Thinking is Hard Work

Thinking is Hard Work

“Thinking is probably the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford

When was the last time you stopped, turned off everything around you— your mobile phone, iPad, computer, TV, radio and everything else in this hyper-connected, hyper-distracted world—and took the time to just … think? Can you remember? I can’t. I’m always on – 25 x 7.

HOW MUCH THOROUGH THINKING IS THOUGHT?

Last year 107 trillion emails were sent. Each day two-billion tweets are twooted (I know that’s not a word, but I like the neologism connotation) and one-billion pieces of content are posted on Facebook. Not to mention that 7,000 comments per second are posted on Facebook. That’s a lot of “doing” but most of it is “reactive.” Responding to the thoughts of others, who are probably reacting to the thoughts of others reacting to the thoughts of others.

How much thorough thinking do you think was thought in all that doing?

WEIRD SOUND IDENTIFIED

So, I decided to try it. Think that is. The first thing I noticed was weird. Really weird. It was a strange sound that I later identified as …

SILENCE

It was unnerving. To get past the unnerving weirdness, I decided to do some deep, thorough thinking on a problem I was having with a book I was writing.

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book. – Edward Gibbon

I quickly arrived at a conclusion. It’s much easier to do a lot of stuff than think. But that wasn’t the solution to the problem I was looking for. So I stopped to think again … and immediately ran into another conundrum. Thinking is hard work. I just couldn’t get started again with that deafening silence distracting me.

So, to help the process I decided to track down one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing, Joey Reiman, and talk to him about the future of thinking, the business of thinking … or the lack thereof.

SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP

Joey Reiman is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future. Next year, Random House will publish Joey’s latest book, Business at the Speed of Molasses, which promises to speed up the ideas revolution by slowing business down so that it may be more purposeful, passionate and profitable.

Joey Reiman has it nailed. He’s won over 500 creative awards in national and international competitions, including the Cannes Film Festival. Joey also teaches a course on “Ideation” as an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

CREATE BIG IDEASGET PAID WELL

And … Joey Reiman and his company, BrightHouse, charge between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per idea.

THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE

In 1994, Joey Reiman did something most would think unthinkable. He walked into a meeting with his Board of Directors and announced that he was shutting down his award-winning $100 million a year ad agency, to create an ideas company—to think for a living. His only product would be “ideas.”

“The world was ad rich and ideas poor.” – Joey Reiman

Joey Reiman was convinced that the marketing and advertising world had it all wrong. Their business model—built on the primacy of ideas, but only being paid for the execution of those ideas—was flawed. You see advertising and creative agencies get clients by pitching ideas and giving them away for free. They make their money in the execution of volume production, media spots aired, print ads sold, etc. They don’t get paid for where they create value—the idea. They get paid for the execution of those ideas.

A BETTER IDEA

Joey Reiman had a better idea. He shut down the advertising company, walked away from a $100-million-a-year advertising agency and started a new company he named BrightHouse. It’s considered the world’s first Ideation Corporation.

I wanted to talk to Joey not only about “Thinking for a Living” but also about walking away from a successful $100 million-dollar company. Think about that? It took a real conviction, commitment and some serious …

COURAGE

Steve Kayser (SK): What was going through your mind when you shut down your successful advertising company to start a new company selling ideas? That took a lot of guts.

Joey Reiman (JR): I think everyone has a Joseph Campbell moment at some point in their lives. You’re living what would be called an “ordinary existence” or what I would call doing the “day-to-day job,” and you’re somewhere in your career, and out of the blue, you get a call, just like Luke Skywalker got a call. His was a little more dramatic because he leaves his uncle and aunt to go out and save an evil empire; he got a call to go save a princess and the universe. We all get calls to save ourselves, our families, our companies and even save the world in our own way, but we don’t take the call because we’re sort of set in our ways.

We’ve become routinized, codified and structured and live out a fairly dull existence. But we don’t have to. Those of us who do get a call to do something bigger, better … some higher calling—it’s often to leave your job, to leave your career and follow your calling.

SK: Joseph Campbell called it “Follow Your Bliss.”

ANSWERING THE CALL

JR: Yes, he did. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m keen on teaching my students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School on not going after a job or a career but a calling.

In 1994, after having a meteoric rise in the advertising industry, winning every possible award (over 500 of them), and really gathering all of the stuff that is supposed to make you happy, I recognized that when you got to the top of the mountain, what you find up there was what you brought with you. And those gold statues actually weighed me down on the hike up. Worse … having the gold statues up there really means nothing.

SELLING YOU WHAT YOU DON’T NEED

That’s when I had a “spear in the chest” moment. I recognized that all of the work I was doing on behalf of the advertising agency was really nothing else than selling people what they didn’t need. Then I started thinking about advertising as the grandest, social experiment in civilization that had failed.

SK: Why?

JR: Because we can’t get enough of what we don’t need. If you have any industry that’s a trillion-dollar industry focused on getting people what they don’t need, then to what end or benefit is that?

I thought the advertising industry had the smartest, most creative people on the planet, and I asked myself, can’t we do better? Can marketing move from marketing to seller to marketing to serve as a healer? This concept was very exciting to me.

MASTER IDEAS

I combed through history; I looked throughout civilization for the biggest ideas that served humankind and I found what I call “master ideas.” Ideas like:

We shall overcome

God is law

For better or for worse

All men are created equal

Very big ideas that were not necessarily factual, but that I recognized as truths.

FINDING THE WHY

The hypothesis was:

Can a company—a marketing company—actually look into other companies as we look through civilization, searching for the instructive sparks of fire that actually gave birth to the company, that gave the company a reason for being alive? To find the”why?”

If you found the DNA of the why, that instructive spark of fire, then you could actually rebuild a culture, wrap genuine value around it, be a more purposeful company and have that purpose drive strategy and tactics.

IDEATION

That notion was big enough for me to recognize a space that nobody had ever gone to in marketing. What I called it was from a word I borrowed from the psychiatric community—”ideation.” Now in the medical community, that’s not a very good word. It means to ruminate about suicide. But the second meaning of the word is the thought process—the thinking process. I combined that in with the notion of a marketing company that would call itself an ideation company that would deliver larger ideas for organizations with the hope that those ideas could help improve public life. And not just in the public perception of the brands, but the company whose advertising we’re supporting. To deliver real results for our clients.

BRIGHTHOUSE—THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THINKING

And I thought “that’s pretty grand,” that should be in the executive branch of thinking. That, of course, would be in the White House. The White House turned into our company BrightHouse with the idea that I would attract the very best thinkers from around the globe in service of the globe and the people living on it.

“Ideals are like stars: You will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” – Carl Schurz

That was the vision to me years ago. Frankly, it was big enough of a vision. It’s kind of you to call it courageous, but the vision was more enlightening than courageous. It just wouldn’t let go of me. In all callings and in all purposes, when they’re given to you, they’re gifts. Once you acknowledge and hear it, it’s hard not to keep hearing it. Actually, it might take more courage to live a life that has not been lived than to fully recognize the power of the life you have inside you to be lived.

With that enlightenment, I put the word out and some exceptionally smart people came in. I fired all of my advertising clients except for Children’s Hospital, which I didn’t think was the right thing to do. That was 15 years ago, and BrightHouse has enjoyed a great journey helping other companies, other leaders, and other marketers hear their call and take their journey.

