Winners of the 2016 SYTYCN Contest!

sytycn2016I am thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 So You Think You Can Niche contest!

Backstory: throughout the month of May I invited people to submit their niche summed up into 140 characters (that’s the length of a tweet!), and then to rate at least five other people’s niches from 1-10 and offer feedback to one another.

The results were fantastic. We had 45 niche meme entries, over 150 Facebook “likes” on those entries and more than 560 thoughtful, constructive comments.

I am deeply happy and encouraged by the quality of content and interaction. In addition to being fun, the So You Think You Can Niche contest for 2016 has been a wonderful platform for learning and a genuine success.

And the winner is: 

Allison Macbeth!

Allison Macbeth

Allison received an overall rating of 10, and of all the 10/10-ratings in this contest, she had the most feedback comments – thus making her our winner and proving that the amount of genuine, thoughtful, rated feedback really did matter!

My sincere congratulations to Allison – she entered a super clear niche for her work helping women to chart their menstrual cycles and balance hormones naturally.

Allison takes home the first place prize of a 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + she’ll be featured on my blog in the future + a $100 gift certificate at her favourite locally owned restaurant + a free hard copy and digital copies of my book The Niching Nest + a free entry to my Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (she doesn’t need it ’cause she’s so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course (in case she does want to join the course herself), which will be fully launching soon!

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2nd & 3rd place:

Eloise Meskanen and Leesa Klich. Each of these women received a 10 rating overall and had the 2nd and 3rd most comment ratings of all the 10/10-ratings. They will each receive a 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + an electronic copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

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The lovely SYTYCN contestants who placed 4th through 10th each win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others. The tie-breaker for niches with the same rating was the number of comments offered on that niche. 

My congratulations to these folks: 4th place: Kathryn Karpinski [10]; 5th place: Crystal DiDomizio [10]; 6th place: Jill Mahanna [10]; 7th place: Bradley Morris & Andy Freist [10]; 8th place: Sherry St. Cyr [10]; 9th place: Joyce Schafers [10] and 10th place: Victoria Vernhes [9.5].

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BEST MEME AWARDS go to people who created an eye catching, easy-to-read meme that really echoed their work or offering. This is a subjective category – I’ve looked at a lot of memes in my time and I chose memes that were striking and memorable to me, that were clear and welcoming and made sense with the niches they are supporting. These folks win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course – a discount the winner can use or pass onto others.

And the winners are: Josee Brisebois, Iona Bonamis, Crystal Di Domizio, Cara Leopold, Tomar Levine, Rebecca Llewellyn, Allison Macbeth, Eloise Meskanen, Bradley Morris & Andy Freist, Claire Sierra, Devika Singh, Victoria Verns, and Fran Westmore.

Best Memes of 2016

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THE BEST COMMENTS PRIZES go to the people who gave the best, most useful and insightful feedback to many others in the SYTYCN contest. They each get $300 off my Niching Spiral Homestudy course – because they’re the kind of people I want in it (this is a non-transferrable prize).

Thanks for the amazing effort and deeply thoughtful feedback folks, my congratulations go to: Lia Ayley, Josee Brisebois, Sarah Chauncey, Elfriede Krauth, Dana Leigh Lyons, Liz Massey, Solona Mead, Liz Norris, Jo Maria Vernon, and Sherrie St. Cyr.

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List of  Final Ratings:

Lastly, you’ll find the  list of the final ratings for everyone who entered the contest below. Congrats and thanks to all these lovely, brave contestants!

Please note: the calculation was made by finding the average score of a niche/meme’s ratings and averaging that total with my (Tad Hargrave’s) rating.

1 Allison Macbeth 10
2 Eloise Meskanen 10
3 Leesa Klich 10
4 Kathryn Karpinski 10
5 Crystal Di Domizio 10
6 Jill Mahanna 10
7 Bradley/Andy Morris/Freist 10
8 Sherrie St. Cyr 10
9 Joyce Schafers 10
10 Victoria Vernhes 9.5
11 Tomar Levine 9.5
12 Josee Brisebois 9.5
13 Iona Bonamis 9
14 Lia Ayley 8.5
15 Liz Norris 8.5
16 Fran Westmore 8.5
17 Ling Wong 8.5
18 Jessica English 8.5
19 Courtney Moore 8
20 Devika Singh 8
21 Rebecca Llewellyn 7.5
22 Mary Choo 7.5
23 Sarah Chauncey 7.5
24 Dana Leigh Lyons 7.5
25 Alice Grange 7
26 Jessica English 7
27 Tea Silvestre Godfrey 7
28 Jennifer Badach 7
29 Xine Lafontaine 7
30 Claire Sierra 7
31 Jo Vernon 7
32 Sheena Grobb 6.5
33 Elfriede Krauth 6.5
34 Cara Leopold 6.5
35 Sabrina Fletcher 6.5
36 Liz Massey 6
37 Nicole Ortega 5.5
38 Solona Mead 5.5
39 Sharon Love 5
40 Louise Knight 5
41 Seth Rainess 4.5
42 Jennifer Wenzel 4.5
43 Douglas Brown 4
44 Olga Kaminsky 4
45 Dana Pharant 3.5

The Poverty of Believing in Yourself

13185318_sIf you’ve ever struggled with confidence in building your business, this blog post is for you.

This blog post isn’t written to give advice so much as it is to comfort and console and to lift our gaze up from our personal struggles to the bigger context in which they lie.

It is a long post that might need more than one sitting to get through but the topic is worthy of the time invested. One doesn’t approach such a topic, so central to our experience of being human in the dominant cultures of the world, lightly or casually.

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12417937_1160132484004549_2435039033404846341_nIn mid-March of this 2016, I had a two and half hour Skype conversation with Yahya Bakkar (pictured here) in New Jersey who had been following my work for years. Many parts of the conversation struck me but one has stayed with me in particular.

He has been a motivational speaker and is working to coach and mentor young men to find self-confidence and to believe in themselves. I was inspired by his work and what it might mean for these boys with whom he’ll be working.

And he knows something about the need to believe in yourself as he was raised in a strict, religious family and was disowned by his adoptive father in his twenties because he wasn’t religious enough for him.

He also found his birth mother in his mid-twenties. She was living in Thailand and working at the airport. He flew her to the United States to visit for ten days. On the fifth day, she had a meltdown and, while he watched, tore up his only photo of himself as an infant. He’d left it, framed, by her bedside during the visit.

And then she left. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

So, as a young man, he had to learn to believe in himself because no one else would.

He had to love himself because none of the people who should have did.

And so he was going to teach these young men to believe in themselves too.

I was struck by both the beauty and the poverty of the whole situation. This approach of ‘believing in ourselves’, complete with its affirmations and incantations, its notes on the mirror and its positive self-talk, is a solution to a problem.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, we imagine it to be that we don’t believe in ourselves.

But why don’t we believe in ourselves?

Because we weren’t believed in.

This is important. Our lack of self-belief isn’t a personal failing. It’s not that we’re internally deficient or lack some confidence gene that everyone else had.

This might seem like I’m indicting his parents for not believing in him, but it’s a bigger story than that. Likely his parents never got believed in either. Who knows how long this lack of belief goes back. And, frankly, this job of being believed in is a village-sized job that has been foisted onto parents. It’s too big. It’s too much to ask of the parents and it might not actually be a job that is suited for parents particularly. Surely, the aunts and uncles and grandparents have some important role in fostering the young person’s belief in themselves. Surely the rest of the community plays some role.

But it’s deeper than that.

When I talk about being believed in I mean something deeper than looking at a child and saying, “You can do anything”.

In fact, I certainly don’t mean that.

I mean something more along the lines of a community expecting the arrival of the child and considering that this child might be coming to them from somewhere and that it might be bringing with it, in its tiny closed fists as it emerges from the womb, some sort of gifts for the community. I’m talking about the community believing that its well being hinges on those gifts being properly identified and fostered into their fullest fruition. I’m talking about the community, its elders in particular, clearly seeing the seeds that have been handed down to the village from those who came before in the form of this little one and doing their best to ascertain the proper role for them.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about niching. Most of my colleagues use the word niche to mean ‘target market’. But I tend to define it as something like, ‘your role in the community’ as it comes from the old French verb ‘nicher’ which means, ‘to make a nest’. And it’s worth noting that the bird makes the nest for their young. The chicks in the eggs don’t build the nest into which they will be born. And so, the role of culture needs to be about helping the young person to find their role.

