Sending Letters

Hello and welcome to the newsletter that cracked the Morse Code: it’s Taste This!, the official newsletter of TasteBetter.com!

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In this issue:

  • Welcome!
  • Brought to you by the letter Eh!
  • Getting ready for Sim!
  • New ways to subscribe
  • What you missed, what’s ahead
  • Thanks!

Welcome!

Hello again! How was your week? Things were a little slow at Thrust Labs, since some kind of virus managed to get through our hermetically sealed bubble 🙁 For those of you keeping track, that’s the second illness in two months, which I’m not too pleased with, but it’s sparked some research into nutrition and immune function that I’m getting some value out of – nothing to share yet, but I’m proud that I’ve managed to find some good in a situation that an earlier version of me would have complained about and used as an excuse for a bunch of other things. Has something happened in your life recently that you’ve found yourself dealing with in a different, more positive way? Give it a try!

This week we get to welcome new subscribers Meaghan, Christabel, Angela, Darryl, and Al! If you’re new or even if you’ve been around for a while, I welcome your feedback and suggestions – if you use the contact form it’ll get right to me.

Brought to you by the letter Eh!

OK, that’s a bit of an inside joke for office hours attendees – we covered stories, then words, so I said we’d do letters next. Eh isn’t really a letter, but it is a way of life for some 🙂

This week I’m thinking about letters – the kinds you write, primarily to companies and government officials about how their actions align with your values. It seems like such an easy way to make your feelings known, to raise awareness, and to grow your network that on the surface I’d think it’d be the number one activity for anyone looking to spread the word.

And yet, I myself must send out maybe 3 a year, and usually because someone asks me to. Am I the only one in that situation?

There’s clearly a gap here, and I spent some of the weekend thinking about it. For me, one thing that came up was a tendency to lump “letters” into one big grouping, when in fact there are a lot of different ways to get in touch:

The Complaint. This one’s the obvious one, and it’s the kind of letter that the majority of people tend to think of when the idea of writing a letter to a company comes up. It’s important to let people know when you’re not happy (people hate to lose a customer, voter, etc.,) but if you’re not comfortable with complaining, there are lots of other ways to promote your ideas through letters.

The Question. As you might know, our vegan alcohol site Barnivore relies on its readers to get in touch with the companies they care about, ask them a question or two about their manufacturing methods, and then forward the response on to us.

Without fail, at least once a month a company will be hit with the same question from multiple people and they’ll comment on it. Things like “I’ve been working here 15 years and nobody’s ever asked that until this month. Do you know a John or a Sue?”

Simply asking companies what’s in their products, or if they have plans to introduce different products that would be more appealing to you can do a lot to raise awareness, especially with smaller companies. Often, the reason something’s done a certain way is because nobody’s ever suggested something different.

The Statement. Instead of a letter to a company or government office, you might want to try writing letters to your local newspaper (I think they still make those things.) All it takes is to read an issue, find an article that has something to do with things you care about, and craft a short response. I haven’t done this in a long time, but I should point out it’s kind of cool to see your name in print 🙂

The Praise. This type of letter gets thought of last, generally, and it’s a shame. I’m a big fan of rewarding good behaviours instead of punishing bad ones, but the fact is we as a species tend towards complaining. This means that taking the time to say “hey, I had a really good meal last night,” or “thanks for making Product X, it really brightens my day” can have a huge impact on people. Think about it: what kinds of things make it onto the fridge door or the cubicle wall? Notes of praise are also great tools for those of you who practice gratitude and acknowledgement.

Do you actively send letters on a regular basis? Why or why not? Please let me know via the contact form! As for me, this month I’m going to make an effort to send just four letters out. That’s just one a week. I don’t know what kind of letters they’ll be, or who they’ll be to, but I’m looking forward to pushing a bit more out of my comfort zone.

Oh, and I was going to suggest actual physical letters over email, because it shows a different level of effort than an email, but after reading this month’s Wired magazine I’m not so sure – here’s a quote from page 12: “We get letters. These days, most of them arrive over email. So when something is delivered by the US Postal Service – particularly if it’s handwritten – we pretty much know it’s from prison.”

Hmmm, maybe times are changing. Of course, Wired is a little on the edge of the spectrum, so I’d suggest simply paying attention to what would have the most impact for the recipient – like I said earlier, notes of praise can last a lot longer than the day they’re received if you can pin them to a wall, for example.

Getting ready for Sim!

Have you ever noticed how things make a lot more sense with the benefit of hindsight?

Take, for example, our recently launched vegan parenting website, which came about as a result of a reader’s question about getting in touch with other vegan moms. But was that the only reason?

