Guest Post: 3 Misconceptions + 3 Blunders + 3 To-Dos on Book Writing, Publishing and Marketing

oldbooks21 Guest Post: 3 Misconceptions + 3 Blunders + 3 To Dos on Book Writing, Publishing and Marketing

 

by Alicia Dunams

 

Today’s publishing industry ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry, that’s for sure. Within the last five, ten years—things have changed. Information zips around the globe and back in seconds. If you’ve got a story, a message, a product you’re just dying to get out, you don’t have to wait. You shouldn’t have to wait. It’s in your hands to make it happen right now!

But first, let’s check your thinking.

Are you guilty of these three publishing misconceptions?

1. “Real” books must come from traditional publishers and should be found in bookstores.

Now that we’ve got desktop publishing, print-on-demand (POD), and e-publishers like Create Space, self-publishing is taking the world by storm. Did you know traditional publishing takes two years on average? That’s after you’ve written the book, queried publishers, and landed a contract. If you’ve got a message that people need to hear, if you’re ready to unleash it on the world, you don’t have time for that! You want it out now.

And actually, a bookstore is probably the worst place to sell your book in the age of tablets and e-readers. Due to a paradigm shift in the publishing world (over 400,000 books get published each year), maybe one or two copies of your book will end up shelved in the back, spine out. (Can you imagine a traditional bookstore squeezing one copy of every new release—just from that year—into its stock? No? Neither can I.) There’s very little real estate on a bookstore shelf. And what if your book is just what Karen in Ottawa is looking for, but she’s never even heard of it because her neighbourhood store doesn’t happen to stock it? How’s she going to get it?

2. You can submit a proposal and get a big advance from a major publisher before writing the book.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Approximately 98% of proposals sent to acquisition editors are rejected. In fact, more major publishers like Simon and Schuster are adopting a self-publishing formula to mitigate financial risk.

3. A traditional publisher will pay for and do my marketing for me.

Wrong again! When it comes to publicity, you are it. These days every author, self-published or not, has to take the marketing end of the business into his or her own hands, create a marketing strategy, and network like crazy, primarily online. You can sell more books in front of your computer, creating online demand through your own or your friends’ blogs, article dashboards, viral video, and social networking. New media is where it’s at. Don’t know your Facebook from your Twitter? Don’t worry—you can learn it.

Those are just a few of the misconceptions that still float around today. And what about the biggest mistakes an author can make when prepping, writing, and marketing a book? Here are three of the biggest I’ve seen:

1. Delaying the writing of the book.

Whether it’s your inner editor picking over imperfections, or your inner Doubting Dan making excuses (Does “I just don’t have time!” sound familiar?), we all find reasons to put off a job that seems difficult and overwhelming. Guess what? While you’re busy flinging more Angry Birds at Fruit Ninjas (joking!), each day your book stays “all up in the ol’ noggin” is another day it’s not spreading your ideas or converting customers. It’s another day your book isn’t working for you.

2. Expecting the book to finds its own audience.

That doesn’t happen. Books themselves are passive; they don’t seek out the correct audience for you. They don’t put themselves in front of readers. So before you even begin writing, you need to identify your audience and shape your content for them. If you’re writing about best alternative medicine for pain, don’t throw in every other method you’ve tried. Target it toward the people who need it.

3. Expecting the book to stand on its own and rake in the money.

Great, you’ve written the book. So now you just kick back and wait for the royalties to roll in, right? Nope. Your book becomes your calling card, something that gets you where you want to be. You leverage it. Give away a chapter or two for free. Have easy bonuses like worksheets, printable charts, and downloadable activities on your website—accessible with e-mail opt-in, of course, so you can build your client database. Whatever your book is, it’s not the end-all, be-all culmination of your life’s work. It’s merely the springboard that launches you, and what you have to offer, into new territory. And that’s exciting!

So those were the myths, the mistakes. What should you be doing to write a kick-ass book about your work or your brand? Every author has his or her own approach. But there a few nuggets of truth I recommend to everyone. You can’t go wrong with these three to-dos.

1. (Most of) your budget should go toward marketing.

You’re wondering about the numbers, am I right? Book layouts, colour printing, fancy paper. All that adds up. Now, a book with valuable information will sell. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Spend your money on marketing instead. That includes a bold, professional cover.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

You’re the expert. But maybe you’re not the fastest writer. Or maybe you’re not the best editor. Tell you what–it’s OK to get some help! Dump all that information out somewhere. Just get it out. Let a ghostwriter or an editor do what they do best. That way, you can focus on doing what you do best, be it helping your patients or talking up new clients.

3. Give your reader value.

Good writing doesn’t create bestsellers—demand does. It’s only when your book gives people something they want that your book might even begin to approach bestseller-dom.

Have you been thinking about writing a book? I hope sharing my 3 misconceptions, 3 blunders, and 3 to-dos got you thinking about the next step in becoming an author!

alicia best seller in a weekend 300 x 2501 Guest Post: 3 Misconceptions + 3 Blunders + 3 To Dos on Book Writing, Publishing and MarketingAlicia Dunams (@AliciaDunams) is the founder of Bestseller in a Weekend®, a live online workshop that helps business professionals write, publish, and market books in record time. Dunams also coaches her clients on how to promote their book and achieve bestseller status. To contact Alicia Dunams, please visit http://www.aliciadunams.com/. She also offers an evergreen webinar on book publishing you can check out here.

Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

1488065 10153719189940195 1474907090 n Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in MarketingI want to make the business case that empathy, in a bottom line way, matters to your business.

That your business will grow faster and that you will get more of the kinds of clients you want with it. 

I want to make the case that really listening to people until they feel ‘gotten’  is a skill worth learning (and that it’s not what we often think it is).

I submit that your capacity to genuinely put yourself in the shoes of your existing and potential customers will make your business grow more than just about anything else.

Most of us think we’re very empathetic people – but I want to suggest that we often aren’t as much as we think we are. I think for most of us, myself included, there is a lot of room for growth here. 

I’ve written a lot of posts that weave around the theme of empathy. But I’ve never really written one that addresses it head on.

So, here it is. At size 12, Georgia font, it’s 33 pages long. It’s the result of my lifetime of understanding on this topic. It contains dozens of examples and stories. If you open up each link, you will have 29 new tabs opened up with dozens of pages of additional insights on this topic.

Once you’re done, it would mean the world to me if you shared your own stories and strategies in the comments below.

Let me get straight to the point of what’s in it for you to really get to grips with this empathy business.

 

How can developing your skills around empathy grow your business?

  • when people know that you really ‘get’ them they will relax and feel safe around you. Until people feel safe with you they won’t hire you.
  • when people feel safe around and understood by you they will tell you the truth about what’s ailing them which will allow you to make a better diagnosis which will mean you produce better results for them which will leave them more happy and telling more people about how great you are
  • empathy allows you to write the most compelling marketing materials possible. I would argue that, until you can put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients, your marketing materials will be lacklustre.
  • empathy, really knowing what it’s like for your potential client, allows you to design products and services they would love because you know what you would want in their shoes
  • you’ll get more honest feedback that will help you improve your business rapidly
  • potential clients who end up not working with you will still refer you because they felt so respected and understood by you

 

Let me start with a story . . .

A few weeks ago, I was looking for someone to help me through some recent trauma I’d gone through. I’ve been reading the fantastic book, ‘Waking the Tiger’ by Peter Levine about healing trauma and went online to see if there was anyone locally who was practicing his technique. There was and I sent her an email. She replied back and, in doing so, received my typical email autoresponder (context: sometimes my email inbox has 250 messages in it. Messages that I want to respond to personally rather than leave it to an assistant. I have no hope of getting back to all of them right away. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to. I could do it faster but I wouldn’t have a life. So, it’s important for me to let people know there may be a delay in me getting back to them and I try to sweeten that with some nice music and images). 

hello there,

a friendly automated response to you. 

thanks for emailing. i’m often a bit behind on my emails. 

I hope to be able to get back to you very soon. but, until I do, here’s some of my favourite music i’ve discovered for you: http://8tracks.com/tadlington/and also some inspiring and evocative images I’ve collected: http://on.fb.me/KMprgM

warmest,

tad

 
To which she replied, “I do not and will not open links from people I do not know!!!!”

I was genuinely shocked when I read those words. It felt like I was being yelled at and scolded for something that was clearly, clearly not warranting it. 

I replied, “This was an auto response email. i’m not sure the offer of good things offered with good intentions warranted this four exclamation marks response. especially to someone who just reached out to you for support for their trauma. I will likely be seeking counselling and support elsewhere now.”

She replied, “yes…great idea! and good luck!!!!”

Is there any doubt in your mind that she lost my business because of the way she interacted with me?

This leads to . . .

 

Principle #1: How you are with people before they hire you is how they assume you will be once they hire you.

Simply put, if you meet someone at a party and they are an arrogant asshole there you would, quite rightly, assume that they will be an arrogant asshole to work with.

If they really listen to you, ask good questions and you leave the experience feeling totally heard, ‘gotten’, loved and appreciated – you’ll assume they’ll be like this in a working relationship too.

Innately, we all understand the truism that ‘how we do anything is how we do everything.’

This is critical to understand. 

It’s easy to think that the only reason people would hire us is because we solve their problem. But, remember this, there are a lot of people who can solve their problem. You being able to solve their problem brilliantly is critical to establishing relevance and credibility. But it’s not the only thing.

Ask yourself this: have you ever gone to a store, or wanted to hire someone, but they were so salesy, pushy or otherwise unpleasant that you actually walked away? Even though you really, really needed what they were selling?

I know I have. Buying a car. Buying a computer. 

It stuns me how often this gets missed and how much business it costs people. 

There’s a ‘new age book and crystal shop I know of that, everyone who goes into feels more stressed when they leave. There is a constant vibe of panic there. The last time I was there, I was asked three times, by three different people if they could help me find something. I was asked twice if I wanted to sign up for their email list and reminded about their facebook page. On one hand, brilliant! They’re marketing. But . . . the way it was done felt very much like they were asking because they wanted me to buy something. Like they’d come over to ask because their boss sent them. If you buy something, the owner is delightful. If you don’t, she’s snippy. You can tell her business is struggling and she resents people who come in and don’t buy. And so she’s decided to focus on her sales and marketing but she’s doing it in a way that leaves people who go in there with an icky feeling. They want to get out as soon as possible. 

It should be obvious why this isn’t good for business.

Marianne Williamson wrote about her experience of running a bookshop. Her boss told her to focus on selling books. But, she chose to see the bookshop as the Church of her spiritual ministry and just focused on loving people. It created such an incredible vibe that people would come back again and again. She was able to put herself in the shoes of their clients and ask herself what kind of environment she’d want. And then she created it. 

Which leads us to . . .

 

Principle #2: Experience matters as much as results. 

I could talk about this for ages. 

Yes, it matters critically that you actually solve a problem and help them get a result they’re craving. 

But what matters equally as much is that they feel good in the process. 

Do you think they’ll come back to your business if they don’t feel good about it?

Do you think they’ll tell their friends and people they meet to hire if you if they didn’t feel good about the process?

The process matters. How they feel matters. 

That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is what it takes for people to feel good.

On a surface level, we want to look at appealing to all five senses. If your shop or office looks beautiful, smells wonderful, has beautiful (or no) music playing etc. they’re going to feel better in it. We’ve all been to restaurants where the bathroom was so scuzzy that we never came back.

But, beyond the sensory level, we need to look at people’s emotional needs. You can think of Maslow’s Hierarchy or the list of needs in the Non Violent Communication work, Anthony Robbins’ six human needs . . . which model works for you. The more needs your business meets, the better it will feel for people.

If you help people feel safe, comfortable, help them have fun, feel important and connected and like they’re growing and contributing . . . people will love you. People love people who make them feel good.

