Tag Archives | focus

The cobbler’s children have no shoes…

White Label

I was speaking to a friend the other day and for some reason or another websites became part of the conversation. I was asked,

“What about your website? Where is it so I can go look and see?”

And I have to admit to them that it is in a horrible state of affairs—it has been over 9 months since I had written anything at all on the site. I told them that I’ve fortunately been too busy to do anything about my own website and they said,

“Ah like the cobbler’s children that have no shoes!”

And I said, “Precisely” and thought to myself how piss-poor an excuse that is.

In that moment I didn’t fully grok what just went down. A day later I get an email referral, they ask me to have a look at my work online, and the conversation above all came back to me.

Really? Had I forgotten about my own website all this time? Was I really too busy to update it, keep things fresh and relevant? No, I would look at it from time to time. I’ve had many things I’ve wanted to share and I’ve hatched multiple “ideas” to update it. I’ve thought about what I want it to be, and so on. However, all this thinking never produced any type of plan, or set of steps to get things going. I’ve never made it a priority really. In fact what is super embarrassing is the post previous to this that is 9 months old that talks about how the website overhaul is underway—well now it is.

I’m going to make this happen. An hour a day (or more if possible) until website is up to date. There, I said it or rather typed it out in black and white (not just a thought in the head). It has been far too long, and an update does need to happen to this website. Blog posts about changes may follow.

For now, I did find this question posted on Quora and thought I would share.

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A Website Realignment: Day 9: Branding Berchman

I’m picking up where I left off on the previous post.  So far I’ve gathered adjectives 17 friends, family, and clients perceive as my personal brand. I’ve also identified adjectives I would use for my personal brand.  But what else is there that might have an influence on my personal brand?

  • My opinions, likes, and dislikes
  • What tools am I working with?
  • Who do I do business with?
  • Who is my target market?
  • What are my roots, my upbringing, where I was raised, etc.
  • What is my story?

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A Website Realignment: Day 8: Branding Berchman

Since writing the first post in this series I read a great article on A List Apart that spoke volumes to me about the process I am embarking on and documenting here. If you do not read alistapart.com I suggest you check it out. To summarize–I am not so much “redesigning” berchman.com as I am “realigning” berchman.com.

I am reviewing the goals and purpose of this website and ‘realigning‘ content and design to help achieve those goals. Initially when I launched berchman.com I thought nothing of ‘goals’ or ‘purpose’ it was just my personal website. The times and purpose of this website have changed. So I have changed the title from “A Website Redesign” to “A Website Realignment” because it more accurately reflects what I am doing.

The first part of realigning this website is defining the brand of Berchman.com. Berchman is me so subjective/objective issues are very strong with taking on this exercise. Berchman does have a brand in the eyes of the beholder, but up to this point-in-time I have never done any research to get to the essence of the Berchman brand.  Continue Reading →

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Some thoughts on the first day of 2009

Photo I took of the sun setting where I live on New Years Day 2009.

Photo of sunset on New Years Day 2009. Ojai Valley, California.

As the sun sets on this the first day of 2009 I have had some time to reflect.

Many people look at New Years Day as a time to initiate their resolutions. In years past I have concocted my own list of resolutions only to find that 3 weeks later they were nice ideas and that was about it. Now every year I like to reflect on the year that has passed and take stock of my overall experience, strengths, and weaknesses from the past year. From this reflection I develop some overall areas of focus  in the coming year. This is not a hardcore set of resolutions like “I will lose 15 pounds,” or “I will stop smoking” (although I can add that to my belt—non smoker for 15 years). Rather they are ideas that I will spend mental energy on in hopes of making my life, and the lives of those around me, just a little bit better.

When I look back on my reflections from 2007 I can see just how far I have come during 2008. 2008 was a very good year for me professionally but more importantly I made great strides personally.

Time, time, time what has become of me.

2008 was a very busy year that presented a great many challenges for me. The biggest challenge of 2008 was time management. Using time well and effectively are so important to achieving goals and feeling accomplished. In 2008 this issue came up for me time and time again (pun intended). I continue to refine my approach to managing my time as no one tool or technique is the silver bullet.

Work, work, and work. But not necessarily in that order.

I am fortunate to be self-employed, learning new things, and been able to make a bit of money while doing both. It has been a great experience thus far. However, I basically make my money one way, actively. I do not derive any income from passive resources. An active source is like what I do. Trade your time and expertise for money. A very simple transaction. The passive model involves me building something (think e-book, etc.) that is created once and sold again and again without having to recreate it every time. In 2009 I am working on ideas of generating passive income and have some things in motion already. Lets just say that this year will prove to be a very busy working year to provide fruits of the labor afterward.

The suitcase and the onion.

