Is Working for Free the Best Way to Start Your Business?

working for free stairs to nowhere

The idea of doing projects “on spec” (without pay) came up in one of the few Facebook groups I participate in.

To be more specific, a woman launching a new service business was offering to work for free in order to get testimonials and build her portfolio.

Is this a good way to start your business? Or is spec work a flight of stairs leading nowhere?

In business (almost) nothing is true across the board. What works for one entrepreneur may flop badly for another. In this Facebook conversation, I felt qualified to chime in and express my opinion, based on my extensive, often painful experience in a field closely related to the one being offered for free. Here is a slighly modified version of my comments:

I’m going to do something relatively harsh here…by recommending you seriously limit this offer (to work for free).

Having testimonials is great, but absolutely not necessary to launch your business. In a way, you’re postponing the launch of your business by clinging to the idea that you need “proof” of the value of your services.

Your time is extremely valuable. Especially since you have a family who likes having you around and “present.”

In all likelihood, doing content marketing for yourself will advance your business more than doing free work for other people, no matter how good their testimonials will be.

The thing is, there’s a huge need for the service you provide — but most of the people/businesses who need your skills do not fully appreciate that need. They don’t feel pain, so it’s hard to pry money from their hands, especially at a rate you deserve.

You would do well to seek people who already feel that need, that have a bleeding neck problem, to use the words of John Paul Mendocha.

See if you can get testimonials from colleagues and friends who already know you and are familiar with the quality of your work. Build up your portfolio working on your own website and marketing materials.

It’s also well worth your time to connect with people who might already be in touch with your target audience. Maybe you can work out a referral arrangement or a way to bundle your services together. Or subcontract work from other established people in the space you want to occupy (or an adjacent one).

Think graphic designers, etc.

And remember, don’t sell your services, as such. Instead, define the transformation you produce for your clients. How will their lives and businesses be different, better than before they hired you — or anyone else for that matter.

Define what you’ll do for them — and what you won’t. Specialize, if you can.

BTW, I’m not always right. This just advice based on my experience.

— — —

What about you? How do you feel about spec work?


My Recipe for Practical Invincibility

Practical Invincibility

At the end of the day, my momma told me don’t let no one break me
At the end of the day, nobody ever could stop me
At the end of the day, you can’t regret it if you were trying
At the end of the day, I’m walking with the heart of a lion

~ Kid Cudi, “Heart of a Lion”*

* In most cases. Cudi’s lyrics do not promote values I adhere to. But I like this song a lot, and it’s pertinent to today’s conversation.  🙂

In my most recent newsletter, I asked the question “Is it healthy to believe you’re invincible?” I believe it’s a dangerous path – an overblown ego is bad for everyone and pride goes before destruction – but an essential one if you want to become a successful and influential entrepreneur.

The problem with the previous email is that we didn’t talk about how one becomes invincible. Let’s correct that. Today, I’m going to share my personal recipe.

Please note that because this is MY recipe, it is imperfect (probably). I don’t claim exclusive insight. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in my own study and experience.

Walking with the Heart of a Lion

When you think about the most successful people you know…and the ones you read about… one of the prominent characteristics that most of them seem to have is confidence. But telling you to be more confident is not helpful at all. That’s not how it works.

You don’t become more confident by focusing on being more confident.

In my experience, I’ve found that clarity is the sturdiest foundation for confidence. But clarity it is even more important than confidence. Why? Because clarity

  • gives direction – how can you make progress if you don’t know where you want to go?
  • minimizes distraction
  • decreases resistance by strengthening your conviction of the “rightness” of what you’re doing
    • internal – conviction is the combustion that drives your engine. When you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you’ll get out of it, those sneaky feelings of procrastination, doubt and lassitude are kept in check
    • external – your conviction gives you a hard-to-resist pathos when communicating with others. Powerful speakers, charismatic leaders and persuasive salespeople emanate certainty, and are able to move the masses.

