Interesting to Fascinating, Can You Make The Leap?

Interesting things buzz by my desk everyday. They usually get the two second nod, then I move on. But when fascinating things come along, I’m hooked. I have to stop and read more than the headline. That power to fascinate is the “elixir” I have been seeking most of my writing career.

My interest was piqued to begin with, but I have to admit, I became fascinated. This was a great interview with Sally Hogshead. I hope you enjoy it too.



You can read or listen to the original here:

Transcript of interview:

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

Sally Hogshead on How You Can Unlock Your Natural Ability to Fascinate

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m Jerod Morris, your Maverick Leader on today’s episode.

Demian Farnworth, this show’s Secret Weapon, my usual co-host, will not be joining us for this episode, and that is because we have a special guest on today’s episode who, I promise you, is going to be a Catalyst for one of the most energizing and empowering episodes of The Lede ever.

And that special guest is Sally Hogshead. She is the out-of-the-box thinker who applies her experience and her decades of research to help you become more of yourself, to celebrate and embrace your differences, to become more fascinating — basically to become your best and most valuable self, both to you and to others.

Sally is the bestselling author of How The World Sees You, and she developed the Fascination Advantage, which you will learn all about.

And you will actually get the opportunity to take the Fascination Advantage Assessment. It normally costs $37, but at the end of this episode, I will reveal how you can take it for free. And trust me, you’re going to want to take it. I took it, and you’re about to hear how much of an impact it’s made on me already.

Now before I share with you my conversation with Sally, I do want to remind you that she is going to be one of the keynote speakers, along with Dan Pink, Chris Brogan, and Henry Rollins at Authority Rainmaker.

Authority Rainmaker is our annual live event that combines inspiring ideas, practical strategy, and valuable networking opportunities into one fascinating two-day event.

You’re going to walk away from the experience ready and armed to take your content marketing to the next level. Plus, it’s in beautiful Denver, Colorado and held at the immaculate Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

And it’s a Copyblogger event, so you know there are going to be great parties, because that’s how we roll. Tickets are still available for now, but you really don’t want to hesitate.

Go to and get yourself signed up. I’m going to be there, and I want to meet you, so let’s make this happen.

And you know who else I want to meet and can’t wait to meet at Authority Rainmaker?

Sally Hogshead.

And you’re going to feel the same way after you listen to this conversation. I think what’s great about the conversation is that it’s not just going to provide you with valuable insights that you can use for your business or for your content marketing, it’s also wisdom you can use personally, even at home.

So it’s a really interesting conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Without further ado, here it is: My conversation with Sally Hogshead.

All right, Sally. Welcome to The Lede. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on here. Thank you so much for taking the time today.

Sally Hogshead: Hi! I’m excited to be able to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jerod: Absolutely. It’s going to be fun. Since we scheduled this interview, I’ve had the chance to read your book and take the Fascination Advantage, and I’ve just been so looking forward to this opportunity to talk with you, because you have such remarkable ideas about how to help people not just become better in terms of being an online business owner, but become their better selves.

And that’s what I’m excited to talk about, and I think we’ll split the conversation up in those two ways. Talk about how your ideas of fascination can help people become better online marketers, because that’s what a lot of our audience wants to know specifically.

But I also want to talk with you about the Fascination Advantage assessment, and how that can help us personally, as well as help build and construct the teams in our businesses.

How Sally went from copywriter to catalyst

Sally: That sounds great. Let’s do it.

Jerod: Okay. Let’s do it. So let’s start out. You started out as a copywriter, and I think that background makes you especially interesting to our audience, many of whom are copywriters themselves. So why don’t you take the audience through, really quickly, how you went from copywriter to becoming this Catalyst for helping people be more fascinating.

Sally: I had such a love affair with advertising and marketing. I loved being a copywriter. And my favorite part of being a copywriter was being able to look inside of a brand and distill exactly why people admired that brand, or loved that brand, or paid more for that brand.

I remember a piece of research that I did early on when I was first studying the science of fascination. I gave women two pairs of sunglasses that were exactly the same. So imagine two pairs of sunglasses. And I said to them, how much are you willing to pay? And women told me they were willing to pay four times more if the sunglasses had a Chanel logo.

In other words, that logo quadrupled the perceived value of the sunglasses, even though the utility of the sunglasses was the exact same. So we know that brands help a product charge more even if that product is the exact same as the competitor’s. The brand adds value. The brand makes people covet it, be captivated by it, be fascinated by it.

And I found that the same is true for individuals. I shifted my research away from brands and I began studying people. I found the same is true. You can charge more for your content. You can have higher fees, higher prices if people are fascinated by you.

The critical difference between being merely interesting and being fascinating

Jerod: And what is the difference between being fascinated and being interested? Because you make that distinction quite clear in the book.

Sally: Yeah. If people are interested by you, it means their interest is quickly going to fade. They’ll be checking their iPhone. They’re going to go pop over to Facebook and see what’s going on. They’re going to read their Twitter feed.

If you’re only interesting people, they’re going to be distracted. And if people are distracted, they’re not going to listen to, and remember, and take action on what you say. If you really want to create content that’s going to get people to share it, comment on it, save it, refer back to it, then you can’t just interest them. That’s not enough anymore. You need to fascinate them.

Fascination is an intense focus. It’s a neurological state. And when your brain is in a state of fascination, it opens up almost like you are in the flow with the object of your fascination. You know this feeling. It’s when you’re reading a book and you’re so immersed in the storyline that you lose track of time.

When people are fascinated by your content, they’re consumed by it. They want to re-read it. They want to talk about it and share it and live by it, and this is really the new standard for content marketing for any of us who have a message that we want to spread. It’s not enough to just interest people. That doesn’t last. Fascination creates an emotional hook that’s like witchcraft.

Jerod: And I’m sure right now, as people are listening, they’re nodding along with you, hopefully fascinated by this conversation. I think everyone would clearly agree and say yes, I want to do that.

So I guess the question is: How, if I’m an online content creator, do I start to strategically make my content more fascinating? What elements can I add to it that will make it more fascinating?

