Author: Bill van de Graaff

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The Pie Factor

imageThe great Aussie meat pie has been an icon alongside kangaroos, boomerangs and Bondi lifeguards. To find the perfect one can be quite an odyssey, however. As with all good things in life, quality matters.

The best pies come from small, family-run bakeries that produce them hot from the oven. They will still vary greatly between shops but it is possible to find that perfect pie.

Now that’s great if you come across them when you’re feeling hungry but what if you finish work after the shops have closed? Frozen, of course. OK if they’re a good product but how to get it like the bakers?

Now for some earth-shattering news! The heating instructions on the packet only tell half the story!

They will typically say place the pie in a preheated 180 degree oven for about one hour. Great. It’s cooked. But why is the crust so damned hard?

The poor old pie. Having been par-cooked then frozen, the moisture releases into the oven before it has time to re-absorb into the crust. No problem with the cooking process but the result is a hard crust.

Eh voila! There is a remedy.

Follow the cooking instructions. Then take the pie and wrap it in foil and rest at room temp for half an hour. Then put back in oven, still in foil, at 130 for 20 minutes.

This is as close as you can get, just make sure the pie is top quality.

You won’t find this secret anywhere else so guard it closely. So what does this have to do with personal development anyway? Lots.

It all comes down to blueprints. We have blueprints of how to live, work and play, instructions for a better life(?). We follow instructions everywhere, on the road, at work and even at play.

Sometimes we’re only given half the instructions. Just like the frozen meat pie, the results don’t quite turn out as expected. What do you do when your GPS no longer navigates correctly because it doesn’t have the latest update?

Improvise.

That’s it. Put the thinking cap on. Stimulate the neural pathways with glucose and oxygen to think creatively, to solve problems.

imageCreative thinking is hard work not in a mechanical sense but in a way that capitalises resources that otherwise would be consumed. It costs.

We wouldn’t be living the lives we do now with all our creature comforts and technologies were it not for our creative thinkers.

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Pass the passive income please

imageHallelujah! Nice, eh? Money rolling in. Yeah!

Now just hold on up fellas, this ain’t no turkey shoot (rather James Stewart?), all good things, like whiskey take time to mature.

Got a minute?

Thanks for coming.

The first thing that needs to be done with generating a passive income online is to consider presenting offerings without cost of goods sold (i.e. it doesn’t cost you anything). This means affiliate marketing.

The second necessity is an online platform to attract visitors and expose them to your advertising for those affiliate products. Honey attracts more flies than vinegar, so the site needs to be one that arouses curiosity and demonstrates a benefit for the visitor.

Next, a marketing campaign to gain further exposure. This might include paid advertising such as Adwords or Facebook ads but also an active distribution of your website posts to relevant networks and social media streams.

These are the basic elements required to get going. From here it will require analysing response, modifying and refining targeting methods both inbound and outbound.

The objective is to establish an automated mechanism generating a passive income without manual intervention. The site and products need to be fresh and contemporary. Any fee-for-service offerings must be well thought out and structured to cause minimum disruption to the goal of getting paid while asleep or on (permanent?) vacation.

Prior to the Internet, the only hope of doing this without large investing was either by royalty income from patents, writing books or being pensioned off from a government service.

Of course, this new level playing field means lots more competition so it will be necessary to find a niche that is not well served. Once found, it is important to try and set a new benchmark of quality in that niche.

Word-of-mouth is particularly important on social media, so the first impressions a visitor receives are vital, as are follow-ups to comments and customer relations. Integrity is the key.

For those with little knowledge of information technology, it is highly recommended to obtain assistance such as LHTB which will save lots of time and effort and establish the shortest learning curve.

imageThe ultimate success in establishing passive income this way will be determined by focus, persistence and determination and although it may take quite some time, the payoff will be second to none.

Money may not grow on trees but it does grow on confidence. Utilise some of the principles mentioned in Irresistible Influence.

People don’t like being sold to but they love to buy. 