Personally I have been working on myself quite a bit. We all have our suitcases of issues that we drag along with us through life whether we want to or not. Sometimes we open them up and deal with the issues inside, others may keep them shut and carry their weight with them all their lives. For me it was a year to open all the suitcases and lighten my load. Suffice it to say that I have opened all my suitcases, processed and discarded many heavy items, and I continue to find new items in the cases when discarding others—like the layers of an onion. I peeled much of the onion back in 2008—more than I have than at any other time in my life. I continue the work and discovery of self improvement with a much better toolkit going out of 2008 than when I went into it.

It looks like I will be spending mental energy (and time) on using time more wisely and effectively, working on passive income streams, and peeling back more of the onion. So here is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

So what has your attention for the next 12 months?

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I am in a Dip and I am going to Stick.

The Dip

I just completed reading Seth Godin’s, “The Dip.” An interesting little read that presented mostly things that I already knew in various pieces from a variety of sources. However, it is all distilled into a simple, quick, and easy read.

What I got out of this book was some clarity. I suspected I was in a dip and reading this helped bring that into focus. I am in a dip with my business. My business is in a state of stagnation. That is the best I can describe it. It’s not dieing, but its not growing either. The level of work with my business could be sustained, for what feels like, almost indefinitely. How can that be bad? I have work, I am making money, but I am not happy with how things are. I know there is potential for more. This business has not reached its potential.

After reading “The Dip” I actually contemplated disassembling my business–quitting it. In the book there are many suggestions about quitting, and the process of why to quit something. There is a purpose to quitting. It is to free you up to focuses energy on getting through the dips that matter. Of course part of the process is identifying what matters, but that was easy–at least for me.
There are other outside factors I will not get into, but suffice it to say that the alternative to being an entrepreneur (going back to punching the clock for a paycheck) was seriously considered for a bit. However, in the thinking surrounding this one thing became clear when I read the sentence, “Never quit something with great long term potential just because of the stress of the moment.

That sentence summed it up for me. There is great potential in owning a business. There is great stress owning a business–stress of the moment. Furthermore, I realized that there are things I have not done or tried with my business. To quit before at least trying would create a great deal of regret later down the road. So now I have a better perspective, a plan for action, someone to motivate me and keep me on track, and a timeframe by which to measure the efforts.

For now I will stick rather than quit.

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Barack the Brand: Are We ‘Citizens’ or ‘Consumers’?

Screen Shot from the Obama web site

I have been meaning to post about the brand of Barack Obama for a while. Then yesterday my dad emails me a link to a post by Andrew Romano about this very topic with the bonus bit of having interviewed Michael Beirut who is a partner at Pentagram. It’s certainly worth a read for his take on the matter is interesting.

I have been observing, as others have, how Barack Obama has built a brand around his candidacy. Or rather how the branding and design firm his campaign hired has created what is arguably the strongest brand in the history of politics.

It’s more than just the typeface (Gotham) and the clean, uncluttered look of his website and promotional materials—it’s the whole package that is so appealing. As was said by Beirut, “Obama is marketing like Apple, Nike or Starbucks. He’s selling an experience. It’s all done with such skill and finesse that as a professional, I am in absolute awe.â€?

I know that some people will look at this and say that this is politics, we should be focusing on substance of the candidates, not the experience or feeling they give us.

But people we are seen as consumers, not citizens.
As was said by President Bush today in his remarks about the current economy, “I want to thank the members of Congress for quickly passing an economic growth package. And that means there will be $150 billion — or more — sent out to American consumers and incentives inherent in that for American businesses to invest.”

So you see, we are not citizens, we are consumers and we are being marketed to as such.

May the best brand win!

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Slow Re-Start

Tortise

Well this past week was an exercise in getting back to the flow. Back to the flow of the family life—making coffee for my wife in the morning, taking kids to school, changing diapers, making bottles, getting kids to bed, watching movies with my wife. And getting back to the flow of work—turning off vacation messages on phones and email, email, email, and more email. Projects, clients, voicemails and the myriad of things that go along with running your own company all await your upon your return.

I am very glad to be back from my vacation. The vacation was great and I would like to take another break as soon  as I can. However, it is tough coming back from a vacation. Getting back on board takes time. Not the family part, I would not trade that for the world. It’s the coming back to work part. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do and it is great. However, getting coal back in the cold engine and firing up the furnace to get the train moving again is a slow process. It does take me at least one work week to get things up to speed—back on top of email, and projects too.

I took one working day to focus on one aspect. Monday was email, Tuesday was projects and their status, Wednesday was calls and appointments, Thursday was project work, and Friday was a professional development seminar.

So even though I started out the week feeling like the tortise, I ended it feeling like the hare.

