Categories
communities Content Neuroscience

Building a buzzing (+ kind) community

This week: Community polyamory. Ness Labs’ success – how to build, grow and nurture your network; creating deeper connections; the evolution of digital behaviour; how the use of the internet is causing us to lose empathy; Freelance Business Month: the future of work as open talent.

Happy October! I’ve signed up for Sungod’s Strava challenge – runs or rides every Sunday in October to get as much daylight as possible before the clocks change on 31 October 😱

Excellent performance sunnies and a growing online community – a brand to watch.

Speaking of communities, I’ve been exploring as many as I can lately, and the one I keep coming back to is Ness Labs. It’s inspiring to see how Anne-Laure has built a buzzing, kind community and worth a look at why it works. Read her AMA with Product Hunt here.

Growing a newsletter and a website to 35K subscribers and 100K visitors per month in 2 years. AMA👇

Ness LabsEvidence-based content around productivity, creativity, mental health and knowledge management. 2K community members.

AL now has two full-time employees and hires freelance writers via Upwork. Her main source of revenue is sponsored interviews and paid memberships. She does a bit of 1:1 coaching but says that’s negligible. 

It’s interesting to see how she’s done it in a crowded space of personal development and productivity. Some thoughts on why it works…

Building a kind community 

  • A personal journey: Anne-Laure loves learning in public and shares her successes and failures openly. She’s active in the community with regular Q&As. I’m curious to follow her progress and happy to support a creator. Personal onboarding is a nice touch, and sharing content on a closed platform gives a sense of psychological safety. It’s interesting to see most people have their cameras on during workshops, which creates intimacy.
  • Great value for money: it’s ridiculously cheap compared to other online communities. I paid $35 to access a growing library of content and community. AL says the biggest surprise was people writing to her telling her to increase the price and gifting memberships. 
  • Values of kindness and pay it forward: People are engaged, generous and want to be seen, and it’s down to the topics she’s exploring – personal development, mental health and creativity. It’s not overly self-promotional – there have been a few posts lately from coaches, so she’s created a coaching directory/channel where they can promote their services at no extra charge.
  • Content-first approach: I like the Circle platform – it’s simple, easy to use, minimal friction. The focus is on high-quality content that’s easy to find. It’s organised by channel so you can follow your interests, contribute topics and connect with members.

    *Creator Spark* is a new space where members can host a talk or moderate a panel in a safe, supportive space (people said they felt shy about sharing their stuff). It’s a shame we’ve been conditioned to see sharing our work as boasting and bragging – it causes so many hangups. You have to get your work out there on different platforms: 50% writing, 50% marketing.

    Emotional and informational content works!
  • Online and offline meetups around the world. I’ve signed up for the London event on 18 October, so meeting some of the community in person will be interesting.
  • The zeitgeist – Ness Labs has grown organically during lockdown – we all need connection. It’s also tapping into the current mood – the great resignation, a power shift to the creator, working smarter, not harder, and mental health and burnout at work.

People have set up sub-groups on and off-platform – a sign of a healthy community. I’ve joined the Newsletter Mastermind – an active Twitter group and weekly Zoom.

My only criticism is there’s too much good content in the newsletter! I don’t have time to read all the articles in one go, so I bookmark stuff to come back to (my Pocket is sagging) This can be demotivating – sometimes less is more. I’m mindful of that with this newsletter and being respectful of people’s time.

What communities do you find useful – and how do you make the most of them? 

I carry a notebook around with me for ideas, quotes and things I’m curious about so I can build up a bank of content. I need to get ahead rather than writing last minute. Taking publishing breaks in August and at Xmas gives me time to catch up.

I love online communities but I need my local tribes too. I’m on a mission to turn Hastings into a tech hub. I left London 14 years ago – part of the second wave of regeneration and we have the third wave with the pandemic. It’s good to see new faces, startups and energy – I love all that. Hearing a few moans about how “it’s all gone too far” and property prices…


🔗🖐5 Things 

☁️ Rosie Sherry on how communities are cool again and everybody wants to own a (profitable) one. The tools exist to make it happen but it gets complicated, messy and fragmented pretty easily. I’m using WordPress and Substack and have held back on the community aspect for this reason. I don’t want to complicate things with more platforms. The best and most impactful communities are custom-built like Nomadlist – something we need to talk about more.

