My Dale Carnegie Experiments

Like millions before me I read How to win friends and influence people and was blown away by the power of this book. I can’t believe that I haven’t read it until recently and feel like I have wasted some precious opportunities to optimise certain situations in life.

I did feel at some points though that some of these case studies were too good to be true. Some of the stories in the book were just incredible and felt almost fictional at times. I finished the book with two questions: Will this work for me? and How can I optimise my life whilst also optimising the lives of those around me?

I decided to put Dale’s teachings to good use and start experimenting with new approaches to every day situations. I like to call these my ‘Dale Carnegie experiments’ and will update this series as time goes on☺

The Fish and Chip experiment

Here in the UK Fish and Chip shops are very popular especially on a Friday night! After a super fun day working with the Buffer team I ravenously trawled through various take-away sites to order fish and chips for Elly and I.

Expected delivery time: 45+ minutes.. Damn it. What could I do?

I then remembered a fascinating chapter in the book where Dale Carnegie explains the principle of “Giving the other person a fine reputation to live up to”.

This got me thinking.

Once I had ordered the food I was left with the ‘delivery notes’ box at the end and decided to put a different spin on it.

Instead of typing “Please deliver to Carpark 3” I instead wrote “Hi! Please deliver the food to carpark 3. I loved your fish and chips last time I ordered and can’t wait to eat them! ☺

25 minutes later I got a phone call from the delivery driver. Not only was this 20 minutes earlier than anticipated by I was received by the owner of the chip shop himself. He got out of the car with a huge smile and gave me a MASSIVE plastic bag. “I have given you a few extras” he said as he handed it to me. He had indeed given us lots of extras and we couldn’t eat it all!

Damn. Not only had I received an excellent level of service but I had made this gentleman genuinely proud of his trade. He had gone above and beyond for me just because I mentioned that his food tasted great last time. This was a win-win I think and both parties left this feeling great about themselves ☺

Losing money with Airbnb

I LOVE Airbnb. I use it religiously whenever I travel and have been a super fan since it first launched in the UK.

About 6 weeks ago, I requested an Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen only to have my request turned down by the host because of an overbooking. I then proceeded to have a bout of bad luck with the following 2 hosts having the same issue. No one was to blame here it was just part of the game ☺

I did find however that every time I made a request, the full price for my trip was withdrawn from my account despite the trips never happening. By doing this 3 times I had $1000+ missing and no apartment.

I couldn’t afford to have this money in escrow for a couple of weeks so decided to reach out to their support team. I thought to myself “what would Dale Carnegie do in this situation?”. In the past I might have complained angrily and demanded my money back but what would that achieve?

“try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view”

These words made me realise that anger, disappointment or any kind of negativity would only make the situation worse. When I reached out via livechat I made sure to compliment Airbnb on their wonderful service before raising my problem as a ‘mere mishap’.

A lovely lady called Su got back to me almost immediately and I could tell that she was really happy to help me. She gave me her personal contact details over live chat and spent the following 3 days being incredibly helpful. Su would follow up with me daily and every interaction between us was full of smiles and words of kindness.

Su does a fantastic job for a fantastic company so why should I make her feel bad about her day? Mistakes happen and looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Thanks Su wherever you are in the world ☺

My learnings

These are just a couple of examples of how simple changes in my approach to situations have been hugely successful for all parties involved.

I am excited to share more stories with you as I find new and better ways to deal with people. I am trying to leave no room for resentment and negativity despite being quite an emotional chap!

I am sure that Dale (RIP) would be thrilled to witness the fruits of his labours even on such a small scale. This book has given me a new approach to life and I think that we all strive to please those around us as much as we want to please ourselves. I reckon books like this help motivate us to put these wonderful thoughts into action ☺

Thanks for reading!

Simple ways to drive more app downloads

Having worked with a couple of apps in the past including Static and Buffer (my current role), I have seen that seemingly tiny and insignificant tweaks to your app listing can make a huge impact on downloads.

The chart below shows the number of apps available in leading app stores as of July 2015. As you can see there are LOADS! This makes it clear that standing out in the crowd is an increasingly difficult challenge for app marketers (especially if you are bootstrapping or on a tight budget).

app chart

Create an engaging App icon 

It might seem obvious but it’s surprising how many developers overlook this.

