Medaling in the “I’ve never done this before” jitters

Sometimes, when we’re doing something for the first time, we can stumble or falter just from the not-knowingness of it. Let’s talk about that.

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Looking for ways to breathe more life into your website/social media? Try these ten stories.

10 stories that you can easily share, in either juicy bite-sized portions or baked into blog posts or pages (can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?).

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If I had my way, everyone would have a coach. Here are mine.

If I had my way, I’d hire everybody their own coach. They can give such great perspective. But since I can’t, I’d like you to meet both of mine.

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A harvest of stories: The big guys do it well, because they know its power

A lot of storytelling happens in the commercial breaks between Super Bowl plays. Some of it is even good. What can we learn from what the ‘big guys’ are doing?

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In praise of reverse resolutions: Tracking back, not squinting forward

I’m just SO not a fan of the New Year’s resolution thing, and I know I’m not alone. Most of the people in my circle seem to be reinventing themselves in some way every month, even every week, and so it’s laughable when the rest of the world seizes on January 1 as THE day to change something up and try to stick with it for the rest of the year.

It’s a time of year when I don’t look ahead as much as I look back. I think of it as a “reverse resolution”—looking backward, not peering forward. And it’s not the oft-recommended lists of “all the things I accomplished and am proud of” I’m referring to (though that’s a great list to make). Instead, I’m interested in this scenario:

Thing 1:  What parts of life and business are going exactly right at the moment? What are the parts that are successful, helping me connect with good people, improving the health of my business, and making me feel alive?  What’s going well? First, I list those. Now, the fun part:

Thing 2: For every good thing, there was a time when this was not the case. For each thing on my list, I track back and follow the breadcrumb trail back to its origins: What small thing happened in the past—either with great intent or just out of the blue—that started me in the direction of this thing I’m now so proud of? It could be an event that only lasted a single second, or an hour, or a day. It could’ve been something ridiculous, or a complete accident! But whatever it was, somewhere there was a spark that led to another, to another, to another, and created this new happy outcome. I find it really helpful to catalog what those sparks were.

Why? If I know what they look like, I can optimize my chances of recognizing similar happy happenstances when I stumble across them in the future. So my “resolution” isn’t to promise myself something new that might be had; it’s to pay attention to each present moment for the spark it might already carry.

Here’s just a random example, one that doesn’t happen to be about business:

Spark: I was standing at our local library’s “What’s New” shelf and chose to pick up a book called The DNA Restart. It’s about the relationship between our own personal genome and the paths we all take to try to stay healthy. In particular, it talks about how all the food advice we get might be utterly useless because our individual genetic markers are all different. It’s not one-size-fits-all: Our bodies are individual, and actually need individualized strategies.

Time: 2 minutes to peruse, 1 minute to check the book out

Chain reaction: I ended up reading the book over coffee each morning for a week. (It’s super-interesting.)  It led to me dig up more about genetics and food.
…Which gave me a huge amount of self-knowledge about my own body’s possible genetic makeup and how it reacts to different things I put into it
…Which changed my diet
…Which finally gave me a clue about the connection between What/How I ate yesterday and Why I feel like a failure or can’t seem to get focused today, so I could do the right things instead
…Which made me so energized I started getting up earlier to write and daydream about good things to do
…Which turned me into a juggernaut of positivity, creative experimentation, and connection (which has been either beautiful or annoying to everyone in my tribe…)
…Which is good. And so it is.

Like that.

Some other sparks I tracked back to, and the chain reactions they created:

After the presidential election, I had an overwhelming, almost insane desire to write. I started a private blog with no readers and no fanfare on January 1, with the idea of writing every day (1 hour to set up). I put down all my fears and stressors and then could let it go for the day. I made the choice to stop that particular blog after a few months, but it morphed seamlessly into daily writing on topics that made my heart feel bigger. That is still my habit.

I dropped a shampoo bottle on my foot and suddenly, unreasonably, decided I hated plastic bottles. A lot. I went online and ordered a bar of shampoo instead (3 minutes). No waste, compostable paper wrapper and shipping box, nontoxic ingredients, and lasts as long as a bottle of hair washing chemicals. So there were (are) no more bottles in my shower. Which made me want to have fewer plastic containers everywhere else in my life. Which has — I would guess — saved me from exposure to a ton of carcinogens, in addition to feeling better about the waste stream from our household.

