Saturday, December 3, 2016
Tonight, I took our dog for a walk. While I was out, my wife told her nurse that she was sorry I had to walk the dog without her (my wife’s) help. That is so like our Tina Su Cooper, whom I have loved for over a half-century and have been married to for over 30 years. For the last 12 of these, Tina has been quadriplegic, on a ventilator, at home, fed and medicated through a gastric tube. She is our heroine, our inspiration.
Once, she was an exceptional pianist. She was an Asian Studies scholar, with degrees from Cornell and Harvard. Once, she loved to swim, to travel, to take walks with me hand-in-hand. We had fallen in love in college, did not marry (largely due to parental opposition to an inter-racial marriage), and then we wed 20 years after I had graduated, after both of our previous marriages had failed. Before I asked her to marry me, she told me she had multiple sclerosis, though her symptoms were not apparent. She had another ten years of minimal disability, then ten of paraplegia, and then over a dozen of quadriplegia. (See Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion.)
On becoming paraplegic, she asked, “Why me?”
After much thought and prayer, she decided, “Why not me?”
She has been an exceptional woman, as a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. She is an inspiration to our nursing staff; she is always thankful, almost never down.
For her care, TLC, “Tina-Loving Care,” we have a motto: “Tina comes first, but everybody counts.” We have had a dozen successful years, when her original life expectancy after coming home from the Critical Care Unit was a few months; the choice then had been: home or hospice. She can only enjoy a limited number of things, generally those that can be viewed or heard on the big TV on the wall facing her bed. Still, she mostly enjoys her life: appreciating what she can, when she can.
If Tina can be happy, so can we. Granted, comparing ourselves to others is not the secret. Do we need to be in the top half? Top 25%? Top 1%? And who knows what the lives of others are really like? Still, we learn something from the lives of others, often that our own lives are not so tough.
A tougher life than Tina’s? Jean-Dominique Bauby, the author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death, was a victim of “locked-in syndrome” and spent months in an iron lung machine dictating his memoir to a nurse-secretary by blinking his left eye as she offered a choice of letters, to form the words and sentences…. Shortly after his memoir was published, he died, seemingly in resignation from the world. That’s a tough situation!
Yes, things can almost always get worse. The joke goes, “They told me to cheer up: things could be worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough, they got worse.”
For better or worse, as the marriage vows go, we must make the best of it. Part of that is how we look at it. The British statesman Horace Walpole noted that life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think. To find the humor in our situations is to put our problems in a frame; as I sometimes tell Tina, “Better here than Bangladesh.” She has the graciousness to smile when I say it.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph. D.
From Guzman and Cooper (2016), Frustrated with Life? You Are Not Alone!
Sunday, November 27, 2016
19 LIFE LESSONS FOR SUCCESS CONVINCED THESE WOMEN ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
People told these women it couldn’t be done. They did it anyway.
Lorelei Kraft’s inspiring story, Anything is Possible!, tells of the successful efforts of 12 Founding Mothers to create a multi-building crafts-selling venue, The Village of the Smoky Hills in the north country of Minnesota, erecting the complex in five weeks and five days, welcoming over 100,000 visitors annually and providing work for hundreds of people in this relatively poor backwoods area.
The 12 Founding mothers ranged in age from 32 to 57, with most in their 40s. They included teachers, community volunteers, a nurse, an accountant, a candle-maker, wives, mothers and grandmothers. They applied for a loan in January, got it in February, bought the land in March, broke ground in April, and opened The Villages in May. In its first year, the Village got the top tourism awards for all of Minnesota.
In Part Two of her book, Lorelei Kraft lists 19 “Life Lessons for Success,” lessons she learned from her early efforts to start her candle-making company and from the creation of The Village:
Don't Let Reality Get in Your Way
Ms. Kraft says she never lets the "reality" of not having particular training get in the way of accomplishing her goals. She writes that determination and faith in yourself plus the wisdom to seek out knowledge is more important than training. Over time, she started several businesses and even became an accomplished painter…without formal training.
What If I Had Quit One Store Too Soon?
