A note from Tara: This post was originally a writing prompt I issued to participants in my September 2017 30 Day Writing Challenge. It was so breakthrough-inducing for those folks I had to share it here.
I invite you to join us in November for the next 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders and Creators. Space is limited; register now: taranicholle.com/30-day-writing-challenge.
It’s go-time. The 30 Day Writing Challenge starts, right here and right now. By which I mean to say: Party. 👏🏿 Over. 👏🏿 Here. 👏🏿
First, a few logistics. If you haven’t already, please do the following:
Make sure you have added me to your contacts, especially if you use gmail. In this email, click the arrow next to Reply, then scroll down and select Add Tara-Nicholle Nelson to your contacts. This makes sure you get all your prompts from me.
Please click this link and join our Private Facebook Group. Introduce yourself briefly when you’re in.
Open up a new folder in Google Drive or Word, and start a new document dated for today. Many people do this Challenge in a fresh notebook, if you like longhand.
Then write away! You’re welcome to free-write, brain-dump style, or to work on a project you have in mind. I’ve also included a writing prompt for you below, if you’re wanting to work on the Transcend and Transition theme of this Challenge.
Goals many people find helpful are to aim for 750 words, 30 minutes or 3 pages longhand. But here’s lesson #1 in how to work this Challenge: YOU DO YOU. If all you have time to write is a sentence, and you write that sentence you win. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for people to get into the flow and write 3,000 words. They win, too.
If you want to keep track of your cumulative progress or writing streaks during this Challenge, start an account now at 750words.com and copy/paste your Google Docs writing into today’s entry. It is very soul-soaring, to see the total word counts and streaks you rack up over the course of this thing, if you do decide to use 750words.com.
Come back to the Facebook Group at some point today and let us know how today’s writing goes! Bragging is welcome.
OK. Enough logistics. Let’s get straight to the Prompt.
I was one of the longest-ever holdouts from watching Game of Thrones (GoT). But this last season, my cuteface sweetheart convinced me to join him in what has somehow become one of our nation’s most unifying pastimes.
For context and for those who don’t watch, the heroine of the show is a young lady, a Queen, named Daenerys Targaryen. She comes from a long line of rulers, but her ancestors were not well-loved. Her own dad was, in fact, a murderous tyrant. Daenerys is on a mission to break that cycle; to still walk in her regal ancestry, but to be a Queen that liberates instead of imprisoning, and rules with freedom vs. fear.
So she does that. She frees these folks over here, that tribe of eunuchs over there. And every time she does some great feat and wins the hearts of a nation or tribe, she integrates that win, that truth about herself, into her identity. I mean this literally: she introduces herself with her name followed a long list of clauses that detail her feats and describe who she is and wants others to know she is, at her essence.
Somewhere in her title, when she states it, she always adds these words: the First of Her Name.
I find that last bit especially fascinating, because she’s actually not the first ruler with the Targaryen name. But by declaring that she is the first of her name, she reclaims and redefines her identity. She is putting the world on notice that she will not be another one like those who shared her name and came before.
Her name goes like this: “Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons”.
Inspired by Dany (when you have a 271 character name, a 4 character nickname is helpful), I came up with my own GoT name.
It goes a little something like this:
I am Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Sexy Black Church Lady, Lover of God and People, Swinger of Kettlebells, Disseminator of Sparkles, Delighter in French Fried Potato Items, Conscious Creator, Transformational Leader, Relentless Reframer, Spiritual Contrarian, Mother of Pugs, The First of Her Name.
POD #1: What’s your GoT name?
Here’s your writing prompt for Day 1. Whether you watch the show or not, write about this: if you could create your own Game of Thrones name, what would it be? What are the descriptors that would capture the essential qualities of you: the you you are in the process of becoming, not the you you have been in the past, or the you your family has always told you you are.
What would your name be, what would your essence be, if you could sum up who you are becoming without referencing your old limitations, traumas or even current circumstances?
How’s that for a warm-up prompt?
“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 pathetick.”
Samuel Johnson wrote this quote about advertising in 1759. And since right around that time(!), I’ve been using this quote to make a point to entrepreneurs, executives and marketers: that customer and employee disengagement is not a digital problem. It’s a human problem.
