Posts in Guest Posts

There Are 24 Usable Hours in Every Day – How Are You Using Them?

This is a guest post by Jaclyn Aurore, a New Adult fiction author who – in the name of full transparency – also just happens to be my wife. 

Well, it’s been a little while since my last personal blog post. Not bad by my standards…

I bared my soul on that post, and I was hesitant to write again. What could I possibly say?

But then it occurred to me.

Time Management

I am a wife, mother, dog-lover, author, analyst, publisher, editor, and now beauty consultant. I am also learning to drive, taking classes, hosting parties, managing websites, blogging more (or trying to), working out, and finding time for old hobbies like reading (for fun, not work).

When I took on this new business endeavour (becoming a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant – now Senior Consultant, woot woot!), the first thing my husband asked was: What will you give up in order to make the time?

My answer was simple: Nothing.

Why should I give up anything? I want to be the woman who does it all, quite simply because I can.

When people ask me how I do it, I usually say, “I don’t sleep.”

But the truth is: time management.

Why Do We Need to Fill Free Moments?

I’ll just keep bolding that. It deserves to be right on out there multiple times over. Truthfully, it’s more than time management, it’s multitasking. I don’t rest.

When I have a free moment, I fill it with something. While my kids are eating dinner, I am cooking for my husband (he comes home later, so I cook for him separately). While I’m eating my lunch, I’m reading or writing.

To quote one of my favourite movies (bonus points for anyone who guesses it):

There are 24 usable hours in every day.

I’ve done this for so long now that it’s second nature.

The other day, I had an epiphany. Why do I need to fill free moments? Why can’t I just live them?

Why do we need to fill free moments? Why can’t we just live them? Click To Tweet

Here’s how it happened. I was doing a driving lesson, and while waiting for my instructor to set up pylons, I had a moment to spare. There I was, sitting in a parked car with the engine off. Alone and silent. This would be an excellent time to check my email or my text messages even, but I purposely left my cell phone at home.

All I could do was wait.

In the five minutes, I tapped the wheel, fiddled my thumbs, and hummed a little. I felt antsy. It felt like I was wasting time. To calm myself, I closed my eyes and focused on sounds. I heard birds chirping, wind blowing against the car, and the sound of traffic faintly in the distance… and then nothing.

Silence. My thoughts stopped, my breaths were there but silent, chaos ended. For one brief moment, I had peace and zen.

It was glorious.

In order to be successful in all the things I do, I need to manage my time wisely. Yes, there are 24 useable hours in every day, but I can make time for five minutes of peaceful silence… and so should you.

Try it. See if it doesn’t make the rest of your day more enjoyable!

A version of this post originally appeared on Jaclyn’s blog.

Jaclyn AuroreAbout the author: Jaclyn Aurore is the author of The Starsville Saga (Starting Over, Standing Up, Giving In, Hanging On, Leaving Behind), and has recently published the stand alone fantasy, My Life Without Me. Among the other hats she wears, her favourite are that of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’. When she’s not redecorating her home in Ontario, Canada, Jaclyn can be found at Williams Coffee Pub, caffeinated beverage in hand, working on her next novel. You can learn more about Jaclyn and her books on her website and her Facebook Page.

The Smoke and Mirrors of the Self Publishing Game

This is a guest post by Jenn Grainger, and is taken from her awesome comment on my recent post about your best work.

This isn’t a post about sucking eggs. If you do want to do that, you can find some tips about doing so here.

Instead, this is a post for people who have a good book in them, but aren’t so sure about navigating all the smoke and mirrors that can come with self-publishing.

The launch phase lasts one week, where ranking with Amazon will succeed or fail.

There are skills you need before that final moment when you hit Publish to set your book up for success.

You can read books on self publishing. Or join communities. Or have a working knowledge of Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing.

Do your research, focus on the questions below to teach yourself self-publishing insights (questions like “Who are the people succeeding in Amazon and why?”

Then learn the tricks.

The Game of (Amazon) Thrones

Yes tricks – it’s all smoke and mirrors. The goal is to get noticed by Amazon. They will notice your book when it is in demand. When they think your book will make them money, your book will promoted in the New and Noteworthy list. This will give your book wings.

