Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (highlights)


“This is a breakthrough book. Sylvia Ann Hewlett is challenging the entrenched orthodoxy that still prevents women and minority talent from scaling the heights. She argues convincingly that progress is more often a product of partnership than a solo success and tells us exactly how to make it happen. This study assembles hard evidence, compelling stories, and persuasive analysis and is invaluable to anyone who wants to get beyond ‘do-gooding’ to get the most of their diverse talent.”

–Trevor Phillips, former Chair, UK Equality and Human Rights Commission

“A powerful and urgent book. Sylvia Ann Hewlett demonstrates the heft of sponsors and shows how women and people of color can win sponsorship and take their place at decision-making tables. Heterogeneity at the top is not fair, it unleashes creativity and the ‘power of difference.'”

–Cornet West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice,

Union Theological Seminary

Sylvia’s Story

Raised up by a working-class father, in the 1960s in Britain where unemployment rate was at 28 percent, Sylvia went to a third-rate school, in which she had no hope on being admitted into her dream college. However, from her father’s unwitting encouragement, his contagious belief in hard work, she got herself into Oxbridge. While years in her studies at the school, her english professor, Miss Gwen Jones, helped her with her heart and soul in perfecting her writing, which in the got her admitted into Cambridge university.

During her years at Cambridge, she was under the wing of a remarkable economist, Dr. Jean Grove, who chose Sylvia as her research assistant and invited her to accompany her on a research trip to Africa. Then, after she earned her PhD at Harvard and London University, graciously landed a first job as an assistant professor at Girton College, Columbia University where she did extraordinary well and was confident that she will be promoted.

In retrospect, only after when she lost her job did she realized that her hard work only was not enough to support her in climbing the career ladder. She realized that what she lacked was a sponsor, even though she was an expert at friendships and had a lot of mentors who had boosted her confidence during the time. Without a sponsor having her back, she was invincible to the committees of the University, no one knew of her when it comes to offering tenure.

The lost was eye-opening that she set out and searched for what she needed, and that’s when it comes to her that she actually knew someone who could help her out on this front, who was her colleague. She turned up at his office and asked him to help her find a job. AND THAT’S HOW SHE GOT ONE!


“Mentors matter, but they’re not your ticket to the top.”

If you’re interested in fast-tracking your career, in getting that hot assignment, you need sponsors, in particular, you need people who:

  • Believe in you and your potential, and will go out of their way on your behalf
  • Are influential, who would help you get a pay raise or a promotion when you deserve it
  • Will give you air cover so that you can take risk. Making it safe for you to fail.

Mentorship versus Sponsorship

Mentors: Take interest in you because they like you, will listen to your issues offer advice and review which problem-solving can taken or discarded. Mentors expect very little in return. The energy is flowing one way: toward you.

Sponsors: Take interest in you and your career, they see helping you as an investment to further their own career, organization or vision. Would advice and develop you into a leader. In contrast, they expect a great deal from you (excellent performance and loyalty) Your role is to earn their investment in you. Throughout the relationship, you’re delivering outstanding results, building their brand or legacy, and generally make them look good. Sponsorship, done right, is transactional. It ensures you get what you worked for and deserve.

Sponsors can be role models but they don’t have to be.

What’s important in sponsorship is trust, not inspiration. You don’t have to like or want to be like your sponsor. In sponsorship, each party gains from helping each other.

With that in mind, supporters are not to be kicked to the curb either. Role models inspire and drive you to shape your ambition. Mentors help you find yourself and suggest what step will get you there. A good mentor will decode the unwritten rules, demystify the way things work, and offer you tips on navigating the organization. But, despite their attention and guidance, neither mentors nor role models can give you real career traction.

What gives credit to sponsors is how they affect three things:

  • Pay raises
  • High-profile assignments
  • Promotions

Sponsorship is the mechanism by which people of vision obtain their goals, which is why no one make or female, millennial or boomer, start-up employee or multi-national manager– can afford to dismiss it or miss out on it.

What a sponsor does:

On top of delivering high-octane advocacy, a sponsor is a senior leader who, at a minimum:

  • Believes in you and go out on a limb on your behalf
  • Advocates for your next promotion
  • Provides “air cover” so you can take risks

And comes through on at least two of the following fronts:

  • Expands your perception of what you can do
  • Makes connections to senior leader
  • Promotes your visibility
  • Provides stretch opportunities
  • Gives advice on “presentation of self”
  • Makes connections to clients/customers
  • Gives honest/critical feedback on skill gaps

They will get you in front of directors to audition for a key role. They would also nudge the director to choose you. But their investments in you don’t stop there. They will coach you on your performance so that you prove to others what an excellent choice they made. They will make you the center of attention of everyone in the room, so that you can showcase your talents. Should the others turn against you, your sponsors will have your back, as their reputation is now linked with you, it is in their best interest to make sure you reach your goal.

