Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Problem with Religion

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. — Edward Gibbon
Religion gets a bad reputation all the time. People blame it for divisions, wars, and every evil in humanity. And, to be honest, if you look at history, it's not hard to see why. Religious wars happened. People fight and die for religion, and they will kill for it, too.

The Problem Isn't Religion. It's What's Missing From Religion.

But that actually isn't a problem with religion. That's a problem with what religion becomes when the key ingredients to living it right are removed. Without love, guidance, education, and nurturing, religion becomes nothing more than a series of rigid expectations and legalistic indoctrination haunted by growing inconsistencies and overbearing nosiness.

That's because once you remove those four ingredients, you've removed God right out of the picture and you've turned your religion into something that's based on human wisdom and understanding, which is as infinitely subject to misunderstanding and failure as those who direct it.

Religion Is About Relationships

The focus of religion is about relationships, and how to have a healthy relationships with God and with your neighbor. That's why you see common elements among all religions: rules about how to speak to one another, teachings about the importance of forgiveness, and how to live in family with one another. It's also why almost all religions have their believers gather together frequently. That gathering together cements the relationships and keeps them going.

Why Love Matters

Love is the nature of God, so if Love is missing from the religion, so is God. To the degree that love is present in the religion, God is present. Once you remove love, the focus becomes controlling behavior. Someone who loves others doesn't need to be told not to hurt them. They don't want to hurt them. But for one who doesn't know how to live in love, they have to be told what not to do so they don't hurt other people.

Why Education Matters

We are all limited human beings, and we see things from a limited point of view. The more educated a person is, the broader their perspective is on life and the better able they are to see things from someone else's point of view. The more educated we become, the more point of views we encounter and the better able we are to discern what is the truth from what is not. The truth is a core ingredient in love because without the truth, there can be no trust and without trust there can be no relationship.

Why Guidance Matters

Having other people to guide you when you encounter relationship troubles or struggles in life is essential. You need to know that you're not the only one going through this, and you need to hear from them what they did. That's why we are given parents and aren't dropped off on planet earth with no connections or support. We're placed in families so we can get the guidance in relationships that we need to get started, but eventually our families run out of experience to offer us. We need more than what they can give and that is what religion provides.

Why Nurturing Matters

If you don't feel comfortable turning to someone else to ask for help, you won't admit when you need help. Nurturing provides that environment that makes it safe for people to speak up and admit when they are struggling. It lets them know that it's okay to come forth with their needs and to see the guidance that they need in any area of life. Religion that doesn't provide that nurturing support turns into judgmental nosiness that tells people how they should be living without giving them the help they need to overcome the hurdles that are stopping them from living that way.

Do You Need Religion?

I don't think that's the right question. I think the right question is: do you need help with relationships? I think, if you're honest with yourself, you're going to find that question is always "Yes." The truth is that we're surrounded by people and we physically need to live in relationship with them. That's a need that's built into our very DNA. 

But we can't read their minds and we don't always know how to behave in ways that gets them to open up to us and let us in. We get hurt and we don't know how to get past it. Without guidance, education, nurturing, and love, our interactions are destined for failure. And that is where religion comes in to help us. It passes on the collective wisdom and knowledge of centuries of human beings, combined with the instructions from the One who created us all.

Choosing the Right Religion

Since there are a great many religions out there to follow, it can be a tough call to figure out which religion is the right one. I won't tell you what to do. I will simply quote the words my husband spoke to me months before he converted to the Catholic faith from being an avid atheist:

"Every other religion out there is Catholic minus something they didn't agree with. I don't want to be minus something. I want to go with the religion that gives me everything."

Selling God: Enter Their World

For you to be able to speak to your audience in a way that makes sense to them, you need to enter their world. You need to put yourself in their shoes and remind yourself of what it was like to be there. And this, again, goes back to your story.

Think about where you were when you first encountered the situation that eventually led you to the solution. What was the biggest challenge you faced at that point in your life? What were your worries, your concerns, and your frustrations with the situation? What did you think you needed in order to resolve the problems? What did you see as the source of your problems?

