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.
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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

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

WHOEVER WISHES

“Whoever wishes to live in sanctity, may he live according to the true laws of commerce and finance.”

Babylonian Talmud

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.

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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

EVERGREEN AND ALWAYS – BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

5 Types of Evergreen Content for Your Website

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015
This story originally appeared on PR Newswire’s Small Business PR Toolkit
In general, two types of successful content exist: Topical content that is relevant now and will lose its influence over time, and evergreen content that is pertinent now and will continue to be in the future. While both are important components of a content strategy, evergreen allows a brand to re-use, reshare and repurpose the same information, saving both time and resources while increasing the amount of traffic the website and business receive.

Create evergreen content with:

1. Instructions
According to Internet Live Stats, Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day. A significant number of those are inquiring how to accomplish a task. “How-to” guides and tutorials can perpetually provide valuable answers. Tackle challenges that will continue to be relevant in the future, with solutions that will remain the same. A guide on how to change a lightbulb, for example, is and will continue to be accurate and important to residents new to DIY chores. And if the content is tailored to a certain skill level, it’s recommended to clarify that information in the title. For instance, specify if your tutorial on a software program is for beginners or for experts.

2. Interviews
Interview industry experts and influencers. Interviews are a great form of evergreen content because they’re not only timeless but also simple to repurpose. Take the podcast or video and convert its content into a blog, white paper, ebook or PowerPoint presentation.

3. Answers
Because answers to questions regarding the practices and standards of a company as well as industry terms rarely change, FAQ and glossary pages are ideal for evergreen website content. According to PlainLanguage.gov, readers complain about jargon more than any other writing fault. So when creating term definitions, be as clear and straightforward as possible so every reader can understand the information and won’t reference another source instead.

4. History
When providing historical content either about the industry or the brand, avoid using adverbs of time. For example, using words like “last year” or “recently” will quickly cause the content to be inaccurate and outdated. Instead, use the actual date that the historical event took place.

5. Lists
“Top 10” lists of topics that aren’t time-sensitive are not only perennial but also very easy for readers to digest since the information is concisely broken down and organized. Lists can vary from a compilation of industry resources or tools to the best and worst practices of a particular subject or technique.

Because evergreen material will remain pertinent, new users will continue to find and reference the already established content, which will increase traffic and visibility over time. In fact, according to a case study conducted by Moz.com, creating perpetually relevant content improves a brand’s website traffic, overall growth and reputation as an authority.

Written by Phillip Thune of Textbroker

CONFIDENCE – BRAINSTORM

8 Ways to Boost Your Confidence

8 Ways to Boost Your Confidence
Comment
SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

Successful people often exude confidence—it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.

Think about it:

  1. Doubt breeds doubt. Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas, or your abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself?
  2. It takes confidence to reach for new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones rarely expand on their own. That’s why people who lack confidence get stuck in dead-end jobs and let valuable opportunities pass them by.
  3. Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of external circumstances. Successful people aren’t deterred by obstacles, which is how they rise up in the first place.

No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove that barrier of self-doubt.

Related: 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome

Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. With proper guidance and hard work, anyone can become more confident. Once you pass a certain point, you’ll feel it from the inside.

Here are eight bulletproof strategies to get you there.

1. Take an honest look at yourself.

Johnny Unitas said, “There is a difference between conceit and confidence. Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.” In other words, confidence is earnedthrough hard work, and confident people are self-aware. When your confidence exceeds your abilities, you’ve crossed the line into arrogance. You need to know the difference.

True confidence is firmly planted in reality. To grow your confidence, it’s important to do an honest and accurate self-assessment of your abilities. If there are weaknesses in your skill set, make plans for strengthening these skills and find ways to minimize their negative impact. Ignoring your weaknesses or pretending they’re strengths won’t make them go away. Likewise, having a clear understanding of your strengths enables you to shake off some of the more groundless feedback and criticism you can get in a busy, competitive work environment—and that builds confidence.

2. Say no.

Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode confidence. Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their nos clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

3. Get right with your boss.

A troubled relationship with the boss can destroy even the most talented person’s confidence. It’s hard to be confident when your boss is constantly criticizing you or undermining your contributions. Try to identify where the relationship went wrong and decide whether there’s anything you can do to get things back on track. If the relationship is truly unsalvageable, it may be time to move on to something else.

Related: 5 Habits of Mentally Tough People

4. Seek out small victories.

Confident people tend to challenge themselves and compete, even when their efforts yield small victories. Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.

5. Find a mentor.

Nothing builds confidence like a talented, experienced person showing you the way and patting you on the back for a job well done. A good mentor can act as a mirror, giving you the perspective you need to believe in yourself. Knowledge breeds confidence—knowing where you stand helps you focus your energy more effectively. Beyond that, a mentor can help educate you on some of the cultural inner workings of your organization. Knowing the unwritten rules of how to get things done in your workplace is a great confidence booster.

6. Schedule exercise.

A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher. Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, and your confidence will stay up.

7. Dress for success.

Like it or not, how we dress has a huge effect on how people see us. Things like the color, cut, and style of the clothes we wear—and even our accessories—communicate loudly. But the way we dress also affects how we see ourselves. Studies have shown that people speak differently when they’re dressed up compared to when they’re dressed casually. To boost your confidence, dress well. Choose clothing that reflects who you are and the image you want to project, even if that means spending more time at the mall and more time getting ready in the morning.

8. Be assertive, not aggressive.

Aggressiveness isn’t confidence; it’s bullying. And when you’re insecure, it’s easy to slip into aggressiveness without intending to. Practice asserting yourself without getting aggressive (and trampling over someone else in the process). You won’t be able to achieve this until you learn how to keep your insecurities at bay, and this will increase your confidence.

Bringing it all together

Your confidence is your own to develop or undermine. Confidence is based on reality. It’s the steadfast knowledge that goes beyond simply “hoping for the best.” It ensures that you’ll get the job done—that’s the power of true confidence.

QUIRKED

The Rise and Fall of Quirky — the Start-Up That Bet Big on the Genius of Regular Folks

By

Photo: Courtesy of Quirky

One of the start-up world’s favorite words, in addition to disruptpivot, and on-demand, is community. Kickstarter identifies as “a community of people committed to bringing new things to life.” “The heart and soul of Etsy,” begins the About Etsy page, “is our global community.” Airbnb calls itself “the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.” You’re not, in other words, just joining a platform where you can fund your screenplay, or hawk your hand-knit iPhone koozies, or rent your apartment — no, you’re belonging to something bigger than yourself.

But back in 2009, perhaps before the word had lost all meaning, a small-time-invention start-up called Quirky built a community that really acted like one. It told the first-world-problem solver in all of us — the one who thought up single-serve French-fry-makers and foldable coffee mugs and musical footballs while out walking the dog — that she no longer had to innovate in a vacuum. Anybody could join. On Quirky’s website, users would assess and workshop each other’s inventions. The most successful ideas, as determined by a vote, would be designed and built by the company. In some cases, the inventors made a lot of money. And it is for that tiny dreamer that the company’s recent death spiral feels like a true loss.

It all came to a head on what seemed like a typical Thursday evening this July, during the weekly Quirky ritual known as Eval. A studio audience of about 100 people gathered in the company’s former-rail-car-terminal headquarters in Chelsea. Lit by webcams from above and a bank of futuristic equipment behind, Quirky’s 28-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman, stood at a lectern in his usual black V-neck tee and announced a panel of product-evaluation experts by nickname: Anna “Make a Buck” Buchbauer, Justin “J-Bomb” Seidenfeld, Aaron Dignan, a.k.a. El Presidente. Ideas submitted and voted on by the Quirky community — watching the livestream from their living rooms — were presented via pitch videos and commentary from Kaufman: a voice-activated lightbulb, a paper-thin Bluetooth speaker that fits in your back pocket, an on-the-go beverage carbonator. The masterminds who won majority approval would hear the rallying mantra “Congratulations, you’re a Quirky inventor!” and have the chance to be like fellow Eval winner Garthen Leslie, a 63-year-old IT consultant from Columbia, Maryland. Leslie came up with the idea of a smart air conditioner during his morning commute, uploaded a rough diagram of the idea to the Quirky platform, and found the community waiting to help him refine it, suggesting additional features and weighing in on the sizing, specs, and the name, which would be Aros. And keeping with Quirky’s leave-the-rest-to-us business model, the company then patented, manufactured, marketed, and sold the unit into Walmart and Amazon, returning 10 percent of the profits to the inventor and those that played Watson to his Graham Bell (in this exceptional case, that’s amounted to more than $400,000 for Leslie and more than $200,000 for the community).

Quirky founder Ben Kaufman, center.

