How to Create a Unique Niche

“When you’re one-of-a-kind, you have no competition.” – Sam Horn, author of POP! and Got Your Attention?
create a unique niche

Do you wish you could:

* figure out what makes you original?

* clarify the secret sauce that makes you different?

* create a competitive edge that motivates decision-makers to pick you?

The good news is, you CAN do all the above. The secret is to create a unique and needed niche that gets you noticed by ideal clients.

Are you thinking, “I know I need to do that; I just don’t know how to do that?”

Join the club. In my 20 years of being a business/branding consultant; I’ve seen many entrepreneurs fail because they couldn’t figure out how they were special.

They weren’t able to differentiate themselves from others in their industry. They never created a winning competitive edge that helped them stand out and succeed.

So, I developed a step-by-step system to help my clients break out instead of blend in.

One of the steps in my system helps you identify what you’re bringing to the table that is special, that people value and are willing to pay for.

In other words, what are you good at? What do you do well that people want and need that they’ll hire you to do for them or teach to them?

Here’s a condensed version of my 4A Process for clarifying the strategic “secret sauce” that makes you special.

Sam Horn’s 4 A Approach to Creating a Unique and Needed Niche

Ask yourself the following questions to start clarifying what you know that other people want to know or want to have done for them.

ACHIEVEMENT: What have you achieved – that other people would like to achieve?

* Did you put yourself through college, build a house from scratch, get your pilot’s license, teach yourself to design websites that make money, retire at 40, launch a successful Kickstarter campaign?

* What did you accomplish that took discipline and perseverance – and other people could benefit from your lessons-learned on how to “stay the course”?

* What skill have you acquired you could reverse-engineer into a step-by-step methodology that will expedite people’s ability to do this fr themselves?

ADVERSITY: What challenges have you overcome – that other people would like to overcome?

· Did you deal with breast cancer, get down-sized, rebound from a difficult divorce, lose all your money in a financial scandal?

· What did you survive – that you could show other people how to survive?

· What did you learn “the hard way” and you want to prevent/minimize that pain for others and give them support so they don’t have to go it alone?

AVOCATION: What is a hobby you’re good at – that other people would like to be good at?

· Do you love to play piano, garden and grow your own vegetables, ride horses, play with smart phone photography – and you could turn that into a metaphor that gives you a fresh approach to a familiar topic?

· What do you do for fun – adventure travel, museum docent, astronomy clubs –that you could share with others who want more fun in their life?

· What do you do that lights you up – and you could integrate it into your job so you’re integrating your passion/profession instead of seeing them as separate?

ATTITUDE: What is a philosophy you have – that others would find relevant, inspiring, beneficial?

· What is an epiphany you’ve had – that could save others trial-and-terror learning?

· What is a favorite motto that keeps you motivated – that others might find helpful?

· What is a contrarian, provocative insight you have– that could open people’s eyes to an outdated/dangerous belief and lead to a transformational aha?

These questions have helped many of my clients leverage their lessons-learned into a successful business and earn a good living doing work they love that matters.

Want a few quick examples of how my clients have used these techniques to leverage their A’s into successful businesses?

Achievement:

Client David Glover is a Naval Academy grad, cancer survivor and world-class Ironman triathlete. However, he’s so much more than that. Check out his website to discover how he’s been able to leverage his A’s into a soul-satisfying business where he’s getting paid to speak, write, coach and direct running races around the country.

Adversity: Christina Grimm grew up in sunny California, playing competitive travel softball from age ten. You can imagine how thrilled she was to receive an athletic/academic scholarship to a Division I school. Unfortunately, their hypercritical coach only focused on what Christina did wrong, never on what she did right. The coach ruined her self-esteem and enjoyment of the game. She ended up leaving after one year, vowing never to play softball again.

