seth godin

Why You Should Pay Attention To Kickstarter And Watch This

Everything has its challenges.

There will be those who love stuff, those who hate things and those who are ambiguous about it. I love Kickstarter. I’ve expressed my love in many (if not all) of the places that I put out my thoughts. The ability for p…

Market What Works. Get Schooled… Seth Godin Style

Are you interested in taking a very modern course in marketing?

With each and every passing day, I get a handful of emails asking me who offers up the best course in marketing. Up until today, I wasn’t sure that I had the best answer to give. I do now. And, you can thank Seth Godin (who else?) for that. Seth loves to push buttons (poke them?). He loves to provoke with his myriad of brilliant business books (you have read Purple Cow, Linchpin, The Dip and all of the other ones, haven’t you?), his daily kernels of deep wisdom on his blog always inspire and force you to think, and now, he’s teaching a course (actually, this is his second one). He calls it a workshop, but trust me, it’s a course. A deep and rich one that is full of powerful information.

What does modern marketing look like?

Seth teamed up with Skillshare to launch The Modern Marketing Workshop. It’s a course aimed at marketers – at all levels, for all types of organizations. If you’re trying to understand where great ideas come from, how to connect in a more direct and profound way with your customers, and – most importantly – how to market what works, then this course is for you. Listen, if you have been following this blog for any semblance of time, you know two things about me: One, I am an unabashed fanboy of all things Seth Godin. Two, I don’t shill for anyone unless the value of the product far outweighs the price. Unless it’s something I one hundred percent believe in and think that everyone should be checking out. Here’s why Seth created this course from the man, himself…   

“Marketing has changed more in the last 20 years than any other business discipline. Far more than accounting, manufacturing, or management. Why are we relying on the same-old traditional textbooks? Why are CMOs cornered into decisions that make no sense? Why do leaders still talk about marketing and advertising like they’re the same?… It turns out that just about everything we learned in school, just about everything our boss, our board and our co-workers believe about marketing is out of date. The new course includes videos, new ebooks, worksheets and more (more than 75 pages of brand-new material and many hours of discussions and projects for you and your team.) I hope you’ll devote the time to really dive into it, and you’ll challenge your peers to do it with you.”

I’m in on this course… are you?

It’s not free, but it’s only $19 (which, is as close to free as you can get, if you consider the professor and the quality of which he creates any form of content). This just seems like the perfect course for everyone in marketing to take, to do the hard work along with, to share with their team members and, ultimately, to make marketing (as an industry) that much better.

Check out the video promo below and sign up before it’s too late: Seth Godin’s Modern Marketing Workshop.

An Online Skillshare Class by Seth Godin

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The Internet Will Break Your Creative Block

Writer’s block? Creative block? Can’t come up with something to create?

Steven Pressfield hates the words “writer’s block.” He believes that we’re all just fighting the “resistance” to create something (writing, that new startup, a project, whatever). His books, The War of Art, Do The Work and others are all about “putting you ass where your heart is,” as he calls it. Seth Godin feels that there is no such thing as writer’s block, because we don’t have thinker’s block or talker’s block, so if you write the way that you talk, there is no way to ever be unable to create. I believe that some days the creativity simply flows better than it does on other days. I can’t tell you how many times I have done a similar presentation, and on one day everything seems to be flowing wonderfully, then the next day it feels like I have to dig a ditch to string together the most simplest of sentences. I also believe that it’s hard not to create so long as you are inspired. The more you see, feel and hear, the more things there are to be inspired be. Be the infovore.

Inspiration is now everywhere.

Of course, that’s nothing new (thank you, Internet), but it is something that is often forgotten or dismissed. We used to have to go to the museum to be inspired. Some might go to a concert, a movie, the library, have a deep conversation with a friend at the coffee shop or even hit the local stand-up comedy club. At best, we might be inspired by something we read in a newspaper at home, saw on TV, read in a book, or heard on the radio. If you are tinkering in the right spaces online, it’s impossible to not be inspired. Always. Constantly.

Pushing beyond memes, Buzzfeed and Upworthy.

It’s easy to get lost in listicles and the bulk of snackable content that the Web provides. Look no further than your Twitter or Facebook feeds for hours and hours of animated GIFs, useless YouTube videos and Reddit randomness. There’s nothing wrong with it, but to then turn around and say that you have writer’s block or that you’re struggling to come up with an original idea, would lead me to believe that you’re simply skimming along the Internet instead of digging deep into the treasure trove of amazing, free and powerful content that is everywhere. There have been days that I have looked up at the clock – in the later part of the evening – only to realize that no topic, piece of news or anything has brimmed to the top and had me begging for a keyboard to blog. It’s at that point that I turn back to the Internet and start digging in random corners looking for inspiration.

It has never failed to inspire me.

Criticize the amount of content on the Internet. Balk at the true value and merits of it. Do as you will. I can’t imagine going back in time to a day and age when I found myself waiting at the local newsstand/magazine store for a new issue of Fast Company magazine to show up in the pre-Internet days. Plus, you would be surprised at just how much of the most juvenile or uninformed content that you come across online can be completely inspiring to get you creating. How often have you read something and wanted to immediately Javex your eyeballs, because you could not believe how stupid a perspective was? Well, guess what? That’s inspiration knocking on your noggin and begging for you to set the record straight by creating something with your own twist and perspective on it.

The Internet is the great liberator of creativity. 

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Don’t believe me? Go pull up any piece of content (or, feel free to use this one) and write your own little article, post or journal entry about it. If you choose this one, ask yourself what you think about creative blocks, finding new ideas or how to be inspired? Now, share it! If it’s not this piece of content, but something, just start with this question: what do you agree/disagree with what you just consumed?

See, it works! Let the ideas flow!

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The George Costanza Approach To Getting Things Done

Do the opposite.

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decided to do everything the opposite of what he had done to date? Watch this:

Do the opposite.

I’m not telling you to do the opposite of everything you have done to date, but sometimes the best case scenario or the white paper or the certainty of an expert’s opinion could lead you down the wrong path. Case in point: at this time of the year, it’s almost impossible to not be inundated with content around how to have the best year ever. It could come in the form of productivity tips, New Year’s Resolutions, self-help books, perspectives on diet and exercise and beyond. You see this content in the mass media, on blogs (like this one), in tweets, motivational pictures on Instagram, specific Pinterest boards and more. As an infovore, it has been the bulk of content that I have seen (and been consuming) for the past little while. It’s hard not have some of this thinking seep into my own thinking around the type of year that I would like 2014 to be. One of the recurring themes that I have seen, heard and read is to ignore things like email, making phone calls and social media first thing in the day. Many great thinkers (and you can Google it), will tell you that the first thing that you should do once you get up and get your work day on, is to focus and spend and fixed and blocked time on the really important stuff. No email. No social media. No phone calls. Start your day by burying yourself in your work and block out everything else (even if you need technology like Freedom to do so!).

