COHEN PREPARES

There are important lessons here about Career, and Art, and Life…
and Death.

 

LEONARD COHEN MAKES IT DARKER

At eighty-two, the troubadour has another album coming. Like him, it is obsessed with mortality, God-infused, and funny.

When Leonard Cohen was twenty-five, he was living in London, sitting in cold rooms writing sad poems. He got by on a three-thousand-dollar grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. This was 1960, long before he played the festival at the Isle of Wight in front of six hundred thousand people. In those days, he was a Jamesian Jew, the provincial abroad, a refugee from the Montreal literary scene. Cohen, whose family was both prominent and cultivated, had an ironical view of himself. He was a bohemian with a cushion whose first purchases in London were an Olivetti typewriter and a blue raincoat at Burberry. Even before he had much of an audience, he had a distinct idea of the audience he wanted. In a letter to his publisher, he said that he was out to reach “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists.”

Cohen was growing weary of London’s rising damp and its gray skies. An English dentist had just yanked one of his wisdom teeth. After weeks of cold and rain, he wandered into a bank and asked the teller about his deep suntan. The teller said that he had just returned from a trip to Greece. Cohen bought an airline ticket.

Not long afterward, he alighted in Athens, visited the Acropolis, made his way to the port of Piraeus, boarded a ferry, and disembarked at the island of Hydra. With the chill barely out of his bones, Cohen took in the horseshoe-shaped harbor and the people drinking cold glasses of retsina and eating grilled fish in the cafés by the water; he looked up at the pines and the cypress trees and the whitewashed houses that crept up the hillsides. There was something mythical and primitive about Hydra. Cars were forbidden. Mules humped water up the long stairways to the houses. There was only intermittent electricity. Cohen rented a place for fourteen dollars a month. Eventually, he bought a whitewashed house of his own, for fifteen hundred dollars, thanks to an inheritance from his grandmother.

Hydra promised the life Cohen had craved: spare rooms, the empty page, eros after dark. He collected a few paraffin lamps and some used furniture: a Russian wrought-iron bed, a writing table, chairs like “the chairs that van Gogh painted.” During the day, he worked on a sexy, phantasmagoric novel called “The Favorite Game” and the poems in a collection titled “Flowers for Hitler.” He alternated between extreme discipline and the varieties of abandon. There were days of fasting to concentrate the mind. There were drugs to expand it: pot, speed, acid. “I took trip after trip, sitting on my terrace in Greece, waiting to see God,” he said years later. “Generally, I ended up with a bad hangover.”

Here and there, Cohen caught glimpses of a beautiful Norwegian woman. Her name was Marianne Ihlen, and she had grown up in the countryside near Oslo. Her grandmother used to tell her, “You are going to meet a man who speaks with a tongue of gold.” She thought she already had: Axel Jensen, a novelist from home, who wrote in the tradition of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. She had married Jensen, and they had a son, little Axel. Jensen was not a constant husband, however, and, by the time their child was four months old, Jensen was, as Marianne put it, “over the hills again” with another woman.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE

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RELIABILITY from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Reliability breeds profit. Unpredictability predicts collapse.

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

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

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

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

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

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

________________________________________________________

DAILY AND WEEKLY ESSENTIAL THINGS

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

Sharing and Reblogging
Recreation and Psychological Sabbath and Rest

Sunday

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

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.

KINGFISH from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

THE KINGFISH

You may live as the King Fish in a small pond for as long as you wish but one thing you will never do is cause the pond to grow any larger. Therefore if you would truly reach your real mass you must swim for the sea.

IN NEED OF

IN NEED OF

I am in immediate need of the following things:

  1. BETA READERS for my fictional writings and novels and (if you wish) the poetry and songs that I intend to publish. I want only brutally honest opinions, and I want a wide range of readers/reader-types. (There will be no pay but I will exchange favors and see to it that you are provided with free copies of the finished works). Confidentiality regarding my writings will be expected of course, and I will restrict my beta readers to maybe 6 to 8 people, but I will treat you right.
  1. A good, decent, hard-working, and ambitious LITERARY AGENT (to match myself).
  1. An EMPLOYEE TEAM for my start-ups. (People to run the businesses, handle marketing, and run day to day operations while I and my partners handle funding and investors, etc.) More on that later.
  1. A TEAM OF BUSINESS BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS (start-ups primarily but we may also handle brokerage and turn-arounds on rare occasions) to be put together to found and profit from new business ventures. More on that soon.
  1. PARTNERS to work with me on developing and designing (CAD and prototype designs) my inventions and app designs.
  1. GAME DESIGN PARTNERS who can take the games I’ve designed and/or written and either build physical products out of them or in the case of computer and video games program basic builds that we can use to pitch to game studios.

 

A brief word of explanation on the above:

Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.

Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.

Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.

Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.

Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.

Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.

Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.

Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.

Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.

If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.

12 PROFITABLE DOCUMENTARIES

12 documentaries on Netflix that will make you smarter about business

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

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

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

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

Alison Griswold contributed to an earlier version of this article.


How lifelong dedication and obsession with quality can pay off

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

The best tricks to transform your life

The best tricks to transform your life

TED

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

How to stage a dramatic turnaround

How to stage a dramatic turnaround

Screenshot from Netflix

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

How to adapt constantly to stay relevant

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

How to make decisions under enormous pressure

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

The psychology behind great industrial design

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

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

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

How early venture capitalists helped build American tech giants

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

Behind the scenes of the business world’s biggest scandal

Behind the scenes of the business world's biggest scandal

Screenshot from Netflix

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

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

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

How Silicon Valley became a hub of innovation

How Silicon Valley became a hub of innovation

Screenshot from Netflix

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

How economics explain what motivates people

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

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

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

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.”

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.

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.

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.

HARMONIZING BUSINESS AND CAREER – THE MARKETS

An interesting article.

But this is exactly why I have harmonized my Business (as a non-fiction writer and copywriter and inventor) enterprises and my Career (as a fiction writer and designer) ventures.

By having my Business and Careers complimenting each other I avoid the “I hate this job syndrome” (actually I very much enjoy everything I do) and I expect this will inevitably advance and accelerate both my Business and Career successes.

Whereas both sets of markets may by separate by nature, and operate differently to some degree, both are complimentary and entirely cross-fertilizing in the long run.

Vonnegut Sold Saabs: 11 Author Day Jobs

Gabe Habash — August 5th, 2011


We all have that same romanticized image of The Writer: sitting alone, hunched over his/her desk, pen in hand, thinking deeply about Writing before putting the pen to the page and Writing. But, unfortunately, doing this for long stretches of time doesn’t pay the bills, and that’s why things like Sylvia Plath working as a receptionist in the psychiatric unit at Massachusetts General Hospital happen. Writers are normal people, too. Just how normal? Here’s a few of our favorite writer day job finds:

1. John Steinbeck was a caretaker and tour guide at a fish hatchery in Lake Tahoe, where he worked on his first novel and also met his future first wife, Carol Henning. She was a tourist on one of his tours.

2. Douglas Adams first thought of the idea for A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while moonlighting as a hotel security guard in London.

