This is one of those blog posts that I agonised over writing…
It’s a blog post that my business partners will lose sleep over for fear that I’ll upset people by being so honest…
As it’s the 31st of December 2013 and tomorrow will be the start of a new year I figure I owe it to you to lay it on the line for you.
If you tried, really really hard, and weren’t successful last year…
… it was probably mostly your own fault.
Yeah, sure, the economy is kinda crappy, politicians were mean, your prospects are all screamin’ idiots, and God had it out for you. All totally excellent excuses for having a crummy bottom line again.
It’s not your fault. It can’t be your fault. That… that’s just…
… that’s just completely unacceptable that it might be your fault.
And, hey, maybe you did piss off the universe, and spooky forces beyond your control mucked things up so you had a bad year.
I believe you. I really do.
After you’ve been around the block a few times in life, you start to notice some very interesting things about success.
And the big realization, I’d have to say, is that the idea that success is somehow magically bestowed on people in a spontaneous burst of luck and being in the right place/right time…
… is just bullshit.
It is. It’s total bullshit. Hollywood likes to pretend it’s a real plot point. And folks clueless about how the world works — who spend their lives outside looking in — use this myth as a comforting excuse for their own lack of goal attainment.
Once you’ve spent even a little time with successful people, you notice something startling: They all have well-defined goals, and they focus on nailing them like terriers going after a squirrel.
They are not stopped by lack of skill, or lack of time, or lack of connections in the right places.
They are not stopped by ADHD (which a LOT of the entrepreneurs I know are saddled with, btw), or feelings of inferiority (many of the best are entirely motivated by “I’ll show you” revenge fuel), or lack of education (drop-outs galore).
And they are not stopped by the main reason most wannabe entrepreneurs never get past that “deer in the headlights” pose: Not knowing what to do next.
Every single excuse ever floated by anyone in the history of mankind…
… has been met and conquered by people with less brainpower, less money, less skill and less luck than you.
This can really piss you off. Especially if you’re deeply invested in believing that anything other than growing the hell up and getting serious about attaining your dreams is what creates success in this world.
Let me remind you: You have one ticket in this life. You’re already on the ride — it doesn’t “start” at some future point, when you’re finally ready or finally have your shit together.
The game is on NOW. Nobody knows how long your ride will last. There might be a little meteor headed for your ass this very second, BANG, ticket cancelled.
More likely, you’re going to continue (for a while) living in the rarest of times, considering our history. Unlike nearly ALL of your ancestors — who ground out a living with back-breaking work, under the yoke of oppressive authority, without even a vague sliver of a dream that things could be better.
You OWE it your under-nourished, vulnerable-to-germs, knowledge-hobbled, bug-infested ancestors to take FULL ADVANTAGE of the mind-bending opportunities swirling around you every second.
I mean, really.
How dare you whine about how tough it is to succeed.
Those poor slobs in your past fought, slaved and died for centuries inching toward a reality where a person might have a little freedom to choose how they lived their life.
… we DO complain, don’t we.
Everyone loses perspective over the course of a lifetime. It’s not like the culture helps us out. The distractions built into modern life read like a solid science fiction story. George Orwell is rolling over in his grave.
Nevertheless, just because there ARE distractions and obstacles that trip up nearly everyone trying to get something going…
… doesn’t mean that YOU have to succumb to them.
The biographies of the most successful people you know about ALL have chapters — sometimes multiple chapters — where things looked bleak, and the story could easily have played out as one of a total loser.
At some point, a switch just clicks on for most of them. One second, life seems dull and you feel trapped.
The next second… BANG, the most critical decision of a lifetime is made. And the adventure begins in earnest.
You know what that decision is?
It can be as simple as deciding to get started. To take the first step.
Success junkies talk about passion a lot. But most people confuse passion with “desire”, which ain’t the same thing at all.
Desire is helpless. A long sigh, a breathless wish.
Passion is all about movement. You’re breathless only because you’re engaged in hot and heavy action.
So, okay… you wanna hear what successful entrepreneurs will do in 2014?
You may not like this. I’m warning you.
Here we go… 10 traits of successful entrepreneurs.
Step 1: TV is for losers… sorry, it is.
You don’t “need” multiple hours every night to relax… and racking up time staring at the idiot box isn’t helping your brain, your digestion, your nerves or your future.
Knock off just ONE TV show you’re currently watching every week… and you’ve just found a hot little hour to devote to your new life.
Tear the plasma monster off the wall and donate it to charity, and you’ve recovered a second lifetime of hours.
Look, don’t go cold turkey if you can’t handle it. But stop pretending you aren’t wasting massive piles of time doing things that… if you were to suddenly come face-to-face with one of your exhausted, oppressed ancestors…
… he wouldn’t haul off and slug you as hard as he could, for squandering a life crammed with possibilities that he never dreamed of.
Seriously… “Dancing With The Stars?” Are you kidding me?
Step 2: Get this and all else follows
That stands for “discipline”… something few Westerners have even a nodding acquaintance with.
