How do I: deal with uncertainty

Take the unpopular perspective that when it comes to uncertainty, I would prefer to deal with uncomfortable unknowns than comfortable knowns. Why? It is more challenging. It makes us think and do more. Dealing with uncertainty is more fun to work with than even chess or puzzles because the outcomes and rules are already known for both of those games. Making things that don’t exist yet is far more uncertain and more challenging. Embrace uncertainty and immerse yourself in it like a pool of water. Bring some hypothesized outcomes to test. Learn to swim in a shallow pool of uncertainty before exploring the deep, dark underwater caves of uncertainty. As you explore the depths of uncertainty, be sure to leave proper markers along that new path to get back to reality as we know it. Document your journey as well as your escape.

Avoid drama and ego. Question all fears, not just your own. What partly matters during the journey is that you are being listened to and valued by the few, not because you are right, for your vision of what could be and/or should be. This will evolve over time into something recognizable, useful, and valued. Clarity and conciseness will eventually hit the right chord.

Multiple perspectives matter more, not to reach a consensus, but because we need to understand multiple diverse points of view of how to see, hear, and feel something new, even if it may be partly familiar. While it could be so new and unknown, does it matter, to whom and why?

No matter how much is uncertain, there will be known unknowns and unknown unknowns. We should plow forward toward incremental improvements, iterations, and baby steps because this is how we get through it and make that new path. This path may be taken by a few others who want to do this work, to follow up, and even improve upon. By bringing the dark areas of uncertainty into the light, we may find possibilities and value to more.

Our future audience may want or need this. Having conversations and experiencing this are the only ways we will know if and when those barriers of uncertainty have been broken. How else will we reveal that certain need or certain desire for this that you build?

Keep making new things and create new paths. New uncertainties will follow up.

How do I: evaluate any work opportunity

We can all find work opportunities for ourselves if we look today. How do you evaluate any work opportunity?

I evaluate any work opportunity based on six factors:

1. Is it remote work?

This first factor was in effect since the beginning of 2019 for me and had nothing to do with the pandemic. This was a realization that unless my own work requires moving physical objects, there is no point in being on-site. And I say this as an extravert.

Commuting is a colossal waste of time and natural resources that could be used more productively on anything else you see fit. Seeing/experiencing new places because you want to do so on vacation rather than because you have to commute to work. We saw this very clearly in 2020. I do not see the point of doing any digital work “on-site” for any reason, regardless of who I am working for. Ever. If you have not evolved your thinking, you may be:

A. In survival mode (in an unstable company that is not likely hiring).

B. Trying to justify your commercial office real estate (as it remains mostly empty instead of repurposing it or letting it go).

C. Falsely believing we will all run back to a “normal” shared office space.

D. Failing to realize that we did not need to commute to do digital work in the first place.

E. Forgetting that both global and local relationships can thrive without any physical proximity, thanks to technology.

F. Ignoring the options of scheduled communication and virtual collaboration, regardless of geography.

G. Limiting your own choices locally instead of having more opportunities globally.

H. Restricted because you are still working on digital transformation.

I. Unwilling to work from anywhere.

The smartest companies, those that want to attract and retain the best talent from anywhere (and not limit themselves to local candidates nor people forced to move), realize their employees can be more efficient and effective as a distributed workforce. Back when I traveled for work, I saw travel and commuting as a chore. And it still is. Travel and commuting are not luxuries. Who misses long lines, crowded planes, heavy traffic, or looking for a parking space? Instead, count all the wasted hours that you will never recover. Think about it. Why do that today when you do not have to?

2. Am I paid well?

Some companies are under the illusion that we have lowered our rates because the work can now be done virtually. Those same companies fail to realize that the work has not changed and was able to be done completely virtually for over a decade. My rates have only gone up because I make it easier than ever for clients to engage my services. Simple supply and demand economics. More demand, higher fees. Pay the price or keep looking.

