Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story keeps us feeling constantly inadequate.

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

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

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

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

And then how do you make it financially sustainable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

One of my colleagues Aine Dee said this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if small was beautiful?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What if there was such a thing as enough?

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

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

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

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

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

– Mother Theresa

“Lionar bearn mòr le clachan beaga.”

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

– Gaelic Proverb

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

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

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

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

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

One person can’t do much, really.

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

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

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

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

– Stephen Jenkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman put it simply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s okay to be small if you are.

And don’t play big if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be big if you are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Martin Prechtel

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An excerpt from my new book The Niching Nest:

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

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

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

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

“You are song, a wished-for song.”

– Rumi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s more than enough.

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

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

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

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stepping into your power is not hardest thing. The hardest thing is to step in and remain grounded, humble and generous. Much of mundane training would have us believe we are inferior. If you begin a dedicated dance with Spirit you will start to see and feel your own power. It comes in brief slices in the beginning. Like shafts of light beaming down into the shady forest. We get a glimpse of who we are and what it feels like to be powerful. If we continue our dance with dedication a glimpse becomes a knowing. Along the path come opportunities to heal. In a perfect world our awareness would grow equally as our healing grows. But that is not always the case. It is possible to be powerful and broken. And that is an challenging combination. Don’t rush to power. Rush to healing. Rush to love. Rush to generosity. And a humble power capable of transforming the world will follow.”

– Naraya Preservation Council

Recommended Further Reading:

Small is the New Big – Morgana Rae

Bigger is Not Always Better – Ryan Eliason

Case Study: Making The Offer

Russell Touched Up 1One of my favourite clients and colleagues is Russell Scott in Guelph (the handsome fellow pictured here). He is kind, gentle, genuine and just the realest deal when it comes to spiritual mentorship for those with allergies to gurus and dogma. If you’re an independent spiritual seeker, I can’t commend him highly enough. A genuine elder. 

But, it’s also a challenge. For someone with such an aversion to selling, how does one sell?

He spoke about his regular living room Wisdom Circles that he hosts for past clients and community members. He has 6-12 people at them every week or so. The evenings sound really lovely. Sharing circles and gentle partner work. And, of course, he has services he’d like to offer them. But how, and when, to do that without it feeling pushy, awkward of gross? How indeed.

For those of us who hate the pitch, how do we share what we do in a way that isn’t pushy but also not apologetic… and yet still effective. After all, what’s the point of having these wonderful offers if no one knows about them?

It can be a sticky wicket.

As we spoke, a thought came to me about how he might do it that could avoid a feeling of pressure in his his living room.

What he doesn’t want is to end a lovely, intimate evening with people feeling like he was trying to ‘hard close’ them to sign up for his workshops or mentoring. That would be the worst. And turn everyone off. But to not ever mention his work would be a betrayal of himself and a sure expression of collapsing

But, as we spoke, I was remembering how many people I’ve gotten to sign up in my workshops and coaching simply by inviting them directly

I recall once hosting a party at a loft in London, England. It was filled with local hubs, past clients and their friends. I met four people at the party who I’d not known before who I really wanted at my workshop. They seemed like the coolest people.

So I said, “Can you come to my workshop this weekend?’

‘What workshop?’ they would ask.

‘It’s a marketing workshop for hippies. It’s pay what you can. I would love to have you there! I can email you the info if you like.’ And I did. And I think all of them signed up. There was no clever technique. I just felt a connection. Expressed that. Was sincere in my expression of wanting them to be at the workshop. Was unattached to that happening. And it happened. 

I’ve had other moments of sitting with someone as they described their marketing woes and said to them, ‘Hire me. Let me help you with this.’ and they said ‘Yes’. No games. No leading questions. No tricky business. Just a sincere expression of the desire to help. And yet so effective. 

So, I said to Russell, “Here’s what I would do… First of all, mention your workshops after the break in the middle or at the end. No pressure. No pitch. Just, ‘Here’s what I’ve got coming up if anyone is interested.’. But then, because you only have 6-12 people I would send them a follow up email after they’ve left. And I would sit and meditate on each name and ask yourself what you might have to share with them. Perhaps it’s just an email that says, “I really heard your struggle tonight about what to do with your marriage and it touched me. Thanks for coming.’ or maybe he’d send a link to an article that he or someone else wrote. Or a youtube video. Part of the idea of slow marketing is to take a pause and sit with things for a bit to see what really feels right. I remember a moment where the right thing for me to say to someone was, ‘Don’t be an asshole. Sign up for this thing. You need it.’ and they totally relaxed, laughed, signed up and were so glad they did. Being conscious and coming from our heart in our relationship to sales doesn’t mean we always speak in hushed, new agey tones. Your style can be much more in your face and still totally authentic.

Or maybe he’d say, ‘I really heard your struggle tonight about what to do with your life and that lost feeling and I would love to have you at my upcoming retreat. I’m not sure it’s a fit but I think it could be just perfect for where you’re at. Would you be open to chatting about it?’ Or something like that. It can be done with no pressure. No guile. Just a heartfelt, considered offer. They might say ‘yes’ and they might say ‘no’. Both are okay. The role of marketing isn’t about convincing people of anything.  It’s about giving people the information they need to make a clear choice and see if what you’re offering is a fit for them. 

In truth, he might invite them not to come back to the circle if it’s really not a fit.

But each offer would come from a prayerful place, holding their best interests in mind and sensing for what, if anything, he might offer that would be a fit for helping them.

Selling can be about closing deals. But it can also be about opening conversations.

It doesn’t have to be a high pressure, powerful presentation from the front of the room. It can be a personal email after the workshop too. It’s good to be mindful of our context. Were it an intro workshop, I would urge him to make a direct offer and invite people to sign up then and there if it felt right. But this is a lovely living room, drop in session. Context matters. 

You can read another example of this kind of thing in action in another post I wrote recently. 

Getting new clients doesn’t have to be sneaky or hard. Sometimes you just have to ask. 

 

80 Minute Video: Conversation on Transparent Marketing with Simon on the Sofa

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 3.13.27 PMI just had an 80 minute google hangout with a dear friend and colleague in the UK who’s known as Simon on the Sofa

We spoke about how marketing often feels ‘off’ even, sometime especially, when it’s called ‘conscious marketing’. 

We spoke about how dating and marketing were intimately connected and about the importance of vulnerability in both.

I really enjoyed our conversation a lot and I hope you will too.

 

Top Ten Blog Posts on Figuring Our Your Platform (77 pages worth!)

TopTenOver the past decade, I’ve written a lot of blog posts. Over 500. 
 
But there are ten of them that most get to the heart of really figuring out what I would call your platform (what you want to be known for). My guess is that you’ve only seen one or two of them. 
 
Figuring out your platform is the most critical thing you can do in your marketing. Without a clear platform, your marketing will feel clunky and awkward. Without a clear platform (or you could say brand, identity or reputation) success in business becomes extremely difficult.
 
I introduced the idea of the platform in my blog post The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business. It spoke to what your platform is and where it fits in your overall marketing strategy. This is one of the core pieces of my marketing workshop. 
 
So, to help you figure out your platform, here are my Top Ten Blog Posts (which, if you printed them off in size 12, Goudy Old Style (the best font)) would total 77 pages. 
 
