December 29, 2010
We make them, thinking that all we need to do is this one thing to have a better coming year. The reality is that we need to do several things to see year-over-year improvements in our lives. That's why so many New Year's resolutions are broken - they are all or nothing. In some cases, we make the same ones over and over again. What's the point?
I look at the beginning of the year, specifically the holiday period that precedes it, as a chance to reset. It's like powering down a computer, then rebooting it. Works better, usually, no? At Yahoo!, Jerry Yang kept three lists at all times, and these lists are the ones you should draw up this week and execute on over the next three months.
1 - The Stop Doing List. What habits, tendencies or activities are counter-productive? Create a plan with a deadline, and knock these off first.
2 - The Keep Doing List. What are our greatest hits from 2010? What's working, and shouldn't be forgotten? This is important, because unless you recognize the effective, you might replace it with the novel.
3 - The Start Doing List. These are activities, habits or projects that could add value over the coming year. Consider this list the end of procrastination or the tool that will help you close the good intentions-accomplishments gap.
For me, personally, here's mine: Stop/Wasting time grazing online. Keep/Blogging. Start/Writing a schedule for each day. Get it? This is how I can increase my personal effectiveness over the year. This isn't my complete 2011 lists, but now you get this point. What's yours?
December 22, 2010
In other words, without a gracious receiver, gift-giving can be awkward, disappointing or worse - escalating. Sometime during the last decade, a new type of giving-mentality has erupted: You can't outgive me, I'm the Big-Giver around here!
Whether personal or professional, we've come to realize that when we give to others, we build our relationships and trigger the law of reciprocity. Or, as I'd say as a Lovecat, "Nice Smart People Succeed." So now it's an arms race of gift giving, where we one-up people's <feeble> attempts to give, give-back or be generous with us. I call this 'Bully Giving' - where the intention of the giver is to own the receiver, if only for a minute. In a holiday season scenario, where gifts are usually exchanged, this creates a bad situation.
Here's my point: We need to be good receivers, so others can experience the "Joy Of Giving". This is not a competition to see who the best giver is, or whether we are Net Givers in an exchange situation. It's about the spirit of giving, gratitude and love. And that requires as many good receivers as it does good gift givers. When you are given to this season, here are three ways you can embrace the art of receiving gifts:
1 - Be Available. When someone gives to you, be in full-receive mode. Pay attention to the card, what he says as he hands it to you, the packaging and most of all - the thoughtfulness behind the gift. Don't change the subject. Don't apologize that your gift is or may be smaller. Don't hold back emotions, in fact, make yourself emotionally available to truly show some happiness!
2 - Be Authentically Grateful. Use receiving a gift as a platform to state your feelings for the giver. Let him/her know you are grateful for the gift, but even more, for the relationship or association. Let the moment of your expressed gratitude linger. As I talk about in my next book (Today We Are Rich), gratitude is a muscle, not a feeling. We need to work it out to increase our spiritual strength. After the holidays (or your B-Day), sit down and write Thank You notes, and be very specific about what the gift means to you, and how you'll put it to use. You don't need to reserve Thank You cards for weddings, graduations, etc.
(Note: When you express your gratitude, you are giving your Giver positive feedback. That will motivate the giver to keep on giving, because it's working. I call this living in the Good Loop and it requires positive feedback.)
3 - Be Humble. In the moment of receiving, be a little in debt to your giver. Don't analyze the gift in terms of whether it's big enough, too big, a surprise or better than other gifts you are getting. It's not a competition or an acid-test of others' feelings for you. It is a gift, and you are the recipient. Don't immediately respond with a superior gift, so as to take the moment away from the other.
Over the next few days, you'll have many chances to put this into play. During your next birthday, you'll really have an opportunity to say Thanks! and help spread the joy of giving.
December 17, 2010
Many of you are maxed out these days, buying gifts and finishing up work for the year. Next week, the whole process will involve travel, making December even more complicated. It's easy, with all of this activity, to miss out on the holiday spirit. After all, for most of us, we just want to 'carry on the tradition' - and as a result, work instead celebrate. By the 24th, we are feeling bah-humbug!
Don't let that happen to you. Remember that Christmas or the Holiday Season is about family, friends and reflection. On the other side of it is a new year of opportunity, roles and goals. The holiday season isn't about travel or gift-giving. That's what marketers want you to think. You should be staying in contact and giving to others year-round.
