I’m a jerk. And might even be a Jerkaholic. Least I’ve been told that by more than one person lately. Undeservedly so I believe.
But sometimes you need to do a little introspection – take a timeout – to see if what the prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalves are calling you just might be true. Introspective Break Over
That’s long enough. Not interested in paralysis by analysis. They’re wrong. Completely. Mostly completely. Mostly. Okay, I might have been a little off base once when I gave out my Radio co-host’s personal cellphone number on the air – saying it was mine – and anyone that wanted to could call me at any time, 24 x 7. And happened to mention we had forty well-paying jobs available that they might get the inside track on by calling me as much, and as often, as possible – because we were looking for persistence and stick-to-it-iveness in job candidates. That’s not really jerkaholic material. That’s just a radio host trying to generate buzz.
I might have been a little jerky when a good friend asked me to watch his house for two weeks while he was out of the country on vacation with his wife and children. And I took that time to go into his house, take his size 12 expensive dress shoes and replaced them with identical ones … size 10 1/2.
Benny Hill Would Have Understood
Does no one remember Benny Hill? That was a Benny Hill moment. I commiserated and empathized with my friend for two weeks. He was sure he was dying of some circulatory disease that was painfully swelling his feet and causing him immense problems walking – and soon after that, working. So he had to take off work. And watching him walk? It was a Benny Hill of a Mona Lisa. What a hoot. All-time classic. He was quick as a corpse. Who would have ever believed that he’d take it so seriously? He got all psychosomatically sick. I know this because he couldn’t work … until I told him what I’d done. What a psychosomatic man.
But he wasn’t upset at all. I know this because if he were, he would have said something and he hasn’t talked to me since.
A Moaning Lisa
And who would have ever believed his wife (Lisa, ironically enough) would’ve gone so ballistic on me?
Have you ever seen the show SNAPPED? The show that features women going ballistic against males they think deserve it? That was my buddy’s wife. Lisa. She stalked me. I had to get a restraining order against her. Was there any cause for that? Just because her husband couldn’t work and they couldn’t make their mortgage payments and had to sell their house? And truth be told, they didn’t really have to sell their house like they blamed me for. I hooked them up with a banker friend, and they worked some kind of deal out with their bank to just take the house back. Do you know how hard it is to sell a house in this market? But did I get any thanks for that? Noooo. So who’s the jerk there?
Project Recovering Jerkaholic
However, upon some honest introspection, I tentatively concluded there might be a nano-smidgen of almost imperceptible truth to the “jerk” allegations. I decided to speak with Guy Kawasaki on the Radio show to see if he could help me out.
A Jerk in Business & Life
“Some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.”
The first thing he recommended was trying to be more likable, because if my friends (ex-friends now) were telling me I was a jerk, imagine what my business contacts be thinking? So …
Becoming More Likable
I told Guy I was hoping some of the info in his book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions” would help prevent me from going to Jerkaholic rehab. ‘Did he think he could help me?”
GUY KAWASAKI: If I can help YOU I need to charge more for my book!
STEVE: My friends often call me prickly – without the “ly.” They said they were considering a jerk intervention on me. They’re wrong of course. But say they weren’t, how could someone be less of a jerk and become more enchanting?
GUY: Let’s start off with the basics, assuming some people don’t know they have to be likable. You would think that would be obvious but based on the people I know, it isn’t. Some people actually criticize the beginning of my book saying that it starts off too basic, but you know what? If a majority of the people in the world were likable and trustworthy, would have skipped those first two chapters. It’s just not so. The start of likability is …
You need to smile. This smile means you not only use your jaw but you use your eyes. The great smilers of the world have crow’s feet. Crow’s feet is good, Botox is out. You want to have crow’s feet because it adds that extra sparkle to your smile.
STEVE: I think I have that one nailed. But … I don’t really trust people so much that smile, I think they’re up to something. I’ll probably skip that step. The other thing is the eyes. All my friends say I have serial killer eyes. I don’t know where that comes from but…
Dress for a Tie
GUY: The second thing is you need to have the proper dress. You shouldn’t dress way above your audience because they might think you’re trying to put them down, you make more money or have better taste. You shouldn’t dress way under them because then they’ll think ‘this punk thinks he can wear a t-shirt and jeans when we’re in business attire because he has no respect for us.’ You should dress as peers; try to dress approximately the same as how they are dressed. Dress for a “tie.”
