We have Mark Levy and Jorge Meléndez here. Mark is the Founder of Levy Innovation LLC. He is connected. He knows how to grow your business. He’s an interesting guy. I’m looking forward to chatting with him. Jorge is a coach, consultant and dream connector. He’s studied with some of the best. He can help consult and get people to the next level in many areas of their business.
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Differentiate, Be Unique, And Publicize with Mark Levy
I am here with Mark Levy, who is the Founder of Levy Innovation. He has written several books. He has written for The New York Times. He has co-created five books. His book, Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content, has been published in ten languages. It’s nice to have you here, Mark.
Thank you so much, Diane. I appreciate it.
I watched your video with Dov Baron who been on my show. He’s a lot of fun. You guys looked like you were having a lot of fun on that interview. He called you a nerd. He said your magic’s been performing in Las Vegas TV networks and you have a one-person show in New York City.
The one-person magic show, I’m not the performer. I co-created it. It’s on TripAdvisor. It’s the number one rated live show in New York City. It’s rated higher than even Hamilton. It’s called Chamber Magic. Magic is a passion of mine since I was a little kid, although it’s not my main focus.
What is your main focus? I’m looking at what you’ve done and it says you’re working full-time at Levy Innovation but you served as a Chief Marketing Officer at Inc. You’ve got all these little things that you’ve done, working with tons of amazing people. What is it that you focus on? Is it all about positioning and branding firms to increase their fees? Is it something else?
What I do predominantly is I’m a differentiation consultant or a differentiation expert. I help people to differentiate their companies or their personal brands or a book they’re writing or speech they’re writing or a show they’re writing. I’ve worked on TV shows. What is this thing about it? How do we make it as clear and interesting as possible and different from everything else while maintaining its integrity? Not just different for different’s sake, but different in a way that contributes to the world.
I’m talking to people about doing TV shows. I wrote a book. How do you determine what advice to give? Do you base it on each individual situation? Do you look at the market for what’s not out there?
You need to look at the market because differentiation is always against something. Different means different away from other things. You cannot differentiate in a vacuum. I like to tell people, “If you want to differentiate a t-shirt, if your t-shirt is white, mine will be black. If yours has one word on the front, mine will have two words on the front. If yours says words on the front, I’ll have pictures on the front. If yours is short sleeve, mine’s long sleeve.” Differentiation is simple at its core. It’s somehow making it different from what’s around it. I find that if you focus on the marketplace too early, then all you’re doing is becoming reactive and you will differentiate yourself. You’ll stand out, but in a way that saps you or your company. If you’re looking at the marketplace for what the marketplace wants or what people have already given, you’re designing your business based on everyone else’s goals but yours.
You’re coming out with a book. When people come to me to write a book, one of the things I do is I’ll coach them on writing a book and they’ll start to tell me what the marketplace wants. I’ll say, “What book do you want?” We’ll get to the market. First, if you look at the market, you’re only going to look at safe ideas that have already had the edges removed, that are commoditized, that people have given the thumbs up to and that are ordinary. Understandably, the marketplace, the people out there, the readers, they have their own goals for their lives as they should. If you looked to them first and you’re magnetized on that, it’s going to move you away from any goals you have for contribution to the world or as a businessperson or an artist or so. I always start with the person themselves or the organization themselves. What is it that they most want to try to accomplish? What are the cool things that they’ve done if they’ve done things and so forth? We start from there in order to differentiate with who they are or who their organization is.
When looking at doing a TED Talk they’ll say, “Make it compelling. Don’t make it be what everybody else is saying. If you’re eating healthy, it’s going to kill you,” thing. Do you try to do that to go more compelling? Do you help people who do TED Talks? Is that another thing you help with?