It is recommended you know that the feedback provided from sponsors are not as kind as the ones from mentors. It is to steer you toward a targeted trajectory, when they discuss your strengths and weaknesses. They will point out, regardless on how you receive it, your shortcomings, failures and things that you need to work on.

You’re an extension of them, they have to keep you on track. Only by seeing you finish the line can they protect their own reputation.

What a protégé does:

What protégés do, in a word, is DELIVER.

They come through with both stellar performance and die-hard loyalty. Star performers are very likely to attract sponsors, and loyal performers are very likely to keep them.

Nevertheless, they need to distiguish themselves from the other, less they want to run the risk of becoming permanently second, lieutenants who never make captain.

To be at the top of the ladder, protégés must have the skillset that leaders reward for, but lack: gender smarts or cultural fluency on a team that lacks diversity; quantitative skills or technical savvy on a team that is deficient in hard expertise; people skills on a team, whatever you have.

A protégé is a high-potential employee who, at a minimum:

  • Outperforms – contributes 110%
  • Is loyal to the sponsor and organization
  • Contributes a distinct personal brand

And comes through on at least two of the following fronts:

  • Is trustworthy and discreet
  • Covers the sponsor’s back
  • Promotes his/her legacy
  • Brings “value added”- different perspective/ skill sets
  • Leads with a yes
  • Burnishes his/her brand across the organization
  • Builds an A team

In this sense, loyalty also means looking out for your sponsor as protectively as your sponsor looks out for you. Protégés can provide insights about what’s happening lower down in the or, because when you’re at a senior level, you’re less likely to get those messages about what people think of you and your strategy. They make sure you’re never blindsided. Just as your sponsor is whom who support you when you’re not in the room so you must you prefect him or her from employees’ gossip from harsh outsider opinion even from collegial criticism.

A loyal comrade-in-arms who, if your turn your back, guns for you, not at you.




1. Build the castle first:

Have a vision, a clear picture of your career destination. The majesty and beauty of this vision works wonders enhancing your performance. A vision is so powerful that people will work miracles to bring it to life.

Reaching a career goal is nothing easy. You need a vision that inspires you.

Design your own castle by considering the following questions:

  • What place would feel magical? What kind of room or space do you want to inhibit? What is the view when you look out the window?
  • Whom do you want to meet with? Who intrigues you or excites you? What sort of convo do you wish you could have with them?
  • What transformation do you most want to drive? What sort of large-scale change do you wish you could be part of?


  • Look for role models. Read about people whose achievement inspire you. Put them in your sight.
  • Envisage yourself at age fifty with twenty five productive years ahead of you . its never too lated to focus on a goal and go after it.
  • Consult with a mentor, role model, or personal development coach who can help you see the big picture. Brainstorm a professional target list. Write down your aspirations, however modest or fabulous and figure out how to hold yourself accountable.


2. Do A Diagnostic:

Catalog your skills.

Restrain yourself from catalogging the skills you don’t have. Be truthful, be real. It’s essential you answer the following questions:

  • What do you do exceptionally well?
  • What is your currency, what sets you apart?
  • What experiences distinguish you?
  • What inherent or acquired difference brand or value added that others may not bring to the table?
  • Or what accomplishment has given you joy ? What gives you satisfaction so you want to do more of it?
  • How does the mission or mandate or your organization overlap with your own values and goals?

With this self assessment, your mentor can help you with this. Classes, seminars or lectures are other good opportunities to hold a mirror to yourself or discover what you didn’t know what you abilities.

3. Scan the Horizon for Potential Sponsors

Once you spot your potential sponsor who qualifies with the points above. Share with him/her the long-range plan, sketch it out for him, and proposed a quid pro quo.

Don’t approach your sponsor with, ‘Oh, would you sponsor me,’ but more along the lines of, ‘if i turn down these options and do a great job for you on your project, would you commit to helping me?

4. Turbocharging Support Into Sponsorship

Some supporters, including mentors can be converted into effective sponsors. It’s a matter of taking an existing relationship and making it instrumental.

Start by identifying would-be sponsors among your supporters. Good bets will be leaders who:

  • Are already aware of your skills and strengths
  • Stand to benefit from your help and
  • Have the clout to move you toward your goal, what ever that may be. Consider who knows you and knows of your work, or has heard about you and your work.

Consider not whom you report to, but whom your boss reports to. In a large organization, look for someone two bandwidths away. Seize on some someone who’s go the principal’s ear but doesn’t stand between you and your goal.

