Posted by Chiara Cokieng on December 07, 2013 0 Comments
A while back, I read an article on Medium which said, “Attending art school is a waste of your money.” I knew the author had to be interesting. He is. So we're really glad to have him here on GiveGetWin.
Noah Bradley is an artist who’s been freelancing for 5+ years. In that short time, he achieved enough financial freedom to finally work full time on his own art. Now he’s here to share with you really cool insights and lessons from freelancing as an artist, such as:
- A simple exercise he did in a week to figure out what to do with his life
- The best use of your time if you want to go from adequate to great
- His different take on how to cure artist burnout
- Why being an artist is more than just ability to pick up a pencil and draw
If you do any sort of art at all, read and enjoy this interview. Then head over to Noah’s deal to take his course on making money online as an artist, something he’s always found lacking in art school.
I’ve started working on my own project. I've been working on it on my own time for the past 3-5 years. I've done a painting, a story, here and there, but was never able to devote enough time to it since freelancing took all my time.
Thankfully, I have now gotten to the position where I can devote 95% of my time working on my project of exploring a world doing painting, drawings, and writings.
Something’s always fascinated me about the primal people.
So I’m creating a primal fantasy. I just put together a teaser website for it: sinofman.com. I wanted to do my own little take on things. I’m having a really good time with it.
Far too often fantasy is based on the Medieval or Renaissance era, but I'm more interested in going back to really ancient people. More cave paintings than anything. There's something fascinating to me about the Dawning of Mankind, discovering fire, stone tools, and spears. It's always fascinated me.
Now that I've got freedom to do it, I'm creating this unique world.
I'm doing this because I really enjoy it. At the same time I have to make a living like everyone else. At the very least, I'll put together a book -- either an art book or a novel, or some combination of the two.
Beyond that, I’ve always had a love of video games and film. So I'll try to push it in one of those directions. Maybe bring on a team of people and do something very big. Right now I'm fleshing things out, and once I do, I'll nail down more of what it could be.
It's a bit of an odd approach, but I have a very scattershot process which works for me.
I don't get up at the same time and do the same work every day. I kind of work here, work there… I spread it out. And the types of work too -- whether I'm writing, sketching, or painting. Sometimes I'll spend all day with a sketchbook, putting initial thoughts on paper. Other days, I'll take those ideas and push them a little further.
Some days I want to just think about writing, and come up with titles and names for the objects and places in the world. I bounce around between all of them, and I find it works best for me.
I've tried the really habits/structured thing, and it's never worked that well for me.
When I was a kid, I was homeschooled by my parents. I didn't have to worry about the typical structure of school. You're given a set of work you need to do, but you can do it in any order you wanted.
And I seem to work best under those circumstances. I could blaze through and finish fast, or spread things out. This taught me a lot about putting my own schedule together. The chaos seemed to work pretty well for me.
I'm eternally thankful to my parents for homeschooling.
It was amazing. I got self-discipline. I know how to schedule my days. I know how to get work done by a deadline. I was raised with this, and it's carried me all the way through to today.
I'm not used to being told what to do. I'm used to waking up, figuring out what I need to do, and doing it. I got all of that ability from homeschooling.
What if you don’t have motivation or natural self-discipline?
I honestly don't know how you can teach someone to have motivation. I don't know if you can. But the thing you can teach people... Is how to use structure to their advantage.
If self-discipline doesn't naturally come to you, structure is incredibly valuable. Almost essential. Look for routines to schedule your day around.
What should you do with your life? Should you go to a certain school? Are you good enough to go to a certain school?
My general advice is, "Do what will make you the happiest for the longest amount of time." That's why I chose to be an artist, and it's worked out pretty well for me. But what that is for them, I can't say. Only you can say.
I feel bad, because I really don't know.
I don't know what they should do with their lives. I can't tell someone what school they should or shouldn't go just based on email.
As for me, how I decided to became an artist...
It’s somewhat entertaining. When I was 18, I had the crazy idea that I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I set a deadline. I decided I'd give myself a week to decide.
For that week, I sat and wrote lists:
- What I like to do
- How I spend my time
- Different careers I might have
- Colleges I might go to
At the end of the week, I decided I was going to be an artist.
It wasn't because I was the best at it or because I thought it would make the most money.
I knew that I'd never get perfect at art no matter how much I did it. It would always challenge me every day. I found it would be eternally challenging for me.
That was very attractive to me.
The other frontrunner for what I was going to do was computer programming, and I was actually quite good at it, and I probably would have made million dollars if I'd done that.
I’ve always had this “I want to be better than everyone” attitude.
But it wasn't for the money that I chose art. I decided when I chose art that if I made a living, that would be fine and I'd be thrilled. And I am thrilled.
Everyone has something they're good at.
Something they're adept at. Something that comes naturally to some degree. It might not be a tangible skill – maybe just being great with people, connecting with people… That's what they're really good at.
You can't make a living just off being great with people. But you can use that in whatever profession you decide to go into. So it's about whatever that strength is.
I wasn't born with an incredible ability to draw, but I'm pretty good at figuring out how things work. So I figured out the rules of art and how it works.
It's about figuring out what your ability is and using it to your advantage.
When you break it down, art isn't as mystical as people make it out to be.
Most people look at an artist creating something and they're really mystified. They don't know how it's done. They can't see how it's done. They see an artist putting brushstrokes down. And then there's a picture in front of them.
Most art happens in the artist's head. That's mystifying to people. But really, it's not that mystical or fantastical. There are fundamental exercises you learn,
Drawing is a very learnable ability.
Being able to look at something and putting it down on paper with a pencil can be learned with books and practice.
I realized art was an ability I could learn. So if I put enough hours of practice and time researching to find the best techniques, I knew I'd be able to learn the technical abilities of art.
That doesn't go into the message of what you're saying and the subjects you're choosing. But the creation part of art is learnable.
I broke things down as much as I could.
I looked for the best books on art, and I put in tons of hours into learning.
As a kid, I would draw and stuff. I took a couple art classes while home schooled. I was okay, but I think the first lesson I really learned in art was imitation. I think that's how most of us learn as human beings. That's how many of us learn to speak, even.
You do the same thing in art: Learn by imitation.
Trace over an image, and then you’d have drawn -- with your own hand -- something that looks pretty good. And if you imitate enough, you start learning the rules and developing your ability to create from scratch.
That was my first groundbreaking moment. Then it was about pushing myself professionally, learning more, and continuing to develop.
How do you go from adequate to great?
Do a lot of drawing. Break it into 3's for a while.
- A third of the time, do master studies. Study Rembrant or Leonardo. Try and reproduce them. Put one next to your piece of paper, then try to draw it. That's how many of the Old Masters learned. It's an extremely useful practice. I still do it to this day.
- The next third, work from life. Still life, portraits, landscapes, figures… Draw, paint, and just work from life. Try to reproduce what's in front of you as accurately as you can.
- The last third of your time – this one people miss out a lot of the time -- do whatever interests you. If you like working from imagination or doing weird fantasy paintings... Do it. Far too often, people get so wrapped up in exercises, reproducing what's in front of them, that they miss doing stuff they really love.
So when they're given an opportunity to do something they love... They have no idea what to do with a blank canvass and total freedom.
Even when you're an awful artist, you should still create stuff you love out of your head. It'll develop a whole new skill set.
I was freelancing for like three years. It was a pretty wild ride. Sometimes you're overloaded with work, you do tons of paintings, deadlines kill you… Other times you've got no work. It's a bit of a wild ride.
If I went too long without doing work just for myself and doing what I wanted to create... If I went too long without it, I get depressed and don’t like what I am doing. I disliked painting. It was really sad.
Then I learned that basically all I need to do is some personal work. Just for myself. It reminds me of why I do art in the first place. I like making cool art. And it's a nice reminder of that.
Even when deadlines were terrible, I set aside a bit of time.
Either every day or one day a week. I’ll do what I want to do. As long as I did that, I was more energetic, happier with my career, and doing better work overall.
I see it far too often. People doing freelance or working in-house for someone find that after five years or so, they're burnt-out.
Don't like what they're doing. Creative energy is gone. Ready to crash and burn.
Eventually, most people who just produce work for other people burn out from that. At least from what I've seen.
If you're burnt out...
My advice is different. A lot of artists say you should just keep working if you're burnt out. There's some merit to that, but my advice is to take a complete break.
No drawing, no painting, just take a break.
Most of my creative breakthroughs happen when I’m not working. When I take month-long overseas trips where I don’t do any art. I find I have so much energy when I come back, the productivity is even higher.
Oftentimes when you're burnt out, it's because you're not enjoying things enough. Art is a very personal, emotional process. Have fun. Travel. Eat good food. See friends.
And remember to enjoy life again.
Then it ends up coming out in your own art.
I had an idea early this year.
I thought I could create something to help students keep learning during the summer.
Back in my art school days, at the end of Spring Semester... Artists would go home or go travel for the summer. And they'd come back in the Fall and start learning art again.
I saw something wrong with that.
There were long months when art students weren't learning, drawing, or painting because no one was doing it with them.
I think that held back a lot of students’ development. I know how difficult it is to keep the work ethic when you don't have assignments, deadlines, and fellow classmates.
So Art Camp... They’d get assignments, deadlines, and a community of fellow artists working through them. That was the brain child of Art Camp. I thought students could use it.
Now it's grown beyond students. We have people of all ages and skill levels. But that was the original intent.
Easily one of the best parts of art school: You have classmates working alongside you.
Community is extremely beneficial. One of my fondest memories of art school is just going to the studio to work, surrounded by other artists creating work. There's something really energetic about it.
That sense of being not alone in this is important.
I wanted to give people that community. People have gotten a ton out of just that aspect of it. I've been arranging for these people to connect more closely. Community is important for both student and professional.
When you're learning, it gives you this motivation to figure it out and do the exercises. When you're a professional, it’s very important that your peers push your work to the next level.
I personally have some good close friends I rely on to push my work further. And if I know my work needs a push, I'll send it to them to get good and honest feedback.
Everyone benefits from that sense of community.
I don't know that I, as a single person, could make a community work. Here, it just happened. It sparked. And it's done very well. Maybe there's something of me as a ringleader that made that happen, but honestly I just give credit to the students for being fantastic people.
If the environment is very cooperative, friendly, and energetic... Everyone adopts that mindset and it gives them a much more positive community to work in.
Learning by teaching helps a lot.
When you’re teaching, all of a sudden you need to not just know things subconsciously. You need to be able to articulate it.
I'm used to picking up a brush and painting. But when I have to explain why I do something, I realize maybe I don't know exactly why I do what I do. And having to analyze what I do to figure this stuff out has been very helpful to me.
Realize that being an artist is more than just being able to pick up a pencil and draw.
As you learn to be an artist... I urge you to pursue a lot of different hobbies and interests. For example, if you're really into archaeology... Research it. Really get into it and go after it.
As you create art, you're going to pull from everything you know, everything you love, and everything you've studied.
Eventually you'll learn and acquire the technical abilities. You want to have something to express.
That's why I encourage you to pursue whatever it is you’re interested in.
In a similar vein, try everything.
Try every different medium. Every different approach. Everything.
I'm primarily a painter, but a sculpture class is the best class I ever took. It taught me the most about drawing and painting. Learning to be a halfway decent photographer helped my composition immensely.
There's a lot of crossover in art. Experiment with everything especially in your early years. Don't get locked into just doing one or two things well. You'll learn those abilities faster if you spread yourself out in the early years.
My really high level advice, if you're looking to succeed is this:
I break success down into three principles:
- Hard work
Obviously you can't do anything about luck, so you have to make up for it in the other two.
You have to work really hard and keep at it for a long time. And if you do? Odds are you're going to do some great work and become quite successful.
Far too often, people work really hard. But then stop before they got lucky. So they never get the chance to be successful.
Some people just keep at it. But they just don’t push themselves hard enough. They keep at a low level of effort.
So please, I really encourage you to push at these two things: Work really hard and keep at it.
Then go to this page and learn how to make money off it.
Posted by Chiara Cokieng on November 21, 2013 0 Comments
I am a sales trainer. But first and foremost, I'm the person in sales for over 20 years now. I started very young during university selling bulldozers and excavators -- heavy equipment. My whole career, I leaned towards sales.
Today, I fight the good fight for introverts out there.
Most people think salespeople are born to be good salespeople. Be loud. Be obnoxious. I've worked with everything from small Mom and Pop shops to IBM. And every time I train, I learn that introverts have more potential to be successful at sales. I want to share this with people. I want to help introverts overcome the situations they see on a daily basis.
The last five or six years, I've written a lot about sales. Most sales trainers stick with things from the 70's or 80's that worked 20 or 30 years ago, but the world has changed so fast and the sales industry hasn’t caught up. You can hear advice about sales from 50 years ago. Customers don't need the salesman to explain everything about the product -- they can Google it. The salesman now needs to help someone find the solution to their needs.
Sales talk and how people think about it needs to change.
And that starts with the salespeople.
In North America, 30% or 40% of salespeople are introverted. They think something is wrong with them. That they need to be louder or pushier, more aggressive. But that's not true.
Many leaders in sales are self-admitted introverts. They learned how to use their natural strengths to sell. That you don’t need to be like the stereotype of a salesperson. You need to excel in your skills, show you really care, and really help, but you don’t need to be like that. Psychology is an important part of a sales role -- how to communicate and how to approach people. Not approaching everyone the same way.
I am an introvert. But I used to not know much about it.
"Before I learned about introvert/extrovert, I thought something was wrong with me."
After a presentation, I always need time for myself. To recharge. I have a colleague who is an extrovert. After a huge presentation, he wants to talk to 20 more people. Extroverts charge their batteries by being around other people, while introverts charge their batteries by being alone.
It's not being shy. Shyness is something totally different. Introverts understand that; extroverts don't.
My wife is an extrovert and when she sees my alone quietly in the audience, she'll say jokingly, "What's wrong with you?"
Nothing! We think before we talk, and we need time alone to think to recharge our batteries. A lot of sales people aren't aware they're introverts. Or that they could get a lot of strength from that. Instead, they think something’s wrong with them and that they should behave more like stereotypical salespeople.
I overcame that from a few experiences I had.You see a salesperson who is the life of the party and networks with everyone -- but can't sell. I was more shy, but always in the top 3 of actual sales.Sales is not about being loud or being the life of the party. It's about bringing results and being good at what you do.
The one thing introverts have, that extroverts don't understand
…is that we like to prepare ourselves for every situation.
Introverts love to prepare, to have questions and potential answers, to have answers to every objection we can think of. We have answers the clients may need. Extroverts generally don't prepare that much. It's in their nature. I'm not saying one is better than the other, it's like being left-handed or right-handed.
When I realized how the introverted way works, I shared this with my team and later started training it. When introverts can draw on the strength that comes with them, they can sell even more than traditional sales people.
"Being the calm in the storm, I'd say."
We're often mistaken for being too reserved, too shy. We sit back and try to get a better vantage people. We try to understand the situation before we speak. An introvert will sit in the corner and think before speaking, but you'll be surprised at what they have to say once they get the facts.
"They won't speak up and fight with loud people, but they have important things to say."
I'm working on a book about this right now: Getting introverted people in a company more involved. It's a new field. If you Google it or check Amazon, there's only one book about it besides mine. I've been surprised at the questions and interest I'm getting.