It’s simple to put to work, too. Every day, do something you really, really, really don’t want to do (that needs to be done eventually). It can be doing the dishes, or exercising, or getting up early (by going to bed at a decent hour)…
… or it can be diving into that business book on your shelf, or that DVD course you bought last year that you never tore the wrapper off.
Living even a mildly disciplined life will change your future immediately. You often know what needs to be done… but you use all that potent gray matter in your skull to find ways to AVOID those things.
Just stop it. Become an effective person. Start DOING shit that needs doing. Right now, you have a backlog of chores and items on your “to do list”. It’s a happy day when your new chore is to find a new project to dive into, because you’ve mopped up everything else.
Step 3: Be a good animal.
Eat better (and less often), treat sleep as a sacred necessity for advanced living, get your butt into the gym or onto the tennis court (or just on a trail), allow for quality “ponder” time (or uninterrupted meditation), and plan (and enjoy) life with gusto.
My motto has always been “moderation in all vices”. Steady as she goes, but let’s kick it up a notch every now and then, test the adrenaline pump.
But the Prime Directive remains: Never pretend you’re something other than a complex biological machine, requiring good fuel, attention to wear-and-tear, constant routine maintenance, and ample opportunity for gleefully maxing out the emotional, spiritual, intellectual and kinesthetic possibilities.
You could do worse than follow your dog’s lead in most of this. (Except for sniffing other dogs butts, of course.)
Step 4: Face your fears.
If you’re not keeping a private journal where you can air out everything on your mind without reservation (even if you have to write in code a lot), then start one now.
The first pages can be a list of what you’re afraid of. Just get it out of your head and onto a page… so you can stop obsessing for a while. (Obsessive thinking often comes from your brain’s whack notion that if you don’t obsess, you’ll forget. I’ve found that your brain actually knows that writing it all down means it can relax with the memorization nonsense. It’s like burying your bone in a familiar place — you can stop carrying it around for a while, and concentrate on something else.)
The biggie: If you’ve got something bugging you that ain’t going away with simple pop psychology tricks (like journals), then get some pro help. Psychology is a field that has never lost its inferiority complex among other sciences, and so it keeps dabbling in pharmaceutical bullshit and elaborate protocols for treatment.
Now, you may need high-end treatment. There’s zero shame in that — sometimes, our wiring just goes berzerk, and modern chemistry may help. I’m not a doctor. If you have serious problems, get serious help.
However, if what’s troubling you is more along the line of emotionally-hobbling guilt, or feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, or the all-too-common problem of feeling like you’re a freak trying to hide your freaky nature among the throngs of normal people out there…
… you’re ripe for something as simple as “talk therapy”. I’ve slugged my way through every dark alley of pop psychology there is, from freud to Jung and other stuff you don’t need to know about. (I have a mostly-worthless degree in psych, you should know, from the University of Sydney).
And often, what ails us is primarily the incorrect notion that we’re “naughty” and abnormal… when the truth is that everyone out there harbours a squirming nest of personal demons and private failures.
Life isn’t something you “figure out” and then coast through. The lessons and challenges come fast and furious, and never let up. It’s sensible to be wary of danger. It’s crippling, though, to be afraid of your own shadow.
If you need help, get it.
The people having the most fun (and scoring the big results) in life aren’t normal. They’ve just come to terms with their individuality, and figured out how to rock on with the hand they’ve been dealt.
You can do it, too.
Step 5: Stop lying.
To others. And to yourself.
This doesn’t mean you suddenly become that asshole who constantly delivers “the truth” to everyone around them. The “truth” is hard to ascertain in many situations, and living well includes being diplomatic and sensitive to other people’s feelings.
Lying often has nothing to do with the truth. It’s just a weak but persistent form of protection for your ego.
The key to being honest to yourself and others is to realize that you aren’t required to respond to every question put to you. It’s perfectly all right to say “no comment”, or “um, yeah, I’m not gonna share that”. (The “Magic Word” that all professionals and successful business owners need to have in their arsenal is “No”. Said politely, with a smile, but firmly and without explanation. ”I understand that you want me to answer that question. No. What’s the next topic…”, repeated as often as necessary, is NOT being rude. People learn, growing up, that persistence will wear others down and get them to do what you want. Which is fine, for the rest of the world. As a pro, however, you have the right to opt out of that game. Without explanation.)
Lying is a hard damn job. You have to remember all kinds of stuff that isn’t true, so you don’t cross up your stories.
Being honest means you are freed from the restraints of a complex relationship to what’s going on. To others, you may stop blabbering so much, and instead be a little circumspect with your answers (which is always a good thing).
You may even start listening more, which can also change your life.
Being honest with yourself is the big payoff, though. Our default position is to spin things so our little ego isn’t damaged. But you can “spin” honestly, too — there are always multiple realities to any situation, and you can look at shocks like failure in ways that put it in perspective, while being honest. (Most successful people have failed a LOT in their career. They just didn’t take failure as the last word on the subject… but rather looked at it honestly, to learn the lessons and come back more prepared for the second round. THAT’S how you win.)
Step 6: See the world as it really is
I often say that good salesmen lead better lives… because to make sales, you must see the world and everyone in it as it IS…
… not as you wish it was, or believe it should be.