3. Are they listening to me? 

Why should I stay if who I work for doesn’t listen/read/pay attention to what I tell them? I can either help a client or I move on to others that want my help. Obviously, we need to listen, read, pay attention and speak up too. Makes sense? Keep reading.

4. Can I make a difference?

If people are not listening/reading/paying attention to what we tell them, we likely can not make a difference unless we assume we know what they need (which can also backfire) or clarify the goals after changes occur. I am a consultant to make a positive difference for clients, not just to collect billable hours.

I do not speak for my other consulting brethren where some have a drug pusher mentality for clients that can not function without them. Who put themselves in that spot? Who needs help getting out of that?

5. Is it what I want to do?

Priorities change just like many other things change around us constantly. We have control over some of these things, and we do not control many other things. We also choose how we spend/waste our attention. Where we work and where we live is something we do control as adults. How did you decide where to live? Why? Why are you working where you do aside from the pay? What company we work for is something we do control. Who applied for the job? Is it still what you want to be doing? Are you good at it? Are you effective? Or is it just a matter of collecting a paycheck? Does it still give you a sense of accomplishment? Is it fulfilling? Do you like it, or is it painful?

6. Am I treated well?

Yes, being treated well by co-workers is important and it starts with treating others well. Being effective can be more important than expecting friendliness. Work is not supposed to be easy, otherwise, we will get bored quickly.

Who are you serving? Does it matter to them? Is it painful to deal with some people? Why? Are certain colleagues interpersonally manipulative or emotionally abusive? Most of the time that does not happen; otherwise, it becomes a serious HR issue. Are you and your supervisor clear on expectations? Do you remain responsive? Do you remain positive? Sometimes remaining positive is a matter of reframing an open conversation. Having respectful conversations is part of the job.

At any point, we will likely learn something new.

When these six factors erode, it is time to evaluate whether to move on, especially if factors #3 and #4 vaporize. 

What factors matter to you when you evaluate work opportunities?

How do I: take notes

Since I listen to podcasts on my smartphone, I often listen and pause the podcast episode that just mentioned something worth noting, since memory fades for everyone. How do I take notes?

I open up my “note-taking” app on my smartphone which is as simple as emailing myself and/or someone else who would benefit from this note along with the podcast episode link (or the source of this information) and when I heard it (timecode in the podcast). I would rewind the podcast 15 seconds or more as needed and play that part a few times to be sure I wrote down the memorable points for the note to reference in the future.

The same applies to note-taking conference calls. Note major points or action items with who is responsible. If it is due by the next scheduled meeting, I would include assignments per name in the schedule calendar invite as long as they are smart assignment.

Beyond podcasts and meetings, if any ideas are worth noting because they have value to you as needed/wanted experience, inspiration and/or knowledge, then capture them for future reference. Those ideas can spawn more ideas in the future. If the ideas and points shared have no perceived value to you, don’t note them. Note-taking is a value judgment and not an ego stroke. If you follow the ABC methodology (Always Be Capturing), then purge periodically. Not everything has value.

Do I use paper? Nope. Paper will get lost, ignored, and is not transferable to others without writing/copying it again electronically. Twice the effort is not worth it. Instead, formulate an email that can have your notes in that email shared with all in the meeting by the end of the meeting. No doodling needed. That email may include images of any whiteboard (virtual or physical) annotated as seen or links to slide decks/images/videos shared.

If all your notes are not accessible to you at all times, portable at all times, and transferable from anywhere to anywhere, they have little value. Those recorded ideas can be as distant from you as your smartphone.

The idea behind note-taking is to make those ideas are available for future reference, not perfection. That future reference might be hours, days, weeks, months, or years later. Without such notes, all these fleeting ideas become forgotten details disappearing as fast as time today.

How do I: write a book

open-book-5218061_1280Disclosure: Links to other sites may be affiliate links that generate us a small commission at no extra cost to you.

