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Month: January 2009

I am good at dealing with recessions!

or will be!

Professional responsibility can be demanding

In an earlier incarnation, I had a reputation for taking on the tough projects – multiple constituencies, vested interests, and consequences for everyone involved.  I loved that work.  It took listening, carefully; it took discretion; and it took carefully working through details to find solutions that others had missed and being very clear about the consequences we asked each party to tolerate.

During most of the time I did this work, I also taught at the local university.  Students were always surprised when I told them, usually to encourage them when they were losing heart over a project of their own, that there was a moment during every project when I felt the project was going to beat me.  There was always a moment when I had felt that this would be the one.

Running a small business is a lot scarier

Starting a small business took anxiety to a whole new level, and the question I ask myself, is why?  Why is worrying about cash flow so much more scary?

Is it because we are so much less in control?

Is it because the stakes are higher – if we mess up we may have to pack up the business?

Is it because running out of money assaults our middle class identity more severely than not acing a professional project that was regarded as difficult in the first place?

Is it because I have higher self-efficacy or self-belief in professional work?

Is it because professional work is for other people and I am less motivated to look after myself?

Psychological advice almost seems flippant

There is a lot of advice around for dealing with debilitating anxiety and I have dispensed a lot of it myself.

  • I like to be well prepared so I have no reason to be anxious.
  • I make sure I have a fall back position.
  • I remind myself of good times.
  • I value my social support – I know it helps.
  • And I make sure I get exercise, sleep, and eat sensibly.

The truth is is when we feel deep anxiety, it detracts from anything else.  We don’t feel prepared.  We don’t have a fall back position.  Good times in the past aren’t really relevant.  We’re on our own.  And now we, can’t sleep, can’t eat or eat too much, and exercise makes us feel like we will pass out.  And if we are really lucky, we have a full scale anxiety attack that looks like a heart attack to anyone watching.

Lao Tzu might have better advice

I pondered this problem for a day and equally pondered the inadequacy of our advice.  We are able to tell people how to deal with theoretical fear, not the real thing.

Then I stumbled on a saying on the Positive Psychology Daily News New Year blog (which is worth reading for itself – check out the Garbage Truck video and the Gratitude Chain).   About four authors down, Kirsten quotes the Chinese Philosoper, Lao Tzu.

Seek not happiness too greedily and be not  fearful of  unhappiness.

This is very much like Franklin Rooseveldt”s “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”, but it says more.  It does not suggest that we should dismiss negative emotions, or try to arrange our life to avoid them.

A full life includes the positive and the negative, all four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter, and we need to be competent in managing all of them.  To think of winter as the absence or negative of summer, distracts us from learning how to deal with winter, and more importantly, how to enjoy it.

The idea of happiness promoted by Losada’s work on the dynamics of happiness makes us think of emotional space that includes joy and grieving, linked together on a trajectory shaped like a three dimensional butterfly.  It is just as healthy to be in a place of grieving or fear, as one of joy and pleasure, provided it is a place we are passing through and approached  in a spirit of inquiry, inclusion and emphasis on what works.

After reading the Lao Tzu quote, the mental trick I found useful was to think of myself inside fear – not looking at it, but being inside it, looking at it around me.  That seems to restore a sense of what I am doing.

I have to get good at this!

It is not accepting unhappiness, which one reading of the quotation might suggest, but seeing myself dealing competently and effectively with negative situations.

I hope that this helps anyone else who faces perilous decisions this year!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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How fast do you grow your blog? 10% 20%?

Oh, oh, oh,  it is New Year and it is time to transfer some stats helpfully supplied by WordPress onto an Excel spreadsheet.  Oh, what fun!

First the obvious

Month-on-month growth

When I first launched my blog, month-on-month growth was over 100%, that is, each month my readership doubled. Progressively, my growth has dropped to about 8% month-on-month.    The number of additional readers per month is more than it was at the start, but the % gain is now around 8%.  Imagine if that growth translated into revenue!

Good and bad months; good and bad days

People do stop reading blogs when they have something better to do!  Yes, that’s right.  Readership drops during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We also stop writing blogs when we are busy.  There were two months when I was busy on other projects.  The first time, my page hits plateaued.  The second, hits dropped horribly.

Readership also goes up when we write about something topical.  Experts talk a lot about key words.  The key to a killer post is writing about what people are looking for today: current events!

The best days are supposed to be Tuesdays and Thursdays.  What I can say, is traffic at weekends is less (we have something better to do) and traffic is very slow during the morning, British time!

Then a little deeper

The next thing I did was to model the exponential growth.  Allowing for the good times and bad, on average how fast has my blog grown?

What I did (for anyone who has forgotten their maths) was convert my page hits for each month into a log (using Log10) and then used the “slope” function to regress the logs (Y) onto another column in which months were labelled 1-14 (X).  The slope was 0.11 meaning that my page hits increased 11% each month.

To check I had the maths correct, I recalculated the monthly amounts by talking the first month and multiplying it by 1.11, and then did that again for the next month, and the next, until I got to December 2008.  The model estimated my December total within 3% of the actual number.

So 11% growth per month.  Is that good or bad for a first time blogger?  Does anyone know?  A quick Google search didn’t throw up any figures.  An odd omission I would have thought.

Then forward

If I can maintain this growth, then what readership can I expect this time next year?

This time I took my actual figure for December 2008 and multiplied it by 1.11 and then again by 1.11, twelve times.

Hmm, the total figure would make me happy.  I had set myself a target of exceeding the number of student hours in my classroom in my last university job : 50 000 per year (staggering isn’t).  I did this again using 8% or 1.08, and I still exceed 50K.  Fine!

But several of my friends in the Social Media Mafia have readers of 500 per day.  That is three times the total I expect!  Hmm.  That made me feel dissatisfied.

What is possible?

There is plenty of advice out there on blogging.  So far I could say that I have mastered writing regularly.  I have some loyal readers who even comment sometimes (thank you).  And I comment happily on other people’s sites.

I know the search terms that bring people to my site and I know that responding to world events will bring more.

I imagine if I were in a less specialised field and wasn’t addressing professionals, largely, I would have greater readership.  Those characteristics I’ll accept as constraints.

My questions

With my specialised field, tendency to long posts designed to solve professional issues that I am grappling with now,

  • What is a realistic rate of growth to aspire to?
  • What attributes of blogging should I attend to.

Until I answer those questions, I think I need to aspire to growing my blog 8% to 11% a month by posting regularly and about topics that have some link to world events.  I would like to do more though.  And advice would be welcome.

Thanks to my readers

Thanks so much to the people who do read my blog and spur me on.  You mean a lot to me.  I believe writing clarifies my thoughts about my professional work and with an average of 70 page hits per post, I am encouraged to put in more effort!  Requests taken!

A very good 2009 to you.  May it be happy, joyful, and despite all odds, prosperous!


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