Category Archives: Business Strategies and Tactics

Salesmanship for Artists and Writers: The Inner Skills

A goal always on an artist’s and writer’s mind is to generate consistently high-quality work, and a continuing question he/she wrestles with is “how can I do that?” Answering that question is bottom-line, and it’s a complicated question that creative people are trying to answer all their careers, and is one whose success in answering distinguishes one from another. Shakespeare produced better text than anyone else; Michelangelo better art; Mozart better music. But creating high quality work is just one of a writer’s or artist’s skills among many others. It’s naïve to think that the best artist is necessarily the most successful artist. To succeed, the writer, painter, actor, composer must accomplish much more than generate excellent work.

Professional artists and writers have careers to manage and responsibilities and expenses. Food must be put on the table. A life of financial risk and the threat of going broke can keep them on their toes and motivate them or it can be paralyzing. To many writers, artists, and performers, their work is not a hobby and is not just a craft and not just an art, but a hard-nosed, deadly serious, ferociously competitive war of survival requiring the skills of the showman and unabashed, unapologetic self-promoter. Those are roles that seem unnatural to many creative people and make them uneasy and unsure of themselves.

color-palette-207082_640Inhibitions are hard to hide, and research and everyday experience alike bear out that many writers—many artists; many creators of all types, many “inner-directed” people in general—are haunted by them, and know better than anyone that they are, and don’t want to be, and wish they weren’t. And everyone on the globe—the most powerful, the most famous, the most accomplished–is inhibited sometimes. It will be impossible to reach your creative goals if your inhibitions are powerful. They are impediments that can prevent even the most talented and gifted writers and artists from achieving the successes they are aiming for. And that can happen, and I’m sure it does, more than we realize or care to admit.

Working in solitude—the lifestyle of the creator–is a way of hiding from inhibitions because inhibitions involve interactions with other people. In fact, one of the main reasons creative people have chosen a creator’s life rather than a more typical life is to be able to work alone, secluded, sheltered, untouched, and away from other people; hidden from the world. But when writers and artists come out of hiding into the clear light of day, so to speak, some essential tasks require that they do something about their inhibitions—give in to them, or overcome them.

When my first major book was published, I was surprised to learn that not every author is sent by the publisher on a publicity tour to promote their book because they “don’t come across” to audiences, and that, it seems to me, is a direct result of inhibitions. One publisher jokingly asked if I would go on tour to promote other of their author’s books; so many writers didn’t come across. Also, every writer and every artist of every type eventually realizes that talent and skill are not enough to guarantee success, though that would be the artist’s ideal world, but that you’d better learn the skills of marketers and salesmen, skills that inhibited people do not perform well. But to survive, they must learn to. Or they may perish, giving up completely, or will go only so far, and will reach a plateau, and will not reach the career peak they otherwise could. All creative work involves showmanship and salesmanship.

hands-545394_640When I was a business consultant for many corporations, I trained hundreds of people to be high-excelling marketers and sales people, and time and again witnessed before my eyes the growth of awkward and inhibited, tongue-tied, self-doubting people into fluent, persuasive, uninhibited people confident and comfortable with themselves. Such a transformation is possible for anyone. Every artist’s and writer’s skill, including marketing and selling—foreign though they may seem–is learnable.

After reading my Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, which lays out practical strategies for living a more vigorous assertive (and hopefully happier) life, a shy, soft-spoken, self-doubting artist/illustrator called me and said she wished she had a samurai like those she had seen in the book to help her market her work (which had won awards) to galleries, clients, magazines, and publishers, and I said, “You don’t need another person. Become a samurai yourself.” She took that to heart and acquired marketing and sales skills coupled with her new self-confidence, and now her lovely work seems to be everywhere.

The Basic Problem

People weighed down with inhibitions don’t express their genuine personalities. That’s the basic problem. Inhibitions such as shyness, self-consciousness, dreading new experiences, feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, guilt that’s out of proportion to the event that caused it, feeling ill at ease with strangers and in social situations, difficulty getting along with others, and excessive modesty are psychological obstacles that affect writers, and artists of all kinds time and again. These “maladies” are based on being too concerned with how you’re coming across, of what people are thinking of you, or trying too hard to impress others. Inhibitions result in excessive caution and carefulness.

Some people aren’t inhibited enough. You probably know some. They’re too impulsive, too rash, too inconsiderate, too outspoken, too hard-headed, too much of a boring windbag everyone wishes would shut up. But the more general and serious problem is being too inhibited.

