Work Intrepid: Work Where You Can Create

I’ve read about 40 books this year, and one by Jason Fried is one of my top two favs, Rework (affiliate link below). But the main point of this post is to share his recent TEDx speech. In it, he talks about the two most responsible causes for destroying productivity and creativity:

I love the message on this video. And the notion that meetings and managers are the two major distractions at the workplace are one of the main reasons I work for myself, or have created businesses where I can do my own thing.

Not that doing my own thing isn’t without distraction, or requires major discipline to stay focused and on task.

But they key point I want to convey is the notion to set up and work WHERE EVER you must to do your best creative work, distraction free. I don’t care if that is at a coffee shop, a co-working space, the kitchen table, or some combination of all three.

Whatever your situation, you MUST make finding and establishing your creative space an important priority as you think through your life and work plan for 2011…

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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Lessons From The Fourth

This Sunday, we celebrate the 234th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Enjoy the scene wonderfully portrayed below in the HBO mini-series John Adams:

I am always looking for lessons on how to live my life, market my business, teach others, and grow as a human being… Watching the clip above, and then reflecting on what I saw, I drew these lessons from what the 4th of July means to me:

1. Follow your heart. If you believe in something, follow that dream. Without question, without doubt. There was great risk in fighting for independence, a lot of suffering as a result, and very poor odds of success. But our young American nation, and the men who lead her, persisted and held strong. When you have goals and dreams, follow your heart until you achieve it, without giving up. You can do this, because it is something you believe in…

2. Gird yourself against the doubters, the status quo. As seen in the clip above, not all colonies were fully on board the concept of independence. Hard to imagine NOT being supportive of independence back then, but you must realize the men in that room were considered treasonous and traitors for rebelling against the crown. Not surprising that many in the 13 colonies were opposed to this idea. But, there were leaders who believed strongly, men including Jefferson, Adams, Franklin (as seen in the video). And their unwillingness to keep to the status quo is why were are here today…

3. Encourage and participate in debate, but once resolved, support the cause. Many people think our politics is mean and nasty today. But they don’t even compare to the bitterness and vitriol of those times. What makes our nation great is our ability to engage in serious debate. But once a decision has been made, it is important to support the cause and help it succeed.

4. Make sure your goal is a clear one. Avoid complexity. It was clear what our cause was…independence. Nothing more, nothing less. The Revolutionary War was simply to earn our right to set our own nation’s course, to govern ourselves as we saw fit. Many people in their lives and in running their business, needlessly complicate things. Remember the clarity of our purpose back then, and apply that to your life today. But as we experienced then, simple isn’t easy. It is, in fact, hard. But success is rarely achieved without clarity of vision.

5. Put it in writing. The Declaration of Independence, the document, is one of the most important written documents in the history of mankind. Talk about a mission statement! The colonists could have waged the rebellion without such a document, but honestly, it wouldn’t have been the same. You and I have read all our lives about the importance of writing down your goals and dreams. This commits it to your heart and soul. It was important enough for this nation to commit our ideals and aspirations to paper…it is important for you in achieving your own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness!

Happy Birthday U.S.A! And God bless America!

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11 Musts To Impacting The Social Web, and maybe even Change The World

OK, wow. You’ve heard me talk about the importance of giving back. Check out this video featuring Sal Khan:

Sal Khan at Gel 2010 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Now, here’s a guy who did something simple to change the world. It didn’t require millions in venture capital. It didn’t require renting hip loft space in San Francisco. It didn’t require hiring a team of geniuses. It just required an idea. And passion. And YouTube.

All he does is create video lessons on math, finance, history, etc., posts them on YouTube, and gives them away to the world. He does this himself. He probably has “millions” of students, operating the largest “school” on the planet.

And he changed the world. And quite possibly is demonstrating what the future of education looks like.

Why am I showing this to you? Well, it is a demonstration that “giving back” remains a critical piece to your online and marketing efforts. The key to this whole story?

If he had set out to build the world’s largest online school? He probably would have failed.

