Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Supertight Brand: 5 Steps to Specialization for Therapists

The “Shrink Wrap” System

Hey Y’all.  In honor of my upcoming second session with the Denver Therapists’ Network, we’re going to hyperfocus (Ah, the Gifts of Un-medicated ADD!) on an extremely vital and potentially tricky process:  the therapist of today choosing (and articulating) a highly specialized brand that speaks powerfully in the marketplace.

We’re going to be focusing on therapists today, because the law of specialization says you get more traction for any specific offer the more specific you are about who it is for.  However, these principles and steps are valid and valuable for all my visionary, mission-minded entrepreneurs out there, so don’t be shy to test ‘em out and put in practice.

After all, as all you consciousness professionals know, there is no better teacher than our own experience.

Let’s get started with a quick review of the basics.

What is a Brand?  What is the Difference Between Branding and Marketing?

On the deepest level, your brand is your essence, your presence, the particular offer of service you are to this life.  On a more practical level, however, your brand is your reputation.  It’s how you are known; it’s what you’re known for.  On this level (the level of money and the marketplace) it is not a “brand” unless others can notice and recognize it.

If a brand fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would it make a sound? No, no it would not.  You can get as theoretical as you want about this, but according to what’s going to help you in your actual life and business, the answer is No.

It is an AWESOME idea to get clear about the distinction between your branding and your marketing.  Brand, as says international branding expert Al Ries, is a concept you own in someone else’s mind.  I would say it’s the story you own in his/her mind.  It’s the purpose, the passion, the focus of your business. 

If brand is a story, marketing is all the myriad of ways you tell that story.  It’s your website, your content, your collateral, your social media, your presentations, etc.  If your brand is compelling, powerful, and “sexy,” then your marketing doesn’t have to do so much heavy lifting.  If your brand is not on point and on target, then despite your 10,000 followers on Twitter, likely all you are accomplishing is boring or confusing or annoying 10,000 people.  Sorry folks. 

So.  How do you smart and sophisticated therapists get that Big Gorgeous Powerful Sexy Brand?   

2 Rules and 5 Steps.

2 Rules:  Keep it Light and Get it Tight!

Actually, if you can just get these two things, like Stephen Stills sings, you aint gonna need any more advice.  However, since our culture (overall) actually pulls in the opposite direction of both, it takes some practice to master the Light and Tight Principles.


This is hugely, vitally important for therapists—and for anyone that has big, weighty work on the planet, the work of mission, the work of healing, the work of transformation.  It is absolutely flabbergasting how many passionate pioneers of this planet set out to release more joy and freedom and wind up with incredibly grinding, overly full, yet strangely empty lives.  This is NOT the fault of the pioneer, but it’s pretty hard to argue with the results.  Kinda like gravity. 

I am not arguing that this is true for any of you, but I bet you know some hugely talented healers and teachers of which this could be said.  So, my basic rule is, the bigger, broader, and “weightier” your current mission (and your daily responsibilities) the more airtime you’re going to have to surrender to joyful, playful, restful, energizing activities.  Stuff that lets you feel the Light That You Are. 

We’ll talk more about this in our session on Friday, April 10, and I’ll share my personal techniques and “Lightsaber Secrets” with you.  For those of you participating online, I know we’d all love it if you shared any tools or questions you have about keeping your huge mission light.


As my evil merciless pilates instructor Mari Windsor says, “this is going to challenge the strength of your powerhouse.”  Now that you’re all light and bright, it’s time to get all rigorous and focused here, which (since there’s plenty of room for “error”) can potentially get you heavy and grim all over again.  You can get as serious as you want about this, but do try to avoid the grim.

It’s not easy—specialization brings out the agitated deer in the headlights for most of us.  You therapists can probably guess why. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now, just keep in mind the serious intensity of children building a very important project in a sandbox.  We’re going to try some shit out, but we can always keep shoveling and molding, try out some different flags and Lego figures, etc.

