This week, we're returning to some of the topics that have always popped up in this email: tech and politics.
Here you’ll find an archive of Nathanael’s weekly email. The email features curated links on technology + marketing + simplicity. He also posts longer-form pieces about CRM software, front-office strategy, and similar topics.
As companies cut budgets in 2023, you’ll need to get more done with existing software. Here are 7 ways to get more from your HubSpot account.
Peggy Noonan's column on Prince Harry, published last week, ended with a broader thought about privacy. It has all of the pearl-clutching and "back in my day" of a good Noonan column, but I think her point is worth quoting at length:
From Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men:
As part of my consulting work, I try to help sales, marketing, and service leaders zoom out to think about where the world is going and how they should react to it. Usually this is a process of me identifying trends and us talking about how they impact the client's revenue operations.
One Spring a few years ago, I dug up some maple trees and a few...
Here’s a quick summary of where we are with tech: we were promised self-driving cars, instead we got Twitter; now that your white-collar job is mostly interacting with tech, the robots will quickly be better at it than you.
After taking a few years off, I got back to badge-earning by finishing HubSpot Academy's Revenue Operations certification on September 16th. This course was almost as wide-ranging as my HubSpot consulting role: it covered everything from strong sales process definition to the Lean SixSigma definition of waste to accounting basics to hiring. Any role in operations, whether you're a team of one or dozens, is similarly wide-ranging.
Every time we think email is dying, it returns.
Marketing success requires knowing your business and how to reach your customers. The secret sauce for digital success adds an eye for the opportunities in the evolving digital space. For example, when I was a digital marketer for a political non-profit, I generated good results by borrowing ideas from B2C digital (emails like Apple) and political campaigns (Facebook like Obama).
I’ve picked CRM systems a few times. Some flopped immediately, others worked at first but were outgrown, and only rarely did the CRM provide long-term value. But it’s those CRMs that stuck around that were the best: CRMs only add value if you keep them!
After starting my career in the family business (taxes!) and then shifting to non-profit work, I now work in technology. I’ve noticed a thruline: everyone complains about how little they make. The most common reason my friends have had for switching jobs is to increase their salary.
This is my third try at a podcast. In 2004-6, I hosted a short-lived podcast (MindPlacebo) with my brother Andrew. It was really fun for us to record. I'm not sure why anyone listened. But listen they did: we reached about 60 people per episode and began a regular listener mailbag, where people wrote in and we made jokes about their emails.
The Importance of position and place.
It was a big launch meeting: here’s the new CRM! My pitch was polished; the screenshots and demos were airtight. We gathered in the conference room, but then the whole thing landed with a thud.
When I’d finished the first part of the presentation and was about to switch into the demo, the first question was, “do we have to use this?” Followed up with a senior partner musing, “yeah, why do we even need a CRM?”
We hadn't even launched, and the CRM implementation was about to fail.
When starting a consulting call these days, the first thing everyone discusses is how COVID-19 and its self-quarantine impacts our lives. But, aside from now working from home, the COVID-19 quarantine doesn’t disrupt my life all that much.
Why? I live a calm lifestyle, constructed from simple, repeating patterns. With work and home, parenting and hobbies, my life alternates work and rest. It’s a life to be lived consistently for decades. The kind from which you don’t need a vacation. It’s a calm life: valuing simplicity over complexity, time over speed, limits over stimuli.
Jonah Goldberg has a great podcast. It’s a great reflection of the traditionally conservative but Trump-skeptical. He’s a center-right pundit who’s maintained some sense of true north and a modicum of straight talk amidst the recent turbulence. That’s rare. Now he’s launching, along with two partners, a media company called The Dispatch.
A friend wrote:
I’m neck-deep in planning for a migration to Salesforce, which has exposed some fascinating differences in philosophy. Salesforce is, in principle, infinitely customizable, which leads to this dispute: leaving intact the system’s core data structure (based on B2B), or gutting Salesforce’s data structure to power the simplicity of future usage.
