It seems all kinds of weird accidents can lead to people developing superpowers.
Radiation exposure, dying aliens, insect or animal bites, mysterious cosmic rays…
But what’s always been more interesting to me are the real-life superpower origin stories…
The ones that take more than a freak accident or some radioactive shenanigans to develop.
I’ve yet to work with a client or partner who was bitten by an insect and gained superhuman powers…
But there’s plenty with their own unique stories to tell.
Part of my job is to help them do that, which is fun but also important…
Because it enables them to connect better with the people they can help.
My own ‘superpower’ comes from a far less Marvel-worthy origin story…
A story of simply being an only child who moved towns and schools a lot…
Constantly having to adapt to new situations and new people as my Dad’s job kept us on the move.
Folks who did all their growing up in the same place find it weird when I explain my nomadic childhood, but I honestly kinda liked it.
And it’s how I developed a skill (ok, superpower is maybe pushing it) I now find very useful in my line of work…
I call it ‘Reading The Room’
See, when you’re little, arriving in a new class where all the other kids already know each other can be tough.
Especially when you do it every couple of years.
You’re new, you’re an outsider, so at first all eyes are on you, scanning you for weaknesses, tics and quirks that can be exploited for fun.
(Man, kids can be BRUTAL!)
Being dumped in a new class and left to fend for yourself can be scary for a wee boy, but you can’t let it show – especially as you get older and your new classmates get bigger and meaner.
But when it happens a few times, you learn to listen and observe others really well.
You can ‘read a room’ and figure out your place in it pretty fast.
You start to develop a heightened awareness of people and their personality traits.
I’m not saying you can suddenly see directly into people’s souls with one glance or anything…
It’s more subtle than that (and more practical).
I’ve found that many successful writers, marketers, actors and comedians share this insatiable curiosity that helps them discover interesting things about the people they meet.
From what I’ve heard, a lot of these folks were thrown into new rooms frequently as kids too.
It’s something that helps you learn to assess people, fast.
Partly it’s the old fight or flight instinct kicking in…
Figuring out who to avoid, who to joke with and what about, who are your potential allies, enemies and kindred spirits – becomes something you can do while keeping your poker face.
As I got older and found myself in a wider variety of new rooms…
(Some containing that enticing kryptonite to the room-reading senses: booze!..)
…what began as a survival mechanism grew into an important skill.
And that’s where the likes of you and I – because dear reader, I know that deep down, you’re a Room Reader too – have a huge advantage.
When it comes to connecting with others, qualities like empathy, curiosity and understanding are key.
For marketers and entrepreneurs, listening is just as important as speaking
When you start asking the right questions, listening to the answers and assessing them in a way that advances your understanding of your ideal customer, it becomes much easier to communicate the true value of your offer.
The days of one-way, full-beam ‘steamroller’ sales tactics are over…
“Always be closing!” belongs to a bygone era.
If you want to make sales and grow your biz long-term, drop the sleaze and start listening, carefully.
Start earning your market’s trust.
I’m hearing the term ‘conversational copywriting’ used a lot right now. That’s one way of looking at it…
But whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty clear that successful marketing is no longer about how loud your message is.
It’s not about ‘pitching’ a room.
It’s about reading one.
It’s about how you do what you do, why people should care and why you’re different…
…and figuring out how to communicate that to the right people, not simply “as many people as possible”.
Over the past few years I’ve been able to do that with my clients, but it was only recently that I fully understood why I enjoyed this aspect of the work.
So now I’m focusing more than ever on my ‘real-world superpower’ and using it to help a handful of people.
(I’m even working behind the scenes on new ways for people to implement these superpowers in their own businesses – more on that soon.)
While you have a moment, consider your own ‘real-world superpower’…
What unique skills do you bring to your work or your products that developed out of a childhood habit (or even an encounter with mysterious cosmic rays)?
Hit up the comments below and let me know.
P.S. – I was once bitten by a pretty big spider myself, on my toe (ouch).
But despite being a keen photographer called Peter, I didn’t end up in a cool red & blue Spidey suit, climbing walls and fighting crime : (
…I just spent a couple of days in discomfort with a weirdly-big toe, hopping around pathetically on my ‘normal’ foot.
It happened on the day Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in, I dunno, 250 years or something…
I remember that detail because I watched most of the final in the hospital waiting room, with just my painfully inflated foot for company.
Which got me thinking:
What if that hungry spider – which had bitten me in London, not far from Wimbledon itself – had bitten Andy Murray that morning and inflated his foot instead…
Would he have still won the Wimbledon final and become the nation’s hero? I doubt it.
Maybe he would have hopped about hopelessly before conceding the match and retiring from tennis altogether, cursing his bad luck.
That little spider has no idea how he could have changed the whole space-time continuum simply by going for a walk and choosing a different toe from the menu…