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The Forrest Gump Guide to Attracting Readers and Becoming a Legend

Everyone wants to be a hero.

We spend our entire lives looking for the situation, career, relationship,  or friendship where we can shine.

In our search for significance we gravitate to mentors and even brands that give us the chance at being better. As a blogger, you have the opportunity to build a following by giving your audience a path to significance, a roadmap to heroism.

Heavy stuff right? You’ll be delighted to know that one of America’s greatest heroes has already written the playbook on living with purpose and carrying everyone us along for the ride.

His name is Forrest…Forrest Gump.

Forrest Gump is full of life changing lessons, After watching it for the 12th time I realized that one segment in particular was full of “audience building” gems. I’m referring to when Forrest, after burying Jenny, started running. Along the way, an eclectic gaggle of followers joined his therapeutic marathon. This is where we see Forrest’s simple genius shine through.

Forrest started running for a simple reason. The reason was deeply personal and pushed him to cross the country multiple times. Forrest didn’t care who ran with him. He just ran. Everyone was allowed to join. Along the way, he become a celebrity but he didn’t notice. He was focused on his passion. The celebrity drew others to his band of followers – but it didn’t change Forrest’s course.

But most of all, I’m struck by how Forrest gave advice (wrote his blog post to stretch the metaphor).

Remember the guy who wanted to create a bumper sticker? His first idea wasn’t all that great but when Forrest stepped in sh*t and didn’t notice, the man shouted “you stepped in sh*t” – Forrest, said “it happens”.

Sometime bloggers complicate things. At times our advice should be simple and to the point. No jargon or buzzwords, just an authentic appraisal of the world. Shit happens.

In another scene, a poster artist needed a spark of inspiration. Forrest wasn’t an artist but wiping his face with a t-shirt sparked an iconic piece of art. This reminds me that the best inspiration comes from your audience.

In each scene, Forrest’s marathon provided the environment for others to discover their significance, their own unique brand of heroism.

I can write a lot about this so I’ll try to sum up the high points:

Keep Your Purpose Simple.

Drill Sergeant: Gump What’s your sole purpose in this army?
Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!
Drill Sergeant: God damn it, Gump!  You’re a god damn genius!

Forest didn’t overcomplicate anything,  To him, running was the simplest way  cope with his deep sense of loss. The reason was simple. So should your purpose. Identify one thing you want to accomplish. State it and start running. Protect it from complications and procrastinations.

Here’s an example to get you moving –  Pushing Social Manifesto

Start Now.

Forrest Gump: When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate.  When I had to go, you know, I went.

Forrest began with the shoes on his feet and the clothes on his back. This reminds me that we often complicate our business and blog. We chase after the latest gadgets, software, and guru. When all you need to do is use what you have.

You’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish with what you already have. Your smartphone is probably all you need to start a video blog. Audacity, a free voice recording application can create good podcasts for iTunes. WordPress is free and comes with a decent template to get you started.

Don’t let your preparations rob your momentum.

Don’t Get Distracted.

Forrest Gump: I gotta find Bubba!

Notice that Forrest didn’t shave and ran his clothes ragged. He stopped when he needed to but kept running.

I love this acronym for FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Successful. Discipline yourself to implement a simple plan and stick with it until you clear evidence of success or failure.

Get Commitment.

Forrest Gump: Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.

Forrest didn’t carry anyone. The commitment was simple – start running.

Most bloggers are afraid to ask for commitment from their readers. But your readers are waiting for the invitation to commit. Want subscribers? Ask and make it easy for them to sign up. Want repeat visitors, ask them and create a simple form to notify them when a new post is ready. Don’t be coy or discreet just get commitment.

Be Accessible.

Forrest Gump:  Jenny taught me how to climb. And I taught her how to dangle.

People want to talk to you. Let them. Forrest kept a literal open door policy, you just had to run to the head of the pack.

A month ago I made it easy for people to schedule time to speak with me (give it a try). I’ve learned a ton from my readers and I like to think that they got something out of the exchange.

Set aside 30 minutes a week to talk with your readers, I promise you that it will be the most rewarding part of your week. Even more important, your readers get a chance to talk about their dreams and challenges. Your advice will be an important tool in their journey.

Give Honest Advice.

Forrest Gump: That’s all I have to say about that

The fictional Sh*t Happens and Smiley Face originated from Forrests’ oblivious influence. He just told it like it was and his audience took it from there.

Wear your heart on your sleeve. Give simple advice. Stop trying to impress your readers. Just be you. Believe me that’s all your readers really want.

Lead From the Front.

Jenny: Run, Forrest! Run!

People want to be heroes and they also want to be inspired by authentic leadership. Forrest didn’t run at the end or the middle of the pack. He ran from the front.

Don’t be afraid to lead your tribe. State your opinion. Embrace your expert status. Be willing to be provocative, challenging, and unique. you must be willing to lead to shine in the expert economy.

Cover the Same Ground.

Forrest Gump: We was always taking long walks, and we was always looking for a guy named “Charlie”

Forrest ran across the country several times. People knew his route and jumped in. His followers didn’t know how long he would run but they knew where he was going.

I hate writing posts about headlines. However, readers never tire of reading these posts.

I think the information is basic and in ample supply on the web. But that’s not the point. My readers want to hear it again because its useful. Continue to teach the fundamental principles of your subject. Your willingness to cover the same ground will continually add new readers to the pack.

Know When to Stop or Pivot

Forrest Gump:  My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.

One day, Forrest just – stopped. The reason for running was gone. He had dealt with the pain. He was done.

Has your blog run its course? It may be time to move on. Move to your next project and begin again. Sometimes quitting is the smartest and bravest thing you can do.

The best way to know when to stop or pivot is to have a specific destination in mind.  Can you get there?  Do you need help?  Is the goal worth having?  Your answers will lead you in the right direction.

I can talk about Forrest Gump and blogging all day but  I guess that’s all I have to say about that – for now.

How about you?

About Stan

Stan Smith is the CEO of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

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