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Lost in Battle

imageCollateral Damage. That’s what it’s called. Friend or Foe, you lose. Whether it’s Gaza, Iraq or the Ukraine, countries in Africa or South America, the swathe of innocents caught up in other people’s wars are classified as collateral damage, a convenient term that seeks to justify a senseless waste as a ‘cost of doing business’. To see our fellow man as a commodity is the ultimate insult that can only be countenanced by the Hitlers of this world. Unfortunately they are not in short supply and from North Korea to Islamic State rebels there will always be some hotshot inflicting their stamp of brutality.

The imperialist legacies don’t escape vilification either with problem areas like the Middle East owing their frictions to the architects of the colonial empires that controlled resource rich third world countries.

Territorial disputes are fuelled far more by religious differences than linguistic ones and drawing borders based on religion is like a red rag to a bull when it comes to differences between neighbours.

Pakistan and Israel are both examples of this ‘fence me in’ mentality, powder kegs that can easily be ignited through insurgencies or cross-border conflicts. Religious zealotry is the fuse rather than territorial imperatives. It only takes one incident to light that fuse.

Buddhists, Moslems and Christians can live in harmony when their borders are based on language instead of religion. The Crusades were just as bloody and cruel as the Moorish Invasion, both inspired by religious imperatives to gain territorial control.

Apartheid based on race was bad enough but genocide based on religion shows no mercy and knows no bounds. How can any denial of humanity be justified in the name of religion? How could any God be so cruel?

If God created man in his own image, man created religion in his own image. We all rely on the same Divine Inspiration that created this Universe, to draw a line in the sand is the ultimate blasphemy.

imageTo define God and proscribe Nature is to have us believe that a child gives birth to the mother and that the Sun orbits a flat Earth.

The truth will never be told through the lips of a liar, it is only when the lie is exposed that the truth can be seen.

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One way ticket

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Michelangelo once quoted ‘only a soul in agony can bring forth a blazing star’. So many gifted and prominent celebrities have taken their own lives, whether intentional or not.

It’s difficult for us to accept although we try to understand why this happens along with everything else that is going on in the world.

No judgment is necessary, just recognition.

Recognition?

I recognise my car. I’ve seen it before, it’s no déjà vu.

If I was blindfolded, I might be able to do it by feel but I would have to literally ‘re-cognise’, a bit like the elephant in the room.

So it’s a rethink as well, which happens every time we lose something which is precious to us.

When we are stopped in our tracks and the wind is taken out of our sails, we have to start over with a new realisation, one that knows that what we took for granted has been withdrawn.

Maybe that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger but a part of us dies along the way.

Vale Robin Williams, Vale MH370, Vale MH17, Iraq, Gaza, etc.

Have a nice day.

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Bourgeois Crabs

image“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”  – (Wendell Berry).

“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.” – (Ayn Rand).

imageMost of us give up somewhere along the way and accept what we call ‘reality’. We are similar to crabs in a bucket that will prevent one of their fellows from crawling out. Perhaps the idea that escape may provide a better option is a threat to mutual security or an admission that the only reassurance lies in the safety of numbers that have not run the gauntlet. Bourgeois crabs?

Hermann Hesse wrote in “Steppenwolf” about the Theatre of the Mind and the comfort zone of bourgeois society. Achieving greatness is a lonely journey that requires us to sacrifice what we are for what we can become. It’s a lot easier to forget about it and join the mob.

Our most valuable ability is to love, the penultimate is the ability to transform, not just the world around us but ourselves as well. This synergy is as intrinsic to our well-being as the air we breathe and the blood in our veins, to deny this alchemical aspect of our nature is to thwart our soul expression and manifests as despair and disease.

The good news is that it’s never too late to pick up the gauntlet, as Zorba the Greek famously said “sometimes, in life, you have to undo your belt and look for trouble”.

The slippers and fireside armchair will always be there if you fail.

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Beyond the Plimsoll line

imageThe Plimsoll line is a reference mark located on a ship’s hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the vessel may be safely immersed when loaded with cargo. This depth varies with a ship’s dimensions, type of cargo, time of year, and the water densities encountered in port and at sea and hence a ship’s captain can determine the appropriate Plimsoll line for the voyage.

In the same way, when we take a product or service to market, we need to package it in ways that cater for different market types. The Mitsubishi Pajero sold well in western markets but didn’t take off in Latin American countries due to the fact that ‘Pajero’ was their word for human solid waste.

