Is it time to write your book?

When I was in the throes of publishing my book Storytelling for Small Business last year, I was fortunate enough to meet talented author/coach and now friend & colleague Rochelle Melander, the Write Now! Coach. So many of you have told me in the past few months that you’d like to publish a book too, I thought an introduction was in order. So everyone, meet Rochelle. Rochelle, meet everyone. Enjoy.   —M.

 

Some people say that a book is the new business card, but the benefits extend beyond sharing your brand. Once that book is out in the world, it can benefit your business in myriad ways.

No matter what type of a business you own, a book will help you:

  1. Increase your credibility
  2. Teach potential clients about you and your work
  3. Build trust with your audience
  4. Educate and inspire your readers
  5. Attract new clients
  6. Increase brand loyalty
  7. Build buzz for you and your business
  8. Access influential leaders
  9. Capture media attention
  10. Earn more money

Woot! That’s great news for business owners. But before you set aside precious time to write and publish your book, it’s important to consider whether now is the right time to write a book. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few signs that help people recognize when they’re ready to write a book. Here they are:

You have something to say.

You have a unique process or approach to your work—and you are excited to share it with others. Perhaps you write blog posts or articles. But you’d like to explore this idea in more detail—and the blog posts are just not long enough for you to say what you need to say. A book can help you do that. When you write a book, you can shape your ideas, dig into a topic in detail, and share what you know with your readers.

You have an audience eager to read more.

Perhaps you blog, teach classes, or work with clients. Your readers and clients regularly ask you for more information. They’re excited by your ideas and long to hear more. Or they love your process and want to be able to do it at home on their own. If you have people who want to hear more from you, a book offers you the opportunity to share your story or process with them.

You have more clients than you have time.

Perhaps you can no longer help everyone who comes to you. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with offering classes or group coaching, you still have more people who need your support. A book could be the answer to this problem. A book can teach the foundational elements of your work or guide the reader through a basic process that you no longer teach. For example, a career coach who no longer writes resumes might design a book that helps the reader create one.

Your message is timely.

Maybe you have a story or a process that fits well with the struggles that people are facing right now. Or perhaps your book is tied to a current event, like an election or the anniversary of a big historical event (this January we celebrated the 100th anniversary of prohibition). Or maybe you have a conference or retreat coming up, and you’d like to have a way to share your ideas with as many people as possible. All of these are good reasons to take that book off your someday list and start writing.

You feel called to write a book.

This sense of being called to write a book shows up in different ways. Maybe you wake up earlier than usual and know you need to use the time to create something valuable. Or you react strongly to someone else’s success, feeling jealous of them or frustrated with yourself. Or you get teary when you attend a book signing or a play, knowing that you are called to create something, too. However the calling shows up, pay attention: these are signs that the time to work on your book is now.

How to move forward

If you read the reasons above and found yourself shaking your head, “Yes!,” then it might be time to write your book. But how do you move forward? It’s often as simple as setting the intention to write your book by a specific date and then taking time to create it. Of course, there are things figure out along the way: what kind of book do you want to write? How do you get your ideas on paper? And what’s the best way to publish a book?

When it comes to doing something new—like writing a book—many of us experience challenges: we feel afraid, we don’t know how to do the next thing, or we get overwhelmed.

But the antidote to fear is simple: start. Here are three small steps you can take to start writing your book:

Choose your topic. My guess? When you read the reasons above, your ideal topic popped into your head. If not, take a look at your work and choose your topic from one of the following:

+Ideas or content that excites or engages your reader

+Frequently asked questions

+Information about your topic that you wish everyone knew.

Make a list. Once you have a topic, make a list of everything you’d like to cover in the book. If you have an idea about how you want to write about the topic—as essays, questions, or short anecdotes—make a note of that, too.

Write. Set aside time in your schedule to write. I find it’s helpful to tie your writing to something else you do every day, like your morning cup of coffee. Next time you pour that cup, bring your laptop or notebook with you—and write. Even if you write just 100 words a day, those words will add up over time.

If writing a book is something you’d like to do, then go for it. And if you need help, and would like to talk about your project and how I can help, schedule a free consultation.


 

Rochelle Melander, WriteNowCoach.comWrite Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) and the forthcoming book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.

 

Keeping your website from getting lost in the crowd, Chapter 2

Yesterday I wrote about the folks in my tribe who claim they don’t have a story to tell, and thus miss out on a key way to stand out in the minds of the people they most want to reach.

