Archive 2005-10

Formula SchoolOver the past month or so I have decided to dabble in the world of online learning. At the moment I have a Microsoft Office tutorials site which gets some pretty hefty traffic… and whilst it does generate some advertising revenue via Google Adsense, it certainly isn't anything to write home about. I have been wondering how can I better monetise "how to" content and the idea of a structured, interactive online course came to mind. Something substantial that an individual can invest their own money in, but without the 300 pages of writing that goes with a "how to" or "dummies" book. Over my Christmas holidays I decided to give it a try. In hindsight writing this about a month later I made a ton of mistakes! See if you can pick them J Is there are market? Keyword traffic forecast analysis in Google Adwords Keeping within my Microsoft Office training niche, I looked at different types of keyword phrases to understand how much traffic could be generated. In the world of Office, the product most people struggle with and seek help for is Excel… by an order of magnitude! Sorry Outlook and Word, but I am not wasting time producing any of that content! Excel it is! I further refined my keyword and traffic forecast searches and noticed that Excel Formulas and Functions in particular had some significant traffic spikes. That topic space was something I was comfortable building a course around… and within 5 minutes I had picked "my niche" – Formula School And… running those numbers – for only $50 per day I could generate over 5000 clicks to my site! Converting at 1%?? Man this thing is going to smash my bank account and I can retire in a matter of weeks! As it turns out, nothing is that easy. Over the course of two days I built my first course for Formula School using the CoursePress Pro Wordpress plugin. Originally I called it the very boring… Formulas 101. I slapped a price on it. $47. The science behind the pricing? None… I purchased the SSL Certificate, set up the payment gateway (Stripe) I put the finishing touches on my online Excel video course and hit publish! Now to turn on that PPC advertising money making machine! Going broad vs going very very very laser focused specific My first mistake – thinking I would pick every low competition keyword there is so I can pay 1c per click and keep a huge margin on the course I build. 1000 keywords all related to Excel and Excel Formulas. Well, the lesson I learned here is that low competition is low competition generally for a reason – because the traffic doesn't convert. Sure… I got lots of traffic. But I ended up paying a hefty price. With my budget set at $50 per day, and my maximise click bid strategy in place, very quickly I saw $150 simply disappear. And not a single PPC conversion. All traffic is not created equal! I managed to offset that cost with a few signups generated from my email list over at The New Paperclip. But based on those numbers this was not going to be very self-sufficient. So I decided to get very specific and look for exact query / key matches (instead of the broad matches which AdWords will do by default). All of a sudden the traffic stopped. All except for one keyword phrase which to be honest was the least transaction orientated keyword in the entire list. I settled on a partial match strategy, with a bid price set low (but not too low) and a refined list of about 50 keywords. This resulted in a nice steady stream of traffic – 20-30 clicks per day. I thought the tortoise might win this race! As it turns out, I was still using low competition keywords, and they just were not attracting the people with buying intention. This is a really important point. Using PPC I am wanting to shorten my sales cycle. To do that the folk jumping in the top of the funnel (doing the search on Google) need to be as qualified as possible before they get to my site. I can control that to some extent based on the keywords I include in the scope of the campaign. So now I am running a campaign with online course transaction oriented keywords – most of which are high competition with suggested bids in excess of $9 or $10. I am bidding a number of cents. I am not interested in all traffic as quickly as possible – I am happy to ride this out a bit and see how things go as the right traffic trickles in. It is early days yet, but based on early figures this seems to be the winning strategy! Improving the copy and conversion on the course "sales page" Back to the name of the course – Formulas 101. How lame is that. 30 days on I am kicking myself I threw all that money away on PPC with the most uninspiring course title on the planet. I needed to look at some landing page optimisation. My PPC ads were pointing to the home page of my site – Formula School – and not the course page where they could sign up and pay for the course. Looking at my Google Analytics data – 80% of the traffic was stopping at that homepage and not event getting to the course page where the sign up button is. Ugh – first things first before we change the title of the course, how about we cut that unnecessary step out of the sales process by pointing all the PPC ads to the course signup page. Next challenge – the course name. I went old school headline copywriting on this one… "Who else wants to know the secret to Excel Formulas". Yep. A marketing angel died when I wrote that – but I am sure it will convert 1000x better than Formulas 101. Knowing the old Ogilvy quote that "80% of readers will engage only with the headline" – I think this is the most important optimisation I can make at the moment. Sure there is plenty more to do but I want to focus on the high impact changes at the moment. Has the experiment been a success? The jury is still out. I am pretty much at break even point at the moment thanks to the email sign ups – however in the long term that isn't sustainable and the organic or PPC traffic needs to kick in. When it comes to organic traffic to be honest I have not don't much off site SEO as yet which will play a factor in the future. But for PPC I have started to look at the data and refine my strategy over time which will pay dividends quickly.

