Learning WordPress-One of the best decisions I’ve made

I don’t know exactrly when I learned to use WordPress as a publishing/blogging platform, but it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Firstly, it has allowed me to publish my own content on my own websites which I control entirely. The freedom, and control, that this has given me over the years has been of enormaous benefit in buildig my business.

Because it has allowed me to publish content, ideas, legal decisions, legal news, legislation, commentary which will be of benefit to the people I seek to serve (and do business with).

Looking back at some of the earliest blog posts I published on my main solicitor’s website-BusinessAndLegal.ie-I see the first posts were published on 24th September 2009. That’s over 10 years ago now!

I have published plenty of blog posts on other websites I created, too-sites like EmploymentRightsIreland.com, SmallBusinessLawIreland.com, FamilyLawIrelandHq.com and others-and have learnt a huge amount about communicating, dragging readers in, focusing on the concerns of the people I wish to serve, and more.

Learning WordPress has always meant that I have never had to rely on a ‘tech guy’ to publish content or make changes on my websites. I could never be held to ransom and could chop, change and experiment to my heart’s content to see what worked best for me and my business.

This independence has been priceless.

When you recognise the power of being able to publish useful content regularly, and combine it with the opportunity to make useful videos with the smartphone in my pocket, you can become a one person marketing and business building machine.

Thankfully, a relatively small number of competitors have recognised this, although if they did I believe we would find there is plenty of business for everybody and it is not a zero sum game.

Personal writing

There is also the personal benefits I get from writing about anything and everything from time to time on a blog like this one. Because I find writing therapeutic, a great way to get my thinking straight and to tease out issues, and a place I can go to empty my mind of stresses that build up from time to time.

The same mistake over and over

No matter how many times I try to explain, no matter how many blog posts I write, no matter how many videos I make, people make the same mistake over and over: thinking that, somehow, life is supposed to be fair and unfairness in the workplace gives rise to a legal claim or cause of action.

It doesn’t.

You need to remember 3 things about life:

  1. life is not fair
  2. the goalposts move
  3. there are no guarantees

I make a living from explaining this to people week in, week out but sometimes I would just prefer to forego the income.

That’s my rant for today!

Marketing your small business-the benefit of being interesting

I have studied the art and science of copywriting over the last five years, or thereabouts.

Copywriting, to define it simply, is the skill of writing words that persuade the reader to do something; it could be to change their mind, take a certain action, buy something.

I have read books by the greats of copywriting going back to the 1950s: books by John Caples, Gene Schwartz, Eugene Hopkins, David Oglivy, Robert Collier, Victor Schwab, Gary Halbert, to mention just a few.

One of the things you quickly learn is in order to get someone to take action after reding your words you must first get them to read them.

And to do that you need to drag them into your ‘copy’ with your headline.

The headline of your piece is critical because if it cannot get the reader to read on you simply cannot persuade.

Three techniques that work in a headline are to use certain trigger words; words like ‘new’ and ‘free’. People respond to these words because we all want to learn something new or get something for free.

Curiosity is also a good trigger to draw the reader in.

In the last few years, thanks to my YouTube videos, I have discovered another powerful tool, one which is related to curiosity.

Interest.

Are you interesting?

Because, all things being equal, I have discovered that if you come across as an interesting person you will stand out from your competitors.

You may not be better professionally, you may provide the same or similar services, but if you are interesting or remarkable or memorable you will be given more chances than your professional competition.

This is something I stumbled across accidentally because from time to time in my YouTube videos I have sometimes made reference in the videos to feeding the little birds around my home or to baking bread or reading certain books.

And then I have been asked at consultations or in meetings how is the baking going or am I still looking after the birds.

This thesis may be a difficult thing to prove from a marketing perspective, but I know from casual remarks in conversations with clients that this ‘interesting’ thing is similar to the ‘remarkable’ thesis set out by Seth Godin in his book, Purple Cow.

Consider trying it in your business.

The Evolution of Hip Hop

I’m watching a documentary series on Netflix at the moment called ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’. It is a look at the role of hip hop and rap music in society, how it started and evolved.

I have an interest in hip hop and rap music, primarily because of the importance of words in rap and hip-hop music.

Call it street poetry, call it stream of consciousness verbal diarrhoea, call it rhyming-I make a living from the use of words, whether writing them or interpreting them-and I have always had a love for words, reading, writing.

These guys, these rappers, come from chaotic deprived backgrounds in Compton on the West Coast, from New York, from Detroit trailer parks and yet, they somehow were sufficiently interested in words and rhyming to see rap and hip hop music as a way out, as a way to get off the street.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ is Tupac Shakur’s book of poetry, written when he was 19 years old and the title reflects the miracle of some of these young lives, tragically cut short in Tupac’s case at the age of 25.

It’s a well made series of documentaries with interviews with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and other rappers and hip hop artists and deals with the West Coast, East Coast rivalry and the violence that bubbled under the surface for many years, and the evolution from the more commercial hip hop music of JayZ and Puff Daddy back to the self-appointed guardians of the ‘true’ hip hop.

It’s worth checking out.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children: #5

You probably come from the West or Europe and if that’s the case you have a particular view of the world, a view that you were taught from an early age in school. This world view would have been reinforced as the truth and the objective narrative of the world and its history.

But there is another view you need to consider and that is set out in ‘The Silk Roads-a New History of the World’ by Peter Frankopan. Frankopan is professor of global history at Oxford and after reading his book you will look at the world differently and, hopefully, with greater understanding.