That one gave me pause.

I do the complete opposite. For me to have the energy to think about the big stuff (client strategies at Twist Image, pushing forward our business development plans at the agency or even writing a blog post), I need all of that little stuff off of my radar. Watching the inbox grow or even simple birthday wishes to friends on Facebook stack up over the course of the day, doesn’t help me focus on the big stuff. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Again, this is a personal thing (and, it could well be just me who feels this way), but knowing that my inbox has been sanitized and that I’ve done a quick review on social media tends to make me feel like I’m a little bit more informed as to what’s happening in the world, and that my communication for the day is (somewhat) complete. I’m no night owl, either. It’s not like I spend my whole day on email and social media praying for a few scant moments towards the end of the day to work on the bigger things, but I do prefer the feeling like I am (somewhat) up-to-speed and not falling behind on those little things. Also, those little things tend to inspire new thinking or spark and idea. They always do.

These experts.

These same experts also tell you to stay concentrated and not to shift from one window to another. So, if you are doing work, don’t hop over to Facebook or YouTube (even for a second). There is research that states it can take close to 25 minutes to get back into the groove of what you were doing, so it is a pure loss of efficiency (that most people don’t even realize). This may be true, but I find that those mental breaks often help me in finding the right words or different ways of thinking to add more color and perspective. I often need a lot of little breaks because I tend to work best in shorter spurts. As Seth Godin would say, “your mileage may vary.” 

Don’t play music. Play music.

People love to know how other people work. We tend to believe that how they work has some kind of correlation to the actual output. I’m not sure where I sit on that fence. There are days when music helps me write and there are days when anything but silence can throw off my concentration. There are days when I am fully concentrated and engaged, but the output of my ideas don’t seem to find the right flow… and then there’s the opposite as well. Again, this is less about process, superstition and other tactics. The thing is to find your own flow and be open to having that same flow find a new river, valley and waterfall to roll into (and that can happen daily). Currently, I am writing this blog post on a makeshift standing desk (that I made using a computer lap desk) with music is blasting along with it. I’m not sure how long I’ll last at a standing desk or be able to find the right words with this modern jazz blazing in the background. Today, it works. Tomorrow, it might not. What I do know is that sometimes doing the opposite of what every expert is telling you to do can create something magical (I guess, I’m also telling you to not believe everyone and everything you read and see… including me).

True innovation and creativity is about finding your own path and not trying to replicate what someone else has done (even if you define them as successful), simply because a process works for them.

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Choosing A Different Kind Of Life

What do you think people like Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss or Tom Peters do each and every day?

Do they go to work like you and I do? Do they have an office? A formal schedule? It’s something that fascinates me. You can get a glimpse into their lifestyles …

Get Yourself In Fighting (Mental) Shape For 2014

It’s the day after Christmas.

Some are taking it easy. Others are sorting through their holiday gifts and deciding what to keep, return or exchange. Others are getting pumped up for Boxing Day sales. I’m one of those nerds that looks to see what’s on sale at the bookstore (both the digital and physical ones). The prices have all dropped, so it’s easy pickings. It’s also the perfect time to think about this because starting tomorrow (maybe even today), your brain and body are going to start moving into New Year’s headspace. And, as great (or miserable) as 2013 was, nobody wants to repeat the same year over again. Most of us want to improve – at best – or even tweak it a little bit more in the positive direction.

Combine those two worlds, and here’s a list of books that will inspire you to up your game in 2014:

  • Accidental Genius by Mark Levy. There are so many books on productivity and how to organize your ideas and thoughts. Most of them give practical tips and ideas, but few take you to the depths of how to grind through an idea and turn it into something more. Levy’s instructional techniques around freewriting – without question – will get you there. This simple and fast technique has helped me to get started on projects that have been sitting around, or to have a breakthrough on a concept where the ideas weren’t flowing. Here’s my promise to you: this book will make your work better and help you to get projects that you have been putting off to move forward. Quickly.
  • The Art of The Pitch by Peter Coughter. If you are in the marketing and communications business, then you’re pitching. Always. There have been tons of books published on how to make your pitches better, but none as strong as The Art of The Pitch. If you’re looking to win more business and win more pitches, then this is the must-have book for you.
  • Choose Yourself by James Altucher. A great, great book about the choices we make in our lives when it comes to business and getting what we want. This book is equal parts motivational and equal parts wake-up call to the new realities of business. On top of that, Altucher is one of the best and brightest business writers out there. The book is easy, accessible, funny and profound. You will think differently about your work after reading this amazing book.
  • Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. This book was published on Seth Godin‘s The Domino Project imprint. It’s a modernized and abridged version of Pressfield’s seminal book, The War of Art. If you’re struggling with motivation or how to just “put your ass where your heart is,” as Pressfield says, this book will help you meet and battle what he calls, “The Resistance.” A brilliant and fast read.
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin. When people think of Seth Godin, they often think of Purple Cow or Permission Marketing or The Dip. I think of Linchpin. It’s one of Seth’s bigger/longer books (and for good reason). The subtitle of the book is, “Are You Indispensible?” This book defines what it means to be indispensible in the work that you do, and how to chart the course. This book is indispensible if you’re looking to be indispensible. I read this one every year… around this time of year.
  • Little Red Book Of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer. I used to think that the notion of selling was icky. I first came across Gitomer’s work by reading The Sales Bible well over a decade ago. What I quickly realized is that Gitomer doesn’t teach you how to sell anything. Sadly, we equate sales with manipulation, and that is not Gitomer’s game. Like Altucher, Gitomer is hilarious and fun to read. HIs books are quick, actionable but – most importantly – practical. Another book you should read and re-read at this time of the year, to get you in the mood to make some moves.
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. This book came out in 2005 and helped me better understand two major forces that the most successful people deploy that most of the rest of the population take for granted. One, the power of networking. Not for networking’s sake, but to build a viable community. Two, the ability to use moments like breakfast, lunch and supper to meet and connect – one on one – with people you do not normally connect with. It amazes me how the bulk of the population eat with the same people at work – each and every day. Those with valuable networks get access to opportunities that most can only dream of. This book will help you create the framework.

Now, it’s your turn. Which are the books that inspire you to do big things?

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How To Run The Best Day Possible

How much of your business day is spent focused on the things that really matter?

Almost a decade ago, I came across the thinking of Dan Sullivan (also known as The Strategic Coach). Those who know the infamous Strategic Coach Program speak about it with a reverence unlike any other type of mastermind-like initiative that I have come across. I have friends (who are successful beyond most of our wildest imaginations) that attribute their success directly to their involvement in Sullivan’s program. While I never took the formal course, I have devoured countless hours of audio programs and books from The Strategic Coach. One concept, Unique Ability, is something I still think about frequently. In the formative days of Twist Image, I spent a good deal of time attempting to self-define my own unique abilities and, in doing so, ensuring that I was aligned with people (either business partners, team members or clients) who had their own sets of unique abilities that were the traits and skills that I lacked. In its simplest form, I wanted to ensure that I could spend my time working on my unique abilities while others were spending their time doing the same thing. Of course, it’s not perfect and we all find ourselves doing tasks and projects that we have to trudge through, but consciously knowing when you’re doing the work that you were meant to do (or not doing it) is core to better understanding if you are running your best day possible rather than having the day run you.

