Author: broc edwards

If I Die Today, It Will Be Too Soon

She never saw it coming but was likely dead within seconds. It was no one’s fault. No irresponsibility or neglect. Just an accident. Just bad luck. Wrong place at the wrong time. A few seconds’ difference and she would have been simply scared or hurt, not dead.

As far as dying goes, it was about as good as one could hope for: nearly instant and never saw it coming. As far as the death of a child goes, it was hard to take. No one to blame, no bad intent, no mistakes made. Nothing anyone could have done different. One second happy, the next second dead. No answers, only questions.

***     ***     ***

I carry an oversized coin in my pocket as a reminder my time is limited. On one side it reads, “Memento Mori” which translates to “remember death,” or “remember you will die”. On the back is a quote form Marcus Aurelius: “You could leave life right now.”

Face it. We’re dead. You, me, everyone. We just don’t know it yet.  Weirdly, that’s not pessimistic or fatalistic or even just negative. That’s just the reality. I find the potential of what we can do with that reality inspiring.

***     ***     ***

I had a medical scare once. I was 31. Some symptoms sent me to the doctor. It looked bad. As in, “hug your loved ones and say goodbye” bad. I was so worried I didn’t tell anyone, not even my wife. It took three days to get the test results back. Three very lonely days with a lot of time to think about things. To think about things we don’t normally think about.

At the time, I was working for my mentor, who was an absolute rock star in his field, and had been for decades. I enjoyed working with him, learned new things daily, had responsibilities beyond my experience, earned a great living, and I walked away from it. What happened?

It turned out to be nothing, but during those three days I asked myself, “What if this is it? What if I only have months? Have I done enough?” The answer was a clear “NO!”.

I needed to do more, to have a bigger impact, to change lives.

The first life I changed was mine. I changed locations, changed careers, and had a bigger impact.

But then time passed and I forgot I am going to die.

***     ***     ***

My father died a year and a half ago. Lymphoma, likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange, destroyed him. He had started slowing down several years prior but no one was surprised. He was getting old and still outworking everyone around him. It all had to catch up some time.

Then it was a lot of trips to the doctors. No one really knew what was wrong, but he required frequent transfusions. He felt fine, other than he’d die without fresh blood. Eventually, more tests revealed the truth.

He called me a week before Thanksgiving to tell me he was dying. His doctor gave him no more than three months to live. As hard as that call was to receive, I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it was to make.

He made it to January 30. The best/worst moment of my life was being there for him when his contribution to the world stopped.

***     ***     ***

I don’t think we humans really understand our mortality. I don’t think we’re wired for it. We’re programmed to survive and, paradoxically, it’s hard to survive if you fear death. Without hope, without vision, we give up. We have to believe we’ll keep living or we’d never get out of bed.

But the downside of that is we are blinded to our mortality. We live in denial. We understand death on an intellectual level, but few of us get it on the emotional, Truth-with-a-capital-T level.

If we did we’d worry more about our effort, our contribution, our legacy. We’d spend less time watching reality TV and more time maximizing our reality. Less time muting our emotions and more time turning the volume on our lives up to 11. Less time enjoying distractions and more time realizing our purpose.

We say our lives matter, that our legacy is important, that we care deeply about our contribution, but the Truth of our priorities lies in what we spend our time on.

***     ***     ***

There is a funeral today for a little girl whose potential will never be realized. Her opportunity to make a difference ended the moment she died. That’s hard to think about, let alone write. It feels mean to type that sentence, but I’m not disparaging her. Her passing doesn’t negate who she was or the love she had for her family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution she was going to make to the world ended in that moment. And that moment came too soon.

My father died with untapped potential. Wickedly smart and deeply human, he left with too few benefiting from his wisdom and compassion. That’s hard to think about, let alone write. It feels mean to type that sentence, but I’m not disparaging him. His passing didn’t negate who he was or the love he had for his family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution he was going to make to the world ended in that moment. And that moment came too soon.

