Book Notes: The Impact Equation

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, social media and Internet gurus, have just released their new book The Impact Equation, which challenges “Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?”

We live in a unique time. We don’t need permission or have to wait to be picked, as Seth Godin reminds us. Anyone with Internet access–and that’s anyone–and an idea can begin to broadcast that idea to a networked world.

Brogan and Smith propose their “impact equation” to explain how a message cuts through the noise so that it has an impact rather than ending up in the dustbin of Twitter.

Impact = C x (R + E + A + T + E), or CREATE. Yes, the acronym is a bit hokey, but it is memorable. Your idea has to Contrast, be different. It has to have Reach and Exposure. It must have Articulation, or clarity of message. There must be Trust and Echo, or connection.

The reality is, such strategic thinking really is necessary if you want to amplify your message. It may make your eyes glaze over, but at least some of this sort of heavy lifting is part of the process. It’s not simply content. In fact, some have shown they can be quite successful without substantive content at all.

Whether you’re spinning your wheels or just looking to get started in the Internet world, Brogan and Smith can guide you through the process of amplifying your message.

[An advance copy was supplied by the authors for review.]

Inner & Outer Battles: Steven Pressfield’s Warrior Ethos

A Spartan mother handed her son his shield as he prepared to march off to battle. She said, “Come back with this or on it.”

Review of
The Warrior Ethos
by Steven Pressfield
Black Irish Entertainment, 2011

Fighting the Resistance, our daily inner battle, has been a theme of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and its followup, the newly released Turning Pro. But Pressfield is a novelist primarily where he has focused on wars past and future. The Warrior Ethos grows out of the years of research and writing on war.

From where does this Warrior Ethos, common across times and cultures, originate? Pressfield sees it as a necessary component of man’s development from hunting band to tribe to army. “It all comes from the hunting band’s need to survive.” The Warrior Ethos “evolved as a counterpoise to fear” and “the instinct of self-preservation.”

Warrior cultures are shame based cultures–as opposed to guilt based cultures–according to Pressfield. He writes, “A shame based culture imposes its values from outside the invdividual, by the good or bad opinion of the group. The community imposes its code on its members by such acts as shunning and public shaming.” Pressfield tells of Spartan maidens who were taught to sing songs of ridicule aimed at young men who did not demonstrate proper courage.

The Warrior Ethos is not simply a matter of overcoming fear, but rather it leads to higher and nobler virtues. “Courage is inseparable from love and leads to what may arguably be the noblest of all warrior virtues: selflessness.” Central to the Warrior Ethos is respect of the group, the unit, over the individual.

For Pressfield, the prototypical warrior culture was Sparta, which found its highest expression with the stand of the 300 at Thermopylae. Leonidas led his men on a suicide mission that ultimately saved Western civilization. The Warrior Ethos proved its worth.

The book is filled with anecdotes from Sparta to Alexander to Gen. Anthony McAuliffe at Bastogne. For Pressfield, though, this is not simply of historical interest, but rather of finding principles that will help us fight our own battles. “We all fight wars….We are all warriors.”

This leads us from the outer battle back to Pressfield’s focus on our inner battle. The former is an outworking of the latter. In the Bhagavad-Gita’s tale of Arjuna and Krishna, and in Alexander’s encounter with a recalcitrant Indian wise man, we find that the ancients recognized that inner battle, too.

Man’s war with Resistance stretches back over millennia, each generation, each individual fighting the same battle again and again. It is the battle with themselves. It is only with the Warrior Ethos that we will beat back our own Resistance.


[Related: Review of Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro]

Stop Punting & Go For It

Kevin Kelley, football coach at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, made a crazy decision. His teams stopped punting. Following a failed conversion attempt on third down Kelley didn’t send in the punt unit. His teams would go for it. Every time. Why would he do something so fundamentally counter to what every single other football team in the country did?

“Everyone says football is a game of field position, but it’s not,” Kelley maintains. “It’s a game of scoring points, which only happens when you possess the ball,” Gregg Easterbrook reports.

Kelley’s insight cuts through the process to the end result. Number crunchers demonstrate he’s right. Of course you won’t always convert on fourth down, but the odds are in your favor. Those who argue punting is taking the long view of field position aren’t really right. Going for it on fourth down again and again, it turns out, boosts your chance of winning.

So you don’t play football, or maybe even like it. “So what?,” you ask.

You should stop punting.

You punt when success becomes hard. You’ve tried, tried and tried again, and the defense has stopped you. Every single time you’ve tasted the dirt.

Your novel, your business, your sermon series, have not gone as hoped. You’re frustrated. Trying again seems futile, possibly humiliating. You imagine that trying exposes you to ridicule. But in reality going for it on fourth down is the path to success.

That fear of humiliation, the desire to escape blame, is why football coaches punt even if they know the right thing to do is to go for it.

Again from Easterbrook’s article: “When coaches go for it on fourth-and-short, announcers call that a huge gamble,” Kelley says. “It is not a gamble, it is playing the percentages. The gamble is punting! But coaches are afraid of criticism, so they order punts.”

Kelly is not just talking a good game, he has backed it up with results. The last three years his teams have reached the state semi-finals, then the state finals, then won the state championship, all while following his no-punting philosophy.

Just imagine what you will accomplish by throwing (misplaced) caution to the wind and going for it each and every time. Stop worrying about field position and focus on putting points on the board. Focus on winning the game.

Stop punting.