Step 1: What is your unique ability? How much time are you focused on it during the work day?

My personal assistant is a total lifesaver. That’s a lie. I don’t have a personal assistant, EA or anything of the like. I tend to my schedule so that my business day can be best maneuvered. This surprises many people, but a successful day won’t happen unless you plan for it. If I control my schedule (and this even includes booking flights for business trips), I control my day. More social meetings happen prior to work (nothing quite like a good/early networking breakfast) or at lunch (to break up the day with something a little more social). Most news consumption, emails and inspiration comes in the morning hours as well, and I tend to write at night. When I am not being booked into client meetings during the day, I will often schedule myself into blocks of time for things like business development, new presentation development and more. I save phone calls for drives to and from the office or in-between meetings on the go. While my day-to-day is never strictly regimented or formulaic, there is a flow that I have created (and that I control) to ensure that the maximum amount of time when I am feeling most business inspired (usually between 7:30 am – 5:30 pm) is being optimized as much as possible.

Step 2: Control your schedule. Control your day.

Beyond the schedule, you have to run, hustle (shout-out to Gary Vaynerchuk who practically owns a trademark on that term) and ship (shout-out to Seth Godin) as much as you can with each and every passing moment. While this could me misconstrued as the ramblings of a workaholic, it is not. Those that know me (and my way of thinking) know how I feel about work/life balance (and, in case you don’t, this might help: The End Of Work-Life Balance or check out my latest book, CTRL ALT Delete). If we are going to spend time away from our loved ones for work, we have to make those moments count. Letting the days, weeks, months and years drift away is a waste. Your ability to accumulate any sense of wealth happens within a very short time span (usually you early thirties to late forties). We also can’t predict the future or what will come, so a sense of urgency is critical. I love how Steven Pressfield calls anything that takes us away from doing the work that we were meant to do the “resistance” (for more on that, check out his amazing book, The War Of Art). Just today, he wrote an article titled, Managing Your Day, that stated: “You have to run your day. You can’t let your day run you. You must roll out of bed each morning with an unshakeable focus and intention. Your novel, your start-up, your movie. That’s your day. That’s why you’re here. You can’t yield to distractions and temptations. You must be like the Blues Brothers. You’re on a mission from God. Who is in charge of your day? You are!” As much as I attempt to be in charge of my day, this was a great wake-up call.

Step 3: Put your butt where your heart wants to be.

That was one of the great lines that Pressfield told Oprah in a recent interview. So many people have aspirations, dreams and other unfilled thoughts. Some of those are delusional, but a lot of them are more than achievable. As human beings we struggle with going after what the heart wants. There is no doubt that it’s not easy, that it appears scary, and that there is always some semblance of risk. That is for you – as an individual – to measure and interpret. When you read the stories of those we consider successful, more often than not, there was a moment (or two) when they went for it. More often than not, these individuals were resilient. They did not go after their dreams with a reckless disregard, but rather a well-thought out, planned strategy. It went deeper than a simple belief and dug even deeper than those who rejected them or could not align with their views. This resilience is critical. With that, they also understood timing (some pre-meditated, while others got lucky). One of the best books (and it’s a small one) on this topic is called The Dip by Seth Godin. It’s a little book with a massive idea about when to stop (or to keep on going). 

Step 4: Be resilient (in everything that you do… and that includes knowing when to quit).

Get out there. I’m sure Steven Pressfield will shake his head at this one, but I believe that you can’t just be head-down in the work. You have to get out there and meet as many people as possible. Some of the biggest challenges that we face in business have already been solved by our peers. Some of the biggest opportunities to get your business on track or pointed in the right direction may be by meeting the right people. Don’t spend your days and nights out there networking, but plan to network a few times a week. Adopt a “giver’s gain” mindset to this (be helpful and resourceful to others first) and watch the luck stack up in your serendipity bank account. Think about industry associations, the local chamber of commerce, mastermind groups and more. Schedule the events in, prepare before you enter the room, and do your best to provide value first with no expectation of reciprocation.

Step 5: Network by being helpful to others first. 

The most successful people that I know planned for success (believe it or not). Failure is a part of this journey. Nothing is (ever) guaranteed. Still, if you focus on your unique ability, control your schedule, put your butt where heart wants to be, act with resilience and be as helpful to others as possible, you just may find your days filled with joy, growth and success instead of just letting another moment pass you by as you countdown to another weekend.

Your turn: how have you managed to run your best day possible?

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Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #180

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • Moldover’s Four Track – Documentary.I first met Moldover at Foo Camp a few years ago, and he’s an amazingly creative guy. Some traditional musicians hold on to their analog instruments, bemoaning the saccharine of autotune; others dive so far into electronica that the result is almost unrecognizable as music. Moldover seems to have found the right balance. Watch this brief (4 minute) documentary and pay attention to the instruments and general hackery: when was the last time you saw a singer design their own mic?” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • The Infinite Jukebox. “While we’re on the subject of music technology, this one blew my mind. It’s the missing piece for computers to do remixes humans couldn’t possibly manage. Pick a song, or upload one (there are already plenty) and the software will figure out how to loop it endlessly. It shows fragments of a song that are similar, making it possible to jump around in a track without noticing the changes. I could play with this for hours.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • The great middle-class identity crisis – FT Magazine. “How we used to define ourselves by our professions, and how that is changing.” (Hugh for Alistair).
  • The Hidden Technology That Makes Twitter Huge – Bloomberg BusinessWeek.Paul Ford looks under the hood at Twitter, and finds all the metadata that is attached to every tweet you make. And why that’s so important.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • This I Believe: A Manifesto for a Magnificent Career – Occam’s Razor. “There is no hiding my love and admiration for my close friend, Avinash Kaushik. Over the years, I have probably quoted or been inspired by Kaushik’s thinking more than anyone else (he’s right up there with Seth Godin, Tom Peters and Clay Shirky in my mind). I have no idea what I did to deserve the honor of becoming friends with him, but I’m so thankful that he found his way into my life. Most people know Avinash as the analytics guy from Google (he was their former Analytics Evangelist). Avinash is still at Google, with an expanded role of Digital Marketing evangelist. He’s written two amazing (and bestselling) books (Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0). He is a blogging behemoth. His posts are deep and long (some can be as long as 4000 words). He is as tactical as he is strategic. So, when he dug deep into what a great career looks like, this became the result. It was first published on November 11th, but I have read and re-read it countless times since then. When was the last time you could say that about a blog post?” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Banning the Negative Book Review – The New York Times. “It doesn’t get more meta than this, when it comes to books. This is a very well-written (and funny) op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times by advertising pundit and author, Bob Garfield. Apparently, BuzzFeed‘s new book editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, will no longer publish hatchet job book reviews. There are so many layers to this story, that I don’t know where to begin. Let’s just say that this is a criticism piece about literary criticism and the end of literary criticism (which the writer is criticizing). You can follow this piece of yarn to figure out your own nuances and ironies in all of this. Decades ago, I wrote tons of record reviews. Personally, I never liked trashing a band’s work. It was a matter of two personal principles. Number one, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it. Number two, if a reader is going to spend any time with you, why not turn them on to something they will like, rather than dismantling the hard work of someone else based on my own, personal, biases.” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.