When I was growing up, my grandmother Billye had a saying, "It's Christmas Day every day in this household, when it comes to things you need. I give them to you on the spot." Sure, we still had gifts under the tree, but opening gifts wasn't the focal point of Christmas Day. Saying that we loved each other, praying and eating food with family - that's what the day was about. OK, and watching Cowboys games.
If you still can, circle the wagons, and declare Holiday Season 2010 as a time to celebrate success, survival and our social/family circle. Appreciate the family and friends that you have, instead of grousing about what you have to do for/with them this time of year. Look at all the holiday season busy-work, as Billye does, as a "Get-To" in your life, not this thing you "Have-To" do every December.
December 14, 2010
It's a fair question, I guess. All of us would love to catch a trend-wave, and ride into the beach with our pockets full of cash. We read about it all the time, from the dotcom boom to the rise of social media. Part of it is that we don't want to be left out, toiling in the past.
Here's the problem with this search: When you find it, and know for sure that it's the real-deal, you are usually too late to get a free ride. It's matured a great deal, and you will need to bring some real innovative value to the table to join it in progress. A better way to think about the 'timing of your life' is to be in search of "The Next Big You." That is when your capabilities, passions and purpose intersect with a sustainable trend. It could be a business trend (like quality in the 80's) or a tech trend (like social media today). That's what happened to me. I didn't look for the next-big-thing, I looked for a trend that leveraged what I had to offer.
When I went to work at broadcast.com (AudioNet in 1997), I connected my evangelism skills and marketing acumen to online broadcasting and advertising. The next big "Me" was the guy that sold the internet's potential, direct online marketing and communications innovation. It wasn't that I jumped in at the right time, it was a matter of fit: The trend suited me.
So, stop your search for the next big thing and instead:
1 - Identify three sustainable trends each January. They have financial value, are growing exponentially, and are generating tremendous buzz.
2 - Outline your core skills, interests and passions each January. Hopefully, you are adding something to your personal resume each year.
3 - Compare the two lists every month, to see if there's synergy. When you can straightline connect a trend with your potential, you now have something to pursue.
Whether by design or by accident, this is what all 'lucky' people do -- those that are often labeled as in-the-right-place-at-the-perfect-time. Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg ... all of them made this connection and made their mark.
December 10, 2010
One of my passions is discovering and sharing new music.
It can be indie-rock, nu-jazz, eletronica-pop, funk or even country. But it has to be *new* and embody the zeitgeist of what's going on in the world. That's why I love the CMJ charts, Pitchfork and Good Records. They track what's hot (either in college or for hipsters) and along with collaborative services like Pandora, Amazon and Apple Genius ... I have a great collection of records to choose from.
I'll listen to a few tracks of each, and usually buy a track to drop into my "New 2010" playlist. When I like a track, then another, I purchase it, usually at a store like Freakdaddy Records in Sherman Oaks. Sometimes I grab it from Amazon. The CD goes into driving-around rotation. I look for records that have a lot of great songs OR tell a story either sonically or lyrically. In many cases, the band/artist has a great song (such as Empathy by Crystal Castles or Dominos by Big Pink). In rare cases, the CD is so good -- it's an album!
Each year, using this system, I find about two dozen GREAT records. From that pile, I compile my top 10. I personally guarantee each one to rock your socks.
1 - Brothers by The Black Keys. This is the record of 2010. It showcases their gritty funky, yet highly danceable side. This is the soundtrack for any rock party you want to throw.
2 - Astro Coast by Surfer Blood. This Palm Beach FLA band has the oomph of Silversun Pickups with the tunesmith power of Wheezer. Top CD in rotation in my car this year.
3 - Wilderness Heart by Black Mountain. This band combines a southern feel with the bluesy-psychedelic side of Led Zeppelin.
4 - There Is Love In You by Four Tet. Best electronica record of 2010. Throw this into the Folktronica pile, alongside a brooding Chemical Brothers or the Underworld. Track 2 KILLS.
5 - Permalight by Rogue Wave. Best collection of songs I've heard all year. He's not just a great writer, he's got the indie-hook thing down to a science. Sing along hipster rock.
6 - Plastic Beach by Gorillaz. Wow, this combo has honed their style into it's own funk-jazz-hip hop genre. The strongest collection of tracks they've offered yet.
7 - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit. This Glasgow three piece plays with an emotional urgency that makes me miss Big Country or Cactus World News.
8 - Budos Band III. Best instrumental record of the last few years - funky, jazzy and shake-your-booty party music. Think War meets De Phazz by way of East L.A. Party soundtrack!
