My childhood best friend, Amy Fisher, made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. She brought them up to Lake Tahoe (in California) for a group ski trip twenty years ago and we ate them in 11 seconds. They were shockingly good.
So, I stole her recipe, including the secret ingredient that made them taste so unexpectedly delightful. Then I changed a few things – the sugar type and amount, and the amount of vanilla extract. My family calls them Auntie Chelle's cookies (I'm Auntie Chelle), though I owe every bit of credit to Amy for teaching me how to make those cookies.
Of course, Amy Fisher didn't make up the basic recipe on which those ski trip delights were built. Goodness, no. Chocolate chip cookies had been around for a long time before that. She just tweaked a few things and made it her own special version of chocolate chip cookies, too.
Ready for this to relate to business messaging?
Jennifer Louden wrote a blog post this past week about stealing other people's work and claiming it as your own. The article was also about the fact that we all “steal” other people's work. We use the insights and teaching of others to inform our own. That this is really the nature of “new ideas.” (You see the chocolate chip recipe connection here now?) This “stealing” process is at the heart of the popular Isaac Newton quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Jennifer Louden's post made me think a lot about my own giants – those upon whose shoulders my work and I stand. I've got some amazing giants contributing to my work in the world, many of whom have no idea how they have contributed. That is going to change right now. The following people brought work to life that makes up a huge part of my own:
Danielle LaPorte & Carrie McCarthy: I know that Danielle LaPorte is highly influential in many an online entrepreneur's life right now. For me, her greatest influence begin in July of 2008, when I picked up a copy of the book Style Statement, which she co-authored with Carrie McCarthy. Two months into my business, I came upon that gorgeous book laying on a table at Barnes & Noble. I bought it immediately, took myself through the process of finding my own Style Statement and fell in love, love, love with it. Then, I started offering the book to clients and helping them use it to name their own style. Then I tweaked the process. And I tweaked it some more. I added modified exercises from Grace Bulgar and Nancy Duarte (see below for more on both of these giants). Over five years, this process has evolved into my own Expression Élan process, most beloved by my clients and business community. Let it be known, though, that the Expression Élan's foundational strength lies powerfully in that Style Statement process I learned from Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. (Thank you, Danielle & Carrie!)
Grace Bulgar: Grace Bulgar wrote the first “how to” book I ever read on creating and marketing your business. As far as I can tell, it's the last one she's written in that vein as well. The book is filled with exercises for finding clarity within a business team. I took one of those exercises and shifted some of the content to better fit my purposes. It, too, makes up a meaningful part of the Expression Elan process. (Thank you, Grace!)
Nancy Duarte: Oh, the depths of learning I've taken in from Nancy Duarte are too expansive to share here. From a direct content perspective, though, I took one question from her book Slide:ology and applied it to my Expression Élan process, making the outcomes significantly more powerful for my clients. That question: What is your verb? (Thank you, Nancy!)
Garr Reynolds: Hands down, Garr Reynolds has taught me the most profound lessons about creating presentation slides that delight my and my clients' audiences. I use his lessons on image-based slide design from his book Presentation Zen in my corporate trainings, in my clients consulting and in my own speaking. Clients love me about slide design because of what I teach them about Garr Reynolds' process. (Thank you, Garr!)
Chip & Dan Heath: I use Chip & Dan Heath's SUCCESs principles from their absolutely awesome book Made to Stick when I teach people how to be more engaging and memorable (sticky!) when they communicate. There is no guide out there that comes close and I'm not into reinventing a sweet-spinning wheel. While I add and expand on the details from my experience, their work is the heart and soul of this piece of my work. (Thank you, Chip & Dan!)
John Medina: I love telling clients about the Pictorial Superiority Effect. C'mon – wouldn't you? I also love that I get to give them timeframes for switching things up in their speaking – 10 minutes, then do something new – because people love being told exactly what to do when it comes to organizing their speech. Thanks to John Medina and his book, Brain Rules, I have a zillion tools for telling them what we know works when it comes to engaging other people's brains. (Thank you, John!)
This list only includes the giants that come to mind today who have provided substantive content foundation for my work. My own art and contribution of ideas is directly and substantially supported by the work they have done.
Like Amy Fisher, they brought this amazing recipe that I tweaked to fit my own business community's needs.
This list does not include other absolutely critical contributors to my work like Stephanie Pollock, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Jennifer Louden, Dan Roam, and Sunni Brown – all of whom have taught me in varying ways how to think better, how to do business better, how to push my artistic edges, how to live in integrity and peace and how to keep at it no matter what.
It is a gift to get to add my little bit of brains and art to the brilliance of these giants. I am immensely grateful for the learning curve they saved me so that I can serve those I'm best set up to help.
I wonder – who are your giants?
I'd love to hear. I bet they'd love to hear about it, too. I wonder in what way you can honor the contribution they've made to your work? Share your ideas in the comments. We might want to “steal” one of them.