Monthly Archives: May 2018

How to spur change in people

In this post you’ll find a few practical tips on how to spur change in people.

 

Change of any kind is among the most difficult things humans struggle with. I believe that if we were all able to change our behavior to whatever we wanted it to be, the world would be a better place, where people are healthier, happier, and wealthier. In fact, although most of us have a tendency to blame the government, or a group of select few for the disparities of wealth on the planet, it’s believed in some circles that even if somehow we were able to divide all the wealth that there is evenly among everybody, the same people who possess most of the money today would do so again after a while. We can say that luck plays a role, but what plays an even bigger one is our day to day behavior and habits in our accumulation of wealth, health and happiness.

How to spur change in people?

Again change is difficult, and a part of it is due to the fact that we don’t know all there is to know about change itself, and human behavior.

Knowing how to change is the first step after deciding to change. Just like with drug addicts, the first step is to admit the problem, and wanting to fix it, and the next step right after that is to know how to do so. The knowledge you implement in changing yourself can also be implemented in changing others. Just like with ourselves, it is not enough to just tell a person to change, since if she doesn’t know how, it doesn’t really matter how much you yell at them, you’ll always get the same results.

1. Big overnight changes usually occur only in Hollywood

We are fed the idea that all it takes to change is one single thing, and our desires to do so will be unlocked. The movies we watch tell us the old story of the main character who faces a life changing moment, and from there he chooses to lose weight, or becomes courageous almost overnight. It’s true that it’s possible for one to have such life changing moments in real life, but to bet on them to make major changes is a losing choice, since as you’re probably aware of, they are not that common. Another commonly held belief is that motivation is all we need to change our lives, but this too is a problem, since motivation just like hunger and thirst, are unstable parts of ourselves that come and go in almost unpredictable times.

Motivation usually doesn’t stay for long enough to keep a person exercising for two years in a row, or keep working on her project to completion, in fact notice at the beginning of every project there is always the moment in which all members are excited to conquer the world, but after a few months, if not weeks, or even days, this excitement quickly wanes, and one by one each becomes more tempted to abandon the project. This is how motivation works, less like the waves in a pool, and more like the waves in the beach controlled by an unpredictable weather.

The book The compound effect by Darren Hardy offers us a solution to this problem. Instead of looking for massive changes in behavior occurring overnight just like we see in the movies, we should instead make small changes that we can sustain for long enough to make them habits. The problem with big changes is that although they might be the ideal, they happen to be more difficult to sustain. The idea of the book is that small and seemingly inconsequential changes compound over time, in the same way that money does when is re-invested over and over again.

According to research by University College London, it takes about 66 days for one to make a behavior/action a habit, so if your problem is how long should you keep doing what you’re doing, the answer is at least 66 days. If your goal is to insteal new behaviors from your team, or your organization, this is already a good start. Deconstruct the ideal behavior into smaller and simpler behaviors that they can start right away, and make sure they sustain it for at least 66 days. The thing about habits is that the longer you sustain them, the longer their lifetime is. This is the old case in which the fact that you did what you had to do today, increases the odds that you’ll do it tomorrow, and so on.

2. Ability

Another thing about change is that it’s only possible if you know what to do. We live in a world in which we are all encouraged to be good people, but often enough is the case in which opinions diverge in terms of what’s good, and what’s not. Even the ones who are considered to be the most evil sometimes do what they do because they think their actions are fundamentally good. So, it’s no wonder that often also good people do bad things.

Something similar happens to all of us, when we decide to make a change. We know what the end goal is(lose weight, be a better person, etc), but we lack the knowledge of what to do to get there. This idea is portrayed in two books: Influencer by Al Switzler, David Maxfield, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan, and The Advertising Effect by Adam Ferrier and Jennifer Fleming. We think that the reason why people fail to change is that of the lack of motivation. So we spend lots of time and/or even money finding ways to do just that. We encourage people to visualize their goals and to believe they can achieve them without even considering the possibility that they just don’t know what to do.

If this is the case, then the solution is simple: teach them how to get there. If you’re trying to change yourself the solution is similar: learn what to do. You can do this through books, courses, seminars, etc. Remember motivation is not everything.

3. Motivation

It would be a lie to say that one can change himself or others without motivation. Motivation is the reason why we are what we all are. What motivates us the most is what’s done, and just like gossips, there is some truth to it, or people wouldn’t be talking about it. After coming up with a plan to realize the grand vision, the next step is to find a way to motivate yourself/ the person you want to change. Motivation is one word with many variants. Meaning there are different kinds of motivation, and this might be the reason why always attempting the same motivation strategy doesn’t work in some occasions. Think about the cases in which the person is intrinsically motivated to achieve/do something.

This is the kind of motivation that comes from deep inside the person. Maybe the pride of achieving what they are trying to achieve is the driver, or the person simply enjoys doing the activity in question. Maybe this will enhance their own visions of themselves, and showing how this could be so is a great way to spur some intrinsic motivation in ourselves and in others.

Explore the social

Another kind of motivation humans have is of the social kind. As much as we would like to believe that we don’t need others, the truth is that we do. It’s known in the scientific community that depriving a person of social contact is a form of torture, and if you think about it, this is why sometimes being left out of the group can cause depression, or even suicide in teenagers. So, now that it’s established how much we need others to function properly, it’s time to take find ways to use it to motivate people.

Since our brains are averse to social isolation, it’s important to know that such deprivation is not only of the artificial kind where prison officers or scientists manufacture, but can also happen naturally when people just decide to leave us outside the group. This usually happens when we fall from the standards of the group, or when we somehow break it’s rules. One way to spur change is to place people in environments which the changed and improved version of themselves is the norm. That way being who they currently are or doing what they currently do will be looked down upon, making it easier for them to stick to their newly chosen behaviors.

Make the action more enjoyable

Motivation is also in a way a matter of enjoyment. This is why it’s not difficult to keep old and bad habits. We enjoy doing them. Which means that a person could be motivated to change, but if the aversion to the small action you created for them is greater than their motivation for change, consistency for 66 days will be a problem. You have to remember that as humans there are two things that we spend most if not all of our time doing: avoiding/preventing/going away from pain, or seeking/ moving towards pleasure. So, if you can find a way to do what the book Influencer, defines as critical actions enjoyable, you’ll make them more likely to be acted upon.

This is the ultimate hack for change. Remember that a part of what goes into bad habits is the fact that they are enjoyable in some level. If scientists were somehow able to take a peek at what goes on inside your brain while you do anything you enjoy doing, chances are that among the set of chemicals they would be able to see, one of them would be the one that goes by the name of dopamine. The scientific community has found out that this chemical is present in our brains, when (you guessed it!) we do something enjoyable. There is some people who go as far as to say that the neurochemical itself is the reason why we feel the enjoyment in the first place, and when we do something we enjoy, the action triggers the release of this magic neurochemical.

The thing about enjoyment of any action is that it makes it more likely that we will repeat the action. Again, we are professional seekers of pleasure, and avoidant of pain. So, if your goal is to make a behavior more likely to be repeated, one thing you can do is to make it more enjoyable, and a way to do just that as suggested by the book The advertising effect is to turn the behavior into a game.

Games are inherently enjoyable activities, and just like paint in a wall, they have the power to turn make other things that come in contact with it get their properties. As far as games are concerned, the gamified activities, inherit the property of fun.

Make it a group issue

Another way to spur change in people, specially in the cases in which change is required across an entire group, is to take advantage of this instead of trying to motivate each individual separately. A group just like money, and pretty much any other powerful tool can have different effects depending on how it’s used. Groups can be hubs for the worst, and the most evil of the behavior, and just as likely, also for the most genuine, and world changing actions or movements. The reason why this is possible is that the group is mostly better and stronger than the individual. A single person by herself can achieve a great deal, but a group, through the compounding of the energy and motivation of each individual for the cause, can start and stop wars almost out of nothing.

