Sunday, December 26, 2004

Why are drugs bad?

This is a followup to my last post on disicpline.

I pondered a few days ago why drugs are bad. Sure, addiction, bi-effects, physical detoriation, etc. However, let’s assume an ultimate drug was created - with the aforementioned negative effects of drugs removed? I still would not make use of them much. Why? South Park said it best: They make you okay with being bored. It’s when you are bored that you should be creating stuff or learning new things. Drugs are super-easily accessible stimulation.

There are two things in my life that I keep very limited. Alcohol intake and TV.
I’m not ethically opposed to any of them or anything like that. I like getting hammered, and I like sitting in front of the telly when I’m drained. It’s just that they both make me okay with being bored, and it’s when I’m bored that I’m most creative and productive. Thus, I don’t keep alcohol or a TV in my own home, so that I become bored, and in turn creative and productive.

I have a few friends who basically drink alcohol every weekend. I don’t record their habits or anything like that, but from what I can gather from conversation, they also watch a lot of television. These people are very nice and I like hanging around them, but they are not creative or productive people. They are not restless. They are not bored. They use the easy fix, and it is preventing them from doing what I do.

TV is a fucking dangerous device. If you turn it on, you tend to be mesmerized by it, and just sit like some vegetable receiving constant stimulation. I’m gonna make a point of not ever, ever turning on the TV without knowing what I’m going to watch beforehand. Zapping KILLS creativity, productivity and your will to achieve.

If you listen to successful people in interviews, this advice is given out a lot. A while back, I listened to a speech by a guy who is a very successful actor here in Sweden – he also works a lot with music and event marketing. He said that he has always been driven by some kind of restlessness. He didn’t really ever play Nintendo all that much or watch TV – he went for new experiences instead. You’ll hear this from SO many successful people.

By all means, watch TV and get drunk as hell. They can both be great, and be rewarding experiences. But make sure you do it because you want to or need to, and NOT because you are bored. When you are bored, make new stuff, not old stuff.

Until next friday, I remain,

Your serf and servant
Mattias Johansson

PS. If you liked this post, please link to it. Here is the direct link:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Discipline exercise

I'm big on discipline. My old drama teacher told us on our last day of school that discipline is one of the most important things you can have. I’m quite confident that discipline is one of the few must-have traits in a successful business person (among such things as commitment and optimism).

Discipline is very easy to define: Discipline is picking large long-term satisfaction over small short-term satisfaction. Discipline is getting up from bed even though your body feels like lead. Discipline is not eating from the bag of candy when you are in the process of cooking dinner. Discipline is getting up from the TV couch to do the dishes. I.e. sacrificing gratification in exchange for a larger one later on.

Now, discipline is not a philosophy or emotion. It’s a rather a skill, in my opinion, one that is trained. A lot of people get this from their parents, and some do not. My parents spoiled me quite a bit, because I was fiercely stubborn with what I wanted as a child, which has resulted in low discipline skills that I’m just recently learning to combat efficiently.

My current favourite exercise is very simple. If feel hungry while I’m in the city, I find the nearest candy store and walk in. I stroll the store and look at all the delicious stuff, think about how good it would be to eat it, and then… I don’t. Basically, facing temptation and then choose not to give in to it. Very simple, and very efficient exercise.

(If you are a smoker, you can do what a character does in one of Dan Browns books - he constantly asks people for a cigarette, and when he is given one, he considers smoking it, and then always gives it back.)

Try it. If you’re like me, I promise that it will give you a sense of freedom. Until next week, I remain

Your serf and servant
Mattias Johansson

PS. If you liked the above post, please consider buying the SitePoint web design business kit. I still consider it to be the best piece of business literature I own (although Justin Heralds book, Would You Like Attitude With That, comes damn close.) Also, I get money if you buy it, so please do. D.S.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Why I love doing business.

From now on, I'm gonna post on Friday evening (GMT).
So, for this friday, an oldie but goldie:

Why I love doing business.
A reminder to myself why I do what I do.

As always, you are strongly recommended to print this out when reading.

FIRST: I love making a good impact on people’s lives.
I happen to know a girl that plays guitar and sings in a very successful local cover band. They are amazingly good at what they do. One evening, I was watching them play at a club, and I found myself looking more at the audience than the gorgeous girls on stage. People were having a great time! At that moment, during the short time the band played, the band was really making the life of the audience awesome. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. I realized right then, that it is my destiny, my purpose, and my passion, to make that kind of impact on people. Help them feel better, improve their lives, let them have more fun.