I believe the solution to this disengagement dilemma will also be human. Understanding and serving people’s deep, undying human needs is the only real way to connect with customers over time and get them to care about your content and products. I’ve long recommended companies deprioritize digital, big data and AI, at least for awhile, to focus on understanding the undying aspirations and real world real journeys of their customers.
tly that inspired me to change my tune a tad bit. It opened my eyes to the power of digital and AI to help us understand—not trick or manipulate—our own humanity, aspirations and the resistance that often pops up when we try to make a change.
Marketing tech firm Unbounce had their AI machine review the behavior of over 74 milllion visitors to over 64,000 landing pages published by over 2,500 brands across 10 industries. They paid particular attention to the rate at which visitors signed up to download content or connect with the brand that published the page. (Marketers call this a conversion rate.)
But from my point of view, the data on what does and doesn’t inspire people to enter their email surfaces insights into our aspirations, emotions and the actions we’re taking online as we try to get healthier, wealthier and wiser. A few takeaways you might find helpful to know about yourself, if you’re on any sort of transformational journey of your own:
- You desire help making complex transformation topic simple. In 6 out of the 10 industries Unbounce looked at, people were much more likely to enter their email address to download something if the content on the page was at a 9th grade reading level or lower.
By itself, that sounds like Marketing 101. What is interesting is that these 6 industries were ones in which our questions and challenges are likely to be relatively complex: real estate, business consulting, credit and lending, health and home improvement.
Upshot: when you have a goal or want to make a life change in one of these areas, you’ll set yourself up for success if you can distill your vision down to a super simple statement or objective. And it might be to your advantage to forego even trying to understand every complex layer of the subject or set goals with lots of steps and layers to them. Think: “get to bed by 10”, “rewrite website copy” or “unclutter kitchen drawers” vs. “go Paleo” or “get organized”.
- You know you need help with your “wealthy” goals. Out of the 10 industries covered, people were most likely to engage with pages offering content about business consulting, credit and lending and vocational studies/job training pages. (Travel was up there, too.)
- But you believe “healthy” is something you have to do on your own. You go online to learn about what it takes to get healthy and what new knowledge or fresh approaches might be out there. You may know you need some help getting yourself to make the behavior changes involved in living a healthier life. But you’re skeptical about whether anyone else can really, truly help you make these shifts. Visitors only engaged with 12% of health pages published, one of the lowest rates of all the industries analyzed.
There are so many products and people making wild health claims in the world, this skepticism seems wise. But this is also true: seeking help making changes you’ve tried forever to make on your own is a pro level move. So is experimenting with different approaches until you find something that works for your personal body and lifestyle and mindset.As someone who lost 60 pounds over 20 years ago, though, there’s another shift I recommend to almost anyone who has ever tried and failed to change their health habits. Here it is:
- You can’t scare, hate or disgust yourself into action. As the former chief marketer for the world’s largest fitness app, I’ve said this sentence, over and over again: “You can’t hate yourself skinny.” It doesn’t work. If it did, America would not have an obesity epidemic, and yo-yo dieting would not be a thing.
Fear and disgust are very low vibration, low energy emotions, and shifting your habits for the healthier, wealthier and wiser requires significant energy over a sustained period of time. You can stare at your cellulite in the mirror all you want or click on a million of those creepy belly fat ads, but feeling fear or hate or disgust will never be a powerful motivator for the lasting changes you want to make.
This report adds a new layer of insight: fear and disgust aren’t even that effective at motivating very short term transformational behavior, like entering your email address to get more information or download a resource guide. In all but one of the ten industries examined, the Unbounce AI machine found that where even 1-2% of the words on a landing page evoked negative emotions like fear and disgust, people were significantly less likely to seek further interaction with the brand.
Just this morning, Facebook reported having “killed” two AI-powered chatbots because they developed their own untranslatable, non-human language. This was particularly salient for me, as I was still processing a talk I’d had with Carl Schmidt, Co-Founder and CEO of Unbounce, when this report came out.
As Carl talked me through this report, he explained how their “machine” focuses for the time being on copy, meaning, sentiment: the power of the word.
This is a very human thing. And so is the tendency to try to use your own inner dialogue, your own words, to scare or shame yourself into making hard changes. This data is valuable in proving what many transformation teachers have long known: it just doesn’t work.