This takes effort. It’s not easy to go back and remember all of the things you were thinking and feeling in that past moment. Honestly, most of us get past the moment, push it to the back of our minds, and lock it away so we don’t HAVE to feel it again. But if you want to reach out to your prospect and connect with them, you have to go right back to where it all began for you and remember what that was like.

And, moreover, you need to do it from the perspective of where you are now. You need to look at the situation objectively, and re-examine every detail based on what you know today. Take a look at the people in your life and how you behaved toward them, the way you reacted and responded to things that happened to you, and how you made decisions.

Your prospect isn’t going to be exactly like you, but they are going to be enough like you that when you start sharing your story with them, it’s going to feel authentic and they will easily be able to see themselves in that story. The feelings you had back then are a good starting point to understanding the feelings they are having right now. Experience will help you fine tune your message.

Take a look in the mirror at that stage of your journey. How did you see yourself? How did you see people who are where you are now? Did you want to be where they were? If you did, what did you think it took to get there? If you didn’t, what was it about them that made you not want to be part of them?

What were the things that mattered most to you in life at that stage? What did you spend most of your free time doing? Why? What mattered least to you? Why did you not care about those things? Why didn’t you think they mattered?

What were your greatest hopes and ambitions? Why did you want those things? What did you think it would change about your life if you achieved them?

What beliefs did you have about the solution you offer back then? Did it exist and did you know it existed? Had you tried it before and found it lacking? Did you know anyone using that solution? 

What was your experience with those people and how did that impact your views on the solution?

All of this is relevant. All of this paints a before picture very clearly in the mind of your prospect and sets them up for the next stage: creating the comparison.

Tomorrow's Post: Create the Comparison

Now that you have given them validation and shown them that you understand where they are, it's time to show them where they can go. Come back tomorrow for the next lesson in selling God: creating the comparison.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Selling God: Find Your Message

In yesterday's post on selling God, I explained that your mess would help you identify the audience that your message would appeal to and showed you the process I use to do that. Today, I'm going to help you find your message in the middle of all that mess.

Why You Want to Share

Your message is the reason why you want to share your product, your service, or your faith with the other person. It’s the reason why you care enough about your prospect’s future to step out and face the risk of rejection so that you can share it with them.

An Invitation to Join You On Your Journey

This is an invitation to your prospect walk with you on your journey so they can see it through your eyes and judge for themselves whether or not they would like to take the steps you did to get where you are. You are not trying to force them to do anything. You are inviting them to come with you.

Open Their Eyes to Possibilities

Your message, and the authenticity of it, allows the other party to see what can be possible for them if they are willing to follow the path you walked. It lets them know that you understand what they’ve been through and where they are because you’ve been through it and you’ve been there, too. It builds the empathy between the two of you that will get them interested in hearing more.

Answer Their Unspoken Questions

A well-crafted message is designed to answer the prospect’s often unspoken questions. Some people will be bold enough to straight out ask you. Many won’t think to ask because they won’t know enough to ask. Others won’t ask because they think it’s impolite or rude. Those questions, however, will remain obstacles until they are addressed even if the prospect hasn’t spoken them.

What Can I Expect To Receive?

The first question the message answers for them is what they can expect to receive if they adopt the solution you are presenting to them. They want to know what comes with the package, both good and bad, everything they will receive, and they like for those details to be as specific as possible.

What Challenges and Obstacles Will I Face?

When you’re letting them know what to expect, total transparency matters because they also want to know what challenges and obstacles might be in their way when trying to adopt this new solution. They want to know about those things, and they want to know what you’ve done to handle them or what you recommend.

What Else Is Out There?

The next question they need you to answer is about the alternative solutions and competitors in your field. Be prepared to let them know what alternative solutions you tried, what your results were, and why you ultimately abandoned those solutions to adopt your current solution.