Because I know that 99.9% of you are the type who can better visualize things by seeing examples, I wanted to offer you this jumpstart, which takes you to some unfamiliar and unorthodox places to look for your story. I don’t expect they will all be appropriate for everyone; my hope is that they will warm up the Play-Doh of your mind, make it malleable and flexible, so other stories will come to you more easily.

I also offer a bite-sized coaching session on storytelling for your existing website if you think you’d like a sherpa to help you get started. No pressure though—you’ve got this!

Pick any one of the following, and tell us that story. Be open to others that pop into your mind; I call these “opportunistic stories,” the ones that bubble to the surface when you’re working with memories.

The spark of your work: When I was a kid, I had a pattern that played out repeatedly. I wanted to be good at something, and wanted to be needed for it. So I ended up helping my friends with their math, or helping them train their dog, or showing them how to grow plants. I was shy about it, and they usually had to ask more than once, but it was always there. From those memories, I can see the spark that eventually lit the flame of my work. I wanted to help, and be respected for helping. Can you see any sparks from your earlier years that might have given you a clue about the work you’d one day do?

The first person you can remember helping: A friend tells a story about her 20’s, when she’d somehow found the right things to say, and in the right ways, to a girlfriend in trouble. The words took root and gave this girl the courage to leave an abusive relationship and steer into a life in which she navigated solely by her inner voice. I find that most people in helping professions or heart-based businesses have such a story if they find some quiet and look for it. What might yours be?

The first person who helped you (or the one who’s helped you the most) and how. These kinds of stories can be so energizing and powerful. They don’t have to be a coach or mentor or even a teacher. In one of my favorite books, Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, she shares a story told to her by an acquaintance. When this woman was a child, her father had taken her to his office one day. His secretary had come out and crouched down to her level to speak to her, looking straight into her eyes. The woman said that no one in her dysfunctional family had ever done this. She felt as though she was being seen for the very first time; she felt as though she mattered, and it changed her right then and there. Who played a role in helping you become the person you are today, or helping you do the work you do today?

How did you learn what you know? Pick one skillset or mindset tool you’re proud of, or pleased to have. Follow the thread back in time to where you learned it. Tell us how you walked—or fell—into it. Tell us why it felt important to do, and how it serves you (and the people you help) now.

The “future me, future them” story: With your work, you’re taking two existing stories—yours and your client’s—and twining them together to create something better. For example, it might be a story from a coaching client who’s always carried guilt or fear, but you’re helping them into a new story where those things no longer block the way. It might be a story about finding ways to create your art as a living, right where it meets someone whose day is lit up by hearing or seeing what you’re creating. Their story is better and so is yours.

What stood in your way? All self-employed people or business owners have had obstacles, ranging from inhibiting fears we’ve had to overcome, all the way up to ugly events that made us want to drink warm vodka right out of a shoe at the end of the day. Perseverance stories show your readers/clients what’s important to you, and by association imply that you will also persevere for them.

The magic-wand skill: What’s something that, if your fairy godmother popped you on the head with a sequined star and granted you a wish, you’d love to know or to be? So many of us think that we have to portray ourselves as completely bulletproof and all-knowing in our business communications. But really, you can be human, and it makes you far more memorable. The first time I admitted publicly that I wished I could write a book but didn’t know how, I was surrounded by people offering support, skills, and encouragement—many of them perfect strangers. What’s a skill or shift in perception you would love to have, and which would make you more of an ally to the people you want to serve?

Are you sure your story’s true? (I thank Byron Katie for this one.) Tell us about a story you tell yourself. This one can be a story you’ve lugged around for a long time, but that—on examination—you can’t be sure is 100% true. Example: For many years I avoided teaching because I just knew I was too shy, and that I’d stumble and stammer and make a complete fool of myself. What I found instead was that, while I am an introvert, I am not shy, especially when it comes to teaching people something I’m passionate about. What do you “know” about yourself that might not be so?

A Big Shift story: When it comes to our work with people, over time we start to get a feel for how interactions are going to go, how people will react to us, and so forth. Every once in awhile, I have an experience that knocks me off my axis and forces me to rethink my well-worn path. These can range from a positive event coming from an unexpected angle (such as a client recently commenting she likes being around my energy) to a very NOT positive event (such as public criticism or social media grumps). Have there been any experiences recently that—welcome or not—led to a productive shift in how you work or with whom?

