The Marketing Protest Carnivale – down with boring-ass marketing!

[Hello there, this is Editor Catherine. I wrote this article because the online space – and even my own business, horror! – had been grim and unfun and dull. I’ve edited out anything that doesn’t make sense, or that time has run out on, but I’ve decided to leave the rest here. Because they made people happy, including me.

So this isn’t by any means the usual kind of article. Enjoy.]

Right.

RIGHT.

That’s just it, my lovelies. I’ve had all I can stands, I can’t stands nomore.

I have had it up to hyah with boring marketing. With soulless, well-I-gotta-pay-them-billz, going-through-the-motions [1. Buffy references: 1.] grinding-for-gold, no-one-ever-wanted-to-grow-up-and-do-this marketing.

So I am staging a one-business protest against feeble, joyless marketing. Until the end of the month I am going to update this article with as much creative, juicy, fun, funny, soulful, sweet, rude, kick-ass, human and wonderfabulous marketing as I can. Mine, other people’s – one big bonanza/carnivale of creativity/minuet of marketing.

This protest is about:

  1. You.
  2. Joy.
  3. Your most beautiful business.
  4. Mine, too.
  5. Kicking out the JAMS.

Right, first act in the carnivale: time to dance. Here’s MC5 in 1969 performing Kick Out the Jams. (It starts with a naughty word, be warned.)


Now we have that energy rocking it…

Flo!

Thanks to Chris for introducing me to Flo from Progressive Insurance.

Why aren’t we all having this much fun with our marketing?

Jinx in a time machine!

The soapbox

Okay, so the problem with being in a community is that it is self-enforcing. The norms become The Only Way to Do It.

Like, you know, the Correct Way to Launch. Or the Cult of the List.

Balls to that.

There is no such thing as The Only Way, or The Right Way. Sure, there’s some bits that are pretty damn important, but I think there are only three real rules. (Even then, I’m willing to be convinced.)

  1. Thou shalt make something amazing.
  2. Thou shalt offer it to the people who appreciate it.
  3. Thou shalt create splendid value for thee and thy buyer.

Everything else is up for grabs, and that includes how you obey those rules.

What are your thoughts? Am I full of crap? I look forward to your comments!

To all the artists and crafters

I wish to show you something.

These are my default shoes.

They’re Doc Martens I ordered over the internet from the US. With shipping and the exchange rate, I think they cost me about $180.

I’ve had them for a couple of years.

I would kill a kodiak for these shoes.

Last Saturday at the roller derby I had yet another stranger begin a conversation with, “I love your shoes!” This wasn’t a surprise: over the years I have had this happen dozens and dozens of times.

At the optometrists.

At the airport.

When I was feeling crappy.

When I was feeling great.

Every time I felt just a little better afterward.

Now, it’s gotten to the point where even just putting the shoes on, or looking at them at the door, makes me feel happier. I will replace the soles and stitching and whatever as often as required, and still be gutted when these shoes finally give in.

My point: stop apologising for making whatever it is you make.

My shoes matter to me. They make my life better, and that is IT.

Your art, your craft? They matter too.

Own it.

Quick question:

Would you like the person in your profile pictures?

Related question:

Why does every real estate agent in Brisbane look like a serial killer robot in their photo? All dead eyes, tight smile, the-Good-Lord-tole-me-to-do-it.

*shudder*

There’s one in particular who I won’t name because I don’t want to be rude, but she is on every billboard and bus-stop in my area, and she freaks the hell out of me.

Why did they choose that photo? Surely they took at least one where she was genuinely (Duchenne-ly) smiling?

I’m just saying, if I wanted to sell my house I wouldn’t trust the woman.

As opposed to this guy, who can have anything he wants.

And now, some boogie.

Jungle Boogie, in fact.

I doubt the entire carnival will live musically in the late 60s/early 70s, but for now you must get down, get down.

Liking this protest carnivale?

Here’s what to do, then.

  1. Go do something heartfelt and enjoyable in your own marketing. Right now.
  2. Create videos, visuals, sounds, whatever.
  3. Comment! Send requests, feedback, answer questions…
  4. Send me anything that you think belongs in the carnivale. (Your creations, other people’s amazingness)
  5. Share this with lots of people – we all need some fun in our bizzes.

