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Changing My Habits and Finding Which Methods Worked

Looking for a list of quick and simple ways to adopt good habits in life which is guaranteed to work?

Sorry, me too.

But there are some methods for improving your habits and lifestyle which have been well researched. For instance, the famous Marshmallow test which is one example of how being able to delay gratification for a bigger reward tends to pay off.

Or how about tackling the biggest, hardest tasks at the start of the day, when you’ve got the biggest reserves of willpower. And doing what you can to avoid using your brain power on things which don’t matter? Examples include wearing similar outfits everyday to avoid expending though on choosing an outfit (e.g. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama etc).

I’ve certainly found some success in adopting a simple rule for cutting down on junk food and snacks. I don’t buy them.

If it’s in the house, then it takes conscious effort to not eat it when I’m tempted. If it involves a trip to the shop, then the times I either allow myself to inhale a tub of Ben and Jerrys in one sitting, or I’m tired and fed up enough to drive to a KFC are a lot less often. And it also means that for most things, I can force myself to walk to the shop and at least get some exercise on the way.

But I wanted to introduce some more good habits, and had the opportunity to test three methods to see which were personally more effective. Obviously your results may differ depending on your personality, lifestyle and experiences.

 

Changing My Habits: Willpower Alone:

When I was younger, I’d read books voraciously. It’s a good habit I inherited from my parents and my maternal grandmother, and led to my love of language, writing, and career.

But it’s slipped a lot over the years. Spending all day reading on a variety of screens for work and pleasure, and having limited spare time would mean I’d find it hard to be enthusiastic about opening a printed book at the end of the day.

I don’t agree that the internet and social media have destroyed the ability to concentrate. I’m as likely to be distracted from work by a good 60 minute video or a lengthy article as a short one. But the odds are that it’s followed by sharing the article and jumping right back into another work task. Not taking any time to digest what I’ve watched or ridden.

So I wanted to reintroduce nightly reading, ordered some books, and tried to introduce 30 minutes or more of time spent enjoying the printed word.

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

So I recently ordered a few books from Amazon that I’d always meant to read. The advantage of older books is that most are pretty cheap now. I also rediscovered my copy of Cryptonomicon, and a cheap copy of The Dogs of Riga in a charity shop.

Results?
Mixed, to be honest. I’ve finished 2 of the books from the unread pile in around a month. And restarted Cryptonomicon this week.

But I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in my ability to concentrate or my sleeping habits. Partly because my commitment has been patchy at best. Some nights I’m skipping reading because I finish work late, or I have other things to do. And when I do read, I occasionally get engrossed and go way over time, which then means I’m tired the next day.

But overall, I’m reasonably happy with progress. I’ve got almost 50% through my target list in a month, and I’m becoming more committed as time goes by. Plus I might not necessarily be able to concentrate harder (difficult to prove without testing), but I do feel like I’m starting to come up with more ideas and links between topics than I have for a while.

The caveat is that I’m someone who has always loved reading, so it’s not necessarily going to be as successful with something tougher. I think my willpower only attempts would struggle a lot more with cutting down on caffeine, or grouting the tiles in the bathroom. As the next example proves…

So I’d give this a 5 or 6 out of 10.

 

Changing My Habits: Public Validation:

I rarely join in viral Facebook memes. But when #22pushups was going around earlier this year and someone nominated me, I decided to give it a go. Partly because raising awareness of the struggles people face with PTSD and mental illness was a good cause. And also to see what happened when I not only made a public pledge to exercise every day, but had to also video myself and share it.

22PushupsFacebookGrab

The video element was a big part. It’s too easy to fake data logging or a few photos. And it also meant I had to involve a 3rd party cameraman most of the time. And my son provided a particularly enthusiastic bit of encouragement, as well as turning every video into some kind of dating advert.

Results?

Well, I’m still single.

The actual challenge went well. I think I missed  1 or 2 days, which I made up for straight away the next day. And even kept the run going when I was traveling for work conferences. Including when slightly hung over the next day.

And I could feel the difference from barely managing 22 pushups, to being able to do more than double that. At the local park, I even started doing chin ups on the play equipment for probably the first time in my life. For fun.

But…

I thought 22 days would be long enough to establish a good habit I could build on. But since the impetus to video my exercise ended and I don’t have family and friends prompting me, it pretty much went out the window. It’s too easy to blame work, or having other things to do.

