Without inspiring intrigue, it’s hard to inspire customers to buy from you, people to follow you, talented team members to flock to you, or investors to invest in you. Sam Horn, author of POP!, Got Your Attention? and TongueFu, is CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she inspires one-of-a-kind TED talks, memorable business presentations and brand influence for her clients.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to Wing, Sam.
Sam Horn: Well, you’re welcome. I’ve been looking forward to sharing some ideas that hopefully will inspire your listeners and give them roots and wings.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly, we like to take flight on this podcast for sure. I remember meeting you for the first time at Springboard’s Boot camp for female entrepreneurs. I think it was back in 2011 and you were helping us craft our pitches to investors, and I remember that a lot of us had a lot to learn. What were some of the biggest takeaways for you?
Sam Horn: You know, you are so right, Melinda, is that here’s a quick example. It is that Jack Welch said, if you don’t have a competitive edge, don’t compete, and I think if we don’t have a competitive edge, we can’t compete, so we worked on our 60 openings, whether it’s a funding pitch or whether we’re introducing ourselves at a business event, what can we say in 60 seconds that actually get people’s eyebrows up so they’re intrigued and they want to hear more. Want an example?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yes.
Sam Horn: Well, as you just told me, Springboard is one of the sponsors of this podcast and Kathleen Callender was just honored, along with her daughter Heather, for their business, PharmaJet. Well, I had a chance to work with Kathleen and Heather at that pitch event and Kathleen said, “Sam, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I’ve got this 10 minutes. I’m pitching to a room full of investors. The bad news is I’m going at 2:30 in the afternoon and I only have 10 minutes. You can’t say anything in 10 minutes,” and I said, “Kathleen, you don’t have 10 minutes. You’re going at 2:30, you’ve got 60 seconds.”
Well, here is the 60 second opening we came up with that actually helped them get Entrepreneur of the Year for magazines years ago and that helped them raise millions of funding, so are you ready?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Sam Horn: Here we go. Did you know there are 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year? Did you know up to a third of those are given with reused needles? Did you know we’re spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we’re trying to prevent? Imagine if there were a painless, one-use needle for a fraction of the current cost? You don’t have to imagine it, we’ve created it and she’s off and running. Are your eyebrows up?
Melinda Wittstock: Well yes, because I’m really evolved now in that story and it was a lot of information that I didn’t know, but somehow it was made relevant. It was made … Yeah, compelling.
Sam Horn: See, Melinda, Eleanor Clift said we’re all in a race to be relevant and here’s that three step process so that anyone listening can use this the next time they’re at a meeting and they want people’s attention or they have a product or startup they want to pitch, is that number one, start with three questions, because you’ve just turned a monologue into a dialogue, and now these did-you-know questions go to startling statistics or recent research about the problem you’re solving or the issue that you’re addressing or the need you’re filling. Then, use the word “imagine,” because the word “imagine” pulls people out of their preoccupation because now they’re picturing your point, and link the word “imagine” to three attributes of that solution to the problem or the answer to the issue.
If you go back to Kathleen Callender, what were her decision makers thinking about? Well, they were thinking about those reused needles, so we made it one-use. They were thinking about painful inoculations, so we made it painless, and most decision makers are thinking about money, so we made it a fraction of the current price. Do you see how in a world of infobesity, we actually distilled this “who wouldn’t want that” scenario into one succinct sentence, and then just segue into, “You don’t have to imagine it, we’ve created it.” Then come in with proof or precedence to show that this isn’t pie in the sky or speculative, this is a done deal and you and your team are ready to run with it.
Melinda Wittstock: I love the word “infobesity” there because we’re all like … We have very little information nutrients, but we have a lot of information junk food, right? In all of that, it’s so difficult to be heard and it’s especially hard to be heard when we don’t put up our hands, when we don’t seize the moment to really tell our stories and tell our stories in a compelling way as well. Both men and women can struggle with this. You know, being heard and all that noise and all that infobesity, but are there certain things where women let themselves down a little bit more than men?
