Anne-Laure Le Cunff is our guest on the 331st episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. After deciding to go back to school to study neuroscience, Anne-Laure created a newsletter that turned into the thriving business known as Ness Labs, a science-based learning community to become more creative and productive without the burnout. Anne-Laure shares how business owners can minimize content overload and make their lives simpler.
Here’s how the conversation goes:
- Why Anne-Laure decided to go back to school and shift her career path.
- What is the generation effect and how it’ll help you learn more effectively?
- How a newsletter became a full-fledged business.
- The importance of finding the learning output that works for you.
- The reality of being an “expert.”
- Is there such a thing as the curse of knowledge?
- Why everyone could benefit from becoming a teacher.
- How do you connect all the things you’ve learned?
- What is mind gardening and how does Anne-Laure use it in her life?
- Are you holding onto too much random information?
- How she organizes her notes and filters through her mind as she takes notes.
- A book reading process – is it effective?
- How to decide what to learn next.
- What does creative chaos actually consist of?
- The benefits of breaking up your work into smaller tasks.
- How to work with your team in creative chaos.
- Do you have to change your work style for other people?
- Time management and themed days – could it work for you?
- How she balances her Ph.D. program and running a business.
- Anne-Laure’s advice for creating your OWN ladder and path.
- Do you have transferable skills? Assess before you pivot.
- How to run experiments on yourself, collect data, and conduct personal check-ins.
- What to watch out for to avoid burnout.
- AI and the future of copywriting.
Tune into the episode or read the transcript below.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:The Copywriter Think Tank
Anne-Laure’s Twitter page
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
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Rob Marsh: There’s a term renaissance man or renaissance woman that refers to people like Leonardo da Vinci, who had many interests in hobbies from writing and art to engineering and architecture. Another word used to describe people like this is Polymath. Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin were Polymaths. And Polymath or Renaissance woman are the terms that come to mind when I try to describe our guest for this week’s episode of the Copywriter podcast. She is Anne-Laure Le Cunff, and she knows a lot about a lot. She’s a neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and ex-Googler, expert note-taker, and all-around genius. Not to mention that she’s a really cool person to hang out with. I have been following Anne-Laure for a few years and was thrilled when she agreed to join us to talk about learning and neuroscience and expertise and getting things done and so much more. I think you were going to love this interview.
Kira Hug: But before we jump into the interview, this podcast is sponsored by the Copywriter Think Tank. That is our mastermind for copywriters and creatives and other marketers who want to figure out what’s next in their business. That could be anything from stepping on a stage for the first time or creating a new product, maybe a new podcast, maybe a new video channel. Maybe you want to build out an agency or a product company. Maybe you just want to be the best-known copywriter or expert in your niche. Regardless of what it is, or even if you don’t know what it is exactly, but you know there’s something out there for you, this is how we help copywriters in the Think Tank. You can learn more if you’re interested in being a part of a mastermind and joining us at retreats. You can learn more at copywriterthinktank.com.
Rob Marsh: Okay, let’s kick off our episode with Anne-Laure Le Cunff. How did you become writer, neuroscience student, mindful productivity nerd, AI specialist? All of the things that you do, tell us the pathway.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Wow, that’s a big question. How do we become who we are? I always enjoyed writing. I was already writing short stories and poems and little essays about big philosophical questions when I was a kid, but I didn’t really think of it as a potential career. I am half French, half Algerian, and I grew up in a family where success really looked like following the traditional path. So I went to university. I got a job at Google. I did everything that I was supposed to do. So it took a little bit of time for me to find myself on my current path, and I had a little bit of a squiggle-y carrier. I left Google, I worked on a couple of startups, figured out that wasn’t really what I wanted to do and found myself feeling completely lost, not knowing what was next. What do you do when you don’t have that very clear ladder in front of you anymore when you don’t know what are the next steps that you’re supposed to climb in order to be successful?
So I asked myself, what is something that I would always be interested in, no matter the money I would be making, no matter the fame, no matter the recognition from my peers, what would be something that I would love to keep on learning about and wake up every morning and study in an intrinsic manner? And for me, that was how the brain works, how the mind works, why do we think and the way we think? Why do we feel and the way we feel? So I went back to school at the ripe age of 28, went back to university. Everyone was much younger than me there, to study how the brain works. I started a master’s degree in neuroscience. I did that. Loved it.
And in the process of studying neuroscience, I discovered something called the Generation Effect that shows that by creating your own version of something that you want to learn, you’re going to both understand it and remember it better. So I started writing online about what I was studying for school, and that’s how I started my newsletter. So you can see it’s very quickly, there was no grand plan or anything like that. I started writing a weekly newsletter about neuroscience and specifically about how you can apply it to your daily life and your daily work. And that started growing pretty quickly. And that turned into the business that I’m running today, which is called Ness Labs. Again, no grand plan, nothing like that. Just learning, experimenting, and sharing my work online.
Kira Hug: And then can we talk about Ness Labs and what you’re doing today before we dig into your story. What happens there?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: So Ness Labs is basically a newsletter, also a blog and an online community. So I usually choose to keep it short. I just say that it’s an online platform because we do lots of different things. If you think about anything an online creator can do online, there’s probably something like that that we do in Ness Labs. There’s consulting, there’s coaching, there are online courses. The common pillar, the thing that links everything together is that we’re helping knowledge workers achieve their goals without sacrificing their mental health. So the people we’re trying to help are very ambitious people, people who deeply, deeply care about their work and who have burned out in the past or who feel like that’s something that could happen to them in the future. And our goal is to equip them with the tools and with the support and the community for them to avoid that and to do their best work while also maintaining their well-being.
Rob Marsh: So you mentioned the generation effect, and this feels like a really powerful idea that a lot of people who listen to our podcast may be using it, not realizing because we’re all building our own businesses. But can we talk a little bit more specifically about that? What do you need to do to start to generate that positive outcome? Are there steps for making that happen? Is there a framework that we can think about as we go through creating that positive outcome for ourselves?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. So there’s no complex framework, but really the key ingredient here, the key thing to do is to rephrase whatever you’re trying to understand in your own words. So this is why, and kind of instinctively, we do know that. When you were in school and you were just writing down whatever the teacher was saying without rephrasing anything, as soon as that was on paper, you would close your notebook and that was completely forgotten. But when you were asked, and this is why a lot of teachers ask you to do this, they ask you a question and they ask you to explain the topic in your own words to really think about it in your own manner, to also connect it to other things that you learned about in different disciplines or from different lessons. This is where the magic of the generation effect happens. And the reason why it works is that by doing this, you’re making that knowledge your own.
