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Business success is a game of inches, not a one off event, with Nigel Collin

nigel-collin
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You can spend years learning to be a great writer but it’s only when you start writing that you actually learn. It’s a matter of starting because when you start you gain momentum and you learn as you go. Then there’s the passion, knowing and burn that drives you on when things get tough. Learning from your mistakes, making small changes wins the big results. Inch by inch. Writing is a business, we all know that, and learning the strategies and rules will get us part of the way, but it’s by being innovative, inventive and creative in our business mindset that brings the best results. And it takes time. Nigel spent a year interviewing the the best business people Australia has to offer – that he rode his motor bike around Australia to do it gave him insights into how our best succeed. Then, luckily for the rest of us, he documented all in his book, Game of Inches. You can find out more about Nigel and his business here. And if I get carried away chatting to Nigel about all the best places and characters we have to offer here in Oz, I blame Nigel…he was just too damned easy to talk to. Thanks, Nigel:)

 

 

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Nigel Collin
Duration: [00:58:04]
Melinda: Welcome to another episode of Writer on the Road. I'm talking to the wonderful Nigel Collin of The Game of the Inches fame, good afternoon Nigel.
Nigel Collin: Good afternoon.
Melinda: I'd like to start our story Nigel if it's okay with you, of course I am a storyteller, I love to start at the high point of any story and I've already forewarned Nigel of this, we're moving our way up to the Daily Waters Pub and happy hour. Nigel as a businessman, as a storyteller, as a speaker I'd like to hand over to your and get you to tell us all about the success story that is the Daily Waters Pub.
Nigel Collin: It's, you know what it's probably the most famous non-famous place in Australia. I stumbled upon it virtually by accident, I didn't know the Daily Waters Pub existed until a mate of mine in Alice Springs said are you visiting the Daily Waters Pub and it's this little pub, it's been around since the 1800s not as a pub but it was a guesthouse original on the stockman's route. But it's off the beaten track, it's in the middle of nowhere literally it's between Katherine and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, literally hundreds of kilometers either direction there's nothing and it's off the main road so you could easily drive pass the turn-off and never know it's there.
But when you go to the Daily Waters Pub it's an experience, it's like an adventure. The place is famous because people flock to it, on any given evening, whether it's wet season/dry season, whether you've heard of the Daily Waters Pub or not, on any given evening there's somewhere around 250 people having a great time at this place and rightly so. It's full of characters, it's, you know what's really interesting, it has, it's almost the iconic outback pub that you see in movies, in fact it's featured in quite a few movies.
I say that because when you travel around the country as you know you come across these roadhouses and these places that kind of theme themselves up to look as we expect them to look, it's almost like they're, it's not that they're dis-genuine or anything but they're kind of make the effort of looking like an outback pub. The Daily Waters is the outback pub and I'm pretty sure that most places model after it. Hanging off the ceilings are people's t-shirts and underwear and caps that they've left there as they visit and the idea is that you'll come back and revisit your cap and I've got a cap hanging up in the ceiling somewhere in the Daily Waters Pub.
So it's an experience, it's one of those places that you probably don't know exist but so many people do. It's, you know what it's like? It's a bit like going to Disneyland. If you've ever been to Disneyland you can sort of say to someone, you can look at someone and go isn't it great and you have this bonding that you've both been there and you get it. You can't describe it, you get it. The Daily Waters Pub is like that, when you meet someone who's been you don't have to say anything you just go ah the Daily Waters Pub and instantly as all good visions, instantly this vision comes into your brain which triggers off these wonderful experiences and memories. It is unique and it is, it's just a great experience. I've used that word, I've overused the word because I don't know any other word to describe it.
Melinda: Yeah and I'm having a bit of chuckle and of our travelers out there will have a bit of a chuckle as well, I've been to the Daily Waters Pub and there are a lot of, I guess, similar pubs out there that don't have the reputation but they still have that authentic feel. I'm thinking of the Quamby Pub outside Cloncurry and nearby there's a one where a donkey goes up and drinks water, sorry, drinks beer at the bar. It's just part and part off--
Nigel Collin: And there's Humpty-Doo which is another experience again.
Melinda: Yeah Humpty-Doo's up near Darwin everybody. The reason I'm excited to have Nigel on today and the reason I'll get to reminisce about everywhere I've ever been is Nigel had a little project and if you'd like to tell us about that project Nigel it might make sense to our listeners while we're going to do a trip around Australia.
Nigel Collin: Yeah, yeah good one. So I grew up in a creative sector, I was a credit director in the business events industry and I would create shows and that sort of thing. I used to get really upset when people would say to me oh my ideas aren't any good, I'm not very creative. As Australians we're pretty good at putting ourselves down. So I had this brain wave, actually it wasn't really a brave wave, but I had this idea of if you just head out into Australia you'll come across the most amazingly creative, incredibly smart people. There's clever people all over this country doing incredible stuff and unfortunately through media or whatever we only hear about the Leviathans [00:05:39] (?) or the celebrities of innovation or creativity or whatever that is.
So I basically had this idea to jump on my motorbike and ride around the country just me, my bike and a video camera. As I met people I would interview them and tell their stories. The idea was by sharing stories of just everyday people who have done pretty cool stuff it would inspire other people to kind of go you know what, yeah I've always wanted to write a book or I've always wanted to be an artist and just inspire people to pursue their ideas and that was the original intent.
