Book Summary of ‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan

When Marcus Sheridan graduated university in 2001, he joined two of his friends who were starting a swimming pool company.

For the next seven years, business was good. With real estate prices rising to historic levels, anybody could get a loan for a swimming pool. Many did.

As you might have predicted, the wheels started to fall off in 2008 when the economy crashed.

Pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, Sheridan was forced to find a way out, and he found it in a simple but powerful content marketing strategy he calls They Ask, You Answer.

He used it to save the company, ultimately generating millions of dollars in new sales directly attributable to the methodology you are about to learn.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore how you can do the same for your business, no matter the size of your company or the industry you compete in.

A Massive Buying Shift and the Blur between Sales and Marketing

Before we move on to the principles of Sheridan’s system, we need to cover a couple of important points.

First, consumer buying patterns have gone through a monumental shift over the past decade. As Sheridan points out, multiple studies show that the vast majority (Sheridan tells us that it’s 70%) of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to a company. This is consistent no matter what market you are in. Large, small, B2B or B2C.

Second, you might be inclined to think that the lessons you are about to learn don’t apply to your specific business or industry niche. Everybody believes that their business is the one exception to the rule – that the people in your industry don’t buy the way this system suggests they do. Ultimately that’s up for you to decide, but there’s only one way to find out for sure and that’s to try it.

“They Ask, You Answer” Defined

At the core of They Ask, You Answer is an obsession with what your customer is thinking, searching, asking, feeling and fearing.

As Sheridan was pondering how to save his company, he sat down at his kitchen table late one night and brainstormed all the questions he had received about fiberglass swimming pools over the previous nine years.

When he was finished he had more than a hundred questions listed on the piece of paper.

Then, as you might have guessed, he and his business partners set off to answer each one of them in a blog post or video. Most of the articles were published to their website as blog posts, with the title of the question becoming the title of the post.

These weren’t one or two sentence answers – these were real answers with deep explanations and they weren’t glorified sales pitches – they approached each answer with a “teacher’s” mentality – answering without bias and only trying to educate the readers.

As Sheridan points out, every single industry has hundreds of buyer-based questions. So it’s ironic that most company websites don’t even address more than a few of them.

If you find yourself thinking “there’s no way our buyers have that many questions,” this means you’ve lost touch with your customers and you need to start learning what your ideal customer wants to know.

After a few months of doing this with his pool company, Sheridan started to look at the web analytics on their website to determine what was working and which content was generating the most traction.

He found that there were five types of content that seemed to generate the most interest and buying behaviours:

  • Pricing and Costs
  • Problems
  • Versus and Comparisons
  • Reviews
  • Best in Class

Why were those the ones that moved the needle the most? Because those are the issues that we (and all consumers) obsess over when considering a purchase. Most businesses hide from those questions or only deal with them when face-to-face with a customer, but not Sheridan and from this day forward, not you.

Let’s cover each of them in turn.

Content Subject #1: Pricing and Costs

If you’ve ever gone on a website to research a product and couldn’t find pricing information, you’ve likely felt what Sheridan calls the “F-word of the Internet”: frustration.

Most companies resist putting pricing information in their website because of one of three reasons.

Every solution is different

Yes, it’s true that your pricing might vary from customer to customer depending on their needs, but no matter what business you are in, it’s possible to give your prospects a range of probable prices. At the very least, you’ll what to give your customers a sense of how pricing works in your industry.

Your competitors will find out what you charge

It’s unlikely that your competitors have no clue what you charge.

You’ll scare your customers away

Sheridan makes two great points here. First, if your customer can’t afford your product, there’s little to no chance that you’ll convince them on a sales call. Second, talking about price is not about affordability, it’s about psychology. You are more likely to trust a business that’s upfront about their pricing.

So instead of hiding behind one of those excuses, be willing to specifically address the main pricing questions you get.

Create a list of all the major products and/or services you sell. For the ones that generate the most revenue for you, produce at least one blog post or video explaining the factors that dictate the cost, what the prospect can expect to see in the industry, and where your company lands.

An article that Sheridan posted titled “How Much Does a Fibreglass Pool Cost?” has generated $3 million in additional sales, directly attributable to the article.

In fact, that single post single handedly saved his business, his home, the homes of his business partners and the jobs of all of their employees.

Content Subject #2: Problems

This content subject is all about turning weaknesses into strengths.

When people buy, their instinct is to worry more about what might go wrong than what might go right. They know that they can go to your website to find out all the great things that will happen if they buy from you – that’s what they get from every website they visit.

For instance, Sheridan tells the story of how somebody might decide between getting a fibreglass pool or a concrete pool. For years his prospects would ask him something along the lines of “what are the problems with a fibreglass swimming pool?” and, you can be fairly certain that whatever questions people ask you in person, they’ll search for online as well.

That’s why they ended up writing a post titled “Top 5 Fibreglass Pool Problems and Solutions.”

Everybody in the pool industry thought they were crazy for writing that post. How many of their competitors had that information on their website? Zero. How many prospects wanted to know the answer to that question? All of them.

When considering whether or not to address the elephant in the room, you need to make a choice. You can allow them to search for and find the answers to those questions themselves, or you can address them directly and allow your customers to determine whether or not it’s an issue for them.

Aside from creating a level of trust your competitors won’t dare match, doing this has two advantages.

First, you get the opportunity to explain why, in spite of the problems, your product/service would be a good fit for the prospect. For instance, one of the drawbacks to a fiberglass pool is that it might not be long, deep or as wide as customer might like, but if lower maintenance and a pool that will last a lifetime are more important to the prospect, it might be worth the tradeoff. This turns your weakness into a strength.

Second, you eliminate people from your sales and marketing funnel that will never become customers in the first place, freeing you to pay closer attention to those that might. If they’ll find out the problems eventually (they will), they might as well find out now.

Content Subject #3: Versus and Comparisons

The third major content subject is something that we, as consumers, are fascinated with: comparisons. This versus that.

Over the years, Sheridan and his colleagues had heard the same question from their prospects for years: what’s the difference between a fibreglass pool and a concrete pool?

So, they wrote a post titled “Fibreglass Pools vs Vinyl Liner Pools vs Concrete Pools: An Honest Comparison.”

Again, the temptation here is to avoid bringing these types of questions up. Why address problems that some of your prospects might not even consider?

Two of the reasons we covered in the previous section – turning weaknesses into strengths and using marketing to eliminate bad leads.

The other two reasons are traffic and trust.

If people are thinking about these questions they are searching for the answers online. Would you rather they come to you for the answer, or some third party site that lets other (sometimes misinformed) consumers answer it for you? To top it off, search engines love this type of content and serve it much higher in the rankings than self-serving sales messaging.

When your prospect sees that you are open and honest, they are more likely to trust you during the rest of the sales process and you are more likely to make a sale.

Here’s what to do next.

Write down every question you’ve ever received from a prospect that asks you to compare two or more things. This includes obvious things like something you sell vs. a competitor’s product and less obvious things like things that you nor your competitors sell.

After you’ve made that list, write your answers and start turning them into blog posts, e-books, webinars and so on.

Content Subjects 4 and 5: Reviews and Best in Class

Let’s start this section by saying that what you are about to hear is going to seem crazy, but, just like the other tactics you’ve learned about so far, they will work if you embrace them.

One of the questions that people always ask is “who is the best _____?” So, in true They Ask, Your Answer form, Sheridan wrote a blog post titled “Who are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond Virginia (Reviews/Ratings).”

He listed the five companies he truly believed were the best and, for good measure, he neglected to include his own company. That’s the part I told you might seem crazy. Why would he do that?

The first reason is as soon as you put yourself on that list, you lose all credibility. It becomes a puff piece and you jeopardise the trust you are trying to build with this strategy.

The second reason is less obvious, but even more important. Where are those prospects when they are reading this post? They are on your website. Not your competitors website, or a third party website. This means that you control the messaging and while you don’t want to include your company in the list, you can position yourself as the expert. Tell them about all of the other great content on your website relating to their questions. You’ve just welcomed them to your front door, don’t be afraid to invite them in for a tour of the house.

Go ahead and Google “best pool builders richmond va” to see how Sheridan expertly crafted that specific post.

Hope you found that useful. Until next time….

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Focus’ by Daniel Goleman

In many ways, the things you pay attention to and focus on drives your success in life.

Without focus, it would be impossible for us to live in the modern world. At the same time, the world we live in is so ripe with distractions that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep our focus on any one thing for long periods of time.

Emotional intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman tells us that there are three different types of focus: inner, other and outer. Goleman tells us that a well lived life demands that we be nimble in each.

By understanding and developing our skills in those three areas, we can improve our results in any area of our lives.

Let’s explore how to do just that.

The Anatomy of Attention

In order to understand focus, we need to first understand how attention works.

The best place to start is with the things that break our focus – distractions.

In today’s world, there are plenty of things to distract us from focussing on the things we need in order to succeed.

The two distractions

There are two main types of distractions – sensory and emotional.

Sensory distractions are easy to identify and to some extent, manage. For instance, when you are reading you tune out almost everything that is going on around you. Your brain weeds out the continuous flood of background sounds, shapes, colours, smells and so on.

Emotional distractions are harder to identify and much harder to manage. The biggest challenge comes from the emotional turmoil in our lives. Trying to focus on your work after you’ve had a blow up with a family member at home is all but impossible.

