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Last call for the April seminar

Turns out there are about 8 seats left for my all day seminar. All proceeds go to the Acumen Fund. Not sure when the next one will be!

See you in New York on April 30th…

Write like a blogger

You can improve your writing (your business writing, your ad writing, your thank you notes and your essays) if you start thinking like a blogger:

  1. Use headlines. I use them all the time now. Not just boring ones that announce your purpose (like the one on this post) but interesting or puzzling or engaging headlines. Headlines are perfect for engaging busy readers.
  2. Realize that people have choices. With 80 million other blogs to choose from, I know you could leave at any moment (see, there goes someone now). So that makes blog writing shorter and faster and more exciting.
  3. Drip, drip, drip. Bloggers don’t have to say everything at once. We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time.
  4. It’s okay if you leave. Bloggers aren’t afraid to include links or distractions in their writing, because we know you’ll come back if what we had to say was interesting.
  5. Interactivity is a great shortcut. Your readers care about someone’s opinion even more than yours… their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant.
  6. Gimmicks aren’t as useful as insight. If you’re going to blog successfully for months or years, sooner or later you need to actually say something. Same goes for your writing.
  7. Don’t be afraid of lists. People like lists.
  8. Show up. Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.
  9. Say it. Don’t hide, don’t embellish.

What would happen if every single high school student had to have a blog? Or every employee in your company? Or every one of your customers?

In and on and ‘a’

How to sound smart when talking about the Internet:

You don’t have ‘a facebook.’ Facebook is a place, a network, not a page. You’re ‘on facebook,’ or you ‘use facebook.’

‘Friend’ is a verb. "I’ll friend you," is a totally valid thing to say.

You don’t look up things on ‘the google’. It’s just Google, no ‘the.’ ‘Google’ is also a verb, as in, ‘Google me’.

Instant messaging refers to a wide range of software tools and communication channels. It’s called ‘IM’ and it too is a verb.

A blog is something you have (unlike a Facebook). And blog is also a verb. As in, "I have a blog, this blog, which you probably found by googling me. I blogged about Facebook (which I’m on but don’t use often). I don’t IM, and I’m impossibly lax about friending people."

[Jackson chimes in that a blog is the whole, and that a post is just one article (like the one you’re reading). So you don’t say, "I wrote a blog about that," you say, "I just blogged about that," or "did you read my post on how to talk about the Internet?"]

Little scraps

Too whom it may concern:

That’s the way the letter of reference started off. I confess, I didn’t make it to the second sentence.

And that store with the really loud electronica music? I left.

But I still remember that kid I met a year ago. I can’t tell you what grade he was in, but the energy in his face and his enthusiasm was enough to get my full attention.

The facts:
Too many choices.
Too little time.

The response:
Quick decisions based on the smallest scraps of data.

It’s not fair but it’s true. Your blog, your outfit, the typeface you choose, the tone of your voice, the expression on your face, the location of your office, the way you rank on a Google search, the look of your Facebook page…

We all jump to conclusions and we do it every day.

Where do you want me to jump?

Would we miss you?

John Moore has a great series about known brands and their importance to our lives. If Pizza Hut disappeared tomorrow, who would miss them? Could you find a replacement pizza? A replacement place to work?

What about your personal marketing, though? If you disappeared tomorrow, would the customers you call on miss you? The places you’re applying for a job? The guys on the board of directors you sit on? The users who call tech support where you answer the phone?

I spent an hour on the phone with Apple support yesterday. The guy I talked to was named Seven. (Gotta love that). Seven would be missed. In fact, every time I call Apple, I hope it’s Seven on the phone.

The problem with fitting in and being a cog in the machine is that cogs are intentionally designed to be easily replaceable. When one breaks, you just get another. No one particularly misses the old one.

Waiting until the last minute

In a nutshell: don’t.

Bad situations to wait until the last minute:

  • Catching a transcontinental flight
  • Asking your secret crush to the prom
  • Applying for a summer internship
  • Setting customer expectations
  • Studying for the SATs
  • Saving for retirement
  • Giving up smoking
  • Asking for a raise
  • Teaching ethical behavior to your kids
  • Winning a primary
  • Asking for directions
  • Sharing an idea

And, for balance, two times when it pays:

  • Bidding in an eBay auction
  • Giving up hope

Free meatball call

If you already own the book, you can enroll. April 9th, everywhere.

Details here. See you there. [It’s a call, not a webinar, btw, which I actually greatly prefer.]

Which comes first (why stories matter)

I was brainstorming with my friend Jay today and he put this picture into my head.

Most of the time we do the work. The work is our initiative and our reactions and our responses and our output. The work is the decisions we make and the people we hire.

The work is what people talk about, because it’s what we experience. In other words, the work tells a story.

But what if you haven’t figured out a story yet?

Then the work is random. Then the story is confused or bland or indifferent and it doesn’t spread.

On the other hand, if you decide what the story is, you can do work that matches the story. Your decisions will match the story. The story will become true because you’re living it.

Does Starbucks tell a different story from McDonald’s? Of course they do. But look how the work they do matches those stories… from the benefits they offer employees to the decisions they make about packaging or locations.

Same is true for that little consulting firm down the street vs. McKinsey. While the advice may end up being similar, each firm lives a story in who they hire, how they present themselves, etc.

The story creates the work and the work creates the story.