It’s a slight change, but it makes a world of dif­fer­ence, doesn’t it?

The photo comes cour­tesy of a rather clever ad cam­paign for The Cape Times – some­thing I was turned onto by the always-wonderful No Cap­tion Needed blog. The intent was to make us see these iconic pho­tos with new eyes, allow­ing the idea of a self-taken-phone-camera-pic to shake up a clas­sic. And it worked.

But it also trans­for­rmed the pho­tos into some­thing creepy, espe­cially this one.

It’s one thing to look on as the ecstasy of vic­tory so over­comes a sailor’s sen­si­bil­i­ties that he kisses a stranger in the street; it’s entirely another when the sailor still has the self-awareness to phone-pic him­self dur­ing his sup­posed blissed-out moment.

Some­times, it’s just a whole lot bet­ter when some­one else is con­trol­ling the cam­era and the spot­light. In fact, not just some­times, but often.

Trans­lat­ing this to adver­tis­ing and marketing:

  • When oth­ers sing your praises, it comes off as cred­i­ble and gen­uine; when you sing your praises, you come off as a wanna be Don­ald Trump
  • When reviews praise an item to the sky, we believe it; when prod­uct copy does so, we read it with a large grain of salt
  • When you tell me how great some­one else is, you come off as pas­sion­ate; when you tell me how great you are, you come off as arrogant

Well.. you get the pic­ture. Why not let some­one else hold the cam­era.  Or, if you’ve got the cam­era, why not point it at some­thing other than yourself?

You, my friend, are hard­wired to find mean­ing; you can not help but con­nect the dots.

Case in point, the tri­an­gle to the right doesn’t exist. The only shapes in that pic­ture are three black pac-man shapes.

Yeah, the neg­a­tive space left by those pac­man shapes include wedges of white — but the larger tri­an­gle that you see con­nect­ing those wedges of white into a mean­ing­ful pat­tern only exists in your mind.

And yet, if the pac­mans are there, you can’t help but see that tri­an­gle, can you?

In fact, the only way to not see the tri­an­gle is to remove two of the pac­man fig­ures, ’cause as long as the dots are there, you WILL con­nect them.

Design­ers refer to this as “clo­sure,” and it’s more than just a par­lor trick or visual illusion.

Clo­sure and Image-Text Interaction

Clo­sure, as it turns out, not only comes into play between ele­ments within a pic­ture, but also between image and text. And this inter­play was espe­cially on dis­play in a recent post by the always-interesting Derek Halpern (h/t Melissa Breau)

Halpern ref­er­ences recent psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies show­ing that state­ments accom­pa­nied by related images are con­sid­ered more believ­able than the same state­ment with­out an image. So, a state­ment like “The liq­uid inside a ther­mome­ter is mag­ne­sium” was more fre­quently rated as true when it was accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture of a thermometer!

Sim­i­larly, state­ments about whether some obscure “celebrity” was alive or dead were also more fre­quently rated as true when the state­ment was accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture of the celebrity. And this effect was the same regard­less of whether the pic­tured celebrity was pro­nounced dead or still living.

Clearly, pic­tures have per­sua­sive power beyond what any­one has ever suspected.

And just know­ing this is incred­i­bly use­ful, but in my opin­ion, the real meat of these stud­ies comes from ask­ing WHY. For­tu­nately, one of the posts that Derek links to nicely sum­ma­rizes the hypoth­e­sis formed by the sci­en­tists who con­ducted these tests [empha­sis mine]:

The rea­son for the dif­fer­ence lies in the sus­pected mech­a­nism at work. The “truthi­ness” researchers (New­man et al., 2012) spec­u­late that a not nec­es­sar­ily pro­ba­tive but rel­e­vant image, like the tire slide above, increases the “cog­ni­tive avail­abil­ity” of the con­cept. That means the mind finds it eas­ier to think about and elab­o­rate on the con­cept. In the process, that makes the claim seem more famil­iar which in turn makes it feel more true: “Truthi­ness” achieved.

