How To Be Your Own Copywriting Apprentice

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There was a time when men and women’s vocations began with an apprenticeship. While it’s making a strong comeback in many areas, in some professions today it’s still a deep-rooted part of career paths out there in our world.

Even today, electricians and certain types of engineers begin their careers as apprentices, and in higher education, there’s a similar system in place, too. The graduate student can definitely be thought of as an apprentice, post-doctoral fellows as journeymen, and professors as masters.

There is a training program for you, and you can be your own copywriting apprentice.

To begin, there are two important questions to ask. These are two questions I ask quite a lot lately. As it turns out, they are relevant and connected. The first I ask others―What are your biggest challenges? The second I ask myself―What skills sets do I need to succeed?

Our biggest challenges often revolve around information and learning, and as a freelance copywriter, necessary skill sets are often about learning as you work. It requires attention and focus, perseverance and discipline, and hard work. And it’s all about your commitment to yourself and your new apprenticeship.

Put plainly, it’s a learn-as-you-work journey and the resources are out there in profusion.

The most important resource you have is time. Money is important and there’s not much you can do without it. But all the money in the world won’t buy you an extra second. Get up early, stay up late, read and write. Manage your time well.

The next thing on your training agenda is to study. Master Copywriter Sean McCool points out that the Internet and your mailbox are a wealth of study material. One of the best suggestions from Sean is to read your junk mail.

It’s junk for a reason. The main one being just how poorly written most of that copy is. So your task is to rewrite that sales email until it resonates. Take a hard look at it and learn what’s wrong with it and fix it. It’s a great writing exercise. This is the focus and attention part of it.

While you’re working on your revision, keep an eye on the clock. You do not have time to go through the motions. This is about you, your apprenticeship―you improving every day. This is the perseverance and discipline part of it.

Now, there are a lot of freelancing platforms out there, and they are not all created equal. Freelancer and lifestyle design maven, Dan Johnston believes they are a waste of time. He suggests that rather than relying on these websites, start networking on social media.

Let people on Facebook know that you’re a copywriter. Write a post about it and introduce the world to your new venture. Be confident! Ask your audience what their biggest challenge is, and begin the conversation about copywriting as the solution.

Get to know your audience, their needs and problems. Use Twitter and LinkedIn, and by all means, start a blog. If you already have solid business contacts, hone those connections and build relationships. And even if you’re the world’s greatest introvert, join up and participate in freelance writer’s communities. This is the hard work part.

When you get your first clients, deliver quality and value. Use an online freelance platform if you have to. Build a reputation and work on referrals, and develop your niche.

Take your role as an apprentice seriously. It’s all about learning and growing. It’s your apprenticeship and it all depends on you. It depends on the choices you make in what you pursue. How hard you’re willing to work. How you handle failure.

Going beyond the junk mail exercise, you may find that there are other skills you need. Learn about different niches, branding, and SEO. I don’t care what happened to the cat, but curiosity is the life blood of the apprentice copywriter and an exciting part of your journey.

In the final analysis, as a copywriting apprentice, journeyman, or master, your results will be about who you are. Everyone’s path is different. Don your apron, green visor and sleeve garters and dig in. The path to apprenticeship success starts by getting on that path today.

The #1 Thing You Should Never Say―”What Do I Have to Do to Get You in This Car Today?”

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Everyone wants options. At the very least, we want clarity.

I’ve bought a lot of cars over the years. One lean financial year, I actually bought a Volkswagen Rabbit from some dude on Craigslist for $750.  I also owned a Ford F-150 4X4 that, if purchased today, would run me about $63,000.

The difference between the two vehicles is obvious.

The Rabbit was one of the worst cars ever made. When it was brand new it was terrible. I bought it “as-is.” I ran it for as long as I could, which was at least 10 times longer than I would have been able to rent from Hertz for $750.

The Ford came with guarantees, options, and A/C. I was living in Las Vegas. I’m sure there are regions in the US where you can get away without having A/C, especially way back in the day when that wasn’t a standard option. Hella way before my time, but the Mojave Desert is definitely not one of those places.

The VW Rabbit of Copywriting

I bought the VW because I needed a car and at the time, that was all I could afford. And I knew what I was getting into. There was no way that once the car failed, and it was epic, that I was going to call the former owner and give him a piece of my mind.