What happened was much more than that, as I travelled around the country I was inspired by so many different people and came back with probably the biggest business lesson I have had in my life, so it wasn't so much the many places I visited, it was the people attached to those places and their mindset, their attitude, what they've achieved, a whole concoction of lessons came from it.
So it wasn't just the experience of traveling around visiting these great places, when you talked to people it's incredible the stories you hear and how that can change you. I called the project Ingenious Oz Project, under the premise that we are an ingenious country, we are more ingenious than we give ourselves credit for. It's sort of still lurking away there in the background.
Melinda: I first came across this very idea of everybody having a story to tell and you remember it Nigel, it was called, it was a show called Australia All Over with with Macca and it used to be every Sunday morning and he'd get the truck as he'd get all sorts of people calling in and talking about the things that were happening and our characters that are out there living their lives in a way that I guess people who are out there only know how to do. I notice in your book The Game of Inches you talk about these guys, you talk about these guys in the outback being very innovative, inventive, with that we'll came back.
Nigel Collin: What a word.
Melinda: Innovative and the idea is that they don't have the resources so they have to be resourceful.
Nigel Collin: The Daily Waters Pub is the perfect example of that. So one of the interesting things having a business background, one of the interesting things people often think they can't be innovative or creative because they don't have the resources, they don't have the money, they don't have the materials, they don't have the mentors, whatever it is that that scarcity inhibits people from being innovative and creative.
It's absolute bunk, it's completely opposite and what's wonderful, the Northern Territory, although it's under 2% of the population of this country has some of the most innovative ideas going on. One of the reasons for it is when you're in the middle of nowhere you have to get creative, you have to be innovative if you want to get things done.
The Daily Waters Pub is such a great idea because they are in the middle of nowhere so they make their own tables and chairs out of old pallets from when they get deliveries and they're not just like pallets, they actually these beautiful tables, wooden tables crafted but out of materials they have lying around. I remember asking the owner at the time, her name was Robin what do you do when your washing machine breaks down because they're in the middle of nowhere. She basically said we go to Mitre 3, I thought what's Mitre 3? She went the tip! You go to the tip and you find what's available and you make the most of it. The other thing, so basically yeah, scarcity, the lack of resources puts you into a position where you have to be that, you really don't have a choice and as a result of that, many innovations, that old cliché, necessity is the mother of invention, that's why.
I interviewed the Mayor of Alice Springs, a guy called Damien Ryan he said remoteness instigates inventiveness and I love that. There's some really interesting, I can talk forever about innovation in the Northern Territory, But you're absolutely right I think there is a mindset out there that in order to create, in order for example to write that we need the newest MacBook or we have to get all of our storyboards organized and I need, oh I need to do some more interviews and we keep putting it off, and putting off and putting it off until we've got everything lined up perfectly and the truth of the matter is everything will never be lined up perfectly and if you just starts it's amazing what you'll create whether or not you've got resources is irrelevant.
Melinda: I think that's one of the key things in Nigel's book, Game of Inches, which is why small change wins big results is you need to start and you need to just take one step at a time refining things as you go. As authors I think we get a little bit, I guess overwhelmed by this whole idea of being business people as well as authors. Nigel's here to help us today, he's here to help us he's got this wonderful four step method, find a gap, take action, test and measure, and delete or improve. It's an amazing process, I have the book on my desk. Nigel and I were talking five minutes ago and he says I think there's a lot of people who've got it on their desk because you can just open it up and find that inspiration and I've put a lot of that on Instagram as I come across various pages. Nigel would you like to help me and my fellow indie authors out and tell us that it's okay to be business people and learn as we go?
Nigel Collin: Absolutely. Let me just kind of slide into that, having grown up in a creative industry of business events I used to think it was always about the big idea and I used to believe that if it wasn't done in it's entirety it wasn't worth even looking at. As I travelled around the country I learned that I was completely wrong. What's important is just to begin and to start. When you talk to creative people and when you talk to writers and you talk to business people it really is just a matter of starting because when you start you gain momentum and when you start you learn as you go.
The only way you can learn is by doing, I mean we need the strategies, we need to understand the rules of the game, we need to learn the craft of writing, I've spent years, it's interesting, I spent years trying to learn how to be a great writer and it wasn't until I actually got my head into a book and wrote it and started writing that I really learned. The three months of writing that book I learned more than I had in ten years.
So it is okay, I think, to just start wherever you are and understand that it is a process but you will learn by doing and when you make mistakes you learn from your mistakes. I think, I don't know society just has it's thing about it's got to be perfect I begin. No you just got to start. It's the one thing, you know when you look at, when you study, not just creative people but anyone who's had success in any kind of endeavor, but seriously really good at getting stuff done, they're just good at starting. It doesn't matter where they are, they just begin.
There's a Zen story I've put in the book which I'm always talking about because I love it to pieces about a businessman who wanted to become a third floor, a house on the third floor because back in ancient China that was very high status and you could look over land and over the presents so he commissioned some builders to build him a third floor home and he went off on his business travels and when he came back to his dismay they were still working on the first floor and he sacked them and they went why are you unhappy? He went because I didn't want, I don't want first floor, I just want the third floor, build me third floor. The builders like well we have to build you the first floor and he's I don't want the first floor.