Don’t Let No One Break You

If you want to be invincible in practical terms, you need to get clear about

  1. The source of your ability: your God-given gifts, the skills and knowledge you’ve developed and your hard-won experience. No one can take these away. If you put your confidence in your position, the approval of peers or something else that can be taken away, you’re walking on thin ice.
  2. Your end goal. Most of the people you know drift through life. A clear destination gives you a target to aim at. Instead of drifting, you’ll be driven. Instead of taking whatever comes easy, you’ll strive purposefully toward the bigger future you want to attain.
  3. The steps you’ll take to get to the destination, if possible. Or at least the next step. It’s easy to feel paralyzed when you don’t know how you’re going to reach your goal. So take some time, do some research and think it through. Don’t let fear or knock you off the path.

You Can’t Regret It If You’re Trying

Clarity is the first ingredient in my invincibility recipe. Tenacity is the second.

I define tenacity simply as the understanding that success is an ongoing process with the willingness to keep showing up and making the difficult choices required to move forward.

Without clarity, tenacity is shadowboxing.

Tenacity allows you to keep trying, even when things don’t seem to work out. It gives you the courage to test different ideas and approaches to see what works…and what works even better.

And it keeps you going when everyone else is quitting.

Try to avoid second-guessing yourself. It’s a fairly destructive habit. You’re going to make mistakes, there’s no avoiding that. But make a decision and go for it. You’ll be surprised how much good can come from an imperfect decision. And if it doesn’t work the way you’d hoped, be tenacious: regroup and figure out your next move.

The Secret Ingredient

Of the three parts in my recipe, this is the most controversial. Donald Trump and Michael Jordan would probably disagree, and they both have much more money than I do!

I believe outward focus is absolutely essential for invincibility. Self-centeredness limits the amount of value you create for others. It hurts your relationships – all of them – and often leads to depression in the long run.

Remember what Zig Ziglar said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want. …If you put other people first, the dynamic of helping others will overtake you and put you over the top.”

Have an invincible day!


I Don’t Know How This is Legal

Do you mind if I rant for a minute?  I promise to make a point eventually.


Take a look at this full page ad from the October 2015 issue of Architectural Digest:

Natural American Spirit organic marketing

What do you notice?

1) Natural/Organic. The market for organic products is getting bigger and bigger. Now you even can buy 100% natural lung poison.

2) The feel of the ad itself. The visual elements have a light feeling. The fresh baby tobacco plant (which look strikingly similar to a sprig of mint), the rustic table the cigarettes are sitting on, the color palette and smooth sans serif typeface all gently whisper “clean,” “pure” and “natural.” Maybe even “wholesome.”

3) “Additive-free.”  At first glance, you may think it says “Addictive-free.” That’s exactly how the first few people I showed this page to read that “headline.” Misleading, right?

4) Disclaimers that essentially destroy the story the rest of the ad is telling. “Additive-free” organic tobacco does NOT make a safer cigarettes.

5) Oh, and a strong front-end offer. A pack for $2 is a steal these days!

It’s crazy how much creative energy spent is spent fabricating a disingenuous marketing statement. If only these admakers were using their powers for good!

(Note: In August, the FDA began pursuing regulatory action against 3 cigarette manufacturers, including the one that makes Natural American Spirit brand, for these marketing tactics.)

Fighting the Tide

You’ve seen those “Real Cost” TV commercials, right?

Recent statistics show that ad campaigns like “The Real Cost” and “the Truth,” as well as other factors have decreased smoking to an all time low in the U.S. That’s the positive power of marketing at work.

(Interestingly, sales of Natural American Spirits have increased 86% since 2009, even as the tobacco industry is shrinking. The power of marketing at work.)

What you may not have seen are the warnings on cigarette boxes in Thailand. They’re a lot stronger than Surgeon General’s warnings. The images show the long-term effects of smoking RIGHT ON THE PACKAGING. You have to see it to believe it. Warning: these pictures are very unsettling, so much so that I’m not going to put them here. If you’d like to see some examples, click here or just Google “Thai cigarette warnings.”

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Scary stuff. But they’re are honest and realistic. What’s really scary is that something like 40% of the men in Thailand still smoke.

