Making Decisions

Michael Ellsberg has been a good friend since 2000.

In the last few years, he has made a study of self-study. How do the best in business do what they do? Using his findings, he has:

– Overcome a debilitating case of bipolar II (here’s how).
– Landed one of the most powerful literary agents in the world.
– Published not one but two books from major New York publishers, the second scoring a 6-figure advance.
– Found the woman of his dreams and married her.
– Built a well-followed blog on Forbes.com with zero prior blogging experience.

Most recently, Michael has interviewed the likes of fashion magnate Russell Simmons, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook founding president Sean Parker, WordPress lead developer Matt Mullenweg, and Pink Floyd songwriter and lead guitarist David Gilmour. Dozens of iconic figures pepper his list of case subjects.

Why? Because none of them graduated from college, and he wanted to learn how they educated themselves. His findings were then encapsulated in “The Education of Millionaires.”

In this post, Michael will discuss how uber-successful people leapfrog their peers without any formal credentials. By the end of this post, you’ll have a roadmap for hacking “job requirements,” degrees, and the lot…

In the words of Alfonso Bedoya in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

There is a surprise ending to this post. Don’t miss it.

Enter Michael Ellsberg

A phrase you’ll see a lot if you search for a job these days is “BA required, MA preferred.” A recent New York Times article was entitled “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s,” and ended with the following question:

Given how many people are now getting master’s to stand out from those with bachelor’s, “Will the Ph.D. become the new master’s?”

This anxiety around educational credentials has launched a million self-criticisms across the nation…

“Well, if I don’t have my BA, I better not even think about getting that ‘BA required’ job!” Or, for those who have a BA: “Well, that’s just like having a high school diploma these days. I better go back to school so I can spend two years and another fifty-to-hundred grand getting an MA. That way, I can stand out from all those BAs and compete with the MAs on an even playing field.”

The purpose of this article is to even the playing field for you, without the BA, MA, or MBA, and without the student debt. You can get those degrees for other reasons (if you feel they will enrich your life, for instance). But never again should you feel that they’ll give you a massive advantage in job searches or economic opportunity. For your typical job search, those advantages are massively overhyped. They can be sidestepped, outsmarted, and overcome.1

Forget the Formal Job Market—Focus on the Informal Job Market

At age 25, Eben Pagan had a resume that consisted of dropping out of community college after one semester, touring in a Christian rock band, and various stints at manual labor. Most people would say this resume qualified Eben for a life of asking “Would you like fries with that?”

Thinking that he might get into real estate, Eben signed up for a course by a real estate marketing and sales trainer named Joe Stumpf.

“I immediately recognized I had to somehow work for this guy and soak up his knowledge. But I didn’t know how I was going to do that. Here he was, leading big group workshops all over the country, and I was barely scraping by.”

Most likely, had Stumpf’s organization been advertising open positions (which it wasn’t), those positions would have had all kinds of job requirements attached to them. Eben, with his lackluster resume, wouldn’t have made the cut.

This, however, is where Eben began “hacking” the concept of job requirements and credentials.

“I started calling up his outbound telemarketers. These guys are trying to sell you on something, so they’ll talk to anyone! I told them about my experience at the workshop and became friendly with them. I found out they were all fans of Tony Robbins. Once, I found this set of Tony Robbins tapes at Goodwill for ten bucks, so I packed the tapes up and sent them to them. Things like that.

“One day, they sent me some audiotapes of Joe. I called them up and said, ‘The audio on this program is not good.’ I had a background in sound from my band days. So I talked to the general manager of the company, and I went to work for them, first doing audiovisual for their live seminars. I worked there for three years, rising up the ranks.”

The skills Eben learned in those three years, studying from a world-class master of marketing and sales, set him up for the massive business success he’s had in the rest of his career. Shortly after, Eben began selling info-products (mainly e-books, membership communities, Web-based trainings, and in-person weekend workshops) on the Internet. Today, Eben’s company, Hot Topic Media, now brings in around $30 million a year in revenue and employs about 70 people around the globe. He founded it himself, and grew it over a decade with no investors. He is a self-made multimillionaire, and would never have to work another day in his life if he didn’t want to. He runs his business off his MacBook, and spends his time either working from his home office in New York (which has a majestic view of the Empire State Building), or his beach-side home office in Miami.

The story of how Eben got this all-important first job demonstrates a distinction that will be crucial for you in seeking opportunities throughout your life, no matter the status of your formal credentials.

It’s the distinction between the formal job market and the informal job market.

The informal job market comprises all jobs that are not filled through someone responding to a job advertisement. Usually, these are jobs that are filled throughrelationships. Either there is a position at the firm that needs to be filled, and an employee at the firm knows someone who’s qualified. Or, the firm wants to bring a specific person they know to join the team, and they create a position for that person out of thin air.

If you do some Googling on the informal job market, you’ll learn something shocking: according to various estimates (on CNNCBSMSNBC, and NPR) somewhere around 80% of jobs get filled informally. In other words, only 20% of jobs get filled through people responding to job ads (the primary method of job seeking most people do).2

So, how does the 80% of hiring that occurs in the informal job market actually happen? The way Eben did it: by building up a professional relationship with people within the organization doing the hiring, long before the hire is made.

Connections. Referrals. Knowing people who know people.

This means that, in the vastly larger informal job market, human relationships and a solid network are far more important than GPA figures on a resume.

Yet, nearly all the educational and career advice you’ll get (focused on making your resume perfect for recruiters) optimizes you for competing on the much smaller and tougher formal segment of the job market, rather than on the informal job market. Seems a bit ridiculous, given that the informal job market is much larger and easier to “hack” into.

Employers Require Skills, Not Degrees

What’s the relevance of the course content for a BA or MA program to a typical corporate job? In most cases, absolutely zippo. What employers actually mean when they say, “BA required, MA preferred,” is that they want prospects with a certain set of skills, character traits, and attitudes. Specifically, they’re looking for organizational skills, the ability to follow instructions and make deadlines, critical thinking skills, writing and communication skills, research skills, and so forth. Plus, they want applicants with the general maturity, stability, perseverance, respect for authority, and work ethic required to get through a multi-year academic program.

In the formal job market, there’s no easy way for employers to rapidly assess all of those traits without some kind of objective screening tool. Educational attainment has become that screening tool.

So let’s get clear about one thing. Saying that a BA and MA is “required” to do a certain job is BS. These degrees are not actually required to do the job well. Rather, they serve as convenient screening tools for recruiters needing to wade through piles of cold resumes on the formal job market. That’s it, nothing more.

Your entire multi-year, six-figure education is reduced to a simple check-mark used to get past impatient screeners on the other end of a Craigslist ad.

For a person seeking a job or economic opportunity, this whole system of job screening is wildly inefficient.

What if instead, you focused on the informal job market, which is vastly larger and more accessible (especially if you learn some basic networking skills)?

The screening process in the informal job market does not happen through cookie-cutter grades, degrees, scores, numbers, or letters. It doesn’t happen through educational checkboxes and punchcards.

Rather, the screening process is embedded within human relationships: whom do you know, and who knows you? It happens through the layers of trust, credibility, and reputation that occur naturally within flesh-and-blood, offline social networks.3

Thus, in seeking opportunity within the informal job market, your networking, connecting, and relationship-forging skills are far more important than your academic test-taking skills. (I’ll be giving you some specific pointers on how to begin learning these real world skills in a moment.)

Formal credentials are not irrelevant in the unadvertised job market. All else equal, it’s still better to have more educational attainment than less. But that “all else equal” is the kicker, because within that is buried the “else” that actually matters in the informal job market: social-based credibility, referrals, your online and offline reputation, and your portfolio of demonstrable results achieved in the past.

Thus, the informal job market allows for many creative ways to hack “job requirements,” by simply developing relationships with the employers, as Eben did. People like to give economic opportunities to people they know and trust. Requirements be damned.

Create Your Own Damn Credentials; Create Your Own Damn Job

Most people wouldn’t dream of opening a designer wellness center, charging $500 per hour to coach VIP corporate clients on weight loss, if they didn’t already have someserious credentials to their name (at least a registered dietician, if not an MD or a Ph.D. in nutrition).

Unless you’re my wife, Jena la Flamme. Then you do it without even having an undergraduate degree.

Jena dropped out of college her junior year to travel around India for two years using the $6,000 she earned teaching English in Martinique. (You can get a great real-world education traveling around India on $3,000 a year, which is far cheaper than most colleges.)

