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You Get to Make it Better (Thinks Out Loud Episode 341)

You get to make it better: Thematic image showing ideas leading to more money and greater profits.

We’ve been talking about the state of the digital landscape for the last handful of weeks, exploring where the e-commerce and digital marketplace is — and where we’re headed — based on the financial results of the AGFAM, Shopify, and others. But what about you? Where do you stand? More importantly, if you’re not happy with where you are, what can you do about it? Well, no matter the answer to that question, there’s good news: You get to make it better. You get to decide.


You have more control of your situation than anyone. Yes, economic headwinds or changing customer behaviors play a role, sometimes a big one. But that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed just because they’re moving against you. Far from it. You get to make it better.

How can you do this? How can you make things better for your organization, even in troubled times? This episode of Thinks Out Loud dives in and takes a look.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 340: You Get to Make it Better Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

Here are this week’s show notes for Thinks Out Loud with links and news related to this week’s episode. Be sure to check out all the links that matter for your business once you’ve given the episode a listen.

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 21m 02s

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Transcript: You Get to Make it Better

Well, hello again, everybody, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is Episode 341 of the big show.

Introduction: You Get to Make it Better

And I want to start by saying I really struggled with what to talk about this week. So you could be listening to this all kinds of different times. Typically, these episodes have a run of weeks and weeks and weeks, and sometimes you’re listening to episodes that were recorded a year ago or even two years ago. And right at the moment, there’s a war going on in Ukraine that is terrible. Last night, the President of the United States gave a State of the Union address and some of the things going on in the US aren’t great. Right? So there’s a lot of negative news out there. There’s a lot of bad news out there.

Examining the Current State of Your Business

I’ve been sharing episodes related to the state of digital as explained by the AGFAM and Shopify’s earnings. And again, there’s some mixed news in there. Some of it’s really good, some of it’s less good for you and your business. And that’s what really got me thinking, what’s your current state? Ignore what’s happening in the world, ignore what’s happening in your backyard for a minute.

Envisioning the Future By Looking Back

What I want you to do is I want you to close your eyes. I’m totally serious about this. Just take a minute and close your eyes and imagine that it is one year from today. Now I want you to imagine that you’re looking back and you have just had the best year in the history of your company. Or if you prefer, imagine that you have just had the most successful and the satisfying year of your life.

I realize this may seem crazy when there’s a whole bunch of bad news out there. That’s okay. That’s all right. But you can control what you can control. Pardon the tautology there, but it’s true, right? There are things that are within your control, and spending all your time worrying about the things you can’t control isn’t productive and isn’t helpful. So imagine that it’s one year from today and that you’ve just had the best year your company has ever had, or you’ve just had the most successful and satisfying year of your life. What happened that made this year so great? Take a moment and think about that.

Ask What You Did to Make This Year So Successful

Now I want you to think about what did you do that made it such a great year? I’d like to think in part that is because you listened to this episode and because of what I’m going to talk about today. Not 100%, surely. Probably not even 15%. A small part though, hopefully, plays some role in where you will be a year from now.

And the rest of the reason would be because you control the process. You get to influence the outcomes that you want today and every single day. Screw New Year’s Resolutions; the hell with ’em. We don’t need to wait for January 1st to decide that we’re going to have a better year. Every day, every moment is a chance for you hit the reset switch, to say "today is the day that I make progress towards the outcomes that I care about and the outcomes that I can control."

What are you looking to do better? Where are you looking to improve?

Everyone Is a Beginner at Some Point… or in Some Things

I’m coaching someone right now — I’m working as a coach, I do this occasionally for people — who’s actually fairly senior, but she’s also fairly new to a given role and she feels a little overwhelmed. That is completely normal. You know this. I mean, we’ve all lived this, right? You’re always bad at something until you’re good at it. In fact, as you undoubtedly know, you can’t be good at something unless you’re willing to be bad at it first. That’s just a normal part of the process. First, you’re a beginner. Then eventually you become okay at it. Then some people make the leap from okay to professional. Then you might go from being professional to being best in their… We’ll talk about that in second. And finally, some people make a bigger leap to going from best in their… to best in the world or to truly world class, maybe not the best, but in the top handful of people in the world.

Obviously, you can’t move past beginner until you try it first. I was a professional musician very early in my career, but I started by being a really crappy musician in a garage with friends of mine, right, or in people’s basements. You have to think about how do we get better? Think about new drivers or new pilots, right? You start with an instructor and the instructor does it first. Then you do it with the instructor standing there with their hands on the wheel or their foot over the brake, just in case. And you practice with the instructor a bunch of times before you, quote-unquote, "fly solo" or "drive on your own." That’s a normal process.

