In 18th Century England, John Wesley was bigger than Lady Gaga. (And that’s probably the only time in history you’ll see Wesley and Gaga in the same sentence—always breaking new ground here, folks.)
Wesley became famous for preaching in fields at a time when that was considered taboo. Conventional wisdom said that if a preacher didn’t have a church, he was illegitimate. But Wesley turned out to be so good that people often hitched up the horse and buggy and traveled for days just to see him in action. His influence was so great that his movement eventually became the modern-day Methodist church. Late in his life, a reporter asked how he managed to draw those huge crowds.
He said, “God just lit me on fire and people came to watch me burn.”
Today’s $64,000 question: Is anyone coming to watch you burn?
I ask that question dozens of times a year in talks around the country, and the reaction is fascinating. Some people look at me like a cow looking at a new gate. Some begin vigorously taking notes. Still others stare at the floor; and at least one person thinks they’re supposed to be offended because I referenced a minister, but they’re not exactly sure why, so they sit, conflicted, and miss the point altogether.
Regardless of the physical response, everyone’s countenance changes almost immediately, because each of us knows we’re no John Wesley. Maybe we don’t think we ever will be. Perhaps that’s why we rely on charts and graphs and statistics and slides with lots of animation.
But people won’t come to watch charts and graphs spinning on a screen—especially in today’s world, where they’re bombarded with that stuff 24/7. They will, however, come to watch you burn.
And when people come to watch you burn, they sign up for your products and services. They believe the story you’re telling and want to be part of it.
My first trainer in the benefits business was an old agent with whom I struck a deal. I did the grunt work he had long ago grown weary of, and he became my sage. “You’ll tell your story thousands of times throughout your career,” he taught me, “but your prospect may only have one chance to hear it, so they deserve your very best.”
To a 20-year-old rookie, that was profound. And it’s why I called him Yoda. And it’s why he called me names we cannot print.
When you consider your presentations last week, were people coming to watch you burn? Were they drawn in by your stories? Did you give life to your statistics by putting a human face on them? Did you give them your very best?
You and I can be John Wesley. It’s as simple as being excited about helping people. And who can’t get excited about that?
There are lots of unknowns in this business, but in my 23 years I’ve learned one thing for certain: People can’t resist a good fire; and they’ll not only show up to watch it burn, they’ll call all their friends and demand that they come to watch it, too.
And that leads to some pretty astounding results.