The Rant Experiment: Let Off Some Steam, Catalyze Social Change and Grow Your Business

rantI want to offer up the opportunity to participate in a bold experiment.

It’s going to ask you to be vulnerable and honest.

It’s going to ask you to use a tool that not many people even think of as a tool (indeed, I didn’t until a few days ago when a number of things came together).

Here’s the gist: I want you to write a rant that’s been brewing inside you for a while and share it with your list and social media. After about a week, go post your rant and the results in the comments below.

Then, in July, I will collect the best rants and make a blog post featuring them all. This is all very informal but it should be fun.

The Rules: videos rants = 3 minutes or less. Written pieces 1000 words or less.

I think it will not only feel really good for you to do but that it could also help you grow your business.

 

Why do I say this and where is this experiment coming from? 

I think that the world needs more people ranting.

I think that you have a rant inside you that, if you let it out, would not only free you but a lot of other people too.

I think that letting yourself rant could do wonders to get to you more clients too.

Let me back up and explain why I think this…

I’ve written 551 blogs on this site.

Most of them have gotten a few comments. Many none at all. A few of them have gotten a lot of comments and been shared widely.

You might think that the ones that were the most shared were the most tactical ones. The ones with ‘how to do something’. The ones with an immediately practical application. But when I do a search of the blog posts in the Marketing Tactics category the following are the ones I find with the most comments on them.

Note: Some of these may have a lower number of comments because they were written years ago when my list was smaller and they may never have been mailed directly to my list. But the most recent ones, in the past couple of years were.

Also: comments are not the only or most meaningful arbiter of success. I would say how much a piece is shared or how much traffic it gets is more important (and I can attest to the rant blog posts I’ll be posting below being the ones that have been shared the most on social media and drawn some of the most new people to my site). But, comment numbers are still a useful lense to look at as it demonstrates that people not only went to that page, but read the material and got enough out of it to leave some complimentary words in the course of their busy lives.

 

How many comments do I get on my Marketing Tactic blog posts?:

25 CommentsHow to Approach Hubs and Potential Clients Cold – This one has the most comments of any of them. But, given how packed it is with content, real life examples, I am surprised there weren’t more comments.

16 CommentsHow Do I Fill Up My Weekend Workshop or Retreat Last Minute? 21 Practical Ideas – This one is interesting. I emailed my list of 10,000 with it and then my colleagues Justin and Callan emailed their list of 30,000+ with it. And yet only 16 comments. And, holy hell is this ever one of the most practical blog posts I’ve ever written. This blog post, with some other additions, will be turned into a product I sell within the next year. And I bet it will do well. And yet… only 16 comments.

6 CommentsThe Two Secrets of an Effective Business Card – Only six comments? A blog post on the most ubiquitous of all marketing tools?

6 CommentsThe Top Ten Ways to Become a Hub – If people really applied what was in here, they’d double their business this year. But a paltry number of comments.

6 CommentsHow to Make a Welcome Video for Your Website – What the hell. Most folks should have some sort of welcome video on their website. I’m telling people exactly how to do it. Half a dozen comments. Boo.

3 CommentsFive Simple Ways to Get New Clients – This one blows my mind. Again, I would feel very good about turning this blog post into a paid product. It’s so good. It’s so clear and step by step. But only three comments.

3 Comments14 Ways to Make it Easy for People to Spread the Word About You – A distillation of a year’s worth of me reading every book on word of mouth marketing I could get my hands on and… three comments.

1 CommentMarketing for Psychotherapists – Did this explode in the psychotherapy community? No. Not sure if this one hit my email list but still. I’ve personally sent it to dozens of psychotherapists and had it met with deep gratitude. But only one comment.

0 CommentsCreating Your Hubs Database – Quite possibly the most important marketing tactic I know that very few others teach. And the crowd goes mild.

0 Comments21 Powerful Word of Mouth Intensifiers – Again, a years worth of research boiled down into 21 actionable items and met with zero comments.

To be clear, if I were to email my list with some of the ones with fewer comments, we’d see those comments go up. But what follows is very illustrative.

 

Those rants though…

When I look in the Tad’s Rants category I find these six blogs. All six of these were emailed to my list within the past couple of years. So there’s that. But the difference in the number of comments is orders of magnitudes higher.

And they’re all rants. None of them contain a single practical idea. None of them are tactical at all. And yet, this is a consistent pattern. When I share a rant, I get the most response. To prove it…

174 CommentsI’m Broke (And I Don’t Care)

122 CommentsWhy ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ Is Bullshit

104 CommentsIs ‘Conscious Marketing’ Bullshit? Discuss

92 CommentsSlow Marketing

86 CommentsWhy ‘Stop Playing Small’ Is Bullshit

74 Comments - Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl: Seven Business Lessons from Ten Recent Workshop No-Shows

So, that’s 652 comments in total for six blog posts vs. 120 comments for what I would consider to be my top ten, most useful tactical blog posts.

To break that down further, that means that, on average, my tactical blog posts have gotten 12 comments each, whereas my average rant blog post above got, 108 comments. So, even if we factor in a smaller email list and not each of those posts having been emailed out and tripled that number to 36, we’re still looking at rant posts performing at least four times better at worst and ten times better at best.

You might be excused for thinking that the secret is to add the world ‘bullshit’ to any blog post. And… you wouldn’t be right but you wouldn’t be entirely wrong either. However, more on that in a moment because it’s not just in comments on my blog.

I also shared my Why ‘Stop Playing Small’ Is Bullshit blog on my Facebook Page. I generally get next to no response on posts to my Facebook Page because of this.

But when I shared this one, it went crazy. Shared by 34 people. And, on a Facebook Page a share means much more than a comment. Note: I did not boost that post. I paid nothing. And yet, boom.

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What is a rant?

Before we dive much deeper, we should really define our terms.

verb (used without object) 1. to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave: The demagogue ranted for hours. verb (used with object) 2. to utter or declaim in a ranting manner. noun 3. ranting, extravagant, or violent declamation. 4. a ranting utterance. via dictionary.com

rant (n.) Look up rant at Dictionary.com “boisterous, empty declamation; fierce or high-sounding language without much meaning or dignity of thought; bombast; a ranting speech,” 1640s, from rant (v.). rant (v.) Look up rant at Dictionary.com c.1600, “to be jovial and boisterous,” also “to talk bombastically,” from Dutch randten (earlier ranten) “talk foolishly, rave,” of unknown origin (compare German rantzen “to frolic, spring about”). A 1700 slang dictionary has rantipole “a rude wild Boy or Girl” (also as a verb and adjective) [Grose] via etymonline.com

In the definitions above you can see that ranting is a style of sharing views that doesn’t fit into the conventions of polite conversation.

 

Eleven reasons why rants get such a strong response

So, what’s up with the difference in response?

I think there are nine reasons that rants get such a strong reaction and are shared so much.

Reason #1 – They Send The Right Messages:

I wrote a blog post called Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall in Love With You (41 Comments). In it, I laid out five key messages that clients need to get from you in order to feel safe.

Message #1: That you ‘get it’ (or at least will try to).

Message #2: That they’re not crazy.

Message #3: That they’re not alone.

Message #4: That there is hope.

Message #5: That there’s a bigger context.

I believe that a good rant can send all five of those messages.

Reason #2 – A Rant Comes From a Point of View:

Years ago, I wrote a blog post called Nine Reasons Point of View is the Future of Marketing. In it, I explain why having a clear, well articulated point of view, perspective, philosophy or ‘take’ on things was so vital. And a good rants comes from this. A rant comes from a way of seeing things that is being ignored and is an attempt to call attention to it, or tear down a point of view we see as doing damage.

Reason #3 – A Rant is Raw and Real:

So much of what we see in business and marketing is posturing. People pretending to be more together than they are. And a rant shatters that pretense. A rant is honest. A rant cuts through the bullshit and calls a spade a spade. A rant isn’t trying to be nice and polite. It’s not concerned about offending people. And people respond to this. People are craving honesty. This kind of genuine boiling over of emotion and frustration when things make us wanna holler is a tonic for people. A rant is done to express, not impress. They’re done primarily to get something out of you not to make an impact on others. You rant because you need to or because you see it’s needed, even if you don’t know if it will make a difference at all.

The realness you express with engender respect (even if they disagree), trust, credibility and a letting down of the guard. People will be more open to you because they see you’re not hiding anything. There’s no pretense. They know where you stand now.

I learned from Stephen Jenkinson that there were two type of marble that were used for stone carving. The first type, which is the most expensive, has a very tight crystalline structure which will take any blow and which can be carved with incredible levels of precision. The second type was harder to carve and the final results would often be covered with holes and imperfections that would need to be filled and covered with wax. So, in that way, a cheaper marble could be used but made to look more expensive than it was.

Now follow this: the Latin word for wax is ‘cera’. The Latin word for without is ‘sine’. And so marble that wasn’t covered up, where the holes could still show, were sine cera. Or sincere. And so, in this way, this common word is brought down through the ages, holding close to its chest this story about letting our holes show.

And so a rant is a tremendously sincere event. We’re not trying to posture or say it exactly right. We’re not trying to pretend we have it all together or have all of the answers. And, because it’s so sincere, people trust it.

Why don’t people rant? Because it’s vulnerable. It risks, even courts, rejection.

If you try to fake it and use a rant as a technique when it’s not something you genuinely feel, it’s going to suck hard and everyone will notice it.

If you try to control and constrain it too much, it will lose its oomph. You’ll notice that in almost all of the rants below, there is swearing. There’s a reason. When people are really ranting, their filters fall by the wayside. Things come out of their mouth that normally never would.

And, because of their rawness, a rant is big medicine. This isn’t something we want to do all of the time. They have real impact precisely because they are so rare and so raw. If all you do is rant, you will lose credibility. The less often you use this tool and the more emotion that is let loose when you do, the more impact it will have.

My colleague and friend Morgana Rae said, “I call those the ‘Dark Goddess of Morgana’s Wrath’ blasts. They’ve been surprisingly enrolling.”

And it’s important to understand that rants are only one kind of medicine. They are needed but they’re not the only thing that’s needed. We also need listening, patience, organizing, well articulated and thoughtful requests etc.

Reason #4 – A Rant is Polarizing:

Not everyone will agree with your rant – it will likely be controversial. It’s going to get a polarized response from people. And that’s good. Clients who aren’t a fit will be repelled, and the ones who are a fit will be magnetically drawn towards you hard. It gets people off the fence of how they feel about you.

Reason #5 – A Rant is Releases Pressure:

One of the highest performing headlines of all time was written by Jay Abraham:

“I’ve got to get this off my chest before I explode.”

He wrote it once as the first statement in a long, rant like sales letter. It got an incredible response. And, whenever he or others have used it after, it got a huge response too.

When people hear a good rant, if they agree with it, they often experience an immediate sensation of relief and release. A good rant gives people permission to stop pretending they see the Emperor’s new clothes when the man before them is clearly naked.

By the time a rant happens, pressure has been built up to an untenable point. When you rant, you not only release the pressure for you, but for everyone listening. The people listening have been, whether or not they’ll admit it, feeling a sense of ‘I don’t know how much longer I can take this…’. If you try to hold a rant in, it will hurt you. If you release it, it will free not only you but everyone listening who agrees with you. Rants are like a thunderstorm that come in loud and strong and, after which, the air smells fresher than it has in months, the stagnancy gone and replaced with someone more life giving.

A rant can create an incredible sense of connection between yourself and the person listening as they whisper, ‘Thank you for being willing to say it.’

Because rants are the release of pressure, they require some pressure to build up first. They have to arise from something real vs. an attempt at saying the ‘right thing’ to get a ‘particular response’ (e.g. a crafted statement from a politician that is clearly false indignation, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing).  This means we can’t manufacture them without their ringing exceeding hollow. In that way, they’re spontaneous. It’s not about making them happen perhaps, but not stopping them when they arise.

Reason #6 – A Rant is Emotional:

A rant is not an essay. It’s not an analysis or breakdown. It’s not a manifesto (though a manifesto may arise from it). A rant isn’t that well thought out yet. It’s from the heart. It’s an expression of pain, heartbreak, anger or hurt. It’s an expression of a deep love for something. It’s not abstract. It comes from a real place of real impact. It comes from a not being able to hold it in anymore more than an excitement to share some new idea or concept.

That might be why people swear so much when they rant. The gasket has blown and the filter is off and the only thing coming out of that spigot faster than you can manage it, is hot, liquid truth that is going to burn away anything that isn’t real.

A rant wants to tear apart bullshit. It wants to grab people’s masks right off their face, throw them down on the ground and step all over them. It wants to grab people by the shoulders and shake them and tell them to wake the f*ck up for god’s sake. It wants to go to a polite dinner party and turn over tables if that’s what it takes to get people’s attention.

And there’s a good chance that you won’t know it’s a rant by what you say but by how they respond.

