5 Tips for Disruptive Thinking (Or, How to Get a Pompous Classist Like Johnny B. Truant to Feature You on His Blog)

What Sam Rosen says in the intro to his guest post below is true… I’m really not so into accepting guest posts because this isn’t so much a “business blog” as it’s “that one asshole’s blog.” When that one asshole isn’t the person writing, it feels strange. (Drew Kime holds some incriminating info on me, which is why I ran his post recently. But hopefully those hearings will be over soon and the statute of limitations will expire.)

So the reasons I’m running today’s guest post by Sam Rosen are twofold:

1. Sam is doing this really interesting thing that I’ve never seen before — 60 speakers in 60 minutes giving their best tips on online influence — and you all will like it. (I’m planning to like it myself, actually.) It’s totally and completely free, so there’s no reason not to do it. I also don’t stand to benefit from it at all, which both irks me and makes me feel like Mother Theresa.

2. I needed a post, and it made sense to talk about Sam’s thing (because naturally, I’m in it… since I’m a whore). However, I had the choice of doing the hard work myself or saying, “Yeah, Sam, why don’t you write it because I’m going on vacation in a bit and don’t want to write it myself? Have it on my desk by 9am tomorrow. And by ‘my desk,’ I mean to tie it around a rock and throw it through my window. And by ‘window,’ I mean my email account. And by ‘rock,’ I mean virus.”

So what follows is Sam working and doing my job for me. Enjoy.


Recently, Johnny wrote that he rarely accepts guest posts. That’s not because he’s a cold-hearted, zombie-obsessed misanthrope who prefers hilarious chickens over fellow humans. It’s because he’s a pompous classist who only associates with Ivy League professors and captains of industry.

Okay, maybe not. If I added that biographical hue to Johnny’s non-existent Wikipedia page, I’d probably have at least 42 Truantians attempt to sue me for slander, including his biggest fan, Ann Coulter.

So why did he let me do a blog post?

It’s not because he has a penchant for Jewish entrepreneurs (JOHNNY’S NOTE: It’s not JUST because I have a penchant for Jewish entrepreneurs). I think it’s because my company, ThoughtLead, is doing something slightly unusual:

We’re putting on the shortest marketing conference ever. 60 of the web’s leading thinkers and doers (including Mr. Truant himself) will speak for 60 seconds each about how to increase your digital influence. On July 6th, at 6pm ET. It’s called the Influencer Project, and it’s sponsored by big companies (like HubSpot, Rackspace, and MarketingProfs).

How’d we think of the idea…and get so many people to join in on the fun?

We Questioned the Rules (Hmm… I like the sound of that. Maybe I’ll create an online course of the same title soon. Damn you, Truant! You win this time.)

You see, not too long ago, we launched another speaker series, called The Purposeful Product (which Johnny, Dave Navarro, and Chris Brogan are actually all speaking on this week). It got rave reviews. But it fell short of the buzz we had hoped for.

That’s because it wasn’t a disruptive idea. Despite the awesome speakers and content, the overall messaging was pretty standard. And, not surprisingly, it didn’t fly like we wanted it to (kind of like Truant’s chickens).

The Influencer Project, on the other hand, is different. It’s already spreading on Twitter, and people we don’t even know are blogging about it.

“A-listers” like Brian Clark, our Third Tribe fave, as well as Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Solis, and John Jantsch are all speaking.

Frankly, we’re all a bit stunned, and that’s not just because Truant mailed us one of his chickens last night with the mysterious note, “She’s yours. Good luck.”

How to Think Disruptively

Truth is, we were tired of all the “me too” product launches, conferences, e-books, and blogs, and we wanted to do something radically different, something that created a lot of hoopla in a hurry.

So we questioned the rules, just like Johnny told us to (as well as getting a JBT apple-eating tattoo on our left ankles, which our parents weren’t too psyched about).

After recovering from the trauma of “inking” our ankles with Johnny’s admittedly dashing image, we endeavored to isolate five attributes of disruptive thinking. Here they are:

1. Think in terms of memes. “Question the Rules”; “Third Tribe”; and “Shortest Marketing Conference Ever” are all “repeatable” ideas that upend convention. They take schemas (rules, tribes, conferences) in the cultural zeitgeist and give them a twist. Think about Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial. It was 1984. The book 1984 represented all of the suits, the corporate meanies, the stodgy, uncreative bastards. They took that and turned it on its head.