Between one-third and half of sales people are introverts, and if their manager is an extrovert, they think they need to be extroverted. You need to use your strength. Yes, fight your fears. But grow and develop your strengths, and help your team to grow if you're talking business.
So what if you’re afraid?
First of all, you need to acknowledge your anxiety.
Look at athletes -- they psych themselves up. But if you're an introvert, don't over-do it. Don't imitate extroverts. Find your own voice. You need to be prepared and know what you're talking about. An introvert’s advantage is being prepared. She knows exactly how the prospect can improve her bottom line, her products, her situation. Talk to her to get her ideas and her examples.
Many extroverts can't connect with people because they see sales strictly as a job. Today they maybe selling computer software. Tomorrow they're selling copy machines. But there's no connection to the product or the company.
"If you can find a connection with what you're selling, you have a huge advantage. You have passion for what you do. You understand things on a deep and complex level."
Second, ask why you're doing it.
You'll go through difficult times in sales. It's the only profession in the world where you'll be unsuccessful 90% of the time, and be the best in the world.
Introverts are naturally rude less often. Many extroverts have a reputation of being loud to people they're not directly selling to. Whereas introverts take a thoughtful approach. They work with everyone, the office assistant, all of their staff, the gatekeepers. These people can help you, while loud people are denied or ignored.
Introverts have a keen ability to observe other people. Clients will tell you everything you need to know if you observe. Not just verbal communication, but body language and many other cues. Introverts can learn how to read clients without words and develop their observation skills.
Knowledge is your advantage in any unknown situation, and reading people becomes a very valuable tool. For example, even if your client is an extrovert:
"How do you align with what they're thinking and saying? How do you read their mind? How do you use language to speak their same language?"
I don’t mean English to English or Spanish to Spanish, I mean audio, visual, or kinesthetic. Introverts can pick these skills up quickly.
I've been spreading the word of combining NLP with sales over the last few years. People hear about NLP here or there. But like any tool, it's all about how you use it. For sales people, it's all about finding the tools that you can use practically tomorrow. The most important for this is pacing and leading, which is a cornerstone of NLP.
Have you heard about Tony Robbins? He's an NLP guy, but he doesn't promote NLP itself. It's good on the motivation side, but it's also transferable to everyday situations. What I mean by pacing and leading…
Many people who hear about NLP don't really learn about it.
You don't care what the technique is, as long as it helps you create a better relationship with the client. Whether it's NLP or BLT, you don't care.
Pacing and leading is sending the message to a client, "I'm like you. I behave like you." People buy from people that are like them. It's about the body movement, not just words. You can pace them and the loudness of their voice. This is complex and we can't cover all of it, but you can pace even the speed of their voice and many things verbally.
You can pace their body movement. Move to the right if they move to the right. That's called mirroring. Synchronize with the client, pace, pace, and then lead.
Many people misunderstand the goal of creating rapport with the clients.
They think it's good to create rapport alone, but no -- at the end, you have to lead them. In sales situations, it's about taking a conversation to a situation where they buy from you.
There's physical rapport and verbal rapport.
Physical rapport is this: When they move, you move. Repeat this. Then, at the end, you start leading.
With the verbal thing, it's a bit more sophisticated. When you match or mirror your clients, you should wait to a count of three. If they cross their leg, you should wait three seconds and then cross your leg. Pacing. But try this first with friends and family, or at a coffee shop, not in a sales situation.
Match the speed of the person talking.
Let's say you're doing telephone sales. If you talk extremely fast, and the other person speaks extremely slowly, they won't understand you. It's too fast for them, so you need to slow down and adjust the speed you talk. That's one way to create verbal rapport.
"Talk like your clients talk. Sound like they sound."
If they have a really deep voice and you have a really high-pitched voice, you should adjust yourself. It's all about having behavior flexibility. If you try something and it's not working, maybe you should change and approach your clients in a different way.
It’s all about being flexible and approaching each client in a different way, depending on their situation. I like to say,
"Meet the clients in their world first, and then you can take them to your world."
One thing people don't understand is how to speak their client's mind.
I'll give you an example some people think is unusual. If I ask you, "Please tell me the most amazing vacation you had in your life." I should pay attention to your answer.
There are three groups –
People who use visual words, expressions like "it looks like to me, I have a mental picture, a sight for sore eyes, tunnel vision, bird's eye view" -- visual words, clear, sight, see. You should communicate in the same language. "You'll see the benefits."
Other people are auditory. They use words like "loud and clear, to tell the truth, unheard of, voice an opinion" -- these are all auditory words, people who like to express these. Say “You'll hear the benefits, you’ll probably like.”
Third group is kinesthetic or emotional. "Hold on, get a handle on, pain in the neck, grasp, handle, feel." They need to touch things. Even if you just give them the marketing materials, they need to touch and feel it before deciding anything. This is all technique: Feel, felt, found. "I understand how you feel. This is how other people felt, and they found…"
If they start talking visual, I’ll mention visual.
If they switch to emotional, “Well, Alen… This doesn’t feel right.”
“I understand how you feel”
And if they change back to visual, “We have to see results before we decide.”
“Fine. We’ll show you.”
Here is one thing I like to explain many people have never heard of:
When you try to sell to your clients, look for their motivation.
If I ask you any question about your goals, your targets, what you desire… You are either motivated towards goals or away from problems.
If you ask someone what they want in a new job, car, or house, they'll start to tell you their values. And values are the real stuff.
Features and benefits don't get it done. You need to talk about values. When you speak about values, you talk about good stuff. Real stuff.
I had a training for real estate agents. I asked if they ask why their clients bought their past home.
Some people would say, "I wanted a safe home." They're moving away from problems. Others will say, "It's an up and coming neighborhood, it increased in value, and now we sold and made 30% profit." That's a towards answer.
"After you get the answer, ask, "Why is that important to you?" Then you hear real answers."
Towards people, they talk about what they want, what they can achieve, the benefits. Everything indicates they're moving towards something.
If you're talking to towards-people, you can say, "Here's what we can do, here's what we can achieve, here's what we can get."
Away-from people talk about what to avoid. The whole insurance industry is built on people going away from bad situations.
With away-people, you can say, "We'll get this fix, we'll get this handled, we'll get rid of any issues."
Towards-people want gains, away-people want to get away from problems. I'm not saying one is better than the other -- it's all about understanding people and their motivation. Listen to what language your clients speak.
Alan is running a GiveGetWin deal where he'll teach you how to understand the language of the person you're speaking to, and communicate in a way that resonates with them. The class is on December 5th, the cost is only $24.99 -- which is very cheap for high quality sales training -- and all the proceeds go to charity.
Go grab your spot ASAP, and tell a friend too. It should be a great, practical, profitable education.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on November 10, 2013 0 Comments
I'm really glad to bring you this interview and GiveGetWin deal with Charlie Hoehn. The topic is critically important -- it's about getting away from anxiety and workaholism, and getting more out of life. Very important for driven go-getter types like most people who read here. This interview promotes Charlie's GiveGetWin deal, "Turn Work Into Play" -- designed to bring you greater sanity and happiness while helping you do more of what you want to do.
Here's the interview, there's some gems in this one --
"To Heal, Play."
By Charlie Hoehn, as told to Chiara Cokieng and edited by Sebastian Marshall.
First and foremost, I'm a writer. That's what I'm doing right now. In the past, I've helped startups and authors with their books and projects with launching them.
I'm working on the finishing touches for a book I've been working on for the past five years. I had a monster set of notes that I hadn't planned on making into a book, so it took longer than I thought it would.
I'm living in Austin with my good friend Tucker Max. He and I have known each other for four years, and I try to get out and have fun each day, and not be glued to the computer screen all day!
Having this time to just work on my own projects and nothing else has been a really cool change of pace. I never really had that chance before. I've taken ownership over many projects, but I hadn't done my own thing and cranked out my own art since college.
It's been really challenging and really a great internal growth process for me, and it's been really deeply rewarding. I find myself, for the first time in a long time, doing work and smiling and leaning into it and getting excited about it. It's not drudgery, there's an actual part of my heart and soul into this work.
There's a really interesting transformation that happens when you start writing your own internal secret thoughts, and making them physical and tangible. You become that person more and more in real life.
You become more authentic and open and honest, because you've grown comfortable with practicing bringing that material out.
That's something that I noticed in Lake Tahoe with all my best friends from high school. I hadn't seen some of them in several years, but I noticed with a handful of them that they couldn't be honest with themselves because they haven't had that practice. It's not a fault of theirs -- they're just not used to doing it.
That's the case with a lot of people. But I've found writing, creating art, and projecting out what my feelings and thinking are, it's made me like myself more.
I've gotten a lot better at noticing when people are holding back. Now, I can say something,, and I know it'll be throwing them a line that they can grab on to, or when I say something that they might feel but are too reserved to say themselves.
When that happens, it gives either a huge sense of relief and then they can open up, or they're just kind of bewildered and put off… and that's fine if that happens, they're probably going to be put off by me anyways if they're not an open person. But normally, people react like, "Oh my God, I've thought the same thing…" It's this weird superpower that everybody can have: helping others open up, and giving them permission to be themselves.
The best way to do this is not just pressing people's buttons. You don't just say, "Hey, you ever done drugs before?!" It's not about taboo stuff; it's about becoming comfortable with yourself first.
I recommend writing.
With a pen and paper, not a computer.
The computer doesn't have the same physical connection as when you're staring into a blank piece of paper that can't turn into Facebook or Reddit, and you're just turning that paper into what's inside of you, and you become comfortable with yourself, and you try to go deeper, and open up more, and you keep seeing it's okay.
You vomit out all these thoughts that bother you, and the stuff you love that other people don't really give a shit about, and the stuff constantly churning in your brain.
If you've been thinking, "This is a problem, I'm trying to find a solution!" -- you get to write it down and read it back to yourself and get comfortable with it. You start to understand yourself really well, and genuinely like what's coming out of you.
Even when I was at my worst and felt awful, like death all the time, one of the things that helped me restore my sanity was writing down everything that was bothering me.EVERYTHING. Thoughts about my parents, my girlfriend, my sister… the kind of thing I was too afraid to say to people's face. I'd resist it in my head because it seemed like a bad thought I shouldn't have. But when you get these thoughts out, you realize that everyone has these thoughts. When you start talking to others, you realize they're all editing and filtering their thoughts too. They've all been conditioned to not be okay with what pops into their mind -- even though, really, it's all okay.
Once you become comfortable with your thoughts, you help others become comfortable with their thoughts. "Hey, we're all friends here" -- and you stop judging people and become more empathetic, and you both be okay with how screwed up you both are.
I read an article recently, about a girl who was a really talented writer and blogger who wrote about her depression a lot, and she disappeared for a year. She came back two days ago and wrote about the depression she went through.
She does a great job of describing what depression feels like inside. You don't have thoughts of, 'I want to kill myself', but you do have thoughts of 'I want this to be done.' There's no meaning, purpose, excitement, stimulation, sex drive… there's no joy, everything feels forced and everything is exhausting. Every interaction you have is fake, and you're trying to keep it together for the sake of appearances with other people.
My face would twitch because I was having to conjure fake emotions. If someone was going through something great, I never cared. If someone went through something horrible, I never cared. If someone wanted to go to the movies, I'd say, "Yeah, let's do that" -- but I felt like they were trying to drain the little bit of life I had left.
Every single interaction was a weight I had to carry. It was exhausting and so miserable, and you feel hollow and empty all the time. There was a night when I finally told my girlfriend at the time all this stuff. I'd moved out of San Francisco, and I came back for this conference and saw her… and I didn't even want to see her, I was just seeing her because I felt obligated to… She asked why I was so emotionally distant, why I didn't feel like her… why did I have such a different energy level than the new guy she'd started dating?
I told her everything. I feel dead inside. All the time. I've been trying to fix this, make this go away for months. I don't know how to stop it. It doesn't go away. I want it to stop, but it doesn't. I don't know why it won't go away.
The book I'm writing is about everything that helped me, but getting out of that funk was a real challenge. It was facing a lot of inner demons. And outer ones, too.
Most people either can't relate, or are afraid to open up about it. It's a weird thing, a very private suffering. You're ashamed to have it when you're going through it. I can talk about it now because it's past, and I know why I was going through that particular stuff. The more I opened up to people about this, the more that I noticed they were going through the same thing by what they said, or I could see it on their face.
I could see their faked emotion. It was so bizarre, I had never noticed this whole phenomenon before, until now. I didn't understand why people felt so uncomfortable when I interacted with them in the past, but now I can see their pain.
To me, the all-encompassing solution was simply play. Something I realized is, I'd effectively deprived myself of play for years, and I wasn't aware of it. My state of mind had shifted to, "Life is serious. Work is serious. Make a career. Make money. Productivity, productivity, productivity. Play the game. Serious."
Before that, I'd taken life more lightly and been fun-loving and relaxed. I loved to play jokes, to mess around, to do stupid side projects that are total wastes of time that are fun to me that I could get caught up in… but then I just started taking everything so seriously.
I think living in the city was tough. The city is cluttered with skylines and human activity. And no easy access to nature is tough. The closest nature to San Francisco is 40 minutes away, and I didn't own a car in SF… so I wasn't having quality time in nature, wasn't having quality time with my friends. Even when I did something fun like go to the park and throw around a football, I was caught up in my mind about work I was missing out that I had to do.
I kept thinking about all this shit I had to do, and I reached a point… I would say I quit working with Tim because I was burnt out. I was a little anxious at the time, and I burnt out. I wasn't sleeping enough, I was working all day every day, checking email constantly at 3AM, and the few times I went to play I still was in "life is serious, work is serious" mode.
I wasn't doing things because I wanted to do it; I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't do it.
I quit halfway through The Four Hour Chef. Tim and I did The Four Hour Body together, and that was legitimately an interesting project. It was cool, it was fascinating, and we knew it would have a profound effect on people's lives, and it was meaningful. But with The Four Hour Chef, I didn't care about cooking. I didn't care about knives -- I actually dislike knives. And food has never been my toy, I was never interested in food. Not as a kid until now. I have no understanding of all the subtleties of food… so working on that project was a disconnect for me.
I'd never tackle the subject even if I was given $500,000 to do it.
Just because there's a demand for it, doesn't mean I want to do something, or should do it.
I'd already committed though, and I was afraid to quit. My family, my friends, all congratulating me. My blog readers, they'd say, "You work for Tim Ferriss? How cool!" Tim's the embodiment of achievement -- I felt important working with him, but deep down, I didn't like myself and what I was doing.
What helped me quit was writing out all my thoughts. I wrote a 10 page letter basically explaining my thought process. I threw it away later, but I had to organize what was going on in my head, and realize it was okay.
There's something magical about reading your writing. It goes from nebulous thought to fact. Putting your thoughts on paper is very powerful.
I quit, and took four months off. That was the peak of my anxiety.
I thought, "I'll just take a few weeks off, and jump back into work."
Then I realized, my body is broken, that's painful, I haven't slept or played or stopped looking at my inbox and Facebook in years. All this stuff has caught up to me, and I feel like I'm not even experiencing life. That's when I entered that state of living death… and that was a shitty period.
That period went over for a year.
