Stop being a product

Awhile back there was a great comment on Metafilter concerning how many of the advertising based websites are generating revenue:

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

Face it, everyone’s been in this situation (web related or not). Everything from television, to the internet, etc. you as a product are being sold. Recently I’ve taken this to heart and I think it represents a growing trend in mainstream America (and, well, anywhere). If I ever prove to be successful it will be because I’ve stopped being the product. The way I see it, there are two types of people in this world: Producers and Consumers.

A couple of things I’ve changed behaviorally about myself:

Reduce the amount of time on Facebook - I attribute a certain value to Facebook as a part of my life. I have friends who live all over the world and Facebook gives me a great platform to stay connected without really having to actively do so. I understand most people spend countless hours on facebook doing just that, but if you can regulate your use it actually can be quite beneficial platform to staying connected. For example, instead of telling all of my friends and family in the US that I’m traveling to Romania in two weeks I can simply post an update. That being said, my social life goes way beyond the scope of connecting with people on Facebook, and I don’t rely on it as being THE social network platform for me.

Reduce the amount of televisions I watch – I have a few shows that I watch via Hulu (Modern Family, Community, IT Crowd, Arrested Development, The League, just to name a few), however I recently ditched my cable provider (UK TV sucks anyway) and only watch things via Hulu, Netflix, or DVDs. I do believe Entertainment should be a part of life, but only in doses.

Produce, rinse and repeat - One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a really crappy writer. The only way I’ve gotten any better is to write a first draft, take a day off, re-write it. Some people have the god-given talent to sit down and write something beautiful in one sitting. I don’t. So I have to work at it. That’s why this blog exists. I suck at something, so I need a medium to practice.

Get in shape – I recently decided to sign up for a double marathon with a couple of work colleauges. In case you’re interested our blog is here: Everyone think’s I’m insane. I think a quote from Einstein best represents my response to this:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Reading – Reading is the most important consumption action you can make in your life. Aside from breathing and eating, I think reading should be priority number three in your life. I’ve never been a big reader, in fact I despised it growing up. You have to be careful what you read though. When I first moved to London I started to read the Metro on the tube every day to work. While there was a few things in there that I thought was interesting, it more or less became a time sink of utterly worhtless garbage. I don’t see my mind or intellect progressing by reading mainstream news. I’ve thus turned to my recently purchased Kindle and focused on books and articles that matter. I push interesting articles (found via Give Me Something to Read, Longform and Longreads) and read them when I have a chance.

While none of these alone are major milestones, it’s that I’m trying to actively create a consistent culture for producing rather than consuming. Most important lesson I’ve learned is to stop harping on the quality of content I produce and just produce it. Just Ship! (as Seth Godin says) I often have created something and been discouraged with the output and thus prevents future endeavors from even happening. I’m a quality freak, but quality is usually  an on-going process. You have to fail before you can master quality successfully.

I’d be willing to venture that nearly 50% of all of our daily time spent is on time sinks. If I’ve learned anything it’s that the most successful people I’ve ever seen are the ones consistently putting their heads down and driving towards the future. You can probably find countless business and entrepreneur  examples of this, but I think it’s more fun to look at this concept from another perspective. This past year Formula1 driver Sebastian Vettel only lead the championship series once during the year and yet took the championship on the last race. (Disclaimer – I’m a huge Vettel fan). Naturally, most people attribute this to a shear amount of luck, however I think different. I believe the success of his 2010 F1 championship victory is the quintessential example of how success happens in the weirdiest ways, but is driven by a person’s inert drive to perfection. Vettel had a bout of failures throughout the season, captured 10 poles while only capturing 5 grand prixs. In the last race of the season he was able to edge out Fernando Alonson, after Alonso got caught behind Vitaly Petrov and finished seventh. To be fair, timing and place does hold a lot of value. But it isn’t “always” everything…Thanks Petrov!