Making Decisions

10am — Get up and to the kitchen for catch-up with grandma. Make breakfast of bread, my favourite.  (I’m typing this at 1 am, as I do my best writing from 12 - 3 am)

10:30-12* — Idea generation for MFluence's customer journey.

12 noon — Make a cup of tea after going for 20 mins walk.

12:30 — Lunch, consisting of glutinous rice with chicken and veg broth (I have this almost every day.)

1-5pm* — Work time! Focusing on MFluence and GYAEN 90% in December. (Have Merlin TV series playing in the background.)

5pm* — Review GYAEN's 50 Young Global Leaders.

6pm — Spend time with family.

6:30-9pm — Go out for a walk, speak on the phone at the same time,

9-11pm — Shower, dinner and then catch up on Tv Series .

11-2am — Chill out and do whatever, probably reading for enjoyment or drinking catching up with team or friends. At home (phone) or out. Followed by sleep!

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I am nearing the last steps of this cancer,”.

We haven’t seen each other or spoken in nearly 10 years. She sent me a message on FaceBook just a few hours before remembering to tell me this. “You around later?”

Let’s do coffee on the beach.

I hold grudges. 10 years ago I got annoyed about something that now seems really unimportant. So we stopped talking.

When the message popped up I thought, why not? I needed to apologise to her.

She came over. He had once done some work together when I was at my first job. We used to hang out with each other most days of the week. Around 2006 was when I last saw her.

“Wait, what!”

It was three years ago where they had spotted something. They removed it, but last year, it had spread to everywhere else in my body with almost no time to live.

I wanted to say I am sorry to hear that but all that came out my mouth was, you look perfectly healthy. Just as I remember her.

Every 2 months, I visit Helsinki for this medical trial but thank you, it’s good to know I look good on my way out. However, eventually, this treatment develops resistance at some point. I’m at 9 months now.

And then, it’s a death sentence. She laughed which felt like she was telling a, on the border joke.

There was, now, nothing, that I knew about her life. A tainted guilt settled within me for holding this grudge for a decade.

I’m happier now than ever. I finally realised that my relationships are so important and for me, as every day passes, it is more and more becoming the most important thing in the world.

I had always liked being around you. But there is always days when I am around people I don’t particularly get on with. Yet, I am surprised I am still alive. I puck my lips and taught myself to constructively tell them what I think.

At any moment in the day I am exactly where I want to be and with those, I want to be around and constructively stick to my values.

It’s a good think you still care about teaching others. I said.

So am I! Because of this, I am always happy, every day I know that I will be doing exactly the things I want to do.

I no longer worry about my future, but only in the present moment. I don’t care about any potential achievement. I no longer feel bad for missing little goals. I actually haven’t been shopping in almost a year, to make me feel better emotionally, I don’t need to. I am so happy.

We took the coffee to go sit on the stones, under the sun, on the beach. She told me how cancer worked. She described the frustration and stress she endured through each stage of cancer. Each individual who had helped her through it.

Although I have lost second branch family members to cancer, I really didn’t know any of this.

We would converse for hours but now, I didn’t know what to say. She was joking around and laughing. She seemed the happiest I have seen her. Do you say sorry?

When sat quietly, do you think about worries, anxieties or old conversations you have had?

Not in the last 2 year.

I live a life where I do things I have personally decided for myself. I was really anxious at first because I had so little time and so much to do. There was no way I couple of years was going to be enough. I was uncertain of what I wanted first.

This uncertainty made me anxiety attacks. I used to find all the worries for my, what would be for 50/60 year of living in one or two months of this treatment. When the treatment becomes immune to cancer, I know I am going to die. I cannot out run it. So I stopped worrying about uncertain aspects of my life and the feeling of anxiety stopped with it.

She became quite for long pause. I looked to tears in her eyes. It didn’t exist. She smiled.

I wish I had messaged you 10 years sooner. It’s funny as it may have been this anxiety which had stopped me. I would have liked to get to know you better.

 ______

When we used to be at work, I could listen to her for hours of her culture, beliefs and values. Her home, her family, her religion. It gave her a unique outlook on life.

World problems and issues we disagreed on. I think that time, we were debating a father’s responsibilities. She always challenged me mentally and pushed my ability to think.

At 17, I was immature. She also was almost, always, right. She was right then.

I made good friends through having an informative conversation about Judaism, which I learnt from her. I wonder what else I could have learnt from her in the past 10 years.

Especially in today’s world, learning of values and outlook of life from someone of a different culture has never been more important. Social or professional life. We still have so much more to learn with everyone we encounter.

There are things I regret in life because I was uncertain of the outcome.

Since then, I told someone what was on my mind without any expectation, I know I would have regretted if I hadn’t.

The very same evening, we hosted an event with the aim of bringing different values of different culture together.

I know I will regret it if I don't do it again.

But we are at now. I am not going to be anxious about the uncertain repercussions of my two decisions above. Instead, I am going to be here in the moment, concentrate on her as she reads this post before she presses publish.

When I was in 13, I was obsessed with a late night TV show on channel 4, it was a very sexualised game show. Would pretend to be sleep, but watch the program, fascinated by the stories. Next morning at 7am alarm, I’d realise I had slept 4/5 hours. I had learned something. Not a single thing.

 

I said ‘yes’ knowing that I’m giving up on many dreams

I am 27 now, at the age of 22, I wish I had never said ‘yes’ to starting a business, to be honest. Here’s the results of my first business:

My partners (old high school friend) no longer speak to me and I lost all the money I made from that business. Over the past 5 years, I have actually MADE, hardly any money.

I still have a dream, but I gave up on this dreams of becoming a pilot. Turning down the opportunity of starting as an apprentice from the bottom up. Thanks to Flight Deck Friends. They put in a lot of hours to help me. Then I turned around and left to do my own business.

I gave up on dreams of studying as I had no time to sleep. I stopped sleeping from 2004 – 2016, put on weight and possibly now have brain damage.

After reading “The Tao of Seneca”, I practiced poverty. Most times as I had no other choice. I learned how to live with fear and hate. Sometimes I still let anxiety and stress get better of me. I wish I hadn’t said ‘yes’ to it.

It’s hard to realise all the dreams you had through your teens be demolished in your mid 20’s.

 

I said ‘yes’ to be around douches

I wish I never learned and started learning about new up and coming technology or global social-impact. Been running a charity since I was 19. I have nothing really to show for it. I learned a lot about business at the grass-root level in 9 developing countries.

But I also gave up on doing what I was good at. I was good at hunting hidden hotspots in industry trends. I discovered my first 100 innovative companies in the globe straight after college, no one else took notice of them. Then I stopped. One of them raised 750 million last year.

But I moved away. I read on technology and social impact at every chance. 300 books and 100s of academic and industry research papers later, I started networking with other managers in field, now me and the co-founder produce academic research papers.

I really considered myself as a ‘young expert’ in this two entire fields &....

..... You know what… emerging technology based and many social impact business is mostly BS and a scam. Everyone’s product/service is going to change the world so they can sell it a month later launch at the valuation of several billion with just a shell for show. I really am starting to loathe almost everyone in this industry.

Whereas when I finally brought back the passion for hunting global trends for people again, in 2016, I started being around people I liked again. It gave my body the motivation to wake up in the morning again.

I shouldn’t have been struggling to get out of bed in my mid-20’s. I wish I had said, ‘no’ to moving away from what I love 3 years earlier.

 

I said yes to time wasters

I really wanted to be on radio.

Every time a conversation I would have with someone from a radio station, they would call, I would drop everything. Every single time, I would say ‘yes’ and at the most so far, have travelled 357 miles for three minutes.