She had struggled with overeating and binge eating throughout her teens, and was perpetually trying to lose twenty pounds. Through self-education in eating and nutrition, she was finally able to end her struggle with food, and lost the weight. She started coaching other women on how to do this, initially charging $100 an hour for her coaching sessions.

Reading The 4-Hour Workweek inspired Jena to build up an outsourced backend office in India, which allowed her to handle a higher volume of business and ramp up her coaching to the masses, offering one-to-many Internet-based classes. She began studying marketing and sales (learning much of it from college dropout Eben Pagan), and her business exploded.

Soon, Jena’s time became so scarce as her business grew that, if clients wanted access to her training, they started having to pay more and more for it — $200/hour, then $250, then $300 and up. Today, she charges more than a lot of lawyers and Ph.D. psychologists make per hour.

Her credentials? A large following online, free content in her blog and newsletter, a great set of real-world testimonials, her public image and reputation through great marketing, and her personal story.

Jena hacked her professional credentials.

By the end of this post, you’ll know how to do this for yourself.

Common Objections to Hacking Job Requirements, and The Yellow Pages Portfolio Fallacy

“But the higher the degree you have, the more you earn, on average!”

Yes, it is undeniable. The College Board reported the median income for various degrees back in 2010. This is what they found:

– High school diploma = $33,800
– BA degree = $55,700 (65% higher than those with a high school diploma)
– MA degree = $67,300 (21% higher than those with a BA)
– Ph.D. = $91,900 (36.5% higher than those with an MA)

Yet these statistics suffer from a rather serious problem. I call it the Yellow Pages Portfolio fallacy.

Imagine investing $1 million in the following manner: You are to call up companies in the Yellow Pages, in alphabetical order, and see if they’ll take $100,000 for a 10% stake in their company. The first ten companies that say “yes” will complete your investment.

That’s your $1 million portfolio.

Now, compare the financial future of two people who have an identical overall investment portfolio (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.), except that one person also has this extra $1 million Yellow Pages Portfolio on top of all their other investments. Who earns higher returns from their overall profile of investments?

All else equal, the person with the Yellow Pages Portfolio.

Therefore you should invest $1 million in the Yellow Pages Portfolio, as well.

Uh, actually, no. That is the Yellow Pages Portfolio Fallacy in action.

All the example above suggests is that having an additional $1 million in net capital (no matter how moronically it is invested) is financially superior to having $1 million less in net capital.

The example says nothing about the best way for you to invest $1 million!

The above College Board statistics, which are the basis for nearly all public arguments about the financial advantages of higher education, are riddled with the Yellow Pages Portfolio Fallacy through and through.

All they show is that, on average, people who have invested more in their learning earn more. Big whoop. They will never answer the more important question: Is spending your time and money on formal credentials the best way of investing in your continued learning?

I’m not sure of a way to test that latter question with anything close to scientific rigor. However, we’ve seen that formal credentials have a much higher salience in the formaljob market (which is the smallest part of the job market). Cheaper and more informal modes of career development, such as learning to become a great networker (à la Eben Pagan) have a higher bang for your buck in the informal job market, which is vastly larger.

So, my own unscientific guess is that, outside of fields which legally require credentials for licensure, there are far more efficient ways to go about investing in your earning power, rather than increasing your formal credentials. Just as there are far better ways of investing $1 million than in the Yellow Pages Portfolio.

“But degrees are an advantage in a tough market.”

Yes, and it would be an advantage for heightening my wife’s attraction to me if I showed up for our next date night in a custom $100,000 Alexander Amosu suit.

Talking about an advantage in absolute terms, without comparing it to the costs and benefits of other options (i.e. opportunity cost), is pointless.

To extend the analogy: Given the resources now available to me, are there ways I could go about increasing and maintaining my wife’s attraction to me which would be more effective, per dollar spent, than buying a $100,000 suit?

Using the 80/20 principle, I can think of a few things that would go 80% of the way towards increasing her attraction for me, without having to spend a lot of money. Perhaps a thoughtful handwritten poem, a home-cooked meal, a massage afterwards (or even something learned from, um, that section, in The 4-Hour Body). I could live without that last 20% of extra attraction the Amosu suit would get me (hot as it is), and save the hundred grand for other things, like a home for us.

There’s no question that increased formal credentials can give you an advantage. The question is, is it the best advantage you can buy with the amount of money and time you’re going to spend?

A master’s, for example, can cost two years, up to $100,000 in tuition (hmm, similar in price to that custom Amosu suit), and another $50,000-$100,000 in foregone earnings. Sure, that will give you an advantage. But the primary advantage it gives you is in slipping past screeners in the formal job market, where there are such things as “job requirements.” If you get creative in the informal job market (and outside of legally licensed fields like law and medicine), the notion of “job requirements” is—as we’ve seen—negotiable. Thus, the advantage a master’s gives you is far less salient.

I could think of a lot of ways you could spend $100,000 and two years that would give you a better advantage in the informal job market, over having a masters degree or even a bachelor’s. In fact, I’m going to outline an example of how I think you could spend a fraction of that $100K and get far superior results in just a moment.

“So… what should I do?”

There is no good data (and I don’t think there ever will be) on what the best way to invest in your own learning would be. There is only data showing that more investment in your learning is better than less. (Duh!)

In the absence of any data suggesting what the best investment in learning is, you will need to rely on your gut.

If your gut tells you that investing in your own continued learning informally would be the most effective for you, then don’t let the salesmen of formal credentials scare you out of it. The other option, of course, is to spend years of your life in an undergraduate or graduate program, dropping major cash on tuition, incurring foregone earnings, and going into massive debt in order to rack up ever-more formal credentials, so you can “compete” with millions of others getting the exact same credential each year.

If you instead decide to make more informal investments in your learning for success, over your whole life and career, my book is designed to point you on the path to getting started.

In the spirit of blogging, however, I’d like to give you a robust outline of how to go about investing in your own success in the informal job markets. This content is original to this post, and is not even in my book.

As I present this outline, I will assume that you are currently unemployed, and that you’re willing to devote full-time effort into finding employment or creating a practice or business. In other words, you’re willing to invest all the time you’d otherwise spend surfing Craigslist jobs sections, sending out resumes and cover letters (and hearing crickets), to hacking job credentials instead.

I did not follow the path below exactly—my path was much more random and meandering, and took about 10 years through trial and error. Instead, I’ve tried to distill what I’ve learned from this decade into something clear and simple that could be followed by a focused, determined person, in one year. If I were to do it over again, this is how I’d do it.

Without further ado, here are my 9 steps to conquering the informal job market within one year (at a fraction of the cost of a Master’s degree.)

Step 1: Choose Your New Field of Learning

Timeline: Month 1 (Starting out)

Figure out a field you’d like to build a career in. You don’t need to have great (or any) formal credentials. As I said earlier, the more creative and less regulated a field is, the more amenable it is to this kind of job credential-hacking. It’s easier to hack job credentials in programming, design, writing, sales, photography, multimedia, the arts, and entrepreneurialism, or in general “I need a job, any job!” type situations, than in accounting, law, or medicine.

So before proceeding to the next step, you’ll need to choose a field whose formal job credentials you’d like to hack. My field of choice was commercial writing.

Cost: $0

Time: An epiphany in the shower; a long walk on a beach; a few hours surfing Google.

Step 2: Showcase Your Learning

Timeline: Months 1-2

In this step, you will start a simple blog detailing your journey to learn everything there is to learn in this field.

But first, you’ll need to kickstart the learning process: Read one professional, business, or how-to book related to your chosen field per week. Choose a mix of classics in the field, along with some off-the-beaten-path books you discover through your reading and research. These books are typically written by active practitioners in your field; they are not the abstract books written by theorists, which tend to get assigned in academic programs. Thus, these books (written by actual, successful practitioners) will be infinitely more valuable in terms of streetwise content.

Then write one blog post each week detailing exactly what you learned from that week’s book.

This kills at least ten birds with one stone:

  1. You get the education of reading practical books related to your field.
  2. You demonstrate to potential clients/employers that you understand content related to your chosen field.
  3. You demonstrate your willingness and curiosity to continue upgrading your knowledge in your chosen field.
  4. You demonstrate your researching ability.
  5. You demonstrate your writing ability.
  6. You demonstrate your critical thinking ability.
  7. You demonstrate your creativity.
  8. Through your writing, you develop and demonstrate your unique professional personality and character, setting you apart from the zillions of faceless resumes.
  9. You develop and demonstrate your social media skills.
  10. You begin developing your professional brand, not as a job-seeker in your field, but as athought leader in your field

Cost: $12-17/year in blog hosting; $10-$20 per book, or $0 per book at the library. (As Matt Damon said in Good Will Hunting: “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”)

Time: 1 hour to set up a WordPress blog. 10 hours per week to read two books. 4-10 hours per week to write two blog posts. Do this for 2 months initially, so you can accumulate a portfolio of 16 posts.

