Doing It For Real

Since I’ve been saying this blog is only practice, in a couple of days I’m going to do it for real and do the sort of thing I’ve meant to do for ages.

That’s right: start a flagship blog that joins the bretheren of the doers.

GenuineChris.Com works fine as a personal blog, but it doesn’t work that well as a platform for anything else: I want a space where I can talk about things, and this is sort of designed to be an archive. 

Not a platform.

So I’ll be doing it for real starting on Monday 2/24/14.

I don’t have any products planned or made, but I do mean to be as valuable as possible to others.

This blog was practice.

Still Is.

This is a rough draft, a place where I can rant and lope and lean and loaf and not have to overthink or overproduce anything.

Monday.

Lots of configuring to do.

The Barrier

Between you and everything good that you want there’s a barrier.

Most people that want to write for a living, to be in creative services encounter this and they give up.

Most people that want a job “in their field” don’t cross this.  

Thing is, across the barrier is a better life, a legitimately different, completely better life. I’ve crossed it a couple different times. It feels better, work matters, projects get finished and sometimes you can feel exaltation.  

The barrier, though, has a disproportionate impact on your life. It’s the reason why people don’t succeed:

They are not willing to endure 200 hours of agony.  

That’s why would-be writers are stuck in analyst jobs. It’s why bloggers never break out of the pack.  It’s why web designers get stuck with the same shitty clients year after year.

To turn pro – in a meaningful way – you have to endure 200 hours of agony.  Nobody wants to. 

It might mean that a writer has to cold call to get work.

It might mean finishing your website.

But there’s always a barrier at every level you want to go to, and the barrier means that you have to work, grind, put  in the time. And once you cross there is a a disproportionate impact on your life.

Most writers never really cross it, so they get stuck in jobs that aren’t writing. 

I don’t code because I never put the time in (and it seems I may never do it).  To level up Simplifilm, we have a barrier we have to cross.  It’s never pleasant. It’s always uncertain, and I’m guessing 200 hours is the minimum engagement required.

When we endure it we can gain insight and start to do meaningful work.

And yes, it counts towards our 10,000 hours.

Of Course, Hacker News Will Hate It.

The second part about being a writer is what my friend Greg Swann said.

Cultivate Indifference.

Hacker news will hate anything you make. Because the only thing they do is spread disgust.

So a professional writer will deal with this, and everyone says it is coming. It comes with success of any kind.

Some of our critics are even correct in their assessments of us. Sometimes people take shots and make valid points.  We’re not perfect, and we may have missed a point or two.

But ALL of this is easy.  As my friend Scott says, clever is cheap. It’s simple, it’s too easy by half, and it never matters.

The clever people aren’t “haters,” they are just focused on stuff that matters to them.  A soldier doesn’t need flowers. A coder doesn’t need sales advice. So they may have a first reaction to scoff, and since people who write are smart, it can sting.

No worries.  No need to listen.

Make great stuff that might 3% of the world. That’s more impact than most people have. Less than 2% of the world bought Harry Potter or The Davinci Code.

Finally: have empathy for haters. Don’t worry that the hate you, don’t fight back. Let it roll off your back.

How To Get Paid To Write (Pt. I).

For a writer, getting clients is tricky as hell. 

Great people, accomplished people, people with budgets generally don’t want to pay for writing.

For a few reasons:

1.) They think they can write (and they aren’t usually wrong).
2.) They are besieged with a bunch of mediocrities grinding the price down.
3.)  Writers are obsessed with winning the wrong war (more in a moment).

If the goal of a paid writer is to write why not create products around it. Products like this:

1.) A marketing review: I’ll review your copy and suggest revisions and experiments to tinker with. I’ll make sure you have the basics covered (the core pages are good).

2.) A readiness check: I’ll make sure your scent trail is sensible, and I’ll make recommendations to improve it.

3.) A sales letter/video sales letter: I’ll write and tweak a long letter to help you and your clients clarify your marketing.

4.) An ad campaign: I’ll write you an ad campaign and I’ll make it congruent with what you’re doing.