My father died when I was nine years old from multiple sclerosis and I never had a strong male role model growing up. Those male role models became men, most of whom I never met except in passing. They were men who wrote the personal growth books I devoured with a hunger I couldn’t understand. Leo Buscaglia, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Gregg Braden and more. I was trying to elder myself with personal growth books because there were no elders around.

That wasn’t my mom’s job.

It wasn’t even just my family’s job.

It’s not a job that they, alone, were capable of. It’s too big.

The personal growth scene is big on confidence as a thing to cultivate.

After all, if you don’t have it, what might happen? It’s like a ticking time-bomb we know might go off. If we don’t become confident by a certain point, then it could be too late and the timer might run out, and the bomb could explode leaving us with a life of quiet desperation.

And yet, the desperation is present now in the way we approach this getting of confidence. It’s present in the way we talk about confidence as something we can ‘get’.

The desperation is present because the bomb we’re terrified might detonate already went off so many generations ago and we are standing in the crater of it. We are standing in the poverty of the dismantled village. We are left fending for our own belief in ourselves. We are left with a fractured, individualized understanding of who we are. Instead of understanding ourselves as a part of a community we are left to understand ourselves as some static, atomized individual who is responsible for making themselves feel worthy.

We are told that we need to parent ourselves. And I’m not arguing with this or suggesting this kind of therapy isn’t vitally important work to do. I’m grateful that the ones who do it are out there. But I am suggesting that the existence of this work and the clear need for it is a sign of the deep poverty of this culture and collapse of village mindedness.

It is madness. 

Of course, we feel desperate about it all.

*

“If you haven’t been fed, become bread.”

I think we also forget how much of authentic confidence comes from real competence.

If you are good at something you will tend to feel confident about it. 

When we are doing something we aren’t good at and we fail, it’s a terrible feeling. People have been let down. People have been hurt. We didn’t do a good job. If we’re an alive, empathetic human being, we’re going to feel bad about that because, in our heart of hearts, we’d never want to hurt someone.

When someone isn’t skilled in an area and is being asked to take on a big job in that arena, the appropriate response is not, “You can do it! Just believe in yourself.”

In a traditional culture, you’d never become a medicine person after taking a year-long course. You’d be mentored. You’d apprentice to someone. You’d be set up for success and not failure. You’d have support. And you would have, likely, been recognized as someone to groom for this role from a young age.

If a young person was born with a fascination in stories, maybe they might become a story teller. If they were more athletic, maybe a hunter. If they were drawn to crafting, maybe that.

But, in this culture, we are raised to conform, fit in, be a cog in the wheel of industry and progress. In this culture, we are told how to be based on our gender. In this culture, we are put into boxes of reward and punishment. In this culture, we are led so far astray from the reason we might be here, the gifts we brought in the trust that our community would recognize them, that even finding our way back there is a miracle. And finding our way back to that without help? It’s a miracle.

I found myself amazed at the work this Yahya was doing. “What you have done is Herculean” I told him. “It’s huge. You’ve taken on the work of a whole village in trying to find those gifts and then craft a way to give them. It’s too big. Robert Bly has the line, “If you haven’t been fed, become bread.” You’ve done that. You’ve become bread for these young men. And my hope is that your work with them helps ease their burden, that it’s another step towards some sort of a village so that those to come aren’t left with the too heavy burden of trying to figure out their gifts on their own or believing in themselves.”

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The industry of believing in ourselves is often a band-aid solution to a deep laceration. It’s covering up something so immense. It’s an industry that whispers to the sapling, “Water yourself. Be your own Sun. Be your own soil.” As Stephen Jenkinson puts it,

“If you’re on the receiving end of that stuff long enough, what happens is, there’s this little bud that grows up from you being bombarded with somebody being certain that you’re loveable, no matter what you think. And that little bud is a bud of worthiness. That you didn’t do anything to conjure, or manufacture. It’s not a meritocracy getting loved, getting grieved, getting understood and seen. It isn’t. It’s a consequence that you’ve got sane people around you. That’s what it is. But if you have this bud of worthiness that somehow, involuntarily starts to take up room and your take on yourself? The inevitable consequence is your ability to love somebody is born there.”

In the video below, Poet Maya Angelou once recounts to comedian Dave Chappelle about her experience of meeting young rapper Tupac Shakur. The way she related to him was the way an elder relates to young people, a feeding of their deep importance in the scheme of things. This kind of interaction is one that every young person deserves on a regular basis. What she does to Tupac is not to feed his ego, but to feed his soul and to tether him back into the history of his people. She places him back into belonging. She nails him back to time and place. She tells him, “This is who you are. This is where you are. This is when you are.”

And how many young people will ever be on the receiving end of such a moment? How many will be fed in this way? How many will ever even meet someone capable of this kind of beauty?

I recall one story I heard from an elder who was sitting with a young man, an activist wrestling with the state of the world.

“I am depressed,” said the young man.

“Yes, you are.” said the elder. “But, depressed as you may be, while we are here together, you won’t be depressed alone.”

He was affirming his feelings. He wasn’t trying to change him. He was letting him know he mattered enough to have company in the matter.

While speaking to a group of kids at Vashon High School in St. Louis, ET the Hip Hop Preacher, a black motivational speaker, was confronted with deeply disrespectful behaviour from his audience of mostly black students. His response was not to attack or shut them down but to confront them with a fierce love and honesty.

There are so many ways this kind of love and believing in people can look.

But most of us didn’t get a lot of it.

This culture is full of olders on drugs but has a deep poverty of elders dispensing medicine. This culture is full of young people with gifts to give and no one to recognize those gifts.

Years ago, I interviewed the good David Waugh of the Natural Gifts Society about this issue.

Tad: So, how did you get involved in, with this work of helping people find their gifts?

David: Yeah, it started, oh, very early on. I would say one of the first mentors that I found when I was lost in my mid-life crisis, in that crisis all of my old identities didn’t work anymore. I had been running a business, I left that. My marriage broke down, so I was no longer a husband and a father, a worker. All of those identities that I really thought — when people would ask me who I am, I would describe myself in those terms.

When I left all of that, it was like the deep question: “Who am I?” It started to haunt me, and I had some time and I had some means so then I started to explore. One of the first mentors that I came across was a fellow named James Hillman, who just passed away last year. He has a wonderful book called “The Soul’s Code,” and that was my first hint that there’s some sort of code, there’s some sort of pattern and it’s really unique to each person.

The metaphor that he used was — just like the acorn that has the blueprint of the mighty oak tree, it’s that specific. Each person has something of a unique pattern, and that’s very different from a lot of how the culture represents us as more of a blank slate. I think the term is “tabula rasa.”

It’s actually echoed in many indigenous traditions around, and like you say, the Catholic mystics also discovered that people have these innate or inherent gifts of spirit, that’s the way they articulated it. James Hillman called it “the soul’s code.”

Then I started in my research, I met an African shaman who really still — he’s quite modern in the sense that he has a couple of PhD’s, but he went through a traditional initiation. His name is Malidoma Somé, and he says in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.

This is probably the oldest tradition on the face of the planet since modern research is showing that we all originated in Africa at one point, and this is an ancient idea that we’re — each person is unique and how to find that uniqueness and have it unfold.

A lot from our education system focuses on kind of standardized testing and there’s a lot of mixed messages like “You can be anything you want to be.” Well, that’s kind of life telling the acorn that it could be a rose or a sunflower, where it’s actually more precise in, you know, we’re fortunate enough if we can be who we’re meant to be. That’s going to take some help, I think, some guidance.

If you struggle with believing in yourself it’s because, properly, I don’t think that it should be your job. It’s a job that’s too big for you. It’s a village sized job being taken on by an individual. It should have been the job of everyone around you as you grew up to help you find the perfect role for you in your community and to become good at it so that your community could receive your gifts.

“…in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.”

