How do I make my idea spread?

Think about the things people talk about at home, at work, at school or at the coffee shop. You don’t really hear about the normal, mundane things of life. “Well, Bob, yesterday I took out the trash.” No, you hear about the remarkable things. You hear about the things worth mentioning. People talk about things that have grabbed their attention. We’re living in a day where it is so easy to simply ignore things. We ignore commercials; we ignore advertisements; we ignore mass emails. These ways of marketing will no longer be of value to us in this next generation.

Rather, the way to advertise, the way to get people to look at your product, is to make something remarkable. Instead of pushing your idea on someone, you are pulling people toward your product. In the United States, people do not like to be pushed. They want to make their own choices with their own lives in their own way at their own time with their own money. Pushing doesn’t work. Pulling does.

How do you pull someone into your idea? You make it remarkable – make it something people talk about. If you can draw someone into your idea, if you can draw someone into your product, you’ve won. I recently had the privilege of watching this video by Seth Godin at the 2003 Ted Conference. Take a look.

As he was talking, I thought to myself, “How do I make something remarkable?” What grabs people’s attention? What do people talk about around the water cooler? There are at least five ways to grab people’s attention.

1. Make it bizarre – People talk about weird things. In the video, Seth talks about purple cows. If I’m driving down the street and I see a cow, I think nothing of it. However, if I”m driving down the street and see a purple cow, that is something worth mentioning. Weird things can hit people one of two ways: they really enjoy it or they are really repulsed by it. Either way, you have their attention.

2. Make it extreme – People talk about extreme things. This past week (June 15), Nik Wallenda, a high wire artist, became the first person to cross directly over Niagara Falls on a high wire. I’ve heard people mention it multiple times in numerous conversations. Why? Because it was extreme. It was dangerous. It was great.

3. Make it unique – People talk about unique things. If I go to the store to buy some eggs and as I’m looking through all the eggs to make a smart purchase, I come across a black egg. I would go home and tell my family about that one. When we make things unique and different, we are not only bettering our life and our product, but also the lives of the consumer. Life can become predictable and boring. Unique things make it more interesting.

4. Make it humorous – People talk about humorous things. What Super Bowl commercial do you remember? Other than the Chrysler-Eminem commercial, you simply remember the funny ones. What about comedians? Comedians are probably the most quoted people on the planet because their jokes are told over and over again by the average person parroting their jokes to their friends. People like and remember humor.

5. Make it beautiful – People talk about beautiful things. I’m talking about songs that can reach into the soul. I’m talking about pictures that make people weep with the beauty of it. I’m talking about the double rainbow video (if you’re not sure what that is, look it up on YouTube). People talk about their amazingly beautiful vacation in the Bahamas. Make it beautiful to make it remarkable.

Questions: What is the most remarkable thing you’ve ever seen?

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How do I adequately prepare for anything?

“The world is led by those who were prepared when their moment came.” – Donald Miller

Leaders are prepared. Seth Godin, author of Seth’s Blog which is ranked #1 in “AdAge Power 150″, once said that if he died today, readers of his blog would not know it for two years. He has blog posts for the next two years. Russell Crowe was preparing months in advance for Oscar-winning movie, “Gladiator.” There are many other examples that show leaders are prepared.

Preparation is a verb. It’s taking action. Preparation is education and learning; it’s training; it’s sweating it out in the gym before you play the Super Bowl. Preparation is the ability to predict a situation or event and to take the necessary steps to be ready for it. Leaders never stop preparing themselves, their skill or their mentality.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was this: “Think of the things you want to be doing in ten years and start now.” Solid. It will take 10 years of disciplined preparation and focused work to get to the professional level. If you want to be a rockstar in ten years, start playing guitar now and work on it. If you want to be a professional basketball player, start training now.  So how do I prepare myself?


1. NOW

Life starts now. Take the opportunity you’ve been given. The bigger the goal, the more time you’ll need to prepare for it. If you want to write a New York Times Best-seller, start now and plan to write one in ten years. If you want to have a good breakfast tomorrow morning, make some preparations tonight and some tomorrow morning.


