So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

10 stickies

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It’s been a while since I read a book in one sitting, but now that feeling has returned to my butt, I’ve gotta say – a real page turner.  I had to ask myself why I was so intrigued with a story about shaming.  Perhaps, Twitter stories gone bad can be so, well… Shadenfreude.  Except the stories in his book are so not about ‘secret glee at the expense of others’ misfortune – quite the opposite. They involve the piling on of an innocent or near innocent.  This book is a modern day cautionary tale.

I became aware of the book through a link that took me to a podcast of Ronson being interviewed. He is an exuberant and skillful interrupter and I was immediately smitten, because I am a bit of an interrupter myself, and I understand behind all that verbal elbowing lies someone who is passionate about their topic.

Jon Ronson became aware of the topic he would write about in January, 2012 when he noticed another Jon Ronson posting on Twitter with his picture. Well, you know, one thing led to another and before long the writer had three posers on the couch doing a video interview, in an attempt to justify why they weren’t ever going to take down @Jon_Ronson, the bizarre gourmand some auto bot created.  The three of them sitting on the couch, quazi-intellectualizing about … No – you just gotta see it for yourself.  I’ll wait.

From that episode, Ronson tracks down and interviews the people we’ve all heard about.

Jonah Lehrer, the New York Times best selling author called: Imagine: How Creativity Works brought down by a wee bit of plagiarism by misquoting and/or reinventing a quote by Bob Dylan – his star creativity character.  He was exposed by Michael C. Moynihan, a freelance writer and unfortunately for Lehrer, a fan of Dylan.

On December 20, 2013, Justine Sacco who had been tweeting silly little jokes to her 170 followers about her holiday travels.

“There was her joke about the German man on the plane from New York: “Weird German Dude: Get some deodorant.-Inner monologue as I inhale BO. Thank god for pharmaceuticals.”  Then the layover at Heathrow:  “Chili-cucumber sandwiches – bad teeth. back in London!”  Then the final leg: “Going to Africa.  Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding.  I’m white!”

Of course we all know the aftermath.  According to Ronson, she was googled 1,220,000 between December 20th and the end of December.

Remember Lindsey Stone?  You may not recall the name, but the picture may strike a chord. Lindsey poses next to an Arlington National Cemetery sign that said ‘Silence and Respect’ with her mouth wide open simulating a scream with her middle (FU) finger in the air.

“So,” Lindsay said, “thinking we were funny, Jamie (her friend) posted it on Facebook and tagged me on it with my consent because I thought it was hilarious.”

I certainly don’t understand twitter and social media. And I certainly don’t understand why the hatred, vitriol and nastiness surfaces like a feeding frenzy in the piranha tank when someone seemingly makes a mistake.  But Ronson takes us to other side of the madness.  To the real life people with families and lives that are irreparably ruined because they have gamely participated in social media or in some ways have made a social or professional blunder.

“I suppose that when shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be.  The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche.”

Everyone needs to read this complex book.  A cautionary tale that goes something like – “There for but the grace of god, goes I.”  It’s a book about crowd mentality, who is controlling the ship and if it goes bad, it can go really bad.

If nothing else, it will make you rethink the “post” and “send” button.

If you’re an independent, freelancer, consultant or anyone else flying solo – head on over to indieawesomeness.com – lots of cool generator tools and hacks that ever small biz could use.

Have a super day and continue to be awesome!

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Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

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Rate: 12 Stickies

Read: Cover to Cover

Category:  Big Idea, Communication

Twitter Review: You can catch more b’s (business, bounty, bank, backing, belonging) with honey than vinegar.

I’m pretty stingy with the stickies in a book review, but Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment is, well… enchanting.

He enchanted me into it.

He does what every great enchanter does – he charms, amuses, disarms, gives you insight without pontificating, and writes not so much with great efficiency, but as a great teacher with experience to share.

This is a book (as with his others) that brings concepts and ideas from many credible sources as well as his own, but he also brings his own (enjoyably irreverent) personality to the writing.   This isn’t a book about product, or disrupting an idea, or a new marketing gimmick.  It’s really the new “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  It really takes us back to the golden rules – amongst but not limited to, be kind, be likable and trustworthy, return a favor, don’t screw you friends, business partner or for Heaven’s sake, your best friend’s wife.

He argues the interactions you have with people, be they business or personal, shouldn’t be manipulative with the aim of getting what you want, rather, by enlisting their goals and desires in an honest, trustworthy way, and by framing a cause that others can embrace, you have the opportunity to change your own course, build a more enduring business, turn observers into buyers, all the while having a lot more fun.

I may be making this sound like a touchy, feely kind of book – and I want to assure you it is not. It is really a marketing, sales and communication book that simply puts forth a different (and much more interesting) way of doing business.

