Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast
WSS #0161: Free Is A Four-Letter Word: Why It's Worse For Business Than You Think

Irked.

Today's guest is Blair Glaser and we asked her to be on to continue the conversation about why you should not be giving away your time and services for free. On our last episode on the topic we got a ton of feedback – all of which was from people who are also tired of doing work for free, all of whom agree that enough is enough.

Then not 30 seconds before starting this recording, I got a text from a friend saying that she'd been contacted by a big agency to do some work for them. I was really excited to hear that, until she followed up by telling me that their idea of "working together" meant "you write our blog for free."

Irked!

Webinar Or Romper Room?

Remember back in the day when the Magic Mirror would look out into TV-viewer-land and see you there? And the hostess of the show would greet a few lucky watchers – Hi Emily, Hi Sam, ooh I see Jenny and Joe…

Well, our guest today mentions that attending one of those free webinars is a little like that. The person hosting the webinar greets one person after the next until it starts to get a bit annoying. Plus, it makes her wonder, "Where are all these people coming from?"

Blair continues by saying what we all know: many of those free webinars are nothing more than an hour-long sales pitch. The lengthy greetings are usually followed by the short pitch, followed by maybe a bit of info followed by the long pitch. It's all pretty slimy and uncomfortable, often not the best use of our time.

If you've ever put on a webinar you know how it can be like pulling teeth to get people to sign up – let alone show up. So how do some people always manage to have gadzillions of people (who they then greet individually in a way that cuts into 10 minutes of your precious viewing time)?

Turns out… and I think I blew Blair's mind a little here… that you can buy software to fill seats for you. Not with actual people, but with names that make it look like there are people. I guess that's the webinar version of social proof, eh?

The longer our conversation goes on, the more we agree: some of these webinars are good, but a lot of them leave us feeling slimed. Kind of gives free a bad name.

Losing Your Authority

Blair makes a great point about how continuing to give away time, products and services (including your valuable content) takes you "out of your authority."

What ends up happening is that we attend the webinars. We subscribe for other people's email courses. We watch the instructional videos. We get all this free stuff that purports to tell us "how to do something." We see very successful people "doing something." And we want to do it, too.

So we follow their plans and blueprints because if THEY are doing well with this methodology, WE can.

But Blair says no.

Blair says that chasing the carrot leads to doing things that don't push you forward on your own path, into your own authority. It doesn't help you find the things that work for you because you're too busy doing things that work for someone else.

The result? Disappointment. Feeling like a failure. Burnout.

Burnout Is Bad

You probably don't need to be told that burnout leads to a host of bad outcomes. It has negative effects on your mental well being, your health and your business.

But worse, perhaps, is after you've put in all this effort to create your free offers and free webinars and free books and whitepapers and courses… and you get a client. But wait… why is that bad?

Because you may end up being so darn happy that your efforts paid off that you aren't even paying attention to whether this client is a good fit for you. And that can lead to bad business and even worse burnout.

You Are Not "In Service"

Blair challenges some serious status quo when she says that there is a myth we’ve been brainwashed to believe, which is that by producing all this free content and doing all this free work, we are "serving people." This idea of being "of service" to people has got us pumping out more and more free stuff.

But that is not our job. It's not yours.

Service and money have to coexist. Blair is a big proponent of the law of reciprocity. She says that you give and you get. In business, you typically give your customers what they want and need – and you get money. Anything less is not business.

A Good Use Of Free

Do you know what standup comedians do? They perform a set at a small comedy club for free so they can test the material out on a live audience and refine it so it'll be ready for the big (paid) gig on HBO or something nice and profitable.

We all agree that this is a great way to think of doing stuff for free. If you're working on a product or service and want to "test" your material out on an audience so you can get feedback and perfect it, go ahead. But again, consider the law of reciprocity: you're giving (free content) but you're getting, too (feedback and an opportunity to improve for your paid gig.)

Pro Bono Is Not The Same As Free

We take a brief detour to discuss doing pro bono work, which essentially boils down to doing stuff for free but it's entirely different than the kind of free we don't like.

Pro bono work is something you choose to do deliberately because you value or believe in what you're doing. In many cases, you actually are "in service" when you do pro bono work.

