Connecting—My Practice

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This stellar explosion is what my own universe has been like over the past several years. No real shape and lots of time and task fragmentation.

I’m not actually ADD, but still more distractible than some folks, thanks to generalized anxiety and my extroverted personality (gaining fulfillment from human connections). So, social media and email have turned into monsters for me. I found myself scattered all over the virtual universe with multiple accounts (thinking this structure would make it easier to seed what’s up) and belonging to many social media groups and communities. I was waking up and turning on the computer first and feeling compelled to go to email in particular, and then getting caught up in answering things, finding myself working before breakfast (ugh!).

I do tend to over-accommodate other humans, feeling a little satisfaction from taking care of their needs, often at the expense of my own self-care, so this pattern was an extension of my tendency to jump to take care of everyone else. Now after 57 years on the planet, I’m finally building a structure that takes care of me and my responsibilities for others.

With the following, keep in mind that I am a self-employed publishing services professional, so I don’t have to get up and get on the road to an office an hour after I wake up. But I think the principles can still apply, even for folks with employee status.

Catalysts for this change on the Web:

1) Chris Brogan—”Your inbox is the perfect delivery system for other people’s priorities . Commit to checking mail only 2x a day for 30 minutes each. Tops. If someone’s important enough to need you more often, give them your cell and have them text you.” OK, so I haven’t gotten down to two times a day and texting for important people (I really think there may be a “too old for texting” category).

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But, when I wake up, I pick up my MacBook and take it out to my improvised stand-up desk (something creative for old entertainment centers), I turn it on, and…I don’t check email! I do a quick check of news headlines and turn on my yoga program (a larger monitor sits over the left) instead. Yay, me! Then I eat breakfast, and finally sit down to do my morning stuff as per this really cool program that Chris has called OMFG. My morning Daily Actions: yoga, daily draws (Tarot cards), social media, writing. Look, no email yet!

After all that, then I open my email program (I also have no notifications set up, so I have to go check myself; no interruptions). Remember my bit in the first paragraph about multiple accounts and such? I’ve consolidated all that into one account with just four folders to keep my stuff in. I thought maybe it would take more time to go through if I had one account with more folders, but no. It’s actually faster.

Important: Now time is my tool, not my slave-driver. I still have the same number of hours in a day, but I feel like I have more “me” time and am sacrificing myself much less. I even had time to work in the garden yesterday!

2) Brian Gardner: This site designer and writer is getting wonderfully unfiltered and minimalist in all sorts of cool ways. One of the reasons I had multiple social media accounts was because I was concerned about professional reputation (editing business) being compromised by personal interests (there’s that Tarot and other New Age woo-woo stuff). But, hey, if you Google my name, you get everything anyway. And if you’re really close-minded, we’re probably not a good match for my business, so let’s take ownership of me and consolidate.

So, I still have three websites. It would be a bit much from a practical perspective to put all my editorial biz and Tarot reading content on one site. I’m not concerned about consolidation where it works anymore, though, so I’ve now got one Twitter account, and one Goggle+ account. It’s so much faster and easier to maintain good quality connections on social media without so many “places to go.” And now that social media checking is part of my morning routine, I get those connections taken care of early (I use Hootsuite to schedule some retweets, etc. so I have presence throughout the day without being annoying) and don’t feel compelled to check in many times a day. And when I get started on billable projects (by noon or 1 pm), I can focus just on those and be done early enough in the evening (7 or 8 pm) to have an evening.

I am so relieved to have found some mental systems to make my connections flow through my life instead of fragmenting it. And I find myself blogging more and better as I feel the freedom to write about whatever works for me in that moment, rather than thinking only in terms of what other people might want to hear. I assume that someone will benefit from what I’ve learned, and hopefully they’ll leave a comment to let me know, but it’s not necessary. ;)

buddha_figureRemember to breathe. :)

 

Poetry Corner—A Texas Spring (reprise)

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In honor of our Texas spring in full force today, and because this tummy bug is playing havoc with my concentration, I’m reprising my 2011 poem for you. For inspiration to those farther north who await with patience or impatience the inauguration of their spring, and for appreciation to the South for sparing us the deep cold.

It begins with birdsong,
When some magnetic whisper
Vibrates in their invisible ears,

With St. Valentine they come,
And the cacophony begins
Just outside morning windows.

Meanwhile Jack Frost’s footprints
Make their last impression
In the crunch of St. Augustine grass.

White and pink blossoms
Drape trees and pollen windshields
As we sneeze along the avenues.

Our trigger-happy fire ants emerge
From mounds that weren’t there
Yesterday; the battle begins, again.

In the North, they still shiver and shovel,
While our trees don their cloaks
Of green before St. Patrick’s day.

We are graced by the saints, then
With a preview of northern summer,
Our curtains dancing in the sun.

