Inspiration before Information


Some time ago I was invited to lead a workshop for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It was an honor. During one of the sessions I heard one of the speakers, Ron Hutchcraft, make a statement that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Everybody creates programs to tell us how to evangelize others. The trouble is, we don’t need more programs that give us the how to, what we need are programs that give us the want to.” I’d never thought about that before, but it makes perfect sense. People who aren’t deeply motivated to want to share their good news with others won’t be impacted by programs that tell them how to do it.

The principle applies in many areas of life. Maybe you are a personal trainer and want to write a book or develop a course to tell me how to tone up my abs and have biceps feel like steel pipes. Great, but until you’ve motivated me to want to do that, telling me how is a waste of effort. Apply the principle to dieting, investing, becoming a better parent, having a better marriage, you name it.

The solution – focus first on inspiration before you move to information. I tell first-time authors all the time that their book ought to be 70% inspiration and 30% information. Why? Because the purpose of the book shouldn’t be to tell me everything you know about your subject; it should be to motivate me to want to know more. Big difference.

Take a minute to watch an infomercial on the latest exercise machine or weight loss program. Most of the airtime is focused on sharing testimonials saying essentially “I did it and you can do it too!” It’s showing me photos of how great I’ll look in a bathing suit and how attractive I will suddenly be to the opposite sex. Notice the rhythm of an infomercial. They do give you enough information to make their success claims credible. But far more time is spent saying and re-saying a simple, inspirational message over and over, in many different ways, but essentially saying the same thing.

In our culture, where we are bombarded with so much information, it’s hard to create a lasting impression in the mind of your target audience. So rather than sharing twenty different facts about getting more fuel efficiency from your automobile with your amazing new fuel additive, try finding twenty different ways to tell me one powerful benefit I will receive when I use your product.

I’m not suggesting that if you write a book it should be filled with fluff and repeat the same thing over and over again. But I am saying that the main focus of your book, if it’s to move me to a new way of thinking or to take some kind of specific action, should take the time and text needed to compel, convince, move, and motivate me towards that new insight and action.

Remember, people make decisions based mostly on emotion. So move me! Encourage me! Give me enough facts so that I know you know what you’re talking about and I can trust you. Just don’t try to impress me with everything you know.

Photo credit: macabrephotographer via / CC BY-SA

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