Reason #7 – A Rant is a Call to Action:

A rant is a message. It’s a call to action to change things for the better. And that energizes (and, hopefully) enobles people. A rant is a call for people to wake up, stop being so f*cking apathetic and to do something. A rant isn’t just done to vent feelings and then move on – that’s what therapy is for. No, a rant is there to start something.

Think of the rant at the end of Trainspotting:

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.

Reason #8 – A Rant is Unauthorized:

Rarely does anyone ask for permission to go on a big rant because rants are often deliver in the face of some oppressive authority, reality or set of assumptions. So a rant can actually be a step in reclaiming your own personal authority. Rants often happen when boundaries (real or imagined) have been crossed too many times or in egregious ways and so rants are a way of saying ‘no more’. A rant often breaks social conventions. It’s not polite. It often interrupts whatever is going on.

And in a world full of posturing, lies, injustice, pretense and deep confusion about how we’re supposed to relate to each other as humans, rants are deeply, deeply needed.

Because they are not authorized or a part of the common public discourse, when rants appear, they are like lightning. They get attention.

Reason #9 – Rants Can Be Tonic or Toxic Destructive Force:

Make no mistake. A rant is destructive.

But this destructive energy can be tonic or toxic, depending on how it’s used.

When coming from a deeply wounded place, it may seek to scapegoat groups of people. Think Hitler ranting against the Jews or Jim Crow ranting against black people or religious leaders ranting about homoosexuals. Toxic rants are the life damaging use of anger to protect unearned privileges and the punitive use of force to crush those who would question those privileges and control.

But there’s a tonic version where the rant is coming from the impulse to tear down anything that isn’t real, to expose hypocrisy, to flood light into the darkness and to call attention to injustice. They want to blow up the damns that are killing our salmon, break the shackles that are enslaving us. Tonic rants are the life affirming use of anger and the protective use of force when something precious is under threat.

A toxic rant will result is real casualties or real people being hurt.

A tonic rant will only result in lies being hurt.

The key thing to understand is the destructive power of them. But, hidden in the middle of that destructive power is something precious. It is not a new thing, but rather the yearning for something better. A good rant is a pleading with the world for something finer and fairer, a plea for beauty in the face of ugliness, kindness in the face of cruelty, fairness in the face of injustice, integrity in the face of hypocrisy, honesty in the face of deceit and duplicity.

Reason #10 – Rants Resonate:

If it’s a good rant, it will resonate with people.

As Carl Rogers said, “That which is most personal is most general.” He meant that the things you most deeply feel that you think you’re the only one who feels them? Everybody feels that. And so the more honest and vulnerable you’re willing to make yourself, the more others will resonate with you.

James Baldwin put it so well, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

This is what rants do. People hear them and say, “Me too! I thought I was the only one!” and then they want to share them. If no one comments on your rant, likes it or shares it, it might not have struck a chord in people.

Reason #11 – A Rants is a Response:

This is vital to understand about rants.

It’s why you can’t just ‘manufacture’ a rant.

A rant has to come from somewhere. It’s got to be a response to something real that you have experienced in the world that genuinely upsets and frustrates you. It’s got to be something you have been unable to find a solution to despite trying.

A rant is about something bigger than you. A rant places you somewhere. A rant is not a political speech about you and how amazing you are and why everyone should vote for you. A rant is not a speech about some neat new idea or technology or philosophy. It’s a response to something that isn’t working.

 

The Three Places A Rant Can Come From:

Maybe even more important than the content of the rant is where it’s coming from.

I want to suggest there are three places. You can read more about this in my blog post Collapse, Posturing & Composure.

Collapse: If you rant from a place of collapse, victimhood and ‘poor me’ your rants will sound whiny and complaining. This is not attractive. And it’s not vulnerable (even though it seems like it is). Instead of sharing the pain they feel, they use the pain as justification for their story about themselves. The former melts people’s hearts, the latter disgusts people.

Posturing: If you rant from a place of puffing up and pretending to be more together than you are, or pretending to care so much, you’ll come across as immensely disingenuous and only succeed in appealing to other people’s posturing.

Composure: This place, of comfort in your own skin, of finally coming to trust yourself over external authority, is where all good rants come from. Rants that come from a desire to get love (collapsing) or get respect (posturing) never resonate. But rants that come from a place of self love and self respect always do. You can’t be vulnerable unless you are composed. If you’re posturing or collapsing you are, inherently, basing your identity in how others see you. That means that to feel okay, you need to manage how they see you. That means you need to be in control of it. And you can’t be in control and vulnerable at the same time. Only when you feel safe in your ability to handle yourself and meet life as it is, will you every be able to be vulnerable.

But, it might be good to look at some real examples of rants so you can get a flavour for them.

So, here are…

 

Eight blog post rants worth checking out:

Is It Possible to Financially Harm a Client? by Mark Silver

Addicted to Breakthroughs by Mark Silver

My Prediction of the HUGE ‘Launch Bubble’ That’s Coming Fast… and How to Surpass It… – by Ali Brown

Life Coaches, Don’t Quit Your Day Job (What They Don’t Tell You in Life Coaching School) - Rebecca Tracey

Before You Quit Your Job – Morgana Rae

It’s not your abundance mentality, it’s your crappy copy (and 8 other reasons why your business is stuck) – by Makenna Johnston

Can We Quit the B-S Marketing? An Easier Way to Honest Marketing – by Tova Payne

Statement to the Court Upon My Unjust Arrest – by Leah Henderson

 

Thirty-two video rants worth checking out:

Watch these all. You will feel uplifted and emboldened by them. They all have different styles which is part of what I’m wanting you to see so you can understand all of the different ways your rants could look.

Rants in Politics:

Elizabeth Warren goes off about the debt crisis and fair taxation.

Australian Prime Minister Gillard lets loose on the leader of the opposition for his blatant and long practiced mysoginy. What I love about this rant is that it’s clearly not scripted. She had some points set out to make and then just let loose.

Hillary Clinton gives an incredibly well measured response to a question on birth control where you can feel her entire life of real world experience coming to bear and all rushing to form themselves into words. You can feel the long line up of examples forming inside of her as she builds momentum in this and yet, somehow, keeps it together.

Rants in Comedy:

Bill Hicks famous rant (NSFW) about marketing and marketers. This is one of my favourite rants of all time. Eloquent. Well thought out and full of emotion.

George Carlin, much of whose career was based in rants, delivers this incredible three minute of lucid, angry brilliance.

Louis CK goes off about why he hates cell phones. But the beauty of what he’s offering here is a deeply personal and intimate look at what it means to be human and how we distract ourselves from this constantly. It’s funny, but it’s also a plea for humanity.

Louis CK’s stand up style, much like George Carlin’s, has a rant like quality. In this one, he imagines how God might rant at us if he were to come back to Earth and see what we’d done to it. This particular rant resonated so much that someone decided to animate it.

I couldn’t do this without throwing in this third Louis CK clip (which was how many people heard of him first) where he ranted about how incredibly spoiled and entitled this culture has becomes.

Lewis Black is one of my favourite ranters who channels his anger at the bullshit in the world into something well worth watching as he articulates many of our deepest held frustrations for us.

Jim Jeffries goes on a rant about gun control in his comedy show. A brilliant use of comedy to get a point across and to address a real problem of gun control by pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in the arguments against it.

Rants in The News:

Rachel Maddow crushes it in her post election rant. I love the rhythm and momentum that this rant builds as it goes. Like a steady drum she keeps beating as she builds her case point by point.

Nobody in Canada rants better than Rick Mercer as they make up a regular feature of his show This Hour Has 22 Minutes. What I love about Rick’s rants are the momentum they have as he’s always walking when he does them and he’ll physically stop to make a point.

Kanye West’s propensity to go off script can sometimes be seen as self serving but, in this moment, he just lets loose and starts telling the truth as he sees it. This video, as many good rants are, was shared incredibly widely. Out of all the rants I’m sharing, this one might be the most spontaneous and unscripted.

Dylan Ratigan goes off and will not be stopped. He breaks decorum of his show, interrupts everyone and can’t seem to stop himself. Agree or disagree with him there was nothing contrived about this rant. It was not a carefully calculated Ezra Levant style meltdown. It was a very real frustration boiling over.

Rants on Fake News and Talkshows:

Bill Maher has built a career on rants. The ‘New Rule’ portion of his show is a well constructed, well thought out rant on a particular topic where he punches up and skewers the wealthy for their hypocrisy on drug policy.

Jon Stewart often goes on rants on his show. This one moved me because it was so incredibly honest. The footage of the murder of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD had just come out and Stewart was beside himself with dismay at the appalling and unbelievable injustice.

Spoken Word Rants:

The following spoken word poem is scripted. Every word. And yet, it’s a rant. It drips with real emotion, swells and builds. It is a plea for something as must good rants are. You can feel the poem bursting out of her as she opens herself with incredible vulnerability.

Another example of the power of spoken word, poetry and excellent video editing to express a rant eloquently. This is a personal expression of feelings on a topic which many would share. This video was shared widely.

Through spoken word, Prince Ea expresses his despair and hope in the world but then brings something beautiful towards the end. This rants is the shroud of sadness that protects something beautiful inside it. This rant is a passionate plea.

Prince Ea goes on a poetic rant about cell phones.

Evalyn Parry, one of my favourite Canadian singer/songwriters, delivers this beautiful spoken word piece as an ode to lift up all of those she sees making the world better in the face of all the opposition she knows they experience.

Climbing Poetree is an incredible poetic duo whose spoken word pieces are some of the finest and most eloquent rants I’ve ever experienced.

This poetic, moving, surging and heartfelt rant for the hope of something better by Andrea Gibson brings tears to my eyes every time.

A powerful piece by Katie Makkai in response to a life telling her she wasn’t. beautiful. enough.

Rants on TV or in The Movies:

This is a little micro rant on bankers a game show by David Mitchell who’s a brilliant British comedian. What I love about it is that he can’t seem to stop himself. He interrupts the proceedings with it.

In the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character is goaded into going on a rant that ends up with him (spoiler alert) admitting his guilt. But how much better is it with this young man in a tub doing it? Nailed it kid.

I disagree with where the following one comes from politically and the amount of history it leaves out (e.g. slavery and genocide in the United States), but it’s a great example of a rant…

Rants By My Colleagues:

My colleague Jay Fiset of Calgary went on a rant about his frustrations with the personal growth industry .

Rants by Celebrities:

Actor Tyrese Gibson goes on a rant about responsibility to the people following him about them. He expresses how tired he is of their whining and complaining. It’s a beautiful, tough love rant.

In this famous interview on BBC, Russell Brand gives some incredible well tempered, rant-like answers. What I love about Russell’s style is the incredible lucidity but also the pacing, tempo and rhythm of it.

 Jenna Marbles, who is amazing, goes on a rant about the whole ‘nice guys finish last’ idea. Extremely NSFW.

Vandana Shiva is one of the most remarkable and wonderful people I know. In this interview she goes off about Monsanto. This kind of rant is driven by a passion for exposing the lies and false causes of real troubles.

So, How Do You Participate in the Rant Experiment?

Step One: Identify Your Industry Frustration

Complete these sentences. Try coming up with ten answers per sentence stem. This is a great exercise to do with a friend. Have them interview you and record it or have them take notes and just let yourself vent. Critically, don’t try to be nice. Let yourself be petty and opinionated to start. You can clean that up later (if you want to). For the moment, just let it out.

Note: Replace the word industry with scene or community as it makes sense.

  1. I’m so sick of _______ in my industry.
  2. The elephant in the room that no one is willing to talk about in my industry is….
  3. The biggest piece of bullshit going around my community is…
  4. The emperor’s new clothes in my industry is…
  5. The thing I’m most frustrated about in my industry is…
  6. The things I’ve thought about for years but have never said out loud about my industry is…
  7. The dirty secret of my industry is…
  8. The thing I’m most sick and tired of hearing, seeing, or dealing with in my industry is…
  9. The thing I feel like I have to bite my tongue about (while I roll my eyes) the most when at industry events is…
  10. The thing they never teach you when you’re in school for our industry is…
  11. The biggest lie I see my colleagues peddling is…
  12. How the hell is ______ still a thing in my industry?
  13. I don’t give a shit about _______ anymore. What I care about is _________.

Step Two: Express it Out Eloquently

I’m not talking about word smithing something to death so it’s stripped of all inspiration. But I am talking about holding yourself to a higher standard so that even your consternation is expressed in a way that adds more beauty to the world in its realness. I’m talking about stripping the ‘uhms’ and ‘uhhhs’ and ‘like, ya know?’s from it. I’m talking about speaking right from your heart in the most beautiful, honest and real way you know how to do.

Oriah Mountain Dreamers urgent and deeply honest poem The Invitation is a gorgeously articulated rant.

