Clarity comes from action, not thought

I’ve spent my entire life trying to make sense.

Make sense of myself. So I can make sense to others.

I’ve always… “had a lot of interests”. I thought that made me confusing and people don’t like to be confused. I wanted to be easy to understand.

“Wait, she’s studying financial planning? Wasn’t she working at a craft shop?”

“You’re at a software start-up now? Oh. I always thought you were going to be a fashion designer.”

I hated feeling like I had to explain myself. I wanted to fit neatly in a box so no one would have to go through the mental gymnastics of reconciling my seemingly conflicting interests.

I wanted to find my one thing. My calling. My elevator pitch.

So I could present myself to the world all, “Here. It’s me.”

After extensive list making (oh man, I do love a good list) I narrowed my options down to a few career and business ideas I felt excited about. I just needed to choose. I felt like the whole world was telling me to choose.

“You have to decide what you want to be known for. People hire specialists, not generalists.”
“You’ll never get good at anything unless you’re focused.”

“People aren’t going to take you seriously if you keep changing your mind like that, Kate.”

I thought once I knew what my thing was, once I decided which rabbit hole to go down, the rest would be simple and the shame would go away.

But I couldn’t pick (spoiler, I still can’t pick). And I didn’t want to appear scattered or unfocused by doing a little bit of everything.

So I waited…

Waited for a sign, for clarity. Waited for an answer.

Let me tell you something, Dear Internet, clarity doesn’t come from thinking about The Things, clarity comes from doing The Things.

So I turned myself into a science experiment. (Because that felt like a legit, sensible approach.)

What if I gave myself permission to run in a bunch of different directions. What if I just—in the name of science, of course—let myself be the person who figures out a new retail model for makers and who writes about money and who does marketing consulting for tech companies and who spins her own yarn and who talks about mental health and who takes pictures of falling down buildings and who makes YouTube videos.

What if took all the energy I’ve been spending trying to choose and put it towards action. What if I let myself focus on problems without getting hung up on solutions?

Well… the results so far have been amazing.

By getting out of my head and actually acting on my instincts—by having coffee with makers I admire to figure out what model would serve them and by taking on new clients in different industries and by recording my first YouTube video—I’m starting to see that all these passions of mine aren’t so divergent after all.

I like discovering things. People, places, products… Stuff that make me say, “Oh, that’s good. How don’t people know about this?!” I like sharing those things and telling their stories. I like teaching and connecting people.

That’s marketing.

And great marketing is art. Which, ultimately, is what I’m after. More art in the world.

See?? It’s all coming together.

If only I could go back and tell my teenage self the good news.


Oh look, a falling down barn. My favourite. Taken somewhere near Markham… I think. 

P.S. I first heard the “clarity comes from engagement not thought” thing from Marie Forleo. She’s great.

When did we decide being “good at money” meant not spending it?

Here’s a question…

When did we decide being “good at money” meant not spending it?

When did that become the goal. The badge of honour. The sign you’ve made it. Congratulations, you’ve arrived at your destination, please exit to your left, the end.

I can’t seem to get far into a personal finance blog without reading the words, “I’m going to lose my personal finance card this, but…” or, “bad personal finance expert, but…” because they’d just spent money on something they—or perhaps more accurately they worry others—deem expensive.

They ate out when they could have eaten at home. They got the pricier hotel room. They bought a new purse. A fancy one, with a label and everything.

Sometimes it’s said as a joke. But often it reflects a sincere guilt that frankly, I find concerning.

Where did this narrative come from? Why is that our conditioned response? Why is the personal finance community feeding this culture of judgment we’re trying so hard to get away from?

If there’s one thing personal finance doesn’t need, it’s more shame.

Being good at money doesn’t mean you don’t spend it.

And not spending it doesn’t make you good at money.

Frugality isn’t some virtuous badge. It can just as easily be a crutch, a vice, a way to hide. A box to tick without actually tackling the underlying habits, emotions, and fears that drive you.

Being good at money has very little to do with tangible indicators like budgets and account balances. It’s a mindset. An internal process. And it’s constant.

There’s no endpoint. No definitive, Aha! Look everyone, I’ve made it.

People don’t like that. Because it can’t be measured. It can’t be boiled down to visible, laddered achievements. It’s not fun to talk about. It doesn’t fit neatly in a box.

