Make a list of 100 questions

One of my favorite books on creative thinking is How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael Gelb.

It suggests making a list of 100 questions.

About business. About life. About anything!

(According to Gelb, the best questions will come towards the end.)

It sounded liked a neat exercise. So I tried it a few weeks ago. And I came up with a few good ones:

#45: Do I handle stress better than I used to?
#47: If you showed my weekly planner to 10 strangers, what would they say?
#48: If you showed my office to 10 strangers, what would they think?
#49: If you showed my wallet to 10 strangers, what would they say?
#50: If you showed my website to a five year old, what would he think?
#51: If you read my new book to a teenager, what would they think?
#52: What if I didn’t talk for one week?
#64: What if the nametag thing gets old?
#66: What if my (future) son gets beat up because his Daddy is the guy who wears a nametag?
#71: Will I ever sell out?
#74: Do I take enough time off?
#91: Does everyone have a moment when they say, “I’ve made it”?
#93: Whom have I let down lately?
#94: When was the last time I told someone I was proud of them?
#97: What’s the highest price I’m willing to pay?
#99: What’s the lowest I’m willing to sink?

Ever thought about making a list of 100 questions?

Do this exercise and report back with your best ones!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag
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People rarely get mad at…

People rarely get mad at a speaker for going short.

People rarely get mad at a writer for keeping it short.

People rarely get mad at a businessperson who was too easy to reach.

People rarely get mad at a businessperson who gave too much value first.

People rarely get mad at a boss who listened too much.

People rarely get mad at a blogger for giving away too much free content.

People rarely get mad at a CEO that admitted her mistakes.

People rarely get mad at a consultant for being too creative.

People rarely get mad at a salesperson for being too positive.

People rarely get mad at a teammate who was too good.

(Of course, there are exceptions.)

Some people get mad at just about everybody.

And if that ever happens to you, don’t sweat it.

Probably says more about them than it does about you.

What else do people rarely get mad at?

Share your list here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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People respond to policies

The other day I got a phone call from a guy who wanted me to join his association.

He made a strong case: reasonable dues, good people, great networking.

When he asked for the sale (or in this case, the membership), I paused for a few seconds before responding.

“Mark, my policy about saying no is, ‘I don’t say it enough.’ So, for that reason alone, my answer to you is no.”

Dead silence. I smiled and waited.

“Well um, uh … OK,” he stammered. “I-I guess I’m not going to challenge that.”

Dead silence. I smiled and waited some more.

“OK well, uh, thanks for your time Scott,” he resigned.

“My pleasure!”

I hung up the phone.

Whoa. Where did THAT come from?! I wondered.

That was a first for me. Telling someone my “policy” on saying no.

And I tell ya what; it felt GREAT!

Candid, yet friendly.
Honest, yet confident.

And nobody’s time was wasted.

LESSON LEARNED: people respond to policies.

So I looked up the word policy online. And according to my favorite website in the world, the word first appeared in 1406. One of its origins came from a Lithuanian word, pilis, or fortress.

Fortress. Nice. Talk about standing your ground!

But the definition of policy simply means, “shrewdness or prudence, especially in the pursuit of a particular course of action.” Which means:

You’re not being mean.
You’re not being difficult.
You’re not rejecting someone.

You’re simply sticking to your guns. Telling someone, “Look, this is how I roll. This is who I am. That’s my policy.”

NOTE: I’m not talking about company policy. Different animal.

I’m talking about personal policy.

Knowing thyself. Being the world’s expert ON yourself and confidently articulating that on a consistent basis.

The following steps will help you put this idea into practice:

1. Brainstorm a list of 10-15 of your most valued personal policies.
2. Organize and type them out on a small card.
3. Carry that card in your wallet.
4. Look at it regularly.
5. Next time someone challenges one of your policies, whip out that card and ask them to physically read it back to you. (THIS IS CRUCIAL!)
6. Smile and wait for them to respond.

Oh, and they will. Every time.

Because people respond to policies.

What are some of your personal policies?

Post them here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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483 ways to grow your business

So, today is my 483rd blog post.

Do you know what that means?

