The Only Truth in Persuasion

“In persuasion, there is only one truth.  Theirs.”

–     Lee Hartley Carter  from her book “Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter” — as seen in the Branding Strategy Insider blog

And, for the 37th time, I am reminded that I should have written the danged book.  Sigh.

Lee Hartley Carter wrote it, though and she wrote it well!

Back in 2012, I began to focus, write and speak on this topic, but it was really implanted in my brain back in the ’80s.  Most of the traditional sales, negotiating and persuasion training programs were focused on getting what we wanted out of the deal.  At a Zig Ziglar seminar, I heard for the first time that we ought to help people get more of what they want.  In these times, that has gone from being a philosophy to a fundamental requirement for success in business.

People buy differently, and therefore we have to sell differently.  More research is available to clients, prospects, and customers today via The Google than they used to have in their entire procurement and research teams.  The idea that our story will stand on its own is simply outdated.  So, our story matters only in the context of theirs.

We talk often in this forum about the difference between truth and facts.  In matters of Faith, I believe there is only one Truth.  In matters of business, the same is true, as Carter captures beautifully in her book.  In business, however, the one truth has a lower-case “t” — and it belongs to the party we’re trying to persuade.  Period.  End of sentence. Beginning of book.  Check it out.  Tell Lee I sent you…







The People You Love

“Life is about the people; the people you meet, the people you miss.  Even the people you hate.  Most of all, life is about the people you love.  Some of them will die before you do.  Nothing will ever bring them back.”

–     Bill Gates (b. 1955), founder of Microsoft and philanthropist, one of the wealthiest people on earth, and so on and so forth…

This quote appears in an article on the Forge section of “Medium.”

It hits home with me on many levels, particularly this year, and particularly this time of year.  Dad passed a little over 17 years ago, and it will be 13 for Mom on Wednesday.  More on that in a moment.

I’ve been blessed to meet some interesting people and to actually be in conversation with them.  Each was a reminder of our potential and also of their human-ness.  Wildly successful, influential, famous, infamous or otherwise, in every conversation, there was more we had in common than we didn’t.  I walked away with a perspective on what made them “special” as well as what made them ordinary.  And I am better for meeting them.

I’ve made it a point not to hate.  It’s pretty much a complete waste of time.  There are, however, a handful of people I’ve met who would be on the final ballot if I chose to change my mind.  What role do they play?  90% of what I take away from them falls under the heading of “Gee, I hope I never…” and 10% under “I hope I haven’t…” or “I’m absolutely never gonna again.”  We see the best and worst of others in ourselves, and of ourselves in others.

Gates says, though, that most of all, it’s about the people we love.  As Bo Diddley first sang in 1956, “Who Do You Love?”   Let’s make it about them because some of them will die before we do.  Some of them already have.  Which brings me back around to…

Dick Heston is still remembered by anyone who ever met him for his smile.  Pat Heston, by anyone who knew her as loyal and protective – sometimes to the extreme.  There are others, family and friends, public figures who mattered to me who have died.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Childhood friends.  Adult friends. Payne Stewart.  Insert your own list here.  And, since nothing will ever bring them back, the best we can do is make sure that part of them stays alive, and that there’s some part of us that the ones who love us will want to keep alive when we’re gone, too.

If it works for the wealthiest guy of our time, it ought to work for us, right?

The entire Gates article is linked here






Intent v Consequences

“It’s easy to own the intent behind our word choices.  It’s more challenging to own the unintended consequences of them.”

–     Chad Leistikow, Des Moines Register columnist & reporter, in an exceptional story on Gary Dolphin, the University of Iowa’s men’s basketball and football play-by-play announcer 

Using “exceptional” in the line above was a difficult choice.  Why?  Chad’s so consistently good it’s tough to call out a single piece of his work as exceptional when he’s consistently remarkable.

