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12 September 2017 at 20:08

Yesterday I promised you a post about all the GOOD things that came out of my 365-day running streak. Yesterday it was raining, and I was still a bit poorly and cross at having had to run while feeling so rubbish. 

Today it's still raining, but I'm better, which means everything looks more positive. 

So here's why running every day for 365 days absolutely rocked: 

1. It was so simple. I might have complained about it, but every day all I had to do was pull on my trainers and get out the door. 

2. It gave me confidence in my own grit and ability to get the job done even when I don't fancy it much. 

3. It was a golden thread between all the days - wherever I was in the world, whatever my mood, whatever the weather or the season, whatever time of day I could squeeze it in.

4. It inspired my kids. Both of them really got into the spirit of the challenge, checking to see whether I'd done my run yet, sometimes even running with me. Those were the best runs. 

5. I stayed healthy and injury free. Ironic, really, given that one of my biggest concerns was the risk of injury caused by running every day. But because I kept most runs fairly short and fairly easy, in fact I had fewer problems than usual. And it was only in the last week that I came down sick, the first time in the entire year. 

6. It showed just how flimsy my usual excuses are: of COURSE I have time/energy, and so what if it's raining? Once you're running, it doesn't really make any difference. 

7. It delivered multiple miniature excuses for celebrating along the way: a month, 50 days, 100 days, 200 days, 300 days, a year. I saved the fizz for the last of these, but each milestone (if you'll pardon the pun) along the way gave me a buzz. 

8. It made me miss my long runs. So that's what's next: a spring marathon, and a training plan incorporating one long run each week to take me there. 

I'm still considering what to do about the blogging, so the streak continues, for now... 

11 September 2017 at 13:34

On 11 September 2016, I accidentally committed to running and blogging every day, with no end date. (You can read how it happened here, but basically, it was all Seth Godin's fault.)

Yesterday, I completed a full year of running and blogging every day. 

It wasn't a very good run, to be honest: I've had a horrible virus for the last few days and my runs have been short (little more than the mimimum 1 mile), slow, snotty and drizzly. So not quite the big milestone event I'd envisaged. 

And today, for the first time in a year, I'm not going for a run. The streak ends here. 

Why? 

Partly because I lost the joy somewhere along the way. The obligation of running every day was a great way to make myself do it, but it also somehow sucked the joy out of it towards the end. 

Partly because I discovered that I was increasingly just doing the bare minimum mile and no more: I've ended up doing a very similar mileage to years when I wasn't running every day, simply because I've not been doing the longer runs. 

And partly because I found I need end points: I need races in the diary, landmarks that get bigger as I approach them and then recede in the rear-view mirror, which I can tick off as I pass them and look for a new one, not just a relentless unchanging ongoing commitment. (Maybe there's a way to combine those, for the future.)

I'm aware this sounds quite downbeat, which is interesting (and probably reflects the fact that I'm still feeling a bit grotty). 

In fact it's been a fasincating, rich experience and I'm SO glad I've done it. Tomorrow, in order that the universe be kept in balance, I'll write a post about all the great things I discovered from my 365-day streak. 

(And have you noticed, I'm still blogging? More on that soon, too...)

 

10 September 2017 at 14:57

Although I had the cover for This Book Means Business designed some time ago, once I'd finished the book I couldn't help feeling it wasn't quite right. The book has ended up with more attitude than I'd expected, it's got personality. As I wrote it, I found myself writing more confidently, more in my own voice than I'd dared to do in the early days. So I decided I needed a cover with a bit more attitude, too. 

Having had such success with crowdsourcing ideas and feedback, and following a recommendation by Bec Evans, I posted a competition on DesignCrowd. I guaranteed payment and gave as clear a brief as I could. And then, inconveniently, I went on holiday for two weeks with very intermittent wifi access. But still the designs flooded in - 48 of them at final count - and although some were frankly dire more than half were contenders. I was pleasantly surprised by both quantity and quality. 

I created a shortlist of the best designs and invited members of The Extraordinary Business Book Club and others to vote on their favourites and give feedback, which was fascinating - almost more opinions than participants, it seemed! And in the end I didn't go with the design that won the most votes, but with the second favourite, which had been my personal favourite since it was submitted on day 2 of the competition, with a few tweaks in response to others' feedbacks. 

So here it is, and I couldn't be happier. 

Now all I have to do is finish polishing and fiddling with the stuff that's going inside it... 

This Book Means Business

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09 September 2017 at 18:41

I've just discovered something that pleases me enormously. Apparently Wayne Anthony Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse for 32 years, was actually married to Russi Taylor, voice of Minnie. They married in 1991 and lived happily ever after - or more accurately, until Allwine died in 2009.

Disney is all about illusion and fantasy, so there's something rather lovely about discovering that sometimes the dream really does come true. 

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08 September 2017 at 19:13

It's International Literacy Day today, as it has been every 8 September since UNESCO established it in 1965. We've come a long way since then, but still today, as UNESCO's website reminds us: 

'Some 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 60.7 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.'

I spent some years volunteering as a tutor with Adult Basic Education in Edinburgh back in the early 1990s, and was continually astonished by the range of people I worked with. One in particular stuck with me: a short, cheerful man with a big laugh who'd clowned his way through school, truanting as often as he attended, and came out the other end with no qualifications. He worked in a series of dead-end jobs, picking stuff up, learning on the job, and eventually set up his own plubming business. In middle age, he decided to learn to read and write because he was tired of the shame he felt every time he he had to pretend he'd lost his glasses when presented with a form. He'd succeeded despite the odds, but he knew he could be so much more.

