Category Archives: Personal Development

5 things you need to know before you write your next email

Image: percect stranger by mezone
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The following 5 tips are a must read if you want to send emails that leave a good impression, and compel the recipient of your emails to take immediate action.

1. Be bold: Start with the end

Need an answer from your recipient? Want them to take a particular action, like printing an attachment, sending an invite, or calling you as soon as possible? Tell them what you need in the first paragraph of your message.

If you’re feeling bold, then format the “call to action” in a way that stands out from the rest of the message. Be careful in your choice of formatting: Many people have found that red fonts will convey an implicit meaning that you are demanding action, rather than simply encouraging it. That was one lesson I would have preferred to learn the easy way.

2. Try again; do it twice

If you’ve ever tried to cook a fancy recipe for an important dinner party for the first time, you’ll probably have some pretty embarrassing memories to share. We rarely get things right on our first try, which is why we tend to use our loved ones as guinea pigs for our culinary experiments. With that knowledge, we really ought to ask ourselves why do we rarely re-read an email before we hit the Send button…

Next time you sit down to write an email, just go ahead and write it. After you’re done with it, go back to the top and read it again. I guarantee you will find a number of changes you want to make as you read through it again. Feeling confident? Do it a third time – you will surprise yourself with some of the subtle yet powerful improvements you get on that last run.

3. If it is important, choose the right time

In their best-seller ’Fish!’, Lundin, Paul & Christensen tell us that one of the three secrets to a happy work life is to “Be Present” for others. The same applies to written communication. Some time ago I learned from experience that writing mission critical messages to my largest customers at 11:30 PM after a long day at work was an extremely poor choice.

If the message is important, choose the right time to write it. If th message is not important, choose the right time to write it too. Make sure you won’t be forced to rush through writing it. And if it is really important or a letter charged with emotion, you should follow Dan Millmans’ advise about E-mail Protocols:

If you must write an emotionally-charged letter, or just an important
one where clear composition is important, write it then SAVE it in your
“Drafts” file. SLEEP ON IT and take another look the next morning.

4. Carefully craft the subject line

Read any advice from the professionals, and you will be bored to death with messages on the importance of your headline. Email is no different. The subject of your email is your headline; don’t abuse it. Use it wisely, and your message will be far more powerful than you could ever dream.

Some professionals go as far as suggesting that you should spend half the time choosing the title of your article, and the other half writing the actual article. In the case of emails, maybe 50/50 is taking it a bit far. Just make sure you don’t underestimate the importance of a good subject line.

5. Be succinct

Want your message to be clear? Want to grab the attention of your reader? Want to differentiate yourself from the thousand other emails that arrive in others’ email inboxes?

Pack a lot of content in as few words as you can. Use the delete key generously.

Be succinct.

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How to reach your goals

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By now you will know that I am a ’new-age’ type of a character. I have a lot of interest in spirituality, motivation, and other topics related to my personal and spiritual development. A few days ago, while reading an interview with Dan Millman, I found a very powerful quote about how to reach our goals (link ). This quote made me reflect on some of the views commonly held in the Self-Help-Actrualisation-Movement about achieving; and I realised that sometimes less is more. Read on if you want to challenge some of what many people accept as ’Wisdom’ on the topic of success and reaching your goals.

Two paths for reaching your goals

Let’s start with what Dan said in the interview:

To progress toward your goals, please choose one of the following methods: (1) You can find a way to quiet your mind, create empowering beliefs and positive self-talk, find your focus and affirm your power to free your emotions and visualize positive outcomes so that you can develop the confidence to generate the courage to find the determination to make the commitment to feel sufficiently motivated to do whatever it is you need to do. (2) Or you can just do it.

In every goal you set yourself to achieve, there will be these 2 ways to achieve it. One is simple, one is complex. Which one do you usually choose?

What ’The Secret’ never told you: The Power of Action

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you probably have heard about ’The Secret’, and either read the book; watched the movie; or at the very least heard of the very basic principles it proposes. When I saw the movie, I was inspired. Here is someone who understands the power of positive thinking, and has managed to create a movie with Hollywood-style production quality. I was excited to think of how many people would be touched by this movie, and what a difference it would make in other people’s lives. But my perspective was somehow transformed after reading the quote above from Dan Millman. I realised that there is a very powerful element that the movie missed altogether: The Power of Action. All the positive thinking in the world is unlikely to help you achieve your goals unless you use it as a motivation for taking action. Visualisations; Motivation; and Positive thinking will likely put you in the right state of mind to notice opportunities that before you would not have been aware of. But they will not ’magically transform’ the world around you while you sit in your couch digesting the last bag of mindless reality television.

Often times, simple is better

Yes, sometimes the simple path is the better path. And visualising, creating empowerig beliefs, developing more self-confidence, and becoming committed can become unnecessary steps on your way to success. What if you already have established a mindset of positive thinking? What if you already have empowering beliefs? Going down that path is creating a lot of unnecessary redundancy. Let’s take 2 simple examples: Loosing weight, and Doubling your income. In the first case, you may know what needs to get done, why and how. But you’ve just been too lazy to actually do it. Maybe some visualisation will motivate you enough to get on top of it and start a healthier eating & exercise regime. But truth is you probably simply need to get on with it and ’Just do it’. Doubling your income, on the other hand, may require taking the first path. Becoming more in tune with opportunities to double your income, and then having the courage to follow them; the determination to stick with what appears like a high-stakes bet; and to stay the track for long enough to give it a chance of working, may take some serious psychological weight lifting before the main event. In cases like this, the first path outlined by Dan may be more conducive to a great outcome.

