Saturday, 30 October 2010

My reason for taking a Quest

I live very close to the Infinite Loop Wormhole, the place pulls me in quite regularly making time fly by, and then spits me out in the same place where I'd started.

The way I'm starting to see it, it all comes down to two things:

  • I'm trying to come up with the best solution in my mind and thus constantly playing with assumptions
  • not tracking my time; just like money leaves me when I don't budget it in advance, the time slips through my fingers when I don't know how long does it take to complete a task.
Awareness is half of the solution they say, and here is mine:
  • budget time in advance, and keep a record of the spend to see how much time is needed for future projects
  • agree that the first idea will not be perfect
  • live test the idea with the Ego Shield firmly on and gather data
  • alter the variables and re-test to seek improvement
  • analyse the new data
This morning I was working on selling an MLM product on ebay and have it drop shipped straight from the company warehouse to the customer (which is a service they conveniently provide). There are plenty of ebayers selling the same products and at discounted prices. My goal is to sell a selection of premium sets at full price. 

IF my assumption is correct and there is demand for such sets then it will set me on my path of creating recurring income with minimum upkeep and hassle. 

The real challenge here is with my own assumptions. I could sit here all day ASSUMING this and that (this headline is better than that one, this guarantee is the best, that product set will sell best) and never listing even one auction, ever.

Fear is the biggest show stopper for me I think; but one of NOT producing profit, but one of not producing ENOUGH profit.

This had me jumping from one method to the next without ever testing any of them when I was learning to trade Forex for four years. You can see my failed experiments here.

It is time to understand this fear and settle with what I CAN receive from every venture, take up that venture in the form of a test of demand, make calculations of profitability and THEN decide to continue investing my time, effort and possibly money or to divest and start looking elsewhere.

The solutions thus for dealing with this state of Infinite Loop are as follows:
  • record where my time was spent and decide on future time brackets so that an honest tally is possible
  • use the Ego Shield to allow testing of assumptions
  • use the Mind of an Oracle to get testing under way
  • limit Uber Vision to step away from the Infinite Loop

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Budgeting my life

I guess this ought to be sensible as life is the only finite resource.

A decision needs to be made: What do I want to do with my time? I have many interests and obviously doing everything at the same time is not possible. I should also give up the hopes of becoming the best in the world if I never choose something.

Since I've decided to test all of my assumptions, I will do the same with my interests. Simply doing them will provide me with enough feedback to know how it feels in the process and whether the activity provides enough satisfaction.

Test assumptions:

  • demand when it comes to products and services
  • satisfaction from passions
  • money - allocate monetary resources to plan spending
  • time - allocate time to be able to focus on fewer number of activities at one time.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Start of an 80-20 analysis of my life

This morning I didn't do much with food as I'd planned in the previous post. I ended up looking at where I spend my time and how it relates to my money making activities.

Apart from my full time work, anything else I did to create income hasn't been tracked. It appears to me that all the time outside work and sleep is unallocated and subject to pulls from the outside contributing to my unhappiness. I'm not saying that I am particularly unhappy, but I could be happier had I used this time more effectively.

A little more than half of the unallocated time is Saturday and Sunday (32 hours) which gives me two full days every week to pursue anything that might be of importance. The rest is spread out evenly during the week with 3.5 hours every morning and 2.5 hours every evening.

I feel that I have allowed distractions to rule my personal time (which is not uncommon), but the worst part is that I've kept thinking that I am doing something to change my life. Thing is, this is the first time I've ever looked at how I use my time, so really with my propensity to look at a million things in the same time, it would have been neigh impossible to achieve anything (without knowing where I am, where I wish to go and what my problems really are).

Based on this information I have made the decision to leave the evening hours as they are: spend time with my wife and daughter, make a dinner and otherwise engage in the family life. As for the morning hours - these will be my time to think about what I want and how to allocate my free time and possibly running a side business then. Until I decide what to do with the weekends, I will be content with spending my time with my family without fretting about changing my unquantified life.


Monday, 25 October 2010

Food week

How about I make this the food week. 

