Archives for category: General

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.

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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.

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.

When it comes to mowing your lawn, or cutting the grass, depending on where you’re from and your preferred terminology, are you an up-and-down sort of a person or a ‘concentric reduction’ sort of a person?

There is a certain therapeutic value to be gained from mowing one’s lawn. I think it’s the geometric control we can exercise over the grassy area, bringing a sometimes odd-shaped expanse of land under control, and then methodically working our way through the job in a precise fashion.

In many ways I find it like painting a wall or a ceiling in the house. You do your prep, removing anything that might get in the way of speeding along once you’re into your stride, then taking care of the border by ‘cutting in’, followed by the broad swathes and sweeps as you eat up the space.

I’m a concentric reduction kind of a person. I do my border, then knock out the rough edges, curves and shapes until I’m left with an unmowed rectangle. Then I move around the space in ever decreasing concentric borders towards the middle.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I can finish the job right by the compost bin with the last full basket of grass, for ease of emptying and returning the lawnmower to the shed, but it’s still a good feeling to do it the way I do it.

Hay fever be damned!

The lyrics from the Gary Numan song ‘Cars’ start as follows:

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live
In cars

There is something cocoon-like when you get into your car. When I return to it, after a business meeting or a trip somewhere, and get in, I feel like I’m home already. All I have to do now is drive. From your home – or office – to my home, via my mobile home.

For the road warriors, typically territory-based salespeople, the car really is the home office. We spend a lot of time in it, and we can use the time for calls, texts and emails, all hands free these days. If you love driving, and you’re a rep or a trucker, you can’t beat the seclusion of your the space that you control. It’s a luxury I never take for granted.

When I was getting a lift with a colleague from the New York office of an employer back to the airport a good few years ago, we were picked up by a guy in a Lincoln Town Car. We had to sit in the back because he literally had an office in the front passenger seat, complete with monitor, slide-out keyboard and so on, which he proceeded to use during several static moment as we crawled through Manhattan traffic. I was envious. It looked so comfortable. He was his own boss and everything he needed to do his job, in terms of the service he delivered and the supporting admin, was in the car.

After 35 years of driving, and as a passenger, I still enjoy the cocoon of the car. It’s the office, the window on the world, the insulation against the outside, and the place where road trip memories are made.

As a purely incidental footnote, I once saw Gary Numan and his band at a festival a few years ago, fully 30 years after his electro-pop heyday. The whole set was a rock concert, not at all what I was expecting. He was sensational, a word I try not to use unnecessarily.

There are some jobs where deadlines are constantly present. Journalism for one.

There are also people who can’t seem to work unless they have a deadline in front of them. Are journlists in that category too? Some of them I guess.

The thing that many of us experience with working to deadlines is that the closer the deadline is, the more we get done. When you have to make a deadline you cut through the unnecessary and get to the nub of what your project is all about. This is fine for creating something with words, but when you’re involved with something that has an already defined process, like a complex sales process, one that you can’t bypass or cut short, then you’ve got problems. Then, it’s not your deadline, the end of your sales month for example, that counts, it’s your customer’s deadline.

With the more undefined processes, though, like writing for example, it pays me in my daily work to create deadlines to maximise my productivity. If there aren’t deadlines on a job, or the deadline is a long way from now, create an artificial deadline to work to. Or, split the project up into pieces and create mini-deadlines. For example, can I create two blog posts before lunchtime? Can I get the last page finished before this meeting starts? Can I reach the half way mark before the end of the day?

Of course, the risk you run with this approach is that you’re always producing shoddy, rushed work, work that would have benefitted form a little more time, and a less demanding deadline. That’s the balance between the two that we strive for: the best we can strive for versus the commercial reality imposed by time being money.

If you want to relax on your time off, and simply while away the time in those most luxurious moments when you have the luxury of time, then simply set no targets for the day, no objectives.

As an example, yesterday I set myself the goal of thinking up a blog post topic in the three minutes’ time I had before a call started. I came up with this one, and wrote it today.

I’ve debated for nearly the last five years as to whether to devote a blog post to this topic, whether it lowered the tone of this blog. I raised it with my good lady the other day and she said ‘it’s common knowledge, and it might help in a small way, so publish.’ So I have.

What I’ve observed over my decades of using public or shared toilet facilities is this, and it concerns male hygiene: a lot of men don’t wash their hands after using the facilities.  Horrifyingly, their propensity to not wash afterwards seems to increase when there’s food and drink involved, so in restaurants, bars and clubs.

I’ve never understood this. Your body expels waste products for a reason. Why would you not wash your hands and reduce the risk of infection? Why would you not reduce the risk of infection to others, to the people with whom you’re socialising?

Is it that men can’t be bothered, or is it that it’s more macho not to care about such things? Whether it’s laziness or lack of respect for our fellow man, it baffles me.