The Actual Goal Day

So before, I tried to do too much. This won’t be particularly interesting to anyone, it’s in the “off topic” category. I don’t expect you to care.

Now, I’m trying to create an ideal day from scratch.

The things to do are:

  • Write
  • Read
  • Exercise
  • Prospect
  • Family Time

4:30-7:30 is the ideal “family time.” That’s gotta be locked in .

I can work before and after-without a problem The next thing I need to schedule is vigorous exercise. I need 2 sessions – the morning session 4 miles (for now, walk/jog) and another session in the evening (probably on the eliptical. This is what worked when I cut weight like a fiend in 2001.

So, let’s wake at 5:45 AM. Let’s eat some eggs and drink some water.

Let’s make coffee and let’s be out the door by 6:15 so I can come back at around 7:15 or so to a fresh pot of perfectly brewed coffee.

This takes care of “vigorous exercise.” I should probably remember a pen and paper so I can write what I want. I should probably read at this point, but we’ll see.

From 7:30-9:30 is when I should write and have all of my “personal/marketing/non-clientwriting” done for the day. This will take care of things the way that I’m supposed to write. This is the inbound content stuff, the social media type stuff.  I can also read during this time and that might be a good fit for some times.

From 9:30-12:30 (or so) is when I do my prospecting.  This is a mix of calling people, pitching things, and the rest.  Generally, it’s the process outlined here.  The goal isn’t to get too far caught up in lead follow up.

From 12:30-1:3o0 or so is lunch. With or without family. I can also do a quick “2nd” cardio session here if I feel up to it. If possible, why not read for a half hour.

1:30-4:30 is unstructured, project time, client writing time, whatever. At 4:30, it’s back to the family for 3 hours of phone off, computer off, time. We can hike, do all sorts of things at this time, but I gotta have an alarm at 4:30 that pings and I do my thing.

At 7:30 we put the kids to bed, for good. and they stay in bed.

at around 8pm or so, I read for an hour or so. At around 9pm if I’m out of the reading, I can work on whatever I didn’t get done, but by around 10pm I’m winding down – we can watch a movie, we should exercise again (2 sessions worked last time i needed to cut weight.).

Finally, I’m off to bed at 11:30.

This is doable. It requires some moderation which I don’t do well. This requires that I don’t exhaust myself.

 

Perfect Day

What is your perfect day?

Have you given this much serious, considered, measured, concrete thought? Have you written it down?

I have.  About a million times. I’ve tried and tried. And I’ve never gotten close to living my ideal day. I learned why recently, and I’ll share the reason with you.

Now again, as I said before, I’m not some paragon of success. I’m just me.

I resist regimen. Why  should I be doing X at Y time all the time? What if I don’t feel like doing X at Y time this time? Sometimes things are more important for me. Then I realized:

…my life is out of whack. I’m producing at a high level.

Being allowed to “choose” what I want to do at any given moment hasn’t exactly produced epic results. (I need to lose 65 pounds, for example).

Meditations has changed, more or less, how I feel about things. I’m meant to work, and I’m meant to produce at the highest level I can will myself to. I am doing good stuff right now with more to come.

This morning, I saw what Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch said (love a name with 5 consonant sounds but one vowel).

Yesterday, I was skimming the Wealthy Freelancer because my friend Michael Martine recommended it. Or at least I believe he did. I got it for a song at a collapsing Borders. (I wonder if the writers will be paid for that purchase).

Nice book, really. That and Getting Things Done  should be the required basic training for people starting out. (And yes, DuctTape Marketing or the Referral Engine should be).

Most Freelancers seriously need remedial lessons, largely in entitlement, work habits and manners.  These books are a great start. This is what reminded me of my ideal day again. Maybe, this time I’m ready.

Now, I used to have this complex and convoluted effort. I wanted to do about 300 different things each and every day. I wanted to:

  • Play with my kids
  • Dick with my paperwork
  • Call clients in a ridiculously organized manner.
  • check my analytics
  • post on eleventy seven different blogs.
  • do a craft.
  • Write a novel.
  • Clean my gutters.
  • etc.