I usually spend every waking hour THINKING about all the business ideas that pop into my head (not working on them), so perhaps a short sabbatical might help clear my thoughts.

This way - I hope - maybe I will be able to notice my constant fidgeting that I believe I usually call WORKING ON MY (assumed) PROJECTS which lead me absolutely nowhere.

Thanks to working on this game I'm already beginning to think a bit like Tim Ferris - who's book I've read ages ago but have not implemented any of the things therein - and who is a compulsive statistician who tests all of his assumptions with real life testing.

Peter Drucker - the management guru had always advocated that what gets measured gets managed and I am beginning to see the benefits of this philosophy more and more. It requires a bit of a mind shift though. It's a decision that requires the maturity of accepting the truth even if it makes me look bad. I believe the Ego Shield has helped me get to this conclusion. I can't just keep assuming things and hope for the best.

So I'm going to disengage for a week, or actually until Sunday morning when I will decide on the next thing to test, and in the mean time I will work on creating a plan for a healthy low GI diet for the following 5 weeks.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Founder of the BlinkNow Foundation is naive

What happens when a naive 18 year old student from the USA decides to take a trip abroad in search for lost meaning? They are touched by the problems our World Family is faced with and start doing whatever they feel they can at the time. It then grows and gains momentum with the help of other people who follow their lead by the sheer power of the message.

In the words of Maggie Doyne - founder of the BlinkNow Foundation: "If we all had that attitude that we can do anything or we could be anything if we followed our dreams and our hearts... as we get older we start to get more doubtful; we think of all the things we don't have instead of the things we do have. Oh, I could do that if I had more money or if I had my Master's Degree..."

More power to you Maggie Doyle who without the aid of CanDo pills or Excusskill were able to achieve so much with so little. You're a true Life Rider who inspire people around you with your actions.

Here's the video.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Closed Quest 1 as failed

I've decided to close Quest 1 as I haven't been able to answer the question: why am I doing it?

In the post Quest for simplicity I have come to the conclusion that I had been fooling myself in thinking that the competition is for teens and for the charity. The original idea was to promote my wife's photography and this was supposed to be the viral hit that would spread like wildfire (high hopes...)

Testing has proven this assumption wrong. The good thing is that I have learn to test finally. The other thing that I have learned is to find a market first, know it and then to come up with solutions to their problems. This by no means is the key to the mint, but perhaps will make it easier.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Motivation for boring tasks (can be used on the frustrating ones too)

When I am faced with a boring task I cringe and lose focus. However there is a solution. Reminding myself of the reason for doing it in the first place. If the reason is granular, revert to the main reason and regain motivation.

There is no reason to think that this method should fail if I only assume that I have abundance of willpower (and the Spirit of a Bull superpower is there to reinforce it)

The reasons for action come from within me, and were created autonomously or assimilated external ones as my own, therefore I'm in total peace when I remind myself of them.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Running a different ad for the photo competition

I feel scared. That I will offend people. This feels risky.

The ad says Happy Birthday and many, many,many more. And then it goes to the info page which states that there are people who won't live to their next birthday...

It's targeted to people on their birthdays.

I'm scared. It's due to start tomorrow morning.

Can I get away with this?

edit: I've deleted it. It hasn't been properly thought over. I don't feel this is right. It feels desperate. It's not fair. Yes, life's a bitch, but why should I spoil someone's day with my stupid message. I couldn't do it, my heart would break.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Boredom vs Flow vs Fear

Today I've been trying to figure out how to approach the different types of activities: the boring, the stimulating and the frustrating and I found that the boring ones were the least looked after.

The aim of this game is to create an environment of doing. In the first place there were points, but I went against it after getting acquainted with Deci's work and will continue so.

My greatest achievements were identifying two major weaknesses: failure to focus on one project and ego involvements manifesting as a barrier that stopped a project moving forward (composed of being happy with what I had done and frustration with further tasks - both ego driven).

I believe that the fear side of things has been dealt with by using a Pixel Grid approach, but I still find that I could do more. There is still space for a tool, token, superpower or whatever to help cut to the chase and get stuff done.

