Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

Hat tip to Nicole Williams (see her website who recommended essentialismthis book on Twitter.

If you’ve ever been frustrated at your work by a lack of clarity (who hasn’t) or felt like you were being stretched too thin, then you’ll get something out of the advice in this book.

I’m a huge fan of any business that opts for simplicity, clarity and doing one or two things really well instead of soo many things averagely. (yes please!)

For me this book was all about setting priorities for your life (work and play) and focusing on what really matters – which of course sounds incredibly easy but in practice is much harder!

Advice from Essentialism

(Headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book)

Priorities – if there are 25 of them then they are NOT priorities!
“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing.”

“If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.”

Embrace minimalism
“What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?”

Stop bragging about being busy
“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?”

Embrace the following truths:
1. “Only a few things really matter”
2. “I can do anything but not everything”

Block out thinking time from your day
“Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, for example, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day.”

Value your health – look after you the ‘asset’
“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves…” “One of the most common ways people – especially ambitious, successful people – damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.”

Read more here.

Here’s to saying no more often!

Happy reading,
C x

Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)

Are you a huge raving fan of any of the following shows?yearofyes.jpeg

  1. Scandal (my personal fav)
  2. How to get away with murder
  3. Grey’s Anatomy

If you answered yes to any of the above (or perhaps all three!?) then I can almost guarantee you’ll love this book. Written by Queen Shonda herself, the writer/creator behind all three shows this book is all about her own personal transformational journey.

It’s not particularly about marketing, more about life and (as she puts it) standing in your sun and being yourself.

I loved this book for the advice and I adored it for the writing. Imagine if your Shonda was your best friend and your sitting down on a cosy couch to have a large glass of red wine, while she dishes the dirt and the advice on life and love – that’s what this is like. You truly have to read it to understand how funny, honest and wonderful the writing is.

As you might expect from the title the book is about saying yes to the things that scare you, the things that push you out of your comfort zone and the things that just might improve your life. (hint: these things are all the same).

It follows (more or less) a year in Shonda’s life as she attempts to say yes for one whole year to ALL the scary things.

There’s also some amazing pieces of the book which are full speeches that Shonda has given- you can read (or watch) one of them for free over here which is the Dartmouth commencement address.

Here’s some of my favourite insights and quotes from…..

The wonderful world of Shonda

(headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book)

Pose like wonder woman
“Standing around like Wonder Woman in the morning can make people think you are more amazing at lunchtime. Crazy. But true. How awesome is that? (You don’t believe me? Watch the TED Talk.)”

Dump the dream
“It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring, and dreams are not real. Just . . . DO.”

You’re not Prince William 
“Get one. ANY JOB. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical dream opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Work. Do until you can do something else.”

On being a Mum
“Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. It’s who I am. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. I’m a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation.”

On being a working Mum
“Being a mother still happens if you don’t stay home with your kids. It still happens if you get a job and go to work. It happens if you are an Army Ranger and you’re deployed overseas and your kid is staying with your parents.”

On balancing work and play
“I’ve been guilty of working straight through far too many weekends in order to get ahead. There’s no such thing. The work is always there in the morning.”

Being and becoming a badass
“Badassery: 1. (noun) the practice of knowing one’s own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one’s own accomplishments and gifts and celebrating one’s own accomplishments and gifts; 2. (noun) the practice of living life with swagger : SWAGGER (noun or verb) a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up “like this” and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.”

Own your truth
“Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than.”

Love yourself
“Staring at those photos, I know now that is what my Year of Yes has always been about. Love. It’s just love, is all.”

Grab a copy of this book and give yourself an early Christmas pressie!

Happy reading,

C x

Playing Big (Tara Mohr)

Not particularly marketing related, but absolutely career related, Tara playing-bigMohr has written a book about the all too common problem for women in the workplace – ‘playing small’.

Tara, now a career coach, says she noticed time and time again examples of women ‘playing small’ in all areas of their life. She created her business and this book around helping women play bigger in life.

Here’s just a few pieces of wisdom from her book:

(headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book)

Understanding we all have an inner critic
“We don’t need to have had particular life experiences to develop a harsh inner critic. We’re hardwired for it. The inner critic is an expression of the safety instinct in us—the part of us that wants to stay safe from potential emotional risk—from hurt, failure, criticism, disappointment, or rejection by the tribe.”

And learn ways to tell it to shut the hell up (nicely)
“When you create a character with a name and visual image, you help yourself remember that the critic is not the core of you, it’s one voice, with its own personality and pathology.”

“Imagine you can simply turn down the volume on the critic’s voice. See an “inner critic volume dial” in your mind’s eye and turn the volume way down.”

Get okay with self promotion
I often hear women saying things along the lines of “Self-promotion is part of the same old bullshit organizational politics stuff I don’t want to engage in.”

The solution
“Drop the idea of “self-promotion” and think about the concept of visibility instead.”

