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See behind the mindset that helped make me a 6-Figure consultant with my manifesto

NO is NOT a Curse Word

How you run your business shows your character

Running a business tests your character in very hard ways.

It deals with livelihoods and money which seems to bring out the worst in people.

You’re going to get asked about competitors and a sure fire way to show your customer how poor your character is is to talk poorly about your competition. There are things that they do better than you, and you should just acknowledge that.

What type of person do you want to be? Your daily interactions with clients shows your character to them.

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It Doesn’t Matter What You Like

Recently, I was bidding on a project, in competition with a few other developers I know, and one of them won. According to the client the reason they didn’t go with me was my payment terms.

For a 10-day project I wanted to get paid 50% up front and the rest after 10 business days. For some reason that made the client nervous and they went with someone else.

When talking with the other contractors on the project they expressed that they loved my payment terms way more than their own, which was 50% up front and 50% on approval.

It doesn’t matter

Yes, waiting for approval sucks. I’ve had projects around I haven’t touched for weeks. My work is done and the client has said it’s great, but they haven’t formally approved the work, so I wasn’t paid.

The other negative in this scenario is that by the time the client got around to approving the work, something had updated and they wanted this ‘fix’ done as well before they completed the approval.

Enter a long approval cycle again.

This is why I don’t base payment on client approval, and if I do, the price of the work goes up because we’re transferring risk in the approval process back onto me.

But if the client doesn’t like that and goes with someone else it doesn’t matter that my way is ‘better’. They didn’t use me and really they are the market so they decide how to spend their dollars.

Caution

When you get new business ideas from anywhere make sure that you test it against what the market actually wants. Don’t stick to some ‘great idea’ you hear from me unless it actually suits your clients.

Yes it’s entirely possible that the client I spoke of above simply wasn’t a great client for me and I shouldn’t worry about it.

I should also use this piece of evidence to help me monitor the overall health of my business and make sure I stay on top of how my policies affect my income.

photo credit: venndiagram cc

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How I keep up with web technology

The web moves fast. You learn one technology and guess what? Something better comes out. No longer is the thing you just learned the thing everyone is raving about. It’s this new thing you don’t know anymore.

There is danger in changing things up all the time. That danger is that you never really become an expert in any area because you only get to dive in superficially as you’re continually chasing after the newest ‘shiny’ thing.

I don’t embrace the newest things as they come out. A while back I learned Grunt and what seemed like the next day, Gulp came out and was touted as 1 million times better. I never did learn Gulp nor do I have any plan to learn it.

The biggest fear that causes many people to chase after the latest and greatest is that their technical knowledge will lag and they’ll fall behind on how proper sites should be built. While that is a real fear, way too many businesses waste lots of time chasing the shiny.

I work very hard not to chase but to make intelligent choices about what I use and learn. Here is the thought process I go through.

Embrace your constraints

First off embrace your constraints. There was a time that I could decide I needed (actually, wanted is probably the correct word) to learn something new on Friday and I could code/read/play all weekend, and by Monday have a decent handle on the new thing with a few demo projects under my belt.

Now I’ve got a wife and two kids — not just a wife who’s happy to read/knit/run on her own during the weekend. My kids want me to play LEGO, go to swimming lessons, hike, build forts, paint nails, do hair, and a myriad of other things that interest a four-year-old and one-year-old girl.

It would be super easy for me to longingly dwell on the times when I could devote an entire weekend to learning something new. Really all that would do is make my time with my kids less enjoyable.

Maybe I’d even start resenting them for ruining my perfect weekends of yesteryear.

That’s lame. Instead I just let weekends be what they are and embrace the constrained environment. Because I can no longer dig into new things all weekend or work weekends I have to be more efficient with my time during the week.

This need for efficiency caused me to put all new technology through the following two filters.

Does it solve a problem I have?

First off, does this new technology solve a problem I’m currently experiencing?

Looking at the Grunt/Gulp thing above, I had no issues with how Grunt was working. It made sense to me and had all the modules I needed in my work.

There was no problem with Grunt and nothing in Gulp that seemingly solved a problem I could see having.

So the answer was no.

Will it bring more ROI for my clients?

The second filter I put things through is, will this earn my clients more money?

Maybe learning a new A/B testing tool will bring them more ROI faster, in which case yup, it’s worth it for me to learn.

