Please, influence us

“Close-up of a black leather saddle on a horse in a barn” by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Seriously. This is a direct order.

If you’re a good person with a good heart and a clear vision forward, jump on that high horse of yours and lead us somewhere awesome.

Do it unabashedly. Shamelessly. Influence us like you’ve never influenced anyone before.

Whatever doubt may be coming up — banish it from your conscious space. Get that Satan behind you and carry us forward.

So many people are lost and drifting and looking for someone/something to plug into. Unfortunately, the ones with darkness on their minds have no qualms about influence.

Better the lost plug into you than them.

Yes, there are those who think you should play small. Many of them are your friends and loved ones. It’s an unconscious thing, really. They just won’t know how to relate to you when you charge ahead.

That’s their problem. Not yours. 
They’ll figure it out. Or they won’t.

We need more people like you taking us somewhere that behooves us. But when you start charging ahead and seeing us riding along behind you, don’t let that shit get to your head in the wrong way. Don’t take a detour down a dark alley and shake us down for all we’re worth.

Remember, we outnumber you. You might get us once, but once enough of us unplug from you, you’re as good as done.

Keep that elevated vision in your soul and that high road in your sights.

We’re right behind ya.

(BTW, this one is for the ladies. Happy National Women’s Day ✊.)

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Subscribing to a worldview

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Several of my favorite writers have written for the New Yorker. It’s a publication that has long been on my radar, but for years, I’ve consistently put off subscribing to it. This holiday season, however, my wife and I got an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we finally singed on for a short-term subscription.

The first episode came around the first of the year. I chipped away at it every night after putting the kiddo to bed only to see a new issue show up a week later.

But wait…
I wasn’t done with the first week’s issue yet.

This continued week after week as I fell further and further behind before resigning out of frustration. I had no idea that the New Yorker is a WEEKLY publication.

How does the average mortal keep up? How does one have THAT much leisurely reading time? (Or, how do people read so fast?!)

All of this lead me to ponder (like I do)… How does the New Yorker move so many magazines?

Which made me realize…

People don’t just subscribe to a thing if they use it. They subscribe because it helps them tell the story of their worldview and express their identity.

I believe that most people who subscribe to the New Yorker only read about 15% of the words contained inside the New Yorker.

The reason people buy the New Yorker is to have it laying on their coffee tables and bathroom reading baskets so as to showcase to their friends and family how highbrow and sophisticated they are.

It tells their friends and family the thing that they could never say out loud…

“I’m more highbrow than you.”

Take this lesson and prosper from it.

If you express your tribe’s worldview in a bold way, they’ll subscribe to you just so they can tell/show their friends that they’re subscribed to you.

They’ll share your work because it’s a way for them to express their identity and worldview in a more subtle way than just blatantly talking about themselves.

Go boldly in the direction of your shared worldview with your readers.

Dig in and say the things they wish they could say themselves.

Jonas Ellison is a professional copywriter and interfaith minister-in-training who provides practical and spiritual support to his fellow creative craftspeople. You can find more of his work at Higher Thoughts, one of the most popular single-author publications on Medium. Subscribe to his daily missives and musings at

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Be not the hero

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

We humans are all about the heroic journey. It’s ingrained in us via the ego.

Even if you claim you’re an enlightened being who doesn’t have any ego issues — I’d say you’re feeling pretty heroic right now for having transcended your ego.

(Which begs the question… Have you really? I digress…)

The bottom line is, we like heroes. But more importantly, we like feeling like heroes.

When you go into business for yourself, there’s a heroic element to it (I know there is for me).

You’ve done it! You’re the wo/man. You call the shots. You save the day.

Which is awesome — you deserve it.

But when it comes to your messaging, you have to keep your heroism in check…

I write this for a lot of businesses out there, but more particularly coaches and consultants who’ve gone with the personal brand approach. There are a lot of self-described, photoshopped heroes out there in that world.

But get this…

Good marketing content comes from making your reader the hero while you serve as the mentor.

