You’re Better Than That

You’re Better Than That

In life, you’re going to make giant, horrible mistakes.

If you’re lucky, you won’t make too many of them. Maybe one or two. You went to kiss that girl that one time because you thought you were on a date but thought wrong, and now in the back of your head, you think you’re a creep for the rest of your life.

Or maybe you should have said no to the crazy people who offered you a job and focused all your efforts on dating this awesome woman you totally would have had children with. But your new insane co-workers made it impossible to devote the time and attention needed to grow that kind of relationship to get it where it should have been, instead of where it ended up.

If you’re like most people, you acknowledge what you did wrong, you feel bad about it for however long that you feel sorry about it, and then you try to move on with your life the best that you can.

If something was outside of your control, you learn not to think about it because there’s no point in worrying or thinking about things you can’t solve.

If you’re like me and have OCD, you obsess over everything that has ever gone wrong in your life all day, every day until it drives you just a little crazy and makes it virtually impossible for you to open up to another human being in a non-professional setting. Mostly out of fear of adding to the list of giant horrible mistakes that you constantly think about.

You don’t want to be like that either.

You can’t let the mistakes you make define who you are. You also can’t let your mistakes prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to do what you want to do with your life.

You know I hate the “fail and fail often” thing that startups believe in. It’s real easy for them to say that when they’re wasting money that’s not their own. I’m not suggesting you go that far and embrace failure at every turn, but I do believe you have to make a concerted effort, every day, to try things without having that fear in the back of your head about what you’re trying turning into another giant, horrible mistake.

The biggest problem I’ve encountered over the past four years is that people don’t know what they want, so I’m not able to come up with a plan to get them to where they want to go. The second problem though is that, once the plan is put together, they’re afraid to try things. “I can’t.” “I won’t.” “That won’t work. “We can’t do that because …”

You have to get past all that. Unless there is a logical reason not to try something, then you’re just working off emotions. And unless there’s a strong feeling in your gut saying not to try something at that point, you should try it and see what happens. (If your gut is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. I’m a big believer in trusting your gut.)

Life is short. It’s cruel. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. And for that reason alone, it’s up to you and me to take risks and be adventurous.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

There are plenty of people out there today who are utterly miserable because they’ve let that fear keep them from doing what they want to do with their lives. Don’t be that person. Don’t be just another person in the long, exhaustive history of them, who didn’t want to take the action they needed to get shit done because of some convenient excuse.

You’re better than that.

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How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 4)

This is the last installment in a four-part series about measurement. I get asked a lot by people how to figure out if their marketing efforts are working or not, and so this is my answer. You can catch Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Give it 90 Days

You might be wondering, “OK. I know what to look for to measure success, but how do I know if the campaign is a failure or not?”

No volume, no velocity. Sure. Obvious signs of a failure, but what about this patience thing? How long should you give any campaign before you decide to pull the plug on it?

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote a concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio. In the case, the Supreme Court was attempting to define obscenity because the state of Ohio was trying to ban a film from being watched because the state said the film was “obscene.”

In the concurrence, Stewart was trying to explain how he knew something was pornography or not, and he said, “I know it when I see it.”

I know our data-obsessed culture isn’t very big on gut instinct and feelings, but that’s what I go with. You should always trust your gut.

I know. Like the rest of this advice, that’s easier said than done, but it’s the truth. And look, I don’t always follow the obvious advice either. Nobody’s perfect. We all fuck up. Just recently this company wanted me to work for them, and I met one of their executive team members and everything in my gut was screaming, “You’re not going to get along with this person, don’t work with them,” and I said yes anyway. It was a huge mistake. I should have trusted my gut, but I didn’t. So I know when I say stuff like that, it sounds obvious, but the challenge for you and I is to be mindful of what we’re doing every day. If our gut is telling us, something, you have to stop and listen to it over all the other noise that bombards us on any given day.

Of course, if you design the marketing campaign correctly, it should NEVER get to the launch phase where you have doubts about it. That’s a post, or maybe a book, for another time.

But let’s say the campaign somehow gets past the planning phase and you still have your doubts. Then you see people aren’t responding in the way you had hoped. Or how about this. Given that this world is wild and unpredictable let’s say something happens which just completely blows any chance of this campaign working, no matter how well planned or executed it was.

