their jobs around the dinner table. If your parents constantly griped about their boss or complained about going to work, some of that is bound to rub off on you.

How can this help you?
Understanding deeper influences on your behavior may help change your perspective. “We have to understand and respect such innate tendencies and try to find ways to accommodate them instead of trying to change them completely,” says study author Zhaoli Song of the National University of Singapore. “Those with certain genetic profiles may be happier with jobs that fit their innate tendencies,” she says.

For employers, the authors write, “Managers should be mindful that situational factors such as working conditions and leadership style do not completely modify employee job satisfaction. Instead, very stable individual differences associated with genetics partially drive employees to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs.”

RISE TO YOUR TRUE LEVEL – A COMPACT GUIDE

Many business writers and especially a great number of business bloggers seem to have a lot of problems writing well in English. Even those who are native speakers of English. In other words many native English speakers seem to write and blog at a level well below their oral or spoken capabilities.

But your writing is a fundamental aspect of your brand, the very scripted expression of your business acumen, and the historical record of all your ventures and enterprises in this world.

If you cannot master the language, or your writings within the language, then others will overmaster you, and your lack of capabilities will forever limit your ascent in anything you attempt.

With that in mind here is a potentially helpful guide for you to consider. Although nothing ever really substitutes for study, reading excellent writing, habitually imitating it, and then practicing with the intent of becoming a truly good writer.

The one piece of advice I would add to this guide – learn to master and memorize your vocabulary base, and employ it correctly. No matter how superb your technical skills without a proper Word Hoard, or Vocabulary Cache, both your oral and written expression and your intended meaning will be severely limited by the poverty of your terminology and language.

Accumulate a vast and wealthy Word Hoard. It is a Business and Career Investment without equal, and a treasure without measure.

The Compact Guide to Grammar for Busy People

The Compact Guide to Grammar for Busy People
Let’s get real here.

You’re a creative thinker, not a nitpicky grammar geek.

When you sit down to write you like to write, not dither around with mechanics. So when the words start flowing, you don’t want to get in their way by thinking about all those little details.

Not to mention the time factor. As in you can barely find the bandwidth to write as it is, let alone edit for grammar.

But you also care about being perceived as intelligent and credible. And you’re smart enough to know that for your writing to be taken seriously, it needs to come across as polished and correct.

The problem is, it’s been a long time since Mrs. Pendergast’s sixth-grade English class. And you were pretty hazy on the rules even back then.

Searching the Internet can quickly turn into a dive down a black hole of barely remembered terminology and examples that don’t really fit.

So what’s a blogger with good intentions but limited time and resources to do?

Well, here’s the good news. Language evolves, and as it does, so do our notions about what is “correct.” You might be surprised to learn that some of what Mrs. Pendergast taught you is now considered outmoded.

Of course there are still rules to follow, but read on, and you’ll find they’re no longer quite so intimidating.

And with a little repetition, applying many of them will soon become second nature.

Ready to rock and roll?

Parts of Speech – The Basic Building Blocks of Language

Let’s start with a quick and painless (promise!) review of the parts of speech. Not because you’ll ever need to spot a transitive verb in the present subjunctive at fifty paces, but simply because we need some common terminology for talking about the basic building blocks of language.

Yes, there are subcategories, exceptions, and sometimes even controversies about the parts of speech (you ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve seen grammarians duking it out over the finer points of language), but for our purposes we’re going to keep this simple.

Nouns

If you grew up in the United States, you probably remember the old Schoolhouse Rock song:  “A noun is a person, place or thing.” Just remember that things can be abstract concepts as well as physical objects, and you’ve got it.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Then find a friend to whom life handed a large bottle of vodka, and take your pitcher of lemonade over to her house.

Verbs

Verbs are the action words which describe forms of doing and being.

If I just stepped on a corn flake, does that mean I am now a cereal killer?

Adjectives

Adjectives “modify” (further describe) nouns.

I’m an effective worker. In fact, I’m the most productive person I know when it comes to unimportant tasks!

Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

Time is extremely precious, so waste it wisely.

Pronouns

Pronouns replace nouns. They shorten and simplify sentences that would otherwise be far too long and cumbersome.

When I want your opinion I will give it to you.(rather than: When Michelle Russell wants the opinion of the person now reading this article Michelle Russell will give that opinion to the person now reading this article.)

Prepositions

A preposition shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another element in the sentence.

The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.

Conjunctions

A conjunction shows the connection between the elements of a sentence.

She bought a new boomerang but couldn’t manage to throw the old one away.

Interjections

Interjections are stand-alone exclamations that act as conversational fillers, often expressing emotion.

Yes! With sufficient thrust behind them, pigs can fly!

Determiners

Determiners are sometimes considered parts of speech and sometimes not. In either case, they are small words that introduce nouns.

My mother always told me a bargain is an item you don’t need at a price you can’t resist.

Punctuation – The Mortar Between the Bricks

When you’re building a house, you don’t just drop one brick on another—you need to cement them together with some mortar. When you’re writing, if the parts of speech are your basic building blocks, then punctuation is that mortar.

Can you imagine reading text without any punctuation at all well in the earliest days of writing that is what it was like you can see how difficult it must have been can’t you

See how that’s like just stacking bricks with nothing to connect them? Add some punctuation and the wall is now firmly constructed:

Can you imagine reading text without any punctuation at all? Well, in the earliest days of writing, that is what it was like. You can see how difficult it must have been, can’t you?

Punctuation gradually evolved in different forms across cultures as a way of helping people figure out where to pause, and for how long, when reading out loud. The problem was, everyone did it differently, This was understandable when all writing was done by hand, but once movable type was invented the need for standardized punctuation became clear.Even so, we’re still arguing about it. Grammar school might have led you to believe that we’ve successfully standardized things . . . but in a language as fluid as English, there is still a lot of room for interpretation. Let’s go over the main points of confusion, and you’ll see where the hard-and-fast rules are and where you get to decide how you want to punctuate things.

Commas

No form of punctuation sparks more controversy than the poor comma.

