What does it take to become superhuman? That's what this show explores. With thoughtful explorations and insights about work, society, and culture, we dig into the areas of life where human potential can be unleashed. This podcast accompanies a blog and newsletter.
As a business owner, entrepreneur, or even someone responsible for your company’s marketing, it’s your job to make some noise.
It’s your job to let people know you exist and explain what you do, why they should want it, and how they can get it.
And yet, after 15 years in the business of helping folx who want that, it’s time to let the secret out: most don’t do it. I’m not even saying they don’t do it well, I’m saying they don’t do it, at all.
This represents one of the biggest opportunities in marketing today; doing something, literally, anything at all.
Because too many people and companies are so busy trying to pick what to do, arguing about where they should do it, and worrying about how they’ll do it, they spend years never publishing a single thing.
So today, I’m going to give you the formula I’ve used to —so far— produce:
More than 1,270 blog postsAround than 300 podcast episodesAround 450 Youtube videosAround 44,600 TweetsAround 1,800 Instagram postsHundreds, maybe thousands of Linkedin and Facebook posts
1. Pick a thing to do
It’s easy to look at someone who publishes a lot and think that’s where they started. They didn’t. Trust me.
They started at the beginning…just like everyone else.
They probably started doing one thing and once they found a rhythm, they just kept adding things. It’s either that or they found a way to maximize output without dramatically increasing input — more on that later.
Some choose Youtube as their thing. Some like podcasting. Others are writers.
Pick a thing. Just one and do something…literally, anything at all. It doesn’t really matter.
Pick something that sounds fun.
2. Build a system
Now that you’ve picked a thing, lay out a simple structure. Answer these two questions:
What topics will you talk about?
Pick roughly 5 big topics and then 3-5 subtopics within those.
Congratulations, you now have a focus of your content. Don't stray from that.
How often will you publish something?
Anything less than once per week is probably not enough. Anything more than twice per week is ambitious. As for what day and time you should publish, it’s not that important at this stage. Just pick a schedule that gives you enough time to create and schedule the content.
3. Follow the system and hit Publish
This part sounds easy but it’s actually what this whole post hinges on. You gotta show up, do a thing and hit publish. As easy as that sounds and even though it is literally the only thing you really must do for this to work, it’s the thing almost no one does.
It’s why most podcasts have less than 10 episodes.It’s why so many blogs haven’t posted since Obama was President.It’s why so many businesses keep turning to new consultants and new tools only to find themselves without a podcast, without videos, and with the blog turned off on their website until they “get their ducks in a row.”
This is where rubber meets road. If you've gotten this far, you must do this work and avoid detours.
If you can’t do this, then you can’t have the sweet level up that comes next.
4. Level Up
It’s only after you’ve been consistent for some reasonable length of time that you can progress to the next steps: Efficiencies and Calls-to-Action
Smart marketers don’t work harder, they work smarter.
They repurpose content.They recreate content in other formats.They use technology to automatically distribute their content and recycle it.They find ways to smooth out the creation process with templates, formulas, and production schedules.
You can’t optimize and scale a process that doesn’t exist in the fi
Embrace the Mission, or Hide?
In May of 2008, noted technology-genius and Billionaire weapons dealer Anthony Edward Stark, was kindnapped from a weapons demonstration at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, and held hostage.
At a press conference following his escape, Mr. Stark reflected upon his role in the world and in a surprise announcement swore that he would never sell weapons again.
After years of being a primary accomplice in a system that made the world a more dangerous place, Mr. Stark sought to use his powers to protect people and try to make the world safer. While Stark Industries carried on, the focus of the organization changed. Business continued, but with a different perspective.
All of this was brought about by a traumatic and sobering event in Mr. Stark’s life that triggered a turning point.
Putting aside the obvious anti-Islamic undertones, the glorified pro-military propaganda, and the myth of lone, heterosexual, playboy, white male, super-genius that’s coming to save us…I think we can learn something from Iron Man.
Pepper Potts had been working for Tony Stark for years, complicit and supportive of him as he created and sold weapons of mass destruction. When he changed course, she was initially reluctant to help.
Many of us have been present and complicit in the presence of things that (sadly) seemed normal:
racist jokes or comments
casual misogny and misogynoir
homophobia or transphobia
Maybe we were unaware of our role in it or maybe we didn’t want to confront our role in it.
Maybe we didn’t want to make our peers uncomfortable while they were making others uncomfortable.
Maybe, later on, we were even quiet or uninvolved when we saw a particular group losing their rights or going through a struggle that we, personally, would likely have avoided, thus giving us the privilege to ignore. And when we were called in to do the work to fix it, many of us did what Pepper Potts did, we quit.
It’s often only when we’re confronted with the truth that we decide to push through the discomfort of change and step up to do the work that needs to be done.
We no longer have the option to be complicit or to quit. In fact, we never really did.
A lot has happened recently, and more bad news seems to hit the front page every day. I see a lot of people falling back into the usual day-to-day.
