The Story Economy Blog

From Saving to Spending (There Will be Enough)

Save or SpendI have a thing I do with a hill each week. I run up it, at as brisk of a pace as I can manage. And then I do it three or four more times.

It’s totally terrible.

But it’s awesome too, because it’s a fantastic workout. And because everything about who I am comes out on that hill, including this: I’m a saver. Of energy. Of ideas. Of money. Of emotion. Of words. Of data.

What that looks like on the hill is that I hold back the first 30 seconds or so. I’m afraid to go out hard right away. I’m afraid that if I spend it in the beginning, I won’t have any left in the end. I want something in reserve.

But now that I’ve been doing this for over a year, almost every week, I’ve got some pretty good data. And I’ve learned that in a sprint like this, reserve is just an illusion.

In fact, when I abandon the idea of “saving” and just give it everything I’ve got the second I hit “start” on my stopwatch, I finish the hill faster. There’s an ROI to spending the energy upfront, and it looks like 1:35 instead of 1:41.

Do six seconds on a hill matter? Not to you. Not even that much to me. But the tendency to hold back, just in case: that matters.

The idea that “life is a marathon, not a sprint,” is great. It’s a poster and a Pinterest quote and a philosophy.

It just misleads us sometimes. It traps us in reserve mode when we need to be in go mode. It tricks us into holding onto energy that would actually serve us better to spend.

Two Places to Go All In

None of this means you shouldn’t save for a rainy day. Of course there is a time to save your money, your time, or your energy. But there are also times to cultivate a mindset of believing that there will be enough. There are times to stop saving and just go all in.

In working with companies of all different sizes, I tend to see the same struggles around spending and saving pop up. So, these are a couple of places to go all in, according to me.

 #1: When telling the story of the company.

Talking about the stuff behind your company that really matters can feel vulnerable—whether it’s personal stuff or business stuff with people behind it. Vulnerability is a thing to be spent, just like money or energy. People just hold it in reserve because of slightly different fears.

If you want to connect with people and sell to them, stop holding vulnerability in reserve. Spend it now.

For example, I had done some writing for a woman a few years ago. She has a somewhat prominent brand, and although I think she’s professionally charming and brilliant at what she does, I struggled to connect with her and the relationship didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Then, I saw her tell her story for the first time—revealing why she got into the line of work she’s in. It changed the whole dynamic for me. By finally spending her vulnerability, she helped me better understand how to connect with her. And she was paying me. Imagine how it changed it for the people paying her.

Every company has to trudge up the hill every day. Spend the vulnerability now, and reap the benefits of the momentum boost your story provides.

#2 When deciding how much of your best stuff to share.

I often tell my clients to give their best stuff away. For free. I don’t mean not charge for their services. I mean offer a freebie that’s a true piece of thought leadership. Or give presentations that actually answer questions (versus just teasing people with half-answers and stirring their pain). But Judi, they say, if we give away these ideas, everyone else will make money from them except us. Actually, the opposite is true.

If you give your best ideas away, you’re much more likely to make money from them.

Because by going all in and giving away some of your best stuff, you are generating interest in what you do, which is the opposite of making yourself irrelevant.

I give away my best ideas every week: everything I know about storytelling and creating a brand voice and writing good copy. And if you take it and run with it: fantastic! I’m quite happy to be of service. But a big percentage of people won’t run with it because they don’t have the time or ability. They will come back to me to hire me to do it for them. I don’t share as part of a devious plan to frustrate people. I share because I want to share. But also because the only way to bring it back to me is to stop guarding it.

I’d love to hear about the times your company goes all in and spends the time, energy, ideas, or vulnerability up front—and then sees a strong ROI. Jump in and share!


  • Peter Bowerman

    Posted by Peter Bowerman on 04/16/14 6:12pm

    Good post, Judi...

    I firmly believe (and my own experiences have borne it out...) that the more good stuff you give away, the more likely people are to believe that the stuff you actually sell will be even better. "If he's willing to give away quality stuff like this, imagine what else he's got if I pay for it..."

    When you hold your cards close to your chest, and just tease people, they get, loud and clear, a lack of generosity, and are more likely to ignore you. Or if they are sucked in, and find that what they paid for isn't all that, they won't make that same mistake with you in the future.

    And giving away your good stuff isn't just about information, it's also about time. I always get a kick out of how shocked people are when I reply to their emails personally. It counts for a lot, and few people do it, so if you do, you'll stand out.

    Coming across as a friendly, accessible, helpful, generous and genuine spirit is always a good thing, it just feels right, and yes, it WILL put money in your pocket.

    I've lost count of how many times has my personal reply prompted a "Thanks for your personal note. I'll probably be reaching out to you for coaching soon." Sure, they might have gotten ahold of me anyway, but it just cements their decision. After all, you've just given them a little taste of what it'll be like to work with you...


  • Judi Ketteler

    Posted by Judi Ketteler on 04/16/14 8:01pm

    I agree, Peter. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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