What transform a supporter into an advocate relies on how you make yourself a good investment. It is on you to put your cards on the table and play them right. Spell out the mutual benefits, and not demands.


  • In choosing your target, put efficacy over affinity. Role models are great but they don’t always make effective sponsors. Don’t be put off by leadership styles.
  • Friends don’t make the best sponsors
  • The would-be sponsors ideally two levels above you, with line of sight into your performance and your career.


5. THE 1+2 RULE

You can’t hold one person responsible for you climbing the ladder. She or he might be spread too thin to give the protection you need. She might take a better offer elsewhere or get fired even. She might decide to quit and launch her own firm. In brief, she could be too caught up in her own business.

The solution is to cultivate more than one sponsor. You’re best served by having one or two sponsors outside the firm as well as in it, in the same industry.

The ideal recipe consists of 3 sponsors: 2 within your organization-1 in your line of sight and 1 in a different department or division and 1 outside your firm.

The “2+1 rule” holds true for every career stage. The strategy is to diversify your sponsor portfolio, which means your sponsors should be independent of one another, if one goes down, the others won’t go down with him or her.

The 2 + 1 rule ensures you’ll survive a direct hit to your department, a systemic threat to your division, even a catastrophic blow to your firm or industry. It ensures you’ll survive the loss of a prime sponsor.


  • Increase your internal visibility
    • Lead a network
    • Spearhead a project (a philanthropic project, cultural event or company sports team)
    • Ask for mentorship. Create a circle of mentors from different divisions or departments with whom you might consult on strategic shifts in your industry or career
    • Ask your boss to introduce you to his or her boss
  • Increase your external visibility
    • Join a nonprofit board relevant to your industry
    • Run for office in your professional association
    • Attend conference, figure out how to be a speaker
    • Create a personal board of directors or circle of mentors external to your company to get a bid picture insights
  • Figure the lever of power and work them
    • Timing is everything. Be proactive: as soon as you see the handwriting on the wall, mobilize your external as well as internal champions
    • Change firms if need be.

6. Understand That It’s Not All About You

You’re a blazing talent. You’re on everyone’s shortlist. You’ve got the sponsor and all system goes. But remember a sponsor put his or her reputation on the line when they vouch for you, therefore never fail to reciprocate. It requires you to acknowledge the pact with your sponsors.

It fundementally requires you to:

  • Communicate
    • Recognize when you need help and ask for it before you get in trouble
    • Update whats happening in your career, your wins and losses, triumphs and struggles, so that they can offer guidance or even intervention
  • Signal that you’ll be a contributor
    • Deliver outside your job description
    • Give whats needed without being asked. What is your sponsor working on? Whats near and dear to her heart that you can help make happen? What can you take off her plate? What info do you have that she needs?
  • Make small gesture. Commit random acts of everyday thoughtfulness.


7. Come Through On Two Obvious Fronts

What a protégé must do to win and keep the sponsors in your corner is to come through on two obvious fronts:


  • Delivering outstanding bottomline results
  • Hitting targets and deadlines
  • Displaying an impressive work ethic and availability
  • Exceed expectations
  • Able to recite – make sure your boss can cite – your accomplishments in terms of what your firm values. It may be the scale of projects you’re overseeing. It could be the number of clients you’ve won or retained. But know how they stack up against your peers. Evidence!
  • Get the word out about your success, let others talk about you by letting your peers colleagues know what you did. And also talk positively about your colleague, it’s all about reciprocating each other.


  • Demonstrate trustworthiness and discretion
  • Burnishing your sponsor’s legacy
  • Growing her sponsor’s legacy


8. Lean In and Lead With a Yes


Attitude is everything. Just say yes, hold back on sharing your reservations until you’re in a position to negotiate. Don’t ever lead with an explanation of why you’re not going to be able to step up to the plate. When the opportunity is gleaming on the table, show your eagerness to grab hold of that offer.

Say yes even if you know it’s a qualified NO.

You need to have the ‘go-getterness’, to outshine the other contenders. Though still, be selective about whom you say yes to: you can’t say yes to everybody or you’ll be spread too thin to ace any one assignment. All the while, also propose solutions rather than presenting problems, think through how you can make the opportunity work best for you. Lead with this solution when negotiating next steps.


10. Pitfalls And Trip Wires

Finally you’re home in your dream. You can see your destination, shimmering there on the horizon. You finally got the roadmap that you transport you there.

But the possible hazard that could come along with it are best not overlooked.

Three pitfalls to watch out for:


Getting to know each other well enough to establish trust demands regular one-on-one encounters, typically in person. Though these meetings can be intentionally professional, they can often be misunderstood or misleaded when they are between a senior male and a subordinate female. Because the possible sexual relationship, women perceive sponsorships with senior males are ultimately dangerous games. This also goes a long way in explaining why most men are likely to sponsor other men rather than women.