So ask yourself: “Is this meme-worthy? Is this something that could spread?” If the answer’s “no,” you might be in trouble. If it’s “yes,” then keep going.

2. Create a collective ethos. If it’s just “your thing,” who cares? But if it’s about the community, if it’s an idea driven by people coming together and rallying around a cause, then you release a different kind of energy. We’re not lone warriors. We’re intersubjectively inclined human beings who, no matter how “big” we are, want to accomplish incredible things with others.

So ask yourself: are you facilitating a collective platform, or just worried about your own product, service, or idea?

3. Get other disruptors on board.  The “influencers,” the people who are already in the public eye, are usually disruptors by nature. They think in different ways. They have styles that set them apart from others. They create memes. By making it easy for them to say “yes” (read: 60-second interview, plus a collective ethos, plus a meme), you not only begin to adopt their thinking—you become their partner in crime. (JOHNNY’S NOTE: I’ve had to decline a lot of interviews lately. “60 seconds” is EXACTLY what made me do this one — they made it easy to say yes.)

So ask yourself: are you making it easy and attractive for other disruptors to join you in the cause of innovation, and maybe even the creation of a new internet shoe empire?

4. Use language—creatively and memorably. When we were inviting A-listers, we used the sentence: “60 of the web’s leading thinkers speak for 60 seconds each about how to increase your digital influence for good and profit in the next 60 days, on July 6th at 6pm ET.” That grabs attention. We intentionally created a sense of rhythm, repetition, and repeatability (you might notice that I’m kind of into alliteration; like Johnny’s zombies, it’s an unhealthy obsession) so that it would “stick” in people’s minds.

So ask yourself: is your language memorable? Do you sound like a white heterosexual middle class religiously unremarkable man living in America, or does your idea have stickiness, repeatability, “memetic” mojo?

5. Create a pattern interrupt. For a long time, everyone selling information products online was using long-form sales letters. Then, one day, Frank Kern did one big video with a huge “Add to Cart” button underneath. Many others followed suit, but he was the disruptor. For a long time, everyone was blogging, and then Twitter made you turn your “logs” (ahem) into 140 characters each. Now there are “corporate micro-blogging platforms,” but Twitter was the disruptor. What do these examples have in common? They took a pattern we were familiar with, and interrupted it.

So ask yourself: are you just following the same pattern, or are you interrupting—disrupting—it, like Tony Robbins does at his seminars when he bucks the “cheerleader” image and starts swearing?

Okay, so by now, you’re probably starting to get an idea of the “disruptive thinking” mindset. And if you’re not, it’s probably hopeless. (Just kidding. I heard that it took Johnny like 10 years to have his first good idea.)

So here’s a question I’d like you to answer in the comments: How can you be more disruptive in your own thinking, without stealing my idea (I know a lawyer, Truant)? What examples of disruptive marketing have inspired you lately?

(JOHNNY’S NOTE: And also sign up to listen to the Influencer Project. It’s free, and it’s the only project of it’s kind. Fo real, yo.)


  1. thor says:

    Cool article.
    JBT wisely turned down my pathetic request to do a guest post when I found his blog and like a drunk at a party tried to grab the beautiful hostess buttocks!

    My pattern interupt is to point out that Diets & Exercise are a pretty shitty way to be fit, toned and energized…
    What is the answer?
    I will tell you when JBT let’s me do a (sober!) guest post in 2025…

  2. @TheGirlPie says:

    At Johnny’s #1 intro point I clicked over to sign up. Not cuz he said to (duh) but because it was 60 in 60 seconds! Fresh, fun, SHORT, might spark an idea or two. NOT because it was “free” —
    (Lecture! / Anything that costs my time is not free, it’s a trade of my valued time for your valued content which we both hopefully gain from thereafter; I hopefully buy from or WOM for you; your content hopefully serves a need for me. /End lecture.)
    — because I would toss some paypal coins at the idea fountain for sure. But because it was Disruptive.

    SWELL post Sam, thanks for sharing your smarts.


    PS: I recall when your Principled Product or Productive Purpose or whatever came out; I saw so little info on the site, no dates, nothing, that I emailed the contact to get more details… I know exactly why it was DOA. It’s FAB that you Phoenix-ed this from that, very cool.