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If you struggle with believing in yourself, the truth is that you may always be plagued with this.

You may never get the confirmation from the world that you need.

It may be too late for you.

But, again, “if you haven’t been fed, become bread”.

If you didn’t get it from your family, you can be that for others.

Being wounded doesn’t mean you can’t heal others. It just means you know how important the medicine is.

If you don’t believe in yourself, then see if you can’t walk your way towards believing in others and why they’re here. And see if that can’t be something more than a reflex, blanket reaction of positive affirmations. See if you can make it particular to those you meet as you narrow your eyes a little to make out the types of seeds they carry with them in their fists that they never dared to open because they were terrified to lose what they’d been entrusted with knowing full well that their family and community had no capacity to see or help them plant those seeds so they can grow. If you’re very lucky, maybe some of those people will relax their fists open and you can sit next to them and help them in learning to weave them into that bigger blanket of a village that might be one day.

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It’s good to distinguish, in all of this healing work, the difference between healing and a cure.

A cure means the problem is gone.

Healing means that some measure of wholeness has been restored.

And, often, we don’t find a cure, but we do find healing.

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A good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself… it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. Only the wounded physician heals. But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armour, he has no effect.”— Carl Jung 

The archetype of “The Wounded Healer”, as we know it now, seems to have originated with Carl Jung (1875-1961) in the Greek myth of Chiron (a centaur, was known as a wise teacher, healer and prophet) who, in the process of overcoming the pain of his own wounds, came to be known to us in modern times as the compassionate master teacher of the arts of healing and medicine, privy to the secrets of life and death.

During a skirmish with a rowdy bunch of centaurs Hercules, carelessly and accidentally wounded his friend and mentor, Chiron, in the knee with one of his arrows.

The arrows Hercules had chosen to use on this particular day were arrows coated with the blood of the monster Hydra. Arrows coated with the blood of the Hydra were known to cause painful wounds that would never heal.

Being an immortal, Chiron would never be able to heal from the wound caused by Hercules, and being immortal he could never die.

He then retreated to his cave to heal himself, and, in so doing, created the healing arts. Ironically and despite this great achievement, his wound never healed. He had spent his entire life becoming very accomplished in the use of healing with herbs and other methods, but he could not alleviate his own pain. But, in his own search for personal healing, his ability to heal and teach others grew.

On the Moontides blog, I found these good words.

Chiron reminds to us that it is only by being willing to face, consciously experience and go through our wound do we receive its blessing.We are all wounded healers in one way or another, and many of us have been directed and made wise through our own painful childhood experiences. Hence, it is through these very experiences of hurt and pain that we can best help others…and it is not just helping those who are suffering similar experiences. In fact, the healing process applies to ourselves as well because each time we relive our pain in order to help others, we are also again dealing with and healing ourselves just a little bit more.

We each have the ability and perseverance to go beyond our issues, our problems and troubles, and not have suffering label us as who we are. There are many men and women – probably in our daily lives – who are an inspiration and testimony to that. Chiron symbolizes those who find the strength through suffering to help others avoid the pain they themselves have had to undergo. We are often directed and made wise by own painful childhood experiences. Chiron’s house and sign show where we have been deeply wounded and may hold the key to our own healing. Chiron takes us on a journey through our darkness, personally and collectively. He teaches us that our wounds contain a gift, and that the process of healing oneself is a journey back to greater wholeness and integrity…the gift of who we truly are. His story reminds us of the magic, relief and healing that can occur when we fully accept and honour who we are. 

A Chironian wound is an injury that will never, ever totally heal.

We learn, suffer and grow from dealing with this sensitive area . . . but the wounding will never totally heal and go away. This Chironian wounding can then, later in life, and after much personal struggle, become a special area where we can help others by sharing our healing and teaching powers with them.

The most important question is not how to get rid of our own wounds, but how to make our wounds a source of healing…it’s like the Grand Canyon is a wound in the Earth, but if you go into that wound, there’s a healing force coming out.” — Henri Nouwen

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This culture is obsessed with the self.

We imagine ourselves to be self-made and value self-esteem. We try to teach young people about self-respect and self-worth. When we are dumped or heartbroken, we are told to practice self-love.

What if instead of manufacturing belief in ourselves, we could muster up some of the honest grief for having never been believed in the first place? Maybe that might be a more honest path to follow. Maybe that grief could remind us that we showed up here with something to give. Maybe the grief could point us back in the direction of the village we left so long ago.

What if, instead of trying to avoid our lack of belief in ourselves, we could learn that lack of belief and come to understand what it does to us? What if we could testify to what it does to someone when others look through them? What if we could give voice to the grief of never having been seen so that others might follow that our well-wept tears to water the seeds in our unopened fists? Isn’t this what many of the greatest artists in the world have done? They have turned their own suffering into art and beauty.

What’s missing is the grieving that this world full of people who don’t believe in themselves. What’s missing is the grieving of what’s been lost and what we never knew. What’s missing is a village full of grandmothers and grandfathers who help us find our way. When we don’t grieve its absence we have no chance at cultivating its presence. Our grieving it is our remembering that it matters. It is our affirming and praising its importance.

When we grieve, we aren’t cured, but we do receive some portion of healing.

So, if you’re looking for a cure to your lack of belief in yourself, consider that inwards may not be the only direction to face because the feelings of belonging, peace and happiness we’re after don’t come this alone.

“The devotion to personal contentment is the depression machine, it generates the depression. It makes the depression inevitable which of course obliges you to work harder to be happy and there we are. But how does it do that? Because it whispers to you that happiness should be the discernible consequence of you winning, of you trying hard, of your best intent being in the forefront of all your design. And a lot of people in the world, ancestrally, knew long ago that being content or that sense of well-being, that’s a consequence of your willingness to help the world live. That your happiness is actually a corollary—let me change happiness—that your health is a corollary of the health of everything around you.” —Stephen Jenkinson

If you are trying to ‘get confidence’ (as if it were something you could buy off the shelf at the local mall) you may be trying to find a remedy for something that has no cure. You may be a tree planted in the crater where a bomb went off, struggling to survive and feeling that it’s your fault that you don’t grow stronger not even knowing what it would be like to be a part of an old growth forest. And, if you learn of that heartbreaking impossibility, then you are left with the realization that the old growth forest isn’t for you. You will never live to see it and you deserve it as much as any human being ever born. You were not born in the old growth. It will be a thousand years before it arrives.

“The candle is not lit To give light, but to testify to the night.” – Robert Bly, The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems

You were born now in the crater.

And so, what does this time and this place ask of you then? Perhaps, what it asks of you is to plant the saplings and tend to them, to be the source of that old growth for the ones yet to come. Perhaps the crater is asking you to redeem it and turn into a place worth coming from.

My friend Corin Raymond struggled with self-doubt for years and wrote songs about it. He was guided by the understanding that, if you need it, someone else will too. Jonathan Byrd calls these songs ‘Songs of Service’. “This is a song I worked on for many years, and I talk about it in the Record Lonesome Night book, how the song – even during the years it was unfinished – was a companion and a friend I could turn to. I had the idea when I was probably twenty, and I started writing it for a girl, but as the years went by, the “you” in the song became me. It became a letter to myself, a reaching out, an offer of friendship from the part of me that had faith that we were going to make it. It’s definitely one of the songs that saved me.”

What if we were less concerned about getting confidence and more concerned with creating beauty? And what if this included beautifully expressed grief? What if we were less concerned with acquiring belief in ourselves and more focused on believing in others? What if we stopped running from our low self-confidence and started getting to know it? 

As David Richo put it in this beautiful book, How To Be An Adult,

“Our problem is not that, as children, our needs were unmet, but that, as adults, they are still unmourned… neediness itself tells us nothing about how much we need from others; it tells us how much we need to grieve the irrevocably barren past and evoke our own inner sources of nurturance… What was missed can never be made up for, only mourned and let go of… We are grieving the irretrievable aspects of what we lost and the irreplaceable aspect of what we missed. Only these two realizationslead to the resolution of grief because only these acknowledge, without denial, how truly bereft we were or are. From the pit of this deep admission that something is irrevocably over and fone, we finally stand clear of the insatiable need to find it again from our parents or partner. To have sought it was to have denied how utter was its absence. Griefwork done with consciousness builds self-esteem since it shows us our courageous faithfulness to the reality of loss. It authenticates us as adults who can say Yes to sadness, anger, and hurt. Such an heroic embrace of our own truth transforms emptiness into capacity. As Jung notes, ‘your inner emptiness conceals just as great a fullness if you only allow it.'”

