Happy Birthday to Seth Godin. Seth is of my inspirations to the wide range of blogging that I do, the most prominent of which is Maldives Complete here. These days you can’t swing a palm frond without hitting a blogger (especially in the Maldives), but when I started in 2009, the whole medium was quite novel. Seth was one of the first to embrace and extoll the platform and provided lots of tip and insights both explicitly and through example of his own work.
- “This is post 7,000” – “The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret…The discipline of sharing something daily is priceless. Sometimes there are typos. I hope that they’re rare and I try to fix them. Over time, the blog adds up. People remember a blog post a year after I wrote it. Or they begin a practice, take an action, make a connection, something that grows over time. The blog resonates with people in so many fields, it’s thrilling to see how it can provoke positive action. It’s true that I’d write this blog even if no one read it, but I want to thank you for reading it, for being here day after day. It’s more fun that way.”
- “Susdat” – “Writer’s block is a myth, a recent invention, a cultural malady. More important than the output, though, is the act itself. The act of doing it every day. When you commit to a practice, you will certainly have days when you don’t feel like it, when you believe it’s not your best work, when the muse deserts you. But, when you keep your commitment, the muse returns. When you keep your commitment, the work happens. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it, buys it, sponsors it or shares it. It matters that you show up. Show up, sit down and type.”
- “Gaztelugatxe” – “There’s an island off the coast of Spain that houses a church. The church has 230 steps to the top, and it’s said that it’s worth the climb. What a great expression. Gaztelugatxe can now mean, ‘it’s a lot of steps, but worth it.’ The opposite of fast and easy but worthless.”
The first two posts referenced above talk about ‘daily practice’ and while I may not post every day, I would say that I do something on Maldives Complete every day – respond to emails, update date, investigate leads, research pieces, etc. His thoughts help to express the answer to the 2nd most frequently asked question that I get (the first being “What is the best resort”), and that is “Why do you do Maldives Complete?”.
If you work at something fun, then you will never have to work. That is part of the spirit of why I do Maldives Complete (still the second most frequently asked question about the website). I value keeping my creative edge sharp in much the same way that I enjoy keeping my physical fitness up. The problem is that tedious gym sessions can be a painful and boring way to workout. Which is why I enjoy activities like ballroom and Latin dancing, basketball, and rowing all of which provide an engaging and enjoyable way to keep the [fitness] up. Similarly, my hobby of Maldives Complete pays considerable dividends in my professional life. Here a few pieces of advice which resonate with me and illustrate this concept of life-long exercise of the creativity muscle…
- “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” – Kurt Vonnegut
- “Employees who did something creative after work – like knitting, drawing or even playing a video game that required creative thinking – were more likely to be helpful and creative problem solvers on the job, according to new research from San Francisco State University.” – CNN
- “#5 – Make Writing a Practice – A common first mistake is thinking you’re not a writer. That it’s a domain reserved solely for people with ‘creative’ in their title. Nonsense. If your job depends on articulating ideas, you need to write. Not to mention, you need to write with clarity, with simplicity and, at times, unfettered imagination.” – Doug Kleeman, “20 Ways to Become A Better Strategist”
One of my most frequent FAQs is “why do I do it??” (why put so much time into researching and update the Maldives Complete website). I often respond to people that “Maldives Complete” is my hobby. To which they respond, “Sounds like an expensive hobby.” My response to that comment is usually, “Well, most hobbies are expensive…travel, golf, cars, etc.” Maybe not knitting and jigsaw puzzles. But I came upon a drawing by my friend Hugh MacLeod (above) and I think he captured the sentiment even better. Simply put, immersing myself in paradise 365 days a year makes me happy. J
Today is Train Day today celebrated by people whose hobbies are trainspotting and train sets. My Maldives hobby is a bit like both of those. Like trainspotting, I get a big thrill to find a unique feature I didn’t know about, a missing resort picture or piece of information, or (recently) spotting a fashionable celebrity photo. And the website itself is like my own little train set that I am constantly tinkering, tweaking, adding, perfecting.
It’s also a different type of “training” altogether. I actually first started the site as a sandbox to play with, experiement with and learn new Internet technologies. As the digital world has progressed, Maldives Complete has been the locomotive steaming me through the landscape of new interactivity (eg. porting Silverlight to HTML5), social media (blogging, migrating to WordPress, engaging with Instagram).
Thomas the Tank Engine: You’re a really helpful engine.
Lady: And helping each other, brings to life the magic in all of us.