I don’t feel the need to deliver some huge life-altering experience, or something that lasts for years. I am of the strong belief that it is the small things that makes up your actual life, not the huge ones. For instance, I remember a party at a good friend of mine. It was a great party! But the best part came after the party itself. You see, my friend has access to this huge house, and I and some other people spent the night. The morning after, we had breakfast. Hung over and tired, we all sat in my friends sofa, had coffee and bread that tasted like heaven. We talked about this and that as the spring sun started to fall through the windows. I’m pretty sure that it was the best time of my life, right there. A good breakfast with good people.
That’s why the best part of running my eCommerce business is actually sending off the envelopes with the merchandise in them. I love the fact that I touch several thousand people, even if it’s just a little in each case.

SECOND: I love interacting with people.
I love communicating. I love speaking to people. Every single business idea I’ve ever had came from a conversation. Every time I’ve fallen in love with someone, it was when I talked with them. I like people that communicate well, and people that like me like me because I myself communicate well. Without interaction, bad or good, humanity would halt to a standstill in a matter of minutes, and so would any business.

This is why I hate the customer service of so many companies. They grow so large that they are nothing but large, money-making blobs that are utterly impersonal. My local bus company is a prime example of this. Their customer service is total crap. They switch bus drivers like I switch underwear, and most of them are just as service-minded as your average cactus. The very way their company is designed makes it impossible for them to have a personal relationship with me. One time, I lacked the cash to pay for my trip (I lacked less than half a dollar) and they actually tried to throw me off the bus.

Even though I’ve made in excess of 5000 trips with them, they weren’t able to recognize me and say “Hey, Mattias, nice to see you. Sorry you are stripped for cash, this trip is on us.” Communicating with these companies is NOTHING like communicating with someone over a cup of coffee. It holds no resemblance at all. The company has been stripped of it’s humanity.
That is why I love providing FANTASTIC customer service. I mean beating-everyone-else fantastic. As consumers, we’ve grown very accustomed to companies looking upon us as a chunk of large meat carrying a wallet. We are no longer irritated by centralized callcenters, automated customer service, or pre-written email replies. While this allows companies to save a lot of money, it also means it’s incredibly lucrative to offer a more personal touch to your customer service, as customers will appreciate it so much more, because it’s so rare.

I’m going to quote an example from Brendon Sinclairs excellent blog. Let’s say you sell suits. A man walks in, and buys a suit. You will probably never see him again. But what if you did this: Two weeks after his purchase, you send him a letter and a tie. The letter shows that “hey, I remember your name, your skin colouring, and the suit you bought – I thought this tie would go beautifully with it”. Stuff like this is very cheap (compared to generating new customers) and is the kind of small thing that makes people into lifetime customers. It’s also a plain nice ****ing thing to do.

I love interacting with people, and that is also why I love marketing.I love marketing because it equals communication. Communication in it’s simplest, purest form. I love innovative marketing techniques, copywriting, printed ads, direct mail and the like. Good marketing is distilling the very essence and core of a message, into something that is so simple that you can understand it in a few seconds, and then firing it at your audience with incredible force. It’s an enormous communicative challenge, and I absolutely love it.

THIRD: I love the game.
I’ve been selling stuff since I was a kid. Back then, I didn’t do it because of the money (I didn’t really need any), but because I really liked to sell stuff. It’s not different now. I’ve concluded that it is because I love the game of selling. I’ve always liked games like Monopoly, Civilization and Theme Park. Running a business is a game of being smarter than other people. It’s just like a strategy game, but more complex and in real life. I remember a particular detail in Theme Park, where you could increase the amount of salt in the French Fries to make people buy more cola. For some reason, I found that detail to be incredibly cool. Not exactly something you’d do in a real business, but it reflects on what I consider to be the game – tweaking, thinking, creating, dreaming, brainstorming, and working hard to sell. It’s a lovely, lovely game, and it’s so easy to keep score.

FINALLY: I love working with other people.
Solitary work is all well and good, but I’m definitely happiest and most passionate when I am working with other, like-minded people. It’s a completely different kind of energy. But I don’t want to work for someone else’s vision. I have never been able to do that very well. It has to be for my own projects, my own organization. I want to create my own work environment, for myself and for people like me.