An Open Thought: Please Take the Keys

32 Reallys

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Last night, Gary paid me a stellar compliment for the whole world to see in two separate places. Wow, it was such a cool gesture, on so many levels, and totally unexpected. After a certain age, unexpected surprises aren’t usually good, so that made it even better.

On top of that, what Gary said underscored what I had said in the post that had started the entire chain of events–if you take a few minutes to do a favor for someone it often comes back in the most unexpected ways. Thank you, Gary. Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Keith.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. As my son used to say, “32 reallys.”

A Path of Favors

A whole string of events have occurred to lead up to this post. I think of them as a path of favors. One conversation led to another and then to another until we are here. The chain of events, the path of the two favors in question, went like this.

The Path of These Two Favors

    1. Joe and Keith each asked me to do a small favor–something I do anyway, every day–read and write.

    2. I was already at the keyboard when each man asked. Each favor took almost no time. Both favors were a fun break from the boring work I was doing, and both times I was left with a feeling of doing well by doing something good for someone else.

    3. My small gesture came to me in not two, but three, unexpected ways–from Joe, Keith, and then Gary.

Then a bonus occurred.

    4. Inside his response, Gary did me a favor in return without knowing it.

That’s the thing about favors and saying YES–the universe often starts saying YES back in so many ways. Favors reproduce faster than Easter bunnies (and folks don’t bite their heads off.)

Leaving a Thought Open

You see, I’ve been working on a problem with my writing, especially the writing I do on this blog. Conversation is so important to me. It gets lonely here inside the computer, and ideas need dialogue to grow. The blogosphere doesn’t need me talking at it. It needs folks talking together, shaping ideas–twisting and turning them, stretching them into new thinking. Besides, it’s more fun that way.

Gary stated my problem for me last night in a tactful and generous way–much better than I could have done myself. He said

I used to comment more than I do now, but she writes so completely that I find it difficult to add my thoughts to hers.

I know that’s a compliment, Gary. Thank you.

I value your mind and your thoughts and insights too. I can’t seem to figure out how to leave a thought open enough so that you and everyone else can have room to speak.

That’s the problem I’ve wanted to ask you about. My book background taught me to over-explain things. When I do that, you have no room to talk.

The Lost Relationship Builder

This particular skill, this blogger’s relationship builder–leaving a thought open–I had this skill not ago–It seems to be one I’ve lost track of. I keep tying things up so tightly, even I can see there’s not room to add much. I’ve been reading old posts to find out what I did differently a few months ago, especially this one, More Blog Designs to Discuss.

That was December 2005. Obviously my customer think was different then. It had to be. I’d love to get some of that back. We all need that skill.

Please Take the Keys

Movie stars have directors. Olympic athletes have coaches. I’m just a blogger. I have you.

If we’re talking about customer think–brand you and me–what better case study than this blog itself? You can’t hurt my feelings talking about my writing. I know it’s not who I am. I’d like to know how to get myself off the stage and back into the audience again. Will you tell me what you see? Would you do me that favor? Just say YES.

Sometimes the customer needs to be in the driver’s seat. Please take the keys.

How will I learn if you don’t?

Brand you and me.

–ME “Liz” Strauss

Related articles
Customer Think: I’m Not a Kid, I’m a Person
Just Say YES!


  1. says

    Hmmm – Absolutely amazing!

    I sit here looking at this beautiful flat screen, knowing that my personal life behind it is a bit wacky right now, and I click through to someone’s Blog who, yesterday, gave me the single most unbelievably wonderful compliment I have ever received online…

    Someone who thinks “I” write well (and I’m NOT a writer!), a human that, as I read her more and more, I begin to think to myself – she’s GOT IT, why don’t I?

    Someone who goes out of her way, with great effort, to be helpful…

    Someone who has an enormous sense of humor…

    Great Vision…

    Superb writing abilities… (I could only dream of having)

    The wherewithall to withstand 3 networks and a couple of difficult moves…

    Who also takes care of business at home!!!

    And she just had the AUDACITY to say this about herself?

    “I’m just a blogger.” WELL!!! Here’s something back atcha –

    “I appreciate that you find these things and share them with the world. You write so well and with such care. You’re a friend and a genuine human being. I’m proud to know you.”

    Happy Easter!


