This is the seventh in a series of posts about how to leverage The 7 Systems of Influence to become a better author. If you want to start from the beginning or find links to all the posts in this series, go here.
Does using the word “love” in a professional context make you uncomfortable? If so, then when you hear it, replace it with thoughts about the excitement and passion you feel when your vision is clear, you’re working in your genius zone, and you’re serving your ideal audience. Think about empathy and how important it is to truly understand your audience and know what they feel and what they need and want. Recall how someone was once kind to you in a professional setting, and how much that meant to you. Finally, and most importantly, think about what it means to have good will for your audience, to truly want their success. When we say that love is the seventh in the 7 Systems of Influence, these are the things we’re talking about.
When it comes to influence, love is the difference between persuasion and manipulation, it’s what turns a transaction into an act of service, and it’s the key ingredient to bring meaning, purpose, and joy to what would otherwise be a checklist of to-do items.
Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” while Tim Ferriss, a modern-day philosopher, claimed that “Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase.”
Whether you call it happiness, excitement, or passion isn’t the point—the point is that whatever you call it, you need it. Otherwise you’re unlikely to offer a compelling voice to those you seek to influence. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and can you imagine anything more boring than reading a book by someone who is indifferent about the content or the needs of their readers?
It’s also difficult to work hard for an extended period of time on something you don’t care about. Not that you need to be chipper and bubbly about your topic 100% of the time, because we all go through times when we aren’t as excited about our area of focus as other times. In those tough times, passion may ebb, but the question is whether enough will remain to pull us through. The less we start out with, the less we have to tide us over until the natural excitement bubbles up again.
This is a good moment to do a gut-check and make sure you are truly passionate about your focus. However, if you find yourself doubting your level of passion, consider that making sure you have enough passion to see things through is different from making sure you are following your passion.
In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport describes a “passion mindset” as “An approach to your working life in which you focus on the value your job is offering you.” The problem, as Newport explains, is, “The passion mindset ultimately leads to chronic dissatisfaction and daydreaming about the better jobs you imagine existing out there waiting to be discovered.”
The passion mindset Newport decries is not what we advocate. Being passionate is different from following your passion. Often, your level of passion is a choice, and the more you choose to work in the area you’ve decided to focus on, the more passionate you will become about it.
Researchers Edward Deci and Ryan Richards’ Self Determination Theory (SDT) says that in order to be motivated to do something, we need:
- Autonomy, or control. The more you control your time and actions, the more likely you are to enjoy what you do. Think about your Big Rocks Board, as discussed in the previous section.
- Competence, or the ability to do something well (something useful, that is). Perhaps this reminds you of your genius zone.
- Relatedness, or a feeling of connection to others. For us, we would talk about your connection to your audience and collaborators.
This dovetails with my research on hope, which Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen, described as “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”
If you want to increase the passion you feel for your area of focus, you can increase your excitement and hope by seeking increased autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Or, as Stephen R. Covey put it, “Love is a verb.” If you don’t feel the excitement, but you know something is the right thing to do, then do it, and the passion will come.
How can you increase your autonomy (control), competence (genius zone), and feeling of connection to your audience and collaborators?
I love to write, and I love to talk, but whenever I do either, I run into a problem—I lose all track of time. This is just one example of what happens when you enter what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the co-founders of positive psychology, calls a state of “flow,” as he detailed in his best-selling book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
The eight characteristics of flow, as Csikszentmihalyi describes them, are:
- Complete concentration on the task;
- Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
- Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
- The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
- Effortlessness and ease;
- There is a balance between challenge and skills;
- Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
- There is a feeling of control over the task.
Focusing on #4, intrinsic motivation, is when you do something purely for the love of the activity, like putting together a puzzle, reading a novel, or skateboarding. Nobody needs to pay you to do your favorite things, in fact, you might pay for the privilege of doing them. In Flow, Csikszentmihalyi says that when you are in a flow state you almost lose your sense of self, surrender to the moment, and time loses meaning (exactly!). You may not enjoy writing as much as I do, but whether it’s while writing, researching, talking about your focus area to someone else, or just thinking about your book topic, do you feel a sense of flow? If so, I’d say you’ve got a credible claim to enough passion to see you through.
How do you feel when you’re doing work you love?
What excites you the most when you engage with your audience?
When my son was around seven years old and we had a disagreement, it would often turn into each of us trying to explain things to the other. I already knew what he was trying to say, and I would try and explain to him what he didn’t understand. The trouble was, we ended up talking over each other and no matter how many times I repeated myself, the message never got through.