With the ability of internet marketing to access all corners of the globe, this sensitivity becomes even more important. Just as the Plimsoll line enables a ship to sail the different oceans of the world, not only will the markets be penetrated but new markets may emerge if the ‘specific gravity’ of the offering is matched for local conditions.

This will require research but the payoff will be well worth the effort. As the big fast food chains open up in Asia, their menus reflect local taste and custom without altering the overall package or branding.

Google Analytics is but one tool of many available to ascertain the hot requirements of any market segment. Advertising can be modified to appeal to any number of customer cohorts in any language or region.

Although the level playing field has increased competition, the tools at our disposal have massively increased our ability to compete. Even a fraction of one percent of a market can be huge globally if the local consumers are satisfied.

A niche market product can become a household name if the appeal is tailored to the desires of the culture being targeted. On a recent trip to Malaysia I saw high definition electronic billboards on every telegraph pole on the main roads in town. Mobile device advertising achieves a similar outcome and is fast becoming the promoter’s choice.

imageNew markets are created by foresight as demonstrated by the shoe manufacturer in America at the turn of last century who sent two of their salesman to China to test the markets. One of the salesmen reported ‘don’t send shoes to China, nobody wears them’, while the other salesman told the company to ‘send a shipment, nobody wears shoes…yet!’

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Bigger than Ben Hur

imageThe movie blockbusters of the 1950’s were all bigger than Ben Hur when it came time to promote them and the scale of production was increased to satisfy the increasing appetite of a post war society.

Escapism can take many forms whether in print, music, film or even in art. The shift to cinema came when the technology could compete with the dream-weaving ability of the established media. The rest is history.

Though box offices still thrive, the halcyon days of romance, heroes and derring-do have yielded to the alternative influences of TV, video and internet. 

Social media is the new grapevine for community chatter, the ability to share all forms of media supplanting the former media barons choke hold on ephemera and sequestering thought control to fiction.

The online audience at any given time is bigger than all the movie tickets ever sold. The exposure that viral posts receive would make Cecil B de Mille drool. 

Rupert Murdoch has just had his offer of $80 billion for Time Warner rejected and is scraping together another $13.5 billion to try and seal the deal. That’s just for cable networks.

With the emerging third world markets another 3 billion consumers are coming online, with translation apps melting any linguistic barriers. As discussed in a previous post, ‘None of the above’, this will prove to be a killing field for targeted marketing.

imageOur biggest promise, however, is the ease with which any inspired soul can jump on the ether and contribute their passion without any editing or censorship, apart from the NSA or other government watchdogs.

The Emperor now has to wear clothes as the cast of thousands has increased many orders of magnitude and even fooling some of the public some of the time has become nigh impossible.

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On the make or on the take?

image Alvin Toffler in ‘Future Shock’ (1980) wrote about the rise of what he called the prosumer, as in producer/consumer.  He identified the double standard inherit in our society whereby, on the one hand as a producer you have to expect competition and little mercy, on the other hand, as a consumer, you show little of both.

Business was ever thus and we happily live either as a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small one, depending on which foot the shoe is on at the time.

With the rise of the internet, the marketplace has increased enormously and anyone can have their own website, as many people have done.

There is no monopoly on personal creativity or product differentiation, however there is no substitute for craftsmanship in presenting the finished product or service.

imageThe rise of the Industrial Revolution through the Victorian era was a testimony to the forging of art combined with technology. Even today the nostalgia of that era lives on through social media communities such as Steampunk Tendencies which capture this fusion.

Perhaps the graciousness of wrought iron, bull nosing and the age of Steam had transformed the hammer and anvil from a tradesman’s tool into an artist’s palette.

The passion that lives through what was a new form of expression for a new era is the essential ingredient that determines the influence of a market based offering.

If that passion can combine the past and the future, the consumer can feel a congruence which is reassuring and an inherent trust-based relationship is established whereby they will feel comfortable in trying out something new.

How many cars were named after birds and planes after animals? We tend to see our future hopes in terms of our past aspirations and the merging of those two tenses creates a powerful presence in the now.

Focusing on this combination meshes the ‘make’ with the ‘take’ like two gears engaging rather than clashing. Commerce in this way uses a lubricant rather than a glue and is far more likely to retain repeat customers.