  2. says

    Now, Mark,
    That isn’t exactly what I had in mind. . . . I’m laughing and with a big lump in my throat. At least now I know how it feels not to know what to say.

    Huh! But it didn’t stop me from talking. Did it? :)

    Thank you. 32 reallys.

  3. says

    Okay, Joe.
    So you and Mark have made your point. Thank you, gentlemen for your attentions. :)

    This is not helping me figure out how to leave you room to talk. Here I am talking again! :)

    Though I like your poetic genius.
    We could do with more of that, Joe.


  4. says

    Oh – okay… :-)

    One of the best lessons I ever learned as a manager – sometimes of absolute necessity –

    Be still. And listen.


    I.E. – don’t talk so much, lol.

  5. says

    Hi Mark,
    You guys are having fun with this. I feel like I’m home with my big brothers and they just stole my chair and ate my dinner when I went looking for it.

    Okay, I’m still listening. . . .

    So far, I’ve got don’t use bad metaphors or was that do use bad metaphors because it makes you talk?

  6. says

    That reminds me of a story about a teeter-totter, or is that a see-saw…

    metaphors are good,
    but I was misunderstood.

    Too much poetry…

    Stay the way you are, there is always a good conversation at Liz’s place.


  7. says

    Is that a beer, I hear, you dear?

    It couldn’t be, you see, it’s tea…

    I can’t help myself,
    I’m watching a movie
    about an elf
    you see,
    It’s Frodo,
    Not Toto,
    And definately Not Dor-o-thy

    It get’s much worse, are you sure about having more poetry ’round here, partner?


  8. says

    See, I left an opening, Frodo is a Hobbit, not an Elf.

    You could jump on an opening like that, not that you would make a mistake like that.

    but I would have had to rewrite the whole thing to rhyme with Hobbit.

  9. says

    There’s tea in the sidebar too. I can get some for ya if you like.

    As far as the poetry goes. I think it’s that beginner’s song on the accordion that’s haunting you.

    I’m still worried you know about very post turning into a Lizfest. . . I need some help in getting some conversation going.

  10. says

    Seriously, leave an opening for people to respond.

    It doesn’t have to be big, just enough to start a conversation.

    I try asking questions at the end of most posts, like “What is your experience with…” or “How do you handle … situation?”

    It’s difficult when you try to be informative and give as much important information as possible, it doesn’t leave much room.

    I got some of my best responses by writing an open ended post, asking for one answer, when there were dozens of possibilities.

    I got that idea from Darren, asking what one statistic the reader would use if there were only one option.

    As I said, just ask, you may not always get an answer, but when you do, it could be something interesting for all of your readers.


    I think you’re right about the poetry…

  11. says

    That question thing is a good way to go . . . it doesn’t always work, but it might do with the Brand you and me stuff. I’ll try to wrap this brain around that. Sometimes I think folks get into the listening to LIz mode and stop talking. . . . like they think I don’t want them to talk.

    Toeless Joe says you’re right about the poetry. :)

  12. says

    Okay, I’m taking you up on your offer (as he snatches the keys from Liz and takes the blog for a spin around the block)…

    Okay. A critical eye on your writing and why the reader comments/communications are not flowing, or are decling.

    I see a few issues …

    1) your posts are becoming more in-depth (nothing wrong with that) and on really “thinking”-like subjects.

    Yes, you are on stage but why leave ideas half finished when you can give it to us all.

    2) Maybe you try to take on too many ideas in the one post when they can be broken up.

    Sometimes the reader may get overwhlemed with your ideas that they don’t know where to start.

    Maybe it’s the price you have to pay if you want to do such meaty posts – less comments but a more satisified reader, one that takes in your ideas more.

    3) good or bad, blogging is conducive to shorter posts – you know: information overload et al.

    Like your Brand You-type serials. Maybe it’s too much too quick. Turn it into an ebook (I know, I’m totally conflicted pushing that route 😉 ) – even if you give it away for free (personal brand building) and then you can take excerts from the ebook for post ideas.

    4) what about on your longer posts going for the great headline and awesome intro paragraph and going the excerpt route.

    I still assume most people visit the blog directly rather than through rss (big assumption from me) so rather than getting hit with the big idea post give em a strong taster and let them decide if they want more.

    Phew. That’s my 2 cents thrown into the ring.

