What am I being asked to see here?

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

Sometimes in business things go wrong.

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

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

The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Getting Unstuck: The Five Minute Support-Asking Blitz

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

Emphasis on the word “solo.”

That means you’re doing almost everything alone.

And you think that you should be doing better.

This is insanity.

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

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

How much?

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

You need an embarrassing amount of support.

Possibly a mortifying amount.

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

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

  • With social media; or your website; or other online presence issues
  • To get clear on your goals, or clear on where you’re currently stuck
  • Tidying up and organizing your workspace
  • Learning how to have sales conversations that feel good instead of terrible
  • With building better business systems

Great. What support do you need to make those happen?

Isn’t it true that you need more support?

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

When you sit with that question, you discover that you’ve been scared to ask for help because of what others might think of you.

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

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

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

Part Three: Schedule to return here to this blog to comment on what happened as a result of this support-asking blitz within 24 hours.

Stop Trying To Be So Authentic

Authenticity is not a goal.

It’s a byproduct of something else.

It’s not something you can put on like a coat. It’s not a strategy. It’s not something you can posture at. It’s not even the goal. It’s the result of something else that you’re doing.

There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye. If you try to get the trophy, you miss the target. The only way to get the trophy is to stop focusing on it.

Every once in a while, I will hear people say things like, “I’m a very authentic person.” Or, “Well, to be really authentic about it . . .” And I also see courses on how to learn to market authentically.

I’ve seen email subject lines say things like:

This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared.” 

Or, “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .

Then I read it and that vulnerable thing is something so sales-y that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring for them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable,” and, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row, it starts to feel like me-me-me-me.”

Often this strategy rings hollow. Some of it makes the person marketing seem like they’re trying really, really hard to be authentic.

Authentic also doesn’t mean hippie, conscious, new age, spiritual, or any of that.

Want to know who has the most authentic marketing of anyone I’ve ever seen? Jay Abraham.

Jay Abraham is a hardcore capitalist and doesn’t hide this at all. His offers are direct, candid and he is extremely transparent about his own selfish motives for making the offers he makes.

Nothing is being hidden.

And though my political views couldn’t be more different than Jay’s, his marketing feels authentic to me.

Being authentic doesn’t mean speaking in soft and sweet tones all the time. It can sound sales-y too. Believe it.

Authentic doesn’t look a particular or specific way.

But when you use the language of authenticity and you aren’t actually being authentic . . . it’s the worst. And it’s often obvious.

So what is the bullseye on which we need to focus?

In marketing, I think it’s the truth.

But a particular kind of truth. It’s the truth of “is this a fit?” rather than “how can I get the sale?”

If your agenda is to get the sale then no matter what you do, short of telling people, “I really just want the sale,” your actions will be manipulative and they will land as inauthentic.

Most sales training is an attempt to cover this original sin, the type one error of focusing on the sale. It’s all about how to build rapport, elicit buying strategies, overcome objections, etc. So much of marketing is about trying to seem authentic while we pick clients’ pocket. It’s full of justifications for our own selfishness and desperation. It’s full of rationalizations for doing things that don’t actually feel right for us.

Having said that, collapsing and giving away the store for free isn’t particularly noble or authentic either.

But what if our focus wasn’t on trying to seem authentic.

What if it wasn’t even on trying to be authentic.

What if our focus was just honed in on creating something wonderful, giving great customer service, and getting the word out? What if our focus was – in those wonderful moments when someone expresses an interest in our work – on helping that client sort out if our work or offering was really the best thing for them or not?

What if we looked at marketing as filtering and not seduction?

Let your focus on providing value for your customer be the most authentic thing about you. Don’t use authenticity to sell something.

Recommended Resources:

The Seven Graces of Marketing – Lynn Serafinn

Marketing for Hippies 101 – Tad Hargrave

On Fake Vulnerability and Giving a Crap (Dear Marketing Guru…) – Ling Wong

The Four Most Dangerous Words an Entrepreneur Can Say

I_already_know_2I’ve met so many people who come to my workshops and, at breaks, speak to me in overly familiar terms about how they already know this stuff and how many books they’ve read and marketing courses they’ve gone to.

Everything they’re saying gestures to my flip chart notes covering the walls towards the end of the weekend workshops and says, without always saying it directly, “I already know that.”

And there they stand in front of me, struggling.

I usually don’t comment on this because struggling is a hard enough place to be without shame being piled on top of it.

But I see this all the time, the unwillingness to not know, the deep resistance to asking for help, the fear of humiliation preventing them from ever reaching humility and thus the utter inability to be vulnerable.

But if you’re dedicated to the culturally endorsed story of the virtues of self sufficiency you’ll never ask for help. You’ll be too proud. Your desire to be seen as having it all together is the very thing that guarantees you will, eventually, fall apart.

If you want to succeed in business, it’s going to ask you to learn some new things. That means admitting you don’t know. It means admitting you’re a disaster. It means turning to your friends. It might mean hiring a coach.

It means asking for a lot of help.

How much?

If I had to give you a specific quantity of help you need to ask for here’s what I’d tell you, “Ask for an embarrassing amount of support.” Meaning, if you don’t feel slightly mortified for all the help you’re requesting, then it’s likely not enough.

And you might be shocked by how fast things start to move when you stop pretending you have all the answers already, when you stop trying to impress your teachers and colleagues, when you admit that your business practices and marketing are a total disaster.

If you already knew it, you’d already be doing it.

Growing your business asks a lot of you and one of the first things it asks is your humility.

Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.” – Marianne Williamson

 Recommended Reading:

Are You Humble Enough – Mark Silver

The Work of Byron Katie in Marketing: “Why aren’t people buying from me?!”

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This blog post is the first in a series of posts exploring the connection between marketing and The Work of Byron Katie

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Frankly, I’m tired of hearing people talk about the importance of working on your ‘inner game’ in business. Because most of what I hear feels like self pressuring bullshit to constantly do more, be more positive, be better and keep persisting no matter what. Most of it feels like what John Kenneth Galbraith was speaking about when he said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Most of it seems based on toxic assumptions about money and an unwillingness to question this suicide economy we’re a part of.

Most of it seems to have no interest in seeing anything except the possibility of closing the sale and growing our business.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about perseverance. But I’m more about awareness and being real about our situations. As P.T. Barnum put it, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But, if you still don’t succeed, quit. Don’t be a damned fool.”

Most of the inner game work feels bereft of much that I’d call real learning which is, by its nature expensive. Sometimes we just have to quit or drop a certain perspective. Which can be hard. Hard to find it and harder to question it until it loses its grip on us.

And there’s something there. There’s something about the way we are seeing our business problems that actually is the problem.

For years, I’ve delved deep into The Work of Byron Katie and, more than any other tool, it has been a source of incredible insight, genuine learning, deep and unsought humility and humiliation and a profound sense of peace.

10409286_10155034733660195_5413425888966609089_nThe basis is that we suffer because of our unquestioned, stressful thoughts.

And, in business there is one thought I’ve seen which seems to cause more stress than just about any other. But it comes in disguise. It often sounds like, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a frustrated tone.

But hidden just underneath it, like a tortoise hides in its shell, is often the thought, “People should buy from me.”

This is crucial to understand because it’s a place too many people get stuck. Before you read further or inquire into this on your own… remember: learning is expensive. Really doing the work means encountering unsought and often unwelcome things and it requires you to pay with the thing you can least afford. You pay for learning with what you think you know. 

So let’s explore this idea that people should buy from us and see if it can earn its keep as a worthy and useful idea.

Question #1: Is it true?

This is the first question in The Work. We’re asked to inquire if the thought, in this case, “People should buy from me.” is true.

When I sit with it, I realize it’s not true. I want them to but they don’t need to. Busted. I can skip…

Question #2: Can I absolutely know this is true? 

I absolutely can’t.

Question #3: What happens and how do I react when I think this thought?

If you find yourself frustrated and annoyed with Life and the marketplace because you’re not making it and no one is responding to your offerings… pause and see if you can spot that thought that “People should buy from me.” See if you can notice it. Then see if you can sit with that thought and see how it’s affecting you. Almost like you’re watching some never before seen animal for the first time in the wild to see what kind of a creature it is and how it affects its environment. 

I know when this thought arises for me I immediately feel bitter. I feel resentful of people. I feel powerless and angry. I am jealous of anyone who seems more successful than me. “Why do they buy from that person and not me? I’m a good person!” But then I begin to wonder, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me… Maybe I’m broken.” If they aren’t buying, there’s an urge to push them harder to buy. In a panic, I want to add more hype or pressure. I want to cut my price down. And, at the bottom of it, I feel utterly confused. They should be buying but they aren’t. What’s wrong with this universe? Why don’t I understand it? And, if I’m honest, when looking at my world through the lense of this thought, I am deeply angry with the universe for encouraging me to start a business that will not sustain me. It’s like it tricked me and lied to me. 

I’ve met people who are deep in the thrall of this thought. They are not fun to be around. The energy is heavy around them. They are desperate. Their sense of other people’s boundaries are poor. Their desperation makes them incredibly vulnerable to manipulations of anyone promising them an easy path to wealth and sales. 

If I think this thought I will either collapse or I will apply pressure in selling situations without even meaning to. Sales pressure comes from the agenda to get the sale. If I believe you should buy from me and you aren’t, then of course I will try to make sure we correct this and this will occur as pressure to you.

The tragedy is that they do everything except the thing they need to do. They are utterly blind to what’s required of them because the problem lays out in the world and not with them. If ‘those’ people would just get their heads out of their asses and see what a good person I am and what high quality work I do then every thing would be okay. Damnit. 

When I think this thought, I feel superior to everyone. Everyone else is stupid and blind that they can’t see how awesome I am. WTF is wrong with them anyway?

So this thought lays heavy on us.

10302061_10155034732465195_1931724753386448115_nQuestion #4: Who would you be without this thought?

But, and this is truly the heavy lifting, if we are able to set that thought aside for even a moment and see our same situation without it, a miraculous thing happens. Imagine it. Nothing has changed in the outer world. No one is buying from you. That’s the same, but you are not able to think the thought that they should be buying from you. It’s as if a sieve went through your brain and removed all traces of it. Utterly gone. And yet you’re looking at the same evidence.

When I do this I suddenly feel at peace. Right, they’re just doing what they do. They’re buying what they want to buy. They don’t see that what I’m doing is a fit for them or a priority. And right! That’s my job. That’s marketing. Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent. And, apparently, it’s not immediately apparent how valuable our work is. Or, maybe, I might even be able to see, as humbling as it is to see it, that I’m not as good at what I do as I thought I was.

When you can let go of the thought that they should buy you are freed up to see the real reasons why they don’t buy.

This is so vital.

Underneath the question, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a curious tone is never the thought, “People should buy from me.”

Without this thought, I am filled with an easy sense of wondering and an openness to learning the truth of why people aren’t spending money with me. I’m open to asking people directly and getting feedback. I’m vulnerable in the best of ways. I’m at peace. I see the evidence of people not buying as just a chance to learn something about life and the market place.

Wow. When people feel this openness from you, they relax. They begin to tell you the truth. You stop getting objections and you get real questions. Or you get a real ‘no’ that you can trust because there’s no long anything in you trying to convince anyone to buy from you – and that makes you more trustworthy.

It might seem like I’m overstating the impact of questioning one thought but I’m not. If people aren’t buying from you and this is causing you emotional stress and frustration and anger at the marketplace, there’s a good chance you’re buying into this idea that they should be buying from you.

10857717_10155034732735195_174396198002034301_nThe Turnarounds:

This last part of The Work is all about twisting the initial stressful thought around and looking at it from different angles. We’re not trying to find the new, true thought, we’re just trying to see more.

Turnaround #1: “People should not buy from me.”

Bam.

Try that one on for size.

Consider if this might be just as true, if not more true, than the idea “People should be buying from me.” If you really sit with this one, what opens up is the possibility to see all of the parts of your business that, frankly, need work. I will likely see all of the ways that I’ve been pressuring people and… wow. God bless these people for not rewarding my desperate and pressuring ways with their business.

Who are these honest angels who have so consistently and kindly not pretended to be okay with my confused behaviour?

I am suddenly open to seeing clearly. I am able to look at the holes in my marketing, business model, customer service, quality of work, and packages and see all of the reasons why it’s so true that they should not be spending money with me.

This can be a vulnerable but life changing moment for an entrepreneur. Looking through this lense, I am able to see my business through the eyes of those not buying and I learn so much.

Turnaround #2: “I should buying from me.”

Honestly, I don’t get much from this turnaround though I’m sure there’s something there.

10622858_10155034733300195_5974786264670751787_nTurnaround #3: “People should buy more from whoever the hell they want.”

This one feels humbling to me. When I look for reasons this is true, I am suddenly brought back to the reality that my potential customers are other, autonomous human beings who exist for reasons other than taking care of my ass. I’m realizing that I want that freedom to buy from whoever for myself. I’d never want to be pressured to buy something I didn’t really want to buy so why on Earth would I put that on anyone else?

Turnaround #4: “I should buy from people.”

I should be buying the advice they’re giving me in their not buying. I should be be believing their feedback. They’re not interested or, for some reason, it’s not a fit and yet I’m not buying it. Huh. What if I was willing to take it at face value? I’ve been making them wrong for years for not buying what I have to offer and yet not making my self wrong for not buying the honest reflections they keep giving me. And they’re so persistently generous! They never seem to buckle and buy from me just to be nice. They really want me to get this feedback. How kind of them!

One of the hugest stumbling blocks I see in business is arrogance. This thought people have that they already know what people need. They already know that their product or service is amazing. And that blinds them to ever seeing that maybe they don’t know and maybe what they’re offering isn’t actually that great. Humility and not knowing, the being open to feedback and curious to know what clients really think, being a safe place to share this will grow your business faster than almost anything I know.

When I am done this, I notice that the thought, “They should be buying from me.” doesn’t hold the same purchase it did in the beginning. I’m free to see a bit more clearly and that seeing allows me the freedom to make the kinds of changes that might actually have them want to buy (whether I think they should or not).

Where does this all leave us?

I have no idea. There’s no empowering belief we’re trying to get to here. We’re just trying to see more. In business, there’s nothing we’re supposed to do or that we need to do, we just need to see more. And, when we see more, we often, intuitively, know exactly what to do. When we stop insisting that our map is right and take a look at the actual territory in which we find ourselves we make better decisions.

