7 Days of Writing Prompts to Unlock Your Untapped Potential

In the inaugural 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders, there were a handful of writing prompts that got the most vocal, most visceral responses from participants. What you’ll find below are a week’s worth of the most breakthrough-inducing prompts, the ones that most helped people detect and release their limiting factors.

7 Days of Writing Prompts to Unlock Your Untapped Potential

If you’re ready to unlock your own untapped potential and step more fully into who you were called to be, I believe these prompts will meet you right where you’re at. Try writing to one of these prompts each day for 7 days, ideally in order. Let me know how it goes!

Yours,
~T

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #1: The Struggle Is Real. Maybe. Wait a minute. . .

Is the struggle actually real? Is that saying really true? Write about how you know it is or is not, using an example of a struggle you’ve experienced in your own life.

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #2: Resistance is futile. And sometimes fatal.

In his truly life-changing book War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about the mortal enemy of dreams and creative beings everywhere: Resistance.

His concept of Resistance is a negative energy that arises when we take “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity.” He says the activities that most commonly spark Resistance are:

  1. “The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional”
  2. Entrepreneurial ventures
  3. Diet and health regimens
  4. “Any program of spiritual advancement”
  5. “Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals”
  6. “Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction”
  7. Education
  8. Any act of political, moral or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves,”

and the list goes on.

All of these things trigger Resistance. And what does Resistance look like? Pressfield says that Resistance includes any/all of the following:

Prompt: When was the last time you tried to do something that triggered Resistance? What did that look like? How does it feel to acknowledge this? To feel Resistance captured in words?

 

POD #3: Our Unlived Lives

Hey, guys – here’s a provocative thought from Dr. Jung:

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

—Carl Gustav Jung

In War of Art, Pressfield says:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Is he right? Do you have an unlived life within you? What is it? What does that look like?

Do you feel like your unlived life influences your children? Did your parents’ unlived lives influence yours?

Whew.! I know that one was deep. But it’s also important. I promise to go a little lighter tomorrow. Just a little.

 

POD #4: The Lies We Tell (Ourselves)

I was out with a friend the other day, and she said “I’ve done so many spontaneous things in the last week. That’s crazy, because I’m never spontaneous.”

Couple days later I was out with another friend, who was talking about running. Another woman in the conversation asked whether my friend was a runner. She said, “I wouldn’t say that, but I run.” I said, “I think the definition of a runner is someone who runs.” And she went, “Hmm. Then I guess I’m a runner!”

These are pretty innocuous examples, but they surface some interesting questions you can take as lightly or as deeply as you’d like:

What are you telling yourself, about yourself, that’s just not true?

What aren’t you giving yourself credit for?

What do you think you want to be or do or have—physically, spiritually or even emotionally—that you in fact already are, already do, or already have?

 

Prompt of the Day [POD] #5: Untether it!

If you know me, you know that one of my absolute most treasured life guidebooks of all time is Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul. I own multiple copies, and keep them lent out in rotation all the time.

There’s a principle in The Untethered Soul that I think is very worth catching, if it resonates for you. If it does nothing but ignite a spark of interest in reading the book, I’ll feel like the mission has been accomplished. Here’s an excerpt, which starts with Singer talking about what he calls “a basic human tendency”:

“When something painful touches your body, you tend to pull away instinctively. You even do this with unpleasant smells and tastes. The fact is, your psyche does the same thing. If something disturbing touches it, its tendency is to withdraw, pull back and to protect itself. It does this with insecurity, jealousy, and any of the other vibrations we’ve been discussing. In essence, you “close,” which is simply an attempt to put a shield around your inner energy.

. . .

Sometimes you will go through deep experiences that bring up intense pain inside of you. If it is in there, it is going to come up. If you have any wisdom, you will leave it alone and not try to change your life to avoid it. You will just relax and give it the space it needs to release and burn through you. To feel great love and freedom, to find the presence of God within you, all of this stored pain must go.

. . .

Remember, if you close around something, you will be psychologically sensitive about that subject for the rest of your life. Because you stored it inside of you, you will be afraid that it will happen again. But if you relax instead of closing it will work its way through you. If you stay open, the blocked energy inside of you will release naturally, and you will not take on any more.”

Here’s the prompt:

Are there subjects about which the people who know you would say you are psychologically sensitive? Things people avoid bringing up around you? Are there even smells, words, sounds or objects that bring up very painful memories for you?

How intense is the pain? What do you do to avoid triggering it? What would it feel like if you could be free of it? Would you be willing to allow it to come up and burn itself out?

Whew! That one was no joke. Love ya’ll.

 

POD #6: What do you do that no longer serves you?

What do you do that no longer serves you? What are you getting out of doing it? Are you attached to that? What would it take for you to release it?

And who would you be, if you released it?

 

POD #7: Handling Unfinished Business

One of the best gifts I’ve received from therapy and my daily writing practice has been the release from resentment and hurt from the past. Charlotte Kasl writes what I know, from experience is true: “as we feel the lightness that comes from clearing the air with others, we gain the courage to continue.”

I’d even go further and say that once you operate in what I like to call the free-and-clear, you can’t really turn back. You start to realize that unresolved resentments and conflicts take up residence in your body and your spirit, and you get to a place where you literally cannot tolerate unfinished business. The pain of dishonesty or of avoiding the hurt of dealing with unresolved messes becomes much greater than the pain of facing it and working things through.

Kasl writes: “to become aware of unfinished business in your life, ask yourself the following five questions.”

Here’s the prompt:

  1. Who comes to mind when I think of unresolved grief, hurt, or pain?
  2. To whom do I need to apologize?
  3. With whom do I need to talk over conflict and seek some form of resolution?
  4. To whom do I need to send thanks?
  5. What are the conclusions I’ve made about myself that relate to these situations?

Source: If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path, by Charlotte Kasl.

Wonderful Servants and Terrible Masters

Long ago, I adopted the belief that money is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.

This helped un-click a lot of the deep-down, limiting beliefs I held about money, wealth and business. It also helped me learn how to charge an appropriate price for my work and empowered me to make bold career moves that were driven by my life’s purpose, not by the money on the table.

To my surprise, taking the role of money down a notch and prioritizing purpose led me to levels of prosperity and abundance I’d never before imagined.  

More on that here: Why I Quit the Best Job I Ever Had

These days, I’m working with a similar/parallel belief shift around technology and social media. Like money, technology is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. Facebook can, in fact, ruin your life, but only if you let it run your life. Email will make you crazy, too, if you let it. But these tools, and your smartphone and all the rest, have unlocked incredible levels of progress, connectedness and productivity for all of humanity as well. And they can continue to, so long as we keep them in their place as servants, and never let them become the boss of us.

What are the things in your world that cause you stress or you dread dealing with, but that you must deal with on an everyday basis? Are there any of them you are letting be the boss of you, instead of you mastering them?

Does money drive your decisions? Does technology dictate how you spend your time? Does your mind and its chatter run your life, or do you put your mind to its highest and best use?

