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The secret to making big ideas irresistible

Humans have a hard time understanding that others don’t see the world the way we do. This naive realism causes us to make assumptions that create distance between us and the people we want to serve.

Tamsen Webster is a TEDx speaker, communications expert, and author of the book Find Your Red Thread , which helps people communicate big ideas through cognitive empathy.

Things to consider

  • Communication has to be sent and received in order for it to be successful. We tend to spend too much time sending messages, and not focusing on how they’re received.
  • Rather than fit our worldview into someone else’s, we need to understand how their worldview informs their decisions.
  • As great as our ideas might be, our audiences don’t know that yet. And simply repeating how great it is over and over again isn’t going to convince them.
  • Write more pitches in a TL;DR fashion. Make them skimmable.
  • Our ideas are almost never for “everyone”, only for those that share the same worldview as us.
  • Find the world beliefs that support your success at an endeavour, rather than focusing on the limiting beliefs that hold you back.

Questions to ask to help establish cognitive empathy

  • How is our audience thinking about the problem we’re posing?
  • How do they see the world?
  • What are the beliefs that are leading them to the behaviour, feeling, or action that’s relevant to our message?


Let’s keep in touch

Occasional updates about new webinars, courses, and other things we create to make your podcasting life easier.


That was a lot, sorry. I got all so boxy there for a moment.
That's outstanding. You're listening to Ear Brain Heart, an experiment in showing up. I'm Mark Steadman. And I like it when things are clear. I don't play all that well in the emergent space, I kind of need to know the destination before I sat out.
Back in March, I started reading, Find Your Red Thread, Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible by Tamsen Webster. Back then I had an idea that I wanted to communicate from a place of empathy, and as I started formulating the idea for this podcast, Tamsen seemed like exactly the person I should chat to.
So we're going to get into the discussion about the work Tamsen does to help people communicate ideas clearly, some of the mistakes we often make and ultimately how we can communicate from a place of empathy.
I didn't want to spend a lot of time asking questions tamsen's answered dozens of times before, so let me give you the quick rundown of the red thread concept. And incidentally, if you want to hear it from Tamsen herself, you should check out her TEDx talk which you'll find linked in the show notes.
But to dramatically oversimplify, the red thread concept has roots in a Nordic idiom. It's a way of asking what's the theme or the through-line? What's the sequence of ideas that creates the arguments? Or if we think in terms of architecture or interior design, what's the theme that ties the room together? It actually it goes all the way back to Greek mythology, to how Theseus traced his path out of an impossible maze by means of a ball of red thread.
So Tamsen's book is all about how we can uncover the red thread that runs through our ideas to make them irresistible to the people we want to serve. Tamsen had been teaching the red thread technique long before she wrote the book. In my circles, we talk about thingifying an idea, taking something in our head and making it concrete. So we started by talking about the process of committing the red thread concept to paper.
So the book came after I had Thingified in a lot of ways. So some people write to think. I am not that person. So, I had, you know, the book was really capturing at least that point in time what I had been working on in developing for the previous, about five or six years, five years. And so in that sense it ended up being a lot easier to write that way because I wasn't trying to create it from whole cloth. I already knew what I was gonna say. I already knew what worked and I already knew what the best ways were, at least that I had found so far to explain certain things to people.
But that said, it is very useful now to have the book when someone is trying to explain my work to someone else. And then they can say, well, what does she do? And they're like, well, here's the book. Or if I'm talking to someone and they wanna know a little bit more about what my process is like, I'll say, well, here's the book, because we're gonna go through exactly the same process. So if that sounds interesting to you, if that sounds appealing to you, then there's the book. So it ends up being useful that way.
So it was really just a process of here's the things that I've been developing and here's the gospel I've been preaching for sort of five, five years. And then being able to actually just structure that in a way that makes sense rather than, like you said, having to sort of think about what are my ideas?
Yeah. I, and I'm definitely a fan of doing it that way. It's not the only way to do it, obviously. But I'm a big believer in socializing ideas first, so that you have a good sense of how they play in the market, how you're comfortable talking about it. Because that way I find for me, there's more consistency that way. Cuz I, work with folks that come to me sometimes because they wanna develop, let's say a TEDx talk after they've written a book. And sometimes that process, or even if they've been talking about the book, after a while they realize that they found other ways to talk about it and they found other concepts in it that end up being more resonant. And so there ends up being this slight but not major, usually, slight mismatch between what works well for an audience, let's say, on stage or that way versus what people find in the book.