3. Jeanette Winterson, in addition to driving an ice cream truck, was a make-up artist at a funeral parlor.

4. Dashiell Hammett was hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency as an “operative” at age 21. His job description included staking out houses and trailing suspects. He was thankful for the work; his previous job had been a nail machine operator.

5. Robert Frost changed light bulb filaments in a factory in Massachusetts shortly before he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy” in 1894 for $15.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was the manager of a Saab dealership in Cape Cod, after he’d already published his first novel, Player Piano. The dealership was supposedly Saab’s first in America.

7. Jack London was an “oyster pirate.” At night, he would raid the oyster beds of big-time oyster farmers and sell them in the Oakland markets.

8. Jean Rhys, a 23-year-old and in need of money, posed nude for a British artist.

9. James Ellroy led a life of petty crime and shoplifting as a wayward youth, most likely as a response to his confusion following his mother’s unsolved murder.

10. Harper Lee struggled when she first moved to New York at age 23, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines before befriending Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown. In 1956, Brown gave Lee a Christmas present: a year’s wages so she could devote herself full-time to her craft. During this time, she began work on what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird.

11. Ken Kesey, in order to earn some extra cash, was a guinea pig for the psych department at Stanford in a CIA-sponsored drug experiment. As a result of the drugs, Kesey had hallucinations of an Indian sweeping the floors, which compelled him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Which mundane (or strange) day jobs for writers have we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

 

TOILING UPWARD IN THE NIGHT

I used to worry about this, but the truth is, I’ve always needed very little sleep. As a kid (a teenager and in my twenties) I got by with as little as three or fours hours a night, and sometimes as little as two. When I was a boy this aphorism/line of verse by Longfellow hung on my bedroom door, as many of my friends can probably recall:

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nowadays, unless I overtrain (physically overtrain – I rarely mentally overtrain, it happens but I rarely really tire mentally or psychologically), I still need relatively very little sleep. About 5 to maybe 6 hours at most. And despite aging I’ll often have to make myself sleep that much.

I do not like sleeping in the daytime, unless injured or sick, so that becomes unavoidably necessary, and have always been nocturnal by nature. Often even when I am actually in bed (supposedly sleeping) I am making notes, writing, inventing, composing, developing new business projects, working cases, etc. The bed and the dark are good stimuli for my creativity, and since my wife can sleep anywhere and sleeps a lot my bedside lamp doesn’t bother her (she tells me). So I’m free to work in bed too. Additionally I will often wake from dreams or during the night to make notes on things that have occurred to me in my sleep. People often tell me I am prolific, and that may well be true. Often however I am simply awake and working far more than they are. I have always been this way and it is natural and enjoyable to me to walk outside at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and hear the silence of the world long ago asleep around me and know I am just finishing up or about to restart at my Work.

I also rarely take stimulants, except I’ll drink a cup of coffee sometime during the day. I do take supplements and drink a lot of water. Watch my diet and exercise frequently (and that is my real problem with rest, either physically overtraining or becoming dehydrated – I have to guard against both things).

As I get older I do tend to rest more, as in relax more and recreate more and take more breaks from Work, but as far as sleep goes, I still seem to need very little.

And this both greatly affects and effects my level of productivity. As in I can get far more done with little sleep and by instead concentrating upon my Work.

Unless, of course, I drive myself to injury, sickness, or exhaustion. Then I know I have overextended myself. At those points I force myself to rest and to sleep until I return to normal.

 

What It’s Like to Need Hardly Any Sleep

“I get three or four hours sleep a night, and I never get tired.”
Collages by Eugenia Loli

While most people don’t function well after an extended stretch of four or fewer hours of sleep a night, there may be a very small percentage who can thrive under these circumstances. In a landmark 2009 study, researchers discovered a genetic mutation in a mother and daughter who seemed to need much less sleep than the average person — the first time any mutation relating to sleep duration had been found (while the sample size wasn’t huge, the effect was replicated in mouse and fruit fly studies). A more recent study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, revealed a variation in that gene, and other researchers are currently observing the sleep patterns of research participants who claim to function on very little sleep.

Nobody knows exactly how many true “short sleepers” exist, but estimates put it at one percent of the population. They wake refreshed and energized after just a few hours of sleep, and those who have been studied tend to pack their lives with tasks that they perform well unaided by stimulants or other crutches. For instance, the very productive Thomas Edison may have been a short sleeper. “Cells don’t sleep,” he said in his most quoted anti-sleep rant. “Fish swim in the water all night. Even a horse doesn’t sleep. A man doesn’t need any sleep.”

Recently, Science of Us spoke with Jenn Schwaner, a 43-year-old short-sleeper from New Port Richie, Florida.

How much sleep do you usually get each night?
On average, I get about three or four hours, and I never feel tired.

Have you always needed so little sleep? What about when you were younger?
When I was a little girl, I’d wake with my father at 5 a.m. I can remember getting up with him that early from when I was about 3 years old. He worked as a computer programmer at Fort Hamilton. On average, we’d get about four hours sleep a night, but we didn’t know that there might be a medical reason for why we didn’t seem to need much.

When we were up, we had to be quiet, because we had a very small house and we didn’t want to wake the rest of the family. My dad would go on the computer or we would watch TV together: old movies like Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, or Shirley Temple. He moved to Florida when I was around 7, but when I was older I had a computer, so I taught myself programming.

Did your lack of sleep impact your performance at school?
I went to a private Catholic school and I was always a very quick, sharp student. But I was also very bored in school, and looking back, I should have pursued so many other things but instead I studied to become a court reporter. I was so bored that I wasn’t looking forward to another four or six years of study. My mother told me about court reporting, which you can do at your own pace.

What did you do when you finished that course?
I got married the very next day — I was only 20. I had my first child when I was 26. Then I had a son in 2000 and another daughter in 2006.

What was pregnancy and nursing like for you? Did you get tired then?
Not really. In fact, with my third child, I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was 20 weeks in. I wasn’t trying and I was very busy. I was coaching sports, sitting on community boards, and I was president of PTA. I couldn’t even remember when I last had a period, I was running around and doing so many things like a chicken without a head.

But I always said I was made to have children. It never bothered me when I got up in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter if it was every two or three hours, and I nursed all my kids. And then I started taking in foster children. A lot of the babies were born addicted to drugs — meth or prescription meds — and they need somebody to cuddle them and hold them in the middle of the night when they are going through withdrawal. I felt like I didn’t sleep at night anyway, and I knew that these kids really needed someone who wouldn’t get frustrated being up with them all night.

When I had my first baby, my husband was working nights, so he’d sleep during the day. I couldn’t make noise in the bedroom, so I was up doing all the things I normally did during the day while I was also nursing the baby at night. I breastfed her for 18 months. It was just the way it was. It never bothered me.

Was it just the fact that you didn’t need sleep that drew you to foster care?
I worked as a court reporter in dependency court for 23 years. One of my first jobs was in a very small town where everyone in the court system knew each other. I remember one Friday afternoon a 4-year-old kid came in — he had just been taken away from his parents and there was no place for him to go. They were arguing about where he should go. It totally sickened me. Here we were fighting over where a child needs to lay down for the weekend.

