Personal Development

Today marks the beginning of a brief hiatus in my writing here on I decided a break was necessary because I’m not thrilled about the direction this site has taken. A writer publishes to be read and the readership has steadily gone down over the past few years. I have a few dedicated readers and I’m grateful for that, but the truth is, writing here used to pretty much be the highlight of my professional day and now it’s a chore; almost an annoyance. It’s gotten to the point where I’m completely ignoring the health of this site. It got hacked over the holidays and I feel I’ve barely put a band aid over the wounds.

But the declining readership is only a symptom. There’s more to it…

A brief history
When I first started writing regularly, 5+ years ago, social media marketing was really taking off and I was working for a prominent advertising agency here in Montreal. We were often recommending blogging to our clients, but truth is none of us really knew what that entailed. So I took it up myself to understand what I was proposing.

From that point on it became a learning tool. I got to experiment with writing schedules, different topics, web analytics, SEO and SEM, social media marketing and frankly it was great. Even though the “writing about social media and marketing” space is crowded, it propulsed my career to new and greater places. I was known in the industry here. I got a lot of inbound requests for expertise, speaking gigs and more. On top of that, I got to meet great people like Ray, Jeff and Chris down I’m Atlanta to name just a few. I got to meet and exchange with Julien Smith and other heroes of sorts: Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman and others.

Then I stopped working in the advertising/consulting space and made the conscious decision to stop writing about social media and marketing to focus on business in general as well as what it takes to push through and do work that matters.

That was a mistake.

It’s a broad topic dominated by kings, and slowly but surely, it has gotten me away from the initial purpose of learning and furthering my knowledge.

And I think that’s why writing has gotten to be a chore. The adventure and discovery is gone.

What’s next
I’m not looking to return to what was. I’m different: I have more experience now, more knowledge. I’ve seen and lived more. But truth is I’m a marketer. I’m good at what I do. Most of what I propose and implement works. But I feel the new direction has thrown me off my game. I’m spending too much time reading, writing and listening to topics unrelated to what I am at the core and I need to focus on what sets me apart not add a sprinkling of this and that.

Some things I need to think about:

  • What do I want to write about? Does the world really need another marketing blog?
  • If I had to describe the site in a sentence or two, what would it be? Would that description be unique? Something that would be missed if I stopped?
  • Should I continue powering the site with WordPress or do I switch to a platform like Squarespace that will allow me to focus more on the writing and promotion of the site and less on the technical.
  • Should I just switch everything over to a platform that already has an audience, like LinkedIn or Medium?
  • Do I want to continue with shorter form or do I want to write more substantial pieces?
  • I currently write on the train, on my way to work. Does that still make sense?

My goal is to be back up and running in no more than a month.

I want to thank all of you who continue coming back post after post. If you have any questions, just hit reply…


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Why work on commission?

In the end that’s what freelancers and budding entrepreneurs opt for. That’s often what sales representatives work with. That’s what some entire business are built around. The opposite of commission is a salary.

The difference lies in what is being paid for. Salaries are stable, predictable, constant and compensate for time-spent whereas commissions compensate for results. Of course, that means they’re unstable, not predictable and definitely not constant.With some obvious exceptions, you’ll continue getting your salary regardless of results. Whether you process better files, answer more questions or reach more people than others around you doesn’t matter. You get the same amount at the end of the day. Commissions on the other hand, compensate small victories…new clients, bigger contracts, more products, etc. In other words, if you achieve better results, you get better compensation.

Salaries are a relatively new concept. When you’re a farmer, a painter or a craftsperson you get paid when you sell your goods. When you’re a factory worker, you’re building a small part of an item. Whether it gets sold or not is largely out of your control. When you’re a PR Director, you participate in a small part of the entire operation, wether it thrives or not is largely out of your control. So we compensate you for the time you spend; up to a certain limit (9 to 5, Monday through Friday)— not for effort or quality. That’s why we end-up with the lemon — the last car to be built on Friday afternoon, the last customer support call of the day, the last pitch of the month.

