January 27, 2009

Gonzo Goals

Posted in Life tagged , , at 9:29 am by Andrew McMillen

I just finished Gonzo, the Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour oral biography of Hunter S. Thompson‘s life. An inspiring story of a writer I admire, and who I need to read more of.

As I put the book down, I re-decided that I want to be remembered for my writing voice and tone. This is tougher than ever – internet, blogs, everyone’s publishing, etc. But the way forward is to just write every day and get feedback and get better. Push through the dip, I suppose, though I’ve yet to read that book.

It’s hard. I occasionally feel like I’m languishing, plateauing, not improving. I get these feelings when I’m inactive or being too regular – sitting around, talking and drinking. Which is ridiculous, of course, since these moments shape my knowledge and feelings and dislikes and likes and experiences and memories and examples and voice.

I’m determined to be memorable like Hunter, but without the drugs and alcohol. I’m not naive enough to think that this is an original thought. Probably a hundred thousand have thought or written the same thing after reading, or reading about, Hunter. But it’s pretty awesome to realise that one person can have that affect on so many.

And I want to know that feeling.

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November 9, 2008

Fear

Posted in Life tagged , , , , at 11:09 am by Andrew McMillen

You know, my biggest fear is mediocrity.

Waking up one day and realising that I embody all the traits that I dislike in other people.

Whether in mind – watching television, not reading, conducting conversations that revolve around inane interpersonal relationship bullshit.

Or in body – eating crap, binge drinking, not exercising.

Fear is healthy. Fear is a huge motivator.

It’d be easy to construct this as some huge deal, a struggle, a rage against mediocrity. But it’s not. Instead, it’s kind of easy.

One simple question, asked over and over: who do you want to be?

November 3, 2008

Marketing Juice

Posted in Life tagged , , , at 11:33 pm by Andrew McMillen

I bought a Spring Valley juice at university the other week. Apple and blackcurrant, on a whim – not my usual drink of choice, but it satisfied.

I wasn’t too impressed by the copy on the side of the bottle, though:

After just one sip of this heaven-sent, preservative-free juice, that halo perched precariously above your head will flicker back to life like a broken neon sign. This of course signals the start of repentance for the pain you’ve put your body through over the weekend.

springvalley.com.au

This is stupid, because they’ve defined their target market as young people who get hammered every weekend and only drink juice as a hangover cure. Alcohol-inflicted injury is what I’m lead to believe the ‘pain’ refers to.

This is their marketing ploy. No preservatives. No added sugar. Drink this when you’ve been a dumbshit binge drinker over the weekend. 

Not the best assumption to make about your target market, right? The ‘liddle facts‘ under the lid are cute, but they don’t gel with the message on the side of the bottle. And they list an impersonal web address.

Contrast this against the copy on the side of a Boost Juice cup. Verbatim:

So, now you’ve got your Boost. Tell us:

Does it taste amazing?

Did our boosties make it for you in a flash?

Did they make you feel good for coming to Boost today?
Please let us know if we reached our usual giddy heights of brilliance today. We love hearing from you, the great stuff as well as what we can do better!

love life

(Janine Allis‘ signature)

janine@boostjuicebars.com


I like this a lot. The tense switches are appropriate. She calls the workers – often young females – boosties, which I’d guess would make them like their job a little more. Like Subway‘s sandwich artists – or maybe not. Maybe they take the piss out of it and hate their jobs. But the ‘boosties’ I witness usually seem pretty happy. 

The copy isn’t overwhelmingly, desperately happy. Just positive overall. And aside from the awesome-tasting juice, the service is one of the reasons I return to Boost. Their assembly line system is tight, even when they’re busy and the queue is dozens deep. Everyone knows what they’re doing, and their work is on display, all the time. Their training regime must kick arse.

And the inclusion of Janine’s address at the end is another nice personal touch. Sure, she’d most likely have assistances reading for her, but I get the distinct impression that I’d receive a reply if I were to email that address. I’ll try it out, and I’ll include a link to this article.

Two different marketing strategies for two different brands targeting two slightly different segments of the juice market. One assumes poor past personal behaviour on their customers’ part; as a result, their tone comes off as haughty, and vaguely offensive. The other makes their loyal customers smile, and extends the opportunity to open a dialogue between producer and consumer.

Which of these is sustainable?

October 10, 2008

Seth Godin On Luck

Posted in Life tagged , , at 10:48 pm by Andrew McMillen

If you need motivation today, Seth’s got you covered.

…effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.

For sure. Motivation is key here. Fear of failure is a big stumbling point, but I think that inertia paralysis is bigger. Fear of moving outside of one’s comfort zone.

