Building a Story Brand

Donald Miller Building a Storybrand.jpeg

I’m finally getting around to sharing what I learned in Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. I’ve heard great things about this book from multiply friends since it’s publishing in 2017. I finally read the book late last year and it did not disappoint. It led me to rethink many of the aspects of my own brand. Who the hell is Dave Delaney? As Miller writes, “If you confuse, you lose.”

In order to understand and create your brand you must have a clear story. In a story, audiences must always know who the hero is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want.

Take my Communication Mastery workshop for example. The Hero is the person who hires me for a workshop, usually the CEO, COO, or HR Director. The Hero wants to improve his or her workplace culture by improving communication. The Hero is trying to defeat a potential toxic work environment and employee churn because both are costly concerns.

Customers don’t typically care about your story; they care about their own. Customers buy solutions to internal problems. By talking about the problems our customers face, we deepen their interest in everything we offer.

When we fail to define something our customer want, we fail to open a “story gap” with a single focus. We must define a specific desire and become known for helping people achieve it. That’s certainly what I am working on.

The specific desire for my clients is to improve communication. The Master Communicator’s Secret Weapon is my keynote presentation designed to help audiences use my advice to help them achieve their desire.

Miller writes, “When we frame our products as a resolution to both external and internal problems we increase the perceived value.” For example, part of what I teach is how to improve listening and how to lead with acceptance. Doing this in the workplace improves employee morale. Doing this outside with prospects, clients, and even friends and family improves sales and life in general.

Miller points out that, “A brand that positions itself as the hero is destined to lose.” This isn’t about me. It’s about you and helping you achieve success with your team. My brand is the guide that will help you. I truly care about helping you and your people. Miller reminds us that to succeed we must care.

Talk about the end vision. For what I do, it’s leaving you with a team who are better connected, listening more effectively, open to change, thinking quickly on their feet, leading with acceptance, becoming empathetic, and ultimately reducing employee churn by improving your company culture and overall communication.

Donald Miller writes about the importance of clearly defining the steps your hero needs to make in order to do business with you. He explains, at least three steps and no more than six.

For me it’s scheduling an introductory call. Speaking with me, so I can learn more about your needs. Determining the time and date of the workshop. I facilitate the workshop and you see the results. Boom, four simple steps.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand for your own business. I found the lessons within to be exceptionally helpful. I also recommend you subscribe to Miller’s podcast for more insights and interviews with branding thought-leaders.

Geek Breakfast, again

There are currently a few tickets remaining for Geek Breakfast in Nashville on Feb 15th. In order to explain why I decided to host such an event, I need to first explain what Geek Breakfast is.

If you have attended a conference that was an amazing experience, you suffered from conference blues when it was over. The buzz of connecting with so many people in person can’t be denied. The days after are usually a little sad when you return to work and life goes back to normal.

The conference blues are felt even more deeply when you are a conference organizer, or in my case an unconference organizer. You’re exhausted but soon crave that in-person connection and organized chaos again. This is what led me to create a monthly breakfast networking event called Geek Breakfast back in December of 2007.

I co-founded BarCamp Nashville and PodCamp Nashville. The buzz in Nashville during BarCamp was wonderful, but I missed all of my new friends and didn’t want to wait six months until the next gathering So, I created Geek Breakfast as a way we could all stay connected.

Attendees from elsewhere wanted to create their own local Geek Breakfast chapters. Friends like Chris Ennis and Nicholas Holland helped design the old site, so folks could quickly register their own chapters. No strings, no charge - just connection. Chapters sprung up across the US, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.

When I would attend conferences like Gnomedex in Seattle, SXSW in Austin, and New Media Expo in Las Vegas, I would either organize a Geek Breakfast or a tweet-up.

What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

A lot has changed since 2007. Social networks are now powered by algorithms designed to show us what it determines will resonate most - both on a personal and commercial level. We may not see the tweets or updates posted by friends because of this. There is much more noise on social networks now because the laggards have joined the party. Some early adopters have given up altogether. Good people on social networks who just want human connection are now competing with trolls, brands, and bots who are adding noise and creating digital clutter.

I became excited for social networking back in 2007. I was lonely living in a new city. I was craving connection. I used social networks to meet new friends. I used in-person events to meet those online friends in-person.

I’m currently pruning my social network connections for the first time in many years. I’m longing for that excitement and true connection I experienced in the early days of “new media”. I’m also craving in-person connection, so I’ve restarted Geek Breakfast (at least for one event) to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones in Nashville.

