Conquering Your Fears – Excerpt from Inspiration Now!

Conquering Your Fears – Excerpt from Inspiration Now!

We need to work on conquering our fears. Dale Carnegie once said, “If you want to conquer your fears, don’t sit at home and think about them. Go out and get busy!” We’re talking again here about that bias for action I mentioned previously. It’s never too late to begin the process of becoming what you might become, or might have been if you had taken a different path, or might still become if you start on that path anew.

Let’s look at fears for a moment. Here’s a list of the most prevalent ones:

  1. Fear of flying
  2. Fear of public speaking
  3. Fear of heights
  4. Fear of the dark
  5. Fear of intimacy
  6. Fear of death
  7. Fear of failure
  8. Fear of rejection
  9. Fear of spiders
  10. Fear of commitment

My guess is that your list, if you are honest with yourself, will pretty well match, or at least include, most of the items on this list. I know mine does. Look where death comes in on the list – at number six! After five other fears that are completely non-lethal!

In my younger days, I loved flying. Never had an issue with it. Loved it. It was a great way to get to see new places and interact with new cultures. Plus in my younger days they had such things as non-stop flights, upgrade seats that actually existed. Plus food and drink during flights, free baggage handling (which was important to me when I had to carry three cartons full of seminar binders with me) and – critically important – a seat big enough so that your butt didn’t get numb in the first thirty minutes.

Fear of public speaking, on the other hand, was my number one. One of my mentors recognized that fear in me and was determined to eliminate it on the belief – correctly, it turns out – that if I was going to reach my full potential I had to become an accomplished professional public speaker. So he found a Call for Papers for a large upcoming trade conference called NEPCON – the National Electronic Packaging Convention – and helped me submit a proposal for a paper.

I did this only to make him happy, secure in the knowledge that my meager topic would never have a chance of garnering a spot in a very prestigious technical program. Ha! A month later I received an Authors Kit and a schedule for when the paper had to be print-ready and the slides had to be on hand for the presentation. Talk about panic!

I had help, though. There were writers at Xerox Data Systems where I worked and that department’s job was to help engineers like me put our ideas into words that others could understand. And there were some great graphics folks to make the slides I would use for the actual presentation (as this was pre-PowerPoint since the PC had yet to be invented.) My paper was entitled “Computer-Aided Troubleshooting on Automatic Module Testers.”

So I had slides and thought I was ready to go. Until my mentor told me that it was time to practice the presentation. All of a sudden this once purely technical project was taking on a very real life of its own. And in two weeks I was going to stand up in front of 300+ people to give my 20-minute talk.

We did the first run-throughs with small groups of people I knew. Then we did them with larger groups, including the design engineers who looked down on us manufacturing test engineers with disdain. But they weren’t the real public and I didn’t really put my heart and soul into the practice sessions. I was nervous. I stumbled. But I really didn’t think that it mattered much.

Presentation day duly arrived and I drove from Manhattan Beach (CA), where I lived, to the Anaheim Convention Center. After losing my breakfast between the house and the car, I finally got to my destination, grabbed my slides and headed for the rooms where the presentations were to be given. After throwing up again between the car and the building, I arrived to find that the conference program had an error in it. People were coming to hear me give a 20-minute talk entitled “Computer-Aided Troubleshooting on Atomic Module Testers.” Then they videotaped me and made me watch it and I almost died. There was no way I was going to look that bad in front of 300+ strangers. I’d rather die first. So I started to practice in earnest. And after several sessions with dozens of people I had stopped stumbling and was a far less nervous presenter. I was determined to do myself and my company proud.

So here I am on my maiden public speaking voyage with a whole lot of people waiting breathlessly for me, a 20-something in a short sleeved shirt and a narrow tie, to expound something atomic, not something automatic.

I learned then the value of humor in opening a presentation and in asking for audience participation in the form of answering a question right at the beginning of a talk. And I somehow got through my twenty minutes and even fielded a couple of questions before gratefully making my escape.

It turns out that there were several people from Corporate in the audience that day and the feedback they provided to my boss (mentor) was extraordinarily positive. They said that I had diffused the error in the program effectively and with humor, that I clearly know my material and that I had indeed been a credit to the organization.

But I don’t throw up anymore in parking lots on my way to giving them. What changed?I still get nervous before a talk. But not so as to be paralyzed by it. And I hope I never lose that little bit of nervousness that sets me up to do my best – every time.

This post is taken from Chapter 5 of my new book “Inspiration Now!” It is available at Order your copy now.


A Story About A Book circa 1978 – From Inspiration Now!

A Story About A Book circa 1978

I wrote a 77-page book over a single weekend in 1978. I decided to self-publish it. This was long before print-on-demand and e-books for those of you who may not be old enough to remember when you took a typed – not word processed – manuscript to your local printer and had him make your first print run. And you went to VeloBind to get covers and binding strips and even punching and binding machines.

I wrote a 77-page book over a single weekend in 1978. I decided to self-publish it. This was long before print-on-demand and e-books for those of you who may not be old enough to remember when you took a typed – not word processed – manuscript to your local printer and had him make your first print run. And you went to VeloBind to get covers and binding strips and even punching and binding machines.

I had the book printed on very nice paper and the hard cover was a walnut veneer with gold printing. Very good looking and conveying very high quality. The book was titled “Design for Testability” and I priced it at $95. That’s $95 in 1978 dollars, which today would be roughly $347. For a 77-page book in 8-1/2” x 11” format.

Everyone said that I was crazy to ever expect to sell any of these books. But I was convinced based on experience that there was a knowledge vacuum on this topic that I could fill. So I bought a full-page ad in Electronics Test magazine for $1,800 (which today would cost $6,500).

