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Wealth Health #5: Common Financial Personalities

How did you get on with the analysis of your financial personality last time? I promised that we would look at these personality types in more detail, so here goes:

If you scored mostly ‘1’ then you are: The Perfectionist

You have to be sure that you are always doing the right thing in the right way and at the right time. These are admirable qualities, but if you adopt a more flexible attitude you will be able to open up choices you may not have otherwise considered. Solid financial planning designed to meet your specific needs can help you towards a more prosperous and stable future, which should allow you a more free and relaxed view of life. “Watch out for being too insular and not considering enough options,” says Jo Roberts at NeedanAdvisor.com. “You could easily make the wrong decisions if you believe what the wrong person is saying. Get professional advice.”

Mostly 2: The Provider

The world would be a far better place if there were more people like you. There is almost nothing that you wouldn’t do to look after loved ones. Engage in some solid financial planning for your unique view of the world. This could not only help you achieve the things you want, but enable you to do even more for others. Be careful of an easy sale: “People know you would rather say yes than offend by saying no,” warns Roberts.

Mostly 3: The Achiever

Rely on your pragmatic streak a bit more when it comes to planning your financial future. Sound financial planning requires a patient and methodical approach if you want your money to work as hard for you as you have it. With your financial affairs sorted out you can concentrate on your hectic high-flying lifestyle. “Watch out that you don’t go for the latest must have opportunity,” Roberts adds. “Only speculate if you can afford to lose your investment.”

Mostly 4: The Maverick

The everyday world must seem terribly mundane and boring to someone like you. It’s great to have dreams, but focus some of your considerable creative energies on more mundane money matters. Mavericks run the risk of doing nothing because looking after money is boring. “If you don’t want to do it, pay someone else to do it for you,” says Roberts.

 

Mostly 5: The Analyst

It is not enough to know how to ensure that your money grows; you have to make the right decisions to allow it to do so in abundance and support you and your interests fully. “You invest reasonable amounts but not often because you spend all your time researching,” Colin Jackson, a financial adviser for Baronworth, reckons. “You want to make the sole decision on whether your investments will work, so you’ll probably head for anything linked to an index.”

Mostly 6: The Sceptic

Very little in life is certain. A well thought-through yet more adventurous investment may be worth considering. It could provide you with some of the much-needed security that is so central to your existence. “You probably take the free advice of at least half a dozen experts then disregard it and put your money in the building society,” says Jackson. Is it perhaps worth living a little more dangerously?

Mostly 7: The Adventurer

It must get very crowded in your house with so many people wanting to hang around someone as exciting and spontaneous as you. Some careful financial planning will let you enjoy life to the full, both now and in the future. “You won’t be interested in mainstream investment products for the bulk of your money but would look at something more ‘interesting’ with the potential for a greater return and risk,” Jackson says. You’ve probably crossed your fingers a lot.

Mostly 8: The Challenger

You are a natural leader with strength, resourcefulness and inner drive. But you can’t exercise total control over your environment and people around you. Taking a bit of advice from others may give you a wider perspective and enable you to improve your financial well-being. “Rather than having a portfolio of diversified assets, you will tend to have a collection of products that were good in the past,” Alex Pegley, from financial adviser Calculus, says. “You should arrange for a personalised portfolio, setting out clearly defined objectives and reasonable expectations.”

Mostly 9: The Deliberator

Money is very important to you, but your quest to achieve balance and avoid conflict could mean important decisions are delayed while you consider all the aspects. Don’t dither when it comes to your finances; take positive action for what life has in store. Pegley adds: “you tend to miss the boat and take up things too late. By hesitating, you’re unlikely to get enough money invested quickly enough to prepare for retirement, and investments could be overly cautious with restricted investment growth.

As I mentioned last time, no type is the right one or the wrong one. Pat Knightley, who devised this test, points out that we all have flashes of all of these traits, but one will be dominant, especially at times of stress, such as shopping on Christmas Eve in London’s Oxford Street. Knightley also says not to panic if you are not happy with the result. “If we always deal with our money in the same way, you will always get the same outcome. Take a step back, think through your approach and things may change.”

So far in this series we have hopefully increased your own financial awareness, analysed your financial reality, taken a close look at your beliefs and feelings about money and arrived at some indication of your financial personality. Now it is time to start your new financial journey. Next time we will consider setting financial goals.

Wealth Health #4: Your Financial Personality

Wealth Health #4: Your Financial Personality

How did you get on while analysing your feelings about money last time?  Did that expose memories of past conversations about money? Do you recall specific adult behaviour in relation to money as you were growing up?