Sam Horn: We over-explain. Many of us come from a generation where we had to earn our seat at the table, so what we do is we think the more we pile on the facts or the logic or the explanation or rationale, that people will get it. Actually, if we’re long, we’re gone, so here’s [crosstalk 00:05:37] …
Melinda Wittstock: I like that. I just want to say that again because this is really important for every single shero listening to this. If we’re long, we’re gone. Right.
Sam Horn: Everything you and I can talk about, Melinda, we can do it in 60 seconds. It gives us a competitive edge. People will always take our calls. They will always sit up in meetings because they trust us to keep it concise, so here’s another example. I had a client who was pitching a CTO of the London Olympics, and I said, “How much time do you have?” She said, “I have an hour.” I said, “You don’t have an hour.” I said, “Put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker. What’s the CTO thinking?” She said, “Well, probably thinking I’m 212 days out from the London Olympics. I don’t have time for this.” I say, “Say it, because if you don’t address and voice the decision maker’s objections, they’re not listening to us, they’re waiting for us to stop talking so they can tell us why it won’t work,” so say …
Melinda Wittstock: [crosstalk 00:06:39]
Sam Horn: Go ahead.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh no, no, I didn’t mean to interrupt what you were just about to say. Please finish.
Sam Horn: Well, here’s three steps and then let’s unpack it. Once again, everyone listening can think of the situation coming up and they’re afraid that their decision maker’s going to say no or isn’t going to be interested or is going to be distracted, and these three steps can help you hit the ground running and be concise and actually turn a no into a yes, so that first step is address the elephant in the room and voice their objections first. Guess what the second step is.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you voice their objection first. Well, I don’t know what the second step is. I’m going to let you do the work.
Sam Horn: Okay, is be sure not to use the word “but,” because if you say, “I know this wasn’t in our budget but,” it’s “I know you’re busy, but,” or, “I know we tried this before and it didn’t work but,” as soon as we’ve used the word “but,” we’ve actually turned this into a conflict. A very adversarial argument, so instead, use the word “and.” “You’re right, this wasn’t in our budget and I pinpointed where this is actually going to save back its cost in the, “You’re right, we did try this before and I’ve pinpointed where we went wrong before,” so use the word “and” and now here’s the third step and this is the one that is going to really pleasantly surprise people. Ready?
Melinda Wittstock: Okay.
Sam Horn: Ask for and take less time than they expected. Do you know how the word “anxiety” is defined?
Melinda Wittstock: No.
Sam Horn: Two words. Not knowing. If we start talking and people don’t know how long we’re going to take or why this is worth it to them or what’s the point, they’re not only in a state of anxiety, they’re actually in a state of resentment. They’re thinking, “Don’t you know how busy I am? Why are you …” If we say, “I know the London Olympics is 212 days out and I can only imagine how busy you are, and that’s why I have distilled my pitch into 10 minutes. At the end of that time, if you have questions, you want to continue the conversation, I welcome it. If you have other priorities … ” If we ask for and take less time than people anticipate, we will always favorably impress them. They will always take our call and always listen up because they know we’re going to cut to the chase.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, so, Sam, this interview’s going to be a lot shorter than you thought. Seriously, you know, when you think of a woman walking into a room of male investors, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, with a very promising startup, some proof, some traction, but a big idea, all of those things are obviously going to help her in that meeting, but is there something else that women have to do in that scenario? Especially when they have a business model that might not be or might be addressing a market that perhaps those VCs aren’t used to addressing, like particularly in women’s healthcare or some of the fashion tech, some of the areas where women are doing a lot of innovation right now?
Sam Horn: I just love your questions. Absolutely. Okay, so there we are on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley and number one, we are going to tower. We’re not going to cower. It is absolutely standup, because as you know, investors bet on the jockey, and if we are seated at the table, especially if we’re petite or something like that, we’re smaller than the other people. That means they’re in the dominant role. We’re in the submissive role. We look little and they wonder, “Boy, does she have what it takes to run a multi-million dollar company? Wow, does she have the power? Does she have the authority to deal with the contentious board?” We are diminishing ourselves by staying seated at the table. Once we stand up, if we tower instead of cower, we command the attention in the room. We speak with a voice of authority that is lower, that has downward inflection, so that we are commanding respect in the room.