Many specialists believe that some inhibitions are genetic. But it’s a myth that once your genetic blueprint is established at birth it is set forever. I know a sculptor who was shy all her life, but decided at the age of thirty she wasn’t going to be shy anymore, so she stopped being shy, just stopped. Many inherited traits can be changed by changing behavior.

Strategies for Conquering Inhibitions: Be Yourself; No One Else

  • Realize that inhibitions are not a fate. You can get rid of inhibitions.
  • Be indifferent to the reactions of others. There is such a thing as a healthy and liberating disregard for the opinions of others. Don’t stop to think of how they are judging you. Don’t worry what they’ll think of you if you do or say X. Just do and say X. Don’t give a damn what they think.
  • Don’t exaggerate your embarrassment. Why are we so ready to say that this embarrassed me or that embarrassed me, even over the silliest things. When you’re feeling embarrassed ask yourself if what is embarrassing is all that important in the grand scope of things. It isn’t.
  • Overcome self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is really other-consciousness. To believe that every eye is on you is an error. Most people could hardly care less what you look like, what you’re wearing, what you’re saying, and what you’re doing. They’re preoccupied with what they look like, and what they’re wearing, saying, and doing.
  • Never try for a contrived effect. You’ll rarely go wrong if you’re sincere. The people who make the best impression are the very people who aren’t trying to make a good impression. You can’t be fooled by a phony for very long. For example, job interviewers encounter legions of applicants who behave the same as everyone else. Then an applicant appears who lets his or her sincerity come through. She stands out and the interviewer is impressed, and she gets the job. If you’re sincere you’ll favorably impress people, even if you’re not trying to impress them.
  • Be like a baby; be authentic. A baby isn’t pretentious, artificial, or superficial, but just what he or she is. A baby expresses honest feelings and isn’t the least bit inhibited.
  • Be more spontaneous. When you’re anxious about a situation, your spontaneity flies out the window. When you’re spontaneous–with a friend over a beer for example, or your family around the table–you’re not on guard for fear of making a mistake. Your spontaneity gives you courage.
  • Be fast. Do what you’re thinking of doing or saying before an inhibition appears.
  • Speak with greater verve, and louder than you normally would. Inhibited people often speak softly and in a monotone. Raising your voice and speaking in a louder and more energetic voice can free you from social inhibitions.
  • Look people in the eye. Don’t avert your eyes.
  • Be “larger than life.” You might have noticed that people who are self-confident and persuasive literally seem larger. Stand up straight and expand your chest as an exercise. Develop the habit of physical expansiveness.
  • When talking with others stand closer than you think you should, be physically involved, and be friendly. Particularly persuasive and socially comfortable people tend to stand a little closer than most people do. Gesture, smile, move your hands and your eyes. If you expect the other person to like you and you behave accordingly—as though they already do– you will be proven right in almost every instance.
  • Recognize your right to be imperfect. If we were perfect our lives would be very dull– we would be very dull– and we would still find something in ourselves to complain about. And others would always find something in us to complain about too. We shouldn’t think we have to be perfect to be worthwhile.
  • Don’t second-guess yourself. Inhibited people wonder if they did the right thing: “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I hurt her feelings. I probably should have put it differently,” when more than likely the person spoken to has no memory of what was said or didn’t think it was all that significant.
  • Forgive yourself– for making a mistake, for being too timid, or for saying the wrong thing or making a stupid remark. Perhaps you felt awkward or were intimidated, or self-conscious, or were inauthentic and insincere, etc. Forgive yourself. Then get right back into action and be genuine, be yourself, no one else.


© 2015 David J. Rogers

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Filed under Artists, Blocks to Action, Boldness, Business Strategies and Tactics, Creativity Self-Improvement, Developing Talent, Human Potential and Achievement, Goals and Purposes, Salesmanship, Success

Are You a Zombie? A One-Second Yes or No Quiz

zombie-156138_150I’m wondering if something like this has ever happened to you:

I went to a company I’d never visited before to do consulting with them. I opened the front door and walked in and something was wrong. “What is this?” I thought, looking round. “Everyone is so SLOW. They’re moving slow; they’re talking slow. He’s slow and she’s slow. The janitor is slow and the CEO is slow. The whole work force is slow. They’re just slow.”

My first job after college was with a very slow company. I’ve been to many slow companies, slow people from top to bottom.

Do you know slow companies, slow people like that? Do they drive you nuts?

