How VOTA Can Change It All


There’s an adage, “Life is like a book. Everyday has a new page with adventures to tell, things to learn and tales to remember.” If the analogy holds true, and I think it does, then we can apply some of the same lessons from writing a book to living life.

A little over 10 years ago I published my first book, Missed Fortune. As a financial strategist for about 30 years at the time, I knew the book’s content forward and backward. But as a first-time author, some days felt like it was one step forward, two steps back as I made my way through the manuscript. Gratefully the book went on to become a top-seller, leading to opportunities to write even more books. And there’s a formula I’ve since learned that has helped me—it can help other authors, presenters, and, really, all of us in any aspect of our lives.VOTA Formula

It comes from my good friend, Strategic Coach Dan Sullivan, and it’s as powerful as it is simple: VOTA. I’ve used VOTA to map out the books that followed, along with countless nationwide seminars, radio programs, video presentations and more.

By now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, okay Doug, what is VOTA?” Ready? It stands for Vision, Obstacles, Transformation and Action. And how do you use it? You look at your audience, get an understanding of who they are and what they need, and you apply the VOTA formula.



Let’s start with understanding the audience. To illustrate, I’ll use the example of one of my books, Last Chance Millionaire, that provides financial planning strategies for a specific audience, Baby Boomers. As I prepared to write that book, I spent time researching the financial and lifestyle trends of this big group of Americans born between 1945 and 1964. Knowing more about what makes them tick, what challenges and opportunities they face enabled me to speak directly to their experience and circumstances.

Once you have a handle on your audience, you begin by giving them a vision. Again using this example of Last Chance Millionaire, I illustrated the darkness of the night if Boomers kept doing what they were doing, versus the brightness of their future if they were to change their approach financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually. Your audience must see a clear vision of the difference they’ll experience if they follow the strategies, knowledge, or approach you’re sharing with them.

Next, you must identify the obstacles for your audience. Point out the road blocks, the hindrances, the barriers that may stand in the way of achieving that vision of a brighter future you just showed them. In the case of the Baby Boomers, I wrote about the common obstacles for their generation, from the less-than-optimal retirement planning vehicles most of them were invested in like 401(k)s and IRAs, to lackluster equity management to the impact of rising taxes and inflation on their nest eggs.

Once you identify the obstacles, then you show your audience how they can overcome them. You give them a roadmap to bypass the barriers and get on their way to that brighter future. The more specific and proven your strategies for eliminating the hindrances, the better.

Then, you paint a really good picture of the transformation your audience will experience as they follow your approach. This is a critical step, because transformation is what people value more than anything—a transcendence to a better way of living. Despite what Madison Avenue’s advertisers try to sell us, people really don’t care about commodities, or even unique products, or exceptional service. We all like a unique experience, and even more than that, we yearn for a meaningful transformation.

When your audience can visualize the change they’ll undergo and the brighter future they’ll have, they will recognize what it is you can do for them. You will have produced something called a value creation monopoly—that’s the best kind of monopoly, where they can only get that transformation from you, and not from anybody else.

Finally, you give them the specific action steps they need to make the vision come to pass, to overcome the obstacles, and to experience the total transformation. But you’ve got to do more than present those steps. You must help them commit to following the course of action. Whether that’s by establishing an ongoing relationship with them or creating an accountability system, help them follow through to truly arrive at that bright future.

So that is what’s called the VOTA formula. As you look ahead to any presentations or programs you may need to develop in the future, apply VOTA and see what a difference it can make not only in the preparation, but in the impact of your ideas. You will hit it out of the ball park, I assure you.

And just as the adage points out, books are like life. So take VOTA beyond the realm of speeches and writing and apply it to life. Whether you’re trying to help your children develop better habits or improving an important relationship, applying Vision, Obstacles, Transformation and Action as you communicate the opportunities for change can help. After all, we’re all hoping to write an abundant life story, aren’t we?

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