You’re creating links, and associations between that new knowledge that you’re trying to acquire and the knowledge that you already have. So you’re really making that knowledge your own and acquiring it in a way that is going to stay in memory versus just looking at it and forgetting about it straight away. So that’s really the generation effect. In terms of how to do it, it really depends on how you like to create best. You could use the generation effect through writing by writing your own little essay. That’s what I’m doing. Writing is my thing. But if you’re someone who is more comfortable maybe talking, if you were to create your own YouTube video about the topic, for example, again, rephrasing it in your own words, or if you could do a podcast, you could do even a little mind map, something a little bit more visual, any way of creating a different output that is truly yours, that is not just regurgitating the thing that you’ve just consumed. If you do that, you’re using the generation effect.
Kira Hug: And what would you recommend for someone who wants to do that, who hears you give that advice, but they struggle because they feel like an imposter? Or who am I to teach this and talk about this? Or, “Oh, I can do this, but I need to wait until I know a little bit more information about it and then I can start teaching and talking about it?”
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: This is such a great question. I’m a big fan of learning in public because I think that… And you’ve heard that before, the best way to learn is to teach. But to people who feel like, as you said, people who experience imposter syndrome, who feel like maybe they should wait a little bit more until they feel like they’re an expert to be able to teach other people. Well, the first thing is that you will never feel like you’re an expert. It’s really interesting. But the people who don’t have imposter syndrome are often the ones who maybe should have imposter syndrome. So you can learn as much as you want about a topic. The thing is that every time, the more you learn, the more it pushes the horizon of everything. You notice that now you don’t know. So the more you know, realize how much you don’t know. So you’ll never feel like an expert.
So that’s one thing to keep in mind, that time you’re waiting for when you’ll finally feel confident and feel like you know enough to start teaching, that will never happen. So that’s one thing out of the way.
And then second, teaching doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the most knowledgeable person on the earth who knows everything about the topic. To be able to be helpful to someone, you just need to know a little bit more than they do, and that’s it. You just need to be one step ahead of where they are. And there is something interesting that’s called the curse of knowledge, which shows that people who are very advanced in a topic, they actually become worse and worse teachers when it comes to it because everything seems so obvious to them.
So in a way, actually, by teaching stuff that you just learned, something that’s very fresh in your mind, something that you just discovered, you may be the best teacher in the world for that specific topic because you know exactly what were the challenges that you faced when you learned this. Nothing seems obvious to you and all of the different ways that you can make it a little bit easier to understand. You also know what you wish someone taught you when you were going through this process and how that could have been made easier for you, and you can be the person who makes it easier for people coming right after you. So it’s not even that it’s okay to teach if you just learned something, it’s that you may actually be the best teacher in the world for that specific topic right at that time.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. So you should be teaching more. We should all be teaching more as we’re learning things. So as you go through this process and you’re writing down your thoughts about something that you’re learning, how do you connect it with things that you maybe learned last year or another book that you might have read on a similar topic a few months before? I guess this is maybe a little bit about note-taking and how you connect all of that stuff. And I know this is something you love, you talk about. But what’s the process for making that work? And full disclosure, I struggle with this. I have notes in marginal in my books or whatever, but then a year later or two years later, I forget what I was thinking about then. And so how do you put it all together?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. So as you can see, this is part of the compounding effect of the generation effect, a little bit meta, but because you’ve been generating all of these ideas, all of these things into your own words, and you have them in your note-taking system or maybe some of it published online, at least you have all of this material somewhere that you can access even a year later if you want to connect it back to what you’re working on right now. Now the challenge that you mentioned that’s a very common challenge is that okay, it’s there, it’s somewhere, it’s captured, it’s written, but how do you actually go back in there, know what’s relevant, how do you connect it, et cetera? So I’m not saying that there’s a perfect system for this because if there was, that would be a solved problem. And there would not be hundreds of books written on the topic every year with people coming up with new systems.
So I’m just going to share how I personally do it. And I’m not saying that it’s going to work for everyone. But something that I do is that I link my notes as I go. So I’m not waiting until I’m creating something new today to figure out what would be a link that I could make with something that was a long time ago. I constantly link things. So while I’m typing my notes, I’m thinking, what does that remind me of right now? And because this is something I do constantly every week, I do maintain things fresh in my mind a lot more than if I was waiting for a long time. I call this mind gardening because I always feel like the sensation is like I’m planting little seeds and then I’m growing branches in between ideas. And it makes it easier than to collect the fruit, the produce of all of those plants that I’ve been growing little by little.
So I would say that the reason why it feels so daunting is that a lot of people are looking at all of those notes that they’ve actually mediated over the years and they’re like, “Oh my God, what am I going to do with this? I don’t know how to use this.” I would just say, scratch that. Just forget about them. Archive this. You don’t delete them because you never know if there’s something you want to look up later, but just forget about them. But then start practicing mind gardening today with your new notes. Start afresh. It’s a new garden. Start afresh. And from now on, every time you add a new note to your note-taking system, practice, always linking it to at least another one. The rule is no or fun notes. There should be no note that is unconnected to anything else.
So every time you add a note, ask yourself how is that maybe connected to some goals I have for my business? Or how is that connected to something I read in another book, or an idea that I have, a project I have for the future? And just connect it like that. Just create links like that.
Another reason why I love doing this is that it acts as a filter. If I want to add a note to my note-taking system, and after a couple of minutes, I really cannot see how that connects to anything. Maybe it’s just something nice that I read and I don’t need to add a note to my note-taking system. It doesn’t need to come into my garden. It was nice. Not everything you read needs to be turned into a note. It can just be something interesting. That was great. I enjoyed reading this article. I don’t need a note because it really doesn’t fit with anything that I’m dreaming about or thinking about or working on at the moment. So this is also why the linking habit is really nice. It’s a good filter to make sure that the seeds that you plant in your mind garden are actually going to grow into ideas that are helpful for you.
Kira Hug: So I want to get into your brain and your process as you’re talking about this. A couple of questions. What tech tool, what are you using for note-taking? Because there’s so many tools, and I know that’s not what this is about, but I’m still curious. And then when you’re reading, what is your process for reading? Do you read something first and then go back and take notes and then read it again? What does that look like?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Okay, so for tools, I personally use Roam. If anyone wants to look it up, it’s roamresearch.com. And I’m not affiliated with anyways. But Rome is great, I think. But any other tool that if you go on their landing page and if they mentioned anything like bidirectional linking or network thinking or any of those keywords, that means that they have features similar to Rome that allow you to do what I’m doing. So other tools include Obsidian, Logseq, there’s so many of them now. So really just if you’re listening to this and you want to give a try to mind gardening and connecting your notes together, just look up on Google, networked notes, bidirectional links, anything like that.
It sounds like a lot of fancy, complicated words, but really, the main thing about these apps compared to older apps like Evernote or things like that, is that they really have baked-in several simple features that allow you very easily to link your notes and then to see when you look at notes, what are all of the other notes linking back to this one. So hence the bidirectional linking. So you can always see where a note lives in the galaxy of notes that you have in your tool, and that really allows you to go back and explore, make new connections, et cetera. So that’s for the tool. And then what was the second part of the question?
Kira Hug: Your reading process?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes.