Here’s the most essential formula for a supertight brand:  we are looking for a specific person, with a particular breakdown, for which we will provide a remarkable solution.  And what we’re about to do is use the five steps to fill in that formula so we can blow their sweet little minds with power of our brand clarity.

Step One:  Find Your Peeps.

You may be used to thinking of your ideal or target audience as a demographic, but I agree with the brand experts who recommend you get real, real personal.  Create a list of several (8-12) individual characters you’d love to serve.  Base them on real clients you’ve had that you liked, base them on real (or famous) people you admire, and throw in a couple you’re not so crazy about just for clarity of contrast.  These characters have names, ages, genders, or they are not individual characters.  They have sources of income, or they are not good characters for you to target.

Now.  For each one of these people.  What is the thing that is sucking the joy right out of this incredible person’s life?  What would be an amazing breakthrough for him or her?  How could your particular, remarkable offer of therapy (based on both your training and life experience) help facilitate this breakthrough?  Choose your top two or three people and look for a “container.”  We’ll discuss in session.

Step Two:  Look and Love Your Competition.

I know this is crazy, but your potential ideal client has a LOT of therapeutic choices, especially here in a nice crowded market like Denver.  So, you’ve figured out that you really like those highly creative artistic people who are blocked in their art, or you’ve got something to say to those fortune-500 CEO’s who are up all night with their porn addiction, or those parents who are struggling to manage their blended families.  Congratulations!  This is a Supertight Focus!

Now, what if you look and someone else is already doing this, or something close to this?  The good news is this is good news!  We’ll talk about why, and how to position so this person becomes a great referral instead of client-stealing bastard who just happened to get to your sweet spot first.

Step Three:  What’s Your Flava?

This happens to be the name of one of my all-time favorite songs by British hip-hop singer Craig David, but just in case you totally don’t care, “Flavor” is a great way to think about the perfect combination of your brand’s values and your brand’s personality traits—both are well-worth thinking about because they make you money. 

Create your list of Top Five/Six Brand Values and Personality Traits—don’t do more or you’ll have a hard time using them “like a sword,” as I am going to teach on Friday.  For example, I have values of both Mastery and Fun, which means I don’t like “Quick Easy Fix to Make Everything Perfect!” Nonsense, and I don’t work with projects or people who are not (in some way) really fun for me.  As a personality trait, you may have noticed that I am both practical and irreverent.  Sometimes use borderline bad language.  You may not like it, but my people love the crap outta it.

Step Four:  Don’t Be Stingy.  Be 80/20 Generous.

Do you want to get off the “X Hours = X Dollars” treadmill and start making money in a bigger way? Or are you perfectly happy to get on that treadmill just so long as it means your practice is full of great people? Depending on where you are in your career, either can be a darn fine thing.

The good news/bad news here is one of the greatest resources for either scenario is develop and share, share, share original content.  Share 80% for free and then charge for 20%.   No matter what your current story about social media and today’s communication channels, I encourage you (as a therapist who presumably likes people) to think in terms of creating, sharing, conversing, and community.

Does your original content have to be totally original?  If the answer is yes, then I’m in big trouble, because everything I’ve told you here is based on the work of so many others before me.  No, your content just has to be yours—your spin on things, your voice, your way of sharing.  It’s your blog, if you like writing, or its your vlog, if you hate writing, or its your online course, if you hate both writing and being on camera. Then, get some help with your structures, your platform, and GO.  Do not wait for perfection to start your conversation.  Begin by saying Hello.

Now.  This is a big, dense, and potentially heavy topic, so what questions do you have in order to travel light and keep it tight?

Step Five:  Damn it, Ellen, This isn’t Working.

Oh, man, I know.  I hate this step too. 

No, but seriously.  If you are focusing on your Keep it Light and Get it Tight principles, it IS working; it is in the process of working.  Unfortunately, you might be at the stage where you went to the store and got all your ingredients and now you’re mad that you don’t yet have a cake.  Once you choose a Supertight Focus, it’s going to take a while to alert the marketplace that you are that focus, and then a bit longer to get them agitated enough to care.  Play a long game and don’t get fussed.