But this Thursday, July 16, it would turn out, was not an ordinary Eval. In fact, it would be the next to last one Kaufman ever did. Following the broadcast, he tacked on what he called an “after-party” — a.k.a. a crisis-management session aimed at addressing recent bad press that the company had gotten. In June, in a sweaty interview onstage at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, Kaufman admitted the company was all but “out of money,” which had once amounted to $185 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and GE. In July came the news that nearly the entire New York City staff would be laid off. By August 1, Kaufman would officially step down from the company he started at age 22. It so happened that for every Aros-type success, the community had waved in many more duds like the Beat Booster, a wireless speaker with a built-in charging station that by one account cost the company $388,000 to develop but only sold about 30 units.

It’s not surprising that Kaufman used the word transparency no fewer than three times in the first five minutes of that after-party, the bottom line of which was that he frankly didn’t know if the company would survive — Quirky’s fate was in the investors’ hands. Because, for all the aspirational, rarefied Bushwick-bar vibes telegraphed by the Evals, Quirky was, of course, all about being real. Its cluster of a million members included folks like — to cite some of the most recent inventors featured on the website — Tony Lytle, a welder and proud grandfather from Larwill, Indiana, who’d dreamed up the Pawcett, a step-on drinking fountain for dogs; and Hadar Ferris, a licensed cosmetologist in Oceanside, California, responsible for decorative muffin-top molds called Bake Shapes; and Pennsylvania-based Navy veteran Jason Hunter, who gave birth to the Porkfolio app-enabled piggy bank. (In the age of artisanal everything, just as we want to know where our pickles were brined and our former-church-pew coffee tables were carved, here, too, was the meaningful personal backstory behind your magnetic bottle opener.)

Aros was a rare commercial success for Quirky.

A few weeks after he was ousted, Kaufman emailed with me from his first-ever personal email account: “It’s weird waking up one day and not even having an email address,” he later said on the phone. “This had been my whole life.” He was a small-time inventor himself at first, for a range of iPod accessories he started in high school that went on to become the company Mophie. At the 2007 Macworld Expo, he handed out pens and sketchpads and asked people to help design Mophie’s 2007 product line (sound familiar?) and then held a vote for the top three ideas. That same year, he sold Mophie, reappropriated the Macworld crowdsourcing schtick, and tried to launch a similar concept to Quirky. What helped Quirky finally get off the ground in 2009 was the recession-driven push for alternative incomes (no coincidence that Kickstarter as well as the entrepreneur-competition show Shark Tank, another bastion of scrappy innovation, also launched in 2009). Plus, there was more of a universal comfort with the practice of online sharing: We were now very used to telling our Facebook friends what we ate for breakfast, and by extension, we might as well tell the Quirky forum about our concept for a better egg-yolk extractor. Our notion of community, then, was evolving, and Kaufman — Mark Zuckerberg wrapped in a teddy-bear build, with the mischievous smile of your son or younger brother (depending on where you fell in Quirky’s wide-ranging age demographics) — was a relatable leader.

On the consumer end, seeing these ordinary tinkerers immortalized on the shelves of the Container Store (a big Quirky perk was that inventors’ names and faces appeared on their products’ packaging) was like watching the Spanx lady on QVC for the first time in the early aughts — a humble fax-machine salesperson from Clearwater, Florida, who just wanted to wear control-top pantyhose without the hose. Inventors were just like us! And now everybody could be the Spanx lady (albeit for only a tiny fraction of the profits), because unlike her, we didn’t have to side-hustle all alone. Next it could be my cousin in Westchester, who had four kids but no one to help her prototype her idea for a mother-baby bath towel. Next it could be my semi-retired father, who was in a private war with his never-shuts-properly pantry door and needed a constructive, supportive outlet for his aggression. Next it could be my friend Sarah, who was full of lightbulb moments — an Oreo-dunking robot claw, a universal key for all your locks — but was too stoned to sort through the mechanics by herself.

Quirky was catnip for the press: The Sundance Channel produced a short-lived reality show on the company in 2011. Kaufman appeared on Leno. This magazine featured it as a Boom Brand of 2013, noting, “It’s a pretty rare company that’s so hippieish — Let’s have everyone get a say! — yet so purely free-market.” The Times devoted several thousand words to a piece called “The Invention Mob, Brought to You by Quirky” just last February (by then its financially unsustainable business model had given way to a pivot — a smart-home subsidiary called Wink — that was too little too late).\

Another Times piece, from this past April, cited Quirky as a springboard for the realest of all Real People: older people. “There’s a boom in inventing by people over 50,” John Calvert, the executive director of the United Inventors Association, told the paper. And indeed, Quirky had plenty of them in its hive — like 59-year-old Lorin Ryle, a full-time caretaker for her dementia-stricken mother. When her clip-on baby monitor for the elderly won at Eval, she says she cried, watching from her Hutto, Texas, home. It never actually made it to development (in fact, only about half of the Eval winners ever do), but for Ryle that didn’t take away from the experience of “working with people to make something work,” she says. “I’ve made lifelong friends on there.” (Another Quirky boomer, Marc Rumaner, who came up with a nifty little wine-bottle anchor called Vine Stop, has even gone so far as to host barbecues for fellow community members in his Chicago area.)

Of course, the inmates didn’t always like running the asylum. There was much talk in the forums that the Eval system seemed too democratic. “I failed to see how any of us could know what a product scout from a company like GE or Mattel could know,” says one community member. And indeed, when you look at misfires like the Drift, a $200 wooden balance board that simulates snowboarding and surfing, or the $80 Egg Minder, an app-enabled egg tray that signals to your smartphone when you’re running low on eggs, it would appear that the company’s raison d’être was also the reason for its downfall, a colony of amateurs green-lighting unscalable solutions to nonexistent issues. Quirky brought more than 400 products to market in just six years.

Inside Quirky’s workshop.

Yet Kaufman points out that the community had much less say than all the high-pressure voting would suggest; the real decisions were made when the cameras stopped rolling and he and the actual experts did the math on a product’s marketability. (So, maybe not so much power to the people, after all.) But, he adds of Eval, “There had to be a thing to look forward to on a regular basis — otherwise how are you going to keep the community engaged?” Quirky steered the ship, you might say, but the community was still the North Star.

Steering the ship — handling all of the engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing, even when you’re taking 90 percent of the subsequent profits — was ultimately too expensive of a proposition, especially in comparison to other, less-handholding-oriented start-ups. “The reason why Kickstarter makes a ton of money is they don’t have to do anything besides put up a website,” Kaufman notes. After that, the failure (and let’s face it, many Kickstarter-funded products go on to fail) is all on the individual. Which is not meant to be a dig, Kaufman clarifies. He won’t confirm his next venture but says, “I love Kickstarter.” And: “I will likely use it.”

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.

THE BIOGRAPHY – BRAINSTORM

This exercise might be critical to your success

For inspiration, motivation, and amusing historical anecdotes about the lives of famous people, we turn to the biographies of others.

But according to Aliza Licht, SVP of global communications at Donna Karan International and author of “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media,” there’s an essential biography that never makes the best-of lists — and it could be the most critical for your future success.

There’s just one caveat: you have to write it first.

A few years back, Licht needed a bio for something, and the process of writing it actually changed the way she saw herself. Now, it’s one of the exercises she recommends to everyone — and recent research suggests she might be onto something.

In one study from Stanford, married couples who wrote about conflicts in their relationship as though they were neutral observers showed “greater improvement in marital happiness” than couples who didn’t reflect in writing.

In a different study from Ohio State University, people were better able to perceive personal progress when they narrated embarrassing moments from their lives in third person.

In other words, the way we tell ourselves our stories matters — and Licht isn’t alone in thinking so.

Aliza LichtGerardo SomozaAliza Licht.

To be clear here, she’s not saying you should be writing a 300-page retrospective of your life and choices — at least for the purposes of this exercise — and she’s also not talking about a high-concept version your three sentence LinkedIn blurb. Imagine you’re a journalist writing a profile, Licht advises. It’s just that the subject of that profile happens to be you — and you’re the only one that needs to read it. (That’s why it’s a “biography” and not an “autobiography” — as much as possible, you want to be outside yourself.)

“It’s such a great lesson in self-reflection, and I think it can really help a person get outside of themselves for a minute.” In the book, she describes it as an “out of body experience,” key to taking stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you might be going.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Write in the third person. Not only is it more effective — pretending you’re not yourself gives you something much closer to an outside perspective, she says — it’s also more comfortable. “It is so awkward to talk about ourselves,” Licht acknowledges. Switching from “I” to “she” can be freeing.

2. Be thorough. You contain multitudes (and so should your bio). Things to cover: education, career path, jobs and titles, hobbies and passions, talents and awards, affiliations (charities, societies, groups), personality, physical attributes, and family status. The total effect should be an “aerial view,” she tells Business Insider.