The other day I bit the bullet and finally had treatment for the painful bulging purple veins in my left leg. They ran from behind the bottom of my thigh, down the back of my knee, and then around the outside of my left leg across the front and then down the inside of my shin.

I went to a vascular doctor who specialises in varicose vein treatment and the treatment plan he put in place resulted in having ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy to fix the problem veins. The surgery went really well. As part of my recovery I need to wear a compression stocking for three weeks – 24 hours a day for the first 3 days (showing with bags to cover the stocking!), then whilst I am awake for the rest of the time. Last night was the end of the 3 days of continuous compression stocking wear, which gave me my first chance to take a look at the progress my varicose vein treatment has made! Below are some before and after shots of how things are progressing! (apologies for the lighting… took the before photos during the day, and the after photos at night!)

Before Treatment

72 hrs After Treatment

First of all, this is the point of view shot of me looking down at the back of my left leg. You can see the varicose vein clearly in the back of my in the first shot. In the second shot you can see that whilst there is a bit of bruising, the vein has significantly reduced. It is still there, but not bulging and not as visible. The back of my knee still hurts a little bit when I have my leg bent – the compression stocking digs in a little bit – but the bruising certainly isn't painful to touch.

Before Treatment

72 hrs After Treatment

This second pair of shots is of the outside of my left leg. Again you can see in the first before shot the purple, tortured varicose veins wrapping around to the front of my leg. In the after shot you can see that the vein has significantly reduced! All in all I am extremely happy with the results so far. Yes there is a little bit of pain every now and then – and I am already very annoyed with my compression stocking – but based on those results I think I can put up with it for another few weeks to ensure a great outcome. No more vein pain!

About an hour ago I walked out of my local leg vein treatment clinic after having the varicose veins that have ached and sometimes been quite painful.. treated. Whilst I get use to the compression stocking on my left leg which will be my friend over the coming weeks, I wanted to make sure I captured what happened and publish my story – simply because when I was looking to find a way to reduce the tiredness, the pain, the restless legs caused by my torturous varicose veins… there were not many patient stories out there to read about. I figure there are people out there just like me that will benefit from my perspective. Before I get into it – I am not a doctor – please don't take this as medical advice or hold my word re: the procedure or the pain levels I felt (or didn't feel as is the case). Your mileage may (and probably will vary). Make sure you talk to your GP, local specialist or vascular surgeon to figure out your best course of action. To be honest now that I have gone through with the treatment… I wish I did it years ago!!!

So just how bad were my varicose veins?

I noticed that I had visible veins in my leg probably 10-12 years ago. There was a purple patch on the front of my shin – I just assumed it was a sporting injury from playing too much soccer without my shin pads on. But about 8 years ago I started to notice that my left leg in particular got quite tired and achy when I was pushing a shopping trolley around the supermarket. It was mild at first, but after 6-12 months without fail every time I went shopping, or went for a long walk, or was on my feet for a long time – there would be pain radiating from the back of my knee. Further to that sometimes I would get a strange pins and needles feeling – almost like ants crawling inside my left… down the front of my shin. I brushed it off for the longest time, until one night at the dinner table my leg really started to ache. So much so that I couldn't bear to sit at the table any more. We called the afterhours doctor to take a look at it as I thought something serious was wrong (like a Deep Vein Thrombosis – DVT). Thankfully the pain went away… and it wasn't DVT… but he suggested I get in touch with a vein center and talk to a varicose veins specialist to see if something could be done. Being stupid – I waited another 12 months until I actually made the call! Excuse the hairy legs… but here is what it looked like. This first shot is my point of view looking down at the back of my knee and down my calf. You can see that there is a very visible, very tortured varicose vein running from the back of the bottom of my thigh, down through the back of my knee, and then around to the left hand side of my left calf.   The vein actually wraps around the side of my calf to the front as you can see in the second picture … and you can make out the bluish and purple – almost bruise like appearance on the front of my shin where the blood is pooling in my veins.   So it looked pretty awful to be honest. But this treatment wasn't about cosmetics. I needed to get rid of the aches, the pains, the strange sensations running down my leg. So I finally called a vein clinic to see what my options were!  