483 hits on Google
483 (more) hits on Google than someone who DOESN’T blog
483 press releases (but better)
483 instances of delivering value
483 reinforcements of my brand
483 ideas for future speeches and products
483 validations of my expertise
483 expansions of my expertise
483 reasons for the media to inquire
483 opportunities to build community
483 opportunities to stay in front of fans
483 modules to be used for future books
483 (more) links to my website
483 moments of (not selling, but) enabling people to buy

So. WHY aren’t you blogging again?

(P.S. A special thanks to anyone who’s ever read, commented on or told someone about my blog since October 2004. You guys are the reason I keep posting every day. Respect.)

How many times have you posted?

Share a few reasons why you HEART blogging!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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23 ways to become a better writer

I don’t claim to be the greatest writer in the world.

But I’m definitely better than I used to be. And ultimately, that’s all that really matters.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years…

1. Don’t plan; just write.

2. Write something every single day.

3. Share your writing with others. Blog it. Do it anonymously if you have to. Let the world be your editor.

4. Study writing basics in books like On Writing by Stephen King.

5. Writers are readers. How many books did you read in February?

6. Vary sentence length.

7. Don’t be afraid to use ALL CAPS, bold, underline and the like. It catches people’s attention, breaks up the page and evokes emotion. Read a Tom Peters book, you’ll see what I mean.

8. Typing is a little easier than writing by hand because the speed of thought is nearly matched by the speed of typing. Plus writing by hand is a big pain in the, um…hand.

9. Whatever you’re writing, go back and make it shorter. People just don’t have time anymore. They won’t read it.

10. It takes time to discover your voice. But when you do, it’s the greatest accomplishment any writer could achieve.

11. Lists are your friends. They’re easy to write. They’re even easier to read. And they organize information that has no apparent pattern. Kinda like this blog post!

12. Write everything down. Everything.

13. Make sticky notes for your office with the following statements written on them:

a. Writing is the basis of all wealth.
b. Is everything you know written down somewhere?
c. What did you write today?

14. If you make lists, don’t be afraid to occasionally throw in a point that has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. It’s fun.

15. Become a better writer by studying creativity. How many creativity exercises did you do this week?

16. Get over all that, “But I’m not a writer” stuff. Thoughts like that block positive thought and hinder creativity. Everyone is a writer. Everyone.

17. Every morning when you wake up, dump everything that’s on your mind into about three pages. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s about freeing your mind of all the crap so you can clear the way for the good stuff. Think of it like going to the driving range before a round of 18 holes to get all those shanks out of your system. If you want to write better quality stuff, the REAL stuff that’s deep inside of you just dying to get out, you’ve got to pave the way. Thank you, Julia Cameron.

18. Break the rules of writing. Every day. Nothing too horrendous. But don’t be afraid to start sentences with words like “and” and “because.” Don’t be afraid to throw in a fragment here and there. Nobody’s going to be mad. If it proves your point and looks and sounds good, leave it in there. Be a rebel on paper.

19. Read your stuff out loud. Make sure it flows.

20. You can read books, take classes and study the greats. But the BEST way to become a better writer is to write. Every. Single. Day.

21. Hey, remember #9? That thing I said about keeping it short? I was serious. Odd are, half the people who started reading this very blog post are no longer with us. (Dang it!)

22. Read The War of Art. Best book on art/creativity/writing ever. EVER.

23. When you write something really brilliant, or at least pretty good, take a break. Or stop. Don’t be a greedy writer.

What are your writing gems?

Share your list of ways to become a better writer here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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Befriend the current

Think back to September 2004.

It’s the height of the Napter-Metallica-Filesharing craze.

And Green Day decides to make music history by becoming the first ever musical artist to sell blank albums.

That’s right. Hordes of fans were buying thousands of Green Day CD’s with no music on them!

Were they crazy?!

Not even.

For the sake of taking a different approach in dealing with music downloading – legal or illegal – Green Day released a CD-R 5-pack that contained five blank discs with original album cover art printed on the top and sides.

On the side of the box, the punk-pop trio reminds their fans, “Burn responsibly. Download music legally and burn your own Green Day compilations.”


A few days after the CD-R 5-pack came out, I remember watching Green Day on MTV News.

Billy Joe Armstrong said, “Kids are going to copy, burn, download and rip our music anyway. May as well make the CD’s look cool!”