When we stop making the marketplace wrong for how it’s responding to our business we have a chance to actually learn something useful from it that might show us the path to grow our business.


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Hustle

il_340x270.675722008_7spmIf there is a missing ingredient to success in business it’s not know-how, it’s hustle. It’s the ability to get busy and make things happen.

It’s not having more resources, it’s resourcefulness.

When people are driven and committed they so often find a way to make things work while those who aren’t committed find a lot of excuses (which they will list as ‘reasons it didn’t work’).

This may not seem like a very hippy idea. It’s not a very ‘go with the flow, man’ idea. But, real talk, The Grateful Dead had hustle.

Hustle is what allowed me to start The Jams project, The Local Good, the Edmonton Secret Streetcars Shows, Indigo Drinks, Green Drinks Edmonton, The Nova Scotia Gaels Jam and other projects.

In the fall, my friends and I are launching a project in Edmonton called The Social Yogi (basically, we’ll be hosting a monthly social event for local yogis). Last year, I found a local fellow to take on organizing it. He was excited. And I gave him literally everything he needed to make it work. He had all of the resources he needed. And yet he bailed on or no showed our first three meetings. I told him it was over. But, he took that feedback so well that I decided to give him one more chance.

We had a great meeting and then, when we didn’t get an enthusiastic response from Edmonton’s busiest local, young yoga hubs, he bailed on the project entirely because he didn’t want to do it alone.

Did it cross his mind that other people might have been interested? Or that, as the local hubs told me, that they were just extraordinarily busy and had been waiting for him to actually do something? I don’t know.

But I do know that he didn’t lack a cool idea, a website, a mentor, a plan, a clear niche, a lack of money … any of that.

He just lacked hustle.

To be clear: I’m not saying he should have hustled or even wanted to. I’m not saying him walking away was wrong or an aspersion on his character. He’s a very fine fellow. But, for whatever reason, the hustle vanished. And when the capacity to hustle goes, the success of your enterprise isn’t far behind it.

When people have hustle, they make incredible things happen on a shoestring.

And I wish I knew how to teach hustle or impart it into people.

It’s not having more resources, it’s resourcefulness.

Additional Reading:

Are You Trapped in a Shadow Career? The Artist vs. The Addict

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

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36 Reflections on “Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

“Who am I to teach and charge for it?”

 

This is a post that has been on my mind for many years to write.

It comes up in most workshops that I teach, this question of “Who am I to teach this? I’m no master. Besides, everything has already been said. I’ve got nothing new to add to this.” or “Who am I to be a healer? I’m not that good yet. I’m not ready. I need more education.” or “Who am I to hold circles? I don’t want to feign that I know things or that I’m some big deal.”

And it’s a weighty question that deserves more of a response than the pat, “Believe in yourself” answers given out as though the heart of the malady was a lack of self esteem and that the miracle cure could be brought about be popping the pills of “valuing yourself.”

No. This is a bigger and more important question. So, I want to try and write a response that might be worthy of everything that is inside that question.

It’s one I feel a real personal connection to as, when I was 21, I was leading personal growth, weekend long workshops for a leadership development franchises. There were people attending them who had sandals older than I was. I had no legitimate business leading those workshops. I remember one man who, seeing this overexcitable boy was going to be leading the course, politely and graciously asked for a refund. I was offended at the time but I wish I could hug him now. I knew the basics of some fancy NLP and other ‘technologies’ for personal growth and I imagined that this gave me some permission to lead groups of adults through some incredible deep waters. I thought that my having some theory I’d learned by rote (and yet hadn’t sincerely implemented into my life) meant I’d learned something worthy of sharing.

I was so young.

So, when some come to me with these questions of “Who am I to do this work?” I take that question very seriously.

Of course, sometimes they’re often secretly angling for pity or approval. You won’t find that in this blog post. If you’re here for encouragement, that’s not exactly what you’ll find here. And if you’re here for advice or ‘the answer’ you definitely won’t find that here. What you’ll find is the encouragement to keep wrestling with these worthy questions as honestly as possible.

As my colleague Mark Silver put it, “I would say that, deep down, it’s an honest and sincere question when asked as a real question, and not as a statement masquerading as a question, where ‘Who am I?’ stands in for, ‘I can’t/not supposed/not the one to do it. The integrity, the care, the humility is all needed in this inquiry.”

What I want to offer here isn’t a solution but some ideas and reflections that, like seeds, might take root and grow into an apple tree than can at least provide food to you to sustain you while you keep up the wrestling.

One reaction to this question is to collapse, shrink down and back away from opportunities. Another reaction is to posture, puff ourselves up and pretend to be a lot more together than we are. But, if we’re going to explore this meaningfully, it’s got to be a response from a place of composure. I hope that these reflections might help you get a bit closer to that.

 

Reflection #1 – You Deserve To Have Your Needs Met:

This is baseline. At the heart of a lot of these struggles (around being ready) is this deep feeling of discomfort that we have needs at all. There’s this big feeling of shame in a lot of people that they need the level of support they do. They feel like they should be able to help anyone who wants their help for free and be okay with that.

But you’re a human being. You have needs (e.g. food, water, shelter etc.) And, in this culture, without money, those are hard to get. So, unless you’re consciously choosing to opt out of the cash economy (a move I would applaud loudly and celebrate) then it’s something to come to terms with.

Can you be humble enough to admit that you need support to live? Can you be humble enough to receive that support in the form of money from clients who you are helping?

You have needs. You deserve to have them met.

This doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be a billionaire. It doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anyone’s business in particular.

It just means that you deserve these things as much as any other human on earth.

And it means that it’s important to be incredibly real with yourself about what it is that you need and what it will take to make that happen. This shows up particularly clearly around money.

Action: Identify these two numbers – How much money do you need to just scrape by (i.e. food, rent and paying basic bills)? How much money would it take to sustain you in a good way that would allow you to give your gifts to the community? Once you’ve identified the second number, I would suggest adding 50% more to it because you probably aren’t seeing clearly the number of unexpected things life will bring you that will cost money. Then make that number your goal.

 

Reflection #2 – You May Need to Appoint Yourself:

I have written a longer note about this notion here but, here’s the gist of it – most people walk around life feeling needy and unsure this world is asking anything of them. Most people are waiting for proof that the way they live matters to others. The invitation is to stop waiting and to proceed as if you are needed. This might mean you develop a bit of swagger and self appointing yourself. So be it.

“As a rule nobody asks you to do your life’s work. More often, at least in the early going, you have to do your life’s work as a self-appointed task. And in the early going you’re not very good at it. It is a learning thing, expensive, demanding, relentless. That’s how it has gone for me at least, paring down the list of reasons I was born until only a few likely candidates were left standing.” – Stephen Jenkinson

But, of course, if we’re needed, it’s the most natural thing in the world to doubt our capacity to rise to the occasion. That’s not a disempowering belief to get over, it’s a human response to explore. It’s a part of the learning and growing that helps get you ready. If you skip an active engagement with your doubts, you may find that they linger around like ghosts of the departed who, never properly grieved and yet willfully forgotten, stick around to haunt you in a world to which they no longer belong. Your doubts are like seeds and they can only give you the plant inside them if you are willing to plant them in the fertile soil of your curiousity and willingness to admit there’s something you don’t know.

 

Reflection #3 – Your Doubts Are Often Your Integrity In Disguise:

When people say to me, “I don’t know if I’m ready.”, I immediately trust them a bit more.

Because, in they’re asking the question, I hear a deep integrity trying to assert itself amidst a desperate need to pay the rent. I hear a deep concern for the well being of others. I hear a humility of knowing how little they know and how much they still struggle. And I hear the tension between not wanting to be a fraud and yet not wanting to pretend they don’t know anything at all. They are simultaneously lit up by the possibility of stepping into a work that they love and also terrified. They want to help people but are also scared they might hurt them. They want to fly but are terrified that they will fall.

They are aware that the bigger a job they take on, the more potential there is to screw things up and really hurt people. They’re aware the more trust that’s invested in them, the more they have to be faithful to. They know that this trust isn’t a resource we actively try to cultivate, it’s a sort of human-making burden we carry with us because we know the more of it that people pile on our back, the more damage there would be should we ever get lazy and drop it. Trust is a burden. When people court it too fast and too soon, before they’re ready, they are actually courting disaster.

On one side people never starting because they’re not perfect or ready and not wanting to hurt people. Other side people blindly charging ahead and imagining they’re ready and that people are lucky to get what they’ve got to give. Neither of these orientations are particularly helpful or sustainable.

Another possibility is to consider that your teaching what you know and offering it as a service isn’t a sign that you’re ‘done’, or ‘perfect’. It’s you signing up for your next step in your schooling without any illusions that it will be easy. And learning should give you pause. You should have second thoughts about learning. Because learning is expensive and you can only pay with the thing you can least afford to give.

Learning is what helps refine you. Sometimes I think that, when we get started, we should be paying our clients for the chance to learn. It’s a good argument for doing probono work and apprenticing (which we’ll get to soon).

When people express their doubts I want to fall on my knees and thank them for really considering it.

The people who scare me are the ones with very little experience but extreme confidence. Those are the ones most likely to hurt people.

 

Reflection #4 – Your Questions About Money Are Also Often Your Integrity Too:

Intimately tied into the question of “Who am I to teach?” is the often unspoken ending to that sentence, “… and get paid for it?

It can feel very strange to many of us this notion of being paid to do something we love to do that’s bringing healing to the world. There can be a guilt associated with it and this urge to just give it away for free.

And again, when people bring up these issues, I want to worship at their feet for a while because these concerns don’t come from nowhere. They often have roots found it a concern about the direction of the larger economy – both where it came from and where it’s going. As people learn more about what’s happening in the world, it’s the most natural thing in the world to have questions around money start to emerge. What is it? Where did it come from? For what kinds of work should I accept it and for what kinds of work should I refuse it?

And if you work in the healing arts, this becomes an even more pressing question as people will start bringing many things to your door to question your making money. They’ll point out that traditional medicine people almost never take money for their ceremonies or healings so how on Earth can you? Aren’t you just participating in the commodification of something that should never be commodified?

When I see people wrestling with this, I want to hug them and thank them for being willing to engage and grapple with something for which there are no easy answers. I want to praise the deep integrity of their political and spiritual landscape. I want to urge them to keep following those threads. Nowhere in me is there an urge to ‘fix’ anything. I have no desire at all to do anything other than hold those people’s feet even closer to the fire so they can really feel the burn of anywhere they might be out of alignment. Many of my colleagues would see all of this as a set of disempowering beliefs but, frankly, I think a lot of their beliefs about money are deeply toxic – here are twelve of them. And I’m not saying there aren’t beliefs that aren’t serving you if you’re wrestling with this all, I’m just saying the wrestling with it is a noble endeavour that deserves to be applauded. It’s a rare thing in this culture to bring anything to money other than desperation and entitlement.

Those are questions people should be bringing to the topic of money. Thank God they do.

I’ve been broke before (and I didn’t care) because I’d decided to spend my time enjoying my life and doing volunteer work in my community instead. There’s nothing less spiritual about that. But there’s also nothing particularly spiritual about being broke and not being able to take care of yourself and therefore being a burden on others. If you’re tired of being broke, here are fifteen ideas and you might want to check to see if I’m running my 30 day cashflow challenge called The Meantime.

And there’s a big difference between using these questions as a shield to actually not wrestle honestly with these questions and avoid ever dealing with money vs. as a doorway to an even deeper sense of integrity and alignment with your political and spiritual values as you live in the modern world.

Having said all of that, a few thoughts do occur to me that I offer on the off chance they might have some use to someone.

We no longer live in a tribal set up. Were you to be a healer in that set up, your needs would be met. You would be taken care of by the village. That is no longer the case today and so we need to do something different.

To take indigenous rituals and profit from them without the explicit permission and blessing of traditional elders in those communities is the height of disrespect and deeply dangerous to those you ostensibly want to heal.

You do not need to make an income from healing. You could also work a job and do your healing work outside of that. That is an absolutely legitimate and beautiful model. You can be a healer without making a business out of it.

Offering your gifts to the world? Non negotiable. That’s a mandatory part of being a human being. Making it a business and charging for it? Entirely optional.

 

Reflection #5 – Figure Out Your Resonant Price

All praise and credit to my dear, dear friend and colleague Mark Silver for bringing this notion to the world: resonant pricing.

If you struggle in figuring out what to charge, I can’t recommend enough that you check out this simple, human, effective and liberating process.

It will help you find prices for what you charge that feel not too little or too much but ‘just right’.

 

quotes-655Reflection #6 – Doubt is a Part of The Creative Process: 

Doubt is unavoidable.

It’a part of the creative process as KC Baker brilliantly lays out in her blog post What It Takes to Give Birth (To a Baby or a Dream). Although, it’s rarely self doubt anyway. It’s more often other people’s doubts we’re reacting to or imagining. We ask ourselves, ‘What would others say about this?’ But, in a world on fire, obsessing about ourselves is not what’s needed.

Self hatred and self doubt are still a form of self absorption.

 

Reflection #7 – Be Clear About Your Goals:

When people say they don’t feel ready, I want to ask them, “Ready for what?

And most of the time the answers I get are fuzzy. How clear are your business goals? Less clear than you think, I promise you that. Read this to help them get more clear.

 

Reflection #8 – Be Real About Your Timelines:

Let me save you a trip to your therapist in which you fruitlessly explore how your lack of valuing yourself is stopping your business from growing.

It takes time to grow a business to be solid. Eighteen months to three years if you’re really focused on it. If you don’t settle on a solid niche early on? It’ll take you longer. I see so many people fail before they leave their day job too soon. They leap into their business before it has any chance of supporting them and then it collapses and some well meaning new ager tells them it may be a reflection of their lack of self worth.

It takes time to build a business.

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Reflection #9 – You Might Not Be Ready, But…:

“You are currently NOT the person who can deliver the calling that is within you. You will grow INTO that person as you say yes to your calling. God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.”  – Rev. Michael Beckwith

This is an important one to wrestle with.

You genuinely might not be ready for the work you’ve imagined for yourself.

Try that on for size.

Hey, we’ve all seen it. Someone is shoes way too big for them. Someone crashing and burning because they weren’t ready.

That could be you.

If you don’t seriously consider your level of readiness, you’re a fool.