After writing over 7 books in three years, I want to share some thoughts on how I write a book as I continue to write more.

Research

Start by looking at what is out there. I prefer to find a topic that has not been writing about much (think niche topic) instead of adding my own take to the crowded mass market of books.

What is available today from Amazon, Google as well as podcasts among many other sources of information?

Consume it. Study it. Research your topic or idea thoroughly.

Note that my MBTI scores for consuming data and research is close to the highest it goes.

Read

Note that I personally write non-fiction and typically read non-fiction too. The best writers are heavy readers too. Keep consuming a variety of content. Feed your curiosity.

Identify

What is the topic you seek? Do a gap analysis of your research.

Find out what is missing. Why is it missing?

Does it really matter to your audience/readers and not just you? You can definitely write for you based on your curiosity and own interests, however, blogging might be more successful than book writing in that case. It is easier to reach an audience.

Draft the keywords based on the topics that matter.

How many people on LinkedIn have these topic keywords in their profile? Is there enough people that care about the topic to have it as part of their profession?

Who is the audience beyond who you are interviewing? Identify your audience so you know who you are writing for.

Goals

What are your goals for this book before you start writing it? Imagine the end state with goals.

What do you want to do with the book?

What do your readers want out of the book?

Is anyone interested?

What is in it for the reader?

WIIFM (or you)?

Is this a readers’ book or writers’ book? Be careful since there is a big difference between the two. One may feed your ego while the other might sell if it has value for the readers.

What are the calls to action? What do you want the reader to do at the end?

Take the big hairy audacious goal (B-HAG) of creating a book and break it apart into smaller groups of finite, tidy, achievable goals (F-TAGs) as steps/tasks in your book process.

Reverse Engineer YOUR Book Project into a PLAN

Envision your end goals for this book. Based on these end-state goals, how do you get there?

Reverse engineer the book and its marketing.

What are those steps and tasks in reverse order? Break down the tasks and steps that need to occur.

Where are the gaps? What is missing in the plan? Do a gap analysis.

What do you need to learn (more time spend) or pay someone to do (more money spend)?

A book project is still a project. Treat it like project manager with specifications, timelines with deadlines and budgets.  Prioritize those tasks.

Set realistic time-based milestones to avoid delays. How long will it take you to do each part? Be realistic to include sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks included. Oh, and much of the other things you need to continue doing too. Drop the time-wasters that do not add value to your life and you will find time to do this book project even it’s 30 minutes daily.

Strategize

Since plans fail often and then iterate, have a strategy.

What is not going to change whether this is your first book or your Nth book? What is going to change?

What will you do and what will you not do?

How are you going to engage and retain your audience in each chapter?

Promote before release to hold yourself accountable once you have a clear idea of why, how, what, and when you are delivering.

Have difficultly aligning the ideas, events and characters?  Try mind-mapping them for better clarity.

Interview

Use (true) stories throughout your nonfiction book.  It does not need to be your own personal stories that you experienced as long as you don’t plagiarize. Plenty of authors use other people’s stories with great success if told with clarity.

If you are writing fiction, you have the creative freedom to change reality into your own.

Groups

Utilize groups for many things. Groups for encouragement and ideation like virtual groups. Groups to interviews. Groups for feedback. Group-based (heavy user vs. light user) for tiered pricing. Groupings of professionals (such as editors) as backups when you need to scale up or if some are not available at the moment you need them. Start a group with people who have a common goal and are not competitors.

Writing

Make it a daily habit of writing every day. If you don’t have the focus or ideas flowing on your project, write something else like a blog or journal that day. Exercise that writing so you can build on it.

Keep your goals in mind. Then make it happen by doing it.

Start with an outline to organize your thoughts first for you and then ultimately for the reader.

Do you need a timeline? If so, build one for yourself. You don’t have to present the book in that sequence though.

If you are not sure what to add or how to structure it yet, create a mind map online.

Provide value to your readers in every chapter, not filler. Writing is not about word counts.