As is means as is.

In copywriting, if I produce a Rabbit, people are going to recognize an inferior product. They’re not going to call me up and complain. They’re going to another website and they’ll do business with someone else.

By the same token, had I gone to a licensed dealership and bought a lemon, I’d be  telling a whole other story today. If they misrepresented something, inducing me to buy a VW Rabbit (of all things), and it turned out the salesperson lied or manipulated, we’d have to call that fraud.

Take Away:

  1. Don’t write copy that misrepresents―don’t promise a Lexus and deliver a Rabbit.
  2. Be honest about your products and services always.
  3. Don’t write “as is” copy―offer value and solve problems.
  4. Conversion happens when we remove pain, not when we add to it.

The last time I bought a car, I got a base model because it had so many standard features, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was also connected to an insurance agent by my salesperson, got great financing, and a double espresso.

I was consistently offered value, benefit, and a positive experience that did not waste a moment of my time. Your copy and landing page, your focus and call to actions need to do the same thing.

The previous dealership didn’t work for me. The entire conversation, the offers I was made, didn’t connect. What the sales team lacked in clarity, they made up for in losing my attention and losing a customer. Forever.

This awkward interaction showed me, in less than 5 minutes, that this dealership was not going to provide me with solutions. Finally, the salesperson actually said, “What do I have to do to get you into a car today?”

“Can you do magic tricks? I like Criss Angel.”

I didn’t say that. I just walked off the lot. And do you know why? Because the salesperson showed me, by asking that question, that he had run out of possibilities. 

He made it obvious that he could offer no real solutions, and the only choice I could make was to go to his competitor.

I went to another dealership and bought a new car that day.

Take Away:

  1. Be clear in your writing―show your customers why you’re a better option than your competitor.
  2. Communicate to connect―do this by providing useful, relevant information.
  3. Provide solutions.
  4. Be a virtual, if not literal, fount of possibilities.

The #1 reason to never say What do I have to do to get you into a car today? is because the salesperson isn’t asking me what I want. If the salesperson was really interested in providing benefit to me, the customer, that question would never have crossed his mind.

Had I been treated like I was a member of their audience―that is, a participator in their brand―I’d be driving their car today.

Final Take Away:

  1. I was treated like a consumer of a product―the conversion process requires you to treat the visitor like a human being.
  2. To get a visitor to become a customer, you have to get to know them.
  3. Laziness and a lack of imagination will kill conversion dead it its tracks, faster than a $750 Craigslist beater.

Superman’s Top Conversion Copywriting and Landing Page Tips

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Engagement, engagement, engagement. Everybody’s talking about engagement. But what’s the most important thing to realize when you’re talking about engagement? Don’t say “engagement.”

It’s TIME.

Punctuality in life and in business is highly regarded because it’s a function of courtesy and respect. It’s not a superpower exactly, but it comes pretty close. When you arrive punctually for appointments, meetings, and dates, the message you send is that you value the other person.

● You’re meeting your date at your favorite coffee spot at 5:00. Here’s the thing, though―you get there early. When she walks in at 4:59, you hand her that double shot, low fat, no foam latte she loves so much. How will that set the tone for the rest of your night together?

●You’re meeting your date at your favorite coffee spot at 5:00, but you get there at 5:15, flapping your cape around like Superman on kryptonite. Why the show of false urgency? Lois Lane’s gone, brah.

When potential customers arrive at your website, make sure they get the latte.

I may never run out of words to express this, but I will very likely run out of time. The most important resource we have is time. Without it, there is nothing. No latte. No kryptonite Superman―not for long anyway.

To convert that website visit from a three-second blank stare to a sale, the first and foremost point at issue has got to be an abiding respect for people’s time.

The second thing you have to do is communicate value. Getting that visitor to keep reading, and to then take action―it’s all about the ROTI.

Return on Time Invested basically translates to making the landing page worth it for me to have even paid your site a visit in the first place. ROTI is a super power, and there are essential elements to a landing page that have got to be Superman strong.

The elements listed below must be faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!

