What Winter Storm Pax Has Taught Me

Winter Storm Pax has taken the South by storm (pardon the pun). In Georgia, around 105,000 people were or are still without power. Over half a million people were part of the Southern black-out in Virginia, Albama, and Georgia in total. I am part of the fortunate few that does not have to wait until Saturday (February 15th) or later to have service restored. It’s been quite an experience!

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It was scary at first feeling so isolated. Nights were cold and dark. Roads were blocked and there was not much to do. With no Internet access and limited cell phone service (and battery life), it was like a taste of the apocalypse to some. Sure, that may seem extreme but, in our connected culture, never underestimate the effects of isolation and doing things the slow way!

Three whole days of no power has given me plenty of time to reflect on a number of things. Part of me is disappointed power was not restored sooner.  I was caught in the midst of scheduling a bunch of posts and preparing some new shows. We had to cancel HorsePLAY! LIVE last night, which sucks, but we’ll bounce back!

Allow me to share some introspective and personal development tidbits…

Gratitude & Perspective

Like many of the folks in Augusta and the CSRA, I am grateful to have my electricity return.  It was easy to get bitter about being in the dark (quite literally) but when you think about all the engineers, police officers, fire men, and other emergency personnel away from their families for long stretches of time, a fresh perspective dispeled such angst. Some of these folks worked double or triple shifts to bring people back online quickly.

We all have had our own trials and tribulations to deal with during the aftermath of Winter Storm Pax.  Some have had damage to their homes and vehicles, others have had to deal with injuries and death. These realizations are humbling.  I am grateful now, more than ever, for what My family has and less worried about what we lack.

Without this perspective, it would be easy to be cynical or jaded. One could say the diligent efforts of Georgia Power and other companies was purely driven by self-interest; after all, getting customers back online ensures billability. On the flip side, we have already established the diligence and sacrificed required to restore electrical grids throughout the South. Let’s not forget the efforts to clear all the trees and roads.

As a whole, I think many of us focus too much on white whine and first-world problems. We forget how much bigger the world is and how fortunate we really are. Be wary not to develop a sense of entitlement, folks. Every day is truly a blessing!

My thanks go out to those facing the bitter cold and dangers while helping restore order!

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Staying On Spec & Other Consulting / Subcontracting Tips

Thanks to Triberr, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Google+ (okay, sometimes LinkedIn and Facebook too), I have gotten to know many of you in the blogosphere and B2B space. I don’t need to tell you how hard consulting is, especially if you work from home. Understanding our collective challenges and drawing from our discussions and collaborations together, I have compiled some handy-dandy tips and insights. Today, amidst all the buzz about Valve announcements and SteamOS, I’d like to take a look at a subject that I can (and will) write a book about:

Consulting & Subcontracting Tips: How to Play Nice with Cients and Their Contractors / Coordinators

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Subcontracting is probably the easiest way to bridge the gap between major projects and supplement our existing revenue streams. Consultants and agencies almost always will take help if they have overflow work and feel overwhelmed. The risks and challenges I have experienced firsthand are as follows:

  • Less opportunity to build a relationship with the client.
  • Usually more about tactics than strategy and creative control.
  • As a result of the aforementioned, you essentially have to be a hired monkey.
  • Chances are your relationship will be short-lived regardless of value added.
  • More taking orders than providing proven strategies and complete solutions.
  • Keeping the relationship going usually means stroking several egos.
  • Essentially becoming a ghost or uncredited entity.

In short, you have to do as you’re told even if you have a better, more cost-effective solution. You have to swallow your pride and realize a subcontractor relationship may only serve as a brief income source and, if you’re lucky, it will translate into referrals and full-time roles.

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Rich Habits Book Review & Yahoo! Financially Fit Commentary

“Rich Habits” by Thomas C. Corley is by far one of the most influential books of this decade and yet there are still countless people who are not familiar with the concepts therein. As I write this, Tom Corley’s book has hit #14 overall on Amazon Books and #1 in Personal Finance. Finance and Business are good categories, but this book goes well beyond finances and material things, though that may be the initial hook for most. Rich Habits is a book about transforming your lifestyle and being more effective in all our pursuits. As such, this book is very similar to what “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey shares though I would say Corley’s guide is much more actionable, practical, and concise. This is a lifestyle book that transforms our perspectives and strengthens relationships.

