Able Was I, Ere I Saw…Oooh, Shiny

 

 

Distractions. You know what they are? A mar on a panorama.

A panorama of productivity, aglow with embers of ideas that are fanned into a flame by motivation. It can be a beautiful sight—unless our attention is diverted elsewhere. Then our motivation evaporates till there’s nothing left of it. No trace, not one carton.

As a matter of fact, even on my way to type this article, I got sidetracked. My mind was filling with clear ideas, which would soon become a cohesive blog post. I opened a browser, with Google Documents as my destination. I mentally rehearsed my phrasing while the home page loaded…making sure I remembered the exact wording I wanted to use, preparing to head to GoogleDocs…and…oh…what was that headline on the home page? *Click.*

Ooh, shiny.

“Able was I, ere I saw…[Fill in the blank].”

So what zaps your momentum? Often, we don’t even realize what does it to us, even when it happens. All we know is that a few minutes ago, we were raring to go—now, we’re listening to a symphony of crickets chirping in our empty storehouse of ideas.

Zeroing in on triggers can help. For example, try filling in the blank:

“I was able to do this before I…”

…Checked social networks? Made that phone call? Folded the laundry? Some men interpret nine memos. For me, it’s handling e-mail. It’s not always a matter of wasting time in worthless activities—every item on that list is a viable task. But some tasks, by their nature, are more mind-numbing than others.

So, are we doomed to distraction?

No, it never propagates if I set a gap or prevention.

The key is in recognizing which activities fuel our motivation, and which ones drain it. Take a few days to analyze your work and thought patterns. Notice what your most productive thought-times are, and what commonly sidetracks you from putting those thoughts into action. Then reschedule the lulling tasks for another time. For instance, if managing your inbox zombifies you, then save e-mail for the hours when you could use a mental break.

And when you determine the times that your idea storehouse tends to runneth over, use self-discipline to focus on that alone. Don’t nod. Say “no” to other requirements till later. And resist the shiny.

Then enjoy the spoils of productivity. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

I thought so.

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 8:06 pm  Comments (9)  
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Going the Extra Mile

 

 

I was feeling a bit burned out one Sunday. On an impulse, I decided to visit a local nursery. I had never been there before, even though I had seen its gates from the road many times. I thought that maybe a little touch with nature would offer the renewal I needed.

At some point, we’ve all most likely been to a nursery in search of plants for our gardens, yards, or flower boxes. We’ve walked through those sliding doors at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, and entered the gardening section. It’s usually a space of concrete and chain link fencing, where the air smells heavily of chemicals. Racks of plants and flowers are interrupted by the occasional stack of terracotta pots. Maybe we also have an idea about decorating our garden with other touches, like a bench, a statue, or a fountain. Most of those accessories are lined up under the bright fluorescent lights inside. It’s nothing special; but you go there for plants, not ambiance, right? It’s functional. It works. You get what you need, and you leave.

That was what I expected when I walked through the iron gates to this nursery. But instead, I was transported to a wonderland.

I found myself in a courtyard, where paths meandered among charming vignettes–dozens of displays that incorporated plants and flowers along with sculptures, stands, and wrought iron furniture. And as if that wasn’t enough, beautiful music filtered through the yard from outdoor speakers.

I started wandering down those paths, finding each turn filled with surprising beauty. As I approached the building, I could see three other pathways, each one showing me intriguing glimpses between the overhanging leaves. Making a mental note to return to them, I went inside–and was blown away again.

Part home decor shop, part furniture store, the nursery was crammed with scene after scene of what can only be described as “outdoors coming in.” The floor was rough red brick, exactly the same as the patio outside. Lovely potted plants and decorative figurines were arranged among charming furniture. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something that took me so off my guard; it was so unlike what I had expected that it nearly dazzled me. Perhaps it was because my soul needed the renewal that nature and music could offer. Or because my creativity rejoiced in the beauty around me. Either way, I found myself wishing I could sit down on one of those comfy-looking couches, pick up a leather-bound notebook from a nearby desk, and stay for a while.

Just like the courtyard, the walkways in the shop led off in different directions. But I let my feet carry me outside again, suspecting that I would eventually see everything, if I kept walking. I passed through the wide open doors to a greenhouse that was filled to bursting with green. Whimsical garden gnomes and aged-looking statues were half-hidden among the leaves. I raised my eyes, and took a breath at the sight of iridescent glass orbs hanging from the roof–like pixie dust, or bubbles in a magical kingdom.

It was like being inside of a fairy tale.

Two things went through my mind as I strolled in wonder through that place. First, I was enthralled with how peaceful I felt–nature’s touch was all around me, and that, partnered with sweet music and enchanting details, caused my mind to reawaken to the beautiful, the fanciful, the mysterious in life.

The second thought sank in with a memory of a blog post by Chris Brogan. He very briefly said, “Be helpful.” In my mind, that had translated to the question, “How can I be helpful to my clients?”