So the question is: WHAT COULD BE DONE? 

No silver bullet. Let’s acknowledge that sexual tension in the workplace is a problem that is not going to go away ever. There are no easy fixes.

  • It is crucial that you make yourself a safe bet:
    • Don’t have an illicit affair with a superior. If you do it you lose everything, everybody loses. You lose the job you have, the job you deserve. So will legacy and reputation that you’ve built.
    • Another critical pointer. Do not send mixed messages. Flirting is a no-no, sexually loaded jokes are off the table. Be aware of what your clothing, makeup, hair style, body language and communication style convey.
    • Meet your sponsor in public. On site meetings can work well for example coffee in a conference room or in lunch in the cafeteria. Alternatively, choose a restaurant well traffic by office personnel where you can take an opportunity to wave at people you know and make it clear you have nothing to hide. Make sure the venue isn’t the place you ever go on a date. And do not order alcohol. Ideally you want to routinize the time and place of your sponsor meeting because the regularity is what ensures nothing will appear irregular about you getting together with your sponsor one-on-one.
    • Be upfront about the personal or family commitments you have. Talk about your significant others, spouse, partner, fiancé or ongoing relationship. As well as your kids, nieces and nephews.
    • Introduced your spouse or significant other to your sponsor.
    • Be clear about what you want and where you’re going.
    • When the gossip mongers identify you as a leader’s favorite. Prove you earned singling out. Make the most of your opportunities. Come prepared to wow everyone with your contribution, work ethic and devotion to the mission. Make known the kind of work you’re putting in. OWN YOUR SPECIAL STATUS, don’t act as if you don’t deserve the special attention.
    • If you’re in a freefall, the best thing you can do is acknowledge that nothing can be done and leave. Don’t wait till your reputation is in tatters. Act while you still have goodwill to leverage. Before you lost credibility and self esteem.


  • Distrust is a self for filling prophecy. Some people believe that leaders at their company isn’t interested in people of color. This goes along way toward keeping the top of the house homogeneous.
  • The most promising professionals of color can overcome distrust-distrust of white leaders, distrust of minority leaders, and distrust of each other-to win and keep the advocacy they merit.

Here are the some proven tactics:

  • MASTER THE SOCIAL BANTER: establishing a personal connection can matter as much if not more than proving you’re a top performer when you’re trying to attract sponsors across a racial divide. They tend to trust people they know, even over people whose credentials are more stellar. Yet, it’s hard to get to know someone if you’re convinced you have little in common or you’re concerned that sharing your personal life will only serve to stress how different you are. The solution is to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic participant in the small talk that occurs in the conference room or at the water cooler in the five minutes before or after a meeting.
  • PICK UP A SPORT OR JOIN A TEAM: you don’t have to become a golfer, training for a marathon or taking up a yoga class, can all be incredible connection builders. You don’t have to be good, you just need to be willing to learn something and join in.
  • DARE TO ASK FOR HELP: maybe developing trust has to start from the protégé rather than the sponsor. For people of color, it may be about overcoming the fear of being judged for needing help.


  • Appearance
    • Look to up and coming leaders in your org for clues on the unwritten rules for appearance. There is no one executive look, one size doesn’t fit all. To crack the code at your office, take your cues from those in charge.
    • No matter how casual your dress code, look pulled together.
    • Look appropriate in your environment but authentic to yourself. Be true to your personality.
    • Win yourself a seat at the table then dare to stand out
  • Communication
    • Tone it down, remove emotions from the equation and you’re less likely to be shrill.
    • Overprepare: you’ll feel more in control if you’ve spent more than enough time preparing, which will in turn keep your voice in the right register and hold the attention of your audience.
    • Less can be more. You can’t afford to be a wallflower at meetings. But she cations against speaking up just to for the sake of it.
    • Get to the point.
    • Invoke your vertical: sit up straight
    • Polish your small talk: its best not work related, but about sports or current events.
  • Gravitas
    • When you know you’re right, stick to your guns. With any ideas given by you, don’t give up to fast.
    • Show teeth.
    • Assert your integrity.


With all the key takeaways, apply them accordingly and never give up on getting your dream job! If you’re here, you got what it takes to get there!


The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever (Lessons To Take From)

With years of experience in creating explanations for organization and educators, Lee Lefever has discovered that inviting people to care and be motivated to learn more about our ideas is a challenge.

With the mistakes and techniques that he learned from building his own company, stories of other people, and doing projects with high-end companies, he was able to accumulate strategies and advices that would lead us into better explainers.