If the world really is changing, if the jobs are gone, if the only way to come out on top is to be remarkable (see Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin — affiliate link), then some questions arise:

  • Shouldn’t compensation be about results?
  • If salaries compensate for time-spent and not quality, do they not favour average work?
  • If we need to be more creative, different and unique, should that be what’s compensated? Not the amount of time that’s put in…regardless of outcome?

In other words, should a journalist get paid on the quality of the article? Should a marketer get paid on the quality of the leads? Should an accountant get paid on the quality of the insights? Should a recruiter get paid on the quality of the candidates?

Of course, the other side of the coin is: Does a salary encourage intrinsic work? If you take out compensation for results you can make the work about quality?

I don’t think there’s an obvious answer, but I do have one last question. Even if your company pays a salary, is it time to start thinking like an artist, as if you’re getting compensated for results, not time?

(Photo credit: Adam Baker)

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Movember 2012

Movember is about raising awareness and funds for men’s health.

Did you know that the average life expectancy for men is four to five years less than women? Did you know that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime?

Please donate to cancer research.

About prostate cancer

Did you know that…

  • A man dies from prostate cancer every 15.6 minutes.
  • In 2012, 26,500 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and 4,000 men will die of prostate cancer.
  • Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer.
  • The incidence rates are nearly double for in African American men.
  • If detected and treated early, prostate cancer has a 95 percent success rate.
  • While there are cases of prostate cancer showing up in younger men, it is recommended that men begin an annual screening at age 50 and at age 40 if there is a family history.

Help raise awareness for men’s health.

I’m sure you have your story.

We all do. Because beyond the numbers, cancer often strikes close to home. It’s never welcome and never expected. And the only way to beat it is through research and education.

And that’s precisely what Movember is. It’s about raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer research and other mens’ health issues such as testicular cancer, mental health and spinal cord injury.

The moustache

So each year an army of men around the world grow their moustaches in to raise their funds and general awareness. Women can participate too (no moustache required there). Ever since I participated a few years ago, I now try to support one person each year. This year I’d like to support:

Daniel Galve.

Daniel is on my team at work and he’s decided to participate again this year. His personal goal is to raise $1,000 and he’s well on his way.

How does it work?

I don’t ask for much here on [], but if you could help me support him, we can do our part to change men’s health. Any amount will do. It’s up to you.

While taboos and barriers relating to men’s health are being broken down, we need to continue raising awareness.

Please help me support Daniel Galve during his movember.

Thank you.

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Blank pages

For the writer, a blank page is both beautiful and terrifying. More interestingly both are for the exact same reasons. A blank page is a ticket to do what ever you want. There are no rules or how-to’s; no guidelines or even expectations. You can see why it’s beautiful — you get to create. You can draw, you can write, you can do math, you can doodle — you can even cut it up or crumple the page and play basketball. It’s also not hard to see why it’s terrifying. We don’t like uncertainty so no rules, how-to’s, guidelines, expectations are scary to most. So you show up empty, with no inspiration. The muse has left the building. Or more accurately, your mind has shut down in fear.

That’s why we don’t often recognize the blank pages around us. It’s not something reserved to writers and poets. Quite the opposite. Every time there’s a change, a blank page has been put in front of you.

Every student looking for a job has the opportunity to do something great and unscripted and find their voice; every time your company announces a new product you can not only do something unheard of, but you can help change the world in a small way; every time the economy goes down the drain there’s an opportunity to be insanely creative; every time the economy picks up again you have more resources to look forward to.

New jobs, products, the economy are all examples of blank pages. There is no time for rulebooks.

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(Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

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Where did the jobs go?

Although the recession of 2008 is over, jobs, for the most part, have not followed. Many parts of the world are still living high unemployment. So while companies are getting more productive and sit on larger piles of cash, people still aren’t working.

Why is that?