The five-year-old filter

Imagine your five year old self, with scabs on their knees and a violent love for neon-coloured plastic. (Or whatever.)

Imagine explaining your marketing to them.

Would it make the slightest bit of sense?

Is that a bad thing?

 

Quick question #2:

Would you fight a ninja for your business?

How?

Who completely adores your work?

No convincing, no manipulation, no patient explanations…

Who flat-out, unashamedly ADORES your work?

Go offer it to those people.

The Diffusion of Innovation…

… still applies in online businesses.

The application is this:

Create something for everyone: sell 3.

Create something for one person: sell 1593.

The numbers are made up, but it’s still true.

Don’t get angry at your customers when they don’t buy.

As Sinclair put it: “Rejection of your offer does not equal rejection of you.”

Make a different offer. See what happens.

From my still-favourite client ever…

“It’s like I sell insulin. If you’re healthy, you don’t need insulin, you’re never gonna need insulin, and there’s no point chasing you down the street saying, “Yoo-hoo, I got some awesome insulin for ya!”

I’m paraphrasing madly, but she won’t mind.

More music!

Let’s keep things eclectic, with Korean pop band 2NE1. I unironically adore I Am The Best:

If you weren’t dancing in your seat, seek medical attention immediately.

Leela has a gorgeous way with words. (Look at her latest offering. HER SALES PAGE IS A POEM. Seriously. That’s what I’m talking about!)

That plant is from Tricia Karp, one of my very very wonderful clients.

Do you have clients who give you gifts?

Do you want them?

Musical interlude time!

Let’s kick off proceedings literally. Fatboy Slim’s Because We Can, from Moulin Rouge. Watch the gorgeous over-the-topness of it all.

I watch Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy with a mingling of feelings.

Firstly, the “Yeah, he’s an Aussie, so somehow his awesomeness makes me more awesome” pride.

Secondly, there’s a giant rush of energy. The pacing, the overwhelming visual detail, the soundtracks – they are glorious and just too much.

Thirdly, there is bitter, bitter jealousy. ‘Cos I will never be able to create a lavish spectacle like that one.

… or can I?

Hmmm…

Here is a manifesto!

It’s not mine, but it is. Because every manifesto we deeply agree with becomes part of us, no?

Via the Word Chef, Tea:

There are some people who only ever watch the first episode of Australian Idol.

(Or American Idol. Or in some cases, due the the internet, both. Plus all the other ones.)

And they do this so they can mock the everliving shit out of the people who are very, very bad singers and don’t even know they’re bad.

(Unconscious incompetence, remember?)

We all know this, we’ve seen it happen.

And it scares us, that we might end up in the same place. So we play it small, play it safe, tame it down and colour between the lines.

BUT.

There are similarities between the 19-year-old with the headphones in who is completely aggrieved to hear that she’s tone deaf, and you doing your most darling, rule-breaking, world-changing work.

You will likely both be laughed at.

Because both of you are stepping outside the norms – her by being proud in the absence of talent, you by seeing the current lay of the land and saying, “Nah.”

Headphones Lass will only ever receive mockery and contempt. (And pity.)

But you? You’re following the path Gandhi described: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

This will go much easier on you if you’re okay with being laughed at. Not happy about it – unlikely – but resilient enough to endure through that phase.

‘Cos if you’re pushing a boundary, if you’re doing something outside the Way Things Are, you are going to get laughed at.

In related news…

I’m a pretty good singer. Not astonishing, but I can carry a tune and five-star Rock Band.

I am rather proud of this. I show off a little. I certainly avoid anything that would show me as not being a pretty good singer.

Which is why being in Fearless Karaoke was awesome – because it’s a song that is way above my range, and I couldn’t possibly be awesome at it. (Not that you can really tell – the recording is so quiet you can’t really hear me.)

So Natalie was going to do it again and she chose another song and I diligently went into the backyard to sing another song I couldn’t possibly be great at.

I get the verses in the wrong order – I’d never heard the song four days previously! I mess up the transition between chorus and verse. I had to sing it with no backing track. I crack quite a few notes.

But I also had fun.

So here’s me being a less-then-pretty-good singer.

Go do something today that messes with your acceptable standards.

Invite mockery.

‘Cos later, when it counts, you will be armoured.

Zen-itude

Anyone who says they have all of their business under control has a dead business.