There are also other mech­a­nisms that facil­i­tate elab­o­ra­tion. For exam­ple, the researchers refer to the notion of a “seman­ti­cally pre­dic­tive sen­tence,” which means phras­ing that leads a lis­tener to antic­i­pate what the upcom­ing words will be. For exam­ple, “the stormy seas tossed the boat” is more seman­ti­cally pre­dic­tive than “he saved up his money and bought a boat.” That expec­ta­tion causes a lis­tener to feel more famil­iar­ity and trans­late that into greater verac­ity (Whit­tle­sea, 1993). When peo­ple are engaged — by antic­i­pat­ing the final word in this case — they engage in more flu­ent pro­cess­ing and that leads to a feel­ing of truth.

That process extends past the role of imagery. In New­man and asso­ciates’ sec­ond exper­i­ment, they showed that includ­ing non-probative words instead of a photo pro­duced the same effect (e.g. accom­pa­ny­ing a polit­i­cal leader’s name with infor­ma­tion about eth­nic­ity, sex, hair color, etc. — fac­tors that cre­ate a pic­ture in the mind, but with­out telling the reader whether the fig­ure is alive or dead). The addi­tional infor­ma­tion led peo­ple to believe that the asso­ci­ated claim was more likely to be true.”

Ok, so first thing, what the heck does non-probative mean? Basi­cally, it means the photo does not log­i­cally prove the state­ment to be true or false. Non-probative images are merely decorative.

For instance, if you have a state­ment like “The US has the high­est incar­cer­a­tion rate of any coun­try” and you then accom­pany that state­ment with a bar graph like the one on the right, then that image would be con­sid­ered “pro­ba­tive” because it would log­i­cally “prove” the state­ment to be true, assum­ing that you took the image at “face value.”

This is opposed to a more dec­o­ra­tive image of a con­vict behind bars. That photo would be related to the state­ment about incar­cer­a­tion rates, but it would not log­i­cally “prove” anything.

Why “Non-Probative” Doesn’t Mean Non-Persuasive

Although a non-probative pho­to­graph may not “prove” any­thing, it can still sug­gest and imply.

So who says sug­ges­tion is any less per­sua­sive than out­right statement?

For instance, if that photo of the con­vict behind bars was black, it might remind the test sub­ject that the US jails a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of African Amer­i­cans — a visual sug­ges­tion that would surely color one’s judge­ment of the accom­pa­ny­ing state­ment, right?

Because peo­ple can’t help but con­nect the dots between image and state­ment.

It works the same way with the celebrity state­ments as well. because we believe in inter­nal con­sis­tency. If some­one hands us a state­ment with spelling and gram­mat­i­cal errors, we become less likely to lend cred­i­bil­ity to the state­ment or the per­son who wrote it. Any­one recall Dan Quayle’s Potato gaff?

So when someome men­tions a lit­tle known celebrity and pro­vides a pic­ture of said celebrity, we not only auto­mat­i­cally con­nect the dots between pic­ture and celebrity, but we con­nect the dots between know­ing who the heck one is talk­ing about with know­ing what the heck one is talk­ing about. The thought process goes some­thing like, you obvi­ously know who this guy is and I don’t, so you prob­a­bly also know whether or not he’s still alive… 

Why do I think this is a greater fac­tor than the psy­chol­o­gists’ “increased cog­ni­tive avail­abil­ity” hypothesis?

Because sci­en­tists who con­ducted the same test, but who accom­pa­nied the celebrity state­ments with facts and stats about the celebrity instead of a pic­ture recorded the same effect: the stats boosted the per­ceived cred­i­bil­ity exactly as the pho­tos did in the pre­vi­ous test. And my guess is that the stats “prove” to the test sub­jects that the peo­ple mak­ing the state­ment really know who they’re talk­ing about, in pretty much the same way that a pic­ture would. Makes sense right?

But would stats really help peo­ple hold an idea in their heads? Would stats make the celebrity more “cog­ni­tively avail­able” to the test sub­jects? I rather doubt it.

So it’s really less about help­ing peo­ple hold the idea in their heads, and more about sub­tly con­vinc­ing them you know what you’re talk­ing about.

