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.

marketing from the heart manifesto

heart marketing from the heart manifestoOne of my clients, wrote me a beautiful email recently with her ‘manifesto’ about marketing. I was so inspired by it that I had to share it. It’s a beautiful example of starting with the ‘why’ and of a clear and compelling point of view.


Marketing From The Heart?

by Mary Pellicer, MD?

My vision of what MARKETING can be if it comes from the HEART:

An INVITATION to people to live RICHER, FULLER and more MEANINGFUL LIVES, to live lives in ALIGNMENT with their own INTEGRITY.

Communication to INSPIRE from a place of GENEROSITY (vs. pushing and pressuring from a place of greed)

CONNECTION to inspire people out of LOVE and CARE (vs. motivating them from fear)

EMPATHIZING with people (vs. exploiting their insecurities)

Being COMMITTED to SERVING people (vs. selling to them)

Making sure it’s a PERFECT FIT (or NO DEAL)-Going for the WIN-WIN ?(vs. making the sale)

CONTACT to LEAD & INFLUENCE (vs. seeking fame)

Opening CONVERSATIONS about POSSIBILITIES (vs. closing deals)

Market from the Heart and invest in making the world an amazing place to live, work and grow.                    

(With much gratitude to Tad Hargrave who’s blog post Death and Marketing inspired this.)

niche case study: migraine sufferers

migraine 300x180 niche case study: migraine sufferersHeidi Wilson was a part of my last Niching for Hippies program.

She’s a cranio sacral therapist (among other things). That’s the boat (watch the video in this blog and that’ll make more sense). From her standpoint, craniosacral work is what she does. From the client’s standpoint though, craniosacral is just how she does what she does. From there standpoint, what she does is to help them get a particular result that they’re craving.

But which result?

That’s the million dollar question.

The challenge is more complex when you realize that most holistic modalities can help so many people with so many issues – that’s why they’re ‘holistic’ in the first place. But most people aren’t interested in being more holistically well. They’re too busy dealing with whatever pressing problems they’re facing.

And they’re sure not interested in prevention.

To state it another way: the modality you use (how you do what you do) is irrelevant to people. They don’t care. What is relevant to them are the problems they struggle with and the results they crave. Period.

So, your job in marketing is to translate that for them – to build the bridge – to help them see how your technique can help them get what they want.

But, of course, we can’t be experts in everything.

So, Heidi decided to narrow in on a very specific niche: migraine headaches.


heidi wilson niche case study: migraine sufferersName: Heidi Wilson - Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

What is the niche you’ve come up with? Who is it? What are the problems they struggle with?

My niche is people who suffer from chronic migraine headaches who are open to natural solutions. They struggle with the pattern of recurring physical pain of migraine headaches and the accompanying disruption and dysfunction it causes in their lives. They don’t want to be dependent on drugs.

What’s the result you are helping them to achieve?

I help them live without this chronic pain through their committing to receiving regular craniosacral sessions for a period of at least six months.

How was the process of coming to this niche for you? Was it hard? Easy? A struggle? Something you’d already been working on?

Before the start of this course, I had thought about wanting to somehow bring in more people with migraines to my practice, since I knew that I could help them, but I hadn’t really thought about the concept of a “niche” before. It was cool to go through the process of reflecting on my own healing journey through Tad’s questions/homework. It helped me understand with more clarity that healing my wounds about shame and confusion around natural desires and sensuous expression, brought me to doing healing work. And that being passionate about teaching people to be at home in their bodies and recognizing the incredible healing resources available through this relationship with their bodies, is a natural progression on my path. The process wasn’t exactly easy- I went through some shadow work in answering the homework questions- that brought to light my strengths and values.

Why this niche? What’s the story here? What can you say about your personal connection to this niche? Were you once in a similar boat? What made you think you had something to offer here?

In the reflections for the homework for this class, there was a part that asked what we are good at, who have we helped? People with migraine headaches came up easily as an answer. I love seeing people through to the other side of this pain. I don’t get migraines myself, but my youngest daughter used to. There was a year in high school when she was under a lot of stress while going to a school that wasn’t a fit for her. Changing schools and getting bodywork from me helped her through. Witnessing the suffering she went through and wanting so much for her suffering to end helps me have compassion for people with this pattern.
Getting clear that this is a niche that I can name and claim is exciting to me.

What’s the response been to this so far from the people you’ve shared it with?

The response from people who I have told about this niche has been nothing but positive! Everyone seems to know someone who suffers from migraines and supports me in pursuing this project.

How are you planning to reach this crowd? Any sense of the best hubs right now?

I am in the process of creating a website specifically for people who suffer from migraines. I will purchase some google ads to get traffic coming to my site. I’ll soon create a Facebook page for this aspect of my business.

I have reached out to a friend who is a Naturopathic doctor who will take my cards and with whom I plan on doing some projects around migraine relief. I will also go to other Naturopathic doctors’ offices with cards and fliers/brochures about my offerings.

I’m contemplating creating some you tube videos about my practice of “Floating the Brain”, a meditative practice that I teach my craniosacral students that I believe will help people with migraines. This one is a bit edgy for me, but I want to go for it when I am ready!

What did you learn about niching along the way?

I have been in private practice for 19 years and never taken a marketing course- never really gave it much thought. My practice has really built itself on word of mouth. The concept of niche marketing was new to me so I learned one very basic concept that others may have already heard of or understood- that narrowing my focus can actually increase my effectiveness in reaching the people that I can help.

What are your next steps in exploring this niche? Any project ideas?