SK: By that you mean helping them find their bliss? Find their meaning? Viktor Frankl’s book The Search for Meaning spoke to this journey, but I think Joseph Campbell might have had a little better interpretation of it. Campbell said, “People don’t want to search for meaning—they want to experience meaning.”

JR: Yes. It’s a real search for the rapture of life. People are not necessarily searching for the meaning, but like you just mentioned, Joseph Campbell said they’re in search of the experience of meaning in life.

THE PRIVILEGE OF LIFE?

The privilege of a lifetime is to be who we are. In this society, we are not allowed to be who we are. The freedom to be who we are is often taken away from us at work. We are accountable not to our family, but to the company, and we don’t get to define successes in our terms.

Be who you are; it’s a privilege that’s exclusively yours.

So, what the power of purpose and the power of living our story is, autobiographically or with authority (the power of being the author), is that we get to write our own scripts, and that’s a cool place to be. I mean, I really love my work. I help people to make their lives work, and their companies work better than they do.

SK: So many people give into resistance. “‘I will do it some day. I will, I really will.” But then someday never comes. Resistance beats you. You came to a point in your life—a jumping-off point—where you just said you were going to do it. Was that because you were so comfortable already due to previous successes, or because you were so convinced that it was the right thing for you to do personally?

IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE WHO YOU ARE

JR: It was the right thing for me to do personally. I could not have turned my back on it. In that sense, it was the courage to be who you are in the face of adversity which, at that time, everyone in the world was saying to me;

  • You can’t have a company based on ideas.
  • Why would you turn your back on the advertising industry that’s been so good to you?
  • Why would you give up the accolades, financial rewards and the comfort and security of an industry that’s been proven?

I believed marketing and advertising could do better. Since then, I think I’ve proven that it can.

THE THINKING MODEL—THE FOUR I’S

SK: You created a thinking-process framework for BrightHouse by melding the experiences, processes and thoughts of many great thinkers; from Herman von Helmholtz and Csikszentmihalyi (I’ll never say that one on the radio) to Marshall McLuhan to produce your trademark Four I’s thinking methodology.

THE FOUR I’S:

  • Investigate – Gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Incubate – Three or more weeks of thinking, daydreaming.
  • Illuminate – Big ideas don’t appear. They evolve. Look for the flash, the “AHA” spark of a BIG IDEA that will make a dent in the universe.
  • Illustrate – Visually portray and personalize the Big Idea.

How did the Four I’s concept evolve?

JR: I looked through all of the thinking frameworks throughout history. In the Anatomy of Thinking by Herman Von Helmholtz, a Berlin physicist, his framework is designed to suggest that there was an incubation period. He was a 19th-century physicist, so this guy was way-way ahead of his time.

PANDER AND WANDER

When I looked further at the frameworks, especially in American business, there is no narrative time, no incubation time, no pondering or wandering time, so we actually put it into our model.

Albert Einstein was keen on thinking like a child and taking the time to daydream. I think the notion of daydreaming is critical, not only for thinking but critical thinking.

YOU HAVE TO TAKE TIME

To think great thoughts, you have to create them. In order to create an environment for an unconditioned response, you need to schedule time to think, and this sounds like daydreaming to me—space-time or freebie time. That time is when we do our best thinking. It’s where intelligence has thought. The bottom line is that creativity is intelligence having thought. In order to do that, you have to make time.

HERE’S THE FORMULA YOU NEED TO KNOW: 4 I’S > C2

“Four I’s see greater than two eyes. It’s my equation not only for marketing, but living, loving and life.” – Joey Reiman

THE FIVE LAST BASTIONS OF GREAT THINKING ARE?

SK: Most companies would probably look askew at scheduled daydreaming time at work.

JR: Yes. That’s a problem isn’t it. Where to think? I wrote a paper about the last five bastions of great thinking. It’s certainly not the office; it’s the:

  1. Car
  2. John (aka toilet)
  3. Shower
  4. Church
  5. Park

Turn off the noise. Listen to your mind. Get out of your cubic-hell. People who work in cubicles have jobs too small for the spirit, and that’s an American tragedy. They’re really cubic-hells.

“Face it, most of us have jobs too small for our spirits. “- Joey Reiman

SK: And that’s still the model you use, the four “I”s?

JR: It’s the methodology we use in order to identify a company’s purpose. What BrightHouse is known for is helping Fortune 100 companies:

  • Discover and articulate their purpose
  • Tell their story— and by doing so
  • Attract relationships and not necessarily customers

BUYER VS. BUY-IN FOCUSED

That’s very different from typical marketing that is focused on getting people to buy things. We’re focused on one thing, and that’s to buy into—not to buy things but to buy into things.

“You don’t buy an iPod, you buy into the Apple philosophy.”- Joey Reiman

This is all predicated on the notion that human beings crave meaning. If you’re not creating meaning, then why should people seek you out? But if you create meaning in a genuine, moral and ethical sense, then people will not just want to break down your door, they’ll want to live with you. I think this is really the most important thing as marketing moves from product-focused to customer-focused and gets into the power of relationships.

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

SK: Just a wild guess here, but I think you probably ran into some resistance and adversity when you tried to create BrightHouse. What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

JR: I ran into a lot of people that said “No. Won’t work. Who’ll pay for an idea? “

SK: (That’s what I was thinking— boy was I wrong. But then again, refer to the opening cartoon.)

JR: And … “Really , who would pay for an idea? It’s not the way the world works.” That’s when the Coca-Cola Company and Coty Cosmetics stepped forward and tried it. We’ve never looked back. But, even to this day, fifteen years later, I still have to teach people a whole new way of thinking and sell the concept.

Our business is really Thinkonomics, and the work we do at BrightHouse is for visionary leadership. Though I’d like to think that every leader is visionary, you and I both know that’s not the case.

QUARTER CENTURY VS NEXT QUARTER

I search for people who are thinking forward into the next quarter century—not just the next quarter—for their shareholders. I think that stereoscopic vision where you’re focused on both the next quarter and the next quarter century is the kind of leader that hires BrightHouse.

“I paid Joey Reiman $1 million just to think!” – CEO Jim Adamson of the Advantica Restaurant Group

SK: Selling value. Selling the value of an idea. You actually charge $500,000 to $1,000,000 per idea?

JR: Yes. I think if you were to ask any of those CEOs “was it worth it?” they’d say yes. Many have been asked. There is a real sense of great value delivered. And value, in return, should be received for great ideas.

QUESTIONS CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANSWERS

It’s something I feel strongly about and stand for. It’s just like grammar school. You don’t get credit for the answers; you get credit for solving the question. The questions could be a lot more important than the answers. These questions lead you to deeper thinking toward thoughtful solutions. We don’t need quick solutions. A quick solution often doesn’t work. Thinking more deeply, thinking more thoughtfully, thinking more long-term, takes a longer period of time, but it has greater generative effects.

STOP DOING—START THINKING

We need to stop the doing and start thinking.

SK: Yes. Agreed. But it’s a little difficult for some managers and leaders to think you’re working when you’re at your desk thinking. For example, I tried that once.


And the boss caught me deep in thought, which I re-positioned as “I was hard at work.” My reward? A retro-pay adjustment. That belies the flawed notion of seemingly “doing something” means your working.