How should you approach structuring a new Salesforce instance? If, for example, your company doesn’t think in terms of leads, opportunities, and accounts, would you use those as the default objects or would you use something custom? On the one hand, a custom CRM architecture feels both simpler and better, but on the other hand you’d end up losing a fair amount of any CRM’s interoperability, extensability, and, likely, outside expertise.
From the beginning, I’ve been impressed with Michael Marinaccio’s work. The latest chapter in his writing promises to be the best yet. People Over Product puts technology in its proper context.
When I worked in a political non-profit, I ran the digital shop. Like most political non-profits, we had invested a lot of time and money in our email list. People subscribed to our messages because they agree with our objectives and want to do their part.
Acton taught me how to be an entrepreneur: in the classroom I learned to make the critical decisions required to lead my own company.
Rejecting conventional wisdom to leave vendors out could result in operational leverage and a competitive edge.
As I prepare for a short trip to DC this weekend, I culled a few essays on cities, how we govern them, what we find in them, and how we grow them. There’s something really cool about DC or Boston or New York. Just below the surface lie intractable challenges. From expensive housing to expensive infrastructure to expensive salads, cities are expensive. Many are left behind by soaring costs. In the articles below, you’ll see liberals, capitalists, environmentalists, and rich people all blamed for the problems of cities. Most of this is probably wrong, but some good ideas start out with a wrong idea. Enjoy the reading and enjoy your city!
I've been meaning to do this for some time. Finally, a new app called Revue has made it too easy to procrastinate any more.
In 2016, I moved to suburban Atlanta. Suddenly, I vaguely wanted to buy an SUV. A lot of people had them, and the idea of sitting in a leather recliner while driving...
We started with an outline: a set assumptions about who the audience was, what they needed, and the message we wanted them to hear.
I use Buffer to schedule some of my social posts. (I'm special, but for other reasons: 2.4 million people also use Buffer.)
People seem to think my presentations look nice. They sure don't start out that way. The ugly phase is critical to getting it nice.
We're now past the ten episode mark at Own Your Platform. My biggest challenge has been making the format consistent. I think a podcast that has recurring features, where listeners know the structure of what's coming, if not the content itself, is ideal.
One of my goals for 2015 is to present to an audience once a quarter. Owning your platform is something I coach people to do, and by practicing the art myself, my coaching stays well-informed.
In our latest episode of Own Your Platform, Isaiah and I talked about the aphorism the judge is always right.
I only made it to 41.
In our latest episode of Own Your Platform, the podcast I host with Isaiah McPeak, we talked about the way I launched a website. We'd gone through the whole process: ideation, alpha and beta tests, and now were ready to launch the Sentinel Hub. Sentinels gathered in Atlanta for an annual conference, and I had ten minutes to present the site and motivate them to use it.
Human upper class work has evolved, in the 21st century affluence of America, into something most closely resembling worldwide leisure. We talk, send messages, argue a bit, peer into screens, and read. Why do we get so frustrated? Why do we rarely relax after a long day, basking in the afterglow of hard work done well?
Paul Graham defines ambitious cities as those that send an overwhelming cultural message to their residents. These places tell people that the upstream climb is admirable:
Over the summer of 2014, I started readying a new blog: Mr. Money Mustache. His style is pretty fun--way more readable than most frugality and personal finance blogs. His tips are actionable and he's entertaining.
Calculating basis for securities, for tax purposes, is difficult when you reinvest dividends. So it's a feature for brokerage statements to show the total number of shares owned and one's basis in those shares. They're doing the hard math for you.
Don't read a masterpiece like this when you're on vacation. Just don't do it. As you smell and taste summers and early autumns in the French Atlantic coast, you'll think that buying a summer cottage is a good idea. And why wouldn't it be, in August when you're in Maine for a long week?
Unlike many of the books in my 50 in 2014 project, this is a classic Yellis read: non-fiction with an attitude of zen.
Simplicity Parenting was worth reading. Instead of adding more layers of rules and guilt and responsibility, the authors give you things to forget about doing. In a culture that wonders if leaving your kids with a sitter when they are 15 months old will cause them as 55 year olds to be slightly sad, surely our parenting needs some editing, and this book is a good place to start.
This review has been in my queue for a while. It's seems more vitriolic than I remember feeling about this book. The Dirty Life was enjoyable to read. The author was good.
