Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Communication

On Sabbatical – Week 15: Back In Business. Already?

It’s time to play catch up. As I write this it is October 27, 2022 – Week 23 of my sabbatical. Yet I’m only now compiling my notes from Week 15, the week of August 22.

When I set out to write this weekly log of my experiences and thoughts during my sabbatical, my vision was that it would be a fun, manageable project to catalog each week’s happenings and insights. It has become a burden that weighs on my shoulders. Ever since our two-week trip to Canada, I had felt like that experience was so important that it deserved extra attention in the blog. I allowed the Week 12-13 blog entry to take a lot of time, and it has now put me in a position where I’m a full two months behind writing about this sabbatical. I continue to take weekly notes as my life unfolds, but it loses a little something when I sit down to actually write about those notes weeks afterward. The potency of my emotion lessens. 

So, I have decided to play catch up, to accept the next few week’s worth of sabbatical blog posts will just not quite have the polish on them that I’d like. It’s more important to me to get caught up and back on a regular cadence of cataloging and publishing as it happens. In the long run I will be more happy with that, and this whole thing is really for me, after all! 

With that, here are some notes from Week 15. 


 

Without making any attempt to do so, I’m back into work. Not exactly, but work has found me. It’s wild that the purposeful act of avoiding work has brought a golden opportunity to my front door. How could I say no to a chance to, once again, be in business with my best friend? (We worked on a startup together in our twenties.) And this time around, my exact expertise is the thing he needs help with most. In the coming weeks, I’ll be taking my first crack as a media consultant for a local business. I spent seven years working at a TV station selling TV and digital advertising to businesses and ad agencies. Now I get a chance to be the ad agency. Looking forward to seeing how this goes! 

In other news, I have a story to share, but in order to appreciate the following story you need one point of backstory, which is that our kids refer to one of their grandmothers as “Babi.” File that little nugget away. Now, one of my kids and I were lounging in the hammock while the other kid was rolling serviceberries down the slide and Kristyn was inside, in her happy place, uncovering the secrets of the universe by contemplating the intersections of attachment theory, collapse awareness, Tarot, and the Tony-award-winning broadway musical Hadestown. My kid and I were discussing the Bear Paw campground we’d be visiting soon at Itasca State Park, and I clarified it wasn’t that there are real bear paws in the campground, but that it’s just the name of the campground. But, perhaps there’s a chance we’d see a bear; we are traveling 3.5 hours north after all. “What would you do if we saw a bear, Dad?” That depends on the type of bear. “If it was a grizzly, I’d back away slowly. But if it was a black bear, I’d make lots of noise to scare it off…” and so went an impromptu lesson on bear encounter etiquette. (Thanks to the TV show Alone for the assist on upping my bear encounter knowledge!) And as our conversation about bears came to a close, my kid asked, “Dad, what if there were wolves on one side, hyenas on the other side, and a grizzly bear behind? What would you do then?” As I gave a serious ponder to this question with a deep breath, before I could exhale she chimed in, “… Would you call for Babi?” 

The final gem of a moment this week came when some friends of ours came to our house with their two kids for an afternoon of play and relaxation. I had already seen the man of this family earlier in the week, but when they unloaded from their vehicle he greeted me with a sincerely stated, “Man, the days are treating you well.” An enthusiastic embrace followed. I have to say, this was a fantastic way to be greeted. I felt… seen. This feeling of being seen as someone who is in their element, or in a groove, or happy and at peace with the moment, or however it was he meant that… it made me wonder what it was about my presence that made him say that, and it made me feel great about myself. It’s amazing what a few simple, heartfelt words, said aloud, can do to improve someone else’s life. I shall utter such words more often henceforth. 

Oh, and our kids built, colored, and played restaurant in a paper food truck all afternoon. The adults “ate” many sand pies, stick stews, and mud cakes. Good times. 




The Secret to Better Relationships: Tell Your Brain “No.”

There are conversations, and there are meaningful conversations. How do we have more of the latter? 

In Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss, Jon Call (aka Jujimufu) was asked “what one of his new behaviors or habits has helped him most in the last five years?” His answer (paraphrased): 

Tell your brain “no” when it wants to relate a conversation you’re having with someone to a “bigger” story. Let the desire go to “one-up” someone’s story with your own. The loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what you learn when you ask more questions. 

We’ve all had the impulse. A story one of your colleagues is telling about their Spring Break trip to Jamaica transports your mind back three years ago when your family spent a week in Ocho Rios over the holidays. And you’ve got that hilarious story about how, with the rest of the tour group watching, you and your brother just could not get your dune buggy up that hill! Is interjecting that story at your colleague’s first breath really adding the most value to the conversation? When instead you could ask your colleague to elaborate on any number of things from their experience: how was it traveling with their new spouse? What did they find most intriguing about the local culture? Did they have any noteworthy interactions with the locals?  

Think about it from a selfish standpoint. If you believe every person has value, every human has something to offer, then why wouldn’t you take every opportunity you get to learn, to expand your perspective, and to deepen your relationship with and understanding of that person? 

