The Subtle Layers of Persuasion

“Like acting, sales works best when hidden.” ― Peter Thiel, Zero to One.


The Greek poet Homer tells the story of Ulysses, a respected warrior. As Ulysses is sailing home from the Trojan war, the goddess of magic, Circe, speaks to him. She warns him of two monsters pretending to be beautiful women singing. She warns him anyone who hears their singing is overcome with desire and falls into their trap. Many passing sailors are lured to their island and murdered. What Ulysses did in response teaches us how we can deal with master persuaders. But let’s get to Ulysses story later.

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SUMMARY: Made to Stick — By Chip Heath & Dan Heath

“Anyone interested in influencing others—to buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolution—can learn from this book.”—The Washington Post


“All creative ads resemble one another, but each loser is uncreative in its own way.” That’s the premise of this book. The ideas that make people care, that persuade, that stick, are all alike. They have certain secrets which make them stick…


Why do some ideas survive and others die? They have SUCCESs:


  1. Simple – Easily understood.
  2. Unexpected – Capture attention.
  3. Concrete – Clear.
  4. Credible – Trusted.
  5. Emotional – We care.
  6. Story – We act and remember.


These six principles form each of the six main chapters of this New York Times Bestseller, Made to Stick.

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How Ideas Spread: The Diffusion of Innovations Theory

New ideas are difficult to spread. Even when they’re right. Even when they save lives.


In 1846, a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis had a brilliant idea. If implemented quickly, it would save the lives of thousands of mothers in his own hospital. And millions of lives worldwide. But that’s not what happened.

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10 Rules of Bad Writing

Bad writing is popular. For proof, we need look no further than office memos, gossip magazines and YouTube comments.


And we know what’s popular is what’s best. The most popular TV show is Jersey Shore. Our most visited dining experience is McDonald’s. And the most common artistic expression is the selfie.


We can capitalise on the popular style of bad writing by following these 10 rules:


1. You know more than your readers. By talking down to them, they will look up to you.


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The Difference: Obese vs Lean Writing

“Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub; it is the center hole that makes it useful.

Shape clay into a vessel; it is the space within that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room; it is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore benefit comes from what is there; usefulness comes from what is not.”

― Excerpt from the Tao Te Ching.


On November 19, 1863, two speeches were given to a crowd of 15,000 people in Pennsylvania. One was delivered by a man considered the best orator of the time, the other speaker’s voice was labelled as “shrill”. On that day, one of these speakers delivered one of history’s most memorable speeches.

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Benjamin Franklin on Persuasive Prose

“Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.”
— Alexander Pope.


The above quote was repeated by Benjamin Franklin when describing his method of persuasive writing in his autobiography. Franklin continued his description in his own words:


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Assume Nothing. Test Everything.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy”.


Historically in marketing, when you’re swinging for the fences, it’s acceptable to get struck out.


But the baseball days of marketing are over. It’s time to play Moneyball. Moneyball is a book by Michael Lewis. It describes baseball’s transformation from relying on the subjective opinions of talent scouts and coaches, to relying on statistical insights and advice from statisticians. Baseball moved from subjectivity to objectivity.

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19 High-Growth Tactics for Low Budgets

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

— John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States of America


Many small companies copy bigger companies. They see what strategies and tactics they’re applying and copy them. They assume because they’re bigger; they’re better. They call this following best practice.

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Writing With Feeling

I assumed my thoughts were logical. After all, they make so much sense (to me at least). I was distraught to learn that my logic is dictated more by my emotion than I knew. Physicist Richard Feynman was right when he said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”  As a lover of logic, especially my own, the realisation of my logical infallibility was a personal crisis.


I was glad to recall the words of John F. Kennedy, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger—but recognize the opportunity.”

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