Have these memories lead to any negatives FEELINGS about your financial situation today? We are not talking here about numbers, but about FEELINGS. Where do you think those feelings come from?  Maybe it was decisions made by you or others?  Maybe it was from comments made by others regarding money?

How are these negative feelings being kept alive in you today, and how do they impact on your financial life?

Before setting off on a new financial journey, including any changes to saving and spending habits, you need to understand fully what your feelings about money really are. What is your financial personality type?

Here is a new set of questions for you to consider. As always, be honest with yourself and choose one best-fit answer in each of the eight sections below.

You are aware that you need to boost your income. So you:

  1. Draw up a detailed plan and seek out the perfect way forward.
  2. Work closely with your friends to make life good for you all.
  3. Look for another job that gives you a higher income and status.
  4. Come up with lots of imaginative and innovative ways to fill the coffers.
  5. Analyse areas in your life where you might make some savings.
  6. Consider the upside and downside of working harder.
  7. Come up with lots of different ways in which to increase your funds.
  8. Decide the way ahead for you and then do it.
  9. Look at both sides of the coin before deciding on the best way ahead.

An unexpected bill arrives in the post. You:

  1. Wonder how this could be possible.
  2. Remember that you had a sudden urge to buy something for someone.
  3. Try to remember how you spent the money and if it was worth it.
  4. Stick it in a drawer and forget about it until you receive a reminder.
  5. Are surprised, as spontaneous impulses aren’t something you usually indulge in.
  6. Worry that you had forgotten about this, and consider the possible consequences.
  7. Ignore it. You’ll get around to paying it when you’ve got a spare moment in your busy schedule.
  8. Pay it is as long as it is fair and correct.
  9. Accept the inevitable and pay it when you get a moment.

You are invited to invest in a new venture. What do you do?

  1. Look at the deal in detail and make sure it fits perfectly with your plans.
  2. Make sure that it will serve both you and your family best.
  3. Wonder how it will make you look good in the eyes of others.
  4. Imagine how it might help you to meet your dreams and desires.
  5. Think how it will boost your reserves and help you to be self-sufficient.
  6. Look for the hidden agenda and any potential disasters.
  7. See if it can provide you with lots of opportunities to be truly free.
  8. If it fits your vision of what you want to do, then fine. If not, then no.
  9. See who else is interested in going along for the ride.

You realise that you have overspent this month. What is your first reaction?

  1. Beat yourself up for not keeping a tight rein on your finances.
  2. Reflect on how much you have helped your friends and resolve to keep a tighter hold on your own expenditure.
  3. Hide the fact and work harder to make up the difference.
  4. Take pleasure in the things you have enjoyed and how they made you feel.
  5. Wonder how such a thing could happen, since you take pride in keeping things to a minimum.
  6. Worry how such a thing could happen, since you’re usually so careful to plan for a rainy day.
  7. Look on the bright side and figure out multiple ways to get more cash.
  8. Accept it as part of the lifestyle, and take the view that you’ll find the money somehow.
  9. Ignore the discomfort and keep calm and unresponsive, knowing that all will be well.

You receive £5000 unexpectedly. Do you:

  1. Think about how you can spend it sensibly.
  2. Use it to help your friends and family.
  3. Tell everyone about it and how you plan to spend it.
  4. Enjoy imagining all the amazing things you’ll buy.
  5. Put it away for a rainy day or use it to develop your interests.
  6. Invest it safely to help you towards a more secure financial future.
  7. Use it to help you indulge in ever more adventurous pursuits.
  8. Spend it or save it as you think best.
  9. Acknowledge your good fortune and enjoy whatever it brings.

You are invited for financial planning seminar at work. Do you:

  1. Accept immediately. It may help you to do what is absolutely right.
  2. Say that you’re far too busy helping others.
  3. Consider whether it would offer any useful networking opportunities.
  4. Wonder if it will really answer your unique requirements.
  5. Review whether it would be the best use of your time and energy.
  6. Analyse whether it really could help you have a safer financial future.
  7. Find something more enjoyable to do.
  8. Go or not depending on whether you think it would be useful.
  9. Put it off until another time.

You’re reminded by a colleague of the importance of pensions and inheritance tax planning. So you:

  1. Take pride in the fact that you are fully up to speed with the subject.
  2. Consider how this could benefit and support your loved ones.
  3. Feel confident that you have or will take care of this in the best way possible.
  4. Fantasise about how savings like that could help you have to things that you’ve always dreamed of.
  5. Calculate what needs to be done without having to waste valuable time and energy.
  6. Investigate ways to deal with them in a secure and risk-free manner.
  7. Think about all the many different ways you could deal with the subject.
  8. Decide what suits you best and do it.
  9. Worry that this may create conflict with your current lifestyle and put off dealing with it.

