How do I know I’m being generous enough?

Asking the question is a good start. It certainly puts you on a better path than those who don’t even think in terms of generosity.

Some additional questions to be asked:

  • Is there more I can give without bankrupting myself? Comfort is fine, no need to destroy yourself, but if you’re comfortable, perhaps there is a bit more generosity available.
  • Is there anything I’m holding back? Do I need to?
  • Do I listen as much as I talk? Generosity is two-sided.

Things not to worry about:

  • Does everybody like what I do? That’s not a correlation to generosity. People don’t like certain books, foods, or products. That doesn’t always have to do with whether the makers are generous in their marketing or not, it’s the taste of the consumer.

3 levels of remarkable

  • Unremarkable – Not worth sharing. Usually reserved for people who haven’t thought about any of the components above.
  • Personally Remarkable – Remarkable if seen in-person. Something you take a picture of and share on social media, but unlikely to get reshared. An example might be a concert, a picture doesn’t capture the whole experience, so others, don’t reshare it.
  • Totally remarkable – Remarkable if seen even secondhand. These are the things that go viral.

Totally remarkable is how things spread in social media marketing. Landing on something totally remarkable is the way to avoid the brinksmanship I’ve been discussing in social media. To save yourself having to spend all day “pushing” on twitter. It empowers others to share what you do.

What If?

Those are the two most creativity inducing words in the English language.

What if…

  • we charged a different price?
  • we used a non-standard material?
  • we limited the amount of customers?
  • we limited our menu?
  • we created something that killed our own product?
  • we found another way to market besides traditional advertising?
  • we didn’t follow the crowd and instead always sought to differentiate?

Determining who your audience is.

On Khan Academy, there is a course called Pixar in a Box, it’s amazing. While the course is setup to teach how to make a movie, the section about “The Art of Storytelling” is worth a watch from anyone looking to market something. Particularly the character part.

The difference between making a character for a movie, and choosing an audience is that when making the movie, a character is being created to drive the plot consistently, and in marketing, it’s building a “profile” of the typical audience being sought.

They both have the same categories:

  • Wants.
  • Needs.
  • Obstacles.
  • Character arc.
  • Stakes.

Can you fill this information in for your audience?

We’re all telling stories, only sometimes people are invented to serve a story, and other times stories are invented to serve people.

Why the witches always give a deadline

In movies, when bargains are being made with witches to change something about the future, the witches always give some sort of deadline. I’m thinking about witches like the Little Mermaid, or Brave.

The witches are playing guides to the main character, and guides always call those they are guiding to action. Without creating a deadline, there is no immediacy. The call to action is weak.

These guides may not always have the best intentions, like Ursula, but they do get the characters to take action either way.

A ticking clock is important for getting people to take action.

You’re missing a system for starting something new.

I’ve worked at quite a few small businesses. An architecture firm, an engineering firm, a software and consultancy company, and even a tutoring business during college. All of them grew while I worked at them, and they all sought to build systems to make things easier.

One thing I never saw a system built for was starting something new. If growth is the goal, there needs to be a system for employees to know how to go from a new idea to a new offering.

A system for starting systems. That’s what’s missing in many small businesses that are growing. Instead, they try to overcome it with the owner deciding everything. That’s not sustainable. Think about what’s needed and put it in place.

Cryptocurrency and network effects

I’ve written about network effects in my guide to marketing. Cryptocurrency certainly has network effects built-in, they are better if more people use them. Could you imagine a new form of paper money that only had one user? What good would it be? Convincing others to join is part of a currency.

This brings me to a question, why have cryptocurrencies seemingly stalled out?

One thought is that they’ve reached everyone, but I don’t own any. So, that’s not the case.

Another thought is there is some resistance to the story. For the fax machine, which exists in every company I’ve ever worked at, the story is clear, “If I have one, and you have one, I can send a document to you in seconds.”

When trying to explain cryptocurrency, the story isn’t clear. I’ve heard several different stories.

Let’s compare the definitions of the fax machine with cryptocurrency both from wikipedia.

A fax is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material.

That seems pretty straight-forward. I’m sending you a document over the phone.

Cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets.[1][2][3] Cryptocurrencies use decentralized control as opposed to centralized digital currency and central banking systems.[4]

That’s a mouthful. It’s not easy for someone to decipher that value of cryptocurrency, and people don’t buy what they don’t understand.

The people I know who have bought crypto have done it because of the following stories:

“If you find others who use crypto, you can travel the world and not lose money on the exchange rate.”

“It’s exploding in value, and now is the time to get in on it.”

The second line is more popular than the 1st and that’s the problem. The fax machine became popular because people used it what it was meant for and saw value, not because people saw that they could make money in Xerox stock. Cryptocurrency is growing in value far more by people investing in it and holding on to it, far more than people exchanging their dollars for a more global currency they can use, and that’s the problem. How many stores around the world accept multiple currencies? Not very many.

That’s the uphill battle cryptocurrency faces. Is any store going to stop accepting dollars and instead accept crypto? And there isn’t one, there are many dozen different coins. Unless they all unite, nothing is likely to happen. These are like company store money, people don’t want to invest in currency that limits where it can be spent.

If cryptocurrency technology is to see it’s potential, it has to start being utilized as intended, not as an investment vehicle. It also has to unite all cryptocurrencies together and form some sort of global regulation that stops the formation of new cryptocurrencies.

That’s a tough road.

Escape room games don’t scale easily.

Building a game like Angry Birds, and you are making something that scales. It’s pretty easy to imagine a level generating algorithm. You need random stackings of blocks, some pigs, and a selection of birds as ammo.

Making a game like Birdcage 2, it’s not likely a level generator can be made without every level feeling the same, which defeats the point.

I don’t play many games anymore, but I recently was reminded about both of these and thought it might be worth mentioning.

While Angry Birds no doubt makes more money, Birdcage 2 is infinitely more fun for me. To make an impact, sometimes doing things that don’t scale is a necessity.

Marketing: Like sales but less personalized!

The amount of times I see someone ask how they can send more emails faster is amazing to me because I never see them ask how can they write better emails and I know they need to write better emails because the marketing emails I get almost entirely suck.

The type of business you’re in changes the approach, but I’m in a hybrid technical/marketing/sales role. When I have ideas for marketing it is because I’ve had dozens or even hundreds of conversations with customers about the same issue. I know there is opportunity and pain because they’ve told me. Advice I never see in marketing forums is pick up the phone and call some customers.

When a sales person picks up the phone and calls a customer he is seeking to find some pain, then give a personalized dive into their issue and how a solution can help. Marketing is generally seeking to create that one-size/few sizes fit(s) all. Taking that approach, marketing is sales, but less personalized. If that’s the case, why would anyone care what you have to offer? It’s not for them. It’s for you. To meet your goals.

Marketing of course has to write copy as a starting point for customers in finding you, but marketing also needs to offer something that sales can’t. Sales is sitting on a phone, that means they can’t immediately provide a video. Marketing can create an Augmented Reality (AR) app that let’s the customer see a product in their space. Sales can’t do that. Marketing can work to understand the customer better, and integrate changes into the product that better serve them. Sales can’t do that.

If employing an approach to marketing that is “Like sales, but less personalized.” It’s time to rethink the value you’re adding to the conversation and the organization.

Making something repeatable and safe used to be enough.

Henry Heinz deliberately put his ketchup in clear glass bottles. Unethical companies used colored bottles to hide shoddy product and Heinz worked with a chemist who went on to find ketchup containing gypsum, brick dust, borax, formaldehyde, etc.

www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/eeiuoi/til_henry_heinz_deliberately_put_his_ketchup_in/

It’s a reminder, there was a time in history where it used to be enough to have good hygiene and standards. In over a 100 years since Heinz death, finding good enough is everywhere. By making something just good enough, no one will even look at you.

Innovation is a ratchet. Heinz ketchup was remarkable during its time with it’s clear bottle and high standards. Today, it’s the standard, which means for you to get in the ketchup game, you have to do more than Heinz did.

No one cares about a billion dollars.

