Category: platforms

consolidating my online presence

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my online presence.  As I am helping more and more people strategize about their presence online and how to maintain a consistent brand, I have realized that some pruning is needed for the different places I have created assets online.  I strongly believe that focus and intention are more important than being present everywhere at all times, so I have decided to close down some of my ‘outposts’ and redirect them here.  If you clicked on a link that got you here, that is the reason.

My focus now (until experience tells me otherwise) is that I am going to maintain two blogs, facebook, and twitter. I will occasionally produce content on other networks, but these will be the main components of my platform.

This is the purpose for each one:

  • This blog is my personal blog where I explore ideas and write about a wide range of topics without restraining myself to any editorial direction.  I loosely focus on creativity, technology, health and leadership – but once in a while, I write things that don’t neatly fit into those buckets.
  • MoreThanAHut Blog is where I write about platforms and tribe building, especially from the perspective of owning your online presence
  • Facebook is my choice for daily engagement and ‘in the moment’ expression.  I like the immediacy of the audience on Facebook and the ability to have a more personal engagement with my relationships
  • Twitter is mostly an announcement and article sharing platform for me.  I use it to spread my written articles and any other information I come across that I have not yet digested into more coherent ideas for a blog post.

This is subject to evolution over time because my goals will evolve and the tools will change – I will make sure I reassess the decisions here periodically to make sure the solutions that best serve my tribe are the ones I focus on.

Madiba

I remember in my second year of high school in Botswana, we had a history teacher named Mr. Wilson who was determined to help us gain an appreciation for the importance of understanding the past and its impact on the present.  He didn’t want us to just memorize the information for the purpose of passing the tests – he wanted us to care about the content and make it our own.

One of the ways in which he achieved this goal with me was a series he took us through about three historical figures: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.  With each of the figures, he took us through their background, how they rose up in leadership of a movement, the sacrifices they had to make and ultimately, how they changed the world.

I remember reflecting on how interconnected these three historical figures experiences were with each other.  Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s ‘non-violent’ approach to protest and the earlier part of Mandela’s leadership applied the same principles.  Prior to his civil rights work in India, Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa where he developed many of his political views and methods fighting injustices in Mandela’s native land.

All three challenged a ‘status quo’ that at the time seemed insurmountable and ultimately triumphed, not because of their wealth or military power – but because of their strength of conviction which caused a movement of people to rise up that eventually could not be ignored.

Nelson Mandela PosterIn 1989, when we studied these figures, two of them were already dead and the one who was living was still serving an unjust lifetime imprisonment sentence. We did not even know what Nelson Mandela looked like because all the photos released of him at the time were pre-prison.

Our visual image of him was the young man in his 40s with a part in his hair that we saw on all the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters.  So we studied him like a ‘past’ figure because we did not know if he would ever be released.

So I remember very vividly the following year when it was announced that he would be released.  Our school came to a standstill as everybody let it sink in – that day no class really studied – we just rejoiced.

And then on the day that he was released, we spent several hours watching a television shot of a gate as we waited for him to emerge.  There were several delays and it only built the anticipation of who he would be after all these years.

Was he a frail old man and a shadow of his former self?

Had he lost his regal stature and magnetic draw because of the unmentionable horrors of imprisonment?

Would he be bitter and seek revenge on his now vanquished tormentors?

Thankfully, the answer to those questions was no, no and absolutely not.  He emerged and lived an amazing ‘second chapter’ to his life that most people could not manage in a single life.  From uniting a country that was on the brink of civil war, to bringing Africa its first World Cup, his imprint has resonated throughout the world over the past two decades.

nelson-jacketEven within my family his impact has been tremendous.  I think this post by my sister this morning gives a very good summary of the breadth of his reach.  I love the picture that she used in her post because I am so thankful that our visual image of him today is that imprint that she used when she designed the jacket – rather than the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ posters we grew up with.

 

 

google hangout with Sacha Chua

Hangouts-Logo

On Friday I had a Google Hangout session with one of my favorite bloggers, Sacha Chua, who writes the blog “Living an Awesome Life.” This was a new experience for me in reaching out and networking with a fellow writer who I have been following (and admiring) from a distance.  Despite my nervousness prior to the Hangout, it was an awesome experience (pun intended).

A few weeks ago, I made a concious effort to engage more on the places that I have an online presence and so far I have found the experience to be quite rewarding.  Part of that experiment is to actively comment on blogs where the author is covering a topic that I care about and feel that I can contribute to the conversation.

