How to Succeed (The Secret That You’re Probably Ignoring)

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United Airlines has made a big mistake.

No, they didn’t ruin my flight. No, they haven’t lost me as a customer. No, their service wasn’t abysmal.

In fact, everything on my flight went fine — but they are still making a big mistake and they are making it thousands of times per day.

And the chances are good that you and I are making the same mistake as well.

What is this costly error? It can be found on the following napkin.

United Airlines

Do you see the mistake?

In between their nice little social media invitations, there is one glaring error. Do you see it? It’s pretty clear once you recognize it.

United doesn’t tell me where to go.

“Follow us on Twitter.”

Ok, great … but what do I follow on Twitter? @United? @UnitedAirlines? @UnitedFlights? What do I type in? You had me interested and now you lost me.

“Find us on Facebook.”

Well, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I will have to find you. I’ll have to search and stumble around until I find the URL. That’s too much work. Now I’m putting my phone back in my pocket. Why didn’t you just put it on the napkin?

United’s moves are well–intentioned, but they fall short in one critical aspect: they don’t make it easy for people to take the desired action.

And there is the lesson.

The number one way to succeed is to make it easy for the other person to do what you want.

Want to be a great networker? Make it easy for people to like you. Be interested in their problems and help them find solutions. Be engaged in their lives and actually care about what’s going on with them. Here is a full list of networking tips.

Want to earn more money on the side? Make it easy for people to hire you as a freelancer. Pick a specific problem you can solve and then let those people know that you can make their lives better. Sign up here to get a free guide on freelancing.

Want to pay for college with scholarships? Or to get into Harvard? Make it easy for the admissions committee to believe in you. Show them proof of the statements you make. Do something that the average student doesn’t do.

Want to make more sales? Make it easy on the customer to purchase your products. Show them why your products are valuable. Reduce the number of clicks they need to make on the checkout page. Provide a rock solid guarantee that eases their fears. Make it publicly known that you care about your customers.

Want to get a promotion? Make it easy for your boss to rave about you. Take on additional responsibilities. Do a brilliant job on your latest project. Be the person to bring something new to the company. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

Want to land that big client? Make it easy for them to switch to you. Find out what’s holding them back and remove every barrier you can. Give them a bonus for switching. Get to know the person in charge of the decision and help them solve their specific problem. Be the type of person that they want to do business with.

Do you see how powerful this approach can be?

People are lazy. They try to avoid a hassle whenever they can. If you make it easy for them to take a specific action, then they will be more likely to take that action.

The circumstance doesn’t matter. Just make it easy for the other person to make the decision you want.

What can you do right now?

The odds are pretty good that you could make it easier for people to take a desired action right now.

What are the barriers that are holding you and your business back? How can you make life easier for your clients? Your co-workers? Your boss? Your family and friends?

Go out there and do it. Make it easy on the other person and you will find success at a much higher rate.

53 Responses to How to Succeed (The Secret That You’re Probably Ignoring)

  1. Marlee says:

    This is such a brilliant showcase of how not to use social media. The other thing that bugs me about these kind of campaigns is that they don’t tell you why.

    Why should I connect to United on my SOCIAL network? Are there deals and specials for fans and followers only? If so, count me in. Where’s the offer?

    Nevertheless, you make a brilliant point and your follow up resources rock.

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks Marlee! And I totally agree — showing how you provide value is a key as well. This doesn’t have to be hard either. A short statement works just fine, “Love free miles? Follow us @United on Twitter for special promotions.”

  2. Tom says:

    Great tips though :)

    • James Clear says:

      Haha… I didn’t do it to be mean. Hopefully, someone from United ends up here and finds the tips useful as well. :)

  3. Garry says:

    Totally! Take me to where you WANT me to go … easily. Take me to an offer; maybe a coupon or a fun, in flight freebie. Something! Anything different than the status quo! Leverage it! Don’t just put up the act that you’re cutting edge with a first run of a million napkins and go, “oops”. Follow through to the next logical step. Even perhaps make it REALLY easy for me with a 2D code on the bottom that I can scan.

    Thanks, James, for your resources and for helping me to think about how I can also apply this more effectively and creatively!

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks, Garry. And I will say that everyone makes mistakes, and United is no exception. There’s no harm in this, but if you want anyone to take a specific action, then you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

  4. Rajeev says:

    Seems to me the ‘legacy carrier’ as we call them in the industry is trying to look ‘mint’ but landing up seeming ‘mongy’. They want to look with-it but just don’t get-it.

    • James Clear says:

      Perhaps. However, this is a mistake that everyone makes from time to time. We’re often so caught up in spreading our message that we forget to make the message easy to receive.

