Cheap promises, undelivered.

I recently met someone who remarked that they admired my confidence and ability to speak in a big room, and said they’d like to learn how to do it. I suggested they call me, in fact insisted they make the move, and they said they would.

They didn’t call.

When I wrote to remind them I got a polite reply which detailed just how busy they’d been, but lacked any intention to reset the ambition.

Having made the statement and expressed the wish, they swiftly returned to their busy schedule and became like so many others out there. Full of good intention, apparently, fast to make a promise they then don’t fulfill, content to hide behind a vague excuse for not doing so, offering no apology for their omission, nor restating their desire.

Where has the wish gone? Was it even real in the first place.

What happens when, assuming they were right to indicate a need for confidence skills, the moment presents itself, the moment when they really need the confidence, yet they’ve done nothing to change, nothing to acquire what was seen as necessary, and realise the gap remains in a real moment of pressure, just when it would have helped?

When you identify a gap in skill or knowledge, confess it, ask for help, get the offer, and then do nothing about it, what does that say about you, and perhaps most crucially, what does it say about how you view yourself?

It’s commonplace behaviour, repeated many times in many places, by many people on most days. It’s almost the norm. Carry on doing it if you’re happy there, in the norm.

In following up, I wanted to understand the process someone follows when this happens. Is it acceptable to them or even briefly beneficial to them to express the wish for improvement, almost as if simply by doing that it somehow makes a difference? Were they playing to the crowd? Did they even mean it? It’s hard to know for sure, which is why the question is  still hanging, awaiting a response.

What I do know is once again I have met yet another who says they’re going to do something, and then doesn’t do it.

In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gecko famously said “Lunch is for Wimps” when he mocked those who took a break in the middle of the working day. Here we are 30 years later and people are still using the equivalent of “Let’s do Lunch” as a meaningless statement without commitment, most likely to be lacking in any intention for subsequent action.

“I’ll call you” is hardly open to misinterpretation, but do you genuinely believe you’ve witnessed an intention if it’s said to you? If you’re the one who’s quick to promise, and don’t deliver, you need to stop saying it, because you’re forming a reputation for yourself. You may think it won’t matter, but it will, and it’ll matter when it matters most, just like not following through. You’ll be known as someone who doesn’t do what they say they’ll do, because if you do promise to call someone, it may seem inconsequential and unimportant, but they’ll remember it when you don’t deliver and they’ll remember when you ask them for their business. They will, I do.

Much better then to be honest with your promises, and start small; why not try “Let’s not do lunch”? While it isn’t something you’ll probably say, it would be an improvement to a false promise you have no intention of following up on. Become known as someone who does what they say they will do … if you want to be believed.


Can you win a game of cups and ball?



Want to play?

One day, if you haven’t already worked it out, you will come to realise that many businesses you see surviving and thriving are largely feeding off the doomed efforts and wasted energy of many who think they are on the path to success.

It’s a big game and many are unaware of their part in it.

Statistically, small businesses fail on a massive ratio compared to those who succeed, but whilst they’re trying to make progress, they are investing in the big businesses who take their money in exchange for goods and services. Yes, I know it’s all perceived as a “you give, we give” game. The tables are often tilted and sometimes the whole platform is skewed.

Remember that time when you realised you needed the latest … let’s take a Blackberry as an example, as that pits the story in the past. Its lead on the competition was unquestionable and the functionality of email on the go, the convenience of constant contact, always being available, were seen as the missing link to small business success. But in reality, no-one wanted to call you and talk business just because you had acquired one, they probably didn’t even know. Research in Motion had your money, you had their product, you were excited at the prospect of realising the benefits and cashing in on the flow of extra business facilitated by the technology; yet nothing actually changed. You can replace the Blackberry with all sorts of other products, and even services like coaching and personal development, smarter premises, a revised website … all bought into with an excitement of elevated expectation, and once acquired you realise little or no change actually occurred.

It’s not that the services and shiny things aren’t good, many are. The problem lies in the unrealistic mindset you need to adopt when convincing yourself that you can afford it, or more often cannot afford not to; even at the risk of buying on credit, safe in the knowledge you’ll earn enough, and more, to pay it all back.

