I’ve had the great fortune to spend the last few weeks touring Argentina and Chile. Together Gloria and I explored fascinating sites, ate wonderful meals, enjoyed spectacular wines, and met very gracious and hospitable people.
Not only did we try great wines, but we visited wineries in both countries and saw how the wines are made and what goes into making them so special.
Some of the wines we were introduced to were described in industrial terms: their weights, measures, time in the barrel, time in the bottle, temperatures they were processed at, and so forth.
The technical information did help us understand the wines better, but taste-wise most of them were ultimately forgettable — especially to someone like me who is an uneducated and unsophisticated oenophile in the first place.
Some of the wines we tried were described in more romantic terms: their histories, their struggles against bad weather and drought, and their experiences in French oak casks and on the tongue, for example.
Of course, some of these stories sounded a bit overwrought and implausible. But one really touched me.
We were talking with the winemaker and the sommelier about their Sauvignon Blanc. As the sommelier explained it, the roots of grapes grown in soft soil don’t have to work very hard to find water. The wines they produce, therefore, are drinkable but not interesting. Or as he put it, wines from unstressed grapes are soft and lazy. Easy to drink, but once you’re done you’re left with nothing of value to think about.
But he said that his winery’s products were superior. That’s because of all the effort their roots had to go through to find healthy purchase in the rocky soil of the Leyda Valley. By working hard to break through the rough terrain of coastal Chile, the roots developed a strength and character that was reflected in the wines all that effort produced.
While I was listening, I was thinking skeptically about this anthropomorphic technique of comparing wines to people. The winemaker must have read my mind because he too equated wine with people. To him, the trials, tribulations, and travails people go through in their lives is what makes them interesting and gives them character. And that’s what he looked to do with his wines.
Then he brought out some samples and let us taste what he was talking about. I don’t know whether the wines actually tasted better because of what they’d gone through or whether I simply enjoyed the wines more because of what I learned. Either way I did taste a substantial difference. The romance of the story either gave me a reason to prefer his wines or it gave me the vocabulary to understand what I was tasting. Regardless, the wine experience was better because of the story.
Of course, we all know the power of suggestion goes a long way to influence the enjoyment of wine. When you listen to a knowledgeable drinker talk about aromas of fresh flowers, baked bread, stone fruit, blackberry notes, and subtle hints of citrus blossoms, it’s easy to be cynical and poo poo the descriptions. Because while you might be able to determine the ingredients in a stew or a sauce — cilantro and garlic, say, or tomatoes and basil — those items are actually in the food. But the descriptions of wines’ aromas and flavors are fanciful because none of those components are actually in the bottle. Instead, the tastes you perceive — minerals, fruit, herbs — are all created from grapes and the talents of the winemaker.
Now how does all this relate to your business? What can you learn from the world’s great wineries? It’s simple.
Do you simply sell what you do based on the ingredients that go into your products or services — your MBA, years in the business, licenses and patents — for example? Or have you created a romantic story that helps your clients (and your potential clients) better understand and appreciate what you do for them?
Always remember your clients don’t only choose you for what you can do for them. If you simply offer them legal advice, bagel delivery, new eyeglasses, or cybersecurity services, for example, they can always find those things cheaper somewhere else. But if you provide them with a sense of who you are and what you do, they will choose you for what you stand for and how you make them feel.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m suggesting you can get away with not being the best in the business. You can’t. Your functional offer must be the best there is. I’m only pointing out that at the highest levels of business, your function is cost of entry. Once your clients understand what you sell is the best, then they can further actualize themselves and their companies by including you in their businesses and their lives.
Porsche sells performance automobiles yet most of the people who own their cars drive them back and forth to their offices.
Fender and Gibson sell iconic instruments played by every guitar hero from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page. Yet most of their customers will never play at Wembly Stadium or Carnegie Hall.
Speedo sells the swimsuits you’ve seen on Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps below their gold medals. Yet most of their products are worn by splashers and sunbathers.
And my sommelier friend’s wines are all made with unbelievably painstaking care and passion. Yet most bottles will most likely be enjoyed by people who wouldn’t know a focused palette of black currant and hints of cassis from a complex nose of violets, mint, and white pepper. Or Riunite on ice, for that matter.
Does this mean the struggle you went through earning your education or building your business is for naught? Of course not. Just like the noble fight those little roots put up to get through the soil, your travails not only made you capable but provided you with a heroic story that the world wants to hear.