We all crave human connection. We still can’t deliver true hugs, high-fives, and handshakes online, so we might as well meet up in person, right?

In keeping with the spirit of supporting community. 100% of proceeds from Geek Breakfast tickets will go to SafeHaven. I hope to see you there on Feb 15th.


Important Jay-Z Letterman Lessons

Not many people know this, but when I was in my early teens, I carried a photo of David Letterman in my wallet. I was a diehard fan of his rebellious comedy. Who else rents a convertible, let's the roof and windows down, lights a cigar, and drives the car through a carwash? Without early Letterman there would be no Tom Green, Jackass, Eric Andre, or countless YouTube pranksters. I still love artists who push the boundaries.

Letterman's new Netflix special, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, has been awesome so far. I just watched his interview with Jay-Z and it did not disappoint. I decided to write notes and share them with you here. Get ready to be inspired. 

But first, I have another thing to admit, I'm completely ignorant of Jay-Z's music. Maybe it's because at my age, I like to hear the familiar. So I listen to much of the same music I've always loved. Understand, I totally crave discovering new music, I just don't have the time. I've also never been a major hip-hop fan. This is probably from lack of exposure more than anything else. I'm no longer surrounded by friends who would share music liberally. I love plenty of "old" hip hop, but I just never got around to discovering Jay-Z's work. That said.... I've just downloaded everything and I'm digging in. Leave a comment with some newer music I should check out if you please.

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Jay-Z is Picasso

At the start of Letterman's interview, he referred to Jay-Z as Picasso. Even Heather has talked about how much she admires him. Unsurprisingly, Letterman asked thought-provoking questions that led to me sharing this with you here. Here's what I learned from his interview.

Awake feeling grateful each day. Ask yourself what you're grateful for when you open your eyes. I usually wake up and my mind immediately begins to race with the daily tasks I need to accomplish. Instead, I need to slow down and focus on what I am thankful for. Our health, my family, my friendships, my home, my work, Peggy sleeping on Heather's side of the bed instead of mine.

Use your free time to create. Jay-Z did this writing rhymes on scraps of paper when he was on the street selling crack. Yes, he was a crack dealer in the projects at just sixteen years old. He would earn money to help his single mom raise four kids. My birthday will be the first day of regularly writing a daily journal. I fully commit to the idea of doing this for self-discovery and to leave Ella and Sam something special after I've left this planet mentally or physically.

Become a mentor. Mrs. Lowden, a high school teacher, took Jay-Z under her wing. I've tried to do this with community groups in Nashville, but haven't done a good enough job. I'm excited to reach back out and get this ball rolling again. Organizations like Oasis Center, Thistle Farms, Big Brothers, Conexcion Americas are all solid starting points.

Aim to create content that will last forever. I believe that by teaching improv, I'll impact participants for a lifetime. This work has me so excited. The public facing content I create may be in the shape of a podcast and certainly more writing like this post. Evergreen is key. I plan to keep this all in mind as I consider my next book.

Get to know different people. The more I know about you, the more I can relate to you. This understanding helps us become more compassionate about what others are going through. Volunteering my time will help. Attending events that draw different types of people is also important. Mix it up.

We need to understand and be aware of the invisible similarities we all have.

There is an emotional transcendence that occurs when you become a parent. This happened for me too, it's like you suddenly reach a new level of maturity. Letterman asked why this doesn't occur for other moments in our lives, Jay-Z replied it was fear stopping us.

He explained that we need to understand and be aware of the invisible similarities we all have. For example, we all crave love, integrity, and loyalty. Fear comes from the things that make us different from one another on the outside like our races, sexes, clothing, economic status symbols.

Letterman asked what Jay-Z's thoughts are about the Trump administration and where America is. Jay-Z explained that he thought Trump was a good thing for a key reason.

Trump is forcing people to have a conversation. You can't really address something that's not revealed. He is bringing out the ugly side of America we wanted to believe was gone. And it's still here. We've still got to deal with it. We have to have tough conversations. For example, why is every third black or Latino man in America in prison? Good question. I highly recommend you watch Thirteenth on Netflix for more about this urgent question.

Let's face it, we might not become the next Picasso, Jay-Z, or Letterman. But we can live rewarding lives if we follow this wisdom. That's my plan.

Be thankful, become a mentor, connect with people who are different than you, create your art and make it stand the test of time. 

