The current climate has brought out my public spiritedness in the form of writing some good cheer. I’ve been making good use of the time I would have spent blogging these last 2 months to progress the publication of my book, but now is time for another post.

Here are 25 positives I can think of to an enforced and lengthy period of being at home.

You’ll have plenty of time to remind yourself how totally awesome the people – and their partners – on the front line and in the caring professions are, how they continually put other people like you and your sick rellies before their own, and how lucky you are that they chose to directly serve the community they live in

You can be safe in the knowledge with your young kids that if you can parent through this, you can parent through anything and you might actually be a record-breaking, all-time, Olympic podium-clinching parent

You get to spend more time with your immediate family instead of being like ships passing in the night

You can re-discover the undiluted joy of doing large jigsaw puzzles and playing with other toys and games

You can help your kids with their homework and generally parent in a proper fashion, like you wish you could have done when you busy out gallivanting

You can take a perverse pleasure in the fact that your elected representatives are finally earning their crust and fulfilling what they signed up for

You can take box set bingeing to a whole new – and hitherto unachievable – level

Your lack of outside activity, mixing with your fellow humans and not making enought stuff is allowing the planet to take a massive, deep and well-earned healthy breath of air

You finally get to run down the food in the freezer and defrost the damn thing

You can be thankful for that enormous mortgage you took on to move into a bigger house, which is still worth less than you paid for it years ago, because now your family has some breathing and personal space for the long haul

You get plenty of chance to hug your partner and offspring and remind them you love them, unless you’re self-isolating

You can share your diary, blog, and social media posts as a pick-me-up to the population

You get to practice cooking, baking and other life-handy skills

If you do have to head out, you can be astonished by how friendly, tolerant, helpful, community-focused and pulling-together the vast majority of people are in the face of adversity

If you’re managing people remotely, you get to practice several times a day your skills of empathy, concern and ‘it’s OK to take your foot off the gas abit, these are unique, surreal challenging times’ words of comfort to the people who depend on you for a good portion of their financial and emotional wellbeing

You can finally get to that long list of things to do around the house; the list that until now never seemed to get any shorter

You can spend time writing and sending physical letters – the ones that used to go in an envelope with a stamp on – to your nearest, dearest

Failing that, you can take time to text, email, SnapChat, WhatsApp – and so on, other delivery mechanisms are available – your entire circle of friends and acquaintances, individually, to wish them well and let them know you’re thinking of them. Copy, paste and some subtle but judicious editing works a charm here

Now that you’re working from home, but with a family audience, you’ll be so much more productive because they’ll see first hand how often and how long your breaks are

If you’re laid off, you can use the power of internet-based devices to let your entire network know that you’re available for hired help, no job too small. ‘Essential supplies’ providers can’t get additional people fast enough and you get a new experience for a few months

You can get your kids to design home-based exercise and nutrition plans for you

If you’re like me, a veteran home worker, you can give tips and tricks on how to stay productive and sane in the home office, even if your home office is a shared room, and not really an office at all

If you’re OK for cash, and you can earn money from home and you live alone, there has never been a better time to lock yourself away and pen that first novel

You can amuse yourself with the hundreds of hilarious memes and videos, created by people who are lightening your load, going round the social universe and making laugh out loud and in an unrestrained manner, thereby releasing good-time endorphins

And finally, you can use the word ‘carnage’ to describe the world you see without a trace or irony

I’m going to stop now, as I think I could go on forever. I’m sure you have a million more you could add, and that’s probably mot much of an exaggeration.

Paul Dilger 1000 blog posts

1000 blog posts

This, folks, is my 1000th blog post since I started a regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday thing on the 2nd of September 2013. It will also be my last, at least in this 3-times-a-week cadence.

Have I run out of things to say? No, I don’t think, fortunately, that will ever happen, otherwise what’s the point to anything? It’s simply that I started blogging to generate the discipline of regular writing, writing in a style that I enjoy both doing and consuming. I wanted to write a book. I wrote the book, and a designer is currently putting her magic touches to it, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It’s almost finished, and then I’ll publish it.