Just like no one cares about a 1/4” drill bit. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, there is a saying that no one cares about 1/4″ drill bit, they care about making a 1/4″ hole. In reality, they don’t even care about 1/4″ hole, they care about the shelf that hole allows them to put up. Still, that’s not the heart of it, they care about the way that shelf makes them feel. Organized, secure and that their things are safe.

When getting to the heart of the matter, no one cares about a billion dollars. They want it because of how it makes them feel. Some thoughts are:

  • Feeling important or high status.
  • Safe because they are able to provide whatever is needed.
  • Smart because many others can’t get to that level of wealth.
  • Justified in their actions because the world must value what they do.
  • Soothed in that they never have to make a decision between to items they want.

No one wants a billion dollars, they want the way it makes them feel.

Disasters have a silver lining for GDP

That’s because recovery becomes a new necessity. The new standard at least for a little while.

Measuring everything in terms of GDP isn’t the great sum of human life since disasters are a positive thing for it.

Measuring that everyone has enough food, health, shelter, clothes, and happiness is what matters, not GDP itself.

Two things move GDP upward in a sustainable way, population growth and raising the standard of living. Everything else is just numbers games.

The Top Shelf Keeps Moving

Walk down two alcohol aisles, one from a decade ago, and one from today. What you’ll notice is ever fancier bottles and labels. Along with that, there are different brands that fit different personality types. There are brands for responsible parents who want a relaxing drink once in a while. Brands that are meant to sit out on a bar and look pretty. Brands that are for the person who finds themselves edgy.

What more can be done?

What about a comic series of alcohol? Where the label is a page of a comic book? Collect all the pages to get the comic?

What about a line of alcohol where the bottles are chess pieces? Collect them all and you can buy a board for it to have a full chess set?

Why is no one doing those last two items?

Because they are hard. The comic idea requires ideating a story, characters, a plot, and getting it all storyboarded then illustrated. Then separating the pages out, and sticking different pages to different bottles. The chess idea means designing 6 different bottles. Then managing the production of them in different quantities since a chess set has 8 pawns, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 2 rooks, 1 king, and 1 queen. They should be produced in the proper ratio.

In a connected world, it’s easier than ever to reach someone, but it’s harder than ever to stand out. The work required to do so rises continuously.

Don’t sit idle for too long. Your top shelf today, but if you don’t up your game, that shelf will change sometime soon.

I’m scared for the children.

As a father of the world’s most energetic two and a half year old, I’m tired. As an engineer, futurist, and technologist, I’m scared for my daughter.

The reason I’m scared for her is because Artificial Intelligence, or just AI for short, is being used in many places it has no right being. One such place is sorting job applications. AI softwares are being fed backgrounds of current successful workers at companies in the hopes of finding better “matches” for jobs. Of course, if there were biases or discrimination in the original hiring, there will be when the AI finds the patterns of the candidates all being male. Or white. Or from a specific school.

These past discriminations aren’t where things will stop. Google collects mounds of data about you and your child, which it sells to bidders. What happens when all the search data is sold to a company for it’s current employees, so that new applicants can be better found based on what they search?

A new form of discrimination. That’s what.

The problem is even innocuous data will be something that might be used against you in the future without you knowing. What happens when the AI says that people who were fans of Power Rangers as kids generally make terrible sales reps, and you were the biggest fan as confirmed by your search history. It also turns out, you’re a great sales rep too, but the software says that’s only 35% likely, so the hiring manager wants to go with a better certainty.

Can you imagine your child never being able to find a job because the searched for the wrong subject once and the AI found patterns with others who had searched that and had negative correlations with it?

Wouldn’t it be better to have minimal or no history that is capable of being found, rather than the wrong search history?

One way to protect your child is to use a search engine like DuckDuckGo as opposed to Google. It doesn’t track your searches, and when sites like YouTube, who do track your searches are linked, it warns you as much.

We’re in the era of surveillance capitalism. Tons of people are out to track you and sell your data. For a decade or so now, the common refrain has been, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?”

The problem is no one should be discriminated against based on their profile of searches. Time to do some damage control on yourself, and protect your child. Switch your search to DuckDuckGo.com, you won’t miss Google at all.

What is competition?

