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World and worlds and worlds

One of the things I find fascinating about working with a range of businesses – and one of the reasons I chose not to specialise in marketing a particular niche – is just how much is out there. How much is going on.

How much creativity, how many ideas I would never have had, how many problems are solved that I didn’t even know existed in the first place. How much success there is, how many people are defiantly overcoming one obstacle after another. I find it endlessly fascinating, and it helps me to look at the world a little differently. I covered an aspect of this recently when I wrote about I, Pencil.

A bicycle, for example, is no longer a bicycle. It is a series of problems that got solved. Firstly, perhaps, horses were difficult to get on and hard to keep in a small house. Then someone worked out you could push yourself along on foot and sit on a two-wheeled device when you had some momentum. And then the pedals and chains and gears and water bottles and lycra and GPS tracking all followed at various speeds.

But it’s not just that. It’s each component, each spoke and chain link. Made, manufactured, marketed, sold, brought together. And you probably just ride your bike and don’t think about any of it.

I get a similar experience when I’m flying or in a train going past rows of houses: the many homes, the worlds within, the lives being lead, the arguments, the triumphs, the mundane and the dramatic. So much that is entirely irrelevant to us, that we will never know about, but is the entirety of someone’s life.

There’s a whole, huge, wonderful world that exists and functions regardless of how we decide to interact with it, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not entirely sure if there’s a point to these notes, or a specific message. But maybe just enjoy your weekend and celebrate who you are and worry not about what you can’t affect.

Thoughts? Comment below.

Best wishes

Tom

An easier life

After yesterday’s notes on social media, I had a bit of a nose around a few Instagram ‘influencers’. My word, it’s exhausting. And formulaic. And presumably very successful – for them at least; I worry for some of the people who feel pressure to recreate the filtered, edited lives they are vicariously living.

It made me think about making life easy for yourself. At the moment I’m living in probably the most sensible house I’ve ever occupied.

It’s warm, cheap, draft-free, nothing is falling down, doesn’t leak, there is a small but easily-manaegeable garden, I don’t have to duck under beams in the kitchen, nor sit wrapped in a blanket to work. There’s no damp or mould, I don’t have to get the ladder out in a storm at 2am to hammer bits back onto the roof, the walls are roughly square and I can walk to either the railway station or fields, depending on my mood.

And it’s great. It’s a normal house. It’s not dull like I thought it might be. I wake up and there’s nothing to worry about, so I get on with my day. It might not have quite the same ‘character’ as some of my previous places (all the above examples are absolutely true), but ‘character’ tends to empty your bank account and freeze your toes.

There’s enough in life to occupy your mind without adding to it. Sometimes that means making your life easier. Living in a less exciting, less dramatic house for a little while. Doing the ‘boring’ bits of your marketing, because although it’s not as fun to, say, send an email to an old customer as it is to start a new Instagram account, it’s probably going to be more successful.

How have you – or could you – make life easier for yourself? Comment below.

Best wishes

Tom

Social media

Social media still feels like something many people don’t really understand. In fairness it’s not been around that long, and there’s a lot of rubbish is talked about it all – often charged for.

Let’s take a look at a few Twitter accounts to see what people do.

Moose Allain has 97,300 followers and a successful art business behind the account. He tweets regularly, interacts with his followers, and is generally very active. He’s not afraid to offend, but is generally very positive.

Seth Godin has 672,000 followers. He doesn’t interact with them, and uses the medium almost exclusively as an ‘announcement’ feed.

Arena Flowers have 35,700 followers. Their tweets are surreal, funny and mostly unrelated in any way to the product they sell.

GWR have 775,000 followers. They provide travel information and quickly answer users’ queries. I’m full of admiration for the amount of anger they calmly deal with.

(I, on the other hand, have 637 followers and rarely use Twitter for anything remotely constructive. But it’s not really part of my business plan, and that certainly won’t stop me having opinions. I’ve seen and made more than enough mistakes.)

I could go on. But you probably get the idea. Despite what some of the gurus will tell you, there isn’t A Single Way to use Twitter, or any other social media platform.

Use it to connect with potential leads, solve problems for customers, get involved in your local community, entertain, sell products, share your knowledge or bitch about Brexit. From a simplistic point of view, I’d argue that you’ll have more success if you do something you’re comfortable with and enthusiastic about.

And that includes doing nothing at all, just not using social media. Plenty of businesses are perfectly successful without it. Arguably, there are plenty of businesses who are more successful without it, because they’re spending their time doing other things better.

A few questions:

– How much time do you have to spare?*
– How creative are you?*
– What sort of business do you want to build, with what personality?
– What resources/ability do you have to create graphics, ideas etc.?*
– What opinion do you want people to have of you?
– Do you need a quantifiable return?

