Nina Kovner people passion podcast Passion Squared

Nina Kovner on Insta Experts + Context + Why

In this What’s On My Mind episode I share my thoughts context, Insta experts, Insta education and importance of understanding and using The Celery Test as shared by the awesome Simon Sinek in the book Start With Why when both giving and getting advice. You can find me on the gram @passionsquared Thank you so much for listening- Nina 



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The Danger of Good Advice passion squared blog

The Danger of “Good Advice”

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up. Robert Frost

Advice is tricky. Have you ever received bad advice? Good advice? How did you know?

As long as I have been in business, I learned very early on about the concept of context. So let’s begin by defining context, shall we?


(noun) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

This is where “good advice” turns bad. Context. Without it, our well meaning advice can actually be harmful.

Context is about understanding the BIG picture. My clients know, whenever a question is asked, my response almost always goes something like this…
What is your objective?
What outcome are you seeking?
Can you provide a little more context around this question?

I see it everyday. A question comes up about pricing, and so many are quick to share what they believe is absolute truth, again, without knowing the context of the question, the objective of the business, the model of the business, the marketing position of the brand. Not awesome my loves, not awesome, at all.

The internet is full of great advice, but with that comes the issue of lack of context.

One of the best ways to illustrate this concept of context is The Celery Test, which I found years ago in the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I was beyond excited when I found this example as it confirmed for me why I always asked the questions I asked before “dishing out advice”.

The Celery Test by Simon Sinek

“Imagine you go to a dinner party and someone comes up to you and says, “You know what you need in your organization? M&M’s. If you’re not using M&M’s in your business, you’re leaving money on the table.”

Somebody else comes up to you and says, “You know what you need? Rice milk. The data shows that all the people are buying rice milk these days. You should be selling rice milk in this economy.”

While you’re standing over the punch bowl, yet another person offers some sage advice. “Oreo cookies,” he says. “We made millions from implementing Oreo cookies in our organization. You’ve got to do it.”

Still somebody else comes up to you and says, “Celery. You’ve got to get into celery.”

You get all this great advice from all these highly accomplished people. Some of them are in the same industry. Some of them are more successful than you. Some of them have offered similar advice to others with great success. Now, what do you do?

You go to the supermarket and you buy celery, rice milk, Oreos and M&M’s. You spend a lot of time at the supermarket walking the aisles. You spend a lot of money because you buy everything. But you may or may not get any value from some or all of these products; there are no guarantees. Worse, if you’re budget-constrained, you had to whittle down your choices again. And then which do you choose.

But one thing’s for sure: when you’re standing in line at the supermarket with all these items in your arms, your celery, rice milk, Oreos and M&Ms, nobody can see what you believe. What you do is supposed to serve as tangible proof of what you believe, and you bought everything.

But what if you knew your WHY before you went to the supermarket? What if your WHY is to do only things that are healthy? To always do the things that are good for your body? You’ll get all the same good advice from all the same people, the only difference is, the next time you go to the supermarket, you’ll buy only rice milk and celery. Those are the only products that make sense. It’s not that the other advice isn’t good advice; it’s just not good for you. The advice doesn’t fit.

Filtering your decisions through your WHY, you spend less time at the supermarket and you spend less money, so there’s an efficiency advantage also. You’re guaranteed to get value out of all the products you bought. And, most importantly, when you’re standing in line with your products in your arms, everybody can see what you believe. With only celery and rice milk it’s obvious to people walking by what you believe. “I can see that you believe in looking after your health,” they may say to you. “I feel the same way. I have a question for you.” Congratulations. You just attracted a customer, an employee, a partner or a referral simply by making the right decisions. Simply ensuring that WHAT you do proves what you believe makes it easy for those who believe what you believe to find you. You have successfully communicated your WHY based on WHAT you do.

This is an idealistic concept and in the real world that level of discipline is not always possible. I understand that sometimes we have to make short-term decision to pay bills or get some short-term advantage. That’s fine. The Celery Test still applies. If you want a piece of chocolate cake, go right ahead. The difference is, when you start with WHY, you know full well that the chocolate cake is a short-term decision that doesn’t fit with your beliefs. You’re under no illusions. You know you are only doing it for the short-term sugar rush and you’ll have to work a little harder to get it out of your system. It’s astounding the number of business I see that view an opportunity as the one that’s going to set them on a path to glory, only to have it blow up or slowly deflate over time. They see the chocolate cake and can’t resist. Starting with WHY not only helps you know which is the right advice for you to follow, but also to know which decisions will put you out of balance. You can certainly make those decisions if you need to, but don’t make too many of them, otherwise over time, no one will know what you believe.

