Stop Wasting People’s Time: The Incredible Cost of Being Fuzzy

2198b27This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write for a while.

It’s about the incredible costs to you and others of being fuzzy in your marketing and sales communications.

I’m writing this to share the other side of the story of marketing – how it’s received. We spend so much time working on our business and our marketing that we rarely stop to consider how our marketing is landing for the person receiving it.

There are two issues here: Laziness and Fuzziness.

For latter is inevitable, the former isn’t. The latter carries no shame, but the the former might.

I want to lift up an exploration around where laziness might be creeping into your marketing and share the impact that fuzziness, despite the best of efforts and intentions, might have. I want to lift up that clarity in your marketing might require more work from you than you initially thought – that when you think you’re done, you likely aren’t.

I don’t even know where to start on this. It happens so often.

It happens, in a beautiful way, whenever a client hires me to look over their sales letter. When Daniel and Cecile of Roundsky Communications reached out to me, it was a blessing to be able to help them redo their sales letter to help them say what they were wanting to say better, or when Carmen Spagnola asked for my help with hers as she launched her Numinous School, or when Russell Scott asked me to helped him articulate his Coming Home retreat.

But often people come to me not knowing how unclear their materials are. Sometimes it’s laziness on their end and sometimes they just don’t know how fuzzy it all is.

I want to own that some of my responses below are petty. I’m not trying to hide that. In fact, I want to lift it up because it’s how people often feel when confronted with fuzziness (and almost always feel when it’s a lazy fuzziness). Are the reactions petty? Likely. Are they common? Yes. And it’s important to be real about that.

I know that most of the people in the examples below are not trying to be rude or waste my time. And I’m aware that my reactions are about me and my own triggers. That’s all true.

And I invite you to step into my world where this happens a lot.

It happens with friends and colleagues who ask me to share their websites. When I look at them I literally have no idea what the hell I’m looking at or what it’s about. And I sit there for five minutes wanting to support my friend but having literally no idea what to write as a description or context for why I’m posting it. What the website needs is an overhaul. What they need, I tell myself, is to actually figure out their niche and what the hell they’re up to. They have no idea what it’s like to be me, wanting to help them and feeling baffled by their project. When I get the sense they’re still learning and growing, this doesn’t bother me, but when I get the sense that they’ve just decided to be lazy about it, it does.

It happens when colleagues come to Edmonton and want my help in spreading the word about their workshop. I look at the marketing materials and my heart sinks. This is shit. This is all useless. It’s full of jargon and platitudes and they have no idea how bad it is. I happen to know about their work and so I spend hours rewriting their materials so that I can share it up without causing confusion to my friends. I’ll be emailing them about it and I don’t want to have them sitting there for five minutes trying to understand what this is and why I sent it to them. I don’t want to spend my social capital and trust and their fighting their way through a confusing sales letter. So, I redo it and send that out. After the workshop is done with them, I sit them down and explain to them that I’ll never do that again for them and neither will anyone else. I tell them about how frustrating it is to want to spread the word for them and to have to redo everything in order to do that. They seem to get it and express their gratitude. That feels good. It’s my responsibility that I took on the heavy lifting of redoing their work for no payment. That’s on me. And it’s what your friends might do for you.

It happens when an old friend and colleague emails me over the years with various workshops and initiatives that I don’t understand. Because I care for her, I actually open the emails and read her words. Because I care for her, I slog through the confusing text hoping that the next line will illuminate what this is for me only to be let down every time. My answers get more and more curt with her. She feels unsupported and it ends our friendship. True story.

It happens when a friend of mine sends me a message of Facebook asking my help in sharing up his crowd funding campaign for a comedy tour. He doesn’t tell me who’s on the bill, where they’re going, how many stops, why this matters enough to get funded or anything that might help me do more than simply paste the link to his gofundme.com page. I know that me simply posting a link will do literally nothing for him. Hell, even my writing my most impassioned plea probably won’t do anything for him. So I ask him to send me a pre-written Facebook post that says it all perfectly so I can get this right for him.

Here’s the conversation:

My friend: Hey Tad! What’s up man? I’m loving your Harper Has to Go Campaign and am behind ya 100%!! Just want to reach out to you about The comedy tour that I’m producing. 4 budding easy coast comics hit the road to perform everywhere they can; a camera rolls & a documentary is made. Please check out our Kickstarter campaign as we’re trying to get funding to make this thing a reality and have some dope rewards. If you can’t toss any $$$ our way and still want to help out you totally can by spreading the word via social media or face to face with people; it’s just as good as $$$. The link is below, thanks for any help in advance and enjoy the rest of your summer! Much love.

