I'm no expert in website design. But I know enough to know that certain templates don’t help you to get the sort of rankings you need on Google, while others can make you much easier to find. So whose job is it to know that? Realistically, it lies outside the scope of a web designer’s job. They are only really obliged to understand good design. Right? 

My website designer is in the process of upgrading certain parts of my site. Based on her ‘above-and-beyond’ knowledge, she pointed out to me that we could do better, and, as always in my professional relationship with her, I was glad for the advice. 

In this weekly column, our entire focus is to find and highlight differences between amateurs and experts. I believe that this is the primary one. Amateurs merely focus on the thing that they do. Experts understand why their market needs that thing, and they help their clients to reach their actual goals. They have a greater total understanding of the scenario, and it makes the world of difference. 

An amateur is adequate. An expert greases the wheels of world progress and genuinely makes things happen. 

This week, what if you challenged yourself to find five more ways to genuinely help your clients to meet their actual goals, rather than just ‘doing the thing you do’? Five is a large number, and it may take some thought to generate enough ideas. But one or two of these ideas could be game-changers for you, truly taking you from amateur to expert. 

Make the switch from ‘doing a thing,’ to ‘meeting their goals,’ and you could become the greatest in your game. 


Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global professional speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of six business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters, a record 5 times.


In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of motivational speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

Lisa Illingworth interviewed professional speaker and author Douglas Kruger on Radio Today Johannesburg. They chatted about strategic rule-breaking for disruptive innovation. Need a little motivation. Listen to the interview:

Listen Here:

In addition to being a global motivational speaker, Douglas Kruger is the author of 6 business books with Penguin. See him in action, or sign up for his newsletters, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

In my local market, there is one man whose SEO is outperforming the rest of ours on the order of a sound thrashing. His name is not just ‘ahead’ on Google, but so far ahead that everyone else is effectively an ‘also-ran.’ And how did he do it? By uploading content to his website. Loads of content. Every day. For years. 

At this point, take this audit: In the last week, how much new content have you uploaded to your site?

I try to live by the philosophy that when I learn about some principle that works, I implement it immediately. No hesitation, no dithering. My friend and fellow speaker Jacques de Villiers unpacked this idea for me this past week, and so I’ve made the call to go daily too. And I haven’t given myself months to work on it - it must be up and running before next weekend. 

So in the next few days, I will upload the first in a series of videos on how to go ‘From Amateur to Expert,’ to my YouTube channel. Then I’ll upload it to my site, and publish the link on FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And then I’ll do it again the next day. And the next. 

Could you go daily too? It doesn’t have to be anything as complex as a YouTube video. You could write short articles. Or even inspirational quotations. Provided, you use the right key words in your tags, the effect will add up greatly over time. 

Put in the consistent effort, and you too could leave your competition in the dust. 


Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global professional speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of six business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters, a record 5 times.


In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of motivational speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

When Penguin launched my first book, they asked me whether I had any connections to media outlets. We drew up a list of shows and publications that might feature the book, and Penguin added their suggestions to my own. That list has proved extraordinarily useful to me over the years.

I'd like you to start one.

As you're exposed to new shows, new journalists and new outlets, you can grow your list. Use it for your article contributions, for content suggestions and to suggest potential interviews. 

This week, create a file on your PC and title it 'Media Contacts.' It's easy enough to find contact details for each of these shows online. If it's broadcast, you should generally try to find the programme manager, if it's print, find the editor. 

As an additional suggestion for populating this list, keep an eye on social media. Chances are you are connected to other experts who do something similar to you. When they are interviewed or published by media outlets that you haven't utilised yet, add these shows and publications to your list. Then make a point of offering content to them as well. 

Continue to speak to the world via your growing list of media outlets, and you could own your industry. 


 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Launch Google and input your own name. Then hit ‘images.’ If you’ve been building a career as an expert for some time, it should return an assortment of photos. Now take a look at the outfits you’re wearing from one image to the next. Is there a degree of variety? Or are you wearing the same clothes in every photo? 

Now try the same with your YouTube videos. Do they all look identical, or is there enough variation to create a good and credible impression when viewed collectively? 

If it’s all looking a little too familiar, make a point of mixing it up. YouTube videos are the most obvious culprit and the most easy to address. Next time you shoot one, be sure to wear a different colour, a different cut. 

Pay attention to the smaller details, and over time, the total impressions add up. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Mike Rowe, creator and presenter of the show ‘Dirty Jobs,’ champions an unusual cause. In a world that often holds varsity degrees as the definitive measure of career success, his MikeRoweWorks Foundation points out that many thousands of manual labour jobs are going begging, many of which are actually extremely well paying. His group attempts to organise bursaries for people, but requires something of them in return. They are to sign the ‘Sweat Pledge,’ which is ideological in nature, and essentially boils down to: ‘I promise to have an excellent work ethic.’ 

It’s a good idea for experts to give away value for free. But often, it’s an even stronger idea to require something of your tribes of followers. Behavioural economics teaches us that when people are required to do something proactive, they often become more passionately involved in a cause.

What challenge could you extend to your followers? What could you require of them? Something noble, something challenging, something with emotional appeal? Something that you could roll out over a period of time, with positive long-term results for those who sign up? Naturally, it must be something directly related to your career, industry and positioning goals. 

This week, I challenge you to challenge them. Create an initiative that stirs something in the soul. You might launch it on social media, or you might go bigger, using radio or TV. 

Launch an initiative that requires something of your people, and you will position yourself as a thought leader.   



Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.


In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

This past week, I was honoured to receive an accolade in the speaking industry. It’s called a CSP, which stands for ‘Certified Speaking Professional,’ and it’s the highest earned award presented by the National Speakers Association, based in the US. If I can make it to Dallas this year, it will be presented to me at their annual convention. Either way, I may now add mention of it to my name and materials.

I’ve spent a little time thinking about healthy and unhealthy ways to react to an award. The unhealthy ones are obvious: feel entitled, look down on others, coast on the laurels. There is also a danger in adopting an ‘I’ve seen it all’ attitude, which is the antithesis of a learning mindset, and which contains within itself the seeds of eventual extinction. 

But the proactively healthy ways are perhaps more difficult to determine. From my viewpoint, here are six: 

 

  • Take time to celebrate. Don’t let the moment pass you by in the rush of daily activity. Even if it’s just a celebratory dinner with your spouse or friends, it’s important to commemorate it
  • Remember that an accolade is also an obligation. After receiving it, you must now continually live up to all that it stands for. This is a call to meet a very high standard, with consistency. Make the award mean something. 
  • Make a conscious choice to teach others. I’ve long believed that when we share our best practices in the experts-industry, not only do we not de-value our own offering, but we actually raise the perceived value of the entire practice. Healthy perceptions of what we do serve everyone well, and elevate earning potential communally. 
  • Find a ‘next goal.’ It’s unhealthy to feel that you have ‘arrived.’ Pursuing the next thing, whatever that might mean for you, keeps you open to learning and hungry for improvement.
  • Don’t ever lose the ability to laugh at yourself. Post-accolade, you will still trip over things, snort when you laugh, and emit occasional involuntary noises. A little humanity is endearing. 
  • Raise your fees. Yes, this is actually healthy, as it honours the award, and helps you to elevate your own positioning in your industry. 

 

For my part, I am immensely grateful for this award. I will do everything in my power to live up to it.

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

 

To an extent, your market will teach you what it wants from you. Are you listening to it, and adapting accordingly?

Say, for instance, you offer a range of products, or a selection of training options, or perhaps you’ve written a number of books. Are you tracking which ones are selling best? Learning lessons from the ones that are not? 

This week, I received my quarterly statement from Penguin publishers. The relative numbers of sales-per-title provided me with useful insights about what I should focus on and what’s not hitting the mark. Do you have a mechanism for gathering similar information as you grow your business?

You can simplify your own life, increase your wealth potential, and amplify the clarity of your brand message by ceasing to offer the hard-sell ‘slow-movers,’ while increasing your sales and marketing efforts on the options that are already popular. 

This week, I challenge you to perform a simple audit: What’s working? What isn’t? Could you dump the slow movers and no-shows? Take them off your site and stop offering them? 

Keep it clear and simple. Stick to what works. Become the undisputed expert in that one thing. 


 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

US professional speaker JT Foxx does something clever with his branding. Sometimes referred to as ‘The World’s No. 1 Wealth Coach’, he travels the globe, speaking, training and recruiting aspiring speakers. Foxx has become extremely recognisable through his yellow tie and his academies for speaker training. 

Whenever he arrives in a country, you invariably see aspiring speakers posing alongside Foxx for photo opportunities. These individuals then typically change their profile pictures on social media to show themselves standing side by side with the man. 

This is incredibly clever branding … for JT Foxx. It is also very poor branding for the other speaker in question. You can imagine their thought process when they post the photo: ‘If I stand next to JT Foxx, people will think I’m significant.’ In reality, if you stand next to JT Foxx, people will think JT Foxx is significant. 

There may be merit in taking a training course with a high-level professional. But, in terms of becoming iconic, there is only disadvantage to be found in being that high-level professional’s acolyte in the public eye. 

In your quest to position yourself as an expert, have the courage to use your own name. Build your own brand. One day, you can be the JT Foxx of your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Pop Quiz: When last did you upload a brand-building video to YouTube? Has it been a while? 

At a business event last week, three separate strangers who took the time to chat with me used some variation on the phrase, ‘I watched one of your videos, and…’ Just prior to that, I concluded a roadshow in which the client mentioned deciding to use me on the strength of one of my videos. 

Video footage matters greatly in our efforts to become industry experts. The opportunity to see a face and to hear a voice tells prospective clients much about you, and begins to bridge a trust-gap. And frequency is at least as important as quality. While it’s best to use proper lighting and backgrounds as well as high-quality sound recording when you can, there is nevertheless something to be said for the ‘on-the-fly’ sharing of ideas. If anything, it can feel fresher, more spontaneous. 

Below is an example of a video clip I filmed on-the-fly last week, using my iPhone. There is no editing, and I uploaded it a minute after shooting it. The whole project took under 10 minutes, from conception to publishing. 

This week - in fact, today - I challenge you to do the same: One short, sharp idea that gives value to your followers, shot, uploaded and released, before dinner. 

Keep your video footage flowing, and you will increase the strength of your positioning. Every time you push content out into the world, you add to the weight of your total argument. One day, your body of production could make you the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Last weekend, a number of the nation’s top professional speakers got together for an annual conference. One of our esteemed guests was a neuroscientist, who shared a mountain of fascinating data, culminating in some very simple, very useful tips for the creation of slides. 

Will you take it on trust that there’s a depth of science behind these tips? Great, then here’s what you need to know: 

- Favour strong images and bold, open spaces. Try to use as little text as possible. You can even abbreviate sentences down to fragments. Instead of ‘Which direction would you choose?,’ simply write, ‘Which direction?’

- Try to place your images toward the left of the screen, and your text toward the right. This is linked to the crossing of synaptic nerves as the eyes feed into the brain

- If you bring your text in using an animation function, ensure that it flies in from right to left, and not left to right. This makes it easier for the brain to process. 

- Use shadows to extrude your text from the image behind it. Oddly, this is related to our ‘fight or flight’ response, in a complex and interesting way. 

- A slide that ‘requires’ can be more effective than a slide that ‘declares.’ Consider using questions as your headlines, rather than statements. 

Improve the effectiveness of your visuals, and you improve perceptions of your professionalism. Continually raise your game, and you could position yourself as an industry leader. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker, who focuses on brand, culture and innovation. He is the author of five business books with Penguin and has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com

 

Have you thought about taking your brand and your business international? Could you benefit from a wider circle of clients, more travel, a deeper exposure to global experience? What would happen if you began earning in foreign currencies?

This week, I’d like to challenge you to think of three ways you might do that. As you’re doing so, I encourage you to mentally ‘lower the bar,’ by finding the easiest shortcuts you can think of. The point of the exercise is to ‘trick’ yourself into discovering approaches that are so seemingly easy that you actually take that first step. 

Meanwhile, here’s one: Many industries have associations affiliated to equivalent bodies oversees. For instance, I’m a member of Toastmasters, The Professional Speakers Association, and Mensa. All three have international footprints. In the case of the Professional Speakers Association, for instance, it is actually possible to join sister-associations oversees, without even being present in the country. I plan to begin that process this week. How about you? 

Reach beyond your borders. Go global. You could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 




Ever have a nightmare about your work? Something in which you’re late or lost or stuck in quicksand, somehow unable to do what you should? 

The more specialisedyou become, the less it possible it is for you to to talk to others about your problems, but it’s important that you do. In addition to learning from your colleagues, you may need to unburden from time to time. 

This week, along with a select gathering of my peers, I will be taking a day out at a retreat to share, strategise, moan, drink, compare, laugh, and then strategise some more. It’s important to do it from time to time, and I pose it to you as a sort of audit: Has it been too long since you’ve something down these lines?

At the smallest level, it could be coffee with a friend who knows the industry. At the grander end of that scale: an uninterrupted breakaway with fellow pros in which you reassess your entire existence. If you’re overdue for a retreat of this nature, set it up this week. Working on your business, and not just in it, could ultimately change your trajectory. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 



Last week, a
couple of my friends shared an image on social media. It stopped me in my tracks and inspired a smile as I studied it. It's a small storefront on a bleek, grey street, with little more than a light overhanging the door. But they've used yellow paint, from the light down, to make it look as though the storefront, including a little outside table and chairs, are bathed in warmth. 


I have no idea what the proprietors of this little store sell. It could be coffee and cakes, or it could be real-estate. It could be yellow paint. But if I walked by it, I would definitely want to know, and that's rather the point. 

This week, while considering this photo, ask yourself: Does your metaphorical welcome mat hook interest?  Is there something curious, clever or mystery-inducing that compels onlookers to find out more? 

Playful creativity can set you apart. It can create buzz and generate publicity. Roll out an undeniably interesting welcome mat, and you could set yourself apart. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

As part of a promotion at work, my wife had to take a psychometric test. Among other feedback, the psychologist administering the test told my wife that she was good at self-promotion. 

The fact utterly fact horrified her. 

It went against every deeply ingrained proclivity for modesty and struck right at the core of her sense of propriety. 

But why? 

As the psychologist pointed out, this was a positive quality. It meant my wife wouldn’t allow herself to be overlooked in her career, and that she would justly claim reward where it was due.

Since then, we’ve been chatting about how difficult self-promotion can be, and my wife believes this reticence is deeply ingrained into women in particular. 

I see it too. When I assist aspiring experts with their own public narrative, I’m constantly amazed by how unwilling they are to put their names forward, to advertise, to market themselves, to simply shout out loud. Even the most bold and robust brand-builders barely seem to cause a blip on the radar of public consciousness, because they are scared to, and it’s to their own detriment. 

In the world of marketing, in the world of PR, in the world of career-advancement and in the lifelong pursuit of wealth accumulation, the tendency to demure from self-promotion is directly at odds with all possibility of success. 

This week’s challenge is in the form of a simple question: How comfortable are you with promoting yourself? 

Can you promote your brand without qualms, or is does that cause you psychological discomfort? 

Naturally, there are positive and negative ways to bang your own drum. It lacks class to simply to shout ‘Look at me!’ But it also lacks strategy to pretend you are less than. 

To become the greatest in your game, you must actively build your brand, which entails comfort with promoting yourself. What good can you possibly do if you never attain the forum that allows for it? 

Promote yourself! …and you might go on to own your industry.  

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com  

 

Let’s assume your technique is already stellar. When you present, you make excellent use of storytelling and humour, your delivery is vibrant and entertaining, and you speak at an intellectual level that holds the interest of professional adults, while also making the experience immersive and memorable. You use pauses, vary your tone, become energetically involved with each idea. 

What more could you do? 

Selling a keynote presentation is akin to selling a high-value experience. The better we all do it, the greater the perceived value of the concept in the market. For that reason, we should willingly share our insights into best practice. Moreover, the greater your own professionalism, the likelier it is you will personally receive repeat bookings. 

Here are 10 things you can do to further raise the bar in your keynotes:

1.Read books on your topic

When you do, it shows. You present with greater nuance, and ‘more ideas per sentence.’ Your depth makes you a more convincing proposition and your authority is more readily apparent. You’ll know more about the problems and pitfalls and have greater insight into resolving the most common questions. Read around your topic too. You speak about innovation? You must also know about leadership, and about cultural change. No time to read? Try audio books. 

2.Make the study of persuasion a lifelong pursuit 

Start with the book, ‘Made to Stick,’ by Chip and Dan Heath. But make a lifetime pursuit of studying how to tell stories well, how to turn points into metaphors and aphorisms, and how to make your ideas come to life. Read about oratory, read about persuasion, read about behavioural economics. A little here, a little there, and you’ll pick up all manner of useful techniques. 

3.Get good client-briefs 

Few things help you to hit the mark more effectively than a simple chat with the client before the day. What are they struggling with? What are they trying to achieve? How might an ideal version of their situation look? Client briefs radically improve the quality of your keynotes and your capacity to connect with an audience. 

4.Customize it

A standardized presentation may be technically perfect, even technically brilliant, but it will still be out-performed by a customized one. Try for two forms of customization: ideas that relate directly to your audiences’ scenarios, and aesthetic touches, such as photos of their building, or inclusion of their branding. One or two such touches will greatly impress conference conveners, and show a level of care for your craft. 

5.Make the audience the main character 

We know that stories are the medium of human communication. Here’s an excellent device: In some of your stories, make the audience the main character. “You arrive at the office and you see this… Then you react like that… Then the next thing happens to you…” Hypothetical examples that use audience-as-protagonist are un-ignorable. They can play on fear and failure, or on strategy and success. 

6.Ask them challenging questions 

Our task is not always to instruct. Quite often, it’s to challenge, based on a degree of instruction. Guru-like, we share a little insight, then force them to face reality in new and useful ways. We give information, then turn accountability over to them by means of the right, provocative question. As a bonus tip, questions on slides actually work better than statements. 

7.Get on with it!

Populate the period of time available to you with solid value, not time-wasting fluff. By all means, use humour and entertainment. But long rambling greetings, pointless audience exercises, self-indulgent asides and unnecessary formalities all dilute your effectiveness. Aim to be short, sharp, punchy and profound, rather than merely ‘filling time.’ 

8.Raise the level of your slides 

Striking visuals always out-perform swathes of text. Questions out-perform statements. Simple, bold and visually appealing – these are our ideals for design. And remember that your slide should set you up, rather than explaining your point. Make it the itch, not the scratch. 

9.Tinker with your own aesthetics

Our content is our greatest asset, but there’s no arguing that our physical appearance contributes to impressions. Could you get some fitted suits? Have your teeth straightened? Improve your physical fitness or tan anything that’s overly pale? Feeling good about your own physical appearance increases your confidence, and psychology also indicates that people more readily trust and believe good-looking individuals. 

10.Improve your intro

Some people use scripted introductions. In that case, could you build in a little more humour, a little more punch? Others use video introductions as their openers. Could you make it even more vibrant, even more persuasive? Great intros form part of their total experience of you. Used cleverly, they also remove the temptation to sell to an audience, and allow the MC to deliver your secondary business message instead. This permits your own presentation to be more honest, and to deliver nothing but value, while still taking care of your marketing goals. 

CSP Billy Selekane often speaks about the ‘privilege of the platform.’ The phrase is apt. We get to be guru, guide, psychologist and entertainer, and we get paid for the pleasure. Let’s take the responsibility seriously. Let’s offer overwhelming value, every time we set foot on the stage. Against undeniable excellence, there are few counter-arguments. In its presence, our industry blooms. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

This week’s newsletter is based on a longer essay. For that reason, I’ve included both the short version, in case you’re pressed for time, and the longer version, in case I’ve hooked your interest. 

The short version:

Adults enjoy depth and artistry in your presentations. You don’t have to make people shout ‘Yes!,’ or force them to run around the room…and those things are rarely the mark of a legacy-bound expert. 

Intrigued?

The longer version:

I was listening to an audio book by Jordan Peterson. He made the point that while happiness matters to our lives and to our health, the philosophy that posits it as the only goal of existence is a little infantile, and crumbles at first contact with reality. 

I agree. And in the world of professionals and presenting, I personally find the 'cult of fun' more annoying than perhaps any other approach. 

Make no mistake, the very best and most enjoyable presentations typically make wonderful use of humour, wit, storytelling and other gratifying devices. They transport and transform. They may even include audience interaction, which is fine, if it's done with a degree of class. Yet these devices are always in the service of a greater point; ideally, making your core idea come to life in the minds of attendees. 

There's another approach, and it stinks. 

I recall a speaker at one particular conference shouting at the audience: 'Can we have fun today? Will that be okay?' That sort of phraseology is always the first warning sign, and sure enough, he lived down to our expectations. The next thing to happen in the room was everybody being ordered to their feet, to run around greeting one another with high-fives. 

The time in my life when I enjoyed running around a room and greeting my playmates effectively ended when I graduated from nursery school (kindergarten) to primary school. A group of professionals in a room do not enjoy being made to play ring-a-rosie, and it embarrasses me that the technique endures in my industry. These professionals are also typically pressed for time. The speaker took up 15 minutes, doing something utterly pointless and vaguely cringeworthy. Speakers often command relatively high fees, and, to my mind, 15 minutes worth of pointless distraction borders on malpractice. 

By contrast, a couple of weeks ago I attended a summit for professional speakers in Auckland. The session I enjoyed the most - by leagues, miles and enthusiastic bounds - was a talk by a National Geographic photographer. 

He'd traveled the world, photographing eerie remnants of old World War One battle-sites. With a calm voice, completely devoid of sing-song or artifice, he walked us through his universe. He displayed black and white imagery of unexploded weaponry, and fields covered in mist and the ghosts of conflict. He took us down into underground caverns in France, where Australian infantrymen had left graffiti for their families. He mesmerised us with beautiful storytelling, delivered word-perfectly from a prepared script, in the style of a formal lecture. The experience was deeply rewarding. I'd travel to the far side of the world for that again any day. 

The degree to which this presentation was superior to the: 'Hey, let's all have fun today - now give me a 'yes!'' approach was striking. Here was an adult, an expert, an authority, calmly addressing  a room full of intelligent people, delivering fascinating insights and memorable ideas, filling his allotted time with value, rather than a mere circus ring-leader trying to distract half-wits with smoke and fluff. 

Our world, our industry, needn't be an embarrassing cacophony of aerobics instructions for people in suits. We are allowed to explore art and depth, and we should. It is unnecessary to pepper a presentation with exhortations to the audience to 'Say yes, if that's what you want for YOUR life!', and frankly, it's juvenile. Oh sure, NLP this, and behavioural that. But ultimately, you're treating them like children. Please don't. 

What if, instead of viewing ourselves as infant-wranglers, we aspired to something higher? What if we aimed to be the Anthony Hopkins of our craft, the David Attenborough of our industry, the artist on the agenda? 

Clapping handies is cute, and you will have them laughing for a few moments. But ultimately, the laughter comes from a place of awkward embarrassment. If you move their souls and feed their minds instead, you will be creating a legacy...not just entertaining a mob. 

First and foremost, speaking is art. The more we elevate that art, the more valuable our offering becomes.

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

It’s a simple but important distinction: In his excellent new book, ‘Building a Story Brand,’ Donald Miller encourages brands to be the guide, not the hero. 

Be Gandalf, not Frodo. Be Yoda, not Luke. Show them how to become the greatest, rather than tediously telling them how you are the greatest. 

If you position your brand as the former - the hero - you do not allow your potential customers to be the lead character of their own story when interacting with your brand. Instead, they must acknowledge your superior status in the story, which they are unlikely to do. However, as every successful brand does, if you show that your function is to enable customers to become the hero, by means of your help as the guide, you will prosper.  

This week, perform a little soul-searching. In your marketing narrative, are you the hero, or are you helping them to be the hero? Position your brand as the guide, and you will own your industry. 




Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

It often happens on a long drive or quiet walk. It generally occurs shortly after you’ve read an insightful article or listened to an inspiring podcast. You’ve been mulling over why it is that something in your business hasn’t been working quite as it should, or how a competitor appears to be ahead of you…

And then lightning strikes. You see through the clutter, connect the dots and have an epiphany. You comprehend a principle, and you realise what you must do differently. 

Do you record those moments? Do you have a record of that information? 

I contend that we actually have more ‘aha’ moments than we ever remember. What if we started capturing them, in order to ensure that these nutrients actually made it into the veins of our businesses? 

I know that I would have forgotten a few such ideas, had I not made a point of recording them. 

This week, start a file for tracking useful insights. Call it something grandiose, like ‘Deep and Insightful Observations,’ or ‘My Staggeringly Important Epiphanies.’ 

Successful businesses are the product of good thinking refined over time. To become the best in your business, make sure you record the refinements. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 




This year, I applied for a professional certification within my industry. It’s worth having, but the process is gruelling. As part of the application, I had to submit eight year’s worth of records, including client names, contact details, invoices and more. 

The process took weeks. Had I simply kept better records from the start, it would have taken minutes. 

And there are many more reasons why it’s worth a professional's while to keep proper records. They help you to spot trends within your own business. They present you with opportunities to re-visit old clients or serve people who made previous enquiries. One day, they may assist you in garnering a certification you may not currently even be aware of. 

3 ways to use this idea: 

1. Keep records of clients - Start right at the level of enquiries, and make a habit of recording names, contact details, and the nature of each enquiry. Repeat business is a massive factor in your prosperity, and you can drive it by using your files to occasionally check in. 

2. Keep records of accolades, awards and testimonials – You may receive industry awards, certificates and glowing testimonials as you go along. Keep a record of them all, even if it just means updating your CV to reflect them. But preferably, use them as part of your marketing collateral. 

3. Horde visuals - Ensure that you capture big moments on film or video. Later on, you will wish you had evidence of that event, that important presentation, that handshake with a client, that installation, or that performance. Become fanatical about collecting visuals early on, and you will thank yourself late

Keep proper records from the start, and you will enable your future growth. It’s one more argument for your eventual status as a top industry expert, and your future self will thank you for the investment. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com

 

In 'Building a Story Brand,' author Donald Miller observes that a great part of the skill in effective marketing is less about knowing what to say, and more about knowing what not to say. What to cut, what to cull, what to leave out, because it creates the wrong impressions. 

Your website may be only a couple of years old. Chances are, though, there are already things that you no longer do, items you no longer sell, and observations that are no longer relevant to the perceptions you should be creating. 

This week, perform a simple audit: Go through your website, bio and any marketing materials you send out, and look for one thing only: What needs to be culled. 


 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Watching comedian Michael McIntyre, it occurred to me how refreshing it is that the man completely avoids politics. It makes his show a delight, and we could do worse than to emulate him in that regard. 

At the same time, I’ve recently ‘hidden’ a local thought-leader from my social media timeline, because he does nothing but pathological Trump-dumping. It doesn’t matter which way you fall politically, eventually any person’s non-stop tirade on a single subject becomes tedious, and makes the writer seem fixated. Even unhinged. 

The Harvard Business Review themed their content this month on that very dynamic: the increasing participation in politics of high-level business leaders. They, too, pointed out that one can easily alienate half of one’s clientele with each utterance. 

I’ve never been shy to post political content myself, but I increasingly question whether there is any upside. If nothing else, it’s becoming clearer to me that unless one balances these posts with a variety of others - posts that express humour, hope, beauty, fun and joy, and also give useful ideas and beneficial content to followers - it’s easy to sound like a broken record. Or worse, someone with a genuine psychological hang-up, rather than a multi-faceted and interesting human being.  

So this week’s expert-audit certainly does not take the form of a ‘thou shalt not.’ Rather, I would simply like you to reflect: If you express political views in public forums, do you offer sufficient alternative content to ensure that you appear reasonable? And is there value for others in following you, or has the platform degenerated into little more than your place to rant? 