Kira Hug: What does that look like?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: So for reading, it depends. If I’m reading something like online or if I’m reading on paper, despite being a little bit of a nerd when it comes to note-taking, I love the sensation of reading a good old paper book. And I’m seeing your shelves behind you and I see that we’re the same.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, there’s one or two books back there. Yes.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: So the way I do it, if it’s a paper book, I usually have a pen or a highlighter and I will just highlight or underline anything that I find interesting as I’m reading it. And it’s a very instinctive process. I’m not at this stage thinking how does that fit with anything or how does that connect or link back to other stuff I’m working on? It’s just anything that feels interesting really. So this is really interesting. So I’ll do that and I’ll add a little dog ear at the bottom of the book because at the top of the book is to mark where I’m at, where I stopped reading for that session at the bottom of it, and I’ll just finish reading the whole book. And then when I’m done with the book, I’ll take it and I’ll sit down. It’s pretty quick, and takes about 15 minutes.
But just going through these while sitting in front of my computer and figuring out what I want to import. And it’s interesting because sometimes the things that I thought were interesting while reading them, and then when I sit in front of my computer, I genuinely can’t remember why past me thought that this was interesting. So again, another filter. So this doesn’t go in my note-taking system, and if I ever reread the book, it’s still nice to see what I underlined and what I highlighted, but it doesn’t need to go in my note-taking system.
And if it’s digital, it’s a very similar process except that in that case, I have to be a bit more intentional as I go because I have a digital highlighter. And so if I do that, it goes in my note-taking system straightaway. So I am going to be a bit more intentional, which works really well because I feel like when I’m reading a paper book, it’s a bit more immersive and I don’t want to stop every few paragraphs to go and take notes. I want to really enjoy the experience. Whereas when I tend to read something online, a PDF or something like this, I’m usually more in active work mode. And it does make sense that I’m fishing for information, I’m actually trying to collect data that I want to have in my note-taking system. So that’s how I do it.
Rob Marsh: So you’re doing it actively, when you’re doing it online. How often are you doing it when you’re reading a book? Is it, I wait a week, I put the book down and just let it sit for a while? Or is it almost immediate?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: It’s not necessarily immediate. It may sound like it when I describe your system, but I am more of a chaotic rather than systematic person when it comes to my creative process. So I’ve tried doing the thing where you sit once a week and you do it, but then it started feeling like homework and I love reading too much and I love doing research too much to make it feel this way. So it’s more of something I’ll do every couple of weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it’s typically the kind of thing I would do on the Lazy Sunday where I’m like, “Oh…” I live in London, so it’s raining outside. That happens very often. Raining outside, I don’t feel like doing anything else, and I just want to do something that’s relaxing and low effort, and I’ll just pick one of the books that I read in the past few weeks and I’ll do that.
And again, it does feel like… Actually, now it’s funny that I’m using this metaphor because I’m a terrible gardener. But it’s a bit of a mindful experience, basically just going through the notes, figuring out what do I want to add, what do I not want to add? Trying to remember why I thought this was interesting. So I do it when I feel like it, and I’m very fortunate that I very often feel like it. So I never really had to put in place any forcing mechanism for me to sit down and do it.
Rob Marsh: And I guess a related question, as you’re capturing this stuff, I’m curious, what’s the thought process about what to read next? How do you decide what’s the next thing that I need to learn? I know a lot of us, we hear from other people, “Hey, this is a great book,” and so we add it to our list or whatever. But are you deliberate in choosing what you read or what the next thing is? And how do you go about filtering that?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Oh, this is so hard. This is so hard. Especially when you’re lucky to have lots of very smart, curious, interesting people around you who keep on recommending books that seem amazing. So I do have a running list, but I actually don’t use it very much. It just makes me feel good when someone recommends a book to add it to the list and I know it’s there. And so I have two ways of deciding, two signals. The first one is just in time decision where I need to do something. So it could be for Ness Labs, it could be for my own research, I need to learn about something. I just stumble about something I don’t understand, I want to learn more. Or maybe I’m preparing a presentation that I want to give, a workshop, and I actually want to know what I’m talking about regarding certain topics, I’m going to read more about it.
So that’s one way I decide where I really just read the thing whenever I need to read the thing in order to be able to do my work effectively.
And this is why it’s funny, I don’t actually use that list this much because it happens sometimes that a book keeps on getting recommended by lots of people, and I never really had to check the list. You just feel like, oh, it’s been there three times. I just started noticing because when the course of a month or two months, you hear the same book being recommended five times or six times, you start noticing. And so that’s something that I would tend to get that book then. And I know we’re supposed to be original, but I trust the people that I work with and I hang out with, and I think they’re very smart. So if a lot of them tell me that a book was really good and helpful for them, that’s a really good signal. So I’ll usually do that. And obviously, all of this is for non-fiction. For fiction, I don’t know. I look at the cover and I feel like, “Ooh, that sounds interesting.” That’s it. There’s no thought process going on there.
Kira Hug: All right. So you mentioned chaos, and I would love an example of what creative chaos looks like in your life. Maybe a recent example. And then in addition to that, because I think a lot of our listeners can relate to chaos, that’s how we work. I relate to that. What do we need to be careful or avoid when we’re someone who operates well in chaos? Because there’s definitely some repercussions to that. There’s some damage that can be done along the way, creatively, business-wise, relationship-wise in so many ways. So if you were operating chaos, what advice would you give to that person?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. So first, what does chaos look like for me? I am not going to show you, but you should see my desk. It’s a complete mess.
Kira Hug: I was going to say it’s usually the desk that is usually a big deal.
Rob Marsh: I want to see the desk now. Only when we finish the podcast, you can show us.
Kira Hug: It probably looks like my desk.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. So yeah, it’s notebooks and empty cans of sparkling water everywhere and it’s books, pans. Yeah. And weirdly, I know where everything is. I can reach and grab and I know that this notebook is here and that’s where I put those notes, et cetera. So it’s some form of organized chaos where I know where my stuff is. So in terms of how to make the most of chaos and minimizing some of the more challenging aspects of it, I think there are two things, whether you’re working solo or working with other people. When you’re working solo, to me, I think the only potential negative effect of having a bit more of a chaotic creative mode of working is the potential impact on your mental health. Because if you always wait until the last minute, wait until inspiration strikes, or just go with the flow of your creative inspiration, I think we’ve all experienced this, this self-destructive procrastination, and we wait until the very last minute to work on the project and then we panic and maybe we don’t get enough sleep to try and finish it.
And because we’re good at our job, we end up delivering work that’s pretty good. We always know that maybe if we did it a little bit differently, maybe if we had more space, more time, maybe if we had embedded some process to consult with more people, maybe the work would’ve been better. And also maybe we didn’t need to have all of that negative impact on our stress levels and our sleep, et cetera. So I think for that, things that have been very helpful for me is to have a little bit of scaffolding. This is why I have a weekly newsletter, because I know that every week the newsletter needs to be sent. So instead of having this one massive project that I need to ship every quarter or something like this, I think it would be terrible for me with the way I work. I have those small chunks of work that I need to deliver every week, so it never completely gets out of hand.