Competition arises when two parties strive for a goal that can’t be shared.

Can you eat while I eat? Sure, if there is enough food to go around. If not, it’s competition.

Can you sit while I sit? Of course, but not in the same chair. If there is nowhere but that chair to sit, it’s competition.

Competition in an economy serves a purpose, to figure out what is fair.

What is a fair price?

If your competition will charge less, than perhaps you can charge less, until it’s no longer worth being in the business. Eventually the industry settles on a range.

Competition isn’t just price fairness, but features as well. Should a consumer only expect an 8 hour window for a plumber appointment, or should plumbers expect to provide an accurate 2 hour window to the consumer if they want to be in business?

Competition is great, it gives us choices, it creates a market, it chooses the feature list. It’s also terrible if the competition is too direct. For example, every industry has a competition based on price, that’s not what the consumer is always seeking.

Take babysitting. As I became a parent, the thought of finding the lowest cost babysitter terrified me. I’m going to leave my child with someone who says, “I’m the most qualified, responsible, or best cook.” but not one that says, “I’m the cheapest.”

Not every consumer is looking for the cheapest. That doesn’t also mean they can tell you what they are looking for. They’ll know it when they see it. Some may want that funny babysitter. Some may want the great cook to watch their kids. Some may have a limited budget. At least by setting the differentiators clearly, everyone is competing, while the market is also deciding what it values.

The world seems to value competition. It does serve a purpose, but in a world this big, one must ask, do we have to compete? And how much? That’s something I still don’t have an answer to.

Seven Days in Utopia

I watched a movie by that title a few days ago.

It was about a young golf professional, and how he had just had a melt down. He ends up in a car accident in a town called Utopia. While there he meets an unlikely mentor. He learns about himself and how to play his game.

The striking thing about the movie was how much truth it had in it. We’ll likely never be remembered for the things we’re holding important today. Most gravestones don’t say, “Here lies Brandon. He always got his work done.”

When you see what’s important to you. What you want written on your grave, it’s easier to move forward in life and let the rest fall away.

Compare to the good ‘ol days of marketing

When the message of the ad was the only thing to be concerned with. After that it was about making a commercial, getting the artwork for the print, recording the radio jingle and buying the magazine, TV, or radio space to run them for years. It was a simpler time.

Today, you still craft a message, but then you need to:

  • Add to/update your website
  • Create continuous content
  • Buy Google/Facebook ads at a higher price than your competition
  • Find the right hashtags
  • Post on Instagram
  • Manage an email list
  • Launch a podcast
  • Hustle.

That’s not even an exhaustive list, though it’s certainly an exhausting set of tasks, and it leaves out how descriptions of how much harder it is to figure out what to post and where to share it, than traditional mediums. You have to figure out your Facebook psychographics. Which Twitter hashtags have people who need your product. There are endless questions and things to test.

The Digital Strike

In the age of industrialism, striking meant standing out front making sure no one went in. It was preventing the machines from running. It wasn’t just protest, it was hurting the bottom line.

What recourse do digital workers have? At this point in the digital cycle, workers are being paid fair wages. That’s because the digital economy has been expanding faster than workers to fill it. What happens when that’s no longer true?

How will the digital workers strike? Will they sabotage accounts? Will they delete websites? How will they block their work from simply being sent to another country where a worker is given all of the necessary passwords?

There is no physical location to block after all.

I believe in balance. For now, this system is balanced as most workers in this space are on an upward trajectory, but eventually this will be a battlefield not that different from labor unions, except it’s missing all the means of self-defense that labor had.

The Post Efficiency Economy.

For centuries, the economy has been developing on the back of increasing productivity. Finding ways to be more efficient so that a better margin or a cheaper price was possible.

It seems however, the situation has flipped. It’s not as efficient for Amazon to drive to homes 10 different times compared to one family going to a store one time.

It’s not as efficient for your favorite restaurant to spend significant amounts of time plating your food in a way that’s more beautiful than the competition.

We’re now in a time where standing out is about doing more that isn’t efficient. Not for the sake of making things complicated, but for the delight of your customer.

What is cool?

I saw this google doodle, and thought it was cool.

