Courtesy New Yorker
I “sold” religion door-to-door in Brazil two decades ago and I know it annoyed a lot of people. But this fantastic long-read on for-profit door-to-door salesmen makes me feel slimy because these guys are a nuisance and largely dishonest. The problem with door-to-door product sales is that many (most?) harbor the dishonest believe that every household needs what they’re selling. That’s just not true. But because of the rise of spam lists and not call registers, door-to-door sales are actually growing. Hustle always works. And so does taking advantage of mentally feeble buyers.
Courtesy Warner Bros.
Yesterday at my kids’ soccer tryouts, I overheard two young mothers discussing husband careers. Apparently one of them is starting a company that’s “building a rock climbing app in the metaverse.”
I smiled at the naivete. The metaverse isn’t real. It’s entertaining science fiction that recently became a buzzword to sell exaggerated internet developments.
It’s the emperor’s new clothes all over again—a modern Second Life. Remember that old hype?
To be clear, I’m all for building new things—even “pipe dreams” like shipping east coast water to west coast droughts. But substantial things are honestly described and easily understood every time.
Otherwise you’re discussing something that isn’t real.
This is a fascinating long-read by Madeleine Aggeler: “The Liver King does own shirts, first of all. Several, he claims. I haven’t personally seen them, because when he greeted me in the cavernous entryway of his Texas mansion, he wasn’t wearing one. Nor did I see any in his closet later, which—though it contains approximately 900 identical pairs of athletic shorts and enough guns and ammunition to arm the military of a smaller nation—did not seem to contain even a single t-shirt. Nonetheless, he assured me that there are a few in there, somewhere. It was a bit like when a sign at a national park tells you there are mountain lions in the woods: You believe it, but you understand that you’re unlikely to cross paths with any.” Continue reading…
It’s not as iconic, big, or as juicy as Shoe Dog, but Authentic: A Memoir of Vans by Paul Van Doren is a straightforward, if not understated, perspective on business success. Just like the shoes themselves. I enjoyed this quick read and threw it in the growing pile of inspiring American success stories.
Rating: ★★★☆☆. These were some of my favorite passages:
- Hard work, honesty, and caring for people are what yield success. The beauty lies in simplicity, so don’t overcomplicate things.
- My belief is that you can always teach people how to do things. What you cannot teach people is how to understand other people.
- My experiment proved that we did indeed have a serious quality control problem: the people in charge of quality control had no idea what they were looking at.
- When I started interviewing people for jobs with us, the first thing I would do after someone handed me his or her résumé was toss it in the trash. They would be horrified, of course, and get nervous, but when I proceeded to ask questions and have them tell me about themselves in their own words, they relaxed. How else could I find out who they really were?
- We can all recognize that we need one another. I said it at the outset of this book, and I’ll say it again: no one gets anywhere alone.
- Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
The Atlantic reports: “Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. The problem isn’t a lack of good new music. It’s an institutional failure to discover and nurture it… The moguls have lost their faith in the redemptive and life-changing power of new music.” Continue reading…
It’s not rocket science. To get the most of your day, we must do the following:
- Live by a daily prioritized calendar.
- Surround yourself with positive people by shunning toxic ones and resolving tensions directly.
- Break large tasks into smaller chunks (i.e. write chapters not books).
- Do work you can be proud of while limiting distractions (i.e. email, social media, doomscrolling, mindless diversions)
- Celebrate successes and overcome challenges with positive thinking.
Those are the most fulfilling habits I’ve adopted over the years, many of which are featured in Caroline Webb’s helpful How to Have a Good Day.
Although Webb spent too much time rehashing Kahneman’s groundbreaking Thinking Fast and Slow, I appreciated her earnestness in helping others.
Her formatting was also a little blocky, but the message rings true: “Studies have found we can reap immediate intellectual and emotional dividend from investing in exercise and sleep, or even from taking a moment to breathe deeply, smile broadly, and stand a little taller.”
TL;DR: Attitude is everything.
I made a boo-boo at work yesterday. The client I was working with was very understanding, forgiving, and even accepted some of the blame. But I felt pretty rotten about the oversight.
Now, I’m not a perfectionist because done is better than perfect. But I couldn’t shake my disappointment of letting them down. So much so that I continued to worry about my mistake into the night.