I plan on pursuing the project that I came up with in the six week course. That is- a free workshop/event co-created with my naturopathic friend. She will offer information on migraines’ causes and triggers and offer dietary recommendations and herbs. I will offer meditative exercises and practices I call “Floating the Brain” to feel your cranial rhythm and encourage a relaxation response to stress. Of course then I would let people know about my craniosacral work and why I believe they could benefit from my services if they were ready to commit to at least a few months of working together.

What would you say were the top three lessons you learned about niching from going through the six week Niching for Hippies program?

1. To have an idea and go for it!

2. So many cool ideas about creating and connecting with hubs through niching projects!

3. That I can keep growing my self and my work as I get more and more clear about who I am and who I love to be with!

Anything else you’d like to say?

Just that Tad, you are a great living example of someone working a successful niche! The titles- Niching for Hippies- and Marketing for Hippies- got me when I read it in an email -don’t remember how I got the original email… Just caught my attention and curiosity – struck a chord of relatedness… Then when I started to read the material, it continued to take me in with the down to earth honest approach to a topic that I didn’t normally relate to- marketing. Thanks for being real and so generous with your knowledge! And cool too of course!

Here’s what I might do if I were her:

Become an expert in migraines not just craniosacral. If she’s going to create a website on migraines, I want to see it full of links, tips, videos, blog posts, interviews etc. on migraines. You need to be masterful at your craft. True. You must be excellent at your technique or modality. But you must also become an expert in their problem. Stated another way – you need to be an expert in helping them get the results they crave. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult. Most migraine sufferers will have never even read a single book on the topic.

That’s a guess but I’d wager a generous sum that it’s true. All she needs to do is to read a few books on migraines and she’ll be well ahead of the curve. The key in the holistic world is to get outside of your own modality. Forget about it for a while and just learn about the issue at hand.

Seek other perspectives.

I imagine that herbalists, NLP practitioners, Chinese Medicine practitioners, essential oil purveyors, yoga teachers, hypnotherapists, meditation teachers, nutritionists etc. all have something to say and offer here that would be complimentary and not at all competitive. If her clients can see her as an expert not only in craniosacral (which they only peripherally care about to the extent they believe it can help them) but also in treating migraines she will be able to command much higher fees (should she want to), be much choosier in her clients, and will have so much more openness, trust and cooperation from her clients.

And she’ll want to make much of this context setting knowledge available for free on her site.

She’ll have street cred.

Develop a very clear point of view on treating migraines. The focus on migraines make her work instantly relevant to a lot of people. But the true credibility will come from them understanding her point of view – how she sees the situation. They want to know her ‘take’ on it. Her perspective, philosophy . . . her map on how to get them from Island A to Island B. Let’s imagine she chooses to do a series of blog posts on the topic. Here are some titles her potential clients might find very interesting.

“The Six Hidden Causes of Migraines”

“The Three Biggest Unfortunate Side Effects About Migraine Pain Relief Drugs The Drug Companies Would Rather You Don’t Know”

“Three Simple Home Remedies to Take the Edge Off Your Migraines”

“Five Foods That Will Make Your Migraines Worse”

“What’s Happening in Your Brain When You Have a Migraine”

These are just off the cuff but she could come up with more by answering these questions.

So much of marketing ends up being education. But not just education about the boat (e.g. “let me tell you how great Osteopathy is”) but education about the map (e.g. “See, here’s where the tides will whip you right into the rocks, here’s where the pirates are, here’s where the sea monsters are but this path here is smooth sailing. See that?”).  The more that people understand, resonate with and trust your map the more ideal clients you’ll get.

Identifying Hubs for Migraine Sufferers. The core of marketing, as I know it, is about identifying hubs. Asking yourself, ‘Where do migraine sufferers (who don’t want to rely on drugs) already spend their time, money and attention?’ The answer to that question will give you everything you need to start marketing to them effectively. In fact, we mentioned some great ones above – herbalists, NLP practitioners, Chinese Medicine practitioners, essential oil purveyors, yoga teachers, hypnotherapists, meditation teachers, nutritionists etc.

Here’s another bonus tip: for marketing to local clients staff at health food stores in the supplement section. I guarantee they have people coming in all the time looking for natural treatments to migraines. If all the staff know her and love her – you can be that they’ll be happy to refer business over to her of these clients.

Advice #4: Think global. Niching narrowly to a problem like migraines means you can now grow your business more broadly than where you live. Heidi could, over time, create videos, ebooks, audio programs etc. that she could sell on her new website – and make some money while she sleeps.


Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program

your signature talk

I was chatting with my colleague Jonathan Bender about his upcoming coaching program about helping people deliver a ‘signature talk’. It’s a term I suggest you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the coming months. But it’s a bit of jargon so I asked Jonathan to explain what it is and why it matters.
JonathanBender1 your signature talkWhat is a signature talk? Why do it? And who’s it for?
First, a signature talk is simply a speech / presentation / keynote / talk that is uniquely you. It’s a forum for bringing your message to the world. Even if someone else has a similar topic, it doesn’t matter – a signature talk will always be authentically you. Also, it could be done at a live, in-person event, or it could be on a webinar or teleseminar. Finally, a signature talk could labeled as a motivational or inspirational speech. Often, it’s used to inspire new clients to work with you.
Why do it? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, speaking is one of the best ways to get clients, and to get established as an expert in your field. It helps you reach far more people very quickly – which makes getting clients much easier. Also, you get to change more people’s lives with your message. That’s pretty cool.
Who’s it for? If you are a heart-based entrepreneur – a coach, holistic practitioner, or with your own unique business that really helps people – it’s for you. If your reaction is, “I’m not a speaker,” then you’re the perfect fit. Yes, some people with signature talks make their living as paid speakers, but many others have their own coaching, therapy or healing business – and just use speaking to reach their perfect clients.
Anyone can learn to do it. It’s important to learn all the key elements, which I’ll be discussing with Tad on our call on Wednesday. Join us to learn a lot more, and how you can put a professional signature talk together – and start using it to attract great clients – faster than you may think.
Let me drill this down a bit further.
Your signature talk with where you express your point of view. Meaning, your talk is fundamentally going to be on the topic of the journey they’re on from Island A to Island B (and maybe to inspire them that Island C is possible). But just getting up there and describing that journey would, ultimately, be unsatisfying for an audience. You need to not only talk about the destination but to draw your unique map of how you think people should best make that journey.
You need to share your honest point of view.
I wrote a post called “50 real life examples of point of view in action“. And each of the examples could be the basis of your signature talk. But finding your voice and really honing your point of view into something clear can take work. Your signature talk is a chance to express your platform – to have them leave with a very clear sense of what you want to be known for.
Think about the success of TED Talks.