Sitting there next to the presenter, I’d stare at their notes and polite “Hello, how are you?” and then just before we were live, they would say “I like your name, how do we pronounce it?”

Every time I went, each three minute visit was about anywhere between 4-8 hours process leaving my house. So many hours wasted because I was too polite, may be stupid as well to reject this offer.

“Thank you, it can be hard finding different topics for our shows”, as this particular gentleman told me, I was thinking, I am a filler buster. I never did a radio show again. I have cut my friend circle to 4 people. 4 people I spend as much time as I can with.

It’s hard to acknowledge at this age that, in life, not everything or everyone you love will actually ever be beneficial to you. EVER.

 

5/25 rule.

I started taking Computing & IT and Mathematics a few weeks ago. I really wanted to learn, I am testing the ground.

But then I thought of the 25 things I wanted to do in my life. The rule that Warren Buffett talks about and James Altucher have elaborated on.

What are the top 25 things you want to do in life? Having a week off in hiding from everyone, believe it or not, is IN my top 25. I love isolation

I took my list of 25, took the top 5 tore away the 20 below it and threw it away in the bin.

The reason behind this? As they both put it: “Because you love those 20. But it’s BECAUSE you love them that they will always distract from the top 5 that you SUPER love.”

I super love my family & friends. Traveling. Studying. My old weight of 11 stones. And the remaining businesses that I’m still involved in.

My top 5. It’s not much and that’s all I want. So I said “no” to the other 20. I am sure this will change in the next 3 months or 6 months. Or maybe I will scrap the top 5 after testing and make a new list.

 

I am learning something about myself. I said ‘yes’ to too many things. The yes’s includes:

Writing a book I didn’t want to write. I was soo complimented to be asked so I took half of the year out of my life.

Being in a relationship when I was really younger. It took me 4 years and scars all over me to finally say “no” to her.

Buying things I don’t need. All the time. I rarely used them again. Giving away 95% of everything I own.

Being part of a start up once because of pure greed and money. The business failed and the feud ended after years.

Too many networking events. I met amazing people however, a handful have ever kept in touch.

 

I really appreciate every moment I have, I am still surprised I am still breathing. I am surprised I passed 26 into 27. So this is why it really bugs me to know of the many hours which I will never get back.

Saying ‘no’ to things when your heart is not in it adds many, many hours to your life. They add up to days, months and years.

I don’t read the newspaper. I try to avoid social media. I don’t spend time with toxic people. I don’t have life insurance. I’m not fan of weddings unless it’s family or close, close, close friend. I don’t really speak at many events or conferences. Over the years I said yes to buying many things.

List could go on and on, I wasted the moments where I could have been with someone or somewhere I love.

 

I have no regrets. Because every 'yes' was a lesson. The lesson taught me to say 'no' to all the things bad for me.

‘No’ is how you whittle down and sculpt yourself into a work of art today, I can proudly say I am in a small circle of experts in a niech market. Every ‘yes’ was a mistaken step forward. I have learned. I know exactly what I want today, comfortably be in my zone feeling confused on what will happen tomorrow and yet be very confident going on to become 28.

I said no to someone who always calls me when they want something and then disappear again. Instead, I wanted to write on the subject which consumed my thought last night.

What's your 5 that keeps your want to have many more hours in your life?

Turns out, something as simple as tweaking the colour of a button changes user behaviour or endears people to your product. Buffer's Leo Widrich explains the importance of colour in website and brand design.

This is one of the most-read leadership articles of 2013.

Why is Facebook blue? According to The New Yorker, the reason is simple. It’s because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind; blue is the colour Mark can see the best.

Not highly scientific, right? That may not be the case for Facebook, but there are some amazing examples of how colours actually affect our purchasing decisions. After all, sight is the strongest developed sense in most human beings. It’s only natural that 90% of an assessment for trying out a product is made by colour alone.

So how do colours really affect us, and what is the science of colours in marketing, really? As we strive to make improvements to our product at Buffer, studying this phenomenon is key. Let’s dig into some of the latest, most interesting research on it.

First: Can you recognize the online brands just based on colour?

Before we dive into the research, here are some awesome experiments that show you how powerful colour alone really is. Based on just the colours of the buttons, can you guess which company belongs to each of them?

Example 1 (easy):

Example 2 (easy):

Example 3 (medium):

 

Example 4 (hard):

These awesome examples from YouTube designer Marc Hemeon, I think, show the real power of colour more than any study could.

How many were you able to guess? (All the answers are at the bottom of this post!)

Which colours trigger which feeling for us?

Being completely conscious about what colour triggers us to think in which way isn’t always obvious. The Logo Company has come up with an amazing breakdown that shows which colours are best for which companies and why. Here are 4 great examples:

Black:

Green:

Blue:

Clearly, every one of these companies is seeking to trigger a very specific emotion:

When we feel compelled to buy something, colour can play a major role. Analytics company KISSmetrics created an amazing infographic on the science of how colours affect our purchases.

Green stands out to me as the most relaxing colour we can use to make buying easier. We didn’t intentionally choose this as the main colour for Buffer—although it seems to have worked very well so far.

At second look, I also realised how frequently black is used for luxury products. Here is the full infographic:

How to improve your marketing with better use of colours:

This all might be fairly entertaining, but what are some actual decisions we can apply today to our website or app? The answer comes yet again from some great research done by the good folks over at KISSmetrics.

If you are building an app that mainly targets women, KISSmetrics suggests that women love blue, purple, and green, and dislike orange, brown, and grey.

In case your app is strictly targeting men, the rules of the game are slightly different. Men love blue, green, and black, but can do without brown, orange, and purple.

In another experiment, Performable (now HubSpot) wanted to find out whethersimply changing the colour of a button would make a difference in conversion rates.

They started out by trying to guess the outcome of a simple choice between two colours (green and red) and trying to guess what would happen.

"Green connotes ideas like "natural" and "environment," and given its wide use in traffic lights, suggests the idea of "go" or forward movement. The colour red, on the other hand, is often thought to communicate excitement, passion, blood, and warning. It is also used as the colour for stopping at traffic lights. Red is also known to be eye-catching."

So, clearly an A/B test between green and red would result in green, the more friendly colour. At least that was their guess. Here is what their experiment looked like:

So how did that experiment turn out? The answer was surprising: The red button outperformed the green button by 21%.

What’s most important to consider is that nothing else was changed at all: 21% more people clicked on the red button than on the green button. Everything else on the pages was the same, so it was only the button colour that made this difference.

This definitely made me wonder: If we were to read all the research before this experiment and ask every researcher which version they would guess would perform better, I’m sure green would be the answer in nearly all cases. Not so much.

At my company, we’ve also conducted dozens of experiments to improve our conversion rates using changes of colours. While the results weren’t as clear, we still saw a huge change. One hypothesis is that for a social media sharing tool, there is less of a barrier to signup, which makes the differences less significant.

Despite all the studies, generalizations are extremely hard to make. Whatever change you make, treat it first as a hypothesis, and see if the actual experiment supports your ideas. Personally, I’m always very prone to go with opinion based on research I’ve come across. Yet, data always beats opinion, no matter what.

Quick last fact: Why are hyperlinks blue?

This is something that always interested me and is actually a fun story. In short, it's offers the highest contrast between the colours used on early websites.

Here is the full explanation: "Tim Berners-Lee, the main inventor of the web, is believed to be the man who first made hyperlinks blue. Mosaic, a very early web browser, displayed webpages with a (ugly) gray background and black text. The darkest colour available at the time that was not the same as the black text was that blue colour. Therefore, to make links stand apart from plain text, but still be readable, the colour blue was selected."

I think it's fascinating that tweaking something as small as the colour can completely change an outcome. What have been your findings in terms of colours and marketing? Tell me about it in the comments.

