Jun 282012

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt  +

A friend introduced me to Michael Hyatt’s blog nearly a year ago. Since then I have become a daily reader of Hyatt’s wisdom and insight. He has an uncanny ability to write exactly what I need to hear at the moment I need it. When he announced his new book, Platform, I was really interested. The subtitle described exactly what I have tried to solve: how to Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

Michael Hyatt rose through the ranks of the publishing world to become the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. The oddity of a CEO publishing a blog was enough to get me started reading. However, his wisdom has kept me coming back every day. If there is an expert on building a platform, it would be Michael Hyatt.

A platform is from where we stand to be heard. In a lecture hall, it would be a podium. In the online world, it is more about how to get your message out. Those of us who write, crave an audience. We want what we have to say to be heard and, hopefully, appreciated. Not just Mom, a brother and a couple of friends, but thousands, perhaps MILLIONS. In Platform, Hyatt talks about how to get from humble beginnings to just such a large following.

Hyatt has broken the book into five parts:

  1. Start With Wow
  2. Prepare to Launch
  3. Build Your Home Base
  4. Expand Your Reach
  5. Engage Your Tribe

In the sixty chapters, he provides excellent examples of it has worked for him. Perhaps what I like the most about Hyatt’s style is he lays out step by step plans to follow. It was almost a checklist. No hidden formulas. No magic bullets. No web trickery. Yes, what he proposes is hard work, as it should be. There are plenty of snake oil peddlers on the Internet, willing to give the illusion of  followers. Hyatt believes in building honest, loyal readers, who will be willing to help spread the word without being asked. And he lays it all out in one place.

A great example of how it has worked for him isn’t just in the book, but the book itself. As the book launch drew closer, he started dropping hints about what it would contain. When it actually was available for pre-order, he asked us to NOT do it. Huh? “Don’t buy my book?” He promised he would make it worth the wait. Every few days he would drop another hint, building the anticipation. Finally, he promised if we would wait until the actual publishing date to buy, he would throw in a bunch of free ‘extras’, but only if we purchased our copy during the first week. My anticipation was so high by the time the launch day came, I got up at 5:00am, just to buy my copy. I couldn’t wait to start reading it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because it rocketed up the best seller lists and by noon the second day, he was in the top 5 books on Amazon. Fortunately for me, one of the ‘extras’ was an electronic copy of the book, because my hardcopy was delayed two weeks, as they sold out completely almost immediately.

Excellent marketing? Yes. Content? That is what made it happen. As he preaches unashamed throughout, create a compelling product that:

  • you would personally use,
  • that solves problems in unexpected ways,
  • and exceed your customers’ expectations.
Each chapter is engaging, personable and a quick read. The examples are spot on and the list of action items easy to follow. This is a book that can be read through or easily referenced for a quick refresher. It delivers exactly what Hyatt promised and was exactly what I was looking for. It was like getting a masters course from, well, the mater.

Ironically, about two weeks before the book launched I signed up for an online course in how to increase my blog traffic. It was very expensive. After reading Hyatt’s book, I realized I should have waited two more weeks, as the material in his book is much better, at 2% of the cost. So, learn from my mistake. Buy this book and read it. And then reread it. I am on my third time through.

Feb 222012

Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want And Getting It by Henriette Anne Klauser 

Several yard ago, I saw this book recommended in Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love by Barbara Winter. It sat on my list of books to buy for over five years. This Christmas, I was reviewing my list, trying to decide which book would be my “Christmas book”. Every year, we have a tradition where everyone gets a book to read. I finally moved it off the list of Someday to Today. The ironic thing is, once I started reading, I realized I must have checked it out from the library years ago, because I had already read it.

Still, it was a good refresher course. Some books need more than one reading and this is one of them. Klauser has made a study on how people get what they want. She postulates that the easiest way to accomplish something is to write it down somewhere, anywhere. The subconscious then takes over and works out a way to make it happen.

The book is filled with many examples of people receiving exactly what they desired. She isn’t suggesting that it doesn’t take work along with writing it down, but the chances of success are increased dramatically. There is something about the act of writing that helps clarify and bring the desire into focus. Then, once focus is achieved, things begin lining up to deliver the goal.

The skeptical side of me doesn’t want to believe it actually is that easy. The dreamer side of me says try it. I took one of my extra moleskine notebooks and started writing. I put down all sorts of wild desires. Some are concrete, like “I want to play French horn in a symphony.” Others are vague, such as “I want to do things and not second guess myself.” I decided to record the date I wrote the desire, just in case I want to go back and see when I wrote it down. I only have four pages filled so far, but it is enjoyable to go back and read them already, just a month later.

