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What do Spiritual People want?

I created a research project to answer the question “What do Spiritual people want?” by looking at the websites of the Spiritual Masters of our time and specifically the section “above the fold” (what do you see when you land on the page.)

To get a more balanced idea, I chose a sample from people I know and resonate with, and from teachers that I don’t know or don’t resonate with. 

I will share my conclusions at the end.

1. Deepak Chopra

https://www.deepakchopra.com/

At the top, his website features a slider with three options:

 – meditations

 – book about meditations

 – book about Metahuman 

What stands out to me is that the design feels fresh and up to date. There is a clear thing for me to do once I land on the page: either look into meditations or get one of Deepak’s books. Otherwise, I can dive into the top menu or scroll down for more. 

The words that jump out are meditation, Metahuman, infinite potential.

2. Eckhart Tolle

https://eckharttolle.com/

As soon as you land on the page, you are greeted with a pop-up inviting you to join the Private Membership Community. I believe the target audience is people who already know Eckhart and would love to connect with a community around his teachings. I say this because except for using the word “FREE,” there is no other incentive to click the “Learn More” button. And it also uses a photo of the teacher. 

Once you close the pop-up, the entire top section is filled with a call to signup for a free audio miniseries. I like that you can’t miss what it is about: “liberation from the pain-body.” Even if you don’t know what the “pain-body” is, you still have a pretty good idea of what it may be like. And as you read more, it is about negative emotions, energetic blockages, and so on.

The website does an excellent job of communicating quickly what it is about and for whom clearly. 

My only concern is with using the pop-up. I believe the page is trying to solve a problem that I also have: how do you respond to new people landing on the site that are maybe looking for a pain-free life but at the same time also offer something for long-time fans that might be looking for a deeper connection? Right now, there is no harmony between the two, and I believe it causes some distractions and visitors bouncing off. 

What jumps off the page: clear messaging, pain-body, free, emotions, presence. It is clear what you have to do. 

3. Gabby Bernstein

https://gabbybernstein.com/

So far, this is the most focused website. It has an obvious purpose for the visitors who land on the page: promote the “Dear Gabby” podcast. A pop-up jumps out, giving rewards for those to subscribe and review the podcast—an effective way to generate engagement. I notice here that both the pop-up and the top section are aligned in purpose; there is no disconnect. Well done. 

What jumps out at me from the page: 

  • the use of bold colors – a departure from the softer palette on Deepack or Tolle’s site
  • Gabby is the clear image of the brand with a full-body shot
  • they use jagged distortions in the pop-up – which is interesting! – it suggests disharmony, but at the same time, it makes it stand out amongst spiritually oriented sites. I wonder if this is used because of user testing or they have another reason behind it.
  • words: “become the happiest person you know” – I like this tag line a lot

What is hidden but still at the very top is: “New? Start Here” – which is an excellent way to solve the problem I mentioned earlier: catering to both new and regular visitors.

4. Dr. Joe Vitale

https://www.mrfire.com/

The design choice for this website feels incredibly dated to me. That being said, I suspect there is a good reason for this design. Maybe the target audience is older people who remember how the web used to look back in the 90s. 

But one thing we can know for sure: if this website did not work for Joe Vitale, he would change it!

What jumps off the page:

  •  the very distinct look of the page
  •  words like: life mastery, zero limits, personal revolution, the wealth within

5. Dr. Joe Dispenza

https://drjoedispenza.com/

What I love about this webpage is the video at the top, with very inspiring images, music, and titles. It helps to create an immediate emotional connection. Unfortunately, all that is wasted because there is no call to action that I can see. As a visitor, I am left wondering what I am supposed to do next? 

What jumps at me:

  • happy and emotional people
  • powerful words – unlimited, magnificent, empowered, whole, supernatural
  • at the top, there is a small call to action that says: “Get Started with the Formula.”

6. Michael Roads

https://www.michaelroads.com/

I have a performance comment to make here: as soon as I try to load this page, I am greeted with white space for a while, then a spinning animation, and I need to wait a bit for the page to load: in my book that is way too long to wait for one picture and a bunch of text. 

Ignoring the performance issues, here is what I observe: this is a personal brand website. It features a large photo of the author (which takes up the whole screen on a mobile device) and then a text block that starts with “Introducing myself…”

Maybe the purpose of this site is to be a greeting card, in which case it does a good job. But if it has have a different purpose, I don’t know what that is from glancing at the top of the page. There are no visible buttons or other calls to action. 