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20 Best Marketing Books Of All Time

What are the best marketing books of all time?

It’s a question that I get asked, multiple times per week via email. It seems like people just coming out of school or professionals looking to up their game want to know not just what the latest and greatest books are, but which ones would be considered the seminal books on the subject of marketing. So, if I were putting together a MBA program with a focus on marketing, and was gifted the privilege of providing the reading list, these would be the ones that make the final cut.

The 20 Best Marketing Books Of All Time (in alphabetical order):

  1. The Anatomy Of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen. Before word of mouth marketing became a profession unto itself, Rosen was busy trying to figure out why certain brands get attention and how they do it. This is one of those classic business books that every marketer should read.
  2. The Art Of The Pitch by Peter Coughter. If you are in marketing, you will have to get good at presenting and selling your ideas. I’ve read countless books on the topic, and this is the only one worthy of reading, studying and applying. Woe the marketer that doesn’t heed these words.
  3. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Rick Levine. If you could point your finger at one book that changed the face of marketing, it would be this one. The entire social media movement came out of this book. Long before Facebook and Twitter, this visionary book told the tale of everything we believe and hold dear in these times of inter-connectedness.
  4. Seth Godin. I am cheating here (so, sue me). Not only could I not choose just one book by Seth Godin, but I found it hard to choose only five. So, I made my life easy by doing this. Buy and read everything Godin has published. Permission Marketing? Yes! Purple Cow? Of course! Unleashing The Ideavirus? You better! Linchpin? If you’re interested in a future, yes! The Icarus Deception? How could you not? I could go on and on (The Dip!), but I’m hopeful that you get the idea. Buy all of his books. You won’t regret it! 
  5. Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. This book is not for the timid. Shirky is more academic than fluff, and this book dives deep into technology and social media with beautiful and high-brow writing. So well written and researched. It is a gem.
  6. Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan. When was the last time that you read a business book and laughed out loud? Yes, this book is that funny, but it’s also one of the best books out there on what makes an ad great, and how to push yourself to create a great one as well. Written by a copywriter, this book demonstrates the power of words and the power of spending the time to find the right words.
  7. Influence by Robert Cialdini. An incredible book about how we make decisions and what influences them (hint: it’s not what you think)… and this was published long before behavioral economics became so very cool. This is profoundly powerful because of all of the science and research behind this book. Most marketers haven’t paid any attention to this book, and it shows in the vast majority of terrible work that we’re exposing the public to.
  8. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Marketing isn’t just about the ads. Marketing is also about the product and how to bring it to market. So many companies do everything right and yet still lose market share. If you’re interested in marketing and you haven’t read this book, it is a must-read.
  9. Life After The 30-Second Spot by Joseph Jaffe. Another one of those seminal books that you can look back at and marvel at just how prescient it was. This one is almost a decade old, but still resonates with some very deep thinking about where advertising is going.
  10. The Little Red Book Of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer. Don’t be fooled by the title. This simple, fun and short book is full of how to better position, market and sell both yourself and the products and services that you represent. In fact, anything by Gitomer is well-worth your time. This just happens to be one that I re-read each and every year.
  11. Made To Stick by Chip And Dan Heath. There have been countless books written on viral marketing and how brands should tell a better story. None of them hold a candle to this one. Perhaps one of the best books ever written on how a brand can (and should) tell a story (and how to do it).
  12. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. A key component to better understanding the power marketing is to learn about how to network and connect with others. I devoured Never Eat Alone when it first came out, and recommend that anyone trying to figure out how to better market themselves pick up this book. Stop eating lunch at your desk and get out there!
  13. The New Rules Of Marketing And PR by David Meerman Scott. This book has been updated by Scott many times over. If you’re looking for the ultimate primer on social media, what it means and what it can do, this is the perfect book to bring you up to speed.
  14. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy. What would a list like this be without a nod to one of the most well-known Mad Men of our time? David Ogilvy had a passion for advertising. He believed that it was a noble pursuit and a profession that should be taken seriously. This book is a great example of how to think like an advertising executive whose sole purpose it was to help brands sell more. Sometimes, in our digital times, it’s fun to read books like this and re-think all of the analytics and optimization talk we have and get back to the advertising as a form of art.
  15. Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. This is one of the “must have” books if you’re in marketing. It covers a ton of space on the topic of how to brand products and services and how to place them both in market and in the mind’s eye of the consumer. This should be the first book that anyone reads when they enter a Marketing 101 course.
  16. Re-Imagine! by Tom Peters. Not exactly a full-bore marketing book, but still Peters delivers in spades with this one. It’s also beautifully designed, which makes it fun to read. There are countless brand stories about excellence in this one.
  17. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. A wise individual once said to me that Gladwell has a knack for writing books that business leaders feel stupid for not having on their bookshelves. Pretty poignant and true. The Tipping Point is great because it helps marketers better understand the inflection point that happens when a product is ho-hum and how it then takes off like a rocket. It’s not really science so much as cultural, but it’s fascinating.
  18. Waiting For Your Cat To Bark? by Bryan and Jeffrey Einsenberg. The Eisenberg brothers posses an expertise unlike any other. They are experts at understanding and explaining the power of marketing optimization. Sadly, this is one of the most important aspects of the marketing sphere that most professionals spend little-to-no-time working on. This book is chock full of practical and powerful advice about consumers and how to help them by making your marketing easier to follow.
  19. Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. If you have spent more than two minutes reading any of my content, you will know that I am an unabashed fanboy of Avinash Kaushik, the digital marketing evangelist at Google. In fact, the notion of Sex With Data from CTRL ALT Delete was heavily inspired by Kaushik’s work/thinking. Most marketers eyes glaze over when they hear the word ‘analytics,’ but thankfully Kaushik is here to help make it fascinating and important. This book is packed with ideas about how to think better about your marketing and what it’s capable of doing.
  20. Where The Suckers Moon by Randall Rothenberg. Most people in my world know Rothenberg as the President and CEO of the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau). What most people don’t know is that in 1995, he authored this book. A book that is, without a doubt, one of the best books on the advertising industry.

Anything missing? What would you add?

(special thanks to Jean-Philippe Belley for asking the question again to me today via email, and for inspiring me to pull this list together by roaming through my personal book collection).

