Creativity v Analysis Paralysis

December 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

One piece of advice you will find very frequently when it comes to Internet marketing is to analyze everything – analyze your site, your traffic, your responses, your CTR, your ROI, etc. ad infinitum.  While all of this analysis is important in order to gauge what is going to bring you the most success, it is possible to get analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis occurs when you get so caught up in the numbers, data, charts and graphs that instead of using them to make the right decisions, you can’t make any decision at all.  There comes a point where you have to stop analyzing and take action.

When you feel that the numbers are starting to overwhelm you and you don’t know which way to go, take a step back and consider these things:

  • What will most enhance the customer’s experience?  One of the things that can get lost in all of the numbers and graphs is the customer experience.  Although what the numbers are showing you are the customers reactions to what you are presenting to them, many people forget that human element.  Take a step back from the data and think about the people to get a better grasp of the big picture and make a decision on where to go next.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen?  Many times people get analysis paralysis because of fear.  Fear of making the wrong decision will stop people in their tracks.  Many of the changes that come about due to data analysis of your ad campaigns, landing pages and the like are small changes.  It is not likely that by moving a graphic from the top left of your landing page to the top right of the page that your business will go bankrupt.  However, it is possible that you will see enough change that you can optimize your landing page for the best results.  Don’t let fear stand in your way of success.
  • Take it one thing at a time.  The sheer volume of information coming at you can give you analysis paralysis before you even get started.  Don’t try to tackle it all at once.  Take one report on one aspect of your marketing and work it start to finish before moving on to the next thing. 

Analysis is a very important aspect of Internet marketing success because it allows you to continually optimize your marketing to get the best results.  That is if you can avoid the analysis paralysis…

 

Whether you’re trying to solve a tough problem, start a business, get attention for that business or write an interesting article, creative thinking is crucial. The process boils down to changing your perspective and seeing things differently than you currently do.

People like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” which is the wrong way to look at it. Just like Neo needed to understand that “there is no spoon” in the film The Matrix, you need to realize “there is no box” to step outside of.

You create your own imaginary boxes simply by living life and accepting certain things as “real” when they are just as illusory as the beliefs of a paranoid delusional. The difference is, enough people agree that certain man-made concepts are “real,” so you’re viewed as “normal.” This is good for society overall, but it’s that sort of unquestioning consensus that inhibits your natural creative abilities.

So, rather than looking for ways to inspire creativity, you should just realize the truth. You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.

I like to keep this list of 10 common ways we suppress our natural creative abilities nearby when I get stuck. It helps me realize that the barriers to a good idea are truly all in my head.

1. Trying to Find the “Right” Answer

One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem. While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.

Many of the following mental blocks can be turned around to reveal ways to find more than one answer to any given problem. Try reframing the issue in several different ways in order to prompt different answers, and embrace answering inherently ambiguous questions in several different ways.

2. Logical Thinking

Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness. While critical thinking skills based on logic are one of our main strengths in evaluating the feasibility of a creative idea, it’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts in the first place.

One of the best ways to escape the constraints of your own logical mind is to think metaphorically. One of the reasons why metaphors work so well in communications is that we accept them as true without thinking about it. When you realize that “truth” is often symbolic, you’ll often find that you are actually free to come up with alternatives.

3. Following Rules

One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.

This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work. People love to celebrate rebels like Richard Branson, but few seem brave enough to emulate him. Quit worshipping rule breakers and start breaking some rules.

4. Being Practical

Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes to execution, but often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom. Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.

Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on it’s own for a bit. Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before.

5. Play is Not Work

Allowing your mind to be at play is perhaps the most effective way to stimulate creative thinking, and yet many people disassociate play from work. These days, the people who can come up with great ideas and solutions are the most economically rewarded, while worker bees are often employed for the benefit of the creative thinkers.

You’ve heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” All you have to realize is that they’re the same thing to a creative thinker.

6. That’s Not My Job

In an era of hyper-specialization, it’s those who happily explore completely unrelated areas of life and knowledge who best see that everything is related. This goes back to what ad man Carl Ally said about creative persons—they want to be know-it-alls.

Sure, you’ve got to know the specialized stuff in your field, but if you view yourself as an explorer rather than a highly-specialized cog in the machine, you’ll run circles around the technical master in the success department.

7. Being a “Serious” Person

Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.

Leaders from Egyptian pharaohs to Chinese emperors and European royalty have consulted with fools, or court jesters, when faced with tough problems. The persona of the fool allowed the truth to be told, without the usual ramifications that might come with speaking blasphemy or challenging ingrained social conventions. Give yourself permission to be a fool and see things for what they really are.

8. Avoiding Ambiguity

We rationally realize that most every situation is ambiguous to some degree. And although dividing complex situations into black and white boxes can lead to disaster, we still do it. It’s an innate characteristic of human psychology to desire certainty, but it’s the creative thinker who rejects the false comfort of clarity when it’s not really appropriate.

Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate. The fact that most people are uncomfortable exploring uncertainty gives you an advantage, as long as you can embrace ambiguity rather than run from it.

9. Being Wrong is Bad

We hate being wrong, and yet mistakes often teach us the most. Thomas Edison was wrong 1,800 times before getting the light bulb right. Edison’s greatest strength was that he was not afraid to be wrong.

The best thing we do is learn from our mistakes, but we have to free ourselves to make mistakes in the first place. Just try out your ideas and see what happens, take what you learn, and try something else. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong? You’ll often find the benefits of being wrong greatly outweigh the ramifications.

10. I’m Not Creative

Denying your own creativity is like denying you’re a human being. We’re all limitlessly creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think. If you tell yourself you’re not creative, it becomes true. Stop that.

In that sense, awakening your own creativity is similar to the path reported by those who seek spiritual enlightenment. You’re already enlightened, just like you’re already creative, but you have to strip away all of your delusions before you can see it. Acknowledge that you’re inherently creative, and then start tearing down the other barriers you’ve allowed to be created in your mind.

Further Reading:

Flow – “An almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.”

When we are in flow, we are fully absorbed in whatever we are doing and find it easy to achieve peak performance. The experience is accompanied by intense feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

Flow can occur in many spheres of human activity, physical and mental. Athletes call it being in the ‘the zone’, but we don’t have to run a marathon or win an Olympic medal do experience flow – we have all experienced the enjoyment of becoming absorbed in doing a task well.

Flow is particularly common in artistic and creative spheres, during those times when ideas, images, feelings and/or words seem to flow easily and the work takes on a momentum of its own. Many artists make big sacrifices in other areas of their lives so that they can pursue creative flow. Professional creatives have typically had powerful experiences of flow, and can relate to the intense feeling of satisfaction when they enter flow – and equally intense feelings of frustration when they are unable to get into flow in their work.