You see something in a shop that you just have to buy, so you:

  1. Think about it carefully and decide whether you can really afford it, or should you wait until you’ve saved up.
  2. Decide to get it; not for you, but for someone you love.
  3. Just buy it even if you don’t have the money right now.
  4. Buy it so that you can get that quick rush of satisfaction than worry about how to pay for it later.
  5. Take a minute to calculate what you might have to do without if you buy it.
  6. Consider whether you really do “absolutely have to have” it, and if you have the money to buy it.
  7. Think about how good it’s going to make you feel to have what you really want.
  8. Buy it or don’t buy it depending on how much you really want it.
  9. Weigh up the enjoyment of having it against the efforts of buying it.

Now analyse your results and see if you answered mostly “1” (The Perfectionist), “2” (The Provider), “3” (The Achiever), “4” The (Maverick), “5” (The Analyst), “6” (The Sceptic), “7” (The Adventurer), “8” (The Challenger), “9” (The Deliberator). This test was designed by NLP Master Practitioner and Enneagram expert Pat Knightley.

There is no right or wrong answer and no right or wrong Financial Personality type, but to look in more detail at what each of these means then join me next time for Wealth Health #5: Common Financial Personalities

Wealth Health #3: Beliefs About Money

Previously, we have looked at how to gain some clarity about the reality of your personal finances. Now it’s time to delve a little deeper than that in order to expose your underlying beliefs regarding money. This is important, because your beliefs may well be having a greater effect on your financial decision-making than any set of real facts regarding money.

What are some of the things that you are saying about money? What are you saying which may not be serving you well? Which of these common sayings do you use regularly?

  • “Money does not grow on trees.”
  • “I’m not made of money.”
  • “I can’t afford it.”
  • “You can’t take it with you.”
  • “It’s alright for some.”
  • “You can’t take it with you.”
  • “I don’t understand money.”
  • “I haven’t got enough money”
  • “I deserve it.”
  • “I might not be rich but at least I’m honest.”
  • “I work hard, why shouldn’t I enjoy life?”

Most of these sayings have a negative slant to them, so let’s try to reframe them to be more positive, supportive or even motivational.  For example,

“I haven’t got enough money,” becomes, “I have got enough money for my needs.”

Or

“It’s alright for some,” might be reframed to say, “What’s alright for some is alright for me too.”

We seem to reserve our strongest beliefs for those who are richest. What do you say about those who are very wealthy? Would you like to be really rich too? Is it OK to be rich only in certain circumstances? What does that say about your view of being or becoming rich?

What does money mean to you? Try taking a sheet of paper and brainstorming this by just writing words which reflect your beliefs about money.

MONEY =        freedom                      choice              consequences              fun

Sacrifice          pleasure                      pressure          impact on others

decisions

Does thinking about money give feelings of pain or pleasure?

Next time we will try to pin point which financial personality type you are, by uncovering your deep seated FEELINGS about money.

Wealth Health #2: Financial Clarity

In this second part of my ‘Wealth Health’ series, I want to continue to focus on the reality of your financial situation. If you got through all the ‘Questions to Ask Yourself’ in Part 1, then you may have already started taking some action to clarify things. So much the better if you have!

Another way of looking at the reality of your personal finances might be to carry out a SWOT analysis of your current situation. For those who haven’t seen this before, it is a very common business planning tool which can be adapted to a wide variety of situations – including personal finances. SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In his book You and Your Money, Alvin Hall gives the following clear example:

STRENGTHS                                                    WEAKNESSES

Good spending habits                                        Bad spending habits

Knowledge of financial situation                          Emotions/thoughts (e.g. shame,  fear, anger)

Earning capacity                                               Lack of financial knowledge

 

OPPORTUNITIES                                             THREATS

Inheritance                                                      Lack of cash

Promotion                                                       Interest rate increases

Renegotiating Interest Payments                       Possible redundancy

 

This could be written into a grid of 4 boxes (2×2), or you could use the four headings written at the top of four pieces of paper and then add your own notes and ideas. Remember that as before, this exercise is for you alone, so be true to yourself when completing it.

While working through this task, you could start to ask yourself about your attitude to money and finances. What are your beliefs about money? This will be the subject of part 3, when we will look at some of your deeply-held beliefs and feelings regarding money.