You’ve likely seen at least one (and if you haven’t I apologize in advance for the week of your life you’re going to lose watching them).

These talks are obviously inspiring, thought provoking and often very powerful.

But also consider this – can you imagine the number of books those videos have sold for the speakers? The number of speaking engagements and clients they gotten as a direct result of those talks? What those talks have done for their reputation? The projects they’ve been invited to be involved in?

Think about it.

I’ve gotten to asking my clients at workshops – ‘What would your TED Talk be?’ If you were given 20 minutes on stage in front of thousands of your ideal clients would you be able to distill your core philosophy and ‘take’ on things into that time in a way that they totally ‘got it’?

Of course, TED has a massive reach and reputation. But, even if you take that away, having a ‘signature talk’ like that (whether online or in person) is one of the most vital things I can imagine an entrepreneur having. The power of TED is partly the huge following they have (1,224,829 Followers) but it’s also about the clarity of the ideas being communicated and the powerful stories being told.

You may not have the reach but you can create a talk with the same power and impact.

You likely already know that public speaking is one of the best ways to get clients.

Yet, so many incredible conscious entrepreneurs aren’t doing it.

Or, they’re not being effective, and missing out on getting to bring their important message and purpose to the world.

I’ve seen talks where the presenter never even mentioned their services they offered (and so got no clients). I’ve seen talks where the speakers used high pressure and manipulative tactics to try and get people to buy (and then got no clients).

Jonathan Bender, a warm and wonderful fellow who’s been a speaking coach for over 15 years (also a professional theater director, actor and writer!), will be leading an incredible free training:

“How to Craft a Powerful, Inspiring Speech… that Transforms Your Audience, Changes Their Lives, and Moves Them to Work with You!”

DATE: Wednesday, October 10th @ 5pm PT/6pm MT/7pm CT/8pm ET
COST: Free


three marketing lessons from the man behind mother earth news

motherearthnewsmagazine three marketing lessons from the man behind mother earth newsBryan Welsh is likely not someone you’ve heard of. But if you’ve ever read Mother Earth News, Utne, Natural Home & Garden, The Herb Companion, Grit or The Farm Collector – then you’ve read one of the magazines his company Ogden Publications owns.

And, last night, I had the pleasure of seeing him speak at the Social Venture Institute at the Hollyhock Center on Cortes Island, BC. His presentation felt like a mix of Mark Twain, farmer and media mogul – relaxed, charming, engaging story telling.

Brian grew up doing farming as a young man and then worked in every possible role in the small town newspaper business – eventually becoming the owner of many of the most important progressive magazines worldwide.

And he had some real gems from a business and marketing perspective that I just had to share.

Lesson #1: Abstract vs. Practical Point of View

He felt that Mother Earth News did so well because it had always been about ‘cool stuff you could do.’ vs. just ideas, a critique of the dominant culture and the economy. That struck me. He pointed out that, economically, media properties that are about ‘ideas’ tend not to be as consistent money makers. Mother Earth News does much better than Utne.  People just don’t want to pay a lot of money to hear your ideas. It’s a hard business model.

I talk a lot about point of view in marketing and how important your perspective is.

But his sharing reminded me that point of view is almost always more clear and compelling when it’s infused into things rather than when it’s just talked about abstractly.

It’s one thing to talk about the principles of being a loving parent (e.g. be respectful, be kind, be loving etc) but it’s far more useful (for a parent) to have ‘here are five ways you can deal with your child not cleaning their room in a kind, respectful and loving way’.

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of honesty and integrity in marketing. It’s another thing to say, ‘here’s a five step process to filling your workshops with honesty and integrity.’

It’s one thing to say be sustainable and eco friendly in your lifestyle. It’s another to say, ‘here’s how to make natural cleaners with all natural household ingredients.’

It’s okay to talk abstractly, but make sure you give a lot of real world examples. Have your point of view show up in your practical, how-to info and you’ll have fans for life.

Lesson #2: Free Random Info Isn’t That Useful

We live in a day of free information. You want to know how to do anything, someone has an entire blog dedicated just to doing that. 100 people have created youtube videos on how to do it. And it’s all free.

Of course, the immediate challenge that arises is . . . who do you trust? What if there are conflicting opinions on how to get the job done? Holy overwhelm.

Brian pointed out that, ‘Information from a recognized source, in a voice you’re familiar with, values you understand on subjects you’re passionate about has more value than random free information you can find in abundance online.’

But let’s break that down.

