Using Pattern Recognition To Improve Customer Service

Using Pattern Recognition To Improve Customer Service

My trip to CLT from JAX started off typical: cramped, hot, and teetering on the brink of late. We boarded on time, but the plane was small. Everyone had seats, but there wasn’t ample space for luggage. No worries; I had a window seat and we’d be taking off shortly.

The baggage, and people, found appropriate homes and we braced to push back. After all, that’s what happens when the door shuts and everyone is buckled up. Except, we didn’t.

Continue Reading…

Perfecting Your Craft When You’re Not Practicing Your Craft

perfecting your craft when you're not practicing your craft

I did it as an experiment. My schedule would soon change and I would have less time to focus on the things I wanted to work on. My attention would be drawn in many new directions, none of which faced my writing.

Writing had become my craft. Some people play music, some paint, and I wrote. Though my schedule was changing, I still wanted to continue honing the craft I’d come to love.

Continue Reading…

Success In Spite Of Failure

People contact me regularly to guest post on the blog. Most of the time, this attempts are weak and irrelevant to what I share on the blog. However, this one stuck out.

I discuss chasing your dreams, failure, and perseverance regularly. This infographic speaks directly to these topics and is a great reminder that no matter what failures you think you’ve gone through, you’re not alone. Remember, success is closer than you realize.

Please enjoy this piece from Essay Tigers:

Continue Reading…

Unintentionally Practicing Stoicism (The Demise Of My Station Wagon)

Unintentionally practicing stoicism

I have to thank Tim Ferriss for getting me into this. He’s had me thinking about stoicism for months. It started when he recommended Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle Is The Way, some time ago. During the book, Ryan mentioned Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. After that, Tim began sharing Seneca’s letters via his podcast. I consumed all of it, but I didn’t feel a change.

Some books hit you at just the right angle + time + mood and change your life. None of these resources altered my way of thinking but they did reinforce a mindset I adopted from playing competitive sports. Football coaches preach, “Nothing is as good as it seems. Nothing is as bad as it seems.”

They usually say this when players get too excited or too upset as an attempt to level a player’s head. It can be used for both sides of the argument, but I find myself using it more when things go wrong. Good coaches know the best players are the ones who remain focused in all situations – good or bad. I was raised to think like this, but it’s easier to write about than to apply.

Continue Reading…

How To Use Discipline To Execute Strategy

“One minute to start!” said the announcer over the loud speakers.

I clicked my Nike running watch to “Stopwatch” mode. I wiped my sweaty brow one last time before the gun fired and I took a gulp of muggy, Charleston, SC air before forcefully exhaling.

My warm-up felt good, my shoes were broken in, and it looked like the rain would hold off long enough for me to run a dry race. There was nothing left to do but set my 10K (6.2 miles) personal record. Or, as runners refer to it, “PR.”

“Ten seconds to start,” boomed the announcer. “Good luck runners!”

It didn’t matter that I had run the Cooper River Bridge Run six previous times, I still had butterflies. My training, though grueling and thorough, was solo. This was a competition – something I hadn’t done in a while.

“Three… Two… One…!” The starting gun fired and I raced South with 40,000 fellow runners, walkers, and joggers.

Continue Reading…

The Quickest Way To Get Your First Hundred Email Subscribers

I began collecting emails for my book launch a year in advance. During casual conversation I would mention what I was working on. If someone seemed interested, I would offer to add their email address to my list. I added one or two at a time, nothing magical about the process, but the list grew steadily.

I had collected my first 100 emails by the time I made first contact with the list – roughly six months in advance. My website was live, the Facebook page was streaming with content, and launch day was in my sights. I shifted my focus to using social media channels instead of leveraging personal connections to gather emails. I directed people to my website and I showed off all the fancy promotional pieces I had been working on. The list’s growth was slower than sap running from a Maple Tree in winter.

As the months passed I could see the book launch coming into focus. Extensive research told me that my email list would be the most important part of launch day; the bigger the list, the more books I could sell because I had their undivided attention. But my list’s growth was still unimpressive.

Finally, after I tried everything in my bag of tricks, I went back to what got me started. I started scrolling through my phone and individually texting people to ask if they’d join my list. Results were… fantastic!

I kicked myself for not sticking with this. Not only were people quick to respond, over 90% of them said they’d join my list. It grew by 50% by the time I scrolled to “Z” in my phone. Then I took it a step farther and asked a few of my true fans to send out their own text messages. I knew they deeply cared about the project and/or me and they would be willing to help. I wrote up a simple text that read:

Hey ______, my friend Mike McCann is writing a book set to launch this fall & I think you’d enjoy it. He asked if I knew anyone who was generous enough to consider joining his email list for pre-launch updates. Of course, I thought of you. It’s a true story of hope set around his 2005 college football team. If you’d like to join, send me your email or check out http://believeeg21.com. If not no worries, just thought you might like the book. Take care!

I asked those influencers (four or five of them) to text some of their friends and family. The strategy continued to work. When the experiment was complete, the list had grown over 150%.

My conclusion, and my advice to you, is two-fold.

