During my many years at Boardroom (the iconic publisher and direct marketer) we never met an idea we didn’t like.
That can be a huge burden…you know, “too many ideas, not enough time.”
But looked at another way, “too many ideas” might be the single, most important reason we became so iconic (and so successful).
The problem isn’t the number of good ideas you create but how you deal with them as they surface.
A good idea today that may not be worthy of taking further, may be a good idea tomorrow (especially when it gets combined with a newer idea from that wonderful world of tomorrow).
They each become a dot to connect to each other.
Previous, current and future ideas are all welcome in this “house of dots.”
Yesterday’s idea with tomorrow’s idea becomes a better idea than either of them was on their own.
1 + 1 = 3
At Boardroom, whenever we had one of our famous freewheeling creative brainstorming meetings (where there are no bad ideas), there was always a section on the white board which said:
That simple addition made all the difference in the world in those meetings (and to the company):
- It enabled the folks in the room not to get derailed by an idea that was not ready, not cooked enough or needed much more seasoning.
- It freed everyone’s brain to continue the firehose of ideas without reflection on any one idea.
- It gave permission to actually put a bad idea (that can never really be a bad idea mind you!) someplace safe and warm, probably never to be addressed again (which is OK by the way).
The key is to have a parking lot big enough…dare I say much bigger than the number of offices or people in your company…to hold everything and anything that gets captured over time.
And thankfully this parking lot doesn’t allow loitering…and neither are there any “physical products” (e.g. “cars”)–or anything else–that takes up real space.
This kind of parking lot will accommodate all ideas and never be confused with a junkyard.
Our parking lot of ideas at Boardroom was the single biggest asset we owned (well…maybe second to our 9 million name database) over the 34 years I spent there.
The lot was always full—but also with room to spare (when does that ever happen without giving the parking attendant a huge tip)? ☺
Keeping it full–with the option to pull any idea out at any time–led to the biggest and most successful marketing campaigns we ever did.
I’ve written about many of these…for example:
- How we eventually got on TV to the tune of $200 million in sales after the basic idea was in the parking lot for 15 years…and there wasn’t even any rust on the idea despite all that time in storage.
- How we developed a book division of “other people’s content” which was in the lot for over a decade (but we never paid a dime in overtime parking).
- How we eventually got to work with the most prolific copywriters and marketers when the initial idea to work with them was only a gleam in our eye. Once we pulled them out of the lot, when the time was right, there was no oil leaking from any of them. Their engines started up immediately.
That brings me to what I want to discuss today, which is a refrain I hear all too often, and specifically over the past couple of weeks as I’ve been reaching out to those members who are up for renewal in my virtual mastermind, Titans Xcelerator (TXL).
Despite achieving a 70% renewal rate to date (which I’ve been told is quite good for a low priced mastermind/coaching group), I still want to know about “the other 30%.”
Not because I am greedy (in terms of money)…or because I grew up in a house where getting a 98% on an exam triggered the question, “what happened to the other 2%?”
I encourage you to read the P.P.S. below for further insight on why I think I’ve got a 70% renewal rate…I am positive it didn’t happen by magic…
So if it’s not the money, what am I after with my follow up to the 30%?
The one question I ask the non-renewals:
Is there anything I could have done during the year that would have led to a different result for you?
That’s not because I believe TXL is for everyone…I know it’s not…or is it to get a list of grievances and then address every objection…and then put on the full court press to get them to reconsider.
Not my game.
Also: When I ask I am prepared for them to give me their harshest feedback and criticism. And then I sit back and listen and try like hell to not get defensive and not to take it personally.
I always ask for the bad news first in every situation.
But if you recall from last week in Life during wartime, I made the point that we either “win” (in this case, get the renewal) or “learn” (why we didn’t get the renewal).
And that way, we (or in this case I) never “lose” a renewal.
Sounds a bit pollyannaish…and this mindset could send me to the poor house someday…but somehow I doubt it.