3. Read it back to yourself. Evaluate the person you’re reading about like you aren’t you. Do you like you? Would you hire you? Is the story you’re telling about yourself the same story someone could piece together by Googling you?  Is that the story you want told? The goal is to get an honest assessment to help you figure out what you’ve got — and what you might be missing.

“The best thing that can happen is you don’t like it,” Licht says. “Because if you don’t like it, you have the power to change it.” That’s why she thinks the exercise is especially critical for people who are “consistently getting the door shut on them when they apply to places.” If doors keep closing, then something isn’t working. The bio can help identify what that something is.

And if it feels a little unnatural? That’s fine, she says. “I don’t think it’s natural to constantly think ‘how am I doing? What do people think about me?'” Licht points out. But then, that’s the point. “You kind of have to make yourself sit down and do it.” The effort is worth it, she says.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-should-write-your-biography-2015-5#ixzz3bNyMY7xM

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT from POLITICAL CAUSE

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT THE MARKETS

When governments direct markets the very best that they can possibly hope to achieve is misdirection.

 

Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

By SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: The Costs of Green EnergyPhotos
DPA

Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.

If you want to do something big, you have to start small. That’s something German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier knows all too well. The politician, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has put together a manual of practical tips on how everyone can make small, everyday contributions to the shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy. The so-called Energiewende, or energy revolution, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s project of the century.

“Join in and start today,” Altmaier writes in the introduction. He then turns to such everyday activities as baking and cooking. “Avoid preheating and utilize residual heat,” Altmaier advises. TV viewers can also save a lot of electricity, albeit at the expense of picture quality. “For instance, you can reduce brightness and contrast,” his booklet suggests.Altmaier and others are on a mission to help people save money on their electricity bills, because they’re about to receive some bad news. The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike.

German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energypolicy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar. But now many Germans are realizing the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is unable to cope with this shift. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public has any more confidence in a potential alliance of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.

Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”

Paying Big for Nothing

For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.

If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”

On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.

If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid. Of course, ordinary electricity customers are then expected to pay for the compensation these businesses are entitled to for lost profits.

The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.

In the current election campaign, the parties are blaming each other for the disaster. Meanwhile, the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely. “It exposes us to criticism,” says a government spokesman. “There are undeniably major problems,” admits a cabinet member.

But this week, the issue is forcing its way onto the agenda. On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The experts propose changing the system to resemble a model long successful in Sweden. If implemented, it would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place. Instead of bureaucrats setting green energy prices, they would be allowed to develop indepedently on a separate market. The report’s authors believe the Swedish model would lead to faster and cheaper implementation of renewable energy, and that the system would also become what it is not today: socially just.

Trouble Paying the Bills

When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.

A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.

Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.

Once the power has been shut off, it’s difficult to have it switched on again. Customers have to negotiate a payment plan, and are also charged a reconnection fee of up to €100. “When people get their late payment notices in the spring, our phones start ringing,” says Becker.

In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000.Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted. As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.

SUCCESS AS ACHIEVEMENT

I concur with this assessment.

7 ways highly successful people achieve more

ProductivitySebastiaan ter Burg/FlickrThey can do their best even on their worst day.

LinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden published this post originally on LinkedIn.

Some people get more done than others — a lot more.

Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. (While “smarter, not harder” is fine, smarter and harder is way better.) But they also possess a few other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:

1. They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.

Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd… and the average person resents you. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to dial it back and fit in.

Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something highly productive people don’t worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.) They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility… and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.

And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve. (Which is really all that matters.)

2. They accept that fear is an expected element in the process.

One of my clients is an outstanding — and outstandingly successful — comic. Audiences love him. He’s crazy good.

Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he’ll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach. That’s just how he is.

So right before he goes onstage he takes a quick shower, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down, and does a little shadowboxing.

Sure, he’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. But he accepts it as part of the process — and has developed a process to deal with it.

Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.

Productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize dwelling on fear is paralyzing, but action naturally generates confidence and self-assurance.

3. They can do their best even on their worst day.

Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”

Extremely successful people don’t make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in… even “just this one time.” (Because once you give in, it’s rarely just one time.)

4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.

Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity somehow happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.

And they wait, and wait, and wait.

Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… The work itself results in inspiration.

Highly productive people don’t wait for ideas. They don’t wait for inspiration. They know that big ideas most often come from people who do, not people who simply dream.

5. They view help as essential, not a weakness.

Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you’re lost and a little scared. Would you ask for help? Of course.

No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.

Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.

Highly productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength — and the key to achieving more.

6. They start…

At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — and success.

Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to totally overcome any of those shortcomings. Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.

But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”

(That’s no surprise; it’s always easier than we think.)

Highly productive people try not to think about the pain they will feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.

So they get started…

7. …and they finish.

Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.

Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-ways-highly-successful-people-achieve-more-how-you-can-jeff-haden#ixzz3aAH2WEcI

THE SACRIFICES – BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

I’m always thinking about Work (not just business, though that’s part of it, but all of my Work – business, careers, inventing, writing, etc. which short of God and family are my most interesting and vital concerns), and I constantly go without sleep.

The rest of these to a slightly lesser degree, but I know exactly what the man is saying and why.

5 tough sacrifices every entrepreneur must make

richard bransonDavid McNew/GettyRichard Branson.

Every entrepreneur starts out with big dreams and excitement.

As an entrepreneur, you control your own destiny, and with the right ideas, the right skillset and unflinching dedication, you can build wealth or establish an enterprise to serve as your legacy.

This is the bright side of entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, there’s also a darker side.

The rigors of entrepreneurship demand sacrifices, and if you don’t make those sacrifices you’ll never be able to succeed. Business is, at its core, a give-and-take process. The more you invest, and the more you’re willing to part with, the more you’ll reap in rewards in kind.

Related: 5 Reasons Entrepreneurs Burn Out and Quit

These are the five sacrifices that every entrepreneur needs to make:

1. Stability

You’re starting a new venture, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to succeed. The foundation of your company, even if your idea and plans are solid, is rocky at best, and there’s no telling which direction your business is headed until you’re several months, or often much longer, into running things. If you haven’t already sacrificed a comfortable, well-paying, stable job to follow this route, odds are you’ll have to sacrifice some other kind of stability before you can move forward.

Entrepreneurship is, by nature, an unstable path to follow. Don’t be surprised if you encounter multiple, unpredictable shifts in your fortune as your work progresses. It’s natural and part of the process. Eventually, if you work hard with a clear vision, things will stabilize.

2. Work/life split

When you become an entrepreneur, the lines between your working life and your personal life will blur. You’ll start thinking about business even when you’re away from the office, sometimes because you want to and sometimes because you can’t help it. You’ll also get calls and emails urgently needing your attention because you’re the boss and there’s nobody else to answer them.

Your downtime will become “light” business time, but the flip side is that your time in the office will feel more like personal time because you’ll want to be there. Remember, it’s still important for you to balance your work priorities and your personal ones — always make time for your family and your mental health — but the firm split between personal and professional time is going to go away no matter how you try to handle it.

3. Income

This goes along with the stability sacrifice, but for the first few years of your business, you’re probably not going to be making much money. In most businesses, entrepreneurs and their families end up investing heaps of their own money to get the business going. If this is the case for you, you’ll be making even more of a sacrifice since your potential safety net will be gone.

Related: Are You An Entrepreneur Or a ‘Wantrepreneur?’

Since you’ll be deciding where the money goes, you can set your own salary, but many entrepreneurs don’t even take a salary during their first several months of operations, at least not until there’s a steady line of revenue backing them up. Be prepared for this. You’ll need a strong marketing plan to overcome barriers to entry and gain a share of the market in your industry.

4. Sleep

Sleep is vitally important, but no matter how hard you try to preserve healthy sleeping habits, you’re going to sacrifice some sleep in order to run your business. In some cases, you’ll be pulling all-nighters to get that last proposal together. In other cases, you’ll be getting up super early to make a meeting or get all your tasks in order. In still other cases, you’ll be lying awake at night, restless and wondering about the future of your company.

Whatever the case may be, your sleeping habits are going to change when you become an entrepreneur, and you’ll have to make the best of them no matter how they end up.

5. Comfort

Being the boss of your own company means the buck stops with you. You’re going to have to wear dozens of hats, make decisions you’ve never made before and delve into subjects you’ve never before considered. Part of being an entrepreneur means stepping out of your comfort zone, often multiple times every day.

The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who approach uncomfortable situations with confidence and a degree of excitement. Learn to thrive in uncomfortable environments, and you’ll find yourself much more at peace with your job.