Csikszentmihalyi identifies the following nine characteristics of flow:

  1. There are clear goals every step of the way. Knowing what you are trying to achieve gives your actions a sense of purpose and meaning.
  2. There is immediate feedback to your actions. Not only do you know what you are trying to achieve, you are also clear about how well you are doing it. This makes it easier to adjust for optimum performance. It also means that by definition flow only occurs when you are performing well.
  3. There is a balance between challenges and skills. If the challenge is too difficult we get frustrated; if it is too easy, we get bored. Flow occurs when we reach an optimum balance between our abilities and the task in hand, keeping us alert, focused and effective.
  4. Action and awareness are merged. We have all had experiences of being in one place physically, but with our minds elsewhere – often out of boredom or frustration. In flow, we are completely focused on what we are doing in the moment.
  5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness. When we are not distracted by worries or conflicting priorities, we are free to become fully absorbed in the task.
  6. There is no worry of failure. A single-minded focus of attention means that we are not simultaneously judging our performance or worrying about things going wrong.
  7. Self-consciousness disappears. When we are fully absorbed in the activity itself, we are not concerned with our self-image, or how we look to others. While flow lasts, we can even identify with something outside or larger than our sense of self – such as the painting or writing we are engaged in, or the team we are playing in.
  8. The sense of time becomes distorted. Several hours can ‘fly by’ in what feels like a few minutes, or a few moments can seem to last for ages.
  9. The activity becomes ‘autotelic’ – meaning it is an end in itself. Whenever most of the elements of flow are occurring, the activity becomes enjoyable and rewarding for its own sake. This is why so many artists and creators report that their greatest satisfaction comes through their work. As Noel Coward put it, “Work is more fun than fun”.

So that’s the theory – read how to put it into practice through coaching

Creative types on the other hand, gravitate to situations where creativity is not only encouraged but expected of them – art schools, ad agencies, design studios, artists’ quarters, writer’s colonies, film sets and ‘clusters’ of creative businesses. By surrounding themselves with others engaged in creative work, they immerse themselves in the latest ideas and developments in their field – and some of that creativity rubs off.

These three factors help them develop their raw creative talent into accomplished skills. This is not to deny that some of us are naturally “gifted” with more talent than others, but this is a matter of degree rather than kind – and talent is nothing unless you put it to work.

How you can be a more creative person
So what are the implications for someone who wants to be more creative, either as a professional or keen amateur? It boils down to doing these three things:

1. Assume you are creative. Don’t worry about labelling yourself a creative or uncreative person. Just assume that creativity is humanly possible, and you are a human, therefore it’s possible for you.

2. Follow your heart. Your passion for creativity is your guide to developing your talent. When your curiosity is aroused, when you feel yourself becoming absorbed, fascinated and excited by a creative task – that’s your talent telling you you’re getting warm – it’s saying “Do more of this”. Creativity can be hard work, and it requires dedication and commitment to keep going, but if you apply yourself and follow your heart, sooner or later you will taste creative flow, at the point where your motivation, talent and experience blend together.

3. Hang around with creative people. Get involved. Go to work in somewhere creativity is encouraged; go to readings, galleries and concerts; attend classes and stay behind for a drink and a chat with the other students; read books; read magazines and offer to write for them; hook into online communities via blogs, mailing lists and and discussion boards. Whatever your chosen medium, soak it up by hanging out with the people who are doing it. Get familiar with the whole of your chosen field, its history as well as its present – that way you have a chance of contributing to its future.

So back to the original questions – I hope I’ve shown that I’m not putting labels or restrictions on people. Anyone can be creative, provided they do these three things.

And why do I work with creative professionals? Partly it’s a matter of personal taste – I’m a writer myself and love working with people with a similar passion for creativity. If you’re going to spend a lot of time coaching others to do something, I think you should have experience of it yourself.

The other reason is that the “creatives” don’t put any limits on their creativity, which makes them very exciting to work with. They are not essentially any different from other people, but they are doing the three things listed above, consistently – which means they are enjoying their work more and producing better and better creative results, working towards the possibility of creating something extraordinary.

And if you want to, so can you.

Love It Or Hate It, Blogging’s Happening Right Now!

November 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

 

LOVE IT OR HATE IT, IT’S HAPPENING AT A COMPUTER NEAR YOU RIGHT NOW!

 A couple of years ago it was still a bit of a novelty and the new ‘in’ concept.  Now EVERYONE’S doing it for fun, business or both!  It’s easy, keeps us connected and gets your message out there!

YES, IT’S THE MODERN PHENOMENON

THE

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Love it or hate it, blogging is a massive opportunity for business and personal communication and it’s open to everyone – young and old, business builders and YOU and is yet another platform for celebrities to tell us about their lives

 . . . and don’t they just!

At last, a chance to add a new dimension to your business and really get it moving!  There’s a brand new world waiting for you.

Technorati was tracking 112.8 million blogs in April 2008!   Quite a few potential clients to add to your cyber Rolladex!

It’s a massive community of niche markets – your markets – hungry for new ideas, comment and content.  

At last!  Your big chance to become an innovator!  Become an authority in your niche by being the first to introduce new, accurate and exciting information – how good would that be for your business!

Make web designers a thing of the past!  Your blog can look just like a website and be ‘out there’ in minutes, for F*R*E*E.

Simply sign up to Typepad, Wordpress, Movable Type, ExpressionEngine or others and start taxiing down the runway for your flight to success.

The ease and appeal of blogging is inspiring a new group of writers and creators to share their voices with the world.

When I had my last gliding lesson, the pilot suddenly said “You have control!” and the joystick and pedals were mine.  I was soaring above the ground with an eagle’s view of life.  Oh, the freedom!  The fear!  The excitement.   Would I suddenly forget the basics like checking where the horizon is?  So much to think about, such a thrill.

That sense of excitement can be yours, too!  Keep your eye on your other marketing activities and enjoy the experience of having a new vehicle airborne!     

  • You are totally in control of ALL your content
  • You can ‘fly’ night or day, whenever you prefer
  • You S*A*V*E all those web designer fees
  • You can ‘borrow’ content from leaders in your field
  • You can quickly establish yourself as an expert

Remember when the concept of self-publishing was new and original?  Blogging is revolutionising that whole area and you can publish whatever you like within the precious advertising and marketing space that is your blog!  Dare to be different!

Blogging is so powerful and influential some repressive regimes have banned it!  Bloggers are actually persecuted for spreading awareness! 

Enjoy your freedom and choice!  Rest assured, blogging is here to stay because of its amazing strength as a potent communication and marketing tool.

The art of blogging involves persistence, quality content and lots of promotion and marketing but is as simple as composing an email and sending it!

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HERE’S SOME HIDDEN BLOGGING BENEFITS WAITING TO ‘BIG UP’’ YOUR BUSINESS?