Maybe some new way of configuring their server will speed up their site and we know that a faster eCommerce site generally converts more. Again that’s worth taking a look at.

If a new piece of tech doesn’t meet at least one of these two criteria I don’t learn it unless it meets my third criteria.

Just because

Yeah there are things I learn just because. I’m currently working on learning Laravel mostly just because. I have no projects that definitely need it nor do I plan on changing my WordPress specialty.

I simply want to learn something new and Laravel looks interesting.

Now it’s likely that learning Laravel will help me build WordPress stuff better/faster but that’s not the reason I’m learning it.

I just wanted to learn something for fun.

The danger here is that most developers I know are really learning stuff for fun but telling themselves that it’s for one of the above two reasons. This means they devote way too much time to the endeavour.

I plan on spending an hour a week learning Laravel. If more time comes up, then great — I’ll use it. But learning Laravel is not my focus.

How I taste test

When you see a new piece of ‘shiny’ how do you even begin to evaluate it against the two requirements above?

I start by finding a bunch of versus articles. For Grunt/Gulp I searched for ‘Grunt vs. Gulp’ and skimmed a few to get a feeling for their quality and added the top ones to my Instapaper queue.

Second I asked on Twitter if there were any Gulp people that could recommend a good article on learning Gulp.

Third I looked for articles that said Grunt was the best choice and that said Gulp was the best choice. They often have titles like:

  • Why Grunt is Better Than Gulp
  • Moving From Grunt to Gulp
  • Why Gulp is Better Than Grunt

You’re looking for people on both sides of the argument here.

Total time spent to assemble about 20 good articles on Grunt/Gulp was about 20 minutes.

Next I sat down on Friday and dug into the 20 articles. Really reading them and taking a few notes. Noting how they worked compared to each other.

At the end of this reading session I decide if I should be learning the new system or not. Does it meet at least one of my two main criteria?

If the answer is no then I don’t bother thinking about it again until there is some compelling reason.

A compelling reason would be like when WordPress went with Sass and I was firmly a LESS person. I had put Sass and LESS through my filters a few years before and went with LESS.

Over the years many of the issues I had with Sass went away but having had no actual issues with LESS, why on earth would I change? Then WordPress went with Sass and at that point, why not use what many other WordPress developers will be using by default?

So I spent a few hours one day converting my own stuff to Sass and haven’t looked back.

How about you?

That’s how I evaluate new technology coming across my radar.

Am I missing a crucial deciding factor that you use?

How do you stop chasing shiny objects around and still get work done while keeping abreast of the web industry?

photo credit: kwl cc

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Why my initial client questions are not on my contact form

I recently had a great question from a reader. After reading my posts on client vetting and looking at my business site this reader wanted to know why I don’t include my initial questions in my contact form — why I ask them in the first email instead.

Process

First off, while the reader is right that I don’t include the questions in my form, I do prep prospects for the questions on my process page. So, prospects who do some research and look through my site know what to expect when they start talking to me.

Now back to the question: Why don’t I include all my initial project questions in my contact form?

Conversions

First, let’s look at some conversion basics. In general, the longer a form is the less likely it is that a user will fill out the form at all. My goal is to get a client talking to me so I have a chance to sell them on my services.

To that end I only ask for what I absolutely require on my forms.

Two-Step Opt-in

Ever heard of a two-step opt-in process? It’s a technique where users click a link/button to bring up the form where they enter their email.

You can read more about it in this great post on LeadPages.

In short, clicking the link is an easy task with little/no commitment or friction. Only after that initial interaction do you ask users for the next step, entering their email.

Engagement

I keep my contact form easy. Put in your name, email, phone, message and submit the form. In fact, the only thing I require is the email. You can leave all other fields blank and submit the form and you’re going to get an email from me.

Only after that initial easy engagement do I ask the harder questions around success metrics, budgets and value. At that point the user is engaged with me and much more likely to answer the questions I’ve asked.

Back when I first reworked my business site I tried putting my initial questions on the form. I never got a single submission from that form. After a few months and 50 submissions from the basic form, I decided to totally drop the long version that included all my questions.

Testing

While I encourage you to build out some standard initial questions I don’t recommend that you put them on your contact form. If you do, at least test the submissions (I love Optimizely for testing) and see which form converts more.