So that was my first experience of it, but I didn’t start taking in kids for long-term care until my kids were a older. I’d been hosting foreign-exchange students and I didn’t feel like that was a help. They were all so privileged and I wanted to do something for kids that needed it. And also, it’s not that my parents were hippies, but I was kind of a Peace Corps “I want to make the world better” person.

What’s it like sharing a bed with you? Do you bother your husband in the night?
I was married 22 years, but we are now divorced. My sleeping was an issue for him. He was a very light sleeper, so I slept on the couch for a number of years, probably for about the last eight years of our marriage. It definitely put a strain on our relationship, because he’s the type of person who has to sleep either eight or nine hours a night, and if I walk into the room at one in the morning, I would wake him up and he couldn’t go back to sleep. It caused issues.

You know, when I got divorced, it was kind of a relief. It was like, “Oh my gosh, I can walk around my house without waking anyone.” We had a one-story house for the majority of our marriage. I would think nothing of vacuuming at 2 a.m. and of course that would wake everybody, but now I didn’t have to worry about that. And I have a two-story house so everybody is asleep upstairs and I can vacuum all I want downstairs.

Are you single at the moment?
I have a boyfriend who understands it, and he’s not a light sleeper, so we can share a bed without a problem. There are some nights when he turns around and is like, “You have not slept all night.” And I’m like, “I know. I’m sorry.” He asks, “How do you function?” And I say: “it’s just the way I am. It doesn’t bother me.”

Can you talk me through a typical day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed?
It really depends on which children I have at my house. At the moment, I have my kids plus three foster kids — a 13-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 17-month-old. So the babies sleep through the night. I don’t use an alarm clock. I generally get up between 3 and 4 a.m. and I will start to do some work or laundry or cleaning and then I’m usually taking kids to the bus stop starting at 6:30 in the morning. Then I come back and wake up the others who get ready for school for 7 a.m., and then I start the rounds of dropping them off at different bus stops.

I drop the babies off at child care at about 8:30 and I start court calendar at 8:30 or 9 a.m. and I work until between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.  Then I start picking kids up again. The babies first, usually at about 3 p.m.; my 8-year-old gets off the bus at 4 p.m. and then the other kids usually get home between 4 and 5 p.m.

It’s softball season right now, so it’s crazy. We go five days a week at about 6 p.m. One of my morning rituals is cooking dinner. I’ll crock pot so everybody can grab something to eat before their evening activities. And we do homework in the car, then we come back home and the kids shower. If you walk into my hallway, there’s charts everywhere: the rules of the house, who gets showers at what time (to avoid any bathroom collisions).

Read More

What It’s Like…

To Have A Massive IQ

To Remember Almost Everything That Has Ever Happened to You

To Need No Sleep

To See 1,000,000 Colors

To Be a Lucid Dreamer

My oldest is in by 11 p.m.; on the weekends, she’s in by midnight, but that doesn’t mean she shuts down because her friends come to our house and they stay up until about 2 a.m., and they sleep through to 10 a.m. The babies and little kids are asleep by 9 p.m. and the older kids are asleep by 11 p.m.

I don’t worry about my oldest too much anymore, but she can still keep me up. Her curfew is midnight and because I sleep when I’m tired — I don’t fight sleeping — I might sleep from eleven until two. If she’s not home yet, I have to wait for her. My house has always been the hang-out house. I am a big cook and she has a very large room with a fridge and a couch in there, which is the hang-out room for all her friends.

But I usually go to sleep close to 12 and then start all over again. It’s crazy. My life is extremely hectic.

Do you ever feel tired?
If anything gets me tired, it’s stress, and it’s more that I get stressed than tired.

Can you describe what that feels like?
You know, I think as I’m getting older — I’m 43, so I feel it more in my muscles, but my mind still doesn’t shut down. I’ll sit at the computer for an hour. I’ll do a load of laundry. Then I’ll go back to the computer for 45 minutes. And I’ll start making dinner and then go back to the computer and start doing something else. I’m not a very sedentary person. There’s always something to do: laundry, dinner, clothes in the dryer. It never ends.

How did you learn that you are a short sleeper?
I only found out I was a short sleeper about a year and a half ago. My father was working at FSU and he had heard of a study that was being led by a geneticist at the University of Califonira, San Francisco, so he contacted them. When the media heard about it, he was interviewed and he said, “Well, if anyone has this worse than me it’s my daughter.” So ABC came and followed me for 24 hours. My father was characterized by researchers as having features in common with other short sleepers.  They think it’s caused by a variation in a gene, but they don’t know a whole lot about it — for example, if it’s more likely to be passed on from men to their daughters or if we even carry it.

Do you think any of your children are short sleepers?
I don’t think so, but if there is a candidate, it might be my youngest … She’s nothing like I was at her age, but she does come through to my room all the time in the night. She’s a light sleeper. She could fall asleep in a wheelbarrow and then be awake after 15 minutes.

When I found out that “short sleepers” were a real thing, it relieved me. I wish that I had looked at it the way the reporters saw it. They thought it was so great, that I was so lucky because I had so much more time in my life to accomplish things. Even though I always had an instinct to fill that time, I didn’t really cherish it and I should have from a much younger age. I fought it for so many years. I would lie in bed and tell myself go to sleep, go to sleep. Shut down! I did everything possible with the exception of medication. I tried meditating and nothing did it. I’ve embraced it a lot more seeing how jealous other people are of me. I have overfilled my life with things, but it’s what I enjoy doing.

You work as a court reporter. I bet that requires a lot of concentration and attention to detail?
It does. I mostly do high-profile criminal cases — first degree felonies. I do death-penalty cases and I have to write real-time, verbatim reporting of everything everyone is saying in the court room. We do it on a steno machine. You can only touch ten keys at a time and you make a language based on phonetics. I’m certified at 235 WPM on the steno machine.

Given that your job deals with such heavy subject matter, do you find it hard to switch off from that? Do you think about the court in the middle of the night?
Very rarely now do I dwell on my work. But when I was young, I would come home and I would be really bothered by the divorce cases. It was terribly hard to see people who had once loved each other treat each other so horribly. I used to joke to my husband, “Don’t ever try to divorce me because I will take my chances in criminal court before I take my chances in divorce court.” We had a very amicable divorce since I didn’t want to do anything that would hurt my kids. But very rarely did the criminal cases bother me.

What happens when you’re sick. Do you find it hard to take to your bed?
Yes, I find it hard to lay still, but it’s actually very rare that I get sick. It actually stresses me out to have to be sick, even just the thought of it, because I can’t imagine being stuck in my bed and recuperating. Who is going to look after all the kids? Who is going to take care of them? Who is going to make dinner? Some of them are getting old enough now that they can function, but they don’t function well. I have to come downstairs and spend three days cleaning after I have been sick for a day, so being sick really stresses me out.

What’s air travel like for you? And are you impacted by time difference?
I never get jet-lag and it annoys me when I travel and I see people asleep on the plane. I don’t sit still. In any relationship I’ve ever been in, they ask me to please sit still and watch the movie and I can’t, it’s like I have laundry to do or this other task to do, so being on a plane just drives me absolutely crazy. I feel like I need to get up and jog or something.