Blogging:

  • Broadens your perspective – When you take time to sit and write, which is essential to build a successful blog, you are automatically editing and reviewing your thoughts.  You have to decide what you think is important for your readers to hear.  Reading blogs written by others in your niche encourages you to compare your opinions with what your competition are saying.  Varying points of view broaden perspective and maybe you’ll look at your subject from a different angle – you might even dare to be controversial – a sure fire traffic generator!
  • Expands your social circle – It’s a very social activity if you interact with other bloggers, leaving messages commenting on their posts.  If your posts are interesting enough, readers will leave comments for you.  You may ‘meet’ people writing on the same topics of interest and exchange ideas with them or be invited to join forums or guest blog for someone else.  Excellent publicity for you and your business!
  • Brings you recognition –  Enhance your business profile quickly and effectively by blogging about your unique selling point and your website on your blog.  You’ll become well known much more quickly than if you just publish your website.  Constantly update the content and start a love affair with the search engines.  They’ll LOVE you – they’re attracted to that exciting new input like bees to a honeypot!  Really!
  • Helps you develop a community – You can reach out to hundreds (possibly thousands) of people on a daily basis.  Think how powerful that could be if you were offering helpful advice and encouragement?  Your chance to ‘pay it forward’ because life isn’t just about profit – what we give out, we know we get back.

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TOP TIP

Free goodies speak louder than words and suggest thanks and friendship! Encourage the beginning of a beautiful (and lucrative!) relationship by offering a downloadable gift in exchange for an email address.

READY TO START, THEN?

Follow these steps to blogging success:

1.         Pick the blog service you want to use

A popular and free service is www.blogger.com , which is owned by Google.  A beginner can have a blogsite up and running in minutes.  If you want to major on looking professional it’s not the best choice.  Customisation tools are poor but the upside is Blogger does the hard work and hosting for you.

www.Wordpress.com is an alternative but it’s a bit more techie – you’ll have to download the blogging software and host your blog on your server.  Word on the street is that Wordpress is the way to go as it’s add-on facilities are terrific.

2.         Pick a domain name

A separate domain name can help make a blog look more professional.  If you have a website up-and-running and want to link it to your blog, the good news is you won’t need a separate domain name.  Wordpress makes life easy by allowing www.yourdomainname.co.uk/blog.  Even the technically challenged can manage that!  Next, point your domain name at your blog address.  Tricky?  Ask a techie friend to help!

3.         Pick  subject

Well done, you’re ready to roll!  OK, so what do you want to write about?  What fires you up?  What are you passionate about?  The most successful blogs are about a specific subject.   Who do you want to reach and influence?  New customers?  Great place to start!  Blind them with your insider knowledge of your industry, changes that may be coming and the unique part you will play in them!

(Caution:  Don’t go for the ‘big sell’ or you’ll crash and burn.)

Be patient and cultivate your readers’ respect – concentrate on giving them free relevant information and comment.  Before you know it, they’ll see you as an expert in your field and keep coming back.

4.         Start making money!

The chosen few around the world are making big dosh from blogging.  Now don’t get carried away because chances are you won’t.  But, hey, if you make a few pounds while promoting your business, you’re a winner all round.  Sign up for one of the advertising providers like GoogleAdsense, Yahoo! Publisher network or AdBrite.  You’ll see relevants ads appear on your site and if a visitor clicks on them, they pay you!  Cool, or what?

Affiliate links to products on other websites can pay well, too.  You earn commission if someone buys from another site when they have clicked through from yours! 

Offer your blog writing to newspapers and magazines who may pay for it if your words excite them.  ScooptWords offer this service.

5.         Tell everyone you’re on air!

Priority one is to register with Technorati which tracks millions of blogs worldwide.  Using Technorati tags in your blog will help people find your content easily.  Don’t forget to tell your customers!– perhaps you could link to newsletters.  Offer Really Simple Syndication (RSS).  Folks can see your blog headlines without visiting your blog.  Perfect for keeping in touch and makes it even more vital to have attention-grabbing headlines!

6.         Blog, blog, blog away . . .

Good intentions won’t get the words on the page.  Keep an eye out for things to write about and don’t let this wonderful marketing opportunity fade away! 

. . . Excuse me, you still here?  You should be blogging! 

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EVERYONE’S DOING IT!

A Blank Page

October 7, 2010 | Uncategorized

A blank page -
It has a rhythm in its starkness,
a beauty in its simplicity.
And in its rhythm and beauty
I can loathe it
for the way it sits in expectancy.
I have an urge
- in my hate -
to fill it with words,
to blemish the surface with something,
with anything, that is meaningful.
It is quiet and calm in white,
with little to annoy
eyes that note everything.

Jessica Onsurez

Did those words resonate with you?  Yes, me too!  The pristine white page can be scary.  But why?  Chances are that as you were going about your business before you sat down to write your mind was buzzing with ideas and you were already mentally in your flow.  So why turn off the tap?

 ”Flow, what flow?” you might be thinking.  You’ve probably been there and haven’t even realised it.  Flow has been described as “An almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness”.  Simple – certainly.  Automatic – yep.  Easy to achieve – yes, as long as you don’t think too deeply about it.  Constantly wondering if you have mentally and spiritually reached that place yet is a guaranteed way to stop yourself arriving!

You see, when you are flowing naturally, you are so absorbed in what you’re doing there’s no spare capacity to question it and the chances are you’ll be functioning at your peak performance.  And it’ll seem easy.  Think of a time when you were totally absorbed in the intense enjoyment of doing a task well.  It doesn’t matter whether it was a mental or physical challenge; the emotional pay-off is the same.  The flip side of that emotion is the frustration that accompanies just not being able to reach the zone!

Awaken your imagination . . .

Dip into the pool of your imagination because it is your own private source of creativity.  It’s energetic and full of possibilities.  Remember all the times it may have run away with you when you didn’t want it to?  Just harness that energy and feel the difference.  Blank pages will be a thing of the past.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein

Creative thinking is crucial in so many areas of our everyday lives, not just in writing tasks, such as solving a probloem or starting a business.  Success lies in challenging perspectives and seeing things differently.  Be curious; question what might be considered the ‘norm’.  Take comfort from the fact that you don’t have to inspire creativity because it’s an intrinsic ability in the human psyche.  Just strip away the imaginary mental blocks built along the way.  In other words – think outside the box!

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 We all secretly admire a rebel – here’s your chance to be one!  Free your mind to roam down new and exciting avenues.  Leave all that ‘conditioning’ behind and breathe life into the stifled you.  You know who I mean; tht little boy or girl who was taught to conform, to think like the herd.  Be the exciting colour you want to be, not the standard grey or brown that ‘fits in’.  Unleash the rainbow of your mind and watch the colours permeate your work, your life and your relationships and lift your creativity to levels limited only by your imagination.

