Thursday, March 12, 2015

Speaking Up, Illness and Technology

It's been a month since I posted, and I feel a little guilty about it. I could use a thousand excuses for it, but it all comes down to focus - you know one of my 3 words for 2015 :-)

So I thought I would do a quick update on some things, and then get off my butt and do some more complete posts before the end of the month. Here goes:

An update on Experts
If you didn't read my ranty post (Experts Schmexperts), I had a bit of a crappy experience last month. I decided that, for the first time ever, I would take the expert up on the "no questions asked, full refund." Just a point for anyone who offers this, if you say no questions asked you cannot then call the person and to argue why you think they are doing the wrong thing!
Anyway, to their credit, they have tried to resolve some of my issues - although the whole episode was beyond tiring. I continued to be forthright and frank about some of my concerns and problems and, probably for the first time in my life, I felt like I was comfortable challenging the "expert" or the authority even.
This was a huge mindset shift for me, one that has been coming for the last year, if I think about it. As much as I just wanted to say "it's all too hard", and just accept that I made a bad decision, I wouldn't allow myself to do that - and it feels pretty great.

One of the 'excuses'
A short while ago my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I haven't spoken about this in the public space very much, because I have always tried to keep a clear line of what is mine to share, and what isn't (for which some people should be really grateful!). I mention it today because he is currently in surgery having his prostate removed - it is apparently all contained within the prostate so we're hoping this is the worst of it and recovery can start today.
It is one of the reasons my brain has been not quite as focused as it might have been, and I thought I would share this for anyone else who might be going through something similar. We lost Derek's Dad, Norm, to cancer a few years ago now, so this has played on my mind more than I would have expected. Dad has a great prognosis, which is very different to Norm's, but I'm still concerned.

This website
You know how you make decisions early in a process that turn out to be entirely wrong? Early on, I decided to host this blog on Blogger rather than Wordpress - which I realised about 80 posts in was a bad move, only because of the limited functionality of Blogger. BUT, instead of fixing it then, when my audience was fairly non-existent, and it wouldn't have taken much effort, I persevered with wrong option. Last year I set about to address this, but got sidetracked (yeah, I put it off in all truth).
This year I am fixing the issue. I'm in the process of moving the blog to Wordpress, and if anyone tells you this is a simple process, they're not being entirely honest. I will do a post about the things I've had to do to make this work.
What that means is that this blogger hosted blog will cease to exist in the coming month, but hopefully the process will be seamless for you guys. I have not worked out changing the RSS feed, so any of you who are still getting that might need to manually make a change - but I'll advise that before it happens.

One last thing
If you haven't signed up for the dinkylune Courage newsletter, please consider taking the plunge. At the moment you get a free copy of the dinlylune manifesto, the Positive Decisions resources, and my Strategic Plan on a page template. In the coming months you will also get access to seven interviews I conducted with TED Speakers last year. These include Barry Schwartz, Dave Logan, Carl Honore, Richard St John, Derek Sivers, JD Schramm, and a brief interview with AJ Jacobs.
We spoke about their TED experience, their purpose and how I used their TED Talks in this project. Whilst I will be writing a series of articles (probably for another site) about these conversations, subscribers will be the only people getting access to the full transcripts of the discussions - something to consider anyway. And yes, subscribing to the Brain newsletter will give you the same access.
As an added bonus you get a monthly missive from me, that often contains short conversations I don't include on the blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Expert Shmexpert - how did we get here?

This is a bit of a ranty post, I don't do them often because I dislike controversy - but I need to say this, so thank you for giving me the space.

We're all prepared to be upsold, it is a large part of our capitalist society - "Would you like fries with that?" But there has been an increasing trend about upselling without providing the initial value that you promised. Or worse still, providing that initial product laden with manipulative sales techniques to try to ensure the upsell.

Case in point, and the reason for this post: I recently completed an expensive training course. It was an in person training course which also required me to pay for travel, accommodation and meals to attend. For my $3,000 investment, I expected more - no, I was promised more - than I received.