What I suggest is this: You launch the campaign and give it 90 days. A month is not enough time to carefully evaluate anything. Diffusion among people regarding ideas that stick and resonate with them takes longer than that. (My hunch, not yet backed up with data, that’s why I’m researching for the book right now. I suspect the research will show that I’m right on this.)

At the end of 30 days, if something needs to tweaked, you can make those tweaks on Day 30, which resets the clock. So that brings you to Day 60, where you can recalibrate again. If after the second recalibration things aren’t working, then you can safely kill the campaign. I think that’s more than fair. 90 days is plenty of time to test, evaluate, tweak, and test again while also giving the campaign enough time to diffuse among your target audience (and the people you want your target audience to share the campaign with.)

Just Do It

I’ve spent most of my life broke. My family wasn’t poor, but we were broke. And then I went to college just as the dot-com Bubble Burst, and then got married just months before the Great Recession started. (One of the key reasons we got divorced was money. The other was that I was an asshole.)

I tell you that because when we talk about promoting yourself, your business, your cause, whatever it is you’re looking to share with the world, I know these things cost money.

And don’t buy into that crap that you don’t need to spend money on marketing, PR and advertising. You do. The game you’re playing is rigged. You may not need to pay for those things if you were accepted into Y-Combinator and had access to all their resources and connections, or if you went to Harvard, but for the rest of us? You gotta put money into this, and that can be scary because we don’t have a lot of it to work with.

So when I talk about volume and velocity and talking to your customers, and picking the metric that matters most, the suggestion I want to make is this: Be patient. I don’t believe any campaign is a success unless it makes its money back. Or, the campaign pays off in some other way. I should be clear here: Not all marketing and PR campaigns are done to make money. For example, your goal may be to get something, like a deal with a record label, or to show people within your industry that you know what you’re doing and can walk the walk.

You may, also, not make money back in the way that you think. I made more money speaking and consulting than from book sales, for example., So it’s possible that if you do make your money back, it may not come from the source you expect.

Now that being said, you have to give it time. That’s not something our metrics obsessed culture is comfortable with. Good marketing, advertising, PR, sales, it all takes time. That’s why the velocity metric is so important. You might get real hot out of the gate, but then that’s all the activity you ever see. The only way to know for sure is to allow for these campaigns to breathe. Set the budget, and then let it go to work for you. Don’t second guess it or get bent out of shape if it takes a while to see results.

You may find that the volume increases slowly over time, and then the velocity of that activity spikes and then stays spiked because success breeds success. But you can’t get to that point if you panic and cut the legs out from your campaign because the MBA types get nervous.

That was Ray Kroc’s attitude with McDonald’s. He knew he’d make the money they spent on marketing back. Can any of us argue that he didn’t?

So set the money aside for the campaign, take a deep breath, and do it. If you did everything else right (and we’ll talk about “everything else” soon), then you won’t have anything to worry about.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 3)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 3)

(This is part three in a four part series on how to simply measure the success of a marketing campaign. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Regardless of what metric(s) you choose to use, the thing you have to look at with them is volume and velocity.

When I get asked whether or not a campaign is working, those are the two things I look at.

Let me explain.

I was writing what we would now call “viral” content back in the early ‘00s. I was lucky in the sense that places like Boing Boing, College Humor, Fark, Something Awful, Gorilla Mask, and a whole bunch of other link aggregators would link to different comedy articles I would write.

But back then you didn’t have a good metric to measure things. You had website “hits,” but hits was always a bullshit metric. You had unique views, but even today that’s not the best metric either because the traffic can be faked. For example, you could just buy traffic and then turn around and say, “Hey! Look at all these unique views I have!” Don’t think for a second those days are over because ad fraud costs companies billions each year, and much of that is caught up in fake traffic through bots and other sketchy sources.

The other thing is that unique view doesn’t matter if those viewers leave (or “bounce”) quickly and never return. That’s what I’m always telling people about places like Buzzfeed. Sure they get a lot of traffic ( a lot of which they were paying millions of dollars for Facebook ads for at one point), but if you’re an advertiser for Buzzfeed, and all the traffic they send you bounces within seconds of arrival and never returns, what’s the point? Why are you paying for that? All those unique views they have? They don’t matter if that’s the case.

So back then I came up with metrics of my own to figure out how I was doing: Volume and Velocity.

Volume

I knew something I wrote, like The Universal Breakup Card or a column called “What Would The Hulk Do?” performed well based on the volume of emails I received.

