You know all that advice to SEO copywriters and bloggers? The SEO copywriter code that says effective copywriting should be brief, pay attention to keyword co-occurrence, keyword density, emboldened keywords and all the rest. All that stuff about anchor text, outbound links, meta tags? Well sorry, to disappoint. This blog pretty much ignores the perceived wisdom. The herd wisdom. Instead I’d like to try to offer a little of my own.
The outrageous price of Christmas Trees
I was talking with Connie the other day about love, life, Teenage Fanclub and the universe. You know…. one of those gentle, kind, explorations of shared perception and experience you have sometimes. A nice early Sunday evening, driving home, car conversation. Talking about the place in English hearts for the tone of Glen Tilbrook’s voice, that people don’t smell as well as they used to, that there’s far more to China than meets the eye, the outrageous price of Christmas Trees, about Simon Armitage, Benedetti…… loads of stuff.
We got onto the subject of trust, how you can tell whether someone is trustworthy, what the signs are, what you should look out for. We talked about people we know, people we’d known. The kind and the crazy, the calm and the cuckoo. Most people, we concluded, have a bit of everything. Just because someone’s kind doesn’t mean you can trust them. Just because someone is nuts doesn’t mean they won’t stand by your side when you need help most. Nowt as queer as folk (us included), we agreed.
Connie’s Colombian, and Colombians have a pretty sophisticated take on things like this. A well developed radar when it comes to trouble. A well functioning dangar (ouch).
Hardly surprising really, most people are aware that for one reason or another Colombia has had a rough old time of it over the years. Fortunately though, things seem to be on the up. The country’s stunningly beautiful, the culture rich and deep, whilst the people are amongst the kindest, most intelligent and hospitable you could ever wish to meet. There’s a passion in Colombia, borne of her pain, the working of the land, tales of ancient wisdom, a Latin brotherhood, a rhythmic and lyrical consciousness and a shared bitter, sweet narrative.
Colombia’s a developing country and life is a struggle for most people. At best most are prone to exploitation, at worst plain and simple abuse. Abuse of goodwill, trust, ownership, peace of mind. Threat exists only a very short distance below the surface. That‘s life though. Lives lived with great dignity and courage, not just by Colombians but by much of the world. Time and/or inclination willing have a look at Living To Tell The Tale Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s autobiography. They call it magical realism. Colombia is steeped in both.
A Sixth Sense
An important part of living with the struggle, part of surviving, is the necessity to quickly identify those who mean well and those who might do you harm. To spot trouble. It’s an ability that’s taught from a very early age, grandmothers tutor grandchildren to read the signs, mothers teach daughters, father’s teach sons and the skill evolves almost into a sixth sense the older you get. The stakes are high. In countries like Colombia gauging a situation, reading danger might save you from being ripped off. It can save you your life.
My partner told me of the time when walking along the street with her aunt and niece, her niece asked whether it was ok for them to cross over and walk on the other pavement. Her and her aunt gave each other knowing looks, they were pleased. Both had spotted a man ahead they didn’t like the look of, a man they thought threatening. It seems the niece had somehow, intuitively, also felt the threat and wanted to avoid him. She was learning and to my partner and her aunt this was a good thing.
‘So what are the signs?’ I asked. ‘What are the signs that tell me danger lies ahead?’
‘The eyes and the smiles she replied, it’s in the eyes and the smiles.’ Eyes open too wide, too narrow, too lingering, flitting, avoiding yours, shallow, unconfident eyes that deep down don’t believe in themselves, over-expressive eyes that try to will you their way. The smile that’s too wide, mean, curled, too fixed, too quick to drop, too friendly, the smile of accelerated intimacy that tries to pin you to the wall.’
‘Hang on,’ I said, ‘you’re completely contradicting yourself.’ You’re just systematically listing any possible way that someone can look at you. You’re covering all possibilities. I need some rules please. What are the indicators that can tell you the difference between shifty and straight?’
‘You asked me for the signs,’ she said, ‘I’m giving you the signs.’
I rephrased the question. ‘OK then little Miss Pedantic. How can I tell whether I can believe in someone, whether they are trustworthy or are a threat?’
‘Ahhhh…. that’s easy,’ she said.
‘Everyone has an intuition to one degree or another. Most of the time if you follow your natural instincts you’ll do ok. It’s when you try to rationalise them away that you run into trouble.
Don’t think about it. Feel it,’ she shared.