Already doubting that you can be ‘lateral’ or ‘creative’?  Please don’t!  There’s no possibility of failure because you can only grow.  The more you try the more those barriers recede and the more you believe . . . and your creative wheel starts turning.

Increase your creativity, easily . . .

Here’s three simple steps to help with your creative journey and really help you build on your natural talent.  Perhaps you’re following them already; if so, well done you!  If not yet, now’s the time to begin.

Step One:  Assume You Are Creative

Probably the simplest and yet least obvious action of all to most of us.  Don’t label yourself creative or otherwise.  Just assume that you are as the potential for creativity was born with you – simply believe and let it flow!

Step Two:  Follow Your Heart

Your passion is your guide to developing your talent.  You’ll know you’re getting ‘warm’ when your curiosity is aroused and you feel yourself becoming fascinated and excited by a creative task.  Sometimes dedication and commitment might be needed to keep going but, if you follow where your heart leads, you will surely arrive at the point where motivation, talent and experience blend together in a fusion of creative abundance.

Step Three:  Mix With Creative People

Ideally, interact with creative people in your chosen field, in person if possible.  When in the presence of a truly inspirational person sometimes it feels as though you’re learning just by breathing the same air.  Be involved!  If it’s not possible to actually meet with creatively minded people, then do the next best thing.  Read books written  by inspiring authors, join online communities through the various avenues available – try blogs, forums and discussion boards.  There’s so much to be curious about, so much to absorb.  Allow your creativity to expand – Nature hates a vacuum.

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.

Raymond Inmon

Can you feel change happening already?  Are you freeing the chains that bind you to the logical releasing you?  It’s calming, yet energising and wrapping yourself in a cloak of self-belief and creativity is just a thought away.

 

Try Not To Strangle The Baby At Birth . . .

 You can get there, you just felt yourself in that creative space but it’ll take time to reach a point of accomplishment.  Imagine a toddler who has just discovered there’s a whole new world awaiting exploration now he’s found his feet!  He’s so keen to explore he wobbles, sometimes stumbles but always tries again, driven by the excitement of possibility.  Be kind to yourself and remember:

  • Knowing what you want to achieve gives you a sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Find a balance between where you are and the task ahead of you.  If it’s a step too far at the moment, you may feel frustrated and, if not challenging enough, boredom may distract you.
  • Start!  Feelings of self-consciousness will melt away as you start to enter your flow, which will happen automatically as your mind becomes absorbed in the task.
  • Give yourself time to work.  Time pressures are sure to keep you anchored in the ‘now’ and cripple creativity.  Thinking doesn’t have to take place while you’re staring at the white page.  Set the creative wheel in motion and allow it to spin away in your subconscious.
  • Allow your mind to be at play!  Does that seem an odd thing to say?  The word ‘work’ evokes feelings of compliance, conformity, drudgery and duty – surely the greatest extinguishers of originality known to Man.

Enjoy what you are doing.  Revel in the discovery of your own ideas and follow where they lead.

Alan Alda, the actor, captured the mood beautifully when he said:

 ”The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.”

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Gates Has One

September 13, 2010 | Uncategorized

BILL GATES HAS ONE, SHOULD YOU?  

 

Bill has one, so does Woodie Allen.  Madonna is one and so is the actress Ingmar Bergman.  Are you missing out?

 

Thousands of influential people throughout history have believed they were ‘worth it’, as the TV ad says and cast aside the cloak of ‘self can manage’ in favour of, yes, a mentor. 

 

Homer started it.  No, not Homer Simpson but Homer’s Odyssey.  The Goddess of Wisdom used Mentor, a debilitated old man, to guide Odysseus’ son through a difficult time in the young man’s life.  Lucky chap – today’s youth aren’t so fortunate down at the local community centre!  Imagine modern life if there was a mentor on every street corner in inner city areas instead of young ladies and gents plying their wares.  How powerful would that be?

 

And you thought it was new!

 

Some of the greatest philosophers, renowned for their learned, far-sighted thinking shared a little known secret.  The triplet of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are linked, although they preceded each other.  “How so?” you may be thinking.  What a fascinating discovery to learn that Socrates was the mentor of Plato, and Plato mentored Aristotle who went on to mentor Alexander the Great.  And there we were thinking mentoring was so ‘now’.

 

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Our very own 21st Century Bill Gates has a very rich and respected mentor, none other than Warren Buffet, one of the greatest stock market investors.  And, guess what?  Yes, spot on – Warren Buffett had a mentor too!  Ben Graham, an influential economist, guided the young Warren in the ways of the markets! 

 

It’s not just in business but in music and theatre that a mentor is the new “little black dress” – an absolute ‘must have’ that’ll take you anywhere you want to go.  In the happenin’ scene, the rapper Dr. Dre is mentor to younger rappers Eminem and Snoop Dogg. In the movie industry, the famous and late British actor Sir Laurence Olivier mentored actor Sir Anthony Hopkins.

 

 

There’s a pattern emerging here . . . what gems of learning lie all around waiting for a curious hand to lift them into life once more?  Is that hand yours? 

 

OK, Warren (or another chosen guru) might not be available to mentor you personally but you can still experience their thinking by reading about their lives, listening to tapes and watching any available videos.   Learn more about how they ‘’tick’, cut through confusion and enhance your winning performance.

 

Why spend time reinventing the wheel when the trailblazers have done the work for the modern business already?  “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, written in 1937 is as great a read in 2008 as it was then.

 

Dear Santa Please bring me a guardian angel wings optional!

 

It can be lonely out there, surrounded by “can’t do” people who never wanted to anyway . . . and don’t want you to either!  Leave your headaches behind!

 

Imagine having someone on your side, challenging and guiding you towards your goals.  Yes, the ones your mentor helped you set – you know, those achievements that will stretch but not overwhelm you and keep you in a totally positive mindset?

 

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Sometimes in this high-octane world, finding a safe space to deal with questions, struggles, emotions and doubts can be nigh on impossible.  The metaphorical (and sometimes literal!) embrace of a mentor can give just that.  When all is going well, there’s a great space where learning can take place and ideas flow freely.  As trust grows, it’s OK to confess fears and to reveal blockages to progress, to explore them and move forward.

 

And it can bring fun and friendship, increased self-esteem and personal growth.  So, what are you waiting for?

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Are you smart enough to realise you don’t have all the answers?  Be kind to yourself and write that letter to Santa.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

Choose wisely

Who should be your mentor is such a potentially life and business enhancing decision it’s worth taking time and care in selecting this special person.  It might be important for you to:

 

 

ü  Share the same values

ü  Feel a good rapport

ü  Trust enough to listen even if it is to something you might not wish to hear

ü  Establish the potential your mentor sees in you

ü  Feel they will take a personal interest

ü  Ensure they have the time to devote to the relationship

ü  Envisage where you see your career going

ü  Identify a mentor successful in the field you wish to develop

ü  Select a mentor with good social and networking skills

ü  Look for someone highly motivated and who is held in high esteem

ü  Think strategically about what you want from a mentor

ü  Establish what you want to achieve together

ü  Choose someone with a different work style to your own

 

 

Phew!  That shopping list should soon have your business running on all cylinders quickly.

