I was in Tokyo when it happened.
After two hours of eating the freshest, most delicious and most expensive sushi of my life, the proud chef looked me in the eye and imparted a priceless life lesson:
“Sushi that taste like fish – no good sushi.”
If your sales efforts make customers feel like they’re being sold to…
No good sushi.
If your writing voice makes readers feel like they’re being lectured…
No good sushi.
If your leadership style makes followers feel like they’re being controlled…
No good sushi.
If your marketing activity makes prospects feel like they’re being targeted…
No good sushi.
If your recruiting strategy makes candidates feel like they’re being proselytized…
No good sushi.
LESSON LEARNED: Your job as a leader, as a businessperson and as a creative professional is to disappear.
Here’s how:1. Bring flowers – show up naked. My favorite piece of writing advice comes from Kurt Vonnegut: “If you want to be a great writer, be a great date for your reader.”
This makes total sense. Think about the characteristics of an ideal date: Fun. Funny. Engaging. Emotional. Interesting. Stimulating. Memorable. Does that describe the written messages you send to people each day?
From emails to texts to tweets to memos, your goal is to be a better date. Ultimately, the question you have to ask yourself is:
Are you writing to sound like a writer, or to sound like you?
Hopefully the latter. Otherwise you’ll never be a great date for your reader.
Remember: Writers that sound like writers are annoying; writers that sound like human beings are applauded. Are your readers hoping for a good night kiss or hailing a goodbye taxi?
2. Ensure rapt interest. I’ll never forget reading the Rolling Stone interview with Dave Grohl. As the co-founder of the genre-defining group, Nirvana – and as the frontman of multi-Grammy award winning band, Foo Fighters, he’s someone whose brain is worth listening to.
In the article, he revealed his band’s performance strategy: “Our goal is to make sure nobody in the audience looks at their watch.”
Great performers keep audience members from looking at their watches – but awesome performers make audiences forget they’re even wearing one.
Make it impossible (not) to pay attention. Whether you’re delivering a speech, conducting a meeting, holding a conference call or giving a sales pitch, anyone can do this.
You just need to deploy your genius. To give what you are. You know: Thing you don’t have to talk about. The thing you don’t have to do anything with.
The music is just there. And all you have to do is play it.
What uniqueness can you enlist to assure that surrounding people can’t help but watch with breathless interest and rapt attention?
3. Meet people where they are. When asked to describe the work of Leonardo Davinci, colleague and mentor Sandro Botticelli said, “His work will reward you from every angle.”
That’s the next strategy to help you disappear. I’ve found a helpful way to foster that process. At the beginning of every presentation, here what I tell my audiences:
“I’m here to do three things: Share my story and the lessons attached to it, make suggestions and ask questions. That’s it. Cool?”
Interestingly, these three components enable the audience members to plug themselves into my equations, thus creating a unique experience for each individual.
Your mission is to do the same: To meet people where they are. To accept everything, reject nothing and attend to people with deep democracy. What generic formulas are you allowing people to plug their unique selves into?
4. Take people back in time. Have you ever watched a show that made you forget you were in the audience? It’s a beautiful thing. And it happens for one reason: Kim Kardashian.
Just kidding. Real answer: The performers knew how to disappear from the stage.
They know how to let the music become bigger than the musicians. That’s what transports the audience to another realm of experience.
For example, every time I attend a Dave Matthews concert, I travel back in time. Because after listening to their music for almost twenty years, every song is attached to an emotional experience. Or an old girlfriend. Or a particular period of my life.
Therefore: Every show is a time machine. And your challenge as a leader, businessperson or creative professional is to do the same. To take people back in time.
My friend Ria Sharon suggests asking yourself one key question: What is the emotion you are selling?
“When you know your emotion, you engage people with your brand because they have something to latch onto,” she explained during a recent speech. “Then you can let the emotion do the heavy lifting for you.” What emotion will you use to disappear and take people back in time?
5. Never let them catch you acting. Michael Cane has appeared in over one hundred movies. He’s been acting for over fifty years, earned several Academy Awards and was even knighted by the Queen of England.
In a recent interview on public radio, Cane discussed the very concept of disappearing:
“If someone in my audience watches my performance and thinks, ‘Wow, that Michael Cane is such an amazing actor,’ then I’ve failed.”
The art is hiding the art. Not just in acting –but in business too. For example, most membership organizations don’t get this. And they could exponentially increase their joinability if they just stopped hawking membership and started hailing community.
Membership isn’t a piece of paper you receive – it’s a feeling you remember.
That’s the approach I take as the president of my local association. Instead of puking the benefits of joining all over perfect candidates, I just say, “Look, don’t worry about joining – just come hang out with us. We like your brain.”
You’d be amazed how much more responsive, more willing to show up and more willing to come back people are who don’t feel like they’re being recruited to join a committee. How are you hiding the art of what you organization does?
6. Profitability comes from revisitability. In the final scene of Ratatouille, snobby food critic Anton Ego skeptically takes a bite of Chef Remy’s special dish.
He expects to be disgusted, but ends up pleasantly surprised. When the food hits his lips, he instantly flashes back fifty years: He sees his childhood as a French peasant. He pictures his mother, his home and his family. And he remembers his humble beginnings.
When the flashback ends, a tear forms in his eye as he scarfs down the rest of dish with absolute delight. And in the next day’s newspaper, he publishes the following review:
“To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. And I will return to Chef Remy soon, hungry for more.”
What do you do that brings people back for more of you? Are you selling a product or are your offering an experience?
That’s what smart companies know: That what they sell isn’t the same thing as what people buy. And if you miss out on that distinction, your customers will always feel like they’re being sold. What are you really in the business of?
REMEMBER: Sushi that taste like fish – no good sushi.
Incorporate these practices into your daily life, and you’ll disappear faster than a fart in a fan factory.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Does your sushi taste like fish?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “15 Ways to Out Learn Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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