We may eventually arrive at the conclusion that all political expression damages professional image. It may not be the worst conclusion. But until then, let’s at least be aware that its indulgence does temper public perceptions of us. And at the very least, we need to wield that welding-torch with caution. 

Avoid implosion through pathological posting, and you may just retain your fan-base. Remain reasonable, credible, enjoyable, even as others self-sabotage, and you just might become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Since the premature and probably unhealthy age of 9, I’ve been a Stephen King fan. This past weekend, I watched the new incarnation of ‘It,’ and the movie did not disappoint. 

Better made and drawing on a higher budget than the previous production - which wasn’t bad to begin with - this new version takes the terror to greater heights, while nevertheless staying fairly true to the book. 

The opening scene was quite possibly the best part. And its treatment had to be excellent, because that creepy little tableau - of the clown in the sewer and the small boy with the yellow raincoat - has become iconic. In its own way, it’s akin to the shower scene in ‘Psycho.’ 

This week’s suggestion will not apply to every aspiring expert. It’s better suited to those who produce or perform something, be it written, spoken, acted or designed. What is your iconic and recognisable moment? What is the thing you’ve done that is notably outstanding? 

I believe that beyond excellence lies customisation. To become convincingly ‘good’ at what you do is really just the starting point for the expert. Writing your ‘clown in the sewer’ moment is the real prize. That’s what makes you Stephen King. 

So let’s phrase the question this way: Beyond your competence, beyond your proficiency, beyond even your excellence, what is the one thing you’ve done or created that is so different, so unique, so evocative, that you are known for it? Do you have a defining, iconic element of production? 

If not, start thinking about it. Make a commitment to mull over the thing you could do that would be so memorable as to make your career. Get it just right, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger, CSP, is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. In 2018, the National Speakers Association granted him the accreditation of Certified Speaking Professional, a designation held by only 12 per cent of speakers globally.

See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com

 

Back at work yet? Welcome! Let’s do a little goal-setting.  

Here is a simple template for evaluating your year, then preparing for the new one. This approach gives us an opportunity to build on what’s working, ditch what isn’t, and think about new ideas for your future. 

The template I’d like to recommend for you goes like this:

 

Less of 2

More of 2  

2 brand new  

 

Here’s how that works: 

Less of Two:

What two things have been low points for you this past year? Can you trace them back to the moment of initiation, and understand how they unfolded? Something that made you unhappy, and that you don’t want to be part of your life story in 2018.  

Perhaps you got caught in a bad pattern, bickering with a spouse, or repeating destructive behaviour with a boss or colleague. We tend not to notice these patterns while we’re actually caught in them. But by taking a moment now to think back on the past year and weed out things you don’t want to repeat, you can often find the genesis of these problems. So our starting point is to ask: what two things would you like less of in 2018?

Then we turn our attention to the next idea: 

More of Two:

What went right in 2017? What worked, or proved surprisingly successful? Using the same approach as before, can you trace these things back through their own process and work out why? If so, you have found a bright spot. You have found a success story, something worth growing and repeating. Your goal then is to replicate bright spots and enjoy more success stories. 

So perhaps you tried something new, or did something differently as you approached the project of growing your life, and to your own surprise, it panned out. You took a chance, you showed courage, it worked. Great! What more could you do in that vain?  

Our final ingredient is:

Two New Things:

Naturally, these are things that you are currently not doing. Things that aren’t part of your life story right now. Perhaps studying further. Maybe writing a book, joining a professional association, or beginning to learn a brand new skill. 

What if you added two such things to your plate for 2018? 

The total formula here is simple, but if you add it all up, the degree to which it can change your trajectory can be profound. Just imagine, by this time next year, by the end of 2018, you could have solved two problems that cause you grief, increased two things that bring you joy and satisfaction, and made headway with two brand new things. Put that all together, and you could be in store for an incredibly prosperous 2018… …which is also my wish for you. 

This year, may you move from amateur to expert. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Year-end draweth nigh. You’ve completed another annum adding stones to the edifice of your professional reputation, and the pile is growing nicely. But now you have a moment to step back from your business, pause, breathe…and strategise. 

As aspiring industry experts, our task is to continually raise the level of perception surrounding our personal brands. Greater perceived value equals greater income. It also tends to increase the total volume of business that comes our way. 

In broad terms, we can effect this raise this in two ways. We can (and should) increase the value that we deliver to each client. At the same time, we can raise the level of narrative by which we speak to the world. Today, let’s talk about the latter option, and ask what you might tinker with in order to increase the level of your branding and public perceptions. 

There are always new and fresh ways to show your value to the world. Of course, it's unlikely that we can stay on top of every technological development, every new twist and turn in marketing or advertising. 

Fortunately, that's what other experts are for.

Here is a simple thing you can do in order to advance your positioning even further than you have thus far achieved: Ask your service providers how they might take you one step further. 

Who helps you to do what you do? 

Do you make use of a photographer? A website designer? A PR strategist or a marketing assistant, or perhaps someone who designs visuals for you? Do you outsource your marketing or advertising? 

This week, approach these professionals and pose a challenge to them. Ask them what's next in the ongoing drive to elevate your brand. Challenge them to find a way to take you to a higher level. Greater reach, or greater shine. Or both. 

Here's my example: I've been very happy with my personal website for the past year. But at present, when you log on to the site, it scrolls through a series of banners. It was high-time to replace those banners with video, and that's what my designer advised. By the end of this week, that's what you will see. 

What are you (unaware that you are) able to upgrade in your marketing mix? How about asking the professionals? Phrase the challenge this way: 'How could you make me look like the best of the best?' See what they come back with. 

Let the experts surrounding you apply their expertise to your brand, and you will remain relentlessly relevant. Keep doing so over time, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Last week we spoke about rock supergroup Linkin Park, and the notion of ‘disproportionate excellence where we don’t typically expect to find it.’ This week, let’s continue that idea, as we explore the idea of formulaic approaches to an industry. 

A formula is a useful thing. Primarily, however, it is useful insofar as it shows us how to go further. If we can transcend the accepted formula, we are creating art. 

I find that among children’s authors, the most famous, breakaway success stories play on this idea. The moderately successful ones tend to ‘do the formula’ that everyone expects. But the JK Rowlings, the Roald Dahls and the Orson Scott Cards of this world are the individuals who are not condescending to their markets, but rather, take their particular genre or idea to a whole new level, with the greatest care and artistry imaginable. 

Roald Dahl is an undisputed icon of children’s literature. And yet his novels are comparatively terrifying. One is forced to wonder whether an author writing kids’ books today might ever get such storylines past an editorial board. Based on his levels of success, though, it was clearly a good thing that he did. Dahl’s books are full of witches pulling off their faces, bone-crunching giants, and disturbingly violent bullies in positions of authority. And they work because they are so original, so great a departure from the formula. Far from writing to expectations, Dahl through all expectations out the window. 

I continue to think of Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, as one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read (regardless of the fact that it’s a kid’s book and a fairly small one at that). Card’s writing is so complex, so deep and so brilliant, in spite of being aimed at a younger audience, that I devoured his entire ‘Enderverse’ series as though I were starving, and his books were the only possible nourishment. They are excellent. 

And of interest to us here, they are disproportionately clever relative to the surrounding genre. This is not a man who has copped out and turned to the commercially-viable act of writing for children, simplifying ideas and speaking as if to a child. Rather, this is a genius and an artist, who believes in his work, and pours the utmost excellence of which he is capable onto each page. He also just happens to be in the youth market. 

There is a big difference between those two identities. The former essentially has a job and is using a formula. The latter feels a personal calling and is creating something deeply meaningful. These icons are clearly driven by a constant challenge to outdo themselves, and to outstretch the limits of the form. 

As Card himself observed: 

 

“The novelty and freshness you'll bring to the field won't come from the new ideas you think up. Truly new ideas are rare, and usually turn out to be variations on old themes anyway. No, your freshness will come from the way you think, from the person you are; it will inevitably show up in your writing, provided you don't mask it with heavy-handed formulas or clichés.” 
― Orson Scott CardHow to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy


 

And his take on freshness and spontaneity (as found in experimentation and mistakes):

 

“I believe, when it comes to storytelling ... that mistakes are often the beginning of the best ideas. After all, a mistake wasn't planned. It can't be a cliché. All you have to do is think of a reason why the mistake isn't a mistake at all, and you might have something fresh and wonderful, something to stimulate a story you never thought of quite that way before.” 


 

This sort of thinking echoes a great deal of the way Linkin Park expressed their own creative process, talking about experimentation, a desire to stay fresh, and the drive not to do the predictable. 

When we first enter an industry, it is immensely tempting to try to look and sound like everyone else. And doing so is certainly one way to learn the basics. But beyond the level of essential competence, you must start breaking away from the norms. You must begin to explore ways in which you can be unpredictable, and uniquely you. 

It all begins when you stop copying others, and start making the argument from your own love of the thing… 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email: info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

In some areas of life, we get used to a certain predictable standard. The formulaic approach becomes 'good enough.' Then along comes a maverick, who displays ludicrous and disproportionate levels of artistry where we’ve rarely seen such artistry before, and in doing so, carries the genre forward. Such people are not just a ‘slightly better version of.’ They really become a new level entirely.

Take the example of rock super-group Linkin Park. In a genre often populated by fun-seeking adolescents, Linkin Park was comprised of serious-minded musicians. Oh, there was all the usual screaming and thrashing guitars. But there was also advanced melody, harmony and studious attention to detail. They were the first to blend techniques from metal and rap in a way that not only worked, but was even suitable for mainstream radio play. They created something entirely new.

Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (the two lead singers), and the members of Linkin Park have been declared ‘The Biggest Rock Band in the World,’ ‘the best-selling band of the 21st century,’ and a handful of other such honorariums. They sold more than 68 million records and won two Grammy Awards. They were also the first rock band to achieve over one billion hits on YouTube.

The average rock group typically comprises two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist and vocals. Linkin Park felt beholden to no such formula. In their third album, they even incorporated flutes and orchestral instruments alongside the guitars and synthesised effects.

Their lyrics, too, displayed greater depth and range than the stock fare. Consider these lines from ‘Iridescent, off the album, ‘A Thousand Suns’:

 

‘…And in the burst of light that blinded every angel

As if the sky had blown the heavens into stars

You felt the gravity of temper grace falling into empty space

No one there to catch you in their arms

Do you feel cold and lost in desperation

You build up hope but failure's all you've known

Remember all the sadness and frustration

And let it go, let it go.’

 

That’s a far cry from the sort of ‘Yeah, baby. Let’s go, uh-huh!’ that one might typically associate with mainstream rock.

Their inspiration, too, was unique. The album Meteora was inspired by a region of Greece by the same name, where monasteries are built into the rocky hills and escarpments. For a rock-band to draw on something so exotic clearly hints at very active minds, in search of something above and beyond the obvious stereotypes of their genre. There was more there, and it showed. These were no mere thrill-seekers. These young men believed that they could take things to a completely new level, and indeed, before the tragedy of Chester Bennington's death this year, they truly did.

When we first enter an industry, it is immensely tempting to try to look and sound like everyone else. Just follow the formula. And doing so is certainly one way to learn the basics. But beyond the level of essential competence, you must start breaking away from the norms and seek distinction. You must begin to explore ways in which you can be unpredictable, unique, disproportionately brilliant. That is not an outcome guaranteed by a formula. That requires your own creative fingerprint. 

It all begins when you stop copying others, and start making the argument from your own love of the thing… Display disproportionate excellence, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za . Emailinfo@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

What really matters? 

This past weekend, along with a generous swathe of the community, my wife and I attended the funeral of a father and family man who was taken in his prime. Needlessly, this good man died in a housebreaking, in the early hours of what should have been just another weekend at home.

It was a beautiful memorial service, if one of the most difficult I’ve ever attended. Nothing helps the mind to process such senseless loss at the hands of such indiscriminate evil. 

Yet the tributes could not have been more touching. 

It’s interesting to note how we evaluate an entire human life in review, what we select and hold up to the light when all is said and done. The qualities for which he was praised - genuinely and correctly - were all centred around gentleness and care. 

Every Monday in this forum, we speak about clever career moves. But what’s it all for? Our greatest legacy is ultimately the lives we touch, and the story we share with our closest people. 

After the ceremony, all I wanted to do was hug my young son. And I hope I never forget to do that. 

 

- In memory of Simon Bush, and with love to his surviving family; a small grouping of some of the best people there are. Keep shining. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com

 

Imagine being viewed as the icon in your industry for over 60 years. 

Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has that distinction, to the extent that it’s difficult to speak about wildlife documentaries without referencing him. 

Imagine if, in the late 1950’s, Attenborough had stubbornly refused to graduate to the newer equipment as it came out, arguing that he was comfortable with ‘the old ways.’ His eminence may never have extended beyond the 1960's. 

And yet, today, he is still producing, and still at the top of his craft. His world-class documentaries benefit from the use of drones, satellites, submarines, and super high-definition underwater cameras. 

Irrelevancy can begin subtly. With each small assertion that we don’t need the next thing - that we’re comfortable with the way we have always worked in the past - we inch down a road toward extinction. 

 

This is not a call to bankrupt yourself by buying all the latest, most expensive toys. Rather, it’s a reminder that every industry progresses. It moves on. Its tools and methodologies improve and progress, and we must do so right alongside them, in order to remain relevant. 

Use the progress, embrace the improvement, and decade after decade, you could remain at the forefront of your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za . Email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

A weird cousin of the ‘curse of knowledge’ is the diminishment of curiosity. As you become more skilled at your craft, you basically become more full of answers. Correspondingly, you also become less full of questions. That’s troubling. 

In ‘A More Beautiful Question,’ Warren Berger asserts that there is an inverse relationship between the kind of natural curiosity that asks disruptive questions, and expertise. In other words, if you are an expert, you’re more likely to fall back on ‘what is known,’ and actually less likely to question your world in new and productive ways. This is a genuine threat, and can lead to atrophy and irrelevance. 


Becoming question-driven, rather than answer-driven

When I present on disruptive innovation, I often tell my audiences upfront that the master key to overcoming ‘the way things have always been done’ is the simple art of asking a different question. By preloading your mind with a question, prior to going into a scenario, be it a sales call, a strat. session, a meeting – anything – you will spur yourself to notice things that you never noticed before. 

Say, for instance, you walk into a meeting preloading this question in your mind:

‘What can I learn today by paying specific attention to the body language of those around me?’ This will organize your mind to view reality according to that framework, and you will notice things in accordance with it. You might see things very differently if you asked a different question, such as, ‘What is slowing us down here?’

What we refer to as an ‘open mind’ is essentially one that is still asking questions. A ‘closed mind’ is one that believes it has nothing more to learn. Questions, then, are the key.  

Bringing this idea back to the world of expert-positioning, the value of questions is in the fact that industries change over time. What we ‘knew’ ten years ago may be thoroughly dated now. When we are question-driven, we buck the extinction trend. 

If you’ve been in your industry more than a decade, here are some useful questions to ask yourself this week: 

- Is the technology I’m using really the best option, or is it just what I’m used to?

- What’s different about the landscape now compared to two years ago?

- Am I still energetically producing, or am I coasting on the strength of past successes?

- When last did I attend an educational session, or read a book, about my industry?

- Am I experimenting with anything new in my world? Do I have any new ‘toys’ to play with? 

- What’s next? 

Keep asking questions, and you could remain the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za . Emailinfo@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

The easiest speaking assignment in the world starts with, ‘We’re just looking for a little fun. Come motivate our people.’ But increasingly, speakers are providing solutions to some fairly high-level managerial challenges, and our topics are reflecting that. It entails a shift from ‘create a fun vibe’ to ‘help us with some deep cultural trouble-shooting.’

It’s not uncommon to see conference presentations today addressing challenges like ‘how to survive recession,’ ‘how to compete with an informal economy that doesn’t obey the law,’ or ‘what to do about the rising tide of artificial intelligence.’

Any presentation that addresses a negative hurdle in the lives of the audience can present a challenge for the speaker. Among the most difficult occur when the negative hurdle is a behavior of the audience itself. That assignment starts with some variation of: ‘Our people are too scared to take risks. Come and change their mindset,’ or: ‘Our sales are down. We need them to try harder. We’d like you to tell them that.’

The tricky balancing act for the speaker becomes this: Who do you please? The management who hired you to speak? Or the audience?

Why would there be a distinction?

It is absolutely possible to help an audience with a cultural problem, and to leave them better off for the ideas that you have shared. But there is an art to doing it properly. The project fails when it sounds like you are simply repeating the tirades that they have heard (and grown weary of) from their managers a hundred times before. That sort of ‘tow-the-line’ presentation looks and feels like an ambush. If it’s patently obvious that management has paid you to say that, then the message doesn’t work.

Yet done correctly, it can work. It works precisely because you are an independent outsider. You are not management.

It’s the same dynamic as your child refusing to listen to your advice on a problem, but lapping up the ideas of their best friend, even when the advice itself is identical. For speakers, ‘sounding like a parent’ is a disqualifier. But sounding like their ‘friend with a cool new idea!’ can be immensely powerful. This outsider factor is no small part of the value of what we do.

But you have to please both

I’ve learned a few lessons about the balancing act implied in this two-sided contract. It is easy to err too greatly on one side of this dynamic or the other.

Let’s start with ‘pleasing the audience’:

-     Firstly, lectures are out. Anything even vaguely preachy will confirm their suspicion that you are simply repeating spiked management mantras. You have to make your points with clear logic and persuasive benefits that speak for themselves. Try to avoid anything remotely accusatory. Instead, focus on creating a tone that says, ‘Let’s explore a fascinating idea together…’

-      Secondly, management-orientation is out. If your entire message is delivered as though your only concern is making the lives of leadership easier, the audience will see no value to themselves. You must re-orient the information that you deliver to show how it works in their lives, and how it might help them to attain career goals. It’s the difference between, ‘Management wants you to be nicer to customers,’ versus ‘The better you serve customers, the more you will be known as a superstar with a bright career ahead.’ The audience must genuinely perceive that you are on their side.

-     Thirdly, you have to openly acknowledge their fears and objections. But explore them in a way that is non-accusatory. For instance, when I speak on innovation, I explore the idea that people become so emotionally involved in the old ways of doing things that they are unwilling to try the new. To simply state that fact in that blunt manner would be accusatory and would raise hackles. Instead, I tell stories about organisations who have befallen this problem, to their own detriment, thus removing the audience present from the line of fire.

I also actively sympathize with those who committed the error in my story examples, saying, ‘You can understand why. It’s deeply human. These people have spent ten years optimizing and perfecting their system. They value it, and they don’t want to simply abandon it. But here’s what happens when they can’t let go…’ In this way, I’ve taken the dynamic outside of the realm of accusations, and explored it as an independent curiosity that we can all pick up, turn around in our hands and observe.

-     Finally, I try to provide highly specific ‘how-to’ prompters. One of the most powerful ways to genuinely alter behavior is to identify the trigger event that precedes an undesirable action, and then preload a different reaction to it.

Take the example of drinking alone in the evenings. Say that you’ve decided that you want to change this behavior. You’ve identified the trigger event that precedes it – perhaps reading a post on social media that makes you feel bad, which inevitably leads to a consoling glass of wine. Your key to changing your own behavior is to teach yourself ‘When this happens, I’m going to do that instead,’ and you then preload an alternative action. This might translate to: ‘When I read a negative social media post, I’m going to go for a walk instead.’

I like to use this simple but powerful device to suggest behavior-changing prompts to my audience. It gives them a concrete starting point, and a specific way in which to alter their own behavior for the better. Perhaps most importantly, it helps me to genuinely meet my brief from management, which is to show them how to change.

But here’s the problem

In trying not to repeat management mantras, and in phrasing the ideas differently to the way management has briefed you, it is entirely possible to leave management itself feeling as though you did not listen to their brief. The fact is, you actually did. You simply disguised it so artfully that it looked like a different creature, unrecognizable even to them. In this way, it is quite possible to get the job done well, but not to appear to be doing so, in their eyes.

To solve that side of the problem, here are a few ways to ensure that you please management as well:

-     Always start by getting a good brief from the people who ‘own the problem’ that you have been hired to address. Who wanted you at this event, and why? Ideally, see if you can have coffee with them and take notes about their frustrations. Make a point of being seen to take notes – it is perceived as an act of caring.

A telephone call or email briefing will do too, but make sure that you actively display the fact that you care about meeting their objectives, using phrases like, ‘I’d like to ensure that I customize this to your particular group. What challenges are they facing this year?’, and when they provide you with this information, make a point of stating that the insights are useful, and that you will build them into your talk.

-     Customize your presentation, and make it look customized. Firstly, your message should genuinely be designed for that particular audience, based on the brief that you received. But more than that, it should look that way to the people who hired you. There are a few simple things you can do to achieve that. Add their logo to your first slide. If it doesn’t detract, use their logo subtly on every slide. Do they have a theme for the day? Can you use it repeatedly in your talk? If it’s feasible, try to use a photo of their building or their product or an individual from the group, or a photo of a news article about them, on at least one of your slides, as you speak about a principle that is relevant to them.

-     Consider referencing one of their competitors, in a way that helps you to make a point. Strangely enough, this reference to their ‘enemy’ also serves to validate the notion that you are speaking directly to them, on the grounds that you clearly know enough about them to know who they compete against. Tread carefully here, though. You don’t want to say anything about the competitor that could come back to bite you in the jiggly bits.

-     Be socially present and speak directly to the group, in the tone of a friendly conversation. If they are celebrating a milestone (“We’ve been in business for 50 years!”), start by openly congratulating them on this achievement, then use that opening statement to link into your first idea. If something humorous or poignant has happened recently with the group, see if you can incorporate that into what you say, either for a laugh, or to make a point. These small touches go a very long way toward making the organizer feel that you were present in the moment, not merely going through the motions, and that the presentation itself was special and unique to them.

-     Is there something unique about the venue that can be built into your presentation? For instance, did management elect to host their event at a racetrack, an airport or a theatre? If so, why? And can you incorporate a reference to it? 

-     Even if the nature of your content entails that you don’t speak directly about their situation, but rather, that you use outside examples to illustrate the core issue you are addressing (which I do, in order to avoid the ‘spiked message’ problem), make sure that you deliver your information in a way that does not make it seem like you are detached from them and speaking in a vacuum.

This occurs when a speaker’s message is so removed from the sense of a ‘conversation,’ that the audience perceives they could get up and leave, and the speaker wouldn’t even notice. It’s remedied with very simple verbal techniques, such as rhetorical questions: ‘Has that ever happened to you?’ and with simple comparative phrases, ‘I was thinking about the challenge you’re facing this year. It’s similar to something Apple dealt with two years ago…’ These verbal callbacks transform your information from a ‘lecture-in-a-vacuum,’ to a poignant conversation. And they are cues to management that you are, in fact, touching on the points that you had discussed in your brief.

So all told, the answer to the question, ‘Who should I please, the audience or management?’ is really: Both. But there are some competing dynamics of which you must be aware.

You must work hard to make the audience feel that you are genuinely on their side, and that you are here in the moment, discussing some cool ideas that will benefit their lives, not simply regurgitating management slogans from a distance.

But you must also subtly indicate to management that this whole presentation is designed to meet the goals to which you previously agreed.

It sounds like quite a lot of psychology, and in truth, it is. But that’s why top speakers command high fees. As we often like to point out, it’s not the hour of speaking on a stage that is the real value. It’s the understanding of the total situation. It’s the solutions to tough problems. It’s the change that we bring. And it’s all of this, while still coming across as a caring friend and trusted advisor.

 

Douglas Kruger is a global speaker and author of five business books with Penguin Random House SA. He has won the national championships for Public Speaking, through Toastmasters International, a record 5 times.

In 2016, in honour of excellence in his craft, Douglas was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa. See him in action, or sign up for his free newsletter, ‘From Amateur to Expert’ at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Emailinfo@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Sometimes experts are so close to their own ideas that they might not see how others perceive what they are saying. It’s a form of what is called ‘the curse of knowledge.’ 

I recently fell afoul of it myself. In my case, the mistake lay in the title of a presentation. The title was ‘Talent: How to Grow or Crush it.’

In my world, an assignment often begins when a client calls a speakers’ bureau, and asks for advice on the most suitable speaker and topic for an event. The bureau will then call two or three well-suited individuals and discuss the event with them. On a number of such occasions, I had recommended this presentation as a good fit with the client’s needs. 

My agent always pushed back, showing a sense of discomfort with the topic. One day she openly told me, “I’m always hesitant to recommend that one to the client. It sounds like a speech on how to be a manager, and that’s not at all what they are looking for.” 

Her feedback was very useful. She saw the topic in a certain way, and it wasn’t at all what I meant to say. This spurred a discussion in which I was able to correct the misconception, and also, to correct my own description of what the topic was really about. Here is the new description, depicting what the topic actually covers: 

Raw Human Talent - What the Science Says

Is there a generally accepted ‘formula’ for human talent? Do we understand the elements of genius in various spheres of performance? Can you raise an outstanding performer, or even become one by your own design? Also, what on earth is ‘myelin,’ and why are scientists calling it ‘the Talent Chemical’? 

Professional Speaker Douglas Kruger unpacks the latest findings about our remarkable brains, and the abilities potentially lying dormant in each of us. 

 

This is a far cry from what the title, ‘Talent: How to Grow or Crush it’ originally suggested, which calls to mind images of a mid-level manager, who is either very motivating, or very discouraging. But I was too close to my own topic to see it. 

Does your outbound messaging say what you think it says? Could you be ‘un-selling’ yourself, based on an incorrect impression that you are creating? 

A little high-level feedback could help you to correct any errors that you are not aware of. Say what you really mean, and you could become the greatest in your game.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

One of my primary tenets is the idea that you should give away your best ideas for free. Teach, coach and guide as often as you can. The more you are seen doing so, the more you generate and encourage the phrase, ‘You know who you should talk to about that?’ and position yourself as an expert. 

Case in point: A few weeks ago I presented an educational Skype session for a group of speakers in Namibia. I spent an hour online sharing some formulas for business growth and giving away some of my best ideas to people who, it might be argued, represent my direct competition in this region. The session came to an end, I signed off, and I didn’t pay it another thought. 

A few days later, I received an invitation. One of the delegates had recommended me to a bank in Windhoek, who booked me to speak at two of their events. I’ve just returned, and my experience in that nation was as enjoyable as ever. 

When you are asked to present in public forums, and to share ideas about how you did it, say yes. The principle is actually very simple: Give and you will receive. Teach freely, and you could become the greatest in your game.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 




When my son turned six months of age, we held a dedication ceremony for him. He was at that uber-cute stage at which he could sit upright and grab at things with fat little fists, but crawling was still on the horizon. 

For weeks, my wife planned the event, fussing over every detail and taking great care to get it all just right. On the day, she dressed him in his finest little outfit, confirmed a few last minute details with the venue, then drove off to pick up the cake she had ordered. 

The cake was beautiful. More costly than anything you might buy in a store and made to her exact specifications, it bore a beautiful interplay of white and blue icing, with the design of a cross embossed on top, and our son’s name proudly written across the front. And misspelled. 

The lady who created it to order had transposed two letters in our son’s name. 

On the face of it, this may not sound like a terribly big deal. Surely, an expert should really be measured on the excellence of the cake itself? But it brought my wife to the brink of tears and very nearly ruined the day. 

‘How can we even use this?’ she said. ‘The whole family’s going to be there. All of our friends. And his name is wrong. We may as well not even bother.’ 

The lady from whom she collected the cake was aware of the error, and apologised for it offhandedly, but pointed out that everything else had worked out nicely. 

