I’m an amateur photographer. So when I see something really cool that I could share with others, my natural reaction is to take a picture. But there’s one important time when I can’t.
I love my hot tub. From this relaxing location I look across my back yard to a vine-covered fence where orange trumpet flowers invite hummingbirds. It’s also a resting place for birds and a playground for squirrels. And every once in awhile I see something that would make a perfect picture.
My hot tub is also a great place to meditate. I’m totally unplugged, warm, relaxed, and I have great scenery.
A few days ago I spotted a mommy and baby squirrel making their way across the top of the vines. Every once in a while they would stop and all I could see was two tails sticking up from the leaves. I thought, “What a great picture!”
But here’s the deal: I’m not taking my camera in the hot tub. It would take me less that a minute to either drop it or splash it. So I’m just not going to take the chance. And while I have a bit of frustration about that, it’s also a blessing.
There are times when you need to put down the technology and just enjoy the moment – knowing that it cannot be captured. You can choose to live in this moment or spend your time fretting because you can’t do anything but live in the moment.
Some people define “mindfulness” as emptying your mind. Dismissing all thoughts. Stopping the flow of images and ideas through your head. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Being mindful truly means to stop and notice what’s going through your head. It means acknowledging what you see and hear. And then, without dwelling on it or passing judgement, continuing the journey of being mindful.
People often ask me if their running or swimming or other exercise counts as meditation. My answer is always: As long as you are unplugged. Exercising while listening to a book or songs with words is great. But you’re filling your head with those words. And as a result, you’re not fully focused on the activity and the experience. It’s not bad in any way. But it’s not the same as mindful meditation.
Even if you don’t have a hot tub, you can choose to unplug and practice quiet time without external stimuli.
Sometimes the experience is as simple as a chattering squirrel.
Sometimes it’s good to be impartial.
But here’s a question to ponder: Can you ever be totally partial?
… and what would that look like?
A recent trip to Key West, FL, highlighted an interesting truth about branding. In the big picture, branding is about every single thing your business does. It’s not just your logo or your slogan. It’s how you deliver service, how you treat people, how you manage money, how you maintain systems, etc.
In Key West, there are no good options for taxi service. There are two primary companies – pink and yellow. There are smaller companies, but it might be a long wait for a cab. There are no Uber or Lyft services.
The “pink” cab company has a very abrupt (sometimes rude) dispatcher. When you call, she grumbles one word: “Cab!” No matter what you say, she has a standard second response: “How many?!?” which she delivers as if she’s pissed off that you’re bothering her. Her third and final interaction is always the same. She barks the order “Stay there!”
So a typical interaction for a jovial vacationer goes like this:
“Good afternoon. We’re at ABC store on Duval Street. We would like to get a cab.”
“There are two of us. We’d like to go to . . .”
Then she never hangs up. You can just here her answer the next call: “Cab!”
Note: the actual cab drivers for pink are generally friendly. The cabs are new-ish and in great shape. They tend to be boxy and a big hard to climb into if you have old knees. But it’s a very pleasant ride.
After a few cab rides, we decided to try yellow. Much nicer. The dispatcher is clearly in a good mood. Sometimes they even ask if it’s our first day in Key West. They are engaging.
Unfortunately, the yellow cabs are typical American cabs: Old, no shock absorbers, not particularly clean, and the seat belts don’t always work. Bottom line: It feels unsafe. One driver was particularly crazy. The island is only two miles by four miles, so you don’t really need to speed through the side streets or run lights.
After a few rides with each company, we would ask each other, “Who should we call? Rude or Unsafe?” We had narrowed down our options to one word for each company. And our experiences were quite consistent. In fact, one time we called the yellow company by accident. Thinking we had called the pink company, I commented on how congenial the dispatcher was. Then yellow car rolled up and I checked my phone. Ooops.
Eventually, we just decided that it was easier to put up with abrupt/rude than dangerous/unsafe.
And both companies are good examples of why Uber and Lyft exist!
An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Latvian, a Chinese, a Japanese, a Kiwi, a Canuck, an Eskimo, a Fijian, a Turk, an Aussie, a Yank, an Egyptian, a Spaniard, a Mongolian, a Tibetan, a Pollack, a Mexican, a Spaniard, a Greek, a Russian, an Estonian, a German, an Indian, an Italian, a Brazilian, a Kenyan, a South African, a Filipino, a Pakistani, a Korean, an Argentinean, a Lithuanian, a Dane, a Finn, a Swede, an Israeli, a Romanian, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Czech, a Croat, and a Panamanian go to a fancy bar…
The bouncer says: “Sorry. I can’t let you in without a Thai.”