But come May, we pay the price
For our breezy pleasures
As a tropical sun climbs,

And heat presses down
For what seems forever, or
At least through September.

(sigh)
Time to go North.

(And we will go North, and West, by the end of this year, 2014)
©2011 Joanne Sprott

The Downside of Advertising—A Small Rant

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Sorry, but I need to rant just a tad about the deleterious affect of advertising revenue on media—U.S. media in particular. All this past week, every commercial 24-hour video news outlet (I get that PBS, the BBC and Al Jazeera may be exceptions) that I have access to has spent hours and hours talking about almost nothing in the world except the loss of one airliner somewhere in the Indian Ocean (or South China sea, or Pacific, depending on the speculation of the day). I understand that the fellow in charge of CNN justified this obsessive coverage as being of interest worldwide, and that if we wanted news on any other topics, we should go to the Internet. Even though World War III may be starting in the Ukraine, for example.

The impression I got from the media analysis was that all these outlets were competing for mass-market (or at least cable-market) audience and that this was the most dramatic story with worldwide impact (remembering it’s not just the U.S. audience). But, 24 hours a day? Would they really lose that many multimillion-dollar advertiser clients by covering the news in a more balanced fashion? Really? And should large corporations with those multimillions dictate what is most available news-wise for an audience to see and hear?

I do get most of my news information from the Internet, but that’s problematic for other reasons, like not being able to tell opinion from factual reporting, and lack of professional investigation. Those multimillion-dollar advertisements also pay for professional reporting and analysis (although I often wonder about the value there anymore) as well as presence worldwide.

The advertising model of marketing is so…20th century, folks. I realize that it kept subscription prices down for hardcopy magazines and newspapers back in the day, but in the 21st century, we need another model for business visibility. Companies are totally wasting their multimillions trying to reach a mass audience anyway (yes we are fast-forwarding through those ads on cable), and I don’t think that targeted marketing of ads helps that much. We consumers of this new century are way too savvy, for the most part, to be swayed by ads more than about 10% of the time (more on how I see advertising and marketing in general in this post).

I would much prefer to pay a direct subscription for, say, CNN through the Internet (if they actually changed their model to a balanced coverage of worldwide news stories—and they don’t have to be boring like PBS. ;)). The content providers of video media need to divorce themselves from the cable companies and offer us an a la carte option. Kind of like Hulu does, where for free, you get certain content with more ads (if you really want to continue down that very inefficient path), and for x amount more you get more content with fewer ads, and maybe for x amount more, content with no ads. Then folks can decide what content they find most valuable and affordable and make their choices. Seems like a win-win to me.

So, y’all the stations making the content (and I know that Comcast owns some of you; that’s another issue—it shouldn’t), give me the opportunity to support you directly. Do like the smaller products and services businesses: build your tribe directly.

The age of advertisement is dying except as an adjunct to online search. Let’s move on to another story.

And from Darkness, Light

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Woo-woo and geeky cosmology mash-up warning. :)

Yeah, I love putting the woo-woo weft into the cosmic fabric’s warp. That’s just the way it looks to me.

Great pic, yes? My friend TJ Phillips of Believe in the Moment (very inspirational lady), has been helping me choose cosmology photos for my tarot deck and sent me this artist’s rendition of a black hole (courtesy of NASA).

Trying to figure out how to use something like this one for a Tarot card. Funny thing is, in human archetype-world, there’s no such thing as a challenge that sucks you into oblivion and can’t then be reborn or recovered from. Humans are very hopeful creatures as a rule. The idea of something that sucks everything in and flattens it like a pancake to go round and round in the darkness “forever” just doesn’t seem to jibe with human experience.

We humans have a pattern of bright joys followed by dark sorrows, but the weird thing is that even in the midst of our darkest inner black holes, outside the window of our grief, the stubborn sun refuses to stop shining, the grass refuses to stop growing, the trees refuse to stop blooming in spring. Resurrection of life (but not necessarily restoration of the old) seems to be the norm.

Yes, our losses in a lifetime (and life on Earth can be seen as a series of losses and our responses to them) seem permanent, and for this lifetime, they may very well be. That’s symbolized by the Death card in the Tarot (the version for my upcoming deck below).

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The essence, the atoms, the quarks, the DNA for the next birth even, goes on in a different form, no matter what. You are never alone, for the essence of the universe constantly hugs you one way or another. All that “happens” in the cosmos is constant change of form. So, just because it doesn’t look like it did last week, last month or a million years ago, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in some form.

Even with black holes, there are mitigating circumstances, Stephen Hawking’s latest seems to be that the information about stuff in a black hole is not actually lost but spread out at the edge. Haven’t been to a black hole, at least in this incarnation, so I don’t know. It may be, then, that black holes don’t suck; they stretch things. ;)

The coolest thing about these black holes, though, is that their destructive gravitational “sucking” properties are the same ones that create structures around them at a safe distance like galaxies, which provide homes for stars, planets, and life. The bright center in the galaxy below shows where the super massive black hole is. Weird, huh?

