What you must open today….

New Year: A Dialogue

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1909)

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MORTAL:
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“I am Good Cheer.”

MORTAL:
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark, I grope.
What seek you here?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”

MORTAL:
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”

MORTAL:
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”

good health - wellness concept - isolated text in vintage letterpress wood type printing blocks

MORTAL:
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”

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Wishing all readers of Thursday Thoughts

Good Cheer, Hope, Success, Good Health and Love in 2016

….on this, the last Thursday of 2015!

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The Single Most Important Ingredient for a Great Product Launch

This week’s “Thursday Thoughts” is one in a series on Product Launches – a subject that I find fascinating and so important to growing a successful business.

So, what is the single most important ingredient of a great product launch?  We need to look no further than the film (or movie) industry – and to a quote Shawn Amos:

“Every major summer blockbuster that is released is essentially a product line being launched across multiple verticals. However, the centerpiece of the product launch is a big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain.”

I believe that the single most important ingredient for any successful launch is to frame a “big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain”.  Think about it.  A story that describes a personal journey.  Your personal journey with all the ups-and-downs and trials and triumphs that go to make us all human.

Our Story

And so, in the closing two days of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (a once-in-a-year opportunity to see the master in action), Jeff has offered two personal but quite different stories that show how changing the way you think about a product by re-framing it around a product launch can literally transform people’s lives.

The first story is from Barry who overcame a life-changing accident to go on and organise and teach those who make a living from entertaining.

The second is from Shelly – a very different story of a mother trying to juggle the three forces of family, paying work and passion.

Watch the videos and work out what you can learn from each of them.  See how the personal stories create a different way of thinking.  By building your business around a series of launches (and great stories), rather than flogging a me-too product, you can create a new sense of drive and momentum.  Think hard about how you can apply the learnings to (re-)launch your own products and services and create a new sense of purpose and heartbeat to your marketing campaigns.

Of all the research I have done into this area, Jeff’s strategies and teachings are second-to-none.  And it can be applied to book launches too!

If you think that there is value in digging deeper into the Product Launch Formula, then I thoroughly recommend that you sign up for Jeff’s programme – which will only be available for the next day or two.  Otherwise, you will have to wait another year for the offer to come around again!

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The Art & Science of a Successful Product Launch

Steve Jobs became the iconic figure standing in a black turtleneck sweater introducing the next wave of Apple’s innovation in the noughties.  Year-in, year-out, Apple perfected the pre-launch leaks, the launch itself and the post-launch record-breaking.  It is difficult to find another company that has done this so well and with such theatre.

jobs launch

The challenge with online businesses is that the drama is more difficult to choreograph than pulling the world’s best tech journalists into a Silicon Valley theatre.  And yet there are many principles that can be carried over into the online world that work in the same way.  It goes something like this:

Pre-launch Information > Launch “Theatre” > Post-Launch Compound Growth

I have had the fortune of studying under a person for the past year that seems to have perfected the online product launch.  So much so that many, many other successful online coaches, consultants and trainers copy his techniques.  His name is Jeff Walker and his product is called the “Product Launch Formula”.

Once a year, Jeff generously presents his methods and approach in a set of three free online courses (which will be available for the next week or so) to those who are interested in learning more about this fascinating subject.  The third video also contains a very valuable Product Launch Blueprint which you can download and use in your own business.  It is a step-by-step guide that gives you a great framework that gives your clients fantastic value even before you launch your product!

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to online internet training – but I honestly have to say that Jeff is possibly up there with Steve Jobs when it comes to that cool, Californian way of explaining complex ideas in really simple ways that mere mortals (like me) can understand.

I thoroughly recommend that you try to watch Jeff’s three videos over the weekend so that you can go back to work on Monday to put a few of them into practice (or into your plans) to help you launch your next product, project or set of ideas.

Click on this link to access Jeff’s Product Launch Blueprint.  I’m sure you will find something of value.