Rewire yourself to use the power of your own words, the words you speak or think to yourself, in favor of yourself. Fear doesn’t motivate, it disengages. Love, and in particular, self-love, can spark and fuel any transformation you ever want to make, over the long run.
Awhile back, I took my team to an offsite at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Lake Tahoe. They had been going super hard in challenging circumstances, so it was very well-deserved. It was also an opportunity to walk my own talk about how rest can interrupt the intense demands we place ourselves, clicking us back into our natural state of flow, creativity and productivity.
We left straight from the office one afternoon, after an intense group work session. At one point during the session, I’d gone over to the white board to add my thoughts. I turned around, and realized that the rest of the team members’ eyes had grown big, and their brows had furrowed.
They had absolutely zero idea what I’d written. Except for one woman, with whom I had worked for years. She took over, erasing my scrawl and rewriting it legibly, all the while explaining to the group’s laughter that she even has a pet name for my handwriting: “Tara-glyphs”.
We got a good laugh out of it, wrapped the session, and trucked up to Tahoe. There were only 3 rules for this offsite:
- We had a farm-to-table dinner as a group, and a lunch the following day.
- We’d all check in with each other via text throughout the weekend.
- The festival is your playground. Get after it.
That’s it. I was more focused on creating a no-pressure two-day cocoon of rest and recharge than on trying to get substantive work done on the trip. The teammate who wanted to do 7 hours of workshops and a hike before dinner could do that. (And she did.) And the one who wanted to lie by the pool for 7 hours before dinner could do that. (And she did, too.)
I myself went to a yoga workshop, a meditation and writing workshop one day. I stopped checking email. I sat down and just talked with my team. We talked about life and love and work and play. And we ate. Then we ate some more. And we slept the sleep of the tired tech team in Tahoe: dark, silent, deep and dreamy. The next day, I went to another two yoga and meditation workshops.
At the end of day two, something really weird happened. I went to sign up for the meditation/yoga workshop leader’s email list. And as I did so, I watched my hand move across the page, almost as though it was someone else’s. Perfectly neat, round, fluid script came off of my fingertips, with no effort to make it so. I watched in amazement. For years, I’d believed that decades of an all-typing, all-the-time lifestyle had simply destroyed my handwriting.
Apparently, I was wrong.
What I realized in that moment was that I’d been missing something, despite my best efforts to manage my body and my mind with quality food, fitness, relationships and recreation. I’d forgotten to down-regulate of my nervous system. And I’d more or less accidentally done this after just 4 or 5 hours of yoga and meditation, an evening of deliciously deep sleep in a place so beautifully dark and quiet, and the company of people I love to work and play with.
As my hand moved with precision and flow, without my conscious bidding, I realized that my ability to create, lead and innovate while living in joy and fun all depend on my nervous system. Our nervous systems need to be deeply tuned-up on occasion—not just worked and wringed out and released.
The entrepreneurial life is a delicious one. But it places intense loads on the nervous system, many beyond what we even realize consciously. We are on all the time – ruthlessly focused. Ruthlessly engaged. We have to make fast, hard decisions and engage in intense, hard conversations, all the time. We have to create, to innovate, to compete. We have to switch contexts constantly, addressing issues from accounting to research to leadership to product design to marketing, all in a day.
Sometimes all in a meeting.
I proceeded to write about 5,000 words in the following few hours. And I wrote maybe 15,000 words in the couple of days thereafter. Down-regulating your nervous system is not optional fun thing to do: it’s necessary, especially if you want to live out to the edges of your possibilities.
Here’s how you can do just that:
- Practice taking in the good. Psychologist Rick Hanson talks about how our brains are wired to take in the bad, as a matter of evolutionary defense. This can cause us to perceive daily stresses with the same fear as we would life-threatening situations, with the result that we live on high alert. Hanson advises adopting a practice he calls “taking in the good,” intentionally stopping and encoding our bodies and brains with the pleasurable feelings of happy, calm, relaxing moments as they arise in the course of daily life. This practice of taking in the good brings down our resting levels of nervous system arousal and cultivates a mindful, fear-free experience.
To take in the good, Hanson says we must do these 3 steps:
1. “Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences” – look for at least 6 positive facts or experiences a day, either on the fly, as they come about or during reflection, like right before bed.
2. “Really enjoy the experience” – sit with the sensation that each of these 6 good experiences is filling up your body, for at least 20 or 30 seconds in a row.
