Yes, and…


If you have ever seen or participated in improv, you probably know the “Yes and…” routine. Each person in the chain makes a statement or asks a question to the next person, and they reply, “Yes, and…” then makes another statement or asks another question to the next person. The word “but”, because its implied negativity is a buzz kill, is not allowed. I recently found out just how powerful replacing “but” with “and” is in my own self-talk.

In my last phone conversation with my coach I was listing some of the things I had accomplished in the last few weeks. At the end of the recitation, she stopped me cold by asking me “why did you sometimes say ‘but’ when you were going through some of these accomplishments?”

I thought about that for a second, and replied that it was a qualifier to some of the things I had done, indicating that I hadn’t quite achieved what I had set out to do (even though what I had done was pretty darn cool.)

In response, she repeated some of the things I had said, using “and” instead of “but”. The result was amazing. What was once a denigration of an accomplishment became an affirmation of the deed, and an opportunity to improve on what I felt had made it not quite as special.

If you have followed me for a while or have spent some time with me, you know that I am not into what is best called “woo-woo.” I believe in the power of words (hey I write pretty much every week right?), but generally do not subscribe almost supernatural powers to them. I am much more into action.

However, intellectually I can understand the power of self-talk to either be a motivator or a de-motivator. In this case, replacing, “but” with “and” not only sounds different to your ear, but physically feels different when you say it. It also forces you to change what comes after the “and”: “I did this, but this part of it didn’t work” becomes “I did this, and while this part didn’t work, I still got a great reaction.” Changing what comes after “and” is pretty much required otherwise the sentence sounds incomplete – and we all know that we want things to be complete! (see “I thought you said…”)

We can all find good and bad in almost everything we do. Some of us are even programmed to temper our accomplishments with a “but” so we don’t sound boastful. The simple act of changing “but” to “and” can dramatically change how you feel about yourself and how others perceive your accomplishments when you are telling stories or informing someone what you have been up to. Try it. I think you will find it a fascinating and enjoyable change in your self-talk. I do.

It isn’t all about you – but maybe some of it should be

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Image courtesy of Ambro / 

As I sat reviewing The Effective Detective’s outline for a presentation he was preparing, I admit that I felt some confusion. Rather than let it fester in my mind and cause me stress, I decided to broach the subject directly.

“Sir, there is a part of this presentation that I fear seems out-of-place with the general philosophy you have been enunciating practically since I met you,” I began hoping that my tone would not irritate The Detective.

“Very good Watson! I expect that what is causing you distress is the apparent conflict between presenting your business as a solution to your prospects needs rather than your own, and the initial part of my presentation that urges the participant to visualize what is best for them,” The Detective replied evenly, without a hint of irritation.

I had to admit that I had not expected him to make the connection without some additional prompting by me, but since he seemed to be open to discussion, I decided to press my luck.

“Exactly sir! Shouldn’t the major concern of any business be how their product/service even marketing content provide value to their prospects and buyers?”

“Right you are Watson, but the key phrase there is ‘the concern of the business’. Political campaign finance arguments aside, would you agree that a business is not a person?” The Detective pressed me back.

“Of course, sir.”

“However, you most likely would not argue that the composition of a business is at least part one or more persons?” The Detective waited for my answer with that slight smile that indicated he had sprung his trap, and the conversation was about to be completely under his control.

“No, I would not argue that point, sir.”

“Excellent Watson! Let us focus our discussion on the smaller types of businesses, privately owned, or even run by a sole proprietor. My point in the presentation is that, to put it in a way that is perhaps a tad maudlin, if there is no joy in the operation of the business or the delivery of the product or service, it may, in fact almost certainly will, negatively affect the business,” The Detective paused and lifted an eyebrow, signalling t me that he might be interested in hearing my thought or thoughts on the subject. I obliged him.

“So the mental well-being of said owner is critical to business success.” I said, attempting to summarize in a single short sentence what I had just heard.

“Short, succinct, and dead-on, Watson!” The Detective exclaimed happily. “The old expression ‘Money can’t buy happiness” is a bit off target. After all, having money can relieve a large number of the stresses that exist in our payment oriented society. However, if one finds the process of making that money distasteful or unfulfilling, it will generate a stress that will most certainly build over time, and is inescapable.