They will have their own experiences with alternative solutions and they will be comparing notes to see if your experiences match their own, or if you had different experiences they need to know about and understand.

What Was Your Experience?

They want to know about how your life changed after you found the solution you’re currently employing and what your results have been, and how long you’ve been employing this solution. It matters to them to see a transformation, a picture of your before and after experience, because your transformation is what will ultimately get them to accept your solution.

Why Does This Matter To You?

You need to be prepared to explain why you care about their decision and what you are willing to do to continue supporting them in their efforts to find a solution that works for them, even if that solution isn’t the one you’re currently using. After all, if helping them change their life is your goal, any progress they make toward that goal is one you should be supporting.

Trust your solution enough to know that they will eventually figure out the defects of alternative solutions for themselves if you keep presenting benefits that are superior to what they are receiving. That’s why the relationship is key. They need to be able to collect enough data points to notice the differences for themselves.

What Will This Cost Me?

Finally, your message should include an explanation of the costs of your solution, why you feel it is worth every penny they will pay to achieve the results your solution promises to provide, and what steps they must take in order to adopt that solution for themselves. 

Tomorrow's Post: Enter Their World

You have found the message in your mess, now it's time to take that message and figure out how to use it to appeal to them. It's time to enter their world and see what it is that they need to hear from you.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Selling God: Identify Your Audience

A few weeks ago, I wrote that God is a tough sell. In another article, I reminded you that tough doesn't mean impossible, and that the key to selling God is to be willing to share your personal faith story with them so that they can see God working in your life and open up to the possibility of letting Him work in theirs.

However, not every person in the world will find your story appealing. You need to choose the stories you include based on the audience to whom you are speaking. In your story is the clue to the audiences that you will very naturally appeal to. It is all the various identities you have held at every age and stage of your journey.

For example, in my own past, I have been a struggling entrepreneur, an aspiring author, a pregnant teenager, an empty nest mother, a small business owner, and many other things as well. Each of those audiences has distinct needs and a different pool of experiences to draw from so when I speak to them, I need to use a message that is tailored to where they are in life. The audience you choose dictates the message you use.

A struggling entrepreneur cares about building their business. They may or may not have children at home and they may or may not be married. So I’m not going to pull out the stories that are relevant to parents and spouses. I’m not likely to share my story of being homeless as a pregnant teenager. I’m going to speak to them in their language, discussing my own struggles to build a business, and what the solution I am offering them did to help me.

An aspiring author cares about becoming a published author and probably dreams of becoming a New York Times Best Seller. They are most likely not interested in building a business because they do not see their book as a product. They see it as art. They may or may not have children and may or may not have spouses. 

I am not going to pull out the stories that are relevant to business owners, parents, or spouses. I’m going to speak to them about writing, about my own journeys and struggles in getting my book published and achieving my aspirations with those books. I’m going to focus on the aspiring author’s most immediate need: knowledge and preparation for the future. and what the solution I am offering did to help me get where I wanted to go.

A pregnant teenager is worried about her future. She’s wondering how she’s going to provide for herself and her child. She may be interested in building a business, but only if she’s confident that she can do the work. She may or may not have a spouse or boyfriend. She may or may not be living at home with her parents and have to factor in their wants and desires into what she chooses to do. She may or may not be attending school.

I am not going to pull out my stories about being an empty nest mother. She won’t relate to them. I’m not going to talk about my writing, or my work to get published, unless she indicates to me that this is an avenue she’s interested in exploring. I’m going to focus on her most immediate need: reassurance and hope for her future. 

I’m going to share with her how the solution I’m offering her will offer her hope for a better future and reassure her that she has a great, if challenging, future ahead of her.

Until you’ve identified your audience, you won’t know exactly what message to use because their needs won’t be clear to you. Until you’ve gotten in touch with your mess, you won’t know which stories to use in crafting your message.

Tomorrow's Post: Finding Your Message

Two days ago, I explained that it is in the middle of your mess that you will find your message, the one that you and only you have to offer the world. Tomorrow I'll help you figure out how to find the message in the middle of all that mess.