It’s a horribly overworked symbol to begin with, struggling with a full schedule as a conjunction splitter, quotation clarifier and phrase definer while also moonlighting as a separator of list items. It tries so hard to please everyone, but sadly, we all disagree on its exact job description.

So let’s give the comma a little love here and appreciate it for all that it does.

When a sentence contains an introductory phrase, the comma tells us so by separating it.Any time a brief pause is indicated, in fact, the comma should be used.

A comma will mysteriously appear whenever one main action happens at the beginning of a sentence, and then even more happens after a conjunction like or, and or but.

Commas also cheerfully separate lists of more than two items, such as a bunch of blogs, a parade of posts, a set of sentences and a party of paragraphs.

Of course if you’re using what is known as the serial comma or the Oxford comma, that would read “. . . a set of sentences, and a party of paragraphs.”So should you use the serial comma or not? Either is fine. Just be sure you’re consistent about it one way or the other.

In fact, the best general rule of thumb for commas overall is that there is no general rule of thumb. Even the old guideline that says to “use a comma wherever you would pause in speaking” is misleading, because we all speak so differently. (Imagine where the commas would fall, for example, in Morgan Freeman’s speech as opposed to Christopher Walken’s!)

One final note. Don’t overuse commas, but keep in mind that sometimes you really do need them to make your meaning clear.

Learn how to cut, marinate, and cook friends!

reads very differently than

Learn how to cut, marinate, and cook, friends!

Just sayin.’ :)

Colons and Semicolons

The colon is used to signal that some very specific information is coming—most often a list. Sometimes it’s a bulleted or numbered list . . .

There are three types of people in the world:

  1. those who can count
  2. those who can’t

. . . and sometimes it’s a list right there in a sentence.

If you want to make sure you get something done today, try adding these to your to-do list:  wake up, make to-do list, cross off first two items on to-do list.

The semicolon indicates a pause that’s a little longer than a comma but not quite as long as an end-of-sentence period. It’s an elegant way of joining two phrases or sentences that might otherwise stand alone. This can be desirable when you’re at the editing stage of a post and you want to vary the pacing between shorter, crisper sentences and longer, flowing ones for the sake of variety and interest.

Zach was surprised; Tina turned out to be trustworthy after all.

Just don’t overuse semicolons; it will make you look slightly pretentious.

Apostrophes

Apostrophes are very often used to indicate the omission of letters.

Dont tell me its already 10 oclock!(replacing the missing letters from do not, it is, and of the clock)

But the primary use of the apostrophe is to show possession. You already know the basic rule for this—use ’s when the possessor is singular and s’ when the possessor is plural.

the cats toys (the toys that belong to only one cat)the cats toys (the toys that belong to more than one cat)

However, if the plural form of a noun doesn’t already end in the letter s, you should add ’s rather than s’.

Why did you interrupt the childrens game? (not childrens)

Here’s a common sticking point—what about when the singular form of a noun ends with an s? Editors wielding opposing manuals of style argue about this one all the time.The truth is, both of the following forms are acceptable, although the first is generally more preferred:

Jamess best friendJames best friend

To show possession by more than one singular person or thing, an ’s on the last one is all you need.

Hey, check out Cheryl and LuAnns new website!

Finally, be careful not to imply possession where there is none.One of the best examples of this is what Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, famously bemoans as the “greengrocer’s apostrophe” because of its frequent appearance on produce signs—that tiny bit of punctuation which turns simple, unwary nouns into raving mutants of unnecessary possessiveness.

Oranges and lemons – 2 for $1.00Freshest crabs this side of the Atlantic

Kids eat free all day!

These are all, quite simply, clueless mistakes.

Hyphens and Dashes

The three types of horizontal punctuation marks are:

  • the hyphen (the shortest one): –
  • the en dash (the middle one): –
  • the em dash (the longest one): —

(The en and em dashes are so named because in the days of fixed-type printing presses, they were the width of the capital letter N and the capital letter M, respectively.)

Most people use the hyphen only, and most of the time that’s fine when blogging. However, if you want to be scrupulously correct, you should use the en dash between date ranges and page numbers.

Pages 4345 explain how World War I (19141918) wasn’t actually called that until after World War II (19391945) happened.

And you should use the em dash when you want to indicate a sudden shift in thought or tone, give more information, or lend some extra emphasis.

Dash it all anyway, she thought to herselfhe looked positively dashing!

Many bloggers get confused about when to hyphenate compound words (groups of words that act as a single part of speech) and when not to . . . and why the rules seem to change from one sentence to the next. Let’s take a quick look at that.When the compound word is a noun, hyphenate it when it’s clearly naming one single thing:

Fred gave his daughter-in-law a Jack-in-the-box.

Compound adjectives can be trickier. Here’s the rule—when it comes before the noun it modifies, hyphenate it. When it comes after the noun, don’t.

Look how quickly you became a well-known blogger!

but . . .

She was well known for her business acumen.

(Note the exception that when the first word of a compound adjective ends in “-ly,” no hyphen should be used. So in the sentence “It was a beautifully written poem, ” “beautifully written” would not be hyphenated even though it comes before the noun. Hey, what would English be without annoying exceptions?)Finally, use a hyphen for clarity when there might otherwise be confusion.

Don’t be surprised to see a bunch of fat-cat contributors appear around election time. (Without that hyphen, how would we know this sentence wasn’t talking about a group of overweight people who donate felines?)

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks serve a few important functions.

They are used, of course, to show when someone’s words are being directly quoted or spoken . . .

I do not believe so, sir, replied Jeeves.

. . . but they can also indicate technical jargon, slang, or otherwise unfamiliar or non-standard terms.

The doctor briefly explained the difference between in vitro and in vivo pregnancies.
Calvin proudly displayed his new transmogrifier to Hobbes.

Quotation marks are used around the titles of short works such as poems, songs, book chapters, articles, short stories, and program or presentation titles (but not long works such as entire books or series, which are italicized).

He could never remember whether In Which Tigger Is Unbounced came before or after In Which Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing in The House at Pooh Corner.