The two systems

Just as there are two types of distractions that can cause us to lose our focus, the brain has two systems that it operates.

First we have the bottom-up mind, which is:

  • fast and operates in milliseconds;
  • involuntary and always-on;
  • intuitive, operating through networks of association;
  • impulsive, driven by emotions;
  • the executor of our habits and guides our actions;
  • the manager of our mental models of the world.

Second, we have the top-down mind, which is:

  • slower;
  • voluntary;
  • effortful;
  • the seat of self-control, which can (sometimes) overpower automatic routines and emotionally driven impulses;
  • able to learn new models, make new plans and take charge of our automatic repertoire – to an extent.

Our voluntary attention, willpower and intentional choices are all top-down. Our reflexive attention, impulses and habits are all bottom-up. Because of that, our mind is doing a continual dance between stimulus-driven attention and voluntary focus.

However, because your brain likes to conserve energy, it prefers using the bottom-up system. Any time we use the top-down system, we end up burning energy. That’s why learning new things or creating change in your life is hard – your brain doesn’t want you to do it because it’s easier not to.

When your mind is adrift

Your mind naturally wanders. If you ask people the question “are you thinking about something you are not currently doing?”, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that they’ll answer yes.

This obviously has implications for your ability to be “in the moment” and focus on the task at hand and it’s exactly why so much time, energy and money is focused on the concept of mindfulness. As pioneer of American psychology William James put it, “the voluntary bringing back of a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will.”

However, even a wandering mind has its uses. That’s because your daydreams are often focused on solving unresolved problems. It also allows for the exploration of previously unconnected ideas, which is the source of all creativity.

Your goal is to be able to engage in mind wandering when you want to and focused on the task at hand when you want to.

That may sound trivial, but it’s an important point. You only have the ability to remain focused for a finite amount of time and then you need to recharge your brain’s batteries, so to speak.

And as Goleman points out, surfing the web (no matter how mindlessly), playing video games or answering email doesn’t do the trick. However, things like taking a walk in nature and – you guessed it – meditation work perfectly.

Inner Focus: Self-Awareness

Now that we’ve covered how attention works, it’s time to move on the first area of focus you need to master – yourself.


Self-awareness and in particular the decoding of the internal cues that our bodies give us – holds the key to making great decisions in life.

There are two major streams of self-awareness.

“Me,” which is the part of you that creates stories about your past and future based on the sum total of your life experiences to date.

Then there is the “I,” which exists in the moment. This is the part of you that is in tune with your body, which helps you to determine whether or not a decision “feels” right.

Being aware of both the narratives you’ve built up over your life (so you can change them) and being in tune with your body are the two main ways you can continue to become more self-aware.

Seeing ourselves as others see us

No matter how good you get at self-awareness, you still won’t be able to get a complete picture until you see yourself as other people see you.

One surefire way to get an accurate view is to do a 360-degree evaluation, where you asked to rate yourself on a number of factors and then those self-ratings are checked against other people who have rated you for the same things.

Interestingly, studies have shown that the further up the organisational food chain you are, the greater the gap between the scores you give yourself and the scores other people give you.

Assuming that you are a leader (or want to be one some day), continually checking these types of ratings will help you understand how you are perceived.

You’ll also want to consider getting advice from people you trust whenever you are making big decisions in your life – they will help you cover up your blind spots.


We won’t spend a ton of time on this, but your amount of willpower determines a lot about your success in life. Numerous studies show that children who exhibit high amounts of willpower go on to make more money and make better decisions about their health. They even commit less crime, if that’s something you’ve been losing sleep over.

At its core, willpower is the ability to remain focused on one thing while your impulses or desires are distracting you.

When an impulse is distracting you – lets say there is a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the table – your reward circuits are focused on what’s tempting about them – they are chewy, hot and delicious.

Here’s what’s interesting – just by shifting your focus onto something different about the cookies – they are round, have dots on them, and are made in an oven – you have switched your focus and lowered the chances of you reaching for the cookie and eating it.

Becoming aware of how and why things tempt you and actively shifting your attention away from those things when they happen (self awareness at its best), will help you make better decisions

Other Focus: Reading Others

Empathy is the ability to focus on what other people experience. There are three main varieties.

Cognitive empathy lets you take another person’s perspective, comprehend their emotional state and manage your own emotions while you evaluate theirs. These are mostly top-down operations.

Emotional empathy is when you feel what the other person is feeling. This is a bottom-up process, and mostly formed during infancy – you are wired to feel another person’s joy or pain even before you can think about it.

Finally there is empathic concern which takes this one step further by leading us to care about the other person and to take action if the situation calls for it. This is both a bottom-up (automatic) and top-down (thoughtful) function and getting the mix right has implications for your life.

For instance, many people who stir up too many sympathetic feelings for other people end up suffering themselves, to the point of losing their ability to take action.

On the flip side, other people who show no sympathy for others (either naturally or by training) lose the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes and also lose the ability to read other people’s emotional cues – a great predictor of success in most professions.

The best way you can practice reading other people, it turns out, is to amp up your empathic concern to a level that allows you to connect with the other person, but not so much that you lose the ability to control the emotions you feel by doing so.

Outer Focus: The Bigger Context

The last area of focus to explore is the bigger context.

In order to understand the bigger picture in things requires us to understand patterns and systems.

Systems, Goleman points out, are invisible to the naked eye. As a human, we all struggle with system blindness. We are very bad at understanding things where the cause and effect are distant in time and space. Because of that, many of our solutions work in the short-term, but in the long-run end up making problems worse.

Here’s an example. The simple and obvious solution for traffic jams is to build more and wider roads. In the short-term (after the roads are built), it’s easier to get around, but very quickly, people start making more car trips, moving further away and buy more cars. Making the long-run traffic problem worse.

This means that human beings have a very tough time grasping the concept of threats that come over an even longer time horizon like global warming.

Rather than focus on the negatives (like our carbon footprint), Goleman suggests, we should focus on the positives in our actions, which we can see in the here and now.

The reason this is a better approach is that negative emotions are poor motivators in the long run – we are wired to want to avoid them. Positive emotions, on the other hand, are great motivators and can be sustained for long periods of time.

The Well-Focused Leader

Ultimately, how you put all of this together as a leader will have a huge impact on your team’s success or failure.

As the preceding sections show, we all have a limited amount of focus to direct on achieving our goals. Directing that focus where it’s needed most is your most important leadership activity.

As Goleman points out, organisations need leaders with a focus on generating results. However, those results will be more robust in the long run when leaders don’t just tell people what to do or do it themselves. Instead, leaders need an other focus, motivated to help other people be successful too.

The more you widen your focus to include inner, other and outer inputs, the more effective and well rounded your leadership style will be.

Hope you found this summary useful. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ coaching prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Stumbling Upon Happiness’ by Daniel Gilbert

As human beings we spend a lot of time predicting what will make us happy in the future. For some of us it’s the family vacation we’ve always dreamed of, for others it’s the new car we’ve had our eyes on for years, and others it’s finally paying off the mortgage on their home.

Dan Gilbert makes the argument that we are particularly bad at this task, for three main reasons.

First, our imaginations don’t give us and accurate preview of what our emotional futures will be because our brains fill in and leave out important details about the future.

Second, we naturally project our current feelings into a future that will not necessarily exist.

Third, we forget that things will look differently once they happen in the future.

The antidote, Gilbert suggests, is something that most of us will ignore. Let’s explore why we are not very good at predicting what will make us happy and uncover the secret to doing it right.

Why we think about the future: Prospection

Here’s a remarkable fact: human beings are the only creatures on earth that think about the future. This is something that Gilbert calls nexting.

The first type of nexting is a survival mechanism and happens immediately and unconsciously. For instance, if you’ve ever been walking on a trail and heard the sound of a rattlesnake, your first instinct will be to move away from the sound as fast as you possibly can. These instincts are built deep into your caveman brain.

The other type of nexting is more about long range planning, like thinking about where you want to retire, or what you’ll eat for lunch next week at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. This type of nexting occurs in our frontal lobes and allows us to think about the future before it happens. There are a few reasons we do this:

  • It’s pleasurable: by thinking about something you’ll enjoy in the future, you get to experience it twice – first in your imagination, and then in real life.
  • To protect ourselves: we anticipate negative events so that we can minimise their impact or eliminate them entirely.
  • To exercise control: we have a fundamental desire to control our own destiny and thinking about and planning our future allows us to fill that need.

Which is all fine and dandy, except for the part that we are not very good at it. Which leads us to make choices that work against our ultimate happiness.

Shortcoming #1 – Realism: Filling In and Leaving Out

The first shortcoming of our imagination in predicting what will make us happy is that we fill in the details inaccurately, and leave out details that are relevant to how happy we’ll actually be.

Filling In

There have been plenty of scientific studies that show that our memories are not reliable representations of what actually happened in the past.

Instead of storing perfect records of past events like, say, a video recording, our brains store snippets of past events in different parts of our brain and then, when we want to recall a memory, our brain finds those fragments and reconstructs them to build the memory.

Whatever isn’t actually there gets filled in by the imagination and there’s the rub – sometimes the things that our imagination uses to fill in the gaps didn’t actually happen. Then the brain restores that memory back with the newly fabricated information. Which is why you can get 100 different versions of an event from 100 different people at that event.

This fabrication, Gilbert points out, happens so quickly and effortlessly that we no idea what’s happening – we just believe that whatever we just pulled up in our minds is an accurate representation of the event.