I don’t think that this kind of eloquence is something you can just summon up in the moment. I think it’s the result of a lifetime of practicing eloquence in speech being brought to bear in a moment like this. The only way to practice for an eloquent and moving rant is to practice more beautiful speech right now in your day to day life.

AGAIN: For the sake of this experiment: let’s not having videos go more than 3 minutes long at the most and let’s have written things be no more than 1000 words.

Step Three: Sleep On It & Share It

It’s always a good idea to sleep on things. Even rants. Let it out and then look at it the next day with fresh eyes. Can it be improved? Polished? Made even more powerful? Almost certainly.

Step Four: Share the Results in a Comment Below

I look forward to seeing what you come up with.  But more than that, so does everyone else. Maybe the world has been waiting for you to blow off a little steam.

Also – if you can think of other rants that should be featured, please share them below as well.

Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl: Seven Business Lessons from Ten Recent Workshop No-Shows

 

rice bowl chopsticksI want to tell you a story.

I know that, on this blog, I share a lot of “how to’s” and philosophical pieces and there can be the risk of people thinking that because I generally post positive things, I must never mess up, I must have everything together and I must never get frustrated with clients.

Which is certainly not true . . .

This story has to do with something I heard Stephen Covey speak of years ago which was to never mess with someone’s rice bowl. It was an Asian proverb he’d heard. It meant, in essence, don’t mess with someone’s means of sustenance. Note that the aphorism isn’t “don’t mess with someone’s rice.” It is don’t mess with the bowl. The rice is one meal, but the bowl is the thing that carries their food and makes it possible to eat. In modern times, people’s businesses or computers are a sort of rice bowl. They are the things that make sustenance possible. If you run a workshop, it’s your rice bowl.

And recently, my rice bowl got messed with by ten people.

So I want to tell you the story of this and what I learned from it.

*

At the end of February, I hosted a workshop in my living room in Edmonton.

My living room isn’t very large. It can accommodate about 12 people.

This means that my Edmonton workshops tend to sell out quickly.

And that means that once it’s sold out, people don’t bother asking about spaces or if they do, I have to turn them away and hope they might make it to a future workshop.

It means that, if people no-show without telling me, I lose money. On a day-long workshop, where the price is a $25 deposit and pay-what-you-can (PWYC) by the end, I tend to make about $100/person (in addition to the deposit). Because the workshop is PWYC, my only expectation is that you show up. Not that you pay a lot. Just that you show up. That’s it.

On this day, five people no-showed. They didn’t come and they didn’t, for the most part, tell me they weren’t coming.

And then again, just a month later, it happened almost identically. Five no-shows for a workshop of twelve.

Of course, most of my blog posts are trying to help you look at your business through the eyes of your potential customers; helping people see how their marketing might come across as gross or disrespectful.

But this one is also about helping you look through the eyes of the entrepreneurs you might be doing business with. I’m hoping to lift up the impact of your own conduct as a customer.

And . . . perhaps also to commiserate with you a bit, my dear reader, about shitty behaviour you’ve had to deal with from your clients and to offer you seven lessons on how to deal with it.

 

Here’s the story:

Both workshops started at 10am but in both cases, only six of the 12 people registered were present so I asked everyone’s patience to wait until more folks arrived. By 10:15am we just got started anyway. And the others never arrived.

After the first workshop was done, I realized thar I had accidentally left the “pay at the door” option on Eventbrite on and a few of the registrants had chosen that option. Which means they hadn’t had to pay the $25 deposit. It’s a rookie mistake on my part, and not the first time I’ve done it. Whenever people don’t show up for my workshops, it’s almost always the people who’ve not put down a deposit because they “promised” to pay at the door.

Classic.

So, that wasn’t great, but that was my bad. It’s not good behaviour on no-shows’ parts to not let me know, given how few spots there were in the workshop, but it’s predictable and I know better. I learned this lesson first in Seattle, when 36 people signed up for my PWYC weekend workshop and only 12 showed up because there had been no deposit asked of them. Since then I’ve required $100 down for the weekend workshops and no-shows have vanished. When I began doing day-long workshops, I asked for a $25 deposit, and hadn’t had an issue with no-shows . . . until these past two workshops.

Then I noticed that one of them had actually been on the waiting list and I’d forgotten to tell that person that they could now come as someone had dropped off the list. My bad again.

But, by the end of it all, there were still five people who had paid their deposits for the second workshop and simply not shown up. Ten people in total. Not even a courtesy message the night before or the morning of.

 

mfh-video-leftHere’s What Was Particularly Frustrating:

This was the first workshop in which I’d decided to give everyone my $80 Marketing for Hippies 101 video in advance of the workshop.

The pitch was that, before participants showed up, they’d get all of the content of the workshop and our day together could be 100% question and answer focused on applying the content to their own particular situations. It was, I knew, an experiment. It was my attempt to be generous with my people and also avoid my having to go over the exact same content again and again in my workshops. I’d hoped it might be a win/win.

And yet, it is the workshop with the highest percentage of no-shows I have ever had since instituting the deposit system.

Most generous offer = most no-shows?

What gives?

I was left with a sense of having been taken for granted at best or, at the worst, taken advantage of.

For someone who operates their business largely on trust (and is most often rewarded for that), it felt brutal. It’s the worst I’ve felt in business in years.

Looking through my email after the workshop I saw one message had come in that morning from a couple, but via Facebook and it landed in my “Other” inbox:

Morning Tad! My partner and I are registered For your workshop today. We are sorry we aren’t going to make it, our jobs at a show last night went much later than expected. We are happy for you to keep our donation of course and will keep an eye out for more of your workshops in the future. Our apologies again!

I felt grateful they’d let me know. And apologized. And . . . there was still a hint of . . . the fact that they’d not set themselves up well enough to be able to keep their word on attending the workshop. That if, let’s say, it had been a friend’s wedding, they either would have shown up, even if tired, or made sure they weren’t working so late the night before.

And so, after the workshop was done, I messaged those who had no-showed to see what had happened.

One of the responses felt 100% good. Some others felt mixed. And some, though well intentioned, felt downright awful. I will share their words here anonymously and my reactions candidly.

 

The words that didn’t feel good:

“Unfortunately we were unable to attend. Feeling worn out and tired after to much travelling, we felt it was best for us to rest. We have been told wonderful things about your class and would love to attend in the future. Do you be having anymore classes coming up? We are located in Medicine Hat which is in the south eastern corner of Alberta. We are always open to travel to Calgary, Edmonton or Lethbridge. Would you ever consider doing this class in Medicine Hat? We look forward to hearing back from you.”

Unable to come. Because they were tired. That felt not great to read because it felt like a shirking of responsibility. It’s not that they were “unable” to come. They chose not to come because they were tired. They were tired because they arranged their travel schedule in such a way that it had led them be tired. If it had been important for them to make it, they would have made it.

Sure. Maybe it was best for them to rest. But what about me at the facilitator and host? And the other participants? What about the people who weren’t able to come because their spots had been reserved? Void in their note is any sense of the impact their behaviour had on others.

Also, the light tone that assumes I would even be excited, in that moment, to have them sign up for another workshop. Or that, having just bailed on me, I’d be so thrilled come to their corner of the world.

And most of all, why didn’t they email me the night before to let me know they wouldn’t be coming so I would, at least, have a fighting chance of filling the space. Or even the morning of. No. I had to email them to even hear that. Which feels deeply disrespectful.

Another:

I was so stoked for the workshop but sadly I have been so sick I wasn’t able to attend today. I hope everything went well and I hope to meet you one day as I loved the video and get a lot of inspiration out of it.

Ugh. Again, “wasn’t able to attend.” How about you just let a brother know as soon as you think it’s likely? So glad you enjoyed that video I put thousands into producing and that I sell for $80. Glad it entertained you. And again, this light tone of “hope to meet you someday” as if I’d be really excited to meet someone who totally bailed on my workshop and didn’t even think enough of me or the other participants to let me know.

Yet another:

Everything is ok. I was up late working and needed some sleep. It’s been a crazy work week for me

So, they chose to stay up late working and then decided the need for sleep trumped the need to keep their word,  my need for income from my work and someone else’s need to learn what was offered in the workshop. At a certain point, this is the inescapable algebra that they had to wrestle with. I understand having crazy-busy weeks. For sure. But I’m not okay with using that as an excuse to no-show. Especially with no notification.

And then this one:

Hi Tad, sorry I missed this… Two of my kids are sick and I hardly slept last night. :(

I get not sleeping. But, you can still let the workshop facilitator know you won’t be coming. You can set your alarm to wake you up to send an email. You could send me an email before going to bed. I didn’t get that message from her til 1pm. Three hours after the workshop had begun. And it was only in response to a message I’d sent out asking, “Are you coming?”

And finally:

yes, I was going to come with two others. Sadly it didn’t work out. I really do appreciate your words. So passionate and inspiring. Keep up the great work Tad. (Another time I hope. )

This one might have felt the worst. Again, it only came after I had written this person. And . . . it just “didn’t work out.” Huh. Not their fault. And who knows – this is me being extraordinarily cranky. There are, of course, all manner of reasons that would be entirely justifiable to not attend to my super duper important workshop at the last minute. I get it. I know it’s pissy. But it’s also how everyone feels when you break your word to them. This is desperately important to get. You can tell me, “I really do appreciate your words,” but if that’s not backed up with some sort of action, the feeling I’m left with is, “the hell you do.” Because, no-showing for a workshop and costing the facilitator hundreds of potential income dollars and others the chance to attend . . . that’s not how you treat someone you actually appreciate. And again, the assumption that I’d be so happy to have her come another time given her behaviour.

 

The Words That Felt Mixed:

There were some participants whose words felt better because they were willing to actually do something to make ammends and pay for their spot.

“sorry my friend, we didn’t make it today for your workshop. we live in white court (2.5 hrs away), and it was just too treacherous a drive with all the snow this morning. really i just feel sorry for myself, for having missed it! i only moved to alberta a few months ago, before that i lived in toronto and that’s where i first heard about you, through a friend. so i was pretty excited when i realized i’d be able to take a workshop with you in edmonton! maybe next round – please keep me on your mailing list for workshop announcements. in the meantime… i have two questions: of your online materials, what would you recommend as most relevant for a yoga teacher/massage practitioner?  also, is there a way that i can send you a bit more money towards these amazing downloads that you provided as part of the workshop? i can’t give a lot, but i would like to give something. thanks for being such a cool dude and doing what you do.”

What didn’t feel good here was that I didn’t get this message until 3pm and only, so I thought, in response to an email from me. Which had me feel cranky. But, it turned out that, even though the email was later than I would have liked, it was sent entirely on her own initiative which feels good to know. The road conditions were very bad that day and I am glad they stayed safe. And they could easily have emailed me three hours before the workshop began. That would have felt really good. But, one of them sent me $60, unprompted, to make up for it which was incredibly gracious. So, overall, this felt good. The only part that didn’t feel good was it coming later than I would have liked and that I’d thought they were only emailing after I’d emailed them. Knowing it was sent unprompted is touching to know. It strikes me how much of this all comes down to feeling valued by people. Which, by the end, I did.

You probably already know, but I missed your workshop today. I really loved the video series that you sent out a few ago though and I know your event was pay-what-you-can, so I’d like to send you a cheque. Where should I mail it and who should I make it out to? Hope the day went well!
What didn’t feel great was they sent this after my workshop was over. What felt great was that they offered to pay something for having no-showed and to acknowledge the material provided. That’s incredible integrity. And then they saw my Facebook post from the morning of the workshop, “No showing workshops is bad behavior. Period.” and they wrote:
Oh gosh, I just saw your fb post about no shows. I’m now feeling super embarrassed….sorry to have caused any negativity today.
And that felt good to me, to feel like they were getting it – but also not-so-great because it seemed to be news to her that no-showing might cause some negative feelings. This is often our culture – woefully unaware of the impact of our actions on others.
But then she sent me $175. Which, I admit, felt better.

 

The Words That Felt Good:

Of all of the messages I received, this one felt best:

I’m registered in today’s class although I’ve come down w something, I was hoping it would pass and I could still attend. Do I pay for the video w pay pal? Although I was sick I don’t want to flake out. Any idea when you will offer this again?

It felt better because they sent it at 4am. That’s incredibly considerate. As soon as they knew they wouldn’t be coming, they let me know and offered to pay for the $80 video that was provided in advance. I get that things come up. I do. Life happens. If you just let people know as soon as you can, that’s all most folks want or need. In the end, even though they’d missed my workshop due to illness, they sent me $240 for my work, which felt . . . incredibly good and honouring.

