I'm sitting with a few family members by the banks of a river, waiting for a table to open up in the cafe nearby. In my mind, I'm listening carefully to what's being said, content to pay attention rather than blab. Then someone nudges me. "Are you okay? You seem kind of sullen." Memo to myself: I gotta figure out a way to be both quiet and positive (from the outside).
Hands down, my best ideas come from allowing my mind to quiet down. Sit in a chair and space out, take a walk, ride a bike, or just lie on your back and stare up into the sky. And, yes, turn off your phone.
My friend Don Peppers just published a spectacular piece that argues most creativity is the result of combining diverse perspectives (i.e. importing them from others, or exporting your own). So if you need a better idea, bring in people with different perspectives than you have. If you want to leverage your own ideas, try moving into new areas where your experiences will enable you to offer a fresh perspective.
Geoff Colvin writes in Fortune: The evidence is clear that the most effective groups are those whose members most strongly possess the most essentially, deeply human abilities—empathy above all, social sensitivity, storytelling, collaborating, solving problems together, building relationships.
Sometimes deadline pressures force me to write quickly, seemingly without much thought or care. I often feel a pang of regret for publishing what can feel like a half-baked idea. But these pieces often find an enthusiastic audience, probably because they are more from the heart than other more calculated and polished efforts.
In the middle of a busy day, I had to take three hours to pick up some boxes for my daughter. With lots of work to do, I must admit to feeling a pang of stress at having to stop and perform a routine task. But I got to spend two of those three hours with my daughter, and that was worth far more to me than being a bit more efficient at work.
Instead of invoking abstract ideals, the most effective leaders communicate their visions using image-based words. So writes Andrew M. Carton in HBR. Here are some of his examples: Winston Churchill’s snapshot of a future in which the Allied forces would “fight in the fields and in the streets”... John F. Kennedy’s vision of “landing a man on the moon”... and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream in which “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together.” Thanks to Adam Grant for the tip.
Yesterday I took a break from work, biked down to the river and grabbed a kayak. The wind was howling onshore, and after a few minutes I realized it would be impossible to complete my intended route. But I had already set my mind on reaching a certain distant buoy, so I went for the buoy anyway. It was a long, hard paddle with no purpose... other than to practice tenacity. My reward was a very quick, very fun paddle home.
I just shifted the focus of my long-neglected blog. Instead of occasional articles on social media, I'm publishing a brief summary of the smartest thing I learned yesterday. But everything beyond this post is the OLD blog...
I can predict with near flawless accuracy which of my clients will succeed at "content marketing", by which they mean using social media to attract new clients.
- Make a long-term commitment to publish on a regular basis, such as once a week.
- Never get too busy to approve - or comment publicly on - their next article.
- Focus on serving more than selling. (Revenue is a "symptom" of being good at serving others.)
- Stress quality, not quantity.
In theory, as a ghostwriter of social media articles, I compete with hundreds of thousands of sources for cheap content. You can pay $25 for a 500-word article. In reality, that is a different space entirely. You can't sell high-end services with cheap content, because it is generic.
To say this another way, most content marketing programs fail because they:
- Are too short or half-hearted
- Have big gaps with no new content
- Suffer from incessant self-promotion
- Read as though they were written by a 19-year-old who has never run a business, which is precisely what happened
Here's how to succeed:
- Commit to publish at least one article a week for a year.
- Make sure every piece is intelligent, original and useful to readers.
- Limit every article to ONE message.
- Stick with the 500 to 700 word range. Less than 500 words is a bit superficial; more than 700 words lowers the odds that a reader will finish - and share - your article.
If you want to succeed, just use my Contact form. I'd be glad to help you.
Since most readers are over the age of seven, here's a quick reminder of how a seesaw works. You sit on one end, and another person sits at the other. You use your feet to push your side up in the air, which makes the other person's side go down. Then the other person does the same, and your side goes down. You keep taking turns until one of you gets bored, falls off, or has to go home and take a nap.