Christina is pro-active though and decided that, instead of letting that toxic experience defeat her; she would turn it into a career and mission helping others who were being mistreated. She went back to college and got her PsyD. Her thesis? “The Effect of Coaching on the Self-Esteem of Teen-Aged Girls.” She is now a certified Tongue Fu! – Never Be Bullied Again instructor and offers programs on how to confidently speak up and take responsibility for being treated with the respect you want, need and deserve.

Avocation: A financial adviser wanted to know how she could possibly differentiate herself in that crowded industry. She had impressive credentials as she was frequently featured in the media as a result of her high-profile role for a nationally-known company, but she still needed a competitive edge for her work to stand out in the glut of “instant experts.”

I asked, “What do you do when you’re not working?”

Jan told me, “I play golf.”

I said with a smile, “We’re in business. Why not use smart golf as a metaphor for being a smart investor? You could call your book ‘Go for the Green.’ Talk yourself through a round of golf using each step of the process as an analogy. Your tips on how to make/save par can be used as a parallel for how to make/save money.”

This was strategic positioning as Jan’s target clients were executives and entrepreneurs, many of whom play golf. This was something they valued and wanted to get better at, which increased the likelihood of her being asked to speak at corporate events and association conventions, which often host golf tournaments before their meetings.

Attitude: Julie Jansen, a career coach, wanted a breakout book in her genre but told me, “Sam, all the great titles – like ‘Take This Job and Love It’ – are taken.”

I asked her a series of questions including, “What attitude do your clients have? What is something that frustrates them? What is something you hear, over and over again, when they come into your office?”

She thought about it for a moment, laughed and said, “You know what they all say? ‘I Don’t Know What I Want; But I Know It’s Not This.’”

I told Julie, “THAT’s the title of your book! People will look at it and think, ‘That’s EXACTLY how I feel! People buy books that resonate with them, and that title will resonate with potential readers because it articulates a problem they have they want solved.” Julie’s book has become an evergreen classic because it expresses an attitude and frustration many people in her target market feel.

So, how about you? Are you in a crowded industry? Are you having a hard time standing out? Are you not getting the clients you deserve?

Use this 4A Process to identify what you have to offer that can be turned into a legacy message and unique niche that helps you pop out of your pack. Your “A’s” are a goldmine waiting to be leveraged into a one-of-a-kind competitive edge that helps you stand out from your crowd vs. get lost in your crowd.

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Want more ways to create a unique niche that gives you a one-of-a-kind competitive edge? You’ll find them in POP! (which Ken Blanchard says is “an inspiring guide to getting heard, getting remembered, getting results.”) and Got Your Attention? ( presented to NASA, National Geographic, Accenture, ASAE and Ernst Young). Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to inquire about Sam’s consulting services and to arrange for her to share her inspiring, results-producing insights at your next conference.

Want to Give a Career-Making Talk?

Do you have an opportunity to speak at TED, TEDx, SXSW, Small Business Expo, 99U, WBENC, Dreamforce, NMX, World Domination Summit, Wisdom2.0 or BIF?

Have you watched the careers of Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Sir Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy and Dan Pink SOAR after they delivered powerfully original messages?

If so, you already know that a quality 10-18 minute talk can be a career-maker.

If you have an opportunity to get up in front of a group of people, please understand that EVERYONE in the room (and watching the video later) is a decision-maker. Every single person has the power to take you and what you care about viral. Each person has the power to quote you, post about you, promote you, fund you or work with you.

Invest in your future. Use these “7 Cs of Original Messaging” to create a genuinely intriguing, one-of-a-kind talk that favorably impresses/influences everyone in the room and in the online audience in the years ahead.

1. CLEAR

A Hollywood producer once told me directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and taking it viral.

The same applies to your talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea – your most important point – word for word? If they can, they’ll become your word-of-mouth advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind … in one ear, out the other.

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech
for Philadelphia’s University for the Arts shows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. “Make Good Art” resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.

2. COMPELLING.

You’ve got 60 seconds to capture everyone’s attention or they’ll start checking email.

