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>Scrabble on the iPhone illustrates Fast, Flat and Free

 13th April 2010 by gihan

>My parents love playing Scrabble, so I grew up with it in my home. Here are two iPhone apps for Scrabble:

Actually, I lied. The one on the left is not the official iPhone app; it’s a Scrabble-like game called “Words With Friends”. It costs just $2.50 (or free if you don’t mind ads), allows me to play against opponents anywhere in the world, and I can even have multiple games running at the same time.

It’s the perfect example of how the principles of “Fast, Flat and Free” have changed Scrabble. The classic board game is the opposite: Slow, Bumpy and Expensive. In other words, you play one game at a time, with opponents in the same room, and the game itself wasn’t cheap to buy.

The owners of Scrabble had the opportunity to create the Fast, Flat and Free equivalent … but they didn’t. So somebody else did.

In fact, there is an official Scrabble iPhone app, which I also own (It’s the one on the right in the pictures above). But that’s about $10-15, only allows one game at a time, and is much more restricted when finding opponents. Words With Friends appears to be at least 10 times more popular, and it’s not surprising to see why!

Beware! The same could be happening to your products and services. Are they already tapping into our Fast, Flat and Free world? If you don’t do something about it, somebody else will!

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>Don’t Get Fooled Again, by Richard Wilson

 28th January 2010 by gihan

>Wilson takes on pseudo-science, political doublespeak, groupthink and denialists – and others – in this readable introduction to scepticism.

This is by no means an in-depth analysis of the topics covered, nor is it a comprehensive coverage of the field. Rather, Wilson exposes us to some of the principles of thinking sceptically, drawing on examples like AIDS denialists, the flawed thinking before and during the Iraq War, and the smoking-cancer controversy.

The points are made by stories and anecdotes, much in the way of a magazine or newspaper, rather than drawing on the science. However, that doesn’t make it less valuable. As an introduction to scepticism, and a way to spark an interest in curious laypeople, it does its job well.

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>Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

 14th January 2010 by gihan

>Nudge is another in the long line of books about social psychology as it applies to influence and persuasion. The first ground-breaking book in this genre was Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, and I’ve yet to come across any other book that matches it (For me, Predictably Irrational is the next best, but still a distant second).

Nudge is a book about decision making, particularly in areas of social policy. The authors suggest that decisions can never be presented in a completely neutral way, so any decision-making involves an inherent bias. That bias can be turned to good, to “nudge” people in a particular direction.

They present a lot of research in many areas of life, including marriage, investing, environmentalism and organ donation. In areas that involve social policy, it seems to me that they have one solution for everything: Leave it to the market, but don’t let the market lock out competition.

For example, consumers have a huge and confusing array of choices when signing up for a credit card. Thaler and Sunstein recommend that we don’t regulate the credit card companies and their marketing. Instead, allow them to promote their products in any way they choose (legally), but also force them to give their customers simple electronic access to their account, including fees and charges. Rival companies could offer to analyse a customer’s account, and make a better offer. In this way, customers get the benefit of a competitive marketplace, and we as a society facilitate, rather than regulate, trade.

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The Hedonist’s Guide To Getting Things Done: Goal Setting Made Easy

 8th January 2010 by gihan

Most goal-setting programs are hard. The system might sound easy, but achieving the goals is difficult. It usually takes discipline, willpower, a strong mindset, hard work, sacrifice and struggle.

No wonder most people fail at their goals or New Year’s Resolutions!

I’ve got a different approach to goal setting: This year, choose, plan and achieve goals that bring you joy, ease and happiness – not only when you achieve them, but along the way as well.

Now I know this flies in the face of many (most?) goal-setting programs! So be warned that what I’m going to share here might be controversial, confronting or conflicting with other advice you’ve seen. But hey – if you do embrace my advice, you will enjoy the next twelve months. So what have you got to lose?

The title of this article is tongue in cheek. A hedonist is purely motivated by pleasure, perhaps even selfish pleasure. I’m not suggesting that’s appropriate as a way of life. But I do think we spend way too much time in our life doing things we don’t want, that we’re not good at, with people we don’t like, and without getting any reward. Why not do something different this year?

Heck, there’ll be plenty of times when life isn’t perfect. Sure, you might get stuck in traffic, fight with your partner, struggle getting the kids to sleep, do work that you don’t want to do just because it’s in your job description, or force yourself to be more disciplined at work. But those things are going to happen anyway. Why would you deliberately schedule more of those things in your goal setting as well?