So I'm a big fan of really using speaking opportunities, podcast interviews, writing on my blog and my newsletter for instance, as ways to figure out what works about an idea and what doesn't. And generally, that's the process.
So I may be going through a slightly different process with my second book, because I'm still working out what it is that I wanna say in that book. It's a little less like this one, which was every, you know, people after a while that people are like, will you please just write all of this down, like, how to do this?
So one Of the things I've been aware of is someone who tends to get a little bit of enthusiasm from someone about something and then sort of really tear off in a particular direction. I'm really enjoying at the moment the idea of sitting and figuring out, like almost waiting until it sort of feels a bit too late. Like you were saying with like, Oh, can you just get this, you need to get this stuff down rather than having, as I think it, it can be easy for some of us to do, have a sort of a germ of an idea and then think, oh, there's probably a book in that. Like, I really like the process and not that I, you know, necessarily just wanna focus on the book, but like, I like that whole notion of sort of really waiting until there's a bit of a critical mass before you think, okay, now it feels like these ideas are baked now,
Yeah. And that, that extends to community too, right? I mean, cuz a lot of times I think when people wanna write a book, they wanna write a book so that they can become better known. And the Catch 22 of that of course is that you can't sell the book unless enough people know about you. So
You're speaking to a podcaster.
Yeah, yeah. Discovery is always the issue. Um, But the same thing is true with the book too. So what worked well for me about writing this book was, yeah, I had been talking about the red thread and I had been talking about this methodology for four to five years before the book came out. So there was definitely a market of people ready and waiting for it. And that I think is part of its success. And um, you know, hasn't ever been any kind of like massive best seller or anything. I mean, he did top the charts in Amazon briefly. but, woohoo, uh, but it did what I wanted it to do because that's, I wanted it to be a thing that when people wanted to know more about my methodology or just wanted a reference book for how to do it after they'd work with me or anything like that, or a logical follow on if someone had seen me speak, like that's what I wanted it to do. And it's done that. And I think that is because I had already, I'm not gonna say perfected, but really burnished the idea and how to explain it well prior to trying to get it captured in a book. And that, that went a long way to helping get it sold in the beginning too.
Especially when what you are writing about is clarity of message. Um, you know, To be able to really to walk that walk, I think is, is, is crucial. I also like the, this concept of socializing the ideas and getting them on their feet and actually making them practicable, and practical, so that you get to battle test them. Because these are the things that you were developing as you work with other human beings and figuring out what works for some groups of people and what works for others, rather than, again, having this pre-prescribed sort of, this is the method and that's it,
Yeah. And it's funny, and part of my fear of writing the book, it hasn't really come true, but like part of the reason why I did wanna wait so long is I didn't wanna get to a point where, I, committed something to the book that then I found later wasn't right, right? Like, so just as an example, like in the very earliest days of this idea, I talked about the third component of the red thread as the idea as opposed to what I call it now, which is the truth. Because I found after a couple years that people got really confused about, like, calling that piece of the idea cuz there's like, there's the idea, but this is the bigger idea and how something that describes a big idea have a other idea in it. And I am so glad I didn't write the book when it was called an idea, cuz then it just would've been totally confusing.
I mean, what's interesting afterwards is that I'm, I would like to think that any idea that really comes from like deep within someone, which this idea definitely is for me, is an idea that you continue to discover new things about. Which I have with this idea, even post writing the book, you know, I, I've discovered more reasons about why it works, for instance, and, and part of the reason why it works is because it literally sets up a syllogism, it sets up a logical structure. And that helped me understand that stories are syllogisms and the reason why a lot of messaging doesn't work is because it doesn't complete that logical argument where we, you know, either it's a not valid argument or it's not a sound argument, or we have circular logic or something like that.
But even though I've had that realization about this idea afterwards, like I, I don't know that even knowing that, that some of that detail would've made it into the book because I think it would've been at the wrong level of detail for what the book, how for where the book was written, right? Like, it, it wasn't written as a Gladwellian, Pinkian, Duartean, you know, here's a big idea and there's not a huge amount on how to apply it though Nancy Duarte is much more tactical than Pink or Gladwell. And so it, I consider writing a book like that this first time out. But ultimately I wanted it to be more practical than that. Because there just, there are plenty of big idea books and I don't think there are enough how to books. And that's part of the reason why I came up with this methodology in the first place was that, you know, I think particularly people in marketing, but increasingly other people understand how important it is to understand your core message. In other words, what is that message that's all about you and what you do? What is the story that you as an individual or you as an organization, tell yourselves about why you'd act the way that you do?
