trust agents

My 3 Words For 2014

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2014. What’s your plan?

I was never a fan of goal-setting… and even less of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. For a long while, I was working within a framework called The Goal Cultivator courtesy of Dan Sullivan (aka The Strategic Coach). I felt like his perspective on goal cultivating versus goal setting was a new paradigm, and – in looking back at those initial exercises – it’s amazing to see how profound that experience was in shaping my present-day situation (special thanks to my dear friend, Barry Pascal, for introducing me to the work of The Strategic Coach). Every year, Chris Brogan (Trust Agents, The Impact Equation, etc…) does an exercise he calls, My 3 Words For The Year. Brogan explains it like this: “In an effort to tell bigger stories, I’ve found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It’s a bit like turbo-charged goal planning.” He unveils how his process for coming up with his three words for the year and unveils them on January 1st of each new year.

Going public.

I’ve been doing this exercise ever since Brogan first introduced it. Each year, around December – without prompting – I find myself starting to think about my three words. The pressure is on. It’s a good pressure, but it’s pressure. All of us hope to do more, be more and achieve more. Nailing it down to three words is always a welcome challenge. This year, I have decided to make them public (as I did last year). Part of the work that I did within The Goal Cultivator program proved to me that “putting it out there” makes it real, tangible and easier to focus on. So, here’s goes everything…

My 3 Words For 2014

  1. Lose. I hate to lose. We all hate to lose. You will hear people say that all of the greats have lost more often than they have won. I still want to “win.” Badly. In 2014, I’m going to think deeply about the moments when things don’t work out the way I had hoped or wished for. I’m going to try to get through the mourning period quicker by forecasting the lessons of loss in a more pragmatic and less emotional way. Still, that’s one of the smaller reasons I chose “lose” as one of my words. In fact, I need to lose a lot of things in 2014. From a couple of pounds (who doesn’t need to lose that?) to the bad habits that I picked up last year of not reading enough books. This year, I’m going to lose many more tiny and nuanced changes I have had in my professional career and adjust them more than ever. “Lose” to me represents the same thinking as working with an editor (which, I sadly only get to do on bigger writing projects like a book or submitting a piece to the Harvard Business Review). I am going to do my best to lose and edit a lot of my current work tactics in an effort to “sharpen the sword” and gain more efficiency. Time to lose a bunch of stuff in 2014 that wasn’t working for me in 2013, and embrace the fact that to lose is a set-up shot for the rest of the game, when played well and accepted.
  2. Win. A long time ago, one of my business partners at Twist Image once told me that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose every new business pitch, but rather that you keep on going. If you look, historically, at some of the greatest marketing agencies that our world has ever seen, it is not the ones that won the most pitches that have survived and thrived. It is the ones that became resilient and just kept on going (not winning over time, but winning enough to grow). Granted, this great piece of advice came from the same individual who often reminds me that they don’t get out of bed in the morning to “break even,” and this is the same individual who used to have a sign up in their old office that read: “Be brilliant. Be brief. Be gone.” The message is clear: we need to win more. Not that  I didn’t have enough “wins” in the past, and not that I don’t love to win, but winning more in the sense of crossing a symbolic finish line not by inching my hand across it, but with a smile and a sense of abundance. This is also about taking a moment to celebrate the good stuff too. It’s about doing enough training and practice, so that you don’t just get something done, but rather you feel like you have won at the task or effort. This notion of “win” can probably best be summed up by thinking about the title of Todd Henry‘s latest book on creativity titled, Die Empty. To me, winning will be about dying empty. Leaving it all out there and making sure that it was the best that I could do.
  3. Stop. I don’t stop often enough. To breathe. To play some electric bass. To read more. To look you in the eyes and have a meaningful conversation. To have breakfast with old friends. To go for a long and unplanned walk. To be “in the moment” instead of thinking about what’s coming next. This is a simple extension of what James Altucher would call “time traveling.” It’s something we all do. And we do it often. We stress over things that happened in the past, or we worry about what could potentially go wrong in the future and all this does is cause us worry, anxiety and damage in the present. We can’t control or do anything about our past or a future that does not yet exist, so we “time travel” instead of living in the present with purpose and mindfulness. Stop. 2014 will provide many more instances for me to stop. Yes, even to stop and smell the roses.