What Gives?

Everyone knows smoking is bad for their health. And that truth is increasingly “in their face.” So why doesn’t EVERYONE quit?

That’s an important question to ask because these are the forces you have to face as a business owner/service provider trying to persuade people to buy from you.

Normalcy bias – If it hasn’t happened yet, people often don’t believe it will ever happen. “It” can be anything. Our brains are designed that way. It’s good for maintaining our sanity, but it makes changing customer buying behavior more difficult.

If you rely on fear-based marketing or sale messages, you need to be aware of this bias.

Force of habit – Most of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are habitual. Our buying behavior is very much impacted by force of habit. Convincing people to change their routine, or even getting them to realize they’re not consciously thinking about that routine, is no easy task. Even if it’s bad for them.

You really have 3 choices: attach yourself to your potential customer’s already-established habit, come up with a way to make him turn off autopilot and choose you (a really good front-end offer can be a great way to do that) or approach him where he hasn’t developed a habit.

Social proof and peer approval – People care what other people think about them. How are you using that to your advantage?

Contrary/competitive messaging – You need to say something uniquely valuable, and you need to say if often enough to grab some real estate in your prospect’s mind.

Plain old disbelief – According the Mark Schenk “if you assert something as a fact – even if it is a fact – less than half of the people listening will believe you.” (Mark gives his remedy for that reality in this article.)

What’s the point I’m getting at? It’s this: Marketing can be powerful. Use it responsibly and honestly.

I know, this is all pretty surfacey.

But hey, what did you expect from a rant?


I Always Listen to My Clients, But…

“I always listen to everything my clients have to tell me. And then I ignore them… I write it the way it’s supposed to be, up to, and including, sometimes changing the offer without their permission.” ~ John Nicksic

So much for permission-based marketing!  …I’m kidding.

Seriously though, there an a few important lessons here. Today, I only want to talk about the most obvious takeaway.

No Disrespect Intended

If you’ve never heard of Mr. Nicksic, let me fill you in. He’s one of the highest-paid old-school direct mail copywriters around. He’s learned a few things about printed persuasion over the years.

When he says he ignores his clients, he’s not being a jerk. He’s simply using his best judgement as an expert in getting stuff sold. He explains it this way:

“I’m a much better direct mail copywriter than they are, so what do I do? I seize control of the message without asking their permission…

“I rely on the power of the copy I hand them for the first draft. I let them read it and see for themselves how much better it is my way than what they had in mind… They quickly see what I’m up to, why it makes more sense, and why it is time for them to readjust their thinking.”

It’s not an issue of hijacking the words that end up on the page. In most cases the copywriter is expected to lead that charge. The thing that needs to be changed is quite often the proposition itself.

Many business owners are sadly mistaken about how boring their offers are. If the product or service you’re selling doesn’t:

  • promise a benefit that gets the ideal prospect’s blood pumping
  • describe a danger hiding just out of sight, waiting to pounce and devour the ideal prospect
  • offer secret knowledge or exclusive access to something the ideal prospect wants to get his hands on

…or some other such exciting result, it will be next to impossible to write sales copy that’ll fix the problem.

Sales copy isn’t designed to make lame products exciting. It’s supposed to

  • extract the interesting and useful elements of a quality product
  • shine a spotlight on them and
  • draw buyers over to take advantage of the newly-exposed value.

A boring offer is a problem that needs to be fixed. Sometimes that means ignoring a client.

I Missed It Bad…

One of my clients had the opportunity to write an email to the subscribers of a well-known personal finance newsletter last week. (I’m excluding names to protect everyone involved, except myself.) The list was 29K strong, all paid subscribers. My client sells a product these subscribers KNOW they need. The tricky part is, a lot of them already own one.

Positioned properly, it could have been a slam dunk.

I spent 3 days writing a 300-word email that would planted doubts about the quality of the product they already owned, insinuated that there is critical information they’ve never been told and gave them access the “hidden truth” in a nonthreatening way.