[In “Thomas the Magic Railroad”, the conductors finally get their supply of magic gold dust]
“Curiosity, in fact, turns out to be a quiet superpower that all of us have.”
So just why do I keep going. Still, the second most frequently asked question I get after 7 years. Another reason to add to the list of motivations – curiosity. Curious about what’s new, how different resorts are positioning themselves, how the destination is evolving, what I shouldn’t miss on my next visit.
It turns out that there are a number of different types of curiosity as Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman describe in their article “Six Kinds of Curiosity – And How You Can Use Them to Change Your Life” (thanks Steve)
- Curiosity is the key to understanding people’s personalities and motivations.
- Curiosity is a vital storytelling tool—and storytelling is the best way to engage and persuade other people, in your work life and your personal life.
- Curiosity is a fantastic source of courage.
- Curiosity is the best, most under-used management tool—a great way to create engagement in your fellow works, but also a great way to transmit values and priorities.
- Curiosity is the spark for creativity and innovation, the best long-term investment you can make.
- Curiosity is the best way to stay connected to those who are most important to you.
I hope Maldives Complete continues to inspire and feed your curiosity about this corner of paradise on the planet for years to come.
“How sad that anyone reaches a point in life where they lose the gift of curiosity and stop learning. That is the day they stop growing and begin dying in the world” – Rev. Patrick O’Neill.
Criticism is easy. Very little is perfect in life and it’s easy to just call out all the imperfections. My recent Maldives tour brought home this realisation as one of the challenges I relish in my resort research is uncovering and highlighting the distinctions of each resort. Not what makes them special (being in the Maldives is what makes EVERY one of them special), but what makes them distinctive. That takes a bit more discernment and insight. It’s awfully easy to complain that the butter was too cold or not cold enough. It’s much harder to figure out what part of the meal was most unique.
This is my “Ruckusmaker” focus. Referring to Seth Godin’s concept of someone who speaks up for something they believe. My belief and my mantra is “There is no ‘best’ resort, only the ‘best’ for you. And with over 100 to choose from, there is something for everyone.”
Seth himself is someone who often gets asked why a best-selling professional (multi-millionaire) writer like himself would devote so much effort to a daily free blog. One of his motivations is articulated in his post “Say Something”…
“There’s a lot to admire about the common-sense advice, ‘If you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say anything.’ On the other hand, one reason we often find ourselves with nothing much to say is that we’ve already decided that it’s safer and easier to say nothing. If you’ve fallen into that trap, then committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory. A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why. Commit to articulating your point of view on one relevant issue, one news story, one personnel issue. Every day. Online or off, doesn’t matter. Share your taste and your perspective with someone who needs to hear it. Speak up. Not just tomorrow, but every day. A worthwhile habit.”
Maldives Complete, making a ruckus for 7 years!
“Amateurs in any discipline are the best, if you can connect with them. Unlike dilettantes, career professionals are to knowledge what prostitutes are to love.” – Nassim Taleb
The bigger Maldives Complete gets, the more often I get asked not just “Why do you do it?”, but also “Why don’t you monetise it??” I don’t have any big hang ups about “selling out” or making a return on quality, hard work. But money is simply not my motivation for the Maldives Complete. Every decision comes with a cost (even if that decision does include a pay out). For me right now, the potential benefit simply doesn’t outweigh the costs to me of “going professional” which would entail keeping stakeholders happy, cluttering the screen, and raising questions of objectivity with my readers.
My other popular blog (I have 4) has a semi-regular piece called “Seth-urday” featuring material from Seth Godin who I have referenced here on a number of occasions as a bit of an inspiration to the whole “Best of the Maldives” section. This week, Seth published a post “The buffet problem keeps getting worse” which illustrated another perspective for my obsession with resort esoterica…
“Here's the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity. ‘Oh, don't worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they're free.’ Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is 'free' in the sense that the customer didn't spend anything extra to get that item. The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don't come…Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. ‘Let's make these the best mashed potatoes in town–who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends.’ The mashed potatoes aren't free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you'll do all year.”
While it is an illustrative metaphor, Maldives resort are literally dominated by buffets for much of their food service. A number of my “Best of the Maldives” pieces have indeed been buffet items picked out from obscurity for their distinction. I guess I am now on the hunt for the best mashed potatoes in the Maldives!