You actually might not have the skill, wisdom, internal fortitude or capacity to do the work you’re so drawn to do. History is full of people who thought they were ready, thought they were invincible and then, like Icarus drawn by his desire to get closer to the sun and deaf to his father’s pleas, fell helpless to his death as his wings fell apart as a result of his hubris. There are many examples of those whose arrogance outstripped their ability and whose lack of regard for limits cost others dearly.

So you might not be ready but… it’s important to ask ourselves, “ready for what?”. Ready to be a guru to thousands? Maybe not. Ready to run some free workshops in your living room? Maybe so. Ready to quit your day job? Maybe not (but hey here are 11 celebrated artists who kept their day job so whatever…) Ready to go to part time? Maybe so.

Often what this question of “Am I ready?” boils down to is the belief that “I need to be perfect to be ready.” Ah. No wonder you never feel ready.

Healers often feel like, “I know I still have unhealed issues so who am I to heal anyone else?” and thus set themselves into this impossible to escape place and rob anyone they meet of whatever portion of healing they might have brought. You may not have healed everything in your life, but I bet you’ve healed something. If you stick to helping people with that or issues of a similar intensity and dynamic, you’ll be on solid ground.

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Reflection #10 – You Have Something to Offer:

This is vital.

Can you offer everything you might want to right now? Probably not.

But do you have something to offer that could help people? There is no doubt.

Is what you are able to offer enough to sustain you in a business? How much could you charge for it? Those are very open and worthy questions.

But that you have something to give this world? That is not a question worth any time at all because it will distract you from the needed work of you giving your gift to the world. So many people shut down because they don’t want to be a burden on others, but the real burden we put on the world is one you put there by not giving your gifts and making everyone else carry your load to make up for it. You are needed.

 

Reflection #11 – Don’t Underestimate The Important Gift of Empathy:

You’d be surprised how much of what people are paying for is actually empathy. You’d be amazed at what a significant factor ‘feeling gotten’ is for people when they’re spending their money. Sure, they want the particular result they’re paying you for, but do not discount the impact of them feeling understood by you. Don’t underestimate the real value that has and the gift it is. Sometimes people would rather work with someone who is a little less skilled if their bed side manner if much better.

The life coach and healing arts industry is full of a lack of that. And there’s more new age bullying than you might think.

It can be an immense relief to realize that our presence is a gift to others (and nice to know it is of such help to our marketing).

Who are you to heal people?” Maybe someone who really knows how to listen. Maybe somebody who won’t push or bully people into doing something that’s not right for them.

 

Reflection #12 – There’s a Difference Between Not Being Ready Out of Fear and Out of Intuition:

I’ve met a lot of healers who never feel really ready. They always need one more course or one more certification. And it’s often that they’re scared to really launch.

But not always.

Since I started my business, people have been telling me to write a book.

Practically since day one.

I didn’t feel ready. It wasn’t fear. It was just knowing that I wasn’t ready to do that yet. I knew my point of view and my ideas were still cooking. This year, about 15 years into my career, I finally feel ready. The feeling is clear and uncomplicated.

Don’t let people bully you into doing something you’re not ready to do yet. It’s your life. Do what you want to do.

 

Reflection #13 – You’ll Might Be Great At One Thing And Crap At A Lot Of Other Things:

I recall Stephen Jenkinson talking about a very earnest young man who wanted to learn from him and came to stay on his farm to help out. The trouble was, he wasn’t much help at all. Finally one day the young man said, “I don’t know if I’ve been much help with the farming.” and Stephen said, “Farming? You haven’t even done any! Look you’re not a farmer. You’re an academic. That’s where your gifts and passions lie. Go and pursue that!” And the young man did, was excellent at it and no more farm equipment was broken that year.

Not sure what your natural gifts are? You might check out the good work of Vancouver’s Natural Gift Society or the book Strength’s Finder (order at your local bookstore).

 

Reflection #14 – Almost Everyone is Crap When They Start:

There are a few geniuses who seemed to hit the ground running brilliantly, but, for the most of us, this isn’t the story.

The first marketing workshop I did was terrible.

The second one I did was much better.

The first youth leadership workshop I led was an abysmal and mortifying failure. They got better from there. That’s how it is. It’s not always so bad but I’ve often started things well before I was ready. It’s not a path I recommend. But it’s comforting to know that you’re in good company.

A truism I heard once was that “every master was once a disaster“. Everyone you see who is celebrated now likely struggled in the very areas they are celebrated. The legendary Casanova was terrible with women. He dedicated his life to learning the arts of courting and seduction. He was not born with that. In story after story, we learn about the masters who, in their beginnings struggled too. But they stuck in there. This is known as playing the long game. So, this truism teaches us that no matter how deep a disaster we are now – there is the promise and possibility of greater competence and skill. As we continue to teach what we most need to learn – we in turn learn.

 

 

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Reflection #15 – Beware of Comparing Your Insides to Other People’s Outsides

It’s really easy to look at others doing the kind of work you want to do who are more successful than you and imagine you’re seeing the full picture.

I promise you that you are not.

It’s easy to look at people who are doing the work you want to do and imagine you’ll never be ready to do what they do, that you’ll never reach the level they have.

I’ve been behind the scenes of many organizations that seem phenomenally together and professional from the outside, the very picture of success, and yet, on the inside are an utter shambles.

I’ve been behind the scenes at many holistic expos that might seem like a money grab from the new age scene but the reality is that, despite all of their new age law of attraction philosophies, they are almost all losing money or barely squeeking by.

I’ve hung out with the big names of the personal growth scene and seen the human foibles they have that never seem to make it onto the stage. I’ve seen a new age author famous for his books about his near death experiences be hammered every time we met – a profound (although delightfully charming) alcoholic.

I’ve heard of countless yogic gurus who have taken advantage of their female followers but in a way that never makes the mainstream media.

I’ve come to know that a very prominent figure in the personal growth world cheated constantly on his wife despite speaking of how great his relationship was on stage.

It’s easy to believe the hype and to see those who are actually only a few steps ahead of you (whatever that means) as ‘perfect’. But the truth is that they’re people too.

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Don’t compare the movie of your life to the highlights reel you get to see. It will leave you feeling inadequate and miserable. Just keep focused on creating something wonderful, beautiful and useful to the community. Create something worthy of the problems you see in the world with the gifts you have. That is more than enough.

 

Reflection #16 – You Know More Than You Think You Do:

It was 2002, and I got a call from the United World College in Las Vegas, New Mexico to lead a facilitation training.

Having just lived through what was an utter disaster of a facilitation training (that I led (we’re talking exorcisms, people running out of the room screaming and some deep racism coming out) I felt zero desire to go there again. I’d spent the past years leading workshops and summer camps but was feeling particularly humbled. My immediate response, upon getting the invitation, was to say to myself, “What do I know about this?

But still, I gave myself permission to do the same thing I hope you might, I sat down and made a list of what I might teach were I to lead such a training. Four densely packed pages later I found myself stunned with how much I had to say and how lucid it felt. Yes, I’d made a lot of mistakes in the past, but, when I gave myself this chance to reflect on them, I found that the seeds of my failures had bloomed into apple trees bursting with fruit that I could offer to others. There was such a wealth of ideas that I felt selfish to keep it to myself. If what I had learned could help stop others from going through the same pain I had, I wanted to share it.

Action – You could do a similar exercise around making a list of all of your current qualifications for the work you are drawn to do. What is the formal education you’ve had? What experiences? What books have you read? Have you had a lot of conversations about this? Have you done much writing about it? etc. Most of us don’t, because we’re stuck in our fear and feelings of inadequacy, give ourselves enough credit for all that we bring to the table.

Also, great news, if you get through this all and realize, “Man, I actually don’t have much to offer.” then that’s great news too. You can let go of the urgent dream of building a business and get a job for a while so the heartache can stop.

 

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Reflection #17 – Under Promise, Over Deliver:

If I had to just pick one of these ideas, it would be this one.

If all you did was this, your fear of not being ready would likely vanish over night.

As you go about offering whatever you have, however humble it might seem, make sure that you under promise and over deliver. Promise less than you think you can truly deliver as a result and then deliver more than that. Of course, this means that you need to get very real with yourself about what it is you are capable of delivering as a result.

Of course, if you claim to be able to heal any condition and then you don’t, people will be upset. But if you say, “I’m just beginning and I’d love to offer you a 60 minute reiki session.” and you do it, that’s wonderful. As long as you’re not promising more than you can deliver there is zero ethical issue at all. People know what they’ve signed up for.

“Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).”

– Scottish Proverb

Again, is the result you’re currently capable of offering enough to sustain a business? That’s a different question.

One of the best pieces of advice on this that I’ve ever read is to offer people the tip of the iceberg you have. They will feel how much in unseen, under the water, and trust you more. And you will feel more solid knowing that what you’ve offered them is really only 10% of your actual capacity.

If you do this consistently, your clients will be thrilled.

This idea is so simple, but its consequences are so profound.

 

1560707_10155030029375195_519340342724674419_nReflection #18 – Apprenticing:

Our culture is not big on humility.

In a day and age where you can become a reiki master in a weekend or a life coach in a year certification, the notion of meaningful, long term apprenticeship is a fugitive idea, hiding out in our better sensibilities until we wake up to the need for it or are brought to our knees by some humbling experience where we realize the impossible price we often need to pay to really learn something and the even more dear price to pay when we don’t learn properly and try to do it anyway.

In traditional highland Scottish culture, to become a story teller meant a seven year apprenticeship. To become a Druid? Twenty one years. You can find these sort of time frames the world over. Sadly, you can also see people going to a weekend workshop and then feeling qualified to lead sweat lodges and ceremonies.

One of my friends in Edmonton, Randall Benson, works in solar power. He only hires journeymen electricians and most of his jobs are based around fixing the screw ups of less qualified people.

If you want to feel totally solid in what you’re offering, find yourself a mentor. Be willing to work for free for a while. Offer free workshops in people’s living rooms for five people. Do it for free until people start to insist on paying you. Make your money in other ways.

There’s a good chance that, if you’re having these fears, you’re in the first of four stages of business. And, at that stage, your business is actually incapable of sustaining you financially. Your business is like a young tree that’s unable to bear the weight of your livelihood. So don’t crush it. Give it time to grow while you grow too.

One approach that can take a lot of the pressure off this is to consider offering a portion of what you do on a pay what you can basis. I’ve done this with most of my daylong and weekend workshops for about 15 years. It let me feel okay about leading weekend workshops even though I was just starting because I knew people wouldn’t pay me more than they wanted to. It felt amazing to never have to worry that I might be over charging or that people weren’t getting the value they paid for.

And, if you’re really apprenticing to someone, there may come a point where they kick you out of the nest because they know that you’re never going to be ‘ready’ enough to do it on your own. And, do you know what? You’ll be okay.

 

 

10885222_10155030030675195_4287047097716463695_nReflection #19 – Honing Your Craft:

When you’ve finished apprenticing to a teacher or school, you’re still learning. But now you’re learning from your craft directly. You’re now learning from experience. This means giving yourself time to reflect on what you’ve gone through, developing better systems and checklists and taking time to improve your skills here and there.

It means taking a deep pride in doing the best job you can do in creating the most beautiful offerings you can. When you do this, questions of self worth fall away and are replaced with an excitement to give what you’ve made to the community.

Most entrepreneurs I see don’t do this.

Instead of creating a few programs and honing them over time, they are constantly creating new programs.

On a marketing level, this is a bit of a disaster because then people never get to know you for anything in particular. On the level of confidence, it’s a disaster. How are you supposed to feel totally confident about something you’ve never done before? Of course you feel nervous and unsettled. And on the level of craft, it’s also a disaster because you can’t do something once and expect it be be of much worth.

If you create a workshop and do that same workshop one hundred times, then you’ll have something of incredible worth. You’ll speak with some swagger and bravado when asked about it. You won’t have doubt. It will be good and you will know it’s good. You will have found all the holes, integrated so many learnings – big at first and subtle towards the end. You’ll know every inch of it and will barely be able to let it go at the high prices you charge.

When you are more in love with your craft and your clients than your business or reputation you’ll see things bloom in ways you couldn’t imagine.

Honing your craft includes seeking out candid feedback from clients and implementing it to make your offerings better.

Honing your craft means making time to reflect on what you thought went well and what didn’t in your last offering and improving it for next time.

Sometimes I’ll do a program and, by the end, I feel awful, because I see everything that I could have done differently. But, once I’ve found some meaningful solution to each of those issues, my feelings shift to excitement to offer it again.

 

Reflection #20 – Focus On Creating An Offer That Feels Wonderful

There are some things that, when you think about offering them, you go into a panic zone and freeze up.

Maybe it’s leading a week long retreat. Maybe it’s healing people around certain issues. You just don’t feel ready to do that at all. It wouldn’t feel right or good to offer it. It’s too scary.

And then there are other things that would feel totally fine. Maybe that’s just going for tea with someone to talk about what might be possible. It’s so important to start with something that feels good, right and comfortable to you and to go from there.

If, instead of obsessing about whether or not you’re ready, you were to pour all of your love and attention into making the best offer you could, you would find your self-concern dropping away and being replaced by a deep, authentic excitement to share.

Action: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On the top left hand side right, ‘Feels Good’ and on the top right hand side write, ‘Feels Bad’. Underneath the ‘Feels Good’ side write down all the things you could offer right now that would feel free and easy for you to offer with an uncomplicated heart. Under the ‘Feels Bad’ side, write down the things you might want to offer that feel questionable for you, you’re not sure you’re ready for or could handle. Go back and forth for no more than 20 minutes.

And then get moving on the ‘Feels Good’ side. Hustle that hard. As you do it, your confidence will grow. Or you’ll learn from failing. And then you’ll feel more confident as a result of your learnings.

Action: Ask your friends what they would most trust you to do in terms of your work. What result would they most trust you could help them achieve.

 

success-really-looks-likeReflection #21 – Start Small & Pay Attention

If you’re scared, start with something tiny. Start with leading a small workshop in your living room. Start with writing a simple ebook. Start by making on youtube video. Offer a free hour long coaching session to ten people just so you can try. Offer it to a community that needs it most as a volunteer (e.g. immigrant population or those in prison).

You might take like a duck to water and see how many of the fears you had were just in your head. You might get hooked on it and want to do it more and more and watch as your fears fall away from you like a bird’s shadow as it takes off into the air.

But you might also realize that something didn’t feel right. And you can learn from that too.

This is also how you figure out your niche. You start small. You try things. You experiment. You notice what worked and what you liked. It’s not some linear path with three easy steps. It’s full of loops and round abouts.

