Friday, January 30, 2015

What We Can Learn About Predictive Analytics From The Blizzard That Wasn't

We are drowning in data. According to Nate Silver we now produce every day, three times per second, the equivalent of the amount of data that the Library of Congress has in its entire print collection. 

That’s a lot of data!

And it’s only going to get worse. Each of us is in some part responsible for the deluge. Every move we make on our Internet browsers and on each social media network we engage in is being tracked. Our comings and goings, our likes and dislikes are all helping to make Big Data bigger.  

One of the hottest new jobs is that of data scientist, a person whose job it is to analyze these enormous piles of data for insights that can predict. Predict where we want to travel to, what we want to eat for dinner, what shoes we want to buy, who we want to work for, who wants us to work for them, who we want to date.

Sometimes it works quite well.

Right around Christmas I was looking for new snow boots. I looked in a few stores, but for the most part my research was being done on line. I knew what I wanted. Comfortable with a good tread. After last winter I wasn’t as concerned with the fashion statement I was making as I was with not slipping on the ice. But I  still wanted something that said I had some sense of style. 

Boots started to follow me everywhere I went. On my iPhone, my iPad and my desktop. 

And then the result of all my research appeared right in the middle of my Facebook feed on the day after Christmas. 

It was an ad from Amazon for a pair of Merrell boots that was on sale. 

I had never bought a pair of Merrell’s before, nor had I ever bought an article of clothing on Amazon before. But the price was right so I clicked through. I read about the boots. I went to the Merrell website. I read the reviews.  

I decided to go for it.  I took advantage of my Amazon Prime membership and free shipping and hit the buy button. 

The boots fit perfectly. They are comfortable and keep my feet dry. All those cookies that had been tracking me served me up what I wanted. I am a happy customer.

But it doesn’t always work so well. 

Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don’t. 

Last week’s blizzard was is a case in point. 

We have more data than ever before to predict the weather. We want to believe all those insights are going to give us the right answer. But as we saw - especially if you lived as I do in New York City - there was no “historic snowstorm” as the data was indicating and all the meteorologists and politicians were standing behind. 

Instead of backpedaling afterwards, all one needs to do is understand the truth of the data going in. 

It informs. 
It garners valuable insight. 
It can direct decisions. 
It can assess risk or potential. 

But not every behavior or weather pattern can be predicted. 

Things will happen. Things that we never accounted for. 

Like that weather band that decided to skirt New York City last week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How To Choose Your Social Networks

I live in a city where on any given night there are hundreds, if not thousands of cocktail parties I could attend. But even if I had the desire and the invitations to go to every single one, it would be physically impossible.

So I choose where I want to be.

Sometimes it's to learn something.  Sometimes it's to be social. Other times my interest is to network professionally. Sometimes it's solely to avoid doing stuff I should otherwise be doing.  On occasion, I show up somewhere because there is nothing else to do. 

Once I get to where I am going there are more choices to make.

Unless it is a group under ten people, chances are I will not be able to or want to talk to every person in the room. 

So I make decisions. 

Maybe I'll seek someone out because I heard something about them that interested me and wanted to meet them.

Perhaps I already know them and want to reconnect.

A conversation could start over a shared like of that last hors d’oeurve tray with the fabulous crab cakes that just went by. 

Maybe we'll start talking because I overheard their conversation and wanted to join in.  

Sometimes it's just a look across the room that tells me I want to meet that person.  

Other times that person is the one approaching and making the decision. 

But there is a process that involves choice.

The same choices hold true when it comes to online social networks.

Without intention, focus and a set of boundaries, each can be boring and an enormous waste of time. But used properly they both can serve an equally important purpose.

To connect humans with humans. 

Special deal extended through February 14!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

8 Ways You Can Create More Time In 2015

I get a little crazy when I hear people tell me they don’t have time to do something. That something might be starting a blog, taking a yoga class, starting a second business part-time or cleaning up their digital profile so they can look for a new job and leave the one they have been complaining about for years. 

What I really hear - every time -  is an excuse. 

It’s a good excuse. At least they think so.  Digital, which was supposed to make our lives so much easier has ironically served to make us more time challenged than ever before. Instead of simplifying, new technology distracts, thus compounding this feeling of time deprivation, leaving us wasting even more of this precious commodity by wallowing in frustration over all that time we don’t have.

It’s a vicious cycle. But it can be stopped. The first thing to do is accept the fact that time is not something  you “find.” This is not a search and rescue mission. The time is there and in equal proportion for all of us. It’s what we choose to do with our allotments.  

Since we are still at the beginning of a new year and everyone is fresh with ideas as to what they want to do differently, I thought it would be timely to offer some suggestions to create the time for those ideas to manifest.

Here’s a list of what has worked for me. Take note that none involve downloading yet one more App.

#1Put Down That Smart Phone
I realize this is a radical idea in a world where most of us panic more if we misplace our phones than our wallets or our children. But perhaps I can sway you by this statistic - the average person checks their phone 221 times a day

Trust me when I say that I love that when I went to the wrong restaurant to meet a friend the week before Christmas I could take out my iPhone and in a flash get directions from where I was to the restaurant I was supposed to be at and only be ten minutes late. But I don’t love when I catch myself mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook App or checking my email every five minutes, just because I can. That’s perfectly good time I could use elsewhere that I have let slip into oblivion. 

#2 Get Up A Half Hour Earlier Every Day.
This might be too much for you and it’s definitely not easy, especially in the dead of January when it is dark and cold outside, but it’s available to you if you want. The thing I have found, especially when I am working on a project that I am passionate about, is that once you get into the habit, it becomes really easy to do.  The bonus for me is that it miraculously opens up a lot more time for those other things I “just didn’t have time for” before.

