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An Interview with Les McKeown on The Synergist

January 3rd, 2012


The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable SuccessBig news today for the Escaping Mediocrity Tribe. One of our very favorite people, Les McKeown, is launching his newest book, The Synergist, today. I had the chance to read an early copy and it is a 2012 Must Read for anyone who wants to be a leader who makes an impact.

I also was lucky enough to to catch up with Les to ask him a few of my most pressing  questions about the book and I thought you might enjoy listening in. 🙂



As you know the Escaping Mediocrity tribe loves your book,

Predictable Success. Can you tell us how The Synergist

builds on the predictable success model you share in that book?


They’re inextricably combined, and together, they form the whole of the Predictable Success model.

I originally intended to write just one book, but quickly realized it would be too long for most readers. Happily, I was able to split the model fairly clinically into two separate books.

Both books are about the same thing – how groups of two or more people can achieve common goals. ‘Predictable Success’ describes *what* happens to such groups, and ‘The Synergist’ explains *why* it happens.



You spend most of your consulting time in corporations. Will

entrepreneurs be able to apply the idea of The Synergist to

their businesses?


Absolutely. As I say, ‘The Synergist’ is about why groups of two or more people can achieve common goals, and I’ve yet to meet a solopreneur who has achieved success without working with others. They do so daily, whether it’s with funders, virtual assistants, someone in their supply chain, or of course, customers.


Why is it important for even solo-preneurs to have the skills

of a Synergist to move their businesses forward?


Over three decades spent launching 40+ businesses of my own and advising hundreds more it became painfully clear to me that it’s impossible to succeed in business (whether you’re a solopreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company) without developing the skills of ‘The Synergist’.

In the book (as in ‘Predictable Success’) I don’t describe anything new, or principles that someone already in business won’t recognize. Every successful solopreneur develops what I call Synergistic skills naturally, over time – they are the omnipresent, eternal success skills which every successful leader learns.

The problem is, acquiring those skills is usually a long, painful and costly process. It can take a solopreneur (or anyone else) many years, many tears, bloody knuckles, skinned knees and broken relationships – maybe even some failed businesses – to acquire those skills.

All I’ve done in the book is put names and structure to what people learn painfully and at some cost every day so that the acquisition of Synergistic skills can be done intentionally, rather than by trial and error. By reading ‘The Synergist’ solopreneurs will be able to accelerate the development of the interpersonal skills needed to develop a successful business – and will be able to acquire them at a much reduced personal cost.


Would you share just one nugget from The Synergist that

readers can apply right now?


Most of us aren’t Synergists to begin with. We all instead have a bias toward one of three ‘natural’ styles – what I call the ‘Visionary’, ‘Operator’ and ‘Processor’ style.

The route to becoming a true Synergist – learning those skills we talked about a moment or so ago – is fundamentally different depending on whether you are a Visionary, Operator or Processor.

So step 1 is go find out which you are. I have a free quiz which will tell you that, here:



What book are you reading now?


I tend to have a few on the go at any one time. Currently:

The Cut – George Pelecanos

Rome – A History – Robert Hughes

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson



What’s you favorite color?




If you could eat anything in the whole world, what would it be?


Beans on toast. Or cheddar cheese on toast (not melted).



How much do you love the Escaping Mediocrity tribe?


More than any other tribe in the whole wide world.


If you want to learn what you must do to go from being an okay entrepreneur to a stellar entrepreneur, I HIGHLY recommend snapping up your own personal copy of The Synergist without delay. You can do that here:

Self-Reliance: A Guidebook for Escaping Mediocrity

May 25th, 2011

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson has always been one of my favorite books. (My Mother The English Teacher quoted it to me even when I was little.)

One of my old copies has more underlined sections than not-underlined sections. Ralph has such a way to capturing the voice and thoughts of those who are desperate to break from the rabble and make their own way in the world.

I’m going to share a few of my favorite lines in just a sec, but I have something awesome to share with you. You can get your hands on a free Kindle edition (that can be read on any mac or pc) today and tomorrow (Tuesday, May 25 and Wednesday, May 26) through The Domino Project and compliments of IBEX, a very cool outdoor wear company.