Identify what you want to do in as much detail as possible. What is the goal you want to reach? What is the event you would like to accomplish? Imagine if you’re trying to put together a rock concert. Who would be the headlining band? What about the opener? What kinds of fans would show up? Who would do security? What would the lights look like? What kinds of sound systems are needed? What will the stage look like? Define the goal, accept the goal and envision the goal.


Russell Crowe says, “Preparation and research is a privilege.” Take the time between now and the event to do some hard-core reading and training. Read until your eyes bleed. Train until you can’t go farther. Commit to your goal. All of this will pay off in the end.

4. WORK – Set up a timeline and work it.

If I were going to launch a business, it would look something like this.


Dec 15: Research the field and develop a business plan

Jan 1: Build up the necessary capital

Feb 15: Get business license

Mar 1: Launch business


Having a plan that you revisit often will help you maintain focus and keep you on track.

Questions: How do you get prepared?

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How can I be honest with people?

I was at a upscale concert recently and I had the privilege of running into an old friend. I asked how she was.

“Well,” she said, hesitantly, “Can I be honest with you?”

“Absolutely,” I said. I always enjoyed people being honest, instead of answering with a generic, boring “fine.” Even if they are fine, there must be a more interesting way to say that they are indeed fine.

“I haven’t been that great. I’ve been having this terrible pain in my hands and I’ve started falling into a huge depression because of it.” This began an interesting twenty minute long conversation, in which I was able to share some trouble I had been having with depression and resulted in some follow up conversations. The experience was great. Why? Because we were authentically interacting – we were able to see each other’s flaws and still enjoy talking with each other.

Where did this Victorian culture of everyone is perfect come from – where we hide behind our successes and bury our failures? This is called lying, by the way. And it’s destructive. Here’s why. When people are dishonest, it creates isolation – separating people from the truth. Most people say that the most important thing in any type of relationship is trust. When we lie, even in small things, we break that trust, we break that connection with those people. When we break that, it creates guilt and anxiety – once again, isolation from each other. When we’re not able to speak honestly, we sulk in judgement and bitterness.

Now, when we tell the truth to each other, the whole dynamic of the relationship changes. First, it takes that burden of a lie from us. We don’t have to bear our lives alone, but we can instead bear it with other people. Additionally, it creates intimacy. These people are able to see the whole “you” – strengths and weaknesses – and still want to hang around you. Also, this honesty encourages others to be honest and share their lives with us. What we’re doing when we’re honest is building a sincere and authentic culture that people can come into just as they are and be free to be themselves.

But what about all those nagging thoughts? Wouldn’t it hurt to be vulnerable like this – wouldn’t the truth hurt me? It may hurt a little at first, but the more you do it, the better off you are and the more authentic you become. Wouldn’t it hurt people’s feelings? Yes, like it hurts you, it will hurt them at first. They may even forever hate you after that. The bigger the ego, the more people are offended. Then they will realize that they are able to be more open and honest about things. They become more comfortable with you and with themselves. People deserve the respect of you being honest with them. People deserve to know that they have spinach in their teeth.

Here are five steps to being honest.

1. Go first – Unless you build the culture of honesty, it wouldn’t happen. So take a breath and be honest.

2. Ask for permission – You never want to completely ambush a person with your honesty, especially if it is personal criticism. Give them a little warning and allow them to brace themselves.

3. Explain the intention – Give them your true intentions. What do you hope to accomplish by telling them the truth?

4. Speak the truth – And do it calmly.

5. Ask for feedback and listen empathetically – This begins a conversation of honesty. If you want to ever be heard in this world, you first must listen.

Question: When was the most difficult time for you to be honest?

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How can I prepare a presentation?

It was my final year at Spring Arbor University and I was just about to jump into the roughest speech I have ever done. I didn’t even have to write it. All I had to do was read the piece out loud. We were meeting in part of a science lab classroom which I thought was an interesting set up for a speech class. Maybe we were strategically placed there to be inspired to test out our ideas and hypothesis or something like that. I don’t know.

Anyway, I came into that classroom pretty confident about the speech. I had picked out the piece a half an hour earlier and had scanned through it. It honestly didn’t look to hard to do. However, as soon as I started, my voiced turned hollow, and I started stumbling over names and places. I kept my eyes glued to the page, too embarrassed to look up and see my classmates staring at me like I’m an elementary student mumbling through a medical journal. I pushed my way through the final words and looked up uncomfortably and sniffed. There was hesitating applause. The feedback was rough and the grade worse.