There will be a funeral for me someday. Today, tomorrow, thirty or fifty years from now, I don’t know. My passing won’t negate who I was or the love I had for my family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution I was going to make to the world will end in that moment. And that moment will come too soon.

Whether I will die or not is not even a question.

The real question is: what will I do before I die? How will the world have been better for my being here?

The clock is ticking. I better keep moving.




Building an Email List for Fun and World Domination

“Dad, I think that’s the guy from Shadow of Whales.” We were standing in line, waiting to get into the venue to see Catfish and the Bottlemen and Green Day. My daughter pointed over to a red haired guy holding a clipboard and walking alongside the line.

She had her phone out and was swiping through a year’s worth of photos before I could even ask, “Are you sure?” She pulled up a photo of him standing next to her from June 2016. We had seen Shadow of Whales open for Marinas Trench at a bar in Austin over a year ago. Neither of us had heard of them before, but after their set, the bass player wandered through the crowd talking to people and my daughter got a picture with him.

My daughter stopped him as he approached and asked, “Are you in a band?” Yes he was. “Is it Shadow of Whales?” Yes again. He was excited she’d recognized him a year later and introduced himself as Jeremy (@jeremyboyumsow). The three of us talked a bit, then he asked a small, but very important question.


Noah Kagan (@noahkagan) was an early employee at both Facebook and and is now an entrepreneur. He has founded a couple of companies focused on business promotion and growth.  On the side, he blogs, podcasts, and makes videos on entrepreneurship, marketing, business promotion, sales, etc.

Noah often advocates collecting emails to create a connection with customers and improve sales. I like to believe I have a pretty good understanding of business and after hearing and reading Noah’s ideas and advice, I thought I understood the business imperative behind email lists.

I didn’t.


I am a huge fan of Ryan Holiday’s (@ryanholiday) books. All of them. Whether it’s about marketing, Stoic philosophy, or creating lasting art, Ryan packs about three lifetimes worth of wisdom into each book, yet makes the topics understandable, applicable, and practical.

He is also a voracious reader and has a monthly newsletter where he summarizes all the books he’s read lately. In a presentation at the launch of his latest book, he mentioned that he started this newsletter well before writing his first book as a way to collect email addresses and build a following. He figured people who like to read (i.e., potential customers) would find the newsletter valuable and once he’d published a book himself, he would have a way to directly reach his customers. His plan seems to have worked: over the years, he’s grown the list to 80,000+ subscribers, while becoming a best-selling author.

Again, I thought the idea was pretty cool, but only in an abstract way, not in a here’s-something-I-need-to-do way.

I was wrong.


It’s easy to forget that bands are really small businesses. They sell products (music) and services (concerts) to their customers (fans). In the Revolver Magazine article The Youth Are Getting Restless, veteran metal vocalist Randall Blythe discusses how technology and competition have greatly reduced the barriers to entry and made it very difficult for new bands to get a foothold. (Sound like what’s going on in other any other industry? Maybe in every other industry?)

He makes the comment, “I encourage everyone to play music – it’s great fun and good for the soul – but I’m never going to lie and say your chances of actually making money from it are anything other than dismal.” In the age of file sharing and freemium streaming music services, bands today make almost no money from selling their music.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine having a business where your primary service or product is not – and never will be – your primary source of income. So, if music sales aren’t profitable, how do bands make money? Randall goes on discuss what he recently saw a few new bands doing right: “They all worked hard to gain new fans, which is how you sell merch, which is the key to making a living as a band today (honestly, that’s it – I am really just a glorified black T-shirt salesman.)”

There’s the formula: Gain new fans + sell t-shirts = $$

But how do you gain new fans? How do you build an audience?


Jeremy asked, “Would you like to get our new EP in exchange for your email address?” My daughter enthusiastically agreed and he passed her the clipboard to add her name and email. We said goodbye and he continued working his way down the line.

In an era when music isn’t profitable but building a fan base and merchandise sales are, Jeremy was out in the hot Texas sun talking to everyone who would listen about his band’s music and trading their music for emails.


