The five words that are getting me through this

An old, true story that is suddenly relevant Scrolling through Facebook, I saw it. That quote. Under my breath, I muttered, “F—k you, Helen Keller.” I’d first read those words about ten years before. Helen Keller — educator, humanitarian and co-founder of the ACLU — wrote 12 books, but this is her most famous quote:…

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Which stories should you tell on your “About” page?

I don’t love being rude. But when someone asks me, “Marsha, how do I tell MY story on my About page?” — and that happens a lot — I’m always tempted to say,
“Um… what makes you think anyone cares..?”

Ok, so that’s a bit harsh. But generally, when business owners (who want to get clients via their websites) tell me they want to tell their story on their about page, before I give them any advice on how to do this, I lovingly remind them this page’s function:

It’s to tell a new reader whether or not this website (/business/person/service) is meant for them.

So the first part of your About page should be spent on making it clear what it is you do and for whom. Ideally, it should be directed at the reader. Laying out who they are, what’s going wrong for them and what they want that you offer. Here’s an example on the website some random lady you’ve never heard of.

Then, you introduce yourself as the solution. And if you want to do this with stories…

Here are the ONLY three stories you need on your About page:

(1) A Pain Point moment

(2) The Transition moment

(3) A Desire moment

The most important of these is (1), followed by (3), followed by (2).

Let me break these all down for you…

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How to rescue a very public disaster (using my favourite psych fact)

Standing in the booth, looking out at the ten people awkwardly dancing in a space that was built for 400, I felt sick.

I’m about to tell you one of the most important pieces of information I know. Then I’m going to tell you the rest of that story in order to prove it’s true and to help you hold it in your brain (because that’s what storytelling does!).

Here’s the fact:

The most important parts of any talk, blog, presentation or podcast is…

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How to… run great workshops; switch to doing work you love; get testimonials and more — YYQ #13 Review!

Yes Yes Questions is my quarterly live advice column, that anyone can join for free. The questions I answered at the last one (and in this blog/recording), are:

1. When running a workshop, what are the most essential elements to make it brilliant?
2. Do I have to prepare before I speak on stage?
3. How do I brag about myself online without feeling like I need a shower afterwards?
4. Do you ever feel like you have too many stories to tell, and do you have a formalized process to choose which ones you tell?
5. “Content batching:” do you do it? If so, how?!
6. How do I go from doing work I *don’t* love that brings in money, to doing work I DO love that also brings in money?
7. What’s the best way to get testimonials from happy clients?

The next one is next Monday, April 6th at 2pm EST and you can come along and get free coaching by popping in your details on this page. But in the meantime, listen to the audio of the last one (where I answer all those questions) or read on!

1. When running a workshop, what are the most essential elements to make it brilliant?

Almost all of the time, it depends on…

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If the “END OF THE DECADE LET’S REVIEW AND PLAN!!” messages are bumming you out

this picture PLEASES MY SOUL

This one might not apply to you. Or it might land right where you need it to.

You know everyone online at the moment is all, “OMG END OF A DECADE LET’S REVIEW THE LAST AND MAKE GOALS FOR THE NEXT!!!”?

If you love that stuff — as I have sometimes (and as my pile of completed yearcompasses will prove) — then awesome. Get on with your bad self.

But if, every time you read something like that, it makes your stomach tighten a little…

– maybe because you don’t think you have time to do that
– maybe because you don’t feel you achieved enough or have changed enough in ten years
– maybe because you’re currently in survival mode and have zero capacity for reflection or planning

…then I just want to remind you that…

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When I’m feeling desperate about life, this is where I go

When I feel desperate, there are a few places online where I go looking.

I’m often not quite sure what I’m looking for because I’m often not exactly sure why I feel desperate, just that I’m in an emotional funk and I need someone to throw me a life raft. I feel certain that, if I read the right combination of words, the solution to everything in my life that feels confusing or unsure or uncomfortable will materialize in front of me, like a bonus in an 80s computer game.

Sometimes, I’ll scroll aimlessly through Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes, I’ll find people I know on Twitter. But usually, I end up at Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly.

Ask Polly (which I once wrote a blog about, here) is a long-form advice column. You may know that I have a mild fixation with the genre — it’s why I started running Yes Yes Questions, my own, quarterly live advice column. But Heather Havrilesky’s is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, mostly because in almost every letter she responds to, she does a magic trick on my brain.

Pretty much every week, I read the latest letter and think, Well, that sounds hard for you, Stranger Who Wrote To Heather, but I can’t relate to your problem at all. I will read Heather’s reply because I like her writing so much. But there’s no way her advice will apply to anything I have going on.”

But then — half way through the response, I’m always like,

HEATHER HAVRILESKY ARE YOU IN MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW????

Because how else could she possibly know eXACTly what I’m going through in my life at this exact moment???

The best part is, I know that this is a common experience, but not a universal one. I know it’s common, because HH has been writing Ask Polly for almost eight years, so it must be pretty popular. But I also know it’s not universal, because people are not that much the same. But Heather’s people are. People like me. People who read every single new column that comes out (and several back issues). And that makes me feel both seen and a bit special.

This is the alchemy that happens when you’re…

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How to make yourself my instant best friend

Sitting in the audience, I was having wrestling conflicting feelings.

The woman onstage as belting out a number from the musical “Chicago” — one I haven’t seen, and am not particularly keen to. She was a little off-key. And LOUD. I felt like I should have been cringing, embarrassed for her and hating it… but for some reason, I wasn’t. Why wasn’t I?