Why go through life as a loser rather than a learner? ☺
Besides the usual reasons for not renewing—which are usually about money (not enough of it) and time (too much of it, but spending it elsewhere, oftentimes frivolously), the one objection that makes me want to scream is a version of this:
I’m spending too much time learning, and not enough time doing.
As we both know, all the learning in the world is worthless if not implemented.
That sounds good…but I believe it’s based on a faulty premise that learning and implementation are mutually exclusive.
You can’t implement anything without learning…and you can never take a break from learning to implement.
After all, if you learn something additional (and related) to what you are implementing, even while you are implementing it, might you implement it better?
Or you can even pull out some “learning” from the parking lot that makes it better too.
Learning and implementation always work in tandem, not against each other.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Amadeus, which if you haven’t seen it (and you must!), is a fictionalized biography about Wolfgang “Amadeus” Mozart which follows Italian composer Antonio Salieri’s rivalry with Mozart at the court of Emperor Joseph II.
One of my favorite scenes in the film (actually one of dozens that are memorable) is this dialogue after Mozart presents a brand new piece of work (which is extraordinary of course) to the Emperor:
EMPEROR: Well, Herr Mozart! A good effort. Decidedly that. An excellent effort! You’ve shown us something quite new today.
[Mozart bows frantically: he is over-excited.]
MOZART: It is new, it is, isn’t it, Sire?
EMPEROR: Yes, indeed.
MOZART: So then you like it? You really like it, Your Majesty?
EMPEROR: Of course I do. It’s very good. Of course now and then – just now and then – it gets a touch elaborate.
MOZART: What do you mean, Sire?
EMPEROR: Well, I mean occasionally it seems to have, how shall one say? [he stops in difficulty; turning to Orsini-Rosenberg] How shall one say, Director?
ORSINI-ROSENBERG: Too many notes, Your Majesty?
EMPEROR: Exactly. Very well put. Too many notes.
MOZART: I don’t understand. There are just as many notes, Majesty, as are required. Neither more nor less.
EMPEROR: My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening. I think I’m right in saying that, aren’t I, Court Composer?
SALIERI: Yes! yes! er, on the whole, yes, Majesty.
MOZART: But this is absurd!
EMPEROR: My dear, young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Cut a few and it will be perfect.
MOZART: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?
EMPEROR: Well. There it is. [Dismissing Mozart completely]
The Emperor reminds me of someone who didn’t renew Titans Xcelerator—although I don’t recall Joseph The Second ever enrolling as a member…nor had I launched the program yet in the mid-18th Century.
So it definitely wasn’t him. ☺
But it might have been one of his relatives centuries later who told me there were “too many good ideas” coming out of the group (i.e. too many notes)
This guy didn’t renew because he was frustrated that he couldn’t find the time to work on (or execute on) all the amazing things he was learning.
Yes…that made me scream (but not at him of course).
I was not insulted nor did I try very hard to keep him in the group–and I promised to help him in the future (which I have).
Ironically, the two biggest initiatives he decided to focus on most intently when he left (and now with no distractions from any other good ideas getting in the way—note my sarcasm) could be sourced directly to two presentations given by guest speakers at my mastermind.
So in a way, my work was done there–but I couldn’t help but feel I had failed him–and I was a bit glum.
And he ran away just when we were getting cooking on his business…double glum. ☹
I didn’t have a model in my mind at the time (that I now have) to convince him that additional ideas could be additive to what he was currently working on…and if not, I could have shown him a blueprint to begin construction on his very own, sparkling new, parking lot.
As a “quick start” entrepreneur, and I know many of you are, it’s easy to get overwhelmed…and that’s why you must have a system to catalog, store and have at the ready as many new ideas as possible all the time.
For my higher priced masterminds, I do a one-on-one Zoom interview with every prospective member…and I even did that pre-COVID.
Everyone I interview has two things in common:
1) They are all best-in-class, multi-channel, direct response marketers.
2) They are all incredibly successful at generating excitement (and profit) in a specific area they are passionate about.