Quitting was scary. I wanted to leave. I wanted to cut and run. That was my desire. I thought, "Maybe I could just mail him all the files and all the instructions for how to replace me, and we won't have to interact."
At the time, I knew inside I was hitting my breaking point for my job, but I thought I could tough it out and work through it. "Just keep going! Just keep plowing!"
What broke for me, is in a short period of time, a close friend attempted suicide and a family member died.
I told Tim, "I need to take the next week or so off…" and during that week, I realized I couldn't do this any more.
I wrote that letter. I figured out in a week how I could remove myself from the project while automating all the systems I was running as much as possible, and then I scheduled a dinner with Tim, and I was shaking on my way over there. I took a beta blocker to slow my heart rate down, even.
I was shaking as I walked up to the restaurant.
He had a list of things he wanted to go over.
The waiter poured each of us a glass of wine. He asked how I was doing.
And I told him -- "I can't do this any more. I'm sorry. I'm broken. The shit in my life, it's a mess right now and I can't keep forcing myself through this."
And he was like, it was tough for him on a professional level because the book was an overwhelming project. If you look at how much work went into The Four Hour Chef… the deadline moved back six months. It didn't move back six months once; it kept getting pushed back a month, and another month, and two months -- and I couldn't make it through it.
It was tough for him, because I was leaving him kind of high and dry. I mean, that's not how he responded. He said, "I understand, I get it, I get where you're coming from. Alright, what's next for you?" At the time, I was scared to even give him an honest answer there -- my answer would have been, "I'm not going to do anything."
I BS'ed him about an iPhone app I had on the back burner…
It took me a while to realize how not serious all this was. It was my choice to make this all really serious and important. It was all my own head games.
I knew all that intellectually, but I didn't get this emotionally until I went back to the concept of play.
Play was what I did because I wanted to do it. Play was natural and automatic. Play gets me lost in time, playing my game, on my rules, and these with playmates I'd chosen. Tim and Ramit and Tucker, all these guys I'd worked with, they were playmates I'd chosen at the outset, rules I set for myself.
But as time went on, it was more about fear of leaving the game, about the other person's roles and rules. You can get into the existential stuff on our work doesn't matter or whatever, and that's true, but the concept of play finally made it hit for me. Because play is, like, what we're here to do. We're here to create our own games, here to re-write the rules so they're better for everyone, and we're here enjoy ourselves and help each other and be a team, be a family together.
Play brought that back to me, to what made sense to me as a kid, and why I'd been so happy and fulfilled when I was younger. Play. The concept, inevitably, was play.
As I dug more into this, I realized that we've all been deprived of play. On a bigger cultural level, we've all been deprived of play. We're all forced to be in school, in an institution, indoors, at a desk, and told what we're to do on pointless memorization tasks that can't be used at any point in our lives, with no bearing on what we'd actually do if given our own time. For two decades.
And it hit me -- all the things I really loved, all the beauty and things we've produced -- art, sports, books, architecture, design, characters in movies, storytelling -- every single thing that made life fun and beautiful came from a person or a group of people who were there playing.
They were doing what they wanted to do, playing with their own rules, and their own toys, for months and years at a time. The fruits of their play, they'd get really good at it, and the fruits of their play -- the products and games they came up with that everyone could share and watch and enjoy -- this is what made humanity so unique.
The play concept made sense to me -- not just from a career standpoint, but life.
My friends, we weren't prisonmates together, we were playing together. We played sports, we had interests and skill levels in common, so we kept playing together so we could keep getting better at the games we cared about it. Some of my best friends in the world are people to come up with comedy sketches, people we were just trying to make each other laugh. It was really simple and really easy, and there was no loneliness any more -- because we were playing. It took away my anxiety.
I realized, I was chronically isolated before, not having fun with other human beings. When I allowed myself to be around others, and play with them and have something in common with them, and have something in common with them, that bonded us and brought us together. I was part of a group of people again, and it's the same concept as earlier -- at a sleepover. You can be scared of the dark alone, but if there's a friend there, you'll laugh.
Humans don't function alone. You have to be part of the group. I think it's legitimately abuse locking kids up in schools and depriving them of play. They're so caught up with their phones because it lets them play. It's like an aquarium, though -- they're interacting through a piece of glass, not face to face, and a lot of people are lonely, isolated, and depressed -- and they can't talk about it. And don't know what's causing it.
My mentality shifted -- I go day to day now. Whatever comes, comes. And I react and adapt and survive, and make something better. To me, this play thing is something I'm into right now. I'm never at the finish line, though. I'm not saying, "Yes! This is what I want to do with the rest of my life!"
I want to keep surrounding myself with great, smart, talented, funny friends. Who are very open and loving. Who make my life better, and I make their life better. The play concept is really nice and it's going to help a lot of people, and potentially will make people think, "The system really messes all of us up, and conditions us, and we don't even see it."
I've got a few ideas related to this that I'm excited about, that I think are really fun, but I've got different projects I'm thinking about. I have no desire to build an empire or be famous -- I've worked with those people the last several years, in their cliques and groups of friends, a lot of these people get so caught up in the prestige and outdoing each other, and always accomplishing and never being content.
And then, there are also a lot of them who are just having fun. Like little kids.
The most successful people I've ever met, they're like little kids. When you start talking to them about what they're making and working on, they get like, "I'M MAKING MY WORLD BETTER!!! :) :) :)"
They all have different toys they play with, different canvases they paint on. But the most successful people all play at their work.
Charlie Hoehn is doing a class at GiveGetWin with all the proceeds to charity. For $19.99, you can learn Charlie's techniques for doing meaningful work without all the stress, anxiety, and burnout. If you're hyper-achieving but feeling miserable, this might be just the ticket for you. Find out more here.
Posted by Zach Obront on November 07, 2013 0 Comments
The following is a guest post by Tim Kenny. He creates awesome Accelerated Learning courses for Entrepreneurs. This weeks, his Find Your First Mentor program is being featured on GiveGetWin at over 70% off. Take it away, Tim…
The follow are 13 techniques I use to maintain useful, fulfilling relationships with all my mentors…
1. Use Voxer to Stay in Touch with Busy Mentors
If you have a busy mentor they may only have time to talk to you once or twice a month. Use Voxer to keep in touch more often and avoid a lot of the awkwardness and planning that come with scheduled phone calls. If you plan to set up a personal board of advisors or mastermind, Voxer has group chats as well. It’s a great way to do a mastermind without trying to get everyone to show up at one place and one time.
2. Use Shared Google Docs and/or Spreadsheets to Keep Track of Your Mentor’s Advice
A lot of people get intimidated by spreadsheets. You shouldn’t be. Spreadsheets allow you to organize a ton of information in ways you can’t with a normal Word document or shared Google Doc.
In fact, “Spreadsheet Fear” is a dead giveaway that you are an amateur entrepreneur because most people don’t start using spreadsheets until their old paper or Word document system starts to fail them. Basically, you only need to be comfortable using spreadsheets if you are working on big things which require handling lots of information. Having spreadsheet fear is like having an AOL email address, if you have it, at least don’t tell anyone.
3. Use Nudgemail to Keep Tabs on All Your Mentors' Emails
Keeping track of what emails you need to respond to or remember to check can be a big pain. Nudgemail is a free service that makes it easy to keep up with your email threads with many different people.
If you add firstname.lastname@example.org to the BCC field when sending your mentor an email, you will get an email from Nudgemail in 2 weeks reminding you to recheck the email. This is handy if you batch your emails on a certain day and want to get a reminder if someone doesn’t respond to your email.
If you get an email on your phone and can’t handle it till later, forward the email email@example.com and you will get a reminder to respond to the email same time tomorrow. This is one advantage Nudgemail has over other email reminder services because only Nudgemail works inside your email app on your phone. Other services like Contactually require a separate app that you need to install on your phone.
Tip: If you want something even more simple, create two new labels in gmail: .ToReplyand .To Followup. The period before the label is important because it will cause these 2 labels to show up at the top of your labels menu so you can use it easily on your phone and don’t have to scroll through a bunch of other labels. Make it a habit to check on these labels on a certain day each week. My day for doing email checkup is Wednesday.
4. Use Contactually to Build and Maintain a Large Number of Advisors and Mentors
Contactually is a more feature rich version of Nudgemail that integrates with Gmail as a plugin for Firefox or Chrome and allows you to get reminders to contact people. It was designed for sales people who need to keep in touch with hundreds of people but you can use it to keep tabs on lots of people if you want to build a large network. If you have tons of contacts you can get daily reminders to catch up with people depending on what “bucket” you put that person in.
You have to manually put each of your contacts into a bucket (thought they make this fun by gamifying it, and then you can set how often you want to be reminded of people in each bucket (so you can get a reminder to contact advisors once every 2 months and mentors every 3 weeks). This tool costs $20 per month but is well worth it if you want to keep in touch with dozens or hundreds of people.
5. Get Free Learning Resources From Your Mentor
Your mentor either owns or has access to very high value educational materials that you are probably completely unaware of. Some conferences or seminars allow a person to bring a guest for free or at a discount – you can be that guest. If your mentor is part of a mastermind you may be allowed to tag along.
Your mentor may also have bought high priced business courses worth hundreds or thousands of dollars that are just sitting on his bookshelf somewhere. Be proactive about asking if your mentor has good stuff they can send you and offer to pay for the postage. Your mentor may also have taken notes from a book, course or seminar that they have sitting on their hard drive that they could easily send you. Treat your mentor’s library like the goldmine it is.
6. Learn to Lead a Conversation on the Phone
One of the drawbacks of texting and email is that our generation has gotten less and less skilled at the simple art of having a real time conversation. I have been surprised to talk to many successful businessmen in their 40′s and 50′s who are extremely awkward on the phone… so you should expect to lead the conversation with your mentor or advisor.
Here are a few tips that help your get comfortable fast:
a) Don’t be afraid of a little silence – In some Asian cultures (like Japan) silence is the most respectful response after someone says something valuable…it signals that the thought is important enough to stop and reflect on. Silence may also indicate that you should wrap up the call, or that you should have prepared more for the call or written down some questions.
b) Preparation is very underrated but extremely valuable - I was at dinner after a conference with a group of very successful entrepreneurs a few weeks ago and one of them was telling us about his experience spending a day with Dan Kennedy, a hugely successful business teacher and consultant (Tim Ferriss read and was inspired to be an entrepreneur by his book “How to Make Millions with Your Ideas”
which he read when he was still in high school) , who charges $20,000+ to spend a day with him and pick his brain. This entrepreneur told us that the process of preparing for the day of consulting was just as beneficial to him as the consulting itself.
Prepare for your conversations by writing out questions, going over the various aspects of your life and your business, and by going over your notes from your previous conversations. Use your shared spreadsheet to make this process a lot easier. And make sure to tell your mentor what you have taken action on from your previous conversation and what challenges your have run into.
c) Don’t be afraid to interrupt – Especially in the beginning of your relationship your mentor will not know how much or what you know. You can end up wasting their precious time by letting them go on and on about things you are already familiar with. Your mentor is helping you because they want to see you succeed, not so you can listen to their war stories or ramblings (though these are fun sometimes too).
If you feel like interrupting would be disrespectful, just bring it up in one of your first conversations, and say something like: “I noticed sometimes when I ask you about something and I know what you’re talking about I feel weird about interrupting you. Is it OK to interrupt you if I already know what you’re talking about?” In general people will be willing to accommodate most of your preferences in a relationship if you are upfront and proactive about setting expectations instead of waiting for misunderstandings and assumptions to boil over.
d) Don’t feel obligated to talk – Just because you usually talk for 30 minutes doesn’t mean you should drag it on past the 10 minute mark if you don’t have anything to talk about. You can always send a follow up email or call again or Vox them. You also shouldn’t feel bad about going over time if the conversation is going well; your mentor will let you know if they really need to go.
e) The Past-Present-Future Model – Conversations follow a basic pattern of two people first catching up on the past, then talking about present issues/problems, and then making future plans. If you ever feel lost in the conversation just thing about which stage you are in and either move to the next stage or switch the focus to them instead of yourself or vice versa.
7. Create a Monthly Review Newsletter
You only have so much time to keep in touch with all your advisors, mentors, friends, acquaintances and other business people you know. So how do you know who will be able to help you with all the different projects you are working on?
A few months ago I created a simple email with a description of my progress on my various projects and sent it out to my family, friends, advisors, mentors and some business acquaintances. It’s a good habit to reflect on your progress each month, and sending it out as an email takes very little extra work.
Just recently one advisor I barely ever talk to out of the blue responded that he would be able to partner with me on a small side project I’m working on how to deconstruct how humor works that could end up making a lot of money. This would have never happened if I wasn’t sending out my monthly newsletter.
Its also a great way to keep in touch with mentors or advisors that you don’t have as much to talk about with anymore. And it keeps you accountable because you know everyone is going to see what progress you make each month.
Send the email to yourself and then put all the emails in the BCC field and send it out. If you want to get fancy (for advanced users only) you can do a mail merge so they don’t know they are getting BCC’d.
8. Take More Action and Be More Aggressive
To put it bluntly: most of you are not going after what you want hard enough or aggressively enough. You are wasting time and finding ways to not take action. I remember a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said something along the lines of “if you have never done curls until you puked, you don’t know the meaning of hard work.” I only started going to the gym regularly last year, but I started to understand what he was talking about a few weeks ago when I biked so hard that I puked and kept going until I got back home.
My biggest inspiration from bicycling came years ago when I read an article about Jure Robic, a long distance bicyclist from Slovenia: His five victories in the Race Across America, an approximately 3,000-mile transcontinental ride that has been held annually since 1982, are unequaled…
Unlike the Tour de France…there is no respite for riders until they give up or cross the finish line…The winner generally sleeps less than two hours out of 24 and finishes in less than nine days.
In 2005, Robic won the race and two weeks later won Le Tour Direct…a course derived from Tour de France routes that included 140,000 feet of climbing — almost the equivalent of starting at sea level and ascending Mt. Everest five times.
Robic became accustomed to both the physical and mental stress that pushing himself to extremes brought on… He was prone to hallucinations. More than once he leapt off his bicycle to do battle with threatening attackers who turned out to be mailboxes. Once he imagined he was being pursued by men with black beards on horseback — mujahedeen, he explained to his support team, who encouraged him to ride faster and keep ahead of them.
Very few things will impress your mentor more than taking tons of action and being aggressive about achieving your goals.
Remember: just because your mentor has connections and resources doesn’t mean he is going to share them with you. You have to earn those introductions and special favors. Your mentor doesn’t want your wasting his time or money or embarrassing him by introducing you to someone and then having you drop the ball — because that will all end up tracing back to him and tarnishing his reputation.
On the other hand, if you are super passionate about your projects and going beyond your mentor’s expectations, that will get him excited and even more interested in finding ways to help you achieve your goals faster.
9. Learn Your Mentor's Personal and Professional Network
A lot of success comes down to knowing the right people. And I have noticed in my conversations with my mentors over the years that many won’t proactively volunteer information about themselves or their friends or business associates unless you ask. There are several reasons for this. Sometimes it is because the person is just a private person, but other times it is because they think you wouldn’t care about their other relationships, or they don’t see the relevance to your projects or they think it would be self indulgent or because your time together is limited.
