More is not more


  • More followers does not equal more value.
  • More activity does not equal more result.
  • More stuff does not equal more contentment.

It might, but it doesn’t necessarily. By walking the essentialist lifestyle I have discovered all the more (!) that more is not more.

In the words of the author Greg McKeeown, I’m on the disciplined pursuit of less. Indeed, I always have been, but it’s great to have words that explain it.

The way I have found I like to function as an essentialist is to gather, and then eliminate: I’m ok getting more, but I know it’s not more. I then cut down to the essence.

Ever heard of essentialism? I’m keen to know if you’ve experimented with it.

Engagement Is About Maximising Value

Marketing or hiring is about getting new relationships, but engagement is about doing more with the relationships you already have.

That’s engagement: it’s about maximising existing relationship, to get more value out of them. It wholeheartedly seeks value over volume.

A few implications, then:

  • A brand knows that engaged customers are worth 300% more, for instance.
  • An engaging public speaker isn’t engaging because they draw big crowds. They are engaging because they maximise the relationship they have with the audience when they are speaking, which as a result, draws the crowds.
  • An engaging brand Facebook page maximises the value of the relationship it already has with its followers. Hence, Facebook separates between metrics of reach and engagement.
  • A consultant can only up sell more to an existing client if the client is engaged!

Engagement is belief in human synergy. It’s a bit like ice. Ice is sturdier and stronger than steam or water because the atoms in a solid object are tighter and more closely knit together than they are in liquid or gas form.

Engagement is maximising value by being better together.

The power of an invitation

Engagement literally means a bond. Well, you can only create a bond if both people play their part in the process, and you can only play your part if you’re invited to do so.

The opposite of an invitation is information. This is where you are not invited to participate, but instead expected to understand.

Many engagement efforts fail because they are not an invitation, they are information.

  • A great presentation, for instance, is an invitation to go on a journey together through the talk. A poor one is simply information, and thus death by powerpoint, while the only thing the audience is actually engaging with is their phone.
  • A great employer invites the staff to engage with the company’s mission. A poor one simply informs the staff what to do.
  • A great stakeholder initiative invites those same people to co-create the project. A poor stakeholder initiative tells people what is going to happen with leaflets continuing information.

Communication is what the first stage of engagement is about. Organisationally, it’s about the discipline of messaging and communication, through the various human, digital and offline channels: it is the outbound part of engagement.

If your engagement efforts are failing, it’s possible that you aren’t inviting people, you’re just informing them.

To turn it around, try this simple tip: ask a question.

Did that work for you?

In with the Old, out with the New

How do you keep up with it all? I mean all the content, the blog posts, the ideas, the formulas, the “must-read” articles and “must-watch” videos.

My answer: I can’t.

But for a long time I tried. It was a stark revelation to me when I was a minister, doing what I felt was my duty before God, and I realised I simply couldn’t read all the books on any given subject, and thus I could never be sure I had considered every point and was teaching what was definitely, certainly, totally true on any scripture.

It’s the same in my work. I was trying to read about psychology, sociology and anthropology to fill in the gaps on my engagement theory, but I couldn’t do it. There’s just too much content to consider.

This was a particular struggle when I was trying to solve my own faith-wrestle with the existence, or at least the common expression, of God. So many people had written so much about it: how could I ever come to a conclusion?

I realised that, as I wrote in my journal in 2015:

I cannot have it all, know it all, or do it all.

The solution, I have since decided, is to focus on what is essential.

And I have come to believe that what is essential is that which has stood the test of time. The Old.


  • I gave away around 2/3rds of my library.
  • I am buying no new books for 2017, and possibly beyond.
  • I am not entertaining any new ideas.
  • I’m still not watching TED Talks, or listening to sermons, or the like.

Instead, I’m embracing the old.

For instance, one example of the Old is Jesus saying love your neighbour. Do we really need more than that?