In Sacha’s case, she blogged about some questions she was asking herself about the direction of her blog and I felt that a lot of the issues she was reflecting on were in line with the Platform theme I have this year.  So I wrote a long comment in response to the post and was quite surprised when she offered to do a Skype call or Google Hangout to discuss the topic further.

I did not know what to expect when I joined the Hangout on Friday but she immediately put me at ease with her calm and humble nature.  We covered a wide range of topics at the beginning of the call – from some of the challenges of communicating with family that lives overseas, to how much we both love learning new things.

When we moved into the meat of our conversation, there were three key areas that we covered:

One: How can Sacha reach more people while staying true to her ‘brand’?

A consistent theme that emerged while talking with Sacha (and something that I share with her) was her desire to remain authentic to her ‘true self’ through the process of building out her platform.  For her, building her platform is not about fame or increased profits.  She genuinely loves sharing with people about things she learns and helping those people ‘live an awesome life’ in whatever way that means for them.  She has a good income from her offlilne consulting work and doesn’t feel the need to focus on monetizing.

Although she is already very active on the main social networks and has a pretty good following that she shares her thoughts, ideas and help with, I recommended Michael Hyatt’s book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World as good reading for thinking about all of the aspects involved in building out a platform.  The book has a lot of focus on building a platform to mass and monetizing it – two things that I know are not focuses for Sacha right now – but I thought the framework he provides would be a good template to use.

Two: What type of things make sense for Sacha to ‘package’ from the topics she covers in her blog posts?

In addition to the book suggestion, my personal recommendation for Sacha on how to reach more people was that she looks for ways to ‘package’ some of her content into ‘bite size pieces’ that people who are not blog readers could consume and still get the ‘essense of Sacha’.  Some of the work she does with Sketchnoting is an excellent example of this and she has already had a very positive reaction to one of the topics she has started packaging in that way.

In addition to sketchnotes, I suggested she consider creating free ebooks on some of the other areas she consistently covers on her blog like ‘The Quantified Self‘ and her ‘5 Year Experiment‘.

Three: How can Sacha help people who are starting out or trying to be more consistent writers / bloggers?

The last topic we spent a lot of time on was sort of a ‘therapy session’ for me.  Sacha asked how she can help people like myself who are either starting out with blogging or desire to become more consistent in their writing.  My honest answer was that I didn’t know what would help since I was still trying to work it out for myself.

We spent a long time talking about what we both agreed was the root cause of a lot of the main struggles in becoming more consistent (The Resistance) and something Sacha said stuck with me and I think will help me going forward. I asked her how she keeps to such a prolific posting schedule and whether she ever feels a pressure that she is going to let her readers down if she doesn’t post.

Her answer was that she would be letting herself down.

In addition to a forum for sharing, Sacha really sees her blog as a holding place for her thoughts because she doesn’t ‘trust her memory’ and because she sees the blog that way, regardless of whether or not somebody reads a post she puts up, she continues to write because it helps her work through her thoughts and organize them.  This perspective on the process of blogging is very freeing because it helps me to avoid some of the second-guessing and perfectionism that makes me inconsistent.

As a practical follow-up to our discussion, Sacha is going to pilot a Google Hangout session in mid-June and I agreed to participate as one of her ‘guinea pigs’.  I am looking forward to that session and using it as motivation to get back on a consistent schedule so that I have some good questions for her during that talk.

think of your business card as a doorway instead of a signpost

Your online reputation is becoming increasingly more important than your business card and ignoring this trend will not make it go away.

But it may impact you in ways you don’t intend.

Business cards are clutter

Traditionally, business cards have served two main functions:

  1. provide a snapshot of how to reach you
  2. enhance the credibility of your role, function or business

I used to have a large collection of business cards because every time I met a new person, that was the best way to retain a quick snapshot of who they were and how to get in touch with them.

I also printed up business cards whenever I started up a new venture to give myself ‘credibility’ and make sure people could reach me. At one point, I carried around three business cards because I was working on three unrelated ventures at the same time.

Between carrying my own cards to give out and holding onto business cards from others, I often had a George Costanza wallet.

Today, this kind of wallet clutter is unnecessary. Instead, when I meet someone new, I ask them for an email address and/or cell phone number and enter them straight into my smartphone where the information automatically syncs up to all my communication devices. If somebody asks how to reach me, I give them my email address which is a more reliable way to reach me than my phone number.

