Bestsellers sell the best because they’re bestsellers.
Madeline McIntosh is the CEO of Penguin Random House, the biggest publisher in the world. Her biggest priority during the pandemic has been getting readers the books they want. And what many of them want are books that other people have already bought. As McIntosh puts it, “When the outside world is very chaotic, you want the tried and true.” Penguin Random House is giving it to them. According to the New York Times, it has had 216 best sellers this year – by far the dominant share of any publisher.
In other words, best sellers sell the best because they are best sellers. They get the attention, the investment and the word-of-mouth that fuels their momentum at the expense of their competition. Surefire hits earn the physical and digital shelf space that put them in front of readers. Algorithms reaffirm their popularity and create a self-fulfilling cycle. The data drive sales as more people are influenced to buy. The winners take all.
What’s the moral of the story? Be the best-seller in your category. Epitomize excellence. Set the standard that surpasses all others. Become known as the person that can be trusted to protect other people against the danger of non-performance. The world’s collective mindset has turned defensive. When you live through a trauma of this magnitude, your mind is actually rewired for years afterwards to perceive threats like they could happen again at any moment, even when they’re no longer applicable.
The pandemic has shifted our behaviours across the spectrum. We’ve changed the way we eat, play, work, save, invest, buy, socialize, communicate, and even exercise. It has reminded us of what’s really important. But it has also pushed many of us to the limit. We’re either going through PPSD – Post Pandemic Stress Disorder, or we’re experiencing PPSG – Post Pandemic Self Growth. Our external environment is either panicking us or it’s propelling us to the next level.
Call it the K-Shaped recovery. The top 20% are revelling in the change and chaos. The bottom 80% are struggling. There is no-one that is cruising through Covid, but many are crushing it. Here are some facts that will astonish you: 2020 could be the biggest year ever for Initial Public Offerings. According to the Wall Street Journal, Canadians and Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade as they reinvent themselves and recover from job losses. Stacey Cunningham, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, says, “there has been more innovation in the last two years than in the last two decades.”
The companies and people that are thriving are those that have jettisoned the rules that don’t apply anymore. They’ve abandoned the principles and processes that became instantly obsolete on March 13 2020, the day the first lockdown was announced. Hey, I used to be an “inspirational speaker” who delivered keynote speeches to packed ballrooms and boardrooms for a living. Now I’m a virtual persuader and prophet of Zoom. My audience is the cyclops lens of the video-camera staring unblinkingly back at me without compassion or judgment. I have become the host of my own motivational and empowerment reality show, airing multiple times daily. Every Zoom, Teams or Webex meeting is my opportunity to differentiate myself as a micro Netflix-like documentary, not a live broadway like performance.
In every meeting, I am endeavouring to become a best-seller. Endeavour means to exert a serious and determined effort. I am serious and determined to the point of obsession, because nothing less will get me there. The world economy will contract before it expands again. There is not a rising tide that lifts all ships. There are only waves that will push certain people or companies forward.
This is an extreme moment that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. According to the Stress in America 2020 study by the American Psychological Association, average stress levels in 2020 are 20% higher than in 2019 and the highest that they’ve been since 2007. Stress levels for parents of children under 18 are almost 15% higher than the average adult. No matter when the vaccine becomes available, nothing is going to be normalized any time soon.
Baron Rothschild, an 18th-century British nobleman and member of the Rothschild banking family, is credited with saying that “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” The original quote is believed to be “Buy when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” He should know. Rothschild made a fortune buying in the panic that followed the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon.