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If you don’t believe in yourself, I don’t blame you.

It’s hard.

And it was never your job to begin with.

When someone says, “believe in yourself!”, it’s so worthless. It’s just words. And words aren’t food. So much of the meaning of your life is in the hands of others and the meaning they grant it by their actions and non-actions. When someone believes in you, there is no price that can be put on it.

One of my friends, in a conversation about this, shared with me, “This seems true and I find it so disheartening. I’ve never really valued myself and I’ve always struggled to try and believe that I had something to offer others. Now, if this is true then I’m left feeling both validated and powerless. Validated because I feel like the struggle to build my self-worth has never been successful and powerless because maybe I don’t have as much control over it as I had hoped.”

And, of course, we don’t.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.

I’m not against pump up and motivation. I’m not against therapy, visualizations, meditations, and retreats to build up self-confidence. Those all seem to be a needed part of the story these days, and god bless the people who do that work, but the fact that it’s needed is an indictment of the deep poverty of our culture. It’s what we’ve been left with. It’s not a sign of our culture’s wisdom. It’s the evidence of how much wisdom has been lost.

I’m not against the work people are doing to help other’s believe in themselves, and surely there must be a diversity of perspectives and approaches on this in the world, but, before you can believe in yourself, you need to see yourself and, the one thing we can never really see is ourselves. The set up of the whole arrangement of our bodies is that we have eyes on the front of our heads that see most of our bodies but not all of it. There’s a lot of yourself you usually don’t see. Without a mirror, you can’t see the back of your head or neck or upper back. And so, it’s up to the community to see the rest of you. If you don’t have a community, you’re left to twist yourself into contortions to get some perspective on yourself or to walk around believing only in the parts of you that you can see.

I’m not against the work of helping people believe in themselves but, in this culture at this time, much of that work seems to further the deification of our individualism. It’s the attempt to reify our capacity to be self-made. It’s the affirmation of our atomized understanding of this universe. It’s our saying. “I can exist without you. I don’t need you to believe in me… and you don’t need me either.”

And what is the end game of this all? Nobody needs anybody. Everybody is self-sufficient.

Cha duine, duine ‘na aonar (A person by himself is not a person).” – Scottish Gaelic Proverb

I’m saying that worshipping at the altar of the self is a lonely place to be.

I’m not saying the pain isn’t real. It’s too real.

I’m not against reading books on positive thinking, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the heart-brokeness that these times seem to ask of us, as long as it doesn’t stop us from using that grief, or being used by it, to make something beautiful to feed life. Grief is a reliable compass, pointing us in the direction of what matters. Grief is what connects us with the beauty and preciousness of life and reminds us that life is worth believing in. Our deep grief can be a form of high praise for the thing we never got. Grief is what motivates us to make sure that it still has a place in this world.

I’m saying that, as Vernon Howard put it, “the resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.” Our resistance to grieving what we never had is the issue, not just that we never had it.

I’m saying that confidence is the natural by-product a sense of deep belonging to a people and place. It comes from our lived relationship to all of the people we know, all of the natural world and whatever that mysterious unseen world is. Belonging comes from relationship. Belonging is the seed from which a comfort in our own skin might sprout and bloom into a flower that some might name ‘confidence’. Confidence is the natural by-product of being supported in developing an articulated skillfulness in the expression of your natural gifts that others helped you identify. 

I’m saying that the bromides of “You can do anything!”, “Believe in yourself,” and “You can do it,” are sometimes tonic and sometimes toxic. Sometimes they encourage people to keep going and sometimes they encourage people to do foolish things. Sometimes people should not believe they have the capacity to do things (e.g. “Sure! You could do brain surgery! You just have to be confident in yourself.” or “Sure you can lead this group through this healing ceremony!”). Sometimes confidence is misplaced. 

Believing in ourselves, in the way this culture asks us to, seems to be an impossible task like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again before it reaches the top. Our modern approach to confidence mistakes the sources of our strength and any swagger we might have and ignores the gravity of the culture that we live in.

 The soldiers settled down to filling and lighting their clay pipes. They continued to ignore him as if he were a ghost and they could not see him. Perhaps he was in a dream. Or perhaps he was a ghost; perhaps he was dead already. How would you know if you were dead?” – Peter Behrens, The Law of Dreams

The story we are fed is that we’re supposed to be able to live in a culture that fundamentally looks through us, or sees us as a resource to be used or that sees us as inadequate in some fundamental way and be utterly unaffected by this. That’s the story we are told is true. You’re supposed to stand in the face of that and remain intact. According to whom?

This is madness.

During the Potato Famine in Ireland, many Irish fled their country to North America. But the route took many of them through Liverpool, a town that, according to John Kelly in his book The Graves Are Walking, “had grown steadily wealthier on the high-end vices of the white man: African slaves, sugar and tobacco. In 1807, when Britain abolished slavery, Liverpool – nimbler than other English seaports – identified immigration as the next growth area of human trafficking.  By the 1820’s, the city offered regular passenger service to North America.” But even those Irish who, somehow, survived the famine that killed twice as many as the American Civil War, were often emotionally and spiritually crushed by their time in Liverpool. For most of them, “…Liverpool represented a first encounter with modernity… Under the sheltering umbrella of peasant culture, even the most humble could be esteemed. Of course, the peasant knew he was poor, but that was the result of being outmatched by life, and where was the shame in that? Many a man – many a fine man – had been outmatched by life. Besides, the peasant’s language, Irish, was such a glory, the saints in heaven spoke it.  In Liverpool, modernity pitilessly deconstructed all the comforting myths of peasant culture; the emigrant suddenly found himself an object of horror and contempt… In Liverpool, the emigrant was forced to see himself – judge himself – by the standards and values of the modern world. The historian Robert Scally has called this change in perspective the ‘Liverpool Mirror.’ and it was as cruel as any pestilential Vauxhall cellar. Standing in front of his reflection, the peasant saw the poet, honored for his perfect image of the moon, and the ‘scholar’ revered for his ”priest’s knowledge of Latin’ dissolve into Punch’s ‘aboriginal Irishman: illiterate, savage,’ a speaker of a language ‘through which no light had flashed for a thousand years.’… some were broken utterly and completely by it.”

Swagger doesn’t come from affirmations. It comes from belonging. It comes from having a people who have your back. Swagger comes from having a role in your community. Swagger comes from the end of self-concern which is the bloom on the flower of knowing your place in something so much bigger than you, something which your life is dedicated to feeding.

I’m saying that we can be the source of a world that would never place the burden of ‘believing in yourself’ on the shoulders of the young, a world where children would know that our love for them was a place they could rest and lean into not a prize to be won so that, when they are adults, they’ll know that they are here not to earn love but to spend it.

And, in reality, when my friend does his good work with young men around their self-confidence, his teaching the concept of ‘believing in yourself’ won’t be the power of his work. It will be his believing in the particular youth with whom he works, the look in his eyes and the fact that he makes time for them that tells them, “You matter.” The notion of self-confidence is the menu. His willingness to sit with them and listen and try to see what they’re seeing… that’s the food.

People seeing us and believing in us is food. We can’t live without it and we can’t self-generate it. We can question the thoughts that stop us from seeing all ways we have been and are being affirmed every day by simply being alive. We can question the thoughts that, “We’re worthless” but… it’s likely we even need help doing that.

Years ago, I heard an audio of Jack Canfield and he ended by telling the listener that, even if no one else in the world believed in them, he did. “I believe in you,” he said. And that message was a mixture of things. It was a beautiful and sincere message, the kind of message I am imagining he could have used when he was younger. And it was also a generic message, however genuine, to the masses. It was a ghost of the real thing that had very little power to touch anyone in a lasting way. It was an indictment of the culture that he felt, accurately, it was a needed message. 

