In defense of busy

One of the popular memes these days in business press and media is to say how out of vogue “busy” is. You’re not supposed to be busy. It’s not fashionable to say you’re busy. Busy means you planned ahead poorly. Busy means that you’re inefficient, ineffective, or outright unintelligent. Busy means you make poor choices.

Well, the contrarian view I offer is this: busy is part of reality. Try telling a retailer that busy is bad in the run up to the holidays. If you’re very lucky, you’ll be shown the door without a swift boot in the ass to accompany it. Try telling a police officer at a protest that he’s not supposed to be busy, that he should be pacing himself better, that he shouldn’t just react to every little thing. Try telling a CEO of a company whose stock is down 54% that things are actually okay, they just need to prioritize and be more efficient.


Busy is part of reality in the same way that storms and bad weather are a part of reality. It doesn’t storm all the time, but when it does storm, you’d better be ready to deal with it. Now, if it’s storming all the time, that might indeed be a sign that there’s a problem in the environment you work in, but even then, it might be natural for the industry you work in. If you live on or near Mount Waialeale in Hawaii, it rains between 330 and 360 days a year. That’s natural and normal for there.

Yes, it’s okay to be busy. Yes, it’s okay to have fires you need to put out, or chainsaws to juggle, because human beings are a part of nature as well, and that means tides of business ebb and flow. There will be times when you are flat out, all out busy. There are times when you’re going to clock that 12, 14, 16, or 18 hour day. That isn’t a sign that you have failed unless it’s the majority of your time and you don’t want it to be that way. If it’s that way by choice, then carry on.

What matters most about busy isn’t that your business or your work life will get busy, but your reaction to it. The folks I know who are most successful in life simply get down to business, in the same way that the folks who weather storms well accept that the storms will come and batten down the hatches.

Plan ahead, definitely. Be as efficient and as effective as you can be. But if life sends you storms, don’t give into the pop culture meme of believing you’re somehow a failure because you’re busy. You’re weathering the storm, just like the rest of us.

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How much should you give away in content marketing? Part 2 of 2

In the last post, we discussed a basic tactic for determining what you should and shouldn’t give away in your content marketing strategy. Let’s look at a more advanced strategy that’s derived from the old ninja clans of ancient Japan.

In the lore of the ninja, one of the most prized items held by the headmaster of the clan was the densho, or scrolls of martial techniques. These densho held descriptions of the clan’s secret fighting techniques, along with illustrations of how to perform the techniques, construct the tools, etc.

Winchendon Martial Arts Center

Their value was priceless and could mean the difference between literal life and death for the practitioners of that clan’s martial arts. As such, the techniques were closely guarded secrets, and were encoded in a very special way. Each technique was encoded in such a way that an uninitiated practitioner would read the technique and if they attempted it, as written, they’d end up getting themselves killed. The way the techniques were written was wrong.

Only those initiated by the clan’s master teachers were told exactly how the techniques were written down wrong, so that they knew what to adapt, ignore, or adjust to make them work. Sometimes it was enough to simply know that a technique should be on the reverse side; other times, the name of the technique gave a hint as to what it should feel like, rather than the written description.

We can take this technique and adapt it to our content marketing in a less harmful way. What can you safely give away? Give away the basic techniques, tactics, and methods, but make your content incomplete. Anyone who doesn’t work for your company or brand gets value, but doesn’t get the whole picture. For example, take a look at this simple recipe for cake. Ignore that there are no proportions; they’re unimportant for this example.


If you were to bake up a cake with this basic recipe, you’d get a decent chocolate cake. However, there are two ingredients missing that could turn this average cake into a great cake – vanilla extract and salt. A pinch of salt drastically alters how our taste buds perceive flavor, and the vanilla adds a lot of depth to the flavors.

If I were working for a company that made cakes, I’d publish the basic recipe, while holding onto the “secret ingredients” for my company’s cakes that made them superior. The cake you baked with our recipe would still be good enough for when you just wanted some cake, but if you had a special occasion, you’d know that there was always something a little extra from a cake bought from our store.

No matter what your product, service, or company, there are likely basic and advanced recipes. Take a look at what recipes you have, determine what you can omit and still deliver a passable result, and use that as the basis for your content marketing. You can even tier your content marketing; a while back, I wrote a blog post about benchmarking in Google Analytics, but only premium subscribers to my newsletter got the advanced recipe.

Try this method of content marketing strategy to deliver value to your audiences without giving away everything!

…Of course, that does make you wonder what I left out of this post, doesn’t it?

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How much should you give away in content marketing? Part 1 of 2


At the recent Entrepreneur Magazine Winning Strategies in Business conference, I had the opportunity to answer a question that’s one of my favorites: “How much should you give away for free in content marketing?”

We’ll answer this in two parts, a common answer today and a ninja answer tomorrow.

First, when it comes to your business, the concern about giving away too much knowledge is absolutely valid. Although I firmly believe in Jay Baer’s quote, “Having the recipe does not make you a chef”, there are indeed cases where the intellectual property of your business shouldn’t be given away.

There are fundamentally two kinds of businesses when it comes to intellectual property. There are businesses where the intellectual property is the value; you’re not differentiating on the execution of methods, but the knowledge of the methods themselves.

There are other businesses where the recipe is commonly known, but your execution of it is the secret sauce.

If your business is the latter, an exceptional executor of commodity knowledge, then give away as much as you want about the knowledge itself.

If your business is the former, then you have to look at what you specialize in. There are two broad categories of intellectual property: how and what. “How” businesses have a special set of tactics, a special set of recipes that set them apart from competitors. KFC has its special spices. McDonald’s has a Big Mac with special sauce. Coca Cola has its mysterious formula.

“What” businesses have a special set of strategies that set them apart from competitors. They may employ commonly known tactics and methods, but in a unique way. Consulting firms like BCG and KPMG take commonly known tactics and remix them into special strategies. Disney’s brands are strategic in nature; they don’t do anything special to market the brand, but they do a whole lot special in the creation of content and value, from a strategic perspective. Their secret is in the what, not the how.

When it comes to answering the question of how much you can give away, the obvious answer is to give away the non-relevant part. If you’re a “how” company, you can give away all the “what” you want. Coca-cola does this exceptionally – they create experiences around their brand, giving away tons of content, encouraging community around it. If you’re a “what” company, you can give away the “how” endlessly while not giving away the knowledge of what you do that makes those tactics give you different, better results.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a very ninja answer that goes above and beyond how and what.

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