Newsletter 619 – What We Can Learn from Michael Hyatt

Hyatt 2I first met Michael Hyatt when he worked for the publisher that produced many of my early books. Later he became CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, wrote successful books of his own, and continues to distribute free, online blog posts and other materials that usually are insightful and helpful for anyone interested in leadership, blogging or publishing. By following his blog and downloading some of his free ebooks and videos (www.michaelhyatt.com) you can learn a lot about publishing, writing online posts (like this one), speaking more effectively, and leadership.

Of course Michael’s advice is not always free of charge. For example, a $30 monthly fee lets you join his Platform University and get special materials. I’m still evaluating if it’s worth the cost, at least for me. In December I purchased his video course promising the “best year ever” for those who followed its principles. The course was practical, superbly produced and impressively marketed, but it alerted me to issues that are wise to evaluate whenever we use or produce self-help materials.

  • The teacher’s values. Without doubt Michael wants to be helpful, drawing from his experiences in the publishing industry and sharing conclusions that can benefit the rest of us. He also wants to make a lot of money and show others how to do the same often through self-promotion and selling (he calls it “monetizing”) whatever we do. These values are not innately bad and to his credit Michael Hyatt effectively demonstrates what he teaches. But for me monetizing and self-promotion are not what I want to characterize my life or career.
  • The teacher’s beliefs. Geared to secular audiences, Michael demonstrates the humanistic belief that we all have the ability to set our own destinies and reach our own goals. Often these practices can be effective, but life is rarely that simple. At times unexpected illness or accidents intervene. Storms destroy our homes or layoffs disrupt our well-planned careers. Truth is, we are not the masters of our own destinies. Probably Michael agrees but these realities are noticeably absent from his materials.
  • The teacher’s theology. Without discounting Michael Hyatt’s excellent advice, Christians and other believers need to ask about the will of God and biblical values in all of this. After giving a biblical example in the “best year ever” series, Michael quickly reassures listeners that this will not become a Bible study. Why so defensive?

I continue to learn a lot from Michael Hyatt. You can too. But be cautious. Any comments?

    • Terry Motte
    • July 23rd, 2015

    I always enjoy your thoughts and opinions. Please keep sharing. Thank you.

    • John
    • July 23rd, 2015

    Thank you Dr Collins! I so appreciate the way in which you give in your blogs, potential good resources for counseling, coaching, and just living life. It is great to hear that you have invested 1st and are letting us know the value of Michael Hyatt’s teaching/Platform University for you. I totally agree that earning a living at work is definitely God’s design/plan. Yet there is a limit/line which when crossed demonstrates whether our values are focused on God getting the Glory or ourselves. As you state, learning to be better bloggers, writers and creators are life-giving goals for many of us. When purchasing something from someone who promises “the Best Year Ever” we ought to search out what values undergird that promise 🙂 Thanks again!
    john

  1. Spot on, Dr. Collins! Thank you for your blogs and for being an example of how to “think through” all the information that is out there. I too learn a lot from Michael Hyatt but I also find it needs to often be filtered through a Biblical world view.

  2. Years of work and travel in African and Asian countries, and residing in urban North America, have shown the power of restraint on personal development and planning:
    * Cultures that value, protect and reward only conformity.
    * Destructive punishment for deviance or difference.
    * Rapacious government, mafia and religion that take everything.
    * Belief in a capricious god or spirits that ruin personal plans.
    * Personal traits resulting from malnutrition, autism or trauma.
    * Absolutely no opportunity other than trafficking oneself.
    Even devout atheists who operate by a modicum of biblical values help create opportunities and enhance aspiration within individuals. The word remains a sad place for half or more of its occupants.

