Who Are You?

Problem:

Some people know who your are, they might remember your name, but they don’t connect a story or an idea or concept with your name. They don’t know what you are about, your special skill, or unique contribution to the world.

Solution:

Create your story.

It should be so clear that a one sentence description easily comes to mind when someone mentions your name.

Many people call this ‘branding’ but that just sounds like a painful agriculture ritual.  Yes, your story is your brand, but I don’t want to overuse that word (oops, too late.)  It should be something that you are passionate about, that comes easy to you, that you enjoy learning all the facets and angles about, and that you could talk about all night long.  It’s a special skill that you own above others.  So when that subject comes up, people will say, “I know who’s really good at that.”

You might say, “But I’m multifaceted.  I can do a lot of different things.”  Yes, that is true, which is why your defining identity needs to be at a high level.  Instead of being known as someone who’s a good pencil sharpener, it would be better to be known as someone who creates beautiful art.  There are a lot of details and skills that go into creating great art.  Pencil sharpening is just one small part of it.

Once you’ve determined your story, identity, or brand, here are some keys to imprinting it in the minds of others.

Be Prolific

In order to have a concept or idea come to other people’s mind when someone mentions your name, you have to do something over and over again, and be pretty good at it. (Unless you’re known as a habitual failure.  I suppose then you’d still be good at failing.)

Another word for doing something repeatedly and in lots of different places is ‘prolific’.  You have to be prolific with what you do.  People need to see you everywhere, doing your thing.  Repetition makes things stick, and sink in.

Stay on Message

You also need to be consistent in your overall message.  This doesn’t mean sending your words through some internal communications board check before sending them out to the world.  It means being consistent in what you provide and making sure the same point gets across each time.  You can do a variety of things that communicate the same message.  It doesn’t always mean repeating a mantra, although that does help.

Be Helpful

Another reason people will remember you is if you are helpful.  If you are all about yourself and only concerned with number one, people may remember your story, but they won’t want to be a part of it.  And what good is that?  You want people to be sharing your story in a positive way, to join you in your cause.

Of course, if you put yourself out there, and have a message, there will be people who disagree or don’t like it.  Don’t worry about them.  If you have dissenters that means that you have a message worth dissenting, which also means that you have a powerful message worth promoting.   If you still offer to be helpful to everyone,  the dissenters will know that it is their choice.

I don’t have it all figured out yet myself, but I continue to learn and experiment, and sharing these thoughts with you helps me to crystallize what I need to do too.

So what is your story?  Who are you?  Tell me in the comments.

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You Already Have What You Need to Build a Community

Problem:

My company doesn’t have a good internal tool for social networking so I can’t really build an internal community or a following.

Solution:

Actually, you do.

Back in the olden days people used to get to know each other by sending messages with an ingenious invention called electronic mail.  And although it may be clunky and inefficient, some people still use it today.

There’s even an older method that you might have heard stories about, where people actually meet together in person, where they can see each other’s physical bodies.

I would venture to guess that your company still has these ancient options available.

So, whatever way you can get to know another person, you have a way to build a community.  Email allows you to send messages to all of them at once, so they all have a subject to talk about, or you can connect with one person at a time, building your relationship with that person.  And if you can get everyone in the same room, you can have a shared experience to talk about.

New tools are nice. But if you want to build and lead a community that can make things happen, the only thing holding you back is your desire.

Resistance: 1 Rex: 0

Problem:

You haven’t written a blog post in a long while, and your last one was about how to get unstuck.

Solution:

Write a blog post.

It’s amazing how I have to read my own posts to get motivated.

And what an ironic last post to get stuck on – The Number One Way to Get Unstuck.  Hey, just because I know what it is, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me.

That just makes it more painful.  It’s like the mechanic with a broken down car. Sad state of affairs.

Well, a pause or temporary setback does not mean failure, or the end.  It just means that there’s a perfect opportunity to move forward and progress.  To do better.  The game is not over, I just have less points than the Resistance.  It has scored.  But I’m working on a comeback.

And that’s what I’m doing here. Doing something… baby steps to get moving again.

Also,  just because a blog hasn’t been updated in a while doesn’t mean my life has stopped.  In fact, I’m just starting a new big project that will be exciting, motivating, and entirely taxing, but it will be worth it.  I haven’t decided whether to tell you about the details or not, so I’ll just tease for now.

Meanwhile, why don’t you go do something meaningful and tell me about it in the comments.  It might help me out.

Thanks.