So do yourself a favour when you’re setting your goals for the year: Don’t create goals and activities that involve struggle, complication, hardship and sacrifice. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, especially if you’ve done other goal-setting programs. But hang in there – I’ll explain …

I’ve got ten guidelines here, broken down into three areas: Choosing the right goals (4 guidelines), planning (3) and taking action (3).

Choose

1. Do what you love

It’s surprising how many people set a goal because they think they “should” do it, or they “need” to do it, or somebody else wants it for them. Those goals are the first to go when life gets in the way.

So only choose goals that you want to achieve. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say you should only choose goals that you will love to achieve. This isn’t about being selfish; it’s about choosing wisely.

2. Love who you’ll be

Think carefully: Are you going to be happy – truly happy – with the person you’re going to become if you do achieve your goals?

If you get that big promotion, will you be OK spending more time away from your spouse and kids? If you go on that carrot juice diet and lose 20 kilos, can you tolerate having to gaze longingly and wistfully at chocolate cake from now until the end of your life? If you get all those business travel opportunities, can you cope with spending wasted hours in airports, taxi queues and hotel rooms?

Be sure you’re willing to accept all the consequences of achieving your goal.

3. Think big

Most people don’t fail because their goals are too big; they fail because their goals are too small. Those goals are easily forgotten or tossed aside when something bigger comes along. So make sure you set big – but achievable – goals.

As Jonathon Kozol says, “Pick battles big enough to matter; small enough to win”.

4. Know the reason why

It’s not the “what” and “how” of a goal that motivates you; it’s the “why”. Sometimes you’ll end up with something that wasn’t exactly what you imagined, but it still achieves the same result.

Plan

5. Love what you do

Plan to enjoy the journey. If it takes willpower, discipline or sacrifice to achieve your goal, it’s harder to do and easier to slip up. Instead, make it fun!

It’s no fun to crawling out of bed an hour early to exercise, but perhaps you can make it fun by exercising with a friend, so you make it a social event as well.

It’s no fun to set aside 10% of your income for wealth creation, but what if you also set aside another 10% as “play money”, to be spent on fun and frivolity?

It’s no fun to call past customers to bring them back into your fold, but what if you invited them to a cocktail party instead?

6. Hang out with people you like

Life’s too short to spend with people you don’t like, love, inspire or are inspired by.

Decide who you want to spend more time with this year, and make sure they’re part of your journey. They don’t have to be actively involved in helping you achieve your goals – although that’s a bonus. But make sure they’re around. And be especially sure you don’t neglect them while achieving your goals.

7. Get help

Whatever your goals, there’s a good chance somebody else has already achieved them. So find the right mentors and ask for their help. You might have to pay, or you might not. Either way, it’s the best way to fast-track your success.

Do

8. Start before you’re ready

You won’t have all your preparation complete. You won’t know exactly what path to follow. There’s always a reason not to start today. But if you’re waiting for the perfect moment to get started, you’ll be waiting a long time. The perfect moment is now.

9. Take a big step first

A rocket uses most of its fuel in escaping the Earth’s atmosphere. After that, it takes very little energy to keep going.

Many of your goals – especially the biggest and most important goals – are similar. Don’t start with baby steps; start with massive strides. The good news is that often just a few strides can make a big difference, and then everything else is easy.

Obviously I’m not suggesting you do dangerous things, like suddenly taking up squash if you’re unfit. But if it’s OK to start walking for 30 minutes a day, start walking. Don’t “build up to it” with unnecessary little steps – e.g. buying new sneakers, starting a journal to record your progress, telling all your Facebook friends, shopping for a new T-shirt to celebrate the start of the journey, and plotting the optimal walking route for different weather conditions. Sure, these small steps are easy, but it’s the first big step (literally in this case) that matters.

10. Do something every day

Do something towards at least one of your goals every day. After all, why wouldn’t you? These activities are fun, not a burden or a chore. So, in addition to working towards your goals, you’re adding some fun and enjoyment to every day of your life!

More importantly, at the end of the year, you will have taken 365 steps – enjoyable steps – towards achieving your goals. That’s 365 more than the average person.

So that’s it. Those are my ten guidelines for easy goal setting.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best for making 2010 the best year of your life.

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>SuperFreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

 5th January 2010 by gihan

>Levitt and Dubner have followed up their runaway bestseller Freakonomics with another rollicking read about people, the world and everything – seen from an economist’s viewpoint.