Lee pointed out that we all take explanation for granted. Because it is a natural part of us growing up, while in fact it is a skill that we can definitely shape up as a tool for accomplishing our goals.

This article will be spoiling you with some of the juicy advices that you find in the book. But need not worry, this is a peek into the mystery of the book, there are so much more depth, so much more invaluable insights in the book that this post will never do it justice.

Great explainers have the ability to picture themselves in another person’s shoes and communicate from that perspective.

To create an excellent explanation requires us to imagine ourselves in the audience’s shoes. By seeing the world from their point of view, we help them feel at home. For example, tell direction to a foreign tourist.

Explanations Answer the Question “Why?”

As Lee said, explanation is not just a package of facts, but a presentation that tell us why they should care, why twitter is so popular, why it makes sense to save for retirement.

The idea behind the curse of knowledge is that when we know a subject very well, we have a difficult time imagining what is it like not to know it.

Assumption of just one person’s level of confidence in the subject being explained would not cause much of a bias. However, explaining to a group of people new information, you have no choice but to assume their level of knowledge in that subject. And more often than not, the mismatch to what they actually really know is every common.

For example, if you work in a financial field, then words such as amortization, depreciation and vesting would become part of your language, and pretty much the same to your colleagues. The words, the language, they have become part of your culture, and subconsciously, we start to lose touch with how they might be unfamiliar to others. Therefore, it would not be incredibly wise to use these words at family or friends reunions.

The need to appeal to experts also has the potential to make our explanations fail.

It is undenying productive to be inspired by experts, most of us idolize those professionals, and of course want them to see our work. However, by the need to look smart to those individuals, we ignore our ability to make everyone in the room feel smart, and that would unfortunately lead to explanation failure.

What makes an explanation so insidious is that it has the power to ruin the best, most productive, life changing ideas in just a few sentences.

A story of Andre, an IT graduate from Stanford University, involving him starting up a product with other competent engineers, who put effort and passion to overcome problems in the journey. However, a few months after the launch day, less and less people used his product. When he set out to find out why, he discovered that the marketing of the product had an explanation problem. And to solve the problem, they need a plan.

The “explanation scale”, a simple A-Z scale model created by Lee to help visualize the audience, account for their needs, and move them from misunderstanding to understanding via a carefully crafted explanation.

When encountering an explanation problem, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where are you on the scale regarding a specific idea?
  • Where is your audience?
  • What assumptions are making about their level of understanding?
  • Are your current explanations accounting for everyone on the scale?
  • Should they?

Stepping outside the bubble

Andre and his team are smart people. In his of explanation, he prefers to express himself in a vernacular way, showing his knowledge and intelligence. However, this style of conveyance only speaks directly and comprehensively to the experts, the people at the Z level of the explanation scale. Therefore, with all the technical words, shortcuts and acronyms in his message, it only makes sense to the people within the bubble of experts. Thus, he needs to step outside the bubble and imagine his users at the “A” end of the scale.

They need to control their urge to look smart and rather make targeted audience feel smart.

The solution to that problem– is packaging.

What goes into the packaging?

Essential elements for packaging ideas to account for the audiences’ needs:

  • Agreement— this builds up more confidence and connections with the audience. For example: “We can all agree that gas prices are rising.”
  • Context— transit to the points where you think why it matters to the audience. For instance, you can say ” More of your income is going to pay for the transportation.”
  • Story— narrate a person who took the chance and experience a change perspective and emotions. “Meet Sally; she’s tired of paying so much for gas and needs alternatives. Here’s what she found.”
  • Connections— connect the story with analogies that people already understand. “Sally could see that taking the bus is like multitasking because she can work and commute at the same time.”
  • Description–focuses on how versus why. “Sally found that she could save more than $20 a week by taking the bus three times weekly.”
  • Conclusion— wraps up and provides the next step with the focus on the audience. ” The next time gas prices get you down, remember…”


As important as ideas and facts, context plays a major role in explaining what those ideas and facts mean.

Whether it is explaining the topic of discussion to a friend, doing a presentation about your research, teaching something to a student, or presenting your new product, it is crucial that we build the context first before we jump into the details.

As Lee put it, ” To talk about the forest first and then about the trees”.

To dig down to the metaphor, here are 2 of Lee’s examples:

Example 1:

Imagine you arrive to your friends who are in deep conversations. And for a while, you gathered some information pieces such as Chelsea and Arsenal, and you thought they were talking about English Premier League Soccer. Then you other names such as Barcelona and Juventus, which then confused you and you can’t make sense out of it all.

And then your friend says “Oh, sorry, we’re talking about UEFA Champion League, which brings together the best teams of Europe. Specifically, we’re talking about the English teams and how they are doing in league play.”

