Newsletter #96 – Individual strengths, Abstractions, Instagram

Sales and marketing Newsletter

Quick notes to help you get more done in less time. . . next week.

In this issue: All about the I in FIT – Individual Strengths

– Techniques for FIT
– Being Human
– Random Stuff

Techniques for FIT

  • The I in FIT is Individual strengths (specifically, your self identified strengths) and what you do with them to get more done in less time. Before you go home today, take a few minutes and get your list of strengths here: VIA Character Strengths Test (the free version is all you need)
  • The studies show that when you put your strengths to work, you get more done in less time. It makes sense because when we use our strengths to accomplish goals, the victory is sweeter. As Frank Sinatra put it, “and, much more than this, I did it my way.”
  • Let’s put it to work. Does the bottom of your to-do list have a few dingleberry tasks? Those tasks that stubbornly hang around week to week and never seem to get done? Take your top three stregnths and think about how to best apply those strengths to conmplete your stubborn tasks.
  • The best way to phrase the question to your brain is to start with “how can I use [strength 1] to get [specific dingleberry] done?” It puts your brain to work while you do other things.

Being Human – Abstractions

Generalizing from specifics

I’m at a lecture where the panelists are discussing a book about for-profit colleges. The panelists have strong pedigrees, the audience is highly educated, and the discussion is lively. As someone who ran a for profit education business, I have just enough knowledge to track the conversation, but not enough to participate. So, as usually happens, I drift into listening for and labeling the various communication techniques being used to exchange ideas. This group relied heavily on a favorite – high level abstraction.

Here is a high level abstraction example. I’ll work from a specific into a generalization.


The first step is to name the specific. In this example I’ll use football player Ray Rice.

One level up is to lump him in with others that share his characteristics. I’ll use aggressive football players that abuse their girlfriends.

Taking it up one more level is characteristics common to that group, moving far beyond Ray Rice. For instance, pro athletes behaving badly.

Taking it up one more level will lump them in with characteristics of an even larger group. Like men with power behaving badly. Now we’re hard pressed to think of Mr. Rice at all.

To go up to an even higher abstraction: he’s part of people who do terrible things to each other. They could be men, women, or children. That’s high level abstraction.

Ray Rice came to mind because when the savage beating of his girlfriend threatened to tarnish the NFL’s reputation, the NFL responded by ignoring the specific and generalizing. They ran ads of teary eyed NFL professionals unable to express their sadness about abused women. The ad is directed to the audience and says, “Hey! Men! Don’t abuse women!” All I could think was wait, what? Isn’t this about Ray Rice? Why are you showing this to me? Maybe you should run those ads at player meetings. . .

A specific, generalized to an abstraction.

This element of semantics was on full display at the lecture. Participants moved fluidly from high level abstraction down to specific examples, then back up again. The specifics are where the interesting parts of the conversation took place because each audience member could relate to the generalization, but factions emerged in the specifics. The group used analogies, metaphors, and similies to check for understanding. “I can only speak from my experience but I remember Jed Sample and he went to a for profit college. . .” It was great, I loved it.

Next week, when you’re being human and communicating, note when someone is trying to persuade. Listen for the jump from specific “you want to save money, right?” to the abstract “our firm has helped companies like yours get those same outcomes” back to the specific “so I’d like to talk to you about [x].” It’s the kind of thing that robots will have a tough time learning but humans are great at.

Good stuff to watch.


Random Stuff



My kids are on Instagram. Years ago I was in the habit of creating new accounts on all new social media platforms. My Mad Gringo Pinterest page was a series of pins on whisky. My Tumblr was a series on beaches. My Instagram was a few sleepy “go slow” shots. The thing is, I never spent any time on them because I couldn’t figure out how to find my audience or what to give them. Now that I’m consulting, I use them less and less.

But I want to connect with my babies, so in January 2016 I created a new account and even posted pics here and there. In total I have 29 posts over 2 years.

I pull the site up this morning to check on the kids and I see it has a nice feature where I can see all of my pictures at once. Not only does it do that, when I hover over a single image it shows me the number of “hearts” and comments. On average I have 15 hearts per pic. 1/3 of the pics are of Wilson the Amazing Border Collie, 13% of the pics have beer in them, I’m in two, and one has coffee.

The thing that sticks out in my analysis? Most pictures don’t have close to double digit likes. They’re stuck at 6. If the “insta” has a dog in it, by comparison, it’s downright viral. A short video of Wilson catching a frisbee has 61 likes.

I’m no algorithmic robot, but I feel the urge to start a Wilson channel.


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