I’m pretty far from anything resembling an expert in email marketing. My only qualification is enjoying the work of actual experts like Noah and Ryan. Even though I’ve heard them both discuss the importance and approaches to capturing email addresses as a way of building and selling to the customer base, I realize now that I only understood it at the intellectual level. I didn’t really get it before, not truly.

To really understand it I had to see it at the most real of levels. A guy and a clipboard with the hustle and initiative and dedication to approach strangers and build an email list one conversation at a time.

That’s what he’s willing to do to grow his business.

How about you?

DNS (Did Not Start)

With two months to go, 60 more days to prepare, I quit. I decided not to run my first marathon. That failure has nagged at me since.

Early May 2016 I signed up to run a big marathon in Las Vegas in November. It was a strategic decision. I figured I’d be more motivated to complete the event with the investment of an event two states away. It would be an excuse to have a fun trip with my wife. I’d be back in my home state, and the temperature and weather would be great. Plus, it gave me six months to get into shape.

My kids thought it was cool and my daughter spent her allowance to buy me a key chain that read “26.2”. I told her I hadn’t done it yet and she responded that she knew I would.

Her faith wasn’t unfounded. I like to take on big challenges that scare me a little, I like to compete, and although I’d never run that far before, I used to run nearly daily. There was a time when I enjoyed actively pushed hard against my comfort zones.

But something funny happened on my way to the marathon. I never quite got my act together. Four months into my training and I was still doing the same (actually, less) distance as I did my first month. I feared getting hurt by pushing too far too soon, but never did enough to acclimate and build a solid base. I spend all my time thinking about running, yet most of the thought was around excuses not to run far, or even “reasons” to not run at all. It became obvious I simply wasn’t going to be able to complete it, so I killed the idea.

The worst part of quitting was telling my kids I wasn’t going to run the marathon. I felt like I let them down. My daughter tried to encourage me by insisting I could do it, and I had to explain there just wasn’t time. That hurt. A lot.

Still does.

Looking back, my mistakes are obvious. I tried to use an expensive event and trip to motivate me, but never went all in by booking flights and a hotel. It because a huge barrier where it was easier to not go because I didn’t want to spend all the money if I couldn’t complete the run. The race also had a four and a half or five-hour time limit, which didn’t allow much cushion if I needed to walk or rest. Fear of failing loomed large.

My biggest mistakes? No consistency and I didn’t embrace the pain. I would have been better to run a mile a day for the first month than the haphazard, almost random training schedule I was using. I feared short runs would set me back – not far enough to improve conditioning, just far enough to get sore and prevent running the next day – so I simply did not run enough. Staying inside the comfort zone was much nicer than getting uncomfortable.

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid.

I realize now that every big goal I’ve achieved in the past has been accomplished because I was obsessed with it. Consumed by it. Focused to the point my wife got a little concerned.  I simply refused be beaten by the goal and was relentless in working toward it.

Over this weekend I registered to do a local half-marathon in early August. New goal, new plan, new focus, new obsession.

#NOW: A book review

There is a small sliver of time in which everything happens. It’s that narrow bridge between the past and the future called “now”. Now is the only space of time any of us has. Not what was, not what will be, simply now. Every action happens in the now. We can have hope or anxiety about what will be, fondness or depression about what was, but we experience life right now.

What we did yesterday determined where we are today and what we do today creates the path to the tomorrow. Imagine a Venn diagram with two overlapping rings (or just look at the image of the book cover). The one on the left is the past, the right is the future, and the overlapping middle represents Now. Hold on to that image – it’s about to become important.

Behavioral strategist Max McKeown, Ph.D. has written several notable books on innovation, strategy, adaptability, and operating at our potential. It’s no secret I am a big fan of his writing style and ability to apply academic rigor to complex subjects while making them easy to understand and actionable.  Simply put, I was very excited to receive a review copy of his latest book: #NOW: The Surprising Truth About the Power of Now.