  • recognized and trusted source: sometimes this comes from just sticking around for a while, building your relationship of trust with your following. They come to know, like and trust you. You become a trusted advisor because you’re such a generosity based business, you offer so much free content, you make it safe for your clients to get to know you. You showcase lots of case studies and examples of your work to demonstrate your expertise. And the easiest way to become a trusted source is to hone in on a particular niche.
  • a voice you’re familiar with and enjoy: this question of having a particular voice is powerful. When we say ‘voice’ we’re not talking about how it sounds when you speak but about the particular vibe, point of view and tone of your expression. Some people speak in a very conservative voice, some have a sexy voice, some have a politically radical voice, some have a quirky and fun voice. And people will be drawn to you based on your voice. Not just what you say but how you say it. The more you find your voice, the more you’ll attract clients who love you and are drawn to you just because you’re the way you are.
  • values you understand and resonate with: some times it’s so confusing why some people believe things. I don’t get the values of a white supremist. It makes no sense to me. If someone was a political conservative they might not get my hippie values. They’d look at how I do things and what’s important to me and shake their head.  It’s so wonderful to walk into a cafe and see how it embodies your values. For me, when I see fair trade coffee, local and organic food etc. I ‘get’ it. I understand those values. I resonate with those. When I see that a business embodies a bigger cause than just money that I also am aligned with I’m so much more likely to buy because, by supporting them, I am helping to further the cause I’m passionate about too. People don’t just buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Stop trying to change minds and focus on the people who resonate with your values.
  • on subjects you’re passionate about: again, abstract points of view aren’t that compelling for people. But points of view on subjects I’m passionate about? I’m super interested in (if they’re from a recognized and trusted source, in a voice I’m familiar with and enjoy). Those topics might be nerdy and they might be about pressing problems I want to solve or how to get results I’m craving.

It’s not enough just to talk about subjects people are passionate about. You need to build your credibility, develop your particular voice and clarify your value.

Lesson #3: Berries. Don’t put pictures of berries on magazine covers. Peoplle dont’ buy them. Any other fruit or vegetable can work. But people don’t like berries. #nowyouknow

the easiest question to uncover your niche

 the easiest question to uncover your niche

As we approach the launch of my six week Niching for Hippies coaching program, I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about niching.

And one thing has gotten clearer and clearer to me over the past month: your niche is often you.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about how our deepest wounds can be a doorway to our truest niche. And then a few weeks ago, I wrote a bit more about how your niche is often you.

Or at least who you used to be.

And I want to hone in on that theme here. 

Because, I think there’s one question you can ask yourself which will take you closer to figuring out your most authentic niche than anything I know.

A question that’s so simple and so obvious but so clear that you it might surprise you.

Here’s the question: “What have you had to overcome in your life to be where you are today?”

That’s it.

Think about it. You’ve had to overcome a lot in your life to be where you are: heartbreak, death, profound loss, deep loneliness, cruelty from others etc. 

And to survive that, you had to adapt. You had to learn to get good at certain things. You had to develop skills. And maybe life just pulverized you into submission and you had to learn the art of letting go. Maybe you became charming, maybe you got good at art, maybe you learned a lot about compassion, maybe you had to learn a lot about how life really works vs. how you wished it might.

My guess is that to deal with your wounds you might have talked to a lot of friends, gone to workshops, sought out counseling, gone back to school.

Overcoming things is not easy work.

And the word ‘overcome’ here is important.

I’m not just asking you to think about where you’ve struggled in life. Struggle doesn’t imply any kind of growth or learning. I’m asking you to consider where in your life you’ve really made progress. Maybe you didn’t make it as far as you would have liked, but you’re further than you were (and maybe further than you ever imagined you’d be).

Maybe you used to be really overweight. And now you’re still a bit overweight but you’ve made so much progress.

Maybe you used to be deep in debt and you’re not all the way out but you’re well on your way.

Maybe you were shattered by heartbreak and, you’re not 100% over it but you’re 75% over it.

Maybe you used to feel anxious and depressed all the time and now it’s only some of the time.

You’ve made progress. You’ve overcome it in a lot of ways. You’re not longer trapped in the quicksand of the problem.

And that qualifies you to help anyone who has made less progress than you, anyone who’s a few steps behind you in their journey. You don’t have to posture and pretend to be an expert or to be perfect. To offer help you just need to be a few steps ahead. 

Another way of putting it: haven’t you become the very person whose help you needed when you were younger?

Dike Drummond of The Happy MD who was featured in yesterday’s blog post said it so well of his past as a burned out Medical Doctor, 

I realized that the person I have become here in 2012 is the exact person I would have so loved to meet back in 1998 … and if we had met, I am pretty sure I would still be practicing medicine in some fashion today. Once I realized this and saw the amount of burnout – and suffering – out there … the purpose of these last 12 years of my life became crystal clear. 

Imagine if younger you could have had the insights and experience you have now. Imagine if, somehow, you could have given yourself the mentorship and guidance that you so needed back then (and that you would have listened). 

Well, this world is full of ‘younger yous’. It’s not too late. There are so many people trapped in the swamps of the very issues you have overcome and made so much progress in. 

Can you think of any group of people you are more qualified to help than them?

Can you think of any person they might be happier to see than you? Someone who’s already been through it.

Can you think of any group of people you’d be happier to help? Any kind of work that would be more meaningful?

I invite you to sit with this question: “What have you had to overcome in your life to be where you are today?” 

Your answers might surprise you, free you and delight others.


Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program

Island Z: The Unspoken Fears

fear Island Z: The Unspoken FearsA lot of us have fears we never speak about. Fears we imagine no one else has. Fears no one else could understand.

And I think it’s important to know what these are for your client.

I’ve been writing a lot about the journey and the key elements of your platform lately.

Here’s a recap if you’ve missed it.

Imagine a young man on an island (which we’ll call Island A). It’s not that great a place to be. But, it’s all he knows, so he goes about his days. Then he starts hearing that his is not the only island in the world. That there are other islands. At first he doesn’t believe it, but the more he visits the docks and meets these visitors the clearer it becomes. It’s true. And then, one day, he hears about a particular island (which we’ll call Island B). And his heart leaps. He wants to go there.