STEVE: See, I get this. But this is beginning to look like a challenge more for others than for me. People never dress for a tie with me. I’m a Kommando Kilt-Wearing King Kayser. They should also try to walk a mile in my kilt every once in a while. They’d realize how utilitarian and classy a manly Kilt can be. If more people wore kilts I’d probably be recognized as the Dana Carvey of the business world.
Oddly, There was dead air at this point … no idea why.
GUY: The third factor is the perfect handshake, and this is where I put in the 20 variables formula for the perfect handshake that came from the University of Manchester. So no tax dollars from the U.S. were wasted on that. The gist of it is firm handshake, cool, dry, smooth hands, make eye contact, use the smile with 2 muscles, about 2 seconds long, and not too close, not too far. Those are the keys.
STEVE: Got that one nailed too. I’m pretty good with the handshaking stuff.
GUY: The next thing I’d advise is to use the right words when speaking to people. Words are the facial expression of your mind. They communicate your attitude, personality and perspective.
Big Words Seldom Accomplish Big Deeds – Danish Proverb
Your words need to be short, sweet and swallowable. Common and unambiguous. The wrong words can immediately give the wrong impression.
STEVE: No problem. Whenever I talk to the prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalfs that have been calling me a jerk … it’s short, sweet and palatably unswallowable.
Dead Air … Again?
GUY: A journey of a thousand miles requires at least ONE step.
Guy Kawasaki has a lot more to say about being likable and becoming “enchanting” in his new book. Things like accepting others, projecting your passion and purpose, and creating win-win situations.
Let’s Make this World a Little Better, One Jerk at a Time
Now … I’m a recovering jerkaholic work in progress. So if you see me out and about, and you’re not a prevaricating, blasphemous, smellfungus ninnyhammer all-foam no-beer mooncalf … strike up a conversation! Let’s chat! You’ll be participating in “Project RECOVERING JERKAHOLIC” and making this world a little bit better … one jerk at a time.
From personal experience and conversations with many experts in the business-to-business field, there is reasonable agreement that most corporate sales, marketing and PR lingo suffer from …
“The Four Too’s.”
- Too wordy
- Too complex
- Too cowardly cacophonous
- Too valueless
Agree or Disagree?
Why is that?
Essentially it boils down to:
- Trying to be all things to all people at all times
- Not knowing you can’t be all things to all people at all times
- Trying to sound really sophisticated, cool, intelligent, intricate and inclusive
And finally, the biggie, not understanding your customer/buyer. They only want one thing. Understand this. You exist to solve a problem for them. That’s it.
An Analyst study of executives who were likely to buy enterprise software (high dollar amount purchases typically), discovered that large vendors promoted speeds, feeds and technology innovation to their marketplace.
And buyers? Not so much.
These promotions more often than not entail lengthy and wordy descriptive obfuscations. Yes, I know what the word means. I’m trying to sound really sophisticated, cool, intelligent and inclusive. (Didn’t work, did it?)
But Guess What?
Buyers don’t care about that. They don’t care about the sales brochures with their pandemically infected corporate gobbledygook word, or the 182 PowerPoint slide presentation — both infested with words drained of all meaning.
They essentially want one thing: understanding. Simple understanding. Clear, short, concise messages and understanding.
Understanding of What?
Understanding of them, their businesses, their processes, problems.
You Are There for Only One Reason
Understanding that the only reason you are there is to help them solve a problem — or introduce them to an idea that will make them better, or their life easier in some way.
They don’t want or need the wordy intellectual technical features and functions tomes.
Keep it simple! Less is more.
More of less is less of more which is, besides confusing … great! We need more of less.
Many an executive has spun wildly hilarious tales of the innovative creative ways they have used sales brochures. Soon a corporate sales brochure may rival Duct Tape for the many ways they can be ill-used.
Typically executives throw away all the cutesy, excessively long-winded corporate gobbledygook brochures as soon as the salesperson leaves the room. Or they will store them on a large dusty file cabinet — until they find a need for useless paper.