It's a great, it's a great story because it illustrates that so often we just want to get the book finished and have it on the bookshelf and have it perfect. But the reality of these we got to start wherever we are and if we haven't started then we've got to start, we just got to do page one before we can get to page seven hundred and ninety four. Yeah, I think it is a very important lesson.
The other thing that you mentioned or that you spoke about there was writing is a business. It is a business! Writing is a business and it's a business from a number of perspectives. The reason I think is firstly I believe it is a financial business, if you're going to be a writer you need to support yourself. Unless you're part-time and there's nothing wrong with that but there's something wonderful about getting commissioned to do a work, to have an article in a magazine or to finish a book and to see someone to get an email from someone going hey that's a wonderful book. There is that commercial vibe of living to it that inspires us to keep going.
I think writing with a non- financial element is still a business and I think we should take the money out of it sometimes and go it is a business you need to sit down and structure yourself and to how you're going to write. You need to go well what is my objective here, what am I actually trying to achieve, what's the purpose of writing, is it just because it's good for my soul or do I want other people to read it or do I want to get published in a magazine or do I want to inspire a particular audience. Whatever that is there must be, I believe some kind of objective as to why you're writing what you're writing and from that point of view it's a business. So there is the financial side of it sure but there's a lot of really great writers out there, it doesn't have to be about the money but I think it does have to be a business in how you approach it and how you think about it otherwise nothing gets done.
Nigel Collin: You're just kind of throwing stuff around and it never, there's something good, let me be really honest with you, I love the romantic notion of writing a book, it is just the most beautiful thing of like wow how wonderful to write a book. The actual doing of it, for me anyway and I know there's other people that don't fall into this category but for me it's a chore, the actual writing, the reality of writing a book is so different to the romance or the notion of writing a book. So I had to treat it as a business, I needed the contract to get it done because it never would have been finished, it never would have got done had I not had the pressure of a deadline and a publisher over my shoulder going we need this by December 4, whenever it was. So yeah I think it is a business, it has to or you'll just, no.
Melinda: I think we've taken it one step further as well because not only are we writers and as independent-publishers or self-publishers we have to create a whole business model around that and so I'm finding myself delving more and more into the business world as I get my head around it so that I can share my knowledges with others. So we're talking, I've got the podcast, I'm about to launch an online course for teenagers and it's interesting what you say Nigel because the very first module in my course for my teenagers is Finding your Why and you've just covered that beautifully.
Nigel Collin: It's the one thing that will, it's interesting you saying that because the why is one thing that will get you through all the hardship and challenge and let's be really honest about this, if you're going to be a writer you're going to have moments of I'm going to give this up, there will be challenges, there will be times when you throw your computer against the wall type of thing. But it's that knowing, it's that passion, that burn, that drive that gets you through those challenges. If you have a publisher knock you back and you're not completely driven and don't believe in what you're doing it's very easy to go oh that's the end of that I've had enough or I can't take the rejection.
I was reading, I'm reading a great book at the moment called Grit by Angela Duckworth and I can't remember his name, she's talking about a cartoonist and very similar writers and cartoonists and he was talking about how do you get published, how do you get your work commissioned, he's a cartoonist with the New Yorker, I cannot remember his name, but he basically said you've got to keep going, you've got to just keep plugging away because and this is the great part of it he goes, business cartooning and we'll replace that with writing, cartooning is just like life, nine out of ten times it's going to go to hell. I just think isn't that brilliant! But the one way you get through that is by knowing why you do what you do, having this passion.
Anyone I, here's a challenge for everybody listening, when you come across someone, not just a writer, but anyone who's achieved anything of any level of success ask them what drives them and you'll find there's been very little hesitation, people who achieve things, people who complete the book they know what's driving them, they know what and that's what gets them up at six o'clock and that's what makes them disciplined enough between six and eight to do nothing but write, that's what disciplines them that when they get the letter of rejection to send it off to another publisher. It's knowing why you do what you do, that's what gets them through these moments.
This is my personal experience, I'm never going to nail this writing thing, it's not part of my soul. But if you really have a burning passion you will learn to write, you can get yourself a writing mentor, you can practice and practice and practice and over time you will become a writer and it's that, it's knowing why that gets you through all that stuff plus on top of that that's what makes it so beautiful. When you really want something, when you really want a desire to write and you do it's just a great sense of achievement, you feel good, it's good for the soul. If you're just doing it for the hell of it, it's not quite the same thing as when you're doing it because you have to do it.
So yeah, it's, in business a lot of people talk about why and having purpose and I think it's often pushed aside as another one of those business kind of motivational kind of things, oh knowing why yes that's all very Anthony Robbins kind of stuff. Do you know what? It's I think probably one of the elements that we don't give enough attention to and if we miss it or we don't have it or won't search for it then we don't get as far along the track as we could have.
Melinda: I really like this guy everybody, if anybody looking at my Story Slingers course and the first module I want you to know that they're my words and not Nigel's there because he's just paraphrased me. But talking to him now--
Nigel Collin: Yes! Absolutely!