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Look for the Lessons

In yesterday's post on transforming your mess into a message that helps you learn to overcome the challenges of selling God, I promised you that I would help you find the lessons in that mess so that you can share them with other people and use them as part of your mission to change their lives for the better.

Admittedly, a lot of your past may be sad. It may be filled with abuse, betrayal, self-sabotage, and horrific loss. You don’t want to be the kind of person who walks in the room and brings everyone down because you’re sharing all that sadness. Nobody likes the person who brings the perpetual rain cloud with them to the party. How do you avoid becoming that person?

Give a Positive for Every Negative

For every negative moment of your past, you bring forward a positive that came out of that negative. You neutralize the past pain and leave them with a positive message that can help them. Your past pain, by itself, does not benefit them. It does not do anything other than let them know that you are human.

You must look for what you learned from those past painful moments. Every failure has a lesson. In fact, that’s what failure is. It’s a teacher. It’s designed to help us learn. The only reason we hate our failures is that we were trained to think they are bad or wrong.

Failure Means You're Learning

Babies don’t hate failure. They accept it. They fail millions of times in the course of learning to walk, talk, and sit upright. But they don’t give up and they don’t punish themselves for their failures. Parents don’t punish babies for failures. They accept that the falling and the babbling is normal and natural and part of learning.

It isn’t until we start school that we begin to fear failure. We fear the red F at the top of the page and the disappointment of our teachers and the punishments from our parents. We are told that F means no future for us. We fear the laughter of our peers and the shame of not having been able to get it right. And that’s where all of our troubles begin.

Don't Let the Fear of Failure Stand In Your Way

We fear failure enough that most of us stop trying to succeed. We stop trying to do anything meaningful because we’re so afraid of failing, so afraid of the consequences that come from failing, that we aren’t willing to take the risks required to succeed. That’s the truth of the matter. 

There’s no bridge from safety and security to success and freedom. There’s a giant gulf between the two of them and you must be willing to take a leap of faith to cross that gulf. But if you let fear of failure rule your life, you’ll never find the courage to take that leap.

Don't Just Share Your Failures, Share Your Lessons

That’s why you should never be afraid to share your failure. Just be sure you share the lesson you learned from it when you do, so that someone else doesn’t have to fail the same way you did. That’s called passing on wisdom. Once you start doing that, people start coming to you for advice. 

They know you’ve done a few things and you’ve got a lot of that experiential wisdom to share. You know what works and what doesn’t. You become something rare: an expert who has experience rather than just theory to back you up.

Every moment where you got hurt has a technique for healing attached to it. You were abused or raped or betrayed by someone you loved. What did you do to heal from that? How did you improve your life after that? The techniques you used to heal are INVALUABLE. Pass them on! Don’t hoard that gold. Share it with others.

Confront Your Mistakes

The hardest moments for us to share aren’t when someone did something to us, though. It’s when we’ve done something to hurt someone else. That’s when we’re most likely to lie to ourselves about what we did.

You know the lies.

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Nobody REALLY got hurt.”

“They deserved it.”

“They can afford it.”

“They owed me.”

“I’m really doing them a favor, anyway.”

"They didn't REALLY mean no."

“They aren’t really human, so it doesn’t count.”

And, of course, our fail-safe favorite:
“I didn't have a choice.”

And we all know these are lies. It really was that bad. People really did get hurt. Maybe they did deserve it, but nobody appointed us as their judge, jury, and executioner. Maybe they can afford it, but that doesn’t give us the right to take it from them. 

Maybe they did owe you, or maybe you’re just behaving like an entitled brat. If you’re really doing them a favor, you wouldn’t really feel guilty enough to need to justify your behavior. If they said no, you should always accept it at face value as no. If they aren’t human, what makes you so certain that you are? And as for the last one - you ALWAYS have a choice, whether you see it or not. You simply may not like the choices put before you.