Then I awoke to the above new sign on display in our kitchen today, which was ironically crafted by my eight year old daughter. It immediately cheered me up. Partly because I learned some things from my mistake and instituted two immediate changes that will make me a better writer. But also because the sign reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
Showing up really is half the battle. As my friend David says, “You gotta play some sour notes in order to make your sound sweeter.” I’m grateful of those simple truths that make moving on, closure, and even improvement possible.
My adorable daughter photographed by my devoted wife Lindsey
I love this fact-based, feel-good article by Ben Carlson: “Since 2008, we’ve experienced flash crashes, government shutdowns, natural disasters, trade wars, a contested presidential election, a pandemic, and the fastest bear market in history. Yet the Dow rose from 11,497 to more than 36,000 and counting. Maybe our best days are behind us. Maybe it will be impossible to see the same amount of growth going forward. It’s certainly possible. I choose to believe that most people will continue to wake up in the morning looking to improve their lot in life. People have been betting against the U.S. economy for decades. They’ve never been rewarded for it. Progress is in our DNA. Good luck betting against it.”
If you’re able to organize your life without a calendar, I have two things to say: 1) You are a miracle; and 2) The following does not apply to you.
For everyone else, I have some proven advice that will help you get the most from your daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual schedule, while helping you free up precious time and prioritize things that are more important to you.
In no particular order, they are as follows:
According to Quora: “We all find ourselves in negotiations at some point in our lives. Raises, marital disputes, car shopping, you name it. I’d imagine that the Internet waited with bated breath for an answer to the Quora question, “What are the basics of the art of negotiation?”
“Thankfully, author, entrepreneur, and angel investor David S. Rose chimed in with his thoughts. Rose’s answer was concise and simple. Six points, really. Understand the market, understand your options, understand the other side’s options, decide on your walk-away outcome, decide on your ideal outcome, and negotiate with integrity.
“As a bonus, Rose notes that the critical aspect of negotiation is deciding on your walk-away outcome. Once you figure that out, the rest is easy.”
I recently binged on several dozen episodes of How I built this over a few long flights and a couple long nights. These are what I believe to be the most insightful, heartfelt, and inspiring stories:
- Jonah Peretti (new media mogul)
- Blake Mycoskie (three-time entrepreneur)
- Barbara Corcoran (real estate mogul)
- Sarah Blakely (corset underwear inventor)
- Jimmy Wales (encyclopedia savant)
- Jack Conte (artistic crowd-funder)
- Tony Hsieh (online shoe kingpin)
- Rick Steves (travel magnet)
- Vlad Tenev (Wall Street disrupter)
- Ben & Jerry (modern ice cream pioneers)
Honorable mention: Joe Gebbia (home share inventor)
Several years ago, I talked with my wife about working Monday–Thursday only if I could hit my income goal. This was incredible motivation. So much so that I hit my target some 8 months later.
For the next 18 months, I didn’t work a single Friday. Maybe an emergency email here and there, but never more than a few minutes. I didn’t check my inbox, make a call—nothing. It was professional and personal bliss.
My wife and I went on dates, played hooky that day, and spent more time with our children during “early release” Fridays. It was awesome.
Sadly, I got complacent and my income dropped. So I started working Fridays again to build it back up in recent years. Continue reading…
Last year in the middle of pandemic, my life-long friend, Wesley Lovvorn (pictured left) approached me (pictured right) about co-founding a company. I had been working from home for nearly two decades. He’d done so for almost a decade. Both of us had been self-help students for over 30 years. “Let’s combine the two and help the millions of employees now working from home,” he said.
After studying the market for several months, we discovered two things: 1) there wasn’t a dedicated company that did this, and 2) we possessed some promising experience, empathy, and research to make it happen. So we spent the next half year interviewing executives, speaking to mentors, developing the initial curriculum, branding ourselves as Power Space, and launching with two pilot customers last fall.
Since I come from a background as an explanatory writer-for-hire, I was dubbed “chief content officer” and tasked with producing the first year curriculum of 18 lessons. I also produce all of our marketing assets, such as press releases, content marketing, and websites that our outreach director (Hi, Abby!) then uses to spread the gospel. Since this is still a side hustle, I do all this in between my day job writing articles for Fortune 500 companies and fancy publications. Continue reading…
Watch this comical video to see what I mean. Not everyone talks like this, of course, but a lot of companies do.
For whatever reason (usually cultural ones), businesses like to speak in code to each other, and then they pay me to decode the nonsense into something actual humans can understand in written form.
It’s a confusing phenomenon, but I ain’t complaining. I love doing it.