Melinda: You're spoiling my copyright, go away!
Nigel Collin: Well there's another email in the morning.
Melinda: Listening to this man I've got the privilege of seeing him as well as hearing him and the passion in his face and as he speaks you can hear it in his voice, he genuinely adores this stuff. It's something that I didn't expect Nigel, I've got to tell you that I've been delving in a little bit as I said into the business world and I hear a lot of this business speak and I saw a bit of it at the conference although I saw bit of passion as well and I saw some of the businessy type words in your book and I thought oh my gosh I've got to adapt my style to have all this business talk, when you were coming on today I said to my boys I said oh I don't know if I'm business-y enough and I'm listening to you talk and I thought you're just one of us.
Nigel Collin: I had that same thing. I've got access to some of the most brilliant business minds of this country and I've interviewed many of them and that's, I've been very fortunate for that opportunity. But there are times when I'm in the same boat, we think god. At the end of the day business isn't hard, it's actually quite simple. Actually I'll say that again, it isn't simple but it's hard to get it going and I think we put a lot of blocks but at the end of the day business is, it's like writing, the actual starting it and doing it isn't that complex that the grudge work that goes along with it and can be quite daunting.
I interviewed a guy called Siddhu Warrior who owns cruise liners in Sydney Harbor, Sydney Show Boats and he's an Indian culturally of background and he said to me there's a saying that we have in India that if someone's at the door of your shop and they're not throwing money at you then you don't have a business. You can kind of get a bit freaked out by that.
When you think about it that's the essence of business and this is why, you mentioned the processes earlier of find the gap, take action are the first two steps. It is definitely a sequence and by that what is finding the gap? Finding the gap is finding out what it is that people want to buy, what will they throw money at you for? If we're going to look at writing as a business we have to kind of think is what I'm writing going to be something that people will want to read. Is it going to be of use, is it going to be of value because otherwise they're not going to buy your books?
Now if you have the purpose of writing just for the sake of writing there's nothing wrong with that, maybe it's not a business. But business is pretty simple, you've just got to find something that people want to buy and then you got to build it, in other words write it which is the take action bit and that's it. I think we complicate it too much. There's a lot of little nuances, it's a bit like golf you can learn it in a day, take you years to master. We shouldn't be daunted by that, we just start where we are and we learn step by step.
Melinda: I don't think you ever learn golf, I think we just continue putting our balls in the river and that's the way it's going to be.
Nigel Collin: I had no passion for golf.
Melinda: There are so many directions this interview can go and I know when I was researching it I just had to stop because you get to overwhelm and that's something that Nigel mentions in his book, you've just got to stop at some stage and jump right in and I'm looking at my pages of notes here and I'm going okay I'll just jump right because there is so much wonderful, wonderful stuff and that.
Now I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly but it's Siimon Reynolds is your mentor and what Siimon's got a wonderful book in the book and it says "We must completely commit to constant improvement. That philosophy over time combined with the philosophy of aiming high is pretty much all you need to succeed in business and in life, the rest is just detail." So that was my starting point in researching that today and I think that's exactly what you're saying isn't it?
Nigel Collin: Siimon for me is one of the most brilliant minds in this country, although he now lives in America. But yeah, insane business mind and built an enormous organization so he knows what he's doing. Yeah, pretty much. It's funny when we talk about this hankering for constant improvement, waking up every day going how can I do this better, how can I be better at this, what can I learn today?
It is a step-by-step process and in a weird way it sounds like a contradiction to aim high and yet be obsessed by constant improvement. A lot of people go oh they don't make sense, but it does because you're not going to improve something constantly, you're not going to want to be a better writer and improve your story telling or improve your linguistic abilities unless you have a high goal, a reason to do that. So what Siimon's referring to there is we need to aim high in order to accomplish things, in order to get things that we is important, that are important to us. But that's not enough. It's one thing to have a big goal but you've actually got to make it happen.
So to get there it's a constant effort of just improving everything every day as you go along. Again, this is The Game of Inches thing and it comes through, everybody I spoke to over the last three years that I've interviewed and there's now well over a hundred people, they've all got the same hankering just to constantly learn how to do stuff better. But they all, they've all got this kind of vision if you like of where they want to be and what they want to achieve. But they understand that it's not an overnight thing, it's not, it's not Google or Uber, you don't' just have an idea and become a bestselling author overnight, I mean maybe if you write the next Harry Potter but that's few and far between.
We've got to have this I want to write a book that's going to touch lives, this big ambition, this big purpose, this big dream or whatever that is and then we need to simply go okay to make that real I need to work really hard and diligently and get it going. If we start where we are and we start small it's not daunting anymore, we can all take one step, we can all improve a little bit every day and we don't get overwhelmed by this huge massive vision. But we can still have the big dream but the way to bring it about is you've got to build the first floor, you've got to build the second floor until eventually you get to the third floor.
Siimon as he always does articulates these concepts so beautifully. It's, every time I speak to him you say, every time I speak to Siimon I get off the phone or the Skype or whatever and I'm just touched because he is an insane mind that just articulates, inspiring kind of guy. Shut me up now because I'll go on forever.