But, in a business context, there’s a syntax to what is going to make people feel good. There are four things people need and the order we address them in matters. I’ve written more about it in my post The Four Things People Need Most When They’re Lost. But the very first thing that people need when they are in pain is empathy. They need to know that you ‘get them’ at an emotional level.

Maybe you’re a contractor and someone is exploring working with you on renovations for their home. It could be tempting to want to push and ‘sell them’. Instead, I’d suggest slowing down and empathizing with them. “Wow. It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed and concerned that you’re going to be able to get your renos done on time.” They will melt. 

All of the time, I hear people say, “I totally understand them.” but your belief that you understand them is not the point. The real issue is this: do they feel understood? Do they really know that you ‘get them’. It’s incredibly easy to be deluded by this. How many divorces, fights and conflicts end with one of the parties, dazed and confused, saying, “But everything seemed fine . . .”

 

Principle #3: Empathy before education.

There’s the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

But all too often, people fall in love with their business, their modality, their newfound ideology or cosmology, their skillsets and technologies more than they fall in love with their clients. And that’s the beginning of all the troubles. 

It’s early 2000′s and I’m in a car driving from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa to the Harmony music festival. I’m being driven by the child care worker of my dear friends. Let’s call her Rose. 

As we drive up, she begins to vent. Relationship stuff. She’s angry at men but mostly angry at herself. 

Within a few minutes, I feel like I have the perfect spiritual insight for her. Which, for someone reason, I don’t share. My instincts tell me to zip it and just listen (even though I really, really want to share). I start making a mental list of all the quotes from books I want to share and ways she should really look at what she’s going through. 

My list is growing. Man. She is going to be so empowered by everything I have to share when the time is right.

But something in me is sending me the very clearly message to stay quiet. So, for the two hour drive, all that comes out of my mouth is, “Mhhmm.” or “Yeah.” Mostly nods and just listening. 

At one point, she stopped talking. She didn’t seem to have anything else to say. Which would seem to have been my cue. But I stayed quiet. 

After five minutes of driving, her eyes open wide and she says, “And another thing!” and shares a whole other level of what was going on for her. She keeps venting. Why does she always end up sleeping with men when she told herself she didn’t want to go there again? 

And, hearing this, everything I’d been saving up to share felt so useless and irrelevant. 

This happened again and again through our drive. I’d have a brilliant insight and then she’d say something that made it clear that wasn’t what she needed to hear right now.

As we were pulling into Santa Rosa, I finally felt ready to speak, “It sounds like,” I ventured. “That you’re really struggling with how do you meet your needs for sexual expression with your needs for self respect.”

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel, her eyes widen, she takes a deep breath and she turns to me and says, “YES!” A huge release.

She didn’t even need advice. She didn’t need education. She just needed help clarifying what the hell was going on inside of her. 

Another example: Here’s an actual conversation I had with a recent friend over facebook which left me feeling awful. It began innocently enough with her asking what had happened to me that left me so traumatized. I told her the situation. 

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. It was teaching you.

Me: i’m going to ask you pause right there.

Her: in order to grow larger and better than ever you must be in alignment with your message

Me: it really doesn’t feel great to have you tell me what the truth is of my experience or why it happened.

Her: darling its none of my business. I just speak from my heart. reciprocating what is told to me. I am just curious if this is what you have learned from the experience as well?

Me: it still feels like early days to say what’s coming out of it

Her: This is how you truly heal from trauma

Me: i do appreciate your care and i notice that when people, and this happens in the new age scene so often, when i share a pain and am immediately told that it happened for my highest good and asked what i learned from it. it’s hard. i notice that when i’m in the midst of it, that approach has me feel defensive

Her: I know it does. You have to be complete with the message, and as you do you will feel peace with it. 

Me: again. you telling me what i have to do doesn’t feel great. i’m not disagreeing

Her: Darling trust me. This is how you heal. I am a safe space. I do not come at you with any guns or bombs. I understand suffering, I have entered timeless hells before.I see the bigger picture that to have one man down is harmful to the whole. What you need more than anything is to face the situation and thank it and tell universe that you understand it

Me: can i lift up how you are immediately educating me when i didn’t ask to be educated by you? to have you present your perspective as the gospel truth really doesn’t feel safe or inviting to me. i have been reflecting on this a lot. so much. i’ve been pulling so much wisdom from it. and i’ve been through a lot and . . . i’m hearing you say that you understand suffering but i’m not feeling understood. i’m hearing you say you’re a safe space but i’m noticing i don’t feel safe in this moment. i’m hearing you say you know how healing happens and yet this space isn’t feeling healing. i really want you to stop telling me what I need to do. i don’t want your advice right now. i just need some love. that’s all. some understanding that it was hard and trust i’m working it out

Her: You need to acknowledge that love is in everything. Even in the words that I am saying.

Me: i feel sensitive around this because i encounter it so much in the new age scene. and it doesn’t feel great. and i’ve got just zero emotional buffer space right now. i think you’re remarkable and this convo isn’t feeling good. this article speaks to the dynamic i feel is happening here. http://juliaingram.com/nab. i didn’t ask to be coached by you. i was sharing what came up as a friend.

Her: yes these people do exist, but I am not one of them. I am holding space and that is all. I will say no more, because I wasn’t trying to coach, I was being a friend. But if it’s registered that way. then we are lost in translation, and I respect that.

Me: ok. i need to go for now. blessings.

She is  a remarkable woman, who practices incredible self care and is deeply committed to her spiritual path and who I think is destined for big things. This is one interaction and isn’t a complete picture of her at all. She wasn’t trying to get me to hire her. And I know she loves me. 

And that conversation felt awful.

I imagine if I was meeting her for the first time at a party and she was a healer and we’d had the above conversation. I would never, ever, based on this conversation, hire her. 

The only moment I felt really understood was when she said, “Wow! What a timeless hell.” After that, despite being asked to stop, she went right into education and coaching. When I felt upset, it was my fault for not seeing the love in her words. She has the truth and I don’t. She is seeing clearly and I’m not. This is, unintentionally, the message that I got. 

The message I get from her words is, “It’s so easy! You just know that it’s all love.” which feels immensely dismissive of my struggles. The question is not, “is she right?”. Maybe she is. The question is, “Do I feel understood?”

This dynamic happens all the time. Someone shares a problem and we want to jump on it and solve it. 

But sometimes it’s okay to just let people feel like victims instead of shaming them into working with us, to let them have their experience and not need to change it. Our need to change other people and fix them might be the real problem rather than what we see as their problem.

Yes, people need context as to why they are where they are. And they crave it. And yes, people want guidance and options. But, before they will truly be open to getting any of that from you, they need empathy. 

In the absence of empathy first, we often jump straight to education. And, in the absence of empathy, we often, completely unintentionally, come across as bullies. Julia Ingram wrote a brilliant blog post called New Age Bullies about this dynamic. But, it’s not solely the province of the new age or holistic scene. Vegans do this. Activists do this. Capitalists do this. Everyone does this. I have done this so many times in my life and, sadly, I’m sure I will again. I know that, when I was vegan, I was so arrogant and pushy in the beginning that I turned my brother into a carnivore. I think he ate meat just to spite me. And I don’t blame him. If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

I’m going to say that again: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them

Years ago, I was in Calgary and ended up meeting a life coach. I mentioned that I’d known Thomas Leonard (one of the grandfathers of the modern life coaching scene). He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m the closest thing to Thomas Leonard there is in Canada these days.” And then he proceeded to ‘coach me’. It was a series of rapid fire questions that left me in a daze. Before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to show you the power of what I do.” As I drove back to my friends house, my head was still swimming. Then I realized what had happened. He’d put me in a trance and worked me. And it left me feeling emotionally violated. He’d ‘educated’ me. But there was no empathy present. I’ve since learned, no surprisingly, that I am far from the only person who has had this experience with him.

And imagine the cost to his coaching business. I would not only never work with him or never refer him, I would, and do, warn people against working with him.

He skipped a step. He went straight to giving me education and coaching. He completely missed the importance of empathy and connection.

Robert Middleton once made the analogy that marketing was like baseball. Homebase is you being a stranger and a homerun is them buying from you. But, in between those is 1) clarity 2) trust  and 3) excitement. And you can’t skip any of those steps. 

Much of my understanding of formal understanding of empathy came from the seminal book NonViolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg (while my informal understanding came from being really listened to by a lot of people). In his book (which I commend to you highly) he shares a story.

“Believing we have to “fix” situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present . . . Once, when I was working with 23 mental health professionals, I asked them to write, word for word, how they would respond to a client who says, “I’m feeling very depressed. I just don’t see any reason to go on.” I collected the answers they had written down and announced, “I am now going to read out loud what each of you wrote. Imagine yourself in the roles f the person who express the feeling of depression, and raise your hand after each statement you hear that gives you a sense that you’ve been understood.” Hands were raise to only three of the twenty three responses.”

For the most part, people have no idea where to start with empathy. 

I think it’s vital that we respect people’s pain and suffering. That we respect their experiences. If they say they’re in a living hell – they really mean it. It’s vital we don’t discount or minimize their fears. I wrote a whole piece about how to relate to people’s fear in a blog post called Island Z.

But, if the words you hear from them all the time is that going through their divorce feels like a living hell and your marketing materials have headlines like, “Is your divorce feeling a bit uneasy?” you will absolutely lose them. From the headline alone they’ll know you don’t ‘get it’. “A bit uneasy??!” they’ll scoff as they delete the email or throw your brochure into the trash. Empathy means meeting people where they are, not where we think the should be out of a misguided desire to keep vibrations positive.

This isn’t to say you need to use negative headlines.

But it is to say that you’ve got to use plain talk and speak to them like a human being and acknowledge where they’re at whether it’s the pain they’re in, the pain they’re fearing or the future they’re craving. If you do, they’ll feel safe and open up. If you don’t, they won’t. Simple.  

And even when we know empathy is vital, we often aren’t clear on how to do it. We aren’t very skilled at it. 

We think we need to give people some big, TED Talkesque, life-changing message or insight. But usually the messages that mean the most to people, in the beginning, are so much simpler. You can read some of them that I’ve identified in my blog post Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You. That blog post will also give you a list of twenty common responses to people’s pain that are expressed with good intentions but often feel terrible to receive. 

And, in the end, the most important messages they can get is that you really care and you ‘get it’. And you don’t need any words for that, just some real listening. 

How does this relate to marketing? 

You might find the case study of a communications specialist who wanted to work with teachers in a Muslim school instructive. Instead of focusing on what he thought they ‘needed to hear’ he looked for where they were struggling that he could genuinely help.

Often in sales and marketing, we’re not really listening at all. We’re trying to convince people to ‘say yes’ and work with us. My colleague Howie Jacobson lays out a whole other kind of listening in his guest post Just Listening.

And then there’s this: when we don’t really put ourselves in the shoes of a potential client we are likely to give very bad advice. When your diagnosis is inadequate so will your prescription be. In the holistic world this happens all the time. People become so enamoured with their chosen modality and become so convinced that it can help anyone with anything that they don’t even listen to people anymore. Someone shares the very surface of their problem and they say, “Oh! Craniosacral is amazing for that!” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

But consider, again, the marketing implications of giving bad advice to people. They have a problem. You give bad advice based on very little information. They use your advice. It doesn’t work. They are disappointed and their trust in you diminishes or vanishes. They tell others this. Your reputation goes downhill. 

That’s how it works. 

To look at it another way: if you trust their diagnosis, you will be more likely to trust their prescription. 

If you’ve ever been lost and asked for directions you’ve experienced how incredibly frustrating it can be. People have lived there so long, they’ve forgotten what it was like to be new to the area. So you ask for directions and they give you something like, “Oh! It’s easy. You go down to Old Man Salter’s barn, turn right, over two hills, turn left at the big iron gate, go two miles and turn left after Humming Bridge.” And you’re left feeling completely overwhelmed. Even when they draw a map, it’s drawn for someone who already knows the area. I know a number of times, I’ve expressed my concern and said, “Look, I know that these seems simple to you, but I’m concerned I’m still going to get lost.”, only to have them reply, “No no! Trust me! It’s easy.” And then I get lost and I’m upset with them. They didn’t take my concerns seriously. They didn’t really listen. How few people ever really, really listen. 