Step 3: Learn the Basics of Good Networking

Timeline: Still Months 1-2

Being a good networker is not an optional skill if you want to succeed in the informal job market. It is the skill. You’ll also need to be good at your craft and good at sales (we’ll work on those in a moment). But without a firm base of networking, you’ll get nowhere.

Here is a 1-hour lecture I gave on how to become a world-class networker. It’s the best breakdown of good networking I know of, and it includes two live demos of networking skills in action.

I delivered that presentation to the inaugural class of Thiel Fellows: 24 people under 20 years old, whom Peter Thiel is paying $100,000 each to “stop out” of college for two years and build businesses. Since they’re not getting traditional formal credentials, these brilliant young people are going to need to learn how to get past the screeners of opportunity informally—which is what I taught them in this hour.

If you’re more of a reader, here is a similar post on how to become a great networker. In my experience, the vast majority of people go about networking in exactly the wrong way. The video and article show you how to be one of the rare few who do it right.

Following the advice in the article, find three business owners per month you already know (either offline or online). Over the next two months, have conversations with them about what their challenges are, then do your damned best to start being of service to them. By the end of two months, you will have six new fans. And those are very good fans to have, because business owners know other business owners.

You’ve started to build what I call a “social economy”—a circle of successful business owners whom you support, and who support you. Keep building this social economy as much as possible during the time you go through these steps. It will be your secret key to success in the informal job market.

Cost: $0.

Time: 20 hours a week for the first two months. After that, fit in as much time as possible between the activities of other steps.

Step 4: Within Your Budding Social Economy, Start Working for Free

Timeline: Months 3-5

Begin to seek opportunities where you can practice your skills. Offer small, light services related to your chosen field for free to people in your network.

If you’re trying to hack credentials in design, offer free design services. If it’s copywriting or advertising you’re interested in, offer free copywriting or ad design to small businesses you patronize. (Small businesses rarely turn down free services!)

Say, “I’m training to become [X], and I’ve been meticulously studying the craft to learn how to do it well [link to your blog]. I’d like to offer you [some free services around X] as I build my practice. I don’t expect any payment at all. But down the road, if you like my work, perhaps you can refer me to other people you know who might benefit from it.”

Cost: $0.

Time: 20 hours a week spent in a combination of networking to get the gigs, and actually delivering services. Do this for 2-3 months.

Step 5: Develop Case Studies of Your Work

Timeline: Still Months 3-5

For 10 hours per week (when you are not networking or delivering services), blog about your experiences providing these services as case studies. Lessons learned, triumphs, mistakes, etc. Ask your client if you can use their name in the blog post, and show them what you’ve written before it goes up (so you don’t infringe on their privacy). Otherwise, hide and change all identifying details about the work.

Cost: $0.

Time: 10 hours per week, during the same 3-month period as in Step 4.

Step 6: Develop Relationships With Mentors

Timeline: Still Months 3-5

For the remaining 10 hours per week of this period, reach out to authors of the books you read and blogged about in Step 1, asking to interview them for your blog. The more time has passed since their last book came out, the more likely they’ll be willing to do the interview, as authors are almost always thrilled when someone shows interest in past work. (However, if they’re in the middle of writing or launching a new book, forget it! That’s like asking a pregnant woman for help when she’s about to go into labor.)

Now you are in the process of developing relationships with potential mentors in your field. This will pay off huge over the long run (for your career, personal development, and inner fulfillment).

Cost: $0.

Time: 10 hours per week, during the same 3-month period as in Steps 4-5.

Step 7: Learn Sales

Timeline: Months 6-7

Sorry, there’s no way around this. If you don’t learn sales, you will never reach the level of success you desire. Almost without exception, anyone who has achieved anything big in life was good at sales; if not literally selling products and services, then selling their ideas/vision.

Read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. In my opinion, this is the best book on sales ever written. The focus is on deep inquiry into the customer’s actual problems, needs, dreams and desires — through asking the right questions and listening well — rather than through sleazy pitching. If you’re only going to read one sales book in your life, that’s the one you’ll want to buy.

Once you feel you have a basic grasp of the concepts in the book, find someone in your social economy (see Step 2) who has some kind of business, whether it’s products or services. The bigger the ticket price, the better, as there is a direct correlation between the ticket price of the sale, and the integrity, empathy, listening skills, and caring you have to have as a salesperson in order to sell it.

Ask if you can sell for them, with zero base salary. Perhaps you can get a commission, or perhaps not. But at this point, you’re not doing it for immediate financial gains. You’re doing it to get experience in sales, and to put what you learned from SPIN Selling into practice. The reason you’re doing it in an already-existing business (rather than your own) is that you want to get lots and lots of experience actually selling face-to-face with pre-qualified prospects, not trying to find people to sell to! My own freelance income nearly doubled when I learned proper, effective, non-sleazy, high-integrity sales.

Cost: $16 for SPIN Selling. And you might actually make money in sales commissions.

Time: Devote 20 hours per week to a combination of studying the book and putting the techniques into practice in a friend or acquaintance’s business; devote the other 20 hours per week during this period to continuing Step 3 and building your social economy.

Step 8: Sell and Deliver Your Services Within Your Social Economy

Timeline: Months 8-9

You’ve got the basics of your craft in place (credentials be damned!), you’ve built up your social economy, and you’ve learned sales. Everything is in place for you to start earning real money in your chosen field. Now you just have to go out and do it!

Have individual meetups with 10 business owners — the ones within your social economy — over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. Tell them about the portfolio of results you’ve achieved in the last seven months, both online and offline. Have honest-to-goodness conversations about their needs (a high-integrity sales skill you learned during Step 7).

If they have a need you can address, use your SPIN Selling skills to get them excited about the idea of working with you. If they don’t have a need you can address, connect them with someone else in your social economy who you think can help them. (This is Networking 101: refer people to the best solutions for their problems.)

Tell them about the specific type of problem and/or business owner you can help, and ask for their best three ideas for meeting that kind of business owner. You’ll usually come away with several great ideas, and possibly even some referrals.

If you have been following the steps diligently, you’d have to get worse than a 1/10 closing ratio to not get a sale. If you can beat that (pathetically low) closing ratio, you’ve got a sale.

Congratulations! You’ve just hacked “job requirements” in the informal job market.

Cost: $0.

Time: 40 hours per week spent networking, conducting sales meetings, and delivering services on the sales you close.

Step 9 (Optional): Rinse and Repeat

Timeline: Months 10 and beyond…

If you continue to build on all the skills in Steps 1-8, you can carry on as a self-employed freelancer, working on your own schedule (often from a remote location), for the rest of your life. It’s not a 4-hour workweek, but it definitely allows you to “Escape 9-5” and “Live Anywhere.”

This is the lifestyle I’ve built up for myself over the last decade. As I mentioned, I took a much more meandering path than the steps above to get there, but if I was to do it all over again, that’s how I’d do it.

The steps I’ve described above take about 9 months, the time of one academic year. The cost is around $300, mostly for books (less if you go to the library). The entire cost of this program is less than the cost of 2-3 textbooks in college, and is an infinitesimal fraction of the cost of a year’s tuition at a private college. Yet I believe the results you could get from this 9 months of self-study and $300 will far surpass the career results you could achieve through a BA or MA program. With the right focus, these steps can guide you through the basics of getting started in just 9 months. Instead of birthing a baby, you are birthing a new life for yourself, of freedom, and prosperity.

Contest: Win 6 Months of Private, 1-on-1, Free Mentoring

The thing that frustrates me about all the statistics around dropouts vs. graduates, is that they always compare people who stayed in college, to people who not only dropped out of school, but who also dropped out of learning.

Take two cohorts of good, smart, motivated, ambitious 18-year-olds with similar intelligence, discipline, creativity, and work-ethic. Put one through a BA program, and one through the 9 months of self-study I’ve outlined above. I believe the cohort of self-studiers—the kind of people I spent the last two years traveling across the country to find and interview—will kick the BA group’s asses.

In the absence of means to conduct such a formalized study as above, I’d like to propose my own little informal contest.

I’m going to give one reader a chance to have my own mentorship on these steps, free of charge, for six months.

During this mentorship, you’ll have two in-depth phone conversations with me per month, along with follow up emails in between. And, if it makes sense, I’ll try to connect you with some amazing people in my network.

