Thursday, August 07, 2014

Confessions of a failed author #7


We tend to rage against those who close doors on our noses, effectively blocking us from passage. Effectively what they're doing is putting a barrier in our way.  Trapping us.  Preventing us from emerging in the world.  It can feel frustrating. Sometimes it can feel pretty unfair, especially when riding on all that commitment are a lot of personal hopes, prayers and loyalties.  What do you get in exchange for your work ethic?  For your commitment? A kick in the teeth.

But what if you channel that energy - and even that anger - into some DIY?  You know what I've found, almost no one has higher standards than I do.  So I give everyone a hard time, and a lot of people don't really like that.  What very, very few people see is that high standards are the difference between champions and also rans.  High standards are what make or break not only people, but companies, brands, and ideas.

In other words, high standards are an asset.

Most people don't have the time, or wherewithal or even the vision to come up with standards.  They might have to write a rule book in order to remember them.  For others, that level of being ANAL is automatic.  Perfectionism is good, just not that great when it comes to relationships.  And catastrophic when it comes to romantic relationships.  You just can't audit people the way you might apply standards to say a document, or a design.

In any case, what happened with me was I found myself in a horrible position earlier this year.  Horrible in the sense that I had blown a ton of money driving 8000km through Namibia, and another ton flying to London and back for my...what shall we call it...Climate Change: Adventures in Abstraction.  The trip through Namibia actually took place just as fuel prices reached their zenith.  They've come down a little since then.  But to give you an idea, it's August now.  I traveled to Nam in September last year.  It's roughly a year and 20 000km later and I haven't serviced my car since then.  I've simply been too poor.  Well, scratch that, I will probably service my car in the next week or two.  Because I'm doing a lot better than I was a few months ago.

Perhaps not quite well enough to go to the dentist...

But well enough to order a dessert when I eat out, rather than just the main course (as I did last night).

But, I digress.

The reason I made a deal with...let's call them X.com...was for the security of a retainer.  I wanted a stable income, and I was prepared to bust my butt for a while for the privilege.  And I thought I could get good PR out of it, and monetise certain aspects, such as shooting models on a continuous basis (which is something I do a fair bit of anyway).  Plus, I thought I'd enjoy the work.  It was my kind of work, for a male audience.

So I had committed to churning out about R15 000 worth of work for R3000 a month.  It was an offer X.com couldn't refuse.  But then what happened was I noticed they were uploading my work with a lot of mistakes.  Not mistakes from me, formatting errors.  Text jumbling and sort of bumping against itself.  I'd email the editors and ask them to fix it so I could share it on social media (and get my PR show on the road).  But then I'd email again and again, then I'd highlight in yellow the mistakes.  In the end, it took about a week to fix a single article.

It took these same Yahoos several months to launch their site.  And the mistakes just kept on coming.  You can forgive a few as birthpains but eventually you start to notice, Hell, are you guys doing anything on that side?  If so, what are you doing?

I eventually got a call, and I bitched about doing 99% of the work (which I was happy to do) - the bitching part was that the 1% - from them - wasn't happening.  Here's the amazing thing.  The person on the other side was sort've saying, you're right, we have 1% to do, and we kind of  have a lot going on so give us a break.  So do you mind if we sort've don't do our 1%...and we're paying you a salary so butt out.

There was a bit of reasoning going on and then I got reminded about my lack of manners.  I always find that interesting.  When we talk about work, and who is doing what, and what isn't being done, and then the argument comes down to one's tone.  I was also told there were dozens of other people they could use instead of me....and that's when something clicked. Really?  I'm expendable?

You know what, if you don't get a bit excited about your time being wasted, your work being undermined - wasted - then maybe you don't value your time, or your life much.  I don't know.

But I suddenly had a revelation.  I suddenly realised - you know what?  My standards are so much higher than yours, and I am going to go nuts frogmarching you to each mistake you make and taking you like a horse to water, to your own fuckups.  So you know what?  I'm not going to cast my pearls before...  You get the picture.

So I told them to fucking take all my content (basically 80% of their site, and all their top stories) and said take it all down.  Game Over.  Good bye, have a nice day.

And at that point I was actually satisfied to simply say hey, no biggie, I can make the income I wasn't making with them through a SINGLE magazine article.  I just need to send one or two extra pitches a week.  Problem solved.  But then I saw how excited all the girls were getting by having their pictures and stories placed on a credible platform.  And I felt bad for them.  And then I heard news of an IT dude friend of mine that had moved back to SA from Seoul...and it hit me...why don't I do this myself?  I have a huge competitive advantage in that:

1. I have an enormous archive of stories, interviews, contacts and other networks (including social)
2. I have a huge amount of experience on the web (this blog is one example, approaching 1.5 million hits)
3. I have massive stock in terms of girl photos, and also a huge network of Facebook friends that I can draw upon, people that know me etc.
4. I have a postgraduate diploma in marketing and brand management that I've been waiting to put to practical use.
5. I have an economics degree and a lot of commercial experience in term of what corporates want, how they want exposure, leverage
6. I have a lot of corporate clients that....hmmmm....