And the lack of listening kills so many businesses.

One of my mentors was jogging years ago and blew out his knee. He dragged himself home along one mile of hill in agonizing pain. He went to an osteopath who gave him a basic evaluation and diagnosis that he was okay with and suggested that surgery might be needed. The second place he went to, where NBA teams send their players, was very different. The physio therapist walked in with an MRI of his knee and said, without knowing any of the backstory, “I’m going to guess from looking at this that you were running and hyper extended your knee. Maybe got your foot caught in a hole?” My friend’s jaw dropped. It had been a gopher hole. The diagnosis was so bang on that he knew he was in good hands.

If potential clients feel that you really understand their problem, they will be far more likely to trust in your solutions. 

Years ago, I sent an email to my list with a link to a survey. I was asking people to submit their ‘holistic practitioner horror stories and success stories.’ – the best and worst experiences they had had. I got just over thirty responses. And what struck me was that they all said basically the same thing. The horror stories never seemed to have to do with a lack of skill or bad technique. There four client repelling traits that came up again and again. I could sum them all up in three words: lack of empathy.

Remember, if you want them to hire you and pay you money, they need to trust you and your proposed solutions. They need to trust their point of view. They will be far more open to hearing your point of view (in fact, hungry to hear it) once they know you really understand their situation. 

In Steven Covey’s words: “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

My colleagues at Authentic World in Boulder base all of their personal transformation work on a model called Circling.Basically, the model is you sit in a circle (though it could be done one on one) and the whole group focuses on really ‘getting’ what it’s like to be the person struggling with something. They reflect their experience of being in the person’s presence, ask insightful questions, reflect what they’re hearing and ‘getting’ from them. It’s a profound experience to be on the receiving end of. Because, the process isn’t there to ‘change’ you (but it does). It’s not there to sell you on a particular new way of being – but people often leave it with a new way of being. Perhaps the most transformative thing we can encounter is the unconditional love and uncompromising truth of being met where we are. 

I recall leading a Circling process at a co-op in Edmonton, The Golden Lentils, where I lived for a summer. I invited everyone to get into a circle and for someone to share something they were struggling that wasn’t traumatic and that had nothing to do with the co-op. There was a bit of silence and then one fellow spoke up and shared, “I’m going home to see my family soon and . . . we always get into fights about politics and I’d like to know how to deal with that.”

I could feel myself, and everyone else in the circle, lean in a bit ready to throw down advice. I could feel some people wanting to say, “Fuck your parents!” and others wanting to commiserate and share their own stories (thus taking the attention off of the person sharing and taking it onto themselves). So, I invited everyone to pause and just breath a bit. Then we went around the circle. I asked the person next to him to reflect what it was that they had heard him say, but in his own words. The first person did alright. I turned back to the original personal sharing, let’s call him Simon. He nodded that it was a good reflection but then added more context. So, we went onto the second person. And the third. Each time, people’s reflections seemed to either catch a detail that prompted elucidation or missed something important he felt the need to restate. And, often, it was hard for people. Often people slipped right into giving advice – which I would immediately stop. Or they’d want to share their own story – which I would stop. Or they’d want to tell him how he needed to look at his experience – which I would stop. And then I’d ask them to simply restate what they heard. And, it turns out, this is hard. It’s a skill. It takes a lot of practice and the experience of being really heard yourself to be able to do this consistently. 

We finally got all the way around the circle. And then I had us go around again, but, this time, all they could do was ask questions. And they had to be questions coming from genuine curiousity, not sneaky advice questions like, “Don’t you think you should . . .” Again, people struggled. But the focus wasn’t on trying to change Simon – it was on helping ourselves understand him and helping him understand himself. 

As an elder, wise woman Whapio often says, “Clarity before resolution.”

An hour later, when we’d gone around the circle twice, Simon found himself saying, ” . . . and you know . . . I’m not even that political anymore so I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get that. “I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get how useless all of our commiseration and advice would have been for him. He didn’t need it. 

When we get really good at listening and empathizing and creating a safe space for people, we get to the truth faster. People do not tell us the truth when they feel us pushing them towards an agenda. If they think you are selling them, they will lie to you to get out of that uncomfortable situation. It is social acceptable to lie to sales people. 

It’s our inability to let go of our agenda to get people to buy that turns people off and has marketing and sales feel gross. Sales pressure is predominantly created by us. When we realize that the real goal in marketing and sales shouldn’t be about ‘getting the sale’ but about focusing on the truth of whether or not it’s a fit . . . everything changes. We can finally bring the central quality needed to getting empathy to the table – presence. What kills our ability to be present is our conviction that what we have can absolutely help them (and anyone else). Letting go of that is hard, but it’s central to really being present. Dogma kills connection every single time. 

One client wrote me this about what they loved most in a holistic practitioner they’d seen recently: 

“I felt listened to. They took the time to get to know my problem and try to figure it out. I didn’t feel rushed. I was treated as an individual rather than just another client. Practitioners with one size fits all approaches turn me off. They were open about their experiences treating problems like mine both good and bad. They were honest about their abilities to help me – didn’t say this works for all as i know that is not possible and different things work for different people.” 

Because, if we let go of it and really listen with our focus on really, really understanding them, we’ll find out the truth of if it’s a fit or not. If it’s a fit, then working together is likely to be a joy that produces wonderful results for them and has them a raving fan – getting us lots of word of mouth. 

But, if we just focus on blindly selling everyone we might, out of the misguided assumption that we can help everyone, we will end up with a lot of clients who aren’t a good fit. And working together will be a living hell producing mediocre to poor results and have them warning people against hiring us. 

It’s so simple. 

Marketing guru Jay Abraham explored this in a different way years ago when he was focusing on “strategy” in marketing. In his experience, most marketers were very tactically oriented. They never stopped and looked at the big picture of their situation. And I recall him talking about how, at one event, he and his colleague Mac Ross were leading hot seats. They’d bring very successful entrepreneurs onstage and coach them. But, they had to keep catching each other and stop them from giving each other advice too soon. One of them would start getting on a roll about how they could grow their business internationally and the other would pause and ask the person on the hotseat, “Uhhh . . . do you want to grow internationally?” to which the person would emphatically shake their head ‘no’.

If we want to see if our tactics are a fit for a potential client, we need to ask them. But, more than that, we need to know they’re going to tell us the truth in response and they will only do that if they trust that we want to hear the truth – whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. 

 

Principle #4:  People don’t give honest feedback unless they feel safe. 

This one seems painfully obvious.

You can’t just tell someone that you ‘get it’. Especially when they tell you that they aren’t feeling gotten. It’s a remarkably ineffective approach to say, “Oh, but I do.”

Parents do this all the time and it results in their kids feeling totally disconnected and alienated. It’s not just a matter of you getting it. It’s a matter of them feeling gotten.

I went to a raw food restaurant once and the owner, who I’d met the night before, came up to the table. 

“How’s the food here Peter?” I asked him.

“It’s amazing!” he said nodding. But with a bit too much conviction. With a bit too much certainty. Sort of a glazed look over his eyes.

We ordered and ate three dishes. One, a raw burrito thing, was quite good. Another, I have forgotten what it was, was mediocre and forgettable. The third, an avocado based soup, was truly awful.

Peter came back to the table, smiling and nodding and asked, “How was the food?”

Except, if you read his body language, he wasn’t really asking how it was. His body language was saying, “The food. So amazing! Amiright?”

I told him how much I’d loved the burritos. He agreed and left without asking about the other two dishes because, in his mind, I don’t think he could conceive of them not being amazing.

And so he never got some vital feedback. I’m sure this isn’t the only time this happened. 

One client of mine shared something they’d experienced with holistic practitioners that they hated, “When they ask me in follow up visits if anything got better and I feel as though I have to say something positive or I have somehow failed. When they act as though I have done something wrong if their approach is not working for me. 

Contrast that with Noorish (an amazing  superfood elixir bar in Edmonton). They always ask me for my feedback. “How was the chai?” they’ll ask but sort of shaking their hand as if to say, “Good? Not good?” They really want to know. And so I tell them. I like being asked but I love my experience being taken seriously. If something is ‘off’ they’ll say, “Wow. Sorry to hear that. What was wrong with it?” and then they really listen. 

You can tell they want to know from their actions, not just their words. It comes across in subtle non-verbal ways.

Most businesses, and this happens a lot with holistic practitioners, have a lot of clients who come once and then vanish. And they almost never, ever get any feedback as to why. My take on this is that there’s often a lack of safety. The clients know, intuitively, that the practitioner has an answer they want to hear and if it’s not what they want to say, it’s easier to just leave. 

  

Principle #5: People know you get it from you actions not your words.  

But it’s not just our desire to understand that’s picked up. It’s whether or not we do understand.

I remember when my brother had gone through a major, major heartbreak. I was in my late teens and enamoured with all things Tony Robbins and NLP and I told him how easy it was to get over this kind of thing with a few NLP techniques. “You just need to change the submodalities of it and collapse some anchors.” As I began to lay out, in great detail, some of these techniques and how amazing they were . . . I’ll never forget the look he gave me. A look that fundamentally said, “Wow. You just don’t get it.” And I didn’t. It would be another five years before I went through my first real, romantic heartbreak and had that completely level me for another five years after that. In my telling him how easy it was to heal it with these simple techniques, what was not happening was an honouring of how significant the relationship was for him in his life. What didn’t happen was an honouring of how much he loved her and how deep the pain was for him. If I could do it over again, I would have just put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry.” and sat in silence.

A client shared this about how holistic health practitioners let them know they valued and ‘got’ them: “My best experience of seeing a practitioner (sorry I don’t have a specific example) is leaving the session and feeling they have acknowledged my part in the healing journey. That I am an active part of my healing and I am seeing them for support. They are not the experts ‘doing onto me’.” 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

One of my friends Amber, an amazing advocate for the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, was at the Bioneers event as my guest. She ended up being a helper for one of the thirteen indigenous grandmothers. Her only job? To get her grandmother to the sessions on time. Which is hard. Grandmothers can be wily. One night, Amber was sitting next to the grandmother who was laying in bed. Amber was sharing about some big moments in her past few months and spontaneously burst into tears and started sobbing. The grandmother didn’t say anything. She certainly didn’t preach. She didn’t tell her how to relate to what was going on. She just lifted up her blanket and patted the bed, inviting Amber to lie down next to her and be held while she cried. 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

When my friend responded to me the way she did on facebook I absolutely did not feel ‘gotten’. Is that possibly because I am defensive, petty and easily triggered? Sure. But that’s the point. Everyone is. Especially people who are in the midst of their struggles and traumatized. And I think it’s the job of the healer to ‘get that’. Someone who’s doing a big landscaping project is likely to feel overwhelmed. It’s the job of the contractor to ‘get that’ and design their process to make sure it addresses that. Assuming that others should all be enlightened, untriggerable and totally sanguine no matter what matter of judgment you throw at them . . . is likely to not work out to well for you. Should I have been able to see that her words were really all about love? Maybe. Did I? Nope. 

This happens in the holistic scene all the time. Someone shares a hardship. They’re met with new age bullying and advice. They get defensive and express that they’re angry about the comment. This is swiftly turned into, “Where are you angry at yourself?” and, quickly, the other person leaves and the practitioner says, “I guess they just weren’t ready.” when another truth (perhaps even truer) was that the practitioner wasn’t ready to really meet that person where they were. Below are a number of examples clients have shared with me about their experiences with holistic health practitioners where empathy was present and where it wasn’t . . .