Share more, speak more, be powerful, keep moving to get in front of your people.  Also, as you know, you don’t necessarily have to be superchirpy extrovert to be a great therapist, and you don’t have to be that way to be a great supertight brand either (you could be an introvert standing for introvert power, as has been proven).  One of my favorite therapists is a more reserved, quiet person, who kinda wants to throw up in her mouth at the thought of speaking, blogging, vlogging, etc.  So we figured out a way for her to get in through the back door to speak directly to her people.  Questions about that, contact me.

Lastly, to all those of you brave enough to help ‘ologize the psyche, I salute you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

People From The Past Think What You're Doing Today is Amazing

Sometimes I think about time travel, and what people who lived a hundred years ago would find most amazing and stunning about our current society.  

(I’m not sure if they would time travel here, to our time, or if we would travel there, and if I think about this too hard my brain starts to unravel—as my former husband could tell you about my efforts to follow Star Trek Next Generation episodes that involve time travel, “Ellen has a hard time with that.”)

But when I think about those people from the past coming here (or “coming now”?) I think that yes, they would be amazed by our technology, by our ability to do things like download an app to get an Uber driver to come to our house to take us to bikram yoga (just imagine explaining any part of that to a person from 1914!)

But I think that they would be even more stunned, in the long run, by how social ideals and requirements have changed for men and for women.

Just picture yourself explaining to the man from 1914 that yes, men today still have to be “good providers” if they want the top pick of today’s most desirable women, but that they also must be sensitive, intuitive, responsive to those women, and to their children, and that one of the ways they demonstrate this is NOT ONLY TO BE PRESENT DURING THE BIRTH OF THEIR CHILDREN (men from 1954 would be freaked out by this), but be present for the formation of “the birth plan.”

Just explaining that last phrase would be interesting, no? I can picture the educated man from 1914 saying, “Ummm, ‘birth plan’? Don’t they just come when they’re ready? What else can we do except make sure the ladies are heavily doped with that new invention of anesthesia?” 

(Did they have anesthesia in 1914?  The shitty thing is that now that we have Google I can just look that up, and I don’t really have any excuse for letting that detail go just for the sake of humor.  Damn you, Google! Why must your ubiquitous accuracy intrude upon my creativity?)

Let us also consider the woman from 1914, here to discover that in our time, it’s actually not quite enough for the educated woman of 2014 to raise her adorable, well-behaved children in a neat, well-decorated home.  

Even if our 2014 woman doesn’t have her own “job” or “career” (Gasp!) she is expected to make sure her adorable neat children are protected, enriched, and suitably guided to their creative passion in a way that might make our female guest from 1914 have to loosen her stays and take refuge in her smelling salts from sheer astonishment. 

(I did look those up references, and they are historically accurate.  The widespread use of corsets declined during the First World War, giving way to a new popular fashion for “controlling” women’s figures, the girdle.  I can honestly say that I haven’t “controlled" my figure in years.  I tried a pair of Spanx once, but was quickly bored and annoyed and threw them in the trash. Sorry, Sarah Blakely.  I do, however, love how you turned $5,000 from your credit card into a billion dollar business!  I think the women of 1914 and 2014 could both agree that this is pretty amazing.)

In any event, when I think of this, when I let myself really, really think about this, I find the fact that so many people, men and women, hold these high standards and much, much more, I get kinda choked up at how very, very magnificent most people are.

Really, y’all.  You blow my mind with your ardor, your complexity, your sense of duty, your willingness to take on so many different challenges.

I’m not saying we should go backward.  The fact that we have time and space to worry about things like men’s sensitivity and women’s branding platforms is, I think, on the whole, a pretty good sign.  Only, let’s be honest.  It’s a lotta balls to keep in the air sometimes.  No pun intended.

People have been predicting the end of the world pretty much since the world began, and the destruction of “civilization” (a later invention) pretty much since we got one of those going. 