This book, like the first, dips into many areas of life – including prostitution, terrorism, child safety and climate change. Again like the first, there’s one area that’s a particularly hot topic. In the original, it was the link between abortion and a decrease in crime rates; in the sequel, it’s global warming. Being a controversial topic, it’s not surprising that this section of the book has been scrutinised and taken apart by its critics (The flip side, of course, is that it gets media attention and sells more books – which might have been the point all along). I don’t know enough about the climate change issue to comment on whether the authors’ view is accurate or not, but I do point out that not everybody agrees with it.

Although nothing in this book is likely to change anything in my life, I still found it to be an entertaining read.

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Professional Speakers – A Protected Species Fast Becoming an Endangered Species

 10th November 2009 by gihan

A few weeks ago, I attended Matt Church’s excellent two-day “Speech Building Boot Camp”, where Matt laid out a 27-step process for crafting a powerful presentation.

It was so methodical and logical that it got me thinking, “Gee – anybody can present a brilliant speech using this method!”

But that’s not true.

The process was for writing a speech, not for delivering it. When it comes to delivery, you need other skills. Different skills. Skills that most people in the world don’t have.

We’re lucky as professional presenters, because we do easily what most people are scared to death to do: Stand up and speak in front of a group.

Even though other people might have better ideas, or be more passionate about something, or can write more goodly than we can, most of them can’t present it well.

It comes naturally to us (after years of hard work, of course!), and it gives us a BIG advantage.

Until now.

The Internet has changed all that.

We still have that advantage over most people, but it’s becoming less and less relevant. Why? Because they have other ways of getting their message across to people.

Take Natalie Tran, for example – Australia’s most-watched YouTube user:

Whenever she publishes a video, she gets over half a million hits – sometimes over a million (This is my favourite, by the way).

She doesn’t do it for money (In fact, she turns down advertising and sponsorship offers). She does it because she has something to say and she’s found an audience on-line.

I’ve never seen Natalie Tran make a live presentation, so I don’t know whether or not she’s a good presenter. But who cares? She’s found a different delivery style, and she’s a star!

What about YOU?

Are you embracing the new opportunities the Internet brings you for delivering your material? This is not just about using the Internet as a marketing tool; it’s also about using it as a delivery tool.

Here are some examples:

  • On-line video (like Natalie Tran)
  • Creating on-line PowerPoint and Keynote presentations
  • Converting your material into iPhone applications
  • Conducting webinars
  • Using on-line forums and chat rooms to facilitate discussions
  • Delivering audio and video (not just text) e-courses

If you’re resisting them, I’m worried for you. I really am. The Internet isn’t going away. Our status as a protected species is rapidly dwindling. Do nothing and you’ll be an endangered species instead!

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>Interview with a Billionaire

 2nd November 2009 by gihan

>

I recently listened to an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook and supposedly the world’s youngest billionaire.

What made this interview interesting for me was not that it’s an interview with a billionaire. It’s not. It’s an interview from October 2005, when Facebook was just taking off as a directory for Harvard undergraduates, but before it became one of the world’s most popular Web sites.

It’s always nice to see things in hindsight. And I was amused to hear Zuckerberg talk about what he thought was the next step for Facebook.

Remember, at the time it was very popular in Harvard, and was just expanding to support other universities. Somebody in the audience asked whether it would then expand across the world (which, in fact, it eventually did). But Zuckerberg said, No. His next big idea was to roll it out to high school students!

He got it totally wrong.

But I come to praise Zuckerberg, not to bury him.

I’m not going to criticise him here for lack of vision. After all, he does have a billion dollars, which is – coincidentally – a billion more than I do.

Instead, I’ll point out that, even though he didn’t get that idea right, he did still did get on the right track eventually. And he did it because Facebook was already an active, growing, thriving Web site.

Here’s the point: Momentum moves mountains.

He didn’t sit on his hands for years, analysing, contemplating, planning, strategising, projecting and cogitating. No, he got started with something, and then figured out how to steer it in the right direction. And even if it sometimes wasn’t quite right, he was still better off than somebody who hadn’t started at all.

So don’t wait until you know how everything is going to turn out. You don’t. And you won’t. Get started now.

This is particularly important on the Internet.

On the Internet, there are some things you just need to experience before you’ll understand how they will work for you. If you’ve never published an e-mail newsletter, put a video clip on YouTube, written an e-book that you distribute through viral marketing, posted to your blog, or recorded a regular podcast, it’s difficult to imagine how they work. You must experience them.

