Screw Work Let's Play bookMy new book Screw Work Let’s Play (How to do what you love & get paid for it) is a best-seller!

Download a free chapter plus a whole toolkit of guides and audio classes to help you get paid to do what you love at screwworkletsplay.com.

I’m blogging more regularly there so will only very occasionally update CreativeMaverick.com. Check out the Screw Work Let’s Play blog for interviews, inspiration and how-to posts.

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Diary of an Early Adopter

10 May 2010 In: Gadgets & the web, Stories

In 2006 I started my first blog, technologyturkey.com, about the irritations of modern technology. Despite being a gadget lover, I also get very irritated at some of the terrible devices made by technology creators – from TVs that crash to mobile phones that can’t make calls. I vented my frustrations about a handful of these devices on the blog.

Here’s a post from the blog that’s a little different – it’s about being an early adopter of technology in the 1970s.

Diary of an Early Adopter – Back to the 70’s

I belong to a class of consumers that marketers call “Early Adopters” (or alternatively, “Mugs”). This means my passion for technology makes me willing to buy version 1.0 of any half-baked gadget that the manufacturers can sneak past their Quality Assurance department.

Sometimes a piece of technology is so far ahead of its time it should never have been released from the lab. My first memory of such a Technology Turkey was some time in the late 70’s. It was the first TV I ever saw with a remote control. Infrared remotes hadn’t been invented yet so what did this use? A sonic controller – that’s right, sound.

The remote had one button. I say a button, it was really a lever pressing on a bent piece of stressed metal that made a loud “clack” as it straightened. This clacker, forerunner to the modern zapper, performed only one function – to change to the next channel. By pressing the button repeatedly you could hop through all 3 British TV channels and start again at the beginning.

This wonderful invention was owned by a friend’s father, local restaurateur Mr Collodi, making him one of the first men in Britain to gain control of the remote. His reign of power did not last long however as his children quickly discovered that the sound from the remote was not the only thing that caused the TV to change channel. Whenever one of them slammed the door to the playroom, the TV would turn over. Soon, they worked out that they could have the same effect as the remote by clapping their hands. This quickly led to a battle of control between Mr Collodi and his two children. Dad would press the clacker to watch the football and the kids would clap their hands to change to the cartoons. Dad would press the clacker twice to get back to the football and the kids would just clap again.

During primetime, the Collodi’s lounge would reach a frenzy of clacking and clapping not normally seen outside a Tourettes convention. The high pitch sounds would eventually set the dog off barking. And each bark would add to the channel hopping.

Today it takes 3 remote controls just to turn my TV on. The total button count on these remotes is 149. Perhaps I’d be better off with a one-button clacker.

NOTE: I am blogging daily at ScrewWorkLetsPlay.com on how to do what you love and get paid for it in advance of publication of my book in June 2010 – as a result I will be blogging here only very intermittently.

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I went to a fascinating talk at London Zoo this week about how evolution and our biology affect who we fancy and who we settle down with.

The speakers were Professor Robin Dunbar from Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University and Professor Karl Grammer from Department for Anthropology at University of Vienna.

Here’s how it was billed:

Biological approaches to human behaviour suggest that human mate preferences are influenced by similar underlying mechanisms to those seen in animals. Visual cues play a large part in judgements of attractiveness and compatibility. Recent research has revealed new insights into the intricacies of these cues and how we form early judgements based on them without fully realising how these decisions are made.

Here are some of my notes from the remarkable talks:

  • Internal gestation and the nature of lactation in humans means that males can do relatively little in early child-rearing
  • One consequence is that females prioritise child-rearing and males prioritise mating. Females have more to lose and so are choosier about mate
  • Humans have very large brains. The brain requires a significant amount of our daily energy intake just to tick over
  • One million years ago, our brains evolved to be too big to fit through the birth canal. The solution is that humans are now born 12 months premature. We are therefore unusually helpless at birth (compared to other animals)
  • Wealth and status affect infant survival rates – historically and even today – and so women are attracted to wealth and status.
  • One modern symbol of wealth is to own the latest mobile phone. Men more often display their mobiles than women; they take them out and put them on the table during a train journey while women leave them in their bags. Also,

“Men are more likely to display their mobile phones when there are women nearby.”

