Monday, April 30, 2012

Made To Stick [Book Review]

I recently finished Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. While visiting a Willamette professor, we traded reading recommendations. I recommended Tell To Win and he recommended Made to Stick. Both are excellent books, but I need to reserve Made to Stick in it's own special place.

This book was by far the best book I've read in the last 5 years. That's saying something! I'd put it next to The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in terms of awesomeness and insight.

OK. So why the love fest?

The book explores why some ideas survive and others die. It's full of research and stories explaining the components of "sticky ideas" - ideas that are useful and lasting. Plus, it gives a checklist to create sticky ideas.

A fun side note: Chip & Dan are brothers who both studied sticky ideas for their professional careers. Though, it wasn't until they read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point (another excellent book), where Gladwell coined the phrase "sticky ideas" for them. They suddenly realized they had actually been studying the same idea from different angles. In The Tipping Point Gladwell says to "create a sticky ideas" to help thing reach their tipping point, but then moves on. The Heath brothers made this as a quasi-companion piece (maybe, more like a spin-off), that actually explains how to create sticky ideas.

Here's a quick overview of the book, but you really should read it yourself.

For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it needs to make the audience:

  1. Pay attention by doing something unexpected
  2. Understand and remember the information by being concrete
  3. Agree/believe the information by being credible
  4. Care by tapping into their emotions
  5. Be able to act upon it, which is best illustrated with a story

Unfortunately, we have something called "the curse of knowledge" which makes it extremely hard to communicate sticky ideas. You see, the more we understand an idea, the harder it is to break it down into simple examples. Or, we tend to make jumps in logic because we intuitively understand all the background implications. This makes it difficult for our audience.

To help, the Heath brothers created the SUCCESS formula which you can use to create sticky ideas. Again, this is only a very quick overview. The book has plentiful examples and explanations.
  1. Simple
    1. Find the core of your ideas - the single most important thing. Then share the core idea.
    2. Example: The military uses a term called "Commander's Intent". The commanding officer doesn't tell his subordinates how to do their job, but instead specifies the outcome: "hold this hill". How they do it doesn't matter, and the directions are pretty clear.
  2. Unexpected
    1. Get their attention by doing something surprising. Then hold their attention by creating mystery by highlighting a gap in their knowledge.
    2. Nightly news example: "Stay tuned to find out which pills in your bathroom could be killing you".
  3. Concrete
    1. Use examples. Put people in those examples. Make it tangible. Do NOT talk about data. (I was a little sad to read this... :-)
    2. Proverbs take simple ideas and turn them into real examples. Example: the boy who cried wolf.
  4. Credible
    1. People won't believe you if you don't have credibility. You can get it from external sources, or internal sources.
    2. External example: celebrity endorsements, customer testimonies
    3. Internal example: testable credentials: "Where's the beef?" invited customers to check out the size of Wendy's hamburgers for themselves. It worked.
  5. Emotional
    1. Make people care by appealing to their self-interest and identity.
    2. Example: an anti-litter campaign used the phrase "Don't Mess With Texas" to tell people not to litter, and thereby trashing their state. Guys in big trucks connected with that line and stopped littering.
  6. Stories
    1. Stories tell people how to act by simulating what they should do and/or providing inspiration.
    2. Example: The boy who cried wolf proverb is a great example of using a story to provide inspiration.

That's a quick overview. I HIGHLY recommend reading this book. I'll probably end up reading it again to just make sure I catch everything.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

LinkedIn Spam

Here's a new one for me. I got the above message from LinkedIn. The title says, "Proposed Connection." and the message says,"Hi James - Just a quick one. I wanted to run a penny stock deal by you and get your thoughts on it. Shoot me your email and I will send you full details. The last one paul sent me we did amazing on. Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Kristopher."

Does anything look fishy to you? (Actually having AT&T service doesn't count.) I hope so.