Instead, he did something to quietly serve a few members of his family. And that’s all it took…

But can just anyone accomplish something like this? I say yes. Sal Khan has the same amount of hours in the day as you. He has access to the same technology as you. You can do this. It just takes deep belief, a little faith, and a healthy dose of the following:

1. Passion.

2. An idea.

3. Commitment.

4. Work.

5. Discipline.

6. Sticktuitiveness.

7. Willingness to give something of value, something people can share with others, for FREE.

8. No expectation of getting anything back, other than satisfaction.

9. A desire to serve others.

10. A determination to keep going for the long haul.

11. Creating something that a core group of people are interested in.

Well, a lot of people are interested in Sal Khan. [Here is the link to Sal Khan’s YouTube Channel] But it is easy to get tripped up by any of the above points. You have to be willing to work hard, constantly honing your skills and craft, making your product better. You have to be willing to put in the time and hours, for maybe even years. And lastly, you have to serve first, and sell last. Without this combination, success on the social web becomes that much more difficult.

Sal Khan is having an amazing impact on the world. He achieved everything on the list above, but you know what? It bet it didn’t feel like work. He didn’t set out to complete my TO DO list. It was something he was passionate about, and he just went to work. That’s all it takes.

Do you have what it takes to create something, even what may initially seem like a small something, that will change the world? Let us know…

[h/t Signal vs. Noise]

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Fix bayonets…And charge!

Chamberlain

I was chatting with a colleague the other day, and we were talking about wrapping up a key phase of a joint project. As we discussed the launch of the next phase, in my exuberance, I said what I always say when I am motivating myself:

“Fix bayonets. And charge!”

The phrase comes from one of my favorite films, Gettysburg. After mentioning it to my colleague, I had a hankering to see it again.

The scene is from Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg. The extreme left flank of the Union Army is exposed. The Confederates are trying to outflank and come in from behind to destroy the entire Union Army. It is left to a small regiment, the 20th Maine commanded my Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, to hold the line and keep the left flank from collapsing. (This is a true story, btw…)

Anyways, they have repelled multiple Confederate surges, but are now out of ammunition, exhausted, and suffering from casualties for over half their number. Left with no other options, and no ammunition, Chamberlain orders his regiment to fix their bayonets, and charge down the hill of Little Round Top in one last desperate attempt to hold the flank. Here is the scene:

I don’t mind admitting the scene makes me emotional, and it inspires me every time I see it. When I need a charge or a little boost to lift my spirits, I think of this story about the 20th Maine. It works every time.

So, inspiration in hand, I present you with “Marketing + Life Lessons From Col. Chamberlain:”

1. When you face desperate odds, a little innovation can help you make a last stand. And live to fight another day.
2. Courage – with conviction – will always serve you well.
3. The element of surprise will catch your competition unprepared almost every time. They won’t be prepared for your bold action.
4. When leading a bold action, you must lead the way. As General Longstreet says in the same film, “You can’t lead from behind.”
5. Be sure your team understands what they are supposed to do. Clarity of purpose improves odds of success.
6. Do your duty. When you are charged with a task, fulfill it to best of your ability. Leave no doubt as to your commitment.
7. Keep the task simple. When you think of it, Col. Chamberlain’s order was simple. What made it amazing with the courage it took, but in reality, the task was a simple one. Napoleon said that most generals fail because their plans are too complex.
8. Even in victory, you should be honorable.

Col. Chamberlain went to great heroism during the rest of the Civil War, winning the Medal of Honor, and he went on to serve four terms as Governor of Maine.

Think about how you can pull inspiration from this story, and apply these lessons to both your life and business. And what other lessons can be taken from this scene?

So fix bayonets…and charge!

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Be Off The Beaten Path…

I am in Nashville TN for the Country Music Half-marathon (finished this morning). Yesterday, my crew and I were out doing a little shopping when we stumbled upon this old bookstore just off the Vanderbilt University campus:

The Bookman Nashville from Todd Schnick on Vimeo.

Hard to tell from the video, but this shop smelled like old books. There were too many books for the shelves, in fact, each shelf had two rows stacked one in front of the other. It was very hard to find anything. The little nooks were small and cramped and I had to duck my head to get into most of them.