The first consultation with the varicose vein specialist

This was only a 30 minute appointment. This was a pretty uneventful session. At a high level after providing some basic medical history to the receptionist (filling in a form on a clip board) I sat with the Doctor and he asked me a few questions about my purple veins – for example, how long have you noticed it, what is the pain like, does this run in your family etc etc. Then using the ultrasound machine he had in his room, he mapped out the varicose veins in my left leg. This took about 20 minutes and he talked me through was he was seeing on the ultrasound screen which was good. To make it nice and easy for me to understand, he drew the varicose vein on a template he had of the left leg – illustrating where the deficiency was, and then talking through why the vein had started to bulge, twist, and ultimately cause issues. He also highlighted why I may be getting those crawling ant style pins and needle sensations – as the vein was pushing against a key nerve that runs behind the knee. Because of this alternative traditional vein stripping or laser ablation / surgery options were not the best approach to my treatment as there was a higher risk of vein damage. Basically the only way to approach the treatment in his opinion was to do ultrasound guided foam sclero So armed with all that information… there was only one more question…

How much is this going to cost?!?!?!?

"Good question" the friendly Phlebologist says J Not sure about the rest of the world, but here in Australia varicose vein treatment using ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy isn't covered by Medicare or by private health insurance. Despite my varicose veins being quite painful, it is considered elective and therefore there is very little Medicare rebate. I think I get a portion of the compression stocking back from the government, but apart from that it is up to me to fund. The doctor said that the treatment will take about 60-90 minutes… I will need to walk continuously for 30 minutes straight after (he said I could actually go back to work if I wanted!) and the procedure, plus a handful of follow up appointments over the next 12 months, with the compression stocking will cost just over $1500 Australian Dollars. To be honest I was surprised that it was that cheap, and considering the pain that I had been through it was a no-brainer to go ahead with the varicose vein surgery. The next question in my head was when to treat my bulging varicose veins – so once I had cleared the credit card to cover the cost of the surgery… I booked in the next available appointment I could make!

Getting the varicose vein treatment

The actual procedure was a lot better than I thought it would be. I arrived about 10 minutes early for my appointment, and the receptionist has a clip board with a quick information sheet talking about the potential complications of the procedure. Nothing out of the ordinary here. So after a quick read I signed the form and handed it back to the assistant. About five minutes later the Vein Doctor that I had the initial consultation with invited me into his room. After taking my shoes, socks and shorts off… he took a number of "before" photos – so we could compare before and after the treatment. He then sat me down on a surgical bed and talked me through the procedure so I knew what was going on. He mentioned that my treatment is a little more complex than others, and involves the use of a number of cannulas to push the sclero foam through the vein – in fact most of the procedure is actually setting up to pump the foam in, and not the injection of the foam into the varicose vein itself. I lay down on my stomach… and after a quick check of the vein again using the ultrasound machine, and a practice of the roll over onto my side I needed to do half way through the procedure, we were good to go The doctor had set up table with at least 20 different needles, cannulas, bottles of sclero (not in its foam form yet) and saline solution. He started with a local anaesthetic which I felt go into my thigh just above the back of my knee – it was a small sting but nothing too bad. After a few minutes he started placing cannulas into my veins – specifically where the venous deficiency was occurring (above the back of my knee). The first one I didn't even feel – that is how good the anaesthetic was. But to be honest it was probably just very close to where the anaesthetic went in, as the following cannulas and needles went in I did feel some pain – again not much but enough to notice. The Dr was using the ultrasound to guide the needles into the right place… if I turned my head I could watch on the ultrasound screen which was pretty cool. About 30 minutes passed he had finished the set up – at which stage I turned my head to look back at my leg where I could see a number of cannulas handing out of my thigh, and what looked like a few drainage punctures in the top of my calf (or it could have been where he had injected some saline previously – I am not too sure). Then I heard the noise of him making the sclerotherapy foam. It is pretty interesting how the make it – basically two syringes set 90 degrees apart with a valve between them. The Dr pushes each syringe in and out passing the sclero solution through the valve turning it into a foamier consistency every time. Once he had the first batch of foam created he injected it into the cannulas sticking out of my thigh. He repeated this process at least four times, pushing more and more foam into my varicose vein. At this stage he checked around the back and the side of my leg to see how far the foam had progressed using the ultrasound. I rolled onto my side, and then onto my back where he used "direct sclerotherapy injections" as opposed to a cannula to finish off the job and get the smaller veins on the front of my shin. This involved about 4 further injections guided by the ultrasound… and 3 or 4 which he did using the naked eye. Again each one hurt a little, but I wouldn't say it was overly painful. After whipping down my leg to clean up the ultrasound gel and the little bit of blood… it was time to put on the Compression Stocking. The assistant brought in the size four stocking and the Dr pulled the full length stocking up left leg… leaving the last 10cm at the top of the thigh for me to do J He said I need to wear it continuously for the next 72 hours, and then when I am awake for the next 3 weeks. Here is a picture of the stocking I took as I walked out of the leg vein clinic…