Don’t think of these sacrifices as literal sacrifices. You’ll be giving something up, sure, but try to think of it as a type of investment. You’re giving up intangible luxuries in exchange for something better down the road. You’re paying for the opportunity to find success in your own enterprise, and your sacrifices will be rewarded many times over so long as you stay committed in your chosen path.

Remember, as an unidentified student of Warren G. Tracy said, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people cant.”

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245203#ixzz3ZwI6twTm

TOTAL RECALL

Hit the Gym after Studying to Boost Recall

Like other things that enhance alertness, exercise may help cement new facts in mind

Credit: Casa Velas Hotel/Flickr

Regular exercise boosts brain health, and a fit brain is generally able to learn, think and remember better. But a few recent studies offer an additional exercise-related tip: time your workouts for just after a study session, and you might better retain the information you just learned. In a variety of experiments, people who biked, did leg presses or even simply squeezed a handgrip shortly after or before learning did better on tests of recall in the hours, days or weeks that followed.

Experts think the crucial component is physical arousal. Exercise excites the body in much the same way an emotional experience does—and emotional memories are well known to be the most long lasting. The researchers caution, however, that at most exercise can have a supportive effect—the important thing is to study well first.

More Quick Tips for Creativity and Focus

Lie down to spark insight.

One study showed that people who lay on their back solved anagrams significantly faster than those who stood.

Dress for the occasion.

In one study, people who wore a white lab coat displayed enhanced focus.

Smile when sad to enhance creativity.

People who exhibited contradictory mental and physical states—they thought of a sad memory while smiling or listened to happy music while frowning—were better able to think outside the box. —Victoria Stern

This article was originally published with the title “Hit the GYM after Studying.”

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.

BLOGGING AND BRANDING – BRAINSTORM

Start Blogging, Start a Business, and Build an Authentic Brand

Bestselling author and successful entrepreneur Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere on building a thriving business.
IMAGE: Getty Images

Some months ago I published a post about commonly misused words. Several hundred thousand people read it, so it was reasonably popular, but as with most posts, in time the views slowed.

Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, tens of thousands of people read it.

I did a little digging and learned that all those readers came from one small link in a post called “Links I Love” on the fashion, food, and lifestyle inspiration blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. That’s far and away the most readers an external link has generated for one of my posts, including tweets from people with millions of Twitter followers.

So I did a little more digging and learned that Emily Schuman has done what countless other people have not been able to do: start a blog, create outstanding content with a unique voice and an authentic point of view, build a large and vibrant community, and turn that blog into a successful business. She’s partnered with retail brands, written a bestselling book, Cupcakes and Cashmere: A Guide for Defining Your Style, Reinventing Your Space, and Entertaining with Ease, will release her second book, Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home, this May, and later this summer will launch a line of products.

So I asked Emily how she did–and does–it.

Tell me where the idea came from, what you were doing at the time, what your hopes were.

I started my blog in 2008 as a purely creative endeavor. I was working in online ad sales at the time, which was a good job, but didn’t provide any sort of outlet for creativity or cover any of my passions, which are fashion, food, beauty and home decor.

I didn’t have any specific goals or ambitions, other than to document ideas and create simple content that I enjoyed and perhaps a handful of others would appreciate. Over the first six months I noticed a slight increase in traffic, which led me to think I might be able to earn a little extra income to supplement my normal salary.

Early on, what challenges did you face and what mistakes did you make?

One of the biggest challenges I faced early on was trying to do everything by myself, rather than delegating or working with other skilled people. I’m not tech savvy, so when my site would crash or I wanted to add a new feature I would spend hours looking up tutorials and sloppily coding pieces into the backend of my site… which would often make things worse.

I eventually turned to people (specifically my then boyfriend, now husband) to help find support for the growing site. Thankfully he worked in the digital media space and called in a few favors, but I definitely learned you can’t build or run a successful enterprise singlehandedly.

How did you differentiate yourself in such crowded space?

One advantage I have is longevity. I started my site when blogging (specifically fashion/lifestyle) was still a nascent area of media, so the fact that I’ve been doing it for over seven years has provided a little bit of legitimacy. I’ve also evolved over time, so rather than focusing on the same content I’ve tried to diversify and expand on the categories I cover.

A lot of the readers have grown up with me, so there is a very personal connection we share and they relate to a lot of the experiences I’ve showcased (like getting married, buying a home, having a baby) that provide a more authentic experience than simply sharing pretty photographs.

Lastly, consistency is key. I haven’t missed a post in seven years, so readers know there will be something new each morning… and I’ve heard from a lot of them that they love starting their day with a cup of coffee and reading the latest post.

Tell me about your overall theme, “aspirational meets attainable.” Intuitively I get it, but I would think striking that balance is tough.

This has been the core idea of the site since day one primarily because I wasn’t making a lot of money–so my goal was to create a lifestyle that felt elevated without draining my bank account. (A lot of this stemmed from my experience at Teen Vogue where I was exposed to a mix of amazing designers and media that was semi-relatable but simply out of reach.)

As my business has grown and I’ve been lucky enough to increase my income, I’ve worked hard to maintain the tenets of the “attainable” tone, primarily through the data we’ve collected. We know the price points readers respond to, we know the retailers they prefer… so while not every piece of content will resonate, we make sure most of what we put out is in line with what people expect to see and makes them feel comfortable.

There are a lot of blogs that suddenly change their tone or content once they begin to grow, but I feel a big part of my long-term success is built on knowing the audience and not straying from the core messaging.

How do you decide on your topic mix? You have food, clothing, household items, career advice, fashion…

Every topic is based on something I’m passionate about, but we also have a set editorial calendar to make planning easier. This has evolved and been refined over the years, based on audience response, but we look at it kind of like TV programming (i.e. Monday = Fashion & Decor, Tuesday = Food & DIY, etc.)

I think consistency and knowing what to expect on a certain day gives the audience a sense of comfort.

You make your living with your blog, which means partnerships and advertising. A great offer from a potential advertiser has to be tempting, even if it isn’t great for your brand or your audience. It’s always tough to turn away revenue.

As with many bloggers in this category I receive dozens of advertising opportunities each week, almost all of which I don’t accept.

However, the advertisers I do work with are a natural fit for the content we’re producing; you wouldn’t see me driving a Hummer in a post.

That’s not one of the advertisers I’ve turned down, but I have had offers from companies who clearly have never read my blog and have offered a lot of money to integrate a product into the site, regardless of whether their audience was even remotely aligned aligned.

You get dozens and often hundreds of comments on every post. Why do you think your audience is so engaged?

I don’t mean to sound redundant, but consistency and authenticity are the key elements to building an engaged audience.

The readers have built an emotional connection with the site and ultimately they look at it as more than just some text and words. I’ve had people approach me on the street and say, “You’re Cupcakes and Cashmere,” rather than calling me by my name, so there is sometimes a disconnect between the brand and myself… but either way, the connection is real and they relate to what I’m creating.

You’ve published one bestselling book and have another book in the works. How have you leveraged your online presence to offline products and ventures? And do you have a longer-term strategy?

My second book, Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home, comes out on May 19 and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite interior design and entertaining tips.

I’ve been working with a licensing agent for the past two years to explore and expand retail opportunities with the brand and we’re actually launching a new product line this summer. I can’t say more about it yet but it is within one of the main categories I cover on the site. We’ve locked in two large retail partners (one is brick/mortar online, one purely e-comm) and we’ve been in the process of developing two other product lines within another category.

The long-term goal is to establish a successful line of branded products that benefit from the blog but are a stand-alone business.

Say I meet you in an airport lounge, find out what you do, and say, “I’ve always wanted to start a site on (my passion.) Any quick tips you’d give me, and common mistakes to avoid?

Tips:

  • Be patient with your goals since success will most likely come slowly, if at all.
  • If you’re creating original content, be prepared for it to consume a lot of your time.
  • For areas that you’re not skilled in, find great collaborators.
  • Get a basic understanding of the digital media landscape. Learn about analytics, do some research on advertising, and be able to speak about your audience value.
  • Be authentic and learn to differentiate yourself. Most likely the category you’ll cover is overly saturated with content, so you need to find a way to make your work stand out.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Sacrificing quality over quantity. Your audience will be built on trust and the entertainment value you provide. If your quality slips, so will they.
  • Taking every offer that comes your way. At first it’s very tempting to accept offers from an advertiser, but ultimately, it degrades your credibility if you become an advocate for anyone willing to pay you. Be selective.

THE LESSON – THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

Last night, at our weekly Family Business Meeting important lessons were learned and important lessons were taught.

We had a half hour meeting to discuss old and new business and then I conducted an hour and a half meeting on stocks and successful stock investing, culminating in asking them to each have a profitable Blue Chip stock recommendation for me by next week in which they can invest. Also I asked for an assessment of which industry sectors most interested them when it came to investment.