I’ve coached at TED speakers. One of the exercises I like to do, I learned it from a friend of mine years ago in Canada, Michelle Noray. He said that the exercise wasn’t original with him and he didn’t even have a name for it, but I call it the stereotypes exercise. It’s a great differentiation exercise. Imagine that you’re the head of your company or you’re a thought leader. You’re someone like that. Someone is coming to see you, they’re a prospect of yours and they could be a good prospect. The thing is they know almost nothing about you. They almost know zero. They don’t know about your fees. They don’t know exactly what it is you do and so forth. They don’t know you at all. The reason why they’re coming to see you is that a friend of theirs said, “Diane’s company,” or whoever company we’re talking about, “They may have something that you’re looking for but I’m not quite sure because I don’t know them. You might want to check out to see if they have this thing you’re looking for,” that’s why the prospect’s coming to you.Differentiation is always against something. Click To Tweet
The prospect is coming to you and they don’t know anything at all about you. It doesn’t mean that they’re coming with an open, empty mind waiting for you to fill it up with goodness. They are still coming to you probably with preconceived notions about what someone like you is going to say about what it is they should do, your charge, how you do work and what they should be doing. Preconceived notions, many of them are probably even negative. They could be stereotypes about what someone like you in your industry is going to tell them. First, I have clients list all the stereotypes. What are the stereotypes? It’s not about your company specifically, but about companies in your industry that people assume you’re going to be saying. The second part of the exercise is now that you know what they’re expecting to hear, you write down all the differences. All the ideas, insights, stories, exercises, deliverables and all kinds of things that are different from the norm. That would be an example. Differentiation is always against something. It’s what’s in their minds before they approach you and now what are all the ways you’re different. Often, we pick out one of those differences as the thing to elevate, to forward their business.
As you’re talking about these preconceived notions and some of that ties into what I researched for curiosity is what holds people back is they have these assumptions. They assume they know something or they assume things that aren’t true and these stereotypes and all the things you’re talking about fall into that. You’re helping people be proactive and prepare for what they anticipate. How do you know that you’re anticipating all the right things if you’re making assumptions?
You triggered something in my mind that in order to think differently, which is what curiosity is about. People have assumptions and so forth. You have to do something artificial to force them into thinking differently. I’m not casting aspersions. It’s difficult. Our regular thoughts are comforting and there are regular thoughts for reason that they probably helped us to quite a degree, especially the people reading your blogs, they’re probably quite successful. Their assumptions have been beneficial for them. There’s no reason why they should dismiss all their assumptions. In order to think new thoughts, you have to be put in an artificial spot. For instance, being given an exercise where you’re forced to think differently.
Here’s what I wanted to get to. With the idea of curiosity or so, I’m a magician but also what I do on the weekends and on vacations and when I do speaking gigs in my downtime, I’m in an urban explorer type. I’m a history type. What I’ll do is I visit abandoned buildings and I visit all kinds of strange things and I try to research them like where we’re going. Occasionally I’ll bring along people with me, even clients, in order to have experiences that we don’t normally have and then to try to understand like, “What are these experiences? What are they telling us in and of themselves? What is it that you remember? What is it that you’re feeling?” Occasionally it’s like, “This new idea that we’ve had, how could you apply that to your business?” I’m making it sound artificial. Getting someone to think differently requires artificiality. You don’t breeze yourself into it.
I don’t think a lot of people put themselves outside of their comfort zone and you bring up many things that help people to generate new ideas. I’m curious about your book, Accidental Genius: Using Writing To Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content. What do you cover in that? How did that become popular? You’ve got it in ten languages now.
I wrote the original edition of that in 2000 and then I wrote a new edition in 2010. It was a technique that propelled me onto my career because Accidental Genius teaches you my version of free writing. Some of the people reading will know what freewriting is, others don’t. What free writing is essentially is writing that you do for yourself. It’s private writing. It’s for you. It’s not necessarily for public consumption. It’s free as in free from the normal rules of writing, which the normal rules of writing would say that you’re writing for other people. That’s not what you do in free writing. The normal rules of writing would say your writing needs to be coherent, interesting, free of grammatical errors, spelling errors and whatnot because other people are going to be reading it and that’s to communicate that. That’s not true for free writing because it’s for you. Freewriting is taking your mind, your brain and you’re taking the thoughts as they appear in your mind? You’re not dressing them up. You’re not cleaning them off. You’re dropping them onto the paper or into your computer. You’re writing fast. For instance, free writing you might set a timer for ten minutes and then you start writing about a problem from wherever it is that you want to start. You write a little faster than you normally do and you do not stop for any reason.
The reason why that is if you write slowly and you stop while you’re writing, your internal editor is going to give you the same thoughts that you’ve been lauded for before. That’s why sometimes when we sit down to try to solve a problem and we think of ourselves as super smart, we sit there and we run out of answers fast often. We say, “I think of myself as this genius. These are the same answers that didn’t work before. What’s wrong with me?” It’s that your internal editor is trying to do you a favor. It’s trying to make you look to yourself and to other people as competent and intelligent and so forth. You need to be forced. You need this artificiality of writing faster than you normally do. Literally, having your fingers fly on the keyboards a little faster and not stopping for any reason. Even if you have to start writing things like, “I don’t know what to say next,” until the new thought comes to you and then you go on with that thought.
