All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

4-Hour Work Week – Lifestyle Review

I know what you’re thinking; two things in fact. One, didn’t you just see this picture a couple of days ago? Yes, you did. And two, if this is a post talking about a book then why not call it a book review instead of a life review? Hey, it’s me, so I have to do something a little bit different. After all, my buddy Marelisa just wrote on it as well, giving it a much different take than just a book review as well.

4-Hour Work Week review

You know, one of the things about speed reading is that, when you’re doing it kind of for pleasure, you tend to stick with stuff that you’re specifically looking for and thus you’re normally happy with what you’re reading. If one is speed reading something they don’t like it won’t stick, and thus it becomes harder to speed read.

I actually read half of 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss at Barnes & Noble many months ago and was really enthusiastic in what I’d read. The concept of finding ways to reduce one’s workload and stress load were very appealing to me. And I understood some of the concepts that could get me there. It was enough to get me to buy the book and read it more thoroughly.

Part of me is now wishing I hadn’t done that. The early concepts I got from the book are still valid, and yet I found myself not enjoying some other parts of the book as much, to the extent that at a certain point I started speed reading some of it again because I just wanted to get past extraneous stuff that I knew I didn’t care about.

First, let’s talk about what I liked in the book. I liked his concept of finding ways to free one’s time so they can do more of what they want to do, which in Ferriss’ case is travel. He set up many ways to get this done, from outsourcing some of the things he didn’t want to do to giving people working for him more power to make decisions for himself. What a life for someone with many interests.

I liked his talk about moving towards minimalism in many ways, including how he travels with luggage at less than 10 pounds; man, that would be sweet. I also enjoyed some of the “case studies” which he was able to include in this particular book because it’s updated and expanded with stories that weren’t available at the first printing, since obviously people hadn’t read his book yet.

I also liked him talking about not being available to everyone 24/7 and having some down time when you really need it. In relating some of this to my life, I rarely give out my cell number because I don’t want everyone being able to always reach me. If my phone rings in the car, I know it’s one of only 5 or 6 people. If I’m out of town, I might give it to a client I’m working with at the time, but I also know that once the assignment is over that’s one less person who’ll ever use that number again.

Now let’s talk about what I didn’t like about the book. I didn’t like that it concentrated so much on travel. Probably 20% of the book covers that topic, and that’s not the book I wanted to read. I thought that some of what I read was irresponsible. For instance, at one point he talks about how one of his plants ended up being closed while he was gone, yet he had fun doing this or that by being unable to be contacted. In other words, his fun was more important than all the jobs that were lost because he decided not to concentrate on an aspect of his business; that’s shameful and affected the lives of a lot of other people.


Tim Ferriss

I wasn’t crazy about the way he and some of his case study people outsourced certain things such that someone else took care of aspects of their personal lives and pulled them away from personal contact. For instance, he tells the story of giving an assignment to college students to reach 3 celebrities and get them to answer 3 questions within 24 hours. However, as a celebrity himself, he’d have never been available to be reached for any student that decided to reach out to him.

Being in business and telling people to only check their email once a week for about an hour or their phones for the same amount of time kind of irks me. True, both can kill time, but if you’re in business you might just have to suck up some of that. Then again, he does have other people handling most of this stuff for him; how many of us could do that sort of thing as readily?

There’s also the advocating outsourcing everything at the cheapest price possible, which leads to him and others sending a lot of their business out of the country and really being kind of smug about it. Yeah, I’ll admit that one of the things that irks me a little bit is not using workers in one’s own country if the only difference in quality is price. That might be a minor sticking point, but it’s one I have so I thought I’d mention it.

To be fair on that last point though, the concept of finding things one can outsource to someone else isn’t a bad one, even if it costs you a little bit of money. Something I absolutely hate is making cold calls of any form; I find reasons not to do it, preferring email or only wanting to talk to people from whom I know there’s already some kind of interest in what I have to talk to them about. Right now I’m contemplating hiring someone to handle a few hours of phone calls for me in one of my industries so I can work on something else. I already have an accountant that handles my bookkeeping and such, and I have a guy who cuts my grass, and let me just get one big contract and I’ll be outsourcing some other things that I not only don’t have time to do, but don’t want to do.

Where do I come down in the end? I think it’s a book many people still need to read because it does get one thinking about ways to make their lives simpler, even to possibly learn how to work it out with your employer so you can not only work from home, but potentially work while being mobile with the feeling that you’re actually sitting at home. True, I have some things I didn’t like, but overall this is a book that, if you’re looking to change your life in some fashion, you need to break down and read.
 

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Paper.li

If you’re on Twitter and follow enough people, you’ve probably seen a notification every once in awhile from someone you follow that says something like “The XXXX Daily is out”, followed by a number of Twitter handles. Most of the time if you see it, then you’ll see your Twitter handle in there as well, eventually followed by a link. If you click on that link, you’re taken to your browser to view what looks like a newspaper of sorts, and eventually you’ll see your name and something you tweeted earlier in the day.