Example 2:

Angela who has been very interested in business, she loved working with numbers and has great attention to details, which are the skills needed to be accountants. So she decided to attend an accounting workshop which picked up from an ad in her local newspaper. For an hour with the accounting instructor Mr. Tidwell, as he was pointing the tools and terms such as credits, debits, revenues, and expenses, Angela started to question her ability to be an accountant. She didn’t understand how that would apply in real life.

However, after meeting with a different teacher that her friend introduced, Ms. Stowe, who asked her to talk about her experience in business, about her previous jobs, explained to her well about how business runs. For an adequate amount of time with Ms. Stowe, she didn’t hear the work debit once. She was first taught about the basics, how the money flows in the business, how businesses make profit. As Angela has now learnt about the basics of business and why accounting is important for management of the business, she is more excited and can make sense of what the details.

Context in Explanation – We Can all Agree

Starting your explanation with declarative, non-controversial statements that everyone would agree on is not only a good way to engage the audience, but also a help in explaining the forest and enhancing the credibility of what about to come next. Here are a few examples:

“The web is becoming more social. Forrester research says that…”

“More applications are being moved to the cloud. Examples include…”

“Video is a growing form of communication on the Web. YouTube has grown by X amount.”

Context and Pain

The storytelling that depicts pain plays into human emotions, which therefore creates more understanding. The storyline goes with a character wants or needs something, and must endure pain to get it.


Meet Bob, he has a problem and feels pain

He discovers a solution and tries it

Now he feels happy

Don’t you want to feel like Bob?

Overall, in building a context, we have to do a good job in explain why? As in why should they care?


Storytelling is appropriate for every situation, however specific kinds of storytelling can make a difference in the understandability of an idea.

The goal is to of course- create an explanation people remember because it made them feel something.

Here is an example of explaining blogs in 2 different ways:

A blog is a personal journal published on the WWW consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject. — Wikipedia, 2012


Meet Allison. She recently created a website where she posts information about her experiences raising a puppy. Her website is an online journal, or blog, where she posts a new entry that appears at the top of her page every few days. The stream of entries has enabled her to connect with dog lovers from around the world.

Stories, in the context of explanations, need facts. And facts can be explained much more effectively in the form of a story. By adding a person to a narrative, we make the facts more meaningful and interesting.

Personification and Story

You’d guess that stories are often a good fit for explanations where the main subject is related to human actions or experiences. To your surprise, that’s not necessarily the case. But how to we tell a story about the formation of a comet though? The answer is: personification.

Personification is applying human traits to objects. Utilizing personification can make complex ideas seem more human and real, by relating the idea in terms of emotion, desires, and needs.


Let’s say your uncle Jed just immerged from the wood after being lost for 30 years. He was not exposed to the modern technology, and therefore was curious about e-mails. Of course, e-mailing has become second nature to you, thus you would have work on putting yourself in uncle Jed’s shoes. Explaining to him the details of the email is exacting talking about the trees, hence you have to realize what Jed already knows. In this case, he is familiar with the traditional way for sending letters and mails with a physical mailbox via a postal service. This serves a perfect connection for your explanation to say that e-mails are essentially “letters via computers.”

Another example of explaining Netflix:

Few can afford to have a giant library of DVDs, so it makes sense to rent them. But your local movie rental store suffers from a lack of selection and inconvenience . You make a trip to the score to buy a DVD and found out that  your choices are sold out.

Building-on versus Establishing

Connections can be built on existing knowledge rather than trying to establish a completely new idea. As simple as it sounds, it is easily forgotten in the context of explanation. When we’re asked to explain something, we often approach it in a new idea perspectives, as we assume the idea is new to the audience.

Analogy, Metaphor and Simile

Using analogy, metaphor and simile can aide us in establishing a connection between two ideas, which is key in making ideas easy to understand.

One example of metaphor here, “My classroom is a zoo”, meaning my classroom is unruly and the members are wild.


On an explanation scale, someone at B might want to see the why of an idea then how. Yet someone at R, who already already understands the big picture of the big idea may need explanation that put more focus on the how. This individual would have more interest in the details and tactical information which is the tree.


A tech-savvy adult who was asked to explain what virtualization  means, from his perspective, it is next to impossible to explain it to a person with elementary knowledge about computers.

Explanations from experts would tend to be:

  • Accurate but incomprehensible
  • Detailed but ineffective
  • Filled with new words
  • Presented without context or application

However if you as an expert want to really help a person who is not expert to understand the concept, here are some advices:

  • Do not make assumptions about what people already know
  • Use the most basic language possible
  • Zoom out and try to see the subject form the broadest perspective possible
  • Forget the details and exceptions and focus on big ideas
  • Trade accuracy for understanding
  • Connect the basic ideas to ideas the audience already understands


Imagine you’re going into a tie shop to buy a tie, which something very simple. Then as you walk into the store, the incredible variety of colors, shapes, fabrics and patterns is just overwhelming. One might think that having every option available on the table would be liberating, which is misleading.