We do pro bono work for non-profits and for our school district. But it doesn't inhibit our ability to run our business and we don't expect any monetary return.

Still, we get something in return: we get to feel pretty damn good about what we're doing. We get to feed our souls, nourish our values. We get the satisfaction of knowing we're supporting our community.

Blair is pretty adamant about the circle of giving and getting. Whether it's money, emotional satisfaction or something else, you need both ends.

The Gratitude Hangover

Here's a perspective we've never explored and it's this: when you give something away for free, the recipient feels grateful. But that gratitude can turn to guilt if the recipient doesn't hire you or buy from you.

I bet you never considered that your free stuff could be making people feel bad. Now, not everyone has this problem of course. Lots of people are happy to take your free stuff and run. But there are also plenty of us with a sense of gratitude and loyalty who do want to participate in the law of reciprocity and give back to the people who give to us. But sometimes it's not a good fit, and it feels bad not to give back.

Subways During Rush Hour

Blair says that all this free stuff has turned our inboxes into a subway during rush hour. And that leads to the other negative effect on recipients of free stuff: overload. The more free stuff people sign up for the more their inboxes and desktops get cluttered and the harder it gets to process.

And at least for us in marketing, we've noticed that the more free stuff people get, the less they learn. The problem is that so much information contradicts other information. And as Blair mentioned earlier, it's too easy to think you need to try something that isn't for you, just because it worked for someone else.

The problem is the same in other industries where too much information can be confusing. Coaches, consultants, therapists, nutritionists… you may get quite a lot of conflicting information from different professionals so that if you're looking for "the answer" you're only going to get stuck in analysis paralysis.

That doesn't mean one person is right and another is wrong. People may just have different philosophies, approaches, ideas. They may all be valid. But that doesn't mean they are all valid for you or that you have to follow them all. If you plan to work with a professional, pick one that you trust, and go.

Less Free Stuff = More Money

Blair noticed something interesting in her business when she stopped doing free webinars: she had a whole lot more time to do other things. And one of those things was getting out into the world to meet people where she closed more business and made more money.

We had the same experience. When we stopped all the free meetings and free consultations, we started to focus on the things that made us money. And expect compensation for the value we provided.

You can do it too. Want to vet clients through a free 20-minute consultation? Or test out some free content on an audience? Go ahead, but remember the law of reciprocity – you need to be getting something of value in return.

And remember, you have to value yourself, your time and your services before anyone else will.

Your Action Item

From Blair: Have fun. It may seem counterintuitive not to do something "big" but that's the point. If you're feeling overwhelmed or stuck, do something fun, whether it's a fun work project or a fun hobby.

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WSS #0160: Bah Humbug! Christmas, Outrage And Client Gift Dilemmas

Sexism And Tea

Well, they're not related but it sounded interesting, didn't it? Actually, they're both follow-ups to last week's podcasts.

First, we have Chris Curran of Fractal Recording on for a few minutes because as today's sponsor, he showed up live to announce the relaunch of the Social Media Unscrambled podcast. If you haven't listened to it, Chris Curran and David Deutsch talk social media with a sense of humor. It's one of our favorites and according to Chris, they're back, "This time with a point." (Humor, remember?)

While he was here, Chris blamed Ralph for a speeding ticket that he got. Apparently Chris was trying to call Ralph when he blasted by a cop doing 80 miles per hour. Which reminded me of last week's episode with Mojca Mars about sexism, and the fact that I've never gotten a speeding ticket, even though I've been pulled over for speeding more than once. I can't help but wonder if part of the reason I "got away with it" is because I was a cute girl. Men don't seem to be as lucky!

And speaking of last week's episodes, on our After Hours edition we spent some time talking about tea and the different types we planned to try.

Well, we tried a lot over the weekend. Some were from Teavana, and in spite of their delicious-sounding names, the two flavors we tried were 100% horribly undrinkable. So undrinkable that I packed up the box not an hour after I received the delivery and drove to the post office to return it.

We also tried Simpson & Vail tea with much more success. They have some amazing flavors, from Carrot Cake to Charles Dickens (yes, that's a tea flavor) and those were delicious. So far they've all been winners, and I think I developed an almost instant addiction to English Toffee.

Hey, Fred… Christmas is coming. Just saying.