3. “Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking into you” – Hanson provides a few vivid visuals to imagine, like the feeling of the good experience is spreading through your chest like the warmth of a cup of cocoa, as you drink it.
- Wrap the uncomfortable areas of your life in a cashmere blankie. This is my way of explaining why I invest so much of my time and money in restorative experiences. When I’m working, I go very very hard, and am constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So I stack my precious spare time with long walks and fun workouts, beautiful dinners with friends, cozy movie nights at home, spa days, wellness and writing retreats, and trips to gorgeous places. My home is very comfortable, and I choose clothes and shoes that are both beautiful and very comfortable. Cashmere ranks high. I need to be comfortable with productive, expansive discomfort at work. So I stack the rest of my life in comfort, where possible.
- Create a restorative morning and evening routine. Get intentional about how you start and end your day. Learn about the practices that other creative people and great role models of productivity found helpful, and experiment with a routine that works for you. Don’t fight it because you want to stay in bed or you feel powerless against the pull of checking your Facebook feed at 2 am. Accept the reality that screen-staring is damaging to your sleep and your energy.
Personally, I wake up early, read something powerful, pray and meditate, then walk my dogs and do Morning Pages, a daily free-writing practice. It takes time, definitely. But by 9 am my most-prized tool (my brain) is primed and ready. I’ve already used my writing as an emotional windshield wiper, and I’m eager to start the day.
- Explore therapy or coaching. We all have old emotional wounds, triggers, ancient wrongs and blocks we could stand to work through and let go of. It’s amazing how much these things collectively contribute to a high-running state of arousal, even when we’re at rest. Investing in therapy made me a better person and a better mate, but it was extraordinary the level of unintended impact it had on my work life. I’m a substantially calmer, more conscious leader, and the fun I have in every single area of my life is way up.
- Deal with your substance abuse issues. I’m talking about caffeine. Some people can drink coffee all day and night, with no problem. I am not one of those people. At one point, my nervous system had a real-talk intervention with m. Every day, I was 6 shots of espresso in, on fire, full of ideas and in love with life, by 10 am. Then around 1 pm, I was curled in the fetal position under my standing desk.
So I stopped coffee. I lost that faux spike of energy, but now I’m good to go all day. And I do drink the easier-to-handle caffeine in green tea. I also have found adaptogens like Chaga mushroom extract and MCT oil to help support a creative, high-energy brain in a more sustainable, less crashy way.
If you have this same reaction to coffee, don’t fight it. Dare to be different. Give it up, if it’s not working for you.
- Eliminate the frictions of unnecessary decisions and “switching costs”. This is why Steve Jobs wore a uniform: even the tiniest decisions you make “cost”, in the form of a little energy drain, a little friction on the nervous system. If you can eliminate the need to make small or inconsequential decisions, you’ll add energy back into the system. I have my own version of a work uniform: A-line dress, cashmere cardigan, metallic sandals. Period.
My friend Heather Fernandez, Founder of Solv. Health and Board Member at Atlassian, used to have a practice of asking any team member who was heading out to lunch to bring something back for her. And here’s the kicker: she was always happy, no matter what they brought back.
- Seek out places where you can create margin, every day. In his book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson meticulously makes the case that most of us run on empty, most of our lives. He advises getting intentional about creating margins of un-obligated resources in our calendars and bank accounts.
No matter how impossible you think this is, it is not. It is excruciatingly powerful. I’ve gotten ‘religious’ about Sundays off for church and family, and about holding certain days meeting-free, just to allow for the nervous system unfurling and resulting creativity that happens in the margins.
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.
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!
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:
- “The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional”
- Entrepreneurial ventures
- Diet and health regimens
- “Any program of spiritual advancement”
- “Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals”
- “Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction”
- 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:
- Shadow careers [Read: Are you trapped in a shadow career?]
- Addiction to drink, drugs, love, money, disasters, etc.
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:
- Who comes to mind when I think of unresolved grief, hurt, or pain?
- To whom do I need to apologize?
- With whom do I need to talk over conflict and seek some form of resolution?
- To whom do I need to send thanks?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.
— Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC) January 29, 2017
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.
My favorite workout ever was something my trainer Bryan put together a thousand years ago. He called it the Construction and Destruction of Western Civilization. Suffice it to say that many a sandbag was hauled and many a monkey bar traversed.
