Well, you just can’t talk biggification without getting into the whole red velvet rope thing.

Because growing your thing (the thing!) in a mindful way without burning yourself out means … having boundaries.

And making them sexy.

But first, I need to explain a bunch of stuff.

Red velvet ropery: what is it?

The red velvet rope is a concept I borrowed from Michael Port.

For me, it’s about distinctions and healthy boundaries.

And really, it includes anything you say or do that results in making your Right People feel welcome, while helping your non-right-people understand that their thing is … somewhere else.

Wheee! Let’s have an example.

Okay. Selma?

She’s the best red velvet rope in the entire world.

I have a duck. I am a biggified blah blah expert whose business partner is a duck.

People who get it and think it’s cool are totally in.

People who think it’s stupid, or suspect that she’s — ewwwwwwwwwww — some kind of marketing ploy, are out. But not because I have to ask them to leave or anything. They just self-select out. They don’t stick.

Having red-velvet-rope Selma around (and let’s be honest, I don’t do anything without her) turns out to be a great way to help people find their way in or out.

Here’s another one.

As everyone knows, I’m having a totally-not-secret secret love affair with Naomi. And one of her red velvet ropes is that she curses like a sailor.

She is a fabulous potty-mouth.

People who don’t dig that leave. Fast. But people who think it’s hysterical to read smart, foul-mouthed business advice will read anything she writes.

Sure, she’s also smart, funny and really, really sweet. And knows what she’s talking about.

But to be in, you have to choose to be in.

Naomi and I aren’t marching around saying “you get in if you’re like this and this” or “go away if you aren’t blah blah blah“.

Because we don’t have to.

So: is the red velvet rope the best metaphor in the world?

Meh. It has some problematic bits.

On the one hand, the red velvet rope thing contains all kinds of good elements. Like these:

[+ boundary] [+ sexy] [+ value] [+ self-selecting]

But it also has some problematic stowaways*. Like [+ divisive] [+ snobby]

We definitely don’t want our red velvet ropiness to be obnoxious.

*“Stowaways” are a Suzette Haden Elgin concept — read her book The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense for more on what I’m talking about here.

The most common misconception.

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking a red velvet rope will make you come across as diva-ey or a total snob — that’s it’s about saying haha I’m in and you’re not.

But that’s not it.

It is about distinctions, but again — in a positive way.

Your red velvet rope is about showing your Right People that you have a place for them, and making them welcome.

The keeping-out part of the distinction is also useful — for keeping out the shoe-throwers and general asshats.

But ideally, the intention of the rope thing is to wave enthusiastically (hi!) to your Right People, to help them see that this is somewhere they can feel at home.

Don’t do this.

The boring way that people try to apply this is by (yawn) having a niche or talking to a “target market”.

So yeah, technically speaking … saying that you only work with “former journalists between the ages of 45 and 60 who live in the greater Chicago area” is a red velvet rope.

But it’s a stupid rope — the kind that doesn’t necessarily fit your Right People. I mean, what if I’m 37 and in Sheboygan but we would totally hit it off? Or what if I’m exactly in that group you described but we don’t madly adore each other? Not interesting. Not useful.

No, a good red velvet rope is something that gives the kind of people you like being around that tingly feeling of “oooh, oooh, oooh, this is for me!”

More about the ropes.

If it’s on your dammit list, it’s a red velvet rope.

For example, I don’t put gushy testimonials on my “hey, I’m doing a retreat” pages, dammit.

Not because I don’t have any. Anyone who has been to one of my live programs will say that this is a not-to-be-missed experience that makes everything in your life better.

It’s because I’m not interested in making some big market-ey point of telling people how great it’s going to be. I don’t want to push it or sell it or make a huge deal out of it.

I really want only the people who already suspect how great it’s going to be.

This means that a lot of people are going to self-select out. They want me to convince them, and I’m just not going to. And that’s fine.

My red velvet rope in this particular situation is you only get in if you’re someone who already gets it.

For a different kind of program I might have a different red velvet rope. But for retreats? The convincing-ey thing is not going to happen.

Taking the red velvet rope thing to somewhere slightly more extreme.

I’ve been playing with this a lot. Experimenting.

And for my Next Big Thing (which, by the way, has a name — it’s called Biggification 2010), there is mad red-velvet-ropery going on.

It will be the hardest to get into of any program I’ve ever done. There will be prerequisites and an application and phone interviews.

This is not to be bitchy and mean. It’s to be supportive of my Right People and to have super-clear boundaries.

More importantly, I won’t be doing anything to try to get people in. I will welcome the ones who are in, but I’m sure as hell not making it easy on people.

More about being inclusive.

There are different levels of Right People.

So not everything you do is going to speak to all of your Right People.

Someone can like me and not be a Shivanaut, and still be a Right Person.*

*Though if you show up at a Retreat? We’ll be shiva-ing it up and then we will laugh about how horrible it is … together!

Some people are going to be right there in the inner circle of Right-People-ness, and some people are going to be out around the edges.

Still right. Still a great fit. Just not the absolute most-PERFECTLY-right-ever overlap. There’s room for so many kinds of Right People within the bigger orbit of Mostly Right People.

But either way, here’s the important part:

Having boundaries and distinctions doesn’t need to be about being a diva. It’s about being clear on what you want and need.

It’s about being clear on what will support and sustain you as you bring your thing into the world.


Ahhhh. Now we’re at the core thing. Support.

You want your thing (your business, your poetry, your dancing, whatever it is) to get to the people who need it, even if you don’t know who they are yet.

You want your thing to go out into the world and do what it needs to do.

And that means that you and your thing need support.

You need to feel safe, supported and loved so that your thing can be sustainable. So that you don’t end up in emotional-breakdown land.

If you’re not taking steps to make sure that what you’re doing supports you (whether that’s financially or emotionally or spiritually or any possible combination of ways), it’s going to hurt.

Red velvet ropes are one more important piece of that support system. They exist to support you, so that you can keep doing your thing.

And that is huge.

Comment zen for today …

Stupid biggification! It’s hard and scary and brings up all of our stuff. Sorry about that.

Luckily, this concept is something you get to play with and make work for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, you have my permission to toss it.

EDIT! I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, but yes. All this red velvet rope stuff (and the Right People concept) is not just for biggification. It holds for relationships, friends, dating, work … really, anything that involves interacting with the outside world.

The Fluent Self