“Use all your well-learned politics, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.” (Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”)
Today, I’m gonna share with you one of the nastiest, yet most valuable lessons you’ll ever get in your career.
It’s all about the firestorm of conflicting personality types you’ll encounter in the Big Game O’ Biz. It took me ages to figure all this out (and get it into a simple concept that’s easily explained)… and many, many times it has saved my butt from disaster.
This is the mostly hidden part of being in business. The other fundamentals… honing your skills, dealing with technology, managing moolah… all seem to be fairly straightforward.
If only we didn’t have to deal with human beings to get through the day, everything would be just dandy.
However, sizzling underneath every interaction with another Shaved Ape lies a volcanic pit of emotional, physiological/biological, intellectual and metaphysical goo. Experienced professionals intuitively learn to negotiate this roiling obstacle, eventually… but usually can’t explain what they’re doing. They rely on a code of ethics, first, that eliminates or salvages biz relationships with the most common kinds of crooks and monsters out there.
However, waiting for the other guy to violate your code before jettisoning him from your life means you’re a punching bag while the truth about the human capacity for evil slowly dawns on you. (And most folks never really understand any of this. Which is why the neighbors of the freshly-caught serial killer always express disbelief — “He seemed like a nice guy. Always mowed his lawn. Sure, there were screams from the basement sometimes, but…”)
I studied this stuff — and figured it out — only because I was completely on my own in the early part of my career as a freelance copywriter (where I constantly dealt with new people, and needed all the insight to make quick-yet-correct decisions I could muster). I had a smidgeon of a hint, through an otherwise-worthless psychology degree I snagged in my youth…
… but the real breakthrough came because my quest to become an expert in salesmanship forced me to go deep with how people actually react to a sales pitch. This was my introduction to “street level psychology”… Read more…
“Well, do ya, punk?” (Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry”)
What’s Lady Luck done for you lately?
Humans have a strange relationship with Luck. Rome conquered the known world, yet firmly believed in a goddess named Fortuna who ruled over their fates. More modern successful folks than you can count consider luck to be a con-game. “I make my own luck,” is a common refrain… and yet these same smug studs often indulge in stark superstitious behavior.
I imagine more than a few folks have earned a PhD or two going deep into the concept of luck. Is it a random thing in the universe (like snake-eyes rolling exactly when you call it)…
… or part of a pre-determined script you’re just playing out (so of course the dice came up ones — it was part of your life’s plot-line)?
Or is it something much more mysterious and powerful?
You’re really got to settle this for yourself, I learned… Read more…
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
“Cuz the thought that I coughed up my head is the event of the season…” (“Mr. Soul”, Buffalo Springfield)
You like music, don’t you?
And you like getting filthy-stupid rich in business, too, right?
Well, join the club. In fact, it’s astonishing to me how many wily online entrepreneurs are not just music lovers (we’re talking the “nutso” category of fan here), but also musicians. Some keyboards, a drummer hither and yon… but more often guitar. It’s something we quickly bond over…
… even though I’m a totally old-school rocker, and most of the younger dudes are either speed-thrashers (who worship Yngwie Malmsteem) or Tone Monsters who embrace the technical side of digital music-making (with an engineer’s-level command of effects).
Which just pisses me off. The story of my early musical career fits right in with other geezer tales of walking ten miles to school in the snow (and eating gravel for lunch). We were as close to analog as you can get and still be pumping noise through electronics.
Back when I started playing, the Beatles were still touring, and everyone plugged their guitars straight into the amp (which had actual springs for reverb). The only “effects” we produced was the occasional accidental squeal, or — if we were lucky — a gutteral growl from a blown speaker that was still alive.
My first stomp box was a simple one-button fuzz-tone that mugged the signal and distorted it like a mofo. (My pal Bob made it in Shop Class.) (It sounded like a Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to eat the building, and sometimes startled dancers near the stage.) Later, I bought a used Morley wah-wah… and even later I loaded up on Boss pedals and digital amps with sampled sounds and all hell broke loose.
But basically, I’m still that guy who was most impressed with Dave Davies of the Kinks (who slashed his little amp’s speaker with a razor blade before recording “You Really Got Me”). Simple, non-technical abuser of equipment (and pentatonic modes).
So what’s this got to do with making money?
A lot… at least as far as becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Because it’s all about attitude… Read more…
“Been there, done that…”
I am, today, resurrecting a post from a very long time ago…
… because the subject matter just won’t die. Like a zombie, it just keeps getting back up and stumbling forward to irritate and annoy me.
So let’s file this under “Necessary Reminders If You Wanna Get Rich“…
… cuz it’s one of those fundamental lessons for anyone who got into business to create wealth.