A few nights ago, I talked about Online Optimization at the Leadership Institute's fundraising workshop.
Last night I spoke at the Leadership Institute. As part of their comprehensive fundraising school, I talked about online optimization.
My theory, emerging during this 50 in 2014 project, is: Great literature both motivates you to read and makes you think for a long time afterwards.
Jordan is living a life that intrigues me. A politico and digital guy, he started a real company.
Good authors are fun to read; great authors' words resonate for months.
Baseball. Summer is about listening to, talking about, and sometimes watching our national pastime.
I hosted, along with Tim Snyder of 9 Lenses, the first of two storytelling webinars for the Leadership Institute.
While in high school, I worked at Wallingford Farm, a somewhat touristy food and garden store. My coworkers were an odd mix of local workers: people spending a lifetime in dead-end jobs along with some high-school students like me. As a fairly privileged and definitely homeschooled kid, Wallingford was quite the learning experience.
When a book becomes a movie, watching a few trailers gives away the plot. This is usually enough to keep me away. When I saw Life of Pi on the side of the road, I almost didn't pick it up. But, free books. The movie didn't tell me the best part of the story: the first hundred pages or so are all about how a spiritually inquisitive teenager finds religions.
I think the best thing coaches and teachers can do is help people realize how much can teach themselves.
There's great baseball and then there's great baseball stories. I'd put Ball Four up there for both, because both the story and the way this book is written are reminiscent of what makes baseball great.
I haven't read much about the unglamorous transitions of history. That's one reason, in retrospect, that I found Macaulay incredible. For all of the words written about 1775-1800, 1840-60 in Europe aren't routinely in my thinking.
Even weeks after reading Jesusland, I still can't wrap my head around it. My brother Andrew had a great theory, which he introduced via a bizarre theatre of the mind text conversation loosely based on what the author was trying to say to him and I through her ending to this book. And that theory is that just as the author was deeply and irreparably injured by her parents via her childhood, she delivers a blow in this book that you can't recover from.
Sad, but in a riveting way. One of those "fiction" books that you know it's real. Too real.
I've spent this week almost catching up on the reviews I owe my 2014 resolution. While the full review below was a fun one to write, I think I missed the most important point: honest religious writing by an unreligious person is worthwhile reading.
Another great nonfiction read. Many lessons to learn from the revolution in TV. Not the least of which: if I'm so deep into the daily grind of an industry, will I even know if I'm part of a universe-bending trend? (No.)
This tale of ranch life in California brings me back to the classic Little Britches. There was a world that seemed to intersect with mine--a self-important twelve year old (check) who had familial connections to Maine (check) and was raised in a pre-modern era (what?). Yet it transported me to another dimension. Here, Steinbeck did the same.
As you can see below, this was a hard one to review. Mostly because, while it had a point, it was an exceptional story. Rare is the book that can both deliver the entire plot in the first page and then place a riveting hold on your attention throughout.
I may have read to many business autobiographies, but this one was better than average. It continues the theme of learning history through biography, an emerging trend in my fifty books effort.
It's no surprise to my regular readers: I'm behind. The goal for 2014, which Andrew inspired me to set, is to not only read fifty books, but also to write about them, here. Thus this series of posts. I've read eleven books, putting me over 20% of the way there, but have four or five read but not blogged, thus putting me further behind. Here's a book I read in January, after picking it up at a used bookstore in Alexandria. This is the placeholder I wrote to remind me to make the full post:
Another weekend, another book. Read this great, short story in a few sittings yesterday morning. Aside from increasing my usual premonitions of guilt and lingering doom, not bad for a weekend. We found this book on the sidewalk Saturday afternoon. Another reason to love Capitol Hill: we have erudite, generous neighbors that just leave old books on the sidewalk for us to read.
Walmart's scan&go wasn't a toy for early adopters, it let people on a tight budget avoid the pain of removing items while checking out.— Nathanael Yellis (@inathanael) ...