5.) An auto-responder: I’ll write and implement an auto responder in Aweber, Mailchimp or InfusionSoft to help you get going.

All of these are reliefs.  All of these are breaths of fresh air and something I (a good writer) would probably pay for.  But writers are obsessed with getting their clients to “pay for writing” which nobody wants to do. Nobody wants to pay for writing because the client believes that they can write.

So you package writing as something else, and you charge a price for it. That price will include writing, and it will establish you as a real pro.

This is What You Wanted. Stop Crying

We have more open projects and work than we have ever had. 

It’s hectic. It’s intense. There is lots to do.

And I’ve been muttering about it. Worrying. I don’t do that much work when it comes to projects. I do some, sure. But not that much. Really.

And I’ve been crying like a baby in this teeter-toter battle between being self congratulatory and humble-bragging. “Oh, I have ALL these CLIENTS, poor ME.”

This was always going to happen. This is what I set out to do.

So why, when it starts to happen, do we freak out? 

On Productivity

During times of crisis I am generally more productive than I ordinarily am able to be. I don’t know why this is, but it’s always been that way. I don’t scroll Facebook. I don’t spend time dealing with minutia. Things are falling apart, and I’m generally more steady.

The ‘zone’ I get into is something that I’m not able to normally acquire: sometimes it takes effort to do a trivial (but boring) task.  When something bad is happening I buckle down and focus and work hard. I don’t wallow in grief or despair.  

The question: how can I focus like this normally?

Would it be better to manufacture a crisis in the morning so I have something to galvanize myself against?

Raising a Man

jackman.jpg

Oh, Jack.

I have an 8 year old boy. And before I had him- I had no shot at being a good human being. Really.  (The jury’s still out, but I’ve done better.)

He thinks I’m great, and he loves me. He wants my approval badly (in a way that I maybe never wanted – memory has faded). This sort of thing is sometimes hard because I am trying really hard to be a good dad, but he’s sitting there with blind faith in me. He could be convinced of anything….by me.

He loves me that much, and it’s scary. He wants to be me. He’s a devotee…an acolyte. And I’m not always right.

In fact, I worry “what if I’m wrong” all the time.

Right now, his world is a good place. He makes wild bets with me and wants to wrestle all the time.  He texts pictures of things to his Noma and he always wants to turn conversations into talk about Dinosaurs (because licensed characters aren’t allowed)

For the most part -he is very kind to his sister. He plays with her a lot and entertains her. They have their own little world where Dinosaurs and My Little Ponies are peers and collaborators. Ruby’s dolls become entrants into his race car games.

He likes to fish (and I feel terrible because I don’t really know how- fishing is a skill I may never have because I didn’t have the patience for it as a child).

He’d be a terrible poker player. It’s easy to know when he’s lying…he wears his heart on his sleeve.  I guess that will be useful later.

Raising a man is tough. Being ‘successful’ as a man is an increasingly binary position: men that fail fall hard. There are world beaters and there are people that wind up on Eastenders. I worry every day that I’m enough to give him the option behind the velvet rope.

I don’t know if college is or isn’t in the cards, but I know that he’s got to attain skill or education.  

School isn’t exactly hard for him, but we can’t know what’s happening because the Montessori school obscures grading (a major drawback). They are positive about him, but I get the sense that his teacher is positive about everyone. 

The thing that Jack’s ready to do is jump in. Try anything. Give it a go. He orders something because of its novelty and because he’s curious.  And that will serve him well.

He stands out and isn’t afraid to make himself known to others. He’s not afraid to lead – not afraid of anything I can think of.

Jackman

Non Practicing Entities And Podcasters

I have wanted this year to podcast.  I have a lot to say, and the medium is awesome.

In the last year I have added 10x to what I can produce and accomplish. I say that without ego or vanity, it’s proven: hundreds of projects and 4500 users added to our product – with 3 more releases on schedule.

I’ve written my share of blog posts in 2013, which is fine and good, and keeps me sane.