Fill in the blank: In my life, ________________________ is a wonderful servant, and a terrible master.

And more importantly: how might your life look differently if you were able to live the above statement out?

P.S.: NEW BOOK ALERT – My new book, The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Your Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser, is available for pre-order on Amazon NOW! Order it and email your receipt to tara at transformationalconsumer dot com to receive bonuses like my Content Strategy and Customer Journey Mapping Templates. 

 

#DeleteUber and #DownloadLyft: Manifesto Marketing in the Time of Trump

Understatement alert: it’s been an eventful 11 days since the Inauguration. This weekend’s Executive Order (EO) on immigration sparked righteous outrage and alarm at the order’s unabashed defiance of the Constitution, compassion, order and the values on which America was founded.

#DeleteUber and #DownloadLyft: Manifesto Marketing in the Time of Trump

But the EO also sparked a brand war, epicentered at JFK airport. There, the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance organized a one-hour cab strike, both because the 19,000 members of the Alliance are largely Muslim and largely immigrants, and to express their solidarity with those protesting the ban.

Uber reacted swiftly, announcing that despite the spike in demand, they would get rid of surge pricing for cars serving JFK.

The company says it was trying to avoid the appearance of profiting from the immigration ban and resulting protests, as it has been accused of profiting from natural disasters and other strikes in the past.

But the Internet interpreted the Uber announcement differently. Many viewed it as Uber’s effort to break the cab drivers’ strike. Within hours, the hashtag #DeleteUber took off. One of the earliest tweets with this hashtag was retweeted over 23,000 times last weekend, and also included the hashtag #DownloadLyft.

The response of Uber’s little-guy competitor, Lyft, to the immigration ban took a different course. The company sent out an email to customers making a pledge of $1 million over 4 years to the ACLU and stating boldly that “We stand firmly against [Trump’s] actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.

Lyft started the weekend at #39 in the iTunes App Store. By the end of the weekend, Lyft was in the top 10. This was the first time Lyft has ever surpassed Uber for downloads. Ever.

Manifesto marketing is real and it really “works.” But it is not a stunt. Some have accused Lyft of using the opportunity of Uber’s misstep to deploy the ACLU pledge as a “marketing stunt.”

It is marketing. But it is not a stunt.

The umbrella of marketing encompasses any and every communication or interaction between a company and its customers, which this clearly was. But calling it a stunt implies that it was a one-off project cooked up by the marketing team to drive a quick hit of increased business.

This was not that. This is what I call Manifesto Marketing in my new book, The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair With Your Customers By Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser (March 1, 2017; Berrett-Koehler Publishers).  Manifesto Marketing is a phenomenon that takes place when a business makes a bold statement about their motivations, values and beliefs outside the scope of the product they actually sell or the industry they operate in. Manifesto Marketing is a way that companies signal what they stand for to consumers who share those values. Manifesto Marketing works, in that it magnetically creates a loyal tribe of a company and its customers around an issue. But it is not a one-off thing.

Manifesto Marketing is risky, and real. (Witness: the boycotts of Target after its support of LGBT communities and issues.)

Lyft’s ACLU pledge is Manifesto Marketing because Lyft didn’t have to say anything on this matter. And they still would have probably seen a bump from #deleteUber. But they took the risk.

This is Manifesto Marketing, vs. a marketing stunt, because Lyft didn’t do any of the things it would have done if it were trying to optimize this announcement for downloads. Lyft didn’t send their ACLU pledge first to TechCrunch or the New York Times. It sent it to existing customers. [Side note: Uber eventually pledged to create a $3 million defense fund for their own immigrant drivers. Consumers didn’t seem to notice too much.]

This is Manifesto Marketing because it’s bold and principled. It was not designed with the first objective of driving sales or business. Google’s statement on the EO said essentially that Google disliked the impact of the ban on Google’s employees. Mark Zuckerberg praised immigrants in general, but then said simply that he was “concerned” about the impact and direction of the EO.

Consider this: Mark Zuckerberg has very publicly backed the Black Lives Matter movement, but the most he, the CEO of behemoth Facebook, was willing to say on the EO is that it he’s “concerned”. Having been on the executive team of a tech company, I can beyond doubt assure you that in no way did the marketing team at Lyft unilaterally spin up such a bold statement of disapproval of the EO and a $1 million donation to the ACLU for PR purposes alone.

The Lyft statement and pledge is Manifesto Marketing because it took the risks inherent in taking the stand. It risked losing customers that disagree, on principle, with the statement of values it made. This risk is real; Starbucks was the subject of a boycott after pledging to employ 10,000 refugees. And it made the bold statement anyway, much bolder and more clearly than companies like Google and Facebook were willing to make.

TREND: Spotted – Customers and employees will increasingly cry out for companies to state what they stand for. Simon Sinek says that people don’t buy what you sell, they buy WHY you sell it. I’d take this way further: people buy WHY you sell it, they buy HOW you sell it, they also buy WHAT you believe and hold dear and they also buy HOW you operate as a corporate citizen of this country, of our world.

I distill consumer insights for a living. In particular, I focus on helping companies design their marketing, content and products to fulfill the demands of a massive, growing customer segment I call The Transformational Consumer. These people comprise over 50% of the American consumer base, and they spend over $4 trillion a year in their efforts to live healthier, wealthier, wiser lives. Their “wealthier” aspiration includes the desire to be ever-better stewards of the money they spend, and “wiser” encompasses their effort to become more fully actualized humans, more conscious citizens of the world.

I spent a good chunk of last weekend doing what I do, observing the trends and natural language patterns of people around the web as they reacted to the EO and to these companies’ actions.

So let me sound the alarm to executives and entrepreneurs: consumers and especially Transformational Consumers, will increasingly demand and require companies to take a stand on these major cultural and political issues, in addition to providing truly transformational products and services, in exchange for their loyalty and brand love.

Think about this: only 26% of the voting American public actually voted for President Trump. Americans feel a dramatic leadership vacuum right now. They are looking for how to live out their own version of activism in these times, which is why over a million of them showed up to march over inauguration weekend. They are looking to connect with the other people and personalities that also stand for what they see as pure and sacred, which is why you see such viral spread of the comments by Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, now-Former President Obama and Facebook communities like Pantsuit Nation.

And they are looking for the business and tech leaders to speak on these issues, too, from the heroic perches we’ve placed them, as a culture. This outcry may seem misplaced or scary, but it also creates an opportunity to connect and engage with customers about something bigger than any product or brand. That’s what consumers want and need right now. The companies that give it to them, like Lyft did this weekend, will reap the benefits.

You can’t build a truly transformational company without taking a stand. By definition, transformational companies and transformational leaders use their products, their services and their presence in the marketplace to change the way we live and operate as a society. This is why they exist and how they show up in the world: to spot things that need change, and then to facilitate that change.