Melinda: We're going to try and track Siimon down and get him on the show, we'll say Nigel said everybody, the reason I'm particularly interested in tracking Siimon down is because I'm madly in love with him, right before I meet him because he did not fill his house with books, he built an apartment around his books. Now what kind of man could you not adore who does that?
Nigel Collin: He's an avid reader. For those don't who know who Siimon is, Siimon Reynolds was an advertising entrepreneur who back in the 80's, I think it was the 80's, as a young guy did the Grim Reaper campaign when AIDS first hit, for those of us of this age group, we'd remember that was quite controversial and he was the youngest creative director in advertising, he went on to build his own ad agency and sold it, he then went on to build one of the biggest marketing conglomerate on the planet and sold it on the stock exchange for just an insane amount of money. So he knows his stuff, and he's and Siimon is spelled with the two "i's" which is where most people know him from.
He's and avid reader, he's and advocate of constantly learning. We had this discussion on once upon time, he did literally remodel his house around his bookshelf, it was that sort of foundation wall as you walk in the hallway rather than just having a wall that wall became the bookcase, which I just found amazing. But we had this conversation about the fact that I travel quite a bit, he travel's quite a bit but we're the sort of people that we get to an airport we just buy three or four books, we will come home with a lot more books than we go away with and I think that's important.
If you're going to be a writer you need to write, but we need to find influence, we need to pick up ideas, we need to see the style and structures of other people and so you'll find that people who are successful, whether they're writers or otherwise they're always learning, they never stop learning. They're on listening to podcasts like this or they're reading books or they're talking, they've all got mentors, they've always got someone they can ring up and talk to and go how do I do this. So it's a matter of constantly learning.
It's interesting because when I was young I did art school and I went to film school for while and screen writing and I was one of these guys hey I'll just sit in my room and I'll write and without getting the input, without getting the mentoring, without having someone get online once a week and go what the hell is this page of tripe, we've got to restructure it. No matter what level you get to we always, tennis cages, tennis players have tennis cages. Whatever level we get to especially in writing it's great to have that mentor that you can send this week's work to who will come back and not pat you on the back and go that's wonderful you're brilliant but who will actually guide you and go look I love this but what we need to do is did you think about this, there's a bit of a while there or why haven't you accomplished your word count, or whatever that is. We need that input and you get it through books.
There are mentors in books. I've got, I'm sitting writing right now and you probably can't see it but I've got a bookshelf that runs along the top of my office and it's full of books and there's mentors in those books I can go to and be inspired or I can jump online and talk to somebody. When I was writing my book I had a mentor who would, as I was writing it, once every fortnight or so we'd get together every time I finished a chapter and she'd smack me over the head every so often. I've deviated from the reading bit but yeah I think to be a writer you have to be an avid reader, you have to, that's where all the, it's where all the knowledge is.
Melinda: Now everybody I've got to confess that the last thing I expected when I had Nigel on the show today was to find this passion about writing. I expected to get a businessman who was going to give us tips, so sorry everybody I think what we have to do--
Nigel Collin: I give tips!
Melinda: -- we have to give him tips on writing! But the thing that I'm so very glad that you're talking about with such enthusiasm is that never-ending learning, always learning. You called it the never-ending doctorate in your book and the best source of learning is the people that you meet. I thought that was pretty exciting considering that you just come back from around Australia and meeting all these people, talking to them and learning so many different ideas and it broadens your own horizons on how you look at things. What I want to do and now look Nigel we're at 33 minutes and I know you wanted to stop at 30, have I got time for one more thing?
Nigel Collin: I'm happy to talk business.
Melinda: Alright, one thing I wanted to talk to you about Rick Ball at Broken Hill, now this man just fascinates me. I've sat on the slag heap at the top of the mine at Broken Hill, I've looked at Pro Hart's blue vase and I've tried to climb over the fence to get an interview with Pro Hart and he just looked at me really strangely as if to say get off my fence woman and kept walking, but that was quite a number of years ago now. Tell us about your friend Rick because guy's he's fascinated.
Nigel Collin: Yeah and look he's one of the, this is interesting, Rick Ball gave me one of the best business lessons I've had in my life and he's not a businessman, he's an artist. My wife is actually related to him, so kind of long story short I got to Broken Hill my father-in-law rings up and says I've organized for you to have dinner with Rick Ball and I'm like who the hell is Rick Ball. I met him and we got on like an absolute house on fire.
For me he's one of the true creative people I have ever met because Rick is completely passionate, we talked about why he's completely passionate and focused on being creative from a very internal perspective but not compromising on when you paint it has to be your work and not the work of somebody else, which may seem a bit of a paradox when we're talking about business, but anyway. So he lives in Broken Hill, he sells his work all over the planet if you type in Rick Ball and Google him you'll see some of his work and it's absolutely brilliantly beautiful.
But he also teaches indigenous kids art and how to paint at a school I think about 120 kilometers south of Broken Hill. I found that really fascinating, one how do you actually teach people how to paint in the first place but secondly how do you teach kids, indigenous kids how to paint. When I asked him he basically went you don't, of course as soon as you tell them how to do it it's no longer their work, it's no longer their art, his whole premise was if he tells them it needs a blue streak across the center of the canvas for example then it's his work, it's not their work which is kind of interesting.