Don’t miss this chance to own this amazing guidebook to Escaping Mediocrity. You can get all the details and links here:

To give you a taste of what you will find among the 73 short pages, here are some of my favorite quotes:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction tha envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.


What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.


…truly it demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ventured to trust himself as taskmaster.

When you get the book or if you already have it, I would love it if you shared you favorite quote in the comments. 🙂

Oh – and be sure to pass the link for the free download along to your friends!

What is “Generosity”, Exactly?

March 2nd, 2011

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity and how it shows up in the online world we all operate in.  We hear the word A LOT – but what does it MEAN?

I’m going to share my 2 cents and I’m really hoping you will share yours.

In my relatively short time in the great big web word, I’ve experienced amazing acts of real generosity.

People helped me when I was in no position at all to offer anything in return.  I’ve hosted guest posters who gave so freely of themselves, their time and their talent that it floored me, I’ve had people step up and just do things for me, because they can.

I’ve also experienced a different, darker side of “generosity”.

People who only give to those who can “help” them get a leg up, people who don’t initiate generosity yet expect it of others, people who ask for generosity with no intention of reciprocating, people who use “supposed” generosity to keep their friends close and their enemies closer.

(And I could namedrop here with people you would absolutely recognize. But I won’t because that’s no the intention of this post.)

So it’s a tricky business, this whole “generosity” thing, isn’t it?

And yes, I know, we are to give from our heart without a thought of return and I totally get that. But I still think the topic is worth exploring.

So, I’ll open it up to you. What are your thoughts and experiences around generosity?


I’ve seen it touted as a “strategy” – which makes me kind of ill –

The Great December Book Giveaway

December 14th, 2010

I did this back in October and it was so very popular with all of you that I’ve decided to do it again this month – with a twist (of course!)

In just a sec, I’ll tell you the seven nine TEN books that are up for grabs in the giveaway. But first, here’s how you get your name in the pot:

1. Leave an intelligent comment. Which means it has to say more than “great post”. And, in the end, I am the judge of what qualifies as intelligent. Do this and you get ONE ticket in the drawing.

2. Make a donation. For every $5 you donate to my Escaping Mediocrity Orphanage Project, you get ONE ticket in the drawing. Plus there are some bonuses that go along with that.

Donate $10  – 2 tickets and your name and a hotlink to your site listed in my thank you post.

Donate $25 and you get FIVE tickets in the drawing, the above bonus and a $50 coupon code you can use anytime during 2011 on anything I put up for sale. Of course you can always donate more and get more tickets!

If you’ve already donated (and thank you so much for that!) your tickets are already in the pot. 🙂

Ok – ready to know what I’m giving away?!

1) My personal copy of Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity. You can read what I think about it and why it REALLY matters to you here.

2) My personal copy of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business by David Siteman Garland. Read my review here.

3) My personal copy of Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business by Barry Libert. I plan to do a full review of this book soon but it is a killer resource for companies who want to build a deeply connected social community like Apple, Etsy, AmexOPEN and Zappos have built.

4) It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons in Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar with Janet Goldstein. If you want to learn how to build an amazing team and an unparalleled culture, this book is a must read.

5) Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott. It’s no secret that I think most “best practices” are pretty lame and mediocre. This books give you an alternative approach for leading your company (even it is just a company of one!) to greatness.

6) My personal copy of Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier. I love the tagline on this book – “Stop doing busy work and start doing work that matters”. That’s really all I need to say about that. 🙂

7) My personal copy of Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less: The fine art of limiting yourself to the essential….in business and in life. To escape mediocrity, we’ve got to know what is essential and eliminate everything else. Makes for light travel. 🙂 This book will show you how.

JUST IN >> Rebel Brown is generously offering a personally signed copy of her book, Defy Gravity, as part of the Great December Book Giveaway! As a growth expert, Rebel helps managers and leaders shed the weight and drag that are holding their companies back and propel their business to high-velocity growth.

NEW BULLETIN: My friend @BarryMoltz is adding a copy of his fab book on delivering stellar customer service – B-A-M! Bust a Myth: Delivering Customer Service to the giveaway.  Wow! Whomever wins this is gonna rack up!