This is hardly the first lesson they’ve had on investing, or even on stock investing, but it seems to have really sunk in quite well this time, for all of them. Most importantly my wife and children were able to correctly answer almost every question I put to them regarding stock investing. A superb omen for the future.

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.

 

SUBSTANCE OF THE SOUL – FROM THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

The modern men of the West rarely lack for sustenance of the body. What they most lack is substance of the Soul.

What they are most in need of is True Courage and Virtue. What they most hunger for, without even being aware of it, is Real Manhood.

If the modern man of the West were regularly fed Real Manhood, or even far better, if he could habitually grow his own, then the benefit to himself, and the profit to the entire World would be incalculable.

THE STRUGGLE IS THE ACHIEVEMENT

Hiring Rule: How Elon Musk Screens for Real Experience

The best employees will be able to easily recall their struggles, says SpaceX’s CEO.

IMAGE: Getty Images

If your company frequently runs into complex-problem issues, it helps to be surrounded by a team of experienced problem solvers.

While that might sound overly obvious, the hard part is detecting this skill during the hiring process. You’ll want to make sure that your employees have cracked tough codes by themselves–not just by blindly following someone else’s instructions, says Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

That’s why, as a hiring rule, Musk asks job candidates to recall a problem they solved. Then he has them explain how they arrived at each and every step, up until the solution.

“If someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to answer multiple levels. They’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks,” Musk said in an interview at Ignition, an annual Business Insider event. “Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

Note that when a candidate says he or she was able to arrive at a conclusion by asking someone else or consulting a book, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer. Musk said this is exactly how he’s been studying rocket science for more than a decade. The grueling process has made him more confident in his abilities.

When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it,” he said.

Published on: Mar 31, 2015

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.

MARK CUBAN’S ADVICE

Simplistic, yet very sound and useful advice.

Mark Cuban’s 3 fundamental rules for running a business

Mark Cuban is the billionaire investor best known for his roles as a “Shark” and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Throughout his career, he’s made over 120 investments, from large companies like Landmark Theatres to startups on “Shark Tank.”

For all of the businesses he’s been a part of, he’s developed a set of “rules that have been almost infallible,” he writes in his 2013 book “How to Win at the Sport of Business.”

We’ve summarized the three he’s used “religiously.”

1. Understand the difference between adding value and benefiting from a bull market.

In the same way that some stock market investors think they’re geniuses when they keep picking stocks that go up, failing to acknowledge that all stocks are doing the same thing, Cuban says entrepreneurs can fail to recognize that a good deal of their success is due to a fad or trend.

“There is nothing wrong with going along for the ride and making money at it, but it will catch up with you if you lie to yourself and give yourself credit for the ride,” he writes.

Cuban says that he saw this happen with professional sports leagues in the aughts. He says that many team owners became enamored with rising revenues from television rights deals, crediting it to their own “brilliance.” He says, however, that he and his Mavericks partners recognized that revenues were actually rising due to competition among cable and satellite providers. Cuban couldn’t become complacent.

“It’s a bigger challenge to recognize that the bull market may end and our programming needs to be of sufficient value to our customers and viewers for it to maintain or continue to increase in value,” he writes.

2. Win the battles you’re in before moving onto new ones.

Cuban writes that he had a chance to take Landmark Theatres international but that any time spent on developing a global presence was time not spent growing its national presence, and so he decided against it.

“You do not have unlimited time and/or attention,” he writes. “You may work 24 hours a day, but those 24 hours spent winning your core business will pay off far more. It might cost you some longer-term upside, but it will allow you to be the best business you can be.”

3. Don’t drown in opportunity.

“If you are adding new things when your core businesses are struggling rather than facing the challenge, you are either running away or giving up,” Cuban writes. “Rarely is either good for a business.”

Melissa Carbone, president of horror attraction company Ten Thirty One Productions, tells Business Insider that after the $2 million deal she made with Cuban on “Shark Tank” went public, she was flooded with partnership and investment offers, some of which were quite attractive.

Cuban told her to take a step back and not let emotions make her impulsive. She says she still hears Cuban’s voice in her head reminding her, “Don’t drown in opportunity.”

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?

THE LETTER

I have read Buffett’s books as well as several books about/with/sponsored by Buffet, including The Intelligent Investor. Which I have in my personal business and consulting library.

I do not consider Buffett either that brilliant, or that great of a man, except when it comes to investing. When it comes to investing and how to maximize the inherent capacities of any given business he supports he can be, and is indeed, far more often than not, quite incredibly brilliant.

Therefore I found the letter Bill Gates spoke about in the article quite interesting. I downloaded a .pdf copy to study.

Bill Gates recommends you read this specific part of Warren Buffett’s letter

warren buffett bill gates ping pongREUTERS/Rick Wilking Buffett and Gates.

Bill Gates is a big Warren Buffett fan.

Gates’ charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was gifted shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, worth almost $30 billion back in 2006, and Buffett serves as a trustee of the foundation.

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Gates highlighted what he thought was the most important section of Buffett’s latest letter to shareholders, the 50th edition of the widely circulated missive.

Gates links to page 23 of the letter, where Buffett walks through the earliest days of Berkshire (as well as the “monumentally stupid” decision Buffett made over $0.125 back in 1964).

In a YouTube video posted Sunday, Gates talked a bit about why he liked this passage from the letter so much — it’s about the history of Buffett the investor and Berkshire the company.

In the video, Gates says what works about what he calls the “Berkshire system” is that it maximizes the potential of businesses by giving them autonomy as well as the explicit support of the whole Berkshire organization, even if mistakes are made.

Gates added: “What really struck me this time about the letter was the value of experience. [Buffett] is better today than ever because he’s seen so many businesses and he understands business profitability so incredibly well.” Gates says this is the most important annual letter Buffett has ever written.

Read Buffett’s full letter here »

THE ADVENTURES OF END-OVER: THE BUTT-NAKED BUSINESSMAN

I thought about posting this to my literary blog, but… then I thought to myself, no, this story contains so many of the lessons I’ve learned in business and regarding corporate espionage that I’ll put it here, on Launch Port.

I’ll continue writing the story in sections and then serialize it here on Launch Port. Enjoy.

 

THE BUTT-NAKED BUSINESSMAN


Chapter One: The Breeched Bureau

(First Draft)

End-Over placed his luggage at the foot of the bureau. The important thing about a bureau in his mind, if you were going to have one at all, was that it be tightly arranged and well ordered. Most people didn’t understand this, even those who made much use of bureaus. Then again, most people started at the over, and not at the end. He had been born breeched. The end as the logical starting place was natural to him.

It also struck many people as either odd, or humorous, or both, that he would bring so much luggage to a Nudist Camp. But to him, if you were going to camp, the important thing was to always be prepared. Being naked in the face of being nude was to him a very different thing than being both naked and nude. The nude part he had worked himself up to without much trouble. Truth was he had always preferred being nude. The being naked though, that was another matter. They didn’t mesh well in his mind with the other parts of himself. Nude was just another form of camouflage, and another form of gregarious sociability. Naked was, well, it was being naked. You either got that, or you didn’t. End-Over got it, and because of that, he avoided naked.

Everyone at the colony, for he preferred to call it a Colony rather than a Camp, called him John. Or Tule. Because he told everyone his real name was John Tuli. It wasn’t of course, and it wasn’t the only alias he employed. After all real names left one naked, and considering that he was a businessman and considering his business, he was satisfied to let everyone else see him nude rather than naked. His name didn’t interfere with his time at the Colony, it didn’t interfere with his fun, it didn’t make him any less likely to be what he was or to do what he’d do, it was just a name. A corporate structure. He wasn’t attached to it. He wasn’t even attached to his real name. It implied certain things about him, helped clarified aspects of his past. Like all names though it was self-limiting, wasn’t really descriptive at all, other than the meaning others attached to it. Public names, real, or imagined, or created, were like terms to him. Something you could hang an idea on, not something you could develop a solid, working description from. He had a secret name for himself, something no-one else knew. Well, no-one else except maybe God. But it wasn’t a naked name, and it wasn’t a nude name, and it wasn’t a public name, and it wasn’t even a private name. It was a name he used when he talked to himself. Which was often enough that he was respectful of it. So he never used it otherwise, and never spoke it in vain.

He turned from the bureau and examined the room he stood in. It was part of the same cabin he always stayed at when he visited the colony. The floors were stained hardwood, dusty and warm, it seemed to him, no matter what time of year he visited. The furniture was typically resort issue. Standing floor lamps, warm yellow bulbs that shed very little light. That was perfectly fine by him.