Two things to consider:
  • time wasters
  • elimination of ineffective tasks (and quests)
I treat money as a finite resource, therefore it's only logical to treat time this way. Therefore a monthly or weekly budget for time can be created with a weekly review and a list of time wasters that could be treated like enemies.

Planning for productive time vs leisure with the family vs full time work will force eliminating ineffective tasks (because very limited time will be available) and then the list of enemies will help identify them as they approach so that I could avoid or kill them.

To do:
  • create a budget for time
  • start a reference of enemies

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The most invaluable lesson

The most invaluable lesson I am learning is that my ideas will not necessarily meet other people's needs, wants or desires.

I also feel that my reach locally is very limited and would take a lot of time and work to build up. Here credibility would need to be built first by giving to the community first.

Perhaps to succeed (if I haven't believed the Facebook tests proving me wrong), I should explore other means of getting through to people who live locally.

Yes, but the whole point of that test was to show if there is a market. If there isn't a market, no advertising or SEO will work, won't it?

Altogether there has been some interest from group leaders, but it seems that without constant chasing, hassling, cajoling they will not act on their own accord. In my original idea, if I remember correctly, this was supposed to be viral and just simply spread on it's own (not without the initial push of course)

So I'm back to square 1. Just as with Quest 2 which I put on hold due to time constraints and because the lack of testing in the first place, here I'm drawing the same conclusion: an idea needs to be tested before time and effort is put into it.

The question is: should I test my wife's photography to look for a market? I think there is a market, we've had clients with minimal advertising - from friends mostly - and the service is just as any other photographer would provide - nothing revolutionary about it.

There's already a Facebook page and will upgrade the website. All it needs is effective advertising

Going back to the point in the beginning of this post, being part of the market I'm trying to reach, listening, asking questions, understanding it seems to be the way to being able to come up with ideas that this particular market would be interested in.

Trying to connect with the FB page fans

No-one has voted on the latest poll, so I decided to try and connect with these people. Sent a message asking whether this is an overkill and should we simply cut to the chase; set up an entry fee, a justgiving page and ask them to post images.

This is the first time I'm running ads on Facebook so I don't know what the benchmark is for click through rates, but I've been getting between 0.004% and 0.018%.

Spent £26.50 and gained 7 fans on the page, which gives a cost per fan of £3.79.

If all those people took part in the competition, then I would achieve my goal. I am worried that they won't, but I'll turn up my Ego Shield and move on.

Two things that discourage me from continuing to run these ads is that they have been declining in effectiveness - I ran the same ad today as I did last week and the number of impression has dropped by half (I guess FB cuts the under performing ads) and in the mean time I have tested two different versions of the ad and after speaking with a friend, decided to open the competition to all age groups and ran the ads today like that. I had also decided that these ads are a good test for the competition concept itself, and because of the poor response I should limit my investment of time, and money into it to bear minimum .

Perhaps one should agree that my testing hasn't been very extensive. Maybe even totally insufficient to reach any meaningful conclusions. What could I learn from this and what's the next step?

Lesson token:
  • Facebook ads require several weeks of testing and an extensive budget to be able to choose the best ad variant
  • Always run a test of concept before investing time and money into producing i. Facebook is a good platform for it because it's cheap.
I feel that what I have learnt so far I'd rather put to work in getting my wife's photography services off the ground - something that I have been failing at (mostly due to inaction) for the past three years (SIC!)

Monday, 18 October 2010

testing going sloooooooowly

Testing on Facebook reminds me of the time I spent trying to learn to trade the foreign currencies. It's very time consuming and money grabbing...

  • fast set up and no maintenance
  • shows fairly quickly if there is interest in my idea
  • costs money - could milk me dry if I let it
  • feeble results (although the only results I've had thus far really)
Must keep reminding myself that this is testing, that my idea could be wrong and I may not reach even the low goal I have set out for this challenge. An idea popped into my head originally and this is means of seeing if it's valid. If it's not tough luck, I refuse to go against the grain and waste time and money.