When people read your copy, they have to feel like the hero — not just see you as one.

If I go to your site and see that you’re spouting off about how awesomely heroic you are, sure, I might be impressed. But I’ll also feel a bit intimidated. Which is great in a late night pub conversation. But not so much in business.

The mentor role is the place to come from in your messaging. If, when people read your words, they feel like the hero in their life’s journey — even in a small way — you’ll connect with them on a deeper level. They’ll see that they might be able to realize their heroic potential with you. They’ll feel safe with you, as they should.

As I grow older, I’m seeing that playing the mentor role is a far more interesting way to be.

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Utter poppycock

Photo by Fleur Treurniet on Unsplash

Whenever you hear a voice inside your head that’s harsh and chides you like your dad used to do (sorry, I’m projecting here), please know it’s utter poppycock.

(Because ‘poppycock’ is an awesome word.)

That’s the ego speaking. And when we’re faced with making creative decisions, the ego gets all riled up really easily. It hates different. But the definition of creativity contains different. Without different, creativity isn’t.

Mere sameness might be comfy, but that’s about it.

Although this bullying voice might lead to short-term gains, it only leads to long-term suffering. Even if the ‘suffering’ brings ‘results’, you don’t know what could have happened had you gone the other way.

I’m going to ask you to get in hippy-mode for a minute. Yes, you’re a finely-tuned business person, I know that (or not). But play for a minute…

When you hear that voice, put your hand on your chest. Rub your heart. Warm it up. And hear the other voice.

This voice only speaks to you from a place of love. Now, sometimes that love is swift and bold and requires decisive action. But it always calls you forward like that friend you had when you were a kid who was a little older and bigger and stronger who you looked up to and who really liked you, stood up for you, and saw your potential…

So shrug off that demeaning voice and follow the kind, encouraging voice towards your next steps. The one that speaks through a mischievous smile rather than a scowl.

It’s in there. You just have to open that inner ear and hear it.

Okay, enough hippy talk. On with your day.

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Your best marketing is… You

Image: Clem Onojeghuo

During the fantastical stretch of time between 1860–1998, you could pay advertisers a gajillion dollars to craft you a contrived flawless brand image and broadcast it to the masses. Your money went in one end and even more money came out the other.

It was a flawless model. Brilliant, in fact.

So, in turn, most every ‘successful’ business was filled with largely faceless corporate heads who checked the right boxes, got the job done, and didn’t worry much about their humanity (because their flawless persona had already been created, bought, and sold by the mad men).

And then came the internet. Now, small-town rules are back.

More and more of us own our work now. Even employees (who own what they do and sell it to their one customer — their employer).

We’re all on camera these days. Even if you think you’ve escaped from social media and the digital world by not buying a smartphone with a camera, everyone else has one (that will eventually be trained on you).

Back in the day, if the butcher was a jerk or if he sold spoiled meat, you went to the butcher down the road or in the next town after telling your friends about him at the town hall.

It pays to be a well-adjusted human. Always has. Except for the small, necessary blip of time that was the industrial revolution which created a veritable fantasy land where we could fake our humanity for a short while.

Not hating on it here. It made us pretty rich (I love my TV, indoor plumbing, and even this computer I’m typing on now — thanks, big industry!). But because of the power of the model at the time, we went against ourselves in a lot of ways.

Now, however, we’re back. The internet has largely returned us to the way humans work.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Big industry is never going away (and it’s extremely useful if constructed consciously). It’s just way more expensive and far less reliable now to put all your money into marketing/advertising while being a shitty person, screwing over your customers, and doing horrible work. That might work in the short term, but it has adverse effects on well-being (our inner-GPS tends to scream, ‘REROUTING, REROUTING’ over and over again when we live this way) and our business (like I said, we’re all under scrutiny now).

Your best marketing is you. Getting your head right, tapping into your creative superpowers, being generous, knowing yourself, doing work that matters, enjoying the many other aspects of life, will allow the world to beat a path to your stand-up desk.