Solution to the riddle: Example 1: Facebook, Example 2: Google, Example 3: Flickr, Example 4: LinkedIn

 

The Full Article was written by Led Widrich at Fast Company:

For many would-be entrepreneurs, the first step is the greatest hurdle: if you don't find coming up with new business ideas a natural process, you'll need to train yourself to think laterally. Coming up with ideas is the fun part of starting a business, though - at this stage you aren't limited by money or time, so the possibilities are endless. Want to run a zebra petting zoo? Brilliant! Think there's a niche for chocolate cutlery? Wonderful! Don't be realistic - that's for the next stage in idea development. Until then, kick back and allow your imagination to run wild.

How to come up with an idea

  • If you've already spent time building up skills and contacts in a certain industry, it's natural to use expertise you've already developed in your own business. You may have hated working for a PR company - but why? Was it the job, or was it something the company was doing? Could you do it differently?
  • Attempt some crystal ball gazing. Ask yourself what the world will look like this time next year. What about in five years' time? Use industry media and read experts' blogs to second-guess the future and try to develop ideas in line with trends so you can develop a product or service and cash in when they happen.
  • Bounce ideas off friends. Create a collective with a group of like-minded people to help you come up with ideas, then share the profits when an idea makes money. Don't be too concerned with giving ideas away at this stage - unless someone is passionate about an idea, it's unlikely they'll follow it through.
  • Ideas tend to occur in the least convenient places, so keep a pen and paper with you all the time. It's also worth noting that just before you fall asleep and just after you wake up, your brain tends to be at its most creative - so make sure you have something to write with on your bed-side table.
  • Don't be afraid to look at other people's ideas for inspiration. There's nothing wrong with copying someone else's idea (unless, of course, it's protected by copyright law), as long as your business does something to distinguish itself by building and improving on that idea.
  • Hundreds of good business ideas have come when their creators have looked for a solution to an everyday problem. You only need to look at the Lakeland Catalogue or online to see how many of life's little problems can be solved fairly easily - and ingeniously.
  • Sometimes, the best way to get creative is to allow your mind to wander. Use a technique such as mind-mapping or play a word-association game with yourself to come up with ideas. One technique people frequently use is to take two nouns and stick them together. ScreenPhone? TreeTower? ChimneyTent? Could these be viable business ideas?
  • If you're having difficulties coming up with an idea, take a break. Go for a walk, watch television or browse the internet. The great thing about this stage of starting a business is everything you do could provide you with inspiration - so you're constantly working.
  • While creativity and optimism are great at this stage, make sure you know your limits. If you trained as an accountant, developing an interest in arborology is good but you won't be able to run a business as a tree surgeon after you've read one book about it. Take into account your experience and qualifications - and if you're really enthusiastic about your idea, get some training.
  • Come up with a goal for yourself and work backwards from that. What do you want to achieve with your business? Do you want to make money, or spend more time with your  children? What businesses will help you achieve that goal fastest?

50 places to find inspiration

  1. Social media - people are forever complaining about life's problems on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube...
  2. Read magazines
  3. Read newspapers
  4. Improve on other people's ideas
  5. Go for a long drive
  6. Read catalogues - Lakeland, Ikea, Matalan and Argos all have the potential to be deeply inspiring
  7. Go to the supermarket and browse the shelves
  8. Read ideas blogs such as Springwise
  9. Listen to Radio 4 - it always has programmes about unusual businesses or pursuits
  10. Go to the toilet!
  11. Speak to children
  12. Get your pens and paper out and draw a mind map
  13. Have a conversation with a stranger
  14. Go on an unusual journey or use a bus or train you wouldn't usually use
  15. Visit a museum
  16. Read the user comments on a blog post or online newspaper article
  17. Switch off your computer and just think
  18. Go to a demonstration
  19. Visit your local library
  20. The British Library Business & IP Centre contains hundreds of case studies
  21. Watch television
  22. Get lost in Google - read blogs and look at pictures and follow long, random link paths
  23. Get lost on Flickr
  24. Read comic books
  25. Read or watch sci-fi - did you know the inventor of the phone card was inspired by Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey?
  26. Visit another city on Google's Street View - do they have anything we don't?
  27. Trigger memories by reading old letters and emails
  28. Create a discussion group on an internet forums
  29. Attend networking events
  30. Open a dictionary or thesaurus at a random page
  31. Visit tourist attractions in your own city
  32. Go to a trade show or exhibition
  33. Go to a seminar
  34. Take an evening course
  35. Set limits - try to come up with an idea which doesn't use artificial products, create a carbon footprint or use orange dye. You'll be surprised how creative it makes you
  36. Go to a flea market
  37. Go to a car boot sale
  38. Contact old friends and family you've lost touch with
  39. Combine weird ingredients - chilli chocolate may have seemed strange two years ago, but it's popular now
  40. Go through old photographs
  41. Watch a play
  42. Visit a university's website or even take a walk around its campus. What are the students there talking about?
  43. Learn a new skill
  44. Do some volunteer work - what would make a charity worker's life easier?
  45. Wander around a city at night (safely, of course!)
  46. Go on holiday
  47. Collect something
  48. Perform a random search on Wikipedia
  49. Make a list of things you use every day and think about how you could improve on them
  50. See what the kids are saying at urban dictionary

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Productivity is a measure of output over time. All other things being equal, the more you produce per minute, the more productive you are. And economists understand that wealth (for a company or a community) is based on increasing productivity.

The simplest way to boost productivity is to get better at the task that has been assigned to you. To work harder, and with more skill.

The next step up is to find people who are cheaper than you to do those assigned tasks. The theory of the firm is that people working together can get more done, faster.

The next step up is to invest in existing technology that can boost your team's output. Buying a copier will significantly increase your output if you’re used to handwriting each copy of the memo you've been assigned.

The step after that? Invent a new technology. Huge leaps in value creation come to those that find the next innovation.

The final step, the one that that eludes so many of us: Figure out better things to work on.Make your own list, don't merely react to someone else's.

It turns out that the most productive thing we can do is to stop working on someone else’s task list and figure out a more useful contribution instead. This is what separates great organizations from good ones, and extraordinary careers from frustrated ones.

The challenge is that the final step requires a short-term hit to your productivity. But, if you fail to invest the time and effort to find a better path, it's unlikely you'll find one.

 

 

Are you satisfied with your life? Do you go to work knowing you could do better?

Knowing there are unique talents in you that could make you great, the best in the world?

This post is about achieving mastery. But also why it’s ok to not get mastery in the traditional sense. You can define it, not use the definitions provided by everyone else.

In other words, it’s fine to be a loser.

There are a lot of books written on this topic. If you want to read an entire book on it, read Robert Greene’s “Mastery” (or watch my podcast with him). There’s also “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell.

But it’s not that hard. It doesn’t take a book to describe what makes a master. For one thing, most of us, and I mean me, will not be masters at anything.

I try. I tried with chess. I hit the rank of “master” but that doesn’t mean anything. I’ll never be world class at it. I’ve tried with writing. I’ve been writing for twenty or so years.

But I’ve known a lot of people who are among the best in the world in their field. I’ve read all the books. I’ve talked to all the people and dissected what they thought led them to their mastery.

I’ve built and sold businesses to people who were masters of their fields in every industry. I’ve invested in people who were masters in their fields.

So I’ve at least recognized who were masters and what they did.

Take this then with a grain of salt but based on my experience and the experiences of all the people I’ve interacted with.

Here are the elements of mastery. I also have some good news and bad news.

  1. A) TALENT.

I hate to say it, but talent is a factor.

There’s a myth that everyone is talented at at least one thing and you just have to find it.