Avoid ‘designing at the whiteboard’ talk to real people instead (a great one for marketers)
“Designing at the whiteboard seems like a reasonable way to get work done, but it generally brings disaster. It’s too easy for the insiders, the people passionate about and committed to a product, to veer into fantasyland as they make their plans.”

Do you need discipline or love?
“I’ve come to know, in my own life, and in the lives of the women I work with, that where we think we need more self-discipline, we usually need more self-love—not just self-love as an attitude, but self-love manifested through the routines and rituals that we set up to enable the changes we desire to happen naturally and with ease.”

Grab the book here. (Full title: Playing Big: Find your voice, your vision and make things happen). 

Happy reading, 

C x

Welcome to the Funnel (Jason Miller)

Content marketing may be the most overused buzzword of this year (or welcometothe funnel.jpegwas that last year as well?).

As many of us know, the idea of giving away some content (back in the day a print brochure) for free to begin to build a relationship with a prospective customer is not exactly new. However online has completely changed the game – in my opinion vastly improved it, made it easier to measure, increased ROI and the list goes on.

This guy (Jason Miller) really knows his stuff. He previously worked at Marketo and is now the content marketing boss at LinkedIn.

His book (full title Welcome to the Funnel: Proven Tactics to Turn Your Social and Content Marketing up to 11) covers some of the amazing content he has produced – like the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn – and offers fascinating peek-behind-the-scenes on how the content was produced (inhouse vs agency), the budget behind it and how they were able to measure the ROI.

One of the core ideas Jason covers is the idea of producing a ‘big rock’ of content marketing (such as the LinkedIn guide) and then using this ‘big rock’ again and again across different channels and in different formats. For example taking the guide and creating videos, fact sheets and info graphics.

He describes this method as like carving up a bird… “I use a Thanksgiving analogy. You cook up this giant bird to serve up on one glorious occasion and then proceed to slice and dice this thing for weeks on end.” Read More

Buyer Personas (by Adele Revella)

I picked up this book via David Meerman Scott’s work as he talks a lot buyer personas bookcoverabout crafting personas for marketing teams.

While our company won’t be adopting the exact methodology thats described (it follows quite an unscripted style of interviewing) I do think there is wisdom in reminding ourselves of the absolute importance of knowing and understanding our customers.

I realize this sounds very ‘marketing 101’ but experience tells me that often there’s less methodology and more guessing behind this.

A caveat before you buy this book: it’s worth noting that it focuses on products and services at the high consideration end of the scale and suggests that this is the area that buyer personas/interviews can add the most value.

For me I’ve found developing personas hugely useful in the website user experience area and so it was interesting to learn that this was where the term first came from.

Adele tells the story in the book of a developer named Alan Cooper who first came up with the idea of personas – as the story goes he was working through a problem and created an imaginary user in his head that he would test his ideas against. (He’s also written a book called the Inmates are Running the Asylum).

An easy trap to fall into when creating personas is using stereotypes – for more on this have a read of this fabulous blog on the Envy Collection site – Are Stereotypes Harming Your Marketing.  Read More

The Membership Economy (Robbie Kellman Baxter)

Few marketing books focus exclusively on membership systems. And me being a marketing manager at a membership membership-economyorganisation, I couldn’t download this one fast enough!

The book certainly widened my view on a ‘traditional’ membership organisation as it used technology examples (premium vs freemium) and examples like the CrossFit phenomenon. I would have loved to see some more practical frameworks of membership journeys and life cycle from this book – and on that note if you are looking for a good one then I really like Marketing General Inc’s membership framework.

The basic principle from this book can be applied (I believe) to any organisation or company because it all boils down to this simple truth:

“The Membership Economy is all about putting the customer at the center of the business model rather than the product or the transaction.” 

More from the membership economy –

(headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book) 

Why belonging really matters 
“Each of us yearns for the tribe: for the affiliations that will support us, protect us, define us, help us make sense of a complex and overwhelming world.”

What membership really is
“I define membership as the state of being formally engaged with an organization or group on an ongoing basis.”

Membership companies are winning 
“Organizations that build their businesses around people’s needs to belong, to be connected, and to be admired, that are focused on relationships over products, are winning in today’s economy.”

Think you don’t need research because Steve Jobs didn’t? Wrong 
“Thinking that you can be the next Steve Jobs and simply “know” what customers need is like saying you’re going to drop out of college and start a company because that’s what Steve Jobs did.”

How to drive CrossFit like loyalty 
“Companies like CrossFit follow three rules to drive loyalty: Make it easy. Make it personal. Get members involved.”

Get into content marketing 
“Free content, or “content marketing,” is the practice of providing some free information as a means of building awareness and credibility with prospective members.”

Why the first month is important 
“They know that the first 30 days are the most important for building behaviors and habits.”

Can you create an institute? 
“Consider building your membership around an “institute” you build—an institute, after all, is simply a research organization. Or a lab—testing things is good too. People crave the certainty of validated methodologies.”

You can grab the book here. 

Happy reading,

C x