Content strategy resources

Figuring out your content strategy is not a simple task. You want to make informed decisions about the current state of your content, and where you want to take it. Luckily there are countless resources out there to help you along the way. Here are a few I’ve been using recently:

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
Content strategy classic.

Content Strategy Alliance Best Practices Handbook
A fantastic resource of guidelines, tools, and templates for seeing your content strategy from start to finish.

A Content Strategy Template You Can Build On
A template created by Isla McKetta at Moz. Focus is on three elements: 1. The present state of your content. 2. What your content should look like. And 3. Your contents governance.

10-Step Checklist for Your Next Website Redesign
Fleshed out checklist, but highly focused on the core elements of a content strategy.

How to Create a Content Strategy (In Only 652 Steps)
Great resource and tips on content inventory and goal setting.

The importance of making new thoughts

It’s easy to think about the same things everyday. To have the same thoughts everyday. Thoughts on life. On time. What to read. What to write. Who to interact with. What to focus on. Unless your putting forth the effort, your thoughts can become formulaic.

This is ok for the mundane and the things that don’t matter, but detrimental if you want to grow and learn. Making new thoughts is great because it snaps us out of any mental doldrum we’re living with. It’s a fresh perspective that gets our mind working in new ways, rewarding us in new ways. It’s exercise for the brain.

A great way to make new thoughts is by interviewing people. People at work, your friends, or family. Inquire as to their thoughts on topics that interest you, or problems they have at work, how they overcame them, or have them teach you something they are an expert in. Look for the differences in their mode of thought. Something you can latch onto and develop into your own.

Do people need apps?

It’s not the app that matters. It’s the service or problem solved that we care about most. I didn’t download Letterspace onto my phone because I needed a note taking app. I needed a place to jot down ideas, clarify my thoughts, and track to-dos. The app itself is irrelevant. It’s just the vehicle. If I was aware of the app, it would have failed at its job.

I wonder if apps are still necessary. I wonder if they’ll start to disappear.

Entering the stream

I generally do not spend a lot of time scrolling through streams of information. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. It’s too easy to get sucked in, giving it more than it gives back. Scrolling and scrolling to find interesting or relevant information I can delve into.

If time is all we have, I’d rather have a highly focused and relevant stream enter my psyche with as little effort on my part as possible. Even automatically. How could this work? Is this possible? Do machines know enough about me to put the correct information in front of me?

Maybe it’s playing more games. Maybe it’s just picking something to read, digging in, almost blindly. Maybe scroll prevention. If I only get x scrolls a day, would I use them wisely?

It’s not that streams are evil. It’s that the format encourages the mediocrity. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. We’re waiting for a spark. Not realizing that it’s better to make your own spark.

So, maybe it’s not the stream. It’s this constant focus on searching. Searching for something of interest. Peeking around one more corner, hoping something is there. But there never is and never will be. It’s better to tip the scale in favor of output. To enter the stream.

Stopping at good enough

When is ok to stop at good? When is perfect the wrong stopping place?

Doing nothing is easy, but so is obsessing to the point of never finishing.

It’s deciding when good enough equals done and when doing nothing are the best options at hand.

When your mind is lying to you

Getting back from a run, the weakest I’ve been in awhile. Weak legs. Weak lungs. Weak mindset. As long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I knew I was that much closer to finishing. Not that I was going through the motions. Rather, I was pushing through the pain towards a successful finish. Forcing my legs to wake up. Forcing my lungs to expand. Forcing my head to get in the game. It was at the final stretch when everything finally came together. I had not let my weakness win.

Sometimes it’s ok, even best, to listen to your body and mind when it’s telling you to stop. It’s at rest when they heal and grow stronger. However, if they’re lying to you, trying to convince you to stop for all the wrong reasons, beating them into submission is the only way to convince them to get on board. Then they become and asset, helping you get to where you want.

Leveling up requires getting up on your tippy toes

Continually putting yourself in front of challenges that are just barely within reach, that require great effort, is the easiest way to level up. Whether it’s a new language or new trade, if you are reaching too low or even too high, you will remain stagnant.

It’s when you are up on your tippy toes, the next level up just within reach, just far enough away to require great effort, is when your chance and ability of progress increases.

If you’re always winning, then all your doing is teaching. You’re not learning. Chesscademy.com does this really well. Progressively the AI opponent increases in difficulty, putting success just barely in reach. This makes it easy to get hooked because the carrot is so close you can taste it. Just barely working reach, if you just willing enough to reach out and grab it.

The most expensive cheeseburger I ever ate

When I was younger, about ten or eleven, I happened upon a small pile of cash in the street on my way home from the park. It immediately caught my attention, I stopped, looked around as if someone was watching me. My mind began asking the questions, “Why is it in the middle of the street like that?” “How could no one have noticed it before me?” “Who does it belong to?” After some contemplation, I snatched up the bills. I’ll never forget the feeling of joy I had running home as fast as I could, where I counted up my bounty. $17.