#NOW is a fairly quick read yet thorough and well documented. It pulled me in and carried me along, yet is substantial enough to warrant considerable time thinking about each page and sentence. When I first received the book, I initially meant to read the intro and flip through a few pages, but the next thing I knew, a couple of hours had passed and the pages were filled with sticky flags, highlighter marks, and handwritten notes.

“This book argues that for most people, most of the time, it is better to lean towards action rather than inaction… This is a book about the joy of moving. It is a book about motivation, because motivation means to be moved.” ~ from the introduction

#NOW explores the world from the perspectives of two types of people: Nowists and Thenists. The book is not a critique of the Thenist approach, nor is it a self-indulgent dissertation on the author’s approach to life and how everyone should be like him (gag). Instead, it’s an exploration of the two perspectives, the benefits of the Nowist approach, and how any of us can bring more of being a Nowist into our own lives. More than just a book of fluffy, happy platitudes, the concepts are demonstrated through real life examples, case studies, and research.

“The past is what you can’t change. The future is what you can change. #NOW is where everything changes.” ~ from the introduction

So what is a Nowist? They are change hungry doers who thrive on moving forward. They know what they are moving towards, embrace uncertainty, expect good things to happen, use internal measures of happiness, revel in potential, test themselves, and seek to master new skills. Think back to the Venn diagram I mentioned. Nowists build off the past while moving to the future.

Nowists precrastinate (think about that for a bit) and love to keep things rolling forward. They are active within their own lives and “believe that done is better than perfect.” Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters summed this approach up well when he once said, “I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be bad ass.” He was talking about making authentic music where the unique human imperfections are a strength, but the philosophy applies to living life.

There is an old motocross racing adage that sums up an important part of the Nowist approach: When in doubt, gas it! A healthy dose of throttle does not help in every situation, but it’s amazing how often it will be the saving grace that settles things down and propels you through when the track gets ugly or you lose control. Similarly, the Nowist approach values impulsiveness. Not the reckless, thoughtless, kneejerk impulsiveness of an immature teenager, but the functional impulsivity that comes from analyzing and deciding quickly and then moving forward with full commitment, correcting as you go.

Nowists strive to make decisions that are both accurate and fast. They realize that more time spent on a decision doesn’t necessarily improve accuracy, that moving forward with a good enough decision is better than getting trapped in inaction trying to make a perfect decision. So often, we treat speed and accuracy as mutually exclusive even though they clearly aren’t. It’s just as possible to make a quick, accurate decision as it is to spend a lot of time coming to the wrong decision. Why spend more time than necessary identifying and moving forward with the right solution? Further, action enables us to evaluate and refine our decisions as we go. Movement gives us information that can never be gained from inaction.

“Get moving. Accomplish something small. Do something you enjoy. Embrace what moves you. And start again.” – p. 48

Except… well, often easier said than done. Slow can feel prudent (even when it isn’t) and fast can feel reckless (even when it isn’t). Adding complexity can feel smart (even when it isn’t) and simplifying can feel lazy (even when it isn’t). Overanalyzing and overcomplicating seems like high effort and hard, valuable work (but only when we value the perception of struggle over actual results).

If you’re not a natural born Nowist, how do you make the switch? Newton’s First Law of Motion tells us a body at rest stays at rest unless acted upon. Habits and mindet hold us in place. How do you let go of the inertia of inaction?

Although the Nowist approach is contrasted with Thenist, it’s not either or. No matter where we are currently on the spectrum, we can all shift and adopt a more Nowist approach. We can start using the behaviors and mindset and create the joy of possibility and action and creating new in our lives.

Across and throughout 230 pages, #NOW provides the ideas, actions, and tools to make the shift. I fear my summary of the Nowist approach sounds a bit idealist and esoteric. The book is very focused on the practical application of the research behind the ideas.

For me, #NOW provided a fresh perspective on important ideas and served as a much needed reminder and inspiration to keep moving forward, to emphasize action as much as analysis, and seek joy in the process.

Unshrink (Book Review)

(Note: over the next week or two I’m going to revisit and repost some of my favorite books I’ve reviewed. This one originally appeared on November 27, 2012.) 