And yes, many civilizations have come and gone, but “civilization” as a whole, keeps on truckin’, producing new luxury problems like: “How do I choose the appropriate social media vehicles for optimum saturation of my network marketing company while at the same time picking the right school for my special needs toddler?”  And, weirdly enough, that’s a problem that could belong to either a man or a woman of 2014.

Here’s what I hope will happen when you read these words:  I hope you’ll take a minute to acknowledge yourself for every small moment of success you had today.  

I hope you’ll find some compassion, or some humor, or some sense of your own magnificence at even daring to go out the door, into a world where Siri tells you where to go but can’t tell you how to balance your clients’ cries for attention with those of your mutinous nine-year-old who’s still really f-ing p.o.’d that she’s the only third grader that didn’t get to go to the One Direction concert last month because you were too busy.

Let us give ourselves some credit, some compassion, for being brave enough to be adults, or “adults,” during this extremely interesting time.  Is it easier than being an adult in 1914?  Sure, in some ways, absolutely.  Is it more complex, more confusing, more overwhelming than it used to be? Oh yes.  You bet your sweet yogacized ass it is. 

Some experts say that we are exposed to more new bits of information in a month than our grandparents met with in 30 years.  So you gotta figure that this additional demand on our brains shows up somewhere in our lives.

I’m sure that your life, like mine, is full of stuff you needed to get done yesterday, last year, or back in the 20th Century.  But all the same, the most powerful way to focus is to notice what you are accomplishing, whom you are loving, how you are making a difference. 

Also, if you are genuinely interested in living a less busy, more delicious, invigorating, and satisfying life, I know of no better way to make that shift than to spend time with Rachel Davis at You@The Center of Your Life.  

Even if you can't do a course right now, sign up for the newsletter, The Weekly Space, and you will notice a difference pretty quickly. You can sign up by scrolling to the bottom of the home page.

Men and Women of 2014: I bow in the general direction of your Divine Multifaceted Humanity.  Just think, no matter what your day looks like today, you are freaking the sh*t out of any people who might be visiting you secretly from the last century.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Most Private Thing I Am Willing to Admit About Myself Is. . .

The Most Private Thing I Am Willing to Admit About Myself Is. . .

If you have recently attempted to complete the sentence above, then you and I both know you’re on the online dating service OK Cupid.  These things happen. 

I do have some excellent OK Cupid stories to tell, but right now I want to focus on what I would have liked to say in response to this particular prompt.  What I actually said was stuff like, “I’m blind in one eye and I keep my negative emotions hidden, which has caused me a lot of problems.  The hidden emotions part, more so than the eye.”

Blah blah blah.  But.

That was the “most private” thing I was willing to admit to the men of OK Cupid, but for you, my blog followers, like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, I am willing to go just a little bit farther.

Do you want to know what I wanted to tell the men of Colorado, but didn’t?

The Most Private Thing I am Willing to Admit About Myself is I love, love, love to watch other people work. Preferably while I am reclining. Preferably in a hammock, not working myself.

Listen, I know how it sounds. This isn't something I’m proud of.  

Indeed, in our Puritan Bootstraps Rags-to-Riches, Anyone-Can-Make-It-If –She-Just-Works-Hard-Enough culture, such an admission  comes close to social blasphemy ("Voyeurism + Laziness=Entitlement!!! Stone Her!!!)

Before you bend to pick up that first rock, let me try to explain myself.  

Right now, I don’t even own a hammock.  What I do possess is a really great front porch.  It doesn’t look that weird when I am sitting on my front porch in a plastic chair, watching the guys across the street unload a truck full of wine for the liquor store.  But it might look weirder if I were lying in a hammock on the front lawn, watching them do it.

No, in order to make Lying-in-a-Hammock-Watching-Labor really feasible, I would need to get a hacienda-villa type of house, and I would need to get my own workers, who would be paid enough that they would not give a crap whether I watched them or not. 

Another thing you’ve got to know about this:  I do NOT like watching people work who are miserable, unhappy, or uncomfortable in any way.  This is not a Pharaoh-Watching-Jews-Build-Pyramids kind of thing.