Knowing that, I ask the same question of every one of them after spending some time talking about the history and trajectory of their businesses:
“What is holding you back in the growth of your business?”
Almost all of the answers I receive can be put into three buckets:
1) “I have too many ideas and I don’t know which ones to focus on first.”
2) “I don’t receive enough candid feedback and constructive criticism on my new ideas that I can really trust.”
3) “I don’t receive enough new ideas from others.”
Too many ideas
This is a problem we all face whether we are entrepreneurs or senior executives.
And the real definition of this problem is that “too many” means “not enough time or resources to get the best ones done”; and “which ones may need to get stored safely for a later date.”
It’s all about that constant battle to create the right balance between idea generation and getting the essential ideas into the pipeline, if appropriate, (and then staying focused).
The country’s foremost expert in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) Ned Hallowell, believes that there would be no entrepreneurs if this “affliction” called ADD, that affects so many of us, did not exist.
Shiny objects definitely serve a purpose as they pertain to innovation; but they also create potential chaos.
Therefore ADD is far from being a stigma…it’s a strength…although it clearly can get in the way of productivity.
Ned (and many others) also believe that controlling and resisting the urge that all entrepreneurs have to chase every shiny object (immediately) is crucial to achieving their greatest success in business.
There is no quick solution to this problem but most of the entrepreneurs and leaders I interact with regularly understand that if they can get the right systems (and people) in place for implementation (which in most cases is not their strong suit), the results can be extraordinary.
Plus they need that parking lot.
And they also need a key “#2,” a second rainmaker, a topic in itself for another blog post.
These are all major themes and something we discuss regularly among the members of all my groups (especially Titans Xcelerator).
See the P.S. for an offer to get some free coaching on this or related subjects.
Not receiving candid feedback
Being able to tell the emperor he or she has no clothes (or that they know nothing about groundbreaking classical music) has been a problem forever.
And the problem arises from employees not wanting to rock the boat and the leader not really listening for subtle (but potentially powerful and useful) criticism.
It’s been my observation that a little extra open-mindedness and a true open-door policy from the entrepreneur or leader can be game changing.
If you are the CEO, always know that everyone is looking for ways not to be in conflict with you…and surrounding yourself with “yes men/women” will not lead to the results you really want.
You instinctively know this but rarely do we get introspective enough to do something about it.
Having the ultimate power to hire and fire always leads to getting a lot less truth…but you must work to get the truth…and make sure your team knows that they will not be penalized for telling the truth (or giving their contrarian opinion).
That’s why when you can’t rely on your internal employees to speak up, you better be in groups of like-minded individuals—e.g. Vistage, Young Presidents Organization, Entrepreneurs Organization, Strategic Coach, Masterminds of all kinds–to get your dose of honest feedback if you won’t or can’t hear it from employees.
Doing hot seats with your peers will get you that honest feedback…and I know that from experience.
See the P.P.S.—I may have just the peer group for you if you are a marketer or a copywriter—and it’s virtual and inexpensive too.
But don’t confuse that with ineffective and cheap. ☺
New ideas that may not be yours
This is the area that fascinates me the most.
I already said that most entrepreneurs I interact with have more ideas than they know what to do with and they know it’s the new (big) ideas that drive exponential growth.
But here’s the issue that comes up time and again from business owners:
The belief that every good idea worth pursuing needs to be their own.
This is the toughest one for entrepreneurs to accept and to even recognize it’s happening…and it is also understandable.
After all, no one else had the original “big idea” to get the party started in the first place (i.e. launch the company). That’s what makes entrepreneurs and founders…well…entrepreneurs and founders.
But I have seen so many businesses fail in the long term because the founder didn’t recognize great ideas from others in the organization readily.
That’s why they must go outside for those great ideas which aren’t their own.
And if they don’t get ideas from the inside or the outside, they are doomed.
In entrepreneurial businesses I encounter, most (if not all) of the “best ideas” come from one person…the person at the top of the food chain.
An excellent game plan initially but not for long term.