You can’t be bold, expressive and flow freely in one area, and be shutting down or repressing yourself in another area; the seams will burst. And the same goes for companies: if you claim that your company is all about innovating to create needed change, the only way to optimize for that objective is to integrate bold statements and actions in favor of a conscious world deeply into your company’s internal and external messages.

This is part of why employee disengagement is so rampant. most companies are either not transformational at all, or are hypocritical in giving lip service to being “disruptive”. Gartner says that over 70% of American employees rank somewhere on the disengagement spectrum between bored and actively, toxically hateful about their work and their employer. Transformational Consumers are employees, too, and they are tired of working *just* to make a big, rich company bigger and richer. They want to work for a company that is working on a problem bigger than that, and for companies that stand for more than just creating another revenue-generating widget.

The long game of Manifesto Marketing I had one more major insight while doing online listening this weekend to analyze consumer natural language patterns and conversations around this real-time battle between brands and values: Manifesto Marketing is a long game, and a cumulative one.

Clearly, this weekend was a dramatic moment in time, for both Uber and Lyft (and the world, for that matter). But on social media, many who followed the rallying cry to #deleteUber said that this weekend was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back for them. They expressed that they had been increasingly concerned about what they saw as a pattern of bad behavior by the company and its CEO.

This weekend was just the nail in the coffin.

And the opposite was true, too. The conversation around the #downloadLyft hashtag includes much chatter about Lyft’s pledge, but also their general reputation for treating drivers well and, namely, better than Uber treats theres.

The most powerful Manifesto Marketing doesn’t happen in a moment. It’s an ongoing cadence, an accumulation of statements, actions and messages, internally and externally, over time. Everything communicates. Everything. Transformational Consumers are watching what you say and what you do, as a company, all the time. And they lean, in general, toward being pretty forgiving of the companies that make truly transformational products, as many had been with Uber before the weekend.

They are forgiving. Until they’re not.

Trust is earned in drips and lost in buckets, the old adage goes. It turns out that so are brand love, loyalty, downloads and dollars.

ABOUT: Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the author of The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair With Customers By Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser. She is the CEO of TCI, a marketing, content strategy and leadership development firm that creates transformational experiences for conscious leaders, businesses + customers.

Join her newsletter or her next 30 Day Challenge for Conscious Leaders at taranicholle.com.

Tara is the former VP, Marketing for MyFitnessPal and Under Armour Connected Fitness. She has been featured in The New York Times and was recently named the #1 woman Silicon Valley tech companies should be naming to their boards by Business Insider.

The Four Agreements That Break Through Fear and Restore Your Energy [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 23]

I love this term I learned from Dr. Henry Cloud: decathexis. I’d never heard it anywhere before, and have never heard it since, but it’s a powerful concept that is now a part of the way I experience life.

The Four Agreements That Break Through Fear and Restore Your Energy

Cathexis is the injection, the investment, of your time, energy, money or other resources into a relationship, a project, or an initiative. Into anything, really. 

Decathexis is that recoup, that reclamation, that restoration of that time, energy, money or resources that comes back to you when you withdraw your attention from a project or relationship, when you reprioritize it, or when you flat-out quit it entirely.

I’ve written before about how, when I want to work on a big project or prioritize something in my life, I use decathexis as a tool for finding the energy, time or money I need. I get intentional about what I can stop doing, stop it, feel the swoosh of detaches restoring the resources back to me, then I intentionally apply them to the other things I want to focus on. 

But in this season of my life, I’m very aware that detaches is not just for projects and people. It happens with beliefs, too. The beliefs that come from fear are generally very, very energy-depleting. The love-based beliefs, on the other hand, are very energizing. Even when they require you to expend a lot of energy and to take a lot of action, the beliefs and the resulting actions tend to churn up more energy than they require. The energy around love-based beliefs is self-renewing.

Many of our cultural beliefs, family beliefs and even self-talk beliefs are driven by fear. A wise man named don Miguel Ruiz has crafted a set of Four Agreements that help us break fear-based beliefs and, in the process, tap into incredible stores of energy, joy and enthusiasm for each other and for life. 

The First Agreement is to be impeccable with your word. That means to do what you say you will do, but much more importantly, it means to respect the power of your words, to create life or death and destruction. Once you realize how powerful your word is, the First Agreement means to only use your words in the direction of love, for yourself and for others. 

don Ruiz says this Agreement is the most important one, and the hardest to follow. If you can practice it consistently, though, it has the power to break the spells and dramas that the lies of fear and culture create around our lives. 

The Second Agreement is to never make assumptions. I think “never” is extreme, as the Four Agreements are aspirational, and require constant, lifelong practice. So many interpersonal dramas arise from our assumptions about what the other person meant, or what must be going on in their heads or their minds. The Second Agreement is a mandate to practice clear communication, never guessing at what someone else thinks and, instead, asking as many questions as we need to, in every situation, in order to have as clear a communication as possible.

Awhile back, I came to believe that it’s my own job in this life, first and foremost, to attend to and manage my own feelings and life. I can never 100% know what someone else thinks and feels. And vice versa. My job is to manage my own feelings and beliefs, and to get and stay clear on the sort of person I want to be in this life. Then, my job is to act in ways I believe will lift the people in my life up without feeling responsible or trying to control what any other being, human or canine, thinks, feels or does. 

The Third Agreement is to take nothing personally; nothing. But the principle here requires first that you understand this: nothing anyone else does is about you. Ever. We are all living our own dreams based on our own history and our own Agreements, internal and external. However, usually when someone expresses a nice opinion of us, we get elated. And when they criticize us, we get upset. A stunning share of human drama arises when we allow others’ opinions of us to determine how we feel. 

The final, and Fourth, Agreement is simple: to always do your best. The upshot of this one is that making the commitment to do your best, in every situation, is the single most powerful way to eliminate regret in your life, another fear-based, energy-zapping emotion. It’s also essential to eliminating another source of drama: comparing yourself to others. Key to realizing the benefits of this Agreement is accepting the reality that your best will change from day to day. Your best when you’re sick, for example, is likely to be very different from your best when you’re in fine mettle.

Today is a case in point for me, for the power of the Fourth Agreement. I’ve committed to publishing every day for 30 days, so I am. I haven’t stockpiled any posts or cheated in any other way; every post I’m publishing this 30 days is a post I wrote on the day I published it. But today is the very, very rare day that I’m actually sick. Burn-ey sore throat, doctor’s visit, the whole nine. So this post won’t be the post in which I share my richest examples and insights around the Four Agreements. What I’m doing actually is noticing the contrast between how I feel today and how I feel the vast majority of the time, and being grateful for that contrast. But I am also doing my best for today, and posting this post is that best, for today.

Tomorrow will be a whole new day. And my best then will be a different best.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 23 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

What I Shed This Year [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 13]

Today is my birthday. My forty-first birthday. I am so intensely grateful right now. I have talked a lot about how this season in my life has been one of unfurling, releasing, and stripping back to the pure power and brilliance at my center. (It’s really at all of our center.) This has been a season of transcendence, of rising above all sort of historical limitations and past dramas and just even recent levels.