Anyhow, one of the stations involved a run from the parking lot to what we used to call the rainbow sherbet house down the street from the studio. That station was the time limiting factor for the rest of us: all of us would keep sledgehammering, flipping tires, swinging kettlebells until the person on the run would go to that house and back.
Anyhow, there was a woman there that day who had never worked out with us before. As she took off on the run, we swung and hauled and carried. And swung and hauled and carried. And swung and hauled and carried. At one point, Bryan actually went out to find her, and she was nowhere to be seen. He returned, and gave us permission to move on. Maybe 15 minutes later, she huffed her way back into the lot, explaining that she thought she’d known where the rainbow sherbet house was. The house she was thinking of was about a mile and a half away (easily a 20 minute run there and back for a fit non-runner). The actual rainbow sherbet house was less than a half mile away; it took most of us 5 minutes to get there and back.
That chick was the limiting factor. The surprise was that it wasn’t in fact her speed or fitness that was the ultimate limitation on the system, which was usually the case. It was her knowledge, her understanding, of where she was actually headed and when to turn back that ultimately limited our ability to move onto the next round, until Bryan intervened and broke the system.
Catch this principle guys: every system, including you and your life, has a limiting factor—one resource or trait that most limits how much the system can grow. If you want to push your life and your leadership to new levels in 2017, the single most powerful way to do that is to accurately identify what your limiting factor is, and focus every ounce of your being on deactivating it.
When you do this, you expand your capacity versus changing your conditions. This is super critical. Most of what we do when we set goals is make lists of conditions we want to change. I want to launch this business. Grow this business. Get a new job. Get a new boss. A new mate. I want my kid to stop acting up. I want to lose 15 pounds.
Here’s the truth: conditions are never the things that really limit your happiness. Think about it: millions of people already have the conditions you think would make your life better. And they’re still unhappy.
When you focus on limiting factors you grow your capacity to do two things: (1) to master the ability to change whatever conditions you want, whenever you want, and (2) to experience limitless love, joy, enthusiasm, ease and flow right now, where you’re at, regardless of conditions.
These two things will change your life. They definitely changed mine.
Writing/Feeling/Thinking Prompt: What are your top 3 limiting factors? I’ve listed some examples below, to get your mental juices flowing. As you visioncast your 2017, think about what SINGLE limiting factor you could explore releasing next year that would create the biggest change in the way you feel, think and show up in your life and your work? Which single factor would expand your capacity the most?
12 Common Limiting Factors
- Low levels of physical energy/exhaustion
- Fearful thinking habits
- Overextended calendar
- Apologizing for taking up space
- Scarcity beliefs/don’t believe big things are possible
- Poor boundaries
- Depleting relationship patterns
- Inability to speak up for yourself/speak your truth
- Inability to ask for what you need
P.S. That day, I made note of the actual address of the sherbet house. Anytime we had a new workout friend, I made sure to whisper it to them, just in case.
Think about how your body metabolizes food. It chews it up and starts releasing enzymes to break it down while it’s still in your mouth. From that very moment begins the process of extracting what will nourish you. And also from that moment begins the process of eliminating the waste, discarding what doesn’t serve you, or what might even be actively harmful to you.
That’s how we can and should metabolize 2017. Keep what nourishes you. Eliminate the rest.
This approach is a powerful first step to stopping the spiral of fear and panic that has been so pervasive this year. And that is a powerful first step to walking into what you are called and put here to live and be and do—in your life and in the world—in 2017.
Here’s the prompt: Even if you think 2016 was The Worst Year Ever, list out (in writing) the things that happened, lessons you learned, experiences you experienced this year that made you healthier, happier, wiser, more clear or more tuned in to who you want to be in this life.
Our brains are wired for and alert to negative, fearful or terrible events at a rate 5x the bandwidth they devote to happy, lovely or joyful things. So you might have to devote extra intention and effort to coming up with the spiritually nutritious takeaways from the last twelve months.
And on the flip side, what did you discover this year that no longer serves you, or that you are ready to move on from or release? Relationship patterns? Thinking or emotional habits? Things? Fears?
Here, it’s helpful to keep this in mind: you do not minimize the very real issues in our world by electing to release panic and fear, get grounded in your own calling and move forward, full steam ahead. In fact, it’s kind of the only way you can really, truly help.