Finding the Courage to Admit the Truth

It takes a lot of courage to look at these moments, when we are not the hero of the story but the villain of it, dead in the face and own up to them. It takes a lot of courage to admit to just how much darkness there is within us. However, until we can acknowledge the presence of that darkness, we can’t invite the light into it. We can’t pass on those moments and allow other people to benefit from them.

They become baggage that we are then forced to carry our whole lives, praying the entire time that nobody will ever figure out who we really are and just how bad we really are. It is time to set yourself free of that baggage. Own the damage you did. Use it to build a future for yourself and to help other people understand what led you down that path and how they can avoid making that same mistake.

Share the Good, Too. But Don't Hide the Rest.

Of course, your story isn’t just about pain and loss and the things you’ve done wrong. You also have successes to offer, achievements you’ve won, and struggles you’ve overcome. It’s easy to share those, though, because they make us look good. They make us look strong and admirable.

Those struggles we overcame are a hero’s journey, and we like to be the hero. But they aren’t the whole story of who we are, and if you want to reach the real people who make up your audience, you need to be just as real with them as you want them to be with you.

Tomorrow's Post: Identify Your Audience

There are many different people that your message can potentially appeal to. I'll be revealing the strategies you can use to sort through the potential people who might be interested in the story you have to tell and how you can pick just the right stories to support that message.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Transforming Your Mess into a Message

A few weeks ago, I wrote that God is a tough sell. In another article, I reminded you that tough doesn't mean impossible, and that the key to selling God is to be willing to share your personal faith story with them so that they can see God working in your life and open up to the possibility of letting Him work in theirs. And I also reminded you that the story needs to be open, honest, and completely vulnerable in order to be effective.

Your Mess Is Where Your Message Lies.

That means you have to be open with others about the mess that's in your life. If I ask the majority of people whether their lives are a mess or not, they are going to vehemently deny that there is any mess there. Why? They don’t want me to judge their mess.

However, until they can be completely honest about their mess, they can’t discover their unique message – the one that they, and only they, can offer the world. If you want to build a successful business, if you want to be able to successfully evangelize, you MUST be honest about your mess.

We ALL Have a Mess.

We all experience moments of cataclysmic failure. We all experience the pain that comes from being hurt or betrayed. We all experience times when we realize we’ve hurt someone else in a way that we can’t gloss over or even ignore. We can either allow those things to haunt us, and eventually destroy us, or we can confront them and transform them into tools that can help us and others.

Don't Be Afraid of Your Mess.

Don’t be afraid of your mess. Your mess has powerful lessons to reveal to you that you can then share with others. Every failure was a lesson learned. Every pain you healed brings you an opportunity to give hope to those who are going through that same thing now. Every time you hurt someone else brought you a reality check and changed the trajectory of your life. Your mess is POWERFUL. It is your true power.

Hiding Your Mess Does Not Make It Go Away.

Many of us are taught to fear vulnerability. We don’t want to dump our pain on someone else’s shoulders. We don’t want to show our weaknesses or let other people see where we’re hurting. We don’t want to admit that we’ve done terrible things.

And so we cover up our past and bury it in the backyard. We lie about its existence not only to others but even, and especially, to ourselves. But the lies don’t keep our subconscious minds from knowing the truth. So we spend the rest of our lives worrying that someday, someone’s going to dig all of that up and figure out who we really are, and then we won’t be respected, we won’t be admired, we won’t be loved, and we will be rejected.

Hiding Your Mess Keeps People From Loving the Real You.

Love is so powerful a need that we will do anything, absolutely anything, to get it. However, the truth of the matter is that all the hiding of our past and the burying of our secrets is exactly what makes us less lovable. People can’t love you for who you are, where you are, exactly as you are until they KNOW who you are, where you are, exactly as you are.

If you’ve ever read a fiction book, you know that this is true. The more you know about the villain of the story and why they became what they became, the more you start to empathize and even sympathize with their choices and decisions because you see too much of your own pain, your own choices, and your own mistakes in theirs to truly hate them. You condemn their actions and you say – rightfully – that those actions are terrible, but you don’t hate them. You can’t. It’d be like hating yourself.