I’m amazed at the behavior differences between giving something away for free versus charging something – anything.
My city recently passed an ordinance (and the State of California did as well) that requires stores to charge ten cents for grocery bags. Now, people can either bring their own, buy an expensive bag, or get a cheap bag for ten cents. When you think about paying $50 or $100 or $150 for a shopping trip, spending a few cents on bags seems irrelevant. But the change in behavior has been dramatic!
There are basically three approaches to the change. First, many people don’t take bags at all. They just put all the stuff back in the cart and then transfer it to their trunk. Some of them do this because they forgot to take bags from their car into the store. So they end up bagging their own groceries in the parking lot.
Second, many people buy fancy bags with handles that can be reused indefinitely – for $1-$3 each. In other words, they avoid paying ten cents by paying three dollars. Then, as often as not, they forget these bags in their trunk and buy more. Or bag their groceries in the parking lot.
Third, some people simply pay for the bags they use. After all, with a shopping cart full of groceries, the price you paid this week versus last week could easily go up or down one dollar in total. So the cost for two or three bags at ten cents each is lost altogether in the mix. Personally, I would have predicted that most people would fall into this category. In fact, almost everyone is in one of the first two categories.
With the cost of little things like chewing gum and candy at the checkout lane, you would think people would spend zero effort worrying about a ten cent bag. But that’s not the case at all. An entire industry of exotic reusable bags has sprung up. People’s behavior has changed overnight.
One of the things that always irritated me with the old system was that too many bags were used. Baggers double-bagged a lot when it wasn’t necessary. Now we’ve gone in the other direction. Paper bags that cost ten cents are jam packed to the rim with cans and bottles that are far too heavy for the bag. I have to tell them to use more bags and try not to sound like a jerk when I say that I’ll spring for the ten cents!
Professionals and “Free” Events
I attend a lot of meetings. The common wisdom is that you have to register a lot of people for free events – because 30-50% of those who registered will not show up. This is true even if there’s free food. Some events just have coffee and donuts. Others have actual meals. Some include breakfast, breaks, lunch, dinner, and a reception. Still, fifty percent of those who registered don’t show up!
At the same time, events that cost money are well attended. People rarely pay to get into an event and then fail to show up. Some are still no-shows, but it’s more like one percent, not fifty. Hence one of the new trends for “free” events is to charge a fee like $99 before the event – and you get it back when you attend. This has worked well for some organizations.
I belong to a local business Meetup (see www.meetup.com). It was growing and growing every month. Eventually, this free event grew to have 60-70 people at every meeting. As you can imagine, there aren’t many free meeting spaces that large. So eventually the organizer decided to charge $5 per person so she could rent a meeting room and have a guaranteed meeting place each month.
Attendance dropped to about a dozen people the next month! I was amazed. These are business people who were unwilling to invest $5 in their own business – even though everyone raved about how great the meetings were. Over time, people came back. But the nature of the crowd changed.
The crowds grew back to about 40-50 people per meeting. But the people who showed up were much more professional. After all, they were willing to invest a little in their own business development!
Just charging “something” gets you a more serious following than charging nothing.
The So-Called Internet Economy
One of the great fallacies of the new-ish economy is the idea that you can build an audience with people who get stuff for free and turn them into buyers. This strategy has proven false again and again.
The idea of the original internet bubble of the 1990’s was that a product or service would take over a market by giving everything away for free. Then, once they dominated, they would start to charge. One by one, virtually everyone who tried this failed. Look at the grocery bag example.
Even if something is pretty much required, there are people who will work really hard to avoid spending even ten cents on it.
Today we see a lot of online products that have a free version and a paid version. The free version has advertising, or nags you all the time, or is missing the coolest features. Still, 70% of people who download apps never pay for anything. The crippled, nagging, advertisement-riddled version is good enough for them!
Personally, I avoid free products. For tiny payments (ten cents, ninety-nine cents, of even $19.95) I get the real deal. The developer gets a little money so they can stay in business. I have someone to contact when things go wrong. Personally, for me, the tiny bits I pay give me a much richer experience.
Where do you draw the line? When is the free version “good enough” for you?
And more importantly, what does that say about your bigger picture of the world?
Something to think about.
Two young kids were talking one day.
“My name is Billy. What’s yours?” asked the first boy.
“Tommy,” replied the second.
“My Daddy’s an accountant. What does your Daddy do for a living?” asked Billy.