Because that's actually the story that gives rise to everything else. And so, I knew that about the book and I really wanted to, and that about the idea, and I really wanted that to be the focus of it. But I, I don't think, like I said, there's just not enough how to out there, right? So I was looking for a how to, there wasn't one. So I came up with this methodology, and so that's ultimately why I wrote the book was because it's like, well, I, I think there's a bigger need for how to right now than more things for people to think about.
Yeah, there's a lot of books that, especially in the sort of self-help or kind of businessy help kind of
And there is a business self-help. Like there's a business personal development category. Yep.
Yeah, Very much. And it seems like they spend the first half of the book giving you examples and showing their credibility. And then, then if you're lucky, you'll sort of, you'll get some takeaways. Or it's one of those where actually you find out you can probably get the takeaways in the first chapter, and then the rest of it is spent justifying the idea.
that happens too.
The, yes. So the, you know what we have here is here's the, the idea. Here's why it makes sense. Here's where it comes from. Okay, now let's
Now let's do it. Yeah, that's exactly right. Yes, it was. I think of messages as being, or at least content as being why. I call it what now and how content and it was, that kind of, that structure. I first thought about it in the context of talks and speaking, cuz that's where a lot of my background, particularly around the red thread and messaging came from. But, the, with the 20, 25 years of branding, invest marketing that I done beforehand and like retroactively, I was like, oh, this is what this is.
And so for me, there's, why content is content that really helps you understand the nature of a problem that you didn't know you had. And because a lot of times it takes a big mental shift to get there, like that's where you're spending most of your time. So think about it as like two thirds to three quarter, just getting to that point of like, this is the real problem. And because that's the real problem, this is what we need to do differently. High level, here's how. Right, the last third, maybe a quarter is on that.
And then the what now, kind of content I consider to be half and half, right? And that's usually where there's not as much resistance to what the new idea is or what the big problem is, or what the nature of the new solution is. You still need to spend some time there. And so it's kind of like half and half. You spend about half the time, saying, so here's this big idea. Here's this new idea. Here's this new way to think about this problem. And because we're thinking about it this way, here's a new way to think about the solution. Okay, let's look at now the solution in a little bit more depth. So we gotta really understand why and how that solves the problem that we've just identified. So again, that one's about half and half.
And then how content for me is like the reverse of why content, right? It's a third to a quarter on, just as you described it. Here's the idea, here's why it's important, here's the whole argument for it. But there's not a real lot of resistance. Like you don't have to do a lot of case making for that idea. And at that point then you spend the majority of the time space word count on how to implement that idea, because you haven't had to spend time arguing for it. You've really just confirmed your argument and then you can spend that, spend the rest of the time on that.
Going back to the why, like there's a real feels like, I dunno if generosity is the word, but a, a lack of selfishness that is required to be able to really see a problem from the point of view of the person for whom trying to solve it. It's the whole features versus benefits thing. Like, it's really hard it seems anyway I think, to be able to. You have a great idea, you have a widget and you just wanna tell people how great this widget is. But you have to really get into and be willing to spend the time and spend the energy and spend the uncertainty points of working with people to help you understand for them why this is useful and why this is helpful
A hundred percent. That is so much of what is going on with all of this, right Mark? It's I think that, and it's very natural. So the thing that I always try to tell my clients, or, people who talk to me about this is, they're like, what do we do wrong? And I'm like, Well, we talk about everything from our point of view. And they're like, Oh no. And I'm like, Well, that's completely natural, right? A that's how we see the world. That's the first thing is that we live and breathe our own worldview all the time. And it's kind of like that parable or like a fish doesn't know that they're swimming in water. So that, that like, that's how your own worldview is. And the second thing that gets in the way is because of something called uh, naive realism. That's one of the words for it. It doesn't sound like a good thing to have, but at least it's something that we all do. And then naive realism is the belief that everybody sees the same the world the way that we do too. Like that we do this and therefore other people must also see the world this way. And we can see evidence everywhere when all of a sudden somebody acts in a way, like even somebody we think we know well, acts in a way that doesn't make sense to us, it's really shocking and surprising to us because we just presume that they see the world the same way we do. And they do not.