What jumps at me:

  • Michael’s image is just beautiful – full disclosure: I love his books, and based just on that, I think he is an amazing human being. So I am biased. 
  • The logo with the infinite and the heart merged into one symbol: simple, clear message, brilliant design! 
  • Unfortunately, no words are jumping at me from the page. If I cheat and scroll down, I see the following section starting with “What is Life?”. Now, that is a powerful question, and maybe that should have been the top section. 

Digging deeper into the introduction, I find things like: modern mystic, spiritual teacher, the illusion of separation, realms of consciousness. Good stuff, but hidden in the text. 

As with Joe Vitale above, if this site would not work for Michael, I believe he would change it. So I have to conclude that it meets the purpose for which it was created.

7. David Icke

https://davidicke.com/

The feeling of this page is that of an online newspaper. I immediately noticed that even though the site is called “davidike.com”, there is no picture of the man in the top section. This lack of personal photos is different from all the websites I’ve looked at so far. 

What jumps at me: 

  • the use of labels for articles and videos (green and yellow) that overpower the titles of the articles which should get a higher priority. 
  • the image at the top was not click-able – you have to click the text to open the article – which is not obvious
  • it is clear that it is a news website, and unless you already know David Icke, you will not know what kind of news until you read the titles

8. Ickonic

https://ickonic.com/

The first impression is that it looks like Netflix. The top banner clarifies that it is a video site by using the familiar “play” button as the image. This website is a paid service since they offer a free trial. And once you read the small text, you get a better idea of what this is about: videos that will empower you to take control of your life, health, and wellbeing. 

I believe that using “Welcome to Iconic” as the big title is a wasted opportunity to communicate something more meaningful. If I didn’t already know what kind of videos I would find here, I would have a hard time understanding that at a glance from the top banner. 

Under the top banner is a gallery of available videos. That feels a bit crowded and busy, making it harder to focus on the items. But you can see David Icke, words like “magic,” “healthy,” “fasting” so you begin to get an idea. 

9. The Dalai Lama

https://www.dalailama.com/

Again this looks like a personal brand site where visitors already know what to expect, so there is no need to inform them. You do have a big title to clarify what you are looking at, and then a big picture of the Dalai Lama with the call to action to look at the photos. The imagery is beautiful, but I wonder if looking at the pictures is what most people visit the website for.

I believe most people landing on the home page would find the next section with the “Latest News” and “Upcoming Schedule” more valuable. 

What jumps at me is the lack of any explanation. It is assumed that you know about everything on the website already. So maybe this is more of a news hub and less of a teaching site. 

10. Thich Nhat Hanh

https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/

Once the webpage loads, you are greeted with a pop-up inviting you to subscribe to the newsletter. The imagery is beautiful and cursive, the signup button is evident with high contrast, and the title is very inviting: “Bring Inspiration to Your Inbox!” Who doesn’t want that? You don’t need to know anything about this monk to decide if you want inspiration in your inbox or not. I believe they did an excellent job here. What is missing from the pop-up is a place to type in your email address. That will happen on the next page, adding more friction. I don’t understand the reason behind that.

Closing the pop-up, you will see a slider with beautiful images of community and uplifting messages. 

There is no button to click, so my eyes wander around and land on the “Donate” button at the top and then on the message “planting seeds of compassion” with the beautiful cursive writing.

I believe the design does a good job setting the mood with the warm images and cursive text sparingly, but it then fails to have a clear call to action. However, the images and text are interesting enough that invite you to explore more and eventually find some actions you can take on the site.

What jumps at me:

  • words like: compassion, humanity, generosity, giving, mindfulness
  • beautiful images focused on community
  • text overlay is sometimes hard to read, but the font is big enough, so I will be ok with that
  • the scriptwriting of the tag line is very beautiful and softens the sharpness of screen fonts

11. Celestine Vision – James Redfield

https://www.celestinevision.com/

The top section is an invitation to join the Celestine Community. And even if you don’t know what that is, the sub-text explains it clearly. What is missing is the clear indication that you need to tap/click the image to open the community page. 

And a fun fact: as you hover the mouse over the image, a small box shows up informing us that this is the “SALES PAGE BANNER.” This slipup is why you need to have image titles that make sense for your audience, not your developers. 

