£76 in 28 Seconds

My heart was in my mouth…..

I had a metal shed listed on eBay and the listing was due to end today at 5.15pm.  Yesterday I received a call on my mobile from someone asking if I would be interested in accepting £120 cash for it.

Now the last time I’d looked at the listing before this call, the bids had gone up to £75, from a starting price of 99p; so I figured that if this person was offering that much, it must have gone up since.  Tempting as it was, I declined the offer for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s against ebay policy to pull a listing in order to do a deal outside of ebay
  2. It’s bad form, when other people have already been bidding on it
  3. I really wanted to test the strength of my sales copy and put my faith in the bidding system, trusting that the market would find the true price of my item

After the phone call I went onto ebay to check the latest price and my heart sank – it was still going for £75; but 8 different people had placed bids and there were 55 people watching the item, so I was quietly confident that the price would move nearer the end of the auction.

Today, with 30 minutes to go, the shed price had crawled up to £77; then £79 with just 15 minutes remaining – and there it stayed until there were just 28 seconds to go.  Now despite me being the type of person who usually bids with about 5 seconds to go, using a sniper tool, I resigned myself to the fact that I had turned down a £120 cash purchase in favour of £79 (before fees).  But hey, at least my conscience was clear.

And that’s when the magic happened…..

A 3-way bidding war in the dying seconds of the auction pushed the price up by £76 in 28 seconds, ending the auction at £155.  The person who won it was the same one who had offered me the £120 the day before.  Now he’ll be paying via PayPal and I should make about £134 after fees, with the added security of PayPal’s seller protection.

I love it when a calculated risk pays off 🙂

Trusting My Instincts

You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve dropped the ball recently and lost momentum on the 90 day challenge – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is, I’ve been so focused that I haven’t got around to blogging recently. I think this is a bad thing though; apart from the fact that there’s no new content for Google to pick up on, it also means that:

  • there’s nothing new for my readers to read and
  • I’m not charting my progress as I go – which was kind of the point.

The bottom line is – I need to do better and blog more consistently. So it’s now 4.13pm and I’m sat here with a stinking cold, having just got up from an hour or so’s lie down. My head is too muzzy to take on anything new, so I felt this would be a great opportunity to play catchup.

I’ve been deliberating about my 3 websites and deciding how best to incorporate the contents of my old site, thefreedomcrusader.com into them (I haven’t linked to that site from here as I don’t plan to renew it, so it will be a dead link by the end of May 2014).

Do I incorporate my S.I.M.P.L.E. philosophy into my new sites? I have decided yes; after all it’s a system that’s worked for me, so it makes sense to share it with others if it will help them too. It also provides a very neat framework for all of the resources I plan to make available from my sites.

I’m not quite sure how it’s all going to pan out; but I’ve decided to trust my instincts, get the information across and see what happens.

The Power of a Simple Task

Today I’ve learned the importance of keeping a new ritual going every day if you’re trying to form a new habit, however simple it may seem.  Views differ on how long it takes to form a habit, but most people seem to agree that a month should do it.

After being inspired recently by a superb TEDx talk from Mel Robbins (see my previous post) I’ve been getting out of bed each morning (except on Sundays) as soon as my alarm went off at 6am.

Yesterday, after making the excuse to myself that I’d had a late night the night before, I decided to stay in bed until 6.30am.  That wasn’t so bad – I still managed to get a fair bit of sorting done before 9am – but later that morning I resisted the urge to get back to work and spent far longer in the local village coffee shop than I normally do.

This morning I decided to lie in until 7am – then my wife offered to make coffee and bring it up for me whilst I read; then after that she brought me breakfast. I eventually got up at 8.45am.

This morning I ate into the time I really wanted to use to get on with my internet marketing work, by catching up on emails (which I’d cleared down completely earlier in the week but had started to let mount up again) and procrastinating over a job I didn’t want to do, and still haven’t yet done, even though I know it will probably take me less than an hour. It’s now approaching lunchtime and I haven’t got the job done or started any internet marketing work (with the exception of this all important blog post to share my findings with you and ensure I get back on track this afternoon).

