18 January 2018

Not all hard things are worth doing

“If it’s not hard it’s not worth doing.”

Not strictly true.

Learning to code and building an ill-thought-out app that provides no value because you’re trying a get-rich-quick-scheme is still bloody hard work. But worth it?

Building a mud hut by hand in the Welsh countryside is gonna be hard. Worth it?

Drug dealing?

I suppose the hard thing is knowing whether your hard thing is gonna be worth it.

by Nino Rosella
17 January 2018

The only thing we can really control

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What's not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country - anything with which we might associate.”   - Epictetus, Discourses, 1.22.10 
I’ve heard it said that the only thing in this world we can truly control is our effort. But thinking about it, we can go one level higher than that. 

The only thing in this world we can control is our choices. 

You can choose to put in as much effort as possible. You can choose not to be offended by something. 

Likewise; not losing your temper, being in a good mood, crushing your addictions, and making a success of your relationships are also choices. 

This is great news. Make the choice.

by Nino Rosella
16 January 2018

Attention, trust, and scarcity

On the 19th November 2016 Casey Neistat - YouTube supremo and godfather of the vlog - ceased uploading daily videos to his then 2.8m subscribers. YouTube-land went into complete meltdown. Reddit went into meltdown. Hell, even The Washington Post wrote about it. 

Neistat had been uploading one video of his life every single day for 18 months. But something curious happened when he stopped. His subscriber and video view count started growing even faster than it was when he was uploading daily*. 

But if we think about it it’s not actually strange. Economists love to talk about supply and demand. When the supply is low demand is high. Absence and presence. Up and down. As Robert Greene writes in The 48 Laws of Power: “The more you are seen and heard from, the more your value degrades. You become a habit”. 

The trick that Neistat managed to pull of to perfection was knowing exactly when to stop. To make himself a scarce resource. Greene again: “At the right moment you must learn to withdraw yourself before they unconsciously push you away." 

The thing with scarcity, though, is that demand will only go up if the product is great to begin with. Nobody is going to miss your vlogs if you’re an unknown who's only uploaded ten. Likewise with your mediocre (or sub-par) widget, theatre production, or fashion range. You still have show up day-in day-out to provide value and earn people’s trust, build an audience and relationships. 

Only then can you back off the throttle for rocket-powered growth. 

*He’s since resumed making videos, but on a much more sporadic basis, and his subscriber count currently stands at 8.7m 

by Nino Rosella
15 January 2018

Know thy audience

There’s a retail store on High Street Kensington that I walk past all the time. I think it belongs to a tech company. Not sure. There’s a load of flashing lights, a swish interior, and a massive sign in the window that says “Come in and see how we’re changing the way money works”. 

I never see any customers in there. 

I think there are three problems here. Firstly, I’d be surprised if the vast majority of people think we have a problem with the way money works. Problems with the amount of money they currently have? Sure. Problems with getting more? Absolutely. 

Secondly, are we sure that money is broken? I used some just today. I handed it over and received an object of value from the vendor. All seems ok to me. 

Which might well mean that I’m just not the correct audience. There might just be people out there who disagree with me on the above two points.  This means the third problem is that they need to go to their audience rather than hoping to catch people off the street. 

Which of these three lessons most apply to whatever it is that you’re marketing? 

by Nino Rosella
14 January 2018

The boots that changed size

About 18 months ago I bought a pair of Red Wing 8196 boots. I love these boots dearly, yet that hasn’t stopped me having a bit of a complex about them.

See, I read somewhere on the Internet  - after buying them - that the boots come up big and you need to get a pair half a size smaller than you’d usually take. Damn it. I’d already started wearing them, so returning them was out of the question.

Anyone that knows about boots knows that when you have a pair that are too large you run the real risk of looking like a clown. Not figuratively, but literally.

They’re too expensive not to wear so I’ve been going around feeling all self-conscious because they look all bulbous and out of proportion at the same time as feeling as though the boots are about to fall off at any minute because they’re too big.

It turns out, however, they’re not too big at all.

I don’t remember doing this, but I actually bought half a size smaller than usual. The boots fit perfectly. Now every time I look at them I see boots that are perfectly in proportion, and look fly as shit, if I do say so myself.