  • Men’s height matters. Stats show salary increases 1% for each centimetre over average male height. Taller men are more likely to be married.
  • Bravery in men correlates with attractiveness. Men are more likely to take risks when women are watching.
  • Humans are treated differently according to their attractiveness: parents smile more at attractive babies.
  • Parasite resistance is very important in humans. (The weight of parasite cells in our body is greater than that of our own cells) Signs for parasite resistance such as good skin therefore correlate highly with attractiveness.
  • The model for attractiveness varies from culture to culture and era to era. For instance a composite of the faces of the most successful film actresses shows differences for each decade. There is a 30s beauty, 40s beauty and so on. The 70s face deemed attractive for women was more masculine.
  • Despite these variations, some traits are universally attractive across cultures – from Europe to Asia to Africa – left/right symmetry of the face for instance.

Provocative stuff huh? I await your angry comments…

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I’ve been quiet here on Creative Maverick as I’ve been very busy elsewhere with a new blog on a similar topic.

My book Screw Work Let’s Play: How to do what you love and get paid for it is published by Prentice Hall in 9 weeks’ time. And in preparation I am blogging every day on how to make a full-time living out of stuff that feels more like play than work.

I am also giving away a Play Toolkit – a whole set of worksheets, guides and several hours of audio instruction to help you get paid to play. Here’s what it contains:

  1. Screw Work Let’s Play: An Audio Masterclass on how to get paid to play
  2. Crash Course in Seduction: Audio Masterclass on how to attract more business
  3. 7 Ways To Get More Clients: Advice sheet for freelancers and the self-employed
  4. Career DNA Worksheets: Simple, effective worksheets to help you find your ideal work
  5. BONUS for a limited time: How to charge more for your work – Audio Masterclass normally sold at £25.

Grab your FREE copy of the Play Toolkit here

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I love this business card belonging to web designer and social media consultant San Sharma. It has no contact details whatsoever!

San Sharma's business card

It gets some strange reactions though as San explains,

My business card makes people think I work for Google and/or wonder what the “I’m feeling lucky” button does

Of course, it only works if you have a relatively rare name (ie, not for me).

For more business card inspiration, check out these Creative Business Cards That Will Make You Look Twice.

The Annual Clowns Blessing

7 Feb 2010 In: Playful thinking

Clown OrganistEvery year at the Holy Trinity Church in East London, there is a service held to bless working clowns and commemorate the clowns that died in the previous year.

The mix of religious service and being surrounded by outlandish clowns makes it quite an experience.

What struck me was just how many members of the press were present, both photographers and TV cameramen.

What it shows is how great a hunger there is for people to see something out of the ordinary. The quirky will always get press. That’s why in my consulting sessions I often look for what’s unusual in a client’s business that we can use to make it stand out and get free publicity. What’s unusual about your business or project?

Watch the video below of the clowns entering the service.

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Why don’t people change? Why do we struggle on with the same old problems, wanting to be happier, more successful, to have better relationships, but not getting very far?

To explain why I think this is, I need to talk about Bono, lead singer of U2.

I hate Bono T ShirtA lot of people find Bono annoying, particularly in Britain where hating Bono has become something of a national sport. There are T-Shirts, blogs and more than one Facebook group.

Why do people hate Bono?

Whatever you might think of his music, when the strength of feeling is far out of proportion to what he does you can be sure it’s not simply a matter of taste. (Let’s face it there are far more despicable people out there in the world)

Bono is hated in Britain in particular because he breaks the rules of British culture. He gets ideas above his station, he behaves as if he actually is all that. And this is the great taboo of our country – to boast, to be arrogant, to believe you have the right to change the world.

The cost of this taboo is that we Brits err towards being apologetic, downplaying our abilities, and suppressing our own power. It is a culture of playing small.