You allow your mind to digress in free writing because I find that the human mind is not a precision instrument. We don’t know where all the ideas are contained within our minds, so you have to allow yourself to digress. To write about things other than it is that you sat down to write about before you get back to them. As long as you keep these behavioral contracts going up writing faster and not stopping, your mind has to go to new places. You have to pull ideas that you haven’t pulled before or put things together that you haven’t thought about together. That allows you to start solving problems. This was something that I used years ago. It’s an old technique. It’s 100-plus years old.
How do you keep track of it all if you had this mind dump everywhere and you go back to things later? That’s the hardest part. You start later and you will remember what you thought of.
I date my free writings according to the day. After I do them, I will then read them over quickly and underline things and boldface, particularly important things. I go into a new bout free writing after that based on what it is that interested me in the first bout of free writing. Now I’ll know what to write about or now I know what not to write about and that’s where I start there. I have free writing documents that after I’ve done free writing, I dice and slice some of my free writings and I put specific ideas into specific documents. Let’s say for positioning. I’ll take positioning ideas from free writing and dump them in that document. I’ll take ideas about speech writing and dump them in that document. Often, I’ll duplicate because an idea for one document is applicable to other documents. That’s how I do it. When I have to sit down and create something or write a speech, write a book, write a blog post or help someone with something. I’ve done sometimes 75% of the thinking ahead of time, even years earlier. I look through something that I wrote and I say, “This is a great catalyst for new thought for this new project I’m doing,” but I did it a few years ago.
It makes sense. There are many different types of writing. You had taught research writing at Rutgers. You have this background of all these different types of experiences which is fascinating to me. I’ve peer-reviewed research and then I’ve written different blogs and everything’s so different than when you write it. It’s helpful what you’re saying. I like that it opens up your mind to different ideas. We’ve got magic, we’ve got research writing and we’ve got TED help. You do everything. Give me your background. You were a Chief Marketing Officer and I meant to say at an Inc. 5000 experiential branding organization and you’ve done all these different things. What’s your education? What was your background?Getting someone to think differently requires artificiality. Click To Tweet
I have a degree in Writing from Queens College. Our greatest scholar was Jerry Seinfeld. He did graduate from there. I started to work in the book industry. First, I started to work for bookstores and then I worked for a publishing house and so forth. I became the director of sales projects of the third largest book wholesaler in the world. What we would do is we buy millions of dollars’ worth of books from Simon & Schuster, Random House and all the other publishers. We’d sell them to independent bookstores, Barnes and Nobles, Walden’s and all kinds of stores. I helped sell over a billion dollars’ worth of books in my career. Books, if you think about it, in one sense they’re commoditized. The Stephen King novel I have is the identical Stephen King novel my competition has. My clients, the bookstores, knew it was coming out also so they have it too. How do I go about selling over a billion dollars’ worth of books? I’m talking about thousands of books. I’d get books from every single publisher and all their books. I had to look at books and be able to understand what they were about quickly and size up how to sell them or if they shouldn’t be sold. If I wanted to sell them, if they warranted sales beyond what people had predicted, maybe something was happening in the world that changed the importance of a book or show.
For instance, a book was being printed overseas and it wouldn’t be back in time for Christmas. In other words, I had to work out both what is this book? What’s most important about it? Then outside of the book, what society is saying if this book should be important or not? That’s how I sold so many over a billion dollars of a commoditized thing. I did that for many years. When I left that business many years ago, what I did was I essentially started my own firm as a differentiating firm. What I do is I look at people’s businesses as if they were a book. I say, “Here is the book Diane is writing. Here’s the main idea at the forefront of this “book.” Here are the ancillary ideas and stories in this book. I wonder what would happen if we moved one of these ancillary or satellite ideas up to the fore where we combined a couple of them that hadn’t been combined before we lead with a different story. Will the book sell well?” That’s essentially what I do. Anytime I sit down with someone, in my mind it’s we’re working on a book. It could be an enormous multibillion-dollar company, in my mind it’s a book.
I’m working on my book and I’m talking to many people about their books. A lot of the audience are trying to get their book in front of much more of an audience, not just be another book on Amazon or whatever else. A lot of them want to get noticed on television because their business books, they don’t go well for The Today Show and the places that would get the big ratings. What advice would you give them to stand out? Is that the type of thing you do as well? Here is mine because that’ll help me. I’m getting some free advice here. My book’s on curiosity. Say I came to you for advice. What would be the suggestions you’d give somebody?