After reading Never Split the Difference by former FBI hostage negotiator Christopher Voss, I decided to try out one of the techniques he calls a “mirror.” A “mirror” is when you repeat the last few words of what someone just said, or a few words of the key part of what someone has said. Voss says, “This is about as close to a Jedi mind trick as anything in the entire FBI hostage negotiation skill set.”
The next time my son and I had a disagreement, I quietly listened and then I did just what Voss recommended—I repeated my son’s last few words back to him. “Yeah!” he said, with some emotion.
Then he continued talking, and when he eventually paused, I once again repeated his last few words back to him. “Yeah!” he said again.
I used mirrors multiple times until the end, and once he was done explaining things he listened while I explained my perspective. And then miraculously, he accepted it. All he really wanted was to feel understood.
Bob Mnookin, Harvard Law professor and author of Bargaining With the Devil, describes this kind of empathetic communication as “demonstrating that you understand the other side’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.”
However, this all falls under what Voss calls “tactical empathy” which is useful and a good place to start, but only goes so far. What we also want is the ability to know our audience better than they know themselves.
Steve Jobs famously said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” While I was interviewing CMOs for Chief Marketing Officers at Work, I could see how those marketers had amazing empathy in terms of understanding what their customers wanted before their customers did.
Some psychologists believe that being understood is more important than being loved, but perhaps the truth is that it’s difficult to truly love someone you don’t understand. How can we develop the ability to understand others better? One way is to use Clayton Christensen’s jobs-to-be-done theory.
The idea is simple—someone who buys a drill bit doesn’t want a drill bit, they want a hole. “Nobody buys something because they’re a 25–30 year old white male with a college degree,” writes James Allworth, Christensen’s co-author on the book How Will You Measure Your Life? Instead, he continues, “They go about living their life and some situation arises in which they need to solve a problem… and so they ‘hire’ a product to do the job.”
What job or jobs does your audience need to get done? How can you make your message, your content, your book, the product they “hire” to do that job?
What job or jobs does your audience need to hire your book to do?
In 2012, Google began a research initiative called “Project Aristotle” to study 180 of their teams and figure out why some worked well and others didn’t. It cost the company millions of dollars and many people working several years to find the answer…but they found it.
Or as the report put it, teams that work well provide “psychological safety” for their members. Individuals feel like they can speak up without fear of being criticized. They feel free to be themselves, and as a result, they’re happier and more productive.
Would others describe you as a nice, kind person? It can be difficult to be “nice” according to someone else’s definition. I may think I’m nice when I tell someone their writing stinks and then give them lots of suggestions for improvement. That’s the kind of direct feedback I like to receive, but how many other people would appreciate it?
To become a kinder person:
- Focus on others. What does your audience really need and want from you? How can you give it to as many of them as possible?
- Listen. Set up feedback channels to make it easy for you to hear what your audience has to say.
- Empathize. See the previous section.
- Perform intentional acts of kindness. Random acts of kindness are great, but make purposeful acts of kindness part of your daily practice. Create a kindness system (you know how I love systems).
- Be kind, not because others are, but because you are. If you wait to be kind until everyone else is, and everyone else does the same, then kindness will become all too rare.
What kind of daily kindness practice could you create?
Bonus: Studies show being kind to others boosts your own happiness and well-being.
A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend whose father was a bit rough around the edges. Despite his father’s shortcomings, my friend told me, “Knowing my dad loves me covers for a lot of his mistakes.”
If there’s any single key to The 7 Systems of Influence, any one thing I want you to remember if you can’t remember anything else, it’s this:
No matter what you do wrong, good will can make up for it. No matter what you do right, you’ll fail without good will.
It’s the same concept embodied in the saying “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Without good will, everything becomes self-centered and transactional. A leader who lacks good will, who sees people as objects rather than individuals, may be successful in the short term, they may even die wealthy, but only in financial terms, if that. According to a Gallup surveyfewer than half of employees (45 percent) feel strongly that their employer cares about their well-being. Do you think the employers whose teams feel uncared for are getting the best value from their employees?
A friend of mine told me about his meeting with a very successful entrepreneur. This man had started a wildly successful company, written books that became best sellers, and had appeared on stage in front of millions. In public, this man appeared to care about his audience and be truly invested in their success. However, behind closed doors, this man told my friend how much he hated having to autograph books after his talks and he called his audience members “idiots.”
We may think our private thoughts are private, but they show through. To paraphrase the French writer Jacques Abbadie, “You can fool all the people part of the time, or you can fool some people all the time, but you cannot fool all people all the time.”