What I like here is the clear focus. There is not much you can do, and it is clear from the design what you are expected to do on this page. Using “ALL CAPS” almost everywhere is not something that I would do, but the text is easy to read, so it works in this case. 

What jumps at me:

  • the words: celestine, community, books

12. Don Miguel Ruiz

https://www.miguelruiz.com/

At the top, the part that draws your attention is a beautiful image talking about: “Reflections: a path to authenticity.” Unfortunately, you cannot click on the image, and there is no button that I can find. I find this strange because the subtext says: “an apprenticeship program with…”, so the implication is that you are invited to join this program.

What I like about this page is that it is so elegant and straightforward. However, it is too simple as it lacks a call to action button. 

I don’t know the purpose of the site, so I cannot comment if it is working. It has a store, and one of the products is the program, so it is puzzling that the top banner does not link to it. I am sure that once this becomes a problem, they will update the site. 

What jumps at me: 

  • the beautiful image
  • words like: authenticity, apprenticeship, spiritual teacher

13. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

https://www.srisriravishankar.org/

This has the feeling of a modern website. The top banner has smooth transitions. Each slide has a clear call to action. And there is a tiny bouncing arrow at the bottom that gently instructs you to scroll down for more. 

The message is also clear: a vision of a stress-free and violence-free world—a voice for peace and human values. 

What jumps at me:

  • all the slides feature a picture of the Guru
  • the call to action is easy to understand, so you immediately know what this site is about what you can do here

14. Rhonda Byrne

https://www.rhondabyrne.com/

She has a very simple and streamlined website. The title of it is “Feel Good” with short teaching under it. I like this a lot! The first thing this website does is to create value for you by teaching something really simple that you can apply immediately. It also sets the tone for what to expect from the rest of the experience. You either are intrigued, or you bounce off. There is no call to action in this top section, and I believe this is by design. 

What jumps at me:

  • the words “feel good” – they immediately draw you it – it’s like a command that feels good 🙂
  • the close-up images for Rhonda Byrne – provide a nice counterbalance for the text section

15. Paulo Coelho

https://paulocoelhoblog.com/

The site for Paule Coelho is a blog site, and I think he makes that very clear from the top banner that has his name, his picture, and the words “Stories and Reflections.” 

What jumps at me: 

  • the very simple design
  • a sideways look – instead of a front-facing image

Conclusions

At the end of this research project, I realized that my premise was flawed. You can’t learn what spiritual people want by visiting the website of the spiritual leaders of the time.

Some websites focus on providing teachings and tools, while others focus more on the personal brand. 

The common thread that I noticed was the writings around human nature and expanding of our consciousness. Things like being free of pain and fear or mindfulness or infinite potential. 

I did not learn what spiritual people want, but I did learn about various ways our spiritual teachers make themselves and their message available to the world.

I am not a techie

I am not good with tech!

“I am not good with tech” is one of the most common excuses I hear these days when someone is contemplating starting an online business. 

I am very good with tech, and I can say for sure that technology is not the problem. 

The problem is finding someone who cares. Someone whom you can help in a meaningful way. Someone who was looking for what you create. 

This idea is backward: “Oh, if my website were ready, and if it were stunning, then I would be inspired to write, to post my creations, to share myself. And the customers would line up.”

I know from experience that it will not work. The site’s creation will be challenging as you don’t know what to say or where to put it, and after you get it “done,” you still have to face the blank page of your next post or update. 

And you try to get it perfect so that everybody will like it, and no one will criticize it, and you delay posting. 

But once you do, what happens is that nobody reads it :). You would welcome a critique at this point because at least someone took the time to read and give some feedback. 

So don’t wait until you “figure out the tech” or find that “perfect free-lancer.” Instead, build a library of thoughtful articles, meaningful posts, well-crafted images, and engaging little stories. This library is half of the hard part. The other half is finding those who care.  

Once you solve those two issues, you will see how the “tech” was just an excuse you were hiding behind. 

Go build something with the tools you already have. 🙂

Common mistakes with online events and how to fix them

Many of our interactions have moved online. We have to schedule our meetings online and have online events. 

And I see a lot of things that we can do better! 

1. Online is not the same as offline but with a computer

Offline appointments require a higher commitment. You have to go to the meeting place, and you have to face the people at the event. How you dress, how you take care of your hygiene, and how well you have prepared to be here-now will be very obvious. 