In this situation, you are faced with the “Paradox of Choice”, which prevents you from feeling happy with any choice.

Dealing with issue, an approach to this would be to limit your choices before you visit the shop. Lets say you chose a specific color, simple design, this will help you make the right decision with focus and confidence.

This would apply in the same manner for crafting explanations. Not every ideas and styles can fit into one explanation. You have to take some ideas behind the shed and murder them. Limiting your choices and eliminating others would serve to shape your explanation to move forward.

Here are the constraints that we consider in explaining an idea:

  • Timeline
  • Duration
  • Location
  • Format
  • Idea volume
  • Language (how technical are the audience)

Preparing for and Writing an Explanation

Writing is a logical step in the process of transforming an idea into something useful. The key to better explanation is having your script written down, where they can evolve before being presented.

Big ideas- with specific goals, focus on the title  of the explanation, look for potential to fill a gap, to create an explanation where none exist or where one exists in less usable forms.

Research and discovery – as important as packaging existing facts into new, more understandable forms, we also need to look at how they are communicated or explained in the past. Instead of explaining the idea that could mean differently to different people, it is more innovative and creative to think of it in terms of metaphor, and focus on why people should care.

Script writing – this is where the ideas come to life and take shape. It is a rule thumb to know your script limit. For example, you want your explanation to be 1 minute long, you would better be preparing a maximum of 150 words script.

Here is an overview of the elements of a basic script, in order:

  • Agreement
  • Context- problem/ pain and vision of solution
  • Story
  • Connection
  • Description
  • Realization of solution – how6yyy
  • Call to action


In giving reasons to support an idea or a plan, ask yourself why for each of the reason that you make that people should care about. Start out by making accurate, noncontroversial statements that everyone can agree on, then package the ideas in a way that appeals to the audience. Solution is to come up with stories unrelated to the idea, characters, metaphors, analogies, etc.


Ten lessons learned:

  • State your intentions early – by stating your intention early, by building context is essential for achieving your specific explanation goal.
  • Solve problems – work around the what the explanation lack, whether it’s the why  part or the how  part
  • Keep it short – people in this era are busy nowadays, therefore their attention spans short designed to only grab a handful of ideas
  • Reduce noise – we are too surrounded by noise in our lives which is the reason why most of the things we here are not too pronounced to grab our attention. Therefore, it is wise to explain in an environment or setting that is quite enough for people to focus their attention on our explanation.
  • Use visuals – many people can grab more through visuals. By combining visuals and audio, we can maximize our ability to effectively explain to the audience.
  • Embrace imperfection
  • Slow down
  • Be timeless – make your explanation as valuable in the future as it is today, don’t emphasize on temporary trends or brand in your explanation.
  • Be accessible – find a medium through which your materials are accessible to people.
  • Have fun! – be creative! You can use unexpected visuals, hand gestures, humor, or even sarcasms.


There’s a reason why there’s a lack of cooking shows on the radio. They exist but are few, because the medium is the best fit for the message. Cooking is best when it’s visual, or ever better, live. One of the keys to getting the most out of an explanation is being deliberate about the media in which you choose to present it.

Explanations, by definition, are meant for sharing. In isolation, they wither and die.

This chapter devoted to giving your explanations an opportunity to flourish and potentially, live forever.

In communication your ideas to others, you have multiple options at your disposal. To think through these options, it helps to group evaluate them in terms of pros and cons:

  • Media options
    • Text
    • Image/graphic
    • Audio
    • Video
    • Live demonstration
  • Presentation modes
    • Documents
    • Presentation/ slideshow
    • Website
    • Webinar
    • Video
    • Web-based presentation apps
  • Recording and distribution options – undoubted in a face-to-face method of explanation, the idea is communicated, the time has passed, there’s no going back in time to review the explanation again. Therefore, other than the audience presented, no one hears or know about the idea, unless,  the explanation was recorded in some way, be it documents, books, audio, or video, etc. that people can share for their friends and family.


Words don’t do the idea justice.

It is often overlooked how much a simple visual can capture a way to communicate a powerful and transformational idea.

Just a simple chart of two axis, and a curve representing the demand can be interpreted and applied to many different concepts.

