Have you met Annie Dillard?

Probably not in person, but met her, as in, on the page.

She’s one of the most unusual writers you’ll ever read. Her words leap to the surface and surprise you with their compact moving parts, their stunning clarity, how they make magic of everyday things.

I found this piece on her in the Times from 2016, featuring three short unusual and early essays, and the writer, Sam Anderson, calls out this line of Dillard’s that serves as an artistic manifesto, one that would serve us well to remember:

‘‘Possible books abound; I’d rather write an impossible page.’’

I love this because it reminds me that there are always things we could do: businesses we could start, books we could write.

But what if we aimed…smaller? What if made one really good thing? Because doing one thing, writing even one page, can take everything you’ve got and can show you what you’re capable of.

Look, anyone can talk about all the things we could do, should do, would do if, if, if.

But rather than make big plans, why not start here? Why not start with one small thing, done well?

  • Rather than sit down to write The Book, sit down to write A Scene.
  • Rather than sit down to start up a business, write a list of ways you could help someone with their biggest problem.
  • Rather than wait to be moved BY inspiration, be inspired by the work you’ve started.

Want a prompt to get you going? Here’s one:

Write about a time you waited. Waited…for a person. Waited tables. Waited around. Waited too long. Write about what it was like to wait, where you were, what it felt like to be there. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Write.

You never know what will come out of it. Go ahead. Write your own impossible page.

 

 

P.S. Like writing to prompts? I’ve got a whole batch of them. Check out 30 Days on the Page, a series of audio sessions you can do anywhere. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just hit play.

Do you know how much more effective positive feedback is to negative attention?

What do you think. Twice as much? Ten times at most?

Try 30. Positive attention is 30x’s more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team. (That comes from Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall.)

Oh, so that means we should all blow smoke up each other’s hoohas?

Nope.

What it does mean is that you’re not doing anyone too many favors by fixing them all the time. And that you may get more from your team if you shine attention on what’s working instead.

This is the heart of the Gateless Method. Want to see that in action? Get a replay of a recent workshop here.

We use writing, yes, but it’s hardly just for writers.

What you’ll learn is an approach to ideas and craft that can change the way you interact on a team. Come check it out, and if it sounds interesting, let’s talk–because it can be applied to virtually ANY context.

==> territrespicio.com/write

#leadership #management #creativity #feedback #workshop #teamwork

You already know the first rule of fight club.

But do you know the first rule of Gateless Writing? No. Most people don’t what that even is.

The first rule is: Do not disclaim your work.

It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do: Say something WITHOUT qualifying, defending, explaining away, or basically telling everyone why they should NOT like or listen to what you have to say.

Disclaiming is not just a waste of time (no one cares), but it sends a message: I DON’T KNOW IF YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY, CUZ I’M NOT SURE I BELIEVE IT MYSELF.

When you write in a Gateless Writing workshop, and you share your work, defensive prologues are not permitted.

Something happens when you stop disclaiming, when you just present your work, your idea, your words: They stand.

If you want your work to go somewhere, to gain respect, you can’t kick it in the nuts first.

And when you stop disclaiming, people respond differently.

Don’t believe me? Come find out.

territrespicio.com/write

Quick story:

Years ago, I went on a writing retreat in Rhode Island. I knew one person (my friend Becky).

The retreat leader, Suzanne Kingsbury, explained the method we would be using: We’d write together, then read what we wrote out loud. And then we’d give feedback on what we liked about what we heard.

Ok.

Is that it? When do we get to the part where you tell me how to improve, though? How is telling me good things going to make me better? I was dubious.

Suzanne (ebullient, piles of black hair, dangly earrings, more exotic bird than human) said to me, Let’s go for a walk.

We walked along the water and she asked me what I wanted to write.

I said, “I’d love to write a book,” and then quickly denounced my own efforts and explained why it couldn’t possibly happen.

She smiled (she knew my type).

Then: She told me about what she’d heard in my own writing, what she loved, and how if I wanted to write a book, I could.

I wrote my butt off that weekend, in ways I never have, about things I never had. I left a different person than when I arrived. I didn’t miss a retreat after that.

A few years later, I became certified as a Gateless instructor. I not only was writing tons of stuff, but now helping other people use the method to create what they most wanted. I even started using it in my brand consulting, and it elevated that work.

Most importantly, I kept writing.

And just a few weeks ago, I sold that book.

It’s tentatively titled Stop searching for your passion, due out from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books in spring 2022.

!!

I can’t quite believe it myself.