I had a migraine that lasted two days. In a moment of irritation, I decided to stop doing techie, left-brain work in the mornings (a split second to decide, then 10 minutes to re-shape my Google Calendar). Morning is the time when my right (intuitive/creative) brain is strongest. So I do creative work in the morning. Which made my migraine go away. Which means I’m able to more fluidly write and create nice new ideas for my circle of clients. Which has helped me magically attract more of the perfect clients. Which makes me extremely happy every day of my life.

I joined an online mastermind group for the first time in my life (1 hour to study and decide). Even as an introvert, it has provided me with a small, supportive community of super-smart, super-compassionate businesspeople to talk to. Which shows me it’s possible to bring your heart into your business and still be successful. Which gives me a lot of audacious hope that business will continue to shift that way, away from the impersonal and the deceptive.

And so forth.

It’s hard to trace things back to their original spark (if you’ve ever seen James Burke’s BBC series Connections you may find it easier to visualize). The easiest way for me to do this was to take a moment, breathe, and try to bring to mind one thing that’s a reality right now in my life that makes me happy, and that didn’t exist a year ago. And then start tracking backward, breadcrumb by breadcrumb. How did I end up with this good thing in my life…if I follow the thread back, where is the start of it? And is that something I can do again?

Anyway, it’s a lot more fulfilling than calculating how many calories I need to burn between now and December 31, 2018.

Happy new year,
Margaret

 

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X-Ray vision: Seeing through online marketing, making peace with it, and doing better

(groovy image by Golan Levin)

I’ve taken a few days off writing this month, and instead have been reading. A few years ago, writer/speaker/creative Charlie Gilkey wrote a blog post called “Create, Connect, and Consume: Balance Them To Get Your Best Work Done.” Well, I’ve been living in the “connect” and “consume” phases of that cycle for a few days, and I’m both a) glad I did, and b) glad to be back. Hi.

My more typical pattern is to spend a few minutes each day trying to ingest other peoples’ wisdom, usually right between checking in with my business circles, and feeding the dog his breakfast. It’s a hurry-up kind of thing, and in those eleven-and-a-half minutes I try to take notes, Boomerang some things back to myself later, and/or convince myself I’m for SURE going to remember what I read this time.

Spending more time reading has a strange effect on me, though, and it’s not always pleasant. In that strange method in which my memories have filed themselves, I keep thinking of a sci-fi film from the 60s called “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.” In it, Ray Milland plays a scientist who develops a technology that allows him to see through things. At first, it’s fascinating to him, then disturbing, then it drives him insane. Although I don’t plan on going crazy, I have started seeing through things to their core, and it’s a weird feeling.

I’ll explain: I was invited to a ‘free’ online summit this week, in which many luminaries in coaching and creativity would be giving webinars over the course of several months. There was a time when I would have seriously geeked out about this. But rather than just enjoying the thrill of finding it, I saw it for what it was: A learning experience, yes, but mostly it’s a structured opportunity for each of these speakers to build their subscriber lists, by offering their material in exchange for your email address.

Sifting through Facebook, I see why some very good-hearted people and pages ask, “What’s your favorite poet?” or even more directly, “In the comments, post a moving GIF to show me how you’re feeling this morning.” It isn’t that they really care that I love Rumi and I feel overcaffeinated. They know that engagement on Facebook—likes, comments, and shares, especially with pictures and video—gains them brownie points with the FB gods so their deliverability increases.

Even when people send me a contact request on LinkedIn, I find myself wondering whether it’s happened because they’re about to announce a new product or service, and want to widen their audience as much as possible first.

Before you think I’ve become a new age negative nancy, hold the bus. I do see through these things, but they don’t depress me. They just…are. This is how these particular people are choosing to build their businesses and make a living. It is their choice to market this way, and it doesn’t make them bad people. In fact, in many cases it means they are hoping/able to do more good things in the world. It’s okay. It’s a personal choice I have no right or desire to criticize. But there’s a “lost innocence” quality in it for me, now that I see motives rather than just enjoying it all.