Now, let’s think about our future predictions. How happy will you be next week if your best friend asks you to go to a party with them?

As your imagination gets to work trying to answer this for you, some interesting things happen. If you are like most people, you start to fill in details about the party – where it will be, who will be there, what food and drink there will be and you’ll use those details to start making predictions about how happy you’ll be.

The problem is that your imagination went through this entire process of filling in details before you even know what they were and you start to make choices based on your (probably inaccurate) predictions.

The thing to understand here is that your brain does the exact same thing when you are thinking about more important things in your life, like what job you should take and where you should live.

Leaving Out

Just as we fail to consider how much our imagination fills in when we are thinking about the future, we also fail to consider how much it leaves out.

For instance, when most people are asked how they would feel two years after the sudden death of their eldest child, they suggest that they would be totally devastated, wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning and would perhaps consider committing suicide.

As Gilbert points out, nobody who gets asked this question ever considers the other things that would happen in those following two years – attending another child’s play, making love with their spouse or reading a book while taking in a spectacular sunset.

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point that our imagination almost never captures the entire story.

Shortcoming #2 – Presentism: Projecting the Present onto the Future

This shortcoming is a bit easier to explain. Basically, our imaginations are not as imaginative as we believe them to be.

Basically, we tend to fill in holes in the future with data from the present. We anticipate that whatever is going on right now is what will be going on in the future.

For instance, once you’ve stuffed your belly full at a holiday meal, you have a hard time imagining that you’ll ever be hungry again. We fail to see that our future selves will view the world any differently than we view it now.

Or when scientists are asked to make predictions about the future, they almost always err by predicting that the future will be too much like the present. Respected scientists are on record as saying that human beings would never experience space travel, television sets, microwave ovens, heart transplants and nuclear power.

The tendency to project the present into the future ensures that we have a really hard time imaging a future where we will think, want or feel differently than we do now.

One of the more interesting findings from the entire book is that how we think we’ll feel in the future is determined quite heavily by how we feel right now, even if what’s happening right now has nothing to do with what will happen in the future. For instance, when you are having one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, you’ll be much less likely to predict being happy about the get together you have planned with your friends the following week.

Without realising it, how you are feeling in the moment has a huge bearing on how you’ll be able to predict your future happiness and, to top it off, you have no idea that it’s happening.

Shortcoming #3 – Rationalization: Things look differently after they happen

Rationalisation is defined as “the act of causing something to be or to seem reasonable.”

We all have a psychological immune system that protects us against all sorts of emotional upsets. Like all of the other mechanisms we’ve been describing up until this point, it operates without us realising it’s there.

The end result is that we, as Gilbert describes, “cook the facts.” Here’s a quick description of a study Gilbert did in order to explain.

A set of experiment subjects were invited to a fake job interview that they thought was real. In the pre-interview, they were (in the middle of a bunch of other questions) asked how they would feel on a scale from 1-10 if they didn’t get the job. When they didn’t get the job (because that was the whole point of the experiment), they didn’t feel quite as bad as they thought they would. In fact, after a short period of time they were just as happy as when the went in to the interview.

Basically, the finding of all of these studies is that our psychological immune system kicks in to protect us from negative experiences, with three caveats.

First, the negative event needs to reach a certain pain threshold. For instance, it will kick in when you are being rejected at a job interview, but not as much if you stub your toe.

Second, it will only kick in once it’s clear that we can’t change the experience. For example, people experience an increase in happiness when genetic tests show that they don’t have a dangerous genetic defect (as expected) or when the tests reveal that they do have one, but not if the results are inconclusive.

Third, we have a much easier time rationalising actions that we have taken rather than inaction.

The end result is that we fail to realise our ability to generate a positive view of our current circumstances and thus forget that we’ll do the same in the future. Ultimately leading us to not accurately predict how happy we’ll be in the future.

The Solution: Asking Others Experiencing It Right Now

As Gilbert points out, most of what we know is not based on our own direct experience, but on second hand knowledge. You’ll find this to be true if you make a list of all the things you know and go line by line marking it firsthand or secondhand.

We believe and put our faith in many things that we have learned secondhand, but when it comes to deciding what will make us happy, we stubbornly rely on our “nexting” mechanism in almost every case. As we’ve already learned, that strategy doesn’t lead to good outcomes. We forget how good or bad things were in the past because of our selective and unstable memories and then we project those memories into the future to make inaccurate predictions on how we’ll feel then.

This is the point in the summary where we discuss the advice that Gilbert suggests we’ll most likely not take.

By far the most accurate way to determine whether or not a certain future state will make you happy is to ask somebody who is experiencing it right now.

Do you want to know what it will be like to move to a foreign country and leave your family and friends behind? Ask somebody who just did it. Want to find out how you’ll feel about it 10 years from now? Ask somebody who moved 10 years ago.

As Gilbert says, the human race is like a living library of information about what it feels like to do just about anything that can be done. All you need to do is ask.

There are studies that show that when people are forced to use surrogates to determine how happy they will be about a specific imagined future, they make very accurate predictions about their future feelings.

So why do we reject the solution? Because we don’t like to think of ourselves like the average person. Maybe other people are bad at predicting their future happiness, but not me. As you might have guessed, that’s what EVERYBODY says. So while you are busy rejecting the solution because you are unique, you are merely confirming that you are exactly like everybody else.

The biggest mistake we make, Gilbert suggests, is that we don’t make very good predictions about how happy accumulating more “stuff” will make us.

There is a mountain of evidence that beyond a certain level of wealth, it makes little to no difference in the level of happiness you experience. Yet we keep striving for more.

The problem is that the entire market economy system depends on people continually buying and producing more and more stuff. As Gilbert points out, if everyone was content with the amount of stuff they had, the economy would grind to a halt.

So, the next time you find yourself about the pull the trigger on that big splurge purchase, consider finding somebody who did the same and ask them how much happiness it added to their life beyond the initial jolt of excitement.

You might be surprised at the results.

Hope you enjoyed this summary 🙂

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene

This book is about creating the life you want through the pursuit of mastery. It’s about becoming the best in your chosen craft and finding inspiration from the masters throughout history.

Mastery, at it’s core, is the feeling we have when we have a great command of reality, other people and ourselves.

By studying the masters throughout history – like Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Darwin, Martha Graham, and others – Robert Greene has found that at the root of mastery is a simple process and it’s accessible to all of us.

Join me as I explore that process and explore strategies for moving through this process in the most powerful way possible.

1. Discovering Your Calling

According to Greene, in seach of us is an inner force guiding us towards our Life’s Task – what we are meant to accomplish in our time on earth.

In childhood, this was clear to us, even if we didn’t understand it. We were drawn to some activities and subjects and we had a natural and deep curiosity about those things. However, as life moves on, we start to lose that force. We listen to our parents, friends and teachers and gradually shift towards what the world expects from us. In the process we lose touch with our inner force.

So, whether you are just beginning your career or you are nearing the end of it, the first step toward mastery is to look inward and reconnect with that force. When we do that, everything else starts to fall into place.

Strategies for finding this “life task”

  1. Return to your origins: what were you obsessed with when you were younger? This is where you’ll start to find clues that will lead you to your life’s task.
  2. Occupy the perfect niche: find the combination of your natural interests and a niche that you can dominate.
  3. Avoid the false path: money, fame and making our parents happy are all paths towards an unfulfilling life.
  4. Let go of the past: if you are in a career that doesn’t fit your life’s path, find a way out. Just because you invested time and money into it, doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.
  5. Find your way back: you’ll be pulled off your path in your journey towards mastery. Make sure to keep finding your way back.

2. Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

After your formal education, you are entering the most critical phase of your life – the apprenticeship phase. As Greene points out, every time you change careers or acquire a new skill set, you re-enter this phase.

This is where you’ll master the skills you need to succeed and where you’ll transform yourself into an independent thinker, preparing you for the creative challenges you’ll face on your path to mastery.

An apprenticeship can take many forms – working with a master in the field, graduate school, or working different jobs within a field. The important thing to remember is that you are the only one who can direct this phase – nobody is going to do it for you.

Strategies for Completing the Ideal Apprenticeship

  1. Value learning over money: in the apprenticeship phase, learning is always worth more than money.
  2. Keep expanding your horizons: whenever you find yourself settling into some circle of people or thought, force yourself to shake things up and look for new challenges.
  3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority: as soon as you tell yourself you already know something, the learning stops. Always have a beginners mind.
  4. Trust the process: the path to mastery takes time. Keep learning and working in your field with as much energy as you can muster.
  5. Move toward resistance and pain: this is always where the growth is.
  6. Apprentice yourself in failure: failures are the best opportunities for learning and growth.
  7. Combine the “how” and the “what”: always strive for a deep understanding of how everything works in your chosen field.
  8. Advance through trial and error: try out as many different paths as you can to get to your ultimate destination. Trial and error is the only way to break new ground.

3. Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

According to Greene, the mentor-protege relationship is the most efficient form of learning.

If you pick the right mentor, they will know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you to grow. In the process, their knowledge and experience become yours.

Strategies for Deepening the Mentor Dynamic

  1. Choose a mentor according to your needs and inclination: make sure you choose one that connects with your Life’s Path and that suits your current needs.
  2. Gaze deep into the mentor’s mirror: as Greene says, we should strive to get the sharpest dose of reality possible from our mentor. Welcome criticism as an opportunity for growth.
  3. Transfigure their ideas: as you learn from your mentor, don’t simply copy their ideas. Make them into your own by thinking for yourself.
  4. Create a back and forth dynamic: always make it clear what you are looking for from your mentor, and push back on them when necessary. This is the mentality that true masters adopt.