Today I experimented with this on an app I’m working on as a fun hobby and am excited to see if this has any impact on downloads. As you can see below, the text on the ninja’s headband is very small once you scale it down in size so it felt good to remove completely. I also felt that the icon wasn’t dynamic enough so I added a bit more colour by making the star stand out a bit more and making the eyes more prominent.

Here are the small tweaks I made to the icon design. It’s too early to tell if this will generate more downloads but I will update this as time goes on 🙂

beforeafterApp name: Another seemingly simple one.

My game was previously called “I am 360” which didn’t feel ideal. Because of the ninja icon I decided to call it ‘360 Ninja’ instead to make it sound a bit more fun. I’m not sure if this will work and only time will tell! So far a couple of reviews have mentioned Ninjas though which is encouraging 🙂

review

App screenshot images – Another key area to try and reel downloads in is the ‘screenshots’ section. Some developers choose to upload a couple of screenshots of the app in action which is great. That being said, all the top performing apps really make the most of this screen real estate to showcase features dynamically and onboard the user before they have even downloaded the app!

I love the way that Uber do this 🙂 It’s a super simple walkthrough and takes the user on a journey right from the landing page!

walkthroughLocalisation – This one feels like a no brainer! If your app is listed in 20 countries then it makes sense to localise the copy and promote your offering in each native language. If I am in London and want to buy a tube of Korean toothpaste, the last thing I want to do is brush my teeth with athletes foot cream later that evening! Localisation is super important!

This weekend I am going to go through each country listing on my developer account and translate the basic copy using Google translate. It might not be perfect but will at least give prospective users the gist 🙂 This includes copy on the images too!

These are super super basic things and I have so much to learn about this. If you are just setting out on your app journey then I hope this helped 🙂

Peace,

Tom

The beauty of a muslim funeral

Let’s face it, Islam gets a pretty bad reputation in Western media these days.
Having grown up in a White, Christian and ‘Middle class’ environment my only knowledge of islam came from the occasional reference at school and inflammatory reports in the press.

This never felt right to me.

Sure, the world has seen much bloodshed in the past 50 years and islam related voilence has been a hot topic over the past decade especially. I am finding it difficult to avoid televised ‘atrocities’ and it feels like every time I browse the news, I am being turned against Islam. Surely there is more to this than hooded jihadists executing people on liveleak?

mo post

Now I don’t want to get into a debate about politics and religion but would like to share a tragic yet beautiful experience that happened 3 years ago.
I was working at a market research call centre with my twin brother and made some wonderful mates. One of these friends was a young Somali called Mohammed or ‘Mo’ as he liked to be called.

We used to enjoy going for a drink at the harbourside after work and everyone loved this guy. It was impossible not to. He was as friendly as it gets and was always up for a laugh! He wasn’t the best employee (nor was I) and he regularly pulled ‘sickies’ after parties but even our bosses couldn’t help but like him!

We were all invited to colleague’s birthday party one Friday night and once we got to his house, it was clear that the drug vibe was pretty intense. There was all sorts going around and we soon found ourselves sat in a circle enjoying a big tin full of weed that a friend had generously provided.

I’m not gonna lie. It was a lot of fun. I had a wonderful time catching up with my closest and best friends and there was nothing but laughter and happiness in that room for several hours.
As it neared 2am we decided to head home and Mo kindly looked after us in our drunken state and rang me a couple of times on our long walk home to make sure that we were ok.

Little did I know that I would be speaking to him for the last time.
2 days later I had started a new job as the very first employee of a marketing company in Bristol and I got a message on Facebook from Mo’s cousin. He asked me if I had heard from Mo and I immediately felt that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t unusual for Mo to go on a 2/3 day bender but I was really worried.
I rang a friend at work to ask if he had heard from MO and was horrified when he said “Mo passed away on Monday night”.

The last time I had seen Mo I had given him a bottle of vodka so that he could keep partying whilst we left. I felt partly to blame and felt sick to my stomach.
Mo had died of a MDMA overdose according to the toxicology reports. Our friend group had left the party and he was the only one still there with other work colleagues and friends so we have never heard the full story of what happened that night.

It was a tough time and I had to ring every single one of my pals that knew him to tell them the bad news which was tough. My twin brother was closer to Mo than me and it really hurt him.

