Practical Wisdom: The Super Power of Sherlock Holmes

The ability to see and hear, the memory to recall what you saw or heard, and the instant creativity to sense logical hypotheses to test are all required skills for anybody whom trades in professional and expert knowledge.

Sherlock Holmes has these traits in spades, but it may not be far-fetched to develop an edge of your own using his techniques.

Unlike Superman, who is not even human, or Batman, who is a super-rich human, Sherlock Holmes comes to the scene with exactly as many resources as anybody else.

But what makes him so remarkable?

Some would say it’s his genius, an innate power of the mind. This may be true, it certainly makes him stand out from a crowd. And odds are we’ll never be able to write a full biography of a man by a glimpse in the subway.

But I believe we can improve our cognitive abilities, much in the same way we’d improve any other skills. And since we don’t tend to exercise certain functions of the brain deliberately, our abilities will probably improve dramatically at first. Enough to warrant celebration, at least.

The Best Distraction-Free Writing Tool: FORCEdraft

The Best Distraction-Free Writing Tool: FORCEdraft

I have a new writing application on my computer. It’s very simple, one of those ‘distraction-free’ gimmicks. Except this one goes a step further…it literally FORCES you to keep writing until a pre-specified limit is reached.

Well, let me tell you how difficult this thing is. You can’t copy and paste. You can’t Alt-Tab out. You can’t even Ctrl-Alt-Delete! You can’t do anything except get something written.

I can’t do anything with this computer until I write 100 words. I set the limit lower earlier, because I didn’t want to end up accidentally needing to write War And Peace, and I’m glad I did.

I was literally forced to write a good testimonial because this software is the best distraction free writing tool out there. For people who are too distracted by their laptop, need to type something, and don’t want to install complicated application blocking programs, this is literally the best.

Now, I’m just wondering if I accidentally set it for something higher. Like, maybe 200 words. I feel like I’ve written over 100, but the software hasn’t let me know. It does look to be saving often; every couple of words or so a green ‘SAVED’ flashes on the screen above the title.

But…when the hell am I supposed to be done? I don’t get it. Am I trapped in eternal damnation? Eternal typenation, if you will?

So, here’s some more words for the processor. Just a couple more now. Some more. More. More. More.

Oh, wait. You can click the logo up top to save and exit when you’ve reached your word limit. That’s nice, I kinda had a steam going and probably would have lazied out if I got notified.

Well, I know my next blog post now! Download FORCEdraft for free here. It runs on Windows.

Just be careful, if you’re at work set the word limit low. You won’t be able to do anything else!

EDIT: It turns out you can exit if you know a specific key combination. This can be blocked, but you need to set up one more piece of software to do so. If you don’t know the combination, I won’t spoil it for you here! But if you do, email me and I’ll send you instructions for adding the second piece to the puzzle.

PS: I set out to write 100 words. I got my momentum going, and very quickly reached 400 without realizing it! If you do any writing, this tool is a keeper.

My Silly and Simple Productivity Hack For Monkey-Brained People Like Me

My Silly and Simple Productivity Hack For Monkey-Brained People Like Me

I’m not going to lie, my brain can and does go in a million directions at once. Some call it multitasking, which I don’t, others call it being scatterjacked, which I do.

I used to not need a productivity trick to get through the day, but increasing demands at work require me to keep track of dozens of loose threads while balancing all the creative projects that make me valuable in the first place.

A plain to-do list never cut it for me. The list would almost always contain superfluous items, end up sprawlingly long, and rend any hope for sanity throughout the day. At night I would try to pet my cat, but all I would see in his sweet little eyes is item after item of incomplete tasks.

So I made a simple change. Some call it scheduling, some call it prioritizing, I call it ‘think before you decide to do something’ or “It’s Raining Deadlines”

Here’s What I Do

The day before, or maybe squeezed in the first fifteen or so minutes, I’ll sit down with a piece of paper. I’ll write the time I wake up on the top, then my first task, which is always ‘wake up.’

I then write the next time (about 20 minutes later) under that and place my second task (get ready for work) next to it. So the beginning of this list always looks like this…

  1. 6:40am — Wake up
  2. 7:00am — Get ready for work

Don’t laugh. All this is saying is at 6:40am, you’re working on getting up, and at 7:00am, you’re getting ready. Basically, instead of having to have something done by a certain time, I make sure I start at a very specific time. My deadline on these items? The next item I have to start on my list or deferring to the next day.