  1. An amazing penny stock deal? Really? Why is this person contacting me? No.
  2. Who is "paul". Don't know. Don't care. No.
  3. You just want me to send my precious email to you? Double No.
  4. The tone and grammar on the message "feels" wrong. Though, to be fair, you'd be shocked at the types of initial messages I get from real people.

Just in case it's not super obvious that this is spam, let's check out the profile.

What do you notice here?

  1. No recent activity
  2. Only 4 connections
  3. No experience
  4. No real profile picture
  5. No way this is real
By the way, I looked up a "Kristopher Marts" on Facebook, and no such person exists.

And finally, while writing this post, LinkedIn went and deleted the account and message. Apparently they agree with me.

So, even if you're a penny stock junky who can't pass up on a good deal, stay away from these types of messages. It's spam/phishing/bad news. At the very least give it a couple days before responding to see if LinkedIn deletes the account.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Make Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Jessi and I have a bread machine we received from my Grandma Furlo. The first time I made bread with it was a little bit of an adventure. First, it didn't come with the instruction manual, but thanks to Google and half an hour of searching I was able to find a PDF version for our machine.

Of course, I was such a noob at making bread I didn't realize that the manual had a mistake in the recipe. I followed along blindly adding 3 tablespoons of salt to this poor small loaf (that's a lot!). Imagine our surprise on our first bite of this delicious smelling bread. Needless to say, I was more than just a little disappointed to be tossing my first creation.

But we didn't quit. We tried again and this time Jessi watched to make sure it turned out well. It did.

From there, we started experimenting with different recipes and variations. For example: substituting whole wheat flour for white, using honey instead of sugar, olive oil instead of butter, adding various dry fruits, and so on.

Then we really kicked it up a notch when we got the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It has all sorts of awesome recipes for bread. We've gotten good enough that we don't buy bread at the store anymore. It's so much more fun, and makes the house smell absolutely wonderful.

Side note: I once thought it would be fun to wake up to fresh bread in the morning. Unfortunately, I forgot that bread starts to smell delicious at least an hour before it's done. It smells so good in fact, that I woke up way earlier than I wanted and still had to wait around for the bread to finish. Now I just have fresh bread for lunch or dinner.

Today, I wanted to share one of our favorites. It's called Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (found on page 92).

Here are the ingredients & amounts:

5 cups of whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
5 large eggs
2/3 cups neutral flavored oil, or melted unsalted butter

For cooking in a bread machine, I cut everything in half (2 eggs). You can also cook it on a pizza stone, but I like the bread machine because you can "set it and forget it".

First, I dissolve the yeast with the lukewarm water.

Second, I mix the dry ingredients together in a mixer mixing bowl.

Third, I mix the rest of the liquids together (beat the eggs first)

Fourth, I pour the liquids into the mixer and let it run for a bit. I use a spatula to make sure everything is mixed well. The dough should be very tacky... almost seemingly too wet... don't worry, that's good.

Fifth, I put the dough into the bread machine. Set it for a large loaf and light crust. While that gets going, I clean up the mini-mess I just made. I tried just put the ingredients straight into the machine (in an effort to save time and a mess), but I found our machine doesn't get a proper mix on its own.

Total time is about 30 minutes, and that loaf will last a week for Jessi and I.

The end result is delicious bread that stays moist, doesn't instantly crumble, and is actually healthy for you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paper Camera [Review]

While on the Mexico Trip, I was introduced to a new iPhone and Android app called Paper Camera and it's pretty fun (iTunes). It costs $0.99 ($1.99 on Android) and the above picture is a screen shot of what it looks like. It gives you 12 filters to make pictures and videos more interesting. In addition to taking pictures, you can also upload existing ones and apply the filters after the fact. It's very similar to Instagram (iTunes), which if you've ever used it, is also pretty fun.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to share with friends within the app yet, but it's pretty easy to upload normally once the picture is taken.