 

“I went to see an herbalist/iridologist who wasn’t warm or friendly but had a lot of knowledge and was known to be very good at her work. She gave me some very strict dietary guidelines to follow – basically changed my whole life while taking care of a newborn baby. So when I went back for follow-up I was quite proud of myself for doing so well – not perfect but I made some good steps toward a healthier diet. She looked into my eyes (iridology) and asked me what my compliance to her diet was. I said, ‘about 85%.’ She said in a harsh, judgmental tone, with pursed lips, ‘How about 50!’ I felt tiny and like a really ‘bad’ client. Totally deflated. I don’t care what her reputation and credentials were – I never went back there. (Nor did I tell her or the store who hosted her why.) Aside from this she gave me long lists of supplements that cost a small fortune.

“I once received an amazing craniosacral treatment. This healer’s touch was firm yet compassionate. When working with my head, I experienced a release. At the time it felt like a jolt, like when I’m falling asleep and my nerves start twitching so I wake-up suddenly. I hadn’t experience anything like this before in a massage so asked ‘what just happened?’ Her response was brief. She suggested I take some time for myself after the treatment and relax in the park across the street. I didn’t understand what had just happened to me and felt open, confused and vulnerable. I lay in that park for a long while. The rest of my day…I felt spaced out. I needed more dialogue from her. I’m a psycho-physical being. If I have a physical release, my emotions and psyche are connected to that transformation. I needed an enlightened witness, someone observing me, to guide me when in the dark.” 

I went to a holistic clinic to get a live blood analysis done. At first I thought the lady was very nice and she explained a lot of things to me about my health. She also told me some very disturbing things as though they weren’t a big deal. Then she said she was going to give me a treatment that I had never heard of before. Before I knew it I was lying on a table being hooked up to a machine that I had no idea what it was. At first, it was ok. Not ok as in pleasurable, but ok as in bearable. Within a few minutes this machine was giving me severe shocks to the point where my muscles would spaz out and I couldn’t speak. I called for the practitioner but she didn’t come for a few minutes. Then when she finally came it was again, no big deal! She said she would turn down the machine and again she left me alone to be shocked. I still have no idea what the hell that machine was for! She came in and treated me as though I was so lucky to have received this unknown shock therapy, then sent me on my way. I went out to the lobby to pay and get the herbal treatment that she prescribed. When I got up to the till my total was $589.00. My jaw dropped and I started to cry. 

My partner and I got a free sample session that this one practitioner was offering as a way to gain some new clients. The session itself was awesome and a lot of work was done. At the end of the session, she asked us when we would like to book another session, which in and of itself, was okay. But she started to pressure us into booking something else. We just couldn’t afford it. Also, I was into doing another session with my partner, but he wasn’t. She reacted in a way where it felt like she was taking it personally. It wasn’t really obvious that she was doing this, but I could feel this tension in the air that smelled kind of like she was hurt and slightly angry that she had given her session away for free (which was the offer she was giving everyone) and she didn’t get a booking out of it. She called a while later (maybe a few weeks) and asked me again if we would like to continue with more sessions. Again, this I can understand, but the answer was still the same from my partner – he wouldn’t go for it. And again, it was the same reaction from her. I just felt really uncomfortable about the whole situation. So much so, that even if I had the extra money to get a session with her – I wouldn’t. I’d go somewhere else.” 

“I had a reading with a lady at a trade show in Calgary that left me feeling like I had wasted my money. I decided to get a reading from her because I had attended a lecture by her that had lead me to believe that she was really good at what she did. When I spoke to her at her booth, she seemed to come across as a bit desperate for clients, but I chose to ignore that gut feeling. (Lesson – always go with your first gut feeling). I sat down to get my reading for $20. She seemed to be in a rush to get through my reading, so much so that I couldn’t even remember what she told me by the end. And all I got for my $20 was a 5 minute reading. Not to mention that what she told me wasn’t anything I couldn’t have figured out on my own. At the end of the reading, she was very abrupt and without actually saying the words, it felt energetically like she was almost shoving me out of the booth so she could get more clients. I will never go back to her again.” 

“I left the care of an Osteopath because she was abrupt and confrontational with me. She wanted to be the authority and have me accept her as such. This was not the emotionally safe and sensitive treatment that I expected. The fees were high and the results did not justify continuing. Someone less trained has become my trusted practitioner-better emotional safety and better physical results.” 

 “The best practitioners I’ve been to don’t try to sell me on their techniques. They listen to my concerns, my priorities and they offer what they can to help. They do not: 1) Try to scare me into using their services. 2) Tell me that whatever I’ve been doing so far has not helped and/or made things worse. 3) Tell me that their modality is the ONE and ONLY of any value.” 

“I had a session with a Shamanic practitioner at the Body, Soul and Spirit Expo who was amazing in so many ways. I was having a really hard time financially at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay what he was charging for a session. I knew intuitively that he would be worth the money, I just didn’t have it. I spoke with a lady who was working at his booth booking his sessions, and she said she would speak to him for me to see if he would be willing to help out in some way. He offered to give me a session in the traditional native way where you give an offering of tobacco. I gratefully accepted! Fortunately there was a booth where I could get some. I did the session with him, and even though it was only a half an hour and my payment was in tobacco, he gave me his all. I had the best session I think I’ve ever had with any practitioner. I healed what felt like lifetimes of “stuff” in only a half hour session. Tremendous kindness, compassion and wisdom. He was great! I knew that his only motivation was to serve and to help heal others. I spent the rest of the weekend telling everyone they had to get a session with him and would recommend him to anyone and everyone. I will also go back to him anytime! He was amazing.” 

“The practitioner was traditional healer, in other words a herbalist, shaman, therapist. We were doing something akin to counseling. It is hard for me put my finger on what exactly she did that made me feel so great. I just had the genuine feeling that she was there to help me without trying too hard. You know there are people that don’t seem to give a shit about you, and then those that are burning to “help” you, which feels more like them forcing their opinions and philosophies on you. You get the feeling in both situations that this person is too wrapped up in themselves to genuinely be able to help you. And let me tell you, this practitioner wasn’t just telling me things I wanted to hear. I was literally having my mind blown, and it wasn’t always pleasant. My whole way of thinking was being challenged. My subconscious fears were being brought to the surface. I was extremely vulnerable. Sometimes, I would get angry. However, the whole way through I felt like I was being supported. Even when we disagreed, I could FEEL her integrity. She didn’t put on airs or use too much spiritual mumbo jumbo, even though the experience was very spiritual. She spoke to me like one human being to another. You could sense the authority of her experience and wisdom, but she was not arrogant or pushy. I really, really felt listened to. I’d like to add that people don’t always want to know what it will take to heal, so practitioners always run the risk of alienating their patients when they give it to them straight. However, a really good practitioner, like in the one in the above experience, is able to gauge what their patient/client is ready to hear and nudge them along while supporting them. PS. I feel like this would be a hard thing for a practitioner to learn in a marketing type seminar. I feel like it’s the result of years of inner work and genuinely being comfortable in their own skin. However, if you can do it, you are a genius.”

“I was taking an introduction to yoga class with an instructor I didn’t know. At the very first class she was bound and determined to have us all try standing on our heads (well, being inverted anyways) using chairs under each shoulder to support us. I was an overweight and 45 year old at the time. I repeatedly said I did not want to do that and she was very insistent on having me try. I felt totally unimportant to this woman. She was not there to respect my needs/comfort level/etc. She had found “the answer to all things” in inverted postures and she was going to ram it down our throats for our own good. I did not go back to that class. Even now, several years later, my cheeks get hot just thinking about it! After that last class, I have never tried another yoga class with any instructor at any facility. I could use the exercise, but I choose not to put myself in a position of being injured or humiliated to serve someone else’s needs.” 

 

Principle #6: Seek permission before giving advice. 

In the mid-nineties, I worked for a franchise of personal development guru Tony Robbins.

And one day, my colleague Kevin and I were talking about how some of the graduates of the programs were getting under our skin by constantly going into coaching mode whenever we’d see them. “What’s been the BEST part of your day?” or “What did you learn from that?” when we were just not in the mood. Finally something clicked for Kevin, “Are you talking about George?” “Yes!” I said with a huge sigh of relief. It turned out that ‘some graduates’ was really, for both of us, one person. We looked at why it bothered us so much and we realized that it came down to a lack of permission. We had never asked for his coaching but he kept on giving it. In his mind, I am sure, he imagined he was having a beautiful impact on people by asking them such empowering and uplifting questions. But, in reality, people were feeling annoyed with him.

So, we came up with something we called the ‘G Rule’. If either of us felt like the other was getting into the other’s business, all they had to do was say the words “G Rule” and the other person had to completely drop it. Occasion only ever came for it to be used a few times each but it was the best feeling on both sides when it got used.

Kevin would be sharing something he was struggling with and I’d start giving advice or trying to coach with, “Well, I think the way you need to look at this is . . .” and he’d say, “G Rule” and I’d shut my mouth and lift up my hands. 

Seth Godin popularized the notion of ‘permission marketing’ in his book of the same title. He noticed that, with so much marketing noise out there, that people only paid attention to the people they’d given permission to be marketed to from. He pointed out that the day of just adding people to your email list without getting their permission first, were over. The idea of ‘enter your name and email for a draw’ as a ploy to get your email were becoming less and less tolerated.

No one liked getting junk mail. No one likes getting SPAM. But what is it that defines one kind of marketing as junk mail and while another is welcomed? Permission. 

Unasked for advice is the SPAM of personal relationships and it’s not just your email inbox that has filters for it.

The art of building trust and getting people to give you permission to be added to your list is one of the most important ones you can develop. You can learn some of my thoughts on that here.

Years ago, while living in Scotland and attending the Gaelic College there, I met a woman we’ll call Rita. I’ve never met anyone who was in other people’s business more than her. Or who shared her advice so incredibly freely. Over the course of knowing her, I heard her tell a 75 year old traditional story teller that he should have married a different woman because she was vegan, that I needed to spend time with her hogs because they were grounding and I needed grounding energy, that I should ask for a job from a local banker and that I should swim naked in the waters of Skye because my aura needed freshening. And that’s off the top of my head. I have truly never come to hate someone so much. She never asked for permission because, in her mind, she didn’t need it. She was sharing the truth that I needed to hear. Shortly after I left her presence, it occurred to me that she may have needed me to do those things but she didn’t. 

But here’s the terrible part. I actually wanted to go swimming in the waters on Skye but when I went with the old story teller and her, I couldn’t do it because it felt like I would be letting her win. I would have been cow-towing to her. And I couldn’t let her have that satisfaction. Even though I really wanted to. If I could do it over again, I would have just gone swimming.

One more time: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

Here’s a flip side of that though. In my experience, if you are really present for someone and they get that you ‘get it’ and aren’t trying to change them or get them to do anything . . . they will often ask you for advice. They’ll seek out your guidance. “What do you think I should do?” they’ll ask. 

Imagine the above facebook conversation with my friend done again, but this time with a focus on her empathizing with me and trying to ‘get’ my experience instead of just giving me advice. And again, imagine you were me, meeting her at a party and consider how incredibly different this would feel to receive.

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. 

Me: It really was. 

Her: You must have felt so scared. And you were alone in a foreign country. How was that for you?

Me: I felt so lonely and scared. It really brought up all of my fears about death. Maybe I just vanish. And that’s it. That was so terrifying to me. You hear about people dying peacefully but there was no peace in me at all, just pure terror. I kept clutching my friend’s hand saying, “I don’t want to die.” I recorded messages to people on my iPhone. I wrote farewell notes to people in a notebook my friend had bought me.

Her: Wow. You really weren’t sure you were going to make it home. 

Me: Not at all. I was so scared I wouldn’t. 

Her: Where has it left you? Where are you now with it all now that you’re home? I could imagine it’s left you really shaken up. 