Of course, he needs to get a boat to go there.

But there are so many boats to hire! Which one to choose?

Your business is a boat. It helps people like this young man get from Island A where they’re struggling with some problem (i.e. set of symptoms they don’t like) to Island B where they have the result they want (i.e. something they’re craving).

But if you can imagine that to left of Island A is another island. Island Z. But the catch is, it’s not a real island. It’s an imaginary island. It’s a fantasy. A fear. A phantom. But it feels so incredibly real. If you can imagine Island Z is in a thought bubble above the person sitting on Island A.

Island Z is where they’re secretly scared they’re going to end up if they do nothing.

These are fears like:

  • ‘If i don’t handle my dating life I’m going to end up old and alone.’
  • ‘If I approach that woman I’m attracted to she’ll think I’m a total creep and tell all her friends and everyone watching will laugh at me.’
  • ‘if I don’t keep my mind sharp I’m going to end up with alzheimers like my great grandparents.’
  • ‘I’m so scared that when I’m older there will be no one to look after me and I’ll end up a bag lady.’
  • ‘I don’t want to end up like my father.’
  • ‘If people knew I was struggling with this then __________ would happen.’
  • ‘If I admit that I’ve got these healthy symptoms then I might find out I have cancer like my father.’

These fears are rarely talked about, but they’re deeply real for people. These fears aren’t things you can be ‘known’ for but understanding them gives you an incredible empathy and sensitivity which will allow you to engage the other three more deeply and safely.

And many of us are, secretly, so scared we’re going to end up there.

I think it’s important to be aware of these fears. Because, sometimes, these fears are so profoundly deep and overwhelming that they can’t even acknowledge that they’re on Island A. They can’t even acknowledge that they have a problem because then they’d have to acknowledge the potential implications of that.

If’ I’m in my 70′s and starting to forget a lot of things, I might not tell anyone because if I do they might take away my driver’s license. They might want to do tests. They might tell me I have alzheimers. And I’d just rather not know.

Island Z can be so terrifying that it keeps us frozen in a holding pattern that’s not healthy for us. And it’s exhausting. We spend so much energy trying to avoid look at it.

When you begin a conversation around new and better possibilities for people, it can bring them face-to-face with their current reality and where that might lead.  It brings them face-to-face with the quality of life that they are currently settling for and where that might lead.  Most people know that more is possible — which makes it all the more painful to look at the level they have decided to live at.

This will bring up pain for people.  So, it’s important to realize the mechanisms that people have for dealing with pain.  In fact, these mechanisms are probably what caused them to settle in the first place.  Basically, there are…

6 Ways We Avoid Dealing with Pain:

1.    Denial: We try to pretend that it’s not there.  We pretend that it doesn’t hurt.  It’s like the old Aesop’s fable about the Fox trying to get the grapes.  He tries to trick the crow into dropping them but, when unsuccessful, walks away saying, “I didn’t want those grapes anyway.”

I have heard people describe denial by using it as an acronym for Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying.

We will go to amazing lengths to pretend we don’t have a problem.  Whether it’s as extreme as alcoholism, the state of our physical health or the state of our finances.  We sometimes seem to believe that if we don’t look at the problem it will simply go away.  Denial is the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

2.    Sedatives and Numbing Out:  We use sedatives of “food”, alcohol, drugs etc. to lower our level of pain.  The use of any of these once a while, isn’t the issue.  The issue is that we use these as a consistent pattern.  But perhaps the worst drug of all is when people tell themselves “it’s okay”.  When we have attempted to create a result again and again and failed – we tend to give up.

When we try to handle our finances in countless ways and can’t seem to get it together we will either step up and take another cut the ball or we will step down and deal with our pain by saying, “it’s okay.  It’s not really that bad.”  

We will reinforce this by hanging around with a peer group that has equally low expectations of life.  This peer group will say things like, “Hey, don’t be so hard in yourself.  Quit working so hard.  Relax once a while.”  But the peer group is not really saying these things out of any sense of true caring for the person the because they don’t want to look at the fact that they are also in pain – and they don’t want to lose their friend.

3.    Rationalize And Tell Themselves Stories:  you can hear a rationalization a million miles away.  They almost always start with the words “Well it’s not like I…” or “At least I  . . .” (followed by the one strong standard they have).

We’ll say things like, “Sure I smoke once in awhile, but it’s not like I’m one of those people who smokes three packs a day.”  Or when looking at our finances, we’ll say, “Sure my finances are a mess but it’s not like I’m $100,000 in debt on credit cards.”  Or we’ll look at their romantic relationships and say, “Sure, it’s not the most fulfilling relationship in the world but it’s not like we’re fighting all the time and hate each other.”  

The easiest way to rationalize lowering our standards is to compare ourselves with people who have even lower standards.

4.    Justify:  We give our reasons:  “I mean I should do this but…” in whatever comes after that “but” is our “excuse” for not taking action.  So, at least we acknowledge that there is a problem, but the way we choose to deal with it is to prove to other people, and ourselves, why we can’t do anything about it.

5.    Using Softeners:  We say, “I’m big boned…” vs. “I’m fat”.  We say, “I’m having a few problems with my finances.”  As opposed to, “My personal finances are a disaster.”  We will use the language that softens the emotional impact — and so we will never ever connect with the pain that could actually drive them to create the change they want in our lives.  Until we face, and ultimately embrace, the pain they are currently experiencing we will never have the energy or motivation to create the level of change we want.

6.    We Blame: We make it someone else’s fault. It’s my ancestors, my family, my friends, my boss, the world, God, circumstance . . . anything but us. Then we get to feel like a victim and get some sympathy (which can feel nice). But nothing changes. All of our energy gets invested in trying to change things we can’t change.

