Rage against the machine: How I hated (and later loved) a frustrating purchase

I like to be prepared for emergencies. I know you can’t prepare for all of them but I like the idea of being prepared for a few contingencies that could arise. So when I saw a generator that was being promoted in a flyer from my local hardware store, I went out and bought it.

It was HEAVY.

I brought it home, put it together, added oil and gas, and tried to start it.

And tried.

And tried.

And tried.

(Yes, I followed the instructions carefully).

It didn’t work. I hurt myself trying to start the thing. Plus, it has been a record-breaking, bone-chilling, spirit-crushing cold winter here in Winnipeg so that added to the frustration.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my first reaction was to rage against the machine. I was so angry at the generator. And furious at the company that manufactured it. And furious at the company that sold it to me.

But then something clicked in my brain (not sure what but more clicking like that would be good) and then I realized that all that fury may have felt good for a moment but was not helping anything. So I decided to let it go.

Yes, I was still frustrated at the situation but I chose not to get angry. I just decided to do my very best in the situation. The frustration (and the anger) rose again and again, since I tried to return the generator and they didn’t have any in stock, and then they did have one in stock and set one aside for me but then thought they had sold out of them by the time I got there to pick up my replacement.

But after some persistence, it all ended well. I got a new generator (and it works!) at an additional discount. Plus, I learned a lot about how engines work (in trying to diagnose the problem with the first one)… and that is information I can file away until I might need it in the future. And I mastered a part of myself that serves absolutely no useful purpose when things go wrong.

Overall, it was a win. Yes, it was a little frustrating but it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it was. And I ended the experience richer than when I started.

So when I stumbled across this excellent article in DumbLittleMan, I thought it was perfect summary of that experience so I had to share it with you:

How not to make a drastic mistake you will regret

4 monetization models for video

In a post I wrote yesterday about the impending death of television and the rise of online video, I suggested that one of the overlooked reasons that we’re moving to online video is that the content is shorter. It fits into our day. Yes, the other arguments are valid (we can watch what we want, when we want, on whichever device we want) but we can’t ignore the fact that a 30 or 60 minute show doesn’t necessarily fit with our schedule… but we still want to be entertained. Shorter videos are attracting us away from television and filling our downtime with entertainment opportunities.

There is HUGE, HUGE opportunity in video, both now and into the future. If you are looking to create content — regardless of whether this is information or entertainment — video is a place you can carve out a space for yourself.

But how do you monetize your video content? Here are the two standard monetization models for video that are well-known and frequently used, plus a third model and fourth model that I think are still in the early stages and we’ll see more of in the future. (And I should point out here that I’m talking primarily about entertainment-type videos rather than informational videos, although I realize that the line is pretty blurry).

So here are the four video monetization models that are pretty popular right now:

1. Place ads in your videos

I think this is the default model for new video producers because YouTube makes it so easy to do this. Just create a video, allow advertisements to display, and earn money from the ad. There are YouTube success stories that make this an attractive model for anyone.

Actually, it’s not that different from traditional television monetization models — either a commercial precedes the video or a clickable ad overlays over the video for part of the video. In fact, the networks that post their full episodes to their websites also use commercials, in the traditional sense, inside their videos.

2. Use your entertaining videos to sell something

If you have a product or service to sell, you can create an entertaining video that people will watch — which subtly (or not so subtly) promotes your brand as people watch.

I have two examples. The first example is a little more overt — Super Bowl commercials. They are high quality productions that people intentionally watch to be entertained and good ones are talked about for years to come. (I still hear people talking about Apple’s 1984 commercial). I just recently posted about Radio Shack’s surprisingly excellent Super Bowl commercial. Those are overt because they ARE commercials.

But there’s also the slightly more subtle (and perhaps more powerful) videos that are true “television shows” in their own right, and yet are created for a commercial purpose. The best example I know of are the BMW commercials. (Search for them on YouTube if you’ve never seen them). The entire series is excellent.

And here are the other two models that were inevitable but are still in the early stages and offer a lot of promise to producers that can use them well.

3. Sell your videos

If you create video content, you can put it behind a paywall and sell access to it. Infomarketers do this already but now we’re seeing entertainment companies do this as well. The best example I’ve seen is Netflix, which has resurrected itself from the ashes to become more than just a paid aggregator of video… they are actually producing their own video entertainment now!

4. Get promotional support and include product placements

This one is the newest and most untried of the four models (at least in online video). I think this is partly because companies just don’t know what kind of ROI they can get from this.

