The 90-Minute e-book

This was one of those mornings where I issued myself a weird creative challenge.

“Take the primary business lessons you’ve learned and turn them into a brief e-book. You have 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes to distill years of experience and thought.

As you might expect, it’s rough around the edges. But hopefully these seven lessons learned (painfully) may be guideposts to spare you some wasted effort and professional discouragement.

Or not. You’ve undoubtedly learned a few nuggets along the way – what would you add?

It’ll only take you a few minutes to read. Maybe a bit longer to digest and apply!

Seven Profound Business Lessons (that you want to know sooner rather than later!)

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What Are We Doing…Really?

Relationship marketing. E-mail marketing. Web promotion. eCommerce. Social Media. CRM. WOM/Viral marketing. Add your own set of blah-blahs and a few etc.’s, plus mix in a healthy dose of all the TRADITIONAL marketing terms.

What are we doing, really? When you boil all that stuff down to its essence, aren’t we, at core, building beneficial connections? Or perhaps more broadly – building beneficial relationships to serve customers and grow business. Isn’t every company worth its salt supposed to be doing just that?

Maybe that’s the business we’re all in. These terms are all the threads. Building connections and relationships is the tapestry.

And maybe businesses will be quicker to adopt all this stuff if we present it as essence first, and all the details as holistic means to the end.

Just a thought.

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Surround Yourself with Smart People

You’re probably quite smart in a number of ways.

That number, however, is limited. Which is why you want to surround yourself with people who are savvy in lots of other ways.

It’s not a bad thing to build a large network of people (on-line and off-line). Just be sure that, in the process, you’re also building a smart network.

There are tons of very bright people out in the social sphere, and it’s really not that hard to find them, connect with them, start getting to know them. But the real value isn’t having their name on a list. It’s having their ear and brain and experience and connections when you need them (and them having access to yours).

Behind the scenes, I’m often brainstorming, and refining ideas, with all sorts of people (many of whom I met via social networking). They have whole realms of experience and perspective that I can’t possibly draw up from my own limited well. They have riches of insight and depths of knowledge that I’ll never attain in this little noggin.

A smart network is not a whole lot different than applying the Golden Rule. Being a good neighbor. Sharing resources. If you offer me a glass of Cabernet when I need it, should I go out and plant a vineyard – especially when I was quite happy to give you some bacon when you ran out last week? What’s the alternative – you go out and buy a pig?

So how do you go about building a smart network? Here are 3 astoundingly simple steps – we’re talking duh-level – that you already know. Just do them.

    1. Reach out. Say hi on Twitter. Reply to something they’ve written. Believe it or not, other smart people will enjoy your initiative and interaction, just as you do.
    2. Share your own expertise. Generously. Consistently. Without any baked-in quid pro quo.
    3. Ask. The 4 words, “Can you help me?” are very hard to resist when you have gained even a baseline amount of familiarity and credibility.

When you provide value, well-mixed with kindness and sincerity, you will be well on your way to a smart network. No PhD required. Now, about that Cabernet…

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Lasik for the Soul

I’ve had glasses or contacts since the 6th grade. Genetically/physically, weak vision. Been tempted for a long time by the possibility of laser surgery to “fix” the problem – maybe someday I’ll take that plunge.

But lack of 20/20 vision in the eyes isn’t the worst of problems. It can be corrected. Lack of vision in the soul is a much deeper issue.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive. But where are you heading?

If we met in the lobby of a hotel someday for coffee and a chat, and I said, “What do you really, REALLY REALLY want to do with your life?” – would you have a clear answer? And if you had an answer, do you have the beginnings of a roadmap on how you might get there?

If not, take my advice. Set aside 2-3 hours, get in a quiet place (a walk in the woods can be very therapeutic), and ask that question. Utterly blue-sky it – no limitations, no “how would I leave my current job? how would I make money to provide? what would people think?” – none of that. If there were not pre-defined limits - what would you seek to become and do?

When you can articulate it, and “see” it in the depths of your soul – you now have a vision. And with that vision, you’ll find passion.

Passion is what gets you off your rear end and kicks out passivity. You want drive, not drift. And all of that stems for a vision that you have for you.

Now, once you have that vision (and don’t discount the value of brainstorming with other people who know you, and can help you get clarity) – it’s time to put the work gloves on. How can I get from here, to there? What would be the steps, the process, to start moving in that direction? It may take years, it may take help, it will certainly take risk. But why settle? You might be surprised how much support and help is out there once you map out where you’re heading and start taking steps.

People respond to passion. People follow passionate leaders. Some people try to squelch passion and vision because it reminds them of their own myopia, but those aren’t your traveling companions. You want other clear-sighted people around you.

I’m still wearing glasses on my face. But each day, I’m seeing the other chart more clearly. What for many years seemed like a misty, impossible dream is now drawing closer. Many walks in the woods have shaped the vision. If you’re kind of drifting in the fog right now, it’s Lasik time. Take a long walk. And maybe let’s talk about your dreams when you get back…

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Social Media, Business, and Life

Here’s how I view the intersection of social media/networked communications, business, and life:

Make sense? That’s why we need to evolve past talking about “social media” as an isolated entity. It’s not. It is, and will (increasingly) be, a woven-in digital communications pathway encompassing just about every aspect of how we live and work.

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The _____ and the Restless

I like restless people.

By that, I don’t mean people who can’t settle down, concentrate, and get things done. That may call for ADHD medication, or at the very least, some maturation in self-discipline!

What I mean is that I am attracted to folks who ask questions. Who don’t assume the status quo. Who not only think different, and see different, but want to make things different. And can’t abide waiting around for others.

You may be younger, older, male, female, black, white, liberal, conservative, rich, poor – the key thing is, are you restless? If so, you can’t sit still. You are purpose-full. You prefer to brainstorm new realities than whine about current limitations.

Add focus and drive and smarts to restless, and such people get things done.

Restless people succeed (well, usually!). Restless people start restless companies that succeed. Restless people look at a nine-inch diameter pie and say, “Why can’t this be twice as big a pie and a bunch more people share it, and then make their own pies?” Restless people build movements. And they do so with other restless folks.

I’m more restless than I’ve ever been. How about you?

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100 Proof

Almost every alcoholic beverage has its place. I say almost, because there is still lite beer, and wine coolers. But you get the point.

Sometimes a glass of wine is right. Sometimes a summer ale, or a hearty porter. A nice bourbon on ice with a friend out on the deck is delightful.

The analogy can only be carried so far, but various forms of social networks are of varying strengths, and for various purposes. As much as I enjoy and use the general platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), much of the frustration is that overall, they end up being somewhere between 3-8 proof. Weak and watered down by sheer numbers, and wildly varying quality.

Yes, there are 100 proof people scattered throughout, but what if you had a whole bunch of them together in a closer, more organic network? Pay-it-forward professionals. Proven performers. Ethical, authentic people who want to work together to do business in new and creative ways.

Distilled, 100 proof trust agents.

Think of the possibilities. It’s an intoxicating vision. And if we get together this year, let’s sit down over coffee (or wine, or….well, not lite beer) and blue-sky this together… (and if you’re going to be at SOBCon 2010 in a couple weeks, well, let’s brainstorm in Chicago!)

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