This book was more personal than I expected. My grandfather, great uncle, and others of that generation in my mother's family were religious leaders. Life Magazine profiled my great uncle, Rev. Dr. Robert Emery Baggs, in his pastorate in Illinois. He and three others led a large mainline Baptist church. My grandfather led efforts around Boston for the Salvation Army. Both contributed to the grand social visions of the postwar church.
This book is well worth your time: online advertising isn't fundamentally different from offline. Internet marketers, I'm talking to you: take a lesson from 1927.
Learning history through biographies is a lost discipline. I hope to regain it during this 50 in 2014 effort.
While you have to endure several characters whose role is to preach Eggers' views on the Internet, this is an inspiring book.
I love the title: "Choose Your Own Adventure."
The phone rang four times.
You can download or stream that epic show here:
I entered a contest to win a Chevy!
|this is becoming...|
Here's a slide deck worth clicking through: real-world proof that focusing on people and testing is a good approach to websites. This fits under my axioms about relying on your audience.
This afternoon Isaiah and I recorded a webinar on debate for the Leadership Institute. We played a four minute clip from Justice with Judge Jeanine, Fox News show where the conservative host argued with a liberal guest. After introducing Isaiah's philosophy of debate (in brief) and a few tactics I employ, we then played the clip statement by statement, talking through how we'd approach a debate like that.
Last week at my childhood home in Maine, I read Thomas Wolfe's classic You Can't Go Home Again. While at times funny, it was generally a little heavy for summer fiction reading.
When we wrote the copy for the Heritage Action Defund Town Hall registration pages, we wrote "Free for conservatives" as the cost. An attempt at some personality and maybe humor.
Opening Day's correlation of salary rank to power rank was an ok (but I still wouldn't bet on it) 0.59.
Right before July 4th, I finished a history of the conservative intellectual movement. The book finished in the mid 1970s, right as the conservative movement was about to take off. There is another history to be written of how conservatism's thinkers and writers saw some of their ideas become reality through the 1980s and 1990s. Leading the Way charts that history in a different way, as a biography of Ed Feulner and thus The Heritage Foundation.
Over the last few months, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board has been right on immigration. While I don't think the the mammoth bill passed by the Senate, some of the conservatives who oppose it are being wildly inconsistent.
My last post recommended The Power of Habit, which I recently finished. At the end of the post, I proposed a set of questions that connect the habit loop with marketing. Here's how we the habit loop guided development of our legislative scorecard website.
Humans are creatures of habit.
And then I realized my incessant news reading helps me win:
What's more American than Memorial Day and baseball?
Massive disruption in education is a recipe for success. When you get the adults out of the way and focus on kids and their education, things can go really well:
This great piece from Fast Company tells the story of how people are using entrepreneurial ventures to transform Detroit.
Special tribute to Boston:
Here are the top five articles I read this week. You can see all my favorites at the iNate Instapaper feed.
Number of the day: 0.59. That's the correlation coefficient between an MLB franchise's rank in spending and power ranking.
I work in a political non-profit, running our online operations. We’ve invested a lot of time and money in our email list. People subscribe to our messages because they agree with our objectives and want to do their part.
Most organizations send email to customers, donors, and other interested people. Even with the rise of social networks, promoting online action still starts with email.
Journalists, authors, publishers: all dying (?) industries whose introspection should be eminently readable. Most fail on this account: they are mostly unreadable because they lack sound logic.
"Read that one next. It's the shortest."
As Louis CK said, people do what they are asked:
Robert Herbold, longtime P&G manager and later the COO of Microsoft, knows how to get things done in large organizations. That's the premise of What's Holding You Back.
My brother had a short-lived Tumblr called the Sunday Evening Post. It was a good piece of internet: a few links, some commentary, and regularly published on Sunday nights.
Three Top Reads
New York Times: How to Spend 47 Hours on a Train and Not Go Crazy
Jim Messina sent this to me:
Last night I appeared at the Leadership Institute's Comprehensive Fundraising Training event. Many thanks to Carol and the team for hosting me.
This Week's Reading: House of Cards + Big Data, Country Club Republicans, and a 94 Year Old ReporterRead this post
Nat Ward has a helpful post on combatting web page friction, the stuff that causes people to click away before converting.