“Now mind you Watson, this does not necessarily mean you can blithely ‘follow your dreams’, or ‘do what you truly love’ and expect the money to flow. I would submit to you however, that if you cannot come up with a variation of ‘your love’ that brings you joy and is marketable, you must either expand your heart, your imagination, or perhaps both!

“Now then, time grows short and there are other aspects of the presentation I wish to hear your views on. Pray continue your perusal,” The Detective concluded, and we went back to work.

Do what you love or love what you do?


Image courtesy of Somchai Som / 

“Tell me sir, are you truly doing what you love to do?” I started my conversation with The Effective Detective today.

The Detective paused before answering, then replied, “Watson, I must say you have developed a knack for starting out with extremely probing questions these days.”

“Thank you sir. Are you avoiding the question?” I said, pressing what I thought might be an advantage.

“Not at all, Watson, are you so paranoid these days that you cannot even accept a compliment?” The Detective asked in reply.

It was my turn to feel caught off-guard. “No sir, I just… well…”

“Ah, I seem to have rendered you speechless, Watson. While you struggle to regain your verbal skills, let me answer your question,” The Detective interjected,  with a smile that implied he had at least obtained a draw in our perpetual battle of wits, if not an outright win.

“The direct answer is no, but that answer needs a qualifier, so shall we say no, not quite,” The Detective continued.

“What I would truly love to do is continually lecture on a common problem: the inability of some business people to understand the data in front of them, not just sales and marketing data, but the personnel data they have as well. How the processes they use to manage their businesses, and  market and support their customers are not based in the reality of the data. None of which is really their fault, they are simply doing what has been done in the past, following the conventional wisdom as it were.

“However there are some difficulties in that, the first and foremost being that few want some smart aleck, even if he is a rather convincing detective, telling them something they don’t want to hear. Often, people don’t want to hear what they need to hear, they want to hear what to do next. So I needed to ah, revisit my ambitions and readjust my own attitudes to provide what people want, not what I think they needed,” The Detective paused, waiting for me to respond.

“In what ways did you readjust sir?” I asked, giving The Detective an opening to explain what frankly I found a tad confusing.

“Elementary, my dear Watson, I isolated the basic thing that gives me joy – solving a problem using a combination of analytical and creative techniques, and focused in on what I could see was a problem that lots of smaller businesses face and can recognize: the issue of taking massive amounts of data that pour into their businesses and their lives each day, sorting out the noise from the signal, and taking the appropriate action to bring in the lifeblood of all businesses – leads.”

“Poetic, sir,” I responded sincerely.

“Quite, Watson. I love what I do, I love the challenge, I love the mental exercise. It may not exactly be doing what I love, but it is certainly a variation on that, and it is something that the people I work with can understand and apply in their businesses,” again The Detective paused.

“It is doing art, as one of your favorite writers says, but how is that different from doing what you love?” I asked, still confused as to the difference.

“Ah, Watson, you’ve hit the heart of it, you see. Unless doing what you love actually answers the needs and wants of others, it will only answer your wants. But loving what you do, even if it is some hybrid of your true love, can answer the needs of those around you and not only feed your ego, but your pocketbook as well. After all, you aren’t of much use if you are homeless and starving,” The Detective concluded. His point made, we moved on to our next item of business.

Swinging for the Fences

The Case of the Opportune Observation

“Sir, I have an observation I would like to get your opinion on,” I began today’s conversation.

“Quite Watson, and what would that observation be?” asked The Detective.

“It would seem that the conventional wisdom today is that one should ‘swing for the fences’ every time you attempt something,” I stated.

“A baseball metaphor Watson? How interesting,'” observed The Detective.

“I admit to some difficulty in selecting an appropriate metaphor for what I am observing. It appears to be this feeling that you should be trying to hit a home run every time you step up to the plate, if I can be forgiven for extending the baseball metaphor,” I replied, perhaps a bit sheepishly.