The simple fact is that I wasn’t motivated enough to keep going without some kind of external impetus, and I reverted to being lazy.

So the end result is probably a 2/10 if I’m honest.

(But I do have a plan to counter this, as I’m registering a private Instagram account to start posting daily live videos of my fitness efforts. It’s private because I’m not intending to be a fitness guru, and my only having friends and family watch, I should be comfortable enough to look like an idiot on a regular basis without too much shame).

 

Changing My Habits: App Notifications:

The last habit I wanted to introduce was learning a language. Having some history of Alzheimer’s in my family and also seeing various research on the benefits of foreign languages, I had a quick look around for quick, free apps to try out.

Having downloaded Duolingo, I had to pick a language. Rather than refreshing my schoolboy French or German, I went with Swedish. Seeing as I spent 13 years in a relationship with a Swede, it seemed silly that I’d picked up random phrases and words over the years but never buckled down and acquired enough Svenska to have a proper conversation.

Duolingo Mobile App Swedish Screen

Jag måste lära mer svenska, I thought. So the mobile app takes you through some word matching with images and translations. You also have to transcribe audio clips or translate them yourself, or use a drag-and-drop approach with a selection of words.

There’s a desktop version as well, but the advantage of the mobile app is that my phone is always on and with me. So I can’t escape by powering down my laptop before I remember my daily lesson.

And I also get an email and notification reminder as a preset time. I’d originally set it for the end of the day, but now having it mid-evening so I still have some motivation reserves left.

Best of all, hitting my standard level target takes 5-10 minutes. So it’s something I can do quickly and easily without fearing a massive commitment.

Results?

I’ve missed a couple of days, but made it up in the next 24 hours. The rest of the time I’ve managed daily progress for about a month.

It’s a fairly low commitment, so I haven’t exactly mastered Swedish yet. But I’ve accumulated more than 220 words, passed the first checkpoint, and gone back and kept up my previous lesson strength (Each lesson prompts you with a reminder after a set amount of time to go back and refresh your weakest words/phrases).

But I’m definitely picking up and remembering more words and phrases (I still get Hon and Han confused occasionally), and I’ll be interested the next time I watch a subtitled Swedish film or crime drama to see whether it’s helped.

So I think the combo of easy use and notifications (plus a very tiny amount of gamification with scores etc), has definitely proved successful. So I’ll give it an 8/10 so far.

Changing Habits: My Conclusion:

So if you’re a person with strong willpower or have enough motivation, it’s easy to change a habit. Just do it.

In the case of reading, I do log my progress on Goodreads, but it involves an effort to visit the site etc, so I don’t really count it as motivation at the moment.

When it comes to public validation, it definitely works. Until you stop sharing.

The problem is that some of my friends were certainly uninterested in seeing me do pushups. But I think a private distribution list may work OK – will see how it goes.

And something which includes a bit of gamification with regular prompts and notifications definitely works for me.

Exercise takes more physical effort than the other two habits, but I tend to be mentally tired rather than physically due to my work and lifestyle. And having an encouraging/nagging email and prompt has stopped me skipping days I might have dodged.

The next step will be finding if there’s a solution for reading and fitness which will combine the things which worked best so far, and then seeing what else I can…

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Have Read, Am Reading, Will Read

I’ve been working on making some changes and either introducing, or re-introducing some more positive habits into my life. And one of the main things I wanted to make time for is reading printed books.

There were two main reasons for this. One was to spend at least some time between waking and sleeping when I’m not reading from a screen to give my eyes a rest and to get into a better routine to promote a good night of sleep.

The other was to see if my attention span has suffered from the constant distractions of social media, notifications, and emails. There’s still plenty of debate over the potential benefits and harm of task switching (as opposed to pretending you can actually multi-task). And it’s never something I really experience when actively writing and creating something – only when passively consuming entertainment of some description

Plus I miss my childhood, spent devouring books for at least an hour every day…

So I bought some books. One I’ve already finished, one I’ve just started, and one is awaiting me impatiently… And the benefit of having been slack in my reading habits for a while is that many of the things I want to read are relatively cheap right now.

Jon Pierson: Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: Guided Tour Through A Decade of American Independent Cinema

Spike, Mike Slackers and Dykes by Jon Pierson

Written in 1997, I can remember it being recommended by Clerks director Kevin Smith a long time ago. And it was one of those things I never seemed to get around to reading – until now.

