When you are alone

You will remember the people more than the place.

When you are alone for days or weeks at a time, you eventually become drawn to people. Talking to randos is the norm. I’ll never forget the conversation with the aquarium fisherman, forest ranger, and women at the Thai market. It’s refreshing to compare notes on life with people from vastly different backgrounds.

When you meet fellow travelers, you’ll find they are also filled with a similar sense of adventure and curiosity about the world. Five days of friendship on the road is like five months of friendship at home. It’s the experiences that bond you together, not the place. A rule I followed that worked well: be the first to initiate conversation. I met some incredible people by simply being the first to talk.

Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.

Travel can be affordable.

Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.

Take the cost of your rent or mortgage + food per month and divide it by 30. This is how much it costs per day to live at home. You will find that it’s possible to travel the world for roughly the same amount. Or, if you live in an expensive city like San Francisco, far less.

English is a universal language.

I was surprised how many people spoke English (apparently 1.8 billion people worldwide). Places where English was less prevalent, I made an effort to learn a handful of words and phrases in the local language. Even though it’s passable, I do desire to learn another language fluently. You can only take the conversation so far when all you can say is: “¿Esto contiene gluten?”

It’s possible to communicate a lot without saying a word. For instance, I left my phone at a restaurant in Chile. I pointed at the table where I was sitting, put my hand to my ear like a phone, then shrugged — 2 minutes later, my phone had been retrieved.

Trust your intuition.

I learned to trust that tiny voice in my head a bit more. When you are alone in a foreign country and your phone is dead, you are forced to trust your intuition. Is this neighborhood safe to walk around? Is this person someone I should interact with? Am I heading the right direction? Intuition is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. It’s feels like a sixth sense when you’re able to read between the lines of a situation.

The world is endless. The world’s a tiny neighborhood. My fav people are the ones who can hold two impossible ideas in their heads.


Real time design tools

Just the other day I happened to wake up early. That is unusual for an engineering student. After a long time I could witness the sunrise. I could feel the sun rays falling on my body. Usual morning is followed by hustle to make it to college on time. This morning was just another morning yet seemed different.

Witnessing calm and quiet atmosphere, clear and fresh air seemed like a miracle to me. I wanted this time to last longer since I was not sure if I would be able to witness it again, knowing my habit of succumbing to schedule. There was this unusual serenity that comforted my mind. It dawned on me, how distant I had been from nature. Standing near the compound’s gate, feeling the moistness that the air carried, I thought about my life so far.

I was good at academics, so decisions of my life had been pretty simple and straight. Being pretty confident I would make it to the best junior college of my town in the first round itself, never made me consider any other option. I loved psychology since childhood, but engineering was the safest option. Being born in a middle class family, thinking of risking your career to make it to medical field was not sane. I grew up hearing ‘Only doctor’s children can afford that field’ and finally ended up believing it. No one around me believed in taking risks. Everyone worshiped security. I grew up doing the same.

This is what has happened to us. We want the things we have been doing forcefully to fail. And then maybe people around us would let us try something else or our dreams. We are accustomed to live by everyone else’s definition of success. We punish people for the things they are passionate about, just because we were unable to do the same at some point in our life.

I feel like these concrete buildings have sucked our desires and our dreams. We are so used to comfort that compromise seems like a taboo. We have lost faith in ourselves. If we can make through it right now, we can do the same in the days to come. You only need a desire to survive and nothing more- not money or cars or designer clothes.

Staying locked up in four walls have restricted our thinking. I feel like our limited thinking echoes through this wall. We are so used to schedules and predictable life that we have successfully suppressed our creative side.

When you step out of these four walls on a peaceful morning, you realize how much nature has to offer to you. Its boundless. Your thoughts, worries, deadlines won’t resonate here. Everything will flow away along with the wind. And you will realize every answer you had been looking for, was always known to you.

It would mean a lot to me if you recommend this article and help me improve. I would love to know your thoughts!