  3. Excellent points Gary. (nice to reconnect after Tonga 1998). I suspect that the defensiveness comes from widespread sense that to mixed audiences we need to speak secular language so as to not offend. This is bad thinking. Dr Jonathan Chaplin has an excellent free booklet called Talking God on the Theos UK website addressing this issue. I have a paper on our own site (NZ Christian Network) called Evangelism in the Public Square. The world becomes more secular in large part because we stop ‘Talking God’. May God bless you. Glyn Carpenter, New Zealand

  4. Thought provoking post, Gary; thank you. To his credit, Michael Hyatt does a comprehensive survey of his readers each year in order to better understand his audience’s needs and provide content with those considerations. That’s not only sound business acumen but a fundamental Christian premise modeled by Jesus to seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. He does post about the importance of his faith as the foundation for overcoming his own hurdles and the compass for his work. Long-time followers know his theology – it’s not a secret – and overall, his work does reflect “salt and light” even if it’s not overtly obvious in every post or perfectly executed with every product. That said, if his values, beliefs and theology are in question here, why not ask him directly?

    • davidgrissen
    • July 24th, 2015

    I view most of what Michael does is like a businessman who’s applying sound business principles (ethically, it seems to me) in a capitalistic society as a Christian. For me, the issue of money is a heart issue — the pursuit of it as a basic goal is the wrong pursuit and idolatrous. Greed to get more for idolatrous reasons is a work of the flesh. And the lack of generosity and good stewardship if I hoard and express my basic selfishness in this way without being challenged, is an ungodly attitude. When a person crosses the line in their heart and thinking on any of this is tough for me to judge from the outside. And how God is judging that individual is also impossible to know unless it’s a clear violation of a negative biblical command. Tough issues in a free, capitalistic society where Christians are still free and have can be major players in this social and economic environment!

  5. Thank you for your caring and well-balanced comments. They are helpful not only to look at this author, but at many others that are publishing materials that can enhance our ministries around the world. I always appreciate your balanced perspectives.

  6. Gary, I appreciate the material and mindsets that Michael Hyatt promotes. I’ve had a few encounters with him and find him to be an energetic, humble, and wants-to-help-you-do-well guy. You are struck by what looks to you like self-promotion, I see the “many people helped” side of it.

    It’s ironic to me that someone so well-known in his field chaffs at marketing one’s products and message as self-promotion. You may not have felt that you were self-promoting in your career, but clearly many people were promoting for you – the Seminary promoting your classes, publishers promoting your many books, conferences promoting your speaking, the Christian counseling association promoting that topic which you are so passionate about. And I’m glad for it! The world has benefited from the message that God has placed in your heart.

    Hyatt is helping people, to help many other people, by teaching them how to effectively get the word out about what help they can provide. Only a few people are well-placed enough to have other people promote their message. Sure some are in it for themselves, but so are many non-“self-promoters.”

    For me it’s about calling. If I’m called by God to get a message out, which I feel I am, then when that message gets out I’m living out God’s calling. It’s my lips speaking it. And my name on the book. But God’s message. Of course, there’s the risk that I’ll get a big head, but pride and egoism also plague those who make no visible effort to share their message.

    Isn’t it good stewardship of calling to get that message out to as wide an audience as possible?

    When I do this well, people hear and focus on the message not the messenger. It takes a lot of hard work, technical skills, finances, and character to get a message out. Hyatt’s calling appears to be to help people do that.

    I’m curious, in your opinion, what would non-“self-promoting” marketing look like for someone getting their calling message out through books and workshops? In other words, what is your philosophy and methodology of expressing a calling message?

    • Hi Keith

      Thanks so much for taking the time to reflect on my post about Michael Hyatt. And thanks for your honesty in disagreeing with me. You did it in a gracious manner and I am grateful for your push-back. I have had challenges like yours come from others and they can lead to worthwhile reconsiderations of my own attitudes and conclusions.

      In the course of my career I have chosen not to promote my credentials or even tell people about my books or speaking engagements. Maybe this is not healthy (even the Apostle Paul spoke about his credentials but without boasting). Undoubtedly this attitude in me has limited the sales of my books and probably held back my career but that was my choice.

      I agree that “there’s the risk that..[self-promoters] will get a big head, but pride and egoism also plague those who make no visible effort to share their message.” Are you seeing that in me? I also agree that “while some self-promoters are in it for themselves, so are many non-self-promoters.” Pride is a danger for all of us.