Hoping to sell wedding candles, she went from one store in Milwaukee to another to another, hundreds of miles from her home. She received one rejection after another. About to quit, she tried one more store, and she got her first order, which started a business that now sells candles to 6000 stores in the U.S.
Experts (and Critics) Are Often Wrong
Especially when they say it cannot be done.
Don't Laugh – There Has Got to Be a Way to Get It Done!
Where there’s a will, often there’s a way.
Don't Look Back and Whine
Look forward and laugh.
"Luck" Is Being Ready When the Universe Opens a Door
Rejection is information. Being ready is crucial to using that information.
Don't Take Your Eyes off the Goal
Don't Be a "Yes – But" Person
Be a “yes – I can change that” person.
Be Flexible While Staying True to Your Values
Find a way to keep your principles while being practical.
Successful People Think Ahead
Don’t get surprised. Stay alert.
Women Have a Different Way of Doing Things
A nurturing attitude got the best from those who were helping out.
Combining the Best of Female and Male Leadership Techniques
Planning and delegating are important, Kraft notes, but so are flexibility and consideration, “I set up the candle factory to have the working conditions I would like if I worked for someone else.”
Capitalize on What Makes You Stand Out From the Crowd
Your distinguishing characteristics can be features, not flaws.
Know When to Pick Other People's Brains
Be humble enough to ask for and to take advice. Ask for directions.
Always Play "The Game" Well
Know the playing field and “the rules.”. When the Founding Mothers sought bank funding, they made sure to have a first-class proposal to present. It worked.
It's Just as Easy to Think Big as to Think Small
Why not? Thinking small limits your future, generates less enthusiasm. Big dreams power big accomlishments.
Harness the Power of Time
Make time your servant: do the most important 20% of tasks that will return 80% of the value. Prioritize and stay disciplined.
Extraordinary Businesses Can Come from Ordinary Things
Fried chicken: KFC. Hamburgers: McDonalds. Coffee: Starbucks.
We All Have Immense Power to Change Our Corner of the World
As Kraft demonstrates, “The Founding Mothers built a village and changed the face of tourism in their corner of Minnesota.” .
Don’t take “no” for an answer. Get to “yes!”
Questions: What project might you start yourself or with others? Which of these lessons can you apply to your goals? Please join in the conversation.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his WriteYourBookWithMe.com. Douglas’s life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, now receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, care discussed at their website here.
Published in edited form at
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
In 125 pages with over 100 endnotes, educator, philosopher, J. Steve Miller of Kennesaw State University, co-author of Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense and author of Richard Dawkins and His God Delusion, presents in this book the major arguments for believing in the existence of God.
Perhaps “balanced” with one of the books by atheists he cites, such as Dawkins, this would make an excellent textbook for a high school or college course. It is pleasure for the intelligent layman to read and ponder.
There are 20 “exhibits,” short chapters discussing approaches to the question of demonstrating and understanding the existence of God. Each one incudes discussion, references, and a chance to evaluate how convincing the reader found the arguments.
As a scientist, I am swayed by the idea that the Big Bang was the Act of Creation. Further, the “fine-tuning” of the significant physical constants of the universe, necessary for anything like it to exist, requires an extraordinarily small probability to occur by chance. Those scientists who posit an infinite number of universes (the multiverse) have chosen an option that makes less sense to me than God as the Creator. Why He created it and what He wants is unclear to me, however.
Others have found the existence of evil a sticking point in their contemplation of God: “If God is good, He is not God. If God is God, He is not good.” Miller notes that this argument is surprisingly weak: we don’t know what “good” is, and we do know that freedom, free-will, includes the ability to make bad choices, harming ourselves and others. I once had a dream in which the world was perfect, and God (I think) asked me, “Now what?” Nothing was left to do, and doing something was likely to cause imperfection: this is the opposite of how the universe appeared to skeptical French poet Paul Valery, as “a defect in the purity of Non-being “.
The great mathematician and philosopher Leibniz was parodied by Voltaire in V.’s novel, Candide, for believing “this is the best of all possible worlds.” But Leibniz must be right, if God is benevolent: we just don’t know what is “possible,” nor do we know the trade-offs necessary to create what is “best.”