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The Future Of Digital 2013

Business has changed.

This was the pure sentiment of my second book, CTRL ALT Delete, which came out this past summer (and, if you’re so inclined, I would love for you to pick up a copy of it today). A couple of interesting events have transpired since it first launched in late May of this year. First, it has received 120 positive reviews on Amazon (with a average rating of 4.5/5 stars). This past week, it was named by Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2013 in Business and Investing. Then, yesterday, Business Insider released their research report, The Future Of Digital – 2013, at the Ignition event that further validated the thinking in CTRL ALT Delete. While there is no direct correlation to the research of Business Insider or how I came to create the contents of the book, it is clear that there is a lot of validation from one piece of work to the other.

Business has changed.

Many business professionals will tell me that business is changing. I candidly reply that business has changed and that most brands are (sadly) not paying much attention to these massive shifts. If you’re going to look at anything today, I would strongly recommend that you review the slides from Henry Blodget‘s presentation on the future of digital yesterday. The crux of the five movements that have changed business forever in CTRL ALT Delete that most brands are doing little-to-nothing about can be correlated to a ton of the data that will – without question – leave you jaw dropped from Business Insider. Without giving away too many goodies from the presentation or the full-on depth of CTRL ALT Delete, it is becoming increasingly evident that most brands are

  1. Still failing at developing a profound direct relationship with their consumers.
  2. Under-utilizing the vast amounts of information, data and analytics that are available to make their marketing more effective.
  3. Not truly embracing the reality that creating utility as an engine of marketing is the future of advertising.
  4. Not understanding the true context of their consumer – not just their location, but everything around context.
  5. Unsure about how to create engagement in what I define as the one screen world (where the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of me).

The opportunities are massive and everywhere.

If you are interested in the future of digital by better understanding where the world is today, you should hop over and read through the amazing Business Insider slide deck: The Future Of Digital – 2013.  

If you want more CTRL ALT Delete…

Please feel free to watch this conversation that I had with Seth Godin about CTRL ALT Delete at the Google offices in NYC this past past June:

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It’s Never Too Late To Start A Blog

Well, of course someone who loves to blog is going to say that it’s never too late to start a blog.

I was asked to give a presentation this past week in London for the London Bloggers Meet-up (many thanks to Bernie, Andy and David for pulling this together). The event took place at the spectacular offices of Google in London (don’t believe me, do a search on this office space, it has been featured in many articles and posts). There were over fifty bloggers in attendance and, instead of just presenting, we decided to do more of a Q&A-type of session. A deep-dive into the merits of blogging. Yes, we all recognize that it’s 2013.

Blogging as a euphemism. 

I use blogging as a euphemism for putting your thinking out there. For me, blogging has been that media. I do love the weekly podcast, writing business books, as well as being a contributor to Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review and others, but blogging is where my heart lies. That’s not entirely true. Writing is where my heart lies, and I publish that writing (primarily) on a blog. What I love most about blogging is the immediacy of sharing. The other publishing platforms typically have intermediaries, editors, time to publish and more. So, whether it’s a blog for you, Instagram, posting to Facebook, Pinterest or whatever, let’s (for argument’s sake) just accept blogging as the euphemism for putting yourself out there.

Start now.

It may seem simple enough, but I labored over those two, simple words. I hesitate to tell you to start because I often find myself wondering if the world needs another blog, another tweet, another post about some wonderful place you’re visiting or how hard of a workout you just had at the gym. The world probably doesn’t need that, but it does need your thinking. Blogging has matured, evolved and changed. It’s no longer the place for random brain droppings (we have a multitude of online social networks that allow that). Blogging has, chiefly, become the publishing channel for those who love to write and to connect more directly with those who are interested in the words. Without a doubt, comments and other social media channels have allowed these pieces to have a sense of distribution and additive insights, but a blog still gives a more personal space to explore with words the critical thinking that is taking place between your two ears.

You have other options.

If you look at platforms like Medium, Quora, Huffington Post and more, they are not only providing a place to blog (if you’re not inclined to own your own space), but a platform of distribution. These spaces are like blogs with built-in audiences. The challenge with them is that – to a certain degree – for your piece to resonate within that channel it has to adopt the likeness of it. The best writers write for the channel. A book is not a blog post and an article on the Huffington Post is not the same as contributing to the Harvard Business Review. Finding the right match between your words, the publication and their platform can be challenging.

A blog is your land.

You can graze, decide what type of voice you want to cultivate, how often you would like to publish, how long (or short) you would like to publish. From there, you create the brand of the space. What the look, feel and vibe of the words will be. If anything, blogging has never been easier to do (check out WordPress), but on the other hand, it has never been harder to be successful at it because of how it has matured and because of the vast quantity of bloggers looking to grow their voice and audience. Still, I’m going to encourage you to either start a blog today or revive the one you may have abandoned.

If that doesn’t spark you to make the move, please watch this (it’s an oldie but a goodie from Seth Godin and Tom Peters):

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5 Simple Ways To Get More Creative, Inspired And Smarter Every Day

Stop complaining about email.

We all get too much email. Most of the time it’s about things that should probably be discussed in person (or over the phone) or it’s spam. The truth is that the inbox continues to be a great way to get more creative, inspired and smarter every day. I’ve written about this before: I still love subscribing to a slew of great e-newsletters, but there is only a handful that I simply can’t wait to read, or I leave theme in my inbox until I get through them. It’s a high bar, but these five deliver with each and every email.

5 e-newsletter that will help you be more creative, inspired and smarter:

  1. James Altucher Insider’s List. For my dollar, I think James Altucher is one of the best bloggers out there. He writes about inspiration, motivation, spirituality, finance, and entrepreneurship. He’s honest. So honest, that you will often find yourself wondering where he finds the courage to be so honest. The amazing thing about Altucher is that his email offers up much more content than he publishes on his blog, and every one is worth the read for a myriad of reasons.
  2. First Look Access. I have been on a Steven Pressfield kick for a long while. Recently, I signed up for his e-newsletter called, First Look Access, and it has been incredible. It is chock full of deep thinking about the habit of writing and the projects that he is working on. As the author of The War Of Art, Do The Work and more, I can promise you that even if you’re not a writer, the content is transferable to everything that you do in your daily work routine. 
  3. Seth Godin. Unless this is your first time here, you know that I am a massive fan of all things Seth Godin (did you think that I am bald because of Mother Nature’s cruelty alone?). Godin blogs daily, and having his posts pop up in my inbox every morning, provides a quick jolt of business, leadership, marketing and human motivation. Subscribe to his feed, so that you never miss a moment.
  4. Media REDEF. I have no idea how Jason Hirschhorn does it – each and every day. You could spend hours scouring blogs, Twitter and Facebook for amazing links about media, technology and pop culture only to discover that Hirschhorn has already done all of the heavy lifting (and more) for you. In short, you could be offline forever and simply subscribe to Media REDEF, and you would have missed absolutely nothing. Bonus: because he has a background in the music industry, he also combines links from that fascinating industry as well. It’s gold… or multiple times platinum (if you’re into music industry jargon).
  5. Quartz. They call themselves “a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy.” I love the news. When I’m in a hotel room (which is often), CNN is on all of the time. When I’m on a plane, I’ll tear through 2-4 newspapers. Yes, I’m an infovore. Still, I think that what Quartz pulls together in their Daily Brief will keep you totally informed about what’s in the news coupled with some interesting curated links from around the globe. So, if you don’t have time to watch, listen or read the news, this one keeps you in the zone where you will know enough about the world to be dangerous in a cocktail conversation at the local chamber of commerce.