This contest is for any and all readers who were inspired by this article. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, if you’re a high school dropout, are in school now, or a graduate of Harvard Law School. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been unemployed for years, or are successfully employed now but wanting to switch careers.

The only rule for following this is: you must choose a field you have absolutely no work history, credential, or experience in. It must be a completely fresh field for you, starting from scratch.

If you don’t have full time to devote to this, due to school or work obligations, and can only devote your off-hours to this, no problem! I’ll take into account the whole picture of your life in choosing the winners. But no matter how much time you devote to it, the area you compete in must be completely new and fresh to you.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Commit to yourself to follow the 9 steps above for the next 9 months
  2. Create a blog exclusively dedicated to detailing your journey of self-education along these 9 steps (as per Step 2.) It must be a new blog, not one you already own.
  3. On December 29, 2011 (three months from the date of this post), I want you to post a URL in the comments that links to a post on your blog detailing your progress. I will pick one person from these links to mentor for the remaining six months. I am looking for QUALITY of results achieved in three months, rather than speed of working through the steps. I would rather see someone get up to Steps 4 or 5 really really thoroughly in three months, than get to step 7 in a slipshod manner.

There you have it. My curriculum for excelling in the informal job market. Go out and make it happen 🙂

Final Thoughts

You might think that college dropouts who become successful are “outliers,” and if you look at the statistics, that is true.

But that statistic is misleading, for a simple reason pointed out to me by my mentorVictor Cheng:

Most people who drop out of school also drop out of learning.

If you drop out of learning, you’ll always be stuck in jobs that require little more than a pulse, such as mopping floors, or asking people about their desire for fries. That’s why most dropouts are in dead-end jobs.

However, there are people who drop out of formal education, while still maintaining an absolute passion and discipline for learning—informally, non-institutionally, in the real world (and without the tuition bills or student loan payments). Those are the types of people I interviewed in my book, people like Eben and Jena. They dropped out of school, but they never dropped out of learning.

I spent the past two years interviewing the world’s most successful people who have theleast formal credentials for their success. I’ve interviewed almost 40 millionaire and billionaires, all self-made, and none of them finished college. In interviewing them, I was consistently struck by one thing they all had in common: a complete lack of regard for socially-sanctioned formal “requirements” for bringing success into their lives.

No wonder they have so much success!

I’ll leave you with a simple question: What barriers, check-boxes, and credentials do you believe in that are keeping you from the jobs, opportunity, and success you desire?

As you’ve seen, nearly all of these barriers can be sidestepped, ignored, or hacked. It just takes some creativity and a few months of work.

What’s holding you back?

Footnotes

  1. This approach works better in some fields than in others. I do not recommend trying to “hack” the requirement of a bar certification or a medical degree, if you want to practice law or medicine! This approach should not be used for fields that require state licensure, obviously. However, for non-licensed fields such as programming, design, PR, marketing, IT, entrepreneurship, solo-preneurship, self-employed consulting and service businesses, journalism, sales, non-profits, the arts, and for your average “I need a decent jobpronto!” type job searches, these approaches are golden. Back to Text
  2. There are some debates about exact numbers and percentages. After all, it’s very hard to measure what’s going on informally behind closed doors. However, virtually all career experts I’ve seen quoted on the matter agree that vastly more jobs get filledinformally than get filled by people responding to job ads. As Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, says on the MSNBC article, “[a]bout 90 percent of job openings go unadvertised, yet about 90 percent of candidates apply only to advertised job openings.” Back to Text
  3. Online social networking can be used to enhance/facilitate networking that is also happening offline, but it will never be a replacement. You can’t status-update a handshake or a good look in the eyes, and you can’t replace a two-hour dinner conversation with a tweet.Back to Text

...isn't nearly as powerful as teaching people what they need.

There's always a shortcut available, a way to be a little more ironic, cheaper, more instantly understandable. There's the chance to play into our desire to be entertained and distracted, regardless of the cost. Most of all, there's the temptation to encourage people to be selfish, afraid and angry.

Or you can dig in, take your time and invest in a process that helps people see what they truly need. When we change our culture in this direction, we're doing work worth sharing. 

But it's slow going. If it were easy, it would have happened already.

It's easy to start a riot. Difficult to create a story that keeps people from rioting.

Don't say, "I wish people wanted this." Sure, it's great if the market already wants what you make... Instead, imagine what would happen if you could teach them why they should

You’re on the most important elevator ride of your life. You have ten seconds to pitch- the classic “elevator pitch”.

Love or Hate. Money or Despair. And you may never get this chance again. As PM Dawn says, “I feel for you. I really do.”

There are books about this. But don’t waste your time. They are all garbage.

I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I’ve had people pitching me.

But mostly, I’ve been scared and desperate and afraid to ask someone to give me, want me, love me, all in the space of an elevator ride or in the time it takes one to ride an elevator.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me was when I was doing my “3am” web series for HBO.

I had to walk up to random strangers at 3 in the morning on the streets of New York and convince them within 5 seconds to spill their most intimate secrets to me rather than kill me.

Not quite an elevator pitch but the same basic idea. I had a lot of practice. I probably approached over 3000 people cold.

In some cases people tried to kill me. In one case I was chased. In other cases people opened up their hearts and I am infinitely grateful to them.

The ideas below have worked for me in the hundreds of times I’ve had to be persuasive. Either in writing, or in person. In business and in friendships and in love. I hope variations on it can work for you. You decide.

  1. A) WHO ARE YOU?

People want to know they are talking to a good, honest, reliable person that they can trust and perhaps even like, or love.

Yes, love.

They won’t love you by looking at your resume.

You have to do method acting. Imagine what your body would feel like if they already said “Yes” even before you open your mouth.

You would be standing up straight, smiling, palms open, ready to close the deal. You have to method act at the beginning of your pitch.

If you are slouched and your head is sticking out then your brain is not as well-connected to your nervous system and you won’t be in “flow”.

I can drag out the science here but this is a Facebook status update and not a peer-reviewed scientific paper for the Justice League of America.

The reality is: when you’re slouched over, not only are you not using the full potential of your brain, but you look untrustworthy.

  1. B) RELAX

Think about how you breathe when you are anxious and nervous.

I will tell you how I breathe: short, shallow breaths in my upper chest.

So do the reverse before a ten second pitch.

Breathe deep and in your stomach. Even three deep breaths in the stomach (and when you exhale try to imagine your stomach almost hitting your back) has been shown to totally relax the mind and body.

People sense this. Again, this builds trust and relaxes you.

Now, even though you haven’t said a single word, you’ve probably done the two most important things for persuading someone.

  1. C) UHHH. YEAH. UHHH. MMMM-HMMM. UH-HUH

I have a hard time with this. It seems natural to say, “yup” or “right” or “uh-huh” or whatever.

But here’s the facts (and, again, there’s been studies on this): people perceive you as stupid when you do this.

Just keep quiet when someone is talking.

Then, when someone is done speaking, wait for two seconds before responding. They might not be done yet. And it gives you time to think of a response. If you are thinking of a response while they are talking, then you aren’t listening to them.

People unconsciously know when you are not listening to them. Then they say No to you.

  1. D) THE FOUR U’s

FINALLY, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. THE ACTUAL NUTS AND BOLTS OF PERSUASION

By the way, I’ve googled “the 4 U’s” and each time I get a different set of 4. So I’m going to use the 4 that have worked for me the best.

This is not BS. This is not a way to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do. This is a way for you to consolidate your vision into a sentence or two and then express it in a clear manner.

This is the way to bond and connect with another person’s needs instead of just your own pathetic wants.

You can use this in an elevator pitch, on a date, with your children, on your mother, whatever. But it works.

Think about these things when talking:

  1. Urgency


    Why the problem you solve is URGENT to your demographic. For example: “I can never get a cab when it rains!”
  2. Unique


    Why is your solution unique: “We aggregate 100s of car services into one simple app. Nobody else does this.”
  3. Useful


    Why is your solution useful to the lives of the people you plan on selling to or deliver your message to: “We get you there on time.”
  4. Ultra-Specific


    This shows there is no fluff: “Our app knows where you are. Your credit card is pre-loaded. You hit a button and a car shows up in 4-5 minutes.”

Of course the example I give is for Uber but you can throw in any other example you want.

I’ll throw in a fifth “U”
  5. User-friendly
    In other words, make it as easy as possible for someone to say “yes”. Like a money back guarantee, for instance. Or a giveaway. Or higher equity. Or testimonials from people you both know. Etc.

