Good to Great: Using Your Unique Story to Drive Success

Yesterday was the TEDx Mile High 2016 event. The theme – Make & Believe. It is there that I encountered Richard Cooke and his instruments that have no wrong notes for the second time. Richard and his team create outdoor instrument parks for all ages and abilities.

Discovering a Hidden Gem

I wouldn’t really have believed it was possible to build an instrument with no wrong notes except for my first encounter with one of Richard’s instruments in Centennial, CO. I was at the playground with my daughter and I heard this wonderful improv music coming from the other side of the playground. I craned my neck to see past the play structure to see an 7 year old making the music.

Well of course my daughter and I had to go try it for ourselves. It was intriguing at first and then plain captivating. I got to connect with my 5 year old by making music together. She is only now learning the basics of reading music. But with this instrument – it didn’t matter. She could just listen to her inner music and use the instrument to play it for the rest of us to hear. What an incredible gift to receive both from my daughter but also from the maker of this instrument.

A Commonly Overlooked Element of Branding

So what in the world does this have to do with branding and marketing? EVERYTHING. At the core of every brand should be the authentic story of the founder. For Richard his personal journey with music is what drove him to innovation. He had an intense drive to express what he felt and heard inwardly when he was a child but could not easily express outwardly without an enormous amount of practice and discipline. His drive turned into a completely new kind of instrument and a profitable business.

From Good to Great

Richard Cooke is a Grammy Award winning musician. That seems pretty great, right? But there are plenty of exceptional musicians. That’s not what makes Richard especially valuable. It’s his story. It’s one everyone one can relate to. He brought his unique story and passion to his profession. And look at the results. He has awards in multiple fields from music therapy to professional organizations. He’s been featured on multiple TV shows and his music parks are installed nationally. He has brought the joy and freedom of playing music from the soul to thousands of people who otherwise would be too intimidated to find the right notes or even try.  He has bridged the gaps between race, gender, age, and economic differences. Now THAT is what I call great.

Your Unique Story

What if we all have gifts we were uniquely designed to share with the world? And what if when we choose to blend in and suppress those things that make our journey unique we are actually withholding something the world needs?

Make no mistake, being your authentic self and intentionally choosing to infuse your business with your unique story requires focus, discipline and bravery. There is no set course to follow. There is the chance of rejection and failure. But what if you have something important to share? What if that “something important” is what takes your business from good to great?

Taking an Honest Look

In my experience the only thing stopping most of us is fear. Fear comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. But if you boil it all down it’s all just fear. Let me suggest that the opposite of fear is love not courage. That may sound strange at first but think about it. Consider some of the fears you’ve overcome. More times than not it was probably love. Kind and encouraging words from a friend or loved one. Perhaps it was a mentor who showed you the way one step at a time.

Correct Motivation

If you want to move from good to great you must do it out of love. Love for others and self. To be clear on two points. One, I am not talking about singing Kumbayah in a circle where we all drink the Kool-aide and talk about peace and love.

I mean acting out of a sense of purpose to serve others because that is fundamental to the human experience. Mutual respect and service to each other is primary to our personal success because that is when we become our best selves.

Two, self love is very different from selfishness. Self love recognizes and values your unique traits and naturally wants to share those with others. Selfishness hides and hoards what it has from others.

Covert Selfishness

Consider a less obvious source of selfishness. We all grumble about the short comings of others we encounter in life. Examples are not difficult to find and it is easy to blame and point fingers. But what if not being yourself fully is just as bad as those who commit the more obvious offenses? What if not being yourself is at it’s core selfish? Isn’t that the source of all offenses people commit?

Sharing Your Story

Stop for a moment and consider. What makes me unique? Why am I in business for myself in the first place? How does that make me especially good at what I do and what gift do I offer to my clients or customers. Does your brand express your story? If you want to make the leap from good to great it should.

Stay Tuned

We will be posting more stories about business owners who are boldly sharing their stories. And tips and tools for telling your own story through your brand.

My Top 5 Apps For Staying Productive #productivityhacks

So I was reading an article about how to measure progress when I stumbled upon a useful hash tag: #productivityhacks. Turns out I am not the only one who gets overwhelmed by their todo list. There were some rather helpful ideas shared so I decided to share my own should they be helpful to someone else.