Am I ready?” is a terrible question. Ready for the big time? Likely not. Ready to help somebody? You’d better believe it.

 

8983_10155030031520195_1269127059724895516_nReflection #22 – They Don’t Notice What You Notice:

Performers know this one all too well.

I’ve been doing improv comedy with Rapid Fire Theatre since 1992. And there have been many, many shows where I would walk off stage feeling defeated at what a terrible show I’d just done. I would head into the front of the theatre where the audience was leaving carrying the accumulated weight of every choice I wish I could take back and every choice I wish I’d made I’d stage and didn’t, only to be greeted by someone saying, “That was amazing! Thanks man!” and get a high five from a stranger who was leaving with a big smile on his face and joking with his friends about how we’d had an Octopus as a student in our scene only to have him eventually eaten.

I thought the show was sub par at best. He thought it was great.

This happens all the time.

We are often our own worst critic.

 

Reflection #23 – Get Candid Feedback

If you’re not sure you’ve got much to offer, why not find out the truth and put your obsessing to rest?

Why not create a google form or surveymonkey survey and invite your past and current clients to give you candid, honest, forthright and totally anonymous feedback on how you did with them? What worked and what didn’t? What would they give your work with them from a 1-10? If it wasn’t a ten what would it have taken to be a 10? What do they see as your greatest gifts and strengths? What do they see as your weaknesses.

And, if you’re unwilling to do this, I’d like to suggest that you might, indeed, not be ready after all.

 

Reflection #24 – To a Third Grader, a Fourth Grader is God:

You don’t have to be a PhD to help a third grader. You just need to be a fourth grader.

You don’t need to be ten thousand steps ahead of someone to help, just a few.

This is so important to let sink in. And, as long as you’re not over promising, you’ll be fine.

My colleague Jana Beeman put it this way, “I tell my students, ‘Look at your journey, look at what you’ve surpassed in your life. Look at everything you’ve learned and the power of who you are. If you find someone a few steps behind you on your path, how can you NOT be the one to help them? If you don’t, you both lose.'”

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 1.45.15 PMReflection #25 – You’ll Improve Faster Than You Think You Will:

Think of the design of the nautilus shell. Imagine that the centre of it represents you as a very skilled and confident practitioner of what you do.

That first ring on the outside is the biggest. But they quickly become smaller and smaller. In this image you will see that, within five loops, you’re at the centre. And improving your craft is a lot like that too.

Let’s take leading a workshop for example:

You learn so much the first time. The lessons are big and glaringly obvious. You can’t imagine you didn’t see them. The second time you lead the same workshop (assuming you took the time to reflect and learn from the first time and implement what you learn, it will be much better. Much. But you’ll still learn things. They just won’t be as big as the first, The third time you do it, the learnings are becoming more subtle still.

The first student leadership workshop I did was in a theatre to 250 students. By the end of the day, which consisted entirely of me talking to them and almost no interactive activities, there were 20 people there. Most of them had left, it was that bad.

But I had already confirmed a second workshop the next day and unable to feign my death as school had already let out, I set to work to change everything I could to make the next day not be something for which the legal changing of my name would, afterwards, be a requirement.

Fortunately, the next day was in a dance studio with chairs that could be moved about. That changed things. And I added in as many interactive activities as I could. And I gave a powerful heart to heart at the end of the day which had students coming up with tears, telling me it had been the most powerful day of their lives. Myself and my friends were stunned at the turn around from one day to the next.

I ended up leading that workshop about 80 times. By the time I’d done my last one, the refinements I was making were so subtle that no one but myself would ever have noticed them but I knew they were making my events better.

 

Reflection #26 – Be Trustworthy:

Do you due diligence. Know the risks. This is why apprenticeship is so important.

If you want to trust yourself, then you need to be worthy of that trust. Don’t focus on courting trust. Focus on being trustworthy.

If you’re doing something that could put people’s lives at risk, you’d better put in the time that’s needed to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it safe.

If you’re leading an emotional process, don’t go further than you know how to go. People are counting on you. When you act in a way that is worthy of that trust, you’ll feel so much stronger. And it’s important to distinguish between the non-action of obsessing about what might, possibly go wrong and the real world work or preparing for those things.

There is nothing that will make you feel more confident at a baseline level than having all of the bases covered.

Action: Make a list of everything that could possibly go wrong when you offer what you offer and then come up with a plan to either eliminate that risk or to deal with the worst case scenario if it should ever happen.

 

532948_1002840949731014_2320471839994335280_nReflection #27 – You’re Going to Fuck Up:

No matter how much you apprentice, learn and master you’re craft, you will still make mistakes.

The question of, “How can I proceed in such a way that no one ever gets hurt?” is a set up for pain. Someone will get hurt at some point. That’s life. You’re going to disappoint people. Sometimes you’ll disappoint others because you stretched too far. Other times you’ll hurt yourself because you didn’t stretch enough. And vice versa.

If your metric for success is that you never fuck up anything, then give up now because it’s going to happen. But, when it does, you have a job. And the job is to learn, to make amends and then to be faithful to that learning.

Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. It gives you the opportunity to be human as you work to make meaningful amends that might even be a greater gift to the other and the community than the original gift you’d intended because not only do they, perhaps, get more value than they’d imagined, but the community gets someone who’s a bit wiser and more humble. And learning from our failures gives us, ironically, an incredible sense of self trust and confidence. Learning to trust ourselves is central to the process of creation.

“Many people misunderstand the concept of safety. They think they can gain it by protecting themselves from other people or choosing safe people. Safety actually occurs when we learn to trust our ability to take care of ourselves.” ~ Mary MacKenzie

And, in fact, the fact that you have failed in the past might be the most trustworthy thing about you.

When you fuck up use it as a chance to learn what you need to learn so you’re less likely to make that mistake again.

Whenever someone asks me for a refund on something, I get excited. I’m excited because I know something. I know that they are asking for a refund because what they got from me wasn’t what they wanted. More accurately, what they got from me didn’t match their expectation of it. They imagined it would be a better fit than it was. And this was created by my marketing. Something in the way I described it gave them a false impression. So, to me, these moments are golden. I always promptly refund the money and then ask them what I could change in my marketing that would have ensured they never would have bought it in the first place. And they always give me gems. That means a higher integrity in my marketing, a clearer understanding of what my product is and isn’t and less wasted time for everyone in the future.

But if you fuck up in a larger way that causes genuine harm, then you’ll need to do more than simply ask a question to learn. If you’re going to really make amends, that might take a lot of effort. But that effort you put into making things right is your education. It’s what ensures that you ‘get it’ at a level you never could have if you’d simply said, “Oops. Sorry.” and walked away. When you genuinely make things right, often at great cost to yourself, you walk away with a deeper inner strength, sense of integrity and feeling of readiness to carry yourself well in the future. If you really handle it, you will learn the true cost of laziness and selfishness. You’ll learn how cutting corners costs you more than you want to pay. It will make you a better craftsman of what you do.

Extra benefit, you get more permission to become cranky and curmudgeonly whenever you want at all the young whippersnappers who think they know it all. Bam!

 

10888363_10155030031730195_6054306267309366097_nReflection #28 – Stepping Up is Vulnerable:

“Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure.” —Baruch Spinoza

There are no two ways about it.

Stepping up is vulnerable.

When you’re putting yourself into the world you can bet that all of your internal demons of ‘who does she think she is?’ are going to show up. You can bet that that’s going to come from the outside too. Luckily, you don’t need to please everyone.

Have you ever thought about how hard and humbling it is to actually show up like you do have something give (being full aware of your faults, lacks, needs, struggles, etc. and showing up anyways)? When will/would/could you ever be ready (beware those ever-elusive criteria)? To own your value and worth by sharing your creative output, your knowledge, your skills, your passions, your love -yup, that’s the other side of humility. Showing up and sharing yourself fully, to the degree it’s done in loving service, takes courage, humility, VULNERABILITY and love —for others AND for yourself.  You are 10,000 stories of fears overcome, of suffering endured (and not, we need those just as much), of miracles & doubts, of life-lessons; you are full of dreams, solutions & brilliant ideas; you have creative works -poems, songs, dances, art, projects —that would bless many people. If they only got to experience them. “But they’re not ‘ready’? not ‘perfected’? Consider them, as my father-in-law of late would say, as ‘perfect enough’. Sure, don’t be ‘more’ than you are…but also don’t be ‘less’. You’re a hell of a lot ‘more’ than you probably think you are. Consider the ‘more’ side, if you’re open to seeing/feeling/being/knowing that ‘more’ in yourself and others (Namaste), you might discover that it doesn’t even have a limit.” – Leif Hansen

Also, consider this possibility, the bigger the fear is for you, the more likely it is that you are aimed in the right direction.

 

Reflection #29 – When You’re Starting, Give Yourself More Space Than You Think You Need:

This is huge.

I remember a facilitation truism that I learned years ago. If you spend an hour on an experiential exercise, then give yourself an hour to debrief it too because that’s where most of the value will be harvested. If you are taking people on a ropes course and they have a fun time but you never talk about it, much of the benefit is lost. If you simply have a conversation about fear and trust, but don’t pair it with an experience, it will likely stay as theory and simply be an interesting conversation. It’s the combination of experience and reflection that gives these things their full measure of power.

And so it is with this learning you call being in business. When you first begin, consider giving yourself one hour to reflect on every hour you work with someone. If you lead a weekend long workshop, consider that you may need a weekend to reflect on what you learned from leading it.

If you really take this on (meaning if you really take seriously the proposition that your work is actually just the continuing education in which you’re engaged) then you’ll realize that it may ask more of you than you’d initially bargained for. If you plan to really be responsible about your work and to master your craft, you’ll see what the actual demands are. And it might be a price that’s too high to pay. Good to know. Let yourself walk away in good conscience.

It will also lift up that your life may be, currently, too full for you to really learn well.

It may not always be a 1:1 ratio, but when you’re starting off, you could do worse than to take this into consideration and put it into practice.

 

Reflection #30 – Your Failures Are Your Credentials:

It’s easy to get lost in, “But I can’t teach this. My life has been such a wreck. I’ve made so many mistakes.

But those mistakes are actually what make you trustworthy to the people you want to help.

The fact that you’ve overcome some of your own struggles in, perhaps the deepest source of credibility you have.

Our deepest wounds are often not only the doorway to our trust niche but what make us trust worthy.

It’s the genius of Alcoholics Anonymous, partnering those just coming in with those who’ve been there too but are a bit further down the path.

Looked at another way: I’ve often heard it said that “we teach what we most need to learn (and needed) to learn.”. This reminds us that we never stop learning. That because of the wounds we’ve received in our life and because of the nature of who we we are when we’re born – we find ourselves, in this world, curious about certain things. Drawn to things. Needing to know about things.

We try things and they don’t work. And we wonder why. We try to be healthy – but we get sick. We want to be happy but find ourselves depressed. We want to make a good living – but find ourselves broke.

And in our struggle to figure out how it all works, we learn things.

Things we quickly take for granted as if everyone knew them.

That’s the assumption that has us feel as though we’ve got nothing much of value to offer.

We look at what we know and think to ourselves, “Sure, but everyone knows that.” I encourage you to ask yourself if that’s really true.

We all struggle with things (e.g. dating) and so we try to learn about them. And this learning gives us things to share (e.g. becoming a dating coach).

And this truism reminds us that the best way to learn anything is to teach it – to sit back, reflect and ask ourselves, ‘how could i express this so that others would understand it?‘ And in our efforts to articulate and express the thing we know from our own experience – we come to understand our own experiences better. And understanding our experience helps us hone our own particular point of view and map on the best way to make it from point a to point b. The clearer our map is, the more trusted we are. But, if we’d had no first hand experience of struggling on the terrain, we’d never make such a fine and helpful map in the first place.

Your failures aren’t a reason for you to opt out, they’re the prime reason potential clients want to opt in.

To make this one even better, your past failures and current foibles are actually also what make you human and relatable. My colleague Meredith Broome put it brilliantly when she said, “I like to remind people (and myself) that we are humans working with humans, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Nobody actually wants to work with a know-it-all. I know that for me, the second I think I have the answers to someone else’s life is the second I have stopped listening to them. In the coaching profession, I think that’s a kind of violence we risk doing to our clients, to stop listening. The second you have it all figured out is the second you stop learning and growing. And that’s usually when clients stop showing up, or its hard to sustain your practice, right?”

Your failures are your credentials because they were your most important education.

 

Reflection #31 – This is Not About Self Worth: 

At least not entirely. And, again, this idea might just save you years of therapy.

When talking about ‘not feeling ready’, I think it’s useful to remove ‘self worth’ from the conversation because it can be a terribly seductive red herring. It’s something I’ve written about extensively in my post Charging what you’re worth is bullshit.

In fact, the way we make it about ourselves and take it so personally is telling.

There can be a kind of narcissism here where we obsess about how we’ll be seen by others. The story of Narcissus, in brief, is thus: there’s a guy. He has a fling with a goddess. He’s a cad of a man. She’s upset. She curses him to fall asleep and fall impossibly in love with the first thing he sees when he wakes up. When he wakes up he looks into the body of water he’s sleeping by and sees his own reflection. He falls in love with it so much that he falls into the water. Many take the message of this to me, ‘don’t fall too in love with yourself’ but the message is actually, don’t fall in love with your reflection. Don’t fall in love with how others see you and base your self worth on that. If you base your self worth on what others are willing to pay you or whether they think you’re ready or not, you’re in for one hell of a roller coaster ride.

This constant focus on ourselves can be a slippery, spiralling slide into neuroses.

What does a reflection need to survive? Your presence. When you withdraw it, the reflection goes away.

So I commend, withdrawing your attention from yourself and pouring it into creating beautiful things. When you do that you might just find that the self doubt goes away because you’re no longer paying attention to your self. Stop obsessing, start creating. Stop journalling and start making your art.

I’ve seen so many people spend years trying to get their thoughts perfect, their sales letter exactly right, their website perfect before starting when they should have been getting out there and giving talks and learning as they went.

 

10402504_10155030021850195_1946557437040297243_n

 

Reflection #32 – Remember Why You’re Drawn to do it in The First Place:

It can be easy, in the midst of our fears that we’re not enough, to lose track of why we are drawn to do this work in the first place.

