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.

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.

is this the year for your platform?

Do you have a message that is burning inside of you that you want to share with more people?

Do you have a remarkable company, product or service that you want to have more impact?

Do you want to have more influence on your career trajectory than you currently have?

Are you somebody that is constantly asked for advice on a specific topic?

Do you currently mentor a few people but would like to have a greater impact on a greater number?

Do you have a vision to bring about a change or start a movement?

Throughout my adult life, all of the above questions have resonated with me at some point or another and I have tried to find a coherent model through which I can build something consistently that would help me to be more successful. After observing how others have done this and reading extensively in a wide are of topics about technology, finance, marketing, personal development and success, the model that I believe is the most organic way to increase the impact of your unique contribution to this world is by building a platform.

I am primarily influenced by the writings of Seth Godin on this topic, but I have also observed first hand both at my job and in my personal life how people have taken the concepts he writes about and made them real. I invite you on a journey with me where I will explore platforms, both in my writing and by practicing things in my own life. I would also like to help you to move forward in building your own platform because whatever God has uniquely put in you to share with the world is for the world’s benefit and whatever is holding you back from sharing it can be overcome.

For the purposes of this exploration, a platform is:

  • a homebase from which you can rally supporters (a tribe) for your cause
  • a place for you to both demonstrate and increase your credibility in your area of expertise by teaching, mentoring and/or entertaining your tribe
  • a watering hole for you to build lasting relationships with your tribe that over time can help you increase your influence to a larger group

A platform is not:

  • a soapbox
  • a 24/7 marketing pitch
  • a vanity publication to boost your ego

I do not have all the answers so I invite your feedback and dialog as we go on this adventure together.

mentorship is not for puppeteers

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
– Antoine de Saint Exupéry

One of my major themes this year is mentorship because I want to become both a better mentor and a better mentee. Over the past 5 years, I have had the privilege of learning about mentoring through the platform of a mentoring program called Khalfani that primarily serves young men of color between the ages of 6 and 18 years old. Through that experience, I have enjoyed watching young boys mature into young men even as I have grown as a leader myself. I have also begun to develop some personal guidelines that are more effective than others at influencing a mentee and helping them become successful. These guidelines are not only helpful in mentoring teenagers but can be applied to anybody that looks up to you for advice or input into their career or life choices.

The quote at the beginning of this post encapsulates the first of these guidelines. If you want to be effective as a mentor, you have to reframe the way in which you point a person towards success – unlike a puppeteer who makes the puppet act by controlling its actions directly; a mentor should not focus solely on getting their mentee to follow their instructions. This will hurt the mentee more than it will help them because you are not equipping them to develop their own problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Instead, the mentor’s role is to paint a picture for the mentee of their future that is so compelling they will long for it and implement your advice as a means to get to that end.

Practically, there are at least two ways to do this that are easily accessible to anybody:

1. Be the model
2. Tell stories

Be the model

The easiest way to mentor somebody is to live your life according to the principles that you are trying to instill in your mentee. If they spend enough time around you, the authenticity of your life will give you the credibility to speak into their lives. And if you have a life that gives them a glimpse of what they would like their own lives to be like, they will naturally want to know the ‘magic sauce’ that got you to where you are.

Tell stories

Humans are naturally drawn to stories and we remember them better than we do facts or lectures. If you want a lesson to stick with your mentee, find a way to tell a story (preferably one from your own life) that illustrates the concept you are trying to convey. When you do that it does two things:
· It reinforces you as the model they can safely follow
· It gives them a simple memory trigger for when they will need that principle in the future

So as you consistently model things and provide frameworks for concepts through stories, you will have a much greater influence over your mentee than if you merely try to teach them things through a ‘lecture’ format – and you will enjoy yourself more because your interactions will be based on the building of a relationship, rather than the transactional ‘impartation of wisdom’.

Instead of being the puppeteer, you will be the muse and your mentee will be encouraged to create their masterpiece.

when you plot your path it is impossible to see the whole picture

There is a famous story about six blind men who had an argument about an elephant.  They were on a journey together when they came upon something in their way that they did not recognize.

The first man reached his hand out and touched the wide and rough side of the elephant, so he declared to his friends:

“It is a great wall, and we will have to climb over it.”