The Sniply Buster

Before we get to our main topic, we read an email from a listener who asked us about the Sniply Buster plugin that we referenced some time ago. If you're not familiar with Sniply, this podcast will bring you up to speed. I wouldn't say we were outraged… ok, we were kind of outraged… but we had a very civil conversation with the founder of the tool, during which we completely disagreed on pretty much everything.

Anyway, the Sniply Buster is part of the Social Warfare plugin so you can get the best social sharing plugin on the market AND a simple way to block people from using Sniply on your site. Go get it.

Bah Humbug!

Speaking of Christmas, that turns out to be the main topic of our conversation today. Well, Christmas and the holiday season in general.

And it all starts with outrage. The outrage begins with a Medium article I read about someone who was shopping and saw a lipstick color called "Underage Red." She then tweeted a photo and said, rather benignly, "How is this a lipstick color?"

She subsequently forgot completely about it. It's the kind of thing any of us would do when we see something curious. What she didn't expect was a series of big media outlets to pick up the tweet and start writing headlines about the "outrage" over this lipstick shade.

This resulted in a whole lot of Twitter flaming and the author's admonition to us to beware of the utterly manufactured outrage that seems to be so prevalent on the internet.

The thing is, nobody was outraged. Nobody cared. Then some media publications that wanted clicks printed some sensationalist headlines and that resulted in the outrage that never existed.

The author cautions us to check the source of the next "outrage" to see if it's a true violation of all things holy or just someone's sad reach for another page click.

Which leads us to Christmas…

Starbucks Is In Trouble Again. Or Not.

You may have heard the "outrage" over how Starbucks is removing Christmas from its stores. Because they changed their cups from "red cup with reindeer" to "red cup."

The endless Christmas products sold, the endless Christmas music played… that doesn't really matter because OMG THEY CHANGED THE CUP!

Now, you might read that and think (as we did)… (and as everyone else that we know and have talked to did)… Who are these crazy people who think a red cup means Starbucks is anti-Christmas? And you might be inclined, as I was, to have an emotional reaction. "That's crazy!" And then go on to list all the reasons why.

But then you might, as we did, come to the conclusion that nobody is actually outraged.

Oh sure, a guy is outraged. A guy is making the rounds on video and TV and talk shows and radio talking about how darn outrageous the whole thing is, how he is going to start a movement to "trick Starbucks into writing Merry Christmas on their cups." (Seriously, that's what he said. You can listen for the clip. He is also planning on carrying his gun into Starbucks from now on because reasons.)

Is he outraged? For real? Who knows. But it sure does get him a lot of attention to be! So it's in his best interest to be as outraged as possible and to appeal to whatever fringe of perpetually outraged people want to go along for the ride.

But we have another opinion. We don't care.

Ralph says it perfectly. He says that we've hit a tipping point where there has been so much of this nonsense that we're collectively starting to feel outrage fatigue. And when this stuff happens we may have that initial emotional reaction but after about four seconds our rational brains kick in and we think, "This is not a thing. Moving on."

A Lesson To Small Businesses

This is not just a conversation about being outraged over outrage. There is something to be learned here and it's this: be careful of the outrage bandwagons you decide to jump on. If you get on social media and start spewing out this kind of thing or taking sides on one side of the outrage fence or another, you could be losing credibility, turning people off and undermining your own marketing messages.

Especially as small businesses, where we as individuals are the faces of our businesses, everything we say is a reflection of our business. So if you want to be outraged, go ahead. Just be careful that you understand the source, that it's an actual issue that you feel strongly about and that you begin a reasonable discourse rather than simply yelling louder than the other guy.

Your Seriously Social Intermission

In part two of his miniseries about roadblocks to creativity, Ian Anderson Gray is back to talk about what's holding us back. We're often held back by a lot of issues – depression, anxiety, fear, doubt. But Ian says you can't let these feelings fester. You need friends, family and support.

And you need to stop being busy. So during this seriously social moment, Ian wants you to stop being so social… online… and start doing it offline. Add time to your calendar for going for a walk. Spend time with your friends or family. Plan time with yourself to contemplate what you're creating.

Put simply: unplug.