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words when I asked about this topic, I would be inclined to ask questions that expand the focus beyond their limited-self focus. For example.  1. Why do you feel called to do it? (Put the focus on what inspires them about the idea, rather than their own sense of insufficiency). 2. What difference does this have the potential to make? How could doing this work change the world for the better? 3. If doing this work wasn’t about you (if it was solely about the impact it makes), would you do it?  4. If you have the gift to do this work, and the world needs this work, who are you *not* to do it?

You can read more blog posts on this notion of discovering your why here.

Action: Journal about why you felt drawn to this work in the beginning.

 

Reflection #33 – Make Your Case As To Why You Can’t Do It, And Then Debunk It:

My colleague Curt Rosengren shared these words, “I might also be inclined to have them make a case for why they can’t do it, and then have them refute that case, point by point. Maybe even have them make a counter-case for why they can. The more clarity people have about the stories they’re making up (and it’s all made up – some of the stories are just more productive than others), the more potential they have to shift into a more supportive story.”

Action: Do that thing described above.

 

Reflection #34 – Give Your Clients Some Credit:

This isn’t an excuse to be careless or to feign greater expertise than you have, but give people some credit in making their own choices. If someone gets hoodwinked by a charlatan, yes, there’s a lesson around integrity for the charlatan, but there’s also some lessons there for the one who got conned. If people fall for a fake guru, there are lessons for them in how they fell for it. All you can do is do the best you can. I’ve had people sign up for workshops and, because they hadn’t read the sales letter, demand a refund. Not my fault. Did I learn from that and make systems to make sure it didn’t happen again? Sure. But the people spending money have their responsibility too.

 

Reflection #35 – Your Story and Point of View Has Value: 

It’s easy to feel like ‘it’s all been done’.

It’s easy to look at the market place and think, “Oh man. There’s nothing I could possibly add here.”

And maybe you don’t have anything to add yet.

But it doesn’t mean you never will. And, just because the market seems flooded doesn’t mean that other voices aren’t needed desperately.

Consider this: have you ever gone to a seminar or class on a topic and found yourself totally confused only to have another teacher explain it in such a way that you totally got it? Something about the examples they used or the way they broke it down had it land inside of you with a solid ‘thunk’. Imagine if they’d decided, ‘There are already so many people teaching this. I’m not needed.’

Imagine if a musician listened to Bob Dylan and thought, “I’ll never be better than that” and decided to quit music and thus selfishly robbed the world of what he had to give.

I teach marketing. You might have noticed that there are quite a lot of other people out there doing it. And yet it never occurred to me not to do it because of that. And here I am with over 10,000 people on my email list years (and an appalling lack of effort and strategy) later. There are a lot of people who seem to like what I say and how I say it.

Because of your life story, you bring a unique perspective and point of view to any issue with which you’re grappling. Don’t discount that. That doesn’t honour all of the investment that people and this world have poured into you just to get you here.

And this video by Marie Forleo says it so well…

 

Reflection #36 – You Can’t Charge For Your Gifts

I leave you with this final thought from Mark Silver to meditate on.

Here’s the truth that I’ve seen: we can’t charge for our gifts. The Divine gives always to the human. We can be humble enough to receive from others, and we can be plugged in enough to let the love come through us to others. Like this image below...”

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mariannewilliamsonquote

 

More Resources:

Check out Seth Godin’s new book Your Turn.

My ebook, The 22 Myths of Building Your Practice

To help you uncover your niche (the place you’re most likely to do well in business) go to www.NichingSpiral.com

Seven Principles & Seven Practices on Empathy in Marketing

1488065_10153719189940195_1474907090_nI want to make the business case that empathy, in a bottom line way, matters to your business.

That your business will grow faster and that you will get more of the kinds of clients you want with it. 

I want to make the case that really listening to people until they feel ‘gotten’  is a skill worth learning (and that it’s not what we often think it is).

I submit that your capacity to genuinely put yourself in the shoes of your existing and potential customers will make your business grow more than just about anything else.

Most of us think we’re very empathetic people – but I want to suggest that we often aren’t as much as we think we are. I think for most of us, myself included, there is a lot of room for growth here. 

I’ve written a lot of posts that weave around the theme of empathy. But I’ve never really written one that addresses it head on.

So, here it is. At size 12, Georgia font, it’s 33 pages long. It’s the result of my lifetime of understanding on this topic. It contains dozens of examples and stories. If you open up each link, you will have 29 new tabs opened up with dozens of pages of additional insights on this topic.

Once you’re done, it would mean the world to me if you shared your own stories and strategies in the comments below.

Let me get straight to the point of what’s in it for you to really get to grips with this empathy business.

 

How can developing your skills around empathy grow your business?

  • when people know that you really ‘get’ them they will relax and feel safe around you. Until people feel safe with you they won’t hire you.
  • when people feel safe around and understood by you they will tell you the truth about what’s ailing them which will allow you to make a better diagnosis which will mean you produce better results for them which will leave them more happy and telling more people about how great you are
  • empathy allows you to write the most compelling marketing materials possible. I would argue that, until you can put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients, your marketing materials will be lacklustre.
  • empathy, really knowing what it’s like for your potential client, allows you to design products and services they would love because you know what you would want in their shoes
  • you’ll get more honest feedback that will help you improve your business rapidly
  • potential clients who end up not working with you will still refer you because they felt so respected and understood by you

 

Let me start with a story . . .

A few weeks ago, I was looking for someone to help me through some recent trauma I’d gone through. I’ve been reading the fantastic book, ‘Waking the Tiger’ by Peter Levine about healing trauma and went online to see if there was anyone locally who was practicing his technique. There was and I sent her an email. She replied back and, in doing so, received my typical email autoresponder (context: sometimes my email inbox has 250 messages in it. Messages that I want to respond to personally rather than leave it to an assistant. I have no hope of getting back to all of them right away. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to. I could do it faster but I wouldn’t have a life. So, it’s important for me to let people know there may be a delay in me getting back to them and I try to sweeten that with some nice music and images). 

hello there,

a friendly automated response to you. 

thanks for emailing. i’m often a bit behind on my emails. 

I hope to be able to get back to you very soon. but, until I do, here’s some of my favourite music i’ve discovered for you: http://8tracks.com/tadlington/and also some inspiring and evocative images I’ve collected: http://on.fb.me/KMprgM

warmest,

tad

 
To which she replied, “I do not and will not open links from people I do not know!!!!”

I was genuinely shocked when I read those words. It felt like I was being yelled at and scolded for something that was clearly, clearly not warranting it. 

I replied, “This was an auto response email. i’m not sure the offer of good things offered with good intentions warranted this four exclamation marks response. especially to someone who just reached out to you for support for their trauma. I will likely be seeking counselling and support elsewhere now.”

She replied, “yes…great idea! and good luck!!!!”

Is there any doubt in your mind that she lost my business because of the way she interacted with me?

This leads to . . .

 

Principle #1: How you are with people before they hire you is how they assume you will be once they hire you.

Simply put, if you meet someone at a party and they are an arrogant asshole there you would, quite rightly, assume that they will be an arrogant asshole to work with.

If they really listen to you, ask good questions and you leave the experience feeling totally heard, ‘gotten’, loved and appreciated – you’ll assume they’ll be like this in a working relationship too.

Innately, we all understand the truism that ‘how we do anything is how we do everything.’

This is critical to understand. 

It’s easy to think that the only reason people would hire us is because we solve their problem. But, remember this, there are a lot of people who can solve their problem. You being able to solve their problem brilliantly is critical to establishing relevance and credibility. But it’s not the only thing.

Ask yourself this: have you ever gone to a store, or wanted to hire someone, but they were so salesy, pushy or otherwise unpleasant that you actually walked away? Even though you really, really needed what they were selling?

I know I have. Buying a car. Buying a computer. 

It stuns me how often this gets missed and how much business it costs people. 

There’s a ‘new age book and crystal shop I know of that, everyone who goes into feels more stressed when they leave. There is a constant vibe of panic there. The last time I was there, I was asked three times, by three different people if they could help me find something. I was asked twice if I wanted to sign up for their email list and reminded about their facebook page. On one hand, brilliant! They’re marketing. But . . . the way it was done felt very much like they were asking because they wanted me to buy something. Like they’d come over to ask because their boss sent them. If you buy something, the owner is delightful. If you don’t, she’s snippy. You can tell her business is struggling and she resents people who come in and don’t buy. And so she’s decided to focus on her sales and marketing but she’s doing it in a way that leaves people who go in there with an icky feeling. They want to get out as soon as possible. 

It should be obvious why this isn’t good for business.

Marianne Williamson wrote about her experience of running a bookshop. Her boss told her to focus on selling books. But, she chose to see the bookshop as the Church of her spiritual ministry and just focused on loving people. It created such an incredible vibe that people would come back again and again. She was able to put herself in the shoes of their clients and ask herself what kind of environment she’d want. And then she created it. 

Which leads us to . . .

 

Principle #2: Experience matters as much as results. 

I could talk about this for ages. 

Yes, it matters critically that you actually solve a problem and help them get a result they’re craving. 

But what matters equally as much is that they feel good in the process. 

Do you think they’ll come back to your business if they don’t feel good about it?

Do you think they’ll tell their friends and people they meet to hire if you if they didn’t feel good about the process?

The process matters. How they feel matters. 

That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious is what it takes for people to feel good.

On a surface level, we want to look at appealing to all five senses. If your shop or office looks beautiful, smells wonderful, has beautiful (or no) music playing etc. they’re going to feel better in it. We’ve all been to restaurants where the bathroom was so scuzzy that we never came back.

But, beyond the sensory level, we need to look at people’s emotional needs. You can think of Maslow’s Hierarchy or the list of needs in the Non Violent Communication work, Anthony Robbins’ six human needs . . . which model works for you. The more needs your business meets, the better it will feel for people.

If you help people feel safe, comfortable, help them have fun, feel important and connected and like they’re growing and contributing . . . people will love you. People love people who make them feel good.

But, in a business context, there’s a syntax to what is going to make people feel good. There are four things people need and the order we address them in matters. I’ve written more about it in my post The Four Things People Need Most When They’re Lost. But the very first thing that people need when they are in pain is empathy. They need to know that you ‘get them’ at an emotional level.

Maybe you’re a contractor and someone is exploring working with you on renovations for their home. It could be tempting to want to push and ‘sell them’. Instead, I’d suggest slowing down and empathizing with them. “Wow. It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed and concerned that you’re going to be able to get your renos done on time.” They will melt. 

All of the time, I hear people say, “I totally understand them.” but your belief that you understand them is not the point. The real issue is this: do they feel understood? Do they really know that you ‘get them’. It’s incredibly easy to be deluded by this. How many divorces, fights and conflicts end with one of the parties, dazed and confused, saying, “But everything seemed fine . . .”

 

Principle #3: Empathy before education.

There’s the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

But all too often, people fall in love with their business, their modality, their newfound ideology or cosmology, their skillsets and technologies more than they fall in love with their clients. And that’s the beginning of all the troubles. 

It’s early 2000’s and I’m in a car driving from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa to the Harmony music festival. I’m being driven by the child care worker of my dear friends. Let’s call her Rose. 

As we drive up, she begins to vent. Relationship stuff. She’s angry at men but mostly angry at herself. 

Within a few minutes, I feel like I have the perfect spiritual insight for her. Which, for someone reason, I don’t share. My instincts tell me to zip it and just listen (even though I really, really want to share). I start making a mental list of all the quotes from books I want to share and ways she should really look at what she’s going through. 

My list is growing. Man. She is going to be so empowered by everything I have to share when the time is right.

But something in me is sending me the very clearly message to stay quiet. So, for the two hour drive, all that comes out of my mouth is, “Mhhmm.” or “Yeah.” Mostly nods and just listening. 

At one point, she stopped talking. She didn’t seem to have anything else to say. Which would seem to have been my cue. But I stayed quiet. 

After five minutes of driving, her eyes open wide and she says, “And another thing!” and shares a whole other level of what was going on for her. She keeps venting. Why does she always end up sleeping with men when she told herself she didn’t want to go there again? 

And, hearing this, everything I’d been saving up to share felt so useless and irrelevant. 

This happened again and again through our drive. I’d have a brilliant insight and then she’d say something that made it clear that wasn’t what she needed to hear right now.

As we were pulling into Santa Rosa, I finally felt ready to speak, “It sounds like,” I ventured. “That you’re really struggling with how do you meet your needs for sexual expression with your needs for self respect.”

Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel, her eyes widen, she takes a deep breath and she turns to me and says, “YES!” A huge release.

She didn’t even need advice. She didn’t need education. She just needed help clarifying what the hell was going on inside of her. 

Another example: Here’s an actual conversation I had with a recent friend over facebook which left me feeling awful. It began innocently enough with her asking what had happened to me that left me so traumatized. I told her the situation. 

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. It was teaching you.

Me: i’m going to ask you pause right there.

Her: in order to grow larger and better than ever you must be in alignment with your message

Me: it really doesn’t feel great to have you tell me what the truth is of my experience or why it happened.

Her: darling its none of my business. I just speak from my heart. reciprocating what is told to me. I am just curious if this is what you have learned from the experience as well?

Me: it still feels like early days to say what’s coming out of it

Her: This is how you truly heal from trauma

Me: i do appreciate your care and i notice that when people, and this happens in the new age scene so often, when i share a pain and am immediately told that it happened for my highest good and asked what i learned from it. it’s hard. i notice that when i’m in the midst of it, that approach has me feel defensive

Her: I know it does. You have to be complete with the message, and as you do you will feel peace with it. 

Me: again. you telling me what i have to do doesn’t feel great. i’m not disagreeing

Her: Darling trust me. This is how you heal. I am a safe space. I do not come at you with any guns or bombs. I understand suffering, I have entered timeless hells before.I see the bigger picture that to have one man down is harmful to the whole. What you need more than anything is to face the situation and thank it and tell universe that you understand it

Me: can i lift up how you are immediately educating me when i didn’t ask to be educated by you? to have you present your perspective as the gospel truth really doesn’t feel safe or inviting to me. i have been reflecting on this a lot. so much. i’ve been pulling so much wisdom from it. and i’ve been through a lot and . . . i’m hearing you say that you understand suffering but i’m not feeling understood. i’m hearing you say you’re a safe space but i’m noticing i don’t feel safe in this moment. i’m hearing you say you know how healing happens and yet this space isn’t feeling healing. i really want you to stop telling me what I need to do. i don’t want your advice right now. i just need some love. that’s all. some understanding that it was hard and trust i’m working it out

Her: You need to acknowledge that love is in everything. Even in the words that I am saying.