    I’ll take my payment in nachos…

  13. says

    You came back!!!

    I think you just did in your comment what you said not to do in my posts. . . . Great demonstration. Here’s your nachos.

    I’m not sure I get it all, which I think is exactly what I should be getting.

  14. says

    I know what you mean about the listening to Liz mode. I read your stuff daily, but don’t always leave a comment.

    I try to add to a conversation, and if I have something that fits in I will comment. That’s not just here but at Darren’s, Aaron’s and everywhere I go.

    Besides, you have been to my blog, you can see how many comments I get. Talk about depressing…

    Keep your sunny side up. (a very old song).

    Ask and ye shall receive. (proverb)

    Sometimes you feel like a Nut, sometime you don’t. (commercial)

    Go with the flow (unknown)


  15. says

    Hmmm – let me see if I can put this together;

    “Be still. And listen.”
    “I.E. – don’t talk so much, lol.”
    “Okay, I’m still listening. . . .”
    “Stay the way you are, there is always a good conversation at Liz’s place.”
    “See, I left an opening, Frodo is a Hobbit, not an Elf.”
    “I need some help in getting some conversation going.”
    “I’m not rhyming with hobbit. NO WAY!”
    “leave an opening for people to respond.
    It doesn’t have to be big, just enough”
    “It’s difficult when you try to be informative”

    Whobbit would be your probblit rhyming with hobbit? Jeez…

    Anywayzzzz – Joe talks about asking and then waiting for answers. So,

    When the answers come, listen. Hear. Pause. Think. Research. Pray for Guidance.

    While you’re doing all that, more answers will come and you’ll have to listen again and go through the process again. Meanwhile, you’ll have “folks talking together, shaping ideas–twisting and turning them, stretching them into new thinking.”

    Have you ever noticed that on some of “those Blogs” we read, you know, the ones where there’s 80-100 comments or more lined up, how those folks get each other all wound up yet “The Blogger” offers only one, or perhaps two, comments throughout the thread? They’re sitting in the background, “listening” to the noise, acquiring info, formulating a new plan while the thread grows.

    “My book background taught me to over-explain things.”
    GET OUT OF THE BOX!!! Allow the readers to explain. They will.


  16. says

    I’m always here, Liz – even if I don’t comment, but yep, I’m back from the in-laws and the easter break is over.

    You don’t get my ramblings (what, 15 ideas in a comment!)? Good! Now we all can tear apart what I said and kickstart some conversation.

    Also wonder if many would-be commenters are too shy to comment – you know: don’t want to sound like a dolt. That’s where your job lies: getting people to be soooo comfortable around here that commenting becomes like second nature.

  17. says


    #4. On your home page your could have say 10 posts displayed in full. For the longer posts, why not have only the first paragraph display (an excerpt) and then a link “Read the full post…” – less home page cluter – the reader decides from the headline and first paragraph if they’d like to continue with it.

  18. says

    See Liz,

    You started a conversation all by yourself. All’s it took was asking a little question of your readers. (Yes, asking for help is a question).


  19. says

    I like his thoughts in #’s 2, 3 and 4. I feel that your posts, though exceptionally strong, intelligent and informative, have lengthened a LOT. By offering so much info on the front page, I’d imagine that readers will scan and if they don’t find what they want in a few seconds, they’ll leave.

    Give them a reason to click through. Entice them. Bait them.

    “rather than getting hit with the big idea post give em a strong taster and let them decide if they want more.”

    When you say “It’s the big picture person in me and the split page that stopped me” do you mean that somehow you avoided tasters on the front page?


  20. says

    I get stuck in the box, just like the next guy. My box is just a little . . . er different that’s all. Hey, I can’t be good at everything, ya know.

    I’m really good at being writing, being curious, and getting confused. Isn’t that enough????

  21. says

    When you say “It’s the big picture person in me and the split page that stopped me� do you mean that somehow you avoided tasters on the front page?

    Yeah, I’m so visual. It’s like letting people know where they’re going when you give them a link. . . . I was letting them see where I was going with my “think”

  22. says

    Out of the box,
    I heard them say…
    The best way to get a suggestion,
    Is to ask the big question,
    And if you really listen, you might just learn
    that whatever is needed, will come in turn.