 

Take that first important step and you’ll gain a real asset for your business.  Your mentor will help you tap into your inner strengths, review where you are, where you’re headed and the best way to get there in a fraction of the time you thought it might take.   Remember, they’ve already established the quickest way from A – D without calling at B and C!

 

Your mentor will guide you towards life-enhancing changes and goals.  Allow them to expand your knowledge, stir your imagination and perhaps change your perceptions and don’t feel defensive – they’re on your side!

 

7 Tips Guaranteed To Oil Those Mentoring Wheels

 

 

1.         Express your gratitude – your mentor may be giving much more than you in the early stages.

 

2.         Establish goals for the relationship through discussion and review to make sure they’re working.  If not, adjust and refocus.

 

3.         Talk through how you will communicate with each other – email, meetings or the telephone?

 

4.         Respect your mentor’s time and other commitments – don’t bombard them with every little problem!

 

5.         Make sure you reach appointments on time.

 

6.         Respect the special access you have to your mentor’s influential network by always following through on leads and contacts given to you.

 

7.         Be positive when your current views and attitudes are challenged – be open to new ideas.

 

 

Why not follow in the slipstream of Plato, whose mentor achieved and paid forward greatness – here’s what the great man had to say:

 

 

“PICTURE A DREAM. WHILE THE DREAM IS BEING BIRTHED, THE MENTOR STANDS OVER HIS PROTEGEÉ AND HELPS HIM RELAX AND ENDURE THE PAIN. THE MENTOR HOLDS THE DREAM UP BY THE HEELS AND SPANKS IT TO LIFE. THEN THE MENTOR PLACES THE-DREAM-TURNED-REALITY INTO THE ARMS OF THE PROTEGE AND WALKS AWAY TO ASSIST ANOTHER.”

SOCRATES

 

Now it’s time you brought your brand new, freshly born dream to reality!  See it, feel it, sense it – the life you want is already there.  Take courage in both hands and step into your future – NOW!  You know you want to . . .

Will You Be Lonely This Monday?

March 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

Decision taken?  Plans made?  Let’s hope so.  Here endeth the commuting run.  Are you flying solo or as a satellite?  Did you jump or were you pushed?

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 These questions will impact upon how you’re feeling about your new venture.  Working from home means no more queuing on motorways and urban freeways or launching yourself into the throng on the underground and spending a couple of hours just ‘getting there’.

It’s your big chance to create what you want in your life.  It’ll be as exciting and successful as YOU make it.  Assuming you have thought things through, you will already have considered most aspects of working from home. 

Here’s the biggie – are you extravert or introvert?  The euphoria of striding to your desk in your pyjamas (not recommended!) may be short lived if you need a strong daily dose of social interaction with your coffee.

You may be shocked by how much you relied on contact with colleagues and commuters.  You may even miss the mutual moan about the weather and other potentially non-lifethreatening topics.  Have a plan ready to fend off feelings of isolation.

Even if you enjoy your own company, it can be difficult spending a large part of the week on your own.  Bring your day to life by:

  • Making sure it’s easy for people to find you
  • Telling all your networking contacts your new contact details
  • Making some noise!  Background music fills the sound of silence
  • Using Webcam and videoconferencing
  • Chatting via Instant Messaging

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Still working for your old employer, but at home?

Remember those training sessions which were sometimes a drag?  Become outrageously optimistic and look forward to joining in now and finding out what’s new.  It’s a great way to keep your office-based colleagues onside and friendly.  You’ll stay in the social loop too.

When things get tough, share difficulties with your office colleagues – bet your bottom dollar they’re going through similar trials and tribulations.   You’ll feel supported and more in control.

Are you a solopreneur?

Slot in a sanity check each week!  Sound a bit off-the-wall?  Take some time to see how you actually feel.  Creating balance and harmony within is key to your success.  Seize those inklings of loneliness before they turn into isolation blues. 

  • Get together with other home based workers through online forums or start a local group and support each other.
  • Take your laptop out to lunch or for a coffee if it all gets too much!  Being somewhere with the hustle and bustle of people can make all the difference.

What about the practicalities?

Are you skilled in the art of self-distraction?  It’s easy to fall into the

‘I’ll just  , , , “ syndrome with all those little tasks eating away at your valuable time.

  A seismic mind shift is taking place so a period of adjustment is inevitable.  If you want to be taken seriously your need to plan your working environment. 

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Do you have:

  • A dedicated work area – not just the kitchen table?
  • Bright, cheerful décor that welcomes you each day?
  • A business telephone line to keep work and home life separate?
  • Computing and peripherals?
  • Broadband?
  • Proper furniture?
  • Daylight – essential for a sense of wellbeing?
  • Scanner and/or photocopier?
  • Filing cabinet?
  • Shredder for confidential paperwork?
  • Good lighting?

BONUS:  The Inland Revenue and rebate are not words usually found in the same sentence – you just got lucky!  If you have a dedicated home office you may be able to deduct expenses, part of the mortgage interest, utilities and phone bills when used for business activity!

DON’T BLOT YOUR COPYBOOK:          If you’re a solopreneur you must register with the Inland Revenue within three months to avoid being fined.  Glory be, we want them to give us concessions, not penalise us!  Make this a priority.

That’s almost it with the boring stuff but, ‘important and boring’ needs to be addressed:

  • Insurance – are you covered for all eventualities?
  • Check out back-up systems for your precious computer information.

OK, so you’re almost ready to rock ‘n roll!  If you’re going to deliver a year round professional service, then you need to consider . . .

BOUNDARIES for your own protection!

Let people know you mean business!

  • Set your working day – start on time and switch off in every way at the end of the day.
  • Stick to your guns – it’s not open season for neighbours, family and friends who fancy a coffee!
  • Meet clients in hotels, restaurants or coffee shops if you find it stressful having strangers in your home and want to create an air of professionalism.

Be kind to yourself!

 

  • Give yourself a break!  The human attention span is 21 minutes so keeping at it for hours without coming up for air is self-defeating.
  • Don’t be a slave to your email – switch off the alert system so you’re not tempted to look each time you hear the tell-tale ‘ping’!
  • Have a ‘To-Do’ list and DO IT!
  • Prioritise – you can’t do everything!
  • No man is an island – contact your contacts!
  • Reward yourself for bite-sized achievements – watch your confidence grow!

Oil your business relationships regularly – they are your lifeline.  Giving and supporting will bring a helping hand when you need one.

