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One idea for starting a project in a new industry or with a new client: scan all client documents handed over as part of an initial data request, make a list of acronyms you find, and look up any that are unfamiliar.

Then: ask the client about any not found online, because those acronyms are likely company-specific.

Also: search online for “____ industry acronyms.”

How do you quickly get up to speed on a new industry?

Here is a reframing that I’m working on this week:

Instead of asking myself, “What should I do for [this person]?” I’m working on asking “What does [this person] need from me?”

So instead of asking:

“How can I help this client?”

I’m asking

“What does this client need from me?”

And at home, instead of asking:

“What should I do to be a better father?”

I’m asking:

“What does my son need from me?”

When the subject of the sentence shifts, different answers emerge.

Here’s an exercise I’m working on right now.

Make a list of activities for each of these categories:

  1. Things I am now doing that only I can do
  2. Things I am doing that I could possibly have someone else do
  3. Things I am doing that I should definitely have someone else do
  4. Things I’ve already handed off to someone else
  5. Things I’m not doing now that I should be doing

When I actually write the list, I’m finding that stuff I had mentally put in the first category really fits in the second or third slot.

Veritux member Gary Chan runs Alfizo, an IT security consulting firm. His firm offers a set of free security awareness training videos that I recommend. Register here.

Sample insight from the video series that seems obvious in retrospect:

Many websites ask security questions you can use to reset your password (name of your first pet, name of your childhood best friend, model of your first car, etc.).

On all those questions, you should lie. Make up an answer and record it in the notes of a secure password tool.

There is a good chance that a hacker can find your childhood street address or favorite band or whatever, and then use that info to reset your password.

This past week I read Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (recommended.)

Burkeman argues that time management systems and productivity hacks are ultimately self-defeating: “they do work – in the sense that you’ll get more done, race to more meetings, ferry your kids to more after-school activities, generate more profit for your employer — and yet, paradoxically, you only feel busier, more anxious, and somehow emptier as a result.”

He recommends that we adopt a different mindset towards time, one centered on a full awareness and acceptance of the “finitude” of our existence. After all, if we’re fortunate to live the actuarial 80 years, all we’ve got is 4,000 weeks.

He provides ten tools for “embracing your finitude”:

 

 

1. Adopt a ‘fixed volume’ approach to productivity. (Predetermined time boundaries for your daily work.)

2. Serialize, serialize, serialize. (Focus on one big project at a time.)

3. Decide in advance what to fail at.

4. Focus on what you’ve already completed, not just on what’s left to complete.

5. Consolidate your caring.

6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology (e.g., Kindle reader instead of your phone)

7. Seek out novelty in the mundane

8. Be a ‘researcher’ in relationships (deliberately adopt an attitude of curiosity)

9. Cultivate instantaneous generosity (act on the impulse right away)

10. Practice doing nothing

Step 1: Write a list of 7-10 things that are irritating you.

Step 2: Pick 3 of those that you could do something about in the next three months.

This exercise helped me realize that the physical setup of my office has been a low-level drain on my energy level (tripping over wires, printer in my way). It only took an hour to rearrange the desks to eliminate the trip hazards and make space for a brainstorming area where I’ll be mounting three whiteboards on the wall.

Somehow, writing the list pushed me to action.

Veritux member Tim Streeter has published Contentment Commitment, based on a framework he developed to enhance the level of contentment in his own life.

Tim shared the framework with friends, and they shared it with their friends.

After a few hundred people had used it successfully, Tim felt compelled to share the approach with a wider audience.

The first step in the process he describes is to “reflect, rate, and rank” your current level of contentment across six dimensions and 36 sub-dimensions, and then list actions which could improve your satisfaction in these areas.

You can download the set of worksheets at contentmentcommitment.com. You can listen to my conversation with Tim on Episode 427 of Unleashed.

Tim, previously the Chief Operating Officer for Talent Acquisition at Accenture (100,000+ new hires per year!), has put together a program for companies that want to increase the contentment of their employees. If you know a firm that might be interested, you can contact Tim at timstreeter2020@gmail.com.