See what happened there? You just became another valued customer of the money-at-interest industry who enabled you to become a customer of the provider, not forgetting the unavoidably essential insurance policy to protect the financial value of your new asset.

On a smaller scale:

You see the hustler at the small pop-up table, three cups and a ball, fast dextrous hands mixing them up, and the sad punter posed and poised to lose their money. You watch the show, even though you know the result is fixed; you know it is, but the spectacle is too good to miss and after all, you know all you need to know to avoid being duped. Then you see a winner, someone who walks away from the table, cash in hand, and in that moment you step forward, ready to play. Emotion overtakes reason, you drop your guard, reach for your pocket and forget the vital role of the stooge in attracting the next victim.

Pan out. See the bigger picture. Imagine this scenario being played out many times all across the economy every day, so much so that when we are given a measure of our economy, it is booming! It’s not all cups and ball, that’s just an illustration. Business is good and getting better, people are buying things, money is moving and the prospects are sunny and warm, verging on a heatwave. Who wouldn’t want to ride the wave?

I empathise with anyone who sees this article as deeply cynical and feels disempowered by its message. If they are thinking and feeling it, chances are they are still reeling from their own personal last example, or are poised to go again having convinced themselves doing the same thing and expecting a different result is indeed insanity, but what they are about to do is not the same. It is, in recently adopted fact, very, very different.

I posed a question in the title. Can you win a game of cups and ball? I don’t know.

I do know that armed with relevant facts and being in control of our emotions can help us to make good decisions about who, where, how and with what we play.

I’m pretty sure many won’t, but their decisions don’t force you into joining in, sometimes it simply depends on how you see the players in the game; do you remember the stooge?

Sell Me This Pen

The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort

 Reading a recent article praising the merits of this question at interview, I confess disappointment at the ‘best way to answer it’ which was offered. It rambled on about features, emphasis, metaphysics and offered a cheesy closing technique in a 4-step model as an interviewee’s best way to prove their selling ability.
I believe it missed the point entirely.
A sale happens when the concept of ownership is transferred. A protracted sales model to get to this point is not always necessary, as I will now demonstrate.
What follows is how I handled the question at interview …
“Sell me this pen”
Me: “Just before we start can I confirm one thing?”
Me: (Holding up the pen) … “Is this your pen?”
Me: (Handing it back) … “Sold!”
Selling doesn’t start when someone says it does; there’s no ready, steady, go, or starter-pistol fired to let you know it’s technique time. The well-trodden sales path, taught in a classroom setting as the only way, is in fact imaginary.  If you engage imagination you can succeed where others fear to tread.

Unlike many other sales stories shared this actually happened, and it was me that ‘sold’ the pen. If you’re thinking of working with someone to improve your selling, make sure the stories they tell you are their own.

Did I get the job offer … What do you think?

There’s Trouble in Techniques

When techniques become artifice, artifice becomes recognisable. 

Trust is destroyed in the exact moment someone realises they’re being manipulated with techniques. In that moment you’ve created a chasm that cannot be bridged.
In an expanding drive for integrity and authenticity it will not serve you well to explore the realm of technique to find your own. In fact it will set you up for the exact opposite, every technique based attempt to shape your perception in their eyes, and match buzzwords you have decided must be attained, is a step in the wrong direction.

You’re going the wrong way!

Deploying techniques for influence suggests you’ve decided persuasion is a game you can win, and assumed by deduction the customer is susceptible to your artifice. Cunning it may be, canny it isn’t.
“Honesty is an expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people”
Unless you reside under a rock you will have seen this phrase. If you’ve chosen to stroll past and ignore the message, don’t imagine others will have done the same.
No-one enjoys being fooled, unless you’re a magician and entertaining them when it’s not just acceptable, it could even be described as a contracted expectation. If you believe the skills of a magician are seamlessly transferrable to your business, and you’re not a magician, I think you’re in trouble.
Artifice, sleight of hand and deception aren’t key constituents in an authentic business, despite their widespread adoption. It is time to distance yourself from the hoard of others who are busily practicing techniques and appear to be benefitting. Daring to be different and arriving at your destination with your integrity intact is an essential quest; you must accept the challenge.
It’s a long game and you may have to surrender some short-game wins to get there. Is it worth it? That simply depends upon your honest response to one question:

How long do you think you can get away with it? 