Sally: Well, in a minute we’re going to be talking about the actual system and talking about how there are seven different forms of communication. Seven different forms of communication for you as an individual, and also for your blog, or your website, or your content.

But for now, let me set up a couple of ways in which communication is different than it used to be. First of all, today, every time you communicate you’re doing one of two things: You’re either adding value, or you’re taking up space.

When you add value, people seek you out. They value your opinion. They want to be connected to you. They respond to you. They trust you. They admire you. On the other hand, if you’re just taking up space, then you’re cluttering their communication channel. It’s almost like you’re spam.

Now we all know that there are emails that we get that we put into the spam folder. There are tweets that we might unfollow. But the same is true in day-to-day communication. If you speak in meetings and you don’t add value, people begin to tune you out. It’s almost like you become human spam.

Before you put out a message, it’s better to avoid putting yourself in front of your customer than to waste their time with weak communication. Let me say that again, because this is really key:

It’s better to avoid putting yourself in front of somebody than to waste their time with weak communication.

If you waste people’s time with messages that just take up space, then you become human spam. People have no incentive to communicate with you. They begin to tune you out, and you get put into that mental spam filter. You’ve actually damaged your brand.

This is one of the key points about developing content. The world doesn’t need another tweet. The world doesn’t need another Facebook post. The world needs you. The world needs your authentic opinions, ideas, and to really get a sense of how are you different, and how are you going to add value?

Jerod: I so love that idea, and it’s so important. People understand how much content there is out there, and you’re so right. We don’t need another tweet. We don’t need another blog post. We need a great tweet. We need a useful blog post. Something that can be really helpful.

I think something that I find when I talk to people who are a little bit reticent, maybe, to put content out there is they think, “Okay, there is so much stuff out there. I don’t know if I want to say what I have to say because I don’t know that it’ll be heard,” and you had a quote. You say:

If you believe that you have a message worth listening to, then you have a responsibility to get your message out in the world.

And so I think there are some people who know they have something to say. They’re afraid that it’s just going to be lost in the din, but according to you, those people have a responsibility to get it out there, and you’re saying the way to do it is make it more fascinating, so that it does get paid attention to and isn’t just taking up space.

Sally: You’re the guardian of your message. If you don’t communicate your message at the top of your ability — in other words, if you don’t infuse it with your personality to make it fascinating — then the message could be ignored, forgotten, and if you have an important message, that’s sad.

When we did a study, we asked people: “Are you a better driver than the average person?” Eighty percent of people said, “Yes, I’m a better driver than the average person,” which of course, is impossible. Fifty percent are above average, and fifty percent are below. So people grossly over-rate their ability to drive.

Ninety percent of people think they’re more intelligent than the average person. But in our study, when we said, “Are you more fascinating than the average person?” Only 39 percent said that they were. So we have a fear of putting ourselves out there and not being heard.

There is something sad and scary that happens when people publish content or go onstage or share themselves with the world: They’re afraid that what they’re going to say won’t matter. And the reality is, the world needs messages that matter. The world doesn’t need more content for the sake of content. The world needs people to contribute something that’s so unique about them, a voice, an idea, an opinion, that breaks through.

And when you do that, this is the ultimate form of adding value.

The greatest value that you can add is to become more of yourself, and to make your content feel more like yourself.

Jerod: I love that quote. Absolutely love it. So within the context, then, of building an online audience, and eventually building a business, how do we do it, then? How do we start to get that content out there in a way that’s going to attract the audience that we want, and ultimately be able to build a business around it?

Sally: What a wonderful question. There are seven different ways to communicate, but there are certain ways that your personality is primed to communicate. And when you write with this voice, and you select topics that have to do with your natural mode of communication, it’s much easier for you to get in the flow and feel authentic, and be energized by your work so that it feels almost like a wellspring.

The question becomes what’s your personality’s natural mode of communication? In other words, what adjectives and characteristics are associated with your personal brand that if you could lean into those, if you could double-down on those characteristics, that you would be automatically differentiated in a way that was totally genuine and very easy for you to continue to replicate with more and more great content.

This brings us to the Fascination Advantage, which is the assessment that I created to help people understand how the world sees them. I’ll take a quick moment to explain what I mean by that.

Jerod: Sure.

Sally: There are a lot of personality assessments out there, and they all tell you a different aspect of your personality, like Myers-Briggs, Kolbe, DiSC, StrengthsFinder. And these assessments are built on psychology.

Psychology looks at the world through your eyes, so these assessments tell you how you see the world. But I found that there was a missing piece to the conversation — a missing piece that’s crucial if you’re going to be developing content.

And that question is, how does the world see you? How does your reader see you? How does your customer see you at your best, and what are the qualities that if you could identify them, and hone them, it would make it really easy for you to feel confident and relaxed. Not only in conversation, but also when you’re publishing content.

When you take the Fascination Advantage assessment — it’s only 28 questions now. It used to be 153 questions. But we found that the same 28 questions gave us all the data we need to know to measure how the world sees you, just like how a consumer sees a brand, how a customer sees a business.

Jerod: You have very generously allowed our audience to be able to take this assessment, so later I’ll give everybody the URL and the code to do that.

And I took the assessment, and Demian Farnworth, my usual co-host on The Lede, took the assessment. And we’re actually going to break down some of those results. Because I’ve listened to a lot of the interviews that you’ve done, and I found that to be the most fascinating part: When you really get personal and zero in on those results.

Sally: Yeah.

Jerod: I want to preface that discussion by saying this, because I’ve always been someone who’s a little bit skeptical of these assessments where you answer a few questions, and it’s supposed to tell you something grand about yourself.

And even after I took this assessment, I looked at it, and there was so much reading about what it said about me that I agreed with, and some of it, I was kind of like, “Well, I don’t know if that’s really complete,” but what’s interesting is Demian took it, and my fiancée took it, and as I started to read what it said about them, I was like, “Oh yeah, spot on! Oh yeah! That’s them!”

It gave me a perspective shift that’s like, “Oh yeah, this is how the world sees me,” so my perception of it is going to be a little bit different, and that’s the point, right? To highlight the differences so that you can step outside of yourself and view yourself more as other people view you.