This isn’t true.

Most people are not talented at anything. Most people can be pretty good at something. For instance, Tim Ferris shows in “The Four Hour Chef” how you can be a pretty good chef with four hours worth of work.

I’ve tried his techniques and in four hours I made some pretty good dishes. Thank you, Tim. But at the launch of Tim’s book he held a dinner where each course (I think there were eight of them) was cooked by a different chef.

One of the chefs was (approximately) eight years old and his dish might’ve been the best served. That kid will be a master one day if he isn’t already. That’s talent.

When my chess ranking was peaking back in 1997 I played in a tournament against a girl fittingly named Irina Krush.

She really did crush me in about 25 moves. After the game she told me, “May be your bishop to B4 move felt a little weak to me.” She was right.

She was 13 years old. I stopped playing chess in tournaments right that moment and now only play when I’m on the phone with people. She had talent. She’s now one of the youngest women grandmasters in the world.

  1. B) HOW DO YOU FINDwhat you are talented at? I think there are roughly two methods.
  2. i) Take out a pad.

List everything you enjoyed doing from the ages of six to eighteen, before your life was ruled by college, relationships, crappy jobs, mortgages, kids, responsibilities, self-loathing, etc.

I was talking to Lewis Howes on my podcast. He mentioned he always wanted to be an athlete since he was a little kid.

He also mentioned that he used networking skills to help himself out even at an early age in order to deal with what seemed like poor academic skills. He found his two talents and became masters at both.

Often, it’s a combination of sub-talents that make you uniquely a master in that one field.

For me, I don’t know if I will master anything, but since I was a kid I loved writing, games, and anything to do with business. Maybe one day.

  1. ii) Go to the bookstore.

Find a topic you would be willing to read 500 books on. If you can’t wait to read all 500 books in the knitting section then you probably have a talent at knitting.

Note that it is really ok to not be talented at anything. We weren’t put on this Earth to be talented at knitting.

Do you know why we were put in this Earth? I hope you know, because then you could tell me. But chances are there really isn’t any reason.

We ultimately are a combination of all of our experiences, all of the things we are interested in, all of the things we flirt with. And that combination might look like garbage to everyone else.

So play with your garbage and be happy. If you can do that, you’re in the top 0.00001%.

  1. C) FOUR HOURS A DAY.

It’s not mystery Tim Ferriss’s books all start with “The Four Hour…” I ask almost every master I encounter, in every field, how much time per day do they spend mastering their field.

They did not give the standard Silicon Valley BS Entrepreneur answer: “I work 20 hours a day and if I didn’t need to sleep I’d work 30 hours a day”.

You can’t get good at something if you are working 20 hours a day. In fact, something is very wrong in your life if that is how much you are working at ONE thing.

The typical answer is: “I study four hours a day”. Anatoly Karpov, former World Chess Chamption, said the maximum he would study chess is three hours a day. That’s a guy who was a world champion.

Then, when he wasn’t in tournaments, he’d spend the rest of the day exercising, studying languages, doing other things to balance out his life.

  1. D) HISTORY.

In any area of life you want to succeed at, you have to study the history.

All art is created in context. If someone wrote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony right now it would be laughed at. It wouldn’t fit the current context of music, even though it would be a work of genius.

Andy Warhol tried many different areas of art before he decided that painting Campbell’s Soup Cans were the right art for the right moment in time.

In any sport, studying the history of how previous world champions played and trained is critical towards figuring how you can improve on that training and playing.

In any business, studying the history of that industry, the biographies of the prior executives, the successes and failures of those who went before you, is critical for mastering that business.

For example, I had Greg Zuckerman on the podcast talking about the current resurgence in oil drilling in the US. Everyone thought the US was out of oil back in the 1970s.

Well, now the fastest growing city in the United States is Williston, North Dakota and the US will probably be a net energy exporter by 2020. This is not a political opinion on fracking. It’s just reality what is happening now.

If I were remotely interested in fracking I’d study where all the oil was drilled back in the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s. How the first wildcatters found their wells. What technologies were used. What’s the history of the technology. How were improvements made. What’s the history of the geopolitics around oil drilling. And so on. Somewhere in there there is a path to getting incredibly wealthy. Not for me, because I could care less about oil. But for someone. Or many.

  1. E) STUDY YOUR FAILURES.

I was talking poker champ Ylon Schwartz. He’s won over $7mm in tournament winnings and untold millions in informal cash games. We grew up together playing chess until he made the switch first to backgammon and then poker.

I asked him why a lot of people play poker for 20 years but never get better. What’s the story?

He said, “everyone wants to blame someone. They want to blame bad luck. Or they had a fight with their wife. Or something. But the key is you have to study your failures. You have to take notes about your losing hands and even your winning hands. You have to think about everything.”

We spoke about another friend of ours who went from homeless to millionaire in six months once he found that he had a knack for backgammon.

His name was Falafel because at the time that was all he could afford to eat.

Ylon told me, “Falafel memorized every statistic about backgammon. Right now on the web you can see that his tournament games are ranked #1 in terms of how accurately they mimic a computer. Falafel also studied every single game he lost.”

I used to play Falafel every day in chess. He’d sleep on the ground in Washington Square Park and get up in the morning with dirt and leaves in his hair and we’d play chess for fifty cents a game. Now million dollar bankrolls from backgammon are normal for him.

  1. F) EXPERIENCE.

At some point you have to cook 10,000 meals. Or play a million hands of poker. Or 1000s of games of chess. Or start 20 businesses.

Very few are successful right away. That would require too much luck and luck favors the prepared and the persistent.

In those 1000s of whatever you will encounter much failure. We all know that the best baseball players in the world are enormous successes if they strike out “only” 70% of the time.

When my dad died I went to his house and logged onto this chess account. I saw that he played about 30,000 games. He never got any better.

A lot of people can play the 10,000 hands of poker and never get better. Or bake 1000 cakes and never get better.

You have to remember your experiences, study your failures, try to note what you did right and what you did wrong, and remember them for future experiences.

Will future experiences be exactly like the old experiences? Almost never.

But you have to have the ability to say “Hmm, this is like the time four years ago when X, Y, and Z happened.”

  1. G) PATTERN RECOGNITION

Being able to recognize when current circumstances are like an experience you had in the past or an experience SOMEONE ELSE you’ve studied had in the past is critical to mastery.

Pattern recognition and mastery is a combination of all of the above: study + history + experience + talent + a new thing…Love.

  1. H) LOVE

Andre Agassi famously says he doesn’t love tennis. I believe this and I don’t believe it. We all know that there are all kinds of love. There’s unconditional love, which is very hard. The Dalai Lama can have unconditional love.

Then there’s lust. You look at someone and she is the Oomph to your Ugh. She is the BAM! to you BOOM! You dream and daydream and dream and daydream until the love is all worn out and six months or six years later it’s over and you move on.

Then there’s love that matures. There’s a set of things you like about a person, even love. Mix that in with some lust. Then this love mashup changes over time.

Or you learn to adapt because you know that a maturing love is not one where you settle or explore the subtleties inside the other person but you are finally able to explore the subtletites inside of yourself.

And sometimes you just fall out of love. There is no shame in this. Do what your heart tells you to do.

Some relationships are weird combinations of all of the above. They are tumultuous. There is much pain and much pleasure. Perhaps tennis was like that for Agassi. I can’t speak for him.

But to become a master at anything there will be much pain. And it can’t be avoided. Nobody has avoided it.

If something is too much pain, then it’s not the worst thing in the world to give up. I don’t like dental surgery. It’s too much pain for me. So my teeth are messed up a bit. I give up on having perfect teeth.