“Never mistake motion for action.” – Ernest Hemingway

Was there a point when you were creating BrightHouse and the “Thinking for a Living” concept that you questioned whether you could really pull it off?

JR: I’ve had times at BrightHouse where we took a step backward. I remember working with Delta Airlines and they wanted us to go back to doing their advertising. There was a lot of money on the table—a very lucrative opportunity. I did it, took the money, and it was a big mistake. So yes, I did question myself.

SK: How do you sell ideas? I know you can sell ideas with volume production and execution, but just the idea itself? It sounds to me like the epitome of the definition of a “Complex Sale.”

JR: I couldn’t sell something unless I believed in it—passionately. It’s very similar to consultants. There are two kinds of consultants: the experts and the advisors. The experts I can get in the phonebook. But the advisor is different. In past times, the king would rely on his advisor, not the expert. The advisor was always stacked above everyone else next to the king.

That’s what we sell at BrightHouse. I’m not selling expertise. Those in advertising, they’re experts at communicating. We’re advisors. I do think people will pay for a point of view because anyone can have a point of view.

IMPORTANT

But to have a:

  • Point of view
  • Noble purpose
  • Live that purpose
  • Look at the world through a prism of purpose that magnifies everything

… that people will pay well for … very well; millions of dollars.

SK: What do you look for in a person when BrightHouse hires a thinker?

JR: Well I used to put out a “For Hire” sign, but it was spelled “higher;” the notion being that we were looking for people with a higher form of thinking. Beginning at BrightHouse is pretty hard. There are some interviews, a number of case studies, a number of cases, and I don’t look for anything close until I look into the eyes of the person.

I look for passion because I can teach anyone just about anything, but I can’t teach will. I need will much more than I need skill. If I see will in your eyes, I don’t care what your skills are like; that can be taught. But the will is a gift. That’s what I look for.

“Will is more important than skill. Thinking can be taught. But will is a gift.” – Joey Reiman

SK: Who are some of the luminary thinkers you’ve attracted to BrightHouse?

JR: We’ve created the largest and most distinguished Luminary Network on the planet. We engage these top scholars and expert advisors on all of our projects to provide divergent, unprecedented thinking and insights. It’d be easier if people just went to our website and clicked on “Luminaries” to check them out. But they include:

  • Dr. Philip Kotler, Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management
  • Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon and the pilot of Apollo 14
  • Robert Watson, former CEO of the Salvation Army
  • Horst Schulze, founding president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
  • Dr. Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry
  • Dr. Allison Druin, Director of the human-computer interaction lab at the University of Maryland
  • Sam Keen, noted philosopher and author. Bill Moyers profiled him in the 60 Minutes PBS special “Your Mythic Journey.”

Among many others.

SK: Back to thinking for a living. What do you think of a genius-type like Nikola Tesla who got the call to change the world through his inventions? He did change the world but died alone and penniless, mainly because his call didn’t include business smarts. He believed himself to be a “Planter of Seeds,” of great ideas for the benefit of our world. Thomas Edison on the other hand invented for one purpose: to sell a product. If he couldn’t sell it, it wasn’t worth inventing. The businesses he created still exist today, and he died fabulously wealthy.

JR: When so many artists and great inventors get the calling, there is not a checkbook. Larry Barkin said, “Infinite patience produces immediate results.” What he meant by that is that if you have a calling of something great, you need to heed it. Edison beat Tesla in sales. Plain and simple. It was his call. Not Tesla’s. But I think if people follow their dreams, try to live them every day, then their dreams will come true. Those of us who have them every day get to live a better life than those who are living without the dream, which is, I think, a nightmare.

Aspirations are different.

What do you aspire to? Is it money? Will you be happy with money? I don’t think most are. Life isn’t printed or lived on dollar bills even though a lot of people think it is. I know a lot of unhappy rich people. I know more happy people without a lot of money but have great hearts, and the dream in their heart is what sustains them.

I wish for everyone to be a Tesla and not an Edison.

SK: If Tesla were alive today, would it be any different?

JR: Yes. Because he’d be working with BrightHouse. His soulful passion would be nurtured and rewarded.

Passion + Purpose = Profit

###

About Joey Reiman

As founder of BrightHouse, the world’s first Ideation Corporation™, Joey Reiman decided to offer companies a revolutionary way of thinking that promised to change the way they did business forever. Over the past 25 years, Joey has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing. He is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future.

Contact:

JReiman@thinkbrighthouse.com Atlanta 790 Marietta Street P: 404-240-2500 Atlanta, GA 30318 F: 404-240-2501

It’s Not What People Hear – It’s What They Repeat

It’s Not What People Hear – It’s What They Repeat

DANGER

When death, danger or the IRS beckons, life gets real simple, real quick. Every sense amplifies. Every second lasts a year.

All attention finely focuses. Yes? It’s because of this universal principle.

Survival of the Simplest

Put the Bear Cub Down Steve

Someone throws a rock at your head. Is there a long thought process? No. It’s instinctive, intuitive. Our brains are genetically hard-wired to focus only on the data that’s important for survival. All else is tossed out. Things get real simple, real quick.

“Fix gaze on rock, if it keeps coming, duck!”

That’s called a “gaze heuristic,“ an evolutionary shortcut that evolved over millions of years. It saves the brain from making a Gabazillion (That’s “gabazillion with a capital “G,”) mathematical calculations. Your brain gives you one quick, practical, rule-of-thumb to act on to save you from getting a rock headache or giving you an all expenses paid trip down the river Lethe.

Why is This Important – Besides Being a Handy-Dandy Life-Saving Trick?

Bill Schley, author of the bestselling “Why Johnny Can’t Brand,” has a book called, “The Micro-Script Rules: It’s Not What People Hear … It’s What They Repeat.” Bill’s book taps our brain’s built-in heuristics, or problem-solving rules-of-thumb, to help you craftily break through and powerfully communicate ideas, so people won’t just hear them … they’ll repeat them. Bill details how five finely conceived, crafted and connected words can be more powerful than 5,000.

Message Madness

Sounds easy. I mean, it’s an evolutionary thing, right? Well, easy it’s not. How do you standout and breakthrough in today’s world where Google indexes over 1.5 trillion URL’s? Where 300 billion messages bombard us — per second? And they’re just not messages. On the whole, they’re pretty crappy messages — no?

Over Delivers… Less Than Zero Value

Most are loaded with self-serving corporate gobbledygook that habitually over-delivers less than zero value. Too much information. Too many words. We’re fighting an exploding global pandemic of message madness where memorability is memorably absent.

A Peculiarly Human Disease

Message madness disease only affects us humans – mostly writers and business communicators. “The Micro-Script Rules” can help you take the madness out of your message and put meaning into the madness of 1.5 trillion URLS and 300 billion messages per second.

So What Are Micro-Scripts?

Micro-scripts are magic words and phrases that kick gluteus-maximus in any battle of ideas. Simple. Clear. Repeatable. Memorable. Easy to instantly memorize. Short. Did I say Short?

LET ME REPEAT

Let me say it again. Short. Usually 3-8 words. Micro-Scripts work because people love to repeat them as much as hear them. And if they repeat them … they’re spreading your idea or promoting your business for you.

What They’re Not

Sound bites.

What They Are

Idea-bites. That’s right, idea bites that deliver value and message memorability.