They’re lethargic. They take forever to make decisions. Meetings never start on time. There’s never a sense of urgency about anything. When they were students employees turned their papers in late and made excuses. Now, grown up and in a job, they haven’t changed. They turn their assignments in late and still make excuses—and no one seems to care. Deadlines don’t mean a thing if they’re inconvenient.

In a graduate course I was taking the assignment was to do a research paper and present the results in a ten-minute oral presentation. I sat there listening and thought one presentation after another was terrible. Now I knew everyone and knew that they were smarter and more knowledgeable than their presentations would suggest. I decided that they were under-performing because they weren’t setting their standards high enough. The whole class was settling for mediocrity and no one wanted to be the first to say “I’m one person who’s not going to settle for mediocrity.” They didn’t want to be the first to break the mediocrity norm.

In the same way, in some companies and non-profit organizations and schools bad habits creep in and a never-spoken-of agreement develops that no one is to work too hard. The whole organization then becomes slow. But put hard-working dynamos among them and watch the tempo pick up. Once the first student in that class gave an exceptional presentation, the habit of mediocrity was broken and the presentations that followed were very good.

I point out in my book Waging Business Warfare that business competitions are won by companies made up of “movers and firers,” enthusiastic, energetic, high-spirited people who have this in common: they always want to get into the action and mix it up with the competition. They improve morale, that miraculous state of mind producing determination, zeal, and the will to win. Quarterback great John Brodie said that at times the whole team rises up a notch or two. That’s the effect movers and firers have.

 The Erwin Rommel Gauge

Erwin Rommel, the legendary German Field Marshall in WW II—the “Desert Fox” whose Blitzkrieg attacks emphasized speed above everything—said that you can tell which side is going to win the battle simply by watching the tempo with which troops move. I think that’s true of businesses and people in any walk of life, and in their personal lives too.

I would bet that using the Rommel measuring stick of employee work tempo we could predict the probable winners of business competitions, fast companies being more likely to win than slow companies.

I’d expect that skill level being more or less the same and personality issues being similar, the person with the quicker work tempo would get the promotion over the slower candidate.

So I would think the fast employee will make more money and climb higher.

I would suspect too that work tempo directly affects a company’s productivity and profitability.

 Achievers and Zombies

Some people you know move through life at an accelerated clip. They’re DECISIVE. They’re QUICK. But others you know are locked in neutral, or are moving in reverse. They’re walking under water. They’re in a stupor. It’s noon before they realize they’re alive. They’re zombies.

Achievers do things fast. They know that when things are done lethargically, seven out of ten turn out poorly. They’ve got ENERGY. They’ve got ZEST. They’re EXCITABLE. Their by-word is “RIGHT NOW!”

  1. Get in the habit of deciding what you want to do and doing it decisively, even if it’s just taking a drink of water. If you drink, DRINK.
  2. Fall in love with action.
  3. Whatever it is, do it now.
  4. Be impatient with delay.
  5. Set the standard for speed.
  6. Guard against becoming a zombie.
  7. If you’re in a slow company be a norm-breaker, be a mover and firer.
  8. When a flint strikes steel, sparks fly. Be a flint striking steel. Make sparks.

The first archaeologist to the tomb, the first person to a goal, the first runner to the tape, and the first company to the market reap the richest rewards.

Whatever you’re doing, pick up the tempo.

© 2014 David J. Rogers


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How to Win Your Business Wars

cannon-309152_150My interest is in helping people achieve. My book Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life is based on the philosophy that to reach fulfillment and achievements in very practical ways every person must become highly skilled at overcoming a variety of obstacles, most of them in ourselves. The book teaches those skills and has been very well received.

Then people started asking me for ideas that would relate to the realities of business that they faced every day, particularly the business competitions that affected their livelihood. Now it is obvious that the most intense form of competition is warfare. So I set to work organizing my research and thoughts relating business and warfare. The result was my book Waging Business Warfare: Lessons from the Military Masters in Achieving Competitive Superiority.

Let me introduce you to it now.

The Name of this Game is Competition

Where there are profits to be made, as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow there will be competition. And at times the competition will be intense, and the fate of businesses and careers may depend on who at the end of the fray has a higher share of those profits.

You may say, “We are not obsessed with the competition, with competing.” But your competitors may have an-us-versus-them mentality and be obsessed with you. They do not have your best interests at heart, to put it mildly. The promise of profits makes what is now yours appealing to them.

So it is wise, as it is said in warfare, to be prepared for anything.