And images don’t have to do that explic­itly, as impli­ca­tion and clo­sure work just fine, if not even better.

A pic­ture of an old-fashioned ther­mome­ter dis­plays a sil­very strip in the mid­dle of it, imply­ing the idea of liq­uid metal. Con­nect­ing the dots between image and state­ment, and sud­denly the idea of liq­uid mag­ne­sium seems a whole lot more plausible…

It makes me won­der if a pic­ture of a modern-day ther­mome­ter would have had the same results…

Using Clo­sure To Improve Per­sua­sion & Impact

So… we know this clo­sure between image and text cre­ates greater believ­abil­ity. But how would one use it for images alone?

Well, for images, the short answer is to give the viewer 2 + 2 rather than just hand­ing them 4. Cre­ate an image that makes them con­nect the dots between ele­ments of the image.  Here are some great exam­ples of that:

OK, so these are cheat­ing a bit because they’re both text-based images, but nei­ther of them make much sense until you con­nect the dots — allow­ing both ads to make their state­ments all the more strongly.

Here’s another exam­ple, this time with an hon­est, no-kidding image:

Again, the image is mean­ing­less until you men­tally “fill the gap” about what those sets of feet really indi­cate. Clo­sure at work. There’s also a nice gap/connection between the stockinged feet and the text.

And on a more purely visual note, much of the emo­tional impact of this image can be attrib­uted to the “gaps” that it forces your mind to fill in:

Great exam­ple of clo­sure used to increase men­tal engage­ment and impact. But what about using clo­sure to select more pow­er­ful imagery to accom­pany your per­sua­sive copy and messaging?

How to Use This In Web Copy

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Use the “I saw it with my own eyes, so it must be real” approach

If you’ve got a tes­ti­mo­nial, you could, as Derek sug­gests, place a pic­ture of the cus­tomer who gave it to you next to the tes­ti­mo­nial. That’ll work. Or, if you don’t have that, you could take a photo of the hand-written tes­ti­mo­nial and place it next to the testimonial.

It sounds silly, but just imag­ine the dif­fer­ence between some­one say­ing “this per­son wrote in to say X” and some­one hand­ing you the actual hand-written note and say­ing “look what cus­tomer X had to say.” Which would be more per­sua­sive? The lat­ter, right? Because then you could say that you saw the tes­ti­mo­nial “with your own eyes.”

Of course, the “so it must be true” part would likely go unsaid, but it would be all the more pow­er­ful for it. And that’s why an image of the hand-written tes­ti­mo­nial would be more per­sua­sive than the state­ment alone.

So within your sales copy, deter­mine which ele­ments peo­ple would most want to see with their own eyes, then find images that would give them a sim­i­lar sense of verification.

Another exam­ple, I once worked with a metal roof­ing com­pany that claimed a no-kidding 50-year life span on their roofs. Now the claim and guar­an­tee is great. But what I advised them to do was  find the old­est roof they had ever installed (which turned out to be 30+ years old) and to get both an estab­lish­ing pic of the building/roof and a close-up pic­ture of the metal “tiles.”  It’s one thing to claim a 50-year life span, and another entirely to show a 30-year roof that looks brand new.

Just don’t do the cheese-ball thing of using blacked out bank state­ments to “prove” how much money you make!

2. Use images to sug­gest and emo­tion­ally prime belief

No one does this bet­ter than apple. Take a look at this screen shot from Apple’s page on the new iPad 4:

It’s not an acci­dent that the iPad sports an image of two Porsche’s about to race, or that the image is from a graph­ics inten­sive game. The mes­sag­ing is about speed after all. Speed achieved through high-performance engi­neer­ing. Don’t you think the image of “Porsche Race Cars” brings all that to mind rather powerfully?

Here’s another example:

So… what the heck is that black ring in the mid­dle of the picture?

It’s not a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. Nor is it a cam­era lens, is it? Maybe it’s some kind of weird bas­tard love child between the two…

But it doesn’t mat­ter, does it. We instinc­tively know that this is show­ing us that even when you mag­nify the pic­ture 2.5X, it’s still high-res enough to look crisp and un-pixelated. Of course, the copy never makes that claim. But the pic­ture cer­tainly sug­gests it, doesn’t it?