Me: hey man! so good to hear from you. You are missed here in e-town. I can’t give money right now but would love to spread the word. Can you send me a prewritten FB post saying it just the way you want with the link in it? I’ll share it up.

My friend: Hey dude! Thanks, it feels nice to be missed :-) Here is the link and just say what you’d like about the idea of helping 4 DIY stand up comedians trying to go on tour and that your friend is one of them :-) Thanks again!!

Me: here’s what i’d write now. but we can do better, “4 DIY stand up comedians are trying to go on tour and my friend John Doe is one of them. Support if you can.”  If you can add where the tour is going, the dates, how much money you’re trying to raise and by when.

My friend: Right. Not sure where we are going yet. Will know in the next week or so. The dates are Sept 27th to October 16th ; we are trying to raise $20,000. We are almost 25% of the way there. :-)

Me: any clearer sense of tour dates? And, if you’re able to give me exact wording that i can cut and paste it would be a big help. I want to get this as good as possible for you.

My friend: Tour dates will be announced tomorrow and I can send you a link to all that stuff. Have a great night.

I don’t hear from him again.

Ten minutes of my life wasted.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal until it’s ten minutes here and ten minutes there.

It’s death by a thousand cuts. I’m not even talking about responding to any of it. I’m talking about reading the stuff. I’m talking about long emails I have to slog through to figure out whether or not the email is even relevant to me.

It happens when I get hired for consultations with people whose projects are so vague and fuzzy and who either refuse or are legally unable to get any clearer and I sit there for an hour wondering, “Why the hell am I here?”

It happens when I get an email invitation about a possibility of collaborating on a Farmer’s Market presentation and, after twenty minutes, it turns out that this collaboration couldn’t pay me anything and that, in fact, they were just wanting to get the contact info of the person who hired me for my last gig and, maybe, to get my endorsement but then, in the end, the endorsement doesn’t even seem to matter. They could have asked me that in a one sentence email and not wasted my time.

It happens when I host a party and a woman stands up and, over dramatically and heavily, starts spinning a seductive but insubstantial web about a project she’s working on that could pay everyone incredibly well to do their work and a client of mine says, “Wow. That sounds really good!” and I turn to him and say, “You stay the fuck away from her. Or… better yet. Go and talk with her to find out what she’s up to because there’s nothing there.” Only to have him come up to me an hour later and confirm that twenty minutes of digging had yielded him nothing but a headache.

These are all such wonderful people.

And I still get cranky.

It happens all the time.

It happens when people ask me to spread the word for something on Facebook and I have no idea what it is, for whom it might be relevant or even, often, what city it’s happening in.

It happens to women when men ask them to go for coffee just to ‘hang out’ and their intentions are nebulous. They’re not interested in the man romantically but… it’s just coffee, right?

It happens when you meet someone who asks you to go for coffee and it ends up being AMWAY (called whatever the hell they’re calling it these days).

It happens when a known funder is schmoozed by people who are really friendly and asking all sorts of personal questions to ‘get to know’ the funder (who can feel the ask coming).

When people are writing promo material for their programs, products and projects, they often get lazy. They’re so excited to just get it out there and spread the word that they don’t pause and look at what they’ve written through the eyes of the person on the receiving end. What this means is that, often times, you have something that’s fabulously unclear.

This is about you and your friends and colleagues. The ones who love you and want to see you succeed. This is about bringing more beauty and ease to their lives and not draining away their minutes and hours with confusion and annoyance.

 

Out of friendship and good will people will give you their attention once or twice. But, if you keep being fuzzy, then they will resent it.

Why?

Because they love you.

They care about you.

They think you’re amazing and they want to support you but they have no idea what the hell you’re doing.

It’s a frustrating place to be in. They open your emails hoping for something they’ll understand enough to put their encouragement behind, only to be lost in a sea of words. Sure, there’s a link they could click, but, after years of this, they’re not convinced it will be any clearer. They’ll open your emails out of love for you but soon they’re opening them out of a sense of guilt and obligation. Or they’re ignoring them. Or, possibly worse, they’re putting smiling faces and ‘Congrats!’ on your Facebook posts because they love you. What they’re not telling you is that they never clicked the link and they actually have no idea what you do.

Writing a good headline or email subject line isn’t about selling people. Writing good copy isn’t about selling people. It’s about being as clear as you humanly can about what this is and isn’t and who it’s for and who it’s not for. It’s about cutting to the chase as quickly, artfully and clearly as possible. When you don’t take the time to articulate what you do well, that shows me is that you don’t see to care enough about me to take the time to make things clear.

Please don’t waste their time.