So I would say design small chunks of work where within those buckets it can be as messy and chaotic as you want to, but then you end up shipping whatever that unit of work was. You just ship it and then you start from a clean slate, it gets chaotic and messy again, but then it’s okay because you start with a blank slate again and again. So for me, it’s a weekly newsletter. But for any work, you just try to figure out how you can chunk your work basically. And if you’re working with other people, the problem is a bit more complicated because your chaos becomes everyone’s problem.
Kira Hug: Not everyone else loves the chaos.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Exactly. And so for this, I haven’t found a perfect solution, but something that has been really helpful with working with my team is really just transparent communication. So we do something with my team where every time someone new joins, they feel a personal user manual. So as if you were going to IKEA and buying a piece of furniture or installing new software or something like this, you would have a booklet that tells you this is how it works. So it’s the same for you. This is how I work. And so you fill it and you explain what are the best ways to communicate with you.
Do you prefer to jump on a quick meeting to solve problems, or do you prefer asynchronous communication? Just explain to me the whole problem in an e-mail, and then I’ll sit down and I’ll come back to you and I’ll send you a long e-mail and everything is going to be in there, and that’s the way I work.
Do you like to work in sprints or do you like to have a little bit more space and time for planning, et cetera, et cetera? So we have that for everyone in the team, and it’s been super helpful because it helps diffuse any detention that could arise from different working styles. And so for me, for example, I know I’m chaotic, but I also know… I mentioned the example of the e-mail. I’m chaotic, but if you explain to me written in an e-mail what the problem is, what you considered, what you thought about, and tell me how I can help, I can sit for an hour and really properly think about it, really give it the time that it deserves and the attention it deserves, come back to you and with something I think is going to be really helpful.
But if you keep on pinging me and sending me lots of different chats and I get all of those notifications, I’ll be stressed. You’ll be stressed because you’re not going to get the answers you need from me. And we’re all going to end up unhappy with a problem that’s unsolved. So I don’t think we should necessarily change our working style, but just having processes in place where we can communicate how we work in a more transparent way, just saying, “Look, I know these are my challenges, and so by the way, you can also call me out when you notice that I’m doing something that’s been unhelpful for you. But it’s okay because I told you that’s something I struggled with. So please tell me when you notice it, and I will make an effort to try and align with your working style when I need your help.” So that doesn’t solve everything, but it helps at least to avoid people killing each other.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Which is a pretty good goal when you’re running a business. Right? Yeah. So that’s got me thinking, I’m curious, what does a typical day look like for you, Anne-Laure? You’re obviously writing the email, you’ve got classes, school, study going on, you’ve got this community that you’re supporting. I’m sure you’ve also got friends and other relationships that you want to keep up. So what does that typical day look like for you? And do you have any productivity hacks that make it all work?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I don’t really think in terms of what my days look like. But in terms of what my weeks look like, which makes it a lot more manageable for me and a lot more flexible. So in order to avoid too much complex switching, I’ll allocate days to specific areas of work. So for example, I know that on Tuesday I have my weekly update with my PhD supervisors and I need to tell them about everything I did in the past week. So usually Monday to Tuesday when I meet them, that’s purely PhD work. And very often, I’m actually catching up on stuff I should have done the week before. But it’s okay because I end up showing up to that meeting on Tuesday with all of the work that I was supposed to have done. So I’m head down focused on this. Then Thursday is the day I send a newsletter.
So I also do all of my one-to-ones with my team members. I write the newsletter, I catch up with the community. I’m in Ness Lab’s mode. I’m reading in business mode. I don’t think about my research at all. I’m super focused on this. I’m available all day over e-mail for my team. They know that if there’s something important that they want to discuss, Thursday is the day. And I’m obviously fortunate that I run a small business where I’m not like a neurosurgeon with people waiting on the operating table for me to do something right now. So it has never really happened that something could not wait until Thursday for me to have a look at. And if that happens, I will have a look another day. But ideally, I tell them, “Wait until Thursday. We have our one-to-one. We can review everything together, set the goals for the next week.” And it’s a very slow, mindful way of working together.
Friday is also Ness Labs, but more for deep work. So this is where I do research, this is where I think about ideas for articles that I want to write about. Strategy, if I’m thinking about launching a new online course or anything like that. So planning, et cetera. So instead of working, we have no meetings with the rest of the team that day. Everyone is focused on doing more creative work, knowledge work, et cetera on Fridays.
And Wednesday, I keep it as a buffer. So it really depends on the week. Sometimes there’s more work for the Ph.D., more experiments to run with different things to do. And so Wednesday will be dedicated to this. And sometimes Thursday is coming and I feel like I haven’t done enough for the newsletter and nothing’s ready, so I’ll use Wednesday to catch up. So it’s really nice to have Wednesday in the middle of the week. That’s a little bit of the buffer and it’s flexible. So that’s why I was saying I think in weeks and not-in days, because it really helps me a lot to know that today, this is my area of focus. This is where all of my mental energy and my creativity is going and nothing else.
Rob Marsh: Okay, Kira, so many insightful points that Anne-Laure has already shared with us, but let’s just chat about a couple of favorites. Where do you want to start?
Kira Hug: I’m going to start with the generation effect and how sharing and teaching knowledge is one of the best ways to learn and for it to stick. And so that’s something that I think we talked about in-depth, and there are many ways you can do it, whether it’s writing or creating videos or whatever it is. But I think at least for the two of us, for me, it’s podcasting and being able even to do what we’re doing here where we listen to an interview we were a part of, and then dissect it and take concepts and talk about it and dive deeper into it. That is a great example of how it’s helped me learn and understand in a more powerful way than necessarily just consuming something and leaving it after that. So there are many ways to do it. I think just the key is figuring out what works best for you.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, the key for me in thinking about the generation factor, it’s not just learning. It’s not just doing stuff new, but it’s taking those things and putting it into our own words and sharing it in a way that maybe we can only share that somebody else might not be able to do it our way. And in doing so, you’re not just generating knowledge, but you are generating this wealth of ways that you talk about things in the world, or ways that you can show up differently from everyone else. So I think it’s definitely something more copywriters should be doing in their niches with their deliverables, with their clients, everything.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And what else stood out to you, Rob?
Rob Marsh: So a lot of stuff stood out to me. So just initially, as Anne-Laure was talking about what she wanted to do in life, she talked about how she was on this path that maybe other people had set up or that it wasn’t clear. And the question that she asked herself which, I think is really insightful is, what do I want to keep learning about? Rather than saying, “Hey, I want to be a neuroscientist,” or, “I want to be an entrepreneur,” or whatever. It’s what do I want to keep learning about? And I think that’s a great question because it’s not about the position or the title, it’s about the thing that excites you. And it could result in all kinds of different positions, titles, pathways. But knowing that I want to keep learning about this kind of thing can take you a long way down the road.