And it was alright. The author, Jon Pierson, was responsible for investing in, and making deals for, indie films including Spike Lee’s first film, She’s Gotta Have It, the aforementioned Clerks by Kevin Smith, documentary The Thin Blue Line, and Richard Linklater’s Slackers among others. So a pretty good list of influential films from that period.

As a result, the book covers elements of film making, film distribution and dealing with studios, but not really in much depth. In fact, what was most interesting when reading it now is wondering whether there’s still a need for that type of role and how making films has changed. This was an era when extremely low budget meant $7,000 (El Mariachi) or $27,000 (Clerks) on 16mm film. Not an iPhone.

It was also an era before internet distribution – no Youtube or Vimeo. No Amazon or Netflix streaming. And none of the smaller online indie film sites like Indieflix.com, for example. And the book was published two years before the internet sensation of the Blair Witch Project…

Having said all that, it’s still a very interesting book. If you’ve got an outsider’s interest in film, then you’ll pick up some inspiration, and it’s a great example of someone risking their money and livelihood on things that they like and consider worth championing. Which doesn’t always pay off, but still resulted in a pretty incredible batting average. So if you’re interested, the wonderful vagaries of Amazon’s pricing algorithm mean you can get a secondhand copy anywhere from 1p to £23.47 depending on which apparently identical listing you click on.

 

Julian Dibbell: Play Money

Play Money by Julian Dibbell

I’m doing better with Play Money. It’s taken me less than a decade to finally get a copy of a book I’ve meant to read since I first heard about it. When it was written, the world of MMO gaming was relatively new and unknown. So the idea of a journalist taking a year out of work to try and earn a living purely within an online game seemed fairly odd to a lot of people. For me, it just seemed a fascinating glimpse into what might happen in the future..

And given the rise of MMOs and eSports, I’d like to tell my former self not to listen to the naysayers and invest more time and effort into the ideas he had back then…. darn it…

Anyway, it’s been interesting so far. I’m pretty early in, but it’s fascinating firstly to be transports back to the era of Ultima Online. For context, World of Warcraft was new and still growing in 2006. Second Life had appeared in 2003. And I was still in my twenties…

So while it’s not exactly a handbook for how to make a living from gaming in the modern age, it’s been an interesting look back so far. And it’ll be fun to see how many characters from the book are still active in gaming in some way…

Interestingly, author Julian Dibbell has recently switched from 20 years of writing about tech to becoming a tech attorney. Anyway, so far so good. and there are some shiny paperback copies of Play Money on Amazon, although the hardcover copy I chose appears to have vanished…

 

Mark Earls: Herd

Herd by Mark Earls

I’ve been waiting to dive into Herd to make sure I’m back to maximum focus. Mainly because I could have sworn I’d not only read it close to the original release, but also owned a copy.

Either it was a very rare time I lent a book to someone (I can only remember lending out a handful of books in my life, and the loss of the 2 I remember loaning out in the last 15 years still pains me), or I’d read some much insight from Mr Earls via articles, blogs, and Twitter etc that my memory started playing tricks on me.

But it seemed like a very pertinent time to re-read a book whose subtitle is ‘How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature’, and it’ll be interesting to pick out which bits are relevant with the recent examples of Trump, Brexit and other mass behaviours…

I was also given a copy of Five on Brexit Island by some relatives recently. And looking at my profile on Goodreads, it appears than what I thought was a break of a few weeks after starting Cryptonomicon has turned into several months. In my defence, I did get distracted by motoring through the fantastic Ecko trilogy by Danie Ware, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, and a healthy dose of vernacular English cursing.

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Who Needs A Mobile Telephone Anyway?

Last week, I needed to buy a new mobile phone. For a while, I’ve persisted with a slightly futile attempt to separate work and family communications by using two phones. And the aging HTC I relied on for personal calls finally gave up the ghost after several years of good service.

The fact that most apps were no longer working didn’t really bother me. Aside from Twitter and Facebook, I occasionally remembered to check in to places with Swarm, used Google Maps, and occasionally got frustrated with the fact Instagram had stopped working ages ago.

But I still liked the idea of having one phone for my personal uploads, and one I could use either for my own media projects or client work – as well as having a separate number for work which could be turned off at a certain point each evening.

The Weird World of Modern Mobiles:

So although I was under a bit of pressure to have a replacement up and running, I did my research. I looked at a range of reviews, and checked what was available in a reasonable price range. I couldn’t justify a new iPhone or an exploding Samsung, even if I wanted one. Ditto the cost and wait for a new Google Pixel phone.