…that’s the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.

I’ve written about luck before. I don’t buy into it. Anything that’s worth having is worth working for, and in many cases – except lottery winners – it is worked for.

But I’ve slacked off lately. I could throw a dozen half-baked excuses at it immediately – too busy, would rather relax, I’ve got other things I’d rather do – but really, there is no excuse. I’m falling short of the standards I set out for myself earlier in the year. My RSS reader is barely prodded of late. I have a stack of unread books that I haven’t touched in months. I can feel the inertia setting in. Recognised patterns are becoming habits; known personal responsibilities are being shirked.

And it doesn’t feel good. Cognitive dissonance. I look back on most booze-fuelled nights in the company of good friends with fondness, but dude, what exactly are you trying to achieve here?

This is a question I’ll continue to ask myself; this entry will serve as a reminder.

September 29, 2008

Perception

Posted in Life tagged , , , at 9:25 pm by Andrew McMillen

I’ve mentioned reframing before. It’s powerful, but difficult to keep in mind. Seth’s post is a timely reminder, though – bolding is mine:

How much of your day is spent doing things you have to do (as opposed to the things you get to do.)? In my experience, as people become successful and happier (the subset that are both) I find that the percentage shifts. 

You’d think that this happens because their success permits them to skip or delegate the have to tasks. And to some extent, this is true. But far more than that, these people redefine what they do all day. They view the tasks as opportunities instead of drudge work.

I don’t buy into the notion that we can’t enjoy what we do all day. That any personal satisfaction achieved in the workplace should be met with self-depricating humour and subsequently buried. That each working week should be considered a battle toward Friday and a weekend of excess, at the cost of health. 

When did this pervasive ideology take root?

Rarely do I witness people – in any field of experience, professional or otherwise – take pride in what they do for a living. 

I see it as a choice – mediocrity, or excellence. Doing enough to get by – the bare minimum – or excelling, extending, exceeding.

I’m starting to remind myself of a character from Office Space, so I’ll give it a rest.

It’s just one of those little rules you create for yourself, though. If only a few people notice the positive choices you make, there’s a good chance that those few are the ones who hold the keys to further opportunities.

Perception is the key concept here. Have to do versus get to do.

September 15, 2008

Mediocrity versus excellence

Posted in Life tagged , , at 1:24 pm by Andrew McMillen

An excellent post on Schaefer’s Blog linked from The Art Of Manliness discusses a general lack of personal responsibility and accountability:

This is why something needs to change – and instead of demanding it from everyone else it has to start with us. As Herbert Spencer aptly spoke, “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

After all, at the end of the day it’s about taking a coat when it looks like it’s chilly outside. You can choose not to, it’s true, but don’t whine when you get cold.  Life’s about choices.

Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. 

I find inspiration everywhere. In the actions – the poor choices – of my fellows. 

They constantly eat crap and wonder why they’re unhealthy? Inspiration to exercise more often and constantly evaluate what I eat.

Their entire day ruined due to a crippling hangover from the night before? Inspiration to exercise self control and restrict what I drink.

They spend considerable amounts of time enveloped within a virtual world while barely functioning in the real world? Inspiration to read, think, discuss, write, create.

This thought process has become easier over time. “What could I be achieving right now?” is the question at the back of my mind. 

The way I see it – we’re here for 80 years. Maybe less, maybe more. Best to make the most of it, right?

Funny how the first connotation we tend to have with that phrase is partying, socialising, hedonism, affluence

Life’s about choices. Since most people are happy with mediocrity, I choose excellence.

August 30, 2008

Personal Brand Marketing

Posted in Life tagged , at 2:39 pm by Andrew McMillen

I put off reading this article for a few days, and I’m glad that I did. Tom Peters’ discussion on the importance of self-marketing demands your complete attention for a few minutes.

When you’re promoting brand You, everything you do — and everything you choose not to do — communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you’re sending about your brand.

Being constantly aware of how you’re presenting – marketing – yourself throughout the day is hard. It’s not easily learned, either. It takes time. I’m learning.

August 3, 2008

Condoleezza Rice: It’s your power, use it

Posted in Life tagged , , at 12:02 pm by Andrew McMillen

Noel linked me to an inspiring speech recently given to students of Perth’s Mercedes College by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s well worth the read. I’ve picked out some key quotes below – bolding is mine.

I’d only have one suggestion, (to young people) which is when you go to college, don’t try to determine what job you’re going to have when you get out. Try to determine what your passion is. Try to figure out what it is you really love to do.