If your book does hit the ‘Best Seller’ list, take a screenshot – because it may not last long and it won’t guarantee you a lot of money. But most authors would love to be in this position and don’t know how.

Influence book number 1

Become a student of the game. Set up your Amazon account. Go shopping – buy [Kindle] books. Research consistently the books and categories that do well and your competition.

Then start asking the questions you need to ask. Ask yourself,

  • Why did people buy this book?
  • Was it the title, subtitle, the well written “sales” description, the eye catching book cover or was it the category?
  • Were the reviews written by people who bought the book organically or did that Author have support from a community?

You need to tick yes to all of these to be in Amazon’s list, also known as the Ten for Ten (10/10) list.

How a 22 Page Book Played the Game and Became a Besteller

Time for a little case study. I looked at fresh books listed, and randomly selected a book that caught my eye. Amazon had it listed as New and Noteworthy.

That’s how it stood out to me. The book? Minimalist Living: 40 Proven Steps To Simplify Your Space, Declutter Your Life And Increase Productivity, by Kathy Stanton.

Good title, good subtitle, and a pretty picture on the book’s cover. She has five similar books, which Amazon also loves. This girl is getting a lot right here! I’ve purchased the book and am going to use it to share a few pointers here.

22 PAGES! Sorry, just wanted to make sure you got that the first time round.

1. Research

When researching for your own book, note which categories and sub-categories books are listed in. Get this step right, because as you’ll see, it’s crucial.

If you’re familiar with paid search or SEO, think Google Keywords and their High or Low competition insights. If you’re not familiar, this helps you find high impact keywords (that people are searching for) with low competition (so your search terms deliver the better results).

Then use that approach to find out how many books are  in the small sub category.

The trick to being an Amazon Bestselling Author is exactly that - a trickClick To Tweet

You will notice Minimalist Living has the word “productivity” in the subtitle. If the author wanted to, she could use this to put the book in a different sub-category of “Productivity” and increase her reach. You can do the same.

2. Placement

The author has also listed her book in two similar categories: Crafts and Hobbies, and Home Improvement and Design, with the different subcategories there still attracting the same audience. Again, think of search terms.

Want to see how that worked for this particular book? This is the current ranking for the book on Amazon (click to enlarge):

Minimalist Living And Loving It  40 Proven Steps To Simplify Your Space  Declutter Your Life And Increase Productivity

Note the Self-Help category? That’s because the Self-Help Amazon algorithms picked up this book up as “noteworthy” – this is the game!

The author would also have listed the book in the free KDP program for a few days and maybe had several hundred downloads that Amazon will notice, and is another reason why they have picked it up.

It also won’t hurt that the author is likely to be part of a community.

It’s clear Minimalist Living is using a fantastic launch strategy, and the author knows what she is doing.

Disclaimer: I do not know this author. I’m not promoting her book and not read it yet. I’m reviewing the quality of the positioning and the launch strategy.

The Writing is the Easy Part

So what to take away from this? Well, for me, the writing is the easy part (stay with me here, authors!).

By all means knock yourself out with the gut-wrenching process of writing the book thinking that is the hard part. We all experience this for the first book – survive that, you will then need a humdinger of an editor.

Then there are a few technical things to learn – the marketing prior to the launch, for one. It might sound easy enough, and it is – for some. For others, it will feel like it’s the hardest thing they have ever done. I can promise, you will fit somewhere in between.

But marketing is everything.

You could write a 100% crappy book - it doesn't matter, if you know how to play the game.Click To Tweet

If you have a brilliant title, seductive subtitle and scintillating book cover, and support that with a sensational launch strategy (supported by a spammy Facebook group, if you really must), then you will succeed.

Guaranteed.

Yes, you will get a few savage reviews but who cares? Just use a different name. 1000’s of people are currently doing this, right now.

You’re a legend, the book you wrote is magnificent and the topic is one that changes lives – and yet Minimalist Living will come out in front, make more money and rank higher, if you don’t play the game.

Line up your army of ducks, even if you think it sucks.

