Lent: Giving from Substance or Surplus?

Like millions of others around the world, I’m preparing for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent. Many people know Lent as a time of fasting. However, another key element of Lent is the act of giving.

This prompted me to share something with you. It’s about the difference between giving from substance and giving from surplus.

These 2 types of giving are profoundly different.

  1. Giving from surplus. This means giving your spare money, spare time, etc. It’s about giving what’s left over. It’s about offering what you have no real need for.
  2. Giving from substance. This means giving money, time, etc., which you do have a need for. So, you need to go without something in order to give. It’s the opposite of giving your left-overs.

Here’s an example of the difference between giving from surplus and giving from substance.

A super-rich person gives millions to charity, but their wealth is so vast, they have no real need for it. Someone living on limited finances buys coffee for a homeless person, but to do so, they have to skip buying coffee for themselves.

  • The wealthy person in that example is giving more in monetary terms, but it’s offered from their surplus.
  • The person of limited financial means, is giving less in monetary terms, but they’re giving more of their substance.

Those of us who observe Lent are called upon to give from our substance. Not our surplus. This allows everyone, equally, to contribute. When money is tight, we could decide to make an extra 20 minutes a day available for prayer, by cutting 20 minutes from our TV time.

And we’d still be giving substantially.

Maybe more substantially than the super-wealthy person, who’s giving millions to charity, because of the tax-benefits. Or the celebrity who donates to charity in front of the cameras, and is repaid many times more, in the PR and media attention they get.

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Blogging from your phone? Maybe you should. Here’s why!

I did some testing earlier and wanted to share my experience with you.

There’s a key area, where WordPress lagged behind social networks and services like Tumblr. I’m referring specifically to posting updates direct from your phone.

It has always been technically possible. However, the experience was horrible. So, earlier today, I decided to see if the the WordPress iPhone app had improved. I wanted to know if adding links, formatting text and inserting images had improved.

It has. A lot

I last checked it out around a year ago. Back then, WordPress via the iPhone was fine for writing draft posts. But they would need to be edited and tidied up on a larger device. And adding links to text was, at best, really frustrating.

Today, it’s extremely easy and user friendly. None of the old issues are there.

No, it’s not a full desktop blogging experience. I never expected it would be.

But it works! It’s a breeze to use, too. In other words, it’s easy now to blog “on the go” straight into WordPress.

And that’s what many of us have been waiting for.

Now that blogging on WordPress is truly mobile, I’ll look to incorporate it into my weekly blogging. I’ll let you know how I get on.

More importantly… if you haven’t checked out the WordPress app for iOS or Android in a while, take another look. You too may be pleasantly surprised.

And yes, this post was written and published, from scratch, in about 25 minuets using an iPhone 8.

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Swearing, cussing and invisible sheep

At some point around a decade ago, it became trendy for business gurus to cuss and swear in their work material. As a result, many of their easily led followers decided to do the same.

The idea is that by swearing, the person makes themselves look more authentic. More “urban”. Cooler in some way.

Of course, after a while, there are so many people swearing for effect, that it ceases to shock. This is what happens whenever you choose to follow a popular trend. It becomes almost the norm. It just washes over people.

Last weekend, I was contacted by a prospective new client. Here’s a quick excerpt from her email, used with her consent.

“[…] I also think it’s cool that you don’t swear all the time, like others I see. It makes you sound more confident and professional”.

Usually, when someone chooses to follow the trends, they simply make themselves invisible… as they become camouflaged by all the others, who are doing the same thing.

Maybe by following the swearing trend, there could be a couple of additional career pitfalls, too?

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Overcoming loneliness

Social networks and mobile communications are connecting people like never before. This begs the question: Why does study after study confirm that loneliness is at an all time high?

I don’t have the answer. But maybe it’s because people are replacing face-to-face interactions with virtual ones? Think about it:

 We find out how the people in our lives are doing via Facebook, without actually meeting them. We can shop from home, without having to visit the local store. We can watch a movie on Netflix, without leaving our home. And many of us can go to work, without actually “going” anywhere.

