Tag Archives: success

Warning: Avoiding the Digital Universe Will Hurt Your Business.

Let me begin by saying there are legitimate reasons to be wary of the ever expanding digital universe – a glut of junk information, loss of privacy, time wasting, and addiction. But there are also irrational fears at work based in part on our inherent resistance to  change.

Change happens. And a good thing too. Lucky for us there was the invention of the printing press. Monks no longer toil on illuminated texts for a select few.  Manual typewriters have a certain aesthetic appeal but quite frankly I was happy to throw out the rolls of correction tape.

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.  ~ Popular Mechanics, 1949

There are those for whom the world was a much better place when we read “real” books, wrote in longhand, and used manual typewriters. There’s a wistful longing for a slower paced, more genteel life.  And while I sympathize, I can’t help but feel that these people are missing a richness of experience that’s just a click away.

Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine. ~ 1936, Richard Lambert, broadcaster

If you’re not running a small business, it probably doesn’t matter if you’re digitally savvy. But if you want to create a successful personal history business,  you’ve got to stick more than your big toe into the digital stream. This doesn’t mean you have to be sucked under and drown.  But it does mean that you need to be familiar with what’s out there to be able to pick and choose the digital tools that’ll help your business.  Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the wealth of resources that are available will hurt your business.

Here are a few digital resources worth considering. What would you add to this list?

  • E-books:  add a whole innovative and interactive realm to life stories with text, videos, photos, maps, documents, and more. Read more here and here.
  • Webinars:  increase marketing reach using such services as GoToWebinar.
  • Blogging: build conversations and credibility with clients using a free service such as WordPress or Blogger.
  • VoIP: extend interviewing reach world wide with a service such as Skype .
  • Podcasting: reach a wider audience with information and support using such services as BlogTalkRadio.
  • Booklets: turn a PDF file into a handy information booklet using BookletCreator.
  • POD: print a sample copy of a book using a print-on-demand service such as Blurb.
  • QR Codes: print these codes on your business cards and send clients to a URL site where they can access more information about your services, get discount coupons, access video, and more. You can create a QR Code here.
  • Project management: find a list of 10 free project Management applications here.

Photo by wecand

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The #1 Secret to a Successful Life Story Interview.

Picture this. You sit down to conduct a personal history interview. You pull out your voice recorder and your client looks stricken. You reassure her that there’s no need to worry and ask your first question. She looks at the floor and gives a brief two or three word response.  It doesn’t get any better. It feels as though your “pulling teeth”. Beads of perspiration break out on your forehead. You finish the interview and leave for home tired and discouraged.

What went wrong?

Some of you will say it was the voice recorder that made the client uneasy. Nope!  Not the recorder. Today’s devices are small and unobtrusive. There might be some initial discomfort but it passes – like gas. I’ve done hundreds of hours of interviews and within a few minutes people forget there’s even a recorder in the room. So don’t blame the recorder.

Sorry to say but the problem rests  with the interviewer. If you’re not comfortable with the equipment or anxious about getting a good interview or worried about the questions you’re going to ask, then your anxiety is going to rub off on your client.  Neuroscience research has uncovered “mirror neurons” which seems to indicate that if we see someone frowning or smiling, it triggers a similar internal reaction in us.

In a word  the #1  secret to a successful interview is rapport. Here’s what you need to do.

before the interview, Make your initial visit a “get-to-know” .

Nothing creates more anxiety in a client than rushing in all “business-like”, ready to record. Take an hour to have a conversation with your client. Stress the personal. Imagine you’re dropping in on a favorite aunt or uncle. Do talk about the upcoming interview but spend as much time if not more on small talk. I try to get a quick sense of people’s interests by looking at how they’ve decorated and what treasures they’ve chosen to display.  A question about a painting, photo, or figurine can unlock some charming stories. And it puts your client at ease. Find something in common – maybe it’s grandchildren, a favorite author, or similar childhood roots.

Arrive for the interview rested, mindful, Focused, and calm.

Remember that clients will pick up on your anxiety. This  in turn makes them anxious. When you walk through the door to a client’s home, you want to be smiling and aware of what is happening from moment to moment. To do that effectively, you need to be rested and focused solely on the interview at hand. How does your client look? How are you feeling? What extraneous activities or sounds are intruding on your interview space?