“Actually, I believe the metaphor to be most apt, Watson,” The Detective assured me.  “It is that belief that prevents a large number of small business people from attempting more simple programs that while not bringing in the kind of results that say a well thought out, expertly written, and executed direct mail campaign to ten or twenty thousand prospects would, might still have respectable returns. What these business people see instead is the need to ‘hit a home run’ and they are terrified to risk it because, ‘what if they get it wrong?’. Frankly, seeing the state of a lot of marketing pieces these days, I would say they are right to be terrified,”  pausing only for a second before continuing on.

“Let me tell you a story about my distant childhood, Watson.”

“I’m not sure that is necessary,” I objected, not sure where this was going to lead.

“Poppycock! Of course it is necessary,” The Detective corrected me, “I shall get to the point directly, if that is what you are afraid of Watson.”

At this point I felt the better part of valor was retreat, so I asked him to continue.

“When I was a young lad, I played baseball. I was probably the smallest person on the team, and not very strong, yet I was always assigned to bat first in the line-up. Can you guess why Watson?” The Detective asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Actually, no sir, I cannot imagine.” I answered, figuring this would be the fastest way to the answer.

“Because, Watson, whilst I was physically incapable of hitting a home run, I was very good at hitting singles. Simply put, I got on base a lot. If I was on base, than obviously I had a much greater chance to score than if I was not. If I had spent my every at-bat  ‘swinging for the fences’ I would never have hit a home run, and probably rarely gotten on base.

“As a small business you most likely will not have a huge budget for marketing – not a lot of strength to hit those home runs that bring in gobs of prospects. But even with a small budget, you can get on base. You can get some prospects to engage, to begin a relationship, and hopefully to, at the risk of a double entendre, eventually score;  to do business with them. Certainly a greater percentage than if you do nothing due to fear of risking a large lump sum. The point is to do something intelligent with the resources that you have,” The Detective concluded.

“A nice summing up of the metaphor sir, ” I responded.

“Thank you Watson, shall we move on?” said The Detective, closing the discussion.


Changing the rules of the game

James Malinchak’s speakers bootcamp this past week, he held a contest for Marketer of the Year among his coaching program members. Each contestant was given 12 minutes to tell us, the audience – who doubled as judges, how they had applied certain things they had learned as a coaching member to excel in marketing the past year. All of the contestants had impressive stories, and equally impressive bottom lines. One of the contestants did not spend a huge amount of time describing what techniques she had learned and how she had applied them though. Rather she concentrated on talking about her sister who was having some hard times, and how, by winning the contest, she could help her sister by giving her a much needed vacation in Vegas. Would you care to guess who won? This was a fantastic example of “changing the rules of the game”. Rather than compete with the others based on the exact criteria of the contest, she worked the heartstrings of the audience, and walked away with the prize. Comparing her results to the others might have been a vulnerability for her. Rather than soldiering ahead and hoping for the best, she took a strength: her feelings for her sister and a heartwarming story (which even the coldest among us enjoy), changed the rules of the game and avoided competing head-on with the others in straight numerical or measurable results. Brilliant!]]>

white paint

will you risk it?

interesting piece by my friend (and very funny person) Trina Hess. The subject was creativity as a leadership competency to move companies forward in these rather interesting times (Trina concentrates on the humorous aspect of creativity, click here to read the whole post). I happen to agree with everything she wrote (I am a huge fan of the use of humor in business and life), so I started thinking, why don’t we see more of this kind of change? Why don’t we see the agents of change carrying the day throughout American business? Fear. While a large number of CEOs and business owners give lip service to the concept of creativity and the disruption that new ideas cause, the reality is that change and disruption are terrifying; the status quo is much more comfortable (even if ultimately fatal to the business). Thus, publicly the concept of change and disruption is encouraged, but as policy within the company? Not so much. This is important to know if you are going to start to bring your strengths and talents to bear fully at work, because it means you will be bringing change, and there is a good chance that it won’t be welcome (at least at first). Is it worth it? Almost certainly. Is it a risk? A huge one.]]>

courage is not optional

the simplest of talents


desperately seeking talents