Archive for the ‘bad habit’ tag
Posted by Dr. Pete
If I started with “I have a confession to make…”, that would be cliché, so I have TWO confessions to make:
This post has nothing to do with SEO. It’s about creative work. I guess it applies to content marketing. Ok, maybe it’s a little bit about SEO. If you’d rather eat a sandwich, I understand.
I am a serial, high-functioning under-achiever. In other words, at the risk of sounding like an ass, my half-assed efforts usually return 7/8-assed results. I learned too early to game those ass-fractions – during final exams in college, for example, I’d calculate exactly what I needed to get an A in the class. If it was only going to take a 67% on the exam, I’d study for 30 minutes and then play Wing Commander for six hours.
1/2 Ass + 1/2 Ass = 1 Ass (Me)
Fast-forward to my 40s, and I still sometimes slip into habitual half-assery. As a marketer, I’m especially guilty of one bad habit – I save my best material for the future. When I have a really “great” idea, I add it to a list to write later, presumably because only content marketing will save us from the coming Zombie Apocalypse. Instead of wasting my best ideas, I pull something from the B list and try to get it to 88% assedness.
Why We Cheat Ourselves
So, why would I choose a method where I’m purposely ignoring my best ideas and ultimately doing sub-optimum work? I’ve asked myself this question a lot, and now that, on my good days, I’m finally breaking the habit, I think I’ve found a couple of answers:
When it comes to any creative block, you can bet the P-word is going to come into play. Obviously, my “best” ideas need to result in my best work, so enter the self-doubt. I could fight through it and put in twice the effort, or I could just procrastinate (the other P-word). Unfortunately, fear of imperfection doesn’t just rob you of your best ideas – it robs you of your passion in the here and now. If I’m always taking the idea I’m most excited about today and putting it on a list for later, I’ve already lost half the power of that idea. When I go to revisit it down the road, the spark is already gone.
I think that moment of passion is a lot of what makes any piece of content worth creating. I won’t claim that this post is the best thing I’ll ever write (please feel free not to wholeheartedly agree with me in the comments), but for whatever reason this particular fire was burning today. If I left it for next month, I’d be scratching out this sentence with the leftover coals.
I’m also not saying that you should never plan your writing or content ideas in advance, or that it’s bad to make a list. It’s always nice to have a back-up plan. Just don’t keep pushing today’s best ideas to the bottom of the list. Your “B” ideas can go on Plan B. Hit the A-list today.
(2) Future Glory
I suppose this is the outgoing half-sister of perfectionism – I’m waiting until my skills are good enough to be worthy of my best ideas. Only then, will the world recognize me in all my glory and unanimously declare me Supreme Commander of Taco Night (it’s a job – shut up).
Here’s the problem – only your most ambitious ideas push you hard enough to learn. If you keep churning out half-assed work, you’ll never close the gap between your capabilities and the idealized ideas in your head. If you’ve never seen radio producer/personality Ira Glass’s take on the “gap”, then do yourself a favor and watch it now…
This quote (in part 3) sums the series up, but doesn’t begin to do it justice:
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.
I’ll go one step further – it’s not enough just to do a lot of work. You have to take a shot at your best ideas; at doing your most important work even when you don’t feel ready. That’s how you grow and, eventually, become worthy of those ideas.
(3) Fear of Brain-drain
Finally, there’s the fear that I think all writers (fiction, non-fiction, ad copy, part-time, whatever) have – that we’ll just run out of ideas. If I use up my best ideas today, all I’ll be left with is junk, so I’d better save them up. The irony is that, the more I write, the more good ideas I generate. If I write more often, I find it easier to come up with things to write about. I can’t convince you of that until you’ve seen it for yourself – all I can tell you is this: trust yourself. Your creativity is a renewable resource, if you give it a chance.
How We Cheat Our Clients
I hate to say it, but this tendency to push our best ideas back to the future can also turn into a form of professional selfishness. My best ideas should benefit me, right? Why should my clients get them? I’ll make the same argument I did in (3) – you won’t run out of ideas, at least not in the long-term. If one of your favorites is a good fit for a client, let them have it. It’ll make you both look good, and you’ll grow as a professional. If you’re stuck on being selfish, then let me tell you from experience – showcasing your best work for a client will also make you a lot more money down the road. You cheat them, you just cheat yourself again.
How Do We Stop Cheating?