Later that week, she sent a message asking us how we’d enjoyed the cake, oblivious to the drama she had caused and hoping for a good review. She even posted a photo of her cake, with the misspelled name, on social media, as an advertisement for her services. 

Here is how the cake-lady’s orientation was wrong: For my wife and I, the day was about our son. And the cake was there to honour him. For her, however, the cake itself was the point, and a misspelled name was no big deal. 

I have seen this fundamental misunderstanding of how the world works in many professionals. Take the example of the top-notch photographer, who takes breathtaking photos of a bride and groom on their special day, then spells the bride’s name wrong on the photo album. 

There is no coming back from such an error. It doesn’t matter how good the professional’s work may have been. The cake may have been excellent, the photos beyond compare. It’s irrelevant. The customer will still think of this service provider as a rank amateur, and will (I promise) aggressively discourage others from using their services. 

The cake incident may seem a small thing. But it was the one great blight on what was otherwise an excellent day. And my wife will not recall the taste of the cake or the creativity of the design. The only story she tells is about the lady who misspelled her son’s name and then left it that way. And still charged her for it. 

To become a leading expert, you need to do more than simply create with excellence. You must also understand the point of your creation. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 




There are many reasons to position yourself as a top name expert. The media comes to you. The deals come to you. And when you arrive, you may find the door already open.


When I first approached Penguin with a book manuscript, the reception, although highly professional, was frosty at best. I was unknown, untested. And while they were very polite with me, it was all done according to the rules, and every step was on their terms. There was no inherent trust. After submitting my synopsis and initial chapters, I waited weeks before I received a curt email tentatively permitting me to submit the rest of the manuscript. Then I waited weeks more, mumbling phrases about beggars and choosers.

Over time, though, and through the process of publishing five books, I've gone to great pains to show the team at Penguin that I can be relied upon. I'm extremely active in the publicity process, I meet deadlines, I represent them ably and I'm always willing to become deeply involved in their marketing. I constantly produce and I constantly communicate with them, to the extent that we've now built up a relationship of mutual trust.

Last week, I sent through a tentative query about my next manuscript. Within ten minutes, I received a response, which was: 'Yes, of course! Can't wait to see it!'

Chalk and cheese. The doors are open now.

It must be earned, painstakingly, over the years. You must build your profile over time, one smart step at a time, and experts are never experts by accident. But it is entirely possible to get to the point where your scenario changes completely, and the things that seem insurmountable to you now can become surprisingly easy.

Doors are never permanently locked. Craft yourself well. In time, those on the other side will welcome you in. Until then, keep hope, and keep building your profile. Keep aiming to be the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com




Following a holiday in South Africa, and for one week only, here is your TUESDAY morning motivator. (This departure from normal proceedings brought to you by Heritage Day). 

As we ease out of a long weekend, there is about a week left in this month. After that, there are no more than three months left in this year. Quite a thought, isn't it?

With a hundred days remaining, let's become introspective: Which of your expert-positioning goals have you genuinely achieved this year? Do you have a landmark or two under your belt? If not, you still have time, but you must force that time into submission and into your service. 

To achieve any goal - particularly the extraordinary ones implied in becoming a top expert - you will need to 'disrupt the momentum of the ordinary.' Going with the flow does not result in remarkable accomplishment. 

So this week, rather than focusing on your goals, let's focus on your obstacles. What's getting in the way? What's stopping you from doing the things that you need to do in order to become the greatest in your game? 

Often, simply stating a problem in sentence form helps you in a number of ways: It defines the parameters, it simplifies the emotional turmoil down to a neatly contained phrase, and it forces you to face something that you may have been putting off. 

I suggest limiting your possibilities to three. What are the three biggest everyday obstacles standing between you and the things you know you need to do? What three things keep you stuck riding a wave of relatively meaningless momentum and not acting directly upon your goals?

This week, identify them. Specify how they work and how they keep you caught up. Quantify them. Thereafter, you have three months left to disrupt their effect on your life and to mitigate against them. Negate the forces pushing you in a direction not of your choosing, and you could become the greatest in your game. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Not that it wasn’t always the case, but US politics has really become a form of entertainment. And today more than ever, there are gurus and thought-leaders for every possible political outlook, each attracting their own tribes of believers. 

I’ve been following the YouTube videos of a highly-articulate young journalist and speaker named Ben Shapiro. Shapiro (33) represents the conservative viewpoint in the States and is extraordinarily good at deconstructing arguments and pointing out fallacies in reasoning. I enjoy the fact that he is neither frothingly anti-, nor mindlessly pro-Trump, but tries to view each step taken by the US President in isolation, weighing it on its merits or demerits. 

Arguing for his various topical viewpoints, Ben has amassed a considerable tribe of followers. He also recently got into a tiff with a person who, on the surface of it, does something very similar to him. 

And in the opposite corner:

Milo Yiannopoulos (32) is a British-born commentator, whose politics trend toward the alt-right. Like Shapiro, Yiannopoulos is known for his strong viewpoints and outspoken mannerisms. In both cases, these two would appear to share the core qualities necessary for expert-positioning: strong views, regular media coverage, production of books, and a considerable YouTube presence in which they champion their causes. 

But there is at least one profound difference. My perception is that Shapiro appears to come from a place of genuine caring, arguing with a combination of logic, and concern for society.  There is fairness and concession built into the rhetoric, as well as a desire to do good, not harm. 

Milo, by contrast, aims to shock and provoke. He’s not averse to outright ugliness and might best be described as a mocker.  

So, given that both are very well known, and both are arguably very successful, which, pragmatically, is better? Value? Or shock-value? 

Let’s start with this observation: As an expert, you must speak strong. You certainly do have to be outspoken, and champion your views in their strongest representation. But here’s the distinction: Are you views inherently valuable? Or do they merely seek to provoke, for the sake of it, which errs on the side of self-glorification? 

Let’s circle this idea using an unlikely detour: 

I often reference motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson as an exemplar of expert-positioning, and without doubt, Clarkson is extremely provocative. But Clarkson, at the very least, ‘gets away with it’ for two important reasons: 

  1. 1. His work is quite clearly ‘satire’ and not genuine advice. Clarkson is only after a laugh - he is not actually trying to guide societal norms; and 
  2. 2. He nevertheless provides excellent value to his tribes of followers in the motoring world, caring very deeply about the industry and about his own work. 

Circling back to politics; Milo is a different animal. He mocks, for the sake of causing harm. There appears to be genuine malice, even hatred, in his observations. And I can see precious little value to the world in what he teaches. 

Then, the inevitable happened:

Milo recently pushed his shock-and-awe campaign one tweet too far, making a joke that referenced child sexual abuse (of which, to be fair, he was himself a victim). His fall from grace was instantaneous. Book deals were cancelled, speaking tours dried up, media interviews were withdrawn and many of his most ardent followers publicly disavowed him. 

Our conclusion, then, is simple, and we can reach it from two paths. The conclusion is that genuine value will always out-perform shock-value in the long run. We may reason our way to this conclusion via morals and logic, or we might get there by means of practical expedience. But the conclusion will always be the same. 

Give real value - not the ugly, ‘flasher-in-a-park’ equivalent, and you just may go the distance. You may avoid implosion. You may even become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com

 

 

 

On an abstract level, our brains are able to understand big patterns. But we’re not emotionally wired for them. They tend not to ‘mean’ terribly much to us. That’s why, for instance, financial services companies have a hard time selling retirement plans. 

We know, intellectually, that the day will arrive when we retire. But we don’t ‘feel’ that abstract marker on any tangible level. It’s a someday, a one day, a not really real. Sum effect: We only truly perceive big, abstract systems when we intentionally go looking for them, or when they are specifically pointed out to us. Otherwise, we only perceive the more immediate and minor things that are happening directly around us. 

This week, let’s try to counter that, in search of advantage. 

I often invite you to consider the industry in which you work. This week, try this exercise: Draw your industry in the centre of a blank page. Then, in spider-diagram form, draw bubbles around it, indicating the other industries that interact with, or impact upon, your industry. If you struggle to imagine which industries interact with yours, ask a knowledgeable colleague or friend. 

What could you learn about these industries, in order to see a bigger picture? What do the upheavals and changes in these industries entail for yours? What advantages might you return with, after an excursion into acquiring broader knowledge, which may only entail reading a newspaper or two, and how might you improve your agility if you could see what other industries need from yours? 

Situational awareness gives you greater nuance. It also throws up opportunities you might not otherwise have perceived. But the information doesn’t come naturally. You must seek it on purpose. Find out, even when no one is pressuring you to do so. 

Take the trouble, and you could become the greatest in your game.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

“Why do you still watch those old episodes of Top Gear? The cars are now so outdated that the information isn’t even relevant anymore.” 

“For the same reason that you watch My Kitchen Rules, even though you don’t particularly care about cooking. It’s not about the cars, and it’s not about the food.”

The world’s most successful experts know that becoming iconic is not just about technical expertise. They understand that the humour and the humanity, the drama and the personality, are every bit as important. 

Don’t underestimate the ‘peopliness’ with which you package your information. What is the human interest angle to what you do, and how could you play up humour and storytelling in the way you engage with the world? Do it right, and people will binge watch you, put you on repeat, and keep coming back to you, years down the line. You can become the greatest in your game, for the simple reason that they like you. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Game of Thrones continues to vacuum up accolades. But its success is not just the product of the big things they do - expending a larger budget than any other TV show on earth and CGI that beggars belief. The small things also contribute to their formidable, and growing, following…

…such as the ‘behind-the-scenes’ fun that they share online. 

Via their social media channels and fan-site outlets, GOT’s producers continually share a staggering amount of trivia, photos, humorous memes, conspiracy theories, jokes, stories, casual insights and more. The point? Fun. Simple enjoyment for their tribes. And that’s it. 

Greater levels of fan-involvement can be beneficial for your brand, and it doesn’t always need to be done at the highest levels of professionalism. Sometimes the behind-the-scenes peaks feel special to followers. 

I do recommend presenting a high-level impression of your work to the world. But this needn’t be at the expense of behind-the-scenes charm. 

What could you do your for your tribes that doesn’t necessarily add value, but fulfils the criteria of fun? 

Create connection, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

When you sit down to produce, do you find that the creative faucets are already open? Or does it take a while to prime the pump? Ever sit for ages before that glowing screen, waiting for inspiration? It may not be as much of a bad thing as it feels like. And it may even be a good idea to let it happen. 

I'm working on book number six with Penguin (and basking somewhat in the glow of the previous ones appearing on the 'Audible' platform). While I'm involved with the writing process, I like to read books and articles on the craft of writing, just to ensure that I'm utilising all the tools available to me. I came across one that recommends 're-naming writer's block.' 

The argument goes like this: In any pursuit, there is a period of creative stalling up front, in which the practitioner gets oriented, drifts into imagining scenarios, and essentially just dreams in creative ways, before starting with the actual work. 

The same should be true of writing, and it shouldn't be a bad thing. If you re-name your writer's block as 'rehearsal' and give yourself permission to sit for a half hour before beginning, you remove anxiety and permit yourself the time and space to strategise. 

If you're having trouble with that next article, that next chapter, that next product, as you propel yourself toward expert status, let yourself have trouble with it. But stay. Stay at it, and view the initial stall and stutter as a healthy step in the process; a perfectly normal part of producing, and ultimately, of positioning yourself as an expert.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

We’re well into August. If you’re keeping track, that means we’ve spent more than 8 out of the 12 units available to us. 

This morning, take a moment to perform a simple audit. The goal is to elicit one of two reactions from you: either a glowy sense of well-earned celebration, or a jolt to the system, depending on the outcome. Here’s the audit: 

‘How many things have you done since January that moved your career forward?’ 

Just that. 

It’s been 8 months. Do you have a couple of substantial developments under your belt? A new skill learned, a project completed, a goal accomplished? Something big in the pipeline that’s been moving along nicely? 

If your reaction to the test is the latter option: shock and horror; take a moment to ask what might still make this year incredibly meaningful for your career-trajectory. What could you still master or complete in three-and-a-bit months? What undertaking, that you could see through between now and New Year’s, would genuinely help you to take one more step toward becoming the greatest in your game? 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

 

They’re due out this week. After a year-and-a-half of burying myself in a small, airless, sound-proofed studio, I’ve recorded all of my business books for the audible.com platform, and according to their projected timetables, this is the week they go live. 

It has me thinking about channels. This week, what if you uncoupled your best ideas from the channel through which you typically deliver them? The channel itself is neither prescribed, nor an inevitability, and exploring alternatives can be creatively satisfying. 

With a multiplicity of outlets at your disposal, you would increase your total presence, your revenue streams, and your opportunities for PR. You would find new and original ways to refresh your own understanding of your topic matter. 

Grow your channels and you could own your industry. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 




Two-door coupes seem like a great idea, right up until the point when you have a new baby. Then you marvel at their stylish inconvenience. 

As I go about the tragic process of trading in my bachelor-mobile for something sedanish, I've been more than usually interested in automotive advertising. And I spotted something rather clever from Jaguar. 

Often lauded as an excellent alternative to the German marques, Jaguars are, nevertheless, fairly rare. Where I live, you may see one on the road for every thirty or more BMW's. 

So what do you do about that, when your goal is to portray the brand in the best possible light?

The answer is: sell it as a virtue. In answer to this conundrum, Jaguar came up with the 'Rare and meant to be' campaign, which inverts an awkward metric and represents it as the brand's inherent selling point. 

What's your most embarrassing metric? At which points do you struggle to compete with the big names? What if you found a way to represent that as somehow 'more exclusive'? 

Here's how Jag did it, and I think it's masterful: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4QKoqycLOk 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

The year is now half over (give or take a handful of change). During its passage, guaranteed, someone somewhere has written and published something new pertaining to your world that you have not yet read. 

This week, I challenge to you rectify that. Carve a few hours out of your schedule to increase your industry-related knowledge.

You've been going guns blazing since January, and it's likely you haven't had time to read the monthly publication pertaining to your world, to watch that educational DVD, or to buy the latest book off the shelves...the one detailing the newest idea. 

What if you make a point of doing so this week? What if you specifically insist on a few hours away from your desk/camera/car/boardroom/elephant, in order to bring yourself right up to date? 

Stay at the pinnacle of knowledge in your domain, and your expertise will remain relevant. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 




'Before and after' photographs have been used in advertising for decades. They are powerful because they depict 'degree of change,' in a way that is both undeniable, and invites oo'ing and ah'ing. 

Depiction of change is a powerful marketing concept. The more explicitly you can show it, the more persuasive you become as a prospect. Here's an example of a clever use of 'depiction of change' by a brand:

There is an orthodontic product called 'Invisalign' The idea is that if you want your teeth straightened, but don't want to display garish braces to the outside world (perhaps because you are attempting to position yourself as a public notoriety), you can pay a little extra, and wear clear plastic moulds that are invisible to the naked eye. 

The brand recently introduced a new innovation. They now send customers an online link, which shows a pictographic representation of the change to their own teeth over time. This additional effort on the part of the brand accomplishes one thing only: it heightens their customers' sense of change. It depicts the change more vividly, and the result of that is increased customer satisfaction and heightened buzz about how well the whole thing works. 

Sometimes it's not that your results aren't profound. It's that they aren't profoundly displayed. Depicting change in a heightened way can increase the perception of your value. 

How could you more vividly display the difference between your before and after? Show profound change, and you could be seen as the greatest in your game. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

There are seven stages in your trajectory between rank-amateur and industry legend. Where would you currently peg yourself? 

1. Novice:

You've started working, and you're trying to find a career that you like. You may change paths a few times as you find yourself. Everything is new and terrifying. 

2. Working Drone:

You're beginning to build a career, but at this stage, your work consists of reactively taking orders. You know what to do only because someone tells you what to do. You're learning the ropes and discovering your own strengths and weaknesses. 

3. Practitioner:

You have traction. You're gaining momentum. Each day, you're becoming increasingly confident about what you do, and above and beyond learning about your own to-do items, you are beginning to understand the broader industry in which you operate. You take pride in your work and people are noticing your potential. You might no longer be employed, but rather, you are running your own show. 

4. Specialist:

You are no longer reactively taking orders. If anything, you are beginning to pioneer new and creative ways of doing things. You act on your own authority, distinguish bad ideas from good ones, and you've discovered that others are approaching you for your insights and opinions, sometimes even in presentations. You are increasingly doing what you do because you want to do it. It's beginning to define you and give you a sense of self-actualisation. You're qualified to write articles about your topic, and you're considering publishing a book, because you have something to say. 

5. Authority:

The media comes to you for your valuable insights. You speak regularly at conventions and you guide and coach others. You're the author of the book on the topic, and people place your name at the end of the sentence, 'You know who you should talk to about that...?' 

6. Thought-Leader:

You have gone beyond mere 'excellence' in your industry and you have arrived at high-level leadership. You are one of the voices determining where the entire industry is going. You're not one of the performance acts copying Michael Jackson - you ARE Jackson, and the entire industry is following your lead. 

7. Icon 

You've become synonymous with this sphere of life. In the same way that people instantly think of Arnie whenever the topic of bodybuilding comes up, they infallibly think of you when discussing your world. Even years after you've left the industry, yours is the name most strongly associated with it. You've become the Oprah of TV talk-shows. 

Where do you currently rank? Take a look at the next level up, and ask yourself what it might take to get there. What steps could you take this week to propel yourself further from amateur to expert? 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Perceptions being everything in the game of expert-positioning, how are your Google rankings looking? If I typed the key words describing your profession into a search, would you appear on the first page?

There are many things you can do to improve your rankings, but here is one of the simplest (and it's free). When you post on social media, don't neglect to post on Google Plus, even if you don't particularly spend much time on it. When you do so, find a way to naturally and organically imbed the right key words into your post.

Google prioritises its own forum, and key words planted there are more effective. For instance, yesterday morning I appeared on a radio station. When I posted about it on Google Plus, I made sure to add in the sort of key words that pertain to my industry ('professional speaker' is the phrase I try to use most often). I used my key terms when I posted about the upcoming interview, and then I used them again when describing it afterwards. The more often you do this - without it appearing completely gratuitous - the more you improve your rankings.

Tell an ever-unfolding-story, on the forum that Google itself prizes most, and you improve your ranking in the online world of aspiring experts. Keep it up, and you could end up at the top of the page. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email: info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

In your first threeor four years learning a new skill, you probably found that your development was dramatic. After that, chances are it tapered off. Is there something you can do about it? 

Human talent is a fascinating field of study. I've previously shared an overview of the 'formula' for growing your talent, according to the latest research on how we are wired (which, incidentally, is: Talent = Yearning + Input + Deliberate Practice, sustained over Time). 

But what do you do when you reach a talent plateau? Have you reached the limits of your genetic potential? 

The research says no.

Instead, what has happened is that the act has become automatic and unthinking for you. To overcome this temporary pause in your growth, you need to force yourself out of your current zone and cause an unthinking act to become a thoughtful one again. Do that, and you can reignite your development, setting yourself en route to become the greatest in your game... ...as I explain to this audience

(two minute video clip): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_Xt9uAroPQ  


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Contributing thought-leadership articles across a broad number of publications can exponentially increase your visibility, while simultaneously showcasing your knowledge. 

Here are three ways to get more mileage from your articles:

1. Submit accompanying visuals that include your face

You could take the full-blown novelty approach by submitting a photo of yourself in chains along with your 'making a break from the past' article. But it needn't be quite so theatrical. Perhaps your article is about child-rearing, and you attach a high quality photo of yourself reading a book to your daughter. The point is to include something so visually interesting that the editor feels compelled to use your photo in addition to your article, and thereby elevates your article's PR quotient from 'mere text,' to a feature that includes your face. 

2. Include video links

When you create articles, you can do so in conjunction with video blogs. In the blog, direct viewers to 'read the article version here,' and equally, in the text, direct readers to 'watch the author discussing the ideas live at this link.' By using two mediums, you potentially double the number of people who encounter your idea, plus, by directing text readers to a video, you showcase your personality, in addition to the original concept. 

3. Offer more 

With very article you submit for publication, mention to the editor that you have more content ready to go whenever they are ready (and then submit the next one before they ask for it as well). Placing a single feature is good. But multiple appearances are far better. Submit regularly, and they might come to rely upon your contributions. 

This week, I challenge you to submit a 'total package' article to a publishing platform, including a photo, a video link, and an offer of more to the editor. Maximise your publication, and you optimise the perception of yourself as a thought-leader. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Many of my previous newsletters have encouraged you to volunteer your expertise in media interviews. Have you tried? If you have, there are some simple ways to maximise your mileage in each instance. 

This week, let's consider how to get more from a radio interview. In this short video, I share a number of simple tips that you can use each time, in order to position yourself as an expert:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R1IPgAZGXA 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

'Real success is never painless or quick.' This was the sentiment in a recent article by Jacques de Villiers, a past president of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and a longstanding contributor to the speaking industry in SA. 

In his editorial, he railed against the idea of the quick-fix, the short-cut, the promise of easy prosperity. He argued that it's a myth peddled by hucksters. 

I completely agree. I've long argued that real experts out-work and out-care their competition. Whenever I present on how to 'own your industry,' my opening remarks are always: 'Today I am inviting you to work much harder than most people in your industry ever will.' 

But perhaps that doesn't put you off. Perhaps it even excites some deep part of you that values honest answers and loves a formidable challenge. If so, here is one practical way to turn this philosophy into action. This week, ask the question: What could I do or learn that no one else in your industry could be bothered to pursue? ...not because it's of low value... ...but because it's difficult? 

This week, identify one thing that most dabblers in your industry will never bother with, and start formulating your plan to be the one who does it. Volunteer yourself for more than most - out-care and out-perform - and you can find distinction in your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

Today, after 15 years in the industry, and while making an updated demo showreel, I Googled some other professional speakers' videos. To my blank astonishment, I found hundreds of videos on how to build one's speaking business, videos that I've never bothered to watch. 

Now, I've created such videos myself. But for some unknowable reason, I've never searched for one. Not out of arrogance, or some odd stubborn obstinance. But because it's never occurred to me to do so. So I binge-watched five or six of the longer ones consecutively and jotted down a few incredibly clever tips which I will shortly be implementing. 

I'm frankly flawed as to why I've never done this before, particularly as someone who thinks obsessively about the topics of expert-positioning and personal growth. 

So that said, let me ask you: how long have you been in your industry? And have you gone online to search for tips on how to get ahead in that industry yet? Ever? I managed to miss that simple step for well over a decade. 

This week, jump onto Google and YouTube, and do some simple searches. Use phrase like 'How to build a successful (insert craft here) career,' and 'how to become a professional...' 

When the leg-work has been done by those before you, it would be the height of folly not to learn the already established steps for becoming the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

A friend of mine is obsessed with online games. While bemusedly watching him shoot an alien in the face on a distant planet-scape, we got to chatting about people around the world who make unthinkable incomes from playing these games professionally. 

I observed that my friend was clearly very competent (as another alien took it in the cabeza), yet still had to work a day-job, so I asked the logical question: ‘What's the difference between someone who’s merely good at video games, versus someone who buys a yacht on their proceeds?’

What's your best guess? Did you go straight to some form of extraordinary talent? Unusual levels of knowledge or insight? 

He unhesitatingly answered: ‘Charisma.’ The people who attract sponsorship deals that would leave a digital muggle's jaw agape, he explained, are doing so on the strength of their personality. People love these experts' online presence, follow them in order to enjoy their witty and unusual way of looking at the world, and become members of their enormous cult followings. 

My formula for expert-positioning has long been the interaction of three qualities: Knowledge; Personality; Publicity. Personality is the one that most aspiring experts miss. 

This week, ask yourself a difficult question: How charismatic is your current industry presence? Are you a figure to be aspired to? Someone whom everyone knows as the big name/face/voice? 

Like every other aspect of your professional career, this is something that must be managed and grown by design. Insert charisma here, and you can become a significant face and voice in the industry consciousness. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

A lady owns a jewellery store in a coastal town, and she's struggling to sell a particular range of jade jewellery. So begins the true story in Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence.' Before going on leave, the owner instructs her salesperson to halve the prices. The salesperson misreads her note and doubles the price instead. The entire range sells out before the owner returns. 

Behavioural economics are fascinating. In this particular case, the items sold more effectively because they were more expensive. Welcome to human behaviour. 

As an aspiring industry expert, almost everything you do has its basis in psychology. So are you a student? 

If not, I'd recommend starting with this excellent book. Consider doing what I do and download the audio version from Audible.com, then listen to it on the fly. 

Experts are always improving their understanding of the market, and of human behaviour. Master the nuances, and you can become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

It's called 'The Rage to Master.' It's a term cognitive scientists use when discussing the elements of human genius. 

Apparently, in super high-performing individuals, there is an unusually powerful level of compulsion to master an interest. Real genius seems to be the product not of lucky, freak genetics, but of this incredibly strong drive, combined with coaching and practice. But the drive must first be present, or the coaching and practice will not create a high performer. 

In the simplest terms, to become masterful at anything, you must obsess about it. 

So, how much do you obsess about the core skill at the heart of the thing you do? Do you tinker with it, dream about it, study and dissect it? Do you try it repeatedly, experimenting, assessing and then doing it all over again, honing and refining all the while? 

Obsession is the seed and the necessary condition for real genius. The 'rage to master' is your starting point for truly expert levels of performance. Obsess endlessly, and you can become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

Professional speaker and conference regular Douglas Kruger shares some simple tips for a better event:

Perhaps it's a nationwide roadshow with a budget that could draw Oprah. Perhaps you're just meeting under a tree in the middle of the bush, where you've provided a bottle of Oros and set out ten chairs in case anyone pitches. No matter how big or small your event may be, there are a few simple things you must do in order to ensure that it looks professional. 

After some 15 years in the speaking industry, I've come to believe that the perception of professionalism surrounding your event has very little to do with the food served or the number of stars on the hotel's ratings, and everything to do with a few very basic fundamentals. This year, I've already spoken at a number of events at which the organisers let themselves down in silly ways. 

Here are 5 seriously simple, but absolutely non-negotiable things to remember whenever you host an event: 

1. Before the event, call your presenters and ask them what they will need. Nine times out of ten, speakers will need a projector and a screen, at the very least. Some will not be able to present if you've forgotten to organise the projector. If you have more than 50 people in a room, chances are that you are going to need microphones and amplification too. In that case, check with the speakers whether they prefer handheld mikes or lapels

2. On the day, someone needs to be at the door, greeting people who arrive and showing them where to go. When your guest speaker has to do this, because no one appears to be in charge, the tone drops ten notches in professionalism (and your speaker judges the heck out of you) 

3. Someone must call the meeting to order and set the scene. It's really simple, but it must be done: "Ladies and gentleman, thank you for attending. We are here today in order to..." Without this scene-setter, your guest speaker feels like a complete banana walking to the front of the room and attempting to justify their presence to the baffled assemblage. The speaker effectively starts on a back-peddling note 

4. Someone must introduce the guest speaker, and they must do it as if they actually know who the person is and what they are about to present on (from my side as a speaker, I've fallen afoul of this oversight so many times that I now travel with a printed introduction, which I hand to MC's). The absolute bare minimum you can get away with is this: 'Our next speaker's name is Douglas Kruger. Douglas will be presenting this morning on innovation. Please help me to welcome Douglas Kruger.' I'm not kidding when I say that I've had days when I would have been grateful for even this much 

5. Someone should thank the speaker after their presentation. If you have a little Toastmasters training, you might know to reiterate one or two ideas from the presentation as part of your summation and thanks. If you don't want to go that far, that's fine. But to end the event with the speaker saying 'Thank you,' and then have the audience look around wondering if there's anything else, or whether they are supposed to leave now, looks very amateur. I know, because I've lived through such excruciating moments. Recently.  