In a second section of the book, I decided to write down when one of those dreams are fulfilled. One dream I wrote down in early January was that I wanted to be a people manager again, leading a team to be the best they can be. That dream was fulfilled February 11, 2012, when I was promoted to Core Services Application Manager at work. That position didn’t exist when I wrote down the goal. About a week after I wrote it down, my director asked me how I would set up support of the application we are installing. A month later he created the position and I was hired. One dream down…

I have become a big fan of writing dreams and desires. I believe there is something about the act of taking a pen and paper, organizing thoughts and committing them in written words. It helps refine the focus and allow the subconscious to begging working on the way to make it happen.

This book inspired me to start writing down what I want. It also spurred me to changing the way I choose and write goals. I have already seen the effects of making goals that are geared toward achieving the desires I have recorded in my little book. I truly believe I can make some of those dreams come true through the employment of targeted goals. Others may happen by small miracles. I look forward o recording the fruition in the second half of the book. I eagerly await those entries.

Oct 312011

Now I sit me down to write,
Unknown readers I hope delight.
Yet, when prime motives I define,
It is my own soul to refine.

Last Friday, I attended an offsite training session for my work. I had forgotten to tell the organizers of my diet, so when lunch showed up, as usual, I was at a loss of what to eat. We were offered fantastic sandwiches, chips and a selection of enticing pastries and sweets for dessert. Times like these make it difficult to stay on a diet. Little that can be done inconspicuously in a group setting. I took a sandwich and pulled it apart to eat the turkey, lettuce and tomato, discarding the fragrant, tempting focaccia bread. This practice sparked a discussion around the table on diets, exercise and how we all wish we could stay on them.

One question asked by a colleague stopped me dead in my tracks. As he polished off a large chocolate chip cookie and a rich-looking chocolate eclair, he asked what is my motivation for staying on the diet. I stuttered and stammered over a response. I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t even sure myself. That question has bothered me for the past two days.

The easy answer is I want to lose weight. However, I have wanted to lose weight on previous attempts, too. Those attempts always ended in failure. There is more to the answer than dropping a few pounds. What about the exercise? I have stuck closer to a regular regimen of running than at any time previously. I had a goal of running 5k, and I made it. It would have been easy to give up so many times. When I started, I thought I wanted to run in a race and get a cool T-shirt. Now that I can make it over 3 miles without gasping like a fish out of water, I have no desire to run the race. I prefer to run alone in the dark, early morning.

When I lived in Boise, I decided I was going to ride my bike to work instead of drive. I bought a bike, cool biker clothes and did it. I rode two or three times each week for over a year. Sure, I wanted to be healthy and save money over driving, but those weren’t the prime motivations, either.

Why have I persevered on writing this blog for nearly a year? Why, even when I have taken a few days or weeks off, have I come back and continued to write? Originally, I thought perhaps I could make some money doing it, but have since learned very few people make money blogging. What is the attraction?

I mulled the question of motivation this weekend, finally pulling it apart enough to come to an answer. Anyone remember the first topic I took up in January as I started? Discipline. I have struggled with discipline my whole life. From a child, I was told I was undisciplined. I spent money as quickly as I earned it. I wouldn’t practice my French horn regularly. I got good grades but wouldn’t study. I couldn’t keep my room clean to save my mother’s sanity.

My adult life seemed just as undisciplined to me. I watched too much television. I started hobbies and didn’t follow through. I drifted on a career path, not knowing what I wanted or having any set goals. I allowed life’s currents to take me where they would.

The turning point, I believe, was going back to school to finish my bachelor degree. My motivation began as a requirement from my boss – get it or else. However, as I discovered the joy of learning, my motivation changed. This was something difficult that I could do for myself. I could do difficult things. In this case, I could take one or two classes while working full time and still being a good parent.

After finishing college, I took on learning the piano. I took up hobbies and developed talent people respected. I began turning pens, not because I could make money doing it, but because it was something no one else was doing and I could make something admired.

It has been the striving to be disciplined that has kept me on my diet, writing the blog and running. It is a drive to do something special that keeps me coming back, day after day. The only way I can prove it to myself is by adding one more link to the chain. I hope to prove to myself someday that I am disciplined and can do great things. This blog is therapy for sorting out my feelings, thinking them through and putting them into concrete form. The diet demonstrates I can stay on something every day, without fail until a goal is reached. The running helps me fight against the demons of procrastination. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. Each win is a triumph that leaves me glowing the rest of the day.

This has been a winning year. I am making the progress toward discipline I hoped for back in January. I appreciate the question from my friend. I hadn’t thought this through enough to know what I have been chasing all these years. Now that it has a name, perhaps I will figure out how to declare victory.

Thank you for indulging me in a little introspection. Do you feel you are disciplined? If so, how did you develop it? I would love to hear your thoughts.