Make it clean and simple

Create your header preset in just few clicks.

Just the other day I happened to wake up early. That is unusual for an engineering student. After a long time I could witness the sunrise. I could feel the sun rays falling on my body. Usual morning is followed by hustle to make it to college on time. This morning was just another morning yet seemed different.

Witnessing calm and quiet atmosphere, clear and fresh air seemed like a miracle to me. I wanted this time to last longer since I was not sure if I would be able to witness it again, knowing my habit of succumbing to schedule. There was this unusual serenity that comforted my mind. It dawned on me, how distant I had been from nature. Standing near the compound’s gate, feeling the moistness that the air carried, I thought about my life so far.

This is what has happened to us. We want the things we have been doing forcefully to fail. And then maybe people around us would let us try something else or our dreams. We are accustomed to live by everyone else’s definition of success. We punish people for the things they are passionate about, just because we were unable to do the same at some point in our life.

I was good at academics, so decisions of my life had been pretty simple and straight. Being pretty confident I would make it to the best junior college of my town in the first round itself, never made me consider any other option. I loved psychology since childhood, but engineering was the safest option. Being born in a middle class family, thinking of risking your career to make it to medical field was not sane. I grew up hearing ‘Only doctor’s children can afford that field’ and finally ended up believing it. No one around me believed in taking risks. Everyone worshiped security. I grew up doing the same.

Control fonts, background, size, parallax and overlay…

‘Being in the top will only grant you a good life’ has been the mantra of my life. But at times, I wish I was an average student. I wish decisions would have not been so straightforward. Maybe I would have played cricket- the only thing I feel passionate about. Or maybe I would have studied literature (literature drives me crazy). Isn’t that disappointing- me wishing to be bad at academics. It’s like at times I hate myself for the stuff I am good at.

I feel like these concrete buildings have sucked our desires and our dreams. We are so used to comfort that compromise seems like a taboo. We have lost faith in ourselves. If we can make through it right now, we can do the same in the days to come. You only need a desire to survive and nothing more- not money or cars or designer clothes.

Staying locked up in four walls have restricted our thinking. I feel like our limited thinking echoes through this wall. We are so used to schedules and predictable life that we have successfully suppressed our creative side.

When you step out of these four walls on a peaceful morning, you realize how much nature has to offer to you. Its boundless. Your thoughts, worries, deadlines won’t resonate here. Everything will flow away along with the wind. And you will realize every answer you had been looking for, was always known to you.

It would mean a lot to me if you recommend this article and help me improve. I would love to know your thoughts!


Time is passing by

CSS selectors all exist within the same global scope. Anyone who has worked with CSS long enough has had to come to terms with its aggressively global nature — a model clearly designed in the age of documents, now struggling to offer a sane working environment for today’s modern web applications. Every selector has the potential to have unintended side effects by targeting unwanted elements or clashing with other selectors. More surprisingly, our selectors may even lose out in the global specificity war, ultimately having little or no effect on the page at all.

Any time we make a change to a CSS file, we need to carefully consider the global environment in which our styles will sit. No other front end technology requires so much discipline just to keep the code at a minimum level of maintainability. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to leave the era of global style sheets behind.

It’s time for local CSS.

In other languages, it’s accepted that modifying the global environment is something to be done rarely, if ever.

In the JavaScript community, thanks to tools like Browserify, Webpack and JSPM, it’s now expected that our code will consist of small modules, each encapsulating their explicit dependencies, exporting a minimal API.

Yet, somehow, CSS still seems to be getting a free pass.

Many of us — myself included, until recently — have been working with CSS so long that we don’t see the lack of local scope as a problem that we can solve without significant help from browser vendors. Even then, we’d still need to wait for the majority of our users to be using a browser with proper Shadow DOM support.

We’ve worked around the issues of global scope with a series of naming conventions like OOCSS, SMACSS, BEM and SUIT, each providing a way for us to avoid naming collisions and emulate sane scoping rules.

