The Cowbell Principle – Book Review

What you need for your dream job or business is… MORE cowbell!


The authors of The Cowbell Principle were inspired by – you guessed it – the Saturday Night Live sketch called “More Cowbell,” (YouTube link) featuring Christopher Walken and Will Farrell.

In the skit, Walken (playing record producer The Bruce Dickinson) calls for “more cowbell” as the fake Blue Oyster Cult band does take after take, trying to get it right.

Only when Will Farrell (fictional cowbell musician Gene Frenkle) begins to joyously play his heart out, does Walken’s “more cowbell” exhortations make sense… and bring the music to life.

The idea for this book’s content arrived somewhat serendipitously during author Brian Carter’s PowerPoint presentation at a social media marketing conference. He jokingly included a slide about “The Cowbell Principle” as a way to make a point: to succeed at marketing, you need to give people “something they have a fever for.”
And that’s what The Cowbell Principle is all about, whether it’s to land your dream job or make a splash in the business world.

What’s a cowbell (other than a thing on a cow’s neck)?

In the context of the book, a cowbell is a unique, profitable talent that people want badly. It’s something that creates joy for you and other people at the same time.

It’s NOT a cowbell if:

  1. It doesn’t bring joy to yourself or others
  2. No one has a fever for it
  3. It is not valuable to other people
  4. It isn’t in demand
  5. It’s a bagpipe instead (something we love to do but don’t have a great proficiency in or that others aren’t demanding)

A cowbell COULD be:

  1. Something you’ve never done before
  2. Something that helps people at a transformative level

A cowbell NEEDS:

  1. Mentoring or coaching, especially by authorities in your field
  2. Laser focus
  3. Practical creativity (innovative solutions to real-world problems)
  4. A strong reason for doing it
  5. Confidence (being perceived as confident works, too)
  6. Sacrifice (it takes 10,000 hours to develop true expertise in an area)
  7. Daily action
  8. Hard work
  9. Your service to some segment of humanity



What do you do that gets people really excited? What gets you excited?

Throughout The Cowbell Principle, the authors use metaphors and numbered lists to make their points stand out. For example, they compare a “cowbell” talent to the icing on a cake and ask readers to make a list with two columns.

Label the column on the left “Cake.” In this column, list the things you do that lots of other people could do equally as well.

The column on the right is “Icing.” Here you’ll list those unique things that you do that are irreplaceable.

And, yes, you can have more than one cowbell. Also, your cowbell might be something you’ve never done before.



Identifying your cowbell and your audience

Each chapter includes tough questions to help you clarify your cowbellian talents. I made pages of notes for ideas that jumped up as I was reading. The co-authors – Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn – balance the toughness with positive motivation and practical advice about finding the people who are most likely to connect with your cowbell, once you figure out what it is.

In fact, they write like the motivational speakers they are, like the very intelligent business persons they are, and like the very funny comedian one of them is.

They won’t let you slide by the important bits of their message, either; they hammer home their points with wit and humor.

Defy mediocrity, yes. But, like Will Farrell with his tummy hanging out, it’s okay to look foolish, too, if you provide unequalled music to the ears who love it.

And who doesn’t love more cowbell?



Click here to read more reviews for The Cowbell Principle


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