Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Power of Three: Everyone Described in Three Words

All my passions and endeavors can be captured by three words, and so can yours. In three words, you know what I'm about, and I know what you're about.
What I'm about:
Simplify. Find the heart of what you love.
Fancify. Take it to the next level.
Intensify. Pursue passionately.

If you have ever been interviewed by me, you'll know "Describe yourself in three words or less" is a go to question for me. I may switch the focus a little, but each interview starts with it. Where I go from there depends on how well you answer.
The answer to this question is 100% correlated to whether you'll be a good hire. People who struggled to answer and were hired have averaged about eight months before they found another job. (I'm surprised by how many sales people are unable to sum up what they're about -- their value proposition -- into three words.)
Why do I believe three words are so powerful? Because I feel in a landscape of commoditized products customers buy based on you -- specifically the promise of a relationship with you -- and not the product.
My style as a photographer:
Action. Emotion. Detail.
The Power of Three works in reverse to, especially if you dislike "firing" customers. If you're offering a service and want to find prospective customers who "get" you, ask them to describe what they're looking for in three words. When I photographed events, the only gigs I didn't return home from energized were ones where the clients' three words didn't match mine. After a couple of mismatches, I learned to refer the prospective client to a colleague whose approach matched their desired style.
Struggling to find your three words?
  1. Ask your friends (customers) to give you nouns or adjectives they believe describe you. Don't give them time to prepare an answer; you're interested in what words are top of mind.
  2. Write down all the words; include duplicates and synonyms.
  3. When you've asked 5 or so people, tally duplicates and synonyms together.
  4. Order words and groups of synonym by counts. You have your three words.
  5. If you don't have clear winners, ask more people and re-tally.

Don't like what you find? Work to change them. Your friends -- your customers -- choose words based on your actions. (When I call references I ask for three words that describe the person I'm thinking of hiring. What I ask after that question -- or if I ask any more questions -- depends on what they answer.) If you make a sincere effort and change the behaviors associated with the words you don't like, your friends, your coworkers, your customers, and so on, will notice.
Everyone can be described in three words.
Agree? share your three words in the comments.
Disagree? tell me why.
Ciao Bella!
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.