When a natural part of our personality (in this case, our confidence and willingness to acknowledge our own talents) is suppressed at an early age, we see it all the larger in others. And we hate it.

It’s a universal (and uncomfortable) truth that our salvation lies in that which we hate. Wherever your life is stuck, whether it’s wanting more confidence in your work, making more money, allowing yourself to relax, or having a better sex life, you have locked away the part of yourself you most need.

How do you find out what this part is? Look at who you hate. Whoever you find most irritating or infuriating will represent the part you have hidden. If you’re suppressing your own confidence, it might be Bono. If you’re suppressing your sexuality, it might be Russell Brand, Helen Mirren or Belle de Jour. If it’s allowing yourself to relax, it’s the guy at work who seems to do no work at all and gets away with it.

The solution

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you become exactly what you hate. You may not want to start wearing wrap-around shades. Indoors. Mixed in with your prejudice, there may be some very valid reasons for disliking someone. But you can still use that person as a pointer to what you need.

Look at this person that irritates you, ask what it is that gets your goat, then ask yourself “If I could have a more palatable version of what they represent (confidence, ease with making money, more access to my own sexuality), would that help me get what I most long for in my life?”

I bet the answer is yes.

The question now is how to do you find a more attractive model for this quality? If you want confidence but hate Bono, don’t try to emulate him. Choose a model you can respect. Perhaps the quiet assuredness and brilliance of Bonnie Greer facing Nick Griffin on Question Time.

Keep them in mind whenever you want more of this part of yourself. Find a photo of them on google images, print it out and keep it visible as a reminder of this quality. Let them be your virtual mentor. When faced with your challenge ask “What would my mentor do?” and let them inspire you to do the same.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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John Williams

For a lot of us, particularly creative people, conventional goal setting and planning techniques just don’t work.

So how do we engineer a great year for ourselves without all that SMART goal crap? One doing the whole variety of stuff we enjoy while making a good living at the same time?

I gave a talk at January Scanners Night on exactly this topic.

Listen now and discover the 3 steps to creating your own Back Of An Envelope Plan for the year that’s simple, exciting, effective, and doesn’t box you in.

Scanners Night is my monthly London event for creative people, entrepreneurs and scanners.
If you can make it to London, come along on February 10th and discover “The creative personality – a user’s guide“.

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Being a careers coach I inevitably meet a lot of people unhappy in their job who want to do something else. But I also occasionally meet people (at social events) who love their job. And it’s funny how shy they are about it.

I ask what they do and they sheepishly reply “Oh very boring, I’m a solicitor” or “I’m in IT I’m afraid” and when I scratch beneath the surface it’s obvious they love it. Why the apology? Well I guess it’s actually quite revealing to show our passion for something, particularly if it’s not something a lot of people understand - ”Actually, I am just crazy about object oriented programming”.

But when we do show our enthusiasm for what we do, we give permission to others to do the same, we take another bite out of the myth that we all like the same things, and we inspire others to dare to do what they really enjoy.

(I met one woman who had engineered a job where all she did all day was pore over figures in a spreadsheet and she was in heaven. What was really pleasing is that she didn’t apologise for it.)

So if you do love your job (even if it isn’t a sexy one) shout it out!

Pomodoro TechniqueI’ve just been reading about the Pomodoro Technique which is a simple system to improve productivity created by Francesco Cirillo. Here’s a summary of the technique as shown on the website:

The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique™ can be split into five simple steps:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

I’ve tried similar things before to great effect and included a similar recommendation based on Mark Forster’s time management systems in my book.

You can download the complete book about the Pomodoro Technique for free.

I’ve also just installed a free timer application called Focus Booster which is based on the Pomodoro Technique.

about this blog

This is the personal blog of John Williams, author of "Screw work, let's play: How to do what you love & get paid for it" to be published by Pearson in June 2010.

Join my mission to play all day and get paid - to do whatever creative, fun stuff we feel like doing and make a good living out of it.


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