A pencil with sharpener and shavings on top of a lined pad of paper

Promise #4: Parlay Your Platform

It is far too easy to begin this journey thinking that you are beginning with a clean sheet of paper. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that to-date you have amassed several things that collectively form a powerful platform that serves as your platform.

There are five key tips for you to use in order to parlay your platform.

As you read this, please write these things down. You will find the visual to be very helpful.


Hand holding a cellphone

Tip #1: Take inventory: Inventory your reputation, relationships, and experiences

Your passion, purpose or cause (what you want to do). Rewind, step back and write it down.

• Your network (who you know):

Friends, co-workers, mentors, bosses, former bosses and more. These are all relationships that matter. It is very easy, as we move about quickly throughout the day – emailing, texting, reading and sometimes responding on social media, to lose sight of the volume of people we are in contact with.

Step back, take a look at how many people are in your phone contact list, how many people follow you on each of your social media accounts and write each of them down. Mind you, I get that many of the followers we have are not people we are “engaged” with. However, we never know when someone is going to show up to assist.

• Your experiences (what you have done):

We tend to think of only our resume when it comes to explaining our experiences. However, step back for a minute and jot down all of the things you have experienced over the past three months. Consider your primary role at your job, any secondary projects or initiatives you were asked to be a part of or work you may have done at your church. Consider any volunteer work you have done with some friends or a trip you may have taken.

During each of these opportunities, think about what you learned and how they came about. Everything that you have been a part of up to this date, school and the things you have learned, the social groups, church groups, travel experiences, projects, work assignments, mission trips, summer jobs. You name it. It all contributes to collective experience and it matters.

Two men and three women smiling while gathered around a laptop

• Your reputation (what people say about you):

Do a quick evaluation here, what do you believe people would say about you when asked? Better yet, go to a few of the friends that you wrote down earlier and ask them, “If you were to describe me in a word or two, what would you say?” Also, if you have a job, pull out some past performance appraisals and scan them for some key phrases that describe you.

Collectively that is your platform: your passion, your network, your experiences, and your reputation.


Tip of an ink pen that wrote

Tip #2: Accentuate the Positive

As a part of managing your reputation, it is important to stay focused on the positive. However, in my humble opinion, this is so impactful to your success or perhaps said differently, not handle well, it can negatively impact your success, I want to address it as its own tip.

I like to say, “accentuate the positive.”

I’d like to start with attitude. Why? Because out of all of the things you can control, attitude is at the forefront and it is influential. A person’s attitude can brighten a room or darken it within a matter of seconds. People may not always remember exactly what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.

My advice here is simple:

  • Lead with the desire to accentuate the positive. As you might have noticed, I am a big fan of underscoring the definitions of words, so we make the best of use of them. Accentuates means “to make more noticeable or prominent.” So, to accentuate the positive literally means to spend more of your time highlighting positive things, thereby giving you less time to focus on negative things.
  • Secondarily, avoid starting or being pulled into negative conversations. They just pull you down and rob your energy. There is a phrase I repeat in my mind often. “Energy – – – give it, extract, but don’t let it be taken away from you.”

A man and three women holding up colored cards that look like speech bubbles Camera lens

Tip #3: Create and Refine Your Pitch

Summing up your unique aspects and experiences is one of the most effective ways to engage with others and parlay your platform A good pitch is an essential tool in pursuing your passion. You need to know how to create one, practice it, and how to tweak it for a target audience, anticipating questions so you can respond quickly.

My approach to the pitch is that it is your pronounced way of expressing your passion, your proof points toward it, and what you want to do next to achieve it. Here is the way I suggest putting it together:

  • My passion is [fill in your passion] and so
  • far I have done [fill in the experiences that are relevant] that have helped me
  • pursue it. Now I would like to [fill in what you want to do next]
  • to continue on my journey toward it.