There are many more things you can do to elevate the tone at your event, but they're largely frosting on top. These 5 things are not negotiable. Even if you are meeting under a cloth covering in the middle of the bush, where your speaker and eight guests sit on plastic chairs, if you get these 5 points right, you've probably hosted a successful and professionally run event. By contrast, you can book out the Sandton Convention Centre and provide 5-star catering; but miss the mark on these five, and you've truly struck out.

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com  

 

Part 4: Don't do Exhaust-Pipe Gynaecology 

Human thought is a funny animal. Give it complete freedom and it might under-perform. But impose a few specific, clever restrictions, or suggestive guidelines, and you can actually get better results from it. 

Psychologists use the term ‘cognitive framework’ to refer to this technique for looking at a problem differently and thereby improving insight.  

This week, I’d like to impose a guideline on your own thinking, in order to improve your observations about YouTube videos. The guideline is this: I want you to view 5 videos by experts in your own field and look for only one thing: What don’t you like about their videos? 

What’s irritating? 

For example: I watch a lot of videos about new cars online. My least favourite technique is what I refer to as ‘exhaust-pipe gynaecology.’ It’s when the cameraman gets so close to the new car he’s filming that we’re literally seeing the circle of the exhaust-pipe fill the screen. I don’t want to look up a car’s exhaust pipe. It’s meaningless to me and provides no useful information. 

I dearly want him to zoom back - do an establishing shot, for Pete’s sake! - and show me the entire car. Preferably with a pretty lady admiring it. 

To my mind, it’s one of the obvious errors that separates the amateurs from the experts in the world of automotive journalism. 

What constitutes that divide among experts in your field? Watch 5 videos - any 5 videos - online, and see what you notice, having pre-programmed your mind to seek out negatives. 

Out-perform the amateurs, and you can become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com  

 

YouTube videos help us to build tribes of followers. They're a perfect channel for sharing not only information, but also personality. 

In the past two instalments, I gave tips for improving your sound and video quality. This week, here are 10 tips for making your uploads more compelling, in order to grow your base of viewers and get people coming back for more: 

1. Publish articles that link to videos and vice versa. Say you're writing a gardening piece that recommends 10 steps. In the online article, which you submit to online gardening publications, you include a video link that says, 'Watch me carry out these ten steps.' Likewise, in the video, you might say, 'get these 10 steps in writing.' Each channel backs up and supports the other. 

2. Use compelling titles. The first potential hook for viewers is your title, and it can cause them to click or yawn, depending on your creativity. Quite often, 'how to' titles seem to work very well, for example: 'How to gain followers on YouTube in 10 easy steps.' 

3. Try to be visual. While a 'talking head' can be very successful, this is nevertheless a visual medium. Can you make it more interesting to look at? And in particular, can you ensure that the thumb-nail that shows as a preview looks fascinating? Although YouTube will select three frames arbitrarily from your video when you upload it, and ask which frame you might like to use as a preview-thumbnail, you can also choose to select your own photo as the thumbnail. Select something irresistible. 

4. Remember to entertain, as well as informing and educating. Your own personality, sense of humour and charisma can be as important as the information, perhaps even more so. 

5. Speak in a natural, conversational tone, looking straight into the camera lens, and occasionally smiling, the way you would when chatting with a friend. Address the audience directly, saying 'you' as much as possible: 'Have you ever been frustrated by this problem...?' 

6. Speak strong. Don't be afraid to champion a cause, take a stand and offer your opinion. Don't be obnoxious, lest even the people who agree with you tune out. But do be a strong leader championing a specific point of view. 

7. Keep it short. I try to ensure that most of my videos are under 4 minutes in duration, with the possible exception of videos of live speeches or seminars. These can be as long as you want. 

8. Incentivise them to come back. Within your video, be sure to offer more. This could be in the form of links to other videos, or it could simply mean asking them to subscribe. Ideally, you should be offering something of value or something entertaining in the next one, so that the perceived attractiveness of your videos is self-evident. 

9. Make sure your website also includes your videos. You will grow your viewership greatly by ensuring that all of your videos also appear on your site. This is a great way to ensure that even your older videos continue to get viewed anew, as people search your site and click on them. 

10. Recycle often. A single video post announced through a single channel may have little hope of being seen, even when the content is brilliant. So publish your videos across all of your social media channels: LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, etc., and post them more than once. You might even consider creating a 'recycle schedule,' in which, after a certain amount of time, you publish old videos again (so long as their concepts are not outdated). Find excuses to re-publish videos. On Facebook, for instance, people like to re-post older items under the excuse 'Throwback Thursday.' That's good enough!  

 

In addition to these ten tips, I would recommend spending a little time online reading and learning about video blogs. There are many things you can do to raise your viewer numbers and ultimately become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com  

 

YouTube videos are important to our expert-positioning efforts. Ideally, we should be uploading highly entertaining, highly informative videos, which target our specific desired followers with precisely the kind of content they are interested in. The more we give away for free, the more we build our tribes of believing followers. Do it regularly and with excellence, and tribes beget tribes, as people share and recommend your videos to others. 

Last week I gave a tip for improving sound quality. This week, let's talk about lighting. 

I shoot my own videos at home, against a wall that has been painted green. This allows me to edit in any background I want afterwards. In theory, I could even pull a 'Shakira dancing amid the horses' if I wished to. 

With a little online research, I've discovered that the optimal way to light your shoots is using (at least) three separate light sources (I'm using relatively inexpensive LED's). Organise them in a pyramid-shape, with one facing you from your left, one facing you from your right, and one behind you, filling in shadows. You may wish to experiment a little with light angles, and if the light is too bright, you could even consider shining it upwards at the ceiling so that it bounces down onto you, or move the light back until the effect is less harsh. Ideally, you should still have a very small amount of shadow beneath your nose, as opposed to a total wash-out of bright light. 

Below is the video I shot this week, which talks about u-turns and the art of strategic rule-breaking. The background is a static visual of a wooden surface, which I edited in after the shoot using 'iMovie' for Mac. While my lighting is not yet perfect, it's a darn sight better than it's ever been before. 

And that's what we should keep aiming for: Research and improvement, in a continual loop. 

Continue to raise the standard of your videos, and you will be perceived as ever more professional. Professional says 'premium,' and professional says 'industry leader.' Keep raising your standards until you are seen as the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com  

 

YouTube videos are a critical part of our expert-positioning efforts. But many of us are one-person shows and don't have professional crews at our daily beck and call. Nevertheless, our videos can be high quality if we take the time and trouble to learn some simple techniques, even if you're shooting them on a smartphone, as I do. 

I've long wanted to raise the standard of my own YouTube videos, and to that end, over the past few days, I've been studying the topic. 

I'm well aware that my own videos are not yet at the standard I desire, but this past week, I learned how to solve one simple problem: sound-quality. Here's how... 

Improve your sound-quality: 

Keep your old phone - don't give it away. It's now going to be your sound-recorder. Purchase a simple lapel microphone, or, if that's too expensive, buy a cheap 'hands-free' kit for your phone (in particular, the ones that come with a little clip for your collar. You can actually cut off the two wires that split outward from the mini-speaker toward the ear-phones. With that, you're left with a decent lapel mic).

Plug the lapel into your old phone and affix it to your collar. Start recording (either with the old phone's video camera function, or using a sound-recording app). Then drop the phone into your pocket, out of view. You can then start your main phone recording the video. One handles sound, one handles picture. 

Clap Twice:

To make it easy to align the sound-tracks afterwards, clap twice, loudly before you begin speaking. Once you're done filming, you can then import the footage from both phones into a simple editing programme on your PC (I use the 'iMovie' app that came with my MacBook). Look for the 'peaks' in the soundtracks from your loud claps and line them up. Now your lip-sync will be perfect and you will have dramatically improved your sound quality. (I then delete the sound-track from the main phone, which was situated further away).

I have included one of my newest videos below, which was shot against a green-screen in my home (which is literally a wall in my house painted green). The black background was edited in afterwards. My own criticism of the video is that the lighting still needs work, but I'll tackle that problem this week. The sound, meanwhile, is crisper than usual, and contains less of that awful 'bathroom echo.'

With a lapel mic and an extra phone, you can be as far away from the video camera as you'd like. You can even shoot outdoors and from a distance. You are limited only by your own creativity. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll share with you all the tips and tricks for better video that I learn in the course of educating myself on the topic. This week, try out this technique for improving your sound. 

Raise the standard of your videos, and you will raise perceptions of yourself as an expert brand. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

 

 

One of the quickest and most convincing ways to differentiate yourself from industry amateurs is by the quality of your visuals. Videos with grainy imagery and blurry selfies do not an expert make. 

This week, do these two things:

1. Perform a simple audit 

In one sitting, take a quick look across your channels: click on your own website, pull up your YouTube channel, scan over your social media pages. Taken as a whole, how do the photos and video quality look? Are you impressed by what you see? Does it all look high-end? 

In the world of expert-positioning, less can actually be more. If you have, for example, three photos to upload, and two of them look very amateur while the third looks visually strong, uploading all three will not be as effective as uploading the strong one only.

2. Read a few articles on photography for social media

You can dramatically increase your visual strength simply by Googling a few articles, or watching a few videos, in order to gain tips on how to take better social media photos. Twenty minutes spent on the task could yield years of improved effectiveness. 

Experts look like experts. Raise the tone of your visuals, and you could be seen as one of the greatest in your game. 

 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

The entire world is talking about Donald Trump. So what do you say we don't?

Instead, let's talk about the idea of brands in general, and in particular, how to look like the high-end ones.

In my industry - as in many others - professionals have a bio that can be sent to prospective clients and used in representation by agencies and bureaus. In my world, it's called a one-sheet. 

As part of my continual commitment to keeping my own brand at the highest possible level, I've just had mine updated. My brief to the designer went like this: 'Attached are twenty examples of magazine advertisements by Rolex, Gucci, Mercedes Benz, Aston Martin, Boss and more. Make me look like them.' 

Ad agencies and brand specialists have spent decades studying what works, from colour-schemes to fonts to the use of wide open spaces. We can leverage these learnings by studying our favourite brands and asking critical questions about what they do design-wise. 

Which top brands appeal to you? What exactly are they doing that makes them look appealing? Are you studying and actively learning from them? Speak the language of high-end branding, and you will begin to position yourself at the pinnacle of the brand-hierarchy. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

I've been working on my business for well over 13 years now and I was under the impression that I had some vague idea what I was doing. But it's amazing how we can miss even the simplest of tricks. 

A speaker friend recently sent me a link to a video blog, in which an expert on website design analysed the greatest mistakes made by people in my industry. Number one among them, he explained, was not 'showing what you do' from the top to the bottom of your site. 

The sub-conscious credibility created by multiple visuals of a speaker 'in action' before large audiences is formidable. It says more than any body-text ever could. Yet most speakers relegate their photos to a specific 'photos' page, rather than using them liberally as part of their primary design. 

Guilty. 

So I will be upgrading my website once again to rectify this mistake and incorporate the technique.  

As you go about positioning yourself as an industry expert, how does your website stand up to this test? Are you showing credibility throughout, or have you hidden the primary argument for your legitimacy in an obscure tab? Show what you do, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

This week I'd like to issue you with a simple challenge in the form of a thought-experiment:

If you were to show your business and brand to the world in a way that created a new splash, that showed a renewed sense of vigour and energy, what would that look like? After all the years you've been in your industry, how could you make people say: 'There’s something serious going on over there. Something new. It’s not just business as usual'? 

As you ponder this challenge, let these words be your guiding mantra: 'I will depict a vigorous and energised exciting new surge. I will be utterly un-ignorable.' 

 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors'. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Book him to present for your leadership team: email info@douglaskrugerspeaker.com 

 

 

For a time, you saw them on the back of mini-bus taxis in South Africa; small stickers, issued by the Department of Health, explaining that ‘Sex with a child is a crime, and it will not cure AIDS.’ 

I was awestruck the first time I saw one. I had been blissfuly unaware that such a belief existed and only learned that there a war was being waged against it when the stickers pierced my ignorance. 

Sometimes we learn a thing by implication. Those stickers came and went some fifteen years ago. Just last week, I learned a similar ‘lesson by implication,’ but this time, it was a positive one. 

I was chatting with one of my agents, who praised me for giving thorough and thoughtful responses to client queries. It is my practice to ask specific questions about their needs and to make suggestions about how I might best serve them given their unique challenges. My agent confided that my doing so was a big contributor to our mutual success with clients. She enjoyed working with me, she said, in part because I put in this sort of care and effort…

…which taught me that other professionals in my arena obviously don’t  .

When a brief goes out outlining a potential client’s needs, it seems that a great many people in my industry merely respond with their availability and put no thought into arguing as to why they might be a good fit and how they might actually serve the client. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why not. Perhaps they don’t like money.

As a professional, any inquiry that comes your way is nothing less than an opportunity to pitch for new business. Why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward? Why wouldn't you show concern and be persuasive? 

When client enquiries arrive in your inbox, do you toss them back a standardised and impersonal response? Or do you see this as your opportunity to impress, to reassure and to surge ahead of your competition by winning yet one more deal, one additional stream of revenue, and one more opportunity to build your name and brand? 

Amateurs provide form replies. Experts use the opportunity to arrest their clients’ hearts and minds. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

The fireworks have faded and for most of us, this is the first official week back at work. Are you wrestling with career goals for the year ahead, looking for new and fresh ways of thinking about advancement? 

Why not try this two-part orientation exercise? 

  1. Determine the highest-level version of what you do. For instance, if you currently describe yourself as a graphic designer, perhaps the highest-level incarnation of that career path might be something like ‘brand specialist, consulting to major organisations.’ Or if you are an entry-level journalist for a community newspaper, the pinnacle of your trade might be ‘Features writer for National Geographic,’ or even ‘Senior Correspondent on CNN.’ Gain a clear picture of what the top of your industry looks like. 
  2. Start a list. Tack it up in your office or keep it on your smartphone, because this will be a list that you will continue to add to all year, recording your thoughts as you go. The list will contain all your observations on what the differences are between an entry-level amateur, and the highest level practitioner in your field.

This, of course, implies that you will spend the year studying those differences and dissecting what the governing principles may be. What do top icons in your field do differently? What equipment do they have? What experience and qualifications inform their excellence? Are there principles that they appear to be using or resources upon which they draw? What do they do that you currently don’t? This year, resolve to collect insights and populate your list of observations so that they differences will no longer be a mystery to you.

I’m personally excited about the fresh year ahead. My new book on business innovation, ‘They’re Your Rules, Break Them!’ launches this month, and my new son launches shortly thereafter (if my wife will permit the term). I hope that 2017 will bring you prosperity, and that these tips will continue to assist in shortening your learning curve as your strive to ‘own’ your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author. He presents internationally on expert positioning and disruptive innovation through strategic rule-breaking. See him in action, or sign up for his free motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

This year, I will share with you as many ideas as I can gather, grab or garner regarding a single goal: How you can become the biggest name in your field.  

So why? Why is it important to ‘own’ your industry as the leading name? Are we merely serving our egos, or is there a business imperative to it? 

Here are the reasons I urge businesses, brands and entrepreneurs to use a specific mix of expert-positioning strategies to make their names synonymous with their industries: 

You will be recommended. When there is a need for what you do, people will tend to recommend the ubiquitous name first, saying: ‘You know who you should talk to about that…?’ The result will be that the business will come to you, increasing your income, and decreasing your need for marketing spend;

Third-parties will favour you. In industries in which bureaus or agencies can recommend an array of competitors, it is in their interests to recommend the best of the best. They can trust a leading name to make them look good, and their potential commissions will be higher; 

The forums will come to you. When you are the big name, the media and the industry conferences will invite you onto their forums to provide insight as a thought-leader. This will perpetuate your status as the big name. In this way you achieve a growth-upon-growth dynamic; 

Deals will become easier. When an unknown entity wants to launch a show, publish a book or do anything that requires dealmaking, they will face an uphill battle against their own anonymity. When you’re famous, the offers will come to you.  

Your returns will increase. Top names enjoy trust, which raises their income equity. When you are the ‘Mercedes Benz’ of your industry, clients will expect you to charge more, and they will willingly pay for the perceived quality and expertise that your name represents; 

You will enjoy greater freedom. Charging premium fees (for the premium quality you render) will allow you greater freedom. In the course of one or two big deals, you can earn what industry amateurs earn in twenty deals or more, thus working less time for greater income; 

You will become a logical affiliation-partner. When big spenders are looking to partner with someone who has a strong industry association, they will automatically go to the big industry name. If they are spending in any form (setting up deals, creating roadshows, looking for celebrity endorsements, etc.), your celebrity becomes a form of credibility for them. They can trade upon it, and you will benefit; 

The rules will apply less to you. Petty gatekeepers can hinder the goals of a little-known player. But powerful people will tend to move the rules aside when they need you. You no longer need to ‘apply.’ Instead, they will find ways to ensure that they can utilise you; 

It will be deeply rewarding. It is thrilling and personally fulfilling to be a voice guiding where your industry is headed, rather than a small cog within the system, and you will enjoy the personal benefits of acting as a guide to your industry tribe. 

Are you sold? Then over the course of this year, I will share simple but powerful insights on how to ‘own’ your industry. Here’s to your success in your industry of choice. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author. He speaks globally on disruptive innovation and expert positioning. See him in action, or read his motivational articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

For our sins (and they must be significant) we are renovating our kitchen in the run-up to Christmas, in the heat of a South African summer, while my wife is pregnant. 

Nevertheless, the experience has been reasonably positive, and it's down to one thing: we hired the right person to oversee the project. In particular, we found someone who knew precisely what tends to go wrong with these sorts of things and has been able to guide us around the quicksand. From the planning stage, and at every point thereafter, he has helped us to coordinate the various service providers, foreseen potential problems, and warded off the kind of silly mistakes that can cost weeks and extra money. 

When I am booked to work with an organisation, I try to do the same. I point out to my client all the inherent danger-zones in advance. There is great value in doing so. Not only do you optimise your client's chances of achieving their goals, but the very fact that you are aware of what can go wrong - and care enough to share the information - displays professionalism and experience. 

You can even formalise this technique. In your own line of work, could you draw up a 'cautionary' list to give to potential clients, free of charge? Whether they hire you or not? Consider, if you were weighing up three potential service providers, and one of them gave you a list of potential issues you will have to navigate, based upon their extensive experience, wouldn't you be more inclined to use their services? 

Guide your clients around the quicksand and you will land more deals. Share your knowledge and compassion and you could be seen as the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author. He specialises in expert-positioning and disruptive innovation, and he is the author of titles like 'Own Your Industry,' and 'They're Your Rules, Break Them!' See him in action, or sign up for his free motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za.  

 

One of the toughest dynamics that aspiring experts grapple with is the psychology of pricing. I can still remember the day that a kind, experienced speaker friend of mine took me aside and said, “You’re too cheap. I want you to dramatically increase your fee.” 

“I can’t! No one will book me! The sky will fall and mutant pterodactyls will rampage across the scorched barrens of the earth - blah, blah, whimper, etc.” Fortunately my friend knew better and I obeyed. And hark, the bookings continued to come in. If anything, they increased slightly. Moreover, I shed the low-end, high-maintenance clients, who typically haggle over price and then give constant grief. All in all, the shift upward improved my quality of life. 

Perceptions of quality are very closely allied to pricing. For the coming year, raise the quality of your offering, and raise your fees concurrently. Just as no Mercedes is ever cheap, so no top industry name is ever the budget alternative. The question is only: are they worth it?

Price yourself correctly, and you could be one step closer to owning your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author. He speaks and presents on expert-positioning and disruptive innovation. See him in action, or sign up for his free motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

Some seven years ago, I received a phone call. ‘I’m interested in becoming a speaker on the business circuit, like you. I’d like to pay you to coach me.’

I accepted, met with the individual, and gave the advice I believed he needed. We covered all the opportunities, and all the mistakes to avoid, in great detail. I was confident that he was set for success and needed only to follow the blueprint. But something unexpected happened. My mentee became strangely dependent upon me for ‘permission’ to take each consecutive step.

My own approach to pursuing a goal has always been, ‘Ready, fire!’ I would rather be relentlessly pursuing goals, and making a couple of mistakes along the road, than paralysed by caution and the fear that I could do something wrong. I prefer ‘begin and learn as you go’ to ‘learn and hope to be perfect before starting’.

This individual was not unique in his cautious approach. Since then, I’ve had a number of similar requests and, in each case, I’ve noticed the same thing. A coach actually transformed into a sort of handicap for them. Their desire for approval for everything robbed them of the take-charge-of-my destiny spirit they needed for their own success.

Seeking mentors is a good idea. Waiting for their permission isn’t. In a straight bet between the aspiring expert who doesn’t have a mentor but relentlessly pursues his or her goals and the aspiring expert who does have a mentor but waits for permission, my money is on the former every time. Action generates results. Get started and learn as you go.

Here is a secret that no one tells you at school. Permission is an illusion. Either you take charge and make something happen, or nothing happens. Permission is a crutch that we use to justify our own fears and hesitations. Prioritise action, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences, and an author of several business books with Penguin. He specialises in expert-positioning and disruptive innovation. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

Anything you want to launch in January begins now.

 

I've just submitted an article to Entrepreneur magazine. It's going to be published in January, and that's an interesting point. The beginning of a new year is an auspicious time for aspiring experts.

What are your primary platforms for positioning yourself as an expert in your industry? Do you use articles in magazines? Video inserts in a TV show? Now is the time to line up those proverbial ducks, so that 2017 starts on the strongest possible note for you. 

This week, I challenge you to think about January 2017, and how you might go about ideally positioning yourself for a strong start. Out-plan the competition, and you could become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and author of several business books with Penguin. See him in action or sign up for his motivational newsletter at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

Some things are fun to philosophise about. But some require action, not mulling.

If I challenged you to think about it, chances are you could readily name a handful of people who like to talk about the distant someday when they will... In the interim, they explain, they are doing something else that has nothing to do with their desired end state.  

Let's be frank. A someday goal is unlikely to happen in a person's lifetime. However, an 'I'm busy working on it right now' goal has a fighting chance. 

This week, I invite you to drag your own distant dream, your own 'someday I will...,' kicking and screaming if necessary, out of the nebulous realms of someday, and onto your to-do list. What is the first concrete action step you can take? What can you do this week? 

There is no such thing as: 'One day I will be a...' You are either working diligently on becoming it now, or it isn't happening. Top experts don't delay the important thing and prioritise the trivial. They reverse that order. It takes massive willpower and starts with a simple act of prioritisation. 

If it matters, it's not a dream. It's an action. 

If it's not an action, it will remain a dream. 

How serious are you about becoming the best in your game? 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author, specialising in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

We're hurtling inexorably toward the end of the year. I must say that I've been very blessed this year: I published two new books with Penguin and had another accepted for publication early next year, I was inducted into the Speakers' Hall of Fame by the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and I learned that my wife was pregnant with our first child, a son. I am incredibly grateful for the life I get to live.

I still have some travel and a number of speech bookings to process between now and the end of the year, but with all of my major projects done, and no new writing to worry about for a while, I've decided to use the rest of this year to record audio books.

I have already recorded 'Own Your Industry - How to Position Yourself as an Expert,' and most of 'Relentlessly Relevant - 50 Ways to Innovate.' I'll use the rest of this year to record the others, and hopefully have them all available online by January.

I'd like to take this opportunity to prod at your mind and imagination. What could you do, to completion, between now and year-end? Could you write a book in that time? (Answer: Yes, you certainly could). Could you begin studying a new course, or tackle something that might alter your trajectory?

Don't let December arrive without that one extra accomplishment under your belt - that one accolade that would mean so much to you.

The year may almost be up, but if you tap at the glass, there's still a little sand left, and it holds potential for you.

God bless, and go get ‘em!

 

Douglas Kruger is an international professional speaker and business author, focusing on disruptive innovation. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

Two years may not seem like a long time. If you last upgraded your website two years ago, chances are you still feel as though it's brand new. But websites are a lot like the contents of your refrigerator's vegetable drawer; leave them unattended for even a short period and their keen edges begin to wilt. 

To remain relentlessly relevant, here are 5 things to consider upgrading, at least every couple of years: 

1. Mom 'n Pop Betrayers 

Small business owners are often justly proud of their humble origins. But humble origins stories should be kept to a bare minimum, and buried somewhat within the 'about us' page. That much is fine. But they should not form the primary tone of your marketing, and you should certainly avoid leading with photos that show your early days working with cousin Lettie in the back kitchen. Many premium global brands also have humble, mom 'n pop-store origins. But they don't use those origins, in either word or visual form, in their marketing, because they convey the wrong message. 

2. Photos: 

Photographs matter greatly on a website. Even relatively simple text can be elevated by the high-end feel of photos. How high quality are your visuals? And your profile pictures? Quite often, the profile pics we use on websites were already two or three years old by the time we uploaded them. Two years later, people are comparing faces and saying, 'Is that YOU?' 

3. Testimonials:

Have you helped any clients to get serious results within the last two working years? Collected any powerful testimonials to share? Place them front and centre on your upgraded site. Results matter greatly to shoppers browsing your site. 

4. Points of Focus:

As your industry experience grows and matures, you tend to understand, with every greater clarity and precision, precisely what your top clients are looking for. You learn to speak that language and hit those hot buttons. Is your marketing collateral reflecting all these passion points, these hot buttons? Or does it still sound like the entry-level version of your offering? 

5. Deletions: 

What don't you offer any longer? What isn't selling? What's looking and feeling a little tired and dated? Top experts tend to advertise a narrow range of high-end, high-desire offerings, rather than a smorgasbord of low-end, low-interest options. Think of your lesser offerings as diluting your message, then remove them from your site. You don't have to be all things to all people. Focus on the top-end, bestsellers. 

Your website is your primary ambassador to the outside world. It is your digital CV and your first port of call for potential clients. Keep it cutting-edge relevant, and you can own your industry.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author with Penguin. He presents keynotes on innovation and expert positioning at confereces around the world. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

In my mid-twenties, I presented a series of TV commercials for Ford. They wanted me to wear a suit on camera, which was nothing unusual for me, and they had it precisely tailored to my shape, which was. I had worn plenty of suits by that stage, but I'd never bothered to have them fitted. The ones that I bought off the hangar fit me 'more or less.' 

Then I tried on the one that the Ford crew had altered...and, while gazing into the mirror, said something deeply intelligent along the lines of: 'Oh...!' 

The difference is not subtle. It is leagues, Olympic swimming pools, even universes apart. 

This week, to raise the level at which you are perceived, pick two of your best outfits; the ones you use when meeting clients, pitching for deals, or speaking on a stage. Perhaps choose a full suit for the first, and then a jacket for the second. Take them to a professional tailor and have the alterations done, and (and I don't believe this word is overly melodramatic) 'behold' the difference it makes. 

As a leading expert, you need to look expensive. Few things accomplish that goal as swiftly or completely as properly tailored clothes. Look the part, and you will be well positioned to own your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author, who presents at conferences worldwide. His topics include innovation and expert positioning, and his books are published by Penguin. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

 

One of the best speakers I've ever seen live was an American named Randy Gauge. While advising a group of professional speakers on how to become world-class, he made an interesting point: 'Find a guiding identity.' His own, he explained, was the 'casual-cool' tone from the TV series Miami Vice. It informs the way he presents, and the way he presents himself to the world. 

Nigella Lawson expresses a similar sentiment in an interview (available here): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sKwBpEeH90. She makes the point that she 'always wanted to be Italian.' When you watch her TV presentations, this fact becomes very clear. The 'elegant Italian' ideal quite obviously guides her look, mannerisms and tone. 