No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counter-intuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.

Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. CURRENT

The keynote speaker at a recent conference used the often-referenced “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study of how teachers’ expectations affect student performance as the basis for her talk. Really?! That study was done in 1989! She couldn’t find any current studies to make her case? Referencing such an outdated source undermined her credibility.

Recency = relevancy. What just-released report can you reference to prove your point? Recent research will get their attention, and respect.

4. CONGRUENT

After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, my vision, my values? If the program coordinator suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A career-making talk shares your EEE – Expertise, Experience, Epiphanies – not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned from life? What’s an exciting invention, innovation or breakthrough you’ve been part of?

An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”

I told him, “You’re right. A career-making talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t censure or second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrate your phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”

5. COMMERCIALLY VIABLE

The purpose of a talk at most venues is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your priority. Unless this is a pitch forum where you are supposed to be marketing yourself and your company, the point is to ADD VALUE FOR THE AUDIENCE not to promote yourself, your products and services. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility, viability and drive business to and for you.

Witness what’s happened to Brené Brown. Brené was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university, but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the TED.com site and has since received 29 million views. Her resulting Oprah appearances made her an international fan favorite, generating lucrative book deals and five-figure keynotes.

6. CONSISTENT

It’s important that your talk be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Instead of summarizing what you’ve done in the past, a career-making talk is a pebble in the pond of your best future. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next 1-3 years of my life to look like? How could this talk catalyze that and set that up?”

For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn’t serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE

I had an opportunity to hear the Physics Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather speak recently. Following his talk, I asked him, “What’s your next “big idea?” He said, “I’ve got one, but I’m researching to see if anyone else has gotten there first.”

Exactly. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” Once you have a clear, compelling, current, consistent, congruent, commercially viable idea, Google it to see if anyone else has gotten there first. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon the idea; it just means you should design a provocative premise around it that hasn’t been shared before.

For example, watch Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched TED talk of all time. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.

Does your career-making talk meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, kudos to you. You’ve dramatically increased the likelihood your talk will be a success for you, the meeting planner, and everyone who watches in person and online.

If not, invest the effort to craft an original 7C talk that gets and keeps people’s eyebrows up. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

– – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE and books – including POP!, IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and on NPR and MSNBC, and presented to Boeing, Intel, Cisco, NASA, Capital One, NASA, YPO, National Geographic.

Ideas in Your Head Help No One: Quotes to Inspire You to Get Your Work Out of Your Head and Into the World

When people tell me they’re thinking about writing a book, starting a business or launching a project – and they’re procrastinating – I tell them two things.

creativity is a roller coaster

First, “Creativity is a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. If you embrace that instead of fight it, you will finish your project and get it out in the world where it can make a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for you.

Second, “Ideas and dreams in your head help no one.”

Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have experience, expertise and business ideas that would benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep them to yourself.

Sharing your lessons-learned doesn’t come from arrogance, it comes from service. It’s an offering, a way of saying “Here’s something I think, feel, believe, see, have learned or have experienced. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”

Yet, many people start with the best of intentions and then life intervenes. They get distracted, busy, overwhelmed, tired. They put their creative project aside to deal with other priorities – and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.

Are you procrastinating, waiting for more time? Are you too busy to write?

Face it. You’ll never have more time than you have right now. If you want results … carve out ten minutes every day to move your creative project forward.

Select one of these quotes that resonates with you and post it where you’ll see it every morning (your bathroom mirror?) It will help you keep your good intentions IN SIGHT – IN MIND instead of allowing them to drift out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter

“Nothing works unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

“Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” – Twyla Tharp

“When asked the secret to finishing his 500 page masterpiece The Power of One, author Bryce Courtenay growled, “Bum glue!”

“Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron

“At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.” – aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager

“If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that separates the sheep from the goats.” – Sue Grafton

“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVries

“If you are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, you’re thinking like an amateur. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, does his work, keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

“I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Patchett

“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker

“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer

“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes

“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein

“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle

“If you want to be certain, you should never attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett

“When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton

“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong

“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

“When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Planning to write is not writing. Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow

“I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will look for some fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

“There’s a trick I’m going to share with you. I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it … so pay attention. Don’t begin at the beginning.” – Lawrence Block

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott

“I write because I cannot fly, but words can, and when they land, worlds appear.” – Susan Zeder

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May

“Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency.” John Kotter

It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your ideas, dreams and projects finished and into the world. What’s the story you’re born to tell? The knowledge you want to pass along? The legacy message that could inspire others? The creative vision you want to contribute?

The time to share it is NOW. Promise you’ll sit down somewhere, sometime every day and take a minimum of ten minutes to move your project forward.

In the past twenty years, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of people craft quality books, develop one-of-a-kind keynotes and launch businesses, causes and creative projects.

In all that time, I’ve never met a single person who was sorry they finished their project and got it into the world; I’ve only met people who were sorry they didn’t do it … SOONER.

– – – – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books – POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, Readers Digest, on NPR and MSNBC, have been endorsed by Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey and have been presented to such diverse clients as Boeing, U.S. Embassy in London, Capital One, NASA and National Geographic.

What’s Your Review-Preview? Are You “Piloting” Your Time?

Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.”

Yet many of us DON’T feel like we’re the pilot of our time. Months (years) blend and blur into each other. Time races by and many of us feel we’ll never get caught up.

This is an antidote to this. One way to “get caught up” is to reflect on all the good ways our time has been spent this past year – to identify and honor the people, places and experiences that have been a good use of our time. national-press-club-group-picture-12-10-2010-2

These questions can help you do that. I’ve used variations of them at Review-Preview gatherings with friends and family and at National Press Club salons.

Taking the time to answer these questions an excellent way to “connect and reflect” and honor who and what has impacted you this past year – and why. Then turn your attention to the new year and clarify what your’re looking forward to – what you can do, see, think and feel to “pilot” this upcoming year so it will be TIME WELL SPENT.

At the end of his life, when finishing his book The Last Lecture (which was his “message in a bottle” of life-lessons he wanted to pass on to his kids), Randy asked himself what he knew for sure and it was this:

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt; just how we play the hand. Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

You might want to print these questions and share them over a meal with friends or family or at an upcoming staff meeting with employees. They can lead to a meaningful discussion about what really matters, which in itself it time well spent.

P.S. I’ve included my abbreviated answers to these questions at the end to kick-start this process. Enjoy, and happy, healthy holidays to you and your loved ones.
Review of the past year:

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
3. How did I change? What new beliefs and behaviors did I adopt?
4. What’s a meaningful achievement I’m proud of?
5. What happened that was unexpected or surprising? How did it affect me?
6. What will I remember about my health from this year and why?
7. What was my biggest challenge – lesson learned the hard way?
8. What did I NOT find time for?
9. What is the best book I read or movie/TV program I saw?
10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?

PLEASE NOTE: When previewing the coming year, you might want to state your intentions in the PRESENT OR PAST TENSE as opposed to the FUTURE tense. Why? Our subconscious believes what we tell it. Saying “I’m going to meet … “ or “I will achieve …” comes across as wishful thinking. Saying, “I loved meeting … “ or “It was so satisfying achieving that …” is perceived as a statement of truth. It helps turns our hopes into a “done deal.” This is a way to practice ADVANCE GRATITUDE. By focusing on what we would love to happen in the new year, we facilitate that happening. Envisioning a life, business and career we love helps to create it.

time-flies-gold

Preview of the coming year so you can “pilot” your time and ensure it is spent on the “right things.”