So it’s worth asking if you’re starting out in marketing, in copywriting, is this something that you want to keep learning about not just for a few weeks or a couple of months, but for years? Is this the kind of thing that you’re excited about, learning about, persuasion and sales and all of that stuff? If not, maybe it’s not the perfect fit for you. But if it is, then what we talk about could be an amazing career or at least a part of a career that you’re building for yourself.
Kira Hug: Yeah, that’s also a question I wrote down. I felt like that was a really great guiding question. And you’re right. As copywriters, as marketers, we do so many different things. And so there might just be one sliver of what you do as a business owner or as a copywriter that really excites you and you want to learn about every single day. And so even just figuring out as you look at the big picture of everything you do, what is one piece that just excites you every time you get to focus on it, and how could you do more and more of it? And maybe that can help guide you through the different pivots along the way.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Going along with that to Anne-Laure mentioned that she had no grand plan. It was all about experimenting and sharing online. And again, I think as we think about showing up as experts in our niches and in the things that we do, we don’t necessarily need a grand plan that we’re going to have a bestselling book, or that we’re going to be speaking on TEDx stage about something in particular. We don’t necessarily need to know the end goals. It’s just about constantly experimenting. So I appreciate that approach that Anne-Laure has, and something that more of us need to be doing,
Kira Hug: But it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to let go, and I think many of us just cling to that plan, and we want to know all the steps along the way, and we want to maintain control over that entire pathway. So I think what she’s doing, what she talked about is what I aspire to do. But if you listen to that and you’re like, “Ah, I’d like to be that way.” It’s not always easy to experience your career that way, but it’s something that we could keep trying to achieve in our businesses.
Rob Marsh: Well, that ties into what Anne-Laure was saying later about never truly feeling like an expert. It’s going back to that imposter complex. The people who are experts or at least do know enough, oftentimes, they understand the limits of their knowledge, and so they don’t feel like they’ve got an expert, that they are an expert and that they can show up in the ways that they should. This is a really good place, I think, to plug our interview with Tanya Geisler, episode 47, where she talked about imposter complex and all about this. But Anne-Laure is basically saying the same thing. When you’re feeling like you might not know enough, it’s probably a sign that you’re actually a pretty competent speaker or actor in that space, and you just are aware of some of the holes, but that should not stop you from speaking up and from talking.
Kira Hug: Yes, and we talked about chaos. I think that’s one of the parts of the conversation that resonated the most with me because I could relate, and that’s just how I operate, and I’m not necessarily proud of that or excited by it. But it’s also good to know that many of us think chaotically and operate in that way. And that there are certain structures we can create for ourselves, certain ways of working with partners or employees or team members or collaborators to help us because it can be really magical. This is where creativity can come from ideas, but it can also be destructive at times. And so I’m really glad that we were able to touch on that part of the conversation and talk about some real examples and how we can create that scaffolding and that structure to hold all that chaos together so that it can be a positive thing and not a negative thing.
Rob Marsh: Having structures if you are chaotic or if you work out of disorganization a lot. And I think there’s actually a difference between chaos and disorganization, or chaos and messy. There’s a lot of crossover, but one is certainly more positive than the other. But having those structures so that you can make the chaos work, the creative moments, the serendipity that happens when things are not regimented and organized necessarily, having that structure on the backend really helps with operating from a place of chaos or creativity or some level of organization that’s maybe not perfect.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And it’s just good to know that there are these amazing people like Anne-Laure who just also operate in that way. And for someone, again, for someone like me, it’s really easy to beat yourself up if this is how you operate, and this is one of your struggles. Everyone has a struggle, but with this one in particular, it’s really easy to be like, “Well, I am never going to be able to do what so-and-so does because I operate in a chaotic way.” And so to have positive examples, positive role models that show us how we can do it, and it’s still possible and you can still accomplish big things, is really helpful.
I know that also led into the conversation around organizing, how she organizes her days. And so that was really helpful to think about how she’s thinking about her days and it’s less about breaking up the day, but it’s more about a theme today, really. And even when she said, “I’m not a neurosurgeon, things can wait until Thursday for my team.” It’s just such a great reminder that we create this urgency for ourselves, but things can wait and we can have a day where we focus on that particular project and we don’t have to do all the things every single day. And so that was a good reminder for me.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. This is one of the things that we teach in all of our programs. You and I purposely schedule Mondays and Fridays to not have calls. Those are more days spent on our personal things or our business or writing time, thinking time, CEO time, whatever we call it. And we have days specifically for coaching members of the Think Tank and connecting trainings in our other programs. And I think that approach can work for a lot of people. I’ve heard people talk about theme days where it’s like, “Oh, I do finances on this day and I do all of my writing on another day.” And for me, that approach doesn’t quite fit the same way, doesn’t quite work for me because, well, I don’t have six to eight hours of financial stuff to do every single week, or the writing may bleed over three or four days or longer. And so the way that Anne-Laure talks about organizing it by the needs in her business and her life, I think makes a lot of sense.
Kira Hug: Yeah, definitely. And I think we have our team, I would say our team support and podcast is Tuesdays, takes place on Tuesdays, which helps. That’s some scaffolding that helps me because if I know we have a marketing meeting every Tuesday, then I’m more likely to turn the chaos that’s in my mind, turn it into some type of plan that I can share with our marketing team. And so if you just figure out what type of scaffolding can help hold your weeks and your days together so it doesn’t feel like chaos, that’s a really helpful tool.
All right. Well, let’s get back to our interview and talk about how she’s balancing the many projects she’s working on in this season of her life.
Anne, because you mentioned your Ph.D. program, this is maybe more of a selfish question for me because I’m very interested in pursuing a degree and going back to school as well. I don’t feel like I hear from as many people who are balancing a business, a small business and also a Ph.D. program. I guess so many questions about it, but how do you make it work, especially when traditionally we’re told that you can’t do both at the same time?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: It’s not going to be that helpful, but it’s all about your supervisors. It’s really all about your supervisors. And my supervisors follow me on Twitter. They know about the work that I do on the side. My Ph.D. is around the neuroscience of online learning, which is aligned with what I do with Ness Labs as well. So there’s lots of synergies there. And I’m completely transparent about the fact that I’m also running this business. They’re very flexible with me. And I do work too much, I think in terms of the number of hours at the moment. I don’t think that the number of hours I’m working at the moment is sustainable over many years. And it’s okay because I’m just doing it for this time for the Ph.D., knowing that there’s a deadline to all of this, and I’ll go back to normal work hours after the Ph.D. is really helpful.
So yeah, I would say, first, your supervisors are really important. And second, I really don’t want to downplay the fact that I have very, very, very long hours at the moment and that it wouldn’t be something that’s sustainable. Also, I don’t have kids. It is very important to mention also. So I’m currently in a very privileged situation where I have the right supervisors. I don’t have kids. I am not the caretaker to anyone, so I have lots of freedom and I can do this. So that’s why I was saying, it’s not that helpful. I think for me, the stars really aligned to make it work, and I do think it can work for many other people, but it is a big, big, big factor of luck here in making it work.