Here’s a couple. Can you finish them?

Examples:

If it does not fit, you must ____
Pork, it’s the other ____
Friends don’t let friends _____
1,000 songs in your _____
What happens in Vegas _____
What happens in Cincinnati _____ (Answer at end of article … guess right and receive a complimentary copy of “THE MICROS-SCRIPT RULES.”)
The milk chocolate that melts ______
Dr. Scholls Shoes … are you _____?

Why Do They Work?

According to Bill, “Cognitive psychologists say that people love micro-scripts because our brains love to simplify, and we love communicators who help us simplify. We evolved this way for survival. We zip up whole stories and impressions into compact files and make short “rules of thumb’’ for quick retrieval at the moment of need.

In today’s world, stories are more important than ever, but you need to know how to tell your story in about one line or less. The right five words will always beat 5,000. Marketers will tell you this is a big reason we like brands so much. They help us simplify, too.”

How to Create Micro-Scripts?

You can’t template the process to create a Micro-Script, but ideas, patterns and similarities emerge. According to Bill, “The pattern we most often see is a simple, two-part logic equation – a kind of balance where value A is related to value B to form a complete idea. For example,

Problem A has Solution B

If A, then B – “What goes around, comes around.”
A causes B – “No pain, no gain.”
A saves B – “Better safe than sorry.”
A mirrors B – ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
And the single, big metaphor version…

A is B

“Laughter is the best medicine.”

“Honesty is the best policy.”

“Love is blind.”

Bill’s research also revealed that the most memorable lines of all-time delivered powerful and moving ideas in an average of 5.2 words – 5.2 words.

Can you imagine? What are we going to do with all the spare words we know?

###

The answer to Cincinnati question? If you know, let me know. I think it’s “nothing.” But… I’m not sure.

How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat?

How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat?

Featuring an interview with Steven Pressfield, international bestselling author of The War of Art,” “Gates of Fire,” “Killing Rommel,” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” among many others.

In every person’s life, there is a still, small voice that tries to guide you to a wonderful calling − a destiny.

Your destiny.

A calling that you, and only you, were put on this earth to fulfill. Near silent, this voice is powerful enough to lift thoughts, dreams and visions to a higher ground. In ancient Rome, this inner voice was called “genius.” A tutelary inner-mentor to guide your aspirations forward − to be the best writer, politician, businessman, inventor, doctor, lawyer, painter, dancer, father, mother or whatever calling you were placed on this earth to fulfill.

Right or Wrong?

Each of you reading this right now has someplace you’d rather be; some job you’d rather have; something else you’d rather be doing. Your dreams and aspirations of bygone years are mingled with fond, longing memories of an unrealized life.

Right or wrong?

Remember?

Hear it?

That small, still inner voice?

Sadly, for most people, this voice is muted, or completely silenced − sometimes for a lifetime. Silenced by an unyielding, implacable, despicable and evil, yes evil, force. Instead of listening to this inner voice and striving to achieve something great, you end up doing something totally different than you hoped or dreamed, or were put on this earth to do. How did it happen?

Boring

You drifted into boring and safe. That’s right. You drifted into doing something boring and safe that ensnares you. It sucks you in and imprints upon your consciousness the message that you’re too boring, lazy, incompetent, or incapable of reaching out for and capturing your dream. Boring becomes your life − not a dream but a dreary, monotonous, unending circle of boring. You take a boring job
, make some boring money, pay some boring bills, and boringly exist.

Boring is a Force.

But it’s not “THE FORCE.”  Yes, “THE FORCE” is what’s really holding you back. And what we’re talking about is the …

Inner Deadbeat Force

We all have it. It infects everyone.

Every time you start, or try to start, to listen and change your life for the better, this evil scourge kicks in. Your Inner Deadbeat. It manifests itself in many nefarious ways: Rationalization, procrastination, drugs, alcohol, depression, and despair. Any weaselly
way out works just fine for the Inner Deadbeat, as long as you remain mired and mucked-up in a life unfulfilled and unlived. The Inner Deadbeat fights, no holds barred, down and dirty, to win.

How to Win?

Are there ways to overcome this diabolically evil force? Are there ways to break on through to the other side − the better side?

http://www.einarsen.no/frankrike/paris/Wallman.jpg


To not only search for meaning in life, but experience a meaningful life?  Are there ways to battle resistance and win, in your life of business and business of life?

Yes.

And an honorary citizen of Sparta and bestselling author of The War of Art:
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield, will guide us to some of these answers. “The War of Art” has been hailed as …

“A vital gem … a kick in the ass.” – Esquire

Yes, The War of Art is hell. But Steven Pressfield is our Clausewitz who shows how you too can battle against The Four Horsemen of The Apologetic: sloth, inertia, rationalization and procrastination. Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Beethoven all are proof of what you can do with talent and General Pressfield.” – Frank Deford, Author and NPR Commentator

But First …

I’m a deadbeat.

A real doofy-doozy, ding-a-ling-dinger deadbeat.

You are too (probably, or have suspicions) if you’re reading an article titled “How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat.” But stick with me. We’re going to learn and have some fun.

Oh No … Not Him Too!

I have this great novel in me. I use the word “great” humbly, not pompously or arrogantly, but quite conservatively. It’s a bestseller for sure. Not the “Great American Novel” but the “Great Global Novel.”  Harry Potter potential all over it. Nothing will get in its way. NOTHING! Except …

May the Force Be With You … NOT

Every time I try to start writing, a force holds me back; an all-powerful force that kicks me back like a horrified donkey getting sucked up in an F-5 tornado. I’ve battled this force unsuccessfully for over a year now (okay maybe two or three years) and I’m losing ground fast. So, as any person with worldly ambitions and initiative would, I sought expert counsel and guidance. I went down to the …


whinerdine

… to meet with a couple of nattering nabobs of n’er do-wells (friends). Not much dining ever goes on at the Whiner Diner, just whining, drinking, and mostly non-visionary, rectal-polyp thinking.

My old “Shoot the Donkey” co-writer friend Donkey O’Tee was in town. He was finishing up his bestselling book tour for “Pompously Obfuscating on Purpose.”
Unfortunately, since I arrived later than normal, Donkey O’Tee was pretty much in his hooves (tipsy). I explained my problem. A terrible force was preventing me from writing my masterpiece. I asked Donkey O’Tee how he broke through the creative blocks (not to mention typing with hooves) to write his book? Though his speech was somewhat brayed (slurred), his only lucid suggestion was to “get in touch with my inner donkey.

In Touch With Your Inner Donkey?

Good advice. I thought about it. But no, it didn’t really apply. I’m pretty much always in touch with my inner donkey …. both of them.

I turned to my other friend at the table; a person known far and wide in the business world as the most exasperating, frustrating, obdurately obnoxious, perfidious perorating purveyor of corporate gobbledygook in known human history − and probably most unknown history too. He could unleash a tornadic swirl of immeasurably long and undecipherable words lasting upwards of five minutes without taking a breath, or making any sense whatsoever. Not even a minuscule pause, which, in my opinion, is always his most singular accomplishment, as I usually have no idea as to what he’s trying to say. He has the most impressive repertoire of corporate gobbledygook I’ve ever heard and uses every acronym known to mankind and possibly most extraterrestrials; a corporate gobbledygook automaton of epic proportions.  Because of this talent, I dubbed him  …

 “CAL 9000” (Corporate Automaton Linguist − with 9000 pre-programmed acronyms for release  upon the slightest provocation (such as breathing).