Trust your gut, say it with me...
Okay, let's go back a little. Last year I attended a free day, where I knew the guy talking to us would be selling to us. It is the deal with have with people who provide free content in webinars and seminars - "at the end of this I know that you will try to sell me a product, and I'm okay with that, as long as I get something of value for free." We also allow this when we sign up for someone's website freebie, but spamming us with salesy emails will quickly kill that relationship.

He did his job well and I decided to sign up for speaker training, since that is the next big step that I want to take with sharing everything I've learned. A friend of mine signed up at the same time. She did the training in November, and when I asked her about it I was disappointed that there were a few things I believed we were promised that she said they didn't get. So I called them on it, because that's the sort of thing I do nowadays. The response placated me a little, but... let's just say that the placatory details still were not provided in the training, but we'll get to that.
At this point, I feel I should say that I did get value from the course. There were parts that were very well done, and I am basically happy with the outcome - but not the manipulation, and missing content.
So why do I have a bad taste in my mouth?
From the minute we walked into the training, something felt a little off. I won't go into all of the details here, that is for my feedback form (and yes I do plan on being brutally honest about this - which is quite unlike me). What I will say, is that it was clear that we were being positioned to feel like we needed the $9,000 package - like this was all too confusing; that the experience was so transformational in three days, imagine what a year would give us; we were unable to do this alone; we had to sign up for the whole deal or else we wouldn't make it.

Simple content that many of us believed we had been promised in the sales pitch, was actually available to the higher level students only. It felt like everything over the three days was strategically designed to manipulate us - and this is not my paranoia, I number of us discussed the tactics being used on us.

Of course, the sales pitch came on Day 3, although now there was also another level - a master level that meant you didn't have to understand any of this complicated process, because they would do it for you. Don't get me wrong, I understand the attraction in that. If you just want to speak, there is a huge attraction (and possibly value) in having someone look after all of the website, social media, bio and pitching for you. And that's the rub, I get the value of these courses for people; and we did receive some great information on the course, BUT...

...since when has $3,000 become a bottom tier?
I've done a bit of training, free and paid, over the last couple of years. It's part and parcel of trying to establish a business in this crazy online world. I've learned strategies, systems, processes, tools and tactics - some fantastic, some okay, and others not worth the time I gave to them. For $3,000 I expected the focus to be on providing us with all of the value we were promised; a value packed 3 days that would blow my mind, and provide me with the basic details to get myself sorted for pitching to speakers' bureaus.

I did not expect to have basic content only available if we signed up to the next level (the speaker's bio template for example). I did not expect to feel like I was being manipulated - which makes me put my defences up, and I get even less out of it. I certainly did not expect to be made an example of because I dared challenge the celebrity in the room (don't get me started).

The good bits
I did get value, and I did meet some incredible people along the way. It would not have taken much for me to feel entirely different about this experience - actually it would have been very simple to make me feel entirely different. If all of us were valued the same, regardless of the level we registered at; if there wasn't a continual attempt to position us for the upsell; if we had been shown the basic respect of a customer who has paid a significant amount of money for a 3 day event... well this blog post would look very different.

The most valuable thing...
One of the guests told us to "back ourselves" - now this was aimed at backing ourselves by investing in the additional training, but I took it a little differently. I decided that I am done with experts, well not entirely, but I am done with new experts. 

I have some incredible experts in my world, who I have weeded out from the pseudo-experts over a number of years. These are the voices I am committed to listening to, many of them are the TED speakers who have given me so much value over the years - freely, openly and with no expectation of financial return. You're going to hear from some of them in the coming months too.

For anyone else, anyone not in that inner circle already, well I'm sorry but you will have to go a long way for me to consider bumping someone from my dance card for you. So what does that mean? It means that I have already unsubscribed from 10 email lists, that I will not be buying any new courses or material, and I will trust my gut over and above any 'expert'.

What it also means is that I have a renewed belief in my ability to do this without the experts holding my hand. I had an amazingly giving person, who would never tout himself an expert but is; who was willing to share his wisdom and knowledge with me about speaking - it required me to do some work that I struggled with, so I took the easy way out. What I was reminded of is that there is no easy way, I have to do the work. I have to trust myself, and I can make this happen. It was an expensive lesson, but I think that it was possibly the most valuable lesson from the 3 days.