If Images Com­bined with State­ments Are Pow­er­ful, What About Video?

But were this really starts to come into it’s own is in explana­tory videos. But that’s a sub­ject for another post…


Matthew Hutson’s jour­nal­ism on Mag­i­cal Think­ing has been inspir­ing my thoughts on adver­tis­ing for a few years now, so when his book on the sub­ject came out, I made it a point to pester his pub­lisher for a review copy of The 7 Laws of Mag­i­cal Think­ing.

But rather than write a tra­di­tional review, I’m going to:

  • Just come right out and rec­om­mend the book. If you’re read­ing this blog, you’ll love the book — go grab a copy. And also…
  • Pro­vide a quick sum­mary of the 7 Laws as described in the book.

Fol­low up posts will focus on the Q&A’s with the author and adver­tis­ing appli­ca­tions. So now it’s onto those tit­u­lar 7 Laws.

Matthew Hutson’s 7 Laws of Mag­i­cal Think­ing are:

1) Objects Carry Essences

Think sports mem­o­ra­bilia, Catholic relics, his­tor­i­cal arti­facts.  The for­mer own­ers of these objects, for­mer acts that they took part in, and so on have imbued them with greater mean­ing and weight that go beyond the merely sym­bolic — they have essences. Jackie O’s fake pearl neck­lace sold for over $200K at auc­tion, not because the lac­quered mar­bles had any intrin­sic value, but because they had some of Jackie’s essence in them.

A quote from the book says it all:

There are many lay­ers of belief,” psy­chol­o­gist Carol Nemeroff says. “And the answer for many peo­ple, espe­cially with regard to magic, is, ‘Most of me doesn’t believe but some of me does.’” Peo­ple will often acknowl­edge their gut reac­tion and say it makes no sense to act on it—but do it anyway.”

We may not con­sciously believe in essences, but our actions prove oth­er­wise. That’s why peo­ple recoil from a laun­dered arti­cle of cloth­ing if they are told it was worn by a ser­ial killer. It’s why you don’t want an exact replica of your wed­ding ring, but would insist on the actual ring, instead.

2) Sym­bols Have Power

Why did you know you where in trou­ble when your par­ents called you by your full name?  And why, as a par­ent, do you fully name your child when exert­ing author­ity over her?  There’s some­thing pow­er­ful about a name-giver fully pro­nounc­ing a named entity and we instinc­tively rec­og­nize it; sym­bols have power.

I can’t help think­ing of the famous Monty Python and the Holy Grail skit where the peas­ant has his polit­i­cal rant about how “strange women lyin’ in ponds dis­trib­utin’ swords is no basis for a sys­tem of gov­ern­ment. Supreme exec­u­tive power derives from a man­date from the masses, not from some far­ci­cal aquatic cer­e­mony.”  Yeah, it’s the elec­tion and not the cer­e­mony that mat­ters. And yet, the Pres­i­dent of the United States doesn’t become pres­i­dent after the elec­tion. The President-Elect only becomes Pres­i­dent after the swear­ing in ceremony.

And mar­ket­ing sym­bols have tremen­dous power — the power to make lux­ury brand wear­ers feel bet­ter about them­selves, and sporty-brand wear­ers to feel more ath­letic, and to make wine taste bet­ter.  And let’s not for­get Apple icon’s abil­ity to make buy­ers open up their wal­lets. Those sym­bols have power, indeed.

3) Actions Have Dis­tant Consequences

What hap­pens to the voodoo doll also hap­pens to the tar­geted per­son, despite the phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion of doll and tar­get. But that’s con­scious belief in Magic. So what about cheer­ing on your favorite team while watch­ing the game in your liv­ing room? Does your men­tal sup­port of the team matter?

What about pre-game or pre–Big Day rit­u­als? Most of us have them, and most of us believe, at least on some level, that they help, that they have an effect on the results we achieve, or else why would we do them, right?

