I put this quote from Ira Glass on the desktop of my computer screen so everytime I turn it on, and every time I close all the windows I have open for a second to get organized, I’ll see it:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but its not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know how do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
But all work that anyone does is creative. There aren’t creative people and uncreative people. Humans are creative animals. So think about the work you’re doing in your life. It doesn’t matter what it is. You can apply this advice.
So far, I’ve figured out that of the most important factors in success is one’s ability to assess one’s own efforts: recognizing good work, gauging how your work compares, and then coming up with ideas to bridge the gap between your work and the standard of good you’ve set.
A general awareness, if you will, of yourself, your motivations, your efforts, and how that all fits into the big picture.
So this quote isn’t about creative people or not creative people. It’s about people who find that this awareness is too much work – cause it does require a lot of effort – and quit. They sacrifice the standards of goodness they once recognized for something else that’s closer to or at the level they are performing already. And they keep chugging along. Maybe they are happier that way, in which case, kudos to them. But I’ve seen more people who aren’t happy, but they just don’t understand why. Because they’ve sacrificed that awareness and aren’t even aware any more that they’ve cut that part out.
Assuming that everyone has that awareness to start out with, which is a topic for an entirely different Sunday morning post.
Anyway – this quote is designed to be inspiration to keep people from quitting; from cutting that awareness out even though every time they produce something, it winds up being crap. Even though they see potential, they mostly see crap and get discouraged. And it’s impossible to employ the solution to producing crap – just produce more of it and keep practicing until the crappiness dissipates and you’re left with good work that’s up to your standard – if you’re discouraged over and over again. That’s when people quit. It’s so hard. It seems impossible.
But the fact is it’s not impossible. It just requires a lot of you. Essentially, that you maintain faith in your taste. You are smart enough, you are talented enough, you are dedicated enough. You can produce good, even excellent, work. Not just that you can, but that you will. You have to believe that, have faith in that, in order to overcome all the discouragement and keep producing crap.
This is not to say that single-mindedness is some critical virtue. You still have be constantly assessing yourself and your efforts and figuring out what’s working and what’s not and adapt as you go. Maybe you’re trying to produce the wrong kind of crap. Maybe you’re systems are getting in the way.
It’s hard, man, believe me. It’s tough. It’s painful. But for me, just hearing from this guy Glass that everyone goes through this and that it took a long time for anyone to bridge that gap, even the most brilliant, successful people I can think of, is encouraging enough to ignore the pain and keep trying.
This was finally the week. The week of the unsubscribe. I’d spent months checking my email compulsively throughout the day to purge my inbox of newsletters I’d signed up for, advertising deals at my favorite stores, travel sites, and through club deal sites like zulily. I like to have a tidy inbox – my inbox is almost always empty and, though I tolerate a little bit of a to-do list quality for my personal email, it should still be organized. But this week, I said to myself, no more. And I unsubscribed from almost every newsletter I receive. I think Travelzoo’s weekly Top 20 deal email survived the purge, and my zulily email (since I’m still totally overwhelmed by the thought of buying baby stuff).
Again, there was no real reason for this massacre. I was simply sick of getting emails for deals I didn’t need and having to delete them. I delted my Groupon email a long time again because I was sick of saying no to stuff I wasn’t remotely interested in but was receiving just because some business in he greater Boston area had decided to have a promotion.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to read this gossip on RWW: that Groupon’s rate of redemption by email is “shockingly, abysmally low”. Of course it is. It sounds like a good idea at the time – free stuff and outrageous discounts and you don’t even need to search for them! – but after a few weeks, you realize like I did that those deals are only marginally targeted for you.
But Groupon hooking up with Loopt is a phenomenal idea. Now, as you go about your life, you’ll be able to access deals relevant to where you are and what you’re doing. If you can turn off alerts to them and just have access when you’re sitting around with friends at a restaurant, bored, wondering if there’s something good to do around town, all the better.
I’m skeptical of location-based apps like Loopt and Foursquare (which I use occasionally but has largely lost its appeal as well) because it seems they can very easily fall into the trap of “this is cool because its new”. Groupon and other email deal sites like it teeter on that fine line too. You need layers of usefulness to survive.
What’s the relevance for small businesses? Location-based apps are part of the same phenomenon I mentioned the other day: driving business down to the local level. Small business need to take advantage of that. And the same rules apply. Just like it’s easier for the Gap to sell products to me because I’ve opted in to their marketing strategy, it’s easier for local businesses to engage with customers who are already nearby and interested in looking to try something new.
The key is balance. Groupon’s partnership with Loopt will be a great thing IF it’s not the only layer of usefulness the two apps can come up with AND if they don’t over do it. Long term customers require more than just a barrage of unappetizing options.
On Monday, Econsultancy released its latest UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report which surveyed more than 600 client-side digital marketers and agencies and found out lots of them are focusing, or planning to focus, on locally targeted paid search and mobile search for their marketing plans. The highlights are here, and you should read them. It doesn’t matter if you’re what kind of business you are or how national, or global, your reach is. Local marketing is going to be important to you.
There are some types of businesses who should take advantage of this technology as a matter of course: retailers, entertainment venues like restaurants or clubs, and real estate are some examples. But what about something like an investment firm?
Think this one out: someone is sitting in a restaurant talking and thinking about switching investment firms. She takes out her iPad while she waits for her food to come and searches for investment companies. The search engine already ranks her results based on her preferences, including her location, so when it delivers a list of firms, it also delivers a map of her city with the locations of offices that have paid to be highlighted. Maybe one of those locations is two blocks from where she’s sitting, and she realizes it would be on her way home from work every day. Now that firm has a huge advantage.
The internet has already pushed everything down to the local level, but that pressure is only going to increase. That pressure has already, and will continue, to also wreak havoc in an industry near and dear to my heart: news. Last week, Google launched News Near You, that ReadWriteWeb said could potentially wipe out the exploding hyperlocal news segment (think Patch from AOL). SearchEngineLand reported that Google wasn’t the first to break into this segment – and might not even have the best product (yet) – but I’m confident that the most widely used search engine will become one of the most widely used resources for local news in the near future.
And perhaps the most widely used resource by consumers looking for places to spend their money.