Insight for Independent Consultants
I’d like to help you thrive as an indie consultant
My Indie Experts email list is a place where I do that. If getting better at attracting opportunity via your expertise is interesting to you, please join. Two ways to get this insight; inbox or RSS:
A while back I shared my video-to-podcast player workflow.List member Lorenz shared theirs, and gave me permission to share it with you. This workflow has a nice simplicity advantage over mine because it doesn’t require installing more software on your computer:
- Make a new playlist on Youtube (mine is called “Podcast”)
- Feed it to https://podsync.net/
- Feed the resulting RSS Feed to Overcast or your podcast app of choice.
Thanks for sharing, Lorenz!I hope your Saturday is off to a great start (or finish, depending on where you are in the world)!-P
Thanks for sending this along, Rowan! It’s Bob Dylan on ideation:
Most everything is a knockoff of something else. You could have some monstrous vision, or a perplexing idea that you can’t quite get down, can’t handle the theme. But then you’ll see a newspaper clipping or a billboard sign, or a paragraph from an old Dickens novel, or you’ll hear some line from another song, or something you might overhear somebody say just might be something in your mind that you didn’t know you remembered. That will give you the point of approach and specific details. It’s like you’re sleepwalking, not searching or seeking; things are transmitted to you. It’s as if you were looking at something far off and now you’re standing in the middle of it. Once you get the idea, everything you see, read, taste or smell becomes an allusion to it. It’s the art of transforming things. You don’t really serve art, art serves you and it’s only an expression of life anyway; it’s not real life. It’s tricky, you have to have the right touch and integrity or you could end up with something stupid. Michelangelo’s statue of David is not the real David. Some people never get this and they’re left outside in the dark. Try to create something original, you’re in for a surprise.
Thanks again for that, Rowan!-P
THIS is content marketing.What makes this so great is it’s specific and generous.The link above will take you to a long article. The article is specifically for startups seeking angel investors. This is what makes it specific. It’s not just random productivity tips or how to set up your dev environment or really broad stuff like that. It’s specifically for a narrowly-defined ideal reader.Second, it’s generous. It does thankless work in service of this narrowly defined ideal reader, and it gives it away for free, asking nothing in return. Of course, like a lot of good brand marketing, it’s something beautiful or interesting or useful with a small logo somewhere on it. But there’s no registration form or gate in front of the content.The thankless work is assembling a useful list, and giving well-considered context around the list and ideas for using the list. That’s really it! I don’t mean at all to diminish the effort put into other areas, like readability, visual design, etc. I’m just pointing out that, fundamentally, it’s a useful list that possibly no other company has bothered to put together.Sometimes you get into a position of market leadership through hard, persistent work.And sometimes you just look for the gaps and fill them with a free gift of knowledge, as Krit has done here.-P
Did I ever tell you about the time I threw up on a skydiving instructor?There was this woman I was trying to impress–Laura. I liked her a lot more than she liked me, and my long difficult failure to turn that imbalanced situation into a relationship taught me half of what I eventually needed to know–but chose to learn the hard way anyway–about selling services.Laura told me she was going skydiving with a group. Seeking every possibility of impressing and spending time with her, I was in.It was what’s known as a tandem jump, and I’ll never forget 3 things about that experience.First, the video they made you watch before you jumped, with this guy:Bill Booth, as a quick internet search reveals, was the inventor of the 3-ring release system, which made the whole sport safer. He then invented ‘Booth’s rule #2’, which says: “The safer skydiving gear becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant.” I like this guy. He understands risk from a unique perspective. And he survived a single engine airplane crash at some point in his life!At the time, though, I was puzzled with how the heck you have a beard that long and glorious and don’t get it tangled in your skydiving harness. Does he wrap it up in a manbun-but-for-your-beard each time he jumps? Can someone with an equally long, full, glorious beard enlighten me?Anyway, I remember Bill Booth because in the late 90’s in Nashville, the only dudes who had beards like that were motorcycle gang members.The second thing I remember is the jump. Of course. I’ll never forget that.And the third thing I remember, not longer after the parachute deployed, was getting nauseous and then throwing up while we were still up in the air. And of course because you’re traveling as fast as 30mph when the parachute is deployed, that vomit didn’t go straight down. It went somewhere.That somewhere was on me and on the instructor I was strapped to.He was really nice about it. I think I asked if that had ever happened before, and he very gamely said yes and don’t worry about it.But I think I was his first. He was just being a pro about it.Some of the “firsts” that are happening for members of the January 2019 cohort of The Expertise Incubator:
- Leads coming from email marketing for the first time ever.
- Prospects, having been exposed to a member’s daily emailing for a few weeks, are showing up treating him as the expert practitioner, not vetting or testing him.
- Clients, being exposed to another member’s daily emailing for a few weeks, say “it’s like you’re everywhere!”
- SaaS demo appointments being booked.
