The Ben Franklin School of Persuasion

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This Friday’s guest contributor is Joel D Canfield. Joel writes about his family’s experiment with a location-independent life at Because he and his location-independent wife Sue believe everyone should make a great living doing what they love, they mentor and train virtual workers who want to choose where and when they work


Benjamin Franklin was a serial entrepreneur, regularly seeing huge success implementing ideas which others thought were impossible or pointless.

At one point, an acquaintance asked Franklin’s advice about who he should ask for donations for a worthy cause. Franklin replied,

“I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken.”

I’d like to set the record straight about my complete failure to get the real message from that.

Some time ago I wrote a piece saying what great marketing advice that was; start with success, use social proof to enlist further support, leave no stone unturned; the piece was good enough, as far as it went.

It just didn’t go nearly far enough.

Marketing, I thought, is not about persuasion. It’s not so much evangelism as a search-and-rescue mission. Instead of trying to convince unbelievers, search for those who already have the right mindset, and simply need the tools to implement what they already know.

Again, fine, as far as it goes.

But if you’re going to change the world, at some point, you’re going to have to address folks who don’t already see things your way. (If your goal is something less than ‘change the world’, may I respectfully suggest you up your game?)

Ben’s advice is still solid gold; I just needed to follow it a little farther on down the road.

First, certainly, start with success.

Share your world-changing idea with people who know and love you. Give yourself the happy buzz that comes from the affirmation of those who already buy into your plans for a new world order. Ideas which get kicked in the head as infants are really hard to raise into superheroes.

Next, do that low-hanging-fruit thing.

Find folks who think like you, to the extent that they realise there’s a problem and that your idea addresses it. Solve their problem, gather feedback and refinements and testimonials and fans. You’ll need them for the next step.

Now, talk to the middle, the ‘maybes’.

Approach those who you believe to be sympathetic, approachable, or otherwise willing to lend you an ear, but who didn’t fall quite so obviously into the first category. Point out that you’ve realised there’s a pain which needs healing; a challenge which you have tools to overcome or eliminate. Show them that others, people just like them, have already joined the True Believers. This is not some harebrained idea they’ll be risking social status or sanity to investigate; it’s a tried-and-true brand of thinking they just haven’t encountered before.

Again, gather feedback, refinements, testimonials. But, more than that, gather nerve, and especially, gather grace. You’re gonna need it.

The final step in Phase I of Changing the World is to convert unbelievers. (No swords allowed.)

The greatest challenge in bringing an idea to those whom we believe will disagree with us is our own mindset.

The expectation of disagreement plants a picture of a certain outcome in our minds. When we say this, they’re gonna say that, and when we counter with this, they’re sure as shootin’ gonna come back with that.

And, guess what? That’s exactly what happens. Because that’s what we made happen.

You’ve heard it before: energy flows where attention goes. When you, even silently, even invisibly, declare your intent to have a disagreement with someone, your unconscious mind is just delighted to help you out; it’s got nothing better to do right now.

One of the greatest revelations I’ve had in the past year, a year of some fairly intense personal development, is that my expectations are almost entirely responsible for the outcomes I’ve seen. I expect a fight, I get one. Expect, even by artificially envisioning it, a positive outcome—lo and behold, I get it.

As you traverse the early phases of this journey, gather up the positive aura from those who are sending it. Remind yourself, by whatever method of affirmation works for you, that positive intent was present in these interactions, just as it can be in all your interactions.

I’m not suggesting that by simply envisioning an open checkbook you can use your Jedi mind powers to extract a ‘yes’ from someone, or get a detractor to see things your way when, in fact, they truly disagree.

What you can do is stop dropping a stumbling block in your own path by preparing for war when preparing for peace is so much more productive.

Where do you struggle in the process?

Are you starting out wrong by trying to convert unbelievers instead of harvesting the low-hanging fruit of like minds?

Are you creating negative responses by your expectations?

Are you missing the middle because you’re focused on the ends?

Or am I all wet, and this isn’t how it’s done at all?