Or the Gary Vaynerchuk video we posted late last year with a line that some of you told me you appreciated: “I want my grandkids to be proud of me.”

And then when we reviewed Eating Animals, why did I call out the author’s birth of his son as a motivating factor?

Well… Yeah, when you look at it that way…

So the rumours are true: we’re expecting our first child in June!

See how the method meshes with my madness? Of course, I’ve also written a lot about burnout and tricks of the world’s greatest pickup artists. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. 🙂

Anyway, we’re told it’s going to be a boy, and we don’t have a name picked out yet but we’ve been going with codename: Sim (short for symbiote) in the meantime. Angela’s doing really well, and I’m really lucky to have someone who’s able to keep things so together in the midst of big changes.

And just like Gary said about his grandkids, I want Sim to be proud of me. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in the newsletter (I did in Office Hours for those of you who really pay attention,) but the work I do on Taste Better and the other sites in the Better Network became my full time gig last month.

I’m not saying I won’t ever get another “real job,” and my day to day activities will probably vary (frankly, I need outside experiences to inspire my writing and avoid becoming an echo chamber,) but right now this feels right. For some perspective, when I took a year or so off in 2008, a lot of that was because my old job was taking most of my time and I opted to focus the majority of my energy on it to see what opportunities would develop. For 2010 I decided to flip that formula around and see what happens.

For now, not much will be changing from what you’ve gotten used to over the past few months. I might be promoting a few products and services that I believe in, but that’s no different from what I would have done anyway.

I’m sharing this with you because there’s a strong personal element to these newsletters (some of the email exchanges I’ve had with you over the past few months have been incredible!) and I know a lot of you are interested in how we’re doing for one reason or another. I’m not one to go all new age “woo woo” on you, but I feel like I’ve really tapped into a sense of abundance in recent months. I’m honestly not feeling any desperation or fear right now, and that’s why you’re not getting hit with a “baby on the way, no job, help!” shirt or DVD sale right now 🙂

Basically, I’ve got about four months left to figure out how to turn the work that’s most in line with my core values into a venture that’ll support my family. It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’d really appreciate it if you could keep some positive thoughts in your subconsciousness for us, because this is going to be a fantastic year!

Oh, and Sim’s totally awesome and I can’t wait to meet him. I felt a kick the other day! So fun!

New ways to subscribe

OK, at the top of every one of these emails there’s a link to the MP3 and video versions of the newsletter, which a lot of you have enjoyed! We do these things in multiple formats because people learn in different ways, and if you’re not a reader then we’re missing an opportunity.

The email is still the best way to get the links we talk about, so please don’t unsubscribe, but if you’re into copying the multimedia versions to a mobile device so you can listen at the gym or in your car, we’ve made it easier.

There are podcast feeds for the audio and video versions of the newsletter that’ll let you automate a lot of that process. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it (or email me if it sounds interesting but you need help,) but hopefully this will remove even more friction in the process!

We’re trying to get them into iTunes, along with the office hours recordings, but the submission form’s been broken for a little while – hopefully soon!

What you missed, what’s ahead

Last week was a bit off what with the cold and all, but we did hit most of our targets. Here’s a look at what’s coming up on the Better Network this week:

Taste Better just had a post about the conclusion of my no drinking experiment and the lessons I learned that might help others who promote “x day challenge” outreach campaigns. I’m not sure what’ll go up on Wednesday yet, but recently I’ve been thinking about adding some more content about the nuts and bolts of living an awesome life – more “how to” stuff that you can use in your daily activities instead of all the outreach and mindset stuff we’ve been doing lately.

Vegan Porn had a couple of posts and a porncast last week. This week we’re just going to keep being goofy. VP is pretty much safe for work other than the name, and it’s our place to point out silly things that happen in the world and put a bit of a vegan spin on them. Like I said last week, it’s not exactly activism at its finest, but it’s a lot of fun.

Barnivore got some new filters (you can browse wine by country now!) and a whole lot of backend changes (including a new server.) This week we’ll be sending out a newsletter and just continue Angela’s great work on the updates.

Spawn Better didn’t get an update last week other than some great comments by readers – sorry about that! This week we’ll be looking at what to do when the “anti-population” crowd judges your choice to have children.

As always, if you’re a vegan parent who’d like to help other vegan parents and parents-to-be, the Council of Vegan Parents is accepting applications!

Thanks!

I cannot tell you how amazing my life has been since I started writing these newsletters. Thanks so much for reading, responding, and sharing!

If you were forwarded this by a friend, please thank them for me! You can subscribe to your own copy by clicking here. If you’re a subscriber, consider forwarding this to a friend or five!

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This email goes out every Monday afternoon, see you next week!

Jason

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