YEAH – ANOTHER ADDITION! >>> Connie Dieken is offering up a copy of her new book AND 3-CD Audiobook Set – wow! Talk Less, Say More: How to be more influential and ignite positive responses.

So there you have it. December’s Great Book Giveaway. And by the way – these books make great gifts for that hard-to-buy-for entrepreneur on your list. 🙂

Now get busy! Leave a comment below and, if you are so moved, make a donation to my Escaping Mediocrity Orphanage Project. The deadline is NOON EST on Friday, December 17.

(And P.S. To keep my holiday sanity in tact, this is a “winner take all” kind of thing.)

Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper (and Why It Matters to You)

December 8th, 2010

David Garland (known on twitter as @TheRiseToTheTop) just released his new book, Smarter, Faster,Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business.

There’s lots of great stuff I could say about this book. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s witty (not the same thing as funny). And it’s got a TON of great, practical tips and strategies in it.

And there are already a ton of great reviews out there that you can Google.

But here’s why it matters to YOU, the tribe of people who are taking a stand and making sh*t happen: Open it to just about any page and you will find something you can implement, right now, this minute. Not later, after you feel like you have your act together. NOW.

And I’m all about now.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Interviewing people is an amazing way to a) learn a ton and b) grow the profile of your blog, podcast or whatever it is you are building. Everyone knows that right? What everyone doesn’t know is EXACTLY how to go about landing those interviews – especially with high-profile people who seem unreachable.

– On pp. 104 and 105 you will get not only the strategy for landing the interviews, but language you can use for crafting your email to potential guests. BAM! Excuses be gone!!

– After you’ve created AMAZING content for your blog/podcast/webcast/online television show (the fact that it is amazing is a given because, well, because I just know it is), what must be on your website to ensure that your message and your ideas are spreadable to those who are waiting to hear them?

Pp 121- 122 gives you a bulleted checklist of eight ( I like that it is only eight. Keeps me from getting overwhelmed.) things you’ve got to think about if you want your site to be the backbone of the amazing work you are up to. These aren’t hard things. They don’t require a master’s degree in tech geek.

For example – #1 on the check list is “What is the FIRST thing I want people to do when I come to my website?”  Not a complicated question, but one most people never answer. If you can answer it and make it easy for people to do it, you will be ahead of 98% of the internet crowd.

– And probably my very favorite is the list of Rookie Mistakes when attempting to expand your network on social media. They make me laugh a) because I’m pretty sure I’ve made them all and b) I see so-called gurus making them all the time. I’m going to share them with you because I think they are really REALLY important – hope David doesn’t mind!

– Follow Bad Models

– Share Irrelevant Details

– Brag All the Time

– Forget to Talk Shop

– Spend All Day on There

– Being Overly Formal

– Obsess Over Small Picture ROI

This list, along with its mirror list “Characteristics of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs on Social Media”, will keep you busy taking action on the right things to expand your network for a good long while.

So if you’re done hearing yourself talk about the THING you know you are meant to do and you want practical stuff to do right this minute, I highly recommend scooting on over to Amazon and checking it out!

Essential Text Books for Escaping Mediocrity

November 22nd, 2010

If we’re going to save the world (and I am assuming that that is what you’ve signed on for if you’ve come back after reading last week’s post), there are some essential text books that will really cut the learning curve. Reading brilliant work is also a critical habit embraced by all the successful entrepreneurs I know.

So, here is my suggested list of  Text Books for Escaping Mediocrity (These area affiliate links. You can google the title & buy it that way if affiliate links make you uncomfortable.):

1) Atlas Shrugged
This one is a non-negotiable. If you want to read the definitive story of entrepreneurs who save the world in spite of itself and be inspired to make no apologies for who you are and what you are capable of, run to the library or to Amazon and get this book. Yes I know it is long. Don’t care. Read it anyway.

2)The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
I always tell Chris Guillebeau that Escaping Mediocrity is all his fault. In his book he will tell you exactly what you need to do to build your own empire. Pretty awesome to have a map, no?

3) Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization On the Growth Track–and Keeping It There
My friend Les McKeown wrote this book to give entrepreneurs the certainty they need – even when they are most uncertain. Total and necessary nuts and bolts.