Straight after the treatment – it is time for a walk

The leg vein specialist said that (after I fix up the bill and book my follow up appointment for about three weeks' time with the reception desk) I needed to walk continuously for 30 minutes before going anywhere. I walked about 3km down to the local shops close to that big cheap car insurance company. To be honest it felt really good as I started walking, but as soon as I stopped at a set of traffic lights, and started walking again – I could really feel the pressure of the foam down near my shin. Also I have noticed that as the local anaesthetic has worn off… the back of my knee in particular has a dull aching pain – ironically worse than the varicose veins, but it should settle down overnight.

The results? Too soon to tell

It is now four hours after my treatment was completed (taken a while between things to finish off this post) and yes it still hurts a bit, and no I can't see if the veins have gone. It does look like the bulging has gone down if I look at the compression stocking. I will post an update once the stocking if off in another 72 hours! Update: You can now see the sclerotherapy before and after photos in my 72 hours after treatment post. ---- The reason I wanted to post this article is to help those who are suffering from the aches and pains associated with varicose veins make a more informed decision about how to get treatment. I am not a doctor, and as I mentioned at the start of this article you really need to talk to your own GP, or varicose vein surgeon. I am glad (so far) that I got the treatment done, and look forward to no pain (and no more subtle limping)… and the pleasant side effect of no ugly bulging purple varicose veins in my leg anymore!

Over the last little while I have doubled down my efforts to make sure that everything is in order with all the different websites that I operate in my spare time. Whether it is my most popular property – The New Paperclip… or some of my newer projects about the Zoom H4n or Yammer.

As part of the process I have been focusing on the basics. For example, getting into Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster tools to ensure that my content is actually being indexed. I haven't really spent much time in Google Webmaster Tools – I usually just focus on the stats available via Google Analytics.

Something struck me when I was looking at the search queries for The New Paperclip. Most of us would be familiar with the idea of the "Long Tail". In the context of the web usually we talk about the Long Tail of content – you may have just one or two pages on a blog responsible for a big chunk of traffic, whilst the other 80% of your traffic comes from the other 300 posts you made.

This is pretty much how the traffic flows on The New Paperclip. I get a lot of traffic from people searching for how to create a signature in Outlook, how to Center Across Selection in Excel, how to set up PowerPoint to use A4 sized slides, or how to change line spacing in Word. All of those search queries had appeared many times, and had multiple clicks from the search engine.


Here is the really interesting thing though. Of the 2367 unique search queries typed into Google where The New Paperclip was displayed as a search result… only 34 had resulted in more than one click. About 1500 more clicks were from unique search queries.

The lesson here? Targeting one key word or one search phrase in your content could have a negative impact on how discoverable your long tail is. Focus on good content that is easy to read for humans (not search engines), cover a lot of the different angles, add a few more sentences than you might think are necessary to ensure you explain the concepts you are trying to communicate… and chances are you will see more from the organic search long tail.