I’d have to know more about your book. Remember I have a background as a magician, so I tend to think in a large usual way as most magicians do. I’m big, for instance, on publicity stunts and so forth. One of the stunts I did was in The Guinness Book of World Records. I’ve done a bunch of different publicity stunts.
Is that the one with the ambulance?
There was no ambulance in mind, but it was based on an ambulance incident. What I did, for instance, when Accidental Genius first came out, it was a book on writing, private writing, writing to help you to think. I said, “How am I going to get publicity for a book on thinking, about writing?” What I did is on a Saturday night in New York City by Lincoln Center, I stood in the window for a few hours at the time the country’s largest bookstore with big banners up around my books. I had screens mounted on both sides of the bookstore. One was on the Broadway side and one was on the other avenue. I stood there and I had a laptop strapped to me and I typed for a few hours continuously nonstop except to shake my hands out or so. I typed, free stream of consciousness writing and it appeared in giant screens on both avenues. I issued a news release that said, “Man prepares to stop midtown traffic with his mind.” Throughout the night, I had thousands of people stop and the book became a bestseller. In that store alone, it sold 600 copies or something like that. Most books sell two or three copies, in that store alone it sold 600 copies. It’s that thing.
What’s the main idea of the book? What’s something interesting about the book? How do we amplify it with some stunt? What are all the ways that stunt can be used? What are all the different ways because you should never overly rely on one way forward? Clients always know this. I still remember one of my clients, Steve Cohen, The Millionaire’s Magician. He’s the brilliant performer of Chamber Magic for many years. He always wanted an article in a certain major New York City paper and he thought he’d have it made when it would get there. Meanwhile, when he got an article in that paper, it generated little sales for his show. When he was interviewed on some radio show that he hadn’t thought anything about, he was sold out for several months. He said, “Watching the back end of his ticket sales was like watching a slot machine.”
The numbers were going around. It’s that idea of often what you expect to be the big thing is not the big thing. That’s why you need to be doing lots of things. You have to take one idea and use it in as many places as possible and play it big everywhere because you don’t know. Many years ago, I was talking to Guy Kawasaki. I asked Guy Kawasaki, “What is your best piece of marketing advice?” He said, “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” What I took that to mean was the idea of you’ve got to do a lot of things in a lot of different places because you don’t know what flower is going to be the flower. That’s my long-winded answer about publicizing your book. It’s like, “What’s it about? How do we blow it up as big as possible? How do we illustrate it with something unusual? What are all the different formats and ways that idea can be used there?”Everything is language. Nothing exists outside of it. Click To Tweet
A lot of people reading to the show have started to do a lot of their own promotions for their books and different things because even if you get a publisher, they expect you to do your own stuff. It’s something that a lot of people probably need a lot of help with. That was great advice. We could all do more things. You’re creative and I always appreciate the creative mind and everything you do is fascinating. I could see why your clients include everything from a former department head in the White House to Simon Sinek to all these TED speakers and all these amazing people. I was looking at your list and it’s a who’s who. It was nice having you on the show, Mark. This has been exciting to talk to you. A lot of people will probably want to follow you and find out more about you. Is there some link that you want to share?
Go to my website, LevyInnovation.com. You’ll see all kinds of free things. I have this PDF when you get there, List-Making as A Tool of Thought Leadership, which shows you how to look at one topic. Let’s say it’s your business or a book you’re writing or a speech you’re giving. You look at one topic and it shows you through a list-making technique. How to look at that topic from five or ten or fifteen different angles so new thoughts and ideas pop up for you. You make lists about things. It’s simple like you look at your topic and one list would be, “What’s surprising about this topic?” Another list is, “What’s obvious about this topic.” Another list is, “What stories do I know about this topic?” Another one is, “What ways would I reframe this topic?” You make a bunch of lists and the ideas fly at you.
I’m definitely doing that and this sounds interesting what you’re doing. Innovation is going to be the hot topic and you’re the guy to talk about it. This has been exciting to talk to you, Mark. Thank you.
Thank you so much and thanks for reading. I’m grateful.
Soft Skills, Storytelling, And Language with Jorge Meléndez
I am here with Jorge Meléndez who’s a certified coach of John Maxwell. He’s a life and business coach consultant whose mission has been working with over 300,000 people in countries such as the Far East, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States for many years. It’s nice to have you here, Jorge.