The online environment allows people to hide. They may even forget about the event while they do something else at the computer. Unlike a real-life event, there is no pre-event time when people get together in the same place to get ready, decide where they will sit, striking up conversations. 

As an event organized and participant, you should be mindful of these differences. 

2. Send a clear announcement

I often see event invitations where the date and time are buried somewhere at the end of the email. And the timezone is not very clear either. 

If you want to increase the attendance numbers, ensure that the vital information is communicated first and in a crystal clear way!

Use a date format that is easy to understand for all the participants, even if they are from different countries. “05/04” could be the 4th of May or the 5th of April, depending on where you are from. Use long-format instead and say Tuesday, 5th of April, 2021

For the event time, use the AM/PM format and always add your time zone. 

Do not use relative dates. Don’t say: “See you tomorrow at 2!” – depending on when the user is reading that email, both “tomorrow” and “2” can mean wildly different things.

If your audience is across multiple time zones, don’t do the math by hand. Use a service like timeanddate.com event announcer to create a link that will show the event’s time in the user’s local time! No more math, no more confusion.

Be mindful of daylight savings. Not everyone makes the switch simultaneously, and you risk having your participants miss the meeting. Add a special warning to your email if you’re close to a time where daylight savings may be an issue. Also, use the service above to convert the time correctly for your users. 

3. Followup with reminders

Since online events do not require travel, it is very easy for people to miss them. 

Everyone would know how to manage their calendar and get reminders as needed in an ideal world, but we don’t live in that world. 

To make sure people don’t miss the event, send two reminders: twenty-four hours before the event and 1 hour before the event. The very last reminder should have clear instructions on where to click to access the event. 

4. Use a headset

As an event organizer, use a headset and instruct your participants to have one as well. It will make for a much more clear sound and better experience for everyone involved.

5. Mind your energy and your space

While it’s easy to jump into an online event, it will show if you take some time to prepare for it. Dress appropriately. Stretch for a bit to feel open and relaxed. Do your best to be rested. Have enough clean air in the room. 

Also, prepare your space. Since you don’t have to travel, it may be easy to forget this step. But it helps you to get into an “event energy” if you clean up your desk, have pen and paper ready, and use good lighting (do not have your back to a light source).

6. Record the event

Record the event and send the recording to your participants. It allows your participants to review the information. And it’s a nice thing to do for those who could not make it live.

If you follow these tips, the event’s energy will be more vibrant, and everyone will feel it. The fact that you are making special preparations will make it special. 

Make your next event awesome!

Udemy for instructors is fantastic, but not for making money

If you spend any time online looking at Udemy reviews, it becomes obvious that many instructors bash the platform for its practices:

  1. they take 50% of your sales revenue
  2. or 75% if they used a promotion to generate the sale
  3. you compete with all the other instructions on the site, and there is no way for you to stand out
  4.  you don’t control your course’s sale price – and most sales happen at around $10, out of which you get $5 – even if your listing price is the maximum allowed of $199.

If you are an instructor, then all the above are terrible news for you! 

So why do I think Udemy is fantastic?

Let’s start with who is Udemy for

Udemy is for students looking for quality courses at affordable prices. That means that Udemy is focused on the students, and not you, the instructor. They don’t care how much money you make; they care about how many students they serve as their customers.

And if you want to build your business around selling your knowledge, you too need to start caring about the students and putting them first. 

When you shift your viewpoint like that, you begin to see how Udemy is fantastic for you to grow as an instructor, especially if you are just starting out

Udemy offers you free training on how to create a course. 

They have data from 35m students using their platform: they know what works and what doesn’t. Don’t ignore this. 

They offer articles on how to choose a microphone and camera to record your material. 

They offer a free expert review of sample material when you signup as an instructor. You may think your video and audio is excellent, but having an expert giving you direct feedback is a massive learning opportunity. 

Your course needs to be reviewed to assure some quality standards before being approved on the platform. I read many people take issue with this, and they are frustrated, but I believe they are missing the point. This review is again a free expert critique that you would do well to listen to. 

They offer your marketing insights like what students are searching for, what the competition looks like around a specific topic and some estimated sales numbers. 

How to make Udemy work for you?

The short answer is to embrace for what it is, and not fight against it. The really bad way to use Udemy is to have “a great idea for a course,” do some quick recordings with your phone, upload it to the site and wait for the money to flow. Frustration and disappointment are at the end of that road. 

Do not even think of what you could teach before you do your marketing research. And here, Udemy can help a lot. 