One of my most frequent questions abourt Maldives Complete is still “Why do it do it?” In my previous post in response, I cited Scott Adams’ own answer to the question of the “non-zero chance” for some big serendipity. Scott recently published a new book titled “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” that delves more deeply into his personal life philosophy. As a part of the release, he has been doing the book promo circuit and his interview with Forbes really hit home for me as another reason behind my compulsive researching and posting…
“For years people have been asking me why I blog. At one point, blogging was taking about half of my work time while providing only 5% of my income. My wife and my friends asked ‘What is your goal in blogging?’ I don’t do goals. I do systems. (That’s a theme of the book.) In this case, my system involved publicly experimenting with a variety of writing styles and topics and closely monitoring the reactions of readers. I was honing my writing skills and my understanding of the reading public. I didn’t have a specific goal. I was aiming for ‘better.’ I reasoned that my system would generate good opportunities for me in ways I couldn’t predict with any precision. That’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was simply improving my odds that something good would happen. I just didn’t know when it might happen or in what form it would come. Blogging also charges me up. I like the interaction, the angry villagers with torches and pitchforks, and the possibility of saying something useful. It is one part of my overall system for keeping my personal energy high. It also keeps my mind sharp. Several years into my system, it seems to be working.”
Webmastering Maldives Complete is part of my own “system” to keep learning, make new friends and relationships, understand new technologies (eg. Deepzoom, Silverlight), grapple with new media (eg. social media like Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor), and to constantly hone my ability to research, distil and share insights.
I still get asked ‘Why do I do it?’ And even with my 9 answers enumerated previously, this trip made me realise even more…
- Adventure – I realised that my trip was more of an ‘Adventure holiday’ of discovery than an idyllic holiday of chilling out (which is a bit counter intuitive given the Maldives’ fame for ultimate in relaxation). Asking why I do it is similar to asking why a mountain biker spends his holiday toiling over rugged terrain, or why a camper sleeps on cold hard ground or why an athlete goes to a boot camp. To many, the work and effort seems less vacation-like. To me, it’s part of the allure.
- Digital Vision – I’ve been focused on the Internet and its technology since the 90s when Microsoft “turned on a dime” to embrace it. It is a central part of my professional career, interests and expertise. I have my own interpretations and vision of the trajectories and issues in the still emerging digital world. And Maldives Complete is both my expression and experimentation in that domain. One dimension of a dynamic that intrigues me is the cataloguing of information. The conventional wisdom is that brute-force search engines are the end-all and be-al of information access, but I think the Internet world supports and calls for more models than this as the Google Search has a huge number of shortcomings and gaps. Search is not a Filter. It is a perspective touched on by Internet maven Seth Godin in his post “Sort & Search”…
- “Search is powerful, essential and lucrative. Google demonstrated just how much value can be created when you let people easily find what they want. Sort, on the other hand, is easily overlooked and something that most of us can can work with. For example, the way a restaurant sorts the wines on the wine list at will have a dramatic impact on what people order. If you list the cheap wines first, people will probably end up spending less. And when your wine list migrates to an iPad and you let the diner sort by price, popularity and other indicators, consumption patterns will instantly change. Hotels.com, Zagats, Kayak and hundreds of other sites let you sort by quality, ranking and price. Not only does this change the way we choose, it also changes the behavior of the those being ranked!”
- Fun. Earlier this year, my friend and prominent Internet artist Hugh MacLeod published this piece (see above) and it captured another reason. Working on Maldives Complete is fun. It might be an ‘expensive hobby’…but the alternative is even more expensive.
I get a number of typical reactions to the these explanations and friend and artist Hugh MacLeod captured some very apropos replies to these reactions (see cartoons above and below). The first reaction I get to my calling Maldives Complete my “hobby” is that “It’s an awfully expensive hobby.” Well, yes, it is expensive…but most hobbies are. Golf, scuba diving, horse riding, restoring old cars, following Springsteen. As Lori says, I am a “Resort Spotter”. Like a “Trainspotter” obsessed with research, finding and seeing every resort and every unique resort feature (and she is much happier being dragged across the Maldives than to obscure railway depots).
A second reaction is that I must be very “talented” to do the coding and writing I do. Quite frankly, the web page coding is not much more sophisticated that one could do after a basic course on HTML and ASP.net. The design is very simple and many have criticized. And the writing is well…more from the heart than from the trained hand. The key to the success of Maldives Complete has been its “completeness”. Keeping all of the data fresh, up-to-date and accurate. That doesn’t take any special skill or talent, just drive to get it right.
What is most common question I get from folks at resorts when I visit?
- What’s my favourite resort?
- What do I enjoy doing the most in the Maldives?