I do this with my task list next to me, filling things in with appropriate time to do them. By the time I get to the end of the day, I have created a perfect little picture of a fully productive day. All I have to do is make sure the tasks get done in around the time allotted and I have no worries!

Here’s what this magnificent beast looks like in person:

The Simple List

This is great because I feel like all my time was used well, things get done that I normally would be too scatterjacked to attend to, and when I go home I don’t have to worry about an enormous, abstract list of tasks.

Why Spammers Suck At Spelling (Hint: They Don’t)

Why Spammers Suck At Spelling (Hint: They Don’t)

Have you ever wondered why spammers have no grasp of English, like, ever? Not even once? And their scams are always absolutely ridiculous too.

It’s actually quite a clever ruse.

When a spammer sends out an email, they send it to thousands, if not millions, of addresses. This costs next to nothing.

However, in order to get your money, they usually need to interact with you in some way. When you have millions of prospects, you’re going to get a TON of inquiries based on sheer numbers. This costs time and money that a lone spammer usually doesn’t have.

So what’s a lone Nigerian Prince to do? How can he make sure he doesn’t waste time with people who would never fall for it? (Or call him out to proper authorities…)

By pre-qualifying. In other words, creating a gullibility filter.

By making the offer as obvious a scam as possible, they’re ensuring everyone who follows through is totally ignorant and much more likely to take the bait.

Millions of emails sent, and everyone who responds is the perfect patsy (I mean prospect.)

It’s actually pretty genius.

It also serves to illustrate the point every marketer should learn: reach isn’t all that great on its own. You have to reach the right people.

Placebo Marketing

Placebo Marketing

What everybody needs can’t be bought. And if you really do need something that can be bought, odds are it’s cheap.

(Note: I’m not talking about the developing world where water is like gold. I’m talking about a world where stopping to read this blog post is a valid use of time.)

So if nobody really needs anything anymore, what’s marketing about?

It’s about wants. It’s about fostering and channeling the desires of everyday people, typically through a paywall.

In other words, it’s about creating placebos that help customers feel satisfied, or actualized, or whatever.

Just like how doctors give out sugar pills only to get similar, if not better, results, it works because people expect it to work.

Go to a doctor’s office, sit in the waiting room, get called by a nurse wearing scrubs, now sit in a different room, then wait for the doctor wearing his lab coat (walking at a calm yet quick pace because he’s very busy treating people), all so he can look at your vitals (on a clipboard) and explain what’s amok (usually in the droll monotone of a person who has said something everyday for the past few decades).

After all this, the doctor may give you a sugar pill. And it will probably work.

Sugar pills work because, after all that, you simply expect them to.

If the doctor came in wearing a wife-beater you’d probably think something’s amiss, and then the sugar pill wouldn’t work.

Marketing (the sugar pill of the business world) works when everything about the product or service just jives right.

Popular e-commerce stores all look similar because of the power of placebos. Clickbait headlines (you know, “Ten Shocking Revelations About President Obama You MUST Read”) work because you expect them too.

So go ahead a judge a book by it’s cover. That might be all you read anyway.

What To Do When Standing Out Is Difficult

One of my good friends is a musician, and he’s absolutely brilliant. As a local songwriter, he blows away his competition in terms of musical quality and sophistication. His nickname is ‘Maestro’ and he deserves it.

But he is also one of the least popular musicians I know. If I showed you a tune, you’d probably think I was showing you an indie songwriter who is famous to people cool enough to know him. You wouldn’t think he lived next door.

And why is that? While he’s a fantastic musician who deserves an audience, he sucks at promoting himself. Why does he suck at promoting himself? Because he’s human.

Human beings are hard-wired against standing out and getting attention. In the old days with tigers and cavemen, the caveman who stood out too much was catfood. Even in today’s high schools, standing out carries an unhealthy risk of everybody making fun of you.

So why can’t we make great music, build a great product, or start a great service and let sheer quality do the promoting for us? After all, word of mouth marketing exists, and it’s a great tool.

Simple. In order for someone to talk about your music, they need to know about it first. Our modern marketing environment is absolutely entrenched with people shouting about their music. They’re shouting so much that people who don’t want to shout think they can’t market any other way and people who do shout just end up drowning themselves out. It’s silly, really.

So how can someone stand out when the options seem so limited? The answer is clearly not shouting, thank god.

But it might be more painful, at first.

The key to standing out is to be counterintuitive. Go where the audience is already listening, but not saturated. A musician might make a good plan involving placing songs in films. Or even blog posts! Maybe even blog posts about marketing!