Incidentally, when it comes to dialogue, you should start a new paragraph every time there is a change of speaker—even if the new speaker says only one word. This helps the reader keep track of who is saying what.

Get over here now! yelled Harriet.No.

Why not?

I’m tired.

The biggest confusion about quotation marks is usually over where the punctuation at the end goes—inside or outside?In the United States, at least, here’s how it works:

Periods and commas go inside the quotes.

I never said such a thing,” she stated firmly. And you can quote me on that.”

Colons and semicolons go outside the quotes.

That’s the thing about Bohemian Rhapsody”; even if you never want to hear it again, you know that you know all the words by heart.

Question marks and exclamation points depend on the context. If the question or exclamation is part of the quote itself, it goes inside, but if it relates to the larger sentence, it goes outside.

Don’t come near me!” Becky cried.
Did the customer really ask for a girl cheese sandwich”?

British English is different. Those who speak American use double quotation marks, but those who speak British use single quotes. British writers also place the comma or period outside the ending quotes rather than inside them.A bit barmy, eh, mate?

Ellipsis Points

These are the three spaced dots or periods used to show that something has been omitted from a quotation. (They are sometimes also used in a creative sense—but that’s a different story.)

The formal rules can get pretty technical, but unless you’re blogging in the legal or literary field, just remember this. If the part just before the omitted section is the end of a sentence, you should use a period as usual, then the ellipses.

“Yes, it was definitely the ketchup, Your Honor. . . . No, he left the mustard behind.”

And if the missing section occurs mid-sentence, just use the ellipses.

“Over the river . . . through the woods . . . hey, isn’t that Grandma’s house?”

Note the spaces between the ellipsis points—this is technically the right way to do it (and if you were being excruciatingly proper you’d use something even thinner called a “hair space”), but it’s also fine to run them together instead (likethis) as long as you’re consistent about doing it all the time.

Parentheses and Brackets

Parentheses tell us that something helpful but not absolutely necessary is being added.

See this helpful (but not absolutely necessary) parenthetical phrase?

But where does the punctuation go?

If the parenthetical phrase is in the middle of a sentence (like this), punctuation like that comma goes outside the parentheses because it relates to the sentence as a whole.If the parenthetical phrase ends the sentence, the punctuation still goes outside the parentheses if it relates to the sentence as a whole (like this).

But If the parenthetical phrase is a sentence all by itself, the ending punctuation goes inside the parentheses. (Like this.)

Sometimes you can have both, which is correct even though it looks pretty weird (like this!).

Parentheses are often used as formatting devices to make information visually clearer.

The ideal person: (a) doesn’t smoke, (b) doesn’t drink, (c) doesn’t do drugs, (d) doesn’t swear, (e) doesn’t get mad, (f) doesn’t exist.

Square brackets are used to show when clarifying information within a quote is not part of the quote itself . . . or around the Latin term sic to show where a mistake really is part of the quote.

“This example [of a blog post] contains no speiling [sic] errors.”

Square brackets have a handful of other specific uses, such as in dictionary definitions, but they can also be utilized as visual or stylistic devices in the same way as parentheses.What about brackets inside of brackets?

If you need multiple levels of closure [when one enclosed phrase (such as this) is inside another], you should use square brackets on the outside and parentheses on the inside.

Creative Punctuation

Finally, as a blogger, you are freer than writers in the more traditional forms of media to have a little fun with punctuation.

So don’t be afraid to use it in creative ways that lend flavor and tone.

You can use ellipsis points to show . . . um, hesitation.Use long (em) dashes to signal abrupt transitionslike this! Nothis!

“Those dashes are also great for showing when a speaker gets cut off in mid-conver” she said.

Many bloggers (perhaps too many of us) use emoticons made out of punctuation. 😉

You can even invent your own ways to build . . .

.

.

.

you know . . .

.

.

.

suspense.

Just use creative punctuation like this sparingly. Be sure that it enhances and clarifies your message rather than needlessly muddling it.

Abbreviations – Handy Linguistic Shortcuts

Abbreviations are useful (and sometimes colorful) devices for shortening common words and phrases, but using them correctly can be a bit confusing.

Do you abbreviate the United States of America as USA or U.S.A.? (I strongly favor the latter, but different strokes for different folks.)

Should you start a sentence with an abbreviation like FYI? (In formal writing this is traditionally frowned upon, but in a blog post it’s usually fine unless it looks clunky.)

What does FUBAR stand for, anyway, and should you spell the whole thing out? (I’m certainly not telling you here, and it entirely depends on your audience.)

If you’re blogging for an organization that has a style guide, go with whatever it says. If not, look up the abbreviation in the dictionary for guidance on how to spell and use it properly.

If you’re still in doubt after that, it probably doesn’t matter too much anyway (depending, of course, on your audience). Just pick one way and use it consistently. For example:

If you decide to use periods when abbreviating U.K. (where, incidentally, they refer to periods as “full stops”), be sure you do so when abbreviating E.U. and U.S.A. as well.If you abbreviate the days of the week, standardize them to three letters each—e.g., Thu. (not Thurs.), Fri. and Sat.

I.e. vs. e.g.

While we’re on the topic of abbreviations, let’s talk about these two Latin terms. They are very often used interchangeably, but they actually mean two different things.

I.e. stands for id est, or “that is.” It’s used to further explain or restate something in different words.

The Hephthalites are known to have practiced polyandry; i.e., the marriage of a woman to two or more men.

E.g. stands for exempli gratia, or “for example.” It’s used to do just that—give one or more examples.

He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables—e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.

Here’s a memory aid for recalling when to use each of these two phrases. Instead of worrying about the Latin translations, just remember:

  • i.e. = in other words (both start with i) or In essence
  • e.g. = example given

Also note that a comma is used after the final period in each of these abbreviations.

To introduce the abbreviation, in most cases you can use either a comma, a semicolon, a colon, an em dash, or a set of parentheses. Again, just be sure you’re consistent in whatever choice you make.