But whether we're trying to sell or even if we're just trying to communicate, we have to underst, I mean, you have to communicate to sell, that communication literally needs to be both sent and received in order for it to be successful. And I think we, for all those reasons I just talked about, we spend a lot of time on the sending part of it and not so much on the receiving part.
Like I said, I do a lot of work with speakers, and speakers are great speakers. They're not great necessarily communicators, particularly amongst each other. You should see the Facebook groups. Um, but that's always for me, because my background was first and foremost in, in marketing, where fundamentally people have to act in order for you to prove that you're doing your job well, right? Like, or you have to give, you know, leads to your sales team that convert to again, show that you're doing your job well. It's never been enough for me just to be able to send something out. Like I've had to make sure that that message actually gets heard and received.
And the good news for all of us is that's a skill. It's a skill. It's known as something known as cognitive empathy. I think a lot of times when you think about empathy, we think about it in terms of emotional empathy, which is understanding what somebody else is feeling. But if you subscribe to well tested, well researched, well confirmed, psychological theory that our feelings come from our thoughts, it makes sense that actually since we can't really control somebody, how somebody actually feels, but we can understand how they're feeling. If we understand how they think, right? The more that we can really start to develop that skill. How are they thinking about this? How are they seeing the world? What are the beliefs that are leading them to this behavior to this feeling, to this action, then we have a much better understanding of how it is that our widget might fit into that world, rather than how do we get them to skew their world around our widget, which is what we end up trying to do most of the time, which you're trying to say you need to want something different than you currently want. You need to believe something different than you currently believe. You need to do something different than you're currently doing, because all of it's wrong. Like that's, that's very often the subtext of a lot of marketing and sales messages.
But no human responds well to that. Like, we don't. So it's it in, it turns out to be a much easier practice, long term to figure out from someone else's point of view why your widget or product or service, organization, idea, whatever makes sense, rather than continuing to just blast at them why you think it makes sense.
Something I've noticed having seen you speak is a way of cementing or sort of communicating, asking the question without words. Like, you make a point and then there's a moment where you sort of, you give an extra look to say, are you getting this? That's a, you know, an interesting thing that you don't see in a lot of speakers is taking that beat and giving that look to say, I'm helping you sort of lock this in your mind so that we're not just, you know, next paragraph. I want this to actually get committed to the hard drive of your, of your
Yes. well, a lot that it comes back to the sending receiving piece, right? Like I would much rather be heard than speak, right? Like I, what's the point of speaking if what I'm saying isn't actually heard? So I'm a big fan of I'd rather win the war than every single individual battle. And I, and yes, that means, you know, to, to achieve cognitive empathy. I think it requires, but this is part of the reason why I think it's an important skill for us societal to develop a little bit, it kind of forces you into a position of humility.
Because you have to understand that as great as you think your idea is, the person that you're talking to doesn't think that yet. And that you just telling them that it's great over and over and over again, and increasingly annoying. Like, like annoyed, And aggressively isn't actually gonna be the thing that doesn't either.
And it's one of those things that I like to think of as the persuader's paradox, right? Because we will do to other people what we would never tolerate being done to us. Because you know, if you're, somebody's trying to sell you something and you say no, and then they just sell you. They basically just say no, no, no, no. Like, no, no, you actually need this. Like, how well does That work? Yeah. I mean, it's kind of like, at least in the US a great example of that is anytime you've tried to cancel cable, right? So, and you're like no, no, I actually wanna cancel it, but no, you don't. And they're like, no, you know, And they just keep repeating it and you're like, What? Stop.
What you actually want is you want another phone line and a television service. That's what you want.
You're like, no, let's give you actually more. And you're like, no, that's not what I want. And so yeah, once I understood that there was this difference between emotional empathy and cognitive empathy, like I, I became, you know, very much a flag bearer for cognitive empathy and really a, helping people understand that that's a thing, um, and b, that it's a real key to understanding how to persuade, how to be influential, how to have more effective communications. And that c, it is a learnable skill. And so, while I never say the word empathy in the book, it was one of the reasons why when Seth Godin read the book and then blurbed it for me, I was very glad that he did, he talked about like, persuading with empathy, and I was like, oh, this is why he's, this is why he's my favorite.