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? ~ Marianne Williamson


I cannot tell you that Unshrink is the most important book you’ll read this year. I can tell you that it’s one of the most important books I read this year. It expresses, challenges, and expands thoughts and ideas about unbinding and unleashing humans and business and allowing us to expand and grow beyond our current constraining beliefs.

We are limited. Reduced. Operating so far below our potential because of the myths that we have believed, accepted, and perpetuated. We don’t need to expand our potential, we need to shed the myths that keep us shrunken and small so we can expand into the enormous potential awaiting us. We have the tremendous opportunity (obligation?) to unshrink ourselves, others, business, and the world.

That’s the premise of Unshrink by Max McKeown and Philip Whiteley. First published in 2002, I just came across it this year and have read it twice so far. It’s no secret that I’m an enthusiastic fan of Max McKeown – his books are consistently thought provoking, accessible, practical, and enjoyable to read – and this book is no different. At only 116 pages (133 with notes), Unshrink is also a quick read – assuming you can get through it without filling the margins with notes, which I couldn’t.

Why, though? Why unshrink? At the individual level, it’s painful to see (or be) someone hobbling themselves with the shackles of misguided myths about who they are and who they should be. Us humans are so amazing yet consistently play so small. Our potential is there yet we ignore it, dispute it, deny it.

Now expand that out. Businesses, communities, and countries are made up of individuals. When individuals are constrained below their potential so are the groups they are a part of. Businesses are less competitive and less profitable. Communities are more dysfunctional, less likely to attract newcomers. Countries, fueled by the soundness of communities and commerce, are likewise as restrained, hobbled, and shrunk as the individuals.

We often confuse short term spikes in performance measures with actual sustainable results. We think in terms of all or nothing. If a little of something is good, then an extreme amount must be extremely good. Yet, life consistently shows that few things are all or nothing. There is always a tradeoff based on points of diminishing returns.

The authors focus on replacing seven common, deep-seated myths with guiding principles. The myths are so familiar and entrenched that they are generally unquestioned as common sense. Yet, they are not common sense and rarely stand up to the light of real-world outcomes. The myths may have had truth in them at one time or been useful in a limited capacity, but have become dangerous when pushed to the all or nothing extremes. Better than an unquestioned myth is an adaptable principle.

Without giving too much away, the myth of “you are what you do” becomes the principle “you are what you can become”. It sounds like such a small shift, but is key to unshrinking ourselves. The myth of “work always comes first” is replaced with the real-world observable principle “life always comes first”. Holding to the extremes of the myths shrinks us and keeps us shrunk. The principles enable us to unshrink and expand.

Common management theories are driven by the myth that “organizations are machines.” Under this myth, people become easily and equally replaceable cogs, gears, and parts. Leading with this belief means stripping out our humanness, our individual strengths and weaknesses, our passions, and all the things that make us unique in order to make us conform into parts that really are the same. This comes at tremendous cost at both the individual and organizational level.

Replacing that horrible myth with the more accurate principle that “the organization is a community”. Thinking about it as a community means understanding that our differences can be important and valuable, each person’s contributions are unique, and each member of the community is interdependent with – not separate from – every other member. False rigidity is replaced with organic fluidity. The illusion of control is replaced with the power of influence. Machines are built, but communities are fostered. Machines are static and soon outdated; communities dynamic and ever changing and evolving. Machines break down, yet communities adapt.

There is much more. The authors delve into four other myths and principles aimed at unshrinking ourselves, others, and our businesses. All are worth more time and attention that I can offer here.

This book is for those who see that we operate below our potential, who are discouraged by the artificial separation between people and business, who imagine and hope for better. The authors conclude: We have been brought up to believe that there is always a trade-off or a choice between doing that which is good and that which leads to success. Such an assumption is wrong, and this is a tremendously liberating realization.

Your thoughts?


(Note: over the next week or two I’m going to revisit and repost some of my favorite books I’ve reviewed. This one originally appeared on September 11, 2014.) 

