Paradox Of Choice: Too Many Options, Too Little Time

Life is a choose your own adventure book with too many choices. When deciding your path and investing in your 20s, we have too many options to spend our time. Options are great, but this has caused a huge problem known as the Paradox of Choice. 

In college, you are told you can pursue any of the 1,000+ careers you desire. At Walgreens, a stroll down the candy aisle means choosing between 45 different chocolate-covered treats and 75 different sugar-coated goodies.

With so many choices, we have become paralyzed with the process of weighing options. Once we have made a choice we dwell on imagining “What if I made a different choice?”

It’s no big deal to choose the wrong salad dressing at dinner. But, the Paradox of Choice hurts us the most when investing time in ourselves, especially when investing in your 20s.

At any given time, we can learn to code on Codecademy, we can publish a book on Amazon, we can perfect our photo taking abilities. The list goes on. However, before we invest enough time to see progress, we are on to the next skill.

For this reason, to circumvent the Paradox of Choice we must realize the compounding interest involved in learning new skills.

We’ve all heard the financial breakdown that saving $1,000 a month starting at 22 will make you a millionaire by 50 because of the compounding interest. And it’s true. But, only if you start investing in your 20s and are consistent.

Learning to invest in yourself little by little every day is the most important thing you can do to boost your creativity. And if you currently aren’t investing some of your spare time into learning a new creative skill, then I’d advise you to stop keeping your money under your mattress and invest.

Consistency doesn’t have to be daunting. Setting aside a manageable percentage of every day towards your interests will show returns. A good start is 10% of your free-time or 25-30 minutes a day towards creativity.

Don’t fall prey to the Paradox of Choice and horizontally invest–investing time across multiple skills at once. It makes no sense to have 12 different bank accounts, so you shouldn’t split your time between skills. Instead, invest vertically in one skill, because the compounding interest will be much more fruitful.

Realizing small returns of creativity will defeat the Paradox of Choice

Because seeing huge returns on a new skill takes a lot of time we often forget to recognize the small returns along the way. People say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which is a very daunting number (unless you begin investing in your 20s). But, there are benchmark returns you’ll experience along the way which will motivate you on your path to mastery. 

The first benchmark return occurs at 10 hours of time investment and you’ll earn habitual creating. After about one month of consistent, daily investing you have created a habit which will seed your future growth. 

The second benchmark occurs at 100 hours of time investment and you’ll earn improvements in your technique. For instance, a writer may experience more fluency in their writing, a graphic designer may see more cohesive designs that others understand, and a marketer may be able to map out campaigns.

This benchmark is like laying the concrete of your foundation. It may not look pretty, but once it is finished you can begin focusing on making the house look nice.

The third benchmark occurs at 1,000 hours and the returns will come as solidified techniques and increased output of your creativity. Essentially, the time you invest will compound a lot quicker because your productivity is higher.

Naturally, you will develop your signature style during this time and you’ll probably increase your daily investment because you’ll have fun watching your skills evolve. Make sure to set a time cap on your daily investment, though because you don’t want to exhaust your muscle. For instance, the famous author Anthony Trollope would write for exactly 2.5 hours every morning, even if he had to stop mid-sentence. While you don’t need to be that extreme, it is good to set a general time limit.

The fourth benchmark is ongoing from 1,000 to 10,000 hours and the return is personal mastery. During this time you’ll be able to take your ideas and execute them in one session. You’ll have a vast portfolio to see your growth, which will drive you to become even better. You may even be able to turn your output into profit and commit to it full-time.

Your skill will develop into an engulfing passion that has you twiddling your fingers, waiting until you can leave “work” and get to your creative space. Ideas will float in your head all day long that you’ll want to execute. Everything around you will become an inspiration, finding its way into your work. This is when you will really begin to see what that skill means to you as a person.

This skill will become your fifth limb, so deeply attached that you couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to. Kobe Bryant says not being able to play pro basketball is like a death, Clint Eastwood says he’ll never stop shooting movies, and Jerry Seinfeld still writes a joke every day.

The Real Lesson

We all want to reach that expert level of 10,000 hours and it’s easier if you begin investing in your 20s. But, remember it starts today with 10 minutes. The time you spend is compounding, as long as you don’t dip into that bank account and spend your time elsewhere. There may not always be obvious data behind your decisions. But, it’s better to stay true to your creative process than to always make data driven decisions

Becoming a millionaire of creativity requires daily investment. The bottom line will grow slowly but continue to stay motivated by the small returns.

I realized the importance of staying motivated by small returns growing Quick Theories. Even gaining one new reader is now a huge success for me because I changed how I view benchmark returns. 

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Creative Process vs. Data Driven Decisions

“Follow your heart and everything else will fall into place.” But, what happens when data driven decision are contradictory to your heart’s creative process?

Big Data has unleashed a whole new world of capabilities pertaining to optimization and personalization. With Big Data, Amazon can predict the exact price point to maximize profits and Google can consistently rank the best information in their search engine.

However, when Big Data gets too involved in the creative process, your vision is blurred and your execution is skewed.