The camera was hugely important to me. I’m no great photographer, but I want to make sure that if I snap something on my phone it’s good enough to keep or share. The Huawei P9 was intriguing, but I couldn’t quite stretch to the outlay – particularly as I already had a SIM only GiffGaff plan I intended to keep.

A decent amount of memory, a recent edition of Android, space for an expandable memory card – all of these were good things to have.

So then having assembled a shortlist of handsets with no contracts in the sub £200-£250 range, I went and tried some out, eventually settling on the Motorola Moto G4.

(I know Amazon have the exclusive on the Motorola Moto G4 Plus with dual sims, but I felt having two sims on one phone wouldn’t prevent the type of cross-posting disaster having different devices might avoid.)

Motorola Moto G4 Box

So far it’s been great. It works well, takes decent pictures despite my artistic limitations, and the battery life has been really good.

But it was only after a few days, I realised something strange.

At no point had I ever questioned what it was like to make phone calls on it.

When I tried it out in the shop, I happily checked surfing the web and texting – but never thought to put it to my ear.

And the week since buying it, I haven’t made or received a single phonecall on it.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been used regularly. I’ve sent messages, used Whatsapp, tweeted from it, uploaded to Facebook, started actually sharing on Instagram again, enjoyed the fact that Swarm works again, and finally got around to signing up for Untappd to log my beer choices so I can finally remember which ones I like.

But it wasn’t until the second day of ownership that I realised how large the handset actually is, and that I might have to try and use it without resting it on a desk or sitting down with two hands free. Or what it might look like when I actually have it pressed to my ear.

It’s hard to believe it’s 13 years since the original Taco Phone (The Nokia N-Gage). And I’ve probably held out longer than a lot of people. But aside from the type of emergency calls I hope I never have to receive, the telephone part of my mobile device is the least used, and least important part of the whole thing…

 

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Big Success for Peterborough STEM Fest 2016

It’s almost a week since the first Peterborough STEM Festival. And to be honest, I’m still getting over how good it was.

I didn’t have any doubt that my chums from Digital People in Peterborough would put on a great event. But I didn’t realise quite how big and exciting it would be.

First, the venue was great. The Allia Business Centre is relatively new, and is built into the Peterborough United Football Ground with offices, co-working spaces and a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a London innovation hub.

Secondly, the events, talks and demonstrators were all really interesting. It was all pretty impressive (like the child-size robot from Peterborough Regional College), but also really accessible. Everyone was keen to chat to all the children, including mine, and spend as long as was needed to answer the questions which shot forth from kids and parents. It’s not too often my son gets to discuss space with a Senior Spacecraft Thermal Engineer working on the Solar Orbiter. And that was just a chance encounter before the actual speaking sessions began!

And thirdly, there was a great turnout. Hundreds of children and parents came through the doors, and from witnessing some of the feedback, I think everyone was impressed at the fact such a great event was put on for free. I’m not sure it we hit the capacity limit for the event, but we must have been pretty close…

That was partly down to the kind sponsors who rightly saw a great opportunity to get involved in an inspiring community event. And also down to the great bunch of organisers and volunteers.

Peterborough STEM Festival Volunteers

Spot the Dan. And then wonder how I managed to look in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong moment….

Everyone was kind enough to donate their time, patient enough to deal with anything that came up, and well led and organised by the core trio behind the whole thing.

Even my son and I managed to run the reception desk for a couple of hours without major mishap. Mainly due to the help of other volunteers, and bribing him with a hot dog, Babbage bear in a Raspberry Pi shirt, and some Minecraft pixel sunglasses.

Just awesome…

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Supporting the First Peterborough STEM Festival

Peterborough holds a few special memories for me. As a cathedral city, it’s not known as a particularly exciting or glamorous location, but it’s a site of rich historical value. It’s also where I moved to become a full time journalist for a publication I’d always dreamed about working for.

Having gone on to start a family in East Anglia, it’s also the place where I first began working for myself. And after a short period of solitude, it’s where I suggested one or two freelancers I knew came down the pub to chat about work and technology. And that became DPiP, a monthly meetup which has become hugely successful despite my early involvement.

Peterborough STEM Festival

So I’m hugely excited to be traveling up to Peterborough at the end of the month to be a volunteer at the first Peterborough STEM Festival, which is a day of family-friendly events to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, inspired by Ada Lovelace Day.