I read over 100 books (lost count somewhere along my travels to Ohio).

I added 50# to my bench and can run a 5k in under 25 minutes.

We have a company that is valuable and working.

And I want to share what I’ve learned. How I did it both from a mindset and an execution perspective.

But I can’t. Not because it’s super secret. But because doing it right, getting specific takes work.

And that work won’t return money to me.

It won’t help me make payroll or lengthen my runway.

It won’t help me do what I have to do to make this a great company.

And it’s a bummer because I want others to benefit as I have benefited. I want otherrs to learn and grow and have access to this.

But what? I am not gonna charge $14.95 for a month of ‘learning’.  I’m not gonna sell products I can’t believe in to fund it, and I’m not gonna have series of ‘rah-rah’ events that everyone goes to but nobody learns from.

So what’s going to happen is that the magic of this phase, of mastering myself will largely be lost and forgotten. I won’t be able to write it if I ever get time to.  And that’s OK.

Because what I’ll get instead is a valuable company, and some lessons. I won’t be pinned down by dogma. I’ll be able to iterate and I won’t be painted in my by own schtick.

A lot of the current Media Prenuers aren’t producing things that are particularly valuable. They are interviewing the same cadre of 25 moderately famous people with ‘meh’ followings and churn.  For ages I wanted badly to be one of them. 

Not so much. I want to do my thing and be good at it. I want to be the best. Having a popular podcast is seductive but probably not in the cards.

Joyful Ruby

I don’t talk a whole lot about Ruby or Jack on here. It’s not that they aren’t very important, it’s that I don’t really care to represent myself as ultimate dad.

That’s probably an error – they are a source of deep and abiding joy within me, and I love them both very much. 

Jack and Ruby are 8 and 5. They are happy almost all the time. Jack is a little quicker to react, and is more ready to battle than Ruby. Ruby is a little slower to act. When things happen, she observes in silence only to see how good things are about to be.

Right now, Ruby is convinced:

That the world is a good place.

That everyone is her friend.

That anything that happens will turn out really well.

That nobody wants to harm her.

That I love her and her brother exactly the same.

That anything that happens is the prelude to something GREAT.

That birthdays and christmas will be magic. 

That all her friends will come to play dates.

That her dolls are wonderful.

That the world is warm and kind.

That cuddling is the best thing in the morning.

That if I tell her she can’t get ice cream I’m only kidding.

I don’t know what type of world she will inherit. I see opportunity and awesomeness and terror all balancing on the edge of a knife. I don’t share her unbridled sense of goodness.

She will have to grow up someday and she’ll have to face disappointment. She’ll have to be fearless and tough.  She’ll have to let a man go that’s not good enough for her.

How do I teach her to continue to value herself? To continue to be joyful?

A part of me lives in her, and in Jackson.  They are inheriting a world that is growing ever more rough and ever more fierce. I want them to be able to relate to people have deep relationships, love, standards.

How do I do it?

(I’ll write about Jackson tomorrow).

Why I Read

joker.png

I read every day for at least an hour. I generally do it early in the morning in my office. And I generally try to digest hard stuff. It makes a difference in how I am. 

What’s funny is that when there is an (inevitable) setback in my life, reading goes. Then the cycle gets worse. I lose my ability to think and I get in my own head. I get trapped by the trivial problems: some asshole didn’t pay me, someone rejected me.

I replay a social situation over and over again and wonder how I could do better.

killing joke joker

I scratch my head and go crazy.  

Because I’m in my own head, I’m not able to function. 

But when I read, I escape myself for a while. I realize that I’m not working all that hard, and I realize that my struggles are of no importance. None.

Because I haven’t given enough, worked hard enough, accrued enough. I haven’t. I have indulged myself, etc, etc. 

Reading good stuff (not pabulum business books like “Who Moved My Cheese”) teaches us things. We grow, or at least we can have a real good reference point to compare ourselves against.  And that’s valuable.