Yes. it’s a diverse group. What are your must-reads from the Web?

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If You Have Ever Been Rejected… Be Like Bono

The letter read…

“Thank you for submitting your tape of ‘U2‘ to RSO, we have listened with careful consideration, but feel it is not suitable for us at present. We wish you luck with your future career.”

They were kind enough to end the letter by saying, “sincerely.” So, that’s something.

How many times have you been told “no”?

It’s not that The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum doesn’t have tons of eye candy, videos and collectibles that would get the most cynical of music enthusiast smiling. It’s full of that. But, after spending several hours there today, in Cleveland, it is that short letter for Bono and the boys that I took a picture of, and will constantly refer back to when someone tells me no or rejects one my ideas. Thankfully, U2 kept going. They believed in the work that they were creating, and they persevered to the tune of massive global stardom. U2 is the type of iconic band that can sell out any stadium that has electricity. They’re just that big. They’re adored by millions. There are thousands of stories about rejection like this one. What’s most interesting is just how much things have changed. The record industry (like the marketing industry) used to be based on a scarcity model. Without the right music, look, feel, management, resources, network and more, the odds of making it would shrink exponentially. Record labels could only release a handful of albums each and every year, and there was only so much shelf space in record stores for all of these artists. Gatekeepers had to do their best to reserve these coveted spots for “sure things.” 

From scarcity to abundance.

Technology has added some dynamic layers of abundance to this. Now, any artist (or marketer) can share their ideas – in text, images, audio and video – instantly and (mostly) for free with the world. You can post your music to SoundCloud, a video to YouTube, or you can pique someone’s interest via Facebook, Twitter and beyond. It has never been easier to share, because the cost of distribution has slipped to zero along with the barriers to entry. It gets even crazier when you think about the cost to record that music when compared to the days of recording studios and more. There’s nothing new in that. We’ve been banging this drum for well over a decade already. Still, not a day passes by that someone isn’t down in the dumps over being rejected or told that they can’t do something.

If it’s important to you.

When I think about rejection. When I think about quitting. When I think about all of the people who have ever tried to hold me back (including my own beliefs), I think about two books:

  1. The Dip by Seth Godin.
  2. Do The Work by Steven Pressfield.

They are small books with massive ideas that will help you figure out how to start something and/or when to end it. Both are important. Now, I have a picture of this letter that some record company wrote to U2. I can slide to unlock my iPhone, select my photos and just read it. In two seconds, I can then decide if whatever rejection I’m facing has merit beyond someone – with their own ego issues – getting in the way. This doesn’t mean that other people’s opinions and insights don’t deserve any attention. Constructive criticism and feedback is often good and may very well send you on a different and more successful course. Still, people will reject you and your ideas for a myriad of reasons… and a lot of the time it has very little to do with your skills, talent, artistry and hunger. Always remember that.

If you’re feeling rejected, just read that note to U2 over again, and be like Bono. Keep at it.

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Inspiration Day

Let’s call it Inspiration Day. Not Labor Day.

You’ve heard enough jokes about why we take the day off from work on Labor Day. Personally, I watch my schedule for days like this, and slice some time away from family and friends to get inspired about the work. Thankfully, we have things like YouTube and TED that make it a whole lot easier.

Following are five videos that will inspire you to get more inspired about the work that you do: 

1. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.

2. Simon Sinek – How great leaders inspire action.

3. Good Life Project – Seth Godin On Books, Business And Life.

4. Susan Cain – The power of introverts.

5. The Attributes of Great Leaders – Tom Peters.

BONUS ROUND!

Commit to change the way that you hold meeting…

Nilofer Merchant: Got a meeting? Take a walk.

Feel free to add the one that have inspired you below…

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Are Creative Types Just A Bunch Of Slackers?

When you think of creative types, what do you think of?

If they are creatives and they work in the marketing industry, most people think of individuals wearing shorts, t-shirts and bouncing rubbery objects off of their walls until its lunchtime or until an idea strikes. For others, it’s a scene out of the movie Limitless, where Bradley Cooper is a wannabe writer who has a publishing contract and a literary agent, but he spends his time seeking out inspiration by doing anything (and, I do mean anything) but the hard work of putting the words on to paper or a screen. It’s not wrong to say that creatives are often given a bad rap. For the most part, their reputations are often summed up in one word: slackers.

It’s simply not true. 

Recently, Jerry Seinfeld was on Howard Stern and it was one of the most fascinating pieces of content I’ve consumed in a very long time (you can listen to it here). Stern (like me) is fascinated with the mechanics of standup comedy and how Jerry puts together a set. Much in the same way that I love the Paris Review because of the way they not only interview authors but dissect their work environment and writing habits. Seinfeld is obsessive. He works on jokes like he’s sitting on the assembly line: day in and day out. Tinkering with it. Wordsmithing it. Perfecting the timing. It’s the complete opposite of doing nothing. You can’t look at authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and not be impressed with their output. It takes other authors years to pull together enough words to call it a book. It’s not a question of speed (some have it, while others don’t), but it is a question of habits. I was first introduced to the concept of bringing a blue-collar work ethic to the creative space in Steven Pressfield‘s amazing book, The War Of Art. It was re-introduced to me when he updated some of the concepts for the book, Do The Work (which was a part of Seth Godin‘s The Domino Project publishing imprint). I used to believe that writing (whether it’s a book, article or blog post) is a lot easier when you know you’re not the only one suffering to find the idea and the words to match it. I’ve since changed my ways. My views were further changed during my book launch event for CTRL ALT Delete that happened at the Google office in NYC a few months back. I was fortunate enough to have a live conversation on stage with Seth Godin. Someone in the crowd asked us about our writing output and Godin stated that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block because there is no such thing as thinker’s block or talker’s block and he likes to write like he talks (you can watch the video footage of our conversation below).

What it’s really all about.

I am about 70% through an amazing book called, Daily Rituals – How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. It looks at everyone from Hemingway to Kafka and beyond. The book features writers, painters, architects and artists. Some entries are short, while others are more well-documented. Through the ages, there are three common threads that keep coming up that, to me, that demonstrate why we consider these individuals great. It also demonstrates just how absurdly wrong our perception is of the creative class.