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You’re only human so don’t let ‘self can manage’ be your mantra.  Overwhelm creeps up unexpectedly and you may need to call in the cavalry now and then.  DO IT!  It’s takes strength to recognise when there’s a weakness.

Imagine how thrilled and elated you’ll feel in just a few short months when you look back at your fantastic success – dare to dream where you could be in five years! 

Remember, there are no limits to your success except those YOU place there!

DEPRIVED OF MEANINGFUL WORK, MEN AND WOMEN LOSE THEIR REASON FOR EXISTENCE; THEY GO STARK, RAVING MAD.
FEDOR DOSTOEVSKY
 

Coffee Shop Culture

March 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

 

COFFEE SHOP CULTURE
Whether meeting someone for a chat or desperate for a caffeine fix on-the-run, you won’t have to look far for a coffee shop, which continue to repopulate the high streets of the UK. Latte and espresso, cappuccino and frappuccino are now embedded in the language of modern life.
 
 
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It’s about profit and culture. In the 1990s global sales of coffee leapt from $30bn to $50bn and, guess what? Money paid to the growers dropped from £13bn to $8bn – strange that, don’t you think?
 
Communites have broken down and so we migrate to little communities within the whole for gossip and friendship, spiritual and social sustenance.
 
 
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Let’s Get Physical!
Did you know that within an hour of drinking a cup of coffee, there is probably caffeine in every cell of your body, and (avert your gaze now if of a squeamish persuasion) in all your body fluids? Scary, huh? Well, it gets worse, or better, depending upon your viewpoint. Caffeine is exceptionally permeable and has no trouble passing the blood-brain barrier! So now you know. Is that dispenser of coffee creations still on your shopping list? 
 
For Months I Walked on By . . .
Yes, I’m a coffee shop queen myself. For months I walked past a beautiful little place on my way to work. Each morning, I received the call sign. Desperate to respond but forbidden by the ticking of my wristwatch, I hurried to my destination. Oh yes, I punished myself in my weekday exposure to the signal. I felt even more virtuous as I rushed to work, having alighted from the Park & Ride, a stop early.
 
I enjoyed engaging in daily competition with the bus. You see, if I ‘stepped on it’, I could reach the office before the bus completed the ‘inner circuit’, cruising to a halt outside our door. Great exercise and fresh air, but daily torment.
 
Surprisingly, the intensity of desire aroused was constant, winter or summer. On dank, dark mornings it yielded the promise of warmth, companionship and succour. Bright summer mornings promised freshness and chat. And the nature of this ‘call to participate’? I promise, when I enlighten you, you’ll be there with me, sharing, feeling, enjoying . . .
 
Each morning as I ‘battled the bus’ and ‘the bulge’, mixed aromas of coffee, toast and sizzling bacon (with apologies to vegetarian readers) travelled firstly, to me, and then ‘with me’ as I journeyed forward, a foot soldier to the clock. There, you can smell it already, can’t you? In winter, the little café huddled, illuminated, in the terrace of Edwardian shops offering womb-like warmth and comforting smells of home. In summer, it threw off its winter coat and little tables appeared outside to welcome the Dawn, and passing pedestrians . . .
 
Smells of coffee, toast and sizzling bacon definitely sparked feelings of anticipation, shared memories, familiarity and, let us be frank, greed!
 
Today, as I write, I’m feeling emotionally and physically satisfied recalling the day I didn’t walk on by. I remember how the last bubbles of froth from the latte dissolved in the tall glass, and how crumbs, butter wrappers and the remains of the blackcurrant preserve lay, spent, in the three-ply napkin shielding the base of the breadbasket. The doorsteps of brown, malted wholegrain toast had arrived warmly wrapped and inviting. Then they were gone. 
 
But that was only the beginning. You see, I didn’t sit outside, even though it was a beautifully sunny morning and I could punctuate my day by watching the progress of the ‘Park & Ride’ every ten minutes from the sanctuary of this splendid Edwardian cul-de-sac. 
 
No, I discovered a different world; ‘upstairs’ is hidden at the far end of a narrow spiral staircase that promised to lead only to the attic and, no doubt, once did. I hadn’t been alone. I had observed others sharing this first-floor retreat.  And been observed. So much unspoken communication had taken place. I remember thinking as I gathered my utensils (pad, pen, mobile) and prepared to leave, that I’d be back. The smell of the coffee guided me into a new and exciting world to which I have since introduced many friends.   It’s a secret place . . . all I can tell you is it nestles in the Cotswolds. 
 
Costa coffee, rats and overcoats . . .
 
Now I should say that until recently I was ‘tube challenged’! We don’t have tubes or trams down our way. I went to London on a course and couldn’t help comparing the gentle and tranquil experience I have in my secret coffee shop to the mobile ingestion of coffee I witnessed in The Smoke.
 
You see, they came at me in swarms. An army of waxed paper cups, plastic lids holding back the tide, on the move, gripped firmly, purchased hurriedly by all ranks of the human hive.
 
My entry to the tube train was momentarily blocked, a panic-inducing moment for a country lass. I was light years away from the Cotswolds where, among the coffee shop twitter, one sits in an oasis of calm, gently welcoming the day. My coffee shop isn’t ‘branded’ and, I feel, the better for it.
 
Costa Coffee ‘on the hoof’ is an altogether different concept and, although somewhat shocking to me, an integral part of the daily ritual for commuters, I noticed. 
 
Okay. I had to be brave. It was ‘do or die’ in the stampede. Sit down? Come on, get real, girl! It was hot. I haven’t yet reached a ‘certain age’ but, believe me, I was glowing! Overcoats of various fabrics prickled against me. In my state of heightened awareness, they felt like horsehair. Body space invasion was bad enough but add ‘take aways’ of assorted Costa fluids and my adrenaline was really pumping.
 
The Costa Christening on the 7.40 from Ealing Broadway!
 
I reasoned that, somewhere on that packed caffeine-infused tube, it was inevitable that someone would have a ‘Costa christening’. They did, just a little one. The train lurched, the arm jerked and a small projectile stream landed right between the shoulder blades of the man in front. He was one of the ‘coats’ and didn’t notice. The youth responsible shuffled and looked the other way. Ashamed to say, we all did. Mentally, I could see the headline, “Country girl catalyst for Central Line chaos.” Best to say nothing. Let sleeping dogs lie, and all that
 
The return journey in the evening was shocking for a different reason. Having walked across London and stood on the Jubilee Line tube, the opportunity to sit down was most welcome when I alighted at Marble Arch to await my connection. It was latish, past nine. A young girl sat down beside me. “Mind the rats”, she said. I must have appeared dazed, for she repeated herself. Something in the darkness of the deserted platform caught my eye. The ‘something’ scurried towards me and it wasn’t alone. Triplets. Pathetically, I made ‘shooing’ noises. I hate rats, especially their bald tails, like baby serpents. 
 