OH! And before I forget, a sixth U
  6. Unquestionable Proof

    This can be in the form of profits. Or some measurable statistic. Or testimonials. Or a good wing-man. Whatever it takes.
  7. E) DESIRE

A lot of people say you have to satisfy the desires of the other person in order for them to say “yes”.

As much as we would like to think otherwise, people primarily act out of self-interest.

The less they know you, the more they will act of self-interest because to do otherwise could potentially put them in danger. We all know that kids shouldn’t take candy from strangers.

In an elevator pitch, the investor is the kid, what you are asking is the candy, and you are the stranger. So their gut reflex, unless you make the candy super-sweet, is to say “no”.

So make sure you make your candy sweeter by sprinkling in their desires.

And what are their desires?

  • recognition
  • rejuvenation
  • relaxation
  • relief
  • religion
  • remuneration
  • results
  • revenge
  • romance

If you can help them solve these URGENT problems or desires, then you they are more likely to say “yes” to you.

I don’t know what you are selling, but hopefully it’s not to satisfy their desire for revenge. But if it is, don’t do anything violent.

The one time I had to sell romance on an elevator I had to do three things: tell her life would be ok, make sure I knew her address and last name, and send her a teddy bear and flowers the next day.

But that’s for another story.

BUT FIRST

  1. F) OBJECTIONS

Everyone is going to have gut objections.

They’ve been approached 1000s of times before.

Do you know how many times I’ve been approached to have sex in an elevator?

None.

But probably many others have and you have to put up with their non-stop objection.

I will list them and then give solutions in parentheses:

  • No time
    (that’s ok. It’s on an elevator. So they have elevator-length time. The key here is to stand straight and act like someone who deserves to be listened to).
  • No interest
    (you solve this by accurately expressing the urgency of the problem)
  • No perceived difference
    (but you have your unique difference ready to go)
  • No belief
    (offer unquestionable proof that this works)
  • No decision
    (make their decision as user-friendly as possible)

- – -

With great power comes great responsibility.

Most people don’t have the power of persuasion. They mess up on each of the points I’ve outlined above. It takes practice and hard work.

But this is not just about persuasion. It’s about connection.

It’s about two people, who are probably strangers, reaching through physical and mental space and trying to understand each other and reach common ground.

It’s not about money. It’s not about the idea. It’s not about yes or no.

Living with regret scares us all.

Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care for many years, tending to people during the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. A handful of themes cropped up in the things they regretted during their final days:

Via The Top Five Regrets of the Dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

To them, these were regrets. For us, maybe the above can be a checklist of what not to do.

 

1 Comment

 

 

What if you never had to check e-mail again?

If you could hire someone else to be spend countless hours in your inbox instead of you?

This isn’t pure fantasy. For the last 12 months, I’ve experimented with removing myself from the inbox entirely by training other people to behave like me. Not to imitate me, but to think like me.

Here’s the upshot: I get more than 1,000 e-mail a day from various accounts. Rather than spending 6-8 hours per day checking e-mail, which I used to do, I can skip reading e-mail altogether for days or even weeks at a time… all with 4-10 minutes a night…

Let me explain the basics, followed by tips and exact templates for outsourcing your own inbox:

1) I have multiple e-mail addresses for specific types of e-mail (blog readers vs. media vs. friends/family, etc.). tim@… is the default I give to new acquaintances, which goes to my assistant.

2) 99% of e-mail falls into predetermined categories of inquiries with set questions or responses (my “rules” document is at the bottom of this post — feel free to steal, adapt, and use). My assistant(s) checks and clears the inbox at 11am and 3pm PST.

3) For the 1% of e-mail that might require my input for next actions, I have a once-daily phone call of 4-10 minutes at 4pm PST with my assistant.

4) If I’m busy or traveling abroad, my assistant leaves the action items in numerical order on my voicemail, to which I can respond to in a bullet-point email. These days, I actually prefer the voicemail option and find that it forces my assistant to be more prepared and more concise.

Each night (or early the next morning), I’ll listen to my assistant’s voicemail via Skype and simultaneously write out the next actions (1. Bob: tell him that…. 2. Jose in Peru: ask him for… 3. Speaking in NC: confirm…., etc.) in a Skype chat or quick e-mail. How long does the new system take? 4-10 minutes instead of 6-8 hours of filtering and repetitive responses.

If you only have one e-mail account, I recommend using a desktop program like Outlook or Mail instead of a web-based program like Gmail for a simple reason: if you see new items in your inbox, you’ll check them. Like they say in AA: if you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery. This is why I have a private personal account that I use for sending e-mail to my assistant and communicating with friends. It’s almost always empty.

E-mail is the last thing people let go of. Fortune 500 CEOs, bestselling authors, celebrities — I know dozens of top performers who delegate everything but e-mail, which they latch onto as something only they can do. “No one can check my e-mail for me” is the unquestioned assumption, or “I answer every email I receive” is the unquestioned bragging right that keeps them in front of a computer for 8-12 hours at a stretch. It’s not fun, and it keeps them from higher-impact or more rewarding activities.

Get over yourself. Checking e-mail isn’t some amazing skill that you alone possess.

In fact, checking email is like everything else: a process. How you evaluate and handle (delete vs. archive vs. forward vs. respond) e-mail is just a series of questions you ask yourself, whether consciously or subconsciously. I have a document called “Tim Ferriss Processing Rules,” to which my assistants add rules when I send them via e-mail with “ADD TO RULES” in the subject. Over the course of a week or two with a virtual assistant (VA), you will end up with an externalized set of rules that reflect how your brain processes email. It often shows you how haphazard your processing is. I’ve included my “rules” at the bottom of this post to save you some time.

A few tips:

  1. Setting appointments and meetings takes a lot of time. Have you assistant set things up for you in Google Calendar. I use input my own items via my Palm Z22 or iCal, then useSpanning Syncand Missing Sync for Palm OS to sync everything. On my uberlight Sony VAIO, which I still use for travel, I use CompanionLink for Google Calendar. I suggest batching meetings or calls in one or two set days, with 15 minutes between appointments. Scattering them throughout the week at odd times just interrupts everything else.
  2. If you jump in your assistant’s inbox and answer anything, BCC them (probably your own address) so they are aware that you handled it.
  3. Expect small problems. Life is full of compromises, and it’s necessary to let small bad things happen if you want to get huge good things done. There is no escape. Prevent all problems and get nothing done, or accept an allowable level of small problems and focus on the big things. I highly recommend reading my short article on“The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen”before outsourcing your e-mail.

Ready to jump in and test the holy grail? Here are the steps:

  1. Determine exactly which accounts you will use and how you want them to respond to (or just categorize or purge) email for you
  2. Find a virtual assistant. See“The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant?”and “Extreme Personal Outsourcing” for tips and providers.
  3. Test for reliability before skill-set. Have the top three candidates do something on tight deadline (24 hours) before hiring them and letting them in your inbox.
  4. Use a probationary period of 2-4 weeks to test the waters and work out the problems. Again: there will be problems. It will take a good 3-8 weeks to get to real smooth sailing.
  5. Design your ideal lifestyleand find something to do other than let your brain fester in the inbox. Fill the void.

###

TIM FERRISS PROCESSING RULES
[Note the Q&A format — some of the questions are my standard points for VAs, some have been added by my assistant, who put together this document.]

PASSWORDS:

Calendar:

http://calendar.google.com

Login: XXXX
PW: XXXX

Google G-mail Account:

http://mail.google.com

Username: XXX
PW: XXX

http://www.NoCostConference.com
Username: XXXX
Password: XXXX

http://www.SpamArrest.com
Username: XXXX
Password: XXXX

http://www.Amazon.com
Username: XXXX
Password: XXXX

http://www.PayPal.com
Username: XXXX
Password: XXXX

Reader Only Resources:

http://fourhourworkweek.com/wms/members/members.php >> PASSWORD FOR READERS ONLY IS: XXXX

TEAM REQUIREMENTS:
[I often have exec-level assistants manage 4-5 other “sub-VAs” who handle certain repetitive tasks, often at half the exec VA’s hourly rate. The exec VA takes on an office manager or, in some cases, COO-level function.]

– Download: http://www.alexa.com – Toolbar

– Learn Statistics, Rank for Business Prospect and JV Opportunities

– Deadlines are extremely important. Be Aware of them, and Be Punctual!