* or can afford to pay someone else for

Use social media in a positive way for you and your business. It’s full of envy and angst though, so be careful. There will always be someone pretending they’re living a better life than you are, or running a more profitable business. Much like real life, just be yourself and surround yourself with people who make you better.

What do you do? Add a comment below.

Best wishes

Tom

Advice on advice

I’m running a bit behind today because I had to write some notes on the Apple FaceTime bug: if you have an Apple device, read this: Apple FaceTime warning.

Anyway. Back to the matter in hand – and there was some great feedback from yesterday’s post which I’ll be working in to future emails (if I haven’t yet replied, I will soon). One thing which I think is important when writing about any kind of self-improvement is not to be prescriptive. And when reading about it, not to be literal.

In other words, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. You should take the time to read, understand and adapt to what suits you. Use advice as inspiration rather than a follow-it-to-the-letter-recipe.

If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t make you incompetent – despite how social media may make you feel – nor does it make the person writing the advice wrong. It means, astonishingly, that we are all different, even if we do share plenty of common traits.

There’s a huge amount of conflicting advice out there and it can be overwhelming. Many people spend more time reading about how to make their lives better than they ever do acting upon it (and there’s a good argument that it’s the imagination of a better life that’s more important to them than ever actually making any changes).

Two points:

1. Just because a particular piece of advice doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean you should give-up. Try something else.

2. If someone is doing something differently to you, especially if it’s working for them, don’t be threatened by it, or try to sabotage them. Encourage their success.

As ever, I love reading your comments. Keep them coming.

Best wishes

Tom

Memories…

I run a twice-monthly open mic night in my local pub. Musicians turn-up to play while I fill in any gaps, encourage appreciation and roughly hold it all together.

Last night was quieter than usual – the end of January perhaps, a long slog since the early-December payday. That’s fine though, and it’s a good excuse for me to work through a few songs I don’t normally get chance to play.

At the end of any such a night I find, just for a few minutes, that I have to work a bit harder to remember simple things like someone’s name.

We have limited reserves of almost everything: it’s why we have to sleep, of course. But it’s more specific than that. As I work through a few songs, especially if they’re less-familiar, I’m delving deeper into my memory. The chord shapes and progressions, the lyrics, the beat.

Decision making is exhausting. You have a finite amount of mental energy, just as you have a finite amount of physical energy.

It’s why it’s so easy to buy a bar of chocolate at the supermarket checkout after you’ve spent thirty-minutes thinking about whether to buy 3 litres of fabric softener for £3.75 or 4 litres for £4.95, how much fruit and veg you should get given that you had to throw out three rotten apples last week and why on earth they always seem to hide the eggs.

There are two things you can do: one is to train, to practice. Much like if you want to get fitter, you exercise. The second is to help yourself. One of the reasons meal planning for the week is popular is that you can go shopping and not have to make so many decisions. Even the humble shopping list helps.

We’ll dip in and out of this over the next couple of weeks. But what techniques do you use (or try to use) to reduce the mental load? Let me know in the comments below.

Best wishes

Tom

A tale of two washing machines

It was the best of Tide, it was the worst of Tide…

I really thought there was going to be an easier joke to work in there, but had to resort to an American brand of washing powder – you probably know it better as Daz. Anyway, I’m too emotionally invested to take a different approach now.

Last weekend we moved house, something of a regular theme for me but a habit I’m trying to get out of. Last time I installed the washing machine, this time my brother kindly did – and the difference was remarkable.

When I did it, I spent the first few washes anxiously listening for drips or any other calamity. This time, I chucked a load in, pressed the buttons and carried on with my day without a second thought.

We treat ourselves so differently to how we treat others. Our inner monologue will easily point out that we’re making a mistake, or bound to screw-up, whilst we’ll outwardly encourage someone else to reach for the stars.

There are two messages here: firstly, be kinder to yourself. Secondly, it’s always easier to get someone else to install a washing machine, especially if you’re secretly loitering around the old house drinking coffee while it happens.

(The contrast to all this, of course, are the people who always know best. Their own ideas are always better than anything presented to them. They refuse to accept or follow any advice. A topic for another day.)

Thoughts? Add them below.

Best wishes

Tom

Don’t dive

A goalkeeper faced with a penalty would do better not to dive – they would make a save about a third of the time if they stood still. Yet 95% of the time they dive.

It’s a great example of action bias. Doing things isn’t always a good idea. Switching lanes in traffic jam doesn’t speed you up. The most active financial traders tend to be the biggest losers. Your food will probably taste better if you don’t constant poke at it in the pan.

