Book Summary of ‘Unlimited Power’ by Tony Robbins

This book is a personal development classic, written by Tony Robbins when he was 25 years old.

These are the principles that Robbins used to go from living in a 400 square foot apartment and washing his dishes in the bathtub to a millionaire many times over in less than three years.

They are the same principles that he has gone on to teach millions of people around the world in one form or another.

We live in an age with more information than we ever thought possible. If information was the answer then we would all be happy, successful and have six pack abs, but we don’t.

The missing ingredient is the ability to take massive action to work towards our most important goals. Infact, the definition of the word power is “the ability to act.”

There are seven fundamental character traits that the world’s most successful people have cultivated within themselves that give them the power to take action.

Here’s a reminder of what they are:

1. Passion

The world’s most successful people have discovered an all-consuming purpose that drives them to do more and be more.

Almost all of them tap into the power of goals and defining the outcome they are looking for.

Robbins gives us five rules for formulating our desired outcomes:

  1. State the outcome in positive terms.
  2. Be as specific as possible. How does your outcome look, see, feel and smell? Engage as many of your senses as possible.
  3. Have an evidence procedure. Know how you will look, how you will feel and what you will see when you achieve your goal.
  4. Be in control. The outcome must be created and maintained by you. Make sure you choose something you can influence directly.
  5. Verify the outcome is ecologically sound and desirable. The outcome must be one that benefits you and other people.

Now that we know the five rules for defining outcomes, we can move on to creating a master list of the things we want in our lives. There are 12 steps to this process.

  1. Make an inventory of your dreams, including the things you want to do, be and share. Don’t limit yourself – be bold.
  2. Estimate when you expect to reach the outcomes.
  3. Pick the four most important goals for you this year.
  4. Review these four goals against the five rules for outcomes to ensure that they are aligned.
  5. Make a list of the important resources you already have at your disposal. This will be your inventory of strengths, skills, resources and tools.
  6. Focus in on times you used those resources well. This will prime your mind to see yourself achieving your goals.
  7. Describe the kind of person you would have to be in order to attain your goals. Will it take discipline? Education? Something else?
  8. Write down what prevents you from having the goals now. This is helping you identify the roadblocks that might get in your way.
  9. Create a step-by-step plan on how to achieve your four goals.
  10. Come up with some models – people who have achieved great success. Write down one main idea that each of those people would say to you if they were speaking to you personally.
  11. Create your ideal day from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Feel what having all of your goals accomplished will be like.
  12. Design your perfect environment. Where will you be during your perfect day?

2. Belief

As Robbins points out, our beliefs about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we will be. What you believe is possible will determine the trajectory of your life.

If we are going to model beliefs that create excellence, we need to understand how beliefs get developed in the first place.

  1. Environment. The environment you spend time in will impact what you believe is possible.
  2. Events. Some events have such a big impact on our lives that they change our brains forever.
  3. Knowledge. No matter how grim your circumstances are right now, if you read about the accomplishments of others, it can create the belief in you that you can succeed too.
  4. Past Results. Do something once and you’ll forever know you can do it again.
  5. Creating the Future in Your Mind. You can “step into your future” any time you want by creating a mental image of it.

So that’s where beliefs come from. Now let’s review the seven beliefs that Robbins suggests will help you foster excellence.

  1. Everything happens for a reason and a purpose and it serves me.
  2. There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.
  3. Whatever happens, take responsibility.
  4. I do not need to understand everything to be able to use everything.
  5. People are my greatest resource.
  6. Work is play.
  7. There is no abiding success without commitment.

3. Strategy

Now that we know where we want to go and the beliefs that will help us get there, it’s time to figure out the actions that will help us get there.

People that are able to consistently produce outstanding results follow a specific set of actions and mindsets. The quickest path to replicate their results is to adopt their actions and mindsets.

In order to create a “recipe” we can follow, we need to to have a system to describe what to do and when to do it. Robbins calls this syntax – the way people order their actions – and it makes a huge difference in the kind of results that we produce.

Here is the shorthand notation:

  • V Visual
  • A Auditory
  • K Kinesthetic
  • e external
  • i internal
  • d digital (words)
  • t tonal (tone of sound)

For instance, when you see something in the outside world, it’s represented as Ve. When you have a feeling inside, that would be represented as Ki.

The combination of those things can help you create a recipe for whatever you want to create in your life. The trick is to find the right sequence of thoughts and actions that produce the results.