But I recently saw one series (produced right here in Winnipeg — awesome!!!) that is very well done. The show is entertaining, there’s a decent storyline, and the brand placement is present but not silly or overwhelming. The series is called Wind City and it’s a 6-part series of videos that have a storyline but also integrate brand advertising into the show. I think it’s actually a pretty cutting-edge attempt at this business model. Even if you don’t love the show or Winnipeg, you should check out Wind City on YouTube for a bit of entertainment and to see their business model at work.


Some of the monetization models above are being used well already for informational videos. But as entertainment videos increase in number and variety and quality, we’ll see more of those become monetized in these ways.

Financial fiction review: ‘Gods of Greenwich’ by Norb Vonnegut

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

Gods of Greenwich by Norb Vonnegut

Financial fiction with a twist of suspense, art arbitrage, insurance hedging, and a beautiful assassin.

OVERVIEW: This story is about Jimmy Cusack, who is forced to shut down his hedge fund and take a job as a salesperson at another hedge fund. Before long, he starts to question how the hedge fund works and as he investigates further, he doesn’t like what he sees. Meanwhile, Cusack’s boss is in a bitter marriage and a bitter battle with an Icelandic bank. Oh, and there’s a beautiful assassin who goes around killing people.

REVIEW: This is Norb Vonnegut’s second book and, having just finished his first book, you can see Vonnegut’s style as clearly as a fingerprint. Fortunately, I like his style overall and I hammered through this book pretty quickly — even faster than I hammered through his last book (Top Producer). The main storylines in the novel were engaging — I connected with almost all of the characters — and I wanted to see how each storyline finished. Characters had their own quirks and personality, which gave them a sense of being 3 dimensional. In that way, I think Vonnegut has developed as a writer. And the biggest thing I liked about the book is the financial fiction quotient (more on that in a moment). My biggest criticism about this book is how quickly Vonnegut finished the novel. In some ways, it felt like he wrapped up a few storylines almost too quickly (and maybe even forgot a few) and I was left with questions at the end. Plus, one of the major twists was never fully explained in my opinion. And my other criticism of Vonnegut is that he has a fascination with people being killed in bizarre ways, which tends to be tawdry instead of entertaining. But the pace was good and the balance between action and finance was better in this book than the last one.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: The financial fiction quotient is where this book really shines. If you read my criticism about Vonnegut’s last book (Top Producer), you’ll know that he had a good financial fiction quotient in that book but the main story had little to do with finance. It was a crime thriller. This book, on the other hand, was almost entirely a financial book. The main character owes a lot of money and his new employer only awards bonuses if the hedge fund achieves a certain benchmark. Since the story takes place during the dramatic market implosion of 2008, we know already that it doesn’t happen and we see first-hand the drama unfold in the office because of it. Meanwhile, another international financial battle is waged between a hedge fund and an Icelandic bank, which are trying to short each other’s stock to drive the price down. Those elements are pure entertainment for those of us who love financial fiction — there are hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown down the drain in this financial battle.

SUMMARY: I find Vonnegut’s work very engaging. So in spite of what I felt was an incomplete ending, I still enjoyed the book because of the financial fiction quotient. And there were a couple of twists that I was anticipating throughout the book that didn’t “twist” in the way I expected, and that makes me happy (because I like being surprised).

Find more financial fiction reviews here.

We’re missing a piece of the conversation when talking about the death of television

TV is dying a slow and painful death… not unlike a TV death! (haha)

I’m not saying that TV will disappear completely, nor will it vanish any time soon (a belief supported by an optimistic report from Forrester) but TV viewership is declining and will continue to decline because it is being replaced by other forms of video entertainment. Basically, you can watch a bunch of stuff online (free on YouTube, especially if you’re not too picky, or paid through a service like Netflix, or direct from networks who post full episodes on their sites).

Heck, the only reason I still watch TV and subscribe to cable is because some of the stuff I watch isn’t available on the web (specifically NASCAR — I love NASCAR) and I own a big TV. For all other entertainment, it can be watched on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

The conversation is usually centered around the following benefits:

  • The entertainment is on-demand instead of when it is broadcast
  • Viewers aren’t stuck to whatever channels their cable-provider gives them
  • You end up paying very little or nothing at all, compared to cable or satellite
  • Shows can be watched without commercials (or with commercials fast-forwarded) to reduce or eliminate sales pitches

But I think there’s something else missing from the conversation when we talk about how online video is replacing television as a medium of entertainment. I think there is an overlooked benefit that people love but maybe don’t realize they love.

