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13 For ‘13: Thirteen Books That Can Change Your Life in 2013 (If You Actually Read Them)

Every year it’s the same thing. We start out the New Year filled with good intentions, high hopes, and a formidable list of life-changing resolutions. And for an indomitable few, those resolutions result in positive changes and personal growth. But for the rest of us, life tends to get in the way.

Before we know it, January is over and February flies by (it’s such a short month!). Then the spring holidays come along. Then it’s summer, and… well, you know the rest. That pledge to “start tomorrow” just leads to the eventual realization that today is yesterday’s tomorrow. So, what can we do about it?

We can start today. For real. Right now.

What we need to do is go from “resolutions” to “real solutions.” And one real-life solution that really works, is easy to do, and can kick-start us into action, is to start reading. And my recommendation is to start your New Year’s reading with any one of the 13 inspirational and motivational books on this list.    Read More →

The Four Enduring Lessons I Learned from Sales Legend Zig Ziglar

Sales legend Zig ZiglarLong before others turned sales motivation into a slick, multi-channel industry, there was Zig Ziglar. Ziglar, who passed away in November, carried a bag for 25 years before he started talking about it. He was able to draw relatable lessons from real-world experience and deliver them in a memorable and folksy way.

I had the pleasure of working with Zig several times. He was a humble guy who had an incredible way with people and the ability to size up an audience and tell a story like no one else. Unlike so many others, you could remember what Zig said the next day. In a world of blowhards and phonies, Zig was the genuine article. I’ll miss him.

Zig taught me many things. And while, at least on the surface, the lessons were about sales and marketing, I’ve found that they apply to almost every facet of business and life. After all, what is sales if not an exercise in human connection?    Read More →

10 A/B Testing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

An early attempt at Agile developmentAfter a decade in Product Development at Shutterstock and Beatport, I’ve performed a ton of A/B tests. Some were great. Others weren’t so great. But each one taught me something valuable, and each one made me better at what I do. I’m surrounded by some really smart people, but we’ve still had to stumble our way through some of these hard lessons because what seems intuitive is not always your winner. With that in mind, here’s something I wish I had started with years ago: a pragmatic list of lessons learned the hard way.

No two products are the same, so the tests we’ve run won’t work for your business. So instead of including details around specific tests, this list focuses on core principles that will help others succeed in testing. Have fun!    Read More →

Marko Hurst: Meet the Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to Bytes

Marko Hurst, Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to BytesIf you’re a regular reader of The Hired Guns blog, you’ve probably seen us lament the fact that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is hovering around a woeful 10%. You’ve probably also heard that we’ve decided to do something about it. Enter Boots to Bytes: A Digital Re-Skilling Program for Returned Vets in NYC. We’re taking recently returned vets and pairing them with mentors who have established digital careers. But we could never do this alone. Fortunately, there’s Marko Hurst. Marko is an entrepreneur, content strategist, data analyst, and a former Marine. He’s also going to be the Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to Bytes. We talked with Marko about the program, as well as the difficulties of transitioning from the military to a civilian career.

What led to your decision to the join the military? And why the Marines?
There were two things, really. The first was the pull of adventure and the desire to see the world and to be part of something bigger than myself. The second reason was that I knew I wasn’t ready to go to college right out of high school. I was a good kid, but I knew that I needed discipline. A lot of people chafe under military discipline, but I actually welcomed it.    Read More →

How to Avoid Completely Humiliating Yourself at the Company Holiday Party

Holiday Office Party, 1966: Very, very boozyIs there any other time of year that’s more festive and fun than the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years? The twinkling lights, the aroma of evergreen in the air, the promise of prezzies under the tree, and if you’re lucky, plenty of parties.