I’m happy to go on very long road trips — I’ve driven very, very far. I’ve taken my softball team to Louisiana, to Tennessee, to North Carolina. I’ve driven from Florida to New York a few times, and California. I usually take the kids and go straight through the night, so there’s about six to eight hours of everyone sleeping. I just keep on driving.

Does drinking impact your sleep?
I don’t get hangovers. If I overdo it and I get a headache, that’s saying a lot. Most people in their 40s are sick for a day and a half. If I drink too much, then I may go to bed at two and get up at six — maybe I get an extra hour’s sleep!

What happens when you take stimulants? I’d imagine things like a 5-Hour Energy or recreational uppers would have an extreme effect on you?
I have one cup of coffee a day, usually in the morning. I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts junkie — I love my iced coffee, so I usually have a medium whatever their specialty coffee of the month is and that’s my thing. I do think I need the caffeine.

What would you say is the best thing about being a short sleeper?
The best thing is that I have so many more hours in the day to get things accomplished. I still say I wish I had more hours in a day, and I have more hours than most people.

Do you get annoyed with people who count how much sleep they have had and complain about being tired?
Yes. Even when my kids sleep crazy amounts of hours I get annoyed. Teenagers can sleep probably for 12 hours straight, and I get so annoyed because I think they are wasting their lives. Why are you wasting your life sleeping? There are so many things that you could be doing. That’s how I see it.  So, I don’t like them sleeping for longer than necessary because they are wasting their lives. That’s always been my thing. You have plenty of time to sleep when you die. You might as well embrace life.

This interview has been edited.

NO MAN IS A CHAMILLIONAIRE UNLESS HE WANTS TO BE

I don’t know this guy from Adam, and I don’t care much for modern rap. But I will say this, many rappers (not all, but many) seem to have a good eye for business and turn out to be excellent entrepreneurs. So it is no surprise to me at all that they would turn their attention to or be involved in Capital Ventures and Start-Up operations.

So I say let the boy run as far as he can run, and Godspeed to his ventures.  Hope they are enormously successful.

And I fully and definitely agree with this sentiment on the part of the author of this article: No man should restrict himself to a single venture when he could master many.

 

Chamillionaire Is Now An Entrepreneur In Residence at a Venture Capital Firm

In a letter penned by VC Mark Suster explaining the head-turning week he’s had at Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles, he explains the presence of a new face around the office: Chamillionaire. The same Chamillionaire who was showing us how to get our respective shines on not a decade ago. But if Kanye has taught us anything, it’s that we can find success in multiple creative outlets. In the past five years or so, Cham has been quietly but actively involved in the tech startup scene, from speaking on social media engagement in the music industry to hanging out with Y Combinator associates.

He’s also been making some investments himself. He was one of the earliest investors in Maker Studios, an online video network founded in 2009 and sold to Disney for $500 million last year. The firm he’s currently hanging with and advising, Upfront Ventures, has a vast portfolio that includes some acquired startups such as Bill Me Later (Rick Ross may or may not have been referring to this method of monetary transaction on his verse for Nicki Minaj’s “I Am Your Leader”). Suffice it to say that Chamillionaire has transcended the days when he explained on YouTube how Michael Jordan sonned him, or maybe that was just an early example of his Internet savvy and ability to manipulate viral stories and plant social media engagement. At any rate, in a world in which Internet entrepreneurs like Ben Horowitz make business decisions through the inspiration of rap songs, it’s not surprising to see that we now have rappers getting their own piece of the pie.

We can all agree that Chamillionaire should be given a platform to speak at the next TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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.

NOT THE WAY from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

I can honestly say that I have never once in my life, that I can recall, ever felt covetous of or jealous of the money, property, or possession of others. And I have never once felt that others owed me their money, property, or possessions unless I worked for them.

I have on occasion wanted more of my own money, property, and possessions, but I do not understand being either jealous of or begrudging the prosperity or possessions of others.

I do not understand that and think it extremely small and petty. I think modern man is sick in his grasping at and jealousy of the resources of others.

The one exception would be if another person got their money, possessions, and property through theft, robbery, or oppression.

Then I have no respect for their gain for they got what they have by covetousness and deceit in themselves and towards others.

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.

 

THE GOAL

The goal should not be to degrade, lessen, or sabotage the ranks of the 1%. Much less to abolish the ranks of the 1%.

Rather the goal should be to create so many wealthy persons that they become the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth. But to do this the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth must become truly ambitious, industrious and productive. They must also become real risk-takers.

It is for immediately obvious reasons (to anyone who bothers to observe) that the vast majority of one-percenters are consistently ambitious, industrious, and productive. And habitual risk takers.

They are not dependent-minded people with a constant desire for indulgence and security. They are rather the makers of manners. And the shapers of self-effort and worth.

If you would be in the 1% you must become the 1%.

It is not indecipherable magic, it is good and well-practiced habit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch Port

Wyrdwend

Tome and Tomb

The Missal

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.

THE REVERSE OF THE RARE (FIND) THING

Lately I have been reading George Anders excellent little book, The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else. The premise of the book is that there are certain characteristic traits that talent scouts (business, career, artistic, etc.) can use to spot the Rare Find.

Which I think is a true premise and statement, and for the most part I agree with the list of qualifications and traits Anders employs to distinguish and recognize Rare Talent, but while reading the book another thought occurred to me as well.

Suppose I reversed the premise of the book (for the book is written from the point of view of the talent scout seeking talent) and instead developed my own plan to making my talent more easily recognizable to others (such as agents, editors, publishers, scouts, etc.)?

So I am sketching the book out in reverse with the intent of developing my own 8 to 12 Point Plan for making myself easily recognizable to those who are scouting for new talent.

Once I have this plan developed I will post it here, on Launch Port, along with a lengthier article on how I plan to employ that plan.

THE NOVEL START UP

He’s absolutely right. You shouldn’t just market and “get on people’s radar” after you fund and start operations, you should do that to get funded and to start operations. As a matter of fact you should market continuously and at all times.

Richard Branson on How to Raise Money When You’re Just Starting Out

December 15, 2014

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q.: G’day Richard. I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an entrepreneur. I think I’ve got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little money to pursue commercializing my novel product. I fear that potential investors will not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea? — Jordan Gruber, Australia

My friends and I came up with the name “Virgin” one day when we were 15 years old, sitting around in a basement. I was keen on the name “Slipped Disc” for our new music venture, but then one of my friends pointed out that when it came to business, “we’re all virgins; why don’t we call it that?” In our case, inexperience proved to be a huge asset — if we’d gone with the safer option, I’m not sure that many people would be working out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs or banking at Slipped Disc Money!

Innovation and entrepreneurship thrive on the energy of people who are dipping their toes into the water for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs with fresh outlooks have the freedom to think quite differently, which is tremendously exciting to potential collaborators. However, as you’re finding out, Jordan, translating a new concept into a product can be very daunting.

While you might not yet have the right connections or an “in” with major investors, other people out there do — experienced businesspeople, in your sector or in others, who were once in your shoes and went on to be successful. These people are potential mentors who can help you on your way.