Many of us grew up not believing in ourselves. We grew up not knowing our gifts or strengths. We grew up not getting much of the emotional and spiritual food that we needed to become healthy human beings. The most terrible part of this all is how normal it has become. We look at the situation, if we see it as a situation at all, and we imagine that it has always been this way, that it is this way everywhere and that it will always be this way. “Of course,” we tell ourselves. “Humans are plagued with self-doubt and don’t believe in themselves! That’s how it is!” 

It has become normal, but it is not natural.

The work Yahya is trying to do with young men is beautiful and it’s needed but what does it say about our culture that it’s needed?

There are other cultures who do not know these neuroses. We all descend from cultures like this. Remembering this is costly and asks a lot of us to see that. But, in seeing it and being willing to grieve the absence of it, our tears water the ground of our days to make it fertile for the possibility of the presence of it again in the days of those to come.

The central poverty isn’t that we don’t believe in ourselves but that we have to.

So You Think You Can Niche Contest – Win $100 + Free Coaching + A Copy of The Niching Nest for The Effort of a Tweet

***Contest Open May 2nd – 31st, 2016 ***

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Do you have a clear niche? Are you sure?

I’d like to give you a simple and fun way to find out for sure (and it might put $100 in your pocket). 

Many entrepreneurs I work with believe they do in fact have a clear, solid and effective niche for their business.

Until I begin to ask a few questions.

In my experience, 90% of entrepreneurs have an extremely fuzzy niche (and don’t realize it). But that’s just my opinion. And it occurred to me that you might be curious about how clear your niche is. So, I’ve arranged a quick and fun way for you to get some direct and candid feedback from me and also dozens of other people. In my experience, honest feedback can be hard to get.

Backstory:

For the past three years now I have run a contest I called So You Think You Can Niche? where people submitted their 140 character niches and memes  – and there were some really good submissions.

You can see the top forty winners by clicking on the dates for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

I created a fascinating and really useful, searchable collection of case studies from the 2014 and 2015 entries, which is an added bonus for people participating in my new Niching Spiral Homestudy Course, which is currently in beta testing.

So here it is, So You Think You Can Niche? 2016. It’s totally free to enter. But it’s only for the brave . . .

Submitting Your Niche:

Click the SUBMIT HERE text below and it will take you to a submission form that explains all. But here are the rules:

  • you must write your niche in 140 characters or less (say wha?!). That’s the length of a tweet.
  • if you submit a niche, you must rate at least five other people’s niches (it’s only fair) but please do more if you can. Be honest and constructive in your feedback.
  • your photo meme must include your 140 character niche text, your website (if you have one) and the hashtag #sytycn2015. Here’s are some great examples – the winners from 2015 and 2016 respectively:

Don’t know how to make a meme? You’re not alone! There are all sorts of apps for both Apple and Android phones and computers – here’s an article with some choices listed. Download one to your phone or computer to make your meme. Or get help from a friend! We happen to use Diptic and Over, but all these apps are a bit different and it depends what platform you’re working on which one will be the best for you.

You are totally welcome to email your friends and rope them into voting for you as long as you ask them to be honest.

Once you submit, your photo will be posted in this album on my facebook page. You can then select your photo and copy the link and share it as you like. 

In fact, here’s a Facebook post and a tweet below:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFACEBOOK: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in the So You Think You Can Niche contest? #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

new twitter logo So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetTWITTER: 30 second favour – Give me an honest rating from 1-10 on how clear my niche is to you in #sytycn2016 [ADD A LINK TO YOUR PHOTO]

How to Rate Other People’s Niches:

fb So You Think You Can Niche? Contest Win $100 Cash + A Spot in My Niching for Hippies program ($600) for Less Effort than a TweetFacebook: Go to the photo album of niches. To vote, simply leave a comment underneath the photo with a number from 1-10 along with any comments you’d like to make. You can view and vote here.

To be clear on the rating system:

1 = Not clear at all. I have no idea what they’re talking about or what problem they solve for people.

10 = I can totally picture specific people I could send to them and I know for sure whether I’m in their niche or not. I clearly understand the problem they are solving.

You’re welcome to write some feedback too – in fact, please do! But let’s remember to be gentle, uncompromising truth but also unconditional love as this is a vulnerable thing for people. 

There is a prize for the person who gives the best and most insightful comments (read more at the bottom).

Examples of Niches I’d Rate a 10 in Clarity:

  • I help holistic practitioners attract more of their kinds of clients they want without doing anything that feels pushy.
  • I lead yoga classes for people with “round bodies” who don’t enjoy going to regular yoga classes.
  • Therapists who need an outlet to anonymously share all the secrets they have to keep from sessions with clients.
  • MD’s who are burning out or can see they’re heading to burn out if they don’t slow down and make changes.

Thirteen Chances to Win a Prize.

What’s in it for you?

How to win: the winner will be the person with the highest total score. In the case of a tie, the one with the most people rating them wins. So get your friends involved if you want to be sure to win – but remember, they need to rate you honestly!

1st Place: 90-minute coaching session with me ($450 value) + you’ll be featured on my blog + $100 gift certificate at your favourite locally owned restaurant + free hard copy and ebook versions of my book The Niching Nest + a free copy of Niching Spiral Homestudy Course to give to a friend (you don’t need it ’cause you’re so smart) + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

2nd & 3rd Place: 30-minute coaching session with me ($150 value) + a free hard copy and ebook copy of The Niching Nest + $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon!

4th – 10th Place: Win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course, which will be fully launching soon! + an ebook copy of The Niching Nest.

Best Photo: Your creativity and quality of presentation will be rewarded, even if your niche isn’t. You win $100 off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course!

The Best Comments Prize: the person who gives the best feedback to others gets 50% off my upcoming Niching Spiral Homestudy course because that’s the kind of person I want in it.

But, every person who enters a niche will receive a rating from me personally (from 1-10) and some direct feedback and questions to help you dig a bit deeper.

Every person who enters gets to see a tonne of examples of how others articulate their niches in clear and fuzzy ways. And you’ll get feedback from (hopefully) dozens of others.

SUBMIT HERE

5 Reasons to Beta Test Your New Program – Using Nature as Your Guide

Guest Post by Julie Wolk

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.46.14 AMAll business is iterative. In fact, so is all of life.

This means we need to learn to let go of perfection in favor of motion.

We have this crazy idea that we live in a linear world where everything has a clear beginning and end point.

But in truth, we cycle around continuously, as the seasons turn, doing, adapting and shifting according to a changing environment (both inner and outer) . . .  and doing it again.

This is how biological evolution works. It’s always been happening, and it will always continue.

Similarly, our businesses go in cyclical phases, travelling around the wheel.

And here’s the best part – when we finally relax into this reality, it’s a huge relief!

We realize that we don’t actually have to figure everything out all at once – things will naturally evolve and change over time, becoming more and more suited to the environment around them.

We simply can’t force it. Things take time to evolve.

That’s a big load off, right?!

This principle of iteration holds true for the overall evolution of our business, for our niche, and for our programs and services, which we’ll focus on in this article.

 

So What is a Beta Test?

A beta version, beta test, prototype, or simply a test run, are all words for the first cycle or iteration around the wheel.

The bottom line question to guide you in creating a beta version of your program is:

What is the simplest way I can put out a quality program to try out my idea in as little time as possible?

There’s a popular idea in the tech start-up world called The Lean Start-Up, which defines a beta program as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the process of using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. While it started with software products, the concept quickly spread to other industries.

It’s evolution from the heart of Silicon Valley – you build something, measure how it does based on feedback in the marketplace, learn from it, and then rebuild (you know it as version 1.0, 2.0, etc).

 

So here are some further questions to help you apply this concept to your work:

  • What is the pared down or bare bones version of my epic program?
  • What elements can I leave out that will make it easier for me to just get it out there now but would not sacrifice the goals of the program?
  • Can I test out a program one-on-one before offering it to a group?
  • Can I teach my course live before attempting to package it up into an online course (a must-do if you ask me)?
  • Can I teach a daylong version instead of an 8-week course?
  • Can I use a cheap or free venue to host my event? Or do something non-residential before planning a big retreat?
  • Can I offer a free or low-cost call or class to assess interest in a more robust program?
  • Do I need to do it via webinar (or other unfamiliar technology) or can I simply use a free conference call line?
  • Could I design an information product myself instead of hiring a graphic designer?
  • Can I do it without a fancy website or sales page and have sales conversations instead? 