Me: So shaken up. Traumatized. I never really got how brutal trauma could be. I’ve got a lot of anxiety and the occasional, full blown anxiety attack – though not as often. I can’t deal with big crowds of people for long anymore. Can’t imagine going to a big bar with loud noises – would feel so overwhelming. I’m so emotionally raw. I’ve got so little emotional buffer. 

Her: It must be scary to feel so scared all the time and . . . I’m guessing it’s taking a lot of adjusting to and I could imagine myself just wanting it to go away so I could have some more ease in my life. 

Me: Totally. And . . . it also feels like a really important moment in my life. Like an initiation of some kind. Like it was meant to happen. Like it’s shifted me out of one phases of my life and into another. At one level it’s so brutal and terrible. On another level, it feels like a doorway opening to some profound growth in my life. So . . . in some ways I’m so grateful for the whole thing. I know it will be rough and it’s shaken me up but . . . the shaking up isn’t totally a bad thing – even though it’s so uncomfortable. 

Her: Hmm. I really get that. So it’s like you know it was one of those ‘big moments’ in your life and it really hurt and scared you but you also know that it’s got a lot of gifts for you too.

Me: Yeah. I’m sure of it. So many gifts. It feels a bit disorienting. I really don’t totally know who this ‘new me’ is. It’s like on Doctor Who when the Doctor regenerates and is played by a different actor and he needs to get to know who he is in his new body. It’s a bit like that. 

Her: I imagine that could feel a bit overwhelming and confusing. I know how it was for me when I went through some near death moments in my life. So disorienting and unsettling.

Me: I’d love to hear about your experiences and any wisdom you’ve got on going through something like this. I never have before. 

If the conversation had gone something like that, I would have likely asked her for her thoughts. She wouldn’t have even needed to ask for permission. If I hadn’t and she felt really called to share something, she could say. “You know, something is coming up for me to share really strongly around your healing process. Is this a good time to share it? No pressure at all. I know sometimes I’ve got enough going on inside that I don’t need anymore information.” Asking permission is a deep sign of respect and affirmation of the other person’s sovereignty and ability to choose what’s best for them. In the original conversation, what was missing for me, was any trust in me and my ability to navigate the process on my own. 

 

 

Some more real world examples of this from my clients:

“1. My worst experience with an energy practitioner. Prior to starting the she session scanned my body with her hand and proceeded to tell me everything that was going on…this is going on here, you’re…here, and oh there’s your grief etc. etc. It felt disrespectful. The energy behind it was as if she was ‘showing me’ how skilled she was with her intuition. Which was more about her than myself, the client. I have experienced practitioners who are not sensitive in how they share information and I don’t recall being asked if I wanted to hear their perceptions. I often do want to hear but I can think of practitioners I have been to where that was not what I was going to them for but the information was offered anyways. 

“I went to see an SI practitioner and it was wonderful how he told me when he noticed things free up as he worked. In fact, before he began, he had asked me if I wanted him to describe what he was doing as he worked or if I just wanted him to work in silence. He made sure I was warm and comfortable, and he was very gentle and confident in how he worked with touch.” 

“I have been to several practitioners who have helped me change my life. The characteristics they have in common are: 1. They are heart open people who share rather than shove what they have to say. 2. If they have any questions about me being blind, they’ve just come out and asked them instead of trying to pretend they know everything. 3. They have accepted my feedback, particularly regarding my pain level. Rather than telling me: “no pain, no gain baby” they have been responsive, backed off the intensity, and let me relax into a deeper space and then maybe I could accept more intense work.” 

 

Principle #7: Empathy is a Skill To Develop. 

But where do you start?

In addition to the thoughts and examples above, here are some practical practices and ideas of how you can weave more empathy into your business interactions.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #1: Study empathy.

Buy and read Non Violent Communication and any of the subsequent books in the same genre. You can find a lot here

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #2: Make your business more welcoming. 

Remember what it was like when you were in there shoes. Remember how scary it felt. Maybe you felt ashamed of the problem. If you have never been in the situation your clients are facing, see if you can find something similar in your life. Ask your clients what it’s like for them and really listen. And then ask yourself how everything in your business could meet them better in that place. What would you want if you were them. I’m talking from your website, to how you begin your workshops, to your office space, to how you run your first meetings. There’s no cookie cutter approach that will work but, once you really connect with what it’s like to be them, you’ll know. I wrote about this in my blog post called The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business - the part to read is part two about what I call The Container. The Container are all of the elements of your business that show up when they show up. The container are all the things that allow them to check you out at a distance before they commit to buying anything. The safer they feel in approaching and exploring you, the more business you will do. 

I once ran a business called The School Revolution that did workshops with high schools around school spirit. And, by the time I was leading the workshops, I’d lost touch with what it was like to be in high school. It took me reading the feedback forms and really paying attention to get it that, when they showed up for the workshop, they were scared. That had never occurred to me. Why were they scared? Because they’re teenagers in a new experience, surrounded by new people and scared they were being judged and having no idea what was coming. But a consistent piece of feedback we got was that, when a staff member would give them a big smile first thing in the morning as they arrived, they would relax and know they were in good hands. So, when we had our early morning meetings before the events, I’d remind the staff of the importance of smiling and greeting people warmly. It seems so obvious. But, until it was lifted up, it was being done consistently. The difference it made in the workshop was noticeable. Students began the day way more relaxed and open than they had been. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #3: Acknowledge them.

Acknowledge them not for getting things right or being perfect. Acknowledge them for how hard and painful it feels for them to be going through their situation. Honour that. Respect that. Acknowledge them for the effort they’ve put into solving the issue already (it’s probably more than you think). Acknowledge them for what they’ve already learned, without your help, along the way. It’s likely vast and impressive. Of course, to acknowledge these things, you may need to dig a bit to discover them. If you do, they will feel so seen and gotten.

Meet people where they are vs. immediately pushing your point of view and telling them where they need to be. Affirm that who they are and what they have right now is enough. You can read this blog post about that.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #4: Slow down on giving advice.

When people are desperate and in pain they might ask you for advice and ‘what to do’ and want answers fast. Resist the urge to do that. You likely only have a very surface level understanding of their issues. Slow down. Slow them down. Invite a pause. I’ll often say, “I have some thoughts, but, before we go there, I want to make sure I’m really understanding what you’re saying and where you’re at . . .” It’s hard to do overkill on this. Most of us want to rush ahead into solving their problem so that we can relieve ourselves from the anxiety of seeing them suffer, feel important, feel useful . . . but that’s all about us. Much more useful to them is to feel empathized with and for you to know you’ve got a really accurate diagnosis of what is actually happening with them. I’m not saying don’t give advice. I’m saying that what you think is really, really stretching out the diagnosis period into a painfully protracted process is likely still faster than it could be.

In 2012, I wrote a post called Slow Marketing where I lifted up the possibility that marketing might actually work better and move faster if we slowed it down. 

A simple question you can ask whenever you meet someone in pain that can stop you from leaping into saving them: “How is that for you?” Ask and mean it. Ask and be quiet. Let them talk. 

My dear friend and colleague Jennifer Summerfeldt said it so beautifully, “slowing down the conversation, one slows down the need for anything to change or be resolved. In healing work this is critical. Too often we rush to reduce the pain, suffering, or wound. We rush with our words and our advice. Unless the person is in danger of being harmed further or is in need of medical attention ASAP we have TIME! So much time actually. these quick remarks many of us are guilty of saying, or have been on the receiving end, come from a place of fear and impatience. Many of us are terrified to sit in the discomfort. we are programmed to ’take away the pain as fast as we can so we can resume to happy land’. We are not taught to accept and have space for ‘real land’. We don’t want to sit in our own discomforts. nor the discomforts of the other. nor the discomforts of life. we want band-aids, and someone to kiss our wound and send us off feeling better. Maybe just maybe, the mere act of allowing space and time for the experience to sink in, for the tears to fall, and for there to be no need to lessen the discomfort  will in fact be all that is needed for healing to take place.”

Clarity before resolution. Empathy before education. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. These all require us to slow everything down.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #5: Practice restating what you hear them say.

This is Active Listening 101. It would seem so easy, but, in my experience, this is actually incredibly hard for most people to do well.

Restate what you heard them say in your own words and ask them if you ‘got it’.  Don’t assume you get it. Don’t assume. In fact, assume that you do not get it. Coming in from a place of humility is much more attractive than a place of the arrogance of interrupting them part way through explaining their situation with a dismissive wave so you can begin your brilliant treatment. This build on the idea of slowing it down. Don’t move forward until you can restate their position better than they can themselves – until you can see them relax in knowing you get it. Question everything you’re assuming about their situation. Really make sure you get it. You will be shocked with how often you’re wrong. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #6: Write out the typical story of an ideal client. 

This exercise is incredibly useful. Try to write out the generic story of your potential clients so that, when they read it they say, “Wow. That is so my story. Were you spying on me?” I did this for holistic practitioners in a blog post called “The Story of Jane the Holistic Practitioner in Seven Chapters” and, whenever holistic practitioners read it, they say it is is eerie how accurate it is. But again, don’t assume you’ve got it. Run it by people. See what’s missing. Get them to help you understand what it’s been like to be them before they came to see you. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #7: Get empathy.

This might be the most important idea. 

Giving empathy is impossible until you’ve received it yourself. If there’s an area of your life where you feel no one understands you, find someone or a group that will. Maybe it’s a close friend you know who will just listen and care. Maybe it’s a colleague, a therapist, a men’s group. Maybe it comes in reading poetry or literature that affirms your feelings and needs. But get it. The more you receive it, the more effortless it is to give. I’ve had such incredible support and examples of empathy in my life. 

As Gabor Mate points out so lucidly and beautifully in his TED talk in Rio, most of us didn’t receive the kind of empathy we needed as a child. And so we need to get it as adults. And, often in the process of healing, we become the adults whose support we were needing when we were younger. Until we do we will often vacillate between self pity (collapsing) and self important (posturing) and never really feel comfortable in our own skin (composure).

It is both the thing that opens the door to healing and the healing itself. Most of us have spent a lifetime having others try to change us into something that is more pleasing to them (or being rejected because we didn’t fit the mould). Parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, friends, bosses, co-workers, romantic partners . . . And is there any bigger gift we can give someone than to say, “I get it. And you’re fine just the way you are.”? As Ani Difranco said, “More joy, less shame.” The gift of empathy not only makes us better people, it helps people know that they aren’t crazy and that they aren’t alone. Empathy transforms people. Try to change people and they will resist and try to hold onto who they are (even if it hurts them).

In the end, we can never really know what goes on in the hearts of others. Not really. So, at some level, empathy is just us trying to imagine the unimaginable. But, one of the sweetest mysteries of life seems to be that, even though I can never know your experience, I can know my own. And, the more intimate I become with myself, the more intimate I become with everyone. Because we’re all the same deep down. We all have the same feelings and needs. The more I come to understand and love myself, the more I can love others. The more I pursue a path of wholeness (including all  the parts of me) vs. purity (cutting out anything that doesn’t belong) the more I can intuitively understand others. 

This piece hammers on marketing and its importance from a marketing perspective. And it’s true. It’s vital. From a potential or active customer’s stand point – they care about what’s in it for them and their experience. That’s hard medicine.

But . . . I sometimes find it so hard to empathize with others. I have uneasy moments with clients. I judge people. I get triggered a lot. I get tired and don’t show up as my best. I snap. And I regret those moments. Sometimes the one who needs the most empathy is us. 

Maybe this should have been the first practice because life is really hard some days. Some days I can barely take care of myself, let alone holding space for anyone else. 

I think that the most healing thing we can offer others is to meet them and love them where they are.

Meet people where they are and they become who they should be. 

In the end, on every side of the master, Alistair MacLeod said it best in his book No Great Mischief, “We’re all better when we’re loved.”