Given the fact that the average PWYC donation was $197 per person that day it also meant that nothing was lost financially for me due to that person missing the workshop. And, because of their graciousness, you can bet I’ll be available to them for questions here and there and am excited to meet this person in a workshop when they finally make it to a day-long workshop as my guest (I won’t charge them at all as in my books, they’ve already paid). I did my best to be as generous as I could in communicating and they returned the generosity to me which made me want to give her more. I did the same with the person who sent me $175. The truth is that, while those amounts feel good and fair for the work and materials provided, it’s not really about the amount. It was that they wanted to send me something. They sent what they could. If it had been $20 I would have felt wonderful too because . . . that’s why I do PWYC. So this work can be accessible to whoever needs it. If they’d come, maybe they could only have paid $10. That’s fine. What is not fine, for me, from my perspective, is no-showing and then doing nothing to make up for it.

 

The Email I Would Have Loved to Have Received:

In my perfect dream world, this is the kind of email I would have loved to have gotten and, therefore, the kind of email I am committed to sending should I need to cancel last minute for a workshop. Imagine you’re a workshop leader and I’m bailing from your class but you get this email from me.

“Something has come up and it looks like we won’t be able to make your workshop. We wanted to give you as much heads up as we could, and wish it was more, in hopes that you might be able to find someone to fill our space. We feel awful because we know there were so few seats and that our missing the workshop means that others were turned away and might not get the chance. Of course, we know you’ll keep our deposits but we also got this video from you and we were wondering if we might be able to pay you for that to make it right. It’s not your fault we can’t make it. If there’s anything else we can do to make things good, please let us know because we respect your work in this world so much and wouldn’t want our inability to keep our commitment to come to take away from your ability to do your work in the future.”

I would have felt so good about that.

 

So, What’s The Solution?

One woman from England, upon reading an early version of this post said, “This man doesn’t make what he is offering important enough for people to respect him, pay in advance and make sure they show up to his workshops. That’s what he needs to be addressing.”

So, her stance is that, I don’t value what I’m doing enough and need to command more respect.

And this is where things get tricky.

The reality is that, again, until shifting the offer to add the video, I got very few no shows. Negligible. Adding the videos was an experiment and it turned out differently than I’d imagined it might. That’s life. This is not an endemic pattern in my life or business.

And aside from the arrogant tone of her knowing what I need in my life somehow, this whole idea of making what we offer ‘important enough’ for people to respect us is fraught with peril. First of all, it’s very connected to the troubles of the notion of charging what we’re worth and the way that many people walk around trying to command respect from others by posturing.

I run my workshops on a pay what you can basis. So, I don’t get all the money upfront. There are a lot of reasons I do this (some strategic and some altruistic), but a lack of self respect isn’t among them.

I want to suggest that the way forward isn’t a one size fits all approach but about finding a way of structuring your business and offers that feels good without needing to puff yourself up so that others value what you do and it’s more subtle than simply making what you do ‘more important’. I have no idea what that actually means.

 

Seven Business Lessons to Pull From This:

Lesson #1 – Don’t Tolerate Bad Behaviour From Clients.

Sometimes your clients behave badly. They do things that won’t work for you. It’s ok to be upset with your clients. When your clients do things that break agreements you have or are unkind or thoughtless, it’s okay for you to speak up and address the issue directly.

Too many entrepreneurs put up with it because they think “the customer is always right.” But this is not true. This feeds the bizarre, spoiled, community destroying and toxic entitlement in which we are constantly swimming as a culture. They collapse and say, “Oh. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. No big deal.” because they don’t feel like their needs matter at all. They’re trying to be “nice.”

It’s far worse that this though because this niceness actually robs the other person of something. It robs them of their humanity. When we refuse to let people know that their actions impact us, for better or worse, we turn them into a ghost. When we refuse to be real with them we contribute to them being less real; we contribute to their loss of understanding of what real is.

Sometimes we don’t speak up because we know we’re guilty of the same things too. We know that if we speak to their lack of integrity, we are suddenly incredibly vulnerable to have ours pointed out to us too. So, it can feel easier and safer to let it slide with them in the hopes that they’ll give us the same pass when we drop the ball and flake on them. And if they don’t? Well, then at least we get to feel morally superior about how chill we were about them bailing and how uptight they are. Soooo… that’s something.

It’s easy to tell ourselves the story that, until we get our own integrity sorted out and are 100% consistent that we have no right to expect it of others. But I want to flip that all around. Yes, work on yourself. But let’s make part of that work about having good boundaries, about letting yourself respond honestly. When we hold others to a higher standard, it also calls up and galvanizes that in us. The more we consciously do it with others, the more likely we are to do it in ourselves. The act of holding someone accountable is a more visceral and real reminder about the importance of keeping our word than a year or meditation on the subject because it makes us vulnerable.

And, if, out of laziness, fear or just low standards, we don’t hold others accountable to their word, we won’t be able to court something better from the other, and that robs not only our business but the community of a more mature person.

This isn’t about punishing clients or calling them out. It’s about courting the possibility of a more whole village in which all of us could live.

Lesson #2 – Set Up Clear Cancellation Policies.

Giving away all of the content in advance was a small experiment (which we’ll talk about later). What I learned from that experiment was that, for whatever constellation of reasons, it dramatically increased the rate of no shows. That was reality. Adding those videos was literally the only thing I changed in the arrangement. I imagine a small part of the no showing may have been the guilt of them having not watched the videos and not wanting show up and be embarrassed by this but I think a big part of it is, even if unconsciously, the sense that, “Well . . . I’ve already gotten all of the content so . . . there’s no real need for me to show up.”

I’m open to doing this same offer in the future. But, if I do, I will have an iron clad cancelation policy that says: “If you cancel within 48 hours of the event, your credit card will be charged $100 as I won’t have the possibility of filling the space. If you no-show without letting me know in advance of this workshop, your credit card will be charged $200 for being an asshole.” Or something like that.

This is a common policy. My dentist does this for missed appointments. Many therapists and massage clients do this. I think it’s wise to have a cancellation policy because, without it, you leave yourself open to being taken advantage of by those raised in a culture that only ever taught them to worship at the altar of what-works-for-them.

Someone recently shared her version of Alexandra Franzen’s brilliant cancellation/no show policy wording (students have to tick the box indicating they have read this before payments are made):

“When you register and make your first payment, that’s my cue to block out a seat — and shoo other folks away if the class will be full. I prepare your 40+ page manual. I start crafting your name tag and graduation certificate. I start brewing and meditating on your journey that’s just beginning and holding you in my mind while I’m stuck in traffic.

I invest in you — just like you invest in yourself, by investing in this class. And that’s why, with exception of tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, avalanches and unforeseeable grief-stricken situations, I do not offer refunds for cancellations —which, to my delight, are fairly infrequent.

If you are in dire straights and need to reschedule your training to a later date, please please get a hold of me (via email or phone) as soon as possible — out of respect for me and my time to re-jig the class, and most importantly out of respect for those other fine souls I may have to turn away if a seat is not available. If a rescheduling happens in advanced, I will hold your payment until you are able to join me again. Because commitment is sexy, and extra time + energy goes into the process, an additional fee of $50 is charged to reschedule to another class. If less than 48 hours (2 days) notice is given, you will forfeit the entire $225 and rescheduling will happen with another full payment. That, my friends, is my Karma-Friendly Cancellation Policy.”

Lesson #3 – “It Matters That You Come” – Get Payment in Full Before or Set Up Deposits on PWYC Events.

If you decide to run a pay what you can workshop, I beg of you, get a deposit for it when they sign up. If you let them pay at the door, they’ll likely never end up arriving at the door at all. Make sure the deposit is enough that, if they cancel, you still feel good and you’re not out too much money. I used to not require a deposit and the no show rate was huge. Ever since adding it, until this recent experiment, it’s been negligible.

A colleague, Audrey Seymour wrote these words about an earlier version of this blog,

“Tad wrote a great blog post yesterday about how no-shows increase for workshops when you don’t require prepayment. This matches my experience, and when you look at it from the perspective of parts of the psyche, you can see the part that signed up and the part that is resistant to the shift that the workshop is likely to create. Requiring prepayment supports the part of the client that wants the shift. I found this to be particularly true when teaching Speaking Circles, helping people get past stage fright. I offered a prepay discount for a package of sessions, and I remember one client saying “I’m SO GLAD you offered that prepay package, because if I hadn’t prepaid, I never would have come back the second time. My fright was still so strong, and I would have missed this incredible transformation that has happened! Thanks for doing that.”

One of my colleagues Sue makes sure new clients read this before booking with her:

Please provide payment prior to your session, via PayPal (Internationally) or Interac Online (in Canada). If you encounter an emergency that requires you to cancel a session, please just let me know and we’ll schedule another at a time that works better. If you need to change an appointment time for any reason OTHER than an emergency, again, please contact me asap and we’ll find a good time for both of us.

Lesson #4 – Overfill Your Workshops.

No matter what you do, there will always be some no-shows at your workshops because “shit happens.”

People get sick.

Blizzards happen.

People’s cars won’t start.

In my experience, unless they pay everything in advance, you’re looking at a 10-20% no show rate. You’ll learn what it is in your own situation through experience. But, if you notice that you keep having 10% of the people not show up, then make sure you consistently sell 10% spaces than you need. If your workshop has a limit of 30 people, sell 33 seats.

Doing this is an immense relief.

And if everyone shows up? You’ve got three extra people. No big deal. And if, predictably, three people no show you or cancel so last minute that you can’t fill their spaces? You’re prepared and harbour no bitterness towards them because you already filled those spaces. If I’d done this in this situation, I wouldn’t have felt half as bad. How do you fill up your workshops? Read this, son.

Lesson #5 – Take Responsibility for Your Business.

This ties into all of the other lessons but the heart of it is this . . . as much as I bitch above about people no-showing and kvetch about their overall lacklustre responses, my business is my responsibility, not theirs.

The truth is that they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

They’re just being themselves. They’re responding perfectly to the parameters of the offer I made. In their shoes, I might behave the same way. How they act is their business. My business isn’t to change them. It’s to notice how they’re being in response to what I’m offering and adapt to that. My business is to take care of myself while loving them as they are. But if I don’t do the former, the latter will prove impossible.

I have seen clients deal with clients showing up late or not at all for years and never do anything about it beyond whining and complaining. And, the longer that goes for, the more it becomes a story like, “People are inconsiderate” or “There must be something wrong with me.” etc.

My colleague Joseph Riggio who wrote the guest post for my blog Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle” had this to say…

I do charge in full before people can attend my program and I have a very generous refund policy before the program begins, but they need to initiate it, because I don’t want to become responsible for them showing up and I make my living this way. If I want to give something away because I think someone needs it or I simply want them to have it I do that too. Currently I’m running a major certification training program (4 modules of 3 1/2 days, $9000 regular investment) and I gave away 12 spaces in it as a scholarship, and make another 6 available at a huge discount as a sponsorship. All the spaces were taken and I had zero no-shows. What I did was establish the importance of what the commitment I expected was up front and assumed responsibility for making sure my clients got it, 100% on me. IMO my clients are only able to treat me as I allow them to, and I never, ever take it personally. I work this way now because I totally get it. I been there before … i.e.: in a room “full” of no shows. I’ve also been the “no-show” in a room and while I pay for the space I haven’t occupied when I do that, I don’t feel guilty for not being present if the presenter hasn’t indicated that it’s important to the program and/or others who will attend for me to be there. When I get that, i.e.: my presence and not just my money is significant, I make a much more informed decision about what I need to do if I decide to register.

You have people no-showing you consistently? Do something about it.

You have clients who don’t treat you right? Say something.

You have clients not paying you? Change something.

This is your business and your responsibility.

Whining and blaming your clients is a dead end street that will leave you broke, bitter and full of resentment to the very clients you profess to love and want to serve. Don’t blame others for your own laziness or miscalculations in creating systems.

Lesson #6 – Reminders.

If you have a workshop, send a reminder about it 48 hours before the event. You’d be surprised how many people forget it’s coming up. Sometimes these emails will actually prompt people to email you and say, “I can’t make it.” and then you’d at least got a fighting chance of filling those spots.

Lesson #7 – Start Small.

I’m currently on tour. I’ll be leading eleven workshops. Only one of them is getting the same “here’s all the content free” deal because it was one of the first ones I set up. Thank God I didn’t plan out my whole tour like this. I decided I would test it in Edmonton and see how it went. But then I got so excited about it that I decided I would do my whole tour that way. Luckily, I led my first attempt at it at the end of February, before the whole tour was planned and noticed that half of the people no-showed. That was all I needed to decide not to do the whole tour that way until I understood the dynamic better. Then, just before going on tour, was the second workshop where the exact same thing happened. I felt annoyed and really frustrated, but also relieved that I’d been able to test small before going big.

Business and marketing are not guaranteed things. You’re always taking risks and experimenting with things. Every time you make a new offer, explore a new niche, change the name of something or try a new activity in a workshop – it’s an experiment. That’s unavoidable. The only thing you can control is the scale of the experiment. Too many people go big with every experiment.

In business this is called doing your due diligence. Any time you’re going to invest your time, money, reputation or energy in any significant amount, it’s vital that you investigate and test to make sure it’s worthy of it and will work. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they don’t.