    PSS: I would be a keen 60th Speaker on your Influencer Project, actually — completely different than all your others in several ways. Seeing I could “apply” by 140 characters got me all atwitter… but since it seems you’re funneling only to your FB page and GirlPie doesn’t do FB, I guess I’ll miss my shot… regardless, I’m looking forward to at least 58 of the speakers… (JUST KIDDING JOHNNY!)

  3. Sam Rosen says:

    @thor – I didn’t know Johnny was a hostess?

    @TheGirlPie – No! No! You can still enter on Twitter. Just use the hashtag #influencer and you’ll be in the running. Thanks for the nice words about the Influencer Project. Purposeful Product was a great and worthy first round, with top-rate speakers, but it wasn’t disruptive, and had a bunch of the errors you mention above. Email me what you think of the 60-in-60 format!

  4. Andy Fogarty says:

    60 in 60 – very cool idea indeed.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. My blog/business seems to be transforming at a rapid rate these days “Thanks to viewers like you” <– said in my best PBS announcer guy voice.

    As my audience grows, I'm realizing that they generally want to learn about the same things that are everywhere these days. I love that it's heading in this direction, but I've been feeling a little like the same old thing that's been done before. Of course I put my own personality and style into everything, but it hasn't seemed like enough. Not to me anyway.

    I really liked the 5 points you outlined. I was reading them and thinking "I know this". I know a lot of things though. It's fully implementing them that seems to get lost sometimes.

    I'm definitely looking forward to the 60 minutes of awesomeness.

  5. Sam Rosen says:

    @Andy Cool blog! What if you did something like get all of the entrepreneurial daddy bloggers out there to record your kids saying what they love most about having an daddy who’s an entrepreneur. How cute would that be? “My daddy’s cool because…” Or you could have each of the dad’s give their kids one sentence to say that’s an actual marketing or business tip, but delivered by a kid. “If yew wont to gwow yahw bidness, make shaw to choose ah nitch that yahw passionate about.” 🙂

    Or what other disruptive campaigns could you do related to the “entrepreneurial daddy” world that would bring fellow (and well followed) bloggers and entrepreneurs on board? Hope that sparks some fresh ideas!

  6. Andy Fogarty says:

    What’s your rate and address again? I need to know where to send the check 🙂

    Very cool idea! Sparks are a fly’n my friend.

    Many thanks.

  7. Sam Rosen says:

    $5,000,000/hr and 1234 Disrupt Lane. 🙂 Keep me posted on the sparks!

  8. Andy Fogarty says:

    Damn! Last time I comment here 😉

  9. Incredibly well-packaged reminder that we do not have to accept our fate as robots inching our way on and off trains, entering and exiting lives someone else has in mind for is. Be remarkable or be unremarkable, as he says. Interrupt the conversation is a mantra to keep close hold of. What a terrific way to start another day chasing a little bit of money on someone else’s terms. I loved this. Thank you for making this morning so much easier.

  10. Johnny, some things don’t have a statute of limitations. I’m just sayin’ …

    So “pattern interrupt” means your readers say, “WTF?” Yeah, I think I got that part down.

  11. This is a very unique idea except it’s not all that unique. There is a conference online for the past few years called “The Nines” where The Leadership Network and Catalyst ask 75 leaders, “if you had nine minutes to share with other leaders what would you tell them?” I thought it was quite interesting. Here is the information about it from last year: http://thenines.leadnet.org/

  12. Sam Rosen says:

    @Scott — Awesome. Really glad to hear the most made a difference for you. That’s what this is all about.

    @Drew — I think that would apply to most people *except* for Johnny’s readers. “WTF?” is the normal state when reading a new Truant post, so therefore Johnny’s pattern interrupt would be posting a long philosophical expose on the nature of epistemological development from 1913-1927.

    @David — That’s cool! Hadn’t seen The Nines before. I love these “microformats” as a means for spreading a lot of ideas quickly. It’s always cool to see different and innovative structures for packaging online content.

  13. Johnny says:

    I’ll be interested to see what everyone thought of this. As I told Sam, I was coming back from vacation and kind of out of pocket for the live event and so am eagerly awaiting the recording. I love the idea and can’t wait to hear it!