This handsomely produced, thoughtful, very well-written book deserves a wide audience. I received it as a gift from the author, without an obligation to review it. I’m glad I read it.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Public relations management and book promotion are essentially ways to get free advertising. If you are making a few dollars per book or less, you need to be frugal. I spent almost nothing on advertising Ting and I. What I did do was promote it on its own website, tingandi.com, and on Twitter and through my blog, by serializing it, as described above.
As a benchmark comparison, we’ll price Social Media (Facebook) advertising against local classified ads. My paid advertising has been almost exclusively for my coaching program, Write Your Book with Me, as each person who enrolls will spend about $1000 on my coaching and editing, taking roughly a year. Over the past few years, I have run a weekly classified ad in our small local paper, The Wallkill Valley Times, at the modest cost of $5 per week:
WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR BOOK
With my help. Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.
TELL YOUR STORY. WRITE YOUR BOOK
With my help. Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.
I got about one client per year from these ads, at the cost of $250/year. Perhaps I picked up some goodwill from the editor as well, as the paper ran a couple of stories about me and my authors.
Accommodating myself slowly to the twenty-first century, I sought and received some valuable free consulting from SCORE advisor Edison Guzman, head of A E Advertising (aeadvertising.com). As I described in a testimonial I wrote for SCORE and Edison [reciprocity, one hand washing the other]:
“…and Guzman SCOREs!” If small business had a play-by-play announcer, that would have been his exclamation, commenting on the help SCORE’s Edison Guzman has given me. Edison’s seminars and counseling sessions have provided me the most value I’ve received from my membership in the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and I have gotten a lot from being a member.
Edison got my attention this April with his day-long free SCORE seminar, “Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners,” although I had already known, liked, and been impressed by him during my four years in the Chamber. Not only did the seminar awaken me to useful Facebook strategies, I found I was eligible and welcome to obtain free business counseling through SCORE at the Chamber. Who knew? Sign me up!
I really needed Edison’s help with advertising, in particular on Social Media, like Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. His first counseling session started with a discussion of my goals: I help people write and publish their books---as a coach, editor, even co-author---and I wanted another half-dozen clients this year.
Next came his exploratory question, “What is your unique value proposition? What sets you apart? Tell me about yourself and your business.” As we talked, Edison grew even more enthusiastic. He quickly nailed it, a theme for me: “Why would a former Harvard professor want to help you write your book for only $25 per week?” That became the basis of the Social Media campaign: on my blog, on Twitter, on Facebook. In subsequent sessions, he then showed me in detail how to use these tools successfully to recruit my next set of would-be authors.
The difference between a lecture and an expert’s hands-on consulting, which is what our SCORE sessions became, is the difference between learning a bit about something and actually knowing how to do it. I knew I wanted to advertise on Facebook as well as use its free features, but I needed help in negotiating the various set-up pages, in choosing my target market, my message, the optimal mode of delivering it, and even the best titles for my ads. Edison helped me by a combination of “fishing” for me and “teaching me how to fish,” so I could do it myself soon after. So many options existed, and Edison explained each of them to help me make good decisions.
Discouragement can come easily to the small businessman. Actually, I am of medium size, but my business is small, and I don’t always persevere. Without Edison’s guidance, I might have given up on advertising on Facebook, thinking the cost per response my ads were getting to be too expensive, but he reassured me that my Facebook ads were doing very well. We tweaked them, and they did even better.
Edison, drawing on his advertising expertise, taught me some of the factors that help motivate potential buyers to close the deal rather than procrastinate. We developed a campaign that reached potential clients with attractive messages about becoming authors [they are authoritative] or memoirists [they preserve memories], emphasizing the limited number of candidates to be accepted [six] in the limited two-week enrollment period. All along, we’ve had fun, as I have been learning so many things I had not been taught as a physics major.
I am looking forward to continuing to access Edison’s valuable expertise. The Social Media campaign he helped me with has already brought me half my quota of new clients, and the enrollment period has not yet begun.