Now you know why I don’t include my initial questions on my contact form. Any other good questions?

photo credit: brianneudorff cc

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Sitting in the middle is nothing to be ashamed of

We’ve got heroes all around us — people like DHH (founder of Ruby on Rails and Basecamp), Tim Ferris, Brennan Dunn, and Nathan Barry. For big WordPress shops, some of the heroes are 10up, Web Dev Studios, Human Made or Crowd Favorite.

They are the stories of wild success out of seemingly nowhere (though most of them toiled in obscurity for a long time).

They are the ones we look up to as we build our businesses. When we launch new products or services we see the numbers they achieved and then evaluate our sales in light of their success.

But rarely do we really hear what happens inside business. The whopping success stories are glorified, the failures are dissected or shunned. The rest is silence. Our demand for hero and goats obscures the truth. – Growing a Business

In the middle

Despite what some of the readers here may think, I’m firmly in the middle. I’m looking for my next project. Have a number of estimates out but nothing firm.

Money is much lower than I want it to be. I’ve got some fear of failure going on.

I’m not wildly successful. My last product launch flopped (as in zero sales). The previous product I launched was okay and still makes a sale or two a month, but the grand total income for it is around $3000.

And yet I have a business that’s been running for 6 years. I’m making more than I ever have. I’m excited about where things are headed.

Nothing wrong with the middle

Most businesses are sitting in the middle area. They turn a profit and supply income for the owner and possibly a few employees and this is a perfectly acceptable place to sit.

To be successful we don’t have to be a hero to millions. We don’t have to have people from our industry as a whole looking up to us.

Success is something we should be defining for ourselves. Even as I said I want to be a 1 million dollar company would I really be ‘less successful’ if I turned into a $300K company or a $200K company?

Would my children be ashamed of the work I do?

I think we know that the answer to that question is a resounding no. The amount of money we make has no direct correlation to our actual worth or our success as business people.

At least it shouldn’t have that effect.

Don’t stop striving

Now just because we recognize that we shouldn’t be hanging our worth and success on a dollar figure or head count, that doesn’t mean we don’t strive to hit that higher goal.

I won’t be disappointed to be a $300K company, or really to stick in the $120-$150K range where I sit now. I’ll still strive to kick my business up to where it consistently turns $1M a year, though.

As I strive for that bigger goal, I’ll continue to make my smaller business run better. I’ll be able to spend less time working to generate the same income.

I’ll be able to spend more time with my kids and in my community.

So don’t hang your hat on a number. Don’t gauge your success against mine. Figure out what success means for you. Figure out why you work and make your success hinge on achieving your WHY.

All income that goes beyond covering your basics needs and some wants is just ‘more money’ and shouldn’t have an effect on how fulfilled you are.

photo credit: oblongpictures cc

Don’t just focus on your rights

Way to many of us service professionals get all wrapped up in what we deserve. How we should be treated. What we should be paid.

What type of treatment does the client deserve though?

Are you so wrapped up in what you deserve you don’t even bother to think about what your clients deserve.

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I want to think I’m better than you

One of the Slack channels I’m in has been getting pretty negative recently.

On the particular day I’m thinking of a member of the WordPress community launched a new service. As with much marketing copy, his promotional announcement made some ‘bold’ claims.

Not inaccurate, but bold given the skills of the developer.

Soon after, the Slack channel of developers started to go through Tweets, Stack Exchange questions, and other online threads, searching for posts where this other developer asked seemingly ‘dumb’ questions — all in an effort to make his new service look bad.

Yup, they wasted time making this developer’s service (and the developer himself) look bad in a community of developers who would never use his new service to begin with.

Dunning-Kruger

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. – Wikipedia

I’m not going to dispute that the developer in question may have a bit of the Dunning-Kruger effect going on. Having seen some of the code he puts out, it’s the truth.

What I’m going to say is that the more I think about the conversation the more I realize that:

  1. It was simply negative and really, who wants to surround themselves with negative people?
  2. The people participating in the negative discussion were WordPress developers; that is, people who learned to build WordPress sites.

I’ve given my thoughts on the first point in episode 11 of The Smart Business Show, so I’ll leave that one alone today.

I do want to tackle the second item though.

WordPress

I’ve got a counselling degree. I taught myself WordPress. That means I muddled my way through learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript (jQuery really), SASS, PHP, Bash, and a few other things on my way to the place I’m at currently.