  1. I) PSYCHOLOGY.

One reason most people in the world don’t get really good at anything is because they have no talent for anything that anyone cares about.

Another reason is they don’t want to put in the work. I understand this.

Often it’s better to be social and have friends and strong family relationships and love people.

Many people who have mastered something often have a hard time with their relationships with family members or spouses or friends. Van Gogh cut off his ear. Dostoevsky, Kafka, Bobby Fischer, Godel, were never known for their social skills and often were faced with depression, suicidal tendencies or borderline schizophrenia.

When you have a career, there’s this idea that you will go from success to success. You start in the cubicle, then you get an office, then a corner office, then you move horizontally into a CEO position at another company, and so on.

You might have some failures along the way but they won’t be big failures.

With mastery the one thing in common is that there are ALWAYS big failures.

With poker champ Ylon Schwartz, the day before he left for Las Vegas in 2008 where he won over $3 million I was with him, providing support for him in a court case. He had a court appointed attorney because he was dead broke and in debt.

He asked me that day, “I have to get on a plane for Las Vegas tomorrow and when I get back I could go to jail. How am I going to get through this?”

I didn’t have an answer for him other than the usual cliches. But he got on that plane. And every day he went higher and higher in chips. And he won $3.7 million in that tournament and hasn’t looked back.

A lot of people in the investing world don’t like Tim Sykes. He has a very arrogant marketing style. He’s a friend of mine and I can tell you he’s not that arrogant. He’s extremely humble. The reason he’s so humble is that he’s gone broke several times since his first success.

It’s no fun going broke. I’ve gone broke several times. You never go broke and think, “Well, it didn’t work this time, but it will work next time.”

You go broke and you think, “That was the worst experience in my life and I’d be better off dead. That was my last chance. It’s all over for me now. I’d rather be dead than go through this pain I’m feeling right now. And everyone around me would be better off if I were dead.”

That’s what you think.

And when Tim was making one of his comebacks, nobody would speak to him. I had him on some videos with the company I was working with but ultimately they banned him.

So he chose himself. He did all of the above. I’ve since looked at his audited track record and seen that he’s made millions from trading. I know 1000s of daytraders. 1000s. I know one successful daytrader and that’s Tim.

On the path to Mastery , everything will go wrong.

As Robert Greene points out in his book, “Mastery”, Napoleon got banished to Elba where he supposedly said his famous palindrome (somehow speaking English for the first and only time in his life) “Able was I ere I saw Elba”

Every master has his Elba. Banished to an island where the life you once knew no longer exists and it seems like there is no way to escape.

Napoleon escaped because he was the best in the world at what he does.

Because he had the psychology, or perhaps the blind spot, to not recognize that this was “it”, his final destination. Studying how he came back to power is a great example of psychology mixed with all of the above skills in becoming a master.

Tim went from millions to broke to trading out of his parent’s basement to millions again and this time he’s not going to fall back.

Bobby Fischer spent much of his life in borderline schizophrenic agony when he couldn’t deal with his losses. He’d disappear for years at a time but then come back stronger than ever.

How do you build that psychology? I don’t know. It’s a combination of many things:

– Ego. A real belief that you can be the best, against all possible rational evidence against this. Against everyone trashing you simultaneously.

– No way out. I asked Ylon, Lewis, and many others what were they thinking at rock bottom and the answer almost always was: “What else could I do with my life? I had to keep going!”

  1. J) PERSISTENCE.

Add up all of the above and you get persistence. Persistence creates luck.

Persistence overcomes failure. Persistence gets you experience. Persistence is a sentence of failures punctuated by the briefest of successes, and eventually those successes will start to propel you towards mastery.

Not one success or two. But many many many.

How do you get persistent when life is filled with changing careers, relationships, responsibilities, economic crashes, historical upswings, and so many things that can get in your way.

There’s no answer at all. That’s why it’s called persistence. Because no matter where you are, there you are, doing what you always did. Not letting any of the above stop you. Using all of the above in your Mastery Arsenal to propel you to higher successes and deeper failures and then even higher successes.

It’s painful and brutal and no fun and nobody will ever understand why. And when you achieve success people will act as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to have happened to you.

And you try to explain, “No, there was this one time…” but they don’t want to hear it. They want to know what their next move should be so they can be where you are.

There’s no next move. There’s only your next move.

  1. K) MYSTERY

Ultimately, Mastery = Mystery. You’re going to break the sound barrier on some field that nobody has ever gone that fast or that far. You’re going to find your own unique combination of passions that make you the best in the world at that combination.

What if nobody cares? That’s ok also. You care.

What if you never go for the mystery. What if you settle back into the known, the comfortable, the stree-free existence of your peers and colleagues and everyone you ever knew.

The world might not allow it. What you thought was comfortable might’ve been a myth also.

So you can only do this:

Ask: what can I do right now to move forward. Only this second. Having a goal in the distant future is almost a damnation of this moment in time. An insult.

We can’t predict the future. And the history of mastery shows that nobody was able to predict which goals would work and which wouldn’t.

Only this moment matters. Health-wise: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Can you move forward today in each?

Then you will attract the mastery and the mystery.

—-

THE GOOD NEWS:

You don’t have to be the master of the world. You don’t have to do any of the above.

Very few people do. And many of them experienced much hardship and pain along the way. And will continue to experience that hardship.

We live in a culture where it’s almost a damnation to be considered mediocre. But society has no clue about what real mastery is. Don’t listen to any of the “Top 10 things…” articles. Don’t listen to anyone. Not even me.

Freud has said that our two goals in life are human connection and achievement.

But often it’s a reasonable goal to overcome these evolutionary inclinations.

To be happy with your loved ones. To be satisfied for every gift in your life, for every moment, not rushing to the next moment of mastery. True mastery can be found right here, right now.

Choosing yourself right now in how you treat yourself, how you treat the people around you, how you treat your efforts and your loves.

Nothing is more important than this. Nothing compounds into greater happiness in life more than this.

Because when you rush to get to a mythical THERE, one day you will arrive and realize you missed all of the pleasures and mysteries along the way.

 

I first met Noah Kagan over rain and strong espressos at Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View, CA. It was 2007. We were both in hoodies, had a shared penchant for the F-bomb and burritos, all of which led to a caffeine-infused mindmeld.

It would be the first of many.

The matchmaker then introducing us was the prophetic and profane Dave McClure, General Partner of 500 Start-ups, which is now headquartered just down the street from Red Rock.

Mr. Noah has quite the start-up resume.

He was employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, had previously worked for Intel (where he frequently took naps under his desk), and had turned down a six-figure offer from Yahoo. Since we first met, Noah’s helped create Gambit, an online gaming payment platform and a multi-million dollar business; and AppSumo, loved by entrepreneurs and moms everywhere. He also helped pour fire on both the 4-Hour Workweek and 4-Hour Body launches.

The purpose of this post is simple: to teach you how to get a $1,000,000 business idea off the ground in one weekend, full of specific tools and tricks that Noah has used himself.

He will be your guide…

Enter Noah

For some reason, people love to make excuses about why they haven’t created their dream business or even gotten started. This is the “wantrepreneur” epidemic, where people prevent themselves from ever actually doing the side-project they always talk about over beers. The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time building the foundation for a successful business. In most cases, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple days.

We made the original product for Gambit in a weekend. “WTF?!” Yes, a weekend. In just 48 hours, some friends and I created a simple product that grew to a $1,000,000+ business within a year.

Same deal for AppSumo. We were able to build the core product in one weekend, using an outsourced team in Pakistan, for a grand total of $60.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not opposed to you trying to build a world-changing product that requires months of fine-tuning. All I’m going to suggest is that you start with a much simpler essence of your product over the course of a weekend, rather than wasting time building something for weeks… only to discover no one wants it.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yes, Noah, you are SO amazing (and handsome), but what can I do this weekend to start my own success story?”

