How to Live Larger Than Your Labels

I was sitting on my mom’s couch when it happened.

“Scott, did you notice what was missing from this article about you?” she asked.

“No. What?”

“Look closely. You’ll see it.”

And then it hit me like punch in the gut.

For the first time in my career – after eight years, ten books and five hundred interviews – this was the first article about me that wasn’t about my nametag.

In fact, the article didn’t even mention my nametag. The piece was about creativity, content management and entrepreneurial execution.

And as I sat back and soaked in the moment, my mom cemented the experience with single question:“How does it feel to be known for your brain – not just your badge?”

Pretty. Damn. Good.

LESSON LEARNED: When you learn to live larger than your labels, an entire symphony of advantages comes your way.

You expand your role repertoire.
You open yourself to becoming more.
You reengage with life’s possibilities.
You uncover new territory for expansion.
You invite new dimensions to your career.
You make profitable use of everything you are.
You crush the boundaries of your personal growth.

Today we’re going to explore strategies to help you live larger than your labels.

1. Know that you’re bigger than your past. Living larger than your labels means bowing to the door of next. Surrendering your case history. And accepting that whatever you created in the past – or whatever created you in the past – matters little beyond the fact that it brought you here.

After all, what happened to you isn’t who you are. Past is prologue. Past brought you here. Past made you who you are. And to align your thinking with this truth, try asking the following question:

If everything I’ve done up until now is just the beginning, what’s next?

When you start to explore a few answers, a new world of growth will opens up like a spring perennial. And you’ll forget all about those measly labels that once limited you.

Maybe Edwin McCain was right: Tell people to let you be who you’re becoming and stop seeing you as everything you’ve been. Will you view the past as a crutch or a catapult?

2. Cast a wider net. When I decided to redesign my blog this year, Tim at Out:Think asked me, “What’s going to be different this time around?”

To which I responded, “Well, I don’t want my blog to box me in. Not to one topic, not to one target market and not as one role. No labels, no limits.”

Two months later, the final product came out beautifully. And not only was the design striking, simple and professional, but Tim also added a minor accentuation that perfectly personified my limit-free objective. On the title bar it reads:

HELLO, my name is Blog! The Brain of Scott Ginsberg.

Yes, yes and yes. Exactly what I didn’t realize I needed. And the best part is: This positioning enables me, as an entrepreneur, to deliver value via infinite ways and via infinite channels. Even the ones I can’t think of yet.

Lesson learned: When you cast a wide net, the right customers will swim into it when they’re ready. How are you positioned in the minds of the people who matter most?

3. Make use of everything you are. Cali Lewis is the founder and host of GeekBeatTV, a widely popular podcast about technology, gadgets and important research projects.

During her keynote presentation at Blog World 2010, she discussed the concept of labels, and how they inhibit growth. And I swear I was the only person in the audience who heard it, but Cali had an inspiring throw-away line that I wrote down immediately:

“Don’t get me wrong: I love my website. But that’s not everything that I am.”

It takes a heroic dose of courage to admit that. To declare in front of thousands of people that your thing, your brainchild, your passion – that became widely successful because you worked your ass off eighteen hours a day for three years – is not all there is to who you are?

That’s how you live larger than you labels: When you realize that it’s okay to be known for more than one thing. As the Tao De Ching said, “When you let go of what you have, you get what you need.” What aspects of yourself – that you absolutely love – do you have to let go of to become something better?

4. Trace your trajectory. Have you ever mapped out your entire career, year by year, on one sheet of paper? It’s a fascinating exercise: Some call it a lifeline, some call it a visual biography or some call it a career trajectory map.

Either way, I was curious about it, so I decided to give it a whirl over the summer. And to say that the results were revelatory would be an understatement. Here’s what happens:

First, you become inspired to live larger than your labels by investigating the labels you’ve already outgrown.

Second, by examining each of the progress points of your professional life, you gain greater perspective on where you’ve been, where you’ve come and who you’ve become in the process.

Finally, because the exercise it’s a form of visual self-reflection and cumulative self-confrontation, the trajectory map helps you creates a healthy distance from yourself.

Ultimately, the map reflects your truth in a new light. The kind of light that outshines the brightness of the former version of yourself. The kind of light that helps you cut yourself loose from the past and swing into the future. When was the last time you traced your professional trajectory?

