Tag Archives: learning

Doing happy mental starjumps

“Who’s here for challenge? Who wants more pain?”

As my aerobics instructor yells at me and I throw myself into a series of 16 lunges to a screaming house beat at 6.50am and I wonder why? Why? Because I want to be fitter, leaner… I want to be better than I am.

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What has aerobics got to do with strategy?

Not quite as sweaty, but with a little bit of fluro lycra and a lot of Richard Simmons was Mark Pollard’s #straterday.

Mark promised us a mental workout, and its what we got. The room of about 100 people (many of whom, myself included, were hungover) who chose to be there on a rainy Saturday morning at 8.30am prepared to learn some new tricks.

Mark himself even asked that morning, “Why did I put myself through this?” quickly answering, in a down to earth jokey tone, “Because it’ll be good for me, it’ll help me grow“.

He’s moving onto his next challenge in New York.  Do you ever find people moving on always makes you think about whether you could be doing better? Asking if you should be working on your next big thing?

But then you think, “I’m actually quite happy where I am. Can’t I just settle for a bit and enjoy it?” Does it always have to be a challenge?

It seems a strange notion that we do things to ourselves that feel uncomfortable, almost on the edge of painful, to ‘improve’. Like that part of a run where you don’t think you will be able to go on, but you somehow you do… It got me thinking about what gives us this motivation to keeping pushing ourselves?

Where’s the happiness factor?

Where is the happiness in training and working hard? Wouldn’t we all be happier if we settled, enjoyed the present and stopped chasing our tails trying to get to where we want to be next? (I know for a fact if I did it would make my family a lot happier about what I’m doing with my life).

I am currently reading (also a recommendation from Mark) DRIVE, by Daniel H Pink. He believes that what drives us is a desire for Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose in what we do. (see here for a nice animated video synopsis). Whatever the motivation there is an unquestionable exhilaration and adrenaline rush in achieving new personal bests.

But remember…

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To challenge ourselves is good, it makes us fulfilled and feel satisfied, and there are numerous rewards in pushing ourselves to reach that next peak – but just like in aerobics, you need to take a breather once in a while.

Be it sport or career. Your breath is a monitor – if you can’t breathe properly, you need to let yourself recover in order to set yourself up for the next burst.

In yoga they always emphasize the importance of breath. Keep your breathing steady, because it will get you through, it gives you the foundation to progress and to achieve success it is as vital as the will and courage to push yourself for whatever reward you are striving for.

What I got for $10 on a rainy Saturday morning

So, what did I learn from Straterday? (randomly taken from my rather coffee stained hungover notes)

- We like things we can all share in, unspoken human truths that bring us together, like Nat Tran’s witty observations, cracking that slightly uncomfortable yet, ‘oh so true insight’ can make your idea one everyone can relate and want to get involved in. If it’s something everyone can identify with, it makes it more interesting.

- Mindmapping is a good thing, because our brains don’t work in linear structures.

- Sometimes the mind needs constraints to help it get truly creative. Like time limits, forced connections and word play.

- We should solve problems, with strategies, through tactics that are true to our values and in a way we can measure.

- There are heaps of free tools out there like the Harvard Customer Lifetime Calculator we should use more.

- Google is the biggest database of intent. Use trends and insights to analyse what people search for around your area of interest. It’s amazing what it might tell you.

- YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world apparently.

- People tell the internet a lot of things about what they do and what they like to talk about. Listen through tools like Open facebook and Twitter and you might find a fresh approach to spark an idea.

- Demographics are numbers and letters, think about targets as humans through personas and get a richer feel of what your customer might really look like.

- Can people participate in your brand? What is your verb? What is your experience? (Katie Chatfield)

- Is having a brand ‘purpose’ better than an ‘essence’ or an onion?

- Stuff is always more relevant in the context of my own social group Open Graph can help us link our online activity to our real life friends. (Ian Lyons)

- We can learn a lot from our local newspapers, Tim from Mumbrella reminded us what may be newsworthy to us, may not be to the masses, think about how to be interesting and relevant to your audience.

- Thank you Kate Gamble for your invaluable intro to SEO and important message that how we access information through Google is becoming a critical part of any path to purchase.

- Google transcribes videos on YouTube and this info is available to be searched.

- Search with a clean browser or get results that will always be skewed to you.

- We all have big bads with social rejection, and it can stop us expressing ourselves so we need to help people feel comfortable to ensure we get all the ideas.

- Borrow techniques from other industries that do similar stuff expertly. Like Hollywood and Aristotle

- Be a good storyteller. (Gavin Heaton) because there is a lot people out there trying to tell you stuff. Make sure you make the effort to engage them.

And most importantly for me

I learnt that passing on what we know to others, others who are curious, is a good and rewarding thing. For me, it is being able to help and inspire others that’s one of the main drivers in me doing what I do. Seeing Mark do that, by tapping into people’s wilfulness to be better, encouraging and enlightening them for free and seeing the enthusiasm afterwards was the most stimulating thing I took away from the day.

Overall, it was well worth pushing my brain through 4 hours of solid career theory and while I am not planning to move to New York the morning helped set me up for facing up to the next round of challenges here in Sydney ad land, both with some new theory and practical tools, but crucially, renewed motivation to learn more.

So, what is really in it for us?

