Dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, “runs with as many as sixty-five dogs at time – many of them pit bulls with histories of aggression – without leashes or other kind of restraint,” writes John Butman. That’s because of a life-changing discovery earlier in his life when he saw that, unlike Mexicans, Americans mistakenly let their pet dogs take control. Where he grew up, in Culiacan, Mexico, dogs weren’t trained. They didn’t even have names.
But he knew, even as a child, that he had “an uncanny connection with them” and it was by being in charge. That insight spurred him to come to the U.S., get a job at a dog grooming shop to hone his approach, and eventually host a TV show, write books that have sold millions, and appear at huge events around the world – all because of his ability to build a constituency around his core talent-as-idea: “calm assertiveness.”
Warning: Your idea may be so provocative and thus hotly debated that it evokes what Butman dubs hyperventilation, as both Millan and Amy Chua’s ideas have evoked. But let’s first focus on distilling your most deeply-felt idea so you attract others to it.
How to Unearth Your Main Big Idea From The Many You Have
In describing how we can “build influence in a world of competing ideas” Butman suggests that we look for “iconic moments”, even from childhood, where an insight grabbed hold of you and persists in your thoughts. That may be the root of the idea that you are to grow, with others, he suggests in his book, Breaking Out. These moments, says Butman, reveal your “fascination aroused” and can be “wellsprings” for growing your standout idea and related talent.
To discover yours, get a good friend who has already heard you talk about what most matters to you. Pick someone who is willing to be persistent and press you in conversation in a quiet room, with a smart device recording your conversation. Butman suggests you ask, “What most fascinates you about your idea right now? This inevitably evokes many general statements and attempts to provide background and context for the interest. Yet that’s just verbal underbrush that obscures your core idea.
After a series of attempts to circle the subject – that’s natural – your friend can press you to go deeper and to get more specific. Your friend might ask, “What’s your favorite example of that idea in action?” or “What’s a what-if dream scenario that comes to mind for your idea in action?” Eventually, your most deeply-felt, core concept will spill out of your mouth. You may be so thrilled that you agree to reverse roles and offer the same opportunity to your friend.
Pull Others Into Acting On Your Idea
To scale your idea, you need a place where people can add or react to it in ways that reinforce what they most like in themselves. Better yet, if they gain bragging right to become positively visible to those who matter to them. Butman and others dub this a platform. Frans Johansson, in The Click Moment, dubs it The Hook on which others can hang their ideas and more. And one way to attract others to it, suggests Tell to Win author, Peter Guber, is to craft a relevant and purposeful narrative that pulls people into your story because they can instantly picture a role they want to play in it, thus reshaping the story in their eyes and eagerly sharing it with others.
Butman calls this effect respiration because, once the idea is expressed, it becomes animated, “It can breathe on its own…nourished by others.” Try the A.I.R. formula. You may be able to make your idea almost as vital as oxygen.
To make your message more indelible, condense it into a meme, as Sheryl Sandberg famously did with leanin. To further bolster your idea, add a manifesto, a succinct set of supportive elements, as Stephen Covey did with his Seven Habits and Gretchen Rubin provides with her Eight Splendid Truths About Happiness attached to an image like this eight ball.
Take Some More Steps To Scale Your Idea
See the steps over at my Forbes column.