I did some Ruby frontend work for a while but I’m doubtful that I could still spin up a Rails application without many trips to Google and some cursing. Possibly lots of cursing.

Outside of the very small niche of WordPress I don’t think I’m one of the ‘highly skilled’ individuals that the Dunning-Kruger effect says ‘undervalues’ their skills. It’s likely that I overvalue my programming knowledge.

I think that many of the people in the WordPress community sit in the same boat. Every time I talk to a friend working at Unbounce, or Lululemon, or on RailsApps I’m continually struck by how far WordPress development practices need to grow to get anywhere near this world my friends play in.

As a whole, the WordPress community suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect and the fact that WordPress powers so many ‘huge’ sites only amplifies the belief that we’re awesome.

The bubble

Too many of us (myself included) sit inside the bubble of WordPress thinking we’re rocking the world with our programming. That we’re on top of the programming heap, and we may well be near the top of the WordPress heap.

Inside that greater pile of ‘development’ that’s language agnostic, WordPress as a whole is pretty low on the totem pole.

Before you start looking around at other developers and getting negative about their efforts, take a step back and really assess where you are in the grande scheme of things.

I believe if we all did this, most of the ‘WordPress’ developers out there would realize they are actually just barely heading into their teens in their programming life.

That realization would, I believe, make us less negative toward others, and prompt us to instead help lift them up using the knowledge we have. As a result, the group as a whole could be better.

How do you put your skills in perspective? How do you use the wider programming community to make yourself a better developer?

photo credit: 27433628@N05 cc

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Client-Centered Web Development

There’s a problem with my regular work, and I typically don’t see it.

But that’s the problem — I don’t see it and that means my clients don’t see it either.

But when building something as ephemeral as software, progress comes in fits and starts, sometimes to the point of feeling illusory. ~ The Grumpy Programmers PHPUnit Cookbook

Trading in bits

It’s not uncommon for me to code all day and have little to show a client. Yes, lots of stuff happened but there isn’t a visible product at the end of the day.

This is especially true of site optimization work. A few days of work may yield a one-second decrease in site load time, which often goes unnoticed.

For designers, you do a bunch of research and wireframing, and draft designs that get tossed. It takes days, maybe even weeks, to get through to something that’s finally worthwhile to show to a client.

All through the beginning of that design process you’re working but the client sees nothing. ‘Stuff’ is happening inside the black box of design and that ‘stuff’ is something that’s hard/impossible for the client to really grasp.

Taking it to tangible

If you’ve been working for a while and your client has to ask for an update, you’ve failed. It means they had no idea what you were doing. In that post I just linked to I showed you the 2 email templates I use to keep clients up to date on the progress of a project.

You may need to take it further though.

If you’re designing the site, break it down into smaller deliverables. Show them the wireframes first and make it a deliverable.

When you’re building a theme get the home page done and send them that, with the caveat that if they look any further things are going to break.

Tell them they can keep checking back every day or two and they’ll see progress. Tell them there are bugs that you’ll still address, so they don’t need to tell you about anything yet — you just wanted to show them progress.

Not moles

Way too many creatives (and yes, I think programmers are creatives) go into ‘mole mode’ as they find their muse, which leaves the clients hanging with no idea what’s happening with the project.

You’re not a mole and your client is not a mole. You’re a business owner and you need to keep your clients up to date at many points in the process of their project.

Neglecting that is only going to mean you get fewer referrals (because you weren’t awesome to work with) and have a business that’s not as successful as it should be.

Let’s make a promise — no more ‘mole mode’. We’ll update our clients regularly and break down big deliverables into small things to regularly show clients some progress.

photo credit: clement127 cc

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4 Steps Towards Fulfillment

What on earth does being fulfilled mean?

Does it mean having all the money you want? Does it mean being ‘famous’ in your sphere of influence? Does it mean having a big house or fancy computer or fancy … whatever?

It means none of those things.

Another word I like to use for fulfillment is contentment. The idea that wherever you are, you’re pretty okay with that. You’re happy with what’s going on around you and where you are.

Not that you don’t strive for more, but that getting more has no real bearing on your happiness.

Today I want to talk to you about the four steps I use to try and stay fulfilled/content with life and work.

1. Acceptance

First you need to accept yourself where you are and realize that you are accepted.