Every day, we each probably say something that can be interpreted as offensive by someone.  Most days, we’re probably completely unaware that we’ve done so because we don’t speak to hundreds of thousands of listeners over an open microphone with every word subject to feedback on social media and across the table at the bar.  We’re not uncomfortable with things of which we’re unaware.  That said, these are interesting, polarized times, and it’s too easy for each of us, for all of us to continue to be comfortable with things that, perhaps, should have made us uncomfortable all along.

Chad’s insightful and empathetic writing captures ginormous opportunities for each of us, and for all of us.  First is the opportunity to hear our words through a filter of the listener, whoever they might be.  Second, and most important, is the opportunity to get better every day which is clearly evident in the manner and details of Dolphin’s approach to the past 8 1/2 months.

What’s the business application?  A couple of really simple examples follow:  (Full disclosure — the whole idea of acute political-correctness is difficult for me, and I struggle with whether the whole danged world is taking itself too seriously — but that perspective has been impacted by Dolphin’s journey.)

  1. Asking our team, “You guys doing ok?”  What’s the harm in that, right?  Unless we hear it through the ears of the listener and until we ask “is it ok if I refer to the group as “you guys?” we’re not sure if there’s harm or not.
  2. Referring to “procurement people….” in the business of selling something, let’s just say that the ellipse tends to lead to a less-than-flattering description.  I’ve written and spoken in those terms, never considering (caring?) whether a conscientious procurement professional might be hurt by the characterization.  “Dolph’s” journey is cause for me to pause.

It’s a fine line because it’s not easy to be completely real and completely cautious at the same time. Candidly, it may not even practical and I’m not sure “caution” is the primary ingredient in difference makers.  That’s where the tie between intent and unintended consequences comes full-circle.  If our intent is for good, it only takes a second to consider the words we use.  It’s a second worth investing.

We’ll likely never be perfect at it.  Dolphin likely won’t ever be perfect at it.  Chad’s odds are better than mine, but I’ll still take the “under” on him getting it “perfect.”

The challenge is worth taking on.  For each of us.  For all of us.



Scoreboard or Game Plan?

“Most people get excited about games,  but I have to be excited about practice because that’s my classroom.”

–     Pat Summit ( 1952 – 2016), winning coach in 1,098 college basketball games, 84.1% of those she coached

So, when you win 84% of your games, and you’re more excited about practice than the games — is there a lesson there?


We can’t coach based on the scoreboard.  The scoreboard records what has already happened.  The scoreboard is a record of what we have done, not an indicator of what we will do.

Practice is where the difference-makers focus.  Muhammad Ali said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Our habits, our process gets built before the lights come up.  Before there are witnesses or scoreboards.

If our focus is on the scoreboard at the expense of the game plan and the practices before the lights go on, we’ll win some and we’ll lose some.  When we focus on the game plan, and we practice, repeatedly, relentlessly, we’ll win a lot, and we’ll understand why when we lose.  So, as Coach Summit says, we need to be excited about practice, and we need to hire people who are, as well.




“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”

–     John C. Maxwell, (b. 1947), speaker, pastor and prolific author on leadership topics, expert coach and mentor

Never, typically, is a dangerous word.  Don’t believe me?  Try using it with your spouse or significant other.  Wait.  Don’t do that.  Just roll with me on this, ok…?

Maxwell is a man who deals in reality, not hyperbole.  He avoids absolutes; words like never and always, everyone and no one.

He stands firmly by this statement, and he’s 100% right.

If something has gone awry in our lives, it’s most likely because we stopped doing something every day, or because we refuse to start doing something every day.

It might be a quiet time in Scripture.  It might be a daily devotional.  It might be writing in a journal.  It could be something as simple as taking a walk every day without any electronic device in tow.

Here’s the amazing part.  The smaller the thing we do every day, the more significant the impact, at first.  You might know the story of why military men and women are required to make their beds each morning, and to make them a certain way.  I’ll give you the short version; it’s because that small act assures that they start every day having accomplished something.  And that’s a foundation from which they can build.