Stay on Target

Through all this, though, there is one thing you need to do, and that is keep “the Main Thing”, or your target, front and centre.

If your mission [should you accept it] is to become a best selling author, this is the target to hit (or you could aim for free promotion from Amazon).

Ranking in the number one position for a category or sub-category after the book switches from the KDP Free Promotion to the paid category is the goal.

If you want the title “Best Selling Author”, or even the top three which is also good for promotion, there is a specific trick to the timing of this:

When your book hits the top position, manually change your book in KDP Select Members Account to 99c at 1.00 PM US time.

Because Amazon takes 3-6 hours to catch up and they are still promoting your book, people are more likely to buy at $0.99 and that gives you a push to rank in the Paid Category.

Take our friend the book Minimalist Living: it only needs to be the top book in one (sub) category – Green House Cleaning – for Kathy Stanton to be a Best Selling Author (click image to expand).

Amazon Best Sellers  Best Green Housecleaning

The truth is you only need to be in this position for half an hour and take a screenshot to claim this title. Some people use reaching the number one position in the Free List to say they were a best selling author.

My book reached that (free) plateau. Do I say I’m a Best Selling Author? No. Do I care? No.

But even if you don’t care about the title and “fame”, you do want Amazon to promote you.

How I Came to Love Smoke, Mirrors, and Games

I wrote my book to learn the process of writing a book.

Did I know about the smoke and mirrors before I started? No. Am I happy to play the game? No. Will I play the game next time? You bet your sweet bippy I will!

The book you learn the most from, is the one you write yourselfClick To Tweet

Here are my top tips.

  • Focus on the launch.
  • Get it right the first time. There is no second launch.
  • Pick your Longest Blog post or write out 25 recipes and launch it as a Kindle book, under a pseudonym. This way you can test and practice how to play the game while you’re writing your real book.
  • Join an active, supportive community not a spammy Facebook group.

I also reached out to the group I’m in, here are their 3 top tips:

  • Research your topic first, create a series [of books] and always use pro’s to edit and create your book cover. Lisa Cartwright
  • Write a good book. Use a professional editor. Launch to an already engaged audience. Rinse and repeat (write more books). Steve Windsor
  • Plan your marketing well in advance. Always be helpful to others without expecting anything in return, you’ll receive a lot of support when you launch! Find friends who have published and will support you in the process. David Bradley

“Smoke And Mirrors” by GOTYE

You’re a fraud and you know it. But it’s too good to throw it all away – anyone would do the same, right? You’ve got ‘em going and you’re careful not to show it.

Sometimes you even fool yourself a bit. It’s like magic – but it’s always been a smoke and mirrors game. Anyone would do the same. Right?

So now that you’ve arrived you wonder, what is it that you’ve done to make the grade and should you keep doing the same? (Is that too easy?)

Are you only trying to please them? (Will they see then?)

You’re desperate to deliver anything that could give you a sense of reassurance when you look in the mirror.

And the song goes on…

Jenn GraingerAbout the author: Jenn Grainger lives in Brisbane, Australia, and published her first ebook Love Travel Plan on Amazon in 2014. She started her Curious Minds Travel blog earlier this year to record her travels while working on book number two. Her future plans include living in either Chang Mai, Thailand or Hoi An, Vietnam. Connect with Jenn on Twitter.

Give And Ye Shall Receive: Mentoring, Creativity and Innovation

This is a guest post by health and wellness strategist and digital health pioneer Liz Scherer.

When you hear the word ‘mentor,’ what is the first image that comes to mind? Is it a middle-aged man in a suit, briefcase on a table in front of him and a Mont Blanc pen in hand?

Pretty passé, eh?

Venture capitalist and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel would agree. In an interview conducted late last year, he says that mentors no longer offer much in the way of value, at least not in the tech start up world.

Thiel adds that entrepreneurs’ focus should be on “doing new things, not copying existing models” and that substantive interest in a particular field is the key to learning, creative thinking and identifying new ways or approaches.

For all intents and purposes then, a mentor would be best described as an individual with both feet firmly planted in yesterday’s innovation and without the ability to drive and effect tomorrow’s change.