However, CAL 9000 should not ever be confused with HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) of “2001 Space Odyssey” fame.

Hal had a personality.

I politely asked Cal 9000 how his new company was coming along. (He was recently named CEO and quickly thereafter Chairman of the Bored.)

“You mean my market-leading, universal, enterprise-content application tool with extensible, real-time, interactive, scalable, sorta seamless, multi-alphanumerical particularities supported by multi-colored platforms?”

Note to Reader: To translate the above corporate gobbledygook, please take a deep breath and visualize …typewriter-full
“Yes,” said I.

“Well, the market is a little slow right now. I’m repositioning our positioning to position our repositioning for future retro-strategic growth. But let’s get back to you. This force, this thing holding you back; it probably comes from your Inner Muse. It’s trying to alert you that what you’re trying to do is crap. You? Write a novel? HA HA HA! − Crap. The more powerful the force or resistance is, the more you ought to back off. Do something else. I mean when I bought this new company, there was absolutely no resistance − internal or external; I knew it. A deal made in heaven.”

“Thanks for the insight and non-support.”

“Anytime.”

“Let’s drink and increase our deep thinking,” said Cal 9000.

“No. I’m trying to accomplish something. Don’t try to get me inebriated. I have this vision. I need to bring it to life.”

“Well, if you’re going to be an ultra-ugly, gluteus maximus cranium about it, why don’t you find someone like you? Someone that’s been through some of the same experiences as you, but has actually accomplished something − unlike you. Ask the person how they did it.

Donkey O’Tee brayed assent.

“Yes. Find an ex taxicab driver, basketball player, truck driver, farm worker, bartender, oilfield worker, fruit picker, New York ad agency copywriter that had an epiphany when he was writing a dog food ad that in turn led him to be a novelist and screenwriter,” Cal 9000 said, in less than one second.

“That’s pretty close to me… not. The likelihood of there being a person alive such as that is about the same odds as Warren Buffet and Jimmy Buffet being related
. Or maybe Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggert being cousins.

But – guess what? 

I was wrong. There was a person out there almost exactly like Cal 9000 described. And he was going to help us define, defeat, and

shootdonkey1out of our Inner Deadbeat.

The term “Shoot the Donkey” refers to a classic scene in the movie “Patton” (based upon a true event) where the Third Army convoy gets critically held up in battle on a bridge, by a cart-pulling donkey that has stopped and refuses to budge, totally blocking the bridge. Enemy aircraft is strafing the convoy. Life and death are at stake. An MP struggles with the donkey and the owner, trying to get them out of the way, but makes no headway.

The entire Third Army halts for this recalcitrant donkey.

General George Patton roars up, leaps out of his jeep, whips out his ivory-handled pistol, shoots the donkey, and immediately has it hurled off the bridge, removing the obstacle. That classic scene not only revealed Patton’s character in a cinematic way, but also embodies the great leadership principle of taking decisive action to remove all obstacles to fulfill one’s mission.

ENTER: Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield has been a New York City taxicab driver, truck driver, US Marine, oil-rig worker, bartender, fruit picker, and a $150-a-week copywriter for a New York City advertising agency, Benton & Bowles. One day while rewriting the “just-add-water” text for the back label of Gravy Train dog food, Mr. Pressfield asked himself, “Shouldn’t I be doing something a little more worthwhile?”  What followed? International bestselling books and screenplays.

Mr. Pressfield has written or co-written 34 screenplays, and is the author of international bestsellers “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (also a movie), “Gates of Fire,
An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,” “Tide of War,” “The Afghan Campaign,” “Virtues of War” and “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles.”

Gates of Fire, An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, has been included in the curriculum of the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy and is on the Commandant’s Reading List for the Marine Corps.

In September 2003, the city of Sparta made Mr. Pressfield an honorary citizen.

Steve Kayser (Steven K): Welcome! Great to talk to you.

Steven Pressfield: Thank you.

Steve K: Great first name. Anyway, I’m looking for some help. In your book, the “War of Art,” you name “Resistance” (with a capital “R”) as a force, an implacable foe. Evil. Toxic.  It sounds like the same thing I’m struggling with right now, but I call it my Inner Deadbeat. I’m sure it’s the same thing. How do you define “Resistance?”

Steven: Just the way you described it above. Instead of “The Force Be With You” it’s “The Force Be Against You” anytime you try to achieve something positive. The self-sabotaging force we all seem to have. Resistance stops us from living our dreamed-of life. Resistance is particularly strong in creative and business people. The person that dreams of writing a great novel, starting a great business, losing weight or breaking away from corporate boredom to serve a greater cause, all struggle mightily with resistance.

Steve K: About the “novel writing” thing; I’ll want to follow up with you later (at the end of this interview). I have an idea on that. What are some examples of activities that bring out Resistance?

Steven:  How about a list in no particular order?

1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.

2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3) Any diet or health regimen.

4) Any program of spiritual advancement.

5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.

7) Education of every kind.

8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.

9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.

10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, or to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.

11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of potential reprisal.

“Any act which disdains short-term gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity. Any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any act of these types will elicit Resistance.” –  – Steven Pressfield, War of Art

Steve K: How does Resistance operate?

Steven: Resistance is a liar. Resistance is relentless. Resistance is destructive. Resistance is creative. It finds ways − reasonable ways − for you to avoid doing the very thing you should be doing.

Steve K: How does it do that?

Steven: One way is rationalization. Coming up with all kind of reasons not to start. Waiting for your health to get better, the right moment, the right opportunity, the right partner, etc. This leads to procrastination. Procrastination serves its devious agenda. Rationalize and Procrastinate. They become bad habits.

Steve K: What are some of the ways Resistance manifests itself?

Steven: Remember I said it’s evil. Toxic. Protean − a shape shifter. It can manifest itself in many ways. Depression. Despair. Alcohol and drug abuse. Overeating or overindulging in any short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term positive growth.

Steve K: You have a rule of thumb …

The Resistance Rule of Thumb

“The more important a call or an action is to our soul’s evolution,  the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Steve K: How did you come up with that?

Steven: Life experience. Lots of it. For example, I was a screenwriter in LA when the idea for “The Legend of Bagger Vance” came to me. As a book, not a screenplay. Remember I was a screenwriter. But not just any book … a book about golf. My first novel. First novels usually take forever to get published and realize very little financial gain, if any. Not much chance of success there. Resistance fired up the fear engine.  But … the Muse grabbed me. So I did it.

Steven K: And …
it ended up being a bestseller, both commercially and critically acclaimed, and later made into a movie.

Steven: Yes.

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. ” –  Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894)

Steve K: You state in your book that Resistance only strikes in one direction.

Steven: Yes. Down. Never up.

Steve K: Resistance wants you to take the low road? Example?

Steve: Yes. If you’re working to find a cure for a disease, or to eradicate poverty, and decide that you’d rather be driving a cab in Cincinnati, Resistance won’t stand in your way.

“Resistance only strikes in one direction … down.”

“Take the low road!” – Resistance

Steven K: How do you start to overcome resistance?

Steven: Facing death is one way.

