A Strategy is not a Loose Collection of Tactics

Exhibit “A” is the current assemblage of tactics by Tony Robbins, who single-handedly invented the personal coaching industry that supports many Internet entrepreneurs today. Whatever your opinion of Robbins, there is no doubt that he has helped thousands–maybe millions–and is certainly an influential figure. You may or may not believe in his message of personal empowerment, but his counsel is sought by presidents, CEOs and captains of industry all over the world, so there’s gotta be a there there, regardless of whether or not his view jibes with your personal path (full disclosure: it doesn’t jibe with me, but I respect what he has built).

Robbins built his empire in the early days largely through infomercials, so he’s no stranger to mass marketing information products–in fact, I suspect he could teach all of us a thing or two. Which is why I find his latest collection of tactics all the more puzzling. Robbins has aligned himself with the Internet marketers behind Mass Control, and if you have even sniffed around one of Tony’s sites you are on their mailing list and currently getting bombarded with “Squeeze Pages” and “Ethical Bribes.” These tactics work, I assume, because they have been used to sell a considerable number of information products–most of which tell you how to sell other information products. I am not going to cast aspersions on these tactics in this space, but let’s just say that they don’t sit well with everyone.

So, lately, my inbox has filled up with Tony Robbins’ offers that look suspiciously like StomperNet offers. All well and good if Tony Robbins were trying to teach you how to be an Internet marketer, but presumably he is aiming a little higher. I can’t help but think that Robbins has “altered” his brand somewhat in the pursuit of “conversion rates,” and the author of the many “squeeze page”-esque offers I am getting by email hardly seems like the guy who once counseled Bill Clinton, or lent Gorbachev his jet. I’ve since unsubscribed, and I wonder if Tony has turned off potentially millions of customers who also don’t much cotton to this approach.

The tactics may work–and maybe that’s all anyone cares about. Dunno. What I do know is that this collection of tactics has altered my perception of the Tony Robbins brand, and should give you pause as well when choosing the tactics you will pursue to build your brand. A collection of tactics is not a strategy–but, if you aren’t careful, it might imply one that you may not want to embrace.

Here's a word I'm tired of hearing:

"Content."

If you are a media producer of any stripe, you shouldn't use that word--not if you are passionate about the art you create. "Content" is, well, "stuff." When I see the word "content," I am reminded of the message on every cereal box sold in the world: "Sold by weight-contents may settle."

You never should!

How To Cope With Air Turbulence

This may be a little off topic, but I bet many of you fly as much as I do, if not more, and you might appreciate this. I used to be a pretty nervous flyer--OK on takeoffs and landings, but not so OK going through storms or clear air turbulence (and by "not so OK," I mean boxer-soilingly bad.) When you fly a lot, you are bound to hit a day like this:

turbulence.jpg

Somedays you get the bear, and somedays the bear gets you.

It's been a stormy summer so far, and it seems like I've had more than my fair share of bumps and jostles in 2009. Back in those go-go 90's, I would take the edge off with a glass of wine, but decided that was only curing the symptoms, not the problem. So I worked hard to overcome my nervousness, and am now a reasonably comfortable flyer, though I still have my moments of panic. When you get a day like the one pictured above, only a small percentage of thrill-seekers really enjoy flying--the rest of us are not too happy. "Flight Attendants Please Be Seated Immediately" is quite possibly the second least desirable thing the pilot can say. Number One, of course, is "Oh, Shit." (I once flew through the edges of a tropical storm while seated next to a Continental pilot deadheading his way to Newark. At one point in the middle of a hellaciously rough ride, things got eerily quiet--as if we had all put on noise canceling headphones. The pilot next to me said, I kid you not, "this isn't gonna be good." That was about the low point of my entire life.)

Anyway, I had a pretty rough ride at 36,000 feet the other day (followed immediately by a baby-smooth connection at 13,000 feet on a turboprop--go figure) and had to reach deep into my bag of travel tricks to resist the siren call of the Chardonnay. Here's how I cope with severe turbulence (and by severe, I really mean severe--the kind you get once a year or so if you fly frequently):

1. You cannot steer the plane using the armrests. They are not attached to the rudder. Let them go.

2. Instead, I put the shade down, close my eyes, and go as limp as possible. I put my hands on my knees, palms up (so I am not squeezing the blood supply out of them) and pretty much act like a rag doll. The more tense you are, the more exaggerated the bumpiness feels.

3. Put a cup on your tray. Look at it from time to time. You will see that it barely, if at all, moves. If it is half full of water, it is likely you won't even spill a drop. This helps you to realize that it the plane isn't really moving as much as you think it is.

4. Still don't believe me? Try this someday (this fascinates me, by the way). Go to the airport on a windy day and watch the planes land. A landing plane has its flaps fully extended, and is basically a gigantic parachute to catch wind. If you have ever landed in high winds and felt the plane get jerked all over the place, you feel like you are getting kicked down a flight of stairs. But watch a plane land in this kind of weather, and you may see the wings dip occasionally--but you won't see it getting the crap kicked out of it. Again, it feels worse than it really is.

5. Gravity and Physics don't just stop working. They are laws. You will not fall from the sky.

6. Music helps me, but it really has to be relaxing and familiar. Today's selection was Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol II. Your mileage may vary. Anything with a beat, or that gets me pumped up for the gym or raises my blood pressure in any way is to be avoided. Noise canceling headphones or in-ear monitors are great, because they block out the rushing of the wind and the sounds of other passengers expressing their own discomfort. Just imagine you are in a cocoon.

7. Smile. Really. Unscrew your face and you will relax more.

8. Keep your eyes closed--not looking out the window really helps avoid overreacting. Your frame of reference is such that when the plane dips or banks a few feet, your view of the outside world changes dramatically. Close your eyes, block out the light, and you will see that you are actually not moving as much as you think.

9. The wings of a Boeing 747 can be bent to almost 90 degrees before they fail. Your wimpy turbulence won't do it.

10. When all else fails, go ahead and have that drink.

*BONUS TIP: If you are on a flight that will last at least 8 hours, Ambien is magic. Don't mix with tip #10, or you increase your risk of sleep crime.