The marketing director loved it and sent it up the chain for final approval.

The big boss vetoed the free info offer. Instead, he opted to go for the sale immediately with an educational but generic pitch.

The results: 28,987 emails delivered, 14% open rate (which I’m told is over 3 times the average for marketing emails to that list) and 6% click per open.

email marketing client

The number that matters? The email only produced 3 leads. That means only one in about 10,000 people who received the email became leads. When I checked on the results yesterday, none of them purchased the product.

I was bummed out all day.

70% of Copywriting Success Is in the Offer

Denny Hatch estimates that the efficacy of an online marketing promotion depends 70% on the offer, 10% on the list, and 20% on creative (copy and design).

In the case above, I missed it.

I could have taken a more aggressive stance, as Nicksic recommends. I caved without a fight, hoping to keep the client happy. As a result, a pretty massive opportunity slipped through our fingers.

Take note: Even with a great list and a solid product, you have to have an enticing offer.

P.S. I always advise clients and colleagues to make it easy for customers to take the first step. Going directly for the sale isn’t always the best idea.

What are you doing today to make it easy for your “should-be” customers to take the first step toward you?



Authenticity, Awesomeness and the Red Herring of Altruism

Greetings, good people.

An apology before I get started.

This may turn out to be a little bit of a rant. We won’t be discussing a particular marketing concept or copywriting technique. There are a few ideas “out there” right now that I want to talk about. I still think you’ll be get some good information and insight from this conversation, but I apologize for going off-road.

Be Yourself, Doggone It

Authenticity” is a huge buzz word these days. That’s both a good and a bad thing.

Many of the gurus and would-be teachers online now are pumping the message of authenticity. Be yourself. Speak with your authentic voice. Don’t try to be anyone else, no matter how much you admire them. Nothing wrong with being that unique individual you were created to be, right? Right!

In a copy-and-paste world, I guess that advice is necessary. When everyone seems to be winning but you, it’s tempting to start mimicking what others are doing. Besides, most of our instructors have told us at one time or another not to “reinvent the wheel,” as it were. Find something that works, and model it.

One the other hand, a 27-point list on how to be myself may be counterproductive.

Hear me on this: don’t chase authenticity. Being yourself is simple, even if it isn’t easy. Anyone who makes a big production out of this idea is sending you on a snipe hunt. That includes me. Check out this quote from American president, Woodrow Wilson.

If you think about what you out to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.” The same is true for authenticity.

By all means, be yourself. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s time for some introspection. Write in a journal, spend some quiet time in deep thought, turn off the TV or radio and pay attention to what’s really going on inside. You’ll probably learn a lot.

We are all imposters and copycats anyway. To an astounding degree, we figure out who we are and who we’re not from the people around us. From infancy forward, we imitate our parents and role models and build our personalities on the scaffolding they set up.

Is that Awesome or What?

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve seen a dozen articles, blog posts and other references to “being awesome” in the past two weeks. Gotta admit, all the chatter is starting to bother me.

What in the world does that statement even mean? It’s fairly arbitrary and generic. What is the standard for awesomeness? How do we measure it? Who’s the final judge when there’s a disagreement over levels of epicness (another word that’s hotter now than when Homer penned the Iliad)?

Here’s a thought. Don’t worry about being awesome. Now, it’s important and praiseworthy to pursue excellence in your field. But that’s more concerned with the pursuit of technical expertise or specialized knowledge. There’s a subtle difference.

I don’t think you can just write an article that says, “Be Awesome or Die.” But there is material out there right now that says exactly that. I don’t see anyone telling me “How Win the Kentucky Derby Right Now!” There’s no way you could sell that idea. On top of that, would you be frustrated if you read the article, and when you woke up the next morning, you weren’t ready to compete in the Derby? Would you wonder what’s wrong with you that you couldn’t get it to work? Do you need any extra frustration in your life?

How to Become a Solid Marathon Runner in 8 Weeks” makes more sense. Specific, realistic, quantifiable.