After two months of dwelling in my Swiss-cheese memory, the statement somehow became “Do more.” (Sorry about that, Chris.)

Those words went through my mind as I stared up at iridescent bubbles. The nursery owners didn’t need the bubbles. They didn’t need the tiny doll houses arranged among miniature plants; or the white antique bookcase laden with aromatic bath products; or the butterfly that decorated the vines above a table that held Italian cookbooks. The only scents in that shop were of plants and potpourri, because the necessary chemicals and fertilizers were tucked away in a corner where hardly anyone would see them, unless they looked for them. The owners didn’t need to do that. But they did.

“Functional” gets the job done; but these store owners went the extra mile. Instead of leaving the garden to a customer’s imagination, they showed visitors what a garden haven could really look like–and even more than that, they gave an example of a daily life inspired by nature.

They did more.

How can I go the extra mile? In my business, my blogging, my personal life? How can I add that one extra, unnecessary, extravagant touch of beauty that makes another feel special—and blessed?

That’s a thought to ponder. And I think I know just the place to do it.

 

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© 2008 Christine Taylor

Published in: on July 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm  Comments (10)  
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Have Confidence in You!

 



Soaring by StacyJMT, originally uploaded by StacyJMT.

 

In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’ character sang a rousing pep-talk to herself in an effort to boost her self-confidence. We can do the same. Taking a cue from the lyrics to “I Have Confidence,” we can follow the character’s example and build our sense of self-worth—proving to ourselves that we are capable of achieving more than we think we can.

“I must dream of the things I am seeking”

How you see yourself goes a long way toward influencing what you become. Imagine the person you want to be—play it over and over in your mind, like a movie. If you have a hard time visualizing, try writing down the qualities you desire. Start each item with “I am…” not “I want to be…” Tell yourself you are, and you will become that.

“And while I show them I’ll show me!”

Action gives birth to confidence. Are you afraid to do something on your goal list? Then do it. The knowledge that you faced your fear will encourage you—and you’ll discover that you can achieve your dreams. That sense of accomplishment will make your confidence soar.

“With each step I am more certain”

The more you realize your progress, the more confident you will feel. Track your progress—have good pictures taken of yourself, and look at them daily. If possible, put examples of your work, thoughts, or projects online, such as in a blog, photo hosting account, or group forum. Seeing your work onscreen and receiving positive feedback from others will do wonders for your sense of self-worth.

When someone gives you encouragement, print it out or write it down, and look at it often. Drive it into your mind that you are good, you are worthy, and you can do whatever you set your mind on.

Think that sounds conceited? It’s not—it’s edification, and it’s essential. You would do it for others—give yourself the same kindness.

“Besides what you see I have confidence in me!”

Look the part. Invest in a good hair cut. Buy clothing, accessories, or cosmetics that make you feel good. Don’t think you can afford it? The truth is, you can’t afford not to spend money on your image. Work it into your budget, if you need to, but do not scrimp in this department.

Spending money on your image is as viable an investment as putting it into office supplies or business cards. If a $40 trip to the stylist makes you feel like a million bucks, that’s a good return on your investment.

“Wake up! It’s healthy!”

A fast way towards feeling confident is to exercise regularly—not only is it good for you, strenuous exercise also causes your body to manufacture endorphins, chemicals which actually produce a pleasurable sense of well-being. According to Wikipedia, they’re released during exercise, excitement—and orgasm. Think that will get you to exercise?

“I have confidence in confidence alone!”

A wise adage urges us to act as if we have already received what we want, even before we receive it. If you act confident, you’ll feel confident.

Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, keep your chin up. That alone gives a sense of stability. Speak firmly. Breathe. Relax. Think of all the steps you have taken to boost your confidence, remember the progress you have already made, and take the next step forward. You can do it.

I have confidence in you.

 

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Strike That–eBay Sellers Protest Unfair New Policies

 

Monday marked the beginning of an unusual protest. eBay sellers are on strike.

The recent announcement of upcoming changes to eBay fees, feedback, and searches came on the heels of a year fraught with seller dissatisfaction, and has proved to be the proverbial last straw.

As a seller of my original art in eBay’s art community, I’ve watched these events unfold. eBay has a strong advantage in name recognition, customer base, and format, as well as a sense of community among sellers. However, much like participants in an unhealthy relationship, these sellers have stood by the auction site through the years, forgiving frustrating changes time and again. The fact is, the percentage of sales on eBay usually outweigh those on other sites. So sellers stay.

But with a resounding call of “eBay is not fun anymore,” buyers and sellers alike are leaving the auction site in droves. And from February 18-25, many sellers are striking in protest.

Beginning February 20, changes will be made to eBay’s fees, feedback system, and search functionality, among other things. While changes in fees and PayPal payment policy are sources of frustration, the majority of complaints are centered around the auction site’s newly discriminatory attitude towards sellers.