Review: The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson


This is my review of The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. I’ll be looking at it’s overall message, and picking out the points that were most relevant to me, in the hope that we can spark some discussion off of that.

In late 2015 my friend Robert Clay told the participants of the first Ampersand Club a story about a father who has two grownup children. He offers them both a choice: have a million dollars cash today (hey, he’s American), or have one penny, but the value of that sum will be doubled everyday.

As you can might guess, one child takes the million and it destroys him/her, whereas the other takes the one penny, and by day 30, they have become a millionaire many times over.

It turns out this story is from The Slight Edge, the book Robert recommended that evening that we go away and read. And I did go away and read it… 7 months later.

The Premise of The Slight Edge

In a nutshell, The Slight Edge is over a 250-page exhortation of the power of making small decisions that accumulate over time into a significant difference, just like the story above.

This is illustrated by the below illustration, that appears regularly throughout the book:


Olson makes this practical with the following examples:

  • Going to the gym everyday doesn’t make much difference at first, but over time, it will make a huge difference.
  • Saving doesn’t much difference at first, but over time…
  • And building your business doesn’t seem to be making much difference at first, but keep at it, and over time…

You get the point. Thus, the most basic application of this book can be summarised thus: “Keep doing what is good for you, day in, day out, even when you don’t see any difference, because it will eventually come in the end, and when it does, it will be significant.”

The time factor

The way this works is through time, and being consistent over time. He says “life is not a clickable link”, a very pertinent metaphor to a digital world that expects things to be immediate.

Normally, we see time passing as a bad thing, but Olson says,

There is a natural progression to success: plant, cultivate, harvest — and the central step, cultivate, can only happen over the course of time.

I like that. This has been one of my main takeaways. Normally I feel like time is against me, but this has flipped my mind into seeing time as my ally now.

For instance, as a consultant, I am always working on leads. It would be easy to see time as frustrating — “why won’t they get back to me” — however, now I can view time as an asset. While I waiting for this person to get back to me, I let time work on them, taking the material I have provided (and will continue to provide), and working it down into their thinking.

You can’t be static

Another idea Olson posits is that because the universe is in constant change, one cannot stand still. You are either progressing, or declining, but you are never just hovering in the middle.

Thus, the slight edge again is about that daily routine, quite literally, that slight amount of effort that sets you apart.

Personally, I’d rather have a day off every now and then, but I do recognise from my own life how great I feel when I am at the gym regularly, for instance, or eating well everyday.

Another point on not being static is that your goal will always end up being different to what you think it will be. So, given that you spend most of your time actually “off-target” for your goal in one sense, learn to be content with moving rather than perfecting.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a lot more in this book, although if you’ve read your fair share of self-help books, much of it won’t be new, and accordingly, I skim read much of this. However, when I slowed down to take in a section, I still found it enjoyable and a pertinent refresher if nothing else. If you are new to self-help / business books, this could quite change your life.

On the negative, there were some parts of the book I was uncomfortable with, but that is more to do with my aversion to gurus. Otherwise, I’d rate this book highly. It’s not as snappy as something like Eat That Frog, but it is enjoyable none the less, and does have some real nuggets that bring down the veneer of success some self-help books like to present.

‘Small and social’ vs ‘big and broadcast’


Last night I came upon the phrase ‘small and social’ while reflecting on Brennan Dunn’s DYFConf in Europe.

Brennan ran a very different type of conference, which as you would expect, was an immersive, engaging experience and therefore very transformational.

Yet, this happened in some part by accident, because initially he wanted 100 people to be at the conference. It became clear to him as he was marketing the event and fewer bookings were coming in than he expected that he would have to adjust his expectations to a smaller group… and yet… this worked to his advantage.

In his own words:

Lesson 3: Keep it small
Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t sell nearly the amount of tickets I was expecting to sell.

And for a conference organizer with fixed expenses, that’s not a good thing.

But next year will be the size of this year’s conference — because it was the perfect amount of people.

