BLG Leadership Insights

D.H. Lawrence & How to Sell Your Ideas

D.H. Lawrence’s first novel The White Peacock was published in 1911. When he put it into the hands of his dying mother, Lawrence could tell “she doubted whether it could be much of a book since no one more important than I had written it.”

After her funeral Lawrence showed the book to his father. He “struggled” through half a page and looked at Lawrence in astonishment. He asked how much he got for it.

“Fifty pounds.” Lawrence replied.

“Fifty pounds! An’ tha’s niver done day’s hard work in thy life.” His father said.

Sometimes even our best efforts can go ignored by the people close to us and, all too often, they can even be ignored by our colleagues.

Presenting an idea can seem an easy task at first. One can easily imagine a crowd of nodding, smiling, heads that are in total agreement. It’s harder to imagine one of your better ideas getting shot down, rejected, critiqued, or ignored.

It’s essential to remember ideas, especially in an organizational context, will always meet layers of resistance, criticisms, and (on occasion) ignorance.

The key to selling or presenting an idea revolves around anticipating the negative reactions rather than the positive reactions.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that Lawrence assumed his parents would at least be proud of his efforts. Yet as his anecdote reveals, he couldn’t have been more wrong. He wasn’t expecting the skepticism and the frank, bruising, comments.

If Lawrence anticipated his parent’s reaction he would have been able to craft a better case for his passion instead of letting their attitude bemuse him.

Ideas, no matter their owner, will meet critiques and insults. It’s better to prepare for criticisms instead of taking refuge in the dream world of applause.

BLG Leadership Insights

Work With People Who Tell You To “Go To Hell”

That’s right. If someone hasn’t told you to “go to hell” in the last few months, something is probably wrong. Maybe not literally telling you to “go to hell” but you need people around you who have the courage to do so when all their options have been exhausted. You have to have people around you with the courage to stop you in your tracks.

You need people to challenge your ideas, test them, and make sure they are good. If not, you’ll be responsible for heading up a bunch of mediocre projects because no one in your office had the courage to tell you a poster-board presentation just wasn’t good enough. Why do you think the last Star Wars movies were dismal affairs? No one told George Lucas that his ideas were stale; instead he was allowed to create a sea of nonsensical characters.

If your idea faces little resistance it will automatically be weaker than the idea would be if it had that been debated. Conversation and criticisms help people refine, build, and strengthen their ideas so that the ideas will be able to stand independently once launched. Obstacles are only put in your path to test the strength of your ideas and your ambitions. Don’t let detours get you down– make them help you.

Before you present an idea to a group of people it’s essential that you detect any flaws in your argument so you know what the critics will say before they even think it.  Thinking your ideas through help you respond to your critics or fix any problems that did exist. It can be a trying process since it’s your idea and you may look at it like a mother looks at her trouble-making son and only see positives. Just don’t do it. You must, in William Faulkner’s words, “kill your darlings” in order to see your idea, your project, clearly. When you think your project is ready to leave its cradle–let objections and criticisms improve your idea.

Next time you are putting together a team make sure you take on at least one person who will be bold enough to poke holes in your ideas and plans. Make sure that someone can tell you to “go to hell.” The criticisms you receive might be superficial or trite, but the act of taking a break and thinking about every possible weakness will strengthen your ideas.

Well, maybe not “go to hell”, that might be over the top, but you get the idea–sometimes it’s important to be stopped in your tracks and while it’s important in making sure you produce it is also important in keeping you on the right track pragmatically and morally. Sometimes when you slip you must have people around you to audit what you do in order to make sure you do it right within acceptable parameters.