Because as we’ve said so many times before, a good brand makes people feel good. But a great brand makes people feel good about themselves.
Published on October 18th, 2017
Two weeks ago I posted a blog about an 82-year old Fireman named Bob and how Hurricane Irma left him homeless. Along with the post I included a link to a GoFundMe site to raise money to help Bob rebuild his home. Although I’ve used social media very successfully to promote business for myself and my clients, I’d never used it to raise money before so there was a lot to learn. Of course, creating Bob’s site taught me about how to use the GoFundMe app but it also taught me a lot about how to use social media as a promotional tool.
Up until now, my online strategies have been judged by two yardsticks. The first is outreach and awareness. I could tell how well my online activities were doing based on the number of people who signed up for an offer, followed my tweets or posts, shared or retweeted what I’d posted, or showed up for an event or band gig.
I could also tell by how many people would email or call and invite me to speak at their events or were interested in me doing consulting work for their companies. When I’d ask, “how did you find out about me?” they’d usually answer, “I read your blog” or “I saw you on LinkedIn” or “I saw one of your TV appearances on Facebook.”
But with Fireman Bob’s GoFundMe site, I could track how well we were doing by how much money people were donating in real time. In fact, I became obsessed with watching the site and correlating the money raised to our online activities minute-by-minute.
This exercise taught me a lot. I want to share the five things I learned because you can use what I discovered to increase the return on your own social media efforts.
1. Nothing works as well as relationships.
The people who gave the most money — and gave it the quickest — were people who know Bob. Clearly Bob has meant a lot to a lot of people because his friends are both very generous and very kind. Moreover, they didn’t just give money, but sent their donations with lovely thoughts and wishes and they took the time to repost my request to increase our outreach.
This means that the time to start building your blog lists and assembling your followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc is not when you need to reach out to people. If you haven’t started yet, the right time to do it is today. Or, as the old saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. Or today.”
2. People have short attention spans. Strike while the iron is hot.
I screwed up. I didn’t create Bob’s GoFundMe site the first or second day after Hurricane Irma destroyed Bob’s house. In fact, I didn’t even put the site up until a week after the storm. Because of that mistake, I’m convinced that I reached fewer people — and earned fewer dollars — than I would have if I had started immediately. People want to be
involved in something that matters NOW!! The combination of the immediacy of the storm and the significance of the need generated the most donations within the first few days. A week later, when Hurricane Irma was no longer top of mind to most of the world, the need was still just as great but people’s interest had moved on.
Houston’s devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey were pushed out of our consciousness by Hurricane Irma which was in turn superseded by Hurricane Maria which was front and center only until the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas slid Puerto Rico out of the headlines. Sadly, Las Vegas too will soon be old news — replaced by the fires in Northern California or Trump’s next outburst or who knows what.
When you have an opportunity to generate attention based on current events, jump on it. Other than wrapping fish or lining bird cages, there’s not much use for yesterday’s newspaper.
3. Thank you’s matter.
All of the 167 people who donated to Fireman Bob received immediate and personalized thank you notes. Following the thank you’s, I saw the number of reposts and retweets expand exponentially, fanning out from the donor who spread the word to people who didn’t know Bob but just wanted to help. For the most part their donations were smaller than the ones from Bob’s friends but their volume was greater, resulting in us raising significantly more money than if we only heard back from people we know.
Your mother was right. Thank you notes matter.
4. Video rules.
I think I’m a pretty compelling writer. But the collection value of the stories I told about Bob and his personal disaster paled in comparison to the amount of people we reached— and the amount of money we raised — when I posted videos of Bob explaining what happened to the house he built 30 years ago. You can watch them HERE.
The lesson is simple. If you want to communicate convincingly, video is the medium of choice.
5. Keep priming the pump.
Marketing on social media is not a “one and done” opportunity. Instead, you can continue to capture people’s attention if you continue to come up with new and compelling ways to show them what’s going on. Because of this, we keep uploading new videos and photos and we keep people appraised of what’s going on and how Bob’s doing. We have even received interest from TV shows that want to feature Bob and his rebuilding effort and I’m confident that when those shows air we’ll see another increase in giving.
As I said, you can apply all five of these tips to your online marketing efforts — they’re not specifically or exclusively linked to Bob’s site. Instead they clearly lay out the specific things you need to do to make your social media matter.