There are many, many other examples. All of which allow us to live our lives, with an absolute minimum of human contact.

I thought I’d test my theory. Here’s what happened

Around 18 months ago, I decided to get out more and meet more people. I wasn’t feeling lonely. I have a great family and I’m blessed with many good friends. But I knew I wasn’t meeting people like I used to. So, I decided to make some changes and see if it improved the quality of my life.

Here are a few of them.

  • I swapped an exercise bike for an outdoors bike.
  • I swapped a treadmill machine for walking around the village where I live.
  • I swapped working from home, for working from what Andy Ihnatko calls field offices.
  • I swapped texting my friends for having a coffee with them.

The difference this made was huge. Way bigger than I could have imagined. I now see my friends more often. I’ve also made a lot of new friends; people I’d never have met, without the changes I made. Plus, it has massively improved the quality and volume of my work.

In short, I feel so much better in every area of my life. That’s despite having not actually felt lonely before. I can only imagine what impact this approach might have, for someone who is feeling lonely.

I honestly have no idea if sharing this will help anyone else. But spending more time with people offline has been transformational for me.

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The simple experiment that expanded my mind

Around a decade ago, I decided to try something. It’s allowed me to have a far more balanced view of the world and also, helped me understand people at a way deeper level.

And today, I’m going to share it with you.

How I expanded my mind

I decided to leave my echo chamber.

Here’s what that means: Instead of subscribing to websites, social media accounts, magazines, radio stations etc., which shared my point of view… I threw it open. I started to also pay attention to those, with completely opposite views to myself.

Initially, I planned to do it for 7 days. But before the week was over, I found myself able to better understand why people had different beliefs to my own. I also found that many things I assumed were right, were, at best neutral. And in many cases, I found my long-held points of view were totally wrong.

Perhaps more importantly, I was able to empathise with people at a more personal, less biased level.

Note: This doesn’t mean I agree with everything, everyone thinks. It does mean I can understand WHY. It let’s me appreciate their point of view, without having to hold their point of view.

I’ve done this ever since. And it’s improved my life in many, many ways. So, maybe you might want to give it a try?

Just for a few days. Follow politicians on your main social network, who have opposing views to you. Listen to podcasts or radio stations, that support something you currently see no value in. Read a newspaper, that’s biased against your current perspective.

And see what you can learn.

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Why Growth Hacking never seems to work

growth hacking

Growth hacking: The concept of reversing the law of cause and effect, is an appealing idea. It says you can get the reward before (or without) the effort.

Maybe the best example of this flawed approach, is the fad diets industry. These diets promise weight loss, with little or no effort. The reason there are so many of them on the market, is that they don’t work. So advocates jump from failed diet to failed diet.

And as a growing number of entrepreneurs are discovering, growth hacking is just as ineffective when it comes to business success. Hacks to get you noticed, hacks to make you influential, hacks to get rich quick… these are all fatally flawed.

And here’s why.

Value

Business success is all about bringing value to your marketplace. The marketplace values; honesty, innovation, dedication, reliability, durability, passion, commitment, professionalism, etc.

By default, anything that can be done by the masses, with a quick hack, lacks that kind of value.

An alternative approach is to learn from the successes of others. Read the books. Do the studying. Do the work. It may not sound as sexy as growth hacking. But it makes more sense than trying to break universal laws.

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Fake News needs our support

The fake news phenomena really interests me. And with hindsight, I don’t know why it’s only become a mainstream issue in the past couple of years.

After all, everyone can be a publisher these days. And most of us are. Billions of people have social network accounts and hundreds of millions of us have blogs too. In other words, we’re all equipped to spread whatever information or misinformation we choose.

I was thinking about this recently, when my friend told me about the challenge he had, helping his daughter with some school work. He explained that time and again, it was easier to find low quality “content” than expertly-crafted articles. For instance, Google regularly ranks Pinterest posts above museum articles, when you’re looking for a reliable source of historic information.