Thank you, Diane. It’s a pleasure to be here with you and with all of your audience. Thank you for having me.
We both know Randy Gage who recommended that we chat and he was a great guest on the show. He says you’re doing some amazing things. I want to start with a little bit about your background because I know you deal with many different countries and a lot of work in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I’m an army brat. My parents were Puerto Rican, but I was born in Hawaii in Honolulu in Oahu. I was raised in Fort Carson, Colorado. We moved to Puerto Rico when my father retired from the Armed Forces in 1971. I lived in Puerto Rico until I was almost 50 years old that I met my wife and I came to Mexico City. I’ve been living here for several years. I was a journalist. I was a music critic first for many years. I learned it on my own. When I was studying at the university, I wanted to be a doctor, but then I realized that I didn’t believe in myself enough to go through with it and complete it. I started my first few years in college wanting to be a doctor. I transferred to business, then I dropped out of college altogether. I started working in the music-related field and in one of the largest music stores. People remember what that is with iTunes and buying music online, it used to be an entertaining thing to do in your life then. While I was working there, one day someone started to know that I had a good rapport with clients and serving people. From one of the largest newspapers, a reporter came and said, “We have come to know that you know a lot about music. Would you like to write about music?” I said, “I have never done it before, but I’m willing to try it.”
Unbeknownst to me, I started writing. I started discovering that I had a passion for writing, but I had to learn my way. I had to contract an independent journalist, speech and writing professor from the University of Puerto Rico to teach me how to write because my thinking was in English and I was trying to write in Spanish. That became a profession where within my first year, I was covering events like Michael Jackson, the Grammy’s, Madonna. My life changed all of a sudden through writing and through learning how to express what music produced within me and sharing it with people. Until I was close to 30, I went through a divorce with my first wife. That took me to personal growth transformational training and I walked into a room, I would say defiant and a nonbeliever in a lot of these things. I walked out of the room on a Sunday saying, “I want to do what that man does on stage,” and I started a process of learning, reading and developing. Three years later, I became a transformational trainer or coach. I started combining as an independent writer for a newspaper in San Juan and coaching and developing and training over many years. That has brought me where I am now.
That man on stage, was it John Maxwell or someone else?
It was someone else. Maybe in the United States, you’ve heard about what was called the Insight, the Landmark and the Lifespring training. It was a man called Terry Nelson. He was a trainer at the time and I did my training in Puerto Rico in 1994. To me, it was an impact that runs until this day and I said, “I want to become a certified trainer first.” I’ve done this with Anthony Robbins and a lot of other works. I always have been curious about learning, developing, growing in the personal growth arena.
You say that you were curious about learning and growing because my research is all about curiosity. I test people to find out the things that hold them back from being curious and help them become more curious. What do you think made you be such a curious person? Was it something you grew up, your culture, your family? Is this something that you think you developed as you got older? Where did that curiosity come from?
I would say it’s a combination. One was my upbringing. Given that I’m an army brat and I was raised on a military base, you always feel protected. You’re in a place where it’s safe. When all of a sudden when I’m seven years old, eight and I moved to a different environment. My mother who passed away in 2018 used to be overprotective to all of our children. I’m the youngest of six. Being me, the youngest and being more exposed to a new culture, my mother was guarded and overprotective. By the same token when I was thirteen, she would send me to go visit my aunts and uncle in the United States. She would put me on a plane alone and say, “Go visit your aunts. Go visit your cousins.” That brought out in me a curiosity, a thirst to want to be in different places. That was one I would say, my upbringing.
Second, when I walked into this training and it’s interesting that we’re talking about this now. I’m writing on my blog about the power of language and how I discovered it when I was 30 because I didn’t read. It was a friend of mine started giving me books. Among them was The Alchemist before it was a bestseller. This was many years ago. I started seeing the power behind words. How Paulo Coelho, Paramahansa Yogananda, Krishnamurti and a lot of deep thinkers use language in a wordsmith. How to express different ways of seeing life and seeing yourself in light to the words and the power of words. That I would say has been with me for many years. I’d become an avid reader and I read one or two books a month.