There was a great bit of history going around this week – a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to a family friend and aspiring writer. It was very honest criticism, but also a path to creative success. He cuts right to the chase with this advice:
I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
So, pay the price, and put your whole ass into it. The only way to do your best work is to write what demands to be written, even if you aren’t ready. You can’t wait until you’ve got the skills, because no one will give you the chance to get there unless you make them care today – and to make them care, you have to care. So, stop shuffling your best work to the bottom of the to-do list – get out there and wreck it.
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Last summer I challenged Margie Clayman to write a blog post of her 10 favorite books.
She did. And she cheated.
Instead of her 10 favorite books, she wrote her favorite genres: Books about Abraham Lincoln, books about the civil war, guilty pleasure books, etc. Sure, there were only 10 categories and it was a really good list, but it was cheating none-the-less.
When I teased her about it, she challenged me to write my own top 10 list. It’s taken me 10 months to accept her challenge, but here I am!
It’s a good thing I waited, too. Because when she challenged me, I hadn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey yet and you would have missed out on three of my favorite books.
I kid. That was a terrible series. I’m mad at myself for reading all three of them. I have this really bad habit of having to finish everything I start. And that includes terrible trilogies.
Following is my real list of my 10 most favorite books of all time (in no particular order).
- My Name is Asher Lev. My mom gave this book to me many years ago. She wrote inside, “Read this book. It will make you happy.” And it did. Many times over. It’s a book about a boy deeply ingrained in Judaism who feels the need to render the world he knows and the pain he feels through painting and drawing. It’s full of Yiddish, which made me love it twice as much. I picked up certain phrases I use all the time from reading that book (oy vey).
- The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath led a very distraught and sad life before she stuck her head in an oven and committed suicide, but was extremely talented. I sometimes wonder if you have to be that troubled (cough, Hemingway, in order to be a great writer). In this story, you’re drawn into the life of Esther Greenwood and watch as she has a complete breakdown. Some say this was written as Plath was doing the same in her own life.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany. I am a big, big John Irving fan, but I contend this is his very best book. In the summer of 1953, two boys are playing baseball when Owen Meany hits a foul ball, slamming it into the head of his friend’s mother, killing her instantly. What happens throughout the rest of Owen’s life is extraordinary, as he grapples with killing a his friend’s mom.
- The Fountainhead. I read this for the first time in high school. In fact, during parent teacher conferences that year, my AP English teacher said to my mom, “Is she always this motivated?” I’ve re-read it several times since then and it continues to hit my all-time favorite books. This was Ayn Rand’s first book and her best (IMO). It was my first introduction to how the business world treats women and what we can/should do about it.
- The Bluest Eye. I love Toni Morrison (just downloaded her newest book last night), but this will always be my favorite of her books. It’s about a very pretty young girl who no one notices, even though she has the bluest eyes. She just knew if someone would notice her, things would be different. Her parents would stop fighting, her brother would stop running away, and her dad would stop drinking. And then her dad does notice her…and rapes her.
- Under the Banner of Heaven. Growing up in Utah and being raised Mormon, I read this book in order to dispel any myths and rumors my friends have about the religion. What I found, instead, was an incredibly researched story about polygamy and brothers who killed a woman and her baby, claiming they had a commandment from God to do so. It’s the only non-fiction on my list, but the story seems so unreal it feels like you’re reading fiction.
- The Lovely Bones. Some of you may have seen this movie, but it’s nothing like the book. The book is always better though, right? This is a story about Susie Salmon, who is kidnapped, raped, and killed…and she spends many years stuck between earth and heaven, watching her family cope with their grief and loss. I know it doesn’t sound very enlightening, but the story will capture you from page one.
- An Object of Beauty. My dear friend and colleague, Martin Waxman, sent this book to me a couple of years ago for my birthday. Being a bit of a literature snob, I was reticent to read it because it’s by Steve Martin. Yes, the comedian. But what I discovered inside is the man has a talent for storytelling. It’s about Lacey Yeager, a young woman who begins her art career at Sotheby’s and soon finds herself climbing through the ranks with a lot of power and a lot of money. It’s not what you expect from Funny Man Martin.
- The Red Tent. This may seem like it’s a religious book, but it’s not. I say that because Dinah, who is only hinted at in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, is the main character. It tells a story, from her point-of-view, of what it was like to live as a woman back then. It’s compelling, interesting, and really well told.