He went on to say, “And for fans that illegally rip our tunes but want something that doesn’t look homemade, we can still make money.”

Dude. That is, like, SO punk!

Yes. But there’s something bigger, though.

Green Day did something that was, like, SO SMART: they befriended the current.

They noticed an unavoidable trend: fans were “illegally” downloading their music.

But instead of panicking…

Instead of getting upset…

Instead swimming against the current, at the risk of alienating existing and potential fans (ahem, Metallica)…

…they befriended it.

Green Day’s blank CD’s, instead of exacerbating the file-sharing process, actually made it easier. And cooler. And more fun.

Not to mention, fans felt a little less guilty about downloading songs for free!

Oh, and here’s the best part: if you go onto Green Day’s official online store, they’re STILL sold out.

Three years later.


So. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Identify the unavoidable, unstoppable trend (current) that might have a negative effect on your business.

2. Observe how your competition swims against that current.

3. Reverse your trajectory.

4. Befriend the current.

5. Allow it to carry you where the market is going.

6. Enjoy the ride!

And now, because you’ve befriended the current, you can spend less time swimming frantically, and MORE time focusing your efforts on developing cool, memorable, word-of-mouth-worthy stuff.

Surf’s up!

What’s the “current” in your industry?

List three ways you could befriend it.

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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The World is a Mirror, Part 23

I is for IDEAS
J is for JOY
M is for MUNDANE
Q is for QUICK
S is for SERVICE
T is for TIME
U is for UNIQUE
V is for VALUE
W is for WEIRD

My name is Scott Ginsberg.

I’m weird.

Always have been. Always will be.

In fact, whenever someone tells me, “Dude, you’re weird!” I respond with, “Hey, thanks!”

See, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being weird.

Actually, I think there are a lot of things RIGHT with being weird.

I’ll explain why in a minute.

But first, a brief etymology lesson:

The word “weird” can be traced back to the Old English term “wyrd,” which means “fate, destiny.”


However, the modern sense of the word derived from two sources:

1. The use of Weird Sisters for The Three Fates or “Norns” (in mythology), representing the goddesses who controlled human destiny.

2. People who were odd or frightening in appearance, first referenced in Macbeth, led to the adjective meaning of, “odd-looking, uncanny,” first recorded 1815.

So, 200 years later, what does it mean to be weird?

And when someone says, “That guy is SO weird!” or “She’s weird!” what message is that person really communicating?

Well, in my experience, criticism often says more about the critic than it does about the subject.

So, is it possible that when someone perceives a person as weird, is it simply because they don’t understand him?

Personally, I think weird is a scapegoat term. An excuse. A placeholder for ignorance. When people don’t understand someone, they just dismiss that person as “weird,” and that’s usually enough to validate their argument.

Think back to college. Or high school. Or even grade school.

Now, picture The Weird Kid.

Maybe it was the dude who wore all black.
Maybe it was the girl who was always reading Ayn Rand during recess.
Maybe it was the guy who wore crazy clothes and walked to school every day.

You called him weird because you didn’t understand him.

And you left it at that.

(Hey, I did it too. It’s human nature.)

But what if you added another step?

What if, instead of being judgmental, you were curious?

Here. Try this experiment:

1. Decide to find out the story is behind someone’s supposed “weirdness.”
2. Approach the person with a curious, (not judgmental) attitude.
3. Tell the person you find them interesting, or fascinating, and would like to learn more.

And most likely, they’ll take it as a compliment, and be happy to share with you.

Or they’ll wind up being a serial killer, take out their ice pick and stab you in the throat.

Just kidding.

(But you were thinking that, weren’t you?)

Look. Not all weird people are bad. And sure, there have been some major wack-jobs out there who gave being weird a bad rap.

But I think (the non-criminal) weird people are important to society, important to business, for several reasons:

Weird people challenge you.
Weird people make you think.
Weird people are often creative.
Weird people break your patterns.
Weird people encourage individuality.
Weird people are interesting and cool.
Weird people aren’t afraid to be themselves.
Weird people tend to have valuable perspectives.

But because we don’t “get them,” we dismiss them.

And I think every time that happens, we’re missing out.