All of this is the creation of a company called Paper.li. Its intention is to create a daily newspaper out of Twitter and Facebook feeds that the service deems important based on categories you determine are important to you and deliver information to you based on the people who you follow or are connected to on both Twitter and Facebook.

What you don’t see are “chats”, per se, but the links any of these folks have put up during the day that fit into the types of categories you get to select. For instance, if you click on the image above to enlarge it some, you’ll see that the example I selected, one of my local online friends, starts with headlines, which all Paper.li sites begin with, then breaks down into Business, Arts & Entertainment, Stories, Sports, etc; just like a regular newspaper. The second example below, someone I don’t know, has different interests, so after headlines his goes Health, Education, Business, Leisure, and so on.

Overall it’s a combination of three things; links to blogs, links to news sources, and links to videos. You have the option of having a live Twitter feed showing on your newspaper as well.

Now, why would you want something like this? I’ll tell you after I own up to the reality that I don’t have one of these, and don’t see me doing it any time soon, though it could change in the future. I just wanted to get that out of the way because, though I could see how many people would love something like this.

Here’s the thing. On Twitter, if you have a lot of people you follow, there’s just no way you’re going to see everything that people post during the day; it’s impossible. So, you never know if you’ve missed something that you care about in a category you want to know more about. With Paper.li, you’ll know that you’re capturing news in categories you want to see that has been posted by people you’re following. And you also have the ability to highlight people who you want to follow more closely, to make sure their links show up before the links of people you follow but don’t necessarily care if you miss what they post or not.

What are the downsides? First, it only updates once a day. When it does finally update it will only catch the newest stuff if you follow a lot of people. Therefore, if someone posted a great link at midnight and your newspaper doesn’t post until 8PM, you’re probably going to miss it unless no one else posted something under a category you follow. You might not care all that much, but it’s something to consider.

Second, it determines what’s newsworthy and what’s not, just like Facebook does. Sure, you get to highlight certain people to come up first, but after that it makes all decisions for you. That’s just like regular newspapers, though; you don’t really get to select which news you read, just which section of the newspaper you wish to read.

Third, it could capture some items from people who might not have wanted everything out there for all to see. Now, if those people are savvy they can always follow the link and de-list themselves from being scanned by Paper.li, but they don’t always know about that possibility. This happens if you decide to list someone who otherwise normally has their tweets protected; there’s no way for Paper.li to know.

Of course, you could also decide to post the link to your newspaper on both your Facebook or blog sites for people to follow as well. Truthfully, some people will smile when they get the tweet showing your name as being on their newspaper. If other people follow it they might see your blog posts or links that you’ve shown, and the originator’s name and image is always next to those stories. For my friend, I’ve never shown up on his headlines page, but in checking out his stories page I found a couple of my blog posts and many posts from other people I know.

This isn’t such a bad thing if you’re going to read it. If not, don’t bother setting one up. Statistics show that only 14% or so of people who create these papers visit them more than once a month, which is a shame. I’m thinking the internet doesn’t need more clutter. But if you’re a reader, and you want to see what people you follow are saying that’s been determined to be important, this is a good way to go.

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Comment Idiocy; Have You Seen This?

I’d like to share something with you, if I may. Read what’s below:

“Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked whilst individuals consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the entire thing with out having side effect , folks could take a signal. Will probably be back to get a lot more. Thanks”


by Isabel Cruz

That was a comment that was left on one of my posts last week. I saw it and immediately knew it was spam. Yet I was curious because, for once, it seemed like it was creative spam. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but this time I’m doing it; I’m going to tell you the name of the person that left the comment and the link to the website, although it won’t do them much good since I’m not actually creating the link. The website link is crunchyblogger.com, and the writer was Romy@link building tips. And no, none of this gets bolded, including the comment spam.

Anyway, I was curious about the comment for some reason, and I decided I wanted to see if it showed up on any other blogs. I took a small snippet of the comment, from “justification” to “thing” and popped it into Google. And yes, it came up… 1,240,000 times since 2009! Are you kidding me? That exact phrase that many times for that many years. The rest of the paragraph is almost the exact same always also, except maybe one or two words here and there are changed.

It’s amazing that this type of comment, which is noncommittal and means absolutely nothing, has been missed by so many people. And what’s also amazing is just how many different names and domain names have used it. I found it on a blog posted from http://www.online-options-trading.org/; I found it on a blog posted by http://www.abcpromocji.pl/. I found it on a blog by http://matcombat.com/. I found it on a blog posted by http://www.increaseserp.com/. I even found it on Business Week, of all things, although they don’t allow people’s links to show so that’s in their favor.

Why do people send out spam? Because many blogs don’t check for it, and because many blogs can’t figure out it’s spam. Take a look at that bit of nonsense above. As you look at it, can you notice that it could apply to anything that anyone would ever write? It looks like it might be legitimate, which gets people to leave it there, but it’s not. There’s nothing specific in it at all; it doesn’t address anything. And it’s prevalent; so easy a caveman could have written it (someone had to say it). And it was obviously pre-written and posted by someone who must be getting paid to do it to bypass the GASP plugin; sneaks.

