Monday, June 01, 2009

What's been brewing

Hello, my friends! It's been ages and ages, hasn't it? Well, at last I can share my news with you. I'm blogging here. And I'm working here. Where "working" equals "being your own boss," anyway. Oh yes. I've got me a business partner and we've got us a shop. How excitement!, as a friend of mine would say. Come along for the ride! It's a good one.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Final OSI Interview: Peter Green

Peter Green's Wikipedia page says, in part: Peter Green is a PR person for several Australasian acts, most notably Skyhooks, Bic Runga, Split Enz and their alumni, including Crowded House, The Finn Brothers, Neil Finn, Tim Finn, etc. His office maintains the "Frenz of The Enz", encompassing all the Enz alumni, which has also been known as the Crowded House club, but which reverted to its original name following the break-up of the latter. He is held in very high regard by the fans, who greatly appreciate the personal touch he brings his work, and his remarkable commitment, not only to the musicians, but also to the Frenz, maintaining a consistent relationship with them, whether there is artist activity or not. The Frenz of the Enz are known for their long-standing loyalty and commitment to the bands and artists under the Frenz umbrella, and it could be argued that it is largely as a result of Peter Green's work, ensuring that the fans always feel connected to what is going on.

All of which fits nicely with my theory that Mr. Green may just be among the top 5 nicest men in the world (that is a guess; I don't know all the men in the world, so the top five seemed fairly reasonable). Over the last few years I've emailed him a few times with questions--Do I need to be in the fan club to enter the drawing for the signed CD? That sort of thing. And each time, he has responded to my banal correspondence a) quickly, and b) with a level of enthusiastic kindness that is not only rare in general, but altogether unheard of in PR. [Please don't send me hate mail, PR people. I worked in PR. I know what I'm talking about.] In addition to overseeing PR for all of the abovenamed acts and running the Frenz of the Enz site, Peter has a blog and publishes the occasional road diary. He's also quite witty. In a recent round of emails, he mentioned he was going to be boarding a plane in short order. And then he sent an immediate follow-up email with the subject line "what we are wearing on board to avoid swine flu XXXPG". There was no body text, just an attached image of someone in a yellow Hazmat suit.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

On the road (touring) when you do those little things (buying a toaster for the tour bus) or just making someone's day more bearable when they are thousands of miles away from home. PR duties, when you are at your favourite coffee haunt (free plug to the Verandah View at Kalorama) and the person at the table picks up the newspaper and your band is on the front cover and you know it was something you did right the day before. Books--When you start working on the next book and suddenly the words flow, and they feel spot on and you get so vibed you just churn them out and you find it hard to stop. Concerts--recently being part of the Sound Relief show in Melbourne--where two of our acts played to 83,000 people and raised $5 million dollars for the bushfire relief benefit--that feels extra special--being a small cog in a large wheel that seemed to roll so well that day, and punters left feeling they witnessed a very special gig.

2. Which bits matter least?

When I get snappy, it's rare but the odd deadline seems to rush closer and suddenly someone will call wanting to have a chat. Probably because I prefer the chat to the deadline and know I can't do both. Rushing the 'Famous for 16 Minutes' Diary (that extra minute Warhol gave me years ago never seems enough) and sending it off to Deb in America to add to my net ramblings and feeling like I should have made more effort. When Neil Finn asks me someone's name who is heading towards us at an after show or media event and I know the face too but for the life of me can't remember their name. So I try discreetly to find out before their smiling face arrives. It's all small stuff so it doesn't really matter.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

When friends let us down, even now I pretend it doesn't matter as much as it really does. When I mess up around one of our bands in some small way, and they just shrug it off but it seems to make it even worse. I hate making mistakes around work, but I deal with it now instead of just guilting. Deadlines, mostly around our Rocket Pocket Books--it always seems to take a lot longer to get them finished and printed and delivered. I am calmer at this. After months of work waiting on the new book TRIP to be delivered, I got myself way too excited on the arrival date--a truck arrives with numerous boxes of stock and...we open them--and it's NOT my book. I was cool--started laughing hysterically, a few years back I don't know if hysterical laughter would have been what I would have done.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

Like Kayte Terry I was thinking public image, but after volunteering to be the front half of a horse suit on the Finn Brothers tour I'd say my public image is well and truly shot to pieces. Listening more, talking less is probably the one.

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?