See also: Why corporate speak is garbage language
My latest for Costco Connection (click to enlarge):
Thanks for reading.
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This is a great read by Bloomberg about the sudden rise and fall of Quibi, a short-lived streaming platform that threw a lot of money and hype at a problem that didn’t exist:
“By September, Quibi’s user base had crept to about 400,000, putting it far behind the company’s internal projections of 7.4 million viewers by the end of 2020. That same month, Whitman and Katzenberg considered raising more money or selling the company. They pitched Apple, Facebook, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal, none of whom bit on either option, according to people familiar with the meetings. With $350 million left, the co-founders abruptly decided to shut down the service.”
I remember hearing about the company when they launched this spring, thinking to myself “Who would pay $8 a month for 10-minute short movies?” and then I never heard from them again, until this news broke. It must be hard to get good feedback on new ideas when you’ve already found success like these two famous cofounders previously had.
After more than a year of interviews, reporting, writing, editing, revisions, proofreading, and a couple of months of quarantine (hence the two month delay), I’m excited to announce the release of my second book, Measuring History: How One Unsung Company Quietly Changed The World. We were suppose to do a big book launch party in Texas but that was cancelled for COVID.
Nevertheless, I’m immensely proud of the result and look forward to celebrating and promoting the book over the next several months and into the new year. If you liked my first book, I hope you’ll consider reading this one about a special “little” company from Austin that changed the world in a big, albeit unseen way.
Book description here:
In 1976, three engineers from Austin, Texas created something that would one day touch the lives of more than half of the developed world. Neither “starting a revolution” nor “changing the world” was included in their mission statement. But with the help of some very smart people, a little dumb luck, and a lot of inventive customers, that’s exactly what happened.
From its humble beginnings in a garage and narrowly avoiding a burnt-down headquarters, to making it to space and being honored by the Inventors Hall of Fame, this is the story of how National Instruments (NI) made history. It might not be sexy. It might not be cool. But it’s a true tale that just might change how you see the world.
Thanks for considering it, reading, reviewing on Amazon, and forwarding to all your reader friends.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted dozens of global soccer officials on charges of rampant bribery, money laundering, and widespread corruption. As the “FIFA fallout” continues, here’s what organizations can do to keep themselves honest, in good standing with the law, and free from corporate fraud.
The month before the 2014 World Cup was set to kick-off in Brazil, a Los Angeles journalist by the name of Ken Bensinger received a juicy tip from a colleague. According to the tipster, a top U.S. soccer official by the name of Chuck Blazer had defrauded the sport of more than $20 million dollars. Not only did the official deal in the wholesale bribery, but he apportioned 10% of almost every single dollar that came in—even hot dog sales, even on charity games.
Bensinger did some digging, confirmed the rumors, and published his wild, investigative story for Buzzfeed News. The story went viral, and quickly uncovered a rabbit hole of obscene corruption that reached nearly every region of the global sport, from the bottom to the top. Although international FIFA officials were always suspected of rampant fraud, Bensinger’s story was the first to reveal that the culture of crime had undoubtedly reached U.S. shores.
A year later, with the help of a cooperating Blazer, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted the first of dozens of FIFA officials on organized crime charges of racketeering, bribery, money laundering, and fraud. That seismic event lead to Bensinger’s groundbreaking and riveting book, Red Card.
I recently spoke to Bensiger about the fallout and what companies can learn from the largest sporting scandal in world history. And although few, if any, legitimate businesses operate as organized crime syndicates like FIFA often did, Bensinger was quick to diffuse the proximity.
“It was organized crime, but the corruption case also involved several legitimate businesses,” Bensinger says. “Sports marketers, big broadcasters, and sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Sony, and McDonald’s, the latter two which even canceled their contracts with FIFA as a result.” Continue reading…
My wife started and runs a successful soccer club of 14 youth teams. Now in their second year, they’ve done really well because they charge little more than recreational fees for a league that’s a lot more competitive, without the expensive time and money commitments of “club soccer.”
After opening registration this summer, she had more than enough players sign up. That’s what you get when you run a well-organized event with lots of value. Last week, however, she received a long-winded email from a demanding mother that listed out several line items she required before registration. She went on and on, my wife said.
In response, my wife kindly but briefly wrote, “Thanks for asking. We’re full this year. Please consider us again.”
My wife instinctively understood that this woman might cause more headaches than her $200 registration fee was worth.
