Confidence Man

I wasn’t planning on having knee surgery. And yet there I was, one week ago today, following the anesthesiologist’s instructions to “count backwards from 100 by seven” as he put me under. (I believe I got as far as 93.)

My original injury took place during the Gulf War. Not to say that I was actually in the Gulf War, it’s just that my injury – the result of a misstep while playing basketball – also occurred in 1990. And although I’ve continued to both run and play basketball since then, I’ve been living with a “trick knee” these past 18 years.

The “trick” itself is not as much fun as it sounds, and while it only occurs about once a year, it does so with predictable results:

  1. I fall down screaming in the middle of a basketball game as my left knee buckles out sideways, moving quickly away from its fraternal twin, my right knee.
  1. Nine, sweaty, grown men immediately stop whatever they’re doing and stare at me.
  1. Two guys (sometimes three) insist on trying to help me stand up, no matter how much I protest and tell them I much prefer to lie there screaming.
  1. One guy – I’m not certain, but I’m beginning to think it’s the same guy – watches me roll around on the floor holding my knee for a while and then politely inquires, “Did you hurt your knee?”

And so when the trick happened this past January, I decided that maybe it was time to get things looked at by an expert. Two weeks later, MRI films in hand, I arrived at the office of an orthopedic surgeon.

The doctor came highly recommended (they all do). He had lots of medical degrees on the wall (they all do). He told me that he does “150 ACL reconstructions a year.” (all together now: they all do).

Frankly, none of his medical credentials or qualifications were particularly unique. Even so, 90 seconds into our conversation, I not only knew that I wanted the operation, I knew that there was no one but him I wanted doing it.

Here’s why: Confidence. He sat a foot away from me, looked me in the eye and told me what the problem was, what my options were, how he would fix it and what recovery would look like.

He clearly answered every question without hesitation and then, as if to remove any lingering doubts I might have about his complete belief in the product he sells, he showed me the cast on his own ankle from the surgery he had the week before (nice to see a guy who limps the talk).

To tell you the truth, he was so dripping with confidence that if he had offered to refinance my mortgage that afternoon and re-shingle the roof of my house over the weekend, I would have given him the green light.

Here’s why I’m telling you this. I read a lot of newsletters each month, and what’s missing from many of them is confidence. Many are well written, many are entertaining, and almost all contain useful information. And yet I often close these newsletters absent a strong belief in the writer’s ability to put the ideas into practice.

Unlike my doctor, who seems to live and breathe knees and other orthopedic-ish body parts, many newsletter writers and the companies they represent sound more like they’re reporting the news than making it. Given the choice, I’ll hire the latter every time.

With that in mind, here are two common mistakes to avoid, so that you sound like the expert I know you are:

  1. Stop hiding behind “leading authorities.” It’s fine to quote someone in your field who has something particularly pithy to say, but don’t position her as the go to person in your specialty (that’s what her newsletter is for). Get comfortable with being the main attraction of your own publication.
  1. Stop qualifying your positions. I’m not suggesting you come off as arrogant or narrow minded. I do, however, want you to sound like someone who would stake everything he’s got on the truth of what he’s saying.

    I know there’s probably another side to the story, and equally qualified experts in your field may disagree with your point of view. That’s fine, but your newsletter is not the place to poke holes in your own theory. If you expect me to close my eyes and let you wheel me into the operating room, you had better be able to convince me that surgery, performed by you, is my best option.

Bottom Line. I’ve lived 18 years with a knee that probably could have been fixed right from the start. But the pain wasn’t great enough, the inconvenience wasn’t often enough, and the options weren’t clear enough for me to take any action. And yet when I finally met the right (confident) doctor, I couldn’t wait to get started.

By the same token, you’ve got all kinds of faithful newsletter readers out there who soak up your useful information month after month, and yet never pick up the phone to hire you. Start writing with the confidence of a person who truly knows how to solve the problems of his or her readers, and watch as your waiting room fills to capacity.

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