I am testing the validity of my idea; testing of facebook ad versions is a test within that test. Facebook ads allow for the exposure of the idea to people potentially interested in it.

The idea may be wrong in many ways:
  • no photographer would be interested in helping a charity through a photo competition.
  • perhaps there are people interested in the photo competition for charity, but not in the age group initially targeted. Maybe removing the age constraints would make a difference - an idea for testing there; like looking for a market for a product - a lesson token?
  • I'm not a part of any photo club, maybe they don't run competitions at all? Maybe it's "awards" or just simply displays - I've not done due dilligence, I didn't know the niche I went for. This facebook testing is showing all that.
 I know more about weight loss that photography, and perhaps should have just made a follow up to the challenge I did earlier this year -    

...must keep reminding myself of this... (tool)

Pending Facebook ads

I wanted to test some ads on a very small budget today but all of my 4-hour £1 campaigns have not been authorized by Facebook.

Created a whole day one for tomorrow with £5 of similar content to the ones running (supposed) today.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Quest 1 thoughts again

My ego is safely behind its shield which means that my results urge me for review of my actions.

I chose age group of 16-19 and the most effective way to target them would be to use Facebook ads that allow specific area and age targeting. Set up takes minutes and the cost is minimal. Much more effective to meeting with group leaders. It's hard to get them to act.

After identifying what my aim was: 5 people to participate and donate money to the charity, next step would be to find the shortest route to it. Currently I'm running polls which were supposed to get people engaged in the challenge, but the polls are a link click away. I've only now discovered that there is a poll app on Facebook, and everything could have been done on FB alone saving the click and the changing of platforms (FB to blogger)

No or not much work had been done in various areas: optimising the experience of visitors and converting visitors to participants. Neither there has been any research done into interests of the target group or the validity of the idea. Preparation was very poor and based on intuition only.

I've not done much to make it look attractive to the target market. I should spend more time on the product, then advertising (including reaching out to group leaders). Even when running the polls on how to run the competition, everything around it should be made to sell the experience: graphics, copy, etc.

What needs to be done is improvements to increase conversion = make it more attractive and include selling techniques. Articles could be written in the form of a masked copy, and even video presentations can be like an ad or long copy (not that I plan on using the latter in this particular Quest). Point is that everything I've written so far was just plain English, no copy, nothing that would get people to act.

To make it more attractive:
  • improve the look of the Facebook page
  • at least brainstorm which parts of the competition - the prize, the process, the part where they're helping the local charity - is attractive and highlight it in selling points.
To include copy and selling techniques:
  • include a landing tab with blured out "hidden" content and Like Us call to action
  • fashion the about tab in the form of long copy
To streamline the process:
  • run next poll on Facebook, not on Blogger

There are two options after a plan is made (of what needs to be done in order to make it attractive and increase conversions):
  • I make all the graphics and copy (learning curve)
  • I find students (?) who would be willing to do these things for free (to include it into their portfolio).

The positive side to this is the learning curve.

Update this post with further thoughts.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Quantifying Quest 1

Regardless of my propensity to complicate things, I still decided to continue what I have started because it's been proving to teach me a lot. I've managed to put some numbers together. Here goes nothing (literally):

What I have done:
  • set up blog for the competition (no editing, just chose one of available templates and found a poll plug-in)
  • sent 41 friends a message on FB about it. 5 responded - 12%. Sent the messages on the 3rd of October. There were 18 page views on the blog on that day, and 16 the following day, nothing on the 5th.
  • Met 5 group leaders, some of them more than once - one has acted
  • posted 2 updates on FB asking friends to vote - There were 19 page views of the blog on the day of the first update and 7 page views after the second.
  • 10 people voted on the first poll, 2 have voted so far on the second (still open until Sunday)
The post for Current Quests was written on the 8th of August. Today it's the 13th of October. This means that the above has taken me 9 weeks and three days (63 days - two full months).