On the upside, it makes me super-sensitive to the opposite of these tactics, which is authenticity.

Here’s an example of THAT: I subscribed to Louis Grenier’s mailing list the other day because I wanted the promised free download called “How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers.” The download was fine, but the emails I received made me smile. The first email was just a basic thank-you and download link. Great. But the second one said, “I’ve set this email up to be sent to you 2 days after the last one.” Sounds simple, right? But think about it: How many carefully-crafted automated emails have you received that tried so hard to masquerade as “It’s really me, writing just to you Mrs. Firstname! Please keep opening my emails…” I was surprised and happy with the transparency of “Hey, it’s not really me – but I thought this tool was the best way to get useful stuff to you, and so I’m showing you the innards of it.” The emails continued in that honest, open vibe.

And another: Writer/coach/creator Tad Hargrave has something called an “Are You Sure?” page that he sets up so it pops up AFTER someone clicks a Buy Now button, but BEFORE they pay for the item. It slows them down, explains the program they’re buying, distilling it down to a very clear, crisp description so they can be certain it’s going to be of value. Does that mean that some people might change their minds and not buy? Of course. But if you’re really interested in making sure that people who aren’t a fit for your programs never sign up for your programs—avoiding possible bad feelings for you and for them—it’s the ultimate in openness, bravery, and genius.

On the same day I re-noticed “Are You Sure?,” I saw that Mark Silver of Heart of Business was offering a free (with no signup!)  PDF book about ethical pricing in coaching, “Don’t Buy Now” that I found bracing and cool.  Judith Morgan, one of my favey-fave coaches for small businesses like ours, offers a PWYW (pay what you want) model. Authentic business coach George Kao offers a megaton of gorgeous free content on his website – it would take days to enjoy it all (ask me how I know…)

I mean, this kind of stuff is all around us. All over. Every day, people are coming over from business-as-usual to a place that is more ethical, more transparent, and more authentic. I’m overwhelmed sometimes with the sheer number of people crossing my path who are choosing to ditch the industry-standard sales pitch and come back to something real and human.

So I owe a debt of thanks to more mainstream marketers. Thanks for bringing honest marketing back into focus for me.

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Your three words: What’s the personality of your business?

I was doing some professional reading the other day, and in the middle of a blog post on productivity this phrase cropped up: “joyful and compassionate tenacity.”

Wow. Ever have one of those ears-perked-up moments? I grabbed up a marker and scribbled it on my dry-erase wall (these are among my favorite creativity toys)

It’s October, and traditionally—through some strange biochemical magic that comes with the change of seasons—it’s the month where I do my deepest thinking about my work, why I do it, and how to do it better. For more typical Octoberish thinking, see my post, Everyone Has a Story: Tell Yours, Ask Theirs, and Everything Changes.

I’ve been test-driving new productivity tools, new ways of structuring my work day, and even new eating schedules to maximize my energy at the right times of day. The world is full of experimentation and possibility in the autumn. I’m focused on learning and growing 24/7   (and that’s almost literal….I often fall asleep while listening to podcasts).

Part of this time has been spent re-shaping the story I want to tell with my business materials, in order to reach and be in conversation with more of the people who need me. And in that regard, the phrase that caught my ear couldn’t be more perfect. It does, after all, have three of my favorite words in it:

Joyful:
I decided a long time ago that my life wasn’t going to be a slog through an endless string of mediocre days. Doing good work, hooking up with others doing good work, and being of service in these weird times—this all puts the fire behind my eyes. So even in the times when I’m exhausted, or the nightly news crushes me like a bug, or things aren’t so picture-perfect in my life, the memory of that fiery joy keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.

Compassionate:
At the risk of stating the obvious, I care a lot about the people in my lives, both personal and professional. I want amazing, happiness-inducing things to happen to them, and for them, because they deserve it. My life is based on kindness and on creating more and more ways to help people know that I see them, I hear them, and I have their back.