– If Tim says “Call me back”. CALL HIM BACK, do not send an e-mail. This is an important point; as Tim has lost thousands of dollars because someone e-mailed him instead of calling him and he does not always have e-mail access because he is traveling a lot.
[See this post to understand why I practice this inaccessibility regardless]

– Even if it is late in the evening, he is up late, if he does not want to answer his phone, he will not. But PLEASE call him back when he asks you to. He much prefers a phone call instead of an e-mail.

– Purchase and read “The Elements of Style” regarding proper grammar and punctuation. We are dealing with high-profile clients on Tim’s behalf and the proper writing techniques and message says a lot about his team.

– Become as familiar as you can with his book and his website as to answer questions accordingly.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Tim Ferriss
[maiing address]

Tim Cell (your use only): [private cell]
Number to give others: [Grand Central number]
Skype: XXXXX
Billing ADDRESS (Private)
[billing address]
PURCHASES:
ASK [Head VA], for his AMEX NUMBER, SHE WILL ADVISE WHETHER PURCHASES CAN BE APPROVED.
QUESTION & ANSWER (Preferences):

(1) How do you feel about Joint Ventures?

I’m open to them, but my brand and respectability is #1. I will not do anything with anyone who comes off as deceptive or amateur. “Make millions while you sleep in our super-insane foreclosure program!” on the website disqualifies someone. I cannot be associated with anyone who might be seen as a liar or snake-oil salesman. Just ask yourself: if the CEO of a well-known company saw this, would he lose interest in speaking with me? If so, it won’t work.

For those who pass that criteria, what have they done already? I’m not looking for first-timers, generally, unless they have an excellent track record and reputation elsewhere.

(2) Do you focus solely on Profit Generating Tasks (I can explain further on the call)

No. I also look for prestige (Harvard, government, etc.), wide exposure, as well as building networks with people who have world-class skills in some area.

(3) How do you handle spam?

SpamArrest and Gmail. I have no problem with spam at this point.

(4) What is your optimal response rate? (i.e. respond to all e-mails no later than 48-72 hours after received)

Same day. I’m bringing you on to respond quickly.

(5) Do you respond to any e-mails?

Yes, plenty, but I’ll want you to filter them first, respond to all you can, then mark the ones I should look at with the label “TIM” in Gmail

[Note earlier in this article how I’m using now having VAs leave to-do’s via voicemail]

(6) Do you put in any events in your calendar?

Yes, but I expect I will move more and more to having you do it.

[I use a Palm Z22 without Internet connectivity to add events to my calendar, which are then syched to iCal on my Mac with Missing Sync for Palm OS. iCal is syched with Gmail calendar, which my assistant uses to manage my calendar, with Spanning Sync. See links earlier in this post]

(7) Do we “manage” your items, or do you delegate? We are cool with both, but prefer to manage. 🙂

I’ll try and give the list to you to take care of. I NEED confirmations that you received the task (“on it — will be done at Xpm” is enough) and like status updates on larger projects with milestones.

(8) Who is on your team?

Me, the publishing team, and some PR folk at this point. I might have you get involved with my other businesses later, but that’s it for now.

(9) Who do we have to collaborate with on a regular basis?

See above. 90% me, then possibly my publicist(s), tech support and web staff, and my book agent. More will come, I’m sure, but that’s it for now.

(10) Who calls the shots for you?

You can decide anything under $100. Use your judgment and report the decisions.

(11) Do you have ‘days’ off (as in no business appts.)?

Let’s shoot for no appointments on Fridays, but let’s play it by ear.

(12) Who has been handling your appts. up until now?

Me. I haven’t had any in-person meetings for close to four years. Things have changed with the book 🙂

(13) Explain to us your ‘optimal’ work week? (i.e. how long between phone calls, how many meetings per week, travel preferences, etc.)

-I go to bed late, so try and avoid calls before 10am PST when possible.

-Try and “cluster” phone calls and meetings so that I can bang them out at the same time, as opposed to having on at 10am, another at 1pm, and another at 4pm. Have them all in a row with 15-20 minutes in between whenever possible. I’d like to do phone calls before 1pm PST when possible (so 10am-1pm). Calls should be kept 15-30 minutes, always with a defined end time. If someone asks to “jump on the phone” with me, send them something like: “To make the best use of every one’s time, Tim likes to have a well-defined agenda with objectives for a call before jumping on the phone. Can you please send over some bullet points with what you’d like to cover and decide on the call?” Something like that.

(14) Do you like us to schedule personal items in with your business calendar? (i.e. order your mother flowers for mother’s day, etc.).

Absolutely.

(15) What are ‘all’ the e-mail addresses we respond to for you?

XXXX

(16) Do you like us to respond as ‘you’ or something like ‘client support for Timothy Ferriss’.

The latter, probably something like “Executive Assistant to Tim Ferriss” below your name — I’m open to suggestions.

(17) How many times a day do you want e-mail checked?

Twice should be fine to start. Let’s aim for minimum of at 11am and 3pm in your timezone.

(18) What are your working hours?

10am – 6pm PST, then often 11pm – 2am PST
[Before you cry, “What happened to the four-hour workweek?!”, realize that “work hours” here could be replaced with “active and available-by-phone hours.” I have lots of projects and do not preach idleness. I am VERY active. More on this in the 6th comment on this post.]

(19) Do you like using IM?

Not really, unless it’s a scheduled discussion. Just leave yourself logged in, and I’ll log in if I need something. [I tend to use Skype chat these days, as I can then avoid a separate IM program]

(20) Do you prefer a phone call or an e-mail to answer a quick question?

PHONE CALL, absolutely. DO NOT email me for anything urgent. I really follow my own advice and don’t check email that often.

(21) What is your favourite colour?

Green like cedar leaves in July.

(22) Call at the end of every day (if) there is something that Tim needs to respond to in his e-mail.
(23) E-books: tell them they can download the e-book from http://www.powells.com
(24) If Tim says “Call me back”. CALL HIM BACK, do not send an e-mail. This is an important point; as Tim has lost thousands of dollars because someone e-mailed him instead of calling him and he does not always have e-mail access because he is travelling a lot.

(25) Even if it is late in the evening, he is up late, if he does not want to answer his phone, he will not. But PLEASE call him back when he asks you too. He much prefers a phone call instead of an e-mail.

(26) [removed]

(27) [removed]

(28) Label all e-mails from “Expert Click” for Tim. No need to respond or forward.

(29) All Linked-In E-mails can be archived or deleted as Tim receives notification of invites as soon as he logs into his Linked-In Account.

(30) For start-up Inquiries in the Health & Wellness Industry (or BrainQuicken Start-up Inquiries) please see the templates in G-mail titled: Congratulations and General Business Questions — Brain Quicken Templates

(31) For Language Inquiries, please see the templates in G-mail titled: Reader Question on Language Resources — Language Templates

(32) When Tim types ‘dictate’ in the e-mail response; this means that we can say to the recipient: As Tim is traveling at the moment and not able to personally respond to your e-mail, I mentioned your message while on the phone to him, and he asked me to dictate: This makes the process easier as we do not have to change the context of the person responding.

[This is to avoid having an assistant convert my 1st-person “Please tell him that I…” to 3rd-person “Tim says that he…” – providing shorthand for “cut and paste” save hours of assistant time.]

(33) If someone email blasts a bunch of people and I am one of them, usually safe to ignore or delete. Read them carefully, of course, but if it says for example “a few influential people I know” or something like that then if someone can’t take the time to personalize for me, forget them. If Tim is CCd, of course, that’s a different story.

(34) Tim’s address is XXXX. THIS E-MAIL IS NOT TO BE DISTRIBUTED OR GIVEN TO ANYONE. If you want to copy Tim on an e-mail, please use the BCC field, so that it remains private.

(35) Mark anyone from St. Paul’s or Princeton for me to look at (TIM label). [Note: I’ve since had to modify this due to volume]

(36) If I decline someone and they persist, give them one more reply — “Tim appreciates the persistence, but he really can’t…” etc. — and then archive future requests. Use your judgment, of course, but that’s the general rule. Some people don’t know when persistent turns into plain irritating.

(37) Please also create a rule to respond with “scheduled” for all items I send to be put in the calendar (when they’re put in the calendar). [Missing calendar items can cause big problems, so this is a check and balance to confirm]

(38) No need to follow up with someone after a call has taken place. Unless Tim instructs otherwise, or they request something from us.

(39) Send all Speaking Requests to XXXX and ensure that he confirms receipt. (However, also see items 42 & 48)

(40) Foreign language requests (i.e. purchasing rights, if the book is available in particular language, etc.) send to [the appropriate person at my publisher].

(41) XXXX’s replacement at Random House is: XXXX

(42) Inquire with Tim first before booking any speaking gigs on a specific date, as he may be travelling.