Now, Pass The Presents

With the holiday season upon us, it's that time of year when we start thinking about what we should be doing for our clients. Should we send a card? Gift? Expensive gift? Token gift? To whom?

Over the years we've run the gamut from completely ignoring the holidays to sending out really nice gifts.

So what's the "right" thing to do?

It's a tough question, because as much as we might like to send great gifts to every one of our clients, budget is a reality. And when you consider that your cute $20 gift is going to cost $40 once you add in shipping and handling, gifts aren't so practical anymore.

What's a small business to do!

Well, we have a couple of opinions and things to think about. First, what is the purpose of sending gifts to your clients? For us, it's about expressing our appreciation and gratitude. So sending those generic boxed cards with our company named printed in gold foil doesn't do the trick. Sure, we've done that plenty of times. But then we're just another boxed card in someone's very big box of boxed cards, some of which are probably exactly the same except for the company name on the inside.

If our goal is to let people know we appreciate them it doesn't take a lot to do that. You can do that with zero budget. Pick up the phone and call each of your clients to say happy holidays, to let them know you're thinking of them and that you appreciate the business you've done together. That simple personal conversation will cost zero dollars, a few minutes of your time and be much more meaningful than the boxed card and maybe even the expensive gift.

How about emailing your clients? How about offering to meet your client for a cup of coffee? Not to sell… just to be friendly. How about… wait for it… a handwritten note?

There's a lost art to writing notes but they are incredibly powerful because of their scarcity. If you can take time out of your day to personally hand write a note to someone, that means a lot.

We get a handwritten note of thanks from Tammie Rampley every time we order one of her Tramplee Designs bags. We have a collection of bags… and notes… that make those shipments much more memorable and fun.

Ultimately our opinion boils down to this: do something. It doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. It just has to be meaningful to the recipient.

We also suggest that you don't have to do the same thing for everyone. Send an email to some people, write a note to others, take some out for coffee. Send a nice gift to your best clients. And who are your best clients? They don't necessarily have to be your highest paying clients. Someone who is loyal, who you do repeated business with, who you have a great relationship with may be a lot more valuable to you than someone who pays you a ton of money.

Confetti And Streamers

One of my favorite gifts that we ever sent out was a chocolate bar inside a card stuffed with confetti and streamers. We bought our favorite chocolate – a super dark boutique blend – and put it into the card in a large-ish envelope so we could fill it with the confetti. When our clients opened it they were greeting with a big poof of celebration.

We got a whole lot of love back from that gift. People were really excited about it and called and emailed to tell us how much fun it had been to open. Now, that gift actually cost us a decent amount of money because we bought specialty chocolate, but you can take it down a notch with something simpler, or even just go with the card-and-confetti. It's a small thing but it's a lot more fun than a card without confetti! And it will make you stand out just a little bit from everyone else's boxed card.

Your Action Item

From Ralph: when you're writing content, don't quote other people and relate it to your topic. For example, don't quote Herman Melville and then talk about how it reminds you of SEO. Because it doesn't! Don't rely on that crutch to make your point. Give your opinion, say what you need to say but skip the hocus pocus and get to it.

From Carol Lynn: make a list of all the clients who you'd like to show your appreciation for. Depending on how many people make the list, you can begin to assess how to show it. Gifts? Phone calls? Emails? All of the above?

Bonus Item: Email us and let us know the best and worst gifts you've ever sent to clients… and the best and worst gifts you've ever received from clients.

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Direct download: 0160-bah-humbug-christmas-outrage-and-client-gift-dilemmas.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT

Let's Get This Controversy Started

Today's guest reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked to come on our podcast to talk about social media. But after browsing through some of her content I came across an article she wrote on Medium called Let’s talk about Femtrepreneurshit that caught my attention. I was so fascinated by the topic that I asked her to talk about it instead.

And what is "Femtrepreneurshit"? According to today's guest Mojca Mars (you'll just have to listen for the pronunciation!), femtrepreneurship is a movement of women entrepreneurs and femtrepreneurshit is the ugly consequence. So let's get started offending some people, shall we?

What Is An Entrepreneur?

That's a question we couldn't answer in a hundred podcasts. Seems like everyone has a different idea of what it means, from being a business mogul who buys and sells multimillion dollar businesses to a guy working in his sweats at home.