The thing about groups is that as counter-intuitive as it might be, you don’t have to influence every single individual. The book Influence, teaches us to look for key people on each group and try to influence them first. The reason for choosing those people is that they are usually what the authors call by “opinion leaders”, who are followed by the group, and are to some level trusted to have the wisdom and experience to make the best decisions. So, if they change, the group is more likely to adopt the change.

 

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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What are Incubators and why bother

In this post you’ll find the answers for the questions what are incubators?, and why they might be of value for you and your business ideas?

When it comes to business and entrepreneurship, the two biggest problems are not ideas, and the lack of believers, but knowledge and resources. Ideas are pretty much everywhere these days, and one only has to commit to the habit of thinking about new business ideas, to come up with a full list of them in a matter of weeks, if not days, or even hours. The reason why most people don’t start a business is because, well, they don’t know how. They don’t have the resources, and just as important if not more, they don’t have the connections.

What are Incubators and why bother?

Incubators exist for the purpose of bringing great ideas from motivated and hardworking entrepreneurs to life. The important things here are : “great ideas” + “hard work” + “motivation”. Business incubators are an opportunity to make your vision come true, but without any work from your part, not much can be accomplished. Think of it as a toolbox where you can have access to tools you’d not be able to have access to by yourself. The tools are powerful, but they need some guidance on what to do.

What kind of help can I get from a Business Incubator?

Business incubators can be of great help for you and your ideas, and the biggest kind of help you can get is of the intellectual kind. Most people who want to start businesses are not experienced, and for that reason implementing their idea can be intimidating. Fortunately, in business incubators you can have access to mentors, who are people who have years if not decades of experience in the business world, and whose goal is to help other people with their advice.

Taking a detour, there is one important thing I learned in a conference from one of those people who give advice on incubators, and the advice was on what criteria can we use to distinguish the good mentors from the bad ones. The answer was simple, and it went on the lines of: “look for help from busy people”. The reason for this was that there are lots of people who want to give help but don’t have enough on their tool belt, while the best kind of help on the other hand, comes from the ones who are busy building/working on their own businesses. In one hand you have a person who has only theories, while on the other, a person with real field experience, and who knows exactly what you’re going through.

Business incubators can give you more than mentorship. They can also provide you with resources such as funding, as well as meetings with people in the industry you want to make part of, who can bring your vision closer to realization. Some can provide you with some marketing and PR help when your business is about to launch.

What do they get from it?

This is the million dollar question: “what do they get from it?”. The answer varies, from nothing but the joy of helping new and aspiring entrepreneurs make their vision a reality, to a percentage in your recently founded company. You have to know from the incubator itself what they want from you, and decide whether you think its worth it or not. What they might demand might be a small price to pay taking in consideration all the benefits you get that you wouldn’t otherwise get, so my standard answer for that kind of help is usually: “yes”.

How to know when to quit?

The thing about doing business is that one can’t really tell whether it will succeed or fail without direct experience. Just like having a problematic kid, its difficult to know whether the kid will remain so not matter how hard we work, or if with enough effort and patience we can get that kid to become something better than it currently is. Same happens with a business idea. Early failure doesn’t mean that the business is not going to work, since I’m sure we all can tell a story or two of businesses that failed on their early stages, but through sheer persistence it was able to take off. It also doesn’t mean that the business will succeed either. We are led to believe that with effort we can turn any failure into a success, but if we look at how the world works, in order to have winners, there must be losers somewhere, and you might be one of them.

One of the many questions raised on the same conference was: “how can you know whether what you’re working on has a future or you’re just wasting your time?”. There is a standard answer to this question for different people depending on their views on how life works. The first and more common is of the optimistic kind, where never giving up is the driving attitude, and where one has an unexplained faith that everything will turn out well. On the other hand, we have the not so common and pessimistic view, where failure means what it shows. Maybe you shouldn’t waste your time on what doesn’t work, and instead look for what does and stick to it.

The answer given by the speaker was eye opening and at the same time both of the above and none of them. The answer came in the form of a question: “why are you still doing it? You’re doing just for the sake of not giving up? Or you’re doing it because you learned something new? “. We are all used to the idea of “if its not this, then its that”, in other words black and white kind of thinking. As for the question: how do you know when to quit?, the answer is simple: is there a reason why to try one more time apart from the idea that “winners never quit?”.

Sometimes whatever project/action we set out to complete/do is inherently difficult, and failing at it is not only possible, but also quite likely. Another way to answer this same question is by finding out whether this is the case. Another question is: “how difficult is this?” . You can have an answer for this question by looking around and asking for other peoples’ opinions on the matter. If most people consider the subject to be difficult, chances are that you will too, and that some effort and failure might go into succeeding at it.

The chance to build your network

Another amazing benefit that you can get from business incubators that might be underrated is that they are also a chance to build your own network. We are all taught and internalize the idea that we have to do it all by ourselves, and envision the moment at the podium where we get to motivate others by telling our story, and how hard we worked to get our dream realized. The truth is that more often than not, in the success of a great man or woman, there is one or more people who either made it easier, or played a vital role on it. So, building your network is just as important as building your business and working on your product/service, since with your network you get the chance to either achieve your vision quickly/ more easily, or to build new businesses without having to go through the struggle that the ones who don’t have connections have to go through.

Reasons why some recently founded businesses fail after they leave incubators

Another point raised was the fact that businesses tend to fail when they leave incubators. One problem with making part of an incubator is the same that happens when we have very supportive and resourceful parents. We are shielded from the hardship we would have to go through without them, and might fail to build our own toughness and resourcefulness, which makes this a plausible reason to avoid them in the first place. The keyword here is plausible, and not defining. Life is about giving and taking, and whenever we see a lot of some benefit, we are likely to find a downside of that somewhere else.

Remember that being aware of the downsides of something is the first step in the development of measures to counteract their effects. The lack of inner resourcefulness for example can be fixed, by not relying completely on the resources you get from the incubator program. You can also go look for your own.

Founders not ready for growth

Another point raised by one of the mentors in regard to the reason why startups tend to fail the moment they leave incubators is that the leaders might not be ready to make the startup be more than just a startup. In other words, they are not ready to make the business bigger than what it already is. Businesses in different stages call for different things in order to succeed at that particular stage, and one of those things is readiness, from the part of the founders.

Lack of cash flow

Another point raised was that after they leave the incubator, for whatever reason the new businesses fail to produce cash flow. In the end of the day, businesses can only exist if they make money, and this is in part the reason why the inability to do so is a red flag for the business idea itself. Few can go on for long periods of time without bringing in any income, and for that reason startups that were benefiting from an incubator program fail to sustain their initial success.

A part of what goes into preventing you from falling for this trap is simply investing your time in activities that will bring cash flow to your business. In other words, make sales.

Who are they for?

One point raised in the conference was that there is an assumption that incubator programs are only for Tech startups, and this point was clarified by one of the mentors, by saying that incubators are not only for tech people, but also for everyone else.

This might not be the case for every single incubator program, but to say that only a group of people can benefit from this kind of opportunity is inaccurate.

Another very important point raised was that a very important trait for the members of incubators to have is the motivation to work. Which means that it really isn’t so much about the kind of business you’re planing to start, as it is for your willingness to work. Again, they can offer you a wealth of resources, help, and advice, but those are just tools that need to be focused on the right place, and only you can do that.

A few things to do before you get into an incubator program

The thing about incubator programs is that they often have limited resources to spread among many entrepreneurial ventures. Great ideas are literally everywhere waiting to be funded, and for that reason, chances are that yours is not the only one, and even less likely the greatest ever, if there is such a thing as the greatest idea ever.