So, we find somebody who has created the results we are looking for, we do something that Robbins calls “strategy elicitation.”

Here are the steps to making it work:

  1. Get the person in the appropriate state by having them remember a specific time when they felt motivated, loved, or whatever strategy you are looking to emulate. For instance, you might ask them “Can you remember a time when you were totally motivated to do something? Can you go back to that time and step back into that experience?”
  2. Ask them clear, succinct questions about the syntax of what they said, heard and felt. You might ask them “As you remember that time, what was the very first thing that caused you to be totally motivated?”
  3. Then, find out what specifically about what they were experiencing caused the person to get in that state. You might ask “After you heard that thing, what was the very next thing that caused you to be totally motivated to do something? Did you picture something in your mind? Did you say something to yourself? Did you have a certain feeling or emotion?”

As you listen to the person you are talking to, record down their answers and you’ll have yourself a recipe for getting the results you are looking to achieve.

4. Clarity of Values

Every successful person is clear about their values. Values are your own private, personal and individual beliefs about what is most important to you.

We can learn to produce the most effective behaviours, but they need to support our deepest needs and desires. Without this we have internal conflict and lack the ability to generate success on a grand scale.

Your values can change over time and have certainly changed since your childhood. You also have different values in different areas of your life.

In order to understand the most important values, do the following:

  1. Start by listing the most important areas of your life. That will likely include home, work and relationships.
  2. Then for each of those areas, ask yourself what’s important in that area. Don’t filter, just write them down.
  3. Finally, rank order the things you wrote down in that area. This will become your value hierarchy.

This is not only an important exercise to do with yourself, it’s an important exercise to do with the people in your life that are the closest to you.

5. Energy

The world’s most successful people seem to have an unending reservoir of energy. How do they do it?

They understand that your mind and your body are connected to one another in what Robbins calls a cybernetic loop.

You’ve heard the adage “act as if.” Most of the time it’s been distorted in the personal development world to mean “act as if you are rich, and you’ll become rich.” However, there’s a lot of science that proves that your physiology has a lot to do with what happens in your mind and with the state you are in and because you have complete control over your physiology (what you do with your body), you have complete control of your mental state as well.

As a simple example, if you want to feel happy, smile. Try feeling miserable while you are smiling – it’s almost impossible.

The Power of State

Robbins suggests that the key to producing the results you desire is the put yourself into a resourceful state so that you are empowered to take the types and qualities of actions that produce the desired results.

The best way to put yourself into a resourceful state is to use an anchor, which serves to trigger you into the desired state.

For instance, you could use the anchor of balling your hands into fists and screaming the word “yes!” to put yourself into a state of high energy (a little intense for me, but you get the point).

Here are the 4 steps to making it work.

  1. Put yourself in a fully associated, congruent state, with your whole body involved. Basically, to continue with the previous example, you need to put yourself in a high energy state.
  2. Set the anchor at the peak of the state.
  3. Use a unique stimulus or trigger. This should be something that you don’t do very often otherwise.
  4. Replicate the anchor exactly. If you set the anchor by touching a part of your body, you should to it in the exact some spot, with the exact same amount of pressure and so on.

6. Bonding Power

The world most successful people are masters of creating bonds with other people.

One of the ways the do this is through mirroring and matching.

You’ve heard that words only account for 7% of our communication, our tonality accounts for 38%, and our body language accounts for 55%.

That’s why when you match another person’s physiology and tonality during an encounter, you build rapport with that person in minutes.

In order to do this well, you need to look for things that you can mirror as unobtrusively and naturally as possible. As Robbins points out, if you mirror a person who has a terrible twitch, they’ll just end up thinking you are mocking them.

Once you get into a rhythm of rapport with the other person, you can start doing something called pacing and leading. This is when you gradually change your posture or tone of voice. If you’ve created rapport with them, they will naturally start to follow your lead.

7. Mastery of Communication

Successful people are masters of using communication to get what they want in business and in life.

First, they understand how to ask for what they want. Follow these five steps, and you can too:

  1. Ask specifically.
  2. Ask someone who can help you.
  3. Create value for the person you are asking.
  4. Ask with focused, congruent belief.
  5. Ask until you get what you want. Not necessarily from the same person.

Second, they understand how to deal with resistance using the agreement frame. There are three phrases you can use to get another person to see things from your point of view without any resistance:

  1. I appreciate and…
  2. I respect and…
  3. I agree and…

By replacing “but” or “however” with “and”, you completely bypass the automatic resistance other people have to those words, keeping their minds open to what comes out of your mouth next.