Mentoring is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Virgin; I myself have benefited from many mentors throughout my life. However, don’t consider mentoring as a quick way to gain useful contacts. A good mentoring relationship is based on more than that — it’s a way to learn valuable lessons from the mistakes someone else has made.

Additionally, I noticed in your message an emphasis on convincing “seasoned investors” to back your idea. While securing huge sums of money from major business figures might seem like the ideal way to propel a business forward, the reality is that very few ventures win this kind of funding. A better alternative might be an online crowdfunding platform. Websites such as Indiegogo not only have the potential to fund the creation of a prototype to get your business up and running, but they also can result in significant publicity.

Another option is taking out a small business loan. In the U.K. we launched Virgin StartUp, a program that provides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to companies trying to get their ideas off the ground. It is well worth your time to look into similar initiatives in your area, and decide whether a loan is the right step for you. As an added benefit, both crowdfunding and small business loans will mean that you can retain full ownership of your business — you won’t have to give any equity away to investors.

Here are three steps that can help you discover which approach is best for you:

1. EVALUATE AND RESEARCH.

Always be honest with yourself about your abilities, the work you’ll have to put in to get your company up and running, and the amount of money you’re hoping to raise. Research all the options that are available, and evaluate how they would affect your end goal.

Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding target realistic? How much of a stake in your business are you willing to give to potential investors?

And if you want to find a mentor who can help give you direction and guidance, make sure you find a suitable one. Find out what they do, whether they’ve mentored others before and which sectors they are interested in.

2. GET ON PEOPLE’S RADAR.

Attend industry events such as seminars and conferences. Talk to as many people as possible, and do not immediately launch into a pitch of your product. Be sure to listen and learn from what people have to say.

Networking doesn’t stop at face-to-face contact, either; interact on social media, join LinkedIn groups and keep the relationships going online. When you do approach potential mentors or investors, or if you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll have a degree of visibility.

In fact, the more proactive you are in building your profile, the more likely it is that potential investors will feel confident enough to put their faith in you — and their money in your company. Remember that the more relationships you build, the better the chances that your network will put you in touch with the people who can help your business.

3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.

Remember to be flexible. While winning investment might look like the best option now, don’t discount any other opportunities that come your way. For example, crowdfunding might not have the prestige of an investment from a big-time entrepreneur, but it will connect you directly with future customers, and you will have more control over the process.

Keeping an open mind is especially important when it comes to mentoring. Don’t see mentorship as a quick fix for problems, and do not brush off advice. Consider your connection with a mentor as a long-lasting business relationship that can teach you lessons and reduce the potential for failure. But also remember that, as with anything else, you’ll get out of mentoring what you put in.

Making sure that your potential business is a success is not contingent upon gaining a large investment. Many successful companies — including Virgin — started with modest funds. Right now, investors might seem like they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream, but the one person who can make your business succeed is not an investor, or even a mentor. It is you.

Good luck!
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Isuama Kennedy
Isuama Kennedy from Facebook8 hours ago

the one person who will make your business to succeed is not an investor or your mentor but YOU
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Meg Columbia Walsh
Meg Columbia Walsh from Facebook9 hours ago

Great Mr. Branson, then tell me a time to pitch my business that is doing well!!! Woman and gay owned…
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Silvia Khouzame
Silvia Khouzame from Facebook12 hours ago

Natalie Khouzame
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Samantha Binetter
Samantha Binetter from Facebook17 hours ago

Robbie Binetter
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Chandé Dusina
Chandé Dusina from Facebook20 hours ago

Nick Timmer
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Maria Petromanolakis
Maria Petromanolakis21 hours ago

Thank you very much Sir Branson!
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Alexandra Ferrer
Alexandra Ferrer from Facebook2 days ago

Thomas Caldwell
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Ryan Poh
Ryan Poh from Facebook2 days ago

Nitin Ahuja
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Duc Hoang
Duc Hoang from Facebook2 days ago

one story for strategy 😀
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Peachy Keen
Peachy Keen from Facebook2 days ago

Wont work in the south. These old geezers aren’t giving up their money unless its for an oil well!
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Kiều Công Bình
Kiều Công Bình from Facebook2 days ago

Duc Hoang Nguyễn Trung Kiên 😀
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Jason Lobo Sedillo
Jason Lobo Sedillo from Facebook2 days ago

Great insight
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stephen hardacre
stephen hardacre 2 days ago

O.K. THE RICHSTER DID YOU EVER WATCH JERRY MCGUIRE WELL RUMOUR HAS IT THAT IT WAS FICTIONAL CERTAIN GUYS ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ABOUT THEM BUT WHAT I AM ABOUT TO ACHIEVE IS REAL TIME AND WHILE I AM AT IT THE PLAN IS TO BRING THE CRIME RATE DOWN IN MY ALREADY ROUGH AS TOAST AREA YOU SEE IT IS NOT BRAINS I NEED IT IS BRAWN AND A FIGHTING HEART BASICALLY I WONT THE KIDS WHO THE TEACHERS SAY HAVE NO HOPE AND I WAS AND LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY ALL MY LIFE I KNOW THE KIDS THAT ARE DESTINED FOR A LIFE OF CRIME AS I WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THEIR PARENTS THE ONLY REASON THEY GO TO CRIME IS BECAUSE THEY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL JUST BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS ARE A WEE TAD ROTTEN BUT THAT COMES HAND IN HAND WITH BEING POOR IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO STEER CLEAR OF THESE FUTURE CRIMINALS AND THATS THE WAY IT IS I HAVE NOT “THROWN A BEVVY ON IT ” THAT IS HOW IT IS THE PLAN IS TO PAY THEM WHAT I CALL A ” WOW WAGE ” BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN LOOK AFTER THERE WAYWARD PARENTS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN CHANNEL THEIR KNOWLEDGE FOR ME THIS IS WHERE THE DIAMONDS ARE IN THE DIRT PEOPLE SAY I AM CRAZY BUT AS IT SO HAPPENS IT WOULD BE A SIN NOT TO PUSH FOR IT WITH THE FORWARD MOMENTUM I FEEL AROUND ME last but not least i must say it when i was a kid”I USED TO WANT TO BE YOU BUT I DON’T NO MORE I WANNA BE ME “IF YOU GET TO THIS WEE MESSAGE THINK OF US AND YOU WILL GET INTO HEAVEN THANKS

THE GAMECHANGER
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JDGO
JDGO 2 days ago

Great advise sir,
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RadoslavVujaklija
RadoslavVujaklija 2 days ago

Yeah kick it sir Branson!!!
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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.

 

____________________

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

YOUR BRAND AND YOU – HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF AND YOUR COMPANY

I am not a particular fan of modern branding. Or I should say, the modern idea that branding should be a separate entity from the person or individual it brands.

Or to be even more accurate that a brand is something the person who developed the brand submits himself or herself to, regardless of whether the “Brand” actually and accurately reflects the individual’s nature, or whether the brand is upright, honest, and honorable. (Or for that matter whether the person behind the brand is upright, honest, and honorable.) This is not even to mention the modern idea that somehow a brand is a thing in itself and has some sort of imagined or separate value devoid of any real product or service backing the brand. Which is to me the real danger and disaster of so much modern “branding,” the idea that the brand is a thing of value in itself even when it has nothing of real value to back the brand.

