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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Guaranteed Cure for Writer's Block

Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all.

Charles Bukowski

A Freudian psychoanalyst, Edmund Bergler, dreamed up the term "writer's block" in the late 1940s. His remedy, naturally, was the "talking cure." At today's prices, that costs $300 a session.

Fine, if you can afford it.

A fiction writer like Stephen King cures writer's block less expensively.

King simply goes for a three-mile stroll, and conjures up another unhinged politico, demonic pet, or zombie retiree, to move a gridlocked story forward.

B2B writers can't use that trick (although walking is good for everyone).

You'll find lots of nutty advice (climb into a sleeping bag, or listen to pink noise, or down a martini), but the best cure for writer's block, in my experience, is a three-step technique I learned from copywriter Bob Bly:
  • Locate a project you wrote that's similar to the current project
  • Make a copy of the file and open it
  • Start rewriting your own copy
You'll not only avoid writer's block, you'll quick-start the new project. Don't have a similar project? Then swipe another writer's and start to rewrite that.

Try it. Don't wait til writer's block besets you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

7 Signs You're Mediocre

The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

— John Stuart Mill

Nobody dazzles safely.

Nobody dazzles accidentally.

Nobody dazzles lackadaisically.

Nobody dazzles cost-efficiently.

Nobody dazzles by copying.

Nobody dazzles by committee.

Nobody dazzles by appeasement.

So why keep claiming you do?

Maybe you weren't designed to dazzle.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Sure-Fire, Can't-Lose, 100% Guaranteed Way to Troubleshoot Every Computer Problem You'll Ever Encounter

Computer problems are maddening; troubleshooting them, more so.

Googling for solutions merely heightens your frustration, spewing masses of inscrutable and useless results.

But my hack lets you cut through the palaver straightaway, to get to the answer you need.

Here it is:

Type a description of the problem—no matter what—and add to it, inside quotation marks, the phrase "piece of shit."

I assure you the solution to your problem will appear in the top one, two or three Google results.

For example:

Excel will not print odd-numbered pages "piece of shit"


Lightroom freezes when I save file "piece of shit"

I guarantee my hack works, every time.

By the way, where does hack come from?

The word, meaning "a tool for chopping," dates back to the 14th century and derives from the German Hacke, meaning "hatchet."

But the sense in which we now use the word originated at MIT in the 1950s. Students called any practical joke that employed technology (like welding a public trolley car to the tracks) a hack.

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Make Moments Customers Remember

How do you create an experience customers will remember?

That's the question Chip and Dan Heath answer in their forthcoming book, The Power of Moments.

You'll recall the brothers' skills in science-based storytelling from their previous best sellers, Made to Stick and Switch.

The Power of Moments repeats those performances.

The Heaths call memorable experiences "flagship moments" and claim they're made from four ingredients:
  • Elevation (flagship moments clearly rise above the rest)
  • Insight (they rewire our thinking)
  • Pride (they catch us at our best) and
  • Connection (they bring us together)

It isn't easy to engineer a flagship moment, else every marketer would do it. Few do.

If you want to acquire the skill, the Heath Brothers advise you to "think in moments" and pay particular attention to three:
  • Milestones (regular occasions like holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.)
  • Transitions (ritualistic events like bar mitzvahs, graduations, weddings, etc.) and
  • Pits (moments of downtime like waiting in a line, undergoing a medical procedure, etc.)
The astute marketer not only spots these moments, the Heaths say, but shapes them, by blending some or all of the four ingredients that yield a flagship moment.

And their recipe is simple: "Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled."

The Power of Moments' 300 pages are packed with examples of moment-making artistry, and make the book worth reading.

You probably know Disney distracts you while you wait in long lines, Southwest clowns around during the flight-safety announcements, and Starbucks honors your birthdays with a free-drink coupon.

But you might not know that all Pret a Manger employees can give away free food, based on how much they like a customer's looks; that Sharp Healthcare, by bringing all of its 12,000 employees to a convention center for an annual pep talk, keeps patient satisfaction in the ninetieth percentile (unheard of); and that John Deere welcomes all new employees on their first day with banners, gifts, lunches, and personalized videos.

The Power of Moments will give you plenty of ideas for "turning up the volume on reality" and delivering experiences your customers will remember. And you don't have to settle for only the examples in the book. The Heaths will soon offer free podcasts featuring more.
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