Before the interview begins, start with some small talk.

I never  set up my recorder or camera for an interview without first engaging my client in some small talk. It can be about the weather,  their day or week’s activities, or any other subject that’s informal. I find a sense of humor and some laughter go a long way to defuse anxiety. I’m also mindful that we’ve a job at hand and I don’t let the chatting eat up too much time.

Set up the recording equipment with Practiced nonchalance.

Don’t make setting up your recording equipment  a “big production”.  The more I consciously avoid flailing about with my recorder and microphone, the less distressing it is for my client. This means you have to know your equipment superbly. It’s not the time to begin fretting over what folder you’re recording in or why you’re not getting sound in your headphones. It also helps to keep some chit-chat going while you clip on a lavaliere mic and adjust the sound levels.

rapport. that’s the secret.

What techniques do you use to build rapport?

Photo by Chickpea

Stop Struggling and Succeed!

I spent this past weekend on a silent Buddhist Insight Meditation retreat. I’ve been practicing Insight Meditation regularly for over a decade and  twice a year attend a two-day retreat. It’s hard work and useful insights arise. The most useful is the discovery that forcing yourself to be calm only makes the mind and body more tense. Struggling doesn’t work. It’s like training a dog to “stay”. It requires patience. You can’t force it. You have to gently and repeatedly bring the dog back, sit it down, and tell it to “stay”. Eventually it catches on. The mind works the same way. In order to change old ways or learn new ones  we need commitment, practice, and patience.

This got me thinking that too often we fail to succeed in our work and life, not because we don’t try hard enough but that we try too hard. When we struggle, we eventually get burned out, discouraged, and give up or look for magical solutions.  So how can we apply the wisdom of Insight Meditation in a practical way to our work?  Here’s a six step approach you might try:

  1. Write down a goal you want to achieve. Remember to make your goal S.M.A.R.T. i.e.,  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely or Tangible. For example, you might write down:  I will increase the number of people receiving my newsletter by 10% by July 31st, 2010. Now commit yourself to this goal. It helps to make it public. Tell your friends, colleagues, and partner the goal you’ve set for yourself.
  2. Determine the next step.  I suggest using the Get Things Done method pioneered by David Allen. Learn more here.  Determine each action needed to get one step closer to completing your goal. Using the example above you might write down as your first step: Google – how to newsletter marketing. The second next step could be: Identify three articles and bookmark them. The third step: Read the three articles.
  3. Set up a schedule. Make a commitment to complete at least one action step a day. Mark a specific time in your calendar that you’ll do this work. By completing a task a day you’re in effect training your mind to work in a systematic, scheduled, and productive manner. It’s like the dog training analogy.
  4. Be patient. This is really important. There are going to be times when life gets in the way and you can’t complete one of your daily action steps. Don’t beat yourself up over this. Acknowledge that other priorities have made it impossible to work on your goal and commit yourself to picking up where you left off the next day. Likewise, you may find that you have to go back and repeat some action steps before moving on. That’s okay. As long as you’ve made a commitment to reaching your goal, you’ll get there.
  5. Check for signs of struggle. If you’re like me, it’s easy to fall into struggling. It tends to be my default position. Here are some common warning signs that you’re into struggle. Your energy level drops at about the same time as you begin your scheduled task. Your inner critic begins to sow doubt. It says things like, “This is a waste of time. Who told you that you could achieve this goal? You’ll never be successful.” You become more easily annoyed. You lose interest in your work. Nothing seems to be working as you’ve planned.
  6. How to avoid struggling. First, be aware of the warning signs so that you can pull back. Next, ask yourself if you’ve been trying too hard. Maybe an action step each day is too much given your schedule. If so, plan a routine that works better.  Make sure to acknowledge each of the steps you complete. Note that you’re moving steadily toward your goal, one small step at a time. Take a break. Forget about your goal and you action steps for a short time. Do something that you know relaxes you.

I believe that if you apply commitment, practice, and patience without struggle your chances of success in all that you do are more likely.

Photo by iStockphoto

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