Joel D Canfield writes about his family’s experiment with a location-independent life at

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42 responses

42 responses to “The Ben Franklin School of Persuasion”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths and TwittyBean, Santi Chacon. Santi Chacon said: The Ben Franklin School of Persuasion: This Friday’s guest contributor is Joel D Canfield. Joel writes about his f… […]

  2. Debra says:

    I love your “energy flows where attention goes” comment. I’m going to add that to my attraction card collection!

    • Thanks, Debra; it’s not mine. I quote smart folks in an effort to appear smart meself. (D’oh! Was it James Arthur Ray? Jim Rohn? Somebody help me!)

      • Joel the two sources that I know of for the saying: “energy flows where attention goes” is the Hawaiian Shamanism or Huna of Taneo Sands Kumalae and the proponents of The Secret.

        Often quoted it is one of the core Universal Laws.

        Great post here!

        • I knew ‘The Secret’ adopted it from someone, but hadn’t heard the other reference. Thanks, Frank, and for the niceness, too 😉

          • Mark Kelly says:

            It is also a central principle in a lot of Napolean Hill’s works about energy and the Master mind concept. Seems to be a fairly universal principle that successful people practice or at least recognize.

  3. Ricardo says:

    “Find.” That’s the word that tripped me up. For my part, I’ve done some “finding,” and it has been the active kind. I think it is some times called “seeking.” In my experience, that subtle difference between finding and seeking is where most people’s efforts fizzle and pop.

    I have a friend who spent part of his youth as a Buddhist monk. He is dead-set on the idea of Fate. We had a great conversation just yesterday during which I informed him of my intent to go live and work in Europe for a year…for The Company. He was shocked. I told him I came up with the idea, I wanted it, I got the ball rolling. He sat there baffled, lamenting how the best he could do was a lateral move out of a horrible, dead-end position into a vanilla dead-end position. I can explain the discrepancy: I sought, he waited and found. More accurately, he waited and was given. BIG difference.

    Along the same lines, I asked another peer why they’d never gone to work in Europe as our he has dealt with our subsidiary over there for a few years. His response? “They haven’t asked me.”

    Say what?

    But that’s what we all want, isn’t it? We want to be asked. We want to be found. We want someone to stumble upon our brilliance and do all the hard work for us. OK, maybe not all of us want that, but a lot of people don’t get past those ideas, those desires. To me, the only real missing to your commentary, Joel, is that there is a HECK of a lot of work involved in establishing that audience, even during that first phase. Do you have any practical words of wisdom for those seeking a larger audience? Hints? Tips?

    As always, I enjoy what you write, Joel. I look forward to more commentary here and elsewhere as you trek across the globe…

    • Ric, my ‘find’ was intended to be your ‘seek out with vigor’, so we’re on the same page there.

      I wish I had a magic sonar fish detector that worked for prospects and suspects (prospects, as you know, are the folks who are considering doing business with you; suspects are the folks who you just know should be doing business with you, they just don’t realise it yet.)

      There ain’t no such detector, unfortunately.

      But remember the part about a search-and-rescue mission? Picture that for real. Picture working all alone in the forest looking for a lost child. What tool will do you the most good? A compass? A flashlight? A map through the woods?

      Nah. How about an absolutely unwavering determination to find them?

      It’s the only tool that’s worked for me. Keep your eyes and ears open to possibilities. Keep the antennae up, always aware of opportunities. Don’t become too much of a pain, but if you’re out to change the world and you’re looking for people in pain who need your solution, get used to looking wild-eyed crazy, because, like me, you are.

      Rather than complete this book here, Ric, I’m glad to talk anytime, anywhere, about using luck and intuition as business tools. They’re a powerful (and scientific) method of locating, identifying, and assisting suspects and prospects.

      Oh, and thanks for the kind words.

  4. Jodi Kaplan says:

    You’re right, when you’re looking for something in particular, your mind “lights up” when you see it. Then it starts firing neurons to let you know it.

    If you just bought a red Camaro, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. You may also start conversations with other people who own red Camaros. If you’d bought a blue Honda, you wouldn’t notice the Camaros.

