Spring Is Made Possible By the Death of Winter

Whether or not you observe Lent, the 40-day season between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you can understand the profound reality of life that it represents. Lent, from a word meaning “spring,” is a celebration of death and resurrection.

To get through a difficult and painful situation, our first instinct is to deny it’s happening, and to resist dealing with it.

But without winter, we can’t have spring. Without darkness, light can’t shine through. We cannot, as business people and as humans, avoid all darkness. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

The best strategy is to embrace the darkness.

Coral Castle

Too many horses spoil the city

The largest city in the world in 1894 was drowning in manure. Literally.

More than 50,000 horses transported people and goods around London each day. Imagine for a second: A horse can produce between 15-35 pounds of manure per day. Add to that urine, disease and putrefying equine carcasses on the streets.

The ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’ seemed to have no solution. The best minds weighed in, but the problem was only getting worse.

We know what happened next. Henry Ford.

Horse drawn buses were replaced by buses and electric trams. The manure crisis was over.

Something has to die whether we like it or not

If you asked the horse and buggy drivers to choose cars, they’d have resisted, as coal miners today are resisting the inevitable death of their industry. But we can’t keep the problem alive and still have it solved.

Embracing the darkness helps us transcend the problem.

When we spy a problem on the horizon, we can pretend it’s not coming toward us for only so long. Netflix saw digital streaming in time to change its business model. Blockbuster did not. Uber knows driverless cars are the future and so it is developing one, in a race against Google. It is embracing the darkness by developing a Plan B.

Marketing expert Seth Godin says when we are in a “dip,” we are smart to quit when there is no way forward. That frees us to go in a different direction.

And sometimes there is no way to pivot so if we want to survive we must move forward and endure the consequences.

‘Why me?’ is a waste of time

When a challenge comes our way, we have a choice: Lamenting “why me?” or making peace with reality. The only way past a problem is often through the heart of it. The more you try to walk around something, the more tired you get. It’s easier and faster to just face it head on.

Death is a change that we cannot avoid. I like to think that death itself does not exist, that in fact we simply change form.

The paradox of transcendence is when we finally let go of something we think is indispensable, that our lives would be meaningless without, can be when we find the solution that we could never see before. The thing you resist can also be, miraculously, the thing that saves you, by bringing light into the situation.

It can be the time when we find ourselves.

Whatever problem you have, somebody else has solved it already. Sometimes you spend a great deal of time trying to reinvent the wheel when it’s already being produced.

Consider the message of Lent

Returning to the Lenten theme, Jesus’ followers were in despair when he said he was leaving them. They argued and pleaded with him not to go. When he died, they thought that was the end of his teachings. But as we now know, Jesus’ influence has changed the world.

And if you believe in the story of resurrection, his followers did get to see Jesus again, in a restored, perfect state. If you don’t, consider it simply an allegory.

Sacrifice yourself for something greater, whether in your spiritual life or for a dream of building something on earth, and you will find yourself. That truth is eternal.

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5 Elements of a Good Elevator Pitch: How to Stop Winging It

You are at a networking event with 40 people and are asked to “introduce yourself to the group.”

You stand up, say your name and notice how many faces are all looking at you. Here’s your chance to impress. But you can’t remember what you were going to say! You fear failure, so this fear builds on itself and then very nearly paralyzes you. You mutter some sentences just to get it over with, and then sit down.

Or maybe you want to avoid forgetting something, so you start rambling. Others are glancing at their phones, and some are even thumb stabbing now, but you can’t seem to find the right closing line, so onward you plod.

Both of these can be avoided by some careful preparation.

What matters is establishing eye contact with listeners, speak slowly, not droning in monotone, speaking with vocal inflection, memorize rather than winging it, and don’t fidget.

Here are the elements of a successful elevator pitch.

  1. Give your name, the company name and location, and quick statement of what you do. Brief–not a list of everything. A poignant opening quote can be effective here and can create a fun moment for the group.
  2. Tell a story of what makes your company different. Ask a “hooking” question like, “Are any of these important problems for your business…?” Continue with, We help companies that are (struggling with), (concerned about), (looking to), (worried about), etc. What pains is the business facing? How do you present a solution that both saves time and makes money for the client? Share a story of a recent or specific example of your business solving a pressing problem.
  3. Describe your ideal client or referral. “A good referral for us would is…” A short description of your ideal client may resonate with anyone there, and someone who matches up well will likely approach you later. The goal of good networking is to make introductions.
  4. Ask for business. Here is what lawyers call The Ask. Say something like, “So if you see, hear of or know someone who has questions we can answer, won’t you please give them my card?” Do this, and there is a distinct chance that your phone will ring with a potential new client just a few days later.
  5. Finish with a memory hook. “We work with clients who need help…” Remind them of your name and company. A concluding joke or moment of levity is superb here. People remember the first and last things they hear when listening, so give them something to hang on to. Close with a tagline that’s pithy, memorable and relevant, “building a smarter planet, just do it, don’t leave home without it.”

These ideas and the five elements will help you design an effective pitch for networking. Remember, you have to design it only once. After that, it gets only better with repeated deliveries.