 

What Happens When You Don’t Beta Test Your Programs

Look, it’s going to happen anyways: The first time you offer something, it’s probably not going to be as good as the 10th time you offer it. So why not own this reality and take advantage of it instead of uncomfortably trying to act like you already know everything when you don’t?

And then of course, there’s the “Crickets Effect.” When you don’t beta test, you run the risk of creating an “epic” program that your target market doesn’t even need, potentially wasting a lot of time and money when people don’t sign up.

But worse than crickets or pretending you’ve got it all figured out, there’s the more likely possibility that if you don’t put out a beta version, you won’t put anything out . . .

Because you are waiting for perfection.

First off, let’s just send that little perfection monster on vacation. Cycles need to move. And while clarity is very important, we have to be careful not to get stuck in vision-mode.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is trying to figure it all out in advance – to make their offering absolutely perfect – before they put it out there.

Forget your perfect offering.There is a crack in everything.That's how the light gets in.-Leonard Cohen-3Well I’m here to say:

Forget your perfect offering (thank you, Leonard Cohen).

And This Takes Courage, By the Way.

While the reality is that nothing’s ever going to be perfect, when you’re in beta mode, things are inherently even more imperfect (that’s the whole point).

But we humans don’t generally like being seen as less than perfect, so this means you’ll need to muster up some courage to put your work out there anyways.

And frankly, this is what building a purposeful business is all about.

Just doing it anyways even if you’re not quite ready.

Because you will learn way more about how to successfully grow your business by actually doing your work and getting direct market feedback that you will from me or any other business or marketing consultant out there, or from simply planning and thinking and doing market surveys.

So how about trying a beta version?

 

5 Great Reasons to Put Out a Beta Version of Your Program (and Some Implementation Tips)

  • You Gain Experience and Confidence: This is the obvious one. You get to actually do it! Doing it will give you more practice in your craft and more confidence in your abilities. You will get to see your work impacting others and that is essential in giving you the information and motivation to move forward in your business.
  • You Get Feedback and Testimonials: You can get the specific feedback you need to make your program better through surveys and interviews (How did this module work for you? What would make it better?), and you can get the testimonials you need to market your program more effectively when you come out with the next version.
  • You Get to Be More Relaxed in Your Delivery: Because you have framed this as a beta program, which manages the expectations of your clients, you can more easily let go of it having to be perfect. I reference the fact that I’m running a beta program all the time when I’m doing one! I even make jokes about it. You get to be transparent about your newness, which gives you more leeway to be creative and experiment. And people will respect your honesty.
  • It Can Help You Fill Your Program: I recommend “one-time beta version pricing” – pricing that is reduced from what you will ultimately charge for an evolved program to a point that feels good to you AND fills your program easily. Then, you can focus on program creation and spend less time marketing. I’m not proposing you dramatically undervalue your services, but remember that you are gaining a lot more besides money when you get to test out a new program on a bunch of people! (And you may end up earning just as much money because you’ll actually fill the program instead of charging more and having fewer people).
  • Your Clients Get Super Invested: When people get in on the ground floor and are asked to provide feedback, they feel heard, they feel ownership and they feel investment. They will get more attention from you now than they will when there are more people in the program. They are likely to get a lot out of your program and recommend it to others. And because you will offer your beta program at a one-time beta version price, (this is true, it’s not creating a false sense of scarcity, as I absolutely recommend increasing your price the next time you offer it), they will be psyched they are getting a deal. And people truly are getting a great deal because you are awesome.

 

PS – Doing a Beta Version Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Good at What You Do

Beta programs are not meant to be hid behind because we don’t think we are good enough.

You have something to offer. It is in some stage of development. Your beta program will help you develop and evolve your offering in a particular format you may have not delivered it in before.

Once upon a time, we were all amoebas. Now we are people. That took time.

Your beta program is a way to hone your gifts and create something deeply impactful and worthwhile for people. It will be valuable the first time you offer it, and it will become more and more valuable over time.

JulieWolkAbout the Author: Julie Wolk helps purposeful entrepreneurs slow down and tune into nature to find the clarity, strategy and systems to grow profitable businesses they truly love and enjoy. For 15 years she’s guided talented visionaries to manifest the success and impact they desire. People love her down-to-earth approach and that she takes into account the uniqueness of each person she works with. 

 

If you like what you’re reading, download Julie’s free guide: The 5 Principles of a Natural Business: How to Tune into Nature and Yourself to Grow a Profitable Business You Love.

 

What am I being asked to see here?

20104219_s“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.” – Carl Jung

Sometimes in business things go wrong.

Sometimes it’s because we are out of integrity. Sometimes it’s because others are. Sometimes, everyone’s in integrity and it still falls apart.

However it happens, there’s a certain amount of heartbreak that can occur. It can leave us feeling shame, regret and hopeless.

The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.

We are often tempted to ask ourselves questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why does it never go right for me?” or “Why didn’t anyone respond?” or “How can I fix this?”

Here’s a different question I recommend asking: what am I being asked to see here?

If things have gone wrong, there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see that led to it. Maybe it was something in yourself. Something in a business partner. Maybe it was something in the marketplace.

But this is a question worth setting aside a quiet, undisturbed 20 minutes for with a pen and paper. It’s worth wondering about. This question isn’t interested in making you or anybody wrong. It’s not interested in fault finding. It’s just interested in helping you to see more.

And then, once you see what you haven’t seen before. Look at that piece and ask yourself, “What am I being asked to see here?”

 

When we have a problem, the instinct is to move faster to solve it but it’s often wise to slow down and see if we can’t see more first so that any actions we take might be better informed and less full of drama.

We often get into trouble because we have some blinders on. And, before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to see if we can’t take them off, or at least open them up a bit.

26 Min Video: Point of View Marketing Overview

19882902_sI’ve been working on a new eBook called Point of View Marketing: The Subtle, Underestimated & Credibility-Building Power of Articulating Why You Do What You Do the Way You Do It.

I’m really proud of how it’s coming along. I think it will be done by the end of the month.

So I thought I’d sit down to record a video distilling the key points so you could get a sense of where I’m headed with this and so that I could get your thoughts and reflections on it as I work to finish the eBook.

You can watch the video below.

I have three, upcoming teleseminars delving into this material. You can learn about them here: marketingforhippies.com/povteleseminar

I also have a 30-Day Point of View Challenge starting on May 17th. You can learn about that here: marketingforhippies.com/pov30day

If you have any ideas, stories, reflections or questions, please post them below and there’s a good chance they’ll make it into the eBook or at least help to shape it.

Trust and the Taxi Driver

13618562_sI caught a cab the other day.

Actually a TappCar (Edmonton’s response to the terrible taxi cab industry and Uber). They have priced themselves in between the two. I could give you ten reasons why I love them.

But there are always issues.

I was heading to visit my grandmother in the hospital.

“I want to stop at the Booster Juice on 104 St and 78 Ave.” I told him as we pulled away from my home. I knew I’d be at the hospital for at least six hours tonight and I hadn’t eaten much lunch and wouldn’t be able to get away for dinner.

“By the Save On?” He asked.

“That’s the one!”

After a few minutes I looked up from my phone and realized he’d never made the turn to go to Booster Juice. I was hungry and he was busy following his GPS taking me to the hospital.

“I asked you to go to Booster Juice first.”

From his response, it was as if I’d never asked him about it at all. I sat there confused. It was the first thing I’d told him. He’d seemed to understand and, as we were clarifying the issue and how that had been missed, which I never figured out, he kept driving down 109 St. taking us further and further away.

“Do you want me to go back?”

I shook my head and pulled out my phone. “I’ll see if I can find one closer to the hospital.”