4. See People as they Are: Social Intelligence

One of the biggest obstacles in the pursuit of mastery comes from the emotions we have to face with as we deal with other people. Quite often we misread the intentions of other people and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict.

Social intelligence is the ability to see people for what they are in the most realistic light possible. If we can learn to focus deeply on others, get adept at reading their behaviors and understanding their motivations, we can keep ourselves on the path to mastery.

If we don’t do these things, we have not achieved true mastery and whatever success we have achieved will be fleeting.

Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence

  1. Speak through your work: your work should demonstrate an understanding and caring for the people you are serving.
  2. Craft the appropriate persona: people will judge you based on your outward appearance. You must consciously mold these appearances, creating an image that suits you, so that you can control people’s judgements and allow you to focus on your work.
  3. See yourself as others see you: get comfortable being honest about your flaws. Start by reviewing past events that didn’t go well and looking for your contributions to them.
  4. Suffer fools gladly: fools are a part of life and you can either deal with them productively (by ignoring them) or unproductively (by letting them absorb your time and attention).

5. Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

As you accumulate more skills and start to internalise the rules that govern your field, your natural inclination will be to seek ways to use your newfound knowledge in ways that suit you.

However, you are likely to feel anxious and insecure about doing that, preferring to stick with applying what you learned only in the ways in which you learned it.

To continue on the path to mastery, you must fight through this anxiety and expand your knowledge to related fields and in the process make new connections between different ideas.

As you do this, you’ll start to see more and more of reality around you and in the end, bring you to new heights of power.

Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase

  1. The Authentic Voice: finding your voice takes time. Sometimes it take years to absorb the techniques and conventions of your field, but if you don’t take the time to master them and personalise them, you’ll never find your authentic voice.
  2. The Fact of Great Yield: be on the lookout for things that have profound ramifications to your field.
  3. Mechanical Intelligence: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself. In doing this work, you see and feel the flaws in the design. This craftsmanship involves creating something with an elegant, simple structure, getting the most out of your materials — a high form of creativity.
  4. Natural Powers: creativity takes time, and you should give your self the ability to explore a wide variety of fields as you search for big insights. In this stage, slowness is a virtue.
  5. The Open Field: by taking all of the knowledge and skills you have created so far on your journey and applying them against the conventions that currently pervade your industry, you can find the proverbial white space.
  6. The High End: if your work ever starts to feel stale or boring, return to the larger purpose that put you on this path in the first place.
  7. The Evolutionary Hijack: creativity and adaptability are inseparable. We must learn to take what we experience and move with the opportunities that present themselves in the moment.
  8. Dimensional Thinking: instead of trying to boil down your field into simplifications and abstractions, you look at your field from as many different angles as possible, giving your thoughts added dimensions. This makes the process more complicated, but ultimately leads you close to the truth.
  9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious: by looking for contradictions – both in the world and within yourself – you’ll find a rich mine of information that is deeper and more complex than you ever thought possible.

6. Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

By immersing ourselves in our field of study for many years, we start to develop an intuitive feel for the complicated components of our field.

When we combine this intuitive thinking with rational processes, we find ourselves expanding our minds to the outer limits of our potential.

This is where we finally achieve true mastery.

Strategies for Attaining Mastery

  1. Connect to your environment — Primal Powers: The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us. In order achieve this, we must become powerful observers of the world around us.
  2. Play to your strengths — Supreme Focus: Mastery – Greene points out – is like swimming. It’s too difficult to move forward when we are creating our own resistance or swimming against the current. Know your strengths and move with them.
  3. Transform yourself through practice — The Fingertip Feel: practice and the thousands of hours we need to invest doing it, is critical to our success. Embrace the transformative powers we gain through practice.
  4. Internalise the Details — The Life Force: your path to mastery must include the ability to extend your knowledge as far as possible by absorbing all of the details you possibly can.
  5. Widen Your Vision — The Global Perspective: As Greene points out, in any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail.
  6. Submit to the Other — The Inside Out Perspective: our natural tendency is to project onto other people our own beliefs and value systems. We must combat this by continuing to expose ourselves to other people and attempt to see things as they see them.
  7. Synthesise all forms of knowledge — The Universal Man/Woman: we should seek to have our mastery not over this subject or that subject, but ultimately on the connections between them, based on decades of deep observation and thinking.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Upside of Stress’ by Kelly McGonigal

Stress is bad for you, right?

As Kelly McGonigal tells us in this fascinating book, the research that scientists have done on stress tell a slightly different story.

As it turns out, whether or not stress is harmful has a lot to do with how you view it.

Consider the following research findings comparing people who view stress as harmful to people who view stress an enhancing.

People who believe stress is enhancing are less depressed and more satisfied with their lives than people who view stress as harmful. They have more energy and less health issues. They are more productive at work and are happier doing it. They also have a greater confidence in their ability to cope with challenges and even find meaning in difficult circumstances.

That’s a pretty long list of benefits just for changing your mind about what stress means to you.

Join me as I explore what stress actually is and how you can completely change your relationship with it.

You might even learn how to harness the stress in your life to create a more meaningful, fulfilling life.

Let’s get started.

What is stress?

We first need to start with an understanding of what stress actually is. When you are feeling stress, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline.

From an evolutionary perspective, this stress response is designed to help you, but – like stress in general – it is more feared than appreciated. We’ve come to associate stress as toxic a state which we should try to minimise as much as possible.

However, as we’ll describe as we work our way through this book, your stress response is a resource to rely on rather than an enemy to eliminate.

How stress got a bad name

We won’t spend much time on this section. Basically, a scientist by the name of Hans Selye did a lot of stress research in the 1930s and 40s that showed that stress caused negative physical reactions.

He became known as the Grandfather of Stress and was nominated for the Nobel Prize ten times, and devoted his life to spreading the word about his research, leading us all to believe that stress is toxic.

The problem is that all of his research was performed on rats and in situations that bear little resemblance to everyday human stress.

This is what a typical day looked like for one of Selye’s lab rats. You’d start off with unpredictable, uncontrollable shocks. Then you’d get thrown in a bucket of water and forced to swim until you started to drown. Then, finally, you’d get put into an overcrowded cage with other rats where you would fight over an inadequate supply of food.

That, McGonigal rightly points out, isn’t stress – that’s the Hunger Games for rodents.

Nonetheless, Selye made the leap from rats to humans, and from torture to every day stress and voila – we all developed a negative view about stress.

So now you have a negative mindset about stress

In recent surveys, the American Psychological Association has found that most people in America perceive their personal levels of stress as unhealthy.

These people believe that experiencing stress:

  • depletes their health and vitality
  • debilitates their performance and productivity
  • inhibits their learning and growth
  • is negative and should be avoided.

People who have this mindset about stress are much more likely to say that they cope with stress by trying to avoid it. They are more likely to:

  • Try to distract themselves from the cause of the stress instead of dealing with it.
  • Focus on getting rid of their feelings of stress instead of taking steps to address its source.
  • Turn to alcohol or other substances or addiction to escape the stress.
  • Withdraw their energy and attention from whatever relationship, role or goal is causing the stress.

Obviously, this reinforces the belief that stress is bad and should be avoided at all costs.

However, as we turn our attention towards the benefits of embracing stress, we’ll find a much different story emerges.

Changing from a negative mindset to a positive one

As it turns out, you have a choice about how you respond to stress. Victor Frankl described this as the space between stimulus and response.

A minority of people in the general population believe that stress enhances their lives. These people believe that experiencing stress:

  • enhances their performance and productivity
  • improves their health and vitality
  • facilitates their learning and growth
  • is positive and should be utilised.

Where people with a negative mindset towards stress try to cope with stress, people with a positive mindset towards stress try to use it to their advantage. They are much more likely to:

  • Accept the fact that the stressful event has occurred and is real.
  • Plan a strategy for dealing with the source of stress.
  • Seek information, help, or advice.
  • Take steps to overcome, remove, or change the source of stress.
  • Try to make the best of the situation by viewing it in a more positive way or by using it as an opportunity to grow.

So, just by creating a positive mindset about stress, you can turn self-doubt into confidence, fear into courage, and isolation into connection.

All without getting rid of the stress.

Which begs the question, how do you change your mind about stress?

The insight from the research is that you get what you expect. If you expect stress to be a negative experience, that’s exactly what you will get. If you expect it to be a positive experience, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

There is evidence for this in a lot of different areas of your life. For instance, how you think about getting older has some serious consequences for you later in life. People who have a positive view of aging add an average of 8 years to their life, and have an 80% lower risk of a heart attack.

Your mindset not only helps you in the moment, but also influences you to make better decisions in the future, leading to better outcomes. It’s as though mindset matters twice.

Now let’s turn our attention to the three different ways that your new positive mindset about stress will help you lead a more productive and fulfilling life.

Stress helps you engage

In this section we’ll focus on how you can transform a threat into a challenge.

Our common reaction to stress is to avoid it and the most common advice you get when do deal with stress in the moment is to “calm down.” Basically, you should find a way to get rid of the stress.

However, viewing the stress response as a resource can transform the physiology of fear into the biology of courage. The stress response does a number of things that will help you perform well under pressure.