A vulnerability story: Don’t be super(wo)man. We all have less-than-stellar days in our work lives. Something said or done by a person zings right into a place where we feel we’re less-than, we didn’t react “correctly,” or we’re just missing the mark. Dare to be vulnerable and show/tell your readers what part of yourself you’re working on. There’s tremendous power in this kind of empathetic resonance, and they may feel much more comfortable stepping into a conversation with you.

What’s a story your clients or wish-they-were-clients are telling often? Remember from yesterday’s post when I said I hear people say, “I don’t have a story to tell” all the time? If you start listening with your ear tuned for these kinds of things—in conversation, in consultations/sessions, in workshop comments, on social media—you will start to see common threads. Capture those stories. See where those threads match the things you can offer to help, and use them to weave useful blog posts, articles, and even product offerings.

Share a teaching story about doing things better. I wrote a blog post a few days ago about my struggle to stay in a calm, centered, productive “state of being” by using a traffic light metaphor. I loved the personal responses I received. Many business gurus would’ve advised me to keep up the ruse that I’m always in total control and life’s always perfect, 24/7. Nothing to see here, people! (smile) But those kinds of stories create more self-awareness and self-compassion in the world. If there is something you are doing to make yourself better, stronger, happier, tell us that story. We are all human. You may be surprised at how people resonate with you.

You’re in this world, so you have stories.
Sharing them can help “your people” find, know, like, and trust you.
I hope you will.

Keeping your website from getting lost in the crowd, Chapter 1

This past week, I had a conversation with a man who is struggling to build a business around his coaching work. Now, this is a guy who has a heart the size of Jupiter, as well as great skills and a keen intuition. He’s doing fine but is still working on how to make his work stand out in a field that has—to put this gently—a great deal of competition.

I spoke to him about bringing out more storytelling (as I often do). In a situation like his, it’s naturally important to have a good and clear offering. But it’s also important to help people remember you, and to humanize yourself so people feel comfortable giving your services a try. And in terms of helping YOU be the one who stands out when a potential client is looking for the right fit for themselves, a story is going to take you much further than an alphabet soup of credentials or some massive photos of you staring out at them from every page.

He said something that I hear several times every week: “But I don’t have a story. I wouldn’t even know what to say.”

(Note to all of us: When you hear something that often from people, pay attention. That’s an elbow in the ribs from the universe. Dig into it and explore.)

I hear from people who claim they don’t have any stories to tell about their business, their work, or themselves. In response, I often borrow this response from Lauren Lee Anderson of the branding agency Moonshot: “Just because you aren’t actively telling your story doesn’t mean you don’t have one. If you’re in the world, the world has a story about you.”

Think about the second half of that quote: Imagine there’s an omniscient being, one with really nice penmanship, that’s been tracking your path from birth to where you stand right now with your vocation. Not just the mechanics of it (acquiring skills, deciding on a domain name, etc.) but your inner path as well. She’s got a thick volume—the story of You—documenting the choice points that brought you here: the fears, the excitement, the vision of what your life would be life, the stumbles, the getting-back-ups, and a thousand other things.

Now consider the ridiculous opposite: We did not just appear in our office chair one morning through spontaneous generation, fully formed, complete with the vision, skillset and mindset we needed for our work. Right?

The world has a story about you. That story is in your head and your heart, and bringing it out can help you to connect with more people and grow your work.

Some thought-joggers for those who don’t think they have a story:

  • There’s a story behind why you do what you do. Of the thousands of vocations (or art forms, or services, or products) you could’ve chosen, you clicked into this one at some point, with a sound like placing a jigsaw puzzle piece. How? Why?
  • There’s a story behind how you obtained the skills to do what you do, likely peppered with stops and starts, fears and triumphs over fear, self-doubt, and celebrations.
  • There’s a story behind why you gravitate to certain people as customers and clients and mentors and partners, and not others. Your worldview matters.
  • There’s a story behind why you’re working for yourself (or want to) and not on an assembly line churning out endless widgets or memos or someone else’s dreams.
  • …and so much more.

That’s just a brief topline. Tomorrow I’ll share a list of specific ideas that you might want to explore for yourself. Once you gather these bits of story, you can incorporate into all the ways and spaces in which you tell people about what you do. See you then.

Love your clients fiercely, and the rest will follow.