My Takeaway

This is a timely read, with the economy the way it is.  Independents, freelancers and small business people can sometimes appear desperate in securing customers, clients and an audience. They fallback on gimmickry, the hard sell, the push to close.  When you read Enchantment, you learn that having resources like being likable, honest, passionate, trustworthy and smart – attributes that you probably already have – are worth more to your business than anything you could throw money at.

BTW – zip over to indieawesomeness.com for the best in awesome generators, hacks and fabulous cheats to help you get to where you need to go -easy breezy – Stuff like an “I Need a Positioning Statement’ and ‘How Much Should I Charge’ to the most fabulous marketing dictionary – Don’t know what a generator is?  indieawesomeness.com

Continue to be awesome!

Elaine Joli

The New Writer’s Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice For Your Craft and Career by Philip Martin

Rating: Nine Stickies.

I’ve decided to rate the books I review with how many stickies I used.  Stars are OK, but what do they mean really?  Good writing, good idea, great cover, a famous author?

Exactly.

Stickies mean, these are the pages that I NEED to come back to because there is something I can use.  Something that is going to make an immediate change.

If you see this:

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You’ve got a pretty informative, life-changing, biz altering read.

For this book, The New Writer’s Handbook, nine stickies is pretty good.  It’s a 60 article collection contributed by best-selling authors, journalists, writing instructors, bloggers and literary agents.  I am not reviewing this book for Writers.  Because what freelancer, entrepreneur, solo flyer or small biz guy is not a writer today?  We’ve all been pushed into this field, and frankly, you may drink like Hemingway, but that will only make you think you are a writer.

I have found Tequilla works best for that particular delusion.

The first two chapters, Creative & Motivation and The Craft of Writing are kind of ho-hum.  Motivation?  If you don’t have it, this book’s not going to help you.

What rattled my brain was a short article called Story Techniques, written by Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of the nationally syndicated show This American Life (www.thislife.com).  It’s an ‘aha’ moment.  A master storyteller, Glass invites us discard the notion we all learned in high school – a topic sentence is always followed by the facts that fill out the argument.

What blogger has not been told to start with a story to reel the reader in and have them continue beyond the 8 seconds we have now allocated to the human attention span?

But how do we write a good story?

He suggests you start with two building blocks.  The first is the anecdote, which are literally a sequence of actions.  This happened, and that led to the next thing, and that led to the next thing.  He says the power of the anecdote is so great that in a way, no matter how boring the material is, in a story form, an anecdote has a momentum in and of itself.

“Okay, I’m going to think of the most boring possible story.  There’s a guy…

…and he wakes up.  And he’s lying in bed.

And the house is very quiet, very quiet.   Just unearthly quiet.

So he sits up, and he puts his feet on the floor.  And he walks to the door of his bedroom.

Again, it’s very, very quiet.

He walks down the stairs, looks around….

It’s just unusually quiet.”

This is the most boring possible fact pattern.  And yet, there’s suspense in it.  It feels like something is going to happen.  Sequence of events.  Moving from space to space.

The second thing about the anecdote is it’s raising a question from the beginning.  You want bait.  You want to continually be raising questions. The bait in this story is the house is very quiet.  So the question hanging in the air is why?  Glass says the whole shape of the story is that you’re throwing out questions to keep people watching or reading and then answer then along the way.

The other building block you have, is to have a moment of reflection.  Offer the point of the story.  Here’s the bigger something that you’re driving at.  The story is meant to tell the reader something new – your new idea or a new way of looking at what you want them to “see” or understand.

Oh Ira! – Beautiful, yes?

Five Steps to Successful Email Interviews by Terry L. Stawar, Boost Your Personal Brand Online by Philip Martin, Business Card as Offline Home Page, by Tony D. Clark were a few of the other stickies.

Well worth reading if you choose the chapters that relate to you.

Let me know what works for you in building a story or share a successful blog that always starts with a story – maybe it’s yours or maybe it’s someone who knows their craft.  Use your outdoor voice, people!

BTW  Check out indieawesomeness.com – we’ve launched a new site that is filled with awesome business generators, hacks and fabulous cheats to make the life of every independent a little easier and a lot more fun!

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

51rZPhIJD6LRate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover (Many Times)

Categories: Business, Marketing, Selling, Best Seller

We all say “yes” to people we know all the time.    “Hey, could you do me a favor…” .  Just today, I had a call from a friend of mine in Australia.  He wanted to send some beer (ha! Ozzies – typical) to some guys in Vancouver, Canada who had done him a favor and he was having trouble finding a source that could do it (try googling “beer/Canada”).   He started out by outlining his dilemma –  the great favor his mates in Canada had done for him and that he wanted to thank them with a cold one.  I’m guessing this is a guy thing.  Me, I’m more the chocolate giver – my gift stays on the hips as a reminder.  Nevertheless, I could help him because I have low friends in high places there, so before you could say Labatts, I offered to get the beer to the hard working Canadian lads.  But now, I would have to call in a favor.