At home I obsessed with what I had found. Counting the bills over and over. Organizing them. Pressing the creases out. Thinking of all the things I could do or buy. Rather than hiding the money and keeping it, I decided to put the money in my pocket and left to bike around the neighborhood.

For no particular reason, I stopped in to the local food shack and bought my self the most indulgent lunch I could think of. A cheeseburger with fries and vanilla milkshake. It was phenomenal. Not the food, so much, but the feeling of independence. While I did not earn the money, it gave me such a sense of power. I got to decide what I wanted to do with the money. I got to decide where I wanted to eat. No one could stop me.

These feelings, however, did not last. The last sip of my milkshake washed away any sense of independence. It felt odd. I felt a little sad. I had something that made me so excited and I practically threw it away. And because I had found the money, I had no way of getting more. I saw no way of getting that feeling back.

I discovered that it was not the money that made me happy, but what it could bring me. Freedom and independence like never before. And I had sold it for a cheeseburger and milkshake.

A hole in the boat

A hole in the boat wants to widen. It wants room to let more in. The wood weakens and bends and snaps from the weight of the pressure. So we help the hole widen. We eat one more dessert or watch one more episode of some new tv series. The hole knows we’re weak and knows how to enlist our help. We think it has power over us so we fuel it more. But the hole has a weakness. This hole isn’t conscious. The hole is our weakness, blossoming. When we identify the holes, we know where to put our efforts.

Plugging the holes in the boat means putting that cookie down. It means writing one more letter to a good friend. It means learning one more new thing of worth. We don’t need to plug all the holes. We just need to plug the holes in a way that encourages weakness to flow out.

Unconscious motivation

If I was raising a child, one of the things I would try to impart would be the need to find perseverance and purpose. To find meaning, a reason to continue, a reason to live. It is not easy to find, so it’s important to get good at looking.

I would teach my child that when you are persevering without thought, then you are on to something. You are in a state of happiness. You will not notice it at first, but after time you will drift towards things that take so much of your attention that you leave time behind. One hour feels like seconds. Days like minutes.

I would teach my child that life and work balance does not exist. There is no such thing. The meaning of words no longer exist in todays world and economy. Work at one time was fastening widgets onto a box, but that role no longer holds value. It’s all just life.

I would teach my child that it’s ok to go alone or with no resources. That in fact, going alone and without resources is the best way. To not worry about finding people to help you because if you help others, they will want to help you in return.

I think I would also kick my child in the butt a bit or put them in unsettling situations knowing others would kick them in the butt. Have them start a company and have them sell door to door. Maybe I’d, push them out of the bus in a foreign country and tell them to meet back at the hotel. I don’t want my child to think everything will be taken care of for them. That they have to learn decision making techniques. How to listen to and understand people. How to get things done.

I would teach them that it’s easy to talk, and write for that matter, but doing is the only way forward. That the only way to achieve anything, is to allow absolutely nothing else to taste as sweet.

Just in time money

Money is great entry way to freedom, but we rarely use it correctly. We justify our consumer good spending, or foolishly create budgets, which just encourage more spending.

What we should focus on is creating just in time money. I do not mean, money just in time. This would mean money becomes available at the last possible second before all hell breaks loose. Rather, just in time money is generated when and how it’s most efficient, so no resources are wasted.

Just in time money is not basing your standard of living on your income. It’s putting the focus on things that bring you lifelong happiness.

Just in time money is not finding more to do. It’s finding the right things to do.

Just in time money is not making the best decision. It’s making fewer decisions.

Just in time money is not living hand to mouth. It’s living on your terms.

Just in time money is not spending all your time working. It’s starting up the money generating resources at the most effective moments.

Just in time money is not, “Whew, my paycheck arrived. I can pay my rent.” It’s, “Rent’s covered for the year. It’s all good!”

Just in time money is not, “Oh, shit! I just got fired. How am I going to pay my bills?!” It’s, “Fantastic! I just got fired! I get to take some time off and travel the world!”

Just in time money is not, “It’s only $10 extra a month.” It’s plugging up every hole in the boat.

Just in time money is not, “Oh shit!. I’m late for work!” It’s, “Wow! That was my best nights sleep, ever!”

Just in time money is not basing one’s cost of living on their income. It’s doubling down on experiences.

Just in time money is not creating a budget, creating buckets of money you can pull from. It’s removing the buckets.

Just in time money is not stretching every dollar you spend. It’s not having to spend that dollar.

Don’t bother trying to fix someone’s weakness

One of the best bits of knowledge I received from my father on managing people was the understanding that a key part of management is helping people grow their strengths. This seems obvious, but what you usually end up doing is struggling to fix someone’s weakness. You see them continually making the same mistake or not doing things the way you like or not understanding their role, so you decide you can fix the problem by teaching them. You think with enough knowledge or encouragement or motivation or time their weakness will dissipate, if not disappear. Of course, you just end up micromanaging them, their weakness intact, forgetting that there is a compromise when working with other people.