So he went on to talk about it's important to teach the method and structure and all of those sort of things but not to tell them how to do it. He then drew this analogy which was the lesson I took of, and it was almost a sense of discovering when he said it, it was quite incredible that he is a fire keeper, that it's his job to keep the fire burning not to ignite it, just to keep the fire burning. The fire as in their passion, their why, their abilities and every so often maybe just chuck a blue streak into the fire but not to tell how them how to paint it in blue.
Then he drew this analogy, or not an analogy he sort of them in this moment said so my role as a teacher is not to tell them it's to draw out, it's to nurture, it's to allow them to discover. It's a beautiful analogy of business and it's a beautiful of leadership and it's a beautiful analogy of writing. It comes back to the why, why do we do what we do.
I think as, and this comes back to the business thing I guess, trying to loop it around, with the gap that if people are going to throw money at you for your work, if people are going to want to pay you for what you do you have to be true to yourself, but you also have to fuel their fire and my passion for doing a thing will be completely differently to someone else's passion even if it's the same thing. So the reason I will read the book will be the different reason somebody else will read the book.
What Rick was saying is that what's important is to be true to ourselves with our creativity and our own art but to understand that that's going to be a completely different ball game for somebody else. As a teacher, as a coach, as a mentor, whatever we want to call ourselves we need to understand that. In nomadic and indigenous cultures the person who keeps the fire, one of the roles of society is to keep the fire burning and that person is very revered within society from the community because if the fire goes out the community suffers.
Rick's analogy of being the fire keeper has stuck with me because when I'm working, if you want to draw a simple parallel to when I was writing the book, because the book in a way I never actually set out to write this book, it kind of found me. I went on this journey and I met all these people and I learned all this stuff and I went wow look at that they're all doing similar things and I thought oh I should write a book about this.
I didn't actually set out to write the book but when I was writing the book Rick's words were reverberating because I was thinking okay I could either just tell people this stuff or I can try and write it in a way that it fuels the fire, that it keeps the fire burning for the people who are reading the book in a weird sort of a way. It was just a wonderful, wonderful lesson. So from the point of view of being very sincere and true to your creative purpose but also in the sense of getting out of your own selfish perspective and focusing completely on somebody else and how to help them increase their passion. Beautiful, beautiful tension of play.
Melinda: Nigel's book has been very, very successful in that you have the book beside you and there's not a page, it's the kind of book that you can pick up and have a flick through and it's got little bits and pieces that you can take that'll either see you saying girls get your own dinner I'm going to sit down and read for a while or we'll have you racing off to do one more little thing to your business that takes you another step forward. So Nigel you've been very successful there.
I loved when I read Rick's story and he talked about nurturing, leading and encouraging people to pursue their dreams. I think that's our job as business people and it's our job as authors and it's our job as I guess as podcasters, as online course writers, all those kinds of things that move us forward into the business world and take us above and beyond I guess and I know this sounds awful just being writers which is a big enough dream itself to get out there.
We have such an important role to play and never more than now and this is the other thing that I wanted to talk to you about so I'm just going to keep going. How to disrupt your industry one step at a time. Now that was an article on Inside Small Business, very, very exciting time for indie authors and very, very exciting time to have Nigel give us permission to push our boundaries, push our creativity, not just in ways of writing but in ways of creating a business model that allows us to be our most creative best.
Nigel Collin: Disruption is one of those words that is bandied around, especially in the business world. Often when we talk about disruption we think of iPhones and eBays and these big massive shifts in the world. The fact is though that to disrupt the planet or to do a Mark Zuckerberg and create the next Facebook is insanely rare and incredibly difficult and usually happens by chance. However, that doesn't mean that you can't disrupt, and by disruption do something a little bit differently, you know just change the game a little bit. Most disruption, most change, most innovation happens step-by-step. It's incremental, it's not a one off big explosive kind of moment.
I think we need to disrupt and the reason I say that is we're very comfortable with conformity and status quo, especially in the business world and especially as writers part of our job is to keep ahead of the curve because the world will change with or without us and it has. The publishing model over the last five years, even, the last has just completely been turned on it's head. It's never been easier to self-publish, it's never been easier to find an audience through social media.
The actual publishing side of our business world has changed dramatically. So we need to either be reactive to that and as a result let us drag us along kicking and screaming in most cases or we can kind of go alright well that model is changing, how do I exploit it, how do I use the shift to reach an audience, to find my readers. That can be a very overwhelming prospect. But if we look at it as just incremental steps, if we go well what little thing can I do that's going to change the game for me, over a year or two years or over the next five books that you might write it will be amazing the distance that you can actually carry.
Businesses are very and by business I don't just mean big enterprise, your Telstra’s of this world, but even micro solo businesses which is what most writers are, I've got, you mentioned Inside Business, I write every month for Inside Small Business, I write for a few other publications, but most of the readership is through social means even though they have a hard print magazine, it's a digital format that kind of gets leverage.
You just kind of go alright, well how do I found an audience as a writer, as a business model how am I going to actually make money to sustain my writing. So all we need to do is tweak what we're doing a little bit, maybe Facebook isn't the social medium, maybe it's Pinterest or maybe it's somewhere else. If we just keep making small changes, they're easy, they're fast, they're not risky, if you make a small change you can fail and it's easy to correct course. At the same time you can change, you can be disruptive because if you're not disruptive someone's going to come along and disrupt you, it's as simple as that.