I wanted you to be among the first to know.

I could not and would not have done it without the Gateless Method. Which is why I believe it’s worth experiencing first hand—whether you write or not. Even if a book is the furthest thing from your mind (but especially if it’s not).

I’m doing a series of free Gateless Writing workshops the week of July 27th, and I’d love you to join me!

>>Come write with me!

Tues 7/28 @ 6pm ET

Fri 7/31 @12p ET

Come to either, or both—whether you’ve been dying to write, or have never considered it in your life. No experience or inspiration required.

I didn’t catch a football until I was in my 40s. Mainly because no one had ever thrown me one. 

I was encouraged, invited (cajoled! Forced!) by my friends from improv class to be part of their coed touch football team in this actual league where you had matching t-shirts and everything. 

No. Way. 

You don’t understand, I said. I don’t know anything about this game. I will not be good. In fact, I will be a liability. 

They did not care, and they would not take no for an answer. Mainly because, well, they weren’t my career coaches–they were my friends and they were one girl shy of a full roster. 

If you could paint a picture of imposter syndrome, it was me in that stiff team shirt that first day. Everyone lined up and I wanted to wave my arms and say, “Stop! I should not be here. Can you not see I should not be here? I am an imposter and I’m about to ruin everything.” 

But I didn’t. I just ran around and pretended I knew what I was doing. Sometimes I was well into running an offensive route before realizing we were on defense. Oh, I was a mess.

And then, a few games in, I caught the ball. 

Then, later in that season, I scored a touchdown. Then another. 

We won the league championship that season. And the next. Though to be honest, I never know the score and sometimes have to ask after if we won or not.

Did I have a secret talent for football? God no. No no no. And I did not “follow my passion” onto the field, you can be sure of that. 

Guess what I became? A passionate and devoted member of that team. 

We’ve got passion backwards, and it’s making life harder than it has to be. Let’s talk about it:

https://territrespicio.com/passion/

 

Look, messaging is hard enough ON A GOOD DAY WHEN THE WORLD IS NOT BURNING. 

But during highly charged moments like this one, it’s worth thinking real hard about what you want to say, yes, but also why you think you want to say it. 

Anything you say can get a response you didn’t expect or intend—come off divisive or tone deaf or flat-out offensive. Even when your intentions are good, it can go very, very wrong. 

It’s easy to assume that you should go ahead and STFU about it. Nope. 

This piece in Crain’s points out how CEOs are awkwardly stepping up to the task—and how all BUT “these companies” have made some kind of statement. #busted 

I have no illusions about my own privilege here. I’m a half white, half Asian woman who grew up in suburban New Jersey in a 99% white community and went to an all-girls (and just about all-white) school. We had the luxury of not thinking about race, outside of what we studied…as an elective. 

So no, I’m no race relations expert—but I’m a messaging pro, and I can hear a wrong note from a mile away. Here’s where I think a lot of people go wrong in their often well-intentioned efforts to “speak out.” 

Where people go wrong with their messaging:

  • They think the answer is to be Captain Obvious. Sorry, no one gets points for ranting about how “racism is wrong” and “Floyd was murdered.” You might as well start arguing that the sky is blue. In fact, highlighting that you now believe racism is wrong makes us think THIS JUST OCCURRED TO YOU.
  • They claim they’re above racism. I’ve heard more than one of my white friends say that they just don’t see race and believe everyone is equal and why can’t everyone just get along. This not only makes you look more out of touch; it’s also unhelpful. Because in fact it’s your very privilege that has made race and any discussion of it “optional.” There’s not a black person in this country who isn’t reminded of their race, every day. To “forget” race is a luxury, and a dangerous one at that. As Robin DiAngelo points out in White Fragility, if you can’t see race, how will you see racism?
  • They talk about how hard they struggle to say something.  Now is not the time to focus on your struggle to find words, which, if that’s all you’re struggling with, is a privilege in itself.

What does work: 

  • Deciding that addressing racism is more important than proving you’re not racist. DiAngelo’s whole thesis is that white progressives are slowing, not quickening, the anti-racist movement, mainly because they’re too busy making sure everyone knows they’re not racist. If we’re all too afraid of being caught out as racist, we blame people and flubs instead of making substantive change. 

 

  • Making discoveries rather than pronouncements. No one is asking you to be a leader or expert on race. Nor does anyone need your apologia for being white and/or privileged. No one’s interested in that right now. Ask yourself, what have you learned through this and how might that moment of discovery spark that same eye-opening in someone else? What we’re craving right now is action and insight. What have you learned, and what are you doing about it? And what can we? 