And the content of this post has been turned into a sweet info-graphic sketch by http://sketchingmaniacs.com/

 

original Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, reflection and examples from your own life around this whole notion of empathy in marketing. You can leave them in the comments below. 

 

  

Guest Post: Three Pitfalls I Avoided By Listening To Marketing Sages

by Kenton Zerbin

Screen Shot 2014 01 06 at 3.18.02 PM Guest Post: Three Pitfalls I Avoided By Listening To Marketing Sages

There are many pitfall mistakes to make out there in the marketing world. Thank goodness you don’t have to make them! There are those who have made them and witnessed them, and made it here today to save us from doing them. 

Hi my name is Kenton Zerbin, and I started up KentonZerbin.com, an independent teaching business teaching others Permaculture and how to design sustainability into their lives. It was, and continues to be, far from easy but it could have been SO much harder if I didn’t know the following… 

I want to share with you 3 pitfalls I avoided by listening to Marketing Sages:

 

Pitfall 1: Don’t brand yourself to a market you don’t know exists.

Know what you have to offer and test the waters with it. Don’t take it personally, but this isn’t about you, this is about what you are offering someone else. This concept of needs/yields in marketing is so… well… DUH, for lack of a better word. In Permaculture we call it Needs and Yields analysis; by understanding the needs and yields of the elements we are working with (in this case, “you” and “others”) you can design them together. Essentially, by knowing what “you” can yield and what “others” need, you can market and design yourself a right livelihood. A sustainable business. Success. 

So I repeat. Don’t market yourself until you know you have something worth marketing. Only then get into marketing it! 

How I avoided this pitfall as a Permaculture Teacher: 

I offered two free Intro to Permaculture Talks, one at a Hippy café and one at a University. Now I’m not only seeing IF the seats fill (If I have something worth marketing) but I’m also testing to see how many seats fill at each venue comparatively… which leads to the 2nd pitfall…

  

Pitfall 2: Don’t start marketing till you know who is shopping for you.

So you know that there is a market for you. Hold your horses! This is where far too many enthusiasts jump the gun…. You know people are engaging you, but you don’t know WHO exactly these people are. If you try to engage your vague clientele at this point you are nothing other than an overexcited door-to-door salesman or that person pushing papers on the street corner. Remember, you are marketing – a strategic use of your energy and time

Know your client! Who are these people that want what you are offering? Once you do NOW you are ready to start marketing! Only now do you know how to wrap it and how to get it out there!

How I avoided this pitfall as a Permaculture Teacher:

I got the participants of my free workshop to do a little questionnaire for me… age, house owner, salary range. I also gave them the choice on that questionnaire to choose what different kinds of courses they would be most interested in taking… which leads me to the 3rd pitfall.

 

Pitfall 3: DO NOT offer just one “thing”.

So you know you have something to offer that others want… and you also know who it is who wants it and thus are informed how to “brand” and marketing strategically. Now you have to avoid making the pitfall of offering the Holy Grail product…

Nothing will crush your spirit and business faster than seeing your ONE egg sitting in your basket not hatch. The cliché, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” couldn’t be more true.

Create your compelling packages! The secret now is to offer multiple points of entry for your potential clients to engage you. 

Examples:

Let’s say you are starting an orchard… don’t just offer apples! Offer Cider, applesauce, applejack, preserved apples, dehydrated apples, apple trees, orchard tours, pies and an apple-a-day subscription program. 

Lets say you are starting a business offering Permaculture landscape consulting… don’t just expect clients to line up paying you thousands to convert their lawns! Offer a group educational workshop on one of the participants landscape, pre-consultation options, Permablitzs, surveying, landscape plans, tours of properties you have installed/designed, even have a tour/workshop at your own house showing off your food forest/garden of eden! 

For yet another example I will use myself as a Permaculture teacher. I offer: 

  • Free articles sharing my knowledge
  • 3-hour Intro to Permaculture workshops
  • 3-8 hour Workshops for house-owners OR apartment owners
  • 2 day Permaculture course for learning how to design
  • 2-week Permaculture Design Certification Course

Come check out the FREE stuff and all the rest at KentonZerbin.com 

Thanks for reading! I wish you all the best in your business and avoiding these marketing pitfalls! 

Feel free to contact me at

Warmly,

Kenton Zerbin

Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You

 Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With YouWhen people are struggling with their problems what they need, more than anything, is a whole lot of empathy and understanding. 

But, it’s usually not what they get.

There are certain messages they need to hear that can make a huge difference in their ability to move forward. And there are some messages that will hurt them, make them defensive or reactive.

20 Non Empathic Responses to People’s Pain:

Many of the following responses to people’s pain may seem empathic, until you’re at the receiving end of them. Give this a read and notice what responses people give you that don’t feel good – and notice which one you tend to give other people. Many of these are borrowed from or inspired by the powerful book Non Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.

Central here is the notion that we need to put empathy before education. All too often, people jump into giving advice and trying to resolve the issue well before they truly understand it and well before the other person truly feels understood. 

1. Advising: “I think you should . . “ “How come you didn’t?”

2. Analyzing: “Well, I think it’s clear the reason this happened is . . .”

3. Arguing: “That isn’t right at all. That isn’t how it happened.” “Boy. I really disagree with you on that.”

4. Commiserating: “That’s terrible. She had no right to do that to you.”

5. Condemning: “I need to call you on your racist shit.”

6. Consoling: “It wasn’t your fault; you did the best you could.” “Everything’s going to be okay.”, ”This too shall pass.”, “Everything happens for a reason.”, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

7. Correcting: “That’s not how it happened.” “It’s not really that hard.”

8. Criticizing: “You know what your problem is?” “Can’t you do anything right?”

9. Diagnosing: “This is happening because you’re so passive-aggressive.”, “You know, you really have a limiting pattern of always doing _____.”, “You know what your problem is?”

10. Educating: “This could turn into a very positive experience for you if you just . . .” “Well, in my experience, it was very different.” “I have a very different relationship to that.”

11. Evaluating: “If you hadn’t been so careless.”

12. Explaining: “I would have called but . . .” “I didn’t want to do it this way, but . . .”

13. Fixing: “What will help you is to . . .”

14. Interpretations: “I think he did that because . . .”

15. Interrogating: “When did this begin? What are you feeling?”

16. Lecturing: “It’s like I always say. . .” “How many times do I have to tell you?”

17. One-Upping: “That’s nothing: wait’ll you hear what happened to me.”

18. Shutting Down: “Cheer up. Don’t worry. Don’t feel so bad.”

19. Story-telling: “That reminds me of a time . . .” “Oh! That reminds me of this 
Tony Robbins seminar that I went to once. Tony said . . .”

20. Sympathizing: “Oh you poor thing.”

 
Instead of those responses, consider consistently sensing the following five messages to your clients. You might say them overtly, convey them on your website or just through your presence. But, if you consistently give people these five messages, you will notice that people melt around you. They relax. They tell you more about their situation. They’re willing to be very candid and honest with you. And they’re so grateful to have someone who really ‘gets it’. 

*

The Five Messages:

Message #1: That you ‘get it’ (or at least will try to). It’s terrible to have symptoms you don’t like. It’s much worse to feel like no one really understands or cares. The more they can see that you understand not just the underlying causes of their situation but the actually experience of what it’s like to be going through it . . . the more they will trust you. This isn’t just something you can ‘say’. It’s got to show up in everything you do. Your understanding of what it’s like to be them must be woven into the systems of your business and the ways you interact with them. 

Once I was looking for a therapist to help me through some trauma I’d experienced. She emailed me and, in response, got an autoresponse email from my gmail account letting her know I was busy and offering a link to a mix of some of my favourite music online.

She wrote back, “I do not and will not open links from people I do not know!!!!”

When I got this email I was stunned. I was writing her about trauma. And, her response was to virtually yell at me. 

I wrote her back, “this was an auto response email. i’m not sure the offer of good things offered with good intentions warranted this four exclamation marks response. especially to someone who just reached out to you for support for their trauma. I will likely be seeking counselling and support elsewhere now.”

She replied, “yes…great idea!  and good luck!!!!”

I was left with the very clear sense that she had no idea what it was like to be me.

My colleague Dike Drummond of www.TheHappyMD.com often says these simple but important words to his clients, “I am so sorry this is happening to you.” And in saying that he conveys that he really ‘gets’ how intense and terrible it is for them.

One of my clients Lorraine Watson put it this way, “You’re right, it sucks right now and there’s no way around it.” 

Message #2: That they’re not crazy. It’s bad enough to have symptoms you don’t like, but to then feel as though maybe you’re ‘making it all up’, that it’s all just ‘in your head’ and that maybe you’re crazy to be thinking what you’re thinking . . . well . . . it’s just the worst. If you can give people not only the message that you ‘get it’  but also the message, ‘hey, I don’t blame you for thinking that at all.’ It’s powerful thing for people to realize that their response is actually totally natural. 

Message #3: That they’re not alone. This is connected to the second message with a twist. Knowing that your responses are natural helps you feel not crazy. Knowing that your responses are normal (that other people have them too) helps you feel no alone. In therapy, they often speak of ‘normalizing’ the problem. Helping people realize that millions of others experience the exact same thing. I remember, after suffering my first full blown panic attack, calling an old friend and having them recount the symptoms they’d experienced when they’d had theirs. And, listening to him share a virtually identical experience was such an incredible relief. It helped me feel less scared. It helped me feel more connected to him. 

A blog reader Kyana Mayfield wrote a comment below that I thought was important to include here. “while I do agree wholeheartedly on letting clients know they’re not alone and gaining a sense of connection, I also think it would be helpful to be honest about the fact that everyone has their own personal experience and we can’t pretend to know EXACTLY what the other person is going through – because we cannot see the world directly with their eyes. And so their problems are just as unique as they are universal.”

As much as we might ‘get it’ and affirm that they aren’t alone, it’s important for their feeling of safety and trust in us that we acknowledge that there are ways we will never, ever truly ‘get’ their experience. 

It’s a beautiful thing in life – none of us are alone in having completely unique experiences. 

Message #4: That there is hope. When you’re in pain, it can be very easy to get scared and obsess about the worst case scenarios.  But if you can help them understand that it’s possible to get what they’re craving (or at least to get closer) they will be so profoundly grateful. Often times, when people feel hopeless about their situation it’s not because their situation is actually hopeless, it’s just their limited perspective. And if you can draw them the map showing them how you can help them get from where they are to where they want to be, they will be so grateful and very likely to work with you. This one is vital. After all, if they don’t believe that getting what they want is possible – why would they invest any money or energy in making it happen? They won’t. Of course, the caveat here is to be very honest about the possibilities and limitations that you see in their situation. Because if you give them hope and then take it away, they will hate you and be less likely to ever trust anyone offering to help them again. Dike Drummond remind his potential clients, “Things can be different than they are now very soon … even if you can’t see how to get there right now.” This is vital for people to hear. 

Message #5: That there’s a bigger context.  Any way in which you can show them that what’s happening to them is actually perfect and a doorway into something much bigger and more powerful, the better. I recently wrote a post about this here. If people can come to see that their is meaning in their suffering and that their symptoms, however uncomfortable, might just be the best thing to ever happen to them . . . you will be in awe as to the kind of loyalty and gratitude you receive from people. If you can help people see that their situation didn’t happen to them but for them and that it’s a part of their hero’s journey you’ll watch many people sit up straight, take a deep breath and be willing to face something that would have daunted them before. 

Can you think of any other messages people need to hear when they’re struggling?

Below you can see this blog post summed up into a single image via the genius work of the good people at www.sketchingmaniacs.nl in Amsterdam.

 Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You

The Bigger Context

 The Bigger ContextI almost died a month ago.

And it showed me something important.