It focuses your attention, heightens your senses, increases your motivation, and mobilises energy. This is true even when the stress doesn’t feel helpful, which is the case when people experience anxiety.

When you start to feel your heart pounding or your breath quickening, remember that this is your body’s way of trying to give you more energy. When you start to feel tension in your body, remember that the stress response gives you access to your strength. Are your palms sweaty? Good, that means you are close to something that you want. Do you have butterflies in your stomach? Embrace them – it’s your guts way of saying that this is something that matters.

If you take the traditional advice and try to calm down, you are preventing yourself from accessing the energy, strength and drive that the stress gives you. So, instead of trying to take a deep breathe to try and calm down, take a deep breath and sense the energy that’s available to you.

Then, use it. Ask yourself what action you can take that is consistent with your goal in this moment.

Connect: How tending and befriending transforms stress

In this section we’ll focus on how you can activate your “tend-and-befriend” response to better deal with stress.

From an evolutionary perspective, we have this “tend-and-befriend” response to make sure we protect our offspring. Rather than get paralysed with fear (and let our offspring get eaten by that lion), we spring into action.

It does so because it increases activity in three systems in your brain.

First, it activates the social caregiving system, which is regulated by oxytocin. When this happens you feel more empathy, connection and trust.

Second, it activates the reward system, which releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. When this happens you feel more optimistic about your ability to do something meaningful, and it primes your brain for physical action, ensuring that you don’t freeze under pressure.

And third, it activates the attunement system, which releases to neurotransmitter serotonin. When this happens, your perception, intuition and self-control are all enhanced to ensure that the actions you take have the biggest positive impact.

In other words, as McGonigal points out, the tend-and-befriend response makes you social, brave and smart. Which is a much better response than trying to avoid dealing with whatever is causing you stress.

So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, look for opportunities to do something for somebody else that goes beyond your regular responsibilities.

Fair warning – your brain is going to tell you that you don’t have the time or energy to do it, but that’s exactly why you should. The good news is that small gestures work just as well as grand gestures to activate this response, so just get into action rather than waiting for the perfect moment to do something big.

Grow: how adversity makes you stronger

In this last section we’ll focus on how stress can actually help you learn and grow.

As McGonigal points out, the idea that we grow through adversity is not new. It’s embodied in the teachings of every major religion.

The science shows that plenty good can come from stressful or traumatic experiences. Here is a partial list of some of the positive changes that are commonly reported in cases of hardship, loss or trauma:

  • A sense of personal strength;
  • Increased appreciation for life;
  • Spiritual growth;
  • Enhanced social connections and relationships with others;
  • Identifying new possibilities and life directions.

The important part, McGonigal explains, is that the good that comes from difficult experiences isn’t from the event itself – it comes from you.

What it requires is for you to look back on the difficult experiences from your past, and to reflect on the positive changes that came from them. Then, when you are faced with future stressful situations, you’ll be able to recall how you were able to overcome them in the past to help you overcome them in the moment.

This creates a growth-mindset towards adversity.

Ultimately, if you are trying to do big things in your life (the fact that you are listening to this would suggest that’s the case), you are going to face adversity. Lots of it.

How you choose to deal with it is up to you. One path leads to growth and the fulfilment of your goals, and the other leads you despair and inaction.

And when you look at it that way, there really is only one choice.

Hope you found this useful 🙂

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Building A Story Brand’ by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has a simple and powerful message for us in Building A StoryBrand – that your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.

It’s a secret that the world’s most successful companies understand and Miller has boiled it down into an easy-to-follow, 7-step system you can use to grow your business.

Before we get into that system, let’s talk about why it’s so important to have exquisite clarity around your message.

The Importance of Message Clarity

Simply put, the more simple and clear a message is, the easier it is for the brain to digest.

Most people understand this intuitively, but seem to forget it when crafting their brand messaging. They don’t focus on the aspects of their offers that help people survive and thrive and they make their customers use too much energy figuring out what the offering is.

When a prospect comes to your website or looks at any of your marketing material, they should be able to figure out three things within the first 5 seconds: what you offer, how it will make their lives better and what they need to do in order to buy it.

The StoryBrand method solves this problem by focusing on telling a story, with your customer as the hero. As Miller points out, every great story follows a similar formula:

A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.

Let’s look at each of those things in turn.

Principle 1: The Customer is the Hero, Not Your Brand

The most important business challenge for you as a business leader is to define something simple and relevant to your customers and become known for delivering on that.

There are a few things you need to get right at this stage.

Open Up a Story Gap

The first thing that all great stories do is open up a gap between where the hero is right now and where they want to go. Once that happens, the brain starts working on filling in that gap. For instance, Jason Bourne wakes up with amnesia and we wonder whether or not he’ll figure out what happened to him.

When we define something that our prospects and customers want, you create a story gap in their mind with them wondering if you can fill the gap for them.

Choose a Single Focus

You’ve heard this before, but you can’t focus on multiple things. Your brand needs to be known for one story, and one story only.

Choose a Desire Relevant to Their Survival

It’s not enough to create any old desire, it needs to be something that is relevant to their survival, which these days means things like:

  • conserving financial resources;
  • considering time;
  • building social networks;
  • gaining status;
  • accumulating resources;
  • the innate desire to be generous; or
  • the desire for meaning.

Principle 2: Customers Buy Solutions To Internal Problems

All great stories include problems that the hero must overcome. When we clearly identify these problems we increase the customer’s interest in the story we are telling.

Every Story Needs a Villain

Every great story includes a villain that needs to be defeated. There are four characteristics of a great one:

  1. The villain should be a root problem. For instance, frustration isn’t a villain – the high taxes that make us frustrated, are.
  2. The villain should be relatable – your customers should immediately recognise it as something they hate.
  3. The villain should be singular – too many villains and a story falls apart.
  4. The villain should be real – don’t invent a villain that doesn’t exist.

The Three Levels of Conflict

In a story, a villain creates an external problem that causes the hero to experience an internal frustration, that is philosophically wrong.

The external problem is a physical and tangible problem the hero must overcome. The ticking time bomb planted by the villain in an action movie is a classic example.

The internal problem is where the magic happens. In most stories, the hero struggles with the question of whether or not they have what it takes to solve the external problem. This inner frustration is what people are truly motivated to solve. For instance, Miller tells us that Apple solves the inner frustration of being intimidated by computers.

The philosophical problem is all about the question why. Why does this story matter in the grand scheme of things? People want to be involved in a story that’s larger than themselves.

To sum up this step, you need to have figured out the following:

  • Is there a single villain you can stand against?
  • What problem is that villain causing?
  • How does that external problem make your customers feel?
  • Why is it unjust for people to have to suffer at the hands of this villain?

Principle 3: Customers Are Looking For A Guide

If the heroes in the story could solve their own problems, they wouldn’t ever get in trouble in the first place. That’s why they need a guide and how your brand can become the Yoda to your customer’s Luke SkyWalker.

Miller gives us a dire warning at this point – we either position the customer as the hero and the brand as the guide, or we die.

There are two things that you must do to position your brand as a guide.

Express Empathy

When we empathise with our customer’s dilemma, they feel like we understand them. Customers want to do business with brands that they feel they have something in common with.

Using phrases like “We understand how it feels to…” or “Nobody should have to experience…” or “Like you, we are frustrated by…” often gets to the root of this idea.

Demonstrate Authority

We want our guides to be likeable and to be like us, but we also want them to have experience helping other heroes conquer their challenges.

There are four easy ways to add authority to your marketing: testimonials (other people describing their success with your brand), statistics (how many people have you helped), awards (which work even if customers haven’t heard of the award), and logos (if you are in a B2B environment).

Principle 4: Customers Trust a Guide Who Has a Plan

Imagine your customers standing at the side of a rushing creek they want to cross. They hear a waterfall downstream and start to wonder what might happen if they fell in and went over the falls.

In order to help your customers feel confident in buying your solution, you need to place large stones in the creek that they can use to get across safely.

Basically, they need a step-by-step plan on how to use your product or service to solve their problem. There are two plans that you should consider creating.

The Process Plan

This is the plan that tells your customer how to buy your product, how to use your product, or both. These plans are about eliminating confusion.

How many steps should the process have? It varies, but Miller suggests that there is at least three, but no more than six.

The Agreement Plan

This is a list of agreements you make with your customers to help them overcome the fear of doing business with you.

The best way to do this is to list all the things that your customer might be concerned about around your product or service and then address each of those with an agreement that eliminates the fear.

Consider giving this plan a name so that it increases the perceived value of everything your brand offers.

Principle 5: Customers Do Not Take Action Unless The Are Challenged To Take Action

Quite simply, you need to ask your customer to take whatever action you need in order to advance the sale.

There are two different kinds of calls to action.

Direct Calls To Action

Direct calls to action include things like “buy now” or “schedule an appointment” – it’s the ultimate step you want them to take while they are on your website.

Miller suggests that you place a “Buy Now” button in the top right corner of your website and that you should repeat that above the fold and then again as people scroll down your website.

Transitional Calls To Action

These are the intermediary steps you can ask your customer to take before they purchase. They contain less risk for the customer and are usually free. Some examples include asking people to watch a webinar, download a pdf, or take a free trial.

They do three powerful things for your brand:

  • They stake a claim to your territory. If you want to be a leader in a certain territory, stake a claim before your competition beats you to it.
  • They create reciprocity. The more generous you are in giving away free information, the more likely your customers will be to purchase from you in the future.
  • They position your brand as the guide.