In the meanwhile you can follow my tweets for tips, quotes and more questions regarding your personal or business finances. Be sure to also follow my #WealthWealth and #WedsWisdom hashtags!

Wealth Health #1

I am writing this on ‘Blue Monday’. Statistically-speaking, today is apparently the most depressing day of the year. A major contributor to the cloud of angst hanging over the day is that, by now, you will have started to hear the heavy thud of overloaded credit card statements landing on the doormat. Christmas has been and gone, but the overspending is just now becoming a reality.

In these austere times, if we are going to remain financially solid, then we need to develop an awareness about our relationship with money. Over the coming weeks I will attempt to light the path to financial health and wellbeing. We will develop an awareness of your current financial reality, examine your beliefs about money, uncover your financial personality and then set some financial goals.

I am not a financial advisor and so will not be telling you what to do with your money. That is quite rightly the job of qualified and regulated professionals. What I hope to achieve is to leave you with a much better understanding of your finances and some options with which to arm yourself before talking to any financial professionals.

The Financial Journey

For many the gulf between their financial reality and their financial ideals is vast. When asked about ideals for the future, many people will say “financial freedom”, but do we really know what that means to each of us? Vagueness about the future often comes from only having a vague understanding of the current reality, so let’s start there.

Financial freedom starts with clarity about your current financial situation.

Ask yourself these questions, but be honest. You don’t have to justify your answers to anyone but yourself. You may have learned to describe a brand new shiny pair of shoes as “What, those old things?” and get away with it, but here you need to be honest with yourself.

1. Who takes responsibility for managing the finances in your household?

2. Can you easily lay your hands on all your financial information?

3. How are decisions about major purchases or investments made in your household?

4. How much debt does your household have?

5. What percentage of your household expenditure is allocated to debt repayment each month?

6. How long will it take to clear your household debt (excluding mortgage) at your current monthly repayments?

7. If you are in a shared financial relationship, do you hold individual investments or is everything joint or in you partners name?

8. Are you planning/hoping for an inheritance or windfall to provide for your retirement?

9. If you have a mortgage, what interest rate are you paying?

10. If you have a credit card debt, what interest rate is your lender charging you?

11. How many months’ safety/emergency money do you have easily access to?

12. If you were fired or couldn’t work tomorrow, how long could you live before running out of money?

13. What does APR mean?

14. What is compound interest and why is it so powerful?

15. At what age do you plan to retire?

16. How much are you saving for your retirement each month/year?

17. Have you ever tracked all of your spending for a month?

18. Does the thought of tracking your spending frighten you?

19. Do you ever lie about how much things cost?

20. Do you ever hide new things and pretend you’ve had them for ages?

21. Do you know the level of life assurance you should have and have you bought an appropriate policy?

22. Do you have a will?

23. Does the word ‘SALE’ in a shop window act on you like an aphrodisiac?

24. Do your purchases just seem to happen, or do you plan ahead before going shopping?

25. Do you order takeaway when you have the ingredients to cook at home?

26. Have you ever left your credit card at home on purpose and gone shopping only with cash?

27. Does the possibility of accumulating money excite you?

28. Do you keep the money in your savings account sacred and use only you current account for living expenses?

29. Do you put money in your savings account before you buy those little treats each month?

30. Have you set yourself an annual savings target and do you stick to it?

31. If you are in a shared-finances relationship, do you avoid talking to your partner about money, because “it’s too stressful”?

32. Do you expect the Government to cover all of your Health and Welfare costs into your dotage?

33. Do you think you are too young, or too old, to start contributing to a pension scheme?

34. Do you know how much those shop-bought coffees add up to every week?

In part 2 we’ll look at what your answers mean and examine your beliefs about money. If you have Twitter, you can follow all of my finance-related Tweets at #WealthHealth!

Keeping The Magic Alive

During my long career as a primary school teacher, there were many occasions when high levels of tact and diplomacy were required. This was ever so when dealing with those age groups where the children were starting to question the reality of Santa Claus. There was always the awareness that some knew to their core that he was real, while others had lost the magic and their truth was founded in logic. Of course in between were the doubters who could not quite bring themselves to let go – just in case!

Parents would ask how to deal with the difficult questions, often feeling that honesty should prevail. Like a true Coach I would return the questions, “What do you think?”, “How would you feel if……” etc. Of course the perennial concern was the problem of not wanting to lie to the children. Everyone is convinced that at some point in the future they will be faced with an angry teenager declaring that “Because you lied to me about Santa, you lie about everything!” Ask anyone who has had teenagers. That will be the least of your worries! On the other hand can anything really out do waking up on Christmas morning to wide-eyed children gleefully shouting “Santa’s been!”