I work with a lot of people who are in love with what they create and offer the world. That’s a lovely thing indeed. When we love something we’ve made, it shows. We craft it, shape it, smooth it, make it beautiful and useful and easy to want.

One particular client comes to mind, from a few years ago. She’d just become an LCSW, and had a vision of working with people recovering from trauma. She planned the perfect office from which to offer her counseling and coaching. She mapped out the location, the colors, the perfectly soothing art, the soft and comforting furniture. She designed programs on paper that perfectly articulated her beliefs and knowledge around how individuals could get their lives back after traumatic incidents.

And then, nothing happened for two years.

She worked in the public sector for a while, joined someone else’s practice, and occasionally looked in the folder with all the paint chips and treatment plans. Something was missing for her.

That special something floated into my mind this morning in my meditation (shorthand for “Margaret stares out the window and focuses on the big tree for ten minutes”).

It’s not enough just to love what you offer.
You have to love the person you’re offering it to.

Not just love them like all people deserve to be loved, that tidy, new age book love. But love them fiercely. Love who they are, and how hard they’re trying.

When I started my business 20 years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d stick with it. At that moment I was very much in the realm of “I have a skillset I can sell. I’ll try this.” My first clients, though, changed all that.

They were children’s book authors. But not just the kind who had fun writing and illustrating cute stories that would entertain an 8-year-old for ten minutes while mom cooked dinner. They had something bigger in mind.

They were travelers and loved to explore the world. In every place they visited, they saw the beauty in the vast diversity of our Earth and its people. Different art, different food, different ways of living, different landscapes. They lived out Mark Twain’s belief that travel is “…fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” They wrote their books to open the minds of kids who might never have a chance to see this bigger world.

But even more important than that vision, something else happened: They fell in love with the readers they wrote for. The kids they met and to whom they read their first book to were fiery-eyed, hungry to know that the world was big, interesting, and theirs. They pressed in with questions about the places the book characters visited. They asked whether they liked the food, how to speak other languages, whether they wanted to go to Africa, Australia, China.

They carried the beloved images of these kids with them as they traveled, researched, and wrote. They loved these wild, curious spirits, and were loved in return.

In turn, I fell in love with them as clients. I was floored by their mission, and wanted to help them open even more eyes, minds, and hearts.

When we love someone fiercely, it breaks us open. We are bigger, better, more expansive, more joyful. We want to share the object of our love with the world. We want to do anything for them.

When we take the time to know the clients and customers we want to serve with our work or our small business, it’s easy to love them fiercely. If you’re an artist, consider that your buyer might be someone who could never have nice things when she was younger. Now she’s able to spend a little to bring beauty, whimsy, and the elemental presence of human-made art into her home, her sanctuary.

If you’re writing a book, picture the person reading it, grabbing a few quiet moments before the next wave of life knocks them over: Are they stuck, suffering, craving new knowledge, needing release/relaxation after the stressful days of modern life? Are there wings you can help her unfurl to burst up and out into a new place of perspective?

If you’re a coach, think about how hard someone has worked to try to solve the pain or problem they’re bringing to you. See them as they sit quietly, remembering a time when life seemed so much better. Think about the beautiful new story they want to create, where they are able to be more joyful and share more joy with others.

When we take the time to really know and get acquainted with our ideal clients, there’s just so much to love about them. They are trying as hard as they can, doing the best they can with the light they have to see by at this moment in their lives.

Get to know them. Love them fiercely.

Learn what they want and need right now.

Create something that focuses on their needs. Make it beautiful.

Tell the world about them. Give them something that will make them want to tell the world about you.

But mostly, just love them. Everything else—inspiration, energy, abundance—will follow.

The connecting point story: Your best tool to help people feel good about taking a chance on you

Marketing the things you offer the world can be an interesting exercise sometimes. I can hear you out there. I know I’m being very charitable with the adjective “interesting.”

One of the most common conversations I have on any given day goes something like this:

“I’ve created a workshop (or coaching package, or group) that I think is really needed, shares a ton of great information, and just I know it would help so many people. But nobody’s signing up. I don’t get it.”

I wish there were always a smart, black-and-white answer I could give.

Sometimes it’s about clarity: The way you’re articulating it just doesn’t reach people in the right way, and can’t find a way into their heart space.

Sometimes it’s about cost: In a world where so much useful information is always on tap, potential clients can twist reality to convince themselves they can just work a little harder and get the same information for free (and rarely do, but that’s another story).