I find this fascinating because I was convinced - convinced - that the boots were ugly, yet I had a completely different view the instant I found out the facts. Fascinating.

What other strongly-held beliefs do I have that can be completely turned upside down if I just take the time to find out the facts?*

What about you? What about our politicians and leaders?

*Of course, this opens up a whole separate debate about “facts”. Especially in less clear-cut instances (politics, statistics, etc).

by Nino Rosella
13 January 2018

Encyclopeadic knowledge

“You’re like a human encyclopaedia”.

Once upon a time this was a compliment. It meant you were smart, well read, skilful even.

Now though, we should beware of ever being labelled like this. The rote memorisation of facts and figures is worthless in this day and age where anything useful can be looked up in a matter of seconds online.

The Knowledge for London’s black cab drivers. Facts and figures for exams. General knowledge.

All of these are not worth expending brain power on.

Instead, it’s much more useful - for yourself and everyone else - if you use that brain capacity to work on problems that need solving. To learn how to learn.

This is where the real power lies.

by Nino Rosella
12 January 2018

You are not the things you own

You are not:

  • Your millions in the bank

  • Your degree

  • Your job title

  • Your possessions

And this is a good thing because it means you’re also not:

  • Your ego

  • Your debt

  • Your failures

  • Your lack of success (so far)

by Nino Rosella
11 January 2018

When business is slow

Some of us work in seasonal industries; hospitality, construction, farming... We have to deal with periods of high activity and periods of low activity.

It astonishes me how many people I hear moaning and complaining when we’re in a low period.

The day’s of slave labour are gone. You chose to work in said industry, so you need to take responsibility.

Rather than going home, crashing out on the sofa in front of Netflix and moaning to your friends or significant other - why don’t you see this lull as an opportunity?

An opportunity to learn or practice a new skill. Something that will take your business or career to the next level. Something that will allow you to get out of this seasonal industry altogether.

Why don’t you use the opportunity to do some great marketing work so as to win new business?

Or get some admin done, or service your tools and equipment.

Complaining and sulking achieves very little. Positive action in the other hand is everything.

by Nino Rosella
10 January 2018

Lessons from the Underground

Today the London Underground celebrated its 155th birthday. Sure, that’s not nearly as old as other landmarks such as the Tower of London or St. Paul’s Cathedral, but neither of those are a continuously-working piece of engineering.

Just think how much value the Underground has provided over the years - and continues to provide - 364 day’s a year.

As the population of London expands - the use of the Tube is only going to increase. And day-in, day-out, it’ll be there. The backbone of this great city.

And it’s not been an accident. Some of the smartest minds in the world have to come together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Something perennial.

What can you and I create that’s even a tenth as good?

by Nino Rosella
09 January 2018

The power of creative constraints

Imagine you’re a newly-wedded couple saving for a new house. You’re at home looking for something to do but you only have £3.50 in change between you. What do you do?

If you’re my sister and brother-in-law you start by ditching the car and taking a nice walk into town. Stopping by the pool hall you spend the money on a couple of games. Catch up with some mates.

Then - being fitness freaks - you run home in a series of sprints, egging each other on. Finally home, it’s time to crack Monopoly out...

I’m assured this was “one of the best afternoon’s ever.”

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got lost staring into the abyss of a takeaway menu where it takes me 30 minutes to narrow down what I want. Compare this to some of the nicest meals I’ve had when the shops have been shut and I have five random ingredients in the fridge.

These kind of constraints work equally as well when trying to improve a skill.

I recently got into street photography - and living in London provides you with an incredible experience to improve. But I often returned home with only a handful of photographs because like a kid in a candy store I was trying to photograph everything.

After a few frustrating forays I decided to set some constraints. From now on I’d only take photos of cyclists, or office workers or cool contrasts of light, and so on.

And guess what? Yep. I started getting some great results and my photography has stepped up as a whole.

What else can we apply some creative constraints to in order to improve the work? How about starting a business for less than £500 and only working weekends?

Or creating some art using lined paper and a blue ballpoint pen?

Or - like Mark Zuckerberg - wearing the same clothes each day to free up mantal capacity on more important tasks.

Setting constraints help us to focus, and as a result, to improve.

by Nino Rosella