Let’s take Netflix as an example. Their humble beginnings started as a DVD delivery service. They quickly realized the potential of streaming content. So, they decided to split the entities, calling the DVD rental, Qwikster. Eventually, they cut Qwikster out of their business model. While their core audience clearly wanted DVDs, they went against their customer data, stayed true to their creative process, and brought their vision of Netflix to life. In hindsight, this was a great decision to not follow the data.

Fast forward to 2016 and Netflix is slowly falling into the trap of data driven creativity.

Netflix felt in order to disrupt the industry even further, they needed to produce their own content (shows, movies, documentaries, etc…). This year they have produced 126 pieces of original content. With 54 Emmy nominations, it is clear they are having a lot of success in giving the customers what they want.

However, I, along with much of Hollywood, sees them falling down a rabbit-hole of data driven decisions quickly. They have collected massive amounts of user data which they use to determine what genres, actors/actresses, and plots are trending among their consumers. This may seem great, and it is, but only for a few years. If they continue giving people what they think they want, tastes will never change or grow.

I mean, imagine if your mom never pushed you to try those green beans or carrots on your plate. You’d be 45 years old eating PB&J’s and chicken nuggets.

The point here is that if Netflix begins relying too heavily on data driven decisions based on their customers, they will never push the boundaries of the creative process which make the film industry so amazing.

The creative process relies on your vision

Netflix (and you) can learn a lot from Kanye West in this area.

Mr. West is known for his spontaneity. You truly never know what to expect him to drop creatively. For instance, I went to his fashion show (Yeezy Season 3) where he also debuted his latest album (The Life of Pablo) and then out of nowhere showcased a video game he had been developing called Only One. Unpredictable.

Also, if we scroll back in Kanye’s timeline to 2009, he was a rapper and a jerk – for embarrassing Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Later that year, he released his shoe collaboration with Nike, called the Air Yeezy. Now, Yeezys are the second most sought after sneakers on the market.

Customer data wouldn’t have ranked fashion among Kanye’s potential data driven decisions. Although, now he is a common name in the industry and has attracted a wider audience.

But, following his own vision doesn’t always end up positive in the eyes of his audience.

Recently, Kanye made the news for going on a rant in front of a packed stadium – bringing light to the politics which run the music industry. Kanye said Beyonce told the VMAs she wouldn’t perform unless she won. He also said that radio is very bias towards trending music. Kanye then canceled the remaining 21 concert venues in his tour.

Obviously, fans are angrier than before. But, to Kanye, it was necessary to call out the changes the music industry needs to make.

The fine line of data driven decisions

On one side, you can ride the wave of customer-centric work, but you’ll never push yourself to try new things. On the other hand, you can never listen to your audience, which in turn will anger the people that want to support you.

The healthy option is for a creative to find the balance of customer needs and personal creation. Realizing what makes your audience tick is important. But, also realizing the reason they loved your work in the first place was because you offered something new that resonated with them.

Take that initial burst of energy you got (get) from people talking highly of your work and strive for that same emotional response. But, continue to look in yourself for the next creation that will push your own creative boundaries.

Naturally, you are going to lose some people when you take creative risks. But, you’ll attract a whole new set of interested people. Your true fans believe in “You”, your creative vision, and every step you take to execute it.

I’m a huge tech nerd, but only follow the companies with visions I believe in. That’s why I create Quick Theories like these – to better explain the confluence of technology and creativity.

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Why Patents Are Bad For The Creative Mind

A creative mind doesn’t exist without the freedom to use tools and ideas, which is why patents are bad. Limiting either of these only hurts the creative output of talented creatives.

Don’t get me wrong, in certain scenarios like technological advancements, it is very important to protect your innovations. But, the same laws which allow the “little guy” to compete with the “big guy” are taken advantage of by the select few for a creative edge.

A couple of years ago, scientists invented Vantablack – the darkest color ever created – which absorbs an astonishing 99.965% of light. The color literally tricks your brain into witnessing nothing. It’s as close as we can get to the illusion of empty space.

Upon its creation, artists and others with a creative mind began salivating at the thought of incorporating the color into their next work.

Then, a man bought the exclusive rights for the use of Vantablack in art. Anish Kapoor, the sculptor behind Chicago’s Cloud Gate, which you probably know as “The Bean”, owns Vantablack. He claimed the color to be his and hoards it for his own creations.

In Anish’s defense, he has a close relationship with the scientists who created Vantablack. Because it is a lengthy process to manufacture it, Anish felt it was best to limit its use in art, and work with the scientists closely to push Vantablack’s use cases elsewhere.

Many artists felt handicapped by this action, though and decided to push back against Anish Kapoor. When the pinkest paint was developed the owner of it, Stuart Semple, decided to grant the exclusive rights to everyone…except Anish Kapoor. You know how the saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Art isn’t the only area where this “legal dibs” obscures the creative mind, though.

For instance, during the third presidential debate this year, Trump referred to Clinton as a “Nasty Woman”. Like getting your first gray hair, this comment stood out. In fact, it stood out so much that a man named Mike Lin filed a trademark for the exclusive rights to that phrase for online retail purposes. No big deal, right?! I’m sure Trump wasn’t planning on creating t-shirts with that phrase on it anyway.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this, though. Mike filed the trademark to Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Prince of Darkness”, Disney’s “House of Mouse”, Beyonce’s “Poison Ivy Park”, Kobe and Nike’s “The Black Mamba”, among 70 other prominent phrases.