People will tell you they’ll act in a certain way in a certain situation, and then do the exact opposite. They’re not “bad”, they’re just doing what people always do — ignore reality.
Top marketers constantly observe people’s actions (not their words). Gary Halbert, when he wanted to get a reaction on a new ad he’d just written, had a favorite bar he would go into and read the ad aloud. If everyone said “that’s a great ad, that should be a winner” then he knew he had written a bomb that would fail.
The ONLY reaction he wanted to hear was “Holy crap! How can I get one of those for myself?”
This same kind of reality check needs to happen inside your head and heart, constantly. What’s really going on with you, right now? What do you want, what do you NOT want, what are you willing or not willing to do to make the good stuff happen?
Step 7: Family and friends matter
People miss you. You’re horrible at staying in touch, and old timers will vouch for the fact that years can zoom by and destroy even strong relationships if you ignore the maintenance they deserve.
You don’t have to stay in touch with anyone, of course. Relationships that are burdensome can sap energy from you, and they need to be shelved if you’re gonna move forward in life.
Still… somebody’s waiting for a call from you, right now.
Step 8: You need entrepreneur friends
People love to talk about what they love doing…
… and entrepreneurs are starved for networking with other entrepreneurs. Both to find out what’s working or not working out there for others, and to share what they’ve learned.
It can be shocking, at first, to realize just how much support you can get even from competitors sometimes. Business can be like a hockey game — brutal, but with total respect for the other team.
Every single successful marketer I know has a deep network of buddies and colleagues they call frequently, and share information that outsiders would pay a fortune for (like testing results, and experienced advice).
This is why most of the success junkies hit up events and seminars. You can’t really get to know someone from phone chats, or reading their blogs.
The real connection comes from face-to-face meetings, hanging out and sharing a drink at the bar (while sharing gossip).
Step 9: get a Mentor
Mentoring changed my life. I’ve had multiple mentors along the way, and some didn’t even realize they WERE mentors. (I just observed them very carefully, and deconstructed what they did and how they did it. Some of the writers I learned the most from were dead when I came along, so I had to use critical thinking instead of actually working with them.)
But I also learned to quickly recognize others who had lessons for me (again, whether they realized it or not). Some thought of themselves as experts, others were just damn good at their job.
All had fountains of knowledge and skills worth exploring and figuring out.
Side note: It’s not a coincidence that many of the best marketers alive are also quite good at a musical instrument.
You know why?
It’s the PROCESS of learning. It’s hard to get even the basics down for an instrument… and you must dedicate yourself (and use the “D” word) to get to a point of competence.
Most people, given the choice, will not go through the physical pain (your fingers will bleed when learning guitar) and mental anguish (because you will fail over and over again on each step — no one gets it right the first hundred times) of learning something as sophisticated as a musical instrument.
Most guitarists I know didn’t really have a choice. The desire to master the beast came from within, and we were driven to do it.
Still, I’ve met others who did it to please parents, or just because their reference group of friends all did it. And they got the same benefit as the driven ones: The realization of what it takes to learn something new.
It’s a process. And you CAN learn it, and you CAN do it. It just takes a little guidance.
There are a lot of great experts out there who teach.
There are also a lot of bogus assholes who fake it, and if they teach you anything at all, it will be to never trust someone without vetting them first ever again.
The key is to first find ONE expert you feel you can trust. Make them earn your trust. Triple-check their credibility and credentials.
Through this first relationship, you will be introduced to other teachers and guru’s they recommend. It’s still up to you to be an adult, and be critical of anyone you get advice from until they’ve also earned your trust.
But the first move is always yours.
When you’re ready, reach out. Get involved, take advantage of all interactive opportunities, and don’t be shy about sucking up all the free stuff that experts willingly ladle out.
Much of the rookie entrepreneurial world is populated with cynical fuck-ups who would rather tear an expert down, than learn anything. It’s like TMZ for business — there will never a lack of rubber-necking, sneering wannabe’s trashing everyone who has dared to be successful.
You can hang with these types, if you like. You’ll be entertained.
But you won’t get anywhere in life.
Cynicism is for bench warmers.
You wanna play, put your ego and your sneer away. Find the experts with the experience and the willingness to teach that fits what you need…
… and get involved.
Step 10: Set some goals
… and putting together a doable plan to achieve them.
This is not something you can do intuitively. Nearly everyone thinks they understand what a real goal is. And they also feel they should be able to achieve a goal just with positive thinking (and maybe a few inspirational catch phrases).
And they are wrong.
Goal setting isn’t rocket science… but it is more like learning a new instrument than it is like buying a new car. Change doesn’t come easy — there are all kinds of obstacles in your head, your heart, in the universe and in the cards that need to be met and conquered along the way.
There is a process.
Most people don’t even know what they really want. They just know they lack happiness or fulfillment or something…
… and early goal setting under these conditions will be wildly ineffective.
Fortunately, with just a little bit of coaching, you can become a goal-achieving monster.
And that is the key to moving from where you are in life, to where you want to be.
Now, it’s late, and I’ve given you too much good stuff already in this post.
So I’ll bid you adieu and speak to you in 2014