So what should you do? First, whenever your mentor mentions a person, either by name or not, immediately ask for that persons full name. Take it down in your notes and look them up later. If you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the conversation you can email them about it later or on your next call. Add them on Facebook and Linkedin and check out who they follow on Twitter. If they are on Angel List (a social network for VCs and startup founders to connect) check that out also.
If you haven’t already, install Rapportive in your browser so when you get or send email to your mentor you can see all their social activity online.
Use MentionMapp, an awesome Twitter app to see who your mentor spends the most time talking to and retweeting on Twitter, in visual form.
10. You Probably Aren't Asking for Enough
My mentee’s don’t ask me for enough help. I am guilty of not asking for enough help as well. You have probably noticed something similar: most people don’t raise their hand and ask for help in class when they need it. Most people don’t speak up at conferences when they can ask a speaker a question.
People are embarrassed to ask for help. Don’t be. You should be embarrassed if you are scared to ask for help.
How do you know if you are asking for enough help? You will only find the line by crossing it a few times. The same is true with anything in life. You can always apologize later and if they stop responding to your emails or calls that usually means you should switch up your approach. It may also be a sign that you are putting all your eggs in one basket with a single mentor and you should look to get more mentors so you can spread out your asking to multiple people.
11. How to Build Trust (the Bedrock of a Relationship)
A good, strong relationship with a mentor is going to come down to two things. Shared interests and shared experiences. Shared interests usually means they have an interest in you as well as the problems you are facing and the project you are working on. Shared experiences mean doing things together like having a meal together, playing golf or talking on the phone.
A great relationship with your mentor includes one final ingredient: Your mentor sees themselves in you in some way. My best mentors have been older guys who saw me as in some way a younger version of themselves.
Lots of people will tell you that you need to give value to your mentor and other BS. There is some truth to this - Ryan Holiday (insanely prodigious reader, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying,” Marketing Director at American Apparel and majorly successful college dropout) is a great example of someone who took on an apprenticeship role with a master (Tucker Max and Robert Greene) but the master apprentice relationship is really not the same animal as the mentor mentee relationship because of the time commitment involved.
The key difference is in the motivation of your mentor: is it intrinsic or extrinsic?
Intrinsic means they enjoy helping you in and of itself, extrinsic means they are helping you for some other external reward. If all your relationships involve extrinsic motivation only that means that you have a recipe for flaky relationships and fair weather friends.
To a certain extent you can accentuate the sides of yourself that most resemble your mentor. The best way to do this is to ask your mentor to tell you stories about their life — growing up and their early business life and how their interests in their various hobbies and business ventures were developed. You can then relate these back to your own experiences and interests.
Building trust also involves sharing stories that make you feel vulnerable, and asking your mentor to do the same. Don’t be afraid to ask really deep, personal, intimate questions but also be willing to go first and expose your flaws and insecurities. If you are with the right mentor they will immediately identify with what you are feeling and going through because they have already dealt with those challenges and this is one of the best ways to bond closer with your mentor.
A few years ago I created a one hour Radical Honesty film about all the deepest darkest secrets of my life and shared it with my family, my girlfriend and my closest friends and mentors. But the person it impacted most was my first mentor I ever had, Mr. Einstein (no relation to Albert). When we watched it with his wife on their 18″ TV screen at his house it brought tears to his eyes and he told me afterwards it was the best thing I had ever created.
For the most part finding great mentors comes down to contacting enough (of the right) people that you eventually meet potential mentors who are the right match for you. Then all the other tactics and hacks for getting and keeping a mentor won’t really be necessary because there will be so much natural chemistry.
12. Dumping (or "Transitioning") a Mentor
Generally burning bridges is not a good idea, especially if there is nothing to gain from it. Ending a relationship with a mentor can often mean being cut off from anyone else in your mentor’s social circle. However there will be times, especially if you are growing quickly, when you may outgrow a mentor or find mentors who are more suited to your current challenges.
I started my first garden this spring, and one thing my gardening mentor taught me is that sometimes to nurture the growth of a young plant, you have to cut off the dead or dying limbs. If you don’t, they will take away precious resources from the thriving parts of the plant and stunt it’s growth.
One of my first mentors was a great aid in many of my early projects but he was not business minded and eventually his feedback started to chip away at my confidence in my early ventures. Each time our conversations ended I was filled with doubt about my future and it killed my confidence because I took his advice to seriously. I decided to continue our relationship with less frequent contact and to avoid telling him about my business ventures.
Most mentors will not go out of their way to contact you or knock down your door…you will be the one contacting them and leading the relationship. One of the benefits of not having regularly scheduled calls or meetings is that you avoid setting the expectation (avoiding setting the wrong expectations and proactively setting the right ones is one of the most important keys in having great relationships) in your mentor’s mind that you will be contacting them regularly.
Here are a few ways to do it:
a) Fade to black – contact your mentor less and less often, and talk for less time. If they contact you respond less quickly.
b) Flip the script – focus on your mentor instead of yourself. You may be aware of your mentor’s problems and you can talk about those without talking about or asking for help with your own. This is a good way of hinting you no longer need (or want) their help.
c) Mention other actors – drop some hints that you have other mentors that are helping you and that you have already asked for their opinions.
d) Don’t talk about personal stories – you can always transition your mentor into more of an advisor role if you don’t want to continue with a personal relationship.
e) Be honest – get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. You are going to have to have a lot of them if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Tell your mentor how you feel and why you think a change is best for you…they will ultimately respect you more for it and you will grow from the experience.
13. The Real Mentor is Within
How can you tell the quality of your mentor, and how good of an influence they are on you?
One of the best signals is to see how much they encourage you to trust yourself and your own judgment. For you to ever be successful as an entrepreneur you have to learn to trust yourself so that you aren’t constantly knocked around emotionally by what other people think of you or your idea. Why didn’t Steve Jobs do any market research before creating the iPad? Because he trusted his inner mentor enough that he was on to something big.
Another cool way to get answers to difficult questions is to ask questions to your future self. Imagine you are 10 years older and do an interview with your current teenage or 20-something self. You will be surprised at what you have locked away in your mind if you just switch perspectives. You can also do this with a role model. Ask yourself: “What would Steve Jobs say?” “What would ____ do in this situation?”
The more you know about the person, the better your answers will be. You can create an imaginary cabinet of your favorite role models from all through history and “meet” with them every week or month as you do your weekly/monthly planning. As you allow yourself to momentarily “become” that person while planning, you will over time get better at solving problems because you will develop the ability to attack a problem from multiple different angles.
To learn more about how to think about finding and attracting great mentors, read Part 1: The Right Mentee Mindset. To learn more about how to find mentors, Part 2: Cold Emailing Techniques to Find Mentors
Most importantly, to dive deep into this material and get the step-by-step on building successful mentor-mentee relationships, check out Tim’s Find Your First Mentor Course. The course usually sells for $97, but because of the charitable nature of GiveGetWin, he’s made 20 spots available for only $29.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on October 28, 2013 0 Comments
I'm incredibly pleased to bring you insights from Jeff Goins today. He's one of the most interesting, insightful, and genuine people I've met in a long time. He's able to run a successful business and life by being relentlessly focused on his audience and mastering his craft. He's really living the dream. Below, we've got a hands-on interview with him on how he re-booted his blog that hadn't caught on and built it into a powerhouse. If you like the insights here, you definitely should check out Jeff Goins' Intimate Class On Building Your Audience (and Craft) with the proceeds going to charity.
Going From 50 Blog Readers to 100,000 Through Authenticity, Craftsmanship, and Giving
Insights from Jeff Goins, as told to Sebastian Marshall
It really was a scary decision. Anybody who has spent time building something of value online understands the opportunity cost of stopping and starting over. That applies to building anything anywhere.
When I started my blog over, it was a process of me struggling with this for about six months. I thought I wanted to start a new blog, because with my previous blog I didn't think I could accomplish what I wanted to accomplish: write and publish books, and build a personal platform. I didn't feel like I made room for that with the previous blog.
It was hard, and I talked to a lot of different people and got a lot of different advice. Some told me to go for it, and some said not to. The tipping point was a conversation with a friend. He asked what my dream was, and when I said it was to be a writer, he said, "You don't have to want to be a writer, you are a writer. You have to just write."
I was blogging, publishing magazine articles, etc. But I realized I was an amateur.
When I started thinking of myself as a professional writer, I took my writing more seriously and did better work. Leaving one blog and starting another was a scary decision, but if I hadn't made the mindset shift, I would have gone from creating mediocre content in one place to making it another.
When I restarted, I had a burst of creative energy, I thought of myself as a writer, and not just someone who wrote.
I think focus is important. The adage in the publishing world is, "Narrow your focus to broaden your audience." Like many writers, I wanted to write about everything from my dog to the church service on Sunday, to a fight with my wife yesterday, to what I had for lunch.
I thought my perspective was so unique and everyone should care about it. I didn't understand about adding value, being resourceful, and making it useful for the audience. To gain attention, you must be helpful to people. It works everywhere in life -- be a giver, not a taker.
I wanted people's attention, but I wasn't focused on giving.
I knew focus was important, but I didn't know what to focus on. I was afraid I'd miss out if I focused on the wrong thing. I knew I wanted to write in a certain way, and I didn't set out to write about writing. Instead, I set out to help people, and I didn't necessarily have as narrow a focus as I began.
At the time, I had a small audience of maybe 25 or 50 people. And I paid attention to what they responded to. I noticed that whenever I talked about writing -- and I'd been teaching and coaching on it for years, but I'd never talked about it a lot -- when I wrote about the craft of writing, how to not sound stupid when you're writing something, and so on -- the response was usually five to ten times more than an article about leadership or motivation.
Very quickly, I realized this was the thing my readers were looking for. I began to grow a platform focused on that particular topic. I found that, over time, people get bored if you only talk about the same thing. So I think it's key to focus, but I realized over the last two years on this blog and six years of blogging in general -- it's not so much a topic you need to focus on, it's a worldview. A unique paradigm or perspective you can see the world through.
The biggest authors, motivational speakers, and especially bloggers don't write about a particular topic; they have a worldview that others either align with or disagree with.
I don't think you choose your worldview; you discover it. I discovered mine by taking the opposite approach of normal. Everyone is concerned about what they like or love.
Instead, do the opposite. Think about what really bothers you. What gets you really mad every time you hear it on the news or see it in front of you? And start talking about it.
We see this abused when people are being controversial just for the sake of being controversial, but it turns out that everyone has something they believe in, stuff that bugs them, so you find your worldview through largely saying, "I don't like this."
I found my worldview evolved over time.
Everyone in my space was talking about how to make money, succeed, or get famous -- but I found it all very disingenuous and missing the point.
The point for me was -- passion.
Being able to do what you love, and then pay the bills and sustain yourself secondly.
In any situation, people race to "make a million dollars" or "become famous," but I think what sustains any sort of work is passion, not results.
The reality is, we can't control the results. So is our writing, our working, our striving just a means to an end, or an end in itself?
When I was undiscovered as a writer, I asked if I had to play someone else's game to get my words out there. I was wrestling with this idea, and I chose to take a stance -- I'm going to love my work as I do it, but I'm going to be very intentional about not chasing those rewards. It's like chasing the wind, you're always grasping at it but never reaching it.
I think people are innately good, but are sometimes flawed and broken, and missing something, and we're looking to fill that emptiness and brokenness. We use money, prestige, and accolades to fill that void, and often we're disappointed in the process.
What I've found, and I continue to find, is that the thing we don't want is often what we're searching for.
Everyone wants to be happy, wants to be satisfied. Your natural inclination -- which is often the broken part -- tries to fill it through self-centeredness, pleasing yourself, satisfying your appetite for food and sex. But the promise of those things never really satisfies the thirst for those things.
I found the paradox is, if you want to be happy and have a purpose-filled life, you actually need to do the opposite of what you're inclined to do. Instead of get, give. Instead of trying to accumulate more, do something for yourself. Do the opposite. At least, try it as an experiment. If you're constantly trying to strive for more, what if the point was the opposite? Fill the opposite, fix the brokenness. What if the design is that we shouldn't live independent of others, but rather giving and helping others who are in need?
I have talked to everyone from Christian missionaries to entrepreneurs to schoolteachers who confirm that this is the secret to an abundant life.
Why are people self-centered? I don't know. The goal of philosophy and religion is often to answer that question. I'm more interested in the solution.
Nobody likes this about themselves, being so selfish, but they think it's the only way to survive. I think a better solution to filling that hole is give, be generous, empty yourself rather than trying to fill the hole.
Everyone who has ever been in love, who has ever been a part of a cause bigger than themselves, then they've already felt this. It's not a call to altruism, it's confirming what you've felt -- that you can work towards a larger whole.
"How about in writing?"
I think writers are maybe a little self-centered than the average person. I think artists in general are. If you're going to create, if your vocation is creative in nature, then chances are you're more in touch with yourself -- self-aware, aware of the world around you… more sensitive, and I mean the word sensitive in the most positive way. You can communicate what others are feeling when you're a great writer. When you can feel the empathy and connect with a character… that's a good thing, we can all identify with that.
The downside is when you're constantly aware of emotion and context, and just in a room, you're aware of yourself. Partly because I'm an artist, I'm a little more aware of myself than others are. And that's a bad thing for me! I'm constantly thinking about myself… that self-awareness can devolve if left unchecked. Devolve into self-centeredness. Writers naturally want to write about their lives, their thoughts.
The other reason is, writing is solitary. You're alone in a room doing your work, and it's easy to think you're the center of the world. I think that that shift, where you realize the best way to live is to give. It's also true as a writer -- instead of wanting people to read your work to feel more popular and feel better about yourself…. instead, if you set out to encourage, inspire, or help in some way, that goes better.
A stranger will write you an email and say, "Thank you, this changed my life…" that's what happens when you help others, and it's immensely more rewarding.
In terms of writers being afraid of missing out, they're afraid of never being acknowledged. This is true for humans in general -- in love, in relationships, in anything. Writing is a relationship, too. When you're putting everything out there and you don't get anything back, it can feel empty.
Sometimes we do things with mixed motives -- but if the point is really to give instead of get, then you immediately get a return. When you do something for the right reasons, it feels good right away. You don't need anything in return, and writing is the same way.
If you pour your heart into something you're proud of, and know you enjoyed the process while you did it, then certainly it's nice to get it appreciated. But, there's something just in the act of creating that's good. Maybe it'll be acknowledged, or maybe it won't be, but if you do the work you can just feel satisfied with what you've done.
I remember in high school, in communications class, they explained the science of communication. There was some drawing in a book where "this is what communication is -- it has a sender, a message, and a receiver" -- 3 parts. The communicator, message, and the person or thing receiving the message.
The basic math was that if you had a sender and receiver and no message, no communication. Sender and message but not receiver, no communication.
When you think of writing as art, that can be really good. But I don't think that's a full description of what it is.
When writing, it's communication. You're writing with an intent to send a message for someone to receive it, and for it to matter.
Don't exhaust yourself worrying about pleasing everybody, or crafting messages people will like. But it does mean, have some idea of how you're crafting your writing for who is receiving it.
All communication, by definition, is a relationship. The message is what creates the relationship between the sender and receiver. And the great thing about living today is that the Internet makes it easy to put messages out into the ether and build real relationships with perfect strangers. I think that's really exciting.