My advice? Whatever you’re doing, do your best every day. And every day, try to get better. If you keep getting better, you’ll be pretty epic by the time you’re through. How awesome it that?


According to legend, one day Pablo Picasso sat in a restaurant in Paris drinking a cup of coffee. A woman recognized him, approached him and asked him to draw sketch of her. Being the gentleman that he was, Picasso obliged. When he was finished, she took the drawing, and asked “How much do I owe you?”

“$5,000,” was Picasso’s reply.

“$5,000?!” she exclaimed. “But it only took you three minutes!”

“No,” he answered, “it took me all my life.”

What do you think Picasso would say about this romanticized notion of the starving artist? The one who creates masterpieces for the love of the craft, and would never commercialize his art. He will suffer poverty before “selling out.”

The question of art versus commerce is ridiculous. I’ve loosely labeled this idea altruism, that is, doing for or giving to others without seeking anything in return. Not looking for any benefit for yourself.

What does altruism have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked.

Honestly, not very many people are talking about being altruistic nowadays. Everyone seems to be telling you more and easier ways to become one of the rich cool kids. But I know for a fact that a lot of people feel guilty for charging what their services are worth. Or they’re scared to ask for it. Or they question whether it’s right to make people pay them to do what they love to do.

Get those thoughts out of your mind.

It is not greedy to charge what you deserve. If your plumber loves fixing pipes, should he charge you less to do it? Of course not.

Be as bold as Picasso in the anecdote above. Know the value you provide, and ask for pay commensurate with the value you bring to the table.

I’m not sure true altruism exists on planet earth. There is some degree of self-interest involved with every action. But in business, the question is a red herring. Thinking about it is nothing more than a waste of time. Stay focused on doing the best work you can do, creating as much value as possible, and earning what you’re worth for it.

Generosity is good. In most cases, I recommend being charitable on the back end. Earn as much as you can, then give as much as you can (in the words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church) to deserving causes.

Feet on the Ground

Wow, that really did turn into a rant. I violated my own principle of talking about one thing, but then again, the overriding topic was getting your mindset right and protecting yourself from time-draining thought processes.

We’ll get back to the regular format next time. Thanks for letting me get that out. If you have any thoughts, disagreements, or whatever, feel free to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

(originally published May 10, 2011)



When Is Being Clever Inappropriate in Advertising?

Is it wrong to try to be clever in your marketing?

Most direct marketing experts and teachers will tell you that attempts at humor or cleverness are a bad idea. Most of them have experienced reality firsthand: people work hard to earn their money. Deciding where they’re going to spend or invest it is something they probably take seriously, not playfully.

On the other hand, most multimillion dollar image ad agencies can’t resist conjuring up the slickest ideas possible. Some of them will quote statistics “proving” how effective those 7- and 8-figure campaigns have been. Maybe they’re right, in some cases.

While I can’t state categorically that cleverness will ruin your the effectiveness of your marketing message, know for sure that you’re taking a pretty big risk.


A few days ago I saw a TV commercial advertising what seems to be a major event at Denny’s: Baconalia.

Being the dreadful nerd that I am, I realized that this was a attempted play on the word bacchanalia. Knowing the kind of person who reads this blog, there’s a good chance you noticed it, too. Wikipedia defines bacchanalia as “wild and mystic festivals of the Greco-Roman god Bacchus (or Dionysus), the wine god. The term has since come to describe any form of drunken revelry.” Just replace the wine with bacon and you have a good time waiting for you at Denny’s.

Here’s the problem: How obvious that play on words? What percentage of Denny’s average customers get it?

You know what probably happened. Some bookworm adwriter (who never had the responsibility to actually sell something with his ads) saw a chance to flex his creative muscles and he couldn’t help himself.

Granted, this advertisement may not hurt sales, but does the name Baconalia capture the attention and crystallize the desire for salty pigmeat in the minds of the people who see the commercial? More likely, it causes a moment of confusion. And as I say so frequently, confused people don’t buy.

Maybe I’m more upset about this than I should be. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. But it seems like this happens way too frequently. Marketers and entrepreneurs think puns fill cash registers. They put too much emphasis on being clever.

