Chris Brogan: 5 Lessons from a Tank

Last week Linked Orange County hosted bestselling Massachusetts author Chris Brogan in Orange County at Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch. Instead of doing the basic interview, I decided to show Chris how we do it in OC (with a little help from my friends at Oakley). It was part informative interview, part episode of Punk’d. My goal was to both draw out some important words of wisdom from one of the smartest guys in this space and leave Chris with a memory of his visit to Orange County he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. Watch the video below as I set Chris up by ignoring the loud engine sound of the tank as if nothing is happening. It was really fun watching his expression as things played out and we finally boarded the tank for a ride. Special thanks to Tom Wozney (video credit) and Brian Carter photos.

5 Important Lessons from a tank…

So what did I learn?

1. It always has been and always will be about people. There has been a lot written about Chris Brogan’s book “Trust Agents,” and with good cause. It’s a good book grounded on the principle that businesses and brands should be focused on people and can use the social web to build influence and trust to accomplish their business goals. But I was more curious this time around about some of Chris’ more recent projects like Third Tribe and Human Business Works . Third Tribe is a community where you pay to get access to Chris (he’s there about an hour per day) and his other equally smart partners. For a very reasonable monthly subscription, you can get business advice, hash out ideas with the experts and the tribe. It’s a think tank and incubator at the same time.  Human Business Works is one of Chris’ latest ventures and is focused like Linked Orange County is on helping small businesses. It turns out that it’s still about people. With due respect to some of the more recent guest speakers we’ve hosted, none is more human and personable than Chris. He’s the touchy feely-type, and genuinely cares about  people-sometimes to a fault.  One example of this personal touch was his amazing ability to remember several (not just a couple) names from the audience whom he called by name during the Q&A session. He also recommended that websites have photos of (real) people because psychologically we identify with human faces-and use them to establish trust. Actually a very good point. [Note to self: omit monkey photos immediately from website.] Chris is a free thinker and I like that. What I mean is that he constantly seems to be testing ideas in the lab of his brain. The result is often spontaneous, unstructured and uncensored pieces of brilliance (if you heard his keynote in person you know what I mean) mingled with humor and self-deprecation.

2. “Do or Do not, there is no try.” [borrowing from Yoda of Sci-Fi fame]. This was something Chris said in his presentation about actually doing something, instead of just chatting on Twitter and other social networks-or worse, wasting time playing games like Farmville. I think Chris’ message is about going for it and pursuing your passion. But don’t quit your day job just yet. Build something that you own, not that Mark Zuckerberg owns…he also added, “you live and die by your list. Be at the elbow of every deal and be there before the sale.”

3. “There are people in this room who can solve your business problems, and none of them are me.” With bias to my own opinion, I think Chris is spot on here. I recently wrote in one of our weekly newsletters, “Who’s On Your Must-Meet List? Here’s an excerpt: If you haven’t started, this is an invitation to get more actively involved. Do you have a must-meet for biz list? Who’s on it? These are people that if you met them and things went well you would accomplish your goal. Maybe it’s a couple of key executives, an entire company, or a larger segment of new customers. How do you make this list? It’s true we’ve got some pretty incredible talent in our ranks. But my suggestion is to spend less time chasing C-Level folks-CEO’s, CMO’s, CFO’s, and COO’s…In my experience, it’s usually the person you least expect that can do the most for you. That’s the magic. YOU could be the person that makes the difference for someone else and not even know it! You are an important link in the chain.

How To Find Good People…
I use Linked In. It’s free and easy to navigate, do searches and make a list. Did you know that you can send free messages to group members?  You can make your list and use our monthly events to meet good people in person. Developing these personal business relationships builds trust that gives us confidence to start working together.

1 x 1 vs. 1 x 5,000
What would happen if we re-framed the way we approached attending meet ups? What if we came trying to find one person we could help, even in the smallest way, without expecting anything in return? Now multiply that by 5,000+ people…It is about getting personal.The secret to success is us.