  5. One thing I noticed is that United was having a direct contact with its clients and it wasn’t saying anything. Not only is United not saying exactly where to go and how, it wasn’t saying why I should go there. I still don’t have one friend who is my friend because I asked them to be. We must never forget that people are humans, not robots.

  6. Brilliant! This is why I love this blog :)

  7. Tim Webster says:

    Perfect. And you’re right, I’m making this mistake right now.

    Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in our message, we completely forget to make things simple.

    Thanks for the reminder! :o )

  8. Yelena says:

    So true! There’s this local store that I really like that made this same mistake. They put a large “We’re now on Facebook” sign by the cash register, but did not include their FB URL. Worse yet, even though they had enough Likes, they didn’t claim vanity URL for their fanpage. Finally, their deals for Facebook fans were exactly the same as for everyone else, including walk-in customers.

    • James Clear says:

      Yeah, a few mistakes there — I just hope they weren’t claiming special benefits for the Facebook Fans and then giving out the same deals as usual.

      • Yelena says:

        They weren’t. I guess that was the problem – there was no clear answer to why should anyone like them on Facebook.

  9. Sibyl Chavis says:

    James: I am just dropping by for the first time after recently finding your site and you have some really good stuff here. I loved this article and the advice you gave in it. It is so practical and makes complete sense. I totally agree that you have to make it easy for other people to do what you want. No need to be too clever or tricky … just point them in the right direction. Great post.

  10. Jennelle says:

    I found this site through and I’m so glad I did. This article was practical, yet inspirational. I completely agree with the “make it easy” approach. It would be great to get this in hands of some high school teachers! I’m looking forward to doing some more reading on your site tonight. Thanks!

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks, Jennelle! I’m happy to have you around here. Let me know what you would like to hear more of…

  11. Chris Kulbab says:

    I found you here through LinkedIn, James, and it validates my stories of how great a tool LinkedIn is for branching out and making AMAZING network contacts!

    James, you are very easy to find and interact with, and I have from the very absolute beginning got valuable content that made a difference in the lives of both myself and my network.

    Thanks for what you do here!


    • James Clear says:

      Thanks so much, Chris. I’m glad Passive Panda is useful for you. I’ll do my best to keep the good stuff coming. :)

  12. Claudia Corriero says:

    Hi! I’m still wondering why you call yourself “passive”. Those tips are so simple…yet give me ENERGY and willingness to be ACTIVE. In most of the cases, what we should apply is just what we would like to see and receive … and there you go: it was you the one who was able to pinpoint them! Thanks for your great work!

    I’ll keep on reading you!

  13. Sergio Felix says:


    So we don’t use:


    Yeah that’s totally creepy and I also have not one single friend who is my friend because I ask them to be lol

    I did not notice the mistake, I feel embarrased because honestly, how could anyone miss it? (but I did… oops)

    Great share man, definitely makes a lot of sense.

    Make it eeeeasy peasy, have a great day guys! ;-)


  14. Debi says:

    I get so frustrated when someone says “just type XYZ (company name) in Facebook” and there are 20 of them that come up and no identifying info/picture/logo. We provide the URL for everything at work for just this reason.

  15. Awais says:

    True, I recognized the error in first sight. These are practical difficulties we face in everyday life.

  16. Sheila says:

    James, such a great point! Love all your advice, it has helped me tremendously! Thanks.

  17. Carl says:

    Great post as usual! The really good thing is that almost all corporations miss the point of social media. Not that I want to start an airline, but how many small businesses could use their SM knowledge in a savvy way to either consult for them or even compete with them. One example is microbreweries. Many are running circles around the big guys.

    Keep up the great content!


  18. The easier brands make it for a person to interact with them the better success their going to have. Follow, Like, or even connect on different social media platforms means nothing if you don’t tell them where they can find you at. For huge companies such as American Airlines they need to be very specific on what actions they ask of their customers.

    The less you give your potential customer to do the more their going to follow you.

    Less = more

  19. Michael Mays says:

    You got two napkins. I only got one!

    What is happening here is last generation marketeers trying to come up to speed with that new internet thingie. If Facebook and Twitter were multipoint brick and mortar entities such a napkin ad would be appropriate.

  20. Andrea says:

    The money is in the details. It’s the little things that really make all the difference.

    It’s always important to think of how others will experience your content, actions or work before putting it out there.

    You can’t assume someone is just going “to get it” you gave to make sure they get it.

    These types of simple, avoidable mistakes can be the difference between success and failure and are definitely ones that can be costly.

  21. Nawaz says:

    I love your article saying: “The number one way to succeed is to make it easy for the other person to do what you want.”

  22. Rosa Lee Jude says:

    Throughout my years in public relations and marketing, I have had a mantra – “You can tell your story, or you can let someone else tell it.” – Meaning if you want your story told right, you tell it yourself. You just told United’s story for them.