      I wonder, however, if self-promotion is the same as promotion that comes from others. We probably could debate whether or not the schools where I have taught or the publishers of my books have promoted my work as much as you might suspect. I have no problems with others mentioning my writings or career experiences but I prefer that these are toned down and I don’t mention them myself – often not even on the resumés that academics like to build. Is that bad? Is it foolish or wrong? Your comments challenge me to think more about this. And if I decide to change or not to change is either decision OK?

      You end your note with a great question: “what would non-‘self-promoting’ marketing look like for someone getting their calling message out through books and workshops? In other words, what is your philosophy and methodology of expressing a calling message?” I guess I don’t have a philosophy like this. I have just produced what I’ve produced and immediately gone on to the next project without ever pausing to celebrate or think back on what’s been done. Certainly I see the value of marketing and I am happy to give acclaim to the work of others. But Michael Hyatt is right in the tapes on publishing that he distributed this week: produce something and leave it on the shelf and nobody gets your message. Am I really OK with that? Seems like the answer is yes. Should I be OK with that? I don’t know.

      So thanks for your comments.

      Shifting gears a little, I hope things are moving forward with your coaching school now that you have moved your base of operation back to the US. Is that cross-cultural coaching book still in the works – or even done?

      • Hi Gary, as usual, you are very thoughtful in your response.

        First, you asked if I see you as a prideful non-self-promoter – not at all! My point was simply that ego and pride are not limited to “self-promoters” – as you said, pride is a danger for all of us.

        In my comment above, I pointed to stewarding God’s calling as the point. To me that includes getting the word out about the message that God has given (this is how I’ll refer positively to marketing, in contrast to what I perceive as the negative term “self-promotion”).

        Your further comments make me wonder if God calls some to create, and He calls some to offer that creation to others. For me, these two things feel part of my stewardship responsibility. Whereas, your comments point to a calling to create. Is that okay, you asked? Of course. If that’s how God is directing you.

        Thank you for asking about my work. The coaching training school is producing impact beyond what I could have imagined. This required a huge reorganization which is completed and bearing fruit. (Not my primary calling, but had to be done.) The cross-cultural coaching book is still on hold. I do teach a teleclass series on that topic.

        Gary, this discussion, while we may not on the surface agree and perhaps because we didn’t agree, caused me to reflect more deeply on my own practices. There are many answers to these questions and many ways to implement them. I’m glad you brought the topic forward.

    • robanddawnmc
    • July 26th, 2015

    Gary,
    I’m a huge Michael Hyatt fan (and a fan that has read every post of yours from the beginning). I think you are a tad hard on Hyatt here.

    In your earlier review of Hyatt’s planning product, and again here, you not that Hyatt can’t say it will a person’s “best year ever.” You note that a tragedy could occur. Gary, we all know that. There is not a person in the world who disagrees with you. Do you think he should therefore change the title?

    As a counselor you, you’d be the first to rejoice with a patient who became more proactive, attained some small goals, and regained a sense of purpose. If your patient had been living for years in the self-imposed squalor of inactivity… then patient gained traction and declared to you, “this is going to be my best year ever!” Would you say, “you don’t really know that yet.”

    Of course not. It sounds like you don’t like Hyatt’s course title or his “psychology lite” approach. Just say that–otherwise it feels to me like you’re being unnecessarily nitpicky.

    You might be correct about him being defensive about his faith. I tend to see that from a slightly different perspective. I think that he’s been so clear about his faith in his podcasts and other offerings, that he didn’t want to prematurely lose spiritually unresolved clients, those whose “religious awareness meters” were overly active.

    Your desire to help readers like me be discerning about the self-help materials that I consume is admirable. Using Mike Hyatt to be illustrative of your point seems a bit off.

    Just one of your biggest fans sharing his $.02 worth.

    Rob

  7. A NOTE FROM GARY TO ALL WHO RESPONDED TO THIS NEWSLETTER

    Thanks everyone for your comments regarding my post about some of the work of Michael Hyatt. I have read and re-read each of them. All of you were gracious in your comments, including those who disagreed with my observations.