And what about tempt­ing fate? Does switch­ing check­out lines make the line you leave move faster? What about not “jinx­ing” a pick­nick by talk­ing about the weather?  Or “knock­ing on wood”?  If you think about it, almost all super­sti­tion is based on “spooky action at a dis­tance.” And super­sti­tion is uni­ver­sal. You can’t ignore it when mod­el­ing how peo­ple make decisions.

4) The Mind Knows No Bounds

Two words: The Secret. But again, that’s an exam­ple of peo­ple con­sciously believ­ing in Magic, rather than hav­ing their sub­con­scious belief reveal itself through every­day behav­iors, despite a con­scious denial of said belief. So how about Syn­chronic­ity. Even if we don’t believe in syn­chronic­ity, we see a causal con­nec­tion between think­ing about our spouses, only to have the call us at that very moment.  A part of us believes that they called us because we were think­ing about them.

Sim­i­larly, most of us have also held the notion that we can “feel it” when some­one stares at us. We under­stand what it means to feel as if we’re being watched.  And how exactly would we be able to feel that if we didn’t have some notion that the con­scious­ness of one per­son can be picked up on by another with­out any sort of medi­a­tion or direct communication?

5) The Soul Lives On

Even those of us who don’t believe in heaven or an after­life, still act as if they do. They’ll still go to a grave to pay their respects (to whom, exactly?), or hang on to con­tact infor­ma­tion in their cell phones or com­put­ers.  Or, in a more famous exam­ple that Hut­son quotes from The Year of Mag­i­cal Think­ing, Joan Did­ion real­ized why she had an emo­tional block against giv­ing away her dead husband’s shoes: she couldn’t do it because, some­where in her uncon­scious, she still felt that “he would need shoes if he returned.”

And like most exam­ples of Mag­i­cal Think­ing, the mere real­iza­tion that one’s think­ing is mag­i­cal doesn’t release the spell. As Did­ion wrote of her he’ll-need-shoes rev­e­la­tion: “The recog­ni­tion of this thought by no means erad­i­cated the thought.” To re-quote Carol Numeroff: “Most of me doesn’t believe, but part of me does.”

6) The World Is Alive

If you’ve ever thrown a ham­mer after hit­ting your thumb, or kicked an inan­i­mate object after bump­ing into it, or yelled at your car, you’ve acted as if the thing was alive and in pos­ses­sion of a con­scious will, if not out­right mal­ice. Another great exam­ple of this comes from the movie Back­draft:

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Again, this guy is will­ing to con­sciously square with his idea of liv­ing fire, but most of us, at some level, have sim­i­lar beliefs. Or at least we act as if we do.

7) Every­thing Hap­pens for a Reason

We are wired to find mean­ing, and espe­cially to look for and find mean­ing in the events that befall us. As Matthew Hut­son writes in the book:

We com­pose our life sto­ries using the data given — the some­what ran­dom hap­pen­ings of our pasts — but then we get the roles of the data and the inter­pre­ta­tion con­fused: we stare in won­der at how well the events seem to fit the theme, for­get­ting that we cus­tom fit the theme to the events. It’s another exam­ple of the Texas sharp­shooter fal­lacy, but instead of draw­ing a tar­get around a clus­ter of bul­let holes and gawk­ing at the aim of a marks­man, your con­struct­ing a story around a series of occur­rences and mar­veling at the wis­dom and insight of prov­i­dence. One stray bul­let and you wouldn’t be who you are today”

You can see some of this mag­i­cal think­ing at work in the roman­tic com­edy trope of “meet­ing cute.” To arrange for your leads to meet cute is to arrange for them to acci­den­tally bump into each other through chance or hap­pen­stance, so that when they later fall in love, it feels more like their cou­pling was fated rather than self-directed.

Why This Stuff Matters

In a word, you have to meet peo­ple where they are, and per­suade them on their terms, not yours. Peo­ple aren’t ratio­nal lit­tle robots. They are irra­tional. Or, if you pre­fer, supra-rational. The good news is that they are, to bor­row a phrase from Dan Ariely, pre­dictably irrational.

Mag­i­cal Think­ing is one of the ways in which peo­ple are pre­dictably irra­tional. And know­ing the laws of mag­i­cal think­ing helps you make those predictions.

