It never occurred to me that the reason I gravitate toward owls has less to do with an antique show bargain and more to do with what they represent. It never occurred to me that what I really dig about owls are things like wisdom, trust, and mystique.
Until I got a hold of Sally Hogshead—or I should say, her work got a hold of me. Sally is the brain (the “hog’s head” you might say) behind HowToFascinate.com, and the idea that in both business and in life, we each have the ability to fascinate people, i.e., to captivate and convince them. But—and this is the key—instead of trying to manufacture a way of being or a way of acting, our real potential to fascinate comes from who we naturally are.
Sally has an amazing TEDx talk about this, and she wrote the 2010 book, Fascinate, all about the seven “fascination” triggers that people use (power, trust, prestige, passion, mystique, rebellion, and alarm). But it wasn’t until I took The Fascination Advantage test that I really got it. (Full disclosure: I got to take the test for free because I was an early user; it now costs $17 for a Starter Kit. Keep reading and you’ll see why it’s well worth it.)
So . . . drumroll . . . according to my Basic Report, my Personality Archetype (there are 49 of them) is the Wise Owl—a combination of two triggers: mystique (primary) and trust (secondary). Now, when I first took the test, I really, really wanted to be a passion and rebellion combination, because that’s what all of the coolest people (like Seth Godin, my friend Claudia, and Sally herself) seemed to be. No one is more passionate than me about what they do, I thought. And rebellion? Please. Just my ask my husband if I ever follow rules.
But here’s the thing: it’s not about your state of mind. It’s not about your inner triggers. It’s how you appear to the world that creates fascination. It stopped me for a minute, because I really had to think about what I project. Of course, it’s still based on who I am at the core. But it comes out in a way I can’t really control. And now that I know, I feel like I have a stealth bomb at my disposal.
Turning Weaknesses to Strengths
So, okay, I’m the owl. The undercurrent of trust was obvious. People just trust me—they always have. Probably because I don’t screw them over. But also because I always do what I say I will do (barring the caveat of humanness, which means occasional mistake-making). I send out this newsletter every Wednesday. Editors have always trusted me with deadlines because I always meet them. People trust me with their stories. My husband trusts me to support the family.
What you see is what you get.
Except for it sort of isn’t. And this is the real “aha” for me. The mystique thing. What is that about? Do I come off like a carnival fortuneteller? Like Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now? Am I cryptic weirdo, I wondered?
In thinking about this, I realized that what I used to think of as weakness or lack of confidence is really mystique. It’s carefulness. It’s not giving away too much—not because I’m trying to be weird. But because I don’t have the answer for you until I just do the thing you need me to do.
For example, clients often want to know about my process. They ask: What does it look like? To which I reply, “Um, well . . .” I can outline a story branding process, but I have no idea how it actually works because I’m not even sure myself. We just start talking, and then I start writing, and then it just happens. I’m not manufacturing mystique. It’s real. But now I see that it’s actually part of my strength, because my clients don’t have to worry about what the process is. I can tell them that it just works, and because they trust me, it does.
I’m not going to fascinate anyone with fear or accolades or fancy promises of stellar ROI. I’m not going to speak that loudly, or confront people’s assumptions in an obvious way. I’m just going to do my thing.
My friend Bill summarized it really beautifully in a comment he wrote on my blog: “Judi speaks loud without raising her voice. Her writings help us to understand ourselves. I will read anything Judi writes.” (Thanks, Bill.)
I now have any of my clients who are game take the test when we start their branding process. More than once, the results they get (the report that lists your primary and secondary trigger) have actually affected some copy decisions we‚Äòve made, especially when it comes to stuff like voice. Again, it’s not manufacturing something; it’s about going with what’s already there, and understanding how to use it as your strength.
So, go find out how you fascinate people. And then start captivating.