Let’s also take a look at what social scientists have to say.

The Conceptualization Belief

One theory in particular supports Thiel’s points, stating that change and innovation occur in “conceptual” leaps and bounds (Kuhn and Hacking, 2012; Olivero 2014) and do not necessarily spring from information that has been collected over a long time period.

An alternate theory — one that I gravitate toward — suggests that when a team (think: two people in the mentor/mentee relationship) ‘jells” i.e. when individuals ‘click’ around concepts or strategies, their commonality in creating something new or in solving a problem can be likened to a attaining the metaphysical or at least a higher level of existence (Novak 1976; Olivero 2014).

In simpler terms, inspiration springs from the ‘click,’ leading to brainstorming, an exchange of ideas and information and an open mind that promotes creative thought and strategy. This may ring truer when the two individuals forming a particular team do not bring the same set of skills to the table.

My personal experience as both a mentee and a mentor derives from two related initiatives in my life.

Giving to Get, Getting to Give

Last fall, I started a new business and recruited a group of advisors – both in and out of my specific field – to guide processes and strategies, challenge my thinking and spur creative development.

In turn, over the past several months I have been lending my time to two incubators that work with healthcare tech startups: 1776DC and Village Capital. My mentoring role is focused on helping these entrepreneurs hone and finesse an element in their pitches that is often missing or ignored: the story.

As a long-time professional writer and journalist, I inherently understand that storyline is often the key to grabbing and retaining an audience.

As humans we all have stories to tell and it is these stories that forge relationships, perpetuate family histories and define our personal fabrics. In business mentoring, the goal of focusing on the story is to help guide entrepreneurs so that they place the correct cart before the horse, i.e. their content.

The trajectory is simple: focus on the story, create the content around that story and insure that the messaging is consistent across the various platforms where that story dwells. Thereafter, we work closely together to identify, create and promote the deeper connections that ultimately inspire investors or customers to ignite the offerings, whether that ignition entails A or B round funding that will catapult them to success.

Mentoring – A Four Letter Word?

The value of the mentoring doesn’t stop there.

Not only am I inspired by the entrepreneur’s passions, but, I am also better able to tap into and ignite my personal creativity in an uncluttered fashion. The ‘click’ goes two ways, leading me, in a mentoring role, to a higher level of existence, and a refinement of my own storyline.

Is mentor a four letter word in the world of tech startups or does it offer an opportunity to transcend the mundane/been there-done that and promote innovative thought and creativity?

I don’t believe it is. If anything, through mentoring, my ‘carbon copy’ becomes firmly planted both in the here and now and beyond, and my story gains a few new transformative threads.

Isn’t that value worth having?

Liz SchererAbout the author: Liz Scherer is a health and wellness strategist and digital health pioneer with a knack for helping businesses solve marketing, communications and development challenges. When she’s not running Evolution Strategy Group, you can find her mentoring startups at 1776DC and Village Capital or writing about women’s health and gender inequity issues on Medium. Connect with Liz on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or at LizScherer.Co.

The Official Annual Black Friday Rant by The Q

This is a guest post by Amanda D. Quraishi. It was originally a Facebook update, and is republished here with her permission.

I hate Black Friday.

I think it’s everything that is wrong with America today.

It’s a day that is made up specifically for the purpose of encouraging crass consumerism, using a religious holiday as an excuse. Let that sink in. Holy Day Sales.

It’s not just about shopping. It’s about sacrificing time with family and friends that used to be for watching movies and playing games to go into the cold, electric light of big box retailers and going into debt buying shit that your family will forget in six months to a year.

It’s about being FIRST IN LINE. It turns purchasing gifts into a bloodsport (literally) where each year people are injured and/or killed. And despite the injuries, stores are more than happy to keep plugging Black Friday.

Because what matters to them are hordes of people who need a deal badly enough to be there at 5am for their fucking ‘door busters’.

Black Friday is evil. It doesn’t need to exist.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas there are 29 days to buy your shit. You don’t NEED to shop on Black Friday. Big fucking stores need you to shop on Black Friday so they can put themselves in the black. Get it?