In other words, you really ought to go buy a copy of The 7 Laws of Mag­i­cal Think­ing if your job involves influ­enc­ing decisions.

An images story appeal is its abil­ity to cause view­ers to imag­ine the story sur­round­ing the cap­tured moment.  What hap­pened before and after the moment depicted in the paint­ing of photo, and, by exten­sion, what’s the mean­ing of the moment being captured?

The idea is for peo­ple to see the image and ask them­selves, “What’s the story here?” That’s story appeal.  And at least accord­ing to David Ogilvy, story appeal is cru­cial for adver­tis­ing imagery, which makes it a skill worth studying.

And with that in mind, is there any­body in the world bet­ter at cre­at­ing images with story appeal than Nor­man Rockwell?

Just take a look at the following:

Any chance you could look at any of those and NOT under­stand the story that’s being told, not “pic­ture” the imme­di­ate before and after moments belong­ing to these images?

How He Does It

Rockwell’s depicts rituals.

It is the eas­ily rec­og­nized and self-identifiable nature of these Amer­i­can rit­u­als that give his paint­ings their emo­tional appeal. And because we rec­og­nize the rit­ual, we also instantly know what took place just before and after the moment cap­tured in the pic­ture. In our minds, we enter into the sto­ry­land Rock­well illus­trates for us.

With­out rit­ual it’s much harder for an audi­ence to have that reac­tion, or for an image to exert that kind of story appeal.

Show me a car dri­ving down the road and I feel no auto­matic urge to enter into the story of that car and it’s dri­ver. There’s no rit­ual there. Show me a car dri­ving down the road that’s drag­ging a bunch of shoes from the bumper and has a “Just Mar­ried” on the back win­dow, and the story becomes clear — both of what hap­pened before the cou­ple got into the car and what’ll most likely hap­pen when they get out of the car at their destination.

That’s the sto­ry­telling power of rit­ual. But rit­ual isn’t just lim­ited to sacra­ments and for­mal­i­ties. We all have our daily rit­u­als, too. Show me a guy climb­ing into his car with his travel cof­fee mug and a brief­case, and I’ll think “com­mute.” Our take lunchtime for example:

Why This Matters

While the impor­tance of story appeal is obvi­ous for visual ads, it’s impor­tant for radio (and TV) ads, too. Here’s why:

Just as every writer has heard the advice to “Show, Don’t Tell,” every writer of drama has heard the adage to “enter late and leave early” when writ­ing their scenes. Basi­cally, skip the expo­si­tion at the begin­ning (enter late), and let the audi­ence fig­ure out the obvi­ous con­clu­sions while you move onto a new scene (leave early).

But that sort of begs the ques­tion: how do you do that?

Answer: tap into the power of rit­ual — show rec­og­niz­able situations.

And how do I know this works and is sound advice?

An Adver­tis­ing Example

Want to see an inter­est­ing exam­ple of a com­mer­cial that taps into the power of rit­ual and both enters late and leaves early?  Check this out:

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So what about you? How are you har­ness­ing into the power of rit­ual and story appeal with your ads?



by Jeff

The Alamo Draft­house, pretty much the coolest movie the­atre chain on the planet, came out with the fol­low­ing pro­mo­tion for the sum­mer of 2012:

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Yup.  That’s pretty much PURE GENIUS.

They aren’t play­ing up the tan­gi­bles of the movie busi­ness — the lat­est release, the avail­abil­ity of 3-D IMAX or dolby sound, or say the com­fort of ultra-plush seat­ing — they’re tap­ping into the intan­gi­ble draw that many or most 40 and 50-somethings have for the pop-culture mile­stones of their youth.  

As a result of this emo­tional draw that they pur­posely tapped into, Alamo Draft­house will likely pay less to show these movies and draw large crowds of very appre­cia­tive, excited audi­ences — crowds that likely wouldn’t have come out for the lat­est and great­est sum­mer block­buster fare.

Why Not Your Business?