He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables, e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables; e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.

He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables: e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.

He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetablese.g., lettuce, spinach and kale.

He liked all kinds of leafy green vegetables (e.g., lettuce, spinach and kale).

The only caveat here is that if the text that follows the i.e. or e.g. could stand as an independent sentence:

They did what they always did at wedding receptions; i.e., she got tipsy and he flirted shamelessly with the new bride.

. . . you should not introduce the phrase with a comma—use any of the other punctuation methods. My own personal preference is the semicolon, as above, but any of them except for the comma would fine.

Foreign Terms – Exotic Expressions

Foreign words are another bone of contention among editors and other professional wordsmiths. The general consensus, though, is that if a term is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, italicize it.

She executed a perfect nikkyo and her attacker instantly dropped to the floor.
Carmen’s schädenfreude as she watched Alonzo writhe in agony was chilling to watch.

But if the word has become a commonly accepted part of English, there’s no need to italicize.

Sorry—can you please read that back to me verbatim?
The company gave its employees carte blanche to wear whatever they wanted to work.

These same guidelines apply to common Latin abbreviations such as etc. and our buddies i.e., and e.g. from just above—they are now so common that they don’t require italics.But expect to run into people who will argue that ad nauseam.

Numbers – A Source of “Total” Confusion

Ah, numbers. So many questions about them, and so many ways to be inconsistent. Let’s take a look.

Spelled Out vs. Numerals

Opinions on this differ widely. In general, spelling out numbers comes across as more formal, but possibly a little bit snooty. Of course, depending on the context (She lived at Eighty-Eight Kensington Road, where she routinely inspected the brass railings for dust using her spotless white gloves), that may be exactly what you want.

One common convention is to spell out any numbers from zero through ten and numerals for 11 and higher. But visual consistency should override this, so make exceptions where numbers are close together.

Once her blog posts became easier to read, she went from gaining about 3 subscribers a month to a startling 150.

Don’t begin a sentences with a numeral, even if it’s a small number.

Four hours ago I was simply minding my own business when . . .

Numbers in titles are another point of contention. Should your new list post be titled “10 Ways to Be a Kickass Knitter” or “Ten Ways to Be a Kickass Knitter”? Many bloggers use numbers in headlines because they’re more quickly readable, but it’s up to you.

Dates

Format dates however you like, but be consistent about it. If you start off writing 8/16/99, don’t switch to 06/23/72 later on. If you spell out January 1 when blogging about your New Year’s resolution, don’t update your readers later in the year by sticking letters at the end of the date on May 31st.

Years should be written in numerals, and when they’re abbreviated, the point of the single apostrophe should face left.

Their first single hit the airwaves in 1983, followed by two more in 86 and 88.

When referring descriptively to a decade, don’t include an apostrophe between the numbers and the letter s.

CORRECT:He’s a child of the 80s.

He’s a child of the 80s.

He’s a child of the 1980s.

INCORRECT:He’s a child of the 80s.

He’s a child of the 80s.

He’s a child of the 1980s.

Century names can either use numerals or be spelled out, but should not be capitalized.

Sometimes I wish I’d lived in the 19th century. (or) Sometimes I wish I’d lived in the nineteenth century.

Times

The rule here is pretty much “no rules.” It doesn’t matter if you write 6:30 am, 6:30am, 6:30 AM, 6:30AM, 6:30 a.m., 6:30a.m., 6:30 A.M. or 6:30A.M., as long as you do it the same way everywhere.

(In some countries a period is used in clock times rather than a colon—e.g., 6.30 A.M.)

It’s better to write “noon” and “midnight” rather than “12:00 p.m.” and “12:00 a.m.” (which make people have to think too hard.)

Percentages

Use the percent sign (27%) or spell it out (27 percent)—either is fine. Pick one way and use it.

Currency

The main mistake bloggers make here is doubling up the currency symbol and the word. If you write $1 dollar it’s like saying “One dollar dollar.” A simple $1 (or 1 dollar or one dollar) is the correct way to go.

Same thing with larger ranges. If someone is already a millionaire, don’t inflate their wealth even further by giving them $10 million dollars. Either $10 million or 10 million dollars is just fine, thank you very much.

Number Ranges

In general, any number range, whether dates (1785–1802), pages (pp. 23–38), or some other type, gets that medium-length dash, the en dash, between its numbers.

When giving number ranges within text, don’t mix up words and symbols. People often make this mistake by writing things like They were married from 1975–2010 instead of They were married from 1975 to 2010.

Common Pitfalls

Now let’s move into some of the typical areas where bloggers get confused. You know the ones I’m talking about—those tricky cases where you just know there’s a rule, but you can never remember what it is.

Subject/Verb Agreement

The “subject” of a sentence is whatever person or thing is doing the main action—what you might call the primary noun (or nouns). The subject should “agree” with the verb about whether they should both be singular or plural.

To mix them just sounds wrong. If I were to write “You and I is smart,” you’d know that one of us wasn’t.

But subject/verb agreement gets trickier with vague-sounding pronouns and more complex sentences.

The word and makes a subject plural (i.e., there is more than one main actor), so the verb should be plural too.

You and I are smart.

With the word or, it depends on the actors. If they’re both singular, the verb should be singular.

Goran or Lisa was at the pub every single time I walked in.

But if one is singular and the other is plural, the verb should agree with the one closest to it.

Either a candle or flowers were sitting on the Chens’ mantelpiece at all times.

In the case of “indefinite pronouns” (so called because they refer to somewhat vague numbers of things), you should determine whether the noun the pronoun refers to is singular or plural.

None of the food is very healthy.(“food” is a collective noun that stands for one thing, so use the singular verb “is”)

None of them are going to the movie.

(“them” indicates multiple people, so use the plural verb “are”)

Anybody here want seconds?

(“anybody” refers to any one body/person, so it’s singular—use the singular verb “want”)

Most of my guest posts were quickly published.

(“most” refers to a number of individual posts, so use the plural verb “were”)

But amazingly, neither the post about the mating habits of the Brazilian termite nor the one on different types of postage stamp adhesive was accepted anywhere.

