From Book Yourself Solid: How to Talk About What You Do (a mini review)


Preface: In alignment with the “Less is More” coaching I have been learning from the Know Can Do! philosophy, this is a review of just one chapter of Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid, and a contribution to Joyful Jubilant Learning’s Trackback Sunday.

I was fortunately blessed to receive a review copy of Michael Port’s second book to be released in April, called Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way—It’s All Inside. Coincidentally, I’d picked up his first book about a week or so earlier and so I’ve been reading them both at the same time; really good stuff.

Michael Port calls himself “the guy to call when you’re tired of thinking small” and accordingly, he called his first book Book Yourself Solid, The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling.

That long sub-title tells you a lot very quickly, doesn’t it.

That’s the point of a chapter within Book Yourself Solid called How to Talk About What You Do. Michael writes,

“We hear the question ‘What do you do for a living?’ all the time. Your professional category is the wrong answer.”

In other words, the typical responses of “I’m a business consultant,” or “I’m a massage therapist,” or “I’m a graphic designer,” are wrong in that they are “static and boring,” and will only get you a polite nod or comment, or worse yet, an awkward silence and a completely blank stare. Michael points out that once you get those kinds of responses anything more you say about yourself or your services is likely to sound pushy. So true.

Even if the person we are speaking with does not feel any pushiness, we do, and we start to shrink in our conversation, with feigned humility doing us —and them— a great disservice.

Michael has done an exceptional job in his writing of this chapter, one where he coaches us in the art of engaging conversation to elicit questions from the person we are speaking with, so they will answer that “what’s in this for me?” question that is likely bouncing around in their heads, even if subconsciously. He posits that “a primary reason that many service professional fail to build thriving businesses is that they struggle to articulate—in a clear and compelling way—exactly what solutions and benefits they offer.”

Well, he certainly nailed a bunch of my without-enough-thought responses to that “What do you do for a living?” question; my conversations have died off prematurely and rather ungracefully more times than I care to remember.

I have a slight advantage in that I get a better second chance to get it right; most people have never heard of my quick answer, “I’m an aloha workplace coach,” and they will probe, and ask me to explain or tell them more.

I’d learned pretty quickly not to say “I’m an executive coach” because

a) I’m then completely at risk of being perceived by what they may already think about executive coaching —think “car salesmen” and you get what I mean. More positively, think about Marshall Goldsmith, widely regarded an executive coaching guru: I admire him a great deal too, however Marshall and I do not coach in the same way or deliver the same thing.

b) I have learned that most people consider executive coaching way out of the range of what they think they can afford (and actually, those who need it cannot afford not to get it). Unless they already have a coach, they don’t completely understand what coaching is all about, and how it can fulfill their needs.

c) Most important? Executive coaching is just a small part of what I do, and barely skims the surface of what people really want from me, and what I am really good at. Further, while I enjoy it, and feel fulfilled by it, executive coaching in particular is not what I love doing most of all. 

Reading c), you may wonder why I said it at all in the beginning. Until I started better reading the reactions I got, I truly thought “I’m an executive coach” was the best thing to say because it would be the most recognizable label for people to understand. I was wrong.

“I’m an aloha workplace coach” has been a vast improvement, but thanks to Michael’s coaching, I am now going to engage better (no shrinking!) get passionate and have fun with a new conversation when that ‘What do you do for a living?’ question comes up.

So what does Michael suggest?

Something he calls The Book Yourself Solid Dialogue, which “will allow you to have a meaningful conversation with a potential client or referral source.” Now understand that this is a conversation you should have with everyone who asks you what you do, not just prospects you have pre-qualified as your ideal clients.

‘Dialogue’ is a word I love; I will always respond, “I’d love to offer a time for questions and dialogue” when someone asks me if I am willing to entertain a time for Q&A after my speaking engagements. I think of dialogue exactly in the way that Michael describes it;

“Think of it as a conversation between two people each of whom actually cares about what the other has to say.”

A beautiful thing indeed.

“You are so much more than your profession.”

I am totally loving Michael’s books, and you will be hearing more about both of them. As the Talking Story audience of our Ho‘ohana Community, take it from me that Book Yourself Solid is worth the price of the book and then some just for this one chapter. Michael gives great examples and coaching within it, and I especially enjoyed listening to it on audio since Michael does his own reading. (When I am determined to study a book and not just read it, I will always buy it on both audio and as a hardcover for full contact reading annotation.)

So rather than spelling out his formula for The Book Yourself Solid Dialogue, I will share what I have learned as a sort of “elevator speech” for the next time someone asks me, “What is it that you do Rosa?”

You know how
many managers can feel unappreciated, over-worked, and disrespected in the day-to-day stress of their jobs?
Well, what I do, is teach them how to reconstruct their roles at the same that they are reinventing the workplace for everyone else —one value at a time.
If they need me to, I will coach them through the process.
The benefits are huge for them personally, for they quickly feel more dignity and self-worth within their profession. I love seeing that aloha come through!
The results they simultaneously achieve by creating a better workplace for everyone they manage and lead are remarkable, and they happen quickly.

What do you think?

Did you realize that was the essence of what I believe I do, and know that I deliver?

And by the way, if you think this is a mouthful in starting a conversation (it is 106 words long) it is the long version. Within this chapter of Book Yourself Solid, Michael teaches us to tighten it up, shortening it and adapting it so you that you will probably never again explain what you do to someone in exactly the same way twice.

The comments await…Tell me about what you do. Then, when you practice it in person with someone, remember this part of Michael’s coaching; Speak from the Heart.

“When you’re passionate and excited about what you do and you let it show, it’s incredibly attractive. Real passion can’t be faked and there’s nothing more appealing and convincing than knowing someone is speaking from the heart.”

—Michael Port

Get the book, I strongly recommend it.

You can visit Michael at his website and blog too.

A couple of related postings from the archives:


This book review is a contribution to Trackback Sunday on A Love Affair with Books 2008 at Joyful Jubilant Learning.

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More of my Book Reviews can be found here: Mana‘o on a Virtual Bookshelf.