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Zen and the Art of Business Conversation

It is August and the holidays are here!  For many, July and August are the months for rest and recuperation and spending time with family on holiday.  For those that live in the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is a time for getting some sun on our skins before the longer winter months kick in again.
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For many, it is also a time of reflection.  For although the calendar year starts in January, September is the start of the academic year and August is the gap before the start of the new year.  I have found that many businesses are tuned to the academic calendar – either directly (like a University or School) or indirectly (because many of their employees have children who set a cycle in the family geared around their academic needs).
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So it got me thinking.  Most of my great ideas have come from a time when I am not thinking about day-to-day stuff.  Those magic, “Eureka!” moments when a problem you have been working on suddenly becomes solvable.
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By not being hampered by the grind of meetings, actions and to-do lists, we can solve old problems and creating new ideas.  Finding a gap in the year’s day-to-day grind to think big, think outside the box or just not think at all and let nature take its course often relaxes you in ways you can’t achieve at other times of the year.
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There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as long as we speak.  And so it is with the summer break.  There is a gap in proceedings where we can listen.  Not just listen to those who we work with.  But listen to ourselves.  Our inner mind.  Our inner bodies.  Our inner spirit.  We can refresh each other with the rest and easy living that we often over-ride in the rest of the year.
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So, back the Art of Business Conversation.  For my own part, I have been working on a new way to look at businesses through the conversations we have.  The Art of Business Conversation, if you like.  As simple as ABC.  Except it isn’t, is it?  It is quite complicated.
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There are several different types of business conversation (which I aim to explore more in future posts).  The most intense are often wrapped up in emotional outbursts or things unsaid.
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The key is to find space within the conversation to reflect.  On an annual cycle, this time of the year gives us time to reflect on the longer-term relationships we all have with the businesses and people we work with.  Either as employees; business owners; customers; suppliers; that funny, over-used word “partners”; or simply the friends and relations that weave in and out of those conversations.
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And that is where the idea of Zen comes in.  Zen is the space between.  Zen is the effortless flow.  Zen is the silent, observant onlooker onto our busy world of nothingness.  Zen is the state to get into before returning to the ABC of business, academia and all those things where we sequence stuff and continue our practice of the art of business conversation.
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So, enjoy the break.  Listen to the silence.  Observe the subtle messages coming from the conversation with yourself.  Say nothing and say everything.  Come back refreshed and energised to take on the new challenges that you discover in the hidden moments of this August recess.
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The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence

Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague.  We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us.  Conversation flowed.  Ideas bubbled to the surface.  Creative spirit abounded.

During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition.  I had forgotten this – but it  is something I have recently become very interested in.  In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart.  I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.

And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:

I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals.  It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.

Sit back and enjoy!

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Balance in Mind

I have to thank my brother, Angus, for alerting me to this extraordinary video.

There are no words to describe the thoughts you will have once you have watched it:

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Holiness or Wholeness?

I got into a discussion with a friend yesterday about religion.  You know the sort.  It became a discussion about basic beliefs and ideas about what had happened in the past with facts that neither of us could prove.  I capitulated, not wanting to tread on ground that was sacred to them, yet still holding true to my own beliefs.  In past times, I might have argued the point.  But I was tired and did not see the point.

It got me thinking about this religion and holiness and that sort of stuff and reminded me of a phrase my father used to say to me: “All great religions die with their founder”.  He was a spiritual man with his own religion.  He is now dead.  So I suppose, in his own way, he was right.

holiness-title-slide

In so many things in life we seek out the differences.  And religions are often a major culprit.  If you believe in one version of history and someone else another, then you are different.  You have different religious beliefs and are not of the same system, creeds, language etc. etc.  And even within a religion, there are sub-sectors, different interpretations and different organisations supporting them.  Yet what is common between religions is far more powerful than what makes them separate.

And so it is also true in the business world.  We have finely-tuned sensors to work out if another company is a competitor or a potential “partner”.  What are the “differentiators” that make you special?  We have defined a set of rituals for ignoring or attacking other businesses.  Just as in human relationships, these reactions can be commanded on a whim.  Defined by tiny variations in perceived behaviour or circumstance.  Individual differences are to be highlighted.  Sameness is boring.

Yet there is a counter-force which is found much more commonly in nature.  This is the unifying force which finds similarities and which seeks out common ground in any given situation.  It requires a different way of thinking and a different way of feeling about a situation.  More inclusive.  More holistic.  More local.