  23. Adiba says:

    You are so right! There is a link missing in the message that will get the customer interested to go and follow you on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you for making us realize this and think from that angle also.


  24. Brian Jones says:

    Great article James and thank you for the tips!

    ** BTW – my mother flies for United – i’m forwarding this off to her :)

  25. Blair Rorani says:

    Maybe they didnt want to encourage mobile device use on the flight by adding a QR code. Hard to include a call to action the is actually illegal at the time you are likely to act on it. Maybe they should put it on the boarding pass or the tail of the plane.

  26. HT says:

    Thanks James for the tip. We sometimes make life difficult for ourselves, don’t we?

    In coaching, I often ask this question to draw my coachee out from inaction: “What is one small easy step you can take…..?”

  27. Susan says:

    I disagree. My guess is you don’t use Facebook enough to know that a user simply types a name in the search bar. As you are typing the word “United… ” a whole host of items pop up, and you can quickly scan and see what you want. NEVER have I needed a separate URL for a facebook account. Yes, you can use it, from anywhere in a regular browser. But if you’re IN Facebook already, you will find them. Same with Twitter. If you type any form of United Airlines (which is the name of the airline), you will see the obvious choice and you follow who you want to follow.

    Anyone who knows the interworkings of Facebook doesn’t need any more on the napkin. To anyone NOT in the know, those words will go by way of the fate of the napkin: in the trash. Because if you aren’t already utilizing facebook, you aren’t going to be “inclined” to suddenly start an account simply BECAUSE of the napkin. My point being, the napkin is for people who are already on there and we KNOW what to do, thank you very much. Because that’s nearly EVERYONE now. By not writing the facebook URL, they’ve just reminded me that we’re all part of a special club. To put it on, would have seemed dopey to me.

    • Rose says:

      If they really wanted it to be “for insiders only”, then why print all those napkins? Based on your statement, insiders should already be looking for them on FB/Twitter.

      United sent out this message, but didn’t tell people WHY they should friend/follow the company. What value are they going to provide for people who interact with them on social media? If every company marketed like this, then we’d all be linked to 500 companies with no idea why. THAT seems dopey to me.

  28. Huu says:

    Ah you got me, couldn’t find them on Facebook ;(

  29. Very nicely explained, James. Thanks.

  30. Brian says:

    I really like this post. Even when I set goals, I tried to break that huge goals down to something that’s easy to accomplish which keeps me moving in the right direction. It’s like a saying I heard a long time ago, it takes more energy to frown than to smile so why not be lazy and smile all the time.

    Good post – thanks!

  31. Great examples! People love easy! The easier the better. Our patience time span is really short and is getting shorter as more technology that makes life easier comes out.

  32. Marilee says:

    What I love, is when iam doing it right, and don’t even know it. Then I found you. Thank you James for being there for me, I love your work

  33. Sanjeet says:

    Hey James, That’s a real 7 costly mistake, I too have seen such ads in Newspaper, TV, where they say “Follow us on Twitter” or “Become a fan at Facebook”. They suppose that the viewer would probably click on Newspaper or touch the TV screen to connect :) . It’s a “Fashion Victim” type stuff, people want you to connect with them but they don’t provide the path for that.

    Everyone these days keep on saying that Join Us, Follow us.. but why? Social Media has revolutionized the way of business too up to great extent & it was easily visible to me when I saw an advertisement of “Hair Oil” brand where they urged to connect to them.. but why?? No answers :)

    I think there is no reason to like or follow until we get a strong reason for same. I recently have started a blog i.e. The Graduate Loop ( & asked my friends many time & others to like it but seems no one is interested in reading :) so I got a little likes. So, everyone should possess something to deliver before asking for the follow ;)


    ps- you too wrote a nice article ;)

  34. David Sparks says:

    I love the clear illustration of this post. It’s easy to see when it’s not you. Then you can think about what you’re seeing here, and debate it in your own organization.

  35. Andre says:

    What a great article! Simply put and so powerful. I loved the use of the napkins! A great visual way to get the point across. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Aaron Taylor says:

    This post is just amazing, thanks so much for this. Your posts are top notch and always inspire me!

  37. David says:

    I see this same mistake by realtors all the time. They have little riders or plaques that have the social media logos on it but they never include their actual handles.

    It looks so ridiculous to kind’ve be saying ” hey we know these social media thingsmabobs exist” and in the very same context prove you don’t know how they work.

    Great article James. I’m out looking for Eugene Schwartz’s book on your recommendation.


  38. Mategyero says:

    Great post James!
    As they say, social media can do wonders in the field of marketing. This is perhaps the reason its being misused unknowingly.

    Making it easy is the key as you say. Totally agree.


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