First readers or no readers

Q: Which entrepreneurs like to imagine they’ll get rich and famous without ever studying techniques or skill sets and without any expert advice or training?

A: Writers.

The majority of authors are actually “hobbyists” who insist they can’t afford to hire an editor–despite every successful writer’s  confirming the vital importance of having a quality editor.

The cost issue may just be a red herring for many writers. They’re often more worried about an editor undermining the sense of validation they get from calling themselves writers and practicing their “trade.”

Look at writing as your work. If you got a job would you insist on a leadership role despite your lack of any training and experience? And if you got that position would you insist on teaching yourself how to do your job on the fly  without any professional support or feedback?

And some day being paid a good salary to boot?

Successful writing depends 100% on how well the author anticipates and satisfies their customers needs. Most readers won’t know you personally so they can instantly think of much better things to do than reading poor content.

Save yourself time and mental anguish–talk to at least one objective and seasoned reader as soon as possible.

Only then will you have a prayer of attracting hundreds or thousands of habitually judgmental readers.

Consider your carefully chosen new editor a terrific investment; they’re your best chance at succeeding.

Make a good editor your first and best reader.

Your Brand Is Your Language

“Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.” Wikipedia

“Human language has the properties of productivity, recursivity, and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning.” Wikipedia

The internet is rapidly transforming every social convention and learning operation in ways nobody ever had the bandwidth to predict.

Business and management icon Peter Drucker said decades ago that we no longer are limited to creating a new position or business–we are each capable of creating a whole new industry.

Since then technical advances and social upheavals have made it possible to go beyond even that outlandish idea. Now each of us can create a new brand like a personal language that makes it possible to turn every constraint into a springboard.

And we have nothing to lose but our comfort zones.

For the first time in human history productivity means something completely new; we repeat ourselves in a unique yet self-similar way; and we constantly refer to things that are either not here or are not here now.

Which happen to be the characteristics of a language.

We all live in a totally new world; it’s only force of habit and fear of the unknown that prompts us to try and run our lives and businesses as we once did.

Everything you think you know about branding is outdated and no longer pertinent to success today.

The most successful individuals and businesses have put aside their acquired wisdom about how things work in order to establish prescribed images of who they are (and what they are doing) in the minds of others in a completely new way.

This makes their brands compelling and unfettered by the social conventions and learning processes that limited personal and business behavior just a decade or two ago.

The most powerful and effective brands are much more like a personal language than they are like any industrial-age communication tool.

In just one hour you can make a slightly terrifying leap from the personal brand that you believe defines you or your business and begin embracing an entirely new variety that will serve as your personal language . . .

and prepare you to move mountains you’ll discover no longer exist.

Writing Isn’t For Sissies!

Writing well and authentically isn’t really as easy as people seem to think–it’s more complicated; like capturing a dream just after we wake up and making it real.

Writers go through it for themselves and for their unseen audience, and posterity as well.

They know their cherished dream will be poked at or ignored by judgmental people who’ve changed their minds needs and interests in the time it took me to complete this sentence.

Writing requires us to be super perceptive about ourselves and our world; and perception is a tool that’s sharp at both ends. We must constantly nick ourselves and our comfort zone.

  1. Writing for yourself requires a non-stop series of choices and decisions about big stuff, barely noticeable details, and everything in between. It’s the most powerful self-validation exercise you’ll ever do: even the final draft starts from scratch in a sense and–whatever your final result–will produce something that nobody else has ever given birth to.

Time to roll up your sleeves and return to work. As the great writer Paul Gallico reminded us back in the 1940s:

It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.”

Having a chance to tinker with words and ideas until our story connects with readers is why we’ll willingly accept all that bleeding.

“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”—Catherine Drinker Bowen

  1. We also write for an audience of strangers, hoping that somebody somewhere will help us validate ourselves. Our audience is more objective and we need them, so our first goal must be to cut through fogs of skepticism or distraction or doubt that stop people from reading a story for more than a few seconds.

A good writer is a kind of servant leader for his or her audience, trying to transform or educate or stimulate people they’ll never meet by caring about them enough to win them over.

“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.” —Steve Almond

  1. Unless you happen to be named Emily Dickinson, everything you write is driven by a universal dream that someday what you’ve created will be picked up or stumbled upon by someone and will make a real difference to them. It is a legacy and an achievement you hope will be recognized for years or lifetimes to come.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” —Virginia Woolf

If you accept this challenge you’re ready to risk hearing the sound of crashing china or damp silence that greeted the last thing you published.

Writing is definitely not for sissies! Never attempt it without the help of a counseling expert.

Wing It Like a Confucian

Portland State University


Anyone who answers their cell phones or opens email is an improviser. As we gradually learn to live without the filters that once helped people control the pace and content of their days—setting a time to open the mail or make and receive calls, for example—we improve our impromptu communication skills.

