I used to think they’re were two groups in society, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. It turns out there’s a third group.

I didn’t realise this, and I never heard the phrase before. There are the haves, the have nots and the have lots.

The have lots have loads of money, and can pretty much stay in a hotel any night they wish, and any hotel too. They can pretty well do what they want. So can we all, I might argue, but there’s always a fairly large ‘within reason’ hanging around. Money stops the vast majority of us doing literally anything.

Now obviously there are tiers within tiers, and not all the have lots can buy a Premier League football club. But, it must be a funny feeling if you can do what you want, without compromise. How do you choose? Does it make choosing more difficult?

I like reading interviews with well known people when they’re asked the question: what is the best invention ever?

For me, the greatest invention of all time, as far as it impacts on my daily life, is the dishwasher. It’s a massive time-saver, time spent on that most tedious of chores.

I’m reminded of this every time my mother hosts a dinner in her apartment, because she doesn’t have one of these magical appliances. My mother would not be shy in using implements in the creation of one of her masterpieces. It’s not unheard of for one of her boys to come from the washing up into the living room to say: Look Mum, I found something in the kitchen you didn’t use!

I’ve briefly touched on the satisfaction of using this appliance before. You stack your dirty stuff, throw in a tab, set the program and close that sucker up. Return a couple of hours later and it’s all done, ready for you or an offspring to load the shelves and cupboards. You can also get cute and stack your dirty things in a way that makes it easier to put the clean stuff back. Awesome.

I realise that this is not the most earth-shattering or uplifting answer to the best invention question, but for me it’s one I’m thankful for every single day. Now if they could figure out a machine that will allow you to wash everything…

I’m often going on about time, what a precious resource it is, how it seems to bend with our mood or what we’re doing, so much so that I’m not going to link a few of my posts on it, since you’re probably finding the topic a little wearisome. Stay with me for a minute though.

I think we’re all conscious of the fact that time flies and our lives go past in a blur, a blur which accelerates as we age. If you think back to a thousand years ago, the year 1019, it seems an impossibly long time ago. That depends, though, on how you frame it. Think about your parents and your grandparents. Then think back another 28 or 38 generations, which doesn’t sound much. It’s not that far back, is it? Even though there are probably only 50 people on the planet who know their ancestors that far back, and they probably wear crowns in their day job, 30 to 40 generations feels like a short span to me.

It’s only when you work back in time and compare the paltry millennium to the creation of the solar system and the planets that you realise how mind-bogglingly massive the dimension is. One million years is about 40,000 generations ago, an incomparably vast amount of time. Trillions and trillions of seconds gone by, trillions more to come, each one elapsing in the blink of an eye.

We’re getting into the area of the infiniteness and indivisibility of time here, which usually starts to make my brain hurt, but my point here is that length of time and speed of time are indelibly coloured by our own experiences and perception of them. And that for me, is, if not quite a paradox, certainly interesting. Making a mental note to get out more…

What is the rule when it comes to using numbers in content? Should we use numeric symbols or spell them out? I don’t definitively know, but that won’t stop me offering some standards around which how I like to operate.

First things first: I think dates and big numbers should always be represented numerically. They’re simply too tiresome to spell out, unless for some quirky or emphatic reason. What I’m really talking about is the instances where we want to use smaller numbers.

1 example to start. It looks awkward if you begin a sentence with a number, unless it’s a bulleted or numbered list.

The key is consistency I think. If you’re going to use a small number a small number of times, spell the small number out. It can be quite emphatic and also easy on the eye. If you’re set on numerals, be consistent, but try not to begin sentences with a number. Here’s an example of a post I wrote where I spell out the numbers consistently and refer to dates numerically. Spoiler alert: you can’t click on that post until after January 1st 2020. I’ve never ever published a link to a document available in the future before, it feels slightly odd.

Where do you stop the bigger the numbers get, and how do you punctuate? I’m OK with seventeen. I’m also OK with twenty-three, if the context is right and there aren’t too many numbers in the content. What about one hundred and thirty-eight? It’a bit unwieldy isn’t it, and did I get the hyphen right? The higher the number, the more unwieldy, unless it’s a round number, naturally.

So, spelling out numbers depends on the 3 C’s: consistency, context and common sense. And would you believe it, according to this source you only need to hyphenate the numbers between 21 and 99, or twenty-one and ninety-nine. Technically, then, we’d write thirty-two million, seven hundred and ninety-eight thousand, four hundred and fifty-six, though why we wouldn’t put 32,793,456 is lost on me.

I saw an article on the BBC website the day, about polymaths: people who are great at more than one thing, and how they can help the wider community solve bigger problems.

I didn’t read the whole article, obviously, because it was too damn long. But it roused in me a feeling that I’ve felt for a long time. There are no polymaths; it’s a myth to think there are.

At least as far as regular people like me are concerned, that is. A genuine polymath is one in a million, so why would the other 999,999 of us see this as something to aspire to, something we can achieve?

Maybe, back in the days of the Renaissance, there were genuine renaissance men and women who led their field in a bunch of fields. But back then, there were far fewer people with the access to some of those fields, never mind the time or ability to excel at them. The competitive pool was so much smaller. I don’t think some the examples in the article are genuine polymaths either. Just because a Nobel prize winner can play a few musical instruments or paint a bit, it doesn’t make her or him a polymath. It makes them something else, someone who draws on modest abilities in other fields to feed their main specialism.