Stone Cold Rebel

Care of the wonderful Kirsty, this bit of internet memery flicked past me. I laughed, I moved on.

But my mind keeps coming back to this.

This little girl is a stone cold rebel.

I am seeking to be as brave as she is.

[Later: HOLY SHIT SHE MADE A CHARITY/GIRL POWER WEBSITE. SHE’S EIGHT YEARS OLD. SHE ROCKS ON TOAST.]

I’m feeling rather introspective today, which is probably not conducive to a kick-ass carnivale.

(Well, maybe the Philosopher’s Carnivale. Cartesian duality in the hizzouse!)

But I’ve had an amazing conversation with Sinclair, where I wrassled with some problems I will undoubtedly tell you about later when I can say something useful about it, and then I had a deeeelightful half-hour session with Michelle which… well, let her tell you how it went:

Catherine is so amazing to work with that it’s hard to describe without descending into giddy, high-pitched gibberish. You’re probably going to read this testimonial and wonder what the hell Catherine bribed me with. No bribe – she’s just that good. She knows exactly the right questions to ask to laser-focus on what your problem is, what’s causing it, and how to fix it – like, yesterday. She’s action-oriented, so you’ll never be left wondering what to do next; she’s kind and loving and generous but she’s not going to coddle you. If you want your business & marketing blocks removed with maximum ease, if you want to take things to the next level, if you want to do it all while laughing with joy, then GO TO HER. NOW.

I love my work. I love that I get to do THAT every day.

It doesn’t make everything else automatically great. I struggle with other things: with growing my vision and authority, and my limiting beliefs of how much I’m allowed to have (that one sucks). I struggle with kicking some lingering habits of Day Job passivity – the money will not mysteriously turn up in my bank account every fortnight anymore. I even struggle with consistently delivering my most magnificent marketing.

What I do not struggle with, no matter how bad a day I’m having, is with the work. The work is always, always glorious.

Me, a headset, an amazing client. Repeatable magic.

I am not the one to come to for advice on choosing your Adwords strategy. I have no idea.

I am not the one to come to for how to grow your business to 100,000 readers – I haven’t done that yet!

But I AM the one to come to when you’re ready to stop settling for pretty-good work and you’re ready to step into your absolute BESTEST work. Because I will deliver on that every single time, no doubtski aboutski.

That’s enough deep thinkin!

Time for some music.

I’m shaking up this carnivale, and bringing some heavy metal. Let’s start with Blacken The Cursed Sun by Lamb of God.

Listen to it even if you don’t like metal. Especially if you don’t. Enjoy the power and the incredible precision in the opening drums.

I’m off to go do some more amazingtacular work.

Are you, my sweet?

Can I keep bringing the fun? Let us see.

Firstly, some music.

I’m feeling all Aussie today, so I’m starting with some of The Whitlams playing Up Against the Wall. (With the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, ‘cos I couldn’t find another one. The original is a bit rawer, which I like, but this is still good too.)

I love the line, “She was one in a million… so there are five more just in New South Wales.”

I went out for drinks last night.

And that was awesome, but irrelevant… except that I have an anecdote.

The drinks were organised by my friend Kevin, who moves in a lot of different circles, so no-one knew everyone.

And so there was a chat happening between me, a guy I know, and a new guy. (We’d met once five years ago at a Neil Gaiman book signing, but that doesn’t count.)

We had that thing going on where clearly the other people are awesome, but the conversation just isn’t clicking yet. And then New Guy made a really obscure Douglas Adams reference, and suddenly it was ON.

I stayed out until midnight. (Gasp, people who know me.)

I used to think this was a peculiarity of geek culture – geeks can bond in nanoseconds by mentioning the DC reboot, or Deus Ex, or whether the death of Robert Jordan actually improved the quality of the last Wheel of Time books. (It has.)

But it isn’t. That bonding is a function of two things.

Specificity

“Do you like books?” won’t do it. “Do you like The Silmarillion?” is a very different conversation.

Identity

You don’t make deep connections talking about the Big Network Show. It’s too big, and watching it doesn’t really say anything about you. But Obscure Sci-Fi Series From the 70s, or Web Series With Felicia Day (any of them)? You have to make some effort for those, as opposed to the Big Network Show, where all you need to do is be in front of a TV at a typical time of day.