#3 Unsubscribe. 
Email continues to be  one of the most effective methods of  marketing. If you are like me, you wind up with a lot flowing into your inbox each day.  Unsubscribe to the ones that are time wasters for you. My rule of thumb is if they are not useful, relevant, inspiring or something I can learn from I don’t want the clutter. I realize this suggestion might get me some unsubscribers - but if that will give you one less excuse why you don’t have enough time for all those things you really want to do - unsubscribe away.

#4 Use A Timer. 
If you are a regular reader you know I am partial to using a  good old-fashioned analog egg timer to parcel out my time. In fact I am using one right now as I type. I find it an indispensable tool for time creation. 

Let’s say the most extra time you can come up with right now to start that new business while working your day job is a half hour a day. Setting the timer for thirty minutes and not doing anything but working on the idea during that slot will get you a lot closer towards taking that to fruition. It takes discipline - but it works!

#5 Turn Off The Alerts!
You really don’t need to get an alert every time Aunt Agatha likes a photo on Facebook. You don’t need your email to be flying across the screen while you are trying to finish up that big presentation. And you really don’t need to be on alert when Macy’s takes another 20% off those shoes you’ve been eyeing since November when you could be writing a chapter in that novel you keep saying you are going to write.

Turn them off - as in close out of the program! These are all distractions that take you off task and instead of creating time, contribute to wasting it. 

#6 Use Your DVR.
I am not going to suggest getting rid of your television. Personally, I like my shows and as a writer, I can justify it as story line research. But even if you can’t and it is just your guilty pleasure, there is no need to watch anything live anymore save for the news, sports events or awards shows. 

My friends who still sell television advertising will hate me for this, but use your DVR. Watch when you want and commercial free. Each half hour of television includes approximately ten minutes of commercials. Two hours commercial free and you have just created forty minutes of time to do one of those things you say you have no time for. 

#7 Be Bold And Try A Digital Detox
This was the subject of a HuffPost Live segment I was a part of last week. The first time I went on a digital detox was in 2010. I blogged about it here and a summary appeared in Forbes.  It’s not for the faint of heart but it will prove to you - if nothing else that you have a lot more time than you thought. 

#8 Think Outside The Box
You're going to get overwhelmed. We all do. But rather than letting it get the best of you, throwing your hands up in the air, and deciding you were right all along and I was wrong -  you just don’t have the time for whatever it is you are putting off - ask yourself this question. How can I create more of it in 2015? 

Keep me posted on what happens!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why Desires Are Better Than Resolutions And Goals

I gave up writing resolutions years ago. Apparently I am not alone. Less than half of us make them - just 45% - and of those who do less than 8% achieve them. It seems the odds are that you are doomed before you start.

Goal setting is another thing I am not a proponent of. From where I sit, goals are a masculine term better suited for the football field, the boardroom or the budget review. It implies a win or lose proposition and ignores progress. Maybe my distaste for the word is a hangover from my corporate days when I witnessed teams chastised when they did not make budget, even though they were growing in double digit percentage points from one year to the next. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a term that lacks juice and seeks to motivate from fear.

That’s why when I am starting a new project - or in this case a new year - my list of what I want to create, achieve, and/or do differently is a list of desires.

Yes, desires. 

A distinctively feminine word that is guaranteed to make one smile. Which from where I sit, is a much better way to start creating change than a list of resolutions you made up in your head because you or someone else you know thinks these are things you should be doing.

We don’t hear much about desire lists in mixed company, because our culture equates desire most readily with sex as opposed to creating change in our lives. But if you look at the definition of desire - “a strong feeling of wanting” - it seems to me that is the place to start from if you are really serious about making something happen - professionally or personally.

  • Desires are something you can feel in every cell of your body -  not just a lofty goal that you might or might not really believe possible.
  • Desires get to the truth of what you want to achieve. If you pay attention your body will let you know if you are on to something  or not.
  • Desires imply that you can have fun along the way, a novel concept for task masters, but one that still will lead you to your - here comes that word again - desired outcome.
  • Desires invite the Universe to take a part in the co-creation of whatever it is you want to do.
  • Desires can still make you feel uneasy and at times a bit uncomfortable - but more likely not out of fear that you will fail, rather that you might succeed.
  • Desires force you to believe that what you want is indeed possible. 

This is not to say that I think creating change is as simple as writing a desire on a piece of paper and - poof - just like that it will magically appear.  

Desire requires discipline. In order for a desire to manifest, you still need a strategy and a game plan of specific steps to take towards that desire. Writing those steps down establishes true intention. Action is key. 

For example, if one of my desires is to write and publish two more books this year, that has no chance of happening if I don’t set aside time on my calendar each and every day to write. 

If I desire to be published in The New York Times, I will need to submit articles.
If I desire to make YOUR DIGITAL YOU available as an online course by March 1, I must start by upgrading my website to accommodate that.
If I desire to grow my ONE-on-ONE Consulting, I need more outreach and to make it easier for people to sign up.

See how that works?

Whether it is resolutions, goals or my preferred method of writing desires, if they are not front and center each day, we forget about them. They get lost and we become part of the 92% who never see what they want come true.

So this year I am trying something a little different. I wrote all of my 2015 Desires on scraps of paper. I read each one out loud and allowed myself the luxury of feeling that desire with my whole body before I folded it up and placed it inside of a mason jar that now sits on my desk and will every day this year.  

I might add a few new ones along the way. I will most certainly open that jar from time to time to see how I am doing.  But I will not lose sight of them. 

Special note: I have already taken a step towards one of my desires. It is now easier (and more affordable than ever) to sign up for a ONE-ON-ONE Consultation with me. Details here!