How do you deal with fundamental overload?

When you’ve made real commitments that add up to 100%+ of the time/mental energy you have available, how do you deal with it? I’m in that situation at the moment and find myself debating whether to concentrate on one thing, get it done (while other things fall by the wayside and/or miss deadlines, causing a backlog to pile up), or continue making small progress on many fronts, but not finishing anything.

Or perhaps there are other ways? What are your thoughts?

Your stereotypes may blind you to opportunity

Today I visited a store where I often shop. The young man who cleans up and maintains the displays was there as usual, with a sullen expression on his face. My story about him is that he’s lazy and unfriendly, and does his best to do as little work as possible. Yet, I see him often. So today, I walked over to him and introduced myself.

His face lit up, he got a huge smile, and gave me his name. Suddenly, my whole conception changed. He didn’t seem sullen, lazy, and unfriendly at all. It struck me that he’s quite possibly shy, and given his job, ignored by virtually everyone who comes in. Far from wanting to drive people away, he wants to connect and be acknowledged. But my misreading his cues made me stay part of the problem until today.

A friend reported something similar after doing an exercise where he had to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Though he was in his 40s, the first person he found to talk to was a teenager who was present at a summer school program. He was astounded to discover how interesting this teenager was. Then he realized with a shock that his son was the same age, and he’d never talked to his son as a person, but always as “his son.”

Our preconceptions can help us. If they’re accurate, they can let us step right into a situation with a great deal of information. But they can also blind us to what’s really going on. The young man at the store was friendly and shy, not sullen and hostile. The teenage son is a whole person with a rich inner life, not simply a child to be disciplined or controlled. By double-checking our assumptions about other people, we sometimes find that things are very different than we think.

Challenge:

  • Find someone you don’t like. Talk to them and learn about them.
  • Find someone you’d never normally approach and talk to. Talk to them.

See what happens. The results may surprise you–or not.

Do pirated info products increase overall sales?

In the discussion of my pirated products, Steve Remingon posted some good points to my Facebook page.

…  you are assuming that the all 202 people who have downloaded the audio version of your book will not like what they hear, realise this information will be useful to have around and then go out and buy a paper copy. Alternatively they may like what they hear and then contact you to pay you for a services in another way.

Second, the people who do not subsequently buy an audio or paper copy of your book were never going to spend the money in the first place so you or the publishers in fact have not lost any money.

These are good points. Right now, I only have a couple of products, so increasing awareness by giving one of them away for free won’t lead to many additional sales because there’s not much else for them to buy. One of the favorable reviewers on the pirate board has already suggested they have someone sign up for my next paid program, record it, and post it on the board. I suppose I should be flattered?

While the meme of “lots of awareness will turn into increased sales” is a popular one, I suspect for every Cory Doctorow, there are 100 people like me who haven’t succeeded with that equation. The difference is that almost by definition, Cory’s grassroots popularity also spreads the story of grassroots success, while the absence of grassroots success doesn’t spread the story of “what a crappy strategy.”

I’ve been giving away free content for eleven years. The magical tidal wave of potential customers that is supposed to result never materialized.

“They wouldn’t have bought anyway” may be true. If that’s true, then unless they’re generating follow-on sales, I would rather they not have my material at all. If it’s not valuable enough to them to pay for it, and they don’t want it badly enough to buy, then they shouldn’t have it. That’s how an economy works.

“It’s OK to steal because I wouldn’t have bought the thing I stole” is not a defense that works in any legal, moral, or ethical system I’m aware of. And if a single one of those pirates would have purchased a program and now didn’t, then I’m out money.

Cost to Copy is Only One Piece of Cost

People confuse incremental production cost with total production cost. I attended MIT, Harvard Business School, and Deming’s “Total Quality” college. Then I applied big chunks of that to developing personal productivity products. The cost to me of that production is well into the six figures , not to mention several years of my life. Even the audio production of the MP3s takes time, effort, and cost. The fact that the final step in the chain—copying an audio file—has no cost attached to it doesn’t mean that it was somehow free to produce.

I don’t know. I’m just frustrated. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing for now, but if I have a wonderfully huge underground following that doesn’t translate into enough sales to pay my mortgage, at some point I’m going to pull the plug and go do something that makes money.

Please don’t steal my products.

A friend just forwarded screen shots from a forum where the audiobook of my book has been posted by thieves. It’s been downloaded 202 times. I wish I could say I’m flattered, but I’m not. I’m just pissed. Two years of my life, tens of thousands of dollars of PR (not to mention lost income from time I spent writing Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More), and 161 Get-it-Done Guy episodes available for free, and people think buying one tiny little book (however magnificent and astonishingly useful) is just too expensive.

WTF??

If I save them 5 mins/day, it pays for itself 100 times over. I may sick Europa and Thomas on them… 🙂

Please remember that it takes incredible amounts of time and effort to produce a quality information product. If you steal and redistribute it, you’re just removing the incentive for me (and others like me) to produce more. I have to make a living, and I’ll find another way to do it if necessary.

If I’m really lucky, I may actually see royalty income in a couple of years. If I’m really, really, really lucky, I may even make enough to pay for the book launch.

“Information wants to be free” is stupid. Quality information is expensive to produce. Crappy information is free to produce. By paying nothing for information, you gradually select only for the crappy information produced by people and organizations who can do it for free. In other words, hacks and shysters.

You wouldn’t walk into a stereo store and take one home without paying. Don’t do it with an audiobook, or an online program or an electronic program. Ease of theft does not translate into the right to steal. And when people steal, ultimately they simply drive the quality producers out of the marketplace. (Or at least they will for me, since if I can’t make a decent living at this, I have no intention of producing more content. If there’s no income that comes from my podcast, it makes no sense for me to continue.)

Establishing a new habit

Today’s Get-it-Done Guy episode deals with how to form a new habit. Becoming more productive, setting new years resolutions, brushing your teeth differently … any sort of behavior change involves, well, changing behavior. Unfortunately, humans aren’t very good at changing behavior.

I’ve been fascinated for years by psychology and the human brain. I read research into cognitive and social psychology, behavioral finance, brain-based science, and so on, always looking for stuff that works to help develop new skills or change old ones.

I do all this because I love learning, and really enjoy anything that helps me do it better. One of the most effective models I’ve found for understanding how humans think is NLP or neuro-linguistic programming. Developed in the 70s, it’s considered a pseudo-science and not taken seriously.

I found, however, that I could use it and get effective, repeatable results. To this day, I teach elements of it to clients and friends and get demonstrable, measurable results.

Over time, various areas of science are independently discovering elements of NLP. Just this month in the January/February 2011 issue of Scientific America Mind, there’s an article discussing how we talk and think about the world in ways that correspond pretty directly to our bodies. In NLP, we call this “organ language” (I am shouldering a burden). Another NLP phenomenon called “submodalities” suggests that we speak literally about our internal world. “Things are looking up” would suggest that the speaker is making a mental picture and positioning it in the top area of their mental field of vision. I suspect submodalities will be next on the rediscovery agenda.

This Get-it-Done guy episode is the NLP “new behavior generator.” When it was developed 35 years ago, no one knew about mirror neurons, and sports psychology was in its infancy. Today, visualization is established as producing measurable results in sports performance. I’ve attempted to capture the essential elements of the actual behavior change technique, while augmenting it somewhat with poisoned apples and the occasional lesson in introspection and emotional self-management.