- How many times have I visited?
Nope. By far the most prevalent question is ‘Why do you do it?’ Or most specifically, ‘Maldives Complete is obviously the result of tons of work, but you don’t make any money from it so…why do you do it??’ The bigger the fan of the site, the faster the question comes up. The home page and About page both have brief comments on my motivations, but they do focus more on my ‘aspirations’ than my ‘motivations.’
For all those head scratchers out there, here are my top reasons I keep ferreting out the data and pounding out the posts…
- Blogging Fun – One of the most time intensive and most highly trafficked part of Maldives Complete is the blog. This is not my only blog. I also write on the subjects of ‘Leadership and Management’, ‘Embracing Failure’, ‘Dynamic Work’ and ’70-20-10 Principle’. All of those are non-commercial too (as most blogging is). Not related to my day job, no advertising or other remuneration, not selling anything (though I used to sell consulting services around Dynamic Work). On the occasion of my 600th Leadership/Failure post, I wrote a piece ‘600 Posts Later’ which explained some of my motivations such as iterative improvement, serendipity, purge and process, and handy reference trove all of which apply to Maldives Complete.
- Non-Zero Chance – As an elaboration of the ‘serendipity’ motivation mentioned above, I later wrote a piece called ‘Non-Zero Chance’ which picked up on Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ explanation for his own extensive blogging. He said ‘I make it a habit to have at least one project brewing at all times that has a non-zero chance of changing the planet, or making a billion dollars, or both.’ Admittedly, the chance of Maldives Complete changing anything or making a dime is miniscule, but it is like a lottery ticket that fuels a bit of ‘just maybe’ fantasy that someday it might turn into something really special.
- Participate, Not Spectate – I love sports, but to play them not to watch them. I play in a basketball league, coach and row sculls, train at the gym and running. But the latest sport event I watched was years ago. I just prefer to be in the action than watching it. My involvement with Maldives Complete means that when I visit the Maldives, I am not just a visitor here for a few days, soaking up the sun, sights and savouries. I get under its skin. I meet people I otherwise wouldn’t meet and see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. I explore it and then participate in it by promoting it.
- Perks – Now that Maldives Complete is a serious web site (some authorities on the topic tell me it is the top independent web site on Maldives), the resort owners are interested in helping me with my efforts as they would any publicity. Most resorts have standard protocols for providing ‘media’ with certain ‘comps’ and discounts. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of these concessions. It’s no ‘free holiday’. First of all it’s not free. We spent more money on our most recent trip than if we had simply booked a simple package (because we had such a chopped and changed itinerary). Secondly, it’s not exactly a holiday. Each day we pack up to move to yet another resort to visit, I take a tour, I take photos, I take notes, I write pieces, I meet with people. Very little of the typical lounging by the pool.
- Transport Me Away – When I am sitting in my den on a dreary, drizzling, chilly British day (as I am right now!), and I bring up Maldives Complete or some email from resort marketing manager sending me some fresh resort photos, and I feel transported away to this tropical paradise at least in my escapist fantasy mind.
- World Community Service – I come from an upbringing of community service. My father was a clergyman and my mother ran a community centre. Maldives is a strong and vibrant nation, but it is still growing and has lots of development to do for its citizens to achieve higher living standards by conventional measures. Furthermore, the Maldives is on the forefront of driving environmental awareness and changes so supporting the country helps support that cause too. Maldives Complete is a small contribution to help more people find out about the Maldives, visit there to spend their money, and help build the country.
- Purple Cow Evangelism – I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and especially his notion of ‘Purple Cows’ – ‘remark-able distinctions that unpin all great marketing.’ Maldives Complete is both a chance to practice what I preach and promote the concept (through the Best Of) section.
- Hobby – Maldives Complete is my hobby. I enjoy technology and coding the web site. I enjoy writing. I enjoy the subject matter. One person commented, “It’s an expensive hobby.” To which I replied, “Many hobbies are. Car restoring, skiing, collecting.” And my wife added, “And I’m delighted that his hobby is the Maldives rather than something like golf.”
- Ego – Like most creators and their creations, I am proud of Maldives Complete. Though not perfect, many of the things I’ve pulled together with the site and how I’ve done them. I do get a small buzz when the Aquest Stats shows that it has hit a new high for visitors. But the biggest thrill when someone takes the time to email me saying how much they loved the site and how helpful it was for them planning their Maldive vacation. And that fan mail is coming more and more frequently these days.
In other words, you might say that ‘I have my reasons…’