Our success or failure can most certainly be tracked to our daily routine or our lack thereof.  And, if not having one is our routine, that’d be a good place to start the change.

The Odd Thing About Odds

“Struck by lightning, sounds pretty frightening
But you know the chances are so small
Stuck by a bee sting, nothing but a B-thing
Better chance you’re gonna bite it at the mall…”

–     Lyric from “Odds Are” by Barenaked Ladies

Wednesday night the 114th World Series ended in a Game #7 showdown.  Game 7’s are among the greatest spectacles in sports, occurring only in professional baseball, basketball and hockey.  Still, there have been over 1,400 game sevens in the history of those three sports leagues.

What’s the point?  Odds are, after 1,400+ repeats, we should know what’s gonna happen, right?

In this year’s World Series, the visiting team won all seven games.  Odds are, that shouldn’t have happened.  In fact, until Wednesday night, it had never happened!  Oh, and until Tuesday night, no series had ever had games one-through-six won by the road team.

In over 1400 tries, involving something like 51,000 athletes, it had never happened.  Until it happened on two consecutive nights.

Ahhhhh, the odds…

Odds are, a quirky band from Canada wouldn’t be packing houses 31 years later, or that they’d have a million dollars.  Odds are, that startup company will fail.  Odds are, that crazy, off-the-wall pitch idea we have will fall flat on its face.  Odds are, we should just take the safe road, the road more traveled.  But, how can we prepare to beat the odds?  Can we work the opposite side of Dumb And Dumber’s classic line, “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance…”

We win, and the oddsmakers lose when preparation meets up with opportunity, talent, courage, skill and, yes, luck.

And the odds are the more prepared, opportunistic, talented, skilled and courageous we are, the “luckier” we become and the better our odds become.  It seems a clear recipe for tilting the odds in our favor, in case there’s still that chance!


Own it?

“Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.”

–     Joe Namath, quoting Richard Bach from Bach’s book “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” in the November Golf Digest magazine

The same is true of our abilities and aspirations.

If we’re going to argue for something, why not make it the stuff that makes us better?  Why not take a positive perspective?

Either way, we’re gonna have to own it.  Which property would a Difference Maker rather own?




Change — The World, or Our Piece of It?

“Yesterday I was clever so I changed the world.  Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”

–     Rumi (1207 – 1273), Persian poet, theologian, scholar

Humor me and take a look at the dates of Rumi’s life.  700 years ago!  Seriously.  He “got it” before there was anything to “get…”

For those of you more into 80’s pop culture than 13th-century Persian poet, let’s turn to Tears for Fears, circa hit radio, 1986:

“Nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to change the world.”

Changing the world is an admirable pursuit, really.  It’s also fatally flawed from the onset.  Gandhi had it right — we need to be the change we want to see in the world.  Not the whole danged thing.  In it.  Our part.  Right here.  Right now.

How can we move the needle?

Kindness.  In these times, we come out firing too quickly with vitriol, judgment, and spite.  Imagine being the parent of a college quarterback or placekicker on a Sunday morning after a close loss.  Everyone should consider that perspective before their next social media post.

Forgiveness.  It’s what we’re called to do.  We can go New Testament and “turn the other cheek,” or we can stick with the OT and remember that “as far as the East is from the West…” Forgive, and be willing to be forgiven.  (We could do a whole series on “guilt,” right?  But Mom is still gone, and she’s my best source of material on the topic!)

Initiative.  Open the door for someone.  Empty the dishwasher.  Fold a load of laundry.  Offer a concession in a negotiation that shows goodwill but doesn’t sacrifice a material position.  Defer to an adversary.  Admit when we’re wrong.  It ties to kindness — and probably forgiveness — and it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

Learning.  We’re all trained.  We’ve checked several of the training boxes and our employers have tried to check them all.  Training is awesome, as long as it results in something other than simply being trained.  If training doesn’t lead to learning, it’s just an exercise with no outcome. Learning enables us to change ourselves — which, not ironically at all, is the best way to change the world, or to make a difference.