The same is true of any business. If someone seems like they’d be a difficult customer, they probably will be and should best be avoided through a polite “No thanks,” or “I’m busy.”
In rare cases where you provide a custom quote, you might try to “price them out,” that is only work with them for an amount that you estimate would be worth the added headaches.
Both approaches have served me well and really help the free market shine, for sellers as much as buyers.
PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.
“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.
Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.
“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…
What do the world’s greatest leaders have in common? What makes a great boss?
Stanford professor and management consultant Robert Sutton recently asked that question and presented his findings in an hour-long, information-packed lecture.
According to his research, this is what great leaders often do: Continue reading…
My wife and I (and even some of our young children) watched Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos recently. It’s a slick documentary that raises some important questions and concerns about the increasingly monopolistic company that keeps prices low (instead of raising them like past monopolies).
The movie wasn’t enough to make me ditch my Amazon Prime or Alexa accounts, especially given how much time and money Amazon has saved my family over the last two decades. That could change, but for now I’ll say: so far, so good. In fact, I’d rather convert to Android and stay with Amazon than stay with Apple and ditch Amazon—I like them that much.
For its slick production and warranted scrutiny, I award it ★★★★☆.
Fun fact: Walmart made twice as much money as Amazon did last year ($512 billion versus $233 billion).
This story by Molly Young on why corporations speak nonsense is the best thing I’ve read in a long-time:
But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.
I’m partially biased because I spend a lot of my time helping companies talk like humans instead of broken computers. And I suppose I might not have a job if humans always spoke clearly:
When we adopt words that connect us to a larger project — that simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem. Empowerment language is a self-marketing asset as much as anything else: a way of selling our jobs back to ourselves.
Either way, I think this is a must-read. I enjoyed every word—well, the non-garbage ones at least.
I was recently asked my approach to sales, given that I spend significant time asking people if I can write for them. Here it is in its entirety:
“Hi, human. I sell this thing for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others like you. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”
That’s it. This gentle but persistent approach has served me well, because it respects timing as much as finding and asking the right person.
Courtesy Outside Magazine
- What are borders for anyways?—There was a time when you had to commit a crime, or be suspected of committing one, to have your fingerprints and photograph taken by an officer of the state. Now all you need to do is take a trip.
- Examining illegal birth names—Some working-class names aren’t just looked down upon, they’re illegal. But these laws, which stretch from New Zealand to Tennessee, are often more about oppression than public decency.
- Why this bubble or eventual recession will be different—What we’re seeing today isn’t a dot-com bubble. If anything, it’s a not-com bubble—a period of inflated expectations for companies that had no business being valued like pure tech companies in the first place.
- What it’s like to eat meal replacement shakes for two years—Whether nutrient shakes are the food of the future, however, is up for debate. Julie Heseman, a principal at food service industry consulting firm Foodservice IP, thinks this type of product won’t take off for one reason: it’s just not tasty enough.
- Inside football’s campaign to save the game—Nationally, high school participation in 11-man football has fallen more than 10 percent since 2009. Here’s what the game is doing to attract athletes.
- “Kids these days” are actually better, even if you don’t understand them—Prediction: Today’s “OK boomer” Gen Z will complain about the youth one day. Blame human memory.
- Don’t be a jerk to your online humor editor—It should go without saying, but angrily replying to a rejection will get you nowhere.
- Chaos on top of the mountain—The story behind the viral photo and deathly May day on Mount Everest this year.
- Why a pop star walked across America—Years after he took that pill in Ibiza, Grammy nominee Mike Posner left behind his life in L.A. to go on a 2,851-mile journey in search of redemption, motivation, struggle, and triumph.
“I’m not mad at you,” she said. “I’m happy that you get the opportunity to make some money. I was blessed for a while. I hate to see it go. Now it’s your turn to be blessed.”—Shannon Mulcahy from Indiana after losing her job to an offshoring immigrant in a story published in the New York Times.
Me at my desk courtesy Lindsey Snow
I’ve been a professional writer since 2005 and a full-time writer since 2007. I moonlighted for a couple of years before transitioning to a full-time freelancing journalist, a “calling” I continue to this day.
Since then, these are some of the most frequently asked questions I get from aspiring writers or otherwise curious email inquires:
How do you become a self-employed writer?