Goalkeepers dive because it makes it look like they are trying. It helps them to look and feel good: they feel better if they dive and concede a goal than if they stand still.

A lot of businesses make changes because they think they ought to. Changing a website because they’re bored with it. Rebranding because they’ve been looking at the logo every day for five years. Adjusting a perfectly effective email or Adwords campaign simply because nothing’s happened to it for a while.

It’s not to say you shouldn’t change things. Just that you should only do so if there’s good reason.

If I were operating a bigger agency I would be tempted to have an Uncreative Director. One who was in charge of being as boring as possible. Fighting against making unnecessary changes. Maintaining the positive status quo.

There’s an interesting video about the goalkeeper problem here, and if you have any thoughts, add them below.

Best wishes

Tom

Perception is everything

(I’ll be writing a few more emails about specific marketing topics in the next week or two so if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover, let me know – tom@tbogh.com)

Habits change when your perception does. Instead of viewing running in the rain as stupid, you view it as a release, an escape from reality. Instead of thinking about that difficult customer as a nuisance, you view them as the person who pays you money so you can be be free at the weekend. Instead of seeeing sleep as unproductive time, you view it as a welcome recharge, leaving you fresh the next day.

‘Keystone habits’, talked about by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, refer to fundamental, single things that affect your entire life in more ways than you can imagine.

Imagine (if you need to) that you live a sedentary, unhealthy life. You sleep badly, eat poorly, drink too much, don’t exercise, bored with your job: everything just feels a bit rubbish.

Then you spot a special offer for swimming pool membership. On a whim you decide to give it a go. You do a few difficult lengths but feel OK and go again next week. It gets slightly easier, but the only time you’re free to go is on a Thursday, and you normally have a few drinks and a curry on a Wednesday night with some friends.

Suddenly, you find yourself not quite drinking so much, or ordering a slightly lighter meal. You’re tired after swimming and notice that you sleep better on a Thursday night – so you swim on Tuesday too, and that helps. When you go shopping you reach for the veg instead of the frozen pizza because you read that it gives you a bit more energy.

Like the butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado, that one simple change you make – jumping into a swimming pool – has affected your whole life.

But: if you had sat down and decided to change your diet, your social habits, your sleep patterns all in one go then in all likelihood you’d have been overwhelmed and failed.

It comes back to perception. Pick one thing in your life (or not in your life) and look at it in a different way. Reframe it to mean something else. Change your approach to it, give it a chance. And see what happens.

Let me know what you have started to look at differently. Add a comment below or if you’d prefer to keep it confidential, email tom@tbogh.com

Best wishes

Tom

Permissions

When you commit to something, you have to decide what that commitment means, and how you will react if you waver.

In other words: how much permission will you give yourself to fail, or change the rules?

When I started these emails again I decided it wouldn’t matter if I missed a day – although it would be best not to. Oddly enough I find it easier to write daily than once a week or a month. The habit and the commitment are easier to grasp.

I decided it wouldn’t matter if I wrote the email in the afternoon (or early evening), or the day before if it suited whatever I had on better.

Partly this is a matter of consequnce: it’s really not the end of the world (as I once thought) if it doesn’t get sent out before 9am, or a day gets skipped. The world moves on.

Of course, there’s a good argument that giving yourself these flexible permissions could make it easier for you to miss your goals – but the flexibility relates to the importance.

If you have a big am dram show coming up, then you’ll probably not let yourself get away with not learning lines. But if you are trying to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube just for the interest, then taking a break won’t do you any harm if it lets you get some other stuff done.

Do you prefer absolute commitment to new habits? Or can you allow yourself to be flexible? Add a comment below.

Best wishes

Tom

The written word, spoken

As a product – or perhaps by-product – of the Cotswolds, I’m easily drawn back to the delights of Laurie Lee’s writing, and made a happy return to I Can’t Stay Long over the weekend.

Talking about his literate, “but by no means literary”, village upbringing in the 1920s, he writes:

“I am made uneasy by any form of writing which cannot readily be spoken aloud.”

If you want one, single, easy-to-understand rule about how to make anything you write better, read that sentence.

Again and again and again.

So much writing, especially for business, is excruciatingly awkward. The obvious blue-sky-thinking-speak is an easy example, but it’s the little things. Look how many estate agents (sorry to pick on you, but property descriptions contain some very clunky writing) begin sentences with the word ‘being’. When did you last hear someone speak something like this out loud:

“Being situated in the town centre we are primely positioned to cater to your needs.”

It doesn’t mean you should write as you talk to your children, or your friends on a night out, but read a few words out loud and see if you feel awkward.

Do you struggle with business (or any other) writing? Any tips, advice or experiences? Add a comment below.

Best wishes

Tom