Most people only bother with the niche stuff if they care. And so your interest says something meaningful about you.

My point

Make obscure references. Watch the eyes light up from the people who Get It. It’s MUCH more effective that generic, everyone-gets-it references.

Quick, time for a photo!

We apparently skipped spring entirely. First summer dress in months.

 

You know, that’ll do it for now. It’s the weekend, and I slept late.

Go do something awesome, lovely. Shoo.

If you’re looking for some good times, then you should most definitely check out Laura White-Richie’s picture book/manifesto. It’s lovely.

***

I’ve been drinking in the sun lately.

On the weekend I went to the bay.

I spent yesterday morning sitting in the backyard, thinking about this carnivale. And then I came inside, sat down at my computer, and wrote.

I didn’t write any more for the carnivale, because I’d run out of great material and didn’t want to keep falling back on So This Is What I Did Today. (I do that when I’m producing masses of content in a short time: it’s why I only write one article a week nowadays.)

Instead, I wrote an invitation.

This is an invitation to everyone who emailed, commented, messaged and contacted me about the Carnivale, saying some variant of the following:

Heck yeah! I’m so glad you’re doing this. I needed this badly.

I’m glad it gave you pleasure, darlingheart.

But I don’t want to leave it there.

Because you deserve to have colour, energy, and joy in your life and business EVERY DAMN DAY, not just when one oddball marketer decides it’s time to bring some fun back.

You deserve more.

Do you want it? Here’s your invitation. Come on in.

Squoooooodles of love,
Catherine

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Evening News
London was soot and smog and ceaseless machinery, and Charlie was one of the many many boys fed daily to the machines.

Charlie, like a swarm of other ragamuffins, sold the ha’penny broadsheets over on Whitechapel for enough blunt for a chop, gin, and a bit for his mum.

Not the biggest or the boldest, his only advantage was a fair dash of cunning and a quick tongue. Competition was deadly intense: once Charlie managed to claim a prime corner and had a half-brick thrown at him.

So Charlie made do with a less ideal situation, and used his wits to shout out attention-grabbing slogans. “Ya don’t wanna look ignorant, do ya?” was not a huge success, but most did get him more sales than he would otherwise make.

Then one day he awoke with a nonsensical rhyme in his head. When he reached his patch he tried it. “‘Oos dead, ‘oos wed, ‘oo fell off a sled?” he chanted loudly while waving his paper. Doggerel though it was, the rhyme got more attention than usual, and more ha’pennies.

One posh gent in a frock coat and fob watch walking past said, “Who fell off a sled?” Charlie cheekily replied, “I dunno, guv, I carn’t read now can I?” The gent laughed and paid Charlie a whole penny. With that unexpected windfall and the rest, Charlie sold more than he’d usually get in two days.

The next day Charlie tried another new slogan, but it wasn’t doing anywhere near so well as the rhyme had. Shrugging, Charlie again chanted “‘Oos dead, ‘oos wed, ‘oo fell off a sled?” and sold papers. The gent exchanged another round of banter and another penny, and Charlie decided he was on a winner.

Month after month, Charlie used the same rhyme, with only occasional variations. (Once, topically, the rhyme became “‘Oos dead, ‘oos wed, ‘oo went off ‘is ‘head?”) He became a fixture, with more regular customers than a broadsheet seller can generally hope for.

And on his birthday, the gent gave Charlie a whole farthing. Charlie bought his mum new scissors, his sister a ribbon, and got knock-down-drag-out drunk on the rest.

The rhyme continued, a bit subdued, the next day… and every other day until Charlie went off for greater adventures.

The moral of the story

Repetition is criminally underused.

There seems to be a shared belief in the online world that repetition will make you dull and predictable and forgettable. But while repetition often accompanies dull forgettable content, it’s not responsible for it. Repetition, used well, can produce beautiful results.

Repetition builds trust.

When there are themes, words and motifs that reoccur on a regular basis in your content, they become familiar. YOU become familiar. And familiar lives next door to trustworthy.

Repetition creates community.

Ever had a moment where you and a near-stranger have sung a theme song together and them laughed as friends after? If that theme song had changed every week, that could never happen.

Pretty obvious, I grant, but so many of us seem determined to have nothing the same this week as last week.