1. A particularly satisfying achievement this past year was …
2. A new place I thoroughly enjoyed discovering/exploring was …
3. I am so glad I got to meet and spend time with .. S/he really impacted me because …
4. I loved acquiring this skill and/or getting back into this hobby because …
5. I am grateful for doing this spiritual practice …. It made every day more …
6. I will always be glad I took better care of my body/health by …
7. I finally made time for …
8. One way I contributed and gave back was to …
9. Something that really added joy and/or FUN to my life was ….
10. One of the most important ways I changed was to …

Sam Horn’s abbreviated responses to the Review of 2016. Charles Bukowski said, “Time races by like wild horses over the hills.” Taking the time to answer these questions can help you “pilot” your time so you’re making the most of it in the new year.

time-races-by-like-wild-horses-over-the-hills

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
(Sam – swimming with Zach the Dolphin at Marineland in Florida.)

2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
(Sam – Mary Loverde for teaching me to abandon absolutes and that receiving, receiving, receiving is as important as giving, giving, giving.)

3. How did I change?
(Sam – I actually started eating vegetables – can you say kale and spinach?! – in greenies and liked them! Thank you Wildfit!)

4. What was a meaningful achievement (or skill acquired, dream goal realized) I’m proud of?
(Sam – Attended a workshop with Charles Needles and Dewitt Jones in Monet’s Garden in France – and learned to use my iphone camera to produce quote-images I post on Instagram. It’s fun, purposeful and a source of instant creative gratification.)

5. What happened that was unexpected? How did it affect me?
(Sam – Almost passed up an opportunity to speak in China because of unexpected doubts. What was unexpected was it was unlike me to “play it safe.” I re-committed to being adventurous and bold instead of being cautious and wary.)

6. What will I remember about my health – and why?
(Sam – I cracked my ribs and lost my freedom of movement for a few months. Made me re-appreciate what a gift it is to be healthy and to have complete mobility and no pain.)

7. What was my biggest challenge?
(Sam – My biggest challenge on my Year by the Water was learning to see my calendar as having OPEN days vs. EMPTY days so I didn’t revert to a decades-old habit of saying yes and filling my days with commitments.)

8. What did I NOT find time for?
(Sam – Hudson Valley, Walden Pond and the lake where Helen Keller said her first word, “Water,” which is why my Year by the Water is SO not over. )

9. What is the best book I read?
(Sam – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Proves that “literary” books about the human condition can be kind, insightful and a page-turning read.

10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?
(Sam, my sister Cher who runs my business and who I trust implicitly. My sons Tom and Andrew, their wives Patty, Miki, and grandson Mateo for gifting me with a family I love. My friends who bless me with their generosity and positive spirit. My most important lesson-learned? Connection is the current that runs through my life. It my Holy Grail. You are all with me, wherever I am, and I am grateful. )

– – –
Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, TEDx speaker, author of POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? is on a mission to help people create one-of-a-kind projects that add value for all involved and has worked with Boeing, NASA, Cisco, Intel and National Geographic.

Creative Projects in Your Head Help No One: 36 Quotes to Inspire You to FINISH What You Start

“One day you’ll wake up and there won’t be any time left to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” – Paulo Coelho.

When people tell me they’re thinking about staring a creative project, I tell them, “Creative projects in your head help no one.”

Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have ideas, stories, skills or talents that would benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep them to yourself.

Sharing your creative work doesn’t come from arrogance, it comes from service.  It’s an offering, a way of saying “Here’s something I think, feel, believe, see or have experienced. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”

Yet, many people start with the best of intentions and then life intervenes. They get distracted, busy, overwhelmed, tired.

They put their creative project aside to deal with other priorities – and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.

Are you procrastinating, waiting for more time?

Face it. You’ll never have more time than you have right now.  If you want results … carve out ten minutes a day to move your creative project forward.