Today, you don’t necessarily need to go with emails as the metric; I prefer it because I don’t have to sweat the algorithms and wonder whether or not my emails are reaching my customers (and vice versa), but regardless of the metric you pick, you want to look for an increase. The bigger, the better during the campaign you’re running.
So if “What Would The Hulk Do?” got linked by College Humor, I would immediately see a huge increase in the number of emails I was receiving from people who liked the piece.

That’s volume. Is there a spike in the metric you’re following during the campaign you’re working on? IF yes, then you know it’s working. Is that a perfect measurement? Nope. Not at all. There are always variables outside your control that could influence performance, but is it an acceptable flawed metric in a world filled with deeply flawed metrics? You bet your ass it is.

Plus it’s easy for anyone to measure. The increase in in-store traffic? The increase in emails? The increase in sales? The increase in Twitter followers? The increase in press coverage and mentions? Increase in potential business opportunities coming your way? Pick whichever one you want. It’s dead simple, and anyone can happily and easily use this as a simple metric to measure their campaign’s success or failure without getting caught up in all that MBA bullshit of measuring things to death and finding things to complain about in order to protect someone’s ego or play office politics.

By the way: When people like to complain about marketing, advertising, and other fields where they can’t readily quantify them, they like to break out this old chestnut, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The quote is often attributed to John Wanamaker, who was an early pioneer in retail and advertising. What often gets lost to history by the assholes who use this quote is that Wanamaker put a TON of money into advertising to promote his stores. So the remark, as funny as it is, doesn’t reflect the reality.

Wanamaker, like a lot of early advertisers, used volume and velocity to measure their success. If they ran an ad and saw an increase regarding the metric they were using’s volume and velocity, they knew the advertising worked. If Wanamaker sincerely believed he was wasting money on advertising, he wouldn’t have been a leading pioneer in the industry.

Velocity

As you might have guessed from the name, this one is all about speed. During the campaign, the speed in which you’re getting email signups, or in-store traffic, whatever it is you’re measuring, is the thing that matters most.

Because speed will tell you one of two things; If the campaign starts off red-hot regarding the volume of whatever it is you’re measuring, but then falls flat on its face, you need to go back to the drawing board. Something is flawed in the campaign. The goal of any campaign is to generate long term results that sustain themselves. Short bursts of activity are nice but expensive and not practical for any of us to pursue.

You don’t want to rely on viral hits. It’s not sustainable. It’s REALLY nice when it happens, and I’ve been lucky since I was 18 to have a string of them, but you can’t count on it. There are too many variables beyond your control to consistently replicate a viral hit. You might get one, two if you’re lucky, but after that, unless you’ve got the money, press connections and business relationships, it ain’t happening after that.

So you look at velocity. If you start off hot and then the campaign fizzles, you know you have to rethink it.

If you launch a campaign and it stays hot, and the volume of whatever you’re measuring continues to grow at a faster and faster clip (because success breeds success), then you have a hit campaign on your hands.

So, I know. This is probably sending quantitative people up a fucking wall, but I don’t care. I think for the past 20 plus years we’ve allowed the MBAs, tech people and some enablers in the advertising and marketing industry to pollute the waters and give us all these dumb metrics to pay attention to. I’m asking you to do something big.

What I’m saying to you is to try something, pick the metric that matters most to you, talk to your customers about whether or not that something you’re trying is working, and then look at the volume and velocity surrounding the metric you selected.

If there’s a lot of activity and it’s sustaining itself over time, then you have a hit campaign on your hands. If it doesn’t, and your customers are NOT citing the campaign as the thing bringing them in store or to whether it is you want to drive them, then you know you need to retool things.

Is this common sense? Yup. But as you might have heard me say over the years, common sense isn’t so common. And thanks in no small part to the years of bad advice we’ve all received, I think it’s important someone advocate a very simple, back to basics approach to determine what works and what does not.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 2)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 in a short series on how to measure your marketing campaign’s success. You can check out Part 1 here.)

You have to talk to your customers and ask them how they found you. I’m going to repeat that because while it may seem obvious, we kind of suck at doing it. You have to talk to your customers. Full stop. And then, if you’re running some marketing or PR campaign, you have to ask those customers how they found you; Because your customers will tell you if they found you through whatever campaign you’re running. Getting people to share something they’re excited by is easy. You just have to make that effort and ask.

Sadly, for the MBAs and tech people, getting them to talk to their customers is like pulling teeth. They don’t want to do it, so they’ve come up with this excuse that I’m sure you’ve heard me mock over the years, “That doesn’t scale.” Fuck you. Talk to your customers.

