Monthly Archives: June 2011

Lessons From Watching Pawn Stars

27 June 2011, by A. Cedilla

Pawn Stars is a reality show on the History Channel. It chronicles the working day of the family-owned Gold and Silver Pawnshop in Las Vegas. Rick Harrison runs it with his father Richard (“The Old Man”) and his son Corey (“Big Hoss”), assisted by Corey’s childhood friend Austin “Chumlee” Russell.

Now, you might dismiss the whole thing as staged and gimmicky, but there is undeniable value in the education and entertainment –edutainment?– you can get from the show.

Anyone who wants to see marketing psychology in action can learn a lot from watching it. Think of a “Pawn Stars” episode as a 30-minute lesson on customer relations, pricing, risk management, working with family and running a business — without the big words they use in business school.

Respect the bottom-line.
If Rick feels he won’t make a profit on a possible sale, he turns it down. No matter how excited he gets initially, he decides if buying an item would mean missing the bottom line, he won’t buy. “Will buying this thing make money? Can I make a profit reselling it?” If the answer’s no, he tells the customer why, and walks away. “We’re not here to break even, we’re here to make money.”
Continue reading Lessons From Watching Pawn Stars

Protect Yourself By Having A Wind-Down Hour

20 June 2011, by A. Cedilla

Let’s say you have a big project. A big project and a tight deadline. You get this thing done, it’ll mean big change for you and your business. If you get this thing nailed…wow. But then there are the dozen other things you have to juggle in your role as a business owner.

There are also your other roles: mom or dad, civic leader or writer-on-the-side, working student, etc. You have so much to do, and not enough hours in the day. Something has to give, and usually one of the first things to go is enough sleep.

When you cut down on things like sleep to squeeze more time into your day, eventually it will catch up. It isn’t always the sudden big stresses that beat us down, but the constant little stresses that we go through that wear us out enough that when we crash, we can crash hard.

One way to deal with those constant stresses is establishing the habit of a wind-down hour.

Just as you need to have a system in place to get you up and going in the morning, you need another to park your stress and leave it before it drains you even more. Otherwise, you’d be running your mind all night and going nowhere but zombie-land the next day.

If it helps, think of yourself as a car: If you’re parking your car for the night, you’re not going to leave the engine running, right? In your actual case, to have time enough to get real rest, you have to switch off. Disconnect the negative charges running in your head before it drains your batteries.
Continue reading Protect Yourself By Having A Wind-Down Hour

How To Sell Your Brain

13 June 2011, by A. Cedilla

Getting data straight-up from the Information Highway can be like trying to drink from a fire-hose. You’re more likely to drown than get your thirst fully satisfied, so the SOP is to skim the first few results from Google search, then make your way from there.

As it is, for a consumer it’s all you can do to keep your head above water when it comes to timely and relevant information, aside from filtering out junk mail and spam. As for managing the information you do consider important enough to keep — there’s an entire industry devoted to helping you do just that.

As an entrepreneur, however…you have heard the saying about the staggering growth of information in the world, right?

New stuff comes up all the time. YouTube has been reported to host 100 million video streams per day, and that’s just one site. A New York Times book-review expounded on the glut of data, which has led people to entertain a “[…] sense of information that enables [them] to claim that a copy of the daily New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in a lifetime.”

But even if the anecdote is apocryphal, you have to admit it paints a very vivid image. So where are you in all of this? What about your brain?

Stay with me.

Centuries ago, a hand-copied, leather-bound book was like a sports car. Only the rich had the wealth to buy books, and the measure of your fortune could be gauged by how many you had. A shelf of books was akin to having Jay Leno’s garage. A library? You belonged to one of the elite families of the time, or were possibly a member of a religious order in charge of copying books by hand and keeping them safe. Even if you couldn’t read them well, if you had books, you had power.

Now, you have technology, education, and access to both via the internet. You’re reading this, aren’t you? Stay with me, I’m setting it up. Here we go:

  • If power is force applied to action, and “knowledge is power”, then knowledge without application is data. Information, out of touch and out of context is useless. Trivial. What’s the deciding factor?

Your brain. To be precise, how you use it to apply the information and stored experience you have to resolve specific issues. You learn, you can share what you’ve learned. {more}To wit:

  • offers cleaning schedules, e-reminders and advice on how to lead an organized life in a clutter-free house, as well as a forum where members can share their problems and offer solutions and support.
  • Study Hacks shares insightful advice on how to study with the least amount of pain for the most gains. In addition, Cal Newport, the blog owner, also makes it a mission to help people figure out their priorities and real goals in getting the education they want.
  • The Simple Dollar‘s Trent Hamm gives financial advice on issues such as saving on home-made meals to the best kind of insurance to get at different stages of your life. He also shares his experiences and history in applying the things he’s learned to his personal finances, documenting his insights from when he was single, to his current life as a married father of three.