Modern life is chipping away at childhood and its magic in so many ways.  I say,  perpetuate the magic as long as possible! I firmly believe that as adults we need to experience moments of awe and wonder whenever we can. How will we learn to do this if, as children, we have not experienced magic in our lives? The Santa Claus period should be seen as an important positive element in our education and development as well rounded human beings. Keep the magic alive for as long as possible. All too soon your lanky, skinny-jeaned offspring will be replacing the letter to Santa with a list of vouchers required, while calmly announcing that they are spending Christmas with the boyfriend’s family!

Back in 1897 one little girl expressed her worries and this lead to one of the most famous editorial responses ever from a newspaper. Her original letter to the editor read as follows:

Dear Editor

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says: If you see it in the paper it’s so.

Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street

Virginia sent this to Francis P. Church, the editor of a New York city newspaper, The Sun. On 21st September He published the following thoughtful and passionate response:

“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication above, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The New York Sun:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds Virginia, whether they are men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world be if there was no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus!

You might as well not believe in fairies!

You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?

Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever.

A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let’s perpetuate the Magic and as adults let’s remember the joy of it.

Now, does anyone have an email address for the Tooth Fairy?

A Most Remarkable Concert

This blog post is something of an indulgence to the musical geek in me. Today marks the 203rd Anniversary of a concert given by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the nature of which has fascinated me for over 30 years.

While a student teacher in 1975 I heard Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for the first time and fell in love with it. Knowing nothing about the piece, but recognising a strong hint of the great 9th Symphony, I quickly wrote a note to my good friend Leslie Howard in London. Yes, dear reader, I am so old that I can remember writing letters, on paper, requesting information from a learned human being! Leslie is a world class Concert pianist and musicologist, and so by return I got information not only about the piece itself but about the remarkable context of its first performance.

Beethoven hired the Theater an der Wien in Vienna for a mammoth concert given on 22nd December 1808. The event lasted over four hours, consisted entirely of Beethoven Premieres and was directed by the composer himself. Conditions left much to be desired and since the heating had broken down the audience and performers were extremely cold. Despite this, and the fact that the orchestra were seriously under-rehearsed, the audience were treated to the first performances of the 5th & 6th Symphonies. Beethoven took to the keyboard for the premiere of his 4th piano concerto and there were first hearings of the aria ‘Ah, perfido!’ and two movements from the Mass in C. The composer then gave a sample of what the public most admired, which was his amazing ability at solo piano improvisation. Let’s not forget that Beethoven was of course profoundly deaf by this time.

As if all this were not enough, to end the evening he pulled together all the forces present, to perform what was described as a “Fantasia for the pianoforte which ends with the gradual entrance of the entire orchestra and the introduction of choruses as a finale”. The cold and exhausted audience had one more hurdle to overcome. One of the performers made a mistake which caused Beethoven to halt the performance and restart the whole thing!

Despite the difficulties it must have been a remarkable evening and I still long to hear a live performance of that one little-performed piece. The notion of giving a vocal finale to an instrumental work, casting it as a set of variations, the smooth and relaxed character of the tune itself, these are all ideas to which Beethoven would grandly return fifteen years later in his awesome 9th symphony.

Twitter For Writers

 

As you know, respected readers, I love reading feedback from my blogs and I use it to influence future blog topics too. I have had requests for a great many subject specific blogs; Twitter for teachers, for academics, for coaches, for teenagers etc. One area of interest to several correspondents has been Twitter for writers/authors and for that I know a writer who could give the subject a better treatment than I could. What is more Gentle Reader, you have met him before!

Back in September I wrote a blog about inspirational, aspirational young people (Our Promise for the Future) and Sean was one of the young people that I highlighted then. Sean is a driven and aspiring young writer nearing completion of his first Young Adult novel. As a focussed user of Twitter he is an obvious choice to write about it and I proudly welcome him to the growing list of guest bloggers on here.

Guest Blogger: Sean Wills

If you spend any time at all browsing through the blogs of editors, agents, and other publishing industry professionals, you’ll come across the same piece of advice for aspiring authors time and time again: build an audience before you’re published. Having a viable ‘platform’ before you secure a book deal may not be strictly necessary when you’re starting out as a professional writing career, but it definitely is necessary if you want to have any chance of making a living at it.