When we are in crisis, the crisis becomes everything we see. It looms over us like a giant, blocking out the sun. And this makes dealing with the problem very hard. We become overwhelmed with not only the problem but our emotional reactions to it. Overwhelmed. Daunted. Hopeless. Betrayed. Alone. We become trapped not only in the problem but our fear around it

Our job is to help people take a step back and see how this problem they are facing fits into the bigger picture.

Our job is to paint a picture so much larger than the problem so that their efforts are infused with even more meaning.

For years, I’ve found incredible solace in the work of Byron Katie. It’s a simple work around questioning our stressful thoughts until they let go of us.

But then, late in 2013, I found myself in the hospital with a heart situation (which, thankfully, turned out to be okay) afraid that I would die. And for the next month I had many moments of thinking I would die that day. I was discharged with a clean bill of health but the experience shook me to my core and had me cancel the tour of Europe I’d been planning all year so I could head home, care for myself and integrate what this experience had meant to me.

I truly thought I was going to die. That I was going to have to let go of my life. And I was not ready for that moment. There was no peace in my heart. Just an overwhelming terror at the inconceivable thought of dying. The most impossible thing to let go of – our lives.

And it has struck me that every time we let go of anything we are practicing for our death. Every time we are willing to question a stressful thought until it melts away leaving us more free – we are practicing for our death.

Every time we let go of a way of defining ourselves in favour of something more true and expansive leaving us more free and authentic – we are practicing for our death. Every time we shake our body until the stress melts away, every time we are, miraculously, able to forgive someone and let go of a grudge, every time we are able to let go of a relationship or the belief that we need closure or completion on it, an addiction or obsession . . . anything we think we need that we grasp to . . . we are practicing for our death when we’re asked to let go of the most impossible and brightest thing. Because I know that letting go of anything we grasp onto feels like a sort of mini death. Letting go of a precious idea, ideology or identity feels so terrifying. Letting go of our shame, the ways we beat ourselves and others . . . it’s terrifying. We just can’t imagine ourselves without it.

And so, letting go becomes not only the secret to a happy life with a peaceful heart but also a peaceful and happy death. And, it also struck me that every single time I let go of something that wasn’t meant for me or something that causes me stress I am happier, more free and have more peace in my heart. I am always in a better place after genuinely letting go. Maybe that’s true when we lose this life of ours. I don’t know. But I know that all of the suffering in my life (and the suffering I’ve caused for others) is the result of my clinging onto things. I hope that when I face that big moment next, I’m able to embrace it and meet it with peace in my heart. May it be this way for all of us.

Suddenly, doing The Work was infused with so much more meaning. I wasn’t just doing it to deal with some small stressful thought.

Each time I did it, I was practicing for my own death.

And, now I’m noticing how much more motivated I am to do it. When I finally saw how this small and simple work was preparing me for the most important moment in my life . . . something shifted. 

There’s an old story I’ve heard many times that speaks to this theme. I’ll share it here.

A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.”

A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral to praise almighty God!”

Three men, three different attitudes, all doing the same job.

When we see there’s a bigger purpose that our work is contributing to, we’re more likely to do it.

And when people see that your business is fundamentally about more than just ‘making money’ but, instead, something much larger, expansive and meaningful . . . they’ll be so much happier to support you with their money.

Is there a bigger context, a larger purpose, that lies underneath all the work you do or invite people to do?

Janis Rosen of Winnipeg has worked with women around weight loss for years and frames it all beautifully. For her weight loss is a path of personal growth. Her belief is that, if you approach it in that way, that as you grow smaller on the outside, you grow bigger on the inside.

Deena Metzger, in her book, Entering the Ghost River, speaks beautifully about how, from an indigenous perspective, illness isn’t an individual thing. That if you have cancer, it’s more a matter that the entire community has cancer and it’s simply showing up through you. And so, the work of healing our communities becomes inextricably linked to personal health and vice versa. 

I know of people who work with addiction but instead of just trying to help people stop using a particular substance, they see the addiction as a spiritual issue and use it as the doorway to transforming their whole life. 

the hero s journey The Bigger ContextJoseph Campbell’s incredible work on codifying the ‘hero’s journey’ is a perfect example of this. His basic idea was that, cross culturally, the stories of hero’s all followed a similar pattern that is mirrored in our own lives. That we’re having an ordinary life, are called to adventure and then we go through hell and are torn apart by the adventure but then rebuilt and return home with the gifts of everything we’ve learned for the community.

And knowing this whole bigger context matters. Because if you’re trapped in the Ordeal and you don’t know that this is a totally normal and natural part of the process and that the next step is that you get your reward and get to head home . . . you might just give up. 

Understanding the larger story that you’re in can give you so much strength to persevere.

Helping your client understand the bigger picture where they are in their journey and the bigger cause they’re a part of can change their entire orientation around it from being a victim to being the hero of their own story. 

You can read more examples of projects with a clear larger ‘why’ here.

The core question to ask yourself is, ‘What is my work really, at the heart of it, about? What’s the bigger picture?’

Or here’s another way to consider it: imagine that everyone in the world for whom your work was suited, did it what would the impact on the world be? Like if you sell cloth diapers – what would the impact on the world be if all mothers switched over and stopped using disposables? If you help people recover from trauma – what would happen if everyone in the world was healed of their trauma? What would that mean for the world?

Really sit with all that. Get clear about it. And then tell everyone. Help them understand why you are so passionate about the work you do and how, by them engaging in it, they’re also working towards this larger vision.

Is there a bigger context spiritually, politically or environmentally for your work? 

What are the benefits of getting clear about this?

1) If people see the bigger picture and how by doing what you suggest they’re contributing to something so much larger than they thought, they will be more inspired to sign up to work with you.

2) By sitting with this you will also feel more inspired to share your work. Rather than feeling gross about ‘self promotion’ you’ll be spokesperson for a larger cause that matters to you.

3) It’s an incredible help to people, when they’re struggling, to have a larger context put around their problems. It helps shrink the problem down so that it’s a part of something rather than everything. 

I invite you to share the bigger cause/deeper context of your own work below. 

Two Minute Video Case Study on Identifying Your Hubs

 Two Minute Video Case Study on Identifying Your HubsIf you’ve followed my work at all you’ll know that the core of what I teach is about ‘warm marketing’ where, instead of trying to reach people through a cold approach as a stranger, you, instead, triangulate and work to identify hubs who your ideal clients already trust, and have them introduce you. And, beyond that, instead of having a scattershot approach about where you market, really getting clear about the best places. There are three levels of marketing in my mind – cold, warm and hot. You can read about those here. And there are seven generic types of hubs which you can read about here.

The following quick video is from a piece of flip chart paper from a weekend workshop I ran in the Bow Valley of Alberta  a while ago that I thought might give you some ideas and inspiration around finding your hubs.

 

Marketing, New Years & Second Chances

New Years Eve 1355777044 27 Marketing, New Years & Second ChancesTomorrow is a brand new year.

And I think it’s a good moment to think about what you’re offering.

Symbolically, the New Year is about a fresh start. A clean slate. A blank canvas. A second chance.

And I think everyone wants a second chance with something in their life. As we look back over the past year there are so many moments that we might all wish we could redo. Things we screwed up. Things that got screwed up and we couldn’t fix. Maybe your people have had a big health scare, lost or owe a lot of money, went through some heartbreak or find themselves grappling with the biggest questions in life of ‘what’s it all about?’ when something big went wrong in their life. 

And to make matters worse, we often feel so ashamed of those things. Often, deep down, we see all the ways we are responsible for how things have come to pass. And we wish that we could do it all over again.

At its worst, business overs false promises that lead to disappointment.

At its best, it gives people hope and a path forward that it’s not over yet. And a space without judgment knowing that we’re all just stumbling towards  grace and that this Universe moves steadily towards love and forgiveness. 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been extended forgiveness when I thought I didn’t deserve it and second chances when I was without hope. 

And isn’t this what you do in your work? Don’t people often come to you scared and ashamed and without much hope?

What is the hope you offer people? Where are you giving people a second (or third or fourth) chance in their lives? What are the mistakes you help them fix or see differently? 

At this time of year, we’re all feeling those cravings more intensely. The very result you’re offering in your business is likely being wanted at an all time high by many people at this time of year.

And my fondest wish for you right now is that you get every second chance you need this year. That whatever feels like it was broken in the last year, wherever you feel like you screwed up irreparably is able to be made new (and maybe even made better.

Here’s to all of the second chances we’re able to offer and receive.

We could all use more of those. 

Guest Post: How a Failed Trip to Iceland Created One of the Coolest Things in the World

HugeSmile sm Guest Post: How a Failed Trip to Iceland Created One of the Coolest Things in the WorldThis is a different kind of blog post, written by a colleague of mine, Seth Braun, from Fairfield, Iowa.

I like it because it speaks to the unintended consequences of trying an experiment.

I’m currently in the middle of running my Niching for Hippies program. The core of that program is the idea of ‘niche projects‘. Before committing yourself to a niche and getting married to it – go on a date first. Before you plant a garden, try a potted tomato plant. Start small.

My colleague Alex Baisley was the first one who really opened my eyes to the power and importance of experiments in life. He pointed out how even beginning the process of following your big dreams wasn’t a luxury. It was a doorway. That by even starting the process you discover new things. 

I think about myself. I wanted to learn Scottish Gaelic. So I took five minutes to look for audio courses I could buy. I found one (which ended up being useless) but, in the process of that, I also came across the Celtic Studies program at St. FX University in Nova Scotia. Three years later, I was a student there. The next year I was a student at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye. Four years later, I co-starred in Canada’s second ever Gaelic language film. Two years later, I hosted the first ever Cape Breton Jam – a gathering for young leaders in the Cape Breton Gaelic community. 

All from just taking five minutes to try to find some Gaelic learning programs. 

If you’ve got an idea, just start exploring it. Don’t wait to be 100% ready. Just begin.

In Edmonton, we’re in the middle of our municipal election. And I can see how, over the course of the campaign, candidates are getting better. You’re never ready for a campaign. The campaign makes you ready. 

Much of the time, the ideas you start with won’t be the ones you end with. But maybe the point of our inspirations isn’t about achieving them but about inspiring us to move to find something else that we’re unable to imagine when we begin. 

In fact, for the linguistically curious, the verb ‘commit’, in Latin, means, ‘to begin’. All too often, people let the perfect be the good. I see it in niching all the time – needing to have everything figured out before even beginning to move on things. Just move. Try things. Start small. They probably won’t work out (the way you think they will). But try anyway.

There’s a power in just starting things and seeing where they take us.

And now, a beautiful story about the importance of this . . . 

by Seth Braun

A long dim hallway from a store front suggesting breakfast. 

The passage opens to the clink of spoons and the clank of mugs. He can barley see; the smell of strong coffee, fresh pastries – lights fade – chatting diners – speaking Icelandic – in total darkness?

Is this some strange dream?

The Icelandic Diner in the Dark wasn’t some strange dream; But a dream come true and discovery of destiny. But often our dreams require that we take the hero’s journey. That great mythic plunge into the adventure, mystery and the great unknown. Like Frodo stepping out of BagEnd, or Luke Skywalker naively stepping forward to seek Obi Wan. These great journeys mould and shape our psyche. But they are filled with terrible light and darkness. Often, the fear of the unknown we carry with us prevents us from taking the journey. 

 You don’t have to be afraid to follow your dreams into the unknown… even into darkness, if you bring these with you: Vision, Action, Confidence, Courage. 

Let me weave a tale for you…

It started when my friend Brian Rochileau, or Rosh, came to me as a client. 

“Seth – I have a crazy dream –  house concerts – intimate music venues – in Iceland. I’ve already done them in the states, in Norway and Ireland… I think this is a first… I’m going to book the tour – produce the album and go buy the ticket.” It was more than a dream. Rosh had a vision! A vision he could see. A vision he could write. A vision he could speak. – “… just one thing, I need$10,000!”

I said, “Cool!, let’s do it.”  