 

  • Focusing on actions, not feelings. Yes, the “feelings” around this are very real, but they’re not the focus, and the point of change isn’t to help you or anyone else “feel” better. That undermines the enormous effort it will require to change age-old institutions, to make real sustainable change so that lives, not feelings, improve. 

 

  • Asking yourself not just what you want to say…but why. If you’re about to share something with your team, audience, clients, customers, readers, ask yourself very honestly why you are doing it. Despite what our egos tell us, the world is not hanging on our response to this. (Another mark of privilege, P.S.)At the same time, the people who listen to you are listening most keenly right now. Let’s be honest here: Are you trying to look good? Show people you’re not a racist? Not good enough. Messaging is lip service if it’s not paired with action. Don’t make empty promises; show us what you’re doing and why. How are you helping dismantle wrong ideas instead of protect yourself around old ones?
  • Share resources. This is when we turn attention toward the experts, the people who’ve been studying and teaching and fighting for an end to racism. Here are a few resources I’d like to share, and I’m reading along with you. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Years ago I went on a Segway tour of Austin. I was rigid with fear when I got up on that thing. It felt like standing on a vacuum cleaner and attempting to ride it. 

We all have some inherent understanding of what makes things go: A swing? Easy. Pump and pull. A bike? Work those legs. A car? Press the pedal away from you. 

To make a Segway go, you have to do precisely the opposite of what your brain wants to do: Lean into it. 

It feels like leaning into a ladder attached to nothing. 

But once I got going, I started to get the hang of it. An hour later? PLEASE. I was a pro. 

I felt like I legit became one with the Segway. I didn’t even have to steer it; it seemed I only had to think about moving in a direction and it would go there. It started to weird me out. 

Your work can feel that effortless. 

Another thing the Segway can do? Pivot. On a dime! 

We’ve each had to pivot—hard—in the past few months. And we’ve had to lean into this shit, scary and weird as it is.

Now, obviously, we all have things we hate and have to do, and that may never get easier. But you have a sweet spot, where you and the work move like one sophisticated machine. 

Man, that is the BEST. I love it. 

Which is why I take particular pleasure in creating the conditions for YOU to find that sweet spot, so that you can generate your best stuff. 

Look, they don’t let you get ON a Segway without a little practice time. What if you had some time to ride around on your idea, see where it can go? 

That’s specifically what my new workshop can help you do. And it’s this week! 

It’s called MOVE YOUR ASSETS (lol yup). 

The idea is: Intuition meets execution. Perfect if you feel stuck, unsure of what to do next with what you have, in need of a little more mojo. I got you. 

Get ready to lean into your work, find the sweet spot, and see where it can take you (and it’s further than you think). 

Hop on! Read more about it here.

This is a pic of me on a date with a man I met on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
He’s so goddamn gorgeous I only had the heart to cut out half his face so that his identity is kinda protected but also you can see him OMGGG.
 
He was a male model visiting from Germany (of course) and several (cough cough) years younger than me. This was not going to be a life match, nor did it need to be.
 
For someone who wants to settle down and get married, they’d say, what’s the point if you’re not going to move to Berlin? What a waste! Nope. Not at all.
 
There are lots of reasons to go on dates:
 
…Because you like to go out.
 
…Because it’s time to get back out there.
 
…Because this amazing outfit isn’t going to wear itself.
 
…Because you want to do more dating.
 
…Because you’d actually like to stop dating. (Sooner the better.)
 
…Because you’d like to get married.
 
…Because you never want to get married.
 
There is no “one” reason to date, and everyone has their own. The dating is a means to an end for some, and for others, it’s an end in itself.
 
The same goes for just about anything else you can think of—including writing and sharing content. And on the training I ran this week, I went over all the reasons why you might want to share more of your ideas via blog, book, podcast, whatever. And they probably don’t match other people’s reasons.
 
Here’s the thing: What you write, make, create and how successful it is, will depend on WHY you’re doing it and for what purpose.
 
For some, a successful launch, product, or piece of content is one that: Gets lots of views. Gets lots of shares. Or, brings in ONE amazing new client.
 
“Raising awareness?” not a powerful enough reason. I don’t go on dates so that more people are aware of me. I go on a date to connect…with one person. There’s a goal there. But we don’t have to get into that. Let’s just say the goal posts have a way of moving.
 
Want to hear more on this? Get the replay. It’s all cued up and ready. You can access it here.
The good news is that because you’re more in control of your content than you are of chemistry between humans, the content thing may pan out better than most dates. That’s my guess.