Soon after that, I developed this little process to stay on track and deliver intelligent, engaging speeches. So here we go.

1. Plan

This first phase should take you about 15-20 minutes to complete. Get on the phone with the coordinator as soon as you have the gig and begin asking questions. What is the target audience? How many will be there? Do they want me to speak on a certain topic? What information should I include? Where will I be speaking? What kind of presentation tools will I have available to me? How much time do I have? By doing this, you are setting up all the parameters for the speech and will not have to guess on most of the information.

2. Prepare

The second phase will take quite a while, depending on the magnitude of the speech and the difficulty of the topic. I would say it takes anywhere between a week to several months of preparation. Take a moment and decide on the purpose of the speech.

Then sit down at your computer and, in the simplest possible way (perhaps outline form), write down every question you can think of that comes to mind regarding this topic. And I mean everything. Start with the basic questions (who, what, where, when, how, why). Who is my target audience? What are their main motivators? What are the arguments for and against my purpose? What are all the stories I can remember that have to do with this topic? What kind of material will I have to go over? What kind of tone and emotion do I want to have in this speech? Who are the experts in this area and what do they say?

Once you have finished all of your questions, go out and find answers for all of them. Do reading. Peruse articles, journals and blogs. Talk with people. Take surveys. Listen to podcasts. Watch interviews. Observe people. Collect and hoard that information. Ask more questions. Find more answers. Go all out on this one. As a side note, it is critical that you keep this information well-organized and keep all your sources documented.

3. Perfect

The next stage will take you a couple hours to get through. You’ll be prioritizing, organizing and structuring all your information. Find a good speech template (i.e. Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, Problem-Solution, Story-telling, etc) or make up your own outline. Then work through the information, putting appropriate bits of information in the right spot; a relatable fact and illustration here; a point there; an argument over here. This will set out exactly what you want to say, in the order you want to say it, with the right tone.

4. Practice

Once you have the whole speech planned, prepared and perfected, you will want to run through it. I suggest you do it at least two times. The goal of the first run-through is to correct any kinks, add a phrase or two and make sure all your transitions are ready. The goal of the second run-through (and any consecutive run throughs) is to actually say it how you will say it.

5. Present

I’ve found that the hours before the presentation are the most crucial. Take care of yourself physically – make sure you have enough sleep, have had enough to eat, are well hydrated, have resolved or removed distractions, etc. Prepare the venue – get things set up, do a sound check, make sure your presentation tools are ready, etc. Do a bit of a warm up – do some stretching, breathing, enunciation techniques, tongue twisters, etc. Then right before the presentation, take 10-15 minutes to relax. I say a prayer. Breathe. Maybe listen to some soft music. Anything to get yourself to calm down before the big push.

Then grab hold of the big moment and off you go.

Questions: What are some ways that you prepare for a presentation? Leave a comment here.

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How can I focus better?

“Our thoughts create our reality – where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.” – Peter McWilliams

Distraction results in failure. Focus results in achievement.

For my leadership-hungry audience, focus is one of the most important things that you as a leader are required to have. Why? Because focus gives crystal clear vision to you and to your followers. Look at some of the best leaders in the world – Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., etc., etc. They know exactly where they are going and how to get there. They are committed. They are clear. They are focused.

A recent study shows that people’s minds wander 47 percent of the time. Half the average day is spent in mindless daydreams or unfocused attention. This statistic is incredibly unnerving. Half the people you see on a daily basis are not there. A leader’s mind does not wander. They may sent aside time to think creatively and dream, but they do not simply allow their minds to wander. If you want to be a leader, you must be focused. If you want to achieve anything in life you must have focus. Don’t be like Peter Gibbons in Office Space who simply sits at his desk for an hour in the morning daydreaming. Get to work.

This recent study also shows that focus tends to create happiness and enjoyment, regardless of the task. People “tend to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else.” If you are unsatisfied with life, you may be unfocused. Focus leads to achievement and enjoyment.

So how do I become focused?