This has nothing to do with anything except commercialism and consumption. It’s manufactured by marketers to make you think you’re getting deals when it’s really just a few things marked down to get you in the door.

I hate Black Friday.

If you absolutely MUST shop for holidays this weekend, go shop locally for Small Business Saturday. Or visit the Armadillo Bazaar or any place where you can buy something real and meaningful made by the person selling it to you.

Buy gifts that last for years, even generations. Or buy the materials to make something beautiful. Bring back American dollars to American manufacturers, artists and artisans. Gift the gift of services (massage, salon, etc.)

Stop the Pavlovian drooling over the ads that come too soon and the promise of love that comes with a purchase. It’s a lie.

Amanda Q

About the author: Amanda Quraishi is a blogger, interfaith activist and technology professional living in Austin, Texas. 

She is the Technology Solutions Specialist at Charity Dynamics, a marketing & technology consulting agency that works with non-profit organizations on national fundraising campaigns.

She also leads a populist-based interfaith initiative at InterfaithActivism.org, and is the Principle Web Media Strategist for BlogathonATX. You can read more from Amanda on her blog.

Is ‘Mental’ Health a Misnomer? Why We Need to Destigmatize Depression

This is a guest post by Robert Clarke, and is a personal recollection and call-to-action on how we need to change the conversation around depression.

Two young men.

The first young man is 19, a constant joker who enjoys nothing else than making people laugh and bringing joy to those around him. He is big into robotics and the challenge of solving problems. He also helps his close friends solve their problems by being their go-to guy when they need a shoulder to cry on, or simply someone to listen.

The second young man is also 19. He has a lot of social anxieties and gets depressed. He often lies in bed for days, shutting out TVs, phones, and even food. He’ll make excuses to not go out with friends. His mind is burdened with such an unbreakable cycle of negative thinking that the best part of his day is falling asleep, and the worst part is waking up.

The first young man’s name is Lucas.

Last week Lucas took his own life.

He was the son of a close friend to Danny Brown. Danny says,

There’s got to be something missing. For someone to seem so happy all the time and always willing to help others, but not themselves. It just doesn’t add up.

I won’t pretend to have any easy answers, but I can offer some insight on the topic of depression.

That’s because the second young man I describe above is me, nearly half my lifetime ago.

The Dangerous Compartmentalization of Depression

Since that age I’ve gotten better. A lot better.

After years of keeping things bottled up, I finally was able to reach out for help, and got it.

The question is, why did it take me so long? Why is it so hard for people to reach out for help?

I think it starts by the way we frame the discussion of mental illness. Specifically, what we mean when we say mental illness.

We compartmentalize mental issues as being exclusive from physical issues. This mind/body dualism school of thought dates back to Enlightenment thinkers such as Rene Descartes.

And I think it’s bullshit.

Our mental state, or consciousness, is a biological phenomenon just like any other part of our body.

Notable modern philosopher John Searle, who would agree with me on this point, says:

It is true that [our brain] has special features, most notably the feature of subjectivity, but that does not prevent consciousness from being a higher-level feature of the brain in the same way that digestion is a higher-level feature of the stomach, or liquidity a higher-level feature of the system of molecules that constitute our blood.

The problem with framing depression as a mental issue is that it’s reduced to something that’s “all in your head”, that it’s completely different than having a physical issue.

What we imply when we say something is “all in your head” means it doesn’t really exist, so you should be able to just work it out for yourself.

But saying that depression is something that’s “all in your head so just work it out”, is like saying cancer is “all in your body, so just exercise and it will go away”.

Depression can be physical.

Robert Clarke on the stigmatization of depression (2)

The Physical Illness of Depression

Did you know that that the hippocampus is smaller in some people with a history of depression than those with none? Or that neurotransmitter or chemical imbalances in the brain is a source of depression? Other causes can include abuse, death or loss, major events, and genetics.

Do any of these things sound like they’re “just in your head”?

No, they are real. They are physical or have materialized in our physical world.

My point is, people with depression often won’t reach out for help because they believe their issues are in their head, and not something that could possibly be a natural phenomenon in human beings.