What I do is take a picture normally. Then upload it to Paper Camera to add a filer. Save that to my Photos app. Then I upload that to Instagram, annotate it, and share with Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare. Gosh, that sounds complicated written out... It's not that bad.

What are all the filters? I took the same random photos of my HP mug with all the different filters. Check them out below. If you have a dollar to burn, and enjoy messing with your photos, this app is worth getting.

Comic Boom

Sketch Up


Old Printer

Neon Cola

Con Tours


Gotham Noir

Half Ton

Granny's Paper

Pastel Perfect

Andy Pop

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Mexico Twenty12

Like previous years, Jessi and I headed down to San Felipe, Mexico on a mission trip with our church's high school group. San Felipe is on the East Coast of the Baja Peninsula, about 3 hours South of the border. It's a popular tourist destination for Americans. However, given the current economic climate, tourism is down. The quote I heard was, "When America gets a cough, San Felipe gets pneumonia." The above picture is San Felipe.

So, 60 of us headed down. A majority on the yellow bus in the background. It snowed the morning we left. School had been canceled the previous day too.

For the first time, I got to participate in the shopping. We go to a Walmart in El Centro, CA which is a few miles North of the Border. There we pick up about $1,200 worth of food. 9 baskets!

Once down in Mexico we have two main tasks: Construction & Vacation Bible Study (VBS).

My team got to re-surface a leaking roof. We put on a think white paint substance called "Impact 5000". It's a re-seals the existing roof.

Here we are working on our air guitar skills.

This is what actual work looks like. It got so hot on the roof that we had to take turns and take many water breaks.

Now, when I say "we", I actually mean the students. I did very little physical work. My job was to tell students when to rotate out and what to do next. I think I could make a good manager; especially with that ridiculously good looking mustache!

Jessi spent her day at an orphanage. Her group's job was to start building a chicken coop. Jessi, however, spent her time playing with the girls there. Here's one little baby that Jessi got to know really well.

Each afternoon we would put on VBS. We spread out in a dirt street and play a bunch of games while the children arrive.

Here's the turn-out. On the last day there were around 40 children and a few adults watching the official presentation.

The presentation includes singing songs, putting on dramas, puppet skits, and craft projects. Here's the creation story:

Here's Moses:

On the file day we do a non-taking drama which describes Jesus taking on our pain, dying for our sins, and being raised from the dead.

Here are the puppets:

Everyone at VBS were wearing red shirts. So a friend, Andrew, and I wore our "Red" shirts. Ha ha. We're so funny!

This family finds us each year to join in VBS.

On the last day we got invited to play a soccer game against a local club team. They quickly went up by 2. We added 5 more people to our team. They scored again. So we added another 5 to our side. Then it became a "fair" game. We ended up losing 3-5, but it was a ton of fun.

Vinnie spent the week at the "puppy hotel". Jessi cheated on him a little by cuddling with this cute little dog.

On the final day, I got up super early with a couple dudes to watch the sun rise. We were on the hill with the cross in the very first picture. The sun rise is amazing to watch.

Then everyone else joined us to pray for San Felipe and worship Jesus. Jessi and I got photo-bombed on one of our photos. Classic. I love it.

Before heading back, we also give people the opportunity to be baptized in the Sea of Cortez. This year 4 people decided to publicly declare their faith in Christ. Awesome!

It was a fanatic trip. We all had a blast, worked hard, and grew closer to Christ. It's an excellent way to get pumped about Easter and celebrate Christ dying for our sins.

Monday, April 02, 2012

March Mustache Grown Wild

Boom! What a month! Jessi still hates it, but admits it makes me look pretty manly. So that's cool. I like to think my 'stache inspired many others to join in and be more manly. It certainly did for the guys on the recent trip on went on (more on that later) - pretty much each guy that could grow facial hair joined in the fun.

Here's one more stylized photo... I think I'll make this one my new Facebook timeline banner.