Category: A writing by Jenifer L. Johnson

Writing your story for the new year: A question of attention

 

We’re here again. Sometimes it feels like things are moving fast — it was just summer, then Christmas, now we’re in a new year. Wham!

As we enter into our new year, we can use this moment for an enticing ritual. We can use this time to slow down, take a breath and focus.

This year’s ritual offered by The Strategy Blog is about the creation of stories. Our own stories.

Of course your story is unique and only you can write it; I am simply helping you to ignite new movement, to set this year’s story in motion.

Here’s what you do: choose one of the books below and click on the number above the book to open it. The one you select contains the beginning of a key narrative for your new year.

There is a special theme that permeates the stories in all four of the books: attention. Where we put our attention determines how the story of our life unfolds.

The ideas inside your new book are meant to inspire. Often, all we need is a nudge to be on our way to advancing our life projects and to do our best work.

Today I propose that we lift our gaze together to catch a glimmer of what could be waiting for us in the future.

This is going to be a year full of great stories. I can see it from here.

. . . . 

(Click on the number to open, not the book.)

1

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

Perfecting your sales strategy is like learning the art of boxing: Focus, precision, connection

We all sell something: 

Ideas, methods, technologies, products, services, artistic creations….

We all need people to buy what we sell. This is a basic, unadorned truth. 

Selling our products or services to people is not easy. If you would like to get better at it, or need a fresh vision, this story is for you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I did it.

I finally made the leap. Today was my fourth session.

I recently started doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: learn the sport of boxing. And now I have a personal trainer—a coach—just for me.

When I got up this morning, and put on my sweat suit, my body was aching. I can feel muscles I’ve never felt before. Yes sir, there they are, being stretched and worked for what seems like the very first time.

We probably all think we know how to box, more or less. So why did I get a coach to help me do something that I could have done on my own? All you have to do put your fists in front of your face and punch into the air. Start swinging, right?

Wrong.

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What problem do you solve?

That is the question.

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.

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When your talent is on fire, finding the perfect language is your coolest strategy

Outside, Barcelona was in flames.

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. 

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Out of the dark and into the light: the secret of content marketing

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.

Sound good? Well, let’s get going.

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The ancient aroma of cutting-edge business strategy

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,

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The hard drive and the brain

The first image is my hard drive. It stopped functioning.

The second image is my brain. It continues to function.

One important difference between what our computers do and what our brains do is that even though our hard drives stop functioning; our brains don’t.

Another difference is that hard drives are made in identical series.

Our brains are wonderfully and remarkably unique.

Yes, that’s right.

But this is just the beginning; it gets better.

Our brains shape who we are.

And it is who we are that leaves its mark on the world and on the people around us.

Not our hard drives.

It is who we are that creates our projects and dares to give them life, dares to fail, and dares to try again.

Not our hard drives.

It is tempting these days to fuse the two together—the brain and the hard drive—to make them into one, to celebrate their similarities, to desire that they function the same way.

Don’t.

You will miss knowing the very nature of your existence:

Your ability to engage in creative thinking, slow thinking, re-thinking.

Your ability to make a mistake, to take a risk, to fall and to stand up again.

Your ability to connect ideas, to perceive needs, to ask questions and listen quietly.

Your ability to grow, to laugh, cry, feel anger, to ask for help, and then learn.

Your ability to have an insight, to see the whole picture, to come to a realization.

Your ability to act, to take a leap of faith, to defy reason, to begin again, to change directions.

Your ability to succeed at doing what you believe in and draw strength from what you value.

What the world needs, more than ever, right now, is who you are—who you decide to be, what you decide to do, what you decide to communicate, and who you decide to communicate it to.

A computer and its hard drive can’t do that.

You and your brain can.

…………………….

Author’s note: the image of the hard drive is from my Macintosh laptop. The image of the brain is from an MRI that I had done because I was very curious.

If you would like to see a few intimate moments of a brain—my brain—in movement, click here or watch the video below.


Delight in a moment of mystery: Fortune cookies for a strategic 2012

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 different customs 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. 

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The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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The motorcycle story

While running, I saw it.

Parked next to others, tail outward, resting between two chalky diagonal lines.

I don’t even recall the color of its body because a memory came at me fast and smooth as my eyes swam over the details and took in the word, Ducati.

The memory felt easy. The images that came to mind were familiar; it was the same sequence that unfolded every time I saw a motorcycle with this name.

I remember the way his eyes looked as he explained what he wanted me to know with the simplicity of passion.

Many years ago, my friend and I were walking to work through the backstreets that wound around the neighborhoods close to the college campus; we were both waiters at the same restaurant. He stopped abruptly, got quiet and looked down at a lone red motorcycle parked on the gravel. His face softened and he shook his head for a moment as we stood in silence. Then, he raised his gaze, locked his shining eyes on mine and with excitement in his voice he said: 

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5 tips for responding to emails that will save your professional life

Emails are one of the most dynamic and unwittingly dangerous communication tools that exist. And they are here to stay.

As we jet through facebook, tweeter and google+ on to the emerging applications of the future, the email will take the ride buckled into the seat right beside ours, sipping a cocktail, sure of its destiny.

The use of this powerful tool calls for no license, training or mentorship. It is a technology open for all to use — freely and innocently. The email is seen as an efficient, flowing and communication-fomenting vehicle.

Until your first crash.

It is then that you realize the amount of damage this tool can cause in the blink of a human eye. And you also realize, much to your horror, that emails are less biodegradable than steel. They are permanent.

Once you push the send button, they cannot be taken back or amended. Ever. Just that simple thought makes me shudder.

As a content and communication strategist, I believe we all need a little guidance to avoid disasters — a few handy tips or rules that will help to keep our professional relationships healthy and robust.

Before I go on to the 5 tips, however, I first need to make a confession.

A few days ago, I broke my own key rules on responding to professional emails. I also broke the back-up rule that I had set up in case I wanted to break a key rule.

Of course, a small crash ensued.

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Be innovative. Your public eats cheese.

But not just any kind of cheese.

Thousands of people living in my city of Barcelona are following a particular diet that consists of low carbohydrates, low oil, low fat intake, lots of vegetables and high protein content. Just imagine how many folks in this grand metropolis are happily munching on low fat cheese right this minute as you read this article. It is a growing trend that will probably hit very large numbers within the next few years in Europe and North America.

Yet in this same city, there is not one restaurant that I know of that serves even one specially designed meal that these hungry people can easily identify on the menu, sit back, relax and enjoy with the rest of the restaurant-going population. They are left feeling alienated or must break their diet when dining out. For some, this can bring on tinges of guilt, frustration, as well as altered social relations.

Something is not quite right in this picture. 

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