You will see, for example, that from time immemorial the West has sought to exploit the Middle East for its resources, especially oil, and your view of the middle east, religious fundamentalism, terrorism is bound to be altered and given a wholly different context.

The Silk Roads refers to the network of roads from the East to the West on which silk, spices, and other goods were transported from the East to the West and the subsequent creation of empires along those routes.

The Silk Roads goes a long way to explaining how the new silk roads are beginning to re-emerge with the growth of China and Asia.

This book is accessible yet comprehensive and is well worth the time spent to get a greater understanding of the world as it is now and how it has come about through the impact of trading and the silk roads.

You can pick up a copy here.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children: #4

There is a description of working down the coal mines in 19th century northern France in “Germinal” by Emile Zola that painted a claustrophobic, vivid picture in my mind as I read this book. “Germinal” is set in the late 1800s in Northern France and describes the appalling conditions that the working class found itself in under Napoleon III.

It is about the struggle for life, the struggle of the working class for bread and better conditions, and the shocking inequality in French society that eventually bubbled up into revolution.

Why I would recommend this book, however, is because it is beautifully written, easy to read and accessible, and gives a view of life from the perspective of Emile Zola, one of the finest writers in any language.

It forms part of a series of books written by Zola: the Rougon-Macquart series, which he subtitled: “A Natural and Social History of a Family under the Second Empire”.

This was the first Zola book I ever read and the description of working down the coal mines reminded me again of how lucky I am to be making a living as a solicitor and working in safe, dry conditions.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children: #3

I have read “Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger twice. The first time I had wondered what all the fuss had been about; the second time, I knew.

This is a book which I would describe as achingly beautiful because of the voice of the narrator, Holden Caulfied.

I would also say it is about “phonies” in a superficial society, teenage angst, and looks at the world over a couple of December days in New York in the 1950s through the eyes of the 16 year old narrator in an easy to read, laconic style.

The title “Catcher in the Rye” is probably a metaphor for helping adolescents from ‘falling off a cliff’ as they enter adulthood and Holden Caulfield saw himself as a ‘catcher in the rye’ but accepted he could not save everyone and that each individual must “If they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off”.

This book is incredibly easy to read due to its style of narration and is worth returning to again and again.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children: #2

A book that would definitely be on my top 5 list is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

Frankl was an Austrian Jew, a psychiatrist, who was sent to the concentration camps with his family during the second world war. Frankl saw his wife and children, including his unborn child, go to the gas chambers to be murdered by the Nazis.

But Frankl survived, and started a successful psychiatric practice in New York when the war was over.

Frankl noticed in the camps that the people who dealt best with the hell like conditions were those who helped others and gave away their last piece of bread.

If there is only one lesson my children take from this book it is that you cannot choose your circumstances/conditions but you can choose how you respond to them.

This is such an invaluable lesson for life, one that can be put into practice in our lives every single day.

If this is the only thing, and it won’t be, that a reader takes from this book it will be worth the time taken to read it.

You can pick it up on Amazon here.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children: #1

The first book I would have on my list of recommended books for my children to read is “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens.

This book is essentially about the legal system in England in the 19th century and Dickens likens the legal system, of which he had practical experience and a dim view, to fog.

In the first chapter he opens up

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds. Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time—as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look. The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery. Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery,…

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House . Kindle Edition.

What a description-can you picture yourself standing on the footpath seeing that scene?

But I could recommend any Dickens book to my children and hope that they would persevere long enough to recognise the genius of the writer, for if they do a lifetime of enjoyable reading opens up to them like an Aladdin’s cave.

I could have recommended “Oliver Twist”, “Hard Times”, “Dombey and Sons”, “A Christmas Carol”, or any Dickens book. Regardless of where they would start their Dickens journey, however, it is a journey well worth travelling as his books paint a remarkable picture of 19th century England and each book deals with a grander social issue, for example the exploitation of child labour in Oliver Twist or the class system and the place of women in society in “Dombey and Sons”.

I view “Dombey and Sons” as one of the earliest feminist novels and a remarkable portrayal of pride in Mr Dombey.

In conclusion, I would say, “read Dickens, anything by Dickens”.

You can pick up “Bleak House” on Amazon here.

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Books I Would Recommend to My Children

Scanning through my Kindle to remind myself of the large number of books I have read over the last two years or thereabouts two things struck me:

  1. The subject matter of these books ranges extensively, from marketing to business to Jane Austen to Charles Dickens to Gogol to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and Ross McDonald, to self help and mind management and philosophy and law and social media and video marketing to world war two, to productivity and stress and time management;
  2. The quality and worth oscillates widely.

The question popped into my head as to what books I would recommend to my children, given that I strongly believe it is a good thing that they develop a reading habit, something that is under increasing pressure from other attention grabbing distractions in society.

I could give them a huge list but will confine my choice to five books and will recognise the need to strike a balance between encouraging the habit of reading, by picking books that are accessible and easy to digest, and quality books-that is, authors that might on first reading be difficult going but like any acquired taste prove to be invaluable and be from authors to whom they will return again and again over the course of a lifetime.

I will also include a non fiction or two which should help them through life by giving them tools for dealing with the stresses of life as they occur.

So, come back tomorrow for the list which is deserving of its own blog post.

Here is the first book on the list.

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