You can never start your platform-building efforts too early, and the most important tool you can use to gather an audience is (of course) social media. But remember, as an unpublished writer, you have nothing to sell. Even if using social media as a direct-selling method for your book was a good idea (and it isn’t!), you can’t do that until the book is readily available.

What you’re selling, then, is yourself – your opinion, your humour, your reviews of the latest books or your thoughts on the publishing industry as a whole. In return, readers are willing to devote a little bit of time every day to following your updates and sharing your name with their friends, increasing your built-in audience for when your book is finally ready for sale. If you get the right audience behind you, there’ll be no need for you to ever direct-sell to them; they’ll be eagerly awaiting the release of your book from the moment you announce it.

Apart from a blog, the most important part of any writer’s social media strategy is a Twitter account. Almost all publishing professionals use Twitter these days, very often to communicate with potential clients. Look up well-known agents and editors who work with writers you’d like to emulate, then follow them on Twitter. You’ll quickly realise that there’s a vast conversation going on between these people. Tapping into it can be a valuable source of information, netting you everything from early news of upcoming opportunities to tidbits on current publishing trends that you probably won’t get elsewhere. If you have absolutely no idea where to start, find some big-name publishers in your area of interest and see how many of their editors maintain blogs. From there, you should be able to bounce from one blog to the next (look for blogrolls!) until you find the right people.

Eventually, you’ll want to get involved in the conversation. Remember, again, that you’re not trying to sell anything at this stage. If somebody tweets about a subject you’re interested in, reply to them. Don’t try to calibrate your tweets in an effort to get re-tweeted; just be yourself. Fakes are a dime a dozen on Twitter, and you’ll be remembered more for having a genuine opinion than you will for desperately trying to get in with the right people. There are many, many writers out there who built up an audience by reviewing books or writing pieces for well-known websites or even just being a social media ‘personality’. Twitter is an absolute must if you want to go that route.

Eventually, of course, you should try to get noticed (you’re platform-building, remember?). This is where FIRE comes in. Make your tweets Funny, Interesting, Relevant, and show your Expertise. It also pays to know about what’s happening in the industry at large. Guaranteed hot-button issues include bias in publishing, bestselling memoirs that turn out to be fiction, and whether e-books are going to kill print publishing. (Warning: be prepared for a drawn-out argument if you decide to jump on that last one…) This is where having a blog connected to your Twitter account comes in handy, since a well thought-out blog post about an important topic can get a huge amount of attention. A single tweet from an industry professional with thousands of followers will get you a lot of new readers!

It’s also worth pointing out that Twitter is an absolute must for self-published writer. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, self-publishing means forsaking the marketing budget and skills of a traditional publisher. It’s entirely up to you to market your book, and that means using social media effectively.

Apart from boosting your audience, getting involved with Twitter can be a fantastic way of socialising with other writers. Working on a book or a novel can be a lonely experience, and it’s heartening to know that there are other people out there going through the exact same trials as you. One of the first things I learned when I went in search of other writers online was that I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to think writing is a viable career – there are tons of other people doing the same thing, and they’re all eager to talk about it. So get out there and join the conversation!

You can follow Sean at his personal blog, or follow his reviews at the Intergalactic Academy.

Make The Impossible Possible

Guest Blogger: Safaa Aldulaimy

This was the main concept of the recent TedxBaghdad event. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a well-known global organisation that is spreading around the world. TED is now in 98 different countries and it is getting even bigger every day. The theme of the global TED is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and the aim of this event in Baghdad was to bring inspiration and hope to the community, focusing on remarkable stories, and creative people and leaving Iraq with hope for a brighter future. The X means that this is an independently organized TED event, and for those who attended it was a life changing experience, and independently Royal.

I had the pleasure of attending this event on 12/11/11 along with 600 other delegates from different countries and cultures. There were people from Holland, USA and many other countries. It was amazing to see 600 young Iraqi people, sharing the same goal of building a new future for Iraq. We spent 8 hours being filled with hope, talent, inspiration and love.

The event featured so many impressive presentations; in fact they were too many to write about in just one blog, so I will mention some of the best talks from the event, and some of the exceptional speakers who delivered them.

First of all I must mention the remarkable person who was the creator of all this, Dr. Yahay Alabdeli. His dream is to bring inspiration to the Iraqi people. Living in Amsterdam Yahay always wondered how to make a worthwhile contribution back in his country. Yahay worked hard to get the license to bring TED to Baghdad and he describes  how he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the email of approval. He said “This can’t be true. I had a black out. I had to print the e-mail, because I couldn’t see clearly. I closed my eyes and visualized what would come. It was a life changing moment. I told my wife: I’m going to do this.”