  1. The Headline―this needs to be Superman powerful. Experienced conversion copywriters will tell you they spend 50% or more of their time on this element alone.
  2. The Copy―this needs to capture visitors like a villain.
  3. Benefits―this needs to show the visitor, in a compelling way, that you have their interests at heart and a solution to their problems.
  4. Call to Action―this needs to be done creatively because a strong CTA is landing page gold.

The messages you put out there on your landing page have to connect to people, what they’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing. You have to connect with people, build a relationship, and give them what they want.

People want benefit, of course. But let me reveal a big secret to you―all of this hinges on trust. Build trust and you’ll build connection. Connection leads to relationship. Relationship converts.

If you want to fly like Superman today, be sure to visit the KISSmetrics blog and check out their infographic entitled “The Anatomy of A Perfect Landing Page.” Like Superman touching down on Lois Lane’s balcony―another happy landing. Well, landing page.

Dr. Content or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Copywriting as Storytelling

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Time waits for no one, and it has certainly not waited on copywriting as an industry. There was time when copywriters had a captive audience―magazine and newspaper readers who received content exclusively on those media, and TV audiences who had to watch commercials before they got to enjoy their entertainment.

We have progressed, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. The present- day experience and interaction with brands and brand communication happens in a completely different way.

We have choices in exactly what we opt for, and have the benefit of being able to tailor which brands and their ads we want exposure to. For the copywriter, it’s a greater challenge than ever to effectively grab and maintain consumer attention.

Media has changed with the internet, and with it, consumer’s expectations. Content is essentially consumer controlled and consumer generated. Engagement is occurring on a different level than it was in the days of Don Draper and the other Mad Men.

Rather than passively absorbing the fruits of a copywriter’s labor, consumers are on the internet, night and day, participating in brand identity, sharing opinions on products with anyone and everyone.

The result is that the old school one-way sales pitch has been replaced by the sometimes maligned two-way conversation―a strategy that brands use to appear more human. It’s about engagement, and engagement is a very human function that gives rise to story.

The Journey to Story

The best stories are those that involve a journey, whether it is a deeply inner quest (The Deer Hunter) or a journey across many miles (Indiana Jones), these are the stories that capture our imaginations.

Copywriters have had to take a journey just as surely as the industry itself has. Copywriting and consumer expectations have gone beyond marketing landmarks, of iconic advertising, to find us all sitting around the glowing warmth of our tablet screens―and we want story now.

There’s a lot to worry about. Creativity, writer’s block, and inspiration. Right? Wrong. The best copywriters out there have stopped worrying and have learned to love story.

How To Love Story

There’s one completely and effective way to stop worrying and learn to love story as a copywriter. You cultivate heart. Heart is, along with a good espresso and a laptop, your best friend.

How so, you ask? Because you can’t be productive without heart. Heart is what urges life-long learning. Heart urges us to be adaptable, to be flexible and urges within us the ability to transfer skill sets from one experience to the next. It is heart that gives us our ability to tolerate fear and uncertainty and potential failure.

If you’re more practical and less poetic, don’t worry about that either. Heart is what tells stories and stories sell.

Nurturing heart for the copywriter comes down to these three things:

1. Knowing your audience

No matter how engaging your story is, you won’t engage your audience unless your copy is directly relevant to them and their experience, whether it’s with a brand they want to partake of or a personal direction they want to go for. This takes heart.

2. Keeping it Simple

This doesn’t mean dumb it down. Don’t do that. The worst writing in the world is condescending. By the same token, be aware, understand that there is a virtual deluge of information out there. It’s not an attention span issue, it’s avoiding the traps of writing a piece that’s contrary to common-sense relationship building. Relationships take heart. Embrace your personal complexity all you want. Just put it on the page so we can understand it.

3. Keeping it Real

Keeping it real means focusing on delivering quality and value. It’s about being results oriented. The value of good copywriting is based on the outcomes delivered. We’re all committed to results―so writing needs to be geared toward real solutions with real stories about real situations to engage real people. And they have heart, too.

Photo Credit: Dr. Strangelove, 1964 (Columbia Pictures)

7 Tricks for Writing Powerful Headlines

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The more things change, the more they remain the same. Like any old adage, this one makes the most sense in context. It’s a known fact that people skim. Most print consumers are going to read headlines much more often than they’re going to dive into an article.

This was true when newspapers were king, and it’s still true today.