Repetition creates rhythm.

This one often feels especially important online, where the barriers to entry are so low. We need to see that you’re you’re here to stay before we are likely to trust and invest with you. Rhythm is a dance with time, and demonstrates it beautifully.

Repetition is memorable.

Our brains love encountering information they’ve seen before: it reduces the cognitive load in processing. Repeated elements are more likely to be remembered than one-time ones. This also means that repeated information has more impact.

Repetition saves your brain.

If you have to create a new intro and signoff for every single email and newsletter and article and interview and podcast, or whatever, then you are monstrously inefficient. Worse, if you’re trying to make every single one of them interesting and memorable…

How to use repetition well.

Firstly, choose what you’re going to repeat. Here’s a big-ass list of options to get you started:

Words and phrases

Repeat as desired.

  • technical terms (especially your own)
  • endearments
  • intros
  • endings
  • metaphors
  • running jokes
  • quirky phrases
  • references
  • quotations
  • made-up and portmanteau words

Frameworks, formats and templates

The specific words change, but the shape is the same.

  • newsletters
  • product names (it works for Apple)
  • product descriptions
  • image captions
  • teleclasses
  • email signatures
  • e-books
  • autoresponders
  • article titles (“X ways to Y”)
  • the articles themselves
  • sales pages

Other stuff

  • visual elements
  • fonts
  • recurring characters
  • themes
  • colour schemes
  • topics
  • theme music
  • shared beliefs
  • stock photos
  • easter eggs

Second, experiment until you find what suits you and your audience.

(For example, I play around with words constantly. “Squoodles” was added to my regular vocabulary after four different people emailed me just to say how much they loved that word.)

Then there are two ways to implement the repetition.

Set it in stone and do not alter it unless absolutely necessary.

This works best for elements that exist in specific times and places, like intros and outros. (Edward R. Murrow wasn’t the only reporter to use the same sign-off line at the end of every show, but he’s a beautiful example of doing it well.)

Use it as a motif.

You can use the melody, or a variation on the melody. For example, if you address your readers as “mewling minions”, then a) that is awesome, and b) you don’t have to use the exact phrase all the time if you don’t want to. (You could also call them “subaquatic slimebags”, if you like.)

Then the most important part: stick to it.

The more consistent you are with this, the more clear the impression will be.

You’ll notice it happening, as your readers quote you to each other, or describe something to you in your own words, or reference you to someone else as an example of a particular feel, or regard you as the go-to on a topic you revisit often.

Yes, that is exactly as awesome as it sounds.

A little less conversation, a little more action

If you want to start using repetition in your communications, then today:

  1. Decide what you’re going to start repeating.
  2. Create a repository, if needed (a notepad, a spreadsheet, a template).
  3. Use it today.
  4. Use it next time.
  5. Repeat.
Any other repetitions to add to the list, or thoughts on when they do (and don’t) work? Tell us in the comments.

If you don’t know what to repeat because you couldn’t describe your audience at gunpoint, then have a look at Goddamn Radiant. We’ll get you describing your wonderfabulous readers with spot-on repeatable prose in no time.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrew Stawarz

Truth, honesty and running a business on the internet

Heading out
I’ve fled to my heart’s home: I’m at the beach, watching the coal ships define the horizon.

I dig down into the cooler sand and widen the moat. The next wave should fill it, and then my sandcastle will be complete.

I lick the salt from my lips, and suddenly realise that the alchemist is sitting next to me. She plants a small flag in the castle and smiles.

Troubled? she says. I listen if you wish to speak.

“More sad than troubled, I think.” I say. “I’ve realised that I must let go of an old belief about how the world works.”

And what is that?

“I believed that there was Truth, and when it stood revealed everyone would recognise it. And accept it.”

This is not so?

“No, I don’t think it is. I suspect that truth, like beauty, lives only in the eye of the beholder.”

Is this about the recent scandal?

“Yes. But it’s also about politics, that book of Byzantine history and the friend-of-a-friend incident. It’s happening a lot right now.”

What do all of these events have in common?

“Everyone believes that they know the truth. But often, his truth and her truth couldn’t possibly exist in the same universe.”

Many incompatible beliefs exist in the same universe. Why are you exasperated?

“Because I keep seeing both groups operate with the ironclad certainty of righteousness. And so every truth crusader ends up kind of shitty.”