Spreadsheets. Pitches. Timelines. Strategies. Mindset….we laid the foundation and he hit the ground running… in ACTION… Rosh secured investment, got online and created a tour out of nothing, then recorded the album. 

He was on his way to Iceland with consistent, persistent Action in his back pocket to keep the momentum going. 

…But not without haters. You know what I am talking about… those voices from people around you, in your head… 

You can’t do it…

You’ve never done it before…

Your too flaky… 

You never follow through…

You are going to lose money…

The thoughts that dim the light of your enthusiasm. 

Fortunately, Rosh brought confidence. CONFIDENCE – from the latin words  con and  fidelus – with and faithful – he was faithful to his dream. He bolstered his faith by speaking words, speaking truth, and words and the truth became his experience… Confidence… I can do this. Confidence… I am learning what I need to learn… Confidence… I believe in myself. I believe in my dreams… I can… I am… I believe.

Hitchhiking the rugged, volcanic landscape, Rosh’s confidence came through in two great shows. 

Waiting for a ride to show number three, the northern solstice sun shone bright and long. Everything about the first four days was perfect… (except that fermented fish they offered him at the traditional festival, another story). 

An old Toyota scooped him up at the agreed upon time and rolled to the next venue. A gothic church. Rosh doesn’t speak Icelandic. His chauffer speaks no English. Arriving at the venue, the driver unlocks the heavy doors, hops in the Range Rover and speeds off. 

30 minutes before show time. Rosh nervously sets up. 

15 minutes before. No host. 

10 minutes. 5 minutes. No audience. 

1 minute. No one. 

And it happens.  

The low. 

The fall. 

The ouch. 

All those voices came rushing into Rosh’s brain, hovering there, vultures blotting out the light of the sun, flapping their wings, skwawking, “we told you, you can’t do it, it’s not going to work, you are going to lose money, you are going to fail, you don’t have what it takes…”

It happens to all of us. Dissapointment. Frustration. We make mistakes. Our hearts break. 

But this time, Rosh packed courage. He took it out of his bag with a big sheet of paper, captured the vultures, put them on paper and poured his heart out. 

I am afraid. 

I am angry. 

I want this to work.

 How can create magical experiences?

 How can I have sold out crowds? 

How can I connect more deeply, Heart to Heart?

Courage! – from the old French, cour, to take heart. He breathed deep and felt the emotions and poured them into a question… HOW? And then poured the energy into a show, tears streaming down his face, songs echoing into the cavernous sanctuary. His only audience was the waxing moon, passing through the stained glass windows. 

He packed his guitar and bags, fell asleep on a pew, spent and hungry, saints watching over his slumber. 

A storm passed over that night. A new day dawned… the pre-collapse economy of Iceland was flowing and record sales were strong and the next weeks were all hot springs, cozy living rooms with fireplaces, glasses of wine with the happiest and friendliest people on earth. 

Rosh rolled into Reykjavík , the Icelandic capital on a sweet Sunday morning, hungry for a hearty breakfast – no fermented fish. Little did he know that he was stumbling into his destiny. 

He made that stroll into the darkening corridor, with the smell of cinnamon rolls and French roast. Walked into that pitch-black café and bumped into a chair. Then he was pulled, almost tripping to his right. 

Finding a seat… “What is this place…Who is pulling me?”

The Blind Waiter responded; “It’s a blind café, what can I start you off with…”

In those moments… on the journey of living his dreams, in Iceland, senses sharpened, immersed in the flavor and sounds, eating a rich breakfast in a Blind Cafe, a light goes in the darkness -  A NEW VISION – the answer to the question… How can I connect, heart – to – heart. 

Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. 

You have something that only you can give. 

No one else has it. If you don’t share it with us, we’ll never get it!

Because Rosh took Vision, Action, Confidence and Courage on the volcanic journey into the darkness of the unknown, the World has the beauty of the Blind Café, music and dining in the dark, on tour in, Aspen , Austin, Boulder, Burlington VT, Cincinnati, Denver, Portland, Seattle… touching thousands of people, donating thousands more to service groups for the blind. 

“The Blind Cafe seeks to support and create a deeper understanding of community, that inspires people to think differently and examine at how they relate with themselves and others. We help people develop a deeper sense of appreciation and compassion for people unlike themselves. We teach people how to listen to live music and to themselves again…. without the distraction of cell phones, social etiquette and visual conditioning. We partner with blindness organizations to provide community awareness and entertainment for the community. We provide a unique opportunity for the blind and sighted parts of our community to come together in discussion.” 

Rosh took an outrageous idea and brought it to the world in over 25 live events across the U.S. 

What outrageous dream have your stumbled into? 

What vision has alighted upon your mind?

Is there a journey stirring your heart?

Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, even into darkness of discouragement and defeat…but take these with you:

1. Confidence, – I am, I can I believe. 

2. Courage – to face the fear and turn it into fuel, 

3. Vision – see it, write it, speak it and

4.  Consistent, Persistent ACTION

And if you find yourself in a totally dark place, that may be just the time that the lights go on for your destiny.  

Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams!

 

WorkandFamily Balance sm 300x200 Guest Post: How a Failed Trip to Iceland Created One of the Coolest Things in the WorldAbout the Author: Seth Braun provides speaking, coaching, training and consulting services in support of individuals who want to develop their full personal and professional potential. He is also a devoted father and husband, an avid gardener, a musician, and a chocoholic. http://sethbraun.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Eco-Friendly Advertising: Good for Business, Good for the Planet

by Darren Leach

In the nature of the beast, the advertising industry is about as trendy as high school. With larger corporations leading the way, executing these “hip” marketing campaigns leads to infectious awareness, leaving everyone talking.

As the popular proverb goes, actions speak louder than words. Same goes the world of advertising as of late. No longer can companies get away with simply plastering a message on a wall and expect it to resonate with the audience. Over the past decade consumers have begun holding brands accountable for their strategies and tactics, essentially forcing these companies to “practice what they preach.” 

This can prominently be found in a company’s stance on the state of our planet’s well-being. Brands big and small from across the globe have vowed to become more environmentally conscious and the idea of “green” advertising is becoming more popular in order to target a new wave of ecologically savvy consumers. 

Seeing as billboards provide businesses with an optimal combination of size and visibility, brands from around the world are approaching outdoor advertising services with creative, eco-friendly advertising campaigns. What is it about this “greenvertising” movement that has eco-friendly ads sweeping the globe? Most likely its versatility and cost-efficiency. Take a look around you – when it comes to leveraging the environment to sell a product/share a message, Earth is your canvas and nature is your palette.

As I mentioned earlier, the advertising industry is a very trendy niche. Staying up to date on what’s working and what’s not is essential when it comes to managing a successful ad campaign. Within the realm of eco-friendly advertising there are some significant trends that companies have been capitalizing over the past couple years.

Trend #1: Consumers like shiny things: If there is one thing that is sure to capture the attention of your audience it is cool gadgets. As I mentioned previously, advertising is a trendy industry controlled by fads and the latest crazes – and sustainability is “in” right now. In all reality the functionality of a product could mean very little to the consumer as long as they get to jump aboard the eco-train. By taking advantage of a trend driven society, companies are able to appeal to the masses by marketing their products under the guise of sustainability.

Trend #2: Imagination: For the most part, the direction that the green movement is headed is largely unprecedented. Because of this, companies are able to take advantage of the unknown and use it to excite their audience. Whereas things such as electric vehicles and solar power are far from being new technology, we are still yet to see them as an accepted norm in society. Although this green movement has been years in the making, it is the unknown factor that opens the door for limitless innovation – like a block of marble waiting to be turned into a masterpiece, all it takes is a little imagination.

Trend #3: Facts Facts Facts: You can’t cheat science. When it comes to making claims about how environmentally conscious your company is, it’s pretty easy to slap on a tag word such as “green” or “sustainable”, a practice commonly referred to as ‘greenwashing’. This worked for a while, however consumers are beginning to challenge said claims and question the validity behind these so-called green standards. In fact the FTC has actually begun producing “green guides” that serves as a guide for what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to environmental claims. 

Trend #4: Green = Green: At the beginning of the green movement consumers were willing to pay steep prices as long as it meant saving the planet. As the eco-friendly ideology became more popular, less people were willing to pay top price for achieving the same endgame when they could just opt for the cheaper product.  In response to this change in dynamic, environmentally friendly products have not only seen a decrease in pricing but changes in advertising strategy as well. By lowering prices and marketing with a message, these companies aim to get their customers to stick by their cause for the long run.

Trend #5: Take Action: As Gandhi famously said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Like I mentioned earlier, no longer can companies get away with petty claims of making a difference and saving the Earth. That’s because the consumer is standing on the other end of that message saying “prove it!” By taking part in service projects and designing campaigns around environmental causes, brands can show the public that not only do they stand by their claims, but that they are actively working towards making a difference. 

Here are a couple examples of some recent green advertising campaigns that really worked:

Screen Shot 2013 10 17 at 12.41.10 PM Guest Post: Eco Friendly Advertising: Good for Business, Good for the PlanetUrban Air

“UrbanAir transforms existing urban billboards to living, suspended bamboo gardens. Embedded with intelligent technology, UrbanAir becomes a global node – an open space in the urban skyline… An artwork, symbol, and instrument for a green future.”

Complete with Wi-Fi and climate transmitters, Stephen Glassman’s UrbanAir project is designed to provide a fresh reprieve from the noxious environment of Los Angeles. By converting old billboard space into hanging bamboo gardens, Glassman says his intentions are to “put a crack in the urban skyline so that when people are compressed, squeezed, stuck in traffic and they look up, they see an open space of fresh air.”

Screen Shot 2013 10 17 at 12.41.28 PM Guest Post: Eco Friendly Advertising: Good for Business, Good for the Planet

Patagonia – The Footprint Chronicles

As a company that relies heavily on environmental changes, Patagonia prides itself on its sustainability and its identity as a “responsible company.” 

In an effort to be as transparent as possible, Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles outlines the details of the company’s supply chain, as well it’s social, environmental, and industrial impacts. Leading by example, the company hopes to see other brands catch on and actively work towards reducing their impact on the environment. 

Screen Shot 2013 10 17 at 12.41.40 PM Guest Post: Eco Friendly Advertising: Good for Business, Good for the Planet

Cotton – Blue Jeans go Green Denim Drive

There are many people out there that are unaware of the sustainable properties of cotton. Even more so, many people out there are unaware that denim is in fact cotton. By utilizing college campuses, the Cotton Blue Jeans go Green campaign aims to educate the public on the recyclable properties of cotton, specifically denim, all the while making a difference in their community.

Each Fall Cotton selects a handful of college campuses from across the nation to represent this campaign. The students then design a full scale sustainability focused PR campaign in order to educate their community while collecting old denim. Once the denim drive is over, the material is sent back to Cotton where it is broken down to its original fiber state and used to create UltraTouch Denim Insulation for low-income housing.

Screen Shot 2013 10 17 at 12.50.21 PM Guest Post: Eco Friendly Advertising: Good for Business, Good for the PlanetAbout The Author:

As a veteran media planner, Darren Leach has spent many years specializing in outdoor marketing strategies. He currently writes on behalf of Billboard Source and in his spare time Darren enjoys exploring the colorful neighborhoods of NYC. Darren is also into HR and is currently writing about business feedback for company staff and their clients.

 

 

Sixty Minute Interview with Tad Hargrave

tomar Sixty Minute Interview with Tad HargraveI was recently interviewed by my colleague Tomar Levine on Inspired Entrepreneurs on The Creating Calm Network.

Here is the link to the program where you can listen to the interview. We spoke for an hour about the topic of why some marketing, even in the ‘conscious business’ scene, feels gross to many people. We got to get into some territory that was new for both of us and that I don’t get a chance to talk about that often.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/creatingcalmnetwork/2013/09/04/inspired-entrepreneurs