Some argue that we are still living the down-cycle. It’s normal, things are just really, really slow to recover. Others argue that the West is done. North America and Europe have not kept up with the times and developing countries like China and India are taking over. Our capacity to produce is old and inefficient. A third group argues quite the opposite. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both professors and researchers at MIT, argue that our technology has not lagged, but actually surpassed us. Their book, Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, argues that it’s not that the West hasn’t kept up, it’s that our technology is making a vast segment of the population irrelevant. Much like steam engines did to the horse a few centuries ago. In fact, even countries like China and India are ditching their inexpensive workforce in favour of machines.

Computers connected to the Internet are great at routine processing, repetitive arithmetic and error-free consistency. That might not sound that great, but what we need to realize is that most of the jobs the industrial revolutions created are exactly that — processing, repetition and consistency. It started with simple tasks like word-processing, assembly lines and calculating to increasingly complex ones like instant translation, self-driving cars and even playing Jeopardy! Processing, arithmetic and consistency is what we strive for. So while it might not sound like much, computers are increasingly able to do what you do. If your job is to some degree routine, repetitive and strives for consistency, it’s in danger. It’s no wonder then that the biggest job creators are no longer the large corporations like GM or IBM, but the small start-up. While the big ones are shedding employees in favour of the efficient computer, start-ups are looking for the creativity and drive of humans.

So what’s left?

Machines have replaced bookstores and libraries, secretaries and music stores, DVDs and travel agents. So what’s left? The only person that will not only survive, but thrive, is the artist. Not only the sculptor or the painter, but the artist as accountant, sales person, professor or anyone who makes themselves indispensable. It’s the artist Seth Godin talks about in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Affiliate link). The one who, much like the painter takes something plain like paint and creates something new and irreplaceable. They take what the machine has given and make something new and irreplaceable.

That’s the only way. To be remarkable. Not to compete against or ignore the machine, but to take their ever-increasing complexity and contribution and make something only a human could do.

  • Is it scary? Yes.
  • Is it difficult? Definitely.
  • Is it inevitable? Undeniably.

Computers are giving us more time. More time to be human and use our strengths. Your next step is to figure out how to use your tools to create art. Which part of what you do is about processing, repetitiveness and consistency? It might not be obvious at first, but it’s there. Then, you need shed it in favour of something a computer could never do.

Go ahead, create your art.

(Photo credit: Louise Docker)

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Bucking the trend

We’re great at simplifying and generalizing. It’s what leads to things like stereotypes: all this are that. In evolutionary terms, this makes sense. Saber-tooth Tiger equals bad; 100% of the time. There is no use figuring out if this particular Tiger is gentle or harmless or more scared of us than we are for him.

Our brains process millions of stimuli a day so simplification and generalization keeps us sane and functioning. How else would you pick a cereal box in the aisle at the supermarket? The problem arises when we draw conclusions when we shouldn’t. In those cases, it’s a way for us to be lazy and hide in fear — whether it’s conscious or not. Negative stereotypes are one obvious example, but did you realize you probably do it on a daily basis in much less obvious way? Each time you’re hurting yourself and you don’t notice it.

Every time you say “the girl doesn’t like me because girls don’t like my fashion sense” or “I can’t invest my money now because the market is horrible,” what you’re really doing is blaming a mysterious hidden force. You’re simplifying and generalizing to avoid facing one simple fact:

You need to do something different.

Albert Einstein is known to have once that insanity is:

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If you repeat the same behaviour and get the same results; or worse, you do nothing and expect different results; it’s time to do something different.

And how do you do that?

It’s probably simpler than you think, but just as difficult as you can imagine. You educate yourself, you try, you fail, you readjust, you try-again, you hack your life. And in the end, you’ll buck the trend.

(Photo credit: javajones)

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Rise above it

Everyday we’re given the opportunity to either rise above it or sink down to its level. The choice will not always be big or noticeable, but it is, more often than not, harder to rise than to sink.

It’s harder to rise than to sink because often your actions aren’t appreciated, accepted or understood. Usually the victory feels much smaller. Almost irrelevant. But in reality, the victory is probably much bigger than even you can imagine. That means, the person who chose to rise above it be more learned and better equipped to deal with the next day.

So in the end, the choice is yours. It will never be an easy choice or an evident choice, but, in my opinion, it is usually much more rewarding to rise above it than it is to sink down to its level.