9 - Sisterworld by Liars. What a dark, but lovely hard rock record. The lead singer is crazy, but the band is remarkably methodical. Think Jesus Lizard, early NIN or even Cop Shoot Cop.
10 - Mixed Race by Tricky. The king of trip-hop is back and his tracks are better than ever. He's matured a ton, but at the same time, re-captured his bounce and edge. If you liked Massive Attack's last attempt, you will LOVE Mixed Race.
December 08, 2010
After all, the season gives us an opportunity to give to others - and our business partners and co-workers deserve something under the tree from us! We might worry that the gift is too personal, too expensive or just too whimsical. So we look for clues, or even worse, guess. Sometimes, we grab some swag from the company closet or hit up Sam's Club for high calorie tokens of Biz Love.
But that's not the way to 'multiply the value' in this world. The best give you can give someone at work is a dollup of know-how. The best source of that is in books. When you hand pick a book for someone, based on their needs or dreams, you are prescribing a better life for them. When he reads it, he'll get inspired to do something with the insight. He might even share it with others. Who knows, he might become a book reader.
If you give books, encouraging knowledge sharing, you'll create a more innovative culture - prone to solving problems with ideas instead of worrying and fretting. At Yahoo!, I loved to find specific 'book solutions' for people in my life - and give those on holidays of all types (as well as birthdays). Several of my friends called me Dr. Tim because of this tendency.
NOTE: Giving current books reduces the risk that your recipient has already read it. You can also casually ask someone if they've read any of the three or so books (still not divulging your strategy).
Here are four great books to give this year:
1 - Mesh: Why The Future Of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky
2 - Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson
3 - Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsiesh
4 - Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wizeman
If you'd like to suggest some great books, do so in comments.
December 06, 2010
Over 10 years ago, Seth Godin sent a shot over the bow with his book Permission Marketing. He made the point that when you don't have permission to interrupt someone, you are hurting your brand and not likely converting much business either. He argued that the key is to first ask for permission to add someone to a marketing list, then make offers to them until they decide to retract it. For a period of time, big brands of all types took this seriously, some even requiring opt-in selection by potential list recipients.
Recently, it's all changed, though, as companies of all sizes boldly started to add anyone to any list without any type of permission. I realized this when I decided to clean up by bloated Inbox. I noticed that I was receiving dozens of newsletters and announcements every week that I never asked for. I patiently opened each one, clicked on the unsubscribe link and then flagged the email as Junk. What really surprised me was this: The biggest spammers were companies I did business with, but never gave permission to add me to their lists. Joe's Jeans, Amazon, Roku, Participant Films, Target, Apple (yes, Apple) and about two dozen other companies that had required an email from me as part of an e-commerce transaction. NOT ONCE did I select (add me to the list) and every time, I deselected it when it was presented to me. In several cases, cashiers at retail stores asked for my email address, but never explained why. Now I know.
What does this mean? A new generation of marketing decision makers have decided we don't have anymore privacy rights, so they are adding names to lists as fast as possible, and building a new eCatalog model to make our Inboxes as unwieldy as our mail boxes. It's not just the .com sites or the spammers anymore, it's the marketers. What they fail to realize is that when you require a consumer to unsubscribe from you or flag you as Junk Mail, you are weakening your brand to them - making it even harder for future/legit marketing to convert. That was the point that Seth stressed to marketers with his book: Earn permission, it's an asset and a brand of it's own.
In my case, I never add someone to my email newsletter. They must choose to do so via visiting my site. Often I offer book lists, downloads, etc. during my conference talks. I could easily grow my newsletter from its current size (around 8,000) to about 20,000 or 30,000 if I was willing to break the rules - but I don't because I know it would be a violation of trust. And I also know that it wouldn't be good personal branding when these unsuspecting folks start to receive my newsletter out of the blue. Sure, I may reply to an old email from a fan with a single message about a new book, but that's a far cry from sticking them on a list distribution (to receive countless emails over time).
Audit your own company's policies here, making sure you aren't one of them too. Sergio Zyman, former CMO of Coke, argued that good marketing "is a service, that adds value when you buy, consume or own a product." Interruption without permission isn't a service, it's an annoyance, and can only reflect poorly on a company's marketing acumen.
I'm no longer going to give my email address to stores I shop at. I've got a Yahoo email address for eCommerce transactions, so I can still get my confirmations of a successful transaction or shipping information without having my regular email Inbox spammed. I'm going to boycott companies that insist on adding me to their lists, or refusing to unsubscribe me when I ask. Pass it on.