With the ubiquity of digital ways to exchange contact information, the first function of the business card is becoming obsolete.

Your online presence is a competitive advantage

The second function of a business card, credibility, is easily trumped by your online presence.

Consider the following scenario:

You are trying to settle on a contractor to finish your basement. Your budget is $20,000 and the two remaining candidates both have great ideas – their quotes are a only few hundred dollars apart.

Because this is a significant investment, you meet with each of the contractors separately and tell them you need a few days to make your decision.

On departure, the first contractor hands you a business card and tells you to call him or email anytime if you have questions. He has an attractive, glossy business card with his cell phone number and an AOL email address. There is no url for a website but he gives you a few names of references to call.

The second contractor also hands you a business card and tells you to call or email. The business card is less attractive but still professional. It has his cell phone number, a website url and an email address that matches the website. He doesn’t volunteer any references but tells you to ‘check out his website’.

When you visit the second contractor’s website, you find a gallery page with ‘before and after’ pictures of several other basements he has completed. You also find a page of testimonials from satisfied customers.

But the place you spend the most time is the YouTube channel you get to from a link on his website; it contains short videos of him demonstrating several home improvement tips and tricks. One of the videos helps you fix a small problem in your house that has been bugging you for a few weeks.

You call him up and ask if its okay for you to speak to some of the past customers that left testimonials on the website. He gives you some names which you call and they all talk about what a great job he did and how much they learned from him and his videos.

Because you don’t have a url for the first contractor, you google his name and his company name to see what comes up. You find a few yellow pages entries that contain the same contact information on the business card.

You call the references he gave you and they all say he did a great job.

At this point, are you still conflicted about which contractor to choose?

Despite the similarity of their ideas and quotes, the second contractor would have significantly more credibility with me than the first even if the first one had the better business card and just as many references.

The first contractor’s approach to credibility is through the attractiveness of his business card and the list of references he provides. The business card is a signpost of his services.

But the second contractor uses his business card as a doorway to enchanting you even before you pay him a single dollar. His approach to credibility is through the engagement and generosity that is enabled by his online presence – he not only tells you about his services, he ‘gives away’ his expertise to you for free.

I believe the second approach will win in the majority of situations because it goes beyond a transaction and focuses on building a relationship. The second contractor is leveraging the power of a platform to differentiate himself and build a tribe of followers that will act as an extension of his marketing.

Market by connecting and engaging

I’ve used the example of a business card but this concept applies to any of the traditional pieces of collateral that we use for credibility and marketing.

It applies to brochures, postcards, billboards, posters, giveaways.

It applies to your resume.

All this collateral is not an end in itself – it should be used as a doorway to invite your prospects into a connection and relationship with you.

It is this connection that will yield the most fulfilling and impactful results in your career and business.

how passion works in guiding your path

“Follow your passion”
“Your gifts will make room for you”
“Do what you love and the resources will follow”

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with a junior in college who called me because she was distraught about how many rejections she was receiving for her applications to internships. She was baffled by what was going on and was seeking advice on how she could generate more success in the process.

On the surface, she was doing all the right things. She submitted her resume to all the right companies. She had an internship the prior summer that told a good story about how she was a good fit. And her academic major was in the right lane for the jobs she was seeking in Financial Services.

Something wasn’t quite adding up.

So I decided to ask her a few questions, starting with the easy ones like ‘what is your GPA?’ and ‘what do you do for extracurriculars?’. This helped me to identify some reasons why she may have not been seeing the success she expected.

But the question which really helped me to diagnose the problem was when I asked her:

“What are you passionate about?… what do you really want to do?”

She started off by answering about how passionate she was about ‘Sales and Trading’ and how she felt her skills and background really made her a good fit for this… but I wasn’t buying it.

So I rephrased the question:

“What do you geek out about?… what is the area in which you get consumed to a point that is almost weird to other people?”

“Well, I would say development.” Because of prior conversations I’ve had with her I knew she was talking about economic development – specifically in Africa.

“Tell me a little more about that.”

“I don’t believe microfinance is the answer…”

“Really, why?”

For the next few minutes we had an engaging back and forth dialog that culminated in me commenting:

“I bet I could get you into a heated argument about microfinance and you would enthusiastically take me on.”