(Photo credit: gnuckx)

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Waiting for the job interview or waiting for the government to pass a law. Waiting for an email or waiting for your boss.Waiting for the guy to call and waiting for life to happen. Waiting is stressful. Even though, on the surface, it can seem safe. That’s because it gives you the opportunity to not do; to stay in your comfort zone

— “I can’t do it until they set up clear guidelines.”

Waiting is actually a state we strive to achieve. We want calm, we want to relax, we want to sit back, we want to wait for someone else to make the decision. But in reality, if you listen to what’s going on inside, clam, relaxing and sitting back are stressful. What we want deep inside is to move forward. We need to grow, We need change. It’s scary, but it has to happen.

On the surface, we would rather not have to change. But on the inside we’re striving for it. We want to be unsettled, we want the dizzying highs and the scary lows.

So why is it that safety is stressful? Safety renders control to the provider. Everything is safe and normal until…until you loose your job, until the law passes in the other’s favour. In other words, until uncertainty shows up. On the other hand, change, being unsettled, the dizzying highs and the scary lows hand control over to you. When you live with uncertainty, you learn to ride it and to accept it.

So, why do we look for safety if it’s stressful?

(Photo credit: magdalena)

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The fallacy of winning

Generally speaking there are two types of victories. There’s a final win: You can win a gold medal, you can win the big trophy, the Stanley Cup or the World Series — it’s done. You’ve won all that there was to win. Sure you, can try to win again, but it’s a completely new race. Then there’s the gateway victory. Winning there means you get to move on, to do the real work. You can win an election, get a new job or even lose 20 pounds. It was hard work getting there, but it’s only a ticket to move forward. After the election, you have to govern and lead; after the new job, you have to push and encourage change; after losing the 20 pounds you have to stay in shape. In the first instance all the hard work and preparation comes first. In the second, the real hard work has yet to come.

Where the fallacy comes in

The problem is that more often than not, the second type of victory, the gateway win, is mistaken for the final win. Politicians will fight for days, weeks and months to get elected. It all culminates with a grand inauguration or swearing in. It’s done. The race is over. Maybe you just found the great job you wanted. It took years of experience, months of tweaking your CV, interviewing and negotiating. Then you leave your last job, start the new one and look back on what it took to get here. Unfortunately, it’s not a time to look back. It’s time to look forward. The years of practice or the months of campaigning mean nothing. It’s what you will do tomorrow and the day after that matters most.

Sure, a politician may seem like he’s talking about tomorrow, but the millions of dollars invested are to help him win, not help govern. A candidate might spend all her time getting that job, not focusing on what she wants down the line.

We glorify the gold medal wins and big games — and rightly so — but more often than not, your big win is simply an approval to do more. It’s not the end of a race, but the beginning of an adventure.

(Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões)

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When you push through

There always comes a time when you have to push through your fear and go on. Any project, new experience, moment, relationship, business, big game, school project and thesis has this one time when it gets worse and worse, when nothing feels worth it anymore; when stopping is more appealing than anything else you can think of.

And that’s when you’re faced with a choice: push though or quit.

Sports are usually the common example here. Winning despite a broken bone, scoring the winning goal despite the concussion, lifting the weights despite the injured arm. We all push through seemingly big or small events. You push through when:

  • the project means more than salary or recognition
  • the game is the one you’ve been preparing for your whole life
  • the experience is more powerful than anything else
  • the relationship is the most meaningful
  • the business makes sense financially and emotionally
  • the school project is bigger than the grade at the end
  • the thesis will bring you to the next level

You push through when the project changes you.

On the other hand, you stop when the project isn’t your own, when it ends after the last period, when it’s someone else’s dream, when salary is the only thing that gets you going, when it isn’t your life calling.

When you do have a project worth pushing through the pain, the blues, the difficulty you just do it, even if you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s not easy, but there is no greater reward. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the best moment.

So the danger is then stopping a project worth pursuing or pushing through on a project that deserve stopping.

(Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt)

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