(c) Gaye Wilson 2014

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

I’ve just come back from the Third Australasian Egyptology Conference, a three-day conference for scholars in the Australasian region to discuss recent research in Egyptology.

I met another independent scholar there, Elizabeth Bettles, and asked her how she keeps up her motivation to do Egyptology, given that she has no academic position.

Her answer was simple: it gives me a buzz.

For Elizabeth, whilst the work in the library is a necessary part of being an Egyptologist, or any scholar for that matter, it’s working in the field – excavating in the Dakhleh Oasis is her current dig project – that gives her the buzz to keep going, and to keep publishing in a discipline she loves.

It can be a lonely thing, being an independent scholar. You have to use your own funds to buy reference materials and equipment, to travel, to attend conferences and to do all the other things that an academic in a university or museum has access to as a matter of course. You have to motivate yourself in the midst of your day-to-day life, and in most cases, unrelated paid work, to go the extra mile and actually do research. You don’t have the regular contact with other minds that people working in your discipline have, and therefore your life tends to lack intellectual stimulation.

It’s HARD to work on your own. That’s why I am a dissertation coach. Working on your own requires intense concentration and fierce determination to succeed. It requires motivation, both external (going to excavations and conferences) and internal (doing the stuff that has to be done but is not quite as exciting).

In order to work on your own, in any endeavour, you need the following:

  • Motivation – a reason to be doing this.
  • A plan – a schedule of what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will be achieved.
  • Support – interaction with other people who will inspire and encourage you.
  • A routine – actually making the time to do the work.

Find your buzz. That will make the motivation so much easier.

So what’s your buzz? What motivates you, and how can you get your motivation back when it wavers?

nevergiveup© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, I finished my Russian diploma in 2011, and started a new language: Italian. As with the Russian, I am learning it by distance, which means that I do not attend classes.

The way distance learning works is that you log onto a web site where all the materials are, including recordings of the lectures. It is up to the student to listen to all the recordings, do all the reading, and submit all the assignments on time.

Is this hard? Yes it is, especially when you are learning a foreign language.

The first year of Italian gave me a good grounding in the language, approximately equal to matriculation level from high school. This year, Intermediate Italian, is proving to be harder. Why? Because the lectures are given in Italian!

At the end of my first year of Italian, I found that I could read simple Italian fairly well, or at least could get the gist of it. But I could not speak it, write it easily, or understand anything said at normal speed.

Hmm. Some more work needed.

As I said, this year the lectures are conducted in Italian. That will help with understanding the spoken word. I am finding that it’s not as hard as I expected, and I suspect that I have one advantage over the people who actually attend the classes: I can stop the audio and look up words or make notes, and not miss anything.

So I am pleased that this year will address one of my issues with the language: the spoken word.

One of the other major problems I have with this project is that I cannot write Italian very well. Or at least, not without spending ages looking up words, conjugations and grammatical structures.

This, too, is being addressed this year. This semester we are buddied up with other students and are required to conduct email conversations with them throughout the semester, with a minimum total of 200 words.

Now, I have a problem with this. Yes, it’s giving me practice in writing Italian. But no, it’s not giving me feedback from a native speaker and I don’t get my mistakes corrected. I have asked my buddy to correct my Italian if she sees mistakes, and I do the same for her.

But my BIGGEST problem with this course is the other distance students. They are whingers. They complain that it’s all too hard. My original email buddy decided it was too hard to learn the language by distance, even though she comes from an Italian family and can practise on them.

What??

It really bothers me that there are people who embark on a new project, such as learning a language, starting a business, or doing a PhD, who then complain that it’s too hard.

Listen up, people.

It’s supposed to be hard.

A past Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, once said “Life is not meant to be easy.” Hmm. I’m not sure of the philosophy, but in a way he was right. Life is hard for many people, but the ones who accept it and forge ahead anyway are the ones who are successful.

Change your language. Instead of saying ‘It’s too hard!”, say “It’s hard! YAYYY! That means I get to stretch myself, overcome some obstacles, and learn a lot.”

Changing your inner language is important, because it is the only way you will be able to change yourself.

When something is hard, celebrate that you are attempting something that is hard for you, and work out how to accomplish it.

Make a plan.
Ask for help.
Stretch yourself.
And never ever give up.

© Gaye Wilson, 2009

blogbuddycircleI belong to a Blogging Buddy circle. It’s a great way to get comments and internet exposure for you and your business.

What is a Blogging Buddy Circle?

A Blogging Buddy Circle is a number of people who visits your blog on a regular basis, and make constructive, useful comments on it.

Why do you need a Blogging Buddy Circle?

If you need traffic, a Blogging Buddy Circle can help you get some.

If you want to know that someone is reading your blog, having Blogging Buddies reassures you that your writing will not go totally unnoticed.