Me: i feel sensitive around this because i encounter it so much in the new age scene. and it doesn’t feel great. and i’ve got just zero emotional buffer space right now. i think you’re remarkable and this convo isn’t feeling good. this article speaks to the dynamic i feel is happening here. http://juliaingram.com/nab. i didn’t ask to be coached by you. i was sharing what came up as a friend.

Her: yes these people do exist, but I am not one of them. I am holding space and that is all. I will say no more, because I wasn’t trying to coach, I was being a friend. But if it’s registered that way. then we are lost in translation, and I respect that.

Me: ok. i need to go for now. blessings.

She is  a remarkable woman, who practices incredible self care and is deeply committed to her spiritual path and who I think is destined for big things. This is one interaction and isn’t a complete picture of her at all. She wasn’t trying to get me to hire her. And I know she loves me. 

And that conversation felt awful. Susan Hyatt writes about this dynamic brilliantly in her blog post Unsolicited Coaching. Please. Make it stop.

I imagine if I was meeting her for the first time at a party and she was a healer and we’d had the above conversation. I would never, ever, based on this conversation, hire her. 

The only moment I felt really understood was when she said, “Wow! What a timeless hell.” After that, despite being asked to stop, she went right into education and coaching. When I felt upset, it was my fault for not seeing the love in her words. She has the truth and I don’t. She is seeing clearly and I’m not. This is, unintentionally, the message that I got. 

The message I get from her words is, “It’s so easy! You just know that it’s all love.” which feels immensely dismissive of my struggles. The question is not, “is she right?”. Maybe she is. The question is, “Do I feel understood?”

This dynamic happens all the time. Someone shares a problem and we want to jump on it and solve it. 

But sometimes it’s okay to just let people feel like victims instead of shaming them into working with us, to let them have their experience and not need to change it. Our need to change other people and fix them might be the real problem rather than what we see as their problem.

Yes, people need context as to why they are where they are. And they crave it. And yes, people want guidance and options. But, before they will truly be open to getting any of that from you, they need empathy. 

In the absence of empathy first, we often jump straight to education. And, in the absence of empathy, we often, completely unintentionally, come across as bullies. Julia Ingram wrote a brilliant blog post called New Age Bullies about this dynamic. But, it’s not solely the province of the new age or holistic scene. Vegans do this. Activists do this. Capitalists do this. Everyone does this. I have done this so many times in my life and, sadly, I’m sure I will again. I know that, when I was vegan, I was so arrogant and pushy in the beginning that I turned my brother into a carnivore. I think he ate meat just to spite me. And I don’t blame him. If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

I’m going to say that again: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them

Years ago, I was in Calgary and ended up meeting a life coach. I mentioned that I’d known Thomas Leonard (one of the grandfathers of the modern life coaching scene). He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’m the closest thing to Thomas Leonard there is in Canada these days.” And then he proceeded to ‘coach me’. It was a series of rapid fire questions that left me in a daze. Before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I just wanted to show you the power of what I do.” As I drove back to my friends house, my head was still swimming. Then I realized what had happened. He’d put me in a trance and worked me. And it left me feeling emotionally violated. He’d ‘educated’ me. But there was no empathy present. I’ve since learned, no surprisingly, that I am far from the only person who has had this experience with him.

And imagine the cost to his coaching business. I would not only never work with him or never refer him, I would, and do, warn people against working with him.

He skipped a step. He went straight to giving me education and coaching. He completely missed the importance of empathy and connection.

Robert Middleton once made the analogy that marketing was like baseball. Homebase is you being a stranger and a homerun is them buying from you. But, in between those is 1) clarity 2) trust  and 3) excitement. And you can’t skip any of those steps. 

Much of my understanding of formal understanding of empathy came from the seminal book NonViolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg (while my informal understanding came from being really listened to by a lot of people). In his book (which I commend to you highly) he shares a story.

“Believing we have to “fix” situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present . . . Once, when I was working with 23 mental health professionals, I asked them to write, word for word, how they would respond to a client who says, “I’m feeling very depressed. I just don’t see any reason to go on.” I collected the answers they had written down and announced, “I am now going to read out loud what each of you wrote. Imagine yourself in the roles f the person who express the feeling of depression, and raise your hand after each statement you hear that gives you a sense that you’ve been understood.” Hands were raise to only three of the twenty three responses.”

For the most part, people have no idea where to start with empathy. 

I think it’s vital that we respect people’s pain and suffering. That we respect their experiences. If they say they’re in a living hell – they really mean it. It’s vital we don’t discount or minimize their fears. I wrote a whole piece about how to relate to people’s fear in a blog post called Island Z.

But, if the words you hear from them all the time is that going through their divorce feels like a living hell and your marketing materials have headlines like, “Is your divorce feeling a bit uneasy?” you will absolutely lose them. From the headline alone they’ll know you don’t ‘get it’. “A bit uneasy??!” they’ll scoff as they delete the email or throw your brochure into the trash. Empathy means meeting people where they are, not where we think the should be out of a misguided desire to keep vibrations positive.

This isn’t to say you need to use negative headlines.

But it is to say that you’ve got to use plain talk and speak to them like a human being and acknowledge where they’re at whether it’s the pain they’re in, the pain they’re fearing or the future they’re craving. If you do, they’ll feel safe and open up. If you don’t, they won’t. Simple. 

And even when we know empathy is vital, we often aren’t clear on how to do it. We aren’t very skilled at it. 

We think we need to give people some big, TED Talkesque, life-changing message or insight. But usually the messages that mean the most to people, in the beginning, are so much simpler. You can read some of them that I’ve identified in my blog post Five Simple Messages That Can Have Potential Clients Melt and Fall In Love With You. That blog post will also give you a list of twenty common responses to people’s pain that are expressed with good intentions but often feel terrible to receive. 

And, in the end, the most important messages they can get is that you really care and you ‘get it’. And you don’t need any words for that, just some real listening. 

How does this relate to marketing? 

You might find the case study of a communications specialist who wanted to work with teachers in a Muslim school instructive. Instead of focusing on what he thought they ‘needed to hear’ he looked for where they were struggling that he could genuinely help.

Often in sales and marketing, we’re not really listening at all. We’re trying to convince people to ‘say yes’ and work with us. My colleague Howie Jacobson lays out a whole other kind of listening in his guest post Just Listening.

And then there’s this: when we don’t really put ourselves in the shoes of a potential client we are likely to give very bad advice. When your diagnosis is inadequate so will your prescription be. In the holistic world this happens all the time. People become so enamoured with their chosen modality and become so convinced that it can help anyone with anything that they don’t even listen to people anymore. Someone shares the very surface of their problem and they say, “Oh! Craniosacral is amazing for that!” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

But consider, again, the marketing implications of giving bad advice to people. They have a problem. You give bad advice based on very little information. They use your advice. It doesn’t work. They are disappointed and their trust in you diminishes or vanishes. They tell others this. Your reputation goes downhill. 

That’s how it works. 

To look at it another way: if you trust their diagnosis, you will be more likely to trust their prescription. 

If you’ve ever been lost and asked for directions you’ve experienced how incredibly frustrating it can be. People have lived there so long, they’ve forgotten what it was like to be new to the area. So you ask for directions and they give you something like, “Oh! It’s easy. You go down to Old Man Salter’s barn, turn right, over two hills, turn left at the big iron gate, go two miles and turn left after Humming Bridge.” And you’re left feeling completely overwhelmed. Even when they draw a map, it’s drawn for someone who already knows the area. I know a number of times, I’ve expressed my concern and said, “Look, I know that these seems simple to you, but I’m concerned I’m still going to get lost.”, only to have them reply, “No no! Trust me! It’s easy.” And then I get lost and I’m upset with them. They didn’t take my concerns seriously. They didn’t really listen. How few people ever really, really listen. 

And the lack of listening kills so many businesses.

One of my mentors was jogging years ago and blew out his knee. He dragged himself home along one mile of hill in agonizing pain. He went to an osteopath who gave him a basic evaluation and diagnosis that he was okay with and suggested that surgery might be needed. The second place he went to, where NBA teams send their players, was very different. The physio therapist walked in with an MRI of his knee and said, without knowing any of the backstory, “I’m going to guess from looking at this that you were running and hyper extended your knee. Maybe got your foot caught in a hole?” My friend’s jaw dropped. It had been a gopher hole. The diagnosis was so bang on that he knew he was in good hands.

If potential clients feel that you really understand their problem, they will be far more likely to trust in your solutions. 

Years ago, I sent an email to my list with a link to a survey. I was asking people to submit their ‘holistic practitioner horror stories and success stories.’ – the best and worst experiences they had had. I got just over thirty responses. And what struck me was that they all said basically the same thing. The horror stories never seemed to have to do with a lack of skill or bad technique. There four client repelling traits that came up again and again. I could sum them all up in three words: lack of empathy.

Remember, if you want them to hire you and pay you money, they need to trust you and your proposed solutions. They need to trust their point of view. They will be far more open to hearing your point of view (in fact, hungry to hear it) once they know you really understand their situation. 

In Steven Covey’s words: “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

My colleagues at Authentic World in Boulder base all of their personal transformation work on a model called Circling.Basically, the model is you sit in a circle (though it could be done one on one) and the whole group focuses on really ‘getting’ what it’s like to be the person struggling with something. They reflect their experience of being in the person’s presence, ask insightful questions, reflect what they’re hearing and ‘getting’ from them. It’s a profound experience to be on the receiving end of. Because, the process isn’t there to ‘change’ you (but it does). It’s not there to sell you on a particular new way of being – but people often leave it with a new way of being. Perhaps the most transformative thing we can encounter is the unconditional love and uncompromising truth of being met where we are. 

I recall leading a Circling process at a co-op in Edmonton, The Golden Lentils, where I lived for a summer. I invited everyone to get into a circle and for someone to share something they were struggling that wasn’t traumatic and that had nothing to do with the co-op. There was a bit of silence and then one fellow spoke up and shared, “I’m going home to see my family soon and . . . we always get into fights about politics and I’d like to know how to deal with that.”

I could feel myself, and everyone else in the circle, lean in a bit ready to throw down advice. I could feel some people wanting to say, “Fuck your parents!” and others wanting to commiserate and share their own stories (thus taking the attention off of the person sharing and taking it onto themselves). So, I invited everyone to pause and just breath a bit. Then we went around the circle. I asked the person next to him to reflect what it was that they had heard him say, but in his own words. The first person did alright. I turned back to the original personal sharing, let’s call him Simon. He nodded that it was a good reflection but then added more context. So, we went onto the second person. And the third. Each time, people’s reflections seemed to either catch a detail that prompted elucidation or missed something important he felt the need to restate. And, often, it was hard for people. Often people slipped right into giving advice – which I would immediately stop. Or they’d want to share their own story – which I would stop. Or they’d want to tell him how he needed to look at his experience – which I would stop. And then I’d ask them to simply restate what they heard. And, it turns out, this is hard. It’s a skill. It takes a lot of practice and the experience of being really heard yourself to be able to do this consistently. 

We finally got all the way around the circle. And then I had us go around again, but, this time, all they could do was ask questions. And they had to be questions coming from genuine curiousity, not sneaky advice questions like, “Don’t you think you should . . .” Again, people struggled. But the focus wasn’t on trying to change Simon – it was on helping ourselves understand him and helping him understand himself. 

As an elder, wise woman Whapio often says, “Clarity before resolution.”

An hour later, when we’d gone around the circle twice, Simon found himself saying, ” . . . and you know . . . I’m not even that political anymore so I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get that. “I don’t think it will be an issue.”

Get how useless all of our commiseration and advice would have been for him. He didn’t need it. 

When we get really good at listening and empathizing and creating a safe space for people, we get to the truth faster. People do not tell us the truth when they feel us pushing them towards an agenda. If they think you are selling them, they will lie to you to get out of that uncomfortable situation. It is social acceptable to lie to sales people. 

It’s our inability to let go of our agenda to get people to buy that turns people off and has marketing and sales feel gross. Sales pressure is predominantly created by us. When we realize that the real goal in marketing and sales shouldn’t be about ‘getting the sale’ but about focusing on the truth of whether or not it’s a fit . . . everything changes. We can finally bring the central quality needed to getting empathy to the table – presence. What kills our ability to be present is our conviction that what we have can absolutely help them (and anyone else). Letting go of that is hard, but it’s central to really being present. Dogma kills connection every single time. 

One client wrote me this about what they loved most in a holistic practitioner they’d seen recently: 

“I felt listened to. They took the time to get to know my problem and try to figure it out. I didn’t feel rushed. I was treated as an individual rather than just another client. Practitioners with one size fits all approaches turn me off. They were open about their experiences treating problems like mine both good and bad. They were honest about their abilities to help me – didn’t say this works for all as i know that is not possible and different things work for different people.” 

Because, if we let go of it and really listen with our focus on really, really understanding them, we’ll find out the truth of if it’s a fit or not. If it’s a fit, then working together is likely to be a joy that produces wonderful results for them and has them a raving fan – getting us lots of word of mouth. 

But, if we just focus on blindly selling everyone we might, out of the misguided assumption that we can help everyone, we will end up with a lot of clients who aren’t a good fit. And working together will be a living hell producing mediocre to poor results and have them warning people against hiring us. 

It’s so simple. 

Marketing guru Jay Abraham explored this in a different way years ago when he was focusing on “strategy” in marketing. In his experience, most marketers were very tactically oriented. They never stopped and looked at the big picture of their situation. And I recall him talking about how, at one event, he and his colleague Mac Ross were leading hot seats. They’d bring very successful entrepreneurs onstage and coach them. But, they had to keep catching each other and stop them from giving each other advice too soon. One of them would start getting on a roll about how they could grow their business internationally and the other would pause and ask the person on the hotseat, “Uhhh . . . do you want to grow internationally?” to which the person would emphatically shake their head ‘no’.

If we want to see if our tactics are a fit for a potential client, we need to ask them. But, more than that, we need to know they’re going to tell us the truth in response and they will only do that if they trust that we want to hear the truth – whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. 

 

Principle #4:  People don’t give honest feedback unless they feel safe. 

This one seems painfully obvious.

You can’t just tell someone that you ‘get it’. Especially when they tell you that they aren’t feeling gotten. It’s a remarkably ineffective approach to say, “Oh, but I do.”

Parents do this all the time and it results in their kids feeling totally disconnected and alienated. It’s not just a matter of you getting it. It’s a matter of them feeling gotten.