The camera is rolling. We can see you. But can we trust you? Do we have faith in you? Are we inspired by you?

We want to shake hands and BS with the baker (but not too much, because we’re busy). We want you to stay mentally/physically/spiritually healthy so you can open the doors tomorrow. The innate love you bring to what you do is effectual. We’re drawn to it.

Separating ourselves from our work is harder than ever. This can be stressful. Or it can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

I’d recommend choosing the latter.

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The power of talking about the same thing every day

Image: Cameron Kirby

A lot of people ask how I come up with things to write about and share every day.

If you haven’t done it, and you sit down to think about doing it, this can seem like a daunting task.

How do I write about something every day without repeating myself?

Here’s how I do it…

I repeat myself. Every. Day.

Okay, not literally. I don’t just copy/paste from the day before. But my core message is pretty much the same over time. It says something like this:

Your experience is created from thought, not circumstance — so you might as well live accordingly.

One of my mentors, Seth Godin, has been blogging daily for almost a decade. The tagline on his website gives you the subject matter that he’s been repeating in daily blog posts, keynote speeches, and bestselling books for years now:

Go. Make something happen.

Four words. That’s the essence of what he writes about every single day in thousands of different variations. (The shorter, the better, mine’s too long — I’m working on it).

This is the power of establishing a core message. Take a stand on something. Commit to it.

There’s so much power in this.

Not to say you can never change, evolve, and grow. There’s a virtue in being aware of when it’s just not working. But the biggest problem people make is never having a core message in the first place.

If you can find a simple, powerful statement that acts as a tuning fork for your soul, you’ll have a lifetime of content to share in regards to it.

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Why I don’t want a huge personal brand

Image: Vladimir Kudinov

For years, I worked as a marketing strategist and copywriter building other people’s brands. Funnels. Squeeze pages. Opt-ins. Opt-outs. Sales pages. Video sales letters. Email campaigns. You name it.

I understand the mindset and mechanics behind it all. I’ve done a lot of it behind the scenes, very successfully for others. Yet, if you’ll notice, I haven’t really applied it myself.

If you look at my website, it’s pretty simple. My Facebook page isn’t ‘optimized’. I’ve deleted my LinkedIn account. I don’t have any fancy certifications. My main ‘marketing’ technique is sharing free, valuable content every single day here and the occasional personal note to my email list.

So why, if I understand the ways of building a big personal online brand, don’t I do it?

I want to forever be personally approachable.

Unless you’re an asshat, there’s a 90% chance I WILL respond to your email/response/note. And I hope to always be able to do that.

I don’t ever want to be larger than life. I don’t want to be on Oprah (sorry I haven’t called ya back, O — just kidding, she… hasn’t… actually… called… never mind).

My coaching practice is based on 1-on-1 powerful conversations. The only thing my clients care about is one thing — if I can help them shift their mindset to reach their goals while living more tranquil lives.

This model suits me perfectly. I hardly ever talk about it here for a couple reasons…

For one, I really can’t work with more than a handful of people at a time. Also, I understand that what I have to offer — higher end coaching — isn’t for the masses.

Now, I’d be a total hypocrite if I said your personal brand wasn’t important AT ALL. I am, after all, writing this on Medium, in public, hoping a jillion people read it. Having a personal brand is extremely important. It’s just that it’s easy to get seduced by the big, sexy, shiny epic brands of the big internet celebrities thinking you need THAT before you start your work.

Just because it seems everyone is building a huge online brand doesn’t mean it’s a requirement.

As a matter of fact, sometimes it pays to zig while others zag. Maybe you should think small, private, and boutique than larger-than-life. Or not.

My advice here isn’t for everyone. If my model was based around a digital product where I’d have to sell a jillion of them to make a living, I’d probably reconsider.

But that’s not me. And self-awareness is the most essential thing in business (besides the other ‘most essential’ things in business, of course).