  1. Hard work. There are no entries about people who wandered around the local pub scene, partied late into the night and magically were able to create great work. Some of these artists are early risers (we’re talking 4 am wake-ups), while others were able to work deep into the night (we’re talking about going to sleep at 4 am). All of them brought a rigid work ethic to what it was that they were creating and – for the most part – were somewhat obsessive with delivering something of excellence. This hard work and dedication is not about how many hours they spent on something, but every one of them spent countless hours during the day hard at work on getting the work done. It only be defined as the opposite of slacking and procrastinating. They were on a tight schedule. 
  2. Take notes. When these people weren’t spending their working day toiling towards perfection and on a schedule, they were taking notes. Some kept notebooks on their night tables, while others would frequently be seen out and about, but off in a corner taking notes or working through a problem. I’m reminded of a story that famed author Jeffrey Gitomer once told me about his father and how he would always be writing notes on a pad of paper that he kept with him. When Jeffrey asked him what he was writing, his father would reply, “I’m doing my homework.” The world’s most admired creatives do a lot of homework by taking a lot of notes when they’re not “on the job.”
  3. They walk. Through the decades, each and every one of these creative types took time – every day – to go for a long and/or vigorous walk. Yes, they would often stop and take notes as well, but they would frequently go out for an extended period to think, ponder or spend time with family and friends. While some would walk alone, others would walk with their spouses or partners. Each and every one of them found time to do some kind of deep and intensive physical exercise, but – more often than not – it was walking. It feels like it was done as a holistic exercise. One that moved the body, mind and spirit.

So, the next time you’re not feeling creative, it may be best to stop wondering about where that next idea is going to come from and ask yourself if you have dedicated daily rituals that will let the million flowers bloom. 

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Please Track Us

Every brand you like online (Amazon, Facebook, Google and more) are monitoring your every move.

Are you creeped out? They’re monitoring you for many reasons. Some are doing it to better understand if what they’re creating works, in terms of how you view, click, touch, move and share through a digital experience. Others are tracking you to better understand how one piece of content leads to another. This way, they can test and learn what types of things you may be more inclined to look at. Some are tracking you in order to put more relevant ads in front of your face. So, if you were looking at a pair of shoes on Zappos and find yourself on some other website later in the day, you may find a Zappos ad with the exact brand of shoes in it that you were looking at earlier, with a call to action (like a discount code or free shipping). This is called retargeting, and it’s a contentious component of online advertising, because of how your information is being shared beyond the confines of one specific site (with many potential third-parties) and because it has become an increasingly effective way to advertise.

All marketers are liars.

There is an inherent and well-deserved truth to the title of Seth Godin‘s 2005 seminal book, All Marketers Are Liars. It’s no surprise that the marketing profession has a bad reputation. You could even call it ironic that the marketing industry is in such dire need of a better marketing campaign (and in even worse need of a complete rebrand). Editorials, like the one published in The New York Times‘ Sunday Review this past weekend (see: Don’t Track Us), are not helping either. Privacy advocates and policy makers are naturally reacting to the public outcry that online tracking of consumers has gone from something many didn’t want to openly admit to doing, to a realm where marketers who are engaged in these types of activities may not even be aware just how much of this consumer data is floating around out there, who has it, what they’re doing with it and more.

What’s best for the consumer?

It’s clear that this entire component of the marketing industry needs a thorough review. It’s clear that consumers, brands and agencies need to have a much more transparent approach to what is being collected, how it is being used, how it is being shared and more. Ultimately, consumers should have some say in what they’re comfortable sharing, and what they would much prefer to have kept as private or unavailable to these websites, ad networks and third-parties. But there is a much bigger elephant in the room that needs to be drawn out, approached, copped to and discussed: this type of tracking works and consumers are loving it (because the results prove it: Study: What Actual Marketers Feel About Retargeting, FBX & More).

Pitchforks, tar and feathers.

Before you start lighting up those pitchforks and come after us marketers with a mix of mass hysteria and moral panic, take a look at your own online behavior and ask yourself, which scenario you prefer? Go to Amazon and start shopping (presuming you have been there before), and ask yourself, “what is the experience like?” Now, go back to Amazon, sign out, clear your web browser’s cache and go back to Amazon, without logging in, and ask yourself, “what is the experience like?” The answer is always the same: when Amazon doesn’t know who you are or have your viewing/shopping history, the experience is pretty gruesome. There’s simply not much to see because you can see everything. When Zappos is better able to show you inventory because they know you’re a female, what your shoe size is, and can cater the entire experience to your past shopping habits, we marvel at the ingenuity. The lesson is clear: relevancy and a more personal experience makes for a happier consumer and a better brand experience. The same is true about ads. Consumers will tell you that they hate advertising, but if they have to see ads, they prefer that they be relevant, personal and contextual.

The enigma, wrapped in bacon wrapped in a paradigm.

What consumers (and brands) really need is a win-win scenario. Digging deeper into that New York Times editorial piece, it becomes abundantly clear that we’re not there yet: “For the last two years, a group of Internet and advertising businesses and experts has been working on this problem. It is hoping to create a voluntary standard that would be adopted by companies that make Web browsers, the ad networks and Web sites. But advocates for greater privacy and groups representing advertising and marketing companies remain far apart on several important issues, like what constitutes tracking.” Perhaps we need to better define what is privacy and what is personalization? Instead of privacy advocates on the case, perhaps we need a healthy dose of personalization advocates. All of the “do not track” initiatives seem more like platforms to complain about advertising, than ones that help consumers understand what a world without personalization looks like. These groups – and other media pundits – are blurring the lines between what we’re anonymously doing online versus who we are. What we’re doing is the personalization part of the equation,  and who we are is the personal stuff. If we can better help consumers understand that better brand experiences happen when these channels understand what you’re doing, but not who you are, by collecting usage and not personal information, we may be able to achieve a result that truly is mutually beneficial.

The case for tracking.

Policy makers stepping in and unilaterally making the case that all tracking is a form of capturing personal information has the same whiff as all consumers thinking that their personal information is being shared when it may only be anonymous usage. This idea that “one size fits all” for tracking is silly in a world of social media, e-commerce, websites, smartphones and tablets. It’s not good if the current hyperbole over tracking wins, and it’s definitely not healthy if it entirely dies on the vine as well. Consumers need to better educate themselves and have the options to make intelligent decisions instead of a generalized position that will, ultimately, make the consumer experience, bland, impersonal, and so generic that their frustration over being tracked will be trumped by platforms, channels and brands that are giving them nothing personal or of value other than generic ads and products/services that they don’t care about/need. We need to start asking the tough questions: what information is personal versus what information is creating a better personalized experience? What is a better experience: ads, products or services that are based on my usage and preferences or non-targeted ads and no ability for a brand experience to know me?

What do you think consumers would truly prefer? A world of no tracking or a world of personalization and context?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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The End Of Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Do you?