The youngsters reading this probably don’t remember, but back in the old days, companies used to splurge on holiday parties. They’d rent out entire clubs or restaurants, hire a caterer, give you a bonus, the whole nine. These days, most have cut back a little (or a lot). Many won’t let you bring a partner, and some even feature that most heinous innovation, the cash bar. Regardless of whether your company’s going all out or just throwing a potluck at the boss’s house, here are a few rules to ensure you’ll still have your job come Monday morning.    Read More →

Managing Creatives: An Owner’s Manual

Cover of 1981 DeLorean Owners ManualManaging creative people is both the best and the scariest job I’ve ever had. On some days I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. On other days, I feel like I’ve gone nine rounds with Sybil. To become a decent manager, I read management books, watched what my bosses did (and didn’t do), and tried to figure out how I’d like to be managed.

The common thread here is that people want to know what’s going on and where they stand. Most people want to contribute to a team and feel like they’re doing something useful, if not important. Usually people want to like their bosses and be liked by them in return, even though it doesn’t always work out that way.

This led me to write down my learnings as an operating guide for me. I share it with all my team members because it has more lasting value as a document than as a conversation. Most of those I’ve worked with will tell you that I’m about the straightest shooter they’ve ever met. I mean what I say and I’m consistent over time. I hope this can help you get in touch with your inner manager and make your working life easier and happier.    Read More →

Hey Congress: We The People Want Jobs. Don’t Screw It Up

Over the Fiscal CliffLast Friday, the November jobs numbers came out and the jobless rate hit a 4-year low of 7.7%. Huzzah! While we should be slapping high fives all around, each and every one of us knows how fragile this recovery is and just how easily we can be dragged kicking and screaming back into a recession. Everyone, that is, except Congress; as we approach the fiscal cliff, their dallying and political gamesmanship threatens to stall economic growth and job creation for the first quarter of 2013, if not beyond.

That’s why I’m about to clue them in. Hope you don’t mind.    Read More →

Betting On Mobile in the Workplace: The Coming Change in How We Work

Pile of tablets, Droids, iPhones, iPadsThis article originally appeared on Wyatt Jenkins Product Jazz.

Mobile is reinventing how people work by moving previously complex tasks to smaller portable devices. This work process reinvention is one of my bets on where to place your development resources in the next few years. Lets review the facts illustrating the changes we’ve seen recently.    Read More →

What We’re Reading: Wednesday, December 5

  • Verizon has filed a patent for an in-living-room device allowing them to deliver targeted ads based on viewers’ activities. The patent application actually includes the word “cuddling.” via CBS

    big brother is watching you

    And he wants to sell you things

  • The manufacturing sector has shown surprising growth over the past few months with giants like General Electric acting as the tip of the spear in bringing those jobs back to the US. via The Atlantic
  • Citigroup will cut 11,000 jobs — an overall workforce reduction of almost 4% — and write down $1B as it continues to shrink. via New York Times
  • It’s not quite the clunky, beloved calculator watch of old, but it’s still pretty neat: meet Casio’s new iPhone-loving, Bluetooth-enabled Smart Watch. via TechCrunch
  • Five seriously good tips for helping newspapers transition into the Tablet Era. via Editor & Publisher


Mary Ann Vanterpool: Entrepreneur, Career Changer, and Extraordinary Cat Sitter

Extraordinary Cat SitterHere at The Hired Guns, we’ve got a boatload of interesting people doing interesting things. We like to profile them now and again because we think they’re neat. And because this is the Internet, we’re pretty much required to have something about cats. Lucky for us, there’s Mary Ann Vanterpool. A few years back, Mary Ann — a long-time event coordinator for New York’s storied Copacabana nightclub — decided that the time had come for a drastic career change. She left event management behind and now owns and operates Extraordinary Cat Sitter, the premier in-home cat care service in Manhattan’s Upper West side. Sure, it’s not exactly a digital career, but Mary Ann knows a lot about following your passion and building a successful business. And cats.

Before you became a cat sitter, you had a long career in event management. Did you start there?
Almost, but not quite. I started my professional life as a secretary at Lehman Brothers. It was a very different workplace back then. If you were a secretary, you essentially floated from boss to boss until someone decided they liked you. I worked for the three stock brokers there before I eventually landed with the vice president of a certain cosmetics company. That turned out to be a real Devil Wears Prada situation. I didn’t last long there.    Read More →

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