You’re Missing the Point, not the Piece

Avoid the traps of training courses that fail to deliver.

The Pointless Search for the Missing Piece


The Myth of the Missing Piece is a principle used by the professional peddlers of personal progression programmes to persuade you that a piece, yes one elusive piece, is all that’s missing for you to feel complete. If they can initially get you believing that not only is there a missing piece, but they have the piece, perfectly proportioned and shaped for instant installation in you, they have a good chance of a sale. If you buy into the concept, you’re consigned to a path that will ultimately lead nowhere.
You’ll find yourself attending a course, where you’ll be spending time on top of your money, or someone else’s if they’ve sponsored you, in the quest to obtain the piece, safe in the knowledge that once it’s finished … a moment usually marked by the awarding of another meaningless certificate to occupy a space on an already overcrowded wall of achievement, accompanied by the fervent applause of your fellow seekers … not only will the course be complete, so will you.
If only. The problem with their model is overt but rarely seen, you aren’t really missing anything before you go. There is no piece.

They don’t have it, because it doesn’t exist, so turning up to collect it is a quest doomed to failure. What’s worse is it will be your fault when the course fails to deliver. How so? Let me share what happens (spoiler alert!)

It all gets set up in the first exchanges. A sale occurs when you are suckered into their schtick. When you arrive at the end of the course you still have an emptiness inside together with an increased feeling of incompleteness. It’s hard to revisit your earlier decision and see the error when this happens. To do so would only open a regret reaction and you’d lose confidence, so it follows that it’s better to accept a near miss than a complete waste of time and money, and start to look for the next course to rectify the ongoing emptiness as soon as possible. They know that and it’s what they prey upon. They are ready for you whether you’re newly entered into the quest, or rebounding from the latest failure to find it.
On and on it goes, training and accreditation credits mounting in your personal development plan, your bank account shrinking with no prospect of earning the fees you paid to get it from the new knowledge and skills the certificate suggests you’ve absorbed. You will have been consistently reminded of the importance of self-responsibility through their teachings, it’s a transfer of responsibility and well-practiced by them, because it slams the door shut to you asking how come it, and they, made no difference when it’s over. You’ve already been force-fed the answer; it’s you, and only you at fault.
Reflecting on the very reason you paid and played: you thought you had an issue, an error or an absence of an essential, and they agreed. We come full circle and you’re back at deep feelings of frustration and discontent, possibly with a smattering of puzzlement. It’s unlikely this will feel particularly strange to you as you’ve most likely been here before. These moments form a perfect time for a new course suggestion, a newly identified missing piece to get you out of the mess you’re in. They know that. Luckily for them our ability to engage cognitive dissonance alleviates pain or angst at these times, replacing it with ambition, and your soon to be repeated error is hidden by a process which feels like sensible logic.
Don’t mistake this article as a plea to avoid a training course that will help you, since there are many that can. Under no circumstances should you stop learning, as the acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience are all rewarding in themselves, in addition to raising your market value.
Instead recognise its intention to reset your ambition when buying into a course and the promoted change it will make, avoid believing your singular missing piece will be somehow be found, and beware of the accreditation attraction as many accolades aren’t as recognised and revered as the folks who flog them would have you believe.

Every other driver you meet on the road has at one time been tested and deemed competent.

If this example doesn’t convince you that assessment and accreditation aren’t a guarantee that others will recognise your talent, what will?

Self Esteem: seemed like a good idea!

Alongside the leotards and step classes, the 1980’s saw the self-esteem movement leap into the social conscience, and flood bookshops, to address an issue … 

People needed to be set free from limiting beliefs and low expectations

How did that go? If you really want to know just get out there and take a look.

I’ll give you a clue, it did not go well.