Some other findings of the analyst study were interesting as well.
Buyers will pay for …
- high integrity,
- fast return on investment,
- inexpensive operation,
- easy implementation, and
- excellent service.
But how is that different from 20-30-40 years ago? And isn’t that applicable to any buyer? Any industry? Any country?
Buyers Want What They Want
Buyers are pretty basic. They want what they want. Understanding, practicality and their problems solved – whatever they are.
Would You Buy From This Company?
- low integrity,
- no return on investment,
- expensive products,
- hard-to-implement products, and
- the world’s worst customer service.”
Just a wild guess … but I’m thinking not.
The Value Of Being a Simpleton
I like simple messages (I’m a simpleton) that give me four tools to combat the four too’s.
The Four Tools
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- What makes you different from others?
- Why should I buy from you (value proposition)?
But, having recently this corporate hypothetical supraluminal messaging,
“We build, sell and support hypothetical superluminal quantum particle applications with ERP, CRM, BPM, MRM and PLM functionality targeted at horizontically vertical market particularities with platform-neutral ‘LMNOP” (sorta clever, alphabetically speaking) interoperability.”
I find I still prefer…
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- What makes you different?
- Why should I buy from you (value proposition)?
Interview with Pen Densham, Writer & Producer of Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves; Moll Flanders; Rocky II and More…
I had the great pleasure of talking to Pen Densham about his book, Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing … and Not Getting Eaten.
“One thing I know for sure; without writers, we in the entertainment business are aimless wanderers looking for a place to be. My thanks to Pen for this inspirational book.” – Morgan Freeman
As a director, I cannot achieve my goals without the help of creative and courageous writers. Pen’s book is unique in that it addresses the entire landscape of movie writing as a career, and most especially encourages artists who write from the heart and strive for originality.” – Ron Howard
While doing my research on Pen and his book, I was amazed. Amazed that his life story hasn’t been made into a movie.
Maybe Father Doesn’t Know Best?
When Pen was very young, around five years of age, he got his first role in the movies—riding an alligator. His dad filmed him. He suspects his mother was not in attendance. At age fifteen, Pen quit high school. He spent his early years doing everything he could possibly do to conjure himself a career in film and television. And, in an industry so full of rejection, so littered with broken dreams, he made it.
Pen Densham has written, produced, consulted and directed movies and television shows. His eclectic string of projects include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Backdraft, Moll Flanders, Rocky II, Blown Away, Footloose as well as the TNT movie Houdini and the successful reboots of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. He’s worked with and learned from people like Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, Robin Wright, Bill Murray, Kevin Costner and Jodie Foster.
This “B” Is Still Big Even Among Q’s
The films and television series Pen Densham and his partner have produced have grossed over $1 billion. I suspect the “B” should be capitalized in Billion. If it shouldn’t, it ought to be. Even with the new monetary policy of quantitative easing (Q2, Q3, QinfinityPlus2, or whatever we’re on now) of the money supply, that’s still a heap of money.
Just One Thing
And of all thing things that Pen did to create a successful Hollywood film career, he credits just one thing for his long track record of success. Just one key factor that we will get to at the end of the interview. (You really didn’t think I was going to spill the beans that quickly did you?)
STEVE KAYSER: What a life story you have. You dropped out of school at fifteen, you traveled a path that was filled with hurdles and rejections. You not only survived, but you thrived. It’s a wonderful story. Sounds like a movie. Is anybody ever going to make it?
PEN DENSHAM: I don’t think so, I think I’m sort of still living it. One of the things I’m most content with is not making myself exceptional. I think as an artist, what I’m most content with is that I did really have a rough time, but it doesn’t mean that it makes it impossible to succeed. I’d hate it if anything you’d speak about me would make me seem more exceptional than other people.
STEVE’S THOUGHT BUBBLE:
I’d like to be “not exceptional” like Pen. Does that mean I’m exceptional? Nah, impossible. You see how great writers and storytellers work? They use words that confuse your own thought bubbles.
PEN DENSHAM: I think anyone with a passion, whether business or art if you really care about something and it’s not knocked out of you, it helps you to keep going forward.
I’m not all that special.