If there is zero interest in your topic, it does not matter how high quality your course is, what a charismatic instructor you are; you will have just wasted your time. 

Use the marketing data on Udemy (that you get for free), and learn about your potential students first! (Remember when I said above that you need to focus on the students?). Once you have found some interests that you can teach about that also have students waiting, you can begin planning your course. 

Next, do not record your entire course and send it to Udemy for review. What if you made a mistake that will prevent you from going through the approval process? You again just wasted your time, and you will have to re-record everything. Instead, do a sample, ask for feedback from experts and listen to what they have to say. Look at the preview of popular courses from your competitors and understand what they are doing right. You don’t have to copy them exactly, but there is a lot to learn from someone who is obviously way ahead of you. 

The following step is to publish the course, set the maximum price for it, but allow Udemy to discount it. This strategy will likely drop the price to $10. Don’t despair. You are here for the learning experience, not for the money. Once you get some sales, ask for feedback from your students to improve your course. Learn from them and improve. I would also ask them for their email and permission to add them to my newsletter :). 

Here is a summary of what happened so far:

  1.  you have some research around students that may want to learn something from you 
  2.  you have much more confidence in your ability to create video content – because your creations have been reviewed and approved by the experts at Udemy
  3.  you have a rough idea of how your course competes against others in the same topic – if it generates no sales, then maybe you need to create something else
  4.  if you do generate sales – you have some students you can communicate with and get feedback from on Udemy – they can become your future audience for various products

Try to do this on your own, and see how far or fast you will go. 

In conclusion

If you are new, if you don’t have your own audience, if you need to train your video creation skills, if you don’t have a budget to spend on setting up a website, and you need to find a niche of students that you can teach, you can do all of that on Udemy for free. 

Once you get that training, have a product that works, an audience larger than zero, and you know how to do marketing, it may be time to create your website on Teachable. 

Listening well is hard

You would think that listening is the easiest thing in the world. Provided you have two good working ears, all you need to do is sit back, relax and allow the information to come in. 

This is what I used to believe, but I was wrong. 

So how do you listen well? 

  1. You lean in.
  2. You nod.
  3. You summarize back what was said to you.
  4. You mirror the other person’s body language. 
  5. You say things like “I see,” “I understand.”
  6. You make eye contact. 

Unfortunately, all of the above are tools for you to pretend that you listen well and try to trick the other person into thinking you are paying attention. 

Listening is more of an internal affair than what you show externally. 

Listening is so hard because of the noise in our heads. How can we genuinely make space and listen intently to the other person when the voice in our heads drives us crazy?

We may start with good intentions and an open heart, but sooner or later, something will happen that will start the chatter-box:

“Oh my God, this looks like a long story, and I haven’t had lunch yet!”

“Did I forget to turn the heater off? I hope I did not start a fire! need to make a mental note to call home.”

“Should I tell her she has something in her teeth?”

“What do you mean I didn’t tell you about this? I TOTALLY DID!”

“Oh, wait a minute… wait a minute… oh SHUT UP ALREADY so I can say something!”

“Oops… must do eye contact! And remember to nod! And… I have a meeting with the boss later on that worries me sick!”

Not listening properly greatly affects how we do business. We are so focused on talking, on proving that we know our business that we don’t stop and listen really hard. When you don’t listen, you are missing vital information that could help you craft a better custom solution or give you leverage in a negotiation with your clients. 

“Contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do.” – Chris Voss

Listening well is a skill, so it is trainable. Start by noticing the noise in your head and make it a practice to now allow it to take away your attention. If your mind is too busy, show respect for you and your partner and let them know you cannot truly listen to what they have to say right now, rather than pretending that you care. Meditation or other mindfulness practice also helps. 

We are human beings first and business people second. Listening well is a great way to honor this principle. 

 

Etsy, is it good for you?

The short answer is: it does not hurt! 

And now, here is why:

Selling your handcrafted items or services on Etsy has some significant advantages:

  1. It is effortless to get started – there is no technology barrier. You fill out forms about you and your offerings, and that’s it. This is a big deal. Learning new tech or hiring help can be super expensive and time-consuming. 
  2. There are no upfront costs to you – no need to pay for website development, hosting, or a custom e-store solution. Again, you can just start today!
  3. There are automatic tax calculations and shipping calculations.
  4. You can easily add tracking information to your dispatched orders.
  5. You automatically benefit from the audience that Etsy has built, and that is huge if you are just starting with your marketing.