Because I never, I knew that that's what this book was about. It was essentially a way of backing people into cognitive empathy. But if I led with cognitive empathy, I think there's those that, it comes back to, what are, what's somebody's initial mindset when they're engaging with a piece of content, right? Whether that's a book or a blog post or talk. And I, I wrote the book for people who were frustrated. you know, I wrote the book for people who had tried to get the power of their idea across and hadn't gotten there yet. And I knew, or at least I sensed that the last thing those people wanted was to wade through two thirds of a book about all the supporting concepts behind everything, so they could essentially skip to the end and do it.
And I even wrote the chapters flipped that way. In other words, I wrote the chapters so that everything that was like right to the point is right at the beginning of the chapter. And if you want to know more that comes after the how-to stuff. Because I wanted, I wanted people to read as deeply as they chose to read, not as deeply as I wanted them to read so that they could understand it all from my point of view first. I was like, No, they just, they wanna get to it. They wanna be able to do it. And then if they struggle, I want the information to be there so they can go in deeper and understand, okay, well why are we doing this? And how can I, and like if I'm stuck, what can I do? Rather than be like, Well, let me tell you about cognitive empathy. Let me tell you about primal world beliefs. Let me tell you about, the reactance and, all of this other stuff. So some of that stuff is woven through the book, but there's not like big chapters on all the psychology and the neuroscience behind everything. It's just like, here it is. And I can explain it to you if you want. Trust me about why it is the way that it is.
But I just, I think it's so important to just take those extra beats, as you say up front to say, what is this person really looking for? And even what, not just content and idea or whatever, but what style of communication are they looking for here? I mean, I think, and if we see that nowhere else, we certainly see it in email. It drives me nuts. It's like, I think, you know, I feel very strongly that there's a, a certain way that's most effective in long form content to build, to explain something. And that is that you don't necessarily lead with what the answer is right away. You can, but in email you kind of have to. Like you and you should like, Because nobody wants anymore emails. So they wanna understand right away why, like what are you asking for? And again, they'll read deeper if their initial answer is no or why are you asking me that? But if it's one of those things like right off the bat we're like, Well that's easy enough. I don't need to know why they're asking. I'm just gonna say yes. Don't waste their time. I just don't like to waste people's time cuz I don't like having my own time wasted.
that's so vindicating. Because that helps me sort of in the same way that I think Seth, you know, you're talking about Seth Godin being able to describe your, or blurb your book and you sort of realizing this thing. It's, I've been writing emails like, so if I'm pitching for someone to be a guest. Now I think we did it slightly differently because I, I did, I think I DMd you on Twitter. But if I'm, usually, if I'm doing this over email, I take that approach of going the short version is I have a podcast about this thing and I'd love you to be on it. Then the longer version is, here's all the context, here's how I've found out about you. I appreciate your work. you know, and, And then go in and, you know, here's the how as well.
But like, I was trying to approach people who were, maybe higher profile or whatever, and I just thought, well, instead of thinking those in terms of I must scrape and grovel uh, to beg for their time, it's no disrespect that they're probably busy. That's all that matters here. It's not that they've got some status, It's not a status thing, it's the fact that they're busy. So you can be empathetic to that and just go, listen, here's the ask. If you're not interested, that's fine. You haven't gotta read the next paragraph, but if you are, and and being able to continue.
Yeah. I am a big fan of, of writing your emails in a too long, didn't read format. And also if you do have to put in additional stuff for whatever reason, like for the love of God, like boldface stuff, make it skimmable. Because, it's just it's crazy to me. Again, we just waste people's time. and We don't need to because, you know, when it comes to being a guest on a podcast or blurbing a book, you know, the person receiving that is either the kind of person who readily says yes to that or they're not. And and sometimes it's readily yes to all requests, and sometimes it's readily yes to, oh, if I somebody I know, then I'm gonna say yes. And then for the rest of the time it's gonna be no. And it doesn't really matter what else you say to them because they're just not the kind of people who say yes to that. And it's just best to know upfront.
And this is a lesson that I learned, I spent some years working for an advertising agency. And one of the things that's just, oh man, if I could change one thing about like new business pitches at agencies or kind of anywhere, it's that they should also be structured like an email. In other words what typically happens in an agency is that there's this massive build up to the big reveal, right? In worst case, it's like, here's who we are, here's all the good stuff, you know, Here are all our credentials. Please, anybody, I don't care the context, your credentials should always come at the end, never at the beginning.
