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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


Intl. Business: How not to be the "ugly American"

Getting Through Customs - Articles

My friend's dad is a hard-nosed American sales guy. He spent thirty years developing and, in my opinion, mastering the disparate skills of schmoozing, selling, negotiating, and closing. (Man, this guy could close.) But when he started moving into big-time international sales, he realized there was this whole world (literally) of customs, skills, and rhythms he'd have to master -- lest he unintentionally offend a client and blow the deal.

When I first heard about some of these differences ("In Japan, brace yourself for several days of intense all-day recreation before business is ever discussed"), I picked up a copy of Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, which has tons of fascinating advice on how to adapt your behavior when conducting business outside the US.

I wonder how many of these have changed since I read the book in the mid-90s -- the world has shrunk a lot since then. Still, I have to say that as a poorly-traveled American, I do find this stuff fascinating And, now I've discovered the book's authors have this ginormous repository of web-based information.

Here's some favorite random factoids, mores, and customs from outside the U.S.:

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Cyber Monday safe shopping tips

"Cyber Monday" is a new one to me, but allegedly today is the biggest online shopping day of the year. Yay, capitalism.

Get out there, type up some bargains, and have fun; but be sure to shop safe. It's a crazy world, and somewhere there's a 14-year-old Russian kid who needs one more identity theft to buy that Xbox 360. Good-looking tips for playing it safe online:

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David Seah: The Printable CEO

David Seah - Better Living Through New Media » The Printable CEO

David Seah has a very clever method for making sure he stays focused on the kinds of activities that bring him and his growing business the highest value. He basically scores himself a weighted grade for how valuable each completed task is to his core goal of growing his business. Ooooo...SAT bubbles!

As stupid as this system may sound, it’s actually working. When I get to fill in a bubble, I feel a little surge of pleasure…I’ve been conditioned by standardized testing, apparently. I also get visual confirmation that I’ve done something to move my business forward. This is an interesting example of feedback in a game design sense; over the course of a week, it’s easy to evaluate your progress at any given time. It’s also easy to pick something to do, based on what you’ve done before. The bubble chart becomes a kind of game board in itself. Instead of feeling guilty for not getting to all your tasks on your ToDo list, feel good that you did make progress. Look upon your worksheet for the proof, and feel the sense of accomplishment in your gut!

He reports back a month later:

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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