gpicsdeHonored to be interviewed recently by Angela Breidenbach for the April CAN Newsletter.

Deep questions. Social Media, Life, Public Speaking, Faith, Failure, and My New Book..

Here is the interview:

Angie: Gunnar, what caught your interest in social media as a vehicle to mobilize people in the first place?

Gunnar: I’ve always been interested in technology. It’s organically led to this interest. With knowledge on earth doubling every 72 hours, one must learn to adapt. The power of these tools to effectively mobilize people into action, my interest has morphed over time into how can I help others adapt and begin to use these tools in a way that will set fire to their cause, message, business, or brand in the hearts and minds of their desired audience.

Angie: Why are you so passionate about communicating via social media?

Gunnar: Social media goes way beyond the frozen perceptions many people have of it. Where else can you communicate with others in real time half a world away? Just this morning I was on Facebook and Twitter communicating with friends in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Beirut.

Social media makes the world smaller and can break down barriers that so often different people groups from around the world have of each other. It’s as if we returned to the Tower of Babel where language is no longer a barrier.

How do we own this tool without it owning us? Certainly, social media should never be a replacement for face time. But, where time and geography don’t allow for it, it’s an incredible tool. I get passionate about  social media because I’ve seen it impact lives.

I remember sitting in Portland, Oregon when the news broke regarding the Joplin tornado. I began to watch both the cable news channels and the social networking feeds for any news I can glean from my laptop.

Working with the International Disaster Response Network at the time, my first response to monitoring disasters used these tools. While news of the tornado impact was still surfacing, I began to pick up various tweets from people on the ground in Joplin. People were in shock. I saw posts from pictures of lost loved ones to road closures to what type of blood was needed and where to donate it.

But sitting in Portland, Oregon I could do something. What if I helped put pieces of the puzzle together that would connect resources to needs? And so I did. Within an hour of the tornado, my post of wove together posts by those on the ground in Joplin seen by over 1,000 people. News crews on the ground thanked me and asked me to add their reporters to my story’s distribution list who were on the other side of town amidst the aftermath.

Why do I get passionate? Because I have seen it impact real live people.

Angie: If you could share the most important social media skills for the average business person (like an author or bookstore owner), what would they be?

Gunnar: Social networking is a community, not a billboard. With out some sort of cause and effect, social media is just plain media. People need to understand it’s about dialogue, not monologue. The shift really has happened that instead of pushing our messages on consumers, we now must earn the right to share our message.

Isn’t this why we all love email and the junk mail inbox? How much spam do we receive daily even with all the filters on? Yet, many times, we get on social media because every one else is on it. But then what?

In my book and in my presentations, I speak on what is called Amara’s Law-We over estimate the impact of technology in the short term and we underestimate the impact  long term. The same applies for social media strategy. The same old traditional methods don’t work here. And when we don’t see any traction, we give up. Perhaps we haven’t discovered that driving technology with the same old methods just doesn’t work.

When I ran several businesses, including a chain of regional bookstores, the world before social media gave us radio, TV, and print. We developed our campaign and then produced one or two different spots or maybe a print ad. And that would be it for the campaign.

In social media, it’s everyday. Imagine if you liked a page on Facebook that posted the same two spots on their page every day for a month. Would you turn them off? Absolutely. To survive and stand out amidst this digital frontier, we need to create intrigue and not more noise. We need to solve something, not just sell something. We need to inspire people, but also empower them too.

Brian Solis says social media is more about sociology and psychology than it is technology. In his words, we find the essence to drive the technology.

Angie: Are you afraid of failure?

Gunnar: If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. But then again, nobody likes to fail. Hall of Famer, Ted Williams, who ended the 1941 season with a .400 batting average. That’s .400! That’s 4 out of 10 times he hits the ball. So, I find it more a matter of perspective.

I know that God will never give me more than I can handle. I know that God has gone up ahead of me on the road. I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me. If I can learn to trust in Him and not my own understanding, I know He will make my path straight. Yet, I also know me too well-and I will fail. But you know what? I’ll get back up again.

As I have grown in my faith and life experience, I’ve stopped trying to become like everyone else and seek to just be me as God intended for me to be. In this comes a quiet confidence that He will lead me on.

Am I afraid to fail? If I’m walking with God like Peter when he stepped out of the boat, then what is there to fear?

When one is not walking with God, sadly we all have those seasons, failure can have a whole different set of meanings. Am I afraid to fail under this circumstance? Absolutely. Because when you fail here, often other people are involved and there are consequences. I still know God meet us where we are, no matter what we’ve done.

Angie: You’re touted as a visionary. Will you share a vision you have, personal or business, and how you would like to see it come to pass?

Gunnar: To be touted as such really blows my mind. How does one attain this? I just always have a tendency to take my eyes past that which my eyes have seen. I think sometimes we think that to have vision is to have this huge grand master plan that plays out in the future. As I grow older, I’m finding that while we talk about grand plans to impact the world, the most important vision I really have is for my family. Frankly, my family is my mission. If I am not faithful there, what good is the grandest of visions?

I have been blessed that God has positioned me in positions no one would have expected. Honestly, not even I did. But, to they who have been given much, much is required. Vision is so easily manipulated. When true vision arrives on the scene, one must do two things: 1. Recognize your role 2. Seek to be a good steward of the vision.

But back to your question of what visions I have. It’s important to ask ourselves, is this a goal or a vision for my life? A goal accomplishes something I’ve set out to accomplish while a vision sets the very destination I seek. It’s one thing to set a goal to write and publish a book. It is another to visualize awakening people within after reading that book.

So, one vision I have is to help people set their ideas free for all the world to see. My goal was to write a book that would help unlock their ideas. Which is what I did withStrategistics.