ANOTHER STEVE THOUGHT BUBBLE:
I’d like to be “not special” like Pen. But if I’m “not special,” that must mean I’m special. That’s not true either. See how crafty that is? Penned again!
PEN DENSHAM: I’m scared a lot, I fail sometimes. But in our business, you fail more than you succeed—it’s kind of like the gold rush. You’re out there trying to find the next great nugget, and as long as you don’t quit, sometimes you do find it.
STEVE KAYSER: Riding the Alligator, the title of your new book, is a wonderful metaphor. The grappling, the wrestling with the creative and critical side of writing and the business side of pitching and story-selling. But it’s not just a metaphor is it? You did ride an alligator, a seven-foot-long gator when you were a little kid. Isn’t that true?
PEN DENSHAM: Yes. I was with my parents when I was very young, three-to-five years old. They were making short films in England. Going into the theater was like watching magicians. Watching my father as kind of a sorcerer who put these magic images on the screen, and they did put me on an alligator for a short film about people who kept weird pets. I don’t think my mother was there that day, but it was unnerving for me. This woman had an alligator and a crocodile. She had the crocodile in a large tank with glass sides to it. I can remember her standing in between me and the crocodile; I remember it to this day. She was admonishing me not to go toward the tank. The alligator she didn’t seem to care so much about. But that experience, I jokingly say, was my first job in show business.
STEVE KAYSER: What is Riding the Alligator, all about? (You can download a free chapter of “Riding the Alligator” – HERE.)
The Rules Are Simple … There Are No Rules
PEN DENSHAM: I tried to create a book that would not give rules about how to be creative because I think the most powerful thing is that creativity comes out of you naturally. That’s something Hollywood doesn’t necessarily teach or help you with.
A lot of books are great at articulating the mechanisms for laying out a page or for plotting a structure, but the magic comes from letting something come out of you that’s never existed before.
There shouldn’t be rules against it.
That’s why I say in my book to ignore anything that I say that goes against your creative process. If I can encourage people to take the risk of putting ideas down and overcoming the fear and doubt, good things will happen.
STEVE KAYSER: Trust your gut. Go with your heart.
PEN DENSHAM: Yes.
STEVE KAYSER: I love your movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In fact, Friar Tuck might be my favorite character of all time. He had such a grasp of the divine. Worldly and otherwise.
This is grain… which any fool can eat. But for which the Lord intended, a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about….. beer. – Friar Tuck
What a wonderful story on the screen. But getting it to the screen was a story as well. A complex one, full of fear and doubt.
PEN DENSHAM: Yes. What happened at that time, I had just had the privilege of watching my wife give birth to my son via an emergency Cesarean. It caused me to think, “Where are the people that actually protect people as opposed to killing people?” It made me want to make a movie about Robin Hood, and the idea came to me to put a Muslim and a Christian side by side where they both collaborate against a greater dark force.
Best Stupid Idea Ever Heard
I pitched it at three different studios—Disney, TriStar and another one—and they all told me it was
“The stupidest idea they’ve ever heard.”
One of our assistants who now runs the SyFy Channel said, “That’s a really good idea; why don’t you just start?” It was his little touch of inspiration that made me sit down and see what would come out of me. As I uncritically let these ideas flow, my partner, John Watson was reading the pages as they came out.
There’s this weird thing when you create; you frequently feel like this stuff is stupid. You have a little critic that sits above my back and gnaws at everything I do. He can’t judge; he just seems to be there telling you it’s a waste of time. People are going to laugh. And sometimes it gets so big that you think lineups of people are going to point and laugh at you as you walk down the street. So having other people look at it is what helped me get this one-hundred-page story out. My partner was looking at it, we collaborated in turning it into a screenplay and having been told that no studio wanted it, we were doing it purely on the gut instinct that I should not give up.
Don’t Give Up
That’s when we heard that Fox was going to green-light another Robin Hood. My partner said, “Well let’s not bother finishing this,” and I said, “I gave up on one idea I really loved and I hated myself for it. Let’s just at least finish it.” That’s how close we came to not making Robin Hood.
STEVE KAYSER: And it went on to be …
PEN DENSHAM: It was one of the largest-grossing Warner Brothers movies of all time at that point. ( It’s grossed over $500 million since being released.)