My advice: write everyday and ask 50 people if they will publish your best work. If they all say no, ask 50 more and so on. This never fails but most writers will never do this and therefore go unpublished and unpaid. Usually I don’t even have to ask 50, but in two exceptional cases, I asked over 100 before someone said yes: My first story for Wired Magazine about college footballcomputers and my first travel column for Paste Magazine. Both were huge wins for my career and would have never happened had I quite after asking just 50. The harder you work, the luckier you get. (See also: How to succeed: Don’t quit until everyone in the room tells you “no”)
Is it actually possible to make a decent income at home and support a family by being self employed writer?
Yes. I’ve worked from home for the last 15 years, make a good income, and have six mouths to feed (wife and five children). In my experience, successful self employment requires persistence, low overhead (i.e. low maintenance lifestyle), extra emergency savings, and a willingness to sell your craft in addition to the craft itself. Self employment isn’t for everyone, but it can be done and is remarkably rewarding.
Courtesy John Chau
I was recently moved by the following five long reads and hope you are too:
In short, it’s a terrific documentary on a charismatic con man, blind faith, broken promises, and a willingness to belong. 5 stars out of 5.
As a long-time tech journalist, I’ve noticed an interesting trend over the years. Companies who aren’t really tech companies will call themselves that anyway.
This is because “tech” is a lot like “new,” “free,” or “sale.” These words get people’s attention. So a lot of companies say they’re “tech” for the free publicity.
One such company is WeWork, a real-estate company that leases short and long-term office space stocked with free beer, cool lighting, and a community-for-hire for remote workers like myself. Continue reading…
Me hiking the Inca Trail
Here’s something you might not know about my work as a writer: 30-40% of my time is spent asking people if I can write for them, while the remaining 60-70% is spent on actually writing.
In other words, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell or a salesman who knows how to write. Consequently, I would’t have survived the past 15 years if I hadn’t asked thousands of people each year to let me write for them. I would have wilted long ago had I listened to the few rouge naysayers that rudely tell me to get lost sometimes.
Case in point: of the hundreds of emails I send on a monthly basis, the vast majority are ignored. Continue reading…
On a recent fishing trip with friends, in which we purposely neglected to pack in food, in order to make our catch really count, I went empty-handed after two full days of fishing. Thanks to my more-skilled-than-me buddies, who generously shared, I didn’t go hungry, however.
After serious bouts of self-doubt and nearly giving up on the third day, though, I decided I wasn’t going to quit until I caught at least one keeper. After empowering myself with that mindset, I actually ended up catching five that evening—enough to feed me and my friends, who coincidentally failed to catch one on that final day (really!).
On the return hike home, I thought a lot about dependency, perseverance and the power of determination—in life as much as business. Here’s what that experience taught me.
A businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one humble fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.
The businessman complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The onlooker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s needs. “What do you do with the rest of your time?” the man pressed.
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll the village each evening, sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos,” the fisherman replied. “I live a full life, señor.” Continue reading…
Courtesy Chicago Tribune
I read a thought-provoking story recently about Othea Loggan, a Chicago man who has bussed tables at the same restaurant for 54 years. He still works there today, earning just under $3 more per hour than minimum wage. With tips and annual bonuses, it’s estimated Loggan earns $14 an hour bussing the same tables he has for over five decades.
Unlike most entry-level bussers, Loggan gets five weeks vacation per year and works at a place he seems to really enjoy. Like every other busser, he gets no retirement or health insurance, however.
Despite all of this, Loggan (and his full-time working wife) raised a family, bought a house, and is seemingly happy, or at least he isn’t verbal about expressing any regrets. In fact, his son says as much. “My father is old school — never complains about nothing, never. My mother too. There were times it was hard to get food on the table, and they did not complain. But he got this job, he did it well, held on to it, and there needs to be a lot of respect for someone like that.”
The chef that has worked with Loggan for more than five decades says the same. “I think Loggan just decided to be a busboy. He is content. It’s all he wants. So I ask — isn’t that OK?”
It’s not okay, implies author Chris Borrelli. Continue reading…
The writing, reporting, and humanity of the below four articles are absolutely excellent. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
When it comes to increasing both your output and your impact, here’s how to work smarter instead of harder.
For Entrepreneur—If there’s one thing I learned while researching and writing my first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, it’s how to get more done in less time.
For the first five years as a self-employed writer, I passionately and excitedly burned the midnight oil, thinking the act would get me ahead. While it certainly helped to cut my teeth and quicken my understanding of the craft, in hindsight I spent much of that time with my head down, spinning my wheels in the mud, and failing to see bigger ideas and opportunities.