But here’s the best part. As soon as I told you WHY, you knew that we were going to buy only celery and rice milk even before you read it. As soon as I gave you the filter, as soon as I said the WHY, you knew exactly what decisions to make before I said so.

That’s called scale.

With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder. A WHY provides the clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions—hiring, partnerships, strategies and tactics—should all pass the Celery Test.”

If you are a coach, consultant, educator, blogger, leader, influencer, or advice seeker, please be mindful that you may not have the “whole picture”, and that the advice you give, or get, may, or may not, pass The Celery Test. And while you are at it, pick up Start With Why, and become a better marketer, leader, value creator and advice giver.

Love + Awesomeness-
Nina xo


6 Ways To Share Your Story On The Web

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

 Rudyard Kipling


Here is the audio version of the post if reading is not your thing. Enjoy!
6 Ways To Share Your Story On The Web

One of the most common questions I am asked by salon owners and artists is “what” they should be posting on their social platforms. My question back is almost always “why” are you posting in the first place.

When we start with why (thank you Simon Sinek), the what and how begins to flow so much more naturally.

Think of your content as your marketing, your story, your voice and your experience and all of a sudden, content creation becomes a creative and fun process, not a daunting one as many have told me it is.

Here are 6 ways to share your story on the Web…

1. About Section
The very overlooked yet super important area to share your story.

2. Before’s & After’s
One of the most engaging ways to share your work, tell a hair story and recognize your team & clients.

3. Behind The Scenes
We all have this incredible desire to see what goes on behind the scenes of our fave brands.

4. Education
If part of your why is your passion for technical excellence, share the hair shows, workshops and advanced education stories with me.

5. Giving Back
Is giving back part of your story? Sharing your charitable events is a great way to show me.

6. Shout Outs
One of our most basic human needs is the need to be recognized. Saying thank you to clients, recognizing a milestone in a team members life or career, or featuring another local business is one of the most powerful ways to engage.

So remember, always start with why. When you have that down, you can begin to create compelling, authentic and powerful content for your social pages.

Have questions? Want to share your story with me? I’m listening.

(shared with LOVE from Nina)

What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?

“Success means never letting the competition define you. Instead you have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about.”

Tom Chappell, Tom’s Of Maine

Meet Woody Lovell Jr., owner of The Barbershop Club at Farmers Market in Los Angeles.  Woody clearly knows the why + what + who of The Barbershop Club brand, and in this video, communicates it brilliantly in 1 min. 9 sec.  WOW.  Can you clearly communicate your brand why + what + who in 1 min. 9 sec?

Once Upon A Time
Both offline and online, whether you are marketing your salon or yourself, it all begins with knowing why you are, what you are, who you are, who you are targeting and clearly communicating your “story”.

In the online world, we all have 24/7 access to decide which brands speak to our hearts and minds.  Does your online presence match your offline presence?  If I go to your website, Facebook page or Yelp page, will I want to pick up the phone or book an online reservation?  While it may seem a bit overwhelming, this is what it takes to engage with today’s connected consumer.

Ok, I know what you are saying, I get it, I get it, but where do I begin?

Start With Why
Simon Sinek, a great author and biz leader we love, has an awesome book called Start With Why.  Simon says (lol) “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

So lets begin building your story. Get out a piece of paper, or laptop or iPad, and answer the following questions. Be sure your mind is clear and rested before you start this very important process;

1. Why did you open a salon? Why did you become a hairdresser?

2. Why would a client want to come to your salon? To you?

3. What is your promise?

4. What do you want to be known for?

5. Who is your target market?

6. What do you want clients to say about your salon, both online and off?

By answering these 6 questions, you have begun to develop your brand story.  And people buy stories way more than products or services. Think about it, think about your favorite brands and how you have bought into their “why”, their “story”.

Check Out The Brands You Love
The next step is to find the brands you love, Google them, check out their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Yelp page, Pinterest boards, etc.  How are they telling their story? Do you understand their “why”?  Now go back to the 6 questions, would you answer them differently after studying your favorite brands?

If you are serious about building your salon or personal brand both online and off, we offer one-on-one coaching to help you craft your story and bring your brand to life.  To learn more about Passion Squared Coaching, click here.  We look forward to helping you ignite your passion and live your dream.

(shared with LOVE from your passionista Nina)