I think we get scared about disruption because we think oh it's too hard I don't know what I'm doing. But this is where the philosophy of Game of Inches comes about and you can, you see your business all the time. If you look at someone like Mcgraw Real Estate, Mcgraw's been successful by his own admission of constantly doing little things better than everybody else. Constantly saying okay how am I going to, how can I improve my writing style to make it and leverage it massively for my audience. How can I find a publishing model that's going to generate more income for me without having to reinvent publishing? How am I going to alter my audience slightly, how do I find what my audience really wants?
How do I-- so there's all these little things, just little tweaks here and there that can actually end up making a really big difference and ultimately could disrupt the industry but certainly will disrupt our own businesses in a very positive way and hopefully I kind of think that as writers we have a responsibility to sometimes provoke people, we are reflective of the world but we don't have to go out there guns blazing. If we do, if we're too radical people won't, they get scared. We like comfort, we like certainty, so if we're going to change things we just do it a little bit, much easier to do and it's also easier to digest.
Disruption is important but we don't have to go guns blazing because seriously it's too hard, it's too risky, it's too costly and it's rare and as Siimon Reynolds said to me even when we disrupt we have to constantly improve the disruption, it's those incremental steps. So disrupt incrementally, so much easier, so much more effective too.
Melinda: As you said you sleep better at night. Two things, one things you've said is the one time I didn't follow my instinct it bit me in the bum. Now that ties in very nicely with what we were just saying, we test, we prod, we poke and we just see what works. Your instinct's a fairly good guide on that isn't it, it's okay to try things.
Nigel Collin: Look you have to try, how do you know if something's going to work unless you try, how do you know if the story's going to cut, how do you know if character's going to fit or whatever? So what I meant by that, I know run my business life on these four steps and they're not steps that I created, this is what I actually saw and observed from all these people and I kind of think well if everyone else is doing it and they're successful at then that's what I should do, it's a bit of a no-brainer.
The first one is to find a gap. So what that basically means is what it is that people want, want do they want to read, what are they going to be interested in publishing, what are they going to be interesting in reading. Then you've actually got to do it. So you've actually got to implement it, you've got to write it for example.
So in business, the world of business is full of ideas that don't have a place in the world because they didn't find a gap. People have ideas before they think about what is the idea addressing, what's the problem, what's the challenge, what's the need, what is it the readers want to read? But once we've found that, we've figured it out, then we need to write it.
But as we're writing, as we're creating something we need to test whether or now what we're doing is actually what the audience wants, what our readers are going to like. Is what we think our readers want to read just an assumption on our part or is it actually what they want to read.
So you've got to test it as you go and to put this into very practical terms when we're writing I saw we of course it's a team effort with all the people around you, when we're writing Game of Inches I'd sit here and go oh that's a nice analogy and I'd write a blog and I'd post it on Facebook or wherever it was and you'd observe comments or how many people shared it or whatever. If quite a few people are in, we're not talking thousands but if you've got a few shares here and some likes or someone said you [00:48:21] (unclear) that's pretty cool, that's alright we're on to something, that sticks! Sometimes you'd talk about a concept, you'd ring up your publisher, your editor for example and go hey what do you think of this and they'd go oh, I like what you said yesterday. So you're constantly testing, you're constantly testing.
When I approached the publisher for Game of Inches I actually sent them three pretty polished chapters and the idea behind it was it's one thing to send a concept but I also wanted to send well this what it's actually going to be like and it an way that was testing it because if they came back and went your writing style is rubbish then I could change it without having to rewrite the entire book.
We need to be constantly testing because how do you know if something's working unless you test it and most people will test at the end of the process, they'll write the entire book and they'll see if people like it. Well you don't do that! Write a chapter or two, have a chat with some people, put it out there in blogs in short form and see what sort of noise you create and if people are buying and they're loving it then hey you're on to something, but if you're not getting any feedback that you like you've got to be brave enough to go well that's a bit of dog in the water, we'll find another angle.
Doesn't mean you're going to totally compromise on what you think is right or what your story is. What it does mean though is that you're prepared to tweak it and listen to your readership. I did art as school, I was always taught that art is a two-way street, it's half what the artist puts on the canvas and the other half is what someone sees. I believe it to be the same with writing. I don't know if I answered the question or went off on a big journey.
Melinda: I'm just loving listening to you because I think I've found a passionate writer here. As I said I didn't expect to find this passion in you. I want to ask you what's next for you, but okay, let's ask for you. What's next for you Nigel?
Nigel Collin: I'm looking at how I can transfer Game of Inches onto an online, not to read it online, you can do that anyway but how do you actually take the lessons and the case studies and the stories from Game of Inches and put them into an almost a university online kind of course that will actually if someone's starting a business, now they can work through it and actually apply their business model to it as they go through. So it's not just transferring the book into that medium because one, well I can't do it anyway. But I'd like to, it's more of a consulting moment I suppose.