So what makes us say “yes”?  Why did I offer to go out of my way to help, when I easily could have kept my mouth shout and just sympathized?  I do that all the time.  Not the shout my mouth part – the sympathize but do nothing part.  For most of us, being persuaded by people we know is an everyday occurrence. Kids do it to us, friends do it to us, spouses do it to us, heck – have you looked at how your dog manipulates you and he can’t even use words.

We all “get” doing and receiving favors on a personal level, but the more interesting thing is, as we run our businesses, we are the ones trying to manipulate or persuade strangers/clients/customers/readers to say yes to us all the time.  Yes, means ca-ching.  Yes, means beans on the table.  Whether you have a small business selling goods or a blogger selling personal views or a web company selling subscriptions, we all need to find the techniques to make total strangers say “yes”.  So, what are the factors that make one person say yes to another person?  And are there techniques that we can use to bring about compliance?

It turns out, Dr. Cialdini, a distinguished researcher and professor outlines six universal principles and how to use them to become a skilled persuader.  Yippee.  Yes.  Count me in.  He admits to his own sucker status for being a patsy for peddlers, fund-raisers, pitches and magazine subscriptions, and implies that it may be the reason for his interest in the study of compliance.   He wants to know why a request stated in a certain way will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly different fashion is successful.

His book is organized around six principles: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.  He uses examples from his observations and studies that are interesting and relatable.  For example, if you were a billiards-table dealer, which would you advertise – the $329 model or the $3000 model? Chances are, like me, you would have said promote the lower-priced item and hope to trade the customer up when he comes to buy.  Well, chances are we’d have a lot of inventory.  Cialdini explains the aspects of the larger-then-smaller sequence occurs in the practice of “talking the top of the line”.  If you show someone the top of the of line and they buy, very nice.  If they don’t buy, the salesman effectively counter offers with a a more reasonably priced model.  We see this technique on the web all the time.  Think about how many times you’ve gone to a website and the price list is in three columns: One cheap, the second highlighted is mid-priced and the third is the Pro, Executive or Corporate fee. The original price is in the middle – that’s the one they wanted to sell you in the first place.  But without the other choices, we might not have recognized the value.  We know we don’t need “Pro” (typically a lot of fluff) and we always see our businesses as more than “Basic” – after all we are on the road to success.  So what do we see?  Just like in the Three Bears story, the perfect fit in the middle – not too big, not too small – just perfect.

As for my beer run, my friend just sent me a text that said, “Sure. No problem. Does it have to be cold?”

My Takeaway

This book sits very near my desk and is dog-eared and smeared with yellow highlighter on almost every page.  Every time I need to write a tag line or copy, I flip through to find the section I need to be persuasive.  I like brain science and I like psychology.  We have so many experts these days that are saying things that frankly, I think they just make up.  Dr. Cialdini is on my people bucket list of folks I’d like to meet.

Check out indieawesomeness – I write a weekly post for indies, freelancers, solopreneurs – you know, talented folks who fly solo.

I’ll Eat This Cricket For A Cricket Badge by Steele and Chung

51KguqUWcQL._AA160_Rate: *****

Read: Cover to Cover

Categories: Gaming, Marketing, Small Business, Communication

What motivates people to do the things they do?  Lord knows, I can’t explain why kids put gum in their hair, or why people would want to consume the most amount of hot dogs in a minute, so I was intrigued when the authors try to provide some answers through their expertise in video game design.  If you heard about Alec Baldwin and the drama he caused on a flight because he wouldn’t turn off the word scrabble game he was playing, you’ll get an idea of how right they might be.

Look, I’d heard about Angry Birds for months (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m in the demographic  ‘late adopter’), and I thought if millions of people are enchanted by this thing – let’s give it a go.  I don’t mind telling you, I kept looking for the game to progress, but nope, just pull back the slingshot and release.  People.  Are you kidding me?  At least Alec was making words.  So what is it about gaming that has me so excited? It’s not the games (obviously), but the process of developing games and the impact it can have on business.  Your business.

There are really two concepts that get me excited in this book.  The first is: Game Mechanics: Cascading Information Theory.   It’s really quite simple – hilariously simple. The  ‘why didn’t I know that’ kinda stuff’.  It’s a game mechanic that basically means you give the character (in our case it means the customer) the minimum amount of information they need to advance.  It means that when you have a product or service you are trying to sell someone, give them only enough information so they can to progress to the next level of understanding.  The second concept is reward.  Your customer does something that you her to do, and she gets a “reward” of something – it can be a download, a free sample – an actual product – point is, give them a quest and then a reward.