Here are the steps you can take right now to get started on your million dollar company:

Step 1: Find your (profitable) idea.

At this stage, you are simply looking for something that people are willing to spend money on. So grab a seat and write down a list of ideas that you think might be profitable. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, try using the methods below to speed the research process along:

Review top sellers on Amazon. Find products that already have guaranteed customers, then build something complementary. A good example of this isDodo making a gorgeous $60 case to buy for your iPad (which costs over $500, and over 5 million sold).

Think of all the things you do on a daily basis. Anything done more than once has potential for a product or service to improve the process. For me, one of those products was a mirror I could hang in the shower. It saves me tons of time while shaving, and now I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Be cognizant of products you use and frequently complain about. Before Gambit, we were constantly asking our payment tool partners for certain features, yet our requests were always rejected. That was the impetus for us to create Gambit for our own games.

Check completed listings on eBay. This allows you to see how well certain products are selling. It’s also an easy way to measure sale prices of items and gauge the overall percentage of the market that’s receiving bids (i.e. in demand).

Look for frequent requests on Craigslist gigs. These listings are from people actively searching for someone to give their money to in exchange for particular services. Try searching for certain keywords (e.g. marketing, computers, health) and keep track of the total number of results displayed. Evaluate the most popular keywords and see if you can create a product or service around those requests.

Step 2: Find $1,000,000 worth of customers.

Now that you’ve found an idea, it’s time to assess whether there’s a big enough pool of prospective buyers. In this step, you’ll also want to ensure your market isn’t shrinking, and that it fares well compared to similar markets.

I use Google TrendsGoogle Insights, and Facebook ads when I’m in this part of the process. They’re great tools that help me evaluate the growth potential of my target market.

For example, let’s say you decide to build information products for owners of Chihuahuas (remember “Yo quiero Taco Bell”?). Here’s how I would check to see if there are enough customers:

  1. Search Google Trends for the term “chihuahua” and other similar words (e.g. poodle, dogs)for comparison:

(Click image to expand)

We can see that the word “chihuahua” has a decent search volume (relative to “dogs”), and that “poodle” isn’t as popular. It also looks like the number of searches for “chihuahua” has been relatively stable for the last few years.

  1. Double-check onGoogle insights:

Google Insights is great, because it breaks down the search data by location (i.e. what regions the searches are coming from), by date, and what they’re searching for (news, images, products). Click here to see the full report for the above chart.

  1. Look at the total number of people available on Facebook for dogs:

3.1 million. Not bad, not bad.

And for Chihuahuas:

84,260 people. Score.

You can also see if there is a large property that you can piggyback on.

Paypal did this with eBay, AirBnb is doing it with Craigslist home listings, and AppSumolooks to the 100 million LinkedIn users. If you can find a comparable site with a large number of potential customers, you’ll be in good shape.

What helped me with finding $1,000,000 worth of customers for AppSumo was studying my successful competitors; specifically, Macheist. Their site did a Mac-only deal that generated more than $800,000. Macheist shares their sales revenue publicly, but you can use your own business acumen on the CrunchBase list to see which business you want to replicate. For instance, you might research Airbnb.com, discover that they have a profitable and growing marketplace, then decide to create a similar service for alternative verticals.

I like to create a Google Spreadsheet of the key numbers for my competitors’ businesses. Below is an example of what that might look like for Macheist in their Mac bundles. [Warning to the haters: This may not be accurate, but I used these numbers just to get a rough idea of the business’ potential.]

Step 3: Assess your customer’s value.

Once you’ve found your idea and a big pool of potential customers, you’ll need to calculate the value of those customers. For our example above, we’ll need to estimate how much a Chihuahua owner (i.e. our customer) is worth to us. This will help us determine the likelihood of them actually buying our product, and will also help with pricing. Here’s how we do that:

  1. Find out how much it costs, on average, to buy a Chihuahua (about $650). This is the base cost.
  2. See how much it costs to maintain a Chihuahua each year (i.e. recurring costs). Looks like it’sbetween $500-3,000. For this example, we’ll call it $1,000.
  3. Look up their life expectancy, which isroughly 15 years. This is the number of times they’ll have to pay those recurring costs.

Therefore, a Chihuahua’s average total cost of ownership is:

[$650 + ($1,000*15)] = $15,650

Damn… you could buy a lot of burritos with that kind of cash. Silly dog owners.

In any case, these owners are already committing to spend a LOT of money on their dogs (i.e. they are valuable). After putting down $650 on the dog itself and an average of $80/month on maintenance (a.k.a. food), spending $50 on an information product that could help them train their Chihuahua–or save money, or create a better relationship between them, etc.–does not seem unreasonable. Of course, the product doesn’t have to cost $50, but we now have some perspective for later deciding on a price.

Now we need to utilize the TAM formula (a.k.a. Total Available Market formula), which will help us see our product’s potential to generate a million dollars.

Here’s the TAM formula for estimating your idea’s potential:

(Number of available customers) x (Value of each customer) = TAM

If TAM > $1,000,000, then you can start your business.

Let’s plug in some basic numbers to see the TAM for our Chihuahua information product:

(84,260 available customers) x ($50 information product) = $4,213,000

We have a winner!

Okay, obviously you are not going to reach 100% market penetration, but consider the following…

  1. This is only through Facebook traffic.
  2. This does not include the 5,000,000 monthly searches for “Chihuahua” on Google:
  3. This is only for one breed of dog. If you find success with Chihuahuas, you can easily repeat the process many times with other dog breeds.
  4. This is only for one product. It’s far easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire new ones, so once we’ve built up a decent customer base, we can make even more products to sell to them.

By all measures, it appears that we have a million dollar idea on our hands. Now we can move on to the final step!

Step 4: Validate your idea.

By now, you have successfully verified that your idea has that special million-dollar-potential. Feels good, right? Well, brace yourself — it’s time to test whether people will actually spend money on your product. In other words, is it truly commercially viable?

This step is critical. A lot of your ideas will seem great in theory, but you’ll never know if they’re going to work until you actually test your target market’s willingness to pay.

For instance, I believed AppSumo’s model would work just on gut-feeling alone, but I wasn’t 100% convinced people wanted to buy digital goods on a time-limited basis. I mean, how often do people find themselves needing a productivity tool (compared with, for instance, how often they need to eat)?

I decided to validate AppSumo’s model by finding a guaranteed product I could sell, one with its own traffic source (i.e. customers).

Because I’m a frequent Redditor and I knew they had an affordable advertising system(in addition to 3 million+ monthly users), I wanted to find a digital good that I could advertise on their site. I noticed Imgur.com was the most popular tool on Reddit for sharing images, and they offered a paid pro account option ($25/year). It was the perfect fit for my test run.

I cold-emailed the founder of Imgur, Alan Schaaf, and said that I wanted to bring him paying customers and would pay Imgur for each one. Alan is a great guy, and the idea of getting paid to receive more customers was not a tough sell 🙂 The stage was set!

Before we started the ad campaign, I set a personal validation goal for 100 sales, which would encourage me to keep going or figure out what was wrong with our model. I decided on “100” after looking at my time value of money. If I could arrange a deal in two hours (find, secure, and launch), I wanted to have a return of at least $300 for those two hours of work. 100 sales ($3 commission per sale) was that amount.

By the end of the campaign, we had sold more than 200 Imgur pro accounts. AppSumo.com was born.

I share this story because it illustrates an important point: You need to make small calculated bets on your ideas in order to validate them. Validation is absolutely essential for saving time and money, which will ultimately allow you to test as many of your ideas as possible.