The Number One Way to Get Unstuck

Problem:

You want to create something meaningful.  Something that will make a difference.  Something that people will find valuable.  But you just can’t seem to produce.  You can’t seem to find the time, you can’t come up with the right concept, you don’t have the right skills, or a myriad of other reasons.  You’re stuck in a rut.

Solution:

Do the work.

‘The work’ in this case is overcoming the ‘Resistance’, a real internal force that keeps you from doing things that matter.

It’s easy to do all kinds of stuff that aren’t of much significance – watch TV, browse twitter or YouTube, play video games, or surf the web.  But as soon as you want to do something worthwhile or that has meaning, the Resistance emerges to make it difficult.  It’s a natural force of opposition that occurs in proportion to the amount of impact your creation can have if it exists.  And sometimes the Resistance is so subtle that you hardly notice it.

That is when it is the most powerful.

You will be able to come up with very valid excuses for why you shouldn’t create that meaningful thing right now.  Oh, you’re going to do it someday, it’s just not the right time right now.  The Resistance doesn’t have to convince you that your idea is ridiculous, it only has to keep you from doing it for one more day.  You see how powerful that is?

Once you are able to name it, and recognize its powerful tactics, you now have a chance to fight it.

So that is what Steven Pressfield has done for us.  As a successful author experiencing all the usual ups and downs of an artist, he discovered this tangible force that would fight against his efforts.  Then, he exposed all of the characteristics and qualities of this beast in his book The War of Art.

This book has motivated many artists to create, including Seth Godin, who said that it had the most significant impact on him than any other book.  And it shows in the way Seth builds on the concept in his latest books, Linchpin and Poke the Box.

You too can get better acquainted with the Resistance, so you can fight it convincingly, by getting a free copy (until May 18th, 2011) of Steven’s latest book called Do The Work.   It’s for the Kindle edition, which anyone can purchase and read on their smart phone or computer – you don’t need a Kindle.

The free-ness is due to Seth’s Domino Project and the sponsorship of GE (General Electric).

Okay, now’s your chance.  Don’t let the Resistance win one more battle.

Soon is not as good as now.

Connect the Peeps

Problem:

People work in silos.  They don’t communicate, except by filling out forms and following the process for transferring information.  Everything takes too long to get done because the processes cause information to get stuck at various stages.

Solution:

Start a connecting or networking effort where everyone knows everyone else by their first name.  Processes are established in large corporations so that things are consistent, repeatable, and with a recognized level of quality.  Yes, they are necessary, but because they work so well for large, complicated systems, we think they’ll work for everything.  But at a more local level, they actually cause communication problems and slow the flow of information.

We all know that relationships of trust help information flow easily and freely and fast (see Stephen M. R. Covey’s Speed of Trust), so why not base the processing of information on those?

I think there is a flawed foundational assumption that fuels most of our desire for forms and processes.  And that is the limit of how many people someone can know.

Think about how many people you know.  I’ll bet it’s a lot over the years.  But now, due to the ease of connecting with people on the internet, everyone ‘knows’ a lot more people.  I’m really curious what kind of numbers the really popular bloggers are pushing, like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, or Seth Godin.  Of course there are all kinds of levels of ‘know’, but I’ll bet these guys are pushing in the thousands on a first name basis.

And I’ll bet you could know at least a few hundred or more.

So let’s just do it.  Start organizing lunchtime events where people get together at small tables and meet a few people.  They should also have some kind of task to work on together, like helping someone with a problem, or brainstorming ideas for improvements.  Leave it completely open and unstructured and allow people to connect.

Start having these once a week and people will really get to know each other.  Also make sure that the invitation is extended at a larger level so that people who show up will be from varying organizations.  This causes cross pollination and diverse networking.  Their organizations may or may not be related or coordinate with each other, but you never know when you might need to know someone in ____ organization.

When everyone starts really ‘knowing’ more people and have built relationships of trust, things will start to happen a lot faster and more smoothly.  (And you might not even have to fill out that tedious form.)

10 Ways to Spread Ideas

Problem

There are a lot of exciting new ideas and concepts that you are learning  from books, TED talks, blogs, and a myriad of other sources out there on the internet.  But then you come to work at your corporation and everything seems to be backwards, you feel like you’re in some kind of a bubble, where no one knows what is going on in the outside world.

Solution

Start a book club.  There are actually other people at your corporation who do know about some of the same things you are learning, but you would never know because there is no forum for sharing brave new ideas.  So start one.