To be clear: If I’d set up my whole tour this way, I’d be looking at half of the money for the same amount of effort. That would have been brutal.

I encourage you, whenever you’re thinking of changing something significant about your business or what you’re offering, start small.

 

The Community Lesson:

Everything we do and don’t do makes a wake, a legion of waves and troughs that pound the shores at the edges of what we mean, grinding away on the periphery of what we know. This goes on after the years of our private lives are long past. If we don’t learn that simple, devastating, and redeeming detail of being alive – that what we do lasts longer than we do, that the past isn’t over – then the parade of our days stands to indict much more than it bequeaths.”

-  Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

The business lessons above are important, but the lesson in community here is even more important.

Every action you make builds the village up or tears it apart.

If there’s a most important lesson that I’m taking from this it’s not to no-show other people’s workshops. That feels most important. Because I can be out of integrity all over the place. So this blog post, while coming from a cranky place, isn’t coming from any place of moral superiority.

I just had this chat with a friend on Facebook about this:

Friend: “There’s some sort of illusion of busy = I’m a good person and you should understand …

Me: Interesting … Wow. Totally. “You should understand” gets said as this non-verbal, “awww. but you understand what it’s like, right?” with a wink as the charm pours on and the accountability rolls of their back.

Friend: Ya, like that. I’ve done it myself.

Me: It’s most of my life.

Friend: Sigh.

And I’m not being cute about it. I’ve really done that most of my life. Learned how to be charming as a way of avoiding responsibility for the consequences of my actions. If I had to sum up immaturity into six words, they would be “trying to get away with things”. That was me. Learning how to be likeable to protect myself from the impact my lack of integrity was having. If integrity is so important to me today, it’s because I’ve had times where I personally had so little of it. And when we let others off the hook for doing this, we hurt the community. This is so important to understand. When we don’t honestly share the impact that others have on us, we make them less human.

Every time you make a promise and break it, it tears at the fabric of trust in your community. This is just as true as a business or as a customer. We all have a role. When businesses overhype their products and services and ultimately let people down, trust in the marketplace is diminished. And when customers behave poorly, it is the same. When customers lie to businesses or business owners lie to customers that “everything is okay,” trust slowly drains out of a hole in the bottom of the marketplace that’s approximately the size of that lie.

At minimum, both entrepreneurs and clients are called upon to keep their promises. Keeping our word is the basis of trust. Trust comes from people being trustworthy.

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh.Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh. (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing. There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled.)

- Scottish Gaelic Proverb

A small story: I recently created a project in Edmonton called The Social Yogi which creates monthly social events for local yogis.

But, being as overwhelmed with things as I was, I asked a friend to help me launch it. This friend then proceeded to bail on scheduled meetings fifteen minutes before because he was too busy. Each time he bailed he would use charm and good vibes to deflect the consequences. After the third time, I sent him a terse email letting him know that this could never happen again. He received the words well but then subsequently, and unsurprisingly, stepped down from the project.

You can’t build a project, a business or a community on the shattered remnants of broken promises. You can’t plant the seeds of new initiatives in depleted soil.

The hippie scene, in which I operate, is full of flakes. They bail on commitments all of the time without ever really “getting” the impact it has on others.

I think that this has a lot to do with our culture. If we have a culture of selfishness, I would submit that it’s because it’s rooted in the Cult of the Self.

We worship individualism.

An important point to notice: most of the emails people sent me were them expressing regret that they had missed the event and that this was a loss for them. While I appreciate this expression on one level (them letting me know they really wanted to go and were sad they couldn’t) what’s utterly missing is an acknowledgment that anyone else was impacted at all.

There’s no meaningful sense often that they understand the impact their actions have on the world around them as they trudge through the woods scaring all of wild nature and the spirit of goodwill away from them and anyone close to them. They proceed as if their needs are paramount rather than proceeding as if they are needed.

Author, elder and teacher Stephen Jenkinson once shared a story about his work with a therapist. Each time he would see the therapist, he would pay him the money for the session. But, on this day, things were tight and so Stephen casually told the therapist, “So, things are tight right now. I’ll pay you for this session next time.” Not thinking much of the impact this might have on his therapist in the same way that most of us don’t think of the impact of our actions on others.

“Why me?” were the words than came from his therapist’s mouth after a long and considered pause.

Those two words eviscerated the shroud of myopic complacency of Stephen’s excused. It asked something important of him. There was no blame in the words. No shame intended. Just the honest and, until then, ignored consideration of how he had come to decide that his therapist should be the one to bear the consequences of his lack of money. Why not his parents? Why not him? Why would the therapist be made to wait?

Why indeed.

I get my haircut at Barberha (best barbershop in Edmonton). Three times since starting to go there about a year ago, I’ve been too late and missed my appointment. Each time, I’ve insisted on paying for the appointment I missed. Then, one day, I was speaking with Linda the owner and she said, “You know Tad, you’re the only one that does that.”

I was incredulous. “What? What do they say? That’s ridiculous. They wasted your time and cost you money.”

“They just sort of say, ‘Oh man . . . I really can’t afford it right now . . .'”

My response was, “Fuck them.”

And if I were behind their counter when they pulled that, I would look them in the eyes, pause and ask them, “Dude. Why us?”

The Five Impacts of The No-Show:

When you no-show someone’s event you promised or committed to attend, it has an impact. Sure, you miss out on the workshop and that’s a bummer, but that’s too easy. That’s only the lense of the “self” this culture so celebrates. More profoundly and importantly, looking at it through the lense of the village, we see that there is an impact on many others.

Impact #1 – Money Lost: These five people no showing mean a loss of at least $500 of potential revenue for me. And maybe more if those who might have come in their place might also have spent money on other follow up products and services.

Impact #2 – Time Wasted: Now I need to follow up with the no-shows and deal with them individually. If they want to send me more money to make up for their absence, as generous and unlikely as that is, I will have to arrange payments for each of them. And there’s also some time wasted at the start of the workshop waiting to see if they’ll show up. Just 15 minutes of time wasted? No. That’s 15 minutes times seven for the seven people there who waited. It’s 15 real minutes of each person’s life, including my own.

One reader shared this,

“I can so relate as I worked 20 years for Canadian Blood Services, just retired a couple of months back and in the past year 2014, the no shows were at their highest ever. People commit an hour of their time to give blood to save peoples lives…we, CBS so heavily rely on those units and commit those units to the hospitals for people who are in great need in order to survive. To just blow it off as its nothing and say I will go another time and not even call in advance so that they can find a last minute donor to fill the seat, is so disheartening and also so frustrating and discouraging!! Staff spend countless hours understanding exactly what is required for the hospitals and then all the time spent to book donors all across the country. Then each day a dedicated team drives to locations all across Canada, through bad weather, and work long hours to ensure they get the necessary units needed to reach the daily goal. We go to the donors!! A lot of time and money is spent to pack up a team of health professionals on a bus to go to a town that has committed, say 100 units and only 30 show up….can’t describe the daily frustrations they all feel. The people I work with, especially out in the field, are beyond committed and do this job because they deeply care and most of the donors are deeply committed too….but I am not sure if it’s a generation thing or people are just so busy these days that they don’t even realize that by backing out and not informing in advance that they can’t make their appointment that someone’s loved one, a child, a sibling, a parent are lying in a hospital, with their only hope of survival, is by receiving those precious units of blood!! People need to be conscious of their actions when they commit to something and don’t follow through.”

Impact #3 – Someone Else Can’t Make It: If the workshop is a sell out, it means that, very likely, someone else wasn’t able to be there. Someone who really wanted to attend. And who was able and willing to be there.

Impact #4 – The Workshop is Changed: I plan my workshops for a certain number of people for a reason often. When people no-show, I have to change my plans and, sometimes, whole exercises need to be cut because there just aren’t enough people to carry them out.

Impact #5 – Impact on the Facilitator: My colleague Russell Scott said it so well, his words capturing the visceral essence of the thing I experience every time people no show me.

“At the beginning of the event I’ve been so pumped and excited anticipating the numbers and then 1/2 the people don’t show. Imagine going into a room of people with your heart totally open and then someone punches you in the stomach. That’s what it feels like right at the beginning of the workshop. The presenter has to deal with the excitement of doing the workshop and the disappointment of the no-shows at the same time. Its not a great way to begin.”

It’s so easy to forget that the facilitators are human beings too. That we’re not vending machines for wisdom that aren’t impacted by the group with which they work.

But it’s also important for us to remember that most people won’t see things this way and so, it’s good to consider how you can institutionalize and systematize the education and elucidation of this into your marketing and registration systems so the importance of their attendance is lifted up to them.

Crucially, we’re no longer talking about the importance of their attendance to them. Whether or not coming is important to them is literally none of my business or concern. I have no interest in making it important to them. I have interest in setting up the agreement, boundaries and payment structure so that it’s fair for both parties but I have no interest in trying to position what I’m doing as vital and therefore that, should they decide not to come, that they’re missing out on something important. None of my business.

Trying to get people to love or respect us in their hearts is a huge red herring; a false thread to follow. It looks like a good path to follow but it only takes us further and further away from where we need to be. In the end, it actually doesn’t matter if they love or respect you. What matters, very much, is how they behave. How they feel about you? Not so important. How they act around you? Very important. You have literally no control over how they feel, but there’s a lot you can do to create the conditions out of which good and courteous behaviour will grow.

Now, I will, of course, share what I have to offer as clearly and compellingly as I can. I want to help them see not only what I’m offering but the benefits it could have to their life. Of course. But that’s done with the offer to help them see if it’s a fit, not to convince them it is.

This is huge. If you don’t establish, with crystal clarity who your work is fit for and for whom it isn’t a fit, people will tend to see what you do as a commodity. They’ll see it as something generic and common. And that won’t engender respect. If they see that you do some things but not others, if they see that you have a scope of your work outside of which you’ll need to refer them to other people, they begin to get this sense of respect for what you do because they actually understand what you do. The clearer you are about your point of view and perspective, the more clear what you do becomes.

Respect begins with clarity and relevance. It deepens with trust and credibility and solidifies when they understand the value of it.

When I say, it’s good to lift up the importance of their attendance, I mean lifting up how and why it matters to other people besides themselves. This can show up in:

  • the contract they sign when they sign up
  • a welcome video you make
  • a box they check where they say, in essence, “I agree not to be a dick and no show because I know that impacts other people, costs you money and is a general buzz kill.”
  • a personal welcome call
  • a welcome email that they get

But it also shows up in…

  • the way you treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect you’d want from them
  • the kind of welcome they get in your programs so that they actually have the experience of knowing their presence is noticed and mattered
  • the way you carry yourself and speak about your work with the kind of respect and reverence you want from them (which has to have its roots in a real and meaningful respect you have around it – if you don’t respect the work you do, your own time and energy – they will smell that on you like a horse smells your nervousness and backs away)
  • your willingness to check in with them directly when they do something that doesn’t feel good to you

There are so many ways to do this and so many ways of wording it. Note: I’d love to read yours if you’d be willing to post it below.

You can’t build a village out of a group of people who only think about themselves and what’s in it for them. To hell with the invisible hand of self interest.

And we can’t build a village out of people who think that beautiful words are enough or that saying something is the same as doing it.

What was present in most of the words I received was the sentiment “I value you” and what was absent is any meaningful action about it. It is jarring to have someone utterly no-show a workshop and then say the words, “I really value you and your work.” To which my honest response is, “No. You don’t. If you actually valued it, you would have behaved differently. You just showed me how little you valued me. Now you’re trying to manage me and have me not be upset with you.”

During the lunch hour of the second workshop of the no-shows, I was venting my frustration with my friend Megan. She’d worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years and she related how, on big days like Valentines Day, people would often make reservations at three or four restaurants so that, on the day, they could choose whatever worked best for them. But that meant that the unchosen restaurants found themselves with too many staff and a lot of empty tables, costing restaurant thousands.

Cab drivers deal with this when people call a cab company to book a cab but end up hailing one down later and never calling to cancel their booking with the original cab company. They justify it by saying, “Everyone does it. It’s just how it is. No big deal.”

All too often, people make promises to others to do things not because they intend to do them but because they want to keep their options open and so they use their promises like a credit card that accrues the interest-based debt of resentment from others as the cost for buying more possibilities and time than were actually available to them without it. Instead of feeling the real human grief of our limitedness and all of the things we can’t say a real, solid, genuine “yes” to, we pretend that maybe we can say “yes” to everything and everyone and then, at the last minute, if things don’t work out for us, we can just bail and walk away.

Responsibility is a bigger thing than just trying our best to do what we say we will. It’s also about taking responsibility for making sure we’ll be ready and able to deliver on what it is we’ve committed to. It’s about creating the conditions we know we’ll need to succeed. If we promise to be somewhere and then choose to stay up late the night before . . . we chose to do that and, in that moment, we made our own comfort, productivity etc. more important than our promise to that person.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about that. But, at least, let’s be honest that that’s what happened.