Speaking of mattering, thanks to your generous help, as of 10/09/17 we’ve raised $32,000 to help Bob rebuild. Thanks to our donors, we have an engineer starting on the plans for Bob’s rebuilt home. If you want to help, there’s still time and plenty to be done — your generous contribution will go a long way to helping an 82-year old put his life back together. You can learn more right HERE.
Thank you.Published on October 10th, 2017
60 Minute’s curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, used to begin his rants with, “Did you ever wonder…?” Rooney would then go on to excoriate whatever or whomever was bothering him that week. Sometimes Rooney’s screeds made me laugh and sometimes they made me mad. But Rooney’s outbursts always made me think. My goal with this post is to shoot for all three. If I only make it past one or two, that’s okay too.
You ever wonder about people who misuse the word “literally”? As in the friend who shows up late for your lunch date and announces, “Dude, I’m, like, literally starving.
No, you’re not. If you were literally starving, you’d be laying on the ground too weak to move and in enormous pain.
Or the friend who tells you not to worry because they “literally have your back.”
Also wrong. Literally having your back would mean they were gripping you from behind.
Instead, they are figuratively starving and they figuratively have your back. The words they use are simply illustrations of the idea they’re trying to get across not actual depictions of what’s going on.
I got to thinking about this pet peeve this morning when one of my running buddies handed me an ad for a local South Florida HMO. It read: “513,000 PEOPLE CAN’T BE WRONG. That’s how many of your Florida neighbors already have (our) Medicare Advantage.”
That’s a headline that’s both literally AND figuratively wrong.
Of course 513,000 people can be wrong. Just because a large number of people actually do something does not make it right.
Variety Magazine says 3.19 million viewers tuned into Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
The BBC estimates that over one billion around the world smoke cigarettes.
And CNN says almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump.
How’s that working out for you?
Whether or not choosing the health plan is a good decision, the headline is simply incorrect. 513,000 people can indeed be wrong. So can one billion. And so can any number of people in between.
Just because a lot of people do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
Or as my mother used to ask, “If all your friends jumped off the roof, would you do it too?”
Since when does following the crowd result in anything more than a mediocre result?
Most people simply get what everyone else gets because they only do what everyone else does. Unlike the little town of Lake Woebegone “where all the children are above average,” most people do not get exceptional results because most people do not do exceptional things.
Average is average for a reason.
If you want to build your brand, build your business, or build your life, one of the first things to do is consider zigging while everyone zags. Whether you follow Roberto Peck’s The Road Less Traveled or Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, success seldom lies at the end of the obvious path.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
After all, if it were easy everyone would do it.Published on October 3rd, 2017
My wife and I have a house on No Name Key in the Florida Keys. We live in a very small neighborhood of about eight houses, surrounded by acres of state and federal wildlife preserve land.
No Name Key is at MM 32, directly east of Big Pine Key. You might recognize that name. It was Ground Zero when Hurricane Irma made landfall and destroyed our community. No Name Key used to be a paradise. Now it looks like war zone. The extent of the destruction is hard to believe.
Our good neighbor Bob Eaken lived at the end of our island. His home was perched on an incredible expanse of open bay and a view of the water and the small islands that dot the horizon. But that was before Hurricane Irma blew off Bob’s roof and his entire top floor. The possessions that Bob accumulated over 82 years are now spread in a giant debris field that fans out over a half mile into the “protected” mangroves behind what’s left of his house. Bob has nowhere to sleep, nowhere to live, and doesn’t even have a stairway to get up to the first floor that’s precariously perched on concrete stilts 12 feet above the wreckage-strewn ground.
Imagine an 82-year old man climbing a ladder to even get into what little remains of his home. Funny thing is Bob knows all about ladders — he’s a retired firefighter who dedicated his life to saving others in danger.
Luckily Bob evacuated to Miami to weather the storm with us. When we were permitted back on the island and returned with him last Sunday, we gathered up his entire life (or what’s left of it) into five soggy garbage bags.
Why Bob’s story is so interesting is that he single handedly built our “Island’s End” community over 30 years ago. Bob was a Ft. Lauderdale firefighter at the time and would drive down on weekends to carve his dream out of the mangroves. Bob dredged the canal, cleared the roads, and built four or five of the houses in the neighborhood. Up until this disaster, Bob was still hoping on and off his boat, scampering up and down his stairs (now gone), and doing maintenance on his own house as well as all of his neighbors’ homes. You and I should be lucky enough to be in the shape Bob’s in when we’re his age.