🌱 Building, Growing & Nurturing a Kind Community: Q&A with Anne-Laure from Ness Labs. Whether you run a community or are thinking of starting one, here are some solid community-building tips and strategies based on her experiences. Friendliness, the personal touch and psychological safety are important and interactive events that bring people together.

🕵🏻‍♀️ Tribes, Flocks, and Single Servings – the evolution of digital behaviour by Rahaf Harfoush. Nice work creating a visual framework to help her capture the spaces she’s tracking. The interesting bit is the overlap and changes that occur. Rahaf is my go-to for digital culture analysis – Hustle & Float is excellent.

🤔 How the internet is causing us to lose empathy by Eli Baum – written in 2014 but still super relevant – why are we not talking about this more in MSM? Empathy is valuable and the fact it’s declining is alarming – we need people skills, useful products and deeper connections. We can’t slow down tech but we can get the story out to promote change and be mindful of it in ourselves – do the EQ test.

👩‍💻 Freelance Business Month – the largest global event for freelancers. Talks on the future of freelancing, starting and growing your business, freelancing in Europe, the future of work as open talent and more. Learn new skills, speak, and connect with the community – founded by the amazing Elina Jutelyte who is totally on it and open to collaboration. Programme and registration here – there are a few free tickets left.

I’ll be there!

Nicci


I’m a digital writer studying UX and content design – a badass life path 🙂

My mission:

• Making delightful digital products that improve people’s lives.

• Bringing more humanity and creativity to business and technology.

• Solving your problems using better communications – data-driven writing and design thinking skills.

The Shift is my lab where I explore digital culture, creativity, mindful productivity and independent work. I have a ‘pay what you can’ model – you can buy me a coffee or make a regular contribution to support what I do via my Ko-fi page.

Want to talk? Find me online at Polywork, Twitter @niccitalbot or email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build a forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌱 🌳

Categories
future of work Neuroscience Portfolio careers Wellness

Tame your inner critic🙄

I’ve joined a Newsletter Mastermind, and ‘not feeling ready’ came up on this week’s call. “I’m on my 100th issue, and it’s the same every time – the day before it goes out, and I still don’t know what I’m going to write about. Yet somehow, every week, it gets pushed over the finishing line.” It turned into a discussion on how to be ‘inner critic ready’ led by @ReddyToGo – he’s the man.

I said I’m the same. Working on things last minute (writing this on Saturday night) or running late. I had an argument with a friend once about my lateness, and she said: “It’s because you don’t feel ready.” She was right. I was trying to do too much – hustling hard in London at that time. It’s probably the most helpful thing anyone’s said to me. 

Tame your inner critic

The inner critic mixes negative critical comments from our parents, siblings, peers, and teachers when we were growing up. It isn’t a bad thing, says writer and author Jennifer Nelson“Researchers agree that a little self-awareness can be a reality check, but a constant barrage of self trash-talk is debilitating.”

In her talk on listening to shame, Brene Brown says it relies on you buying into it – tell yourself something often enough, and you’ll eventually believe it to be true. “Shame needs three things to percolate: secrecy, silence and perception of judgement.” 

It can be an issue for portfolio professionals as we’re working on short term projects in new environments with different teams. You’re expected to hit the ground running, be an expert and produce good work quickly. But each project is different and team dynamics and nuances take a while to figure out. You’re learning as you go and you make mistakes. You also have to put yourself out there, pitching for gigs, negotiating rates and dealing with rejection.