1) Start with your warm market before asking strangers to join your list. If you can’t get someone who knows you to sign up, your idea needs tweaking before it’s released to the masses.

2) The latest techniques and technology are not always the most effective tools. Sometimes low-tech options are the most effective. Do not rule them out until you have tried them.

Why I Don’t Care About The Title Of The Book That Changed My Life

It started as a hobby. It was a non-event, something that happened without effort. Nobody warned me what I was doing would change my life in a dramatic way.

It was simple: I picked up a book because I didn’t care to watch TV.

It happened to be a book about motivation and owning your work – right up my alley. I vaguely remember some of the principles but I cannot recall the title. It doesn’t matter.

Many of the author’s ideas became practices for me. They were new and novel and made me want to be better at my job. Many of those practices, like waking early, became habits. But that isn’t what mattered most from the experience.

Here is: when I read this book, I was changed. I was changed in a way that made me realize I had learned something that would help me. Up to this point in my life, my mid-twenties, my education had come from school (which ended years prior) and from work-related training. Both school and work experience are fantastic teachers, but this was different.

School ends for most between 18 and 25. Work starts around the same time and those lessons pick up where the schooling left off. But, education through school and work are about what other people want you to learnI realized, after reading this book, that I could learn about anything for very little. 

When you leave the subject of your education up to others, they will typically teach you just enough. In school, this often means enough to pass the class; not always it’s day-to-day application. In work, this often means enough to get the job done; not necessarily how to think about improving the business. Not everyone wants you to have your own opinion. You have to be the one to who makes the choice to educate yourself.

My eyes were opened. The subject matter wasn’t what changed me, it was the idea that I could change me. I didn’t have this beautiful revelation where I finished the book with tears streaming down my cheeks. I did, however, go immediately to the book store to buy another book.

That next one didn’t change me as much as the first. Nor did the one after that. Or the one after that. But the fourth one did. Not every book will make you reassess your life, but if you don’t continue learning, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to do so.

Some people don’t like reading, fair enough. But don’t let that be an excuse. This is about educating yourself, not necessarily reading. Reading a book was simply what opened my eyes.

NOTE: I say books, instead of blogs, because there is a LOT of bad information on the internet, be careful.

Podcasts are plentiful and audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular. Some people don’t have the money, fair enough. But before you say that, Google “free ebook + your topic” or YouTube “free audiobooks” to see what type of results you come up with. I can’t promise you’ll find something that will change your life, but I promise you’ll find something worth your time.

Why You Need To Be Busy To Stay Productive

“Busy is a trap.”

I heard someone say this on a podcast a few weeks back. Then, this past Sunday, the message at church was about not allowing ourselves to be so busy that we neglect our relationships. A double-dose of this idea, that busy is bad, made me analyze my busy-ness level.

First, it’s important to note that I do not have a full time job. I freelance and I’m in between major projects so my load is lighter than normal. I have things to do every day, but I am not busy. Nor am I terribly productive.

Because nothing is pressing, my days are lazier than normal. I don’t need to be as regimented as I was when I was writing the book because there’s plenty of time to get everything done. I don’t need to plan my meals because there’s no need to save time. I can spend an hour and half on lunch and all my assignments will still be checked off at the end of the day. This leaves me with extra time for wasteful things like social media, projects I’m not excited about, excessive house-cleaning, etc.

In order to stay productive, I need to stay busy.

When you have tasks to accomplish, you stay on track. When there is no agenda, you bounce around aimlessly until something “urgent” comes up and you chase it like a cat chasing a laser pointer. These shiny objects don’t lead anywhere but they give you something to do. When the sun sets, you realize not much was accomplished even if you felt like you were doing something all day.

Be busy to stay productive. This means planning. Many freelancers and small business owners fail because they don’t know how to plan their day. This includes setting objectives and consequences if these tasks aren’t accomplished – just like you would at a job. For example, to combat this unproductive spell, I have front-loaded all my tasks in the morning. I don’t allow myself to eat lunch until all of my daily tasks are done. Even if my afternoon is a waste, my morning was productive. I typically get everything done before distraction sets in; hunger is a strong motivator.

Be busy to stay productive

Photo courtesy of jeanbaptisteparis 

Be busy to stay productive. This means creating a buffer and prioritizing. If you’re overloaded and your calendar looks like a game of Tetris, be sure to build in buffer. I was unproductive for years. I created massive to-do lists with everything from “Call Reggie” to “Take out the trash” and at the end of the day, my most important job duties, like “Finish forecasting Q1” didn’t get addressed. Because I tried to do everything in a day, I wound up checking off as many things as I could. Many of these tasks were menial, but they added up to a full schedule. This sometimes left me neglecting the duties that were significantly more important than taking out the trash.

Be busy to stay productive, but not too busy. If you’re overloaded, find space in your schedule and say, “NO” a few times. If you’re underloaded, look for ways to give yourself deadlines or consequences so you stay on track. There is no perfect answer for how much work is right, each person has their own threshold. One thing’s for sure, it’s not on the extreme end of the spectrum.