There was a time when newspapers had three editions a day and the occasional extra. Think of all those classic films, in black and white, with the newsboy crying out, “Extra, extra! Read all about it!” People did read all about it, and it was largely due to powerful headlines.

When people get to your website or blog, they’re still going to do what their grandparents did―they’re going to skim the headlines and they may or may not move on from there. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

According to Pew Research, in 2015, the newspaper sector experienced one of the worst years since the recession. Average weekday newspaper circulation, print, and digital combined, fell 7% in 2015. Pew says this is the greatest decline since 2010.

Is a powerful headline the panacea for all things that ail print and digital media? It’s part of it. Believe this―it’s all about relevant, commanding content with a powerful headline.

If the point hasn’t been driven home, the fact remains—headlines matter. When a strong headline is attached to irresistible content, people are drawn to read your copy. It’s simply a part of good writing.

Don’t underestimate a poorly written headline. Nothing will send potential customers searching for somewhere else to spend their time and money. And you cannot overestimate the returns when you craft headlines that grab your reader’s attention and essentially compel people to engage with your content.

Some copywriters admit to spending more time composing headlines than they do on content, this is how seriously it’s taken. The fact that a writer is so invested in writing the right headline, the headline that will resonate with readers and potential customers, calls attention to the need for honing our communication skills.

There is a difference between formula and communication, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start with a method. Here are some techniques to help make your headlines strong and pumped up.

#1: Use Numbers

You can talk to Jeff Goins and Neil Patel, and any other experienced copywriter, and they’ll say the same thing. People love list-type posts. They want their information concise and they want it fast and easy to follow.

“150 Ways to Eat Better and 47 Recipes”

I’m not reading that. A personal trainer friend of mine always tells new clients that he can get them fit and looking buff using two soup cans. His point? Keep it simple and keep it consistent. Do not overwhelm.

By the way, studies show that odd numbers perform better than even numbers.

#2: Offer Value

In a very real sense, copy is about initiating a value exchange with readers and potential customers. Communicate your understanding of needs and how you will provide the value people expect.

A great way to do this is with how-to headlines. Here’s a great example:

7 Tricks for Writing Powerful Headlines

You see how this guy grabbed your attention, used numbers and communicated the value of his post? And you get to learn something awesome in 7 steps, not 7 years.

#3: Make Promises

Make a bold promise in your headline then deliver in your content. Promise to teach a new skill. Promise to inspire your readers to try something new and exciting. Reveal a secret that will impact their lives or their business, their minds or their souls. And be specific.

 

#5: Add Power Adjectives

Some words are worth avoiding. Very is a good example. “I’m very happy” is fine when you’re talking to your bestie, but in print, it weakens the prose. Not is another. “I did not want this advice” is not as strong as “It was unwanted advice”.

Similarly, to punch those headlines, use adjectives. Incredible, essential, brilliant, effortless―words that grab your readers’ attention and get them to dive head-first into your copy are the words to use.

#6: Punctuate

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. famously taught students to limit themselves to periods and commas―great advice I choose to ignore. In headlines, don’t be afraid of the dash and the colon. Punctuation is like a signpost on the road to your copy. Use them and use them wisely.

#7: Do Not Fear The Negative

According to an article (with a great headline) on socialmediaexaminer.com, headlines with negatives like “never” or “worst” performed 63% better than those containing positives like “always” or “best”. In fact, you may want to consider avoiding such superlatives altogether. It’s important to keep in mind that negative terms were viewed as more authentic and genuine by a majority of readers.

• We want people to visit, and come back and visit again. We want our visitors to read our work beyond the headline. A powerful headline makes all the difference in the world―that is, the difference between being unread and ignored and instead guaranteeing that your posts are read and shared.

A Closer Look At The WowWee CHiP Interactive Robot Pet Dog

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There is nothing better than bringing home a new dog. The new notebook computer, tablet or smartphone is very exciting, to be sure, but bringing home a new pet for the first time is a very special experience.

Today’s technology has come a long way in making the inanimate animate, and nothing compares to the WoWWee CHIP Robot Pet Dog.

WowWee has been active in the design and development of electronic toys for 28 years, and their experience as an innovator of hi-tech consumer robotic products is revolutionizing the industry and consumer experience, and expectations.