I’d say, we SCOREd!
As the testimonial attests, I am high on advertising professional Edison Guzman and his help. I attended his day-long seminar “Facebook Marketing for the Small Business Owner.” [He tells me that these seminars net him 10-20% of the attendees as clients, even though he does no self-promotion during them.]
In April 2015, there were over 1.4 billion Facebook users. Almost 900 million of them log in daily. Let’s see: if I got only 1% of them, I would have 9 million clients. That seems optimistic. However, he reported that 42% of marketers report that Facebook is critical or important to their business. Who am I to argue with that?
There are many ways to reach people via Facebook: Timeline, Like, Share, Chat, Comment, Photos, Video, Tags, Groups, Lists, Pages, Events, Subscribe, and Advertise. Edison focused on advertising, which has its own Facebook sub-specialties: buying ads for the Newsfeed or the Right-Hand Column, or for Mobile viewing; Boosting a Post, getting others to Like your page, etc.
Edison Guzman advised me that before we start an Ad Campaign, we recognize that our efforts to get others to know, like, and trust [K, L, T] should reflect an awareness that people are not on Facebook to be sold stuff, but to connect with others and be entertained and informed. His five crucial ingredients to advertising on Facebook:
You must create a Page specific to your audience. [I set up Douglas Winslow Cooper with a link to my web site writeyourbookwithme.com.]
You must target your audience with laser-like precision. [Tricky, as a discussion of my subsequent efforts will reveal. I did figure my would-be memoirists would likely be women over 50 and my businessmen would be men over 50.]
You must have attention-grabbing images. [As a writer, I naively put much more emphasis on words rather than pictures. Make sure you have free images or pay the producer, or you can get sued,]
You must use logical headlines appropriate to your reader. [See below, I thought to reach adults generally with “Tell your story,” memoirists with “Memoirs preserve memories,” and business folk with “Authors are authorities.”
You must have an appropriate Call to Action. [What’s that? Click here to…go to my web site, go to my blog site, go to my book site, Like my Page, etc.]
Edison next discussed how to target your audience. Some of this targeting is by demographics: geographical location, age, gender. Facebook also has information on their interests, the categories and hashtags they like, their friends and Likes and groups and …. Presumably the FBI has somewhat more information, but Facebook may be close.
To advertise on Facebook, get to know their rules, especially their taboos.
I already had a blog and a LinkedIn account and a Facebook page with a business page having 50 Likes. I had nearly 10,000 “Followers” on Twitter, about half of whom Followed me when I started as a political Tweeter primarily, and the other half of whom Followed me in my reincarnation as a writer-coach-editor.
I knew nothing about advertising on Facebook, and this became my first priority. Edison showed me how to set up a simple ad. First, we get attention with a headline: “Tell your story.” “Authors are authorities.” “Memoirs preserve memories.” Then we follow with a sort description, such as “Write your book with a professional book coach.” Don’t forget your Unique Selling Proposition and your Call to Action.
Although I got to it later rather than sooner, running a “Like” campaign on Facebook is a good idea, because you can then target those who Liked you with your ads. [No good deed goes unpunished.] Essentially, post stuff on your Page that your target audience will Like, then let Facebook seek out people in the categories you choose to induce them to Like it, using your ad and a Call to Action of “Click on Like.” Well-performing ads will cost about $0.01/person reached and about $0.50- $1.00 per person who Likes the site.
Edison directed me to Create Ads on Facebook. What I wanted to do was get people to go to my “lucrative” coaching writeyourbookwithme.com site, rather than my message memoir site, as I make less than a dollar per book from selling Ting and I. First, I ran a week of ads which targeted men and women in the U.S. I chose the lowest cost, $5/day. The goal was to get the readers to click on writeyourbookwithme.com. The metrics we followed were cost/reach, usually around a penny a person who saw the ad, and cost/click, which ranged from a half dollar to a few dollars per person who clicked on the link to my website.
