THE BLOG
06/28/2013 05:16 pm ET Updated Aug 28, 2013

Spread Your Key Idea That Turns Your Life Into an Adventure

Dog whisperer Cesar Millan "runs with as many as 65 dogs at time -- many of them pit bulls with histories of aggression -- without leashes or other kind of restraint," writes John Butman, author of Breaking Out. That's because of a life-changing discovery earlier in his life when he saw that Americans mistakenly let their pet dogs take control. Where he grew up, in Culiacan, Mexico, dogs weren't trained. They didn't even have names. But he knew, even as a child, that he had "an uncanny connection with them" and it was by being in charge. That insight spurred him to come to the U.S., get a job at a dog grooming shop to hone his approach and eventually host a TV show, write books that have sold millions, and appear at huge events around the world -- all because of his ability to build a constituency around his core talent-as-idea: "calm assertiveness."

Warning: Your idea may be so provocative and thus hotly debated that it evokes what Butman dubs hyperventilation, as both Millan and Amy Chua's have done. But let's first focus on distilling your most deeply-felt idea so you attract others to it.

How to Unearth Your Main Big Idea From The Many You Have

In describing how we can "build influence in a world of competing ideas," Butman suggests that we look for "iconic moments," even from childhood, where an insight grabbed hold of you and persists in your thoughts. That may be the root of the idea that you are to grow with others, he suggests in his book. These moments, says Butman, reveal your "fascination aroused" and can be "wellsprings" for growing your standout idea and related talent.

To discover yours, get a good friend who has already heard you talk about what most matters to you. My suggestion? Pick someone who is willing to be persistent and press you in conversation in a quiet room, with a smart device recording your conversation. Butman suggests you ask, "What most fascinates you about your idea right now? This inevitably evokes many general statements and attempts to provide background and context for the interest. Yet that's just verbal underbrush that obscures your core idea.

After a series of attempts to circle the subject -- that's natural -- your friend can press you to go deeper and to get more specific. Your friend might ask, "What's your favorite example of that idea in action?" or "What's a what-if dream scenario that comes to mind for your idea in action?" Eventually, your most deeply-felt, core concept will spill out of your mouth. You may be so thrilled that you agree to reverse roles and offer the same opportunity to your friend.

Pull Others Into Acting On Your Idea

To scale your idea, you need a place where people can add or react to it in ways that reinforce what they most like in themselves. Better yet, if they gain bragging right to become positively visible to those who matter to them. Butman and others dub this a platform. Frans Johansson, in The Click Moment, dubs it The Hook on which others can hang their ideas and more. And one way to attract others to it, suggests author Peter Guber, is to craft a relevant and purposeful narrative that pulls people into your story because they can instantly picture a role they want to play in it, thus reshaping the story in their eyes and eagerly sharing it with others.

Butman calls this effect respiration because, once the idea is expressed, it becomes animated, "It can breathe on its own... nourished by others." Try the A.I.R. formula. You may be able to make your idea almost as vital as oxygen.

To make your message more indelible, condense it into a meme, as Sheryl Sandberg famously did with Lean In. To further bolster your idea, add a manifesto, a succinct set of supportive elements, as Stephen Covey did with his Seven Habits and Gretchen Rubin with her Eight Splendid Truths About Happiness attached to an image like an eight ball.

Take Some More Steps To Scale Your Idea

1. Your platform could be a book, but don't stop there. For book launch time, when the news is hottest, build in reasons and ways for people to share and add to the ideas in your book -- over at your platform, cited in your book.

2. You may choose to only write an eBook, or self-publish a printed book and eBook, or go with an established publisher yet retain the rights to making an eBook.

3. In any of these three scenarios, be sure to launch an online site where people can share and discover related success stories, books, organizations and other resources and what-if scenarios, and rate each other's contributions so the best tips rise to the top of visibility. This nudges site visitors to offer relevant, well-written contributions and sidesteps your need to scold or otherwise manage as many off-base comments.

4. Provide the possibility for comments to be tagged, and searchable by tags, so site visitors can quickly find the tips that most interest them, yet also serendipitously discover other helpful tips, thus staying on the site longer and deepening loyalty to the community.

5. Host contests with gifts for most popular contributors. Such gifts could be e-coupons provided by sponsoring companies that want to pull your kind of site member into the doors of their business.

6. Even without writing a book, you could attract an avid crowd to your online platform, if your core idea and opportunity for others to participate is sufficiently enticing and concrete. Some diverse examples of participatory platforms are shareable, Post Secret, Trend Hunter, The Good Men Project, Etsy, 2U, and NextDoor.

7. Make a unique and meaningful offer that would appeal to the people you most want to attract -- and that adds a distinguishing facet to your brand.TOMS Shoes, for example, donates a pair of shoes to "a child in need" each time you buy a pair, becoming sufficiently famous with that pledge that it could branch out into selling other kinds of products.

To take the next steps in turning your now crystallized idea into a life path, Read Butman's Breaking Out. He cites success stories, as examples, including French Women Don't Get Fat author, Mireille Guiliano; advocate of our power to heal ourselves, Dr. Andrew Weil; TOMS Shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie; and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother author Amy Chua.

Why? Because, as Steve Maraboli reminds us, "Your greatest self has been waiting your whole life; don't make it wait any longer," and, suggests Jarod Kintz, "Ideas are like legs: what good are they if you can't run with them?"

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