This is different from seeing how one’s problem or fear is actually a symptom of a larger collective issue – e.g. perfectionism – which can be really freeing.

So how do you deal with these deep fears?

With a lot of love and empathy. Many entrepreneurs miss the empathy piece and end up with one the four client repelling traits I speak to in this blog post.

20 Non Empathic Responses to People’s Pain

NonviolentCommunication Island Z: The Unspoken FearsMany of the following responses to people’s pain may seem empathic, until you’re at the receiving end of them. Give this a read and notice what responses people give you that don’t feel good – and notice which one you tend to give other people.

None of these will work to address the fears of Island Z or create any sense of safety. These are all borrowed from the very excellent book, Non Violent Communication

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

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

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

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

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

6. Consoling: “It wasn’t your fault; you did the best you could.” “Everything’s going to be okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Sympathizing: “Oh you poor thing.”

So, if those don’t work, how do you engage with it?

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure, but here are some initial thoughts . . .

Fifteen Ideas on Dealing with the Fear of Island Z:

  • safety: instead of pushing harder, we want come from a place of being gentler and sweeter. We can to make sure that we are as safe a space as possible. That might mean extreme confidentiality. Making sure they can engage with us in a way that no one else ever needs to know. The more safe they feel, the more they’ll be willing to face the truth.
  • empathy: if they can see that we really understand what they’re secretly scared of this goes a long way. I can’t recommend reading the book Non Violent Communication enough for this. The key is that we want to give empathy first for Island A. Just for the symptoms as they experience them. And, of course, part of the symptoms they experience are the fear of Island Z.
  • normalize the problem: we need to help them understand that they’re not alone. The more we can build the understanding that they’re not alone the better. The more they can see this as a widespread issue that many others share the better. We need to normalize the fear. We need it to not seem like it’s a weird thing to have that fear. As Tom Compton says, ‘the resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.’ Sometimes the feeling that they shouldn’t be having that fear is actually a bigger issue than the fear itself. If you can share your own story of how it took you forever to deal with this and how clueless you were – this goes a long way.
  • normalize the solution: the more you can make it feel like, ‘hey, everyone is doing this’ the more likely they will be to do it as well. This often starts with identifying your hubs and enrolling them and getting them to spread the word for you. This is the kind of thing you might want to do in partnership with other people who are helping people on the same journey (and maybe with a similar boat even). It’s like a bunch of independent retailers getting together to promote a ‘shop local’ campaign. A core principle of community based social marketing is this: make it normal to do the right thing.
  • realistic statistics: we need to help them understand how realistic this fear is. The fear of a plane crash or being attacked by a shark is blown profoundly out of proportion. More people die in traffic accidents than plane crashes. More people die from pop machines than sharks. Let’s just get real here.
  • case studies of success: this is huge. If you can show them story after story of people who were on Island A and didn’t end up on Island Z but maybe on Island C it will do more than just about anything you can imagine. You can’t have too many stories and real life examples.
  • story telling: when there’s a lot of shame and fear around an issue, the traditional marketing approach of writing in the ‘you’ (e.g. ‘Are YOU struggling with money?’) might be a bit too direct. It might trigger shut down and defensiveness which could kill it way before it has a chance to begin. Try telling the story of a typical client (or a micro story) or the story of what it might be like to work with you. By telling a story (often in the third person) you give it a bit of psychological distance which allows people to read it and approach the story in their own time and find themselves in it in their own way. Remember, these fears are most often unspoken. So, for someone to read their fears laid out in a story (even your own story) can be a bit mind blowing (in a good way).
  • realistic honesty about limits of possibility: one of the best things I ever saw in marketing was from a poster about a holistic nutrition workshop. One of the bullet points said, ‘Come and learn the possibilities and the limitations of holistic nutrition’. Wow. That was so powerful. They were willing to admit to it having limitations. That realism built more credibility than any big claim. Instantly more trustworthy. When things seem ‘too good to be true’ they’re not trustworthy. Tell them what you can help them with and what you can’t. Tell them what you think is possible and what isn’t. Be real with them and they’ll melt into openness.
  • address the shame: the more people can understand that it’s not entirely their fault, that their are bigger systems at play that have helped create their problem and that it’s a normal human thing to go through… the more they’ll relax and open to letting it go. The shame of not having dealt with it yet can keep people from even looking at it and having to admit how bad it is. No shame. No blame. The more your presence can reassure and say, ‘hey, it’s okay’ the more they can begin to open to a new possibility.
  • show them a step by step plan: few things will inspire more confidence than you showing them a step by step plan on how you’re going to get them from Island A to Island B. It moves it away from just being you saying, ‘trust me’.
  • educate them about your point of view: go beyond showing them the plan. Show them WHY you came up with the plan you did. Help them understand not just the route you’re suggesting but the map itself. Help them understand the tides, the winds, the hidden rocks underwater. Help them understand why you’ve made the choices they did.
  • build a relationship over time until they’re ready: the importance of staying in touch over time and building trust by adding value can’t be overstated. Marketing is like baseball and you can’t skip bases.
  • help them see a bigger context: share your why. Share the bigger cause you see it all as a part of. Help them see that by taking the journey on their own, they’re making a contribution to a much wider movement. If they can see themselves as a part of a wider movement, they’re a lot less likely to give up – they’ll feel more accountable and more bolstered by others.
  • community: perhaps the most important of all – can you connect them with real people? It can be done virtually or in person. But can you help to become a hub and foster a wider sense of community?
  • be encouraging: life is so short. Too many people die with regrets (often the same five). Sometimes some old fashioned real talk and encouraging words to live our lives fully goes a long way – especially if all of these other pieces are in place.

twelve ways to figure out your ‘why’

Question mark twelve ways to figure out your whySo, over the past week or so you’ve read about why it’s important to have a bigger cause that your business is about, you’ve seen some examples of people who have or are exploring this but now it’s time to look at how you can begin to sort this out for yourself.