Next we have MANHAL AL-HABBOBI, an Iraqi architect. His rendering of the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers in Baghdad was chosen from the entries of over thirty world-renowned architects to win the WAN Award 2011. Manhal always had a passion for the art and beauty of the Mesopotamian civilization and he told us the story behind his motivation for his great achievement.  “ I was in Italy when I heard about a massive series of bombs in Iraq. I was very sad and devastated.  I almost lost hope, and then my friend’s 6 year old daughter came to me and said, Don’t worry, you will recover, because Mesopotamia is 5000 years old!”.

Next I must talk about the very impressive story of American Philanthropist, JEREMY COURTNEY, the Executive Director and co-Founder of the Preemptive Love Coalition. The goal of the coalition is to help Iraqi children with heart disease.  Jeremy started raising the money from selling an Iraqi father’s handmade shoes and he has now helped fund lifesaving heart surgeries for 180 Iraqi children. Jeremy puts his whole idea in few profound powerful words, “Violence unmakes the world, Love makes the world, Love unmakes Violence”

Another great story is ALI MAJID, a plastic surgeon based in Baghdad. Dr. Ali was affected by a medical case that made him determined to do something about the challenges he was facing. He invented a simple but very functional device to help overcome the problems and difficulties faced in oral surgery.  This device is now working properly and while still under development, he has high hopes that it will soon be in use as a life changing invention.

Having people from other cultures in the event moved something in me. I wanted to know their opinions and hopes for Iraq and what they thought about it all, so I talked to some of them. They all had positive thoughts and hopes for my country, and they were impressed by the work and talent of these Iraqi people and by the efforts they had put into this event.

I’ve always had faith in Iraq, and in its people, but now I am very sure about it. I know that Iraq will soon be a center of knowledge and optimism once again.  This whole thing made realize that I am not alone in this belief and that there are others wanting Iraq to be a place of peace again.

It is time to show the world that young people are not as some see us. We can work miracles, and this is a message that we want to send to the world. Whatever you think of us and whatever happens between us, we will always strive to make the impossible possible, and we will always work together full of hope for Iraq.

Saffa Aldulaimy, 13/11/11

I am both proud and delighted to feature another guest blogger from among the remarkable young men that I wrote about in my September posting ‘Young People: Our Promise for the Future’. Safaa has recently graduated from university in Damascus, Syria and now he is back home with his family in Baghdad. Last week it was clear to me that he was getting excited about the TED event but that was nothing compared to his bubbling optimism at the end of it. Safaa said that he wanted to write about the experience and so I asked him to consider contributing a blog here. I was moved by the result – so full of hope and optimism for the future of his country.  

Twitter Thursday #12: The Perfect Tweet – How

In the previous Twitter blog I looked the reasons why your Tweets need to be perfectly written. In this post, I’ll go through the techniques that you need to master if you want to craft the perfect tweet.

1. Be a Beacon of Excellence.

If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you will have already started to become a selective reader. With no hope of reading all the messages streaming into your timeline, you will have started to scan the column for the avatars (pictures) or usernames of your favourite profiles. Even then you will not read everything written by your best friend or biggest client (although maybe you should). We are not Twitter auto-bots clicking on everything ‘just because’. Try to notice what it is that entices you to stop, read, and click on the link.

This same filtering applies to new followers. We notice their Tweets because they are new, but only if they write well will they become an addition to our mental list of worthy Tweeters to follow closely. Of course if the quality of their engagement falls off, we may lose interest and unfollow them – even if only in our heads. You need to be excellent to get noticed, but you need to be consistently excellent to stay noticed. The best beacons shine out in all directions. Your well-crafted Tweets need to get re-tweeted in all directions too.

2. Know Your Audience.

Apply FIRE to everything that you do on Twitter. Remember that you are writing for an audience of critical readers. This may seem obvious, but you are not the target of your own Tweets – your online community is.

Twitter itself is not your sales counter. Do not attempt to be a Twitter salesperson. Likewise, be wary of too much self-promotion. By all means provide links to your own content and use Twitter to drive people to your website, but be subtle. Any attempts at direct sales or blowing your own trumpet too loudly will lead to you being thought of as little more than a source of spam. As Jim Rohn says “Don’t blow your own horn, or you might just miss the music”.

3. Optimum Number of Characters.

Of course we are all well aware of the 140 character limit for Tweets but there are two very important additional considerations here.