There are other things we can do if we’re pitching something that they’re not familiar with or is in an industry that’s kind of outside of their area of expertise, however the very first thing we want to do is if they’re going to bet on the jockey, then we’ve got to tower instead of cower. That means no feet together, because if we stand with our feet together as we’ve been taught to, we look like we’re a pushover. We’re off balance, so stand with your feet shoulder width apart, like in an athletic position, and make sure you have basketball hands, because …
Melinda Wittstock: I like that, basketball hands.
Sam Horn: Well, see, Melinda, unless people driving, do it right now. If our hands are behind us, if they’re by our side, if they’re clasped in front of us, all of these are meek and weak positions, and if we look meek and weak, they will certainly not conclude that we’re going to be strong. Now, hold your hands out like you’re holding a basketball. Here, especially if you’re standing with your feet about shoulder width apart, now you’re embodying your message. Now you are quick on your feet. Now you are projecting a leadership presence, an executive presence that’s going to go a long way for them respecting you and believing that you can pull this off.
Melinda Wittstock: Part of the problem that women have in raising money could, yes, be the way we let ourselves down in telling our stories or we forget our basketball hands or things like that. Are there other things that get in the way of women? I think we have so many strengths, but our society has acculturated us to think that some of those strengths are actually weaknesses or that men have a monopoly on things like strength and power and resilience when women have that too. We just present that differently. So, contextualize that for me in terms of what are some of the things beyond message, you think, that might be holding us back? Are we weak on message because we don’t actually believe or have the confidence in ourselves, or what is it, do you think, in what you’ve observed?
Sam Horn: Please write this down once again unless we’re driving. I think we are too humble for our own good, is that we’ve been taught not to brag, and so we give our team credit. “Oh yes, my team was the one that carried that off. They were the one that helped us have a great year, sales year last year, et cetera,” so here’s three things I suggest. Number one, names and numbers. Do not make your credentials subjective or vague, because if you say you’re in Pharma, now what does that mean? Oh, you ran a department in Pharma where you managed 300 people and you had an annual budget of 10 million. Okay, cool.
Melinda Wittstock: So be specific. Yes, be specific.
Sam Horn: Well, names and numbers though, because even if you say, “I was a manager in Pharma,” no, how many people did you manage? Have you done an exit before? You increased sales by what percentage, so it’s got to be, “I worked for three companies in health care.” No, was it Kaiser? Was it Cleveland Clinic? Names and numbers, folks.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Men have no problem doing that and one of the guests that I had on this podcast a few days ago, she said, “You know? Personal branding is not personal bragging,” and I thought that was a nice way of saying it because we sometimes think that, I don’t know, people aren’t going to like us if we stand up and sing our own praises.
Sam Horn: Oh Melinda, I’m so glad you’re bringing this up. Two quick stories about this: I had an opportunity to speak for the Professional Women’s Leadership Program at Intel, and so I actually interviewed some of the executives to say, “Please address the elephant in the room. If women are doing something that’s supporting their success, I want to know about it. If they’re doing something that’s sabotaging their success, please tell me because we can work on it if we know what it is.” A gentleman said, “Sam, I try to be a champion for women. Sometimes they don’t help themselves.” I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “We were opening up an office in Paris. I have a woman on my team who’s an exchange student. She speaks fluent French and she still has contacts from her years there, so I threw her hat in the ring. Well, the people around the table kind of looked at me blankly and they said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘You know, Sarah,’ and finally one of them said, ‘Oh yeah, she’s in some of my meetings but she never says anything.'” He said, “I went to Sarah, I said, ‘Sarah, this is a perfect opportunity for you, but they haven’t seen you in action so they weren’t willing to put you in that position. What the heck is going on?’ She said, ‘I try to speak up at meetings but it’s just a shouting match. Everyone’s repeating themselves and jockeying for position. I come up with an idea; nobody says anything. Five minutes later, Bob has the same idea. ‘Bob, great idea.” She said, ‘It’s just not worth it.'”