OK, so I have come to the conclusion that I have overcomplicated the original "goal" of advertising our little business with going for this competition, but now that it's in preparation and so many people have been involved already, I want to finish it. Besides the benefits of all the lessons I'm learning outweigh any negatives. To finish I need to know what really is the goal. Quantifiable goal that is. I want 5 people to submit a photo and donate money to the local charity. Before Christmas this year!

One side note: We ought to engage people this way once we build a pool of fans of the business (my wife's photography) and not the other way round. What gives??? Make a living first, then grow it by making it really special.

Lesson Tokens:
  • Keep the path to the goal short
  • Don't undervalue myself, believe in myself - otherwise I take longer routes or feel bad about taking money for goods and service that really bring value to the customer.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Quest for simplicity

Bloomin' Flowers! I really ought to sort my head out in this matter. Initially I wanted to advertise my wife's photography, but in stead of advertising I came up with this competition, and to make it more complicated, I've tied it with a charity, and then to make it simpler I went for the Youth market with its problems and to keep myself out of trouble I'm running polls on how the competition ought to look like. Maaan!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Quest 1 Thinking page

To do:

Before doing anything else: sum up all of my actions so far and all of the results.

Make a list of all people I've met so far with short notes - complete

Make a list of friends on Facebook who have replied to my email - complete

Send email to local college photo teacher - complete

Create a new poll on the blog - complete

Promote the new poll on Facebook - complete - testing ads as of 14th Oct

Create a Facebook page - created, need editing - completed editing, but very basic. Will probably need improving content.

A thought:

Measuring is key right after dropping ego.

One can drop ego after reaching true limits.

To reach true limits first one needs to try hard.

Trying hard means going past the state of flow, into the state of frustration, and that is where we grow.

Dropping ego allows not to rest on laurels, but agree that to go further, one needs to get out of the ego loving comfort zone.

Agression as a result of living in a limiting environment

It occured to me that living in a limiting environment might lead to frustration and even aggression. This would not necessarily have to be directed outwards, but could lead to destructive behaviour.

I'm only thinking of this as I have experienced this myself from shooting paper models that took me a month to put together to burning bridges and giving up any projects I'd put a lot of work into just before they could produce any fruit.

This is an open post and might get back to it.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Being nervous again, but successful

In spite of trying to think about this in general terms, as in: "the task is to speak to many group leaders regardless of the outcome" and not: "I'm going to see this one person and will make them love me" I was still a bit nervous when meeting the photography teacher at the local college.

The solution I used is an old trick learned from Seneca and his mates the stoics. I started imagining that the person says to me that the college in no ways will get involved, that she doesn't like me and asks me to leave. This took the load of initially.

Then during the conversation, I didn't try to "sell" MY idea, but rather tried to learn as much as I could; I stressed a few times that I'd never done it before and if this fails it's OK, because I plan to learn from it and could relaunch next year.

This way I reinforced the image of such meetings as little pixels of a bigger picture, learned a valuable lesson and actually came out wiser from the meeting rather than feeling like I had been fighting an uphill struggle.

The success here lies more in learning from the person I met and getting more contacts that open even more doors rather than the added bonus of getting my point across and interesting the speaker enough to get their involvement.

Lesson Tokens:
  • Imagine each event with an uncertain outcome as a pixel in a large mosaic, and looking for ways to understand(, see, complete?) it in the most effective way
  • If anxious before such event, imagine the worst outcome I can come up with and become comfortable with it
  • Try to learn from each new person rather than forcing my view on them

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

How it feels to be on the other side

It feels very light. I've released all pressure and am trying very hard to define; put into words how I've achieved it.