Rob Marsh: While we’re talking about your degree, I’m curious, what are some of the big ideas that you’re focused on and learning about or that you’re most excited to share from your studies, maybe in your master’s degree as well, but in what you’re doing? I think it’s at King’s College, right? King’s College today?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. Yeah. So I’m currently studying neurodiversity and online learning and specifically ADHD, autism and dyslexia. And we’re running several experiments. The first one, I’m going to start very soon using eye tracking and EEG to look at brain waves, is trying to understand how your brain activity and how your attention differs depending on whether you’re neurodivergent or neuro typical when you’re trying to learn something online. And based on previous research, we’re expecting to see differences, but we’re not quite sure what they’re going to be, but we’re expecting to see differences.
And then in the second experiment, what we want to do is actually start playing with different online learning designs and see if we can modulate that brain activity to bring the brain activity of diversion students as close as possible to the one of neurotypical students. Basically, making the experience as effortless as possible for neuro-diversion students so they can focus on the learning itself. So those are going to be the two big experiments in my PhD.
Kira Hug: So as you’ve built your career and created your path, it’s truly unique and it’s one of a kind. And I know as I was reading about your story, it seems like part of the reason you left Google, and correct me if I’m wrong, is because you saw the path in the ladder, you understood exactly how it worked, the game, what you needed to do to get a certain position, and wasn’t what you wanted, and you wanted to create your own path along the way.
I think anyone listening to this show is creating their own business and is more interested in carving out their own path. But sometimes it’s really easy, even as an entrepreneur to find a ladder. Maybe someone else has built it as an entrepreneur, and started climbing their ladder, thinking it’s your own, and then realizing, “Why am I here? What am I doing?” So do you have any advice for people who want to build their own ladder or own path, but may feel stuck and feel like they’re not truly building their own way?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: A piece of advice that I wish someone gave me at the time when I suddenly left Google, I literally told my manager in January that I was leaving and a month later, I was gone, was that you don’t need to leave your main job to explore other options. And it turned out okay for me in the end, but it was unnecessarily risky and stressful to do this. But I was young and stupid and I was just like, “I quit my job and I’m going to explore other options.” So my advice for people who find themselves in this situation, climbing a ladder that they’re not quite sure is the right one for them, whether it’s a corporate ladder at a company built by someone else, or even if they’re entrepreneurs and they’re building a company, their own business and they’re not quite sure it’s the right thing for them, or that they’re focusing on the right mission, maybe they want to do something else or it’s not the right lifestyle is, you don’t need to make any highly risky decision at this stage.
Going back to the idea of mind gardening, basically, go and explore. Go and find different seeds that you can plant in your mind garden, and that can take lots of different forms. That could be meeting with people outside of your current field of work, going to events, talking to people who work on things that are completely different. So let’s say for example that you’re working in marketing, but you’re interested in psychology, it’s very easy to go online and find meetups and things like that for psychologists. And then go there, ask them questions. What does your work look like? What does your life look like? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What are things that you wish you knew before getting into this field and getting all of that information?
We’re very lucky to live at a time where you can actually do this and go and meet with strangers and ask them, tell me about your work. Tell me about your life. So I would do this. And I would obviously, because I love doing this, I would take notes. I would take lots of notes while I’m doing this. And really trying to paint a picture of different potential paths that I am interested in. What would that look like to go and explore that path? What steps should I take, et cetera? And what kind of a pivot it is also, because the thing is that it really depends on what you want to do afterwards. But in some careers, you would need to completely retrain yourself to do it. So that’s actually a massive risk to say, “I’m going to start from scratch. I need to go back to school. I need to get new accreditations and all of these kinds of things.”
And then there are smaller pivots that can still be very meaningful, very significant, that can bring you the change that you need to have in your life, but that rely a lot more on your existing skills. And so if you take, for example, and again, if you’re working in marketing, there’s a lot of the skills that you acquire working in marketing that could be used in so many other different fields because you’re good at project management, you’re good at communication, you’re good at creativity, you’re good at building a message, et cetera. There’s so many jobs where that could be helpful. So I would consider your options in terms of what does the pivot look like? Is that a massive pivot? Do I have to start from scratch? Or is there a way for me to get the change I need while building on top of what I have today instead of starting from scratch again?
So that’s what I would do, and I would… Just take your time. I know we’re all holding this Corneometer in our hands and having this anxiety about time, and we need to rush, we need to be quick. We keep on comparing ourselves to each other and feeling like other people are going faster, et cetera. But I’ve changed carriers a couple of times already, and that’s really the only thing that I would tell my past self is, don’t rush, seriously. When I look back, I’m like, “Why did I try to save two months throughout this process? Why was I hurrying this much to find a solution?” It’s a lot better and a lot more fruitful to sit with those questions for as long as necessary until you feel ready.
Rob Marsh: So I want to change the direction of our conversation just a little bit. So you are pretty active on Twitter. You have your weekly e-mail. You’ve posted a lot of videos on YouTube, although I think you’re less active since you started your Ph.D. program there. How much of that is deliberate and how much of it is, “I’ve got an idea, this is perfect for video, I’ll just share this quickly on Twitter?” Do they all work together? Do you have any plan around that? Or is it just what feels good as you have an idea that you want to talk about?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: It’s actually a mix of both. It’s highly driven by what feels good, but I do tend to try and experiment for long enough with my ideas to know if it feels good or not. So Twitter, I’ve been on Twitter for years now. I’m way past that stage of knowing if I like it or not. I love Twitter. This is where I’ve met many online friends. I can thank Twitter for a lot of the success that I’ve had with my work today because it’s a wonderful place to connect with people, to learn from each other and to grow your community. But for YouTube, for example, I wasn’t quite sure if it would be for me. So I was like, “Okay, let’s do this for a few months and let’s commit to it. Let’s commit to it. Let’s do it. Every week I’m going to post a video.”
If I had listened to what feels good, I would’ve not even started the YouTube channels because I am not comfortable in front of a camera. Right now, it’s fine because I’m talking to you. I’m seeing two human beings. You’re nodding when I’m talking. There’s eye contact, even if it’s through a screen. So it’s fine. But talking to an actual camera with zero feedback, it’s some people’s job. They train their whole life. They go to school to act in front of a camera, and I’m really not comfortable doing this. So if I had just listened to what feels good, I wouldn’t have even tried. So I like running little experiments, basically, doing it and committing to do it for long enough that I can collect enough data in terms of how it feels, but also in terms of how it works. Is it working? Do people react in a positive way? Is it helpful? Do I get good feedback?
And then also trying to think about the balance of input of efforts that I have to put into it versus what I get back. And so that’s why when I started my PhD, the first thing I stopped was the YouTube channel because it was still at the stage where it started to feel good. I was like, “Okay, I’m starting to get the hang of this. I’m starting to feel more comfortable.” But because I was still such a beginner, it was still taking me hours and hours every week. I still had a little bit of that anxiety before sitting in front of the camera every week. I was dreading it. Once I was doing it, it was fine, but it was just this thing that was weighing on my mind all the time.