Then I started to wonder what that meant.

Cool is a place holder, for I don’t know what’s going on here, but I like it. Looking at something that is cool, we generally like what it is, but don’t understand the behavior even if the components make sense to us. We could put in the effort to understand, but we’d rather chalk it up to being cool.

As opposed to cool, interesting is something that we want to know more about. In grade school being cool was the goal, after aging, interesting is more important.

1 second everyday app

There is an app that is called 1 second everyday. Everyday, 1 second of your choosing is recorded, then over however long of a period you want, it will stitch them into a video. Showing you the changes in your life over a week, a month, a year, a decade, or your life.

This is like mindfulness meets Atomic Habits. 1 second everyday is something anyone can fit into their schedule if they want to. It’s also something that can make us more grateful for the positive actions we take. Started going to the gym daily?

See the change in your appearance of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months. Not before and after, but literally the transition, as it is happening.

I think it’s a great idea and the best part is, it’s not another to do list app.

The last Sears catalog

People think it was Amazon or Wal-Mart that destroyed Sears. In fact, the last catalog Sears produced was in 1993, while Amazon only started in 1994. They had switched their business model fully to their stores.

What killed Sears was switching from the ordering model from which they dominated, to the full retail model, which Wal-Mart was dominating.

Had they never switched their focus, how would they have missed the opportunity for the internet to be the new medium? For them to be what Amazon is today?

They wouldn’t have.

At times it feels like something else is what we’re seeking, when in fact finding ways to be even better at what we do is the correct answer.

Minivans know their audience.

I don’t know many people without families who buy a minivan. It’s easy to know the audience for them. They are families. They are busy. They need something that makes life easier.

I rent a lot of cars, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of minivans. One thing I’ve noticed about the key fobs for minivans is they are built assuming the driver already has their hands full with kids, or boxes, or luggage, etc. The fob has buttons that automatically open the backdoor and the side doors. SUVs don’t have that same feature usually.

This is recognizing your audience. Seeing them, and understanding what they need. This is the reason people drive minivans off the lot even if they are going to be made fun of by their younger coworkers. The minivan makes life easier for families.

The Audience of America

Once upon a time, around the year 1900, America was a destination for enterprising individuals.

People willing to travel weeks or months through harsh conditions and cramped quarters in search of economic, or other freedom. The harshness was a filter on who was willing to put in the effort to get what they wanted out of life.

America was an ideal, a purpose, and a way life. America had an audience.

That audience fit the narrative, that in America, I can live as I want to live. I can start over. I can be who I am, not who the law tells me to be.

Those who heard the calling of America, they were the ones America was looking for.

2+2

Andrew Stanton once told an audience, don’t give people 4, give them 2+2.

“People like to work for their meal.”

It’s an interesting concept. Certainly it’s true. When my wife and I watch shows we like, certainly that feeling of putting things together and seeing what’s coming next keeps you involved in the story.

Andrew likely oversimplified his rule to make the point, after all, he’s the man responsible for telling the stories of Woody, Buzz, Marlon, Nemo, Wall-e, and the characters we know and love.

Surely at times, Andrew is doing 2+4-2, or (2+8)/2 – 1, but his point remains the same.

Don’t be straightforward the whole time.

Small business owners, it’s time to make your voice heard.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a small business owner. Regardless of your business, imagine you’re a mom and pop grocery store. You own a small store, but it has top notch service, well-trained employees, a nicely curated set of quality items and the locals love you. You employ roughly 10 people.

Amazon wants to move into your neighborhood. They’re bringing a new headquarters, and one of their early Amazon Go prototype stores. They’re competing with you.

Currently, Amazon isn’t in your area, so in an ideal world, the local politicians represent you, not Amazon. However, with visions of those coming tax dollars, they care more about Amazon than they do about you.

Take Amazon’s recent attempt to get taxes incentives in New York. As you can read here, they were originally offered up to $3.4 Billion to come to New York. Eventually, some activism drove them to end that deal. Amazon ended up going there without the incentives, citing that New York was where the talent they need is.