The theory is to simplify, simplify, simplify.  Create a linear path for your customers to learn about you and your product.  Example.  On your website, what if you had no copy, no navigation on top, nothing but a greeter in video form?  After they watch the video an icon like a thermometer pops up with five degrees.  By coming to the site and watching the video, they get two sections filled in red. The reward is something from your offering like extra product/time/ebook. Spot feed them one piece of information at a time so they are receiving the information you want them to receive, in the order you want them to receive it.

The authors take you on a journey of discovery, and the reward for reading it is pretty good.

The quick read novella is written in a short story format with twenty-somethings in the title roles, so if you have underwear older than that, you’ll just have to accept the “dudeness” of the dialogue.  But this might be the concept that changes your business.

My Takeway

Too often we load everything, say a dozen things about our product or service – trying to push as much information as possible in the smallest or shortest amount of time and space.  After all, “experts” tell us, we have only seconds to keep their interest.  Look, if millions of people are buying a cow with virtual dollars, spending untold hours playing these games, you know these geeks are onto something that us business sophisticates don’t have a clue about.

This is the book that I have bought and passed on to my network.

The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

Rate: ****1/2

Read:  Cover to cover

Categories: Big idea, Marketing, Sales

You know the saying about pornography – can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it.  A good customer experience is something like that.  Hard to define but I know it when I experience it.  The Experience Economy  is not talking about customer service, (Lord knows no matter how many authors try to impart the need for better customer service  no one seems to be listening – anyone who is using a phone loop – I’m talking to you) rather, by understanding that customers respond to an experience that goes beyond the product or service offering, or the advertising or sales pitch, your business can reap the benefits of return customers, positive word of mouth, and generate buzz.  The authors start out by explaining the basic core of the “ing”.  They talk about commodities.  You know, the word that none of us want to be selling.  They give us the example of a true commodity, the coffee bean.  Harvested or traded, coffee beans sell for about 75 cents per pound (1 or 2 cents a cup).  The manufacturer turns the commodity into a good, and the price jumps to between 5 and 10 cents a cup.  Brew that cup and now you have a service which in an ordinary diner charges a buck.  So depending on what the business does with the bean, it can have three economic offerings: a commodity, good or service.  But wait.  You know it’s coming didn’t you?  Starbucks. Ordering, creating, consumption of the cup embodies a heightened ambiance or sense of theatre – and customers gladly pay $2 to $5 a cup.  The authors call this ascending to the fourth level of value or economic offering. From the low value – a commodity, then a good, then service to the all time big reap – an experience.  And when you can deliver a distinctive experience you increase its value (and therefore its price) by two orders of magnitude over the original commodity. I’m making it sound a bit “eggheady” and the book is not at all an academic expose, so I apologize, but I was kinda excited in the very easy way they used the bean.  Now, back to the “ing” of it.  Enhance any offering by experientializing the goods.  For an example, automakers now focus on the driving experience, but they suggest manufacturers focus on the non-driving experience that occurs in cars.  The “ing” occurred when car manufacturers put the DVD players in the back seat for kids (my example).   We all know kids usually are bored and distracted passengers (if you don’t have kids of your own, watch any Vacation movie).  Is it part of the driving experience?  No, it’s part of all the passenger’s experience riding in the car. Now, kids are engaged in what video they want before the journey, they talk about the movie or game after the journey, the parents are involved, so by doing one little thing – the whole family now has a “travel” experience.  They give enough examples explaining their theory to make this an enjoyable read, and I believe every small business, entrepreneur, or independent can use the “ing” to transition from selling their product or service into selling the experience.  A revolutionary concept that set your business apart.

My Takeaway

Obviously, I am excited by this book.  The first half at least.  The second half deals with adding “theater” to your workplace (literally), and I couldn’t get my head around it.  You’ll have to decide.  What the authors present through concepts and examples is an opportunity to add the “ing” to any business, any size – even if you are a freelancer writer or web designer or coffee shop.

I invite you to check out indieawesomessness, where I post weekly for indies, freelancers, entrepreneurs and you know, the talented folks who fly solo.

 

The Most Successful Small Business In The World by Michael E. Gerber

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Rate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover

Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business

Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk).  He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay).  If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega).   As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction.   And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life.  He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear.   “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do.  In short, they want to be self-employed.”  What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all.  He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world.  Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes.  Great stuff.  But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”

My takeaway:

While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business.  This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK.  But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.”  So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done.  You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business.  If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you.  However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.