Is Your Business More Personal or Less Personal?

   There is a danger in the business world today. A danger and an opportunity. As our reliance on technology increases, so too does the opportunity to be more personal with clients and prospects than our competition. Take greeting cards for example. As the recipient of a greeting card, what would have more impact to you? A pre-printed, store-bought card that is simply signed, an e-card that is emailed, a personalized but automated card (ie. Send Out Cards), or a handmade card with a personalized message?HAL good morning

   Let's look at this another way. You are raising a child. But you cannot be there in person for that baby, ever. Instead, you merely touch it with the help of a monitor and a remote-controlled robotic arm.You witness baby's first steps on the computer screen. You hear baby's first words from your desktop. The words of encouragement you have for the child come from a printer in the nursery, which are then translated into an automated voice designed to sound somewhat like you."Goochy, goochy goo," says R2D2.

   The truth is, we are organic beings who need organic face to face, voice to voice contact. The more contact we have like this, the deeper the relationships we can develop. Compare the people you know whoyou meet face to face regularly with the people you know (ie.Facebook-only friends) who you have never even talked to on the phone, let alone met in person. Now look at your clients and prospects. You want and expect them to open their wallets but you've never even heard their voice?

   The more 'organic' contact you have with clients and prospectsthe more they have the opportunity to feel you really care about them. They can't connect with you and your product 'emotionally' in the same way when contact is merely electronic. They can't know you, and they may not be able to trust you completely. 

   If you can't meet them face to face, then talk to them voice to voice. If you can't talk to them voice to voice, then write them something with a PEN. Mix it up. Use technology, certainly, but sprinkle a little organic now and then and see what that produces.

   If you don't believe me, then kiss your spouse goodnight with the new app.

A Novel Idea

   This morning I sat staring at a blank screen for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out
what I would write a blog about today. Then, exasperated, I came up with an idea. I
walked out to the bookcase, picked up my dictionary and without looking, opened to a
page and stuck my finger at an entry. French Indochina. Really?

   I know nothing about French Indochina. Hmm. Off to Google and Wikipedia.

   readingSo, to simplify things a little, French Indochina was basically French-controlled Vietnam
from 1887 to 1954. When I was much younger, I read George Orwell's Burmese Days, which would be the only account of that time and general region that I can relate to French Indochina.

  This seems to be how our minds work. Something is said, or mentioned, and then our brain sifts through the data banks to come up with related ideas or experiences.

  I enjoyed reading Burmese Days. Orwell's 1984 was probably the first 'adult' book I read as a junior high school student. I went on to read Animal Farm and Down and Out in Paris and London.

   Many of the countries in South East Asia I relate to books or movies. Burma brings to mind Burmese Days and The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Cambodia brings to mind The Killing Fields. Vietnam brings to mind Apocalypse Now. Indonesia brings to mind The Year of Living Dangerously.

   Part of this is because I have never been to South East Asia. The only way I can picture French Indochina is by picturing the closest images I already possess of that era and region.   

   The Quiet American by Graham Greene, is a book/movie that is set in French Indochina in the early 1950's. I read several of Greene's books when I was younger as well. Hmm.

   This was a good exercise. It makes me realize how much I've really loved historical fiction. Not the big, sweeping James Michener tomes, but books like Burmese Days, Brighton Rock, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, King Rat and Lord Jim. Maybe that's what I should do a little more this Christmas. Get away ... into a good novel.

   Thanks, French Indochina.
  (Looks like the Ayn Rand Fan Club and the Scientologists are skewing the Readers List.) 

A Problem of Whose?

The Grinch hated blogging
at least when he had to
anything he should do
invariably made him mad, too

It robbed him of freedom
He longed to be free
To have a schedule so clear
there was nothing to see

But there was always something
some task to be done
And all of those shoulds, well
they robbed him of fun

For how could the Grinch
just sit I-diddly by
when there were all of these chores to do?
he didn't know why

he couldn't just spend his days
out at the beach
why was retirement so far
out of reach?