Here’s the set of six dimensions and their sub-dimensions:

  • 1. Self
    • Creative
    • Cultural
    • Spiritual
    • Financial
    • Professional
    • Wellness
  • 2. Partner
    • Financial
    • Parental
    • Communication
    • Responsibilities
    • Intimacy
    • Dating
  • 3. Dependents
    • Experimenting
    • Socializing
    • Communicating
    • Playing
    • Teaching
    • Providing
  • 4. Friends
    • Exercising
    • Traveling
    • Changing
    • Going out
    • Visiting
    • Talking
  • 5. Family
    • Parents
    • Grandparents
    • Siblings
    • Aunts & Uncles
    • Cousins
    • Extended
  • 6. Community
    • Business
    • Schools
    • Worship
    • Entertainment
    • Arts
    • Service

From The Trusted Advisor, by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. Excerpt from Chapter 3, “Earning Trust.”

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In an instant, Charlie’s mind seemed to have been sucked dry. He had no idea what was meant by industrial consumables. Then, a revelatory thought popped into his mind: the man is talking about sandpaper! But that knowledge only served to deepen Charlie’s fear. He was sure that his firm had not done any such studies.

Charlie felt sure that if he told the client the truth, he could not win the business and would probably spend the rest of his career at his firms in leg irons and public shame. In the next millisecond, his training as a consultant kicked in, and he began formulating (in his mind) an answer.

“Not exactly,” he planned to say, “but we have done many marketing studies, some of them for products quite similar to industrial consumables.”

What products might be quite similar to industrial consumables, he would figure out later.

But just as Charlie drew breath to speak, his senior partner leaned forward. He looked directly at the client, and then said,

“None that I can think of.”

He paused for a long moment. then he looked the client in the eye, and continued:

“Given that, is there anything else that you think it would be helpful to discuss?”

The client looked unconcerned and then asked what similar experience the firm had that might be relevant. They proceeded with their pitch.

Had Charlie given his answer, it would have sacrificed his credibility and revealed his own focus on self-interest. It would have signaled to the client that he was willing to fudge his own credentials. Who would trust such a person.

The answer the senior partner gave contained quite a different subtext. It said:

“I will answer your questions, directly and truthfully, even if it means losing a chance at your business.”

  1. David A. Fields lays out the ten stages of consulting firm growth. Helpful to know what stage you are at and what’s the next inflection point.
  2. Josh Spector shares nine lines that will get people to commit.
  3. Concerning news about how global warming is causing mushrooms to evolve to survive in warmer climates, as in: the human body.

 

Technique to boost creativity you may have heard of: Make a daily practice of writing a list with ten ideas to improve X.

This article suggests tweaking that technique: Pick someone you’d like to meet, and write down ten ideas that could improve that person’s business (or blog or website or podcast) and then send them the list.

I highly recommend Your Music, Your People, a recently released short ebook by Derek Sivers.

You can buy a copy or read the whole thing for free at that link. (How cool is that.)

The book is ostensibly written for independent musicians, but the messages apply equally to independent consultants.

Here’s a quote:

“Marketing means making it easy for people to notice you, relate to you, remember you, and tell their friends about you.

Marketing means listening for what people need, and creating something surprisingly tailored for them.

Marketing means getting to know people, making a deeper connection, and keeping in touch.”

Last week I shared the video of David A. Fields discussing the importance of crafting your fishing line. Here is Sivers with a similar message:

A curious answer to the most common question People will always and forever ask you, “What kind of music do you do?” You will always and forever have to answer that question. So have a good description prepared in advance. Many musicians avoid answering by saying, “We play all styles.” No you don’t. That’s like saying, “I speak all languages.” Many musicians avoid answering by saying, “We are totally unique.” No you’re not. If you use notes, instruments, beats, or words, you’re not totally unique. If you give people a non-answer like this, you lose them. You had the chance to make a fan, and you blew it. They won’t remember you because you gave them nothing to remember. You didn’t make them curious. Imagine if you had said, “We sound like the smell of fresh baked bread.”