Fast forward to October 2020, the time to become a best seller is now, when TUNA – Turbulence, Uncertainty, Novelty and Anxiety – are at unprecedented highs and not likely to come down any time soon. This is the time to apply your own vaccine. I call it CAESAR – Certainty, Adaptability, Excitement, Safety, Ambition, Results. It’s time to start your own movement, no matter what you do. Here are the seven steps to help you:
- Be hungry. You can’t teach hunger. It is a visceral need for the outcomes that you want to achieve. It’s an appetite for the actions required to make an impact on the world. The bolder your ambition, the bigger your appetite needs to be. How badly do you want to be a best-seller? What will it cost you if you don’t? How much are you prepared to pay? I can tell you that even after a lifetime of motivating and empowering people to become best-sellers, I’m as voracious for success as I first was when I started almost 30 years ago. The great thing about hunger is that you never have to remind yourself of it. The beast will always demand to be fed.
- Master your craft. To quote Martin Luther King, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.” I am aspiring to become the Beethoven of virtual empowerment and inspiration. I am reading, watching, talking and listening to the great ones. I’m studying the data. Then I’m applying what I’m learning while I introduce my own innovations. I’m experimenting my way forward, one conversation, one vlog, one post at a time. I’m getting the feedback and requesting the guidance. I’m adapting and adjusting real-time. This is the work that needs to be done. It can be accelerated but not cut short.
- Tell your story. In order to become a best-seller, you have to sell yourself best. You need to tell your story in a way that compels others to pay attention. You need to cut through the noise and confusion with a call to action that enrolls people in your cause. This video is my way of differentiating myself against the thousands of people competing for your eyeballs. Every word is designed to empower you become a best-seller on your own terms. It’s distinct from anything else out there. I also promise you that I’ll keep evolving my story so you keep being empowered by it. My story is only as interesting as your level of interest in it.
- Build your FAME. It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeting millions of readers like John Grisham or merely thousands like Mike Lipkin, there are four key stakeholder groups you need to nurture, captured in the acronym- FAME: Fans – the people that like your work; Advocates – the people that will praise you to others; Mobilizers – the people that will actively engage others to hire you; Evangelists – the people that will passionately campaign on our behalf. Get clear on these four stakeholders and take exceptional care of your Mobilizers and Evangelists. They are your game changers.
- Serve with distinction. Deliver the results that are most important to your fans, advocates, mobilizers and evangelists. Say what you’ll do and then do what you say. Your value is directly correlated with the outcome they want to achieve. It could be psychological, emotional or behavioural. Design their goals together with them. Then co-own their goals with them. Show them that their goals are as important to you as they are to them. When they see you, they must see a champion of their future. I have designed this entire message as another deposit on your dreams. When you score, I score. I’m serious. That’s how I turn you into a mobilizer or evangelist.
- Be Prolific. Prolific means doing many things so you can produce abundant results. It means reaching out to many people, experimenting with many approaches, creating many ideas, accessing many sources. James Patterson, the world’s bestselling author, writes 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Writer’s block is never a problem for him. If he ever gets bored with one project, he has a dozen others to turn to at any one time. Weariness or overwhelm is not an option for best sellers. If I don’t know you, I cannot buy from you. Seize every opportunity to broadcast your message. In the age of the omnichannel, you can be everywhere all the time. So try more things. Increase your tolerance for failure because the ratio of setbacks to breakthroughs will be greater. More things can go wrong. Go in with another layer of armour. It’s ok to be disappointed. It’s not ok to be destroyed. Winners will always lose more than losers because they’re taking on bigger challenges. All of us will struggle in some way. Struggle well. Stay the course. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight.
- Recharge. As the great football coach, Vince Lombardi said, fatigue makes cowards of us all. Perspective is worn away by the grind. Take the time to reinvigorate your mind, heart, body and soul. It takes rest and re-creation to sustain the tension that pulls you into the future. Plan your play as stringently as you plan your work, especially during a pandemic. So I’m discovering the beauty of my home province of Ontario with visits to new places. I’m enjoying my workouts on my new peloton. I’m going for long walks while I discover new artists and authors on itunes and audible. I’m trying out new takeouts from new restaurants. I’m reconnecting with the people closest to me. Now more than ever, it takes a village to become a bestseller.
That’s it for now. I hope I’ve inspired you to become a bestseller. Pass it on. This is Mike Lipkin and I approve this message.