Will we take note only to then go back to false safety and comfort?
Will we quietly move past and move on from these flagrant assaults on people’s rights, these egregious calls-to-violence, and these impending acts of discrimination and oppression.
Will we give in to apathy and helplessness because it’s just easier than confronting our past, changing our present, and fighting for our future?
Showing up at work and pretending that none of this is going on is a political decision. It is aiding and abetting those who perpetrate these harms. Many of the people doing this fall into one or more of the categories of the in-group. Here’s the thing…the protection racket of being a part of the in-group is only valid in so long as the rules of membership never change — but the rules change and the goal-posts always move.
So instead of putting our heads down, retreating to the safety and comfort of our business as usual, and waiting for this whole thing to blow over, what happens when we come to find out that our business as usual is no longer safe? What happens when there's nothing left to retreat to; when there's no neighborhood left to protect?
I guess what I’m wondering is, what will it take for everyone to gain some perspective, focus on what is really important, and take bold, dramatic action? Is the best we have to offer a return to the status
Dig Past Predictable
It is far easier to say what you want than it is to create the conditions to get what you want.
I’ve been consulting clients in some form or fashion for the last 14 years and over that time, I’ve noticed something. Whenever I'm doing an assessment or an inquiry with a new client — which is the basis of most of my work as a strategist — the initial responses I often get back are not deep and thoughtful, but rather something entirely predictable. This is not a criticism, it's an observation.
It’s not until we go several more rounds of investigation that we actually extract something meaningful and unique. What usually follows is a realization of just how much work needs to be done to execute these new and unique insights. The project is either then abandoned in favor of the easy route: doing nothing and preserving the status quo, or it is implemented in a watered-down way so as to render it a fruitless exercise.
Let me give you some tangible examples and then let’s work through an alternative approach.
Are you hiring right now? What kind of candidate are you looking for?
When given the opportunity to envision their ideal employees, most owners, and managers will list off a garden variety of predictable traits, such as hard-working, responsible, loyal, ambitious, high attention to detail, creative, professional, great positive attitude, and so on…
All businesses want this because, obviously, why wouldn't they? But if we’re just going to paint the picture of the perfect worker robot, we may as well throw in that the ideal candidate also chooses to work for free, and shouts company praise from the rooftops every weekend.
Let's agree to be honest. A job is a transaction. The worker sells their time to the company in exchange for a fee. In return for that fee, the company expects a certain set of deliverables and job responsibilities to be fulfilled. That’s the transaction.
The Transaction and the Price
So, if we want people to give more than the minimum, we have to provide something in return, don’t we?
When we say that we want someone loyal, what are we doing to earn that loyalty?When we say we want someone hard-working, 1) how are we defining “hard work” and 2) what actual reason are we giving them to work hard?When we say we want someone ambitious, does that mean we are willing to take someone on whose ambition exceeds what our organization can offer, or will their drive make them a liability? Do we even know how we’ll feed and satisfy that ambition?When we say we want someone creative, or with a positive attitude, what are we doing to create an environment where those attributes can continue and thrive past the date of hire?
Every trait we are looking for comes with a price, and most often that price isn’t baked into the salary. Even when some of it is, there’s only so much a salary can pay for. At a certain point, the candidate’s wallet may be satisfied, but their spirit is left to wither.
There's very little at stake to describe the ideal employee, who would be the perfect embodiment of these wonderful and idealized things. It takes a bit more courage to ask yourself if the company is worthy of this sort of person. The important work that comes next is identifying the real traits of someone who would be a perfect fit for your company -- outside of the obvious. We have to dig deeper and identify the real attributes that we can actually afford.
When I ask a company about its values, I either look up to see the word integrity painted on the wall in a fancy cursive font, or I’m given a list of the same words used as Brand values by such notable companies as Enron, LuLaRoe, or Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with integrity, innovation, or excellence. The problem is when the exercise is trea
The Art of Reframing
When was the last time you revised your resume or went on an interview?
Whether you realize it or not, you were engaged in a storytelling exercise.
Your resume is a storyWhat you say in the interview is a storyYour web and social media presence is a story
Anytime we communicate toward a destination, we are storytelling. We are engaged in acts of storytelling multiple times per day
Giving feedback is storytellingWebsite copy is storytellingBuilding a movement is storytelling
None of these stories exist in a vacuum. There is no objective story. Each story is framed, consciously or unconsciously, by how we tell those stories.
Stories at 30,000 feet
Good stories often include all of the following: characters, conflict, resolutions, progress, and tension. When we tell stories without these elements, we are still telling stories, they’re just far less interesting.
To forever improve your ability to tell a story, make sure every story includes these three elements:
Problem (Conflict)Solution (Action)Results (Resolution)
If you want to learn some other ways to tell stories, I suggest some of the following frameworks:
The Red Thread Framework from Find Your Red Thread by Tamsen WebsterThe Storybrand 7 from Building a Storybrand by Donald MillerThe Golden Circle from Start with Why by Simon SinekThe Idea Introduction Pattern from Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff
Framing at 30,000 feet
The story is defined by what we choose to focus on within those three elements. This is the frame.