Are you getting disenchanted with the 'experts' who don't deliver on their promises? Or who will give you the secrets if you pay that bit extra for the next level? I'm certain it's not just me, in fact I know it isn't. Bring on the enthusiastic amateurs I say - I'd love to hear your opinion.

Monday, January 19, 2015

4 reasons I hate to ask, and a big weekend that helped me see how I've grown

This is a bit of a long post, but please stick with me, it does come full circle and has a point (as well as some geeking out fangirl moments).

My brief meeting with the exceedingly charming
and multi-talented, Neil Gaiman.
MOFO has just finished here in Hobart. For those of you who don't know what that sentence means, I'll explain that MOFO is short for MONA FOMA (or the Museum of Old and New Art: Festival of Music and Art). Oh, and Hobart is the capital city of the Australian state of Tasmania (which is both where I live and where MONA happens to be).

So, let's get back to the article...

I should start by reminding readers that Derek and I can be hermits - so it is safe to say that even when things like this happen, we often don't end up getting involved. That has improved since moving to Tasmania, but the last MOFO event we attended was way back in 2011. I decided that this year we would break out of that habit, and what better way to do that then with the amazing Neil Gaiman.

Our small island state near the bottom of the world, is one of Neil Gaiman's favourite places. He started coming here almost 20 years ago, and is a patron of the Bookend Trust, with which he is currently filming a documentary on cave spiders. But I digress... Thanks to this love affair with our state, Neil and his amazing wife Amanda Palmer, are semi-regular performers at MOFO. So this year, we decided to take in both of their shows, and this blog post starts as a review of sorts.

Neil Gaiman's The Sleeper and the Spindle
A reimagined fairy tale, the voice of Neil Gaiman, projected illustrations from the book, animations and a string quartet combine to make this a lovely storytelling experience. Neil's book, The Sleeper and the Spindle, is a combination of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but with all of the quirks and missteps you would expect from the mind of Mr Gaiman.

It was made even more special for us because this was the first time that this work had been performed in this way, and we got to see it first in Hobart, which was pretty sweet. The whole event was made even more special for me, because I got to briefly meet with Neil after the show. See, a lovely friend had passed on some of the Dust of Other Worlds to Neil - a vial and pendant each of Faerie (because it comes from his book Stardust) and Gallifrey (since he wrote an episode of Dr Who) - and I had a quick chance for him to put a face to the gift, and for me to grab a photo with him.

I find it increasingly strange that by moving to this small island state (with a population of about half a million people), I've had more opportunity to meet people who have inspired me, than I've ever had in the much bigger states I've lived in.

Anyway, if you get an opportunity to go and see the performance, I highly recommend it. If you don't get the chance, well the book is excellent anyway; even without having Neil reading it to you.

Amanda Palmer and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
I thought about doing a whole separate post on this, but this is a whole story, so...

I enjoy Amanda Palmer's music, it is a bit quirky and probably not to everyone's taste, but I think she has an incredible voice and is a fantastic storyteller. Seeing her with the TSO was always going to be a little special though, and they didn't disappoint. Most of the performance were Amanda's songs, arranged for the orchestra by Jherek Bischoff (he also did the arrangements and played with Neil's string quartet). There were a couple of other songs; a Lou Reed cover (with Neil Gaiman), a duet with Robyn Hitchcock and Amanda performed John Grant's Glacier.

There are some artists who you 'watch' live, but with Amanda Palmer you are somehow part of the performance - like I said, she is a storyteller who takes you on an emotional ride. And then you are invited to be part of the show, when she performs the Dresden Dolls Sing. It's an experience to be ordered onto your feet and instructed to sing along, but when you give into that (like the vast majority of the audience did) it's wonderful.

Amanda didn't close with Sing though, because she was in Tasmania, and there is only one song she could close with in Tassie, even when she was performing with our Symphony Orchestra. That is, of course, Map of Tasmania - and for those of you who are not familiar with the reference that goes along with this, just Google Tasmania and you should be able to quickly work out what a woman's map of Tassie is.