Please don’t make them fight to understand what you’re up to. Please don’t confuse them. Please don’t use the leverage of their love for you against them as they spend so much of their precious time trying to sort through the confusion of what you do to understand. And, please don’t take it personally or be offended when they candidly tell you that they are confused by what you do. The truth: they love you and they are trying to give you the gift of their candour which most of your friends aren’t. They love you so much that they are willing to risk the friendship to support the friend. And know that people have their limit of how much ‘fuzziness’ they’re willing to accept from you.

Eventually you will be ignored. People won’t even bother to read the subject lines of your email. They won’t even look at what you tagged them in on Facebook or Twitter. And the whole time they’re ignoring it they are frustrated because they want to help you and feel guilty for not being more supportive but they don’t trust you to respect their time. It’s an awful place to put people. I’ve been put in this situation more times that I wish I had. Eventually that resentment towards you will build into frustration.

Don’t highjack their love.

Writing good sales copy is an act of love and respect for the time and emotional well being of others. Taking the time to write thoughtful copy is an act of kindness. It is consideration. A good sales letter is a pleasure to read. If you claim to love your friends and those on your list, be clear with them. Don’t waste their time. Don’t highjack their love.

I deal with this all the time. Colleagues whose promo stuff is so terrible. It is such shit. It’s the worst. Like they couldn’t be bothered to actually craft something. No. They send me their rough draft. They send me some vague pile of words to figure out and so they are saying, in essence, ‘your time is less valuable than mine’.

Don’t waste my time.

One of my colleagues expressed this to me a few weeks ago, “I recently asked a few people to to give me a bullet point about their business so that I could include them on an email newsletter I am sending to my list that is highlighting other people’s amazing work (just for the hell of it bc their work is awesome). My clients all followed directions. The two friends who I wanted to include both sent me vague responses so it felt doubly unrespectful because I was actually offering to promote them. There’s no way I’m putting other people’s vagueness out there.

“You mugged me with words.”

As I wrote this blog post I recalled some words Derrick Jensen had written in his book Walking on Water. He speaks of receiving a critique from an elder storyteller Milbre Burch.

At one point I used the wrong word to describe something – I called a trowel a spade – and when she corrected me I said (the forty-two-year-old me is horrified to remember these words come out of the twenty-six-year-old me’s mouth), ‘It’s just a word.’

‘Just a word,’ she replied. ‘No. You mugged me, as surely as if you had taken my wallet. You mugged me with words, stole a moment of my life. Every time you’re on stage, or every time you write something for someone else to read, all the people in the audience, all the people who read your writing, are giving you the honour of time they could be spending elsewhere. You are responsible for every second they give you. You need to give them gifts – including the truth as you understand it to be – commensurate with that every moment.’

Cut to the chase.

If you’re interested in a woman, tell her and ask her out on a date. Don’t lie about your interest or attraction. If she’s not interested, she’ll tell you. And that’s fine. They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

If you’re with an MLM company, don’t feign friendship with people to seduce them into your pitch. Tell them you have a business proposition for them and could you have five minutes of their time to give them the pitch? They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

If you meet a funder whose financial support you want, tell him that. Say, “Can I bend your ear for 60 seconds about a project we’re working on that I think you might want to fund?” They’ll be so grateful and almost always say yes. They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

Who came to who?

Remember, you came to me for support not the other way around. I didn’t approach you curious if I could spread the word on your project. You came to me.

If you are approaching someone, the central question in your mind must be, “How can I make this all as clear, quick, easy and worthwhile for them as possible?” You’re in their house. You are a guest. Don’t waste their time.

Now, if you’re doing what you do and not reaching out to anyone and people are just stumbling across your work then be as fuzzy as you want. Whatever. I don’t care. Maybe people will get it and love you. If they complain about how fuzzy you are, tell them to go to hell. It’s your life. Do what you want.

But if you come to them? That kind of laziness and fuzziness will not fly.

And remember, the bigger a hub they are, the busier they are, the more thought you’ll need to put into this. If you blow it with a major hub once you might not get a second chance.

And, this is so important: If you’ve been fuzzy for a while, expect people to be extra touchy and critical. That’s the price you pay for having wasted their time before. There’s an old adage. It says, “the confused mind says ‘no'”. And I am coming to see the deeper levels of this. At first it says ‘no’ gently but eventually that ‘no’ becomes more and more assertive.

And please know this, the greatest pain of someone who is well connected is not having enough time to help everyone they want to help. The more connected and respected you become, the more skills you gain, the more you realize that you can help more people. But you don’t have the time or energy to help everyone. So you have to choose because, soon enough, people start sending you emails, texts and Facebook messages all wanting ‘just five minutes of your time’ or wondering if they couldn’t pick your brain for a bit or if you might know someone who does a certain thing or direct them on who to talk to. And, as a hub, it’s one of your greatest pleasures to be able to help these people and save them hours if not years of frustration. But it’s overwhelming and helpless making too.