It’s a lot like being happy. You’re the only one who knows if you are.

Though we try our damnest—with happiness, money, and anything else in life worth pursuing—there’s no external yard stick we can point to and know we’ve made it. No formula, metric, or app can tell you where you are on that journey. You and you alone have the answer.

Which is why self-awareness is so important. Why it’s important to teach people to cultivate that, not just teach them hard and fast rules like “keep your spending under x percent of your income”. To do that we need to look far beyond the boundaries of what we think personal finance is.

We need to empower people, not rules.

We need to teach people how to think, not what to do.

We need to teach people what questions to ask, not what answers to look for.

Ya. It’s uncomfortable.

It means you can’t just throw a template over it and bam *dusts hands together* you’re sorted. Disagree? That’s fair. But with all the readily available resources and budgets and frameworks… why isn’t everyone getting this stuff? Why isn’t everyone saving and investing and feeling good about their money? If the content’s all there, why aren’t people implementing it?

Obviously, it’s not that simple. There’s more to it.

So even if we don’t have answers, can we acknowledge there’s room in this industry for better questions and start asking them?

We need to lean into this discomfort. Because ignoring it isn’t serving anyone.


Oh look, a winding muddy path to a beach which could be delightful or entirely disappointing and we won’t know until we’re there. Fitting, yes? Taken at the Scarborough Bluffs in, well, Scarborough, this summer. 

Currently #6: my YouTube experiment, the science of fear, and The Defiant Ones

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Life Unlocked by Srinivasan S. Pillay

I’m all for self-development books that are rooted in science. This one took a bit to get into, but was a game changer read for me. It’s all about fear—the science of dread, the fear of success, fear and prejudice, how trauma affects the brain… Really, really interesting.

Understanding the neurobiology behind fear has been the absolute key to helping me understand—and start to get over—my delightful procrastination habit and related crippling anxiety (fun!).

Because procrastination wasn’t my problem, fear was. Address the root and everything changes. (Studying epigenetics has been hugely helpful, too.)

I’M WATCHING…

The Defiant Ones Documentary

I don’t think the trailer does it justice. I loved this series. Ya, it was great to learn more about Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s working relationship, how Beats was created and sold, the music industry history…

But the marketing, man. These guys aren’t just creative geniuses, they’re marketing geniuses.

If you want to learn about marketing, study hip hop. Study rappers. You don’t have to like the music to appreciate the craft.

Marketing isn’t an afterthought for these guys, it’s built right into the creative process. As it should be.

new! an experiment…

Top Notch/Cringy Marketing, Week 1

Yep. That’s me. On the YouTube.

Go through the camera roll on my phone you won’t find photos of puppies, babies, or successful attempts at winged eyeliner (which I’m told is the purpose of these pocket cameras…) you’ll find screenshots of ads I see on social media. Pictures of sandwich boards I pass when I’m walking around the city. Photos of storefronts, packaging, product displays…

Marketing. My camera roll is full of really great—and really cringy—examples of marketing.

I thought it would be neat (for my own sake, but maybe someone else will find it helpful and/or entertaining?) to chat through this stuff so I learn how to explain why I think certain things work or don’t.

And, as you’ll see, it’s a shaky first attempt. The amount I rely on the words anyways, so, like, literally, and just to get a thought out is crushing. It’s a lack of self-confidence (oh look, fear again!) but I’ve got a feeling this is exactly what I need to do to work through it.

We have to start somewhere, right?


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!

Hiding your competition isn’t going to keep me from finding them

THIS.

This seems obvious, but it’s funny how quick we are to forget it as marketers.

We won’t tell the person asking about our email software that we don’t have the features they need, but the other guys do. We won’t tell visitors to our store that the couch in the fabric they really want is sold down the street. We won’t tell the couple sitting across our desk that they’d be better off with insurance coverage from the other guys…

We sell them on the next best thing we offer.

As if somehow by hiding the competition, our customers won’t find out they exist. They won’t know they have options and they’ll choose us.

Like, what?!

Everyone knows they have options. It’s called Google. They know there are “other guys” and they know how to find them.

So what are we afraid of? If what we’re selling is that good and we believe in it that strongly, getting stacked against our competition actually does us a favour.