I've always asserted that top names in any industry are more than just content-matter experts. They tend to be personality-driven representations of an ideal.  

If it interests you, here's a video that I feel comes close to the sort of tone and feel that I aspire to myself, expressed in this advertisement for a Mercedes S-Class Coupe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCT8eNqCXJk . 

What's yours? 

If you don't currently have one, don't panic. You needn't rush out and begin shopping for 'something to be like.' And you certainly don't need to change yourself into a clone of someone else. 

But it's worth putting a little thought into this question. Does 'Italian goddess' hit the mark for you? Or is Miami Vice a closer fit? What tone and feel appeals to your sense of identity? Represent yourself in the strongest possible way and you become memorable. Memorable identities stand out. The best and strongest become industry icons. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker, specialising in expert-positioning and disruptive innovation. For motivational newsletters, or to see him in action, visit: www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

Let's conduct a thought-experiment: Imagine your ideal client. The one who pays upfront, ahead of schedule and never quibbles about a dime. The one who wants your highest-level offering and challenges you to do your best work. The one who comes back for more, over and over, then recommends you to other high-level buyers. 

It may seem obvious, but why don't we design everything we do around such a client?

Working backwards, what it would it take for your to appeal to this demographic of buyer? When starting out, most of us design our websites, marketing collateral, pricing and offerings around a fairly entry level buyer. In short, we try to appear 'reasonable.' Even 'cheap.' 

What if you didn't? What if you designed everything to appeal to the high-level buyer instead, and started hunting the industry whales from the word go? 

What is the gap between your current marketing and the sort of messages that might appeal to such a buyer? This week, carry out an honest appraisal of who you are currently designed to appeal to. Lift the level to target your ultimate client. Portray the right positioning, and you are on your way to owning your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is an international keynote speaker at conferences. His books are published by Penguin, and include the revered 'Own Your Industry,' and 'They're Your Rules, Break Them!' His motivational articles and videos are available at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

During cold winters, it's difficult to imagine what it's like to feel hot. During twenty years' unopposed dominance of a nation, it's hard to imagine being beaten by the opposition party. In neither case does failure to imagine a possibility have any bearing on its inevitability.  

For non-South Africans, please forgive a seemingly cryptic opening paragraph. My fellow countrymen, however, know only too well what I mean, after witnessing a historic election in which the once apparently unstoppable ANC government has been largely trounced in local elections around the nation. 

This brings us neatly on to the topic of hubris. 

Prior to the elections, the ANC sent out messages to its members from what can only be described as a position of arrogance. Despite over 700 counts of corruption against its poster child - our current president, Jacob Zuma - one of their tweets read, 'If you don't support Comrade Zuma, we don't want your vote!' 

...so they didn't get it. The approach backfired, as hubris generally does. 

I've always been an advocate of a strong viewpoint for thought-leaders, and I regularly argue against wishy-washy, politically correct messaging. Take a stand. Yet here's the distinction: When taking a stand, it has to be for something meritorious. When your strong stand is based on puff and spittle, rather than convictions for a cause, and when your ideology is exclusively self-serving, and not useful to others, you end up with...well...a losing party sending out poorly judged tweets. 

As you go about positioning yourself as an expert, this week I'd like you to ask yourself a philosophical question. It comes in two parts:

1. Am I taking a strong stance on something pertinent to my arena? But:

2. Is it meritorious, or am I simply being arrogant? 

One way to tell is to pose this hypothetical: If your point-of-view became global, would humanity benefit? Or would prosperity accrue to you alone? In the case of the former, congrats, you're championing a cause, and you should continue to fight for it. In the case of the latter, you might be a mini-dictator. And that's getting a lot less votes just lately. 

Stand for something worthwhile, without arrogance or hubris, and you just might become the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences, and the author of five business books with Penguin. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

Extinction is not an option. Industry experts must remain relentlessly relevant, and that implies constantly up-skilling and upgrading. If we aren’t mildly embarrassed by our books, articles, YouTube videos and tweets from just a few years prior - “I’m so much better now!” - our evolution might not be moving quickly enough. 

Here are three areas in which you can challenge yourself to upgrade this week: 

1. Your Look: 

Could it be time for a more modern haircut? Perhaps a better fitting suit? Do the frames on those glasses still look modern, or are they beginning to date your look? Perhaps it’s time to consider something as major as having orthodontic work done, or perhaps it could be something as minor as swopping out those old shirts, which are now looking a bit old-fashioned, for something that’s up to speed. 

Presentation matters greatly, and it’s surprising how easy it is to fall prey to an outdated look. What one thing about your look could you update this week? 

2. Your Message: 

5 years ago, if you spoke and wrote articles on how to use social media, you were at the cutting edge of thought-leadership. Now, everyone does it. What’s new about your message? How have you taken the thinking in your particular arena one step further? Are you visibly doing something exciting and unique, or are you starting to sound like ‘another one of…’? 

What is the next step in the evolution of your message (which is the locus of your identity in the market)? 

3. Your Skills: 

When you are well on your way to becoming an industry expert, it’s easy to coast. It’s tempting to forego the difficult and time-consuming addition of new skills. But even the most minor improvements could take your game up a level. 

Perhaps it’s something as simple as reading a new book, or subscribing to an industry publication on your craft. Perhaps it’s something as thorough as personal coaching, or calling in an expert to review your performance. What one thing could you do, this week, so that when Friday arrives, you will know that you have taken a positive step toward enhancing your own abilities? 

One week. Three slight improvements. In conjunction, they equate to a significant investment in your total growth. They just might be the extra nudge you need to make you the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker and author of several business books with Penguin, focusing on disruptive innovation and expert positioning. An inductee into the Professional Speaker Association's 'Hall of Fame,' he presents keynote talks all around the world. See Douglas in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

 

Last night, just before sunrise, the house across the road from us caught fire. It was hard to tell what was burning, but it turned out to be the thatch lapa (a South African term for an entertainment area), and the results were spectacular. 

The politics of the situation are going to be even more spectacular: the owners of the house are now living in Australia, and they have rented it out. But they didn't rent it out to the people who burned down their lapa. Instead, the real-estate agent simply gave the keys to a group of people who have been living (and partying) there, without a signed contract, and without a down payment. Last night, the whole thing went severely south. 

These are the days of our lives. 

One can only imagine what the repercussions are going to be for the real-estate agent. At the least, I'm assuming they will lose their license to practice. At worst, they may face jail-time.

Most of my Monday Motivators are about how to go from relative competence in an industry to peak levels of performance and preeminent public perception. Today's edition is different. It focuses on the idea that stewardship is binary. It is a yes or no. Pass or fail. 

There are many things a real-estate agent can do to elevate his or her career. But when it comes to stewardship of someone's home, the level of responsibility implied genuinely does result in a pass or fail. 

As you strive to become the greatest in your game, keep this simple idea in mind: When it comes to responsible stewardship, it is possible to disqualify yourself from an industry entirely, in one go. 

Stewardship and responsibility are necessary basics. They are always non-negotiable. When anything is entrusted into your hands, take it seriously. With that, you set the foundations for becoming the greatest in your game. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional conference speaker, and the author of several business books for entrepreneurs. He presents on innovation and expert-positioning. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

It's subtle, but it matters. The way in which you describe yourself can dramatically alter peoples' perceptions of you. Naturally, we want to position ourselves at the highest possible level in terms of how we are perceived. 

While sharing a meal at Turn 'n Tender, a friend and I got to discussing the importance of properly labelling your career. Based on a few years in the restaurant industry, she is now very careful not to call herself a 'Restaurant Manager.' Instead, she says that she 'runs restaurants.' 

The shift is very subtle.

Yet the connotations are significant. As she explained, 'When you say, 'restaurant manager,' you sound like hired staff. You sound like a person who hasn't been able to make much of their life, so you've drifted into being the person in charge of the kitchen staff. But when you say that you run restaurants, it creates a different set of parameters. Suddenly, you are talking about a dedicated career expert who handles marketing, strategy, operations, possibly finances, and more. It sounds bigger. 

This week, I challenge you to write out two versions of your position: Low level and high level. Spend a little time considering which elements make the difference. In your particular scenario, what distinguishes the guy who shouts at the kitchen staff from the entrepreneur who heads up a fleet of high-end eateries? 

Every detail of your public positioning matters. Say it right, and you may find yourself on a path to owning your industry. 

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional conference speaker and author of 5 business books. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

I’m working with an aspiring expert who is frustrated by his lack of customers from social media channels. When I went back and checked his timeline, I discovered he had posted marketing for his business precisely twice. 

I asked about the low instances. He said he didn’t want to overload his friends and connections with advertising; a laudable sentiment. But I’ve been friends with him for years, and I had personally missed even those two instances of marketing when he posted them. Based on his efforts, I didn’t even think of him as the thing he believed himself to be, let alone as a publicly recognised icon in that field. 

I see how this happens myself; this shortfall between our own perceptions and the true reach of our messaging. I have two new books coming out over the next 7 seven months, and my own feeling is that I’ve posted about them to the point of nausea. Yet each time I write an update, someone, who knows me well, will say, ‘Congrats, that’s great news! And when will they be coming out?’ It tells me that they are hearing it for the first time, and reminds me that positioning efforts must be constant. 

Make sure it’s entertaining. Make sure it tells a story, rather than simply being shameless advertising. But keep it up, way beyond what you think may be necessary. You may know yourself to be a certain thing, but it’s entirely possible that your friends and connections are simply not there yet. 

Be clear and be consistent. Keep it up long enough and loud enough and often enough, and the public penny may drop. You may become seen as the greatest in your game. 

 

Douglas Kruger is an author and professional speaker. View his motivational videos for entrepreneurs at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

 

I've asked plenty of experts for advice over the years. Some of it has been career-changing. I recommend you do the same in order to learn from those who have already fought the fight. But there are better and more abysmal ways of going about it. 

From time to time, a complete stranger will pop up on the messenger function on my social media and tell me (not ask, tell) that 'they need to meet with me,' so that 'I can teach them how to...' Some don't even bother to say hello, but simply open with: "Douglas, I need you to..."

The idea of approaching a person with the expectation that they will take time out of their working day, because a complete stranger 'needs them to do so,' somewhat baffles me. I don't expect fawning, and neither does any other professional. But basic courtesy really is a minimum requirement for the beginnings of a professional relationship. 

When approaching any industry expert, for insights on any topic, phrases like, "I know you're very busy but," and "I would appreciate any pointers you might be able to provide me with," will always land a lot better than "I need you to..."

Experts are generally quite willing to give pointers. But the positioning of the relationship matters. We are, after all, asking a busy person for a favour. They are under no obligation to grant it. I've also found that the best approach is not to ask for too much up front. It's better to explain your level of progress, then merely ask for advice on your next step. Asking a person (or, as I've experienced so many times, 'telling' a person) to be your mentor, is a recipe for disqualification.

Go about it respectfully, and you might get a useful response. You might just pick up that one golden nugget of insight that elevates your career to the next level. Do it often, and correctly, and you could glean the insights you need to become the greatest in your game.  

 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and expert on disruptive innovation. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

US content experts seem to excel at it. In SA, and in many other countries, we still haven't taken this one to heart to the extent that we should. Video matters greatly to your expert positioning. 

How much video content do you currently have selling your name online? A best-case scenario is the high-level presentation for the likes of TED, or for a strategic gathering of CEO's. But a simple, two-minute 'how-to' can be just as good. And the sheer weight of such clips can be absolute gold. 

As part of your total strategy, try to mix it up: Upload high-end, high-production content whenever you can, but also upload simple, insightful 'how-to' clips as often as possible. 

The more searchable your videos become, the more you become a face and a voice in the public consciousness. And the more that happens, the more you can be seen as the greatest in your game. 

 

As the scrawny kid in school, I all but gave up on the idea of putting on mass. One day, my friend and I were looking at t-shirts and I made a quip about buying a baggy one to hide my arms.

My friend said, “No, dude! You have funky forearms. You should show them off. And you should keep working them out as well. Next time you get up in the morning, just do a few push-ups.”

That conversation took place over 12 years ago. Since then, I've put on over 20kg’s of muscle and continue to follow a strict workout regimen. 

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, my friend did two very powerful things in that little speech. The first was that he gave me hope, by shrinking the change ("You're already on the right path and making progress"), and the second was that he pre-loaded a habit ("When this happens, just do that..."). This removes the burden of decision-making and provides an easy path forward.  

When perpetuating bright spots and teaching good behaviors, you will inevitably engender fear and resistance. All change does that. It seems difficult and scary to people. But you can get higher levels of performance out of the fearfully resistant by shrinking the change and pre-loading a behavioural habit. 

Brilliance needn't be a mountain. Shrink the change, and preload a specific behavioural habit. 

Aim energy in the right direction, and the results could make you the greatest in your game. 


 

Douglas Kruger is a professional speaker and business author. Sign up for this newsletter, From Amateur to Expert, at www.douglaskruger.co.za 

When you log onto the internet, you will have one of a few options for your browser. If you use an Apple Mac, chances are you will have Safari. If you’re using a PC, it’s likely that you will have Internet Explorer.  

Is there a fundamental difference between people who use one browser or the other? If not, then why do employees who use FireFox or Google Chrome out-perform those who don’t?

In a study cited in ‘Originals – How Non-Conformist Move the World,’ this odd but repeatedly verifiable result got an analyst curious. The people in an organization who used Firefox or Google Chrome as their browser were achieving higher targets and staying with their company longer than those who didn’t. The analyst tested a number of parameters: Were these users able to surf quicker? Get things done more efficiently as a result of their browsers? The answer was no.

Eventually, the analyst discovered the one variable that actually mattered. It was that fact that these browsers were non-standard. They did not come with the computer. The people who used these browsers had made a conscious choice to update and change their browsers.

Why would this matter?

Because it indicated that they were the kind of people who did not accept the way things were. Instead, they were the kind of people who would change and alter a scenario to suit themselves.
The browser was incidental. The mindset: ‘Forget this! I’m changing the browser to what I want!’ was what mattered.

These people were typically more willing to break rules, use initiative, alter the game in order to get greater results, and in every way, represent themselves more effectively.

What about your daily working scenario doesn't suit you. Change it. But don't just change it. Become the kind of person who continually changes it. Alter the default setting to work in your favour, and you can become the greatest in your game. 


Imagine you're the owner of a high-end hotel. 

Wearing your managerial cap, you inspect one of the rooms.
Carpet vacuumed? Check.
Bed made? Check?
TV on standby? Check.
Finally, is the hair-drier in its drawer? Check.

According to this mindset, the room is perfect.But what if you preloaded your inspection with a different question? What if you asked, 'What, specifically, is wrong with this room?'

To find out, you might have to spend the night in it. You start by drawing the curtains and realise they don't quite meet. It's tricky to sleep with light streaming in, so you try to pull one curtain over the other, then pin them closed using a chair. Then you get into bed and realise the TV has a blinking standby light. Even through closed eyelids, the Rio Carnival is marching across your retinas. You throw a sock over the TV. Then you try to plug your phone in to charge. There's no plug-point beside your bed.

The next morning you find the hair-drier where it should be, but it's fixed to one side of the room, where there is no mirror. You have to perform an awkward operation gazing across the room in the opposite mirror.

When we view our businesses from our own managerial perspective, the mental framework yields little new information. But preload the inspection with a different question, such as, 'What's awful about the experience of dealing with us?,' and it throws new worlds of information into light. 

To find opportunities to innovate and improve, preload your inspection of your own business with a different question. A good starting point, if you truly want to become the greatest in your game, is to ask: 'What's awful about the experience of dealing with me?' 



'Imagine the government passes a law,' a fellow speaker said to me at the Professional Speakers Association convention this weekend, 'And you are no longer allowed to charge your current fee. You have to double it. Non-negotiable. What would you do differently? And which clients would you target instead of the ones you currently deal with?' 

I took the question seriously, as it came from one of South Africa's highest level experts and most booked international speakers, Dr Graeme Codrington. 

And it's a good one. What would you do if forced to take your business up, not just a notch, but a couple of tiers, in one fell swoop? Grapple with the answers to the this question (and there are answers to them, in every industry) and you can position yourself as the greatest in your game. If forced to face that test, what would you do? 

In the book 'Originals,' Fred Sanders cites an interesting study. When experts in a field judge their own abilities, they will consistently over-estimate themselves. When launching a new idea, campaign or initiative, they will tend to do the same.

Focus groups made up of laymen, on the other hand, will tend to underestimate the effectiveness of an expert's new idea. So will potential investors, who tend to operate out of a framework of desire to avoid risk. 

So if you are an entrepreneur/expert, and you want high-quality feedback on how you are doing, or on how good one of your ideas might be, to whom should you turn? 

The study finds that your peers are by far the best judges. They can discern your level of excellence, and the quality of your new ideas, with greater accuracy than any other demographic. 

To own your industry, don't rely too heavily on your own judgement, and don't be too easily deterred by the judgement of laymen and investors. Your most accurate judge is another person who does what you do. 

I'm reading a superb book called 'Mindset,' by Dr Carol Dweck. The book really just focuses on one simple finding, but it's an idea that can change everything for our performance ability. 

Dweck says that at an early stage in our development, we make a choice, and we're generally unaware of it (It's a choice that can be 'unmade' too). The choice is whether to believe in a set mindset, or in a growth mindset. 

A set mindset believes that all talent, all intelligence, all ability is a 'set' thing. You are either naturally good, or you are naturally a loser. 

The growth mindset trashes this idea with the argument that absolutely everything is learned (a finding backed by mountains of research). No baby is ever mocked for learning to walk, learning to talk, or making mistakes. But as adults, if we aren't perfect at something immediately, we tend to declare ourselves untalented in this area and stop pursuing it. 

A set mindset renders the thought of flaws and deficiencies intolerable, and in so doing, makes learning, correction, growth or development impossible. To believe 'You either have it or you don't' precludes the possibility of learning it. It's the difference between viewing failures as valuable feedback - as fodder for growth - or seeing failures as full-stops. 

One easy-to-implement idea based on the finding is this: To praise someone's 'set status' (i.e. you are clever) tends to render them much more fearful of trying, because they don't want to disprove a positive judgement. To praise someone's effort and willingness to try is infinitely more useful, because it inspires them to tackle ever more daunting challenges. They feel they have nothing to lose. Besides, they're the 'kind of people' who take on incredible challenges. 

I highly recommend the book to you; both as an aspiring practitioner of any craft, and as a business owner growing talent around you. I recommend it even more strongly for parents.

Buy into the idea that all ability is gifted from above and set in stone, and you paralyse your own advancement. Buy into the notion of continual willingness to learn and struggle, and the world opens up to you. With the growth mindset, you can become the greatest in your game.  

As I complete writing of my new book, 'Is Your Thinking Keeping You Poor?', I'd like to share some of the mindsets typical to self-made millionaires, and billionaires.

Here's what research shows was typical of the mindsets of the wealthiest people in history:

They were hard-driving personalities who didn’t believe that obstacles represented full-stops

They found ways to alter or change scenarios that didn’t suit them. If infrastructure was lacking, they built it. If laws were prohibitive, they had the laws changed. They were willing to alter the rules of the game to work in their own favour

A surprising number of them played Poker, and loved games of strategy

They were capable of keeping their own master-plans to themselves, even as they carried out deals and strategies in the public arena, deals which helped them to achieve those master-plans

They viewed life as a sort of game. Numbers were a scorecard, which merely reflected how they were doing. They were fascinating by increasing their own numbers, be it amount of wealth, number of sales, number of businesses bought, etc. Many did not love money itself, but derived great satisfaction from increasing their numbers

They benefited from a combination of luck and industriousness. The luck came from being involved in the right industries at the right time. But the luck wasn’t sufficient on its own. They also had to spot the opportunities and work extraordinarily hard to do something about them. In other words, they didn’t become lucky while sitting on their couches eating Pringles. They became lucky whilst deeply immersed in their work

They were risk-takers, who were willing to bet on themselves, and on the success of their own ventures

They were deal-makers, who saw a bigger picture, and negotiated their way to success, always fighting for their own interests

They were not sentimental about the past, but rather, optimistic about the future. In other words, they didn’t yearn for ‘the way things used to be.’ Instead, they genuinely believed that their own stories were on the way up. They were, in other words, creators of their own fate.

By contrast, the mindsets of the poor, with degrees of variance, tend to reflect diametrically opposed philosophies:

“They are responsible for my situation” (with ‘they’ being anyone from government to employers to parents to teachers to spouses)

“The government should improve my situation”

“I need a better job so that my boss will take care of me”

“One day the lottery will make me rich”

“It’s too dangerous to be your own boss”

“The harder I work at my job, the better my chances of getting rich”

“Being careful with my money is the key to wealth.”

“Going broke is the worst thing that can possibly happen to me.”

“You have to start off rich to make real money.”

“I long for the good old days, when everything was wonderful. Everything is much worse today.” 

There's certainly a great deal more to the picture, but these mindsets are a very good starting point. To become the greatest in your game, you may need to ditch some of the outlooks of the perpetually poor, and adopt some of the mindsets of the people who ultimately became the greatest in their game. 

 

This week, more details emerged about the degree of influence the increasingly infamous Gupta family has held over the government of South Africa. The story will no doubt unfold in increasingly messy ways. But what's their goal? 

In a book called 'Wealth Secrets of the One Per Cent,' Sam Wilkin enumerates the principles that created the uber-wealthy throughout the ages. The Guptas, it would seem, are trying to to tap into the idea of using government influence to win contracts and shut down competition. Eliminating competition through political deals, Wilkin points out, is one of the primary secrets of the top ten wealthiest people in all of human history. (Operating in emerging economies is another). 

For most of us, the idea of becoming Robber Barons, and manipulating an entire nation for our personal prosperity, is repugnant. Yet there are a few morally acceptable principles we can usefully take away from the wealth-tsars. 

The first one, this week, is the idea that politics is a major lever for growth. No, you don't have to become a local ward-councillor, and forget the shady business of bribing corrupt officials; simply understanding the vast system of interests that governs your industry is already a major competitive advantage. 

At the most cursory level, if you know and are known by all the key players in an industry, you will already be better off than those who don't. That is a political advantage. 

At the intermediate level, if you grasp the subtle interplay of rules, laws and movements, you will see more opportunities than those who do not. That's a political advantage too. 

At the highest levels, if you are a voice which, in part, guides the direction of an industry, you will naturally be a more prosperous part of it. You will see further and be able to make more out of opportunities.  

The ugliest interpretation of the political idea is: 'Buy off government officials and get your way.' The more honest version is: 'Understand the system, and see where all the levers and opportunities exist.' 

Next week, we will look at more wealth secrets of the top 1%, and consider honest and ethical ways to implement them to your advantage. For this week, the lesson is simple: Don't just learn the technical proficiency of your craft. Understand the entire system in which you operate. Know the environment, the interests and agendas, and you will see more. That changes a great many things. 

Discover the secrets, and you can own your industry. 

 

"Yes, but those people have spent years doing that!" 

Imagine if you were so passionate a force, so relentless an innovator, so continuous a producer, so theatrical and memorable a practitioner, and you had been doing it with such sustained excellence for so long, that there really was no alternative to you. You became indelibly etched in the public consciousness as the face of your game. 

Instead of aiming to compete in your industry, imagine if you aimed to become so significant a force as to be synonymous with it. A discussion about your world is inevitably a discussion about you. 

To spur your thinking, this week, take a few minutes to create a short, bullet-point list: What would it take to become 'the face' of your industry? Can you start doing any of these things now?

Try to think long-term with this list: The people who 'own' an industry have spent years- (fill in the blank for your own set of answers). Can you start laying the foundations to become the greatest in your game? 

 

In no scenario does the phrase 'winning the battle, but losing the war' apply more poignantly than when a professional interacts with a bureau that represents them. 

Last week, I witnessed a professional get caught out. 

After a bureau introduced this professional to a client, the professional was asked by the client to come back for a second booking.

Behind the scenes, the professional said, 'Don't worry about going through the agency again. Just book me direct and I'll give you a better price.' Word immediately got back to the agency and the professional was left looking unethical - a few extra grand on a single booking, at the cost of a full and potentially lucrative future relationship.

Short-cuts aren't worth it. True pros simply do the right thing.Not only is it morally correct, but on a purely pragmatic level, it's worth it.

Treat your enablers with respect and you'll get more out of the relationship. Deal honestly and ethically, and over time, you will be seen as worthwhile. Do the right thing and you can become the greatest in your game.  

Awkwardly, Adolf Hitler remains an excellent example of a highly accomplished orator. When citing him, one must dance through all manner of linguistic hoops, dishing out softeners like, 'Overlooking, for just a moment, his towering and almost unparalleled legacy of evil and genocide...'

I've long contended that excellent public speaking skills can account for more than half of your total impact in becoming a leading force. It matters greatly that you can stand in front of an audience, camera, or boardroom, and move hearts and minds. 

To that end, I have a recommendation for you, but the recommendation is a tad Hitlerian. I'd like you to watch 'The Wolf of Wall Street.' However, I must now hedge that recommendation with a squadron of cautionary clauses: 'Please ignore the language; please ignore the hardcore sex and nudity; please ignore the utter and unrelenting moral depravity liberally served from start to finish,' and so forth. 

I'd like you to watch the public speaking scenes. Specifically, look out for the one in which DiCaprio's character (based on a real person) 'sells' the trendy shoemaker to his own staff. It is phenomenal. 

Public speaking is so much more than the delivery of facts to a crowd. It is leadership. It is branding. It is perception and persuasion. Done well, it is an event to be remembered. As the Hitlers and Churchills of the world demonstrated, you can use it to attempt to conquer the world, or equally, to save it. 

This week, suspend your morals and watch the movie. There's a reason DiCaprio was up for his Oscar for that particular one, and the insights into human persuasion through public speaking are fascinating.

Can you rally a crowd if called upon? Are you able to tap into the psyche of an audience and change their thinking? If you can go beyond merely disseminating facts, and master moving hearts and minds, you can own your industry (albeit preferably without serving jail-time). 

Appearing in the media is a significant part of your total expert-positioning strategy. You must offer your input and ideas on a regular basis and be featured broadly in order to be seen as an industry thought-leader.

Here is one simple tip for maximising your success-rate when offering to appear on a show or be featured in a publication: Speak to that producer. Appeal to the needs of that specific editor. 

It's like dating advice. If you only talk about yourself, you're unlikely to get far. But pay specific attention to the proclivities, likes and dislikes of the particular person you're with and your connection will be greatly enhanced. 

Say, for instance, that you are an expert on bridge-climbing (I use this example, having actually met a few while doing the bridge-climb in Sydney).

Offer a generic thought-leadership article, and you may be successful in a small selection of media. But target each editor or producer with a specific angle, and you will greatly enhance your hit-rate. Like this: 

- For a women's magazine: 'Five Fascinating Insider Stories About Women who have Climbed the Bridge.' 
- For a mother's magazine: 'Taking your Children on their First Bridge-Climb? Here's what you need to Know.' 
- For a Photographic Journal: '5 Things a Professional Bridge-Climber can Teach you about Getting the Perfect Sunset Shot.'
- For a tabloid: '5 Celebs I've Hosted on Bridge Climbs, and Their Take on What they saw.' 

The more specifically you appeal to the needs of a media outlet, the greater your chances of being featured.

As an additional tip, when you get the go-ahead, make a point of mentioning what your next contribution might be: 'I'm glad you liked my article on what it takes to become a professional bridge-climber. May I provide you with another? This time looking at a day in the life of someone in our profession?' 

Date the media outlets on their terms, and you'll find the relationship growing steadily. When they finally fall in love with you and can't get enough, you can own your industry. 