Second, they'll be like, Well, this is what you asked of us. Here's all the things that we did. Here's all the research that we did. Here's all the supporting. Again, they give you all this stuff up front so that then they reveal like the creative direction. And that is an emotional choice that the like. So if somebody just false stop doesn't like the look of something when you present, it doesn't matter that you have just spent 45 fricking minutes explaining your rationale for it. Either they like it or they don't. Right? And you can't convince them to like it.
Like, has anyone ever convinced you to like them by just arguing for it? No, like it happens on experience. So it's like I, I never succeeded while I was at the agency, but I was like, could we just start with, hey everyone, just recap of where we've been so far. We're gonna cut to the chase, start with the creative, show you what it is so you can see it, react to it, have your initial explanation, and then we're gonna back up and explain why they are what they are and why we do or don't like the. Because best case scenario, you reveal the creative and they're like, that one, we like that one, let's go with it. And then you're in a much better situation than like, then you've convinced that they should like something that they don't.
Is there a lack of or, or a too much insecurity there in the idea, you know, in the whatever it is that you are trying to quote unquote sell that means we have to do all this work
think it's the opposite, honestly. I honestly think it's actually a surface of confidence. It's arrogance. It's we know that this is the right idea, but let us give you all the information so that you can know too. I honestly, that is, like, that has been, that's much more common, that we're not a hundred percent sure about this so let. I mean, it's a little bit more common in the Startup world for it to come from insecurity. But what I've seen, at least in the agency world and new business pitches is it's actually the opposite. It's overconfidence, it's arrogance. I love these people, but they're just, they just become so sure that they've landed on the right idea for you that like, when a client doesn't like it, the agency believes that it's the client's fault more often than not, like, well, the client just doesn't get it. False. If you're an agency, you're in the business of communication. The client doesn't get it, you didn't get something. It's not their fault. It's yours at some point. And that's, yeah. I actually think it's overconfidence that leads to that kind of stuff. Particularly with people like leading with credentials. They'll say that like, they're doing it so that people will feel comfortable. Like, no, you just, if you know your crap, you will show that you know this stuff and at the end you can be like, oh, by the way, here's how I learned all that. But like, I thank you very much for not starting with the question of like, tell me about yourself because I hate that. Like I would just, I would rather like, let's figure out like, and then run a quiz at the end to say, like, you probably figured out plenty about my background just by talking about it, and I didn't have to start with it. I'd rather it always be the other way. Just get to the point.
Like, here's what, here's how we give you what you want in an unexpected way, which is kind of my formula for an irresistible idea. Give them, you know, articulate how you give people what they want and via means they don't expect. And then go and explain those like, so give them the quick answer right up front, and then go back and get them to agree with the principles behind that answer so that when you kind of come back to that solution they've kind of walked through and started to see the world, even though it's all positioned through their worldview, They're starting to see that your worldviews overlap. And that's how they really understand and can really agree that that's, that they wanna go with you.
Because, I say this in the book, but your audience isn't everyone. It never is. I mean, you can believe, again, I go back to it's overconfidence not under confidence. It leads to so much of this. So many people say, Well, my idea, everybody could benefit from this. Everybody would wanna listen to this podcast. No, they won't. Like, it's, they won't. And it was funny my, my husband who's very much into podcasting works for Sounds Profitable and was worked for Edison re research for years and years. You know, this became really clear to me, we were having this conversation one day about, he was talking one Seth Rogan launched this podcast, Tom drew my attention to an interview that Seth had given when someone asked him like, who's this podcast for? And Seth was like, It's for everyone. And I'm like, It a hundred percent is not. Like, yeah. Because it's like, it's for everyone who sees the world the way Seth Rogan does. And that's usually what we mean by everyone is everyone who sees the world the way that we do.
So again, all of this comes back to just like take a beat and understand who are you talking to? What do they actually care about? And how does your idea, product, service, podcast, whatever, fit into their world, right? And how do you shape shift so that it fits where they are, not what are you asking them to become different people in order to like your thing? Because that's just unrealistic. That's not gonna happen.
So this is Tamsen Webster, and what a conversation. There's some stuff in here that I, I haven't actually included in this particular episode because I wanted to keep things. As digestible as possible. We then sort of 35 to 40 minutes. So there is some extra stuff that we talked about. We got into a thing I do call the lesson a story and helping people find their so what, uh, the answer to that question. Also we talked about our base beliefs and understanding them and how they work into the work we do. I say, we, this is Tamsen just sort of delivering me her own private TED talk, which was phenomenal.