    In writing the post I had this in mind:

    • I wanted to point out the excellent source of valuable information that comes, often free of charge, from Mr. Hyatt.
    • I also wanted to note that he (very effectively and professionally) uses what he writes to sell his products. He is an admirable entrepreneur and what he sells is a part of his business. I know of people who assume that all of this is free but, of course it is not. The Hyatt courses are well produced, very practical and worth purchasing.
    • But I also wanted to note that everybody who writes (including me) brings a perspective and set of values that might differ from the values of others. I most certainly was not trying to put down Michael Hyatt. That is never my intention.

    This is where I may have offended some readers. And it reflects personal issues that I am reluctant to share. My attitudes toward marketing, including self-promotion, come from some background experiences that I have had, maybe from some personality issues, and from ongoing struggles about the meaning of humility. The writer of James tells us to humble ourselves and Psalm 75 reminds us that it is God alone who allows some people to rise while others do not. This promotion does not seem to be our responsibility but that is a common belief in American and other cultures where self-promotion is central. I see this most in politicians who seek votes by verbally tearing-down other candidates and lauding themselves. Of course Michael Hyatt and people like him do not even hint at this. Not at all. They are much more gracious and they understand that to sell products or services we need to share our credentials.

    Please understand that I greatly respect Michael Hyatt, continue to learn from him, admire the obvious hard work and quality that he puts into his presentations and materials, and am greatly impressed by his willingness to share so much that will build up others. Maybe I don’t agree with some of his perspectives or values but neither would I expect him or others to agree with mine.

    I would welcome your reactions to this.

      • Shelli Mitchell
      • September 6th, 2015

      Thank you, Gary, for your thoughtful follow-up. In my line of work (employment and politics), I have employees and contractors that rely on the growth and profitability of my companies to share their God-given talents and provide for their families. I am continuously mindful that I have a role to steward good business opportunities for their benefit and God’s glory. It would be irresponsible of me to passively ‘wait for the phone to ring’ for someone else to market our work and retain our services. Responsible promotion and marketing is essential to educate our clients and provide relevant solutions to their needs. I don’t view it as self-serving or prideful; I view it as one component to business that can be done effectively and with humility.

      While I agree that we can easily see numerous examples of outrageous self-promotion and prideful marketing, I am also reminded in the parable of the talents that two out of the three employees were rewarded for being responsible and intentional in actively growing a given portion of the owner’s wealth. It’s very likely that didn’t happen by being silent secret agents as third employee was.

      And so I look at Michael Hyatt as a kindred brother in Christ, an imperfect fellow business owner stewarding his talents and experiences in work that is helpful and meaningful to others while providing employment and income. Also imperfect, I make no apologies for graciously promoting / marketing our work and the purposes of our businesses (which – in the world of politics – is sorely needed, I might add). 🙂

      Again, thank you for providing this forum to share and discuss points of view. Iron sharpens iron. Keep writing and sharing your perspectives!

      Shelli

  8. Hello Rob,

    Thank you for your response to my most recent newsletter.

    First I apologize for my comments which may have offended you. As I indicated in my earlier post to everyone, I was not trying to be critical of Michael Hyatt or to those who are “fans” or other admirers of what Michael does or has done.

    You described my comments as sounding like I “don’t like Hyatt’s course title or his ‘psychology lite’ approach. Just say that–otherwise it feels to me like you’re being unnecessarily nitpicky.“ You add that I am “hard on Hyatt” and making a point that is “a bit off.” In reading this I can understand how my words led to the observations that you suggested and for this I am sincerely sorry. But I assure you that I had no intention of implying that Michael Hyatt has a ‘psychology lite’ approach (that thought has never before crossed my mind) or no desire to be nitpicky or otherwise “hard on Hyatt.” That is what you assumed from what I wrote but it most certainly is not what I intended.

    Usually I try to write in ways that build up and encourage people and clearly I did not do this with my previous post. Thank you for pointing out the weaknesses in what I wrote. I have learned from your comments and will be more careful in future posts.

    Gary

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