A few days ago, I received a moving phone call. The gentlemen on the other side told me about the rough year he'd had in 2015, and, to my surprise, added that one of the things he looked forward to, as a small point of hope, was following my unfolding story on social media. "I enjoy seeing where you are and what you're doing. There's always something new." 

That was a humbling reminder: The stories we tell can have phenomenal impact on those around us. As industry experts, we are not merely disseminators of information. We are spinners of cracking good yarns, folk-singers and fireside soothsayers. It is our job to draw people into an unfolding narrative, every bit as much as it is to give useful info. 

So, let's talk about your use of social media. Are you multiplying the effect of each idea, by telling it in story form?

Say, for instance, that you are one of the nation's top professional photographers. Are you merely posting the results of your work on social media? Or are you telling the story behind it? 

As you set out to a remote destination in search of that ultimate shot, begin to tell us the tale. When difficulties arise, post something humorous or moving about them. Use show and tell at every stage, and turn it into a narrative for your fans to follow. One great shot can be ten interesting posts. 

It's easy to miss such opportunities. A friend of mine recently launched a business. It's an extremely sexy business, selling high-end underwear online. In order to launch the endeavour, he had two professional models come to his house, where a full camera crew took photos of them stripping down and posing. The photos are going to appear on his new website, but I dot think that's enough. The entire photoshoot should have appeared all over social media, as an interesting, unfolding story. If models stripping at your house doesn't provide juicy story material, then nothing can! And if you're doing it right, you'll also be taking photos of the photos being taken of them. 

Remember, don't just publish the end result. Tell us the story. Give us a fascinating, constantly unfolding narrative of your life adventure. The good, bad and ugly. Once upon a time there was an industry expert: You. Now send that character out into the world, and let us watch what he does...!

Tell fascinating stories, and you will create tribes of followers. Armed with tribes of followers, you can become the greatest in your game. 

Apropos nothing, I've decided to learn Spanish. 

The last few weeks have been an exercise in insecurity, as my pride pushes up against my current inability. As an adult, it's hard to persevere in anything you're not already good it. We start to struggle, realise it's uncomfortable, and instantly want to quit. 

Here are a few tricks I've used to keep myself motivated. If you are venturing into new waters - which we should always be doing, as growing, perpetually improving experts - I recommend keeping them in mind:

1. Switch off your pride. Accept your current status as a rank amateur, and be childlike in your willingness to make mistakes in order to learn;

2. It doesn't matter if you're struggling, just let the new information wash over you. In time, it will make sense;

3. Struggle builds myelinated pathways in the brain. When something doesn't make sense, slow down and engage with it. The more you struggle, the more myelin you'll grow. No struggle - no myelin. The struggle itself matters;

4. Don't wait until you 'feel like it.' Immerse yourself completely and relentlessly. 

If we can switch off our all-too-human ego and suspend our frustration, we can learn anything.

Keep it up long enough, and un dias, usted puede poseer su industria. 

 

(December 2015): 

Are you wrapping up yet? 

Many industries are slowing for year-end. Perhaps you’re among the frazzled few who actually speed up in the approach to Christmas (events planners spring to mind). Either way, there’s free time on the horizon, and that’s an excellent opportunity to ensure that you’re just that much higher up the industry notch-board as 2016 dawns. 

Here are 6 suggestions for increasing your value, while you have time to zoom back and think strategically. They are arranged in ascending order of complexity. Pick the level of commitment that suits you best: 

1. Take a sheet of paper and do a simple SWOT analysis on your career. What are your current Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats. Do the same for your company. Get some perspective so that you know what to work on next year.

2. Read two books on your greatest problem. Is your profile too low? Two books on increasing your visibility. Are your staff operating in silos? Two books on improving innovative culture. 

3. Hire a coach to work on that one thing you could personally improve upon. A month’s worth of personal coaching could significantly improve your ability to: speak in public; write more persuasively; design like a pro; negotiate better deals. 

4. Start that career-shifting project that you haven’t had time to work on; the piece of design that isn’t urgent, but will help to set you apart, or the book you’ve been meaning to write. 

5. Shop your entire industry. Go undercover as a customer and experience your brand. Then try out the competing brands. Learn who’s best and surmise how you might own that spot. 

6. Go undercover and work in the customer-facing parts of your company. Carry out your own episode of ‘undercover boss’ and experience what’s really going on

Personally, I’ll be using the downtime to do audio recordings of my books for Audible.com. (I’m also having a crack at learning basic Spanish, but we’ll see how far that one goes!). 

My Monday Motivators will continue to go out through year-end, but this one applies now, while there’s time available. By all means enjoy the reduction in stress and obligations. But with a little clever thought, and a small amount of final effort, you can set yourself up now to own your industry in 2016. 

For a while nowI've been promising myself a set of high-end headphones. This morning, credit card in hand, I entered an electronics store ready to buy. I chose one of the premium, boutique-style stores, where the staff are trained to use terminology like ‘sound-dampening’ and ‘reverb.’ 

The young salesman successfully persuaded me to spend double the amount I had planned. The sale was made and I was ready to hand over my card. Then I asked a simple question: “Can I try them on?” 

“I’ll have to ask my manager, sir,” he said. 

“Please do.” 

A moment later he returned, downcast, saying, “My manager says I’m not allowed to open the box.” Apparently, the business found the thought of me breaking a sellotape seal unacceptable. 

“Please tell your manager he just lost you a sale,” I said, then left and bought the same headphones, three minutes later, at another store. 

The salesman at the second store was part of a vast, generic electronics depot. He knew very little about ‘sound-dampening’ and I suspect that ‘reverb’ may have struck him as a form of gastro-intestinal complaint. But he was happy to open the box - the exact same box that the boutique store would not deign to violate - and I, in turn, was happy to give him the sale. 

When you’re selling cornflakes, of course you don’t need to humour a fussy customer. But when you want to be the Mercedes Benz of your industry, and you’re charging accordingly, the dynamic changes dramatically. If you're selling premium, you have to treat them that way. You go to extremes to communicate the message, ‘Your absolute satisfaction is our highest priority.’ 

Being premium is a choice. It may already be built into your costing. Is it built into your service? Ensure that it is and you just might own your industry. 

This week, Douglas presented a motivational talk for a girls' school.

The 5 key points, in his speech titled 'Walking Through Doors,' were:

1. Give yourself permission to try
2. Don’t get pushed through the wrong door 
3. As you walk through doors, you can teach people how to treat you 
4. The biggest doors in the universe are books 
5. If one door is locked, there is always another. 

Watch the humorous presentation here: Video

About a year ago, I sat on a couch at the Maggs on Media studio beside a representative from YellowWood Marketing agency. 

I was there to be interviewed about a book; he was there to discuss a fascinating shift in South African consumer consciousness. "The shift is this," he explained. "South African consumers no longer care about legacy. They are responding only to 'how you are innovating into my world today.'"

I premised my book on innovation on this critical shift. 

This week's student protests could not have made a stronger case for their findings, even beyond the world of consumer brands. Struggling students, previously a demographic largely in thrall of the ANC, loudly announced that they could care less about the government's political legacy. 'What are you doing for us today?' they demanded. 

Personally, I am adamantly opposed to violence and destruction of property in protests. It saddened me to see reporters on the international news network, BBC World, talking about 'violence in South Africa' with a dearth of surprise. Nevertheless, the principle revealed by this shift is interesting to business owners.  

The takeaway is this: In the face of decreased love of legacy, hungry, upstart, innovating brands can gain serious market-share. Old giants can be toppled, if they speak self-aggrandising language, and fail to answer the question, 'What are you doing to improve my world today?' 

So, who's your giant? Who is the industry legacy brand, present since the dawn of time? What if you opted to use that one principle to attempt to topple them? They may well be caught up in legacy language, leaving customers cold. Could you swoop in and innovate into their customers' world - find a way to help them, today, where the legacy brands are failing? 

If so, you might well own your industry. 

 

The Eiffel tower recently acquired a glass floor. You can now go halfway up the 126-year old landmark and scare yourself rigid by stepping onto a transparent walkway and looking straight down. It’s a great addition to one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations…that took about 15 years too long to implement. 

Many years ago, my wife and I went up the CN Tower in Toronto. Somewhere up near the Canadian clouds, its bulbous dome has a similar walkway, that’s been there for decades. I remember watching my wife, who is no friend of heights, crawling out onto it and smiling gingerly for a photo, then retreating to the safety of concrete as though she were on fire. Other places, like a tourist spot at the Grand Canyon, have since copied this notion too. 

Why did it take one of the world’s leading tourist destinations - the Eiffel Tower in France - so incredibly long to do something so seemingly obvious? 

The answer is: Because the custodians don’t think of themselves as part of a global network of international travel. They think of themselves as ‘custodians of the Eiffel Tower.’ Subtle shift; huge difference. 

Do you still view yourself as a local operator? In many cases, this view will simply be self-delusion. Many of your customers are extremely well travelled, and may be comparing you to a much better version in Tokyo, or Tel Aviv. 

Perhaps one the reasons South African government departments take so much flack is simply because so many of its citizens have travelled oversees and have solid reference points for just how much better things can be. Home Affairs is cataclysmically unaware that many of us have seen, say, the Swedish passports department, issuing documentation while its citizens are en route to the airport. Home Affairs can’t understand our impatience, because they lack the global perspective reference-points that their customers have.

Do you view your operation as ‘good enough for Roodepoort customers?’ ‘Sufficient for people in Centurion’? If so, that could be a big mistake. They may be comparing you to the better versions they experienced in London and Los Angeles. 

This week, do a perspective check on your business. Do you truly view yourself as globally competitive? Or are you operating at a level that is ‘good enough for the locals’? If the latter, your are offering any other operator a massive competitive advantage. You might just be allowing someone else to own your industry.  

I’ve just read The Silo Effect, by Fiona Hardingham. 

The gist: As industries become more complex, we increasingly need teams of highly specialised people. However, the more inward-looking these teams become, the worse our silo problems get. People lose track of the bigger picture, and behaviour that makes sense in the microcosm of their own small environment makes no sense whatsoever when applied to the bigger picture. 

As an aspiring industry icon, this problem matters to you too, even if you’re a solo entrepreneur. Zooming back matters. Seeing the bigger picture - the grand narrative - and not just the details at hand, is a sure way to keep on track and not become lost in the minutiae of specialised execution. 

So, this week, here are five questions to encourage you to zoom back, look over barriers, and keep sight of the bigger picture: 

1. Who is the current leader in your industry, and why do you suppose they occupy this position? 

2. What do you believe will be the next big change in your industry, and how are you preparing for it? 

3. What action is overdue from your side in propelling your career to the next level? 

4. What complementary industries interact with yours and do you know what the trends are in their space? 

5. In addition to the specialised skills required in your world, what soft skills make a significant difference

Keep thinking about the bigger picture, and you can own your industry. 

 

The way you allow yourself to be treated is a big part of your expert-positioning, and nowhere is this more apparent than in your pricing. 

If there's one thing I strongly believe aspiring experts need to hear, it’s this: Don't do business with customers who ask for discounts. That's right - avoid them like the Plague. Make it your own rule that if they can't afford your fee, they can't have you, then stick to your rule. 

I have observed with nearly 100% predictability that the clients who haggle and who plead poverty consistently generate the most problems. They will demand more, pay late (if at all), expect things outside the scope of your agreement, waste your time, demand unnecessary meetings and generally make your professional life a misery. Indulging them also teaches you to devalue yourself. 

As you strive to become a significant name in your industry, save yourself one major headache. Operate from an abundance mentality and not one of desperation. Value your own worth. Be bold and turn the business down. Preference fewer engagements at higher fees, and not the other way around. 

Treat yourself as premium, and you will train both yourself, and the market, that you are destined to own your industry. 

When I was nineteen, I got a job as a newspaper reporter. It was über-nerd behaviour, but before my first appraisal was due, I walked into my editor’s office and asked for some insights into what I was doing right and wrong.

Her feedback was pure gold. I also discovered how completely we fail to see our own blind-spots - a large amount of what she said was a total surprise to me. 

Solving a flaw in our professional behaviour allows us to graduate to the next level. Fail to cull the bad bits or fail to add what's needed, and you stay where you are. The desire to seek out our own blind-spots - our limiting weak-points - is therefore an important part of becoming an industry expert. 

I’ve repeated this request for feedback into my own blindspots several times in my life. Among the most valuable were the times I asked a high-level colleague to critique my marketing materials and the time I asked one of my agents what I could do (or cull) in order to graduate to the next level. 

Feedback on blindspots is critical. Naturally, however, swallowing it is hard. It implies a willingness to openly listen to someone tell you what you’re doing wrong. 

There are many ways to elicit this sort of feedback, but I’d like to recommend two: The first is to seek it out from a high-level colleague. Be specific about what you’re trying to achieve in your career, and ask what you’re doing right and wrong relative to your goal. The second is to join a master-mind group that openly discusses and debates winning (and limiting) behaviours. 

Couple the courage to open yourself up to scrutiny with the openness to hear it, and you can become the greatest in your game.

 

Do you allow critics to paralyse your production? If so, you may be robbing your fans and followers.

In 1999, writer and director M Night Shyamalan released ‘The 6’th Sense’ and made movie history. The boy in the bedsheets whispering, ‘I see dead people!’ is easily up there with moviedom’s all-time iconic moments.

Shyamalan followed this up with a series of thrillers-with-a-twist, which quickly became his unique signature. His formula of forcing the audience to re-think the entire story after the moment of revelation made him notorious. Personally, I can’t seem to watch ‘The Village’ enough times.

As expert-positioning goes, it sounds like a perfect success story. Right? But then, enter, the critics…

Last week, when Mr Shyamalan released his latest offering, ‘The Visit,’ I bought tickets the day it opened. I absolutely and unashamedly loved it! It scared the proverbial pants off me, and (as added candy) I saw the twist coming and had it right at the moment of revelation. All in all, a delightful audience experience for one of his devoted fans.

The next day the newspaper reviews all seemed to say exactly the same thing:

‘Falls short of The 6’th Sense,’ ‘Rehashing his old, tired formula,’ and ‘Another predictable offering.’

Do you know what fans like most about Shyamalan’s movies? It's the very fact that he keeps using his ‘old, tired formula.’ We love the formula, and would be devastated if he stopped giving it to us. I, for one, am genuinely grateful that he appears to ignore the vitriol of the critics and continues to produce. I can think of nothing worse than his ceasing to use his talent, simply because each new movie ‘isn’t The 6’th Sense.’  

The truth is, listening to the critics is a recipe for paralysis.

Another case in point, Chelsea Clinton, daughter of past US-President Bill Clinton, recently released a book. I was flawed to read a critic’s acerbic diatribe, criticising her for being part of the top 1%, and going around to schools to inspire young girls, ‘who would never have the same opportunities as her.’ Chelsea could just as easily be criticised for being among the top 1% and NOT doing anything to inspire others. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So do!

Be a producer of your own, truest ideas. If you love a stance, a voice, a cause, a formula or a framework, do it and do it boldly! Be happy to be accused of what you are and shrug off the poison. Do your thing.

There may be critics who hate your formula, but do it with passion, and there will be many, many more fans who simply can’t get enough of it. And it is they who will keep you in business, they who will constantly want more, they who will allow you to own your industry. 

One of the boldest new ideas in the world of success-literature is the concept of 10x -thinking. I’m a big fan, and if you haven’t come across it yet, here’s a very quick introduction. 

10x-thinking says, ‘Don’t try to make something 10% better, 10% cheaper or 10% faster. Instead, aim to make it 10x better, cheaper or faster.’ 

There’s a sound principle behind this radical shift. When we aim for a 10% improvement, our thinking remains extremely conventional. Essentially, we’re in ‘optimise’ mode. 

However, when we require our patterns of thought to go for 10x greater answers, we are forcing entirely different and completely radical approaches to the same problem. You cannot optimise your way to a ten-fold change. You have to come up with completely different ways of doing things. 

Here are some 10x-style challenges you could put to yourself: 

  1. How could I increase my number of paying clients ten-fold?
  2. How could I increase my income ten-fold? (Note: This is not necessarily the same thing as the previous question)
  3. How could I increase my media coverage ten-fold?
  4. How could I make my product or offering ten times more compelling?
  5. How could I increase my productivity or output ten-fold? 

This week, challenge yourself to think about - and then implement - some ten-x improvements in your career, and become the greatest in your game. 

 

One of the boldest new ideas in the world of success-literature is the concept of 10x -thinking. I’m a big fan, and if you haven’t come across it yet, here’s a very quick introduction. 

10x-thinking says, ‘Don’t try to make something 10% better, 10% cheaper or 10% faster. Instead, aim to make it 10x better, cheaper or faster.’ 

There’s a sound principle behind this radical shift. When we aim for a 10% improvement, our thinking remains extremely conventional. Essentially, we’re in ‘optimise’ mode.

However, when we require our patterns of thought to go for 10x greater answers, we are forcing entirely different and completely radical approaches to the same problem. You cannot optimise your way to a ten-fold change. You have to come up with completely different ways of doing things. 

Here are some 10x-style challenges you could put to yourself: 

  1. How could I increase my number of paying clients ten-fold?
  2. How could I increase my income ten-fold? (Note: This is not necessarily the same thing as the previous question)
  3. How could I increase my media coverage ten-fold?
  4. How could I make my product or offering ten times more compelling?
  5. How could I increase my productivity or output ten-fold? 

This week, challenge yourself to think about - and then implement - some ten-x improvements in your career, and become the greatest in your game. 

 

(August 2015)

 

Astonishingly, it’s August. 

Time, then, for a frank mid-year-and-a-bit review of how much has changed for you since January, and how far you’ve come in positioning yourself as an industry expert. Movement up the continuum is our goal, so let’s take stock. 

Here are seven challenging questions. I’ll answer some of them alongside you, to provide examples: 

1. Are you further along now than what you were at this time last year? …further along than you were in January? In my own case, I’ve been working at a higher-level, increasingly consulting to senior management. I’ve had a book published, and another accepted for next year. 

2. What damaging amateur-traits have you culled from your repertoire? I’ve made a point of reducing, to a minimum, the number of reduced-rate engagements I will consider. Discounting yourself does no favours for your expert-positioning. 

3. What systematised changes have you made that have become a regular part of your routine? In my case, I launched this newsletter this year, and have been maintaining it on a weekly basis. 

4. What big projects could you conceivably complete before year-end? I aim to record another audio version of one of my books before December. 

5. Which books have you read, or programmes have you attended, in order to up-skill and discover new strategies for growth? My most profound read of 2015 has been ‘Smartcuts’ by Shane Snow.

6. What personality growth have you enjoyed? Are you more able to assert yourself? Struggling less with saying no? Able to focus more on the important things and dismiss the trivial? Working more disciplined hours? 

7. What extraordinary initiatives have you engaged in since January; high-splash, unusual, golden-moment ideas that force people to reevaluate your value? If you haven’t carried one out yet, can you do so before year-end? Often, it’s the extraordinary moments that truly entitle you to own your industry. 

 

(August 2015)

Astonishingly, it’s August. 

Time, then, for a frank mid-year-and-a-bit review of how much has changed for you since January, and how far you’ve come in positioning yourself as an industry expert. Movement up the continuum is our goal, so let’s take stock. 

Here are seven challenging questions. I’ll answer some of them alongside you, to provide examples: 

1. Are you further along now than what you were at this time last year?

…further along than you were in January? In my own case, I’ve been working at a higher-level, increasingly consulting to senior management. I’ve had a book published, and another accepted for next year. 

2. What damaging amateur-traits have you culled from your repertoire?

I’ve made a point of reducing, to a minimum, the number of reduced-rate engagements I will consider. Discounting yourself does no favours for your expert-positioning. 

3. What systematised changes have you made that have become a regular part of your routine?

In my case, I launched this newsletter this year, and have been maintaining it on a weekly basis. 

4. What big projects could you conceivably complete before year-end?

I aim to record another audio version of one of my books before December. 

5. Which books have you read, or programmes have you attended, in order to up-skill and discover new strategies for growth?

My most profound read of 2015 has been ‘Smartcuts’ by Shane Snow.

6. What personality growth have you enjoyed?

Are you more able to assert yourself? Struggling less with saying no? Able to focus more on the important things and dismiss the trivial? Working more disciplined hours? 

7. What extraordinary initiatives have you engaged in since January? 

...High-splash, unusual, golden-moment ideas that force people to reevaluate your value? If you haven’t carried one out yet, can you do so before year-end? Often, it’s the extraordinary moments that truly entitle you to own your industry. 

 

The early stages of our careers are fraught with blunders. We’re learning, and we stumble. 

With the benefit of hindsight, try this exercise: If you were to start your career again, what 5 things would you do differently? 

Would you emphasise learning a particular skill or ability over any other? Would you place greater emphasis on building certain relationships early on? Would you produce more, take more chances, or be braver than you have been? Perhaps move faster, take on leadership positions, or ditch certain campaigns that took a lot of your time for very little yield? 

This test can clarify your thinking significantly, and your answers will generally remain as relevant today as they might have been starting out. Weed out the truly important from the merely time-consuming and you will more clearly see the path to becoming the top name in your industry. 

 

This week I picked up a book by a 30-year-old South African author, a young lady living in Cape Town. Alex van Tonder’s debut novel, ‘This One Time,’ is not only brilliant (Last night I dreamed about whether Jacob would escape the bed), but more: It is to South African writing what the Parlotones are to South African music; something that transcends a ‘regional’ feel and deserves to go international. 

I watched one of her interviews on YouTube. The Expresso team spoke to her about her book and I couldn’t help but notice her bold, no-holds-barred candour. I don’t think the presenter was expecting her to reference ‘revenge porn’ and ‘tits and guns,’ quite as boldly as she did (Kudos to him for rolling with it), but Alex is a straight shooter.  

Am I saying that rough is admirable? No, I’m saying that her capacity to speak boldly voice makes her stronger. That is what her book is about, and she was not afraid to say so on national television. She is a strong voice, a brave voice and a woman who will have her say. She is not desperate to be 'nice.' 

I predict Alex will go very far. Not just because her novel is exceptionally good (better, I think, than the Dean Koontz I read just before it), but because she’s also secure, direct, and unapologetically herself; all the ingredients necessary for an icon. 

The strength to ‘speak strong’ matters. It is a formidable thing and should not be the preserve of males. This Women’s Day, may noteworthy figures like Alex van Tonder inspire more women to become bold voices across our continent. We need more Oprahs, more Nigellas, more Sheryl Sandbergs. Speak strong, like this brave new voice, and you can own your industry. 

The person who said ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is unfit to run a business and should possibly be court-martialled. In the quest to position yourself as an expert, presentation is everything. 

There is a reason top-end jewellers wrap your simple bracelet in five layers of packaging, a reason new cars have ribbons, books have covers designed by experts and expensive clothes come in boxes that make them seem like treasure for the discovering. There are reasons why you should consider every visual and sensory element of your offering as experienced by your customers. 

Remember that packaging is not merely a means to keep dust out. A way to transmit from here to there. That’s how amateurs think. Packaging is theatre. It is a means to show that you are greater than your competitors, more special, more important. Put thought, effort and funds into your packaging and you can triple the perception of value. Present yourself to the world as though you already own your industry, and soon enough, you will. 

“Nice car, but aren’t you sponsored by Ford?”  

Six years ago, when I auditioned for the part of the presenter in a series of ads, it  passed through my mind that I might be making a mistake.  

Certainly, it was television exposure. But what if it was the wrong exposure? What if it was the wrong message for someone aspiring to build a reputation in a different industry? What if, in the conflict between two competing transmissions, the stronger transmission won, and I became known as The Ford Guy, then couldn’t undo that perception in people’s minds?   

The excitement of the opportunity won out, and I took the job. I also thoroughly enjoyed the work, along with the attendant thrill of seeing myself on TV, circling a freshly polished Fiesta and enthusing about this month’s special offers.  

But since presenting in those ads (at which point I actually did drive a Ford, purely by coincidence), I have owned an Audi, A BMW and a Merc. And it has now been almost five years since the last ad for the Blue Circle faded into the evening news and disappeared from the airwaves. Yet I’m still asked, with surprising frequency, why I don’t drive a Ford…and worse, I’m still asked on a regular basis if I’m sponsored by them. 

The Strongest Transmission Wins  

Expert-positioning is no more nor less than a game of perceptions. And the strongest perception becomes the enduring legacy.  

Take Bill Cosby. In the story of two competing legacies; that of the fun-loving, kindly old dad, versus that of the man accused of multiple instances of what essentially amounts to rape, only one of these is going to win out in the long-term, and it will be the one with the greatest visceral effect; the one with the strongest transmission.  

If you truly intend to become the greatest in your game, if your goal is genuinely to ‘own’ your industry, the purity and power of the messages you transmit is of critical importance.  

Alliances are Transmissions too:

Are you aligning yourself with an employer or a talent agency or a bureau that insist you propagate their branding above your own? If so, pop quiz: Who is Tom Cruise’s agent? Who is Stephen King’s? Who’s Oprah’s? In fact, who represents any of your heroes in any industry you care to name? Exactly. 

If you want to become iconic, your name should come first. Anything less and you become a commodity; merely one out of a pool of offerings. It is impossible to become ‘an iconic member of…’ Set yourself apart, and own your industry. 

(Read a longer version of this article. Click here

Innovation can help you to own your industry. Yet here’s a curious thing about creative thought: If you apply no rules whatsoever, you will tend to get poor results. Impose some limitations, and you can get much richer thought-offerings. Struggle is one of the birth-places of innovation. 

The dynamic plays out like this: ask a person to name as many blue things as they can and you will get a fairly limited number of answers. Most people will start to struggle after around ten items, and most will tend to start by naming the sky and the sea. The answers are both limited and obvious. 

Now give them a set of restrictive parameters. Ask them, for example, to think of as many blue things as they can name inside a shopping mall. Having provided restrictive parameters, you will tend to get more answers numerically and more creative answers qualitatively. People might start volunteering interesting observations like ‘the eyes of a shop assistant’; ‘a car on display in the main court’; ‘Pepsi cans’; ‘the metallic bars protecting a jewellery shop after it is closed’; or even ‘the mood of overtaxed shoppers’. 

If you impose parameters on people’s thinking, you can enjoy greater rewards. Twitter, with its 140-character limit, was initially criticised for being too restrictive. But look at how successful it’s been. The limitation focuses thinking. Strict parameters can greatly enhance our thinking. 

Here is how you can benefit from this approach when brainstorming strategic ideas: Impose one of the following parameters and see how much more innovative the thinking becomes:

 Remove one key thing, such as funding, or important people. Ask what could be done under such circumstances.

 Impose crazy time limits: what’s the best we could do under those circumstances?

 Imagine a scenario in which all your current tools - your ‘delivery mechanisms’ - are removed, yet you still have to provide the same essential service to your clients. You can acquire new tools and you can go about it in new ways, but you may not go about it the way you did before. How would you do it?

The third suggestion helps to reveal threats. If you can think of different ways of providing your service, surely someone else can too. This may be your opportunity to beat them to it. 

Remember that you don’t actually have to apply any of these constraints in the real world. This exercise simply allows you to benefit from the thought process created by the experiment. The point is to initiate a state of ‘what-if’ thinking. ‘What if’ is a powerful starting-point for real-world innovation, the kind of real-world innovation that allows you to own your industry. 

Given that experts essentially deal in ideas, it’s tempting to believe that hoarding the best ones might work in your favour. After all, how do you monetise thought leadership if you’re constantly giving it away?  

It turns out that this assumption is false. Being free and liberal with your ideas is actually more lucrative. The more you give your best ideas away for free, the more visible you become, and the more the market comes to you for the implementation.  