Finding your passion is the most important thing that you can do. My passion turned out to be the study of the Soviet Union. The first time I heard the Russian language, it was like falling in love.

Don’t worry if it’s something that seems a little odd because there is no reason that a black woman from Birmingham, Alabama, should have been interested in the Soviet Union. I just was. Don’t let anybody define for you what you should be interested in. Your horizons should be limitless at this point. You have to find that special combination of what you’re good at doing and what you love to do. And when you find that combination life is going to work out.

Just don’t let anybody put limits on it because you’re a woman or because you are from some particular ethnic group or because you’re Aboriginal or whatever you are. What you want to be and who you’re going to be is really up to you.

Most often people will underestimate your capabilities. The best way to deal with that is, be tough, be prepared to take on whatever questions come at you. And you’ll find that sooner or later, it won’t matter that much.

July 29, 2008

Affluenza

Posted in Life tagged , , at 11:50 pm by Andrew McMillen

Umair‘s article got me thinking.

We’re not just addicted to cheap oil, as Tom Friedman and Al Gore have eloquently argued. There’s a deeper economic truth at work here.

We’re addicted to consumption.

My mind is drawn to a book that I read in 2006 named Affluenza, by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. The authors posit that increasing rates of stress, depression, and obesity directly correlate to the “consumption binge” that many Australians happily indulge in.

Umair continues:

It’s not just cheap oil we’re addicted to: it’s cheap everything. And the world we’re entering isn’t really of Peak Oil as it is one of Peak Consumption.

[Do we] continue to hawk stuff that “satisfies” largely artificial needs? Or does [we] choose to do something authentic, meaningful, and purposive – something that makes us all radically better off than we were before?

Affluenza is by no means a new concept. Conscious or not, much of the Western world is afflicted. Success measured by financial success and material possessions. This is life as many of us know it. And it’s fucking sad.

From a business perspective, it’s a matter of considering the short-term gratification against the long-term gain. Umair uses an example:

Do we need razors with ten blades – or a single blade that never dulls?

This discussion is centred around strategic mobility. If you’ve built your business on disposable razor blades – if thousands of employees rely on your product to support themselves and, in turn, your business – it’s a huge deal to turn the ship around. To refocus your business objectives. To diversify, collaborate and reinvent. To acknowledge that although you’re satisfying a perceived need in the marketplace, maybe things could be done better.

This is not an easy conversation to have. Businesses like our figurative disposable razor blade manufacturer – they’re established. Their ship slowly and steadily sails across the economy’s surface, satisfying a perceived need in the marketplace. Hands over eyes. Asleep at the wheel. Sailing blind, and too myopic (or unwilling) to divert the course of their impending – inevitable – wreckage.

Though I’d like to think that I’m a conscientious consumer, I cringe a little when considering my weekly waste output. Torn packaging. Empty bottles. Spoiled food. Though my expenditure is more often invested in knowledge and self-improvement than petty, depreciating assets, I acknowledge that, again, turning the ship around isn’t easy.

I just bid on a copy of Affluenza on eBay, and I expect to write about the subject more in the future.

Isn’t that funny, though? I’m paying someone else for the knowledge that they’ve consumed and deemed unworthy of possession. That knowledge will arrive in recyclable packaging, which I’ll discard. Once I’ve consumed the knowledge, I’ll likely pass it onto a friend.

And so the cycle continues.

July 25, 2008

Head Down

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , at 12:00 am by Andrew McMillen

There’s a point in your life when you realise exactly what matters to you. It doesn’t have to be a poetic Fight Club moment. It could be a slow-moving process where you get so caught up in your life’s inertia that you stop to take stock, and notice everything that you’ve left behind.

I’ve lived the latter of the two. I’m not quite running lean, but I’ve been subconsciously drifting in that direction.

The things and people that don’t matter just fade into the background, into the distance as you keep moving. They’re far behind, now, and still caught up in their incessant bickering about endless trivialities. Caught up in the minutiae of life.

Glenn‘s eighteenth birthday post made me stop and smile. Such optimism and enthusiasm for what’s ahead.

I can’t pretend that any of the things that concerned me when I turned eighteen were anywhere near as important as the concepts and possibilities that Glenn is currently juggling. I was writing, sure, but without a purpose or an audience.

Girls. Drinking. The opinions of my peers. These are the things that concerned me at age eighteen. As much as I wish that I’d been grappling with notions of personal accountability or building self-value – I wasn’t.

Realising that you’ve got to put your head down and just go for it – that’s an important point to reach.

Stating that ‘nothing else matters’ is over-simplifying a little, but hell, you’re in control. It’s the difference between crawling, or choosing to stand up and walk.

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