To Sell What You Wish to Serve

survey says

Before the Orbital Boot Camp, my approach to creating and implementing this ecourse based on my novel Picture Me Rollin’ would most likely have been as follows:

1. Republish the novel as an ebook.
2. Create all the course content.
3. Recruit paying students.

Because of this boot camp, rather than creating then implementing, I’m creating and implementing at the same time. And here are some fascinating things about this radically different approach:

1. It’s still scary but more fulfilling.
2. It’s less overwhelming since we’re being encouraged and supported to move our projects forward with defined tasks than general phases.
3. Both potential issues and better strategies surface more quickly

A fellow boot camper blogged this week, “Where there’s pain, there’s opportunity. Where there’s opportunity, there’s innovation.”

Among other things, this sentiment reminded me of a few things. One, marketing experts often advise entrepreneurs to sell people what they want but give them what they need. So maybe your fitness program promises clients will “shed 10 pounds in 10 days,” but what you actually deliver is a healthier lifestyle that is actually sustainable. Two, on the underside of this marketing adage, entrepreneurs are encouraged to solve a problem. Specifically, we are told that people are most likely to pay to have a problem solved than to prevent it in the first place, and we should get clear on what point of pain we are attempting to resolve. Ideally, our solution should be one people are wiling to buy. Three, when we are marketing our solution, we are at once attempting to convince our prospects that we are selling what they want, but in delivering our product or service, we are resolving their true pain which just might be something far deeper than they even realize.

This made me wonder then if, when we are compelled to innovate in response to pain, we are actually being called to serve.

So where does this leave the creative entrepreneur whose product is something often deemed a luxury? A painting. An album. A novel. Is there a pain we’re attempting to or at least capable of resolving when we create these things?


I tested this assumption recently by following a whim and asking my followers on Twitter to share the titles of works of fiction they found reading to be healing experiences. What I was seeking was an affirmation that reading fiction has the potential to be more powerful than just providing a temporary escape as a form of self-care. I got it. A frequently cited example was Alice Walker’s THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR for the way it helped readers to better understand and navigate family dynamics even when they are abusive.

While I have professional and financial hopes for creating this ecourse, I also have activist and spiritual intentions for it. I would like the experience of reading the novel, working through the assignments and sharing challenges and discoveries amidst a community to be one that’s healing for all the participants. As a person who believes that books choose their readers rather than vice versa, this is what I want for anyone drawn to this novel and this online class. My instinct says that there exists a real opportunity to create something that can help a reader resolve a point of pain

But what if all they want is a writing workshop? Of course, the unfulfilled yearning to write is extremely painful. If someone is looking to learn how to outline a novel or pitch it to editors, however, I have no desire to teach that no matter how lucrative it might be. It may be the problem that many are willing to pay to have solved, but it doesn’t give me a strong urge to serve.

That’s the question I’m grappling with now. While I certainly want to midwife my students desires to write, I’m uninterested in teaching elements of craft for its own sake. This just ain’t that type of class. Take my priority action step for this week: design that first lesson. In it I use a technique for developing character to prompt my students to examine themselves. For the students who are willing, there’s a great potential to go quite deep out the gate.

I once took an online quiz to determine the limiting belief that was getting in the way of my success. After answering a short series of questions, the results were that I feared that others would not want what I had to give. It immediately rang true, then and now as I brace myself to review the surveys about expectations and experiences that my beta testers so honestly completed, that doubt has certainly been triggered.

This is where Orbital gets real because just like a boot camp, I gotta do it. I gotta read these surveys, offer my lesson, and speak to my participants, all to discover where, if any, the overlap exists between what they want, what they need, and how I want to serve.

With my old approach I may never have reached step three as the drive to create lessons and materials petered out in the vortex that is working without accountability and feedback. If I had finished, I would’ve learned what I needed to, but if history and personality are indicators, much too late and at high cost. That is, to the extent I would’ve ran out of motivation to revise and reboot.

I’m going in…

  • Wonderful post. I look forward to hearing about the results!