I usually have a sort of high-minded, spirit-filled imagery and vocabulary around this work and play and journey, but I recently saw a quote that does an extraordinary job of articulating what I’ve been experiencing. It’s a quote from a character from the Toni Morrison book, Song of Solomon. The character, Guitar, explains to another character, Milkman, why a peacock can’t fly any better than a chicken.

“Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

This. This perfectly conveys how I came to be able to do so much flying in my life and my work this year. I started shedding the shit that weighed me down. I didn’t slam it down or wrench it off. At 41, I’ve learned to release and to shed. Here are some of the things I shed this year.

I shed a lot of polish. I shed invulnerability. I shed persona. I slowly started to show up as 100% of who I am in more and more and more areas of my life. I revealed a lot of my journey, not just the endpoint. I opened up my soul in a big, big way.

I shed perfectionism. I shed a lot of comparison. I realized not just logically, but deep in my spirit, I had a shift

I shed a lot of hesitation about doing this. I realized that another thing Anne Lamott

I shed a lot of hesitation, period. I shed hesitation around fully, completely adoring myself, and my beautiful world and life. I shed hesitation about acknowledging how much mastery I’ve developed over my experience of this world. I shed the hesitation to fully appreciate my own magnificence and worthiness. I received these things. Fully. Without hesitation. Regardless of circumstances. I practice this every single day.

I shed “apologetic”. I more and more, every day, am able to receive the privileges of my divine inheritance, of my divine intelligence, of my beautiful life and time, without apology, without resistance.

I shed a few tears, and that was beautiful, because I’ve always been afraid of feeling sad. This year I was not. And what freedom that is, to be able to let all sorts of emotions come up, flow through, and flow out, without creating new spiritual sticking points or touchiness or triggers.

I shed even more conformity than I already had. I shed the need to participate in a bunch of cultural and societal nonsense.

I shed a lot of what my therapist would call outdated operating systems. It was work, but I released some stuff that had served me, had served my family, even, for generations, but was no longer serving me now. I shed grievance after grievance after grievance. I shed unlove. I shed some beliefs that were holding me apart from what I want and deserve. I shed some things I’d been holding to, literally since childhood.

I shed the habit of occasionally, but grandly, getting in my own way, in a big way. I shed the need to delude myself that it’s even possible to know 100% how things would come out before I do them. (Ha!) I shed the need to have any reason to do things other than that I love them, and enjoy them and find them spiritually rewarding.

I shed fogginess. I received so much clarity.

I shed layers. SO many layers. Layers of “should”. Layers of encumbrance. I realized what I’m here to do, and then I contradicted myself for awhile, trying to do things I thought were smart or more legitimate. But I’ve shed a lot of that, and I’m now in a space of attunement and alignment with what I want to do, what I’m great at doing, what people receive great value from. What I receive great joy from doing.

This year, I shed the need to figure everything out, to force things to happen, to make things happen, to do nose to grindstone, to try so so hard. To do machinations, to use a friend’s favorite word. I realized that the best things in my life were certainly effortful, but effortful in an easeful, expansive way. In a way of allowing things to happen.

I shed a lot of impatience.

I had a lot of fun.

And I’m about to have way more. Way. Join me!

XO
~T

What is Your Real Limiting Factor? [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 12]

Working out is a core part of who I am and what I do. I’ve done some version of almost every workout you can imagine, and I’ve worked out all over the world. I recently spent an evening boxing with a bunch of teenagers in Belgium, and I’m delighted to say I was pulled to the front of the class! (That showed them. Actually, I’m pretty sure they didn’t care, but I was extremely impressed with myself.)

So when I was asked recently to recall my favorite workout ever, I took the question very, very seriously. But it didn’t take long for me to come up with the answer.

I could actually visualize the day, the performance boot camp, at a training studio near my home.

I could see in my mind’s eye the instructor, a physical therapist with a buzz cut, military straight posture, and a mischievous grin that spread across his face as he stood before the ten of us participants and announced the theme of the day’s workout:

“The Construction and Destruction of Civilization.”

“Oh boy,” I whispered under my breath, with equal parts excitement and concern.

The instructor, Brian, briefed us on each station of the circuit as he walked around the former bank parking lot that had been retrofitted with monkey bars, 30 pound sandbags, kettlebells and a tractor tire. “At station one,” he said, “you’ll haul each of these sandbags up this set of stairs. At station two, you’ll continue ‘construction’ by doing the Turkish getup with the kettlebell,” he went on, referring to a crowd-pleasing exercise in which a single repetition involves 13 or 14 steps, depending on who you ask.

“Then, you’ll cross the timeline of history on the monkey bars, at the next station. And at station four, you’ll continue that journey by doing walking lunges with the kettlebell weight of your choice. You following me, guys? Great! The next station will be a run from here to the rainbow sherbet colored house at the end of the block and back. And then the final two stations will destroy civilization, with sledgehammer swings to the tire, first on the right side, then on the left.”

“Hey Brian,” I shouted out, trying to figure out which mental strategy I’d need to use to do my best on this drill, “how long will we spend at each station?”

“That’s the best part!” he replied, eyes gleaming. “These stations are not for time. The person who runs to the rainbow sherbet house is your time limiting factor. Everyone else will keep doing what they’re doing until that person runs down and back.”

At this, a murmur passed through our ranks – a former college track star, a current pro basketball player, two zero bodyfat soccer Mom types, a couple recovering Crossfitters and me, a marketing consultant – as we gave each other looks of encouragement and, well, threat.

The Power of Understanding Your Limiting Factor

Now, you might not be familiar with the concept of a “limiting factor”, so let’s pause here for just a moment. In any scientific discipline, the limiting factor is the single variable that most limits, slows or constrains an organism’s growth or a system’s other activities. For example, until the Agricultural Revolution, food was the limiting factor on human population growth.

You can think of the limiting factor as that thing which most constrains or slows something down. So in our boot camp, the rate of that one person’s run would keep everyone else climbing the stairs, lunging, or swinging the sledgehammer until they made it to the sherbet house and back. The runner’s pace, then, would be the limiting factor for the time each station would last, for all of us.

At a glance, it seems like the limiting factor of any system would be its weakness, its most vulnerable point. But the truth is that there is great strength hidden within the knowledge of any system’s limiting factor. If you can pinpoint the limiting factor of any system, then you can focus on understanding and solving for that constraint, unlocking or expanding it.

If you want to increase the capacity of any organism, system, business or even person to grow, you must find its limiting factor and unconstrain it. Therein lies the key to unlimiting anything.

The challenge is that the more moving parts there are to a system, the less obvious it is which of them is the true limiting factor. The easier it is to get distracted and focus on the wrong thing.