Conclusion

The principles of Unlimited Power are timeless, and if you start incorporating them into your daily and weekly routine, you’ll start to see an uplift in the results you are generating in your business and life.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber

When you become an entrepreneur, there are many predictable frustrations you’ll run into:

  • Not having enough profit
  • Not enough personal income
  • Not enough customers
  • Can’t find good people
  • Don’t have enough time
  • The business depends too much on you

And the list goes on. Finding your way out of those predictable problems is difficult, if not impossible, without a system that predictably produces the opposite of those issues.

That’s where The E-Myth and the Entrepreneurial Model it promotes comes in. According to Michael Gerber, the solution involves thinking about your business like a franchise – which is a proprietary way of doing business that successfully differentiates every extraordinary business from their competitors.

This is the classic “work on your business rather than in it” advice you’ll hear repeated by business gurus. The difference is that Gerber has created step-by-step instructions on how you should get there.

Through this book and summary, you’ll find the answer to the following questions:

  1. How can I get my business to work without me?
  2. How can I get my people to work but without my constant interference?
  3. How can I systematise my business in such a way that it could be replicated 5000 times, so the 5000th unit would run as smoothly as the first?
  4. How can I own my business and still be free of it?
  5. How can I spend my time doing the work I love to do rather than the work I have to do?

Understanding the Rules

Here are the rules you’ll need to follow in order to get your business running like a franchise that produces predictable results:

  1. The model will provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers and lenders, beyond what they expect.
  2. The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill.
  3. The model will stand out as a place of impeccable order.
  4. All work in the model will be documented in Operations Manuals.
  5. The model will provide a uniformly predictable service to the customer.
  6. The model will utilise a uniform colour, dress and facilities code.

There are 7 distinct steps to get there, which I’ll cover in turn.

1. Your Primary Aim

Every entrepreneur starts a business for themselves, but we often get so tied up in the business that we forget that the ultimate aim of the business is to serve ourselves.

Here are the questions you need to answer with 100% clarity if you want your business to serve you and not the other way around.

  1. What do I wish my life to look like?
  2. How do I wish my life to be on a day-to-day basis?
  3. What would I like to be able to say I truly know in my life, about my life?
  4. How would I like to be with other people in my life – my family, friends, business associates, customers, employees, and community?
  5. How would I like people to think about me?
  6. What would I like to be doing two years from now? Ten years? Twenty years? When my life comes to a close?
  7. What specifically would I like to learn during my life – spiritually, physically, financially, technically, intellectually? About relationships?
  8. How much money will I need to do the things I wish to do? By when will I need it?

2. Your Strategic Objective

Your Strategic Objective is a clear statement of what your business ultimately has to do in order to achieve your Primary Aim.

It’s a list of standards you can use to measure your progress towards your ultimate goal.

There are many standards you could include, but Gerber suggests that the first two on the list should be as follows.

First, you need to be clear on how much money your company will make when it is ultimately “done.” Will it be a $1 million a year company? A $500 million a year company? Something else? How much after-tax profit will it make? That’s the money you are going to use to build the life that you want through your Primary Aim.

Second, you need to build a business that can fulfill the financial standards you’ve set with the first standards. It tells you what kind of business you are creating and defines who your customer will be.

From there, there are no specific number of standards that need to be created, but it will help if you answer some of the following questions:

  • When is the ultimate version of your company (Gerber calls this the prototype) going to be finished?
  • Where are you going to be in business? Locally? Regionally? Internationally?
  • What type of business are you going to be? Retail? Wholesale? Something else?

The standards that you create for your business will ultimately become the business you strive to create. Many entrepreneurs skip this step when they start and never climb their way out of day-to-day operations of their business.

3. Your Organisational Strategy

Gerber reminds us that most companies organise themselves around personalities rather than around functions and the result, he suggests, is almost always chaos.

The next logical step in building your business prototype is to determine the exact organisational structure you’ll need in order to execute on your strategic objective.

Here’s how you’ll do it.

  1. Build an organisational chart for what your business will ultimately look like. For instance, you might need a CEO (which may or may not be you), a COO, a VP of Sales, account managers and so on.
  2. Put your name in all of the positions that you currently fill. When you are starting out, this will likely be all of them.
  3. Create very detailed descriptions of each one of the positions, which Gerber calls Position Contracts. This is a summary of the results that need to be achieved by each position in the company, the work the person is responsible for, a list of standards that the results are to be evaluated against, and a line for the signature of the person who agrees to fulfil those responsibilities.
  4. Sign your name to each of the contracts you currently fill.