Basically, if someone uses a phrase he owns he can take them to court for millions of dollars. Also, Mike can legally create a t-shirt that says, “I got 99 Problems, but a Nasty Woman ain’t one”.

In terms of a creative mind, Mike is at the low-end of the totem pole, along with hundreds of other patent buyers. In terms of business strategy, he is brilliant.

Buying the patent to someone else’s work, just like buying the rights to Vantablack, is completely legal despite a few governmental attempts to kill it. In Mike’s defense, much of the proceeds he gets from legal action on the patents goes toward charitable causes.

Quite frankly, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to protect your intellectual property and I wouldn’t blame you for protecting yourself.

Use your creative mind to develop your own trademark

In my opinion, ideas are just figments of the imagination, until execution occurs. There were probably a million other people with the idea to create an electric car before Elon Musk (Nicola Tesla being one of the first). But, he had the guts and ability to execute it. The irony here is that Elon doesn’t even patent his technology, allowing anyone to use his innovations.

Worrying about legally protecting ideas takes valuable time. Instead, spend your time executing the idea, and in the process, mark your work with a creative trademark.

Basically, a creative trademark is the centuries-old concept that allows you to brand your creativity, without limiting the creativity of others.  

For instance, the film director Quentin Tarantino mixes comedy, gore, and non-linear stories to create Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, etc... His technique is very recognizable and you can tell when someone is influenced by a Tarantino film. But, you can’t help but notice the influence from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Brian De Palma’s Carrie. Film directors don’t trademark their techniques because it allows for other directors to sample and create their own artistic identities, pushing film to greater extents.

One day, the artist Jackson Pollock decided to put his canvas on the ground and drip paint onto it. This gave rise to an entire art motif known as abstract expressionism. As a result, he’s given credit for starting this motif with his unique style. But, he didn’t trademark the technique.

I’m sure you are wondering: “Well, these people are famous. Why should I have a creative trademark?”

Because they were once in the same spot you are now. Most likely, you already have a creative trademark and don’t realize it. There are techniques, styles, and themes that make your creations uniquely yours. Identifying those and get in the habit of incorporating them across all your creations.

Being a creative and a businessman, I understand both sides of the argument over patenting creativity. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Anish Kapoor and Mike Lin’s actions, maybe an experience you’ve had on the subject, or simply your thoughts after reading the article.

If you feel compelled to free those thoughts locked in your head, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Along with writing Quick Theories, I do freelance growth strategy consulting. Whether you are at a loss for campaign ideas or are struggling to determine the best way to execute your marketing strategy, I can be of great assistance. If you feel you can benefit from a monthly growth call, let’s set up a time to chat here.

Sneaker Con Uncovered A Hidden Sneaker Market

You know what’s about as believable as an underground toothbrush market? Telling you the resale market for sneakers is worth $1.2 billion annually and was launched by a sneaker convention called Sneaker Con.

But, it’s true. Well, the sneaker part. Not sure about the toothbrushes. Although, 2 Chainz did brush his teeth with a $5,000 toothbrush, so maybe there is an underground market for them.

Anyways, the roots of the sneaker culture are very blurry, but some point to Tinker Hatfield’s designs of the Air Jordan series. You know, those iconic shoes, which people fight over at malls on Christmas day.

For much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you either waited in line for hours to get your hands on an anticipated sneaker release, or you shopped on eBay and craigslist (risking robbery or buying fakes).

However, in the past five years, we’ve seen sneaker culture blossom into a secure industry filled with legitimate businesses making it easier for people to indulge in the culture.

For instance, the venture-backed app startup, GOAT has created a platform for secure, sneaker trading–similar to an E-Trade.

Sneakerheads read the Bloomberg of sneaker trading daily: Hypebeast and Complex, to stay up to date on trending sneakers.

But, best of all is StockX, which tracks sales data across numerous sites to provide the value of every stock real-time. No joke, this is actually the NYSE for sneakers; you’d get a “kick” out of seeing it live.

As a result of the systematization and increased hype around sneakers like Yeezys, LeBrons, Kobes, even Asics, people are treating sneakers more and more like investments. One of the most notable sneaker suppliers clears upwards of $1 million annual profit and is 16 years-old. They refer to him as The Sneaker Don and his client list includes DJ Khaled, Odell Beckham Jr., and many A-list actors.

But, what spurred all of this growth and creative inspiration?

Sneaker Con. Prior to 2006, sneakerheads acknowledged each other by a simple look down at each other’s sneakers and then a nod in their direction, showing the mutual appreciation.

Starting in 2006, but gaining its widespread popularity in 2009, Sneaker Con created a convention for sneakerheads to come together and geek out over shoes, with around 25 vendors selling their loot.

Fast forward to 2016 and the convention has become a full blown experience. Occurring monthly, over 150 vendors set up shop in the largest convention centers across the US to buy and sell commodities. There is even a pit where visitors can trade their shoes.