“Nurture the nuts,” Tom Peters once said. “We all know that ‘weird’ can be good, if we don’t judge others through our lens. Being weird increases creativity if we allow it to flourish.”

Well put.

Also, I found this anonymous quotation, often quoted around the web: “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”


So from now on, I encourage you to embrace weirdness.

That of other people. That of yourself.

Weirdness rules!

My name is Scott.

And I am weird.

Always have been. Always will be.

Do you embrace weirdness?

What’s the advantage of your weirdness?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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Yet another company I should be the spokesperson for

My friend Steve found this article in USA Today.

Pictured is Ernst & Young Global CEO Jim Turley, who talks to Brigham Young University students at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, on March 18. The company uses the event, E&Y Extreme, as a recruting tool.

Look closely at the signage on the lecturn behind Jim.

Wow. Not only did they use the name of my company and my brand, but the title of my new book! Woo hoo!

Not that I’m mad or anything. It’s kind of neat, actually.

However, along with Paxil, Sharpie, MACO and The St. Louis CVB, I will now add Ernst and Young to my running list of Companies I Should be the Spokesperson For.

So, if anyone out there:

1. Works for Ernst and Young
2. Knows someone who works for Ernst and Young
3. Or knows how to get in touch with Ernst and Young CEO Jim Turley

…please let me know! I gotta meet this guy! Help me make it happen!

Because Jim needs a copy of my new book, pronto.

(By the way, the new book is being printed. I will have it ready for sale this month.)

What company should YOU be the spokesperson for?

In 200 words or less, explain why!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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38 Ways to Speed Up Your Learning Curve, Even If You’re Not Old Enough to Rent a Car

The other day my friend Jess asked me, “How did you learn so much at such a young age?”

And I realized something: I get that question a lot.

Now, while I’m not claiming to be brilliant, nor am I claiming to be some sort of genius, I DID do some serious thinking on my answer(s) to that question.

So, here’s (yet another) one of my ridiculously long lists:

38 Ways to Speed Up Your Learning Curve, Even If You’re Not Old Enough to Rent a Car

1. Develop an attitude of Life Long Learning.

2. Whatever industry you work in, whatever area of expertise you seek to master, read every single book ever written about it. I remember early in my career, one of my mentors said, “You don’t have the ‘right to write’ a book on a certain topic unless you’ve read every other book on that topic.” Well, OK then.

3. So, read two of those books every week. You should be done in about a year.

4. Buy lunches for Big Shots in your industry. Ask them great questions. Take even greater notes. Then compile all of your notes into one main document that you update and review weekly.

5. Buy lunches for Non-Big Shots in your industry, then repeat everything I just said #4.

6. Go to every personal development/motivational seminar that comes through town.

7. The best swimmers are always in the pool. Figure out where you pool is, then go swimming every single day.

8. PRACTICE. Larry Bird shot 100 free throws a day. What are you going to do?

9. Write. Write. Write. Writing is the basis of all wealth. Write down everything you learn or experience. Call it a journal, a blog, a diary, whatever. Write everything down. If you don’t write it down, it never happened. (Thanks for that one, Greg Peters.)

10. Regularly read books about creativity, creative thinking, creative people, creative ideas, etc.

11. Screw up. A lot.

12. Get more than one mentor. Hell, get ten of ‘em!

13. Did I say, “write” already? I think so. But in the words of Mr. Kinney, my freshman history teacher, “You don’t know it unless you can write it.”

14. Ask people, “What mistakes did you make when you were starting out?”

15. Learn something new each day. Yes, an old cliché. But here’s the catch: start a Learnal. Not a Journal. A Learnal. A daily journal of things you learned. Try that for a month and you’ll be amazed at how much smarter you’ve become!

16. Go to Borders once a month. Grab about fifty or so books that look interesting. Sit down with a big fat legal pad. Read through the books and take notes for a few hours. (You should probably buy a hot chocolate or something, so you don’t feel like you’re stealing.)

17. Two words: MASTERMIND-GROUP.

18. Three words: MASTER-MIND-GROUP!!!

19. Find out where you suck. More on how to do that here.

20. Learn how to think. Sure, it sounds silly. I know you already know how to think! But there are dozens, if not hundreds of resources that will TRAIN YOUR MIND, i.e., when you learn to think laterally, or in a non-linear fashion. Do this stuff and you will learn a LOT more. About yourself. About business. About life.