If you’ve read this and still would like to build a huge personal brand, I wish you the best. But as for me, I’ll be keeping things low-key and focusing in on the thing I do best — one post, and one conversation, at a time.

Jonas Ellison is a coach and writer who helps people find their Mojo and dismantle their self-imposed limitations using spiritual, philosophical, psychological, and practical tools. To get his short vignettes in your inbox daily,click here.

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Setting yourself up as the higher choice

Image: Crew

It’s easy to listen to your asshole ego and put yourself in the freelance game as the ‘cheap choice’. After all, they told us growing up that we have to pay our dues first, right?

Well, the thing I learned from this interview of one of my mentors (although he probably doesn’t know it), photographer Chase Jarvis, is the value of having the b*lls to enter as quickly as possible into being the higher (aka, high-dollar) choice (after doing the work and getting good at your craft, of course).

He talks about the time, early on in his career, when he threw out an astronomical day-rate for his photography and the client went for it, no questions asked.

He did it. It scared the sh*t out of him. But look at him now. One of the best photographers in the world. Coming out of the gates in this way forced him to step up his game to that level.

He mentions that, if you position yourself as the cheaper choice because you think your clients are going to slowly raise your rate as you go (heard this one before?), you’re mistaken. They’re just likely going to drop you like a bad habit and go to the higher-priced choice when they can. After all, you’re the ‘cheap guy’ in their eyes. Hard to get that label off your back, especially in the freelancing/self-employed world.

Pretty crazy and suuuuper inspirational (the part of the interview I’m referring to is the first 30-ish minutes, but the whole thing is excellent).


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You know what would be really funny?…

Image: Seth Doyle

You know when you’re working on something and that evil, mischievous smile suddenly arises and you think (sometimes aloud), “You know what would be really funny?….”

Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re rapping with your pals or your team or whatever while working through a creative problem — and maybe you’ve had a beverage or four, (not condoning it, just saying…)— and then it hits.

Wow. What if we did THAT? Ha!

Do it.

Feel that fire in your belly? Feel the heart race a little? Like you’ve just buckled in that roller coaster and have no idea what’s next, but you sit there in anticipation, jacked-up and rearing to go?

This is a huge sign, amigo! This is the work you want to ship. This is where — men and women — you need to have the cajones to move forward.

Scary? Yes. Terrifying, actually.

But this is life calling you forward. This isn’t ‘safe’ ‘tried and tested’ stuff. This is creation. An unexpected, uninhibited zeal for expression.

This is the work that’s going to make a goddamn ruckus.

What if our job was this — to ship the work that makes us laugh in a kind of excited but terrified manner? Again. And again. How interesting would our days be? How many people would we piss off? But how many people would be laughing right along side us?

Hey… You know what would be really funny?…

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The artist’s discretion

Image: Trang Nguyen

The advertiser writes exclusively for an audience. The message doesn’t much come from him, it comes from his market research. He doesn’t use many words of his own, he uses trending keywords and hashtags. He bends entirely to the whims of his audience. He gets off on conversion and likes, shares, and viral content. His mouth waters when his work goes viral and he’s disappointed when his message falls flat.

The artist follows her own creative intuition and instinct. The bigger she gets, the more nervous she grows because she knows she’s falling too deep into the status quo. Her discomfort forces her to push her art further towards the edges. This forces out those in her audience towards the middle of the bell curve, but in time, she knows it will grow in other new and interesting areas.

It’s terrifying, this constant tendency to try something new — something untested and unproven.

Reassurance is futile to the artist because it means it’s been tried before. But her audience — not the masses of looky-loos, but her tried-and-true audience — they love this about her. They don’t read her work because of some attention-grabbing clickbait headline or pop-up box. They engage with her work because through it, they connect with her. And through connecting with her, they see the very thing that makes them human. That common thread that entwines us all.

Pure, genuine, authentic work is hard to find in today’s online world where everyone is trying to make it on a “massive” scale.