Writers traditionally sat in a dank corner in an office or room, or cabin in the woods somewhere, and wrote with the hope that maybe someone would real it someday. But the world we live in, it's no longer a matter of finding the receiver. Now it's about creating the best message you possibly can, and the relationship then becomes forged.
If you want to write more and better, the answer is always practice. You're usually not as good as you think you are. I had a friend who had been writing for years, and she felt like she'd been writing for years and has several books on her laptop. What my friend found, when she pulled all her essays together to write a book, she found she had a quarter of one book, and even that wasn't very good.
You sort of delude yourself, because you write three hours once a month on a Saturday, and then you don't touch your keyboard for another two weeks. You're playing around, acting the amateur.
I encourage people not to worry about if you're good enough. Good is subjective anyways, depending on the genre, audience, and context.
I remember reading yesterday that James Joyce was highly criticized by his contemporaries. People called him nonsensical; even his wife admitted she didn't understand his writing. Some thought he was genius, others thought he wrote preposterous prose.
Time Magazine recently voted him one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.
You begin by practicing. Seth Godin put this well in a blog post -- practice in public. The great thing as a writer is, you don't have to wait to be given a chance. You have free opportunities to publish a blog, and if you're really good, people will notice. And if you're not really good, now you have a public platform to practice
I don't do my best work in private. When something is definitely going to get published, I up my game and I know people are going to read it, and there's going to be consequences for it.
When I used to play guitar more with a band, and we jammed in a garage, if I hit a wrong chord or messed up when we first started playing together, we'd restart or go back and fix it. When you're performing a show, you have to keep going and stumble through. If you mess up, people know it, so you want to practice more and mess up less.
When you realize to perform in public, you realize how high the stakes are. When we rehearsed between concerts, we realize we couldn't stop and had to keep going.
If you blog or belong to a writer's group and you're sharing and giving feedback, it's going to change how you work and how you practice. It's going to change the standards you hold yourself to. It's the only way to honor the craft you've been called to.
I am basically plagiarizing Steve Pressfield when I talk about the professional mindset. The War of Art is a brilliant book, and "Turning Pro" is the sequel to that. He basically said, and I interviewed him once, and he said, "A writer has to turn pro in his head before on paper."
I asked, "When can a writer call himself a writer? When you get published? When you publish a NYT bestseller?" Because writing isn't something where you go to school, graduate, and get a badge that says writer. You can get an MFA, sure, but I know lots of highly educated people who don't call themselves writers. It's not like going to the police academy where you get a badge at the end.
Pressfield said, "You are when you say you are. Screw what everyone else says."
I found that to be profound and empowering.
I realized, when you start calling yourself something, it changes you. When you say you aspire to something, or play around with something, it minimizes your work. Saying aspiring or calling yourself a wannabe is destructive to your confidence and the competencies you're trying to develop.
How do you turn pro? You can't just start acting like it, because you don't have the skills. And you can't just start thinking it, because sometimes thoughts follow action.
So, I think you need to call yourself a writer, and grow into that declaration. You can't just go around and say you are something and not work to become it. Sometimes we have to work to become who we already are, who we want to be, but our own fears and insecurities hold us back from doing the work that is required.
The way to get there, I found, is to believe. To know you can be this thing, and work to actualize it. The alternative where you never really believe in yourself, but keep working hard, never does as good of work as saying you're writer, taking that step of faith past your comfort zone, and then growing into it.
And once you get that down, the question becomes how to keep improving.
Some people would say aim for mastery, but I think it's a step further than mastery -- legacy. That means you have not fully achieved your life's potential until you've duplicated your success and exceeded your success through other people.
It's not enough to be a guru or mentor, it's enough when you're a true master of a craft and understand the true principles of a craft beyond the work. If you understand those principles, you can apply them to other contexts and other people, and it should allow them to do better than you've done.
Look at some of history's greatest artists, leaders, and master craftspeople. You see it in what they've done -- if they do it well, humbly, and not about themselves, then their success becomes duplicated through other people.
It goes back to the idea of being generous, give to others, and make their lives better.
Whatever skills or blessing I've acquired along the way, these are given to me with the idea that I'll pass them on and pay them forwards, and make others' lives better.
If you like the insights here, you definitely should check out Jeff Goins' Intimate Class On Building Your Audience (and Craft) with the proceeds going to charity. For only $19.95, you're going to learn hands-on from a brilliantly insightful, practical teacher on how to build your audience online with the right intention and mentality, and a constantly growing craftsmanship.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on October 13, 2013 0 Comments
This piece tells you Zac Cohn's story and awakening from being shy, to becoming a cutting edge athlete in parkour, to learning how to actually make sure you're building things that people actually want with your business time.
Zac is doing a GiveGetWin deal that has a mix of a group class and personal attention: Personal Training In How To Build Products That People Actually Want. It'll be an outstanding and insightful experience.
"7 Must-Do Guidelines To Build Products That People Actually Want" by Zac Cohn, as told to Sebastian Marshall
I was a pretty shy person when I was younger, but it started to change when I went with my dad on a business trip he was taking to San Francisco.
We went to a technology talk show called "The Screen Savers." We were talking to the handler -- the person who makes sure the live audience behaves.
He mentioned they used to give out T-shirts, but stopped the week before. But for some reason, I don't know why, I did something I'd never done before. I spoke up and said, "Do you have any left?" And he came back with a Screen Savers t-shirt.
Maybe this sounds small and petty, but this was the first time I went and asked for something beyond the rules. And I was positively reinforced, because I got a cool t-shirt that I still have over a decade later.
That started me on a trend of not accepting the status quo, and learning all you had to do is ask for something to get something, even if it doesn't seem like it.
A couple years later, I found a new sport called parkour. It was all about running and jumping and climbing and swinging and vaulting and crawling and playing. It was all about exploring human movement.
It was perfect for me. It was an individual sport that you do with no equipment, it's just you and the environment. But it's very community oriented, because you train with others and teach each other.
There's no field and no rules. Some techniques have evolved to be kind of the standard stuff, but they're always changing. No one had seen anything like before, and it was really attractive to me.
I got really into parkour for six or seven years. It was basically my life. We'd train in the week in Maryland where I lived, and on the weekends we'd climb and jump with people in D.C. that we met from the internet.
In the summer, hundreds of people would fly to a city for a Parkour Jam. I'd go to five or six different jams per summer. One summer, I did 19 different parkour events, couch surfing, staying with strangers, and jumping on stuff in public parks -- super weird, but super cool too.
I got into parkour at the very early stage and there weren't a lot of people around, no teachers for sure, not much content around, and no one was great at teaching this stuff. We ended up having to teach ourselves.
There's movements that took me to nine months to do that are now part of the basic repertoire, but I can now teach you in 15 minutes how to do it.
It forced me to get great at problem solving. I'd see "Oleg from Latvia" doing a move and want to know how to do it, and I wanted to learn -- but some of these things were dangerous. We had to learn how to break down these super-human seeming movements, and break them down and learn how to do it (without dying).
That was "The Start of Zac" so to speak -- the moment in San Francisco, and then becoming a problemsolver through parkour. The hard it is, the more complicated it is, the more exciting it is.
Coming out of school on the East Coast, I knew I wanted to change and keep exploring, so I flew to Seattle where I only knew a couple people. I was looking for what I wanted to do with my work and my life long-term.
I talked to as many people as I could. Through a long series of events, I wound up at a nonprofit called Startup Weekend. They teach about entrepreneurship by giving people a chance to actually do it. They run these events all over the world where people come together, pitch ideas, and build teams over the weekend. They were looking for someone both technical and who can organize things -- which was perfect for me, with the Computer Science background I had and all the organizing I'd done of parkour clubs and other campus clubs.
That's how I got integrated into the startup scene in Seattle and started learning about the new way of building companies. It was an amazing experience and it got me ready to run my own company.
In December, I got recruited to be a partner in LIFFFT, a consulting company that has a lot of people with a Startup Weekend background and who kept hearing from participants, "This was great, I can't wait to bring it back to my company on Monday."
Between these experiences, I've picked up a lot of key points on getting products built that people actually want. Here's seven recommendations --
1. Don't build just what you want to build; build what people want. A lot of times, developers are the worst with this. There will be a cool new technology you want to use that includes facial recognition and data analysis just because you want to use them… that's a cool technology, but not necessarily something to build a business or product around. You need to build what your consumers want to buy.
2. Pull your ideas out of people, don't push your ideas on to them. You want to pull your product ideas out of people based on what they need, not push your idea on to them. Before you decide what you want to build or write a single line of code, talk to 50 or 100 customers and learn about their problems. Then you can figure out what will solve that problem.
3. Just ship it. Be okay with failure. A lot of people will be so focused on making sure the first version is perfect that they spend so much time polishing, where they just need to launch the thing and see what the reaction to it is. Launch it and start trying to make money right away.
4. Do or do not; there is no try. Don't spend a bunch of time screwing around with little details. After you've got the basic information and see a need, get it built. Stop trying and do it.
5. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If you want to figure out what someone is going to do in the future -- what products they'll buy, whether they'll go to the gym, what food they'll eat -- then look at what they did. If someone says, "I'm going to the gym 3 times per week forever" and you ask them, "How many times did you go to the gym last month?" and the answer is zero, then they probably won't go to the gym 3 times per week forever.
6. Ideal self isn't real; actual self is real. My ideal self eats super healthy, all paleo, maybe has an occasional cookie… my actual self, I had 3 burgers today including buns, french fries, a strange chili stew that doesn't seem particularly healthy… Look for the person's actual self, not their ideal self. If you ask someone about their future behavior, they give you their ideal self. If you ask for past behavior, you get their real self. One of these is useful because it's all true; the other is useless because it's all lies.
7. Ask Why. Repeatedly. When you get an answer for why someone does something, ask them why. When they answer, ask why again. Keep up with it. If someone says they want to go to the gym three times per week, ask "Why?" They'll say, "I want to get more fit and healthy." Then ask, "Why?" And they say, "Because I don't want to die of a heart attack." And say, "Why?" And they might tell you then, "My dad died young of a heart attack." You learn a lot about people by asking why beyond just the surface, to people's real deep down motivations.
Whether you're starting your own company or building something in an existing company, it's easy to get really excited about what you want to build.
We want to be smart, we want people to think we're smart, and the "generally understood consensus" is that smart people have smart ideas.
So you think of an idea, and you think it's great, and you want to keep thinking it's great. A lot of times, people get caught up in that and start ignoring information that contradicts their ideas -- because that would imply they're not great and not smart.
But what you'll find if you get to know a lot of smart people is that they have a ton of ideas, but actually most of them are garbage. Only a few are good, and those are the ones you hear about.
To get results, you want to start with a theory. Just like the Scientific Method, you come up with a hypothesis, test it, and then adjust based on what you find.
Don't rely on yourself to just have a great idea, hit a home run with it, and think it'll work. Instead, you want to look for all the holes and reasons it couldn't work. Your idea will change, pivot, and evolve -- and get stronger.
The best ideas are those that have evolved.
You should be forcing your idea to rapidly evolve and change as fast as possible. So…
…don't build just what you want to build; build what people want.
…pull your ideas out of people, don't push your ideas on to them.
…just ship it.
…do or do not; there is no try.
…past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
…the ideal self isn't real; actual self is real.
…ask Why. Repeatedly.
Think in terms of Darwinian evolution: “It's not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.”
If you find out what people want and build what they want, it's easy for them to give you their money. Being smart is great. Now force your ideas to evolve.
If you enjoyed this, go check out Zac's GiveGetWin deal with a mix of a group class and personal attention: Personal Training In How To Build Products That People Actually Want. Get good guidance, make new friends, benefit charity, and all at an outstanding value.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on October 06, 2013 0 Comments
I'm very excited by Miguel Hernandez's interview here -- it covers how he took a huge risk to kickstart his animation business, and how's kept his quality extremely high through systematization. Miguel is running a pretty exciting GGW deal: "Document & Systematize Your Whole Business/Workflow"
"On Conquering the World (the whole world)" by Miguel Hernandez, as told to Sebastian Marshall
I think a little is the makeup of who I am and how I grew up. My parents are awesome and I love them a lot but unfortunately they separated many years ago -- one of the reasons is because they're so different, and I picked stuff from both of them. My mother is a creative person, a painter her whole life, and a very spiritual person. My dad is a brilliant electrical engineer with an amazing analytical mind. They're like oil and water, they don't mix together (and that's why they're not together any more). But I got stuff from both of them. I picked up a lot of the creativity from my mother, and a lot of the square-headedness from my father.
It's allowed me to put it together to build a business that mixes both -- the creativity, and the ability to sit down and be very organized. It's a good combination for this type of business. We have to be very creative to tell compelling stories, and when I'm running the business, I need to be very detail-oriented.
I'm a risk taker, and that's just me. I inherited a creative and analytic mind from my parents, but the risk taking is just me.
What I realized early in life is the the only way you can enjoy stuff is when you're at the edge of yourself. Taking a risk allows you to feel that you're more alive.
I think when you're in a situation when you have almost nothing to lose because you've lost almost everything, you either just sink into misery or you do crazy stuff to get out -- and in my case, it panned out.
I spent a year and a half developing a web app that was a disaster. I ran out of money and never even launched it, a complete failure.
So I knew I didn't have another year and a half.
I knew, I would have to be very strategic about how I wanted to spend my time to validate my next potential business. So, I took a risk -- I knew I could do videos, so I decided to a video for free for a company to prove my work.
But I didn't just choose any company! I was strategic here. I picked a company had a lot of leverage and exposure in Silicon Valley that, at that time, I thought they could use a demo video and they didn't have one.
So I spent about two weeks producing an entire animation by myself without telling this company. They didn't know I was doing this. After two weeks, I sent this to their support email. I didn't even know how to get in contact with them, so I typed into their chat box, "Hey, I really love what you guys and wanted to contribute, and thought you could use a demo video."
I didn't even ask for anything. I said said, here's a video for free for you.
My hope was that they'd like it and use it as their official video, which would mean it would get a lot of exposure. At that time, it was an up and coming startup in Silicon Valley founded by two very popular founders, one of them being Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit.
And I thought, if this turns out well, it may gave me a lot of exposure.
That's exactly what happened.
I took a risk in doing all that free work, but it paid out in such a large way that I was able to build a whole business. Not only did they like it, they promoted it to every single person knew in Silicon Valley!
Because they were so connected, I got a big demand for my videos, enough to build a whole business off of.
I see life as a very limited opportunity to enjoy this world. You're given this opportunity just once -- your life. And it's got a deadline.
Most people aren't aware of the deadline; they act like they'll just live forever. But the truth is, every moment you live is one moment less you've got for the rest of your life. My biggest fear is looking back and realizing I didn't try hard enough to make my life the best possible.
I know I've got a big deadline -- the day I die. And every day I don't do everything I can to have fun, to take risks, to enjoy, to try new things… that's a day I basically wasted.
Most people don't have that mentality, so they aren't motivated. What motivates most people are deadlines. When you know you've got a deadline coming up, you do everything you can to make things work.
But in my life, the deadline is so far away that most people don't take it seriously, and don't worry too much about it. But in my case, I always have that in mind. It gives me an urgency to get stuff done.
If you want to get more stuff done than the average person, you're going to need to take more risks than the average person. I know when I'm taking risks that I'm doing the right thing.