For example, on that Construction/Destruction boot camp course, most people assumed that the speed of the runner was the limiting factor, and that there’s not much any of us could change about that. But I’d worked out with Brian many times, and I knew better. Just the preceding week, in fact, we non-runners had worked ourselves to exhaustion waiting on a newbie boot camper who, it turned out, had run to the wrong house: a house a mile away, vs. the quarter-mile distance to and from the legitimate sherbet house.

So that day, I pulled out my secret weapon and shared it with my colleagues: the street number of the house we were supposed to be running to and from.

Understand the true limiting factor of a system, and you can un-limit anything.

The more I grow and experience in this life, the more I choose to invest my time, money and energy into things that remove limiting factors off my life, myself as a person, my companies, my finances, my skills and my relationships. Find the limitation, remove it. Find it, remove it.

Doing this systematically, over and over again, increases our capacity for life, for living, for fulfillment and for joy. It creates growth and expands possibilities. If and when you do it right, this becomes a game. It’s still hard, but this is a fun way to grow, because you’re not so fixated on a specific factual outcome. Building capacity and removing limits becomes the sport of the day. It’s not hard and cranky and struggle and grindy. The name of the game is remove limits, increase capacity and see what’s next, then make that the sport of the day.

The thing is, you have to make sure you’re focused on the true limiting factors. A lot of times we think our limitations are our circumstances: the boss that won’t pay us what we deserve, our bills, our lack of savings, our medical condition, or the fact that we have kids or an underwater house that keeps us in a place we’d rather not be. I’ve found that our circumstances are almost never our true limiting factors. Our real limitations are most often our outlook, skills,  mindset, or inability to tune in, with clarity, to what we’re really here to do.

At times I’ve focused on healing my emotional wounds, because I saw the fact that I was often triggered and tended to isolate myself as my biggest limits. Once, I had to focus on my claustrophobia, as it was stopping me from doing things in my life I wanted and needed to do. At other times, I’ve focused on consistency as the limiting factor I needed to remove. I’ve working on eliminating relationship patterns like not asking for what I need, being overly self-reliant or trying to save the world, when they were limiting my love and ease and joy.

Other times, my limiting factor has been much more concrete: my foot speed, my ability to get a full night’s sleep, or my acid reflux. Focus on it, remove and release it. Move right on along.

Sometimes I’ve worked on my strategy skills, or on the way I communicate or on thickening my skin to some things and becoming more transparent about others. I find that the limiting factors tend to show up in the form of themes in the feedback that I hear from others or the things I want to do or build that don’t work, over and over again, until I opt-out of that limiting factor. And sometimes that opt-out is instant. Other times, it takes years.

You know by now that I see my two dogs as my teachers. I’ll close with a lesson I learned from them years ago, when they were tiny baby puppies, small enough to hold them both in my two palms. I got the girls when they were six weeks old and had them potty trained in another two weeks, after an intense program I’d cobbled together from my online research. As soon as they ate, they went outside, and didn’t come back in until I’d counted two #1s and two #2s.

I noticed that when the girls started walking about in little manic circles, it was a sign they needed to and were about to go #2. This was a life lesson to me: when you get stuck or feel like you’re going around in circles, it might be time to eliminate something. In my experience, what you’re ready to eliminate in those stuck-circling times is often your limiting factor. Have fun!

Fiat Lux: Let there be light [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 10]

I was on the UC Berkeley website today, looking for something or other. I noticed a lovely couple of words at the bottom of the site: Fiat Lux. I thought I knew what it meant, and a quick Google proved me right. Fiat Lux is the simplified Latin for “Let there be light.” Fiat lux is the motto of the entire University of California system, and it has been since 1883.

I went down the rabbit hole, and realized that many institutions of higher education, secular and religious alike, use this phrase or some version of it as a credo, or organizing principle. The
phrase originally comes from Genesis 1:3. But the light the mottos refer to is not sunlight; it’s the light of knowledge.

The online brand guide for the University of California system reads, in part:

“The Seal of The Regents contains the words “The Seal of The University of California, 1868” displayed in an arc on the inner rim of the design. In the center, a book is open to a page marked with the letter “A”. The book symbolizes the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the letter “A” signifies the beginning of wisdom. A streamer carrying the words of the University motto, “Fiat Lux,” flows across the lower portion of the book. “Fiat Lux” is translated from the Latin as “Let There Be Light.” Above the book, a five-pointed star with rays of light streaming downward symbolizes the discovery and dissemination of knowledge.”

Back in the 1800s, your seal and motto served the same purpose as vision and mission statements do today. They communicated to your audiences, internally and externally, what you wanted to create, what impact you wanted to have on the world. And they also helped you clearly convey what activities you would do over and over again to create that impact, to bring about the “after” state of the world you envision.

This motto and seal reflected the original vision of the Regents who created the UC system. Their message was that they wanted to create generation after generation of fledgling, wise humans. If they were successful doing what they wanted to do, the result would be “the beginning of wisdom.” Not full-blown, full-fledged wisdom itself. They envisioned being the launchpad for wisdom, not the endpoint for it. I wonder whether this sort of vision statement would ever fly in today’s world, where every organization claims to aim to have the fix for All That Ails the World.

If “the beginning of wisdom” was the vision of the Regents, what was their mission? What were the activities they were planning to do over and over again to create little baby wisdom in the students they served? The accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, which I think means teaching, instruction, education of students. And the discovery and dissemination of knowledge, which probably refers to research and sharing of the results of that research.

I loved learning this, taking this few moments today to stash away a few more facts in my mental Rolodex for my someday plans to appear on Jeopardy. But I couldn’t help but wonder whether the thinking that engaging teaching and research would place students in the starting blocks for the path to wisdom was actually correct.

Of course, knowledge sheds light. Knowledge has value. But knowledge can also create its own form of darkness. This is especially true when the knowledge transmitted seeks to settle, shape or form who we are in some direction other than who we are meant to be. Think of all the writers and inventors who have been tamed into functionaries and day job holders. And it’s also true when our knowledge seeks to tamp us down or otherwise dial down the level of our spiritual shine. Think of Hillary Clinton saying she was taught not to wave her hands when she spoke, because it made men nervous. Think of all of us who have been told we’re too much, and to settle down or simmer down and think this way, speak this way, and whatever you ever do, don’t ask questions, don’t take up space and don’t be so LOUD.

In some traditions, human knowledge itself symbolizes darkness, though that might sound backwards to us. In the story of the Garden of Eden, the forbidden fruit was the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because it brought knowledge of evil along with the knowledge of good, and it sparked Adam and Eve’s first experience of shame at their pure, beautiful, natural state. And it made them susceptible to the lies and division wrought by that nasty serpent.