    Of course, sometimes something we’re NOT looking for drops in our laps. Then, the trick is to recognize it and go back to step one.

    • Being open to the unexpected or the new is a personality trait we can develop (ask me about my ONE OCEAN presentation, and yeah, they’re capitalised for a reason.)

      Folks who are open see the five pound note on the sidewalk. Folks who aren’t so open step over it (or on it.) When you’re open to the unexpected, you create a little bit of that thing most of us know as ‘luck’ but which is really just a natural result of how we behave, based on what we believe.

      (The car thing: my buddy Jerry Kennedy calls it ‘blue car syndrome.’ I like calling it the ‘Baader Meinhof Phenomenon’ because it’s fun to say; but you can call it synchronicity or the recency effect to be more scientifically accurate.)

  5. Tom Catalini says:

    The first chapter of Steering by Starlight, a book by renowned life coach Martha Beck is called “The End.” It’s all about envisioning the feelings you will have after a successful endeavor. A very effective technique, it seems.


    • I’m not familiar with Martha Beck, but I love that title.

      When I lived in Texas I learned real quick that when you’re chopping wood, you don’t aim at the top of the log, you aim at the chopping block underneath. Aim for where you want the axe to end up, not where you want to start.

      Thanks for the book tip, Tom. I’ll look that up.

      • Tom Catalini says:

        I love the log chopping analogy – same idea.

        I’ve just started on the book, but the second chapter is titled “Lizard versus the Wizard: The Battle for Your Brain”, so it seems to be examining some of the Seth Godin Linchpin concepts from a different perspective, and with a totally different writing style – this book is heavy on exercises.


        • I glanced at the sample chapter on Amazon, and got sucked right in; read about 20 pages before I realised it.

          Noticed it was published a couple years ago, meaning it predates Linchpin. I’m looking forward to reading Martha’s take on the Lizard brain; I’m no stranger to Seth’s thinking on it (and agree with him completely.)

  6. “Are you starting out wrong by trying to convert unbelievers instead of harvesting the low-hanging fruit of like minds?”

    This statement hit home. I’ve been looking at my recent past and realizing I’ve been working on the wrong group.

    Insightful article!

    • Pat, I know how easy it is to overlook the like-minded folks who just need a nudge (I wrote this article primarily to remind myself of this stuff.)

      Bear in mind that it’s not simply whether or not these folks think like you. Are they so satisfied with their success that there’s no room for you to help them further? Sometimes it’s those who seem the most successful who are open to even more help, which is exactly why they’re so successful in the first place.

      Love the parrot-bulb avatar 🙂

  7. Very nice, very helpful – and thanks for reminding me of the importance of positive energy and creative solutions.

    • You’re welcome, Felix. As a musician, I know you’re used to juggling multiple things, giving the appearance of multi-tasking. Creativity sometimes leads us to believe we don’t need focus, but in reality, it’s finding the balance of focus and creativity which has done me the most good.

  8. Tom Bentley says:

    Joel, sweet stuff on starting a trek with a backpack of expectations weighing you down, so the first step is already a stumble. I do that much too often, expecting (and finding) brussels sprouts (one of mankind’s horrors) on my mental plate when a slightly different turn of mind makes them mashed potatoes (one of mankind’s virtues). Thanks for the reminder to look at things with a Zen mirror.

    By the way, when you start your New World Order, will we all have to wear that funny mustache?

    • Why thank you, Mr. B!

      First, the important part: women will be exempt from the mustache, as will anyone with a mustache tattooed anywhere on their person (this is probably your best option.)

      I wrote a piece somewhere around here about expectations. One of my big bugaboos. Sometimes we need to stop expecting and start experiencing.