That’s it! This is all about starting with your passion and creating a dialogue that is complete as it shares a focused snapshot why you are who you are, and what you want to do next. Why is that important you might ask? Because that is the truest thing you can offer anyone, it is your truth. There is certainly nothing wrong with discussing current events, the latest sports scores and all of those things, but this is about your journey and it is personally meaningful.


People gathered around table with laptop, coffee, and notebooks

Tip #4: Your Ecosystem: Rate and Nurture It

You now have a firm baseline of your platform, along with your pitch. We are well on the way. Let’s talk about your ecosystem.

By definition, an ecosystem is a system, or a group of interconnected elements, formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment. As we talk about this next group of people, I would like for you to think about them as core to your ecosystem. In fact, in fairness, the ecosystem for your journey is much broader than this, but for now, I wanted to keep the scope within the context of your current job, if you have one.

I would like to suggest that within your ecosystem, and life in general for that matter, we all have three circles. The circles of control, influence, and concern. I speak to these personally for a moment to give you some flavor in terms of how I think about them:

  • Circle of Control: My circle of control includes those things that I can absolutely manage directly. These are the areas in my life that I consider hands on. For example, I have control over my reaction to things, my knowledge and experiences, and where and how I invest my time. Professionally, this includes areas such as my budget and the team that I manage.
  • Circle of Influence: My circle of influence is largely about people. I know that I cannot control others, but I can influence them or conversely, be influenced by them. This is important for me to keep in mind as in most cases I am going to need other people to work with me in order to achieve my goals. Thus, my ability to influence others is key.
  • Circle of Concern: My circle of concern includes those areas that are totally outside of my control and influence. This could include things such as the economy, politics, etc., all of which I do not have the ability to directly influence materially. I can be upset about them, voice my opinion, blog and vote in upcoming elections to name a few things. However, I cannot materially influence them in the moment.

Two men smiling at a laptop computer

In order to strike the right balance between those circles, my goal is to constantly expand my circle of control and circle of influence.

So now the fun begins in terms of your work on your ecosystem!!!

Below is a grid I put together that helps capture the people in my working ecosystem. The idea is to populate all of the boxes with the names of actual people (and then give each of them an honest rating of your current relationship with them.)

  • Red if you really have a business only relationship. Think “transactional.” In other words, you tend to communication relative to accomplishing specific objectives and that is about it.
  • Amber is if you have developed an operationally mature relationship. For example, you know they have kids and you know the names of their children. These are people you meet up with every so often and speak with on a semi-regular basis. When you see your relationships developing, you put some effort into getting to know each other better.
  • Green if you have a fluid relationship. These people are your mentors, colleagues, and close peers. You have coffee or lunch with them regularly and your conversations range from work-related issues to more personal interactions. The discussions that you have with these people are usually related to long-term plans.

Example of grid to organize people in your working ecosystem

Create the grid for yourself and do the exercise.

Now, take a deep breath…it is ok. It is not abnormal for your grid to be heavy with Amber and Red coloring. The good news is you now know where you stand, you have a baseline. The work ahead is to drive it towards being more green!


Collection of paint buckets and a hand with paintbrush reaching into one as seen from above

Tip #5: Add Paint to your Collage

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.” —Danny Kaye

That quote literally says it all. Ok, perhaps it doesn’t. The metaphor being used here is visually seeing your life as a painter would his canvas and that you should try to get as much paint on that canvas as possible. Why? It creates experiences that you can learn from.

Now, having said that and knowing that we must use time wisely, there a few points to consider.

  • Understand your canvas: Frequently update the inventory of experiences you created earlier. That is your guide to ensure you understand the current state.
  • With an understanding of your canvas, you can take measured steps in adding new colors as opposed to more of the same color. That is important. Time is of the essence, so it is key to be intentional.
  • Find other painters: It is great to partner with others who are approaching their journey methodically as well. Ask them how they are approaching it, understand how they are learning and be sure to trade stories frequently. This will increase your learning.
  • Lastly, enjoy the process. This is truly a journey and a lifelong learning experience.

GO TO PROMISE #5 RIGHT NOW!!!!

To your success!
James