The Funeral

I had only ever been to christian funerals and had no idea what a muslim funeral would be like. What do I wear? What do I say? Where do I go? Mo was a bit of a ‘lone wolf’ and most of his family lived very far away around the world. All they knew was that he had died of drugs whilst being with English friends. I feel like they had every right to be furious with us.
All of these questions were racing through my head leading up to the funeral and I was blown away by the warmth and kindness of his family. His uncle led us around outside the mosque and then introduced us to Mo’s brothers, cousins and parents.

The 10 of us stuck out like a sore thumb wearing our suits. There must have been over 300 people there wearing normal clothes and it seemed like every somali in Bristol was grieving that day. Everyone was so kind and warm to us and we were taken into a small room to see Mo’s body.
It wasn’t easy looking at the dead body of your pal on a table. It really sucked. I couldn’t help but tear up and his uncle hugged me and just said “it was his time”.
There was no blame here. My own parents would have wanted to find out why this had happened yet Mo’s family accepted that he was gone and didn’t point any fingers at all despite the controversy surrounding his death.

After some prayers the coffin was loaded into a hearse and 20–30 somali taxi drivers took us to the burial ground just outside of town for free. It was incredible to see the entire community help out here and I had never seen this side of my hometown.
I did feel bad when I realised that Mo’s mother and all of the women were not allowed to go to the burial and that didn’t feel quite right to me. This is just my personal opinion and I must admit that I know very little of muslim culture.

The burial was chaotic to say the least but this was a beautiful chaos. As his coffin was lowered into the ground everyone started grabbing shovels and we collectively buried him. There were actual scuffles as men tried to grab the shovels and we were dragged around amongst the chaos so that we could help bury him.
It felt natural that everyone should contribute towards his burial and we all helped lay Mo to rest facing Mecca. This was my first ever experience of a muslim funeral and it gave me an insight into a beautiful community in Bristol that I had never seen before.

This was a tough thing to deal with as a teenager but I am grateful that I could experience another culture and since then, I have made many more wonderful muslim friends and have more of an understanding. Sure, I don’t feel aligned with certain principles however I feel the same way about all religions.
The world is dealing with some difficult situations right now and I hope that Muslim people stop getting the bad rep that the media imposes on them. It’s an incredibly small and insignificant percentage of ‘extremists’ and it seems that all religions and faith systems have gone through cycles of violence and persecution.

Islam has graced the world for 1400 years and isn’t going to disappear nor should it. History has shown us that economic factors most often play the largest role in religious conflict too. I think that with the current amazing leaps in tech innovation, growing multiculturalism and education, a more peaceful future will come to us eventually 🙂

All this being said, this is so easy for me to brood over from the comfort of this coffee shop in Warwick and I honestly know very little about the topics raised. Writing sometimes helps me to reflect and digest thoughts so I thought I would get this down on paper 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Tom

My Daily creativity challenge

One of the many amazing things about working at Buffer is the fact that I can work from the place that makes me happiest in the world. As my first ‘Bufferversary’ approaches I am reflecting on the amazing things that have happened this year and am so grateful to have done and seen the following things in 2015:

  • I got engaged to my amazing girlfriend and we got our first flat together 🙂
  • I graduated from university
  • I have explored and worked from Australia, Japan, France, Denmark, Lithuania, Iceland and Greece
  • I started playing rugby again
  • My Dale Carnegie experiments blog post got published by the Chicago Tribune
  • I have dedicated more time to writing music + so much more!

Sometimes I have to pinch myself as I realise that I am incredibly incredibly lucky. I do feel that I could do a lot more and as part of Buffer’s focus on self improvement, I am excited to kick off a new challenge for the coming months.

The daily creativity challenge: 

I feel like the creative muscle in my brain (I failed Biology at school) atrophies when I don’t make things and I have seen quite a sporadic fluctuation which doesn’t feel ideal.

I’m excited to start pushing myself to use my creativity muscle more (it’s a thing now) and as part of this I will start writing on here with my daily creative achievements. It could be anything from a design iteration on a side project or a classical composition but whatever it is, I’m keen to keep the momentum going and stay creative 🙂

pablo (11)

 

I will be updating this blog with my ramblings and am so grateful to everyone that has subscribed and left me kind words on Twitter 🙂

Cheers for reading!

