Feedback: The Breakfast Of Champions.

Does My Butt Look Big In These Jeans?

People say ‘gimme feedback,’ but when you ‘give ‘em what they want,’ which is honest feedback, it comes off as harsh or whatever.   It isn’t feedback that’s sought, but approbation, adulation & affirmation.  People truly don’t want your negative ideas, they want your good feedback.   They want you to say that their but does indeed rival Megan Fox’s, and that what they’ve created is perfect.

I have a confession:  I used to be the same way.  I used to get really prickly, really hostile when people would have the temerity to say that an idea that I created wasn’t a little better than Seth Godin’s, and when my writing–if not the equal of F. Scott Fitzgerald–was certainly close.  I’d use lash out responses: what have you done, can you do better, who the f–k are you?   And then what happened?   I stopped getting free advice.   I even got some feedback that was unsolicited a few times, and again, I’d vet the person and not the idea.  I’d be in Ad Hominem city.

But do you know what happened?

I stopped getting useful feedback.

I stopped getting people that wanted to help me, and instead, I got ‘hey great work,’ all the time.   I was left with nothing to think about, and I was left with nothing to do really.   I couldn’t trust the feedback because I made it so costly to give it to me.  I did this because I was insecure, and I did this because I was needy enough to seek the chorus of yes men.   And what I made suffered.

So, now, with thanks to Teri, thanks even to Scott, and others…for ideas that are like this.   I really don’t need a lot of ‘attaboys.’  While I crave more inlinks, I don’t work at it hard enough to make it happen.

And so, slather on the venom.  I want to hear the bad things, the things I can improve on.  My ego strength can withstand it, and I won’t even try and get testy or argue.

What kind of feedback do you seek?  What do you do to make sure it’s rewarding for others to point out your inevitable mistakes?

Clearing Out Projects To Take New Ones (A Freelancer’s Mea Culpa)

Some 4am Notes On Project Management, Deadlines, and Freelancing

I’m up because I’m up.  I was feedburnering people’s blogs, I was doing what I needed to do to make sure that everything happened correctly for my clients, and that the deadlines that I promised would be met.  I was working on people in order of the amount of money that they paid me…in lieu of the order of my promised commitment.  That’s not what I want to be in.  I’m grinding them out LIFO now, and it is well…with my soul.

I go through these cycles, not often and I don’t really sweat it.  I don’t sleep, it’s 4, and I’m fine with that.  I am reasonably awake for the time of day, and I plan to power through and drop dead around 10p.  The challenge is to not brag about being up all night to the people I have to see.  We’ll get it figured out.   I’m going to the gym in an hour, just for the novelty of getting there in the morning as it opens.  It’s interesting noting my physiology, and what different things, different experiences do to me.

Right now, I don’t have any problem getting work.   I’m grateful for that in this economy.  My business is steady and picking up every month.  GenuineWife is even happy about it.   I’m not perfect–I’m reinventing the wheel too often, and I have to quit it.   I’m working to diversify out of the FIRE (FinanceInsuranceRealEstate) business.  (Though I still have a lot to give).  I’m too eager to do things, but I’m defining what I want to make.   I’m learning a bit about how I work, though.  I thought a tool like Basecamp would change my life.  I dig Basecamp a ton…and I like the tool.  It doesn’t change my life if you don’t recognize how you’re fundamentally wired.  I’m not wired to multi task, I’m wired to single task or have a couple things in order to do.  “Support” isn’t my strong point.

I  need fewer, bigger, projects.   OR, I need a PM to grind the details and to continue to create the process.  Because I was worried about some impending doom, and hungry Jack…everything that I could do, I basically took in every paying client that I could find.   Anyone that didn’t have a huge credit risk or sell Porno, I took in.   And I kept cold calling, drumming up business.  That meant that I filled Basecamp up and had more to do.   And less, overall, was getting done because I was getting ‘where’s my deal’ IMs/calls/emails.   The week before thanksgiving was the worst, and I think I let lots of folks donw.