Written in the Stars

Feedback and searches are two areas which will be altered under the new rules. Previously, both buyers and sellers were ranked by the same feedback rating system. Participants in a transaction would leave positive, neutral, or negative feedback, together with a short description of the transaction. It was the same on both sides. eBay members relied upon a person’s feedback rating and descriptions—buyers placed confidence in a seller’s good feedback, while sellers felt reassured in seeing good feedback in a buyer. By the same token, negative and neutral feedback and dissatisfied descriptions were cautionary flags to anyone.

Under the new system, “Buyers will only be able to receive positive Feedback.” However, Sellers will still be able to receive negative and neutral feedback. In addition, a star rating system has been added to the seller’s feedback page. After leaving feedback for a transaction, buyers are asked to go a step further and rate the seller with one to five stars in four categories. What isn’t made immediately clear is that “4 out of 5” is considered “low” and adversely affects a seller’s overall record.

The stars will be tied to search engine rankings. Whereas before the eBay search default sorted items by “ending soonest,” results will now be listed according to sellers’ star ratings.

I encourage measures to help the shopper feel safe and comfortable. I spend a great deal of my own time trying to do just that, through clear listings, one-on-one communication, prompt shipping, and customer service. I’m a buyer as well as a seller. I understand what it’s like to pay hard-earned money to a stranger and hope you get what you pay for.

But I take offense at discrimination.

The new rating system places an unfair emphasis on sellers. People are people on both sides of a transaction. There are honest sellers and stellar buyers. But at the same time there are also dishonest people on either side. Under the new policy, sellers are at an increased risk of theft. With no fear of negative feedback, a dishonest buyer could say they never received the item in the mail, and request a refund from eBay. Fearing negative feedback and damage to search engine rankings, a seller may be inclined to issue the refund without complaint, and chalk up the item as a loss.

Fraud of this nature has happened many times before—except now, without the veil of protection from equal feedback, the potential for a seller’s risk is increased.

Where Else?

The eBay home page sports a new tag line: “Where else but eBay?” Apparently that’s not a rhetorical question, and eBay has taken it upon themselves to answer it.

While sellers are working hard to keep their stars from being tarnished, the search ranking they’re aiming for actually cuts into their potential for profit.

eBay search result pages now carry ads for other, off-site retailers.

How does a seller in eBay Motors feel when they find an ad for Toyota.com on the eBay Motors search results page? Or someone selling a lamp, who has to contend with a banner ad for LampsPlus.com above their listing? Why buy a video, when an ad encourages you to rent it from Netflix—with a free trial? How about the person trying to sell their iPhone. What goes through their mind when they see an off-site ad for the Apple Store?

Hmm….”Only $399 Free shipping” from the Apple Store itself, or $400 plus shipping from some person I don’t know.

What would you choose?

Following the “About” link near the ads opens a window that states:
“We think these relevant AdChoice ads will personalize and improve your eBay experience.” For a second, maybe, until I click one and wind up off-eBay.

Here’s an example. My sister is a 19-year-old photographer. While she pursues her college studies, she’s also trying to get a head start on her career by selling her original, limited edition photo prints in an eBay Store.

Say I’m a buyer. I have a wall I want to decorate. I decide I want photography. I enter “photographic print” in eBay’s search bar. This page comes up:

But before I hardly have a chance to see what’s there, I notice an ad for JC Penney’s Home Sale. That makes me suddenly remember I have an email discount from Penney’s. So I click on the ad, enter “photographic print” in their search bar, and here I am.

And an aspiring photographer paid her fees for nothing.

I have to tell you, that doesn’t “improve my eBay experience” in the least.

What’s more, this is in direct opposition to eBay’s own links policy:

“Non-permitted links include, but are not limited to: Links to websites or pages that offer to trade, sell or purchase goods or services outside of eBay.”

Like JC Penney?

“This policy promotes a more level playing field by ensuring sellers do not link inappropriately thereby creating a disadvantage to those sellers who link appropriately.”
(http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/listing-links.html)

Every seller I know agonizes over links, making sure they fit within eBay’s listing policies. They “link appropriately.” Yet eBay itself undermines the “level playing field” by linking to off-site retailers.

It gives the impression that eBay is happy to collect sellers’ fees, then turn around and sell buyers to other vendors for additional money. Ouch. That’s not fair. And we pay fees for what, exactly?

Tangled Website

The workings of the eBay site have become convoluted and perplexing. The problems with the new policies are not just going to go away. Many good sellers will leave. New, short-term friends aren’t going to stick around very long to play. How is that a way to strengthen a business?

Why would anyone stay?

Before, I’ve had many reasons—chief among them being the market visibility, customer base, and community atmosphere of eBay.

But that’s actually a good question. Why stay with eBay after all, when other opportunities are growing stronger and looking better? With options like Etsy.com, Amazon.com, and Onlineauction.com, what reasons do sellers have to stay with eBay?

I wonder how many sellers are asking themselves that very question right now:

“Where else but eBay?”

…And then answering it.