Sally: Yeah, exactly. It’s important when you take the assessment to not just evaluate your own assessment. Show it to somebody else. Show them the video in which I describe how people see you at your best so you can have an objective point of view. The assessment’s almost like doing a 360 test where you ask people to identify your key characteristics.

Jerod: Okay. So, me. I took the assessment, and it came back and said that I am a Maverick Leader.

Sally: A Maverick Leader!

Jerod: Yes. A Maverick Leader, combining innovation and power. And Demian is The Secret Weapon. So maybe — explain a little bit about what that means. I’d love also to just get a comparison. Because Demian and I work together a lot, both on this podcast and just at Copyblogger, and I’ll be curious to see how we came out, if that means that we’re compatible or not supposed to be compatible.

Sally: First of all, they are very compatible. There is no one archetype that’s better than another, but it is important for you to work with people who can supplement. In other words, who can optimize you rather than replicate you. And you guys have a great combination of being able to optimize each other.

A Maverick Leader has primary innovation. Innovation is the language of creativity, so personalities with primary innovation tend to be big visionary thinkers. They like to be able to think in borad terms — how far can they push an idea. They’re not comfortable with doing things in a super-linear way.

Instead of going “One, two, three, four,” they want to go “One, two, four.” So innovation personalities need to surround themselves with people who can watch and observe and take note, and look at things from a more rational perspective so that it can be balanced out.

I happen to know The Maverick Leader archetype fairly well because I am married to one. In fact, The Maverick Leader was named for my husband, Ed. And Maverick Leaders are famous for losing their car keys.

They’re famous for coming into a meeting and saying, “Hey, I just had an idea of what we could do,” And sometimes people have a hard time keeping up with The Maverick Leader because their minds tend to think so quickly by leaps and bounds that other people can’t find the step-by-step bread crumb trail to be able to re-trace the steps. Have you ever found that to be true?

Jerod: Yes. (Chuckles.) Yes, absolutely.

Sally: So a piece of coaching that I would give to a Maverick Leader would be to say, “You have big ideas, but people can’t always keep up with you, so it’s important for you to be able to break it down into pieces so that other people can support you and give you what you need to actually execute and implement those ideas. Does that sound true for you?

Jerod: Yes, definitely. That will be very helpful. It’s funny, I’ve actually had a couple of experiences just in the past week where I had some big idea, got really excited about it, and it’s really funny.

Inside the description of “Maverick Leader,” one of the five adjectives is “dramatic,” and it says, “When presenting, they use strong body language, they use energetic gestures to emphasize their points,” and it’s something people have always kind of made fun of me for, that I can’t talk without my hands.

Sally: Are you talking with your hands right now?

Jerod: Right at this moment, I am right now.

Sally: I’m talking with my hands, too!

Jerod: I’m making huge hand gestures. And so it’s interesting, and I had a couple of experiences where I had this big idea, I got all excited about it, and I didn’t feel like I quite translated the excitement in my presentation of the idea, or at least I made them feel how great the idea could be, but not necessarily how it could actually happen. How the execution would happen.

Sally: And for you it was so clear, right? For you, you could see it so clearly in your head, what the vision was. But when you’re talking to different types of personalities, like an Alert personality, or a Trust personality, for them it’s not about making a quantum leap. It’s about being able to see how everything fits together, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Jerod: Yeah, I could see it five years down the road. I was already there. But yeah, the actual implementation part of it and seeing all of that definitely wasn’t there. So that’s great coaching because, again, what’s great about this is: How do other people see you?

Because it’s like with communication. It doesn’t matter what I’m trying to say; what matters is what you hear and how you take it, and the impact that it has on you. So if I want to be a better communicator, I’ve got to take you into more account than what I’m trying to think of and say. I think that this helps so much with that, and really just helps to illuminate those areas were we can get better in terms of impacting other people.

Sally: Let’s take that into two different areas: The fact that you’re a Maverick Leader. If you were going to be hiring, say, an executive assistant or somebody to work along side you, to be able to support you, do you need somebody who is also creative? Or do you need somebody who’s going to be more linear and executional?

Jerod: (Laughs.) I think we would get a lot more done if there was someone who was linear and executional, yes.

Sally: Yeah.

Jerod: To help with the organization. Absolutely.

Sally: So that doesn’t mean that you would necessarily gravitate toward that person. Imagine somebody walks into the interview and you’re looking for an assistant, or somebody to help you implement all these great ideas that you have. And the person is trustworthy and level-headed, and protective, and analytical.

You might not have an instant chemistry with that person, but yet that’s the exact person that you might need most in order for you to get your content proofread, or researched, or published, or spread. Because those are the things that you can do, but it’s going to feel kind of like quicksand. It’s going to be exhausting for you, wouldn’t it?

Jerod: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Sally: One of the key things about the process of developing content and having a message that you want to spread and share and to make a difference in the world is, you can’t do it all. And you don’t have to do it all.

There are some areas where you’re naturally going to have what I call a “wellspring.” Meaning, it’s going to feel energizing. You’re going to feel confident. You’re going to look forward to those kinds of tasks.

And then there are other things, other types of assignments, or conversations, or people where it feels like quicksand. So if you can focus on the areas that are a natural wellspring, you’re going to be able to get a lot more done.

So let’s come back to you as The Maverick Leader, and then we can talk about The Secret Weapon, or other different archetypes.

Let’s imagine that you’re going into a critical meeting. What would be an example of a meeting in which you know that you want to make a great first impression and you want to add value, and you want to win.

Jerod: Well, shoot. We have editorial meetings every couple of weeks where I think that’s important.

Sally: So you go into an editorial meeting, and do you have ideas that you’re excited about?

Jerod: Yes.

Sally: So we’re about to walk into that meeting. You have ideas that you’re excited about because you’re a Maverick Leader and coming up with ideas is not something that’s a challenge for you. Before you go into that meeting, it’s going to be important for you to understand how other people see you at your best.

In other words, what is your strong suit that, if you can focus on that, your ideas are going to be more compelling to them because you are going to be more compelling? And in your case, as a Maverick Leader, you have your top three adjectives that are associated with you: Pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial.