The bed was low slung, with no headboard. The mattress was new, and the sheets clean and well tended. On his pillow lay a single wrapped chocolate and with a white rose topping a crisp, bright, white envelop with gold, calligraphic insignia cut to conceal a card rather than a letter. The card was no doubt the typical greeting he always received whenever he visited.

The small kitchen would be clean, swept, dry, and sterile. The floor tiles black and white, the polished faux granite counters would gleam dully. The sinks would shine, the faucets would be scrubbed. Dishes would be neatly stacked and put away in their proper places. The silverware would look as if just purchased. The white-frosted, spherical, enclosed light fixtures would hang halfway between the roof and the floor of the vaulted kitchen ceiling. The refrigerator and freezer would be completely empty of anything but ice, which would be plentiful, and the cabinets would be entirely bare. This didn’t matter to him though; he would stock his own larder. He preferred it that way.

The single bathroom of his cabin would be spotless, the toilet almost pristine, a large shaving mirror would hang above a sink free of all traces it had ever been previously used, and a full length door mirror would decorate the inside door of the bathroom. The bath would be part programmable Jacuzzi, part rounded tub, and would conceal a detachable, multi-pulse showerhead. He liked the set up and looked forward to a few long, relaxing soaks at night while he listened to opera and dozed in the warm water. Which he would salt and pour white wine in for the smell, and because it would relax him all the more…

 

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.”

ENTREPRENEURIAL CREDIBILITY

How to Build Credibility as a Young Entrepreneur
Selena Rezvani , Contributor

Any entrepreneur will tell you that startup life is not for the easily daunted. Rejection, product failures, and isolation are just a few of the tests that many entrepreneurs are put through on a routine basis. Add youth and inexperience to the list of things working against you—and you can see how a startup can seem like nothing but a harsh, uphill endeavor. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be more optimistic than other workers, a factor that keeps them pitching to prospects and looking for ways to prove their value.

As I gather my thoughts for a panel tomorrow on how to build credibility as a young entrepreneur, I’ve been reflecting on what has helped my partners and clients say “Yes” to the diversity consulting and training pitches I’ve put in front of them over the last five years. Mind you, even if it’s not your age that presents a credibility issue, some other factor (industry experience, knowledge of a certain product type, geographic reach) may put you or your business in an ‘underdog’ position.

Here are my top strategies for proving your worth, regardless of your age, experience level or other factors you’re being judged on:

Identify What’s Sacred To Your Customer: What quickens the pulse of the group you’re pitching to? What most excites them or eludes them regardless of their efforts? In my case, a focus on amassing lots of cutting-edge inclusion best practices and focusing on Gen X and Y women helped turn pitch meetings into signed contracts. Additionally, tying innovation payoffs to diversity efforts more often than not grabbed clients’ interest. Still, what ‘did the trick’ last year for many entrepreneurs won’t necessarily pay off now. Who can inform you about what this group cares about most now? What groups and discussions are they participating in on LinkedIn? What types of events or publications do they promote and with what angle?

Don’t Wait To Go After Whales: As a new entrepreneur, I pitched to top business programs around the nation to train their students on the lessons in my first book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders. Plenty of deans and career offices didn’t respond. But thanks to casting a big net, plenty of people said “Yes.” To my sheer delight—and admittedly, terror—the first client to invite me to speak was Harvard University. That wonderful opportunity served as an instrumental “door opener” for future pitches, helping me get into Princeton, London Business School, Duke and inside many large organizations. As a new entity, many people will advise you to start small or go after the “low hanging fruit.” Don’t. Aim high.

Borrow Credibility Where Needed: Many a deal has been closed thanks to a warm introduction being made early on. When a trusted professional enthusiastically introduces you to a corporate insider, you’re getting an endorsement, and therefore a chance, that others won’t. Even if you don’t have deep relationships inside the company, go through the exercise of asking yourself who in your network could act as a strategic partner or co-creator of a compelling pitch. Your partner may have age and experience you don’t, a value added service, a Fortune 500 company on their resume, or experience in a key area that you lack. I have personally benefitted from partnership and found repeatedly that two minds were better than one, especially in client meetings.

Forecast Future Success: Even if the vision for Year 3 of your business depends heavily on performance in Year 1 and 2, have a clear path forward to share with your clients. The fact that you may be adjusting your plans minute to minute is not going to be compelling to decision makers. In a large bid that a partner and I made and won, one of the last questions we were grilled on was, “Where do you see yourself making an impact in 3-4 years?” We had a ready answer about an exciting area of research we wanted to spearhead and how we’d devise services around our learning. How can you look ahead and create a vision for the future? Your prospect may not be looking for total certainty, but they need to know you have a strategy with future mile markers of value.

More than anything, if you want to get hired, you need to promote trust. Are you creating certainty that you’ll deliver ably on what you’re selling? Even more important, are you demonstrating to prospects that if you take a wrong step or a crisis erupts on their end, that you’ll have the kind of smarts and agility to correct your course of action or manage the change?

What has worked for you to build credibility? Would do you think that young entrepreneurs need to know most?

Selena Rezvani is a women’s leadership speaker, workplace consultant, and author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want. Connect with her at nextgenwomen.com and @SelenaRezvani on Twitter.

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.

 

BILLIONAIRE SUCCESS

I thought most of his points were excellently and wisely made.

20 Habits for Success I Learned Working for Two Billionaires

Posted: 02/06/2014 2:57 pm EST Updated: 12/31/2014 1:59 am EST

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I have spent decades “being educated” — in college, graduate school, numerous professional certifications, and now a Ph.D. program. All of that schooling and training helped shape the person I am today, but at no point in my life has there been a more profound education than my time working for Enver Yucel and Oprah Winfrey.

Enver and Oprah are two extraordinary people. And on top of that, they’re both billionaires. On the surface, they appear to be totally different people. They are in different industries, have different family structures, practice different religions, and speak different languages. However, once you get past their written biographies and dig deeper, you will notice they possess many of the same successful habits.

I had the opportunity to work with both Oprah and Enver for six years collectively and those were, hands down, the best professional experiences of my life. I worked my ass off for them and in doing so absorbed everything I could.

It’s my honor to share with you what I learned from them. Here is Part 1 of the 20 successful habits I learned working for two billionaires:

1) Invest in Yourself

This is a very simple concept, but something you would think someone who has “made it” would stop doing. Not at all for these two. I saw them both spend a significant amount of time dedicating their resources to self-development (whether it be a new language, exercise, social media classes, etc.). The moment you stop investing in yourself is the moment you have written off future dividends in life.

2) Be Curious… About Everything

What the average person sees as mundane or overly complicated is not viewed the same way with a billionaire mindset. I once had a 30 minute conversation with Enver about the height of the curbs in Washington DC versus Istanbul, Turkey. Billionaires are incredibly curious; what the rest of the world thinks is a problem and complains about — that’s what these people go and work on.

3) Surround Yourself With “Better” People

I hope this is why they kept me around. Seriously, I never knew my bosses to keep anyone less-than-stellar in their inner circle. There were many times I thought to myself, “Damn, they have dream-teams built around them.” Jim Rohn had it right, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

4) Never Eat Alone

The last time I had dinner with Enver, as well as the last time I ate dinner with Oprah, there were easily 15 people at our tables, respectively. Coincidence? While most of us derive our key information from blogs or the newspaper, power players get their information from the source (other power players), directly. However, just because you can’t call up the Obamas and break bread with them doesn’t mean eating with others in your circle doesn’t carry value. In one of my favorite reads of the last few years called Never Eat Alone, author Keith Ferrazzi breaks down how you can identify “information brokers” to dine with you. I’ve seen first hand how enormous the benefits are of this strategy.

5) Take Responsibility for Your Losses

I was working for Oprah during the time she was taking heat from the media about poor network ratings. I was also working for Enver during the closing of one of his prized divisions. What I witnessed them both do in response was powerful. Opposed to covering the losses up with fancy PR tactics, both stepped to the stage and said in essence “I own it and I’m going to fix it” and dropped the mic. Guess what? They sure did fix things (It’s widely noted Oprah’s network is realizing ratings gold and Enver’s assets have probably doubled since the division closing).

6) Understand The Power Of “Leverage”

This is something that was quite a shock to me. From afar, a billionaire appears to be someone who is a master at everything. But, in truth, they’re specialists in one or a few areas and average or subpar at everything else. So, how do they get so much done? Leverage! They do what they do best and get others to do the rest. Here’s a great article on leverage. Keep in mind I see this done with wealthy people and their money all of the time — they use OPM (other people’s money) for most or all of their projects.

7) Take No Days Off (Completely)

I recall going on vacation with Enver several times, yachting up and down the southwestern coast of Turkey (also known as the blue voyage). Sounds ballerific, right? No doubt we had a great time, but mixed in with all that swimming and backgammon was discussion of business, discussion of strategy, planning and plotting. The best way I can describe this habit is thinking about your business or your idea like your literal baby. No matter your distance, you don’t stop thinking of him/her (and after just having a second son, I can attest to this).