Here are a couple methods for rapidly validating whether people will buy your product or not:

Drive traffic to a basic sales page. This is the method Tim advocates in The 4-Hour Workweek. All you need to do is set up a sales page using Unbounce orWordPress, create a few ads to run on Google and/or Facebook, then evaluate your conversion rate for ad-clicks and collecting email addresses. This is how we launched Mint.com (see one of our original sales pages here). You are not looking for people to buy; you are simply gauging interest and gathering data.

[Note: With Facebook advertising, $100 can get you roughly 100,000 people viewing your ad, and about 80 people visiting your site and potentially giving you their email addresses.]

Email 10 people you know who would want your pseudo-product, then ask them to send payment via Paypal. This might sound a bit crazy, but you’re doing it to see what the overall response is like. If a few of them send payment, great! You now have validation and can build the product (or you can refund your friends and buy them all tacos for playing along). If they don’t bite, figure out why they don’t want your product. Again, the goal is to get validation for your product, not to rip off your friends.

Of course, there are other techniques for validating your product (like Stephen Keyleaving his guitar pick designs in a convenience store to see if people would try to buy them). However, I’ve found these two methods to be super efficient and effective for validating ideas online.

No need to get fancy if it does the trick.

The Final Frontier: Killing Your Inner Wantrepreneur

We made it! You officially have a $1,000,000 idea on your hands and you know for a fact that people are willing to pay for it. Now you can get started on actually building the product, creating your business, and freeing yourself from the rat race!

I can just see it… You’re all nodding and thinking, “Hey, this Noah guy is pretty snazzy!” (Sorry ladies, I’m taken.)

So, what now?

– You are inspired. Check.
– You want to do something. Check.
– You get a link to a funny YouTube video, then you open up Reddit. Check.
– Suddenly, everything you thought you were going to do goes down the drain. Check.
– You and I softly weep. Check.

I want to challenge you! Whoever generates the most profit (not just revenue) within 14 days of this article will win some fantastic goodies. First, here are the basic rules and the process:

– Contest void where prohibited.
– The business/product must be new. This means either a landing page created from scratch using Unbounce or WordPress above.
– Results and proof of some type must be submitted as a comment below no later than 1am PST Saturday on October 8, 2011. Don’t cut it too close; if a timezone misjudgment knocks you out, we can’t make exceptions.
– Put your 14-day profit number (or increase) in the FIRST line of your comment.
– Ultimately, verifiable proof with lower number beats unverifiable proof with higher number.

[NOTE: THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED. Still need help starting a business? Check out AppSumo’s “How to Make your First Dollar” course.]

The prizes:

– $1,000 credit from AppSumo.com
– Roundtrip flights to Austin, Texas to have the most delicious tacos in the world with Noah Kagan, CEO of AppSumo. Sorry, but we can only cover flights within the USA. If you want to hoof it to the US, we can then pick up from there.
– Above all: your $1,000,000 business, of course!

Don’t let this post become another feather in your Wantrepreneurship cap. Just follow the steps and start working towards your $1,000,000 business! Remember, you can start laying the foundation for your product without building anything.

All you need is one weekend.

 

didn’t have any money so couldn’t start a business. And even if I started one, I didn’t have an office, or clients, and I was too shy to cold-call clients. I didn’t have connections or rich parents or anything for that matter.

I didn’t have talent. I just got lucky. Nobody will hire me. I don’t have the right equipment. I couldn’t write a book because I had no publisher. I couldn’t do stand-up because I was afraid people would heckle me. I’m afraid to write a blog post often because what would people think?

All of my excuses turned out to be blessings in disguise. There’s always a gap between “what I have now” and “what I would like.”

The gap is all of your excuses. All it takes to close the gap is to be creative and work your way through the excuses. I repeat: this is ALL IT TAKES.

Your excuses are simply the roadmap that takes you from “here” to “there”. Good luck on your travels.

Below are some types of excuses that I’ve had in the past and still have. You should make your own list. Please put whatever common excuses I miss in the comments.

It’s very exciting to see because excuses are pointers to where the target is. There are no other pointers other than your list of excuses. The excuses are the map to success and fulfillment. It’s fun to take a blank piece of paper and draw out the map. Put roads, mountains, buildings, rivers, obstacles, and destinations in there.

I Don’t Have Money

When I started my first business, called Reset, I had no money in the bank at all. And I had a very low salary at HBO. Oh, and I had a full-time job.

It was brutal. I had to get very creative about finding computers to use and reaching out to friends and family to tell them what my skill set was and what sorts of clients would be great for me (Answer: anyone who needed anything, I would help for a fee).

So my solution was to make sure everyone knew what my skills were and why they were needed.

Then I carved out time (weekends, nights, days when I could hide) to do the work for clients until I was ready to jump to full-time entrepreneur (by that point there were almost 10 employees).

I Don’t Have Equipment

I met a friend of mine yesterday. We spoke about people doing YouTube videos who are making a living from all the views and advertising they generate.

“I’d do it but I don’t have the right camera.”

I said to him, “You want to borrow my phone? Because any phone in the world has a camera a thousand times better than what you need for YouTube.”

I asked him what else was getting in the way.

“There’s always a good reason and the real reason,” I told him. “You just gave me a bullshit good reason. What do you think the real reason is?”

And he thought about it and told me. “Laziness.” I get that. I’m lazy also.

“So take your phone camera. And practice executing. Pick an easy video to do. Go to the 42nd Street subway and videotape the guys playing underground there and upload it. Just get into the rhythm of making a video and uploading it. Then, write down ideas every day about more and more fun videos you can do. It’s a quantity game.”

Will he do it? I don’t know. We love our excuses. They are just as much our babies as our ideas are.

I Don’t Have Time

Let’s say you are a single mother with three kids and a full-time job. You might not have time to write “Harry Potter.”

It’s really harsh. But you find the time. You stop TV. Or skip a meal (nobody in America will ever starve by skipping a meal, I will put my medical seal of approval on that statement. Because although I do not have a medical degree, I play a doctor on Facebook).

The magic of excuses is that there is always a way to be creative around them. The excuses are the map to your success. We all have obstacles.

You can view the obstacle as an opportunity to grow or as an obstacle to stop.

The good news is you get to choose.

I’m Not Good Enough

I need one more year to get better, to learn how to code, to learn financial stuff, to learn…and the excuses go on. I can’t start a company until….

Everyone in every field in the history of the world has at one point said “I’m not good enough.”

It’s how you overcome that excuse that not only makes you good enough, but matures you into the person who knows how to get good enough. So you can do it again and again.

I Don’t Have A Degree

I get emails every day. “I’d like to work at Google but I don’t have degree.” Or, “I’d like to be a success but I don’t have an MBA.”

And it’s not just degrees. I get emails from people who think they need yoga teacher certification. Or a medical degree (you can be a healer without writing prescriptions). Or any flimsy piece of paper that ultimately is no indicator of value.

Google’s HR person even just announced that GPAs in school are a waste to look at. And that more and more of their hires have no college degrees at all!

The world is changing and you have to grasp it now.

It used to be that a stranger knew he could cooperate with you if you had that stupid piece of paper.

But now there are many ways you can show you can deliver value even without that paper.

Come up with 10 ideas how you can escape the trap of the degree and demonstrate you still have value. Ideas for the company you want to work for, or the person you want to work with. Or just go get a camera and start making movies without a film degree.

When Andy Samberg was starting at Saturday Night Live he didn’t just huddle in the writer’s room with everyone else and try to come up with jokes. Too much competition!

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He took a camera, with his buddies Jorm and Akiva, and went out and shot “Lazy Sunday,” which was the first YouTube video to get over 100,000,000 views and became his first SNL Digital Short.

