It's Pronounced Chookshaw

The semi-professional blog of Albert Ciuksza Jr.

Category: Reputation

Let Me Google That For You

Has someone ever asked you a question that could have been easily answered with a quick Google search?

Let me introduce you to LMGTFY.com, short for “let me Google that for you.” The site’s existence is a snarky response to one of the diseases of the 21st-century workplace: people asking questions that could be easily answered themselves, usually by doing a quick Google search. If you’re the victim of a LMGTFY question — and have no concern for your relationship with the offending questioner — send them a LMGTFY link. They’ll think twice, and search at least once, before asking again.

(I really hate LMGTFY questions.)

My friends at Solutions 21 talk a lot about the gap between knowing and doing. That gap is growing ever wider, not because people know less (though research shows that access to the web makes you think you’re smarter than you are), but because answers to many questions are readily available. If you’re asking LMGTFY questions, or only providing operational-level answers, you’re allowing your work product to be a low-value commodity (and you’ll likely be rewarded in kind).

It’s fairly simple to deliver high-value answers. When I was a market research analyst, my boss would say, “I made the job title ‘analyst’ because I wanted you to interpret the data, otherwise I’d have called you a ‘market research reporter.’ ” Reporting the data is a commodity. Interpreting it, and providing reasoned, recommended solutions is what’s valuable.

Not sure exactly where to start? Here … let me Google that for you.

31 Things I Wish I’d Known About Dating When I Was 21, the Guy Version

So, I saw a post from @bosikowicz (that might be harder than Ciuksza) linking to this article called 31 Things I Wish I’d Known About Dating When I was 21 by a blogger over at Glamour.com. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous throwing a rock at this hornet’s nest, especially since it’s against what would likely be considered my “personal brand”. I guess “showing a little leg” in the personal sense can’t hurt too badly, right? So here’s my list of 31 (my favorite number).