 
Blog Post #1: The Three Roles of Marketing: This blog post sets the stage for the importance of having a clear platform as it attacks, head on, the central assumption that ends up making marketing and sales feel bad for all involved. What is that central assumption? It’s the idea that marketing has only one role. What is that role? To get people to say ‘yes’ to buying your products and services. I think that is wrong. I think there are three roles in marketing. And none of them, provocatively, have anything to do with getting anyone to say ‘yes’. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #2: We Might Be a Fit If: What if one of the three roles of marketing was all about establishing if you and the potential client were a fit for each other (rather than assuming that everyone needs what we have to offer)? I want to submit that your clarity around this issue of ‘who is a fit?’ is the most central question you can answer and that 90% of the marketing struggles I see come down to a lack of clarity around this issue. This post is chock full of specific questions you can ask yourself to get clear on who is and isn’t a fit for you. You can read that post here
Blog Post #3: Polarize: This blog post builds on this idea and takes it further by suggesting that the reason most people’s marketing doesn’t succeed is because it’s acting as a seduction rather than a filtering process. What if the role of our marketing wasn’t just to attract the people for him it was a fit but to actively turn off and repel the people for whom it wasn’t a fit? You can read the post here
 
Blog Post #4: Your Platform in a Page: This is likely the post I’ve sent out to the most clients I’ve worked with as a first step. When people want to work with me, this is the post I send to them as homework to get grounded and ready for our session. Their answers to this help me laser in on where they are clear and where they aren’t. It’s divided into six areas of your platform with the best three questions I could come up with for each. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #5: Island A – The Painful Symptom: This is the most important thing you can figure out in your marketing platform. Island A represents that problem people are having to which your product or service would be a solution. 90% of clients I work with do not have this figured out. This is simultaneously the simplest and yet most difficult of issues to figure out. But, once you’ve got this nailed, your marketing becomes ten times easier (without exaggeration). This is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. It’s crammed with examples, case studies, criteria and specific questions to guide you in figuring this out for your situation. It’s one of the most practical posts I’ve ever written. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #6: Island B – The Results They Crave: This post is the other side of the Island A post. If Island A is about the problems with which they’re struggling, Island B represents that results they are craving the most. Again, this post is deep and extensive. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #7: Island C – The Unimagined Possibility: Sometimes you’re offering something that’s so new that they didn’t even know it existed or was possible for their lives. If that’s the case then you need to market what you’re doing in a different way. If your work is cutting edge and is usually new to most people who hear it or if you’re offering a result that’s so much better than what most people assume is possible this post is a must read. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #8: Island Z – The Unspoken Fears: This is a piece I almost never speak about at my workshops, but, if you want to have a clear platform and understand the people you’re trying to reach, it’s essential. Island Z represents the very real fears people have of what might happen if they don’t handle their problems now. These fears are often secret, unspoken but ever present in their lives. Your ability to really understand and empathize with these issues is huge in your ability to build trust. You can read that post here.
 
Blog Post #9: How to Identify Your Own Message: Years ago, I heard one of my colleagues say, ‘Don’t market yourself. Market your message.’ and I sat with that for a long time considering what it meant. Your message is a core part of your platform and it’s something that most businesses haven’t figured out. You can read that post here
 
Blog Post #10: How to Figure Out Your Why: Simon Sinek wrote the brilliant book called Start With Why which lifted up the message ‘people don’t just buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. I was powerfully struck with the truth of this message and, since then, helping people figure out the deeper purpose behind their business has been a core part of the platform work. You can read that post here
 
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear your comments in the comment section of the blogs themselves. 
 
 
 

Sales Letter Case Study: The Coming Home Retreat

Russell Touched Up 1Writing sales letters is hard. 

I wrote a whole blog post on my thoughts on how to do it in a warmer and yet still effective way years ago called Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies. So, I’ve got opinions but there’s no denying that writing a good sales letter is one of the toughest nuts to crack in any business. A sales letter is the dojo of the marketing world. It’s where you find out exactly how clear you are or not. The best resource I’ve come across on how to write a good sales letter is by Carrie Klassen and it’s called Selling Sweetly

Writing a sales letter is especially hard when you’re writing it around very personal issues such as spirituality. How can selling spirituality not feel gross?

And yet, if you run these kinds of retreats (and it’s where your income comes from) it’s only fair you articulate what it is you’re doing. 

But how?

This was the conundrum of a colleague and dear friend, Russell Scott (the handsome rogue pictured here) who I recently worked with to reword his sales letter. Here’s what he had to say about the process: “I wrote a sales letter based on a copying template I had downloaded from another coach but I just couldn’t get it right. It was awkward. In some sections it was too clinical in some it got far too personal. I was totally stuck in getting it right. I gave what I’d written to Tad and he worked it over. When I read how he had re-written it I literally cried. The whole sales letter had come alive! It was as if Tad had reached into my heart and translated into words all the compassion, care and understanding I have for the people I serve and put it on paper.” 

So, what I’d like to do is walk you through the sales letter with my commentary and show you what I came up with as an alternative that Russell loved so much. I should qualify that this was done in a couple of hours and that there is likely much more that could be done by far better copy writers than I to make this sales letter sing. But I am pretty happy with what came out. 

Coming Home

-an enlightenment intensive –

So, right away, I don’t like the phrase ‘enlightenment intensive’. It sounds like it’s promising enlightenment. Which sounds like hype. 

Ending the search.  Living a deeper life.

Ending the search? That for sure sounds like hype. Like one weekend is going to end a search humanity has been on since time immemorial? Sounds too good to be true – and therefore untrue.

A lot of people secretly wish that they could let go of the pressures of living in the rat race and come home to a deeper peace… the kind that many of the great spiritual teachers of the ages have spoken of.

Meh. This sounds ok. But a bit generic to me. It sounds like a set up for a pitch.

If they could, they’d feel more alive, happy, inspired and fully engaged with others. They’d would feel a sense of harmony with life and be a lot freer to totally be themselves.

Generic promise. I’m already not feeling much of Russell’s wonderful personality.

But right now, you walk, talk, sit, drive, work, buy, eat, sleep and dream in an endless daily cycle. At the end of the week, you stare into the TV wondering “is there more than this perpetual treadmill?” and ask “What am I obviously missing here?” There’s restlessness like something is shifting or fragmenting. You don’t know what it is or what needs to change or even if it’s a good thing. Yet something deep inside is calling your true self to come out and play but you’re trapped in the social way you are supposed to be. You’ve come to the conclusion you don’t know the one that’s been living your life. Sometimes the emptiness is downright painful. You hide it well but it’s deep…slowly eating your soul.

Here’s where I start to pull back even more. It feels like a bit of an assault. A pitch. It’s trying to be empathetic and yet I feel defensive. I feel like I’m being set up. I don’t identify with everything I’m reading. I find myself leaning away. And part of this comes from the fact that he’s speaking directly to me. He’s saying ‘you’. Which is, ironically, how we’re taught to write sales letters. Speak directly to the other person. We’re admonished, wisely I think, to remember that every sales letter we write will be read one person at a time. So, we should be writing it to our ideal clients and no one else. Sales letters aren’t read by ‘the masses’. They’re read by individuals. So, let’s write to them. Fine so far. But it’s a very modern conception of sales and communication with others to imagine that every conversation with someone should be talking directly to them using ‘you’. We forget that, since time immemorial, humans have best communicated with stories. In a story, people can identify with the parts they do, and leave the rest. A story doesn’t get your hackles up. A story doesn’t make you defensive because it’s not about you. But, in a sales letter or video when we start saying, ‘Do you ever struggle with…’ it can trigger people’s shame around those issues and also ignore how vulnerable they might feel about the issue. It forces them to confront something they may not be ready to confront. 

You’ve tried the latest self-help books and videos about affirmations, positive thinking and “the secrets” but they don’t do the trick. They actually make you more confused. The hype hurts. Maybe you’ve explored the “isms” and different philosophies, crystals, chakras, gone to healers, etc.  Maybe you have tried a religious path for awhile. You’ve gotten calmer and more relaxed but the big promised “aha” just hasn’t happened. (you’ve been told it takes a long time). Or maybe the whole guru/student thing gives you a rash so you’ve tried being an independent non-follower for awhile. But you’ve gotten lost and alone.

This might all feel true enough but it also feels like it’s setting me up for the pitch, ‘and this will be the thing to finally solve all of your issues’. 

What you really need to do is give up.

This sounds flip and condescending. He’s already telling me what to do? How the hell does he know? It seems like he’s being clever with his language on an issue that isn’t ‘fun’ for me.

That’s right…give up trying to find the answers on the outside. These are just ideas, thoughts and concepts. They are in the head. They are like a menu. They are not the food. You need to take a 180 degree turn away from books and find a proven technique that will help you experience the truth for yourself. And let go of the ridiculous idea that awakening takes a lifetime. That’s just another belief to trap you.

Intellectually, I get where he’s going but I’m feeling a bit offended by the tone. Like it’s so easy. 

I know what it’s like

That sounds salesy come out of the set up I just went through. A bit too formulaic. 