We no longer need to add lengthy prefixes to all of our selectors to simulate scoping. More components could define their own foo and bar identifiers which — unlike the traditional global selector model—wouldn’t produce any naming collisions.

import styles from './MyComponent.css';
import React, { Component } from 'react';
export default class MyComponent extends Component {
 render() {
    return (
      <div>
        <div className={styles.foo}>Foo</div>
        <div className={styles.bar}>Bar</div>
      </div>
    );
  }

The benefits of global CSS — style re-use between components via utility classes, etc. — are still achievable with this model. The key difference is that, just like when we work in other technologies, we need to explicitly import the classes that we depend on. Our code can’t make many, if any, assumptions about the global environment.

Writing maintainable CSS is now encouraged, not by careful adherence to a naming convention, but by style encapsulation during development.

Once you’ve tried working with local CSS, there’s really no going back. Experiencing true local scope in our style sheets — in a way that works across all browsers— is not something to be easily ignored.

Introducing local scope has had a significant ripple effect on how we approach our CSS. Naming conventions, patterns of re-use, and the potential extraction of styles into separate packages are all directly affected by this shift, and we’re only at the beginning of this new era of local CSS.

process.env.NODE_ENV === 'development' ?
    '[name]__[local]___[hash:base64:5]' :
    '[hash:base64:5]'
)

Understanding the ramifications of this shift is something that we’re still working through. With your valuable input and experimentation, I’m hoping that this is a conversation we can have together as a larger community.

Note: Automatically optimising style re-use between components would be an amazing step forward, but it definitely requires help from people a lot smarter than me.


Hey DJ play that song

Many years ago, I worked for my parents who own a video production company. Because it is a family business, you inevitably end up wearing many hats and being the czar of many different jobs. I mainly managed projects and worked as a video editor. On production, there were times that I was called on to work as an audio tech and was made to wear headphones on long production days. In those days, having a really good set of headphones that picked up every nuance of sound was essential to making sure the client got what they needed.

Keep me dancing.

Naturally, my first impression of these headphones is based off of the look of them. They have a classic over-the-ear style that is highlighted by a blue LED light that indicates the power for the noise canceling. The padding on the ear pieces seems adequate for extended usage periods.

They are wired headphones, but the 3.5mm stereo mini-plug cable is detachable. Something else I noticed right of the bat was the very nice carrying case that comes with them. It has a hard plastic exterior with a soft cloth interior that helps to protect the surface of the headphones from scratches. I never truly appreciated cases for headphones until I started carrying them from place-to-place. Now I can’t imagine not having a case.

All night long…

Once I gave the headphones a thorough once-over exam, I tried them on. As I mentioned, they have a classic over-the-ear style and just looking at them, the padding on the ear pieces seem adequate and the peak of the headband seemed to be a bit lacking, but you don’t really know comfort unless you try on the product. So, I slipped the headphones on and found them to be exquisitely comfortable.

Play me something for me and my darling, want you to make everything.

Now that I had the headphones on my head, I was finally ready to plug and play some music. I plugged the provided cable into the jack on the headphones and then the one on my iPhone 6. Then I called up Pandora. I tend to have a very eclectic music purview and have many stations set up for different moods. From John Williams to Fallout Boy, the sound quality of these headphones was remarkable. There is an amazing depth of sound and incredible highs and lows that make listening to music a truly breathtaking experience.

In order to test how voices sounded, and the overall art of sound mixing, I pulled up Netflix on my iPad Air 2 and watched a few minutes of a movie to hear all the nuances of the film. None of them were lost. In fact, I ended up hearing sounds that I hadn’t heard before. Echoes…birds chirping…wind blowing through trees…breathing of the characters…it was very impressive what the headphones ended up bringing out for me.


