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Book Review: Thom Hartmann's Cracking the Code

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Originally Published on OpEdNews

Thom Hartmann, one of the top progressive talk radio "stars," who replaced Al Franken on Air America Radio, has delivered a gift to anyone who wants to persuade others. It will be required reading for anyone trying convince people to act, take a stand or vote in some way.  

This book is ALL about how to communicate, how to reach, how to persuade. There are books that talk about this based on moral/cultural values, books that talk about neuropsychological considerations, that talk about the use of narrative and story, books about hypnotic elements, like trance and pacing, on framing, on motivation... lots of books. This book ties all those different ideas and approaches together, in an easily understandable, coherent package.

As founder publisher of, publishing 1200 to 1500 articles a month, reaching close to half a million unique visitors a month, it's my job to have a pretty good idea about what makes for good writing and persuasion. We've published 45 articles, at the time of the writing of this review, by Hartmann, and he's one of the best at at effectively getting across a message and reaching people.

As a conference organizer for 15 years, running conferences on the brain, peak performance, the art, science and application of story, on positive psychology and optimal functioning... I've worked with many hundreds of speakers. Thom Hartmann is one of the best. That's why I'd have him speak on how to persuade, how to get people to change their minds. At the conferences, he trained trainers-- educators, writers, storytellers, psychologists and psychotherapists, screenwriters, salesmen. And he always got the highest reviews for the meeting.

There's a reason Thom Hartmann can pull all the different arts and sciences of communicating-- persuading, changing minds, changing the way people think and understand together-- and that's because he's integrated all these skills into his life, into the way he functions in the world.

When you look at the many people who have written most books on persuasion, communication, framing, etc. you tend to find people who are academics. George Lakoff, framing expert, and author of Don't Think of an Elephant, is a great example He's lived his life as a professor and researcher. His ideas on framing are great. I started reading Lakoff back in the 1980s. But Hartmann's book covers so much more territory, so many other considerations involved in persuasion, in winning hearts and minds.

Hartmann is not an academic. He's a chronic entrepreneur, and in all the different incarnations of his career, communication has played a central role-- developing a major advertising agency in Atlanta, running dozens of forums on compuserve, when compurserve was bigger than AOL, and most recently doing talk radio-- and rising to be one of the top progressive talk show hosts in America. This is walking the talk. He's used the tools he's discovered, developed and integrated in a way that has brought him to the peak of success.

The wonderful thing is that Hartmann is brilliant at sharing the secrets to cracking the code to truly connect with, reach and get people to change their minds. It is very rare. Most great authors are terrible at creating books on how to write, for example. Hartmann delivers pure gold. If you just read one chapter in this book, any chapter, you'll find you have powerful new knowledge you'll be able to use to make yourself more effective. Read the whole book and you will be on the path to dramatically increasing your power to most effectively touch and move people.

The sub-title of the book, How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America's Original Vision, hints at Thom's progressive viewpoint. If you're a liberal, progressive or lefty, you'll really like his writing on the history and evolution of the liberal and conservative mindsets. If you're a conservative you'll really like it too. This book goes way beyond Frank Luntz's book, WORDS THAT WORK, in providing practical ideas and strategies you can use. It is clear that the publishers are targeting people on the left, primarily, with this book. But it will be VERY valuable to anyone who wants to better understand how to persuade and change minds, including people in sales and education.

The book also covers one more key consideration--- the integrity-- he calls it the "ecology" of communication. Is the communication good for the world, for people? Is it honest? It's nice to have a master, at his full power, sharing his greatest tools and secrets, insisting that for the full power to be achieved, integrity and consideration of the greater  good is essential.

If the Democrats don't tap Hartmann to plan their political strategies for 2008, they're crazy. Meanwhile, don't be surprised if there are a lot of right wingers reading the book without the dust jacket, hiding who they are reading... the smart ones, anyway.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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