Before you go into that meeting, you might think, “I have this one idea that I know could be a killer theme for 2015.” You love this idea, and you want to really dig in, and sink your teeth into it, and spend time with it, and spread this. But if you go in and you present it in a cold, flat, rational way, do you think you’re going to get the best result?

Jerod: No.

Sally: Now, you won’t get the best result. But imagine if you went in and you had a spicy anecdote, or you told a story, or you gave an example of what this would be like, and you showed “here are five tweets that we would be able to do off this editorial content,” would that feel natural for you?

Jerod: Yes. Yes, and you know, what’s so interesting about this is I fight with myself sometimes, knowing that just my normal self gets very excitable, and all of those different things, and I think that I should do it the other way, and I think what I’ve learned a lot — and tell me if this is what you’re trying to get across — I think that we need to embrace these ways that we’re different.

Not try to fit into what we think other people want, but embrace those differences and say that it’s okay for me to be like this, and in fact, this is how I should be, because as you say, that’s how people see you when you’re at your best.

Sally: And when you’re at your best, you’re at your most confident and authentic. And in these moments, literally, your brain shifts into a different mode. When you’re more confident, you get more saliva in your mouth, your voice sounds different, your posture is different, and your listener is more confident in you. They’re more likely to be fascinated by you and by your message.

You know those times when you’ve been writing, and the content just flows, and it feels easy, and the ideas leap one to another? And it doesn’t feel like you’re clawing your way through the blog post. It just effortlessly flows out of you. Those are the times when you’re channeling into this wellspring of your personality.

When we study high performers inside of organizations, we look at: What are the top communicators doing differently? We found that they have different patterns within their communication, whether they’re leading a meeting or they’re writing an article. And here are the two key things that we found that high performers do differently.

Number one, they have a specialty. They’re not trying to be all things to all people. In other words, they have a specialty that allows them to hone their communication and focus it so that people know what they can go to them for. For you, your three adjectives are pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial, because you’re The maverick Leader.

So what that means is, before you go into meeting, imagine you say to yourself, “Not only do I have permission to be pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial, but I have a responsibility to be, because I am the guardian of my message, and nobody’s going to pay attention, and focus, and take action if I don’t deliver it in the most fascinating possible way.”

But not everybody is pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. Let’s take a look, for example, at The Detective. The Detective is a totally different personality style than yours. They use primary alert, which is the language of details, with secondary mystique, which is the language of listening. These personalities tend to be very focused inward. Their three adjectives are clear-cut, accurate, and meticulous.

A detective would be really uncomfortable coming into a meeting and being pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. That would feel inauthentic to them. It would take a lot of energy, and they wouldn’t make a good impression because it would feel forced. So the fact that you are pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial is the key difference of yours that you not only want to not squash, but you want to hone in on that and actually apply it to all of your communication.

Jerod: And you mentioned an important word there, authentic. And it’s so important in anything that you’re doing, especially when it comes to creating content online and trying to build that rapport, build that audience, to be authentic. You can’t pretend to be something that you’re not, and as you’ve said, your communication, your message, is going to come across so much more confidently and so much more effectively when you are embracing what you truly are. And it just makes you so much more confident in that way.

Sally: The Carnegie Institute of Technology released a study that 85 percent of your financial success is related to your personality. And shockingly, that was their word, “shockingly,” shockingly only 15 percent is technical knowledge.

So imagine you’re writing an article that is even technical writing. According to The Carnegie Institute of Technology, 85 percent of that is going to be what you infuse in your vision, your opinions, your ideas, the flavor that you give it. And only 15 percent is technical knowledge.

If you’re only trading on technical knowledge — in other words, if that’s what you’re using as the reason why people should read your content — then you’re going to become a commodity. And if you become a commodity, you have to compete on the basis of price. And that’s a slow, sad, downward spiral into the depths of irrelevance.

And that’s what happens to brands that go out of date. Brands that become irrelevant are forced to compete on the basis of price, and that’s not a position that any of us wants to be in.

The archenemies of distraction, competition, and commoditization (and why they damage your marketing)

Jerod: And I’m glad you mentioned the commoditization part. Because you mention three archenemies that I think are interesting, and I’d like to highlight, especially as we look at carving out our niches online, and what are those archenemies, and how can we avoid falling into those traps?

Sally: The first archenemy is distraction. We’re all familiar with this. People are clicking off our page all the time, or people are tuning out when we’re making a presentation. People are so distracted today because there are so many messages coming in. The BBC released a report that the average attention span is only nine seconds, which is the same as a goldfish.

So when you’re thinking about writing, imagine that you are writing for goldfish. When you’re making a speech, you’re giving a speech to an audience of goldfish. And it helps you craft your message differently. You have to instantly add value. Remember, every time you communicate, you’re either adding value or taking up space. But if you can front-load your value, in other words, if you understand how the world sees you at your best, it becomes easier for you to not be one-size-fits-all when you introduce yourself.

The second archenemy of communication is competition. We grew up with this idea that we need to focus on our strengths, and strengths are good. But in a cluttered, crowded environment, strengths become something that everybody has. What really stands out is being different. So instead of focusing on your strengths, focus on your differences. Focus on the way in which you’re unlike all the other people around you.

And that’s what you learn when you take the Fascination Advantage assessment. What are your key differences so that you can differentiate yourself based on who you naturally are instead of some artificial persona?

Jerod: You know, it’s really interesting that you mentioned that one. And I’ll just share a recent example, just from my work at Copyblogger.

We were doing a promo, and I thought I’d written this beautiful copy that highlighted all the benefits of the service, and so I sent it over to Brian because I always like to get his input on things. And he basically said, “That’s great, but every other provider can highlight those same things. You left out the one thing that makes it different.”

I highlighted all the strengths, and really the most important thing was to highlight the difference. And I had, of course, left that out and fortunately, he’s very smart and was able to tell me that. But it makes so much sense, and it helped out a ton, of course, as you would imagine.