I've never regretted taking this type of risk. The hard part is just yourself to do it.
When I wanted to start getting into the film and movie industry, I was already in my late 20's and I wasn't going to back to school -- it would have been too expensive.
So I started asking how to get the maximum possible exposure to the film business without spending tens of thousands of dollars to go back to school.
I asked, what's the fastest way possible to learn about the film industry without costing lots of money?
Most people would quit their job, spend a year and $45,000 to learn the basics of filmmaking, and I couldn't do that. I had to be more strategic.
I used logic. I thought, "I'm sure, in my network, there's somebody that knows somebody high up in the film industry. It's just numbers. We're always separated by only a couple degrees of separation from someone in almost any industry.
Instead of going to school, I started reaching out and looking for a connection with someone high up in the film industry.
I asked everyone I knew if they knew anyone in the film industry. After two days, one guy got back to me and said "I know someone who is a set designer." I said, "Would it be possible for me to go onto a Hollywood set?"
I had very little experience, but my friend made a call for me. The set designer called me the next day, and said "Patrick gave me a call and said you wanted to learn more about film. You can come by the set, just remember this is a fast moving industry with a lot of people very busy, so make sure you don't distract anybody."
I went, and I watched, and I learned. I went from no experience in filmmaking to get very precise details on how Hollywood movies are made from a week and a half of when I decided I wanted to learn about the film industry.
That film was "White Chicks" from the Wayan brothers. I'd never been in touch with the film industry before, and now I was watching, talking to people on the breaks, and learning how film really works.
I wanted to be in a situation where I could learn a lot, and didn't have to pay a lot to learn it. Taking those strategic risks lets you grow faster.
That's a good way to start a business -- taking a risk. But if you want to grow it, I recommend from Day One that you systematize absolutely every single thing that happens in your business. That means sit down and document every possible process. It's time consuming, but it allows you to get consistency and saves you time every time you bring someone onboard. Then they just have to go back to the Operations Manual and they can know about every single process that needs to be known.
Instead of coming to you with questions, they go to the Operations Manual.
It's a written document that's there. You don't have to memorize it. If you have a question, you just need to go and look for it.
I document everything. How a demo video should be done.
I looked at a bunch of good demo videos, and broke down what the common themes are that make the good ones good. I made a breakdown of how to do it.
The script shouldn't be longer than 90 seconds. The beginning should always start with the problem to be solved. Then you introduce the solution briefly, explain how it all works, and end with a call to action.
Every single section has a time limit on it, too. The problem is anywhere 15-20 seconds, the introduction is 5-10 seconds, the call to action is 10-15 seconds...
When you bring a new writer into the company to write a script, they have a base to start from. And now we have consistency, because we're all working from the same basic model to create from. That helps keep the consistency and quality up.
It's important to get started on this without getting stuck on the details. You don't need to be fancy when systematizing. I've tested a lot of different software. I've tested all the productivity tools out there.
But the problem is, if you have a very specific workflow, whether it be cookies, cupcakes, bicycles, whatever… if you detail it in a very specific way, most productivity tools don't work just for your workflow. So if you're using Basecamp or any generic tool, it may work for any part of your workflow, but if it doesn't work for any single part of your workflow, then it's entirely not good for you.
I need my systems to have a ton of flexibility and to be easy to use. So I keep coming back to Excel spreadsheets.
Everyone who sees it says, "Man, this is great. It's so simple and it works perfectly."
It does. Every production stage we have has a single cell for it. In those cells, a "1" means we need to do something, a "2" means a client needs to do something, and a "3" means the stage is completed. It's simple, powerful, and everyone who joins the company can learn to use the process very quickly.
Instead of learning a tool with tons of features and is very complicated, I found this way works. In the beginning, you have to be very organized.
I use Google Spreadsheets, which is free. I put my entire workflow into the cells at the top. If you need to take advantage of the flexibility, you'll never want to use something more complex.
Excel sheets probably have their limitations for very big businesses, but you can run the first few years of a company's workflow on a spreadsheet. If you're organized, you can rely on spreadsheets while growing to be quite big before getting more fancy. It works great for me and I'm very happy.
Not everyone naturally thinks this way, but there's a way for everyone. I've been thinking of making a course for this, because you can realize that everything you do is a system of steps.
Break down your entire workflow into steps, and then use color-coded cells and commenting. It's actually amazing what you can do with it.
A lot of people don't realize, too, Google Drive has revision history. If someone screws it up, you can see who screwed it up and go back and fix it. But so far, nobody's broken it.
I do back up the sheet on a regular basis in case Google Docs disappears. Google is a big company, but you need to back up any cloud based system you're using -- sometimes they break down, or maybe you don't have the internet. If your entire business is online, you must get in the habit of downloading and saving a backup of everything you have online. Some day it will go down, so be ready for it.
A good exercise to get started -- once a day, when you're running your business, think of a what to make your business more automatic. Think of a way to represent your business by breaking it down into a series of steps, ask, "What are the steps that it takes us from a sales call to getting the product delivered?"
As an example, imagine you're building websites. You're a web design company. Their steps would be, say: design, mockups, first meeting, revisions, deployment, debugging…
Every single product has a series of steps. Ask on a regular basis, "How can I break this down?" Then add that to a system like an Excel sheet, and it lets you see your overall workflow and business in one shot.
Instead of carrying it all on your mind, break down every step of the business into smaller chunks, into stages. You can start doing this right now. You don't have to do it all in one day, but if every day you think a little bit, "How can I make this automatic? How can I break this into stages I can replicate and explain?" then you've started.
The step after that is to look at every stage and ask, "How can I ensure we do the best job possible at this stage?"
Study what makes the best at each stage and get it documented.
If you write down, "At the design stage, we have to meet these 3 standards…" and let everyone in the company know they need to meet these standards, then you'll have tremendous consistency in your business.
If you want to improve your business or freelancing, check out Miguel's deal at GiveGetWin: "Document & Systematize Your Whole Business/Workflow" -- there's seven spots available at $19.95 -- a steal for this kind of quality guidance and workout.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on September 29, 2013 0 Comments
I'm incredibly pleased to bring you this interview with Kevin Archbold, a 25-year veteran in project management and a 13-year consultant and teacher of the specialty. This opens the door to people who have excellent skills to better managing their projects and getting better communication going. This one is dense, but work through it carefully because it's a life-changing skill and Archbold is a master at this topic.
You might also be interested in his GiveGetWin deal, "Real-Time Live-Fire Project Management Training With Kevin Archbold" where you'll bring two sentences describing a project you want to the 5-person class, and leave with a project charter filled out.
Better Project Planning Means Less Project Failure by Kevin Archbold, as told to Sebastian Marshall
My background is project management. Most people have a career in a technical field first and then move into project management, but I went directly into PM after University in England. I found it was a good fit for me and stuck with it ever since.
I've got a CompSci degree, but no one's ever paid me to program anything. I started in the telecommunications industry, and then moved through many other industries: 10 years around Detroit, working on a lot of automotive and time at a nuclear power plant. I've worked on internet startups and biotech in Seattle, spent time with the City Government in Seattle, and have been in Tucson for seven years now -- doing mining-related projects and astronomy related projects… a whole gamut of things. I do not provide technical expertise; I bring fundamental project management.
Most people are interested in why projects fail and how to not have that happen to them.
Very often, the root cause of project failure is that stakeholder expectations haven't been well-managed, or even well understood. Projects will fail when key people are expecting different things from the project. Sometimes that comes out in the middle of the project… or sometimes at the end, when it's delivered and the project team feels good about what they delivered, but people feel it didn't meet their expectations, and regard it as a failure.
These unclear and conflicting expectations manifest in different: projects that fail to get started or take a very long time to get started because can't come to an agreement about what the project is. Some projects do get started but then people disagree before it gets really rolling. Sometimes people have a hard time defining the scope and knowing what they're supposed to be doing or not doing.
Sometimes it happens later in planning, with the project almost fleshed out and then a key person says it needs to be put on hold. Maybe the worst is when the disagreements happen towards the end of execution and the team finds that key stakeholders are disappointed.
Sometimes people you never contacted who are going to be impacted come out of the woodwork and are mad because their feedback wasn't incorporated, but it can be challenging when you're well underway with these sometimes angry stakeholders.
Organizations often have a lot of problems at the end of projects. They often don't have a very clear definition of the end of a project, and so the project goes on forever or longer than anticipated because they didn't have a good understanding of what the end conditions look like. So they can never wrap this thing up, they go over budget… because of this lack of clarity of the full scope of what the project is going to do.
The term stakeholder is used slightly different by different people. A good best practice definition is anyone who is involved, impacted, or perceives themselves as being impacted by a project.
This can be a pretty long list of stakeholders for most projects: sometimes they can be grouped together as a group of stakeholders, but you should list them all out and think about what their needs are. The piece most people miss is who is impacted.
Whoever is leading a project might realize six people are heavily involved and realize two people are going to be significantly impacted, but they forget there's another 10 people who expect benefits from the project, or even are resistant to the project happening.
Imagine you're opening a new office in a new location and that's the project. You yourself would be a stakeholder. Anybody involved in the logistics in the organization would be a stakeholder: whoever looks after phone. The lease and facilities people. Anyone involved in legal. The staff who are going to be going into the new office would be stakeholders. Let's say you're moving into an office park environment -- the neighbors would be stakeholders of this project, they're going to be impacted by you moving into the office.
Just because you identify someone as a stakeholder doesn't mean you're necessarily going to spend a lot of time with them, but you still want to identify them and make a proactive decision to include them or not. So maybe you won't involve your neighbors in having a big say in the project, but you should still identify that. Then maybe you reach out to them and explain what you're doing, or maybe not.
If we stretch the concept a bit further, even the utilities companies, anyone providing services to the office park, these are stakeholders. Our existing customers in this geographical region are stakeholders; hopefully we can service them better now. "Future customers" might be stakeholders, and we might not even know who they are!
The company's senior management would be stakeholders. All the staff who are going to work at the office, obviously, and the leaseholder (assuming we're leasing the space). The salesperson, perhaps, who is leasing the space. The legal people from the business park would be stakeholders.
Let's look at it again from another angle. Let's say we have a project at a startup.
You're a stakeholder on your own project. You're going to help define and document the process. There's probably someone who "owns" this part of the company and they'd be a stakeholder. If it's a small company, probably every person at the company will be impacted; we could list everyone out and think about how they'll be impacted.
We'll have 2-3 people who are going to work with us, brainstorm, and document the project with us. They'll be impacted in a different way -- in their functional role, but we're also going to be consuming their time to work on this project. Presumably the goal of this project is to improve the efficiency of the company, so our customers are stakeholders. They benefit from our efficiency here.
We could stretch this out to say, if there's investors (or wherever the funding is coming from), those people are going to be impacted in a different way. Without getting into the specifics, if there's vendors involved and we could be purchasing or changing who we purchase from as part of this process…. let's say we're thinking of buying from a new vendor. Our existing vendor would be a stakeholder, and the pool we could buy from are stakeholders, and the final vendor we choose is a stakeholder. If we really stretch it, your competitors could be stakeholders -- if you bring in more business and are more successful, they might benchmark against you and try to copy your process.
These are all things that could influence how you think about the process very early on. Imagine you got halfway through the project and realize your competitors could just easily copy what you did and you'd have no advantage. Or imagine your investors would get worried about the cost of you switching, and if you'd talked to them upfront they would be less worried. Maybe key customers are getting unsettled.
The point is, we want to get all these potential stakeholders on the table upfront and have an intelligent conversation about them (and possibiy with them).
We want to identify everyone, maybe not talk to everyone, but definitely not fail to think of someone and fail to talk to them because of it.
An example from the radio recently -- there was a project to build a radio tower, and there were some local protests. That's not unusual, but the project manager had already reached out to the local city council, they had gone out to visit the immediate neighbors for where the tower was going up and had talked to them, had talked to local utility companies, and they had started construction… but then people came out of the woodwork and started protesting. But it turned out that the people who were protesting weren't in the jurisdiction, but were in the neighboring jurisdiction. It wasn't going to affect them as much as the neighbors right there, but it was going to -- perhaps -- affect their view of the mountains.
No one has talked to them, and so they get alarmed, and start causing a ruckus. This group was outside the jurisdiction, they weren't an obvious group to talk to, and they experienced difficulties there. The project manager thought they did a good job of covering everyone, but this group they missed caused problems.
There's many things you can do to set and manage stakeholder expectations. And remember, you might well be the "project manager" on anything you're responsible for having happen, even if what it says on your business card isn't "Project Manager." If you're tasked to get something done, you're a project manager.
The most important thing is to get all the stakeholders on the same page at the very beginning and have a clear shared understanding of what the project could be. Before we launch or begin executing, we bring everybody together and get everyone on the same page of what the project is.
That's probably the #1 mistake organizations and individuals make. They want to jump off and get started, but all the key stakeholders don't even have an understanding of what the project is.
One example, a very real one: I got involved with a fairly large team working on an IT infrastructure project for bringing together IT, government, and the trucking industry. It was about regulations and regulation enforcement in the trucking industry. They'd been meeting quite some time before I joined, and when I came in and listened to what was happening, it was clear they were getting absolutely nowhere.
It became quite apparent that the reason they were getting nowhere is because they weren't in agreement about what the team should even be doing. There were two camps that had different ideas of what the team should accomplish, and they had no decisionmaking process to keep moving forwards.
My advice was to create a project charter. And it was fairly painful, and they wound up needing to split the team into two -- half the team thought the charter was a good fit, but the other half saw it as not quite right -- so they needed to break into another team, and created a second project.
We were able to clarity what everyone needed to do, put a decisionmaking process into place, and then what became two different teams were both able to move forwards with clarity on what they needed to do.
A more generic but everyday example: When a boss comes to you and says, "here's a little project I want you to take on," the first thing I recommend you do is write a project charter. Then go back to the boss and say, "this is my understanding of what you asked me to do." You get clarification from the boss on what they want it to look like. You can clarify the scope and raise any potential issues early, that your boss has perhaps not considered yet but which could shape the project significantly. You can tell from the boss's "this is just a little project, it shouldn't take much time" attitude that it perhaps hasn't been thought through very well.
So, define it. Understand the parameters of what you're doing. As a result of your clarification, the boss could look to understand it in new ways. You want to come to a shared understanding before you launch the project.
For all projects, you should be writing some version of a project charter.
It's been my observation that most organizations have something, at least for customer-facing projects. Usually this is very focused on scope, what we're going to do for customers, and the main deliverable. But often, many subtle points are missing. Key points that I would advocate putting in the project charter so you don't run into roadblocks or deadlock later.
We introduced this with the flavor of the stakeholder expectations -- stakeholders popping up halfway through, getting everyone involved, and sometimes the project manager not understanding why it's being done.
That sounds fairly obvious, that the project manager should understand the bigger picture of why things are being done, but often it's not the case. Often the person running the project doesn't understand why it's important at this time! All these questions are helped by creating a project charter.
A good charter creates a nice summary of the project, so when people join later, it's a very succinct way of sharing good concrete information about the project with individuals.
The project charter is short -- 1-2 pages -- document that allows us to have that initial discussion. Before we launch into detailed planning, we make sure we brought everyone together and have them on the same page of what the project needs to be.