Steven K: Uh …  I’ll pass on that one. But, what do you mean?

Steven: How about this example: a woman finds out she is going to die of cancer in six months. She quits her job immediately. She goes to a hospice (or – insert any life long dream here), and volunteers to help other dying people.  She’d always dreamed of helping others. Everyone thinks she’s crazy, friends and family alike. But she’s happier than she’s ever been. And P.S. …

Steve K: P.S. what?

Steven: Her cancer goes into remission.

“When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.” – Sogyal Rinpoch

Remember Tom Laughlin? He starred in the movie “Billie Jack.” He now works with cancer patients. I heard him speak once, and he said (paraphrasing), The minute a person finds out they have cancer, everything changes. What was important seconds ago to them now no longer is. Everything changes.

When it happens, people think back to unrealized dreams. Think back on their unfulfilled dreams of being a musician, painter, farmer, or dancer. Maybe cancer is caused by not following your path − your dreams − what you should have, or should be doing.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – – M. Scott Peck

Steve K: How do you defeat resistance? Defeat this Inner Deadbeat? How do you start?

Steven: By starting. There’s no magic in the answer. But there’s magic in the start.

Wonderful things happen when you just do it. Mysterious things happen. Ideas pop up from nowhere. Happy accidents occur. People appear in your life at the very right time.

It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s like tapping into this vast collection of creative possibilities just waiting to be discovered. Those possibilities are already out there. Right now. Waiting for you, or someone like you, to discover them. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.” –  Albert Einstein

Steve: Just start? That’s it? That’s all there is to it?

Steven: Yes. But you have to be a professional. Not a weekend warrior. Do it as a profession, not an avocation. Not a weekend warrior. Have a hard hat, hard-head, lunch-pail mentality. Think like a professional. It’s an attitude shift. Show up for work every day. Rain, sleet, snow, sunshine. Then work every day. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t collected a check yet. Just keep at it. The money will come. But be prepared for adversity, failures, and criticism along the way. It will come too.

Steven K: Example?

Steven: The first screenplay I had made into a movie was “
King Kong Lives
.” I thought it was going to be a box office smash.

Steven K: And?

Steve: Variety magazine reviewed it like this, “We hope writers Steven Pressfield and Ronald Shusett are not their real names … for their parents’ sake.”  I learned from it. Don’t take it personal. Move on. 

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” –  Sir Winston Churchill

Steven K: How do you do it? Write?

Steven: I put my boots on to write. I say a prayer and invoke the Muse, as the ancient Greeks did, humbly asking for aid to open up the creative channels. Then I just do it.

The hardest part is sitting down.

Let me say that again. The hardest part is sitting down.

I keep at it until I’m done for the day. It can be good … or bad. The main thing is to just do it

Steven K: Final thoughts?

Steven:
Each person is destined to do something specific that only they can do. Follow your inner voice; just do it.

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?”  – Benjamin Franklin

Steven: If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, your hurting others by not helping enrich our world. By not sharing your gift. Do it and don’t quit no matter what. 

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Steve: “The War of Art” (also available in MP3) by Steven Pressfield, is a timeless classic. Eloquent, elegant, quick, slick, easy to read, transformatively easy to understand. I very rarely rave about a book, but this book is raveable.

One last thing, Steven, Let me run this book idea by you I mentioned earlier.

Silence

(funny thing about silence … it can be real quiet.)  

“Here begins homo ignoramus” – Immanuel Velikovsky – “Worlds in Collision”

Steve: My bestselling, “great global novel” concept. It’s about this tortured soul who finds redemption and meaning in a baskagolf tournament.

Silence

(
I’m sure the continuing silence indicates he’s impressed with the depth and breadth of my shallowness.)

Steve: Baskagolf. It’s a new game I invented. A combination of basketball and golf. (Hitting a little white ball doesn’t take much skill and really, it’s not very manly now is it?) I’ll admit, I may have slightly cribbed the title from you, it’s called … 

baggypants1

Steve: So what do you think?
 
Steve: Hey! Would a real Spartan do something like that?


“Although extraordinary valor was displayed by the entire corps of Spartans and Thespaians, yet bravest of all was declared the Spartan Dienekes. It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, ‘Good. Then we’ll have our battle in the shade.'” – Herodotus Histories

Steve: Huh? What’s that sound? Uh-oh …


1201_1071062250762_8520_n

END:

Open Your World, Walk Towards Wisdom  – An Interview with Dr. Ken Blanchard

Open Your World, Walk Towards Wisdom – An Interview with Dr. Ken Blanchard

By Steve Kayser

This is the final in a series of articles from an interview with Dr. Ken Blanchard about his newest book, “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life.

GROW is an acronym and a strategy for business and life.

“G” stands for “gaining knowledge.””

“R” for “reaching out to others.”

“O” for opening your world.”

“W” for “walk towards wisdom.

OPENING YOUR WORLD

Steve Kayser:  The “O” in GROW,  stands forOpening your world.” Three simple words, but big implications. What does it mean?

 Ken Blanchard: It’s looking for new opportunities to learn. Both on and off of work.  For example, at work, have you ever thought about;

  • Shadowing somebody from another department?
  • Volunteering to run a social activity for the company?
  • Creating opportunities for you to constantly learn, to look for mentors, to find people that can just expand your world?

CALL SECURITY!

Steve Kayser: I tried shadowing somebody at work once. Someone I hoped would be my mentor, the Treasurer of our company. He called security on me.

Ken Blanchard:  Ha-ha, He thought you were after the money! Opening your world means you’re always looking for ways to grow in your own position by opening your world where you work.

Outside the office, you ought to travel quite a bit so you can learn from that. New perspectives, new people. Maybe even learn a new language. In our company, we have everybody have one goal per year. If they accomplish it, they will have something new on their resume that they didn’t have the year before.

STRETCH YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

You want to constantly stretch yourself and open your world to new learning opportunities.

Steve Kayser: I’ll throw a curveball at you … why? (After a pregnant pause, I suspect Dr. Blanchard has never been grilled by a sleuth like me.)

Ken Blanchard:  Because, you can get so busy and focused on what you are doing that all of a sudden you wake up one day and find you’re behind. You grow stale. Your usefulness at work declines. Not a good place to head.

WALK TOWARD WISDOM

Steve Kayser: The “W” in GROW stands for “Walk Towards Wisdom.”  My favorite part of the book actually. But, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is fruit. Wisdom is knowing it shouldn’t be in my fruit salad.

When you say, “Walk Toward Wisdom,” what do you mean? Wisdom is often only attributed to gurus, saints and sages.

Ken Blanchard: Wisdom as we define it is;

 WISDOM:  The application of kind of accumulated knowledge and experience.

It’s one thing to know something but if it can’t impact what you do, it’s not really wisdom.

Contrary to what you might think, wisdom has little to do with age, because we’ve all known younger people who might be described as wise beyond their years. Many of us can probably also say we know a few old fools.

The truth is, wisdom is attained bit-by-bit throughout our lifetime. It’s always within reach, but it must be pursued. It’s, keeping your eyes open, learning new things and then see how they can be applied and used in your life and the life of others.

It’s a Walk Towards Wisdom.

Steve Kayser: It’s a “constant becoming?”

SELF-EVALUATION

Ken Blanchard: Yes.  You could say that.  In the book we talk about different elements of wisdom.