Sally: You know, let’s take a look at any category of brands. Cars, or insurance agencies. Everybody’s competing to be just a little bit better, and the problem is when you chase “better,” you’re on a competitive rat race that forces you to compare yourself to your competitors instead of figuring out who you already are, so you can do more of what you’re already doing right, so that you’re released from the cycle of trying to outdo your competitors by one-tenth of a percent.

If there are two insurance agencies, one of them is a 7.6 and one of them is a 7.7, that’s not really differentiating. But if one of them has a key benefit, like a killer customer service benefit they offer — like, “We answer the phone in two rings or less!” Or “We’ll cover the first $200 of your deductible,” or “We have a family heritage of five generations.” Those are things that start to become fascinating. They’re differentiating.

And the same is true for each of us.

In our personalities, we have certain qualities that give us a huge competitive advantage because they’re differentiating. But too often, we file those down. We dull the edges because we think that we’re trying to be better. Different is better than better.

Jerod: I like that. And it’s a lot like the idea of the unique selling proposition, right?

Sally: It’s like the unique selling proposition, and it is a way to be able to apply it in your day-to-day conversation because a unique selling proposition is something that a brand artificially creates, almost like in a laboratory. You can invent a unique selling proposition, but that’s not necessarily how people are already seeing you.

As human beings, we don’t have a laboratory. We don’t want to be artificially constructed. So the key is to think: What are you already doing that’s different? In what way are you communicating that allows you to separate yourself from other people? Are you more analytical? Are you more meticulous? Are you more tireless, or strategic, or curious, or inventive, or dynamic, or expressive, or prolific?

What are you already doing right that’s already hardwired into the DNA of your personality so that you can start to build your career and your writing and your business around that, instead of trying to spend more money on marketing or spend more hours typing away at your computer like a monkey.

What the results of the Fascination Advantage assessment really tell us about ourselves

Jerod: So when we’re talking about promoting a brand online, how do you balance the difference between your personal fascinations — the things that make you the most interesting or most fascinating — and the best way to communicate, and maybe it’s different for the brand? How do you balance those two when you’re communicating to a bigger audience?

Sally: Let me just ask one quick question. Do you mean differentiating from the brand, like for example, you are part of a larger team at Copyblogger, or do you mean somebody who’s a solopreneur, where they are their brand?

Jerod: More like me at a bigger company like Copyblogger.

Sally: You’re going to attract the kind of readers or fans, advocates who are going to respond to what you’re already doing right. In other words, if you tried to build a readership or build a following based on you being rational and reasoned and pragmatic, you could do that. But you’re going to be exhausted. It’s not going to last.

You’re not going to be nearly as successful as you could if you could build that readership around being pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial. So the key is, if you go to work and you’re wearing a mask, you can do it for awhile, but after awhile you’re going to become so discouraged and disenfranchised, and you’re not going to be performing at your highest level, so you’re not going to get the results that you deserve.

On the other hand, if you’re authentic from the very beginning and drop the masquerade, then you can be known for specific qualities that are really easy for people to identify you with. And that’s why it’s so key for there to be congruity between your personal brand and your professional brand, that who you are at work should be who you are at home, so that you don’t have to put on some other altered persona when you walk through the door at work.

Jerod: And this really highlights the idea of the dormant advantage, because you have a primary, and you have a secondary advantage. And then this idea of the dormant advantage, which is essentially the one that would be, as you mention, kind of the most exhausting to try and communicate with. Can you explain a little bit what that idea is, of the dormant advantage?

Sally: Sure. I have a primary passion advantage. That means I love being able to connect with people. Creating an emotional connection is something that I thrive on, and I use a lot of adjectives. I use hand gestures, as you can hear.

But somebody with a dormant passion advantage would be exhausted by going to a cocktail party. They don’t want to hug strangers. They don’t want to talk about themselves and open up. If you have a dormant passion advantage, it means that for you, creating emotional connections is something that takes a disproportionate amount of energy, and that’s energy that you can’t put into other things.

So it would not be a wise move if you have a dormant passion advantage to have a job in customer service or make a promise to your readers that you’re going to be available 24/7 to comment on the blog. Because that’s setting yourself up for failure. And your dormant advantage helps you understand why you fail in certain situations — why some things a no-win.

I have a dormant trust advantage, which means I don’t like patterns. I don’t like schedule. I don’t like absolutes. I don’t like rules. It’s very hard for me to work with a client who’s going to micro-manage me and give me a very tightly regimented outline of what they want me to say or do. And I imagine that you’re probably similar. Would you agree?

Jerod: Yes. Definitely.

Sally: Whereas if somebody has a primary trust advantage, for them they want to know: What are the expectations? Show me the box so I can operate within the box. Tell me the rules so I can win. And your dormant advantage reveals, when you look back on your life, why there are times when you tried your best but you just couldn’t seem to get a good result.

Jerod: That’s one area of potential danger, right? Trying to follow your dormant advantage too much. And one other one that you highlight in the book is when your primary and secondary advantage are the same. And one thing I was wondering is, when people take the assessment, can it sometimes come back with the primary and secondary being the same?

Because you highlight in the book what can happen, basically where there’s not enough balance and you just go overboard with one of the advantages.

Sally: Yes. Great question. We’re getting into the dirt now. (Laughs.) This is like the gossip zone of the system. This is called a double trouble. A double trouble is a mode that your personality can get in when you are at your worst. In other words, it’s when your advantage turns into a disadvantage.

We’ve all seen people that, at work, they have an advantage. We’ll take passion since I’m a passion personality. A passion personality might be very engaging, and able to create relationships quickly. But if a passion personality goes through, say, a breakup, or they’re hungry, or they’re stressed, then they slide into the double-trouble mode, which is named “The Drama.”

That’s passion plus passion. We’ve all seen somebody when they get into a drama mode, right? Can you think of somebody that you worked with where it just seemed like everything was sort of over the top, and they were sensitive and theatrical?

Jerod: Yes. We won’t name names, of course, but yes.

Sally: Yeah. They’re not like that all the time. Let’s take another example. The trust advantage — trust is all about stability.