So the Grinch sat and plotted
he fretted and schemed
until one day he realized
life wasn't what it seemed

The Grinch had a thought
it started quite small
and then grew within minutes
to be 80 feet tall

It wasn't that he had to do
the things on his list
There was something his thinking
had quite simply missed

He wanted to blog
it wasn't that he should
And the more he did write
well, the more he got good

He wasn't boxed in by
the format, you see
The Grinch, yes, he'd actually
always been free

to do what he wanted
to write in his way
he could do that tomorrow and
he could do that today

To add in the fun
to play with his words
this idea that he wasn't free
was for the birds

Yes, the Grinch loved his blogging
he had turned it around
to a new way of thinking
that was simple, but profound

The Grinch was so happy
he actually started a-humming
for the next chore on his list was
to keep Christmas from coming


The Happiness Experiment

   A few weeks ago I outlined how I was working on my habits. This started in early August when I attended a conference in San Diego and heard Shawn Achor speak (author of The Happiness Advantage). At the time, I made an entry in a notebook, intending to introduce one new habit every 21 days. Four of the habits came directly from Achor's speech, the 5th habit came from a book I'd read on the flight south (which mentioned the 6am Club). This week I finally got around to introducing the final 5th habit, and it seems to have more impact than the others.scribbler pic

   Before I get to that, let me review the other four habits, and how far I've come to this point. It is December 9th, 2013. *121 days ago I started with The Doubler, and have written about the most meaningful experience of the previous 24 hours, 119 out of those 121 days.

   I think that qualifies it as a habit now. 119 days ago I started writing out what I'm grateful for. (I know, I didn't wait 21 days to institute the second habit.) Anyway, I've now written out my Gratitudes 117/119 days. In both cases, I've done those exercises for 79 straight days now.

   63 days ago I started getting up at 6am or earlier. To date, I've been up at 6am or earlier 59/63 days, and 54 days in a row now. Yes, Sundays and holidays too. With regard to Meditation, I do my own 'version' of that, and started 62 days ago. I've been doing so 62/62 days. 

   As mentioned in my previous blog post I've also instituted a number of other additional habits that weren't on my original list of five, but it wasn't until this week that I started to focus deliberately on Acts of Kindness. I don't know why it took so long. It just happened that way. 

   But already it seems that this 5th habit has the most impact on my own happiness. 

  The acts of kindness I'm referring to are not toward people I know. They might not be witnessed by anyone when they happen, or necessarily be for anyone specifically. I actually don't want to speak too much more about this. It feels deeply personal and I don't think the impact can be conveyed by writing about it. Suffice to say that I have not been 'habitually kind to strangers' throughout my life. The early results seem to indicate there's a rather different planet out there than the one I've been living on.

   The experiment continues...

*I have a card on my credenza that says "Commit Perform Measure". I believe you cannot improve what you don't measure, thus the statistical tracking. 

**Shawn Achor says "Happiness is a choice". That's why I wrote the words "choice habits."


   According to Wikipedia, sliced bread was first introduced to the marketplace in 1928. I mention this, because I think YouTube is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

photo-44Earlier this year I went up to Dawson Creek, British Columbia on a short business trip and when I was there I managed to capture a lightning storm with my video camera. Upon my return to Victoria, I wanted to put a short video together but I imagined having some slow motion shots of the lightning as part of it. The problem? I didn't know how to create slow motion shots with the editing software I was using.

   Cue YouTube. In a matter of seconds I was able to type in the name of my editing program, along with the words "slow motion", and sure enough other people had posted 'How To' videos about just that! All I had to do was watch one or two of them and I was able to create my own 'Lightning Storm - Dawson Creek BC' video, complete with slow motion lightning. 

   YouTube is full of 'How To' videos covering just about any subject you can imagine, and millions more are being created and posted every month. Last week I was having trouble with my achilles after a soccer game and sure enough there was a slick quick fix video for that too!

   Want to see how the fingering goes for a Pink Floyd guitar solo? YouTube. Cake decorating tutorials for beginners? YouTube. Learn Japanese? YouTube. 10 Useful iphone shortcuts? YouTube. How to open Skype? YouTube. 