(both “neither” and “nor” refer to one single post, so use the singular verb “was”)

Don’t get confused by interrupting phrases and clauses. Like newly infatuated lovers, the subject and verb will always agree with each other no matter what comes between them.

That painter with the big orange pickup truck filled to the brim with buckets, brushes and ladders drives down my street every day.

That vs. Which

This is an old problem with a surprisingly easy solution. Look at the phrase or clause you’re considering and ask yourself, “If I take it out, will the sentence still have the same basic meaning?”

If the answer is yes, use which.

If the answer is no, use that.

Another way of looking at it is to consider whether the clause is, or could go, inside a pair of commas. If so, use which. If not, use that.

The map, which they used to drive cross-country, is in the glove compartment.The map that they used to drive cross-country is in the glove compartment.

Both sentences tell us that the map in question is in the glove compartment, but mean different things.In the first sentence, what the people used the map for is incidental. It’s as though the writer is saying, “The map is in the glove compartment. Oh, yeah—by the way, they used it to drive cross-country.”

The second sentence, on the other hand, refers to the specific map they used. (There could be other maps, too.) “Where is the map they used to drive cross-country? It’s in the glove compartment.”

First case, extra information. Second case, central to the plot.

See the difference?

Who vs. Whom

Running a close second behind “that vs. which” in the confusion competition is the “who vs. whom” conundrum. This is another tricky dilemma with a simple solution.

If you could substitute “he or “she,” use who.

If you could substitute “him” or “her,” use whom.

For example:

I haven’t seen the guy who lives down that hallway for weeks.(because he, not him, lives down that hallway)

The kids, one of whom was fortunately wearing glow-in-the-dark sneakers, were found later that night.(because one of him, not one of he, was found)

If this is unclear, switch the pieces of the sentence around first and then see which word works better.For example, is “Who do you think will win?” correct, or should it be “whom”?

  • First switch the sentence so that it reads “Do you think WHO will win?”
  • Now do the substitution both ways. Which sounds right, “Do you think HE will win?” or “Do you think HIM will win?”
  • Obviously it’s the first one, so “Who do you think will win?” is correct.

What about this one? “I wonder who I’ll be paired up with for the scavenger hunt.”

  • First switch the sentence around: “I wonder I’ll be paired up with WHO for the scavenger hunt.” (I know that sentence is awkward and incorrect, but it’s just for the sake of figuring this out.)
  • Now which is right—“I wonder I’ll be paired up with SHE for the scavenger hunt” or “I wonder I’ll be paired up with HER for the scavenger hunt”?
  • HER sounds correct, so the original sentence should read, “I wonder whom I’ll be paired up with for the scavenger hunt.”

In casual conversation, though, sometimes whom sounds a bit stilted. “Whom should I cheer for?” (or, for complete sticklers, “For whom should I cheer?”) is technically correct, but the people next to you at the big game may look at you strangely, and not just because you don’t know which side you’re on.

So when it comes to your blog, know which way is correct, but don’t be afraid to bend the rules a bit here for the sake of sounding more conversational.

Who vs. That

I’ve saved this one for last because, frankly, I don’t agree with the rule.

I strongly feel that writers should always refer to people as “who” rather than “that.” However, my research indicates that my strong opinion on the matter has become outdated.

I flinch whenever I read (or hear) sentences like “Kobe Bryant is the athlete that inspired me to play basketball.” Not that Kobe needs my help, but to my ear, referring to him as “that” instead of “who” dehumanizes him.

Apparently, I’m old-fashioned in believing that people are people, not things. But for the record, it is now apparently permissible to refer to people as either “the folks who” or “the folks that.” (Ew.)

I’m pleased to say, though, that a thing is still always a “that.”

You can’t say “the company who patented the Giant Gizmo” because a company (the opinions of corporate lawyers notwithstanding) is not a person. It’s a non-living entity (the opinions of some science fiction writers notwithstanding). So you need to say “the company that patented the Giant Gizmo.”

More Tricks (and Traps) of the Writing Trade

We bloggers are living in tough linguistic times. The lines between formal written language and the more casual spoken word have blurred tremendously with the explosion of personal computers, e-mail, and the Internet.

So how do you successfully walk those lines? How do you ensure that your posts are conversational yet correct, compelling yet credible?

To return to our “building blocks” metaphor from earlier in the post, you need to take a step back from the level of the individual bricks (what we’ve been discussing up until this point) and consider the overall construction of your building.

Your goal as a blogger isn’t to simply heap up ramshackle stacks of words. You want to move people. Inspire them. Educate them. Persuade them to think differently. To take action.

To do that, you need to look at the larger issues. Are your walls straight and attractively laid out? Does your building look inviting? Can you construct its rooms so that visitors are naturally led from one to the other in the sequence you’ve designed?

Much of this ability comes with the study and practice of effective writing techniques, and is outside the scope of a single post on grammar, no matter how long. What I can show you today, though, are some of the common ways bloggers leave stumbling blocks scattered around the floors of their word-rooms.

Clean those up, and you’ve gone a long way toward leaving a clear path through your writing.

Parallel Construction

Humans love patterns. We key into them to help us make sense of the world . . . and you can use them to help your readers make sense of your writing.

I’m not saying you should make your writing so robotically regular that it becomes predictable and monotonous.

But if you want your readers to roll smoothly along from one idea of yours to the next, using parallel structure is like laying parallel train tracks.

Both of the following sentences essentially say the same thing. Which is easier to read? Which packs a stronger punch?

Persuading others comes from a mixture of thinking through your ideas, thorough organization, and then presenting them clearly,To persuade others, think through your ideas, organize them thoroughly, and then present them clearly.