 A Radio Station That Wanted to Win

I’d just finished being interviewed about Waging Business Warfare on a radio station when the station General Manager poked her head into the studio and invited me into her office.

“I love what you have to say,” she said. “If only we’d known this stuff a few years ago we’d be a lot better off than we are today.”

The station’s ratings and advertising revenues were in the middle of the pack. But the General Manager had high ambitions and hired me to apply the Principles of War—the basis of my book—to her operation by training her personnel and developing a strategic and tactical plan based on those principles that could be implemented quickly.

All the staff were involved in training, from the newest and least senior person to on-air jocks. (Who had a lot to contribute.) The training was based on the notion that people have an unlimited ability to learn new information, master new tasks, and adapt to new responsibilities.

It challenged staff, and they became deeply involved and responded with great enthusiasm. The training was given over a four-week period and a strategic/tactical plan of action was developed, distributed to everyone who had participated in training, and then was implemented immediately.

 Business Failures: A Dismal Story

Six hundred thousand new companies will open in the United States this year, many on-line, and start competing with all the optimism in the world. Many businessmen and businesswomen will have been dreaming about starting their business for years. Ten per cent will succeed, but 9 out of 10 will have competitive difficulties and will fail, and those dreams will be shattered.

They will lose their business war because they aren’t prepared to compete, and someone else who is better prepared will win.

A Vocabulary You Already Have

It’s not hard for business people to see the connection between business and warfare. When business theorists looked for a model as they were starting the field of business strategy they studied warfare.

The language of warfare already permeates the business vocabulary. Where do businesses compete? On the “battle ground.” Companies “launch offensives.” On the advertising and marketing “fronts”, they take “preemptive moves,” “battle” for market share, and engage in price “wars.” Small companies justifiably call themselves “guerrillas” and sales reps everywhere are “the troops,” the “foot soldiers.” They work on “the firing line.” And where does the real action of any company take place? In the “trenches.” Companies “seize the offensive” and “flank” the competition.

 Intense Competition

Realizing that warfare is too important to be left to chance (there is no margin of error in warfare), the great practitioners of war–the master strategists, kings, and generals throughout history that populate the book–looked for hard and fast guidelines, blueprints for victory that could not fail but to lead to success.

They agreed on a small number of universal truths, now called the Principles of War. Those principles make the study of warfare not just a group of disorganized notions and random ideas, but a complete, supremely well thought-out and tested science, one that predates the study of business management and marketing by thousands of years.

Business as a form of warfare subject to the Principles of War is the core competitive approach of some of the most profitable and fastest-growing companies in the world. During the PC wars between Microsoft and Apple, and between iOS and Android in the smart phone wars, the Principles of War were and are being applied. That’s why winners—small companies or large– are victorious, though they might not realize that fact.

The Principles of Waging Business Warfare in Brief

  1. Good leadership is the first requisite of competitive superiority. An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer.
  2. Maintain your objective; adjust your plan. Winners focus on only one thing: the main objective. They don’t wander off on tangents. But no plan survives the first contact with the competition, so you must adjust the plan.
  3. Concentrate greater strength at the decisive point. The cause of most successes in business and warfare both can be summarized for brevity in just one word: “concentration.” Yet in business, concentration is the most often neglected principle.
  4. Take the offensive and maintain mobility. The side whose strategic and tactical ideas are superior will usually gain the upper hand and do so soon after the competition begins and at less cost than the other side. You cannot win unless at some point you take the offensive. Many businesses do not seem to know this.
  5. Follow the course of least resistance. Never get into a pissing contest with a porcupine.
  6. Achieve security. Know your competitors, know how their leaders think, know the desires of the consumers of today and tomorrow—and the day after.
  7. Make certain all personnel play their part. High productivity is an offensive weapon, and it is never equal on both sides. Like armies, businesses will go only as far as their personnel will take them. You want action-oriented “movers and firers” who always want to get into the action.

 The Radio Station with the Will to Win

The radio station implemented the strategic and tactical plan we had developed and the personnel applied what training had taught them. The station quickly shot to number one in the market in not one, but all its demographics, and its advertising revenues rose accordingly.

In addition, as expected, staff morale sky-rocketed. Intense competitions are exciting for the people engaged in them, whether they are between American-Japanese-Korean-German-French-Swedish auto manufacturers or between Verizon and AT&T and between basic cable and Direct Broadcast Satellite TV or between beer and spirits breweries, between one restaurant and another restaurant, or aggressive competitors of any size in any line of business in any city or town in any country on earth.

© 2014 David J. Rogers

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