With all these goodies, why am I not hyper-excited about Etsy?

It is because all the advantages above come with a “flip side.”

It is so easy to get started because there is little to no customization you can do for your store. All the stores look the same. They look like an Etsy store. The images are the only differentiator under your control. 

And this brings me to another point: You don’t really have your own Etsy shop; what you have is “shelf space” in the Etsy market space. The shelf is ready-made; you only get to place your product in it. 

This restriction makes it super hard to build brand awareness. In fact, selling on Etsy builds up their brand, not yours. 

Another significant issue is that you have no control over what is next to you on the shelf. Instead of your other products, Etsy places products from your competitors. To understand why this happens, think of the business model that Etsy uses: they don’t care what vendor makes a sales, as long as one of them does. So it makes sense for them to have vendors compete against each other for similar items. This practice is bad marketing for your brand but excellent for Etsy.

Etsy makes money by focusing on the end customer (which is not the vendor) and its brand. People who come to browse Etsy rarely return to visit a specific shop (read “shelf”). They instead want to check “what else is available in the huge market place.” (As a side note: Shopify is different – they focus on the vendor and allow the vendor to take care of their customers)

Indeed, getting on Etsy will automatically put you in front of the entire Etsy audience. And that is both good and bad. It is useful when you are just starting, you are new to marketing, and you have no audience of your own. Then you benefit tremendously from the exposure. But it is terrible news in the sense that it is not “your audience,” and Etsy will not just simply hand it over to you. They will make sure you don’t compete with their brand, so your “store” will always look like an “Etsy store.” They allow for a newsletter subscription but not to you, but Etsy instead. And since your products are discoverable via search, you need to use the product title to optimize for search results, not for brand awareness. 

Finally, no upfront cost to you, and no monthly subscription means they have to take a cut out of each sale. 

It may look like I am making Etsy be the bad guy, profiting over the vendors who use the platform. That is not the case. Everything they are doing makes perfect sense for their business model and the people they are looking to serve. I am writing this article to make you aware of the full picture as you look at it from both sides of the coin. And if you understand what and why they are doing, you can work with them and not against them. 

So, is Etsy good for you? 

I would say that is an excellent place to start, but if you want to grow, you will eventually need to build your brand and store and have Etsy be just one of the sales channels but not the only sales channel

Full disclosure: I am not selling anything on Etsy – so this analysis is my overview based on what I can understand of their business model and my own experience with having an online shop. Therefore I recommend you read this review from someone who is actively using Etsy, and, as always, I recommend you get the best coaching you can afford to help you maximize your revenue from Etsy. Coaching helps you by accelerating your learning. Instead of the slow path of guesswork and mistakes, you already get the map and the guide. You may choose not to follow it, but you at least know how the roadmap to a successful Etsy shop looks like. A word of caution here: when you look at a successful Etsy store, try to understand if they have a repeatable process or they simply lucked out :).

Did you have any “aha!” moments? Share them below.

Is this the best way to accomplish our goals?

Have you ever tried to coach a team towards an end goal but failed? Either because you can’t get your point of view across or because the discussion gets sidetracked continuously into things that are not that important? 

I have tried to send documentation to be studied that points at the right solution. That did not work. 

I have tried to use my experience and authority to give them the best solution and move on to the implementation phase. That did not work either. 

I have tried allowing them to learn on their own and to figure it out eventually. That also did not work because of time constraints. 

And guess what the common denominator is to all the failed attempts? Me! 🙂

My thinking says: if they only had the right information, they would see things like I do. Unfortunately, that is not true. As I am discovering, each one of us sees the world through a different lens. Our views may be similar, but they will never be the same

Today I was studying Seth’s book “Stop Stealing Dreams.” And I was fascinated with how many ideas he can share, without giving any advice on what to do! And not only that, but almost every paragraph had me stop and ponder what was said. I could feel the cogs in my brain getting a good workout!

I had to digest the entire book to figure it out finally. And the answer is now simple and obvious. Seth asks a lot of questions, inviting the reader to think for herself!

And the most potent question was:

Is this the best way to accomplish (…insert goal here…)?

This question serves double duty:

1. It makes sure that we know and agree on what the goal is. If we don’t, we need to go way back in our discussion and check and decide on our goals again. 

2. Once we agree on the goal, asking “is this the best way” opens everybody’s mind to contribute in a focused way towards the goal. 

The key difference for me is that I no longer dish out my solutions but instead invite everyone to contribute. The best way that the group finds may be way better than what I had initially thought the correct answer was. We all learn, and we move forward together.

I will definitely give implement this one in my communication.

“I need help! I have a problem!” Syndrome

“I need help! I have a problem!”: I see a lot of emails with those titles almost every day. And in some cases, these emails are sent to public figures who may have large audiences. 

What goes through my head is this: 

“Does this person seriously think that their email will be picked out of the thousands and get a reply?”

And the answer is that probably yes, or they would not have sent the message in the first place.

For me, that is selfish thinking and selfish expectations. Especially for someone who has a broader audience, the email situation is asymmetric. There is way more incoming email than one person could possibly read, let alone send a response. 

And this also applies to social media communications.

I am writing this post here because I have seen a similar trend in the business world where people send messages asking for a job or offering their services to anyone who has a contact form on their website. 

These messages boil down to: “Hey, I am intrigued by what you do, can you hire me?” or “Hey, some nice content here, do you need SEO on the website?”

How would you feel if a stranger came up to you on the street and said that to you? Would they seem trustworthy? Would you think that they genuinely have your best interest at heart? Would you be eager to work with them? 

I understand that sometimes crises happen. I know there are situations where you desperately need to put food on the table and keep the lights on. But the problem is that everyone else also has their own issues to think about; they have their own story running in their head. The fact that you have a big problem, does not give you permission to but in and ask to be hired or offer a service that is not needed. It just creates friction and noise and lowers your chance to be seen as trustworthy

This shotgun approach has a math justification. It is free to interrupt many people in the information age and demand that they focus on my problem. So, the logic says, I just have to interrupt a lot of them, and eventually, I will get a hit! 

If you are doing this, how is it working for you? I bet that it’s not working very well.

The Alternative is to be generous and respectful.

Imagine that you are indeed about to approach a stranger in real life, not online, and you will see how face-to-face interaction changes the dynamic. 

None of the short meaningless pick-up lines would work. You would need to show genuine empathy and generosity. 

Being generous does not have to be about money. You can be generous with your time, attention, and emotional labor. Before you contact a potential lead, do read their about page, their social media activity. Get out of your head and your problems, and do your best to comprehend their story and problems. Once you feel you have seen the world through their eyes, only then you can go to them and say:

“Hey, I’ve been following your activity for a while, and I know a big launch is coming. Do you need any help with that? I am especially effective at creating and distributing flyers!”

If you were honest with your investigation and were paying attention, your lead was thinking or worrying about this issue. By mentioning it directly and specifically, you show that you care and that you’ve spent the time and the effort of getting familiar with their business and their problem. 

Do you see how this would set you miles apart from some just bombing with generic “I don’t care about you, please hire me” messages? 

The key to solving your problems is to help other people solve their problems first. 

Keep that in mind, when you send your next email or post your next message on LinkedIn. Are you selfish? Or generous? 

One path is to do the bare minimum

Your boss does not appreciate you, or is there a glass ceiling in your company or your department? Or are your clients always trying to pay less?

The solution? One is to do the bare minimum required not to get fired. Or, if you work for clients, do the bare minimum to meet spec. That’s an effective use of your time, right? 

Except, it isn’t. 

It is a race to the bottom. And eventually, you will win. 

You cannot control what your boss thinks of you. Or how the company is structured. Or how your clients see your work. 

That leaves you with the only thing you can control: your attitude. 

Doing the bare minimum, just getting by, it is a victim attitude. It is a way for you to get “revenge” on the outside circumstances that don’t reward you. 

So what is the alternative? 

The alternative is to choose to grow. To choose to be focused, to do outstanding work, work that you are proud of, and you would happily brag about at your next job interview or in the sales call with your prospects. 

Will your current boss suddenly appreciate you? 

I would say that is the wrong question. Yes, we do crave appreciation and being seen for what we are, but it starts with yourself. Appreciate yourself first. And one way to do that is to create yourself every day in the person you want to be, regardless of how those around you see you. As you get better at this, you will think differently, you will see new opportunities, you will have the energy to act on them, and your circumstances will change. 

Stay focused

All the productivity gurus and spiritual gurus talk about the power of being focused. And for a good reason. Scrolling through your social media feed scatters your mind. Juggling too many projects increase the task-switching costs. Chasing too many topics does not allow you to go deep on any of them. 