Literacy matters, because without it it's harder for people to succeed in life. As Barack Obama put it: 'Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy we're living in today.' (There was a president who posted his summer reading list every year. It's difficult not to make comparisons with his successor, who 'hasn't got time' to read books.)

Of course as a publisher I care about literacy: without it I don't have a market. But as a mother, as a human, I believe passionately that children who are taught to love reading grow into more thoughtful, creative, empathetic people. And that's what the world really needs right now.  

07 September 2017 at 13:51

The last lesson I'm going to share with you/burden you with from our Disney experience is this: there's always someone watching. The signs on the 'no entry' doors at Disney don't read 'Staff Only', they read 'Cast Members Only'. Every single person who works in Disneyland - the poor sweating souls in the Disney costumes, those managing the queues for every attraction, the waiters in the restaurants, the shop assistants, even the maintenance staff and rubbish collectors (garbologists?) - is not just someone working in the park, they're part of the Disney show. 

Which makes sense: any one of them could be the next point of contact with a customer (or visitor, or guest, or whatever the approved Disney word is for a punter). And all of them make up the overall feel of the place: the rubbish collector who samba-ed along to the music, the ride attendant who pretended to steal my daughter's toy and make it his pet, the popcorn seller who complimented me on my French accent - all of them made the experience more joyful for us. They saw themselves as performers, entertainers, not just workers, and they rose to it magnificently. 

I loved the way the characters stayed absolutely in character with their distinctive mannerisms not only on stage but as they walked through the park or onto/off stage, chatted to each other or other 'cast members': they never forgot that even if they weren't actually performing, people were watching. 

Do your staff realise they're lead performers in the show that is your business? Do YOU? Every time you interact with a customer, or even are visible, it's showtime. Smile, and give the people a good time.

06 September 2017 at 20:03

You'd think if any company had reached a point where it could rest on its laurels, it would be Disney. One of the biggest brands in the world, with perhaps the most iconic, recognisable characters in the world of entertainment, a slick operation, massive profits. 

And yet, it never stops. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, he declared, 'Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.'

Certainly we noticed several changes in the six years since our last visit - the classic characters and rides, of course, but alongside them new characters, new rides and attractions. When you start from the premise that your business is never completed, you buckle in for the ride. You don't set goals, you set waymarkers. 

I like that idea. 

05 September 2017 at 10:59

Mickey bubbleI said yesterday I'd learned a few things about business in those few crazy family days at Disneyland Paris - here's the first.

Mickey Mouse started as a cartoon character. (Stay with me.) When he was created, back in 1928, the primary channel for distribution was via the picture houses, where cartoon shorts were shown along with newsreels and the new 'talkies'. But he didn't stay there. Here's a non-exhaustive list of the different ways in which I saw Mickey, or at least his distinctive profile, used while we were at Disneyland:

  • costume character (yes, of course I had my photo taken with him)
  • figurine character/soft toys
  • crystal character (lovely, but not as impressive as the crystal Disneyland Palace, a snip at €15,000)
  • statue
  • book/notebook
  • pencil/pen
  • DVD
  • balloon
  • 'Mickey ears' headband 
  • mask
  • thermal mug/waterbottle
  • clothing/nightwear
  • babygros
  • gloves (and I'd like to see anyone operate a mobile phone wearing THOSE)
  • hats (my son was desperate for the padded socerer's hat until I pointed out how hot it would be and what would happen if he tried to wear it on a rollercoaster)
  • backpack/handbag
  • phone case
  • cushion
  • bedding
  • jewellery
  • Christmas decorations
  • kitchenware
  • lollipop
  • biscuit

One idea, innumerable expressions. That's how you scale content, right there. 

 

04 September 2017 at 09:08

We’ve been in Disneyland Paris for the last few days, and I’m writing this on the ferry back home, feeling like I need another holiday to recover.

Our favourite ride – I lost count of the number of times we queued for it – was Big Thunder Mountain, a rollercoaster pretending to be an out-of-control mining train in the Wild West. Perfectly designed to give you an experience just on the exhilarating side of terrifying. As I’ve got older I’ve found myself more ambivalent about rollercoasters: mostly I still enjoy them, but sometimes the sense of being out of control makes me feel panicky, and instead of having fun I’m just holding on praying for it to be over.

So on Day 2 I made a conscious choice as I sat clutching the safety bar at the start of each new ride: go with it. I’m choosing to ride, so I’ll choose to enjoy the experience. And I did.

Moments of pure exhilaration are rare these days, and the sensation of hurtling round Big Thunder Mountain with my arms in the air – blue skies above, the lake and the towers and turrets of Disneyland around, and my family screaming happily along beside me – is one I’ll treasure. 

Back to running my own show tomorrow, but just for a few days I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger (and I learned a few business lessons along the way….). 

03 September 2017 at 15:41

I recorded the intro and outro for Episode 77 of The Extraordinary Business Book Club yesterday, which was slightly surreal (you’ll understand why when you listen on Monday), which features an interview with Bridget Shine, CEO of the Independent Publishers Guild in the UK. She’s absolutely at the sharp end of publishing, and it’s a great interview which covers a wide range of topics including how to pitch to independent publishers and where the industry’s heading.

But this thought struck me as particularly interesting – Bridget sees one of the key changes in the industry as the increasing importance of direct marketing and selling for publishers, or, to put it more simply, knowing your customers. And what she says goes for authors of business books just as much as it does for publishers. 

‘If you're publishing books, there's no substitute for understanding who is your customer, who's reading these books, and what it means to them. [It’s] so stimulating to talk to people who bought your books and understand why they bought it and what their feedback was. It's that engagement, that direct engagement, that's transformative.’

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