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My Intellectual Heroes… Reading List & Presentations to Watch!

June 8th, 2015

Posted in Musing, The Hong Kong Visa Geeza /


These four gentlemen are my intellectual heroes.

my intelletual heroes

I have been circulating a reading and watching list via email for a couple of years now and increasingly people are asking me to send it to them.

Makes sense to post it here methinks.

I can then edit and share on the fly as I watch, read and learn more.

Here you go…

For background on the deeper thinking that went into the development of my business model please start off by watching this talk by Canadian futurist Don Tapscott:

Please also find 2 books by Kevin Kelly that you really MUST read. These books are the genesis of many of Seth Godin’s ideas and, for me, are the 2 most important books I have ever read.

The 1999 book is called “New Rules” and is available for free via PDF here:

Kelly is incredibly prescient. His crystal ball in 1999 was turbocharged!

And his current book “What Technology Wants” is the most amazing read ever.

Charlie Munger’s  wisdom is profound and there are loads of resources I could suggest, but one which I like particularly is this talk from the 1990s. It gets to the heart of configuring a modern internet business where you absolutely must build in the science of persuasion to your service model.

CF: Cialdini:

See also:

These series of talks get to the heart of Munger’s profound wisdom and now when I am due to decide whether I am making the right decision I just refer to Munger – what would he do?

Seth Godin – please watch this talk:

Then refer the following books:

Purple Cow

I always had a sense that you needed to stand out if you are to be noticed but Seth brought it to life for me in 2003 when he wrote Purple Cow. Essentially he validated my intuition about this but it took me 7 years before I had an opportunity to act on it. In producing our purple cow we built in the following into our business model:

A 100% Free professional service offering – never been done before (certainly not in Hong Kong at least) – where the dividing line between paid and unpaid is where we pick up a pen.

A 200% Fee Refund Guarantee – an irresistible offer, certainly, but remarkable in of itself – never been done before, to the best of my knowledge.

A puppet character to make a point – Hadley – a stable of 60 key videos on our niche (out of a content pool of more than 10,000 resources) which deflects the focus  off me personally somewhat and allows the user of our content to appreciate it’s the content that counts – not me. Again, this is by definition remarkable.

My Story – told openly enabling people to know that I am authentic and vulnerable – a key tenet of Seth too but again, remarkable and purple cow-esq.

Idea Virus

15 years ago radio show host Phil Whelan used to say to his listeners that Stephen Barnes, the “Hong Kong Visa Geeza” would coming to answer visa and immigration questions live on air. This always struck a chord with me and as soon as I had an opportunity to include it in my business model I did. Of course, after reading Unleashing the Idea Virus I know straight away that the Hong Kong Visa Geeza was mine and so built it into the Hong Kong Visa Centre paradigm.

Visa Geeza is the second most frequent key word string that people use to access our content now via Google meaning that our offline reputation spreads online virus like – Seth was absolutely spot on in his thinking with this concept.


With my background knowledge gleaned from Kevin Kelly, when I read Tribes I realized that Seth was articulating in a clear and manifestable way the reality that in a vacuum of information in a particular niche, if you publish to that niche in a generous way, the people with an interest in that niche will begin to organize themselves around you as they have nowhere else to get that information. By adopting Seth’s notions of generosity, reaching out and making Art this incredibly powerful natural human dynamic plays entirely into your favour. The really good news is that if you publish continuously on the niche and (as we have at least) positioned ourselves to answer questions and help solve problems, in due course you map the entire knowledge graph and you place yourself in a defacto monopoly situation.  It’s just a matter of time. Our time is now at least 50,000 strong and growing every day.

Permission Marketing

Such an obvious concept. Treat your relationships with the utmost respect. We only give value and never try to sell anything. We only send emails to our (entirely opt in) subscribers when we have new value to offer them – for free. The concept of permission marketing means that whenever I give a talk on Hong Kong immigration matters here I can guarantee an audience!  When people unsubscribe from our lists it is invariably due to them having left Hong Kong. Our tribe stays with us because we respect them and they know it!


Again here Seth sets out that the mission is to make yourself indispensible. Over Xmas last year we got hit by a wordrpess vulnerability and our sites went down, I got about 80 emails from our tribe asking when we would be back on line!


The Icarus Deception tied is all together for me and gave me the final confirmation that we are doing it right. Everything he reports in this tome, we have experienced in  fact. The safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever. So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Make art. Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.

Jobs to be Done

Clay Christenson made me understand how to break down the actual needs which Hong Kong immigration applicants have in navigating this process. For example, our jobs to be done include the following:

    1. Can you actually achieve the change to a new life in Hong Kong?
    2. What’s the immigration experience ahead?
    3. Can you manage the application paperwork?
    4. Do you know what to argue in your case for approval?
    5. Do you understand the applications process?
    6. Can you answer hard questions which ImmD might raise?
    7. Will you, actually, go on to get approved?

Shift & The Elastic Enterprise

I have been highly fortunate and supremely privileged to have met intellect, author and ‘see-er-of-around-corners’ Haydn Shaughnessy in the last few months and had quite a few chats with him. Haydn’s thinking is profound and has validated my expectations of how our modern business model would unfold over time. Right on the money!

More Stuff You Might Find Interesting or Useful

Sneak Peak – the Power of Free: A Revolutionary Business Model

The Power of Free… What Josh Steimle says about Video Cha Cha

Britcham spills the beans on the Hong Kong Visa Centre’s deepest secret…

The Golden Rule Rules Supreme – Hong Kong Visa Centre – Inc Magazine

Fame At Last… the Hong Kong Visa Centre as a Classic Seth Godin Case Study!

Seth Godin Case Study – Hong Kong Visa Geeza  – Inc Magazine…


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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

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