Making it Big: Selling Books, Growing Blogs or Saving the World

stairs at sunset

"I don't want to do small things," she told me.

My daughter was curled up by my side. I held her close.

"You'll do big things," I told her. "I have no doubts about that."

She continued to talk very passionately. She has big visions. She wants to make a difference in the world, in a big way. Not everyone has such aspirations, I explained. She has an entrepreneurial spirit. It's a certain kind of gift.

"But there's a saying," I continued. "It's called paying your dues. There are some exceptions, but most people have to go through the process of doing smaller things in smaller venues before they get the privilege to lead the way in bigger things."

Reading Heath & Heath today, I was reminded of this conversation with my daughter. The authors discuss the issue of Credibility and give an example of a company that wanted a big client in a new market.

How did they get the client? By first having another big client in a market where they'd already earned credibility. How did they get that first big client? I have no idea. But I'm willing to bet they paid their dues.

It's a bit of a dance, this reaching for the next thing. Reach too far too fast and no one is going to pay attention to you. Don't reach at all and... no one is going to pay attention to you.

But one thing is sure, whether you are trying to sell your book, or grow your blog, or save the world, you've got to start by taking small steps in the desired direction. That's what I'm telling my daughter anyway. If she saves the world somehow someday, you'll remember she started small, with the sharing of her dream.


Over at HighCallingBlogs we're reading and discussing Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Want to join us? :)

Staircase photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Welcome to Our House

shoes at the Inn

How do we establish our blogs as a particular kind of place?

This is one question we've been thinking about in a big way over at HighCallingBlogs.

In the background, we spend time thinking abstractly:

- we want to be a place of grace
- we want to be a thoughtful community
- we want to be real
- we want to be a place that feels safe yet nurtures growth and change

Are you asleep yet?

For us at HCB, these are important pieces of our vision, but like Heath & Heath note, abstractions don't go very far towards inspiring people to understanding or participation. What we need is concreteness. A vision of the place you can see, maybe even smell and feel in your head.

I think this is why we at HCB have instinctively migrated to "house talk." Stop in to any given conversation and you'll see us inviting people to a table, replete with apple pie, fried chicken, or a Lenten Satchel. We talk about pulling up a chair, pouring a drink, looking at photo albums. Sometimes we even talk about mowing the lawn.

There is no rule about this. Nobody has said we have to use "house language." But we want to make HCB a place you could call your home on the Internet. So I suspect we'll keep talking about sweet tea right along with theology. And the heaven (or hell, as the case may be) of the humble Texan chili pepper.

If you haven't come to our house yet (or even if you have), we'd love to have you for a visit. The door's open. Music is on. And there's a batch of biscuits in the oven.

Shoes at the Inn photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Over at HighCallingBlogs we're reading and discussing Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Want to join us? :)

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There's a Branch in My Tea Cup (Or, How to Get Someone to Read Your Blog Posts)

Pine Needles in Tea

Did you know you can eat trees?

I'm not talking about a gourmet dish of stir-fried hemlock. More like pieces of trees. You probably knew that if you are, say, a cinnamon lover. I did too.

Except I didn't know I could eat pieces of trees that sit in my own back yard...

forsythia (for breakfast)

white pine (for tea time)

If you were tempted to click through to see how to eat a back yard tree, you may have just experienced a bout of curiosity piqued by what Heath & Heath call a "knowledge gap." Or, basically, you clicked through because you knew you didn't know, and it made you want to know.

Using knowledge gaps is one way to make a message stickier (besides adding pine sap, which I can attest is very, very sticky). It causes a person to want to find answers, and the extra effort they expend in doing so helps the final message stick.

The simplest tool for creating knowledge gaps is the question. So the next time you want to write a sticky blog post, just add an opening question. And see who stays for a little bloggy tea.

Pine Needle Tea photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Over at HighCallingBlogs we're reading and discussing Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Want to join us? :) Also, feel free to leave your link here...

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French on Fridays: Going on a Bear Hunt

Bear Hunt

The greater the complexity, the greater the learning.

This counterintuitive assertion from John Medina, author of Brain Rules, seems to go against Heath & Heath's first rule of "stickiness": simplicity. After all, Medina notes that learning is increased through complication. Elaborate experiences trump simple ones.

Though this appears to contradict the rule of simplicity, it is good to remember that simplicity is just one of six stickiness factors (simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, stories). Add up the six, and you've got a fairly elaborate experience.

On a practical level, this suggests that optimal learning might be nurtured by providing elaborate experiences focused on a simple concept.

This is what I love about using children's books to learn French. On the one hand we have simplicity: a single story with a straightforward plot. On the other hand, we have complexity: pictures; playful rhymes; new words couched amidst familiar words; the cadence of voice (if we read aloud). If it's a good story, we might also react emotionally.

All this adds up to better learning. So let's go on a chasse à l'ours (bear hunt) and see what French we can bring home...

La Chasse à L'ours (Going on a Bear Hunt, by Helen Oxenbury)


French Learners: Type any English word here and get a translation into French.

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Red-Headed Flower Lady

Anne and the Garden

Oh, I loved this from Sonia. Just had to share.

Anne in the Garden picture, by Sonia. Used with permission.



Six Steps to Going Viral

Made to Stick

"I was up in that back field, the big one that's totally secluded. I was mowing along. (You know I always feel like I'm being watched up there.)

Anyway, I went all the way to the end, where the trees get thick, and as I came right up to the edge, my heart just about stopped.

Right in front of me, a hand pulled down the branches and I saw two dark eyes. It was a man with long black hair. He had it pulled into braids, and he had mud paint on his cheeks. Like war paint! I backed the mower up real slow and got out of there."

This is a true story, from a friend of mine. I actually got shivers when she told it to me.

"Was he good looking?" I asked.

"Oh, yes! Gorgeous."

"You dreamed it," I kidded her.

But I knew she wasn't trying to fool me. And I knew that once again this lady in my life had told me a true story I'd never forget.

Why are her stories so memorable, or "sticky" as the authors of Made to Stick would call it? Because through a lifetime of storytelling, she's perfected the six steps to going viral:

1. Simplicity
2. Unexpectedness
3. Concreteness
4. Credibility
5. Emotions
6. Stories

My story-lady may just have missed her calling as a copy writer for an ad agency, but I'm glad I get to hear her sticky tales. And I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Mysterious Man by the Mowing Field.

Made to Stick photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Over at HighCallingBlogs we're reading and discussing Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, starting this Monday the 6th. Want to join us? :) Also, feel free to leave your link here...

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