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Use An Editor!

If you want to produce extremely high-quality work, it may be wise to find someone to help. It’s hard to be objective about our own work. Almost by definition, we believe if we did it, it must be good. But yet, sometimes an objective eye can help us take our good work to the realm of greatness. The objective eyes I’m talking about belong to editors.

Editors ROCK! When I’m writing a Get-it-Done Guy episode, my natural sense of humor comes out. My natural sense of humor was developed doing comedy improvisation with college audiences. “Decorum” is not high on the list of words you would use to describe my first draft material.

Fortunately, there’s a very dedicated editor at Macmillan publishing who reads my drafts. She sends them back with paragraphs circled in red pen. In the margin, she writes notes like, “If you say that, the FBI will open a file on you, start wire-tapping your phones, and put you under 24-hour surveillance. Again.” While most people would enjoy free protection services, I find it cramps my style when I go out clubbing. So I rewrite the paragraphs she highlights, this time using Goldilocks and the Three Bears as the central metaphor of my piece. My editors approve, and another Get-it-Done Guy episode is born.

Editors come in many varieties. Some editors can make sure your humor is appropriate. They can make sure your text flows, that you don’t repeat yourself, and that your points build on one another. Copy-editors handle editing the details. They double-check your spelling, your grammar, and your punctuation. I was a copyeditor for the school newspaper when I was a student at Harvard Business School; I need to give my marketing staff a special therapy budget, so they can deal with me.

If you have to write reports, pamphlets, or anything where quality matters, get yourself an editor. It doesn’t have to be a professional, a colleague who writes well may be all that’s required. If you’re worried about letting your coworkers see your work before it’s polished, find a friend who has the write skill set, but works at another company. You can be an outside helper for each other, without worrying about work-in-progress-quality work getting out to the people in your company.

If you’ve never worked with an editor, give it a shot. You’ll discover that having an extra pair of eyes double-check your work can often produce something better than either of you could have written on your own.

Know the Lifetime Value of Your Customers

When that lone customer arrives at your restaurant on a busy night, it’s tempting to make him or her wait, in favor of the party of 12 that’s sure to rack up a huge bill. But it just might not be wise.

When you’re deciding how to structure your business, who to give service to, and when to go the extra mile for a customer, don’t just consider the transaction you’re in the middle of dealing with. Consider the total lifetime of interaction with your customer. The “lifetime value” of a customer is how much you expect that customer to spend over the course of their association with you. That lifetime value is what you want to take into account when deciding how far out of your way to go. I’ve recently had a few run-ins with companies that have taken a short view, much to their detriment.

I eat lunch 5 times a week at the same deli. They discontinued my favorite kind of hot pepper, leaving no condiments that I enjoyed. I asked them to please bring them back, and they refused. I offered to buy my own jar for them to use. They refused. And I stopped eating there. Five days a week, times 50 weeks a year, times $7 per lunch is $1,750 of income a year they were happy to forgo to avoid dealing with the hassle of keeping a jar of peppers around. My new deli is part of a franchise. They are only supposed to serve their approved condiments. I spoke to the owner and he happily kept a special jar of peppers just for me. In the 3 years I’ve been eating there, they’ve made $5,000 and my previous deli has gone out of business.

My friend passes through Reno every year on the way back from the Burning Man festival. He stayed in Harrah’s because they gave him a free upgrade if they had rooms available. He then spent the money he saved in the Harrah’s restaurant and spent even more in the casino. They stopped giving free upgrades, and he changed hotels. It would cost them nothing to give him the upgrade, and instead, they’ve lost year-after-year of restaurant and casino business. Let’s not even consider how much Harrah’s would make on all the referral business my friend would bring. Smooth move, Harrah’s.

To return to the original example, while it may make sense on any given night to forgo seating one person in favor of the party of 12, if that one person dines at your restaurant three times a week, in the course of a year, they’ll outspend the entire party of 12. As unintuitive as it may seem, treating the solo customer well may be a better business decision than handling the occasional bachelorette party. And believe me—the cleanup’s a lot easier, too.