  9. ElizOF says:

    Hey Joel,
    I’m a big advocate of maintaining a positive mental attitude especially when faced with challenges. Ben Franklin was right about the steps to building influence or gaining support for your ideas… Start with those you know care and then work you way down/up the food chain.
    Often people talk about niche marketing; it really is about finding like-minded souls who will easily resonate with your pitch, product or pronouncements. The folks who care about you, who love you, who know you have integrity will almost always support you and every business owner needs a bunch of them on the side.
    It didn’t take a TV ad or smoke and mirrors to get me here to comment. Why? Because I know you and Jonathan and I have tremendous respect for both of you. It was easy because of our prior exchange via Triiibes, Jon’s blog/book, Twitter and so on. I’m on your team.
    You have raised excellent points in your post and I do hope we remember that it is always best, especially for start-ups, to begin with our sphere of influence and then build from those connections. Any other way will be uphill, albeit eventually productive, battle.

    • Eliz, I love the idea you sparked about simply enlarging our sphere of influence, rather than creating influence from scratch. Thanks muchly for the kind words.

    • caitlyn says:

      ElizOF, the why are you here resonated with me. As usual, when I read anything, and especially Joel’s, I’m looking for the argument I can make.

      Why especially Joel? Because his quick mind and thorough understanding of business heresy always enlightens me and gets my mind moving quicker. He’s not always preaching to the converted when talking to me – topic-wise.

      But, if we consider converted to his style of delivering the world. I’m in; both feet.

      So, what argument?

      There may very well be a large niche for people who enjoy and are skilled at bringing the unconvinced, the frankly hostile, and disinterested, into the fold … or closer to the fold.

      The problem in this niche is that we don’t value the priming as a separate and monetarily valuable skill and service. We “give away” the priming in order to deliver the new converts to the store.

      • value the priming as a separate and monetarily valuable skill and service

        ooh; dissent! I love dissent! (at least I think it’s dissent)

        Caitlyn, can you expand on that? what, precisely, do you mean by ‘the priming’ and how could we do it better, or at least, different? (yes, I broke and adverb. so sue me.)

  10. Beautiful Joel, every word resonated with me!
    I’d love to talk with you further about Luck and Intuition as tools. I’m a firm believer in the art of intuition, and in being open to possibilities and opportunities… but I have a hard time with the word Luck. It smacks so much of random chance, and I like to see the synchronicity in serendipitous situations as so much more than that.
    Thanks for this!

    • Dorothy, I’ve thanked Rick more than once for introducing us. I’ll go do it again 🙂

      I avoided even using the word ‘luck’ for much of my life. Dr. Richard Wiseman’s book “The Luck Factor” changed that. He makes a compelling case: luck is not a mysterious force of the universe but is, instead, the natural consequences of our actions which stem from what we believe.

      That’s the incredibly short version, but when I’m in your neck of the woods, I’ll do the entire show.

      • Ah! Well, if I believe that LUCK is Lovely Unexpected Calculated Karats, then it was 24 lucky that Rick introduced us! I’ve put “Luck Factor” on my reading list – Thanks!

  11. I LOVE this article! Especially the last line: “Ideas which get kicked in the head as infants are really hard to raise into superheroes.” …Brilliant, Joel!! :^)

    With sincere gratitude,

    “Yo Pal” Hal Elrod

  12. Ted Kusio says:

    Great post Joel!

    The scary thing to me about this is that it’s so hard to prove. I mean, you see someone trip, fail, screw up, whatever, how can you tell for sure that he/she had too many negative thoughts within? Or was it too far out of the realm of possibilities? Or is this all just feel-good bunk? Add luck to the picture (blind and/or dumb), and results get even messier.

    However, if I can find the patience to really focus on the goal, and embrace positivity, even if the printer jams or Photoshop needs to be re-reinstalled (again), the path is smoother. When I look back at certain dealing with others, I wonder too, did I enter that scene expecting “they’re gonna hate this”?

    Then again, it IS simply easier to blame the computer.

    Now where’s my pencil…?

    • Howdy, Ted!

      Well, you can’t really prove a negative (“they failed because they didn’t avoid not stopping this or that”)

      But positives, you can prove. Well, maybe not prove to everyone’s satisfaction, but if a bloke is willing to experiment, and puts their heart into it, and it works, and they try some more, and it works, well, even if it’s pure blind chance, I’ll be most folks would keep trying.