I’ve now realised just how powerful the whole ‘getting up when the 6am alarm goes’ ritual really is – and more importantly, why.

Have you noticed that if someone drops a piece of litter in a litter-free area, or dumps something down out of place in the house, one of two things happen; either someone else sees it as such a blot on an otherwise perfect landscape that they feel compelled to pick it up and deal with it – or they see it as an invitation to dump more stuff down. So either the situation gets dealt with straight away, or it becomes part of a downward spiral, leading to a lot of extra time and effort down the line to sort it out.

Learning to jump out of bed at 6am is not just about getting up early and having 3 hours to deal with stuff before 9am, which could otherwise distract me from what I really want to focus on – it’s about forming the habit of overcoming resistance. And guess what? On the days I’ve overcome the resistance of getting up in the morning, it’s been easier to overcome the resistance of doing other tasks I didn’t want to be doing – and I’ve been able to chip away at those before 9am, feel really great for having made that progress and then have a full day to get on with the stuff I really want to be doing.

The moral for me is clear – never underestimate the cumulative power of a simple task; and if it’s working for you, make sure you stick with it every single day until it becomes automatic (ie turns into an empowering habit, which will literally pull you towards a better life).

Finding Myself

You would be forgiven for thinking I was going to get all philosophical with this post, but actually I’m referring to understanding my current online presence.

Today I started John Thornhill’s One Month Mentor programme – and the first thing he recommends is to get yourself a .com domain derived from your name, to use as your personal blog.  Now since I’m already using this site (paulhutchings.me) I haven’t registered anything else, but I would have registered paulhutchings.com if it had been available.

That address was actually registered in 2007 and the current owner (unsurprisingly called Paul Hutchings) hasn’t yet done anything with it.  It’s a long shot, but I will contact the owner near to the next expiry (July this year) and see if he might be willing to give it up.

Coincidentally Paulhutchings.co.uk is taken by an artist (my wife’s an artist) and paulhutchings.net is taken by an internet marketer (which is what I’m aspiring to be).

Next, I thought it would be fun to see if I could find myself anywhere in the Google search rankings.  I figured it would be a good first goal to try and get myself to appear within the first 10 pages of search results based on my name; and to my pleasant surprise, this blog already appears on page 9! Now I know that if you’re on page 9 of a Google search, you may as well be on page 99 – but it’s a good omen for the future, given that paulhutchings.me only 3 weeks old.

It also confirms what most people now seem to be saying about Google rankings related to domain extensions; there were some that believed that Google preferred the ‘.com’ extensions over others; but the general consensus now appears to be that it’s the quality of the content and amount of interaction on sites that matters most.

I shall keep an eye on my rankings over the weeks and see if I can get to that prestigious page 1.

Product Review – Spotify

It’s been said that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. At home for the last few years I’ve worked in silence, in the belief that I couldn’t work with music. I found it a shame, because I love music – and I was only getting to listen to it when I was out in the car (which, after leaving paid employment, wasn’t that often). Then, after remembering how I used baroque music to stimulate the brain during my accelerated learning training sessions, I figured it was time I started walking the talk and I decided to experiment and try Spotify (which lets you search for and listen to any music for free and to create your own playlists).

All I can say is WOW! Not only have I discovered that I can work to music after all; it has also improved my focus, helped motivate me and allows me to reignite my love for music again, as I discover tracks I’ve never heard before and reacquaint myself with some old favourites and guilty pleasures.

Here are 3 of the best features of Spotify, in my opinion:

  • You can hit a ‘Start Radio’ button as you listen to a certain track and the software will keep playing tracks of a similar style. If, during this time, you hear a track you don’t like, or one you really love, you can hit a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button and Spotify will improve the radio channel for you, based on your preferences.
  • You can pause and resume play at any time with a click of your mouse.
  • The home page suggests other music you might like, based on what you’ve previously been listening to.

It’s packed with other features and I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface here; but it’s fair to say that even now – and despite the occasional short ad interrupting the otherwise continuous play – I absolutely love it.

3 tools for getting remotivated

Despite it being the first day of Spring today, I found it a real struggle to get motivated and believe in myself.