This first document is like setting the first tile in the kitchen. If it's slightly off, it can have a huge impact on the whole floor. So it is with the project charter -- if we can set it right, it'll make things easy. If we put the first tile down haphazardly, we'll have problems we need to fix later.
Challenges can be minimized -- obviously the project charter doesn't solve everything, but it's a very important step to deal with stakeholder expectations.
There have been different charters you come across, of different lengths and complexities. I have a template I've used for many years now, and it seems to work well. I didn't create the concept of a project charter, but I did make my own version that works to clarify all the key points you need to think through to minimize problems later, ensure you get the project started on the best footing, and do it in a way that's simple for everyone to understand. If you have the right information, it doesn't take a long time.
I've been using the tool I created since 2003, for 10 years. It's worked very well for ten years or more. It's saved my bacon and that of the people I work with many times.
When people hear about this, they often recognize immediately it would benefit them, and their eyes light up when it if they haven't before. It's the #1 thing that people take away from project management classes, it's the #1 most downloaded template on my website.
Sometimes there's pushback to this concept.
Typically most people recognize if they had this, it'd make their life easier. But sometimes there's a pushback, when they start to fill it in, it takes more time than they expected.
The reality is, filling in a 2-page document doesn't take much time to type. If it takes time, it means you're needing to think through and ask questions to different people. If it's taking time, it means you're getting conflicting information or have missing information. That's the point, that's why you write a project charter.To make sure you can get everyone to agree. If you can't get people to agree on a 2-page document, then how are you going to get them to agree to the project?
NOTE: THE REST OF THE DISCUSSION WILL BE AIDED BY DOWNLOADING KEVIN'S TEMPLATE PROJECT CHARTER AT THIS LINK:
Here's a link to the project charter, it's relatively self-explanatory but I'll share some best practices. Definitely go download a copy right now and look at it as we continue, to best learn this skill.
First -- the names on the lefthand side aren't important. When you prefer to use the word "Goals" or "Mission" or "Objectives"… that's not what's important. The information that's contained in the document is what's important, don't get hung up on the use of these terms. You can and should customize the sections to make it familiar to the people in your organization, but that's what's important about the project charter.
Here's a walkthrough --
The Mission Statement: What the project is. It's a brief sentence or two at most about what is the project. Opening a new store in Taipei, installing a new computer system, building a new building.
Objectives: Why is it important to be doing this now. It's a high level business justification. Why is it important to the organization to get it done? "Because we want to expand our service area", "because we want to make more money", "because we want to improve efficiency", "to cut costs", "to establish new strategic relationships" -- these are big picture purposes behind the project, and these are often missing. People get started with projects without understanding this section. A concrete example -- I was talking to a project manager who was refurbishing a building, but he didn't understand why he was kitting out the building, who was going to move in, and what the project was for. How can you make good decisions if you don't know what the project is for?
(And it's surprisingly common for key people to not know these details.)
Deliverables: What is the project actually going to produce? Usually there's 1-2 important deliverables that are obvious to everybody. Say you're putting a new process in place; the process is an obvious deliverable. But secondary deliverables like support, updating training deliverables, ensuring the staff get trained, update policy/procedure manuals… these kinds of things should also be considered deliverables, and often get missed. The classic example is the new IT system -- obviously you the IT system is the deliverable, but you need it documented, you need to know how you're going to do tech support and keep operating the system, you need everyone trained and using the system, and you need to update the helpdesk / tech support people.
Stakeholders: We already talked a lot about this. Get all the key stakeholders identified.
Roles and Responsibilities: We're not looking for details here, we're just looking who is representing marketing, who is representing engineering, who is providing IT experience, who is providing project management expertise.
High-Level Work Breakdown: What are the major phases of the project going to be? Feasibility, concept ability, test rollout. Or are we going to jump straight into design, or into implementation? Do we need to do research first? What are the major pieces as you see them? A flavor for how the project is going to be performed.
Assumptions: "Assumptions" is a very important section. Various different stakeholders will make various different assumptions about what they believe this project is going to be. They assume it's going to be X, Y, or Z… here's where we can clarify the scope of the project by putting in what we've heard others mention, and what we think our assumptions are. We assume we can use Joe or Mary to help make the project happen, or that the project is just for our home office, or that we're going to use our standard set of tools. People can challenge these assumptions, and that's good -- you want them challenged now, not later.
Communications: How is the team going to be communicating? The project is getting underway now with the creation of this document now. Are you going to be meeting weekly, or daily? Conference calls? What is the main communication channel going to be?
Risks: This is all about uncertainty. What do you, or other people, think could go wrong on the project? If you listen to people early, they'll give you a list of reasons why the project will be an abysmal failure. You could brush them off, or you could think those through -- often these are real risks. We're not talking about challenging parts of the project to do; we're concerned instead that a piece of equipment could fail, a key person might leave the organization or go off the project, maybe a new government regulation could come out or change mid-project, the individual representing the customer or client company might change or leave their organization. Some of these will come from you, some will come from stakeholders. This part says, "Be aware that we're going to start working on this project, but here's things to be aware of could go wrong." It sets expectations for what could go wrong. It gives people an opportunity to say "Here's what we could do differently" even very early on to manage risks. We can do a more detailed risk analysis later, but this lets people begin to raise potential issues and awareness of potential issues.
Documentation: Here's the first project document for the project, where are you going to keep them? A server? In a physical drawer on a desk? Where will the documents reside, and where will people get the latest version from?
Boundaries: This is an interesting one. This is what's not in the project. It's a little counterintuitive, because there's an infinite number of things not in the project… but remember, this document is about clarifying stakeholder expectations. This is where you can head off misunderstandings about people who might think the project is about something more than it is. What would people think is in the project, but shouldn't be? Maybe this project is just about design, and you won't do implementation in this phase. Maybe this project won't affect any existing staff, and will just apply to new staff in a new location. Maybe this project won't include training, and a different part of the organization will do the training on this part of the project. This is where you head off misunderstandings about what people think would be included, but which you won't be doing as part of the project.
Decision Making Process: Different projects work differently, and so do different project managers. Is this a project where decisions will be made by consensus? Will we be taking votes? Will the project manager make PM decisions, and there's a technical lead making the technical decisions? How is the team working on this project going to be making decisions? The reality is, at some point you'll need to make decisions, and it's very difficult to come up with a decisionmaking process at the same time you're trying to make the decision. People will want to set up the decisionmaking process to "win" and "not lose" if you're trying to make a project decision and people disagree. You want to clarify how to make important decisions before you need to do so, and that makes it clear how it's going to be.
Signatures: You want to get signatures from main stakeholders, so you can show them this document later. They'll forget that they've seen it potentially, and that's a very visual reminder. If someone has to sign something, they'll actually read it and not blow it off. This forces them to actually read it and be on the same page with this document. By requesting that people sign it, it encourages them to read it fairly carefully. Sometimes you'll get situations where a key stakeholder says, "I didn't know this was a potential risk and the project would need to be put on hold!" And you can reply, "Well, hang on a second. Here's the project charter, here's where that's written down as a risk, and here's your signature at the bottom." It removes misunderstandings.
Getting signatures is a double-edged sword. Getting 20 signatures would probably take forever. Get the key stakeholders to sign this, but you don't need to get every last person to sign off on it.
"How would this change your thinking and operating in general?"
How does this change things? You'll avoid some of the problems we talked about earlier. You'll have a better understanding of what the project is, you'll have fewer false starts, you'll clarify what the understanding of what the project is, and you'll move through the planning stages that come next more quickly. You've gotten a good start at avoiding the stakeholder problems, and you reap the benefits of having everyone on the same page.
To get better at doing project charters, you just have to start writing them. As you read or study something like this, you'll have a conceptual understanding and think it makes sense. But as you put pen to paper, that's where you realize what you need to do.
You need to start writing these to get good at it. Get feedback from other people on how to do it better, but just get started and get feedback.
After the charter is done, schedule some time to revisit the various sections and check-in. It'll go more smoothly because people are on the same page. There's many more tools to address these sections in more detail, and that's what project management education is all about. You can learn how to think and act on these things. Getting the project charter right gives you an advantage right out of the gate.
There are some fantastic free resources on Archbold's website related to project management and project planning.
Kevin is offering a class of "Real-Time Live-Fire Project Management Training" where you come with a brief description of an important upcoming project, and leave with a project charter filled out and the key issues analyzed from many angles. There are five spots available.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on September 22, 2013 0 Comments
Hello everyone here at Tynan.com -- I'm Sebastian Marshall, and I had the pleasure of having Tynan reach out to me around a couple years ago and linking up with him in Japan earlier this year. It was absolutely a blast of a trip and it was great to experience his deep thinking about the world. Under a surface of a steady levity, there is a deep well of philosophical insight.
The main way I spend my time these days is through GiveGetWin, an idea that radically rethinks how nonprofits and philanthropy can exist in this modern century. We take people who are amazing -- like Tynan -- and they'll donate their product, service, or time. Then people can get the product, service, or session for a donation to charity.
We look to make everyone win by really looking at incentives and understanding what's in it for the provider of the service (in Tynan's case, he loves connecting with his readers on different topics, meeting new amazing people, and fleshing out his ideas on important topics while helping people -- others might be more interested in promoting a book, marketing exposure, or testing a new product idea, etc.) So the provider gets their goals met, the donor/buyer gets something amazing at favorable pricing and the feeling of doing good, and our core volunteer team get to the most amazing lab in the world for honing skills, doing good, and connecting with their heroes.
Anyway, enough with the "blah blah blah" preface! When we run deals, we usually do an interview and bring some insights of the people. I wanted to share this interview and announce Tynan's deal directly on here first, since a lot of people were disappointed when his last appearance at GiveGetWin sold out so fast. This one is very specific -- "Hardcore Adventuring Prep" -- a way to connect with Tynan on the topic of planning and executing your next grand adventure or international travel, whether you're a beginner or a veteran. This interview offers some of his thoughts on the topic.
So... You're Thinking About Adventuring? by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
I always thought of myself as the kind of person who was going to travel a lot, and then Tim Ferriss's book came out. I thought, this guy is my age and he's traveled a lot. If I want to do this, I should do this now. If I keep waiting to travel, it's never going to happen. I'll have to decide and go.
I was playing Risk at a friend's house, and looking at the map, I decided -- I'm going to do it. I'm going to leave and travel. January 1st, I'm going to sell everything I own and travel.
My friend Todd was there, he said, "I'll do that too." We sold everything we owned, got little backpacks, and headed out for our first trip.
Really, I think that's the best way. The most important thing if you want to do it is to pick a date 3 to 6 months in advance, and say, "No matter what, I'm leaving on that day." There's really never a perfect time to uproot your life and do a major trip. So, just pick a day and everything will fall into place.
Or if you want to do a smaller trip, pick it much sooner -- maybe two months.
For the first-time traveler, I'm definitely biased towards Asia. You get a lot of experience for very little time and money. I'm also a fan of Europe, but it's more subtle. You don't get as many culture shock experiences. But at the same time, I think just having a random fascination with anywhere is good enough to go there.
Remember that you're never going to get things 100% ready, and preparation depends on if you're thinking about long-term travel or just a week or two. If you're talking about a short trip, you need to nothing except get a visa for the place.
If you're in the Northeast and want to go to California, you think nothing much of it and you just go. But going to Europe takes about the same amount of time. People live in these places all year around, and they have the same stuff in their country as you have here. As I've traveled more, I start bringing the bare minimum, do almost no preparation, and just show up.
If you're doing long-term travel, you want to minimize your obligations, especially financial obligations. You don't want to feel you have to get back to take care of stuff.
If you're going to be gone for a year or more, sell everything. Everything is going to depreciate so much over a year that it will cost you nothing to re-buy all the exact same stuff when you get back if you're going to be gone for a year.
You'll probably be scared. I think most people will be. I was. We flew to Panama with no plans, nowhere to stay... we just kind of left. Everyone learns they're capable of more than they thought. Travel is less about seeing the sights and more about seeing what you're capable of.
This is big: realize that everywhere in the world, real people live there. You can make it work. Travel builds self-reliance. You'll be scared the first time, and then you'll never be scared again.
For accommodation, it really depends on where you're going. One tip I have, it's good to stay in a hostel the first three to four days. People there are eager to make friends, and it's a good way to meet people who want to also explore the area.
People think you must be spending a lot of money if you're traveling long-term, but it's not true. If you're somewhere for at least a month, you can get an apartment and that lowers cost. You can live like a local and cook.
If you're going to somewhere like Thailand or China, it's much cheaper to figure it out on the ground. It's cheaper to just show up.
Food you'll figure out as you go. When I first started traveling, I was a hardcore vegan and didn't eat flour, sugar, or bad oils. But I just made sure to dedicate the rest day to finding a healthy restaurant I could eat at, and could eat all my meals there after that if I wanted to.
In Taipei, I found one good spot, and only ate at that spot because it was the only one that fit what I wanted. I ate every single meal there.
But, it worked.
If you don't have a restrictive diet, you'll be totally fine. Even if you do have a restrictive diet, you can just dedicate your first day to find one place you can eat at. You'll always be able to find food, so you won't need to panic.
When I travel inside a country, like traveling within Japan by train, I recommend stocking up on snacks that you know you like to eat. For me, getting nuts bought me extra time to find a good healthy place in the next city.
For most people from Western countries, visas are usually not a big deal. Most people don't realize that you can just show up in most countries and get a visa on arrival.
You can go to the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand to get a visa for Vietnam. Sometimes it takes a week to get a visa and they'll keep your passport during that time, but if you really want to, you can easily do a trip where you need no visas at all.
As for affording this type of traveling. I'd note that long-term travel is cheaper than short-term travel.
I think that people have a distorted view about what travel costs. When you go somewhere for a weekend, the costs are high. The plane ticket is a significant cost, and you don't have much time so you should probably just stay in a hotel. You end up paying airfare on peak days since you probably want to go Friday to Monday. You don't have a kitchen in the hotel, so you eat out every single meal. And because it's your one short vacation, you're paying for expensive events and tours.
There's a big difference between "vacation" and long-term travel. There's some overlap, but they can be very different things. When you travel long-term, even 2-3 weeks, you can rent out an apartment. You can scope out a cheap local place to eat, or cook your own food. You can just explore the city instead of doing a tourist thing every possible second. And when you divide the cost of a plane ticket over 20 days instead of 2 days, it's much lower.
If you're quite low on money, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Panama, and many other places are very cheap. You can travel around, see good sights, eat good food, and it's cheaper per month than paying the rent back home.
As long as you have a way to make money traveling, it's actually cheaper to travel than to stay home. When people ask me about the cost, I don't think of it that way -- I actually spend less money while traveling.
I used to think, you know, a loaf of bread in America and elsewhere probably cost the same. I mean, same ingredients, roughly the same difficulty to make it, right? But it's not like that. In Thailand, I remember paying 60 cents to eat a Pad Thai. I was blown away. Until you experience it, you don't realize how much cheaper it is to live in these places.
Ten years it was barely possible to make money while traveling, and still not practical. Now people can have regular jobs and travel. Traveling is actually a great time to try a startup or project, because it lowers the cost of living so much. I have friends who launched their product, Minall, a cheap backpack on Kickstarter. They relocated from New Zealand to Vietnam to do it because it was so much cheaper.