- Me Talk Pretty One Day. I’ll never forget what I was doing when I read this book. I was working on The Catfish Institute account and we were doing a lot of work with media in New York City so I was back and forth nearly every week. A colleague recommended I read the book so I picked it up in an airport bookstore. It is so funny, I was laughing out loud while I read on the plane. In fact, I was laughing so hard (tears streaming down my face), I had to sit on it so I’d stop reading and embarrassing myself. No one quites comes as close to hilarity as David Sedaris.
So there you have. I’ve put my stake in the ground and these are my 10 most favorite books. What are yours?
The Open Graph has proven to be a major tool for Facebook to extend its reach beyond its own social network into the wider Internet, and today comes news of an app that could just be the first sign of how that might even go even further than that. Today the company launched a new app called HealthyShare — a place for Facebook users to set health goals for others and help each other reach them. Developed in partnership with GE, the app is playing off the focus on fitness with this summer’s Olympics, and represents a moment for a brand to make an Olympics mark on the Facebook platform — even as Facebook is not allowing sponsorship into its own official Olympics portal.
The app, once installed, lets users mark their progress along some of the more popular categories of health and fitness usage. They including walking and how that impacts cholesterol; eating where you can trade one bad habit for a good one; workout routines with contributions from Kevin Durant, Michael Johnson, Alex Morgan and Summer Sanders. Entries in the app get shared on a user’s timeline, and then that user’s Facebook friends can join in on a particular goal or provide encouragement.
If this sounds a bit like Quantified Self, it is — except that there is no hardware involved in the process. Not yet, anyway.
“To us, health’s not going anywhere,” says Linda Boff, executive director of global digital marketing of GE. “We’re starting with what we’re talking about today, around wellness, fitness and the Olympics, but the partnership here is one we see growing and expanding beyond wellness and fitness. This is very interesting to us. There’s nothing to talk about now, but it is very much on our radar.”
Moves like underscore how with developments in technology the Open Graph could take Facebook into picking up information from much more than just the internet in its great big data collection effort.
The effort with Facebook and GE also points to how Facebook is using its Sponsored Stories format to promote activity in other parts of its platform. It will use Sponsored Stories, Boff says, to make sure “the right people get exposed to the app and find it useful. We’re a believer in the power of Sponsored Stories.” GE is also looking at TV ads to promote the app as well.
Beyond Facebook, GE has had a longstanding commitment to health already, Boff notes. “We have 300,000 employeess and making sure they’re healthy.” But also, the company a few years back launched HealthyImagination, a portal for its heath activities (which is also promoting the app) aimed at the health sector. “The primary-care hospital is our customer. We are raising levels of engagement, early prevention and early diganosis. It’s really core to how we think and why we came together with Facebook to do this.”
A counterpoint to this is that some people could be shy about sharing information around their health, or feel embarrassed that they can’t run five miles or that they go to the gym every day. But given that it can be a lonely business tracking and supporting fitness goals, and that this is often a reason that people’s persistence in fitness falls by the wayside, Facebook is a good place to make that more social, and launching this around the time of the Olympics is a timely moment to attract the masses. You can see how it can extend to other areas that Facebook is already also touching, from charity donations to organ donation.
Spending long hours on social media sites is a bad habit that might also be bad for your heart. In a recent study, Australian researchers found that regular exercise wasn’t enough to stop the harmful effects of too much time spent in front of the computer. Subjects who sat for just four hours a day were 80 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Hipster Habit App Is a Pocketable, Printable Mini-Book Designed to Help You Create or Remove Habits in 30 Days [Printables]
Killing a bad habit is easier said than done, but the Hipster Habit App—which is less of an app and more of a miniature printable book for your wallet—can help you through the process. All you need to do is make a few choices, stick with the plan, and you’ll have a well-formed habit in 30 days. More »
In Singapore punctuality among young generations is not a very diffused virtue. To correct this bad habit and promote DHL’s ability to always deliver on time, Uni Lee a student at the LASALLE College of the Arts come up with the DHL Friend Express concept. Select friend, date and appointment time and send a DHL service to pick him/her up to be delivered perfectly on time to your date.
The concept is pretty fun, and I like that fact that it starts from a real local insight. I do miss the connection with the DHL brand and product a bit, as here the main target audience are everyday (young) consumers, while my feeling is that DHL might look more at the B2B market. Anyways the case study is presented in an awesome way, and it’s great to see that a student has received so much access to the brand and its assets.
