How much do you need to study something to start getting the grasp of it? How many books are enough for you to say “I’m getting there”? Where do you start from? What is going to be your essential reading references?
We live in times where information and knowledge, free and paid, is abundantly available. This information over-availability can complicate things for someone in search for knowledge.
Whether we like it or not, the future is digital. The web, social media, digital tools and technologies around them is the world we will be living in (for some of us, we are already in it). A few months back I decided I should invest in getting a decent understanding of digital marketing best practices. I wanted to understand how I could practically use digital marketing to promote my business for myself, not having ventured in this up to now.
So I started by doing what most of us have done at least once when in search for knowledge. I googled it! And I got more than I asked for. 120 million search results under “digital marketing”. Naturally, refining the search terms got me in a much shorter list of more relevant results.
Then I started trying out the ones on top. I went through a number of blog posts, web sites, Youtube channels, each of which has content that honestly made sense to me. In fact, I found some sources so interesting on the first read, that I spontaneously subscribed to their mailing lists, so that I get notified for future content becoming available. The more links I clicked though, the more I started getting tired. Too much content.
That made me think: “Maybe getting my hands on a more structured knowledge framework could be more efficient”. I checked for relevant books on Amazon. 176.000 books on digital marketing. 10 million links for digital marketing courses. I got a couple of books and even enrolled in a digital marketing e-course. Meanwhile, new material started popping up from the subscriptions I initiated earlier.
I gave it a try to follow through all the information sources, but it soon turned out to be very time consuming. I started feeling overwhelmed by two things: The volume of information and the fact that it addressed different maturity levels in the learning curve. When you go through material that aims high in the learning curve, although you sense it is meaningful, and often get intrigued to try getting through it, you soon realize that it’s really difficult to use it. Sometimes, the material is delivered as “beginner’s guide”, but is intentionally left with holes, as a sales pitch for getting the paid help needed to fill them. Sure, advanced material can be thought-provoking, mind-opening (about what lies ahead, the potential), but is it really relevant if you are at a different stage of knowledge?
I also noticed, as you may probably have, that in many cases this diverse information wealth comes down to a common set of underlying principles. I see these principles as the core behind any given subject. There simply cannot be 150.000 books on a subject, all with original content. It’s more about the content delivery of common content, accompanied by smaller (sometimes big) insights and discoveries on the subject.
If you keep notes or highlight the parts of a book that you find most essential, once you put these side by side, common elements, the “principles”, will surface. The question then becomes: who has come up with the principles? Who do I have to thank for?
I feel that identifying and learning the fundamentals behind a knowledge area will allow you to navigate through your knowledge journey. As a learning approach, I believe one should start by absorbing the fundamentals before anything else. Hints and tips are nice to have, no doubt about it, but if you really want to master something you have to start from the essentials. Conquer the basics first and gradually move on. Mastery goes through competence.
I am not quite there yet as far as digital marketing is concerned, but I feel that as far as communication is concerned I have found the sources where you can get the fundamentals. I am certain that some of you will have very valuable suggestions on these fundamentals, and it will really help to share them. I feel I know, but you may know better.
In my view, someone who wants to invest in developing the language of communication (yes, I do think of communication as a language by itself, a hyper-language actually) should start by reading the following works (I still continue to read and get knowledge. In many cases I find very valuable insights and discoveries – for me. So I pay respect to all people who are interested and motivated to continue exploring the language of communication).
Go back, way back. Where it all begun. Aristotle – Rhetoric
Logos. Ethos. Pathos. What does it takes to be an influencer? What does it take to reach people with your presence, your language, your actions? Aristotle, in his work “Rhetoric”, offers a way: A trinity. Three key ingredients combined.
Ethos: Your values, your ethics, your credibility, your authority, your knowledge, your expertise, your history and past achievement affects how people perceive you and your message.
Pathos: Your passion over the message you want to pass. You need to touch the people’s emotions, win their hearts, if you want to win them over to you.
Logos: You need to make sense with your message. Rational arguments, structured messages that allow the thinking mind to reach the conclusion you want it to.
Take any book you can get your hands on sales and tell that these principles do not underlie every single one of them.
Dale Carnegie –How to Win Friends and Influence People
In his book, written around 80 years ago, Dale Carnegie put on paper a set of principles that every one of us should use to connect with other people at a level that gives tremendous influencing power. He does this by using simple language and plenty of examples-stories in a way that it can be easily understood by anyone.
In my eye, the fact that the same principles have been refined, further researched (they still are being researched) and referenced by many esteemed academics and professionals is proof enough of the strength, relevance and fundamental nature of this book. (check sales)
Dr. Robert Cialdini – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Somehow I picture Dr. Robert Cialdini as being a student of Dale Carnegie. There is no doubt in my mind that he has been inspired to a great extent by Dale Carnegie. His book, “Influence, the psychology of persuasion” provides a view of the fundamentals behind influence under 6 principles:
- Social Proof
A note here: Can you think of influence without communication? To influence, there needs to be a message, a sender and a recipient. When I think of terms such as influence, persuasion, sales, I only think: Communication. All of these terms stem from communication in their core.
To persuade is to communicate
To influence is to communicate
To sell is to communicate
Joe Navaro – What Every Body is Saying
Communication is more about what is not said than what is said with words. The strongest argument, scientific truth is not enough to persuade.
You could not think about of communication without the human mechanics behind non verbal language.
Body language is a subject which if you would like to aim for mastery you should see it as a life purpose. 10.000 distinct face expressions have been identified so far.
Joe Navaro is an ex-FBI agent who manages to not only help the reader understand the main vocabulary of body language, but more importantly offers very clear insights for the origins of body language, in other words, why our body “speaks” this way. Once you understand this, I feel that you take you understanding of body language to a different level.
If you want to understand what communication is all about, I believe the second thing you have to do is to study these books, they have been a key inspirational source for me. What’s the first thing to do?
Read my book titled “Communication as a Foreign Language”. An easy-to-read, effective rule book that will improve your human connections by getting you to use a language we all use everyday, communication. Inspired mainly by the books recommended here. Enjoy them all and take your human connections to the next level!
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