Of course she’s right. I felt she was right. I didn’t know quite why so I sat down to work it out.
I don’t know about you but most of my best and most successful friendships, projects, plans, business ideas or whatever have been based on gut reactions. Something inside that without persuasion or cajoling says yes. So easy, so simple, a quietly comfortable path of least resistance that lets your closest friends, the happiest relationships, the most enjoyable projects and the most profitable business ideas into your life. Like when you’re looking for a house or an apartment. You just KNOW straight away when you’ve found the right place. It takes seconds. When you hear a piece of music somewhere, on the radio, at a friends, wherever – what’s that song? No build up, no story, no courtship, no sell, just a natural positive reaction to something you’ve heard and love instantly.
When I look back at things that have inflicted the most pain, the most disappointment and the biggest upsets they have always centred around over-thinking, trying too hard. You just KNOW when an apartment ISN’T right, again it takes seconds and no amount of pitch or persuasion will ever make it truly right. Trying to make do and mend, giving the benefit of the doubt, dragging horses to water is exhausting, time consuming, frustrating, physically and mentally unhealthy, expensive and virtually always a waste of time. The funny thing is that in almost every such instance, I kind of knew I was onto a hiding to nothing from day one but I was too ignorant of my concerns to act upon them. We become blinded. Our egos, loyalty, fear of making a fuss, greed, ambition, wishful thinking, desires, anger, stubbornness or stupidity driving us down dead ends.
From snake oil sales man plying their wares off the back of a wagon, to the cold caller, the carpetbagger, foot in the door merchant, the plausible small adder, the friend of a friend of a friend, all completely self justified and astutely aware of the buttons and levers that function gain and how best they are pushed and pulled to land a fresh dollar.
Sharking the Internet, you don’t have to go far to find yourself the potential victim of a scammer or a, ‘I can make you rich for only $39.99’ promise. The web is groaning under the weight of disingenuousness. Yes it’s a nice tummy tickle of a feeling to be ‘followed’ and of course often out of courtesy and intrigue you will return the compliment. But ‘followed’ by who? A long sales letter touting, direct online marketing monster of a Twitter spammer? Quite possibly.
It’s not just Twitter, once you scratch the surface of the Internet and start to look at it as a potential source of revenue, once you start to read and research ways in which people monetise their web presence through affiliation, information products and the rest, you’re opening a whole world of sales messages from which you need to decipher the sense and the nonsense. The insipid and inspired – here’s a formula that may help. Insipid = 99.999% Inspired = the rest. Don’t take my word though – feel it yourself.
This is such old school advice it’s hurting me. Honestly….I’m in physical pain. What’s worse is that I’m having one of those horrendous moments when you catch yourself sounding like your dad.
Ok, here goes. Deep breath………..
‘If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.’
Uuuurrggghh there, I said it. Take me out and shoot me. Better still make me listen to the Naomi Dunford, Clay Collins interview again, where he starts talking about how much energy your brain uses when you’re thinking (potassium consumption or something), so it’s ok stuffing 57000 calories worth of burger and pizza down your neck every day, sat in front of your computer noodling money out of people. (To be fair, iyttbiz.com is well worth a look. Lots of useful info, a healthy amount of bad language and minimal fluff). Take a wander over.
Where was I? Oh yeah……..‘If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.’
There I said it again. ‘If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.’ AND again. I don’t care now.
Please don’t think it through, don’t rationalise, don’t reason, don’t but this and but that. Please….. if a Nigerian lawyer tells you you’ve been left a fortune, or a stock market expert has some hot share tips for you, or you have the chance of earning an unfeasibly high second income, or if someone tells you it’s ‘easy to make money,’ If people insist on telling you how successful they are and that you can have a piece of the action at a price, if people say things like ‘get out of debt and build an income for life’ or ‘Sign up with me and I will be your personal sponser (sic) guiding you to success.’ Please…….don’t think about it.
Save yourself the time, trouble, expense, compromised eyesight and opportunity costs by feeling it quickly and most probably correctly. Don’t let people waste your effort and energy with non-starters.
Trust me I’m a Doctor
Even well intentioned but misguided or ill-informed friends, family and professionals can unwittingly lead you into trouble. Again if you feel things aren’t right, act to get back on course. Feel first, apply the logic later.
Does it feel right? Really right?
Or should you cross the road keep on walking and keep out of harms way?
What do you think? What do you feel?