Tenacity:
When I was in my 20s, I was about as tenacious as a strand of overcooked linguine. As a self-employed person, though, I had no choice but to start exercising my atrophied tenacity muscle. It was a trudge for a while. I strengthened it bit by bit, resisting the temptation to let a momentary failure, a rough day, or an unexpected obstacle send me to bed early with a steaming mug of self-pity. (By the way, one of the usage examples for ‘tenacity’ in an online dictionary made me laugh out loud: “the sheer tenacity of the limpet.” I’ve never pictured myself as having the willpower of a crustacean…)

Putting them all together in my mind’s eye, I see most of the clients I’ve ever worked with: They believe in what they do, and so they do it with joy. They care deeply about their work and also care about who they do it for. They’ve experienced all the usual bumps and bruises of starting a small business or a nonprofit, but they slap on a bandage and keep on going, because what they do matters so much.

This isn’t just me playing with words (again).  It’s me exploring the story of my own business – the story of why I do what I do.

Are you joyful, compassionate, and tenacious in your work too?
Or are you focused, inquisitive, and creative?
Kind, firm, and solutions-oriented?
Loving, fierce and outgoing?
The words with which you resonate often form the backbone of your story, and the ability to tell your story is one of the most important tools you own.

Want to explore the story of your business, or what you’d like it to be? Drop me a note and let’s talk.

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Ditching the pitch, part deux

About a year ago, I published the blog post below.  It was a post I was afraid to write, but to my delight it generated a tremendous number of emails from people saying, essential, “I know, RIGHT?  Oh my gosh, is that the only way I can get my message across??” It stimulated lots of delicious conversations about how to create marketing materials with integrity and with kindness.

I was reminded of it the other day when this happened:

I was online, shopping for a window blind to replace the one that had just given up the ghost. At a particular site I sifted through a few options, was pondering a purchase, and suddenly a popup window completely obscured my view of the page.  It said, almost verbatim, “Join the xxxx mailing list and be the first to learn about our daily deals and special offers!”  So far so good, right?  Not being interested at the moment (hello, I’m shopping) I searched in vain for the little “X” to close the popup.  I learned that the only way to close the subscribe window was with a teensy, barely visible textual link that said, “No thanks, I hate saving money.”

Deep breath.  Count to ten.

Who would actually pay money for the privilege of being talked down to, belittled? Apparently someone is, because they’re still in business. Needless to say, they’ve lost my dollars. (And yes, I wrote to them and told them why.)

If you missed this the first time around, I’d love to know what you think.  Take care.

 


“Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZThe Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door.”
http://www.jacmcneil.com/2016/08/30/an-open-letter-to-anyone-running-virtual-summits/

Okay. Picture this:

You’ve just received two emails, each promoting an upcoming workshop. Both sound super-useful. You believe that either one might truly help you ratchet your business or organization up to a better place. You’re thrilled you have the time to attend, but there’s a catch: you can only afford one of them.

One of the workshop promoters ends her email with,

“You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to invest in yourself and your amazing business! We won’t offer this again until 2022! We’ll see you there on March 7th!”

The other promoter says,

“We’d love to help you craft a business that supports you and your clients. Does this workshop sound like something you’ve been looking for? If so, we hope you’ll sign up for our next session on March 7th.”

Which do you respond to – which makes you feel like hitting the signup button? Which feels better in your gut?

This isn’t a trick question, and there’s no correct answer. But how my differing clients have responded has provided some food for thought for me this week.

The integrity thing.

I’m into integrity. It’s been one of my favorite words since I was an impressionable kid, and heard it on TV. (Yes, I was that geeky kid who had her own dictionary at 6.)

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
    synonyms: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, e.g. “no one doubted her integrity”
  1. the state of being whole and undivided;
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity, e.g. “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
  1. the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
    synonyms: soundness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness, e.g. “the structural integrity of the aircraft”

Honest. Whole and undivided. Sturdy and strong.

Was that a groovy word to fall in love with, or what?

Fast forward to 1997, when I started daydreaming about a business of my own. I wasn’t sure about the details yet, but I knew I wanted to make something that was breathtakingly honorable, that let me be in tight solidarity with clients, and that was sturdy and stable enough to support me financially.