To strategically explain an idea or solve a problem, we dissect the idea into 6 problem clusters, each represents a piece of a pie chart:

  • Who and what the problems- what is the problem and who does it affect
  • How much – measuring and counting
  • When problems – scheduling and timing of the challenge
  • Where – pointing out directions and how things fit together
  • How problems – shows how things influence one another
  • Why problems – see the big picture

For further detail, we can creatively add more visuals to each of the cluster, for example:

  • Who and what problems: create a portrait for each who could have the problem
  • How much problems: use a chart to represent goals and progress
  • When problems: use a timeline chart to display the each phase toward achieving the goal
  • Where problems – use a map to show how things connect together or work
  • How problems – use a flowchart with yes or no questions and instructions to help solve the problems
  • Why problems – use a multiple plot speculations of the outcome from different approaches

Mastering all the techniques provided above, you can make explanations more visible and interesting, whether it’s among colleagues, your family, or your friends. When you’re asked to explain something, see it as an opportunity to develop, evolve stories and connections that are more powerful than any answer you’ve given before.

Seize the opportunity! Seize the day!

Click here to go to Lee Lefever’s Common Craft‘s website.

A Girl’s Letter to Her Missing Peace

It’s almost all the time that I feel this prickling tingling at the back of my neck, the intensifying goose bumps encompassing my whole body, the butterflies in my stomach, swarming conspiring with each other to take away my sanity for good.

It shakes up my sense, filling it with adrenaline, making a smoothie of nervousness that would win me over again as it always has for quite a while now. It gets on my nerves to just think about going out to just have fun, and enjoy life, I get tensed when actually going out, I get worried and feared of not being liked by others, even my own friends, I get annoyed by little things, I have too much emotionally-attached opinions, I get offended and discouraged by possibly anything.

My days are spent trying to fight this anxiety upon the cursed awareness of the acceleration of time passing by each day, the sound of the clock ticking, and changing colors of the sky. It is just too fast and overwhelming. The awareness of yourself aging every second that has pushed me once too often into this abyss of the paralysis of thoughts and actions, having me trapped and stuck in this figuratively zero-gravity space.

Eyes closed or not, you feel like you’re not attached to any items, to any particular thoughts,  just an abstract body floating in darkness, in whiteness, in peace, waiting for something, for her sense to come back maybe, for her beginning? for her restart? or maybe just maybe her damnation to come and end her. I do imagine it would be ultimately and comfortably relaxing if we can actually float like that.


My days are spent striving to hold on to a surface, to just grab a hold on to something, to have a solid thought, a purpose, a goal to just keep my mind calm, to keep progressing, to have some sense of security that I really need. The security of friends, the security of family, the security of not losing people, the security of good friends being good friends no matter what, how do we not lose people? How do love people forever? And how do people not change? How do families stay together? How do we not mess up like ever How?

Do some people have this kinda thoughts too? Do they feel it too? Is this why people smoke weed? Became alcoholic? Do self-inflicted harms?

“What is this? What are you trying to say? Can you try to make more sense? Are you out of your mind?”, these are how most people typical people are going to react to these kind of thoughts, this is how they would comfort us and take care of us, and will always be there for us, as they always claimed. In reality, who cares, except your psychiatrist because you’d have to pay him/her for it.


Why I Created This Site

Have you ever at some point, in the midst of any tasks you’re occupied with, stopped and asked yourself, with a frown on your face, WHY? what am I doing? why am I doing this? who am I doing this for? is this it? or does my life have a bigger purpose? a purpose that no one expected of you? a purpose to make an impact on this world? to help people? to them smile? laugh? Or do I exist to just curl up and disappear into a horrifying abyss of oblivion?! By far to this day, I’ve discovered, that if so, I would just be as useful to this world as a gender studies degree to a college graduate (Jokes intended, lol).

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ ” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

So on this day, at this hour, at this point, at the time I am writing this post (or have written this post as you are undeniably reading this at anytime in the future), after throwing myself into a pool of existential crisis and self-doubts, swimming through excuses after excuses, debates after debates, internally,  I have decided to break up with my invisible life for good. And just out of the blue, it dawns on me that life is not about waiting for the right time, or waiting to be ready, or worse yet! thinking you need more time, because TIME, time is the luxury we don’t have. It is rather about MAKING IT THE RIGHT TIME, MAKING YOURSELF READY, AND HELPING OTHERS IS HELPING YOURSELF, both mentally and spiritually. Dare to make change, dare to take the journey, not just for yourself, but also for the things that define you, for the people you love, for your friends and family, because for goodness sake, they need that spark of light too, whether it’s bright enough or not for them to see, they need it, the motivation, the hope, the inspiration to be something different, to know they can be anything if they want to, to be brave! At the end of the day, you are owner of your life, you only have your self to blame for the dreams that are killed, the hopes that are faded. So BOTTOM LINE: It’s now or never!

According to Denis Waitley, ” There are two primary choices in life: to accept the conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”