The circus is coming to town

Too often, we wait. We wait to get the gig, or to make the complex sale, or to find the approval we seek. Then we decide it's time to get to work and put on our show.

The circus doesn't work that way. They don't wait to be called. They show up. They show up and sell tickets.

When you transform the order of things, the power shifts. "The circus is going to be here tomorrow, are you going?" That's a very different question than, "are you willing to go out on a limb and book the circus? If you are, we'll come to town..."

People respond to forward motion. Auctions are always more exciting than "price available on request."

       
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Stupid is the brand killer

When you make your customer feel stupid, you've given him no choice. He needs to blame you.

Some ways to make people feel stupid:

Most people (particularly the customers you seek) don't mind paying a little extra if it comes with dignity, confidence and a smile.

       
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Sorry confusion

There are two kinds of, "I'm sorry."

The first kind is the apology of responsibility, of blame and of litigation. It is the four-year old saying to his brother, "I'm sorry I hit you in the face." And it is the apology of the surgeon who forgot to insert sterile dressings and almost killed you.

The other kind of sorry is an expression of humanity. It says, "I see you and I see your pain." This is the sorry we utter at a funeral, or when we hear that someone has stumbled. 

You don't have to be in charge to say you're sorry. You don't even have to be responsible. All you need to do is care.

In this case, "I'm sorry," is precisely the opposite of, "I'm sorry you feel that way," which of course pushes the other person away, often forever.

As we've been busy commercializing, industrializing and lawyering the world, countless bureaucrats have forgotten what it means to be human, and have forgotten how much it means to us to hear someone say it, and mean it. "I'm sorry you missed your flight, and I can only imagine how screwed up the rest of your trip is going to be because of it."

"I see you," is what we crave.

       
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If you want...

If you want employees to go job hunting in order to leverage you into giving them a raise to keep them, then by all means, only give them a raise when they go job hunting.

If you want vendors to nickel and dime you for the last penny, then by all means, stretch out their payments and use them as a free source of cash.

If you want the home seller or the art dealer or the agent to put their goods up for auction to maximize the price you'll have to pay, then definitely punish those that don't have auctions by seeking to pay them as little as possible.

If you want internet companies to auction off your attention to the highest bidder, the best strategy is to only use services that don't charge you a fee.

If you want to be spammed, buy something from a telemarketer or an email pitch.

If you want gotchas, fine print and the hard sell, buy your car from someone who promises you the lowest price and then figures out how to make a profit some other way.

If you want customers to throw tantrums in order to get better service, my best advice is to only give a focused, urgent response to customers who throw tantrums.

Most of all, if you want customers to hear about you, make something worth talking about. And if you want customers who are loyal, act in a way that deserves loyalty.

       
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Here comes 'uh oh'

Everyone has one. That feeling of here we go again, the trap we fall into, the moment of vulnerability.

And your 'uh oh' might not be the same as mine. Not a specific fear, but a soft spot, a situational archetype, a moment that brings it all crashing down.

The feeling is unavoidable in any organization or culture that seeks to do work that matters and create change. And yet we work overtime to create a day or a year or a career where we'll never have to feel that way.

And that's the challenge. All the work we do to avoid the feeling cripples our ability to do our best work. In trying to shield ourselves from a short-term feeling, we build a long-term narrative that pushes us to mediocrity.

We can hide the soft spot, or we can lead with it.

Working to avoid a feeling merely reminds us of the feeling. And undercuts our work as well.

       
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