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Taking Breaks Big And Small

Mexico

Something I am not good at is taking a break from work. Any type of break–5 minutes or 5 days. On a daily basis I find myself sitting at the machine for 3 hours at a stretch without getting out of the chair. Obviously this is not good. I did get a pedometer over the holidays to see just how much movement I am getting during a typical work day. Right now I am averaging over 10,000 steps a day which is not bad for a mostly sedentary desk job. On a day-to-day basis I do need to take more breaks and get up and move around. I don’t think we as humans were designed to be seated for long periods of time. To help with that I recently setup a small mac-based application called FlexTime. It is a great app that will let me program periods of time and breaks, and it will put notices up in front of me to let me know to take a break or switch gears. Not only the physical change, but the mental change of focus and attention will help as well.

Other than the day-to-day breaks are the BIG breaks–vacations. We all need vacations to help rest and recharge. Problem is in this country (US) we tend toward the workaholic side of the spectrum and take very few breaks on a daily basis and take very little vacation time when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Then again our GNP is the highest in the world so there is a positive side to it. However, I tend to work so hard for so long that I get burned out. I have been to burnout and back several times in my career and its no fun. To help keep this at bay I recently made a decision to take a vacation that sort of landed in my lap. A friend who is going to Mexico for 10 days asked me to come along–out of the blue.

Initially my reaction was. “Well, I do have so many projects going on right now I’m not sure I can spare the time.” I told this to someone I met at a party over the weekend and he looked at me and said, “You should go on the trip. Work will always be there, a chance to go to Mexico will not.” I thought to myself, he is absolutely right. It is the advice I would give to someone else if they were telling me the story. I would say figure out how to make it happen and I am making it happen. My new passport is on the way and I leave 2 weeks from this Friday. I have never been to Mexico and I have lived a couple hundred miles north of the border for almost 15 years. Its about time I take a visit. The work will be here when I get back.

When was the last time you took a vacation or a day off?

Yeah. Exactly–too long. Make it happen. Take the opportunity when it comes, or make the opportunity now.

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Thinking About Focus

 Focus

Over the weekend I was thinking about focus and how much it matters. I’ve written about focus on this blog before. What this blog is focused on, what my company is focused on, and what I am focused on. I have found out that all of these things are focused on too many other things. What I mean is that the focus jumps around. Instead of me talking about only one topic on this blog, I talk about many different things. That’s not bad, but its not focused and focus can bring interest. Hell, I am the only one who reads this blog because I write it. But the focus of this blog is too fractured. It needs more focus. I read many blogs specifically because they are focused on a specific topic. That is not to say that the author will not get personal from time to time—that is a good thing. Rather, they stay on topic and don’t veer off much.

I find the issues of focus with business to be slightly different in that my service business does not focus on one specific target market or industry, rather it focuses on many different services that it can provide to just about anyone. It’s not focused enough. With more specificity comes more focus and more regard as a specialist rather than a generalist. I am still working on this now with my business.

The focus I personally exhibit has the ability to color my day constantly. Whatever I am focused on at the moment can become all consuming and take me away from the things that really matter and what I really should be focused on. I find my personal focus to shift often and when it does stick on something for a time, it is typically not what I should be focused on.

Here I am focused on writing about my focus in many areas. Funny how therapeutic it is to write this post as I now have heightened my sense of focus.

I have been thinking about what I should focus this blog on going forward and I think it should be about life as a small-business entrepreneur. I did intend for this space to be about that but it has not been very focused on the challenges, the ups, the downs, and everything else in between in running and operating my small business. Perhaps someone will find these notes and links going forward and at some point and get something from them.

So here is to going forward with more focus.

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Be Expansive In Your Thinking

meerkat

Recently, like yesterday, I was turned on to the idea of thinking expansively. Not that I have never thought expansively or ‘large’ before but my atypical, life-long, conditioned modus-operandi is to hyper focus much like a meerkat. The meerkat is always hyper vigilant and looking for what may lurk on the horizon. The meerkat is always ‘tuned-in’ to what is off in the distance, be it friend or foe. Their focus is always very tight and narrow.

I am not saying that being hyper-focused, and hyper-vigilant is a bad thing. It can be a very beneficial way of being given the right situation, like if you were a meerkat. It just that when either one or both of these “hyper” modes are practiced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it can, and will, grind your down like a well used pencil. Your sharpness is totally gone and you feel fried.

The key is to balance the narrow, hyper-focused way of thinking with expansive thinking and non-thinking. A widening, or expanse, of input and perspective will help keep one ‘wider’ in their perspective. I find that looking out at the horizon or up towards the sky actually helps in this endeavor. Ironically the meerkats are looking to the horizon as they engage in the hyper-focus–go figure. I was experimenting this morning in terms of ‘expanding’ my thinking about my business–it really does help and work. I now find myself operating in a more relaxed and calm state of mind. Or better yet, operating in a non-thinking mode as I work at by meditation.

Do you find yourself caught in hyper-focused, narrow thinking? Do you find it tiring? Or do you find it something else?

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