The answer?

Technology certainly has a huge role to play. And the tech companies who have profited mightily from fake news need to start taking it seriously, rather than offering platitudes.

But I don’t think technology is the answer by itself.

Ultimately, the solution to the fake news problem has to be education. More specifically, education on how to discern between reliable / credible sources and those that are not. There needs to be a clear message, that just because an article is ranked highly on Google, or a Facebook post has a ton of likes, it doesn’t mean the source is credible (or the information is reliable).

We’re part of the problem

That’s because search engines, social networks and our friends can’t be fooled without our help.

Here’s why.

  • When we link to a fake news story, it’s (almost) like voting for it. Each link sends Google and the other search engines a signal. And the more links a story gets, the higher it will rank in search results.
  • When we like or share a Facebook post, (or retweet something) we give it added visibility and increase it’s social proof.

Thankfully, this also means we can become part of the solution. We can choose to ensure we check the source of information, before we link to it or share it.

And we can ask our friends to do the same. Like I just did.

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I screwed up. Not her!

I was contacted by someone last week, who said she wanted to know more about working with me. I could tell after 15 minutes of speaking with her, that she was just trying to score some free marketing advice. I gave her some ideas, then politely ended the call.

After the call finished, I felt frustrated with her for being so selfish. I was annoyed with her for wasting my time. And I was wrong!

It was my free choice to speak with her. She couldn’t have wasted my time, without my active consent. Had I been a little more careful, I’d have known she was a time waster before speaking with her. All the clues were there. But I dropped my guard. And I paid the price.

Here’s why I’m sharing this with you

Ultimately, we all choose where we surrender our time, attention and energy. It’s our decision.

Whenever something like this happens, I’ve found that the best thing to do is:

  1. Quickly accept responsibility.
  2. Look for the lesson and learn from it.

This approach means that my time waster wasn’t a time waster. She taught me a lesson and also gave me something to share with you. That’s not a bad return, for a 15 minute investment.

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What’s your ‘effin plan B?

Seems the latest trend for gurus, is to be profane.

I’ve noticed it mostly from social-media-famous experts, who come from privileged backgrounds. It feels like an effort to make themselves more street or more relevant.

Sure, the first time you say ‘fuck’ in your book / blog / podcast, people notice it. After a while though, it ceases to work. The effectiveness wears off. People get snow-blind.

If cussing is currently your shtick, you may want to work on your plan B. Because there’s no deficit of cussing experts, speakers, podcasters or bloggers.

There’s a HUGE shortage of people willing to lead. There’s a vast deficit of people prepared to create ideas worth sharing. These are more profitable areas to invest your time and energy.

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We don’t need more curators

Facebook has almost 1.8 billion users. Then there’s Linkedin with around 470 million users. A huge subset of these folks spend much of their time curating [sharing] what others have said. Articles, quotes from famous people, blog posts, photos, videos, etc. That subset has to be close to 95%, when it comes to business users.

Curation is easy. And worthless

It’s literally a brainless function, because it can be done on autopilot. All you need is some freely-available software and BOOM… you can pump out what other people have to say. It’s easy. There’s no work required. No creativity needed. And that’s why we’re bombarded with it.

Because millions and millions of people curate, it’s of zero value. It has no value to the curator or the poor bastards who connect with them online. They’ve already seen what the curator’s sharing. It’s telling them nothing new. So, if the curator is a businessperson, fooled into using curation by some social media guru, it’s making the business owner and their business anonymous. Invisible. Boring.

We have an opportunity to share what we think with the world, which past generations couldn’t have imagined. Don’t blow it, by using your social platforms for retweets, automation and quotes.

Blow it?

Yes. By sharing what others have to say, rather than what you have to say, you send 2 extremely negative messages to whoever sees your content:

  1. You have nothing to say.
  2. Alternatively, you do have something to say, but lack the courage to say what you think.

Both of those messages are extremely toxic.

My message here is simple: Use your voice to connect. Tell us what you think. Don’t make a noise. Make a difference.

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