Select one of these quotes that resonates with you and post it where you’ll see it every morning (your bathroom mirror?)  It will help keep your good intentions IN SIGHT – IN MIND instead of allowing them to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

  1. “If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter
  2. “Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs
  3. “Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” – Twyla Tharp
  4. “When asked the secret to finishing his 500-page masterpiece The Power of One, author Bryce Courtenay growled, “Bum glue!”
  5. “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron
  6.  “At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.” – aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager  
  7. “If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov
  8. “Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” – Sue Grafton
  9. “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle
  10. “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVriesqu
  11. “If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield
  12. “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin
  13. “I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Pachett
  14. “Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett
  15. “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker
  16.  “It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer  
  17. “If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes
  18. “The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein
  19. “Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle
  20. “If you want to be certain, you should never get married, change jobs or attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett
  21. “When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton
  22. “You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
  23. “I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong
  24. “Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson
  25. “The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler
  26. “When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner
  27.  “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso
  28.   
  29. “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck
  30.  “Planning to write is not writing.  Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow
  31. “Time is the only coin of your life.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandberg
  32. “I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will be looking for some bit of fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins
  33. “There’s a trick I’m going to share with you.  I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it … so pay attention.  Don’t begin at the beginning.” – Lawrence Block
  34.  “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
  35. “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
  36. “If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May        Author John Kotter said, “Do you know the #1 precursor to change?  A sense of urgency.”  It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your ideas out in the world. What’s the story you’re born to tell? The knowledge you’d like to pass along?  The legacy message that could inspire others?  The time to share it is NOW.  Promise yourself you’ll sit down somewhere, sometime each day and take ten minutes to move your project forward. You will never regret getting your creative projects into the world. You will only regret not getting them out there … sooner.  As my mom used to tell me, “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.”        -   –   –   –   –   -

SAM HORN, CEO of the INTRIGUE AGENCY, TEDx speaker and 17-time Emcee of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference, helps people create one-of-a-kind projects – businesses, books, presentations, funding pitches –  that scale their influence for good.  Her work – including IDEApreneur, POP!, Tongue Fu!  andWashington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been endorsed by Stephen Covey, Dan Pink, Tony Robbins, Marshall Goldsmith and featured in Fast Company, New York Times, Forbes, INC.  Her inspiring keynotes receive rave reviews from NASA, Intel, Cisco, Accenture, National Geographic, EO, Four Seasons Resorts and Capital One.

Down with Elevator Speeches

“Enough about me.  What do you think about me?” – Bette Midler in the movie Beaches

While speaking at an INC 500 event, I introduced a new approach for replacing elevator SPEECHES with elevator CONNECTIONS.

sam tedx image

An entrepreneur named Colleen raised her hand and said, “I can’t figure out how to do this for my business.”

I asked what she normally said when meeting people. She started explaining her job, using technical terms like magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. None of us had any idea what she did.

I asked, “Want to brainstorm a better way to answer the ‘What do you do?’ question.”  She said a heartfelt “YES.”

“Okay, from now on, instead of EXPLAINING what you do (which is kind of like trying to explain electricity), focus on the real-world results of what you do that people can see or may have experienced.  What are those?“

She said, “Hmm.  Well, I run medical facilities that offer MRI’s and CT scans.”

“That’s better already because we can mentally picture what you’re talking about. It’s no longer conceptual or highly technical.  Plus, we probably know someone who has had an MRI or CT scan so now we can relate to it.

But don’t stop there. If you TELL people what you do, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation. We don’t want to CLOSE conversations, we want to OPEN conversations. You can do by asking a three-person question.”

“What’s this about a three-person question?”

“If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever had an MRI?’ and this person hasn’t, the conversation comes to an awkward dead-end. If you ask, ‘‘Have you, a friend, or a family member ever had an MRI?’ you just increased the likelihood they’ll know someone who is familiar with what you and your organization offers.”

“Okay, what next?” 

“You LISTEN.  Imagine the person says, ‘Yeah, my daughter hurt her knee playing soccer. She had an MRI.’ Just link what you do to what they just said. ‘Oh, I run the medical facilities that offer MRI’s … like the one your daughter had when she hurt her knee playing soccer.’

