“See if you can guess what I am now?” (Bluto, “Animal House”)
Public service announcement here:
Do you have mostly-level-headed friends who always seem to make dumb-ass decisions?
Are — ahem — YOU one of these miscreants yourself? (Confession: I sure am. More often than I care to admit.)
Well, gather ’round.
I believe I’ve stumbled upon a solution.
Here it is: When you have an important decision to make…
… just ask yourself this simple question: “What would a smart person do?”
Then, go do that.
Do NOT (as so many of us somehow seem to do) ask “What would a blithering idiot do?”…
… and then go do that.
No, no, no.
This is your self-intervention moment.
Don’t be the blithering idiot.
Do be the smart person.
Sounds too simple and obvious to work, doesn’t it?
Stunningly, it works.
Pass it around.
P.S. One of the keys to good decision-making has always been knowing how things actually work in the real world of biz…
… and not trying to get by on the wimpy, delusion-filled nonsense most civilians think is how things get done.
Good place to find out which is which is right here…
Las Vegas, NV
“Hey, watch this…” (Famous last words of a drunk redneck)
Quick lesson in competence and incompetence.
Which are about a hair’s width apart in your brain, even if you refuse to admit it.
Here’s the lesson:
Just because you rock at one thing does NOT mean you are competent in everything (or anything) else.
Sounds obvious, right?
Isn’t, to most of your fellow humans.
Examples abound: Doctors (who got through years of freakin’ medical school) are well-known chumps when it comes to financial matters, falling for the worst-designed scams imaginable. High school jocks who figure their on-field athletic skills are preparing them for a wonderful adult life often have a rude awakening headed their way. Marriage counselors (especially the good ones) are typically already divorced a few times.
And entrepreneurs who conquer one marketing medium (say, Clickbank) assume they’re bulletproof…
… and gleefully murder their wealth by cluelessly wandering into a new biz model (where they’re quickly eaten alive).
And yet people never stop assigning all kinds of savvy and skills to experts who have shown absolutely zero competence to support such laurels. (Looking at you, TV political pundits.) (And you, Mr. Marketing Guru with a nice smile but nil real-world experience.)
Why do we do this?
Mostly because we crave real experts, honest heroes, and genuine leaders so much, we’re willing to overlook little things (like reality) and cross our fingers over outcomes.
The alternative is to, you know, become competent yourself and — ick — take responsibility for your decisions and actions.
The very best biz owners are like the best stand-up comics — they become self-aware, know their weak areas, and laugh about them.
And never pretend they’re something they’re not.
I am very, very good at what I’m good at, for example.
And what I’m not good at, I absolutely suck at.
Which is why I surround myself with folks who are good at what I’m not good at.
Your network of pals, colleagues, friendly enemies, experts, and partners should be diverse, self-aware themselves, and deeply experienced. You don’t have to become BFFs with your tech guy, but you do need to “connect” on a real level…
… so your values, ethics, lifestyle preferences and long-term goals are aligned and headed in the same direction. (Not surprisingly, this often does result in lifelong friendships… but it’s incidental.)
This Is Rule #1: Don’t try to “go it alone” for the long run.
The more successful you become, the more you’ll need a network to support you.
And the more successful you DESIRE to become…
… the more your network needs to be truly competent and front-loaded with massive experience (which they’ve learned from, not merely gone through).
Most of the folks you’ll meet in your journey through life will be incompetent at most of what they do.
And oblivious of it.
As an entrepreneur, you are no longer “one of the crowd”.
Your needs change immediately, your exposure to risk skyrockets, and the degree of “adventure” you experience goes off the charts.
If you do it right, that is.
Learn to judge your colleagues by what they do, not what they SAY they’ll do.
Arrogant, cynical braggarts are hiding something.
Shake off your natural inclination to assign competence to them (cuz they’re demanding you do so), and instead, take responsibility for your decisions by knowing your limits, and surrounding yourself with real experts who fill in the gaps.
P.S. Have you ever glanced at the testimonials piled up on Amazon about my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”?
Some of the most famous folks in marketing and advertising give the book a solid thumb’s up. Looky some of the more recent ones from regular entrepreneurs, too:
“I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)
For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.
Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…
… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.
For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.
Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…
… particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.
For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…
… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.
We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.
Yet, the opposite is true.
Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet.
Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries.
I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.
It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.
Much deeper than that.
The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship.
All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.
It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges.
The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it.
Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions.
And I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art.
But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all have been banned or censored at some point in our history).
And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.
We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades…
… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.
So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today.
This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.
The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box.
I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine…
… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.
For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about…
… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks.
Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.
Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm).
But the restrictions should remain rare.
Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it.
Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology.
And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.
I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life.
It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.
For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence…
… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory.
Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being.
P.S. Hey — make sure you’ve got my books with you when you go off on holiday.
You can order them right now, in the right-hand column here. The digital versions will be in your digital hands immediately, too… no waiting…