"Rich Habits" By Thomas C. Corley

What’s interesting to me as an online entrepreneur, writer/blogger, social media specialist, and content marketer, everyone points to books like “Content Rules” (which I felt was highly over-rated and mostly regurgitated rhetoric), but such books mainly circulate the same tactics and strategies everyone else is sharing. What’s worse is that these books do not address the root causes behind common issues. As a whole, personal development books skip the initial struggle and everyday person perspectives, jumping straight to the assumption of “you’ve made it already but now you can make it further”.

Dino Dogan of Triberr said on the #NJAB – Not Just Another Business – Podcast (I believe episode 3.75 or 3.99), and I paraphrase, “The successful [bloggers] share outdated advice that does not apply to those joining the game now.. They had timing on their side and, for the rest of us, success is a grind.”

Rich Habits shares similar insight by eliminating the excuses and obstacles we often make for ourselves. It’s no longer merely about having good timing or [random] good luck. Tom Corley stresses the importance of developing daily habits that will help us create our own opportunities and increase the chances of having really good luck.

Likely the biggest reason Rich Habits holds such a high rank in my rather massive book collection is not because Tom is my client (which he is) but simply because this book cuts all the junk out and focuses on what really matters. Tom sees the urgency in making changes immediately so he gets straight to the point. More importantly, the stories and lessons are relevant to anyone from any background, so long as you are serious about really making a change in your life. This book empowers the lower and middle class in ways few other books have ever even attempted.

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Why It Might Be Time To Dump Facebook

Everywhere I turn, a friend or colleague tells me Facebook recently sent them a nastygram about spammy behavior.  Each time, we have a laugh about it..  until someone gets suspended for the most asenine of reasons.  I have not been a fan of Facebook for a while but now it is only getting worse.  Let’s just say I am glad I did not put all my eggs in one basket…

As a free platform with full functionality out of the box, Facebook was a strong social network.  It started as a site for college students to network with each other and turned into something much bigger and better.  Facebook has blown up and become bigger than I am sure they originally anticipated.  In my humble opinion, they became too big too fast.

Due to the rapid surge in growth (and selling out with their IPO, which means now it’s all about keeping shareholders, not users, happy), Facebook has scurried to find ways to monetize.  Their strategy has been what we see so often: take away what we were already getting for free and water down the rest, essentially forcing people to pay if they want the same functionality.  It’s the old bait-and-switch at work.

The Facebook Bait-And-Switch - Make Friends, Then Pay For Them

Facebook – you don’t own my friends and fans!

The Facebook model is brilliant yet tragically commonplace: give it away for free, create a dependency (or addiction), then monetize and take our candy away.  On Facebook, we make friends and get fans only to find out they are Facebook’s property.  Fan Pages are almost completely useless now as only a small percentage of your subscribers will see updates unless you pony up some money.

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Support-A-Thon: What’s Your Digital Footprint Say About You?

This Support-A-Thon series was started as a way to help each other out with simple tips and initiatives we can start to implement TODAY. It’s also a great opportunity to share best practices and network further. Today, we’ll look search engine nuances, intellectual property theft, and how SERPs are replacing traditional resumes, amongst other things.

For our purposes, our digital footprint is essentially the collection of your online content. Thing is, content loosely defines a whole slew of things we do online and offline. In cyberspace, content includes, but is not limited to:

  • tweets
  • blog posts
  • comments
  • forums/discussion boards
  • status updates

And that’s just focusing on the stuff that is in public domains. These are all things that can be quoted, archived, forwarded, and, stolen.

With the speed of information delivery today, we must be mindful that any content we put out there can and will be used in some way we may not have originally intended or planned for.

Within minutes, that typo you made will be exposed to hundreds, thousands, then potentially millions of people! EEK. Continue reading

Your Success In Simple Terms (K.I.S.S. Revisited)

Storm and Wolverine kiss in an alternate timeline.

There

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Stupid (or, as some prefer, Keep It Simple and Succinct).  You probably hear it used a lot and, as a result, it has become a bit of an empty phrase.

So, what does it really mean?

I strongly believe the intimacy shown in the above picture is something we small business folks should strive for: warm connections.