The reason I took half the work I did wasn’t because I liked it…it was because I figured new and more and better work was never coming… I still have the Ohio Scarcity mentality–that if I don’t really crank, I’ll die.  But, the quality of my delivered stuff went down and (B) the deadlines got missed.  And deadlines are the only the currency that I can trade in. Right Right Now’s core premise is hitting a deadline with a fiduciary level talent.  I spent the last two weeks really hammering details of little projects.   Doing blogs, instead of pursuing my muse.   And I felt better.    Each time I got to close out of Basecamp made me smile a little more.   Going from 18 to 12 to 9…feels good, and then having the big projects under “my” company instead of others…felt better.   Each one loosened the noose around my neck and away from that doomfog that comes to cause procrastination.

I’m not out of it, but it’s managable, and I no longer worry that I’m never gonna get control again.  I got a lot handled and controlled and now I’m in a position where I feel like if I can’t take new work soon, I’ll be able to work ON my business (getting my website done, getting a core cadre of freelancers vetted, getting more of a sales process/bidding process).

I wanted to make some cumbersome thing, but right now, I think I will do the projects 60-40 with 10% going to a PM, 30% going to me, and 55-60% going to the person that executes for me…provided they execute at the grown up level and need little folllow up.   This is a draft–I’m sure I’ll revise it, but I’ve got a welcome freelancers letter that I think works well.  (See it here) It’s got some of the Ohio Scarcity that I wanna avoid in it, and so I’ll have to keep thinking about it.

I was going to do it in some more complicated/less transparent way, but I don’t really want bookkeeping hassles.  I paid a bunch of people this week and it was stupid.   I’ll noodle that over the holidays.  I want to be different than a contract house, to honor freelancers, and to make sure that a business runs well.  I can sell jobs, no problem.  A straight percentage does things.

My friend Laura talks to me about really minding my store and keeping all expenses down.  She laughed at my willingness to pay paypal’s vig when authorize had a lower one.  OK fine.  But really, instead of maximizing every single dime I get, why not really work hard.  Not having to think about stuff, not having an extra password and an extra loop to process is well worth it to me.   I have plenty of tools, kludges, and places to ‘check’ as it is.    If paypal charges more, but I have less to think about and a 60 day chargeback window, I’m a happy dude.

Anyway, if you’ve got a project due it’s on its way.  I’m not taking in new work till I get my current stuff completed, my muse launched, etc.   I’m cafinated and going tothe gym now.

Scheduled this for 7:34.   Only two weeks and 8? working days left this year.  One week & one day till Christmas.

Perfectionism, Learning F–k Therapy.

Permission to think your thougths.  That’s what Teri called F–k Therapy, the new book that I’ve got coming out in just about 36 hours.  I’m excited about it because I’m proud of it.  I learned the mechanics of making an e-book with LO Survial guide (buy it because I AM taking it down).  This time, I’m going to learn how to promote it, as I go.  I’m excited about it.

Beyond the kitschy BS that we used to make, Steve and I gave every effort to make some good advice.   And it’s a blast, saying that your basement doesn’t need to look like Brutus Buckeye’s asshole, and making money doing it.  It’s going to be a blast promoting this over the holiday break, and doing what it it takes to sell this thing.  And it’s going to be a blast to do this.

Stay tuned compadres.  More f–king goodness is available.

Also–for those of you that read me, I’m going to give away the 1.0 and 2.0 stuff that gets me more freelance business than I cn handle.  I want to make sure that I keep freelancing alive and kickin’ and thus, in the sidebar is a way to get my e-book.  Yes, I want to build my mailing list, but yes, I also think that permission rented is permission destroyed.  So sign up, especially if you’re a freelancer.

Freaky Good Blog Post.

So I’m cruising the web as I finish up F–k therapy, loooking for CC licensed work to use for commercial purposes. I see a couple of good images, and then an incredible tutorial on how to create propiganda:

http://thefishery.typepad.com/the_fishery/2008/08/why-obama-may-n.html

Go look for yourselves. AMAZING.

More posts soon, including one on how to write an ebook.