So, it’s a big event. What makes Sneaker Con so important?

It made people aware of a culture they were a part of but had no idea existed.

For instance, you wouldn’t realize how many other people bird watch in your area until you join a bird watching club.

Sneaker Con showed fellow sneakerheads just how many people had the same passion as them. Aside from all the technology that enables this culture to exist, Sneaker Con was the creative inspiration that influenced others to capitalize and create subcultures.

Companies like Reshoevn8r and Crep Protect create products to clean, restore, and protect shoes. Paint manufacturers like Angelus create paint products specific to sneakers, which spurred an entire subculture of sneaker customizations. An artist like FREEHAND PROFIT created sneaker rendition gas masks.

Upon entering Sneaker Con today, you are instantly engulfed in the passion that exudes from everyone’s eager intentions. Some enter with a dozen shoes to trade, while others go to meet with other sneakerheads. But, overall the sneaker culture has entered a rocket ship of influence that isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Sneaker Con: Bridging Dreams and Reality

Without Sneaker Con, none of those other companies would’ve been possible at their current scale. Creativity isn’t about thinking up the next big idea out of thin air. It’s not about seeing into the future.

Creativity is about bridging the gap between what can exist and what currently exists, so people can easily transition. Creative inspiration is often sitting right in front of you, just with a different purpose. 

StockX, the NYSE of sneakers, needed a SneakerCon to make people believe in the size of sneaker culture.

Leonardo da Vinci was known to have outlandish inventions such as the flying machine…but this was in the 1400s. They didn’t have the means to power something like that, so people looked at him like a lunatic. His transition to reality–the internal combustion engine–wouldn’t be invented for another 400 years. Then 50 years later the Wright Brothers would take flight at Kitty Hawk.

People need to be able to clearly see your idea impacting their current life. We are creatures of habit that don’t change just to change.

Don’t stop dreaming and looking to the future, though. By all means, this is an important part of the creative process. You need to realize, however, that the creativity lies in being able to bridge the gap between their reality and your vision in the easiest way.

That’s one of the reasons I write with many analogies. There’s a better chance that what I’m trying to convey will hit someone where it matters. 

Find the analogies that allow people to resonate with your ideas, and your visions will come to life.

I’ve found that a lot of the latest advancements in technology struggle to resonate with their audience, even though they are very beneficial. That’s why I created Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. I write Quick Theories so that you can better understand new technology and not feel overwhelmed. So, if that sounds up your alley, you can sign-up here: quicktheories.com

Excessive yawning actually starts the creative process

The common view of sleep is we merely need it to restore our energy after a long day. But, what about its role in the creative process. The Matrix believes that our electrochemically-run minds are just batteries in a big computer. And when excessive yawning starts, that is the computer telling us to recharge their batteries. 

What fascinates me, though, is how the creative process works with our sleep cycle.

Throughout the day creativity comes to me in random spurts. But, during the hour leading up to sleep and the hour after waking up, I can consistently enter a flow in my creative process.

When you have that first lion’s roar of a yawn or hit a spurt of excessive yawning, your brain realizes your energy is at 10% and is entering its power-saving mode. In this power-saving mode, your mind begins clearing all the clutter from your head. Naturally, you’ll begin thinking about things pertaining to sleep such as: when you plan to go to sleep, what you’ll do before you go to sleep, etc…

It’s simply a singular focus on sleep.

But, what if next time you excessive yawning started you didn’t begin your winding-down routine? What if you capitalized on your mind’s natural clearing of all distractions?

In fact, this is the perfect time to jump into your creative process. You don’t even need to be in your “ideal creative setting” to start.

Take something from the news you wanted to write about earlier in the day, and throw down all of your ideas and emotions. Revisit that business idea you had and hash out a roadmap for the first year. Refocus the last hour of your day–a rare, distraction-less moment–on a prior vision letting your creativity run free.

You may cut a corner to finish the project but turns out that was the connection you were missing all along. You may hit a creative flow, get a boost of energy, and become engrossed in the task.  

And when it feels like you sucked every last drop of chocolate milkshake out of the bottom of the glass, go to sleep.

When you wake up, get in your normal routine of hopping in the shower, eating cereal, and brushing your teeth. But, instead of flipping on the TV or checking your phone, revisit the creative splurge from the night before.

Let your clear-minded cleanup crew come through – clarifying the connections made, eliminating all the unnecessary parts, and polishing the idea. Your mind is a blank slate in the morning. So, addressing your creative splurge of the night before allows you to view the work objectively.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t think creatively throughout the day. But, there is a very special relationship I formed with the hours leading up to sleep and after waking up that have allowed me to capitalize on the natural tendencies of my mind.

You might be so busy you can’t even spare an hour before bed or after waking. This made me think: Can you bring creativity into sleep?

Truthfully, dreams may be an untapped area of creativity. For instance, Paul McCartney came up with the song Yesterday during a dream, woke up, and recorded the song. Fearing this was just a copy of something he heard before, he played it for his friends. It turned out to be original and a pretty damn good original, since over 4,000 artists went on to do a rendition of it making it one of the most covered songs of all-time.