That’s a lot and I know a lot of the top people who I wrote about in my book, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, they read nonstop. It’s important to be able to read different things. What I’ve found in my research of curiosity is that a lot of people tend to read the stuff that interests them. Sometimes they don’t find the things that they could be interested in because we get into comfort zones. It’s important to look into a reading stuff that we may not normally gravitate to. You thought you want to be a doctor, you thought you want to be in business and then you found music. You never know what’s going to interest us. Your background is fascinating because it shows that we can be interested in many different things. I’m curious now on a daily basis. Do you mostly coach or do you have other things that you’re working on at the moment?Everything needs to be expressed in some form of language to be real in some way, shape, or form. Click To Tweet
I’m consulting. I’ve been working over the last few years. I’ve been working closely with a nonprofit organization called World Vision. It’s a nonprofit that works for teenagers, children, boys and girls all over the world. They have 126 offices all over the world. I’ve been working closely with their Latin American region because one of the things that happened at the turn of the Millennium is a lot of the philanthropy funding was starting to shrink. That’s when Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey started donating all of their wealth was to keep holding and keep supporting a lot of the philanthropy movement all over the world. Over the last many years, that’s been a hard-hit area in the world. God puts a lot of different angels in your path and a good friend of mine, wherever she goes she’s always been calling me to go and support the company she works with. She worked for many years with Anheuser-Busch and Miller. She also worked with Johnson & Johnson and now she wanted a change in her life and she started working with World Vision. She wanted me to be part of the change of the mindset and the culture of how they’re going to start creating their own local funding and how they’re going to stop.
Now, international funding is being cut. We have been working diligently with a lot of different offices in Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Santo Domingo and how to change the mindset. I’ve been working closely with them and a lot of different local offices and the regional division. We worked for a few years with a gold mining company called Goldcorp, which is based in Canada. A group of consultants called Sheppard Partners based in San Francisco, we were part of a group of close to 30 consultants working with over 5,000 to 10,000 miners from top to bottom, from the top executive level to the production level, working on shifting the culture. I’ve worked in two mines in Canada, a mine here in Mexico. I was leading the project here in Mexico, which is an open pit mine with over 2,500 employees. We were working close to twelve consultants from different parts of the world. I also do group coaching online. Randy was a dear friend and a big mentor and inspiration.
I’ve been working diligently in 2017 in a daily blog, a weekly podcast, a weekly YouTube channel working about entrepreneurs but more than entrepreneurs supporting people for things I could support people in. Number one, which is identifying that key project, that key goal you want to manifest either as an entrepreneur because you have a goal. You want to bring something to the world that could impact others. What are the beliefs that sometimes limit you or hold you back? What are some of the skills that you want to develop? What are the key actions to take place to manifest them? What I’ve been doing is building my brand behind that because for many years I’ve been a professional independent and working independently is great because you get the call. Now at some point, you want to develop your own name, your own brand. You want to start providing content of value for the people out there and that’s what I’ve been doing since 2017 besides doing all these other side work.
You sound busy and it sounds like you’ve got an interesting background that would help you with all that. I was noticing that you had a diploma for Ontology, for language and identifying limiting beliefs that staunch growth. We both deal with limiting beliefs a little bit in what you and I both do. I’m looking to help people become more curious, to become more innovative, creative and engaged in all the things that work. You have to look at some of those limiting beliefs to do that. You can’t just identify them. You have to come up with an action plan. I love that you deal with skills and action plans to get people to move forward. What skills are you helping people develop?
I would say a lot of my expertise comes from soft skills such as listening, questioning, empathy, compassion, being in service. I would say also skills such as persistence, consistency, even though those are things that you develop over time. Mostly I work a lot on people’s soft skills, also the power of language because what ontological coaching does is that everything comes out of language. Everything is language. Nothing exists outside of language. It needs to be expressed in some form of language to be real in some way, shape or form for all of us. How do I shift my thinking, my mindset so my thought pattern, my mindset, my expressions and my actions become congruent, so I could manifest that?
I’ve talked to a lot of organizations about soft skills and having written my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I dealt with a lot of the things that you’re dealing with empathy, interpersonal skills. Many organizations hire people that have great hard skills, but they don’t have the soft skills. They’re not set up well to train people with soft skills. Have you found that to be true if the organizations with whom you’ve worked?
I see that all the time and not only do I see that all the time, but it’s also become troubling. When you look in Latin America, there’s a conflict. In some countries, they have a percentage that they have to use in training. The problem is that most of the training use technical training. When it has to do with developing skills, when it has to do with developing emotional intelligence, that’s far behind or nonexistent in many cases. You have a lot of people that are technically qualified, but when it comes to soft skills and development, it’s poor.
