Beware people who tell you what they think. Trust people who tell you what they know.

In a previous post about personal growth for brands, I referenced the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. We can investigate the third agreement, “don’t make assumptions” by answering the following question: Why do we make assumptions in the first place? 


A1: False Confidence.

Assumptions are often made on the foundation of a false confidence. We may have a false confidence if we previously worked on a similar brand, client, or project. Yes, we may know some truths about the audience, product, brand, or culture – which can help us relate – but we cannot make assumptions about the business, marketing, or communication objectives, until we have accurate, current information about this brand, client, or project.

Solution: Put previous knowledge and experience on the back burner and get current and accurate info.


A2: Misperception.

Missing details can cause misperception. That’s the danger of assumptions.  When we are confused sometimes we just fill in the blanks ourselves. We need to fill in the blanks by asking questions.  We need to get the details and information. Then we can fill in the blanks with the correct answers. We get rid of confusion.

Solution: Fill in the blanks by asking questions.


A3: Changing variables.

Assumptions work when the variables are consistent. We live in an age where variables that change daily are changing slowly.  Double-check the realities each time. Objectives may have changed. Market dynamics may have shifted. New trends have an impact.

Solution: Verify the factors that could impact your objective first.


When we don’t make assumptions, it means we are asking questions and listening.

When we are asking questions and listening, it means we are filling in the blanks with the correct answers.

When we are filling in the blanks with the correct answers, we set ourselves up to achieve our objective.

Personal growth for brands: The Four Agreements

Is your brand doing what it says it will do? No matter what is happening in the world around it, does your brand have a response plan in place? Is it listening? Is it always doing the best it can? Spring has sprung. We begin to grow plants and gardens. Perhaps your brand could benefit from a little personal growth.

The Four Agreements, a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, is his most famous and influential work.  It was published in 1997 and has sold around 4 million copies.It was featured on Oprah, in “O, The Oprah Magazine”, and Ruiz was recently on the OWN network.

These agreements apply to brands. These agreements are simple. We LOVE simple.



1. Be impeccable with your word.

In order to be impeccable with our brand’s word, we need to know the kinds of things our brand would say. To start, we author the creative brief:

We paint the big picture: the context and world in which our brand is living. We understand what makes our target tick. We uncover their emotional trigger, which tells us the motivation. We identify the promise, the one thing we can deliver. We take a blend of values together and define the brand. This leads us to our organizing concept, those few words that capture the essence of the brand.

 If everything your brand says nods to the motivation, delivers the promise, and is consistent with the organizing concept, your brand is following the first agreement. 

 2. Don’t take anything personally.

There is a fine line between listening to your customers and the idea that ‘whatever happens around you, do not take it personally’.

On one hand, brands cannot “tune out” – they need to listen to their customers and have two-way communication.

@DaveKerpen told us at @mobium’s New Paradigm Series, that the biggest mistake a brand can make is ignoring their highly captive, constantly communicating audiences.

On the other hand, negative events that impact our brands are unavoidable. We can’t just ignore it. Smart brands have a plan. Months in advance they prepare how to address negative comments or events that could have negative impact. When such events happen, boom, there your brand is with poise and grace to respond.

When your brand is proactive, it can deliver on its promise in the face of whatever is happening around it.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

When marketers don’t make assumptions, it means they are asking questions and listening.

 Asking questions and listening help us understand the world in which our brand is living and the needs of our customers.

 4. Always do your best.

One day a brand can make a mistake.  One day a natural disaster or other event outside of our control can impact the success of our brand. The best brands learn from mistakes, roll with the punches, and move forward with solutions.

Strong brands know that their best is different from one day to the next, and always do their best in a constantly changing environment.

Overcoming the overwhelming

The first TED talk I ever watched was Amy Cuddy’s “Power Pose”, which I highly recommend if you speak or are visible to other people. After watching Amy’s talk, I was hooked on TED, intrigued to learn about other ideas. Plus, now I start each morning facing the mirror in a superwoman pose before leaving home.  I’m half kidding.

When I heard about the chance to watch TED talks live through TEDxWindyCity, an independently organized TED event, I jumped at the chance and excitedly marked my calendar.

The theme for the program was contrast. The first presentation explored contrast in a visual way.  In Brandy Agerbeck’s “Shape Your Thinking” talk, she described two types of people: auditory/sequential and visual/spatial or as I like to think of them: linear mathematician vs. scattered artist. When faced with an overwhelming to-do list or massive amounts of information to digest, Brandy offered the following steps to overcome the overwhelming:

  • Chunk: Write each idea on an index card or post-it
  • Sort/Group: Put each similar idea together
  • Connect: Find a thread to connect the groups to each other
  • Scale: Switch up the size of the material you are using to solve your issue. Do you need a giant white board to map it out?  Can you fit the idea for your paper on something the size of a postage stamp?
  • Grasp: What new conclusions can you make?

In our world, collaboration is a big deal.  If linear mathematicians and scattered artists can learn from each other, they take a resourceful, adaptable approach to seek results. Celebrating contrast isn’t always intuitive. But it can be productive. If we can learn from – and collaborate with – each other, we can overcome the overwhelming.