  1. The first date is one of the most painful experiences you can face. I forget who said it, but there’s a quote that’s roughly, “women are weird about food and men are weird about money, so why do we go on dates where we eat out and then fight about the check?” Do something different.
  2. Going out for coffee means an informal conversation because she can’t figure you out yet and wants an out if it doesn’t work. Being welcomed in for coffee means something completely different and is full of land mines. Be ultra-careful if the first leads to the second on the first try.
  3. You never know what you’re getting into once you’re “official”. I once said that “looking for love is the process by which you attempt to find the kind of crazy you can handle”, and little in my life has shown me otherwise.
  4. I should have come up with rote answers to the question “what are you thinking?” earlier. The answer is likely either “nothing” or something she’d rather not know … having a quick response to lean on helps. Otherwise they’re never satisfied.
  5. She’s always better looking. That’s fact (my profile picture suggests that it’s not that hard to do). And it needs to be acknowledged. Often.
  6. Little clues pop up from time to time (favorite ice cream or band or childhood memory). Get really good at keeping a mental database of those things — they might bail you out of a jam or score brownie points.
  7. Do your best to forget #6 when the relationship ends or you’ll drive yourself mad.
  8. Accept that sometimes she’s going to out-do you (a birthday gift, a thoughtful gesture). Don’t compete. Competition moves a gesture from the sincere box to the “have-to” box and no one wants to be a requirement.
  9. Get to know her parents. Not because you need to be aligned in some way (thought it helps) but because it helps you to know her better.
  10. You’ll never understand. Accept it and move on.
  11. While it’s inevitable, do your best to avoid taking for granted that she’ll be there. No matter how busy you are, it’s not too hard to remember to thank her for simply being in your universe.
  12. Admit when you’re not ready and let go. It’s the most painful decision you can make, but also the most fair.
  13. Take a walk down the “feminine hygiene aisle” when you’re by yourself as exposure therapy for when you’re called on to make an emergency Giant Eagle run for supplies.
  14. Keep an eye out for drama. If she says, “drama follows me”, it is almost universally of her own making. You probably can’t handle it. Run.
  15. Converse to the aforementioned link’s #21, don’t try to be a friend when you don’t want to be just friends. Spell it out. If it’s not there, it’s not there. You might have your shots, but you shouldn’t follow her around like a puppy.
  16. Roses are losing their luster since no one likes a cliche. Pick something that compliments her favorite color scheme and you win for both the flowers and being thoughtful. If she notices in the process that you happened to get her favorite flower, take credit even if you didn’t know it. Never let the truth get in the way of a good gesture.
  17. Appreciate that she has passions even if you don’t get them. And accept that she’ll never treasure all the things you do (I have a prized autographed print signed by Clyde W. Tombaugh. No clue? Exactly.). Maybe it’s just me, but there’s nothing hotter than a woman genuinely excited about something.
  18. Accept her vanity. It exists and you’ll never understand. Appreciate that she cares about her and leave it at that. In addition, never go into Sephora (see previous post) and use the boyfriend chairs (the chairs and couches made for men who have been taken on exhausting shopping trips) whenever possible.
  19. Establish early on that you’ll never offer an opinion on any of the three following topics: her weight; her family; or her friends. That whole “bearing false witness is a sin” thing is proof that God never had a girlfriend.
  20. You’re never as smart/attractive/fun as she says you are. It’s ok. Appreciate that she’s boosting your confidence and leave it there. I don’t care how rich Donald Trump is, some wife at some point said his hair looks good.
  21. There are days where you each need to clean, do laundry, pay the bills, wash the dishes and other mundane activities. Not everything is an exciting whirlwind of bliss. The better you are at accepting this, the better you’ll be at being in a relationship.
  22. If you’re getting her a practical gift, always pair it with something fun (but not necessarily vice versa). Practical kills whimsy and, by extension, the spark.
  23. By extension of #21 and #22, experience new, exciting and challenging things together. Study after study says this is what makes it all work.
  24. Hunt. I’ve been told by every woman I know that you have to chase. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nice little conservative Catholic boy, you have to show interest and show you’re willing to pursue. It’s not being disrespectful to say, “I think you’re really attractive and smart and would love to get to know you better.”
  25. There are subtle clues to know when she’s testing you. Let it go in the beginning because we all have our walls. Don’t let it go on forever — trust is incredibly important and if she can’t trust you, it’s simply never going to work.
  26. Men and women see conflicts differently. Women have two categories: things she’s not upset about; and things that she is upset about and needs to discuss. Men have three: things we’re not upset about (a considerable majority); things we are upset about and need to discuss (these are usually things connected with a felony she committed); or things that we’re bothered by but realize it’s not worth discussing. The third category has a multitude of reasons — maybe she’ll bring it up in a passive-aggressive way later or maybe the conversation will last forever and you don’t have the patience at the moment. That third category is also where resentment lives. The more stuff in category three, the more you’ll resent her and the less likely you’ll be able to stand another five minutes in her presence.
  27. It’s a whole lot of work but it has to be fun. If it’s not fun, especially in the beginning, try not to pull a hamstring while running away from the situation as fast as you possibly can.
  28. I’m a flirt. I flirt with old ladies and waitresses and bank tellers and the checkout woman at Rite Aid. Know the boundaries. Be yourself, but be sensitive, too. It’s easy to cross the line into “disrespectful” territory.
  29. You’ll catch yourself thinking about someone else. She does it, too. It’s not a threat, it’s human. As long as you know that you’ll be with each other in the end, it’s not worth freaking out over.
  30. Don’t ask about past relationships, don’t Facebook stalk and don’t read her text messages. If there’s a question in your mind, ask her. In the end, you really don’t want to know how she got to where she is, just that she’s who she is today.
  31. A bad relationship is never better than being single. Never. Ever. Never ever. You can’t let inertia be the only force in your relationship. While it’s never happened to me, I’ve seen it happen to others and it usually ends in having to split your assets in half.

Well, we’ll see how my first real foray into the “human” side goes. I welcome comments and rebuttals.

Thoughts on Trust

Trust model stolen from<br /> Paul English<br /> (http://paulenglish.com/trust.html)

Trust model stolen from Paul English

In my forever-ago last post, I talked about personal branding and reputation, but realized that I might have missed the point. In all the conversations taking place online, from marketing, ‘personal branding’ and credibility to religion and politics, trust seems to be at the core of what everyone is talking about. How do we build trust? How do we keep people from thinking us untrustworthy? Who deserves our trust in the first place?

A friend and I were having a couple of beers post-finals and got to the question of trust. We came to the conclusion that trust is in crisis: the Catholic Church is waging a battle for survival as a result of a sexual abuse scandal that might point to the Pope himself; a movement of vocal activists are declaring their distrust of government, accusing it of attempting to become a socialist state; and banks are being charged with fraud for purposefully selling investors funds that were specifically designed to fail.

This wouldn’t be such an issue except that we’re built to trust, we need to trust. We don’t have the energy to evaluate all of the things in our life every day, so we find those cornerstones that we can lean on. When those things crumble, we have to find something new. We’re now forced to evaluate everything in our lives for trustworthiness and are incredibly quick to pull the trigger on the least hint that it is being violated. This isn’t healthy but we’ve been given little other choice.