Principle 6: Every Human Being Is Trying To Avoid A Tragic Ending

Every great story includes what’s at stake. They always tell you the terrible things that will happen to the hero if they don’t succeed.

In your case, the question you need to answer is what the customer will lose if they don’t use your product or service. Most people struggle with this because they don’t want to be perceived as a fear monger, but the reality is that 99.9 percent of brands don’t focus on the negative stakes enough.

As Miller points out, it’s a delicate balance. Ratchet up the fear factor too high and people start to block out the fear. Too little and there’s no motivation to solve the problem.

This part of the process asks you to identify the top few things that your customers should be trying to avoid.

For instance, if you were a used car business you might consider using the fears of (a) getting ripped off by a used car salesman, (b) being stuck with a lemon and (c) feeling taken advantage of.

Principle 7: Never Assume People Understand How Your Brand Can Change Their Lives. Tell Them

The ending to the story should be specific and clear. You need to make it crystal clear what your customers lives will be like if they use your product or service.

There are three main ways that storytellers end a story.

Winning Power and Position (The Need for Status)

If your brand can help your customer more esteemed and respected and appealing in a social context, you are offering something they want. Brands like Mercedes and Rolex sell status as much as they do luxury.

Union That Makes The Hero Whole (The Need for Something External to Create Completeness)

The idea here is that the hero is rescued by somebody or something else that they needed in order to be made complete. Things that fall into this category include a reduced workload (your tool helps them do more with less) and more time (your tool helps them “fit it all in”).

Ultimate Self-Realisation or Acceptance (The Need to Reach Our Potential)

We all feel the need to reach our potential. At the core of this need is the desire for self-acceptance. Some of the ways you can do this include inspiration (connecting your brand to inspirational feats), acceptance (helping people accept themselves as they are) and transcendence (inviting customers to participate in a movement).


The process of creating a StoryBrand is simple, but it’s not easy. However, in the end, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Clearly communicating how your company can participate in the transformation of your customer not only helps you sell more to everybody who hears about you, it also helps you create brand evangelists.

And that is the most powerful marketing tool of all. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Cilantro Diaries’ by Lorenzo Gomez

Lorenzo Gomez started off his career stocking vegetables in a grocery chain in south Texas. The path between where he started and where he is today – the Chairman of both the largest co-working space in Texas and the 80/20 Foundation – is littered with golden nuggets that any new graduate would be smart to pick up and use.

Join me as I explore the 12 main principles Gomez learned along the way.

Section 1: Creating Your Personal Board of Directors

The first three principles are about assembling what Gomez calls your own Personal Board of Directors.

Gomez learned the concept of a board of directors while he was at the company Rackspace – a multi-billion dollar web hosting company.

He was working for incredibly smart and accomplished people, including the chairman of Rackspace Graham Weston. When Gomez – only a few years removed from stacking groceries – learned that even Weston reported to a board of directors, he says it was like unlocking a bonus level of a video game.

In the same way a successful company has a board of directors looking out for its best interests, you can have a personal board of directors looking out for you.

Principle I: Your Deputies Love You

There are many reasons that a personal board of directors is important to your success.

First and foremost, you want multiple people on your board because no one person can fill all the roles you need in your life – not even your wife or favourite parent.

Second, we crave community and closeness as human beings. Having people you can open up to creates a structure in your life that otherwise you’d be unable to tap. People often say to leaders that it’s lonely at the top. When you start your career, you are going to learn that it’s lonely everywhere.

Third, your board of directors will be there to help you make better decisions, and see the things that you would otherwise miss.

What Kind of People Make the Best Board Members?

There are three things that you’ll want to consider when choosing your board members.

First, you want to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. This goes double for your board members.

Second, you’ll want to choose people who have expertise in the areas you lack. You want people who can give you different perspectives than you’d otherwise have on your own.

Third, you also want to choose people who accept who you are as a person. Remember, you need the social-emotional support of your board members as much as you need their expertise.

Principle II: Who You Hang Out with Matters

You’ve probably heard the Jim Rohn saying that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”

So, just as you need to choose your personal board of directors carefully, you also have to choose your friends and mentors carefully.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to break up with friends who are no longer good influences on your life and career.

Principle III: Crushes Are Not Mentors

Another important type of person you’ll want in your life is a mentor. A mentor is somebody who (a) has domain expertise that you want to develop, (b) is willing to share that expertise with you, and (c) believes in your potential.

As you start your career, you’ll need to avoid the trap of thinking of “crushes” as mentors. Being cool, popular, or any other quality that isn’t related to expertise in a field that will help you in your career, does’t count.

Most importantly, mentors are people who have considerable experience in their fields and can teach you things that you wouldn’t be able to learn in a textbook.

Section 2: Understanding How Business Works

Now that we’ve covered how important it is to surround yourself with good people, let’s move on to some truths about the business world that they won’t teach you in school.

Principle IV: It’s Not What You Know, but Who

Gomez recounts the time when he got one of his first jobs strictly by trading on the social currency his brother had built up as a hard worker.

Many times in life you will be afforded opportunities strictly because of the people you know and who will vouch for you.

It’s not what you know, but who you know that matters. This is even more true these days because companies are putting even more emphasis on hiring people with high emotional intelligence and work ethic, knowing that anybody can be taught the technical skills required to be successful.

This has a few implications, but none are more important than understanding that you need to build a good reputation.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to associate yourself with A-players. When you are in a new job or role, find out who the A-players are, and then learn their tricks and associate with them.

Principle V: Stand Out from the Competition

If you are just starting out in your career, and you don’t have a reputation yet, all is not lost.

As Steve Martin once implored us, you need to “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

There are a few things you can start working on today to stand out from the competition.

First, you can specialise in a few skills. If you can become the go-to person in your office or professional network for an in-demand skill, you’ll start to earn a reputation.

Second, you can do things that differentiate you from the other people around you. Gomez tells the story of how he started to stack the lettuce as a pyramid while working at the grocery store. People started to notice the little things he did that went above and beyond and sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Third, always look for a job that is close to the customer. That’s because the further away you are from the customer, the more expendable your job will be – especially in hard times. If you ever get offered a job that seems too fun or too good to be true, find a way to turn it down.

Principle VI: Dance with the One Who Brought You

When you join a business, you’ll learn that in many ways it’s a lot like high school. Choosing which clique you are going to join will be in your career network forever.

As Gomez points out, loyalty is the glue that holds networks together and can often be the catalyst to open new doors in your career. In short, loyalty is a word you need to get comfortable with if you want a long and successful career.

Carefully consider the cost of your loyalty. What does somebody need to do in order to earn it? Once you’ve determined the answer, don’t compromise.

At some point in your career, your loyalty is likely to be tested in the form of a job offer to leave your current role for more money. Unless you need the extra income because of extraordinary circumstances in your life, job hopping for more money isn’t a good career move. Especially if your current boss spent some of their reputation currency to bring you aboard.

The right time to leave is when you find an opportunity that will teach you new skills that you can’t acquire at your current place of employment.

Principle VII: No Man Is an Island

As Gomez explains, there’s a lie that we see in all business success stories – that behind every epically successful business, one person did it all.

That’s just not true. Not for Apple or Facebook, and certainly not for you. In order to succeed in your career, you need to learn how to work on a team.

The first job you have when joining a new team is figuring out what you bring to the table beyond what’s on your job description. Find as many ways as possible to make yourself useful to your team and you’ll eventually be accepted.

The next thing you need to do when you join a team is to figure out its social contract. These are the unspoken rules that govern the conduct of the team. For instance, at Rackspace Gomez quickly learned that if you wanted help from the engineering team, you needed to ask nicely.

Violating these unspoken agreements will cause you to be rejected like the human body rejects an organ transplant.

Section 3 – Living In The Real World

The real world doesn’t operate like the school world, and there are some things that your teachers won’t teach you.

What follows are some of the things that you’ll be wise to learn before you learn them the hard way.

Principle VIII: Have a Servant’s Heart

Having a servant’s heart means wanting to help people. In the context of your career, this means helping your customers. There are a couple baselines for having a servant’s heart.

First, always give the customer what they pay for.

Second, remember that it doesn’t cost anything to smile. Serving your customers with a smile on your face goes a long way.

Third, move with a sense of urgency. Moving swiftly with a sense of purpose is the fastest way to show a customer you have a servant’s heart.

Principle IX: Everyone’s in Sales

Gomez tells the story of listening to Graham Weston deliver a speech to the graduating class at Texas A&M where he said:

“Everybody’s in sales. Whether you know it or not, even if you aren’t selling a product, you have to sell yourself and your ideas.”

It’s a great principle that holds true in business and life. There are a few keys to making this work for you in your career.

First, think service first, and sales second. You’ll always be better at selling your products, ideas and yourself by doing it this way.

Second, never sell an idea with “I think.” The surest way to kill all of your persuasive powers is to convey any doubt in your pitch.

Third, understand the power of story. As human beings, we are wired to listen and respond to stories. Always use a story to set up your pitch.

Principle X: Don’t Spend What You Earn

The last thing you want to worry about as you are building your career or business is your personal finances.

There are a couple of surefire ways to create this unneeded stress in your life.

The first is to spend all of what you earn. When you start making your first real paycheck, you’ll be tempted to start spending lavishly. Gomez recounts the story of him going out and buying a sports car after his first big raise at Rackspace. Don’t do that.