I went to a raw food restaurant once and the owner, who I’d met the night before, came up to the table. 

“How’s the food here Peter?” I asked him.

“It’s amazing!” he said nodding. But with a bit too much conviction. With a bit too much certainty. Sort of a glazed look over his eyes.

We ordered and ate three dishes. One, a raw burrito thing, was quite good. Another, I have forgotten what it was, was mediocre and forgettable. The third, an avocado based soup, was truly awful.

Peter came back to the table, smiling and nodding and asked, “How was the food?”

Except, if you read his body language, he wasn’t really asking how it was. His body language was saying, “The food. So amazing! Amiright?”

I told him how much I’d loved the burritos. He agreed and left without asking about the other two dishes because, in his mind, I don’t think he could conceive of them not being amazing.

And so he never got some vital feedback. I’m sure this isn’t the only time this happened. 

One client of mine shared something they’d experienced with holistic practitioners that they hated, “When they ask me in follow up visits if anything got better and I feel as though I have to say something positive or I have somehow failed. When they act as though I have done something wrong if their approach is not working for me. 

Contrast that with Noorish (an amazing  superfood elixir bar in Edmonton). They always ask me for my feedback. “How was the chai?” they’ll ask but sort of shaking their hand as if to say, “Good? Not good?” They really want to know. And so I tell them. I like being asked but I love my experience being taken seriously. If something is ‘off’ they’ll say, “Wow. Sorry to hear that. What was wrong with it?” and then they really listen. 

You can tell they want to know from their actions, not just their words. It comes across in subtle non-verbal ways.

Most businesses, and this happens a lot with holistic practitioners, have a lot of clients who come once and then vanish. And they almost never, ever get any feedback as to why. My take on this is that there’s often a lack of safety. The clients know, intuitively, that the practitioner has an answer they want to hear and if it’s not what they want to say, it’s easier to just leave. 

 

Principle #5: People know you get it from you actions not your words.  

But it’s not just our desire to understand that’s picked up. It’s whether or not we do understand.

I remember when my brother had gone through a major, major heartbreak. I was in my late teens and enamoured with all things Tony Robbins and NLP and I told him how easy it was to get over this kind of thing with a few NLP techniques. “You just need to change the submodalities of it and collapse some anchors.” As I began to lay out, in great detail, some of these techniques and how amazing they were . . . I’ll never forget the look he gave me. A look that fundamentally said, “Wow. You just don’t get it.” And I didn’t. It would be another five years before I went through my first real, romantic heartbreak and had that completely level me for another five years after that. In my telling him how easy it was to heal it with these simple techniques, what was not happening was an honouring of how significant the relationship was for him in his life. What didn’t happen was an honouring of how much he loved her and how deep the pain was for him. If I could do it over again, I would have just put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry.” and sat in silence.

A client shared this about how holistic health practitioners let them know they valued and ‘got’ them: “My best experience of seeing a practitioner (sorry I don’t have a specific example) is leaving the session and feeling they have acknowledged my part in the healing journey. That I am an active part of my healing and I am seeing them for support. They are not the experts ‘doing onto me’.” 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

One of my friends Amber, an amazing advocate for the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, was at the Bioneers event as my guest. She ended up being a helper for one of the thirteen indigenous grandmothers. Her only job? To get her grandmother to the sessions on time. Which is hard. Grandmothers can be wily. One night, Amber was sitting next to the grandmother who was laying in bed. Amber was sharing about some big moments in her past few months and spontaneously burst into tears and started sobbing. The grandmother didn’t say anything. She certainly didn’t preach. She didn’t tell her how to relate to what was going on. She just lifted up her blanket and patted the bed, inviting Amber to lie down next to her and be held while she cried. 

People know that you ‘get it’ based on what you do, not what you say.

When my friend responded to me the way she did on facebook I absolutely did not feel ‘gotten’. Is that possibly because I am defensive, petty and easily triggered? Sure. But that’s the point. Everyone is. Especially people who are in the midst of their struggles and traumatized. And I think it’s the job of the healer to ‘get that’. Someone who’s doing a big landscaping project is likely to feel overwhelmed. It’s the job of the contractor to ‘get that’ and design their process to make sure it addresses that. Assuming that others should all be enlightened, untriggerable and totally sanguine no matter what matter of judgment you throw at them . . . is likely to not work out to well for you. Should I have been able to see that her words were really all about love? Maybe. Did I? Nope. 

This happens in the holistic scene all the time. Someone shares a hardship. They’re met with new age bullying and advice. They get defensive and express that they’re angry about the comment. This is swiftly turned into, “Where are you angry at yourself?” and, quickly, the other person leaves and the practitioner says, “I guess they just weren’t ready.” when another truth (perhaps even truer) was that the practitioner wasn’t ready to really meet that person where they were. Below are a number of examples clients have shared with me about their experiences with holistic health practitioners where empathy was present and where it wasn’t . . .

 

“I went to see an herbalist/iridologist who wasn’t warm or friendly but had a lot of knowledge and was known to be very good at her work. She gave me some very strict dietary guidelines to follow – basically changed my whole life while taking care of a newborn baby. So when I went back for follow-up I was quite proud of myself for doing so well – not perfect but I made some good steps toward a healthier diet. She looked into my eyes (iridology) and asked me what my compliance to her diet was. I said, ‘about 85%.’ She said in a harsh, judgmental tone, with pursed lips, ‘How about 50!’ I felt tiny and like a really ‘bad’ client. Totally deflated. I don’t care what her reputation and credentials were – I never went back there. (Nor did I tell her or the store who hosted her why.) Aside from this she gave me long lists of supplements that cost a small fortune.

“I once received an amazing craniosacral treatment. This healer’s touch was firm yet compassionate. When working with my head, I experienced a release. At the time it felt like a jolt, like when I’m falling asleep and my nerves start twitching so I wake-up suddenly. I hadn’t experience anything like this before in a massage so asked ‘what just happened?’ Her response was brief. She suggested I take some time for myself after the treatment and relax in the park across the street. I didn’t understand what had just happened to me and felt open, confused and vulnerable. I lay in that park for a long while. The rest of my day…I felt spaced out. I needed more dialogue from her. I’m a psycho-physical being. If I have a physical release, my emotions and psyche are connected to that transformation. I needed an enlightened witness, someone observing me, to guide me when in the dark.” 

I went to a holistic clinic to get a live blood analysis done. At first I thought the lady was very nice and she explained a lot of things to me about my health. She also told me some very disturbing things as though they weren’t a big deal. Then she said she was going to give me a treatment that I had never heard of before. Before I knew it I was lying on a table being hooked up to a machine that I had no idea what it was. At first, it was ok. Not ok as in pleasurable, but ok as in bearable. Within a few minutes this machine was giving me severe shocks to the point where my muscles would spaz out and I couldn’t speak. I called for the practitioner but she didn’t come for a few minutes. Then when she finally came it was again, no big deal! She said she would turn down the machine and again she left me alone to be shocked. I still have no idea what the hell that machine was for! She came in and treated me as though I was so lucky to have received this unknown shock therapy, then sent me on my way. I went out to the lobby to pay and get the herbal treatment that she prescribed. When I got up to the till my total was $589.00. My jaw dropped and I started to cry. 

My partner and I got a free sample session that this one practitioner was offering as a way to gain some new clients. The session itself was awesome and a lot of work was done. At the end of the session, she asked us when we would like to book another session, which in and of itself, was okay. But she started to pressure us into booking something else. We just couldn’t afford it. Also, I was into doing another session with my partner, but he wasn’t. She reacted in a way where it felt like she was taking it personally. It wasn’t really obvious that she was doing this, but I could feel this tension in the air that smelled kind of like she was hurt and slightly angry that she had given her session away for free (which was the offer she was giving everyone) and she didn’t get a booking out of it. She called a while later (maybe a few weeks) and asked me again if we would like to continue with more sessions. Again, this I can understand, but the answer was still the same from my partner – he wouldn’t go for it. And again, it was the same reaction from her. I just felt really uncomfortable about the whole situation. So much so, that even if I had the extra money to get a session with her – I wouldn’t. I’d go somewhere else.” 

“I had a reading with a lady at a trade show in Calgary that left me feeling like I had wasted my money. I decided to get a reading from her because I had attended a lecture by her that had lead me to believe that she was really good at what she did. When I spoke to her at her booth, she seemed to come across as a bit desperate for clients, but I chose to ignore that gut feeling. (Lesson – always go with your first gut feeling). I sat down to get my reading for $20. She seemed to be in a rush to get through my reading, so much so that I couldn’t even remember what she told me by the end. And all I got for my $20 was a 5 minute reading. Not to mention that what she told me wasn’t anything I couldn’t have figured out on my own. At the end of the reading, she was very abrupt and without actually saying the words, it felt energetically like she was almost shoving me out of the booth so she could get more clients. I will never go back to her again.” 

“I left the care of an Osteopath because she was abrupt and confrontational with me. She wanted to be the authority and have me accept her as such. This was not the emotionally safe and sensitive treatment that I expected. The fees were high and the results did not justify continuing. Someone less trained has become my trusted practitioner-better emotional safety and better physical results.” 

 “The best practitioners I’ve been to don’t try to sell me on their techniques. They listen to my concerns, my priorities and they offer what they can to help. They do not: 1) Try to scare me into using their services. 2) Tell me that whatever I’ve been doing so far has not helped and/or made things worse. 3) Tell me that their modality is the ONE and ONLY of any value.” 

“I had a session with a Shamanic practitioner at the Body, Soul and Spirit Expo who was amazing in so many ways. I was having a really hard time financially at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay what he was charging for a session. I knew intuitively that he would be worth the money, I just didn’t have it. I spoke with a lady who was working at his booth booking his sessions, and she said she would speak to him for me to see if he would be willing to help out in some way. He offered to give me a session in the traditional native way where you give an offering of tobacco. I gratefully accepted! Fortunately there was a booth where I could get some. I did the session with him, and even though it was only a half an hour and my payment was in tobacco, he gave me his all. I had the best session I think I’ve ever had with any practitioner. I healed what felt like lifetimes of “stuff” in only a half hour session. Tremendous kindness, compassion and wisdom. He was great! I knew that his only motivation was to serve and to help heal others. I spent the rest of the weekend telling everyone they had to get a session with him and would recommend him to anyone and everyone. I will also go back to him anytime! He was amazing.” 

“The practitioner was traditional healer, in other words a herbalist, shaman, therapist. We were doing something akin to counseling. It is hard for me put my finger on what exactly she did that made me feel so great. I just had the genuine feeling that she was there to help me without trying too hard. You know there are people that don’t seem to give a shit about you, and then those that are burning to “help” you, which feels more like them forcing their opinions and philosophies on you. You get the feeling in both situations that this person is too wrapped up in themselves to genuinely be able to help you. And let me tell you, this practitioner wasn’t just telling me things I wanted to hear. I was literally having my mind blown, and it wasn’t always pleasant. My whole way of thinking was being challenged. My subconscious fears were being brought to the surface. I was extremely vulnerable. Sometimes, I would get angry. However, the whole way through I felt like I was being supported. Even when we disagreed, I could FEEL her integrity. She didn’t put on airs or use too much spiritual mumbo jumbo, even though the experience was very spiritual. She spoke to me like one human being to another. You could sense the authority of her experience and wisdom, but she was not arrogant or pushy. I really, really felt listened to. I’d like to add that people don’t always want to know what it will take to heal, so practitioners always run the risk of alienating their patients when they give it to them straight. However, a really good practitioner, like in the one in the above experience, is able to gauge what their patient/client is ready to hear and nudge them along while supporting them. PS. I feel like this would be a hard thing for a practitioner to learn in a marketing type seminar. I feel like it’s the result of years of inner work and genuinely being comfortable in their own skin. However, if you can do it, you are a genius.”

“I was taking an introduction to yoga class with an instructor I didn’t know. At the very first class she was bound and determined to have us all try standing on our heads (well, being inverted anyways) using chairs under each shoulder to support us. I was an overweight and 45 year old at the time. I repeatedly said I did not want to do that and she was very insistent on having me try. I felt totally unimportant to this woman. She was not there to respect my needs/comfort level/etc. She had found “the answer to all things” in inverted postures and she was going to ram it down our throats for our own good. I did not go back to that class. Even now, several years later, my cheeks get hot just thinking about it! After that last class, I have never tried another yoga class with any instructor at any facility. I could use the exercise, but I choose not to put myself in a position of being injured or humiliated to serve someone else’s needs.” 

 

Principle #6: Seek permission before giving advice. 

In the mid-nineties, I worked for a franchise of personal development guru Tony Robbins.

And one day, my colleague Kevin and I were talking about how some of the graduates of the programs were getting under our skin by constantly going into coaching mode whenever we’d see them. “What’s been the BEST part of your day?” or “What did you learn from that?” when we were just not in the mood. Finally something clicked for Kevin, “Are you talking about George?” “Yes!” I said with a huge sigh of relief. It turned out that ‘some graduates’ was really, for both of us, one person. We looked at why it bothered us so much and we realized that it came down to a lack of permission. We had never asked for his coaching but he kept on giving it. In his mind, I am sure, he imagined he was having a beautiful impact on people by asking them such empowering and uplifting questions. But, in reality, people were feeling annoyed with him.

So, we came up with something we called the ‘G Rule’. If either of us felt like the other was getting into the other’s business, all they had to do was say the words “G Rule” and the other person had to completely drop it. Occasion only ever came for it to be used a few times each but it was the best feeling on both sides when it got used.

Kevin would be sharing something he was struggling with and I’d start giving advice or trying to coach with, “Well, I think the way you need to look at this is . . .” and he’d say, “G Rule” and I’d shut my mouth and lift up my hands. 

Seth Godin popularized the notion of ‘permission marketing’ in his book of the same title. He noticed that, with so much marketing noise out there, that people only paid attention to the people they’d given permission to be marketed to from. He pointed out that the day of just adding people to your email list without getting their permission first, were over. The idea of ‘enter your name and email for a draw’ as a ploy to get your email were becoming less and less tolerated.

No one liked getting junk mail. No one likes getting SPAM. But what is it that defines one kind of marketing as junk mail and while another is welcomed? Permission. 

Unasked for advice is the SPAM of personal relationships and it’s not just your email inbox that has filters for it.

The art of building trust and getting people to give you permission to be added to your list is one of the most important ones you can develop. You can learn some of my thoughts on that here.