Like Barefeet Shoes. Does that even make sense as the name of a shoe store?

Kill The Cleverness

Bill Bernbach, widely regarded as one of the 20th centuries most influential advertisers, said this: “Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise … not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.

Another of the greats, David Ogilvy said that “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.

This is where so many marketers get it wrong. The advertisement isn’t about the marketer — he shouldn’t be trying to win awards or show off his brilliance. The ad isn’t about the company selling the product, or even about the product itself. In the final analysis, the ad must be about the buyer and how his life will be changed for the better by purchasing the item advertised.

Marketing should be a spotlight in a darkened theater; content to be unseen, focused solely on creating the proper perspective for the product, enabling an audience to see the benefits available to them.

The copy you write should be transparent, invisible. If a potential client reads your copy and says, “Man, that was a great advertisement!” you’ve failed. You succeed when he asks urgently, “Where can I buy this product?

The Most Important Exception

Cleverness is a great characteristic for a copywriter or marketer to have. Coming up with unique ideas and new ways to communicate them is essential. But that quick wit must be subjected to self-control and humility. All of those clever ideas have to take a back seat to selling power.

In your ads, you may need to be clever. But your cleverness must be invisible. Kinda like Seal Team 6, doing its job without being seen and disappearing into the night.

Here’s the short version: don’t sacrifice clear, effective communication in an attempt to be witty. Unless you’re selling tickets to a comedy show.


Chasing Butterflies

“Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”

So goes the basic introduction into what’s commonly known as the butterfly effect.

Taken from the title of a paper written by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in 1972, the concept has gained significant popularity and made in impact in our culture.

Aside from movies and books, you’ve probably heard discussions about the butterfly effect in one of two arenas: personal development or in business improvement.

Despite all that you think you may know about the phenomenon, chances are that you have probably been misinformed.

You’ve been taught, to summarize, that the butterfly effect speaks to the reality that one tiny change has the potential to create massive change. Even the flapping of an insect’s wing can unleash the power of a tornado.

The application is that small improvements you make in your life and business can create tremendous, life-changing results.

A more accurate term for this truth is kaizen, which literally means “continuous improvement.” Seemingly insignificant but continual incremental advancement in your work has a compounding effect and will create much larger development. Always getting better, little by little, turns good into great.

The butterfly effect is an expression of chaos theory, and the end results are not at all related to those you can expect by putting kaizen into practice.

Sowing Seeds

You don’t have to be a farmer to understand the law of sowing and reaping. Plant a seed, get a harvest.

Tend to the soil and enhance the environmental conditions, and you’ll reap an even more impressive harvest.

This agricultural axiom is proven to work and relied upon around the world to produce most of the food we eat.

It may not have been clear before, but these two concepts are not the same. They’re not even really related. Let’s make some comparisons.

1) The butterfly effect, by definition, is extremely unpredictable. A beautiful butterfly in South America is depicted as being capable of affecting disastrous weather on another continent.

Small changes can create much different outcomes, but there’s no real way to know what those outcomes will look like. An extra handshake after a meeting could win a new account for your company, or it could set off a series of events that cause a stock market crash. You can guess what will happen in terms of probabilities, but you can’t know for sure.

As we’ve noted, we’re delving into chaos theory here, which boils down to a mathematical attempt to describe the unknowable.

On the other hand, the law of sowing and reaping is highly predictable. Planting tulip seeds will produce tulip plants.

2) Rightly understood, the butterfly effect is completely out of our control to initiate, improve or direct. Every move you make causes a change in the atmosphere akin to the flapping of the butterfly’s wings. And every other creature on the planet has the same effect on you. Again, the results are random and irreversible.

While this may be how the universe actually works, the butterfly effect is not something you can invoke to “manifest your desires.” You have no capability to interact purposefully with this process.

Sowing and reaping is the opposite. The farmer decides what seeds will be planted, you can fertilize, water, increase exposure to sunlight, etc., to impact how the seed will grow. The plant can be uprooted and moved, or chopped down and destroyed. That’s the prerogative of the sower.