The second is to lend money to the people you are closest to. If you are going to give money to friends and family, always do it with no strings attached. You will almost never get paid back and the stress it will cause in your relationships isn’t worth the hassle.

Avoid those two things like the plague and you’ll be off to a good start.

Principle XI: You Can Only Control Your Attitude

Things will go wrong in your business and your life. There’s no way to avoid it, but what you can do is control your attitude when it happens.

Gomez makes that point that he’s failed at this principle more than he’s succeeded, but the times he’s succeeded have been some of the best times in his work life. When he’s failed, they have been some of his worst.

A specific way to control your attitude is through the practice of humility. The essence of humility, Gomez says, is genuine interest in others. Taking a genuine interest in other people is a choice that you get to make on a daily basis.

Principle XII: When to Be the Boss

There will come a point in your career where you’ve developed enough skills and experience that you will start to think about starting your own company. The fact that there are significant ups and downs in every career will only amplify these thoughts.

This is an incredibly difficult choice.

Sometimes the right choice is to suck it up and stick with your job. The odds are stacked against your new business succeeding and even the ones that do succeed struggle far more than you’ll ever know from the outside.

However, if you know that deep down that you won’t be able to look yourself in the mirror if you don’t give it a shot, that’s the time to quit your job and become your own boss.

I remember when I reached that point. Interested to hear from others who also took the decision to start their own business and how it’s gone.

P.S I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Confessions of The Pricing Man’​ by Hermann Simon

Peter Drucker once said the following:

“Profit is a condition of survival. It is the cost of the future, the cost of staying in business.”

As you’ll learn in the following 12 minutes, pricing is one of, if not the most, important driver of profits. Yet it receives very little attention.

Hermann Simon, one of the world’s most foremost experts on pricing, wants you to change that. He makes a very compelling case.

As he points out early in the book, excellent pricing drives profits and profits are what your business needs to survive.

What Price Actually Means

Simon has been asked thousands of times over the years what the most important aspect of pricing actually is.

If he needs to give a one word answer, he says that pricing is “value.” If he needs to elaborate, he says that pricing is “value to the customer.”

In essence, he is saying that the price a customer is willing to pay and thus the price a company can and should charge, is always a reflection of the perceived value of the product or service in the customer’s eyes.

This means that managers and business leaders essentially have 3 main tasks as it relates to price:

  1. Create value. This is where product creation and innovation come in.
  2. Communicate value. This is how you influence your customer’s perception of the value you create. It includes your unique selling proposition and your brand.
  3. Retain value. This is about what happens after the customer buys your product or service. Expectations about how long value will last (and your ability to deliver on that expectation) has an outsized influence on your customer’s willingness to pay the price you’ve set.

The Relationship Between Price And Profits

Most people know that if you increased your price and volume stayed the same, your profits would go up, but most people (including some really smart business people) don’t know just how much it could impact their bottom line.

Most companies in the world operate at margins that are between 1% and 3%. An industrial company with margins above 10% would be far above average. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule like Apple, but even their net margin stood at 21.6%. To drive the point home that most businesses are not like Apple, Simon points out that if the average company were as profitable as Apple, we’d live in a utopia beyond our ability to imagine.

To give you a concrete example, if Sony raised their prices across the board by 2% without seeing any drops in volume, it’s profits would increase by 236%. Walmart’s profits would increase by 41.4% with the same 2% increase in price.

While you’ll have to run the numbers for your own business to see what the impact might be, it’s clear that price is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal to make more money.

Most people look to improve their marketing and sales efforts when they want to increase their bottom line. Pricing has two advantages over sales and marketing:

  • Price changes usually can be implemented very quickly. Developing a new advertising campaign and waiting for it to have the effect you are looking for could take months or even years.
  • Price is the only revenue driver that you can employ with no upfront investment.

Different Ways To Set Prices

There are 3 different approaches you can use to set prices. One of them is the right way.

Using Costs to Set Prices

Many people use a “cost-plus” approach to setting their prices. There are a number of problems with this approach, even though it sounds like a reasonable thing to do. Here are two of them.

First, it has nothing to do with your customer’s willingness to pay. Second, even if it did, your customers don’t know what your costs are, so they couldn’t make their decision that way even if they wanted to.

Following The Competition

This means that you set your prices based on what your competitors do. This also sounds like a reasonable approach and is probably the easiest path to take, but it also has a number of problems associated with it. The most important being that it’s almost never the best way to set prices to optimise profits.

Market-Based Price Setting

The third and best approach to setting your prices is to take the market-based approach. This means understanding what your demand curve looks like, which is like a graph that shows the number of sales you would make at various prices, with volume on the Y axis and the price on the X axis.

In general, when the price goes up the volume goes down and vice versa. The goal with the demand curve is to find the price where you maximise revenue and profit.

There are four ways you can go out doing this:

  • Use your expert judgement. You can start to get a handle on your demand curve by asking yourself and your team how much volume you would lose if you increased your prices by 10%. Keep asking for different increases or decreases and you’ll end up with an approximation of your demand curve which will help you make pricing decisions.
  • Ask your customers directly. This would be a more accurate way to do it and you could use your email newsletter and a simple survey to accumulate large numbers of answers. However, be careful with this approach because just asking the question usually makes customers more sensitive to price.
  • Ask your customers indirectly. In the pricing field, an approach called conjoint measurement was created to get customers to make tradeoffs between price and value. They are shown many variations of products and price and are asked to rank order their preferences. You’ll probably want to hire an expert like Simon if you dig into this level of detail.
  • Use price tests. This is the most accurate way to get your answers because all of the other approaches are thought experiments. As behavioural science tells us, there is a large gap between what people say they will do and what they will actually do. Luckily, digital technology makes it fairly easy to run A/B tests and find out the actual answer to “how much does demand rise/fall based on different price points?”

Should You Price High or Low

Once you’ve determined your demand curve and how much people are willing to pay for your products/services today, it’s time to make a decision: which pricing approach is the best for you to take moving forward.

There are 3 main categories to choose from.

Low Price Strategy

This is where you price your product as low as possible to capture as much volume as you can. Thus, the focus of your business is around driving down the cost to produce your products and creating efficiencies.

You probably already know this, but there is only room for a couple of low-priced players in any market. If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Begin with a low-price strategy from day one. Many times it requires a new and innovative business model.
  2. Be extremely efficient in managing both costs and processes.
  3. Guarantee adequate and consistent quality.
  4. Focus on your core product and don’t do anything that isn’t absolutely required by the customer.
  5. Have a high-growth and high-revenue focus. You’ll need to make up your lack of margin with volume. Economies of scale are your friend.
  6. Be tough and forceful in your purchasing.
  7. Have little debt. Instead, rely on self-financing or supplier credit.
  8. Exercise strong control over the entire value chain.
  9. Focus your ads on price.
  10. Don’t mix your messages: Almost all of the successful “low price–high profit” companies stick to an “everyday low price” strategy.
  11. Understand your role. Most markets have room for only a small number of “low price–high profit” competitors, often just one or two.

Luxury Goods Pricing

On the other end of the spectrum are luxury goods pricing companies. This is where there is little connection between the cost of production and the prices you set.

If you are going to choose this approach and be successful with it, here are the factors that will help you do so:

  1. Ensure your product delivers the highest level of performance. This goes for every dimension of your business, including the materials you use to the way you distribute your product.
  2. Ensure your product can deliver the prestige effect.
  3. Set your prices high because price is a quality indicator for luxury goods – the more it costs the more it must be worth.
  4. Keep your volume and market share within strict limits. If “everybody” has your product, you’ve lost the luxury game.
  5. Avoid discounts and special offers like the plague.
  6. Hire top talent in every part of your business. Every employee is an extension of your brand.
  7. Keep control of the value chain. There’s no room for B players.
  8. Understand that the primary factor in price setting is the customers’ willingness to pay. There is little or no connection to the “value for money” equation.

Premium Price Strategy

Finally we have the premium pricing strategy. This is where there is a direct connection between the value you deliver and the prices you set. This is where you try and create the optimal value in your market place and share some of that value with the customer.

In other words, you create a product that generates more value for your customers than the competition’s product and thus also charge a higher price.

While it’s almost impossible to give a general answer to the question of how much more a premium price is to a “normal” price, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind as you pursue a premium price strategy:

  1. You must provide superior value.
  2. The price to value relationship is your competitive advantage, unlike low-cost or luxury where the price is the deciding factor.
  3. Innovation is the foundation of your growth – you must continuously be searching out new value.
  4. Creating a consistently high level of product and service quality is a must.
  5. A strong brand is a must. Your customers need to understand what you stand for.
  6. A strong communication program is a must. Your consumers need to hear your story if they are going to understand your differentiated value.
  7. Shy away from special offers. Premium pricers offer discounts very infrequently.

Which price strategy is best for you?

For most companies the best strategy for creating strong profits is to use a premium pricing strategy. There’s certainly room for a couple of low-price and luxury producers in every market, but the high percentage play is to choose the premium route.

Specific Pricing Situations Explained

Now that we’ve covered pricing in general, let’s move on to some of the more specific applications and how to drive the profit needle even further.