The other thing is I'm working on the next book which will be called, at this point of time, so I don't know if I can say this, but the book will be about finding those gaps, how do you actually listen to your audience, how do you find the thing that's going to make the difference. So it's not so much the process, it's that initial trigger of I've got a great idea, the great idea has come from some inspiration, the market, or the readership or whatever it's told. So I'm really going to zone in on chapter one. If you've read the book, if you haven't read the book you're going to have to go out and buy it so you know what chapter one's about.
Melinda: Look it's all, I've put sticky notes! Looks see Nigel! You're all sticky noted here, I'm a very good little studier!
Nigel Collin: Oh wow!
Melinda: Yeah, I told you it was my bible. I've just picked up very quickly there Nigel was, he said an online university course. I'm absolutely convinced that they’re the way of the future and I'm putting on all my beakies in this ball of the new way of learning is on short courses online, gathering your information as you need it and using it. I'm convinced the old school model is dead in the water and that's the gap that I'm exploring with my young writers.
You putting your Game of Inches up there in a way that people can use it is far more productive nowadays for all the young entrepreneurs that are coming through and they're out there because anything, if I put the word entrepreneur in anything on Instagram it just gets swamped. People want to be able to go to learn, they want to test their ideas, they want to make a go and quite frankly I don't think they care if they fail because they'll just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go again. I think it's a wonderful thing to see young people being so very, very brave.
Nigel Collin: Yeah, look I think so but they need a bit of guidance, I'm an old boy and I still need guidance. I think you're right, I think education is going online but I think it needs to be a blend of that personal face-to-face mentorship because you need to have that conversation, you can do that online now, there needs to be the modules that you can kind of go oh I'm not sure about this step and you can go in and there's explanations and templates and it actually helps guide you through the process.
It's not replicating a book as such because I think books are invaluable and the book is not just a starting point but as you said you put dog ears all through it or post it notes which is very flattering and it's actually, I'm quite touched by that because the book is doing what I wanted it do it, it is almost a bible in it's own shape or form. You can actually take The Game of Inches as a book and work through it and I know if you did everything in that book you'd be pretty safe because it's what, hundreds of people have done it.
Sometimes you just need that extra face-to-face kind of mentoring if you like and it's hard to do that live in person, you can do that through a virtual means. So that's kind of what I meant, I think it would be wrong just to take a book and to break into little videos and shove it up on a computer, it loses the essence and you can't smell it! Are you into smelling books? You can't do it.
Melinda: We talk about it all the time! A good book. A blatant plug here everybody for my online teenage story Slingers course that I'm launching this weekend, I'm there as a mentor, Facebook live every weekend for your teenagers, we have Skype interviews, we have modules inside the course but having someone there to guide you and bring out the other end and again to do that disruptive thing everybody and what we're encouraging our kids to do is to collaborate, get their ideas together, publishing new forms, put it out there, if it doesn't work come back try again and go again. Building that community where it's safe to test out your ideas. Nigel has just given us permission to do that, he's just told me that my course is going to be wonderful without seeing it so I'll get his endorsement at the end of it.
Nigel Collin: Absolutely!
Melinda: Finally, I want to end, because I've taken up a whole hour of his time now but I adore him, but I want to finish Nigel with our bike riding story. Two men on a bike toddling along, off into the outback up around the Northern Territory there and they had a dream, they followed a dream but even they who jumped on their bikes to do this massive trip discovered that they were piddling compared to what someone else was doing. Would you like to share that story as a nice rounding off of that beautiful conversation?
Nigel Collin: This is the moment, this is the most inspiring people I've ever met, bad English. So I was riding along on my motorbike in the middle of the dessert and I came across two guys peddling push bikes with sort of trolleys on the back with their tents and stuff and I basically had this idea, they just liked long distance riding and they were both from Port Douglas up to Alice Springs via Unadata [00:56:08] (?) which is like way off the beaten tracks.
Melinda: As one does.
Nigel Collin: As one does. There's a couple of things in there but I remember Dennis was one of their names, he was 75 years old and I remember saying to him why are you doing this, are you raising money for charity or what. He went no, no we just like bike riding so we thought it would be a good idea which for me just exemplifies that whole notion of just do it, just take action. When I now get to a decision point will I do that, will that, will they read this blog or will I test the whatever, I just go yeah what would Dennis do? Dennis would have done it, right.
But on top of that I remember I videoed him I said I'd love to interview you. I said tell me about your adventure because I thought I was pretty adventurous riding around the country solo by myself, there's a bit of totality isn't it. I thought I was pretty adventurous riding around on a motorbike and you meet these two old guys riding around on push bikes.
So I said tell me about your adventure and Dennis went oh I'll tell you about some bloke I met, and he went off and told me this wonderful story about a guy that he'd met that kayak from Noumea to Australia and then to East Timor and then at the end he says you think you're on a bloody adventure and you meet someone like that and it's a great reminder that just when you think you've got it nailed, just when you think you've written the best book that you're ever capable of writing, no, no there's more. There's another level, there's always some people doing something different.

About the author, Melinda

I'm an authorpreneur, English teacher and podcaster who dreams of a life on the road full of adventures and handsome heroes, whilst making squizillions of dollars in book sales to pay for my chocolate fix. In the real world, I write novels and non-fiction, and offer my expert advice via online courses (as soon as I make them) and writing retreats (as soon as I organise them).

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