I completely concur with Amanda's comment in the performance, we do have an awesome symphony orchestra here is Tasmania, and we loved the performance. She is touring with this, using other cities' orchestra's - but I'm sure they will do just as well as ours :-)

Amanda Palmer and The Art of Asking
Okay, so TED had to pop into here somewhere, and that is through Amanda Palmer. She recently released a book called The Art of Asking, which expands on her very popular TED Talk on the same topic.

Amanda gave her talk at TED2013, and it's had well over 6 million views so far. My Year of TED had ended a few months beforehand; had it not, an activity would probably have been developed around this talk. It resonated with me beyond the conversation about music fans and paying for music; it resonated with me because of the underlying discussion about "is this fair" and this quote
But the perfect tools aren't going to help us if we can't face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but, more important, to ask without shame. 
Like many people I know, I've always been afraid to ask for help. I've spent a lot of time considering this in the last couple of years and I think it was generally down to a mixture of four reasons:

  1. I didn't want to admit that I needed help, that I wasn't perfect.
  2. I didn't want someone to help me with something that I was then unable to complete or follow through with in some way - I hate disappointing people or feeling indebted to people.
  3. I didn't want to risk being rejected (this probably should have been number 1).
  4. I didn't like to impose on people.
Some of this started shifting with My Year of TED - the perfectionist trait was certainly given a huge kick, and I became far more open to the concept of being rejected, or failing in some way. Then Amanda's talk sat in my brain for a while, and when I started selling my creations at markets it came back to me. I was not a street performer, but I was suddenly standing face-to-face with people, asking them to pay me for the things that I had created - and I spent a lot of time wondering whether the price I was asking was "fair".

So now I ask - because what's the worst that could happen
The markets have definitely improve my ability to ask things of people, and last year I put out a number of asks. What I discovered was that the majority of people were happy to help if they could, and that any rejection I experienced had little to do with me, but more to do with the fact that I was asking busy people who only have so much time to give away. There is a way to ask that doesn't put you in a vulnerable place where you tie all of your value to them saying yes. I will write more about that when I review Amanda's book - because I'm hoping I can find a way to articulate it, or she might have done it for me.

This all leads full circle you know - without Amanda's talk, and how it seeped into my experiences, I might not have had the courage to ask a friend to connect me with a stranger, so I could ask them to pass my gift of Dust onto Neil Gaiman. If I hadn't asked for that, then my friend would not have been able to help me, I wouldn't have made a new friend, and I would not have had the chance to meet Neil Gaiman.

When I took The Art of Asking to get signed my Amanda Palmer after the performance, I thanked her for her wonderful TED Talk - I didn't want to take up too much time explaining what she had started though :-) Neil was there as well, so I took the opportunity to say hello again, get a Sandman comic signed for my brother (who introduced me took the creative genius of Neil Gaiman through that series) and to have a slightly longer conversation about Dust. 

He was very lovely and generous, and those stolen couple of minutes would not have occurred if I hadn't learned to ask. I'm still learning, but then again, there are many skills and lessons from My Year of TED, and subsequent TED Talks, that I continue to learn and grow with all the time.

Are you someone who asks other for help or assistance? Someone who asks for what they want or need? If not, what do you think stops you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015's Three Words - Build, Strong and Focus

It's that time of year again, well actually it is a few days past that time of year, but who's counting :-)

After much deliberation I've settled on three words that will drive my actions and activity for 2015. Last week I reviewed 2014's words (Brave, Calm, Connect), and I was pretty happy with how well these words helped me define 2014.

So what are the magic words for 2015?
I decided that this year was about building on the successes of last year, improving my resilience and health, and stopping myself from getting distracted by the fun stuff, so...

This isn't just about building dinkylune, although that is a major part of what I am building this year. I will be focused on constructing courses, pulling all of the parts of the business together into a more cohesive offering, and building something strong and viable.
This word is also about building more confidence - confidence in my abilities to create and run a business; and confidence from other people in the value I have to offer.
Finally it is about building a stronger and more involved audience and community. So lots of building.

One of the areas I have neglected for too long is my physical health, and particularly keeping my body strong. I live inside my head too much, and I need to change that. So I decided that Strong would be a great focus for my body this year.
It is also important for me to keep myself mentally strong, particularly in relation to my mental health, so that works as well. This also aligns with building confidence, working on my emotional strength and resilience to the difficult challenges I am taking on in my life.
Lastly, it marks a continuation of my journey to live authentically and create a life that strengthens my spirit and capacity for joy in this life.