When those incentives were being thrown around, Amazon made it seem like they could move anywhere. The reality is Amazon needs a large pool of highly educated people for those jobs. They don’t have many options for locations. Likely, only New York or California. Amazon executives made a show of it, announced plans that they would be accepting bids, and politicians ate it up. Looking at Wikipedia, you can see all the finalists, hundreds of cities put out bids. That was all for making it seem like Amazon had options, and to negotiate more in New York, where they wanted to be regardless. If that wasn’t the case, they would have pulled out the offers from those other cities after the New York deal fell through.

Amazon never had many options because relocating 25,000 people somewhere, or a significant multiple of that if you count turnover, isn’t realistic.

Amazon wants to grow regardless of government incentives. Growth is what public companies do. Those jobs will be created somewhere regardless of whether politicians hands out billions of taxpayer dollars in incentives to Amazon or not. Local politicians handing those out show not only do they not care the small guy will have to compete more with Amazon in their locale, but they want to provide tax breaks, free land, and infrastructure build out to any giant corporation willing to play the political game.

Were those freebies offered to mom and pop? Did any small business owners get tax breaks for bringing employment to the area? Did any small business owners get their choice of city infrastructure investment?

No. They didn’t. Small business is next to invisible to politicians except on the campaign trail.

Small business is not competing on a level playing field. Where you’re competing, in addition to the economies of scale, the government is handing big companies ways to beat you. Those tax savings can be used to lower the cost of their goods. Can you lower your costs based on a tax break? No, you didn’t receive any.

You’re not even being represented. Amazon and other Goliaths are being represented to you by the person you elected. Rather than fighting monopolies like government used to do, they are now encouraging them.

“No taxation without representation.”

That’s what the US was founded on. Yet, it’s become

“No taxation with the right representation.”

And the right representation is only for those with huge amounts of money and market power. Reach a certain scale, and politicians will give away anything to get you in their locale.

No government should be giving incentives for companies. Here’s some incentives for giant corporations:

  • Being able to hire smart, hard-working Americans.
  • Moving allows you to be able to better serve your customers.
  • You’re able to do business in America, the market that made you rich, famous, and a global powerhouse.

If those incentives aren’t enough, how about the people take that $3.4 billion and give it to 100 smaller competitors as a chance to create competition and more jobs. After all, competition is good for the consumer, which makes it good for the taxpayer the ones paying the bill.

It’s time for small businesses to get more vocal to their politicians about this. Big business doesn’t deserve any more from the government than you do. Share this essay. Send it to your congressman, to your senator, to your mayor. The time for government support of monopolies is over. We’re in the age of competition. You’re competing, it’s time big business does too.

What 12 months of consistent writing did for my life.

On January 1st, 2019 I started this blog. For years, I had written in different locations, LinkedIn, reddit, and different social media pages.

They all were temporary with no central location for review.

12 months of blogging here, daily, led the three primary results:

  • Clarity of thoughts. Anytime I’ve had to explain an idea to someone about something I had already written about, it came out much more clear.
  • Clarity of life. Self-reflection is difficult at sometimes. It’s not so much that we lie to ourselves, but sometimes we are simply clueless to our own truth. Most of the writing here, at least the ones on the blog are chosen by whatever strikes me as inspiring. When common themes are found by reading older posts, it’s easy to see what’s important.
  • Increased happiness. Sniffing around different career advice boards, loads of posts talking about feeling unfulfilled in a job can be found. People are looking to see something grow as a result of their own doing. At a large company, it’s hard to see the impact your work has. That is what writing this blog post is doing for my psyche. It’s showing me a body of work that I’m building. It makes me feel less anxious that I’ll never add up to anything.

I now consider writing my art form. If someone is an artist of a different type, I encourage the same approach, create daily. It will be great for your psyche and even in 12 months, you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come.

Transparency is a form of generosity.

When you say, “I’ve put all the data out in the open, draw your own conclusions.” It can be a form of generosity. Of course, stating your conclusions should come along as well for those who don’t want to do the work.

A company that is transparent about its finances builds trust. When employees see profitability, they know the company will be around. However, it also allows them to put up a good argument for a raise if the company is doing well. That’s part of the reason it’s generous.