Last week I posted about how I deconstructed Three Minute Thesis pitches to help craft my own 3MT presentation.  Well, I thought I would share the results with you... Firstly, here is the slide that I used to support my topic - which explores how technology influences how we all construct the boundary between work and life... I tried to make it as simple as possible (and not too busy).  I didn't waste my audience's attention with my name, my supervisors names, or the title of my thesis.  All I was trying to do was convey exactly what my topic was all about.  Even without me talking about the subject most of the audience would have understood what my topic was about.  The feedback from the judging panel suggests that I hit the nail on the head re: the slide. When it came to the content and the delivery, again very good feedback, and breaking down the structure of the 3MT presentation into what I discovered when I reviewed winning entries certainly contributed to that.  Starting with a story that everyone could relate to certainly got the attention of the 20 strong audience on the day - lots of eye contact, lots of smiles, lots of nods - was great to see! But...The dream is over!  Well.  I can't really complain, I managed to snag a second place (out of seven) in a photo finish during the QUT Business School heat for the 2014 3MT Three Minute Thesis competition.  To be honest the winner was very good and deserved to go through - and her thesis really pulled at the heartstrings!  The feedback from the judges which set my presentation and the winner's apart came down to one simple thing - she articulated her research question a bit better than I did. As Maxwell Smart would say... "Missed it, by that much..."

I had the pleasure this week of being a guest on one of the most popular Microsoft Office podcasts in the world – Chandoo.org's Excel PodCast. (click here to go to episode 17 where I am featured) Chandoo and I crossed paths online a few weeks ago and as it turns out I have basically found my clone from both a professional, and personal point of view. We spent about 90 minutes on the phone - first discussing how our paths crossed, and then I shared my top 10 no-Excel MS Office tips for Managers and Analysts.

The first 22 minutes is all about: Then for the last hour we get into the meat of the podcast for – my list of the Top 10 non-Excel MS Office tips for managers or analysts I would love to hear your feedback (in the comments below) – this is the first time I have appeared as a guest on a podcast (and… um… I like… um realise that I aaagh and um a lot!). If you like Chandoo's style – make sure you subscribe to his podcast and check out some of his earlier episodes. Other options to subscribe Follow Eric Lefkofsky for more info.


Next week I am entering the QUT Business School heats of the Three Minute Thesis competition. To help prepare my presentation, I thought I would look at a number of winning entries from within QUT, across Australia, and internationally to see if there were any patterns of success. Thanks to universities around the world publishing the work of their students on YouTube, there are a vast array of speakers from different subject areas to base my analysis on.

As it turns out, after watching 15 or so winning entries, there are four things that appear consistently across almost all high achieving 3MT presentations.

The Opening

Setting the scene is really important. Instead of diving straight into the student's thesis and all the gory detail, most presenters started with a general problem that everyone in the audience could relate to in some way. Not only did they state the problem, but most very succinctly then demonstrated the consequences of that problem – this paints a very vivid picture to:

  1. Provides a clear "signpost" as to what the research is all about;
  2. Ensures everyone in the audience understands the importance of the research
  3. Now that they know it is a problem, keeps the audience intrigued as to how you solved it/answered the question

Sharon Savage from the University of New South Wales does this within just 10 seconds of starting her 3MT presentation. Clear, concise, to the point… and made the research relevant to EVERYONE in the room!


The Details

Very few students used technical research language to describe their study. For example, no one talked about "sampling strategy". Instead the speakers used simple language to describe at a high level what they did. For example Matthew Thompson from the University of Queensland (Winner 2011) talked about "working with fingerprint examiners in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne.. etc" something that we can all understand.

(Matthew Thompson – University of Queensland on stage at the Australasian finals of the 2011 Three Minute Thesis Competition presenting "Suspects, Science and CSI" – my favourite 3MT presentation from my quick and dirty analysis)

Beyond using simple language, the speakers didn't share their data – they shared the story of their data. The took complex results and boiled them down to simple statements which were consumable by the audience. Matthew Thompson summarised most of his PhD results in just one of sentence – "Generally fingerprint examiners were very accurate, however there were a few mistakes". It laid the perfect signpost to segue to…

The Significance

Almost all speakers did a great job of tightly articulating why their research was of real practical significance. Not just "adding to the body of knowledge" – but passionately sharing the specific impact the research is already having, or will have in the world we live. The best students took this one step further, and ensured that the significance of the research was relevant to the audience. For example, Emily Milne from the University of Waterloo took her specific topic and then articulated how it was a social challenge that all Canadians need to care about.