The first thing I’d suggest is not to attempt to do this alone.

What I’d most commend is to sit down with a dear one in your life over a hot cup of something delicious and to have them ask you these questions and take careful notes for you. They can ask you good follow up questions and reflect what they’re hearing you say.

The second thing I want to suggest is that this is not an overnight process. It will evolve and deepen over time. And that’s okay.

But I do think these questions will help you make some progress.

Here they are . . .

  • What has been one of the central questions of your life? What are those topics and questions you find yourself constantly circling around and bringing up in conversations? What are the conversations you find hardest to stop?
  • What are the different elements or worlds you’re trying to balance? What worlds do you feel like you’re a bridge between?
  • What got you started in what you’re doing?
  • What are the changes you want to see your industry undergo?
  • What is this work really about for you? Try completing this sentence twenty times, “At the heart of it, my work is about . . .”
  • Complete this sentence, “When I look at the world, what I most see missing is . . .”
  • Complete this sentence – ‘every ______ deserves ________’ (e.g. ‘every woman deserves the opportunity to have a joyful birthing and parenting experience’ or ‘every man deserves authentic brotherhood’)
  • what’s the impact of what you do on people’s lives if you do it well?
  • If everyone in your target market got to Island B, then what? What would the impact of that be on the world?
  • what are you most sick and tired of seeing in the world?
  • when you read the paper, walk down the streets, surf the net – what issues grab you and why?
  • Whatever you do – is there a metaphorical level to it? If you help people with heart issues on a physical level – is there a deeper metaphorical level to hearts. If you help people to build houses – what is a house really ‘about’? If you sell bicyles – what are bicycles about? If you massage feet – what are feet about at a deeper level? 


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deeper into why

Pasted Image 3 deeper into whyIt’s easy to feel alone in the world.

But it’s not pleasant.

And, the way we market our businesses can actually help heal that.

In his book Start With Why, which you should really go and buy from a locally owned bookstore, Simon Sinek shares a familar old story,

“Consider the story of two stonemasons, you walk up to the first mason and ask “Do you like your job?” He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them all day can be backbreaking. I’m not sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.”

You thank him for his time and walk on.

About thirty feet away, you walk up to a second stone mason and ask him the same question. He looks up and replies “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember, and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.”

What these two stonemasons are doing is exactly the same; the difference is, one has a sense of purpose.

He feels like he belongs. He comes to work to be a part of something bigger than the job he’s doing. Simply having a sense of WHY changes his entire view of his job. It makes him more productive and certainly more loyal. Whereas the first stonemason would probably take another job for more pay, the inspired stonemason works longer hours and would probably turn down an easier higher paying job to styay and be a part of the higher cause.

The second stonemason does not see himself as any more or less important than the guy making the stained glass windows or even the architect. They are all working together to build a cathedral. It is this bond that creates camaraderie.  And that camaraderie and trust is what brings success. People working together for a common cause.”

Think of a non-profit and, hopefully, you can think of a larger cause that’s being addressed. But non-profits are not the only ones allowed to have a mission. Businesses can too. We all can.

It might be easy, at this point, to think that your ‘why’ must be something outside of you. Some larger cause or issue that you are joining.

And, that might be the case, but it’s worth exploring the often surprising personal connections we might have.

I’ve written a bit about how our deepest wounds are often our truest niche.

That you have likely gone through struggles in your own life and that these struggles have given you a keen empathy and insight into a certain emotional terrain. If you’ve struggled with something and come out the other side, there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to help others with that struggle to. If you’ve been on a certain journey, you can likely help others with that same journey.

But, if we step back, and remove it from the personal we can start to see how deeply and widely these wounds are shared.

Your most personal wound might not only be the wound you’re most able to help other individuals heal, it might be the collective wound in the world you’re addressing to.

I think most movements are started because of some wound. The loss of dignity, freedom, safety . . . and the desire to have it back. As we connect with our own story, we are more able to connect with the larger story.

The personal is political.

Those things which are most personal end up being most general.

It’s an amazing moment when you really, really get that you’re not alone in your struggles – and, in fact, that no one is alone. That there is a whole community and tribe of people struggling with the same issues. And, that when we boil to the essence of the struggle – it’s often something that everyone struggles with (e.g. love, optimism, self acceptance).

So, part of it is seeing our business as a part of a bigger story. And maybe the biggest story there is – the story of the healing of the world. As it’s called in the Jewish tradition – Tikkun Olam.

Most of us feel isolated and alone. And, deep down, we all crave to contribute some portion of beauty back to the world. Most of us crave to play some role in a story that is larger than ourselves. The warning in the Narcissus myth is not to not fall in love with ourselves. It’s to not fall in love with our reflection and miss the larger story. This culture promotes a profound self obsession. A ‘what about me?’ neurosis. And it’s just this neurosis that has us feel so alone. And the belief that we’re the only ones in Hell – is Hell.

There are two ways to live in the end. One is, ‘what’s in it for me?’ and, in the end, this is profoundly unsatisfying (no matter what kinds of privileges come with it). The other is, ‘how can we all get our needs met?’.

In the end, the only wealth there is is community. Each other.

the shady side of the road – by rabindranath tagore

I lived on the shady side of the road
and watched my neighbours’ gardens
across the way
revelling in the sunshine.

I felt I was poor,
and from door
to door
went with my hunger.

The more they gave me
from their careless abundance
the more I became aware
of my beggar’s bowl.

Till one morning
I awoke from my sleep
at the sudden opening of my door,
and you came and asked for alms.