I drafted several blog posts today, including a lengthy one exploring my feelings about last night’s speech; this left me wondering whether I was indulging in active procrastination (as opposed to passive procrastination, such as watching a film or reading a novel).  In the end I concluded that I definitely wasn’t, since I was still working; albeit doing what I loved.

At least now, when I’m lacking motivation and inspiration, I have some tools at my disposal to help me change my state to one that’s more healthy and productive.

Here are my top 3 so far:

Spotify –  a free music streaming service that deserved its own review. I have created a number of playlists, depending on whether I’m in the mood for high energy feel good music or middle of the road tracks I enjoy, or need to listen to tracks without lyrics in order to concentrate. I can get fed up classical music after a while, but I seem to be able to listen to film scores for hours on end.

Mel Robbins’s TEDx talk on how to overcome the force that stops you from getting on with the things you know you should be doing but don’t want to (and don’t worry – the ‘F’ word suggested in the title isn’t a rude one).

Tony Robbins (no relation to Mel) talking about why people don’t do what it takes to get what they want. Specifically from 14:55 to 29:01 on the video (there used to be several versions of this video on You Tube, but today I had trouble finding one that would play, so it may have been pulled – watch it while you still can!).

I hope these 3 tools help you as much as they help me. Having the right mindset is vital to staying focussed and getting through those tough times on the way to achieving your goals and living your dreams. Don’t leave your mood to chance and just accept it – use your remote (ivation) control and remotivate yourself.

Less polished, more human

That was the title of my speech last night at Casterbridge Speakers, my local Toastmasters club.  I found the experience of delivering it both liberating and frustrating, in equal measure.

Just to give you a bit of background, I have been a member of Toastmasters International, on and off, for over 10 years.  I first joined in around 1995 and went on to co-found 2 new clubs and help a third get off the ground.  I’ve entered several contests over the years and won at various levels.

I was also a finalist in the very first UK Business Speaker of the Year contest in Bournemouth in 2011 and, for 3 years, I was a corporate trainer for the largest employer in Bournemouth. So there’s no doubt I can hold an audience and that many people would describe me as a confident, competent speaker and trainer; but for me, there’s been something missing….

Failure to connect at a deeper level.

My speech came about after agreeing with my mentor that it might be a good idea to ‘dare to be vulnerable’ and share my concerns with my audience in an attempt to connect with them more.

The result was liberating, because I dared to do something different, felt that I was out of my comfort zone, was supported by my audience and given some really constructive feedback.  I also proved to myself that I was able to deliver a competent speech without memorising a word for word speech.

But it was also frustrating, because I made some fundamental errors; the first part of my talk involved a PowerPoint presentation and I didn’t have a remote. Consequently I stood near the laptop and blocked some people’s view of the screen. Then, when I sat down, I sat so far forward that people to the very sides of the rows felt excluded, rather than part of an intimate chat.  As far as I’m concerned, these were both fundamental errors that I would have picked up on if I’d properly connected with my audience.

One of the points I shared in my speech was that, only last Monday, I found myself in a training session hiding behind my humour, being asked to speak up and avoiding eye contact with people as a video was being played. I think that surprised a few people.

Another thing I mentioned was that I tended to glance at people’s eyes, without actually connecting with them, because I didn’t want to be put off by people’s expressions and lose my place in my talk. Someone suggested that there’s a difference between giving a speech and running a training session. Certainly a training session is, by its very nature, more interactive.

As I write this post, it’s helping me reflect more on the evening and I wonder whether the key for me to connecting better as a speaker and a trainer is to see where my own personality may be tripping me up. Various personality profiles I have taken part in, even years apart, consistently rate me as an INFP.  Even if it’s not how I may come across to others sometimes, it’s certainly a scarily accurate reflection of how I see myself.

One of my personality traits is being a perfectionist, which can tend to make my speeches polished and professional, but maybe prescriptive and lacking warmth.

One of the interesting facts I’ve discovered through internet marketing is its personal, intimate nature.  Even though you might create a video, or a podcast, or a blog post, which could be accessed by millions of people, each individual can feel as if the author is addressing them directly; and, ironically, it is often the case that the more corporate, professional and impersonal the message is, the less effect it has on the person engaging with it.