AND I SAID TO MYSELF, “SELF … WHAT’S WORKING?”

One is that old concept about self-evaluation, looking into the mirror and being truthful about yourself.

What’s working and what’s not working in your life and career?  

Are you considering your strengths and how you can leverage them?

Are you reflecting on your weaknesses to try to fix them?

Self-evaluation is such an important thing.

FEEDBACK

Another one I have always loved is, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Do you have people around you who give you feedback and are honest with you?

Do you have truth tellers in your life?

A lot of times people live with truth tellers if you only listen to them.

Do your friends level with you?

Steve Kayser: Sometimes that’s hard to do, especially if they’re friends from work.

Ken Blanchard: But what’s the value of true friends? Well, they are honest with you. They will tell you the truth.

I grew up with a lot of guys that went to school at Cornell and nobody lets anybody act like a big deal. We were at a restaurant one time, eight couples, we’d known each other for fifty years and a waiter comes up,

  “We understand the author of  “The One Minute Manager” is in your group, could we get his autograph?”

And it was almost on cue, they all shouted,

 “Why do you want his autograph? Hell, he never even went to class, you know. What was his average? About 70…”

And they just put everything in perspective.

Steve Kayser: A walk toward wisdom also means a dogged determination to ask questions that matter. Especially if you want to be a great leader in business … or life.

Ken Blanchard: Yes. A friend of ours, Shawn Harris, who built Cold Stone Creameries, once said there are three kinds of leaders.

THREE KINDS OF LEADERS – PERIOD

There is the “period,” which is,

 “Here is my opinion. (period)”

Not good.

EXCLAMATION!

 “Here is what I think! (exclamation point)”

The worst!  But the great leaders are “question marks.”

QUESTION?

They ask great questions like,

“Here is my opinion about what I think we ought to do, but what do you think about it?”

If they say,

“Well, I don’t really know if I could add anything to that.”

“Well, if you did, what would you add?”

And they keep on asking questions, because then you’re going to learn because I think, as I said before, none of us is as smart as all of us.

Steve Kayser: I  heard a couple of people in the hallway where I use to work talk about a person that wasn’t keeping up with his job or learning new skills . One of the younger ones  said,

“He should be put out to pasture,”

Because he was too old to learn. And I said,

“That’s not true, anybody can learn anything at anytime.”  

Somehow the conversation got back to him and he was deeply hurt.  I followed up with him and sent him a quote by one of my favorite writers, Richard Bach. A writer much like you, full of wit and wonderful  wisdom.

 “Here’s a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished.

If you’re alive, it isn’t.”

Ken Blanchard: Yes, some people repeat the same year, year-after-year, and don’t grow. That’s why I think it’s so valuable for you to personally, all of us, to say,

  • What can l learn this year that I can put on my resume that wasn’t there last year?
  •  How do I constantly grow and push my mental envelope?

I got a chance to write a book with Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. I met him in 1986 when he was 88 years old. He was so excited about life. And I said, “Why are you so excited?” He said,

“Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new, I just never know what I’m going to learn.”

That’s just such a powerful example for anyone. And it’s been such an inspiration to me.

###

OTHER ARTICLES FROM THIS SERIES

Great Leaders GROW – Interview with Bestselling Author Dr. Ken Blanchard

Who Influenced You? 

Stand Aside for an Officer, You Can’t All be Saved! 

Flickr photo courtesy of H.Kopp Delaney – AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved.

 

Who Influenced You?

Who Influenced You?

By Steve Kayser

I’ve done a lot of interviews with some great thinkers, business leaders and writers over the last couple years. One question I love to ask  – no matter what the topic – is,

“Who influenced you?”

The Secret Sauce

Why? Mainly because I’m nosy. Aren’t you? Isn’t everyone looking for the secret sauce of success? I’m especially curious about great writers and storytellers. How did they learn the craft? How did they hone it? Who influenced them?

And you know what? The answer to those questions usually end up being the most revealing, illuminating, authentic… and fun.  And there’s always a great story involved. Is it because once you reach a certain level of success you look back and see how blessed you were at a certain time in your life to run across that certain person or book? Or you experienced something unexpected that set you on your life path?  Or later, when you think back, it seems like it was a complete fluke, an accident of fate?  But, without it they know  – there would have been no success – or at the very least it would have been a completely different type of success.

Ask

It was no different when I asked Dr. Ken Blanchard, author of 50 books, including the iconic “One Minute Manager,” the question…

Who Influenced You?

Steve Kayser:  You’ve sold 20 million copies of your books and the One Minute Manager is revered in business circles and still being used as a guide almost 30 years after publication.  Who or what influenced your writing style?

I ask all successful writers and storytellers that I’ve had the opportunity to interview that question – who influenced you – because they all seem to have something in common. Clear, concise, easy-to-understand-and-read writing style. No complexities.  Eloquent, elegant, sophisticated and simple style – yet deceptively complex with deep knowledge embedded – if you look for it.

So who influenced you as a writer?

The Value of the Parable

Ken Blanchard: Well, I think Spencer Johnson and I influenced each other. I met Spencer at a cocktail party in 1980. He wrote children’s books, The Value of Courage, the ValueTale series, Story of Jackie Robinson, The Value of a Sense of Humor,  The Story of Will Rogers, just a wonderful series of stories for kids. I had just written a textbook. I was a college professor at the time. My wife bumped into Spencer at the party and brought him over and introduced us. She said,

“You guys ought to write a children’s book for managers. They won’t read anything else.

Steve Kayser: Hilarious, a children’s book for managers. So true. Even more so today than it was back then.

A One-Minute Scolding

Ken Blanchard: Yes, so, he was a children’s book writer, and I was just a storyteller. He was working on a one-minute scolding on how to discipline kids at the time. So I invited him to a seminar of mine. Spencer sat in the back at the seminar and laughed out loud. He came running up at the end of it and said,

“Forget child learning. Let’s go for The One Minute Manager.”

Steve Kayser: How did you decide to go with the parable storytelling style?

Ken Blanchard: Well, we thought about that – the best way to do it – and that’s when it became  interestingly magical.  We talked and discovered our favorite books at the time were Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Little Prince and Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman of Them All. All similar in style, and of course  Jesus taught by parable and story in the Bible.

Spencer said,

“We ought to just write a parable, write a story that sells.”

Seek, and You Will Find

So we created a story around this young guy seeking out an effective manager to teach him how to be one.  And he wanted to work for one. In his seeking, he uncovered three secrets to being an effective manager. We came up with the belief, and I still believe this, that people can’t remember more than three or four things at a time. We wanted them to remember the secrets so they could use them in their businesses.

Steve  Kayser: So without …

  • A chance meeting at a cocktail party
  • Your wife introducing you to Spencer Johnson, author of a series of Children’s stories
  • You two hitting it off personally, and both having a love for the parable…

… There would have been a book called, “The One Minute Scolding.” But there would not have been the “One Minute Manager.”

Ken Blanchard: Yes. That’s right.

Do the Work

There was one last critical element not mentioned. You can knock on the door to success, but without acting, actually doing the work to make your dreams come true and walk through that door – there will be no success.

Dr. Blanchard did the work. And still does.

And You

One person, place or event can influence and alter the course of your life forever – at any age.

Who Influenced You?

Who was that someone for you? Who influenced you?