What three words will you focus on in 2014?


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?   


The Depressing State Of Social Media Marketing

How do you think brands are doing when it comes to social media marketing?

My friend, Chris Brogan (co-author with Julien Smith of Trust Agents and The Impact Equation), laments the state of social media marketing in one of his latest blog posts, The Bare Truth About Social Media Marketing. While Brogan paints the landscape with a wide brush and lacks any quantitative of qualitative data to back it up (beyond his own review of what some brands are doing in spaces like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), it’s easy to understand and relate to his frustrations.

Social media is not living up to its promise.

You don’t have to go that far back in time. A little over ten years since the publishing of the momentous business book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, painted a picture of how brands could now conduct themselves. Everything was so bright and hopeful back then. Suddenly, all of this inter-connectivity and untethered consumers would lead us to a path where markets truly would become conversations and the promise of Don Peppers and Martha Rogersone to one marketing world would and could come true. In a way, social media has over-delivered on certain aspects of the equation. No one could have imagined just how transformative these technologies and innovations have become. Nobody could have imagined how willfully consumers would want to connect and publicly share so much personal and contextual information. Nobody could have imagined a world where each and every one of us would become our own media channels, publishing our thoughts in text, images, audio and video to the Web… and to the world in real time. Nobody could have imagined the volume of data sets and information that now paint a very different consumer profile, which transcends the world of demographics and psychographics. Just look at what is happening today on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and more. The opportunity for businesses to connect in a much deeper, richer and more profound way could not be easier. Brands truly can have real interactions between real human beings.

So, what is so wrong?

For my dollar, people like Brogan (and I count myself in the same camp as him) simply wants brands to become more personal and more personable. In short, brands have passed the social media marketing test because they are using it as an added way to communicate. I would argue that communications is not the point… creating true connections is the point. This is not a debate of semantics, but a much larger corporate conversation that brands are simply not eager to have. If you surveyed the vast majority of these brands, they will not understand the gripes of Brogan, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Nilofer Merchant, Avinash Kaushik, Joseph Jaffe or me. They will point to the amount of people who are following them on Twitter or how many likes they have on Facebook and push it further by showing the level of engagement they have with consumers in terms of speed-to-response or resolution in regards to a customer service issue as the barometer for success. They will demonstrate how often their messages are shared, liked, promoted and retweeted. They will highlight individual consumer feedback as a metaphor for the direct relationship that they now have with consumers, but they are still missing the point.

So, what could be so right?

Using social media to communicate a message is the obvious stuff. To this day, we have all-too-many brands who don’t even know how to nail down that very elementary component. What brands are missing, when it comes to social media is the true connection. The trust that is built out of real interactions between real human beings. And, quite frankly, they’re missing this point because social media marketing is simply seen as any other form of corporate marketing and communications. It may even be agency-led or outsourced to a company that specializes in community management. Brands aren’t internalizing the power of how to be social, so the act of social media is simply an extension of the communications and not a true connection between brand and consumer.

Getting social media right. 

It’s not easy. It’s not perfect. It’s not fast. It takes time. There is not one set way for all companies to engage and connect. Because of this, brands look at social media marketing much in the same way that they look at their campaigns or their quarterly goals. And, if we’re going to honest about this, that just won’t cut it. Social media is organizational and it’s not a vertical within the marketing or corporate communications department. Social media is the horizontal that runs across the organization, much in the same way that the culture, brand and human resources should. If we benchmark social media by campaigns and quarters, we are relegating it to a world where its efficacy won’t be about how to build a better brand through better connections, but rather a world where its only role is to augment and supplement the communications of a brand. That sounds like more noise to me.

That would be a shameful waste… wouldn’t it?


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