If you want to tailor your blog posts to what people want to read, comments and feedback from your Blogging Buddies can steer you in the right direction.

If you want to create or be part of an online community that helps its members to grow, Blogging Buddies are a good way to start.

What are the benefits of Blogging Buddy Circles?

All of the above, plus more traffic to your websites/blogs if you comment consistently. There’s no point in being a Blogging Buddy if you only receive comments – you have to make them too.

How does it work?

It’s an agreement between bloggers to visit and comment on each others’ blogs on a regular basis. You sign up, and then you start commenting on each others’ blogs. Simple as that. You can set up a one-on-one Blogging Buddy relationship, or you can set up what I call a Blogging Buddy Circle, which has more than two members.

How do I set up a Blogging Buddy Circle?

If you don’t know anyone online, you could start by leaving comments on blogs you like. You might get a reply! Use that first contact, if appropriate, to ask for a Blogging Buddy relationship.

Contact everyone you know who has a blog that has some sort of connection with your blog, your business or your hobbies. Say that you are setting up a Blogging Buddy circle, and ask if they would like to participate.

If you belong to a discussion group that is relevant to your blog, your business or your hobbies, send out a request for Blogging Buddies.

How to make it work

You need to decide realistically how many blogs you are willing to visit and comment on regularly.

Decide how regular is regular: once a week, once a fortnight, once a month? What will fit into your regular schedule?

Decide, on the basis of your answers to those two questions, how many people/blogs you can comfortably handle in your Blogging Buddy circle.

It might help to have one person being the Keeper of the Blog Addresses if you have a fairly large circle. In my Blogging Buddy Circle there is a wonderful lady who has the list of blogs on a page of her website, and regularly posts changes. It makes it really easy to visit all the blogs on your designated Blogging Buddy day(s), because you can simply go to one web page for all the links. Bookmark the webpage, and you’ve got it made.

Best practice for blog commenting

Today I found a very helpful blog post from Noel Lyons about how to comment on blogs to get the best return. It’s http://www.noellyons.com/blog/5-simple-steps-to-branding-yourself-online/ . It talks about how to comment on blogs and what to include. For instance, when you make a comment, you’re always asked for your name. Noel suggests that you put something else after your name – a short description of who you are or what your business or blog is. This sounds like a really useful idea to me, and I’m going to start implementing it.

Introducing My Blogging Buddy Circle

Here are my Blogging Buddies in no particular order. All of these people are professional coaches. Some of them have a couple of blogs. How they manage to keep two blogs updated as well as run a coaching business is beyond me: I have enough trouble keeping five websites and a blog updated regularly as well as run my coaching and editing business!

Build Your Coaching Business by Melody Campbell

Teaching you to build your coaching business is the most important thing I do!

Healthy Body Healthy Brain by Suzanne Holman

New Path For Life by Elaine Lockard

Success in life and business while living with chronic pain

So Baby Boomer by John Agno

Life coaching tips for confident and independent baby boomers

Right Line Blog by Renée Barnow

Words that work at work

ECI Learning Systems blog by Dave Meyer

Developing teams and leaders to energize and engage your workplace

Webmaster Tool Center by Tammy Barbee

Webmaster resources

Mend Your Money by Cindy Morus

Offers simple, practical advice to people looking to improve their finances

The Web Lady by Tammy Barbee

Computer Resources for small businesses and solopreneurs

Coaching By Doris by Doris Helge

It’s all about you!

Coaching Biz Tips by Kathy Mallary

Getting into high gear about the stuff that matters most

Get Hired NowTM America by Judith Auslander

A 28-Day program for landing the job you want

Wise Heart Coaching by Judith Auslander

More resources on Blogging Buddies

There’s a lot more to Blogging Buddies than this post mentions. For instance, lots of people have only one buddy at a time, and use them as a sounding board, a proofreader or a co-author. A quick search on your favourite search engine will bring up several mentions of Blogging Buddies. Here are some excellent ones.

It’s all about the conversation

Find a Blog Buddy

10 Reasons to Find a Blog Buddy

Comments?

If you’d like to add your experiences to this discussion, tell us how commenting on blogs has helped your business and whether you belong to a Blogging Buddy Circle or have a single Blogging Buddy, or none at all. Read more

© Gaye Wilson 2009

fencingI recently hired a contractor to erect some fences on my property. I did it the right way – I contacted several fencers, and asked for quotes.

The first round was woeful. Some of the fencers didn’t bother to turn up, some didn’t give me a quote after they came and looked. One person gave me a ballpark figure seemingly plucked out of the air (which didn’t give me a feeling of confidence about his competence!).

I got frustrated with all this, and rang a few more fencers. This time I told them that I wasn’t getting any joy from other fencers, and asked if they were reliable, would turn up when they said they would, and would actually give me a quote once they’d turned up. Of course, this lot all said they were reliable, would turn up on time, and would give me a fair quote.

