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Back in October, we were privileged to welcome world leading marketing strategist and author, Michael J. Fanuele, to Insite’s 2019 Engage user conference.

Thought-provoking. Passionate. Imaginative. And most certainly, inspirational.

Those are the words our attendees used to describe Fanuele’s keynote session, The Art of Inspiring Change. And we have a feeling that after you’re filled in about what he had to say, you may just feel inspired too.

Michael opened his session with some remarks about the moment he was inspired to write his book, Stop Making Sense, The Art of Inspiring Anybody. His summary looked a little something like this:

Michael Fanuele Hates Bono

Basically, Michael hates Bono. Or so he thought. He asked us if we had seen a U2 concert.

“You know what happens when you see a U2 concert. It’s rock and roll church! Bono is up there and he’s waving the South African flag and he’s talking about fighting racism and sexism. He’s yelling about stamping out malaria and AIDS and allergies. You name it and Bono is violently against it. He hates it.  And that is exactly why I hate the guy.  Shut up, play some music, right? Wrong,” Michael began.

Michael shared an awe-inspiring moment he had when he went to a U2 concert with a friend roughly 15 years ago. Within the course of maybe 60 minutes, he went from completely despising the man, to wanting to completely change his life. He found himself making plans to quit his job, go to Africa and dig irrigation ditches. It was in that moment that Michael got really intellectually intrigued in the notion of inspiration.

This is the moment he began thinking about how we can move people. How do we psych people up? How do we convince people to take action? How do we inspire?

Michael then asked us to think about an objective or a goal we have. Something we are trying to accomplish. His hunch? In order to close a deal, lead a team, get a promotion or accomplish anything, you are going to have to learn how to inspire people.

While writing his book, Michael learned a story about David Bowie. When Bowie died, there were swarms of tweets from the likes of Bono, Kayne West and even President Obama. But one Tweet stood out to him, it was the German foreign office, and the tweet said, “Goodbye David Bowie. Thank you for helping to bring down the Berlin wall.”

Michael didn’t remember that part of the story. He didn’t remember David Bowie having anything to do with it. As a member of the audience, I think I can speak for most people, we didn’t know this story either.

David Bowie Tweets About Berlin Wall

In summary, in the 70s David Bowie and his band went to West Berlin. One night, as David Bowie and the band were practicing in a rundown studio, Bowie looked out the window and saw the Berlin Wall. Against the wall was a man and woman getting hot and heavy, and above them on the other side of the wall he saw East German soldiers patrolling with their rifles. In that one moment of love, passion and guns, Bowie was inspired to write the song Heroes.

In 1987, Bowie came back to the Berlin wall for a show where a bunch of East Berliners gathered. For his encore he played none other than Heroes. Bowie claims it was the most profound moment of his entire life. He said it felt like a prayer. Bowie was telling all these people who were stuck in a totalitarian regime on the other side of the wall that they could be heroes, just for one day. Weeks later, Ronald Reagan came to the same spot and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Months later the wall falls.

Bowie Berlin Wall Performance

Why did this happen? Because music moves us. Music changes our bodies. Music is powerful. It can train the mind of children. Rouse the courage of armies. Music inspires us.

Michael asked us if we’d ever heard of Mondegreens. Mondegreens are basically misheard lyrics. Eye of the Tiger is one of the most mondegreen heavy song of all time. The song is called Eye of the Tiger but people think it’s High with the Kaier, Ivan the Thai girl, etc. People get the lyrics to Eye of the Tiger wrong all the time.

The point is, when you get lyrics wrong, you don’t get the song wrong. You still understand it. You still get the emotion right. Because music is about the attitude behind the words.

He also shared about a study that was done in Tokyo about 15 years ago when they took a crew of salespeople and divided them in half. Before their shift, half of the salespeople listened to Eye of the Tiger and half did not. The findings? Basically if you listen to Eye of the Tiger, you close more deals.

Believe it or not, Michael’s presentation wasn’t all about music. The point of sharing the music examples was to introduce what Michael calls the inspiration imperative. If you want to accomplish anything significant you are going to have to learn how to inspire. You’ll have to learn how to arouse people’s emotions to the point of conviction, to the point of action. Michael believes you cannot simply logic your way to inspiration.

In fact, in Michael’s book he writes that persuasion and inspiration are actually opposing forces.

“Analysis kills inspiration; in fact, ‘persuasion’ and ‘inspiration’ are actually opposite and antagonistic forces. The more we try to persuade, to explain, to convince, to argue – the less likely we are to arouse anybody to do anything.”

Passion and reason work against each other. Passion gets you to jump out of your seat, while reason makes you think a little longer. That’s the inspiration equation, according to Michael.

The Inspiration Equation

“This ability to sidestep logic, to quiet reason so that our passion can sing its siren song is the fundamental skill of becoming an inspirational leader.”

So how do you inspire? Well, that’s what Michael shares in his book. And it’s what he shared with us during the rest of the keynote. You can buy Michael’s book here. We’ll leave you with an intro to Michael’s 6 Skills of Inspiration. (But we think you should read his book if you really want to get inspired)

Michael Fanuele’s 6 Skills of Inspiration

  1. Ambition – Get Delusional
    Have the audacity to make really big goals. Seriously, don’t make modest goals. Dream BIG.
  2. Action – Aim for Action. Not Attitude
    Don’t waste your time trying to get your team to buy into your agenda. Instead, be dead clear about what you want them to do. Michael calls this “Inspir-Action”.
  3. Atmosphere – Show up to Stir up
    Defy conventional expectations. Create some moments that make people think, “what the heck?!”
  4. Attitude – Talk Like Music
    Speak lyrically. Poetically. The affect attached to words and the feelings they carry inspire people.
  5. Affection – Love, For Real
    Inspiring leaders don’t just ask their audience to do difficult things, they express their confidence that the team can accomplish those things. Figure out what you’re really good at and go after it.
  6. Authenticity – Be True You
    Know yourself and express yourself as a one-of-a-kind entity. A character with passions, quirks, vulnerabilities and shortcomings. Muster the courage to share your shadows.

6 Skills to Inspiration

So there you have it. Michael’s recipe for inspiration: delusion, action, disorientation, music, love and you. Here’s one more piece of advice from Michael on inspiring:


A huge thank you goes out to Michael for inspiring us at Engage 2019!

About Michael Fanuele:

Michael Fanuele is one of the world’s leading marketing strategists. He spent most of his career working at advertising agencies around the globe where he’s been lucky enough to lead market-moving work for brands including Dos Equis, Arby’s, Cadillac, Charles Schwab, Cheerios, The Economist and Volvo. Michael also served as a Chief Creative Officer at General Mills. Michael has done politics, stand-up comedy and written for the Harvard Business Review, AdAge and the Star Tribune. Michael is currently the president of Assembly Media and Author of Stop Making Sense: The Art of Inspiring Anybody.