He said, “Sarah, don’t you understand that if you don’t contribute at meetings, people conclude you don’t have anything to contribute, so one of the things is I recommend in every single meeting, you are going to speak up. It is never, though, to point out what is wrong. It is always to recommend what could go right, so that we have a personal brand as being a problem solver. ‘Wow, that Sarah. She always has recommendations on how we can turn this around or how we can move this forward or how we can get this done on time,’ and then our personal brand becomes that we’re resourceful, that we’re a problem solver, that we can always be trusted and counted on to focus on action and not excuses.”
[tweet_box design=”box_08″ float=”none”]We don’t have to be brave to be courageous. WE just have to trust that we can figure things out along the way. #WomeninBusiness #WingsPodcast @samhornintrigue[/tweet_box]
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that is great advice. Sam, looking back on your career where you’re a bestselling author. You’ve written so many wonderful books we’ve kind of mentioned in the introduction, and you’ve counseled so many men and women entrepreneurs and authors. What are the main differences … You know, when folks are starting out, we talked about some of them with women and men, but wait … I’m just going to … Sorry, that little edit break here. I’m going to ask this question a little bit differently. Going back from the beginning of your career, Sam, and of course you’re a celebrated author and a coach to many. You’ve counseled me and I’ve seen the results of your work on a lot of people, both men and women, and it’s truly remarkable. Have you seen a real change, though, in women and how women relate and relate to each other in the workplace and in the kind of entrepreneurial rough and tumble? Are we more supportive of each other than we used to be? How have you seen that change over time?
Sam Horn: Keep these questions coming; I love them! I was speaking at a California conference, governor’s conference for women, and in the Q & A, a woman put her hand up and she said, “Sam, why are women so caddy to each other?” I had heard this question so many times I decided that I was going to do something different and I said, “Ladies, let’s agree we are never going to ask or answer that question again because every time we do, we perpetuate an unwanted stereotype.” I said, “Don Draper out at Mad Men said, ‘If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.'” We are going to change this conversation, so from now on, if someone asks us some version of that, we’re going to say, “You know what I’ve found is that women are really supportive with each other.”
In fact, I wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for this woman mentor, or always be grateful to whatever. I think every single one of us women have a responsibility to create a rising tide, raising all women by talking about mentors, about champions, about individuals who have inspired us, because every time we change that conversation and we choose to focus on women who are helping instead of hurting, that is the impression, that is the belief that we want to create, and we have a responsibility and an opportunity to do that.
Melinda Wittstock: I think that’s so true. It’s a really big reason. It’s the big “why” for this podcast, for instance, and a little campaign that we have going on right now. In fact, you’ve given me the perfect segue to remind people to nominate a super shero guest for this show, because I think, and we’ve discussed this before, Sam, in affirming and acclaiming other women and giving voice to their stories, not only as successes but as an entrepreneur, all those … I like to call them “fail forward moments” where we walk through that refiner’s fire and it makes us better as long as we take that failure as feedback and we don’t take it personally, but we actually use it to be better and we show up and we help each other.
I am seeing so many more women doing this now, but the funny thing is, when you ask them, and I’m going to ask you this question too, when you were growing up, did you have a super shero? Who was your super shero? Because a lot of women I ask that to, depending on how old they are and what generation they’re from, they didn’t have a female role model, so I would like to see more female role models, but who were yours? Did you have any when you were a kid?
Sam Horn: Oh boy, are you ready for this?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. I am.
Sam Horn: I bet you haven’t received this answer before. The answer as to who inspired me was Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series.
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me about that.