It’s not the first time this has happened to me in a cab. Maybe it was that their English wasn’t good and they didn’t want to admit they’d not understood me. Maybe it was that they didn’t listen. Maybe they had something big going on in their life and they just weren’t able to listen. Maybe all of that. Maybe something else. But result was the same.

The trust was broken.

And I know it’s a small thing. I know that any upset I had was, in part, fueled by being hungry. I also know it’s petty and emotionally small of me. I get all of that. But it’s how it is for most of us.

This happens all the time in business and in life. A trust is given and then it’s broken. It happens in big ways like infidelity in a relationship and in very small ways like this.

I remember hearing my friend Decker Cunov telling the story of an event he’d been at where a man had picked up a woman by her hand and foot and was spinning her around as she laughed and giggled. And then her head hit the concrete pole with a sickening and loud sound. It wasn’t the pain that hurt the most. It was the betrayal. She’s surrendered to the moment, trusting him to look after her and he had let her down. He wasn’t careful with that trust.

It’s what we all want in life sometimes. To be able to relax and know we’re being taken care of. We want to know we’re in good hands. We want to get in the cab, zone out and trust they’ll get us there without our having to direct them. We want to tell the massage therapist what feels good and doesn’t to us and then relax into the massage, trusting that they heard us. We want to go to a therapist and trust they’ll hear what we say and, if we’re really lucky, pick up on what we aren’t saying. Sometimes we just want to surrender to the process.

But, as soon as we realize that someone can’t be trusted, we can’t relax. We have to remain vigilant which may defeat the purpose or rob much of the joy from the experience.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in a black cab in London, it’s remarkable. You’re in such good hands. They spend three years studying London until they know the entire map of the city inside and out. You just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

If you’ve ever been served by a world class server at a restaurant, it’s something to experience. It inspires your utter relaxation. Everything they do says, “You relax. I’ve got this.”

I recall reading an article that suggested that the three sexiest words a man could say to a woman were, “I’ve got this.” And it doesn’t have to be a binary gendered, heteronormative relationship to feel good about hearing those words.

And, when we do, we are incredibly vulnerable.

Your clients are like this with you. They’re coming in scared, ashamed, overwhelmed or heartbroken. Or all of them. If we are very lucky, they trust us. If you’re aware it’s been placed on you, you come to see, very quickly, that it’s less of a gold medal being pinned to your lapel for all the good that you’ve done and more of a heavy, lopsided burden for you to carry into the future.

The trust is not there to make our heads big or gratify our ego. It’s the human making burden that tells you, ‘You have an impact on others. Be careful now.’ It’s not asking us to be fearful, but careful. Full of care for those around us as we know that small touches from us on those people will have a larger impact than others. Being praised or trusted puts the responsibility on your shoulders. It’s telling you that you’re in a different phase of your life now and that something else, beyond your youthful carelessness, is asked for. When someone praises you or trusts you, you should feel the weight of it on you and how it asks you to be stronger. It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for

It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for thing that you carry with you as you go.

If you do carry it well, you are fulfilling the unspoken promise you’ve made to them. You’re fulfilling the agreement.

If you carry it masterfully, if you consistently under-promise and over-deliver, you will never want for business.

 

 

A 15-Point Outline of a Solid Sales Letter

13285456_sSales letters get a bad rap.

They are often avoided by good-hearted people because they have the appearance of bad things they’ve seen and with which they never want to be associated.

But here’s my take: a sales letter is actually an integrity check.

It’s a dojo.

Sales letters force clarity on what might otherwise remain fuzzy.

Sales letters are like very curious potential customers who are insistent on getting answers to all of their detail-oriented and big picture questions before they buy. And you will either have the answers to their questions or you won’t.

Sales letters are faithful friends who refuse to broker fuzziness. They don’t put up with your generic and nebulous offerings. They are mercifully merciless.

Sales letters work or they don’t. They get a response or they don’t. They are so incredibly honest with you.

Sales letters are a living document. They aren’t something you write once and forget. They are something you update as you get feedback from customers to ensure that they are as clear, clean and honest as possible. They’re things you look at, a year after you’ve written them, like you look at High School photos and think, “Gah! What was I thinking!” and totally rewrite them.

A sales letter is one-on-one conversation with your ideal client in which you do your best to authentically play both sides of the conversation. It’s a letter you’re writing to your ideal client in which you’re anticipating their questions and answering them.

A sales letter does the heavy lifting of playing translator. It takes what you’re offering and translates it into what it might mean for that client in their own context.

The best and simplest guide I know for writing sales letters is Carrie Klassen’s beautiful workbook How to Write a Sales Page With Sweetness.

For this post, I also owe a debt of thanks to Brendan Burchard for his 10 Steps to a Good Sales Message which inspired the rough outline for this.

Sales letters are a chance to bring your own unique style to bear. And everyone has their own style and voice in writing sales letters. So, this post isn’t a definitive set of rules. This isn’t an ironclad structure but a suggested outline and set of elements worthy of consideration when you write your next sales letter.

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A 15 Point Outline of a Solid Sales Letter

The Headline: the purpose of the headline is to make them a promise of certain results or benefits that they are craving. It’s got to be something that your ideal clients would read and say, “I want that!” The headline could also speak directly to the particular symptoms they are experiencing that you help them with.

Introduction: here you’ll give them an overview of the particular results they will get if they buy. It’s more specific than the headline but it’s not in rich detail yet. If the headline is the 30,000 foot view, this is the 10,000 foot view. Again, you can speak to the problem but it’s good to weave it into the solution and result you’re offering. This can take the form of a subheadline and/or introductory paragraph. I also am a fan of naming the basics of the offer here. No details, but, if it’s a teleseminar, say that. If it’s a five-day retreat in Maui, then say that. If it’s a 30-Day Challenge, say that. Give them enough context to understand what it is you’re talking about.

The Story: this is the heart of any good sales letter. The story is where you get to flesh out the symptoms and cravings your ideal clients are experiencing.This is the place you can introduce yourself and explain your credibility in addressing these issues. Without a solid story, sales letters will read like infomercials full “Are you tired of _____ problem and want ______ result?” In my experience, too much “you” can feel like a pitch whereas storytelling can get across the same points more subtly. This is where you share:

  • the personal struggles you have faced and overcome that relate to what you’re offering, or how it was you came to learn what you’re sharing. You get to share all of the things you tried that didn’t work before discovering what it is that you’re offering and what it meant to you, in real, tangible ways, when you did.
  • the struggles you witnessed in friends, colleagues, loved ones or others and how it felt for you to see that.

Your Point of View: Here you briefly and concisely state your core premise, perspective, and philosophy that you have arrived at for solving the problem. This can be woven into the story and it’s not a bad idea to make it explicit.

Your Offer: This is where you spell out the offer you’re putting forth and name it, if you haven’t already. You give the who, what, where, when, and how.

Who It’s For: The goal of the sales letter is not to have everyone say “yes.” It’s to make it easy for the right people to say ‘yes’. The goal of the sales letter should be about helping people sort out if it’s a fit or not for them to sign up. This section should likely be bullet points. Avoid generic statements like, “This could be a fit for you if you’re willing to take responsibility for your life.” Boo. Go for specifics like, “This is for restaurant owners in Chicago,” or “This is for life coaches who are wanting more clients,” or “You’ll need to be on Facebook to use this.” Ask yourself, “What would need to be true of someone for this product or service to be a perfect fit for them.

Who It’s Not For: This section should likely use bullet points as well. This is such an important part of the sales letter. If there are certain things that would disqualify people from using this, name them clearly. If there is a certain worldview that isn’t a fit for what you’re offering, name that. Again, avoid banal statements like, “This isn’t a fit for you if you’re not someone who is willing to look honestly at their life.” Boo. Whenever someone asks for a refund, ask them, “What was missing from the salesletter that could have let you known in advance that this wasn’t a fit for you,” and then add that thing to this section.

Testimonials & Case Studies: It’s important to make sure people know that this didn’t only work for yourself but others as well. It’s important for them to see that, not only have you gotten the results, but you have helped others to achieve the same results with some degree of consistency. Of course, this assumes that you have. If you haven’t, this might be a good time to re-evaluate the integrity of what you are doing.