Now Bob is hoping for some FEMA money and a trailer so he has a place to live while he tries to rebuild his home from the sad and soggy wreck it is post-Irma. But I’m convinced that Bob is the kind of guy that everyone will want to help. Besides FEMA, firefighter organizations, and a generous public would want to help Bob too if they just knew his story. I’m also convinced that Bob’s story is a great tale of American ingenuity, a can-do attitude, and the indomitable spirit that can inspire so many of us. Telling Bob’s story and rebuilding his house will go a long way to help ease some of the pain people are feeling.
Estimates are that it will take between $100,000 and $200,000 to rebuild Bob’s home. We already have a contractor who is working at below cost and scores of neighbors who are providing the labor to clear the wreckage from Bob’s life. Now we need money for supplies, heavy equipment, and skilled craftspeople. Our plan is to have use the funds you donate to reimburse the tradespeople and to pay for the materials we purchase to repair Bob’s home.
We’ve set up a Go Fund Me. At the time this article was published, we’ve raised $7,200 to help Bob. But we need more. If you’d like to help, please direct your browser HERE to see the site and donate. You can also help by sharing this story everywhere you can. Text and email it to your friends, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else people can find it. Let your friends and family know that if they want to help a real person instead of simply donating to a nameless, faceless charity, this is a great opportunity to make a real difference.
Bob’s story really illustrates the damage the storm did to our lives and our psyches. I believe your generoisty will go a long way to helping a very deserving neighbor rebuild his home AND his life.
I hope you do, too.
Thank you.Published on September 28th, 2017
As you know by now, Hurricane Harvey drowned most of Texas. Hurricane Irma had its way with a score of Caribbean Islands and South Florida. And Hurricane Maria has devastated our friends in Puerto Rico. Worse still, Mexico suffered a lethal earthquake and 50,000 people in Bali are fleeing the Mount Agung volcano.
Dark days indeed.
My question is this: “What’s the best way to help?”
Giving money to the Red Cross used to be a no brainer. If you wanted to help, you stroked a check to the Red Cross.
But five years after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, NPR and ProPublica went looking for the results of the $500 million the organization received to provide relief. They found the organization had built only six homes and refused to provide information on where the rest of the money had gone. What’s more, they discovered that a quarter of all the money donated after the earthquake went towards internal spending — 124 million dollars.
Now seven years later, Newsweek and NPR report that little has changed. “The Red Cross is either unwilling or unable to disclose what percentage of donations will be allocated toward helping Hurricane Harvey victims.”
“On NPR’s Morning Edition, a Red Cross executive, Brad Kieserman, said the organization had spent $50 million on Harvey relief as of Wednesday morning, noting that the money went primarily toward 232 shelters for 66,000 people.”
“Host Alisa Chang asked, “Through donations, how much of every dollar goes to relief?”
“I don’t know the answer to the financial question, I’m afraid.” Kieserman answered.
Chang asked the executive if these types of issues were still occurring and whether such a “substantial percentage of donations [is] going to internal administrative costs rather than to relief.”
Kieserman didn’t have an answer to that, either.
But during a 2013 speech in Baltimore, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern expressed pride that “91 cents of every dollar that’s donated goes to our services.” But that wasn’t true. Auditors who examined the Red Cross’s tax documents found fundraising expenses have been as high as 26 percent.
Questions and complaints on a list of disasters the Red Cross has mismanaged include Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and the floods in Louisiana.
Still, the organization knows how important their image is to their ability to raise money. According to ProPublica, “During Isaac, Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually deployed to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty instead, ‘just to be seen,’ one of the drivers, Jim Dunham, recalls.”
“During Sandy, emergency vehicles were taken away from relief work and assigned to serve as backdrops for press conferences, angering disaster responders on the ground.”
Regardless of the incompetence, “two weeks after Sandy hit, Red Cross Chief Executive Gail McGovern declared that the group’s relief efforts had been ‘near flawless.’”
Clearly the organization’s brand awareness has gone a long way to help it continue to collect large sums of money from a concerned and generous public. But such a powerful disconnect between their internal intention and abilities and their external image must eventually weaken even a century-old brand. Because as we’ve said so many times before, people don’t choose what you do, they choose who you are. And once Americans understand who and what the organization really is, their largess will be directed elsewhere.