However, that being said branding has always existed and always will. From Standard Oil/Petroleum to Walmart. From Old Farmer’s Almanac to SpaceX.

The question to me is not whether “branding exists” (either in modern form or in ancient form), or whether much of what passes as advice on modern branding is worthwhile or not (I suspect much of it is not, being construed in the way it is), but how to best go about the idea and process of developing and promoting your own brand.

Therefore, based upon my own experience with my personal process of having developed my own brands in the past, and with my current process of developing my own brand as both a writer of fiction and as an inventor, below is my advice regarding how to go about setting up your own brand, the types of things you should concern yourself with in creating your brand, and finally with the attributes your brand should encompass.

As for the final section of this post, your Personal Brand Attributes – these are, of course, the specific attributes and characteristics of your brand and what you want that brand to both entail and promote. It will vary with each person and each brand.

Some brands may focus upon customer service, some upon high quality product development, some upon rapidity of product delivery, some upon entirely unique collaborative or customer design. Whatever the particulars of your case may be develop a list of attributes you want your brand and/or your company to encapsulate. And work to achieve and make these attributes real in the body of your brand.

My list of Personal Brand Attributes for my Writings I have listed in this section. Many would be the same but some would be different for my business and for my inventions.

You cannot, of course, encompass all beneficial qualities of a thing in a single brand because certain attributes are competitive and resource consuming in nature (add to one and you basically subtract from another) but there is absolutely no reason your brand, be it personal or corporate, cannot encompass many beneficial qualities and attributes.

As a matter of fact, it should.

 

PERSONAL BRANDING

In branding yourself do not make your brand in any way alien to or different from your actual and best nature, but rather let your brand flow naturally from the best true qualities of your own Character, Nature, and Personality.

Later, as you Incorporate and grow yourself and your creations into a self-sufficient, self-sustaining Business let your Business both reflect your Personal Brand and allow your business or corporation to exceed your Personal Brand so that your business can develop a Brand of its own.

However only let your Business or Corporate Brand be of the Highest Character and Nature, paralleling your own brand.

1. Pursue useful personal idiosyncrasies and imperfections
2. Be immanently and immediately relatable to as many people as possible
3. Be unique in both execution and style
4. Create a Unique Signature, Logo, and/or Mark and Symbol
5. Have an Individual and Easily Recognized Name or Moniker
6. Protect your Copyrights, Trademarks, and Intellectual Properties (of all kinds)
7. Take Appropriate Risks and take them often
8. Be Profitable and Well-Disciplined and Well-Managed
9. Market Cleverly, Consistently, and Well
10. Hire Excellent and Reliable and Upright Agents and Representatives and employ them consistently on your own behalf
11. Take on Big and important Projects as well as Personal and Intimate Ones
12. Constantly Practice, Study, and Improve yourself
13. Keep Careful and Useful Notes on all Good Ideas
14. Execute Promptly and Completely – Focus on one thing at a time and finish what you start
15. Network and Collaborate – build your Community and Base and treat them respectfully and with loyalty
16. Develop a “Personal Legend” around yourself based upon your own best individual Qualities, Character, Personality, and Nature. Eliminate as much as humanly possible your own failings, vices, and weaknesses. Guard your reputation like a treasure.

IN ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR BRAND BE HONEST AND HONORABLE AND SERVICE ORIENTED

PERSONAL BRAND ATTRIBUTES

Those aspects of your brand that you want to make most directly associated with yourself and your brand

Charitable
Driven and Determined
Fearless
Friendly and Personable
Godly
Highly Honorable and Honest
Intelligent
Meticulous
Moral
Optimistic
Polymathic/Renaissance Man or Corporation
Pragmatic
Precise and Scientific
Problem-Solver
Prolific
Purpose-Driven
Relentless
Risk-Taker
Visionary
Virtuous
Wise

GOING NOWHERE, OR NOT

The Real Reason You’re Procrastinating, and How to Fix It

Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but these 4 steps can help you cut down on it dramatically.

IMAGE: Getty Images

We all procrastinate every now and then. Whether it’s putting off a simple task like organizing files or a bigger project like writing a business plan, it’s something we are all guilty of. The excuses vary from “too busy” to “not the right time” and so on, particularly with the more important, time-consuming projects. We continue to rationalize delays to the point where we start to believe just about any excuse we give ourselves.

So what’s really holding you back from being productive and accomplishing what you set out to do? The answer is simple: fear–the fear of taking a risk and failing, the fear of looking foolish and wounding your pride.

“Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part,” according to Psychology Today contributor Hara Estroff Marano. “Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.”

The problem is that as time passes, our fear often grows and can become so overwhelming that we may give up entirely.

Here are four steps to loosen the grip of procrastination and encourage productivity:

  1. Give yourself a deadline. Write down what you want to achieve and set a date by which it must be completed. Another useful tip is to place this written goal somewhere where you can always see it; both tangible (e.g., a Post-it) and intangible digital reminders are helpful. I use Asana to schedule tasks and sync them to my Google Calendar, so I’ll have reminders of upcoming tasks wherever I go digitally.
  1. Start small. It’s normal to get swept up in the overwhelming feelings that come along with a big project or goal. The most effective way to combat this is to break your goal down into small steps. When you’re trying to be productive, don’t think in terms of projects; think in terms of specific tasks. This will keep you on track and help you stay positive in the process.
  1. Don’t just focus on the easy tasks. This is a very seductive distraction, as many of us open our inboxes and look for easy, unimportant tasks rather than focusing on big projects. Rely on Step  No. 2 above to focus on smaller, crucial steps of key projects, rather than simple tasks that give you a false sense of true accomplishment.
  1. Create consequences for success and failure. As you complete each step, reward yourself: positive reinforcement provides incentive and will make you feel good about yourself. Likewise, don’t reward yourself for not following through. If you are looking forward to checking out that new burger joint, make visiting it conditional on completing an important task. If you don’t finish the task, you don’t get the burger. Be a fair but stern boss to yourself.

Soon enough you’ll be building so much momentum that you’ll become eager to accomplish your goals and excited to see the outcome. Today is a perfect day to start cutting down on procrastination. Take five minutes now to think of a few tasks you’ve been putting off and make a plan for tackling them. Do it now. Don’t procrastinate.

Productivity! What are the secrets?

Productivity! What are the secrets?

productivity-tools

In every industry, competition and collaboration have increased and it has become more important than ever for people to be at the top of their game. YES, every day we are all obsessed by productivity. What are the Tools, Tips and Tricks?

  • The hardest part of staying productive is keeping yourself focused.

Focus on one task at a time and avoid thinking about other tasks. As your mind craves routine, make productivity a habit by planning your major tasks each day. Make time to disconnect from all technology, notifications and email to minimize distractions.

  • Keep your brain in shape.

You all know that a daily workout is a great way to keep your body and your mind in shape. Finding time for a morning run or exercise can help prevent the mid-afternoon productivity slump.

  •  Question every activity/distraction that you encounter during the day.