This was nothing like the discussion we had about Sales and Trading. With this topic it was clear that she truly cared

… and I was buying it.

So I asked her another (somewhat leading) question:

“Do you think you are on the path you are on because its what you see everybody else doing and not necessarily what you are here to do?”

“Probably…”

“And, do you fear that if you followed the Development path, you wouldn’t make any money?”

“Yes”

I could now fully relate to her dilemma because of my own journey.

‘Inspirational’ phrases like the three quotes at the beginning of this post have been a source of continuous anxiety and stress for me for years. I have never been able to fit my skills, experiences and interests into a neat box. This is especially stressful coming from a traditional African family where only certain academic pursuits are considered acceptable to pay attention to, while other things that are more artistic or unconventional are seen as impractical and a waste of time.

My situation was compounded by my strong interest and aptitude in Math and Science because I was just as strong in the ‘hard subjects’ as I was artistically. So it was not a simple choice where I should focus. I was not like my older brother who knew from his early teens that he wanted to be a doctor.

In fact for several years I wished that I was horrible at every subject but Art or Drama so that it was more obvious what I should spend my life doing.

But there were no such easy answers because when you have interests and passions that don’t naturally line up to an existing ‘career box’ you always feel like you are fumbling around in a dark room trying to find an ever elusive light switch.

For years I searched for this light switch using different approaches:

  • pursuing architecture because I thought it would be a natural blend of my art and science skills until an internship after my freshman year where I realized it was the wrong path
  • diving head first into Film Animation as a major in college because I had never experienced the validation of an artistic pursuit being my main focus
  • applying to (and landing) a job as a management consultant because I wanted to ‘keep my options open’ in terms of career paths and a career in animation was not viable for somebody who needed a work visa to stay in the country
  • operating a freelance writing business when my management consulting career ended abruptly until I realized that I did not enjoy the stress of ‘cranking out’ writing projects on spec
  • a failed career as a mortgage broker at the height of the real estate boom in which I realized I was no good at commissioned sales

I could list several more examples of my journey, but the main point is that somewhere along the way I realized that I was trying to find a light switch that did not exist – I was trying to solve the wrong equation. I thought that I needed to figure out what career path my passions translated into and then I would catch my stride.

One of my current favorite bloggers, Sacha Chua, calls this “the myths of a sudden calling.”. In a recent article, she articulates my ‘light switch’ odyssey very well:

“When people wish for passion, I think what they’re really wishing for is certainty: the knowledge that this, here, is exactly what you are meant to do, that intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world values. The certainty that this is the best way to spend this moment in time, and the ease of not having to make yourself do something or fight distractions.”

“Passion doesn’t strike out of the blue.”

Reading this article was a confirmation of a change in my approach over the last few years that I have found to be much more successful. Rather than trying to predetermine what ‘box’ my passions are indicating, I have surrendered to the understanding that passions are more like a flash light than a light switch. They illuminate just enough of the path ahead for you to move forward without giving you the full picture. But as you move that flashlight around, you discover more about your purpose and it becomes easier to determine whether you are veering off course, or whether you are operating closer to your ‘sweet spot’.

Passions on their own are useless though if you don’t do the work of focusing, creating and shipping.

You have to deliberate less than you act.

You have to experiment more than you plan.

And you have to see failure as a source of educational data, rather than an embarrassment to be avoided.

My final piece of advice for my college junior friend was that she has to pause whatever path she has followed to this point and take a detailed inventory of where her passions really lie. And then taking those passions as a starting point, she has to face her fears and take actions that will give her useful feedback about her path. Over time, these series of steps will start to form a clearer picture of her purpose and she will be able to use each experience to inform the next successfully.

I find writing is an excellent way to do this kind of inventory – so I suggested she do a “stream of consciousness” piece of writing and see where it takes her.

I am sure she will surprise herself with what she finds out.

angst and The Resistance

Last night my daughter was reviewing her homework with my wife when my wife noticed that she had not done the writing assignment correctly. It was a very simple assignment that she had done several times before. She was given a list of words and she had to create three sentences that used all the words.

In her first version of the assignment she had used the wrong form of one of the words and ignored using some of the others.

So my wife asked her to do it again and the tears began to well up in her eyes:

“But its too hard”

“Why won’t you help me?”

The ensuing soap opera lasted almost an hour. She went into her room and sat staring at the paper but writing nothing and complaining about how it was too hard.