And maybe it's all that, but Mojca has a simple definition and so do we. For Mojca, it means that she is just a person running a business, getting her own clients, doing her own thing, maybe not with all the fancy business plans and "corporate" pieces in place, but working for herself nonetheless.

For us it means picking up the cat puke. Because as entrepreneurs we get to have the fancy client dinners and produce the shiny new websites but we also clean the toilets and yes, pick up the cat puke. Basically, whatever it takes.

So What's Up With Femtrepreneurs?

Mojca defines femtrepreneurship less as a "women's power" type of movement and more of a spiritual movement and support group. It involves "female entrepreneur" conferences that spring up around – dare I say – "woo-woo" types of behavior (she gives an example of a daily routine that involves filling up a glass of water and making some affirmations while looking into it) and patting each other on the back for doing such a great job.

Ok, so what's wrong with a little woo-woo and back-patting? Mojca feels pretty strongly that these types of events not only exclude men (reverse sexism, hm?) but actual business conversation, too.

Instead of talking about strategy and ideas and money, it's one big female-power support group.

I have to admit, I agree with her point of view on these types of events. If I'm going to a business conference, I want it to be about business. And while there is nothing wrong with support groups, spirituality and even infusing these into your business, there is also actual business stuff that needs attention.

The problem arises when women isolate themselves by being "female entrepreneurs" and not simply "entrepreneurs." We don't need a qualifier. If we want to be considered as equal, as successful, as competent as men, then we need to stop imposing "other" status on ourselves.

Let the hate mail commence.

I Don't Need a Qualifier. Neither Do You.

We don't call men "male entrepreneurs" so why call ourselves "female entrepreneurs?" It's actually condescending. Here's what I hear when someone calls me (or you) a female entrepreneur: "Hey, you did a great job! For a woman."

(Also, if you tell me I didn't do a great job, I won't cry.)

Does sexism exist? Sure. But we women impose a lot of it on ourselves, by hosting "women only" (isolationist) events, by tacking adjectives onto our achievements and by behaving like something other than what we are – people.

Come on, I'm seriously ready for the hate mail.

"Men Are Great People."

That's what Mojca says, and come on, they are. Right?

I mean, some people are great people and some people are not so great people. Gender doesn't have to play a role.

The truth is that some men marginalize women. I have this problem repeatedly: I'll call a vendor and make a request to have something done.

Time goes by… nothing gets done.

I call again and ask for my thing to be done.

Time goes by… nothing gets done.

After a cycle of this I will eventually go to Ralph and say, "Please call this vendor and use the man voice so I can get this done."

And he does. And it does.

This isn't an exaggeration. This is "a thing." It's a really annoying thing.

But on the whole men are, actually, pretty great. I like them. I like their humor and conversations. I like the fact that I can talk about business and not my hair or whether my feelings were hurt by that mean tweet.

I don't want to go to an event that's segregated. I don't want to talk about "women things." I just want to talk about things, whatever they may be.

So my feeling is that if we put ourselves into the world the way we are, if we act like people engaging with people, we'll be a lot better off than being femtrepreneurs.

Why Does Femtrepreneurship Exist?

Well that would require an entire sociological study, but of course we have thoughts. Ralph thinks it may be a "rubber band" effect, a reaction to women being excluded and marginalized. What do you do when you're excluded? You start your own group where you can be included and appreciated. And that's necessary and useful because it can instigate change.

Mojca thinks it's a reaction to fear. Women are afraid to be criticized so they avoid situations where they might be criticized, even if it's constructive criticism. Instead, they retreat to women's support groups that don't address real issues in business.

I agree with both of them. There's no doubt that women have historically not had the same opportunities as men. And there's no doubt that everyone needs to silence the voice of the critic sometimes.

Somewhere beneath all the qualifiers, the reactions, over reactions and under reactions, is a balance of equality where we act and treat each other as people.

Do We Behave Like Women… Or Like We Think Women Should Behave?

Sometimes women temper their behavior because we think that's how we're "supposed" to act. We worry about how we'll be perceived by men. We want to be nice, we want to be liked, we want to be beautiful. So we put out these perfectly Photoshopped photos (no beer bellies for us!) and we sculpt our conversations to fit some perceived notion of what will make us likeable.