5. Think of your label as a dry erase board. I’ve never walked off stage without reminding my audience: “If you don’t make a name for yourself, someone will make one for you.”

However, as I evolve as a human being, I’ve recently decided to make an addendum to that philosophy: “If you refuse to rewrite the labels you stick onto yourself, you rob the world of the opportunity to experience the best, highest version of that self.”

That’s the problem with labels: They imply immunity. And you assume you’re nailed to a certain cross forever. Fortunately, you don’t have to choke on your labels. In Self Matters, Dr. Phil explains:

“Acknowledge the existence of labels, challenge the ‘fit,’ confront the impact these labels have on your concept of self, and then identify the payoff those labels have in your life.”

He’s more than just a mustache. When was the last time you took a long, honest look at the labels you gave yourself?

6. Differentiate between identification and definition. The most powerful life lessons come unsolicited, unidentified and unexpected. Like the anonymous email I received five years ago that read,

“Dear Scott: Big fan. Love the nametag concept. Hope you keep it up. And just remember: What identifies you doesn’t define you.”

After reattaching my jaw, it occurred to me how right that person really was: Identification is about recognition; definition is about explanation. And you need to be honest with yourself about differentiating between the two.

Here’s how: First, there’s the thing that brings you to the table. That which identifies you. And usually, it’s some kind of shtick.

Second, there’s the thing that keeps you in the room. That which defines you. And usually, it’s some kind of substance.

Now, both things are essential – but each thing fulfills a very different function. Your challenge is to confront the two levels of value that you provide. Otherwise you’ll walk into a room assuming people care about your nametag, when what people crave is the committed heart behind it. Are you identifiable or definable?

REMEMBER: To live larger than your labels is to reengage with life’s possibilities.

Therefore, as much as it pains me to say this, maybe it’s time to rip that stupid nametag off your shirt and open yourself to becoming something more.

No labels, no limits.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you ready to live larger than your labels?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Become Brilliant By Next Thursday,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Who’s quoting YOU?

Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!

www.stuffscottsaid.com.

How to Back Off and Let the People You Love Figure Things Out On Their Own

“Is it your place to fix this?”

That’s the question you have to ask yourself.

Especially when someone you love finds themselves on the precipice of disaster.

Sometimes you have to back off.

Yes, it requires great emotional restraint.
Yes, it requires significant self-control.

But if you don’t let people come to their own conclusions, make their own decisions and make their own mistakes, you fractionize their experiences and rob them of valuable learning opportunities.

Here’s how to back off and let the people you love figure things out on their own:1. Abandon your need to constantly add value. Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, argues that adding too much value is a variation of needing to win.

“The problem is, you may have improved the content of someone’s idea by five percent, but you’ve reduced their commitment to executing it by fifty percent because you’ve taken away their ownership of the idea,” says Goldsmith, “and I walk out of the room less enthused about it than when I walked in.”

Lesson learned: Be responsive instead of reactive. Reacting is a reflex; responding is a choice.

As an approachable leader, if you want to monopolize the listening, don’t bulldoze. Don’t take over. Don’t try to fix or solve. And don’t add too much value to the conversation.

Just dance in the moment and respond to the other person’s immediate experience. Grant people enough space to be and say what is true.

Remember: Their change is not your war. Lay your conversational weapons down and let the people you love fight the good fight. Is your need to add value crushing people’s commitment to finding solutions on their own?

2. Suspend your need to dominate the conversation. Listening is like midwifing. That means facilitating a natural process, guiding the speaker to make the best choices, nurturing the person’s rhythm and steering people where they deem fit.

Not taking over. Not adding more value. Simply inviting others to listen within – then wait for their inner voice to respond. Even if this process takes six painful months, it still shows them that they can trust their own resource and manager their own lives.

The cool part is, when you approach listening as a midwifing process, you leave people feeling heard. And the echoes of their voice reverberate against their own hearts, impelling them to take ownership and take action.

Remember: The goal of listening is to provide assistance, NOT authority. Don’t take over people’s problems for them. Grow bigger ears by helping the other person give birth to understanding. Are respecting people’s speed of self-discovery?