A birthday is you being accepted. You were never more a burden than on the day you were born. You couldn’t walk, you had your lowest IQ and on top of all that you were slimy.

Despite all of that we celebrate the fact that you simply exist. You are accepted.

Yes, I know that some of you had hard lives at home. Maybe your spouse/partner/parent doesn’t really ‘accept’ you and is continually trying to push you into something that they find acceptable.

Here, you need to remember that the lack of acceptance is quite possibly the problem of the parent/spouse/partner — not your problem.

You should be accepting of yourself, faults and all. Yes, work on improving your faults, but the fact that you have them has no bearing on your worth. It simply means you’re a human.

We all have faults despite what the sanitized social media accounts may indicate.

2. Sustenance

So much of your day is consumed with outputs. You have to decide what you’re going to wear, have for breakfast, work on….

What do you build into your day to feed you? What are your inputs? What prevents you from getting empty?

Mastermind

I am part of 2 mastermind groups that feed into me and my business. They are groups of friends that I can come to with business issues and they will not only have good advice, but frequently offer alternate perspectives on the situation which help me deal, in the best possible way, with the trials that come up in business.

Friends

Yes there are friends outside of the Internet and you should hang out with them. We regularly have friends over on Friday for our family pizza night.

This brings great conversation and laughs, and since many of our friends have kids, the kids get to run around and play.

When was the last time you stepped away from your computer to hang out with good friends?

Meditation (or prayer)

Doesn’t matter what you call it, moments of quiet in your day will feed you. I spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of my day sitting in silence. This lets me set the pace for my day and allows me to feel centered.

No music on, just the sounds that happen in my office.

When was the last time you sat with just yourself, in silence, with no media inputs? It’s super hard at first since we’re so used to ‘something’ going on around us, but it pays off in a day that never feels as crazy when you start with some silence.

Feed your mind

Yes as Internet professionals, we learn something every day, but when was the last time you stepped outside and learned something totally unrelated to your regular work?

Maybe go to a cake making class (which is my next thing) or read a book about marriage or something on history.

Feed your mind good things that are totally outside your regular field.

Outside

We’re a big outdoorsy family. We get the kids out on hikes that challenge many adults, and we do it rain or shine. We head to spots with no cell reception regularly which lets us both totally disconnect.

At that point the only thing my phone is good for is a camera, and even that we’re looking at changing so we can leave the phones in the car while we’re out.

You don’t have to head for the rugged mountains; maybe you just leave your devices at home and go for a walk at the local park, or around a nice neighbourhood.

Most of us spend way too much time inside. Getting out feeds you in ways that relaxing inside never can.

Watch some kids

Nothing shows you joy like a child can. On a recent hike my 4-year-old decided that the holes under logs were ‘fairy houses’ and spent the remaining 90 minutes of our hike counting the fairy houses and delighting in telling us how each piece of the forest was a part of the fairy house.

Did you know that the mushrooms on the sides of trees are the balconies of the fairy houses? Well, now you do.

Watching her enjoy being outside and spend time with people that love her was something that fed me. The continual wonder that a child has for the world around them shows just how much we take for granted every single day.

Others

Finally, let’s talk about being there for others. Helping those who don’t have the resources we have. That doesn’t mean just ‘helping the homeless’ either.

It can be bringing dinner to a friend that has sick kids or had a tough day.

We have friends that are helping us by providing a free place for us to live for six months. It’s a 4,000-square-foot house with an indoor pool, three offices, two yards, a climbing wall, and two garages. They know we’re selling our house, at a bit of a loss, and want to save more for a down payment on our next house. They’re going to New Zealand for six months with their kids and needed someone to house sit.

Oh, did I mention it’s literally 300 meters from the office I rent?

All we have to do is cover a few hundred dollars a month in utilities and we can stay there. Our friends simply looked at the resources they had and realized they could use those resources to bless us. We’re not going to be homeless. Business is fine, but they have something that they can use to benefit someone they know, so they’re doing it.

What resources do you have that you can use to benefit someone else?

Using your resources like that fills up your soul (or gives you good karma if you prefer that term) and makes your life more full.

3. Significance

We all long to do something ‘big’, to make a difference. Once you have the first two items in line in your life you’re finally ready to start working on your significance.

WHY do you work? What are you trying to accomplish with your life? How is what you’re doing right now contributing to that end goal for your life?