There's also an extended version of a story. Uh, at that times and tells about her work with what was the Boston conservatory? So you'll hear some of that in a tick, but there's a, if you want the, sort of the full story of that, then you also find it, uh, and to get those it's just over at earbrainheart.com/10. There's no lead magnet or anything. You can just go and hear the, uh, hear the audio there. That's where you'll also find the show notes and if you also want to sign up for occasional updates from myself, then you will find them on that very page as well, along incidentally with the transcript.
If you want to know how you can continue to build or bridge the gap between the, we talk about know, like, and trust bridging that gap between like and trust using the power of your voice, if that is a tool of interest to you, then yeah, earbrainheart.com/10 is where you'll find the show notes and also the email sign up there. And it's, it's pretty infrequent. It's not like a weekly newsletter or anything. Just as a, when I've got something to share, then I will.
Speaking of sharing. If you want to share this episode with someone who needs to hear it, then that will be wonderful. It's the only way that a program like this spreads.
Right back to this conversation then. We talked about the, uh, the idea, uh, Tamsen brought up before about, this line, the greatest leaps start from the surest ground. And I might've been looking at a cat when I was thinking about this, when I was talking to Tamsen, but I started thinking about the way that a cat can leap from floor to mantle piece, uh, which is, uh, a phrase I've borrowed from a kids' book, uh, without disturbing a single object I might add. But you see those, the sort of the whole back of the body sort of collapsing the legs spring, and then and then they, spring forward. And so that's something, I appreciated that the creating that sure ground, not just as a person, but also as a cat lover. So that is where we pick up the conversation.
Yes. And you can also as an observer of those cats, also as a cat lover, you can tell when they're about to do it on something that is not gonna support that spring. Right? When all of a sudden you're like, Oh, that's a box, not a table. Oh cat, I am sorry you missed. And that actually, that lesson actually for me didn't come from cats, though it applies to them very well. Uh, that's something I learned as when I, you know, the 13 years I was moonlighting as a Weight Watchers leader of all things. But it all, this is where it all comes together because there was, there's nothing in my life that to me hasn't informed some other area of my life. I am not a siloed human. I compartmentalize very poorly, so sometimes that doesn't help me, but I've decided to turn it into a superpower, my lack of compartmentalization.
And because what I would see over and over again, right, is exactly what we've been talking about before, which is if we're thinking about health goals, right? So yeah, plenty of people come to Weight Watchers now WW to lose weight. But, plenty of people came just to be healthier in some way. And, it doesn't have to do with looks or anything like that, and it has to do with health. At least that's why I joined Weight Watchers 22 years ago. And when I became a leader, they're called coaches. What I would see is a lot of times people would try, you know, yes. It's about, there's some level of new behaviors that sometimes we have to learn, right? Like, so for Weight Watchers, you would need to learn to count points. That's a new behavior. But the baseline behaviors, the drive, all of that, right? Like sometimes people would just try to make those changes based on like, well, when I do this, when I reach this goal, then I will be this person, then I will be happy, then I will be. All of those things. In other words, they were operating from a point of belief that they were not that person. Now, so tell me how it is that you think that, I mean, just if you back up and we look at, speaking of cism, we start to look at the logical argument that your brain is trying to tell you that if you want to, to lose weight, and you want to do these behaviors, right, and these behaviors or behaviors, you're associated with somebody who is successful at losing weight, but you do not believe that you are that person now, how is that ever gonna work? Well, I'm gonna tell you it's not. But what's also not gonna work is for me to just to go. You can do. Yes, you can. That doesn't work either, right?
Like it's not a matter of, cuz this is where, cuz this is one of my, current bugaboos where there's a lot of folks obviously talking about limiting beliefs and like, what are you, what stories are you telling yourself that get in your way? I like to think of those as why knots, Like with a K like that they're not in your red thread. And a lot of times when we're talking about limiting beliefs, it's just, they'll say, Well, just tell yourself the opposite. Well, if you say you can't and you're gonna be like, oh, I can. And I'm like, yeah, but if you don't believe that. One of the things I say in the book is when two truths fight, only one wins, well, that's like putting a heavy weight against a bantom weight, right? Right. You're like the deeper belief is always, stronger, more personal belief is always gonna win out over a new one, particularly if it's just said to yourself as an affirmation.
Especially if it's um, you know, with, with the brain's negativity bias as well. If it's, especially if it's, you
a hundred percent.
it's always gonna win.