Sam Horn: Well, I grew up in a small town. We had more horses than we had people. I used to ride my horse to the library and Walter Farley’s black stallion series was about being independent about … There was a big world out there, about thinking big on your own behalf, and our parents would send us out on our horse when we were eight, nine years old. We didn’t have cell phones, and they didn’t warn us what can go wrong or they didn’t caution us about all the dangers. They trusted us that if something did go wrong, we could figure it out, so guess what? We did, Melinda Wittstock. It’s like we grew up confident. We grew up independent. We grew up seeing the world as an adventurous place, not a dangerous place, and so although I didn’t have female role models, I certainly had authors whose books I read. I certainly had a horse that gave me an opportunity to get resourceful, be independent, and a free spirit. That has informed my life.
When I went to high school, there wasn’t a girls’ tennis team so I played on the boys’ team. When I got to college, there wasn’t a girls’ team so I started one, and I think that what we can do is we don’t wait, we initiate. If there’s something we want to see or do or be, the ball’s in our court. We become our own white knight.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Become our own white knight. It’s really, “Be the change that you want to see.” I love that you created your own team and also played on the boys’ team. That’s awesome. What was that like? Was that difficult? Was it difficult to get into the boys’ team? You said, “Okay, I’m going to play with you guys.” Was there any pushback? What all happened?
Sam Horn: I’m very fortunate, first. I’m very grateful for the way my life has unfolded. It’s just that I bet everyone listening to this either has a daughter or a niece or has girls of friends and I think that one of the single best things we can do for them is we cannot give them confidence. We can give them opportunities to say, “I did it. I put myself in that situation and I figured it out. I put myself in that situation and I achieved something I’m proud of. I put myself in that situation and I’m glad I did because I’ve expanded my horizons,” and so I believe what you’re creating is rising tide raising all women, is we can do that for ourselves and for each other and for the next generation, and the way we do it once again is to understand we don’t have to be brave to be courageous. WE just have to trust that we can figure things out along the way.
Melinda Wittstock: Sam, you have so much wisdom and you’ve obviously figured out a lot of things along the way. Talk to me about the inspiration that led you to write your first book.
Sam Horn: Well, you may know that I helped start and run the Maui Writers Conference. Our very first year, I’m running around making sure all the sessions are on time and I walk into Mike Larson’s session. He’s a big agent and he was talking about the importance of titles. He said, “I’ve represented authors on titles because I knew we could wrap a book around it.” Someone in the audience said, “What’s an example of a great title?” He said, “Tongue Fu is the best title I’ve heard in 10 years.”
Melinda Wittstock: It is a great title. I think of how many times I have committed ‘Tongue Fu’ in my life.
Sam Horn: You know, it really was an epiphany, Melinda, because I went out and I plopped down in a chair because, see, Tongue Fu was my title. It was just; I had two small sons. I was jumping on planes to speak and I did not have time to write a book. However, my epiphany was the more I speak, the more I’ll speak, and if I’m going to be a visionary on behalf of my future, I will actually put paid speaking aside for the next six months in order to write a quality book because it will drive my future more than anything else. Plus, it gives me a way to be a stay at home mom so I get to have the best of both worlds. I’m kind of reaching out to everyone right now. The book I’m writing right now is called “Someday is Not a Day in the Week.”
Melinda Wittstock: Beautiful.
Sam Horn: Yay. I bet there’s something we all are going to do someday. Some big dream. Some big calling, is to stop putting it off, because chances are if we put current priorities aside and go all in on our someday, our life will catapult in ways we can’t even imagine and it will become even more fulfilling, even more meaningful and even more of a legacy life.
Melinda Wittstock: This is so personal to me, what you just say because for a long time I was, as you know, I was writing a book about female entrepreneurs. I had the idea that I wanted to do it several years ago but I kept thinking, “No, I have to get Verifeed, my company, to the next milestone before I can do that,” so it wasn’t a someday but it was kind of … Yeah, like it’s not the right timing for that. I was sort of putting it off, and finally this summer … This is ridiculous. You keep talking about it. Just do it. In starting to do all the interviews and in starting to write the book, it inspired this podcast and if anything, it’s helpful to my company. That kind of someday … What is that someday? What’s the root of that procrastination? Why do we do that?