When it came to DPiP, my biggest success was getting out of the way once I’d persuaded talented designer and organiser Tia to get involved. Besides securing the best cupcakes in the county to encourage people to come along, she also transformed something a bit ramshackle into a well-oiled machine.

So I confess to chuckling when I got an email explaining that she’d had an idea for a STEM Festival and was worried that it might not all come together. Because I knew it would – and lo and behold, it looks like it’ll be an amazing day.

There are a full day of workshops, doing stuff with Raspberry Pis, MakeyMakey boards, Cambridge Science Centre and Microsoft.

And a similarly impressive range of speakers – including spacecraft engineers, scientists, mathematicians and programmers covering space, robotics, and game theory.

Plus a load of exhibitors running Minecraft competitions, explaining genetics and demonstrating humanoid robotic companions.

Basically the DPiP team of Tia, Jonathan and Andy have recruited a great team, sorted out a load of fantastic speakers and events, and put it all together in an area which has been increasingly embracing technology over the last few years.

And did I mention it’s all free?

I’ve been to a lot of events over the years, and it’s probably safe to say that all this entertainment could have come with a price tag. But instead, it’s all available for free to encourage more children, and particularly girls, to consider STEM subjects.

Some of the workshops etc will require booking online in advance, so check out the website and see what might take your fancy (or be the best to inspire your kids).

And hopefully I’ll see you there!

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Inspiration to Keep Pushing

Tony Hawk is a skateboarding legend. He started skating professionally at the age of 14, and has since become probably the most famous skater of all-time, particularly after featuring in a series of video games.

In 1999, he made history by landing the first ever ‘900’ at the X Games in San Francisco, which involves spinning around two-and-a-half times before landing successfully.

And having repeated it in 2011 at the age of 43, he’s now released a video of what may be the final time he ever completes the trick at the age of 48.

And this weekend, I’m going to show my son the video to share the most important lesson from it.

The video has obviously been edited down, but even so, I counted 7 falls before Tony Hawk successfully completes the trick.

That’s a 48-year-old, wealthy, legend throwing himself down a vert ramp. And doing it again, and again.

He’s not doing it as part of a promotion, or for a competition. And the seven failed attempts aren’t hidden from public view.

He’s overcoming the challenge despite failing several times because he wants to achieve something. And that’s the lesson. Sometimes we all need inspiration to keep pushing. Despite previous failures. Because we need to achieve something for ourselves.

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Fascinating 15 Minute Wired Documentary on Shenzhen

There’s an overwhelming amount of things recommended to read, hear and watch on a second-by-second basis these days. But I’d say it’s worth spending 15 minutes checking out this Wired Future Cities video on Shenzhen in China, described as ‘The Silicon Valley of Hardware’.

At the moment it seems that software and the internet has entered a period of gradual evolution, and all the predictions for revolutions will be in bio technology, hardware etc. As always, what will actually power any revolution is harder to predict, and probably won’t look much like anything we’ve got at the moment, but it does seem than Shenzhen might be where it will appear first.

It’s also interesting to compare the current Western trends for both Makers and artisan craftsmen who seem more attuned to reviving traditional small scale manufacturing methods. At the highest end of Western manufacture, there’s the ability to rapidly prototype and iterate, and there’s a similar potential for groups of companies at the smallest end if ecosystems like Shenzhen spring up (I know there are pockets of hardware/manufacturing technologies in various Western countries, but I wonder if they’ll reach the same scales and levels of accessibility, particularly with regards to cost and the rather loose concept of copyright and IP that exists in China).

Either way, it’s fascinating – I’ve always been fascinated with the manufacture of physical hardware, whether it’s related to combustion engines or silicon chips…

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Are Vloggers Growing Up and Facing the Creative Economy?

A lot of people in my online networks have been sharing a popular article on Fusion, ‘Get Rich or Die Vlogging‘ by Gaby Dunn – one half of Youtube comedy duo Just Between Us who have amassed more than 500,000 subscribers. It’s worth taking a look at the full article, but the summary is that it turns out you can have potentially millions of followers on Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social network, and still be struggling financially.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy

This is apparently a shocking revelation – ‘Why would someone with 90,000 Instagram followers be serving brunch?’