Reading stories like this is difficult. Here is a man systematically discriminated against by powerful forces in his country. He fights back within the boundaries of law...
In 1995 it was slowly shrinking, especially in rural areas. The New York Times argued in favor of Reopening the Frontier.
I finally read Jim Collins' Good to Great a few months ago. And now I'm finally posting it to this blog (lame).
Hey everyone: yesterday we crossed a threshold: over 20,000 pageviews in the lifetime of this little blog.
Acton taught me how to be an entrepreneur: in the classroom pit I learned to make the critical decisions a small company needs for success.
Now I work in a 15 person affiliate of a 250+ person non-profit organization. Does what I learned at Acton apply to my current work?
|1986: Michael Horsely; Now: Michael Horsely for The New York Times. The corner of N Street and 15th Street, NW Washington.|
I remembered coming to the Loaf with Pat to ski back in Dec1985. Happy B'day my love. U would be so proud of everyone. Miss you so much.
— Mark Yellis (@myellis) December 17, 2012
Gotta love his Twitter picture:
A few weeks ago, I deleted most of the programs on my phone. I stopped all incoming notifications and stopped "push" email service.
In 2003 I bought a 12" laptop from Apple. It was the second or third iteration of the model, and they'd produce another few before phasing out the line.
Jim Collins, in Good to Great, said companies use technology well when they use it to solely accelerate their momentum. Only when it makes what is already happening better can technology help make a good company great.
My friend David, writing in Newsweek, suggests that the GOP faces a demographics problem because of its too religious. The argument goes: as fewer people go to church, the religious political party finds fewer adherents.
I was supposed to talk about how to deliver great messages online. Instead of me talking about it, I decided to put the group in the shoes of their audience and evaluate messages from that perspective.
Acton uses student reviews to evaluate teachers:
I agree with Gizmodo. This could sell a lot of two hundred dollar tablets.
The awesome Jon DiPietro tweeted this blog post earlier today:
A few years ago, I said that if you own a computer or phone, you had to read Technopoly. Because it changes how we think, technology changes how we live.
Yesterday morning, I received an email from Facebook's person for DC-area political organizations. The message previewed a few things that political page managers would like, but one is huge change for Facebook.
Acton had a bunch of exercises where each of the class's study groups would present a decision to the whole class. We would vote on the winner and use their decision to guide the rest of that class session. Winning these votes usually gave you a better grade.
This is a great writeup of Acton and Jeff Sandefer, the people that challenged me through my MBA. I recommend them highly.
View from Saturday's seats:
The demand for equality has two sources; one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But...
The guru chimes in on Kony & what that whole deal says about us:
At some point in the not-too-distant past, rational people would have thought it odd to write a book that outlines and defends Christianity and title it, "The End of Religion." Not any more.
I used my Capitol Bike Share membership for three quick rides this morning:
From Warren Buffett's 2011 annual letter to shareholders (PDF):
By his late twenties, E. B. White was a well-paid writer for the new and rising star weekly, The New Yorker. How did he get there?
Earlier this year, I noticed that Paul Ryan had a pretty big "communications coaching" expense on one of his disclosure forms. This was right as he produced the videos on his roadmap, the ones where he went from wonk to convincing communicator. Clearly the help was worth the money.
Patty Yellis, my mother would have been 59 today.
I would be happy to sell you today's gold at yesterday's price.
CEO Thierry Breton of the French information technology company said only 10 percent of the 200 messages employees receive per day are useful and 18 percent is spam. That’s why he hopes the company can eradicate internal emails in 18 months, forcing the company’s 74,000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface.
It takes a strong eye and a little courage to write about cultural trends. But Katrina Onstad gets a few just write in this fun NY Times Magazine piece.
This great book will help you build practices that generate ideas. Subtitled "The Natural History of Innovation," Steven Johnson finds seven core methods of innovation in nature and history, providing concrete suggestions for personal and organizational use.
