By: Stella Orange
George Lakoff used to teach linguistics at UC Berkeley. I have one of his books – Metaphors We Live By – on my bookshelf. It’s one of those books that took the top of my head off in the first twenty pages… it changed how I look at the world and I felt such a deep resonance with it, but I haven’t picked it up since.
In a nutshell, Lakoff suggests that we’re all wearing metaphorical glasses. And the color of their lenses color how we think about what we’re seeing.
He calls these “frames.”
Now, let it be said that I chose to make the story of the hero on a journey one of my frames in my early twenties. (Or did it choose me?) Everywhere I look, I see whatever’s happening as a plot point on my adventure.
This frame has led me to work as an outdoor educator and long-distance cycling guide.
It’s led me to the work I do now, listening for and tuning into the story that you all are living through your work.
It also led me to read Tarot cards — which I’ve come to see as encoding the fool’s journey in pictures — so I could write copy for a Tarot card reading school in Australia.
Our frames matter a whole lot.
They give shape and meaning to our lives and influence the choices we make about what’s worth our time, and what isn’t.
YOLO FAST, as we say in my house. You only live once for a short time.
(But what if we believe in reincarnation?)
Anyway, it’s good to know your frames. But more than good. It’s powerful.
Is it a fight or a journey?
Is it a war or a dance?
Is it a game or a garden?
The metaphors we use determine not only what we see, but what we even consider possible.
Anyway, I think a lot about this idea of metaphorical frames and how people spread the word about their work.
Especially this week, as Rebecca and I had a conversation with a client about the difference between classic marketing and what we like to do around here, which I might call “letting resonance do the work” marketing.
I’m not going to characterize classic marketing right now – what I’m drawn to is taking a pass at articulating what I mean by “letting resonance do the work.”
In a nutshell, your work has a singular energy to it.
To my ear, it’s the message or the song you’re singing to the rest of us through your work.
For Rebecca, she once called this “the frequency you pump out into the world.”
For all sorts of reasons, that singular energy of your work can get shellacked and gunky. This is normal. But underneath all that extra stuff, your core work shines bright like a diamond.
Rub off the gunk, distill what you’re doing down to its essence, and whoa nelly, your song becomes clear and compelling.
But that’s only half the story. Because it’s not clear and compelling to everyone. It’s only clear and compelling to those you are called to serve – what classic marketing might call your core client or avatar.
But unlike classic marketing, we don’t believe you come to know these people through their demographics.
No, we believe you know them with your – oh my gosh, am I actually going to say this? Yes, yes, I am – heart.
Not your anatomical physical heart, mind you.
But the core of your being, that center within yourself that gets the inklings and knows the truth and trusts that you are exactly where you need to be, and you are becoming something even more real and more special than you’d even imagined.
And in contrast to wherever in the body classic marketing originates from. The head? Do all those marketing “rules” even come from a human body??
When you use this different frame for marketing, and you wipe off the layers of gunk from what you’re saying to other people about your work and how and where you say it (and you do it in an honest, grounded, non-threatening, power-of-truth way that tends not to be valued in classic marketing)… your people feel it.
When you know who you are and who you serve, it has a way of simplifying what you do to reach people and pick up more business. Because everything gets rooted in those two places – who you are and who you serve – and any actions or activities that don’t feel like they fit or belong in the relationship between ‘em… well, it’s highly likely they don’t.
And you can just let ‘em go, and instead focus your time and energy on the places and opportunities that have you feeling connected, alive, and of most meaningful service to the rest of us.
P.S. Every season, Rebecca and I host a series of conversations on topics that are coming up for the people we serve. Last season, we walked people through how to streamline a business that’s feeling overgrown; cultivating business relationships; and the story of the journey (one of our all-time favorites!). Season passes are on sale now!
Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.
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