8) Focus On Experiences vs. Material Possessions

When you have money, your toys are big. However, the vast majority of money I saw spent on their “leisure” was on actual experiences versus the typical car, jewelry, and clothes we’re familiar with seeing in music videos and gossip blogs. I recall one time at dinner with Oprah, I spotted a table of about 20 girls off to the side. I later found out Ms. Winfrey was treating some of her graduating girls from her school in South Africa to dinner in NYC. Experiences create memories, and memories are priceless.

9) Take Enormous Risks

This is another one of those successful habits every entrepreneur can attest to. A matter of fact, Entreprenuer.com created a great infographic outlining commonalities of the world’s billionaires and one of the most prominent was this characteristic: billionaires are not adverse to risk. What intrigues me even more about Enver and Oprah was that even at their high financial status and success level, they still possessed a willingness to risk their most precious asset (their name and legacy) on new and bolder projects. If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves!

10) Don’t Go At It Alone

Nothing great in life is achieved alone. Especially in business, success isn’t a solo act. This character trait is akin to “surrounding yourself with better people.” It takes teamwork to make the dream work.

Read Part 2, here!

DOING GOOD from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

You should treat your assets, your businesses, your creations, your investments, your money, and your wealth exactly like your children. You should build them up, develop and grow them so that they can function, and function well, without your presence. Eventually you want your every asset to have a completely independent existence, entirely free of the necessity of you.

You want the things you create and the things you have and the things you produce to have their own life, to outgrow you, and to do those good things in the world that you could never do alone because, after all, you are but one man.

Look at your assets as you would your own children and off-spring, the point is never to maintain a life-long control of them, but to develop them in such a way that they no longer need you. That they outgrow and exceed you. Do this and you will prosper, do this and the world will prosper.

In the long run this approach will make you much, much wealthier and much, much wiser, and better still it will make the world much, much wealthier for your uncommon Wisdom. When good things outgrow their creator everyone benefits. Especially the creator.

Do not just do good with the things you create and possess, let the things you create and possess Do Good on their own.

6 ESSENTIAL THINGS

6 Things That Aspiring Entrepreneurs Must Consider and Do

Peter S. Cohan
December 17, 2014

This week I gave a final exam to 29 undergraduates in my “Foundations of Entrepreneurial Management” class at Babson College.

But a final exam is not the true test of what they need to know. They need to learn how to think and act to find and capture opportunities to make the world a better place.

This may sound overly rosy, but in my experience startups must make the world better in order to survive. To succeed at that, entrepreneurs must consider and do the following six things:

1. Find customers and feel their pain.

A passionate founder is often so determined to realize a vision that he or she can lose sight of other perspectives. Before going too far with plans, an entrepreneur should think about how the outside world would view the new product.

What are the different groups of people it could help or hurt? Which group of potential customers might it make better off?

Which talented people could the vision inspire? Which partners would want to work with the venture? Which investors would want to bet on it?

In a recent interview, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey tells me that empathy is the one word he invokes in almost all interactions with customers, employees and partners of his San Jose, Calif.-based company that combines the functions of servers, storage and networking.

“By empathizing with our employees, customers and partners we believe we can build a company that will create value for our investors because we solve their problems instead of dictating to them what we think they ought to have the way our competitors do,” he says.

2. Imagine and build a prototype.

Find an inexpensive way to build a model of a product.

Let’s say an entrepreneur has the idea to build an app that will make it easier for college friends to arrange an evening out on the town. A prototype might be as simple as a series of drawings of the app’s screens. If the drawings are clear, save the time and money of hiring someone to write code until after the next step in the process.

An example of this can be found in Ben Kaplan’s development of the Who is Going Out (or WiGo) app. As the former student at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., tells me, “I was on campus my freshman year and trying to make social plans — figure out who else was going out at night, where and what time.”

But there were no easy way to do it, he says. “You could text other people or put a post on Facebook but you often wouldn’t get an answer.”

So he came up with the idea for WiGo and mocked up some screen shots on paper for how the mobile app would work. He found a systems developer who built the app in the fall of 2013 for his new company.

3. Receive feedback to adapt the product.

Next imagine the characteristics of the individuals who might eventually buy the startup’s product. Based on that, find individuals who fit that description. Show them the prototype and inquire whether they would buy it. If so, how much would they pay? If not, ask them to say what’s wrong with it or missing and what they would they change.

Repeat this process until a majority of potential customers say they are eager to use the product and want to know how long it will be until it’s delivered.

WiGo is an example of a product that launched in January got good feedback almost from the start, founder Ben Kaplan asserts, saying, “It became very popular within three weeks. Many of the people using it were friends on sports teams at Holy Cross.” Adds Kapan, “I started getting emails and Facebook messages from people at other schools like University of Florida and University of Southern California where I had friends who wanted to use it.”

If consumers say the product looks interesting but it’s not good enough or solves the wrong problem, change the vision or find customers who need the product now — or give up.

4. Build a team of people.

After receiving a positive reaction from from potential customers, think about the skills required to turn a prototype into a product with the benefits expected by customers. What type of sales, engineering, operations and service people are needed to operate the business well?

Figure out values to unite the team and use them to screen candidates and create an interview process and compensation package to hire the best people for these key jobs.

Kaplan, a visionary and salesperson, lacks programming skills. But he was able to use his skills to secure the ones he lacked. For example, he met with Jim Giza, executive in residence at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Giza introduced Kaplan to Kayak co-founder Paul English, who was opening the Blade startup incubator in Boston. “I gave him a demo of WiGo and he immediately got it,” Kaplan says, adding that he now has three or four employees and three to four Blade employees dedicated to WiGo.

English also led to Kaplan’s enlisting programmer and MIT grad Giuliano Giacaglia to be a WiGo co-founder.

5. Raise capital to achieve goals.

To accomplish all the preceding steps, a startup needs money. Give thought to the ways the startup capital could be used and how potential investors will receive a return on the investment. Then find people who will understand the venture and have the capital to invest in it.

The process of raising funds becomes more time-consuming and difficult as capital requirements increase. Bring in investors who will help the company achieve its vision rather than fighting to take control.

WiGo raised capital by bringing in investors who understood its market and could help attract others. The company brought in “about $700,000 from the founders of Kayak, Rue La La, and Tinder, and from professional athletes, including Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots,” The Boston Globe reported.

6. Perceive and adapt to change.

Monitor all the changes to the startup’s environment. The entrepreneur must distinguish between signal and noise when it comes to considering new technologies, customer needs and upstart competitors.

The founder must decide how to respond — whether to alter the existing product line, add new items, change the organization’s structure, bring in managers or create more formal systems to manage people and finances.

Adobe Systems is an example of a company that has adapted to change. Since 2011, its CEO has led its transition from selling packaged software (to its 12.8 million users of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) to providing software as a service, whereby customers pay a monthly fee and get the latest version from the cloud.

Adobe decided to sell Creative Cloud, a monthly, cloud-based subscription service. On Dec. 11, Adobe reported far more subscribers to its Creative Cloud than Wall Street expected and its shares gained nearly 10 percent on a day when the Dow plummeted.

Thinking and acting in these six ways can make the difference between startup success and failure.

THE MARRIAGE OF OUR BETTER INTERESTS

Why Choosing A VC Is Like Choosing A Spouse

What to consider before you put a ring on it

Committing to a relationship with a VC is committing to the long-term. In romantic terms, it’s a marriage, not a casual drink or weekend getaway. In fact, venture capital/startup relationships last just as long as most marriages — around 7 or 8 years — and can be just as emotionally taxing.

Entrepreneurs often struggle to feel confident when they are presenting to VCs. Pitching your startup can be as nerve-wracking as waiting at the bar for a blind date, and what VCs want can seem as mysterious as members of the opposite sex. Entrepreneurs are reluctant to ask important questions because they are afraid of scaring the potential partner away, but the answers to those questions could seriously impact the happiness and fruitfulness of your “life” together. Startup life means there are a lot of ups and downs, but the downs don’t mean you should settle for a ‘safe’ VC choice. Everybody deserves somebody. As with significant others, you want someone who sees the unique positives in you, not the generic negatives.

What VCs care most about is how much their investment will be worth, or equity value. This leads to the question facing all entrepreneurs — how do you build equity value? Revenue is a metric (and an important one), but not the metric. Other factors include market leadership, unique IP/capabilities, disruption in a big market, and an A+ technology team. The right “fit” isn’t the same for everyone. What works for one person or startup may not work for another. Here are 5 things to consider before entering the bonds of venture capital funding.