This article by Pete Blackshaw in Advertising Age speaks well to the current challenges facing marketers attempting to build trust. He mentions the study showing that peer-to-peer trust is down significantly as a chilling reminder that we’re not even trusting our friends’ opinions anymore. And why should we — a recent study that I can’t seem to track down concluded that Gen Yers work very hard to manage their online presence to show their ideal selves (pictures attending parties vs. winning 1st place at math camp). Perhaps the best point he makes is that we have many more questions than answers.

My personal theory on trust was well summarized by Dave Popelka from Mullen Advertising, who wrote a great article about striving to be good rather than the best. He talks about the challenges and pitfalls of measuring your business (or, as I think about it, yourself) against others and suggests that shooting for “good” is the best approach. In my world, this means being good, being consistent and doing as much as possible to avoid our human tendency to pass blame to others when I’ve failed.

Overall, I see trust as an incredibly personal thing. Attempting to manipulate people’s perceptions of you lowers that trust, makes the relationship (be it you or your products) superficial and renders already fragile brand loyalty null and void. However, I still don’t see this as an answer, but rather the beginning of a series of questions that helps us to figure out what trust means to us and how we allocate it to the people, companies and brands we interact with.

“Personal Branding” Makes You Look Like a Jerk

Look at me, I even have my own logo on my hat!

Look at me, I even have
a T-Dub logo on my hat!

Personal branding is about marketing and marketing is about positioning and promotion. As someone who loves the art and science of marketing, I’ve seen how effective the right mix of tools can get people to buy. But, does marketing/branding work when you’re talking about people?

As Seth Godin says, all marketers are liars. And, while this type of approach might work for an athlete, it’s rare that a squeaky-clean branded image of a person is remotely close to who they really are. Branding a human being like you would a product or company is an inauthentic and an incredibly sad and cynical way of looking at how you approach people. It might be worth it when you’re a billionaire and making your living on a false impression of who you are, but for the rest of us normals it looks inauthentic.

The most obvious recent example is Tiger Woods. Pre-Thanksgiving ’09, Tiger Woods was the representation of mental toughness and success. Companies closely aligned with his personal brand and based their entire brands on this one man (see Accenture).  What happened? He wrecked his car, a harem of women came forward telling the world about their sexual exploits with the guy, his wife almost divorced him, Accenture treated him like kryptonite and he hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since.

When I was younger, my now hall-of-fame uncle pulled me aside and gave me some advice. He asked if I had ever heard him talk about his basketball career/talent. I thought about it for a bit and realized that I hadn’t. He said, “Exactly. Other people talk about it. Be good enough that other people talk about you. When you talk about how good you are, you sound like an asshole and people start rooting for your failure. Don’t be an asshole.”

My uncle was talking about reputation. What’s the difference between personal branding and reputation? Think of this vacuum from Hoover. Hoover has a well-known, positive brand. Yay marketing! But wait, the reviews (reputation) say that this vacuum [ahem] sucks. It doesn’t matter how much Hoover says about itself, those people who gave the vacuum a one or two are going to think their products are crap. The spin doesn’t matter.

Do you want people to respect you, see you as competent, know you for your integrity and develop the type of relationships that are going to help you further your career? Then worry about your reputation, not your brand. Do great work. Help people connect with each other unselfishly. If you’re involved in social media, provide genuine value to others in the best way you know how. Work hard for your clients. Let others talk about how good you are. Mostly, stop being a self-promotion machine. It makes you look like an asshole and it undermines your ultimate goal.

Good Bartenders Teach the Art of Building Rapport

Learn from This Guy. He's better than you at it.

Learn from This Guy.
He understands people
better than you do.

Steve Blank is a damn good entrepreneur. He writes a very interesting blog and seems to be a great guy. He also points out a common entrepreneurial challenge in a recent post that I’ll paraphrase — a lot of engineers start companies, and those founders often really suck at the relationship part of building a business.

I’m a salesman at heart (you build these skills when the Cub Scouts force you to sell popcorn door-to-door when you’re 9 years old), but early on in my career, I sucked at the relationship part too. I’d try to impress people with whiz-bang knowledge, not realizing that I had to build rapport before I could get someone to be interested in my ideas. It’s actually a classic marketing mistake — If they like you, they’ll likely buy from you.

Then I hit drinking age.

I was so impressed by bartenders who could control a room and engage people they didn’t know, especially the folks who weren’t regulars. I realized they had something about them, some sort of skill that I just didn’t have. Maybe because there was alcohol involved, or maybe it was because a lot of people just wanted to have a good time and not worry about whatever crappy stuff they were dealing with in their own lives. Regardless, a good bartender could get anyone going.