The inner critic is a feature of the tricky brain. Unfortunately, we can’t fire them, but they can be an extra rather than centre-stage…


Some strategies to help you deal with your inner critic

(and have a better, more productive relationship with yourself)

  • Give them a name. There are two actors in constant conversation – the nurturer and the critic. Mine is called Nancy. She’s an out of work theatre critic (failed actress, really) who never has a good word to say about anyone, except Cliff Richard. She’s 6”2, wears heels, diamante and a purple wig (a bit Dame Edna). Except she always wears black. @readyforthefuneral. She’s had no work during the pandemic and is taking her frustrations out on me. My nurturers are the Caring Committee – Spock, Jarvis, Oprah, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Mr Miyagi, Gandalf, Sean Bean, & Ted Hastings, who rally around to big me up. Never a dull day! It helps me distance myself from the drama and be a calm witness. 
  • Be mindful. The cure is empathy, says Brene. Say to yourself, “I understand, but those thoughts aren’t true.” And replace ‘I can’t’ with ‘I might’. Notice negative thoughts when they come up and write them down. Look for moments in the day when others see the effort you’ve made. Write them down. If the conversation is getting a bit one-sided, I know I’m tired and need a break. 
  • Stop ruminating – I had some negative feedback on a piece of copy this week. It wasn’t quite right, so we had to redo it after a call with the client. A bit disappointing as it’s a new gig and I wanted to make a good impression. I felt a bit flat, thinking about what I could have done better. But I’ve only been on the job for two days and don’t have much context. I let myself replay it for a bit, then distracted myself with something else: went for a walk and watched something on Netflix. Learn and let go.
  • Set deadlines – No over-editing and over-researching, i.e. procrastinating. Anne-Laure at Ness Labs says she only edits her articles once before publishing them. The aim is to get the conversation started and tweak things based on feedback. I like that. Nothing is set in stone online. 
  • Dress smarter – it’s easier to silence your inner critic when you’re looking sharp and feeling good. We had a good discussion at TPC this week on personal branding, and this came up. Fiona’s tip: Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. She’s also big on ‘fake it till you make it.’ 
  • Finding your why – LA-based writer, activist and wellness expert Katie Horwitch says the inner critic is a filler for uncertainty about your purpose. Get clear on the common thread in all you do and what you’re offering the world. What’s your story? Workshop it. It’s easier to do this with others than on your own. Others see things in you that you don’t. 

Nancy and I had a bust-up this week. She went off on one when I told her about the project feedback. Then I mentioned my podcast idea – interviewing hip hop entrepreneurs about their lives and work, and she sighed and rolled her eyes. “You don’t have the time, energy or contacts for that. You’re not in that world! Forget it, darling!” 

“Don’t patronise me. That’s the point. I don’t want to interview people like me. We have enough echo chambers out there….I want to do something different. ” 

We’re going for tea with the committee later, so let’s see what they have to say about it.  

She’s not coming on holiday with me (not till she apologises anyway). 


5 things🖐

👩‍💻LinkedIn Marketplace (launching Sept) – a new service for freelancers. Connect with employers, showcase your services, and do deals directly via the platform (initially focusing on design, marketing and software development). Good to see Microsoft investing in developing a bigger content platform with Creator mode, Services, Open to Work, trending stories. A bit of competition for Fiverr and Upwork.

✍️And some great tips from Ben Legg, CEO & Co-founder of The Portfolio Collective, on how to make the most of LinkedIn. Interesting comments on ageism. Noted and actioned! Thanks to Claire Moss for sending her notes. 

👨🏽‍🎤Personal branding. How do you make yourself stand out from a sea of competition? What makes you memorable? It’s much more than your logo. A deep dive into finding your why with brand gurus Fiona Chorlton-Voong and Alex Pitt. More on the inner critic and celebrating your differences. Inspiring to hear Alex’s story on launching her branding agency, Strange. 

💰Self-belief, reinvention and hard work: How to earn £100k+ as a freelance journalist. “I did it. So why not you? I had an end game, creativity and a pathological inability to take “No” for an answer.” Andrew Don on his 40-year journalistic career, self-belief and reinvention in his new book: The Bounty Hunter. His 10 essential ingredients to help you make serious money as a freelancer. 