Each of these sites fulfill a need for people who have despaired of dealing with clutter, establishing good study habits, and taking care of personal finances. Their popularity lies in the value of the common-sense, real-life applicability of the solutions they offer and the insights they share. So, it’s not your brain per se that we’re aiming to profit off of, it’s the orderly information that you’ve synthesized from what’s in it.

Still with me? Do you see where I’m headed with this?

No one knows everything. No one can.

Knowing means understanding at one level. Wisdom means using the insight gleamed from the patterns of understanding to resolve or view a situation. So while you can’t know everything, you can know enough to use the patterns you’ve absorbed to put more order into the universe. You’ve got wisdom — insight. You can share it , you can pass it on …and you can also profit from the process.

The internet is a world-wide web — of data and people. One person can have terrabytes of data just for his personal collection, video, music, photos, work related data and personal projects, so how much data would you estimate is accessible on the Internet? Petabytes? Exabytes? How much are we talking about?

This is how and where you can sell your brain. The ocean of data out there is too big for any one person to master effectively. That’s why we have niches and communities. Like minds gravitate to each other, sharing experience and information of the things that interest them. If they can’t find the information they need, they go looking for it — and there’s a big ocean out there, remember — so when they look, they look for a source of relevant, helpful information.

This is where you come in.

Okay, you have an issue in your life. An issue, an interest, a hobby, a crusade, whatever. Let’s call it a Guffin.

You love your Guffin, and want to tell people all about it.

You despise your Guffin, and wish nothing more in the world than to make sure no one else gets to experience having the same Guffin in their lives. Failing that, you want to assure other people that they’re not alone in having that particular Guffin afflicting them, and that there are ways to deal with them.

You think Guffins are awesome and deserving of more study, so you want to talk to other people with like-Guffins. In your interest, hobby, crusade, you learn the ins and outs of your particular Guffin.

That’s what you have: distilled experience in your particular Guffin. When you make an effort to understand the nature of your Guffin, you put in the time and mental labor (thinking, obsessing, pondering, planning, visualizing etc.) and physical labor (drafting, making, writing, producing, etc. )

“Can you explain in a way that people can easily understand?” Answering the question asks you to go back to your experience and training in analyzing, deciphering and distilling the relevant information into a usable picture, and then present it . The entire process asks you to use the following skills:

  • Analyze and decipher – One meaning of decipher, aside from “decrypting code”, is to render something cryptic or unintelligible into something understandable.
  • Present and communicate – Presentation skills get attention and keeps it. Communication skills share in a concise, coherent package.

Knowledge and experience allows you to summarize by identifying usable relevant data on which to base an assessment and recommending a course of action. You learn by experience, and that takes time. You don’t have the time? Find someone who put his time in and ask him.

OR, if you’re that person who put in the time, you can set yourself up as the Go-to Guy, using this equation:

(Time + Knowledge) Experience = Expertise

Where knowledge leads to a developed insight, a learned “gut”, and experience molds a unique perspective, a feel for the subject like no one else. And experts get paid for their advice about Guffins.

They can fill in the missing pieces, explain what’s happening behind the scenes, give possible solutions and recommend the best option. Teachers in trade schools impart their skills and experience to their students. Financial experts use theirs to track trends, predict them, and try to stay ahead in the markets. Writers reach out to their readers on their websites and blogs.

The ways in which you can communicate your skills and knowledge over the internet are varied, and depend on your strengths and the purpose of your website, as well as the value of what you’re offering.

And that’s how you can sell your brain.

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Which Works Better: Action or Hope?

06 June 2011, by A. Cedilla

Originally, I started this piece out with the express intention of getting people into the mind-set of taking action, instead of just hoping their circumstances would change. The idea came from an incident when I caught myself yelling at the nightly news. “Instead of complaining about it, do something!” I spiraled into a rant worth of my grandfather:

“Hope without action is a wish. It’s a ‘wist’, from the word wistful – wishful thinking.* Instead of waiting for change to fall like an anvil out of the sky — does anybody ever think of how Wile E. Coyote science translates to real life physics? — why not go back to the classics: the good Lord helps those who helps themselves. So instead of looking for a hand-out or waiting for a hand up, the best place to look for a helping hand is at the end of your arm. It’s all well and good to hold a protest and try to get attention to change something, but in the meantime, there’s still work to be done to make that happen.”

And then I got to thinking with my head instead of running my mouth: It can’t be all that simple.

Simplistic, yes, but not simple. There’s at least one other side of the story. Remember thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis from English class? You have one statement, then a counter-statement, and then try to connect the two on common ground to make a new statement that encompasses both realities. So, I present my initial thesis about action and hope:

Action Trumps Hope! Continue reading Which Works Better: Action or Hope?