4. Customer loyalty matters (a lot more than you might think). Chris recommended giving preferential treatment to the most loyal customers. Notice he didn’t say the wealthiest or best looking…Whatever your industry definition of “preferential” is, Chris says to take care of them. Make them feel special. Keep them coming back-and leverage their reach to spread a positive message about your product or service far beyond the reach of your marketing. And with more power and less bias. VIPs who attended the Oct 12th event came an hour early for a special behind the scenes tour of Oakley, treated to some (simple food & bev) and got some face time with Chris personally and the other VIPs. I wonder if this is what Chris is talking about? It also makes me think of the sponsors who stepped up to help out. As you may know, Linked Orange County is a self-funded labor of love. I couldn’t afford to continue to put on events like this without the generous support of sponsors. I think these sponsors not only deserve our attention and appreciation, but our business. Yes, they sponsor to get access to our members but they are also supporting the community and ensuring we can continue to have quality events. Here are a few folks to thank:  Blue C Advertising, BoardWalk Ice Cream Co., Digg, OC Ad Fed, Toyota , the student volunteers from Chapman University and of course Oakley.

5. The Tools may change but the goals are still the same.

Tanks (and big battleships) used to be the tools of battle. They are intimidating machines and back in the day people probably couldn’t conceive of things changing. But things do change.  Now there are new tools-un-manned drones, heat-seeking missiles and a lot of stuff I know nothing about. One possible object lesson here is that we cannot become dependent or focus on the tools. Many people are flocking to start a business page on Facebook, or finally get on Twitter. That’s great, if that’s where your customers are. But it’s not about the tool or platform. It’s about using the latest and greatest to engage people and build relationships of trust-so that you can do more business or better business (think customer service-Zappos). I would really like to hear from you. What do you think and what did I leave out?

PS. Here are some more pics from the event…

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  • Lisa Goodwin

    Great pics! That was a great event Bryan. I really loved how he broke it down to this: it’s about the people. Period.

  • Allen C. Buchanan

    Sorry I missed the event and must miss the November one as well. Hopefully next time, though. Great content! Keep it coming.


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  • Nancy Ramos

    Hi Bryan: Thank you for summarizing Chris Brogan’s lecture. It is now clear for me.

    Also, thank you for the opportunity and for putting this event together.

    Nancy Ramos

  • Meredith Laskow

    Bryan, thanks for holding this great event.
    The tank video is too funny!


  • Bryan

    Thanks, it was really fun to do…

  • Diane Brogan

    Great post. The tank video is superrific. Very seldom is Chris at a loss for words.

  • Amber Avines

    Bryan: I think your goal of giving Chris a memory for life was certainly exceeded! That video is great and I saw Chris tweet about the tank before I even arrived!

    As for your points, you’re spot on. The platforms that are out there are the tools, but people are the most important part of the equation. Without the person to utilize, manipulate, and organize the tools, nothing can get done. As is the case with most things, it’s the personal touch that matters most! And, those with the best people skills are usually the ones who succeed.

    Thanks to you and Chris for a wonderful event.

  • Bryan

    Ha! I believe that’s true; he’s quick on his feet but we got him this time.

  • Bryan

    Appreciate ya!

  • Tyler Jorgenson

    It was another great event. I may be able to help with some of the sponsorships for the next one. I’ll be in touch.

  • Emily Crume

    Community, engagement and participation - it’s what we do that makes each other successful. Thanks for bringing Chris to our tribe, Bryan. What a great event, I’m glad Digg could support LinkedOC!

  • Bryan

    Your support means a lot, thank you so much!

  • Mitch Devine

    Bryan, I had no idea that tank was even operable. I thought it was just a cool looking prop! What a fun video clip! I’m sure you succeeded in giving Chris a trip to remember. Here’s another fun quote of his from that evening: “I rode a tank today, nothing else is dangerous.” Thanks again for hosting such great events!