Without being patronising, it’s a familiar tale to anyone familiar with creativity beyond the last handful of years. Ask the likes of Hugh McLeod, Austin Kleon, or Mason Curry.

Probably the most ignored fact about any creative or artistic endeavour is that even many of the famous names we’re familiar with either struggled financially or died penniless. The most famous composers were either poor, such as Elgar, or managed to live beyond their means and get into huge debts. Or take painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gaugin and Van Gogh. Penniless writers include the likes of Herman Melville and Oscar Wilde.

In some cases, it was due to talent being discovered only after the artist had passed away. But it was as often due to the instability of earning a living from creativity and terrible business acumen and decisions. Unfortunately Gaby dismisses the ‘starving artist vs sell-out’ paradigm as ‘thankfully, Van Gogh didn’t have to shill for Audible.com to pissed-off fans of his art‘. Luckily he only had poverty, mental illness, self-mutilation and suicide.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy_Money

Then came the broadcast media of the 20th Century. And yet creative people known around the globe could still be financially destitute. Actors and actresses, musicians, sports stars – they were all capable of fame without fortune.

And then came the internet. Many bloggers started with hopes of full-time self-employment at their laptop only to realise that actually it’s as tough to be successful as ever – increased accessibility not only means more competition, but more advertising inventory and lower payments.

 

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you will:

The open ability for anyone to publish articles, videos, music or art doesn’t mean that everyone is suddenly about to earn millions, or even a reasonable middle class income, by being internet famous. The power law curve and Pareto distribution written about a decade ago by Chris Anderson as ‘The Long Tail’ benefits the aggregators of digital content which can be supplied to niche audiences with miniscule costs. Amazon can hold an infinite stock of digital books that may sell one copy a year and make a big profit on the aggregate sales, while Youtube can offer videos on every subject and combine a big enough audience for advertisers.

It doesn’t mean that because you can publish to the internet that it’s any easier to make a creative living than it ever was.

You can plugin advertising services and affiliate links, but you need an ever-increasing scale for ad revenue, despite all the talk about how advertisers would target relevant niches. And you need scale or a very devoted following to make money from affiliates unless it’s an extremely high commission, in which case competition is fierce.

And whatever your medium or platform, you need to be in the top few percent to make it viable as a decent standalone income. There’s only room for a handful of videogame Youtubers, fashion vloggers or Instagram models to make it rich, and the next tier of a livable income is not that much bigger.

 

So what to do?

There’s no simple answer for how creative people can live a prosperous life. But some soul searching and looking at the motivation for being creative in the first place will help.

If you want to enjoy making things without any pressure at all, get a day job and treat your creative passion purely as a hobby you can enjoy regardless of whether anyone else is involved. Write, paint, draw, sculpt, weld, dance, or whatever takes your fancy and don’t put it on social media to build up followers or define your personal brand. Share it with friends and family if you like, and just enjoy yourself.

It’s possible that you may build your hobby into a side business that makes a little extra cash and that’s cool. Use the money to treat yourself or stick into a savings account for the future. Keep the day job, spend some spare time on your side business and remember to also go out and have fun. There are lots of ways to minimise the time running a side business can take, and registering as a sole trader is quick and painless. Budget for some basic accountancy software and an accountant to check your returns and life can be fairly simple.

But then there’s the desire to earn your full potential wages as a creative artist hunched over an easel, potters wheel or laptop in a loft apartment located in a bohemian part of a swinging city.

Vloggers_Gowing_Up_In_Creative_Economy_Artist

There are lots of things you may have to think about should this become your career plan

  • You need to fully engage in the business side of things. How to sell products and services directly to customers or other businesses? How to find potential advertisers to deal with? How to meet other business owners (because that’s what you are now) and find out how they get the most profit, or what you should be charging?
  • Realise that you’re going to spend 50% per cent of your time not being able to sit and be creative because you’re doing admin and business work. And that’s if you’re lucky. And you’ll need to do that for a while before you can start looking at virtual assistants or help to get some of the time back.
  • Accept that you may need to focus on work besides your long awaited ‘Great American Novel’ or ‘Cinematic Epic for Millenials’. But you should also realise that everyone with a laptop now considers themselves a social media marketer, commercial copywriter, and logo designer (if they’ve bought Photoshop). So that side of your income can be as much of a struggle, and take as much of your time.
  • And finally you need to be open and honest with yourself and realise that it’s OK if you don’t make it rich. It’s possible that you may not find success in your lifetime, and that’s not the end of the world. As a business owner you can pivot and try different revenue streams, hone your product and tailor it to what people want. And that’s what most people try to do without losing their passion or vision.