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For a brief moment, I marvelled at their climbing ability. In tunnels, yes. On the platform, no. Why were they here? In Life, there is a reason for all things. My eyes scanned the platform. Discarded Costa Coffee cups, with sticky dregs, and muffin crumbs kicked by a thousand moving feet lay by the wall, ready to feed the bowels of London; a nocturnal feast. A frayed copy of ‘CITY AM’ lay among the debris. The headline? “Whitbred borrowed £400m to boost coffee shops and hotels”. Where will it all end?
 
Or did it all just feel worse because my feet hurt!
 
 
Janet Swift

Success Is an Inside Job

February 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

SUCCESS IS AN INSIDE JOB

What does the word’success’ feel like?  No, not what does it make you think about but what emotions does it incite within your very being.  You don’t have to share your answer so be honest with yourself.    Are you perhaps:

  • Excited
  • Elated
  • Worried
  • Depressed
  • Satisfied
  • Feeling it’s unattainable
  • Wishful

Is the concept of being successful frightening?  It’s at the top of most people’s wish list so why do so few achieve their goal?  Maybe holding the dream at arm’s length is comforting and, yes, excuses us from responsibility and action.

Everyone has a different perception of ‘success’ depending upon their individual experience and view of the world.  Some choose to see their glass as ‘half empty, some ‘half full’ and for the lucky few, their cup permanently runneth over!  They bounce back, no matter what they encounter; always positive, encouraging to self and others and open to opportunities as they present.

The Dictionary defines success in two ways:

  • A favourable outcome to an undertaking; and
  • The attainment of wealth or fame.

 

Two varied and subjective definitions.  What may be a ‘favourable outcome’ to one may not be viewed that way by another.   ‘Wealth’ covers financial wealth but also spiritual and emotional wealth, both of which are beyond price.  Without them life has no real value; the barren soul with a huge bank balance certainly wouldn’t be resting in the glow of success.

So, if we want success in every area of life, what holds us back?

Imagine the scene.  It’s match day and the rugby team is on the field.  They’ve had the ‘talk’, changing room bonding session and done the training.  The manager’s quietly optimistic – the lads are fit and capable of winning.  He knows because he’s taught them the basics, the tricks and to expect and plan for the unexpected.

So, it’s all to play for.  It’s a glorious afternoon, sunny but not too hot, the pitch is newly mown the white lines signalling their importance in their freshly painted whiteness.  The good humoured chanting of the crowd adds to the anticipation and the ref signals it’s ‘Game On’.  Both teams have a touch of the ball and the atmosphere is electric.  The crowd has quietened in anticipation of first blood.  Of course, each side thinks their boys the best and there’s safety in the crowd, surrounded by other like-minded supporters.  Not quite so comforting to be the odd-one-out in the opposing crowd, standing out as an individual of a different mental persuasion.

The ref blows – he wants a scrum.  He’s a little chap and the forwards tower over him, yet he holds the game within his control.  To ensure fairness, as each pack lock together ready to take on the opposing men, the ref says “Touch” to ensure the two sides are within reach of each other, then “engage” signalling they can start pushing and going about the business of the scrum.  They know what to do. 

Suddenly the crowd sinks into a confused silence.  They’ve never seen this before.  The tight head prop, the strongest man on the team, has stood up and failed to engage.  The ref asks what’s wrong.

“Oh, I don’t think I want to today.  It might hurt.  It might be uncomfortable.  Perhaps we won’t win.  Better not to engage at all.  Can we stop and perhaps try again next month.”

The frustration of the team manager is almost palpable.  “What’s his problem, the big girl’s blouse?  He knows what to do, he’s had the team talk, he’s capable of success this afternoon and he’s afraid to engage”, he says to his No. 2.

How ridiculous that scenario would be say, at Twickenham!  But that’s essentially what many people do every day and wonder why the success they think they really desire proves so elusive. 

Histor  reports Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as:

 “Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome!”

We do, don’t we?  And then bemoan our lot.  Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” talks of the ‘circle of influence’.

According to Covey, the first habit of highly successful people is being proactive.  He differentiates proactive people from reactive people.  One factor which separates the two is where they focus their time and energy.

Whatever we face in life, we fall into two categories which Covey calls:  the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.  According to him, proactive people focus their time and energy and efforts on their Circle of Influence – things which they can do something about.

However, reactive people focus their time and energy in the Circle of Concern – on things which they have little or no control over.  They are easily recognisable.  They’re the ones who blame and accuse and use ‘victim’ language.  Did you recognise yourself?  If so, well done!  You’ve just progressed!

The delivery suite is not a level playing field and we’re not born equal but, as Paul McKenna says in his book “Change Your Life in 7 Days,

You are not responsible for the hand you have been dealt, but it is always up to you how you play it.”, believing that “Failure is an attitude, not an outcome”.  Interesting thoughts, don’t you think?

There’s another word to introduce at this point – choice.  How do those five characters make you feel?  Oh, now, that’s a scary one!  With choice comes responsibility for self; that’s right, nobody to blame.

Whether you are conscious of it or not you are always choosing.  How you arrived at where you are today is the product of all your past choices, conscious or otherwise.  They may have been deliberate, about events under your control, or born of fear, despair or anger – but they were all choices. 

If you want to be successful, take 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life.  Doing this means giving up complaining, blaming and justifying.  At the end of each day, stop and think about what you did well, what you accomplished and what successes you had and write them down so you build a personal ‘Journal of Successes’ – a barometer of your success!

One final thought from a very influential gentleman, Henry Ford: 

Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right

Janet Swift

Networking – You’re a Natural!

January 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

NETWORKING YOU’VE A NATURAL!

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Babies are such skilled operators, and with no training!  It doesn’t take them long to decide who needs to be in their network and they’re pretty ace at the call to action – ever tried ignoring it?  It’s an innate, natural and necessary response to their developing needs.

 So when does the self-consciousness kick in?  After all, networking is only communication in person, in writing, online or by ‘phone.  Business networking is no different but stepping out of a self-imposed comfort zone isn’t for the faint hearted!  If you don’t feel you’re a ‘natural’, DON’T PANIC!

Rocket science it isn’t, but some would rather launch into orbit than into a room of strangers.  Welcome, to the majority!  There are those (and we all know at least one!) who love being centre stage but comfort yourself with the thought they may be adrenalin junkies!  Listen to famous actors and they will say the day the ‘butterflies’ stop before a performance is the day they will retire.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a network as “A group or system of interconnected things” and networking as “Interacting with other to exchange information and develop useful contacts”. 

That’s not intimidating, is it?  We’re all in networks already – family, friends, sports teams, work colleagues and the list goes on. 

Involvement in the first networking experience – family life – taught us how to join in, negotiate, bargain and, yes, argue our point!  All invaluable skills – the same skill set needed for business networking!

What Does ‘Successful’ Networking Mean . . .?