Folks, stay alert with your comments. If it looks weird, suspicious, or doesn’t seem to address your post, delete it. This is why a comment policy works in your favor, just in case one day it turns out to be a real person. And, of course, call out the frauds that use this stuff every once in awhile, like I did.

By the way, I did one last thing. I went to the first blog link I posted, and I posted the same exact comment there, using a fake name and a throwaway email address I have without an image. And it was accepted after moderation. Poor sap doesn’t even realize it’s the same thing someone had to have been paid to post here; how sad…

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Post #1,000!!! And A Video To Boot!

It’s milestone day, post #1,000, and I decided to change things up for once and turn it into a video instead of writing one of my normal milestone posts. Some of you have said that I should have more videos anyway; well, this means some of you will be appeased by this, and some of you are going to run away from this one. Unfortunately, it’s my longest video to date, but there was just no way to really make it any shorter and get in all I wanted to say. If it makes you feel any better, if I’d written it all out I think we’d have gotten to around 1,500 words; ouch!

So, here’s the video and post #1,000, and there’s a little test at the end of the video to see if you’ve watched it or not, although if the first person answers it then I guess the test is over. Oh well, here it is anyway. 🙂

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4-Hour Work Week’s Not-To-Do List

I found myself taking a few hours to read the book 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It was an interesting book that maybe one day I’ll write a full review on. Suffice it to say, I found things I liked about it and some thing I didn’t quite like about it as well.

One thing I felt I wanted to add my own comments to is what is listed in the book as The Not-to-Do List: 9 Habits To Stop Now. In Ferriss’ mind, by eliminating these things you not only improve your efficiency but you reduce stress as well. I’m going to list his topic, then add my own opinion, if you don’t mind.

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. I adopted this one in full at the beginning of this year, but I’d actually started it for the most part late last year. I have two lines into my house, and for the last 3 or 4 years I never answer the personal line if I don’t know who it is; actually, I often don’t answer it if I do know who it is since it’s almost always for my wife. For the business line I didn’t answer if it was an 800-number of some kind but always answered other numbers, then realized that most of those are sales calls as well. Now I don’t answer any numbers I don’t recognize; my mind’s at peace with this policy; that’s why I pay extra for voice mail.

2. Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. This one I’m probably not going to change. In his book he talks about having to get used to losing some business for the sake of living the life you want to, and that you’ll find yourself enjoying your time more than what you might lose out on. Truthfully, I start every morning checking email since my hours are erratic, and I get all other work done during the day and love trying to get to the rest of my email in the evenings. I might work at some point to limiting late night email, since I’ve written some stupid stuff at 3AM, but my mornings are staying.

3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. Working for myself I have a great handle on this one, which eliminates almost all early morning meetings. I do have to get better at other meetings that I know won’t produce income or contracts, though.

4. Do not let people ramble. In his book, he offers up suggestions for how to help people get to the point such as telling them you only have a few minutes for them. This works well, and is a technique I’ve often used. I think we all have to gauge when to use this or any other techniques and when to let the other person just talk.

5. Do not check email constantly – “batch” and check at set times only. I had to break this habit, and I’d say that I’m about 80% there. I plan my days with free time built in and that’s when I get to emails and other stuff I want to do instead of have to do. Of course he’s only checking email for an hour a week; I don’t see that happening.

6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers. This one is hard when you have a finite number of customers, but I understand his point. He loves talking about the Pareto Principle of 80/20, and it makes a lot of sense. Eliminating those people who give you the most grief and turning your attention to those people that give you the most benefit is not only stress relieving, but sometimes you find you don’t have to deal with the folks left all that often because they were satisfied to begin with. Any assistance you give them makes them better, and thus all you usually end up with is improvement and satisfaction.

7. Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize. No, that’s not a real word, but he used it. lol This fits in with the principle that says if you know something’s broken fix it so you don’t have to keep fixing it and can get on with other things.

8. Do not carry a cell phone or Crackberry 24/7. He’s not saying don’t have these things at all; just limit your usage of them. I don’t have smartphone, so I’m good thing. And very few people have my cell number so I’m good there as well. But there are a lot of people we all know who seem like they’ve forgotten how to interact with people they’re with because they’re constantly messaging someone or talking on their cell phones, no matter where they are.

9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should. Yes Virginia, there is a work/life issue, and I’m living proof of this. When I was an every day employee, I went until I was 37 without taking even a week’s vacation; the longest I ever took off was 2 days; isn’t that a shame. I only took a week off when I got married, then the next year on our 1st anniversary. It wasn’t until the middle of 2000 when I finally took 2 weeks off in a row and found how relaxing that was.

However, since I’ve worked for myself, I haven’t had a vacation or any time off. It’s harder when you work for yourself, but I’m going to be dealing with that issue this year in some fashion; more on that at a later time. The main concept here is that you need a personal life, and you should substitute your work life for it because work is just that, work.

Those are my thoughts; what are yours?

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