In the first days of September 2016, WowWee released CHiP, their new Canine Home Intelligent Pet, a truly interactive robot dog with advanced artificial intelligence that connects and communicates with its human owners.

CHiP combines cutting-edge technology and sophisticated artificial intelligence to give owners a truly authentic canine experience without all the trouble and worry associated with owning a biological pet.

The fact is that CHiP is not you run-of-the-mill toy store holiday season compromise. CHiP is an actual robot. You would be hard pressed to find a product with this level of authenticity, developed from the application of years of accumulated scientific knowledge, anywhere else.

Similar products are designed and produced as toys by toy makers and are electronic pets that cannot hold up against current AI technology. They are hardly better than the tin battery powered robots our dads had when they were kids.

Many of today’s options are still somewhat limited. The Zoomer Kitty made a splash on the market upon its release with nothing more than a few built-in commands and movements. This is a toy destined for the toy chest, along with the old baseball mitt and abandoned action figures.

With CHiP, consumers will purchase a truly interactive robot dog that has the capacity to learn and provide true companionship. WowWee has incorporated many advanced features that are truly amazing. These include voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity, and GestureSense™ so that your pet can react to clapping hands and your touch.

CHiP has Mecanum wheels that enable him to move in any direction like a real dog, as well as an accelerometer and gyroscopes so CHiP knows when he’s been picked up for a hug.

Beacon-Sense™ technology is a proprietary indoor GPS system that provides seamless Bluetooth connectivity. With an excess of sensors, CHiP exhibits an awareness of his environment and links with three smart accessories to guide his movement and his learning curve. These accessories are CHiP’s SmartBall, his SmartBed for charging, and his owner’s wearable tech SmartBand.

The smart accessories are an integral part of teaching your new pet all about you and his new home while providing an authentic emotional bond between dog and owner. The more a new owner interacts and plays with her new robot dog, the more unique the experience becomes. WowWee asserts that no two CHiP experiences will be the same because no two owners are alike.

 

The innovative SmartBand provides CHiP with the ability to recognize his owner and is the tool you will use to teach CHiP everything he needs to know while training him to do all the fun tricks you want him to perform. The SmartBand also serves as a notification center, alerting you with light indicators if CHiP wants to play, is hungry, or needs to find his bed and charge up.

There is also a free companion app available for both iOS and Android that features the same controls you can use on the SmartBand. It allows for important owner customizations, providing a unique pet owner experience.

Infrared sensors give CHiP a 360-degree view of his environment. This allows CHiP to chase and retrieve the SmartBall for games as simple as go fetch and as much fun as a rousing game of soccer. In fact, CHiP is a very talented and enthusiastic goalie. Watch out, Tim Howard!

At an estimated retail price of $199.99, there isn’t a smart device on the market that can match CHiP for fun activities and innovation.

The times we live in are exploding with new and innovative ways to enhance our day to day lives. Products from WowWee are more than a glimpse into what the near future holds for us, going beyond the current information deluge and cute little ways to pass the time.

We are truly on what is an exciting technological threshold. Even for the cynic and the skeptic, we are about to embark on a brave new world where tech will not only improve our lives but also solve our most pressing issues.

This will soon be a new era, in the most positive, forward-thinking way imaginable, and

WoWWee will be one of the great innovators, transforming our experiences by setting the pace with new and exciting ways for us to express our human lifestyle.

10 New Zealand Happy Hours Spots

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New Zealand is known for its stunning landscapes and friendly locals. Travel here always has so much to offer the first time visitor.

Imagine a day spent soaking up Maori culture and hospitality or visiting The Shire and touring Hobbiton on the rolling hills of Matamata. Hiking to New Zealand’s incredible geysers and boiling mud pools, and then indulging in some of the world’s finest thermal spas, is the ultimate nomad experience.

And not to be outdone―there’s wine tasting. New Zealand is famous for producing incredible Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines from vineyards nestled in some of the most spectacular settings in the world.

When traveling anywhere, it isn’t hard to get off the beaten path, avoid getting pigeonholed as just another tourist and keep away from the hackneyed tourist traps every city in every country seems to have.

One of the best ways to meet new people and enjoy some local flavor is to join in with happy hour.