Hybrid technologies are a precursor to a quantum shift in our ways of doing things, ‘classic’ and ‘plastic’ need not be enemies but can be combined in new ways that address new needs. The Iron Age became the Bronze Age only after alloys were found to be stronger by fusing two base metals.

Innovation and craftsmanship make good bedfellows, especially on a bedrock of online platforms where marketing has become a level playing field.

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Looking at the same Moon

imageCarl Jung established that we all dream similar archetypes or symbolic representations regardless of our creed or colour. The realm of human experience has also been neatly categorised by the ancient Chinese oracle, the I Ching. Oddly enough, there are 64 hexagrams within the I Ching and also 64 squares on a chessboard. 64 is also the first whole number that is both a perfect square and a perfect cube. So where is this leading us to?

Binary representation is a native language for the Universe, yin and yang, light and dark, male and female, etc. In the same way that we see the Sun’s reflection in the Moon, we see our reflection by the signals or biofeedback we get from the world around us.

We tend to relate to our experiences in a subjective manner, taking the results of our actions as a personal scorecard. We need to do this so that we learn from our mistakes but all too often we ascribe our own shortcomings to the person we think we are rather than our actions.

We look to the heavens to find mercy while we have no mercy towards ourselves. We need a priest to remind us that God loves us while we think of all the reasons that He shouldn’t.

If we could only see our true selves as being separate from the emotion we feel then we would understand that everyone feels the same way as we do.

The advantage this gives us is to ‘give ourselves a break’ and accept that we are here to learn from our mistakes and overcome our own shortcomings. There is no sin in that.

With this self-forgiveness we are also able to forgive others for their mistakes and shortcomings, not that they are ‘swept under the mat’, rather we are in a better position to help them deal with it by enabling them to forgive themselves.

Living in a competitive world often creates a ‘win or lose’ scenario but this needn’t be the case. Competition can bring out the winner or the loser whereas collaboration sees winners emerge on both sides.

There are more than enough resources for a ‘win-win’, it is only greed that insists there is not enough to go around.  There never will be enough for those who keep wanting more as they are ignoring what they already have and not putting it to good use.

Our basic needs are quite simple and we only punish ourselves by not allowing the opportunity of growth to flourish when our ambitions are not realised. imageThere will be a message in there somewhere.

When we see someone’s pain in their own non-acceptance of the consequences of their actions and can help them to overcome this obstacle then they, too, will realise that we care about them.

After all, we’re all looking at the same Moon.

 

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None of the above

imageWould you like fries with that? This classic add-on has infiltrated most levels of retail marketing and gone one step further with the assumption that consumers want all the extra options and need to cancel the ones they don’t require. This insidious technique begs cynicism and disgust as targeted marketing preys more and more on the vulnerable and less educated.

Social media has enabled computer algorithms to define these markets with an incredibly high degree of accuracy and vendor access has been optimised through exposure analysis.

Never has it been more critical for the consumer to exercise his only weapon, the ability to refuse. The list is endless of hidden extras, auto top-ups and camouflaged opt-outs. ‘Caveat emptor’ indeed.

The profit motive, if unchecked, will consume everything in its path for the holy dollar and this new level of sophistication presents a sinister and ruthless scenario where consumers have bought the book but can’t afford the chapters.

A tiny example of this is the illusion that canned fish is a healthy source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Little do consumers realise that this vital component is extracted via centrifuge before the fish are processed and the nutrient-rich oil is sold separately in capsules at over ten times the price of the remnant which is then soaked in vegetable oil.

Computer printers are sold for less than the price of a replacement cartridge, food labelling is a craft in deception and in consumer contracts the large print gives it all away while the small print takes it all back.

Consumer watchdogs can only do so much, public awareness needs to be extended into the classroom as this threat to our future good economic health is fast becoming a rival to drugs and STD’s.

image‘How can I help you?’ has fast become ‘How can you help me?’. Blithe rhetoric of ‘ask not what my country can do for me but what can I do for my country?’ is a call that will increasingly fall on deaf ears, as the main prerogative of an increasingly disillusioned society shifts to the 2 tier response of the rich getting richer and the poor getting the picture.