So here’s what that idealism evolved into: I get to know other businesspeople. I’m honest, whole-hearted, and strong with them and for them. I’m a careful observer of what they need in order to be happy, or happier. I have products and services that might help many of them. I try to articulate those clearly, and then provide paths for the right people to work with me. It’s good, meaningful work that makes me feel good about myself.

Yet increasingly, all around me, I see marketers taking a different tack. And not just taking it themselves, but recommending it to thousands of people as the golden ticket to success.

Is this the only way to succeed?

In a recent newsletter from author John Parkin, he pondered statements like the marketingspeak I began this post with. “We’ll see you there,” “Thank you for your patience,” and “Thanks in advance for signing up” are everyday examples. He saw this use of language as manipulation, and wondered why people couldn’t simply speak more honestly and directly.

I nodded all the way through that newsletter. True, there are folks making a bajillion dollars on products and services with this sort of manipulation. You’ll know them from the 72-point headers shouting at you about what you can’t afford to miss out on. They kindly offer reminders that there won’t be another chance to (insert action), and won’t you be sorry? They sneak in subtle or not-so-subtle rebukes of those who won’t “invest in themselves.”

We all know this type. They’re everywhere. Because it works.

It works because there are human beings out there who see nothing wrong with being spoken to in this way. We are so inured to media manipulation that it may not even register as such. It’s just business, right?

But for me, and for most people in my circles, it’s not.

Ten times out of ten, I prefer consuming goods and services from people who see me as an individual, a unique person worthy of respect, capable of making my own decisions. And pushy salespeople—no matter how famous they are, how many books sold, how many followers, how many “Likes”—are, for me, the face of disrespect.

How many of us have been badgered to sign up for a marketer’s mailing list, only to have them flood our email box with aggressive, loud, bouncy sales pitches daily . . . even several times daily. It’s as though you’re trapped in email hell with a Chatty Cathy saleperson who loves the sound of her own voice, or are stuck standing next to a carnival barker. Let me tell you about this amazing thing!  Can you believe some people would pass this by?  You know you need it/want it/deserve it!  

In the most insidious cases marketers even use their mailing list manager’s tools to track your opens, responses and clicks, so they can—automatically—get up in your grill with nag emails: “We noticed you haven’t signed up for X yet and we’re curious why not…”

For me, it doesn’t get much more obnoxious than that.

Even a marketer’s repeated use of quasi-friendly statements like “Can’t wait to see you there!” (um, no, you might not), “Don’t wait—sign up now!” (can I finish my lunch first?), and “Thanks in advance for joining us!” (seriously?) can push me away from a perfectly good offering.

Why? Because I know these folks don’t see me. They see a prospect, with a pulse and a wallet. They see their almighty List growing by one. They see their PayPal account saying cha-ching as many times as possible in a day, starting with me. They’re on the third jab and they’re looking to land the right hook.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. But it also doesn’t get my money. It’s business, yes. It’s just one of the faces of business that I don’t feel obliged to support.

Food for thought

  • When you’re out there seeking supporters, buyers, clients, and customers for your business, do you use scarcity or manipulation to “seal the deal?”
  • Do you believe in a vigorously persuasive approach, using language to herd audience members into your solution rather than a competitor’s?
  • Are you tempted to point out the repercussions if they don’t choose to purchase?
  • Is the local online marketing guru trying to convince you that the hard sell is the ONLY way to “not leave money on the table”?

Here’s my two cents: I would offer that marketing yourself with complete integrity—and without manipulation—is a standout skillset that’s beneficial across the board, from attracting the kinds of clients you love working with, to seeing a healthy bottom line.

Your potential clients are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, sometimes stressed-out individuals. The carnival barkers are everywhere, so in this noisy world it can be integrity that stands out as courageous, comforting, and convincing.

In an upcoming post, I’ll give some examples of marketers that operate 100% from a place of compassion, interest, and honesty, and who are wildly successful doing it.

Thanks for listening, and remember to be “honest, whole-hearted, and sturdy.”

 

 

We love to help our clients and friends “do well by doing good.”  For more ideas and support (always without the icky sales pitch, pinky swear) leave us a comment below, drop us an email, or join our newsletter list here: http://bit.ly/2vHEELy

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