Shutting down the laptop and putting the iPhone away is, for some globetrotters, luxurious in itself and the entryway to engaging in one of the best aspects of travel―laid back conversation with all kinds of interesting people.

Welcome to Happy Hour!

Happy Hour in Auckland, New Zealand

A New Zealand favorite among locals and tourist alike is a generous order of frites served with aioli. The perfect pairing is, of course, one of Monteith’s Brewing Company’s ice cold beers or ciders. But there’s more to happy hour in Aukland than fries and beer.

One of the best places to visit, without a doubt, is Gusto at The Grand. Located in the SKYCITY Grand Hotel on 90 Federal Street, Gusto offers The Aperitivo Hour every day starting at 5:00 p.m and running until 7:00 p.m.

With the purchase of your favorite cocktail or aperitif, you are invited to enjoy one of many complimentary amuse-bouche. This could easily become quite the tradition to take home in the place of souvenirs and T-shirts―inviting friends to your hometown’s best happy hour for Campari and appetizers!

Another fun spot is BOX Cafe & Bar, located close to theaters for those heading out to a show. Box Cafe & Bar recently introduced The Balcony where guests can see performances from Auckland’s best DJs and musicians. This is a must for an inexpensive start to a fun night out on the town.

Do not forget to visit De Fontein Belgian Beer Café, situated in the heart of Mission Bay. De Fontein is known for it mussel dishes and a wide variety of finely crafted Belgian beers. With so much to choose from, you’re sure to have a great time in Aukland.

Happy Hour in Wellington, New Zealand
Concrete Bar is a hidden gem, right in the heart of Wellington’s central district. With their relaxed atmosphere, Concrete Bar provides guests with one of the city’s best happy hours.

With a compliment of great cocktails and delectable food, this is definitely the place to be. On sunny days, you’re going to want to enjoy the balcony. Overlooking busy Lambton Quay, it’s the best spot in town to have a drink and a bite―and people watch.

One of the city’s little-known favorites is The Library. Hidden away in the upstairs at Courtenay Place, The Library is well known for serving up fun and frivolous cocktails, and exquisite and obscure wines. Although they don’t technically serve happy hour, the two for one drink specials on Wednesday are nonnegotiable. This is the Happy Humpday place to be.

Havana Bar is a Cuban themed bar and restaurant located in two historic Wellington cottages, providing an eclectic mix of music and local personalities that has made Havana a very picturesque neighborhood haunt.

With authentic Cuban food and cocktails along with tasty Spanish tapas, Havana Bar hosts live music during the week and a welcome smile every day from Wellingtonians and visitors alike.

Happy Hour in Christchurch, New Zealand

 

If you’re looking for an excellent happy hour in Christchurch, then the hands down go-to spot is Fiddlesticks Restaurant & Bar located on 48 Worcester Street. Nestled in the heart of the Arts Precinct, this beautifully appointed location has great food and drink options during an awesome happy hour.

The sheltered courtyard is the perfect place for people watching. There’s a cozy outdoor fire blazing that makes for the perfect ambiance, and there are intimate dining spaces available for you and your friends to enjoy one another’s company. There’s nowhere else you’d rather be. Be sure to make a pilgrimage to Fiddlesticks when you’re in Christchurch.

If you’re looking for a rowdy time, then the hotspot for happy hour is definitely Morrel & Co. To call this bar and restaurant Meatball Heaven is part understatement, part statement of purpose.

The menu is largely dedicated to the meatball and they are served in a million amazing ways. The small bites menu features frites and aioli, dumplings, and their pizza comes highly recommended. The finger food they serve is perfect for sharing with friends. Just remember, this isn’t an intimate date place at all. Expect lots of fun. And for crying out loud, order some meatballs!

Tequila Mockingbird is the place to be for live music and DJs and an impressive list of Latin wines and beer. Don’t overlook the small plate menu, designed with sharing in mind―after all, that’s what happy hour should be all about.

Don’t let the chain restaurant decor put you off, though. Once you see the menu, you’ll be glad you came. The wine list is impressive, to say the least, and this is one of the more polished locations on this list in spite of the Bennigan’s look.

These places are all giving their guests the best impression they can, and they come alive with great entertainment, food, drink, and the chance to meet new faces in fun new places.