The recognition we receive for of our efforts undoubtedly plays a massive part in us pushing to get out of our comfort zones. Going back to Dan Pink, I find his point about ‘Mastery’ most interesting. The self fulfillment aspect of being able to pass on what we know to others in the way that Mark and his trainers did that day.

Coincidently I was leant Paul Arden‘s book ‘It’s not how good you are. ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’, by Rhys Edwards in the TCO team that same week and I think passes on an important message which sums up my thoughts from the day.

“Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you… …if you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.”

Paul Arden

What about you though? What motivates you to push past the pain of getting that next peak? Is it about passing on your knowledge? Or simply receiving recognition for your efforts? I’m curious to know.

Sharing your smarts.

Are you a smart cookie? Prove it.

I started a new job a few weeks ago. The scariness of being in a new environment with a lot of smart people reminded me about how in this industry the sharing of our smarts is one of the most exhilarating and the most daunting things about what we do. Knowing and imparting the right knowledge in presentations and meetings can be make or break in our careers.

Sharing smart stuff makes us feel good, we inherently like to help people with what we know and of course it makes us feel good if they find it interesting or smart too because we solved a problem and proved we were clever enough to find it or think of it in the first place.

But, when we share something we think is smart, and others don’t acknowledge or don’t agree it can make us feel sad and a wee bit silly sometimes. Especially if we expected a positive response that just doesn’t happen. The response can ultimately affect in a matter of seconds how we feel about ourselves as capable people. Having an ability to judge what is the right thing to share and when is crucial and completely nerve wracking.

Twitter is a great smart learning and sharing tool – you get the rewards almost instantly, in a measurable tangible way when people show their appreciation through RTs and responses to you. And, you don’t have to worry about blushing publicly if your contribution is the equivalent of meeting room tumbleweed.

When I first got into Twitter this really excited me, and I wanted to share any interesting link that I found. Like many other people I loved the thrill of seeing someone appreciate something I had thrown out there and also the fascination trying to understand what people found most interesting. However, it did become quite overwhelming quickly. It’s easy to get confused about what is right, wrong or interesting. It essentially got me really confused and probably exposed me to be a little naïve at times. Like when the others in the meeting room drop their eyes at a slightly off piste comment – the silence on Twitter had me worrying about the relevance of what I was saying. But with so much information out there, what is good practice to learn and share the best stuff? Both online, and knowing what to transfer into real life?

1. How do we filter the relevant smart stuff?

What is really relevant knowledge in the meeting room? Because that is where the smarts really count and the value we add that pays the bills. Choosing what the right stuff is to immerse ourselves in is crucial.

2. Do we really need to know it all?

What is relevant for your world and where you operate?

Yes, it is great to know lots about everything. But if there is one thing I have learnt in the last year it is that the potential for learning is too rich and complex. You simply can’t learn and know about everything.

3. Where do you draw the line with what you share for free?

How open should we be with what we share online? How much do we need to share to prove our smarts and what do we hold back as part of the value we give as part of our day rates?

4. How do you stay relevant and interesting (both online and in real life)

We hear the term echo chamber a lot now, have we heard it all before? Is the chatter is just a churn of new people coming on board, learning and sharing the stuff everyone else learnt last term? Is there still the opportunity to find fresh, relevant inspiration?

Finding the answers

Here are three pieces I have read this week that helped feed my curiosity on this topic.

From Russell Davies.

The way to be interesting is to be interested. You’ve got to find what’s interesting in everything, you’ve got to be good at noticing things, you’ve got to be good at listening. If you find people (and things) interesting, they’ll find you interesting.

Interesting people are good at sharing. You can’t be interested in someone who won’t tell you anything. Being good at sharing is not the same as talking and talking and talking. It means you share your ideas, you let people play with them and you’re good at talking about them without having to talk about yourself.

From Katie Chatfield.

Do your fucking research.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. Stephen Hawking

Make sure you know what you are talking about and if you don’t, well find out. It’s not always that hard.

When I was fresh faced and ‘oh so naively confident’ I went out for a drink with the Client Services Director at the agency I worked with at the time. He was giving advice on my future career and how I could progress into my next role. I remember he fed back to me that I had a tendency to be dogmatic at times. At 24 I had no idea what that even meant. I found out. I am glad I did and I am glad he said it because even now it can be very easy, but dangerous, especially with lots of enthusiasm and passion to assert an unproved opinion but it’s also the easiest way to expose yourself.

From Gareth Kay.

Little idea #10 – be interesting, not right

… I firmly believe in a world of data abundance and processing power, that the curious will win. This, in many ways, is a re-dedication to our past. Bill Bernbach said this back in the the 1950s:

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

How to be a smart cookie? What have I learnt.

To be seen as smart you have to be interesting and to be interesting you have to keep learning, but crucially, to be recognised as being interesting you have to be brave enough to share your thoughts. This last bit is the most daunting and tricky, because its where you have to be ready to defend and discuss your thoughts effectively.

What I hope I’ve have learnt from being the new girl is to rather than barge straight in there like my 24 year old dogmatic self, is to apply the same kind curiosity as we do when we learn new smarts, and use that curiosity to understand the situation, the context and the people involved. Because the smarts we share will be much more interesting if they are relevant, even if they might not always be right.