Tom

Can slaying zombies online help to run a startup?

So.. We have established that this article might not be that interesting to you unless you have clocked more than 400 hours of Steam game-play and have a vitamin D deficiency. However, my nerdy brain can’t help but compare my life with the lives of the survivors in the post apocalyptic world of Left 4 Dead.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game it basically involves a team of zombie-slaying survivors banding together with the common goal of reaching a safe zone. Now, with the turbulent world of business start-ups we all want to achieve certain goals but there are countless obstacles in our way much like the swarm of blood-crazed zombies in L4D. Fair enough, most obstacles in the startup world don’t threaten us with mutilation or death but there are some dangerous threats out there. Also just to make it clear, I don’t condone the use of armed force towards other businesses (just in case).

This list outlines some of the nastier undead threats to your startup in more detail:

The Jockey

In L4D this little bastard creeps up on you and jumps onto your shoulders to steer you away from safety. In the start-up world this guy represents the loss of focus that start-ups sometimes face when trying to reach a goal. It can be real easy to start playing with new products and features before you have succeeded with your core product. A friend of mine would often scream in rage when I deviated from the safety of the path to look for ‘fancier’ weapons.

This sheds light on one of my biggest personal challenges. I often found myself running before I could properly walk which sometimes led to a burn-out or an unexplained result. Working on a new project would often get me extremely excited and I didn’t have the patience to carefully plan, execute and evaluate my actions. I think that having a co-founder, friend or colleague with a logical and realistic approach is always handy here.

The Tank

This one kinda explains itself. When you are a small little team working 14 hour days on the next big thing. The last thing you want is Google or Microsoft launching a similar product and SMASHING your hopes and aspirations to hell. Can’t really compete can you? Well history has proved this to be wrong in some cases and I can’t think of a better example than Instagram. These guys launched a photo editing app that Facebook soon tried to replicate. With all of Facebook’s resources they couldn’t make a dent in the market because it wasn’t what made Facebook “Facebook”. It was only ever a side product for them whilst Instagram concentrated purely on delivering a top notch photo application. I think that Tanks can be overrated (unless you run out of Shotgun shells).

The Witch.

This is where it gets nasty. The first time I came across one of these on L4D I almost soiled myself in terror. You start hearing a disturbing moaning sound and if you come across her it’s basically life or death depending on how you deal with her. She incapacitates players instantly if startled and she is bloody fast!

I think that the witch represents major unforeseen events like long downtime, hackings and PR scandals. We have seen so many cases of this recently in the press and it is interesting to see how companies respond. I believe that stakeholders appreciate honesty and transparency above all else when shit hits the fan.

witch

The Smoker.

Arguably one of the most annoying monsters on L4D. This guy lurks in the shadows and when you are least expecting it, drags you away from safety. What is more peculiar is that he does this with his HUGE tongue and starts to suffocate you (much like a boa constrictor).

The Smoker represents the nitty-gritty world of tax, law and intellectual property. When you are a small startup it can be so easy to forget about the ‘official stuff’ but you have to do it. Even if you are taking a few hundred pounds a week in revenue or are living off investment you have to account for everything or the tax man WILL slay you. We are serious guys. Happened to a lovely tech start-up down the road.

When it comes to intellectual property I think that in some cases it makes sense to protect a product somehow or another. I do find however that it can be frustrating and uncomfortable when someone cannot discuss their idea with you ‘in case someone steals it’. I have always benefited from amazing advice when sharing new ideas and I believe that we are only as good as the people around us. I think that we started to think about these values at ideasprout (an incredibly fun failed venture) and I now value transparency as one of the most important parts of my life.

I think to say that the start-up world is one big game. By this I don’t mean that you should take it lightly. I just think that you should always be ready to adapt seamlessly, experiment lots and embrace failure. If you are running down a dark corridor alone on L4D then you are most likely going to get your head torn off but you need to learn this lesson the hard way. I find that it is so similar to the start-up world and I find myself making mistakes like this all the time.

I have failed with 3 ventures in the past but every time it happens I learn so much and it has been amazing fun. I recently left Static to pursue a wonderful opportunity working for Buffer and I am loving the ‘Bootcamp’ stage!

I am really enjoying life after university and as much as I love a good zombie shooter, I hope that rabies never becomes airborne.

Thanks for reading!

Tom