So, before you consider getting into an incubator program, the first thing you have to do is to make sure you have a clear idea of what your idea is about. Today its becoming more common for potential investors of an idea to want the idea phrased in a sentence or less. Make sure you can explain your idea in the least possible time, without missing any crucial aspect of it.

When you do get to explain your idea to potential investors or incubator judges, there is one thing that can greatly determine whether you’ll be accepted into the program/ get funded, and that is the answer for the question “who’s getting the value from this idea?”. A business idea that delivers not value to anybody can be said to be doomed from the start, and experienced entrepreneurs, which are the people who will be deciding whether to help you or not, are trained to spot an idea that really delivers value, from then ones that don’t.

The third thing you can do to increase the odds that you’ll get funded by an investor is to have a clear idea of how you plan to make money from it. Without cash flow a business can’t survive, and not one wants to invest in ideas that are certain to not make the invested money grow. In the end of the day investing can be said to be a selfish act, where the investor helps you not for the goodness of his heart, but because he believes your idea has the potential to grow his money.

Field Testing

You can also greatly increase the odds that your idea will get funding by getting real costumer feedback about the product itself if you have it readies, or at the very least a prototype.

If you publish the product, or at least a prototype of it for a short time, and the target costumer gives positive feedback, this is probably the best sign any new business or startup can have that they might be onto something truly promising.

The old ways of doing business go as follows. A person comes up with an idea, gets some sort of funding, builds the product, and then launches it to the public the finished product. Here it’s either hit, or miss. If the idea was truly good, the business is propelled forward, and the next issue becomes that of scaling up. If the business is not successful on the other hand, the issue becomes that of finding a way to pay back any borrowed money you spent building the wrong product in the first place.

By testing your idea with a prototype, you reduce the odds that you’ll spend lots of money building something that not one wants. Positive feedback gives to potential investors the certainty they crave when making an investing decision.

Summary

Incubators are a great way to make your business idea come true, but are not the only way you can succeed in business. They certainly make it easier to do so, but there are still countless stories of entrepreneurs who started with not experience, and found a way by themselves. In the end of the day, it is all a matter of context. If you think they can offer you value, then you should go ahead.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to tell stories effectively

In this post you’ll find a few strategies you can implement today, to improve your storytelling skills.

Stories are probably the most powerful tool our ancestors took advantage of to transmit the knowledge they had, in a time in which writing in paper or sending an email wasn’t possible. When well told they grab our attention just like most interesting things in life: love, our goals and ourselves, and put us through what the author of the book The rise of superman Steven Kotler calls time dilation. In business, stories can be used as a tool for conveying authenticity of the business and the product/service you offer, and also as a tool to keep them engaged in listening to what you have to say. If we pay attention to the new technologies of today, we can all quickly notice how much they affect the attention span, and stimulation craving of the ones who use them. Mild activities such as reading a book don’t provide us with enough mental stimulation anymore, let alone listening to a person who ” wants to take something from us”.

How to tell stories effectively

The effectiveness of a story is seen not only through the level with which it engages the listener the moment its told, but the degree to which it changes the life of the same after they listener to it. Good stories usually follow a structure, and the one you’ll learn was taken straight from the book The storyteller’s secret by Carmine Gallo.
 

1.Beginning

At the beginning of every story is the set up. The description of the current state of affairs and how things are usually. The most important thing here is the description of the life of the hero and this is so for two reasons. The first is that the hero is the person we care about, root for, or somehow relate to. Without it, we are more likely to lose interest for the story and get lost in our own thoughts. The hero doesn’t have to be a person with superpowers or anything like that, since as you might have been aware, most of the best stories we’ve all heard involve regular human beings living regular lives. Some of them might even be about people who are close to us. When we tell our own stories we are the heroes. This is not explicitly said(and doesn’t have to), but we are treated in the same way that the marvel heroes are treated on their own stories.

The second reason is that by stating how life used to be for the hero, we create a set up for the second phase/part of the story by creating a contrast. If we start straight from the struggle phase, the listener fails to notice any changes, since this would be perceived as the norm.

2. Struggle/middle

Here a major change occurs in the life of the hero, and such a change is caused by a high obstacle or barrier that he/she has to go through. What makes this barrier or obstacle special is that unlike the usual day-to-day struggles we all have, this one can’t be surpassed without a change in perspective and in the essence of the hero. As we mentioned previously, the beginning of the story establishes the contrast that allows the listener/viewer to appreciate the struggle of the hero.

The important thing here is that the struggle or the barrier the hero faces clearly establishes a two path kind of scenario. Where the user can only go through one of them, and whichever he/she chooses will be life changing.

 

3. End/Resolution

The phase of struggle ends with a resolution. The hero goes through the change he as to go through to solve the problem. This change could be something as simple as changing your views on a subject, learning a life lesson, or as sometimes terrifying gaining the courage to do something you’ve always been afraid to do. This is where Disney places the happy endings we are all used to.

4. Story telling and the zone(similarities)

Storytelling has a lot in common with the state that goes by the name of “The zone”. They both begin with the hero/you in a specific normal state. They are both followed by some sort of struggle which force us to change who we are, and become more than we’ve ever been in order to be able to go through it. According to the book The rise of superman, the zone is the phase in which we transcend our own abilities and solve the problems we have, and in a story this happens close to the end of the story. Both have a phase in which the subject contemplates the change in its life (resolution for the story and recovery for the zone), and begins to live life based on a new normal, which is better than it was previously.

5. Search for the state of flow

The state of flow is powerful and known for its ability to make what at some point would be perceived as normal or average, to become what Steven Kotler would call “Superman”. If you’ve been honing your storytelling skills, the state of flow would be the extra cheese in the sandwich.

The zone as described on The rise of Superman can be broken down into 4 phases: struggle, release, flow and recovery. For struggle, we have an unpleasant moment where we seem to not be able to do/achieve whatever we are trying to achieve no matter how hard we try. After struggle has gone by for long enough, comes the phase of release, where we take our minds away from the task itself for a while. This is the equivalent to taking a shower after spending a few hours banging our heads trying to solve the problem we have. From there the zone kicks in. I’m sure you’ve heard a story or two of someone who after a long time struggling to find a solution to a problem took a break and finally found what she was looking for while taking a shower, or simply by doing something that didn’t involve thinking about the problem. Some people say that the brain works on problems we label as “important” on the background even when we are not consciously thinking about them.

The zone is marked by a moment of enhanced creativity and problem solving abilities that could last somewhere between a moment to a few days. After we find a solution to a problem we’ve been struggling with for days, we suddenly find ourselves capable of solving other equally difficult problems with the same ease. It’s as if we just gained superpowers and after the zone comes recovery. According to the book the zone is a very taxing state in terms of brain resources, and just like any other kind of resource, brain resources(neurotransmitters, glucose, etc) are finite, and they have to be replenished. This can only be done by taking a rest.

The thing about the state of flow is that according to the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, requires what he calls “clear goals”. So, when you practice your storytelling alone, or in the presence of people, its important to have a clear idea of what part of storytelling you’re practicing, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Only then you can improve yourself as quickly as possible by having your brain working full force on one part at a time.