I try hard to read 6 books a month. Most months I make it. It’s part of my job, really, to keep myself sane.  I mean to up that number this year by about 60% – to 10 or more. Because if I can work at that pace, I’ll get the equivalent of a college education…twice a year (it says something about college’s current and nonexistent rigor that that’s not false)

I’ve been thinking about a daily routine lately – because of the book Daily Rituals.  I’m working on having a routine each day – something like 4-5 hours of work that I do before I check email.  I don’t want to go back down the GTD path, but I do mean to get more done.

The Punative NonBuyer

This is an archtype that you see in sales all the time.

All the time.

Someone wants you to break a standard you have- rush them, give them something for free upfront. 

You don’t because you’re smart.

Then they punish you for not capitulating.  And they were never buying. But they act as if you made this grievous error and are missing out on sales.

Don’t be that guy.

2014 Goals & Resolutions

2014 is upon us.

And I’m glad. Nothing against 2013, but it was less forward than I would have liked. A plateau year, more or less. I’m OK with that, I am grateful for the year that was and the lessons that were.

I’m planning big things next year – somewhere I came across a college syllabus from 1930.  The reading! It probably was a 10 hour day, and this before the advent of calculators.  

So I set some goals – I don’t share goals – but the first part was to read more. I read more than most – but since I front loaded all of my goals and planned on a monster 1st quarter – I am reading WAY more.

It’ll be good. I’ll get smarter.

This is the gist:

Take a goal.  Divide the time you have for it into 4 units of equal length (a year).

Then front load it: 35% in the first quarter, 25% in the next two, then 15% at the end. 

This creates a nice cycle.

The trick is staying with it and fighting the first part.  You have inertia: a quarter is only about 60 workdays. 

Onward.

How To Conference: A Quick Guide To Getting More at Tradeshows (Since You’re There Anyway)

[special note: Yes, this blog is just practice. I’m about to start blogging for real. Not on this site. But this is the type of content that you’ll get. It will be more heavily edited and focused. This blog, after all, is only practice®.]

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of @chase_reeves. I am lucky to count him as a friend and confidant. He and I have the type of relationship where we’d post bail for one another, no questions asked.  He would be my Al Cowlings, should I skip town in a white Bronco.

He wrote something – some time ago – that was the best thing I’ve ever seen him write, and I knew he’d be working out the details of a conference.

This is it.

TL;DR: don’t spend conference time trying to get the famous people to like you. Spend your time trying to build connections & start a movement.

The reason I loved this is because it’s repeatable, predictable permanent and valuable.  I’ll explain: 

At media conferences, most people that show up are so star struck they are useless. They spend the time there trying to kiss the ass of the blogger of the moment and they try to get in.  They want to be at the dinner party with Scoble.  They put all of their eggs in just getting Marie Foleo alone for 5 minutes so they can pitch that thing to her.

And so they miss the people that are around them, and they leave the conference with a warm feeling that last no longer than the Sbarro they settled for at the airport.

They get no business.

They have no breakthroughs.

So they come off like Chris Farley:

That is to say: when they get those five minutes that they flew 2500 miles for they are unmemorable to the person they were hoping to impress.   IF THEY ARE LUCKY.  If not, they are unprepared, get their DESERVED brush off, and then get chippy and nasty. (OK, that was just me).

It was the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong person. Plus, they are also one of 300 people trying for five minutes of time.  The likelihood of being memorable for the wrong reasons is vastly greater than the likelihood of getting anointed as the next big thing.

It’s like launching a product at SXSW. A winner take all thing. Launching there means that if you fail there people will remember the failure.

You’ll be Color.

You’ll be that guy.

Best case, you’ll be one of the forgettable people that puts their business card in their hand. Worst case you’ll be three sheets to the wind and you’ll be memorable…as a psycho.

So what to do instead?  Glad you asked.

  1. Look to build a tribe.
  2. Look to help others – for free.
  3. Look to create connections that survive the conference.

1.) Look to build your tribe: At any given time you will have 10-15 people that are very important to you. Your inner circle. Your posse. This list of 10-15 people should be constantly improving.