Angie: You do some high profile speaking. Why? What motivates you to speak?

Gunnar: Again, I have been extremely blessed. It wasn’t always that way. For years I really struggled with low self-esteem, but I always loved making people laugh. While all my friends were graduating college, I was in charge of garbage at the local fairgrounds. Before I ran three companies for the same owner, I started out at one of those companies. I remember negotiating a starting pay rate of $6.50 over the $6.25 they proposed. Who knew ten years later I’d be running the company?

But what I found in that journey was confidence. I found a calling. And with the guidance of great people and leaders, I honed the calling. Leadership meant speaking in front of people, taking them on a journey. To take their eyes past that which they can see in hopes of a brighter future. It wasn’t optional. Speaking was a must.

I really love those moments when I can literally see light bulbs going off across the room. The feeling that maybe something I shared can be used in someone else’s life to point them to a brighter future or a deeper understanding never gets old. I mean, to see that connection and because of something I shared, they feel encouraged? It’s priceless.

Angie: I feel exactly the same! What’s your top piece of advice for someone who wants to speak professionally?

Gunnar: You’ve got to own it to sell it. While some music artists sing about a place, others sing in such a way they take us to that place. So I ask, which is more convincing?

Working with musicians, I always tell them to take me there. I also tell them to know the music so when it’s time to shine they can think less and play more.

It’s the same with speaking. Know your stuff. I would also add, be yourself when speaking. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. Authenticity and passion breeds connection with your audience. Copying and pasting someone else, does not.

Angie: You’ve traveled and spoken on social media in some very unusual places like Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya, Jakarta, Beirut, Dubai, and Nairobi. How is social media being used internationally that we, in the US, could learn from or improve?

Gunnar: It’s interesting, the world through social media is getting smaller. Certainly there are always the cultural differences, but in the end, people are people. In many parts of the world, freedom of speech is something people all want, but for many speaking out via social media can mean prison, beatings, or potentially death. It really is sobering when you get questions that could affect someone’s life as I did when I spoke in Malaysia. You really have no idea what it is like until you go there and speak with people face-to-face who experience a lack of freedom.

Things aren’t being used differently in other parts of the world as much as the ramifications of using these tools differs in parts of the world.

Angie: At the end of your career, what do you most want to be known for?

Gunnar: Love God, Love family, Love others.

Angie: Balance is a question asked about by people from all walks of life. How do you balance work, family, and volunteerism?

Gunnar: When I was in retail management, so was my wife. One day a friend of mine asked a simple question that rocked me to my core… how do you parent?

It’s not easy to stay balanced. Life is a stack of moments. The only guarantee I have was my last breath. How can I position myself to simply, with God’s help, do the next right thing?

The battlefield is the now and the opponents are our past and our future. If I am going to find balance, I must first put to rest my past. Then I place my faith in God for my future. And as I seek to love God, love family, and love others I can begin the journey of balance by reclaiming the now.

Angie: Tell us about one mistake in your career you’d want to do over and what you’d do differently.

Gunnar: There have been so many mistakes I couldn’t begin to count them. Remember what I said about failure? My mistakes really stem from who I am as a person. The result of symptoms in myself I failed to recognize. Seeking to apply new methods in hope of different results. Application never works when placed upon faulty infrastructure.

But what were my biggest mistakes? Surrounding myself with people who only elevated my ego. I became distracted from the calling. All it takes is one split second and the enemy will trounce. In leadership this is critical, but can also be a reality. People want access. I believed the hype and the result was not giving the people that worked for me my everything. I wish I could take those times back. But now I move from regret to embracing the lesson. In this, I thank God He’s not done with me yet.

My advice is to surround yourself with people who elevate your spiritual posture, not your ego.

Angie: Share a little about your new book and what you hope to accomplish with it.

Gunnar: Strategistics: How to architect your message for viral success. I hope to have it available initially in a digital format. Social media is application. My book is about infrastructure. Without it, application won’t last.

Strategistics is derived from a conversation with a good friend while I was in Beirut, Lebanon. My friend made this statement: “Amateurs talk about strategies, professionals talk about logistics.” I added, “…and historians will talk about execution.”

We are not judged by our mere expression of ideas, but by what we do with those ideas and how effectively we execute them.

Strategicians give legs to ideas. Components to the work of a strategician are:

1 What do you want to do? – Strategy

2. How are you going to get there? – Logistics

3. How are you going to do it? – Tactics

4. Doing it – Execution

Two additional components are often ignored:

5. Measurement of it – Results

6. Adjusting to the measurement of it – Resetting

Too often we jump from the first component straight to the fourth while giving little consideration to five and six. It is the missed steps where our ideas lose the ability to last. We are impatient to perform our due diligence in following through the steps because our focus becomes on the race “to get there first.” Desperation often lacks discipline, and yet sustainable success demands it.

Angie: What ideas do you have for successful author/reader interaction and connectivity? Anything you’re going to do with your new release next fall?

Gunnar: I would love to interact with readers online within the world of social media while they are reading it. The passion for the masses as articulated by Eric Hoffer in his classic A True Believer,  a study on the psychology of mass movements, is people want a sense of belonging and equality. I’d add access. I want to reflect this for readers. I am also working on new workshops to support the book for online pay per view.

Angie: I wish we had more time and space, but for more information on Gunnar Simonsen’s expertise, visit: as well at

STRATEGISTICS: The Essential Information

  • You can download Strategistics on Amazon by clicking here. (I will seek to release a hard copy and audio version of the book in the next phase.)
  • Don’t have a Kindle, no problem. Download the FREE Kindle reading app by clicking here.
  • On Facebook? Like the Strategistics page here.
  • Bought the book? Please consider writing a review and/or telling a friend.