So the first time you’re doing anything, as you’re thinking about how do we have a better year, recognize some of it’s new and you’re going to be not great at it. But you’re going to learn and get better.

Moving from Beginner to Professional to World Class

As you get better, you become okay. Eventually, you can start charging for it. When we think about the primary difference between a professional and an amateur, one of them is just they charge money, right? Professionals get paid. If you’re getting paid for it, by definition, you are a professional.

Now true professionals, true professionalism is when you work to get better and better all the time, so that you can feel really good about getting paid again and again and again. You’re always working to do a better job. You’re always learning. Obviously, when you get to a certain point, you go from being professional to best in your, which could be company, could be field, could be state, could be region, could be what have you. And then as I mentioned, some make a bigger leap to being truly world class.

Is "19th Best in the World" Bad? Or Is It Amazing?

When it comes to this topic, I always think of professional athletes. And there’s a funny thing about professional athletes. For example, there’s a young woman, a professional tennis player, just 17 years old named Coco Gauff. She’s already the third-ranked US women’s tennis player. She’s also ranked 19th in the world. Now, if you saw her in a tournament, she usually loses somewhere around the quarter finals because she’s only quote-unquote, "the 19th best player in the world." And notice I used air quotes around that because only 18 people in the entire world are better than her, at least according to the formula the women’s tennis tour uses. She’s amazing, right, if there’s only 18 people who are better than her.

If I was somebody just learning to play tennis, it’d be ludicrous to compare myself with Coco Gauff. And even if I’m a young professional, I’m probably not ready to make that comparison. It’s only as you move up the ranks and it’s only as you start playing against better and better people, and you can turn this into your professional career. It’s only as you start being in the same rooms with or competing against the same companies who are world class, that it’s realistic for you to compare yourself to world class.

My friend, who I’m coaching, doesn’t need to be world class yet. It’s okay that she’s a beginner for now. And yes, she wants to move to professional level, and again, I’m putting air quotes around this relatively quickly. She is senior in her career. She wants to be seen by her peers and her colleagues as being good at this thing. She also has the time and the resources and the opportunities to polish her skills to get there.

Have a Vision for Where You Want to Go

But it starts, just as we did at the beginning of this episode, with having a vision of where you want to be and the seeing yourself into that positive future state, not waiting for January 1st and New Year’s resolutions to get there. Again, I can’t emphasize this enough. You get to change any time you want.

So what do you do to do that? Well, you start by asking questions just like we did at the beginning. What does the success you want actually look like? Picture it in your mind and picture what you did to make it such a great year. Write it down. Put it on a PowerPoint slide. Put it on a mind map. Put it on a piece of paper. Put it on your whiteboard. Pin it to your wall. But make it as clear a visual as you can see every single day.

Consider What Gets in Your Way

Then ask yourself what might get in the way? What will stop you from reaching these positive outcomes that you want? That’ll help you start to see what you need to do to overcome these obstacles.

Ask "Who, Not How". The person I’m coaching started with, "I need a coach," which by the way, is an amazing way to close a gap. She didn’t ask, "How do I get better at this?" She asked, "Who can do this for me," or "Who can help me get better at this?" Who, not how, is one of the best questions you can ask yourself to close a gap. Sometimes it’s, who can do it? And sometimes it’s, who can help me do it or who can help me learn how to do it? I have several coaches I talk to regularly for just that reason; they help me improve. And obviously, I have my team who does the things that maybe it makes more sense for someone else to do.

Seek Opportunities to Improve. She, my friend, all also said, "I need more opportunities to practice this particular skill" that she’s trying to get better at that I’m helping her with. So she made a list of places where she can help others who are further behind than she is, and she’s working on the first of these opportunities in a couple of weeks. Obviously, she started with who, not how. What is it I need to learn? How do I get better at it? Who can help me get better at it? And then where can I practice this to get better at it?

Seek Feedback on How You Performed During Those Opportunities. She’s also working on getting feedback after that first opportunity to look at what she did well, to build on the strengths that she already has in this area and where she needs further improvement, and that will define her next steps. She might need a different opportunity or different coaching feedback or maybe, when the time comes, different coaches.

