Build your world. The language of creation – part 2

Build your world. The language of creation – part 2

I must have been in high school, but I remember that night. As I lay in bed and counted lit windows on the apartment building across the street, I had this instant of clarity. I was taken with the thought that the world was large and I wanted to be aware. I even remember how I went through my mind searching for the word. Aware.

It all came back to me this morning as I was doing the dishes listening to Evan Puschak’s interview on Impact Theory. (Evan is, by the way, the creator of The Nerdwriter, one of the youtube channels I am glued to.) His version was that he saw all these things and wanted to know how they are all connected. And that’s the mother of all searches, assuming you don’t just wing it.

As with anything, once interest is established, it’s about the inglorious stage of skill building. It’s where you wish you’d deliver Oscar material but are, as Mr. Darcy would put it, so labouring under misapprehension. (That’s Bridget’s Mr. Darcy, by the way.) But then, once you’re into it for a while and peek at the heavyweights, you at least get a ball park of the game you’re playing.

I heard one of the greatest samurais alive put it as bluntly as it gets: “Keep at it and one day, maybe, something will open up.” And after a well intended beat he added “maybe.” I was in Paris, surrounded by some 1,200 aikido students, European, but well weathered. This was not a beginners class.

Oh, and by the way, with the hours that will go into it, your body, your determination, your mind may just not make it. You will ache and hurt, all for the long shot of grace falling on you. Eventually. A lot of planets need to come into alignment for mastery to live within you. It sounds gloom and doom. But once we established it’s not about winning, then it can be about doing it for the love of it.


Didn’t I say? I love building worlds. Going in, figuring them out and distilling them in crisp lines of copy. It is, mostly, a work that, if done well, goes unnoticed. The output is the show. But I am yet to find a creative who does not live with the agony of being deserted by whomever it is that whispers into our ear when we work an idea. As I am yet to find one who will not treasure it as, in Jerry Seinfeld’s words, the lighter moment of existence you want to be around.

There will be lots of how tos: listen to the same song on repeat, do the Morning Pages, immerse yourself in beauty and in as different universes as you can get, and I do all of them. Religiously. But ultimately, I’m a disciplined, well groomed organ for the vibe to resonate with. And I don’t care about winning. I care for it.

“You’ll be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire.” I guess that’s Bukowski for once-you-tasted-the-thrill-of-it,-there’s-no-going-back.

So what are you about?

So what are you about?

You think about it every time you need a tagline. Or an About page. It’s always about distilling who you are into a snippet and posting it like a precious something on your website front door. You bump into it every time you’re asked what you do or when you’re pitching to investors, editors or what have you. Whoever is out there looking for what you’ve got needs to see a good enough version of it to say “Keep talking.” That’s all you’re after.

The good part is you know what you’re looking for. A few words. A sentence tops.

What do I mean? You may have noticed pics of me in a funky Japanese kimono on the website. That’s because I do aikido. (Most of my clients think it’s karate, but that’s fine.) Here’s the street talk about aikido: it uses the energy or ki of the attacker to deviate the attack, leaving everyone unharmed. It’s a mouthful. So how else can you say it with less? I had a small epiphany last weekend in Paris, as I heard a great master boil it into a haiku line: Your ki is mine. I was starstruck.

Before we go any further, please beware your tagline speaks of your cure to the clients’ pain and your high concept pitch is, as you will learn from the excellent Piching Hacks, “a perfect meme for fans and investors who are spreading the word about your company.” You need both. 

Get those done, and you graduate to level two: the Home page and the elevator speech. Again, they will be great conversation starters to get people to want to know more about you and your idea, product, company. An elevator speech should take no more than 1 minute. That’s about 150 words, by the way. Your home page should get broken into blocks like that or less. Because you can always say more if they’re listening.

And if they are, congratulations, you’re at level three: now you need an About page and a deck. The About page is your (company’s or idea’s) bio deconstructed (you deliver the chunks your clients actually care for; they’re not your mom and don’t really want to know everything), nicely packged. The deck is your presentation. They both tell your compelling story about your team, idea or your product. People get to know, like and trust you in the process. It’s why they do business with you in the first place.

There’s a level four, too, by the way. The Sales page and your sales pitch (which may have something to do with but is not your business plan). Your signature talk is also nearby. The kind you would give at TEDx, for instance.

But they all start with what you and your idea are about, with those few, neatly stacked words. Once that is handled, crisply I might add, everything else is a bit like a game of puzzle. The question is, how do you get that?

Whatever you and your idea are about, where to start is always your own thoughts. Record yourself as you would pitch, however clumsily. Ideally, have a devil’s advocate provoke you. You might just get it out of you when under a bit of pressure. Then look at the data and see what gets repeated. You may need to flip a bit, get out of the attacker’s way (remember, their ki is yours anyway!). The words will emerge. You might just have some fun. Or just book here for a ride. We’ll do it together.

PS. Paris was great, by the way. I’m not much of a pic person, but these have a story: a shy guy worked to courage to ask me out for coffee at the Concorde (somewhere at the lion’s feet). I barely got it and said no without thinking much. He vanished into the Rue Rivoli arcades. The next day I found this chic writing school on the way from St. Germain to Notre Dame. When in Paris.