Have you ever had a moment in time when someone says something that stops you dead in your tracks? It happened to me. It happened to me live on stage. The other week, I held a private book launch for my latest business book, CTRL ALT Delete. The event was held at the Google offices in New York, and I was joined on stage by Seth Godin (you can see the full conversation right here: Don’t Be An Anonymous Cog – CTRL ALT Delete With Seth Godin). Someone in the audience asked us about both the frequency of how much content we publish and where the ideas come from. Seth said that he doesn’t believe in writer’s block because we don’t get thinker’s block or talker’s block. And, he concluded, he writes like he talks. It’s true, you don’t stop talking and you don’t stop thinking, so why should you be blocked to write?

It’s scary… but it’s true.

Volumes have been written about how to overcome writer’s block, but it could well be a term that writer’s created as an excuse. Not every word is gold. The words don’t always flow easily, on a consistent basis on every day. Sometimes it seems so easy. Sometimes nothing could be harder. But a blockage? Nothing? I don’t believe it. Even it does exist, I don’t want to hear about it or think about it. There are some tricks and advice that I’ve culled over the years. I am hopeful that this may be of use to you on your journey.

How to put an end to writer’s block:

  1. Read the book, Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. It’s a small and brilliant book that is a riff on his original book, The War of Art. In short: bring a blue collar work ethic to your writing. Much in the same way that the construction worker wakes up, gets ready and hits the work site, as a writer you have to do the same thing. Put in the hours. Take a small break in the morning, maybe an hour for lunch, but plug away at it. 9-5 five with no excuses.
  2. Overdose on content. The more you read, see and feel, the more ideas you will have. Blogging once a day is easy when you have to choose one of five items to blog about. The more I consume during the day, the more inspiration I find to write, and the more of a catalog I have to pull from. Be an infovore.
  3. Keep notes. It may be Evernote, a voicemail, an email, handwritten note on scraps of paper or a fancy shmancy Moleskine. When something pops into your mind, capture it. If you don’t… it’s gone.
  4. Learn how to freewrite. I can’t thank Mark Levy enough for this technique. If you think you have nothing to write, you’re wrong. Pick up Mark’s book, Accidental Genius, or listen to my podcast with him (SPOS #221 – Unlocking Creativity And Your Accidental Genius With Mark Levy) and get that writing going. If you don’t have time to read the book or listen to our podcast, do this: take the topic that you want to write about, set a time for five minutes and just make a list of everything you know about the topic. Once the five minutes are done (and don’t stop making that list until the five minutes are up), review the list and choose the three most important bulletpoints from the list that interest you the most. Then take five minutes for each bulletpoint and freewrite (no focus on spelling, grammar or form… just write). That whole exercise took about twenty minutes. Still think that you have nothing to write about?
  5. Free yourself. People often say, “I can’t write on a plane,” or “I need my special chair to write,” or “I need it to be quiet,” or “I need the hum of a coffee house” or… whatever. Four words: shut up and write. I used to work with a close quarter combatives coach, and a lot of our clients were military personnel. On the way to a war zone, their senior officers would often come over and tell them to grab some sleep. And, guess what? With all of the pressures of the pending combat, the stress, the motion of the bouncing truck or cargo plane, they would get some shut eye. They forced it. Force yourself to write anywhere and everywhere. It’s going to be hard. It’s not going to feel right. Keep at it. You will get there. Write everywhere. Find a plug and start plugging away.

Now, quit reading this… and start writing! 

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Are We At The Beginning Or The End Of Publishing?

What would you make out of a question like that?

Regardless, that was the exact question that Alistair Croll (co-author of Lean Analytics, BitCurrent, Year One Labs and one of my weekly link buddies) asked of Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto and my other weekly link buddy), Julien Smith (Breather, co-author of Trust Agents and The Impact Equation and author of The Flinch) and me at today’s International Startup Festival. Under normal circumstances, this is a tough question to dissect and answer in a cogent way. We were asked to answer this during a concurrent session being held outdoors in a tent set-up with people mingling and networking outside. Trying to create some energy and excitement in the room (err…. tent) made my attempt frazzled. I’m hopeful that this blog post can clear it all up.

Traditional publishing still matters.

This isn’t about big book and magazine publishers killing trees and maintaining the transport industry while feeding a distribution channel to retail. It means that these big publishing houses still have professionals who love and care about content in a way that allows customers to get true value from the products that they are buying. These products may be physical, digital, audio, digital audio or whatever. When I look at the people who work at Grand Central PublishingHachette Book Group (the publishers of my two business books, Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete), I do not see the same type of professionals that I was subjected to for over a decade while I was in the music industry. These book publishers know and understand that the landscape has changed, they know and understand that their consumers are buying their products and using them in new and different ways and, they’re trying their best to not make the same bad decisions as those in the music industry. It’s not perfect. They are some ugly things happening. There is going to be more messy stuff as we wander this road through business purgatory. Still, traditional publishing matters. It brings long form content to a bigger and more diverse audience. Not every author is going to have a shared experience, some will get book deals because they have a lot of followers on Twitter, and others will get a book deal because some editor believes that their content could set the book world on fire. As Seth Godin likes to say, your mileage may vary.

Self-publishing matters more than it ever did.

Take a look at the bestselling business books on Amazon‘s Kindle ebook page. Along with the expected slew of new and notable business books, you will find self-published and independent authors rocking this list with books as cheap as one dollar. With minimal technology and investment, anyone who wants to write a book can do so. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to work, and it doesn’t mean that it’s going to sell, but it does mean that they can not only write a book, but have access to a viable marketplace to sell and promote it. This doesn’t mean that big book publishers go away, it simply means more competition and more choices for the consumer.

Digital publishing opens up a world of opportunities.

It is very alluring. Anyone can have a thought and publish it in text, images, audio and video instantly (and for free) to the Web (and to the world). Whether it’s a simple tweet or all the way up to building a robust online publishing platform like Tumblr or Medium. The opportunities and the ideas are endless when it comes to digital publishing. With each and every passing day, we are seeing new and creative ways for people to publish – look no further than what is happening on Vine or what people are creating with Instagram‘s 15 second video.

It’s just the beginning…

People crave content. It has never been easier to get content published or to make the decision to become a publisher. With that, more and more startups will launch new and inventive ways for content to find an audience. Will other kinds of publishing disappear? Possibly. Is it the end of the book as we have known them to date? Doubtful. People will still want and enjoy this type of content and media. I can’t imagine an end to books or magazines. With that, this moment in time is a new beginning for the publishing industry with no end in sight.

What do you think? Are we at the beginning or the end of publishing?   

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Don’t Be An Anonymous Cog – CTRL ALT Delete With Seth Godin

It was a magical night in New York City.

In thinking about the release of my latest business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I had no intention of doing the standard book launch party. I didn’t want to stand in a bookstore with family and friends, sipping wine…