3) The butterfly effect is a scientific/mathematical term, but when it’s discussed in personal development conversations, the tone is more metaphysical or mystical. Positive thinking on steroids.

The law of sowing and reaping is a verifiable scientific fact. Easy to understand and apply.

Which seems to be more worthy of your attention?

Bottom Line

While imprecise use of terminology in this case may not have major detrimental effects on success in business, fuzzy thinking does.

By all means, make incremental improvements in yourself and your work. Compound your efforts and success, and think positive thoughts. Little things do have big potential.

But always seek to understand the ideas that you’re buying into. Clearly defining vocabulary is always a winning proposition. You may find that you’ve been making statements (or agreeing with the statements of others) that you’d actually disagree with if you clarified the language.

If you still think you can rely on the butterfly effect to create the success you’re looking for (like in those time travel stories), you may still have some thinking to do on the matter.

Stick with what’s proven. Start planting some seeds, and take care of the ones you’ve already put in the ground.


A Man of Extremes

I found this short article by Chris Chase to be interesting.

As a former track star (in my mind), Carl Lewis was a big hero of mine. Now it looks like he’s running for Senator. No comment.

Here’s an excerpt of the article, the part that I’d like to stress.

Carl Lewis is a man of extremes. When he’s good at something, like sprinting or jumping, he’s the best in the world. When he’s not good at something…his awefulness is astonishing.”

I’ve made this point a few times. It’s better to be world class at a limited number of things and horrible at everything else than it is to be decent at everything but not great at anything.

What are you extremely good at? Live and work in such a way that your extreme strengths are so noticeable, so impressive that no one minds your weaknesses.

Being well-rounded sucks.

While you’re at it, you might as well look at the Chase’s whole article. There’s a cool throwback video of Carl Lewis setting a world record. Oh, and one of him singing (one of his aweful failures).


Aesop’s (Deceptive) Fable

Who told Aesop that “slow and steady wins the race?” Furthermore, why do we repeat this clichĂ© as if it makes any practical sense?

Sure, we dress it up to sound nice. We try to make a point by telling a cute story about a tortoise and a hare. But in the real world — you know, the one that we grown ups live in — this statement is only a half true.

How many races do you know of in which “slow” wins? Steady, sure. But slow? I can’t see it.

What if the rabbit didn’t get cocky and take that nap? The turtle would have had his shell handed to him in that race.

Fast and steady makes a lot more sense.

How many of Aesop’s other fables do you suppose have hidden kernals of untruth lurking in them?


A Reminder About Resolutions

This is kinda last minute for advice or ideas concerning New Year’s resolutions. You probably already have them listed, and you’re (hopefully) excited about getting started first thing in the morning.
This is more of a reminder than anything else. A little insight to keep in mind as you launch out into 2011.
Ever thought about the word “resolution?”
One of the definitions is  “the act of determining.”
It’s root word is resolve, a word which can mean “fixity of purpose.”Here’s the point. A resolution is NOT:

  1. something you wish could happen
  2. an activity you’d like to do
  3. a goal you hope to achieve.

A resolution is something that you’ve decided will happen. That means, if you say you’re going to write a blog post every day in the coming year, and give up on January 15th, you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution. You didn’t truly resolve to do blog daily. You had a wish, or a goal.

I don’t mean to sound harsh. But I do want you to take your future seriously. I want you to firmly resolve to accomplish big things, and take action to make those things happen.

What’s vitally important to you right now? In life and business?

Clarity of vision and being honest with yourself about what you truly want deep down are important to finding fulfillment. So pick something that you really want. Resolve to have it or do it. Choose right now to do whatever is necessary (within the bounds of your morality and the law) to succeed. Chart a path to your objective, and follow up with action.

2011 could very well be the greatest year of your life. Don’t leave that up to chance. And don’t approach it half-heartedly. Be resolute when you make your resolutions.

It will make a tangible difference in your results. I guarantee it.

P.S. Happy New Year!!