Sam Horn: It’s actually chapter two in the book, Melinda, is …
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so give us a hint. I’m going to recommend that everyone … Your book is out next year, right?
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I do not think it is morbid to think of our mortality. I think it’s motivating. #WomenEntrepreneur #WingsPodcast @samhornintrigue[/tweet_box]
Sam Horn: It sure is, and so here are just two of the reasons. Number one is Paulo Coelho said that one day we’re going to wake up and we won’t have any time left to do the things we’ve always wanted to do, and you know, most of us have an assumed tomorrow. We assume that what we want to do will be waiting for us when we’re ready for it, however we are not thinking about our mortality, and I do not think it is morbid to think of our mortality. I think it’s motivating. If we look back at the regrets we will have if we put off what mattered most to us, we cannot take it back. I have never met anyone who is sorry they did their ‘someday’. I’ve only met people who were sorry they didn’t do it sooner.
One is to face our mortality in a motivating way instead of a morbid way, and the second thing is please write this down once again unless we’re driving. You don’t have to know to go, and most of us, we have to have our ducks in a row to go. My favorite example of this is Miki Agrawal. Miki was working on Wall Street and she said, “Sam, when you live in New York, these are small apartments. You go out to eat every night and I was really having stomach problems because most of the food you eat out is bad for you, so I did some research and I found that pizza was 10 percent of all food sales in New York, but pizza is bad for you, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was good for you?”
She started a restaurant. Now, had she ever started a restaurant before? No. Did she let that stop her? No. She GTS’d. She Googled that stuff. Up come instructions on how to open a pizza restaurant. Well, I’m going to fast-forward. Not only did WILD become one a very popular, award-winning restaurant in New York, then Miki started her next business, Thinks. Did she know how to start an underwear company that disrupted the 15 billion dollar feminine hygiene space? No, but she set it in motion. She was one of Time’s top 25 inventions for 2015. She was on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. None of that would’ve happened if she waited until she had her ducks in a row. It’s like, if you have a big idea, if you want to write a book, if you want to start a podcast, if you wanted to launch that business, go and you can figure it out on the way, but if you wait for the ducks to be in a row, you will never go.
Melinda Wittstock: This is true of any entrepreneur, because there’s more that you don’t know at any stage of the company, from startup through scale. There are always things beyond your control. There’s so much that you don’t know than you do, and everything’s a hypothesis until it’s not, and so you do need to, just in terms of your mindset, be able to kind of handle not knowing and still going. That’s like a prerequisite, I think, to be an entrepreneur, but I love your story about Miki. It reminds me of Kara Goldin from Hint Water. He was on this podcast when she was talking about … She wanted to get rid of her Diet Coke habit. She started drinking water. She got bored drinking water so she started to put fruit in her water and then had this idea, wanted to try and go out and see where she could buy it, first of all, and she found that she couldn’t. She was a tech entrepreneur who’d built AOL. She was employee number seven at AOL, into a billion dollar business, and so her background was technology. Suddenly she’s going into the bottled water business and here’s the phrase. “How hard could this be?”
Of course it was hard. I mean, there were all kinds of challenges and failures and hypothesis testing along the way, but she’s on the way to creating a billion dollar company. Her advice on this podcast was like yours. Just keep going. Just keep going. Yeah.
Sam Horn: Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away,” … and kind of what you’re doing with this podcast. I think if we really look at our life and work as not silos, if it is a life work where, as Katherine Graham said, “To do what you love and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” If we find something that’s meaningful, if we get to do it with people we enjoy and respect and then if we gift it, if we move it forward and get it out in the world, well, does it get better than that, Melinda?
Melinda Wittstock: No, it doesn’t. I mean, there’s something so beautiful about giving forward and creating value, because when entrepreneurs chase money or they go into it to make money, often it doesn’t work or it seems like it’s a real Sisyphean thing, like pushing a boulder up a mountain, but when they go into it to solve a problem, create value for other people, the money follows. Do you find that?