But when people become fearful and they don’t want to change, then they slide into that double trouble which is named “The Old Guard.” Which is, they’re unmovable. They’re safe. This is the entrepreneur who won’t upgrade technology, who says, “Oh, Twitter is just a fad,” or “I don’t need to be looking ahead of the curve.”

You have primary innovation. Your double trouble is named “The Anarchy.” When your advantage turns into a disadvantage, then you’re going to be seen as volatile, startling, or chaotic. And this might be, you come into a meeting and you’re like, “Hey, guys! Remember that plan that we’ve had? Well, scrap that, and we’re going to try something new!” Have you ever had that happen?

Jerod: Yes. Fortunately not at Copyblogger, but yes.

Sally: We’ve all had it happen, and it’s important for us to be able to see how our advantages can actually become disadvantages.

Alert, for example, the alert advantage is all about details. These personalities tend to be protective, proactive — they’re great at being able to have a very skilled, specific outcome. But when they slide into double trouble they become “The Control Freak,” and this is the project manager who comes by your office three times a day, and they’re kind of compulsive, and “When’s it due? When’s it due? When are you going to give it to me? Send it to me! Email it! Post it!”

And in that case, the advantage becomes a disadvantage. The key here is to understand how people see you at your best, so that you can focus in on those, and do less of the things that get in the way of creating a positive relationship and connection.

The importance of having an Anthem and how you construct one

Jerod: These ideas are so great; they are so empowering. But the key is not to just hear them and then let them pass. You have to incorporate them into your daily life somehow, and you have a strategy for doing that, which is called “The Anthem.” What is an Anthem, and why is it important?

Sally: An Anthem is like a tagline for your personal brand. It’s a way to summarize how you’re most likely to add value. Your key difference with just a few words. I drew upon my history as an advertising copywriter working with brands like Target, Nike, and Coca-Cola, and just as in advertising, I was able to find the perfect words for a brand to describe how that brand is different.

I found that when a brand can identify how it’s different with just a few words, with a tagline, then it’s easier for the brand to differentiate itself in a crowded market. And so as I was developing this system, the Fascination Advantage system, I found that we can do the same with personalities.

We’ve measured over half a million people, and we started creating an adjective bank to see which adjectives are most strongly associated with different personality styles, and what we found is that if we can give people an adjective to identify how they’re most likely to communicate successfully — in other words, what is their competitive advantage — it becomes easier for them to stop trying to be all things to all people and to have a specialty.

So your Anthem is a two-to-three word phrase. You find those words in the Fascination Advantage report that you took.

I’ll give an example. Let’s take The Gravitas. The Gravitas has primary trust and secondary power. A Gravitas is dignified, stable, and hardworking. So if somebody who has The Gravitas archetype was writing a LinkedIn bio, they probably wouldn’t want to describe themselves as pioneering, irreverent, and entrepreneurial.

Because not only would it not be true, but then they would start to attract the type of clients they really don’t want. Whereas if they wrote, “I have a dignified presentation style, I’m stable in my work ethic, and I am hardworking and make sure I can deliver results,” it becomes easier for them to paint a picture in their reader’s mind of who they are and how they add value.

Let’s talk about your potential Anthem for a minute. Okay, listen to this. I’m opening up my copy of How The World Sees You.

Jerod: I have mine open, too, right now.

Sally: You do?

Jerod: It’s on page 248: The Maverick Leader.

Sally: Ohhh.

Jerod: And that’s what I love about the book. Again, it’s called How the World Sees You. I mean, you go into detail about each one of these different archetypes with the adjectives, and even with the one-minute coaching, and examples of other famous people who have that archetype.

It’s so interesting. Not just for your own, but reading the others, and especially knowing what Demian is, and what my fiancée is; reading what it says about them is really fascinating.

Sally: And to be able to look at something and say, “I am so not that,” because that helps you understand who you actually are.

Jerod: Yes. Yes.

Sally: Let’s take a look at what your Anthem could potentially be. Now, I have my copy of the book open to page 367, which is where the Anthem exercise is getting executed. Here’s what I found.

Now, taking a look at deconstructing. What was I doing when I was writing headlines and campaigns for brands? What actually was going on? I realize there are two parts of great branding. The first part is “how are you different?” The second part is “what do you naturally do best?”

The first part, “how are you different?” is an adjective. What you do best is a noun. And when we pair the adjective with the noun, it gives a positioning statement. You might think of your Anthem as a way for you to position yourself based on what you’re already doing right.

So for you, let’s take these three adjectives of The Maverick Leader: Pioneering, irreverent, entrepreneurial. Which one of these three feels like it best describes how you’re different from other people?

Jerod: I like pioneering.

Sally: Well, who doesn’t love pioneering? Okay. So we’re going to take “pioneering,” and we’re going to put it in the parking lot. Now, your personality has a twin, and the twin is another look at how people see you at your best. Your twin is named “The Change Agent.”

Instead of innovation plus power, it’s power plus innovation. The change agent has three different, yet similar, adjectives. Those adjectives are “inventive, untraditional, and self-propelled.” Do you like any of those three adjectives more than pioneering to describe how you are different? In other words, what is your competitive difference from other people in your same industry or peer set?

Jerod: You know, when I went through this, self-propelled is the one that I liked the best and the one that I thought was the most accurate description of what makes me different.

Sally: Okay, great. So for our adjective describing how you’re different, we have two that are over here in the parking lot. We have “pioneering” and we have “self-propelled.”

Now, let’s take a look at what you do best, and I want you to think back on your career. What are the types of tasks or assignments that you relish, and that you know that you have a relatively high odds of delivering and over-delivering?

I’m going to pick out three different nouns. First one is “accuracy,” second one is “ideas,” and the third one is “work ethic.” I arbitrarily picked three from the list. Accuracy, ideas, work ethic.

Jerod: I certainly think “work ethic” would work, but I think “ideas” works the best. I think that’s one thing I’ve always been able to contribute is ideas.

Sally: Well, one thing that you could do, since you do have “innovation” as your primary, which means you’re creative, your Anthem could be a little bit of a combo platter. You might say, “I deliver pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic.”

Jerod: Ohhh. I like that.