6. Find your own structure

In anything social there is a chance that there is a structure that can lead you to consistent success. The word here is “consistent”, and the reason for this is that when it comes to the social world, there is no such thing as something that works 100% of the time. Look at dating for example, if you pick any of the most popular dating advice and implement it for long enough, chances are that even the one considered to be the most effective to finding new partners or to have a great relationship will fail at least once, even if you follow the instructions by the letter. The social world is complex, so instead of trying to find formulas that guarantee specific results all the time, we should instead be happy with ideas/methods that guarantee results most of the time. The storytelling structure above is one of them, but it certainly is not the only one. So, find your own storytelling structure/blueprint by tweaking on the components/steps you already know of, and or by adding new ones that weren’t included before. Remember whatever structure you find, don’t be quick to discard it the moment it fails to bring the results you’re looking for, since it might be the case that you’e onto one of those strategies that work most of the time but the audience is somehow an outlier.

7. Remember to add emotion

The thing about stories that makes them be so engaging at times, is that they are enriched with emotion. We are wired to mirror the kinds of emotions we feel from others. We pick their emotions in the same way antennas pick up signals and as a matter of fact, scientists found a group of neurons in the brain that are responsible for the mirroring of other’s behavior, and they go by the name of mirror neurons. They are the reason why when we see a person suffering or even crying we also in a way suffer and feel the urge to cry. In a sense, we truly feel what they are going through even though we didn’t go through what they went through ourselves. According to the book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, mirror neurons help us simulate in our brains what goes on in other brains, and this is in part why we can feel empathy for others.

Through storytelling we can make people feel the emotions we want them to feel, and before you even ask: “Isn’t this manipulation?”, the answer is “yes!”. All great stories are manipulative, but in the positive sense. They don’t make us jump through a cliff or waste all our money in drugs, and this is why it’s still legal to tell stories, and why we enjoy them so much. A great story doesn’t just entertain us, but it also makes us grow as human beings.

We learn better not through repetition, but by adding an emotion/feeling to what we just learned. This is why traumatic events can be so powerful so that to play in one’s head over and over again for the rest of its life. This is why you should add some emotion/feeling to your stories. It will help to make the content stick.

8. Measure your engagement levels

There is nothing worse than a person who’s not able to tell when people lost interest on what he/she is talking about. Because we are self-involved beings, its easy to fall for the trap of thinking because we find something interesting that everybody else does too. Our stories are an example of just that. Because our stories are ours, we are quick to assume that they are interesting/engaging, but just like a business releasing a new product/service, you can only know if what you’re doing is good or not by paying attention to people’s feedback or how they react to it.

We live in a time in which people try to avoid being rude, and to give us the impression that what we do, or talk about is interesting. We do this to others, so where there would be clear criticism, and change, we see a person who is lead to believe everything is OK. If you want to be good at telling stories, then you should be able to distinguish true engagement from an attempt to appease your ego. The thing about spotting fake reactions from others is that our brains are good at finding them, but if we’re too proud to see things for what they are, we can quickly ignore those gut feelings we have when we notice a fake. Don’t ignore those. If you feel even the slightest impression that your audience might not be truly engaged, there is a possibility that they might not be. As painful as it might be to become aware that we are not engaging our audience, just like with addiction, admitting the issue and thinking of ways to overcome it is the beginning of true change.

9. Practice

The most important thing to do in storytelling and in pretty much any other human activity that can be done well is to practice. It might be a strange idea that of that we can practice storytelling, but as crazy as it might sound people do it all the time. You can do it to a real audience, in a similar way stand up comics do, or in paper through writing, in the same way the most famous of the Hollywood script writers do. Whatever strategy you choose you need to make sure that (1) it’s the best plan for you and (2) that you can do it consistently. Through consistence of practice you are more and more likely to master the subject you focus on.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to give effective presentations

In this post you’ll find a few strategies on how to give effective presentations.

Presentations are one of those things that all of us, as long as we live long enough will do at one point or another in our lifetime. When they do come up as a task we have to tackle, they also come in a variety of formats, and target audiences with different goals in mind. Sometimes we have to teach, sometimes we have to sell, and sometimes we have to teach the audience that what we sell is something they might want to by. The later is an example of what happens when we have an idea and we need to present it to investors. Remember that pitching a business idea and selling the product to the end costumer are really two in the same. They both have a group of people we have to convince that the idea really is of value. So, knowing how to give effective presentations just like learning how to make friends and influence people, is an important skill to have if you want to be successful in business, and in life in general.

How to give effective presentations?

There are a few things that go into giving presentations, and above all, the most important thing is experience. Just like most things in life, giving presentation is a skill that can only be mastered through practice, and luckily for us, it is not the case that we need an audience to practice giving presentations. We can do it by ourselves, isolated from the outside world.

Preparation

After putting in mind the idea that giving presentations is a skill like any other, the most important thing is preparation. For this, one there is an example I’m sure we can all relate to. The moments at school in which in a group half came prepared, and the other half didn’t. As you probably remember, the latter had a completely different presentation than the former, even though they made part of the same group. So, you can’t give a presentation effectively without preparation, and the most important thing in the preparation phase is as simple as it might sound: knowing your material. You need to know your material from heart. Today, the pressure from giving your presentation without reading your notes is not as high, and we see more and more people relying on a cheat sheet to remember what they have to say. This might work, but if your goal is to make a good impression and being as effective as possible, there is nothing better than a presenter who is able to say what he/she has to say auxiliary material. So, do your best to internalize your material.

If you’re presenting an idea, be aware that today, investors are becoming less and less patient of watching hour long slides, and might instead ask you to explain your idea in a few words before they commit to it. You might assume they want a presentation, when all they want is to know whether to invest more of their time in as short as time possible. Which means that you should also try to understand what your idea really is about, and make sure you can say it in a sentence or less. You should be able to commit your content to mind, and be able to present a quick summary of it for the ones whose time is scarce.

1. What is your audience?

One important thing to do when you are
assigned with the task to create something for people, is to find out to what
kind of people you’re creating that
“something” for. In other words you need to know about the audience
you’re targeting. When you know who you’re targeting, you gain the ability to
shape your creativity towards something that will appeal to them. For the youth
of today for example, longer pieces of content that take an hour to digest tend
to be less appealing and you’re less luckily to get any cooperation from them. Older generations on the other hand, are by nature more patient and more
likely to tolerate what the young ones of today perceive as tedious or boring.

Another important thing thinking about your
audience will bring your attention to is time. If you have to give a
presentation to teenagers chances are that you’ll have more freedom to make
longer presentations, given of course that you are able to keep them engaged.
For investors on the other hand, free time might be one of those things they
don’t have hanging around. For the later you are more pressed to create more
time sensitive presentations. As you probably noticed different audiences have
different characteristics, and as a result, also different requirements for what
they call an engaging presentation.

2. Body language

Body language is one of those things that
has gained more and more attention from the mainstream public as the years went
by, and this is certainly so for a reason. Our bodies tend to, for the most
part, reflect what goes on our minds. This is what we all use to learn about
others without having to ask them anything. This is what we use when we want to
see if a potential lover thinks we are a potential lover for them, and it all
goes without even a word being said.

The one thing we are all well aware of is
what goes by the names of confidence and self-esteem. Confident people apart
from being more attractive are also more likely to be perceived as leaders.
Leaders are people who, well, can lead other people to a vision.

When we talk we all unconsciously evaluate
each others body language to learn whether the person right in front of us is a
leader or a follower. When we perceive a person as a leader we are more likely
to hang on to every word they say, since what leaders say or do is important.

So, it follows that taking advantage of
your body language to be perceived as a
leader through a confident person body language, you can give a new tone to
your presentations, regardless of audience. When you show signs of confidence for what you’re talking about, and self-esteem, people are more likely to pay attention to what you say, and actually learn something from it.

Research also shows that assuming confident
body postures does more than just making us look confident to others. It also
makes us feel confident.