Of course, this is not an ailment reserved just for women. Men and women alike often find it challenging to "be themselves" online, hemmed in by their own ideas of what they think people expect of them. We conform to expectations of what a "professional" is or what a "woman/man" is or what a "social media expert" is.

In the end, aren't we just putting those limits on ourselves?

Mojca Will Punch You

Does Mojca try to be "nice?" Does she want to wrap everything in a nice bow for you? Oh hell no. She is not going to be nice just because she is a woman. She is just going to be herself.

If you start a conversation she is going to have it with you. If you say something opinionated she is going to have one right back. Get all up in her face and she will punch you.

She doesn't hold back from being herself. And she considers it one of the advantages of running her own business – she gets to be herself because nobody is tying her hands. She gets clients just the way she is.

Also, she wears a dinosaur onesie.

More Conversation, Please

The way to combat our problems with discrimination and sexism is not to create more problems for ourselves. Creating separate groups, bestowing special titles or statuses on ourselves is only creating a wider gap.

The solution is in talking about these issues and sharing our thoughts and fears. The solution will happen one person and one relationship at a time.

Your Action Item

From Mojca: Prepare five tweets that show your personality. A photo of you or something that reflects the real you – not the "you" that you think other people want to see. Then put them out there! (PS: this is your homework whether you're a man or a woman. Add the hash tag #wssup so we can applaud your you-ness!

And more! Mojca has prepared some goodies for you, including marketing worksheets, resources and a 50% discount on her new Facebook ads book. Link below!

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WSS #0158: After Hours: All Food, All The Time (Plus Gratitude!)

Let's Talk Food, Baby

It's our After Hours episode and today we're really taking the whole Thanksgiving thing to heart. Not only by talking about what we're thankful for but by talking all food all the time. It is pretty much one of our very favorite things on earth, so we get into more about our tea snobbery, honey, apple pie and farm raised meat.

Pies Are Good People

Lately I've been experimenting with pie, in part because I love cooking (and eating) and in part because as we discussed a few months ago on this podcast, we've been aiming to eat healthier. That means less eating out, less processed food. No sugar (ok, how about a lot lot lot less sugar?) and better home cooked food.

But since we can't live without pie, especially this time of year when fall weather makes us think of… well, pie… I've been working on making healthier versions of apple pie that still taste awesome.

My usual recipe is pretty simple. Apples, brown sugar, white sugar, a bunch of spices and lots of butter.

Recently, I found an amazing recipe for pie crust that makes the store bought version taste like soggy, sugared cardboard and even on a slow day only takes me an extra ten minutes to make.

But the pie itself also has a ton of sugar, so what to do?

Well, I started out by halving my usual amount of sugar – from a whole cup to half. And it was still sufficiently sweet.

So I halved it again, down to a quarter cup of sugar.

Still, sufficiently sweet!

You'd be amazed by how little sugar you actually need to sweeten something, especially compared to what the recipes say.

But then I wanted to try something new and use honey instead of sugar. After all, honey is sweet but it's actually better for you than processed sugar.

So just this past weekend I made an apple pie with a quarter cup of honey and no sugar.

The result was surprising. Delicious, but actually too sweet. So next time I'm going to use an eighth of a cup of honey and see how that works out. I'll keep you posted!

The trick is also to find a great apple. I've found that Honey Crisp are amazing. They're naturally sweet and cook up really nicely without oozing juice all over the oven.

I know a lot of people like Granny Smith but I'm not a fan of tart. If you are, you may want to try a little more sugar to balance it out at first.

I also like Gala apples if you can't find Honey Crisp.

Of course, the crust is decadent with little more than flour and about six gallons of shortening, but if you're going to splurge then this is the crust to do it on. By the way, I didn't get to mention it on the podcast but I did cut down the shortening in the recipe by a quarter cup and it still made an amazing crust that was ever so slightly drier to work with but tasted just as good. I think next time I'll experiment with different flour!

The verdict from Ralph is that it was delicious, but he prefers a different type of honey (live and learn).

He also countered my initial statement that "pie is evil" by insisting that pies are good people.

And now you know.