The ultimate cosmic irony is that the darkness supports the light.

Yeah, go think about that one for awhile. :)

NGC6744_sibling_to_milky_way

Marketing—A Return to Reputation

jumbled_marketing_planBeen busy in my head trying to make the idea of marketing feel authentic to me. This internal debate has been going on since I started my book indexing and editing business many years ago (more on what I’m still doing with that here).

I’ve been listening to Mitch Joel (professional marketeer) of Six Pixels of Separation. His Twist Image Podcast is always fascinating, largely because of the interesting folks he talks to, not all of whom are directly in the marketing game, but he’s out in the digital marketing world with some traditional agency experience trying to figure out how best to provide for his clients’ marketing needs in our brave new world. Last Sunday’s podcast with Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame was particularly interesting. They talked a bit about the transformation that the Internet and social media have made in content marketing using blogging in the years since the turn of the latest century, when Clark started Copyblogger.

Here’s the overview of what I took away from that conversation: Reputation, visibility, tribe.

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My Consumer Perspective

Although these two guys talked a little about advertising and how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter seem to be relying, as Google has done, on advertising for revenue, I got the distinct impression that there was a struggle to continue to find value in advertising as a marketing investment. Ads seem like a totally twentieth-century, mass audience type of marketing, and they feel like an anonymous blast of mostly nonsense (some of it amusing). I’ve seen the use of the Internet to target marketing based on the viewer’s/user’s current interests (at Hulu.com for one place), but there’s also a limit to the value of that. What if the user’s most important need is one that isn’t related to the catalogue of ads available to the blog they’re reading or the entertainment provider they’re using? I don’t know how many times Hulu has asked me to pick an ad out of three and none of them are things I’d ever buy, even though I’ve been watching shows on Hulu for over a year.

Mitch and Brian said that search itself is where one can find out what a potential customer is actually looking for and provide them with visibility about yourself at that point (which is why Google ads likely work best, if you’re willing to pay for position, that is). But putting ads on social media outlets doesn’t really make sense because people are not necessarily in consumption mode when sharing conversations on social media. I guess the bottom line is that I don’t want to see ads in my face unless I’m actually looking for something. I’m not a potential buyer until I say so. We Baby Boomers have had enough of mass-market advertising and the whole consumerist economy, for that matter. If you want to sell me something, you’ll have to respond as an option when I’m actually looking for something, or you’ll have to have an ongoing relationship with me to keep me as a customer.

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My Provider Perspective

Advertising, cold calling, “closing the sale” mentality; all these things have always felt wrong somehow. I know some of my reluctance always was the socialization of “don’t bother others” with your stuff or your needs (in this case for income). And yet, there are many good matches out there; folks who do need and are looking for just what I can do or be for them. But advertising always feels like bragging and begging, and cold calling feels like just begging. So, how to be visible to those who would really be great to work with for an appropriate energy (usually monetary) exchange?

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Visible Reputation for the Tribe

I have reputation information already since I’ve either got lots of talent and experience (editing, etc.) or talent and training (Tarot reading). So, the quality is there. How and where to make it visible to connect with prospective clients is the question.

Looking at it from the potential client’s perspective, assuming that it’s similar to my consumer perspective, I want to be searchable when someone is looking for editorial services or Tarot readings (depending on which of my businesses I’m coming from). This means being visible on the Web in a regular way that catches the search engine’s attention. Which is why marketing folks spend so much bandwidth on SEO (search engine optimization) strategies. There’s your passive visibility thing (the blog, website, keywords in social media posts).

That’s not enough, though. There’s the tribe. I also want to be visible specifically to folks who are generally interested in what I provide, even if right this minute they are not looking to consume my services. That way I’m in the back of their minds as a quality provider when it comes time to fill a need. But I don’t want to do this part with advertising. There’s no real ongoing relationship there. This is where social media activity and what is called “content marketing” come in. Establishing conversations (not ad postings over and over) will keep me connected in a positive way with folks who generally share my interests, with folks who do what I do and can create referrals, and with customers who can spread the word about my reputation.

Organic growth of customer base then occurs over time. This is authentic marketing for me.

How about you? What’s your approach if you own your own biz, and what do you look for from a potential service or product provider as a potential customer? And lastly, do you see a future for traditional advertising, and if so, what would that look like?

For some great insights on this topic of marketing, and the ethics of it, don’t forget to check out Lynn Serafinn’s 7 Graces of Marketing blog series (she’s also got the meat of her perspective in book form. Lots of great ideas from the more philosophical to the eminently practical.