This is an embarrassing story I've never admitted in public.
It's kinda gross too—consider yourself warned.
When I was around 10 years old, I used to spend the whole summer playing outside in our little suburban yard.
And one summer in particular, I remember noticing that my arms were getting pretty tanned.
This was a big surprise because you'd typically put me in “pasty” category.
Usually I just burn and heal, burn and heal.
I remember feeling a little proud of my new tan, although not for the reasons you might think.
At the time, I was really into reading about the American pioneer era—Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett were my heroes.
And since I wanted to be a trapper on the 18th century American frontier, my new tan made me feel just a tiny bit less the city kid.
Until, that is, my new “rugged mountain man” self-image completely dissolved and washed away…
It all started one evening after I came in from playing and got showered up for bed.
Since I wasn't a “little kid” anymore, I'd recently made the switch from taking a bath in the tub to the less parentally supervised option of showering in our basement bathroom.
That fateful evening, my mom happened into the bathroom after I was done, and she noticed something odd:
The bar of soap in the dish was bone dry.
So a little while later she buttonholed me:
Did you take a shower? she said.
Of course, I said.
Did you USE SOAP?
Finally I cracked and admitted that no, I had not used soap.
But I had a perfectly logical explanation.
See, I NEVER used soap. Didn't need to.
My 10-year-old brain had it all worked out:
When you take a shower, you're standing up, right?
So I'd get myself good and wet, then I'd shampoo my hair thoroughly.
And as I rinsed the suds out of my hair, the natural action of friendly Mr. Gravity meant that the suds would flow over the rest of my grubby 10-year-old self and I'd emerge, glowing with freshness.
Totally makes sense, doesn't it?
And furthermore, I KNEW it worked just fine, because I'd been doing it for the past several months, ever since I started to take my own showers.
Well after my mom picked herself up off the floor, she sent me straight back to the shower, with EXPLICIT instructions concerning the soap and something else called a wash cloth.
As I lathered up under the water and started scrubbing, I remember watching in dismay as my “outdoorsman tan” started to disappear from my arms…
Two minutes later my skin was at least 5 shades lighter, and I was my old familiar pasty self again.
I was pretty disappointed—but it sure left a big impression.
(And I promise that to this day, I almost always use soap when I shower…)
Fact is, I was in complete denial about what it took to keep myself clean and presentable.
So while I was walking around coated in filth…
But I was oblivious, because my 10-year-old brain had constructed this whole rationalization for my behavior.
I didn't see any reason to change until I was confronted with the realities of my situation.
As much as we'd all like to believe it, this kind of thinking is NOT something you grow out of.
The only difference is that as we get older the problems get bigger and bigger while the rationalizations get more and more elaborate…
That's why the idea of using “agitation” in your email courses and other marketing is so vital.
Your customers have some aspect of their lives that needs to be cleaned up.
But they have all kinds of logical reasons why ignoring the problem is perfectly fine—nothing to see here folks, move along…
When you use agitation correctly, you bring your customers face to face with the reality of their situation…
Forcing them to confront those painful problems they've been sweeping under the rug.
Once you wash away those caked-on layers of denial, then (and ONLY then) will they be ready to hear about your solution.