Excessive yawning just signals our most creative time

We might have our most creative experiences when we are sleeping and we just can’t harness it yet.

By 2040, we will have technology allowing us to induce dream states to amplify learning and experiences. People predict that sleep will be our most productive time because of the lack of distractions.  

Imagine as you begin getting tired, having your creative splurge. Then you enter a dream where that creative splurge can become a reality. Only to wake up to a fully hashed out idea, and know whether to pursue it or not. Now that would be the ultimate creative flow.

I wouldn’t suggest holding out until then, though. Whether you have a creative process or not, try the creative splurge before bed and the clean-up crew after waking up. You might develop some great ideas with that process.

Your excessive yawning is a wake-up call for you to start now.

Personally, I like to use this technique when I write about the latest advancements in technology. I then condense those into Quick Theories – a brief, weekly newsletter of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you enjoyed this article, you should sign-up here: quicktheories.com

Developing creativity starts with knowing your toolkit

While it’s often hard to admit, we all get the shiny object syndrome when developing creativity.

Constantly looking for the tool that will make our lives so much easier and our jobs feel like a breeze. When that product comes to us we are mesmerized by how “shiny” it is and can’t wait to start using it.

And yet, the best glass of orange juice I ever had was fresh-squeezed by hand, not made in a factory by a million-dollar machine.

My favorite form of travel is walking, not taking a private jet (although I’ve yet to try it).

There are always going to be new tools with the proposition of “revolutionizing” the way you work. Some of them will live up to that lofty goal, while most will fall short.

So, how do you decide what tools are necessary to developing creativity? How do you know it is time to change your process?

The short answer is: don’t get caught up in what tools you need but focus on mastering the ones you already have.

While new tools can increase productivity, they can also be huge limiting factors. There’s a learning curve to every tool that holds you back from working.

Healthcare took its time developing creativity and adopting telemedicine

Creatives can learn from the healthcare industry, which notoriously takes its time embracing new technology.

Imagine hopping on a Skype call with your doctor. In essence, that’s telemedicine–diagnosing and treating patients from remote locations with video or text messaging. Every day, a group of surgeons here in the U.S. coach-general practitioners in Syria through procedures via phone, and it’s making a huge difference. There’s no reason this form of assisted healthcare can’t grow, breaking the formal, elongated process of visiting a hospital.

Remember making macaroni portraits with Elmer’s glue in Kindergarten? Well, some doctors and researchers in Germany realized how much they missed playing with glue, so they created surgical glue known as Adhesys. This polyurethane-based surgical sealant, used during surgery to seal arteries and blood vessels to minimize blood loss, has doctors and surgeons antsy to relive their childhood. In all seriousness, though, this is a huge breakthrough in medical procedures and will be a great surgical aid.

Both telemedicine and Adhesys are exciting tools that to the outsider seem to be widely implementable today. But, each is going through an intense vetting process right now. In fact,  we might not see either of these technologies commonly used by doctors until 2026 or even 2036!

I’m not encouraging you to stick to the same tools forever – don’t be the guy/gal that still sneezes in their hands instead of using a tissue.

But, when you see a new tool be a skeptic first. Read the reviews. Talk with other users before you spend a bunch of time learning and implementing it into your regimen.

The best surgeons aren’t amazing because of the tools they have. Instead, they’ve developed a relationship of mastery with their tools that is unparalleled.

Don’t let your tools define you.

If you feel at a loss for what amount of tools is a good amount, then you should follow Quick Theories, which is a brief, weekly email of my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. You can sign up here: quicktheories.com

Robotic Arms And The Cyborg Olympics (Cybathlon)

Samsung TVs haven’t changed in 5 years. Cameras look the same as they did in the times of Ansel Adams. Hardware hasn’t progressed at all in comparison to the exponential growth of software, except for the hardware of robotic arms – which a competition called the Cybathlon is fueling. 

It’s not just robotic arms either. All prosthetics are making crazy advancements.

For many years, the choice was between leaving the residual limb or something along the lines of a hook or non-moving hand. No longer, though. Now there are robotic arms that sense muscle twitches in the residual limb allowing a wide range of functions. Once, the thought of grasping a water bottle was absurd. But, now one can cut their own steak, type on the computer, and perform a normal handshake.

Much of the prosthetic advancements were initially to aid paraplegic veterans. But, now a larger driving force is competition within the industry. And not a competition like Apple vs. Microsoft of the 80s. Literally their prosthetics face-off against one another in the Cybathlon, also known as the Cyborg Olympics.

The Cybathlon is a beautiful confluence of man and machine in a way you’ve never seen before, which had me thinking about cyborg sports.

How long before someone with robotic arms or other prosthetics reaches the professional level? Would administrators restrict them to only the Cybathlon? Can a “cyborg” train their body to be a greater athlete than the professionals of today? Would a “cyborg baller” do LeBron’s pre-game ritual of rubbing chalk on his hands and throwing it in the air?

I can already sense a major pushback of fans and administrators complaining of the robotic way a cyborg would play sports. But, they fail to realize that robotic arms don’t make you a perfect shooter.