No, the kind of work I like to watch involves people happily occupied at some productive task, where they are basically enjoying themselves, preferably where there is a “figuring-out” element to what they are doing—the sort of thing that requires brief hearty conferences about tactics and strategies. 

(In an earlier post, I mentioned how I like to go to the beach and watch other people figure out how to parasail or scuba-dive.  The most work I like to put in at the beach is figuring out how many minutes before I need to flip to keep my tan even.  But I like watching my more enthusiastic beach brethren because their activity serves as a nice counterpoint to my slothdom.)

The thing is, when you’re a middle-class, middle-aged white girl without a ton of resources, it’s actually hard to get a good “watching-people-work” groove going sometimes.  So I take it where I can.  I snatch little pieces here and there.

For example, as I alluded to earlier, I live across the street from a restaurant and a liquor store/pharmacy.  (The liquor store-pharmacy is a delightful phenomenon that would have greatly pleased my younger self.  But I digress).

Fortunately, a lot of the packing and unpacking of supplies happens in the front parking lot of these two establishments, where I can see it from my front porch.

Equally unfortunately, a lot of it also happens in the alley out back of the store, but I haven’t yet found the courage to drag a really comfy lawn chair out there and watch them deliver and unload the shit out of stuff.  I feel that the employees might not understand.

Right now, I do have a fairly good chair for my front porch, but that just doesn’t compare to a hammock.  However, my roommate is all fired up to get a porch swing, which also has some sweet potential.  If I learned how to make homemade lemonade, I could see this really working out well for me.

Oh, but you know what would be even better?  If my roommate Charlene would make the lemonade FOR me.  I could watch her make it.

The only thing is, the backyard is really the most comfortable spot.  Very green.  Large, full of flowers (Charlene’s work), an old wooden fence around all sides. 

The other day I made an incredible discovery that the phenomenon of me and other people working is also auditory.  While I cannot see my neighbor working in her yard (she also has a wooden fence), I can hear the sound of her shoveling, raking, clipping things, digging with her trowel (is that what those things are called?)

Even more surprising, today I noticed that the pleasure is not limited to my watching humans at work.  You know who is totally fun to watch work?  Bees! Bees are indeed, as rumored, busy, yet they also seem to enjoy High Job Satisfaction.

And now, the obvious question.  Where the hell does all this come from?

My father was a sociology professor who studied world peace.  My mother was a nurse who specialized first in pediatrics, then geriatrics.  They believed in honesty, hard work, and fair play.

I grew up in suburbia in one of the states Most Dedicated to the Puritan Ethic (Massachusetts) and another Most Dedicated to Shoulder-To-the-Plow (Ohio), and am now living in the American West, where there is certainly No Crying In Baseball.  Or during the middle of a stampede, or whatever.

(Actually, I have cried in the middle of The Stampede, which is a country-western bar here in Denver, but only cause I grew up on Prince and Depeche Mode).

Since I can’t find much to explain this phenomenon in my current life, I have to look back to an earlier iteration.  According to three separate Psychics (I have a lot of Woo in my life), I have spent at least one important lifetime as an Egyptian nobleman, where I probably did watch people unwillingly build pyramids. 

According to another past-life expert, I have spent many lives as a spoiled person-of-privilege of some kind, creating a deep rivet of pleasant association with my lounging on various comfortable surfaces with people bustling around me.

I have no idea whether any of that is true, but it's a theory that other people came up with.  I watched them do it, with no personal effort whatsoever to tap into my own past-life experiences.

Novelist Kate Atkinson says:

“Why do cats sleep so much?  Perhaps they’ve been trusted with some major cosmic task, an essential law of physics—such as:  if there are less than five million cats sleeping at any one time the world will stop spinning.  So that when you look at them and think, what a lazy, good-for-nothing animal, they are, in fact, working very very hard.”

I can just see me explaining to my hardworking, no-nonsense friends and clients that I, like the cats, need to lie on hammocks and chaise lounges and watch others work in order to help keep the world spinning.  That should go over real well.