1. Break the target down. 

Take some time to make a plan. Where are you heading? Where are you now? Now, how do you get from point A to point B? What are the steps involved? Let me give you an example. If I were standing at the bottom of a staircase and wanted to get to the top of the staircase, how would I do this? Naturally, I would walk up the steps. I wouldn’t even have to think twice about it. It’s the same way with every vision, except sometimes point B is unclear and the steps are invisible. This is the reason breaking the target down is so crucial; it forces you to identify point A and B and the steps to get there.

2. Identify the first step you want to immediately accomplish

This is the first step that will save you from procrastination. What can I do right now? You must push every other though away and think of only the thing you are doing. Remember, this focus will bring you enjoyment; time will fly by; you will be in what psychologists call “the flow.” And step by step the work will get done and the target will be accomplished.

3. Finish the first step without breaking focus. 

If you cannot do this, then you need to break the step down even more. Complete the first step calmly but quickly. You need to get this done. You want to get this done. You enjoy getting this done. The more you focus, the stronger your focus becomes. It’s a very rewarding process.

4. Remove all distractions

Sometimes you must remove distractions. I knew a professor once that would never bring his work home because his kids were too much of a distraction for him. He would finish all his work in the office. There are usually three types of distractions: physical barriers, emotional and intellectual barriers or social barriers.

Physical: Are you tired? Hungry? Dehydrated? In pain? Uncomfortable? Sometimes these barriers can be ignored for a while. However, if you are going to focus for an extended period of time, it is best to take care of these things up front.

Emotional and Intellectual: Do you have no motivation? Are you depressed? Interested in something else? Take a couple minutes, thinking about what you’re doing and then knuckling down and do it. Usually, if you tell your head something, your emotions will follow. If you focus now, the enjoyment will soon come, regardless of the activity.

Social: Are there people who are distracting you? Find a quiet place. Are your social media (Facebook, Twitter, email) tools distracting you? Shut them off. Distraction results in failure.

5. Take a break

There are also times when you simply need to take a break. Take some time and relax for a while. Take a nap. Go to lunch. Watch a YouTube video. Take a walk. These things allow your brain the break it needs. Breathe. It’s okay to take a break once in a while.

Question: How do you get focused? Leave a reply here.

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How can I celebrate more in my life?

The old man in the corner is John. He comes here every couple of days in the same flannel shirt, suspenders and John Deere hat. There’s nothing particularly special about him. Except he complains. About everything. He whines about the weather, the mechanic that screwed him over, his wife’s meatloaf, his little granddaughter’s violin recital, Barack Obama, television violence and just about everything else that enters into his ancient, decaying skull. Sad, isn’t it? Come on, you know a person like this – a person that seems to suck the energy right out of a room with negativity like a physician performing liposuction, a person who complains, criticizes and condemns on an hourly basis. Sadly, some of you are this person. So stop it, please.

Rather, we should be people who seek the positive. I’m not talking about some type of ridiculous, positive thinking that some New Age nut job came up with. I’m talking about celebration. I’m talking about identifying a person – your spouse, son, daughter, cousin, friend, boss, weird employee, whomever – and celebrating. I’m talking about identifying an event – a son’s athletic scholarship, a daughter’s musical accomplishment, a friend’s new baby, an employee’s promotion, whatever – and celebrating.

To celebrate like this, a person must become accustomed to the different rhythms of life: work, rest and celebrate. You’ll find that once you find this rhythm of celebration, your life will start filling up with people. Why? Because you’re celebrating them. You’re eating sushi with them; you’re dancing and partying with them; you’re going to concerts with them, you’re starting traditions with them. You’re laughing with them; you’re enjoying them. You’re treating people like it’s their birthday. You’ll also find that people will usually start to match your attitude and celebrating you. This is called reciprocity.

Now, here’s a warning. Don’t celebrate all the time. It will come across as insincere and annoying. Remember, it’s a rhythm. You have to develop a relationship with the person that involves all rhythms of life – work, rest and celebrate. But celebration is important to those relationships. Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” If you want to get close to people, laugh with them. If not, stand in the corner by yourself with a grumpy face. We understand.

Ways to celebrate

Quickly, here are five ways to get you into the rhythm of celebration.

