The Irish have a great word: passremarkable. It’s used to describe someone who is wont to pass remarks, usually of a personal nature, about someone or something.

You could say it means being judgemental, but that’s not quite right. It’s having no filter – or choosing to ignore the filter – between thought and speech. You usually associate it with, and I’m generalising considerably here, younger people and older people.

I always avoid being judgemental if I can. And especially being passremarkable. Better to give a feeling or opinion some thought and phrase your comment constructively than blurt out something that will probably offend. What are you hoping to accomplish?

And this, of course, applies in business as well as our personal interactions.

 

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The cost of parking is fast becoming onerous. Some would say it’s already reached that stage, and has done for a whille.

The other day I flew from Ireland to the UK, for €37 all in, including priority boarding and 2 cabin bags on the way back. The cost of parking, off site, with my car occupying 10 square metres of real estate in the middle of nowhere, ie Shannon long term? €42 for 7 days, booked in advance. Something’s not right there.

Quite recently while visiting in Bristol I went to the Cabot Circus shopping complex in the heart of the city to buy a sweatshirt for my daughter that wasn’t available anywhere else in the area. I was in and out of the multi-story in less than 30 minutes. The cost of parking? €3.

Do they not want you to park in town? Do they not want you to shop in their shops? Has real estate got to the stage where they need to cover their own high costs, or are they simply charging what the market will bear?

Parking has always been ludicrous in the city centres, but now, in off-site long-term parking where they have you over a barrel, it’s rapidly moving that way too.

I was renewing my driving license the other day, which necessitates a personal visit to the driving license centre to bring paperwork and get one’s photo done.

The chap that served me was a trainee, but he wasn’t a young chap, bright-eyed or bushy-tailed. He handed me back my old driving license, telling me I ‘could keep it for prosperity’. I mention his middle age because he must have heard that phrase, or something similar, a good number of times in his life. He wasn’t recycling it having heard it for the first time.

I let it go, after all, he meant ‘posterity’, didn’t he? I guess you could argue he meant prosperity, but maybe he either thought the phrase was prosperity or that it should be. One could claim that the old license could indeed influence my prosperity, but I’m not buying it, though I did buy the license, for a darn higher amount than I was expecting.

This is a malapropism I think, if it was for the former reason, where you mistake a word for another word, sometimes with humorous consequences.

He then took the old license back again to make a copy, but forgetting to return it to me. When I reminded him that he said I could keep it, he apologised, took it out of the copier and said, ‘yes, sorry, I said you could keep this for prosperity.’

He must have meant it then…

A few years ago in Ireland the banks made a concerted effort to discontinue the cheque book, that tried and trusted method of paying for something. I’m sure there’s a serious cost attached to producing and sending out cheque books. And for us as cheque writers, we need to allow a certain time for the snail mail to deliver our cheque, and for the cheque to be cashed, cleared and deposited in the account of the person or business named on the cheque.

I don’t know why the move to remove cheques failed. Perhaps it was because we’re not all digital or electronic, or we prefer not to be, through distrust or tradition. It could be that the first effort to eradicate their use was a dry run to soften us up for a serious retry in a few years time.

I pay for the vast majority of my debts electronically. There is, however, a certain pleasure I get from writing and signing cheques. It’s part traditional, part physical, and part control.

Signing cheques is a link back to the way banking has been done for a long time. I write so little these days that I take a perverse pleasure in completing a cheque. I also feel in control of the process. I usually fill in the date first, then the payee, then the amount, before applying a flourish of a signature. I might also scribble a reference on the back of the cheque too.

Signing cheques is still symbolic to me, symbolising solidity, reality and authority.

The importance of focus is hard to overestimate. As salespeople and marketers, if we don’t focus we’re not successful. Better to do fewer things well. Better to win 4 out of 7 deals than win 3 out of 10, spreading yourself too thin and chasing bad deals that you shouldn’t be chasing. Focusing specifically on something means that you are actively choosing not to focus on other things.

Focus also relates to a post I wrote relatively recently on the power of positive thinking. If you think an eventuality is going to arise, if you can almost will it to arise, then you have more chance of seeing it arise. Visualising yourself hitting the treble twenty at darts, or hitting the outside corner of the service box, or winning that piece of business…

I recently read an article on the BBC website about the ‘quiet eye‘ and how it relates to the success of athletes, especially when the stakes and the pressure are highest. It has a lot to do with focus I think, both in a general sense and in a specific situation.

This ability to focus in the heat of battle is what defines and distinguishes the best athletes, the best sales people and the best marketers.

One of the things I find really useful in work and life, both in terms of getting things done and getting them done well, is this: set the bar high.

From the smallest of tasks to the biggest of dreams, setting the bar high has two chief benefits.

First, if you reach the bar you’re delighted with yourself. You did better than you thought you would. If you don’t quite reach the bar, your slight underachievement against such a lofty target is probably better than you were expecting. Stretching yourself and pushing yourself to go really high means that you’ll give it your all. Setting an easily achievable bar leads to complacency and a sub-optimal improvement curve.