If you need to bail, then own that that’s what you’re doing. Don’t pretend to have been a victim of something so much smaller than you.

Most of our lives are dramatically over committed (as a result of a desperately sick culture that creates this, which is a topic for another blog post). Most of us are barely scraping by as we sort out how to live a life of integrity in a larger system that utterly lacks it, how to enjoy the natural cycles of community in a culture addicted to linear growth and how to give our gifts in a culture that only values gifts if they add to the GDP. All of this can add up to overwhelm and burn out. And, unless we’re deeply committed to village mindededness, we can draw a straight line from this overly committed life to broken promises, hurt feelings and shattered rice bowls.

The task before us is immense: to tear down this failing culture, to build something new, and still –  in the midst of it all – have the space and support we need to be there for each other in a good way. Before us is a hard road to learn to balance taking care of our needs and the needs of the community. And there’s a lot for us all to learn in the process. This process is guaranteed to be messy and woven together with the threads of our own self righteousness and hypocrisy until enough thread has been stitched in that we can see its sickening colour but, instead of tearing it out, we leave it in so that we remember that even our approach to solving the issues of community was, itself, tearing the community apart. I don’t know all of the answers in this, but I do know that it’s worth the mess of being real with each other.

And I do know that, as entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to not only sell people things but to be a part of re-educating people on the etiquette of graciousness and courtesy through our own example.

Let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before us will demand nothing less.”

Naomi Klein, address to Occupy Wall Street

 

Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

Alberta_Williams_KingBorn in the Autumn of 1904, Alberta Christine Williams returned to her home in Georgia from teachers college and taught for a short period before getting married to her husband on Thanksgiving Day in 1926.

At the time female teachers were not allowed to work while they were married, so Alberta had to give up her job. However, as the only daughter of Reverend Adam McNeil Williams, she would grow to play an important role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church and in her family, which grew to include three children in whom she instilled deep levels of self-respect.

Alberta served as the organizer and president of the Church’s Women’s Committee from 1950 to 1962, yet that would not be her greatest contribution. Tragically, the church that held and heard the voices of her father, husband and son – who all served as pastors there – also echoed the sudden, loud, sickening sound of the gunshot that took her life inside its walls six years after her son was murdered for speaking not only his mind, but for the minds of so many others.

Recently, in an online program, a participant shared, “I know I need to overcome the overwhelmed feeling, otherwise I’ll just keep my game small, rather than making a big impact.”

Over the years, I’ve heard so many people share some version of this with me. 

When they say it, there is often a backdrop of shame and embarrassment. 

And I’ve seen too many speakers exhort their audiences with the same messages. I’ve seen so many coaches challenge their clients to “think bigger” as if bigger were always better. 

In Edmonton, where I grew up, I remember frequenting Willard’s Magic Shop. Willard was a scary old man who looked like a wizard and his shop felt like a genuine wizard’s store. I was 12 years old, just getting into magic, and the dark shop was tantalizing – piled with boxes full of secrets that I desperately wanted to know. Yet when I was older I heard a story of Willard trying to sell a boy in his late teens a $1500 stage illusion. Willard’s desire to sell it likely had more to do with his desire to make the sale than his wish for this teen to “go big.” 

I find myself wondering how much the encouragement to go big is tied to the pocketbook of the coaches who happen to also be offering “Going Big” coaching packages. Or to their egos for getting to be the one who empowered this person to make “The Big Thing” happen. Or just to their hopes. And I’ve been that coach many times. Seeing something that seemed possible and exciting to me and not being able to let it go, even though the client was clearly uninterested or not ready for it for whatever reason. And then being frustrated at the client for being so perfectly and utterly themselves. 

I’ve been at networking dinners where, after introducing myself and asking others what they’re up to, I am told some version of, “My mission is to impact 100,000 people to live better lives.” The number always seems to be very large and the emotional impact of it would feel hollow. As if they were just saying words they’d memorized from a workshop exercise and built a vision board around in an effort to convince themselves this what they really wanted. It never sounded or felt like what they really wanted. Something was “not quite right” about it.

The invisible algebra of much of the business scene (even conscious business scene) seems to be this: in order to have a big impact, you must reach a lot of people and make a lot of money. Without this, there will be no impact. And the more money you make, the bigger an impact you can have.

And, woven deeply into the fabric of this story is the thread that “jobs are for chumps.” I’ve seen speakers make fun of anyone who’d trade time for dollars. Like they’re idiots for doing so. Because, yeah, f*ck those teachers. And firemen. And police officers. And road maintenance people. What a bunch of chumps. This is the sometimes-subtle, often-overt background of the conversation.

Also woven into this story, which we’re fed with too many of the email subject lines or sales letters we read, is this sense that if we charge more, we will be worth more. But the whole notion of “charging what you’re worth” has always been, is, and will forever be, bankrupt (along with many of the ideas on prosperity that prop up our rapidly collapsing economy that has its roots in the perverse insanity of constant growth and hatred of limits). 

10888534_10155030151555195_334459728987611680_nAnd I want to directly challenge that math because F*ck. That. Noise.

This story keeps us feeling constantly inadequate.

This story makes people the victim of their own success with goals that are far too high, building a business bigger than they really wanted, and then paying the emotional and financial price for going beyond any meaningful sense of balance.

Who’s to say that those reaching hundreds of thousands will have a bigger impact than those who only ever reach 100, but do so very deeply? No one. That’s who. 

Niching, the finding of our role in the community, will always and forever be the dance between width and depth. And that width and depth are both equal and needed. We need people working broad and shallow. And we need people working narrow and deep. And everywhere in between. 

The only question worthy of being asked is, ‘What is it that you see missing that you want to give? And how do you want to give it?’ That’s it. There’s no right answer.

And then how do you make it financially sustainable? 

I recall a friend of mine telling me how he’d spoken with best-selling author and sales trainer Brian Tracey after one of his talks and asked him, “What would you do differently if you had to start over?” To which Brian replied, “I’d never build it so big.” It turns out that he spent most of his days travelling and speaking just to pay for all of his staff. I imagine you might find the same answer if you were to ask many of the business gurus out there. The businesses they’ve created to liberate themselves have become the albatrosses around their necks.

And yet we try to copy them. We do this even when it doesn’t feel right.

A colleague of mine recently wrote, “I’ve recently been through my own experience of acknowledging I’m better and more profitable when I stay small and keep my focus on the few things I love to do. Especially odd when I spent 7.5 years working for the biggest seminar guru and mega-bestselling author in that arena. Or at least he was in the top five. And people saying, ‘Denise, you’re going to be bigger than him.’ For a long time I thought I wanted to be – but I spent all my time running around promoting, which doesn’t make as much of an impact as really helping a small circle of people. Some of that was fun, but after awhile it started getting old. Plus I KNEW what he spent to get his book on the NY Times bestseller lists. It was serious six-figure stuff. The kind of money I absolutely didn’t have. I no longer feel like I have to make excuses for ‘playing small.’ It works for me. I know it’s ‘the American Dream’ to be big and be recognized, but happiness brings freedom – it really does.”
 
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10436274_10155030167540195_5701275771766354030_nI want to lift up another possibility.

Small can be beautiful. Small can be agile and nimble. Small can be making a difference in your own community instead of trying to “change the world” (as if “the world” were one monolithic thing we could effect as opposed to being another story that has come out of the mouth of the deep cultural poverty into which we are born and can no longer see).

Not to mention: small can be far more profitable than a big business (sure, less revenue but also less expensive).

If there was a theme song of this idea, for me, it would be this:

Not everything needs to “scale” to the global level.

What if you were to just make a business that was “you sized” and let that be whatever size it needed to be?

What if we stopped competing and just focused on creating something beautiful?

Sometimes people grow a big business so that they can one day return to the lifestyle they already had when their business was small.

I see the marketing world awash with exhortations to build a six or seven figure business. I’m sure by this time next year, we’ll be seeing programs for 8 and 9 figure businesses. There’s an implication that being broke is a sign that something is wrong with us. 

After reading this post, a colleague commented, “I’ve had the idea to create a ‘High Five Club’ to exalt the worthiness and adequacy of a five-figure income (which is what most of us actually need and earn). Perhaps that can be a movement too.”

Amen.

One of my colleagues Aine Dee said this:

I have experienced myself and with many clients that when they make an intimate, informed, and conscious choice to limit the size of their business and to increase the depth of their impact, that true wealth is naturally accessible in organic and nourishing ways. It’s always a shocker to the client who truly believed the bullshit that it would require going bigger. It’s bullshit brainwashing. Period. Not all of us desire or are soulfully inspired to a big stage, big bucks, big fame, big email list, big following, or big anything. Unfortunately many of those with a big platform are espousing this ‘big’ bullshit.” 

10891669_10155093360975195_904568337707258007_nI remember my friend Julianna’s restaurant Bacon. It was nestled in the main strip in the Highlands neighbourhood of Edmonton. I loved it for its quirky charm, independent spirit and delicious local food.

Before it shut down, due to a disagreement between the owners, Julianna would often be encouraged by savvy business people to franchise what she had; to open up a second and third Bacon restaurant in Edmonton.

This is, of course, not a surprising bit of advice as it’s the dominant business model in the world: grow big and then sell. You can see it everywhere. How many organic food products you buy are now owned by “the man?” Most of them. After all, if you want to to grow big and sell then what kinds of corporations will be big enough to buy you? Not the ones you admire the most, that’s for sure. 

OrganicIndustryStructure

And that is not surprising giving the way we relate to time in this culture. This culture sees time as a straight line from the past to the future. But not just any past and not just any future. It’s a straight line from Cave Man to Captain Kirk. This is the assumed inevitability of our evolution as a species. We start as “primitive” and eventually we develop warp drive, become a class-five planet and travel the galaxy promising not to interfere with other planets but doing it all the time anyway (and let’s face it, we’d steal their resources in a second if it would make us a buck). And so, in this story, the growth of a business from a mom and pop shop to a multinational corporation is the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, there are other conceptions of time, like cyclical time. The idea of living in one place (like the pygmies of Africa did for 40,000 years) by the cycles of the seasons with an ever enrichening body of stories and rituals based on the relationship to that place with no particular agenda or intention of getting to anywhere else that’s better (because is there anything better than being here together, right now?).

Julianna’s response to the suggestions to franchise was that she might, one day, open up another restaurant, but that it would have it’s own name and character. That what Bacon had was something unique, particular and special. It wasn’t something you could duplicate. 

What if small was beautiful?

10676240_10155030158345195_697351721460993522_n

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My colleague Caitlin Sisslin wrote these important words in a recent newsletter she sent out: 

The SOCAP conference was a field of inspiration. I heard a keynote from Vivienne Harr, the ten year old girl who raised $100K+ from a lemonade stand to end child slavery – and is now revolutionizing mobile crowdfunding. I met the founder of Groundwork Opportunities, which crowdsources seed capital for community-based entrepreneurs focused on ending poverty in their regions, throughout the Global South.

And of course there was plenty of conversation about growth and scale.

Many social entrepreneurs will advise you that the goal of any good social enterprise is to scale. To cause a proven solution to proliferate across a substantial social and/or regional dimension. Thought leader Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation asks, of any proposed fix to a poverty-driven problem, “will it get to those who need it most (a lot of them)?”

Scale seems largely unquestioned as a value in the social capital space. And in many situations, scaling is the right approach. The world’s on fire, after all! If something works, spread it around as widely as possible. But one of the best panels I attended at SOCAP, The Nature of Investing, explored a different response to the question of scale. 

Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital told the story of her transition from a top investor inside a major financial institution, to an ardent student of theology, and then a leader in the sustainable investing field.

Yet her concern is not simply with “sustaining” the status quo – she’s modeling her investing on the principles of nature, a reflection of the practice of biomimicry. At its most basic level, biomimicry asks, “what would nature do?” Applied to investing, it looks like directing our resources in ways that are effective, regenerative, and tied to the well-being of the whole.

I asked Katherine about the overall bias towards scale, and she offered something really interesting: “Nature grows and replicates, but it doesn’t scale.

Instead of a singular focus on scale as a measure of impact, she urged that we look instead at questions like: what is healthy growth? What should actually shrink, or even die and decay, to make room for the new? When you consider it that way, at one extreme, scale for scaling’s sake might start to resemble cancer, or extractive capitalism. Something that simply multiplies, without regard to the nuances of the landscape or the web of relationships it encounters. I resonated with Katherine’s idea. An essential part of any ecosystem is the cycle of birth and death, emergence and fading, bloom and wither.

Regenerative design – of our organizations, our systems, and our impacts – has to account for those cycles.