STEVE KAYSER: My wife told me once that Moll Flanders was her fourth-favorite movie of all time, right after the three screenplays that I’ve never sold and turned into movies ( was that a blatant plug or not? In radio they’d call that plugola).
How did Moll Flanders come to be, and how did you pitch it?
PEN DENSHAM: You’re talking about something that’s very heartfelt to me. The thing I’ve noticed in my life is the stories I’ve written for myself, the script for Houdini, the script for Robin Hood and for Moll Flanders were not written inside the studio systems. You understand? I wrote them for myself, and they ended up on screen.
And yet I wrote Gulliver’s Travels with Arnold Schwarzenegger attached, and it didn’t get made. The head of Disney said, “It’s a wonderful script, I don’t know why I’m not going to make it.”
But the ones where I felt I was failing myself by not being at my desk when I just snuck away to write, were the most passionate, like Moll Flanders. It came to me, I knew I was going to write a woman’s story and I heard a little piece on NPR about an orphan, and I had this idea that I would write about a woman who lost her child and then was writing a message to the child she may never see again to tell the child everything about her to see if the child could ever love her for who she really was.
I only told my assistant, who was a woman, and we worked on it in secret and it poured out of me. I didn’t pitch the story, I just wrote the screenplay. It was like having an affair—it was intoxicating. This stream of consciousness happened. In five weeks, I wrote Moll Flanders along with doing all of my normal work, but in secret. My wife would be looking over at me and I’d be typing away at midnight in bed.
STEVE KAYSER: You just ruined my relationship with my wife. You wrote Moll Flanders in five weeks, at night and still did your regular work? I can hear her now, “Moll Flanders in five weeks? And you’ve been doodling around with your stories for how long?”
PEN DENSHAM: But let me put it in perspective. I have one screenplay that took me sixteen years to write. And that’s why creativity is a magical, sacred thing. We shouldn’t criticize ourselves whichever way it comes out of us.
The magic is that the things I’ve written that intuitively came out of me got made more often.
I firmly believe that we are happiest and most productive when working from our true nature and not trying to guess and fake what someone else wants. The scripts that are written with a powerful sense of your inner vision are more creative, complex and rich somehow. I call these “life scripts.” They contain something more profound that derives from your spirit, from your unconscious. These scripts are special. You will instinctively fight harder to get them right. Others see them as deeper and more significant as a result. For me, “life scripts” seem to get produced more frequently than the scripts that are less personally inspired.
When I was asked by USC to go teach the Cinematic Arts students, I thought it was kind of corny and weird, but I decided to just be myself and be authentic. So I taught the first lesson on passion. It sounds like a cliché, but it really isn’t. When I look at my life, the things I’ve gone furthest for, the things I’ve been humiliated for, the things I’ve taken greater risk for have been the things that have come out of my soul, not the things I try to contrive to meet someone else’s perspective of what was fashionable.
Those things seldom succeed, and when you get rejected, you give up very quickly.
When you have something that comes out of you as part of your nature and someone rejects it, you try to figure out how to change it, so you keep what was special to you, but you can mesh with the buyer.
I’ve got stacks of scripts that haven’t been made, but I’m very passionate about them.
But I’ve got more scripts made than I probably ever anticipated in my life.
That One Big Thing?
And that one thing that Pen Densham credits for his success? Having the guts to follow his heart. Follow it down through the valley of ridicule, loss, humiliation, rejection and up to a higher plain—not of Hollywood success, but of living his dream.
DOWNLOAD a free chapter of “Riding the Alligator.”
Connect with Pen:
In every person’s life, there is a still, small voice that tries to guide you to a wonderful calling − a 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
Steve K: 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 shapeshifter. 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.
“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 lifelong 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, you’re 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
Steven K: “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.
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 for “Opening 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?
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?”
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.
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)”
“Here is what I think! (exclamation point)”
The worst! But the great leaders are “question marks.”
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
…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)
- Use short sentences.
- Use short first paragraphs.
- Use vigorous English.
- 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?
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 …
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?
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 …
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.
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.” “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.
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;
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- Why are you different?
- 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 ….
- Short sentences.
- Short first paragraphs.
- Vigorous English.
- Positive, not negative tones.
Simple isn’t it?
And that was just a press release.