   So to all those people who are selflessly creating helpful tutorials and posting them. Thank you. They're awesome. You've succeeded in helping to create the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

Habit Chains

     This past week I did very well with all of my new habits, except one. I didn't write a blog post. I know this because I write an email to a friend of mine each Monday morning, outlining the status of the new habits I'm working to establish. It's an 'accountability' email, designed to keep me on track. photo-43

     Last week I declared that I would write a blog post every week. I wrote one last week but I didn't this week (until now). So I asked myself, "why are my new daily habits coming along so well, but this weekly habit isn't?" And the answer is that I have linked my daily habits to other daily habits. 

     I have a new morning routine. I get up early (just before 6am) and I start my morning routine, following the same routine I went through the previous morning. In fact, I check back in my scribbler to see what I have to do next, and then I just follow that sequence. So when I added 'doing The Work of Byron Katie' to my morning routine, it happened 10 days in a row because it simply followed Feng Shui something (tidy/simplify/throw something out). 

     The problem is, I don't have a weekly routine yet. My new weekly habits are 'stand alone' and unlinked. This makes it more difficult to remember them / get them done. And so, this morning, I have linked writing my blog ... to my accountability email. 

     Today, I'm writing it just after my accountability email because I didn't like reporting that I hadn't written it. Next week, I will write my blog just before doing my accountability email so I can report that I have done it.

     So if you have something you'd like to institute as a new habit, link that habit to something else you already do, with the same desired frequency. This will make it much, much easier to establish and maintain.

Awakening Habits

   The intermittent nature of my blog posts is making pretty good fodder for the examination of what works and what doesn't here.

   Again, I've been remiss in posting something. However, over the past several months I have been very successful at introducing some other habits. In fact, I've been specifically focused on the creation of new habits, and with great results.

   6am clubIt all started when we took a trip to San Diego in August to attend a real estate conference. The opening night speaker was by far the best presentation we saw. Shawn Achor is the author of The Happiness Advantage, and his basic message is that 'happiness is a choice.'

   As a result of listening to his talk, I decided to change some of my habits, starting with something he suggests called 'The Doubler'. The idea of The Doubler is to take a few minutes each day, ideally each morning, and write down the most meaningful experience you've had in the past 24 hours.

   It's called The Doubler because you effectively double the experience as a result of reliving or retelling the story.

   Now according to my new habit tracking records (judge me if you must), as of today I've done The Doubler exercise 54 days in a row, 94 out of last 96 days, or 97% since I started. I'm now confident that writing down my most meaningful experience each morning is pretty much a habit and, cough, I'm happy about that!

   The Doubler is one of about 10 new habits I'm working on and, yes, I have stats for all of them. I write down what I'm grateful for each morning, I prioritize my day in the morning, and I even "feng shui" something. To me that usually means 'chuck something out'.

   The result is a completely transformed workspace environment. However, the habit I'm most proud of is the 6am Club. I read about the 6am Club on the flight to and from San Diego, in a book called "How I raised myself from failure to success in selling" by Frank Bettger. It's one of those old, old classic sales books. How old? Well, the introduction is written by Dale Carnegie, and Carnegie writes that he met Bettger in 1917 ! To paraphrase, the author wrote "few men are successful who are not early risers." And so I'm getting up earlier. It's the habit change I'm most proud of (aside from quitting smoking almost 20 years ago). 

   As of this morning, my feet have hit the floor before 6am 29 days in a row, 34 out of the last 38 days, or 98% of the time since I started.

   You'll note it was rocky at first, but now I seem to have hit my stride. Being up that early has had all kinds of positive spinoff effects and often, by 9am in the morning, I've accomplished so much already that it's like entering the day with a 7-0 lead in soccer. I've won the day before many people have really started theirs. But then it's not about other people. It's about changing my habits. About choosing to be happy and successful.

   When left to my own devices, and when I rely on willpower alone, my goal achievement is spotty at best. But when I work to deliberately bring new habits into being, eventually the habits take over completely and I don't even have to think about them. So, if I can do this with so many things, why not a blog? For this week, anyway, I'm 1 for 1, or 100%.

NOTE: The 6am Club is not an actual club....but I invite you to join the club.

Copyright © 2013 Rick Hoogendoorn