And this is true, by the way, regardless of anything you’re trying to sell or how you try to sell it. Online. Offline. It doesn’t matter: You better be best friends with the first 100 people who buy your shit. And then the next 900? You have to make a good faith effort to get to know them; Even if it’s tangential like you have an event and they’re there, and you get some face time together. And then! Then you have to follow-up with them in some way. Get their mailing address, send them a postcard (thanks, Phil), give them a call, send them an email. Don’t try to sell them anything.

If it sounds like common sense, good! Then why aren’t you doing it? You’re going to hear me say this a lot: There is no secret to marketing. None. Just act like a person interacting with another person and leave aside all the other bullshit. It’s the same deal with sales. You know what the “trick” is to being a great salesman? Including the person, you’re trying to sell something to into the process Day 1 and empowering them to lead the charge within their organization going forward. Not you. Them. Nobody cares about you. You’re an outsider. But people very much are about themselves and what others think of themselves. So assuming your product isn’t shit, and the person within the organization you’re working with is leading the charge and advocating for it, the odds are much, much higher that the deal will close because it’s their reputation and credibility on the line. Not yours.

I’m not kidding when I talk about getting to know your first 1,000 fans well. If you make time to get to know three of them each day for one year, you’ll get to know all of them. And you shouldn’t stop at the first thousand either. As more come in, you should make an effort to get to know three of them each day. That’s your responsibility as someone trying to sell and promote something. You have to know who your customers are and learn everything you can about them. The better that you can do that, the better your marketing campaigns and offerings will be.

So, you have to talk to your customers and get to know them. AND you have to ask them these two important questions:

1. What can we do better?

2. How did you hear about us?

You WOULD NOT believe how little that second question gets asked. The first one is a no brainer. Of course, you’re going to ask that question because you should always be tweaking and looking for ways to improve what you’re doing. But that second question? It seems so simple, but it often gets forgotten.

Regardless of the industry. Regardless of the profession. Over the past four years, I have rarely encountered people and companies that ask their customer how they found them. And I don’t mean like in a survey. I mean the company CEO or owner, or whoever is running the marketing, personally reaching out to the customer and having that brief conversation with them that I’m talking about. And in that conversation, asking their customers how they discovered their company. It’s just not getting done. Usually for the lame excuse of, “That doesn’t scale.”

How do you know what you’re doing works regarding marketing, PR, and advertising? ASK YOUR CUSTOMER HOW THEY FOUND YOU!!!!

I don’t care that it doesn’t scale because if that’s your attitude, I’m afraid to ask you about your customer service. And if your customer service sucks? Forget it. Nothing you do is going to matter because your customers aren’t going to be advocating for you. It’s your responsibility to make it work.

You have to get out there and in person, talk to your customers whenever possible. You will learn so much. What works regarding reaching them, what doesn’t, what they think about your product, where they first learned about you. That information is gold, and if you’re looking for answers as to whether or not your initiatives are working, this is how you find out.

Customer Personas are nice, but they are not an acceptable substitute for the real deal.

But ultimately, the responsibility is yours. People like metrics because it’s easy. There’s less work involved than actually making an effort to talk to other people. I’m asking you to do something hard. Your customers will tell you if your marketing efforts are working. They’ll also tell you when they’re not working. But that’s hard to quantify, so we’ve let the wrong people, who get bent out of shape at the thought of any human interaction, mislead us and push us away from doing the obvious thing.

I believe there’s a simpler way to do this. One anyone can practice that’s practical and useful. And this is the way to do it. The online stuff? All those bullshit numbers and metrics? I’m not saying to dismiss these figures entirely, but I’ll take an actual person over a view any day of the week, and I hope I can convince you to do the same.

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 1)

How Do I Measure The Success of What I’m Working On? (Part 1)

I like to mock the MBAs and startup people for their obsession with useless metrics. So the question I usually get then is, “OK smart ass, what should I measure instead?”

Some people may not like my answer, but I’m going to give it to you anyway:

1.You have to decide the metric(s) that matter most to you.
2.You have to talk to your customers.
3.You have to look at volume and velocity surrounding your metric(s) of choice.
4.You have to give it 90 days. Anything less is dumb and irresponsible.