So, I watched how they worked and figured a few things out. For those of us where the rapport stuff doesn’t come naturally, here’s the overused bulleted list in a blog:

  • It’s all about the customer — Bartenders make the customer the center of attention. They ask where you live, what you do, how your day was. They greet you with some generic-but-informal name (buddy, chief, whatever). You’re the most important person to them at that moment, and it feels awesome.
  • They’re warm — There’s nothing like being in the presence of someone who’s genuinely warm and welcoming. EVERYONE wants to be Norm from Cheers, because it feels good to be known. The masters make you feel like that, even if you’ve never been there.
  • They give valuable freebies — There’s nothing that can make you feel special like a beer on the house. To add a little drama, a great bartender will use a glass or some other token as a reminder that you’re due when you finished your last drink. It’s like there’s a little unspoken communication between you two, and that builds a hell of a lot of goodwill.
  • They bring people together — They can’t be in two places at once and there are a lot of other people that have to be served. A great bartender makes connections between people so that the attention isn’t always on them. It’s a little bit of sleight of hand, and you never know the difference. Plus, you never know who you’re going to meet.
  • They know how to have fun — It’s all about feeling good, and great bartenders focus on having fun. They’re not talking about the technical aspects of making a perfect margarita or the new electronic system that only lets them pour exactly 16oz pints. They just make you feel relaxed and at ease.
  • They remember the details — If you’re there more than once, they remember your name and what you do. They bring it up the next time they see you. They ask about the kids or what the daily grind is as a (enter your title here). You know that they paid attention.
  • They know how to get your money — Maybe it’s just some great conversation or the extra beer, but you feel compelled to leave a few bucks more for the great bartender. You feel like they deserve it. And you do it voluntarily.

You can get a drink anywhere and great bartenders know this. So, they make up the difference in service and it works. You go back to that place. You have conversations that make you feel good at the end of the night. You tip enough to be surprised by what you left the next morning. In short, you do exactly what you’d love your customers to do. You want them to like you, to refer you, to give you their money voluntarily. You want them to love your level of service and tell people about it. You want them to realize that, even if there might be other solutions out there, you’re bringing a level of game that no one else can match. Perhaps most importantly for any start-up, you want them to like you enough so that when there’s the inevitable hiccup, they’re more forgiving and understanding.

If you really want to understand how to build the relationships you need to succeed, skip the Dale Carnegie books and spend $20 at your local bar. You’ll learn more and have a lot more fun doing it.

Buy YourName.com

I was thinking about all of this personal branding stuff that seems to be the rage at the moment, and while I agree that it is important to have people perceive you a certain way, doing so in an overly self-promotional, inauthentic way is a quick road to having your personal brand = jackass. I have a few examples of this (I won’t mention names for fear of starting an online battle), but I think we all can identify at least one person who’s way too into networking/trying to present themselves in the exact right way.  You hate them, I hate them.

All of that being said, if you want to stand out from the crowd in a job search, or you simply want to protect your good name, it’s a good idea to buy yourname.com. For many folks, this isn’t easy — most common names are long gone, but there are enough other top-level domains (the thing that comes after the last “dot”, like .com, .net, .org, .name or .me) at this point that you just might be able to snag SOMETHING. Obviously, the .com is preferable, but you might not have a choice.

A recent, prominent example of name hijacking is the Pete Hoekstra case. For those who don’t closely follow politics, he is a U.S. Congressman who, shockingly, didn’t register his name, petehoekstra.com. As a result, an individual who opposes his agenda purchased the name and set up a site that carefully details opposition to Mr. Hoekstra’s views.  Not exactly a confidence-builder for his  constituents and certainly embarrassing if he wants to suggest that he’s technologically savvy.

There are some other advantages to buying a your name as a domain name. For instance, I purchased my last name as a domain name several years ago (it wasn’t all that surprising that ciuksza.com was available), and I’ve used albert@ciuksza.com for years. I’ve been told that using this email address demonstrated an understanding of technology, which was a considerable positive in a few situations.  I would also contend that posting your resume online (and giving that domain name in your cover letters) helps you to stand out from your competition.

At this point, there’s not much of an excuse. Setting up an account at GoDaddy.com is free and easy (my preferred registrar despite their irritating commercials) and with coupon codes easily found if you search for “godaddy coupons”, you can get your domain name for under $8/year (cjc749fat is valid through the end of February).

You don’t have to be insane about your personal brand to justify buying your name.  However, if you want a competitive edge in a tough climate, or just want the novelty of seeing your name as a .com, I’d suggest you make the slight investment to do it.