4) The Alchemist
Read it. Just because I know you need to.

5) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
I’m pretty sure that 98% of you want writing to be a part of what it is you are up to to save the world. If you want to do that better (and laugh your ass off at the same time), there is no better book on writing out there.

6) The Art of War
Saving the world is a lot like war. So we’d all better understand the fundamentals.

7) Small Is the New Big and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas
And anything else Seth Godin has written.

This is by no means a definitive list. There are many many other books that I think are amazing and there are also I haven’t read yet.

So I’m asking you to do two things in the comments: 1) Commit to reading one of the above books and 2) Add your own Essential Text Book for Escaping Mediocrity (and saving the world).

Chris Guillebeau's Book & Why It Matters to You

September 10th, 2010

Delivering Happiness Is An Inside/Outside Job

June 11th, 2010

So I am one of the lucky bloggers who received an advanced copy of Tony Hseih’s book Delivering Happiness. I talked a bit about it and even gave away a copy here.

No doubt you’ve seen all of the amazing reviews out there. If you haven’t just take a peek at the book’s Amazon page. The glowing kudos are well deserved. It is truly an amazing book with a TON of practical application (that I plan to use my very self!).

And instead of adding my own run down of the incredible content you will find in it, I’ve decided to take a slightly different tack. I know I know. Now there’s a surprise.

What I learned from the book and from my tour of Zappos HQ last fall is that Delivering Happiness is an Inside/Outside Job. And Tony lives it every day.


First, even before the idea of Zappos entered his head, Tony understood that he had to be happy on the inside with whatever he created in the world. Having is turn a profit came second. He had to “deliver happiness” to himself before he could deliver it to others.

Second, he had to “deliver happiness” to his team before they could deliver it to anyone else. Even amid a difficult season of layoffs, Tony rose to the challenge of transparent giving and sharing that carried everyone through to the other side.

Third, his team had to “deliver happiness” to each other before they could deliver it to customers. The internal support, community and joie de vivre that exists inside Zappo’s is unlike anything I have ever seen. It makes me want to quit what I do and answer customer service phone call for them. Seriously.

Bonus: Reading the chapter on Zappo’s Culture Book should be mandatory reading for all CEO’s. #justsayin


First, his front line call center team is totally focused on creating an extraordinary customer service experience. Did you know that there is no time limit on how long a rep can stay on the phone with a customer? This completely bucks the norm of running a stopwatch on customer service calls. And reps are encouraged to write handwritten notes to people they talk to. Sometimes they even send flowers. Think that approach “delivers happiness” to the person spending the money?

Second, his vendor relations team treats prospective vendors like top clients. Zappos pays to ship in product they are considering and takes the time to set up an attractive display for the vendor’s presentation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of any other company who forms vendor relationships like that.

Third “If you just focus on making sure that your product or service continually WOWs people, eventually the press will find out about it..” Beats the heck out of traditional PR strategy, don’t you think?

Of course there is much much more to creating a Delivering Happiness kind of culture – but these are among my favorites.

If you want to begin your Inside/Outside job of Delivering Happiness, I highly recommend getting your mitts on the book, get a notebook and a pen so you can jot down notes and start taking happy action without delay.

Here’s where you can get yours:

I'm Giving Away "Delivering Happiness"!

April 27th, 2010

One of the fun things that happens to me every now and then is that I get to read advanced copies of books that are going to be hot Hot HOT! And lucky me just received not one but TWO copies of Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

I’ll just give you a peek at the table of contents so you can see that this book is ALL about Escaping Mediocrity. 🙂

Section I: Profits

1. In Search of Profits

2. You Win Some, You Lose Some

3. Diversify

Section II: Profits and Passion

4. Concentrate Your Position

5.  Platform for Growth: Brand, Culture, Pipeline

Section III: Profits, Passion and Purpose

6. Taking It to the Next Level

7. End Game

Once I finish reading it, I plan to do a full video review. But like I said, I got TWO copies – one for me and one to share and I don’t want to wait to share.

I would like to give my extra copy, along with a few more of my favorite books, to someone in The Tribe.