Success is how you define it and mediocrity is one of my biggest fears. We all have different definitions of what success means to us in all aspects of our lives. I have some big ideas about the contribution I need to make before I leave this planet and the thought of not living up to those ideals terrifies me.

The challenge is that “pretty good” is a reasonably easy target while “extraordinary” requires a completely different level of choices and commitment. And those actions have to exist in a life where there’s a job, family, friends, pets, house chores, hobbies, etc., etc. No surprise that comfortable distractions are a lot more attractive than committed actions.

As one who enjoys anything that will help me be at my best, I have a love/hate approach to personal development books. Much of it is syrupy feel-good nonsense, but some is very legit and useful. The problem is, even the good stuff is usually just repackaged ideas that have been around for the last 50-100+ years.

Some very large names in the field have done quite well rehashing ideas from Napoleon Hill’sThink and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Norman Vincent Peal’s The Power of Positive Thinking, or Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret. Tony Robbins summarized the wisdom of the ages best with his Ultimate Success Formula which goes something like: 1) Know what you want; 2) Know why you want it; 3) Take massive action; 4) Notice what’s working or not; and 5) Change your approach until you get your results. Simple, straightforward, and intuitive, but perhaps not sufficient. No one who’s made it to adulthood should be surprised by any of those steps, yet most of us are still stuck in ordinary.

The title for this review comes from the back cover of Dan Waldschmidt’s (@danwaldo) bookEDGY Conversations: Get Beyond the Nonsense in Your Life and Do What Really Matters. He takes a different approach and asserts that goals, hard work, and tenacity are not enough because we are our own worst roadblock. Our beliefs and behaviors, excuses and justifications keep us in comfortable mediocrity. Truly rising above, standing out, and making a difference requires a completely different level of commitment, thought, belief, and action.

“Because success isn’t about knowing more, It’s about being more… The reality is that you already know what to do… The real question is, what will you do about it? Who will you choose to become.” – Dan Waldschmidt

Contrary to what the infomercial experts and hope pushers tell us, Dan wholeheartedly acknowledges that the whole being extraordinary thing is really freakin’ hard. Knowing what to do is easy; actually doing it is miserably difficult. The movies make it look simple, right? A three minute montage with some upbeat music in the background and suddenly the underdog is a martial arts winning, freestyle rapping, marathon running, dance champion with a Harvard degree and a thriving side business bootstrapped into a global powerhouse. But in real life it comes down to who we are choosing to be and the decisions we are making every day.

The author reminds us that outrageous success comes as much from what we say “no” to as it does what we say “yes” to. And in our instant gratification you-deserve-to-have-it-all marketing saturated world, saying “no” is weird. And painful. And miserable. And necessary.

This book is the author’s approach to breaking past ordinary. His formula is based on the acronym EDGY: Extreme behavior, Disciplined activity, Giving mindset, and Y(h)uman strategy. The last letter’s a stretch, but the writing is spot on. Actually, I could have shortened this review to: If you like his blog, buy the book.

If you’re unfamiliar with his blog, check it out here. Dan’s not into business or life as usual and has a contrarian approach written in direct one and two sentence paragraphs with brilliant turn of phrase and a deep belief that the reader has it in them to be amazing. If you don’t like his blog, you really won’t like his book. If you like the blog, you’ll find he brings powerful examples and a very human vulnerability beyond his normal writing to the book.

So here’s the ugly secret truth: life is so much easier when you have excuses or others to blame for not creating the results you want. Sure, you don’t accomplish what you want, but you get to be comfortable in your mediocrity. This book is aimed at stripping those illusions away and challenging you to set that comfort aside to pursue your intentions with the ferocious, relentless tenacity of a Spartan warrior. It’s not wondering what to do, it’s not creating a 10 point success checklist, it’s being the person you need to be.

All day, every day.

Where Did Your Grind Go?

Remember when it was tough? Remember when you couldn’t afford to be comfortable? When the line between success and failure was a tightrope? When there was an insatiable restless gnawing inside that wouldn’t be ignored?

Where did that go?