Firstly, for your messages to be re-tweeted you need to allow enough space for the re-tweet details to be added. This may take 20 characters, so your message is now down to a total of 120. Secondl,y if you are adding a link this may need another 20 characters so you need to refine your message to be well-crafted and only 100 characters long!

Of course there may be times when the ability to re-tweet may be risked for the sake of good copy, but beware; if this happens too often, your community will stop trying, or worse, your perfect Tweet maybe deformed by “txt spk” before being sent on. Of course as a re-tweet, everyone will assume that you wrote the abbreviated version!

4. Grab the Attention.

You need to grab your follower’s attention, making them want to read your Tweets and click on your links. Remember, obvious selling should not be an option. Most people hate the idea that they are being sold to, especially in social media, so be artful and make it look like you’re doing something else.

No matter how consistently good you have been, your followers still need a good reason to read your work. Take a look at your Twitter screen. Things happen fast, and you will be faced with multiple Tweets, therefore multiple choices at any one time. More so if you are using groups and column feeds. Your follower need only refresh the screen once and your tweet is gone from their attention for over.

Remember that even if your only intention is to get people to read your latest blog, you have to ‘sell’ the link. You also need to be aware that people don’t buy products, they buy benefits, so what is the benefit (reason) that will get them to click on your link?

It is worth noting a couple of strange Twitter behaviours here. Firstly, well-written Tweets may well get re-tweeted even if your follower has not clicked on the link or read the content themselves. Take it as a compliment that they trust and believe in you that much. Secondly, by the same token I would warn against ever re-tweeting a link which you have not checked first yourself-unless of course you wish to be a friend to spammers everywhere!

5. Perfect Spelling.

Maybe this is the school teacher in me, but I believe that the next three points are fundamental to professional, readable Tweeting. I make no apology for this but if any of it scares you then number 8  below will hopefully throw you a lifeline.

Like it or not you will be judged on how you write and how you spell.  This may seem patronising, and you will say “but so-and-so has 2 million followers and they can’t spell”. This  may be true, but if ‘so-and-so’ is a celebrity, people will follow them no matter what they say or how they say it. You and I, dear mortal being, do not have that luxury, so let’s make do with excellence instead. Please consider typing your tweets into your favourite word processor first and spell-check them. Avoid ‘txt spk’. You may think it’s cool, but it can make you appear at best lazy and at worst in possession of a limited education.

6. Flawless Grammar.

  • Make sure that every Tweet and every sentence in a Tweet starts with a capital letter.
  • Give every proper noun (name) a capital letter. Please note that Twitter and Tweet are names.
  • Leave one space after every full stop.
  • Use apostrophes properly and learn the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re and also their, there and they’re.
  • Don’t type in UPPERCASE as it will look like you’re shouting.

7. Impeccable punctuation.

Whatever your personal feelings about accurate punctuation, it is the feelings of your followers that matter. Enormous numbers of people get very irate about incorrect punctuation. I’ve covered some points already, but in addition to correct sentence structure, use commas and speech marks correctly and avoid using too many exclamation marks. Also use hyphens and semi-colons sparingly but effectively.

A good self-check is to read your tweet aloud to yourself. Are the natural breaks and breathing spaces punctuated.

8. Find a Twitter Buddy

Be honest with yourself regarding spellings, grammar and punctuation. If you are at all unsure of your own abilities (and perhaps if you’re not), then seek out a Twitter buddy. This person will take on the role of your very own copy-editor, checking over your Tweets, where possible before you post them. A fresh pair of eyes will often see things which we have missed ourselves.

9. Shortening Links.

Twitter will automatically shorten URLs if you include them, but the bulk of the link will remain intact. In order to shorten the link as much as possible it is worth using one of the third party applications. For the serious user I would recommend using bit.ly for very clear reasons. Not only does Twitter handle bit.ly shortened URLs very well, but there are added benefits too. The stats pages are great and can provide a wealth of useful information about the use of your link. Scroll down the page to show your shortened links and then click on the ‘Info page +’ next to the link. This will open a new page of very clearly presented information about the link.

10. FIRE up your Content.

All this may seem like hard work when twitter is supposed to be ‘instant’ and ‘fun’. It can still be fun, but a little consistent work now will pay great dividends and the effort will soon become second nature. You will gain respect within your network and this will add to your online social capital.

Above all don’t lose sight of your twitter content. Make sure it passes one or more of the FIRE tests. Is your Tweet Fun, does it Inform or Inspire, Is it relevant and/or is it Expert information?

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