We’re almost at the end of 2014! Are you happy with how it turned out? Did you learn some new skills? Act on an idea? Fulfil a goal? And if not – what are you going to do differently next year?
Following on from last year’s ‘13 Things I Learned In 2013‘ post, I thought it only appropriate to share a fresh batch of lessons from my year abroad. (And I’ll try not to delete my whole site this time too)
So here they are, in no particular order:
14. Know your audience
This applies to everything from starting a business to writing copy to giving a presentation to one-on-one conversations. In terms of starting a successful business, your audience must be:
1. Able to pay for your services, and
2. Willing to pay for your services
One or the other won’t work. They have to satisfy both. In my case, I started off serving design students and graduates, which, as I discovered the hard way, satisfied neither. Ouch.
Which is partly why I’ve switched up my focus, launched a new brand, ‘The C Method’ and am now working with business owners, podcasters and job seekers.
13. If you want the attention of someone, do something creative.
Email is boring. Think about it – if you’re reaching out to an important person, whether it’s for a job application or an interview or to network or whatever, it’s very difficult to make your email stand out above the hundreds of others.
Why not show that person how much they mean to you, and get creative in the way you contact them?
And it doesn’t have to be a rap video or a flip book. It could be as simple as hand writing a letter, or sending an appropriate gift. Not only will you make their day, you will be forever memorable to them. It worked for me. It can work for you too :)
12. How to snatch
It took me 15 months of working through my mobility issues. But I finally got it – the most challenging of all the Olympic lifts. Yay!
11. People like to watch bag-packing videos
At the time of writing, my first Minaal bag review has had over 14,000 views. Crazy! I had no idea. Maybe I should switch to doing product reviews??
10. Travelling light is totally possible (and surprisingly liberating)
I arrived in New York with a large suitcase and a backpack. I left with one carry-on bag and a small day bag, and travelled around Europe for 2 months, back to the USA for a month, then to Thailand for 7 weeks. It was awesome.
- I didn’t have to pay extra for checked luggage
- I saved time at the airport not having to wait at the luggage carousel
- No risk of airlines losing my luggage
- Moving around was fast and easy – both when walking around and on public transport
But did I miss my clothes??? Nah. You learn to get by with 3 pairs of shoes, and you get really creative with your outfits. If I really needed anything, I would just buy it and ditch something else. Having a ‘one item in, one item out’ rule worked well for me, and also taught me how to not get attached to your stuff.
I wrote more about the benefits of travelling light here.
9. The art (and science) of copywriting
Discovering that WORDS have the power to make someone take out their wallet and give you their money was something of a revelation to me. (I was like “Ohhh, so that’s what copywriting is!”)
8. Make your own circumstances
I’ve written about this before. Having lived in many different places this year, I’ve found myself making excuses for why I can’t do something because of my location or environment. It hit me particularly hard when I arrived back in Melbourne (but that’s a whole other story).
I’m working on seeking out opportunities and looking for all the things I can do wherever I am.
7. Cool online tools
There are a lot of productivity apps out there, but here are my favourites:
- Trello: great way to catalogue your To-Do lists
- Norbert – find anyone’s email address
- Sidekick – email tracking (ie see when someone’s opened your email)
- Gmail Labs – cool additional email features including UNDO SEND.
- Pocket – save blog articles and useful websites to read later.
6. Selling your own products and services is really, really, ridiculously hard
I’m thankful I had no idea how hard starting your own thing was when I started. Because if I knew, I may not have started.
One of the biggest things to overcome is the thought of “I’m not good enough. No one wants to listen to/work with/buy from/watch/hire me.”
I had managed to get over a lot of this stuff when it came to blogging, podcasting and speaking, but when it came to selling a product* online – that is, asking people to hand over money for something I had created…I discovered layers of insecurities I didn’t even know I had.
What if no one buys it? What if it’s not any good? What if I get a mob of angry podcasters at my door wanting to stab me with their microphones? Or worse – trolling my youtube channel?
*My first product being ‘Influential Interviews‘ – an online course helping podcasters create a kick-ass interview show
5. How to stand
Yep, there’s more to good posture than simply ‘standing up straight’.
I remember having a sook about being so damn useless during a Crossfit squat session. My physio friend Jac suggested I may be having a posture issue, and sent me to her clinic.
Turns out, I had a classic ‘duck stance’, meaning that I was leaning slightly forward on the balls of my feel, my ribs were pushed out and my butt stuck out like Donald Duck’s. This put a lot of pressure through my lower back and contributed to weak midline stability, which made me more prone to injury. And also explained my overwhelming discomfort anytime I had to squat.
To correct my stance, I had to tuck my tailbone under, draw my ribs towards my belly button and then pull my shoulders back slightly. Here’s the difference:
I practiced this stance when standing, walking, running, stretching, squatting, everything, until it became second nature. Now, I’m MUCH better at doing all squat-related movements, and it’s good to know I’m doing them safely.
