Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ted sees Red

Note to my Dear Readers: I say the following tongue-half-in-cheek. That's hard to convey in writing, but that is where you will find my tongue about 1/2 of the time, just so you know. I am at once laughing at myself, and dead-cold serious.

Nothing wakes me from a stupor quite so fast as a little resistance.

Here I was, wallowing in physical and mental torpor from this SARS/Bird Flu/Plague/T.B./"90-Day Cough" that I've enjoyed now since my birthday 24 days ago. I've actually been highly productive, but only in spurts, with a lot more downtime than I'm used to.

Things are going well. All of a sudden, everybody wants in on Naples Social Action in one way or another (www.naplessocialaction.org). The Naples Institute and NI Consulting are gathering a really, really powerful head of steam (www.institutenaples.org). On the surface they're going infuriatingly slowly, but I'm operating well below that surface, and I can see clearly that it's a winning idea that is already taking off - by the time The Naples Institute is a household name (at least in NPR, News Hour, and New York Times households), we'll already be out in front of the pack.

Even the NSA-CAN Ride seems off to a good start, despite my inattention. And my family is back from Boston, so all is right in the world.

So I was feeling rather... uninspired. And sick. And sluggish. And sorry for myself, cuz I have a little bitty cough. Poor, poor Ted.

Then, a sure thing turned out to need some coaxing.

In order to put our name out there, The Naples Institute is writing a book, Enlightened Leadership. We've already got an all-star cast of business authors assembled to contribute a chapter each, giving their take on what those two words mean to them. And we have an all-star editor in Ken Shelton, editor of Executive Excellence magazine and Steven Covey's ghost writer. It's a great topic, a chapter is a night's work for most authors, and proceeds are going to charity - a really great cause, namely (my favorite) One Laptop Per Child (www.waveplace.org).

So I reached out to an author who has endorsed one of my books, a friend of the family through his dad and my Dad, a bestseller whose work is right in line with this topic. And I thought, "How easy is this gonna be?"

But he hasn't said yes yet! He needs more courting!! I'm not used to this!!! People who don't matter to me don't always go along with my ideas, but when it counts, the ones I want are right there with me - proof, obviously, that great minds think alike. (ehem).

Now I feel GREAT! What cough? What general feeling of malaise? I am challenged, and my synapses are firing away at double-time.

The issue: How can we make this project more compelling? - not just to this one author; indeed, if he isn't in, that's his loss, not ours. Exactly the opposite of Groucho Marx, I would never want to join a club that wouldn't have me as a member. But how do we find each potential contributor's sweet spot, the motivator that will get them to refuse to take No (from us) as an answer? That's what has me all fired up and ready to go.

You see, that's how I work in sales; I don't actually try to "sell" at all. I like to provide something that people are dying to get for their own. When we created Coiné Language School that is exactly how we designed it: What would make companies line up to ask for our service, as opposed to (a) not having on-site language classes at all, or (b) going with another provider? We started with what they knew they wanted, and then dug deeper, looking for what they didn't even know they would want. We brought that to them, then spent years improving it. The result? A Rolls Royce for the price of a Toyota.

I can't stand to convince anyone of anything, so I crafted something that easily, really and truly effortlessly, sells itself.

I'm working on making the Enlightened Leadership project the same kind of proposition. Before we have our last author, any bestseller will be dying to get invited to participate. My compatriots and I just have to figure out what that motivation is.

Stay tuned. It's coming.

An easy "Yes" is my favorite thing in the world. But right after that, a good challenge isn't so bad, either. I feel challenged now, and I probably won't sleep much for the next few nights, till I've figured this puzzle out. But I also won't be sleepy.