So as you’re thinking about how best to measure the impact of your work, concerned that you need to show only an upward trajectory, only bigger numbers each year, only an ever-expanding reach . . . Let your work breathe inside of a regenerative framework. Feed the parts that are springing up and bearing fruit. Let the parts lie fallow, that need to rest. Tell the real stories of growth, depth, lessons learned, and transformation. And when something is ready to die, let it go. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Katherine’s book The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investing Strategies through Biomimicry

What if there was such a thing as enough?

What if there was more to life than succeeding in a suicidal global economy?

What if part of this new economy we’re all trying to build had, in part, to do with scale?

small-is-beautiful-bannerJudy Wicks said it best here: 

“The Local Living Economies Movement is about: Maximizing relationships, not maximizing profits, Broad-based ownership and democracy, not concentrated wealth and power, Sharing, not hoarding, Life serving, not self-serving, Partnership, not domination, Cooperation based, not competition based, Win-win exchange, not win-loose exploitation, Creativity, not conformity, A living return, not the highest return, A living wage, not the minimum wage, A fair price, not the lowest price, ‘Being more, not having more,’ Interconnectedness, not separation, Inclusion, not exclusiveness, Community and collective joy, not isolation and unhapppiness, Cultural diversity, not monoculture, Bio-diversity, not mono-crops, Family farms, not factory farms, Slow food, not fast food, Our bucks, not Starbucks, Our mart, not Wal-Mart, a Love of life, not love of money.”

10411121_10155030158520195_4221505816239814050_n

“There are no great deeds. Only small deeds done with great love.”

- Mother Theresa

 

“Lionar bearn mòr le clachan beaga.”

(“Great gaps may be filled with small stones.”)

- Gaelic Proverb

 * 

Woven into these stories of “having an impact” is a deeply flawed and historically inaccurate understanding of how this impact happens.

The story of social change we are told is that of the hero.

We’re told, constantly, that one person can make a difference.

Implied in this story is that Martin Luther King Jr. was the spokesperson and only person who really mattered in the civil rights movement. That Gandhi was the movement for India’s independence. That Nelson Mandela was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, etc.

But that’s not true. That’s not how it happened at all. There were millions of people involved in these movements without whom all those mentioned above would have been lone and lonely voices.

One person can’t do much, really. 

10868215_10155030157675195_8186575161666033261_nThat’s what communities are for. That’s what movements are for.

And any of the big names you could mention of positive change makers (and there are, thankfully, many) were outgrowths of a movement, not the leaders of it. They served the movement, not the other way around. Their movement wasn’t a thing they began and trademarked as a sort of pyramid scheme to become rich and famous.

Too often when people say, “I want to make a difference,” the emphasis is on the first word, not the last. 

“I know that all of my enterprises will fail. I know that already. I’m not holding out hope that somehow anything’s going to change as a result of doing them. All I’m trying to do is participate in some small way in the small collection of memories that will accompany my death. That’s all I’m trying to do is having a small part to play in what those memories might be. Understanding now, that the way I’m proceeding is helping to author those things that people will remember. If they’re inclined to. And there’s not much more to me than that. But that is not a recipe for futility. One of the things I learned at the deathbed is . . . that’s the whole thing. That’s the magic of it. Our willingness to remember turns out to be a kind of banquet . . . and the remembering is the food. And I think that’s what we have to do in a rough time like this one, is that we have to give people even not yet born, we have to leave in the air a kind of an aroma . . . let’s call it ‘inconsolable possibility’ – a possibility that won’t be consoled into impotence.”

- Stephen Jenkinson

But that bitter pill of history doesn’t sit well with the narcissistic, modern ego which, when it says, “I don’t want to play small,” often means, “I don’t want to be seen or remembered as being small.” The idea that we can only ever play some small and humble role in the course of history is not a popular notion. Our society teaches us to be apart from instead of a part of

And the notion that we can control the impact our actions will have? Not very popular either.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against being strategic in our do-gooding. I’m arguing for being as savvy as we can be. I’m arguing for thoughtfulness and trying to have the biggest impact we can have.

I’m just lifting up for our collective consideration the possibility that your greatest impact on this world may have nothing to do with fame, fortune, the number of people you reach while you’re alive, or the scope of your reputation.

Consider the profound loss the world might have experienced without knowing it had Vincent Van Gogh been convinced by his friends to paint more commercial and saleable things. He died poor and not very well known but the beauty he created out of his tormented heart has done more to feed this world with beauty and repay our debt to the Holy in Nature than all of the infomarketing gurus put together. 

Consider your parents, the camp counsellor who inspired you, the animals you’ve known and loved, the countless seeds and animals who gave their life anonymously so that you might live to be here today. They were not big and famous . . . but without them you wouldn’t be among those who could count their good fortunes for your safe and timely arrival into our growing community. 

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman put it simply:

“It’s not about going into ‘the business.’ The business can’t be a thought. You get a foothold because you want to get a foothold as an artist. Your desire, your intensity, has to be about being a great actor or a great painter or a great musician. If that’s strong enough, it’ll lead you to good teachers and to places where you’ll learn. For me, the business wasn’t a thought. I was doing a play, and a friend in the play said, ‘My manager is here tonight and she wants to meet you.’ And I said, ‘Oh.’ And that’s how I got a manager.”

And I’m not arguing for poverty. Being broke is an overrated thing. One of my most popular blog posts is called 15 Things to Do When You’re Tired of Being Broke. I teach marketing. I get it.

I’m not arguing to make all business tiny. Some businesses are meant to grow.

10385396_10155030170325195_169231752928543090_nI’m not arguing that the urging people to “not play small” doesn’t have a place. I’m just trying to sing another song that I don’t hear as much as I’d like on the radio station of this conscious business and personal growth scene and hoping that it might get some airtime in the face of the Top 4o hits we constantly hear. I’m trying to sing a song called “Good Enough” and hoping it might catch on.

I’m not arguing that this story is without value but that, without being questioned, it is a story that is told and acted out in places and ways it doesn’t belong.

I’m not arguing for people to quit too soon, never stretch or push themselves, and to not really go for it. I’m just saying run for the joy of running, not to win some race set up by others with a dubious prize you might not really want in the first place. 

“For the Indigenous Soul of all people who can still remember how to be real cultures, life is a race to be elegantly run, not a race to be competitively won. It cannot be won, it is the gift of the world”s diverse beautiful motion that must be maintained… it is an obligation to engender that elegance of motion in our daily lives, in service of maintaining life by moving and living as beautifully as we can. Living and running were holy things you were supposed to get good at, not things to use to conquer, win, and get attention for. Running was not meant for taking but for giving gifts to the Holy in Nature. Running was an offering a feeding of life. By trying to feed the Holy in Nature the fruit of beauty from the tree of memory of our Indigenous Souls, grown in the composted failures of our past need to conquer, watered by the tears of cultural grief, we might become ancestors worth descending from and possibly grow a place of hope for a time beyond our own.”

- Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic 

What I’m arguing for is that smaller might be more profitable. I’m arguing for some sanity. I’m arguing for waking up to the reality that my Gaelic ancestors affirmed in the words, “Tha gu leor cho math ri cuilm [Enough is as good as a feast].” I’m arguing for waking up from the starvation based yearning for the toxic mimics of fame, big followings and big money. I’m arguing for the possibility of finding our role and place in things. I’m saying that the admonition to not play small (and therefore to “play a bigger game”) might actually lead people away from the contribution they’re supposed to make. I’m arguing for a diversity of business models. 

I’m trying to make the case that the simple words “don’t play small” come carried inside of the larger, toxic stories of this culture that “bigger is better,” that the world is a monolith rather than a diverse web of connections, that money = impact and many others. 

988972_10155030170035195_1160517093420416824_nI’m saying that the opposite of being collapsed isn’t puffing ourselves up and posturing as if we’re some big f*cking deal, but instead being composed and comfortable in our own skin and then doing whatever the f*ck we want.

And I would say that the holistic and personal growth scene tends towards this pattern of collapsing and making one’s self smaller than one actually is. Whereas the mainstream business scene is full of posturing and people making themselves seem bigger than they actually are. 

So, I get it. In that way, people in this scene play it smaller than they secretly want to be playing it and the encouragement to play bigger may actually be precisely the medicine they need. It’s just that these words are so loaded with cultural baggage that I think that it behooves us to look inside our luggage to make sure what’s inside is worth carrying the distances we want to travel.

Some people love the spotlight (some days I’m one of them). Some people would rather work behind the scenes in the shadows (other days you can find me there). 

For God’s sake, don’t play small if you aren’t. 

But it’s okay to be small if you are.

And don’t play big if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be big if you are.

10410665_10155352897430195_1905880515879259217_nThe problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.” Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

Sometimes when people are “playing small” they’re doing it out of a deep level of fear. They have realized the truth that stepping out in the world with their businesses will require vulnerability on their part. It could mean rejection. And they realize that, the bigger their reputations become, the more rejection will follow. This isn’t crazy. It’s real. And, knowing this, many people play things very cautiously, conservatively and close to home. They let things slide and fall apart because they’re terrified for someone to really see them. They spend all of their time being lost in the minutia of font sizes, editing and editing and never releasing, thinking about things, trying to get their website “just right” because if it’s not perfect and, if it’s not perfect, then we’ll be vulnerable to attack.

And they will be safe from all of this, but, what they often miss is that in shielding themselves from criticism, they also shield themselves from the overflowing love and joy of the community who would surround them and lift them up in gratitude if they showed up.

If you show up honestly in the world, you will polarize people. And that’s okay.

So, in that way, “playing small” robs the world of the gifts you came here to give. 

But I don’t think the answer to all this fear is to push through and to grow a huge business. I think the answer is to get soft, make friends with the fear and vulnerability, and get comfortable in our own skins as we grow businesses that feel right in the moment, knowing they may grow or shrink over time. 

The problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.”

The rental rate for being alive is not that we become well known and speak in front of 100,000 people with our “message” (though that is certainly how some people are meant to serve). We’re not all here to become big names with big followings (though that might be your fate). Becoming well known is not necessarily better than living a quiet life. Being big is no better than being small.  

“. . . the rental rate for this gift of being allowed to flourish and reside in this continuum with the rest of the world is that we do everything possible to be indigenously beautiful, promising that we make ourselves spiritually full and delicious so as to feed the next ones to appear in the ongoing river on the occasion of our passing.”

- Martin Prechtel

An excerpt from my new book The Niching Nest:

. . . this world is nothing but nests within nests. One of the great losses of this modern culture is that we have lost the ability to see this. The bird’s eggs lie in the nest. The tree is the nest for the bird and its nest. The soil is the nest for the forest. The Earth’s bedrock is nest that holds the soil. The solar system is the gravitationally-spun nest that holds our Earth inside of our remarkably nest-shaped Spiral Galaxy which is, itself, nestled in the impossibly vast Universe. Nests within nests.

The civil rights movement was a nest for Martin Luther King Jr. The anti-apartheid movement was a nest for Nelson Mandela. India’s movement for self-determination was a nest for Mahatma Gandhi. Certainly, and under no circumstances would any of them ever dared to claim credit for the creation of the nest in which they found themselves. This would have been unthinkable.

And yet, in the modern world of marketing, we are exhorted to stop marketing and start “building a movement.” This would be like exhorting a bird to stop building its next and to start building a tree.

And so whatever remains of this life affirming nest of history — that comes to us in the form of various movements for social justice and environmental sanity that struggle keep the eggs of the future generation safe — was woven by the actions of those who came before us. But it was not woven for them. It was woven for us, those to yet come, just as whatever weaving we might do in our now is not only done for us ourselves, but mostly on behalf of those whose faces haven’t yet pushed out of their increasingly threatened shells. 

“You are song, a wished-for song.”

- Rumi

 When we understand the larger nests we are cradled in, and how they all fit into each other, then what comes with this is a deeper understanding of our role, which is to be faithful to all of the work that has gone into the work of creating the many layered nests in which we find ourselves and to which we owe our lives.

When a bird builds a nest, it does it in service to two things. Of course, the eggs of the next generation. But also it builds it in service to the tree and the forest itself. The presence of the birds in the forest is a central part to what keeps the forest healthy.

And so a niche is not a movement no more than a nest is the entire forest. Your niche is your small part in it and humble contribution to it.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard increasing talk about this idea of movements in business. As in, “Don’t market your business, build a movement!”

But I want to suggest that if you can build it on your own, it’s not a movement.

And that this is not how any movement in history was ever built.

Your niche isn’t a movement. It’s your role in that movement.

Most of these admonitions I’ve been hearing seem less about building a movement and more about becoming famous or well known. They’re less about the movement and more about you being seen as the leader of something.

A movement is so much bigger than your business, than you, and even your lifespan. A movement is a larger cause towards which many people will dedicate their lives. A movement may have many spokespeople but never just one leader.

If your business dies, the movement will go on without it. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

If you die, the movement will go on without you. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

So, ask yourself not what movement you want to build, but what movement you want to play a role in. And then ask yourself what role you’d most love to play.