Thanks to my friend and colleague David Azerrad, I have a print copy of the most recent Claremont Review of Books. The Lost Decade is masterful, a thorough understanding of our most recent decade and the choice facing America now. I strongly recommend it to those thinking politically:
I love getting email. This one not so much:
From a job posting:
This is a video of someone presenting an unpopular, generally opposed idea. He does so with great skill, especially at the introduction. Notice how, in the first three minutes of the video, he summarizes the prevailing notion, explains it as a series of logical connections, and then provides a perspective that makes those logical connections unfathomable leaps. He's caught our attention and readied us to hear the rest of his case. Notice how long it takes him to say that what we think is wrong and how much force he brings to that statement. Something to consider the next time you face an unfriendly crowd.
I met Abigail Halpin at a PechaKucha in Portsmouth NH last June. She told the story of illustrating a children's book. I concluded two things: 1) you have to be really cool to illustrate a children's book and 2) peeks into the creative process are super cool.
Thanks to my new favorite person, I'm using Google+.
The Weight of Glory could be a lesson in the unity of knowledge and practical wisdom. CS Lewis, noted for his scholarly approach to faith, struck me as uniquely able to tell me how to live. After the magnificent essay on the nature of humanity from which this book is titled, the other essays in this book are practical.
When the Heath brothers write, it should be obvious that everyone must read and follow their advice. Even people only remotely connected to the subject matter stand to benefit. Thus Made to Stick is a must-read for people who communicate ideas. Switch is similarly a must-read for people who want to change anything.
I found the examined life in this book's approach and commentary.
A few days ago, Facebook told me about a good friend's newborn child.
I judged a debate tournament on Saturday. I enjoy debate because of the creativity bred by its constraints.
Over the weekend, I talked about lobbying with a group of students at Liberty University. Together, we built a working definition of lobbying, discussed its strategy, and analyzed its tactics.
The folks at NPR's Planet Money have a good thing going. They describe complex financial subjects with ease. After listening to an episode, you can recall their helpful...
As much as I love the argument to cut federal spending, this word picture doesn't make it any clearer:
The temptation when using Powerpoint is to create and display diagrams.
The Tipping Point
It is no good then behaving as an arm-chair critic and disputing the issue, for that is to refuse to face the facts. Nor is opportunism any help, for that is to...
Meta-analysis is the kind of studies people make by studying existing studies. They answer questions authoritatively by explaining how all the previous answers fit together. Instead of the normal assumption your study is THE ANSWER, meta-analysis is authoritative because it offers a holistic view of all the relevant research. Interestingly, most meta-analyses are far more readable than normal research.
This week I finished reading Rework, which Seth Godin says to "ignore at your peril." I agree.
"Nathanael, no numbers!"
A few days ago, Apple's cryptic announcement took over the apple.com homepage and the iTunes homepage. Today, the 16th of November, would be a day we'd never forget. Big words.
The HBR Blog had this insightful piece a few weeks ago: The 8 Word Mission Statement.
Stephen Johnson: Chance favors the connected mind.
This book is about what, not how. That's what architecture is: an exploration of the hypothetical what.
I've talked a lot in public; I'm good at talking. But this time, I could barely make myself audible.
This is great stuff from the HBR blog:
I'm participating in a virtual book club organized by my alma mater, the Acton School of Business. I'm excited for the discussion and the titles we'll cover: Acton's ongoing reading list has broadened my horizons already.
This is Steven Tomlinson's TEDxAustin talk:
Steven is entertaining because he's funny. But there is a subtle edge just under the surface: he earnestly wants you to change. And the change is uncomfortable, routine, and it forces us to confront the elephant in our heads. But this brand of inspiration is worth every tough encounter. In fact, the tough encounters make this inspiration worthwhile.
I wish more well-read sages from the 60s wrote books like this one. Back then people learned rhetoric in school and they read enough books to recognize their most influential authors. Muggeridge is at his best when talking about his four: Bacon, Kierkegaard, Weil, and Tolstoy. More than that, he's conversant with a host of thinkers with which he has quibbles. The point: he's well-read and well-reasoned. That is, until he takes up the important battles of the day. His day, the 60s. Not very reasonable for right now readers.
More than a hundred and fifty people read the weekly email “Nathanael’s Reading,” which he’s sent every Friday since 2016. Nathanael includes original thoughts and curated reading on technology + marketing + simplicity. Subscribe by entering your email here