He didn’t wait to rise through the ranks and hopefully get a joke or a sketch produced. He went out and produced it himself.

Before Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” rap song got a billion views on YouTube he turned down every record label. He realized he didn’t need them. Didn’t need the validation they have provided for over 60 years to generations of artists.

The distribution is here to reach the world no matter what your field is.

You validate yourself now through your work.

I’m Not In The Right Location

I moved from Pittsburgh to New York because I thought it would put me closer to the publishing industry. Some people move to Silicon Valley to get funding for their startup. I had one friend who felt she needed to live in Paris before she could paint.

I know many people who think they need to own a home before they could really have “roots” and start creating.

All of these are good reasons but not the real reasons.

The only thing that will get people to see your work is not where you live but if you actually do the work.

When I built Stockpickr.com I spent less than $5,000 and probably never left my basement, 80 miles north of NYC.

I was afraid all the time. It was the 10th website I was trying to launch and the previous nine failed.

I had no idea if it would be good or bad. But it took off and in the second month had almost a million visitors and then kept growing until I sold it to thestreet.com just five months later.

It kept breaking down (I couldn’t afford good programmers), one employee working on it quit (I couldn’t pay him), and I realized too late that it had three or four decent competitors.

That’s okay. I also loved doing it and I wanted to create what would be the ideal site for someone like me interested in finance. So it worked. No matter that I was in a dark basement the entire time with no money and nobody to make me laugh.

And guess what the fastest-growing city in the U.S. is. Williston, North Dakota.

I Don’t Have The Right Network 

I am a bad cold caller. With my first business, Reset, I cold-called a bank and asked them if I could do their website. My only “in”: I said I had a checking account there. They laughed and told me to call them back in a few years. A few years! I had payroll to make!

Lewis Howes described to me on my podcast how he would make all of these LinkedIn connections and then invite them all out to open-bar parties where they could network.

He created his network by introducing everyone else to each other. He was simply that guy in the middle. You want to be “that guy.”

You get a network by:

  • Introducing people to others who can provide value for them. Make sure it’s “permission networking” (you get permission from both sides first. Else you are a burden and not a help).
  • Introducing people to ideas without any expectation back. This means you have to get good at coming up with ideas.
  • Finding a connection in between you and the other person. A connection they might value. In Lewis’s case he contacted many former athletes. Sometimes people use their hometowns or schools. Sometimes people use mutual friends, etc.

Building a network from scratch requires three to four hours a day of work. What if you have a job?

Well, build your network at work. The way to do this: ask to lunch the secretaries of people in different divisions. Come up with ideas for the heads of different divisions. Do one thing a day to help someone in your work group that you didn’t have to reach out to.

Networks build exponentially and not linearly. Once one person is in your network, one single person, then everyone in their network is potentially in yours. Make use of that.

“I don’t have a network” is a beautiful excuse because it means that if you overcome this excuse you are going to meet many amazing friends who you will know and love throughout your career. I know this because my “network” has changed 100% in the past five years, starting from total scratch.

Every day I bow down to how powerful this one excuse was to motivate me into making such great and wonderful new friends.

It’s Too Crazy

Rodney Dangerfield was an aluminum siding salesman. But he wanted to return to his old career as a standup comedian. I think he was about 50 years old. Maybe older. It was crazy for him to think he could be a success. I don’t know what was going through his head.

But whatever it was, he did the smart thing. He opened up his own comedy club: Dangerfield’s. It became the most popular comedy club in NYC and many famous comedians got their starts there (e.g. Jim Carrey).

But who would deny him if he wanted to go on stage there? And it was there that he developed his craft more and more until he was basically the ugliest most obscene movie star ever.

As an aside: I once asked Dangerfield what was the craziest thing that ever happened to him at three in the morning. Without missing a beat he said, “her husband came home!”

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A.J. Jacobs wants to create the world’s largest family reunion. That’s crazy! Over 4,000 people. But every day he takes tiny steps closer. (For one thing, we found out through DNA testing that we are cousins, as is his wife!). He also found a venue. A publisher is going to publish a book about it. He’s getting sponsors. Every day, new answers to the “That’s Crazy!” excuse.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer had a tenure-track position at a college. He was in his late 30s. He was set for life. Instead, he quit, loaded up the back of his car with a self-help book he wrote, and drove across the country leaving his books at every bookstore. Everyone he knew thought he was crazy. He sold over 100,000,000 copies of that book, Your Erroneous Zones.

Many things might be too crazy. But I’ve been in business now for 20 years. I have helped over 300 companies get financed. I’ve started and sold (and gone broke too many times) many companies. I have seen the craziest things happen. People rise from unbelievably bleak and desperate ashes to be the one flower in a graveyard to blossom. The sun is always there. But the flower has to be ready to blossom.

“It’s too Crazy” is a roadmap. Start with that phrase and circle it. Then draw all the roads that lead out from that spot. They don’t all have to end up at the place you expect. Have fun with it. Find different roads and see where they lead.

Some will end up in Oz. But some will end up in even more magical places than you could have expected.

I Don’t Have Talent

Neither did Mick Jagger. He had a weird voice and couldn’t play an instrument. But he loved the blues and wanted to put his spin on it with the help of Keith Richards and others. And he worked it. It turned out he had this weird sort of charisma that kept the fans coming back.

But he never would have found that out if he hadn’t played every night at the seedy underground clubs where he would bang out his horrible music.

That’s okay. He would’ve finished his degree at the London School of Economics and become a respectable accountant somewhere.

Instead, he’s MICK JAGGER.

It’s widely agreed that the best chess player ever, Bobby Fischer, didn’t have that much talent. He was above average but maybe not world-class. He had to figure out his own particular roadmap to success.

We each can draw our own unique roadmaps. How exciting it is to make an atlas to places you’ve never been and then try to travel across it.

Fischer did three things:

  1. He studied games from 100 years earlier and came up with improvements to each one. So when people played him and found themselves in positions similar, he would know the special tricks to use and they wouldn’t.
  2. He learned Russian so he could read the Russian chess magazines to learn the latest openings that none of his U.S. opponents knew.
  3. He played speed chess every day with his teacher, strong master Jack Collins.

Then he came out of nowhere (he had literally disappeared from the scene) and became the youngest U.S. champion ever. Then the strongest player ever.

I’m sure there are many excuses I’m missing. And many examples. Please, please put them in the comments (put your personal examples also) because I want my daughters to learn from this post.

Remember to always tune your inner ear so you can listen for (and separate from each other) both the GOOD reason and the REAL reason when anyone (including yourself) gives you an excuse.

Most people don’t tune that inner ear. They believe the excuses because it’s easy. Because it gives them permission not to do something they love. Fine. I understand that also. I give myself permission every day to miss out on some opportunities because I choose others.

That’s why on your roadmap of excuses, some excuses don’t have many roads coming out of them. They don’t need an extra traffic circle or bridge because their port is not in use much.

This article is for my children. I know they will have excuses as they climb each rung on the ladders of age, success, frustration, relationships, spirituality and health. I want them to know that the best things that ever happened to me were my excuses.

Each excuse let me learn about myself, and let me discover entire worlds of surprising possibilities. Each one led me to more and more love — love of people, love of passions, love of hidden subtleties in every day happenings, and even love of excuses.

But I want my kids to not go through some of the pains that I have gone through. It really sucks to be so sad you don’t know if you can last another day. To not have anything to grasp onto because the worst excuse is, “it’s all just luck” or “I’m just a fraud” and to then think you have no luck and you never will again.

We choose our excuses. They don’t choose us. But love comes when we kiss our excuses and, magically, they kiss back and feed the next stage of our lives.

May you have many, many excuses in your life.