Ask yourself if you really need to do this activity and look for something else more important that you should be doing instead of this activity.

  •  Have a deep interest in what you do and enjoy it.

Chasing productivity is always a big challenge when you are always trying to find a better way to do things. So you have to have a deep interest in what you do and enjoy it, even when the schedule is crazy and demands a lot of productivity.

  • Figure out what your hourly rate is and compare everything you’re doing to that.

What helps you set your goals is having a clear understanding of what your priorities are and if you have a boss, understanding what theirs are and how yours align.

  •  Eliminate wasteful activity from your day.

Maximize your Return on Time invested (ROT) in everything you do and if something isn’t yielding a high ROT, then simply stop doing it or pass it off to someone else.

  • Finally you can always do more than you think you can do.

There’s only so much time in the day so getting things done is about quality and quantity. If you don’t have a routine, then create one. Wake up and get busy getting things done.

Productivity can be a very personal thing, so I encourage you to share your own tips with me.

Thanks for reading!
Sleep Better Now!

Best Regards,
G

THE SHARP END OF THE STICK from HUMAN EFFORT

The entire point of the problem is to reach the Best Solution. Yet many never seem to understand this, and so for them, the point of the problem is what they eagerly and stubbornly impale themselves upon.

REAL WORK

Being my own boss and working for myself from my home office is by far the hardest, most laborious, and most time consuming Work I’ve ever done. It is also, by far, the most enjoyable, lasting, meaningful, and profitable Work I’ve ever done. It is, in either case, Real Work, and a lot of it.

You should carefully plan for and prepare for all of the challenges expressed in the post below, and for many other difficulties not listed, such as the hiring of employees, and agents, growth and capitalization, emergency financing, supply and logistics, regulation, taxes, profit development and taking, investment, savings, wealth generation, etc, etc.

The author of this post is also very, very right about the dangers of becoming physically sedentary, weak, out of shape, and fat. Because of the immense work load and time demands of being self-employed your entire day might easily disappear without any thought of exercise or care for your physical body. You have to guard against that with a good exercise program of your own and you have to incorporate that exercise program into your daily work schedule in the same way you would make time for marketing.

5 Critical Things No One Tells You about Working from Home

Working from home seems like one of those magical jobs we picture ourselves doing as children – you sit around the house, get some work done, take as many breaks as you want, save money on transport, you don’t have to stress out about clean shirts or being late, etc. This is true to some extent and being your own boss can be a very enjoyable experience, but working from home is far from the idealized fantasy most people picture in their mind. Not having any direct supervision carries its unique set of problems that you will need to be prepared for. Some of these things don’t get mentioned very often, and although they are not necessarily deal breakers or meant to dissuade people from considering a career in freelancing, it is important to understand what you are getting into. Here are the five biggest points you’ll need to take into account.

You’ll need to have some money in the bank before starting a freelance career

Being a freelancer isn’t exactly a sure thing, nor can you expect to start making some serious money straight away. It takes time to set up accounts, look for clients, hone your skills and build up a reputation for yourself. Networking is also a big part of the picture. The point here is that it can take several months to start getting clients regularly, establish a decent reputation and earn enough money on a monthly basis to get by. It may even take a year to get to where you can pay the bills, feed your family and still have some money left over for a bit of luxury, all on your freelance wages. This is why it is important to treat the whole thing like a startup, rather than a career change or a nine to five job. Having enough start-up capital will enable you to support your family during the initial stages and invest in things like premium accounts and connections on major online freelance platforms.

It’s very easy to get lazy and out of shape

Not having to commute has its benefits like saving money on transportation and food and wasting less time on getting ready and traveling to and from the office. The negative side of it is that you won’t have any real need to leave the house much, if at all. Because you will be working and relaxing at the computer, you are at great risk of becoming a lazy couch potato. Once ordering takeout, walking around in your pajamas, beers during work hours and spending several hours at a time in a chair become a regular thing you can kiss your health and fitness goodbye. The only way to avoid becoming out of shape and having aching joints is to schedule regular workouts throughout the week, set up alarms to remind you to get up and stretch out every hour or so and to be very careful about what you eat. It’s incredibly easy to trick yourself into believing that you don’t rally eat that much, so having a salad or some fruit instead of a sugary snack or pack of potato chips and looking at a few nutritional labels here and there is very important.

You need to set up an effective work environment

If you just put your laptop on the table in front of the couch and call it your work station, you will soon lose all focus. You need a professional work environment, a home office that you can step into and clearly separate your work hours from leisure time. It doesn’t have to be much – a functional desk with a few drawers, a few notebooks and pens lying around, your computer and printer set up comfortably, a sturdy and ergonomic office chair and a lamp are enough. You can set up in a corner of a room, preferably near a window for some natural light, and add some decoration, perhaps a plant, so that it feels like an office desk, rather than a teenage gamer’s desk with a few work-related notes scattered around.

Being your own boss means constantly finding ways of staying productive and motivated

Even if you take all the precautions and create a truly professional-looking work environment, there will still be plenty of distractions – the internet you are using to look for new clients or do research being one of the biggest. You’re never more than one click away from Procrastination City, and you’ll need to work hard to stay motivated and keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Taking regular breaks to clear your head can help, and so can making coffee and remembering to eat regularly. Plastering reminders and motivational posters around your home office is another viable tactic, but ultimately, you will have to learn how to deal with distractions and have a short and stern talk with yourself at least 3-4 times a day in order to stay on track.

Getting organized and managing your projects efficiently is the key to success

Getting distracted, forgetting about a deadline, mixing up clients and miscommunication can all happen to any one of us, but when you’re working at home it’s much easier to get sidetracked or let your schedule become a chaotic mess. Start with the room you work in – keep it clean, spotless even, and make sure that everything has its place. Next, make sure that your desk and immediate work area are organized and that you know where to find everything, the most important things being within reach and easily accessible. Then get your work schedule in order. Get a big calendar, a whiteboard and sticky notes and make sure you have all the essential information about your current projects clear in sight when you sit at the desk, making sure to mark deadlines and have reminders and alerts. Being able to stay organized and juggle different projects effectively is the key to success for anyone working at home.

Working at home isn’t a walk in the park like some would imagine, and neither is it a one way ticket to a land of procrastination and broken dreams – you can earn a good living without ever living your house, but you’ll need to stay focused and deal with a few issues before you can become successful.

WHAT IS AND WHAT SHOULD NEVER BE

I had to learn a very similar lesson myself. One of the hardest, and yet most productive lessons I ever learned.

Learn Warren Buffett’s ‘2 List’ Strategy and Master Your Priorities

Learn Warren Buffett's '2 List' Strategy and Master Your Priorities

With well over 50 billion dollars to his name, Warren Buffett is consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world. Out of all the investors in the 20th century, Buffett was the most successful.

Given his success, it stands to reason that Buffett has an excellent understanding of how to spend his time each day. From a monetary perspective, you could say that he manages his time better than anyone else.

And that’s why the story below, which was shared directly from Buffett’s employee to my good friend Scott Dinsmore, caught my attention.

Let’s talk about the simple 3-step productivity strategy that Warren Buffett uses to help his employees determine their priorities and actions.