This idea, that today the polymath is to all intents and purposes a myth, and possibly an unhelpful one, is one of several topics I touch on in a book I’ve written over the course of the last few years, and which is currently being designed and laid out by a proper professional.

The article’s worth having a look at. And hopefully, the book too.

 

My Dad had several memorable phrases that you hardly ever hear these days, and even back then they would probably be viewed as fairly antiquated.

One of his favourites was to tell me I was ‘hoist by your own petard’. I never really knew what it meant, except that I was kind of the victim of my own devious plan.

Apparently, according to the good folks at wikipedia, the actual phrase is ‘hoist with his own petard’, from Bill Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It means to be blown up by your own bomb, petard being the bomb part. It has, or had, come to be used proverbially, when something to you try to do to bite someone ends up biting you back.

Fantastic! It came to me the other day, though I can’t remember how my brain accessed it. I do need to start getting it into everyday conversation, if at all possible.

Deck or doc, which are you? Slide deck or word document?

How do you prefer to get your information? Sometimes it depends on the type of information you’re getting. I’m a fairly visual person, and I like to be able to short-cut the information acquisition process and zero in on what I want. This is hard to do with a doc(ument), unless it’s well laid out and sign-posted. If I’m clicking on a web page link to learn more, I prefer a web page to a 2-minute or 3-minute video. I can scan the headings of a web page in a few seconds, rather than sit through something for a few minutes, or jump ahead and risk missing the nuggets.

I’m therefore a deck guy. By this I mean a slide deck. I find this kind of ironic since I’m better myself at creating words than pictures. I generally delegate the pictures to someone who’s good at pictures.

Some people are doc people. They prefer to absorb the information in a word-processed document to a slide or picture presenting document. They like the detail. They want to pour over it, or at least have the option to at a later stage if they need to.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you said to your customer or your audience, ‘how would you like this information, by deck or doc?’ Even though some types of information are better presented in one format over another, your customer’s or audience’s preferences are important.

A good start to the day is important, especially the working day.

If I’m working from home, and I get a good start to the working day, on time and with no distractions from my desk, it tends to make the whole day productive. I feel like I’m providing good value for money.

If I get a poor start to the day, distracted by domestic chores, a call I wasn’t expecting, an extra errand I need to run, a desk that needs sorting out, or a priority list for the day needed doing first, or maybe some or all of these things, then I find it really hard to get going. My productivity kicks into gear late and sub-optimally. The value is not 100%. The start of the session is really important to me. It almost guarantees a good session.

Yes, you gotta get a good start to the working day, otherwise your mindset isn’t right. The good start starts the day before, with a bit of prep.

 

 

I travel on Irish Rail a lot. I never use the online seat booking system. Well, I used it once before, but once in 300+ journeys over the last 12 years is not much. On this occasion, however, travelling with my son into Dublin on a Saturday, I decided I needed to.

After selecting your train ticket type and times, you’re taken to the seat booking screen. The trouble is, it’s really hard to tell which is the front of the carriage and which is the back. They’re not marked. This is important if you like to face the direction of travel. Also, you’re not sure which is the front of the train, and which is the rear. Is Coach A at the front? I assumed so, and booked accordingly.

The main area of doubt for me was that the only other time I had booked a ticket, the train had arrived back to front, with Coach A at the back. So, on that occasion I did what every other passenger seems to do, at least during the week: they sit anywhere, even on a booked seat that’s not their booked seat, thus rendering the seat booking system a farce.

Anyway, coach A was at the front when we got on, but coach A was premier class, and I had booked standard. We sat there anyway. On the online booking system you have the option to have displayed your name or your booking reference number. I had chosen booking reference number. When we found our seats, they simply said ‘Seat booked from Galway’. How would we have proved that these were indeed our booked seats?

For the return journey, we booked coach A again. When we got to the platform, coach A was the first carriage, at the back of the train…

Room for improvement, methinks.

I was recommended to listen to a podcast the other day by a customer’s CEO. It was from the series Anatomy of a Strategy. The link to the podcast, which is well worth listening to if your business is content, is here.

In the podcast, Alex Hillman draws the difference between thinking of a blog post as ‘just a blog post’, a piece of ‘throwaway’ content, and viewing it as small product, in fact a ‘tiny free product that delivers value’. From here you can then deliver content which works up to your own paid product which delivers even more value.

This is, of course, correct and I agree with it. It treats a single piece of content as part of a process, or a strategy to build your customers.

It did, however, get me thinking about my own blog posting, since I’ve done several hundred of them at this stage. I seem to be not practising what I preach. My posts are often throwaway and often do not lead to a more engaged conversation on the topic or on what I do for a living.

Then again, you have to think about the end goal for me. I get most of my business from my network and profile within that network, but blogging is not about building my business. It’s about the joy and discipline of writing. And at its root it’s also about process.

So, while I agree that each blog post is indeed a product of Paul Dilger inc, a mini-destination if you like, it’s also a small journey for me.