3. Don’t be boring

Boredom is one of those human emotions we
all find a hard time getting around. This is specially true when the source of
our boredom can’t be removed until a pre-determined time. The bad thing about a bored audience is not
just the fact that it makes you look less like an interesting person, but also
it makes it almost impossible for the audience to pay attention to whatever
you’re talking about, let alone getting any meaningful information from it. We
treat this emotion as a sign of bad manners or rudeness, but the truth,
whatever it is, is that we can’t help it. Feeling bored in a presentation
might make us look bad, but unless something stimulating comes along we’ll get
stuck on that mind numbing sensation. So, the solution is not to judge the
audience if it does get bored, but to instead prevent it from getting into that
state in the first place. Below are a few tips.

1. Tell a story

Stories are among the most interesting things that there are for humans. They are said to be
the way our ancestors used to transmit valuable pieces of information and
knowledge to the younger generations.

Not all of us know how to tell captivating stories however, and
for those of us who are not born with the story telling gifts, it’s not the end of the world. Below are a few tips on how to structure your stories I learned from the
book The storyteller’s secret by Carmine Gallo:

a)Beginning

At the beginning of every
story we have the depiction of both the current state of affairs(how things
usually are) and the hero of the story. If you have to tell a personal story,
this is where you start, and you’re the hero(you don’t have to tell that kkk).

b) Struggle

Here life as it is changes from
the way it usually is, to a moment of struggle, where the hero has to go through some sort of
difficulty/struggle on its life. The kind of difficulty one cannot solve instantaneously
and can only do so through reflection and some form of personal growth(a lesson
learned, mastery of a new subject, etc).

c)Release/end

On the release phase we depict the solution the hero came up with to
solve the life changing problem. This is where the usual romantic movies
reunite the hero and his/her lover. The part where we all spend 1h30 in a theater eating popcorn to see.

This is a very basic structure of how to tell stories, and is why I
advise you to read the book mentioned above. There is much more into
storytelling, but this is certainly a good start.

2. Use images

Another thing you can do to make presentations more appealing or
enjoyable is to add more images. Long gone are the days when people even tried
to tolerate wordy presentations. Today, with the advent of social media, and
social media mobile apps, the smallest hint of boredom can be enough to drive
people straight to their phones. Images are good not only to reduce the word count, but also for the fact that sometimes they are better at explaining an idea than words themselves.

3. Avoid jargon for non technical audiences

When we get more knowledgeable and more proficient in a subject, the tendency to want to lay back on the use of jargon becomes more and more apparent. This is in part due to the fact that we are taught that way, and (2) that in our eyes, and in the eyes of our peers, the use of jargon is probably the one thing that tells that we know what we are doing/talking about.

The problem is however, that only our peers on the subject see things that way. For people outside our field of mastery, the use of jargon is not that much far apart from a foreign language. Where the words we use mean nothing, and the sentences that come from our mouths nothing more than strings of gibberish. The use of jargon in presentations might make us feel smarter, but it exerts the opposite effect in the audience.


This is another part of a presentation that greatly benefits from a careful study of what your target audience is about. For non-technical audiences, the best path to take is that of simplicity. If you can, the ideal is to make all complicated concepts and ideas simple enough to teach a 5-year-old. It might be tempting to fall for the idea that grown-ups are equipped with the mental tools and resources to understand complex and complicated ideas right out of the bat, but this misunderstanding can be quickly solved if you try yourself to go to an advanced lecture on a subject you know absolutely nothing about. So, if your audience calls for it, simplify your content as much as you can, and they will thank you for it.

 

4. Presentation tools

1. Your voice and mind

When it comes to giving effective presentations, there is a vast array of tools at our disposal, but the most effective by far are the following two that you don’t have to pay for: your voice and your mind. With your voice and your mind, specially your memory, you can give the most effective of the presentations without having to pay a dime. The mind helps us create and remember our content, and the voice, to transmit the emotions that come with it. With the voice you can transmit confidence to your material, which happens to be a very effective way of making people remember what you talk about, and for the cases where you want them to implement it, this is also easier, since we tend to follow the preachers who seem to believe on what they preach. This is the reason why the best way to make a lie believable to others is to make sure you believe on it yourself before you tell it.

 

1.1 How to remember it

We are now aware of the idea that one can magnify the impact of its presentation by removing the need for reading notes during the presentation. Which means that you have to make your best effort to commit your content to memory in such a way that you’d be able to say it even if you were drunk or asleep. The old style of memorization is based on the idea that through enough repetition one can get even the most foreign idea deep into the mind. The problem with this form of memorization is that depending on the content this kind of memorization can take too much time, and too much effort to make what you’re trying to remember as effortless as second nature. If you don’t have the time, or the energy to put this strategy to practice you’re then left for the mercy of your brain processes, and whatever plan they follow when deciding to make a certain piece of data more remarkable than any other. You remember only what for whatever reason was remarkable to mind.

If you want a quicker way to memorize information in such a way that you can literally choose what is more easily remembered, the good news is that such a method already exists, and it goes by the name of : the method of loci or the memory palace technique.

The memory palace technique

I’m sure we all heard that one picture is worth a thousand words, and just like most sayings, this one has some seed of truth. We struggle to understand a concept until we are able to picture it, and something similar happens when we try to memorize the same. For some reason we find it easier to remember in pictures, and this is what the memory palace technique takes advantage of. Instead of just repeating words over and over again, you should instead associate what you’re trying to remember with a symbol you can picture in your mind’s eye, and by going through a place you’re familiar with in your head, you can place the same symbol in one of the rooms. Later, when you need to retrieve the same bit of memory, all you have to do is to go through the room you chose in your mind, and get what you put there before. As long as you’re able to get the meaning of the symbol you placed in the room, you’ll be able to remember what you wanted to remember with ease.

By using the method of loci as opposed to rote memorization, you can both commit your content to mind and retrieve it during the presentation pretty quickly. It is all a matter of going through the memories you created.

Watch here: The memory palace technique

2.
Presentation software

We live in a time in which for pretty much any problem we come across we can find 30 possible

products or services that can solve it. Just as reported on the book The

Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen for some

products functionality is not all that matters anymore passed a certain point,

since every offer is able to meet the costumer’s needs in terms of solving the

problem he/she has. For presentation software we can say that we are at that

point. As time goes by new software is produced and made public, but the

essence of what one might be looking in one presentation software has already

been fulfilled. This is to say that although there might be some improvement

these new piece of software can bring to your presentation, the most impactful

is the content itself. Just like wealth, presentation software only has the

power to make something more of what already is.

Summary

In the end of the day, nothing on this post is of value if not accompanied by a large dosage of practice. With practice, we get to what really means to be a master of a subject, and the good thing about practicing giving presentations is that you not only get good at giving presentations, but also at pretty much any other aspect of human interaction, since giving effective presentations is more about human interaction than we all usually think of.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Ways to make a project successful

In this post you’ll find a few strategies you can implement today to make your projects successful.

 

When it comes to succeeding in life and business, there is always some sort of project we have to take on in order to get what we want. We are used to thinking that a project is only that thing that requires a large team and millions of dollars to complete, but the truth is that depending on how you look at it, pretty much anything can be perceived as a project. Your kids for example, are one kind of project. The kind of project that takes approximately 18 years to complete, and that even then still require some attention from time to time. There is a set of things that all kinds of projects have in common, and following/doing them can make the difference between getting the project complete or left half-done.

Ways to make a project successful

As far as projects are concerned, the most important thing is to guarantee that its taken to completion and without overpaying for it, whatever overpaying means for you. Below are a few tips on how to do just that.

1. Define the Big picture goal

Without a goal we can go nowhere. Actually, we can, but the places we go, and the results we get from there, are completely out of our control. It’s as if life was a lottery, where its possible to be the biggest winner of all, but chances are that just like everybody else you’ll be one of the losers.