4. Stop giving a fuck.
I really admire people who just do their thing, say what they say, make what they make and just do it unapologetically. They don’t care what people think of them.
It’s something I continue to work on. It’s not easy for a people pleaser like me, but I’ve learned that caring less about what people think is incredibly liberating. I’ve accepted that not everyone’s going to like me or what I do, and that’s OK. In fact, if you DON’T have haters, then you’re probably not making enough noise!
My friend Rog wrote an awesome article on this. You should work to please you, not anyone else. And the people who love you will really love you, and for the people who don’t – well, do you really want to be their friend anyway?
So stop apologising for being who you are. And keep doing your thing.
3. Sometimes, the best plan is to have no plan
Don’t get me wrong – I love planning things. But I also remain flexible and adaptable to change. I believe that if you’re too fixated on your ideas you’ll miss out on cool opportunities that come up. Or you’ll freak out when things don’t go to plan.
For example, I didn’t have a plan after my 3 months in New York. I had bought a one-way ticket to London and that was it. And then…while in Europe, I was offered to speak on a panel at the Podcast Movement conference in Dallas – so I bought a ticket to Texas! And in Berlin, I hung out with a bunch of people who raved on and on about Chiang Mai, so I went there and loved it. None of this would have happened if I’d planned my every move.
People seem to think we always need a plan.
Since I’ve been back, most people ask me “So what’s the plan now?”
Frankly, I don’t have a plan. In fact, I’ve decided NOT to make a plan until the end of January. I just want to enjoy my time in Melbourne for the moment. Some people may see it as being ‘lost’ or ‘not knowing what I want’. Whatever. Think what you want (see point #4).
What I do know is what I’m working towards. How I get there – well, I’m open to possibilities. I’m gonna keep an open mind, embrace opportunities as they arise, and keep doing my thing.
2. Different personality types require different types of communication
There are all sorts of ‘personality matrix’ things out there, but one I quite like is the ‘Controller, Supporter, Analyser, Promoter’ model. We all have a dominant personality type, and what I find fascinating is how each requires a different method of communication if you want to be effective.
Briefly, here’s how each type works:
- Controller: dominant, to the point, result-driven. Be direct ie “You’re doing this wrong.”
- Supporter: emotional, wants to please, responds to feelings. Soft approach ie “Have we talked about this?”
- Analyser: careful decision maker, needs facts and information ie “We need to change this because of xyz.”
- Promoter: enthusiastic, driven by fun and being around people ie “How cool would it be if we did xyz!”
If you want to learn more, check out this great podcast episode.
1. What may be obvious to you is amazing to others
I saw the most awesome little video by Derek Sivers. The message is simple yet profound:
We all have ideas and skills and work that we think is just ‘ok’, or not even any good. And we look at what others are doing and say “That’s so amazing! I could never do anything like that.”
But what we don’t realise is that other people are looking at us and saying “Wow, what he/she is doing is so amazing! I could never do anything like that!”
Here’s the thing: we tend to discount our own ideas and abilities because they come naturally to us – or we’ve been doing them for so long they no longer seem special. For example, I never thought I was overly ‘creative’. I mean, in architecture school, I wasn’t as great a designer as my peers. But when I started making videos this year, I had awesome responses from people in the online business world, saying “You’re SO creative!” and “I could never do something like that” and “You’re the most creative person I know!”
Wow. I didn’t think what I was doing was anything special. To me, video was just a fun thing to do.
It happened again yesterday. I was at the beach with my friend and playing around with my new ukulele. On the drive home, he asked: “How do you sing and play the chords at the same time? Isn’t it hard to multitask?”
“No” I said. “I…umm…just do it.”
I consider my music skills to be extremely amateurish, but I hadn’t realised that something that was simple enough to me could be mind boggling to someone else. Similarly, this same friend loves diving, and I can’t understand how he can dive in caves at night when it’s pitch black. It would freak me out. To him, it’s easy.
So my message to you is this: if someone compliments you or shows wonder at something you’ve done: own it. Say thank you. You may even want to write it down. Because all these little things are clues as to what people find valuable in you. And by value I mean: you’re adding something special to their lives. It’s like your ‘gift’ to the world. Yeah, roll your eyes or whatever, but I truly believe in this.
You have something special going on, so you should share it with others, and don’t dismiss it or hide it away.
And that, my friends, is my (non-exhaustive) list of things I’ve learned in 2014. If you only do one thing after reading this, it’s to ask someone “What’s one thing I do well, and why is this important to you?” It may sound like a weird/self indulgent thing to do, but you may very well discover amazing things about yourself – which I think is worth a few weird looks (besides, you’re giving less of a fuck anyway, right?).
I hope you go in to 2015 full of excitement, energy and ass-kicking. Rock on :)