Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability

Thought-provoking, funny and quite moving look at what’s important and how happy people live happily with vulnerability. The desire to try and control everything is very strong, but it seems like giving up on that is key.

From academic Brene Brown’s TED talk:


Robin Sharma’s 73 Best Business and Success Lessons

I know nothing about Robin Sharma and from a quick look at his website it’s hard to tell if he’s a snake oil salesman or someone with something important to say. I might well take a look at one of his books, though.

But this list of lessons overcame my skepticism. My favourites include:

  • The more you worry about being applauded by others and making money, the less you’ll focus on doing the great work that will generate applause. And make you money.
  • To double your net worth, double your self-worth. Because you will never exceed the height of your self-image.
  • The more messes you allow into your life, the more messes will become a normal (and acceptable) part of your life.

But there are some other ones that struck a chord. And let me know you know more about this bloke.


“At least it’s a living worth scraping”

Inspiring and beautiful film by surfer and filmmaker Mickey Smith, complete with amazing footage from around the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
My favourite line: ’If I’m only scraping a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping.’


Keep Going Until We Stop

Fantastic talk from Scott Stratten, a social media marketing expert. The talk’s absolutely nothing to do with social media marketing, fortunately. It’s about why we shouldn’t just keep going flat out, or we will stop.


A Chilean Miners’ To-Do List

Like large chunks of humanity, I was moved by the rescue of the Chilean miners last week.

I’ll never get near an understanding of their experiences in the depth of the earth, but as they each emerged from the capsule after 69 days underground (the first 17 of them spent not knowing if they would ever be found), it was obvious that many of them re-entered the world with a clearer sense of what matters.

One miner proposed to his partner of long standing, and others spoke of realising that their families were the most important thing to them.

People who have been through a near-death experience such as a serious accident or illness often reflect that they have a different perspective on things than before, which changes how they live subsequently.

I’m sure the miners spent some of their time in the dark drawing up lists of the things they would do when they got out.

So what would be on your Chilean Miners’ To-Do List? And what steps can you take over the next week to tick a few of them off?

Mine would have some ‘peak experience’ things  - the kind of stuff you’ll find in glossy magazines’ list of 100 things to do before you die: cycling around New Zealand and going back to Japan in my case. And there’s definitely real value in those – recent research suggests that spending your money on trips and experiences makes you happier than spending it on objects.

But other things on my list would be small routines that I know like doing but which which somehow get lost in the daily slog: making time to read the paper in a cafe, or taking an after-dinner stroll. These activities can also add to our sense of wellbeing. The same article on happinness points to research saying that buying lots of small treats has more effect than a big purchase.

We don’t all have to have been stuck down a mine to start focusing on what’s important to us. But seeing the miners returned to us underlines how valuable and fragile life is. A truism, I know, but one we often forget.

When the family and friends of Carlos Bugueno, one of the rescued miners, had a welcome home party for him, they couldn’t afford balloons so tied black rubbish bags to the trees.

Whatever reasons you might have for not starting on something meaningful (at least for yourself), I’d bet they don’t involve being trapped down a mine for 69 days and then returning to a life so hard that balloons are a luxury beyond reach. We don’t really have that many excuses.

Photo Credit: Hugo Infante/Government Of Chile


Seth Godin’s ‘Purple Cow’ – go big or go home

Reading books can get you into a lot of trouble – which is kind of the point, I guess.

I wouldn’t be so gung-ho about restructuring my working life if it weren’t for Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek, Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody, David duChemin’s (photographer-specific, but all-round excellent) VisionMongers, and a couple of books by Seth Godin: Purple Cow, and the recent Linchpin (those are all affiliate links). So here’s a quick review of Purple Cow.

Godin is often described as a marketing guru but before you hold that against him, it’s worth pointing out that he doesn’t have very much time for traditional marketing. Instead, he argues that making a mediocre product and selling the hell out of it doesn’t work any more; to be successful, you have to develop a remarkable product that people get genuinely excited about.