Some folks are coming back from a day at work and others from seeing the sights. It’s time to enjoy some New Zealand hospitality. There’s so much fun to be had! You know you’re going to enjoy your new happy hour spot!

Policies Over People? Really?

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Based on a Post Published on LinkedIn November 15, 2014

Featured in: Leadership & Management

Policies Over People is a leadership paradigm that is often used by organizations that perform out of a deficit thought process rather than through appreciative workplace values.

Policies Over People causes two leadership errors which are greatly responsible for undermining morale while cultivating all sorts of dysfunction in the organization.

First, there is priority reversal.

Priority reversal is sometimes expressed by bosses when they countermand the significant in a wrong-headed predilection for the trivial. Sometimes this experience is conveyed by supervisors who are focused myopically on their own position or title rather than giving appropriate attention to fostering an appreciative work environment.

Take the example of a medical facility that employs technicians with the designation of Tech I, II, III, and IV. If a lead position has been designated Tech IV and an individual chooses to focus not on being a technician among technicians, but instead on Roman numerals, the natural progression will likely be toward maintaining a culture mired the deficit thought process status quo.

These outcomes and behaviors contribute to the second leadership error and that is the phenomena of system justification.

When priorities are disjointed, supervisors have to expend undue energy rationalizing. This can bring in all sorts of arbitrary rules that replace the organization’s primary policies (which ought to be in place to ensure safety, continuity, positive communication, the simplification of tasks, etc.).

So much time and effort is placed on the ministration, investigation and observation of problems (along with micromanaging) that any chance of expanding what actually works is lost. In a morass of poor leadership and errors based on an outmoded corporate paradigm, the best of what is gets overlooked, imagining what could be is repressed, what could be and what will be evaporate.

True workplace exasperation comes when these phenomena create an environment of indifference. Indifference is workplace death.

At least you can fight a hostile work environment, but there is no cure for the kind of indifference that kills day-to-day performance, job satisfaction, employee retention, team spirit, motivation, and innovation.

A culture that supports an innate demandingness causes leaders to work like they’re firefighters and problem solvers―it is a culture that has conditioned its people to believe that stress, under involvement and “issues” are the name of the game.

Everyone has the right to be appreciated and engaged and all workplaces can benefit from a fresh, appreciative paradigm. Change may not be inevitable, but any change is better than an ongoing experience of rigidity, power-playing, and stagnation.

Small Business: How―And How Much You Can Earn?

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The business world is abuzz with the idea of entrepreneurship. It’s the 21st Century panacea for all that ails us in the new economy, in our work lives and career choices. The easy answer is that an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

Such a definition is not only wan and vague but also limited and misleading.

It begs the question: What is the difference between an entrepreneur and someone who just runs a business? To understand the answer to such a question, we need to think about the differences between a manager and a leader.

What’s A Manager And What’s A Leader?

A leader is someone who has an authentic concern for people. A manager is someone who worries about his boss.

Let’s tease this thought process out. The difference between an entrepreneur and someone who just runs a business is that the entrepreneur is consistently, authentically concerned with providing value; someone who just runs a business is worried about money.

We all have bills to pay, people who need our financial support, rent or mortgage worries, and a myriad of other concerns. Ultimately, it’s a matter of mindset and a matter of vision.

People lacking in imagination and creativity will always concern themselves with lower values. Like being happy. That’s shocking to you to learn it’s a lower value but hang in there.

Happiness is not a goal, it’s a condition and one that is quite certainly conditional. Having a vision and goals in business is about who you are, and the life you lead. If you have a vision for your life and authentically reside within your goals, you don’t have to monitor, fix and judge your level of happiness.

So, whether you’re starting out in the hopes of becoming someone who runs a small business or jumping into the fray as an entrepreneur―and you’re persistent―you may want to know how, and how much you can earn.

How

The how of this conversation can be summed up in one word. Time.

Gary W. Keller, the billionaire real estate entrepreneur and CEO of Keller Williams did not wake up one morning to the news that he was extraordinarily wealthy. It took time. And it took perseverance in the face of failure.

In his book, The One Thing, Keller writes, “When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time.”