Ideally we wanted people who clicked on the site to then fill out our contact form, getting their email address and their expression of interest in writing a book. I tried male only and then female only, with different pictures for each, and used “writing” as an interest. I stuck with targeting people over 50 years of age. I got much the same results with highly local ads as with all-U.S. ads. A Facebook staffer wrote me not to worry too much about optimizing demographic parameters. I learned elsewhere that Facebook does some dynamic adjusting of the targeting as the ad period continues, so understanding exactly what worked and what didn’t is obscured with this “black box,” while it does improve performance.
As it has turned out, most options tried gave us reach at a $0.01/person, with 1% to 2% clicking the site at about, thus $0.50-$1.00 per click. Spending $400 obtained about 4 new coaching clients, thus a cost of $100 per client. “About 4” indicates that how and why they found me was not always clear.
To put it into perspective, my classified ads cost me about twice per writing client as did my Facebook ads. My book site, tingandi.com, cost me only about $100 over four years, has had about 4000 hits, and I have no way to know how many books it sold, but it had to be at most 200.
I viewed the advertising expense as partly an educational expense. Facebook let me see how many potential ad viewers I had for a variety of demographic, geographic and interest parameters. I experimented with different photos [supplied by Facebook] and even different wording. The experiments had to be set up carefully so that only one variable was changed as we went from one ad to the next.
Edison taught me how to add a sense of urgency to the campaigns and how to develop attention-grabbing headlines. I also found on the Internet useful information and tools for generating effective titles and headlines (headlinerr.com).
I concluded that for high-value enterprises like coaching and consulting, Social Media advertising is worthwhile. For indie authors with books to sell, the price is likely too steep. Your experience may be quite different, and “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
Excerpted from my Write Your Book with Me, available from Outskirts Press and online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
At a local meeting on health care financing, a lawyer neighbor of mine, “Sam,” offered a free half-hour consultation on estate planning at the large law firm on whose staff he serves. Being hopelessly naïve, and forgetting the rule “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” I signed up, also thinking I’d be doing him a favor as he’d get a little credit from his colleagues for having gotten an enrollee.
A Form Arrives from the Firm
A few days before the consultation, a six-page questionnaire came from the firm, seeking lots of information, some of which I did not bother to ferret out and some of which was useful to me. Mildly alarmed at the formality and complexity of the request, I filled out the form partially and brought it to the appointment, wondering whether all this was needed for a simple review of our estate planning.
Meeting in the Big Room
Sam and I met in the firm’s large, handsome meeting room; we occupied a small fraction of the giant central table. His secretary made copies of my back-up material and left us to explore my plans.
Most of the free half-hour was consumed in Sam’s reading my material and asking me questions. Toward the end, he mentioned that any time over the half-hour would be billed to me at $300 per hour, six times what I made when I retired as a scientist 15 years ago. I indicated we’d have to wrap this up in an additional half-hour or less, as the free consultation was going to cost me more than I had expected. And so we did, with my free consultation costing us $150.
A $150 Lemon Becomes $10,000 in Lemonade
Our wills and our Power of Attorney forms were in good shape, and the trust fund for Tina, my beloved, disabled wife was appropriate. We did not make plans to minimize our marital net worth to qualify for Medicaid subsidies, as a philosophical position (we are not really the deserving poor) and a prudential one (you end up giving other people control over your finances).
What we did do, and what I advise our readers to do, is to assure that our assets became held in joint ownership or with the spousal partner named as the beneficiary, thus passing upon death to the other spouse without charge. Our home is jointly owned, as are most of our investments. However, several investments, totaling over $200,000, were in my name only, without a designated beneficiary. As advised by the lawyer, adding Tina’s name as beneficiary only took a few calls and filling out a few short forms. Furthermore, the search of our financial records also turned up a stock certificate we’d forgotten about.
Where we live, a lawyer gets 5% of the estate as executor, which means $10,000 on $200,000 in investments that are not jointly owned or having a named beneficiary. Avoiding this, for my $150 “free” consultation, turned this lemon into lemonade.
My Free Advice
There is no such thing as a free lunch, though occasionally you can find a diamond in the tuna salad sandwich…or take home a lemon and make lemonade.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books via his http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for over a decade due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.
Published in a somewhat different form at