And. I. Loved. It.

This is the kind of place that people remember. This is the kind of place that you talk about. This is the kind of the place that I will share with others (this blog post notwithstanding). And this is the kind of business I want to be. To be off the beaten path…

Here are 9 things to learn from the Bookman:

1. Be the kind of place that when you see it from the road, people want to drop everything and check it out.
2. Be the kind of place that you love to just walk around and soak up the environment.
3. Be the kind of place that doesn’t care what people think about the decor. Create your own environment that is you.
4. When you find what you are looking for (in my case, Tom Peter’s In Search of Excellence) you will remember the story about how you got it for a long time.
5. Don’t be what everyone expects. That makes it memorable.
6. You don’t have to be online to thrive. There is a market for who you are, even if you are a bricks-n-mortar joint that sells niche.
7. Be inconvenient. Sometimes making a 6’3″ duck to get into a nook makes finding what he wants even more special.
8. Be the kind of place that when customer’s drive by, they point you out to the people they are with, and fondly recall the story of their visit.
9. Be off the beaten path. When people decide to find you, there begins their own story…

…which adds to yours.

Now, go out there and apply these lessons to you and your business. Just know people will probably come in and video your shop too…

Are you off the beaten path?

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One-buttock Marketing

As you know, I write a lot about intrepid marketers. I define them this way. If you don’t keep an eye on TED, you are missing out. And if you haven’t watched this video featuring Benjamin Zander, you are missing a treasure. And once you watch it, you too will strive to run an one-buttock company… Enjoy!

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Solid As A…Static Rock?

Usually, something that is solid, that doesn’t move, that is unchanging, immobile, etc…is something we rely on, something that can be counted on, something that seems like a steady foundation. Almost comforting, if you will.

But not in the modern world of marketing. When it comes to your web presence, you don’t want to be described as unchanging or immobile. Your web presence needs to be…ENGAGING.

That’s what intrepid marketers do. [More text below video]

[In the video below, I discuss the value of an engaging web presence:]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek9hJljaWQ0]

Here are a few tactical ideas you can use to provide an engaging web presence:

1. Incorporate a blog into your site.
2. Allow comments on your blog.
3. Respond and engage people when they comment.
4. Provide forums to facilitate conversation.
5. Invite guest contributors.
6. Connect people to your social web tools, like Twitter.
7. Utilize surveys tools.
8. Solicit questions from your audience…
9. …and be sure to answer them!
10. Make it easy to share your content.
11. Invite people to join your e-newsletter.
12. Use an Instant Messenger plug in to invite conversation. Hold regular hours.
13. Provide content with various mediums, such as video and audio.

The items listed above are not new. They are not rocket science. In fact, I suppose when you reviewed the list, you probably said something along the lines of “no kidding.”

Yet I continue to be amazed how many entrepreneurs have chosen not to incorporate these simple tactical options into their web presence.

But that said, it is what you do with these ideas that matter. Here are a few reasons why having an engaging presence matters:

1. Strengthens your brand.
2. Allows relationships to develop. This is where the sales come from.
3. Simplifies process of testing – and getting feedback on – new ideas.
4. Does a better job educating people about you and your business.
5. Makes it easier to teach and help and serve others.
6. Allows for better story telling.
7. Not to mention provides fresh and unique content – updated regularly – that keeps people coming back for more.
8. Oh, and added Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strength.

At the end of the day, it is the safe and easy path to build a static website – one that is solid, reliable, and unchanging. But dare I say it is lazy? And boring? Static sites just don’t cut it any more in this fast-paced, conversational, and engaging world we now live in.

What do you think?

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You Might Be Intrepid, Vol. 5 – Identify A Problem? Fix It Now.

We all have a list of things that need to be fixed, adjusted, upgraded, tweaked, improved, or destroyed with malice. Yet many entrepreneurs don’t take quick action to deal with these little nagging problems. I talk about how intrepid marketers identify these issues, and take decisive action. Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdsrlldQkZs]

CLICK HERE to learn how to be an Intrepid marketer…

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