It was my third night at Camp GLP, a Summer camp for grown ups. When I saw the sales page, what sold it was the talent show. The camp I went to as a kid had one and it was always the highlight. Skits where we sent up the staff, little jokey routines, maybe someone reading a poem. But this was different.

One after the other, attendees from the camp got up to sing. Some of them were knockout. Some of them really weren’t but, for reasons my brain was struggling to understand, they didn’t look embarrassed about it *at all. Being British, I felt like I should have been convulsing with awkwardness on their behalf.

So when I wasn’t, I looked to my left at my new friend Sam. An Aussie, she and I had been hanging around a bit the last few days. I whispered to her,

“Why don’t I hate this?”

She laughed back and whispered, “It’s because we secretly love Americans. If this had been an Aussie or Brit talent show, it would have been 10 rugby guys in drag looking embarrassed. Instead, all these people onstage are totally committed. They really mean it!”

“So?”

“So I think we secretly admire their self-confidence. Because we could never pull that off.”

And I thought, OMG.

Because, when she said that, two things happened…

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The sales copy hack that makes everything easier and less pushy

THIS IS HOW IT MAKES ME FEEL (also I envy this person's hair)

Sitting at my desk, I stared at the floor with my jaw jutted forward.

I swore under my breath and looked back at the computer screen. The cursor on the blank document was blinking at me, like it had a question. I imagined it asking,

MARSHA
WHAT
ARE
YOU
GOING
TO
WRITE???

“I don’t KNOW,” I said, sulkily.

A year after I started my business, I decided to get serious. I spent more money than I’d ever spent on anything hiring Kendrick Shope — the best Sales Coach I knew — to work with me one-on-one. She’d made huge strides into my sales-resistant brain, helping me understand that it was ok to charge people who have money for my services, showing me how to do consults and teaching me the lost art of following up.

But there was one last mountain I was struggling to climb.

Writing sales copy.

Kill me.

The thing was, I knew that the language I needed to write it was in my brain somewhere.

When I was deep in conversation with people, it came out. That was how I’d got my first few clients. The next few came from word-of-mouth. And I was really good at coaching! I got rave reviews.

So… how come I couldn’t tell other people about what I did in a way that made them get it straight away? Whether it was introducing myself at a networking event, writing my About page or… Sales Copy. Ugh.

I knew I was supposed to talk about their pain points and desires. But articulating those felt like trying to pull something out of my brain that was shrouded behind that heavy material people put on furniture when they’re painting. I just couldn’t get to it.

Kendrick and I had a Skype call later that afternoon. Part way through, in her delightful Southern accent, she said,

“Marsha, ah wanna try a thought experiment on you. If ah were to give you $500 to spend on your business right now, where would you spend it?”

Without missing a beat, I said…

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How to get your friends and family to sell for you (without being a slimy creep)

When I first started this business, I thought the best way to sell my services would be to throw money at the marketing. Facebook ads! Celebrity endorsements! Giant billboards! Except, there was a pretty big obstacle…

…I HAD JUST STARTED MY BUSINESS SO I HAD NO MONEY.

What was left instead?

Word of mouth. Here, there was another problem:

Most of the people I’d done sessions with so far had been pro bono. And they’d been happy to do those sessions for free, because those people had no money to spend on coaching. Which meant most of the people they hung out with also had no money to spend on coaching.

You might have this same issue. But you know who does have some money they might spend on your thing? SOMEONE you know. Which sounds easy…. but:

How do you tell people you know about what you’re doing, without sounding like you’re trying to screw them out of their well-earned money as an act of charity?

Two parts to this answer:

1. Remember that the…

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Quiet The Beast: How to deal with the part of your brain that says mean things to you

When I was growing up, I just thought certain things were truths. Being messy is bad. Not having cool clothes (a puffball skirt, say, or a stonewashed denim jacket and matching skirt) means people won’t like you. Being fat is my fault and something I should be ashamed of.

In my teens and early twenties, the list grew. Going too far with a boy makes you easy. Wanting to kiss a girl is weird and gross. Smoking makes you cool. Especially if you’re not drunk. Especially Benson and Hedges.

Twenty years, countless self-help books, hours of journalling and — thank you, privilege — a LOT of therapy taught me that those ideas were just that, ideas. They weren’t truths. When I believed them to be true about me, and used that to judge myself, it wasn’t because this was a reasonable conclusion to make. These thoughts were just the “inner critic.” One part of your brain that sometimes (often) lied.

But then, I faced a new problem: if I had figured this out, why was it still happening? If I’m so evolved, why do I keep saying such awful things to myself?

Since becoming a storytelling and speaker coach, I’ve spent a lot of time with brilliant, successful people, listening to their personal stories. One thing that I have come to understand is that having this voice that says mean things about you to you — a voice which I call your Beast — is part of the human experience. And that the trick is not to squash it, and not even to love it. But just to do what you can to reduce the volume and frequency with which it speaks to a level where you can start to tune it out. When you can, you have have a nicer life, and you can change more lives.

This year, I was asked to give the closing keynote at the penultimate (ever!) World Domination Summit. Instead of talking, as I usually do, about Storytelling or Sales Pages or even my I Don’t Have My iSht Together, Either project, I decided to write a brand new talk, where I shared the four steps that have helped me figure out how to master my Beast.

To watch it, click on “Read more” then on the big play button on the vid:

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