Book clubs are an easy, non-threatening way to explore new concepts.  Plus, they hardly take any preparation time.  Schedule a few meetings a couple weeks apart, divide the book into sections, read those sections before each meeting and develop a few discussion questions from that section.  You’ll find that once you get people talking about an interesting subject (to them), you can’t stop them.

Nothing is more powerful than ideas.

So your book clubs can be a breeding ground for innovative ideas to sprout and grow, because they can be nourished and fed by good discussion and refinement.

What do you want?  Change?

Then you’ll have to start a movement.

And to start a movement, you’ll need a compelling idea.

And to have a compelling idea, you’ll need lots of ideas.

And to get lots of ideas you’ll need to read a lot of books.

And to read a lot of books, you’ll either need to go to the library, or the bookstore, or sign up for the free newsletter that is changing the book publishing industry: http://www.thedominoproject.com/ [If you do it this week, Seth will drop the price of Poke the Box $1 for each 5,000 sign-ups.]

So get reading and start a book club.

P.S.  Sorry I didn’t list 10 ways to spread ideas.  I gave you one. You’ll have to come up with the rest yourself.

Organize Your Own “FedEx Day”

Problem:

You have some great ideas for your company, but you really don’t have time or an avenue for making them happen because you’re too busy working your normal day to day grind.

Solution:

You may have heard about Google’s 20% time where people get one day a week to work on whatever projects they want. Some of their best products have come from that effort (gmail, Google News).  There’s also 3M who has a similar policy – ever heard of this thing called a ‘sticky note’?

Another company, Atlassian, decided to try just one day a quarter, where everyone in the company can work on whatever, but they have to complete their project the next day.  It’s a 24 hour period and many people work overnight cranking on something they’re passionate about.  They call it “FedEx” day because you have to ‘ship’ overnight.

“Well, they’re lucky,” you might say.  “They have a company that is radical and forward thinking, but my company would never let us do something like that.”

You may be right.  But your company doesn’t control your entire life does it? (If so, you have bigger issues.)  They may not choose to implement 20% time or a ‘FedEx Day’, but you can choose to organize it yourself.  Here’s how.

First, start small. Instead of trying to organize a whole day or 24 hour period, start by holding just a half day event, 4 hours.  Pick a day and time in the future and start advertising your event.  Tell your co-workers, send emails, put up flyers, whatever works best to get the word out.

“But how do you get the company to support it?” you ask.  You don’t.  You get the people to support it.  You explain the concept, the thrill of autonomy, and the possibility of making a difference for your company, by being able to spend dedicated time working on that great idea you’ve always had but never had any time or support to see it through.  And you tell them that for now, we don’t have company support, so we’re going to have to put in our own time to make this happen.  You ask people to flex their time and work a few extra hours during the week, so that they can take Friday afternoon off and be part of the ‘FedEx Day’.

Management can’t complain because you’ve put in your time and you’re just taking a few hours off for ‘personal reasons.’  And for passionate people who understand the concept, and want to be a part of something different, it will be no problem to donate a few hours to this effort.

It’s just like Homer Simpson, when asked at his class reunion how he had gained the most weight, he explained that he had discovered a new meal between breakfast and lunch.

You have to find a new meal.  (Scott Ginsberg taught me this in his How To Stay Rare blog post.)

During your event, you need to let autonomy reign.  Don’t get too formalized, controlling, or prescriptive on what people should work on, or how they should work.  It just needs to be something that might be valuable to the company.  Have some sort of short kick-off at the beginning where people come together, then let them loose.

And remember that people are donating their own time for this, so thank them profusely for joining your cause and show genuine appreciation.

After the event, have some way people can report on what they accomplished.  It could be a presentation, some kind of write-up, or just a discussion.  Don’t create too many parameters or people will just choose not to do it.  Explain that you’d really like to know what their experience of the event was like, so you can learn from it.

In summary:

  1. Organize the event on your own time. 
  2. Advertise through word of mouth and internal online buzz.
  3. Let autonomy reign. 
  4. Fully appreciate those who join you.
  5. Report on what you accomplished afterward.

You never know.  Some upper level management may find out about it and want an outbrief.  Don’t let them interfere or run the effort, no matter how high up the ladder they are.  But do be willing to share with them your results. 

If you do get some significant results, they just may think this is a good idea, and might want to sponsor the next one (with at least pizza or donuts.)

And make sure that this is advertised as an ‘experiment’.  The purpose of an experiment is to learn something.  If there are no specific expectations for your event, then there can be no failures.  Whatever happens, happens.  The only failure that will occur is if you fail to learn something.

And what you learn can be applied to the next one.

So go ship!  You are FedEx.

What’s stopping you?