Put your ideas into articles, and you will increasingly be engaged to speak on them. Share your concepts in speeches and your market will increasingly seek you out to implement them in their scenario. Giving is more lucrative than hoarding.  

This week, I would like to encourage you to trust in two concepts. The first is that giving away your best ideas for free will lead to more work for you, not less. And the second is that in giving away your best ideas, you will not deplete your reservoir of thought. You will train yourself to live a life of thought-leadership. Trust that you will have more, richer and better ideas as you go, and then you will give those away too, creating ever more visibility and an ever greater customer base for yourself. 

In the spirit of walking my own talk, I have decided to tweet every single part of my new book on innovation that can possibly be turned into a tweet, from cover to cover. Get these ideas for free by following @douglaskruger. 

Give away your best, your most insightful, your most cherished ideas. Give them away regularly and freely, and watch as you begin to own your industry. 

I’m tweeting my whole book.

http://www.douglaskruger.co.za/articles/article-147/Start_Farming_Fish_Immediately___How_to_Innovate_in_your_Organisation___professional_speaker_Douglas_Kruger.html

Would you say that Nigella Lawson is currently the world’s most qualified chef? Do you think she’s in the top ten? Top one hundred?

If not, then why is she out-earning most of that illustrious company combined? And what can we learn from that?

Certainly, high levels of technical competence are an initial prerequisite for becoming the biggest name in your game, and make no mistake, Nigella Lawson has certainly attained the level of expertise necessary to play on the international stage. But beyond a certain level - call it, the ‘entry into the big leagues’ - technical skills cease to be the biggest differentiator. Other factors take over. 

Are you skilled enough to play with the best yet? Then perhaps it’s time to start thinking beyond skill attainment and to start growing a high-level reputation. What might that look like in your industry? Would it mean articles? A TV show? A leadership position? 

Technical excellence opens the door for you. But then it’s up to you to grow it into more, and own your industry. 

In 9 out of 10 cases, low-paying clients are also high-pain clients. It’s typically the ones who want discounts, reductions and freebies who also pay late, criticise work and ask for endless repeats and alterations. High-paying clients tend to be less petty, more professional. 

You are becoming an industry expert. Give yourself permission to fire your low-paying, high-input clients. Focus on the high-end clients that you want to work with. 

Not only does this culling process play into the 80/20 Pareto Principle, freeing up time for you, but ridding yourself of the psychological burden of awful customers also contributes to your own sense of being a valuable, top-end player. And if you don’t believe yourself to be premium, how will you portray it? 

Start by asserting that you are not desperate. You do not have to take any work that comes your way. You can be selective about your clients. Don’t scuttle for a hundred crumbs on the floor, when a single proper meal atop the counter will fill you better, and leave you with more free time. 

Go ahead and fire your low-pay, high-input clients. Give yourself permission to graduate up the scale, and own your industry. 

I’ve always been an avid reader, but a couple of years ago, I downloaded an app that helped me to triple my intake. 

It’s called Audible, and if you haven’t already, I would recommend downloading it today. I signed up for a ‘two audio books a month’ contract, and have been using it ever since, occasionally buying a third and fourth book on any given month. 

It’s remarkable how much new content you can get through while driving, at the gym, or (hypothetically - this may not be a true confession), in the bath. 

I finished listening to the new book on Elon Musk before the paperback was even launched in SA, and I’m currently listening to Stephen Covey’s ‘Speed of Trust.’ I love Audible, and it’s made a significant impact on my capacity to take in ideas.

Which titles could you get through, quickly, just by listening during otherwise unproductive times? Which new books could contribute to you becoming a leader in your industry? This week, I challenge you to listen up, and become the greatest in your game. 

Last week, I reviewed Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In' for Penguin Random House. At the risk of melodramatic pronouncement, this is one of those books capable of moving our species forward. I believe that if you are a woman, reading it is non-negotiable. You must. Men should too, and will gain just as much for the effort. 

The key principle, that women should actively participate in their careers by 'leaning in' instead of relinquishing, is of paramount importance to anyone building a truly iconic career. 

I have long believed that the biggest component of expert positioning is simple courage, and the biggest barrier, simple fear.  

This week, I challenge you to show an unusual degree of chutzpah. Take that assignment. Push for that opportunity. Shoulder that terrifying responsibility you've been avoiding. Lean in to a degree that surprises even you. This week I challenge you to jump in at the deep end. Force yourself to learn to swim, and move up the ranks of your industry. 

This week, search yourself online. Do a Google search on your own name and brand. What comes up? 

Think both quantitively and qualitatively: How much is there? And how inspiring is it? 


Shop yourself the way a potential customer or interviewer might, viewing whatever pops up through fresh eyes, as if it were your first introduction to brand-you. Would you call you a thought-leader?  

If you're uninspired with what you see, increase your contribution of interesting content and captivating visuals. Write thoughtful articles for specialist sites and always think visually when it comes to accompanying photographs; a prison-style mug-shot is not inspiring. 

Online postings are largely under your control and your reputation in this medium can be cultivated. Cultivate a profound and inspiring online persona and you can become the greatest in your game. 

To blend into the environment, repeat the accepted wisdom. To stand out from it, champion a divergent view. 

Ever heard someone recite a well-worn industry aphorism, only to be contradicted by someone else who felt that, ‘Actually, it never works that way”? Ever noticed how surprising and thought-provoking a single voice, speaking their truth against the stream, can truly be? 

Original thought - your original thought - is much more powerful than any cliché. This week, I dare you to raise your voice in advocacy of your own idea; the one you’ve always believed despite the accepted wisdom.  

Do it in a board meeting, an article or a speech. Champion the notion you’ve always believed, despite the accepted wisdom. Stand out from the crowd, and own your industry. 

I was 22-years-old, just starting out, and asked my agent what I might do to get ahead in my industry. “Write a book,” she said, “And people will perceive you as one step down from God.”

While there may have been a smattering of hyperbole in her statement, (I perceive myself as a minor cherub at best), the underlying principle, that becoming a published author changes things for you, is absolutely true. 

Write a book on your area of expertise and your credibility increases dramatically. Get published by a commercial publisher, and you are seen as an authority in your field. 

I dare you to write your own book. And I’ll push that dare one step further. Don’t take two years to do it. Take four or five months. Get it done and get it done quickly. Urgency and rapid production are your friends in this endeavour…and a title on a bookshelf will do your career great favours ever after. 

Write a book, and you can own your industry. 

Thought-leaders are always producing content: articles, guides, videos, media appearances.  

But what happens when your mind is not the fertile breeding ground you need? What if you only have one really good idea? 

If so, two concepts can help you: Repackage and repurpose your concept. 

Focus in on a different aspect of your idea and write a new article about it. Write about it from the perspective of a different industry, or using a different story to illustrate it. With a little effort, you can repackage your primary idea many times over.

Then repurpose your offerings. You’ve been featured in the local newspaper? Offer the same article to a regional publication. Then a national one. Offer it to a talk radio station, then a TV show.

Plan it carefully, and your single idea can give you upward of 30 media hits.

The more you are seen and heard speaking about your idea, the more you become the name at the end of the sentence, “You know who you should talk to about that…?,” and the more you will be seen as an industry expert. 

Being perceived as a premium offering is a matter of perceptions, not merely of product. Sometimes that entails the special little things that make an experience out of dealing with you. 

A while back, I bought a new shirt at a high-end store. After complimenting me on my decision with the phrase ‘excellent choice, sir!,’ (which I’m convinced she would have said had I placed a purple, polka-dot thong on the counter), the attendant wrapped my garment, then proceeded to walk around the counter and present it to me.  

As she did so, I swear the shirt gained an echo. It was a simple gesture, but it added a ribbon to the experience.  

The transition from a vendor who hands over a product to a host that creates a ‘total experience’ is one of the markers of a true expert, and a prerequisite for a premium brand. Always add the ribbon, and own your industry. 

Remember the combination of nerves and excitement? The heady mix of what could be and how far you saw yourself going? 

This week, I invite you to remind yourself to want it that badly once again. 

You’ve acquired the skills and learned many of the lessons; make sure it’s not at the cost of the drive. The years can create a mindless momentum; an unquestioned inertia. What you need is mindful design and deliberate push, now that you have the skills.

Connect again with the person you were when you started on this path. Reignite the fire. You’ve gained the abilities. Don’t lose the will. Decide once again to become the greatest in your game. 

We often think of becoming known nationally, but rarely consider the possibility of going global with our name, brand and business. It isn't harder. It's just a different kind of thinking.  

I've spent the last few days speaking in Taipei, and today I'm writing my newsletter on the 15'th floor of a hotel in Singapore. It's lead me to thinking about just how artificial the notion of national borders really is. 

My challenge to you this week is this: Can you think of 5 specific things you could do, 5 actions you might carry out. that could see you or your business operating in another country? Even just as a once-off event, in order to get a taste for it?  

Thinking regionally is obvious. Thinking globally is the reserve of experts. What could you do today that might see you operating oversees tomorrow? Think bigger than the rest, and you can become the greatest in your game. 

‘Universally inoffensive.’ It’s not the goal. 

In our fearful early days of industry involvement, our desire for approval is all-consuming. Becoming an iconic voice requires the courage to exist on a  bigger scale than that, the strength to be something and to be it with strength.   

Have you inadvertently been trying to portray a ‘kindly old uncle’ persona? Everybody’s sweet aunty? 

This cautious approach will take you so far, but iconic status will always lie beyond it. 

True thought-leaders think strong, speak strong, represent boldness. There are ‘dislikes’ on their YouTube videos. They are something enough to have detractors. 

Certainly, it is not their goal to offend, but it is never something they fear either. 

Be cautious of caution, and fear the pursuit of the overly inoffensive, and you can become the greatest in your game. 

The biggest industry names generally move forward entire fields and champion brand new ideas. But let’s be fair. You can’t be that inspired every week. Or even every year.  

Good news: Simply knowing what you know will also make you a thought leader. You consume Everests of info each week. Most people don’t have the time to chase down all of those articles, attend the conferences, process the chatter that comprise your world.  

So compile what you know and teach. Not every article has to be revolutionary, not every tweet or video groundbreaking. A solid foundation of knowledge is also enough.  

If you’ve read three or more books about your area of expertise, you’re probably already better versed than others. And if you know a little more than them, you can teach. And you can begin to become the greatest in your game. 

'Personally, I think the best motto for an educational establishment is: 'Or Would you Rather be a Mule?' 

A couple of weeks ago, we lost the author of these words; fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett. By an odd and strangely meaningful twist of fate, I happened to be reading one of his books as the news broke.

I see baths as literary excursions more than hygiene sessions. When the CNN alert went off on my iPhone, I switched my copy of 'The Long War' to my left hand and read about the author's death with my right. I then glanced back and forth from book to phone.

I find it meaningful that I will now always be able to say that when I learned of Sir Pratchett's death, I was deeply engaged in enjoying his work. 

Pratchett is among the bestselling authors ever to write in the English language. And perhaps his great success can, in part, be explained by another of his quotes. It hints at broad-spectrum learning and the value of not imitating the voice of others. May you own your industry, and may you take Sir Pratchett's words to heart: 

'If you are going to write, say, fantasy - stop reading fantasy. You've already read too much. Read other things: read westerns, read history, read anything that seems interesting, because if you only read fantasy and then you start to write fantasy, all you're going to do is recycle the same old stuff and move it around a bit.' 

What are the significant successes that mark your trajectory to date? Which specific promotions, decisions or events moved you forward?  

We rarely take time to look back and spot the big successes. Rarer still is the act of mining for the preceding behaviour.  

Don't let useful, successful behaviour become once-off only.  

This week, my challenge to you is to take a few minutes to explore what it was you did before that genuinely worked. Can you do it again in your current circumstances? How about an upscaled version of the same thing, with greater reach and greater consequence?  

Identify what works. Scale it up. Become the greatest in your game.

Who do you consider to be frighteningly high-level in your industry?

When you think of that person, do you create a halo of myth and legend around them (a human tendency which works wonders in terms of your own expert positioning, but which is working against you if you apply it too reverently to others), or do you simply see them as an accomplished human being, who’s a little further along than you are? 

This week I dare you to overcome perceptions of distance and fear and reach out to someone whom you previously believed to be above your pay grade. 

Do it politely, tactfully, and with an organically logical reason. But do it. It’s one thing to know who all the key players are in your industry. It's quite another when all the key players know who you are. 

Make the connection. Start to build your upper-echelon network, and own your industry. 

Ever noticed how frequently pinnacle performers are way, way younger than the ‘also rans’? That’s because these people didn’t get to the top the slow, traditional way. They did something a little different. They took what author Shane Snow calls 'SmartCuts.'  

In order to radically shorten our learning curves, we should study and emulate the industry greats. But there is a tipping point in the development of your own knowledge and talent at which copycatting becomes counter-productive.  

In the student-phase, you need the guidance of role-models. Once you’ve reached sufficient competence, copying the icons can only make you a ‘pale comparison of.’ As they innovate, you copy, rendering you consistently six months to a year behind.  

The time-lag is not the only issue. You also look like them. There’s little gain in people saying, ‘Oh, so you’re like a mini version of (insert icon).’  

At a certain point in your competence, you need to start practicing what Snow calls ‘SmartCuts’ (also the title of his excellent book). A ‘smartcut’ is a non-linear leap to the top, as opposed to the slow, grinding process of getting there through predictable, step-by-step progression.  

What’s your next SmartCut? If you were to think laterally and deny the inevitability of a long, tedious slog, what lateral, alternative route might you take in order to make a quantum-leap jump to the front? 

Don’t think in terms of owning your industry ‘one day.’ Think in terms of doing it in a year from now. Ask yourself which abstract and unconventional approach might get you there; what lateral move could take you to the top with decades to spare? 

I’m reading a book titled ‘Sapiens - A Brief History of Human Kind.’ The author asserts that our most important development after fire was the emergence of ‘fictive language.’ Basic language allowed us to say, ‘Rock,’ ‘fire,’ or ‘bird.’ Fictive language allowed us to describe that which wasn't…but could be. 

Armed with fictive language, we could then plan hunts, describing best and worst-case potential outcomes. We could dream out loud and connect the dots between ideas. We could cooperate in achieving lofty goals. 

The ability to speak in the abstract no less than allowed us to transcend genetics. A dog can still only do, today, what its ancestors were able to do thousands of years ago, limited by genes. But even though our genetics are identical to those of our ancient forebears, fictive language has allowed us to completely transcend physical limitations. 

In ‘Own Your Industry,’ I write about how dearly I love metaphors. I love the human capacity to sum up a complex idea in an abstract way, using quasi-storytelling skills. I argue that metaphorical constructs set apart leading experts (examples including ‘The Naked Chef,’ ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad,’ ‘Foxes and Hedgehogs’ and more.’ 

Today’s Monday Morning Motivator offers this guideline: Creative, metaphorical and abstract language are important. They are the reason we became the greatest in our game on a global scale. The ability to get other human beings to imagine something that you imagine is, fundamentally, the ability that sets us apart. Even in today’s complex industries, speaking in fictive language can still set you apart.

Here’s to you dreaming eloquently…and thereby owning your industry. 

Being perceived as an industry expert requires media coverage. This week, I challenge you to find or manufacture a justification for a radio appearance. 

Broadcasters will not let you appear on their shows if you simply ask for free coverage. But if you can contribute intelligent, useful ideas to their listeners, they will rarely say no. 

Here are some approaches: 

-      Be topical and offer to speak about a recent or upcoming event or trend

-      Focus on specific problems and contribute ideas around how they might be solved

-      Speak about insights you’ve learned that may prove useful to others

-      Issue warnings about upcoming changes and suggest approaches that might work going forward

-      Present an entertaining angle or a humorous look at an old subject

-      Take your subject and angle it toward a specific listenership: Gender, political affiliation, etc. 

The more regularly you are featured in the media as a thought-leader, the more people will associate you with your topic or field. The more that happens, the greater your expert positioning. Become the name that people associate with the topic, and you will own your industry. 

In the quest to become formidable, sometimes we labour at 20 separate levers. But what if only one gave the magical traction? What if dispersing energy were a mistake? 

Common sense asserts that a broad, catch-call approach, covering a multitude of bases, will ultimately pan out. Sometimes common sense is wrong. Sometimes a single factor gets the job done. It might be paying for SEO. Perhaps having a book. Sometimes it’s that television appearance; the so-called ‘Oprah effect.’ 

My challenge to you this week: If you were forced to reduce your career-growth efforts to one thing and one thing only, what would give you the greatest traction? Perhaps it’s time to do that with a laser focus. Perhaps it’s time to dispense with the extraneous and become the greatest in your game. 

Acid test: You’re not present. Someone who knows you is talking to a potential customer; your potential customer. Your associate has the power to sell your services right now, on the spot, and the potential customer has both the money to spend and the eagerness to spend it. 

Is your positioning sufficiently strong that you can be sold, with pin-point precision, in your absence? Or are you so generalised, your offerings so broad, that no one can really express what it is you do? 

True expert positioning is fully realised the day that others hear about a problem and, in your absence, unhesitatingly reply: ‘You know who you should talk to about that…?’, and your name springs to mind. 

Acid test: You’re not present. Someone who knows you is talking to a potential customer; your potential customer. Your associate has the power to sell your services right now, on the spot, and the potential customer has both the money to spend and the eagerness to spend it. 

Is your positioning sufficiently strong that you can be sold, with pin-point precision, in your absence? Or are you so generalised, your offerings so broad, that no one can really express what it is you do? 

True expert positioning is fully realised the day that others hear about a problem and, in your absence, unhesitatingly reply: ‘You know who you should talk to about that…?’, and your name springs to mind. 

Instead, picture a single person - one iconic representation - who makes use of your services.  

Think of her as uniquely interested in your specific insights and ideas. She is deeply invested in doing what you say, because she truly believes it will work. This is a seriously-minded person who sees you as the solution. She will follow you, recommend you, learn from you and implement your ideas in order to progress in her own world.  

Now make the situation harsh. Remove all other resources from her world.  

Pretend that her access to knowledge, information, insight, know-how, solutions, paths and plans relies totally and utterly on your input. You are her designated thought-leader and there is no other. If you don’t perform, she fails. If you don’t teach, her growth stops. You are her resource.  

Think of the obligation that places upon you to serve. Think of the switch that creates from hype to value. Think of how important it is that you are ethical and effective.  

Are you writing useful articles often enough for her to genuinely grow? Is your thought-leadership content focused around her benefit, or around advertising yourself? Are you producing often enough and addressing enough of her needs? Are you genuinely her solution? 

Give this idea centrality in your world. All else will follow.

Let's be politically incorrect for a moment: Giving awards for arrival, trophies for attendance and plaudits for participation can cheapen excellence. By making 'everyone a winner' we dissipate the highest levels of human achievement. A Nobel prize for 'Effort' is no Nobel prize at all.  

We're unlikely to change a politically correct world. And perhaps there's something nurturing about encouraging others. But as a subscriber to 'From Amateur to Expert - Becoming the Greatest in Your Game,' I'd like to urge you to demand more from yourself. 

What is the top-end award in your world? Not the 'also played' certificate, but the pinnacle of performance recognition, designed by the industry experts and refined over time? 

This award will contain the real criteria for excellence. Do you know yours? Most people, in most industries, have never bothered to find out what they might be. 

This week, make a point of finding out. The criteria are rarely a well-guarded secret. They want people to know. And how could you ever earn your Oscar, your Nobel Prize, your Pulitzer, your Grammy, or your Journalist of the Year award, unless you know what it takes? 

Begin your quest for excellence by defining it.  

Like most people in their early twenties, my younger sister dreams, nay, hungrily yearns, to get her mittens on a new car. Her current rust bucketdoes occasionally start when coaxed with a biscuit, but lacks air-conditioning, rendering all attempts at feminine elegance painstakingly difficult. You can’t be the Belle of the ball as a ball of sweat. 

I recommended she use the same approach I’ve been using recently, and which I’m implementing as my ‘theme’ for 2015. It’s an approach that features in just about every major book or course on creative thinking. Brian Tracey advocates it to delegates of his life-skills courses, and high-level players in a multitude of industries swear by it. I’ve come to love it. 

The 20 Ways Approach: 

Get a sheet of paper or launch a page on your computer. Headline it with your goal, for instance: “Get a New Car this Year.” Now see if you can come up with twenty different ways, twenty separate ideas and approaches, for achieving the goal. 

My sister, for instance, might start with ‘1. Grand Theft Auto,’ and ‘2. Bank robbery.’ Fair enough. But of course, that’s only two. Eighteen more to go. 

It Works Because it’s Hard: 

It’s the very fact that twenty is a demanding number that makes this approach so effective. The first five or six ideas will come quickly. Thereafter, it becomes more challenging, and that’s when the magic happens. Often, as you force your way slowly into the realms of ‘11,' and ‘12,' you have moments of epiphany where you say things like, “I could actually do that!,” and perhaps even, “Why haven’t I been doing that already?!” 

You can also open your list to outside input. My wife, for instance, has no hesitation in telling me what else I should be doing.

This year, I’ve already created five of these ‘20 ways’ lists. They range from the lofty, ‘How do I become one of the most booked practitioners in my field?’ to the more pedestrian, ‘How can I make my office a nicer place to work?’ In both cases, forcing my way through the creation of a full list of 20 was taxing, but richly rewarding.

Now do take note that you don’t actually have to implement all twenty ideas in each case. The point is not so much to create a ‘to-do’ list as much as it is to create a ‘what could be done?’ prospective. It’s the richness and depth of thinking that you’re after, and for that reason, don’t judge your ideas too harshly. Let them flow. Once you see which ideas are clearly superior, and implementable, you can pick and choose what will work for you.

Use it for Work-Place Projects: 

The approach is wonderfully agile in the sense that it needn’t only be applied to personal goals. If your division at work has a project to complete, or if you’ve been tasked with managing a large deliverable, creating a ‘20 ways to’ list will focus your thinking and open you up to an innovative range of approaches that might have value. 

So whether it’s making your home more comfortable or raising your physical fitness; whether it’s growing your business or lusting after new wheels, there is always a way. Chances are, it’s hiding among twenty. 

Happy New Year! I hope that you and your family had a blessed Christmas and an awesome holiday. 

Are you ready to conquer yet? 

This year I plan to help you by giving as much practical value as I possibly can through this channel. In alignment with my own principle of ‘Leading with value,’ I will continue to give tips and insights on how you can ‘Own Your Industry.’ 

In addition, my new book on Innovation will hit the shelves this year and I will be giving away most of it in this newsletter (Don’t tell Penguin!). I will be liberal in sharing tips, paragraphs, chapters and golden growth nuggets directly from the book for you. If I do it right, one day I’ll earn an email from you in which you tell me that one of my ideas translated directly into business growth for you. I will be relentless in pursuing that goal. 

I also plan to increase the number of ‘how to’ videos that I post on YouTube, which I will include in these newsletters as well. 

I dearly love teaching. I love helping others to grow, and where possible, I love to entertain as well. 

I will always let you know about my newest video and article posts by means of this newsletter, but if you’re keen to get even more, please do follow me on my Facebook FanPage, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. I especially recommend Facebook, where I post motivational quotes on a regular basis. These will be too regular to include in the newsletter.

I’m thrilled that you’ve continued to allow me to speak into your life. I will endeavour to keep the quality of my ideas sufficiently high that, every Monday, you look forward to a short, sharp boost, and that I earn your continued patronage. 

May you become the greatest in your game, and I look forward to helping you to own your industry in 2015. 

If the slow pace of growth offends you, discipline is the solution. If being seen as an industry amateur is growing tired, discipline is the key to the next plateau. 

I believe deeply and utterly in the power of personal discipline. With it, all things are possible for your growth. Without it, our options become severely limited. Whenever I am asked to identify a single quality that matters more than others in career-growth and success-psychology, I consistently identify discipline. It’s the cornerstone upon which the others stand. 

This week, I uploaded a short, impactful, one-hour audio programme on the topic of discipline to audio site CDBaby.com

Here’s the gist. With discipline in place, books get written. Career moves get made. Reputations are created and goals are achieved. With the compounding effect of daily, disciplined chunks of work, astonishing outputs can be achieved over relatively short periods of time.  

Discipline is the art of going to the gym even when you don’t feel like it; it’s the practice of rising early and producing; it’s the strength to keep at the things that matter most to you, and surprise others who inevitably say, ‘How on earth did you do it?’ Discipline is always the answer.

I like to look at this way: Do you really want to watch another December go by without that goal under your belt? If the slow pace of growth offends you, Discipline is the answer. If you are remunerated as an industry amateur, discipline is the key to the next plateau. Only the truly disciplined ever become the greatest in their game. 

In 2008, the world economy grew weak at the knees. Not a single economist predicted the problems that would send earth-economics into a wobble for the next few years, and on those grounds, there has been a backlash of bad sentiment against industry experts. 

‘How useful are they really? They can’t even predict the future,’ critics assert. On this one criterion alone, public discourse has turned a little ‘anti-expert.’ 

I don’t see the problem. Personally, I’ve never thought of experts as psychics and soothsayers. I think of an industry expert in a number of other ways. Experts are people who: 

-        Blaze a trail forward by doing

-        Teach others by being leaders

-        Set the tone by sticking their necks out

-        Determine how an industry should go (not how it will go); and

-        spread knowledge, wisdom and information. 

I continue to advocate positioning yourself as an expert as the surest route to adding an extra zero to your income. Worried about the populist anti-expert backlash? Don’t pretend to be able to see the future. Nobody can. But it’s not important that you should. 

Instead, teach, lead, help, grow, share, speak, write, comment upon, innovate and pioneer… Be a face and a voice in the public consciousness, and you can own your industry. 

This week’s motivational newsletter comes to you in video format. In this 5 minute clip, learn the ‘code’ for human talent, arguably the most important (yet little-known) formula humanity has discovered over the last 100 years, and discover how you can use it to your advantage: http://youtu.be/iD1d6EORVWs?list=UUKdsTRuRTqVUV7PWuADCTgg  

What’s changed in your industry over the last 20 years? Take a moment and see if you can name 5 things. Do they represent anything of a trend? Do they hint at a trajectory? 

Now ask whether you can reasonably look a short way into the future. Based on the changes you’ve seen, and a little intelligent forecasting, you just might be able to glimpse something of what might come next.

The person who thinks actively about where an industry is going is less easily caught by surprises, and better positioned to lead.

This week, make three predictions about where your industry might be headed. Then ask yourself whether you can see any opportunities within these potentialities. Could intelligent forecasting help you to own your industry?  

Certainly, knowledge is power. But getting ahead of the knowledge is an opportunity to become the greatest in your game. 

If ever you study how ‘talent’ is developed in the human brain, you’ll quickly discover that ‘Myelin’ is the new black. 

I’ve been reading about how struggle helps to grow this incredible substance in the human brain. Basically, the longer you grapple with ‘how to do a thing,’ the more myelin you develop. Myelin helps your neurons to connect faster and to carry more signals, quicker. Growing it through constant practice is similar to developing ‘broadband’ for the human brain. 

By coincidence, at about the same time as I was reading about this phenomenon, I happened to overhear someone complaining about their lack of advantages in life. “God didn’t give me anything; nothing but constant struggles.” 

Here’s a Copernican Revolution: Perhaps a better way to look at it is, “God blessed me with the ultimate opportunity to become supremely talented.” Struggle sustained is the very stuff of talent. No opportunity to struggle = no talent. 

I guess it’s all about how you look at life. Perhaps becoming the greatest in your game is less about having all of the answers than it is about having the opportunity to struggle long enough and hard enough to find them. 

Got five minutes? Grab a sheet of paper and do this quickly: 

In simple bullet-points, write down the characteristics of the ultimate player in your industry. 