It’s the second sentence, of course. Why? The first one uses a mixture of noun forms–gerunds (“persuading,” “thinking” and “presenting”)—in which “-ing” is added to the verb to create a noun—and “organization,” a more regular, though abstract, noun. You can follow the sentence, but you have to work a little too hard at it. The parallel verb forms in the second sentence (“persuade,” “think,” “organize” and “present”) make it much easier to comprehend quickly.Note that you could also re-cast the sentence this way: “Persuading others comes from a mixture of thinking through your ideas, organizing them thoroughly, and then presenting them clearly” (using gerunds throughout). In general, though, simpler verb forms result in clearer writing.

[Bonus credit if you realized you could make the structure even more parallel by adding an adverb (such as “carefully”) after the word “ideas”! It would then have the form “. . . (VERB) through your ideas (ADVERB), (VERB) them (ADVERB), and then (VERB)  them (ADVERB).]

Sentence Fragments

Here’s a so-called grammar rule that seems pretty basic on the surface—every sentence should be complete. Meaning, traditionally, that it should have a subject (the main actor/actors), verb (the main action) and, if applicable, an object (what the action happens to).

Anything less is called a sentence fragment.

Except . . .

Remember earlier, when I told you that some of what Mrs. Pendergast taught you back in English class is now considered outdated?

This is one example. Unless the context in which you’re writing is very formal (sorry, corporate and legal bloggers), sentence fragments are perfectly fine in blogs—and a lot of other writing—these days.

With one caveat.

Your meaning must be clear.

See what I did above with except . . . and with one caveat? You understood what I meant because the text flowed. So what if they were technically fragments?

In fact, as a blogger you should probably make it a point to introduce sentence fragments every now and then, depending on your personal style (sorry, Mrs. Pendergast). They let you spice up your writing by playing with pace, tension and emotion.

One more caveat. Fragments? Use them sparingly. Like a condiment. Even though they’re legit. Because why? Using lots of them feels choppy. Not wrong, precisely. Just hard to read.

See?

Run-On Sentences

The opposite of a fragment is a run-on sentence, in which you will find more than one complete thought, each of which really deserves its own sentence, but there’s just too much going on at once and it gets really hard to keep track of all the players, which happens a lot when a blogger gets really excited about her subject matter and goes on at length without adding a period for quite a long time and the sentence ends up sounding quite flustered and out of breath.

Unless you’re deliberately using a run-on sentence for dramatic or illustrative purposes, like I just did, don’t use them.

One way of avoiding them is to read your posts out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself literally running out of breath before running out of sentence, look for ways to break the run-on sentence into more than one.

It’s all about developing a listening ear with regard to your own writing. And about keeping things clear and simple for your readers.

Dangling Modifiers

Misplaced modifiers—often called “dangling modifiers” because of the way they just sort of hang there, not being clear about what they’re modifying—are some of the most amusing mistakes in all of Grammaria.

Check these out:

Driving past the graveyard late last night, the twisted old tree frightened me.(I’d love to know where that tree got its driver’s license.)

She wore a bright red baseball cap on her head, which was obviously much too small.(Yeah—her head was so tiny the cap came all the way down to her shoulders.)

The distraught young man was comforted by the psychologist who had just taken an overdose of sleeping pills.(I bet that was a real consolation to the young man.)

Here are some much clearer re-writes (though not the only possible fixes for them):

As I drove past the graveyard late last night, I saw a twisted old tree that frightened me.
That bright red baseball cap on her head was obviously much too small.
After he took an overdose of sleeping pills, the distraught young man was comforted by the psychologist.

Split Infinitives

Here’s another area in which you can gleefully waggle your finger at old Mrs. Pendergast and say, “You were wrong!

An infinitive is the form of any verb which starts with the word “to”—to go, to dance, to have written, etc.

It is supposedly a grammar faux pas to split an infinitive by sticking extra words between the “to” and the rest of the verb. However, this is now considered outmoded thinking . . . and it certainly never stopped Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise from heading out into space, to boldly go where no man had gone before.

In fact, the split infinitive is often clearer than the alternative. Which of these sounds better to you?

Carl’s nasty old landlord threatened to double the rent, plus even more of an increase on top of that, if Carl went to the rent board about the broken washing machine.Carl’s nasty old landlord threatened to more than double the rent if Carl went to the rent board about the broken washing machine.

You’ll be glad to know it’s finally considered okay for you to boldly go and split some infinitives, too.

The Golden Grammar Rule for Busy Bloggers

We’ve covered a lot of ground here—thank you for sticking with me! Clearly, you are a tenacious soul. :)

I’d like to leave you with one closing thought.

One word, really.

Consistency.

We are a pattern-seeking species—something that is hard-wired into us for basic survival reasons. Our nervous systems are keenly attuned to inconsistencies in our environment.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the subtle striping of a tiger through the bushes or a set of square brackets instead of the usual curved parentheses—our primitive brains don’t register relative importance, only difference. They simply flash the signal, “Something is wrong here.”

Whether this response is conscious or unconscious, that is not the feeling you want your readers to have.

That’s why I’ve stressed consistency throughout this post, and why you should aim for it in your writing. Here’s one great way to ensure it.

Ever wonder how professional copy editors can catch a misspelled name on page 549 of a manuscript when it hasn’t appeared since page 23? They use a nifty little device called a style sheet.

I suggest you do the same.

A style sheet is a quick-and-dirty list of your key editorial decisions, all in one place so that you can check it easily. Whenever you reach a new decision about how to handle something, it gets added to the list. This personal set of editorial standards helps you write more consistently over time.

  • Does that author you refer to all the time spell her name Catherine or Katherine?
  • Do you vacillate between writing email and e-mail?
  • Have you decided to call your webinar series “Best-Kept Secrets of Highly Amazing People” or “The Best-Kept Secrets of Highly Amazing People”?
  • Do you have a hard time remembering that decades should be referred to as the ’60s and ’80s rather than the 60’s and 80’s?

Jot it down or type it into a running document. When you need to check because you’ve pulled another all-nighter and you can’t see straight, let alone remember such mind-numbing little details, they will be there for you.

Get Ready to Banish Your Grammar Gremlins for Good!

Your time is your most valuable resource. It’s the only thing you have that can’t be renewed.