The thing I’m seeing is that AI is going to be replacing jobs and a lot of people might be moved then has to learn new things. There are certain things that AI can do and certain things it can’t do and a lot of the soft skills are tough for the AI to mimic. We could develop some of those skills. They may not have even realized what interests them because nobody’s ever asked them or they shut themselves off to certain things based on past experiences. It sounds like you and I are both interested in finding out where people are best aligned and then giving them the proper skills to do that. A problem I see with organizations is the fact that the culture needs to be changed from the top down and if the top doesn’t buy in, nothing gets changed. Do you get a lot of people who are frustrated because leadership doesn’t embrace the culture where they’d like to work?
I want to go back to something you said and that’s something we have in common. The big body of your work about developing curiosity goes with one of the top skills that everyone says we need to be developing, which is storytelling. Storytelling has to do with being connected, with connecting with who you are and how you want to share yourself with others. If you notice who the big influencers are and people that are making a difference is because they’re taking storytelling to bring it not only to life, it’s the presentation card. Coming back to the question, it’s frustrating for a lot of people. Number one, you’re seeing in Latin America a lot of people or a lot of companies that are shrinking. They want more from people, but they’re not taking the time to develop the soft skills. They’re thinking that giving them technical information or technical development is more than enough. They want to feel listened to, they want to feel valued. They want to feel recognized. They want to feel that they’re contributing and that they’re feeling that their participation is a key to what is the company’s development. They’re not feeling that and by not feeling that, what it’s creating is more turnover. A lot of companies are raising their expectations but they’re not developing people’s skills, so they could rise up to those expectations. It’s frustrating. There’s a lot of opportunity for people like you and me to provide work for a lot of people.
Storytelling is hard for a lot of people to develop. Do you help people become better storytellers?
One of the things that at least I do three or four times a year is to develop public speaking. When I’ve talked with people about public speaking, what I’m focusing on is storytelling. What do you want to say and how do you want to say it that’s compelling to others who are around me? That’s something that we’re working with a lot of people. Why? It’s one of the magic keys to success.Talk about what you did wrong and how you learn from it so it can inspire others. Click To Tweet
The problem for some people with storytelling is you have to not take yourself seriously and you have to let go in a way to make it a compelling story. People are used to wanting to get their point across that they forget that there’s more than one way to get their point across. I had a guest who she began her TED Talk with telling you this unbelievable story. You realize that she’s telling a story that was on Days of Our Lives, a soap opera, but it was compelling. You’re going, “What is she talking about?” but you’re pulled in. She’s got a million views. She’s compelling in the way she’s telling the story. It brought to the forefront what she was trying to portray in terms of what her overall talk was about, was what we can learn from soap operas. You need to figure out what you want to say to whomever you’re speaking or if you’re on a stage or wherever you are. It’s important to be able to get that great story at the beginning to capture their attention. It needs to be weaved throughout how we speak. I don’t think a lot of us have been taught to do that. Do you find that a lot of people have a hard time learning it?
There have been two key people in this process about storytelling, besides reading and TED Talks. Randy is one of my mentors and he says, “Work on original content. Don’t try to say the starfish story for the 100th time. Don’t try to say the cat stories because they catch people’s attention.” He’s been one that’s always working and he says, “Jorge, if you have the craft, keep developing it.” At the beginning maybe nobody’s going to listen, nobody’s going to see it. Over time, people will get it.” When we were going to work with Goldcorp, dear friends of mine, Mark Foreman and Charlie Shepherd said, “When you’re going to say a story, if you’re going to talk about yourself, talk about one of your failures. Don’t talk about yourself and what you did right. Talk about what you did wrong and how you learn from it, so it can inspire others and you could connect with others. If you’re going to say a story about something that was done well, talk about someone that when they hear about it, they say, ‘You’re bringing someone up about the story and not talking about yourself.’”
When we’re trying to teach people how to talk about their stories, how can they heave it into their conversation in a way that it doesn’t sound about themselves? That it’s being authentic and connected. Number two, how it doesn’t sound forced. How it’s part of a conversation? How it’s part of a narrative? I could say that I’m still learning how to make it a part of a conversation where it sounds natural and it takes a lot of practice. You read about Richard Branson. You read about many people about storytelling. How they practice it consistently until it becomes part of their every day or their everyday language or how they express themselves.
One of the things that stood out to me when I was watching Randy Gage’s videos was how great he was at that. The audience was completely mesmerized by everything he was saying. Yours was in Spanish and I couldn’t follow what was going on. Do you have most of your videos in Spanish? Do you have some in English?