Let’s move away from the things that are empty and make us into cold, soulless entities. When you simplify, you have more time to focus on the good things life has to offer. Believe me, I know I could work on this more because I spread myself thin sometimes.

Intimacy and engagement (UNmarketing, if you prefer) go hand in hand.. And they make human interaction much more meaningful and fulfilling.

Now, I’m not saying we should go around being best friends with all our clients and prospects.  That’s just not realistic. What I am suggesting here is that we take a more personal approach to things, engage people, and focus on the things that really matterContinue reading

No Bull: Taking No Prisoners When Telling Compelling Stories

I have a TON of content in the pipelines but I think this is one of those emotionally-charged articles that simply cannot wait. I’ve been catching up with my social media optimization (SMO) and blogging efforts. In doing so, I’ve met some really AWESOME geeks that, in a few words, have reminded me why I love a good storyteller!

I want to talk about two of these awesome geeks, little-known (at least for now) rockstar bloggers and storytellers, the elusive JJ and the ass-kicking Spartan Dino Dogan. I’m not usually one for fanboy rhetoric, I deplore it actually, but these two are amazing bloggers, brilliant visionaries, and smart business people. Here’s the main reason why:

They consult and insult in a professional manner that drives REAL value, without hype or excessive bias.

In our a world full of opinions, over-zealous believers (in anything, not just religion), and blind fanaticism, we’re bound to offend some with our contrasting thoughts and beliefs. The stronger our convictions, the stronger the offenses. Julie and Dino realize this so they don’t bother to walk on egg shells. They simply share their positions and beliefs on things and then explain what brought them to formulate their overall worldview and principles.

When sharing information and opinions, you have to balance passion in what you believe to be true or right with being open-minded and sensitive. The latter is huge. If you make some strong statements, be ready to back them up and receive criticism, which leads me to the next point…

Criticism is a GOOD thing.

I’d like to think that I am rather humble and approachable, but even I get excited when buckets of accolades come pouring in. Everyone needs some degree of ego rubbing and I’ll admit it’s nice. Affirmation, motivation, and support keep us driven and there’s only so much you can do within yourself to meet those inherent needs. We humans are social creatures, even if some of us dislike the masses due to ignorance and chest-beating hypocrisy.

Paul Wolfe’s article on stopping comment luvin’ really drives home what may be uncomfortable truths to some. Here’s my own take-aways or, better yet, revelations from the article:

  • Not everyone likes you.
  • Most will oppose you.
  • You may be “flying blind”.
  • Your ideas may just suck.

Let’s be REAL here: it’d be a dreadfully boring world if we all agreed on everything. The things that separate us can also bring us together. If you’re mature and dynamic enough, you’ll learn and change, as needed.

The real rub here is that your truth may be someone else’s lie. The bigger you get (and the more pervasive your personal brand, or virtual resume, becomes), the more you will be inevitably scrutinized and insulted. This is a necessary evil if you want to improve yourself and evolve your ideas.

I’ll recycle one of my favorite quotes to put it simply (and less wordy than I usually do):

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. –Arthur Schopenhauer

What this means to you and I is that great thinkers and innovators will always be met with contention. There is a very thin, almost invisible line between genius and crazy. You may be the latter but you never know until you take the plunge. To that end, I like Chris Brogan’s painfully simple “Launch And Learn” system: don’t over-think or worry, just go out and do it!

A simple shift of perspective goes a long way. Instead of viewing critics as mere trolls, try to draw value from what they say, even if the message is muddled with insults and stupidity. Call me a silly optimist but every bad situation can be turned around into something good!

Don’t just disagree for the sake of disagreeing.

Sure, I just said it’s good to disagree or be disagreed with but now I’m contradicting myself? I’m such a hypocrite (that’s good too because it shows evolving thoughts and personal growth). Seriously, what I mean here is simple: don’t be THAT guy.

Who is THAT guy?

The guy in question is the elusive individual that some refer to as a know-it-all or proudly stupid. These are folks that may be too oblivious or self-absorbed to see that they are just ignorant. They may dress up their attacks with so-called good intentions but, really, they just like to get a rise out of people.

