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The Quest For Perfection Makes You Invisible

One of my favourite times when my three boys were little was baking days. You can picture the scene, sticky, half licked spoons, flour and chocolate chips everywhere. Those baking days taught me a lot about the value of imperfection.

When a three year old is making a gingerbread man he doesn’t ever want to just give him two eyes and three buttons down his middle. He wants to add lots of currants and plenty of mismatched decoration. He will tell you that because his gingerbread man is ‘special’, he doesn’t just have three buttons, but wears a coat covered in spots. He also has an extra eye to help him see better. A three year old understands the need to mark his guy out, in order to recognise him through the oven door.

I can still remember moments where my self conscious, perfectionist adult wanted to start rearranging the features of said gingerbread men. To make them neater and perfect. Can you feel your fingers itching to do it too?

Even if you’ve never baked gingerbread with a three year old you understand this. That’s because you do it every day of your life as you craft your personal brand. You do it on your resume, in your bio and in any situation where you feel that your credentials are under scrutiny.

You are hiding the most intriguing and compelling parts of your story

What happens when you are afraid to stand out is that you unconsciously make sure you blend in. You become just like every other gingerbread guy and gal in the bakery, with two eyes and three buttons down the middle and no way in the world to set you or your brand apart.

Your tiny differences, flaws and imperfections are what make you unique. Don’t be afraid to shine a light on them. Begin today by making a list of your quirky gifts and talents. Think about stories from your past, a time when you didn’t fit in, or challenges you may have faced because you are different. Start crafting a real story that people can believe in and care about. Build a window, not a wall.

Image by Rick Waller.

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Seth Godin On Being An Entrepreneur, Telling Stories And Making Ideas Matter

It’s not every day you get to speak with one of your heroes. I had the opportunity to do just that when I talked to Seth Godin recently. Seth and his work need no introduction and I hope you get to take something away from the conversation we had about being an entrepreneur, telling stories and making ideas matter.

If what you’re doing matters, then I hope you’ll take the time to tell a story. A story that resonates and a story that can become true.
~ Seth Godin

Image by Life Supercharger.

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Increase The Value Of Your Products And Services For Free

I discovered the most beautiful tea last week. A green tea infused with cherry blossom. I experienced it by accident and would have walked past it on the supermarket shelf. The reason I later paid over $10 for a packet of tea has everything to do with my worldview. The tea was a souvenir of my visit to the place where I first experienced it and the scent brought back memories of my first home where two huge pink cherry blossom trees grew in the garden.

It’s clear that this is a quality product, but what’s really disappointing is that there is no story on the packaging. There are too few clues about the history, scent, flavour and the way in which I might experience it. If you’re selling a premium product, or if you want to differentiate what you do, you must get better at telling your customers the story.

The startup AHAlife, which sells carefully selected and curated items grew 600% this past year, by selling people the story behind the product. Founder Shauna Mei recognised that there was a gap in the market, that people needed to understand the passion behind the making and origins of the product in order to recognise its’ true value.

How is this relevant to your business? What if you don’t even sell a physical product?

It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if nobody knows.
~ Sally Hogshead

If you want your idea to succeed then you need to get better at telling people why it should matter to them. If you want people to understand your quality and your difference then you need to tell them about it. If you sell something that isn’t just about utility, (that’s 99% of consumer goods and services on the planet), then you need to give people more reasons to care about them and you.

It is entirely possible to increase the value of your product or service at no extra cost by telling a better story. Here are examples of businesses doing just that with chocolate, candles, website headers, book marketing and design.

You experience this every single day, now it’s time to put it into practice.

Image by Ed Chadwick.

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Remember Why You Started

Jessica couldn’t believe it had been only three years since she opened the doors to the tiny clothing boutique she’d dreamed of owning one day. She remembered the excitement of finding the shabby little two roomed workshop, choosing colours for the walls and installing makeshift shelving and clothing racks where she could display all her original pieces. She wanted to make clothes that were one offs, the sorts of clothes she would be proud to own, that had a story, things that people would covet and adore.

One by one people found her. They loved the designs only Jess was making and then told their friends. The local newspaper came, did an interview and took photographs and before Jess knew it the Lady Mayor of the town was ordering a whole custom wardrobe. It was too good an opportunity to pass up even if she felt a little uncomfortable about compromising on some of the styles she was required to design. The exposure was incredible! Well healed women came from miles around looking for new wardrobes. They loved the idea of being able to have a big say in the design process and Jessica was so helpful.

Now though Jess was so busy creating stuff that other people wanted her to create she had no time to experiment with her own designs. She didn’t have time for sketching wacky ideas. She no longer had space to dream up designs for beautiful original accessories. She had email enquiries to field and phone calls to return.

