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Is it better to be the prom queen or the nerd?

October 30th, 2017 No comments

There are two conflicting ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately.

I’m re-reading My Life in Advertising. In this classic copywriting book, Claude Hopkins says “the road to success lies in ordinary people.”

If you want to be a successful marketer and entrepreneur, you have to know and understand everyday people, and be one of them.

This makes sense. The best known and best-loved leaders usually have a lot of charisma, coupled with a strong work ethic. But underneath these qualities, they’re still “one of the guys/girls.” You could relate to them. They’re the type of person you could hang out with and drink a beer.

Claude Hopkins gives several examples of people who didn’t necessarily have a lot of education, but who went into marketing and totally crushed it. Their success happened because they understood everyday people. They knew what people wanted, and they could express it in a way most people understood.

So, where does this leave the nerds and nonconformists of the world?

According to Hopkins, their place is in literature and academia. Maybe you could make it as an artist or a professor, but not as a business person.

This worried me for a long time. Social ineptitude has always been my best game.

But Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal, has a different point of view: “If you’re less sensitive to social cues, you’re less likely to do the same things as everyone else around you.”

In his book, Zero to One, he points out that game-changing progress only happens when a nonconformist has the ball. In fact, that’s arguably one of the reasons he wrote the book.

He says there’s a big advantage to “An Asperger’s-like social ineptitude.”

I got a lot of hope out of this.

But who is right? Is it better to be the Everyman or the oddball?

More to the point, which one are you?

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Do you need new ideas? Try these tools

August 2nd, 2016 No comments

marketing_innovationInnovate or stagnate. That’s the brutal reality we live in.

I follow James Altucher’s advice religiously, and every morning I write 10 new ideas. Most of them are crap. The rest are usually related to things I’m already doing, so there’s only marginal benefit to implementing a new idea.

To paraphrase Altucher, someday you may have to sprint 100 yards to escape the velociraptor. If you’ve been sprinting every day for the past year, you’ll be a lot faster when the time comes. The goal, as Altucher will tell you, is to give your idea muscle a daily workout. Then, when you really need ideas, you can deliver.

I agree with this, but in practice I keep getting stuck on the same kinds of ideas. I’m essentially a teacher, salesman, and writer who likes to travel. Virtually all my ideas end up coming back to teaching, selling, writing, and travel.

In contrast, James Altucher spends much of his life talking to interesting, successful people from every field imaginable, and he also reads for hours every day. If you want to get the most out of your 10 ideas, you have to expand your horizons.

A Whack to the Side of the Head

Fortunately I’ve found two great tools that make it easy to come up with new ideas and banish stagnation forever. The first is Roger Von Oech’s “Creative Whack Pack.” It’s basically a deck of cards.

Before we move on, let’s say really quickly that you can probably come up with a lot of ways to use a deck of cards. Matt Furey made an entire workout system based on cards. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt created a movement with their Oblique Strategies.

Each of Von Oech’s cards has a quick tip or question, followed by a cartoon and a story. They’re designed to get you thinking. This morning I picked up a card that said, “See the obvious” and had a picture of a mouse hiding in a cat’s ear.

The story underneath almost doesn’t need telling. No cat would ever think to check its own ear for mice. If you’re a mouse, that’s the obvious place to hide, right? The card asks, “What resources and solutions are right in front of you?”

social_media_obviousMore than half of this morning’s ideas came from that card. No need to reinvent the wheel. I have a lot of valuable, under-used assets already.

I pick out a random card each week, keep it visible on a shelf in my office, and ponder it whenever I feel stuck or I need another whack to the side of the head.

The other tool I use is Twitter.

I spend a lot more time reading tweets than tweeting. This is where ideas come from. There are two ways to get them.

First, just look at what’s trending. If there’s something big that’s related to your life, you’ll definitely have something to say about it. Probably more than you can say in 140 characters. This could become your next blog post or video.

Better yet, if you have the solution to a problem that’s trending, you may have just figured out how to make your next million and save the world in the process. Good job!

But more often than not, the trending hashtags are all about the Kardashians, the Trumps, and Beethoven. That’s when you need to dig a little deeper.

Search your own hashtags. Hashtag keywords related to your industry, your passions, or news that’s relevant to you. If you spend just 10 minutes doing this you’ll almost always find something.

Dromaeosaurid parade by durbed

By Durbed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia

Don’t ever forget about that velociraptor!

Six months ago I had to outrun a velociraptor. I left my biology teaching job and had to figure out how to make a living. But I had almost a year of Altucher’s “daily practice” under my belt.

I sat down and wrote 10 ideas for generating income. Almost immediately, I knew that everything would be OK. I could figure things out.

The first project took months of hard work to implement, but now it’s producing a steady income for my wife and I. The second idea is starting to bear fruit, and I’ll test the others over the next 6-12 months. Meanwhile, I’m still coming up with 10 more every day.

This brings me to one last tool that you already know about. Your very own brain. You may be surprised to find how creative you really are.



Resources for this post:

Oblique Strategies: http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/OSintro.html (Highlight some of the pages to see the hidden text!)

James Altucher’s most important post ever: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/02/how-to-be-the-luckiest-guy-on-the-planet-in-4-easy-steps/

Creative Whack Pack (this is an affiliate link):

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