That is until my “Montana Moment,” a life-changing and completely off-the-grid vacation in Big Sky Country that upended and improved my relationship to work in more ways than one. Since that fateful week, I’ve enjoyed record personal, professional, and social growth. But only because I radically changed my underlying approach and motivations for work.
There are as follows: Continue reading…
My answer: As I’ve said before, Emojis and animated gifs are not only appropriate in business emails, they often improve the response of work-related emails when used sparingly. I wouldn’t use them more than 25% of the time. But they’re downright endearing because business correspondence is often stuffy and staid. So the occasional visual surprise keeps things interesting and reminds the recipient that they’re dealing with a personable human being. I highly recommend them.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you like money. What does money have to do with offline balance, though?
In my research, everything. Next to fame and sex—which by no coincidence are often facilitated by money—the latter is arguably the most sought after thing in life, particularly (but not exclusively) for male species.
For purposes of this newsletter, however, I won’t preach to you on the ill-guided focus of money or bottomless cup that is greed. Instead, I’ll let smarter people do it for me: Continue reading…
Humans are more distracted now than ever before, at least since we’ve started keeping records. Over the last decade, the average attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2014, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. The kicker: our eight second attention spans are one second shorter than a goldfish’s. No joke.
Who or what’s to blame for such abhorrent focus? “External stimulation,” says the Library of Medicine. That’s code for mobile internet, apps that vie for our attention, push email, social media alerts, work from anywhere, persistent connectivity, and our enthusiastic adoption of “the internet of things.” In other words, the only person we can blame is ourselves.
What’s a working professional to do then? You have three options, according to popular thinking: fall off the grid, stick with default technology settings for substandard productivity, or my personal favorite, set usage boundaries to upgrade concentration, contributions, and welfare levels.
For those interested in options one or two, this article won’t be any help. But for for those interested in the latter, there’s quite a lot you can do to stay focused in a 24/7 world. After extensive online research, here is the most celebrated and pragmatic advice for doing just that: Continue reading…
Phil Knight seemingly had a lot of slick editors to help him write his wonderful book (4/5 stars) on the creation and rise of Nike. But his passion, character, and insightful war stories all ring true. These were my favorite excerpts:
- What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.
- Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.
- The Japanese believe climbing Fuji is a mystical experience, a ritual act of celebration, and I was overcome with a desire to climb it, right then. I wanted to ascend into the clouds. I decided to wait, however. I would return when I had something to celebrate.
- After shaving, I put on my green Brooks Brothers suit and gave myself a pep talk. You are capable. You are confident. You can do this. You can DO this. Then I went to the wrong place.
I’m an enthusiastic Amazon, Apple, Uber, and Google user because they make my life easier. I don’t think twice before upping my Prime membership. In fact, I like these companies so much, I’ve even willing to pay a little extra for the convenience they offer.
But obsessive brand loyalty will ultimately hurt us, argue two ivy-league economists for USA Today. “Each of us can do our part to make sure Amazon and others never get to the point of ubiquitous domination. It might introduce a bit of hassle and inconvenience into your life, but only a tiny bit. But by taking on this challenge, you’ll be doing the job that antitrust authorities, in an ideal world, might take care of on our behalf – ensuring that consumers and workers, rather than the owners of capital and algorithms – get a piece of the surplus that’s created by new business ideas.”
Make no mistake, I’m a proud American capitalist. But I like it even more when companies compete for my business. “Think about those credit card teasers we all get,” the authors add. “As long as we keep businesses thinking they need to chase after us to try to lock us in, they’ll keep on handing us value rather than using it to pad their bottom line.”
If you agree, consider shopping with competing companies and platforms from time to time to keep your favorite companies on their toes, hungry for your business, and willing to let you keep a greater share of the value.
Courtesy New Line Cinema
“Hi, human. I sell this thing (in my case writing) for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others you may know. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”
I’ve been writing full time for 10 years now. Much of that time, if not half of the time, is spent asking people if I can write for them. In that sense, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell, or a seller who knows how to write.
Either way, I’ve followed the above pitch for the last decade. I don’t know if it’s the best sales approach, but it’s worked alright for me, and it’s one I feel is the most respectful.
Know a better way?
Does .99 cent pricing really work? Wouldn’t it be easier to round everything to the nearest dollar?
The answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” Although it would be easier to round up, stores use so-called psychological pricing because it demonstrably boosts sales by 8%, according to one study of 60,000 mail-order catalogs.