Robotic Arms Don’t Give You A Competitive Mindset

When you are shooting a free throw, it is just you and the basket; the only thing in your way of making that shot is your mindset. Creating is no different than shooting a free throw – just you and your goal.

There are two distractions that will create mental barriers and prevent us from making shots: the crowd and the situation.

The minute you put something out in the world some people will cheer, while others will jeer. Many creatives will make the mistake of focusing on the what these people say and either feel hurt or become full of themselves. There’s a time and a place for feedback, but it’s not during the process of creating.

Instead, you should do one of two things. One, drown out all of the noise and focus on only your goal. Two, harness all of this energy and redirect it into your shot. Either way, don’t let the crowd itself influence your shot.

Another external distraction is the situation. Whether you are down 1 point with 10 seconds left or in the middle of the game, don’t let the situation get the best of you.

You must develop a routine to get mentally focused. Every basketball player gets up to the free-throw line and has a routine. One might spin the ball twice or dribble with their right hand or take a deep breath, but they all repeat the routine exactly the same every time.

As a creative, find your routine that helps you get into your creative zone. When your rhythm stops, take a break, and go back to your routine. This is how you cloud out all those distractions and narrow your focus.

Personally, my routine revolves around catching up on the latest advancements in technology, which I then put into a Quick Theories–my brief, weekly newsletter of thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you feel overwhelmed by the rapid advancement in technology, you can sign up here: quicktheories.com

Facebook Ads: A Guide to Spending Your First $100 on Facebook Advertising

I remember the first time I spent over $100 on a pair of shoes. I was in 6th grade, pooled together all of my lawn mowing money and bought a $114.99 pair of white and red Nike Shox NZ.

No one else had shoes nearly as fresh as mine and I knew it. Compliments and stares fueled my confidence level. Everywhere I went for the next week my Shox came with me.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t want them to ever leave my feet, I wore them to school on a very rainy day. After lunch, we got to walk around outside for a bit, which normally turned into a game of chase someone around the building.

Then it happened. I took a sharp turn around a corner to grab our captor, and splash. Rain puddle? No, worse. Half a leg’s worth of mud.

That was the end of the shoes and $114.99. The right shoe was no longer white and red, but rather brown and beige.

Just like my shoes, your first $100 on Facebook Ads is probably only going to last you 1-2 weeks. Are you gonna make the most out of that time and get a great confidence boost? Or are you going to waste it and just dip your shoes in mud?

When done properly, you can learn a lot from your first $100 of Facebook Ad spend. To forewarn you, the chance that you’ll hit a homerun, go viral, and not have to spend any more money is very slim. Expect it to be a learning experience.

It will act as your litmus test for Facebook Ads.

  • Can I create ads that entice my audience?
  • Can I put to together the right audience that will benefit from my business?
  • Is my business even cut out for Facebook Advertising?

These are all questions that you’ll be able to answer after your first $100 of Facebook Ads. Not a “well maybe if I put a little more money in they’ll come around to my ads”.

If it goes great and you reach your goals then put together a spending plan. If it doesn’t go that well, then you need to either rethink your ads and audience, cut out Facebook Ads, or hire some experts to run it for you.

As experts ourselves, I’d like to outline campaigns that we would run if we were in your shoes. While we may not cover every industry, we’ve broken it down into local business, product campaign, SaaS company.

Local Business

Goal: Get people in your door.

Precautions: As a local business advertising on Facebook, your target audience will be limited to a certain radius of your business. This means there is a small, fixed number of people you can advertise to. So, first impressions are very important here.

Whether you own a restaurant, boutique, movie theatre or anything in between, you have to stand out in your ads and show someone why they NEED to come in. Not to worry, it is easier than you think.

Ads to Use:

  • Video – Use this to raise awareness
    1. The purpose of this video is to intrigue people in a memorable way.
    2. Highlight something unique about your business.
    3. Keep it under 90 seconds.
    4. The voice over should be funny and memorable.
    5. The footage should show where you are located and a few unique things about your business.
    6. Finish off with a deal.
  • Boosted Post – Use this to promote a crazy deal.
    1. Your deal should stand out from the coupons that give $1 Off when you spend $100.
    2. Highly suggest a one-time FREE giveaway to all participants.
    3. Ask them to share, like, or comment on the post to receive the coupon.
    4. Create virality in your target area so that it gets organically shared.

Example: Glaze Teriyaki

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Glaze Teriyaki just opened up in Madison, Wisconsin. They are creating two advertisements, spending $10 / day on each ad and running it for 5 days. One 60-second video ad and one promotional post.

For the video, they make a jingle, “Treat your taste buds right, eat at Glaze Teriyaki tonight”, and say it 5 times throughout the video to get the name stuck in people’s heads. They take a tour of the space, first showing where it’s located, then heading inside and taking a look at their rotisserie ovens and their cafeteria-style seating, which their voice over calls their state-of-the-art chicken machine and the “get to know your neighbors” seating. The last thing they say is: “Share this video, and we’ll message you with a coupon for a free teriyaki plate.”screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-1-30-20-pm

Their promotional deal is for a free teriyaki plate, no strings attached.