My life felt like the Like a Boss video (Not safe for work, but catchy as hell).  I was always transitioning. 26 minutes to call clients, then I have to answer e-mails. 32 minutes till lunch. Gotta look busy, Jesus is coming.

Crushed me up. Left me a mess of transitioning nothingness. I was always about to move to the next thing. I was always about to change. I had lots of “urgent priorities.”  I tried lots of things to get to the next level: printed list, near constant Blackberry reminders. (Remember blackberries?)

Fried. Unfocused. Frazzled. Unproductive.

In The War of Art, Pressfield describes one of the tricks The Resistance as something that asks us to do too much so that we burn ourselves out.

None of my “new directions” worked for more than a day or so. I felt momentarily good with each reboot. This time, I’ll do it all. This time, things will be different, better. I got the vital stuff mostly done. But it was despite the productivity mania I’d created, not because of it.

But, see, I have children. They need me. I have a wife that feels overwhelmed by the stress of running our house (and some notion that there’s even more in store than child rearing).

I need more structure. More than I need more output, I need to make time for the right things.

I don’t need to list: 10am-10:30 check email, 10:30-10:45 feed the cat. I need what Covey called “big rocks.”

I do need to block substantial weekly time  out time for 5 things:

  • Vigorous, Intense Exercise (in whatever form)
  • Reading
  • Prospecting
  • Family Time (including mundane, un-glorious household chores).
  • Writing

Everything else will – generally speaking – take care of itself. Urgent emails that cause deals to get done should get answered. I don’t need to schedule time to negotiate details with clients.  

Some stuff just happens. I don’t need to schedule time to write scripts, or even to improve the Simplifilm process (process improvement is often procrastination).  Batchbook, more or less, reminds me to do what I’m supposed to.

I also don’t need to have the approval of people not on our path. Creative work, sales, takes time.  Not money -you can’t bypass this grind with cash. I don’t need to be working from 8am-6pm.  I work more hours in a week than almost everyone I know (Jason being the rule prover). I’m free to set my schedule.

I’ll do another post directly on this, and it’ll be RSS feed only.  When I’m done, I’ll link it here. I will do the best that I can to keep it simple and suchlike.

Generating Leads

It’s not hard to follow up with your best customers. Really. It’s not begging.

Pitching is not begging.

You try to refer customers to other customers when it’s appropriate. You show what competitors are doing. You help.

This stuff you read below might bore you.

But, this stuff is a big the part of reason Simplifilm is four months old and booked out into 2012. (Much of the reason is Jason’s talent, I can never forget that).

This stuff is superior to the Copyblogger-type Content Marketing Methods. And it takes less energy for me.

I’m going to share, more or less, what I do. I use BatchBlue as a CRM, and I’ve used others in the past – Heap, Highrise, etc. I can’t recommends Highrise for this method – they have a kludgey sales-funnel process that is not carefully wrought and doesn’t really do a good job with moving a deal through a pipeline.

This is the basic way I do things:

  • Find & Sort Targets
  • Research and Pitch Targets (show our product to them)
  • Follow Up Systematically
  • Build Meaningful Relationships
I’m tightening this up right now, so I’ll show exactly what we do. I’m not going to spend the time it takes to make a “good story” out of this, this is more or less notes as to how I do things. Your milage may vary

