On Wanting to Change–a Meditation on Entrepreneurship from Brianna Wiest

In 2020, Anthony Hopkins received an Oscar nomination for his role in “The Father,” as a man with dementia struggling for control with his daughter, played by Olivia Colman. (The film was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.) Hopkins commented that the film was his personal favourite, following astonishing performances in such earlier films as “The Remains of the Day”  and “Silence of the Lambs.”

Hopkins himself has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and in an interview with the CBC”s Tom Power (during TIFF)  spoke with characteristic humility about the film and about aging.

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-50-q/clip/15797845-anthony-hopkins-the-father-challenges-growing-older

Over the last few years, the essay I post below has been attributed to him.

Like so much on social media, the attribution is incorrect. (As readers well know, over the years powerful epigraphs have been misattributed all over the internet.  For instance,  I remember several associated with the Dalai Lama which were not his, and that only scratches the surface.) Snopes.com attributes the  essay associated with Hopkins to writer Brianna Wiest:

(https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/anthony-hopkins-let-go/)

While we could debate the problems of misattributed writing forever (remember when it was new to question Shakespeare’s authorship?), Wiest’s essay warrants reading, especially given the  attention recently devoted to the role of boundaries in entrepreneurial relationships. The essay speaks (allegorically) to those and not only to romantic relationships. It could better be called, “On Wanting to Change.”

“I Need This In My Life” (Brianna Wiest)

′′Let go [of] the people who are not prepared to love you. This is the hardest thing you will have to do in your life and it will also be the most important thing. Stop having hard conversations with people who don’t want change.

Stop showing up for people who have no interest in your presence. I know your instinct is to do everything to earn the appreciation of those around you, but it’s a boost that steals your time, energy, mental and physical health.

When you begin to fight for a life with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to follow you in this place. This doesn’t mean you need to change what you are, it means you should let go of the people who aren’t ready to accompany you.

If you are excluded, insulted, forgotten or ignored by the people you give your time to, you don’t do yourself a favor by continuing to offer your energy and your life. The truth is that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.

That’s what makes it so special when you meet people who reciprocate love. You will know how precious you are.

The more time you spend trying to make yourself loved by someone who is unable to, the more time you waste depriving yourself of the possibility of this connection to someone else.

There are billions of people on this planet and many of them will meet with you at your level of interest and commitment.

The more you stay involved with people who use you as a pillow, a background option or a therapist for emotional healing, the longer you stay away from the community you want.

Maybe if you stop showing up, you won’t be wanted. Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end. Maybe if you stop texting, your phone will stay dark for weeks. That doesn’t mean you ruined the relationship, it means the only thing holding it back was the energy that only you gave to keep it. This is not love, it’s attachment. It’s wanting to give a chance to those who don’t deserve it. You deserve so much, there are people who should not be in your life.

The most valuable thing you have in your life is your time and energy, and both are limited.

When you give your time and energy, it will define your existence.

When you realize this, you begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend time with people, in activities, places or situations that don’t suit you and shouldn’t be around you, your energy is stolen.

You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else. Make your life a safe haven, in which only ‘compatible′ people are allowed.

You are not responsible for saving anyone. You are not responsible for convincing them to improve. It’s not your work to exist for people and give your life to them! If you feel bad, if you feel compelled, you will be the root of all your problems, fearing that they will not return the favours you have granted. It’s your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.

Decide that you deserve true friendship, commitment, true and complete love with healthy and prosperous people. Then wait and see how much everything begins to change. Don’t waste time with people who are not worth it.

Change will give you the love, the esteem, happiness and the protection you deserve.”

And now it’s your turn: As a new program year begins in this “fourth wave” of Covid, what changes are you making to your career or personal relationships?

 

Read more, read better? Developing a reading habit with Stephen Cavan, Stephen Krashen and Brad Stulberg

When I teach students for whom English is a second (or foreign) language, they often express a desire to practice orally to help them become fluent as quickly as they can.

Less often, one will ask me what book titles I would recommend; when they do, they usually are interested in books on language skills (e.g. ESL textbooks), not books of fiction or poetry, written in English.

An advocate for reading by second language learners, my colleague (and a great ESL teacher, himself) Steve Cavan has recommended the writing of Dr. Stephen Krashen, an expert in theories of language acquisition and development.

Krashen has published hundreds of books and articles and given more than 500 lectures at universities world-wide to promote the “natural approach” to language teaching. By this he means to encourage students to read recreationally and for teachers like me (and administrators) to ensure that school libraries are well stocked.

Krashen says that “what is good for language development and literacy development is . . . pleasant [to] the acquirer and the teacher.” He has found that time spent free reading is more efficient for developing language skills than the equivalent time spent in traditional instruction.

Reading can (and should) be fun—and can help us learn new languages better.

So many readers and writers find life boring (even or especially in this digital age), when devices can leave us with minds feeling dry, uninspired, even cranky. What Krashen calls the “pleasure path” of reading often lighthearted fiction in a foreign language accelerates our learning of that language.

For instance, Krashen refers to one study in which new immigrants to the US who have progressed very slowly in learning English showed a remarkable spike in progress, due mainly to reading pleasant (potboiler) romance novels, such as the “Sweet Valley High” series. These students were not taking ESL classes at the time.

My colleague, Steve Cavan, has referred his students to free, online ebooks in English on the following site, where classics have been simplified to levels comprehensible to new learners:

https://english-e-reader.net/

Whether we are new to a language or native-speakers, however, reading deeply, what freelance writer and coach Brad Stulberg calls “full engagement in a book,” can be a joyous experience. When people’s attention spans are shortening by the day (or so it seems), Stulberg says that to be a deep reader “is also a competitive advantage in today’s knowledge-based economy.”

In a recent article in “Forbes” magazine, Stulberg argues that getting lost in a book “is good for the mind and spirit,” allows us to understand topics more deeply, to sustain attention for longer periods of time and to enhance our creativity.

Now, whether for non-English readers or the fully fluent, who would argue against all that?

Stulberg recommends six practices that can help us all read more and read better:

(1) Use a hardcopy book. Research shows that we understand and connect ideas better when we read physical (not digital) pages. There are fewer distractions than with digital media and our brains remember better knowledge acquired through “tactile experience.”

(2) Have no digital devices in the room. Even “the sight of these devices and everything they represent—not to mention the willpower it takes not to check them—is a huge distraction.  So find a non-tech room for reading.

(3) Read with a pencil, pen or highlighter. When we engage with books more deeply, actively responding to their ideas, we become more fully absorbed in the material, which improves our “associative thinking and subsequent creative insight.” (This will of course mean that you need to buy the book, which in time means you may wish to donate it to charities, through which others can benefit from it, too.)

(4) Keep a notebook nearby. Even when we’re closely engaged in a book, irrelevant thoughts can pop up in our minds (e.g. groceries to get; errands to run). Stulberg suggests that we right them down in a retraceable place, so that we can “off load [our] brains from trying to hang on to them.”

(5) Read for at least 30 minutes. Deep reading is similar to physical exercise. Our minds are muscles and need to be trained to read over a significant amount of time. Filling in brief moments of your day with an audiobook, though not terrible, cannot compare.

(6) Read as much as you can. Stulberg rightly says that “books are the best bargain there is” for sharing insights, wisdom and experience. As a professional coach who recommends reading, he has helped Olympic athletes to progress through life, post-sports; business founders through career-defining and challenging times; and has observed that wise leaders “from Bill Gates to Ruth Bader Ginsberg  . . . all read a heck of a lot.”

So why shouldn’t we, too? And that’s whether we are new to the English language or not.

 

And now it’s your turn. Do you practice deep reading in your professional or personal life? Has the thinking of Cavan, Krashen and Stulberg convinced you to get started?

Please share your experience. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

What does it mean to have adaptability as an entrepreneur? Here’s one answer . . . .

For the past 10 years (under two different names), “Storytelling Communications” has been dedicated to helping others tell their stories.

So I’m happy to announce that officially on September 1st (2021), I will take  adult learners of the English language as new clients!

As I have indicated in previous postings and in my monthly e-newsletter, during earlier Covid days I earned ESL teaching accreditation from the UK company, Tefl.Org.

Armed with that training, I have since begun teaching three learners through the not-for-profit organization, Nevy’s Language (based in Toronto, via Zoom). The students I work with are in differing ways enthusiastic and committed, challenging and, at times, withdrawn; they require me to be adaptive to their needs.

The concept of adaptability has been seen as key to success in freelancing and (more broadly) in entrepreneurship. American copywriter Ed Gandia recently blogged on the concept of adaptability. He defines the concept here:

“Adaptability is the ability to tackle business challenges by thinking critically and creatively about the problem and its solutions. It’s about being resourceful.  Learning from what worked and what didn’t. Keeping an open mind. Not giving up easily. Taking calculated risks. It means being willing to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

Adaptability, Gandia adds, allows entrepreneurs to “better navigate life’s challenges,” both in business and personally.  It allows us to be “more aware, perceptive, compassionate and vibrant.”

Teaching ESL for me, then, is not a new line or a deepening of my services, but a growth in scope of prospects and clients and of adaptability to elicit the stories they have to share.

For the past decade, I have been crafting language to help people tell their stories—whether they are a fifth-generation farmer near Punnichy, SK, or a recent immigrant opening a cafe in Riversdale, who wants to tell others about his/her new life in Canada.

So I continue to interview, write and edit “success stories.” But the scope of my clients is widening.

Through Nevy’s Language, new immigrant students share with me their hopes, dreams, fears and language woes, on a regular basis. And I witness (and encourage) their resilience and determination.

Seth Godin says of the world of marketing and communications that “marketing is no longer about the stuff you sell; it’s about the stories you tell.”

When I teach ESL and when I write persuasive copy, I tell others’ stories in different ways. I have begun to help new and economic immigrants to secure better jobs by improving their language skills. I also help small and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively. Finally, I help major companies to tell the stories of their legacies.

These activities are focused on telling subtle, complicated and previously untold stories.

What stories do you have to share? Please be in touch; I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Stay tuned for more updates from Storytelling Communications!

Want to close more sales but afraid of the process? A short course in sales from Gerry Black, in this week’s blog posting . . .

It’s an understatement these days to say that entrepreneurs hate selling.  What’s behind that? Many of us have deeply ingrained stereotypes (usually dating from childhood and reinforced by our education system) that sellers are con-men or women, using pushy, sleezy tactics to manipulate buyers into deals the buyers would later regret. 

The stereotype of the “con man”-sales person may be familiar to you through the TV character, Herb Tarlek, sales manager at “WKRP (radio station) in Cincinnati,” in the late 70s/early 80s show of the same name.  Herb kept the financially strapped radio station afloat by currying favour with questionable advertisers, including one owner whose diet pills turned out to be narcotics! Tarlek’s ethically questionable and generally obnoxious sales strategies were perfectly reflected in his atrocious fashion sense—billious, plaid polyester suits, always paired with a shiny white belt and shoes. Could anyone exude more sleaze?

Tarlek made for great TV, but his character reflects the anxiety many of us entrepreneurs have of selling. Even when our services are first-rate and expertly delivered. Many of us lack a “sales mindset,” so we feel inadequate when asking for “the buy.” We fear prospects will perceive us as pushy. We have to “re-examine and change our internal dialog about what selling is really about” says Ontario sales specialist, Gerry Black.

Based in Newmarket, Ontario, Gerry Black is a marketing sales specialist with 30+ years in the industry. He names his sales method (and his website) “Invisible Selling”: https://invisibleselling.com/

Stereotypes often have a small element of reality around which hatred and disdain amplify and distort, so that Herb Tarlek resonates painfully with our fears of selling. But Black steps clear aside of that stereotype, rationally advising entrepreneurs that sales are a service to the community and a “mutually beneficial outcome by both seller and buyer.” Rightly managed, the sales process can have integrity.

We are, as Black says in a video promotion for his program, respected sales professionals who provide solutions to our prospects’ problems. We need to undercut our own fears that selling is “an adversarial relationship.” It does not have to be!

Approaching sales as a way to solve problems for our clients is not a new philosophy, he observes, and “there is nothing new about the basics of sales fundamentals.” For instance, content-rich, accurate and persuasive copywriting can get the work of our clients out to their clients. And,  just as we would expect a doctor or a hair stylist or a butcher to be paid (and paid fairly) for their services, so too should we.

Black recommends that we know exactly what problems that our work can fix (even before we plan a script or method of selling). Here are eight of his tips:

(1) Convert selling opportunities into sales:  Be prepared as an entrepreneur to do that. (This has nothing to do with how great you may be as a service provider. Do not give in to the temptation to apologize for wanting to sell your services!) One way to do this is to learn as much as you can about your prospects, so that you can converse with them more easily.

What pain points of theirs are you relieving? What problems of theirs can you solve? Having a sales mindset is necessary to secure leads and to turn those leads into sales.

(2) Cultivate an audience of people who want or need what you’re selling and are willing to pay for it.  (Don’t go down the rabbit hole of trying to convince the resistant prospect to hire you! This is especially true on the Prairies.)

(3) Adopt a positive sales’ mindset: Make sure you view your services as benefiting both your prospect and yourself.

(4) Be aware of reasons that selling feels stressful to you: entrepreneurs often don’t clearly understand the purpose and structure of a selling interaction. The relationship should be mutually beneficial and not an adversarial tug-of-war between “a winner and a loser.”

(5) Take control of the reigns when a prospect contacts you, because they rarely know what to say, and whether there’s a fit between their project and your services.  Black says: “Don’t let the tail way the dog!” (If the dog is smarter than its tail it can wag it. If the tail were smarter than the dog, then it would wag the dog.)

As sellers, we are the experts in this exchange. Recognizing this,  entrepreneurs can take control of the selling conversation and eliminate the stress of feeling uncertain how things will go.

So, ask questions to direct the conversations. After making small (but genuine) small-talk, the crucial question to ask is this: “What is going on in your life that led you to contact me, today?” This question defuses the tension between buyer and seller and allows the seller the necessary space to speak.

These tips keep your sales conversations in order and instantly relieve the stress around selling that comes to many of us.

(6) Focus on your prospects and customers: they won’t take an interest in you and your services until you take an interest in them. You can do this by constantly gathering information about your prospects and their interests: ask  plenty of questions about them and their work. For instance, show them how your service will change their lives, make their work more efficient or profitable. Show how your service will  keep your existing customers happy over the long term. Make your customers feel that they matter to you, as a seller.  And make sure that everyone in your company understands that importance of valuing each customer.

(7) Know that prospects’ objections to the sale are often “maybes” and are usually a “disguised request from prospects for more information that will allow him/her to make a buying decision. Objections indicate that the prospect hasn’t yet been convinced of your service (and why s/he should pay for it). So, answer objections with statements that explain and show value.

(8) The final (and often fatal) mistake many entrepreneurs make is failing to close the sale—i.e. “ask for the order.” Here, entrepreneurs who don’t understand sales fear rejection. We often lack confident footing and positioning in the exchange, don’t want to seem pushy (when we are a welcomed consultant), and simply don’t know what to say. But if you have already addressed so much in your conversation, the prospect expects you to ask for the order–to close the sale.

It may be that the prospect has one final (hidden) objection that they will put on the table, which you can address and then close the sale.

Some entrepreneurs find themselves closing earlier, if we are earlier confident of the prospect’s acceptance.

Black stresses that our time as entrepreneur/seller is very valuable: if you have already identified a problem of your prospect that you can fix, if you have invested time with him/her and can demonstrate value during the sales process, you have EARNED the right to ask for the sale.

Gerry Black has more tips on sales for those faint-of-heart.  I recommend reading his blog and signing up for his course:  https://invisibleselling.com/

He’s the perfect antidote to those internalized stereotypes that selling is for crooks. Blow that false belief (and Herb Tarlek) out of the water, once and for all. You deserve the space and respect you need to do your work.

And now it’s your turn: Do these tips from Gerry Black make the selling process feel more manageable? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.

How has Covid Changed Copywriting (and Entrepreneurship)? Five Tips from Copywriter & Coach, Steve Slaunwhite

Pandemic times are not “unprecedented,” if we know the history of the Spanish Flu, the Bubonic Plague and others. But Covid-19 has shown us up close that pandemics have an extraordinary effect on the world of communications and marketing.

For instance, Terry O’Reilly dedicated a wildly entertaining and informative episode of his CBC radio program to “Marketing in the Time of Covid” on “Under the Influence” (February 18, 2021).

My colleague (and former coach), Steve Slaunwhite, blogged recently on ways in which Covid has changed copywriting. He says that rules of the game “have been altered. Perhaps permanently.” His observation that Covid has caused copywriting to “become more relevant, authentic—even caring” resonates with me.

Yes, we continue to write copy that tries to persuade and ultimately close sales.  But now, more than ever, conversational copy, which I find draws on storytelling, matters. The conversation outperforms any effort to pitch.

In fact, heavy pitching in pandemic times will only sound tone-deaf to the buyer. So how can copywriters and entrepreneurs address these uncertain times in our writing? Steve gives five tips, which I develop further, below.

  1.  He recommends that we update our understanding of our target buyers, or “buyer personas”: Ask yourself who they are. “If they were created before March 2020, they’re way out of date.” 

Spend some time reading and asking your customers what they’re thinking about, what worries them, what their “hopes and desires” are. Steve says that their answers will be different now than they were, one year ago. Customers and prospects may even be buying differently.

I’ve heard from the CBC and from trends in my local community that some people, not only in northern and remote Canadian communities, but also here at home, deal with pandemic risk by buying many of the amenities of life through Amazon:  For some of these buyers,  not enough stable providers (and deliverers) of food and goods have persisted, through the past year.

Now Zoom has become a means of hiring service providers, whereas earlier more in-person methods (or a combination of virtual and actual) were used.

Steve asks: “Does your marketing copy reflect” these kinds of changes? It needs to.

2. Learn to write conversationally: This is not news and yet I regularly see copy online that does not flow well. It reads, as Steve says, “stiff and formal.” I rebranded my business, Storytelling Communications, in 2018,  focusing on the importance of communicating in ways that quickly resonate with human readers–both thematically and in tone.

Consider that copywriting and marketing greats like Steve, as well as Nick Usborne, Michael Katz and giant, Seth Godin (the latter partnered with Bernadette Jiwa), have all developed training materials that teach conversational copywriting through storytelling.

  1. Build facts and details into your writing: Why? Uncertain times make people crave for certainty. I’ve noticed recently that terms like “bedrock,” “foundational,” “flagship” and “landmark” have circulated more in online news than I can ever remember! We often feel better just for reading those words.

Steve recommends inserting facts, details, useful knowledge from highly credible, authoritative sources. Make sure your statistics are up to date. (We need to update website copy from content that’s four or five years old.) Also, cite “plenty of testimonials.”

  1. Be very realistic about the benefits we tout and any outcomes we quote. Experienced copywriters know that we can write persuasively but still must be honest about benefits and expected outcomes. Otherwise, we have no credibility. Steve writes: “What has changed is that buyers are being extra cautious and scrutinizing the claims made in marketing copy much more closely.”

So we must write convincingly, but not overlook that we are being realistic (honest) in how we describe benefits and promises.

This reminds me of the anger of an accountant I know, who voiced his frustration to a nearby assistant, that a salesperson of their recently purchased photocopier was “a bald-faced liar” for promising a higher volume of copies than the machine produced. The salesperson’s credibility was shot—and won’t easily, if ever, be recovered.

  1. Reward your reader for reading your marketing copy: So we must not “pitch” or push in a hard-sell way. Steve knows that “pitch fatigue” can undermine the effectiveness of marcom copy.

He recommends an “alterative approach,” of including within a promotional email a few tips on how to make the most of the product or service: This “makes the email exciting and helpful to the buyer, whether they buy or not.”  Salespeople call this “adding value with every contact.”

Consider that companies as diverse as Vistaprint and FlexJobs (and many more) have sent me promotional emails in recent months that tell how to improve one’s resume, job interview strategies, etc.

But remember the evergreen power of storytelling (used by civilizations from cavemen to millennials), especially in pandemic times, to hook the reader.

To summarize, then: Covid times force us to be on top of our game as copywriters and entrepreneurs, more conscious and self-aware of our clients and prospects than ever before. We can avoid falling into a “tone-deaf” state if we update our understanding of our target buyer; learn to write conversationally; build facts and details into our copy; are realistic about benefits or outcomes; and add value to our audience, rewarding them for reading our writing.

Covid challenges us to be more nimble in our mindset, as promotional writers.

Copywriters and entrepreneurs who merely crank out copy or promotions in age-old ways will be left out in the cold.

And now it’s your turn. Do Steve’s five tips on how to update our approach to marketing in Covid days resonate with you?  Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.