Australia with all its golden the first smell of the surf after months away from the beach. Certain lines from movie or tv shows like 007 (though Austin Powers has destroyed many of the Bond movies forever...very hard to take them seriously)...any of Joss's great one-liners from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and when I come home from a month away on the road and I get cuddled by my boyfriend for the first time, that nice hair smell is good (yikes)!

Thanks so much, Peter!

And with that, the Old Soul Ink interview series comes to an end, as does the blog. Once I'm situated at the other site (details TBA), I'll post about it here, and then that will be it for new content. (Archives will remain.) Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who read, commented, participated in the interviews, linked. I've met some incredible people, have gotten to know others still better, and I look forward to continuing that in the near future.

The OSI Interview: Justin Flitter

Justin Flitter is a Creative Customer Services Professional with a seemingly unquenchable thirst and enthusiasm for delivering and promoting excellent customer service. Given that the lack of customer service is one of my biggest pet peeves, I was very interested in Justin's championing of the cause. Nine years ago he founded, along with a board of trustees, the NRG Charitable Trust Business Incubator. Located in Wellington, New Zealand, the Incubator housed and supported young entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses. More recently, he has served as Customer Service Manager at and -- which won ‘Exporter of the Year’ and was ranked the 4th fastest growing company in New Zealand. Currently he works for as a Customer Advocate, Business Developer and Cheerleader! His personal site promotes customer service thought leadership, encouraging proactive management and best practice.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

Customer Service: Its the little things that mean the most. Reading or listening to an email to pick out the calls for help, hesitation or feedback that could benefit from a phone call really works.

The other is follow up, if I have replied to a customer with a question that email remains 'pending'. If I have not heard back after 2 or 3 days ill often email again or call the customer to ensure that request is completed.

Being Nosy: With blogging and Tweeting, it's listening that pays the dividends. It could be a comment from someone on your post, or a Twitter discussion that creates a "lightbulb" moment leading to a new relationship, business opportunity or blogpost.

A great example is my recent connection with Laurie Brown, a customer service expert in the United States. Laurie posted a customer-service related Tweet which captured my attention,so I visited her website. Our shared passion for customer service was obvious, so when I had an idea for a new White Paper I approached Laurie to co-author it with me. Recently we published "The Essential Customer Service WhitePaper for 2009" which is available free from

2. Which bits matter least?
Definitely timekeeping and appearance. Firstly I work from home, with a pool and the neighbor's cat' which is partly bliss and partly boring. Given that I physically work on my own' there's little reason to dress up, do my hair or shave every day. I can walk around in shorts and jandals [Note: that's "flip-flops" to you crazy Americans.]. I bought a suit a while back for job interviews, have only worn it once.
Timekeeping is something I'm naturally good at, but having a largely unstructured day means that minutiae of being on time is not one of mine.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

Over the last year my vision has broadened in that I'm focusing on relationships on a global level rather than a local, community/city level. Where before I focused on building local relationships for professional development, now I'm looking globally so local contacts have become less significant. Local networks are still important (especially when you work from home), but there are far more people and opportunities available when you're not fussed where they live.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

Patience is not my greatest virtue. Yet working at home requires a certain amount of patience and discipline. Working internationally often means I don't get an answer back as fast as I'd like so you have to learn to put things down for a bit. Some of my customer service work is repetitive. It would be easy to take shortcuts to get through the work. But as I've said, it's the small things that matter the most, personal comments and suggestions or a little time spent makes a huge difference. Post-It notes on the computer say "How can you make this better?" and "If it is to be, it is up to me".

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?

I have been reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. In it he talks about talents. As managers we recruit for talent but often talents are misinterpreted as skills or as if talent is hard to find. Marcus dispels the myth by saying that "Talents are simply recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior" so "Talents are actually rather commonplace". Perhaps customer service in some companies would improve if staff were hired based on talents like compassion, listening and thoughts of "the customer, before me". This idea has changed the way I write about customer service recruitment, staff coaching and training.

Thank you, Justin!

Friday, May 01, 2009

The OSI Interview: Jonathan Mead

Jonathan Mead is a prolific writer on the topic of self development and living authentically. He writes about "the less boring side" of life at his blog, Illuminated Mind, and is also a regular contributor on the popular blog, Zen Habits.