The next man reached out and touched the elephant’s tusk.  He yelled back to the first man:

“What are you talking about, this is a great spear – let us take it with us for protection on our journey.”

The third man reached out and rubbed his hand on the elephant’s trunk, then began to tremble:

“There is a great snake in our path and we must turn back!”

Yet another man reached out and this time he touched the elephant’s knee, so he said calmly to the other men:

“We have been walking for a great distance, have no fear, let us rest ourselves next to this great tree.”

The fifth man, reached out and touched the elephant’s ear:

“Ahh … this is a great fan which we can use to cool ourselves down in this scorching day.”

Not wanting to be left out, the last man touched the elephant’s tail and said:  “This is just a piece of rope … it is completely useless to us on our journey.”

Despite encountering exactly the same situation – the elephant – each man came to a completely different conclusion than the other men, both about what he was experiencing, and about what he should do about it.

What’s most striking to me about the story though, is how convinced each one of them was that they had the full story.  So convinced, in fact, that some of them ridiculed the other mens’ position because it differed from theirs.

How often have you been guilty of the very same ignorance when planning out a goal in your life?  A quick decision about a path you should take, based on limited information, and no outside guidance, and you are on your way.  But the wise words of the Bible sum this up very well:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

— Proverbs 14:12

The only way to combat this bias towards ignorance is to understand upfront that getting the whole picture about the future and how your goals will progress is impossible, so never assume that you have it.  Instead, focus on getting a healthy set of perspectives – even some that contradict each other – and then take action with an open mind.

your purpose is to cross the swamp, not to fight the alligators

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine De Saint-Exupery (Author of The Little Prince)

This quote speaks about the importance of vision and possibility to achieving a desired result and motivating others to do the same – simply assigning tasks and ‘cracking the whip’ does not get the desired result.  The book I just finished reading (‘The Art of Possibility’ by Rosemund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander) provides some very tangible ways to create a habit of ‘seeing’ possibility (professionally, personlly and otherwise) and using it to broaden your horizons.

The book is broken up into twelve ‘practices’ that we can use to continuously orient ourselves towards possibility; Roz and Ben do an excellent job of walking you through these practices and providing very rich examples. Ben provides examples in the context of music and the orchestra since he is a conductor, and Roz provides examples from working with counselling clients through her practice as a psychologist.

The opening practice that they speak about is the concept that ‘Its All Invented’. Each chapter is dedicated to a practice and they are each as profound and paradigm-shifting as this first one.

It’s All Invented

The idea with this practice is that we should constantly remind ourselves that everything in the world is ‘invented’; that we interpret situations based on a frame that has been ‘programmed’ into us, so if we occasionally question that programming, it opens up possibilities. The chapter opens with a short vignette that clearly illustrates this phenomenon”

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying: SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES

Both scouts are operating on exactly the same information, but come out with completely different stories – they both invent a viewpoint.

The caution here is that we can miss out on possibility, if we do not challenge our assumptions about how we perceive the world to be.

The Quote that Got Me

Despite the richness of the content by the authors, the quote that stuck the most with me from the book was not produced by either Roz or Ben but rather a NASA employee in one of the stories Ben told about ‘Creating Frameworks for Possibility’. In this story, Ben asks a group of teenagers to write a set of letters to NASA employees that will illustrate to them that music and space exploration are not as different as you would initially believe. The teenagers come up with some fascinating insights that are so motivating to the NASA employees that they recipricate with their own letters to the young people. In one of those letters, a NASA employee writes:

… Thank you for reminding me what I am here for. I will have to remember ‘I am here today to cross the swamp, not to fight all the alligators’ [emphasis mine]

What a powerful way to reorient ourselves towards the purpose of our work – to its vision and possibility. How often do we get caught up fighting alligators (obstacles, personal conflicts, issues etc.) – and lose sight of the overall vision that we are working towards. We all need a way to get ourselves back to that vision so that our work can remain invigorating and meaningful – thus allowing us to perform at our highest levels. We all need to remember the swamp that we are trying to cross and minimize the impact of the alligators on that mission.

Bonus Treat!: Ben Zander is a powerful public speaker and if you have a few minutes, check out his TED talk