Of course, with 1,000 posts under my belt there is held, within this blogroll, at least another book or two as well, anthologised versions of my ramblings. The best ones put together if you like, although some of you might argue that if it’s only the best ones that make it in, they’ll be pretty short tomes.

I’ll still be blogging from here; after all I’ve a book to flog and some of you have been good enough to check in fairly regularly to read what I’ve had to say. Perhaps you’ll buy a copy. It’s on the subject that I’ve only briefly touched on over the last 1,000 posts, but the savvier among you might have an inkling as to the subject matter, especially since I’ve written small bits on a very wide range of topics.

Speaking of which, thank you. And thanks also to Seth Godin, who has done this sort of thing for longer, more frequently, and far better than I, but whose example got me kick-started.

So, 1,000 blog posts, over and out, until the next time. It does feel odd to be finishing mid-week, though. I don’t know what I’ll do come Friday…

It’s blog number 999 for me, but this is not an emergency. Instead, as I stand on the precipice of a 4-figure blog post career, I want to share what I’ve learned about this art form, or is it a science?

Of course, I’ve never been an example of the classic blogger, someone who writes to build a following. That was never my intention; rather, I’ve revelled in the joy and discipline of a regular write-up. This means that I’ll offer none of the lessons on acquiring readers, SEO, ideal blog length, influence, following people that follow you, that kind of thing.

No, this is what I’ve found over the years on the content alone, these 5 observations:

  • The one-off posts that come from something I come into contact with take longer to do, but are more fun because I don’t know where they’ll end up
  • The work-related blog post series on things to do with marketing, sales and general business are less fun because I know where they’re going but they’re more valuable to the readers
  • The blog post series which are not really series but posts grouped together to get me over a creative hump are the least valuable, and I apologise if you’ve had a sub-standard experience wading through them. At least you never have far to wade
  • If you sit down in front of your laptop needing to write a post but you don’t have a topic, it can be tough. The best thing to do is to let your mind wander where it wants and something will emerge. It doesn’t always have to be the light bulb moment that you must jot down for a future topic; sometimes you have to grind them out, crank them out
  • Fifthly, and perhaps most importantly, every single blog post is a mini product, a mini product of you, even if you’re not trying to sell your products, or services, or company. It’s your output, so it’s you. You’re giving away yourself, and in the course of repeatedly doing this you amass a body of hopefully honest work that can become something greater than the sum of each individual post. Even though sometimes you’re a slave to the schedule, to that standard of discipline I talked about, try and make every one a good one, the best it can be in the time you have

 

 

Are you a glass half full person, or a glass half empty? Tradition has it that the optimist is glass half full, the pessimist half empty.

But what’s the realist? I like to consider myself a realist, borne out of experience. This realism is often misconstrued as pessimism. I admit it, I’m a whinging pom sometimes, and I’m in the second age category that Wilde refers to when he says ‘the young know everything, the middle aged suspect everything, the old believe everything.’ But I’m still a realist, there’s no contradiction there in my view.

Consider these phrases, which I attribute to realism:

  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst
  • Sh*t happens
  • C*ck-up theory
  • Chance, happenstance and circumstance
  • It is what it is

To continue the glass metaphor, that makes me a glass 50% kind of a guy. It’s not half full, it’s not half empty, it’s simply half.

You can work and plan to improve the 50%, and that’s where your experience, track record and realism comes in. Hoping it’s going to happen, and fearing it won’t happen; they’ll do you little good.

Life is a series of peaks and troughs, it’s almost never straight line, until life is over I suppose. These peaks and troughs can cover dietary, fitness, work, energy levels, lifestyle, family. You’re either busy or you’re not, and if you’re in the middle it tends to be not for very long.

What usually happens around holiday times is that people take time off to re-charge, and often this is when they succumb to illness or viruses, since their bodies might be at a low ebb and their defences are down. They’re also socialising more. Unscientific, but anecdotal, and true, I think.