Customers can smell fear. And that’s all this is. It shows insecurity, a lack of confidence, and frankly it undermines the intelligence of our audience. Certainly doesn’t inspire much in the way of trust, does it?

If the only way we can make a sale is by tricking people into thinking we’re the sole option… we’ve failed as marketers.

We can do so, so much better.


Epic tip jar courtesy of The Remarkable Bean in the Beaches, Toronto. I voted Big Bird. (Obviously…)

Currently #5: Perennial Seller, a crowdsourced music video, and the evolution of retail

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday

Just finished up this dandy and it was a good overall look at what it takes to make and market work that stands the test of time as a creative. He places the responsibility for marketing your work square on you, the creative, which I’m all about.

Sure you can get help/coaching but ultimately you can’t outsource your marketing. You can’t just hand it off all, “Here, you deal with it!” and expect it to be a hit. Why? Because no one knows or cares as much about your work as you do.

And you can’t put something into the world and call it a day. All, I’ve-built-it-they-will-come. Two very important truths we don’t tend to love… but embracing them gives us a huge advantage.

“Marketing is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself, to beat out other talented folks whose entitlement and laziness holds them back.” 

(Is this sounding harsh? Oops. It’s actually incredibly empowering.)

I’M watching…

Put Your Hands Together by Andrew Applepie

Okay ONE, Andrew Applepie is an absolute musical beat making wizard.  You can’t make up this kind of passion. You can literally feel the joy in everything he makes…

And TWO, this music video is brilliant. He asked his followers to send him clips of them clapping and here we are, a crowdsourced music video. Like! People from all over the world sent in these clips. Amazing.

That’s engagement, that’s community, that’s powerful. And yes, that’s marketing.

I’M listening to…

The Amorphous Evolution of Retail — Rachel Shechtman of Story on the Loose Threads Podcast

Brick and mortar retail’s not dead, the game’s just changed.

Rachel is the founder of Story, a 2000 square foot retail store in Chelsea,  New York that “has the point of view of a magazine, that changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.”

Customers coming in and buying things isn’t really the end goal, it’s more about the experience. They make a good chunk of their revenue through six-figure sponsorships and it’s even turned into something of a scouting ground for the indie brands and artists they carry.

It’s the intersection of content, commerce, and community. Yup, she changed the game.

best money spent…

Headphones

Headphones. Proper over-the-ear-welcome-to-paradise-you-beautiful-introvert-you headphones. How did I go so long without these?!

Are these ones good? I have no damn clue, I’m no audiophile. About an hour into my “best headphones” research I accepted I was way out of my depth and resorted to the ol’… go to stores and try them on strategy.

Decided Bose was too fancy (read: expensive) for me, didn’t like the sound of Beats, didn’t love the Sennheiser ones in my price range, and wireless headphones were a no. I also knew I wanted a removable chord (so I could replace it if it broke) and removable ear pads so I could replace those when needed, too. Not of fan of having to toss something after a year because it wasn’t designed to be repaired, ya know? So I landed on these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x ones and Imma happy.

oh, that’s good…

Stay safe, eat cake

Bunners Bake Shop

SO GOOD. Because, cake.


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!

Currently #4: The power of introverts, Matt Mullenweg, and a baby real estate agent

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I’ve taken a dive into the world of personality types over the last half year or so and MAN, what a game changer.

If it’s something you’ve ever wanted to explore I’d say start by taking the 16 Personalities quiz to find your Myers-Briggs type, then go read what your personality type does in a rut.

I mean WHAT. So interesting.

Now of course, you can’t go using these labels as an excuse, “I can’t do that because I’m an IN-whatever.” But as a framework it’s helped me make sense of why I act and react the way I do. It’s helped me reframe traits I’ve long seen as weaknesses into strengths. Which is a biggie.

I digress… the book!! The most interesting part to me was the research on introverts vs extroverts in the workplace (these differences are SO important and largely ignored) and in childhood. What it’s like to be a highly reactive, aka introverted, kid and how various experiences including trauma influence you differently. Lot’s of my-life-finally-makes-sense moments were had. It was great.

I’M LISTENING TO…

Do You Have Your Own Internal “Code” — Matt Mullenweg on the James Altucher Show

You know when you walk around pretending to know what a term means but secretly you’re praying someone doesn’t ask you to define it…. Ya.

Open source.