People who let every call go to voicemail as a screening tactic improvise less. They communicate less, too.

When asked why I returned to Asia, an important reason is my lifelong passion for improvisation. Asia is great for people like me.

Confucian principles that helped shape almost every Asian culture stress tradition and self-control; yet the emphasis on internalized values also implicitly promotes a life of improvisation . . . not needing to plan so carefully when the social ground rules are so clear.

Most Americans, on the other hand, avoid ground rules. We prefer clear contexts and topic “frameworks” in our conversations. Many Asians have a hard time with this. And it isn’t only about verbal communication: traditional Asian artists tend to avoid the kind of construction style composition that characterize Western painting. This makes it easier for them to improvise.

As the Western institutions that insist on rigid structures and principles struggle and falter, and our lives increasingly adopt the unsteady pace and dynamics of digital intercourse, we should acknowledge and nurture our inner improviser.

One split second at a time.


Yoga and Words

Everything we say either means

“I need you” or “I love you.”

Like a breath in yoga, our words go in or out.

Think about your words and your breath.

Because words can bring people together,

and each breath can bring your mind and body together.

So use them carefully to build your dreams.

Guaranteed big bucks

Q: What do telemarketers and their successors, the “millions-waiting-in-your-account” email scammers, have in common?
A. They both want to get rid of you. As fast as possible.

They want to avoid wasting time, energy and resources on duds: prospects who will only fall for their pitch when hell freezes over. They’re looking for gullible suckers. So they consciously irritate you or insult your intelligence, just to see if you have any. If so, they’ll drop you like a hot rock.

Knowing this simple principle can save you and your business big bucks. Think about it.

Is your strategy like that of a telemarketer or an email scammer: eliminating as many prospects as quickly as possible? Then keep sending out the impersonal, valueless internet marketing messages that 95% of your competitors use.

There’s only one weakness in that very popular strategy: it will only eliminate desirable prospects–not attract, engage and finally inspire them to take action. Good prospects will never respond to such messages, period. Because you’re failing to give them a reason to even consider getting into a meaningful business relationship.

The ancient internet rule “garbage in, garbage out” has never been as relevant as when you plan an internet marketing campaign. If an email or autoresponder is easy for you to send out, it’s also very easy for people who receive it to delete, without even bothering to read past the Subject line.

To snag the good prospects out there, and maybe convert them into customers or clients, stop making your messages easy to ignore. To get my business, recognize and celebrate my intelligence rather than insulting it. That is and has always been the beginning of beautiful relationships!

Fields of Dreams

You’ve built it . . . so are they coming?

Whether the movie “Field of Dreams” inspired, irritated or mystified you, it presents a few interesting questions for anyone doing (or planning to do) business online.

  • The film’s hero constructed a baseball field on valuable farm land in search of . . . something. Proposed by a disembodied voice. Today’s entrepreneurs or wannabes are giving up the time they might have used to build careers or reputations in established fields, to pursue business opportunities that are often no less ephemeral or proven. How clear, down-to-earth and achievable are your own internet business goals?
  • In the movie, neighbors and family members dismissed Costner’s character as an unrealistic crackpot, putting his family’s future at risk. Internet success seems equally foolhardy or ethereal to people who have invested their lives and fortunes in more traditional pursuits. What drives you to start an online business? Could you make a persuasive argument in support of your goals to an even more skeptical audience than in the film? Or should you wait until you can?
  • These skeptics saw baseball as a way to unwind or hang out with friends, not as a serious business activity. Sound like social media?
  • The movie hero was encouraged and inspired by great baseball players of the past. Today’s entrepreneurs, many with less practical knowledge of business or technology than Costner’s character had of baseball, invoke the spirits of industry legends in a hopeful attempt to achieve success by osmosis.

Many men and women who dismissed the film “Field of Dreams” as silly or pointless years ago are probably working on their own internet business as we speak. Which field of dreams are they investing their time and money in?

A Great Site for Mandarin Students

Learning a language is largely about insights, challenges and relationships.

The first two usually happen on their own, as we question our biases and habitual thinking about the culture or its language.

It can feel like being pushed up against a plate glass window: there’s lots of new stuff inside to enjoy, but first you need to work your way through what’s keeping you outside–much of it internal.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet a teacher or study buddy who knows where you’re coming from and where you hope to end up. Someone who appreciates words and conversations as the keys to great new relationships. And who offers a good learning relationship to get you started.

It isn’t easy to find a relationship-based learning experience in a classroom. It’s even harder online. That’s why I really appreciate‘s unusual approach.

The host Brandon feeds us bite-sized pieces of useful Mandarin, accompanied by clear, concise and friendly explanations. These Mandarin lessons aren’t like lingerie commercials. They focus on the practical, sociable aspects of the language instead.

This site fills a need for any learner who’s ready to manage his or her own learning process, and build meaningful relationships with other learners who have been there, done that . . . and who care.

Check it out.