F–k therapy is two weeks late, but friends, it’s the best thing I’ve done.

http://thefishery.typepad.com/the_fishery/2008/08/why-obama-may-n.html

Fun Little Link Post:

First, for those of you that do this sort of thing:

www.chrisbrogan.com/if-i-started-today great post by the illustrious CB on what he’d do now.

Second:

DoFollow:  This builds your backlinks.  No substitute for mattering, but here we go:

http://seoimp.blogspot.com/2008/12/more-then-1000-dofollow-blogs.html

LifeHacker some time ago had a place to go to get your username on all sorts of blogs:

http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/lifehacker/full/~3/401713928/find-out-where-a-username-is-already-registered

Then Athol said g’bye.  I liked Athol.

Freelance Switch had a fab. post the other day: feedproxy.google.com/~r/FreelanceSwitch/~3/4GBo…

Ok, it was a month ago.

Remember Brother Jed?  He doesn’t show up in Reason very much, so here he is.

Andy Whiman’s taste is better than ours.  Here’s his list of good albums for 2008.  His blog is currently fantastic, mixing metaphysics, rock and roll and tech writing.

Precious and Abundant: Stealing Ideas is Obsolete

Jonathan Fields got me thinking in this post:

http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/steal-this-idea-im-begging-you/

Regarding ideas, he writes:

If it’s that good, people will try to knock it off the moment you gain any level of traction, notoriety or both. Maybe sooner. In fact, if they don’t, it just may speak to the fact that what you’ve got is either not nearly as cool as you think it is or you’re not able to communicate it’s coolness…

I know that people will steal ideas.  I steal ideas.   I work with great people at places like Lenderama and BHB and those folks throw off great ideas all the time.  For free.  For real, and they keep on doing it, all the time.  One of my synapses will fire a half formed idea, and then Tood or Greg or Pat will throw off some nugget that I didn’t know before.  And I’ll be enriched with thoughts and thought, and I’ll be able to do my job more effectively.  These ideas are given away for free.  All the time.

And they are precious.  Look–if we apply the lessons that are here already for the taking, we’re going to get so far ahead of the curve, so enriched, so smart, that we’ll never finish.   The value of Twitter is mostly that we see other brains having firing synapes together.  Ideas are everwhere, and they’re precious.  An idea to use a spammy plugin like FeedWordPress to create a non spammy blog network came out of a conversation.  Anyone can use it.  There you go.  It just requires putting it into use.

And there’s the rub, isn’t it?  We all know essentially, in broad strokes, what to do to to make life happen.  We know that we need to pick up the phone and call people, we know we need to connect, think, help, add value.   And yet, we find ourselves not executing because the next big idea is right around the corner.   Well, the next big thing…is simply executing what we do well already.  It’s taking the bull by the horns and getting things DONE and not started.  Execution is more profitable than shere creativity.

There is nothing staggeringly new about what’s happening now.  The best of what we do is about elegance, not novelty.  Facebook could have been twitter, could have kept twitter from happening.  They didn’t go that route.  Twitter could have been blogging.  Livejournal could have been WordPress.  Etc.  Etc.   All of those ideas were half thefts, and just SCAMPER type solutions.    What was different is execution.  There isn’t really an ‘information advantage’ out there right now that has a lot of meaning, except in the realm of execution, finishing projects, getitng things all the way done.

Even though they are abundant–ideas are precious.  Having what it takes to finish, to do, to be, to have whatever we seek…starts with being created in the mind.   Instead of fighting over who owns the knife, we should help one another grow a bigger pie.  Or mix a better metaphor.   All it takes is a realization that scarcity and value are different things.  In an abundant world, we can continue to freely throw off knowledge.  Hoarding knowledge is going to become a thing of the past.

How can we encourage others to think?

How can we encourage ourselves to think?

How can we continue to make sure ideas grow?

We’re Sending Help Right Away Mrs. Fletcher!

I need a full time implementer.  I need him or her now.  Because as it stands, I’m able to write, and I’m able to sell and I’m able to do light coding, video editing, etc.   I’m able to decipher my client’s specs.  But I have dozens of tiny tasks that take time to do, and lots of people could do.   I’m better used as a marketer and an evangelist and sales guy.  I want an implementer that doesn’t need to be baby sat or coddled with every single milestone met.   And those people are rarer than salesguys.  Sales guys move the world, no doubt.