In my twenties I spent 10 years exploring every religion under the sun and reading so many books I could have started my own library. I sat at the feet of so many gurus and instead of finding peace I got athletes foot. My head I was so much in the clouds I was no earthly good.

Again, that sounds clever. Like something he’s said a lot of times. It’s kind of funny. But the issue we’re talking about doesn’t feel funny to me when I’m the one suffering. 

I just got more confused about myself and life. One day I decided I didn’t really know anything and decided to find the truth for myself.

I’m feeling connected.

It was then I discovered a method of self-inquiry that changed my life.

And now the sales pitch.

I broke through my lonely shell and experienced the magnificence of my true self. Everyday I experience the greatest gift in life… being who I really am!

Every day? Every. Single. Day? He’s enlightened now? This sounds hyped up.

I trained in this method called the Enlightenment Intensive. Since then I changed the name of the retreat to Coming Home and have mastered over 65 retreats over the past 30 years.

Whoa! That’s a lot of retreats! Maybe the man has something to say.

What is Coming Home?

Coming Home is an accelerated process of transformation that takes you to the pinnacle of self-actualization –the direct consciousness of your true Self and Life! 

Pet peeve. Exclamation marks. I hate these in sales letters. Imagine you get three of these that you ever get to use in any sales letter for the rest of your life. Ever. All too often, they trigger hype. Mostly, I  suggest people cut them out entirely.

Second thing, this claim sounds like hype. Big time. This sounds like some flavour of the month spiritual technique.

This illumination is simple, obvious and indisputable, enveloping you with sense of wholeness, completeness, peace and lightness.

Obvious and indisputable? Indisputable? This sounds like he’s not very open to feedback or dispute. And it sounds like a generic, new age pitch.

It’s like coming home after you have been lost for many years… only you come home to yourself. 

I do like the idea of coming home. That sounds lovely.

The East/West Approach

Using a self-inquiry format inspired by Zen-style contemplation on a key question such as; “who am I?” or “what is life? combined with a paired communication structure drawn from relational psychology you silently contemplate your question and then communicate the result of your investigation to a listening partner. You alternate speaking and listening every 5 minutes. Every 40 minutes you work with a different person or go on a silent walk. Meals, snack, exercise and rest are interspersed in the schedule.

I like the specifics. Though there’s an abrupt tone shift from salesy to academic here that’s a bit jarring. But it’s nice to finally get to the nuts and bolts of this. 

The Structure

Within the structure there are agreements of non-interruption, non-judgement and deep listening that help you bypass the subtle influences of “normal” relating that have socialized you to deny what is true for you.

That actually kind of makes sense. I like it. Tell me more.

You connect deeply to yourself and others and let go of layers of false beliefs and experiences that have imprisoned you in years of suffering. There are no religious ideas, dogma or philosophy taught. You learn and practice the technique and I give you guidance. It is not psychotherapy.

I like this. 

In a renewed space of openness, within 3 1/2 days you can spontaneously awaken to the magnificence of your true self!

Bah! Another huge claim that sounds inflated. And an exclamation mark. Grrr. My trust drops. 

Awakening

This phenomenon in the west has been called by Abraham Maslow “Unitive consciousness” or “Self-transcendence”. In eastern traditions it is labelled as awakening, enlightenment, illumination, self-realization, cosmic consciousness or satori. Just as technology has advanced in modern times, so too have spiritual and transformation techniques.

Not sold. Sounds like a vague attempt to rationalize hyped up new age bullshit.

When safe communication structure is added to the eastern method of contemplation, the results are remarkable. Self-realization usually occurs to 30-90% of participants. You no longer have to spend months, years or even a lifetime to awaken. 

It’s promising I’m going to awaken. Blurgh.

Is this just another “You’ll be happy for the rest of your life” thing?

Yes. That’s what it sounds like you’re saying. I’m glad you’re self aware enough to see that.

To be realistic, awakening does not mean that you will no longer have any problems or you will be in a state of bliss or happiness for the rest of your life.

What? You said you had this experience every day. This now seems like the bait and switch. I’m feeling lied to a bit. 

What it does mean is that you will be living the rest of your life more from the inner strength of your real self and less from the insecurity of a social personality. You will be more able face and transform the obstacles of your life into valuable growth experiences and achieve the kind of success in life defined by who you really are, not others. Coming home to your true self is the most precious gift you can ever give to yourself. And because we all want to relate to others who are real, you are the best gift you can give to the world!

Exclamation mark. Vague platitudes. Interest fading fast. 

 “When you know who you truly are there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that’s what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being, of being who you truly are.”

Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart can not save this sales letter right now. 

After a Coming Home retreat participants commonly report feeling:

  • More authentic
  • Peace, contentment and lightness permeating their body
  • Totally embodied as if they have finally come home to themselves
  • Loving-kindness towards themselves and others
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Psychologically whole
  • More inner strength and inner resolve
  • Freer to express themselves around others
  • Improved intuitive ability
  • Enhanced and balanced energy levels

That all feels a bit vague. 

Participants also commonly report having greater capacity to:

  • Be open and authentic in relationships
  • Persist and accomplish personal goals
  • Face and overcome problems and difficulties
  • Fully experience love, joy and happiness
  • Understand the deeper truths in traditional philosophy and religion
  • Achieve greater mutual understanding with others 
  • Be assertive and communicate their needs
  • Find meaning, inspiration and insight in daily living
  • Make rapid progress in their personal and spiritual growth

Again, a bit vague to me.

Why can’t I just do this on my own?

Good question!

This question can be answered with another question. If you were able to do this alone how come you are still searching? There is a paradox here: You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone.

I love that phrase. 

There is a great power in coming to together as a group. The energy of the group is more than the sum of everyone’s individual energy.

That energy propels you to make much greater progress than doing this on your own within the ongoing distractions in life. 

That actually makes sense to me. 

But more importantly I’ve been guiding people for over 30 years on this journey to self.

That is indeed credibility building.

I’ve been up every blind alley there is and helped thousands of people in a very short time get through barriers they have struggled with by themselves for years.

Humility is nice. And credibility is building.

Why spend any longer being blocked?

That sounds dismissive of how much I’m suffering.

You’ve got to be kidding…enlightenment in 3 ½ days?

Now I’m so confused with what he means by enlightenment. How is he defining this?

Awakening is the “direct experience of the way you actually are”. You can come to the same awareness that many of the great spiritual teachers have had. After all they were ordinary folks just like you. The difference is that people like Buddha spent many years in meditation deepening and ripening their awakening to total enlightenment.  So once you experience your true self, that’s it. The search is over.

Wait. So you’re just offering me a taste of who I am? I’ve had some ‘peak moments’ before. Is this just another one? What happens when I come down from the mountain top and get lost in the valley again?

Then the next project is to start living from the real you.

Ah. That makes sense.

That will continue to deepen what you have come to know. You will be given instructions on how to do this on the last day of the retreat.

Very curious what advice he’d offer here. 

Who the retreat is for?

  • You are looking back on your life and wondering what it is all about?
  • You are feeling empty and you are asking “who am I really?
  • There’s a sense of meaningless about life.
  • You’ve been on a spiritual path for a long time and never had the big“AHA”
  • You are not interested in following a religion or taking on more beliefs
  • You are able to take 4 days away from your job and family

 Something about the bullet points here feels salesy but enough are specific enough (especially the last two) that these could really help me figure out if it’s a fit. 

Are there any pre-requisites to take the retreat?

If you have not done the retreat before I ask that people set-up a 10-15 minutes orientation interview with me. Together we will explore where you are at in your life and what you want from the retreat. 

I’ll explain the schedule, the guidelines and the self-inquiry technique used. I’ll go over any concerns you have about diet, accommodation and health challenges you may have and then you can decide if the retreat is a fit for you. There are no subtle sales techniques. I only want people on Coming Home who are right for it. It makes for a better retreat for everyone.

I like this. That feels personalized. I like that he says ‘no subtle sales techniques’. Huge building of trust. 

 

– END OF SALES LETTER #1 – 

 

So,that was what Russell sent me. Here’s what I sent him back as a rewrite. He’s made a few changes since.