Make a choice at the start

If simple is often ties better, then we owe it to ourselves to think for a minute or two which path is required for the goal in consideration. The five minutes you need to spend making a conscious choice may save you hundreds of hours on your path to success. And remember Dan’s words to reach success, you can “find a way to quiet your mind, create empowering beliefs and positive self-talk, find your focus and affirm your power to free your emotions and visualize positive outcomes so that you can develop the confidence to generate the courage to find the determination to make the commitment to feel sufficiently motivated to do whatever it is you need to do; or you can just do it”. It really is your choice.

Links

  • The Peaceful warrior: Dan Millman’s web site
  • The Secret
  • Outdoor Living
  • Note to loyal readers: This post is a re-write of a previous post that only had the original quote from Dan’s interview. I hope you enjoy the additional value-add of my reflections.

    Jack Lalane surprises again: The power of lateral thinking

    Image: Weight Lifting by mjzitek
    Weight Lifter
    Impossible dreams

    Do you think a professional weight lifter could lift 1,000 pounds? What about you? Do you tink you can lift 1,000 pounds? If you think the answer is no, think again.

    Still think you can’t? Take a look at this video from one of my favourite characters, Jack Lalane, and you will find just how easy it would be for you to do it (link). Sure, you may say that doing it that way is cheating (haven’t seen the video yet? You really ought to see it! Go and take a look – we will wait for you), but what jack does has nothing to do with cheating..

    The power of Lateral Thinking

    No, what Jack was talking about has everything to do with creative thinking. Not like those "creative accounting" tricks in the arsenal of rogue advisors that corrupt senior executives at banks & multinationals; rather, the kind of creative thinking that Edward de Bono encourages in his books (link) ir?. Lateral thinking, creative problem-solving, and intuitive reason are some of the names given to the thought process that abolishes boundaries for a few minutes as a mechanism to find unusual ways to solve problems. Every time we read, hear, or think about a problem, our mind immediately makes assumptions and places constraints on the way to approach the problem.

    Think about it; without these pre-defined filters, the number of ridiculous possibilities we would entertain would quickly lead to analysis-by-paralysis. Yet this useful characteristic of our mind is our own enemy when it comes to increasing our problem-solving repertoire. Developing the ability to look at our own reality from a different perspective on a regular basis becomes a critical tool in our personal development arsenal. Without it,we become slaves to our own routines and frames-of-mind. We become unconsciously incompetent on creative problem-solving.

    Diversity of perspectives: the path to creativity

    In a way, that is why many modern corporations have espoused diversity as a desired trait of their workforce. Sitome may think it only has to do with legal requirements to prove that they do not discriminate on the basis of sex, colour, race, or religion. But for smart companies it is the type of acknowledgement proving that a diverse work-force with a variety of life- and world-views will be more likely to look at business problems from different and sometimes unusual angles; and in doing so, provide those in management & leadership with great insights into new opportunities.

    So do yourself a favour, and develop your creative thinking muscles; exercise insanity for short periods of time, and see the type of astonishing solutions your brain can come up with. I promise you will at the very least enjoy the process, and at best will find great and effortless ways to solve your current problems.

    How to become an early riser?

    A blog article suggests that going to bed only when you feel sleepy and getting up with an alarm clock at a fixed time every dayd of the week is the key. I am yet to get this method to work, but the theory stacks up. I managed to wake up consistently at 5:30 AM for about a month using this method, but have fallen into irregular sleep patterns as of late.

    And the element that is implicit but not discussed on the article is motivation. I have found that it is far easier for me to apply such techniques successfully *only* when I have a true desire to make the most of my waking hours; and to have some time for myself.

    A routine of meditation, light exercise, a bit of reflection and some writing (whether it is poetry or blog entries) seems to be a great way to start my day. I am working on establishing this routine as a consistent part of my life for the long term. Maybe you could too.

    Background noise

    I recently heard an interesting show on ‘Radio National’ talked about the effect that noise has on the classroom . It talked about how noise distracts students, and in extreme cases, a seemingly minor distraction can change the meaning of the whole lesson.

    It gave the example of a children’s story read to a group of young children. A bit of noise distracted one of them from hearing the first few sentences correctly. As a result, what should have been a beautiful story about a ‘bleating sheep’ turned into a horror story about a ‘bleeding sheep’.

    How many times do we allow noise change our own perception of life from wonderful stories into nightmares? Not very often? Think again.

    We’re not talking about ‘auditive noise’; rather, about ‘mindfulness noise’.

    ‘Mindfulness noise’ is the term I use to describe the endless stream of thoughts that create worry, anxiety, and inaction in our lives. It is the continuous bouncing of worries that often happens inside of our minds. This noise distracts us from the word around us, drowning any lesson or story that could improve the quality of our life.

    In the Radio National show they also talked about successful use of High Fidelity equipment to accentuate the sounds that are difficult to hear, and to distribute the voice of the teacher evenly across the classroom.

    Are you even aware of the noise that happens inside your mind every day? What technology could we use to achieve a better signal-to-noise ratio inside our minds?

    If you find something that works, don’t forget to share it with the rest of us – we all could use some peave and quiet in the living room of our minds.