The truth creates righteousness?

“I think it goes, “I know the truth, and the truth is right. Why would I do anything to become less right? So shut up.””

Ah. So what do you believe in?

“I believe in science. And honesty.”

Why science?

“Science says, “Create a hypothesis. Test it. If it doesn’t hold up to testing, it’s incorrect. If it passes the tests, it’s correct. Until something changes.””

Ah. The idea that nothing is eternally true. The sun may not rise from the east tomorrow.

“Yes. And if it doesn’t, then lots of people will have to change their hypotheses.”

Science, then, is to you a constant testing of reality, and adaptation to its change?

“Yes. And while people can deny fact, it requires a wilful amount of deceit to do so.”

How is fact different from truth?

“Hmm. Because… fact has no interpretation. Water boils at 100C, but it doesn’t tell you if that’s good or bad.”

So truth involves moral judgement, and fact does not?

“I guess, yeah. I mean, at least in the way that most people use it. People say, “The truth is, she’s a graffiti artist. The truth is, he’s a scumbag.” Although they do sometimes use “the fact of the matter”, too. Fuck.”

Ah, language. The word “truth” is often used both to describe the grounded scientific reality you mention, but it also can be used to describe moral imperatives.

“Yes. YES! And since people are really unclear about which way they’re using it, things get fucked up. They might say they’re describing objective reality, but their own standards for judging the world sneak in. And so their truth is completely subjective.”

But they are as certain of it as if it was entirely objective.

Exactly. And so people say incorrect or semi-correct statements with all the force of certainty. And then someone else does it with their own “truth”. And then shit gets ugly.”

And thus, science.

“Yes. Science is supposed to be completely objective.”

Supposed to be?

“People are still… people. But it’s a self-correcting system.”

Ah. And what about honesty?

“Well, you see, science is a way for me to objectively assess reality. Honesty is about judging my subjective reality.”

Judging. So this is a moral stance?

“Yes. It’s me judging myself and whether I’ve acted in line with my own standards.”

And what are your standards of internal truth?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever codified them before. Hold on.” I go fetch some driftwood and draw on the sand, scratch out, draw again. “There.”

Hmm, I see. I especially like the third one. Are you planning to tell your readers about them?

“I don’t know if there’s much point. These are entirely subjective standards, and there’s no way for people who aren’t in my head to know whether I’m meeting most of them or not. I suspect it would just be flattering my own ego to tell them exactly what they are.”

That violates rule four, but is perfectly in line with rule five. I see.

“I could always invoke seven.”

That seems an adequate solution. Also, you no longer sound as sad.

“Well, I am. People are so cruel to each other, and it hurts to watch. And to be part of.”

But rule seven.

“I kinda hate rule seven at times.”

I understand. But the world is what it is, and we can at the deepest level change only ourselves.

“That’s depressing news from an alchemist.”

Them’s the breaks, kid.

“No sweet note to end this on?”

I’m afraid not.

So together the alchemist and I watch the ships define the horizon, as the salt on our cheeks tastes like tears.

The moral of the story

Actually, there are two points I want to make here.

We all need our own standards for truth, reality and how we behave as public people in a world where almost everything is documented.

When I was young, I lied pretty regularly. Mostly for self-aggrandisement, sometimes in order to avoid pain.

I am so damn glad I outgrew that habit before the internet took off.

The internet is a giant accountability machine.

It remembers everything.

We have all seen it happen – the employee who forgets that their boss is a Facebook friend (“Yeah, skydiving! So glad I lied to my boss about having the flu!”), the politician caught contradicting themselves, the whistleblower email…

This is the age of Wikileaks.

This is the age of citizen journalism.

This is an age where Mark Twain’s quote “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” makes even more sense. (Although maybe it should be “If you tell the truth, your Twitter won’t contradict your Google+.”)

You must decide in advance what you will talk about, what you will keep private, what levels of disclosure you’re okay with. Things like:

  • Is lying by omission acceptable?
  • Will you mention your kids by codename, real name, or never at all?
  • How much spin and varnish do you feel comfortable with?
  • Do you delete comments that disagree with you?
  • Do you actively mention people who disagree with you?
  • If you’re experiencing the problem you solve, do you tell people?