They think they are solely responsible for their problems, and are solely responsible for solving them.

I personally always felt like my feelings of depression were like some sort of character flaw, and the reason I couldn’t just break the cycle of negative, depressive thoughts was because I simply wasn’t smart enough, good enough, or normal enough.

Consequently, my poor attitude about myself just reinforced my negative thoughts, and my negative thoughts reinforced my poor attitude about myself.

And around and around we go.

So I believe that to help more people with depression we need to not only destigmatize mental illness, we need to treat it with the same care, compassion, and understanding that we would physical illness.

We need to change the conversation.

CAMH

Ask yourself, why is it that we get annual physicals, but it has nothing to do with how healthy we are feeling?

Why is it that when we get injured, we can go to physiotherapy and train or rehab the injured part of our body until it gets better, but we don’t think we can do the same with our brains?

Why is it that we have cancer ribbons, campaigns, runs, and mega-fundraising campaigns, but people battling or who have battled depression or mental illness don’t benefit from an equal support system?

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, but neither does depression. It just happens, and can happen to anyone. No-one should feel guilty about getting cancer, and no-one should feel guilty about feeling depressed.

Some facts on mental illness in Canada:

  • In any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.
  • Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year – an average of 11 suicides a day.
  • While mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the cost to treat disease in Canada, these illnesses receive less than 6% of health care dollars.
  • Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68% who would talk about a family member having diabetes.
  • The economic cost of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life.

(Source: CAMH)

So what can we do?

Learning to Accept That It’s Normal to Not Feel Normal

Besides changing the way we look at depression, and talk about mental illness, I think another major part of the solution is early education.

Just like we have gym class to encourage fitness and home economics to teach kids how to manage a household, we need to teach them to recognize and understand the signs of depression and mental illness even before they’re old enough to get them.

In other words, set expectations and equip kids with the right tools.

http://youtu.be/EUb063stmfU?list=PLGaXn-0H6JmvhCPvdIcr_g2QNepfeyQxa

Teach kids that some of them might not feel “normal”, and that this is perfectly normal. Let them know what the signs of depression might look like, feel like, and what they can do and who they can talk to. Above all, they should understand that it’s fairly common and not something to be ashamed of or run from.

It’s part of being a human being.

And it can’t be easy growing up these days. Before the internet and mobile phones, kids could at least go home at the end of the day to safety and security. Now, with Facebook, texts, Instagram, Twitter, etc., there’s seemingly nowhere to find that comfort zone.

I think it’s the responsibility of parents, educators, and even the makers of social media sites and devices to work together and find solutions for kids to safely use and participate in an online world.

With more awareness and funding for mental illness, there’s increasing hope that more can be done to uncover the specific causes of depression.

And to learn more about the causes of depression, we should also learn more about the causes of happiness, because they’re two sides of the same coin.

In the meantime, you can also help.

Lobby your MPP, MP, and school board to get proper mental health education in schools.

Perhaps even more importantly, help change the conversation about mental illness. It’s not something to run from, hide from, to be ashamed of. It’s something worth talking about.

When you experience a pain in your side for a prolonged period, you visit the doctor. You don’t even think about it, it’s automatic. Depression should be the same – when you don’t feel right, you should seek help without even thinking about it.

And if you or someone you know may be suffering, say something. Tell someone.

And if you want to talk about me about my experiences, your experiences, or anything at all, please send me an email: robert.at.op-ed.ca

Let’s make sure people like Lucas don’t have to suffer in silence any longer.

He’d like that a lot.

He’s still helping people.

  • If you would like to help change the conversation on depression, and support young people suffering from it, the family of young Lucas have chosen to support Kids Help Phone, an organization offering anonymous and professional help. You can make a donation in memory of Lucas here.

Robert ClarkeAbout Robert Clarke: I’m a listener, engager, and purveyor of social media (when done right). Constantly curious about all things digital, marketing, and more. Partner at Op Ed Marketing in Oakville, Ontario. Proud daddy to three beautiful girls and a basset hound to boot. A wonderful wife, a wonderful life. Read more at Op-Ed Marketing Blog, or connect on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.