Step One In Getting Customers: Find and Sort Targets

Our “target companies” are tech companies doing anywhere from 2mm-100mm in business. Obviously we’ll be working with billion dollar companies very soon. Obviously, we’ll be working with the fortune 1000. But, we want to make sure that we can work with people that can swing the hammer quickly. I have leads that I’ll be incubating for 2012 when we’re a much bigger group, but in the mean time, this is what we are doing.
This is a GTD style method – it relies on ubiquitous capture.  I use Google reader’s staring function, Evernote and BatchBook for this.
I’m looking for people that either have a bad demo movie, or that have a need for a good one. I’m looking for startup-type companies, preferably with revenue, funding or both. Our sales cycle for us is 4-10 weeks for people we contact, and it’s much shorter when people contact us.
I use the following lead sources for raw targets. This isn’t in order, and I don’t yet know the “best” way to prioritize this:
  • Google Alerts  (http://www.google.com/alerts)  - I have a few dozen alerts that I look at each day, and try to clear. New websites in specific fields are the way that this works. I use Reader to sort these fast.
  • Competitor research: This is fun. When someone has a new video up, their competitors know. Likewise, if you know of someone that just bought something, call 100% of their competitors.
  • Bigger Tech Companies: This is process oriented.
  • YouTube Searches: I look for well done (using AE/Premiere/Final Cut) demo films, and I rustle down the owner of the account or service and pitch him.  I look for demo films that have technical expertise but don’t sell very well.
  • Twitter -(search.twitter.com) phrases like “recommend after effects” produce 3-5% of my leads or so. I had success early and that might be confusing me. I haven’t “won” on twitter in a while.
  • 2nd Tier Tech Blogs: Everyone reads Tech Crunch, and appearing there will cause the people that show up to be besieged with salesmen. So, I go through my reader and star about 60 blogs. Most of ‘em are 2nd tier tech blogs, but I’m intuitively learning what companies are right for us. I am following up with the ones that we want.  About once a week, I go through and sort for follow up or I “unstar” them in Reader.
  • Existing Customers: Part of the systematic follow ups is the sharing of what we’re doing with existing customers.
We also look for VC Firms and Agencies to reach out to them.  This is also working as well – getting darn near anyone with the means to deal with our work is important. The Agencies are a little tricky to work with, but I think that 2012 will make them the #2 category of business for us.
This has to happen fast. This has to be something you just “do” automatically. Working through your list is what’s important here.
Note: none of them depend on PPC or massive amounts of content creation. Advertising isn’t necessary. A blog supports and confirms that we know something, but it’s not where we generate leads.
The whole process is sorting. I put people in various tags – and I’m developing that more specifically, but the first thing is “unprocessed” then I go into BatchBook and pull that tag and add new tags.
The tags I use (and this will change, and grow. I keep growing and culling tags.)
  • unprocessed
  • aps
  • vcs
  • agencies
  • customer
  • advocate
  • direct response (we deal with direct response marketers.)”
  • 1mm+
  • 10mm+
  • inbound (people that liked and called us first – either on the contact form or whatever)
  • lead
  • dead
  • poor fit (people we don’t want to do business with)
  • Now, let’s also know something else.  We sort More leads doesn’t mean more security.  If we grow like I want, we’ll do as many as 100 productions next year.  We’ll probably have about 60 customers. That’s all we need. We need better quantity.  To achieve that,
I additionally sort people into one of four groups:
  • Inner Circle: 24 people, that’s it. People are in and out occasionally, but these are our favorite customers and clients.
  • Core (Strictly limited to 150 people): These are the people I try to stay in touch with, personally, monthly. I want to know everything they are doing.
  • Friends: A more casual follow up cycle.  This is people that are customers and referral sources.
  • Pursuit: People that I’m really after to get business with.  These are the Amazon.Coms or whoever else that we’d love and will do what it takes to get this work done.
The rest matter, but not as much.

Step Two: Research and Pitch:

Listen, pitching is more “sorting” than begging. Pitching is all about homework and presentation. You do your homework, present to the best people you can, and then see if they are – or aren’t a fit.