Let’s start with that first one today …

1. You have to decide the metric(s) that matter most to you.

For me, I love the offline stuff. There’s nothing better. The sin of our time is that we continue to push further and further away from it, and for what? Because you can’t measure the offline stuff? We’ve allowed more than a few multibillion dollar industries to form around what is, basically, an elaborate dick measuring contest.

“My metrics are better than your metrics!”

It’s bullshit.

So I’m proposing something counterintuitive. You pick the obvious metric: Money. Specifically, profit, as in “Did you make a profit during this campaign?” That’s one we can all agree on because regardless of who you are and what you’re doing, you need to be bringing in the cash. Bands got to eat. Not-for-profits need donations. Small businesses need to turn a profit to keep the lights on. Big companies need to please their shareholders, and all those shareholders care about is the bottom line.

But for some people, this metric isn’t good enough on its own. (Seriously. I’ve had this conversation more than once over the years.)

So what OTHER metrics should you pick to determine whether or not a campaign was successful? Well, what matters the most to you?

Let me give you an example. When someone who has read Social Media is Bullshit calls me at 518-832-9844, I’m excited. I almost always call them back as long as they leave a voicemail.

(If you don’t leave a voicemail, I won’t call you back. That’s because I live in an area that has terrible Verizon reception, so it’s often hard for me to answer when you call. Plus, so many people call me that it’s hard to keep track, so if you leave a voice mail, I’ll know who I’m calling back.)

I tell you this because one of the metrics I used to measure success for Social Media is Bullshit was the volume and velocity of the phone calls I received from readers.

Does that scale? No. But is that metric relevant to me? Yes. Why? Because why I do what I do is because I want to make everyone on the planet laugh. So if someone from Australia calls me to tell me they had a great time reading the book, then I feel like I’m accomplishing what I’ve set out to do.

You might have an entirely different project with totally different goals than my own. So the particular metric may differ, but the point is, aside from looking to see whether or not you made any money, you have to pick the metric(s) that matter to you. You can’t get hung up on shit like Instagram followers.

Other metrics I like are new, validated email addresses. I also think RETURNING unique visitors IN CONJUNCTION with high time spent on-site is also important. But again, this is something you need to determine with your stakeholders.

Just one thing on “time spent on your website.” The car dealers I’ve presented this to have pushed back on this specific metric. So I want to expand on it before we move on:

The car dealers said that people could spend a lot of time on the website because they’re lost and confused. Therefore, it’s a bad metric to use.

Don’t Make Me Think

I disagree. As long as the website is optimized regarding the user experience, then there’s nothing wrong with this metric.

Because if the website IS optimized and tweaked to provide the best user experience, meaning it’s dead simple for them to figure out where they need to go without thinking about it, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

This is easier said than done because let’s face it, a lot of websites are not well designed. So here’s a simple trick for those of you looking to get your website redesigned or have a new one built to solve this problem: Ask your designer if they know who Steve Krug is. If they say no, don’t hire them. If they say yes, but haven’t read Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think,” don’t hire them.

You should read that book as well. It’s pretty great, but you get the idea: Only hire designers that are familiar with Krug’s work and understand the importance of usability.

Another way to solve your website usability issues: Get a tablet, load up your website, and go to a bar. Some of the startup people reading this will know what I’m going to suggest next since this has been floating around Silicon Valley as a trick for a while now. Find someone who looks like your ideal customer and by them a drink. Then ask them, after they’ve finished the drink, to use your website to find something you asked them to look for. Then watch them do it. You’ll learn a lot. (This is also true for apps, by the way.) Why? Because the way a drunk person uses the internet is the same as a sober person.

It’s true. With all the distractions we have bombarding us as we use the web, it’s easy to get lost and confused. The same way a drunk or buzzed person might.

That aside, yes, I think time spent on-site, particularly for returning visitors, is a valuable metric for you to consider.

(Returning visitors are more valuable than one-time visitors, especially these days where we celebrate places like Buzzfeed for all the traffic they get, but say little about the traffic they send their advertisers who quickly bounce from the site they’re going to and never return.)

All that said, Ray Kroc best summed up my attitude on what metrics matter in describing his fight with people within McDonald’s that were against advertising. Kroc said that any money that they spent on marketing, things that were in the short term intangible, he’d make back in the long run regarding increased customer traffic and satisfaction.

This is hearsay today because we’re obsessed with data and have allowed short-term thinking shareholders, MBAs, and tech people to pollute our culture. So I’m going to suggest something controversial and tell you that Ray Kroc was right, and these people today are wrong.