So, when you come to them with your fuzziness, you make them feel even more helpless than they already do. And the amount of time and energy they have to spend trying to understand your request takes directly away from the time they have to help others. Don’t think for a second that any of us have limitless amounts of mental focus to spare.

So, if you consistently get feedback that your work is fuzzy, please take it to heart and get help.

Don’t blame the world for not getting you. Don’t blame your colleagues for being frustrated in their desire to help you. Don’t blame your friends for resenting the time they keep investing in reading your work only to find out, after far too much time spent, that it’s not a fit.

To be crystal clear: I have the choice of whether or not to read or respond to things people send me. That’s the truth. Their fuzziness is not my burden unless I make it so. But, because I love these people, I do open the emails and it means the world to me to feel like they’ve done everything they can to make it as clear as possible.

But, most of all, don’t blame yourself either.

Again, there’s no shame in fuzziness. There’s no shame in not hitting a bullseye every time.

But there is some shame in not learning from it when it happens and bringing a rigour to your clarity.

Getting clear about what you do, how you do it and for whom you do is one of the hardest things you will ever do in business. If you struggle with it, you aren’t alone. This is the heavy lifting in business that many avoid and most don’t even know is there for them to do.

And the chances are that whatever education you got in doing what you do now did not include the marketing of that thing. Chances are that you didn’t go through a formal apprenticeship training with an elder that would have you be ready to speak with immense clarity about what you do and with a village of people to take care of who would take care of you too. You are likely self taught in marketing and find it an uneasy proposition at the best of times. You’re in a toxic economic system and may have been promised six figures fast by someone who should have known better and there’s a chance this has left you feeling desperate. So, this is bigger than you. It’s not you.

It’s not your fault that your work may yet be fuzzier than you want. If you’re fuzzy there’s a good chance you’re still at Stage One of your business’ growth. And that’s a beautiful place to be, if you know that you’re there. No one minds someone at Stage One. But they do mind people at Stage One walking around with Stage Four swagger. If you’re just starting, you’re going to need to experiment and try a lot of things to see what works for you. And, while you’re experimenting, it means you’re going to be learning on other people’s backs in the same ways that we all grow up in front of each other in community. There’s no avoiding it and there’s nothing wrong with it.

You’ll be forgiven for fuzziness, but you might not be forgiven for laziness. 

Just be mindful that it is costing people something to mentor you. And don’t expect the mentorship. Don’t bring your entitlement there. If you get the gift of someone’s candour and encouragement… it’s a wonderful thing. I enjoy mentoring people. I love the work that I do. But when people send me something fuzzy, despite my attempts to let them know how fuzzy it is, it’s as if they’re asking me to work for free. Some people seem willfully fuzzy. They resist figuring out their niche and yet keep asking for help having no idea the burden this is for those who care about them. And they have no idea how many others there are out there like them who they are now being lumped in with.

Work to be better.

If someone comes to me with something nebulous and I tell them it’s to vague to share and they work hard and bring back something finer and clearer, I feel good in my heart and happy to help them.

You could do a lot worse than approaching this all with a humble spirit.

If you’re getting feedback that you’re confusing people, it’s okay. It might take a while to get there but you’ll get there – if you make it a priority and focus on it.

What you might do to get more clear. 

Consider asking friends for feedback before putting it out officially.

Consider posting it on Facebook and inviting people’s candid commentary before approaching a hub with it.

Consider hiring a copywriter to look at it if it’s an important piece for your business.

Consider learning about how to write a good sales letter. Consider learning how to create a compelling and clear package.

You can get clearer more quickly than you might think possible.

Before sending an email to someone important, consider what it is you want them to do. Is the email as clear as it could be? Is it direct and to the point?

If you have an important meeting, really think through what you want to cover with them and how it can be of use to them.

Right now you may not be clear but make sure you take the advice or Ira Glass in this video below.

Suggested Resources for the DeFuzzification of Your Business:

The Classy Cold Approach: How to approach hubs in a direct and respectful way.

Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies

Crystal Clear: Five Simple and Proven Ways to Articulate What You Do (Even if it Seems Hopeless)

The Niching Nest: my book on how to figure out your niche.

Hey! Nice Package: How to develop packages of your products and services that people actually want to buy.

Selling Sweetly: How to write a sales page with sweetness.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 4.19.41 PM

 

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

Is it wrong to get paid to care? – by Corrina Gordon Barnes

Authentic Networking – by Lisa Barber

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.