That’s his premise in ‘Purple Cow’ (the image is that there are lots of black and white cows in the fields, but you’d sit up and take notice if you saw a purple one)  and he offers some useful insights for people embarking on a more considered type of self-employment.

His key point is that marketing shouldn’t be something that you do to an already existing product (or service – the same rules apply). Instead, you should devise your product from the beginning to wow a particular audience. As he says ‘create remarkable products that the right people seek out’.

And those right people are early adopters who are likely to spread the work about what you’re doing (‘sneezers’, in Godin’s parlance). These sneezers are pretty much obsessed with their thing  - gadgets, wine, fashion . . .whatever it is. They know a lot and they get excited about it – these are the people who will make your product a success (and help it go mainstream).

So don’t cater to the masses (at least at first):  ’your ads and products should cater for the customers you’d choose if you could choose your customers.’

This is (in my opinion) great news for people who are passionate about what they do – if the only way to be successful is to win over people who are really into the thing you do, then you can’t phone it in. You have to be as excited and passionate about it as they are. Faking it won’t win over the sneezers.

The flip side of this however, is that your product has to be so remarkable that it gets people talking about it, gets people who love this stuff on your side.

Later, when all the early adopters have told their friends, and word has spread, you’ll have to adapt to cater to a more mainstream market – ‘milking the cow’ – and use your profits to come up with another Purple Cow.

This sounds like a ‘follow your bliss’ sort of approach to business, but Godin argues that only by taking risks and being remarkable will you survive: ‘in almost every market, the boring slot is filled’.

We’re too late to make a mediocre product successful on the back of blanket advertising because there’s room in the market.

Some of this might not sound applicable to a one-person web design shop, or someone starting out selling cakes at a farmers’ market, for example,  but Godin argues, ‘In your career, even more than for a brand, being safe is risky. The path to lifetime job security is to be remarkable.’

That sounds persuasive, but of course it’s a lot easier to decide to be remarkable than actually to achieve it. But Purple Cow is a compelling reminder that the safest option might be to try and make something spectacular. Go big or go home.


Why not keep it as a hobby? Making money from your passion

Maybe not doing the work you love will leave you tired and deflated. Photo by David Moore.

My wife and I agree on many things, thankfully, from what TV shows to watch (‘Celebrity Masterchef’ and ‘Eureka’ at the moment) to how to bring up our daughter. But we don’t agree on pursuing your passion as a career.

Her argument is that once you bring money into the equation it ruins what was your escape from the humdrum. She knits like a fiend, but would never want to start a knitting-related business.

I see what she means, but respectfully disagree. And here’s why:

Why the hell wouldn’t I want to do something I love all day, and get paid for it?

She would point out that I wouldn’t end up loving it, and then I’d be impoverished and without a passion.

But I counter that if I’m smart enough and have a good enough plan, I can keep my creative passion well-tended and not have to do something I don’t like most of the time just to keep me in tortilla chips (which I get through much too rapidly for someone brought up in England).

My wife’s position might be a more cautious one, but it assumes that getting paid for your passion will definitely contaminate it. For some it might (and she might be one of them – and so might I), but we’ll never know until we try. And for me the possible upside is worth the possible downside.

In some ways I envy the non-professional photographer. They can shoot what they want, buy whatever gear they can afford (it’s discretionary spending, so they don’t have to calculate the return on investment), and don’t have to worry about business cards and tax returns.

And many amateur photographers are much better than a lot of us who get paid for this stuff. If I could go to my comfortable job and be happy shooting evenings and weekends, it would make things a lot easier.

But I can’t. It’s not that I want the professional status to prove to myself I’m a good photographer, it’s more that it makes me miserable to spend my time doing something I don’t care about.

I’ll acknowledge that that’s pretty selfish – I’m scratching my own itch rather than saving the world. But I’m just trying to play the hand I was dealt the best way I can.

Let me know what you think about making your passion your career.

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