(Emily Milne – University of Waterloo (2013) makes it crystal clear at the end of her 3MT as to the impact of her study on one of the most critical social challenges for Canadians)


The delivery

Ultimately everyone delivered very engaging presentations which took their audience on a journey. Passion, emphasis where it was required, subtle but effective hand movement, and confident delivery ensured that the audience understood the key points the speakers were making. The best example of this I found was Megan Pozzi from QUT discussing her research on teenage girls and social media identity. It is also very clear that all top speakers were well rehearsed – all had memorised their presentations – all didn't need to refer to their slide for guidance – they knew their stuff!

(Megan Pozzi – the Three Minute Thesis 2013 winner from QUT – the most dynamic speaker from the bunch)


Now I know that watching 15 YouTube videos, with no theoretical framework to guide my analysis isn't overly scientific – but hopefully my observations and tips will help you when preparing your Three Minute Thesis presentation. Good luck!

I have almost religiously worn my FitBit Flex for the past 11 months or so. At first it was all about the steps. How many steps could I do each day. How often could I get that 10k steps badge? How many days in a row could I get the 10k steps badge? What is the highest steps badge I could get? As soon as I managed to get 30,000 steps in one very long day – the drive to get the little black band to do it's light and vibration dance slowly wore off. Instead my focus switched to another interesting part of the device. The sleep tracker. One of the other drivers for me to start looking even closer at the sleep tracker was that people in the office almost consistently every morning when I get to work say "hey looks like you had a rough night", "looks like you need to go back to bed", "man you look tired". I know what you are thinking – surely that alone should drive you to sleep more – but with a young family, and lots of work and study commitments… sometimes you need more convincing J That being said… you know what I realised pretty quickly once I started looking more closely at the sleep tracker? I am not sleeping anywhere near as much as all the doctors/magazines/blog articles suggest (and everyone in the office is right!). Let's take a look at the last 7 days on the FitBit dashboard…

  • Last night:     5hrs 55mins
  • Thursday    7hrs 19mins
  • Wednesday    6hrs 34mins
  • Tuesday    6hrs 56mins
  • Monday    6hrs 07mins
  • Sunday        6hrs 17mins
  • Saturday    6hrs 47mins

Not only do almost all of those sleep durations start with a 6… the average for the week was just 6hrs 34mins of sleep each night! Well below the 7 or 8 hours recommended. (by the way, if you ever want to calculate your average sleep duration across a week, month or year – check out this article which describes how to average time in Excel). So - we have a heap of data here from multiple sources (primary data from the FitBit which shows I not only have short sleep durations, but also inconsistent bed and awakening times – and the observations of my colleagues) suggesting I have a problem. What can we do about it?

Stop going to bed at 12:30pm?

I am a bit of a night owl and some of my best thinking happens late at night – I would hate to lose that

Start sleeping in after 7am?

Difficult with a young family to sleep through the noise (and then the associated guilt) of the breakfast/get out the door to kindy routine


Again difficult, although I could go for a rest in the car at work during my lunch break

Eat a spoon full of cement and harden up?

Hmm have been doing that for the past few years and I think it may be impacting on my health and well-being just a little bit I think out of all of the above options the easiest to implement will be to shift my usual'ish bedtime from 12pm (+/- 30 mins) to 11pm (+/-30 minutes). I wonder what impact one extra hour per night will have over time – first things first – let's see what impact it will have over the next week. I will report in with my findings in 7 days J    

This afternoon I spent an hour looking over some of my original posts here at paul-woods.com. I first started blogging in 2005-2006 - over 8 years ago now, capsule over that time I have posted 100s of posts - including essays like "The Productivity Myth" which was nexus of an idea which would become the Business Productivity Services team at Data#3, hospital through to the time I got an email from Bill Gates.  Whilst my publishing has been very "ad-hoc" over that time, sovaldi sale there was one post I read stuck out though.  Back on 23 July 2006 I posted the classic car insurance 10 things that I learned during my one year as an intern at Microsoft.  Looking back at this list it is amazing that 100% of it still holds true today - and how that 12 months set a very solid foundation for my career (and career growth) since then. Here is what I wrote...