Assume the kind of person who is already at the top of this game. What would such a person have? What would such a person be? What are their characteristics, their qualifications? 

To what extent can you get your head around genuinely adding these things to your personal profile? By way of recognition of your own efforts to date, how many do you already have? 

Life is too nuanced, too intricate, for there ever to exist something as simplistic as an ‘absolute blueprint’ for success. Each success story must necessarily be unique. Yet it is the qualities of successful people which are the great constants. These individuals - the people in the bullet-points - will find their way through the unique pathways and challenges to the heights of success because of the kind of people they are. 

To own your industry, pursue the person you see in the bullet-points. Start with the clear knowledge of who that person must be. 

How do you balance efficiency with innovation? How do you encourage innovation while still running a highly technical operation and running it well? 

As part of the research for my next book, ‘Relentlessly Relevant - 50 Ways to Innovate,’ I recently interviewed the Marketing Manager of BMW South Africa, the company recently voted ‘Coolest Brand’ in the Sunday Times Coolest Brand survey. 

I posed the question, ‘How does BMW allow, enable, or cope with innovation at staff level, particularly given that you have to be process and efficiency driven?’ 

Guy Kilfoil, head of Brand Management & Marketing Services, told me, “You touched on the answer in your question. We are not a process driven company, we are an efficiency driven company.

“The basic premise of efficiency is doing the same with less resources or doing more with the same resources. We drive our staff to live this in everything they do. We want them to ask questions like: "Is this the best way of doing things?"; "Can we do something a different way to get the same or better result?" or "how can we improve this?". 

“In that sort of environment innovation not only thrives, it is demanded.”

BMW invites its people not to follow a set of process rules, but instead to be guided by a philosophy. That’s a world away from the practice of mandating rules. A philosophy informs the team about ‘what the goal is,’ but gives them leeway to chase it intelligently, where rules only prescribe ‘what to do.’ 

The guiding principle is: ‘How can this be better?’ Based on this, BMW staff are invited to evaluate their own part of the project, take ownership of its problems, and propose solutions. In this way, they promote a culture of innovation through every department. Put it all together, and you create the conditions necessary to own your industry. 

Owning an industry means proving your worth, beyond all doubt, on a near industrial scale. To what degree is that your current focus?

The worth of a top-name expert is so patently obvious that price-stickers cease to apply. Buyers understand that it’s well worth the outlay to get the results. The act of becoming a top-name expert, therefore, is largely the art of convincing buyers that your results are worth the outlay. Perhaps many times over. 

Is it absolutely, patently, obviously self-evident that paying for you will bring returns on an exponential scale? …To what degree does your marketing and PR make that plain? To what extent do your results and testimonials? Or does your messaging simply focus on the greatness and gloriousness of you? 

Display your worth by displaying your results, by clarifying and quantifying the results you get for clients and by making it patently obvious why an investment in you is a vote for a more prosperous future. Make your intangibles obvious, and own your industry. 

When Reg Lascaris and John Hunt decided to start Africa’s most successful advertising agency (a feat they achieved in the form of TBWA / Hunt Lascaris), they began with no funds, no people, no infrastructure and no clients. But they had one driving purpose and it was certainly not just to be ‘among’ the top players. It was, quite simply, to own the top spot. 

Their vision statement (inspired by a few beers and a rather gung-ho conversation), became ‘To own the first world-class agency out of Africa,’ to which they later tagged the inspiring addendum, ‘Because life’s too short to be mediocre.’ 

Deciding to be ‘good’ is not nearly as effective as deciding to be ‘the very best.’ 

How audacious are your goals? Deciding to be ‘good’ allows a great deal of leeway. Deciding to the very best inspires much more obsessive behaviour, and that’s a recipe for higher-level thinking and more intense levels of research, practice and performance.

Whether your goal is to become the highest paid consultant in your industry, or the most renowned creative mind in your field, the biggest brand or the first to market, this will always be your first step: Obsess about being the best. Don’t aim for good. Aim for ‘the greatest.’ Don't aim for 'relevant.' Go for 'significant.' And own your industry. 

‘We’re all the same.’  

On the surface it’s a noble ideal. In practice, human sameness would be the end of innovation, the end of progress, the end of individual greatness. In a world of utter equality, Michael Jackson would have been an unacceptable anomaly; Branson an aberration to be abhorred.  

Equality before the law? Yes. Equality of opportunity? Yes. All people are equal? Not on your life. High achievers live and think and act and see things very, very differently, and there impact is exponentially greater.  

As Seth Goden expresses in his excellent book, ‘The Icarus Deception,’ you have been encultured to think small, to think compliant. Will society win? Will it ‘same’ you?  

Rioters and dreamers rule the world. 

This week, seek distinction. We are not nameless, faceless humanity. We are wonderously unique individuals with profoundly personal strengths. Our chief poem and tribute to the Creator is to use them.  

Stand out and become the greatest in your game. And never apologise for it.

He was arguably one of the greatest authors of all time, and ascribed his own success to a simple thing: Relentless output. In his autobiography, the late James A. Michener recalled a period in his life in which he would write over 7 000 words per day, an act he described as ‘an almost indecent display of industry.’ 

Michener was seen, worldwide, as the foremost author of historical fiction. And just like Stephen King, who is often lauded as the best-selling living author today, his output was both prodigious, and, over the course of decades, consistent.  

Imagine if James A. Michener, or Stephen King, had written what they considered to be their ‘one great novel,’ and then stopped there. Picture Stephen King writing Carrie, then sitting back in his seat and saying, “Right! I’m done. The world can give me a career now.”  

Forty years later, King remains at the top of the bestseller lists. He owns his industry, because he is a constant producer.  

It is a constant gradient of productive output that ultimately becomes a real career and has people recognising you as someone at the top of your game. 

If you are the expert in Flowers, when will you write a book on the topic? And what will the second book be about? And the third? What new things can you do around flowers? Is there some novel new way to present them to your market? Is there a TV show that you could do on them (and preferably something a little cleverer and quirkier than just a gardening show), or perhaps a road show? What’s the next big thing in Flowers? Have you stamped your intellectual mark on it? When people think about flowers, why should they think about you?  

Consistent output is key. Be a constant producer and own your industry. 

Non-sheep stand out badly. 

Left-field thinking, of the ilk that fails to fit the cookie-cutter mould, must necessarily seem very noticeable to anyone who is essentially a compliant cookie. Sheep feel uncomfortable around those who ignore the traditional steps. 

But persevere in your creative, lateral thinking; the kind that doesn’t ask ‘how do people usually behave,’ and rather asks, ‘what needs to be done?’, and you will ultimately rise above the sheep. 

That’s when a funny thing happens. Fear and distance turn to awe and admiration. The sheep start to love you. 

Your thinking is a little unusual? Unorthodox? Lateral, different, creative, strategic? Weird? Hang in there. You will only be an outcast until you win. Then you’ll be hailed as a hero.

Stick to your guns, O beautiful oddity. Be strategic, and own your industry. 

Your mind belongs to you and you are permitted to think freely.

This is no small statement. 

If you live in a nation, and among a people, who permit you to think freely, to read anything you want to read, and to voice thoughts contrary to those of the national leadership or religion, without fear of imprisonment or death, take a moment this Monday morning to think about how wonderful this is. 

There are billions of sentient human beings on this planet who do not have those rights. Imagine what it means not to be permitted to think for yourself; to be forbidden a contrary opinion. 

Thinking - free and genuine thinking, without fear of reprisal - is a magnificent and precious gift.

Here follows yet another week in which you are free to dream, free to imagine, free to create the life you desire based upon your gift of thought, which is yours to wield as a free individual. 

The best show of gratitude for any gift is its full and complete usage. Here's to you letting your light shine. Here's to you becoming the greatest in your game!

It feels wonderful to be believed in and lousy to have your abilities doubted, and both scenarios are good for you. 

Being believed in gives us a certain freedom to soar; to act without reserve, to explore without consequence, because others have given us freedom and leeway. But there is equal, and possibly even greater value, in doubt. The doubt of others forces you to refine and to focus. 

Last week I worked with a new client. We had no history together, no track record, and the scenario was such that if I didn’t deliver a quality experience, her neck would be on the line. Understandably, she was nervous. 

After ten years in the industry, I take my own capacity to deliver for granted, which can lead to a lax approach. Her uncertainty actually spurred me on to deliver more than usual. Her doubt was a catalyst for self-reflection and even higher levels of focus and performance. I needed it and it’s been good for me. 

Doubt can be good for you too. It can anger you, annoy you, cause you to resent its source. But it also forces you to prove yourself and that’s valuable. 

When you lay you down to sleep, by all means, say a word of thanks for the people who think you’re God’s gift to the world. Then say a second word of thanks for those who don’t. They create necessary discomfort. They force you to force yourself. They can be the catalyst you need to become the greatest in your game. 

This week, take a moment to feel, at a deep and personal level, the effect that they have on you. Then go out there and show them! 

“Here’s the problem: The top three or four business schools in the country all work from the same sources. We use the same textbooks, the same materials, even the same ideas. And yet one always comes out on top. And I’ve always wondered why!” 

I was chatting with the frustrated marketing manager of a business school that found itself perennially competing for second and third place. I had just delivered a presentation titled ‘Own Your Industry,’ and he had been in the audience. I had made the point that knowledge alone was insufficient to create an industry leader; be it an individual or a brand. One has to add two more ingredients to the mix before industry leadership may be achieved, in the form of personality and publicity. 

“The penny dropped for me when you said that,” he told me. “Because our dean is not keen on speaking in public. He is reluctant to appear in the media. And the dean at the school that holds the top spot is the exact opposite. He’s an outspoken public figure who’s always seen in the limelight. That’s their differentiator. That’s why they are seen as number one. The difference is in the dean.” 

‘The Difference is in the Dean.’

Sometimes, it’s the sheer iconic status of the individual that sets a brand apart.

When your buildings look the same, stand on the roof with a colourful flag. Resolve not to compete on price, but rather on the energy of thought leadership, and you can own your industry.

 

Read the full, article-length version here: http://www.douglaskruger.co.za/articles/article-136/The_Difference_is_in_the_Dean___Professional_Speaker_Douglas_Kruger.html

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ If you enjoy classic novels, you’ll recognise that as the opening line of George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ 

I picked it up this weekend and a conversation in chapter five has been playing around in my mind ever since. 

A character who works at the ‘Ministry of Truth,’ which aids Big Brother in controlling the minds of the population, is employed to carry out a strange task. His job is to simplify the language, which, in turn, will simplify people’s thinking. Over lunch, he explains his task to the main character: 

‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words… Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it… …Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller… The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect… The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’ 

Today’s thought, based on this sinister passage, is a simple one: The limits of your language really are the limits of your world. Language is nothing more nor less than the encoding of ideas, so how strong is your current capacity to encode? Greater code equals greater capacity for thought. It’s like having a larger network of wires through which electricity can run; a greater number of roads for your potential traffic.

The more you increase your capacity to encode, the greater the quantity and agility of your ideas becomes. Need more ideas? Learn more words. Always be reading and you will always be growing.

Raising the power of your language - the efficacy of your expression - is equal to raising your capacity for influence. Speak well, write well, think well - dance with the building blocks of creation - and you can become the greatest in your game. 

Consistency adds up over time. Small increments of effort, repeated diligently, become significant.

But from time to time, one great act of completely disruptive behaviour can equate to a quantum leap in your progress; a leap that happens in days, rather than years. Can you recall the last time you did something so big that it changed everything? Aren’t you about due for another such act? 

What if you challenged yourself to do the next big thing this week, and it changed everything again? What if you took one bold step that took your entire story up a level? 

Think strategically. What is the biggest lever available to you? What single act could radically alter your trajectory? This week, look beyond your daily norms and find that next step up.

Disrupt your momentum, re-claim your story, and aim to become the greatest in your game! 

Experts exist at the intersection of three qualities. Take any one out of the mix and you no longer have an expert. 

The three necessary ingredients for expert-positioning are: 

  1. Knowledge
  2. Personality
  3. Publicity. 
Most people assume that knowledge alone is sufficient, but it’s untrue. You can be the most highly educated practitioner in your field and still be ignored or underpaid. Take Personality and Publicity out of the mix, and you are not seen as an icon. You are merely a specialist, and the remuneration is not on the same level. 

The leading industry names are always personalities seen regularly in the media and at public events. We know their faces and voices, their thoughts and opinions.

Here is the formula to remember: If you have all the Knowledge but none of the Personality, you are a specialist. If you have all the Personality but none of the Knowledge, you are a Kardashian.

May you own your industry

Oprah once said that the best answer to racism was personal excellence. The concept can be taken even further. Personal excellence is the solution to a great many things, one of which is the catastrophically damaging labour unrest currently choking our economy into negative growth. 

Yes, it’s strike season in South Africa. Again. Or still.

Far too often, our labour unions exist at the opposite end of the spectrum to Personal Excellence. Naturally, they started as a good idea: Representation for workers in the face of exploitation. A protector against bullies. 

But in the case of far too many South African unions, the pendulum has swung the other way and they have become the new bullies. Rather than encourage personal excellence, they protect incompetence. Their culture grows increasingly violent. They make it impossible for business owners to fire non-performers. 

There’s another way to live: 

Experts and icons, specialists and high-level achievers live and think very differently. Rather than desiring the protection of a group of people with the same skill level, they endeavour to stand out by raising their skill. They are constantly growing, constantly improving themselves, constantly becoming ‘worth more.’ Their value does not need violent representation. It speaks for itself.

Because of this dynamic, high-level performers also do not need to strike. Their expertise is so valuable that the market comes to them. They charge what they want and get it, because they are worth it.

US speaker and author Randy Gage summed it up: ‘If you are a commodity, they will shop you on price. If you are the icon, they will build the event around you.’ 

I contend that most labour unions would become redundant if South Africa’s leaders promoted individual excellence. Instead, we have seen a continual lowering of educational standards to ensure that ‘everyone passes.’ This is the opposite of excellence-mentality. It says, ‘mob is right,’ rather than, ‘pursue excellence and deserve reward.’ 

Imagine if our striking workers put the same energy into continuing education as they did into trashing public streets. Imagine if their leaders put the same energy into encouraging personal development among their membership as they do into encouraging the destruction of viable businesses and facilities.

It is almost impossible to change the beliefs of others. But you can pursue your own excellence. You can raise your own value. You can make the choice to increase your income through self-improvement, rather than violent demands of more compensation for the same value of labour. 

Your thinking determines your reality. I choose personal excellence over entitlement. How about you? 

May you raise your own value until you become the greatest in your game.

Positioning’ is the art of being seen in the right light. Public Speaking is the art of leading a room. Combine the two and you have a potent formula for career-advancement. 

When last did you volunteer to lead the room by speaking in public? When last did you invest in raising perceptions of yourself?

Most people will avoid public speaking like hard exercise, but acting outside of what ‘most people’ would do will set you apart. If anything, industry icons seek out the things that most people are not willing to do and call them an action plan. 

What’s the next big industry event on your calendar? When will the high-level role-players gather in the same room with you? Imagine if you put your name down, today, as one of the speakers on the agenda. Find a topic of value and commit to presenting it. Make the offer today and change your trajectory. Have the courage and own your industry. 

The intellectual way of stating it is to say, ‘Operating at the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy.’ But that’s not really what it feels like, is it? 

When you’re in the zone, everything flows. It’s like that car ad, where the lines on the road move faster and faster. Everything blurs, but simultaneously, becomes infinitely more focused. Time fades into irrelevance and your mind comes alive. Neurons ignite and the sense of focus sharpens your gaze. You quietly and reverently admit to yourself that you were born for this. 

Has it been a while since you’ve felt that way? All the motivational tricks in the world are no match for a genuine love of what you do. And all the financial rewards in the world will not draw as much out of you either. Love it to the core of your being, and it’s easy to become the greatest in your game. 

The good news is that, as with all relationships, you can re-ignite the flame.

Start with the best memories.

Which working moments have left you exhausted but satisfied? Dusty, beaten and ruffled, but filled to the brim on the inside? Which days stand out as important chapters in your total life story? When last did you feel completely, utterly, unrepentantly alive? 

This is your game, your life, your field, your story, your industry. Make it count. Take a moment this morning to reignite your first love. Dig deep and catch the flame. Take it forward into the week. Own your industry. 

I once spoke with a friend who was terrified of approaching the media. ‘Firstly, who am I?,’ he argued, quite passionately, against his own interests. ‘And secondly, isn’t that just shamelessly punting yourself?’ 

As US author and consultant Alan Weiss often says, ‘If you’re not banging your own drum, there is no noise.’ And as for ‘Who am I?’; I believe that the barrier to entry for thought-leadership exists only in your own mind. So nominate yourself. 

Entrepreneurs live and die by publicity. Owning your industry is the cumulative result of your regular appearances in the media as an industry thought-leader, so it’s best to get comfortable with it early on. 

This week, I dare you to approach the media. Target a specific show. Find a publication that speaks to your market. Offer an interview or write an article and submit it.

If you’ve done it before, then I dare you to raise the ante. You got onto a regional show? Now try a national one. You were published in a small-title magazine? Now try for Forbes. 

Offer an interesting thought; propose a novel angle; show that you can give value to their audience; educate or entertain, or, in a best-case scenario, do a little of both. Experiment with your own interaction with the media, and learn about how to speak through their amplified channels.

Here’s to you developing your voice and presence in the media. 

Your earning potential depends upon your positioning. Your positioning depends upon your branding. Your branding is a game of perceptions, and perceptions are developed and managed over time. To own your industry, your points of representation must say the right things.

How many points of representation do you have, carrying your name to the world? How many flags announce your brand? For most people there are four: Your website, your CV, your brochure and your social sites. 

Do they still reflect the premium tone of a top-level performer? Our gut-reaction is to assume that they do, but we tend to have a blind-spot in this area. 

This week, why not open your marketing materials to feedback from experts whom you trust? Whenever I have tried this exercise, I have been consistently astonished at the range and complexity of outdated or underwhelming points of representation. A biography that I considered quite strong was actually begging for an upgrade, but I was too close to see it.

True premium players are strong enough to assume that there are blind-spots beyond their awareness. They are hungry enough to seek out feedback and change these blind-spots. Their desire to own their industry is stronger than their pride and they love opportunities to grow.

May your love of growth help you to own your industry! 

Sure, plenty of things may niggle, but we’re not talking about small frustrations.Forget petty annoyances like slow wifi, lack of filing space or tedious admin. What’s your big one? What is the Goliath of barriers currently holding you back? 

Rather than do what 90 per cent of people do, which is to deny the big problem, tinker with the little ones like slow wifi, and hope that Goliath will go away of his own accord, how about confronting him head on? How about doing it this week? 

You only need to do it once and then it’s done. Find out what it would take to slay him and your trajectory will be forever altered. 

Consider: There is absolutely no career problem you can possibly face that has not been faced before. Faced and solved. Solved and written about.

The answer to your single biggest barrier is out there and it can be found if you will look for it. 

How about setting the admin and the slow wifi and all of the other petty annoyances aside, just for this week? Commit yourself to one task: Define your great Goliath.

Define precisely what he is and how he is holding you back. Seek out the solution and slay him. Then see what your life is like on the other side.

After your Goliath is gone, after the river begins to flow in full force, you’ll be amazed how easily the smaller problems can be solved.

Change your life. Solve the big one this week. Own Your Industry. 

This week I shared a stage with advertising legend Reg Lascaris. Reg’s firm, Hunt Lascaris, is responsible for award-winning TV ads like the mouse walking on the BMW steering wheel and the Nando’s ‘barking chicken.’

As part of a panel of authors at the Kingsmead Book Fair, Reg told the story of how Hunt Lascaris began.

“We spent an evening brainstorming how we were going to be the greatest advertising agency ever to come out of Africa,” he said. “Of course there was a lot of beer involved! The next morning we woke up terrified about the scope of our goal. But then we started to ask, ‘Well, why shouldn’t we be the greatest name in our industry? And so, that became our starting point and our thinking developed around that goal. That was our objective from Day One.”

Owning your industry may be a process of a decade or more. But it is not until you have actually made the call to become the greatest that your process begins. Articulate your desire and your journey is underway. Make the commitment and you will find the means.

Start right. Commit to the highest goal. Here’s to you becoming the greatest in your game!

Heroes attract emulation. It’s natural to want to be like our icons. The desire drives and inspires us. 

The trouble is, if you merely strive to be like the greats, the best you might actually achieve is: a pale comparison of. 

Here’s a more effective way of channeling that desire. Study the greats with the intention of exceeding them. Find out their means and methods. Learn their numbers and inputs. Then top them.

Michael Jackson thought that way. In a radio interviewer, one of his sound-recorders observed that Michael would obsessively study other musicians, deconstructing everything they did in minute detail, with the stated goal of doing better. Schwarzenegger did the same when studying the kings of bodybuilding; learning their numbers in order to exceed them. Every leading icon studies the greats - studies them obsessively - but then introduces something more, something extra, something uniquely them. 

Who are your heroes? Can you currently even conceive of exceeding them? Conceive of it. Then go out there and do it!

Here’s the problem: The longer you are good at what you do - consistently excellent - the less people will notice. Your function is dealt with so perfectly that it falls off the radar. Sustained perfection becomes expected, and thus, under-valued.

When last did you think about the air-conditioning in your car? Only when it broke. Only when the gas ran out.

Remember this phrase: Excellence sustained can become invisible. 

And when do they notice you again? When the wheels fall off. When the undercarriage drops out. When the fan is dripping with unmentionable substances. 

Rather than bemoan the injustice, do this: Find a way to make a big, noticeable PR splash. You need something that draws attention back to you. Your options are to: Grow, shift, fix or change something.

Within your working environment, what could you grow? What could you shift? What could you fix or change? These are the levers by which you can become noticed again. These are your keys to renewed relevance. 

Think beyond sustained excellence. Think ‘splash.’ And rule your game. 

Wisdom holds that you should know all the right key players in your industry. That’s a pretty good start. But to become the greatest in your game, you will need a slightly different approach. To become the greatest in your game, all the right key players must know who you are. 

Could you be voted into your industry’s hall of fame? If not, is it because the current thought-leadership in your field - the gliterati of your game - are unaware of you? 

If so, change that. It’s not their job to discover you. It’s your job to be discovered. 

To own your industry, become prominent in the minds that create the current environmental framework. 

What do industry leaders tend to respect? Technical competence is a must, but they also see it as a given. At the level of leadership in any industry, higher values generally come into play. Above and beyond your unquestionable competence, do you portray the values that the top tier hold to be admirable? Do you genuinely care about this industry?

Go forth and rule your world! 

Most people dream of a ‘slightly better’ version of their current career. Utopia for the average Joe would be what they have, plus a little more of this and a little less of that. 

How bland! I’d like to invite you to think significantly bigger than the average Joe. I’d like to invite you to spend 10 structured minutes being utterly audacious and envisaging a future way, way beyond your current reality. 

Here’s mine: I once drove by a billboard on the highway, advertising a public event with Robin Sharma. It was sponsored by Forbes, Rolex and a brand of car that costs more than most people’s homes. One day, I’ll see my name on a highway billboard in a foreign nation, proudly sponsored by the gold-standard of high-end snobbery. 

What’s yours? 

Here’s your challenge, and it will only take you ten minutes: Fix your ultimate in your mind’s eye; the biggest, fullest, most vivid and desirable  career you can envisage. Then, in ten minutes of free-flow brainstorming, write down any step or requirement you can think of that might actually get you there.

I am willing to bet that when you zoom back, you’ll discover that a great portion of your ideas are eminently doable. Hard. But doable. And I’m willing to bet that the exercise will leave you thinking: ‘So, why don’t I?’

Here’s to you becoming the greatest in your game! 

In the third Terminator movie, Arnie, in machine guise, gives John O’Connor advice to live by (while holding him a foot off the ground by the neck as John squirms like a fish on a line): “Anger,” he declares, “is more useful than despair.” 

Ever felt despair over the rate and pace of your development? Fallen into mental quick-sand when things weren’t going as fast as you needed?     

It’s a trap. The more you fixate over it, the more you slow. The more you slow, the less you do. It is the quintessential self-fulfilling prophecy.

Try this, and do it quickly: 

Turn your despair into anger. Coalesce the vague and useless mist of uncertainty and insecurity into a focused ball of energy, and then do. Specifically, do 5 things that could generate more for you. Don’t spend the morning planning them out; simply do them.

The point is action, not thought. Change your gait, your stride, your gear, your speed, your mode, your momentum, and do them immediately. 5 things. Have them done within the next few hours at most. Life will be different afterwards. You will be different afterwards.

Anger is more useful than despair. Let’s shake your world up right now. Don’t think. Go! 

The universe runs on numbers. So do top performers, and it doesn't only apply in the world of Sales. 

Years ago, I started recording my numbers at gym; amount of weight, numbers of sets, total reps accomplished. Thereafter, I was consistently amazed at how I under-performed before referring to the numbers. I would think that I had reached my limits, but a quick check would reveal that I was only performing at 80% capacity.

Numbers cannot, will not, do not lie. Apply your numbers with discipline and you can conquer anything. Want to write a book in order to position yourself as an expert? Set a word-count for the day; then don't go to bed until you've achieved it. Mastering a skill? Attack Malcolm Gladwell's prescribed '10 000 hours' with structured, measurable chunks of deliberate practice. Growing a career? Find the levers - whether they are a number of contacts made per day, networking events attended per month, or articles written per year - and utterly submit yourself to them. 

Learn the numbers of the top performers in your industry. How much do they really put in? The numbers may awe you, but ultimately, anything known becomes less intimidating.

Numbers. They are your keepers, your masters, your determinants. Let them be your dictators and they will become your liberators. 

Prosperity. If you were raised in a middle-class or working-class family, chances are it doesn't come naturally to you. We see ourselves in a certain light, haloed by the background of our youth, our struggles and our circumstances, and it affects our choices. How? We negotiate based on how powerful we perceive ourselves to be. We fight for and accept only as much we believe ourselves worthy of having. 

What if you changed your own perceptions around your value? Imagine the strength with which you might negotiate. Imagine if you altered your own narrative and believed yourself to be worth more. Multi-millionaires go broke or bankrupt many times over but still believe themselves to be wealthy. Their perception is that they simply don't have cash at this point in time. Today, raise your value before your own eyes, and buy into the idea that you are going to be something amazing in the universe. You are going to become the greatest in your game. 

Here's to your success story!

‘Universally inoffensive.’ It’s not the goal.

In our fearful early days of industry involvement, our desire for approval is all-consuming. Becoming an iconic voice requires the courage to exist on a bigger scale than that, the strength to be something and to be it with strength.

Have you inadvertently been trying to portray a ‘kindly old uncle’ persona? Everybody’s sweet aunty?

This cautious approach will take you so far, but iconic status will always lie beyond it.

True thought-leaders think strong, speak strong, represent boldness. There are ‘dislikes’ on their YouTube videos. They are something enough to have detractors.

Certainly, it is not their goal to offend, but it is never something they fear either. Be cautious of caution, and fear the pursuit of the overly inoffensive, and you can become the greatest in your game.

The biggest industry names generally move forward entire fields and champion brand new ideas. But let’s be fair. You can’t be that inspired every week. Or even every year.

Good news: Simply knowing what you know will also make you a thought leader. You consume Everests of info each week. Most people don’t have the time to chase down all of those articles, attend the conferences, process the chatter that comprise your world.

So compile what you know and teach. Not every article has to be revolutionary, not every tweet or video groundbreaking. A solid foundation of knowledge is also enough.

If you’ve read three or more books about your area of expertise, you’re probably already better versed than others. And if you know a little more than them, you can teach. And you can begin to become the greatest in your game.