    Best I could do on short notice.
    But, I think that it fits, just a little.


  23. says

    That’s the reason that this blogger said that Gary did me a favor and she threw you guys the keys in the first place.

    I knew I needed someone to tell me where I was steering in the wrong direction. I could feel the car was swerving just a bit

  24. says

    “Customer, drivers seat?” – That’s exactly it! just put a little of yourself out there, stand back and let the reader drive this thing – don’t interfere.

    And part of being ‘out of the box” is knowing (and accepting) that this car will swerve and in the hands of your readers accept that it’ll be swerving out of your total control.

  25. says

    It’s going to be interesting to see how to put THIS into practice, my mind is good at synthesis, but I’ll be sleeping hard to get all of this information integrated by tomorrow morrning. . . .

    I don’t mind it swerving out of control when the customers are driving–only when I’m doing it.

  26. says

    Woah! 43 comments (and probably 58 before I finish typing this comment…)

    While everybody else seems to be passing along advice :) I think for RSS sake, I will too … You might want to switch to h3 codes instead of h2 codes .. because it’s quite overwelming in our Bloglines! The titles makes the post seem about twice as long as the actual article.

    Seriously though .. personally, I do read every article and every comment, and it’s only occassionally that I feel compelled to come and post a comment. You know when I do, that I tend to stick around .. (trying to get the last word in no doubt! haha – but always failing naturally)..

    There is some truth about Gary’s statement that it’s hard to add to comments – or rather commentary – about your posts.

    Are the posts too long like Martin Says? Yes .. and Perhaps .. on the posts that don’t interest me .. yet, posts and topics that do interest me or is just durn fascinating points of view .. well I never notice how long the post is. It’s all relative to the reader.

    Do you really need openings like Joe Says? Yes .. and Perhaps .. on posts that aren’t part of a series. It’s hard to tell if you are trying to create keywords with your post titles, or just replicating the category name prior to the post title, or have sketched out a “mini-series” of related posts that makes it look like a series. I won’t “go there” about recent other comments about ME-HART (Not ME-Liz) about writing skills .. but these series – like posts are more articles than stories or conversations. They are your ideas and interesting – but, you will just have to accept that not every post needs to be answered .. with a comment. There is still value.

    Also don’t forget .. as I’ve said before .. half the show is in the comments from this side of the monitor screen .. don’t forget – the other half is in the postings – of what we are reading. It’s a good show too and sometimes you just don’t need a laugh track or music score to make the “show” sound (or read) better.

    Not everybody can have a site like DARREN where people wouldn’t care if he didn’t blog at all – but just asked a question like .. “What’s the weather like?” There, about 80% of the show is in the comments and you’d find interesting links to new weather programs, TV shows, iTune hotlinks scripts and weather forecasts around the world! Of course, he also has great posts and the comments make up about 20% of the show, although they may number as much .. because a lot of people seem to just say agree or want to be in his comments .. than add value to them. (at least the way I’ve seen it i.m.o.)

    The bottom line is though .. Why do you care so much about what we think? Isn’t it enough that we like you .. that we come and read your writing .. and participate occassionally? I sure hate when some people think they have the right to tell you how to spend YOUR time, on YOUR blog .. as if they are experts or something. I know I’m not an expert (but hope to add value some of the time) – so in fact, ignore everything on this comment – except the H2 tags … really! Trust your HART!

  27. says

    Hey Liz, Sorry but I didn’t read all of the post nor any of the comments but I think you’re asking for feedback for why things are different here from 12/05? I know for me I mainly haven’t been participating as much because life is busier or mainly I’m actually doing more instead of just consuming and being involved in other people’s blogs as I was for a lot of last couple of years. You’re still one of the blogs I read daily but I skim because your post length seems like it has blown out and while it is A+++ awesome quality as one of the links you referenced said you’ve covered it all already and the topics are not as participatory as they once where. Also I think the content focus is different. I don’t know it seems when SB + blogs merged in the erati/b5 changeover what is being posted here is now a mix of the two. Like I wouldn’t send someone over hear to learn strictly about blogging but I’d send someone over about for general day to day life/business because there’s great lessons to be learned. But I wouldn’t be able to describe exactly what SB is. Sorry I don’t think I’ve added anything meaningful for you or making alot of sense. Things are different here. Not necessarily bad different just different. But you already know that because you just gave someone without a drivers licence the keys to the Bentley. Though as long as you know where we’re going and how you’re going to take us there that’s all that matters. You do know where we are going don’t you? Are we there yet? While you’re looking at the map I’ve got to go have my sixth coffee for the day. Anthony :)