Posters, banners and signs: Focusing on the neighbourhood

Allegra Michael Grant

 

 
What’s new in the neighbourhood? That’s the question that posters and banners are designed to answer. They tend to focus on the immediate, the now. Signs tend to focus on the brand and the location. Either way, they are messages between you and the market. Okay, so these are things that most of us already know. So what? Well, there are a few facts we should keep in mind.

First, design is critical to your image, in fact, for many, it is their image, at least the first impression anyway. The University of Cincinnati and Better Homes and Gardens conducted a study on signage in October of 2011. What they found was that of 200 business school students, 79% said that the quality of the signage inferred the quality of the company. It’s a handshake, a first impression. You are what you project. So, if you advertise with a hand painted sign or a low resolution picture banner, you might sell a lot of used lawn furniture, but don’t expect to sell any diamond rings.

Next, if you are a new business, signage tells people that you have arrived. Use it. When we opened our first business, it was on a busy street corner. We set up a large well lit awning sign and we kept it lit all night. There was a bus stop across the street and the bus drivers called out the stop with our name as that destination. We were so prominent we became an immediate fixture. In our first year of operation, we set a record for the highest first year dollar volume location of some 400 North American locations in over 20 years. I’m not saying it was the sign, but it sure helped. It will help you too.

And just to restate the obvious, make the sign big and clear. That U of C study mentioned above also discovered that 50% of consumers drive by and miss small or unclear signs even when they are looking for that location. Not only that but, 64% of women aged 18 to 24 will miss the sign under the same conditions. There is just too much visual competition. For signs trying to attract drive by traffic, the layout is very important. Your logo should be in the top left along with a graphic and one or two key words. That’s all the time they have to read your message. Too much information and your message will be lost. It will become a blur. A blur just doesn’t sell stuff. Locating your message shouldn’t become an Easter Egg Hunt.

Did you know that after television, consumers considered indoor signage as tied with magazines as the most useful source of new product information? Well, neither did I until I read that U of C study. So what? Well, you can capitalize on this by placing product information signs in your business. Think of it as an informative customer service person spreading your message all day, every day. By the way, that same study showed that outdoor signs were the third most useful source of new product information. Are you in a mall or on a busy street with windows? If so, you know what to do.

And the, “But Wait There’s More” moment:

Remember QR Codes? We talked about them in June of this year. Where ever possible, every banner and poster should have a QR Code. It changes the static to the dynamic. It takes your customers and prospects to your other communications media. If successful, it engages them to interact with your brand in the worlds of email and web. It develops a relationship and that helps to grow your company.

Next: So many choices…So little time and money. Now what?


The new brand identity

I stumbled upon the concept of margin while reading a post by Michael Hyatt, which led me to design my ideal week. Richard Swenson, M.D. (who wrote the book: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives) describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Last year I wrote about why booking too far in advance can be dangerous for your business, and this concept of margin so eloquently captures what I had recognized had been my problem: I was so booked up with clients that I wasn’t leaving any margin for error, growth, planning, or reflection. I wasn’t really growing my business in a sustainable way; I was just booking one client after the next. At the time this seemed like a good thing: doesn’t growing my business mean getting more clients?

A long redesign.

What if instead of booking up to 100% capacity (which more often than not ends up being closer to 120%), we only booked up to an 80% capacity?
What if we left more room for growth (personal or professional) and stopped being one with “busy-ness”?
I spent nearly a year turning down every new project (and even getting rid of old ones) so that I could reduce my workload, build in more margin, and create what is now Digital Strategy School. It takes time to build margin into your schedule.Write a book. Create a program. Update your contracts and proposals (which has been on your to-do list for how long..?) Spend more time with your family. Go above and beyond for a client. Learn something new. Actually follow through on the things that have been nagging at you for a long time.

When you design your ideal week, you start to see that the time you think you have is often not in alignment with how much time you actually have.

After designing my ideal week, I had a much clearer idea of how to create a framework for my week that would empower me to feel more focused by theming days of the week, and even parts of the day. SO simple, I know. Some of you have been doing this for ages and you’re already a pro, and some of you who saw my schedule said “woah, that’s so rigid, I need more flexibility!”watch Smurfs: The Lost Village movie now

Structure enables flexibility.