Sure, The Alamo Draft­house is IN the enter­tain­ment busi­ness. It’s prob­a­bly eas­ier for them to gen­er­ate excite­ment around a night out at the movies than it might be for, say, a plumber to tap into the power of nos­tal­gia. But it’s not impos­si­ble for the plumber. How about sell­ing claw-foot tubs big enough to let a 6-foot adult stretch out and float, the way you used to be able to when you were a lit­tle kid?  Sort of a feel like a kid again, bath­tub for the afflu­ent type promotion…

Maybe you’re reject­ing that spe­cific idea, and that’s fine, the point isn’t that that’s a great idea, but that it’s pos­si­ble for most busi­nesses to inject an ele­ment of sen­ti­ment and nos­tal­gia and excite­ment into their busi­ness rather than resign­ing them­selves to push­ing noth­ing but tangibles.

Because when you’re noth­ing but tan­gi­bles, you’re a com­mod­ity, or on the road to commodity-ville. 

So ask your­self this:

  • What are your cus­tomers will­ing to re-call, com­mem­o­rate, and cel­e­brate with you?
  • How can you help them do that?
  • What kind of anniver­sary or con­nec­tion or his­tor­i­cal asso­ci­a­tion could you choose to celebrate?

Most impor­tantly, how could YOU use nos­tal­gia and sen­ti­ment in your business?

 “In fact, I’m going to apol­o­gize. This whole ‘dream myth’ has been prop­a­gated by news reporters like me. Because we love telling this story, we love the dream. When­ever you write a pro­file of some per­son who is a suc­cess or who is going to jail, you always start at the end and fol­low the line back so it looks like it all makes sense. You sit some­one down and you ask, “When did you first dream of being an opera singer (or a Nobel–prize win­ning econ­o­mist, or the worst inside trader of all time)?”

Then you ask, “What obsta­cles did you have to over­come? How did you tri­umph?” Reporters are no dif­fer­ent from every sto­ry­teller through time. We want to tell and hear the hero’s jour­ney. The epic myth.

You know what never makes it into the hero’s jour­ney? All the dreams that didn’t work out. There’s just not time. You never hear the part of the leg­end where the hero just wanted to chill for the sum­mer, hang out in Port­land, and fig­ure some stuff out. Get his head straight. That hap­pens, but every sto­ry­teller edits that out.”

NPR Reporter, Robert Smith, dur­ing his Reed Col­lege Com­mence­ment Address

It is per­haps fit­ting that Steven Press­field has run a series of arti­cles on “The Hero’s Jour­ney” of late, because his lat­est book explores exactly those areas of the jour­ney that Robert Smith accuses reporters of leav­ing or edit­ing out of most sub­jects’ “suc­cess sto­ries.”  The part where the hero — delib­er­ately or uncon­sciously — choses the wrong career path, some­times repeat­edly. Or where she sand­bags it for a sum­mer to “get her head straight” or work through some stuff.

In other words, most peo­ple leave out exactly the part that the rest of us des­per­ately need to know — what hap­pened to get you from the point where you weren’t mak­ing it to the point where you were!  How’d you make the leap, man?  Tell us!

And there’s a sim­ple rea­son most peo­ple don’t tell us, even beyond the reporters desire to present us with slices of life with the bor­ing parts cut out. Quite frankly, that shit is embar­rass­ing. Who wants to talk about self-sabotage, mis-steps, and unsuc­cess­ful careers. Not me.

That’s what makes Steven Press­field such an incred­i­ble trea­sure and stand-up guy: he’ll do it. And in Turn­ing Pro, he does just that; he gives you exactly the nitty gritty on HOW to turn pro, what hap­pened before he turned pro, and what you can expect in the journey.

So if that’s the kind of stuff you’d like to learn — if you’re tired of read­ing all those dream come true sto­ries with the impor­tant shit cut out — then link on over to Black Irish Books and grab your­self a copy!

P.S. Black Irish Books is the new pub­lish­ing com­pany started by Steven Press­field and Shawn Coyne.  It’s a great ven­ture and worth sup­port­ing, so even if you’d rather get your copy from Ama­zon, please con­sider order­ing direct from the author.