I thought it would be great to share with everyone the top ten lessons I learned whilst an Intern at Microsoft.  The following list essentially is how I continue to analyse what I am doing every day… to keep on track.  Hopefully you will also find it a useful tool. In no particular order… 10) Be Passionate Dive in and give it your all.  Be excited, believe, and most of all encourage everyone else to believe as well! 9) Step Out of Your Comfort Zone This is a big one!  12 months ago I was a nervous wreck whenever I even thought about presenting to a small group of people (… I was even nervous when I didn’t have to speak!).  Now I absolutely love getting up on stage and sharing a story with 5 people, or 155 people.  I would never have found this out if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone.  Likewise, when I went to university I stepped out of my comfort zone and picked a major I had no real interest in before, and now I absolutely love anything to do with Marketing. Step out of your comfort zone, and live! 8) Take on Big Challenges … because when you succeed, it is sooooooo much sweeter! 7) Give More Live to give, do not live to receive.  Not only does it get peoples attention (which is great for building relationships), but you will get much more in return.  Offer to take notes at the meeting (you are the one writing the history books. As a friend of mine once said… "He who controls the definitions, controls the argument"), offer to present at the user group (you are the one igniting the passion of many in the room), offer to take the stretch assignment or the big challenge (people will remember you!). Plus, it feels great to give.  Trust me! 6) Soak Up All That You Can Try to learn as much as you can from as many people as possible.  Learn from their mistakes, their experience, and their stories.  Pick up as much advice as you can. But don’t just soak it all up, actually use the information gathered in your analysis, your processes, and your decisions.  Act on what you have learnt. 5) Don’t be Afraid to ‘Geek It Up’ … just be sure to do it at your pace, and with products/technology you love.  Everyone I met at Microsoft did this (although many will not share that publicly!).  Whether it be Virtualisation and Development, or Cars and Photography, make sure you have something you can really stick your teeth into and know in depth.  Because there will always be someone, somewhere that you can strike up a conversation with, and build a relationship very quickly based on your knowledge of a particular topic. So if you want to get to know me, lets ‘Geek It Up’ and talk about Flying Aircraft, Digital SLRs, or v.Next Software (or all three!) 4) The Result of Taking Shortcuts is ALWAYS Less Than You Expect I have never really been one for taking shortcuts in the past, but this time I thought I could get away with it.  I can’t think of one time in history where this lesson hasn’t held true.  In this instance I had a product brochure (for BizTalk Server 2006) in PDF format, with all the extra bits that professional printing places need to figure out colour matching, where to cut the paper etc.  Being a little tight, I thought I could get away with simply printing the brochure on our unreliable colour laser printer at work, and then get the good old guillotine out and cut the pages to fit. End result was a pretty lack luster colour, uneven cuts, and an overall unprofessional feel to the printed document.  Sure it saved me $500, but I am pretty confident that it also saved a majority of customers tens of thousands of their dollars for disregarding the product based on their first impressions alone… the brochure. 3) Do Not Tell a Cab Driver Who You Work For! … unless you have quickly refreshed basic PC troubleshooting 101, the latest deals at Dell, and most importantly what garbage was published about computers in the weekend paper.  At one stage I was commuting to a client site in a cab every day for 3 weeks.  I learnt this lesson very quickly.  Every now and then there were days I would wear a Microsoft shirt.  You can’t talk your way out of that one!  They were the bad trips. Note this lesson also applies to people sitting beside you on Aircraft, whilst waiting in Airports, sitting on the bus etc. 2) Relationships, Relationships, Relationships Everyone by know should know that it not what you know, but who you know that gets you anywhere in this world.  From a personal perspective, all my job offers when I left Microsoft were unadvertised positions (some even created just for me!), and all were from people who I had a professional relationship with already. The worlds economy runs on trust… people need to know you before investing in you.  Sure… pieces of paper and letters after your name count, but in the end the key differentiator for between you and another candidate, or your company, and another company, is the level of trust in the relationship.  No relationship = no trust = no sale, or no job offer. Plus it is nice to have plenty of friends :) 1) Change the World Every Day Otherwise it gets harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.
What are the lessons you have learned from your current job or project??