In projects, setting the big picture goal clear in mind and in paper is even more important. The reason for this being that both the time and resources you have are limited, and you don’t want to waste them going nowhere. With the big picture goal defined you also get a clear sense of what’s important and what’s not. You get a sense of the crucial aspects of the project that must be executed if the project is to be completed.

Having a clear idea of what the big picture goal is, is also important when we’re getting off course. When we find ourselves focusing more on the way than on the results, only by knowing what we want to achieve is how we can set ourselves back to track.

2. Planing

Separate thinking from doing as much as you can. Thinking activities and doing activities as you’re probably aware of are two distinct kinds of activities, which require distinct brain functions and resources. Thinking requires creativity, and problem solving, which are by nature activities that require lots of brain power, and as a consequence also lots of energy. Doing on the other hand, is depending on the activity, more mechanic and dominated by repeated micro-activities. We can then argue that the later is less energy expensive. Doing activities are best performed when the plan is completely laid down on the table, meaning you don’t have to wonder what’s next, because you already know what’s next. On the book The rise of Superman by Steven Kotler the author mentions the fact that in order to get into the so desired state of flow, one has to have in addition to instant feedback of how one is doing, also a clear idea of what has to be done. When we have to stop and think, the entire flow process is halted. Performing the same kinds of actions, and solving the same kinds of projects for long enough can bring us to what people call by “the zone” quicker and more reliably than it would if we were to try to do so by completing tasks of different nature.

3. Tackle the crucial parts first

On the book The One Thing by Gary Keller, the author talks about the importance of on any day to focus on the most important parts of the project first and the question that drives this point home is: “What is the one thing such that by doing it everything will be easier on unnecessary?”. By finding out what the one thing is every single day of the project, you not only guarantee progress, but meaningful progress. Every project has its own set of “extras” that have little impact on the execution of the project, and the easiest thing to do is to focus our energy on them, and think that we are making progress.

The thing about the crucial parts of a project is that they give us the most amount of progress when tackled. This is in part the idea that makes creating a minimum viable product work. In a minimum viable product we only have the important features of a product striped out of any extras. By focusing only on those, we get to finish the product earlier and with fewer costs, and ready for testing on the real world. Which is what you want, specially when the product you plan to introduce to the market is new, and you’re not sure whether is something people would really see value in, and would be willing to pay for.

For the cases in which your business is based on creating events and your income comes from selling tickets for example, the same idea applies. A minimum viable version of such a business would be in the number of seats you make available for the event. Instead of renting a place big enough for 5000 people for example, you should instead rent a place enough for 100 or even 50, just to test the waters and learn whether your concept is appealing enough for the public to buy tickets.

 

4. Looking for momentum through continuous improvement

One reason why many projects tend to be left incomplete is due to the expectations we have in relationship to the word “progress”. We want large progress whenever we work in our projects, and paradoxically this same desire is the main reason why we procrastinate. If progress means climbing a mountain, the mere thought of it can be so mind-numbing that we can’t help it but to put it away for a later date.

An alternative to having high progress expectations is the complete opposite. Set the bar low enough so that what you have to do for the day is not so much to be scary, and high enough for the progress of the day to be meaningful. Often this bar is lower than you might think. When you follow the rule that some progress is better than no progress, this idea becomes then easier to accept. Making small improvements on your idea/project every day, quickly compound in days, weeks and months, and although you might not feel like you’re moving forward day by day, this feeling changes when you zoom out from the day to day snapshot, to the week by week, or even month by month picture. If you’re one of those people who have enough gas to work hard every single day on your project with the same attitude, then by all means keep doing it. You’re one of the lucky ones. If procrastination is your problem however, setting the bar really low is the way to go. Remember, in a project the most important thing is not how much progress you make every single day, but that you make progress every single day. The day you achieve your goal might be further into the future, but more important than that is that the day will come eventually.

5. Make sure you have the right people on board

One important thing to do in any project that requires you
to work with a team is to make sure you have the right people on the team. Rare are not the cases in which a well planed
and well-designed project fails to be executed properly and on time because one
or more team members are responsible for the slow progress. So if you’re in
power to do so, make sure you recruit the right people for your team, and avoid
doing so solely based on their academic achievements. Academic achievements have their fair share of
importance, but there is certainly much more into team interactions than that.
What you want is also people who like to work, and can do so in a team. Those
are the ones we call by hardworking team players.

Having the wrong people on the team, even if only one can
just like a rotten apple contaminate the whole batch. Something similar happens
in a positive context, where one person who’s unhappy with the current state of
affairs starts a revolution, by turning one, by one, an entire population against
the current leader. Revolutions are always seen in a positive light, but
nothing forbids them to occur, even when everything is OK, the way it is. It’s
possible to have “revolutions” of the negative kind, where one unhappy person
is responsible to disturb a productive and well-functioning equilibrium. If you’re in charge of the team, it’s your job as a
leader to find and remove this kind of people from the group.

6. On teams be willing to take other peoples places when
they fail to take action

Sometimes it’s not possible to have the perfect team, where
every single element is firing on all cylinders for the completion of the big
picture goal. There is always a member who doesn’t to its best or takes too
long to complete an assigned task. For this kind of situations, where you can’t
or don’t have the power to remove such people, you should do your best to take
their part. We all agree that in a project its on the best interest of all
members to have the project done to completion, but we fail to think the same
way when all tasks are attributed to each member and one or more fails to complete it. We
are then quick to forget what really matters, meaning: having the project completed, instead of
having fairness in terms of who does what. For this point, the tip is to take
action in the place of others when they fail to do so, since the most important
thing is having the project completed in the first place.

7. Celebrate both small and large wins

We are used to the idea that we should only celebrate in the
end of a project. The truth is that just like on the “who does what” part of a
project this is not written in stone. Nothing forbids us from celebrating
whenever we finish important parts of the project, and in fact, this should be
done more often. By celebrating small victories you train your brain to value progress of any kind, and keep striving for more. For our brains, it is usually the case that the longer the road, the more demotivating it is, since the vision of a future in which we get to where we want to get becomes dimer and dimer.

An optimized version of this strategy is to break down the big project into mini projects. Each mini project would have at its core one crucial element of the big picture project. Think of a calculator app for example. Instead of trying to tackle the entire project all at once and celebrating when you have calculator app up and running on your phone, you could divide it by functionalities. Examples could be:

Mini project 1:

Design all pages for the user interface.

Mini project 2:

Write the code for all mathematical operations.

Notice that each mini project could be further broken down into even smaller projects. The idea here is to focus on each mini project as if it where the main project, and by doing so keeping the brain motivated, since the vision of the end of the project is much clearer.

The life coach Tony Robbins once gave an example that illustrates this idea perfectly. He mentioned the fact that the reason why many people don’t achieve their goals is because they don’t have enough certainty. If we were sure that somewhere underneath our houses there was 1 million dollars, and we had a shovel, we would be digging 24/7. Our goals are the same way. A short goal is just like the 1 million dollars example, we have certainty that we can achieve it. Longer goals, however are more likely to make us procrastinate for the simple reason that we can’t really be as certain that we will accomplish them.

Summary

In the end of the day, just like most things in life, being good at carrying out project is a matter of practice and experience. From this post you learned a few tips on how to do it effectively(the knowledge), and only through real world practice you can really master the art of making things happen.

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Great Business and Marketing Ideas and their sources

In this post you’ll find a few great business and marketing ideas and their sources.

Ideas run the world, and due to the fact that they have a great format for their spreading, they can also be great for self-improvement. Ideas can both start and end wars, make or break civilizations, and for our situation prevent us from making the kinds of mistakes we can only see as such after we make them. In the field of philosophy this kind of knowledge that we can only gain after experience goes by the name of a posteriori knowledge.