Open Up and Let Love Into Your Life.

To be loved,you must let people into your life and allow a light to be shone over the top of it so that, in seeing your mess, they can become comfortable with letting you into theirs. You must have the courage to open up and allow yourself to be seen for exactly who you are, where you are, without holding back any part of yourself.

Until they are comfortable enough to let you into their mess, you won’t know what you can do to help them. You won’t know what their true needs are. And as long as you continue to hold them at arm’s length, you’ll always have to guess at what it is they really need from you. You’ll never know for sure, because you’ll never know who they really are.

Tomorrow's Post: Look for the Lessons

Every bit of your mess has useful lessons to offer, things that you can share with someone else to help them. Tomorrow I'll show you how to take your mess and shake it down to get the juicy goodness that's hiding in there out where you can put it to work for you instead of allowing it to keep working against you.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to Build Relationships

Most of success in life is determined by how good you are at building and maintaining relationships with other people. If you can master relationship skills, you can build any kind of success you want because the people who have what you need to get where you want to be will be eager to hand it over and help you go where you want to go because they know that once you get there, you'll be reaching back to do that same thing for them.

Every business problem is a relationship problem in disguise – Michael Port, Book Yourself Solid

Relationships are the key to sales because relationships are the key to developing trust, and trust is what leads people to decide to buy from you rather than from someone else. And evangelization is just another kind of sales.

“If people like you they'll listen to you, but if they trust you they'll do business with you.” – Zig Ziglar.

The Relationship Acronym

R = Require
E = effort,
L = loving
A = action,
T = time
I = invested,
O = ongoing
N = nurturing,
S = Sacrifice
H = Honesty
I = Integrity
P = Persistence

Relationships Require Effort,

You can’t sustain a relationship for very long if you invest nothing in it. People may like you when they first meet you and they may feel that instant connection to you, but if you don’t work to maintain the relationship you’ve established, those feelings will fade over time.

Loving Action,

You must not only act to keep the relationship going, but those actions must be loving. They must be done with the best interests of the other party in mind. Loving action lets the other party know that you truly value who they are as a person, and not merely what they can potentially do for you.

Time Invested,

You must be willing to invest time in any relationship for it to flourish and thrive. It doesn’t have to be hours at a time. A few minutes spent reaching out or a card mailed or an email checking in on the person may be all they need. However, without that time invested, the relationship won’t grow as close as it could and you won’t be around to find out what their true needs are.

Ongoing Nurturing,

Relationships are a lot like a garden. You can’t just plant a seed and walk away. The seeds need to be nurtured and tended as they grow, protected from weeds and pests and other things that might harm it. The more you nurture the seed, the stronger and healthier a plant it will grow.


Sacrifice is a crucial element to any true relationship. You must be willing to sacrifice some of what you value in order to serve the needs of the other person. Sometimes this means doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do in order to help them fulfill their needs. Sometimes it means giving up your personal time in order to spend time with them. Your willingness to sacrifice is what tells the other person how much you value the relationship.


Honesty is another crucial ingredient in any relationship. Without honesty, you’ll never be able to truly know one another and that means you’ll be unlikely to understand or be able to meet their needs. Being honest about who you are and where you are allows them to enter into your life and gives them permission to be open and honest with you about themselves.


Integrity means that when you say it, you mean it. If you say you’ll be there, you show up. If you say you’ll take care of something, it gets taken care of. If you believe that God is a priority, you do your best to live your life that way. Without integrity, honesty, and sacrifice, it’s unlikely that relationship will ever blossom to the point where the sale comes.


The final ingredient in relationships is persistence. If you get rejected the first time, don’t quit on the relationship. Give it time and try it again. Maybe the person was just having a bad day, or maybe you took something they said the wrong way. Don’t give up on it, but don’t be a pest about it, either. If they have to file a restraining order, you’ve probably taken the whole persistence thing a little too far.

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