(43) When booking appointments in the calendar, be sure to also ask which topics they would like to discuss, and put in the calendar description for Tim so he can prepare. Also be sure to ask for a back up phone number in case they are not able to reach Tim. [I almost always have people call me unless I am abroad, as this is another safeguard against missing appointments]

(44) Put initials in the subject line of calendar events so we know who [which virtual assistant] put the item in the calendar.

(45) Prepare inquiries for Tim before sending to him for his review. I.E. Get their Alexa ranking, possible dates of the event, a link to past events they have held, their budget, other confirmed speakers, etc. Then send this info to Tim for his review.

(46) Respond to PX Method Inquires with the following response:

Hi [name],

Thanks for your inquiry about the PX Method, however the PX method page is designed as just a template others can look at as a reference for testing their own product ideas.

We are not sure if or when Tim will offer the PX Method for sale, but there are no plans at this time. We appreciate your inquiry none-the-less. Thanks!

[I get quite a few emails from readers who do not see the disclaimer on the PX Method mock-up page and thus attempt to order a product that isn’t ready to ship]

(47) Download eFAX viewer to view Tim’s faxes. His fax number is: XXXX

(48) Event or Speaking Inquiries can be responded to as such:

Thanks for your e-mail and for your invitation to Tim. In looking at the event online, I see that the event is April Xth and Xth, 2008 in Portland, Oregon [for example]. Before I present this Tim, could you answer a few questions for me, so we can make a more informed decision?

— Would you like Tim to be at the entire event?
— How long would the keynote presentation be? Or would it be a Q & A Panel?
— Do you cover travel and accommodation along with a speaker’s fee?
— What is your budget for keynote presentations?
— Have any other speakers confirmed to present?

As soon as I hear back, I can speak with Tim about the possibilities of making this happen. Thanks again!

Warmly,

[Name]

this email is: [ ] blogable [x] ask first [ ] private

[name]
Executive Assistant to Timothy Ferriss
Author: The 4-Hour Workweek (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com)
(Random House/Crown Publishing)
Bio and Fun:

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog

 

1 Comment

Probably worth reviewing at your next marketing meeting (or every marketing meeting)... There's a three-step ladder:

Awareness

Education

Action

Awareness is when someone knows you exist. The knock-knock part of the knock-knock joke, the person who has another interest and trust to want to know more.

  • Awareness is sexy
  • You don't need to be known by everyone (or even most people) merely the right ones
  • Awareness probably isn't as much of your problem as you think it is
  • Awareness-seeking is addictive (and easy to measure)

Education is the story we tell, the transfer of information and emotion from us to the aware consumer.

  • Most marketers are too self-absorbed to educate well
  • Education takes time
  • Education takes many forms, but without a doubt, experience is the most trusted and high-impact way to educate

Action is the last step, but the only one that the CFO is measuring. If you sacrifice the first two steps to boost this one, you'll regret it.

  • Natural actions happen more often than ones that require a leap
  • Anticipated action generates fear
  • "Later" is a much more likely response than "no"
  • Most people aren't going to act, but if you treat them well, they might just tell their friends (see awareness & education)

 

 

2 Comments

Busy Busy

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, examines the work habits of over 150 of the greatest writers, artists and scientists.

What did they all have in common? A relentless pace of work.

Via Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

“Sooner or later,” Pritchett writes, “the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.”

What did Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer find when he looked at high achieverslike LBJ and Robert Moses?

60-65 hour work weeks were not uncommon.

Via Managing With Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations:

In a study of general managers in industry, John Kotter reported that many of them worked 60 to 65 hours per week–which translates into at least six 10-hour days. The ability and willingness to work grueling hours has characterized many powerful figures… Energy and strength provide many advantages to those seeking to build power.

When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied geniuses for his book Creativity, he realized something fascinating about IQ.

No one who changed the world had an IQ under 130 — but the difference between 130 and 170 was negligible.

As long as you were past the 130 IQ threshold, it was all about how hard you worked.

(More on the work habits of geniuses here.)

 

Just Say No

Warren Buffett once said:

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.

And that’s what gives them the time to accomplish so much.

In Creativity, Csikszentmihalyi makes note of the number of high achievers who declinedhis request to be in the book.

Why did they say no?

They were too busy with their own projects to help him with his.

Achievement requires focus. And focus means saying “no” to a lot of distractions.

 

Know What You Are

In his classic essay Managing OneselfPete Drucker is very clear: ignore your weaknesses and keep improving your strengths.

In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time cultivating skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on—and build on—your strengths.

This means knowing who you are, what you are and what you are good at.

Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, says this is key for leaders:

More than anything else, “Know thyself.” Know what your type is. …Think about your own personality… For instance, if you are a classic entrepreneur, you can’t work in an organization. Know that. 

(More on knowing your strengths here.)

 

Build Networks

Nobody at the top of the heap goes it alone. And those at the center of networks benefit the most.

Paul Erdos is the undeniable center of the mathematics world. Ever heard of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”? Paul Erdos is the Kevin Bacon of math.

This is no exaggeration. In fact, it’s barely a metaphor — it’s just fact.

How did he become the center of the math world?

He was a giver.

I’ve posted a lot about networking and as great networkers like Adam Rifkin advise, Paul Erdos gave to others. He made those around him better.

Via The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth:

He knew better than you yourself knew what you were capable of…He gave the confidence that many of us needed to embark on mathematical research.

(More on networking here.)

 

Create Good Luck

Luck isn’t magical — there’s a science to it.

Richard Wiseman studied lucky people for his book Luck Factor, and broke down what they do right.

Certain personality types are luckier because they behave in a way that maximizes the chance for good opportunities.

By being more outgoing, open to new ideas, following hunches, and being optimistic, lucky people create possibilities.

Does applying these principles to your life actually work? Wiseman created a “luck school” to test the ideas — and it was a success.

Via Luck Factor:

In total, 80 percent of people who attended Luck School said that their luck had increased. On average, these people estimated that their luck had increased by more than 40 percent.

(More about creating luck here.)

 

Have Grit

Intelligence and creativity are great but you can’t quit when the going gets tough if you really want to accomplish anything big.

That’s grit. Perseverance. And it’s one of the best predictors of success there is.

Via Dan Pink’s excellent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as “grit”—defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

Researchers have found that grit exists apart from IQ and is more predictive of success than IQ in a variety of challenging environments:

Defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, grit accounted for an average of 4% of the variance in success outcomes, including educational attainment among 2 samples of adults (N = 1,545 and N = 690), grade point average among Ivy League undergraduates (N = 138), retention in 2 classes of United States Military Academy, West Point, cadets (N = 1,218 and N = 1,308), and ranking in the National Spelling Bee (N = 175).

Howard Gardner studied some of the greatest geniuses of all time. One quality they all had in common sounds an awful lot like grit.

Via Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi:

…when they fail, they do not waste much time lamenting; blaming; or, at the extreme, quitting. Instead, regarding the failure as a learning experience, they try to build upon its lessons in their future endeavors. Framing is most succinctly captured in aphorism by French economist and visionary Jean Monnet: “I regard every defeat as an opportunity.”

Here’s Angela Duckworth giving a TED talk on grit:

(More on how to be “grittier” here.)

 

Make Awesome Mistakes

Failure is essential.

Losers like to hear that because it makes them feel better about their past mistakes. Winners use it to go make more mistakes they can learn from.

Always be experimenting. In his excellent book Little BetsPeter Sims explains the system used by all the greats:

The mindset is what makes a big difference. The willingness to spend 5 to 10% of your time doing experiments will, over the long run, really open up that part of you that can be more creative and entrepreneurial, and yield, hopefully, some new opportunities that you hadn’t thought of before trying something.

You must wrestle with your ideasDissect, combine, add, subtract, turn them upside down and shake them. Get ideas colliding.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Successful creators engage in an ongoing dialogue with their work. They put what’s in their head on paper long before it’s fully formed, and they watch and listen to what they’ve recorded, zigging and zagging until the right idea emerges. 

How do you start? Do like the greats and keep a notebook.

(More on the creative process used by experts here.)

 

Find Mentors

You cannot go it alone. It can be hard to learn from books. And the internet makes it difficult to separate truth from fiction.

You need someone who has been there to show you the ropes. A Yoda. A Mister Miyagi.

Yes, 10K hours of deliberate practice can make you an expert but what makes you dedicate 10K hours to something in the first place?