Most shy people wish they were more confident, because shyness is ultimately a symptom of you being uncomfortable with who you are. You judge yourself based on other people’s standards and spend too much time in your own head, thinking of how best to act and react in any given situation. This is nothing more than a bad habit, and it’s the sort of thing you can break with regular practice. More »
Habits are formed when you do something over and over again, which is great if you want them. The problem is when you end up with a bad habit because you start repeating a behavior you don’t want without necessarily realizing it. If you want to get rid of this problematic mannerism, the first thing you need to do is figure out it’s trigger so you’re aware and can start making changes. More »
Breaking a bad habit or developing a good one might be hard work, but it’s not impossible. In fact, once you know the main structure of habits, you can develop a plan to change them. This flowchart from The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg guides you through the three steps of breaking the habit loop. More »
A Search Engine Land Column is a good piece of content, but if you skip it and go to the comments, the discussion, you will see a really interesting debate going on about live blogging conference sessions.
You have Shari Thurow, a long long time speaker at SEO/SEM conferences, call live bloggers plagiarizers and a “bad habit” that has to stop. Yea, it is insulting but really, is what we do really stealing and plagiarizing content?
(1) We always attribute, always.
(2) We never are able to write it word for word, we summarize what they are talking about.
(3) We miss a lot of what they say because it is almost impossible to cover it all.
Plus, we don’t live blog because it brings us crazy amount of money and makes us rich and famous. I personally do it because it gives back to the community who aren’t able to go. In fact, the event organizers encourage us to live blog through press passes and front row reserved seats with power. They do it for:
(1) Publicity for their conference.
(2) Speakers, 99% of them, love the coverage.
(3) It gives the event organizers great feedback on speaker talent and content.
Like I said, most speakers love that we live blog them. Heck, I speak a lot as well, and I so appreciate it when there are live bloggers capturing what I say. I also run conferences and try to get live bloggers to attend. I want live bloggers there.
Image credit to Tamar Weinberg
Yea, that is a picture of Rand Fishkin hugging me while at a conference. A speaker who is in high demand around the world, hugging a live blogger! How dare he!
Again, I organize conference, I moderate panels, I speak at events (both keynote and normal speaking) and I live blog. I have done it all. Organizing conference is by far the hardest. But I would say live blogging is harder than speaking or moderating panels. Why? Well, 3-4 day conferences, 8+ hour days, it is exhausting and sometimes boring, covering the topics. Live blogging is just not a fun job and is really tiring. I put a ton of time organizing live blogging schedules and live bloggers before and during the conference. And then the non stop listening, typing and publishing is tiring.
Shari Thurow is someone I respect but I disagree, as a speaker and event organizer, on her views of live bloggers. She wrote:
If I can read the live blog or article and basically get nearly the entire presentation, that is plagiarizing and darn near a copyright violation, especially if it is a paid event (I consult with my attorneys on this, and it is always best to consult with intellectual property attorneys on this matter.) Why should anyone pay to attend an event when they can get the goods for free?
Plagiarizing is not only disrespectful to the speaker. It is also disrespectful for the event holders.
So let me quote event holders:
Danny Sullivan who runs the SMX shows said:
I certainly don’t see it as somehow plagiarizing our events. For one thing, most live blogging I see fairly attributes what’s being said to the speaker. If you have attribution, you don’t have plagiarism. As for a copyright violation, again, so little relatively speaking is being reported that I wouldn’t see this as an issue.
And in terms of other speakers complaining about live bloggers? Danny would know, he said:
In my experience of running events for over 10 years now, I’ve never had any speaker see this as an issue but Shari. If live bloggers at our shows want to respect her wishes not to be live blogged, that will probably save you hassle with her. But it’s not something our shows insist upon.
Chris Sherman who runs a ton of the SMX shows said:
Conference presentations are public events. We have absolutely no ability, legally or ethically, to stop people from liveblogging, tweeting, texting, phoning or expressing themselves in any other way while they’re attending the conferences. And frankly, most liveblogging almost of necessity consists of incomplete snippets or interpretations of what speakers say. That’s not plagiarism. Traditionalists typically don’t consider it “reporting,” in the journalistic sense, either. In most cases it’s just stream of consciousness interpretation of what the liveblogger is hearing.
Image credit to Search Engine Land
I’ve been insulted before when it comes to live blogging and asked if I should give it up. I really should because it is tiring and honestly I dislike doing it. But I know there are so many people who can’t afford to come to a conference that do get a bit of help from the live blogging I, Lisa, Marty and others do. We don’t do it to rip off speakers, we do it to form a bond in the community and help the industry just a little bit.
Forum discussion at Search Engine Land Comments.
Image credit to ShutterStock for skull and cross.