While there ARE metrics you can measure NOW; I think the real test of any marketing / PR / advertising campaign comes down to one simple question: Did you see an increase in the number of customers during the time of this campaign?

If yes, and assuming you read the next point here tomorrow and don’t just storm away because you’ve fallen into the trap of our metrics-driven, “Big Data” obsessed culture, then you can say the campaign worked.

One Last Thing To Consider

Did you see an increase in current, and new, customer satisfaction during the time of the campaign? Because people don’t realize this, but your current customers are your best advocates. So sometimes you do a new campaign not necessarily to attract new customers, but to make the current customers feel like they’re part of something, and that in turn empowers them to tell others about you.

This isn’t rocket science or rocket surgery as Krug likes to joke. Marketing isn’t bullshit, but it is easy enough for your dog to understand and act on. The problem is that we make it seem so much more complicated than it is.

So pick the metric that matters to you, in addition to whether or not you’ve made money from the campaign, and rest easy. The rest is just noise made up by people looking to justify their existence. And in some cases, by people seeking to exert control over something they don’t understand for selfish reasons.

I believe we need to move past all that. If we’re going to empower people to succeed in selling whatever it is they want to sell, then we need to throw away years of garbage and nonsense and focus on the basics. Did you make money? Did the metrics you care about most increase as a result of the campaign?

Then awesome! On to step two tomorrow …

Consistency Is Key

Consistency Is Key

If you decide that you’re playing the game, the first thing you should know is that consistency is key. The person you are at 7:30 in the morning, writing a blog post in bed with an old cat curled up next to you, is the person you are on your internet platform of choice, and the person you are when you’re out in the world interacting with your fellow humans. Whether that interaction is for business or fun is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that you’re the same person, and have the same presentation, across all those different instances.

So to put it in words of marketing bullshit, your “personal brand” has no off switch.

That … might sound terrifying, so let’s back up for a second.

If I ask you, “What does success look like?” I know from experience that the most common answer is, “I don’t know.” We get so caught up in our day to day shit that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

For me, I have a very simple guiding principle: I want to entertain everyone on the planet and make them laugh. Why? Because life is short. It sucks. It’s cruel, and it’s unfair. If I can do something to amuse my fellow humans, even if it’s just for a few moments, and help take some of that pain away? That’s what I’m going to do. That’s why I do what I do.

Luckily, I’ve now had my presentations and work translated across multiple languages, and each time without fail, regardless of where I am in the world and what language the audience speaks, everyone laughs right where they’re supposed to. So this is a guiding principle backed up by data and fact. I am very good at what I do. Unfortunately, I’ve always had more of a cult following than a mass audience, so at the moment, not enough people know I exist where I can do this routinely and get paid to do it.

I mention this because if you’re guiding principle in life is, “I want to be the next Lebron James” you might be in for a rude awakening. You should find your strengths and play into them. Or, if you want to be strong in an area you’re not, relentlessly pursue developing those strengths. Then, you should get your efforts validated, whether through data or experience. Preferably both.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to be the next Lebron, it’s just not likely. Besides, you never want to be the next anything. I spent most of my life wanting to be the next George Carlin, but I realize that I’m just as happy, if not happier, being the first B.J. Mendelson.

So, what does success look like? Well if you can figure out why you do what you do (shoutout to “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, whose book will be getting the book notes treatment on this website shortly), then you can start to figure out the answer to that question.

I’m not the first person to suggest this, but a typical consulting trick is to ask the client to imagine what success looks like. “Take us 10 years into the future; you have everything you ever wanted. How did you get there?”

Then once the client has an answer to that question, you ask them to break down the process of how they got there into smaller, actionable steps. Those are then the steps you’re supposed to follow. Will things go smoothly? Maybe. Maybe not. Are you better off for following those steps then you are just randomly doing shit? Absolutely. So it’s dumb not to do this.

You should ask yourself right now what success for you looks like, and then ask yourself how you got there. Do it. Take like a minute or two and jot it down. “What does success look like for me?” And then ask, “Ok. How did I get there?” And if you get stuck, ask, “How do I think I got there?” It’s the same question, but there’s less pressure involved.

Because what you’re going to find is that consistency is important across all those steps. You, your product, you are both who you are at 7:30am with the cat, at 10am with your boss, and at 8:30pm with your pretty / handsome date. There is no off switch.