“Jimi Hendrix never had to use a blog post!” That’s right, he didn’t. But when’s the last time destroying a guitar was really a brave, unique choice?

Why Expertise Marketing Trumps Awareness Marketing

First, a couple definitions:

Expertise Marketing- Positioning a company as the knowledge and skill leader of a related topic to their niche

Awareness Marketing- Plastering a company’s name, key products, and reputation in front of as many targeted eyes as possible

With that said, Expertise Marketing will always pay higher and cost less than  Awareness Marketing. Not because of some new trend in technology (though the internet does make the fact painfully obvious), but because Expertise Marketing works to build a clear, solid, trustworthy path to your sales floor using capital any good business should already have.

By publishing a blog, writing a book, attending/forming industry events, or even training your damn staff, companies can show customers first-hand why they’re products are trustworthy.

By providing advice that works and telling stories that resonate, you’re essentially giving customers a test-drive of your company without spending a single cent in production costs. Awareness costs thousands up front and

The downsides to Expertise Marketing exist, certainly, and here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • Somebody is going to have to spend time on it, no matter how busy the company is
  • That time is best spent on an individual with good writing skills, which is less common than any reasonable person would hope for
  • The returns aren’t immediate

By not immediate, I mean the test-drive has to ROCK. It has to work, work well, and look good doing it. Essentially, you have to prove your expertise one drip at a time.

But Awareness Marketing does reach more people faster, and the sensible approach would dictate a few ads here and there and maybe a supplementary campaign. (Yeah, that means a marketing campaign for your marketing efforts. I know.)



Awareness Vs Expertise

School is great for making you aware of something.

You go to class, and a professor with subject expertise (hopefully) will talk at length about all the things you should be aware of in his field.

At the end of the day, you graduate and can officially say you are aware of a lot of things. Which is great!

But you are not an expert.

Expertise is something that is developed over a long period of concentrated effort. (Not time, effort.)

People say school is bad, designed wrong, and useless. But that’s not true. School is one way we become aware of the world. It’s your job to take that awareness to the next level.

Why We’re The Next Greatest Generation

It used to be people focused on pension. A great pension plan was synonymous with a great job.

Look how that turned out. We look for the chance to build something now.

It used to be people wanted to go out and find a great boss to work for. If your boss liked you, your life was good.

That’s not the case anymore. We look for great colleagues now. We focus on the project, the product, and the customer. Not the performance review.

It used to be we worked from 9-5 and got paid for showing up.

We don’t want to get paid for showing up. We want to get paid for creating something.

Something new. Something bold. Something necessary.  Whether to save lives, inspire hope, or build communities, we don’t just pay lip service to commitment.

We have learned from our parents, and because we learned from our parents, we will live our lives much differently from them. We don’t assume security. Instead, we thrive in uncertainty.

If there isn’t a solution to a problem readily available, we smile. We don’t see a brick wall, we see a vacant lot. Pristine, prime, and ready to be developed.

Everyday we hear the older generations say they worry for us. Worry, however, is obsolete.

It has been replaced with concentrated concern, active hope but passive attachment. Things fail. All the time.

People who failed all the time used to be called failures. Now, we just see an individual using the scientific method.

I can’t express how happy I am to have grown up in this generation.


The Cost of Standing Out

If you understand Google, you understand how expensive it can be to stand out in a given crowd.

Let me explain.

First, Google makes money by selling ads. So far so boring. If you’ve been following this blog at all you understand how ineffective advertising is.

Here’s the genius part though. You don’t pay a flat rate for your ads.

The ads are auctioned off. Wait a minute, are you still bored? Let me explain some more.

Let’s say you want to reach people who like playing guitar. How many people type in ‘guitar’ in Google? Millions. That’s a great big crowd. So the price for that ad is about $10 per click. Ouch.

Not only is that first click $10, but only 10% (if you’re lucky) of those clicks will translate into a sale.

So how much does each sale cost? $100! If you’re extremely lucky!! You better have a ridiculous profit margin in order for this scheme to work.

So, appealing to a big crowd is extremely expensive and massively unlikely to work. What’s a savvy individual to do?

Find a weird search. Something a few people search for. Instead of “guitar,” try “post industrial hard melodic metal guitar.” Fewer people, certainly, but the cost is exponentially lower because you’re one of only a few people in the auction house.

Of course, this isn’t about Google advertising strategy. It’s about doing the hard work of connecting in a genuine manner with actual people. Stop trying to people please like a wimp and start making something that matters.