In the same vein, writer and teacher don Miguel Ruiz says that our entire lives are our own, individual dreams we build based on Agreements: Beliefs or “knowledge” we are taught by our parents, teachers and culture from the time we are very young. Unfortunately, many of those beliefs are lies, starting with the lie that we are only “good” if we obey, and that we are “bad” if we do things our minders don’t want us to do. He encourages us to experiment with unlearning the false knowledge, unseating ourselves the false Agreements, and then starting over with four core Agreements, aspirations that do lead to wise living:

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Never make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of education. I have a passel of degrees myself. Maybe it’s preciselyy because I have them, and because of the life I’ve lived since I earned them, that I agree wholeheartedly with the Regents that knowledge is only the precursor to wisdom. It can put you on the path, but it takes experience to move you forward.

I also agree with don Miguel that sometimes we have to unlearn what we know, or think we know, about the world and about ourselves before we can even get in the waiting room of the house in which wisdom dwells. The irony is that only when experience inspires us to un-teach and unlearn the false knowledge can we find what was there all along: our innate goodness, and an internal wisdom far deeper and more beautiful than anything we can study. Fiat lux.

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. I wrote this post on Day 10 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

Spiritual Contrarianism: What happens when the rules don’t apply to you [30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 6]

I recently spent a week in Brussels, Belgium. I spent the week in a three-story, 17th century home with a few folks, locals, all researchers and professors. One morning I woke up to a mini-hullaballo taking place because one woman had been awarded an academic prize, including a small stipend, for a paper she’d written.

Normally, this chick is the kind of person my friend Rebecca would describe as “salty”: generally predisposed to crank and irritation.

But this morning, she was literally flushed with excitement. With joy and victory. Her housemates seemed pretty meh about the whole thing. But I asked her to tell me about the prize, and by about 30 seconds in I’d caught her exhilaration like it was contagious.

Mind you, this mood, which was so out of character for her, is basically how I feel when I roll out of bed most mornings. If she wanted to be exuberant with company, she had definitely chosen well to do it on a day I was in the house.

My heart nearly melted when she re-read the award email, smiled as broadly as humanly possible, looked up and said to me, with her Slovenian accent: “I feel like EVERYTHING is possible.”

Me: “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, honey. Work.”

Her: Visibly deflating. Sigh. “But I know that’s a lie.”

Me: Screech, pump the brakes, sister. “Nope. Not it’s not. Everything IS possible. I know. I’ve experienced it.”

Her housemate: *pointing at me, eye roll at the ready: “Remember, she’s American.”

Me: “Hey, guys? My great-great grandparents were slaves. I am a Black girl with braids in my hair, I had a kid when I was 17 years old. And here I am, fresh from island-hopping through Croatia, hanging out in Belgium, heading to Amsterdam. I travel the world when I want to. I do unreasonably fun work and make a ton of money. I eat beautiful things everyday, and every cell of my body cooperates with me – I’m in better health at 40 than most 20 year olds I meet. I have a gorgeous home, and am generally protected and provided for by the God who created the Universe. EVERYTHING, about my life is a miracle. Every single moment is the dream of my ancestors. So, yes. I’m American, and you know what? Even that is a wild blessing, come to think of it. But also everything actually is possible. You can’t tell me it’s not. Get it.”

Now, even in that moment, it did strike me that this was possibly a little intense for the breakfast table. But my experience has been that statistics and culture and what’s normal for your family and your friends will tell you to manage your expectations, and create a limited understanding of what’s possible for you. And that is one way to look at it. But it’s only one way.

It would be unconscionable for me to live the life I live every day and also believe that the limited-possibilty way is the only way. Because almost every single area of my life defies statistics and defies culture and defies what’s “normal” and defies “reasonable” expectations. And I am intensely aware of it and humbled and grateful for it. Deeply, deeply grateful.  

So, humor me. What if I’m right?  What if you’re a miracle? And what if the statistics about what’s possible don’t apply to you. What if the rules don’t apply?

I don’t believe they apply to me. And I don’t believe they don’t apply on grounds that I somehow deserve amazing things that others don’t. Nor do I believe this on grounds that I am just great, excellent, disciplined and brilliant (and cute), although I am all of those things.

But you can be all of those things and not experience supernatural health, prosperity and restoration. I was all of those things and had my entire ass handed to me in life. For real.

What I know beyond doubt is that the grace of God has shown up over and over and over again in my life. It’s what we call undeserved favor at church. I’ve experienced dozens, hundreds, probably thousands of circumstances, “coincidences”, synchronicities, opportunities, relationships and alignments sliding together over the years, all lining up in a way that all have worked together for my good.

And sure, I showed up. I show up, present tense, on the regular. I do the work. I go hard in the paint, as my ball-playing nieces say. I have a spirit of excellence. I am disciplined. I take risks. I work on myself. A lot. 

But it’s not all me. And thank God for that. 

God’s grace was when 16-year-old me went to see my high school principal in the Spring of my junior year. I went in to tell her I was pregnant and to ask for her advice. God’s grace was when she said: “I wasn’t planning to tell you this, but you’ve actually had enough credits to graduate for awhile now. You’ve been getting extra credits for all your AP Classes and those night classes you’ve been taking at the college.”

God’s grace abounded when she made a call to the local University and they immediately admitted me, on a full scholarship, on grounds of my GPA and her advocacy, no SAT necessary. It was definitely God’s grace when the University assigned me a Professor/Mentor who’d also been a teenage Mom. At our first meeting, this Mentor of mine told me she knew my 16-year-old, 6-month pregnant self would be going to graduate school, so she would be preparing me for that from day 1. And it was God’s grace every single day for years, when she did in fact prepare me and I did in fact get a Master’s degree, at 22 years old with a 6 year old son.

God’s grace was that time the registrar at the now-long-defunct Bakersfield School of Law receiving my Law School Admissions Test results, ringing me on the phone and breaking it down for me, saying “Honey, you scored at the 98%th percentile. Listen to me. YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL HERE. You can go to school anywhere. Every school will let you in. Half of them will pay you to go. Pick where you want to be.” God’s grace fast-forwarded me, in that moment, from the likely Valedictorian of the Bakersfield School of Law to a full scholarship to UC Berkeley School of Law.

God’s grace was when I thought I was wrapping up a 3-month consulting gig at MyFitnessPal, presented the CEO with a proposed org chart and he said “you can hire anyone on this chart you want except the VP of Marketing, because that’s your job.” And when, after offering me that job six more times over the next six months, he said “Take this job. I’ll make it the best job you’ve ever had.” It was God’s grace when I believed him. And when we were acquired 2 years later, catching me up financially from being an effective-single Mom for years, from having been in the real estate business during the real estate recession, and much more.

This is just a few examples. I could literally do this all day.

Some people say they wish this whole grace thing was true, but struggle to wrap their heads around it. I encourage them not to bother, and to try wrapping their hearts around it instead. I know folks that struggle with the use of a word as simple as “grace” to indicate a phenomenon so out-of-our hands, so beyond the natural laws we all agree exist and so life-changing.

So let’s call it something fancy. I’m a marketer, after all; let’s “brand” it. I like to think of it as spiritual contrarianism.

What would happen if we experimented with this spiritual contrarianism for awhile? But like, only when it really, really serves us.

