Grounded & Steadfast

est. 2008

I talk a lot about customer success here, and that will likely only increase over time. It’s what I focus on every day, after all. If you're new to the “field” or are curious of what it entails, this guide from Lincoln Murphy is a great place to start.

It’s a longer piece of writing and covers his definition of customer success, several tangential thoughts about what it is and isn’t, then he gets to the practical. The end of the guide is broken into a list that covers “the role of customer success” in various activities of a business. How does customer success play a role:

  • customer development
  • technical support
  • customer and user onboarding

And on it goes. This is the part of the guide that I’ll refer to from time to time. Whenever I’ve been in the weeds, deep in the details of a given initiative, I’ll come up for air and start thinking strategy at a higher level. Then I’ll review this list and ask myself where our team could focus next.

I don’t agree with all of Murphy’s ideas (he focuses a lot on the sales/renewals aspects of SaaS), but this is a helpful resource for anyone who works in (or wants to work in) customer success.

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How Many Solopreneurs Can a Healthy Economy Support?

If the early web was all about sharing and connecting (first with blogs, then with social media), the adolescent sure seems to be all about “going out on your own”. It seems like everyone and their dog wants to start their own business and call their own shots. Entire businesses have sprung up to help people do just this.

And I’m not knocking that; I’ve done it myself. I’ve been in jobs where I was less than satisfied and there was this big ol’ internet encouraging me to start something on the side, so I could make it into my full time gig. And there are no ends of smart people doing crazy things to earn a living, finding what they’re passionate about and turning it into an income.

But I wonder if there’s a dark side to this as well.

For one, working a full time job and doing your own thing on your side is a serious commitment. It’s very doable for young people with little to no family to support, but it’s a bigger deal for folks raising children. And what about community involvement? Internet based side gigs often have community, but it’s not often the face to face kind.

And most important, I wonder about a state of general discontentment. If the moment your full time job becomes less appealing, a little dreary, or starts to feel like a chore, should you go looking for your own thing? Is there no value in perfecting the craft you're already a part of? I think there’s something to be said for working at enjoying your job, even when you don’t feel like it.

There’s no right or wrong here. People like Justin and the folks at Fizzle are crazy talented and I love their work (I’ve only recently gotten into the Fizzle podcast, but dang … Chase and Corbett are top notch). If you feel a burning itch that needs to be scratched, these are the type of people to pay attention to.

But count the cost. Burnout is a serious reality for people trying to juggle two professional focuses at once. And there’s nothing wrong with working towards someone else’s bottom line, if they treat you well and enable you to do your best work.

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I’ve resisted the idea that tasks should be added to your calendar. Something of a purist in me rejects the idea, but it may be that I’m coming around. Shane Parrish makes the case for the practice.

He starts with bravado:

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DON’T MAKE TO-DO LISTS.

His solution:

The real value in life comes from saying no. To help you say no you need some friction. The solution to the to-do list problem is actually pretty simple. You have to make one change: schedule it.

Anything you want to do, put it in your calendar. I’m not fully onboard with this yet, but I do appreciate the purpose.

Being more productive isn’t always about doing more, it’s about being more conscious about what you work on and putting your energy into the two or three things that will really make a difference.

Sounds familiar. Shawn Blanc routes the same concept in The Focus Course:

A schedule is meant to be a framework for how you intend to spend your time. It’s for helping you make sure you’re spending meaningful and consistent energy on the things of your work, life, relationships, and health that matter most to you.

This idea is growing on me. Not all tasks fit in the calendar, but some deserve that kind of investment.

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Austin Kleon shares how he and wife try to cultivate a space and a time where one can get away from the world.

Kids, jobs, sleep, and a thousand other things will get in the way, but we have to find our own sacred space, our own sacred time.

I give this a hearty, “Amen!” As one who values some daily time away from all the activity and people of my life, I appreciate the idea. And I can understand the need for both a space and time. Oddly enough, I appreciate both.

During the workday, I appreciate the space, my office. It allows me to separate from the goings-on of our busy house of 6. But then, my digital space is crowded and busy as well. So I also enjoy my early morning or late evening times of reading, writing, and pondering (I’ve long been an early riser, but as the children get older and bed times get later, I find myself switching to the evening … which has the added benefit of less noise in my digital spaces).

The entire concept also fits well with Jack Cheng’s Habit Fields. Although my main workspace is down in my office, our family computer is where I tend to work when the house is quiet. It’s where I do most of my writing. It’s the same basic device in both locations, but the activities that take place tend to be different. One is more hectic, then other peaceful.

My bliss station — I like that.

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The Merits of Pacing

Related to the ideas regarding space, time, tools, and how we do our work and achieve peace, I do my best thinking when pacing. I alluded to this a few weeks back regarding my creative process:

As I begin writing, things begin to take shape. I write a little. I pace a lot. I meditate on the idea(s) I’m working on. I refer back to the books and resources I used, reading as I pace. I write a little more.

I would be remiss to gloss over the pacing; it’s vital to finding peace and clarity amongst the turmoil of competing thoughts. And it makes me think of C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Ben Franklin. I know, everyone wants to review and mimic the daily rituals of a lot of old dead people. That’s not what I’m getting at here.

But one thing does stand out when I read about some of these great thinkers of the past. These guys jealously guarded their daily walks. I can understand why. Here’s a part of how Lewis described his ideal day (emphasis mine):

By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.

Lovely!

It’s what our team at Wildbit lovingly refers to as the “daily constitutional” (a double entendre to be sure). And whether getting away from your desk brings you to the busy streets of a metropolitan centre, or the woods on your acreage, the value is there. The subconscious is free to work on your behalf, rather than you continuing to make the effort in vain while distractions aplenty flow across your screen.

I’m beginning to sound repetitive, but the best things take repetition. Habit takes repetition. And I for one need the constant reminder that all my work does not take place when in front of a computer.

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Dustin Senos shared how getting value from creating wireframes eluded him early in his career. Now, every bit of his work benefits from this practice. What changed? He started using paper.

I want to share a simple technique I now use to force myself to explore and validate multiple directions before I dive into visual design. For the rest of this article, a “wireframe” is a sketch on paper. Paper wireframes are quick to make and reinforce that ideas are cheap and safe to throw away. Paper, also allows anyone on the team to take part in wireframing.

His approach changed from sketching one solution and then adding fidelity, to sketching multiple potential solutions and finding the right one before moving on.

Not a designer? I think this idea works just as well for most anything. When I find myself stuck, staring blankly at the screen, I walk away and find either a whiteboard or a large piece of paper. The act of putting writing implement to writing surface (aka “pen to paper”) results in ideas. This has worked as well for me with writing or project planning as design.

Use your hands and wait for the magic to happen.

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