Who would you offer an open invitation to your time?

John D. Rockefeller was a super busy human. The oil tycoon and one-time richest rock on the block could not have been more in-demand. Yet, after meeting William Rainey Harper, Rockefeller so enjoyed their conversation, and was so inspired by Harper’s thinking that he offered him an open invitation to come talk to Rockefeller anytime he wanted.

To be granted Rockefeller’s All-Access pass Harper must have been quite a special guy. Indeed, Doogie Harper entered college at the age of 10, graduated at 14 and earned his PhD from Yale at 19. But you have to imagine that a person of Rockefeller’s wealth and experience met many smart and interesting cats.

This Begs 2 Questions:

  1. Do you have a person that you would offer an open invitation to come talk to you?

Or perhaps more importantly:

2. Who would you have to be to receive such an invitation?

Like one of those cooking shows where they prepared the final dish ahead of time, I have already spent some time thinking about the question. So here is my freshly baked answer:

To earn an open invitation to my time you need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be kind. Friendliness is the ultimate ness.
  2. Offer wisdom. Having the wisdom of experience makes you a valuable resource. If you’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and hat, then you bring great value to me.
  3. Be a problem solver. Can you help me think through the problems, shortcomings and challenges I face? And can you check out the hook while my DJ revolves it?
  4. Be super funny? Humor draws me to others. If you are super funny I may give you a pass on all the rest.
  5. Offer motivation. If you make me want to charge windmills I’ll make time for you.
  6. Be inspirational. We can never have too much.
  7. Intelligence. Show me a great way of thinking and you will improve my own.
  8. Be brave. Courage is contagious. But you don’t have to wear a mask or get a vaccine because of it.
  9. Be a gifted storyteller. A great storyteller is an entertainer. Like watching a TV show, movie or play, a storyteller helps fill your life with interesting and memorable tales.
  10. Be a great listener. Sometimes we just want someone to listen to us.
  11. Have a great perspective. A person that can help you see life, people, and challenges through an interesting lens, that is different than your own, offers additive value.
  12. Smell really good. I like people who smell good.

Key Takeaway

Think about the type of person that you would offer an open invitation to spend time with you. Then work hard to become that person. Not only will others enjoy your company, you will enjoy your own. Which is the most important measure of all.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Are you too vanilla to be successful?

I recently got a phone call from a CEO. He told me that he was worried about his organization’s brand. The company had hired another advertising agency to jazz up their image. But he felt like what they came back to them with was very vanilla. I pondered the idea of very vanilla. As if there was mediocrity, and then there was extreme mediocrity.

He knew his business couldn’t win against formidable foes with vanilla. He knew he couldn’t motivate his considerable team with vanilla. And he knew he couldn’t recruit top talent with vanilla. Vanilla is flat. Undifferentiated. Forgettable.

person holding vanilla ice cream on cone
In business vanilla is the kiss of death. Or maybe it’s the lick of death.

I knew I could help him. I have spent my career helping brands find their flavor. And vanilla is simply not on the menu.

We spoke for an hour. I shared how my team at The Weaponry would approach their brand development needs. Which included developing differentiated processes, products and services so that they truly had something interesting and ownable to talk about. Even if it didn’t exist today.

I enjoyed our conversation. But I was curious how he found me. And why he thought I was the right person to call.

Then he shared the following.

‘Adam, I don’t know much about The Weaponry. Or the type of work you usually do. But I saw you speak several months ago. And I remember you not seeming very vanilla. And I figured you could help us seem not vanilla too.’

Key Takeaway

If you want to be remembered you can’t be vanilla. You have to differentiate yourself in positive and meaningful ways. You can differentiate your personal brand by doing things differently. By breaking rules. And adding extra-anything to your personal recipe. Like energy or thoughtfulness. Or excluding a common ingredient altogether. Like shaving, laziness, alcohol, or pants.

Your business can differentiate itself with personality, product or process. You can stand out because of your pricing or packaging. You can be remembered for your people or your promise. Or simply be doing unreasonable things on behalf of your customers. But whatever you do, don’t be vanilla. Vanilla is the flavor of the crowd.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.