As Adam Grant of Wharton explains, the answer is great mentors:

Why would somebody invest deliberate practice in something? It turns out that actually most of these world-class performers had a first coach, or a first teacher, who made the activity fun.

(More on finding the best mentor for you here.)

 

Sum Up

Eight things you can do to be like the best:

  1. Stay Busy
  2. Just Say No
  3. Know What You Are
  4. Build Networks
  5. Create Good Luck
  6. Have Grit
  7. Make Awesome Mistakes
  8. Find Mentors

5 Comments

I saved an angel. I knew her a long time ago. How?? well this is the 4 page word document that I had sent her.....

Oh my god... (who sent her as an angel to me)... I know why she ran away from me. I sent her a 4 page document to try help her.....romantic.

Well, may be if she read the 4 page document, she would have stopped being miserable and probably still would have been with me. I told her she had 7 ways to free herself. Maybe I should have just taken her out like most people would have.

So for my tweedy, this is what I had sent her....The irony was, I had to use these 7 ideas to free myself from her.

7 Ways to free yourself today!

Today in my life, I met a guy from Philippines, who found … accidently, to have discovered an unsolved murder.

I went to sleep at 6am and woke up at 2pm and now it’s 22.47pm. I met him at 3pm. Shit. I wasn’t expecting that.

He was in an accident in 1985. It lead him having no memory to hold longer then 12.7 seconds, on average. Not remembering his experience he held with his family and kids. The everyday blessings. He missed.

In 1995. He was in a minor accident….well he slipped over and took a drop from 1st floor roof! He went in to a coma.

At the time when he woke up. Every day of the past decade. Every moment. Which his eyes witnessed but memory didn’t signal the experience after 12.7 seconds….flooded to him!

Every moment of the day of the past decade his eyes witnessed. It’s as tho it has waited in his unconscious, every moment of every day. From the moment of getting up to every time he encountered.

Well anyways. He witnessed his doctor, murdering someone in 1987, in front of him. 1998 his doctor was arrested.

I was more interested with how he lives with his….a curse! Remembering every time someone has hurt you. Upset you. Id have murdered quite a few people if those memories were scratched in to my mind.

His answer: Forgetting a problem is of equal to living in a forest of warm and comfort, yet never stepping outside of it as it may be harmful!

I found that analogy rubbish. Until I entered my own forest only to live in there and let a part of me die, rather than embracing reality.

SO here are my 7 ways of how to embrace reality and freeing yourself to your own life.

1: Listing 3 things you are grateful for everyday

Everyday he embraced beauty and he wishes to write a book one day.

A book that just lists dates of the full decade and list 3 things of beauty most people ignore. Things that make your life better. Here are 3 of my things 😀

1: Having someone to chat to till 6am.
2: Having a bed to wake up to everyday and afternoons
3: Being able to forget!

I been doing this for past year…on and off. But I promise you will mind little sparks of fire that ignite your life and light you up like an angel you are destined to be.

2: Change your routine

There is nothing better then changing your life around everyday. No one wants to have sex in one position for rest of our life. Your life is one big orgy. Mix about your routine. Take a different route to work. Rather then greeting everyone with “Hello” learn Japanese and say “Kintama” to your boss in the morning. By the way. That means “Testicles”.

3: Ask yourself the right questions

Get a pen and paper. Take 15 minutes and go through this.

Find the right question to view your problems from a different perspective!

First highlight your problem, list 10 options you have in dealing with this? Pick two of them of opposite.

Now ask yourself of these 2 options:

1: What is the worst that could happen? Think of yourself and those around you, friends and family. How will it effect them.  Rate them from 0 to 5 – 0 being least likely and 5 being most likely to happen. Are they long term of short term problem? Most of the times, these fears can be least likely to happen and if they do, it is short-term!

2: What could you do to repair these damages? You will realise that most damages are easily repairable. This of clear things you can do to repair them.

3: Now the right question many ignore, what are the benefits of taking this option? We are born negative. Those who are free, know how to love theirself. Love yourself and let yourself see clear picture of what benefits will make you free.

4: What are you putting off out of fear?  Fear is the frozen grip of all actions you want to take but can’t. Finding what you fear, you embrace reality.

5: What is it costing you by not taking these option? Think emotionally, physically and mentally. Loving yourself, requires you to understand to know what you want and need.

6: What are you waiting for? Don’t get hit by a car tomorrow to lose your memory and then regain all your memory a decade late and regret your life. Might be too late baby.

4: Write down how you feel

Our emotion is at constant Civil War within yourself. Writing down all your issues and problem is freeing the crushing weight of worries. Write down the exact feeling you are going through. Don’t be that guy

Coyote

Any reason to put my cute tweedy here!

tweety

Coz you a gangstaa 😛

5: List those around you who make you happy

Spend more time with them. List those who make your life misery! Cut them out. Completely!

If not on a talking terms, make up for it. Don’t let pride stop a moments of happiness. Just not worth it!

 

6: Help Other. Show Gratitude!  And don’t expect anything in return

Only that way can you be truly happy.

Expecting something will only result in disappointment! Therefore, go out your way to help someone.

Make others smile today. By doing the small things. It will make you feel better. And when someone does return the favour. You know they are doing it out of genuine warm heart and not as a favour for favour.

7: How were you when you were last happy?

In all research. Conducted by Dr Chowdhury (or stolen from another book) it’s clear! There are 4 principles in our life that will conduct or happiness. Remember when you were happy and think of how the 4 below were present in your life, and how you can replicate them.

Physical: When we are happily confident! You need your body to be well and health to be up and running to give yourself the chance to be confident. If you are ill, most people look like zombies or mental!

Don’t have to go to gym. Take a walk for 20 minutes. Dance in you sexy hot pants in your room. Or slap a stranger and runaway as fast as you can for 1 minute!

Mental: Your mental state gives you motivation to do everything! Don’t give yourself up and store up problems. Do things you enjoy. Treat yourself Learn something new!

Write down 10 ideas that you would love to do (big or very small, such as eating a fredo bar) for the coming week. And do it!

Emotional: Free yourself, but everyday, loving yourself, emotionally as well as physically. Spend time with those who you love and want to see you happy.

Spiritually: This is a tricky one! Most people think of just religious! Well that’s not just the case. You need to give yourself time to reflect on your life. This could be from praying to listening to relaxing music where you just close your eyes and think of everything you need of.

Look to improve your life by 1% everyday till you reach 100%. To stand tall when your fallen on the floor. You first have gain your strength to first get on your knees and then courage to stand up against the wind and then straight and tall.

You have more strength then you know. Give yourself some time and try some of these out. Specially 3, 4 and 7. I promise it will help one way or the other and let you see things very clearly 😀 😀 😀 xx

- go Mousuf! 25 and single....for a reason!

2 Comments

Do you make your own paper? Do you start with wood pulp and mix and bleach and set and produce the sheets you use? My guess is that you save time (and a lot of money) and just go to Staples and buy a ream or two.

The theory of the firm shows us that when people work together in an institution, they are able to produce more than if they work separately. Ricardo makes it obvious that if one person mixes the dough while the other bakes the loaves, they'll get more done than if each did the whole job.

This explains one reason why big companies keep getting bigger. They gain economies of production and marketing as they specialize their workforce.

But what about the small enterprise, the freelancer, the soloist?

The web now makes just about every task outsourceable with a click. Not only don't you have to make your own paper (or hire a paper maker) but you can have someone process payroll and bills, design a website, answer customer calls, schedule appointments and a thousand other things you used to need to do on your own.

Which leads to the key question: When you can outsource everything, what do you do? When you can choose the kind of value you create, you are also choosing what you're going to outsource and what you're going to do yourself.

Here are three reasons to do something as part of your work, from worst to best:

  1. Because you are the cheapest available worker. Because you need to dosomething, and it's more profitable for you to dothis task than to pay someone else to do it. Because you can't find something more beneficial or profitable to do.
  2. Because people (clients) will notice whenyoudo it. That might mean that they notice your presence, or they notice the unique nature of what you create (your art) or they will notice that you've learned something doing this when it leads to you doing something great later on. Mario Batali doesn't cook for 99% of his customers (physically impossible), and they can't tell. And he doesn't design 99% (or 5%, I have no idea) of his recipes, because we can't tell. In fact, the only thing people can tell is that it's him on the TV, and that his decisions are guiding what his organization does next.
  3. Because you love it. Because the work matters to you, and this task, right now, is the best version of the work you can find.

Every time you hire yourself to do something (make paper, pay a bill, change a logo design), you've just decided not to do something else instead.

The first step: your job is to make decisions about what you do. And my guess is that what you do is make decisions.