And when I did the little review, I started the Ph.D. and I felt like, “Okay, something has to go. I can’t just add the Ph.D. to everything I’m doing and not remove anything.” Then the experiment, I decided to stop at that time, or to pose and we’ll see if I start again in the future was YouTube. So I follow what feels good, but I also think it’s important sometimes to force yourself for a little bit to do something that doesn’t quite feel good right at the beginning. Because it’s a great way to grow, to learn about yourself, to get outside of your comfort zone. And that being said, if for a month you’ve been trying something and it still doesn’t feel good, then you’ve learned enough from that experiment and you can stop. There’s no need to torture yourself.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I’d love to hear your thoughts more on that, how to achieve your goals without sacrificing your mental health. And I think it’s so many mixed messages today about going really big and being ambitious in pursuing your Ph.D. while you’re building a business because it’s truly meaningful to you and there’s going to be such a huge impact from what you can do from that experience. But then there are other messages about rest and slowing down and taking care of yourself. So I think it can be really confusing. How do you approach ambition and going after what you want while also taking care of your mental health?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: The pillar that supports that ambiguity or maybe that apparent paradox between being very ambitious and wanting to still take care of your mental health For me is self-reflection. Just making sure that I’m never, ever, ever working and living on autopilot because I think this is when you start burning out, this is when you start really hurting your mental health and maybe actually you end up not even achieving the ambitious outcomes that you were trying to go for. So I journal every day. And I don’t think it’s for everyone because it’s something fairly recent for me. I only started in the past year and it’s been really good for me. Before that, I only had a weekly review, so it doesn’t have to be journaling every day, but I always had some form of regular self-reflection, a little check-in to see how I was doing.
And that really is the key to everything when it comes to being ambitious and still taking care of your mental health because it’s just making sure that you know exactly how you’re feeling right now. So I know that, for example, at the moment I’m working, as I said, very, very long hours, but every time so far I write, I’m like, “Eh, still feeling good, great, feeling good.” And in the past year it has happened that I started writing and I was like, “Not feeling quite good right now, this is not great.” Then I can take steps to catch it before it becomes too bad. So I would then send an e-mail to my supervisor and saying, “Look, can we skip the meeting next week and we can just talk over e-mail, but I need a little break basically.” And we just do that. Which I think works extremely well, once you’ve established that trust with the people you work with, that you will always deliver what you promised you would deliver.
But you do need to have a little bit of flexibility in terms of how you do it. And sometimes just taking a day off can change everything in terms of your productivity, your mental health, and even your creativity. So I would just really encourage anyone who has those big goals, but that also is scared of burning out in the process to always check in with yourself very regularly. It could be a couple of minutes a day, it could be 15 minutes at the end of the week, Sunday evening, the house is quiet, just writing down how do I feel right now? And if the answer is not too good, what can I do next week? What is one thing I can do next week to make sure that this doesn’t get out of hand?
Rob Marsh: We are going to run out of time before I ask all of my questions, unfortunately. But I know as a writer you’ve played around with AI. You’ve done some really cool visuals that you’ve shared in your newsletter. I’ve seen a lot of that. Tell us your thoughts about AI. A lot of people are worried that it’s going to replace copywriters, writers, content writers. Where are you when it comes to playing around with those kinds of tools? Is it a help? Is it a hindrance? What do you think is going to happen?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: It is, I think, like any piece of software, it’s a tool. So really, the way you use it, it really depends on who is the human behind it and using it. So obviously there’s the way bigger question of artificial general intelligence, et cetera. And obviously we’re not going to talk about that right now because that’s a way bigger question. But when it comes to what I call artificial creativity, so really, AI for creative work, for copywriting, for images, et cetera, is AI going to replace humans basically when it comes to that kind of work? And I think for a certain kind of work, absolutely, yes. But this is also the kind of work that’s already not really good at the moment when you see all of these SEO… Overly optimized websites that you can tell that’s already kind of robotic. Even though that was written by a human because they’re trying to use all of these different keywords, et cetera.
So that kind of work absolutely is going to be replaced by ai and it’s going to have interesting consequences because it is going to be a period I think, which is going to be a lot more crap on the internet that we’re going to have to see. But then again, it’s just this back-and-forth. Search engines algorithms are going to adapt also. That’s going to get filtered. So they’re already developing and it works pretty well. An automatic check for AI generated content. So I think that’s probably going to be deranked a little bit once that’s fully implemented. So yes, some of it is going to be replaced, but I don’t think that’s necessarily such a bad thing. I think that copywriters that are able to write in the way where it is very obvious that it’s a human being that wrote the copy, are going to become more and more in demand.
And in the same way that you buy handmade goods that don’t necessarily look as good as the one that is out of a factory, but you pay more money for it because that was made by a human being so it has more value, I think. Handmade copy is going to have more value. It is going to be an aura effect, a luxury effect of saying that our copy is actually written by real humans.
And this is where I don’t know exactly how that’s going to work and what it’s going to look like, but I’m so interested to see how companies are going to start signaling this. How they’re going to show their audience, everything here is written by humans, we are actual humans. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I think it’s going to be very fun to observe that shift where we’re going to really, really value human written copy.
Kira Hug: I love that response. Gives us hope and excitement for the future of writing. As we wrap, where can our listeners go if they want to work with you or hear more from you or be a part of your community? Where can they go?
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Just go to NessLabs.com, N-E-S-S-L-A-B-S .com. And I’m not even going to share my Twitter accounts because it’s impossible to pronounce, but you can find all of the information about my work and get in touch. You can go to my website, NessLabs.com
Rob Marsh: And I’ll just follow up and say your YouTube channel, your Twitter, it’s worth following just for the ideas that you share. Every week, there’s something else I’m just like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And with the advice you gave us earlier about adding stuff to our notes, maybe I’ll start connecting all of that stuff together in some way. And I might be smarter next week. Who knows? There’s a chance. Thanks, Anne-Laure.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Thanks for having me.
Kira Hug: All right, so that’s the end of our interview with Anne-Laure. Before we go, there were a couple of other things that stood out to us that we want to highlight. So Rob, why don’t you kick it off?
Rob Marsh: So one of the things, I think this might resonate with me a lot because I see this, or I talk about this quite a bit, but when Anne-Laure was talking about you don’t need to quit your job to explore other options. She, early on, quit Google with no other options to go to. She was at that point where it worked for her because she was on her own. She didn’t have a lot of people depending on her. But this idea that you can start to explore, you can even think about pivots and other changes you want to make in your business without making huge, massive, drastic changes yet. And then as those things start to make sense, as you lean into them, then there’s a time for making that change. I’ve referred to that sometimes as creating a runway for yourself.