  • The first one didn’t show.
  • The second one didn’t answer his phone.
  • The third one said he’d come  next week, but then I had to chase him three times for the quote.
  • The fourth one said he’d call me.

Then the second one called back. He had missed my call, but did actually call back. He came that afternoon, gave me some advice and wrote out a quote on the spot. Nice! But he was very expensive, and I didn’t feel comfortable with his attitude.

To cut a long story short, I finally hired a fencer, more than two months after I started the process. He had some good ideas, his prices were mid-range, and although he talked a lot, I liked his suggestions.

He rang last week and said he’d be here first thing on Monday morning, i.e. 8:30 am. I rang him at 10:30 on Monday morning to find out where he was. He’d been hung up at the office doing paperwork, but hadn’t bothered to keep me informed.

He finally arrived three hours late, and said that he’d get the posts up for the dog pen that day, and the wire up the next day.

But he and his assistant only spent two hours here on Monday, and there were only two posts in the ground when they knocked off for the day.

The next day, they arrived at 9:30 am and left at 5:30 pm. But every time I looked out the window they appeared to be chatting to each other rather than constructing the fence. They left with all the posts up, but nothing more done.

Today I rushed out to do errands before they were due to come and install the wire. After I got home, I received a phone call to say that his supplier had given him the wrong corner braces (or some essential part), and that they were not in stock, and wouldn’t be here until sometime next week.

Say what?

Why didn’t this contractor, who proclaimed loudly to all and sundry that he is a professional and reliable, CHECK THE SUPPLIES BEFORE HE GOT HERE? Why didn’t he tell me there was a potential problem yesterday, when he discovered the discrepancy?

Okay, there’s another fence he can get on with while we’re waiting for the parts.

But no. He doesn’t have all the bits for that fence yet either.

???????????????????????

Now call me silly, but I really can’t understand why a professional wouldn’t check that a delivery is correct. And why didn’t he check before he got to my place? And why didn’t he say something to me last night when he left, rather than ring me this morning, when I had rearranged my day to be here, and say he won’t be here?

AAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Okay.

Deep breath. This happens all the time. But it shouldn’t.

How does this tale of incompetence and woe relate to All Paths to Victory?

Simple.

If you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to make the customer happy.

When you have contracted to provide a service or a product, you need to do everything you can to make the customer happy. You need to make sure that whatever you need to complete the job is delivered on time, and you need to keep the customer informed at all times of progress. I don’t care whether you’re a fencer, a plumber, a builder, a rock star or a trainer, those same rules apply.

You wouldn’t expect to pay for tickets to a rock concert, only to be told when you arrive that the lead guitar has a broken string and there aren’t any replacements available, would you?

So, to be professional you need to ensure that you:

  • keep the customer informed every step of the way
  • turn up when you say you will
  • do the very best job you can
  • make sure that any supplies you need to complete the job are checked when they are delivered, and rectify any problems immediately – the customer should not ever know that your supplier let you down – you should be on top of everything all the time

Expand your network

Something that puzzled me about the fencing contactor is that he appears to use only one supplier. This seems to me to be a potentially dangerous practice.  To keep your business afloat, especially in these economic times, wouldn’t it be a useful thing to expand your network of suppliers and other people who could potentially help your business? You could set up arrangements with other service/product suppliers whereby  you call each other or refer to each other when there is a problem that you can’t fix, or when you have too much work and need a sub-contractor, or simply when someone you meet needs something that can be supplied by someone in your network. Coaches trained at Coach University (as I was) call this the Team 100 Program. (Click here to email me about ways we can work together to create your own Team 100.)

Be ultra-reliable

People don’t give repeat business to people who aren’t reliable. Yes, that’s right, I said people who aren’t reliable. Businesses are made up of people, and if you, as the customer, deal with someone who is incompetent, rude, clueless or unreliable, that gives you the impression that the entire company is like that.

To be ultra-reliable you have to

  • train your staff
  • put failsafe systems into place, so that you can get the supplies you need when you need them or somehow ensure that you provide your customer with the correct service/product on time, every time
  • have a company culture of reliability
  • make the effort to be reliable – as soon as you are unreliable, there goes your entire reputation.

These points apply even if you are a sole trader. It’s sometimes harder to be ultra-reliable when you are a sole trader, which is why you need a Team 100.

What is my opinion of the fencing contractor now? Well, not so good, as you might imagine. So this person has ruined, not only my entire fortnight, but his own reputation. I won’t be recommending him to others.

Bottom line

To be reliable and keep a good reputation in business, you need to go out of your way to make the customer happy. If you’re unsure of how to do this, or you want to create failsafe systems for your business, or if you want to create your own Team 100, email me now.