We didn’t have a speaker room. Nor did we even have a speaker dinner this time around. The speakers were really just attendees who happened to be up on stage, sharing something that they’re deeply familiar with. (This also came from Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman’s BaconBiz.)

I have a bad penchant for hanging out in my room during certain talks, or at least grouping with a few others in the hallway throughout the event.

This didn’t happen at DYFConf.

So why was it that the event was better smaller? What is it about small and social that makes for richer engagement? I’m so glad you asked!

Small and Social

Let’s start by clarifying that people go to events primarily for two things: learning and networking. (Thank you to Roger Haskett for telling me that.) So it would be in the best interests of event organisers and the like to create spaces where people can do those two things in the best way.

If you think back to school, the way that this was done by classrooms of around 30 people in size. In business, workshops are normally best with around 20 people in attendance. Famously, Jesus had 12 disciples that he trained. The unit that the military works in practically on the ground is in squads of 8 to 12.

What’s in common with these numbers? Well, compared to most conference or community ambitions, what’s in common is that they are small!

Yet, though they be small, they are of such a size that people can actually learn and network.

This in stark contrast to…

Big and Broadcast

Any event organiser has one objective: sell tickets. Almost every church leader I know wants a bigger church. Speakers want to talk to large audiences. And now with TED, we have attached the apotheosis of speaking to being in front of a large crowd.

What drives this is the sense of wanting to matter, to feel like you’re where the people are, to experience the emotion of when hundreds or thousands come together. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – indeed it’s beautiful – but, if we want people to learn or to network, it is not effective.

In Brennan’s example, the need is to sell lots of tickets to make the price work (and to make it cheaper for people to attend). And as is almost always the case when running events, the way you get lots of people to come is to have big name speakers and use social proof by showing that everyone else is coming.

And again, I don’t have a problem with this, but… if we want people to learn or network, it’s not effective!

The reason why big and broadcast doesn’t work for learning is because as I like to say, if you’re not talking, you’re not learning.

Edgar Dale’s cone of learning illustrates this:


The Marriage of Small and Social and Big and Broadcast

What is to be done, then? Are we have no more big events?

I don’t think so. I think we can still have big. The way I see it, we have two options:

  1. Only be small and social. Make your event small and make it social.
  2. Be big and broadcast, with lots of pockets of small and social.

How can we have pockets of small and social? Quite easily! In a conference setting these would typically be called ‘breakout sessions’ or workshops. But don’t do what is now common practice and make them on a separate day to the plenary sessions, as if they are a lower grade of content! Make each day a mix of learning styles: some big and broadcast talks, followed by some small and social workshops, followed by some more big and broadcast talks.

Even a talk in front of thousands can create small and social pockets inside it. As a speaker you could have a moment where people turn to the person next to them and discuss a point you’ve made. Yes, it might break up your flow – but if you really want people to learn or to network, this is far better for them!

The most masterful communicators have the ability to do a big and broadcast talk, yet it is full of small and social moments. This is done by invoking the hearer’s imagination so that they literally see themselves as the object of your talk.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is that small and social wins the day on what people actually want from events, and it doesn’t mean you have to ditch being big and broadcast.


I recommend that you follow the people who have influenced my thoughts in this post.

Thank you to Brennan Dunn for the example. Also, the photo at the top of this article is from DYFConf. If you are a freelancer of any kind, his website is the number one resource for increasing your sales:

Thank you to Jeff Hurt from whom I first learned of Edgar Dale. His blog (along with Dave Lutz) is my favourite for meeting design:

And thank you to Roger Haskett for teaching me that people go to events to network and to learn. More from Roger and his incredible work here:

Whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right.

I was having dinner with some people the other week and no matter what I said, they always retorted with a negative. It reminded of what John Maxwell said:

Whether you say you can or you can’t, your’re right.

You get the idea here: your attitude determines your action.

But the deeper thought for me is, how do you help these people start believing that they can? Continue…