  28. says

    Hi Hart
    I got smart this time and printed out your comment to read it. :)

    Thanks for spending so much time to tell me about how thinks look from where you sit. Every thing yo say makes sensse to me. Especially the h2 part. I’ve been reading my feeds lately and I’ve come to the same conclusion. I was tinkering with my stylesheet yesterday, but i’ve not yet solved it to my satisfaction yet.

    I’m not worried about approval from the audience, as much as I want folks to be a part of the blog. I don’t want folks to be feeling like they have something to add and not be adding it or that there’s never a chance to interact here.

    I like to talk to you and everyone else who reads this blog. It helps to know what folks are thinking . . .

    Oh hell, you know I just like conversation. Conversation gets my ideas going. :)


  29. says

    Wow! It’s so nice to hear from you. I’d love to know more about what you’re doing.

    The changes you describe are true.Send folks here if they want to know

    how to bring out their own unique qualities and that of their business,

    how and where to get ideas to write about and other writing advice

    to know more about how to think the way innovative thinkers do without going off into LaLa land and losing all ability to apply that creativity to the real world. :)

    This blog is uniquely Liz there is no doubt about that. It was a purposeful attempt that got it there. I think I left behind a little too much of what you have so well-named “the participatory posts.”

    I think THAT’s an important observation. I appreciate you bringing it to the table.

    Thanks so much, Anthony.


  30. says

    49 and increasing! great!
    Well I was reading your post and after reading the “first post” “32 really” I asked myself.. where is the comment section. Then on scrolling down a bit I realized that that was just a small sub topic. Seriously I think you should reduce that font size. and do those white spaces above and below the “sub-titles” were adding to the confusion. Maybe there is nothing wrong with your posts and design and i just need to sleep :-) but after reading some of your replies I decided to give my humble suggestion.

  31. says

    Thanks Jack,
    I hear you. I actually agree with what you’re saying. The moves and design changes of the last four months have left me a little loose about such things. I’m going to tighten them up.

    These comments really help.

  32. says

    Liz, et al –

    I got down to comment #40 or so and frankly, it was all I could take.

    I NEVER intended my coment (it was actually intended as a compliment) to turn into a “Critique Liz Session”.

    If I could take my PUBLIC comment back, I would. Just to avoid what I’m seeing here. I really should have made it to you in private, Liz and for that I apologize.

    In my book, your writing/blogging is incredible and I hope you continue to do it just as you always have.

    And with that, I’m out of this conversation.

    – Gary

  33. says

    Oh Gary,
    It WAS and IS STILL a lovely compliment. You didn’t make this a critique, I did. I had been thinking about the very thing that you mentioned and didn’t know how to talk about it. You made it easy for me.

    You don’t need to apologize for doing what was a wonderful thing. I’m grateful to you. I always will be. I value you and I value every word you say. Please don’t every edit yourself for me.


  34. Alan says

    Hi Liz –

    I’m a new reader of your blog, so I don’t have the experience most of your commenters have, of watching your blog change over time.

    What DID occur to me, though, was that if you want more conversation, you might have to do some of the same things in writing that you do in speaking conversation – questions, sentences that end in ellipses, or saying something so outrageous that your reader couldn’t possibly leave without responding.

    I DO love the car keys metaphor though – THAT’S what got me to read this entry in the first place. Maybe it was a little “outrageous”?


  35. says

    Hi Alan,
    Nice to meet you.
    Thanks for taking the time to this post and all of these comments. That’s quite an investment for someone who just met me. Way cool!

    I hear what you’re saying. i’m also getting thought of a vicious circle here. I don’t ask the question, prompt the comment, I get no feedback, which then leads me to not ask the next question or have the next insight I might have had . . .

    That’s the conversation, the dialogue, that makes blogs so special and so much better than . . . It’s also why I pushed to make this post happen.

    I’m really glad that your first post was this one, Alan.

    I think it’s a good introduction to who we are around here and what this blog wants to be.

    Welcome again, friend.


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