The insight here is that you should create the system inside your business based on the standards you want to set, rather than letting other people do it for you.

In order to free yourself up to work on the strategic parts of the business, you need to rest easy knowing that the tactical parts of the business are being taken care of.

For instance, you don’t place an ad for a salesperson until you’ve created the Sales Operations Manual for the company.

Once you’ve created the position contracts for each of the roles in the company, you’ll know exactly which standards you need to be hiring against.

4. Your Management Strategy

Now that you have your organisational strategy created, you can move on to your management strategy.

Gerber suggests that our management strategy is the system we create for the business. It shouldn’t and can’t rely on expensive and talented people. The more automatic and specific your system is, the more effective it will be.

At its core, it is a series of checklists for everything that needs to be done inside the business.

For example, a hotel would have a series of checklists for the people who clean the rooms and another series of checklists for the people responsible for checking guests in and so on.

Finally, you should have a mechanism built into your system for following up on making sure that the work in the checklists is done properly.

For instance, you could have your people sign a checklist at the end of each job letting the company know that the work had been completed based on the steps required and then make it a fireable offence for signing off on work that hadn’t been completed.

The benefits of a system like this are clear. You’ll be able to hire and train new people so that they’ll quickly be performing the tasks and producing identical results to people who have been doing them for a long time.

5. Your People Strategy

At the heart of your people strategy is creating an environment where “doing it” is more important to them than not doing it.

One of the key parts to making this happen is to ensure that the people you hire understand the reason behind the work they are being asked to do.

As Gerber points out, people do not simply want to work for exciting people. They want to work for people who have created a clearly defined structure for acting in the world. A structure through which they can test themselves and be tested.

In short, a game. The key, of course, is to make sure you are creating a game worth playing.

Gerber describes the “game” a hotel owner had created where his hotel become a world in which the sensory experiences of his customer were greeted by a profound dedication to cleanliness, beauty and order.

This went beyond the commercial justification and extended into the worldview the owner of the hotel had. It was then communicated to his employees in both words and actions.

He communicated his idea through the systems they documented for running the business and through his warm, caring manner.

Importantly, he set the tone for this game at the beginning of his relationship with his employees – before they were hired.

There were 5 distinct components to the hiring process:

  1. A scripted presentation communicating the ‘boss’ idea in a group meeting to all the applicants at the same time. It described his idea, but also the history of the business and their success in implementing the idea and what would be required for the successful candidate for the position.
  2. Then he met with each applicant individually to discuss their reactions to his idea and ask them why they thought they would be a good fit to implement the idea.
  3. He notified the successful candidate by phone with a scripted presentation.
  4. He notified the unsuccessful applicants, thanking them for their interest.
  5. On the first day of training, the boss did the following:
  • Reviewed the ‘boss’ idea;
  • Summarised the system through which the entire business brings that idea to reality;
  • Took the new employee on a tour of the facility, highlighting the people and systems that bring the idea to life;
  • Answered the employee’s questions clearly and fully;
  • Reviewed the Operations Manual with the employee, including the Strategic Objective, the Organisation Strategy and the Position Contract for the employee’s position.
  • Completed the employment papers.

This is how you bring the core values of your business to life.

6. Your Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy lives and dies with what your customer wants and how you deliver it to them.

Understanding what your customer wants depends on you understanding the two pillars of a successful marketing strategy – the demographics and psychographics of your customers.

When you first start your business, you’ll already have defined the demographics of your customers. Your next job is to figure out as much of the psychographics for that segment of the market as possible.

What other brands do they buy? How are those companies – who are already successfully selling to those people – sell to them? What colours do they use? What messages are they sending? What values do they seem to be promoting?

Then, you’ll take all of that information and figure out what your business must be in the mind of those customers in order for them to choose you over everybody else.

Finally, you’ll make a promise your customer wants to hear and then align your entire organisation around delivering on that promise better than anyone else on the block.

Of course, as your company continues to grow, you’ll continue to learn about the demographics and psychographics of your customers and continue to iterate on your marketing strategy over time.

7. Systems Strategy

The last piece of the puzzle in building your business is your systems strategy. There are 3 kinds of systems.