So, knowing what we might do wrong if we haven’t yet, is a good starting point on shortening our business and life learning curve. The quicker we get to understand what works and what doesn’t, the quicker we will be to arrive to our desired destination.

 

Great Business and Marketing Ideas and their sources

Great minds are great because they are the producers of great and sometimes life changing ideas. In fact this tends to be the one thing that makes what was once perceived as an average mind, to be graduated into being perceived as a great one: ideas. Sometimes the creators of great ideas get to be recognized for their genius, but unluckily for both us and them, sometimes the creators are unknown, and the ideas themselves are attributed to the public that consumes and takes advantage of it. Below are a few great ideas you should explore.

1. It is all about value

This idea of value has been the subject of many business and marketing books, and it’s about the fact that if one wants to build a highly successful and profitable business, one should first of all try to create value for the target costumer. This idea has become popular also on the self-help circles, where the common saying is that in order to get what we want we need to give others what they want first.

If you think about it, this not only makes sense, but is also pretty obvious. Humans are self-involved, and for them there is nothing more important in this world than themselves. We could try to rely on the fact that being altruistic is seen as a good human trait, but the problem is that although it’s a good thing to be, it’s not easy. Just like exercising, and doing your taxes, it’s one of those things we should all do, but the action itself is far from the most exiting thing in the world.

By giving people what they want however, you tap a little on what goes by the name of reciprocity bias, which is the tendency we all have to want to give back the favors other do for us. There is also the fairness bias, which is the tendency to want to be fair, and so it follows that the greater the value you offer to your target costumer, the more it will be willing to help your business grow in terms of profits.

2. Look for the money

Unlike the idea of using value as a measurement for a business idea, finding out whether someone would be willing to pay for it is not that common. Like the previous idea, this is one of those whose inventor is unknown, and the authorship was just claimed by the masses. I personally learned it from a business mentor who, after learning about the pitch my group made for an app, asked the following question: “OK. And how are you planing to make money from it?”. As you probably guessed, just like most people who have great ideas of apps and products in general, we didn’t really think about the money part. The reason why this happens can be attributed to two cases.

The first is that we fall in love with our ideas. We all dream of that one idea that will change the world, and the moment we think we found it, we are likely to spend the rest of the time thinking about how to turn it into a product, and the glory that will come from it the moment the product/service becomes public.

The second is that we are taught that thinking about the money makes us look greedy. We live in a world in which everybody dreams of limitless riches, and where paradoxically, the ones who do get it are perceived as evil, and the ones who outwardly display their desire for it are looked down upon and labeled as greedy. Jim Rohn has something to say about this, and it goes on the lines of: “it’s not so much about how much you make, but what you do with what you make”. For this point the only fix is to change the way we think about the relationship between money and evil. A person doesn’t become evil the moment she makes lots of money, the evil is only magnified.

To look for the money means finding out whether anybody would be willing to pay for what you have to offer. Unless your goal is to build a non-profit, this is probably the second most important thing you have to do to when evaluating a potential business idea, after finding out whether it offers value or not.

3. Look for Blue oceans

The third great idea is to look for blue oceans, and luckily one of the sources is known and it comes from the book: The blue Ocean strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. As time goes by, new markets are created, and those same newly made markets are populated in the same way that a newly discovered piece of land would be populated by people. Just like with the newly discovered land, as the number of people on the market grows, the least each one of them has to gain from it. It’s as if the piece of land, and the market have a certain level of value assigned to them when they are created, and each new player takes from it.

So, if we can only take so much from the market, then it’s no wonder that few or even nonexistent are the cases in which a new market remains profitable for everybody even if more and more people enter it. The book The blue Ocean strategy advises us to look for what the authors call by blue oceans. Blue oceans are according to the book, markets in which there is not much competition. Those are usually markets/niches that were recently discovered, or for some reason not yet explored by the masses. They are in other words: untapped. Red oceans on the other hand, are the kinds of markets/niches that most of us when we think about getting in business try to get into. Those are crowded with competitors, and they can be in part the reason why most businesses that are started at any given time fail, after a year of operation. With high competition there is a higher pressure to keep moving, and keep innovating, and there is always the possibility that a competitor will come up with an innovation that takes business from both you and the other competitors. It certainly is possible to make it on such environments, but it’s a lot harder.

By looking for untapped markets, you get to explore new areas of business where it’s not nearly as difficult to build a profitable business, as well as a costumer base. This is a pretty intuitive idea, since if there is a demand for a product that only you can offer, you will be the only one everybody looks for to get it.

4. Product market fit

A part of what makes successful businesses successful is not only the product/service but also the market the business is at. As far as great ideas are concerned, this is what goes by the name of product market fit. Where you find yourself in a good market, and you have a great product/service for that market. The absence of a good market can dampen the success potential of even the most innovative of the ideas. We can argue that this is probably what goes on when an idea only gets the success and respect it deserves after a few years of inception, when the culture norms and common values change. This is what we call a product/service “ahead of it’s time”. The market doesn’t fit the product.

The problem could also be the other way around. When the market is great, but the product/service not as good. This is what happens in pretty much most of the cases where there is money to be made in a market, there are already other players on it, and your business doesn’t match their effectiveness/quality. It could also be the case that the product is the best in a niche, but not the best it could be. For those cases, it’s only a matter of time until someone comes up with a superior product and take over the market/niche.

So, the goal is to look both ways, the product you have to offer, and the market you plan to introduce that product to. It’s the same old idea of trying to place a powerful engine in a powerful car, because not doing so would limit the potential of whichever is more powerful.

5. Minimum Viable Product

Another great business idea is that of creating a minimum viable product, and I learned it from the book The lean startup by Eric Ries. Instead of working hard to build a product/service with all the perks and features, another increasingly popular way of thinking votes for the idea that one should try to build a minimum viable version of the product. This version, as you might be guessing, is stripped out of all the perks and extra features that all finished and already accepted products come with. The reasons why this might be a good idea are that (1) It saves resources, and (2) It prevents you from working on a doomed project.

Building a minimum viable product saves you resources because, well.., it takes less money to build a product with less extra features. It also prevents you from working on a doomed project for too long because it takes both less time and less money to build it. You build a simple version that does what it’s supposed to do, and if the market approves it, meaning people are willing to pay for it, then you can go to the second phase and invest on the extra features that would make the already designed product/service a better version of itself. If the product is not approved, then you don’t lose as much as you would.

6. Line extension

I learned this one from he book Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. After a business gets some traction, and a solid degree of success, the next and most intuitive thing to do to make the business grow is to introduce new products. If we follow the 80-20 rule, we can argue that a small number of products is responsible for the success of the business, and when new products are introduced, it can be tempting to coast on the success of the most successful product. If the name of that product is coca-cola, and we introduced a new drink, the tempting thing to do is to call that new product coca-cola something. According to the book, this is not only ineffective, but can also be detrimental to the first product’s success. This is what the author calls line extension. When we use the name of a successful product on new products as an attempt to coast on it’s success.

The reason why line extension might be a mistake is in short that the costumer has a label for the successful product in their minds, which happens to be it’s name. The moment we use the same name in two products, the name coca-cola becomes ambiguous, since it can mean two different things. The feelings and impressions attached to the name are lost.

So the advice is to whenever you have a new product, to give it it’s own new name.

 

 

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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Strategies to achieve financial indepdendence

In this post you’ll find a few strategies you can implement today to get you closer to financial independence.