They’ll probably say an intrigued “Aaahh.” which is a lot better than an apathetic “Oh” or a confused “huh?” It means they GET what you do which means they’re more likely to remember you. As a bonus, if they ever need what you do, they’re more likely to contact you because people like to do business with people they know and like.”

She said, “Why is it so important to use the same words they used? I don’t want to parrot them.”

“Good point. I’m not suggesting we repeat what they said word for word. I’m suggesting we use a few of the same words because common language is what connects two strangers who, a moment ago, didn’t know if they had anything in common.”

She thanked me, sighed and said, “I wish someone had taught me this years ago.  I can’t wait to get back to work and share this with my staff.”

How about you?  What do YOU say when people ask, “What do you do?” What do your employees and team members say?

Think about it. Whether we like it or not, wherever we go, the people we meet will ask “What do you do?” And what we say MATTERS.  

That CEO’s inability to answer that question at the INC 500 conference could have meant millions of dollars in lost opportunity costs. She was surrounded by highly successful entrepreneurs, all in a position to partner with her, refer business to her or use her services. But that wasn’t going to happen because they didn’t know what she did – which meant they didn’t value it and wouldn’t remember it. 

Many people tell me they hate this question, for a variety of reasons. They don’t know how to answer it. They feel it pigeon-holes them and they don’t want to be defined by their job. They’re out of work. Or, they don’t have a position or profession people respect. Some tell me they dread “networking” because it means being subjected to a series of long-winded, boring, confusing elevator speeches.

I tell them, it can be helpful to realize that when people ask “What do you do?”, they’re not really trying to find out what you do; they’re trying to connect. They’re trying to identify what you have in common you both care about so they have a hook on which to hang a mutually-interesting conversation.

Which is why it’s so important to stop TELLING people what you do. An elevator speech is a monologue delivered in the presence of witnesses. A scripted, rehearsed-to-death elevator speech borders on being offensive because it’s a one-way lecture.

Elevator Speech

Instead, next time someone asks what you do, you might want to say, “I’d be happy to talk about what I do, and first may I find out more about you?” By giving other people an opportunity to go first, you’ve not only set a precedent that you’re genuinely interested in them and it’s not going to be “me, me, me;”  you’re sure to discover something relevant you can use to customize your opening so it reflects and integrates what you already know about them.  

When it’s your turn, remember, instead of launching into an explanation, ASK a three-person question that gives the other person an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – have experienced or benefitted from what you do.

Truly listen to their response, and then link what you do to what they just said.

Voila.  You’ve just created a two-way conversation (dialogue vs. a monologue) that is a lot more likely to lead to a mutually-meaningful CONNECTION.  Furthermore, you’re also acting as an eloquent ambassador for your profession because the people you meet will have new-found appreciation for the work you do and the positive difference it makes for so many.

Want to see how this is done?  Watch this TEDx talk and share it at your next staff meeting. Be sure to have paper and pen or your laptop ready so you can take notes on how to adapt this approach to upcoming, real-life situations.

The first example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce your idea or organization in a business setting where you’re trying to win buy-in, support, a green light or funding from decision-makers. The difference is,  by ASKING (a dialogue) instead of TELLING or SELLING (a monologue); you’re genuinely engaging people instead of lecturing them with INFObesity.

The second example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce yourself at networking events or conferences when you’re meeting people for the first time.

Hope you find this approach and short video useful, and they help you genuinely enjoy meeting people and create more mutually-rewarding connections that benefit all involved. 

-   –   – 

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create intriguing respectful, collaborative communications and projects that scale their influence – for good. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu! ConZentrate and Sam Horn’s Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone – has been featured in New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes and on NPR.  Her inspiring, interactive presentations receive raves from Intel, Cisco, NASA, National Geographic and Capital One. Contact Cheri Grimm at 805 528-4351if you’d like to arrange for Sam to speak at your convention or train your team.