And so I reckoned, DIY it is.

All I needed was a designer. So I asked my network for some help and I was quickly referred to a dude that lives around the corner from me, Christo.  Within a blink we had our core team of techies, CMS gurus and content-kings, and a few days later other people (here and around the world) were willing to contribute.  For free!  And so basically, what took X.com the better part of 8 months to launch, took us less than a month.  Closer to three weeks.

And we've done so with virtually no errors, and arguably a much better, and slicker site. Here's our logo.


 We're already on twitter, @frican_MAN and on Facebook at South African MAN.  In a single day we've accumulated over 60 70 likes. Yesterday one of our Tweets was retweeted over 30 times.

I've already received a bunch of emails congratulating me (well, us) on a superlative product,  I have to say, Christo and Brian have really delivered.  Job done guys, and now, with the template in place, I have treasure troves of content (which costs us nothing) to load.

Meanwhile I see X.com, since I left them, are advertising a free shoot in exchange for random unknowns to send them pictures.  You know what?  If you were FHM (which sadly is no more) you could try that.  But a totally unknown website asking girls to send them selfies...is already dodgy.  Worse, that's what you're going to get.  95% of the emails you get will have photos that aren't worth crap.  But hey, good luck with that.  What was that about having a dozen other people you could replace me with?  [Very loud echoing LOL].

Meanwhile, this is going to be where it's at.  Check out how nice and clean and integrated the design is:




Lekker ne!

And why this is such an exciting project for me is because it's part of my job to accumulate this genre of content.  I'm doing it all the time.  I have enormous amounts of behind-the-scenes stories that no one ever gets to hear about - and often these stories are more interesting than the stories themselves (believe it or not).

So I wish my former employer all the luck in the world. No really. I think they are going to need it.  I am sorry that, just before I left them, I introduced them to two key clients of mine, but at least it wasn't a dozen clients or more.  And I reckon if those same clients are given a choice, to go with them, or to go with us, I'm pretty sure I know what they'd do.  I know what I would do.  Simple.

 I'd go with the guys with the highest standards.

Now, there is a lesson in this.  What was it? [Snaps fingers...]

Oh ja! Ever heard of a guy called Jobs?  Yes, he has had high standards.  He made life hell for practically everyone (including himself).  And sure, you need to live a little sometimes, and let go.  With work though, you need to maintain focus, if you want to succeed, and you need to maintain standards.  (It also helps if you have standards to begin with).

Anyway, Jobs wasn't the easiest guy to work with.  And he wasn't perfect either.  But, at the end of the day, he was a difficult bastard, and a shit, and a doos, and he told everyone what to do...and it was his way or the highway...and some people told him to go to FUCKING hell, and others wanted to work with him and tried to work with him...and a few stuck by him.  And guess what happened?  This asshole created the world's most valuable company.  And guess what his psychology was?  THINK DIFFERENT.

You know what else?  He said we're not going to be like Microsoft.  We're not going to be another Microsoft.  We're going to follow our own path, and do what we do, better.  Do better, be better.  And that's how you do it.

All I have to do is hold thumbs my engine is gonna be good for the next 5000km, but maybe I don't need to hope.  I've worked hard these last few weeks and I couldn't be happier.  It's not all about money, but I'm also not working for my health.  The amazing thing when you are self employed and activated by your own vision, and passion (and not some prick reminding you of your manners and your piss-ant 'salary') - which steals and sabotages your energy in a heartbeat, the amazing thing is how much you can do.  And how much energy buzzes in you that allows you to work at speed, with focus, and with sassiness.  When you flow like that, no one can hold you back. And the world is your oyster.  And you can do with your pearls whatever the hell you want.

Incidentally my last eBook, the 4th in the Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial series, will be available at Amazon (at this link) as from noon on Friday, 8th August 2014.  Please don't order it now as the last chapter is still being edited. Yes, I forgot to mention while we were building this site I was also writing another book, as well as continuing with other projects, my magazine work and shoots.  The last shoot I did was last Sunday...pretty cool too...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I did not see your comment that the final chapter in Book 4 is not yet ready. I bought the book on amazon on the 7th. Is there any way I can get the last chapter. The book will be incomplete without it.
I have read the first three and have nothing but praise for your honest and analytical approach. This is a refreshing change from the MSM. I was beginning to feel I had disappeared down the rabbit hole. The reporting in the MSM had little in common with the events in court on a given day.
A final point I have always believed the bat, gun, kick theory. The placing of the shots appears to indicate some cracks in the door which gave a better indication of where the deceased was.
I will put a review on all 4 books on amazon when I have finished the last.
Well done

Nick van der Leek said...

I'll be happy to email you the incident. Email me at nickvanderleek[at][gmail][dot][com]