In despair I broke the lid of my chest open
and was startled into finding my own wealth.

Caitlin Matthews, Celtic scholar and author, poses the question like this:

“How can the soul or the world be re-enchanted once it is lost the enchantment? Only by returning to the story of the soul and retelling it up to the point of fracture; only by placing our story within the context of the greater song.

She tells that when Merlin is exposed to the terrible carnage of the battle of Arfderwydd “he becomes mad an runs into the depths of the forest. Within the forest’s embrace, he becomes one with the trees and seasons and puts aside the terrible sights he has seen to focus upon the gifts of the wild world, becoming rusticated and “uncivilized.”

Ever pertinent and prophetic, he sees through the pretexts and pretensions of those who come to lure him back to civilization with the sure instinct of an animal,”

He does not respond to anyone except his friend, the Welsh poet, Taliesin who comes to sit with him. Only then “does Merlin respond, asking the odd question, “why do we have weather?” This seemingly trivial query is all that Taliesin needs to help his friend. He begins to recite the creation of the world. At the end of Taliesin’s recital, Merlin is restored as the sacred context of his story is given back to them.”

What does this all have to do with marketing?

Our business can feed on people’s insecurities or it can invite them into a larger story.

It’s powerful for people when they find a home.

When they find a community of people who think like them, see the world the same way, have gone through the same struggle and are about the same things. It’s incredible to find a community that has a shared point of view and sense of ‘why’ about their lives.

And you can make your business into that. A home. A sanctuary. A place where people connect not only with you but with each other. Our businesses can become hubs that actually foster, tighten and deepen community.

You need to build a hub around a platform – some strong center that can hold it – and there are four things that can be.

You can see some examples of hubs built around a point of view here and ones built around a strong ‘why’ here.

As David Korten puts it, “we can’t just talk these things to death. We need to live them into being.”

You can become a voice of hope and clarity in challenging times inviting people not to become lost in their individual struggles – but to see themselves as a part of a larger story. You can help them move their focus from their lonely troubles to shared solutions we can all work towards. We can startle them with their own wealth.

When your community looks into the mirror that reflects the current world’s woes and feel such despair and overwhelm from it – we wave our hands and the mirror becomes a window through which they can see what’s possible. And, with another wave, that window becomes a door and we invite them through.

Let’s keep reminding people what it’s really about.


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the bigger cause

start with why the bigger causeThe other day, I wrote a blog post about the four key elements you need to create your platform.

Today, I want to zone in on the last of the four – the deeper why and bigger cause of your business.

It’s a simple question: ‘why do you do what you do?’

But it’s one that most entrepreneurs never reflect on.

I recently finished reading Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’. And, over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my reflections on it. You can watch a 20 minute video of him giving the heart of the book here.

You started your business for a reason.

What was that reason? What is this business really about for you? At the heart of it? What has it become for you?

One of the things that is most overlooked in marketing is sharing ‘why’ we do things.

And it matters.

When people don’t understand the deeper ‘why’ behind what you do . . .

You will get pigeon holed in whatever it is you do that they first heard of. And you won’t be able to get out. You’ll get known for the boat. Case in point: what does Xerox make? The immediate answer in your mind was clearly photocopiers. What does Dell make? Computers. They make boats. They are known for the quality of their boats. If they tried to make a different kind of boat? Disaster. Xerox launched a brand of personal computers once. They were really good. Remember them? Exactly. Dell tried to create an MP3 player. Remember that? Again, of course you don’t.

You’ll end up needing to resort to manipulative marketing tactics to get people to actually buy something. Communicating your ‘why’ clearly inspires people. You don’t need to push, hype or manipulate.

They’ll likely believe that you’re just in business for the money and so their trust won’t run as deep.

What do I mean by the ‘why’?

The why often starts with our looking at the world and seeing that something is missing. Seeing that something feels ‘off’ to us. It’s like the film the Matrix. People having the vague sense that’s something isn’t right. And yet, the answer isn’t found in the small details but in looking at the overall context – the bigger story. The bigger story is the golden thread that weaves all of those experiences together. And the quest for liberation from the machines is the bigger cause.

When we wake up to an issue that is so much bigger than us – we want to help. And we often find that there’s already a movement that’s going on. It’s not usually something we can create. It’s something bigger than us that we choose to be a part of. And even if we are the initiator of a particular campaign – the movement for justice is as old as the existence of injustice.

Your why is something you’ll likely never achieve in your lifetime because it’s so much bigger than you. You why are all the trees you’ll plant that you will never sit under.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of rhetoric in the marketing world about ‘starting a movement’ instead of marketing. But, if you can create it, it’s probably not a movement. It’s a marketing campaign. By definition a movement must be bigger than you. And it can’t be started by you.

These movements aren’t ours. We’re just throwing our shoulder to the wheel. We’re adding our unique voice and perspective. We’re helping getting the truck out of the mud. We’re trying to help things move a little faster and smoother.

Gandhi didn’t start the struggle for India’s independence, he just became one of it’s most vocal and articulate proponents. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t start the civil rights movement. He just played his role in it.

We’re not saying that our boat is the only one addressing this issue. Just the opposite – we’re saying, ‘we are one of many businesses and community members that care about this cause’. We’re one boat of many.


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

- African Proverb


But we begin to see our role as not just someone selling something but a spokesperson on this issue, an advocate for a cause, a visionary for something better, more deeper and more true. So much of becoming a hub is this – taking a stand for something. Even more deeply, taking a stand as something. Continually crafting our boat so it becomes the most beautiful possible expression of the deepest why we know. I think this is much of what Gandhi meant when he said, ‘become the change you wish to see in the world.’ Do that with your business so that what you’re about is unmistakable.

What is the bigger movement or cause your business is a part of?


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