That’s just what I can remember off the top of my head at 5:34 in the morning. :)It’s tough, too. Achieving a daily publication target is a tough but productive challenge. It works the thinking/expertise/insight muscle a lot.And if you’d like to develop that muscle in yourself, The Expertise Incubator might be a fit for you.-P
Have you seen the film Lars and the Real Girl?If not, here’s a quick synopsis, which is important because you maybe could be a lot like the titular character in that film:Lars is painfully shy and socially detached. One day, he orders a life-sized sex doll. Lars appears to his friends and family to think the doll is real. He carries the doll around with him, either in a wheelchair or by hoisting it around.There’s a resolution to the film plot, of course, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.My point: What’s your relationship to sunk cost?Do you carry it around with you, like Lars and his life-sized doll? Does it weigh you down and prevent you from moving forward in your business?Is your relationship to sunk cost something you tolerate?Or is it something that empowers you to make bold decisions?If it’s something you tolerate, consider visualizing that sunk cost like this:It might help you finally break up with the sunk cost and move on to the real opportunities ahead of you.-PIf you can’t seem to narrow down a specific thing that you do that could solve an expensive problem and you need a process, check out The Positioning Accelerator Program.
“I am full of vinegar yet.”I’m 95% sure that’s quote from a letter (or, more likely, postcard) Thomas Edison wrote to his wife, describing his unflagging zeal for his work.I love this quote. It’s evocative. Ballsy, even, at least in a 19th century sort of way.It reminds me of how we all get when we’re fired the heck up. Excited about something.What happens, though, when that fire flames out? When the enthusiasm dies down?When the enthusiasm fades, does the project continue, or does it flame out too?I think there are two solutions: short sprints or habits.Short sprints let you get full of vinegar and deploy that enthusiasm on a focused, short-term effort. You might not complete the book or article or whatever it is, but you’ll make progress, and the defined end date of the sprint relieves you of the guilt that comes from seeing your enthusiasm wane and the project die of neglect.Habits are the anti-“full of vinegar” approach. They weave forward motion and accomplishment into the fabric of your life, but with no real initial burst of enthusiasm or excitement. If something can’t be accomplished in a few short sprints, then for me at least, it needs to be reduced in scope or turned into a habit.I’ve been publishing a daily email since January 2016, and it’s now as natural for me as breathing, eating, or any other bodily function. I’m unsure of the total word count, but other daily emailers like Seth Godin (who has been at it way longer than I) are past the 2-million word count.The value, for all of us practicing habits like this, is not the word count. It’s the second order consequences of showing the heck up every day for years. The reputation, the impact on others’ thinking, the refinement of their own thinking. The creation of a body of work.The Expertise Incubator member Bob Lalasz has started a really impressive email list I’d like you to consider joining.Bob writes about thought leadership. His focus is not you (most likely, unless you happen to run a science or research-driven organization that needs to use thought leadership more effectively), but you’ll learn a ton from his list anyway.For example, check out the following piece he sent his email list recently:
In 2011, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote a book called “The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.” In it, Pinker argued that the incidence of physical violence worldwide (wars, terrorism, various assaults) has been trending downward over the past several thousand years — and precipitously so since the Enlightenment.We think the world is supremely violent, Pinker argues, but that’s actually a perceptual distortion fueled by media coverage. No era has been as peaceful.It’s not an exaggeration to say “Better Angels” has helped defined the decade in ideas. Bill Gates called it “the most inspiring book I have ever read.” In a recent informal poll of students in elite colleges he was addressing, New York Times columnist David Brooks discovered the person most of the students wanted to be like was…Steven Pinker.And with his new book, “Enlightenment Now,” Pinker has become a leading avatar of those who want to take a scientific, rationalist, optimistic approach to affairs. He’s a rock star.Keep in mind: Pinker isn’t a historian. He’s a cognitive psychologist and linguist. So he’s not an expert in the history of violence. It’s not what he studies for a living.But “Better Angels” and “Enlightenment Now” do have strong POVs; compelling, counterintuitive arguments that grab attention; convincingly marshaled research; and a lot of goodwill banked from Pinker’s previous thought leadership.Pinker had published five books before “Better Angels,” including the best-sellers “Blank Slate” and “How the Mind Works.” He speaks well, writes fluidly, fields questions in TV and live interviews with aplomb, and has authored many op-eds and articles.In other words, Pinker already had tons of cultural authority before “Better Angels.” People trusted him.But what if Pinker’s thesis about a historical decline in violence were wrong? Who would tell us?A group of historians tried last year. They got together and published a special issue in the journal Historical Reflections that argued Pinker’s read of the literature and the data on violence throughout history are “seriously, if not fatally, flawed.”Some of the article titles in this special issue: “Getting Medieval on Steven Pinker: Violence and Medieval England.” “Whitewashing History: Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence.” “What Pinker Leaves Out.”In the