Like I essentially knew what it meant, but not really. Sure as heck couldn’t explain it. For those of you that can relate listen from 10:45 to 17:20, Matt does a great job of explaining what open source code means and why it’s so important.

“Open source essentially creates a bill of rights for software. As a developer you cannot take away any of the freedoms you yourself were given.”

Also, how relaxing is Matt’s voice? Can we get him narrating on Audible? K thanks.

OH, THAT’S GOOD…

Well played.

roncesvalles toronto real estate ad may 2017

I know the baby-photo-real-estate-agent thing isn’t new… but did this ever make me smile. And in Roncesvalles? Well played, Sir. Know your demographic.


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!

Making the Most of “Thanks for Signing Up!” Landing Pages

Some thoughts on conversion optimization, landing pages, and how to make people that give you their email addresses feel like valued humans…

I was listening to Talia Wolf on the Unemployable podcast the other day talk about thank you landing pages—you know when you buy something online or sign up for a service/newsletter and you’re redirected to a ‘Thanks for trusting me with your email address and/or money promise you won’t regret it K BYE!’ page? (OK not entirely sure if I’m using the right terminology here, but that’s what I’m running with…)

Talia was saying we seriously underuse this page. Rather than do the generic little ‘Thanks and check your inbox to confirm’, why don’t we use that real estate? Personalize it! Keep people on your website rather than bouncing them between you and their inbox.

She said it’s a great place to ask questions and get to know your customers. Ask them what their priorities are for their business, or what they want to learn about. And if they don’t answer? No big loss, they’re already customers. It’s not like you’re not creating a barrier in the buying process.

Now obviously you don’t want to be annoying or overwhelming at this stage either. I wouldn’t want to go through the bother of signing up for something only to be presented with a 4-page survey. This isn’t a time to ask for favours. Any content you share here has to clearly be in your customers best interest.

I totally see how a thank you landing page is a great place to A) get to know your customer better and B) make them feel good about the choice they just made.

So how could you do this? Of course depends on your business and brand, but here are some (entirely unoriginal) ideas that come to mind…

– Ask them what they want to learn about. Either leave this open for them to fill out or list 3 options they can select from. Then listen! Track what people say so you get to know what actually matters to your audience. Tailor your content accordingly. You could even put people on segmented email lists based on their selection if you’re super fancy…

– Embed a video. A welcome video so people get to know you, something that makes them feel connected to you and your mission. People want to feel like they’re a part of something. Or if you sell a product maybe you share a “how-to” video. A walk through of your product, how to get started sort of thing.

– Share a popular/useful blog post. Something that’s legitimately helpful and makes them think, “Yep. This was a great decision. No regrets giving this person my email and/or money.”

– Link to an external article of someone talking about your product/service. This might be especially useful if you’re new—or a new type of business—and people don’t completely understand or trust you yet. People want to feel like they’re making the right decision, and they’ll trust an external authority over you. “If it worked for them it’ll work for me.” The whole social proof thing, which Talia also talks about.

It’s the little things like this that can make all the difference, right? Especially if you’re a new company. Maybe you’re lacking features that your competitors have, maybe you can’t compete on certain levels… so how else can you add value?

I’m sure this is all super obvious to anyone with experience in conversion optimization, or whatever category of marketing this falls into. But I thought it was worth sharing because if you’re anything like me, you thought this stuff was all analytics so you’ve been straight up avoiding learning about it.

Turns out don’t have to be some data genius to do this. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself….) Because really, your business comes down to connecting with people. Empathizing with your audience. Asking yourself, “How would this make me feel?” And going from there.

Thanks, Talia, for making conversion optimization not suck.


P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took in my Dad’s garden last June of some really pretty blooms I don’t know the name of.  Because spring is coming (sort of). 

 

Currently #3: Steve Martin, blogging is back, and a beauty store with a sense of humour

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin.
“I did have that one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Ya, he’s great. If you’re on the hunt for a memoir or just a good read, highly recommend.

I’M LISTENING TO…

Blogging is Back, with Darren Rowse on Unemployable.
At a time where content is cheap and easily automated, they talk about the importance of making it human again. Because that’s what blogging is all about—human to human connection.

