We can learn more by expecting things to be harder, according to Oxford professor of mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy, which is one of two small insights I shared on my regular small business segment with Richard Pascoe on FIVEaa last weekend.
In small business, we don't have the luxury of having the HR department organise training days.
And we don't have huge teams who can focus on a problem
We typically need to do things ourselves.
And this means that when we decide to do a workshop, we are downing tools or going after hours in the hope that we'll find the magic bullet to solve the problem. (In the image, above, you can see me delivering a workshop for Business SA, back in 2019, in Coonawarra's Chardonnay Lodge. I've running many workshops there over the years and it was memories of those workshops from 2008 onwards that prompted this article).
And in this article, I want to share a couple of related tips about how to approach these moments of learning and get the most out of them.
The importance of "one per centers"
A lot of the tips I share with small business people (and myself) have been greatly inspired and shaped by the work of James Clear and his book, Atomic Habits.
In that book, James explains how, in times of stress, we don't rise to the level of our goals but rather we settle at the level of our basic habits.
The short version is this: adding little 1 per cent changes in our lives is MUCH more powerful than going for big changes.
I mention this because the tips I shared on the radio arose from me thinking about the marketing workshops I've run all around Australia for almost 20 years, stretching back to late 2005 when I ran the first ever social media marketing workshops in South Australia.
My workshops have often been hands-on, practical affairs.
People would bring their laptops, their phones, and even their iPads when they arrived on the scene, and we would go through setting up a Facebook account or a Twitter account, etc.
Mind you, I am not sure I'd be adding Twitter accounts today!!!
Twitter has become a cesspool of cowards and bots who use it for drive by, abuse hurling.
Although, back when it was still a fun and warm place to be, I remember running a workshop at the Stirling Library for the Adelaide Hills Regional Development Australia or it might have been for Department of State Development, and we set up Hootsuite to eavesdrop of tweets in our geographic area.
A mobile coffee van in the hills had just tweeted that there were packing up from an event near us, so I tweeted them and said we had 20 people ready to buy coffees if they could come over.
That was back in the days when social media was innocent and open.
The problem of going to marketing workshops with too much confidence
Anyway, let's get back to the problem about small business people and getting the most out of workshops.
People often turn up to these workshops, raring to go.
We have much fun.
But then, a few days later, reality sets in, they hit a snag, and it can all get a bit hard.
As I make very clear in my workshops, it will take commitment to make marketing work because nobody owes you a living or your attention; we have to earn it.
I keep working on ways to break things down for people AND I almost always arrange for people at my workshops to have a follow up session, one on one, so that I can help tie up loose ends
But I am fighting against a world in which everybody (including me) expects everything to be easy.
I'm like most people; we never read instructions.
And so the insight I want to share is that, it's not the fact that there are hard things to learn about when running a business, it's the fact that we don't EXPECT them to be hard that hampers our progress.
Enter, the professor
And this is where there are a couple of points made by an Oxford professor of mathematics, Professor Marcus du Sautoy.
He has written a book, Thinking Better: The Art Of The Shortcut, which I discussed recently, with David Olney, on our podcast, Talking About Marketing.
In the podcast we play a snippet of him talking in which he says a few interesting things.
You can't avoid hard work. It requires some effort to learn new skills. But once we have them, they become amazing new skills to help us do things more quickly.
Now this seems like a really obvious statement but nobody seems to GET IT.
So the first hack or tip today is to prepare for your next workshop by changing your expectations.
Expect it to be hard.
Expect to hit some snags when you first start trying to put your new skills into practice.
If you do this, you'll actually have a better success rate.
At the moment, I am doing some intense study on the new version of Google Analytics - GA4.
It is VERY different from the old Google Analytics and it's hard.
I am having to break apart my old habits and rebuild my approach.
But remembering Marcus' simple insight has been enough to make sure I push through and do the new steps so that I will soon have them as part of my natural skillset for the benefit of our clients.
Do you love what you do, or are you just ticking tasks off?
And the other insight sets up a bit of homework.
I want you to observe yourself at work this week.
Professor Marcus makes the observation that there are two kinds of work that we do, borrowing from Aristotle.
He notes that the two different types of work, are praxis and proesis:
- Praxis is work you love doing for the sake of doing the work
- Proesis is work you need to do to reach a goal
In small business, some of us haven't created an enterprise that excites us and engages us, instead, we've just made ourselves a job.
Seriously, with all the extra demands on a business owner, I don't think it's worth it.
So, if you're finding that most of your work is more like proesis (you just want to get each day over with), it's really important to make time to stop and think about what you're doing.
One option is to just get a job with someone else.
The other is to find ways to reframe the work you do to FIND ways to get excited about it again.
As an aside, I had an experience with an accommodation place in Brisbane last week.
We decided to eat in one night and to do so we needed to dial the chef directly.
I liked the sound of that.
I'd travelled a couple of thousand kilometres, and was all excited
Was going to do the parmagiana but asked the chef what the fillet steak was like because it sounded good, but what would he recommend?
I said, I am umming and ahing, what would you recommend; is your steak really good?
He just said, in a monotone voice, that's not for me to say. everybody need to make up their own mind.
WOW. Sadly, that chef sapped the excitement and enjoyment. If only he could find a way to tap into the excitement of his guests, he'd start LOVING his work and finding deeper satisfaction in life!
The other kind of work is praxis
For me, praxis (work you love doing for the sake of it), includes the podcast I do with David Olney, it's writing blogs, it's being the MC at an event. I love every moment of these things.
Tim Reid, who does the Small Business Big Marketing podcast, often says that the business owners who can approach their marketing tasks as a hobby - have some fun with it - they are the ones who tend to have most success. And he's onto something there.
So, my main points today
Firstly, stuff is hard. Learning is hard. We forget this all the time (mainly because of marketers who write copy saying how easy everything will be with product X). But if we prepare for a workshop, by expecting it to be hard, we won't be knocked off our horse as easily.
If you're going to the Northern Business Breakfast, on November 23, 2022, prepare yourself for my talk because there will be homework.
It will be "easy", but if you come prepared to take away a task, you'll get more out of it.
Secondly, get clear about the two different modes of work you do; the stuff that just needs to get done, and the stuff you LOVE doing.
Just being aware of this and trying to have more praxis (stuff you love doing), is going to help you have a more enjoyable work week.
And I think your customers will appreciate it!