What problems are we choosing to focus on? Have we adequately described the problem?How do we explain our solution? What should we give the greatest importance to?What are the intended results? Did we choose something ambitious enough, or not enough?
The frame is the unique perspective through which the events of the story are seen. Changing the frame, changes the story. Changing the words, changes the frame.
Stories begin at the Destination
The best first step of crafting our story, or choosing our frame, is to know where we’re going.
Great stories are designed to build toward a destination.Not-so-great stories wander aimlessly, in search of a destination.
Before writing your resume, walking into the interview, or giving that feedback, make sure you know where you want the story to end and what theme you want to come through loud and clear.
This is where the frame becomes clear.
Reframing is the act of taking an existing story or idea, and changing what you choose to focus on in order to see the end result more closely match your intended outcome.
Now that we’ve covered some of the theory and process, let’s go into some examples.
It’s time to write your Resume
Let’s look at a few of the ways you can subtly reframe your resume to tell a better story.
First, start by deciding what your theme is. What should someone walk away with? Is it about people-first leadership, revenue growth, or cost-savings? Is it your work ethic, your quick thinking, or your willingness to color outside the lines? Once you have this, let it serve as the north star to guide everything in your resume.
Next, I’m going to give you three things you can do to shift how someone understands the story of your resume.
1. Shift Activities → Outcomes
Sales is a Leadership Opportunity
How do you feel about sales?
Do you enjoy the initial qualifying meeting?Do you relish the close?Does every part of it make you want to run and hide?
How we feel about sales is a product of our experiences on both sides of the sales equation: as the salesperson and as the prospect. Too often these experiences have been uncomfortable, manipulative, or lead to long-lasting remorse. We’re all familiar with the meme of the used car salesmen -- a greasy, slick, smooth, fast-talker who’s gonna do what it takes to “get a deal done today.”
As a result, these experiences impact our future willingness to engage in the sales process. We get filled with fear, with apprehension, with dread. We don’t want to become the person I just described.
That would be awful.
Bad sales experiences are a symptom of a much larger problem. However, I think the symptom comes with important insights and instructions for ways we can dramatically improve business, society, and ourselves. So today, we’re going to explore sales, try to resolve the tension we feel around it, and provide a blueprint to save business and possibly the world.
Instead of feeling like we’re manipulating people, we can feel genuinely valuable. Instead of feeling guilty, we can feel proud. Instead of feeling gross, we can feel whole. This is the superhuman approach to sales.
But first, let’s start with a familiar story…
or click here for the TL;DR
Hustling for Sales
The first time I remember ever formally having a role in sales was back in 2008.
I had just begun working for a management consulting firm, and one of our many responsibilities was to cold call executives at companies to sell our consulting services.
I did not like this.
Some of my colleagues would boast about their 100-dial days. Others would talk about having made 50 calls before lunch. It seemed to me that we were in a competition to see who could bother the most people, all hoping to get someone to buy something they didn't ask for.
As far as I could tell, it was manipulation.
If I had to choose a word to describe how it felt to be in this role, I’d use the one I’ve heard thousands of times to describe sales: icky
Change a few details of this story and this is how many people are first introduced to sales: interrupting or being interrupted, and either trying to get someone to buy something they didn’t ask for, or being the target of such an unwelcome experience.
The One Thing in Common
So, what was it that felt so uncomfortable about those cold calls to me?
I believe that all negative experiences in sales have one things in common: The customer doesn’t want or need what is being sold to them.
This is the single element that makes sales feel icky.
What makes sales feel icky, gross, or uncomfortable, is when the salesperson knows this fact, and either through malice or coercion-by-quota moves forward anyway. Some justify this by believing “the customer really does have a want or need, but just doesn’t know it yet.” They believe their job is to enlighten the customer about their own needs.
This is — at best — self-deception.
I want to pause here and ask you to reflect on this. Really think about it because the remainder of what I’m about to get into builds upon this single insight.
The Second Factor
Throughout my own sales experience and speaking with others who thrive or suffer through sales, I’ve learned the second important factor is belief. Do you believe in the product/service/solution you are selling? This can span from a practical belief in the basic utility of your product as one of many competing solutions in the marketplace to fervent devotion to your solution as the single best o
Business, Politics, and Heroes
I’d like to return May 2022 for a full refund. I have the receipts.
This past month was one of the worst in recent memory. The barrage of bad news kept on coming and I have no doubt that it will continue.
Consequently, this blog/podcast/newsletter was less active in May (see afterword). So, now that I’m back and committed to resuming my regular writing cadence, what should we talk about today?
I think the only appropriate topic after the last month is to talk about fighting good fights, and why we need more heroes in business.