The Weed Eater


Here’s a chance to get some exercise. Take a moment and stick either arm out directly in front of you. Now open your hand palm down and extend your fingers as far as they will go. Make a really tight fist and release it. Again, make a tight fist and release. Again, make a tight fist and release. Now do it 10 times fast.

That hurts! Yet, for many years, that exact motion was required to work the bladed trimmers used to trim weeds and grass.

Customers went to manufacturers and asked, “Can’t you do something about this?” Manufacturers said, “Yes, we can make a better bladed clipper.” They did so by adding a motor and battery.

Customers said, “Gee that’s better, but now it’s heavy and hurts my shoulder. Can’t you do something about this?” Manufacturers said, “Yes we can make a better bladed clipper.” They added wheels.

Customers said, “That is superb, but you see it hurts my back to bend over. Can’t you do something about this?” Manufacturers said, “Yes we can make a better bladed clipper.” They added a long stick handle!

Then, 41 years ago, a real estate salesman named George Ballas changed the game. Ballas was watching his car go thru a car-wash in Houston Texas and wondered if the revolving brushes could be made to cut grass and weeds. He got in his cleaned car, drove home, and invented the Weed Eater. A year later, in 1972, Weed Eater, Inc. came into being.

In its first year Weed Eater, Inc. had net sales of $560,000 per year. In 1974 the figure was $7,791,000. In 1975 it was $14,305,000. In 1976 it was $41,000,000. In 1977 it was $80,000,000.

That’s impressive growth, but it’s only half the story. The other half, and maybe it’s 51%, is what happened to the other guys. How would you like to have been CEO of a company who’s warehouse was full of bladed trimmers the day after (almost literally the day after) the Weed Eater was invented?

The invention of the Weed Eater is a stunning example of the difference between intelligent minds and unusual minds.

Intelligence is widely accepted as a measure of one’s ability to store, recall, and process data. Store and recall processing is impressive. We reward it in schools and on game shows. But store and recall processing is limited by an undeniable fact. The only data that can be stored, recalled, and processed is data that already exists.

Store and recall processing is dependent upon what came before. It’s a paint by numbers exercise, the results of which are predestined by the makeup of the data being processed.

So, repeatedly squeezing your hand shut hurts. No problem, here’s a motor and battery. What’s that, a motor and battery are too heavy. No problem, here are some wheels. What’s that, it hurts to bend over. Here, have a stick.

The only way to avoid the restrictive obedience of intelligence is to develop the talent of an Unusual Mind. That’s what George Ballas had going for him, and it’s why Ballas did what the intelligent mind was restricted from doing. Ballas changed the game! Let us make this point perfectly clear, until you can change the game you’re destined to play by somebody else’s rules.

A bladed trimmer with a stick, wheels, motor, and battery isn’t a change of what came before, it’s a replication of what came before. It couldn’t be anything else, because each step along the way was restricted by intelligence. And intelligence is, by definition, rooted in the past?

Developing an Unusual Mind requires dissociation from the past. The unconditional first step is to avoid asking, “What process do I recall to deal with the situation at hand?” Unusual Minds ask a different question, “What is the basic and invariable meaning of the topic at hand?”

Before the Weed Eater came along manufacturers were asking, “What process(es) exist that will result in a better bladed trimmer?” George Ballas asked a different question, a basic and invariable question, “What’s a better way to trim weeds and grass?”

There is no evidence indicating if George Ballas was more or less intelligent than those who managed the bladed trimmer industry. In truth, intelligence had very little to do with the invention of the Weed Eater. The Weed Eater’s invention was the result of an Unusual Mind — of the talent to reveal basic and invariable meaning.

Forty years ago this spring George Ballas founded Weed Eater, Inc. Ballas has stood as a prime example of the game changing power of an Unusual Mind for each of the 40 springs since.

The Weed Eater
April 15, 2012 by Bob Manna & Matt Manna
Version: 004FCA66(R07) • Feb 21, 2014
Photo © Horticulture –

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“You may not know exactly what your customer is thinking, but you can know how he or she thinks.” In terms of persuasive communication, this Manna Groups aphorism means that you must understand how the mind makes meaning out of the information that comes through the senses. A good way to start is to acknowledge the difference between delivering facts and creating impact.

Delivering facts is the practice of putting information in front of customers or prospects with the hope that such information will motivate a desired action. A trade show booth outfitted with a video and a stack of brochures is an example of this kind of thing.

So too are the many delivery metrics represented under such names as Frequency, Reach, Cost Per Thousand (CPM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Gross Impressions, Net Unduplicated Audience, Cost Per Inquiry (CPI), and others.

These metrics are like a UPS rate sheet in that they quantify delivery cost. What these metrics cannot quantify is delivery value.

Let us be clear, delivering facts is exactly as valuable as delivering an empty box. It doesn’t matter how much it costs to deliver an empty box and it doesn’t matter how timely or articulately the delivery is made. An empty box is an empty box — period!

Fact based communication is more than un-valuable, it’s arrogant. It assumes a customer or prospect can accept that what he or she already believes to be true is false, or at least suspect. No customer or prospect willingly enters into an inquiry about a product, service, candidate, or cause that way.

Even if it were possible to identify the rare individual capable of suspending existing beliefs, the re-evaluation time assumed by fact based communication no longer exists.

Today’s marketplace of abundance is deluged with replicated products, each of which erodes the time, and most especially the equanimity, required to re-evaluate currently held beliefs.

The only effective alternative to presenting facts is to create impact. It’s a hard thing to do, much harder than presenting facts. In truth creating impact is often harder to accomplish than it is to create or develop a product, service, candidate, or cause.

This is an important realization. A product, service, candidate, or cause has very little chance of success if the amount of time, talent, and money devoted to creating impact does not at least equal the amount of time, talent, and money devoted to creating the product, service, candidate, or cause. That’s tough news, but it’s the truth!

So how is it done? How does one create impact and in so doing persuade others to take a desired action? Start by accepting that impact and articulation are different.

Articulation means mastery of the technical skills required for clear communication. Impact is the talent to persuade others to take a desired action.

Impact occurs when the mind links messages that come through the senses to existing convictions, emotions, feelings, and beliefs. This has nothing at all to do with fact(s).

Convictions, emotions, feelings, and beliefs are the alphabet with which impactful communication is created. An impactful communicator knows which convictions, emotions, feelings, and beliefs— which letters of the alphabet — exist within an intended audience. His or her task is to link to, and link together, existing convictions, emotions, feelings, and beliefs in a way that “spells out” an intended action.

An impactful communicator is really only interested in addressing two questions. First, will the message being articulated link to, and link together, existing convictions, emotions, feelings, and beliefs within the intended recipient? Second, will the link(s) effect a desired outcome?

These questions exist specifically to measure what happens after message delivery. They are scarcely, if ever, connected to the cost of message delivery.

Impact requires understanding and parlaying with how the mind makes meaning from the messages received through the senses. Until this ability is mastered, an articulate conveyor of fact will accomplish little more than that of a delivery clerk dispatching empty boxes.

April 1, 2012 by Bob Manna & Matt Manna
Version: 005A06D5(R05) • Feb 2, 2014
Photo © ArenaCreative –

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