With all the problems in the world right now, that probably won’t happen a moment too soon.Published on September 26th, 2017
“HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The first patient was rushed into the emergency room of Memorial Regional Hospital around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, escaping a nursing home that had lost air-conditioning in the muggy days after Hurricane Irma splintered power lines across the state.
Four were so ill that they died soon after arriving. In the afternoon, the authorities learned that another had died early in the morning, and was initially uncounted because the person had been taken directly to a funeral home.
In all, eight were dead…
The 152-bed nursing home was acquired in 2015 by Larkin Community Hospital, a growing Miami-area network that includes hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities…
Dr. Jack Michel, the health-care network’s current chairman, did not respond to requests for comment.”
Instead, Michel went on Facebook where he wrote:
“@FLGovScott The best way to honor the memories of those who lost their lives in Hollywood Tragedy is identifying root causes and making sure this doesn’t happen again in FL, not finding scapegoats. Due process is a constitutional right.”
Since that September 18 post, 140 of Michel’s followers have posted likes and frowny face emoticons and some 30 or so sycophants have posted comments blaming the power company, politics, and the unfairness of pointing fingers. Virtually everyone’s been blamed, in fact, but the people responsible for the tragedy.
At best, Dr. Michel’s Facebook bleats make him and Larkin Community Hospital look insensitive and self-serving. And even though only one respondent has criticized his actions online so far, that response is inevitable.
Because as we’ve said so many times before, “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
Jim Fried is the senior vice president of Spectrum Mortgage Group, a company that provides commercial property financing. Fried uses his robust social media presence, plus his weekly radio program, Fried on Business, to promote himself and his company.
After the storm Fried posted a five-word message that said simply, “We Are Here to Help!”
Below the headline he wrote: “Hurricane Irma has brought us many challenges, from property damage to cash-flow issues. If you’re in need of cash right now, we can help you turn your real estate property into quick cash with a private loan. Even if your home or property has been damaged, we can lend based on the land value.
Call today! One person makes the decision. We can commit today and close next week.
Let us help you in this special situation.”
Positive, inclusive, and aspirational, Fried made his online post immediately relevant to his readers. He told them precisely what he can do to make their lives better. Then, after making his point, Fried followed up with the Reasons To Believe (RTBs) showing that their property has value, and that they can close on a loan quickly because only “one person makes the decision.”
Simple, direct, and to the point. Jim Fried understands the concepts behind an All About Them marketing strategy.
Defensive, insensitive, callous. Jack Michel clearly does not.Published on September 20th, 2017
The computer I’m writing this blog post on is powered by a generator.
That’s because I’m writing this post hours after Hurricane Irma cut its cruel swath through Florida and the Caribbean.
First a quick update: we are fine, thanks. Our house is a bunker and held up to the winds. We have significant tree damage but everyone here is happy and healthy. My mother, sister, and brother and their families all stayed at our house and despite the storm howling outside, we enjoyed a safe and secure few days together.
Natural disasters, hell, disasters of any kind, have an interesting way of clarifying what’s important. After all, when you’re surrounded by 100+ MPH winds, it’s hard to worry about your golf score, your neighbor’s new Lexus or whatever petty foolishness has been cluttering up your mind. Instead, the necessities of life come into sharp focus. It’s almost like Maslow’s Hierarchy popped off the page of your college sociology book in crystal clear relief.
First comes safety, solid shelter, having something to eat, and clean water.
Next comes comfort – electricity, air conditioning, refrigeration.
Only with the cleanup after the storm do more things start to intrude on your consciousness – things like damage to possessions, ability to get to work, clean up.
From all this I’ve determined that the four most important things for both weathering a storm and returning to some degree of normalcy afterwards are:
2. Friends and family
3. Water, and
Preparation matters because the more you do to prepare for the disaster, the easier it will be afterwards. In the case of a hurricane, having shutters, a working generator, plenty of fuel, etc. significantly increase your odds of surviving the storm and being able to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Friends and family matters on so many levels, from having people to huddle with during the deluge to working together to clear the shared roadways of debris afterwards.
Water is a metaphor for all necessities. After all, life does not exist without water.
And finally, cash. After a storm, the credit cards and ATM cards we mindlessly depend on most days are just worthless plastic playing cards taking up space in our pockets. But cash is king – at The Home Depot, the grocery store, or to pay the lawn guys who help clear debris.