So it is with me over the holidays. I try to avoid emails, and I’m much less strict about the food and drink I consume. I even let in the foods that can cause me to be unwell, since it’s, well, the holidays. So it is, then, about early January time, that following a holiday trough and before a work peak that it all catches up with me and I wonder whether it was worth it to indulge to such an extent.

Ah, but the memories! If only I could find a way of slightly levelling out the differences so that I still have a great time and the come down isn’t so epic.

Back to work for a rest, as they say. The younger ones I presume.

New Year’s resolutions are old hat, apparently. The new new year thing is New Year’s aspirations.

I suppose the logic is that we resolve to do something and then it falls flat – maybe it’s too lofty a goal, or we can’t sustain it – whereas an aspiration is something more realistic, something we can ease up to, to give ourselves time, to make a gradual behaviour change rather than go cold turkey.

I don’t really start my New Year’s stuff until a few days after the first of January, usually my first working day of January, which is today in fact. There’s too much of a social hangover from the holidays for you to stop dead in your tracks and change direction. You know what they say: stop smoking gradually, the way you started. Also, I tend to be away for New Year’s and then you end up getting home a couple days after the start of the month, and it’s hard to effect real change when you’re travelling.

I like the idea of New Year’s aspirations, though. It fits in with the science of effecting true behavioural change. You prep for change, you change, and then you enforce the change repeatedly until it’s the new normal.

I wish – or aspire for you – a great new normal.

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

 

Hello and Happy New Year! I wish you a simply stellar 2020. I wonder if they had as much fun with the year 1010 as we will have this year.

This very day, the 1st of January, reminds me of an example as to why marketing is always leveraging the nuances of language in its work.

Here’s my example. This is the eighth year that I’ve blogged. Sounds a lot, doesn’t it? Eight years! Except it isn’t really. It’s not that I’ve been blogging for eight years. It’s not even that I’m into my eighth year of blogging. Let me explain.

I started blogging in 2013. Fairly late in 2013, September in fact, but September nonetheless. Counting up the years – 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 – this is indeed the eighth year that I’ve blogged. At least one post in each of those years, and if you exclude 2013 and 2020 I’ve blogged 156 times in each of them.

In reality the elapsed time is exactly six and a third years, or six and one third as our US friends would say, but eight years, or the eighth year, sounds much more impressive.

Trading on these nuances is what helps us marketers stretch our claims to our advantage, but not to breaking point.

It would take some going to get into my eighth year of blogging, and what seems like an eternity to have been doing it for eight whole years. Not gonna happen, don’t think.

 

The Germans have a word, actually I’m sure they have several other such examples, that conveys something that’s really hard to express in English without using a far less economical explanation.

Wikipedia describes the word as ‘a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance.’

Whenever I think of the word I imagine being in a warm chalet half-way up a ski slope, with a roaring fire, comfy chairs, a bunch of friends and family, and a glass of gluhwein or a bowl of gulaschsuppe with a hunk of bread. I don’t ski very often at all, but I hope I’m conveying that feeling of snugness, without I hope, the feeling of smugness, that we can all experience without going alpine.

One of the wonders of there being loads of different languages is that they all have certain words relating to their own culture and are so idiomatic that you need a paragraph or even a book to do them justice in your own tongue. Another example would be the Danish word hygge, which is surprisingly close to gemütlichkeit in its meaning.

Whatever your own preference of word, I wish you much of it.

C’est la vie – this is the life! Or, as my good lady’s aunt pronounces it, ‘sest lav eye’.

What better phrase is there to sum up the pinnacle of being alive in a great moment? When you’re lying down with the sun on your face, or admiring an amazing view from the comfort of a chair, or enjoying a drink with friends in a place with gemütlichkeit, it’s those precious times when you are conscious of how lucky you are.

I wrote recently about the importance of enjoyment, and making an effort to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. The self-help best seller and blogger Tim Ferriss also alluded to it in his 5-bullet Friday email when he picked for his ‘quote I’m pondering’ a Kurt Vonnegut line from the book A Man without a Country:

‘And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

Which, I guess you could say, is the exact North American translation of c’est la vie.