I recently had the privilege of working with one of the top financial advisors in the country. She wanted to rebrand her firm, and with good reason: It didn’t reflect who she really is, and what she and her team really stand for. Common problem.

And who could blame her? She’s a little too busy running her company and managing millions in assets to worry about her website!

She had, until now, looked at her website the way most people do: A cross between a file cabinet and a billboard.

On one hand, a place to simply put all your stuff, in case anyone wants to go rifling through it (they don’t).  

On the other, a digital sign that says to all the world, “Hey, here’s my file cabinet, in case anyone’s looking for it.”

Unless you’re conducting business online (selling merchandise or online programs, for example), the purpose of a website is still kind of unclear for most people. What should I put on there? What should it say?

After we had deconstructed and reconstructed her messaging, and crafted a fresh approach to how she presents her brand online, this client said something I’ll never forget.

“You approach a website differently than I’ve ever seen,” she said. “You approach it as, well, a love letter.”

She’s right. I do.

Think of the last time you received a love letter.

I bet you hung on every word. I bet you read it more than once. Why? Because it was to YOU and no one else, and you knew it. Those words were written expressly to connect with what you needed and wanted to hear, and most importantly, the person who wrote them, meant it.

Can you think of a better way to treat your website? Your brand? All the tiny touch points of it—the emails, blogs, the freebie pop-ups?

This is what’s missing, I believe, from most websites. You know, the ones that feel wooden or flimsy or a little too slick. They may have cool logos and graphics, flashing, moving parts. But what are they saying? What do they mean? Why do I care?

Here’s how to use the love letter approach for creating more powerful, compelling messaging on your site (and everywhere else).

Ask yourself:

Am I a bad date?

Most people’s websites are like terrible first dates: They’re all about THEM, and how great they are. They never ask you a question. They never show an ounce of concern or even mild interest in you. (Trust me, I’ve been on a few of these this year.)

I tell people that their websites shouldn’t simply be mirror images of themselves.

No one’s coming to your site to watch you preen in front of it. They want to know what you have to offer them. Simple concept, hard to execute on, especially if you’re not sure yourself.

Think of it, instead, as a way to connect with the person you’re looking to attract. What are his or her concerns, fears, struggles? Where are they at right now, and how can you help? The real skill is in being able to make a reader “heard” when they’re not even the ones doing the speaking.

 

(Psst…want to find out how to approach YOUR content? Check out my free training, Rekindle Your Content: Fire up your creativity and fuel your marketing efforts.  And discover how to think about content in a way that doesn’t make you die inside.)

What do I most want to do for this person?

And please don’t tell me to improve their lives, because that’s a given. Unless someone out there is publicizing their efforts to ruin yours, you can assume that most people, whether they’re bookkeepers or coaches or personal trainers, are always trying to help.

I’ll add that there’s a kind of mealy-mouthed aspect of this that I can’t stand, and it’s when someone wants credit for wanting to help. That is your job.

If you weren’t purporting to solve a problem for me and in so doing improve an aspect of my life, then you don’t have much of a business. So get past this and instead focus on what you can do for me, your one true love. Haha.

Do I actually love them?  

If you don’t love the person you’re trying to reach, good luck getting and keeping their attention. Seems obvious. But if down deep you’re annoyed at, judgy of, or otherwise impatient toward the people you want to help (for instance, if you think they’re stupid and that’s why they need you), trust me, it will show.

I remember an interview with the actor John Goodman about his role in the film 10 Cloverfield Lane, in which he plays a conspiracy theorist-slash-survivalist living in a bunker. He’s a terrifying, loathsome character—and Goodman said that the only way he could face playing him is if he found something, anything, likable about him. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know he basically nailed it.

Now, you aren’t terrifying or loathsome, and neither is your audience. I hope. But when you think about what you truly want to do to help these particular people and why, connect to that part that appeals, that draws you in, that makes you excited to help.

Because if you don’t love them, at least some part of them, you by definition won’t have a love letter. Just…a letter. And that’s no fun.

Great branding, website, copy, all of it, should do one thing: Connect. And so yeah, there’s a little romance involved. And by romance I don’t mean “sexy”; I mean the kind of romance that draws you in, makes your audience feel wanted, and heard. That kind of romance.

Your job is to create meaning and value for the person whom you can most successfully serve. If you can do that, over and over, you’ll get the best kind of response from fans and prospects that you could hope to: “Tell me more.”