I am not an economist.  Nor will I argue the pros and cons of globalisation in this short piece.  Yet it seems to me that with all the rational arguments for globalisation and free-trade markets we have lost the ability to balance the world with this holistic energy – because responsibility has been taken away from what makes sense at a local level.  We could blame Adam Smith and his ideas on how to increase the quantity of pins produced in pin manufacturing – so aptly celebrated on the British £20 note:

AdamSmith20Pounds-A450

It is as if the new religion of global banking and global economics has become the new church which must be obeyed.  Making money at the expense of making things whole, rounded, sensible and appropriate at a local level.  With differences, of course, but much less important in this context.  Much less expensive, for sure, because it does not carry the burden of national or international overheads.

And so it was that I was browsing a book, “The Nature of Order” by Christopher Alexander, one of the greatest architectural thinkers of our time.  He describes wholeness as a series fifteen ideas or factors which are represented in the diagram below:

CA Wholeness

The Elements of Wholeness by Christopher Alexander

So, I wondered, with these fifteen design ideas, what would a new bank look like?  What would a new economic system look like?  Globalisation ideas don’t fit very well with concepts such as “Boundaries”, “Local Symmetries” and “Inner Calm”.  Then again, that shouldn’t be too surprising!

If you are a wordsmith, you will notice there is a lot more in common between the words HOLINESS and WHOLENESS.  The only difference is that makes the first unique is the letter “I” and the second that has the letters “WE”.  Not that I am pushing one over the other, but it makes you think, anyway!

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Big Rocks and Full Jars

The very famous Chinese professor from the very famous Chinese university sat in front of a group of new students. In front of him was a large green jar. The kind of jar some people keep plants in.

Green Vase

The professor looked at the students but said nothing. Then he leaned down to his right hand side. By his foot was a pile of fist‐sized rocks. He took a rock and very carefully dropped it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Then another and another and another. Until no more rocks could be dropped through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”

The group murmured assent: the jar was now full.

The professor said nothing and turned to his left side. By his foot was a pile of pebbles. He took a handful of pebbles and carefully poured them through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Handful by handful, around the rocks, until no more pebbles could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”

The group mumbled that it certainly appeared as if the jar could possibly now be full, maybe.

The professor said nothing and turned again to his right side. By his foot was a pile of coarse, dry sand. He took a handful of sand and carefully poured it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, around the pebbles, handful by handful, until no more sand could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, if the jar now full?”

There was silence.

The professor said nothing and turned again to his left side. By his foot was a jug of water. He took the jug and carefully poured the water through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, the pebbles and the sand. Until no more water could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group: “Tell, me is the jar now full?”

There was silence, even more profound than before. The kind of silence where those present check to see if their nails are clean or their shoes polished. Or both.

The professor turned again to his right side. On a small blue square of paper he had a small pile of fine dry salt. He took a fingerful of saly and carefully dissolved it in the water at the top of the neck of the jar. Fingerful by fingerful in the water, around the sand, around the pebbles, around the rocks, until no more salt could be dissolved in the water at the top of the neck of the jar.

Once again the professor turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?” One very courageous student stood up and said: “No professor, it is not yet full.” The professor said: “Ah, but it IS now full.”

The professor then invited all the people who were there to consider the meaning of his story. What did it mean? How did they interpret it? Why had the professor told it? And after some minutes the professor listened to their reflections.

There were as many interpretations as there were people in the room.

When the professor had heard from each of the students, he congratulated them saying it was hardly surprising there were so many individual interpretations. After all, everybody there was a unique individual who had lived through unique experiences unlike those of anybody else. Their interpretations simply reflected their own experiences and the unique perspective through which they viewed the world.

And in that sense no interpretation was any better – or any worse – than any other. And, he wondered, were the group curious to know his own interpretation? Which of course, he stated, was no better or worse than theirs. It was simply his interpretation.

Oh yes, they were curious.

“Well,” he said, “my interpretation is simply this. Whatever you do in life, whatever the context, just make sure you get your rocks in first.”

Would be great if you share your interpretations of the story!