That’s more than enough. 

 *

So, who was Alberta Christine Williams? And what does her story have to do with this story of playing small?

You thought maybe I’d forgotten her. Perhaps you did. You would find yourself in good company because popular history certainly has. 

Well, she was born Alberta Christine Williams. But she died Alberta Christine Williams King. 

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

Her name is not well known and yet, through her son (and in many, many other ways we may never know) she blessed this world.

In my blog post, Why ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ Is Bullshit I wrote, 

“I imagine a modern day marketing guru speaking to Martin Luther King Jr’s mother and saying, ‘Why just be a stay at home mom? You’re thinking too small! Stop trading your time for dollars. You need leverage if you want to make a real difference in the world. Stop doing the one-to-one model of raising your son. What you really want to do is the one-to-many model. Don’t you value your time? Isn’t your time worth more than that? So, hire a nanny, and start building your business so you can be an empowered woman. What if you started teaching workshops on how to be a social justice leader and converted the attendees into a high end coaching package on how to be more effective at social change? You could create info products and sell those via mail order and make millions! And think of how much bigger an impact you’d have on the world with all that money and with that size of following!’ Of course, sadly for all humanity, because she thought so small and didn’t value her time, all she did was raise up Martin Luther King Jr. to be the man he was.  So sad for all of us. 

In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his mother “was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life.” Until the day he was killed, he was close to his mother.

Without Alberta, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.

Who’s to say what might or might not happen because of you and the seemingly small, mundane or common things that you do.

What if I Can’t Guarantee a Result?

GuaranteeThis is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for years.

Fairly often, in workshops, the question (and it’s a very good one) comes up: “What if I can’t guarantee a result?”

That question usually emerges from the shiny palace of conversations about creating guarantees, and better than risk free guarantees, doing clever and bold risk reversals etc. But, of course, not all kinds of work are suited for these kinds of marketing manoeuvres. 

Recently, in the Meantime Program I’m leading, someone shared the following comment which contains this same admirable problem.

“It’s difficult/impossible to predict an outcome from Reiki treatments. There are 2 reasons for this: 1. If I did identify a specific condition that Reiki could help people with I probably couldn’t advertise the fact due to the Advertising Standards Agency not accepting that Reiki is effective for any medical condition (without the ‘robust’ research to back it up they say it’s not acceptable). 2. Probably the stronger reason is that what happens as a result of Reiki treatment is not predicable because it’s not under my control: what the Reiki energy does for each individual depends on their sub-conscious need on that particular day. I cannot, in all integrity, promise any specific result, because I don’t know what it will be. I know that I can offer a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space where change is possible, but nothing can be guaranteed.  There’s a more predictable outcome for people I teach Reiki to: that they will have healing in their own hands. So should I focus on this instead? However that doesn’t really work in terms of the funnel because most people need to receive treatment first.”
So, you can see the sticky wicket here. 
 
Let’s retrace our steps a bit.
 
Your business is like a boat that can take people from Island A (where they’re suffering from some problem) to Island B (where they have some result they are craving). These are the basics I delve into in the Marketing for Hippies 101 program.
 
That’s the essence of a business, that journey.
 
Stated another way: without the journey, there’s not much of a business. There’s just a boat. 
 
Stated another way: every business exists to solve a problem. If there’s no problem to be solved, there’s no business.
 
Stated yet another way: if there’s no result being offered, then it begs the question if there is a problem or if what one is offering is, in fact, a solution in search of one.

So, in this case, she can’t advertise to treat a specific condition because a) it’s illegal and b) it’s unpredictable.

What to do?
 
Consider this, as it is always vital to do, from the side of the customer and imagine how it might feel to them for someone to say, “Pay me money. Then you’ll lie down. I’ll do some things on you. You may or may not notice anything. It can be very subtle. But, if, in the next few weeks, something good happens, then I’ll take credit for that. If nothing happens or something bad, I’ll say it’s either so subtle and powerful you can’t notice it or that your fear is getting in the way.
 
Consider how that might sound less than accountable or desirable to most people. 
 
So, what does that tell us? First of all, that her ideal client is not going to be most people. That her ideal clients are going to need to be people who are already open to, at worst, and irresistibly drawn to, at best, energy work – in particular, Reiki. These are people who will understand the idea that energy work is unpredictable and not be bothered by it.
 
That’s distinction number one.
 
Tied to that, fundamentally, her target market is going to need to be people who want to get on her boat (even just to sail around). They will need to be people who want a reiki session and be happy to pay for it. They need to be people who wouldn’t need or even want any kind of guarantee. People who want to enjoy a “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”. And she will absolutely get clients based on this alone. There will be people who want those things. There will be people who meet her and think she’s so lovely and want to hire her. She will meet people who have been dying to try out reiki and say ‘yes’ to her. That will all happen.
 
The only question is, will it be enough to sustain her. If it is, then I would encourage her to just enjoy that.
 
But if not, it’s likely got something to do with what we’re left with in her scenario. We’re left with someone saying, ‘My boat is beautiful. I can’t promise to take you anywhere, but it’s cozy inside. And everyone is welcome.’
 
Which isn’t bad (truly). But it’s not great (double truly). 
 
That offer is the offer of a ‘generic healer’. Of which there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, within 50 miles of where she lives. And more and more every year.  
 
Of course, the immediate response is often going to be something like, “But this can heal anyone! That’s the best part of this modality! It’s for everyone!” 
 
It’s for everyone? Maybe so. But you could make the same case for yoga and I could give you a lot of examples of different niches people have found in that world. Or permaculture. Or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
 
The ‘it’s for everyone!’ approach will work if you want to do reiki as a hobby for friends, but you are unlikely to build much of a business out of it. To continue the boat analogy, it would be like someone going down to the harbour and seeing thousands of identical boats. How are they supposed to choose? I’ll tell you how… price. They will go for the cheapest one.
 
In terms of the Four Stages of Business Growth, this is classic stage one.
 
What that means is that, as it stands, her marketing plan needs to be geared towards finding people who want “a compassionate, non-judgemental healing space”.
 
Huh.
 
And where would you find those people? Is it possible that this is actually code for every human on the planet? And why would they want it from her vs. someone else? And, if they want that but haven’t tried reiki yet, how do you get them to try?
 
It could also be that her target market, a bit more narrowly, could be those who just want a straight up reiki session. But, again, many of the same questions arise. Where do you find them? What makes her different than the thousands of others who do reiki?
 
You see the marketing questions that immediately arise. 
 
So, what’s clear is that, to make the marketing planning easier, a bit more focus and definition in her niche could be useful.
 
There are, fundamentally, two different approaches to this. The Artistic approach and the Entrepreneurial approach. I got into these in much more depth in my book The Niching Nest.
 
The Artistic Approach: I would encourage her to clarify what it is she most wants to give and how. I’d encourage her to look in the marketplace and notice what she sees is missing that she’d like to offer. I’d want her to clarify her point of view, find her voice, bring her personality more to the forefront, tell her story and speak about why this work matters to her so much. And I’d want to know all about what kind of lifestyle she might want. I’d be so curious about which parts of her work she loves the most and which parts she wouldn’t mind losing. I’d want to know which conversations come up between herself and clients that she’d love to explore more. I’d want to see her try to sum up her platform in a page. And then to weave that together into the most clear and beautifully offering she can manage. It would end up looking something like these.

Then, the basic pitch is, “Here’s the art I make. If you like it, great. If not, I bless and release you.” 

And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to consider who might be most interested in that.
 
Thomas Leonard, the grandfather of the modern life coaching movement operated in this way. And he was a business coach. People would ask him what results he would guarantee and he’d tell them he didn’t guarantee anything but that he was pretty sure they’d be happy with the results. They’d ask him why on earth they should hire him at his high rates then. He’d tell them, “You probably shouldn’t.” And often they’d hire him anyway. He refused to get caught in the trap of promising something that was out of his control.
 
But, and this is an enormously important part of it, he had the skills and competence to back that swagger up. He was incredibly good. 
 
The Entrepreneurial Approach: I would encourage her to hone in on one particular target market (i.e. a particular group of people struggling with a particular problem). She might ask herself, “who needs a compassionate, non-judgmental healing space who I most want to help?” and then focus her marketing efforts on them. Then, the basic pitch is, “I’ve created this thing to help you solve your problem and here’s why it’s so good.” It would end up looking something like these
 
And, once she was done that, I’d invite her to create the most wonderful and creative offer she could.

But, for this to become a solid business, one of those needs to move. 

Until one has a solid niche, it’s difficult for much to happen. I can promise that, as her niche gets clear, many of these questions will answer themselves. 
 
You can find a lot of free help on your niche at www.NichingSpiral.com 
 
Seven Things to Look at When You’re Struggling With, “But I Can’t Guarantee my Offers!”:
 
When people say, “But I can’t guarantee anything.” It’s often code for:
  • competency: real talk. This is the big one. It’s very easy to hide incompetence underneath a blanket of jargon and bullshit and claims that the process is unknowable. Facilitators, consultants and healers do it all the time. But, as shaman Martin Prechtel said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If people don’t get better, don’t call yourself a shaman.” Not that it’s controllable but, if there’s never any measurable or noticeabable result, then who are you kidding? The truth is that if you help people get better, if you help them produce a measurable, noticeable, and meaningful result in their life that they’ve been craving but could not produce on their own, you won’t need to worry much about marketing or worrying about not being able to guarantee your offers because the word of mouth will be so strong. If people come to you with back pain and leave without it, if they come to you suspecting an emotional cause to their physical ailment and you help them solve it, if they come to you with heartbreak and you help them find some meaning or peace in it, if they come to you struggling with their finances and you help them find clarity… they will tell everyone they know about you and, because the recommendation is coming from a friend, asking for guarantees are likely to be the last thing in their mind.
  • niche: as you can see above, the lack of a niche means there’s no particular journey being offered. This makes it impossible to guarantee anything. Because there’s no ‘thing’ to guarantee. After reading a draft of this post, the Meantime participant who had emailed me about the issue with reiki wrote me the following,

Wow thanks for writing the blog about my question Tad. Yes I understand your points. I think my issues are 1) not wanting to opt for a niche in the past, still lingering a bit – because yes Reiki can help anyone with anything if they are up for it 2) Not being clear enough about the niche I want to serve – and perhaps not daring to 3) Not having clear packages/free stuff/funnel although this started to evolve at the beginning of this year and I think more clarity on this will help. Perhaps a shift from seeing what I offer as just Reiki and more as a wider ‘package’ – something about self care and self honoring perhaps. Healing seems too vague as an offering, so I know I have to try to get down to who I really love to help.”

  • your map: If you’re taking people on a journey from Island A to Island B, they may not need a guarantee if they trust your map and the route you have plotted out. Sometimes them just knowing you’ve got a clear plan, process, perspective, approach, philosophy or set of principles on which you base your work is enough to eliminate any need for a solid guarantee. Not sure how to do that? Here are Five Steps to Identify Your Point of View.
  • how safe your clients are feeling: fundamentally what’s being hinted at here is the sense that people perceive some risk in spending their time and money with her. And so, to address it, we offer guarantees. What’s important not to lose sight of is the fact that the guarantees are just a tactics to address the underlying issue of fear. They’re a tactic to help people feel more confident in their investment. And they’re one of many tactics. Other ways to reduce risk include testimonials, online video, writing blogs, certifications, public speaking and leading workshops etc. Any kind of free sample you can create will be a huge help. Creating compelling packages is another way to reduce risk. All of these tactics will do ten times more for you with less effort if you have a clear sense of your niche.
  • are the results you’re offering big and vague?: if you’re making vague they will come across as untrustworthy. If you claim to be able to help everyone with everything, you will absolutely come across as a charlatan. It’s such an unbelievable claim. Sometimes the result we’re offering is too big. And sometimes while we’re not guaranteeing any particular big result, we’re implying it with phrases like, “this can help anyone with anything.” And when people feel uncertain they’re going to want more reassurances from you (such as guarantees). 
  • what can be guaranteed: you can’t guarantee everything, but there are often parts of it that you can. The whole conversation around guarantees is bigger than this blog post can handle but, in this context she might be able to guarantee that she’ll do everything in her power to make the space as compassion, non-judgmental and healing as possible. She could even get specific about how she does that. She could set agreements between herself and her client that would have them feel safe. She could guarantee her part of the process (e.g. ‘I commit to spending 30 minute in meditation at the start of each day and showing up to sessions well rested. I commit to continuing to grow in healing my own life. I commit to continuing education‘).
  • what your clients can guarantee: sometimes we can’t guarantee things because our clients actions are out of our control. You can make it clear what you need from them for the results to happen as promised and, if they’re unwilling or unable to do that, that you are free from any promises you made. That could look like committing to some basic health and stress relieving tactics everyday. It could look like showing up to sessions on time. Being willing to do some reading. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this below in the comments.