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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Why I Can’t Wait for SOBCon 2010

I’ve cut back this year on the number of conferences I’m attending. But I have added one new one (for me) – SOBCon 2010. Why?

    1. It’s small. I prefer the intimacy of small, focused conferences to huge, rush-around mega-events. Relaxed face time and collective thought are more valuable to me than drive-by hellos and party-hopping. Building deep, not broad, is one of my themes for 2010.
    2. Liz (Strauss) and Terry (Starbucker) have been nagging me to take part, and simply wouldn’t let me say “no” this year. Since I enjoy Liz and Terry time, it’s not really a big sacrifice!
    3. I’ll get to meet some very cool people that I’ve only interacted with on-line – Jon Swanson, Chris Garrett, Lucretia Pruitt, and others – plus renew friendships with a bunch of folks previously met. The time will be too short, in fact.
    4. I’m very excited about the theme and can’t wait to brainstorm with a diverse bunch of smart people.
    5. Events like this one are creative incubators. I fully expect to walk out with renewed energy, fresh ideas, and a mind buzzing with possibilities.
    6. I like Chicago.

That’s my top 5 + 1 – if you’re going, what are yours? And if you haven’t signed up yet – there’s still time! I hope to see you there!

Oh – and special thanks to Social Media Club Chicago for organizing a tweetup the Thursday night before things kick off. Great idea!

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Recipe for Success

Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value.  Know your limits. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Demonstrate love. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Ask for what you need. Add value……

Repeat.

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Letting Go

We grow up and live surrounded by “stuff” that becomes familiar. People, things, methods, media – they enter into our comfort zone of default assumptions and, at times, we don’t really want to let them go.

They’re comfortable. They’re known. And, they’re potentially deadly to business growth.

It was certainly hard for some people to let go the notion of riding horses to get from Point A to Point B – but you couldn’t tweak horses into performance that matched the newfangled automobiles. It was time to let go.

It’s hard for marketers to give up the notion of one-way communication – but in an interconnected world where people can now selectively listen, and freely publish and interact, it’s time to let go.

Many of us work in structures called corporations. It’s familiar, and these structures evolved to fill a purpose. But does that structure allow us to optimize our abilities, maximize our time investment, and earn what we’re worth? Should we think of company structures as some kind of inescapable default – or can we let go of the familiar and create new business approaches?

The creative architects will win. Those who can look back and resurrect what worked better. Those who can look around and replace what doesn’t work well with something superior. And especially, those who can look forward and not only let go of the current defaults, but create whole new ways to unleash their talents, and those of their teams and tribes.

Restless, questioning energy will blaze new trails. If we’re prepared to let go of the old ones.

I want to spend the rest of my days letting go. And creating. And unleashing. How about you?

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Out of the Bud, into the Flower

Just out my window, red maple leaves are beginning to emerge. What were buds in my yard just a short time ago, now are becoming full-blown flowers and leaves and canopies of beautiful shade.

As it should be. The bud phase is meant to only last a brief moment, to be a quick transition to the real goal.

Musing this morning on Geoff Livingston‘s post explaining the end of his blogging tenure at the Buzz Bin, I saw the process at work. As Geoff put it so pointedly, “I have run out of things to say…I feel like I am repeating myself.” In other words, social media as a topic in and of itself has pretty much run its course. The bud phase is over. Time to move on.

While it is tempting to mourn the passing of anything that has been new and shiny and exciting, in reality, we’re on the threshold of the really good stuff. In the nascent days of computers, or of Web 1.0, the early adopters were (rightly) excited about the technology itself. But it was never about the microprocessor or HTML code, not really. It’s about what we can do with it.

Passion for new technology skyrockets, then wanes, in order to make room for the real passions that matter – how we can transform people and society and business using new tools and approaches. I have been (and still am) quite passionate about social networking. But I no longer much care about re-tweets, Ad Age rankings, or follower numbers. My genuine passion has emerged – building deeper, more purposeful Opportunity Networks that will help change how we do business for the long haul. The “corporation” as we now know it is an aging model. I’m gathering a core of like-minded folks who want to explore how to create the new “co-operation.”

Social networking and technology tools are a big part of this vision. But there’s enough information out there now about how to be part of the conversation, how to go viral, how to write blog headlines, how to build a wide audience. That’s the bud. What’s your flower? How are you going to use all these good tools and connect with smart people to make whole new movements and organizations and impacts?

It’s springtime, friends. Buds are great – but only because of what they promise. We’ve talked social media and made lots of connections and sought to introduce it to the rest of the world…all good and necessary. But now let’s transition from early adopters to long-term architects. Summer’s coming!

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