Price Differentiation

Sometimes it makes sense to create different prices for different people, or for different situations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Price bundling: you can often maximise profit by packaging together several products and charging a total price less than the sum of the individual products. If you’ve bought a car recently, you’ve seen this in action.
  • Price unbundling: in some situations it might make sense to do the reverse – unbundle what used to be packages into separate product lines.
  • Volume discounts: there are two ways to give volume discounts – one where the discount applies to the entire volume purchased and another where the discount applies to the incremental volume. The incremental approach almost always leads to higher volume.
  • Skimming: this is where you decrease the price of a previous version of your product when you release a newer version. Apple has used this approach with great success.

Pricing In Crises

Often times you’ll find yourself in a crisis where you need to make price cuts in order to survive. If you do, make sure you do it intelligently by keeping the following in mind:

  • make sure you use price-oriented advertising and additional communication to drive the desired increase in volume;
  • consider offering additional goods or services instead of lowering prices;
  • consider that maybe an increase in price is the right approach, like Panera successfully did in the 2008 financial crisis.

I hope you found this useful and please write me a review if you have any specific topics you would like me to write about.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

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Book Summary of ‘The Art of Possibility’​ by Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and is one of the most passionate communicators you’ll ever meet. Watch his TED talk on the power of classical music if you haven’t already.

His wife, Rosamund Zander, is a psychotherapist who is a genius in creating distinctions that create change in people’s personal and professional lives.

Together, they’ve written a book that will show you the power of possibility to create changes in yourself and others that you previously thought impossible.

Let’s explore the 12 practices for creating possibility.

Practice 1: It’s All Invented

You’ve likely heard the parable before, but it bears repeating:

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,


The other writes back triumphantly,


Basically, there are the facts and then there is the story we make up about the facts. We do this without noticing and our minds have a very hard time figuring out the difference between the two.

If the stories we make up about the facts are invented anyways, Zander suggests, shouldn’t we invent a story or frame of mind that enhances our lives and the lives of people around us?

When you come to this realisation, things start to change. You can become more creative. Solutions to problems that previous seemed unsolvable suddenly appear.

Ask yourself the following question:

What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware I’m making, that gives me what I see?

And when you’ve answered that one, ask yourself the following:

What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that would give me other choices?

Practice 2: Stepping into a Universe of Possibility

Most people – almost everybody – wakes up in the morning with the unnoticed assumption that life is about the struggle to survive and that we need to get ahead in a world of limited resources. A world where success is measured in dollars and cents and other people’s definitions of success.

The alternative is to approach your business and life with the spirit of abundance. Where your approach to life is generous, inclusive and you engage the people surrounding you with your passion for life.

Here’s the major difference between the two world views. In the measurement world, you set goals and set out to achieve them. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.

Careful not to jump to the conclusion that this is a recipe for failure. As Zander points out, you are much more likely to achieve the traditional measures of success in the world of possibility than you are in the world of measurement, because you are focussed more on what “could be” rather than focussing on what you “don’t have.”

Ask yourself the following question:

How are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

Practice 3: Giving An A

This practice is best explained by example.

When Ben Zander is teaching a class at the New England Conservatory of Music, he finds that his students carry a lot of stress and anxiety about their performances. Most of it due to their worry about their grades.

When you are teaching a class where creativity and being in the moment are key, that stress gets in the way. Big time.

So, to remove the stress, Zander gives everybody in the class an A before the semester even begins. In order to keep the A grade, the simply have to write a letter to him by the end of the semester detailing what they had done to earn the A, how they had grown throughout the year and what kind of person they had become.

For the students, this was transformative. They now had a bright future to live into, causing them to grow and develop in ways that they never thought possible.

This is kind of like the principle from How To Win Friends and Influence People – give people a fine reputation to live up to, but with a twist. As Zander says, this is not an expectation to live up to, it’s a possibility to live into.

Here’s the best part – you can do this with anybody in your life – including yourself. So give yourself an A. Give that coffee barista an A. Give your boss an A. And see them suddenly start acting like it.

Practice 4: Being a Contribution

Zander starts off this practice by describing the story of a young girl throwing previously stranded starfish back into the sea. A man walking down the beach stops to mock her by pointing out that the beach is littered with them and asks her what difference her efforts could possibly make.

Smiling, she says that “it certainly makes a difference to this one.”

Just as this girl invented a story where she was a contribution to the world, so too must we if we want to live in the world of possibility.

This practice, Zander says, involves inventing oneself as a contribution and others as well.

There are two steps:

  1. Declare yourself to be a contribution.
  2. Dive into life as somebody who makes a difference, with the realisation that you may not understand how or why right at this moment.

What this does is create a shift in our thinking – away from self-concern and towards a relationship with others. That’s where you are called to make a difference.

Practice 5: Leading from Any Chair

The conductor is not the only leader of an orchestra. No matter which chair you are in, in an orchestra or in a company, you can make a difference as a leader.

How do you do this?

As Zander points out, there are many ways to lead. You can energise the rest of the orchestra by showing your newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor. Or you can, almost immediately, change your mind about somebody and view them as somebody who desires to be a contribution.

There’s a quote from a student at the Walnut Hill School in the book that I think summarises this practice best:

“Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility – nobody has to lead. It’s a gift, shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It’s in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up from the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love, and give it everything.” Amanda Burr

Practice 6: Rule Number 6

This practice is very straightforward: Don’t take yourself so g–damn seriously.

Or, in other words, lighten up a bit. When you do, it releases yourself from your ego and all of your self-limiting beliefs.

Even better, you’ll find that if you put this practice into play, many of the other people in your life will start to do the same.

In the process, your true self (what the Zanders call the ‘central self’) comes out, and the world seems to be a lot more cooperative with your demands.

Principle 7: The Way Things Are

This practice is all about being present to your reality.

Most people approach their reality in one of two ways.

Some people practice accepting things they way they are. This is a resigned state that leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

Some other people try and achieve some higher plane of existence so that they can transcend negativity. This is simply ignoring the way things are, which also leaves you powerless to take action and change your circumstances.

There is a third way, and that is being present to the way things are, including your feelings about the way things are.

This practice is a search for reality, and it requires us to distinguish between our assumptions, our feelings and the facts.

There are three questions to ask yourself in this practice:

  1. What is here now?
  2. What else is here now?
  3. What do I want to do from here?

What this does is create the conditions for possibility. You can imagine multiple solutions to your problem, which is ultimately the only way you are going to change your circumstances.

Practice 8: Giving Way To Passion

In his wonderful TED talk, Ben Zander tells the story of the “two buttock” player. He noticed that one of his students sat straight as a rod on his piano stool, seemingly more concerned with his posture than the music he was playing.

Zander encouraged him to become a “one buttock” player, where the wave of music would flow through him, causing him to sway and eventually lift one buttock off of the piano stool.

This is a perfect metaphor for our lives. Most of us (including me) are far too concerned with how we look than letting ourselves go in the moment.

Here’s the key – most people are attracted to people with a zeal for life. This type of passion is contagious. There’s a voice in your head telling you that other people will think you are crazy for being a “one buttock person,” when in reality you’ll find that people will want to follow you wherever you go.

There are two steps to this practice.

  1. Notice where you are holding back, and let go of the barriers that keep you separate and in control. Let the passion surge through you.
  2. Participate wholly.

You’ll be amazed at the possibilities that show up in your life when you do.

Practice 9: Lighting a Spark

This practice is all about helping others find their passion and creating possibilities in their lives.

Sometimes, people will say no to your crazy ideas, no matter how much passion you put into your communication.

This practice has four steps:

  1. Imagine that people are an invitation for enrollment. People want to believe in possibilities – imagine that they are inviting you to enrol them.
  2. Be ready to participate – willing to be moved and inspired.
  3. Offer what lights you up.
  4. Believe that others are eager to catch the spark.

Practice 10: Being the Board

This practice involves taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

The Zanders suggest that we declare “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.”

This approach is much different than the one that most of us take most of the time – to decide who is to blame for our bad circumstances.

Instead, the question we want to ask ourselves is “how is it that I have become a context for that to occur?”

Ignoring the awkward language, the idea here is simple – the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. By eliminating the automatic reaction of focussing on things and people outside your control – which offer no hope of possibility – you focus on yourself which immediately opens up new possibilities to change your circumstances.

The metaphor here is that rather than viewing yourself as a piece on a chess board, you view yourself as the board itself.

It’s a powerful approach to life.

Principle 11: Creating Frameworks For Possibility.

This practice is about setting frameworks that create environments that create possibility.

The Zanders quote Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech to set the tone.

Dr. King was creating a world of possibility for the millions of people who would hear his message.

Your role as a leader is to do the same – to create a framework of possibility that those around you want to help create.

There are three steps to this practice:

  1. Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility. For Dr. King it was “equality of opportunity… of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character,” among other things. What world of possibility are you opening for people around you?
  2. Enter the territory. Embody the person you would need to be if that possibility were true, today.
  3. Keep the possibility alive by continually distinguishing what is on and off track.

Principle 12: Telling the “We” Story

This principle is all about moving from “us and them” to “we.”

As the Zanders point out, history is basically one long record of conflict between an Us and a Them. Nation against nation, one political party against another, labour against management and so on.

However, in almost any situation, we have more in common than we do differences and when you focus on the WE, things immediately change and new possibilities emerge.

So ask yourself questions like:

  • What do WE want to have happen here?
  • What is best for US?
  • What is OUR next step?

Make that your default stance and you will be living in a world of abundance and possibility.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s book summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ business prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. I will cover all start up costs for the right person. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

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