Obviously this means you want to spend as much of it as you can on high-level activities, creating and sharing the things that only you, of all the people in this world, can contribute.

But you also want to be sure that you’re doing that clearly and convincingly through each and every blog post you publish. And that means a certain amount of time spent on grammar. It’s simply a part of crafting your message.

But now you can minimize the time you spend on this in two ways:

  1. Bookmark this post. The more you refer back to it, the more quickly you’ll find what you need. And the more often you use it, the better you’ll internalize the information, so that over time you’ll automatically remember more and more of the rules and guidelines on your own.
  2. Start your own style sheet. (See the section just above.) Take the extra moment to record each editorial decision you make, A few minutes here and there, in the beginning, will pay off hugely as a time- and stress-saver down the road once you have a nicely comprehensive list of “how you do things” when you edit your own posts.

Both of these resources will help you become a faster and more efficient self-editor, freeing up more time for the creative work that is at the heart of what you blog about . . . and why you blog in the first place.

Go get ‘em, you creative thinker, you.

About the Author: Michelle Russell (who spontaneously learned to read before she was four and hasn’t stopped since) has been a freelance proofreader, copy editor, and general wordsmith for over two decades. Check her out at Michelle-Russell.com or say hello on Facebook.

 

BUSINESS NARRATOR/BUSINESS NARRATION WRITER: Creative Non-Fiction to Help Your Business Grow

This article, which I shared with Launch Port, on business and corporate narration, has led me to the decision that I will now start offering my professional writing services for Business Narration. Or rather, to be more accurate and specific, that I will now add Business Narration to the list of business and writing services I offer my clients.

I am already an excellent storyteller and journalist, as well as a very good business and copy writer.

So combining those two capabilities and skills and fusing them into a single new service line only makes a great deal of sense to me.

So beginning in this year, 2015 AD, I will be offering my services as a Business Narrator to all of my clients, new and old. If you are an entrepreneur, a start-up venture, a company or corporation, or a long established business that would like to better communicate your story to the world then I will be happy to help you construct the Narrative of your business or venture so that you can effectively and profitably share it with others.

If you would like to see examples of my Work and Writings (including my Narrative Writings) then you may look here:

Launch Port

Wyrdwend

Tome and Tomb

The Missal

HOW TO KNOW

The Best Way To Know If A Business Prospect Is Worth Your Time

Ron is the CEO of a business services company. He has a team of people who regularly prospect for business by contacting potential clients. Ron’s company has some pretty compelling solutions for their industry. Their pitch is pretty good, so they set many meetings with executives who express interest in their services. The frustration for Ron is that he and his team have almost no sense of which opportunities will turn into good clients, and which ones are not worth their time to pursue.

During a workshop with Ron’s team, we evaluated the information each person collected when meeting with potential clients. Uh oh! It turns out that each team member was collecting their own set of information they thought might be important. None of the team members was collecting the same information as another team member. Ron’s team needed to discover the best way to know if a business prospect is worth your time .
Four Quadrants of Information

There are many systems that describe the information you should collect when meeting with potential customers. Many of these systems require a Venn Diagram, an Abacus, and a floating point calculator if you want to truly manage the process. I am a big believer that you need a simple process if you want people to follow it.

Of course, just knowing what to capture is nice, but here is a way to keep track of how you’re doing, and some sample questions you can use in that part of the discussion. First, take out a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the center from top to bottom creating two equal sides (left and right). Then Draw a line that splits the page horizontally into top and bottom. This will give you four equally-sized quadrants. In the corner of the upper left box, write the word “Issue”. In the upper right, write “Impact/Importance.” In the lower left box write “Results,” and write “Others Impacted“ in the lower right box.

The Best Way To Know If A Business Prospect Is Worth Your Time

Let me explain each one…

IT’S ALL FOR SALE

IT’S ALL FOR SALE
(The Song of the Modern Expert)

 

If someone says they’ll do for me
What only I can do
I always say to them, “My friend –
You’ve thought your offer through?
That’s a lotta work to do for me
What you say you will,
But if you’re game
It’s all the same,
To me, so better still.”

“Oh no, I meant,” they often say
You’ll do all the work
I’m just here to show you how
So you won’t be a berk.”

“Oh, I see,” I say to them,
“Your expertise you sell –
And how did you a maven make
If you will say, pray tell?”

“Why, I learned by doing,
Work and toil, I often struggled long,
I gained my expertise because
I laboured all along.”

“Oh,” I say, “you expert are
Because you did the work
The efforts you made shaped yourself
You did not duty shirk.”

“Yes,” they say, “that’s what I mean
I worked to learn my trade,
Now if you’ll buy my expertise
I’ll do for you the same.”

“No thanks,” I say, “I like your way,
I’ll do it all myself,
And if I do one better, then
My book will be for sale.”

(At a discount of course.)

THE HOOK

How to manufacture desire

This essay is part of a series written by speakers featuring at our upcoming TNW USA Conference on December 10 in New York. It is adapted from Nir’s book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.


Type the name of almost any successful consumer Web company into your search bar and add the word “addict” after it.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Try “Facebook addict” or “Twitter addict” or even “Pinterest addict” and you’ll soon get a slew of results from hooked users and observers deriding the narcotic-like properties of these websites. How is it that these companies, producing little more than bits of code displayed on a screen, can seemingly control users’ minds? Why are these sites so addictive and what does their power mean for the future of the web?

We’re on the precipice of a new era of the web. As infinite distractions compete for our attention, companies are learning to master new tactics to stay relevant in users’ minds and lives. Today, just amassing millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create. But as some companies are just waking up to this new reality, others are already cashing in.

First-to-mind wins

A company that forms strong user habits enjoys several benefits to its bottom line. For one, this type of company creates associations with “internal triggers” in users’ minds. That is to say, users come to the site without any external prompting.

Instead of relying on expensive marketing or worrying about differentiation, habit-forming companies get users to cue themselves to action by attaching their services to the users’ daily routines and emotions.