Decide now, before the pressure is on. We are outrageously bad at making moral decisions when we’re scared, hungry or seeking approval, unless we already made the decision in advance. (Not that we get it right all the time then, either. But the odds do improve dramatically.)

If you don’t create your rules in advance, then expect scandal. It will come.

*dramatic foreshadowing music*

Also, we have to be very clear on which of those standards apply only to ourselves.

When we say, “The truth is…” often we mean, “What I think the truth is…”

Your truth is valid. But it isn’t necessarily universal.

It’s irritating as hell to constantly caveat with, “Of course, this is just my opinion…” but it matters. Especially online, where your words stand alone, without tone, body language or sometimes even the context of the rest of your statement.

The more you consciously separate fact from your truth, the better. There really is a qualitative difference between, “Bill took three weeks to respond to my email. I regard that as atrocious customer service.” and, “Bill took three weeks to respond to my email. His customer service is atrocious.”

One gets refunds. The other starts flame-wars. (“Well, Bill replied to my email the same day and he was super-helpful. You’re wrong!”)

I had 130-ish comments to my last article about a seriously contentious topic, but that conversation stayed – mostly – respectful and on-topic. And that was largely due to conscious outlining of assumptions and separating fact from… everything else.

This isn’t the end, I think.

There are some more thoughts I’m going to need to tease out about how to mesh the definitive statements (“This is the best way to accomplish [x]”) that you need (?) to make as an authority in your field, with the nuance and honesty that respects your audience.

We will also see the continued fallout of this scandal, and the next one, and the one after that. I suspect that this is to some extent a generational issue, one that affects those that didn’t grow up with their every word being cached online forever.

Oh, and by the way… Rule Seven of my internal standards of honesty is this: “Assume that other people are smart enough to make their own decisions.”

Thus: if it would be valuable for you to know my other rules, feel free to ask.

I’d like to hear your thoughts, whether you’re caught up in the current scandal, or a different one, or you still bears the scars of one in the past. Is complete disclosure the only way to go? How do you separate truth from fact… and do you need to?

In the meantime, if you’d like to observe how I handle disclosure and honesty, you need to be subscribed to the new and improved Mo’Cash, Mo’Joy. All the truthiness that’s fit to print, ladies and gentlemen.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nomad Tales

Consistent magnificence: the golden ticket

Tena at range
Feliks loved Sarah.

Sarah loved guns.

The old story.

It all begins at the local rifle range.

Feliks is there for the first time, with two boxes of .22 cartridges and his friend Dave. Dave has told him that he’s going to love the shooting, and Dave was right.

Feliks and Dave spend an hour target shooting paper targets with Dave’s Winchester bolt-action. When the boxes of rounds ran out, Feliks says, “I’ll buy some more.”

Dave says, “Are you sure, mate? I mean, they’re not super-pricy, but I figure your shoulder’s getting sore.”

It is, but Feliks says, “I’m having a blast. One more box.” Dave shrugs, and Feliks heads to the store.

And there is Sarah.

She’s chatting with the woman behind the counter as she checks a box of ammunition. She’s… arresting, with a pleasant, regular face lit up by fierce determination and intelligence.

Feliks is flat-out instantly mamapajama smitten. He says, “Hey. Buying some rounds for your handgun?”

She turns and with no expert superciliousness says, “Actually, these are for my shotgun.”

“But they’re tiny!” says Feliks, ready to say any number of inane things to keep the conversation with this bright fierce woman going. “I thought shotgun shells were… you know… big!”

Sarah smiles and tells him about how the rounds are actually .410 bore, and they’re used in skeet shooting competitions. Sarah competes, and she comes here every Tuesday to practice, and she’ll see Feliks around, maybe?

At least, that’s what Feliks reassembles later on about the conversation with the help of the woman behind the counter. It was a bit hard to concentrate at the time, you see.

So Feliks goes home and tells his family that he’s joining a rifle club.

His grandfather, Polish and scarred and romantic, threatens to disown him.

His grandmother, Polish and scarred and practical, tells him that she’s proud of him and bakes him lamingtons.

His Dad suspects a romance, and his mother says, “Why not?”

And so Feliks starts learning how to shoot. He stays on the targets, mastering the fundamentals, completely focussed except for the occasional break to wave nonchalantly at Sarah. (She’s around, but usually too busy to talk much. Feliks can remember every single, “Hey. Howareya?” she smiles at him.)

