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How long between leaps?

Kids have to change grades every year. You hit 18 and the system says it's time to move out and go to a whole new place. Four years later, another cycle…

And then?

How often do we say, "three months from today, I will be doing something totally different than I'm doing now?" How often do we look at an asset (an organization, a source of income, a technology) and acknowledge that it's our past, not our future?

A generation ago, you might be able to go forty years without being forced into a leap like this. In many industries, though, it might even be forty weeks (or forty days).

Not something to be avoided. Something to initiate.

People don't like changing their rhythm. If you adopt the rhythm of stability, then change is a threat. Adopt the rhythm of change, though, and you'll get restless right on schedule.

Freedom of information, act

Traditionally, many car dealerships are based on a simple idea: they know more about cars and pricing and profit than the customer does.

By leveraging the information advantage, they can sell cars at a higher markup, upsell add ons, etc.

But what happens when the customers know more than they do, when potential customers know about every option, the inventory at every dealer, etc?

This is going to happen to every business, every sector, every level. When information is set free, does it help you or hurt you?

If it's not helping you, this is a good time to change your model.

Magic beans (three steps to a successful marketing promise)

You know the story: Jack traded the family cow for some worthless beans that turned out to be magical.

How did that deal go down?

1. The individual has to be open to hearing the offer at all. Jack was bored, disillusioned and aimlessly walking to market. Sure, it was a shady guy on the street, but Jack's standards were low. If you want to do business with people with more resources than Jack, it helps to have the trust that comes from previous engagements, and the permission to deliver your message.

Most of all, Jack was in the mood to buy. Creating a mood is far more difficult than finding one.

2. The person hearing your story has to want to believe it. This is more subtle than it sounds. Uber, for example, offers a newfangled way to call for transport in big cities. Many people haven't heard of it or used it, largely because they don't think they need it, aren't open to something new, or are unwilling to go through all the steps necessary to get the app, etc. So, even if it works as promised, there's no urgent need felt by some, so they don't care. 

In Jack's case, the prospect of escaping his dreary life (and getting rid of the pesky cow) were both welcome offers. He hoped they'd be true.

3.  It has to be true. You must be able to keep the promise. If not, you're ripping people off and shortcircuiting any chance you have to build something of value. If the beans hadn't grown, end of story. Future sales will come when Jack tells his friends…

Marketing failure occurs because at least one of these three elements isn't present.

The sea of strangers

Is there anything more frightening than showing up (really showing up) in the place where you are unknown and alone?

All our warning systems are on high alert. From an evolutionary perspective, strangers represent danger. They are not only a direct threat, but carry the risk of rejection and all the insecurity that comes with it.

But the opposite can be true: Strangers can represent opportunity. The opportunity to learn, to make new connections, to build bridges that benefit everyone.

This is an internal debate, not something that comes from outside. When we look for rejection and reasons to hold back, that’s exactly what we will find. On the other hand, if we seek possibility and look for people that need us as much as we need them, there they are.

Everyone is, at some level, shy. Everyone has the instinct to hold back, because that instinct is baked in. Those that overcome it aren’t born gregarious, they are people who realize the self-fulfilling truth of finding what they’re looking for.

The connected person is no different from you, they've merely made a generous choice, confronting their innate fear instead of hiding from it. The reward for overcoming this inertia belongs to the connector and to everyone she connects.

It’s easier than ever to convene, to organize, to create spaces where strangers will cease to be strangers and turn into allies and friends. Those that convene overcome their resistance just one time, and then benefit from the generosity they’ve delivered to the group. The only difference between a group of strangers and a group of friends is that the friends benefitted from someone willing to go first.

When we weave together strangers and turn them into a tribe, we create real value, value that lasts.

The cycle of media attention (fans to feeders)


Most of the time, the work is only seen by fans. The new record, or the public hearing that's being held, or the presentation for the committee. It's going to reach people who already know what's in store.

But, in the connected media world, sometimes an idea starts to blow up. The views on the music video start to trend, the book starts to get talked about. Who notices? People who notice things that are trending. If you're in this group, you may have fooled yourself into thinking that everyone cares about what's trending, but in fact, not so many do.

The buzz hunters don't care so much about the content or the artist–they won't be back for the next piece from this person. What they care about, though, is the trend, the buzz and the heat.

When enough buzz hunters are buzzing, then the masses show up. They want something else, of course. They want what the masses are watching.

Finally, if someone has really screwed up, if there's a trial or a scandal or something catastrophic in politics, the creeps on cable will descend. They'll camp out, spin and look for sound bites. Every time they do, they turn the story into the very same story, they embrace the arc of tragedy, they look for two-dimensional and the black and white.

The audience for online gossip, cable sensationalism and the stuff at the newspaper checkout sees the same thing day after day. They have a very different view of the world because of the circle of media they've chosen to live in.

What's extraordinary about the media attention curve is that each group brings its own truth, its own lens to see what's going on. The fan sees the world one way, the buzz hunter very differently.

The actual work doesn't change so much as the way we talk about it.

You get two choices here: the first is to decide which circle you'll live in when you consume media. And the second is to decide which circle you'd like those that you seek to reach are living in.

Can an audiobook change your life?

There's no doubt that a well-read recording of a novel can make a long car ride pass much more quickly. We're eager to find out what happens next, and sometimes, it's even worth sitting in the driveway just to find out.

I'm more interested, though, in non-fiction audio, particularly the kind you listen to ten or fifteen or a hundred times in a row.

When I was starting out on my own, success was not around the corner or even in sight. For years, I was flirting on the edge of failure. I was thrown out of salescalls, rejected by just about every organization I approached and was pretty stuck. More than once I considered giving up the entire entrepreneur thing.

One of the key factors in both surviving this time and figuring out how to shift gears was my exposure to (as we called them then) books on tape, particularly the work of Zig Ziglar. I listened for sometimes hours every day. I've been grateful to Zig every day since, and I still listen regularly.

This is a fairly modern tool, one that rewires our brains with consistent results. Of course, you need a car or some other sort of mindless commute, an mp3 player and the right material–a perfect storm of just the right sort of distraction and repetition.

I'm hard pressed to think of another form of modern media that has such consistently successful results.

People who haven't tried it don't want to. It feels a bit off-putting or mesmeresque to intentionally brainwash yourself with content designed to change your outlook. Here's the simple opportunity: try it. Twenty minutes a day, every day for a month. It's cheap and you can do it in private!

One listen isn't going to do you any good, but if you make it a habit, you might be surprised. One thing I've noticed is that on a per units-sold basis, I hear from audiobook readers about five times as often as those that read my books in print. I hope it works for you.

Monday afternoon book Q&A

As a fun summer diversion, I'll be answering a question every week about one of my books. Go ahead and ask…

The question form is right here. There's a prize every week for submitting the question I end up using.

Going straight and taking on water–the boat is slowly sinking

If that's your path, there are three options:

  • Work on keeping the boat going straight
  • Bail water ever faster
  • Find a new boat before it's too late

We call the first one persistence and diligence.

The second one—urgency.

And the third one, the one that's often the best strategy: quitting.

Go ahead and change your tactics when the situation demands. Your goals are real, your intent stays the same–but the way you get there needs to change.

Sometimes having the vision to see what's ahead is more productive than trying to get there faster.