3. Don’t impose your own direction. I guarantee that you currently have a dear friend whose spouse, significant other or life partner is someone you’d like to see walk into a snake pit wearing a rat skin bodysuit.

I know. It’s painful to watch someone you love have no idea that that person they’ve dedicated their life to is completely wrong for them. And not just your opinion – a literal mismatch from hell.

Unfortunately, it’s not your place to say that.

I don’t care how close you are to a person – you can’t try to convince someone to fall out of love. The power of the heart is simply too substantial. And you will lose that battle.

Even if you did sit your best friend down and say, “Look, Marie, I need to tell you, I’m pretty sure your boyfriend is a serial murderer.”

Do you think she would listen?

No way. She’d say you’re crazy. She’d say you don’t really know him. And she’d say his machete collection is “for hunting purposes only.”

Look: Sometimes people aren’t ready to hear things yet. And if you make the mistake of crossing that line before their ears are tuned into the right frequency, you run the risk of shutting them down permanently. And that’s when people really get hurt.

The best thing you do is make observations. That’s it. No opinions. No suggestions. Just things you notice.

Present those things in a respectful, curious and confidential manner – in the hopes that the people you love will eventually realize that dating a convicted killer isn’t the healthiest decision. Are you willing to be an objective observer?

4. Hovering is for helicopters. One thing I admire about my parents is their consistent willingness to let me screw up. Which, from what I hear, is a painful thing for any parent to do.

Because they’re your kids. They’re your babies. And you don’t want them to be in pain.

However, there’s a huge difference between getting hurt and being injured. And I think I’ve (finally) figured out why my parents allow this. It’s because they trust in their own parenting abilities. They believed they raised me right.

And so, when I do screw up, they have faith that I will tap into the foundation of character that they spent the last thirty years of their lives pouring. And wouldn’t you know it? Every time I screw up – which, happens a lot – they back off and let me figure out how to handle it on my own.

Sure, they’re there to help. And guide. And ask questions. And offer suggestions. And, occasionally run over somebody with a tractor.

But they don’t let me get injured. And as a result, my wounds heal under antiseptic of my own actions; the scars of which ultimately help contribute a greater verse to the song of life.

All because they had enough self-control and self-trust to stop hovering and start heeding. Who thinks you’re a helicopter?

5. “I told you so” leads to, “I resent you so.” Okay: You’ve backed off. You’ve listened. And you’ve let the people you love figure out things on their own. Well done.

Now, there’s only one thing left to do: Smother your smugness. Because saying – or implying – any version of “I told you so,” negates all the hard work you’ve put in so far.

Don’t do it. It makes you look arrogant and make them feel small. Instead, trust that she knows you knew – the whole time – that she never should have married that jerk. No need to rub it in her face.

Do what my mentor does. For the past fifteen years, I’ve watched Mr. Jenkins practice this beautifully with each of his students – myself included. Instead of reminding us that he’s always right – which he is – he just waits. Sometimes years.

And when we, his students, eventually figure out how stupid we’ve been the whole time, Mr. Jenkins just smiles and asks us what we’ve learned. And then we reflect together. The learning cycle come to a close, and we move onto the next lesson. How patient are you willing to be with the people you love?

REMEMBER: You can’t convince people to change – you can only give them more information.

Let people learn things on their own.

Otherwise your desire to fix becomes a barrier to being helpful.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Whom are you trying to make just like you?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “22 Unexpected Ways to Help People,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Who’s quoting YOU?

Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!

www.stuffscottsaid.com.

The Approachable Leader’s Handbook of Being Heard, Vol. 3

For those of you human beings out there (and I think you know who you are) here’s a quick list of assumptions.

You want to be:

Valued. Needed. Wanted.
Affirmed. Appreciated. Accepted.
Respected. Recognized. Remembered.
Taken seriously. Given a chance. Part of something that matters.

IN SHORT: You want to be heard.

Because if you’re not – if people can’t hear you – they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

Today we’re going to explore another selection of practices (read part one and part two here!) to help you be heard by the people who matter most: Employees, staff, customers, kids, volunteers – whomever you serve. 1. Approach people as audience members. Not customers. Not employees. Not volunteers. Not associates. Audience members. When you see people in that context, you’re forced to transform your message from a petition into a performance.