1. Want to be there – I’m really surprised by how many people don’t want to go to parties or celebrations. I get it though. Usually those celebrations are full of other people who don’t want to be there. If you don’t want to go, don’t go. If you want to go, then go and celebrate.

2. Intend to have a good time – Enjoy your time there. Don’t go into the whole situation with the intent of doing business, unless it’s business related. You’re there simply to meet people and have a good time with them.

3. Smile and laugh – Nothing attracts people more effectively than smiles and laughter. That is why companies tell commercial actors to smile and laugh and act happy. Tell a joke or funny story. Pull a prank. Do something silly.

4. Affirm privately – When talking with people one on one, affirm that you are enjoying them. You could do this by saying something like “I enjoyed talking with you” or “I had a great time.” Or you could mingle affirmative words into a conversation like a calm and collected “Cool” or an unbridled and enthusiastic “That’s amazing!”

5. Honor publicly – Give honor to people publicly. Esteem them behind their backs. Make a toast to a friend. Applaud the arrival of new guests.

Questions: What is one of the best celebrations you attended and why? Leave a response here.

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How can I get my ideas to stick in other people’s minds?

This post will stick in your head like a crush sticks in the head of a needy, middle school girl. And this is only a book review, my friend. Let me explain.

“Made to Stick” (by the authors Chip and Dan Heath) is a revolutionary work. Readers everywhere are rioting against the mundane, speak-to-me-like-Eeyore type of language that seems to reside in the office space or in the dry classroom settings. People need more. Anyone who has anything to say listen up. Teachers, listen to this. Managers, pay attention. Parents, bring your ear this way.

In order for people to not only listen to you, but also remember what you say, you must speak in a way that is “sticky.” For an idea   to be “sticky” (and I’m talking duct-tape sticky), it should be one or more of the following six qualities.

1. Make it simple. What is the core thought? If you could only say one thing, what would you say? There is a very key principle here. Make the principle accessible first. Can they reach it? You can deal with accuracy later. If you want a sweet, three-year old girl to have a cookie, you are going to place the cookie in a place where she can reach it. If you’re talking to the handymen, Bob and Joe, don’t talk to them like they’re rocket scientists. They’re not. They’re normal people. Talk with them in terms of nuts and bolts, hammers and wrenches. Give them analogies and metaphors from everyday life. They understand that. This rule is particularly helpful for dense people like me.

2. Make it unexpected. How will you break the expected pattern and make it unique? Answer what it means and why it matters. Due to television and media, people have shorter attention spans of around 8 seconds. If you don’t have their attention in that time, they get bored and want to run off and ride bikes. Also, not only do you have to grab their attention, but you have to hold their interest until you’re finished. How do you hold people’s interest? By giving them information little-by-little. Tell them you’re going to build a building and then build it up piece by piece-building the mystery and then putting the puzzle together. This is why stories are so easily remembered.

3. Make it concrete. People remember that I went to McDonald’s and had a Coke much more easily than when I went to a restaurant and had a drink. Why? Because the words are concrete. People can visualize me sitting at a table in McDonald’s and drinking a Coke much more easily than me sitting in a restaurant having a drink. Concreteness does not allow the mind to wander, but gives the mind something specific to focus on. When the mind focuses, it remembers. Details matter.

4. Make it credible. There are really four ways to make a principle credible. Run that principle through an expert, a celebrity or hero, a close-friend or a see-for-yourself attitude. People believe when they understand that their “influencer” has their best interests at heart.

5. Add emotion. When you can connect with people emotionally, you make people care. You are starting to reach into their hearts, not just their heads. Did they laugh? Did they cry? Do they show a burst of passion? Usually you can connect with people emotionally through association. That is why so many products have celebrity endorsements. That is also why Tiger Woods lost so many endorsements when his secret came out. You can also connect with people emotionally through both self interest and group identity. What is the benefit to me personally? What is the benefit to our team?

6. Give them stories. Stories are effective not only because we easily remember them, but because they give us a simulation of a possible future event-a step by step journey through a certain situation. This simulation also gives us the motivation to act. When a friend tells us a story of her son burning his hand, we listen because if our son burns his hand, we will know how to respond, step-by-step.

Questions: What are some of the strangest things you remember and why? Leave a reply here.

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