As opposed to, say, getting into business just to have something to do during the day.
Every successful entrepreneur will tell you the foundation of their wealth comes from paying attention to the fundamentals. The wild-and-crazy ideas are fun, the vows to take over the world make you feel awesome, and gorging on fresh technology is invigorating.
But you won’t earn a dime off any of it without knowing the nuts-and-bolts part of putting ideas, vows and tech into action.
Just like being really, really, really eager to demolish your opponent in a cage fight will get you killed if you don’t have the fundamentals down of hitting and getting hit.
Enthusiasm is great. Skills and knowledge are how shit gets done, however.
Here’s that zombie post. Enjoy:
I tell rookies to never, ever assume anything about anything. Ever.
Especially about your target audience. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is to assume your prospect knows as much as you do about whatever it is you’re selling.
And it’s almost never true. You’re dealing with your product/biz/service day in and day out, and you’ve dealt with the details so often, it’s all second-nature to you.
But your prospect isn’t working in your office. Even if he’s in the same general market as you, he has other priorities. He may desperately need what you offer… Read more…
“What this requires is a really stupid and futile gesture on someone’s part.” (Otter, “Animal House” pre-climactic scene)
Do you ever have the vague feeling that everyone around you is enjoying life more than you…
… or has their act together real tight, while you struggle and wake up in the middle of the night fussing over problems?
This is actually part of our default machinery as humans. Personally, I grew up as a kid believing that everyone was hiding the secrets of a happy life from me… they knew these secrets, and were smug about knowing and enjoying them. While I was left to desperate measures, trying to figure out each fresh pitfall and obstacle on my own.
If I could only catch a clue about what everyone else was thinking as they so smoothly navigated life, the secrets of eternal happiness and contentment would surely bloom for me.
My first big revelation as a teenager arrived like a bolt of lightning: After putting together a few clues…
… I abruptly realized that most people weren’t hiding secret thoughts from me at all.
They actually didn’t have Read more…
Let’s have a nice chat about betrayal.
Not the big kind, like Shakespeare grooved on (with people dropping like flies, slain by their best pals)…
… but rather the small kind that happens way too often in business.
As in, between you and your colleagues.
Here’s what happened to spur this line of thought: I was just in Austin (Republic of Texas) to speak at an event packed with marketers.
Now, a lot of things happened while I was down there… including a few stories full of intrigue and dramatic plot twists…
… but one little thing happened that could easily harbor the most serious consequences for anyone trying to learn something about being a savvy, successful biz owner.
Let me set the story up for you: Often, when I speak to new audiences, I like to cajole and browbeat the crowd as I put them through some exercises.
It’s all in good fun, and it’s a rare marketer who doesn’t appreciate this kind of old-school learning tactic — essentially School O’ Hard Knocks training, where you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, which wakes up your brain and makes the exercises memorable.
It’s really the only way to learn and have it stick that ever worked with a stubborn, anti-authority kinda rebel like me.
So I return the favor when I teach. (To mitigate the verbal thrashing and jive-talk, I also like to give out bottles of beer during Read more…
“Don’t follow leaders, watch the pawking meters…” (Bob Dylan)
Do you like change?
You know that most folks hate and fear change, right? It’s all so unpredictably messy, and rudely forces you out of your comfort zone.
Bleah. Yuck. Keep it away.
Well, guess what? Successful entrepreneurs love change.
More specifically, they love the opportunity to alter the way things are… both within their market, and in their lifestyles.
If you’re limping along on anemic sales, and suddenly a new tactic or project jacks response through the roof… that’s a good change.
If you roll out a hot, fresh campaign (aimed at demolishing competition and hoarding all the market share to yourself), and it bombs… that’s a bad change.
However, you can’t enjoy the first without risking the second. Which kinda defines entrepreneurship in a nutshell: You do something, there’s a reaction, and you deal with the gains or losses.
Maintaining the status quo is never a valid option in biz. You keep moving and adjusting, like a parade negotiating twisting streets and weather changes.
You set up camp and settle in, though, and you’re like the Donner Party. I’ve seen many businesses eat themselves alive, trying to avoid change.
There is stress inherent in both situations. When you resist change, the anxiety and internal turmoil builds and festers. When you engage with change, you are constantly flushing out the bad ju-ju, keeping your system in good working order.
It’s kinda like early dating. I viscerally remember staring at the phone with Susie Q’s number in my hand, completely freaked-out over the looming possibilities. Still, it was better to dial her up, mumble and fumble the conversation and face the consequences…Read more…
“But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash“)
Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.
That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.
See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…
… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…
… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.
I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Depression (Nixon’s post-Vietnam wage-freeze, record unemployment, gas-lines, near-total economic turmoil)…
… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?