Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to simplify your communication without dumbing it down

I read a post today (I think it was from Fast Company but I can't find the link) that said to write email that will be read, keep it short and to the point. No explanations, no niceties. Just give the reader one reason to keep reading and another to respond.

At the same time, I have been experimenting with images for social media. I looked at all the quotations floating across my feeds, and decided to make some of my own with words taken from the book I will be releasing this spring (still hoping that spring is actually on the way). Here's a sample:

I think the concept comes from an Aesop's fable. While it didn't occur to me when I wrote it (and it didn't occur to my editor), there is a fable about a fox and some grapes that are just out of reach. I just checked, and that fox walked away. The grapes must have been a little too far out of reach to keep him engaged.

The idea of reaching for an apple has history (you remember Eve and the serpent?). The idea that something just out of reach is more engaging than something we can easily reach also has history (it's the theme of half of the romance stories in books and movies). Everyone knows something about reaching for a shiny ripe apple.

Simplicity works best when it is only simple on the surface. An image (in words or in a picture) sticks because some part of it is familiar.

I suspect the same thing is true of abrupt emails that get results. It's not the length that is key. It's the ability to suggest something with a few words that already has some history and some staying power.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What does it take to make a sale?

There are lots of sales training programs based on the idea that forcing yourself to manipulate people is the best route to making a sale. There are lots of companies running on the idea that quotas are the best route to drive people to make a sale. There are lots of people who believe that beating themselves into submission is the best route to making a sale.

All of those ways work. For a price.

What if there were another way? What if you could sell by making a real connection between someone else and work you value? What if selling was just the first step in allowing someone to experience what you have created or what you believe is worth doing?

What if?

The work I do is often about what ifs. It's about imagining that the situation could be better with such commitment that, more often than makes sense logically, the situation becomes better. It's about finding the counter examples, the times when things worked in a way that felt better or did more good.

There are lots of people who believe that sales is a fun way to connect with people and create a tangible trace for that connection. There are lots of people acting as if making a sale could be good for them and good for the people who buy. There are lots of people finding ways to enjoy exploring what ifs together.

What if you wanted to know more?

You'd visit me at You'd read a few more posts. You'd find a way to learn.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You will never win a gold medal at the Olympics. Now what?

We all hit transitions in life when we realize that the time for a dream is over. It's time to let go and find something new to hope and plan. The world often seems to belong to the young because they have lots of dreams left and lots of time. As we get older, we realize that it's too late for some dreams and that others would cost more than we are willing to give. What now? We wonder briefly and then get busy tending to the works in progress that take up most of our time and energy.

If a miracle happened and this problem disappeared, what would be different? In many ways, it is easier to imagine a problem disappearing than a goal forming. If a miracle happened and you got the one wish deep in your heart, how would you know? And, since we are grown ups and familiar with the reality within and around us, how can we shape an imagining that makes the best of what we are determined to keep (whether or not it fits into our miracle)?

I have been watching this year, as grown ups who have hit big transitions begin to inch their way towards their miracles. Many are in new, resilient, intriguing relationships - with lovers and partners and businesses. The miracles take a lot of work and a certain amount of stubborn courage. The work I do helps people connect with both their stubborn determination and their courage. That's why I get to watch rough, bumpy miracles come into being.

If a miracle happened tonight and you woke up to find you had the desire held deep in your heart, what would be different? You can feel the answer stirring. Maybe it even pops into your awareness as a moment, an image, a phrase. What will you do with that? Will you weave it into your days or pretend you did not notice? People will tell you that you should hold onto your dreams, that you can have that thing you want.

Grown ups know that some miracles happen and some do not. There is no guilt in recognizing your miracle and then working with what you have now instead. You are doing the best you have with what you have and tomorrow the miracle may have shifted.

Or the world will shift to give you a miracle. And you will decide whether you have the courage and the stubbornness to hold onto it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What if you went to the Olympics with a cold?

As I sit down to write, I feel rotten. I've been coughing for days, I hurt all over, and I'm not confident that all the pieces of my brain are in working order. My most vivid goal for the day involves sipping tea and watching multiple episodes of Doctor Who.

Instead, I'm writing. The Olympics are ongoing and yesterday I watched a young woman do tricks on her way down a terribly dangerous slopeboarding course. Apparently, she has such a bad cold that her team has her quarantined outside the Olympic village. If it is the Olympics, you don't stay home and watch Doctor Who. You give more than you think you have racing headlong down a mountain.

Sometimes I talk to my college business students about days like this. I say: "What if you went to work in the state you are in now and it mattered? What would you do to find the energy and focus you needed to be at your best?" They usually look stumped for awhile, and then they start to notice that there are choices. Maybe they'd play music that pumps them up, or find a funny video to make them laugh. Maybe they'd take the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe they would talk to someone with better energy and borrow some from the conversation.

There are lots of ways to find what you need to do what you want to do. It begins with the determination to show up and be your best.

Later, I will watch Doctor Who. Rest is part of being at my best for the long haul. For the moment, my head is clear enough to be grateful for all the hours of practice I put into managing my own state so that I can teach others to have better choices about theirs. Neurolinguistic programming always begins with checking in with oneself and making the changes that will make a difference.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The difference between resources and results

I was inspired by Chris Brogan's post at Owner this morning. Chris got me thinking about how what we notice drives our behaviours which drives our results.

What are you measuring when you try something new at work? We tend to move between two poles. At one extreme, we measure results. We know what we want and that's all we measure. At the other pole, we measure reassurance. Are we getting gold stars? Does someone who counts approve of our efforts?

As employees, we tend to work for some form of gold stars although we are more engaged and more successful when we are able to see the results of our work and measure those instead. As entrepreneurs, we want to measure results but until we get them, we would like some gold stars. It's hard to work on your own and hope you're doing something worthwhile. It's nice to get a gold star.

It's nice, but ultimately, your ability to continue to do what you want to do depends on your results. More than anything, as an entrepreneur, I want to sell more so that I can do more. I'm happy for you to critique my marketing because I might hear something that will lead to one more sale. If you cheer me on, I appreciate the sentiment. But it doesn't help me sell unless you add a referral to your cheers.

NLP (neurolinguistic programming) is the art of change on purpose. It involves defining the results you want and noticing the opportunities and resources to make them happen. The good feelings that come with gold stars may be resources, but they are not results. Resources are only useful when they connect with the results we want. If you want to make stronger connections between resources and results, visit me at

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The part of the story you do not hear

There's an important difference between telling a story and giving a lecture. In a lecture, it is important that the speaker include any detail necessary to understanding the key points. In a story, it is important that the storyteller use details to hook the attention of the listeners so that they will generate whatever is necessary for them to make meaning of the story.

Stories are always incomplete without the collaboration of the listener. That's why they get into our heads and stay there long after facts and figures and theories have faded. We didn't just consume them: we helped to create them.

If there's too much missing, then the story you hear and the story being told can be very different. This is most likely to happen when people tell a story without building up the context. No one exists in isolation. They live in a physical world of settings and relationships and connections. When the storyteller includes some of these, we use our experience to build up the rest. We know a little about families and communities and markets and forests.

If the setting disappears from the story, so that it seems like you are watching an individual making choices surrounded by a white blur, then you have two choices. You can make up all of the context as a listener (which means giving your meaning to a story started by someone else) or you can ask questions to bring the setting back into the picture. When you do, the meaning of the choices within the story will shift and so will your sense of what the storyteller intended to do by sharing the story.

We are all more influenced by our environments and relationships than we think we are.