Tommy replied, “My Daddy’s a lawyer.”
“Honest?” asked Billy.
“No, just the regular kind,” replied Tommy.
My favorite Meetup every month is the Sacramento Speakers Meetup (See https://www.meetup.com/sacramentospeakersnetwork/). It’s a Meetup with more than 2,500 members, of whom 35-75 show up at any given meeting.
There are many reasons for this. First, I’ve been going to this Meetup for more than ten years, so I know lots of people
Second, the format is absolutely amazing. I’m not sure how my friend Stephanie Chandler (see http://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/) came up with the format, but it’s truly genius. It starts with 30-second introductions. People are encouraged to promote their businesses, so they can encourage networking later.
Do the math. At 30 seconds per person, you actually use up maybe 35 or 40 seconds on average. So this part of the program takes about half an hour. Someone always tells a joke. People laugh. Someone else just started a business an gets a round of applause. Someone says something funny unintentionally and ever fourth person after that refers to it.
In other words, the group begins to develop rapport and comradery right from the start.
Next, there are short presentations by speakers who have signed up. One is ten minutes and the other is twenty. Each gets some feedback and coaching.
Finally, there’s the “Five minutes in the spotlight.” A card is picked from the bucket and an attendee gets to ask the rest of the group for help. For example:
- How do I get attendees to my event?
- What should I call the three levels of this program?
- How do I get started with video to promote my event?
- How do I get bookings with schools?
- How do I attract more joint ventures?
This is the juicy fun part of the meeting. Even though there are usually only two or three opportunities for the “Five minutes in the spotlight,” this is where the entire crowd throws out recommendations, book titles, web resources, apps, and other resources. The goal is to help the person who asked for help. But in the meantime, everyone in the room is feverishly writing down the books and other resources that are mentioned.
If you haven’t read Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, you should!
Godin talks about how ideas spread like viruses. And certain people are “Promiscuous Sneezers” of ideas. In other words, they are people who casually say things like, “If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s amazing.” And they do this a lot. All the time.
You should hang out with Promiscuous Sneezers for one simple reason: They will help you filter the world of overwhelming information. Promiscuous Sneezers are usually mavens with regard to the topics at which they excel. That means they’re well informed and spend both time and energy getting good at it. So when they casually throw you some advice, it’s probably worth taking!
I miss a lot of meetings of the Sacramento Speakers Network due to travel. But I always make it when I’m in town because it’s a room filled with really smart, motivated, Promiscuous Sneezers.
I hope you have a similar group where you live. If not, start one!
I recently posted a quick video on the subject of scheduling (using a calendar) vs. working from priorities. See my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/karlpalachuk
I’m particularly interested in how you add things to your to-do list in order to be more successful. You might want to add one or more of the following activities:
– Daily quiet time
– Writing / Journalling
– Studying a hobby or new skill
We are all super-busy these days. So how do you add something to your routine when you’re already so busy? I’m assuming that what you want here is to help build new habits.
If schedules help you build habits, then they’re excellent. If working on priorities help you build habits, then they’re excellent. For most people, I think attaching new habits to your existing schedule is the easiest way to make sure the new habits are exercised.
If you prefer to work on priorities rather than schedules, you’ll need to make the new habit a high enough priority so that it actually gets some attention. After all, it’s easier to add something to your calendar than to suddenly make it a higher priority than anything on your to-do list.
Whichever method you use, you have to overcome the societal influence that says you should put work above personal improvement. After all, we find it much easier to add work-related tasks to our over-full lists. For some reason, it seems more acceptable to add work to our list instead of things like reading or exercising.
The irony is that you need the non-work related tasks in order to recharge your batteries, maintain your health, and improve your skills. But instead, we fill up our already busy schedules with more “tasks” that may or may not contribute to our overall success.
I encourage you to spend time evaluating priorities – and then putting daily reflection high on the list. Make that the first thing you do every day and chances are very good that all the other priorities will fall in line much more easily.
My latest RFS video is posted now.
I recorded it while traveling. It was a very stressful travel day for many people. It was the day Southwest Airlines’ computers failed and they had to ground their entire fleet for some time.
Even under normal circumstances, many people create travel stress because they start with a crowded schedule. They leave no room for error. That’s great in a perfect world. Well, I assume it is, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
Learn how you might add an attitude of Slow Down, Get More Done into your travel.
Like it if you like it!
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I may have chosen the wrong dry cleaners.
The sign on their window reads . . .
“35 years on the same spot.”