Sally: Imagine that you’re going into a job interview and say, Brian Clark is interviewing you, saying “there are a lot of different writers. There are many different directors of content out there. Why should I hire you, versus hiring one of these other people?”

And if you said, “Well, I deliver pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic,” it starts to give Brian a really clear idea of how he can tap into your natural advantages so that he can help you do more of what you’re already doing right, but also assess the types of assignments or topics that are going to be best for you.

Jerod: Yeah. And I think this is a hard practice to do on your own, just to come up with an Anthem. But I love the way in the book how you do it, where you really break it down and make it step-by-step, and make it a simple process, but one that really makes sense. And I love what you just came up with. That’s great.

Sally: You know, two days ago I was trying to think to myself, “Why is it so hard for us to work on our personal brand?” I’ve struggled. I do personal branding for a living. I’ve been a copywriter all my life. I literally wrote the book on the topic. Yet sometimes I can freeze up when I’m writing a LinkedIn profile or a Twitter bio.

What I realized is it’s almost impossible for you to write your own personal brand, because your brand originates within yourself, but it’s through the eyes of other people. In other words, you can’t look in the mirror and accurately assess yourself. You sort of need somebody to help you do it. And that’s what the purpose of the system is.

It’s almost like your friend, who’s a big supporter of you, who knows you intimately, and has business savvy on what’s valued in the marketplace describing for you who you are at your best, so that then you have those words to use as building blocks. It’s not a formula, and it’s not cookie cutter, but it’s certainly a starting point so that you can start to flesh out around that and to help direct you on the areas where you’re primed to win.

Jerod: You know, I mentioned on a previous episode of The Lede, Demian and I were talking about lessons that we can learn from our successes, and one of the things that I was talking about is, I’ve been fortunate enough at Copyblogger to move out of the support team and come over to content, be Director of Content, and now VP of Marketing.

Along that journey, I haven’t always felt quite like I belonged, or that I really — not that I hadn’t earned it, because I’d worked hard — but I guess it was hard for me sometimes to see what the leaders in the company who were giving me these additional responsibilities, quite what they saw, simply because I didn’t necessarily have the copywriting background they had.

I was focused so much on the things that I wasn’t instead of seeing what I was, and when we had our company meeting a couple weeks ago, we did this exercise where everybody had to basically state the one or two things they contribute most to the team, and then we went around the room, and other people said what you contributed.

It was so interesting to hear what people said about me, and the things I said about other people. And it’s funny how the timing of all of this worked, because it really solidified in my mind, “Oh, yeah. It’s okay that I’m different and I don’t do this, that, or this, because I do X, Y, and Z. I do these other things, and that’s where my value actually comes from.”

I think that realization I had in that meeting is so much of what you’re talking about in this book, and just with what you do.

Sally: And to take it a step further, imagine if the people around you understand what are the areas that are going to be your wellspring, then they can say, “Oh, this is exactly what you should be working on right now,” or “here’s an area where I need your help because you’re the in-house specialist in this area.”

On the other hand, if people also know the area in which you’re most likely to have quicksand, they can say, “Oh, let’s make sure that we get extra support in this particular area.” My team is very clear. I need support when it comes to things that have to do with the minutiae and the detailed follow-up and repetitious tasks, but that I’m going to be really great when it comes to brainstorming. And conversely on my team, there are other people who have totally different advantages and pitfalls.

Jerod: And that’s okay, right? Like you said, we don’t have to be all things to all people. We don’t all have to have strengths in every area. It’s okay to recognize these differences and even recognize areas where we’re not so good, and make sure that our team is built around that so that we’re all complementing each other and supplementing where each other maybe isn’t at their best.

Sally: A minute ago we were talking about high-performing teams, and I was describing the top two characteristics. And I realized I only gave the first one. The second characteristic of a high-performing team is that the team has diversity, not only in terms of how we typically think of diversity, but also personalities.

Great teams aren’t built on similarities. They’re built on differences so that they can optimize each other and balance each other out, and people don’t have to be responsible for being good at all things, being all things to all people, and instead they can focus on over-delivering in the area in which they’re most naturally suited.

Jerod: And relationships are even like this too, right? I know Heather and I were talking about this, and we both took the assessment.

Sally: Ohhh! Back to the gossip! What was her archetype?

Jerod: Well, she was The Evolutionary.

Sally: Oh! One of the most rare archetypes!

Jerod: Is it really?

Sally: Wow! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jerod: I can’t wait to tell her that.

Sally: I think it might literally be the most rare. If I remember correctly, it’s 0.4 percent of the population.

Here’s why. It’s primary trust, meaning stability, consistency, but secondary innovation. And if you think of personalities that are creative, they tend to not be highly structured and self-managed, whereas if you think of personalities that are highly structured, they tend to not be creative. And so Heather is a combo platter.

Jerod: Yeah, that’s great. And we found that it seemed like some of the differences help to kind of supplement each other, but then, obviously, there are those similarities, which obviously, help us get along. So it was very interesting doing that and doing it together.

Sally: It is a great thing to be able to do with somebody that you’re really close with so that you can watch each others’ videos, because a lot of times, especially in romantic relationships, people look at each other and go, “Oh, that’s why you do that thing you do.”

Jerod: Exactly.

Sally: We did training at the headquarters in California for Intel, and we separated everybody into groups of their primary advantage. So the power personalities at one table, mystique personalities at another table, passion, and so on, and we gave everybody a simple marketing assignment.

And what they didn’t realize was the purpose of the assignment was not for them to complete the task; the purpose was for them to be able to watch how their group becomes hyper-concentrated on their primary advantage, and how different that is from the other groups.

So, for example, the passion group, over the course of the 15 minutes, had all kinds of ideas. They were high-fiving, back-slapping, they were taking Post-it notes and putting them up on the wall, and you could hear them from all through the halls. “Woo hoo, yeah, love it, yeah!” But then they didn’t actually come up with an idea. They were so involved in the creative process.