This is possibly the most important word of the three, because I certainly have not had enough of this in the last two years. I know that it's only natural to be overwhelmed with the possibilities and new ideas that come from starting a new business, but I need to stop and do the work if I want this to happen.
So, this year I will Focus more, and be distracted less. I will do the work of setting goals and planning more. I know that there are three areas of focus that I need to maintain, and I am not going to divert myself on bright and shiny ideas until the work is done on those tasks.
This will probably be the hardest, but without focusing on the doing the work, getting the products out there, asking for the sale - well this venture will never make it off the ground. 

So there you have it, the three words that will define 2015 for me. It's funny that this year I found it significantly more difficult to choose only three words, last year was a lot easier. I think it's because there are so many things I've realised I need to do to make all of this work.

How about you? Have you done the three words exercise? Do you know what your focus for 2015 will be? Would you like to share it with us?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014's words were Brave, Calm and Connect - how did I go?

I had not planned on writing a post like this, quite frankly the next planned post was when I sorted out my three words for 2015 (which may not be until early January at this stage).

Something happened recently that has made me a little more reflective, made me think a bit more about what 2014 has been – and whether I lived up to the three words I set for myself this year. As a reminder, for 2014 my three words were BRAVE, CALM and CONNECT, the post explaining them is here. So how would I reflect on this year in relation to these words?

This was probably my bravest year to date. Starting with my TEDxHobart talk, then launching my business and running my first 90 Days of TEDcourse (I’ll be giving an update about that in January). It is a fascinating process to keep pushing ahead with something when every fibre of your body is screaming out at in you in fear.

What I’ve realised is that fear is just a mechanism to protect me – and it is great that my brain wants to protect me from failure, making a fool of myself, getting hurt, loss etc. But if I don’t do the things that scare me, I will never achieve the success that I want to achieve; I will never get where I want to go. I have chosen a risky path in some ways, and my brain just has to be retrained to get on board or get out of the way.

I’ve gone a long way in that retraining, but I still have a long way to go. So, even though it won’t be a word for this year, I still have to remind myself to be brave – but I think that is true of most people.

I could have done this a little better at times throughout the year. My ability for calmness improved when I started my own business; gaining greater control over the structure of your day introduces an innate calmness. Don’t get me wrong, that control comes with fear and anxiety over getting paid work, but there is something wonderful in knowing a random SLJ is not going to be thrown over the fence to you without any notice.

There is an aspect of this that will come into my 2015 words as well, because I think I need to put in more effort to looking after my mental health. Although, I still think that the greatest thing I can do in looking after my mental health is protecting myself against people trying to mess with it.

This was my year of networking, online and offline. This year, I connected more with new people than at any time in my life. I joined Hobart’s Live Your Legend get togethers – a group that has allowed me to meet, and develop lovely friendships, with a small number of like-minded people in Hobart. It has been wonderful watching the members of the group change and grow throughout the year – and they are a very positive addition to my new freelancing life.

Talking at TEDxHobart gave me a couple of other new connections, who have become wonderful additions to my world down here. The Ripple community has also added a few people who have become important to my support network. Then there are the two companies that I have started doing consulting/training work for as well.

Online I joined Chris Brogan’s Brave community, did Ramit Sethi’s ZTL course (and trialled his Brain’s Trust as well), and forged stronger connections with some writing friends in the US. The online space also saw the expansion of my dinkylune mailing lists, although I would still like them to grow a lot larger – but who wouldn’t?

As well as all of the new connections, most of my older friends continue to provide me with support, laughter and sanity breaks. This is harder with the ones I seldom physically see, but they have still been there for me, and I cherish that.

So, I think that connection went well this year – combined with Brave it has brought about some lovely outcomes in my life.

What are your reflections on the year that was? Did you do three words for the year or have any goals that you set for yourself? Have you reflected on how well you met, or didn’t meet them?

I’ll be back in early 2015 with my three words for the year. I have two but the third is proving a little elusive at the moment.