Since a young age, Jonathan lost his tolerance for doing things that he doesn't care about. He's on a mission to escape from cubicle hell, and reclaim his dreams. His purpose is to help other people liberate themselves from fluorescent lighting and start living deliberately. He recently published an ebook on this topic called Reclaim Your Dreams - An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms.

Jonathan is also a drummer, idea pusher, polymath, mad scientist, husband and essential renegade. He's currently researching how to get paid to exist.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

Every time I sit down to write I'm either subconsciously or consciously thinking these two questions "Do I really care about this?" and "Will other people care about this?"

My aim is always to bring clarity and awareness to topics that are important. I know that I can write about certain things that are controversial or popular, that will gain a lot of attention. But if I'm not being authentic, it will be hollow. People can see through that and the way you connect is by real.

2. Which bits matter least?

I would have to say following the rules. There are a lot of "unspoken rules" in the blogging and self-development world, that don't make sense to me. For example, a lot of people will say to post 3-5 times a week to create a successful blog. I do exactly the opposite, because I only write when I have something worth saying. Some of the biggest gains I've had in readership is when I only posted twice a month.

So I would say that's the first one. The second would have to be obsessing about everything being perfect. When you get caught up in "the cult of productivity" you tend to not be satisfied unless everything is done, completely organized and in order. But the truth is, life is a giant, beautiful mess. There are no square boxes and straight lines in nature. So instead of resisting, I try to embrace the mess. I try to give up trying to control everything.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

Trying to live up to an image of what I thought I should be, but was not. We all tend to have this idea in our heads about what we think we should be, what kind of self we should become in order to really accept ourselves.

My quest to be authentic has led me to develop a sort of filter of when I'm really being true to myself, as opposed to when I'm chasing something just because it's a "good idea."

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

The little things in life. It's amazing when you really just slow down and allow space to come into your life, how beautiful things become. Something as simple as leaves blowing in the wind across the pavement, can be so beautiful. Just the feeling of being can be something amazing, if you simply slow down.

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?

I've been seriously obsessed with Bruce Lee lately. One of my favorite quotes from him is "If you always place limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, they will seep into your work and your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus; and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

Every time I see myself pushing up against beliefs that don't serve me or imaginary walls around what I can and can't do, I ask myself "Am I limiting myself? Is this feeling valid, or is it simply an arbitrary limit I've unnecessarily placed on myself?"

It's amazing how often the answer turns out to be the latter.

Thank you, Jonathan!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The OSI Interview: Pete McGregor

Pete McGregor is one of those people who make you wonder what the hell you've been doing with your life. He writes, edits, takes photos, travels, keeps two blogs, does a lot of complicated-sounding outdoorsy things, and goes out of his way to be kind. He is also maddeningly logical, and I mean that in the best way possible. Over the last few years I've sort of harassed him into being my friend, and I'm better for it (and he is probably more tired for it.). Check out his blogs. Read his stuff. You'll be better for it. Trust me.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

What's my work? To what degree could what I do be considered work? I write, I edit, I photograph and a lot more, but, of those things, the editing contributes most to my financial survival—or, to be more accurate—to the postponement of my financial ruin. So let's accept that what constitutes my work is nebulous, ignore the minutiae of definitions of work, and simply say for the purposes of this question, much of my work is copy editing. This necessarily concerns details: punctuation, grammar, spelling and the like. Whether these details are minutiae could be argued—often they're so critical for meaning they shouldn't be considered minutiae (with its connotations of trivia—trivia being another matter altogether)—but in at least one sense they're small: therefore, minutiae. It's important to get these right, particularly when editing scientific or other academic manuscripts (the bulk of my editing): as anyone who's had to check APA style will tell you, academic pettifoggery reaches its apogee in the formatting of reference lists for science journals. On the other hand, many aspects of punctuation and grammar are debatable, so in more forgiving contexts what's important is less to get the minutiae right than to ensure that if you're going to get them wrong, at least to get them wrong consistently, thereby giving the impression that the error was deliberate.

The reasons these editorial minutiae are important are, first, that they're often essential for clarity or emphasis, and second, that one is paid to get them right. If neither reason applies, they don't matter and correcting them is a waste of time one could spend on important things like writing, photographing or living.

2. Which bits matter least?

Briefly staying with copy editing: if a punctuation mark makes no difference to the meaning or clarity of the writing, it matters only if it's required by a particular convention (a journal's style or a client's stipulation, for example).