Applied to our workaday lives, imagine being seated next to a qualified co-worker who was kind, forgiving, took initiative and was constantly learning — and take a minute to feel how easy it would be to go to work every morning.  Then, as a Difference Maker, be that change.





Just Did It

“Nike didn’t discover the power of advertising. Nike discovered the power of its own voice, and it, for the most part, has continued to ring true. The biggest advantage you have in this business is your own voice, your own way of looking at things, thinking about things. That is where your power lies.” 

–     Dan Wieden (b. 1945) Founder of W + K, as quoted by Susan Hoffman,  Chairman of W + K, both were on the creative team for Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign

Discovering the power of our own voice doesn’t require coming up with an iconic ad phrase that survives, generation after generation.  In fact, finding our own voice is what turns our “ad phrase” into a mission statement.

In these social media permeated times we live in, “everyone’s an expert,” except for the fact that just as before The Twitter, experts were few and far between.

We ought to take care whose voice we take in, and especially whose voice we take to heart.  We ought to take care to strive for context and application, and not simply seek bandaids and quick-fixes.

Unless we discover our own voice and get comfortable with the power — not of the voice itself, but the power of knowing it  — there will be too many other voices in our head, arguing, tugging us, nudging us, holding us back, keeping us from making a difference.

A Complexity Complex

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

–     Confucius (551 – 479 BC), Chinese philosopher

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

–     E. F. Schumacher  (1911 – 1977), German and British statistician, best known for his decentralization concepts (hmm, he shoulda read Tuesday’s DD

Einstein said it another way (I’ll spare you the bold italics…):  “Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler.”

You know what?  Let’s put that in bold italics, too. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler.”  Or, as a buddy of mine often says, “Dude!  It ain’t rocket surgery!”

Complexity is the enemy of commerce, yet we suffer from a “Complexity Complex.”  We trick ourselves into believing that posing our stuff as really complex makes it special.  Nope.  It just makes it less-than-simple-enough.  The job is to make it just simple and there are 3 ways to get on that path.

1) Know what problem we’re trying to solve.  If you’re in the profession of selling something, you’re in the profession of problem-solving.  It’s weird, but so often the customer or prospect think they have a ___________ problem, only to find out that there’s a much different word in the blank.  Before we propose solutions, let’s make dang sure we know what they’re supposed to solve.

2) Ask more questions.  Ask better questions.  Ask “more better” questions!  Prospect says, “Hey, come tell me about your widgets!”  What do we do?  We tell them all about our widgets.  Only to find out weeks later that their widgets weren’t the issue, their widget installers were the problem they needed to solve.  (See #1…)  If we’re simplifying for effect, we might say, “We have awesome widgets, Mr. Prospect.  Before I dive into that, tell me, why are you asking about widgets today?  What led to your call?  Problems with another supplier?  QA pushback?…”

3) Use stories to simplify.  A golf ball example — since it might snow next week.  Choose any of the highly technical and crazy-wild-engineered golf balls you can buy today.  They’re expensive!  There are pages of data on spin rate and launch angle and compression that are designed to make people feel better about spending $56 for a dozen golf balls.

The problem with that?  Exactly 19 golfers in the world that don’t play for a living can translate that into modestly understandable English.  You wanna know what the real story is?  “Our research shows that golfers who switch to the “DD Ball” lower their handicap by half a shot, play more often and enjoy the game more…there’s some research behind that if you’d like more details…”  (Disclaimer:  Our stories have to be true, I used this for illustrative purposes, and because I love golf and it might snow next week…)

Some buyers will want the data behind the story. Some will insist on having it. And, we need to give it to them.  When we do, the data will be more meaningful if attached to a simple, compelling story.

Let’s attempt a ribbon around this post, shall we?

Life is simple. 

It takes courage and genius to keep it simple / make it simpler. 

And, “as simple as possible, but no simpler” is our target.