We’ve now got all the attitude and entitlement with no reason and no responsibility. It’s all about them, they’re special, they’re talented, they’re attractive, they’re amazing, at least in their own mind. They bought into the delusion and haven’t found a way out.

Sadly for the rest of us they are lazy, stupid, uncaring, useless, pointless, self-absorbed and moronic. Thanks largely to all the books by the pop-psychologists who saw a gap and filled it with their drivel. Not forgetting the videos and courses and workshops and one-to-one coaching to amend the residual self-image, even though at best it only hides it for a while (that’s why it’s residual – there’s a clue in the words).

It didn’t work.

Some courses even awarded ribbons, badges, accreditations and certificates to reinforce the new you.

Instead of realising the pointlessness of it all and abandoning it in favour of something better, most of what we can find in the current personal development sphere is dusted-off old stuff or rewritten old-stuff with a new label, supported by a coloured logo or model title. Those who embarked on the journey to greatness are strangely still on it and haven’t moved very far, even though they are able to describe their limitations with a label and have identified the next step they now need to take.

The next course will be the ‘One’

… Is the predominant thought as the credit-card is handed over to the latest snake-oil sales specialist. It won’t. They said that last time, but the great thing about cognitive dissonance is its ability to help us forget important lessons as we head face-first into the next one.

In the meantime, just on the other side of the table, is the provider. There are a few who are deliberate manipulators, but there are also many who are stuck in their own journey without a destination. They don’t just sit with you as a fellow traveller, they sell tickets. At least for them their passage is paid.

Attacking the Status Quo will make them Angry

Life is complicated and difficult. The minefield of managing yourself in modern society means many want an absence of distraction, preferring the status quo to radical ideas encouraging change and effort. Understandable, yet not a good enough reason for some of us to remain quiet when we feel something has to be said, something has to be challenged, and something better can emerge from it.

When you see something that shakes your current beliefs, and it comes like a knock on your door when you’re safely ensconced in your armchair with a warm cuppa, slippers on, and engaged with the latest episode of your favourite television programme, what are you most likely to do?

Some will ignore the knock and continue watching, others will get up and walk to the door in a mild but increasing anger at the thoughtless and unwelcome intrusion.

Even though they don’t know what the visitor is there to ask, offer, share or give.

I expect some will rise up and defend the situation with the same energy they’d find if a friend was under attack, and experience has shown me that often their defence isn’t a rebuttal of the new concept or criticism of the way it is, but more likely a personal-emotional response to the disturbance it creates. It’s easier to bat it back than it is to allow the idea in, consider it carefully, and then make a choice. These moments are easy to spot: the speed of response is lightning quick, and similar to them putting their fingers in their ears and shouting la-la-la.

It’s not a response at all.  It’s a reaction.

I may well have done the same in the past. I might do the same in the future. I don’t know for sure because it’s usually more about when it happens and less about what’s actually happening.

That’s why it’s not only funny; it’s why I won’t stop!


Where is Your Identity?

Things you own come and go, e.g. homes, cars, and electrical goods.

The constant is your own identity, you can’t sell or trade it, can you?

Do you keep it safe, secure, respected and confident within you, or open to inspection, comment, dents and damage?

When you are asked “Who are you?” are you prone to responding with what you do, what you’ve done, where you are, where you’ve been etc?

Self-image is vitally important because it governs so much of our potential. It lets or denies our actions. It is often open to criticism, none stronger than from within ourselves. We may have friends who’ll help by telling us what we mean to them, and helpful as that can be, it will never capture the full story.

Keep it safe.

So you want to stand out?

Nothing wrong with that!

The crowd is already crowded, that’s why we call it the crowd.
Now, how exactly are you going to do it and how long will it take before you’re noticed as exceptional, different, better … Beyond the norm?
Here’s a quick and easy way to do it. So simple in fact, that most just don’t.

Be someone that does what they say they are going to do.

Yep! That’s it. Look around you, most don’t. It’s simple, easy, cheap and effective, yet there are those embarking on long courses and investing great expense to stand out, often in swathes.
If only they knew eh?