The Story of Mike Flint

Mike Flint was Buffett’s personal airplane pilot for 10 years. (Flint has also flown four US Presidents, so I think we can safely say he is good at his job.) According to Flint, he was talking about his career priorities with Buffett when his boss asked the pilot to go through a 3-step exercise.

Related: How Creative Geniuses Come Up With Great Ideas

Here’s how it works…

STEP 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down. (Note: you could also complete this exercise with goals for a shorter timeline. For example, write down the top 25 things you want to accomplish this week.)

STEP 2: Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.

Note: If you’re following along at home, pause right now and do these first two steps before moving on to Step 3.

STEP 3: At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.

Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that’s when Buffett asked him about the second list, “And what about the ones you didn’t circle?”

Related: 3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”

To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

The Power of Elimination

I believe in minimalism and simplicity. I like getting rid of waste. I think that eliminating the inessential is one of the best ways to make life easier, make good habits more automatic, and make you grateful for what you do have.

That said, getting rid of wasteful items and decisions is relatively easy. It’s eliminating things you care about that is difficult. It is hard to prevent using your time on things that are easy to rationalize, but that have little payoff. The tasks that have the greatest likelihood of derailing your progress are the ones you care about, but that aren’t truly important.

Every behavior has a cost. Even neutral behaviors aren’t really neutral. They take up time, energy, and space that could be put toward better behaviors or more important tasks. We are often spinning in motion instead of taking action.

This is why Buffett’s strategy is particularly brilliant. Items 6 through 25 on your list are things you care about. They are important to you. It is very easy to justify spending your time on them. But when you compare them to your top 5 goals, these items are distractions. Spending time on secondary priorities is the reason you have 20 half-finished projects instead of 5 completed ones.

Related: Why You Should Measure Backward, Not Forward

Eliminate ruthlessly. Force yourself to focus. Complete a task or kill it.

The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.

BOO-YAH!!!

Today I went out and finished buying the final pieces of my new hard file filing system.

Now all of my thousands of post-it notes, scribbled notes, torn out sheet notes, doodles and hasty idea sketches for my various writing, novel, poetry, invention, composition, business, and gaming projects are stored in their own separate storage containers and I can go through them one by one, without all the mess and mix-up.

Plus I can finally see my desk again, and finally have space for my new office equipment.

So there.

BOO-YAH!

Have a great weekend folks.

THE ADVOCATE OF ADVERSITY

Indeed. And I completely agree.

Malcolm Gladwell on Why You Need Adversity to Succeed

The best-selling author explains why coping with tough challenges as you start up will make you a much more successful entrepreneur.

Learning disabilities like dyslexia aren’t typically regarded as advantages, but for some entrepreneurs, being dyslexic has been a key part of why they succeeded.

That’s according to New Yorker writer and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, who, while researching his last book, David and Goliath, spoke to roughly two dozen dyslexic entrepreneurs.

“Their stories are all the same,” Gladwell says. “They don’t think they succeeded in spite of their disability. They think they succeeded because of it.”

While learning disabilities present unique challenges for individuals from an early age, they can also serve as what Gladwell refers to as “desirable difficulties,” or challenges that force people to learn new skills that prove extremely helpful later in life.

“They’re learning delegation, how to communicate with other people [and] motivate other people,” Gladwell says.

Successful dyslexic entrepreneurs that Gladwell points to include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, JetBlue founder David Neeleman, and longtime movie producer Brian Grazer, whose dyslexia forced him to learn how to negotiate his way to getting better grades in school, according to Gladwell.

“By the time he hits college he’s brilliant at it, and then what does he do? He becomes a Hollywood producer, [which is] about negotiation, among other things, and he’s been practicing his entire life,” Gladwell says.

“In order to learn the things that really need to be learned we require a certain level of adversity.”

To hear more from the conversation, watch the video below.

Why Obstacles Can Improve Results

Certain obstacles that seem undesirable at first may ultimately help you get ahead.

IT’S ALL FOR SALE

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(At a discount of course.)

THE HOOK

How to manufacture desire

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


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

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

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

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

First-to-mind wins

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

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

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

Manufacturing desire

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

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

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

Trigger

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

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

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

Action

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

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

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

Variable reward

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investment

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

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

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

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

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

Super power

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

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

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

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

Here’s the gist:

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

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

ENTREPRENEURIAL PUBLISHING

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What’s The Best Route For Entrepreneurs

Have you ever read a business book and thought, “I could write that,” or imagined publishing a business book that would catapult you to the front of your industry? You are in good company. Whether to help lift their business profile, get more speaking opportunities or become an industry trendsetter, many entrepreneurs wish to publish.

If you ever decide to take it a step further, you’ll likely compare self-publishing and traditional publishing as I did a few months ago. I checked in with fellow entrepreneur Dan Emery, of New York City Guitar School, who has self-published several guitar books. “I decided to use my own lesson plans instead of published lesson plans and somewhere around student one thousand, I decided to turn it into a book,” says Dan.

He was eager to design a curriculum that reflected the school’s uniquely friendly and positive approach to learning guitar that combines having fun with the science of deliberate practice. He quickly found out, however, that no publishers were interested in the book. That’s when he decided to publish it himself, which has turned into a successful endeavor for him.

When I first decided to write a book — about women entrepreneurs who are running multi-million dollar businesses — I wasn’t going to consider traditional publishing. But I went for a run with my old friend Paul Greenberg, who is an award-winning published author. He expressed outrage at my plan while we jogged along the Hudson. “You can’t to pay to write a book! You should get paid!” he admonished. I protested that I was not an actual author, like he was, and would never get a meeting at a publishing company, but he insisted I should at least try the traditional way before going the self-publishing route.

Paul put me in touch with his former editor, who was took a personal interest in my topic. She then offered to connect me with three of the top literary agents in New York. To my delight and surprise, all three said they wanted the book. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I chose as a literary agent Zoe Pagnamenta, an entrepreneur herself who owns a boutique agency where all her authors get terrific individual attention, and we were off to the races. We set to work putting together a 40-page proposal, which I wrote over my Christmas holiday last year.

THE OLD MASTERS

Well worth thinking on…

THE OLD MASTERS

Frederick Wiseman, filmmaker, 84, on a walk in Paris. Wiseman’s documentary ‘‘National Gallery’’ had its premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year.

Is there a difference from the way you work now and the way you worked when you were first starting out?

I think I’ve learned more about how to make a movie. The basic approach hasn’t changed. The method that I follow is the same one that I’ve always followed. I hope that I’ve learned from one movie to the next, at least enough not to make the same mistakes.

What’s the most grueling part of your filmmaking then?

Raising the money.

Early on, did you ever think you’d still be making movies at your age?

I didn’t think about it at all. I have a hard time recognizing that I’m 84, almost 85. I’m in complete denial, which I think is extremely useful. Of course from time to time I allow myself to be aware of it, but it’s not something that I dwell on. I like working. I work very intensely.

Any advice for young filmmakers?

Marry rich.

And what about advice for your peers, filmmakers your age?

Everybody complains about their aches and pains and all that, but my friends are either dead or are still working.

article continued here…

 

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