But not in that annoying, always-on, doing-shtick, Robin Williams kind of performance. You’re method acting. The character you’re playing is you. Which, if you know who you are, is the easiest character in the world to play.

Remember: The word audience simply means, “The persons reached.” Who’s sitting in your audience, and on what basis do you claim their attention?

2. Risk being real. Honesty is so rare – it’s become remarkable. As a writer and speaker, I’m constantly amazed at how easy it is to have your voice heard, simply by telling your truth. Notice I said “your” truth – not “thee” truth. Huge difference.

One is unarguable – the other is unprovable. And I’m not talking about “authenticity,” or whatever other twenty-five cent lifeless buzzword currently pollutes the professional development lexicon.

This is about keeping rein on your individuality, integrating all of your polarities into a unified whole, then sharing that music with the people who matter. How are you branding your honesty?

3. Be frictionless. When people ask me about the genre of my writing, I like to say, “Non-friction.” What I mean by this is a message that’s findable, readable, breathable, digestible, memorable and actionable. That’s how I write. Material that an impatient, thirty-something entrepreneur like myself would actually sit down and read.

Your challenge is to think about how much friction your message contains. For example:

If it’s not easy to access, it’s not findable.

If it’s not somewhat grammatically and structurally well written, it’s not readable.

If people can’t quickly scan it and get the gist without their eyes bleeding, it’s not breathable.

If the small portions don’t go down smoothly and you just puke one long run-on sentence for two pages about an inconsequential topic, it’s not digestible.

If the ideas don’t cause people to react emotionally in some way, it’s not memorable.

And if the concepts can’t be executed with practical application through a mindset of, “I believe this! I can do this! I want to try this!” it’s not actionable.

How frictionless is your message?

4. Express yourself three-dimensionally. I recently watched a documentary called A Sense of Life. It’s the first authorized film about the life and work of the controversial Russian-born author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand.

What moved me most during the movie was Rand’s approach to audience questioning. Known for staying on stage hours after her lecture was scheduled to be over, Ayn wouldn’t just answer people’s questions. She would also take the time to learn what was in her readers’ minds. She would answer their questions, point out the errors that led to those questions, suggest the new set of questions that would come tomorrow, as well as use each question as a springboard to another explanation.

And as a result, her voice, her message and her life altered the philosophical landscape forever. Lesson learned: When you penetratingly come straight at everything people say – your voice is always heard. How askable are you?

5. Avoid being met with rolled eyes. Rolled eyes lead to closed ears. Before sharing your next message, set up a deliberate interruption attempt to disprove your own ideas. Go counterintuitive for a few minutes. Ask yourself, “Will this start or stop dialogue?”

If your latter is the answer, rework it. Silence is the enemy. Messages with massive impact aren’t just mind-boggling – they’re heart boggling. Make sure you’re aimed at the right organ. Like John Maeda expressed in The Laws of Simplicity, “Good art makes your head spin with questions.”

That’s right: Your message is art. Get used to it or get out of the business. How provocative are you willing to be?

6. Consciously pursue the unexpected. There’s a reason your people aren’t being reached: Every other message they receive during the day is just another boring, overextended piece of corporate communication they delete immediately. At best, peruse remorsefully.

Fortunately, you have an opportunity to positively break people’s patterns. To respectfully violate their expectations. And to creatively upset their schemas. All you have to do is ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how dramatically different is this message from the same recycled drivel people have already chosen to tune out?” If you score less than a five, change it.

That’s it. That’s how to be less predictable. Do this, and you’ll find that the courage to be different is the voice that is heard loud and clear. Unless you live in communist China. Can’t help you there. Is your message nothing but an unremarkable skin on an outdated skeleton?

REMEMBER: If they can’t hear you, they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What’s the cost of being unheard?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “22 Unexpected Ways to Help People,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Who’s quoting YOU?

Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!

www.stuffscottsaid.com.

The Approachable Leader’s Handbook of Being Heard, Vol. 2

For those of you human beings out there (and I think you know who you are) here’s a quick list of assumptions.

You want to be:

Valued. Needed. Wanted.
Affirmed. Appreciated. Accepted.
Respected. Recognized. Remembered.
Taken seriously. Given a chance. Part of something that matters.