Sooo….with the help of Maddy Dychtwald (@GoInfluence), I’ve thought of a way to combine 1) shoes 2) getting rid of stuff and 3) doing good in the world. Here’s how it’s going to work:

1) Go through your currents shoes and the shoes of anyone who lives in your house. Find the ones that in great shape but that aren’t being worn. Put them all in a row.

2) Choose a charity who needs your shoes.

2) Snap a picture of your shoes.

3. Upload the picture to Flickr or another online photo hosting site.

4. Leave a comment below and share 1) How many pairs of shoes you gathered 2) What charity you are donating them to and 3) a link to the photo.

5) BONUS POINTS (meaning your name goes in the hat twice): for an additional photo of you making the shoe delivery. 🙂

***Amended Rule: If you have given away shoes to a charity in the past 6 weeks and can tell me about it in the comments, your name goes in the hat to win the book too. ***

Everyone who enters will get their name put in the hat and The Young Turk will draw the winner!

Deadline: Sunday, May 2, Midnight EST.

I know, I’m asking a lot. But I have an exceptional tribe who will rise to the challenge.  And remember, you will get an advanced copy of Delivering Happiness, plus copies of some of my very favorite books (I already know of three – and will be adding more).

Can’t wait to see how YOU deliver happiness!!

P.S. If you have a blog and want to apply for your own advanced copies, here is the link for that:

The Care & Feeding of a Tribe

September 14th, 2009

(Sometimes, I start writing a blog post thinking it is going in one direction, and then it hijacks my idea and goes somewhere else entirely. This post is a perfect example of what I mean.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tribe lately. Mainly because I’ve realized that I simply could not do what I do everyday without them. Oh – I suppose I could for a little while, but my tribe makes it so much more fun, so much more worthwhile and so much LESS scary.

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, defines a tribe this way:lit drum

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For million of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. . . Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.” (Pages 1-2)

When I first shifted the focus of this blog to “escaping mediocrity on adventure at a time”, I knew that this undertaking was WAY bigger than anything I could do alone. And I knew I needed a tribe around me if I was going to be able to sustain the vision.  What I didn’t know, was exactly how to get one. And truth be told, I still don’t.

As I’ve said many times here – and on Twitter – I am very very blessed to have somehow connected with other like-minded people who are as tired of the status quo as I am. And I’ve actually had people ask me what “formula” I used to build such an amazing group.

Formula? Really?

Can you put “publicly saying things that scare you out of your wits and hoping someone else understands” into a formula? Or “creating meaningful conversation with and between others” ? Or “telling others they made you laugh so hard Coke came out your nose” ?

If you can, you are much better mathematician than I am. Cuz I simply don’t know how to plug that into an A + B=C kind of equation. And even if there were such an equation, I wouldn’t want it.


Because this tribe is made up of real, live human beings who are dazzlingly individual and intricate. Why on earth would I want to trivialize you by trying to wrap you up into some neat kind of package?

And anyway, if I tried to describe to someone else how the tribe here is developing, it would sound something like this:

Well, first, you put up a blog thinking you know what you are going to talk about. Then about six months into it, you realize that that isn’t what you are going to talk about – you’re going to talk about this other thing. And no – you can’t get any market research ahead of time on the audience or the demand because there isn’t any. So then you start writing blog posts that scare the sh*t out of you. And you tell a few of the friends you’ve made on Twitter about them, hoping that they will feel enough pity that they will show up and at least READ what you wrote. And when they do read and take the time to comment, you replybecause their comments are so much MORE intelligent and witty than what you wrote in the first place.  Oh – and in between writing these posts and hoping someone will read them and replying to the comments they leave, you get on Twitter and laugh a lot and introduce people to each other and try to help where you can.

So for those of you wondering about my magic formula – there it is. Good luck trying to duplicate it. Even I can’t duplicate it (if you DO figure it out and make some money on it – send me a percentage, ok?).

Now – because I ALWAYS want this blog to be useful and, as I’ve said, you are all WAY smarter, savvier, and funnier than I am – I want to ask  you a question. If you were trying to tell someone how to build and maintain a tribe that you wanted to be a part of, what is the #1 thing you would share with them?

As always, I can’t wait to read your comments!!