You can’t care at all if any client says yes or no. When you do, they own you. You just share what you do and see if they are a fit or not. It’s just that. You’re organizing people. You’re not emotionally involved and no client can ever be allowed to believe that they are your meal ticket.
I look up all the todos, messages and the rest and I create contacts and then I tag them for follow up. I try hard to do this all at once. I often get horrifically distracted, and get excited add call someone. We research them, put the notes in and schedule for follow up. An assistant could do this.
So:
  • Forward Leads into Batchbook.
  • Batch book tags ‘em
  • Research and schedule the Next Actions (broadly speaking, complete contact info, find right person, etc)

When we pitch, or present every day, we don’t have to tolerate imbeciles or assholes. We just move on, or (if you’re me) say something arrogant or curt and make them think they don’t want us. We also take perverse immature pleasure in pitching people then saying no.

When someone doesn’t buy, I just note why, determine if that’s something I should address at the outset, and then you move on.

Pitching is sharing our work with them. Showing the quality of the video and the benefit (higher conversions). We want to get them familiar with us.

A side note – anyone that says “we’ll keep you in mind” is really unlikely to buy. I simply delete the people who say it and examine what I did when the pitch fell flat.

Step 3: Follow Up Systematically

Tricky. We want to sort people into 4 categories:

  • Planning a video
  • Not planning a video
  • Interested in Scheduling
  • Indifferent/Follow up later
In the absence of a yes, it’s assumed that the answer is no. It’s assumed that our best and most respectful pitch is needed.
I am to develop a follow up sequence:
  • Research – get all information in the system about them (name number etc)
  • Cold Email #1: (personal)
  • Send a notecard via mail.
  • Cold email #2: (bulk – carefully wrought about why the videos work)
  • Call: 30 days after.
  • Email (personal, short) every 90 days.
  • Email (newsletter) monthly.
  • Call each 180 days.
  • Mail 2x yearly.
There are other things we can look to do – when occasion arises.
  • Reference them in our blog.
  • Mention them in comments to others.
  • Forward customers to them
  • Send them an article
The people that are “in my inner circle” I follow up with every 2 weeks, at the longest. This could wear them out – and the “inner circle” isn’t the people I intend to sell to, it’s the people I want to be like, network with and be of service to.
There’s a finite amount, then of contacts you can have. The above work is say, 15 minutes per quarter, per person. Let’s say we dedicate 10 hours per week to lead follow up.  With vacations and holidays, there are 120 hours for this in a quarter (12 weeks).  480 contacts then, is as many as you can have and nurture in this way.  We want to be nurturing the people that are clients, or are likely to become clients.
480 high quality clients that were responsive would be enough for nearly any B-to-B business. (Think: the 480 CTOs in the Fortune 500).
There are a few things that we can drop back into a more casual format.
Now, we don’t pitch, we inform. We do it with aplomb and we pay attention to what works, but that’s what we do.
A final caveat: yes, you should try to do a newsletter about every other month. Yes, you should do this when possible because it simply helps people know you and allows you to have the odd chance to connect.

Step 4: Build Meaningful Relationships

Showing yourself as a consistent and solid provider of whatever builds relationships.  Being predictable. Executing a follow up plan. Find ways to help people out.

Call quarterly. Focus on the other person. Be kind. Offer to be of service, ask who good connections are. Ask if there are events to support, tweet or promote.
Show that you’re there, do it all authentically, take as long as you have to to make this work.  Executing step 3 should do it, but pay careful attention to who is important and who isn’t on your list. Let people move from one thing to another.

The Whole Point:

The point of what I do is amassing options. I pile up options all over the place. I can pursue the ones that I like and ignore the ones I don’t like. That’s why I make the calls, I make, that’s why I do what I do. I don’t need to call someone up to reject them. I just let them think I suck at follow up.
Or I like to close too hard at some ridiculous set of terms to chase ‘em away.
A new contact is just that- ginning up options. You’re not obligated to see it through with someone that’s a jerk, and you’re fairly unlikely to if you have amassed options. The point is being able to decide your business.
At no point do I deal with overcoming objections – instead, like Gitomer, we note and prevent objections. You can’t overcome an individual objection but when you hear it a third time, you can hit in in the beginning and build value. You lose dignity when you overcome B.S. objections with hackneyed sales tactics.
I’ll break this down into several pieces soon. This is more or less how I am doing things. Your milage may vary.