The longer the runway, the more time you have to get off the ground, the better. Sometimes you need money for that, sometimes you need time. Sometimes you need support from people around you. This reminds me of our interview with Jenny Blake where she talked about pivots and how to pivot your career. I believe that was episode number 41. If somebody wants to go back and listen to that again. But it differs. Sometimes you do need to make a break and a change, but most of the time we can ease into some of these changes that we want to make.
Kira Hug: Yeah. Again, that was probably another really helpful part of the conversation for me because I am someone where when things aren’t quite working perfectly, I just want to run away and just start over. I want to burn it all down. And that’s not always the best way to move forward. And so I need to hear this message around, you can just take it slowly. You can slow down, you can build upon what you’ve already created. You don’t have to start from scratch again. And that’s advice she would give to herself if she could go back in time. And I think one of her actual questions that she asked herself was, do I have to start from scratch or is there a way for me to get the change I need while building on top of what I have today instead of starting from scratch again? And that’s a great question to ask. I’m all about small pivots now, and just thinking about small pivots and not burning it all down and starting over, which can be very painful and is unnecessary probably 95% of the time.
Rob Marsh: Absolutely. Related to that was Anne-Laure’s advice, that we don’t need to be in a rush. We can trust the process, enjoy the journey. And that got me thinking. There’s this dichotomy of advice that we often get in business. One, is like Ann-Laure was saying, you don’t need to rush things. You can let things happen, trust the process. But also oftentimes we’ll say or we’ll hear, “You also don’t have to wait. You don’t have to wait for permission. You don’t have to wait to be told it’s okay.” And so there’s some balance between those two ideas that sometimes can be a little bit hard to find, but they’re both really important to hold. Don’t rush through things, don’t hurry things faster than they have to be, but also don’t wait longer than you need to.
Kira Hug: Yeah, that’s a good point. And it’s almost like maybe it’s don’t wait for permission to try something, but do slow down and take your time before making a major decision or a major pivot or maybe even a small pivot. And take your time, but don’t hold yourself back from making the first move and experimenting.
Rob Marsh: And that goes along with what Anne-Laure was saying a little bit later when she was talking about how she couldn’t do everything. One of her experiments had to drop when she started her Ph.D. program. She stopped doing so much with video. And that’s just a really good reminder too, especially when so many of us are building these businesses. We’re the only person working in our business, oftentimes. Sometimes we’re the only person at home or we have a lot of responsibilities outside of work that take us away from that. You can’t do everything. And so it’s okay to stop doing some things if they stop serving you or if they don’t make sense. It might be temporary, it might be permanent, but you don’t have to do all the things.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And the way that she catches herself is by asking, how are you feeling right now? And we’ve talked a lot about journaling, so I don’t think we need to touch on it anymore. But you don’t even have to journal. You could just have that check-in moment with yourself on a regular basis and get in the practice of doing that. Because it could be that you are working a long day, but you’re so energized because you love what you’re doing and you’re feeling really good, then it’s not a problem you have to address. So it almost helps us avoid making any hard rules for ourselves like, “Don’t ever work a 10-hour day.” But what if you are feeling great and you’re working a 10-hour day and you feel good, why not? And so I think that check-in is a really great way to catch things before they become a problem. And so whether it takes journaling or just checking with yourself maybe every day, maybe twice a day, that could be really helpful. I might start experimenting with that a little bit more.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing how your experiments turn out with that stuff. One other thing that stood out to me, and this is maybe the last thing that I’ll mention specifically, we asked Anne-Laure about AI, the future of copywriting, and where that’s going. And she said something that I had been thinking about over the last few days as well, and I was actually really interested in hearing her say the same idea because the idea that handcrafted copy or that there’s some value in copy that’s not created by machines is a little bit like the leather bag that is handmade or workshop made as opposed to made in a factory or by machines. There’s an idea there that’s, I think, really interesting. And I hope she’s right in that handcrafted copy that we’ll have ways to talk about that and it’ll be seen as valuable.
But along with that idea is the notion, when something is handcrafted a lot, something extra goes into it. It’s not just that it’s handcrafted, but there’s that extra time or there are tools that are used that maybe machines don’t do, or there’s the attention paid to the stitching on a bag or the way that something is created. And we need to take that same approach to copy. Just because copy is human-made does not necessarily make it better. It’s the things that the humans are doing with the copy that will ultimately make it better than what a machine can do. And so it’s an interesting idea to think about. I’m curious also to see where that goes. But something that we need to figure out how to talk about as she mentioned.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And we already announced that we’re starting a new podcast, AI For Creatives. And so we’re going to be diving a lot deeper into the topic. And if you are listening and you have any interest in exploring AI with the two of us, then you can check the show notes for a link to jump on the interest list so we can let you know when the new podcast comes out.
Rob Marsh: Absolutely.
Kira Hug: All right. Well, I want to ask you, Rob, because a lot of what we talked about was around your comfort zone, and so I’m curious what you have done this week or what you will do this week to step out of your comfort zone.
Rob Marsh: That’s a really interesting question because one of my sons just texted me yesterday saying, “Hey, will you do this thing with me?” It’s kind of like a 75 hard, but involves a couple of different things. It’s not all exercise. There’s some intellectual and some spiritual pursuits, things like that. And I just committed to him that, yeah, I would do something like that with him. I’m not exactly sure what that’s going to be, but it involves regular exercise, it involves silent time, which is something that I don’t do very often. Literally, 15 minutes of silence, meditative.
Kira Hug: That sounds amazing.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Time. It involves some reading. I think I said exercise, right? So anyway, we’ll see how that all comes together and what he decides to put together. But that’s one of the things that I’m doing. I cannot wait for Spring to get here so I can get outside more for exercise. And I know we already talked about this last week, one of the things you are doing to step out of your comfort zone. But is there anything besides?
Kira Hug: Yeah, there is. There is. So yes, it’s what I already did this week. So it’s checked, it’s off the list. But I volunteered at my son’s second grade classroom to do arts and crafts. And so it’s funny because to me, training for an Iron Man is a lot more comfortable than hanging out with a bunch of seven and eight year olds in a classroom and actually leading them through arts and crafts. And so that was my big thing for this week. I was like, I would rather teach and talk to a hundred different business owners in a room than get in front of 27-year olds and work with them. So that was my out of my comfort zone moment and I survived. And it was actually really fun, really creative and enjoyable. So maybe I need to do more of that, hanging out with the young kids, hanging out less with the adults.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I’m going to let you take care of that one for me. I think I’ll stay in my adult comfort zone at least a little while longer. We want to thank Anne-Laure Le Cunff for joining us on the podcast and giving us a glimpse into what she’s doing in her business and in her life. If you want to connect with Anne-Laure, head over to NessLabs.com or follow her on Twitter where she’s very active. And to both of those in the show notes.
Kira Hug: And that’s the end of the episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. And the outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter David Muntner.
If you enjoy today’s episode, and I think you probably did, please visit Apple Podcast and leave a review of today’s show. We will a hundred percent read it out loud in the next episode. As long as it’s a four or five, we’ll read it. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.