I could say that 95% of my work is in Spanish. I’m going to start working on translating and doing a division of everything in English. Randy said, “Jorge, I’m part of a mentorship group of people from all over the world.” He challenged me in a way that he said, “If you don’t launch what you’re going to do, you’re going to have to buy the most expensive chocolate chip cookies and send it to all of the people that are in this group by a certain date.” It wasn’t about how much it was going to cost. It was challenging me to start and what Seth Godin says, “Launch,” and I launched. I said, “I’m going to go first with the audience I’ve been working with.” I’d say 90% of the time which has been the Latin American audience. I worked for many years in the United States. I still do work in the United States, but most of my work has been in Latin America, but now I know I’ve got a lot of requests to do things in English. When I’m writing a book, it comes out in English which is my first language and then I got to translate it and that’s what I do. My blog I’ve been writing it in Spanish, but I will be doing videos in English. You will be seeing by the end of 2018, early 2019 you’re going to see a lot of my stuff in English. Randy said, “Focus on Spanish, get it done and don’t look back,” and that’s what I’ve been doing.
I may have to try and see if I can read some of your stuff that’s in Spanish because that’s one of my goals was to get better at that. My daughter speaks four languages and I have no excuse. I have to catch up with her. Spanish is one of them, she speaks Portuguese and Italian. I don’t know why she speaks so much. This has been exciting to have you on the show. I knew Randy always recommends great people and you guys are both doing some amazing things. A lot of people are going to want to know how they can find out more about what you’re doing. Do you have any links you’d like to share?
My website is www.JorgeMeléndez.com.mx. That’s my website where you can see my blog. It connects you automatically. I have a weekly podcast that comes out through Anchor but it’s also available in seven different platforms. You could see it there. I have a YouTube channel, which is also on my pages there. I wanted to identify what would be the way that people could connect with what I want to do. I work a lot. You’re going to see a Latin idiom called Anquiro. Anquiro is a word that means inquiring, questioning, developing, coming to a conclusion and discovering. That’s the word that I found that describes what’s been my work and how I want to connect with people. I want to bring up people aware of wanting to discover, of wanting to question, wanting to develop new ways of seeing things. Coming to a discovery of themselves of who they are and what they want to manifest. You’re going to see a lot of that word wherever you go on my websites, on my memes and a lot of places. I also have a page on Facebook called Jorge Meléndez Dream Connector where I publish a lot of things in English and mostly Spanish. I also have my Twitter account, which is @JorgeMLifeCoach. I’m on LinkedIn, it’s Jorge Meléndez. I’d say most of my work is there. I’m coming out with a book which is going to be in English and in Spanish in 2019. It’s about all of this work and about manifesting.
I would put the word curious in all those synonyms you had because we’re both trying to develop people to think about things and question things and become more curious. I enjoyed having you on the show. What you’re doing is amazing. Thank you, Jorge. It was nice to have you here.
Thank you very much, Diane. It’s a pleasure.
I’d like to thank both Mark and Jorge. It was nice to have both of you guys on the show. It was such a great episode. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com/blog to read them or DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com to listen to them. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Levy Innovation LLC
- Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content
- Dov Baron – previous episode
- Chamber Magic
- The Guinness Book of World Records
- List-Making as A Tool of Thought Leadership
- Jorge Meléndez
- Randy Gage – previous episode
- The Alchemist
- Jorge Meléndez’ YouTube channel
- Facebook – Jorge Melendez Dream Connector
- Twitter – @JorgeMLifeCoach
- LinkedIn – Jorge Melendez
About Mark Levy
Mark Levy is the founder of Levy Innovation LLC, a positioning and branding firm that helps consultants and other thought leaders increase their fees by up to 2,000%. Before devoting his work fulltime to Levy Innovation, Mark served as Chief Marketing Officer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Bank of America, Gap, Samsung, Time Warner, Tivo, and Harvard and Stanford Universities. Mark has written for the New York Times, and has written or co-created five books. His last book, “Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content,” has been published in ten languages.
About Jorge Meléndez
Jorge Meléndez is a certified coach of John Maxwell and has a diploma in ontological coaching from UNAM. Being a Life and Business Coach/Consultant has been his mission working with over 300,000 people in countries such as the Far East, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States over the last 22 years. Over the last three years he has partnered with San Francisco based firm called Sheppard Partners as a consultant working with Goldcorp, one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Hehas worked in the process of establishing a new culture focused on a series of observable and measurable behaviors with over 5,000 Executives and Employees on five mine sites in Canada and Mexico.