What if we decided to just flat-out disagree and stopped playing along every time culture says we shouldn’t be able to do something? Or that something isn’t really possible for you because you’re Black/white/male/female/too young/too fat/too aggressive or just too TOO much for people?

Or that we should fixate and ruminate and constantly complain about what’s wrong with people and the things that pain us? Or that we should outsource our peace and serenity and ability to fully be who we are to, say, ISIS or Donald Trump or the Drama of the Day, versus showing up, doing the responsible adult thing (e.g., helping refugees, voting, etc.) and then doing the work of living our lives to the best of our ability?

What if we turned this whole storyline around? What if we decided that we can actually experience some ease and joy regardless of our current circumstances and conditions? Actually, what if we decided that basically any circumstance we’re experiencing now could and even would turn around to our advantage?

What would it look like if we were able to feel that rush of All Things are Possible and Everything is Working out for Me all the time? Not based on the present conditions of our world. What if we decided, like we say at church, that praise precedes the victory, meaning you have to sit in a place of faith and belief that you will win in life before you actually can?

There are non-religious versions of this principle, too, if that’s your jam. Vibration precedes manifestation, for the woo woo. You must believe it before you can achieve it, for the more pragmatic.

Here’s what would happen. First off, we would just feel better a lot of the time than we do in our normal tendency to fixate and ruminate on what is, versus what is possible. And we wouldn’t lose anything by virtue of no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop or worrying about what bad could happen. The Bible poses a question we can all grasp the meaning of, regardless of faith: “ Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?”

I’ll wait. . . . . mmmhmm. That’s what I thought. Me, either.

Real talk: what would happen if we practiced this spiritual contrarianism is something called transcendence. I like to think of this as opting out of unnecessary drama and beliefs that pain or limit us, just because we want to. I also like to think of it as opting into freedom, dwelling in possibility and allowing grace to track us down and do what it does.

We can do this, and have this. But we must be intentional about opting into possibility. We must be conscious about the words we use, especially the way we talk to and about ourselves. We must be intentional about the people we surround ourselves with, the content we take in. We must be disciplined about what we allow to take root in our spirit and fester, and about what hurts and experiences we excavate and release.

When I look in the mirror most mornings, after I admire my eyebrows and whisper sweet somethings in my own ear, something occurs to me. It occurs to me that most girls who look like me around the world could never dream of living the daily life I live. And I inwardly vow to make the most of it for myself and for all of them. And very, very often, I sing to myself this particular lyric of one of my favorite modern hymns, a song called Lord, Your Grace:

Lord Your grace

Covering me like a soft summer shower

Raining down on me

Goodness and mercy

Loving me daily

Forgiving me freely

 

As I look back over all the years that I made it through

I can’t imagine where I’d be now if it wasn’t for You

Why Your favor rests upon me I can never explain

But I’m so glad that I can say

Your grace in my life lasts forever

Your goodness and mercy and grace lasts forever

Your grace in my life lasts forever

 

Thanks, God. ~T

P.S.: I issued a 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders a few weeks back, and over 150 brilliant souls signed up! I decided to take the Challenge right along with them, and it’s been a profound journey for many of us. Most people are journaling or free-writing every day, privately. But I wrote this post on Day 6 of the Challenge. I’ll be doing another writing Challenge in January; click here to get on the list for the January Challenge.

Business and Marketing Case Study: Acorns Removes the Financial Frictions of Millennial Transformational Consumers

I’ve been asked several times recently: What are the demographics of the average Transformational Consumer?

Business and Marketing Case Study: Acorns Removes the Financial Frictions of Millennial Transformational Consumers

My answer is this: your customers’ aspirations to live healthier, wealthier, wiser lives is a much more powerful lens for understanding what they will want, click on and buy than their age or ethnicity will ever be.

In terms of my purchase decisions and the content I engage with online, I am more like a 60-year-old white man who lives in NYC and also spins 6 times a week, eats a Paleo diet, owns his own business and travels internationally 5 times a year than I am the other 40-year-old Black women who live right here in Oakland and don’t possess the same Transformational Consumer aspirations or pursue them in the same ways.

In other words,

aspirations > demographics
That said, there are Transformational Consumers in every age bracket and every demographic segment. And occasionally, there is value to looking at the spots where your audience’s healthy/wealthy/wise aspirations intersect with the common life events of a particular life stage.

Case in point: Millennials and Graduation.

There’s a reason they call the ceremony marking the end of your formal education Commencement. Graduation season is one of the most whole-life transforming times most of us ever experience. Think about all of the new everyday activities you started doing and old things you stopped within a month of the time you graduated from high school or college. Most likely, you changed:

  • the place you live
  • the people you spend most of your time with
  • how you spend your time all day, including a new job
  • opening new bank and investment accounts
  • how much money you earn, save, spend and invest.

Even the things we put in, on and around our bodies change when we graduate, as we join snack-laden offices or finally have a real kitchen in which to cook. And certainly many of us get much more or much less exercise than we did. Think: desk job. Also think: can finally afford fitness studio classes.

After graduation, Millennial Transformational Consumers are out there looking for things (read: products, services, content) that can help them make these changes in a direction that results in a net healthier, wealthier and wiser life.

If your brand wants to engage Millennial graduates, there are two Transformational Truths to keep in mind. The first applies to all Transformational Consumers: the love a Transformational Consumer has for a brand is directly proportional to how much easier, less friction-ey, more beautiful or more joyous that brand makes their journey toward healthy, wealthy and wise.

The second applies specifically to Millennial Transformational Consumers: their friction detector is strong, and their tolerance for friction is low – lower than any other demographic segment.
Most Personal Disruption Campaigns or goal journeys on the way to healthy, wealthy and wise are full of sticking points and frustrations, even for a less friction-sensitive age group.

But 18-34 year-old Transformational Consumers have grown up in an era where virtually every desire can be fulfilled, in a couple of keystrokes, on demand, from their phones. In some ways, this makes the Personal Disruption Conundrum, the life limiting factor of hard-to-make behavior changes, even harder for this group.

Within this challenge lies a grand opportunity for brands to serve and engage this group by removing those frictions, sweepingly. Surgically. If you can deliver friction-removing products and content that change Millennial Transformational Consumers’ behavior for the healthier, wealthier or wiser? It will likely work for everyone: for consumers of every age bracket, and for consumers of every degree of transformational inclination.

Take Acorns. Acorns is a mobile investment app that has driven remarkable adoption among the most “unbanked” generation of our time. Fortune wrote: “Over the past year and a half, Acorns has opened 850,000 investment accounts, 75% of which were created by savers under 35 years of age.”

These numbers are impressive when you think of the desireablility of the 18 to 34 segment to every industry. But they are extraordinary in the context of the unprecedentedly troubled relationship between this generation and personal finance:

  • All 4 of the leading Banks are among the ten least loved brands by Millennials.
  • 71% would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying.
  • 1 in 3 are open to switching banks in the next 90 days.