If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on various tasks, use a tool like Rescue Time (their free version is excellent!) which runs in the background and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you weekly reports so you know exactly how much time you wasted on Facebook, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign different websites or programs/applications on a scale of very distracting to very productive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most productive, which times of the day you’re most productive, and the sites on which you’re spending the most distracting time. Turns out I’m consistently “in the zone” around 3pm in the afternoon; so instead of trying to tackle highly creative work first thing in the morning (when my brain is barely functioning), I handle it in the afternoon, when I know I’m at my peak!

Creating more margin has been game-changing for my business.
What would be possible for yours?


So many choices, so little time and money

Allegra Michael Grant

 
Now what?

When we started this column, we titled it, “Confusion Says”. Of course, it was a play on the words Confucius Says, usually the beginning of some thoughtful point of philosophy, some short and simple phrase from long ago, loaded with insight. Our Confusion Says column speaks to the confusion that exists in the world of marketing. Confusion has always existed in that world, but today the number of choices and subsequent directions are anything but short and simple. They are more confusing than ever before. We wanted to review the options and present the facts as they exist today.

What remains consistent is that, of every option you choose, it can succeed or it can fail. It is all dependent upon the development of the strategy and the execution of the tactics. ME is now in control as never before. ME has the ultimate channel changer, their keyboard and their mobile device. They will Like you, Follow you and Link up with you, but only if you ask permission and only if you have something relevant to say, something relevant to them that is. If that relationship works, they will buy from you. If that relationship fails, well, remember, it’s not ME it’s you.

Every channel we explored should be used dependent upon time and money. If only we had it all. As we reviewed in earlier segments, most should be used in concert with other channels. Yesterday, I watched an advertisement for Google on TV. A few days ago, they emailed me an invitation to use their services and several weeks ago they direct mailed me a printed promotion for these same services. Yes, even Google, a 14 year old multi-billion dollar highly successful company that is most noted as a search engine for web sites, even Google uses TV, direct mail and email to market its services. It integrates multiple channels. Now, the TV commercial has come and gone. The email is somewhere on my hard drive. The Direct Mail piece, well, that’s sitting right in front of me now – a constant, unobtrusive reminder of it, the other advertisements and, of course, the company. This is cross-channel marketing. It is what you need to do as well.

As we move forward and new information is gathered, we will provide you with what the industry has to say about all of these channels.

The confusion will continue. We will find the facts to sort it out.


Stumbled the concept

If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on various tasks, use a tool like Rescue Time (their free version is excellent!) which runs in the background and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you weekly reports so you know exactly how much time you wasted on Facebook, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign different websites or programs/applications on a scale of very distracting to very productive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most productive, which times of the day you’re most productive, and the sites on which you’re spending the most distracting time. I stumbled upon the concept of margin while reading a post by Michael Hyatt, which led me to design my ideal week.

Richard Swenson, M.D. (who wrote the book: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives) describes margin like this:

Last year I wrote about why booking too far in advance can be dangerous for your business, and this concept of margin so eloquently captures what I had recognized had been my problem: I was so booked up with clients that I wasn’t leaving any margin for error, growth, planning, or reflection. I wasn’t really growing my business in a sustainable way; I was just booking one client after the next. At the time this seemed like a good thing: doesn’t growing my business mean getting more clients?

What if instead of booking up to 100% capacity (which more often than not ends up being closer to 120%), we only booked up to an 80% capacity?

What if we left more room for growth (personal or professional) and stopped being one with “busy-ness”?
I spent nearly a year turning down every new project (and even getting rid of old ones) so that I could reduce my workload, build in more margin, and create what is now Digital Strategy School. It takes time to build margin into your schedule.

What could you accomplish with 20% more time?