IN SHORT: You want to be heard.

Because if you’re not – if people can’t hear you – they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

Today we’re going to explore another selection of practices (read part one here!) to help you be heard by the people who matter most: Employees, staff, customers, kids, volunteers – whomever you serve.

CAUTION: If you’re hoping to read a bunch of vague platitudes like “just hear people first” or “have integrity” – look elsewhere. This list contains only practical, actionable and specific ideas to help you be heard.

And whether you’re a leader, writer, manager, parent, director, marketer, or fourth grade teacher, you’ll be able to plug these practices into your daily life today:

1. Start with a firmer step. A few sad realities: The world is not waiting breathlessly to hear what you have to say. The blogosphere is not standing on the edge of their seats eagerly anticipating your next post. And your followers on Twitter – who, by the way, don’t care about your tweets as much as they care about their stats – are not waking up an hour earlier just to read the hilarious update about your Rottweiler’s latest genital licking adventure.

Instead, consider these firmer-step suggestions:

FIRST: Align your petitions with the self-interest of your audience. Find out what their success seeds are.

SECOND: Give clear direction of what you want people to follow. Make the audience your accomplice.

THIRD: Build a listening platform. Demonstrate to the people you want to hear that they have been heard first.

FOURTH: Create a dialogue that draws people into the cause. Say things you haven’t said elsewhere.

FINALLY: Invite layers of interpretation around your message. Allow people to add multiple dimensions to your ideas.

Follow this process, and your voice will be heard. Maybe even by your dog. Do you hit the ground running or hit the ground stroking?

2. Be music, not noise. The panhandlers who earn the most money aren’t the ones who ask for change; they’re the ones who play drum kits made out of paint buckets. The difference maker? One plays music – the other makes noise. One is heard – the other is ignored.

And, as a result, one eats – the other starves. Lesson learned: You can’t shout your way to being heard. Amidst the buzz of competing voices, nobody notices normal, nobody buys boring and nobody pays for average. Construct your unfair advantage or risk being skipped like a commercial on Tivo. Are singing songs or vomiting sound effects?

3. Show them that you can bend. Mental flexibility is a rare thing – which is exactly why it gets through to people. As I learned from the book Flow, “A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum.”

Essentially, it’s about striking a balance between resolute persistence and commitment, yet remaining flexible enough to bend without compromising foundation or sacrificing respect. Keeping yourself amenable to change of mind instead of allowing the arrogance clamp of terminal certainty to suffocate your brain’s elasticity.

Leaders who do this, get heard. Do you retain ongoing openness to your misguided perceptions?

4. Have a message that’s worthy of being heard. Fascination trumps relevance. Moment to moment, you want your audience to be curious about what will happen next. Here’s how: Creating a message (and a messenger) worth looking at. Make sure you have to have enough going on in your life to be interesting to talk with, listen to and be heard by.

Do not underestimate the importance of this. Everything you’ve learned on this list so far accomplishes nothing without a baseline level of interestingness. How much time are you spending – each day – becoming more fascinating?

5. Create emotional disturbance. Dylan once wrote, “The purpose of art is to stop time.” If you want to accomplish that, you have to disappear from the page. To hide the memory of your hand. To democratize your message in a way that meets your audience where they are. And to reward people from any angle.

These are the things that engage immediately. These are the things that get heard. Do you get people’s full attention as soon as they taste you?

6. Build a truth bridge. First, jolt people into something completely unexpected. Let your words bring things out of them they didn’t know were there. Functioning as a verbal mirror, you help people revise the way they look at themselves. Kind of hard to ignore someone who does that.

Secondly, help people funnel down their world. Help people know what they know. Even if it’s as simple as sending your notes to them after listening to their problems. By reflecting their reality – on paper – you help them see truth in the round.

Ultimately, it’s about standing at the door and knocking patiently until people open it – not breaking into their lives. That’s how you get heard. How are you helping people fall in love with themselves all over again?

REMEMBER: If they can’t hear you, they can’t follow you.

And if they can’t follow you, you lose.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What’s the cost of being unheard?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “22 Unexpected Ways to Help People,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Who’s quoting YOU?

Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!

www.stuffscottsaid.com.

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