Coming Home

Ending the search. Living a deeper life.

with 

Russell Scott

If you’re reading this, you already know something: life is hard. 

I wanted to start with the truest thing I knew that might resonate with the place Russell’s people are in.

It’s full of beauty and wonderful things – but it’s also full of heartbreak.

Life feeds us but it can also break us.

So, how do we deal with it?

I wanted to acknowledge the complexity of life and the experience of the person reading it. 

In truth, I don’t completely know. But I can share what I’ve discovered in the hopes it will be useful.

For me, when people admit they don’t know everything, it’s so credibility building. I trust them more. And it’s such an ‘anti-sales’ thing to say. I felt like his first letter simplified things too much. I wanted to complicate it a bit and bring more openness to it. 

It’s not an answer but a paradox I want to invite you to sit with as you read this (we’ll come back to it later): You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone.

This is an old story telling trick of starting a story and then starting another story inside of that story while promising to come back to it. It grabs people in a bit closer. It’s a nice hook. Bring something provocative or compelling up as a tease and promise to get back to it later. 

If you’re reading this, then my guess is that you have been broken a down a little or a lot by life (maybe slowly over years or maybe all at once) to a point where you know you need to dig deeper. But there’s a good chance you feel lost as to how to go about that.

To me the key phrase is here is ‘my guess’. Not making assumptions.

And I’d like to talk about a different path to spiritual growth you may not have tried (or even considered). And to invite you to come to a retreat that’s coming up soon. 

This is the beauty of being direct. The other sales letter didn’t directly say it was about the retreat until the end. Be direct. Tell them that you’ve got something to offer and that you’re going to make your best case for it to help them figure out if it might be a fit for them.

A lot of people I speak with secretly wish they could let go of the pressures of living in the rat race and come home to a deeper peace… the kind that many of the great spiritual teachers of the ages have spoken of. They want to feel more alive, happy, inspired and fully engaged with others. They would feel a sense of harmony with life and be a lot freer to totally be themselves.

But right now, they walk, talk, sit, drive, work, buy, eat, sleep and dream in an endless daily cycle. 

At the end of the week, they may stare into the TV wondering “is there more than this perpetual treadmill?” and ask “What am I obviously missing here?” There’s restlessness like something is shifting or fragmenting. They don’t know what it is or what needs to change or even if it’s a good thing. Something deep inside is calling their true self to come out and play but they feel trapped in the way they are socially supposed to be. 

This is the exact same as the words above, but I changed it from ‘you’ to ‘they’. It’s more a story now. It’s less an accusation or pitch and it’s more of him relating what he’s experienced. 

Some of them tell me that they’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t know the one that’s been living their life. They just have no idea. Sometimes the emptiness is downright painful. Most of them hide it well (some very well and you’d never guess) but it’s deep…slowly eating their soul.

As Stephen Jenkinson said, “It’s in the nature of being human to forget how to be one on occasion.” But what happens when we forget for a long time? And how do we remember. Many of the people I have worked with are in the midst of the forgetting and don’t know how to get on track.

I wanted to seed the idea that we forget and that remembering is important. 

And it’s not for a lack of trying. 

They’ve tried the latest self-help books and videos about affirmations, positive thinking and “the secrets” but they didn’t do the trick. They actually made them more confused. The hype hurts. Some have explored the “isms” and different philosophies, crystals, chakras, gone to healers, etc.  Some have tried a religious path for awhile. For most, it’s helped them become calmer and more relaxed… but the big promised “aha” just hasn’t happened (they’ve been told it takes a long time). 

Again, I switched it from ‘you’ to ‘they’. No need for the reader to get defensive. 

And, for many of them, the whole guru/student thing gives them a rash so they’ve tried being an independent non-follower for awhile. But they’ve gotten lost and the truth is that the solitary approach feels incredibly lonely.

It’s not just that they’re alone. It’s that it feels lonely. It’s vital to remember that we’re talking to human beings. Their problems are not mechanical. They are deeply felt. I’ve written about this extensively in my blog post Empathy in Marketing

I’m guessing that, in some way, you can relate to this.

Again, guessing. Not stating definitely. Just supposing. This lets the reader confirm that it’s true. 

And if you can, this is what I want to say to you: What you really need to do is give up.

That’s right…give up trying to find the answers on the outside. These are just ideas, thoughts and concepts. They are in the head. They are like a menu. They are not the food. You need to take a 180 degree turn away from books and find a proven technique that will help you experience the truth for yourself. And let go of the idea that awakening takes a lifetime. That might just be another belief to become trapped in.

I left  this in because it didn’t feeling quite as abrupt and insensitive with a more sensitive intro. Reading it now, I’d probably still want to rework this. 

I know what it’s like…

In my twenties I spent 10 years exploring every religion under the sun and reading so many books I could have started my own library.

And I learned something very important – that the easiest way to avoid meditation… is to read books about meditation. A wise Hawai’ian Kahuna once said, ‘The shadow side of knowledge isn’t ignorance. It’s theory.’

This felt like another important premise to seed. The difference between theory and experience. He’s offering an experiential retreat. This distinction needs to be crystal clear. 

I sat at the feet of so many gurus and instead of finding peace I got athletes foot. I was so much in my head I was no earthly good. I just got more confused about myself and life. One day, I decided I didn’t really know anything and decided to find the truth for myself. It was then I discovered a method of self-inquiry that changed my life. I broke through my lonely shell and experienced the magnificence of my true self. Everyday I experience the greatest gift in life… being who I really am. I trained in this method (called the Enlightenment Intensive). Since then I changed the name of the retreat to something that felt more true to what my experience of it was: ‘Coming Home’ and have led over 65 retreats over the past 30 years.

Coming Home

What is Coming Home?

Coming Home is a simple but beautiful process that weaves together community and inner contemplation to bring you back to an experience of wholeness, completeness, peace and lightness. It’s like coming home after you have been lost for many years… only you come home to yourself.  

“community and inner contemplation” seemed like a simple way to put it. 

The East/West Approach

Using a self-inquiry format inspired by Zen-style contemplation on a key question such as; “who am I?” or “what is life? combined with a paired communication structure drawn from relational psychology you silently contemplate your question and then communicate the result of your investigation to a listening partner. You alternate speaking and listening every 5 minutes. Every 40 minutes you work with a different person or go on a silent walk. Meals, snack, exercise and rest are interspersed in the schedule.

It sounds so simple. But, I think that’s why it works so well. 

If you know that something you’re saying sound ‘too simple’ acknowledge that immediately. A good sales letter should read like a dialogue where you are making statements and then anticipating their responses and respond to them. A good sales letter is a wonderful experience where you find yourself constantly saying to yourself, ‘Yes. I was wondering that.’

“It’s like I did ten years of meditation in 3 days.”

Beth Clark, Kingston

Testimonials. These add so much credibility to this letter. If you say it, it could be hype. If someone else says it? Much more credible. 

The Structure

Within the structure there are agreements of non-interruption, non-judgement and deep listening that help you bypass the subtle influences of “normal” relating that have socialized you to deny what is true for you. You connect deeply to yourself and others and let go of layers of false beliefs and experiences that have imprisoned you in years of suffering. There are no religious ideas, dogma or philosophy to be learned. You learn and practice the technique and I give you guidance (if you need it). It is not psychotherapy. In a renewed space of openness, within 3 1/2 days many people (more than you might think just reading this) spontaneously awaken to the magnificence of their true self. Or that’s how I’d describe it. 

“Or that’s how I’d describe it.” Again. Taking the pressure out of it. Just sharing his experience rather than saying, ‘this is the truth’. More like, ‘this is how I see it’. 

What I see when I work with people is their eyes widening, broad smiles, tears of joy and their bodies melting as the thousand stresses caused by the expectations of who they think they need to be evaporate from their bodies. 

This is using the senses. When you’re describing the result you offer, paint me a picture. Help me see it. Help me hear it, taste it, touch it, feel it. Use all five senses. 