Her younger sister, trying to be helpful, suggested a strategy:

“Why don’t you think about something you like and then write about that.”

Her suggestion was met with indignant venom “I tried that already and it didn’t work!”

I doubt she had.

So I made another suggestion:

“Why don’t you take out a blank piece of paper and write out a few sentences to try out some different ideas.”

More resistance: “I already did that”

“When?”

“When I first wrote it.”

“So you haven’t done it this time around?”

“No.”

“So take out a piece of paper and try.”

So she took out a piece of paper and I left her at it. Several minutes later when I returned, she had written one sentence and couple of words but was back to pouting.

“This is too hard. Why won’t Mummy help me?”

In the end, my wife told her that it was up to her whether or not she did it, but she would have to face up to her teacher tomorrow if she didn’t do it. This morning it was unclear whether she ever did the assignment.

Besides the inherent melodrama of an 8 year old, what was going on here? My daughter has had an ease with words since she could speak. She reads at several grade levels above her own. And almost every day she writes a story and gives it to us as a present.

The issue was not that the task was unreasonable, or too difficult. The problem was not that my wife refused to help her.

I believe her problem was The Resistance (or as Seth Godin refers to it, the lizard brain).

The Resistance is that part of our brain that aggressively fights against you every time you want to create something or do a piece of work that really matters. The Resistance hates art because art comes with risk. Art comes with a possibility of painful rejection if somebody does not like what you made. If somebody does not like the work that you poured your heart and soul into.

The Resistance believes that its noble cause is to protect you from that pain so it puts at the forefront of your mind the possibilities for failure and minimizes any vision of success.

When my daughter was faced with the simple task of creating something new The Resistance made sure she forgot about all the times she had done this before and convinced her that it was too hard.

But this is not an ailment that only afflicts 8 year olds – it is something that I constantly struggle with and watch other highly talented and intelligent people fight.

It comes in the form of procrastinating on moving an important project forward by focusing on imagined future roadblocks instead of dealing with the work that needs to be done now.

It comes in the form of overloading your schedule with a long list of important things to do, when you know in the back of your mind that you are avoiding that one piece of writing you have to do or that one phone call you have make.

It comes in the form of never giving yourself time to pause and reflect because you will realize that you are putting up smokescreens.

Writers call it writers block.
Salespeople call it call reluctance.
Busy people say they are overwhelmed.
Perfectionists say they have to do some additional work on it before its ready.

What they are all saying without using the words is that they are scared.

Scared of their own potential to make an impact.
Scared of their own ability to change the status quo.
Scared that if they truly stepped out and did the work, they would become accountable for the results and people would expect them to keep producing. But because The Resistance has convinced them that they are inadequate, they fear that even if they are successful the first time, they will be unable to repeat the results.

My daughter was scared.

And I am often scared.

But I am learning that if I am truly going to live out an authentic life that reflects my true potential, I have to fight The Resistance and win.

The good news is that The Resistance is much more bark than bite. It can be countered by taking some simple steps and building habits around them.

Step One: acknowledge The Resistance and expose it for who it is. Make a point to start watching yourself and questioning why certain things that are important to you are not getting done. Ask yourself the question: “What am I resisting?”

I’ll give you a hint … your first answer to that question is probably wrong. Especially if it has nothing to do your emotions and what you fear. Once you start digging deeper and getting to the core of your resistance, you have a good starting place.

Step Two: find evidence that contradicts the fear and emphasizes the opportunities for impact and positive change that you could have if you did the creative work you are avoiding.

Step Three: do the work. Take action and keep taking action. Then ship. Hit the publish button. Press send on the email. Pick up the phone and have the conversation.

Step Three is the only way to truly counter The Resistance. Because by taking action you disprove The Resistance’s theory that you cannot or shouldn’t do it.

This blog post is just as much for me as it is for you. Publishing it is me countering The Resistance and determining within myself that I have things to write about that matter and need to be written.

I wrote this post on my phone during my commute to overcome my excuse that I don’t have time to write. And it worked.

Writing this post is also my notice to The Resistance that I can see what it was doing with my daughter but I will have none of it. I will teach her how to defeat it.

And she will win.

What are you resisting?

For more reading, see Seth Godin on the resistance.

my sister’s tribe

Yesterday, my sister who passed away last year would have turned 35. Ten days before her 34th birthday, she left us suddenly and for the first few days after after she was gone I kept thinking to myself how unfair it was for her to go so soon. How could somebody so young, who seemed to be finally hitting her stride in her life and career, get snatched away so suddenly. It felt like she had so much left to do.