Have you thought about it? If so, have you thanked them?

Have you tried to become that person for someone else?

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Steve Kayser is the author of “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard: True Stories of Triumph,” an award-winning writer, former radio host, public speaker and the Founder of Kayser Media – which specializes in PR, Marketing & Media Relations. His eclectic (some say bizarre) approach to PR, Marketing and Media Relations has been documented in a marketing best practices case study by MarketingSherpa, profiled as a “Purple Cow,” by author Seth Godin, and featured in the best-selling books, The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott and “Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs” by Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott.

In addition, Steve is the co-author of “Margins and Missions… Not Moonshots: Pathways to a Better U.S. Higher Education,” and was editor, designer and producer of “The Surgeon and the Spirit: A Panoramic View of a Journey in Academic Medicine.

Steve has also been featured in the following publications: A Marketer’s Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing, Credibility Branding, Innovation Quarterly, B2B Marketing Trends, PRWEEK, Faces of E-Content, and The Ragan Report. Steve’s writings have appeared in Corporate Finance Magazine, CEO Refresher, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2.0, and Fast Company Magazine – among many others.

Flickr photo courtesy of the inimitable H.Kopp Delaney (http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/5984648332/sizes/m/in/set-72157627300693526/)

It’s Complex to Write Simple These Days…

It’s Complex to Write Simple These Days…

…But Hemingway’s Rules of Writing Still Work

I’ve had Marketing and PR employees work for me right out of college and found most were woefully unprepared for the real-world new PR environment. Not because of any inherent deficiency in the school they came from, but more from the frenetic pace of change in the Marketing and PR industry. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Vlogs, Podcasts, SEO,  Tags, and on and on and on. The technology changes alone can be daunting or intimidating.

Complex and Under-appreciated

It’s a skill and art that is complex, under-appreciated and, as far as I can tell, under-emphasized by schools. Or—if you have the teeth-pulling, Novocain-less pleasure of reading many press releases—companies, for that matter. Why is that? One of the main reasons is …

It’s Complex to Write Simple These Days

Ernest Hemingway had a clear understanding and vision of writing simply and effectively when he discussed the four rules of writing he learned as a journalist at the Kansas City Star.

Hemingway Four Rules

(well, not really, they were the Kansas City Star’s actually)

  1. Use short sentences.
  2. Use short first paragraphs.
  3. Use vigorous English.
  4. Be positive, not negative.

“Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing,” Hemingway said in 1940. “I’ve never forgotten them. No man with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the thing he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides with them.”

These rules still work. Rarely used. But still, work.

However, in defense of most PR practitioners and writers today, Hemingway didn’t have to contend with the New PR. SEO PR. Google News. Yahoo News. He didn’t need to be Redditted, Liked, Google+’ed, Tweeted, Retweeted,  Stumbled Upon.  Or blogged about.

“Having your press release at the number one spot on Google or Yahoo News is the same as a front-page article in print.” – PR WEEK

From Their Eyes

For just a second, step into the shoes of a new PR practitioner, right out of school, or even an experienced practitioner, who has not kept up with the rapidly changing online PR processes and communication tools.

The first thing (and it would be super if this happened) they might hear about is the Hemingway rules above. That’s probably a stretch. But they might hear something like, “to effectively use all the new technologies and communication tools in ‘New PR,’ you have to be able to write simply.” Let’s start with the simple. A simple press release. Doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it?

Simple?

What’s simple? Well, that’s easy, simple is simple. Easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, with specificity and authenticity. Elegant simplicity will build trust and credibility for you and your organization. Wow—that is simple. Sounds simple anyway. However, I forgot to add …

Headline

Make your headline less than ten words with an imperative verb. Try to keep it to 65 characters if you can so it’s not truncated by search engines. Oh — include a key word or key phrase (average search term is 2.67 words long) in that title for the search engines—and not just for the web search engines. “News search engines” have different algorithms than the normal web-based engines.

Of course, that’s simple. Everyone knows that, even a freshly minted Grad student. Don’t they?

Subtitle

Amplify the title. Try to include a keyword or key phrase here too, if possible. Test it for effectiveness. How strong is your keyword – your key phrase? Do you know? (Or, do you even know how to test it, might be a better question?) But … also make it interesting, funny, mysterious, appealing, compelling … simple, easy-to-read and easy-to-understand.

Got it? Simple. Next …

Body

Include a keyword/phrase in the first 50 words of the release (because you’ll be lucky if most journalists will ever get that far, so give it your best shot). Embed hyperlinks in the body of your press release to help draw your audience (prospects/media/analysts) into your story – prompting them to visit your website or respond to a call to action.

Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Frankenquotes

Yes, they’re boring. But you will use them. Hardly anyone will ever read them (except the Frankenquoted person). I’ve included some text below you can use — just insert your company or executive’s name.

We’re Great!

“We’re Great.” “Our company is great.” “Our customers love us.” “The industry analysts love us.” Here’s a video that describes Frankenquoting pretty well.

Remember the Rules!

Remember, though, you still have to make it interesting, funny, mysterious, appealing, compelling, simple, short, easy-to-read, easy-to-understand and use specific keywords and phrases.

Boilerplate

Does anyone ever read this? Hardly ever.

Under-Boiled and Under-Valued Piece of PR Real Estate

However, the boilerplate is one greatly undervalued piece of PR real estate. Do not, I repeat, do not repeat any of your Frankenquotes in your boilerplate. But do use the Four Hemmingway Rules of Writing to answer the four questions that any reader wants to know;

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. Why are you different?
  4. Why should I buy from you?

Reinforce those four questions with embedded hyperlinks back to your website with specific and credible information to back up your statements.

Money Makes You a Better Writer

We’re almost done with the simple press release. The important fact here – You also need to do all of the above in 400 or fewer words. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘What!?’ You inherited a corporate boilerplate that was 2,400 words long by itself! Why under 400 words? Typically the wire services charge you around a dollar per word after 400 words. Ouch.

Spend the money like it’s your money. It will make you a much better writer, better businessperson, and a more responsible and trusted employee.

Delete the 2,400-word boilerplate. Concentrate on a great eye-catching headline that’s less than ten words long with a keyword/keyphrase. Nail the story angle with elegant simplicity in the first 50 words.

Money can make you a better writer … But only if you write like it’s your money you’re spending.

Whirling Dervish of the New PR/Marketing World

Writing simply is hard. It is far easier to write long, complex pieces, believe it or not. But like it or not, writing simply is THE KEY to effectively communicating within this whirling dervish of a new PR world.

Good Can …

A good writer can adapt, learn and flex with the new PR technologies.

Bad Can …

An unskilled, lazy or bad writer, with a great knowledge of the new PR technologies, can trash your credibility to a worldwide audience quicker than a supraluminal tachyon (a hypothetical quantum particle that never travels below the speed of light … Hey, I worked for a tech company).

Part Skill – Part Science – Part …

Writing for the new PR world is part skill, part science, and part art.

The Art Part

The “art” part is putting the pieces above together, so they’re interesting, appealing, compelling (take a digital breath here, breathe in, breathe out) easy-to-read and easy-to-understand in ….

  1. Short sentences.
  2. Short first paragraphs.
  3. Vigorous English.
  4. Positive, not negative tones.

Simple isn’t it?

And that was just a press release.

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