More generally, minutiae that lack context (trivia, perhaps?) seem largely pointless and sometimes irritating. For example, knowing that C3PO was the first character to speak in the Star Wars films or that Captain Jean-Luc Picard's fish was called Livingston has little other than mostly mindless entertainment value for me, but if these were answers to questions at the Celtic's quiz night they might matter a great deal, particularly if knowing them facilitated the winning of a bar tab. To use a more powerful but fictitious example from Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal's knowing what Lord Rama holds in his right hand mattered a great deal. These examples (and other reasons, about which I intend writing) encourage me to be wary of dismissing knowledge of any kind as “useless”. On the other hand, minutiae that confuse rather than accentuate or enlighten are worse than useless (I'd give an example, but can't right now think of one).

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

I used to work for one of New Zealand's large science research organisations. Much of my work there entailed administrative tasks justified on grounds like the need for senior managers to maintain awareness of the organisation's efficiency, effectiveness and morale; however, these tasks impeded my ability to do my primary job: science research. Perhaps these tasks were necessary—without them the organisation might have gradually deteriorated and my research would then have been impeded by different organisational failures—but at the time it seemed my effectiveness was curtailed by the need to attend to minutiae ostensibly intended to improve my effectiveness.

However, those minutiae did not fall by the wayside. I abandoned them deliberately by choosing to live a different life: one not involving working for an organisation.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

None I can think of. Even the copy editing seemed to come naturally. Typos, grammatical errors and infidelities, and errors of punctuation seem to leap off the page. I make mistakes but I trust they're rare (they're more common in my own writing than in work I've edited, but that's to be expected).

5. Just for kicks — what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, a movie, etc.)?

Whoah, that's a big question. Where do I start? The more I notice details, the more I realise they so often say so much about the larger world: paradoxically, big ideas or pictures are often best revealed through detail. This is especially true of writing and photography. Examples and analogies are ways we understand: examples are details of larger ideas; analogies often so. By writing about or showing in a photo the detail of water streaming over a rock, or of an old woman's weathered hands, one creates a sense of something larger: in these cases, the river or the woman's life. Chains on an elephant's legs suggest something about that elephant's life beyond the chains and the legs. Understanding the power of details encourages me to pay more attention to details—what's happening in the background of a movie; what a writer mentions, ostensibly for no particular reason; or a quotation that seems to encapsulate part of life (most recently, Nicolas Bouvier's statement in The Way of the World: “Travelling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you—or unmaking you”).

But what are minutiae? Detail at one scale constitutes the big picture at another: the bristles on a robber fly are details of the fly, the fly is a detail of a summer afternoon, the summer afternoon is a detail of seasonal life in the Pohangina valley. Perhaps the world is only minutiae—or do minutiae not exist?

Thank you, Pete!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The OSI Interview: Sara Pemberton

Sara Pemberton is the owner of On Simplicity, a blog focused on having less and enjoying more. Her pieces have been featured on Get Rich Slowly, Dumb Little Man, and Simple Mom. In her non-blogging life, Sara is a library programming director, heading up services for adults and children (and on occasion, pets). In between writing and finding new ways for kids to make fantastic messes, Sara enjoys fluffy slippers and a good gin and tonic [and thus is obviously awesome.--ED.].

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?
With the micro-audiences that blogging caters to, it all feels a bit like minutiae at times, doesn't it? Of course, that's also the beauty of it. Even the tiniest idea or event can become an essay that reaches thousands of readers. Small comments also matter deeply to me. Having someone contribute an idea, an opinion, or a word of thanks changes the dynamic of a blog dramatically.

Of course, when I'm working with kids, that dynamic is completely flipped. In writing, the end result is what matters, regardless of how much I enjoyed creating it. With kids, the end result is how much you enjoy creating a project. That's the whole point: having fun in the process. It helps me keep things in perspective beautifully.