It takes time to learn and it takes time to develop your business model. There are tons of them out there, and it takes time to wade through scams and get-rich-quick schemes to build the authenticity and appropriate self-awareness needed to succeed.

How Much You Can Earn

There are a lot of answers and ideas about the amount of money you can earn in small business or as an entrepreneur. You can find testimonials, statistics, and studies. The US Bureau of Census, the US Small Business association, and business.gov are full of resources.

How much you can earn depends on you. It depends on how hard you’re willing to work. What you earn depends on the business model you choose and how you handle failure. In the final analysis, you will earn who you are.

The Unicorn of Readily Available Treatment

Standard

Based on a post published on LinkedIn May 19, 2016

Ideas to make mental health/substance abuse treatment more readily available are of the essence, aren’t they? Warning: it’s a unicorn to many in leadership positions.

Intervention is better than cure, to coin a phrase. So first, envision going back to school with this mythical beast. Public schools that is―and partnering with communities to create programs that operate under a new paradigm.

Don’t directly deal with substance abuse. There is so much controversy over the effectiveness of such programs. Deal instead with mental health hygiene, and issues of actualizing developmental tasks and milestones.

Work together from a positive strengths core. The purpose is to build a constructive union between people and their unexplored potentials. It’s about strengths, stories, and visions of valued and possible futures. This is the goal.

We need to stop pretending that the systems in place are working. We need to wake up to Transactional Analysis and Appreciative Inquiry. These are just two established theories that are tried and true.

There are no unicorns, but there are viable tools out there that are readily available. Going back to school, to effectively focus on actualizing developmental tasks and milestones encourages a sense of capability, autonomy, and positive identity in students.

Next, we head into the community. We take aim at facilitating transformation for the specific community we serve. Working with the families that make up that community, and thus the individuals, we explore on the basis of Appreciative Inquiry.

The idea is that people are better served by counselors and human services professionals. In this way, we create the community development projects that move us all forward.

Solving problems independent of a real context has failed. Somewhere along the line, social problems became the responsibility of the individual. Laying responsibility down in that way has created huge masses of individuals in need.

We want huge masses of individuals who are thriving.  Health advantages and personal success have eluded our communities.

Employment Assistance Programs, we are told, are there to help us. In reality, they’re just helping corporations maintain the bottom line. In the end, we all pay in a variety of other ways.

If employees drop out of work because of substance abuse problems, they are faced with waiting lists to limited public treatment programs. And there are other setbacks.  All this has achieved is an increase in social isolation and homelessness. The so-called recovery that was the purpose of this failed arrangement hasn’t happened.

The wrong people are making money and the right people are not being served. People need to matter more than politics, and it has become an issue of policies over people.

We can balance these ideas with the fact that resources are depleting. That substance abuse is costly, is also of the essence. There are concrete ways to make improvements. We can connect the peer-to-peer recovery approach, that spurred substance abuse treatment models and research, to current clinical practice. This will improve services to the addicted.

Better integration of treatment into the mainstream of general health care is possible. What is also possible is greater reform provisions. This would include shifting services away from residential and stand-alone programs toward outpatient programs instead. This is a care model that is more medically based and person-centered.

Leadership needs to make a serious shift. Current industry troubles in health care burden the system even further. New methodologies are about to become an addition. Like a bad template placed over an already broken system.

And leadership continues to operate out of an archaic corporate paradigm. Change is going to stall. Leaders can not become too busy enforcing policy rather than positively influencing people.

The simplest changes seem, right now, to be far too progressive. The American culture is too easily driven by sound bites and distraction. Controlling chaos appears to be preferable to taking the least effort and expense to provide a positive, collaborative work environment in healthcare.

The culture is broken. The programs are broken. Replacing the current standards is not a unicorn. It takes tools that are available and cost effective. These same tools can be used to train leaders to become effective participants and resources rather than mismanagers and overseers.

Until this rupture is mended, making mental health/substance abuse treatment more readily available will continue to be looked upon as a unicorn.

[ Inspired by David L. Cooperrider and 6 years working in healthcare.

Broekaert, E., Autrique, M., Vanderplasschen, W., & Colpaert, K. (2010). ‘The human prerogative’: a critical analysis of evidence-based and other paradigms of care in substance abuse treatment. Psychiatric Quarterly, 81(3), 227-238.]