Source: Millennial Disruption Index

On Acorns, young people open their phones, open an account, enter their credit card information: all things they are well accustomed to doing. Then, on every purchase, Acorns rounds up the purchase amount and invests the difference in the user’s choice of a set of diversified Vanguard portfolios. Users can start investing with as little as $5. The company charges a small monthly fee on active accounts.

CEO Noah Kerner told TechCrunch that with Acorns, “young people can keep growing their account in small amounts through lots of different sources,” adding that “with micro-investing, anyone can start growing wealth.”

BudgetsAreSexy gave Acorns a rave review, citing the fun of seeing those loose change investments add up, the beauty of the automatic/effortless extra investment and pointing out that “[i]t’s also the very first app to let you create an investment account straight off your phone too. Not that we’re *that* lazy that it’s necessary, haha, but still.”

If reaching and engaging Transformational Consumers in the Millennial age range is a priority for your company, your teams should be asking these questions:

  • What is your Millennial Transformational Consumer’s Journey look like? The journey of solving the transformation problem your company exists to solve?
  • Where are their sticking points, quit points and frictions?
  • What can you do remove those frictions, with products, services, features or content?

Disengagement Is Not a Digital Problem

Brands published 35% more content in 2015 than in the prior year. And people engaged with it 17% less than they did the year before. [Source: Track Maven] This is the ultimate Content Marketing Paradox: We’re making more content than ever. And people care about it less.

Disengagement is not a digital problem

Most business leaders and marketers believe that this epidemic of disengagement is a digital era problem. People are overloaded. Overwhelmed. They’re taking de-friending sprees and digital Sabbaths. All of God’s children have Facebook fatigue. I was out with friends the other night, and we realized that 3 of the 4 tech and marketing leaders at the table have uninstalled Facebook from their phones.

TCI-SocialQuotes_Disengagement

The struggle of digital overwhelm is real. But the issue of people being disengaged with content created by brands is not a digital problem.

Exhibit A is this quote:

“Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.”

You can probably tell that this was not written last week, just from the archaic language.

Here’s another clue, though: this is the guy who wrote it.

American_Dr._Samuel_Johnson_President_of_King's_College_by_Smibert_c._1730

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

His name was Samuel Johnson, and he created the term “advertisement”. He published this quote in his weekly magazine, The Idler.

On January 20, 1759.

1759, folks.

I repeat: disengagement is not a digital issue. It is a human issue. And the solution will also be human. Experience has taught me that the solution is to understand humanity better, more deeply, with more insight. To understand why people do the things they do, what they care about, and what motivates them, at a primal level. Then to serve those motivations, unlock the changes they want to make, solve their problems and serve their dreams, at a human scale.

And digital can help with that. Data, wielded wisely, can help with that.

But it’s not enough.

Start with humanity. Commit to being a lifelong student of people. Driving engagement—creating products and marketing messages that people care about—follows from there.

Appendix: Full text of Samuel Johnson’s 1759 commentary On Advertising

The practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions, more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the Newspapers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present state.

Genius is shown only by Invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the Readers of News into the knowledge of the shop where the best Puffs and Powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of Man. But when he had once shown the way, it was easy to follow him; and every man now knows a ready method of informing the Publick of all that he desires to buy or sell, whether his wares be material or intellectual; whether he makes Cloaths, or teaches the Mathematics; whether he be a Tutor that wants a Pupil, or a Pupil that wants a Tutor.

Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.

Promise, large Promise, is the soul of an Advertisement. I remember aWash-ball that had a quality truly wonderful, it gave an exquisite edge to the razor. And there are now to be sold, for ready money only, some Duvets for bed-coverings, of down, beyond comparison superior to what is called Otter Down, and indeed such, that its many excellencies cannot be here set forth. With one excellence we are made acquainted, it is warmer than four or five blankets, and lighter than one.

There are some, however, that know the prejudice of mankind in favour of modest sincerity. The Vender of the Beautifying Fluid sells a Lotion that repels pimples, washes away freckles, smooths the skin, and plumps the flesh; and yet, with a generous abhorrence of ostentation, confesses, that it will not restore the bloom of fifteen to a Lady of fifty.

The true pathos of Advertisements must have sunk deep into the heart of every man that remembers the zeal shown by the Seller of the Anodyne Necklace, for the ease and safety of poor teething infants, and the affection with which he warned every mother, that she would never forgive herself if her infant should perish without a Necklace.

I cannot but remark to the celebrated Author who gave, in his notifications of the Camel and Dromedary, so many specimens of the genuine sublime, that there is now arrived another subject yet more worthy of his pen. A famous Mohawk Indian Warrior, who took Dieskaw the French General prisoner, dressed in the same manner with the native Indians when they go to war, with his face and body painted, with his scalping knife, Tom-ax, and all other implements of war: A sight worth the curiosity of every true Briton! This is a very powerful description, but a Critic of great refinement would say that it conveys rather horror than terror. An Indian, dressed as he goes to war, may bring company together; but if he carries the scalping knife and tom ax, there are many true Britons that will never be persuaded to see him but through a grate.

It has been remarked by the severer judges, that the salutary sorrow of tragic scenes is too soon effaced by the merriment of the Epilogue; the same inconvenience arises from the improper disposition of Advertisements. The noblest objects may be so associated as to be made ridiculous. The Camel and the Dromedary themselves might have lost much of their dignity between The true Flower of Mustard and The Original Daffy’s Elixir; and I could not but feel some indignation when I found this illustrious Indian Warrior immediately succeeded by A fresh Parcel of Dublin Butter.

The trade of advertising is now so near to perfection, that it is not easy to propose any improvement. But as every art ought to be exercised in due subordination to the publick good, I cannot but propose it as a moral question to these masters of the publick ear, whether they do not sometimes play too wantonly with our passions, as when the Register of Lottery Tickets invites us to his shop by an account of the prize which he sold last year; and whether the advertising Controvertists do not indulge asperity of language without any adequate provocation; as in the dispute about Straps for Razors, now happily subsided, and in the altercation which at present subsists concerning Eau de Luce.

In an Advertisement, it is allowed to every man to speak well of himself, but I know not why he should assume the privilege of censuring his neighbour. He may proclaim his own virtue or skill, but ought not to exclude others from the same pretensions.

Every man that advertises his own excellence, should write with some consciousness of a character which dares to call the attention of the Publick. He should remember that his name is to stand in the same Paper with those of the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Germany, and endeavour to make himself worthy of such association.

Some regard is likewise to be paid to posterity. There are men of diligence and curiosity who treasure up the Papers of the Day merely because others neglect them, and in time they will be scarce. When these collections shall be read in another century, how will numberless contradictions be reconciled, and how shall Fame be possibly distributed among the Tailors and Boddice-makers of the present age?

Surely these things deserve consideration. It is enough for me to have hinted my desire that these abuses may be rectified; but such is the state of nature, that what all have the right of doing, many will attempt without sufficient care or due qualifications.