2. Which bits matter least?
Without a doubt, the unwritten "rules" of any job or task. In the end, there are no rules. Trying to follow someone else's guidelines or standards can be maddening. As long as you're doing your best to provide what people need, the details can usually slide.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?
Collecting things, having them for posterity, used to seem extremely important. From music to books to vintage Barbies, I wanted it all. Now, I try to get rid of as much as possible while still keeping what I really appreciate. The ethic of "the perfect is the enemy of the good" has really changed my outlook. Sure, I could have every single song I've ever heard, stored in alphabetical order on an external drive, or I could focus on the twenty percent of songs I love and not have to sort through a bunch of crap to get to them. The culture of access has helped, too. I don't have to own every rare bootleg cut as long I know where to access them.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?
People, if people can be called minutiae. I used to expect everyone to wear their hearts on their sleeves. (I know, it seems pretty silly now.) Now I try to make an effort to see what's beneath the surface instead of expecting people to tell me what they need.

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?
I'm totally obsessed with the back stories of songs and artists. Like in "Let's Get It On," there's a line at the end about being sanctified. That one throwaway line encompasses all of Marvin Gaye's duality, his lifelong struggle with sex and spirituality. I thrive on minutiae like that, the easter eggs of life that add depth and meaning to everyday experiences.

Thank you, Sara!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The OSI Interview: Marianne Elliott

After a decade working as a human rights advocate in New Zealand, Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and Timor-Leste, Marianne returned to New Zealand in 2008 to write down some of the extraordinary stories she had gathered along the way. Her work experiences range from heading up a provincial office of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, providing human rights advice to the Government of Timor-Leste and working as international legal and media advisor to the extraordinary Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza. "Living in the midst of conflict," she says, "My friends in these war-torn countries have taught me how to practice my own brand of personal peace." Today Marianne divides her time between writing, working as a policy advisor and advocate/lobbyist for Oxfam New Zealand (a not-for-profit international development agency dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice) meditation practice, training to be a yoga teacher, learning to surf and post-graduate studies in psychology. Her current writing project is a memoir about her life and work in Afghanistan, and you can read more about her experiences at Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?
In human rights work the detail of the law matters. I'd like to think that empathy or ethics would be enough to compel us to act honorably towards our fellow human beings around the world, but governments and multi-nationals are going to care about the law.

In environmental work the detail of the often science matters. It's important to be sure that you actually understand the science if you are going to try to motivate people to make changes to their lifestyle based on that science. I'm not a scientist and it takes effort for me to make sense of climate models and emissions reductions scenarios, but I've had to learn.

2. Which bits matter least?
Ironically, I think the answer is the same as to question 1, i.e. the law and the science. You've got to get them right if you are going to get out of the starters block in your campaign for change, but then you have to understand that they won't get you much further. You need to move on pretty quickly to the forces that will motivate people to change, and at that point you have the choice to play to people's weaknesses (fear, insecurity, anger) or to their strengths (empathy, hope, optimism). Take a guess which I prefer.

In writing I struggle to think of minutiae that doesn't matter - it all matters: spelling, grammar, punctuation, length, tone, pace, rhythm, point of view, vocabulary. If any of those are off then the reader is likely to be distracted by them, and the emotional power of the piece will be lost. I still get them wrong, but I know that it matters when I do.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?
That's a tough question. The only minutiae I ever really cared about in my childhood were words and tidiness. Even as a child I liked a tidy room and could spend days in the company of a well-written book. They both remain as important to me as they ever were. My sister tells me that if I ever have children I'll learn to care less about the tidiness. But, as yet, that is an unproven theory.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?
With the exception of words and neatness, pretty much all of them. I've had to learn to pay attention to most of the minutiae of life. In my first job as a lawyer I tried to convince my boss that since I had a "big picture" brain he should let me work on the overall strategy for our case and leave him to read through the piles of documents looking for details. He wasn't convinced. Over the years I've learned that minutiae matters, but if I can delegate them to someone else I always will. These days my boyfriend is the most likely candidate. He has, for example, a wonderful capacity to check whether the picture is going to be lined up straight before he bangs in the nail.

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?
The tiny changes that appear in our vegetable garden each day, a tomato starting to turn red, a new tendril on the cucumber plant, a zucchini flower blossoming. Mary Oliver's poems.

(Photo credit: Susannah Conway.)

Thank you, Marianne!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Achtung, baby

This week begins something new: every day, for seven days, I'll be posting a different OSI interview. It's a fascinating mix of people, in my somewhat less-than-humble opinion. But why the seven in a row? Well, here's the deal. After the seven interviews, this blog is more or less finished. I'm beginning something new (which I'll tell you about here when it is ready!), and there will be a blog involved there. Very exciting stuff, if you ask me, and I can't wait for it to begin.

So! See you tomorrow?