  • Mike Walker


    Everyone meeting in person, as a group is key. And having a collective mindset to seek out and find other members that could personally benefit from making a connection is vital. I think community (team) is what will soften the hits via a rough economy and unsettled outlook for all. Leveraging the skill sets of others and linking arms will no doubt make those that participate-that much more successful.

    Great event. Great people.

    ps: Next time-I call shotgun on that tank ride! :)

  • Bryan

    Yes, one of the more fun things I’ve done lately!

  • Bryan


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  • Neal Schaffer

    Cool stuff Bryan. Sorry I missed the event but looking forward to the next one. Thanks for sharing your analysis, and insight, of what Chris spoke about. You do know, though, that you’ve set the bar high for future speakers!

  • Bryan

    Thanks Neal, yep…how do we top a ride in a tank? I do love a challenge…

  • Arlo Tully


    This is a comment your updated lessons from a tank

    In a recent article I wrote on my blog I shared this thought:

    “Reach out to others, Look people in their eyes and really listen to what they are saying. Get to know people, step out of your comfort zone and reach out… …You want someone to know what you are going through; you want someone to listen and just understand you. So be what you wish other where to you. But when it becomes, who you are, then you will see people will care about you.”

    I would say #7 lesson should be Listen

    I was not at the event and I am sorry I was not.


  • Bryan

    Good one. Chris has often said, “grow bigger ears.” Which I think means use the internet and social tools to find out what people are saying so that you can engage them, get important product or market data, etc.

  • Todd Brown

    For me… it was a great big “get off ur butt!”. Thanks for including me. Since then, I’ve created my first email campaign, updated linkedin, started a blog, even written an xtranormal video.

    The nice thing, for me anyway, is it all came easily… it was like a log jam being freed.

  • Bryan

    Nice! The reality is that no one is going to hand you your lunch. If you don’t do anything, your competitors eat your lunch. Making your own food, building your own empire or whatever the analogy… is the best (not always the fastest) strategy to ensure survival.

  • Cynthia Trevino

    Kudos Bryan for (what was clearly) another great event! I made the @BrianSolis recently but missed the ” @chrisbrogan + tank event”. I did catch him Friday night on a live, impromptu

    Chris Brogan was a generous presenter during the Ustream broadcast and answered tons of good questions candidly. My fave, handling the ongoing dilemma: What to do for (very) small businesses that do not have time to blog? Chris answered, “Tell them not to blog. Tell them to use email newsletters.”
    Business growth success is using each other, and using what @Amber Avines calls the “personal touch”.

    Thanks again Bryan for growing this dynamic LinkedOC community.

  • Bryan

    My pleasure and thanks for the great comments. Hope to see you Nov. 11th

  • aileen

    The tank is AWESOME! What a thrill!

  • Emma Tiebens

    Hi Bryan!

    What a great post! Seeing this makes me re-live that evening with you and Chris Brogan! Thank you for bringing him for us to meet “up close and personal”… he’s even more accessible in person. He exuded authenticity and the desire to really get people to think deeper on how we can humanize our business and our brand and build deeper relationships. I absolutely resonated with him!

    I love your 7 Lessons I Learned From Chris… I do want to say that one of my favorite nuggets from the evening was: “Re-think your email marketing as relationship marketing”. I have always been an advocate of Relationship Marketing and Chris simply validated the need for us to pay attention to our email marketing to build and forge even more solid relationships as opposed to depending on social networking both online and offline. This to me is a HUGE reminder.

    The other favorite nugget I took home that evening was from you! “Our job is connecting the disconnected…” Such a simple concept yet profoundly difficult for those who major in “ME-ology”.

    Thank you again for all you do, Bryan! Please let me know how I may serve and give back to you and LinkedOC!

    Cheering You On…


  • Bryan

    Thanks for the kind words Emma!

  • Bryan

    Just another Tuesday in OC…

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