How can you know if you are acting out of good will, or some other motive? Ask yourself these three questions:
- If I didn’t get any credit for this, if nobody would ever know I did it, would I still do it?
- If I weren’t going to make any money from this, would I still do it? (assuming you had the time and resources)
- If I knew I would only receive money and fame for doing this, but no lives would be changed, nobody would be impacted, would I still do it?
To be fair, few of us would go to the effort to write and publish a book if there were no money or recognition in it, but I believe there are even fewer of us who would be motivated to write a book if money or fame were the only objects. In all likelihood, you’re 90% motivated by the opportunity to make an impact, and 10% motivated by the money or recognition. If you ever feel your motivation lacking, ask these questions, and if you feel there’s no reason to write your book other than to make money, explore how you might change your book in order to increase the good will you feel as you work on it.
How would you answer the three questions above?
What percentage would you attach to the motivation you feel from potential money and fame vs. impacting your audience?
How do you feel about your audience and what makes you the happiest when working with them?
FEAR & LOVE
Is there any place for fear when it comes to love?
If the Villain believes in a reality dominated by fear, the Hero believes in one ruled by love. – Steven Pressfield
Earlier in this workbook, I advocated using FOMO to motivate your audience, and I referred to Donald Miller’s Storybrand method, one of the steps of which is to show your audience what failure looks like. If God is the perfect influencer, then how do we explain the fact the Bible is full of examples of the negative consequences of disobeying His commandments?
The difference between the villain and the hero is that one uses fear, and the other uses love, and while selfishness and pride motivate the villain, good will drives the hero. Someone who thinks only of themselves and is blind to how others feel cannot comprehend good will, cannot love, and is incapable of seeing any other way to motivate others except through threats, intimidation, and fear.
The hero and villain both use fear as a means to an end, but for the villain, the end is self-serving, while for the hero, it is other-serving. Think of a mother teaching her 3-year-old son why it’s important to not run into the road. “Adam, don’t run into the road or you might get hit by a car!” That is a use of fear that is motivated by good will.
Since fear is a tool one can wield for both good and bad reasons, I find it useful to have a litmus test that allows me to quickly see whether I’m using it the right way or the wrong way. Whenever I consider using fear to motivate someone, I ask two questions:
- Am I using fear to help them or help myself?
- Is there a better way?
If I see that my action is motivated more by self-interest than serving, then the problem is not that I’m using fear, but rather my lack of good will.
Often, the most loving thing we can do is speak with radical candor that leaves no room for doubt regarding consequences. However, even if the motivation is pure, turning too often to fear can make our audience numb and out of reach of our influence. Asking the second question helps me minimize the use of fear so that when I need to make an impact I haven’t spent my ammunition.
With regards to your audience and the reason you’re writing a book for them, what does your audience fear? What are they trying to escape from? What are the dire, frighteningly negative consequences your audience faces if they don’t read your book, or read it but don’t act on it?
What does your audience fear, or what should they fear?
Is there a way to create the same level of motivation for your audience without using fear? Is it possible to talk about a positive goal they can move towards that will resolve the problem, rather than the negative consequences of continuing on their current trajectory?
For example, if I were a personal trainer and my job were to get my clients to be physically fit, I could show them pictures of people who were out of shape, tell them about all the diseases and ailments in their future if they don’t eat right and get enough exercise, and try to make them see fatty, sugary foods as disgusting. Or I could show them photos of fit people, doing the things my clients want to do, tell them how much money they’ll save on healthcare, and show them how healthy foods can be appetizing and make them feel good.
While each client is different, and there may be situations in which I need to bring up the negative consequences of unhealthy behaviors, which approach would I want to lean on the most in order to help my clients attain their goals?
How can the fear your audience feels be addressed in a positive, hopeful way?
PONDER, ACT, & ASK
Think about what you have learned from System 7: Love, and consider what you can do with it. Answer the questions below:
What are the most meaningful things I learned in this section?
What will I do as a result of what I learned in this section?
What questions do I have?
SYSTEM 7: LOVE — ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
- Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders
- The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, Ph.D.
- Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner
- The Go-Giver by Bob Burg
- And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
- Love Sense by Sue Johnson. Although this is a book about relationships, including romantic love (which is not what System 7 is about), the research Dr. Johnson shares in this book on the psychology of human connection sheds significant light on how we’re built for connection and empathy, which are most definitely parts of System 7.
- Love Does by Bob Goff
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
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