21. Watch the Apprentice. God I love that show.

22. Just start doing it. (Whatever “it” is) Playing guitar. Designing websites. Writing books. Just get crackin’. Who cares if you suck? START NOW. Starting = learning.

23. Google. It’s the greatest noun (and verb) in the world. Google everything. Your own name. Your boss. Your company. Your ex-girlfriends. Your industry. Your competition. Your customers. Google EVERYTHING. Frequently.

24. Carefully watch the people who are AMAZING at doing what you ultimately want to do.

25. Ask dumb questions.

26. Speaking of dumb, don’t hesitate to read any of the “For Dummies” books. Trust me, reading those books won’t make you a dummy, it’ll make you a smarty.

27. Play with people who are better than you. More on that here.

28. Learning comes from discomfort. So, celebrate the offbeat. Cherish uncertain ground. Travel without plans. Surrender your agendas.

29. How many times did you exercise your body last week? OK. Cool. Now: How many times did you exercise your MIND last week? Thought so. Don’t forget to work out your brain.

30. Say yes more.

31. Say no more.

32. Three words: small victories first. They build momentum. They validate self-assurance. They pave the way for later success. They enable you to take bolder action. They stretch your boundaries one mile at a time. Most importantly, they teach you all kinds of cool stuff.

33. Get experience in any way you can. Even if you have to do it for free. Even if you have to give a free speech for ten old dudes at a bible study at 7:00 AM in the middle of friggin nowhere at a greasy Wentzville diner called Country Fixins. (Hypothetically.)

34. Get a coach. An advisor. Someone that you PAY who will keep you accountable. Paying is important because: no investment = no committment.

35. Make it your goal to accumulate WISDOM, not knowledge.

36. Talk to strangers. The greatest learning resource in the world (even greater than The Google) is the person sitting next to you.

37. Two words: Wiki-pedia. (Oh wait, that’s one word. My bad.)

38. Whatever you’ve already learned, impart that priceless wisdom onto others. Aside from writing, teaching is the next best way to learn.

How did YOU speed up your learning curve?

Post your ridiculously long list here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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Smile and they will see you

I used to address the issue of smiling in my talks.

Then I realized how overdone the subject was.

So I took it out.

Not that smiling wasn’t important. After all, it’s the #1 symbol of approachability in the world!

But I just figured that most people were tired of hearing another author, speaker or manager talk about “the value of a smile.”

“Smile, you’re on stage!”
“Smile when you answer the phone!”
“Smile for three seconds when you enter a room!”

OK. We get it! Smiling is important. Thanks.

But the other day I had a thought.

I was bumming around New Haven, waiting for my cab to pick me up. To kill time I walked into this cool looking coffee shop on Orange Avenue. Electronic Indian music blasted from the speakers. A few customers milled about. But for the most part the place was empty.

I approached the counter. Saw the barista across the room, working on his laptop.

He didn’t see me.

So, I thought for a second, “What would most customers say in this situation?”

“Um, excuse me…could I get some service?”
“Doesn’t anybody work here?”

Of course, I didn’t say any such thing. That’s not how I roll. I like to think I have a little more patience than that!

So, I just smiled.

That’s it.

No words. No flailing arms. Just a big fat, friendly grin. Directed right at the Barista.

Sure enough, he looked up from his laptop.
Sure enough, he offered a friendly smile right back at me.
And sure enough, he walked over to my side of the counter and took my order.

Because if you smile, they will see you.

It’s just that easy.

I’ve been practicing this technique (gosh, do I even have to call it a technique?) for a long time.

Anyway, it’s called the Patient Smile. Here’s how it works:

1. You smile and patiently wait.
2. Positive energy is sent to the other person.
3. They “sense” that a customer is beckoning their attention. (People can just TELL when you’re smiling at them. It’s weird, but it works.)
4. They look up to meet your gaze.
5. They smile back.
6. They approach you.
7. You get better service.

Smile and they will see you.

So, next time you walk into a crowded bar, club, store or restaurant, give it a try.

I triple dog dare you.

Is the whole “smiling” thing overdone?

Share your best smile story here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag

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