Second, setting the bar high and pushing yourself feels great when you’re finished. It means you’ll be more satisfied more of the time. Challenging yourself leads to more success and more rewards, gets you through down periods or slow periods, and all that becomes a virtuous circle.

It’s not a question of being glass half empty or glass half full. Want to do well and stay happy? Set a bar, and set the bar high in everything you do.

Today is the 4th of July. Or as our Americans friends say, July 4th. Happy July 4th, Happy Independence Day to Americans one and all.

Some celebration dates are easy dates, July 4th being an apposite example. Another is Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, which I gather is a big deal in Mexico. May the 4th, Star Wars Day, is yet another, a brilliant adoption and adaptation of the key line in the trilogy – actually it’s about an octology at this stage – namely May the Force Be With You.

Who remembers when St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, occurs, glossing over the fact that he was born in Italy, even among many English people? It’s not an easy date to remember, because the date isn’t in the name of the day. You can make a counter argument for Christmas Day, but that one’s got a good bit more global prominence and focus.

From a marketing perspective, the memorable – and rememberable – you make the day, the easy it is to market.

St George’s Day is the 23rd of April by the way. Just looked it up.

Flies looking at the sky the wrong way

It’s the beginning of the second half of the year, a chance to review how the first half went and figure out where we want to be by the end of the second half. A chance to step back for a moment, take stock and ask ourselves if we’re looking at things the right way.

There are lots of business books, concepts and parables to help us do this. One that comes to mind regularly is the parable of the boiled frog from Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline. The story goes that the frog will react to sudden changes, like being dropped into boiling water, but will not notice and respond to gradual changes in temperature if you put it in cooled water which you then heat slowly.

I’d like to offer another parable: the fly in the skylight. We’ve all seen moths round a lamp or flies on a window. They’re both in search of the light. I was reminded of this recently when I noticed the skylight in our sun room. We were enjoying a spell of warm weather and this had drawn a number of flies inside and into the recess containing the skylight. You can probably see them in the picture. The flies can see the sky, their way out or so it seems. They will constantly bang against the skylight, searching for a way out, until they die of exhaustion and lack of food.

Their problem is that they’re looking at the sky the wrong way. They need someone to show them the open window or door lying a few metres away that are 100% better ways for them to get to where they need to go.

So as I embark on the second half of the year, I ask myself this question? Am I choosing the right path for trying to get where I want to go, or am I stuck in the recess, looking at the sky the wrong way and not noticing the glass which blocks my path?

All the sensible advice for being productive and healthy is around getting a good night’s sleep. Here’s a very articulate post on it – and a good book recommendation – from Tom Tunguz.

I’ve written before about my need for 8 hours’ sleep. What I’ve also found is how close I get to the magic 8 hours is important too:

  • Any more than 8 hours’ sleep and I’m in good shape. If I’ve been in the red on sleep the past few days, and I get 8 hours’ sleep or more, then I’m fine. Then it’s simply a better 8 hours’ sleep than normal
  • If I get less than 7 hours’ sleep, I’m feeling OK, but I need to fix it at some point in the short term. I can’t go more than a couple of days with, say, 6 hours’ sleep
  • If I get between 7 and 8 hours’ sleep, I’m shattered! I feel groggy and it takes me a while to get out of the funk

I can’t explain this, and it presents a dilemma if I have to get up a specific time and the 8 hour window for going to bed has just closed. Do I stay up longer and get less than 7 hours’ sleep, as counter-intuitive as that sounds, or do I go to bed anyway and risk the outcome of getting between 7 and 8 hours’s sleep?

 

Texture, I’ve concluded – and not before time I hear most of you say – is incredibly important to how we perceive things. While sales and marketing can do much to get us to the stage where we purchase a product, or evaluate it if it’s a large or involved purchase, it’s only when we sample the product first hand, in the flesh, that the final piece of the opinion we form about something seems to slot into place, or else becomes a jagged peg in a round hole.

Texture seems to be very closely linked to the senses of touch and taste. It directly feeds into them. It’s hard to taste something or feel something without being acutely aware of its texture.

I think this is why I have an issue with peanut and peanut butter. I love peanuts, their flavour and crunchiness. I cannot stand peanut butter. I can’t finish even one slice of bread with it. It feels wrong as a paste, even those versions that have bits in them. For me it’s totally the wrong texture.

We were on holiday in the US about a decade ago with American friends, and on a day-trip one of the guys kindly made sandwiches for us all. They were PBJ, peanut butter and jelly – or jam as we say in Europe – the staple of American living. I’m perfectly fine with jam in a sandwich. Jam is supposed to be a paste. Mix it with peanut better, and to me it’s simply wrong. It was all I could do to politely eat a couple of them without the contents reversing direction.

Take avodado and guacamole, on the other hand. I love them both. They feel right in both forms.

But peanut better? Yes, it must be the texture.