My clients should get more out of me than they are–but selling is the fun part.  Meeting people, getting deals in the door.   I care about the standards I uphold, but really, it’s a thrill to be able to take a project in and know it’ll get done.   I wish I knew it’d be done perfectly, and not by me.  That’s the next step.

It’s the case though–that the toughness of the times and the fact that I’m still punch drunk from paying Uncle…that I’ve got enough scarcity-mentality in me I’m not willing to give up the significant cut in revenue it takes to grow.   As an economist, this decision should be easy.  My output is sales.  That’s where I’ve got a competitive advantage.  My thick skin, can do attitude and General Pattonesque ethos makes me take those hills.  Even in this economy I’ll take in work.   I need to get it through basecamp so I can honor my commitments.

I think the thing that I need to keep to is this: anything that’s NOT marketing or writing, I don’t do.  That means WP setup, that means DNS issues, that means even project management.  I want to sell more widgets, not acquire the skills I need as a coder.

I had a goal to hire a project manager by EOY.  I didn’t and it doesn’t appear that I’m going to be able to.  But what I can do is delegate more, and get stuff off of my plate…so I can honorably put more on my plate.

A Quick Aside about NLP: At The Gym.

Yesterday I was beat down at the gym.  I did something like 110 minutes of cardio divided between two sessions, and I did arms.  I was also recovering from the exhausting workout Sunday where I decided doing 5 sets of lunges was a stellar idea.

So going up the stairs to my second workout took effort.  I was clearly dragging.  There are two flights of stairs up to my gym, and each one took effort.  I didn’t look like I had any energy, and I was looking forward to just being done.   To coming home, to going to bed.  Anyway, I looked at myself in the big mirror and caught an image of me dragging ass.

So I said to myself: “Self, what would you look like if you were looking forward to this trip.”  And so I put some false bounce in my step.  It hurt a little going up each step, but it ws managable.  And I hopped and danced a little, just put the spring in the step that you do when you’re looking forward .

And instantly I felt better.   It wasn’t perfect, but I felt like I was glad and lucky to be there, and to have this opportunity to make my body healthy.   I still felt the sore, but my mind went to those times where you just float up the stairs and run around.

So I’d say a miniexperiment with NLP led me to believe that it works OK.

More in a bit.  I’m behind on lots of stuff, as the sidebar reflects.

Planning for the Loss of Momentum On A Project.

According to Basecamp, I have 13 projects right now, in various stages of completion.   Everything from blogging work to setting up my long delayed personal website at http://rightrightnow.com (I’ve had more fun connecting with people here).   I have two ebooks I plan on getting out, and about 6 blogs do deliver for clients by the EOY.  It’s all manageable stuff, most of the work is waiting on feedback, and I have plausible reasons (people not calling me back) for most of the issues.

Problem is, some of the stuff has been going on for weeks, and it is a momentum killer.   We only have some limited amount of bandwidth and we can’t have umpteen half done projects waiting for us.  David Allen aptly puts out the notion that each unprocessed loop consumes some amount of psychic RAM that keeps us from doing things more effectively.  And this is true (though I’ve taken in a ton of work lately).   So–in addition to the planning that I do, I have to have an action plan for when a project loses momentum–what to do.

I don’t really know the answer for this.   Sometimes the client absorbs the energy and is the obstacle, sometimes it’s circumstances (and sometimes, it’s simply my fault).   A conscientious freelancer needs to have a plan in place for this stuff though.  It’s not really about ‘causing’ or ‘manifesting,’ the loss of momentum.   It’s about having a plan in place to ensure it never happens.   So…instead of phrasing it ‘planning for the loss of momentum.’  Let’s say ‘ensuring that projects go fast and well,’ and accounting for normality.