Step number one if you want to do this is to create a buffer. $5000 is enough for anyone with even a bit of frugality. If you're going long-term, you'll sell all your stuff. You might get a few thousand for that, more if you have a car.
To start, pick somewhere really cheap so you have a runway. $5000 lasts you make a couple months in the U.S., but might be six months in Panama or a year in Southeast Asia. That gives you time to get a business started.
I think people overestimate the difference on how they're going to operate in different places. As long as you can afford the time to figure it out, you can figure out a way to work from anywhere.
A lot of people get interested when I write on travel gear, because I spent a lot of time looking to find the perfect gear.
I think there's a stereotypical backpacker, who has the 50 liter backpack, then the smaller backpack attached, and they have a sleeping bag and bedroll. It might be nice to have that, but I think people don't realize how much that stops you from having new experiences.
It's hard to lug stuff across a city, and it makes you stick out like a sore thumb as a backpacker tourist. I think locals treat you really differently, and there's a certain contempt for people with a giant backpack.
I like the Tom Bihn backpack, it's really durable, well-organized, and small. I've talked with Tom, and him and his people love backpacks. If you're going to have a backpack that's small, you need small, light, durable, multi-purpose stuff.
You end up spending more money on efficient stuff, but it ends up being durable. I've had the same down jacket for 6 years now, and it still looks great.
Remember you're not just paying for gear, you're paying for a better experience.
I always wonder what people have in huge backpacks… clothes probably? Clothes take up a lot of space. You see people bringing inefficient clothing, sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans, extra pair of sneakers… my biggest tip for clothing is go as much wool as possible. Merino Wool is my biggest tip. The best two brands for it are Icebreaker and Smartwool.
Wool never smells bad. You can wear it for weeks on end. You can wash it with shampoo, which is very convenient. It dries quickly, so if you get caught in the rain, you'll be dry in 15 to 30 minutes. (With cotton, you'd be soaked for hours.)
In my entire life, I own one pair of pants, two shirts, two pairs of underwear, and one hoodie. I wash it in the washing machine once in a while (or the shower), and no one even notices. It's a big life simplifier. When you're traveling, you have extra decisions you have to make: where to eat, where to go next… but we only have a finite amount of decisionmaking power. To not have to worry about that reduces friction a lot. Even when I don't travel, I like to not have to think about it. I dress this way even when I'm stationary.
Cotton is soft and it's cheap, but has almost no other good qualities about it. For wool, there's a mental image of the sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas. It's itchy and thick. But Merino Wool looks like cotton, it's thin threads that are weaved tight, and feels comfortable. It looks normal but it has superpowers that other fabric does not have.
I like to bring a Ma Bell X-Lite jacket. You can stuff it in a pants pocket if it's wrapped up tight, and I've gone skiing just wearing that. I also like the Marmit Mica. It blocks both wind and rain. When combined with Ma Bell X-Lite, you're waterproof, you've got heat trapped in, and can throw it all in the bottom of your backpack, taking up no space, and weigh maybe one pound combined.
A single thin laptop is worth paying for. Get the smallest Mac Air, or get a PC Ultrabook. For a camera, look at the Sony RX100. It's a compact camera, fits in your pocket, and there is literally no other camera that can be compared to it in the same class. The sensor and lens are closer to being an SLR than a compact camera. You can take amazing low-light night camera, people think it's from an SLR but it's compact.
Less stuff! I used to have a 28 liter backpack, which is also small. I thought I'd fill it with as many useful things as possible, a portable kettle bell, a cot, and things like that. But now I have a 19 liter backpack and I try to leave it as empty as possible, so it's usually half full.
It means less stuff to worry about losing, so I'm always trying to get rid of stuff.
But don't get stuck on gear -- just get started and go.
It comes back to realizing that people are living in these places without thousands of dollars of specialized gear. A really minimal set that gets you through most situations, you don't have to be 100% prepared for everything. I used to carry rain pants, and they were useful sometimes. I had overshoes and a weird goal for being 100% waterproof, but then I realized that most people in most places aren't waterproof. Sometimes people have anxiety for travel, so they buy gear to counter that. But it's not really necessary.
Travel can be life changing.
When I first started traveling, I did it because I thought I needed to see sights, I was frustrated with America (which I probably appreciate more now that I've seen other places), but when you see these cultures very different than yours, interact with people you wouldn't otherwise, see beautiful things in nature… I think you get a subtle shift in seeing how the world works. You connect with travelers, who tend to be smart outgoing people. I found it to be completely life-changing, because it changed my perspective on the world, humanity, and my horizons too. I never thought about outside of the U.S. except in very abstract ways. But now I feel very connected to Japan and China in a way I wouldn't otherwise, to have a foot there I wouldn't otherwise.
The questions I get most often after gear are always about fear. People are scared to do it, or nervous. My answer; "Just go do it. See what happens."
Tynan will be hosting a group class on "Hardcore Adventuring Prep" with all the proceeds going to charity. The price is $19.95, there are nine spots available, and you'll be able to connect hands-on with Tynan and like-minded adventures. Find out more and grab your spot by clicking here.
Posted by Sebastian Marshall on September 14, 2013 0 Comments
Dan Redford has built a life at the intersection of China/Michigan relations, doing international U.S./China business in raising millions of dollars of investment from Chinese clients into the United States. Knowing he wanted to be involved in U.S./China business, his first large opportunity came as a result of being a paid attendee covering the Shanghai Expo, and connecting with traditional media throughout Michigan as part of that trip. All along the way, he's connected with great people, lent a helping hand, and taken leadership roles in organizations.
In this interview to promote his GiveGetWin deal, a Group Class on Establishing Leadership and Influence, he tells his journey towards leadership and influence positions, and gives you extremely practical guidelines on doing that in your life.
"The Journey Through Fear To Influence" by Dan Redford, as told to Sebastian Marshall
My family really helped me become a leader. My younger brother is a famous basketball player where we're from. As the oldest of our family, it was a really big challenge for me. Seeing my younger brother rise as an athlete in the community and I didn't have to the skills to do that, it hurt.
I didn't pursue playing basketball in high school for a year because I anticipated my younger brother would be starting as a freshman and not wanting to compete with him.
But i decided, when he started playing in high school, I'd try out for the team even knowing he'd likely start and I'd be a benchwarmer. Instead of playing "poor me," I decided to own the role. It was one of the best experiences I had.
Our team was 44-5, we were leaders in the community, we sold out the gym for the first time in 20 years. I was never a starter, but I was looked at in the community as someone willing to support his brother and establish my own leadership role on the team in a way that was really unique.
People really respected that, and I never looked back from there. I realized I am who I am, and if I really own that and am willing to go out and show myself in front of people, that's something worth doing and worth striving for.
I saw the importance of standing for something, standing behind who you are, and doing it in public.
"In public" is important for leadership. It means doing things in front of people. In public, not private. Share things with other human things. Doing things in public means you're willing to stand behind something, sign your name to it. It means taking a risk, someone might challenge you, and it means owning it.
Sometimes it's scary as hell. You have to confront things that you are not really too sure about. You need to face your fears. Most people think they don't have the personality or expertise to go out in public, or think they don't speak well. But there's different ways to go out in public. You don't need to be a naturally good speaker.
I'm always amazed by people doing things that I can't do, and putting it out in public. Anyone who sells things, or makes things. I saw a friend of mine in Shanghai with a little boutique graphic design service that they provide to people. They're not a billion dollar company, it's probably just something they do on weekends.
They put up a website, and people go there to make pamphlets and graphics and brochures. That's being out in public. That's saying, "Here's something I find value in, you can hire me to do this."
I really respect that.
The web is really a great equalizer in the world we live in today. You no longer have to do this stuff where you put out all these flyers, get up on a soapbox, or talk in public to get people to listen to you or buy your product or get your idea out there.
You can just use your own website. Start a blog. Don't wait for people to come around and listen. Websites are great. Facebook and Twitter too. You should use them all.
If you don't know the message you want to stand for, keep trying. Everyone has a purpose. You have to go out there and find it. That's your job as a human being. Eventually you try enough, you will find that message, what the purpose is of your life. I am convinced beyond a doubt that everyone has a strong purpose in their life. You have to; you have to contribute to existence.
That's actually a question I get a lot from people, about purpose. When I realized a leader was when people started asking me about leadership. A question I get all the time is, "You seem to have it all together, you seem to have a purpose to your life, but I don't feel like i'm there."
I just say, "Listen, I just decided I had a vision for where I wanted to go. A pie in the sky. I put it in the sky. And it's still very challenging."
When you decide to really care for something, to stand for something, there will be a consistency to the message you put out. If you keep looking and keep it in your mind that you want to find the message you want to put out, you'll get there.
For venues to connect with people… I love to hold events, bring people together. It's easy to get good at holding events around themes you understand. For me, it's always been natural to hold events around Michigan State University, I serve as President of the MSU Alumni Club in Beijing. I saw I cared about my university, and nobody was bringing together the alumni here, so I just did that. It was natural. It was fun. And it had a bigger impact than I could imagine.
Events are probably my favorite way of establishing leadership. We created something from nothing. And I found there are people out there who agreed with the message, and people came, and it was fun, and we kept doing them. Events are huge.
Writing and getting published is good. Editorials. I keep a blog and that's a good way, but for what I do, I also like to operate in what I call "old people's channels" -- traditional forms of media. Local newspapers. Detroit Free Press, Holland Sentinel. They not only have strong leadership, but having names like that give indications that people should listen to what you're saying. People still see it that way, if you're published in newspapers they know, they assume there's some quality in what you're saying.
To connect with newspapers: Send a lot of emails to them. Once you start getting published, it's a domino effect. If your objective as a leader becomes to influence people, it snowballs. You have to practice. When I started trying to get published, I used any channel I could imagine to get people to publish my work.
You also realize there's people in your network that you didn't realize you had, that'll help you get published. I got the Detroit News to publish an article about my experience in China four years ago when I first started blogging. That led me to a guy named Tom Watkins, who read what I was writing, and got in touch with me. He kind of took me under his wing, and it turns out he has access to papers and periodicals all over the State of Michigan which is what I care about. Tom introduces me to lots of editors and associate editors of various papers, and then I sent them my materials, and they liked it -- and now it's easy to get published in those areas.
All you need to do is care enough, so that you try enough times to get in. The snowball takes over from there.
Events, periodicals, and newspapers are good. TV is good too.
You do TV similar to newspapers. People at the newspapers know people in TV, so there's a way to meet them once you get into newspapers.
For TV, you have to be saying something timely and important. Timely and important, people need to care about it. The content needs to be important, and it needs to intersect with the timing of what people want to talk about in the public square at the moment.
Media is a way for us to talk in the public square. The couple times I've been on TV, once was in high school when I was on a local show called Currently Speaking with Andy Rapp. We were discussing an important topic in my town of Frankenmuth. It's a very religious Christian community, and somebody was trying to institute a Bible curriculum, the history of the Bible as a historical book.
It was about the role of the Bible in history. Not an evangelistic curriculum, but a history. I was a sophomore in high school, and I thought we should do it. I spoke out in favor, and another student (who I respected and still respect to do this day) was against; the TV show had us both on. As a 15 year old student I was talking alongside my pastor, and the other student and the head of the Michigan Association of Atheists were on the local television show.
That was my first time on TV. I learned, I was on TV because people cared about what was going on. And it was timely, because of this debate.
I was on TV in China, which was a unique experience. Sometimes discussion shows want a Chinese-speaking foreigner to add flavor. An alumni network member, Ray, his wife was on a CCTV channel where she interviews famous people who have been successful after the opening of the Chinese economy.
Then they have a group of people called a hudongtuan, a discussion group of 3-4 people filmed behind the scenes who commenting on the main participant and the host. Later, it's edited together to give a complete show.
Ray reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be on it. They needed a foreigner who spoke Chinese, and it was to me a pretty simple thing. The network I built brought that opportunity to me.
Take those opportunities.
Personal relationships help you get a lot done.
I genuinely love people and like working with people, and am curious about who they are and what they do. So, I've always found that if you want to get somewhere, chances are that someone is going to have to help you get there.
There's no way for you to ever know everything about everything. But if you're willing to go out there and learn from others and listen, they'll help you where you want to go.
An example: When I started coming to China, I knew that somehow I wanted to find a way to get back to China and work here as a professional or businessperson. As a junior in college, my skills and ability to understand the China market weren't there yet. But I knew if I put myself out there and met enough people, I could work to establish my reputation as being interested in being a young expert on China. For two years I was going back and forth between China and Michigan as a student, and I made a point to meet as many people and get out there as much as possible.
I talked to professors, business people, Chinese and Michiganders, and putting the pieces together. I let everyone know, I'm a young guy and I want to go back to China, and be involved in U.S./China business. I ended up taking an opportunity to work at the World Expo in Shanghai, and at the time I made it a point to keep a personal blog with my friend Charles.
I used that blog to stay in touch with people back home in Michigan to let them know that I was in China, and having this experience. I wasn't really providing, at least to me, earth-shattering information to anybody. But it was interesting for people in Michigan to hear about somebody from there actually living in China, which is a very important country around the world.
This is a tool I used to get my name out there.
I realize this now, but I didn't realize back then how much I was building personal relationships. I did radio spots and appeared on newspapers about the Shanghai Expo. Often I was getting to know people even though we didn't meet in person, by connecting through the media.
I got my first job out of college with a real estate developer in East Lansing, who wanted to build a Chinatown because Michigan State is home to almost 4000 Chinese students. It was an opportunity created through personal relationships. Before I got out there and started blogging and making relationships, Pat and I hadn't met. But I build a reputation of being a young leader in Michigan State and in China, so Pat started voicing he had an idea for a Chinatown and needed to find someone to help, people referred me to him. So we got introduced.
So it was really just a combination of meeting people, using the web to meet more people and build reputation virtually, and the foundation of being a leader and someone who could be trusted. That's what led to that opportunity, and I keep operating in that fashion. I grow my career, my expertise, and my personal network, and it brings me opportunities I can't really see right now. But I know they're going to be there, because people are amazing.
Final Takeaways --
Eight takeaways for someone who wants to take a leadership role, but doesn't know how or is afraid…
1. If you're thinking, "Am I a leader or not?", then you are. Everybody can be a leader.
2. Maybe you haven't found what you want to lead about. If not, keep it in mind and keep thinking about it, and keep trying.
3. Make a blog. It's simple, and you'll never know how interesting what you have to say is until you write it and put it out there.
4. Once you've picked a topic you care about, email your local paper to get something published. Keep doing it. Get published somewhere. It doesn't have to be the New York Times. Just the local paper, they want content from people. It's a good start.
5. Hold an event. For something you think you might care about.
6. If you don't know how to hold an event, go to an event. Take notes. And then later, ask the organizer how they did it. They might help you run your first one.
7. You know more people than you think you know. If you find out what it is you care about, start asking people "How do I build this?" or "How do I get this message out there?" The person you ask can lead you to the next person, who helps you get to the next person, who takes you where you want to go.
8. The world needs more leaders. Just go be one.
Redford is graciously offering a GiveGetWin deal covering a Group Class on Establishing Leadership and Influence. It offers pragmatic guidelines on how to develop your own leadership and influence in the community and marketplace.