On a rare Sunday stroll by the river with a friend Jess realised that she wasn’t looking forward to opening her newly extended shop on Monday. She was dreading having to sit down and work to finish the designs that Allison Joyce the local councillor had commissioned. Somehow she felt that in trying to build a successful business she’d lost a sense of her original purpose and a bit of her soul along the way. She got little joy from the ooohs and aaahs of customers wearing garments she didn’t care she had designed. The money was great but the work was soul destroying. Jess was now left feeling like she’d sold out, she’d traded her passion and her art for a traditional measure of success and that made her uncomfortable. Mostly she was angry at herself for allowing her ego to get in the way of doing what she really loved, what she’d set out to do and be. She realised that what made her a success in the first place was doing what mattered to her.

So on Monday Jess didn’t open the shop. She stopped answering the phone, went for walks and thought long and hard about what it was that made her want to do this job in the first place. Jess took time out to go to the art gallery, the local market and the design museum. It was a tough time and she knew that some people might judge her harshly for making changes. Jess also knew though that change had to happen, that the first step to helping dreams come true was putting a stake in the ground for her own dreams.

So that’s what she did. It meant not just tweaking the model she now had only to be back where she started again in few weeks time. No, Jess made a radical shift and a decision never to take on a custom design again. It just felt like the right thing to do. She had to stop being a shadow of the designer she could be by being the designer she wanted to be.

I’m sure Jess made the right decision. If you get no joy from what you do it begins to show. You can tweak the compromise a little here and there but sometimes what is required is insight and extreme bravery.

Remember why you started not just what you started.

*This is a re-post from some of my earlier work, it’s important and I wanted to share it here with you.*

Image by Steve Rhodes.

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Joining The Dots Works But It’s Not Art

Or…. why I dislike writing ‘how to’ blog posts.

Do you remember as a child, when you realised that your stick men and two dimensional cats weren’t actually a true representation of the real thing? Maybe like me you tried using those join the dots books? The first time you produced a drawing by following those instructions you felt pretty good, but after doing the first few you knew that it was cheating.

Even a five year old knows that there is no soul in something that is created by following instructions.

If Seth Godin were to lay out his entire blog writing process for you with no holds barred, timings, schedules, strategies, where to get ideas, how to write great beginnings and compelling endings. Would you feel secure in the knowledge that you could make the same impact as Seth does? Even if you could write as well as Seth, would you feel like you were putting your unique ideas out into the world, or more like just a cheap imitation?

I know that ‘how to’ posts will drive more ‘traffic’ to my blog, but I rarely write them because you are not ‘traffic’ to me. My job is to enable you to bring out the best of yourself and elevate your unique ideas, not to give you a book full of numbered steps to follow. Following how tos and joining dots teaches you to count and tick boxes. They are not the foundations of ideas that matter and will never satisfy your creative, pioneering soul.

Image by Pierre Bedat.

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The Cycle Of Striving

Are you stuck in a cycle of striving? Busy brainstorming, creating, iterating, going for it, launching, succeeding and then doing the rinse and repeat routine.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our projects and wanting to make everything work, that we forget to stop for breath, or come up for air. We adopt two postures. One is waiting for the starters gun and the other is striving. Going for it for all we’re worth towards the finish line. And what happens when you get there, when you finally achieve your audacious goal, have the ‘big win’? You probably just turn right around and start again, without even looking up.

When you get stuck in the cycle of striving and don’t give yourself permission to celebrate you eventually burn out and lose longer term momentum. I know I’ve lived it and I’ve seen it happen to countless other ‘driven’ people. I also know that you’re driven, that’s why I’m putting this out there.

When you do great work it needs to be acknowledged and celebrated by you, not just the rest of the world. It’s okay to stop, drape the flag around your shoulders and stand smiling on the podium.

Image by Matt Hinsta.

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You Don’t Have A Marketing Problem

There’s something you’ve convinced yourself of that just simply isn’t true. Like many people I work with, you are working incredibly hard to produce beautiful, life changing products and services, that are not getting the attention they deserve and you can’t understand why your message isn’t reaching the people it needs to. So you’ve convinced yourself you’ve got a marketing problem. It’s time to get really clear on this.

You don’t have a marketing problem and it’s highly likely that if you’re here reading this post, you don’t have a product problem either. What you do have is a storytelling problem.

If you are marketing a fabulous product, an innovative application or a life changing coaching program that isn’t selling, then your brand story isn’t connecting your audience to the idea.

People don’t know why they should be interested in your stuff.
Your job is to give them the reason, it’s that simple.