Product Campaign

Goal: Sell your product or at least get them to come to your website.

Precautions: This is essentially your sales call which you’ll present over and over to new people so it should be succinct (under 120 seconds) and effective. I’d highly suggest using a video because they perform extremely well on Facebook and you can pack a lot of information in an easily digestible format.

Ads to Use: Video for clicks to a product page.

Your video and voice over should cover these topics, in this order to make a sale:

  1. Address a change / shift in the world. Don’t flat out say the problem your customer has as this will make them defensive.
  2. Show that those who adapt to this change will win, while those that stick to the status quo will lose.
  3. Paint the picture of what a winner looks like that adapted to the change. (interchangeable with 4)
  4. Introduce your product as a tool to easily adapt to this change. (interchangeable with 3)
  5. Present evidence or testimonials of someone that used your product.

Example: Fidget Cube

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Solving all of your fidgeting needs with this one small cube. They do a phenomenal job of going through this flow in their product video, and they do it in a very unique and almost disguised way.

Video flow:

  1. Address the world of fidgeters by putting all the burden on one person.
  2. He embodies what it means to be a “loser” that continues to fidget and annoy people. Foreshadows a solution by saying his Kickstarter community helped.
  3. Introduces the product as the solution and goes off the specifications that solve the problem.
  4. Explains what you can accomplish if you have the fidget cube to satisfy your fidgeting needs: “Sudden ability to cope with boring meetings. Pay attention in class. Power through Netflix marathons…discrete fidgeting in any setting.”
  5. Scientific evidence of “floating attention” which makes it hard to focus in certain settings. Studies showing that students perform better on tests when they use Fidget Cube.

Obviously, their video is very informal and pokes fun at pharmaceutical videos, but it kept you interested, it was abnormal, and you probably went to check out how much it cost.

If they were making this video for Facebook Ads, then I would suggest they cut down the length of the video.

Your video doesn’t have to be high-budget or anything, it can be shot on an iPhone and still be great. Just make sure it is steady and the sound quality is high.

SaaS Company

Goal: Educate, raise awareness, and generate leads.

Precautions: It can be very tempting to try and sell your software in an ad, but try to refrain from doing this as you are asking a lot out of someone to buy / download your software the first time they hear from you.

Over time you’ll see better results by educating the first time you speak with a potential customer and sell by the 3rd or 4th touch point.

Sending traffic to a white paper, webinar, email newsletter, etc… where they need to provide their email to “obtain this knowledge” will allow you to collect these warm leads, while not pressing them for a sale. Obviously, if you don’t have any of this free knowledge to give away, then your focus should be on creating some timeless content that you can use to attract leads.

Example: Tableau

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Tableau is an analytics company that creates tools which make it easier to present data. Their software costs, at the minimum, $999. For this reason, their customer’s buying cycle is going to be elongated, since they will probably need to see a lot of value and weigh options before purchasing.

They could break down this barrier by advertising their White Paper on trends in Big Data: https://www.tableau.com/learn/whitepapers/top-8-trends-big-data-2016

Now they can appeal to their audience on industry-relevant topics while capturing their information. Not to mention they are positioning themselves as thought leaders at the same time.

A Digital Notebook Actually Hurts The Creative Process

Organizing your ideas should be like making an abstract expressionist painting…messy. Unfortunately, organizing your ideas in a digital notebook is only hurting your creative process. Let me explain. 

Have you ever seen Jackson Pollack creating one of his masterpieces? It’s brilliant. With his brush already in hand, loaded with paint, he takes his inspiration and throws it on the canvas. He doesn’t contemplate each move; he simply does it.

When an idea pops into your head, write it down. And that’s as far as your organization efforts should go.

Don’t catalog each idea in alphabetical order, based on subject, and where you were when you got the idea. You know why? Because that will actually kill your ability to connect ideas down the road.

Einstein was famous for his messy desk. Most might look at this as hoarding, but it was his brilliant creative process. This forced him to look through each idea snippet every time he needed to solve something. In the process of looking for a specific piece of the puzzle, he might’ve found a completely irrelevant piece that sparked a new idea or solved the problem in a different way.

Finding your ideal creative setting doesn’t have to be hard and you definitely don’t need an Einstein desk. But, your creative process needs Einstein’s metaphorical puke of ideas.

Let your head feel free of constraints by writing down your ideas as they come. Then, you can revisit and recollect what you previously thought while allowing your mind to find the next idea.

A creative’s organization includes a clear head and a piled-up mess of ideas.

What is the future of the digital notebook?

It can be a hassle carrying around a notebook designated for ideas.

We’ve seen digital journals such as note-taking apps and even the Neo smartpen N2 where you can write on paper and it shows up digitally. But, they’re just digital versions of the physical note-taking form.

We’ve yet to see a smart digital notebook which will empower the creative journal of the future.

Apple’s iPad Pro took a PB&J and simply made it a double decker when they should’ve changed the game and deep-fried that sucker. In other words, it merely digitized traditional note-taking, keeping the same creative process.

I want a smart digital notebook that can take what I highlight across any app or website and add it to a favorites folder.