Hard systems are inanimate, unliving things. Soft systems are either living things, or ideas. The core of the book and summary so far have been a combination of those two systems.

The third system is the information system, which provides us with information about the interaction between the other two.

As an example, if you have a sales system that tracks the sales steps from beginning to end (you should), you would be tracking some or all of the following items:

  • How many calls were made?
  • How many prospects were reached?
  • How many appointments were scheduled?
  • How many appointments were confirmed?
  • How many appointments were held?
  • How many Needs Analysis Presentations were scheduled?
  • How many Needs Analysis were confirmed?
  • How many Needs Analysis were completed?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were scheduled?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were confirmed?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were completed?
  • How many solutions were sold?
  • What was the average dollar value?

In short, the information system should tell you everything you need to know about how your people are performing, so that you can meet your strategic objectives, so that you can meet your primary aim.

Always good to revisit this timeless work by Michael Gerber. Hope you found it 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

Book Summary of ‘Brief’ by Joseph McCormack

We live in an attention-deficit economy, and being brief is both desperately needed and rarely delivered.

When we are not clear and concise, there are consequences. Time, money and resources are wasted. Decisions are made in confusion, great ideas don’t get pursued, and deals take far too long to close.

This book is all about getting your story straight, and then getting to the point. Quickly.

As author Joseph McCormack points out – it’s like Six Sigma for your mouth.

Let’s get started.

Why Brevity Is Vital

These days, everybody is busy. Especially executives. Your rambling marketing message or sales pitch is likely to get lost in the daily flood of information they struggle to stay on top of.

As McCormack points out, being brief is not just about time. The more important point is how it feels to the audience. It’s not about using the least amount of time. It’s about making the most of the time you have.

There are three things you need in order to adhere to the principles of brevity – be concise, clear and compelling. What follows naturally from this is that you also need to have a through understanding of your subject matter.

Mindful of Mind-filled-ness

Living in a world full of distractions means that the people around you are mentally stretched. That makes getting to your point before your audience gets distracted an imperative.

There are 4 main sources of pressure your audience is battling as you try and get your point across:

  1. Information overload, which has gotten worse as social media and email invades our lives more and more every day;
  2. Inattention, causing them to struggle with paying attention longer than 10 seconds at a time;
  3. Interruptions, which means that there are many different things competing for attention at all times;
  4. Impatience for creating results, which causes people to be stressed almost all the time.

Here’s the point. Even if you are given 30 minutes to make a presentation, you have far less than that before your audience tunes you out.

Why You Struggle with Brevity: The Seven Capital Sins

In spite of the evidence that brevity is a necessity in today’s world, it turns out to be difficult to master because of what McCormack calls the “seven capital sins.”

  1. Cowardice. You don’t have the guts to be clear and take a stand on the issue, so you mask your message in mounds of jargon and buzzwords.
  2. Confidence. You know the material so well and can’t help explaining it in painful detail.
  3. Callousness. You don’t respect people’s time. When you say “this will only take a minute”, it ends up taking many times that.
  4. Comfort. When you are comfortable with an audience, you let yourself get wordy and drag the story out.
  5. Confusion. You tend to do your thinking out loud, not mindful that your audience would rather hear the finished product.
  6. Complication. You think that the issue is really complicated, missing the point that your job is to simplify it for people.
  7. Carelessness. You don’t think about what you are going to say deeply enough and so your message gets mixed up.

Brevity Tool #1: BRIEF Maps

People who start to gain experience in making presentations and sales pitches mistakenly abandon outlines, thinking they are a tool that only rookies use.

Professionals understand that an outline is critical to their success. McCormack tells us that there are five immediate benefits you’ll get by using them.

Outlines keep you:

  • Prepared, so you are ready to deliver your message.
  • Organised, so you understand how all of your ideas connect.
  • Clear, so you are certain what your point is.
  • Contextual, so you can draw a bigger picture so your point stands out.
  • Confident, so that you know what to say, inside and out.

The BRIEF way to do an outline is organised as follows:

  • B: Background or beginning;
  • R: Reason or relevance;
  • I: Information for inclusion;
  • E: Ending or conclusion;
  • F: Follow-up or questions you expect to be asked or that you might ask;

This format can be used for anything you need to present – from an important project update to your team to the most important sales pitch of your life.

Now that we’ve covered how to outline your message, let’s move on to how to deliver it.