I’ve written about Why I Work and given you some questions to ask yourself to begin the journey of figuring out WHY you work.

The mistake so many people make is that they jump directly into trying to do that ‘big’ thing without having their sustenance and acceptance figured out.

That would be like me heading out on a 6-hour bike ride without food or water. The only way my body can handle that is if I bring the food/water I need.

That’s simply a recipe for burnout, which can mean you lose the passion for your big dream. Keep that dream alive even if it means working on it for a few extra months.

Start your quest for significance with acceptance, then build in routines that provide sustenance. Only once those two things are covered can you truly have significance.

4. Achievement

If achievement to you simply means money, or power, or status then one of the other steps is actually out of line.

I view it as an achievement if a single person is helped by the content I produce. Knowing I helped one person run a successful business is an achievement for me, though it’s very easy to get caught up in the Internet hype of being ‘famous’ and making lots of money.

I need to continually watch myself so I don’t fall into that false thinking and forget to notice my actual achievements.

It’s not about setting a low bar either. I’m still working on turning a product into something wildly successful (heck I’d settle for having the site pay for the time I put into it with no profit), but I don’t make that bar the sole thing I measure my achievement against.

If I did, then I’d get to look at failure every day. But I don’t fail as long as one person is able to run a better business based on the content I put out.

Filled

Now I’ve shown you the four steps on the way to fulfillment, but they aren’t really steps. Each one of the ideas needs to be revisited and evaluated continually.

It’s so easy to move on to achievement and then realize that you are no longer sustaining yourself, or that in your quest for achievement you have forgotten what makes you significant.

It may take years for you to really get a handle on one of the steps (significance is a hard one to figure out) but the striving towards each one is what refines you into the type of person that can achieve great things.

The work of striving is what helps you build a life that is fulfilling.

photo credit: tehchix0r cc

Emmet Reading - big book

March 2015 Reading

Today’s post is my monthly reading wrap-up. Here are my thoughts on the books I read in March. Enjoy.

1. The Dragon’s Path

Get The Dragon’s Path on Amazon.

This book was actually a surprise for me since it was included at the end of Leviathan Wakes. And a good surprise, too, since this is the type of story that’s right up my alley. It has a bit of magic, bit of sword play, and a bit of intrigue, all set in a medieval time frame.

Part way through I was beginning to sense George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones, and when I did a bit of research on the author, I learned he worked for Martin for a while so the similarities made sense.

I don’t want to imply that this is a copycat of Game of Thrones. It’s a great story that stands on its own and if you’re in for a story set in a similar time/world then you should get this. I highly recommend it.

2. Switch

Get Switch on Amazon.

Are you like me, wanting to lose weight but you love chocolate chip cookies? I mean, you love them so much that your four-year-old calls you the cookie monster?

Are you responsible for some change in your company but don’t really have the power to make that change? Maybe you’re in charge but the entrenched ethics/patterns are totally contrary to the change that needs to be made?

This is the book for you.

Chip and Dan Heath explore how many organizations have been able to get the Rider (the thinking brain) and the Elephant (the feeling brain) to each adopt change and work together. You’ll see this dual-brain thinking explored in other Heath books like Thinking, Fast and Slow.

In Switch, Chip and Dan assert that our Rider will generally be led by the Elephant. With great effort it can overpower the Elephant for a short time (like when I swear off cookies) but eventually the much more powerful Elephant will win as the Rider gets tired.

Switch doesn’t claim to give you all the answers to make effective change at your organization; however, it does provide lots of great stories and examples of change in other organizations, with practical application you can use to initiate changes in your organization.

One of the best takeaways from this book is to make change easy. Don’t institute a big, overarching change policy. Instead, give clear, concise, easy-to-carry-out directions. If you’re looking to cut short-term costs because you have no money maybe that direction is, “We’ll always choose the cheapest option even if the long-term cost is more.”

With that direction all purchasers have clear instructions to follow when making any purchasing decision.

There are many more great takeaways in Switch and I highly recommend you read it.

3. Caliban’s War (Expanse 2)

Get Caliban’s War on Amazon.

In the second edition of the Expanse series we start about 8 months after the first book. The universe has mostly settled down (meaning there is no shooting war going on), but things are tense.

Jim Holden is catching pirates for the OPA and really not acting like himself. We also meet a Marine who barely survives a run-in with a ‘super’ soldier that turns out to be a protomolecule soldier/weapon.