“Words are so inadequate when I try to describe the immense gratitude I feel. I am now moving through my life with new eyes, new ears, and a new voice; and feeling so much more peaceful, alive, and present in this world. Thank you for holding the retreat space in such a patient, gentle, loving, and compassionate way.” Sekoiaa Lake, Peterborough, On

To be honest, I’m not sure I understand it still. But maybe that’s the point. Some things aren’t meant to be understood. Some things can only be experienced and lose everything in the translation. 

Russell is a humble fellow. And I wanted that to come through. Admit that you don’t understand everything. Admit your limits. Admit your faults. And watch people lean in and trust you more. 

Again, ‘The shadow side of knowledge isn’t ignorance. It’s theory.’

If you have a core message that is central to your offer, bring it back again and again – make it a familiar refrain you return to. This message of knowledge vs. theory is vital to his workshops. If people don’t buy that idea, they won’t buy his retreat. 

I think what most of us need isn’t more theory. What we need is a dedicated space where we can be supported in doing the one thing we need most – go within. As the old saying goes, ‘if you don’t go within, you go without.’ And it’s the one thing we don’t actually do enough of. We think about it. We read about it. We talk about it. But when we sit down to do it, we get bored, lost or lose steam. We have to do it ourselves but, in reality, it’s hard to do it alone.

This is where I hit people a bit harder. More directly. I’m driving the point home and framing the foundational assumption and premise upon which this retreat is built. In Russell’s first letter, this premise is implicit. But sometimes you need to make these things explicit. Often times, we don’t even realize what the premises are; we don’t understand the point of view upon which our work is based. But a clear point of view is one of the key elements of people figuring out if we’re a fit for them or not. 

In my experience, we all have this internal compass, this part of us that knows the truth (and even more so, is the truth). And what’s causing so much of our suffering in our lives is the inconsistency between the will of our soul and the will of our personality. We need to bring the former out. As it says in the Gospel of Matthew, ‘That which you bring forth will save you. That which you do not bring forth will destroy you.’ And for many people, that experience of destruction is all too real. 

Awakening

But here’s my best take at explaining it: This phenomenon of ‘coming home’ in the west has been called, by Abraham Maslow, “Unitive consciousness” or “Self-transcendence”. In eastern traditions it is labelled as awakening, enlightenment, illumination, self-realization, cosmic consciousness or satori. Just as technology has advanced in modern times, so too have spiritual and transformation techniques. When safe communication structure is added to the eastern method of contemplation, the results are remarkable. That moment of ‘coming home’ usually occurs to 30-90% of participants. Many of them are caught off guard and amazed at no longer having to spend months, years or even a lifetime to have that moment of ‘awakening’.

Here I make sure to frame it as a ‘moment’ of awakening so it doesn’t seem like a bait and switch later. 

Eckhart Tolle says this about awakening; “When you know who you truly are there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that’s what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being, of being who you truly are.”

Is this just another “You’ll be happy for the rest of your life” thing?

To be realistic, awakening does not mean that you will no longer have any problems or you will be in a state of bliss or happiness for the rest of your life. What it does mean is that you will be living the rest of your life more from the inner strength of your real self and less from the insecurity of a social personality. You will be more able face and transform the obstacles of your life into valuable growth experiences and achieve the kind of success in life defined by who you really are, not others. 

For me it’s this: Coming home to my true self (the real experience of it in my body not the theory of it) is the most precious gift I have ever given to myself. And because we all want to relate to others who are real, you are the best gift you can give to the world. 

After a Coming Home retreat participants commonly report feeling:

  • More authentic
  • Peace, contentment and lightness permeating their body
  • Totally embodied as if they have finally come home to themselves
  • Loving-kindness towards themselves and others
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Psychologically whole
  • More inner strength and inner resolve
  • Freer to express themselves around others
  • Improved intuitive ability
  • Enhanced and balanced energy levels

“Within one year of the retreat I left my business and took a chance on a new career…money is not important, nor is status. What is important is the feeling that I am now doing what I was originally meant to do with my life!” Mel Steiner -Toronto

Participants also commonly report having greater capacity to:

  • Be open and authentic in relationships
  • Persist and accomplish personal goals
  • Face and overcome problems and difficulties
  • Fully experience love, joy and happiness
  • Understand the deeper truths in traditional philosophy and religion
  • Achieve greater mutual understanding with others 
  • Be assertive and communicate their needs
  • Find meaning, inspiration and insight in daily living
  • Make rapid progress in their personal and spiritual growth

“I discovered a bond linking myself with others, that we are all beings trapped within our minds trying to communicate our fears and need for love. I am becoming more loving, more real, more open, truthful and trustworthy” Doug Tyler -Toronto

Why can’t I just do this on my own?

This question can be answered with another question. If you were able to do this alone how come you are still searching? 

And we’re back to the paradox: You have to do this by yourself but you don’t do it alone. 

Aaaaannd we’ve brought it back. Remember that piece I teased earlier?

There is a great power in coming to together as a group. The energy of the group is more than the sum of everyone’s individual energy. That energy propels you to make much greater progress than doing this on your own within the ongoing distractions in life. 

But more importantly I’ve been guiding people for over 30 years on this journey to self. I’ve been up every blind alley there is and helped thousands of people in a very short time get through barriers they have struggled with by themselves for years. 

You’ve got to be kidding…enlightenment in 3 ½ days?

I would define awakening is the “direct experience of the way you actually are”. This is my belief (as well as the experience of myself and many others): You can come to the same awareness that many of the great spiritual teachers have had. After all they were ordinary folks just like you. The difference is that people like Buddha spent many years in meditation deepening and ripening their awakening to total enlightenment.  

So once you experience your true self, that’s it. The search is over. Then the next project is to start living from the real you. That will continue to deepen what you have come to know. You will be given instructions on how to do this on the last day of the retreat.

But the first step is to find it. And, for most of us, that’s been a very hard first step. After all, many of us have spent a lifetime losing ourselves and being misled.

Step One: come home. This doesn’t need to take as long as many think.

Step Two: live in that home. This is a lifetime practice. This is where your life becomes a work of art, an ongoing practice of deepening and expressing who we are in the world.

Again, I didn’t want it to get lost that there were two steps here. 

As the old African proverb goes: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it.”

Is there any support for me after the retreat when I meet the challenges of my life?

It’s quite common after any spiritual or personal development program for the retreat “high” to fade, after a few days or weeks. People are in a more open space and see life more clearly They can have difficulty bringing their new breakthroughs into their lives where their family, friends and work are still the same. All too often people are sent home after other retreats with little guidance and support. 

This is not the case with Coming Home.

The main self inquiry practice in the retreat ends usually on a Sunday evening. In the next half day you are re-introduced to your normal way of relating to others. You are made aware of the challenges you may face and given strategies to deal with them. You then “graduate” into the Enlifenment Program that is designed to help you live in a deeper connection to your true self. (as in step 2 above).

This program includes a guided meditation CD, two follow-up mentorship from me calls a month apart, a six week program of self-inquiry exercises paired with a fellow participant and 2 one or two day re-connection seminars through-out the next year. I am also available for one-to-one sessions (at an addition cost) for anyone that needs this. 

You can choose to become part of a non-dogmatic community of true spiritual friends who have shared deeply in your profound transformation journey. Once again, you have to do this by yourself but now you don’t have to do this alone.

Who the retreat is for?

  • You are looking back on your life and wondering what it is all about?
  • You are feeling empty and you are asking “who am I really?”
  • There’s a sense of meaningless about life.
  • You’ve been on a spiritual path for a long time and never had the big“AHA”
  • You are a seeker and not interested in following a religion or taking on more beliefs
  • You are able to take 4 days away from your job and family
  • You resonate with what you’ve read here so far and feel open to exploring the process for yourself. 
  • You resonate with the idea that, deep down, we know (or are) the truth. We just often need support in finding it.

Are there any pre-requisites to take the retreat?

If you have not done the retreat before I ask that people set-up a 10-15 minutes orientation interview with me. Together we will explore where you are at in your life and what you want from the retreat.

I’ll explain the schedule, the guidelines and the self-inquiry technique used. I’ll go over any concerns you have about diet, accommodation and health challenges you may have and then you can decide if the retreat is a fit for you. There are no subtle sales techniques. I only want people on Coming Home who are right for it. It makes for a better retreat for everyone.  