There are two types of improvement:

  • Skill acquisition by the tribe (people get better over time)
  • Replacement of the stagnant members (people lose touch and you find people that are more aligned with your current goals)

How to do this: Transparency.  When you meet, if you connect…say something like this:  “I’m looking to build a tribe – I’m looking for people that I can help…support and bounce ideas off of…in exchange, I’m always going to be happy to make an introduction and [insert thing you do that’s valuable].

I’d even have a happy hour loosely planned before I went. “Hey, we’re doing a quick happy hour – nobody’s getting hammered, but it’s gonna be at _______ event at _______ time. You game?”

Then, drive the nail all the way in, get their number to text and make a group text to everyone…inviting them.

When you get back, assess the people that showed up. Follow up with a call. See if they’ll make time.

2.] Look to help others – for free.

The conference mindset is ridiculous. Let’s listen to how dumb the plan most people have is.

I’m going to pay $1500 (ticket, hotel, drinks) to show up 2500 miles away from my house, where I will meet some minor celebrity, be one of thousands pitching him…and THEN he will send me business.

(Oh, by the way, this is my last $1500 and I hope a McDonald’s is close by because I need the dollar menu.)
(Oh, by the way, I don’t have any kind of personal page, social proof or anything else.)
(Oh, by the way, if I DO get orders, I can’t really afford to fulfill them).

See how dumb this sounds?  See how mercenary? Transactional? Stupid?  Fragile?

Let’s do something else instead.

Let’s say that you’re going to go to a conference with the means and energy to help 25 people.  You could do this for free with introductions. You could tweet their thing out.  At once conference, you can do minor favors for  25-30 people. Maybe more, if you make a point of remembering people after the conference.

You don’t do this because you expect a return. You do this because the people are awesome.  And because when you do awesome things for awesome people, 60% of them return the payment as a reflection.

40% will forget you, but that’s 15 new folks that will thank you.  Remember you. All you have to do then is follow up with them, and take charge of the relationship. 

Plus, when you set your self to doing x number of favors, you change internally. You become a font of good things. Your character changes from a transactional approbation junkie to a person of value.

Now: Don’t succumb to the Blogger’s Entitlement: doing a favor for someone, writing a blog post, or anything else obligates them to do NOTHING for you. Some people are selfish assholes.   

3.] Create connections that survive the conference.

You’re looking to get to know people and make friends forever, not make some sale at a conference. This means trying to figure out who your customers are, who their customers are etc..

You will meet people. For those people to matter, they need a follow up plan.

You’ll have a better sense after the conference. But let’s say that you want to add ‘3’ people to your inner circle. You’ll need to leave the event with 10 good candidates. You’ll need to have 5-7 conversations in the ‘crazy week when we’re just getting back.’

A possible script:

“Hey, it’s {Chris}.  I loved the conference, and I wanted to keep the momentum alive- just wanted to schedule a zero agenda call for the next 2-3 days.  You game for now – or would you rather ________ time. 

I want a ten minute call that does this:

  • Who you are, what you do (2 minutes.)
  • Who your customers are (2 minutes)
  • The kind of person in my network that you might like to meet (2-3 minutes)
  • The parts of your roadmap you’e sharing (2-3 minutes).

 That’s all – you impressed me and I want to know if there’s any legitimate way I can be of service this year.

About 75% of the people that you meet will make the time to do this, and about 25% of these people will you want to really connect with.  For me, I have to use hustle to keep my network together. I don’t mind, it’s always pleasant to talk to the people that I love, might love or once loved.

THIS IS HOW YOU CONFERENCE.  Waiting in line to spend 30 seconds talking to Frank Caliendo or whatever B-list celeb corporate dollars dragged out won’t make you money.

This will. It’s indirect, for sure, but it’s a far bigger win than 

When you do this, you’ll have permanent value that you can bank from any conference: at any gathering of 500 people or more there will be 50 people like you at your career stage and when you find them, you can permanently connect.

Note: I’m not totally sanguine that trade shows are the most efficient way of gathering business. They are one way, and if you’re there, roll up and make things work.