🇮🇹All the Voices of the NUJ – a project helping international writers who are new to the UK by matching them up with a member who speaks their language. The guest speaker was John Worne, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, who talked about the joy and pleasure of languages. He flagged a few issues members have raised – it’s sad to hear languages aren’t being prioritised in the UK curriculum.

I’m trying to learn French and Italian, and Nancy pipes up frequently with her helpful comments. Along with my secondary school French teacher, Mrs Marchant, who told me not to do it at A-Level as I’d struggle. A fascinating chat about how being bilingual can put you in two minds: having different personalities in each language, and not taking it too seriously. Play with it and have a go🇮🇹


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a successful minimalist business. Start living and working on your own terms🚀 Your weekly dose of inspiration, ideas and solutions.

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To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍

Categories
digital health Neuroscience technology Wellness

The Shift: How to build a life 😍

How to build a life 

In my 20s, I left a journalism job in Peterborough to freelance in London. I wanted to work on women’s magazines and thought I’d be happy once I got my dream job in the big city. The reality was quite different. Precarious work on low pay was stressful. When I landed shifts on glossy titles, I didn’t enjoy working in an all-female environment that felt competitive. I wasn’t very happy but I stuck at it – living the dream, right? I’d be happy once I was sorted with a proper job and a home. Then I could relax and enjoy London for all it has to offer.

I now prioritise my happiness and realise it’s a skill we can work on. I can’t control my thoughts or the outcome of my pitches and projects, but I can control how I spend my time. Rituals and habits are the building blocks of my day. I do the Writers’ Hour with London Writer’s Salon and a walk/run. I thought having a routine and doing the same things every day would stifle my creativity but I think you can boost creativity through constraints – as long as they are the right ones that make you happy (for me, that’s working remotely and being around for Julieta, and having a studio space I love).

The challenge is to stop thinking I can be happy by being busy. Trying to do too much leads to time poverty, which means I don’t get joy from anything. So, being mindful about how I’m working and creating little moments of joy to boost my energy and bringing that to others. Yesterday, I told a friend I love her to bits and I’m happy she’s in my life. It made me feel great (and her too). I need to do this more often, as well as writing down the things I’m grateful for.

What’s the secret to happiness? After looking at thousands of studies Arthur C Brooks, author of How to Build A Life concludes enduring happiness comes from human relationships, productive work, and the transcendental elements of life.

Make a list of the attachments in your life you need to discard. Then make a plan to do just that. The fewer wants there are searching inside your brain and dividing your attention, the more peace and satisfaction will be left for what you already have.

I’m getting rid of stuff that doesn’t bring me joy.

Enjoy this issue 🙂


Tools for thought 

😍Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions: Joy and Tranquility – bringing together voices from across cultural, scientific and spiritual fields to reflect on happiness. All very timely – how do we rebuild happiness for our current times?

🎞Short of the Week: Steve Cutt’s Happiness. The story of a rodent’s quest for happiness and fulfilment through the tropes and traps of modern society. The dehumanising effects of capitalism and consumer culture. Surely his best film to date 🙂 Soooo much juicy detail in the background.

🧠Ness Labs – Build a lab for your mind with neuroscience-based content and conversations. How to practice unbounded learning, self-education, a library of content, a weekly book club – expand your antilibrary. Co-working sessions and meetups with a brilliant community.

👀 How to help your kids be responsible digital citizens, from a tech exec (and mom). When you give a child their first smartphone, don’t send them into the digital world unprepared. Practical tips (and a template) from Jennifer Zhu Scott on how to be a digitally responsive citizen and make smart choices – whatever your age.

📕Sarah Hawley’s biggest project to date is Growmotely, an all-in-one global platform for remote hiring. Brilliant podcast: Conscious Culture – The Evolving Future of Work. ‘We’re just warming up so I imagine it’s going to get juicier and juicier!’ I’m also enjoying her new book: Conscious Leadership – A Journey From Ego to Heart.

Have a great weekend 🌈

Nicci 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work and play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
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To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