 

– END OF SALES LETTER #2 – 

 

So, that’s it. That’s my quick ‘redo’ of a sales letter to make it less salesy and more reflective of the wonderful man Russell Scott is. He’s one of the kindest, most unassuming, gentle and clear fellows I’ve ever met. You’d be hard pressed to find better as a mentor and support in your inner growth. You can learn more about him and his wonderful work (which I have directly experienced and can attest to) here: www.truesourceseminars.com 

Guest Post: How To Make Your “About Me” Page Irresistible

My Storyby Schuyler Kaye

You’ve probably heard how important it is to have an awesome “about me” page. As the saying goes people buy you, not the product or service. Yet it can be one of the most difficult pages to write.

I mean how do you capture “you” on a single page? 

And even if you could capture “you,” what if people don’t like it?

Many “about me” pages try to be something they’re not… 

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I pulled off my rollerblades. I’d just been on a fantastic first date and was sitting on cloud 29 as a result. (That’s 20 clouds higher than cloud 9!) It lasted for about a week until I realized she wasn’t going to return my calls. 

Unsure of what happened, I asked my friends for advice… It was decided that I wore my heart on my sleeve, and I needed to keep her guessing about what I felt. And so I learned the dating game, when to show I cared and when to pretend I didn’t.

It totally worked! I got called back. I went on more dates. Soon she wanted to be in a committed relationship… only something was off. I was exhausted always trying to figure out when I was allowed to care – constantly worried that if I stopped this game, she’d lose interest.

What pressures or expectations do you feel influence your “about me” page?

Should you be professional? 

Do you need to stick to the facts and credentials? 

Maybe you feel bashful and so you try to be overly modest? 

Is there pressure to share everything or to remain a mystery?

Are you worried you might scare off your customers if you share the personal hippy side of you? 

I’ll be honest. Chances are if you show up with a personal story, there will be people who decide they don’t want to work with you. But don’t worry! They’ll be the unhappy customers that you can’t seem to please and leave you feeling drained.

Help your customers decide early on if you’re the right fit

You know things didn’t work out with that girl I was dating. In truth all the games did was make it take longer to realize we weren’t a fit. You can only pretend to be something else for so long…

Years later after repeating this process many times, I decided to take a chance. I dropped the games and sure, I tasted rejection again… But soon enough, I found myself in a positive healthy relationship for the first time.

By sharing your hippy story on your “about me” page, you might lose the interest of some people, but you’ll naturally become irresistible to the people who will LOVE working with you.

Pick the story that best shows off your unique hippy-ness

Step 1: Identify the “why” of your life. To make it simpler, here are some categories of what you might value:

  • A sense of excitement, adventure, or just plain ol’ fun?
  • How about a realization of a long-standing belief or conviction?
  • Maybe it’s a better understanding of who you are or what you want in life?
  • Is it love, friendship, some kind of companionship?
  • Or to receive healing, balance, happiness, peace or freedom from something in your life?

Example: I’ve always envied people who knew what they were meant to do… my life has been a constant search for that sense of knowing and belonging to a purpose that engaged my heart.

 

Step 2: Think of a story in your life that has prepared you to make the world better with work you do. Then use it to introduce yourself to your customers through your “About Me” page. The following questions will help you think of a story that resonates with the core values you identified in the first step.

  • How did you decide to do the work you do?
  • How did you overcome the problem you solve for your customers?
  • If you could be known for just one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
  • What’s your greatest challenge or accomplishment? How’d it play out?

Example: I’ve been in the shoes of my customers, and I found a way out… here’s the story of how it went down.

 

I’d recently broken up with the Fortune 100 Company that I worked at for 6 years and was “dating” five different business ideas at the same time… Unable to be successful at any of them because I was unable to meet the expectations of all of them, I found myself lost and depressed.

Having no choice, I explored my own life with reckless abandon to find a way to leave the expectations of others behind and discover my own path. 

Uncovering my story revealed my purpose, and that clarity has effortlessly guided me since. Now I apply what I learned to guide small business owners in finding a brand that feels authentic to their hearts and is effective at attracting the right customers with their online presence.

If you want an “about me” page that’s irresistible to the customers you love, then share the story of “why” you do your “hippy” work.

Want to take your story to the next level?

Sign up for this no-cost learning series on how to attract more customers with your “about me” page beginning on September 24.

 

Schuyler-HeadshotBio: I help small business owners who want to make a difference, and need to attract more customers with their online presence. You see I’ve been in the business of branding since I decided being a short, fat, nerdy high schooler wasn’t the way to start college.  After leaving a Fortune 100 Company, I found myself “dating” numerous business ideas at the same time hoping one would uncover my passion and grant the freedom of any lifestyle I chose. It didn’t work… In truth it was uncovering my story that revealed my purpose, and that clarity has effortlessly guided my business since (purposecompass.org). Now I help others use their story to build a business they love and that attracts the right customers.

40 minute video interview on authentic marketing with nash ryker

The other day I did a forty minute video interview with Nash Ryker of http://yourepicdestinytv.com/.

We got to talk about some new ideas I have been having around authentic marketing, especially:

You can watch it here

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polarize

magnetI want to share something that might forever change the way you relate to marketing.

It’s a notion I got from Mark Manson in the context of dating but I think it maps over perfectly into marketing.

There are only three types of potential clients you will ever experience: responsive, neutral and unresponsive.

  • Responsive people will come across your work and light up. They’ll get excited and want to sign up and hire you after learning a little bit about you. They’ll be curious, want to know more and ask you a lot of questions. These people are a ‘yes’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Neutral people will listen to what you have to say but they won’t react much. They’ll sit there in your workshop politely and take it in. But they won’t sign up for much. They may be cordial and listen respectfully but they for sure won’t seem ‘into it’ like the responsive people do. These people are a ‘maybe’ to what you’re up to in your business.
  • Unresponsive people will actively pull away, show disinterest, might even be rude. These people are a ‘no’ to what you’re up to in your business.

And how you deal with each of these three people is different.

With responsive people, you just need to enjoy them and make it really safe and easy for them to buy from you. You want to have your sales funnel worked out so they can engage at the level that feels best for them. If you try and push or ‘sell’ to these people, things get weird. They’re already sold on you. Just relax, enjoy them, engage them and look for what is the best fit.

With unresponsive people, just bless and release them. Really. Just let them go. It’s not a fit (at least not in that moment). Trying to convince these people to hire you or buy from you is the road to burn out.

With neutral people it’s a different story. The neutral people aren’t sure. They’re on the fence. And your job is to get them off the fence (with no bias towards which direction they fall – towards you or away from you).

To be clear, I’m not talking about pushing them or making them do anything. I’m talking about revealing yourself and being vulnerable enough.

Let’s back this up a bit.

If they’re on the fence, why are they on the fence?

They’re up there because they’re not sure enough about who you are, your point of view, your overall purpose of your business, the results you offer or problems you solve etc. There’s something about your platform that is fuzzy and that results in them not knowing if it’s a fit. There’s likely something they see that they like (which is why they haven’t left your presence) but also somethings they see that they don’t quite get (which is why they haven’t bought).

But why is there fuzziness in the first place? Often because we’re scared to share the full truth of how we see things.

A typical approach with neutral people is to try to keep them around by being really ‘nice’ and not offending them in any way. People will build their email list by sharing useful but not that exciting or honest content. It’s kind of ‘meh’. It’s nice. It’s fine.

But, if you do this, they will consistently fall off of the fence away from you.

It’s like the dreaded ‘friend zone’ in dating.

They’ll tell you how great they think your business is but they won’t ever hire you.

But there’s another approach. And that approach is to be really honest about your platform and your intentions so that they are able to make up their mind and you can either go deeper with them or, quite frankly, stop wasting your time in ‘building a relationship’ with them that was never going to go anywhere anyways.

But, this requires us to let go of our people pleasing behaviours and to start being really honest about who we are and what we think. It might also mean directly asking someone if they’d like to be a client or be open to a conversation about working together. You might find that people who were dancing around with a ‘maybe’ they’d like to work with you suddenly become a ‘no’ when you directly ask them. Which is wonderful to know. Your asking them (depending on how you did it) didn’t cause them to not want to work with you, it created the space to reveal what they may have already been feeling for a while but were too nervous to tell you.