With no one inside the company giving them candid feedback to every brilliant idea they have (which happens about every 15 minutes or so), and no one coming up with new innovations…and not going to the outside for feedback or ideas either, that’s a prescription for disaster.
And it’s also a bit lonely.
Simply taking a hot seat in a mastermind where you get feedback on all of your brilliant ideas, might also yield an idea or two you have not thought of yet.
A focused hot seat in a room of peers (yes, folks smarter than yourself), can change your business in a heartbeat.
I mentioned this last week in Life during wartime–that being a “Lone Survivor” in the endless war of marketing is not something you should wear as a badge of honor.
In fact, being alone will eventually lead to you not surviving at all.
See the P.P.S. for more about this.
If it sounds like I have all of this handled myself, I don’t.
But I’ve been through a lot in the world of marketing over 40 years and I have the scars to show for it.
And that pain has led to a lot of pleasure.
What I’ve learned is that every idea is worth at least a “hearing”…and after the idea has its “day in court,” it moves to the NOW pile (with an action plan)…or into the NOT NOW pile (and gets parked in that triple decker, deluxe parking lot).
Whether you are a rainmaker creating rain (i.e. ideas) yourself, or drinking from the firehose of ideas from others, or just listening to compositions that have too many notes, you need to stop complaining and get busy by learning and implementing (simultaneously).
Here’s the prescription:
Soak all ideas in.
Drink up and stay hydrated (with ideas) always.
Listen to all notes (ideas) from everywhere (and the more notes the better).
Never meet an idea you don’t like.
Then…meet it, get cozy with it, and never eliminate it simply because your brain can’t process it at the time.
That’s what parking lots are made for.
P.S. Do you want to test my theory on the battlefield (i.e. on a free Zoom call with other like-minded direct response marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs)?
I’m hosting an “Ask Me Anything Webinar” on Tuesday, December 29th, at 7:00 p.m. EST.
I would be thrilled if you joined me…and I think you will be thrilled being there.
I will prove to you that no matter how many ideas you have on your plate, you can always handle a few hundred more. ☺
Because you now have the safety net called your parking lot…have you begun construction yet?
And you will also get awesome feedback on your current ideas (and challenges too) from me and a host of brainiac direct marketers if you submit a question.
A two-hour, free, mini-mastermind.
How good is that?
And there will be “prizes” (i.e. ethical bribes) just for showing up.
And also for submitting a question.
P.P.S. My most generous offer for Titans Xcelerator, in terms of price and priceless bonuses, closes January 1st at 11:59 p.m. PST.
Click here to take a closer look at the one group that will…
- …prevent you from becoming a “Lone Non-Survivor” in the year ahead.
- …COVID or no COVID, expose you to the most intimate yet virtual mastermind anywhere on this planet (or any other planet where there might be lifeforms).
- …travel well with you by allowing you to participate actively from anywhere in the world (i.e. that would be the planet Earth).
- …give you virtual hugs every day you are a member.
- …create an essential feedback loop for you and your business and a safe place where you get to choose your marketing family.
- …give you multiple entry points to success through live calls with world class speakers, real-time hot seats, presentations from members in their genius zones, a super active, private Facebook Group (where members share ideas, resources, even “gigs” for hire), a monthly mailing packed with content…and much more.
- …create a place you can go for trustworthy advice and loyal members—the 70% renewal rate in the first year is no joke.
- …create a return on your investment quickly as evidenced below (which just came into the TXL Facebook Group this week ):
[From Paul D.] “I have “dabbled” in this group and just dabbling gave me an over 807% return on the Titans entry (that’s just this year, not including next year) and I’ve met individuals that changed my business and life for the better… So I’m, happy to help anyone in the group (learning from our interview, Brian, we did about giving with no expectations).”
[From Tyler M.] “I’ve made more than 10X what TXL cost so far this year directly from relationships I found in this group. I don’t love this phrase, but rejoining is a true “no-brainer” :)”
There are many more success stories on the Titans Xcelerator page here.
Please check out this special group today…the offer expires on January 1st at 11:59 p.m. PST