introduction, the editors of the special issue wrote they were worried that a “Pinker Thesis” was spreading globally, being “elevated into a founding statement in the historiography of human violence.”But their arguments have gotten zero traction.Almost all the articles are paywalled — so no one knows about them except those few with journal access.Their views haven’t received any English-language news coverage.Pinker doesn’t even deal with them in his online FAQ on the book.The meme that Pinker initiated — that “violence has been declining throughout the modern era” — continues to dominate conversations about whether the world is getting better or worse.To be crude: Pinker might have wildly distorted historical trends in violence. But his meme is winning.That’s because he’s an authority, playing among mere experts.What’s the distinction? Isn’t an expert always an authority?No. And this is where I see researchers and research-driven orgs get tripped up again and again in their outreach.In science and research, “expertise” — i.e., specialized skill or knowledge — is certified, based on standards set by the expert community. You earn the designation of “expert.” You can’t confer it upon yourself.“Authority,” on the other hand, is won, not conferred. It’s about power and influence — ”the power to influence other people because they respect your opinions or knowledge,” per the MacMillan Dictionary.It requires two parties: one to trust, and one to win that trust. It’s an informal dynamic, fragile at first. The influencer has to cultivate and maintain it.Researchers can win authority — like anyone else — through persuasive argument, compelling storytelling, association with a brand-name institution or paradigm we admire, and/or the approval of others in our community we trust.Expertise is often a key marker of authority — but usually and increasingly, it isn’t enough by itself.If you’d rather do an edited volume than mount a sustained public ideas campaign with opinion pieces, social media, and media and podcast outreach, you’re not going to win the argument.Authority eats expertise every time. See: climate change communications.Is all this unfair? Wrong question, I think.Better question: Why aren’t more experts also doing the work of becoming authorities? Because you can be both.
Bob’s writing is insightful and motivating, and it’ll for sure help you understand thought leadership way better. Join his list for more.You’ll see someone using the habit of daily publication to build an impressive body of work.-P
I’m not a developer. But… I (at one point, at least) knew enough Python to hack together a static site generator (MongoDB still gives me shudders from that) and an email list RFM segmentation script. So that’s something!And, most importantly, I am in love with developers writ large, and I so value your role in the current world and the world that is becoming.And, like you, I have to deal with off-by-one errors in my work:50 pounds of pots.You’d think that publishing something daily would deprive you of excellence, right?After all, wouldn’t you have to take some pretty serious shortcuts to achieve that kind of publication cadence, right?This, from Mike Johnson’s excellent photography blog, argues otherwise.It’s an anecdote about pottery, but really it’s about expertise and excellence.Happy Sunday,-P
Nick Cave is a treasure.I love this lyric from his song “Babe, You Turn Me On”:
You race naked through the wildernessYou torment the birds and the beesYou leapt into the abyss, but findIt only goes up to your knees
How much of life is like that?You leap into something that feels like an abyss, but find it only goes up to your knees?Get to leaping!Teslonda.This is just fun.What do you get when you combine risk-taking (leaping into the abyss, not knowing what’s there before you leap), a Honda chassis, a Nissan Leaf battery pack, a Tesla drive system, and a motivated hacker?You get more fun than you can legally have on pavement with your clothes on.Happy Saturday,-P
You do not want to be seen as an expensive commodity.Those breed resentment.I’ve seen this here in Sonoma County. The Tubbs fire in Fall 2017 wiped out something like 5% of the area’s housing stock. That’s in an area with an already-very-tight rental market and an already-very-expensive housing market.I know many people love their houses, but housing is sort of a commodity, in that it’s fungible (capable of mutual substitution). The whole idea of the comparable in real estate is based on the idea that one 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house is equivalent enough to another that you can determine the market price of one from the sale price of the other, provided they’re within the same market.So when something that should function like a commodity is expensive, people get resentful.I hear lots of people talk about moving away from Sonoma County (and the Bay Area in general) because something that should be priced like a commodity (housing) isn’t.How about your services? Are they actually a fungible commodity (capable of mutual substitution) but priced like something that’s rare and exclusive? If so, then I’d bet you’ve got a problem.The solution, of course, is to offer something that’s not an actual commodity. There are several ways you could do that. Cultivating rare, valuable expertise is my favorite one, because it solves multiple other problems simultaneously.Wonder what to say in your marketing? Experts don’t. They’re overflowing with things to say.Wondering why clients boss you around? Experts don’t. They lead engagements, and persuade stubborn clients using insight, not force.Wondering why you’ve reached a rate ceiling? Experts don’t. They have multiple ways to increase profitability without cranking out more hours.The path to expertise is not easy, but I’ve mapped out one–called The Expertise Incubator–that might be for you.-P
If you’re deciding how to specialize, beware this sentiment:There are situations where some sort of dual focus works (two verticals, etc.), but they’re relatively rare.-P