  13. Annie Dennison says:

    Joel, I also wrestle with negative expectations.

    Sometimes, in fact, I listen so attentively to The Lizard Brain’s whispered, worm-tongued warnings about potential disagreement that I’m WAY over-prepared for the worst, and can’t fully-appreciate in the moment what’s unexpectedly best.

    It is, truly, an ongoing process of getting out of my own damn way.

    Have you ever wondered if the call to be ‘world-changing’ unknowingly sets some people up for disappointment in themselves and their contributions? I’ve certainly wondered about it. A lot. What about being neighborhood-, family-, or self-changing? Is the process of inspiring others…scalable?

    • Annie, changing the world doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, it shouldn’t be (most of the time, at least.)

      But most of us won’t change it all at once. When I set out to change the world, I knew, positively, that it was going to happen one person at a time, and that’s still how I work. I can introduce my beliefs to a group, whether online, on the phone, or from a stage, but to truly effect change, I have to spend the time with one single open mind.

      Most folks set their sights far too low. True, for some the idea of ‘changing the world’ would be overwhelming. What they need is not a smaller goal, but greater passion. And it’s our job to help them find it.

      The passion of a true believer will never settle for less than changing the world.

      The joy we take from life is directly linked to the passion we bring to it. When I gently cultivate deeper passion in someone, I’m sharing the greatest possible joy.

      I think that’s a good thing, eh?

      • Annie Dennison says:

        Cultivating passion in others is a gift, definitely! Your ideas and your way of being always supercharge my thinking, Joel. I love it.

        But I don’t agree with you that most people set their sights too low.

        When the Canfields come through So Cal next month (you’re still planning to, right?), how about we consider plumbing the depths of this over a cup of fragrant green tea?

        (Thanks Jonathan, for adding Joel’s passionate voice to your blog. Your thinking has been gracing my RSS feed for a long time.)

        • Sadly, our SoCal trip needs to be postponed until probably the middle of November, but I promise, if you’re available, we’ll brew up some green jasmine and bake some snickerdoodles (which are made with fresh ground nutmeg, people, not cinnamon) and talk about Most People’s Goals.

          We could write a song together, too, if you like. Something about my conversations with you always sparks a melody in my head, and I think I need to explore that.

          Thanks, Annie!

  14. rex says:

    Fantasmic, Joel!

    Spreading a message really is about conversion. You want people to believe and embrace your message, whatever that is. Marketing is about telling a story and gathering those who want to be a part of that story.

    In the past, salespeople have been the most skilled at doing that work of conversion (and probably still are) but there’s a new tactic that is becoming more effective- authenticity. But, as always, the message itself must be the main convincer. I guess that’s why we try to find like minds. If the message is so powerful to convert unlike minds, then you’ve got something.

    Nice work Joel. Keep the faith – of your dreams. The Canfield of Dreams.

    Thanks Jonathan, for putting Joel up for show and tell. He does have quite the story. Plus, never underestimate the power of a tribe.


    • gathering those who want to be a part of that story

      Exactly, Rex. When I’m just telling a story, I get people involved; they feel like they’re there.

      But when I tell stories in marketing, I’m not always sure that I’m bringing folks into the fold. Sometimes, I worry that I’m telling a good story, but not one they want to join. I’d like to change that.

  15. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says:

    Hey, Joel!

    Excellent post. Well-written, thought-provoking, clear in your beliefs.

    I’m working on developing the same beliefs, myself.


    • “clear in your beliefs”

      I’m working on it, Annie; I’m working on it. Here’s a tricky little tip about my writing: the more passionate I sound, the more likely I’m talking to myself.

      I like your twitter handle

  16. thestickgatherer says:

    The content was worthy of reading. I especially like this line: “Ideas which get kicked in the head as infants are really hard to raise into superheroes.”

    Very easy to visualize this one.

  17. […] The Ben Franklin School of Persuasion – Benjamin Franklin was a serial entrepreneur, regularly seeing huge success implementing ideas which others thought were impossible or pointless. […]