Different things to different people!  Are you networking for yourself, your own business or perhaps an employer? 

  • You may want to increase your social circle
  • Perhaps your boss has said “Go forth and network”
  • Maybe your want to invest time (and maybe money!) in your own business expansion

Whatever your personal motivation, you need to decide upon a strategy and keep it simple!  What works for you?

If you’re a bit daunted by the thought of a full-on business networking meeting (and the prospect of getting up before the dawn breaks to get there on time!), what about dipping your networking toe in cyber water?  Focus for the moment on what you can do and feel comfortable doing.  

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Build your confidence slowly from the sanctuary of your comfort zone!  Start by joining online communities and message boards.   Enjoy yourself!  Forgot about that, didn’t you?  Oh yes, remember this is a business activity so don’t waste hours surfing the web ‘looking’ for networking opportunities.  Be focused on your areas of interest before you start!  If you work from home, you might choose to give online networking a miss in favour of some face-to-face human interaction!  Make sure you’re not just going to get out of the house!

Set Goals to Help You Focus . . .

Decide what you want to achieve personally and for your business from your networking activities.   You’re on verge of creating great positive momentum for you business so take your time and hone your focus.

On the business front, make sure your networking efforts truly reflect what your business stands for and where you want to take it.  Authenticity is key to personal enjoyment and achievement in networking activities. 

Why Would I Do Business With Me?

Silly question?  Not at all.  How much time have you spent thinking about what lies at the heart of your business (apart from profit!)?  Try looking in with a stranger’s eye – what could they gain from working with you?

Online or face-to-face, you’re the frontline.  In each case, professionalism rules, OK!

  • Have you prepared answers about your product or service?
  • What is unique about it?
  • Is your enthusiasm for your product infectious?
  • Can you describe your business CONCISELY?

Networking is an extension of your marketing and advertising activities so play the game called “Making Best Use of Your Contacts”!  Learn to sort the wheat from the chaff – concentrate only on what may help your business goals.

Where Shall I Go?

Heavens, you could be out every day at some venue or other – not cheap!

Think carefully about the size of group you would feel comfortable with.  Some ‘clubs’ have only around 20 places and take only one representative from each profession.  Chambers of Commerce may take 100 and have several members in the same field. 

Do you want to attend weekly, monthly or quarterly?  Realistically, how much time can you spare?

Don’t Be Selfish!

Everyone’s networking for the same basic reasons.  Taking time to listen to others is essential to gain the maximum from the experience.  Remember, too, listening is a great way of dealing with nerves!

There is a saying that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in those proportions!

Practice Active Listening – let the other person (who’s probably feeling just as nervous as you) know you’re taking in what is being said by nodding, smiling (yes, it is permitted) or encouraging them by agreeing with what they’re saying.  It’s hard to really listen.  Try not to leap in each time they stop for breath – you wouldn’t want to appear pushy, would you? 

Make it a pleasant and non-confrontational experience for all concerned.   Start to think how your new contact could perhaps fit into your plans.  

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Remember though, this is a two-way street – think what you can offer to others if you’re looking for long-term benefits.  You know how good it feels to receive recognition, so make an effort to recognise the importance of everyone in the network.  Reaching out to others and helping them is a great way to increase confidence.

Perhaps you might consider:

  • How can I help this person meet their goals?
  • Can they help me reach mine?
  • Are there any networks that will help us both?
  • Can we work together positively in the future?

Be Genuine . . .

You know how irritating it is to speak with someone who’s constantly looking over your shoulder – likewise for them!  Not everyone is going to be ‘a match made in Heaven’.  Sometimes it’s best just to acknowledge that and move on. 

Mies van der Rohe said “Less is more”.  The quality and relevance of the groups you chose is the key effective networking.  Don’t waste your precious time if there’s no return on your investment! 

Before Joining. . .

  • Consider whether the group will help you reach your goals
  • Find out what it’ll cost
  • Seek out and talk to existing members – they’ll tell you the truth!
  • Investigate how efficient the organisers are

             - do they send out information in good time?

             – do they arrange business-related events?

             - do they issue a copy of the guest list in advance?

  • Find out if you can visit as a guest before committing yourself

The Pitfalls. . .

If you’re entering uncharted waters, be aware of possible personal malfunctions – oh yes, even the seasoned pro can fall victim without warning.  Forewarned is forearmed!

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Malfunction 1 – The Humour Bypass

Relax and enjoy the moment.  Allow yourself to be who you are and your personality will carry you through.

Malfunction 2 – Loss of Memory

Won’t happen to you – no, of course it won’t!  Don’t panic if you forget a name or face or what you wanted to say!  There’s no shame in taking prepared notes with you or jotting down information a fellow networker might mention.  They’ll probably be flattered that you considered what they had to say so important!

Malfunction 3 – Uncharacteristic Odd or Embarrassing Behaviour

Don’t juggle food, business cards and a drink while trying to shake hands with an important (or unimportant!) new contact – it could end in a messy disaster. 

It’s unflattering to look as though you haven’t eaten in a fortnight or that you’re only there for the vino. 

Malfunction 4 – Looking Like You Need Oxygen

Nerves can do strange things to a person.  If you feel yourself hyperventilating don’t leave it until fellow guests need to find a paper bag for you to breathe into!  Calm yourself by slowing down and taking some deep breaths.  This will also help to stop a racing heartbeat and make you look calm and collected and, most importantly, prevent you passing out!

Malfunction 5 – Gabbling and Babbling

Nerves not only make the heart race but somehow speed up the speech too!  Again, pause and take a deep breath and listen to yourself.  

REMEMBER, THIS IS YOUR BIG MOMENT IN THE SPOTLIGHT 

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  • Be yourself and be genuine
  • Build confidence by looking the best you can
  • Leave time and space to travel and park
  • If you recognise anyone, speak with them first
  • What will be best way to move around the room?
  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask to be introduced to people
  • Try not to talk too much
  • Focus on your message, not yourself
  • Practice your speech – don’t think you can wing it
  • E N J O Y   Y O U R S E L F!

Networking is an essential part of building wealth.
Armstrong Williams

 

After The Event . . .

It’s not over, the work’s just beginning.  Follow up with the people you want to keep in contact with within 24-hours, if possible.

How do you want to do that – note, telephone call, email?  It doesn’t matter JUST TAKE ACTION!

Are you going to have a business card mountain on your desk or file them properly?  You know what you should do – when are you going to do it?

Prepare to do it all again!

~

IT ISN’T JUST WHAT YOU KNOW, AND IT ISN’T JUST WHO YOU KNOW. IT’S ACTUALLY WHO YOU KNOW, WHO KNOWS YOU, AND WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING. ~

BOB BURG

 

Janet Swift

www.swiftlysorted.com

www.justjottings.com

www.reviewwithjanet.com