And here’s the challenge with those things: they all make you vulnerable. You are putting yourself out there and risking rejection.

If you’re honest about your quirks, people might not like them.

If you’re honest about your point of view, people might strongly disagree and attack or belittle you for it.

If you’re really real about the specific kinds of people you’re best at helping, you might lose folks who aren’t that.

If you’re honest about the larger cause you’re most passionate about that drives your business, you might lose people who are more passionate about other causes.

But on the flip side, if you’re honest about these things: some people will love them.

I think that our fear of being vulnerable is what keeps others from knowing us and therefore being able to decide if we’re a fit. We often feel shame about really revealing ourselves and yet it’s the very thing that will inspire others to get off the fence. Will you repel some folks? Sure. But you will also far more strongly attract others.

I can tell you that the blog posts I’ve written that have gotten the most positive reactions and cemented people as fans also got some of the most negative ones and the most comments overall – were the ones where I was most vulnerable and honest.

Just the other day I wrote a post called, ‘I’m Broke (And I Don’t Care)‘ and was flooded with over 100 comments. Or the post, ‘Why Charging What You’re Worth Is Bullshit.’ Or the post ‘Slow Marketing‘. Or the time I encouraged people to do what they could to get the Conservatives out of office in Canada and wrote about it in my post Elections, Polarizing & Having an Opinion.

If they are neutral towards you, the answer isn’t to be neutral back. If you find you’re attracting a lot of neutral clients and you want to change that, they answer is this: be even more vulnerable and honest.

The goal of marketing isn’t to convince everyone to work with you.

To state that even more strongly: the goal of marketing isn’t to convince anyone to work with you.

The goal of marketing is to attract the people who would be a perfect fit for you and to actively disuade people who are not a good fit for you (with a bit of wiggle room there). Marketing is more a filtering process than anything.

Consider this logic: If you attract someone who is not a fit for what you offer, they will have a bad experience. They will then tell their friends about their bad experience and now you’ve got bad word of mouth. It’s not actually that what you were offering was bad – it just wasn’t a fit for them. But I promise you the rest of the world will not make that distinction.

On the other hand, if you attract the perfect kind of client who’s in exactly the right moment in their life to work with you they will almost certainly have a good experience. And they will tell everyone they know about that. And now you have good word of mouth.

It’s simple.

But it’s so easy to waste your time on trying to keep the neutral people around. Or to attract them.

But in the end it doesn’t work. Here’s the common dynamic. You get a speaking gig for thousands of people. Amazing. What an opportunity. Then you get a chance to write an article on a well known blog. So you do those things and, cleverly, offer them a free gift to sign up for your email newsletter. And, to get the free gift, a number of them do. Your pipeline of new clients is now so full, you tell yourself. Any day now you’re about to break through. Fast forward three months and nothing has changed.

Here’s what was really happening, people saw you. Thought you were interesting. Were intrigued to know a bit more but were mostly neutral. They saw a ‘free’ offer, got excited and signed up for your email newsletter which is also very neutral and not opinionated at all and they got bored, stopped reading it and really never intended to buy in the first place. You were hooked on hopium that your pipeline was full. But it never really was. So, we keep trying to get in front of more and more people, hoping that might change it.

But here’s what will really change it: being willing to be a lot more vulnerable with those crowds.

I don’t mean standing up there and weeping about your childhood and asking them to hold you.

I don’t mean standing up there and telling them how nervous you are to be there (though that can be endearing).

I mean being willing to be very honest about whatever parts of your journey you’ve gone through that make you qualified that you care to share. I mean being willing to share where you’re not perfect, your quirks and kinks. Being willing to let them know who you are and how you see the world and the nature of their issue.  Being honest vulnerable will polarize your audience. The more vulnerable you are, the more polarizing you will be.

Your ability to attract perfect clients is in direct proportion to your willingness to be vulnerable and deal with the reality that most people are simply not a fit. Luckily, you don’t need most people as clients to have a thriving business. You only need some.

Here’s another way to look at it: I’d look at your neutral clients as the white blood cells of your business. If you have a lot it’s indicating that you are sick. And the disease may be from your own lack of honesty and vulnerability because of your fears. But most businesses see the white blood cells as a sign of health and seem to want more of them. You want less neutral people and more highly responsive people. You want less maybe’s and more yes’ or no’s right off the bat.

When you really start stepping out with your full truth, you will repel so many more people (who were not a fit) and you will attract raving fans who love what you are about (who are a fit). Withholding the truth in the beginning doesn’t really help. Sure you might get more clients to begin with, but eventually the truth will come out and those people will leave.

The only question is, how vulnerable are you willing to be?

Here are some ways you can explore being vulnerable. I’d love to hear what additional ideas you might have:

  • Ask Their Intentions: If you’ve got someone who’s been hovering around, neutral, asking for free advice for a while, consider just asking them directly, ‘Hey, I notice you’ve been around and come to a number of the free things I’ve been offering and I was just wondering if you were thinking of coming to the the upcoming full weekend. I’d love to have you there.’ Either way, now you know the truth and energy gets released which is a relief. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but if you’re wondering, you can always ask. They might just say ‘yes’. I was hosting a party in London, England and I got three people to come to my weekend workshop by simply saying, ‘Are you coming to my weekend? You should come! I’d love to have you there!’ Simple. Asking is vulnerable but powerful.
  • Go on a Rant: This is one of my favourites. Look at your industry and ask yourself honestly what you see is missing. And then let yourself rant about that. Sleep on it and if it still feels true, even if it feels edgy, put it up and share it with the world in a video or your blog.
  • Set Boundaries: Are clients always asking you for ‘just a quick opinion’ or a ‘five minute favour’? Tell them the truth (which is that you’d like to be paid for your time). I usually say something like, ‘Thanks so much for writing. That’s a great question and I totally get how frustrating that can be. My rates and such are here. Let me know if you’d like to book some time. I hope you’re well otherwise :-).’ And tell your clients what you expect from them before they hire you. Be real with people about your needs.
  • Lay Out Your Map: You likely have a very strong opinion about the best way to help people on their Journey from their problem to the solution. Consider being even more explicit and honest about it. Lay the philosophy and steps out as clearly as you possibly can. Let them take a look at it for themselves and see if they like it or not. It can be tempting to be vague and try and trick people into signing up for a program based on vague promises. It’s not worth it.  Laying out your map is more effective anyway.
  • Share Your Story: Did you go through the same struggle as your ideal clients? Do you still struggle with the same issue in ways (but have learned more mature ways to deal with it when it comes up)? Consider sharing that.
  • Fire Clients: Do you have clients that are a constant drain on your time and energy? Fire them. For real. Let them go. If you’re not, why not? Because you need the money? Because you’re scared they’ll be upset, hate you and tell the world what a fraud you are? Letting go of bad clients frees up so much energy for a good client to show up and for you to be strong and attractive when they do.
  • What Else? Any other ideas or examples you can think of?

brene brown: the power of vulnerability

If you haven’t seen this video, I highly encourage you to watch it. Being willing to be vulnerable might just be the most important thing you could ever do for your business. It will help people feel safe with you and also attract your ideal clients to you more strongly. Your willingness to be incredible honest about your platform will do more to grow your business than anything I know.

I’m broke (and I don’t care)

images (9)Last week, something happened to me that happens from time to time. Something I’ve wanted to write about before. 

And it’s something that I suppose many of my colleagues would urge me not to share with you as I imagine that the attitude I’m sharing here could be an enormous source of frustration to a coach.

But whatever. 

I was broke.

I was in BC visiting friends when I likely should have been working on business things and I had a couple hundred dollars in the bank. If more money didn’t come in I wasn’t going to be able to pay rent. Or pay for much of anything. I figured my money would run out by Friday and my overdraft the next Wednesday for sure. 

So, here I am, Mr. Marketing Man being broke. I can imagine it might be like seeing a yoga instructor smoke cigarettes. Or a relationship expert going through a bad break up. Which is kind of the point – the unrealistic (and often unkind) expectations we put on others and ourselves. 