Darren touches on the idea of blogging in seasons—creating chunks of related content punctuated by breaks (e.g. blog weekly for 3 months around one topic then take a month off) because maybe that’s an easier way to consume and find content in a Netflix world? Whatever your thoughts on this it’s a good reminder to think outside the traditional format. Experiment!

Adam Robinson on the Tim Ferriss Show.
Adam Robinson is one of those crazy smart insightful people working in finance—he advises hedge fund advisors kind of smart.

Hearing him talk about his approach to investing is fascinating. Seriously, take 3 minutes and listen from 29:00-32:00.

He encourages us to pay attention every time you hear someone say, “That doesn’t make any sense”. If someone says they don’t understand why gold keeps going lower, because there’s a dozen logical reasons it shouldn’t, he knows it’s got a lot lower to go. There’s some x-factor no one’s considered yet. It’s not the world that doesn’t make sense, it’s your model of it.

“That’s where the gold mine is, things that don’t make sense.”

Oh, that’s good…

Bay. Not Bay.
A new section for things I come across that make me say, “Oh, now that’s good.”

This storefront beside the Bay subway station in Yorkville being one of them.

bay-not-bay


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Comment or Tweet me!

Yes, you can

A quick and largely unoriginal New Years thought for you…

I’m not big on New Years resolutions—January 1st doesn’t feel extraordinarily more promising than the start of any other day—but I do like to reflect on the year that’s passed. (Unoriginal already, told ya.)

This little shift in thinking has had the biggest impact on my life recently.

I pay attention to all the things that make me think, “Well I can’t do that.”

“I can’t make videos. I’ll look like a fumbling idiot.”

“I can’t do Crossfit. Have you seen these noodle arms?! Remember when you mentioned it to an Ex and they responded with a crushingly animated eyeroll?”

Instead of letting these thoughts float past and cement in the back of my brain, I catch myself…

What do you mean you can’t? Says who?

Either you want this or you don’t. You’re going to make time for it or you’re not. All perfectly fine options, but using “can’t” as an excuse isn’t.

We all do it.

I can’t join that rec soccer league because I’m not good enough.
I can’t start investing because I don’t have the money.
I can’t do ‘x’ because I’m too young, too old, don’t have the resources…

We collect these cants over time—maybe they came from something a parent or partner said, a bad experience, or other people’s fears. You’d be surprised how young some of these beliefs start.

(Don’t worry, we’re not going to dive into your childhood. That’s between you and a qualified therapist.)

My point is…

Awareness is powerful. So is choice. 

Exercise both.

Those two cants of mine I mentioned earlier? Well, *casually brushes dirt from shoulder*, I recorded my first video tutorial a few months ago—an experience I loved that’s opened up a world I’d previously written off—and I started Crossfit last week.

I might not be the best at either but I show up. That’s all it takes.

It’s cliche advice for a reason.

I (you!) most certainly can.


P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took at the top of Whistlers Mountain in Jasper, Alberta. I think the whole clouds-mountain-top thing qualifies as inspirational. 

Currently #2: The Psychology of Persuasion, teaching finance in schools, and The Future of Cities

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.
All about what makes us say “Yes!”. This is one of those books I saw referenced so frequently in recent marketing/PR books that I thought I better give it a read myself.

I’ve gone through it pondering how all these principles might apply to the world of money. And art! Because I’m exciting like that…

I’M LISTENING TO…

“Someone Should Teach This in School” Kyle Provost on the Because Money Podcast.
What would it look like if personal finance was taught in high school? Well, Kyle Provost can tell ya because he’s doing just that—leading some pretty awesome change out of Manitoba.

If you don’t have time for the whole thing listen from 23:17-32:00 where he shares why our system makes it so hard to get this change off the ground. It was a total mind=blown moment for me when he talked how politicians, like teachers, have pensions and insurance so they can arguably get by with less financial education than the average Canadian. So where’s the incentive! As Kyle says, “You almost couldn’t create a situation where you had more public demand for a product and less expertise and will power to put it into place.”

…. I know.

But don’t worry… things end on a hopeful note.

I’M WATCHING…

The Future Of Cities by Oscar Boyson.
I can’t do this any justice with a summary, you just need to watch it. Essentially it’s a look at how we’re solving big problems facing cities across the globe—like access to fresh water and crazy traffic congestion. And how all this (really exciting!) change is happening bottom up, not top down.

It’s good. Really good.


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Comment or Tweet me!