A Gratitude Intermission

We reached out to our listeners last week to ask what they're thankful for. We got some great answers! Here's one we loved.

Angie Fisher of Coaching Success Systems says, "What I'm grateful for - my amazing and powerful team. They have kept my business running while I take a little time off to enjoy my new little one. The second would be the freedom to spend time off with my newborn while still growing a business and delivering priceless support to our clients."

We love that because it perfectly illustrates how we feel about work-life balance and being able to enjoy and appreciate both.

Teas Are Recipes, Too

Just last week we got a box delivered to our door from, as Ralph put it, "the faraway land of London." It was a gift from Ian Anderson Gray who sent us three teas from the Rare Tea Company. We were tremendously grateful for about six seconds then immediately ran for the teapot.

Wow, that's some good tea!

But since Ralph is a full-fledged tea snob, drinking a cup of tea is not enough for him anymore. He likes to blend his teas so he mixes and matches flavors like a master chef.

His current favorite is a Rare Tea English Breakfast with a Tea & Sympathy Seville Orange. In fact, he thinks this perfect union will bring about world peace.

I guess if we're all enjoying a good cup of tea we'd be too busy to hate on anything, right?

Ralph put my tea snobbery to the test with a Jasmine vs. Jasmine experiment. He made me one cup of Jasmine from loose tea we bought at Tea & Sympathy in New York, and one cup he made from bagged tea from Stash Tea.

With one sip I knew which was my favorite. After a whole cup it was clear there was a winner. And it wasn't the loose tea. I far preferred my good old bagged Stash.

Guess I'm not winning the tea snob war. But that's ok because I'm too far into world peace from Ralph's amazing recipe that I don't need to participate in a war.

However, I proudly covet my title of Honey Snob. My parents buy us all our honey because they live near an awesome roadside boutique where they harvest honey from bees that pollenate different types of flowers – pumpkin, blueberry, wildflower, you name it. It's amazing honey and each tastes very different.

Our favorite is New Jersey Pine Barren honey. And my personal fave is Chestnut honey which is amazingly rich and I could eat it out of the jar. If you love honey, try it!

Your Seriously Social Moment: Imposter Syndrome

Today our Chief Executive Research Dude and tea gifter extraordinaire Ian Anderson Gray talks about how being "comfortable" is holding you back and killing your creativity. He says that to reach your potential you have to step outside your comfort zone.

But if you're like pretty much everyone, at some point you feel like you're just an imposter – you're not really as good as everyone else, you don't really know what you're doing… so why bother?

The thing is, everyone feels that way, even the biggest, most influential names you know.

Ian says if you're feeling like this, you're on the right path. Embrace the feeling and think of it as a green light to move forward. Some people may know more than you or do things better than you but nobody can BE you.

A Gratitude Intermission, Take 2

Naomi Bergner says, "I'm grateful that I get to end most of my days snuggled up with my honey and my cat in bed, watching something fun on Netflix."

We love that but we also find it a little creepy because that's exactly how we end our evenings. Fred, are you surveilling us?

Farm Raised Meat For The Win

I developed a bit of an obsession with buying meat from real, actual farms a number of years ago after reading a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's about factory farming vs. real farming the way nature intended.

The purpose of a factory farm is to increase output and decrease cost. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of all things natural. Animals are packed into filthy, disgusting warehouses, raised without access to the outdoors or sunlight, fed diets that nature never intended and pumped full of hormones (to fatten them faster) and antibiotics (to combat the disease that follows from these horrifying conditions and unnatural diets.)

Reading that book affected me so much that I immediately stopped buying factory raised meat and found myself a farm to order meat from. These days my go-to farm is located in the Midwest and I periodically order a bunch of meat and have it delivered.

Eating meat from cows, pigs and chickens raised on pasture (ie: a farm), that live natural lives outdoors, get sun, get a natural diet and are treated well throughout their lives is a completely different experience.

It’s far healthier: since the animals eat their natural diets, they are full of the vitamins and minerals we as humans need. And they're not pumped full of hormones or antibiotics so you don't have to worry about all of that ending up in your body.

It's far more delicious: meat tastes like meat. It's rich and delicious and doesn't need to be cooked to death to kill off bacteria.

It's fare more ethical: animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter, not crammed into boxes in a warehouse and abused so we can have marbled steaks.