A cemented habit is when users subconsciously think, “I’m bored,” and instantly Facebook comes to mind. They think, “I wonder what’s going on in the world?” and before rational thought occurs, Twitter is the answer. The first-to-mind solution wins.

Manufacturing desire

But how do companies create a connection with the internal cues needed to form habits? The answer: they manufacture desire. While fans of Mad Men are familiar with how the ad industry once created consumer desire during Madison Avenue’s golden era, those days are long gone.

A multi-screen world, with ad-wary consumers and a lack of ROI metrics, has rendered Don Draper’s big budget brainwashing useless to all but the biggest brands. Instead, startups manufacture desire by guiding users through a series of experiences designed to create habits. I call these experiences ‘Hooks,’ and the more often users run through them, the more likely they are to self-trigger.

I wrote Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products to help others understand what is at the heart of habit-forming technology. The book highlights common patterns I observed in my career in the video gaming and online advertising industries. While my model is generic enough for a broad explanation of habit formation, I’ll focus on applications in consumer internet for this post.

Trigger

The trigger is the actuator of a behavior—the spark plug in the engine. Triggers come in two types: external and internal. Habit-forming technologies start by alerting users with external triggers like an email, a link on a web site, or the app icon on a phone.

By cycling continuously through successive desire engines, users begin to form associations with internal triggers, which become attached to existing behaviors and emotions. Soon users are internally triggered every time they feel a certain way. The internal trigger becomes part of their routine behavior and the habit is formed.

For example, suppose Barbra, a young lady in Pennsylvania, happens to see a photo in her Facebook newsfeed taken by a family member from a rural part of the State. It’s a lovely photo and since she’s planning a trip there with her brother Johnny, the trigger intrigues her.

Action

After the trigger comes the intended action. Here, companies leverage two pulleys of human behavior – motivation and ability. To increase the odds of a user taking the intended action, the behavior designer makes the action as easy as possible, while simultaneously boosting the user’s motivation.

This phase of the Hook draws upon the art and science of usability design to ensure that the user acts the way the designer intends.

Using the example of Barbra, with a click on the interesting picture in her newsfeed, she’s taken to a website she’s never been to before called Pinterest. Once she’s done the intended action (in this case, clicking on the photo), she’s dazzled by what she sees next.

Variable reward

What separates Hooks from a plain vanilla feedback loop is their ability to create wanting in the user. Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire.

The predictable response of your fridge light turning on when you open the door doesn’t drive you to keep opening it again and again. However, add some variability to the mix—say a different treat magically appears in your fridge every time you open it—and voila, intrigue is created. You’ll be opening that door like a lab animal in a Skinner box.

Variable schedules of reward are one of the most powerful tools that companies use to hook users. Research shows that levels of dopamine surge when the brain is expecting a reward. Introducing variability multiplies the effect, creating a frenzied hunting state, activating the parts associated with wanting and desire.

Although classic examples include slot machines and lotteries, variable rewards are prevalent in habit-forming technologies as well.

When Barbra lands on Pinterest, not only does she see the image she intended to find, but she’s also served a multitude of other glittering objects. The images are associated with what she’s generally interested in – namely things to see during a trip to rural Pennsylvania – but there are some others that catch her eye also.

The exciting juxtaposition of relevant and irrelevant, tantalizing and plain, beautiful and common sets her brain’s dopamine system aflutter with the promise of reward. Now she’s spending more time on the site, hunting for the next wonderful thing to find. Before she knows it, she’s spent 45 minutes scrolling in search of her next hit.

Investment

The last phase of the Hook is where the user is asked to do a bit of work. This phase has two goals as far as the behavior engineer is concerned. The first is to increase the odds that the user will make another pass through the Hook when presented with the next trigger. Second, now that the user’s brain is swimming in dopamine from the anticipation of reward in the previous phase, it’s time to pay some bills.

The investment generally comes in the form of asking the user to give some combination of time, data, effort, social capital or money.

But unlike a sales funnel, which has a set endpoint, the investment phase isn’t about consumers opening up their wallets and moving on with their day. The investment implies an action that improves the service for the next go-around. Inviting friends, stating preferences, building virtual assets, and learning to use new features are all commitments that improve the service for the user.

These investments can be leveraged to make the trigger more engaging, the action easier, and the reward more exciting with every pass through the Hook.

As Barbra enjoys endlessly scrolling the Pinterest cornucopia, she builds a desire to keep the things that delight her. By collecting items, she’ll be giving the site data about her preferences. Soon she will follow, pin, re-pin, and make other investments that serve to increase her ties to the site and prime her for future loops through the Hook.

Super power

A reader recently wrote to me, “If it can’t be used for evil, it’s not a super power.” He’s right. And under this definition, habit design is indeed a super power. If used for good, habits can enhance people’s lives with entertaining and even healthful routines. If used to exploit, habits can turn into wasteful addictions.

But, like it or not, habit-forming technology is already here. The fact that we have greater access to the web through our various devices also gives companies greater access to us.

As companies combine this greater access with the ability to collect and process our data at higher speeds than ever before, we’re faced with a future where everything becomes more addictive. This trinity of access, data, and speed creates new opportunities for habit-forming technologies to hook users. Companies need to know how to harness the power of Hooks to improve peoples’ lives, while consumers need to understand the mechanics of behavior engineering to protect themselves from unwanted manipulation.

What do you think? Hooks are all around us. Where do you see them manufacturing desire in your life?

Here’s the gist:

  • The degree to which a company can utilize habit-forming technologies will increasingly decide which products and services succeed or fail.
  • Habit-forming technology creates associations with “internal triggers” which cue users without the need for marketing, messaging or other external stimuli.
  • Creating associations with internal triggers comes from building the four components of a “Hook” — a trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.
  • Consumers must understand how habit-forming technology works to prevent unwanted manipulation while still enjoying the benefits of these innovations.
  • Companies must understand the mechanics of habit-formation to increase engagement with their products and services and ultimately help users create beneficial routines.

Nir is speaking at The Next Web USA Conference in New York on December 10. Learn more about the conference here.

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