These same people make bold statements to draw fodder for their mental warfare. It’s all about trying to uncover supposed fallacy, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy. That guy likes to discredit people to steal their thunder. Quite often, it’s because they have no real good ideas so might as well shoot down those others share openly. Whatever their motives, they are dangerous because they use knowledge for selfish and/or destructive things.

Don’t be THAT guy, m’kay?

You. are. a. cunt.

Depending on who you are, you’ll either laugh at that or be grossly offended.

Marketing, creative works, communication, business, simple human interaction.. Everything that involves opening up, storytelling, and being a bit vulnerable has a scary risk: people will often resort to insults when you made them feel small. You may have done it on purpose or by accident. Either way, you have to deal with it. Ignorance set ablaze can be quite damaging, to say the very least.

Women particularly get a raw deal when it comes to “getting intimate” with an audience. If a man shares a strong opinion, he is considered insightful or revolutionary (insert synonyms and other buzz words HERE). When a woman does the same thing, she is merely opinionated.. Or a cunt.

If communication is at the core of your business, and it should be, you have to become a word maven. Be wary of words and their connotations. Some topics and words are hot-button items, sure to set someone off. On the flip side, don’t be easy to offend. Words are, ultimately, what you make of them.

If heated debate after sharing a compelling story is unavoidable, try the following:

  • Thank them for the participation.
  • Relate to their stance somehow.
  • Share a story and your findings thereof.
  • Be authentic and as civil as possible.

Being the bigger person pays huge dividends and it’ll make the other person look like more of an ass too, if the situation calls for it. Kill ’em with kindness, as they say. Sound like a plan?

Take no prisoners. Go for the gusto. Stir debate. RAWR.

Back to Dino and JJ! Did I mention I love these two geeks? While their target audiences are slightly different, they both excite me because they take no prisoners. Love them or hate them, they keep pushing onward. They go all the way, with no hesitation, stirring debate to provoke thoughts and sharing useful, valuable stuff every step of the way. It’s awe-inspiring!

They each have their own unique style, underlying themes, and target audiences but they both:

  • Tell it how it is, making no apologies about it. At the same time, they’re not looking to call people out or mud-sling.
  • Write in a hard-nosed, emotionally-stirring manner that still manages to be focused, direct, and objective.
  • Value their supporters in real ways, rather than merely patronizing them.
  • Avoid hype and excessive bias or spin, sticking to facts and figures.
  • Share stories we can all relate to somehow, even if the subject matter is a bit obscure to some.
  • Know when to rub egos or give you a dose of reality, as needed (SEE Insultant and Consultant in Dino’s House (DIYBlogger.net))

Last but not least, JJ and Dino are amazing at edifying their peers and supporters. This makes stories really hit home for a wider audience. Their creative works feel very warm and inclusive. They’re not creating little elitist clubs for mere self-gratification and that, on it’s own, is truly remarkable!

Tell your story and be authentic.

Let’s gather around the campfire…

Good storytelling is hard to come by. Authentic experiences are all the more rare. With all the faceless, soulless entities out there, it’s easy to stand out if you’re simply being REAL. Each and every day, I am trying to become a better storyteller because I know it’ll help me become a better person (yes, it sounds cheesy.. sue me). More importantly, I know I am providing unique, valuable content, not peddling propaganda, rehashed junk, and silly, empty rhetoric.

Simply put, being authentic means not being under-handed. Be direct with your ideas and forthcoming with intentions. Don’t try to be a salesperson. Just do something that people will want to talk about and good things will come.

I know I derailed here a bit but I urge you to read any articles written by Dino, JJ, and their friends. It’s almost always guaranteed to be a good read if you keep an open mind. Just remember: when you tell a story, talk TO me, not AT me. Remarkable stories turn into engaging conversations.

Let’s Discuss:

Think back to the last time someone told you a story. Consider what inspired you or pissed you off…

  • What makes you feel like you really connect with someone, even if only afforded a few minutes to interact?
  • Do you prefer a more preachy or serious tone, or something different?
  • What differentiates storytellers most for you (think businesses, web sites, blogs, and other stuff)?
  • How do you think a creative gets a message to really hit home with an audience?

Any other thoughts? Please share. If you disagree with me, even better. Let’s be mindful of the other guests: keep it clean and constructive. I look forward to your wonderful and thought-provoking ideas, folks!