When you have passion personalities that work together, they can be very excited and very emotionally into it, motivated, and spirited, but they’re not going to necessarily be the most productive. On the other hand, if you have, let’s take, prestige personalities. These are people who are overachievers, who are focused on excellence, and they always want to try to make sure that they’re raising the bar.

The prestige group was competitive, and what happens inside organizations that have a disproportionately high use of prestige is that the personalities can almost become — the culture becomes brittle because people are so focused on achievement that nobody’s looking around at the culture and quality of life and the maternity leave policy, or what time people leave on Fridays.

And so this is what happens inside of our organizations, no matter what size they are. If the organization takes on the personality advantages of the people who are the greatest number within the organization, alert personality organizations tend to become so detailed that it’s all about the owner’s manual and not about the spirit with which they’re marketing.

On the other hand, power personalities tend to become so focused that the group can become dogmatic. It’s important for you to understand the advantages in your group so that you can even it out, and make sure that you have a good balance for the outcome that you want to achieve.

Jerod: Yeah. Again, it’s about balance. I have my own little personal philosophy that kind of helps me, which is balance pride and humility. If I can always balance those two things, I feel like I’ll always be successful in whatever I’m doing. These kind of opposing forces, almost, and get them to work together somehow.

And that’s so much of what you’re talking about. There are different strengths, different elements that these different advantages bring to the table. Get them to work together, both internally and on teams, and everybody’s going to rise and experience more success together.

Sally: So, “Balance pride and humility with pioneering ideas and a self-propelled work ethic.” How about that?

Jerod: I like it. I like it. I may be changing my Twitter bio today.

Sally: Yeah!

How Sally applies her own ideas at home, as a parent

Jerod: I told you before that I had notes for three hours, and we could just keep on going, but I know that we can’t go that long. So I wanted to end with this, and it’s going to kind of go in a completely different direction.

I realized that when I was going through your book I was fascinated before I even got to the first page, because I don’t often read the dedications in books, but I did read this in yours, and it says, “To my mother and father, who taught me how to become more of who I already am.”

I don’t have kids yet, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to be as a parent when I do, and so much of that centers on how do you instill in kids as they’re growing up to be able to have these ideas, and to be comfortable with who they are, and to see their differences as advantages, not disadvantages? And so I wonder. You have eight kids. How have you tried to instill these ideas in your kids?

Sally: Well, I’ll give you a very tangible example. Our youngest, Azalea, is 11 years old. She had a concussion last year, and now she has something called “post-concussive migraine disorder,” which is, she gets really bad migraines that go on for sometimes weeks at a time. She’s been out of school all week, and she is home on the couch and has a cold compress on her head, and it’s really kind of miserable.

And it would be easy for me to say, “Oh, you’re okay, let’s get better, let’s change what’s happening, let’s change your experience, change your mindset,” but the reality is she’s miserable. And so instead, I gave her a journal, and I said, “Draw for me what your pain feels like.” And she was so articulate. And she’s been drawing for her doctor what the pain feels like each day so we can track it.

In other words, I’m not trying to change her experience of the pain; I’m trying to help her emotionally deal with the pain in a way that’s going to be more productive for her long-term. I think that’s what my parents did for me. I grew up in a very unusual family. When I was seven years old, my sister had two world records — Guinness World Records — in swimming. And then she went on to the Olympics, and she won three gold medals.

Jerod: Wow.

Sally: And a silver in the Olympics. My brother graduated from Harvard, and I was the baby of the family by seven years. And so I always struggled with, “How am I different?” And my dad said to me, “Sally, you don’t have to change who you are. You just have to become more of who you are.”

And that’s what I say to my kids:

The goal is not to change who you are into somebody else. The goal is to identify those parts of you that are so valuable, that are so different, and become more of who you are.

Jerod: Yeah. Become more of who you are. And that is the message that you’ll be telling all of us who go to Authority Rainmaker in May, which I cannot wait for, not just to hear what you say but to meet you in person.

I’ve had such a good time during this conversation, as well as while reading your book. I can’t wait to meet you in person and to hear what you have to share with the audience then.

Sally: Oh, thank you! Thank you! I’ve got to tell you, I am so psyched to be able to be part of this group and to be part of this conversation.

I’m so excited to be able to meet people and talk to them about their content and how they’re using their personalities and their advantages, every day, living and breathing it.

Jerod: It’ll be great, and it’ll be our pleasure to have you there.

Sally: Wonderful. I’m excited. I’ll finally get to meet you there.

Jerod: Yes, absolutely. Well Sally, thank you so much. Again, the book is How the World Sees You, and if people go to and use the code “Copyblogger,” you can take the fascination advantage assessment and figure out what your archetype is, and learn more about how the world sees you.

Sally: Yes. Exactly. We’re excited to see how this audience is different and unique from the average population. I’m really curious to see what the results are.

Jerod: Yeah. I am, too. And I’m going to send this around to the rest of our team, too. It’s fun seeing that Demian is The Secret Weapon — I’m sure it’s a nickname that he’ll start using now.

Sally: (Laughs.)

Jerod: It’ll be fun to see what everybody else is too, and I’m sure it’ll just inform us from a team perspective.

Sally: Can I reveal the results of that, of your team, when we’re at the conference?

Jerod: Yes! I mean, I guess. Here I am, just kind of jumping to an idea really quick. But yeah, sure.

Sally: (Laughs.) Can we light a fire onstage and do Jägermeister shots?

Jerod: (Laughs.) Yes. Yes.

Sally: (Laughing) Cool! Okay, good!

Jerod: That sounds great. I’m going to add that in the promotional materials.

Sally: Good.

Jerod: Well, Sally, thank you so much, and I will see you in May. Can’t wait.

Sally: Great. Great. See you then.

Jerod: All right. Take care.

Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Lede. That URL, again, so that you can take the Fascination Advantage assessment

I will also put that in the Show Notes. For the access code, enter “Copyblogger” and you’ll be able to take the assessment for free.

And again, don’t forget, Sally Hogshead will be keynoting at Authority Rainmaker, so go to to get all the details about the event and register if you can join us, because I sure would love to see you there.

All right, everybody. Again, thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. We will be back next week with another episode. Until then, take care. Talk to you soon.


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