Look at Instagram, it’s just a photo sharing app, right? Wrong. Instagram enables anyone (with an iPhone), to make their life and photos look more spectacular than they really are. For free! It allows users to seamlessly create something beautiful, share it in 60 seconds and get instant feedback, love and adoration from their own audience. Instagram founders Kevin and Mike don’t tell the story, they give the users a reason to share it with their friends. The story is baked into the interface.

You do have a compelling story to tell, maybe you’re just not doing it yet. You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater… really you don’t! Sometimes it’s a simple as changing a single word or a line of your copy. It’s that subtle. Perhaps it’s knowing what does one person says to another to recommend your idea? The reason people will fall in love with you is already there you just need to work out how to dust it down a little.

Image by 1Sock.

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Stop Waiting For Google

You’ve probably heard marketing gurus talking about ‘warm traffic’ and ‘cold traffic’. They’ll tell you that you need plenty of ‘cold traffic’, in order to improve your chances of staying in business. They will argue the case for buying traffic so that you can sell more of your ‘standard vanilla whatevers’.

Is that really how you want to build your business? Obsessing over this is stopping you growing your business in a way that’s right for you.

Are you waiting for Google to pick you? Or paying them to pick you perhaps? More than 2 million Google searches are performed every minute and yes, over time you might make a tiny dent in the backlink universe. Then what?

Will you be engaging the kind of clients you want to work with? The kind of clients you would kill for don’t judge you by the amount of backlink muscle you flex. They don’t find you this way either.

Google can’t optimise the best of you. It can’t optimise what makes you and your work unique. And most important of all, Google can’t really optimise for what the non-average, exceptional, client wants to invest in.

Google can’t optimise your purpose, your heart or your soul, your art or judgement, your professionalism and enthusiasm

Google is terrible at defining your talent and your edge, your clarity of vision or communication skills.

Google SEO will rarely demonstrate your work ethic and dedication, your inspiration or your ability to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

Google can’t tell clients who will be the icing on their cake, or the best in their world. Only you can do that.

It might be an idea to stop competing for average and just concentrate on being great

I just sent out a beautiful workbook to my newsletter subscribers today, because I appreciate them being here. I’m building my business by creating value for others, shining a light on what they do and making lasting connections with my audience.

Are you still waiting for Google?

Image by Kachina Daze.

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There’s Something You’re Forgetting To Tell Us

It’s time for me to get really honest with you and let you know that there’s a reason why people are not crossing the street or the Inter-webs to buy from you, and it has nothing to do with how good your idea is. People might be noticing you left and right, but you’re not giving them a good enough reason to go beyond simply paying attention. Forgetting to do this one thing means that you are sabotaging your chances of being a leader, or an influencer. It stops people from trusting you enough to care about your idea. It makes them hold back and keeps their credit card firmly in their wallet.

I want you to stop telling people what you are, and start showing them what you are not.

You need to start telling people why you’re and showing them how you’re different

Do you know? Have you given much thought to what makes you and your idea extraordinary?

It’s not enough anymore to say I’ve got an MBA, a really reliable product or a bazillion twitter followers, plenty of other people have those badges of honor too. You need to do more than just wear your ribbon on the opposite side to everyone else. You’ve got something more valuable than all those credentials put together, you’re just keeping it hidden.

Your gifts are too precious, your ideas too important, don’t squander your opportunity to make a difference.

Once upon a time, an amazingly gifted client of mine thought she was an Etsy store owner and a decorator, when what she was all along was a stylist and interior designer. She just wasn’t telling people.

Are you up for the challenge? Deep down you know what makes you different it’s time to start articulating it.

Image by Emar.

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Take Off Your Little Black Dress

Maybe you look amazing in a little black dress with no help from anyone. Very few people can pull it off without at least a leg wax, high heels and an airbrush tan. Think about why you wear that dress in the first place. Is it to make you feel good about yourself? Possibly…..or is it to attract attention?

You know deep down that you won’t attract the right kind of attention with your little black dress.

When will it be time to show the best of your real self, not just in your life but in your business too?

Are you spending so much time working on the ‘how to attract people’ part, (tactics); that you’ve stopped focusing on making a difference to people, (objectives)? Have you forgotten the unique value of your own message?

You have something important to share, but if you’re wearing the equivalent of a little black dress to attract people to your idea, blog or your business then you’re doing yourself a disservice. You are diluting your idea and making yourself invisible to the people who need what you have.

You are one-of-a-kind, your story is what makes your idea unique, and that idea it is going to make a difference to someone. Don’t bury it by dressing it up in 10 inch heels and covering it with lipstick.

Image by Zar Cor.

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