Sam Horn: You know, that has driven my life. It is out of … Well, there were two pivotal decisions, is that when I was getting ready to go to college, a lot of high school counselors were saying, “You should be a lawyer or a doctor to use your mind.” I kind of put myself through college running recreation departments and I wanted to study recreation administration. There were people saying, “What a slacker career. Gee, are you going to study underwater basket weaving?” I really had a crisis of conscience about it, and thank heaven my dad gave me [Girda 00:33:41] W. H. Murray’s quote about boldness has genius and that when you hesitate, that providence cannot move until you make a decision, but when you make a decision that is in alignment with your voice and your values and your vision, then providence jumps on that bandwagon.
I studied recreation administration and the week after I graduated, I got a call from a former boss at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and I ended up working with Rod Laver in the tennis industry. I didn’t plan that. It was a result of me making a decision at a crossroads that was congruent with my values, and I think that when we do that … I didn’t go to Hilton Head for the money. I didn’t study recreation administration for the money. I made decisions based on meaning that was in alignment with my voice and values and vision, and every single time I did, a career opportunity came up and the money came with the meaning.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, like leaping and then there’s somehow, yes. When you leap, you land. I mean, correctly, I think. Thank goodness you didn’t take any of that nay-saying to heart, because sometimes in our lives we have people around us and they can be close friends, they can be family, they can be partners, they can be well meaning or maybe not, and they can say things to us that are based on their own fears but can sometimes really hold us back if we let ourselves listen to that. If you have people like that around you, what’s your advice? What should women do when they have friends that even are being well meaning and say things like, “Are you okay? Are you sure?” Or things like that. What’s the best response?
Sam Horn: You know, I love, because all of these questions are addressed … I mean, I’ve just been writing them in my book, so my mind is just on fire with my new favorite quote that goes right to what you’re saying. Are you ready? This is from Stephen King and he said, “If God gave you something you’re good at, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” Isn’t that fantastic?
Melinda Wittstock: Right. It’s so true and yet, you know, sometimes there’s something in us that’s taught, whether it’s just an old memory, I think a lot of our limiting beliefs are old memories. A lot of them are subconscious. We learned them when we were maybe young children. Maybe we watched a TV series or we watched our parents argue about money or something like that happened, and so we can get triggered very easily when someone around us says something that affirms a limiting belief that we don’t even know we have, right?
I think a lot of people get stuck in these kind of, oh, like I’m going to wait to do that or maybe now’s not the time or those kind of procrastination lives or a life of should’s, living someone else’s life rather than their own. How do you know when you’re in that? Do you see some of your clients struggle with that? How do you get out of it?
Sam Horn: Well, there are two answers to that. I’ll give a quick story about someone who thought it was too late because he had given in to that advice to be practical and to grow up and you’ll never make a living at that, so I’ll tell you the story about someone who did listen to that advice and wish he hadn’t and what he did about it, and then I’ll talk about some clients now who are dealing with this issue currently. I had an opportunity to speak for the Orthodontist Association, and we were talking about this. Did you know that the rate of suicide in orthodontics is like one of the top 10 industries in the nation that have very high suicide-
Melinda Wittstock: Really?
Sam Horn: Yeah. He came up to me at break and he said, “Sam, I spend about 40 hours a week with my hand in some kid’s mouth and most of my patients aren’t happy to see me. The parents are worried about bills and the kids are worried about how long it’s going to take and if it’s going to hurt.” I said, “What did you want to do when you grew up?” He said, “I bought my own telescope. I saved up when I was 12 years old. I had my own telescope. I would gaze at the stars. I would track the meteors and the comets and of course when it was time to go to college, my folks told me that no one’s ever going to pay you to look at the stars so you’ve got to grow up and get serious and get a real job, so I went to dental school.”