In short, the 30,000 customers that received rounded up pricing spent 8% less than the 30,000 catalog recipients of 99 cent pricing. (Note: The two catalogs were identical except for pricing.)
Granted, this study was performed 20 years ago. But with those kind of gains, the trend is sure to stick around for a long time.
Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.
Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.
That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…
Take these. If you’re interested in journalism, the art of war, Star Wars, business, and/or are “white,” I think you’ll enjoy them:
- Access denied. In light of waning press access because celebrities, politicians, newsmakers, and producers now take their scoops and audiences directly to social media (instead of publications), we must “build a new independent media on a bedrock of explaining and celebration and condemnation,” writes John Herrman. Explainers, for instance, “assert authority without invoking expertise; they mimic the language of their audience; they offer closure and satisfaction in an endless stream.”
- Why it’s hard to win the war on terrorism. “War is so much easier when both sides are wearing uniforms,” writes Richard White.
- The first-world problem of being white. “What my son was expressing — that he wants the comfort of what he has but that he is uncomfortable with how he came to have it — is one conundrum of whiteness,” writes Eula Biss.
- Sneaky ways businesses trick consumers. Why that restaurant you used to love is no longer good among other things by Daniele Kline (i.e. cheaper ingredients slowly make their way into popular products).
- Star Wars strikes back. By Brian Hiatt. “The phrase that I used in front of, like, 5,000 Star Wars fans pumped to the gills, ready to see the trailer, was ‘It’s only a movie,'” Hamil says. “I was trying to appeal to the rational, sane people who know movies don’t really change your life, and if you really think we can make you feel like you’re 10 years old at 38, you know what’s gonna happen. So just don’t think that and you’ll be fine!”
Credit: Business Week
I recently read Paul Ford’s special report on software—all 36,000 words and three hours of it. If you work in computers, you should read it. If you work in business, you should read it. If you’re an adult human, you will learn a lot about the way things are and where they’re headed by reading it.
Admittedly, the story could have benefitted from some additional editing. Ford, after all, veers a little off topic. But like Bill Bryson, Ford is a master at explaining why things matter—in this case, why coders matter, and how they will increasingly influence the future.
If that’s doesn’t convince you to read the article’s entirety, maybe my 10 favorite excerpts will: Continue reading…
Taken at one of my local skate shops (Photo: Blake Snow)
Outside of groceries, my household shops online 90% of the time. That’s not me overstating something. That’s my wife’s estimate. She does the budget.
Over the last 10 years, Amazon Prime, Zappos, Target.com, iTunes, Netflix, and many other e-tailers have dramatically improved my family’s standard of living, product selection, and buying power, while reducing buyer’s remorse, time spent, and money spent consuming wants and needs.
Every now and again, I get romantic and decide to “shop local,” as they say. Usually I regret it. The last time I needed a pair of slacks, I went to a big box store. The style selection wasn’t what I wanted. 30 minutes of my life, gone.
Before leaving the parking lot, I launched the Amazon app, found a better pair of 4.5/5 star fitted-pants for less, and clicked “buy now.” The transaction took two minutes. The slacks would be on my door step two days later, and if, for whatever reason, I didn’t like them, I could put them back on my door mat, and a brown truck would magically return them for free.
We live a charmed life. Continue reading…
New Line Cinema
Selling is a challenge. It requires unwavering confidence, polite persistence, and a deep understanding of buyer demand. It also requires an ability to withstand constant rejection, unfortunate timing, and even bad luck.
Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, overcoming buyer objections in another challenge. Some may be unique to your trade, but most are quite common, regardless of industry. What are they and how can they be surmounted?
To find out, I ransacked dozens of reports, expert analyses, and top Google results. After the dust had settled, I encountered close to 100 specific objections. But most (if not all) of those are merely variations of seven fundamental objections, which I’ve distilled and categorized below.
Before getting down to the nitty gritty, a word of caution: sellers must first understand theirs and their prospects’ available “walk-away” options before addressing any concerns. If you don’t respect those, you’ll fail to appreciate the nuances of your market and have a harder time overcoming legitimate buyer objections.
Furthermore, “objections are a gift,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s the customer telling you something that will help you sell to them.” In that sense, buyer concerns are rarely outright rejections—they’re merely requests for more information. Hence, good communication is key to overcoming them.
With that out of the way, here are the seven most common buyer objections and advice for overcoming them: Continue reading…