Years ago, while living in Scotland and attending the Gaelic College there, I met a woman we’ll call Rita. I’ve never met anyone who was in other people’s business more than her. Or who shared her advice so incredibly freely. Over the course of knowing her, I heard her tell a 75 year old traditional story teller that he should have married a different woman because she was vegan, that I needed to spend time with her hogs because they were grounding and I needed grounding energy, that I should ask for a job from a local banker and that I should swim naked in the waters of Skye because my aura needed freshening. And that’s off the top of my head. I have truly never come to hate someone so much. She never asked for permission because, in her mind, she didn’t need it. She was sharing the truth that I needed to hear. Shortly after I left her presence, it occurred to me that she may have needed me to do those things but she didn’t. 

But here’s the terrible part. I actually wanted to go swimming in the waters on Skye but when I went with the old story teller and her, I couldn’t do it because it felt like I would be letting her win. I would have been cow-towing to her. And I couldn’t let her have that satisfaction. Even though I really wanted to. If I could do it over again, I would have just gone swimming.

One more time: If you push people, they will push back to preserve their own autonomy – even if it means doing something that might hurt them. 

Here’s a flip side of that though. In my experience, if you are really present for someone and they get that you ‘get it’ and aren’t trying to change them or get them to do anything . . . they will often ask you for advice. They’ll seek out your guidance. “What do you think I should do?” they’ll ask. 

Imagine the above facebook conversation with my friend done again, but this time with a focus on her empathizing with me and trying to ‘get’ my experience instead of just giving me advice. And again, imagine you were me, meeting her at a party and consider how incredibly different this would feel to receive.

Me: genuinely thought i would die most days

Her: Wow. What a timeless hell. 

Me: It really was. 

Her: You must have felt so scared. And you were alone in a foreign country. How was that for you?

Me: I felt so lonely and scared. It really brought up all of my fears about death. Maybe I just vanish. And that’s it. That was so terrifying to me. You hear about people dying peacefully but there was no peace in me at all, just pure terror. I kept clutching my friend’s hand saying, “I don’t want to die.” I recorded messages to people on my iPhone. I wrote farewell notes to people in a notebook my friend had bought me.

Her: Wow. You really weren’t sure you were going to make it home. 

Me: Not at all. I was so scared I wouldn’t. 

Her: Where has it left you? Where are you now with it all now that you’re home? I could imagine it’s left you really shaken up. 

Me: So shaken up. Traumatized. I never really got how brutal trauma could be. I’ve got a lot of anxiety and the occasional, full blown anxiety attack – though not as often. I can’t deal with big crowds of people for long anymore. Can’t imagine going to a big bar with loud noises – would feel so overwhelming. I’m so emotionally raw. I’ve got so little emotional buffer. 

Her: It must be scary to feel so scared all the time and . . . I’m guessing it’s taking a lot of adjusting to and I could imagine myself just wanting it to go away so I could have some more ease in my life. 

Me: Totally. And . . . it also feels like a really important moment in my life. Like an initiation of some kind. Like it was meant to happen. Like it’s shifted me out of one phases of my life and into another. At one level it’s so brutal and terrible. On another level, it feels like a doorway opening to some profound growth in my life. So . . . in some ways I’m so grateful for the whole thing. I know it will be rough and it’s shaken me up but . . . the shaking up isn’t totally a bad thing – even though it’s so uncomfortable. 

Her: Hmm. I really get that. So it’s like you know it was one of those ‘big moments’ in your life and it really hurt and scared you but you also know that it’s got a lot of gifts for you too.

Me: Yeah. I’m sure of it. So many gifts. It feels a bit disorienting. I really don’t totally know who this ‘new me’ is. It’s like on Doctor Who when the Doctor regenerates and is played by a different actor and he needs to get to know who he is in his new body. It’s a bit like that. 

Her: I imagine that could feel a bit overwhelming and confusing. I know how it was for me when I went through some near death moments in my life. So disorienting and unsettling.

Me: I’d love to hear about your experiences and any wisdom you’ve got on going through something like this. I never have before. 

If the conversation had gone something like that, I would have likely asked her for her thoughts. She wouldn’t have even needed to ask for permission. If I hadn’t and she felt really called to share something, she could say. “You know, something is coming up for me to share really strongly around your healing process. Is this a good time to share it? No pressure at all. I know sometimes I’ve got enough going on inside that I don’t need anymore information.” Asking permission is a deep sign of respect and affirmation of the other person’s sovereignty and ability to choose what’s best for them. In the original conversation, what was missing for me, was any trust in me and my ability to navigate the process on my own. 

 

 

Some more real world examples of this from my clients:

“1. My worst experience with an energy practitioner. Prior to starting the she session scanned my body with her hand and proceeded to tell me everything that was going on…this is going on here, you’re…here, and oh there’s your grief etc. etc. It felt disrespectful. The energy behind it was as if she was ‘showing me’ how skilled she was with her intuition. Which was more about her than myself, the client. I have experienced practitioners who are not sensitive in how they share information and I don’t recall being asked if I wanted to hear their perceptions. I often do want to hear but I can think of practitioners I have been to where that was not what I was going to them for but the information was offered anyways. 

“I went to see an SI practitioner and it was wonderful how he told me when he noticed things free up as he worked. In fact, before he began, he had asked me if I wanted him to describe what he was doing as he worked or if I just wanted him to work in silence. He made sure I was warm and comfortable, and he was very gentle and confident in how he worked with touch.” 

“I have been to several practitioners who have helped me change my life. The characteristics they have in common are: 1. They are heart open people who share rather than shove what they have to say. 2. If they have any questions about me being blind, they’ve just come out and asked them instead of trying to pretend they know everything. 3. They have accepted my feedback, particularly regarding my pain level. Rather than telling me: “no pain, no gain baby” they have been responsive, backed off the intensity, and let me relax into a deeper space and then maybe I could accept more intense work.” 

 

Principle #7: Empathy is a Skill To Develop. 

But where do you start?

In addition to the thoughts and examples above, here are some practical practices and ideas of how you can weave more empathy into your business interactions.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #1: Study empathy.

Buy and read Non Violent Communication and any of the subsequent books in the same genre. You can find a lot here

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #2: Make your business more welcoming. 

Remember what it was like when you were in there shoes. Remember how scary it felt. Maybe you felt ashamed of the problem. If you have never been in the situation your clients are facing, see if you can find something similar in your life. Ask your clients what it’s like for them and really listen. And then ask yourself how everything in your business could meet them better in that place. What would you want if you were them. I’m talking from your website, to how you begin your workshops, to your office space, to how you run your first meetings. There’s no cookie cutter approach that will work but, once you really connect with what it’s like to be them, you’ll know. I wrote about this in my blog post called The Three Foundations of a Thriving Business – the part to read is part two about what I call The Container. The Container are all of the elements of your business that show up when they show up. The container are all the things that allow them to check you out at a distance before they commit to buying anything. The safer they feel in approaching and exploring you, the more business you will do.

I once ran a business called The School Revolution that did workshops with high schools around school spirit. And, by the time I was leading the workshops, I’d lost touch with what it was like to be in high school. It took me reading the feedback forms and really paying attention to get it that, when they showed up for the workshop, they were scared. That had never occurred to me. Why were they scared? Because they’re teenagers in a new experience, surrounded by new people and scared they were being judged and having no idea what was coming. But a consistent piece of feedback we got was that, when a staff member would give them a big smile first thing in the morning as they arrived, they would relax and know they were in good hands. So, when we had our early morning meetings before the events, I’d remind the staff of the importance of smiling and greeting people warmly. It seems so obvious. But, until it was lifted up, it was being done consistently. The difference it made in the workshop was noticeable. Students began the day way more relaxed and open than they had been. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #3: Acknowledge them.

Acknowledge them not for getting things right or being perfect. Acknowledge them for how hard and painful it feels for them to be going through their situation. Honour that. Respect that. Acknowledge them for the effort they’ve put into solving the issue already (it’s probably more than you think). Acknowledge them for what they’ve already learned, without your help, along the way. It’s likely vast and impressive. Of course, to acknowledge these things, you may need to dig a bit to discover them. If you do, they will feel so seen and gotten.

Meet people where they are vs. immediately pushing your point of view and telling them where they need to be. Affirm that who they are and what they have right now is enough. You can read this blog post about that.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #4: Slow down on giving advice.

When people are desperate and in pain they might ask you for advice and ‘what to do’ and want answers fast. Resist the urge to do that. You likely only have a very surface level understanding of their issues. Slow down. Slow them down. Invite a pause. I’ll often say, “I have some thoughts, but, before we go there, I want to make sure I’m really understanding what you’re saying and where you’re at . . .” It’s hard to do overkill on this. Most of us want to rush ahead into solving their problem so that we can relieve ourselves from the anxiety of seeing them suffer, feel important, feel useful . . . but that’s all about us. Much more useful to them is to feel empathized with and for you to know you’ve got a really accurate diagnosis of what is actually happening with them. I’m not saying don’t give advice. I’m saying that what you think is really, really stretching out the diagnosis period into a painfully protracted process is likely still faster than it could be.

In 2012, I wrote a post called Slow Marketing where I lifted up the possibility that marketing might actually work better and move faster if we slowed it down. 

A simple question you can ask whenever you meet someone in pain that can stop you from leaping into saving them: “How is that for you?” Ask and mean it. Ask and be quiet. Let them talk. 

My dear friend and colleague Jennifer Summerfeldt said it so beautifully, “slowing down the conversation, one slows down the need for anything to change or be resolved. In healing work this is critical. Too often we rush to reduce the pain, suffering, or wound. We rush with our words and our advice. Unless the person is in danger of being harmed further or is in need of medical attention ASAP we have TIME! So much time actually. these quick remarks many of us are guilty of saying, or have been on the receiving end, come from a place of fear and impatience. Many of us are terrified to sit in the discomfort. we are programmed to ‘take away the pain as fast as we can so we can resume to happy land’. We are not taught to accept and have space for ‘real land’. We don’t want to sit in our own discomforts. nor the discomforts of the other. nor the discomforts of life. we want band-aids, and someone to kiss our wound and send us off feeling better. Maybe just maybe, the mere act of allowing space and time for the experience to sink in, for the tears to fall, and for there to be no need to lessen the discomfort  will in fact be all that is needed for healing to take place.”

Clarity before resolution. Empathy before education. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. These all require us to slow everything down.

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #5: Practice restating what you hear them say.

This is Active Listening 101. It would seem so easy, but, in my experience, this is actually incredibly hard for most people to do well.

Restate what you heard them say in your own words and ask them if you ‘got it’.  Don’t assume you get it. Don’t assume. In fact, assume that you do not get it. Coming in from a place of humility is much more attractive than a place of the arrogance of interrupting them part way through explaining their situation with a dismissive wave so you can begin your brilliant treatment. This build on the idea of slowing it down. Don’t move forward until you can restate their position better than they can themselves – until you can see them relax in knowing you get it. Question everything you’re assuming about their situation. Really make sure you get it. You will be shocked with how often you’re wrong. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #6: Write out the typical story of an ideal client. 

This exercise is incredibly useful. Try to write out the generic story of your potential clients so that, when they read it they say, “Wow. That is so my story. Were you spying on me?” I did this for holistic practitioners in a blog post called “The Story of Jane the Holistic Practitioner in Seven Chapters” and, whenever holistic practitioners read it, they say it is is eerie how accurate it is. But again, don’t assume you’ve got it. Run it by people. See what’s missing. Get them to help you understand what it’s been like to be them before they came to see you. 

PRACTICAL PRACTICE #7: Get empathy.

This might be the most important idea.

Giving empathy is impossible until you’ve received it yourself. If there’s an area of your life where you feel no one understands you, find someone or a group that will. Maybe it’s a close friend you know who will just listen and care. Maybe it’s a colleague, a therapist, a men’s group. Maybe it comes in reading poetry or literature that affirms your feelings and needs. But get it. The more you receive it, the more effortless it is to give. I’ve had such incredible support and examples of empathy in my life. 

As Gabor Mate points out so lucidly and beautifully in his TED talk in Rio, most of us didn’t receive the kind of empathy we needed as a child. And so we need to get it as adults. And, often in the process of healing, we become the adults whose support we were needing when we were younger. Until we do we will often vacillate between self pity (collapsing) and self important (posturing) and never really feel comfortable in our own skin (composure).

It is both the thing that opens the door to healing and the healing itself. Most of us have spent a lifetime having others try to change us into something that is more pleasing to them (or being rejected because we didn’t fit the mould). Parents, siblings, teachers, classmates, friends, bosses, co-workers, romantic partners . . . And is there any bigger gift we can give someone than to say, “I get it. And you’re fine just the way you are.”? As Ani Difranco said, “More joy, less shame.” The gift of empathy not only makes us better people, it helps people know that they aren’t crazy and that they aren’t alone. Empathy transforms people. Try to change people and they will resist and try to hold onto who they are (even if it hurts them).

In the end, we can never really know what goes on in the hearts of others. Not really. So, at some level, empathy is just us trying to imagine the unimaginable. But, one of the sweetest mysteries of life seems to be that, even though I can never know your experience, I can know my own. And, the more intimate I become with myself, the more intimate I become with everyone. Because we’re all the same deep down. We all have the same feelings and needs. The more I come to understand and love myself, the more I can love others. The more I pursue a path of wholeness (including all  the parts of me) vs. purity (cutting out anything that doesn’t belong) the more I can intuitively understand others. 

This piece hammers on marketing and its importance from a marketing perspective. And it’s true. It’s vital. From a potential or active customer’s stand point – they care about what’s in it for them and their experience. That’s hard medicine.

But . . . I sometimes find it so hard to empathize with others. I have uneasy moments with clients. I judge people. I get triggered a lot. I get tired and don’t show up as my best. I snap. And I regret those moments. Sometimes the one who needs the most empathy is us. 

Maybe this should have been the first practice because life is really hard some days. Some days I can barely take care of myself, let alone holding space for anyone else. 

I think that the most healing thing we can offer others is to meet them and love them where they are.

Meet people where they are and they become who they should be. 

In the end, on every side of the master, Alistair MacLeod said it best in his book No Great Mischief, “We’re all better when we’re loved.”

And the content of this post has been turned into a sweet info-graphic sketch by http://sketchingmaniacs.com/

 

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I would love to hear your thoughts, reflection and examples from your own life around this whole notion of empathy in marketing. You can leave them in the comments below. 

 

  

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?