And I sold a few books. About half as many as needed to pay for the ad. But I ran the ad again the following month and sold 3 times as many books as I needed to pay for the ad. I was now on the way to profitability, even with a $10 ($36.50) cost of goods sold. And sales kept increasing.

God, it was fun to get the mail every day. Orders with checks attached. Names of book buyers who obviously had a significant problem to get their companies to spend that amount of money for a book. Going to the garage to punch, bind and put the covers on those books was a labor of love.

Not six months after that first book was sold I was in the seminar business teaching design for testability to all of the major electronics manufacturers in the United States. My little book had become “The Bible” of design for testability. And it remained that way for over ten years.

Why do I tell you this story? Only to point out that what I’m about to say to you in this book is not fiction. Nor is it wishful thinking. It is a compendium of thoughts, beliefs, and processes that are proven to work. Because they have worked for me and, properly applied, they will work for you.

This story comes from Chapter 1 of “Inspiration Now!” It is available at Order your copy now.

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Smartpnone with QR Code on ScreenDoes the word oxymoron resonate with you? An oxymoron, for those of you not familiar with the term, refers to a concept that doesn’t really make sense.

Military intelligence is one of the favorites. So is jumbo shrimp. How about clean dirt? Or how about open secret, original copy, paid volunteer or vegetarian meatballs?

Two words that just don’t make sense when placed together.  The illustration with this post showing a QR code on the screen is another interesting example that could be put into that category. Why would you send a QR code to a mobile device when the camera that could capture and process the QR code is on the back of the device? Because you can? Why would you include a QR code on your website then the person viewing it is already there?

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

I had the opportunity to hear Scott Stratten, president of Un-marketing, talk about these kinds of things on a webinar earlier today. Or maybe it was a rant. Or some combination of both. In any case it was very informative and entertaining and I encourage you to check him out at on the web or at @unmarketing on Twitter. Because there’s more.

There were a lot of examples presented during the hour long presentation, many reminiscent of my blog post about businesses with “Please Use Other Door” signs on them. Scott didn’t mention them, but he did mention billboards containing QR codes that advised people not to text while driving. But trying to photograph QR codes while driving is OK? “Stop it!,” says Scott. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

How about putting together what ended up being an “award winning” advertising campaign using QR codes in subway stations where there were no signals for the smartphones to connect? What fools dreamed up and implemented such a campaign? And what batch of greater fools actually gave the company an award for a campaign that didn’t work?

Now I’m not ranting against QR codes in this post. They certainly have their place and can be valuable adjuncts to your messaging if used properly. What I’m trying to illustrate is that just because we have the technology to do these kinds of marketing “tactics of the day” doesn’t mean that we should do them. Especially if they don’t work!

Give some real thought to what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing tactics.  Make sure that they fit with your overall marketing strategy. Double check them for soundness and examine them for functionality.  Because you can spend inordinate amounts of time and money doing things that make absolutely no sense from an overall marketing standpoint and can even damage your brand or image.

Guess what happens when people try to use a QR code and it doesn’t work. They are much less likely to try it again. Guess what happens if they have a bad experience with your web site, your store entrance or your employees. They are much less likely to patronize your business again. So you are sabotaging yourself.

Think about it. Get third-party reviews from focus groups, advisory boards, consumer panels or marketing consultants before you implement a marketing tactic. And please don’t execute one just because you can, especially if you shouldn’t.

Your comment on my opinions are, as always, welcome. I’d love to hear from you and will share your comments with your permission.

Seven Steps to Success

Marketing-Strategy-Development-Process-FlowOK, the drawing is a little hard to read on this post. You can find the full sized version on my Pinterest business board, but I really want to talk about the steps in the process and not the pretty picture itself.

The drawing shows the seven steps in the process that I recommend when it comes to developing a marketing plan and the strategies and tactics that make up its details.

It makes the assumption — and watch out here, because assumptions can be dangerous! — that the items in the funnel are fixed. If they are not, then you’re actually in better shape than if they were. If you can play with the product, the packaging and the pricing, the promotion part may become much easier as you look at your markets, messages and media.

External data on markets, messages and media alternatives needs to be gathered and analyzed within the constraints of the business such as budgets, product and goals. The validity of the decisions made during the preliminary and subsequent decision-making processes is directly proportional to the validity of the input data.

Do not skimp on this step. Doing so means putting the results in jeopardy and potentially wasting a lot of energy, time and money with do-overs or faulty implementations.

Marketing strategies and tactics have changed with changes in technology, the economy, buyer demographics and behavior and message delivery mechanisms such as social media. But the basics still apply. You need to develop and deliver clear concise messages that will resonate with your prospects and customers so that they respond positively to your calls for action.

When the initial analysis is complete, it’s time to discuss the preliminary results. Challenge each assumption. Validate every data source. Take advantage of the expertise of everyone who can contribute to the development of a successful strategy or who may be impacted by or charged with implementing the tactics resulting from the final strategy.

  • Then IMPLEMENT the agreed-upon strategy in the biggest, best and most complete way possible. DO NOT hold back or hesitate. If you believe in what you have developed, go for it!
  • MEASURE the results of implementing your strategy and the effectiveness of each tactic.  Because if you can’t measure you can’t improve.
  • Use CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT methods to fine-tune your strategy over time, discarding things that don’t work and emphasizing those that do.

You will get out of a formal marketing strategy development or review/improvement effort a set of benefits commensurate with the amount of time, effort and expertise put into the strategy development process.

This post was excerpted from my Marketing Strategy Development e-Book.  If you’d like a copy, please request one here and I’ll be happy to send you one. And I’d love to have your comments on the process recommended above.  Don’t be shy!