Paint the Picture: Tell them the story of what it will be like to use your product, avail themselves of your service, or attend your workshop. Put them in the experience. Use vivid, sensory rich words. “You walk into the room and see all the friendly people.” or “You set down the cup on your favourite coffee on your kitchen table and open your laptop.” Don’t leave it to them to imagine what it might be like, tell them. Put them in the driver’s seat of the car they’re thinking of buying with your words.

Reasons to Buy Now: This is the section where you break down the core features and benefits of what you’re offering. This is where you paint them a picture of how it might look, sound and feel for them to go through your program and enjoy the results it’s offering. You tell them what’s included in the program and what it could mean to their life. If there are only so many copies or spaces, name that. Really sit with this one and ask yourself, “What are all of the real and compelling reasons why someone for whom this is a fit might want to strongly consider for buying now?” This will include all of the facets of the program but might also include early bird specials.

Contextualize the Price: This can be the trickiest bit. This is where you name the price and help them see the value they’re getting for the money. Of course, this assumes you are offering them value that is equal to, if not greater than, the cost. This can be done by contrasting the price of a group program to the price of working with you individually. You can speak to what you have charged for it in the past.

Bonuses: Once you have established the value of what you’re offering, it can be a wise idea to offering an additional bonus to lower the risk of signing up for them and sweeten the deal.

Lower the Wall of Risk: There they are, wanting to walk over to you now and hand you their money but there is this wall of risk in between you both. That risk can look like a lot of things. It can look like, “Will this be worth it?” or “What if it breaks or doesn’t work?” or “What if it makes things worse?” or “What will others think if they hear I’ve spent money on this?” At this point in the sales letter, it’s important to name those risks and directly address them. Now, if you’ve written the rest of the sales letter well, you’ve been subtly assuaging these as you’ve gone along. But now it’s time to be very blunt about it. This is typically where you would put a strong guarantee. This is where you say, “Hey. I know you’re not sure about this. I know it’s a risk for you, so here’s what I’m going to do to reduce the risk/eliminate the risk/take the risk off of you and onto myself.”

Call To Action: Here’s where you let them know how to order and remind them of any important and time-sensitive reasons to do so. Make sure this is very clear and unmissable. I’ve read sales pages where, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where to buy. Not good. Note: on my sales letters, when they click on the “Buy Now” button, they aren’t taken to the payment page. They are taken to what I call my “Are You Sure?” page. It’s a practice I commend to you for your consideration.

The P.S.: The two most read parts of any sales letter will be the beginning and ending, the top of the page and the bottom. So make sure that, in the very end, you remind them of the most important points of why they might want to sign up now.

Suggested Additional Reading:

Nine Thoughts on CopyWriting for Hippies

Blog Posts I’ve Written About Sales Letters

My Sales Letter for The Meantime 30 Day Cashflow Challenge

My Sales Letter for my Marketing for Hippies 101 Program

My Sales Letter for my Niching Spiral 90-Day Homestudy Program

Getting Unstuck: The Five Minute Support Asking Blitz

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If you’re on this list you’re an entrepreneur but, if I know my people at all, that really means you’re a solopreneur.

Emphasis on the word ‘solo’.

That means you’re doing almost everything alone.

And you think that you should be doing better.

This is insanity.

What if, instead of beating yourself up for not being more successful, you were to step back and see the truth of the situation: you need more support.

In fact, you need a lot more support than you might think you need.

How much?

Well, you’ll be happy to know I can give you an exact quantity.

You need an embarrassing amount of support.

Possibly a mortifying amount.

I mean that, if you don’t feel embarrassed and humbled by how much support you’re asking for, it’s probably not enough.

My take on it: if you could have done better on your own you would have. Period. You haven’t done better and that tells me that something is missing. Maybe you’re needing support:

  • with social media, your website or other online presence issues
  • to get clear on your goals or where you’re currently stuck
  • tidying up and organizing your workspace
  • learning how to have sales conversations that feel good instead of terrible
  • do you need better business systems? Great. What support do you need to make those happen?

Isn’t it true that you need more support?

The big question to me is, why haven’t you asked for it yet?

When you sit with that you discover that you’ve been scared to because of what others might think of you.

Here’s my assignment for you (and it’s a favourite part of participants of my Meantime 30 Day Cashflow Challenge):

Part One: Take five minutes and brainstorm all of the different kinds of support you’re most needing right now.

Part Two: Take five minutes and go on a support asking blitz. The rule is that, for those five minutes, you can’t stop asking for support. You must keep at it. You can text, email, message or post a request on Facebook. Keep at it. Keep asking. Note: if you don’t feel embarrassed by the end, start over. Ask big. Ask for what you really need.

Part Three: Schedule to return here to comment on what happened as a result of this in 24 hours.

What if the people I most want to help are broke?

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There are three main criteria of a viable target market.

First, it needs to be clear. I should know immediately if I’m in that group or not.

Second, we need to be able to find them. There should be hubs.

Third, there need to be enough of them who can afford to pay you full price.

Ah.

That third one.

What if the people you most want to help don’t have much money?

If that’s true, hand over my heart, what you have is a non-profit. I suggest you legally structure yourself as such and generate your salary through fundraising. Stop making yourself and your clients suffer by pressuring yourself and them to pay you with money they don’t have.

But what if there might be more possibilities here?

They’re broke.

There’s a big question as to whether or not that’s true.

Sometimes it’s not that they don’t have money but that your marketing is terrible and they don’t see the value and you are terrified to talk to them about working with you and utterly collapse when a conversation about money comes up.

It really could be that.Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Or it might be that your current business model will never be profitable. It could be that too.

Years ago, I met with the good people running Green Enterprise Toronto, an independent, green business network that would, eventually, become Green Enterprise Ontario. I’m not sure it’s even still around now. But as I sat at their Spadina Street office in Toronto, they told me that their business model wasn’t working. They were trying to sustain themselves on dues from their members and it wasn’t nearly enough. They needed more money but their members weren’t able or willing to pay more. It wasn’t until they had a conversation with the Toronto City Council that headway was made. The City saw that G.E.T. was providing a service that properly should have been the domain of the city – supporting local businesses and so they were able to put some funding towards it. Without the funding from the city, that project would have utterly collapsed.

Edmonton had a similar group for years, Live Local, of which I was a founding board member. Same issue but, this time, the Edmonton City Council didn’t step up and the organization folded.

My friend Robindra, runsan incredible project called It’s Time to Bloom. They throw a weekend event for local yogis that has yoga classes and workshops, inspiring talks from big name speakers and sweet, classy dance parties.

Every year, it lost money.

“Did you make any money this year?” I asked him, full of hope that this might have been the year it turned around for him.

“We only lost about $5000 this year!”

Cities need more people like Robindra who do what they do for the love and not the money and bring such fine things in.

But he was stuck. He couldn’t raise ticket prices and he couldn’t guarantee that his events would sell out. It was always so close to the wire.

“I’m sorry to hear that man.” I said, commiserating with him.

“But we’ve got it figured out for next year!” he said.

My ears perked up.

“Festival grants!” he smiled. “We realized we’re a great fit for a lot of these grants and, with them, everyone can get paid and we don’t lose money.” He told me that they were also deepening their exploration of corporate sponsorship.

What he had on his hands was a social enterprise. His project was a mix of business and non-profit. It took him five years to see it. Some people never see it.

Now, with a different business model, they might not have needed grants. For example, if they came up with a ‘Bloom Yoga Teacher Training’ or a ‘Bloom School of Yogi Business’ or ‘Bloom Life Coaching Program for Yogis’ then maybe they could have afforded to lose on the big event if it was an effective marketing tool to fill their higher end programs.

If your people can’t afford to pay you what you need to sustain yourself then you have four options:

  1. Change nothing, try to get water from a stone and burn out in an ashen pit of poverty, bitterness and resentment.
  2. Drop that target market for a more profitable one and simply volunteer your time to help those people.
  3. Focus most of your efforts on a more profitable target market and give it to the people you most love at a discounted rate (e.g. gift economy, pay what you can, sliding scale or barter).
  4. Shift into a social enterprise or non-profit model and raise money through grants, sponsorship or individual giving.

Which option would you choose?