Often times I find myself spending 10 minutes trying to make the perfect box around an idea when creating an idea map. Why can’t my notebook perfect my imperfect shapes and arrows?

Have you ever created a whole grid of data (by hand) and wanted to convert it to an Excel spreadsheet version? I know, it’s harder than putting toothpaste back in the tube. There’s no reason that a smart digital notebook can’t convert this.

Those are low-hanging fruit that honestly notes apps should already do.

Ideally, a smart digital notebook should be like William Shatner’s captain’s log in Star Trek. But, I’ll settle for one that can analyze what I write and treat them as commands.

Like if I realized that I needed to grocery shopping while writing this article, I could’ve written: Grocery Shopping Tonight, and it would’ve been added to my To-Do List. Or if I wanted John Cena to offer up some of his thoughts on this article, I could’ve written: Invite John Cena to Collaborate, and he would’ve been able to collaborate on the document with me.

In essence, a smart digital notebook understands what I’m writing and will act according to the content that I write. The technology for a smart notebook is here, it’s just a matter of someone making it.

However, as smart notebooks come to fruition, are we taking a step further from Einstein’s creative mess?

While I still keep most of my ideas in a notebook, I do like to transfer them into digital form. All of the insights I have on modern technology get put into a weekly email newsletter, Quick Theories, so that you can better understand how new technology affects your life. If you occasionally feel overwhelmed by the advancements in technology, you can sign-up here: quicktheories.com

How Fear Kills the Creative Mind

When fostering your optimal creative mind, you must eliminate fear. 

At its core, fear is a creativity inhibitor. It causes us to second guess our artwork or hold back that crazy marketing idea because we don’t know if people will like it. 

We fear the unknown, even though the creative mind is stimulated by the opportunity to conquer the unknown. 

Steve Irwin conquered the fear of putting his head inside an alligator’s mouth. He showed us that some of the world’s deadliest animals aren’t all that bad.

Evel Knievel conquered the fear of heights (and pain). He showed us there truly isn’t a single stunt or obstacle that man can’t physically beat.

These men are fearless in their area of expertise, but aren’t fearless overall. Fearlessness is a state of being that few people actually attain. It’s repetitive courage that most misconceive as fearlessness. Repetitive courage in the eyes of your fear will allow you to, step by step, conquer that fear.

That fear may never go away. Many of the creative minds you idolize are probably still conquering the same fear you have. But, these creative minds have created a competitive mindset that masks itself as fearlessness.

Business is an arena for fearing failure. Whether you fear competition or the higher ranks in your corporation, there is a common thought that everything you put out there must be a huge success.

But, we must put that fear mindset to rest! Being a creator is about having the courage to listen to your conscience, putting your creative mind to work, and executing your ideas.

Hollywood agents were scum, except for one creative mind…

In 1975, it was a collective agreement that the only guarantee was their hefty ten percent fee. They treated their clients as if they were a stock portfolio: Happy to ride the wave of success, but eager to dump them when things went bad.

In 1976, there was a defining moment that would change the entertainment industry. Five men, led by Michael Ovitz, left the security of the biggest agency in Hollywood to start their own firm. Redefining the way every agent would work for decades to come, they created CAA, the Creative Artists Agency.

The entire industry threatened to end their careers every day they came into work. But, they didn’t let that fear guide their actions because they knew that they would change the world. As time passed and clients migrated to CAA from the big agencies, other agencies had to adapt to the new model CAA created. 

Fear puts us in boxes. When you have the fear of losing your job, you don’t present your craziest ideas at work, therefore you keep your current position and don’t climb the ladder. You fear rejection, so you don’t post your artwork online and remain a mediocre artist. These boxes are comfortable and probably lined with Tempur-pedic pillows because they are very hard to get out of.

Treat your creativity is the rope ladder, trust your ideas, and they’ll lead you out of those boxes.

Let courage tell your fears what to do, so your creativity can ensue.

It’s easy to fear the rapid advancements in technology since it’s hard to keep up. But, that’s why I created Quick Theories–a brief, weekly newsletter filled with my thoughts on modern technology, how it’ll affect your life, and why you should adapt to these changes in your own creative way. If you feel bogged down by technology, sign-up here: quicktheories.com

Facebook Ads: My definitive guide to conquering Facebook Advertising

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Are you ready to conquer Facebook Ads?

Carpe Diem. Seize the day (of Facebook Ads).

The term that captures the “Do-ers” and scares the “Don’t-ers”.

When I was (still am) learning sales I bought every book on the topic, trying to find that one secret that would turn me into a salesman extraordinaire. I didn’t find it. Needless to say, there wasn’t a switch I was missing and no matter how much I studied the craft, I wasn’t getting any better. I understood all the principles behind sales, but I just couldn’t close one to save my life or my company for that matter.

My business partner finally gave me the secret: Science.

Every great salesman there is today is a scientist. They hypothesize a new way to make a sale, go in the field to test it, analyze their results, tweak their process and repeat. Great salesmen are habitual learners. Everyday putting their schemes into action to perfect their craft.

Facebook Advertising is no different.