That was how I felt until I encountered her tribe.

It started with a Facebook page created by one of her dear friends and then a WePay donation account I set up to simplify the process for anybody who wanted to help financially with the costs of repatriating her body to Uganda and other funeral related expenses.  Within a few hours both pages went viral and exploded with activity.  People shared story after story of how Phina had touched their lives and donation after donation came in from all over the world.  It was an overwhelming outpouring of love and concern for a grieving family – but it was also an amazing illustration of the impact one person can have on hundreds (possibly thousands) of people in a relatively short time.

In 33 years she had cultivated a tribe from her early days in elementary school in Botswana all the way to her graduate studies at Tufts University in Boston.   Whether it was a high school friend who remembered her from their soccer team, or a college friend who remembered how she took then under her wing, there was a remarkable consistency in the depth of emotional (oftentimes life-changing) effect her life had on others. 

And she did it all without having a Facebook or Twitter account. Without having a lot of money to her name. Without coming from a powerful family with connections. In our highly networked and connected world, she was one of the few people who still sent birthday cards and ‘just thinking of you’ notes to her friends and family.

Her wealth was her endless capacity to love others and she did it with a gentleness and humility that is very rare today.

Though I miss her dearly, I no longer feel like she was ‘snatched away’ too soon. I believe that she completed her mission here and her work will live on through all the people’s lives that she changed.

As I reflect on her tribe in the context of my focus on building platforms this year, it is very clear to me that it is not the tools or methods that you use to reach people that matter the most – its your heart and the generosity with which you share it.

how Jesus developed His platform: definitive declaration

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

(Luke 4:18-19)

In my last post I wrote about the importance of private reflection and how you can use this to prepare yourself for the launch of your platform. The themes that you clarify through this process are the basis for the next step that Jesus used in developing His platform.

In the middle of a regular gathering for worship on the Sabbath, Jesus stood up and read a scripture from the book of Isaiah. This was not unusual for Him to do because the text mentions how this was “His custom”. What was extraodinary in this particular instance was the effect that His reading of the scripture had on the other people there.

When he sat down after reading “…The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him.”

He captured their attention with what he read because there was an authority with which He read this particular passage. And to make sure that it was clear to the people why they were feeling the way they were, He made a definitive declaration that “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

After His time of fasting and reflection in the wilderness, it was time to let the world know definitively about His purpose – that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy that He had read about.

The components of your declaration

In the same way, once you have spent time in reflection and are clear about your themes, you need to find a way to make a definitive declaration of your purpose with authority.  Your declaration does not have to be anything flashy, and you can choose a smaller audience than a room full of people.

But it does need to be two things:

  • Focused – Clearly outline your vision and ‘why’ you are embarking on your journey
  • Remarkable – Enchant your future tribe members with the themes that you have reflected on and start the process of drawing them in

The vehicle for your declaration

There are many different ways that you can make your declaration. Doing it is more important than how you do it.

In my case, I decided a blog would be the best place for me to ‘go public’. I actually have two public declarations – one that is very specific about my focus in 2013 and one in the form of a personal manifesto that I used to derive the themes for this year.

The personal manifesto is something I wrote 2 years ago and filed away for reflection to make sure that it wasn’t just something that I made up on a whim. I wanted to make sure that it truly reflected who I am and why I do what I do.

In your case, it could be in the form of a tweet, a Facebook post, an email, an announcement at an event, a YouTube video, a podcast or even a few phone calls to people that you know fall into your tribe.

Just put yourself ‘out there’ and you will be amazed how energized you will feel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you might approach making your definitive declaration. Post in the comments below to let me know.

how Jesus developed His platform: reflection

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

(Luke 4:1-2 NIV)

Coming from the humble beginnings of a town that had a population of less than 500 over two thousand years ago it is remarkable that Jesus is responsible for a movement that numbers in the billions and spans five continents today. And most of this growth occurred without the use of Twitter or Facebook.

This worldwide movement was kicked off by a man, by Himself, in the wilderness, fasting for forty days.

Though I am not suggesting that you should launch your platform by going on a prolonged fast, the principles behind Jesus’ fast are important to study as a key entry point for you:

  • By Himself means that this was a private time where He was away from the public
  • and the wilderness represents a separation from everyday distractions and temptations

So the starting point for Jesus was a time of separation from everyday distractions and temptations that gave Him a focused period of private reflection. You need a similar process to prepare yourself both mentally and spiritually to share your gift with the world.

