Something new

I went to bed last night, Election Night, wanting to do something more productive with my brain. It was 1:30 am and I was endlessly scrolling between Twitter, 538, and the New York Times.

Biking. I’m going to figure out biking.

So this is where I will track those efforts.

What I know so far or what I am doing:

I’ll write about the goal tomorrow as I am mulling it over. Kind of tricky since there no races.

So much time

I had fun in college and I did well, at least if you go by grades. But I’m not sure what I really did.

I’ve been thinking about this as colleges try to go back to school. It seems college students will have A LOT more time on their hands. From Politico:

A friend of mine who is set to graduate from UNC next May lives in an off-campus house with a group of other students (they signed their lease last fall, long before anyone had any inkling of Covid-19). Just last week, she was quarantined in her room waiting for one of her housemates to receive Covid test results. “It’ll be a…fun birthday,” she texted me.

If you are in college — if you are alive — your life has probably changed due to COVID-19. For many, this means more free time.

This free time is an opportunity. And it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from business magnate Lee Iacocca:

Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don’t just stand there, make it happen.

You get the point, right? With the internet at your fingertips, you can learn and do just about anything. I’ve been taking this course on data science. I started this blog so I can get used to providing daily content. I learned to podcast. And I took a Seth Godin marketing class (I highly recommend it!).

What can you do?

Hint: start with what is important to you and go from there. What else can you learn or do to support your passion?

Thinking about lead gen

I am working on a project and I am trying to get smart for that project.

I need to get smart about lead gen in insurance.

I noticed an email from Kansas City ad agency, Native Digital. Unfortunately, the email wasn’t linkable, but I am giving them full credit for these graphs.

First, they pointed out that on the internet people search for “best” not “cheap.”

Then Native Digital highlighted an experiment where fictional brands were pitched and purchased (or not purchased) by industry. Consumers are most likely to go for a fictional car insurance brand.

The Native Digital conclusion seems dead on:

Turns out we’re pretty loyal to our cereal and whisky of choice (potential breakfast combo?!), but not so much to financial products like mortgages, credit cards and car insurance that don’t yet hold a warm place in our hearts.

Hmm. What does this mean specifically for commercial insurance? You can see why insurance companies want to take back the customer relationship and add high-touch services that might gain loyalty. But is this a losing battle? If customers fall for a fake brand, doesn’t this imply the switching costs to change insurance are low? Presumably, the consumer is rationale and ways how easy or hard it is to switch brands in each industry.

It’s easy to get a new credit card (you don’t even have to switch or shutdown).

It’s easy to switch insurance (agents take care of the process).

Mortgages seem to be harder to switch — but maybe not with the prevalence of re-financing.

And, by the way, I think this survey relied on some amateur bikers. No one is touching my Trek XO or Giant Defy bikes.

Revisiting Meditation

From the Daily Stoic:

This is why we cannot be content to simply pick up a book once and judge it by that experience. It’s why we have to read and re-read. It’s why we must linger on a number of master thinkers, as Seneca said. Because the world is constantly changing, we are changing, and therefore what we get out of those books can change. It’s not enough to read the Stoics once, you have to read them at every age, every era of your life. So too for Shakespeare and other great pieces of literature.

I have been reading and re-reading during the Pandemic.

One book that stood up upon re-read was Meditation in Plain English. It was richer, more thoughtful than I remembered. I first read this book in 2011 as I was moving from the world of BigLaw to Entrepreneurship (although I didn’t know it was called this). The fear of failure was intense. As I was walking through the streets of Washington, D.C. listening to a Merlin Mann podcast, I listened to him riff on meditation and recommend MiPE. And so I gave it a try.

Now I am back, doing my daily insight meditation.

It’s lovely.

What you read matters

Seems obvious, right?

During the pandemic, I have been trying to moderate what I read. I have found myself sucked into the same cycle: NY Times, Politico and then Twitter. and I don’t really read NAU of these sites — I just skim the headlines.

I don’t learn much. But I certainly react emotionally. It’s like a drug, the scary headlines are a dopamine hit.

As I contemplated this state, I remembered a Ryan Holiday article: Why Everyone Should Watch Less News.

The practice goes like this:

Watch less news (duh)

Be selective about the news you read

That’s it. I think that second part is tricky. Because I could very easily check NY Times and Politico and Twitter less. But this may be worse than actually reading the articles on these sites.

So I have renewed my subscription to The Economist. I like to receive the print edition. It’s a slightly center-right publication that covers US and international events. I dig it.

Sunday morning

Digital Texture and Marketing Flywheels and Seth Godin and Zoom

Writing often is a good habit.

Seth Godin does it.

I was about to list other daily writers. But let’s just focus on Seth Godin and the amazing flywheel that he has created. Because his flywheel completely distracted me from the original point of this post (“daily writing is good!”).

I read his email every morning. In fact, the reason I jumped over to WordPress and started my daily blogging habit just now was because I was reading his daily email.

Then I started typing this blog post and I jumped over to the Seth Godin website to grab a link for the second sentence above. When I did that, I saw his newest book, This is Marketing. I realized that this book would be perfect for a big-ish project I am about to start working on. So I ordered a copy of the hardbound edition for $15 (strangely, the paperback is $19).

All of this reminds me of a concept that has been bouncing around in my marketing brain: Digital Texture. Seth Godin may be the best example of Digital Texture in the world.

There has been a massive movement to the digital world as a result of COVID-19. The most obvious example is meetings. I have done hundreds of Zoom meetings over the last six months in place of in-person meetings.

Zoom meetings are flat, both literally and figuratively. Literally, you see a screen, with other little screens, and human heads displayed on those screens. Sound comes out of your computer speakers or headphones; one particular screen containing a human head flashes to indicate who is speaking (so you are not groping about to identify the speaker).

There is a limit to how much of this flat digital world our brain can handle before it becomes weary of the process.

Zoom meetings are also flat, figuratively. This is because of the aforementioned weary brains. I did not realize my Zoom weariness (and the weariness I was causing others) until I read through (yes, him again) Seth’s Rules for Zoom. I was failing on nearly every single one of these rules.

The point is that we have moved to digital, but we have not yet made digital a textured world, one in which we want to engage in. Zoom is just a one-way street. A textured digital world is the one Seth Godin has created, with blog posts, daily emails, courses, books, digital books, etc.

Eventually the rest of the world will catch up to Seth. Maybe COVID-19 hastened this catch up process?

Everybody’s gotta eat

This is an online journal, of sorts. I am going to keep ideas here, develop thoughts. So if someone wants to follow that messy journey, they can.

Everybody’s gotta eat is a quote that has stuck with me for over ten years. I was a young attorney working for a partner. He summoned me to his office to talk about a claim stemming from a contract in the Middle East. He informed me that there was no signed, formal contract as this was abnormal in the Middle East.

“How can you do work without a contract?” I wondered aloud.

“Everyone’s gotta eat,” the partner responded.

One of the ideas that I am particularly focused on right now is social inflation. The phrase stems from a 1975 Berkshire Hathaway letter in which Warren Buffet blamed social inflation for poor insurance performance. Buffet describes it like this:

“Social” inflation caused the liability concept to be expanded continuously, far beyond limits contemplated when rates were established—in effect, adding coverage beyond what was paid for. Such social inflation increased significantly both the propensity to sue and the possibility of collecting mammoth jury awards for events not previously considered statistically significant in the establishment of rates.”

Warren Buffett

So is this an insurance scapegoat? Or is there more to social inflation?