It’s this…

Television shows are half an hour or an hour long. All of them. Even shows that are longer are chopped into two-parters.

But I don’t always have thirty or sixty minutes to watch a show. Even if I fast forward through the commercials in my PVR, I don’t always have 25 minutes or 50 minutes to watch a show. Sometimes, I have 5 or 10 minutes and I want to be entertained.

THAT is the overlooked value of online video content. It’s sometimes provided in smaller, digestible pieces, allowing you to watch what you want, when you want… for as long as you have.

I’m not just talking about chopping up an hour long show into 10-minute segments from one commercial break to another (which is how I watched the show The $treet on Youtube). I mean that video producers are starting to produce good content in shorter segments. They’re breaking away from the half-hour and hour-long formats of television and providing viewers with whatever length of show that fits their needs. 20 minutes? 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 2 minutes? Whatever time you have, there’s something on YouTube to entertain you.

Here’s an example of a great video that is 4 minutes and 39 seconds long. Short, digestible, yet entertaining. (And very well produced, to boot).

There are tons of these kinds of things on YouTube — short videos of varying length for every taste and interest and genre preference. You can get whatever you want to fill the time you have.

I think this is the secret killer of television. Yes, there is the convenience factor of watching something any time on any device whenever you want. Those are relevant arguments. But the one we’re overlooking is length of content — we’ve broken away from the 12 and the 6 on the clockface.

9 reasons why you need to become THE expert in your field

Each new level you ascend in your business may be the best you’ve ever achieved… but as you reach the summit of that particular level, your new vantage points reveals that there is still a bigger mountain — with a higher summit — just ahead of you.

In this blog post, I want to talk about the highest summit you can achieve — the expert status — and why you need to scale THAT summit as quickly as possible to make a difference in your business.

When I say “expert status” I don’t just mean that you know more than most other people. I’m talking “category of one” expert status. You’re not just AN expert in something. You’re THE expert in something.

And if I had to start my biz all over again, I’d do whatever I could to achieve this category-of-one expert status as quickly as humanly possible.

Here’s why you’ll want to become an expert in your category:

1. Experts are automatically credible

If you’re sitting in a seminar and a speaker is introduced as the world’s leading expert in [whatever], you will pay attention even if you aren’t familiar with the speaker. Expertise is credible. (If you’re faking it, it will be revealed soon enough so may I should say “true expertise has long-last credibility”).

2. Experts get paid first

Hat tip to copywriter John Carlton for this one. John Carlton says that experts get paid first, everyone else gets paid last. This is great advice and if you run a business (especially a service-based business) this should be the only reason you need to become an expert because getting paid first means no accounts receivables!

3. Experts get paid more

Don’t misunderstand me: Experts deliver more to get paid more. However, in my experience, the amount they get paid for what they deliver is proportionately higher than what non-experts get paid. You might say that experts don’t necessarily deliver a higher volume but higher value to get paid what they charge.

4. Experts are sought after

Most businesses spend a good chunk of their day searching for clients. With experts, it’s the other way around: Prospective clients are the ones seeking out the experts. The experts are in a position of power in the transaction, deciding who they will work with.

5. Experts have a long waiting list

Some businesses might find themselves temporarily booked up so that if they have to turn a customer away, that customer will simply go somewhere else. But a well-positioned expert has a long line of people who are eagerly waiting for the expert’s next availability and will wait as long as necessary for that expert.

6. Experts provide recommendations

When a business delivers its product or service, there is sometimes an unspoken question hanging in the air as if the business asks the client: “Is this what you were looking for?” or “Will this work for you?”. On the other hand, an expert makes recommendations and has the confidence that his or her recommendations will deliver exactly the solution that the client needs.

7. Experts are quoted by others

The insight and thought-leadership of experts is frequently quoted by other people — both by the expert’s target market and by the people who are still scaling that summit of expertise but have not achieved full expert status yet.

8. Experts have names that sell

When someone is still climbing the foothills of business, simply trying to go from “good enough” to “pretty good”, their name doesn’t necessarily hold much cache. The customers those businesses acquire might not care who they work with. But an expert’s name sells. Clients of an expert will not only pay more for the expert but they’ll boast to their peers that they worked with the expert. They’ll “borrow” some of the expert’s name credibility because it has significant value.

9. Experts are self-fulfilling

I added this one just before publishing this post. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately and I haven’t been able to fully articulate it yet… but I’ll try: Experts are self-fulfilling in that what they say is true. If an expert says something, it becomes true (even if it wasn’t true before) because their stating it makes it so, and because their audience may unwittingly participate in making it true.