It’s time to open The Strategy Blog fortune cookies. If you have done this before, you know how it works. If you are partaking for the first time, welcome; it’s a great moment to pull up a chair and join in.
As every year, there is one fortune cookie waiting just for you. And, as every year, the contents of the cookies are unique and freshly baked for this particular moment.
Inside you will find a message in the form of a brief ritual centered on your business or project —whatever its stage of development. It could be a business of many years or a project that you are in the process of creating.
The small ritual inside each cookie has been especially designed to help you move forward with your project during the course of this year. It will be particularly useful if you are in a moment of feeling stuck, not knowing what your next step should be, or if you simply need a jolt of inspiration to get things flowing in the right direction.
And, believe me, answering this question is the key to the strength of your project or business.
You can think of this quest as a part of your story, though this chapter won’t be about you. It’s about your clients. The beauty of this story is that it’s being written right now, as you read these words, and soon it will have new and compelling narrative.
My intention is to help you connect to the people that belong to your client population. I know that sometimes this is the most difficult thing to do for any project or business, no matter how excellent the product or service.
Hopefully, after you read this article, something will shift that will help you to make the connection to your potential clients even stronger.
Let’s begin by asking this fundamental question: what problem or need does your client population have that your project or business can help solve?
To be able to answer accurately we first have to do a different kind of thinking.
The year 2014 is made up of days. 365 uncharted, unfilled, wide-open days.
As entrepreneurs and independent professionals, we have, or definitely should have, concrete goals for this year. Earn more, connect to more clients, become a trusted professional within our networks, help the world understand our project’s vision, etc. But how do we really meet these goals? The real results that can be seen and measured by the end of the year depend on what we do every day. It’s the decisions, planning and actions of every single day that build our success. We can look at ourselves as existentialists—each one of us responsible for giving meaning and life to our own projects.
There is a wonderful freedom in professional independence along with heavy doses of fear, doubt and uncertainty. To be able to build strong and lasting enterprises and to keep our objectives clear we need a toolbox that is constantly replenished with new and useful tools.
Inside, the waiters in white mandarin collar jackets fluttered and fussed around me. And that was exactly what I wanted. Air conditioning, a small space to call my own for as long as I needed it, a few professionals paying attention to my every need, a Mediterranean menu and a glass of sparkling water with ice and lemon.
A moment of paradise.
In a city on fire.
Outside, it was hot, very hot; a sun-drenched July day in Barcelona.
A very curious thing happens every summer to the habitants of this city—we enter into a collective amnesia. We forget what summer is like and has always been like. And to express this curious condition we throw ourselves into a type of verbal and emotional ritual. We don’t formally organize any of this, but all of us, at the same time, are truly astounded by the heat. We are incredulous and morally wounded by the blasts of hot air that are projected onto our bodies and penetrate our souls. As if we had never had this experience before.
At the end of this post you will no longer be afraid of the dark. Or of the bogeyman. Or of marketing — content marketing in particular.
The word marketing makes many of us feel intimidated; it has somehow gotten blown into the status of a looming mythological and demanding god ready to cast down bolts of lightning if we do not pay homage and offerings to its power and greatness.
It is a word that often produces anxiety because most of the time we feel like we are not doing enough. Or know enough. Or are up to date on the latest tricks and trends. Or are fast enough. Or loud enough. Or cool enough.
Marketing, until now, has been the divine terrain of a few creative elite. Not of mere mortals such as you and I.
Marketing is kind of like the bogeyman with Ray-Bans.
But, by the end of this post, that will be different. You will have unclothed the myth and tamed the beast.
Being a creature of both tradition and innovation, the chef at The Strategy Blog has baked a new batch of fortune cookies to celebrate the closing of 2012 and to start the new year cooking with the most enticing ingredients and a pinch of mystery.
The unique recipe of these fortune cookies is especially blended to be eaten by entrepreneurs, free-lancers, artists, small businesses owners and the decision-makers of organizations. They are also easily digested and nutritious for management of large businesses, members of parliament and agents of change.
Because these cookies are only offered once a year, they are carefully cut and baked to offer the savory flavor of reflection topped with a glaze of creative thinking.
If you are not in the mood for reflection or creative thinking at the moment, perhaps you should wait to open yours when your appetite gives you the signal. The cookies have no expiration date and will stay fresh for as long as you need. Only the most natural, local ingredients are used, and they will be housed safely in the digital shelf of this blog — tightly sealed, toasted and crisp.
But if you do have the appetite and curiosity to unveil the fortune that is waiting especially for you, the chef would first like to help you enjoy these cookies to the maximum by telling you the underlying culinary secret in all of the fortunes offered here: The belief that our projects and businesses are extensions of ourselves — of our talent, skills, emotional landscape, blind spots and desires.
The chef believes that the personal is the professional, and it is difficult to separate the two. And with that in mind, how wonderful it is to observe the way we nourish our projects and how they also nourish us. We are, in fact, inseparable.
So enough chit-chat, let’s get on to the fun part.
If you want to open a fortune cookie, first you should contemplate all of the numbers, then, when you are ready, choose the number that tempts you the most. Click on the number, not on the cookie, to open the fortune.
It’s the one meant just for you.
Read, savor and enjoy.
Thank you for being here, dear reader, with me and The Strategy Blog one more year. You are what inspires me to keep writing.
Umbrellas closed and dripping we hastily ducked into the small waiting room leaving the rain and narrow street behind. Immediately, softly, we were wrapped in the ancient scent of burning incense —the aroma of healing.
One of the most wonderful aspects of my line of work as a freelance strategy consultant is precisely this: the opportunity to intimately know, to see, hear and feel people’s projects with all of my senses. I help people to draw a personalized strategic map and plan of action for their idea, business or organization. That’s why a client and I were standing in the cosy waiting room, swathed in the fragrance of sweet wood on that rainy day.
My client will soon open a small business to offer her health services in Barcelona, and she is doing it by herself as the sole creator, investor and worker. I am helping her to draw the map she will need to be successful. She is excited, afraid and full of desire.
Because this the first time she has embarked on this type of venture, I thought it would be helpful for her to talk to someone who has a business similar enough in size and content to invigorate her ideas, but different enough for that person not to worry about us copying their blueprint.
I knew of just the right business a nearby town. Using my network of contacts, I found a close colleague who personally knew the owner and offered to make a call on my behalf, opening the door for me and my client to have a conversation to learn about his experience. He invited us to come to his shop on a Friday afternoon.
And this is where the story begins.
We were greeted at the door by the owner, let’s call him Julian,
The beginning of a new year is a symbolic time for many people.
In the West, this is a rare occasion when our highly commanding society actually dictates very little. When publicity and advertising and cultural mythology are not telling us what to feel, to want, or to do.
Depending on where we live in the world, as the clock strikes twelve midnight, there are differentcustoms that many of us follow, but the deeper meaning of this moment is up to every individual to define or embrace for themselves.
In my adopted region of Catalonia, populated by large clock towers throughout every town and village, we eat a grape with each dong of the midnight hour. Hastily shoving one grape per second into our smiling open mouths under our laughing eyes, and secretly wondering, every year, if we will choke upon reaching the twelfth grape, the ritual thereby becoming our farewell to the world instead of our entry into a new year. At the end, we don’t choke, we never do, though the risk is exciting and palpable.
So we enter the new year, alone or in the company of others, chewing, swallowing, and full of desire. A year marked by the cyclical 12-month calendar that structures the parcels of time for most of the people on the planet.