Dale Carnegie talked about this in the ‘30s, Simon Sinek said this in the late ‘00s. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one reference to it in “Meditations.” My point is, I’m not telling you anything new here.

The challenge is just following through on what you’re hearing and being consistent in your efforts. More often than not, we don’t do this. We have excuses. For the startup and tech people, it’s that obnoxious “That doesn’t scale” response, or their tiny little brains blow a gasket when you ask them to do something they can’t measure. For others, we’re afraid of taking risks and looking dumb. “What if we fail?”

Well, shit, you probably will, but even if you do, you’ll be better off for having to take steps to pursue the thing you want to pursue. For one thing, any and all bitterness and resentment for not having done so would never have a chance to take root in your mind. For another, even if you don’t get where you’re going, you may find you like where you wind up just the same. But you won’t know that until you make some effort.

That’s on you, though. I mean that’s the big joke with marketing and PR. The reason every marketing book sounds the same is that, after a certain point, it’s up to you to do shit. There’s only so much they can say. Not much has changed regarding how we communicate with each other. And I mean really communicate, not this superficial social media shit we’ve been obsessed with since 2008. So after a certain point, you need to put the advice that does exist to good use. Or don’t. That’s why I’m talking about all this to begin with. I can easily write a blueprint for you to follow, and I will, but if you’re not clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and whether or not you want to do what it takes to win, what’s the point? You’re either playing the game or you’re not.

So if you’re me, and your vision is to make everyone on the planet laugh, you work on being funny, and you make sure everything you put out to the world is funny and entertaining. Everything. I wear funny t-shirts that don’t use a lot if any, words so that they’re funny to people of all backgrounds and languages. I try to write and speak in as concise a way as possible so that what I’m saying is clear and easy to understand. This is as true in my personal life as it is in my professional life because the two are one and the same. There is no off switch.

I don’t believe in the off switch. There’s no difference between you and your “personal brand.” You are who you want the world to believe you are, and you can’t achieve that unless you’re consistent about it.

Do You Want To Play The Game?

Do You Want To Play The Game?

I don’t believe in the whole work-life balance thing. I know. That’s not the most popular position. Everyone these days wants to tell you that you can have it all. Me? I almost died not long after I turned 30. One minute I was in Wales with a whole bunch of strangers wishing me happy birthday, and then the next I fell ill, and that was (almost) that.

So I have a different outlook on things.

My attitude is this: Life is short. You’re going to die. So, if you want something bad enough, you have to spend every minute you can trying to get it.

That doesn’t mean to be a neglectful asshole. If you have other obligations, you should live up to them. But in the time that you have that’s not otherwise committed, you should be working toward the thing that you want.

Because you either want it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Yours included.

This all sounds easier said than done, but you would not believe the number of people I’ve encountered over the years where you ask them what they want, and they don’t have an answer. Small businesses. Individuals. Not-for-profits. The heads of large corporations. More often than not, they don’t have an answer to that question. And because they don’t, nothing gets done. Employees are unhappy. Projects fail. Shareholders revolt. Nobody donates. The media rips you up.

I’m not saying you need to have an answer right now, but you should soon. And then you need to decide if that’s the thing you want to go after or not. Because if it’s not, you have to get out of the way. Other people are trying to get through.

And then if you do decide you want that thing, you have to ask yourself whether or not you want to play the game to get to it.

Because that’s all marketing is. It’s a game.

There’s no trick or secret to marketing, PR, advertising, or any of these industries where you have to promote something (yourself included). There’s a specific, repeatable formula that you follow.

It’s a game. You guide your character by following the formula, and you do your best to get to the end. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and sometimes other players have ways they can cheat to get ahead.

But here’s the catch: I’m convinced that once you start playing, you can’t stop. Or only play it half-way. You have this thing that you want, you commit yourself to getting it, and part of that commitment comes in the form of spending every free second you have playing the game and getting better at it.

You can take a break when it’s over. Ideally, after you’ve obtained the thing you’re after, but there’s no shame in quitting or stopping, as long as you know that’s what you want to do.

For me, this is an important framework for a lot of what I talk to people about. If you’re committed to playing the game, then I know you’ll follow each step of the process to promote something successfully and give it your best shot. If you’re not committed, that’s where bullshit happens.

And you all know how I feel about that.

So ask yourself this:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Do I want it bad enough to spend every waking moment trying to obtain it?

If the answer is no to the second question, then you’re wasting your time. If the answer is yes, then you have to learn how to play the game.