He shoots the paper targets, but his dream is to shoot the skeet.

He daydreams about it, imagines the clay disk shattering into twenty zillion pieces and Sarah running over to high-five him. Then, he suggests getting… an ice-cream! A coffee! A movie! A trip to Fiji! to celebrate, and in his dreams she always says Yes.

Feliks learns fast.

Feliks possesses natural talent, piles of determination, and regular lessons from his grandmother. (This last was a surprise: he had never been told that she was a freedom fighter in Poland during World War Two. Away from her glowering husband she tells Feliks astonishing stories about her work for the Armia Krajowa in between correcting his aim.)

(She also gives Sarah the once-over and decides she approves.)

With all these blessings, Feliks’ progress is astonishingly fast. In only two months, his grandmother says that he’s probably ready to try the skeet.

Sensibly, for despite the pangs of love Feliks is still a sensible lad, he starts on a day where Sarah isn’t present. The clay disk is flung into the air, and again and again and again he misses it.

He practices again next week and misses over and over, but his misses are closer. More practice and he feels that he wouldn’t be world-endingly embarassed to have Sarah see him.

She is only metres away when he successfully explodes his first clay skeet.

He turns to her, face alight, ready for the high-five-ice-cream-three-children daydream. She looks up, nods once, and goes back to cleaning her shotgun.

Feliks takes his grandmother out for ice-cream instead, and tries not to cry into his sundae.

It takes one scoop of time for Babcia Irena to realise that her grandson is less than perfectly elated by his success, and another half scoop to find out why.

Babcia Irena then laughs that wise and slightly malicious old lady cackle that all beings rightly fear.

“Fool boy! One success is not enough to impress her. You’ve missed hundreds of those things, and you could have hit that one by accident. Shoot ten in a row, then she’ll be impressed.”

Feliks nods judiciously, finishes his sundae, and readjusts his daydream.

Feliks keeps shooting at the skeets.

It’s a drizzly ordinary sort of day and he’s feeling a bit tired and not quite in the flow as a sequence of ten are flung.

He misses the first three, and then suddenly Feliks is in the zone.

One sharp crack as a clay disk shatters. Two. Threefour. Five. He misses the last one, and stares bemused at the pile of crockery.

And he turns, to find a beaming Sarah behind him.

You know how the rest of the story goes.

Everyone is magnificent sometimes.

Everyone.

And those occasional moments of magnificence get our attention, briefly.

What holds our attention is consistent magnificence.

Let me say that again:

Magnificence gets our attention. Consistent magnificence KEEPS our attention.

Not one amazing article: a series of amazing articles.

Not one mind-blowing testimonial: a flood of mind-blowing testimonials.

Not one engaging exchange on Twitter: a pattern of engaging exchanges on Twitter.

This is why I am so damn adamant about you only doing your best work.

It’s not because I don’t believe you are capable of producing magnificence from anything you put your mind to. You are. We both know it.

But consistent magnificence? That’s harder.

It means you have to deliver, and keep on delivering, remarkable results… no matter what is going on around you.

When it’s your best work, you can deliver consistent magnificence despite adverse conditions. You know: tech hiccups. Inadequate supplies. Pounding headache. Sick dog.

You’ll find a way to transcend these problems, or even create better work because of your limitations.

When it’s not your best work… magnificence becomes hit and miss. Damn good is likely, but magnificence will never be dependably delivered by your less-than-best work.

And that matters, big-time.

You will never develop the same powerful relationships and reputation with hit-and-miss magnificence that you will through consistent magnificence.

If we trust you to deliver magnificence, you have our attention – and our money. We will be riveted to see what you do next, whether you can possibly keep the amazingness flowing.

With your best work, the odds are excellent that the answer is yes.

Best work = consistent magnificence = squoodles of cash and joy.

I wonder if that’s what you’re aiming for.

Is your goal to knock it out of the park once?

Or is it to knock it out of the park every single day?

The first requires a surge of magnificence, of the creative genius that lives inside us all.

The second requires consistent magnificence, and creative discipline.

Which are you currently using? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

And if you’re ready to clarify what work is your absolute best, then Goddamn Radiant and I are here to help. Because this is MY bestest work.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley