Category Archives: Professional Development

The Power of Meaningful Engagement

zig_ziglar_help_enoughIn a recent post (“Make it About Them”) by  Matt Holmes, the Denver networking guru brings up a fundamental – but never too-often-repeated adage about shoulder-rubbing: Engaging others should start with a conversation about them – not you. He also refers to one of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes from the book, “Secrets of Closing the Sale” (click to get it), which I highly recommend.

Matt’s angle is tactical, as it reinforces the practice of basic inquiry in the context of active business hobnobbing. I’d like to go further with it, though, because it’s already easily halfway to a much more meaningful way of living in a broader sense: Actually engaging with others from a place in ourselves where we actually seek to help them along in the universe.

Of course that’s easier said than done. And I can imagine some of the eye rolls I’ll get here when I not only say that it’s a bit of work – and perhaps even more challenging – it involves matters of the heart. (If anyone is ready to click away here, that means it’s even more important to stay!)

My point: Everywhere, especially in the startup world – where we’re in many cases actually building awesome solutions with a lot of benefit to others – it’s tempting to run on (and on, and on) about OUR stuff. But even if one looks at it pragmatically, the best way to connect your business “out there” is to change “in here” (in our hearts) so that knowing others and their goals becomes part of the DNA of our M.O.

When we approach others this way it’s not “faking it” to find out what others are into. It’s not about feigning interest so that we can “see where there’s a fit” to launch into selling our product. The Zen idea of truly “forgetting ourselves,” even for for just a moment while we meet someone new, turns the dynamic around to create a true emotional/spiritual engagement and can spark a commitment to mutually helping each other achieve our greater purpose.

Imagine if everyone approached networking, or – (gasp) every single interaction we have, from the beggar on the street to the venture capitalist with whom we have a high-stakes meeting – with the intent to help others reach the ultimate purpose they were put on this Earth to achieve!

Would sales increase? You bet! Would people feel more connected and loved, and actually get further along in their ultimate purpose? Without a doubt.


Hacking your Chimp

Photo Credit to Frontiernerds
Photo Credit: Frontiernerds

WARNING: Your brain has been hacked. Instructions to follow.

I spent the past holiday weekend designing and building a shelf system in my garage. I had to tear out the old ones, awful excuses for storage as they were, and build heavy-duty units that could stand 100-lb containers of beans, rice and other staples, camping equipment, tools, et cetera.

I was struck by an observation I made on my trip to Home Depot immediately upon making the decision to start the project, feeling high on the endorphin cocktail associated with shopping and goal achievement. It occurred to me that most or all of the good feelings, the emotional rewards of the job, were to be had upon the decision to get it done.

Of course, buying material isn’t the same as reaching the goal, right? I still had two glorious days ahead of me, of measuring, cutting, and retrieving tools from my “helpful” children. So why the satisfaction?

Even the most responsible person has felt it: A rush of satisfaction, immediately upon taking a no-pain action toward it. You probably have one of those Tony Little Ab-Cruncher things in your garage right now, in “like new” (i.e. unused) condition.

This recalls a brain study I recently learned about from one of my favorite entrepreneurial gurus, Eben Pagan, in which the researchers analyzed the real-time brain functions and responses of young players during their engagement with the electronic heroin known as video games.

One of the most striking observations the study noted was the timing of the activity in the pleasure center of the brain, relative to the achievement of a reward in the game: The gamers’ brains experienced the greatest rush of satisfaction when the little “teaser” image appeared that let them anticipate the reward (e.g., points, a weapon, the next level) – not, as we might expect, when they actually achieved that milestone.

In one of my current reads, The Chimp Paradox, Dr. Steve Peters writes that many such “automatic” responses are part of a “Chimp” mind, a set of hard-wired emotional responses that helped us survive before we developed the powerful “human” traits of rational thought and logic. Whatever your opinion on evolution or creation, this provides a powerful model for understanding ourselves and others.

Is it an accident that the most successful and increasingly addictive video games embed these “teasers” along the way, appealing to the emotional triggers of one’s “Chimp”? Of course not.

These companies employ some of the best and brightest to “hack” the human mind and create powerful connections. Same goes for the producers of “House of Cards”, “24” and other standouts among the current generation of television series. In fact, all cutting-edge marketing operations have evolved from the “transaction” model to the “relationship” model.

Ultimately as the disciplines of research and product creation converge, we are bringing love (or at least lust) itself down to a science. What is love, if not the feeling we “can’t live without” someone or something?

Cult leaders, evangelists, and sales pros have used the same methods for centuries – some for good purposes, some for evil. The technology is morally neutral – it simply continues to prove that, for all our education and advancement, people have an inner need to feel emotionally connected to important people and things in their lives. Few would want to do away with feelings of love and desire, irrational as they are, but we would do well to recognize the relationship between our “Human” and our “Chimp”.

Yes, you’ve been hacked, and here’s what you can do about it: Use the findings of the billions of dollars being poured into this research to hack your own way into a better understanding of yourself. Update your operating system!

Becoming aware of how our mind works is the most valuable kind of learning there is. We are forced to make hundreds of subtle decisions every day, all day – in response to media and marketing messages, a personal offense in a social setting, a threat to your career status at the office, a comment about our appearance by a spouse.

Unpacking these kinds of findings, if you and I can learn to reinterpret our own own (often irrational) responses to stimuli in a way that offers a range of options instead of the reaction our “Chimp” is wired to produce, we shall see improvements in all major areas of life: Relationships, stress, career or personal success, and even our bank account.

So next time you feel suddenly compelled to do, buy, or act on something, think about it: is it your “Human” or your “Chimp”? Then hack them right back.

Killing Simon Bar Sinister

Simon-Bar-Sinister1“Who are you and what are you made of, really deep down in your guts?”

Recently, one of my mentors, Bo Eason, had me answering that question during his three-day storytelling seminar. I was floored, but telling him I was “kinda busy and er, craving a Starbucks right about now” just didn’t seem like a good option. I sent him the following:

When I was about 8 years old, I remember coming to the realization that there were a lot of things in this world I didn’t understand, realities I couldn’t reconcile with the way things should be. A lot of my idealistic dreams felt crushed.

My mom and dad split up, and I didn’t have a feel for how I fit in, so I “surfed life” instead of swimming in it. Around the same time, we found out something was wrong with my little 3-year old sister, and after a lot of tests we discovered she was what you called back then, “retarded.” Now they’d say “developmentally disabled.” I didn’t care what you call it, she was different, and I realized, helpless in many ways. So tricking her out of her cookies and making her Barbie prisoner to my GI Joe was out. And I love her to this day, but I knew I wouldn’t ever really know her like a big brother.

I loved other things too, like bike riding, and chasing Claire Ryerson, and kissing her under the big pine tree in her backyard right before eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches her mom made. But the high point of my week was Saturday cartoons. My mom would let me get wired on sugared cereal and watch TV in my Spider-Man pajamas all morning.

My favorite cartoon hero at the time was Underdog. Remember Underdog? A dog with a cape and a secret power pill, who spends his days as Shoeshine Boy; a mild-mannered nobody. But whenever Polly Purebred, his love, is in distress, Shoeshine Boy runs inside a phone booth and…BOOM! He comes out in his superhero suit . . . and the phone booth always explodes. (My wife says that part “explains a lot”.)

Underdog flies to the scene of mayhem with people exclaiming “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! (One old lady with glasses says “It’s a frog!” Someone replies, “A frog?”) And he reassures the crowd thusly:

Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog,
It’s just little old me… (whereupon, Underdog would crash into something, then sheepishly finish) Underdog.

Underdog usually caused a lot of collateral damage; and whenever anyone complained, Underdog replied, (always in a rhyme of course):

I am a hero who never fails;
I cannot be bothered with such details. (There’s another spousal raised eyebrow)

Of course, Underdog had his “arch enemies”, primarily Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff, who would victimize unwitting people in carrying out their various schemes for power. Simon Bar-Sinister would take over someone’s mind, their eyes would turn funny, and they would repeat, over my vociferous protestations, “I will do what Simon Says!”

I never connected it, but I ended up with two responses to deal with what I saw as injustice or unfairness: I would live in my own world in my head, sort of disconnected from a lot of what was going on out there…

…or sometimes I’d swoop in and fight back. And sometimes, I’d cause some collateral damage just like Underdog. But it’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, I’m a big-picture guy, I can’t be bothered with the details.

There was this time in 3rd Grade where some boys were making fun of the “special” kids in the hall - only, my sister at home was also “special”. I got so mad, I pushed them against the lockers and socked one of them. I remember being proud, even as I was explaining what happened to the principal. I’m still proud, because some lessons need to be painted in red. I bet that kid still remembers how his face hurt that day!

I was what you might call a “feral child”, so it took me some years to figure out how to channel this fire inside me, which animated me, into more productive means. And I never thought much about the meaning of the events, circumstances, and choices driven by that fire. I just lived every day.

But I recently went through an exercise with a marketing and branding agency run by a brilliant guy who has become a friend, Eliot Frick, who totes around this amazing brain and runs a branding agency called Bigwidesky. In the process of bringing my product idea to the marketplace, Eliot brought me through a process of discovery that connected Underdog, my idealism, the blood I’ve given up and battle scars I’ve collected over the years.

I’ve heard that 80% of college graduates never go on to a career in their area of study. Most of us arrive at what we do for a living through some circuitous path. We just sort of end up doing something. We go through phases and pick up roles. Troublemaker. Crusader. Dad. Entrepreneur. But Eliot’s job is to purposefully tie together all of the things you do and are into an overarching theme.

Cutting-edge marketing agencies work to extract your “brand”, which is modern-speak for ‘who you exhibit yourself to be’, from someplace deep in your heart – not the things you say you are or believe in, but the raw, soft parts of you that actually manifest into reality. Because whether we realize it or not, our psyche, our makeup, the thing that drives us to create and sometimes destroy, comes from our experiences, usually in early childhood, as interpreted through the framework that’s hard-wired into you.

So here I was, excited to talk about product-market fit, and traction, and other geeky startup stuff. But Eliot didn’t so much want to talk about what my product is, or what my company does, as to delve into the things that drive me, the experiences that forged my soul. Some of it was awesome to talk about, and a lot of it was quite painful, vulnerable, messy. And perhaps the most beautiful discovery I’ve had in my whole life, certainly in my post-30 adult life, is the theme that we came up with through that process.

I realized that until that day, the rhyme and reason behind events of my life were obscured.

My epiphany? Whether it was insisting that my mom turn around to pick up a hopelessly injured bird, or sitting with the crippled old man next door that the other kids were scared of, fighting for freedom through politics; checking out and partying a few years away in protest, or winning a jury trial (without a lawyer) against the insurance company who wouldn’t pay, it’s all been the same:

I’ve been fighting Simon-Bar Sinister, the arch-nemesis who robs peoples’ potential away, takes over their minds, steals their hope, crushes their dreams. 

I had to have my identity spoken back to me: “Your a guy who can’t stand the idea of the little guy not having the fair chance, being taken advantage of by outside forces and actors. You’re a hero of heroes.” I cried over these words later. But it’s true – I believe if we can just get people out of their programmed minds, out of the robot existence, into the fullness God envisioned when he made them, they have the power to be the heroes in their own world.

It’s truly profound to me that a business branding exercise eclipsed years of therapy, helped me reconnect with my inner warrior, and face the fallout of sometimes being alone in my battles against those who would shackle others’ minds and futures. I know now, THAT’S what God put me on this earth to do. (Even if things get a little messy when I fly in and crash into something.)

That’s the answer; it’s “who I am”. So let me ask you, “Who are you, and what are your guts made of?” Only you can answer that – and no matter what kind of life you’ve had, the answer can be abstracted from your real-life, messy story.

You may think you don’t have time to answer the question. Maybe no one has asked you the question until now, but now that I have, a vacuum has been created in the universe – and it will never go away until it is filled with the power of your words.

I encourage you to answer, share YOUR story – maybe here, maybe somewhere else. The answer to that question just might be the entire point of the rest of your life.

Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks (from TEDTalks)

From Ted: “Nancy Duarte is an expert in presentation design and principal of Duarte Design, where she has served as CEO for 21 years. Nancy speaks around the world, seeking to improve the power of public presentations. She is the author of Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. Her most recent book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, was published in 2010.”



HELP! I’m Obsessed With the Four Learning Styles!

Understanding and Evaluating for Kolb’s Learning Styles

The Two Preference dimensions, or axes (Click images to enlarge)

This is a good representation of Kolb’s “Four Learning Styles”, with the axes and the types clearly organized. At the bottom of this post I reposted a brilliant hand-drawn interpretation of the concept.
Notice the popular “4 Spiritual Types” model is simply flipped upside down and backward. Same Axes, same idea. This concept is used in Christian ministry, other missions orientation assessment. Compatible with Briggs-Myers.










Perception Dimension

In the vertical “Perception” dimension, people will have a preference according to two main continuum running along the vertical axis above:

  • Concrete experience: Looking at things as they are, without any change, in raw detail.
  • Abstract conceptualization: Looking at things as concepts and ideas, after a degree of processing that turns the raw detail into an internal model.

People who prefer concrete experience will argue that thinking about something changes it, and that direct empirical data is essential. Those who prefer abstraction will argue that meaning is created only after internal processing and that idealism is a more real approach.

This spectrum is very similar to the Jungian scale of Sensing vs. Intuiting.

Processing dimension

In the horizontal “Processing” dimension, people will take the results of their Perception and process it in preferred ways along the continuum between:

  • Active experimentation: Taking what they have concluded and trying it out to prove that it works.
  • Reflective observation: Taking what they have concluded and watching to see if it works.

Four Learning Styles (a.k.a. Four Spiritual Types)

The experimenter, like the concrete experiencer, takes a hands-on route to see if their ideas will work, whilst the reflective observers prefer to watch and think to work things out.

1) Divergers (Concrete experiencer/Reflective observer) = NLP: “Why?”

  • Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in terms of what this might mean. They like to ask ‘why’, and will start from detail to constructively work up to the big picture.
  • They enjoy participating and working with others but they like a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally influenced by other people and like to receive constructive feedback.
  • They like to learn via logical instruction or hands-one exploration with conversations that lead to discovery.

2) Convergers (Abstract conceptualization/Active experimenter) = NLP: “How?”

  • Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. They like to ask ‘how’ about a situation, understanding how things work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes.
  • They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and acting independently. They learn through interaction and computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods.

3) Accommodators (Concrete experiencer/Active experimenter) = NLP: “What if (I do this)?”

  • Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ to support their action-first approach. They do not like routine and will take creative risks to see what happens.
  • They like to explore complexity by direct interaction and learn better by themselves than with other people. As might be expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than lectures. 

4) Assimilators (Abstract conceptualizer/Reflective observer) = NLP: “What (is this)?”  

  • Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to think than to act. The ask ‘What is there I can know?’ and like organized and structured understanding.
  • They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where possible, and will respect the knowledge of experts. They will also learn through conversation that takes a logical and thoughtful approach.
  • They often have a strong control need and prefer the clean and simple predictability of internal models to external messiness.
  • The best way to teach an assimilator is with lectures that start from high-level concepts and work down to the detail. Give them reading material, especially academic stuff and they’ll gobble it down. Do not teach through play with them as they like to stay serious.

So what?

So design learning for the people you are working with. If you cannot customize the design for specific people, use varied styles of delivery to help everyone learn. It can also be useful to describe this model to people, both to help them understand how they learn and also so they can appreciate that some of your delivery will for others more than them (and vice versa).

See also: Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

FINALLY, here’s an excellent post from which I grabbed the image below; it has a number of interpretations on this concept:


Here’s an excellent (and short!) video explaining this material:

Material adapted by Christian LeFer for Speaker’s Connection, Bozeman, MT, March 2, 2013

Most text borrowed from

Images, in order of appearance, from:

FAKEGRIMLOCK has key to AWESOME. You need!

I love FAKEGRIMLOCK. This accidental runaway hit character captures the essence of innovation and entrepreneurship. Being “AWESOME” is about making things that change people’s lives and make the world a better place. Not money. Not complicated theory.

No one can “do” FAKEGRIMLOCK like FAKEGRIMLOCK. SO I NOT TRY! Here are some links to his awesomeness:

Bo Eason – A Master Storyteller and Presenter Reveals His Craft

One of the most amazing people I have encountered in my study of interpersonal communications and marketing is Bo Eason, former NFL star-turned-actor/playwright. This man defines heart, and teaches others how to capture, flesh out, and present one’s personal story in a manner that, as Bo says “no one can look away”.

The first time I met Bo and saw his one man play, Runt of the Litter, was the weekend I attended Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy in 2011. Without announcing who this mystery “guest” was ahead of time or preparing the audience at all, Brendon unleashed Bo Eason on the crowd. The results were fascinating. My fellow experts, authors, and entrepreneurs in attendance reported a wide variety of responses ranging from outrage to elation to emotional exhaustion. I assure you, no one was unaffected!

Never before or since have I been so powerfully affectd by a play or presentation as I was by Runt of the Litter - Bo Eason’s dramatized life story grabs the viewer by the throat and makes him/her a participant, dragging the unwitting through the heights and depths of every human emotion right up until the play’s rending conclusion. As only the most masterful authors and playwrights can do, Eason uses the imagination of the audience to heighten the drama of the final outcome.

I am very blessed to have seen and met Bo at the Experts Academy, and later as member of Next Greatest Speaker training in mid-2012. I’m even more excited to be a part of the exclusive Personal Story Power program Bo is conducting in April 2012 in Southern California. Bo Eason will spend three days helping each of us in attendance to refine and present our own personal story in a transformative way so that we can go out and make an impact in the world.

If you haven’t seen the play, I highly recommend you buy it on DVD – and if presenting, speaking, or using the power of story to deliver an impactful message, attend Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power Event training. You won’t regret it!

Breakout Business Brainstorming

Hurricane Sandy, the economy, and the election results have got me thinking about all those without a job or who could be faced with unemployment or a business downturn.

Even if you are not out of work, it’s not a bad idea to get the mental workout so that your psyche will know you have options. Most stress results from not having options.

The question: What if you were faced with loss of income? The main part of this exercise is to close your eyes and imagine if you had to make a living starting from scratch, or at least supplement your existing funds.

It often helps to look at things from the perspective of helping others – what kinds of things can we do to help others survive and thrive in todays times?

Here are my 3 Criteria (yours may differ):

  • Low startup cost, preferably can be done from anywhere, home
  • High demand
  • Fits with peoples’ needs in this economy

Here’s my brainstorm:

  • Medical tourism facilitation
  • Barter facilitation in a hot niche
  • Financial planning for workers in the oil and gas boom. Mention inspiration from an athlete consultant.
  • Consultant to those who want to simplify, sell their stuff, and save $$.
  • Outsourcing manager (fiverr, elance, get a, etc.) in a niche you know.

I’ve already done some of these as part of my consulting practice. I suggest you sit down, use my 3 criteria, and just braistorm. Pause this video and do that now. Just write for 5 minutes.

What did you come up with? I encourage you to share it, as I’ve done here. I used to be afraid to share my ideas freely but I realized how much more we get when we are open and giving.

What I’ve also realized is that ideas are the easy part, and that we’re not really in danger of people stealing our ideas. Life is 80-90% implementation, and 10-20% inspiration when it comes to actually getting business ideas off the ground – and as an idea man, I’m biased!

What’s interesting about this that you could create an online training course to do any of the things I’ve mentioned here.

So again share your ideas, and I encourage everyone to reply on those  comments, a lot of good can come out of it!


Amy Cuddy on TED Talks – How Body Language Determines Your State of Mind

From “Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.”

From Christian: I’ve practiced this, and it works. Back in the mid-’90′s when I discovered Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, I learned about how to change my state by changing my posture and physical attitude. Amy’s powerful story of how she overcame challenges, and her mantra “fake it until you become it” – which isn’t really “faking it” at all –  is a great testimony to how much more in control we are of our prospects and quality of life than we might believe.