Inspire Change Through Words

33 Copywriting & Messaging Principles For The Rising Personal Development Star


Personal Development Copywriting & Messaging Principle #5: Walk Backwards Through Time

If you’re writing copy, work backwards from the pivotal moment of change you need to create. This is similar to knowing the arc of transformation, except it’s puting the knowledge to work. 

First, what will be the dominant emotion that incites change? Is it confidence? Maybe they finally believe they can do something. Is it anger? Perhaps they’re fed up of feeling a certain way. 

Use this as a baseline when you write. 

Now, decide what steps you’ll need to take your reader through to get them to that emotional outcome by working backwards from it.

What is the “a-ha moment” that will push them over the finish line?

What do they need to know/feel to get them to that a-ha moment?

Write this out until you get it right, step by step.

Most people never change. Many change, but only when they’re desperate. You can help a lot of people avoid having to reach that state of desperation, and you can make a lot of money doing so. 

Let’s walk through an example. 

Example #1: My Former Self

When I was stuck at a 9-5 desk job I hated, I knew I wanted to make more money, I just didn’t know how. I was listening to all the podcasts: Tim Ferriss, etc. I eventually heard Ramit Sethi speak somewhere, and several months later I bought his Earn1K course to help me start making money. But the steps I needed to take to get there were many:

  • Realize there were paths to take I wasn’t yet aware of.
  • Find someone I trusted that could show me what to do.
  • Understand that I could use skills I already had to make money.
  • See that others had taken similar expertise and monetized it.
  • Feel at ease knowing I could start by just making money on the side.
  • Decide it was worth my money to invest in my future.

Ramit’s rallying cry was simple, but it resonated with me: “I don’t teach people how to be frugal, I show them how to make more so they can live a rich life and do what they want.” 

Hearing him reiterate that ethos on a live webinar was my boiling point.

You will have to move back and forth through time until you find the market’s boiling point. But when you do, it’s like waving a magic wand. Brendon Burchard’s “Did I Live? Did I Love? Did I Matter?” concept has entranced millions. Brené Brown’s simple idea of “leaning in” to your vulnerability spread like wildfire throughout the world. And Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Work Week is so delectably simple, I sometimes forget how much work Tim put into refining it as his dominant, front-facing message.

I’m sorry, Superstar, but this will not come easy. However, when your travels through time pay off, and you can incite change with just a few words, you’ll be unstoppable.

Or you could do what Gary Vee does and yell at the people who need to get started to just get started.

Example #2: Leadership Training

Let’s say you run leadership trainings for founders and CEOs. 

Why would they need that? Besides the practical reasons for needing to grow. 

Because they feel inadequate as leaders.

This can be abstract: Something is missing, and they need more. Or concrete: they need more communications and technology training to keep up today. 

Now work back from there. What comes before the feeling of inadequacy pushes them over the edge? Restlessness? Irritability? Perhaps a lapse in communication with their team at work?

I’m just guessing here, but let’s say the timeline looked like this:

  • A corporate manager at a renowned company steps out of a meeting with her team and can’t shake the feeling they weren’t listening to her.
  • She takes a glance back at the conference room, and they’re all laughing together, but they were just stone-faced and silent a minute ago.
  • She goes home and lies in bed that night, unable to sleep, wondering if it’s all in her head.
  • For the next few weeks, she’s on edge, paranoid almost, wondering what people think of her. 
  • She tries to convince herself it’s all in her head, until she’s summoned by her boss, who tells her that her team is worried and she doesn’t seem to be herself.
  • Her boss asks if she needs to take some time off—she says no, but how is she supposed to look her team in the eye and trust them ever again?

Now imagine she’s listening to her favorite podcast at the gym, and someone comes on announcing their new book: Do Leaders Quit?

They outline the exact scenario she’s just faced. She’s in disbelief. She has to know more, because they know her better than she knows herself.



Copywriting & Messaging Principle #6: Observe Dreams & Nightmares

When staring at the clock, what does your market dream about? What do they dread? A bulleted list of pain points and desires will not suffice; you must speak the unspoken language of dreams and nightmares.

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