More importantly, starting these things makes it easier to continue doing them.

When you’ve got a blog, you’ll start noticing things to blog about.
When you’ve got an e-mail newsletter due tomorrow, you’ll create the time to write an article.
When you’ve written your e-book, you’ll constantly find new ways to promote it.

So get started! Momentum moves mountains.

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Why webinars?

 24th October 2009 by gihan

A “webinar” is a presentation delivered over the Web rather than face to face (i.e. Web + seminar). Webinars are the hot new way to deliver information, especially in this time of climate change awareness, corporate cost-cutting, emphasis on lifestyle and global access.

The two most obvious benefits of webinars are the savings in time and expenses – for both you and your participants. Everything is done from the comfort of your home or office; and the same applies for your audience.

But webinars offer more – much more. In fact, when I put my mind to it, I found twenty-one other benefits of webinars.

  1. No geographical boundaries: You can reach the world, not just your own town, city or country.
  2. Build loyalty with existing clients: It’s an easy, low-cost leveraged way to add value and maintain your relationship.
  3. Invite prospects to attend: It’s a low-cost way to give them an experience of you before they “buy” you.
  4. Run it with small numbers: You don’t have to worry about getting minimum numbers to manage venues, handouts, catering and the like.
  5. Run it with large numbers: Again, you don’t have to worry about finding and booking a suitable venue, managing catering, allowing for parking, arranging the room, printing (or carrying!) enough handouts, and the like.
  6. Record it to create instant products: Many webinar services have a recording feature built in, so recording your webinar is a breeze. You can then turn that recording into a product – typically a DVD, video podcast or on-line video.
  7. Give people more access to you: A webinar is a low-cost way to interact with many people at the same time, while still offering great value.
  8. Point of difference: Few infopreneurs are using them; and even fewer are using them well. You can stand out by adding them to your service mix.
  9. Make a difference: Because of the global possibilities, you can reach people beyond your borders. And because of the low cost, you can reach people who wouldn’t be able to afford your other services.
  10. Do market research: Before each webinar, survey the attendees to discover their biggest questions, concerns, challenges and aspirations about your topic. This becomes invaluable market research for you, not just for the webinar itself but for your business in general.
  11. Test out new material: Because there’s less visual focus on you than in other presentation modes, you don’t have to spend as much time on stage presence. Instead, you can focus on the content, structure and flow. You can test new material and ask for feedback. You can even use copious notes, mind maps and other speaker aids, because you’re presenting from the privacy of your office.
  12. Live access for members-only site: If you run a membership site, it’s easy to lose the personal connection, which might have been the reason they signed up in the first place. One way to get back that personal connection, and still do it in a leveraged way, is through webinars.
  13. Provide product support: Use webinars to answer customer questions, explain how they can use the product more effectively, and get feedback for future enhancements.
  14. Supplement live events: Some webinars will replace live events, while others supplement them. For example, if you run a training program, it’s easy to offer a follow-up webinar for participants, say, 90 days later.
  15. Expose your database to guest experts: You don’t have to be the star of all your webinars. It’s the ideal format for you to bring in a guest presenter – somebody who serves the same market, but with a different area of expertise.
  16. Expose joint venture partners to your database: If you have a strong database and you know somebody else with a product ideally suited for that database, bring them in as a guest on a webinar. Because of the personal interaction, this is more effective than, say, just promoting their product in your newsletter or on your Web site.
  17. Easy to offer as a bonus / incentive: Offer webinar “seats” to anybody for any reason – for example, as a bonus for somebody who buys a product by a certain date; or an incentive for clients to make a booking before the end of the financial year.
  18. Short lead time: Because the logistics of webinars are so simple, you don’t have to plan them months in advance.
  19. Develop an on-line arm to your business: You become less committed to face-to-face presentations, giving you more opportunities for travel, leisure time and flexibility in your work flow.
  20. Replace high-cost face-to-face presentations in a tough economy: You can retain clients who would have otherwise cancelled bookings.
  21. Remain competitive: You manage the threat of other experts delivering your message to your clients over the Internet, which means you remain competitive in this “flat” world.

With all these benefits, why aren’t you adding webinars to your service offerings?

Want to know more about webinars?

Webinars can be one of your most powerful marketing and educational tools – if you know how to run them properly.

My book "Webinar Smarts" covers nearly everything you need to know about planning, preparing, promoting and presenting powerful and profitable webinars.

If you’re interested in tapping into the power of webinars in your business, this book is for you.

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