And I wanted to write about this because I think that so many of us self employed types carry around a lot of shame at being broke or admitting we’re broke to others. It can seem like we’re admitting that our business isn’t working, that we’re a failure, that we made a mistake in starting it. It’s something we hide and don’t talk about because we really want others to think of us as successful. And this is my point: if you want to make money because you really want to have that money – go for it. If you’re wanting to make money (or seem like you’re making money) to impress people, it might be something to reconsider. 

Back to the story: last week I noticed I was broke. 

And it struck me how little I cared about it. And how little I care what others think about that.

Because I’m a hippie. And hippies don’t mind being broke from time to time. 

To be clear: it’s hardly the first time I’ve been broke. I’ve made money and spent it many times. I remember in the early days being so broke that I couldn’t afford a bagel or a stamp. And I’d already checked the couch for change. Meh. It happens. But my superhuman-like inability to keep a job and utter lack of interest in that combined with my desire for freedom (to the point of real irresponsibility) had me not even consider changing course much. I was just broke. I’d keep going. I’d borrow money and pay it back. I was doing what I loved and following my heart and I didn’t mind not having money sometimes (a little, but not much).

To be even more clear: this last time, I wasn’t totally broke. I had a couple hundred dollars. And there was some affiliate money coming in. I have some money in a travel/savings bank account I could have gone into in an emergency. I could have emailed my list to offer some one on one coaching and likely gotten a response. 

To go further, I could have moved back in with my mom (though she’d likely have loaned me the money). I’m white, male and live in Canada with an impressive social safety net and basically free health care. Etc. I also have very little debt at the moment. So, broke is a relative term and there are an immense number of invisible privileges that I enjoy simply because of the family and place in the world I was born into. Being broke as a white, middle ages, tall, straight man in Canada is different than being a broke black man in the southern United States I am quite sure. Or broke as a single mother. I’m single with no dependents. I’m not a single parent, or taking care of elderly parents. My needs and responsibilities are really very few. Were I in a different situation I likely wouldn’t be so ‘flip’ about this broke thing. Broke might not be an option in the same way. And, like you, I work for a world where being broke wouldn’t mean you’d lose your home or ability to eat or feed your family – a world where the most vulnerable amongst us were cared for and no one slipped through the cracks to end up six feet under the concrete we’ve poured over everything that matters. 

But the not caring isn’t just coming from this strange, inordinate and strange trust I’ve always had that I’ll be fine and that the money will show up when I need it (which is almost certainly deeply influenced by the privileges I have grown up with that were and likely still are invisible to me) – it’s also that I go broke sometimes because of the choices I make in my life about how often I work. And I actually don’t work half as hard as most people would think I do. I’m quite sure that 90% of my colleagues work much harder than me. And I bet most of them are way better at managing money (there’s a reason I don’t run Accounting for Hippies). 

So, I know that my occasional poverty is a choice. It’s summer. I’m hitting up festivals. Drinking on patios. Traveling and letting the money slowly spiral out of my account like a full tub draining. I get it. And I know that I will have to hustle soon to make more. But Summer in Edmonton is an urgent thing. It last like four months out of the year. And then it’s brutally cold winter at times and we’re forced indoors where I’ll have lots of time to work. It’s like I’m a reverse squirrel: I gather my acorns in the winter and live off them in the Summer.

My time management is alright but I often even get to the hustling much later than I should which means I make less money than I could. Whatever. Life goes on.

I value my quality of life, freedom and time with friends. I know that, slowly, I am building up my business to be much more self sustaining and resilient. I know that I keep getting better at what I do. I know I’ll have more home-study courses and products to sell over the coming years. More virtual programs I can offer. I’m on the slow path to those things and watching colleagues with more drive and hustle zoom right past me on most of those fronts. Bravo for them! Perhaps someday soon I’ll decide to really hustle and crack some things out. I’m sure if that seems fun that I’ll do it. 

And . . . whatever.

I’m writing this because I want you to know it’s okay to be broke. Sometimes you need to take a job. Sometimes you just need to hustle for a while. Sometimes it will be feast and sometimes it will be famine. Sometimes your big promotion will be a flop. Sometimes you are going to choose fun over work. Sometimes that will happen a lot. 

But making more money doesn’t make you a better person or a better manifestor. It doesn’t make you worth more than anyone else. It just means you have more money. Which sometimes you’re going to really want to have. 

But, every day, you’ll need to make those choices between short term fun and long term success and, fuck it, sometimes you’re going to choose short term fun. You’ll need to choose between quality of life and working really hard, and sometimes you’ll choose quality of life and enjoyment over working 16 hour days to make money.

And then sometimes you’ll work really hard and not see your friends for weeks because you’re so driven (by inspiration or desperation).

Sometimes you will want (or need) to make six or seven figures. Sometimes you won’t.

Sometimes you’ll have a partner who can support you for a time while you build something. Sometimes you won’t. 

That’s life. 

And it’s all fine. 

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

Are there consequences to not having money sometimes? Yes. Is it a drag sometimes? For sure. 

But working hard to make six or seven figures also has consequences and can be a drag. And sometimes the only reason you work so hard is to have the lifestyle you already had before you started.

As the saying goes, ‘There are some people so poor that all they have is money.’

Again: 

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

In this industry, there’s can be a lot of pressure to seem successful and have it all together. To manage and craft our reputation so that people are drawn to us and want to emulate us. Truth be told, I could probably care more about that than I do. But I really don’t. There can be so much pressure to create an image that you’re rich and that, if people do what you do then they’ll be as successful as you seem to be. And people can get really stressed out with the posturing and pretending and then live in a constant, low level fear that they’re going to be discovered as a fraud.

I don’t think having less money makes me less successful (I’m pretty sure I’m the poorest of most of my colleagues and I’ve certainly never had a six figure year). I think being happy is what it’s all about. I don’t think overwork is a sign of success (nor, regrettably for me, is laziness a sign of authenticity). 

Here I am, with all I know, after a decade in business and I still have times I go broke. If you’re just starting out (and even if you’ve been in business for a while) I invite you to be less hard on yourself. You’ve got a full life. Family, friends, festivals, events, hobbies, books you want to read, a bucket list to explore. Sometimes it’s okay for work for wait til a bit later. And sometimes we work now so we can do those things later. But it’s all up to you.

Ask yourself which you’d regret more at the end of your life: working hard or relaxing and enjoying life? My guess is that answer will be different for different people at different moments in their lives. And that’s okay.

I’m not writing this to glorify poverty or to encourage laziness and irresponsibility. I’m writing it because sometimes I am poor and lazy and irresponsible. And that’s just the truth. My guess is, sometimes you are too.

Sometimes what we need is a sabbatical so we can come back to our work fresh and ready to kick ass. And sometimes we need to kick ass so we can afford to go on sabbatical. Which season are you in? And can you honour that?

And you might choose to do work that, even with the best marketing, may never bring in a lot of money but it’s so damned satisfying. It feels so good. And you may always be broke as a result, but the world will be left richer. My only hope is that you’re honest with yourself about what feels good and what doesn’t. As long as it feels good, keep doing it. When it no longer feels good I hope you’ll find some way to sustain yourself and make money that feels as good as possible.

I wish it were always possible to always have it all. A thriving business + rich social life + incredible romantic relationship + radiant health etc. Sometimes it is. But sometimes we choose things that mean less money. 

Do what you want to do.

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.

I can feel a big work time coming up for me in the coming months where I will be immensely focused and work really hard. I look forward to that too.

I know that if I really worked hard and applied what I know, I’d be making more money. If I focused more on my business, it would grow faster. I know when I focus and hustle, results happen. I know that what I’m teaching works when I work it. I just don’t always want to work it. Or work anything. 

This week? I had two big affiliate payments come in plus some more money I’d forgotten about and I’m going to be knuckling down on getting my Niching for Hippies program together. 

Last week? I was broke. And I don’t care. 

Wherever you are this week – it’s all good. Work when you feel like you need to work. Don’t when you feel like you don’t. This is your life. Your business coach wants you to focus more on your business to grow it bigger? Cool. Do you want to do that? If not, screw what your coach wants.

Just be honest with yourself about what you’re needing and wanting.