A better option is taking the things they’re not good at away from them, and putting more of things they are good at in front of them. Now all that time that was wasted on the things they sucked at, the time you spent managing them over and over again, has opened up to the things for which they can become remarkable.

The future of happiness

I sometimes wonder what the future of happiness will look like. Happiness as a collective whole. What would it mean if more of us were happy? What would it mean if fewer people were unhappy? What will make people happy in the future?

If we had a happiness currency, something we can easily point to, not just a state of being or better way at looking at the world, what would it be? Experiences? Knowledge? Languages? Friends? Money? Freedom to do what we want and go where we want? All of the above? This may be missing the point of happiness, because I think happiness is not found in things we collect, but it may be a descent guide to help us achieve happiness faster.

What would the world look like if more and more people were truly happy? I am not saying people are unhappy, just that not everyone is happy. My guess is that the world become better, not worse, so isn’t then our job to help others to become happy?

Miscalculations

We all want to accomplish things, but fear of failure can stop us in our tracks. We incorrectly envision the road ahead and predict where things could fail. Part of it is preservation. We don’t want to harm ourselves or put ourselves in compromising situations we can’t fix. But more often than not, it’s just baseless fear. The question then becomes, “how can we correct this?”

Because “failure” is an end point, there it no direction we can go or action we can take, the conversation ends. When failure hits, the conversation goes something like, “Well, we tried, but we failed. That’s it. There’s nothing else we can do, so let’s pack it in.” It’s self-inflicted learned helplessness. We think we have no control.

But it’s just that “failure” is the wrong word for what has happened to us. It’s when we realize that failure doesn’t exist, we can begin to discover ways to succeed. When we see what we think of as failure for what it really is, we begin to move much more quickly to what we want. What we really experience are mistakes or errors or miscalculations. Within the root cause of errors or mistakes we discover opportunities. A chance to figure things out. Hints that point to not to just one, but numerous answers. The more mistakes you make, the more guidance you’ll have to find success.

Of course, “success” is also a funny word because it too can easily have an end point. What we decide what should be considered a success best not have an end point. Rather, it be a state. A condition or mode of being. Otherwise, it’s just failure in disguise.

Point Reyes

Took an amazing hiking trip to Point Reyes today. We first stopped at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, grabbed a map, and got on our way… We took the Bear Valley Trail to the Meadow Trail to the Sky Trail then finally to the Woodward Valley Trail to our final destination… The Sculptured Beach.

The most strenuous section was the Meadow Trail, which was more or less entirely uphill. The most stunning part was emerging from the woods to a panoramic view of the seashore.

A highly recommended hike!

Tracking Progress Helps You Focus

When I was at the gym today I felt completely lost. I felt like I was wandering around, not picking up the right weight, and just over thinking too much. It was probably the weakest I have been in a long time. I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized the one thing that I always have with me I had left behind at home. My log book.

I was not able to see what my workout schedule for the day was nor was I able to track my progress. It was the first time I was without it in years. I felt completely lost.

I realized that my log book does more than act as reference for future workouts or as a way to wow myself with all the progress I am making. It is something that really clears my mind and forces me to focus on the task at hand, my workout.

I’ve never used a logbook of any sort outside the gym, but I am definitely going to start exploring other places this might be useful. Not because I feel lost, but I wonder if it will help give me greater focus.

Gatekeepers no longer exist

Gatekeepers no longer exist, but their idea still persists. We see them in shows like American Idol, the workplace, and even friends and family. This idea that you need to take a set of steps in order to please the gatekeepers to let you move forward.

It is still within people to believe that you need someone else’s permission, approval, or blessing before doing something great. This may have been true at one time, but now you have no other choice.

You are your own gatekeeper.

Follow up FAST

One of the easiest hacks I learned for impressing customers, partners, and people in general is to follow up with them as fast as humanly possible. The moment you receive their ping, ping them back.

This does not mean completing the action that they may require of you. It simply means acknowledging them and their request.

Price based purchasing decisions

For my twelfth birthday my father took me to Abt to buy me my very first boombox, something I had been wanting for some time. This was 1989 and I will never forget walking through the door, stepping up to a massive wall of stereos of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I was in heaven.

The only thing my father said to me was, “don’t even look at the price, just find the stereo that you works the best for you”. So that’s what I did.

I spent a good hour going through each one, easily weeding out several based on style and size, playing with dials, reading the spec sheets, one deck vs. two decks, blasting music, until I whittled them down to the one I wanted. A Sony boombox of my very own. A stereo that I owned up until 2002 when it finally retired.

It had an amazing lifespan and quite a few homes. First as my entertainment centerpiece, then as a music duplication device, a recording device, a guitar instructor, a karaoke machine, then, finally, as a spare bedroom unit.

What mattered was that it was special. It wasn’t just something I bought, but something I had invested in and it gave back 100 fold.

Because of this lesson, I own very few things and have only bought things that matter, that I see as an investment. Things that would bring me more than the short lived therapeutic effects buying can often have. It is never about price.