Write a book. Create a program. Update your contracts and proposals (which has been on your to-do list for how long..?) Spend more time with your family. Go above and beyond for a client. Learn something new. Actually follow through on the things that have been nagging at you for a long time.

When you design your ideal week, you start to see that the time you think you have is often not in alignment with how much time you actually have.

After designing my ideal week, I had a much clearer idea of how to create a framework for my week that would empower me to feel more focused by theming days of the week, and even parts of the day. SO simple, I know. Some of you have been doing this for ages and you’re already a pro, and some of you who saw my schedule said “woah, that’s so rigid, I need more flexibility!”

Structure enables flexibility.

If you’re not sure how much time you are actually spending on various tasks, use a tool like Rescue Time (their free version is excellent!) which runs in the background and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you weekly reports so you know exactly how much time you wasted on Facebook, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign different websites or programs/applications on a scale of very distracting to very productive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most productive, which times of the day you’re most productive, and the sites on which you’re spending the most distracting time. Turns out I’m consistently “in the zone” around 3pm in the afternoon; so instead of trying to tackle highly creative work first thing in the morning (when my brain is barely functioning), I handle it in the afternoon, when I know I’m at my peak!

Creating more margin has been game-changing for my business.
What would be possible for yours?


Marketing With Tangibles

Allegra Michael Grant

 

 

 

Now, how about something we can really get our hands around?

Trinkets and trash, that’s what they used to call promotional products and advertising specialties. It was stuff you gave away as an afterthought without any real consideration of its impact. You just did it because… well, that’s what someone said to do. They bought it and you had to give it away. As it turns out, these items have a lot more value than some people think.

Promotional products have become an $18+ Billion dollar world-wide industry. Almost every major brand on this planet uses promotional products. There are literally hundreds of thousands of products to choose from. Practically any item that you can think of has been transformed into a promotional product. Why? Because name recognition and brand retention is strengthened through the use of this form of advertising. The life span or staying power of these products can be very long and thus your message is seen again and again, sometimes over years and to a wide ranging audience. Once again, rarely is marketing a home run. It is a series of hits and a series of runs – back to our reference to “Moneyball”. Promotional products are one more tool to keep your game alive for a very long time.

Now, back to the trinkets and trash comment, ME wants something useful not just clutter. If the item is useful, ME will keep it. If it has ME’s name on it then ME will keep it for a very long time. As an example, on and around my desk I myself have one branded calendar, two branded travel mugs and scores of branded pens. I see the names of those companies every day, all day and each item they have given me is useful. That’s why I use them.

The promotional product industry also consists of employee recognition items. This is all about motivating, rewarding and retaining employees. Providing an employee with an item that has their name on it is a special moment. Rarely do people discard an item that has their name on it. Our offices have well over 100 awards with our company’s and our employees’ names on them. Some awards were presented over 40 years ago. Again, it is all part of building the team and subsequently, the brand.

Let’s look at some statistics from a study performed by the Advertising Specialty Institute.

    84% remembered the advertisers of the promotional products they’ve received.

    62% have done business with the advertiser on a promotional product after receiving the item.

    42% had a more favourable impression of the advertiser after receiving the item.


The 2012 State of the Industry report in Counselor magazine lists the top 26 categories of promotional products sold. Shirts are the undisputed leader with 20% of revenue. 42% of men and 30% of women own a promo shirt. Writing instruments account for 7.3% of revenue and have the highest retention percentages. 56% of women and 46% of men own one of these. Calendars account for 4% of revenue. 28% of women and 19% of men own a promotional calendar. 81% of people surveyed said that they kept a promotional product because it was useful.

In summary, promotional products can help build the retention of your brand in the marketplace and within your company. Of course, the more useful the product or the more special the moment, then the more likely it will be kept and displayed for all to see. Promote your web site on the item and engage people on another media. It’s one more way to work cross media marketing.

Next week:Posters, Banners and Signs: Focusing on the Neighbourhood