I get it. We must be our own advertisers these days. We have to have a toe in each of these sides. But we needn’t forfeit our soul for a massive number of clicks or shares. If we stay true to our art while remaining authentic and generous — if we could just face our fears and do our thing in a way that rings true to our higher selves, the internet enables us to find the people who matter.

This is the truly enjoyable work. Work that takes an artist’s discretion. Not just an advertiser’s hunger. This is the work that changes people.

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Even the great philosophers were marketers

Image: Nils Huber

I’m reading a great book right now about Stoicism. In it, the author describes how schools of philosophy in ancient Rome — yes, even back in those days — did what they could to fight for ‘market share’ and make their school more attractive to prospects. The men (yep, all dudes in those days) with astute beards and flowing robes were not too righteous to do what they could to get students (customers) in the door.

We can trace Stoicism back to Athens, Greece with Zeno of Citium. I won’t go into a historic diatribe here, but a big part of classic Greek Stoicism was the idea of living a life of ‘virtue’. As time went on, and Stoicism spread to Rome, the Roman Stoic schools were seeing a drop-off in attendance. After looking into reasons why, they thought people might be getting bored of the concept of ‘virtue’ (I mean, who reeeeally wants to be ‘virtuous’, right?), so they decided to change the copy — erm, philosophy — from ‘virtue’ to ‘tranquility’.

And just like that, attendance went back up and the Stoic schools kept the lights on for years to come.

I just thought that was funny. Some people might look down upon that type of behavior, but I applaud it. Keeping your ideas alive takes adjusting to the needs of the market. If you don’t, your ideas will die before reaching and helping more people.

I think what the great Stoics did was quite virtuous… I mean, tranquil.

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An open inquiry about “linkbait”

I used to be a freelance copywriter. I get it. I’ve studied Hopkins, Ogilvy, Caples, Carlton, Kennedy, Halbert, and all the direct response greats. They were huge on the gimmicky headline. These guys hailed from the day of the sales letter. And those headlines (yep, you know which ones I’m talking about) straight up got people to read their long-ass 20+ page sales letters and put their credit card number down in ink on the dotted line at the very end.

This was one thing when you got a letter once or twice a month — maybe.

These were real shockers…

How to Make $17,756 in 3 Days While Sleeping

The Truth About Your Tap Water (And How It’s Killing You And Your Entire Family)

Why Your Love Life Is Sucking Donkey Balls (And How This 18-Year Old Computer Geek Got Laid 47 Times in 30 Days)

But now we have the internet.

And they’re f*cking everywhere.

I write this as a sincere question to the Medium/greater interweb community. Please note this post up and give me your honest thoughts. This will help all of us to shed some light on this topic that I know, no one likes to talk about.

We wouldn’t want to sound marketing un-savvy would we?

I digress…

So I’m not talking about lame people who write crap content under spiffy headlines to get a click. We already know they should be vaporized. That’s not the issue here.

I’m talking about the sincere content creator who gives a shit about what s/he is writing about and cares deeply about his/her audience.

Should we use — I hate to even say ‘linkbait’ in this situation, because what we write is (hopefully) really good — “gimmicky” headlines?

See, I LOVE it when I see people get mass amounts of traffic without using gimmicky headlines. But could they reach even more people if they did? Are they cheating themselves out of audience members while depriving strangers of their awesome content?

I also see a few of my favorite content creators using them. It makes me cringe a little, but I get the fact that they’re only trying to get their (awesome) content out to more people. How can we blame them?

But then the question enters:

What about when you already have a gajillion followers? Is it time to dial down the gimmickyness of your headlines then? Is it cool to give it a break?

I love the point of writing to your readers. Not to your non-readers. So when you have a sizable audience, do you risk pissing off your regular readers who may be tired of your gimmicks?

This is something I always go back and forth on. I, personally, try my best to not use over-the-top gimmicky headlines, but I know that more people would probably find my stuff if I did. Which would be pretty cool. For both of us.

It just doesn’t feel right. I dunno. Whattdyou think, people of Medium? Marketers and non-marketers alike. What are your thoughts?