Brevity Tool #2: The Role of Narratives

Bore your audience to death with corporate-speak and they’ll tune you out faster than you can say “next slide”, but tell them a good story and they’ll gladly give you their undivided attention.

McCormack introduces us to the idea of the Narrative Map to help us do just that. There are five elements in the map.

The focal point

This is the central part of the story and tells the audience what it’s about. For instance, at the beginning of his presentation launching the iPhone, Steve Jobs said “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

Setup or challenge

In the context of a marketing or sales message, this is the challenge, conflict, or issue in the marketplace that your organisation is addressing. Every great story includes a dragon that needs to be slayed.

Opportunity

This is about communicating the opportunity that the challenge poses. Some people call this an unmet need or an aha moment.

Approach

Now we move on to how the story unfolds. This is the how, where and when of your story, describing how you’ll solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity. There are usually three or four key points to be made here.

Payoff

All good stories include a payoff at the end. This is where you paint the picture of what life looks like for your audience after your solution is implemented.

So that’s how you outline and then craft a narrative that gets communicated clearly, concisely and powerfully.

Let’s now move our attention to a method for being clear in our every day conversations with the people around us.

Brevity Tool #3: Controlled Conversations and TALC Tracks

As McCormack points out, if we are undisciplined in how we present information, we are even more undisciplined in how we have our daily conversations.

Being brief in a conversational setting means shifting from endless monologues to what he calls having controlled conversations. These conversations have a rhythm, a purpose and a point.

In order to get conversations right, there are things you need to do, and things you need to avoid.

Let’s start with the three common mistakes that draw people into long, unwieldy conversations:

  1. Passive listening: Letting the other person babble on about everything and say nothing. As a result, there is no control.
  2. Waiting your turn: Letting the person talk, then jumping in to say your part. As a result, two separate conversations are happening.
  3. Impulsively reacting: Responding to a word or thought the other person said. As a result, there is no clear direction in the conversation.

Now let’s move to a structure for balance and brevity. McCormack calls these TALC Tracks.

T is for Talk

Somebody in the conversation starts talking. It could be you or the other person. There are two things to consider at this stage:

  1. Be prepared to say something when the other person finishes speaking.
  2. Make sure your response has a clear point.

AL is for Actively Listen

Listen closely to what the other person is saying the entire time. Don’t zone out, multitask, or otherwise take your attention off the other person. There are two things to consider at this stage:

  1. Ask open-ended questions related to what you heard.
  2. Dig deeper into the parts of the topic you are genuinely interested in.

C is for Converse

When a natural pause happens in the conversation, it’s your turn to jump in with a comment, question, or sometimes a bridge to another topic. There are three things for you to consider at this stage:

  1. Don’t use your turn to start a new conversation.
  2. Keep your responses short.
  3. Know when to stop so the other person can start talking again.

When and Where to be Brief

Now that we’ve covered the foundations of how to be brief, let’s go into some specific examples of when and where to be brief.

In Meetings

We all know that meetings suck. There are three villains that you need to slay in order to make them suck less.

  1. Time. Reduce the amount of time devoted to them. Put the BRIEF back in briefings.
  2. Type. Consider a standing meeting, or a meeting with no table. And most importantly, meetings should be more like a conversation than a presentation.
  3. Tyrants. Making sure that no one person dominates your meetings. That includes outside presenters.

Social Media

McCormack suggests that we create social media posts and emails that respect a busy executive’s time. That almost always means making things shorter.

Presentations

The best way to deliver a presentation is to first understand what your audience wants to hear, then speak to those things and those things only.

Job Interviews

Nobody likes job interviews and that includes the person doing the hiring. When you are the candidate, create a BRIEF Map that quickly explains why you are qualified. Then, tell a story that shares some of your past successes that demonstrate what your potential employer is looking for.

Sharing Good and Bad News

When you are sharing good or bad news with your team, always get to the point quickly. Then, let some time for the news to sink in and leave time for them to ask questions.

When you are delivering bad news in particular, consider three important issues:

  1. Problems. State bad news simply and clearly, without pulling punches.
  2. Causes. State the real reasons for the bad news so people know what’s happening.
  3. Possibility. Take advantage of tough situations to have a heart-to-heart.

Conclusion

Everybody is busy. The world is begging you to get to the point quickly.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said:

“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”

I hope you found that summary useful and I look forward to sharing another great book with you next week.

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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

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.

Willpower

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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).

Conclusion

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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ 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 http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information


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