Ok, if you couldn't tell I feel pretty passionately about this. So much so that if we're out of meat, we just won't eat it. There have been times when I've subsidized a waning meat supply with supermarket meat. Over the summer I grabbed a bunch of ground beef from the supermarket because it was cheap and I needed a bunch of it (and I didn't have any).

And I regretted every second of it. It tasted disgusting. Even at 93% lean it was slimy and horrible to cook with. And I felt like I was just participating in a horrible process.

Ralph wants to know: if I'm feeling so ethical, why not stop eating meat entirely?

Good question, and the answer is different for everyone. Some people choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons. For me, I don't have a problem eating meat that is humanely raised and sourced. I look at it as part of nature. We're evolved to be omnivores, so if we respect the animal then I'm ok eating it.

Ralph also wants to know if I'd kill my own dinner.

Honestly, it's not something I'd love to do. But if it was either necessary or presented as a reasonable option, I'd do it. What I would not do is go to the forest with my bow and arrow, shoot a deer and then watch it suffer and bleed out for the next hour. That is no more humane. But if I knew how, then sure, I'd respectfully be responsible for my own dinner.

I Need Eggs!

It's not just meat that is pastured – eggs are, too. If you've never eaten a pastured egg, it may surprise you. The yolk is orange and not the pale yellow you may be used to seeing because pastured chickens eat the diets they're supposed to, so the eggs have the actual nutrients they're supposed to.

I used to buy them but the farm where I got them no longer ships and somehow, in the great state of New Jersey I can't find any local farms where I can pick them up.

I've been on a search for them ever since so if you know anywhere I can order them, please let me know!

A Gratitude Intermission, Take 3

Sheng Slogar says, "I'm thankful for people like you guys and the Triberr team for not discounting the value kids can give (me!). Too many people only see kids' usefulness past babysitting and raking lawns once they hit 18, 19, and 20. After all, people instantly develop every valuable skill possible on their 18th birthday, right? Well I'm sure glad there are the few that don't think so!"

Sheng is 17 and the funny thing is that I didn't realize he was that young for a long time. Of course, knowing didn’t change anything. We think he's great, smart, fun and we thank him for not treating us like grown ups.

What We're Grateful For (The Sappy Moment)

We call out a mere few people who have made our lives better this year and though we'd love to name them all, we'd be here all day. And still miss someone!

So here is a short and very incomplete list of people we love.

Ian Anderson Gray, for his endless support and friendship

Melanie Kissell for her poetry and unwavering friendship

Tammie Rampley for her friendship and for making sure I always have an awesome bag (and for her handwritten notes that made Ralph cry)

Alisa Meredith for her friendship (even if she hates chickens… a non sequitur we'll leave you to wonder about)

Mike Brooks for being there for us 24/7 via text, Skype, phone and smoke signal

Jeff Sieh because he has the manliest beard and that always cheers us up

Of course our families who have been there to support and help us in ways we could never express

And you, Fred! Your comments, your questions, your friendship and input, even your hate mail.

If there's anything we can help you with, let us know.

Carol Lynn's Super Simple Almost Sort Of Healthy Apple Pie

Make the crust! Use the recipe referenced below.

6-7 big apples – peel and slice and stuff them in there! My faves are Honey Crisp and Gala.

The original recipe had ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup packed brown sugar. I've managed to get it down to ¼ cup brown sugar and it still tastes awesome. Or give honey a try.

The original recipe also calls for butter layered into the apples, 2-4 tablespoons depending on your mood. I don't use any these days.

Spices! My preferred spices are a teaspoon of cinnamon and another of Garam Masala. Among other things, it has cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. For me it's a nice way to get a great blend of spices. You can also try a bit of ginger, nutmeg or cloves. They're pretty strong so go light. Mix them as evenly as possible into the apples. If you sweeten with honey you can blend everything in a bowl and it will coat the apples nicely.

Poke some holes in the top crust to let the steam escape.

Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes until the crust is lightly golden and the apples are soft when you poke a knife in.

Enjoy!

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Direct download: 0158-after-hours-all-food-all-the-time-plus-gratitude.mp3
Category:food -- posted at: 12:00am EDT

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