Create the discipline of staying focused. Even if you don’t like your current job, stay focused. It builds a skill that will be priceless in all areas of your life. 

Staying focused also means choosing not to indulge in fear and doubt and worry. Choose courageous thoughts; choose creative thoughts. 

A side note about becoming a martyr 

That is not what I am suggesting in this article. I am not talking about self-sacrifice; instead, I am suggesting getting out of self-pity and allowing outside circumstances to determine your inner feelings and how you show up in the world. 

Ask powerful questions like:

  • what is needed from me at this moment?
  • how can I help in this situation?
  • whom can I connect? 
  • how can I better at this?
  • what is truly important now? 
  • how can I be generous today?
  • is what I am doing, and thinking serve my short and long-term goals? 

What does the client want?

Some time ago…

Some time ago, the conversation with a potential client would be something along the lines of:

“How can I help you?”

“I want a website to sell my products.”

“OK, great, this is a price and you’ll have in a month.”

A month later…

I’d show her the site, and the reaction would be: “Well, this is not even close to what I had in mind…”

I had to change the game and ask more questions 🙂

“What colors do you like?”

“Red and blue.”

“Great, and font wise?”

“I want something elegant, precise!” 

“For images?”

“Oh, something joyful and warm…”

“Excellent! This is the price; you will have the site in a month”.

A month later…

I’d show her the site, and the feedback is: “This red is not red enough, and now I realize the red and blue are a bad combination! Can we try yellow instead of blue? And the font is too girly for what I have a mind. We are going to need new images as well. The top one is ugly, and the rest don’t match the brant at all.”

Oh, the frustration.

At some point, I’ve spent two weeks back and forth, trying to nail down the shade of blue. That was a waste of my time and the client’s time!

I had come to believe that the clients don’t know how to communicate (I had a much shorter description for this). I had resolved that I would never even discuss with someone who could not write a technical specification that we can agree on, and that I could deliver. 

This decision blocked many customers, but more importantly, blocked important learning. 

The Breakthrough 

I was watching a video from Chris Do. He’s a designer who also teaches business, and I admire his style. To me, it feels like he is talking to me specifically. The kind of decisions you need to make in design apply in software and for anyone who uses creativity to solve a problem. But I digress. 

Back to the video. 

He was taking questions from the audience, and someone asked: “How do you deal with clients who don’t know how to communicate what they want?” Ah! The golden questions! I had the same struggle. I perked up, waiting for the knowledge to be bestowed on me. 

Chris looked into the camera, and you could tell that the question was really testing his patience. Hm… And he said: “How many times do I have to tell you that the good-communication is on you! It is your responsibility to help your client articulate her problem and then discover if you can help her.”

All the pieces began to fall into place in my mind. I suddenly understood that in blaming the client, I was not only asking the wrong questions, but I was not developing a critical communication skill. 

In the present time…

When a client wants to work with me, they better be ready for a ton of questions :). As someone jokingly said, they need to feel like they’ve been to the shrink after the first discovery session. 

Here is how the conversation might look like:

“I want a site that can help me sell my products.”

“Sure, that is something that I specialize in, but out of curiosity, what problem are you trying to solve?”

“Well, I need to increase my revenue, obviously”

“OK, that makes sense. How do you know that having a website is the best way to solve this problem?”

“I don’t know… everybody does it… what other options are there?”

“I am glad you ask. Before I can answer that, I’d need to know more about your business. It’s OK if I ask you a few questions?”

“OK…”

“At the moment, how do you generate your revenue…”

And this would go on for a while. 

In the end, what I need to know is:

– what is the biggest problem that this customer is facing 

– how can I help them discover this problem if they don’t know it

– how can I help them articulate their underlying needs 

– in the end, are we a good fit? Can I help her with what she really needs? Can she afford me? Do we like each other well enough to work together for a few weeks or months? 

And by the end, the client would also need to know

– how do I work

– can she trust me

– what is my price range

– what kind of a solution can she expect

– is hiring me the right choice for her

In Conclusion

Make sure you correctly diagnose the problem before you prescribe a solution. If the solution you’re thinking of is not the right one, you need to find out as soon as possible, not at the end of the process.

If you found value in this article, let me know in the comments below or on Facebook. This feedback will help me understand what to focus on in the following posts. 

Go create the New Paradigm today!