Writing The breakdown post helped, but apart from that:
  • choosing the more probable audience for the competition (people already interested in photography instead of everybody) took a lot of worry off
  • thinking "what would be the most effective thing to do that wouldn't cost any money that I still could do over lunch or in the evenings" and looked at people I could contact.
  • deciding that this is too much for me to bear and that it's OK to ask for help. I also tend to think that leaders bring people together rather than impose things on them, so if there are people who get inspired by the concept I'm pursuing, then I will ask them for help and support their efforts
  • really embracing the concept of internal motivation and switching to reasons like: solving a really meaningful puzzle and just going for a challenge I've never done. Once I've accepted that I can fail, my ego's detached itself and now I'm simply curious
Being on the other side of the breakdown point filled me with new energy. The current strategy for the competition is:
  • speak to relevant people and get new contacts from them
  • work on getting some coverage in the local media using the known contacts
  • working on reaching the target audience as soon as possible
  • keep improving my efforts, see what's possible and keep pushing my assumed boundaries
This wouldn't have been possible if not for Edward Deci and his fantastic book: "Why We Do What We Do" which I intend to review here for any future readers and as a summary for myself. I am currently reading it for the second time.

    Sunday, 3 October 2010


    After changing the link in the messages I was able to send it to the remainder of my friends on Facebook.

    It's starting to occur to me that there isn't much time left for promoting. One of the Hospice's other events had been promoted for 9 months prior to it happening and it was a great success raising £20k, but there had been resources used for promotion. So Far I have not spent a penny on promotion and would like to avoid it as I haven't got any and that this is a charitable event.

    There's also another way to look at it. I could spend some of my credit on a card for fliers and posters, but perhaps something in me doesn't believe this would work. That I'd never get a return. Maybe this lack of belief stops me from acting, I don't know. What I do know is that when I remove all pressure on myself, as in "this will work, because it has to work", then I personally have more motivation to act. The focus then is on finding solutions and trying them out.

    So today I sent messages to my local friends on Facebook directing them to the competition blog and asking for help and one person responded positively.

    Lessons learned:

    Don't expect that everyone will go with me, but concentrate on those who will. Could also measure the rate of reaction like a proper marketer would.

    When I don't pressure a result on myself I am more focused on work and solutions. Results happen as a bonus. Perhaps a review of the Epic Win should be in place


    Facebook treating my private message to a friend as spam and doesn't let me send it.

    I was trying to send the same message to all my friends asking them to look at the competition blog. How annoying.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Quest 1 breakdown

    I think I've had this in all of my past projects. I reach a certain point and then breakdown and don't know why.

    There was one project I finished on purpose to prove I can finish something: a papercraft Teddy Bear and not even that because it was supposed to be with a bride, flowers and it's cute little hat. I still treat it as a symbol of patience and achievement for me as this was my desired outcome.

    The outcome is definately something to keep in mind, but the why is even more important. I could force myself to go through adversity, but I need to have a reason to do it.

    Now I'm facing a crisis. I am at a point where I need to get the attention of young people to get the ball rolling (there are a lot of "I"s in this post, but currently it is all on my shoulders and it is me who needs to find a way to deal with it)

    This is a point where I push my comfort zone

    I need to write this again.

    This is THE point where I push my comfort zone. After crossing this, I will have grown.

    There needs to be some assumptions made:
    • This can fail - target peeps might not like this or there will ne not enough of us; we could elongate the process so much that it will dilute the experience and again fail to deliver.
    • I might look silly in front of everybody I'd met so far and waste my chances of ever doing anything like it again.
    • it feels so blissful to reach this point, assume victory and lead the same life as before without trying. This is exactly "resting on laurels"; but there is no growth
    • I feel limited by the time I have to contact group leaders (wow, here's a problem defined, solutions start pouring in, I already feel lighter)
    • the why behind the contest is clear: to promote empathy and action among youth and to promote interest and creativity in photography; and the goal is clear as well: to help save the Woking Hospice
    There is one solution I see emerging and that is that I need help. I can't do this alone. It's begining to become clear to me that leadership is about NOT doing things all alone. Again, there are solutions coming to me immediately.

    Knowing why I am doing this and defining how I can fail has just now helped me to relieve worry and unlock. My efforts now will be directed towards getting other people to take on some of this challenge of helping a good cause. This cause, which is pure to me gives me the motivation to act. I feel that this is good from within.

    OK, I feel better, what next. I feel that spending two hours brainstorming is unnecessary. The solutions I see is to speak with the people whom I've spoken with already, share the belief in the common goal and ask them for solutions and then to support their actions.