This reflection needs to happen before your tribe grows because it is the foundation of your brand.

The purpose of your reflection

The purpose of your reflection time is not to formulate goals and strategies about your platform though – and it is not a time to seek concrete answers to the millions of questions you have about how to build it. Use the time to acknowledge your temptations and clarify the key themes that you want to to be your focus.

Acknowledge your temptations

If we look again at Jesus, we see three encounters with Satan that illustrate the level of focus He had in the wilderness. They address three common temptations you may need to bolster yourself against before you begin:

  1. Bread from stones – the analogy to bread in this scene is money. When you release your focus from the temptation to find the fastest way to the financial resources that will be required to fulfill your vision; and you focus on how you will diligently serve your tribe, the path to resources will become clearer over time. An example of this temptation in the context of platform building is the blogger who spends too much time trying to monetize her blog instead of creating irresistible content that will draw her tribe in. ;
  2. Authority and splendour – the analogous temptation in this scene is that of seeking power or influence through the wrong avenues. In the building of your platform, your influence will not come from ‘bowing down’ to the latest trends that seem to be popular at the time. Instead, reflection gives you the opportunity to really examine what components of your message, product or service are unique and how you can fill an existing gap without artificially creating demand. ;
  3. Entitlement – do not make any assumptions about what your tribe should think about your expertise, qualifications or status. ;When you begin, the humility of knowing that there are no shortcuts because of any titles or certifications you have will serve you well. Jesus knew that his mission was larger than using His position as the Son of God to save himself – He did not need to put God to that test.

Clarify your themes

Themes are not goals, they are the overarching guides that will help you to create goals – but unlike goals which can be adjusted when circumstances change, themes remain constant. At the same time as you meditate on the temptations you want to avoid, you should solidify three to five themes for your platform.

The good news is that you have probably already formulated your major themes. Private reflection will primarily help you to bring them to the surface where they can become your focus.

Jesus already knew His themes before going into the wilderness.

They were:

  • Serve God
  • Humble Myself
  • Save Man

He clarified them by using them as the counterpoint to Satan’s temptations.

In the same way, your themes will help you to avoid traps along the way as you grow in influence.

For an idea on what themes might look like, here are mine.

Getting the most from your reflection

Finally, there are three things that can help you be fruitful in your private reflection:

  1. Take your time. This is not a process that you should rush. Alternatively, there is no minimum length of time you should spend – and if you are already in the middle of this process you may already be close to clarity. ;You may only need a day or two.
  2. Keep it to yourself. Now is not the time to share with others about your ideas and vision. Trust that what you need is already inside you and all you are doing is baring it down to its simplest form.
  3. Unplug. We are so hyperconnected today that we don’t have any space for reflection. Take some time away from you electronic devices and do some writing with a pen and pad as you reflect. You will be surprised how freeing this is to your creativity.

a timeless model for building your platform

One of the best ways I have found to learn about a new topic or area of interest that I want to implement in my life is to study models of others that have done so successfully.  I usually try to find patterns and themes in that model that I can digest and integrate into my own approach so that I eventually have something that fits with my personality and circumstances.  I don’t believe there are cookie-cutter approaches to most things and trying to find a silver bullet to solve a complex problem is usually a fools errand. 

When it comes to growing my sphere of influence by developing a platform there are a few models that I have looked at that I will be sharing with you on this blog over time.  They are from a wide variety of fields and formats but I felt the first one we should look at is an ancient one from the Bible.  I believe this model is timeless and can be relevant to you even if Christianity is not your faith tradition. 

When you examine the life of Jesus and His message in three years of focused ministry on earth there are some very clear themes that are parallel to building a movement today.  With very limited resources and a very humble beginning, He was able to systematically build a following that has only continued to grow more than two thousand years later.  He definitely had and continues to have a tribe.

Yes (if you believe as I do), He had the advantage of being the Son of God, but even if you just study what He did with an eye for some patterns that can be applied today, a model for your platform will emerge which I think you will see is very simple to grasp and will help to give you a roadmap that you can build on for yourself.

Over the next few posts, I will begin to paint this picture using the Gospel according to Luke chapter 4.  If you would like to read ahead, you can find it here.