We live in a time of accelerated progress where what used to be the norm or the best solution in the past, today doesn’t work anymore. Going to school for example, was synonymous with a secure life in the future as long as one finished its studies. Today, millions of teenagers go to university, from those even the ones who graduate cannot be said to have a guaranteed job the moment they leave university. Today going to school is the norm, so the demand for college graduates is smaller, since the supply grows every year.
From the past there is also the idea that one could stay in one job for life, and in the end of a carrier, able to retire and live of the money of the retirement. Today, this is less and less accurate since as new businesses are quick to arise, the same are also quick to fall, and with them the dreams of a comfortable retirement are dissolved to nothingness. There is no such a thing as a secure job anymore, and because of that, we can also say that there is no such a thing as a guaranteed retirement, assuming that your plan is to achieve it through a job. So, the new trend of today, and possibly even of the future is to become financially independent.

 

Strategies to achieve financial independence

1. What is financial independence?

According to Jim Rohn financial is the ability to live off the income of your own personal resources. This means not needing a salary to sustain your needs, and even if you so decide to take a year out from any money making activities, your bank account is not dragged down from the black to the red.

Taking this definition to heart, we can notice that unlike most people think of financial independence, this is not the same for everybody. Financial independence depends on the lifestyle each one of us have or want. If you live a life in which you don’t have many expenses, it will be relatively easier to achieve it. If you, on the other hand acquire lots of expenses on a regular basis, you’ll have to work harder to call yourself financially independent.

So, the most important thing to do before you employ any strategies to become financially independent is to paint a clear picture of what kind of life style you want to live. Notice that this vary from person to person, and no one can tell you what’s best. Just like in dating, only you can tell what is that set of traits a lover should have in order to make you happy. Only you can tell what kind of life style would most likely satisfy you and as crazy as it might sound, you might even discover that its less than you might think now. For most people what seems to be the picture of financial independence is the scenario in which they own a mansion and 3 helicopters, but for the same “most people”, chances are that upon reflection, true financial independence for them is a picture with far less than even half of that.

2. Money making more money

If we follow Jim Rohn’s definition of financial independence we can quickly find what we need to achieve it. Just like when we find the exact problem for which we need a solution the solution comes fairly quickly. Remember, the problem of problems is not in the lack of a solution, but in the lack of a clearly identified and circled down problem. Once we now what the problem is, the solution usually comes pretty intuitively. For the financial independence problem the keywords are “personal resources”. The idea is not to just accumulate resources, but resources of the kind that make you able to get more resources. In other words, the kind of resources that put money in your pocket instead of taking from it.

So, we find ourselves with two kinds of resources. On one hand the kind in which its mere existence makes us more money. Those include businesses you might own, stocks, houses(arguably), etc. For this kind of resources the one thing to remember is: appreciation. Meaning that they appreciate in value over time. On the other hand we have the kind of resources which decrease in value over time. Here the most popular are: cars, clothing, electronics, etc, where the moment they leave the store the price for which we can sell them is no longer the same, and whose market value keeps decrementing in the same way a radioactive element decays when outside the lab.

The formula for financial success as reported by Jim Rohn himself, as well as by Robert Kiyosaki the author of the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, is simple: accumulate as much as you can of the first. The problem is that we live in a society in which its more appealing to us to accumulate that what decreases in value as time goes by, and where the things that appreciate in value just like investments are labeled as a “should do”, but also deemed “unsexy”. Again the formula for financial success is simple, but not easy to follow for most people.

 

3.Investing

For the ones whose goal is to start accumulating resources that appreciate in value, the first choice tends to be investing. The problem with investing is that just like math it can easily scare most people away, even if mastering it can be life changing. Fortunately for us, unlike math, investing is easier to understand than you think. The main idea is that you buy businesses/parts of them on the search for growth. The more the businesses you invest in grow, the more your money grows. Think about a magic car which increases in value as time goes by. This increase in value could be represented as more seats that magically appear, an engine that grows by itself and a gas consumption that decreases the more you drive the car. Buying this car and driving it for a long time would result in more money in you pocket than for what you paid for the car.

The Stock market

When it comes to investing in a variety of businesses, the stock market is the one place where you can both make a fortune and go broke literally overnight. There instead of owning the full completeness of the business, you own only a part of it, and this part is represented in the form of shares. In essence the more the business itself grows, the greater the value of the shares you own, and soon you find yourself in the same position of the car that grows in value the more you use it. Unlike the car, on the stock market its not guaranteed that the businesses you invest in will appreciate in value, so more than just buying any shares that look good for the sake of it, if you want your money to grow you also need to know what shares to buy based on the relationship of their price to the underlining business.

Just like in the music industry we see on the stock market the potential for great wealth accompanied by also a great likelihood of failure. If you do figure a way to distinguish the worthy stocks from the unworthy ones, the stock market can be said to be one of the closest things to a ticket to financial independence.
3.1 Investing in a business

Although the stock market is a place where you can find a bundle of businesses to invest in, nothing forbids you from looking for the businesses you want to invest in by yourself. There are countless stories of business investments that were found outside the stock market and proved to be great investments, and the one that stands out, is the fast food chain Mcdonald’s.

Read here: The story of Mccdonald’s start

So, its possible that your best investments might be the ones you look for by yourself. The ones that are not open to the public and that you have to convince the owners to sell you a part. We can argue that this is to some extent safer to do than to buy stock in the stock market. The reason for this being that for the businesses that are not selling shares in the stock market, there isn’t as much pressure to use finance trickery to get potential investors into believing that the business is worth more than it actually is. Just like when a person is not openly looking for a partner doesn’t need to mask its flaws to possible mates. You can look for investments by yourself, and this should by no means be discarded as a potential strategy to bring you closer to financial independence no matter how difficult it might be to get people who are not open to sell, to be open to selling to you. Notice that the same kind of knowledge to pick good stocks is also implemented in finding good businesses to invest in by yourself.

 

4. Starting a business

Another commonly taken route most people try on their financial independence efforts is to start a business. This is the best thing you can do if apart from pure financial independence you also want to be your own boss. This enhanced sense of freedom however, doesn’t come for free. In the exchange for not having anybody telling you want to do, you become responsible for knowing what to do, as well as to telling others what to do. As the old saying goes, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”, and depending on how you look at it, starting a business can be said to be a representation of just that.

There are many ways starting a business can bring you closer to the financial independence dream. The first and most common is through the growth of the business. Since you own the business, you’re also entitled to all the profit the business makes. Your biggest advantage comes from the fact that you don’t have the usual salary cap that comes from having a boss. As Jim Rohn once said: “profits are better than wages. Wages make you a living, but profits make you a fortune.”

The second and not as common way starting a business can make you financially independent is by going public. If your business is attractive to investors, you can sell parts of it to the public in the form of shares, and as the business grows, those shares appreciate in value. This is how the owners of many businesses that went public on the dot com bubble got to literally become millionaires overnight.

As promising as starting a business might seem to be, the chances of failure are said to be as high as the rewards that might come from it. It’s common knowledge these days that over 60% of the businesses that start at any given time close by the end of the first year of operation. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid start a business, but that you should be aware of the kind of work and learning you might have to do in order to become successful at it.

6. Value

At the core of any financial independence plan lies the ability to make money, and in order to make real money one has to know how to offer something of value to the masses. So, instead of relying on already made strategies to make money, you can invent your own by holding in mind the idea that all people need to give you the money you want is value. The good thing about the word value is that its not bound to any single thing. Value is relative from person to person, and varies from time to time.

 

 

Summary

To summarize all we learned from this post, on the look for a plan to achieve financial independence there are at least two things one needs: find out what financial independence is for itself and how to offer value to get the resources and money one needs to achieve it. One problem most people face when they first think about making money is the guilt that society makes them feel. Money is associated to greed and greed to the sense that one is evil. For this, the great Jim Rohn also has something to say and it goes somewhere on the lines of: “It’s not so much what you earn, but what you do with what you earn”.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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