As we dig deeper we see the protomolecule growing and taking apart ships around Venus, and a young girl who has been abducted must be rescued before becoming the victim of an experiment with the protomolecule.

I’ll stop here so I don’t spoil any of the story. There are a number of new characters — all pretty awesome — with many characters making me laugh out loud as they deal with huge space battles, the coffee not working and corridor fighting.

I’m definitely getting the next book in this series.

4. Didn’t See it Coming

Get Didn’t See it Coming on Amazon.

Didn’t See it Coming is written by a former ‘big marketing’ person, the type of person who tried to sell you Mr. Clean in a different scent for each season, because who on earth would want their house smelling like winter in the middle of summer? Yup, he was a bastion of vapid consumption — but no more.

In this book Marc Stoiber talks honestly about how he became jaded by the tactics big brands were using and escaped from the marketing game. He shows us some companies that breathe sustainability (like Patagonia) and culture, which he feels will be the leading traits that people look for in brands moving forward.

Overall, the book was…okay. There are some blatant factual errors, like the ‘fact’ that Patagonia doesn’t advertise. All it took was for me to open my copy of Backpacker Magazine and flip a few pages in to find a Patagonia ad. Now I do love Patagonia (had one of their jackets for 15 years) but the truth is, they do advertise regularly.

The opening part of the book felt like a tirade on the environment and our care of it. Now I don’t disagree with any of the core arguments, but it just felt a bit like that crazy uncle on his soapbox, complete with hair and spittle flying. That’s the type of person I generally avoid (even as I do lots of work to save our rivers in British Columbia from micro hydro).

So would I recommend the book? Not really. There are some decent sound bites (well quotes, since it’s a book) but you could get them from any number of other sources that probably have a more coherent thread through their material.

5. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Get Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon.

After I talked about reading Blink I had a number of people recommend this book as a ‘much better’ version of Blink, with more stats.

I’ll give them one thing, it has more stats for sure.

The author, Daniel Kahneman, is one of the people responsible for the research on which Blink and Switch are based. I read through Switch after I started this book and recognized a number of the citations in Switch as studies in Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Is it a better book? That would depend on what you like reading. I think that Blink and Switch are going to get more attention from non-research people (which would be the general public). Thinking, Fast and Slow throws lots of numbers at you which are hard to grasp until you’ve gone over them a few times.

It’s certainly a much harder read than either Switch or Blink. I’m also not sure that you’d get much more in the way of personal development by reading Thinking, Fast and Slow than you would reading either of the other two books.

If you like reading research stuff, then this is a great book. If you think the numbers may bore you, then skip this.

6. Soul Keeping

Get Soul Keeping on Amazon.

It’s been a while since I read a ‘Christian’ book, since most of my reading is focused on business and fiction. I needed this venture back into working on my faith/relationship with God.

Soul Keeping is centered around the life of Dallas Willard and what the author, John Ortberg, learned over his decades-long relationship with Dallas.

I had 2 big takeaways from this book. The first is the quote below.

I am so wrapped up in the hurt I have received that I do not notice the hurt I inflict.

We often focus so much on our ‘rights’ that we step on the rights of others, justifying our actions with a need to protect our rights. I have friends that are divorced now and their whole married relationship was focused not on what was best for them as a couple, but their ‘rights’ as individuals.

With little work put into the relationship it’s no wonder they couldn’t make it work. They never tried.

How focused on yourself are you? I know that I far too often fall into focusing on the hurts that come my way without looking at how I’m treating people.

The second big takeaway was the life of calm lived by Dallas Willard. Not that he sat around and did nothing, but that even while busy he wasn’t hurried. He focused his full attention on the task at hand without trying to run to the next task in his head.

We could all use a reminder to stay focused on what’s going on right now without thinking about everything else that ‘could’ be done. Email can wait. The project won’t get finished any faster if you try to think about it when you should be doing something else.

I’d like to do better at living a life of focus.

7. One Bed, One Bank Account

Get One Bed, One Bank Account on Amazon.

I’ve talked before about how important money is to not only your business, but your relationships. This is a great book that gives you some very clear guidelines and conversation starters so you can have better conversations about money.

Did you read anything in March you’d recommend?

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Curtis McHale

Helping you answer the hard questions about your business