 

WTF does he know?

I’m not a world famous blogger, Youtuber, musician or actor. I’m one of the majority of people who operate somewhere between obscurity and being on the cusp of a good living. And I’ve maintained that for several years since I was last employed full-time.

I run a marketing business and consultancy which earns me most of my income. I run a handful of websites with some very talented people which are starting to deliver small financial returns after a lot of hard work. And I write articles like this which will probably earn me absolutely nothing, but hopefully help to build my business and reputation.

I may never see my company make millions, and I used to get depressed about the fact I hadn’t made a fortune by 25, 30, *ahem* 35. But given that I’ve lasted longer than the lifespan of most companies, I’ve been able to earn a reasonable living by largely doing things I enjoy, and I’ve made progress in building my own brands and websites which I can be proud of (And which give a platform to a whole load of talented new people), then I’m OK with that.

As I wrote earlier, I can identify with the problems Gaby is experiencing. I’m lucky enough to have great clients, but I still need to improve my financial situation for myself and to hopefully support more people in the future. Which means if I do miss out or turn down work, it can lead to worry and guilt for a bit.

And I appreciate the challenge of authenticity and maintaining an audience whilst posting branded content to pay the bills – I never felt comfortable blogging about how to make millions from writing a blog like many did during the boom time.

Just remember, fame does not equal money. And creativity and happiness doesn’t depend on either of them.

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Is Mobile Dead?

Since PC and Tablet sales slowed over the last few years, there have been a million articles written about the death of the desktop in particular.

So presumably the news that mobile handset growth is slowing to single figures must mean that we’re about to have a deluge of predictions that mobile is over?

It’s in a new report from IDC. They predict the total shipments 2015 will amount to a 9.8 percent increase compared to last year, or 1.43 billion units. According to the firm, growth has slowed in the Asia Pacific region, Latin America, and Western Europe. Apparently China is saturated, so the big places for growth now are in Africa and the Middle East – and Wired predicts that this is all good news for Apple as consumers will start to trade up for a more premium product (The subtext is that apparently only iOS and Android will be worth worrying about).

Mobile-is-dead

A quick Google search for ‘desktop is dead’ points to this article by Gizmodo back in 2009. At that point, the desktop was in a death spiral due to the rise of laptops. It also stated that PC Gaming was dead.

I should point out that 6 years later, Steam has 125 million active users, and has had as many as 12.5 million people playing concurrently. Xbox Live has around 48 million, PlayStation Network 110 million (65 million active monthly), and one of the most popular mobile/tablet games Clash of Clans had around 8.5 million daily players.

One day I dream that hardware makers and analysts will finally accept that there is no ‘one device to rule them all’. I know this, because in the last 24 hours I’ve used my laptop for work and streaming some television, used my tablet to check in on Instagram and Clash of Clans, and had a quick go on both by Xbox 360 and Xbox One. And browsed the latest prices for a new desktop PC purchase after Christmas (Primarily for work and video/photo editing, but potentially also for iRacing).

I’ve also used my mobile to check in at various places, send texts and updates, and for navigation – and even caught a few minutes on a traditional television set.

Perhaps the best example of refusing this logic is Microsoft. First Windows 8, and then the Xbox One interface, which tried to be an entertainment hub but does a worse job of it that the Xbox 360 version.

I might occasionally watch TV on my Xbox One, but the primary reason I bought it was to play videogames, so that’s what it needs to do well. Just like I want a desktop capable of handling 40,000+ line spreadsheets and editing big video files, a laptop which can handle most tasks, and a tablet that can serve entertainment, lightweight games and possibly a presentation or two. I don’t need my mobile to do any of that at the expense of a decent camera, battery life and connectivity (including a decent GPS).

There are plenty of stats about how people now use their mobile more for a variety of tasks, but I’d be interested to know if that’s because they prefer it, or because they don’t have access to a better option. I’ll use my mobile to view TV or for eCommerce if I have to, but not if my tablet is nearby. And I’ll use my laptop if possible.

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Unintentional Marketing Humour

I had to take a screenshot when I followed an article link in an email to land on this.

Unintentional_Marketing_Humour

Right now you’ll either be chuckling, checking your own website for inconsistency, or installing a pop-up/ad blocker.