That's right. So what you've gotta find is though, that there are even sometimes below those kind of personal negative beliefs, there are the even stronger ones I'm starting to find are these world beliefs, right? Like beliefs about the world that, hey, let me ask you, why do we not all fly up off the ground? Because gravity, right? Because gravity is real. I mean, it's essentially a belief, right? We can look at all the science in the world, but even the best scientists in the world will not tell you with a hundred percent confidence that that's the reason. They're like, we haven't found any reason not to believe it yet, right? Like, it's the best working theories that we've got is that it's gravity, right?
Those are even stronger. And what I found particularly with, Weight Watchers, is that if we could swap in something else, right? Like not get them to unbelief something they believe, but if we can swap in an even deeper, more baseline, even more basic belief that would actually be why they would be successful at a certain thing, then that actually ends up working much, much better.
Now to take this back into the rest of our lives, right, it's why it's so important to back up and understand why you do what you do the way that you do it. Because it means that whatever you try to do, you're gonna be doing it from a position of strength.
So for instance, even back to my writing the book, I can make a framework and a process out of anything. Like I, it's just how my brain works. Like, apparently it's like what's known as a high structure builder. Like I'm, I just build structures everywhere, because they save me time, right? And it happens to be something, cuz I've done it for a really long time, unconsciously, shocking to me that other people didn't do it as well, then I was like, Oh, but I can see how useful it is to other people to have a process for doing things. So, I struggled literally for several years to start writing this book because I was trying to write it as this like big idea book. But at the same time, I did not consider myself to be that kind of big idea person.
So I'm like, okay Tamsen, follow your own flipping advice here. And it helped when a good friend of mine, Anne Hanley said, well write the book that's easiest to write. And well, to me the easiest book to write is the process. So let me just write the process. So. If I'm gonna make a big leap to being an author, to publishing a book, then actually what was the strongest way for me to get there was to base it on this thing that I do over and over again, which is to base it on the process, on that kind of thing.
But it's, I think everyone can do that, right? Everyone has muscles, whether they're mental, emotional, cognitive, or otherwise that you have built. It's how you get through the day is because of the kinds of questions that you're drawn to, the kinds of tensions that you like to resolve, the skill sets that you've developed in answering those things. Those are have enormous power. And those are applicable not just at the individual level, but at the organizational level as well.
So for most of my career I worked in nonprofits or I worked with limited budgets. And frankly, I don't know a single marketer ever who's ever felt like they had a big enough budget to do what they needed to do. So I was really interested in what's the most efficient way to have the most power? Well, it's not operating from what you wish people thought you were, it's about taking what is already strong about what you do and leading with that.
My best example of that is I worked here in Boston for a college called the Boston Conservatory. It's now called part of Berkeley College of Music. And we had really terrible facilities. Like structural support, beams in the middle of our dance studios cuz they were in the, in the basement. And when I first got there, the photography that they had on the materials that they would send to new students had a picture of the, of a theater that was not theirs. So I would ask them, I was like, When do you tell them? And then like, well, when they come. And I'm like, how do you think students feel about that when they're like, where's that theater? And you're like no, all we have is this one. How do you think that flies? So my whole point was like, we can do something with this because one of the things that Boston Conservatory could absolutely claim, our students worked. Many of them came, went on to be working, performing artists, but many of them also just worked in offices, but brought their kind of creativity into that, because we awarded bachelor's degrees. They weren't just performance degrees. So what we started to say was, we are training your students for the real world because their first jobs in performing arts are not gonna be in beautiful, pristine studios. I had a colleague once that called it brand judo, like do some brand judo on.
That's what I I call it, yeah, Judo flipping. It's, yeah, absolutely. Taking anything that you think of as a weakness. And you talked about that earlier in terms of your connecting the dots, you called it lack of compartmentalizing and someone else might call it connecting dots, you know, or seeing patterns.
Tamsen, this has been an absolute pleasure. I could go on for another hour. But this is wonderful. Where can our listener head to learn more about you, to find the book and also to find out about the next book that is on its way?
So everything me is tamsenwebster.com. There are no Tamsen Websters in the universe, so I'm fairly easy to find on the Google or your search engine of choice. And if you wanna hear more about the next book, the best thing to do would be to sign up for my newsletter, so tamsenwebster.com/newsletter because I always noodle these ideas in the newsletter first. Like, that's where you start to see, like, me working through stuff. So that's the best way to start getting peaks to at things. And my newsletter absolutely gets first access to when books are coming out and things like that.
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