People like to deal with other people, not faceless ‘entities’.

So there we have it – thanks to lessons learned from my club colleagues, my personality type and the world of internet marketing, I can now distil my findings into a mantra for my next speaking experiment…

Less polished, more human.

Farewell, Blandford Trader

Today I said goodbye to one of my previous trading names, blandfordtrader, which has been one of my two ebay names since November 2012.

As I get clearer on my vision for my business and the future, it seems to be getting easier to simplify and streamline my processes; something I learned the importance of from Steve Jobs.  Here’s a great post by Christian Zibreg containing more of Steve’s tips.

With that in mind I have set to work on finally streamlining the files on my PC, some of which I’ve held onto for years and are just taking up space.  I’m using the free software JDiskReport, to identify my biggest files and DupKiller, to help me locate any duplicate files on my system.

This could be a big job!

Why I really love internet marketing

The art and philosophy of on-line selling absolutely fascinates me.  Before I started on this steep learning curve in earnest 3 years ago, I simply couldn’t get my head around how money could be made from any website that wasn’t an obvious online shopping site, or didn’t appear to have any products for sale.

I love working with words, so find it very rewarding when the sales copy I write actually persuades people to buy from me.  I also love the interaction with others that blogging and social networking brings.  It’s a dream for an introvert like me to be able to interact with crowds of people whilst sitting in the comfort and safety of my own home in front of my computer screen, listening to my favourite music.

There’s nothing more heart warming or rewarding than having someone tell you that something you’ve created has made a difference to their lives; and social networking is often a good gauge of whether your circle of influence is growing. For example, if someone ‘likes’ something you’ve put out there – let’s say on Facebook – then you know you’ve touched them in a small way.  If what you’ve done has moved them to comment, then you’ve had even more of an impact; and if they share it with people they know and love, then you’ve really made an impression.

These thoughts remind me of a poem I wrote some years ago:

To ask what one man in his life can achieve
Is to throw pebbles into a lake
For the bigger the impact the water receives
The more ripples one pebble can make

Do what you love…

…and the money will follow.

Changing your mindset from one of ‘how do I make money’ to ‘what can I do for others’ is not as easy as it seems.

I’m sure most people would love to be truly altruistic and selfless; but when you have a basic need to put food on the table, or simply a desire to have the extra choices in life that money can bring, it’s easy to lose sight of where you should be focussing; and hard to trust that the money will follow.

But it’s exactly that mindset which can lead to better motivation and better results. If you were offering a product or service, would you take more time and effort over it if you were doing it for a special friend? Doesn’t everyone deserve the same level of care and attention?

So what’s your passion? What would you happily do for others, for free, and to the best of your abilities, if money was no object?  I know what I would do – I’d become a successful internet marketer and an accomplished guitar player; and I’d probably write some songs of my own, as well as the occasional short story and piece of poetry as and when I’m hit with a flash of inspiration.  Along the way I’d share my life’s journey with others, through writing, training and speaking, via various forms of media, all in the hope that my stories and findings could help and inspire others to lead a bigger and better life and to avoid some of the mistakes I made; and I’d welcome their own thoughts and comments in return. In my opinion, there’s no substitute for the combined wisdom of crowds to help us all learn and grow even more.

And so here I am, working to become that very person, for free, and to the best of my abilities; the only difference at the moment is that money is still an object.  My wife and I are living off the slimmest of budgets, keeping the wolf from the door with a combination of irregular income, working tax credits and the occasional dip into savings.  We both know this isn’t sustainable over the long term; so when I spend time writing my blog, practising my guitar playing, learning about internet marketing and populating my website am I just wasting my time?  Shouldn’t I just go out and get any job I can find, just to pay the bills, even if it sets our dreams back another year, 3 years, 5 years?  I don’t think so. Who knows what fate might have in store for us that could stop us dead in our tracks between now and then?

That’s why we choose to spend our precious time doing what we love right here and now; and trusting that the money will follow.