"How much life insurance do you have?"
Zig Ziglar liked to say that with that one question, you could tell if someone was a successful life insurance agent. If they're not willing to buy it with their own money, how can they honestly persuade someone else to do so?
If you're in the music business but you never buy tickets or downloads, can you really empathize with the people you're selling to?
My favorite: if you work for a non-profit and you don't give money to charity, what exactly are you doing in this job? I've met some incredibly generous people in the charitable world, but I can also report that a huge number of people—even on the fundraising side—would happily cross the street and risk a beating in order to avoid giving $100 to a cause that's not their own. And the shame of it is that this inaction on their part keeps them from experiencing the very emotion that they try so hard to sell.
Money is more than a transfer of value. It's a statement of belief. An ad agency that won't buy ads, a consultant who won't buy consulting, and a waiter who doesn't tip big—it's a sign, and not a good one.
Wikipedia contains facts about facts. It's a collection of facts from other places.
Facebook doesn't have your friends. It has facts about your friends.
Google is at its best when it gives you links to links, not the information itself.
Over and over, the Internet is allowing new levels of abstraction. Information about information might be worth more than the information itself. Which posts should I read? Which elements of the project are at risk? Who is making the biggest difference to the organization?
Right now, there's way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity.
Some artists continually seek to tear down boundaries, to find new powder, new territory, new worlds to explore. They're the ones that hop the fence to get to places no one has ever been.
Other artists understand that they need to see the edges of the box if they're going to create work that lasts. No fence, no art.
Can't do both at the same time.
My guess is that you're already one kind of person or the other. When people present you with an opportunity/problem, what's your first reaction? Some people immediately start looking for loopholes or weak boundaries. "You didn't say we couldn't do xxx". For these people, the best and most obvious solution is to completely demolish the problem and play by different rules.
Other people, some just as successful, take a hard look at the boundaries and create something that plays within, that follows the rules, but that is likely to win because of this.
In my experience, either can work, but only by someone willing to push harder than most in their push to be remarkable. Going with the flow is a euphemism for failing.
Who do you listen to?
Who are you trying to please?
Which customers, relatives, bloggers, pundits, bosses, peers and passers by have influence over your choices? Should the Pulitzer judges decide what gets written, or the angry boss at the end of the hall so influence the products you pitch? Should the buyer at Walmart be the person you spend all your time trying to please? Your nosy neighbor? The angry trolls that write to the newspaper? The customer you never hear from?
Just for a second, think about the influence, buying power, network and track record of the people you listen to the most. Have they earned the right?
No gifts, no guilt. Universal, even if it's not celebrated on the same day everywhere.
Whenever I sit down at this keyboard, I feel humbled and quite lucky to have the privilege. Every day is Thanksgiving, because without the people we love and depend on, there'd be nothing.
Thanks for being here, for making a difference and for doing work that matters.
I've noticed that people who read a lot of blogs and a lot of books also tend to be intellectually curious, thirsty for knowledge, quicker to adopt new ideas and more likely to do important work.
I wonder which comes first, the curiosity or the success?
Not only the way you speak—but the way you write and act. More than geography, accents now represent a choice of attitude.
Let's define an accent as the way someone speaks (writes, acts) that's different from the way I do it. So, if I'm from Liverpool and you're from Texas, you have an accent, I don't.
Occasionally, an accent is a marketing advantage. Sounding like Sean Connery might be seen as charming in a New York singles' bar, or sounding like a Harvard man might help a neurologist in Miami Beach. Generally, though, if I think you've got an accent, it's more difficult to trust you.
Can your writing have an accent? Of course it can. Not just grammar errors, but sentence length, exclamation marks and your vocabulary all tag you. And the fonts, colors, pictures and layouts you choose are part of your accent as well. Most of us have no trouble at all telling where an ad or a brochure came from (shyster, NY ad firm, home business, church flyer… you get the idea). This blog has an accent, but I've discovered that it's one that most of the people who read it can live with.
And your actions have a grammar as well. When your little mom-and-pop Middle Eastern restaurant has a policy (no substitutions!) even when the place is empty, you're speaking with an accent, aren't you? There's no right accent, no perfect set of rules or actions for you to follow. The choice of accent is directly related to the worldview of the people you're choosing to connect with.
Y'all come back soon, y'hear?
You don't charge the search engines to send people to articles on your site, you pay them.
If you can't make money from attention, you should do something else for a living. Charging money for attention gets you neither money nor attention.
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- Have an argument. Once you start an argument, not a discussion, you've already lost. Think about it: have you ever changed your mind because someone online started yelling at you? They might get you to shut up, but it's unlikely they've actually changed your opinion.
- Forget the pitfalls of Godwin's law. Any time you mention Hitler or even Communist China or Bill O'Reilly, you've lost.
- Use faulty analogies. If someone is trying to make a point about, say, health care, try to make an analogy to something conceptually unrelated, like the space shuttle program, and you've lost.
- Question motives. The best way to get someone annoyed and then have them ignore you is to bypass any thoughtful discussion of facts and instead question what's in it for the person on the other end. Make assumptions about their motivations and lose their respect.
- Act anonymously. What are the chances that heckled comments from the bleachers will have an impact?
- Threaten to take action in another venue. Insist that this will come back to haunt the other person. Guarantee you will spread the word or stop purchasing.
- Bring up the slippery slope. Actually, the slope isn't that slippery. People don't end up marrying dogs, becoming cannibals or harvesting organs because of changes in organization, technology or law.
- Go to the edges. This is a variant of the slippery slope, in which you bring up extremes at either end of whatever spectrum is being discussed.
So, what works?
Earn a reputation. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Describe possible outcomes of a point of view. Make connections. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Align objectives then describe a better outcome. Show up. Smile.