When you make decisions about your customers, do you consider their requests as separate events, or do you consider the lifetime value of each customer before deciding how much to commit to their happiness?

Why don’t you ask for help?

I’m working on a segment for the book about asking for help. I’ve noticed that I just don’t ask for help nearly enough.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • I don’t want to admit to myself that I don’t know the thing.
  • I don’t realize that I need help, even though I’m not making any progress.
  • I only have a certain number of “silver bullets” and don’t want to use them up.

What are some of the things you think that get you not to ask for help?

How do *you* remember faces and names?

I’m writing a Get-it-Done Guy episode on remembering names and faces. I know how I remember names. But my way isn’t perfect. In fact, if you’ve ever met me and expected me to remember your name, you’ll know my way sucks. (Sorry, Mom. At least, I think your name was “Mom.”)

I may use your answer in the Get-it-Done Guy episode. Please leave your name as you want me to read it if you would like me to give you credit in the episode. Thanks!


How do you remember names and faces?

Your little voice may give you better advice than you know.

Have you ever wondered how certain corrupt businesspeople can keep spouting great, moral words while doing the exact opposite in their behavior? You wonder how they can wax eloquent about the need to give customers high-quality products while they happily substitute inferior quality raw materials to save costs. You wonder: are they insane? Probably not. Yes, they hear voices in their head. But we all do that. The problem is that they’re listening to the wrong ones.

In a New York Times article today, John Tierney discusses the science behind hypocrisy and how we fool ourselves. It seems when we distract our conscious mind, we listen mainly to our “gut” (or our “heart,” depending on how poetic an image you prefer), and we know when we’re doing The Wrong Thing. When our conscious minds are free, however, we use them—to self-justify. When we engage in hypocritical or anti-social behavior, our conscious mind goes to work creating justifications so we believe we’re doing the right thing, even when we aren’t.

In the past several years, I’ve become more aware of my own “heart voice.” When I have a troubling decision to make, or strong ambivalence about a situation, I sit quietly. Actually, my brain is usually shrieking gibberish about how unfair I’m being treated, or about how I don’t deserve what’s happening, or about how I’m an utter and complete failure at life because I missed “9 Down” in today’s New York Times crossword puzzle. So here’s this Shrieking Monster in my head, and I let it rant while putting attention on the middle of my chest. Then when the Shrieking Monster stops to take a breath, I quickly ask, “What should I do in this situation?”

Then I sit. After a few minutes, beneath the Monster comes a little, quiet voice. It’s barely even in words. And it has an answer.

The moment the answer comes, I know it’s the right one for me. It’s almost always the moral thing, the ethical thing, the loving thing, the passionate thing. In some weird way, it’s the answer I already knew was right, but just wouldn’t admit to myself. It took a chat with the Little Voice to bring it to the place where it could be heard over the Shrieking Monster voice.

The Shrieking Monster is the one that usually pushes me to do stupid things. It goads me to yell at people when I’m frustrated, to get petulant and childish when I could be forging alliances, and to beat myself up when I don’t do well, even if I did my best. The Little Voice, though, is my own internal Dear Abby: its advice is excellent, even if its hairstyle could stand some updating.

If you’ve never tried this, give it a shot. Ponder a decision that’s giving you angst. Maybe it’s a word decision. Maybe it involves your Sweetie. Choose a really, really important decision, like: should I pick up the socks myself, or continue screaming at my sweetie for another eight months to pick them up? Sit quietly with the situation. Your Shrieking Monster will helpfully point out how unfair it is that you have to pick up the socks, how much you deserve to have the socks picked up for you, and how you really should break up because of the socks. Then sit quietly and listen to the Little Voice behind the shrieking monster. It just might have some good advice. If it seems reasonable, give it a shot. You might find yourself acting more ethically, more morally, more lovingly, and more happily. In other words, you just may find your little voice is the key to acting as—not just aspiring to be—your Very Best Self.

Find the article on hypocrisy at http://r.steverrobbins.com/hypocrisyarticle.