Story from “The Magic of Metaphor” by Nick Owen – primary source – Julian Russell

Picture from: http://www.2ezr.com/items/787648/item7876482ezr.html

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The Story of the Imprisoned Tinsmith

The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.

Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith.  The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order.  Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.

“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed.  Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.  

He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife.  In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison.  Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.

Prayer Mat

After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid.  But I am a tinsmith.  Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”

The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.

Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone.  Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.

Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of.  As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city.  The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.

The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.

The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver.  She designs rugs, mats and carpets.  She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”

“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”

“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day.  I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock.  But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design.  I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”

So, by design, I escaped.”

“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith.  “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”

Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design

Picture from Museum of London

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Colonies, Librarians, Bloggers and Tweeters

This evening I attended a fascinating talk given by our local history society on a local colony of artists who lived in Cranbrook, Kent, England in the 19th Century.  Their art can now fetch well over £100,000 a piece.  Below is one of the typical paintings – that could number an estimated 1,500 – though only 300 have been catalogued by the local historian giving the talk.

What was interesting is that so little is known about the colony locally – and that many paintings were bought by industrial entrepreneurs from the Midlands and North of England.  It is only because of the interest of a few local folk that some of the pieces have found their way back to the local museum and local collections.

The Naughty Boy by George Bernard O’Neill

The reason I was there was that local history society recently asked me to design a simple, low-cost website for them.  The chairman, secretary and other committee members are now adding content to the site – and it was from a discussion with the archivist did it suddenly hit me how differently people think about putting information onto the web.

The archivist is an ex-librarian.  For her, everything can be classified and should be put into order as part of a logical taxonomy.  Already the categories on the site are developing into several layers.  She reflected on the fact that, perhaps there were now too many layers for some categories.  It reminded me of my early days of (IDMS) database programming (before relational databases), when you had to put data into classes and categories.  I had a simple rule then that more than three layers was too many.  It still somehow holds true today.

On describing this blog (where the categories are simply a relational tag that you clump ideas together with), she became nervous.  The way that her librarian-mind worked was that each book, each chapter, each page, each idea had, somehow to be classified in a single tree.  The idea that each idea, or article could be classified by several different classes – and that you leave it up to the search engine to work out how to get you there was a difficult one for her to feel good about.

It was a similar lack of familiarity or unease that I have, perhaps, with those who Tweet.  Sure, I tweet a bit.  Occasionally.  Once every so often.  When I am feeling I have a gap, or when I have a slot at the conference when I want to broadcast something interesting.  But I am by no means a regular member of the Twitterati.  Tweeting somehow gets in the way of the flow of life.  You become an observer or a journalist rather than living in the moment.  I respect those who tweet regularly – but, for me, it is too high a frequency to engage in all the time.  I suppose others will leave an historically-interesting pheromone path of phrases and words for others to analyse in the future.  Like writing a daily journal.  But that life is not for me.  I prefer blogging one a week (or once every six weeks when I am busy – as has been the case recently).

And so it is was with the Victorian artists in the Cranbrook colony.  They left no diaries.  No documentation of their progress.  They lived and worked and played and painted in the moment – by all accounts to make a living first and then to enjoy life.  Some were richer than others – but all of them exhibited at the Royal Academy year-after-year and were successful in their own ways.  Yet now, 150 years on, we know very little about them.

At the end of the talk, someone reflected that the mid 19th century countryside existence in rural Kent perhaps harked-back to the pre-industrial, less smoky, less satanic mills existence of England that had been lost in the North to the industrial revolution – which is why so many of the paintings went North.  Who knows.  There are no tweets, no blogs, no journals or otherwise to confirm or deny such theories.

Just the paintings themselves – which hold a fascinating set of visual cascading stories, moral values and pure artistry that are contained in the outputs from this unique colony of artists that lived so close to where I now live.  Art for Art sake, Money for Godsake.  10cc (now on a brilliant tour of the UK) said it all.  It was the same then as it is now!

Funny about the word colony.  It is what they called the far-flung corners of the British Empire.  As well as being the collective noun for a load of bees!  There you go!  The bees don’t tweet either.  They buzz.  A bit less now we are going into winter.  Makes you think!

Picture from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cranbrook_Colony

 

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