Go do.

Editing

Editing is often clarifying and simplifying. Editing is about keeping which words count.

Read it out loud. If it is hard to read, edit to make it easier to read aloud and understand with better clarity. If the book was a long speech, could you read your long script so it flowed nicely?

Use Grammarly to assist your editing beyond spellchecks and grammar checks.

Cut out the fluff. Details are good if it helps bring out clarity and context as needed, but not if it brings out ambiguity and confusion.

Confusion is rarely a goal whether you are editing for the engaged reader nor for the successful writer.

Feedback

Don’t write, edit, and publish in a vacuum. Writers are often blind to their own edits.

Ask some people to read a draft of a chapter or two for feedback. Ask to read the finished version for a review. That is what some groups are for. Do not ask family and close friends for feedback because it will be biased based on your relationship with them.

Emotion clouds logic. If it does not make sense, fix it. Do not defend what is not clear.

I am not a fan of overpolishing. No need for 50 drafts.  Don’t waste time in delaying the release of a newly finished book.

The best feedback is respectful of you, but not the work. You are not your work. Unfiltered advice works. You need to know the challenges and suggestions on how to fix them, not how great you are. “It’s good” actually tells you nothing. Ask for specificity so you know where and why you might need to focus your attention on a possible challenge.

If someone actually spent the time to consume your work, listen carefully. Be sure they first understand the context, then the content. You can quiz them on it to check if they got it or not.

As part of the feedback process, I have the text-to-speech function turned on my computer to read the book back to me word for word so I am not assuming what I wrote was there, but rather hear it as written.

Writers assume clarity after a while or get lost in ambiguity. Some writers shelve a book project for months so they can revisit it and find the gaps to fill in their book.

Ask some people to read the finished version for a review. Your followers, even social media is one avenue for this.

Hire

Books don’t get done alone. At least not the books that get done efficiently.

Hire a professional editor.

Hire a professional copy editor.

Hire someone who has extensive experience formatting your book as an ebook, as a print book and/or as an audiobook. This might be a few different people. Do you need to know them? No. Results are what matter.

Design

Hire a book cover designer. If the book has graphics or photos, hire a designer for the layout. Note that the formatting will be different for different types of ebooks and print books.

Marketing

If you suck at marketing, hire a book marketer with a well-proven track record and recommendations. Otherwise, have a marketing plan before you publish the book (to create the buzz before release and possible anticipation after you wrap up all editing and design) and have several marketing plans with different avenues and directions after you publish. Do you need to know your marketer? No. You need an alignment of clear common goals. You will know if and where your marketing will work if the right questions are asked (like “how did you hear about my book?”) and links are tracked.

Metadata

In order for your book to be findable (if no one can find it, no one will buy it), you need metadata which includes categorization for your book. ISBN is part of it.

Publishing

A few years ago, I was asked to write a book for a publisher, however, their contract had no royalties for ebook sales (about 60% of the book market) and they would not negotiate that, so I declined. in my opinion, publishers provide very little value because they do very little today.  This is why I choose to self-publish my books. I have yet to see any reason why I would not continue to self-publish which allows more control, more credit, more royalties.

When it comes to creating a book that you write, it is all up to you anyways, so why fork over the responsibilities unless you don’t want to do it in the first place. Commit or don’t. There is no gray area.

As far as book formats, ebooks will continue to come through. As far as audiobooks (fastest-growing book format due to ease of listening), I will pass for now because I choose to create podcast series instead which are created at a lower production cost.

Print books are great for people who want to hold a piece of you and your writings in their hands. My books will not be in bookstores (for the short time they still exist) because they are not for general audiences. Personally, I don’t need my books to appear on a shelf as just another dust collector. I am totally okay with that. Personally, I loathe paper.

TIPS

You can find few book writers’ tips from a non-fiction writers group

What book writing tips would you like to share?

Are you writing a book?

Schedule a consulting call about your own book project