Damned Gum Balls

Blood oozed from his head, in pain from a sudden slip and fall along the pathway to our front door. Our guest was a friend of a friend's who had joined us for dinner. It was dark outside as he walked along our path back to his car. Suddenly, he felt something round under his foot that left him clutching for the air above as he lost his footing. Thankfully, he was alright, minus the scrape along the back of his head. 

I've come to hate the damned gum balls that fall from the trees into our yard each autumn. Don't let the name of the tree fool you, Sweet Gum, there's nothing sweet about them. They even have a bunch of different names to confuse homeowners: American sweetgum, American storax, hazel pine, bilsted, redgum, satin-walnut, star-leaved gum, alligatorwood, and Liquidambar styraciflua for you tree nerds. 

If you think stepping on a piece of Lego hurts, try taking a casual stroll beneath one of these suckers this time of year. Each time the kids run outside in socks or bare feet to play with Peggy, I cringe that they will fall victim too. 

In fact, I almost unknowingly impaled Sam as I ran the lawnmower over a pile of gum balls recently. They projected from the machine at him like he was trapped in a batter's cage with the machine gone all Maximum Overdrive.

One man's trash is another one's treasure 

We bought our house because of all of the trees on our lot. This time of year, the Sweet Gum trees change color and are quite pretty. For a moment (just a moment), I consider how much I enjoy them. Then I remember what lies beneath, waiting for its prey. 

I decided to read up more on the evils of gum balls and discovered, to my horror, that they are treasured items to others. A quick search revealed multiple sellers on Etsy!

Sweet Gum Tree Balls

One description reads, "These look great as home decor with some real or fake red berries in a bowl for the holidays, in potpourri as decorative filler, or use to make ornaments." 

Even during a Thanksgiving stroll through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I discovered packaged gum balls for sale. The packaging called them "Pork-E-Pine Eggs". When left in a cool, dry place for seven months, they would hatch into baby pen-cushions.

Now how could a spiky ball function as a comfortable pen-cushion? Perhaps it was a typo that was supposed to read "pin-cushion". Still, who would want to stick a pin and watch these nasty things ooze? Yuck. 

But somebody buys gum balls. Enough people buy them to warrant packaging them and selling them in stores and online.

If I asked Peggy, I am certain she would tell me how much she loves them. Each time I'm outside with her in our yard, she adorably picks up a gum ball in her mouth, drops it, and happily paws it across the yard. The gum balls have become wonderful play toys for our little puppy.

Another man's treasure. 

Ramble on Success

A ramble about success

I think I'm wiser from every failure. Every diet I've tried, every attempt at mindfulness and meditation, every new habit that has failed. I am too hard on myself each time I quit or fail.

I'm not unhealthy. I'm not stressed to the point of sleeplessness or suicidal thoughts. I can relax, I can breathe deeply, I can organize my day and stick with each task until completion.

I've learned these things from my sometimes feeble attempts. I understand what's needed to accomplish items when I aim to, I simply choose not too.

I choose not to stretch multiple times a day. I choose not to exercise. I choose not to work on the proposal, or plan, or manuscript. It's not you, it's me. My own worst enemy, they say.

I'm learning each day I procrastinate. I learn because I read the articles and books, I listen to the experts telling me what I must do to succeed.

Luck & Chance

We don't get their full, truthful transparency. We get the vision of excellence designed by the experts' marketing and publicity teams. We don't see their actual successes that actually fund their journey into expertise. Or maybe we do, but that's not the sexy part of the story. We don't hear about the luck and chance that got them to where they are today. Because so much is about this - luck and chance.

I can't rely exclusively on luck and chance though. Nobody should. But making attempts to improve myself gets me closer to the luck, closer to that chance encounter. Trying and failing gets me closer to the success I long for. And that success isn't the Ferrari or fancy home. It's extended vacations with my family. It's the peace of mind that the house has been paid for. It's knowing that the kids can go to college without the massive debt they should otherwise expect. It's having Heather home with me and traveling to my speaking engagements. It's knowing that our retirement savings are secure and ready for us to unplug from the day-to-day. A house on a lake with a wood-burning fireplace. Maybe a hot tub too. 

What is Success?

Having these visions alone is a success. Most people don't envision what their success looks like. Waiting in the car, in the fall sun, writing this as I wait for the kids is success. Happy, healthy, smart, silly kids... our success. Excited to see Heather when she gets home from work. Success. Leaving to Chicago for Google, success. Leaving to Louisville for my own engagement, success. Running my own business with wonderful clients, success. Writing and having my book published, success. 

Take a minute to consider what your success looks like. Now consider all of your successes to date. You're more successful than you think.

I'm 45. I'm just getting started.