Remember when you lived by the philosophy, “I may not succeed, but if I fail it won’t be because I was outworked.” Remember when all focus and energy fed a singular purpose?

Where is it?

Remember when people would tell you that you were so lucky and all you could think was your luck was found in the early mornings and late nights? When you pushed yourself to not just work harder, but be better. Every. Single. Day.



Trouble With Numbers

I once made myself a little unpopular with my statistics teacher with the Mark Twain quote: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Numbers don’t lie, but people sometimes lie about what the numbers are telling us.

Consider the possibility that the trouble with numbers often isn’t intentional dishonesty, but misrepresentation committed in good faith or through ignorance or misinterpretation.

The other day I was listening to a podcast where the speaker mistakenly used two statements interchangeably:

  1. Nearly 80% of people between 25 and 40 years old have tattoos.
  2. Nearly 80% of people with tattoos are between 25 and 40 years old.

If a person isn’t paying attention, these sound the same and it’s easy to see how a person could mistake them for the same thing, yet the statements are radically different.

Another example of this same type of error would be saying:

  1. 70% of all men make $300,000 a year.
  2. 70% of those who make $300,000 a year are men.

I made up those numbers to help highlight how two very similar sounding statements can be very, very different.

Or consider the difference between:

  1. 90% of new hires at this company are unhappy.
  2. 90% of the unhappy people at this company are new hires.

Statement #2 doesn’t mean almost all new hires are unhappy, just that of the unhappy people most are new hires. If you have 100 new hires the first statement suggests 90 are unhappy. But if statement #2 is the true one and you only have 10 people in the company who are unhappy, well then 9 of them are new hires. Those are very different situations, requiring different responses.

Be careful out there.

Better Communication with Dirty Rhetoric

Do you write? Present? Communicate with other humans? Need to persuade or share a compelling idea? (hint: the answer is “yes”). Read on.

It’s been said, “When Cicero spoke, people marveled. When Caesar spoke, people marched.” That’s how I want to write and present. I don’t want people to like my ideas, I want my ideas to inspire people.

If only… writing and speaking, communicating and persuading, are not easy. The difference between good and great, between marveling at a speech and marching because of it, is often subtle. Learning those nuances has been a bludgeoning task of trial and error for me. Hard knocks and underwhelming responses and I still have a long way to go.

So, I was stupidly, geekily excited to receive a set of Dirty Rhetoric cards in the mail. Yep, that’s actually the name and, no, it doesn’t come from an “adult” themed store. Rather, Peter Watts Paskale (@speak2all), a communications coach and analyst, and Gavin McMahon (@powerfulpoint), a communication and presentation consultant, created a card deck to quickly and easily teach the fundamentals of persuasive communication.

The cards are color coded into four categories – persuasion, scaling, description, and memory – and  each card describes one technique (53 in all). Along with the technique’s name in English and Latin, there are icons showing whether the technique connects to Ethos (belief/ideals/credibility), Logos (consistency/logic), or Pathos (emotions/imagination). Plus, each card has a rating system indicating the difficulty of the technique, a simple description, and two examples. Woof, that’s a lot of info on a card only slightly bigger than an average smart phone.

The instructions include six “games” to help incorporate the techniques into your messaging. For example, Aristotle’s Dilemma has you draw four cards from the color category matching the purpose of your speech (persuasion, description, etc.) and then find ways to incorporate those techniques into your draft. Writer’s Block focuses on learning the techniques and asks you to write a sentence or two, shuffle the cards, draw one from the deck, and apply that card’s technique to your writing. There are also games for four to six plus players.

Today is the first chance I’ve had to really open and look at the deck and I can hardly wait to really dig in. I love the premise of Dirty Rhetoric – a simple, practical way of learning and applying effective persuasive techniques to my writing and speaking.

Peter and Gavin were kind enough to send me a pre-production set for review. If you want to learn more or get your own set, check out the Dirty Rhetoric webpage, follow the #dirtyrhetoric hashtag on social media, or participate in the kickstarter campaign at .