1. Know your value as a partner

As the philosopher Beyonce says, “If you like it, then you should have put a ring on it.” A great start to a marriage or partnership of any kind is when both sides feel they lucked out and are excited about the commitment. Find someone who appreciates the potential of your business and what you have to offer. As a founder, you are giving away your most prized asset — your equity. The VCs are buying a piece of a company that they believe has value. It is important to remember your self-worth and your company’s value before you embark upon a relationship . This is a much more compelling approach than “I hope someone gives me money,” because desperation doesn’t look good on anybody.

It is also important not to have baggage walking into the partnership. Plenty of entrepreneurs play hard to get in the beginning, but as soon as you commit, the games should be over. You don’t want to spend years explaining or justifying yourself. A strong relationship means being honest and appreciative of each other. This also means it is important to be on the same page about terms, so everyone feels they got a fair deal. For example, Carbonite really loved working with us at Menlo Ventures because the investment was fair on both sides and we said ‘I do’ with a clean slate. In a strong VC-startup relationship, both parties want the other to succeed. Mutual respect and excitement should come before a ring.

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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…

MONEY AND POWER 101

As a child my parents taught me almost nothing at all about money. (Other than earn and save it.) Despite the fact that my father was a successful tool and die maker, an inventor, and had owned and sold his business (at a nice profit) I nevertheless received a very scant education in money matters.

I remember many times, seeing my parents doing their taxes and asking them, “teach me about taxes, teach me about money, and how this works.”

They always basically told me, “You’re a child, you don’t need to worry about this right now, you’ll learn about this when you grow up – on your own.”

I guess that was simply the Weltanschauung of their generation and age. It is, however, not mine.

Because of that when I entered college, and for the rest of my life, I have been learning about business, capital, Capitalism, economics, finance, investment, money, and all other related money-matters. Money is a big part of my Personal-Education Plan (PEP Program), and my self developed IEA (Individual Education Account).

When I first got married I realized pretty quickly that my wife had no idea about money, how it operated, or why it worked as it did. She, likewise, had little to no real education on money matters from her parents either.

Determined not to let financial ignorance and bad money management work against her, me, our marriage, or in the lives of my children I have developed Economic and Monetary Educational Materials to use for their instructional benefit. Since I homeschooled my children for their entire primary educational period (pre-college) I made sure to incorporate both basic and advanced course materials on budgeting, business, Capitalism, career, economics, entrepreneurship, finances, investment, profit, etc. I also make sure they practice what they learn. Both are far better at money matters than I was at their age.

I am to the point now that regardless of what happens to me I feel confident that they are in possession of enough useful materials, and have been trained and habituated in such a way as to assure they will be successful in their own businesses, careers, and with money.

Below you will find a very basic summary of the most fundamental things I have taught them concerning money. They are well advanced beyond these simple ideas, but, in starting any venture it is always necessary to begin with the fundamentals. Often, over the course of time, it is necessary to return to the fundamentals as well.

Beneath the section on Money and Power 101 is a short document I developed regarding the Hoards I believe each person should develop over their lifetimes and how to employ and use these Hoards.

This “List of Hoards” is hardly exhaustive, but it does include most of the Hoards I consider most basic, except for the Word Hoard. Which technically could be a part of your Charisma Hoard, but really I consider a person’s language, linguistic, and vocabulary (Word) hoards to be an entirely separate set of treasures.

I offer these posts in the hopes that they may assist you, especially if you are just starting out in the world, to master your own Money and to develop the Hoards that you will find most useful.

I do not insist you necessarily agree with my definitions, but I do urge you to make your own studies of Money and the Power it engenders, I do urge you to master Money (rather than be mastered by it, wither as a poverty-stricken person or as a wealthy person), and I do urge you to develop and grow your own Hoards.

You will thank yourself for such efforts later on in life, and very likely the world will thank you for having made such efforts.

Comments are welcome.

____________________

MONEY AND POWER 101

MONEY is the financial power to do as you need and wish in the world. The more money your have the more power you have, the less money you have the less power you have.

SURPLUS is the amount of anything you have in excess to your actual or current needs. Your surplus should always be as great as possible of imperishable items.

PROFIT is the amount of money earned or generated in excess of expenditures.

INSURANCE is a money pool set aside for emergencies. If possible it is best to self-insure.

TAXES are the amount of money lost or exhausted to an individual by being seized by the government.

EARNINGS are the amount of money you generate for yourself through various actions of Work. Earnings are divided into three separate subcategories.

Income is the total amount of earnings one generates through all earnings sources. Originally it was that income (come-in) generated by investments.

Investments is the amount of earnings generated by whatever vehicles one is invested (vested) in. Investments are earnings or income vehicles generated by Risk.

Salaries or Wages is the amount of earnings generated by working for or laboring for others paid in the form of salary or wages. (Time or Work for money.)

SAVINGS – the amount of money already earned but not invested or spent but retained for long term goals or for emergencies.

EXPENDITURES – all monies spent to buy or pay for non-income producing items or services

Bills and Living Expenses – those monies paid to creditors or service providers for goods and services purchased. Bills and Living Expenses are monies lost to others.

Necessities – those monies expended for all goods and services of a necessary nature: food, shelter, power, necessary maintenance, etc.

Emergencies – those monies expended for emergencies and immediately unforeseen expenses, such as medical bills and repairs.

Entertainment – those mines expended for entertainment, recreation, etc.

GIVING – all monies given to the care and well-being of others to service their needs, also any resources given to others for their support.

Charity – giving to Church and/or Charitable causes with the intention of supporting the long term needs of an individual or an organization.

Philanthropy – giving to humane and other causes with the intent of addressing or solving specific needs or problems or projects. For instance one might found or support a philanthropic enterprise to support literacy, to build a hospital, to fund a scholarship, etc.

PREPARATION – always keep your money growing, in motion, invested, and in use for worthwhile things. Always plan as far ahead as possible regarding expenditures to be made. Always have accurate and complete information about all aspect s of your money and how it will be used.

RISK – all enterprises require risk. Risk is the amount of danger required to service a worthwhile enterprise or investment relative to the potential reward or Return on Investment (ROI) the enterprise or investment will generate (in the case of business, financial, and monetary activity). Generally speaking the higher the risk the greater the return or reward, and the lower the risk the lower the return or reward. However measures should always be taken to favorably mitigate risk as much as possible.

REWARD – is the amount of gain generated by the successful conclusion or progress of a worthwhile Risk. Another term that is synonymous with reward in financial and monetary matters is Return on Investment, which is a measure of gain generated by risk relative to the danger of initial loss of the initial loss of the investment.

MONEY – having more than enough money needed to meet all of your needs and the needs of others should make you happy. Making money should make you happy, and having a large surplus of money should be associated with pleasant thoughts and feelings and with security. Money is a personal, physical, financial, economic, psychological, social, and spiritual force, or power, and should be treated and employed as such. Money should not master a man, either by having too little, or by being consumed and over-powered by it. Money is a servant, not a Lord.

CAPITALISM – is that form of economic activity, or that system of economics, that seeks to build and generate Capital Pools, or reserves of money, that can thereafter be employed to build businesses, funneled into investments, grow and expand enterprises, etc. and thereby generate even more Capital and ever larger reserves of Profits. Capitalism depends on the fact that money is constantly invested and employed and that new ventures and enterprises are continually started and grown so as to continually create New Wealth. Capitalism also depends heavily upon Free and Unfettered Markets.

 

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THE HOARDS

ACTIVE HOARDS

Always make ongoing use of and constantly develop your hoards for an unused hoard is useless and an undeveloped hoard has no value.

 

ABILITY HOARD – every ability, capability, skill, and talent that a person possesses and develops in life

ACHIEVEMENT HOARD – every good and worthwhile achievement or enterprise that a person ever accomplishes

CHARISMA HOARD – all beneficial influence and powers of persuasion an individual possesses to sway others to participate in worthwhile endeavors

CHARITY AND PHILANTHROPY HOARD – all charitable and philanthropic works that one engages in to assist others

CREATION AND WORK HOARD – everything of value that a person creates, and all of the valuable Work that one ever does over the course of life.

ESTATE AND LAND HOARD – all estates, lands, and real properties that one owns or controls

INVESTMENT HOARD – all good and profitable investments that a person is engaged in or is participating in

RELATIONSHIP HOARD – all beneficial relationships which an individual may rely upon for advancement, comfort, friendship, and support

TREASURE HOARD – all objects, things, or possessions that are of economic, monetary, and physical value

VIRTUE HOARD – all of the Virtues that a person possesses and can command within his person

BLESSINGS, HEIRLOOMS, LEGACIES, AND INHERITANCE – all of the blessings, heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances passed down by one individual or one generation to another

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