He said, “Don’t get me wrong. I make a lot of money. I’ve got 10 people who work for me. We have a wonderful office, so it’s a thriving business. It’s just that when you talk about the light being on in your eyes, the light is not on in my eyes.” As a result of this, because I really believe let’s take responsibility, folks. It’s not too late. It’s only too late if we don’t initiate, so what he does now is he lives in the Santa Rosa area. Actually where the fires were, but he drives to UC Berkeley once a week and he audits classes from the astronomers there at the observatory at UC Berkeley and he says, “Sam, Wednesday nights keep me sane,” and so if we are in a career and we’ve got too much invested to walk away from it or we’re raising a family, we’re putting kids through college and we feel locked in or trapped, then in the book we talk about compensating.
If we’re not happy, there are four things we can do about it. We can avoid it, we can accept it, we can get angry about it or we can alter it. I am really in the altering it camp, which means if we are not happy with something, then it’s up to us to alter it. What he’s doing is that one night a week, he goes to those astronomy classes. If we are locked in because we made a decision a long time ago and we’re on a career track or path that we can’t change, we can still compensate for it. Now back to your questions about if we have those naysayers saying, “Well, you know, the economy’s kind of bad now. The failure, the bankruptcy percentage in that industry is pretty tough,” is we say, “Thank you for your input and I am excited about this and I am looking forward to moving it forward and if you have ideas or resources or recommendations that can help make that happen, I welcome it,” so thank them for their input and then immediately bridge to asking for their support or their excitement or their recommendations instead of allowing their nay-saying to pull you down and drag you down.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful, wonderful advice. Sam, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you and I know that you have a special offer for our listeners today. You were going to send a free e-book to them. What do they have to do to get it?
Sam Horn: All they have to do is just send an email to Sam@SamHorn.com, so S-A-M at S-A-M-H-O-R-N dot com, and we are going to send our e-book, Confused People Don’t Say Yes. This is some of my best practice techniques from my pop book and my “got your attention” book. I help people with their Ted Talks and with their South by Southwest talks and their funding pitches. It is my best practices on how we can be crystal clear and concise and compelling and convincing, so whatever it is we want to get a yes to, we make that happen.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. It’s called Confused People Don’t Say Yes, and all you sheroes out there can email Sam at Sam@SamHorn.com. One last question for you, Sam: I know that there’s a big push right now for entrepreneurs to also be thought leaders, so for entrepreneurs in addition to running and growing their businesses, to speak and to write and to have podcasts, right? Is this now a necessity for any entrepreneur really to be successful?
Sam Horn: This is a personal thing. I don’t know if it is a necessity. Here’s my question though, do you want a legacy? Do you want to scale your impact? Do you want to pass on your lessons learned so that they can add value for others? If so, please understand, thought leadership does not come from arrogance. It comes from service. It’s not arrogant. I know and you don’t and I’m going to tell you how to run a business or I’m going to tell you how … No, it’s an offering. Here are some of my experiences. Here are some of my insights. I’m going to offer them to you in the hopes that they might add value.
My answer to the question is, is that I have the privilege of working with some wonderful people, bright, talented people who are really doing great things in the world and I say, “If you were going to give a TedX talk, what would it be on? If you were going to write a book, what would it be on? If you were going to pass on a nonnegotiable, something you learned the hard way that you want to help other people so they don’t have to do the hard way, what would that be? Then, how can we put that into writing or speaking or consulting so that that message will be out there making a difference for others long after you’re gone?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, yes. That’s absolutely right, and of course we will put in the show notes, Sam, how people can get in touch with you if they’re interested in working with you, because I know for anyone listening who really wants to do that Ted Talk, that that’s a bucket list for you or you really want to write that book or you want to get some speaking gigs, Sam is a great person to work with and I know because I’ve worked with her, so Sam, thank you so much for taking flight, putting on your wings with us today.
Sam Horn: You’re welcome. I hope people have found these ideas interesting and useful and inspiring.
Melinda Wittstock: I am pretty sure everybody has. Thank you so much.
Sam Horn: You’re welcome.
Without inspiring intrigue, it’s hard to inspire customers to buy from you, people to follow you, talented team members to flock to you, or investors to invest in you. Sam Horn, author of POP!, Got Your Attention? and TongueFu, is CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she inspires one-of-a-kind TED talks, memorable business presentations and brand influence for her clients.