Of course, this blog is not about my personal life or musings. Instead it’s a business blog devoted to brand building, innovation, and leadership.
So why the hurricane story?
Because the four requirements for surviving a storm are the same necessities you need to grow your business.
If nothing succeeds like success, then nothing gets you as ready for success as being prepared. Education, planning, dreaming, visualization, and thinking things through are all critical to being ready for whatever happens in your business. It’s hackneyed and corny, but failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
2. Friends and family
At home there’s nothing as comforting and helpful as friends and family. In business the same can be said for relationships. The banker who knows you and trusts you and extends credit and services. The distributor who knows they can count on you and is available when you need them. The clients and past clients who are thrilled with your products and services and continue to buy from you and provide you with referrals for new business. The knowledgeable friends and professionals who arm you with advice, contacts, and skill sets to deal with the things you don’t know enough about. Again, it’s corny but people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.
Of course water is essential. But in this case it serves as a metaphor for your brand. Warren Buffet says that a strong brand is the most valuable thing Berkshire Hathaway buys when it makes an acquisition. In the wake of a storm, and after a business setback, buildings can be rebuilt and cars can be replaced but a damaged brand and reputation are not so easily repaired.
4. Finally, cash.
Most business that fail – especially new businesses – do so because they are undercapitalized. Just like revenue provides a company with the people and materials it needs to thrive and prosper, revenue also overcomes a lot of sins. Mistakes are less fatal when you have the financial wherewithal to deal with them.
Got cash in your pocket after a storm? You can buy food, gas, chainsaws, and anything else you need. Have money in the bank after a business setback?
Likewise you can pay your taxes, cover payroll, restock your inventory, and continue to operate.
When a hurricane is thundering down on you and you haven’t prepared and don’t have friends and family, water or cash, you can go to a community shelter. It may not be pleasant and it certainly won’t be comfortable but it will be safe.
When your business experiences a setback and you don’t have those necessities – preparation, relationships, necessities and cash, there’s often nowhere to turn. But with a little planning and discipline, you can learn from Hurricane Irma and be ready for whatever comes next.Published on September 13th, 2017
We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success. My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.
Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.
If you missed any of the rules, just click on each link: Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE. Rule #7 is HERE. Rule #8 is HERE, Rule #9 is HERE.
Listen to enough writers and sooner or later it’ll dawn on you that the act of writing is thought of lots of different ways, few of them pleasant.
Ernest Hemingway found looking for the muse torturous. According to legend, Papa described it like this: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
And W. Somerset Maugham believed that, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
Having spent the last ten years hammering out this blog week after week while also writing new books, countless speeches, articles and TV commentary, and keeping up with my client assignments, I’ve learned a little bit about just how hard maintaining consistent good writing can be.
But of all the things I’ve learned, regular writing reminds me about two universal truths which assert themselves time and time again:
I’m not the first one to discover these two points, by the way. When I was researching quotes for this article, I’d already determined my two truths but wasn’t aware that others had explained them already.
Vladimir Nabokov said that, “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” And Hemingway was pretty clear on this point when he wrote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
Because I sincerely believe that the most important part of good writing is rewriting, I try to write my posts with enough lead-time to read them over and over and over, crafting them a bit tighter on each pass.
As far as the jealousy of the Muse goes, this point is unassailable. If you want to write – books, ads, blogs, whatever – besides putting in lots and lots of hard work the other thing to always do is stop and write whenever an idea strikes you. Because if you wait until it’s more convenient, your good ideas vaporize.
To benefit from the thinking time I get when I run I keep a miniature Sharpie tangled in my sneaker laces so I can write my inspirations down on the palm of my hand as they pop into my head. When I sleep I keep a pad and pen on my bed stand to capture those 3:15 a.m. brainstorms before they disappear. And during the day I always try to have my laptop, iPad or a simple notebook within quick reach so I don’t risk missing good ideas whenever and wherever the Muse shows itself.
Turns out Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art, already knew about the Muse’s demands. Pressfield explained it this way:
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
Saul Bellow said it like this, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
But just because the words and ideas might appear when you pay attention and work at it doesn’t make it easy. Why? Because we writers are always our own worst critics. After all, as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Which is why my four-word rule for business success #10 is Never Ignore Your Muse.Published on September 5th, 2017