Let’s take a business example. You sit down to meet with someone in person for the first time. Maybe you’re in Sales and you are sitting down with a prospective client. Maybe you’re in a job interview. Maybe you’re at a networking event. In any of these business situations, you have the inevitable “ice breaker” introduction moment. Some number of seconds or minutes spent on connecting with that other person on a topic outside the real purpose behind your meeting. Current events and the weather tend to get the lion’s share of these conversational exchanges. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s delightful when, in this “ice breaker period,” you actually do make a meaningful connection of some kind. You find a few square feet of common ground; perhaps you have a mutual acquaintance, Linda. Your new contact used to work with Linda at their previous employer. You know Linda from university. So, as you stumble upon this fun fact and your new contact says, “I worked with Linda at Company Q,” you have a choice. You can either launch into explaining everything you know about Linda from three years at university, or you could ask a follow up question about their work experience at Company Q. Which of these paths is going to better serve you in developing your relationship with this new contact? Should you ask some questions like, “What was it like working with Linda? How closely did you work together? Oh, you worked on a project together, what was that dynamic like? What did other colleagues say about working with her? If I were to ask her what it was like to work with you, what would she say?” just imagine how much of a deeper understanding you’ll have about your new contact. Isn’t that worth more than getting that story about you and Linda partying hard in the tailgating lot on Homecoming Weekend off your chest?

I’m not saying storytelling is bad. It’s not; it’s essential. It’s not that you should never openly share about your own life. How is anyone supposed to learn about you otherwise? The point is to adopt a mindset of curiosity. Good conversation isn’t about having the “gift of gab” or “being able to keep the conversation going,” it’s about telling your brain “no” when it has impulses to one-up the other’s story or to jump into sharing mode when it should be seizing an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect. 

The next time you’re in a conversation with someone and a self-centered idea pops into your brain, try telling your brain “no” and instead ask a question. You might be surprised what you find out. 


 

I’d love to hear about a time you tried this; what the situation was and what you learned by telling your brain “No.” Let me know in the comments! 

Email Strategies That Get People to Respond

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing channels. Think about it – how many times have you checked your email today? Probably more than once. And between personal emails, work emails, and advertising, you probably get over 100 emails per day. With data aggregation companies, CRM systems, and email marketing service providers galore, getting into someone’s inbox in 2015 is the easy part. How you get them to open and respond to your email… that part needs careful attention to make your message stand out from the clutter.

if you could

Whether you’re in sales and prospect with email, you’re a marketer managing mass email campaigns, a worker in Corporate America sending intra-company emails, a non-profit enthusiast raising funds or awareness for your cause, an expecting parent inquiring with prospective daycare, or a consumer looking to buy something off Craigslist: we all send emails from which we want a response.

In order to get someone to reply to your message, they first have to:

  • Receive your email in the Inbox (not Junk or Spam)
  • See the email (with a clear and poignant subject line)
  • Open the email
  • Read the email
  • AND Decide the contents of the email are interesting, important, or relevant enough to take the time to send a reply.

Each of these stages in the process gives you an opportunity to lose the recipient’s attention. Let’s look at some ways to help get more of your emails received, seen, opened, read, and returned.

SUBJECT LINE

Consider your subject line an advertisement. It’s the elevator pitch of elevator pitches. How can you be enticing enough to earn a few more valuable seconds of your recipient’s time, but not too vague or verbose, while also ensuring deliverability and avoiding spam filters? Follow these guidelines:

  • Less is more. Keep the subject line under seven words or 40 characters. It gets the reader straight to the point and prevents your message from being cut off on preview tools and mobile devices.
  • Avoid overused sales terms like “lowest price,” “free,” and “discount.”
  • Personalize it. Use the recipient’s name or personal identifier.
  • Use minimal punctuation. Any symbols like $, %, !, and set of spam triggers.
  • Evoke emotion with humor, mystery, or scarcity. These can be powerful emotional tools to stand out from email clutter.

Humor

uber

Mystery

open table

Scarcity & Personalization

sport photo

TIMING

This can vary based on the purpose of the email, but in general the best time to send email is mid-week, mid-day. More specifically, Tuesday-Thursday between the hours of 9-11am and 1-3pm. In general, this is when most people are likely to be active on email.

If you’re doing prospecting or running a recurring email campaign, create a Send Schedule and stick to it. Consistency with your send times allows you to be scientific with your email strategy and measure the effectiveness of certain days and times. Consider splitting your audience into two groups and running an A/B test.

CUSTOMIZATION

Most email marketing services like MailChimp and CRM systems like Salesforce.com have easy functionality to send a customized message to a database.

If you don’t have access to an email marketing service or CRM system, you can use mail merges to personalize your message to each individual recipient without the need to manually type each email. Get more information on creating mail merges here.

DON’T “CONSIDER” MOBILE – EMAIL IS MOBILE

Mobile opens now account for over half of all email opens. Depending on the industry mobile opens can account for up to 2/3 of the views of your email. Test all important emails by sending them to yourself and opening them on your mobile device. Text formatting, embedded images or video, and your signature can all render wonky on a smartphone, so this test is critical as more than half of your recipients will view your email on their phone or tablet. Consider shortening your subject line and email body for easier readability on a small device.

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