And sometimes it’s about trust: They don’t know you, there’s no trust factor yet, and so they resist taking a risk on possibly wasting their time, energy, and money.

But sometimes, it’s simply about bringing all of those elements together with a particular type of story structure. If you can create this special story and get it into the hands of people who need it most, it engages them, sinks into them, and proves the benefits they’re going to reap are well worth the risk of trying something new, with someone new (you).

In Storytelling for Small Business I talk a bit about this type of story, which I call the “connecting point story.” I wish I’d written more. (And in the second edition, I will.) It’s the delicious filling between these two elements of the story sandwich:

“Jean,” my client avatar

The person to whom you want to offer your products, services, and wisdom has a current story. It may be a story about how something in her life is lacking right now. A “bad guy” of illness, pain or physical challenge she can’t seem to resolve. A foe in the form of burnout, frustration, conflict, financial issues, or depression. She wishes she had a guide who could point her to something that would help her.

That same person also has a second story, a story she’s wanting to live into. It’s a place where she now has what she’d been hoping for — peace of mind, more financial security, greater capacity, physical health, organization, career advancement, success by her definition of it, authenticity, creative freedom, self-respect, or safety.

In between those stories, there’s you.

You also have a story, a vision of what you want to offer the world. It might be your unique way of coaching people to a better life; your artwork; your books; your blog; your stellar workshops. You wake up in the morning wanting to use what you know and what you do, in order to help take a person from their current story to their new story.

Here are some examples from the book that show you how those three stories fit together:

Their story now: Once there was a woman who dreamed of walking away from her harsh corporate life. She wanted to be a consultant for nonprofit organizations, but she feared she’d be worn down by the demands of running her own business. She felt paralyzed by all she didn’t yet know.

Your story: Once there was a coach who’d once been petrified in the same way, and so she chose to create some tools to help others vanquish those fears.

The new connecting point story: Our heroine was able to find the courage to start her own business. Her nonprofit clients did amazing work that lifted up thousands of others. The coach was able to continue helping more and more people, and build a joyful livelihood as well.

+ + +

Their story now: Once there was a man who had always felt he had to hide the emotional pain of his lifelong depression. The weight of his hidden suffering cast a pall over his work, health, and relationships.

Your story: In the mythical land of Massachusetts, a wise writer had dug deep into his own experience to shine a bright light on this kind of taboo pain. He found he could explain rock solid ways that men could use to begin defusing it for good. He wrote a book to share this with the world.

The new connecting point story: The book’s readers were uplifted, and responded with gratitude and positive reviews. They shared it with their friends. Both author and reader could move into their respective futures with more hope, peace, and confidence.

When you can articulate your audience’s current story well, articulate their beautiful new story well, and then demonstrate that what you are offering can build a bridge between them, more people will trust you enough to take a leap of faith and work with you.

There are many life-improving goods and services out there on offer at all times, of varying degrees of benefit, value, and quality. If you are creating something beneficial to people—a coaching relationship, a workshop, a product, a book—and you do not tell this three-part story well, it could make the difference between people being willing to take a chance on you, and not.

A few words on cost: If you sense or learn there is a cost barrier for your desired audience, you can only do your best to show them the ways in which their new story will prove itself worth the cost, in very specific language and with real math if it’s available. Social proof such as real-person testimonials (faces and names, folks) can help as well, if they also discuss actual results in a warm and human way.

There are some who will never feel something’s inexpensive enough; if you are working for yourself, you have met them. For those, consider adding a lower-cost offering that allows them to experience working with you…a one-hour session, a group consultation, even an eBook. Different payment options and plans can also help people cross that perceived barrier.

And a few words on marketing: If you’re concerned about not yet reaching the people you most want to reach, contact me and let’s talk about what you’re currently doing and what you might try (instead of, or in addition to, your current efforts).

But first: Know your story, and know the stories (now and desired) of the people you’re trying to reach. The place where those intersect can open up whole new worlds for your work.

 


Cover - Storytelling for Small BusinessMy book, Storytelling for Small Business: Creating and Growing an Authentic Business Through the Power of Story, is now available in several formats. It’s a small-but-mighty guide to getting started in the art/science of using the power of story to connect with more of the exact people you want to engage with your business. You can find links to all versions on my book page, and also find the Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon.com.

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.

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

Bring your website to life. Here are 10 stories to share, in either bite-sized portions or baked into your posts or pages (can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?).

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?

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

 

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.