Here are thoughts on how to do it–none of them are exhaustive–or even complete.  This is more or less a brainstorm:

  • Acknowledge the issue proactively at the beginning of projects.  “We’re going to plan–in advance–for the BS that happens on projects…and do something about it.”
  • Financial Incentives: Clients can be motivated by money, and having an understanding that if we have to chase down documents, etc, etc, we charge more than if we don’t.  Making this explicit can help everyone get the deadline done faster.
  • Check in:  Schedule Check ins on your calendar periodically, and don’t accept reschedules.   Have a mutual commitment to one another.
  • Stay far far ahead of deadlines: This is way more important than you think–really.   If you stay out in front, then there no issues in that regard.

This is preventive.  When momentum is lost, what then:

  • Regroup ASAP.  Reschedule milestones and deadlines ASAP.
  • Try to abbreviate the remaining workdays till project delivery & focus on the ‘lost sheep.’
  • Have a ‘back on track’ plan written in advance for the major stuff you do frequently.
  • Deliver SOMETHING the day you recognize momentum is gone, daddy, gone…a milestone, anything.  Stop other projects till the last sheep is in the fold.

I think that’s it for now.

Making A Blog More Popular Using A Few Easy Tools.

I’m not a huge fan of twitter.  I use it, but I have a highly filtered stream that I mostly ignore (except–of course–when they are talking about me).  But…since I’ve been playing with some feeds for Tim and Julie, using the “Feed WordPress” plugin for what I want to do.

Simply put, I already use “twitter tools” to auto post blog stuff to here and Facebook.  Works fine, if not perfectly.  It’s one thing I don’t have to do and it seems to have increased my Twitterer Followers and FB follwowers in my virtual dick waving contest to collect people.  I don’t ‘try’ that hard, but I want ot think it through.

Since Josh says to me that comments beget comments, and I happen to agree, why not use Feedwordpress + Twitter tools to beget yourself some comments.

Here’s what I’ll be doing, and this may be a kudge on a kludge.

I’ll set up a blog @ comments.genuinechris.com, and I’ll feed it with the comment stream of approved comments.  I’ll make sure all nofollow tags are removed.

Then, I’ll install twittertools to that.  And each time I get a comment, it’ll show up in my twitterstream, inviting more people into my house to have a ‘spirited debate’ with me, to tell me I’m full of it, or to tell me what’s what.

This should not take long at all–it’s on the list for tomorrow.

What *Really* Motivates You: Finding the Stuff That Makes Your Goals Effortless.

Effortless.

That’s an idea, isn’t it?    What if everything you wanted could be had effortlessly?   What if it wasn’t a struggle to…figure out how to lose weight, to be nice to your kids, make money or write that novel?

The key is not to try harder, to work more, and to struggle more fervently against resistance and distraction.   Engagement and effort is a big deal, it helps a lot.

But really–truly–what matters in reality is none of that.  It’s finding out what you’d really run through walls for.  If you’re trying to use a false motivator to try to get after, it’s never gonna work.  I don’t care about ‘being healthy for my kids,’ in any real way.   I do care about ‘being a sexy bastard.’

So when I used ‘being healthy for Jack’ or ‘setting a good example,’ I would flail around relosing and gaining the same 12 pounds cyclically.  All the time.   I trended down in 2008, but not by much. Now?  Being a sexy bastard matters.  It’s a Real Goal instead of a goal I think I should have.  So it’s easy as hell to pass up the cheeseburgers, and get on the goddamn eliptical.  I’m losing a solid 4# a week, week in and week out.  I’ll hit my long term goal in March or April of next year.  And…it’s exciting.  I feel WAY better than I have, more alive.  More ready to go to war, to battle.

It’s takes no mental energy because I’ve learned what it is that I really want.  Not what society thinks I should want, but what I do want. Big difference.  Seismic.

So–think about it–what really motivates you?  Not “what do you think you should be motivated by,” but “what are you motivated by.”  Don’t be embarrassed about it, don’t minimize it, embrace it…let it be your muse and use it as long as you can.   It’s a lot more ‘noble’ to be motivated by the health and wellness part of life than it is to want to be a head turning seductive and sexy bastard.

But I’m not noble.  I will do my duty and honor my commitments, but I’m unable to care about what I ‘should’ care about.  However, what I ‘should’ care about will benefit from me being better, stronger faster.

I gotta know:  what truly motivates you?