If we look at our professional tennis player friends, they often go through different coaches from time to time because Coach A helped them solve one set problems where they were particularly strong, and Coach B can help them solve a different set of problems where they need that help. One of the things the coach can help and that you can get from anybody, you don’t need to hire a coach for this, but get realistic feedback. What worked? What didn’t work? What still needs improvement? What didn’t you get a chance to work on this time? What will you work on next time?

You can do this for yourself. You don’t need somebody else to tell you this. The only thing I say is I usually encourage people to focus on just one or two things each time. Pick the single biggest opportunity and improve that the next time you do the thing. Don’t get too scattered by trying to do too many things or fix too many things at once. You usually end up doing half-assed thing. What’s the old joke from Community, Ron Swanson said "Don’t try to do too many things half-assed. Do one thing whole-assed," right?

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. I’ve mentioned before, I was trained as a professional musician when I was a kid. And my coach, my teacher, a guy by the name of Steven Bryant, who’s a terrific singer, used to say "Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." This is what I mean when I talk about perfect practice. It’s doing it, having a plan for how you do it. Getting feedback or giving yourself feedback about where you did well, where you didn’t do well and what you need to improve. And then the next time you practice it, whether that practice is in the real world or in a controlled environment, focusing on improving that one thing or those one or two things where you need to do better and doing that each and every time. It’s about the process for getting better. And again, you get to control that process.

Use Positive Terms to Describe Your Current State and Your Progress. And, of course, the last thing you should be doing in this area is talk to yourself in positive terms. You cannot see yourself into a positive future with negative self-talk. Some people call what I’m talking about here positive affirmations or affirmations. The key point is not to beat yourself up. I’ve heard people make a mistake and say, "Oh, I’m so stupid," or, "Oh, I can’t do anything right." Ask yourself, is that helpful? Would you let anyone talk about any of your friends that way or any of your teammates or any of the people who you’re helping to grow? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you let yourself talk to yourself that way? Is it helpful in any way? No.

Obviously, it’s okay to be unsure of your abilities. You’re learning as you go. And I’m going to keep coming back to this tennis analogy. If I said things like "I’m the best in the world at tennis," that’d be absurd. Right? That just be ridiculous. But you can phrase things to yourself in a positive way, and it’s okay to ask them as questions, at the risk of being a little silly. If I was going to play tennis against Coco Gauff who, it should go without saying, would smoked me, would blow me off the court with laughable amounts of effort on her part. I’d take no effort at all. It would be silly for me to say, "I’m the best player on the court." Of course, I’m not, but I might ask myself, why am I so successful at getting my serves over the net, right? Start with something that’s very doable, something fairly realistic for the situation.

Improving as a Professional

Obviously, the further along you are, the more along the professional scale you reach. Then, of course, you ramp that up. There are some things that I do that I’m a beginner and set my sights on more attainable goals, and there are things where I’m trying to be world class where I hold myself to very high standards. But even something like, why am I so successful at accomplishing my goals for X, whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish, can be incredibly useful.

Conclusion: You Get to Make it Better

So what is the state of your world now? What are you going to do next to make it what you want? And are you ready to make this the most successful and satisfying year, both personally and professionally, for yourself? Of course, you are, and I can’t wait to hear how you do.

Show Outro

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to Again, that’s Just look for Episode 341.

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Don’t forget, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcaster every single week. You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found.

Leave a Review for Thinks Out Loud

While you’re there, I would also very much appreciate it if you could provide a positive rating and review for the show. If you like what you heard, if you like the show, it would be so, so very helpful to me and to other listeners if you would tell others about. It helps other people find the podcast. It helps them understand what the show is all about. It helps get the word out about Thinks Out Loud, and it means very, very much to me. So I’d very much appreciate that. Thank you in advance.

Thinks Out Loud on Social Media

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Sponsor Message: SoloSegment

As I do each episode, I’d like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides an amazing suite of search tools that help provide search as a service for large enterprises. Don’t lose customers by making the content that they need hard to find. Take a look at SoloSegment to find search results that focus on business results and help customers find the content that matters to them and drive results for your business. SoloSegment does this all while protecting customer privacy and driving business results for you along the way. You can learn more about SoloSegment and all the fantastic work that they do by going to Again, that’s

Show Outro

With all that said, I just want to say one more time how very much I appreciate you listening to the show every single week. It means so much to me, much more than I can possibly, possibly say. So thanks so much for being here. With that said, I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then please, please, especially with everything going on in the world, be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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