First I identified the primary source of the chaos. I can schedule and prioritize just fine but I still wasn’t getting all the important things done. Truth is – I procrastinate. But why? I am far from lazy. I noticed there were always some things I just wouldn’t want to tackle. For me they all had the same theme. They were administrative tasks. Administrative tasks suck the life out of me. Unfortunately they are a reality.

So I got busy testing all manner of apps for my laptop, phone, desktop. The trick was finding apps I knew I would stick with over time.

Here were my basic requirements:

  • They had to be easy to understand and use IMMEDIATELY
  • Available on multiple devices and would sync with each other
  • Either free or close to it

Here are the ones I found most useful.

Free & Low Cost Apps Solutions

Brain Fog


Sometimes just taking a break isn’t enough for me to switch gears and have enough energy to take on those administrative tasks. Oddly, I found using fitbrains (developed by the creator of Rosetta Stone) often will do the trick. It is designed to exercise your brain in different and very specific ways on a neurological level.



I don’t know about you but a lot of emails stay in my inbox because I have to take more steps before they are ready to be deleted or filed. The trouble is my inbox was so full important emails were getting lost.

Sortd. allows you to give your emails a home in multiple todo lists until they are ready to be filed. Seriously, I’d marry the developer of this one. It is so well designed I reach zero inbox status on a regular basis.

Social Media


[br]When I do take a mental break and look at various social media apps its really easy to spend too much time. But with Buffer at least I can capture interesting posts I want to share with my audience with a single click and Buffer automatically schedules it to be delivered based on a calendar I set up. I cannot stand being essentially spammed by someone who posts endlessly. This tool lets me do all my research at once and then leave it alone.



While I am handing out marriage proposals I’d marry these developers too. Thank you! So many of the CRMs available are either crazy expensive and way more than I need or they are cheaply designed and pretty much useless. Hubspot gets it right. They offer a free package to the small guys and offer add ons for more powerful tools when you need them.

Receipts & Mileage

Quickbooks Small Business

Quicken has finally figured out the importance of user centered design. For years I struggled with their software but not anymore. The mobile app automatically tracks my mileage. It connects and syncs to all my bank accounts and cards automatically. It’s easy to assign a category and attach a picture of my receipt straight from my phone. I take a snap shot and throw it away instead of having a graveyard of receipts in my car and laptop bag. Hallelujah!

Do you have #productivityhacks to share? Please comment and share.

Shocking Results – The Smile Experiment

So I picked up Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends & Influence People” the other day. As I am flipping through the table of contents “A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression” jumps out at me. Huh. I flipped to page 63.

Wanna know the secret? Smile.

Yes, it’s as simple as that. Well that got me to thinking wouldn’t it be interesting to test his idea? On So I set up two profiles.

Here is profile 1: Excited to meet new people


Feisty red head who likes to explore new things, travel abroad, can sometimes be a homebody, and family is very important to me. Looking for a companion to enjoy life around town. I am pretty strong at times and at the same time kind and gentle. I need a partner who won’t try to control me but isn’t going to roll over either. I work pretty hard – I am self employed and in the middle of launching a totally new concept. But when work is done I turn it off. COMPLETELY. I love a chance to be silly and also times where I can get all dressed up for a nice night out.

Here is profile 2: I’m Ready to Meet “The One”

Photo on 2-14-16 at 12.39 PM

I have been through a lot of drama in the last few years. I am ready to settle down and have life go back to normal. I need a man who knows how to take care of a woman and make her feel important. I am not perfect I suppose but who really is? I am looking for an imperfect man but knows how to act like prince charming on occasion.

Day 2: Results

After two short days profile 1 has 7x more views and 3x more likes. Profile 2 seems to be leveling off in interest where as Profile 1 continues to gain momentum.

Day 7: Final Results

Day 7 – Side by side

I honestly never expected such shocking results! I’d say smiling is a pretty powerful way to make a first impression.
  1. No Smile Views: 89 (after 7 days)
  2. Smile Views: 397 (after 7 days)
So is your brand making the equivalent of a smile?