Why Bother?

Seven months ago, I was stuck haggling $800 websites with Realtors, mortgage lenders and other staples of the rotary club.

Some of the checks were more necessary than I thought.

Seven hours ago, I was haggling a six figure deal with a billion dollar company. It was all the same:

  • What am I getting?
  • When am I getting it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What happens if I hate it?
Getting good at answering those questions – and preventing the objections is the skill I have.

Right now, our website is a mess, we don’t have a tagline, and we don’t have anything but a 11 month track record. Our website has an Alexa ranking of eleventy five billion.

But, if I don’t screw this up, I’ll earn more money than I ever have. We are booked till Christmas – and scheduling for February.

I’m thinking about formally and correctly putting a website together. We have enough content to work with. I can’t escape the question:  Why bother?  We have the customers we want, and we get the leads we want. We turn down business. We are in good shape.

A tagline is not a business model.

Neither is a blog.

Why bother? I’m getting deals the way I get deals: listen, look, observe, follow up with people. Look at people with bad videos. Call them. Real basic skills. I use Batchbook to track everything, and I just do what I’m supposed to.

I feel like blogging this is just a distraction from all the work that gets videos produced. Blogging is a distraction from working on the process, finding customers, and all of it. Of course it is. 

Creating a tagline is pain. Vanity. We just do the damn work, you know? 6 words to make you feel a certain way about us is a little goofy.

Making a coherent website isn’t hard. It just takes time. There are no shortcuts.

I can burrow my way into KPCB in less time, for way more dough than a website would bring in a year.  The reel is what matters. The reel is good. And I can pick my customers when I call ‘em. (Cold calling, cold e-mailing and lead generation are all ways of generating options. Nothing more).

Plus, when I call out, I am picking my clients. This means I never have to deal with the ridiculous people that believe that they are doing me some favor after they search for “After Effects Production House,” and offer $500 bucks for a minute of work as if that’s going to get me to get out of bed.

So, why bother? It’s a real question. I can’t decide. Will I accumulate more options from having a better website? Or will I have to sort through crap.

Simplifilm: Our Overture Is Written

The Overture of Simplifilm is done.

I think we’ve hinted at the next few movements:

  • Clean up operations (solid process messages, etc)
  • Define what a Simplifilm is (and establish a style)
  • Make lead generation & follow up more automated
  • Work our way up to the clients we want (happening)

We’ve established a beachhead and gotten a happy client base. Most of our clients are in the 2mm-10mm annual revenue range (an educated guess). We make money. Jason and I have more fun working our asses off than anyone has playing World of Warcraft or any other video game skinner box.

There is never drama at Simplifilm. There are no emergencies at Simplifilm. We’ve solved the freelancer dilemma of always having merciless urgent b.s. projects. Everybody waits, and when they can’t they can go down to a second tier provider with availability, if that’s what they want for their business.

When you generate, you needn’t tolerate. Calling people each day seems to others to be begging, I’m simply accumulating good options to execute. Spending hours on detail nobody notices may seem stupid but it’s working for us.

We’re more or less booked till January. Our next trick is to book ourselves out for a year. That’ll happen by the end of this year. Then we’ll consider adding headcount.

I’ve become – personally – a more capable salesperson because I also have to guard Jason’s reputation. It amuses me sometimes to be the  Herb Tarlek caricature. But, the condescending b.s. doesn’t fly with everyone. It’s funny, I know that I have to be careful of Jason, so I do a better job.

Our reel looks great. A few more productions are being released this week (and a few are in the can because Clients aren’t ready yet). We’re on our way to do an absurd volume because of the mania in the tech sector. Even when it subsides, we will do fine.  We know that in 2 years it’ll be harder to do what we’re doing now.

We’ve established ourselves as the “go to guys,” for a sector. People put up with my indolence because of this.

We got recognition from Common Craft, the leaders of our nascent industry. Common Craft! Can you believe that?

We’ve proven that I can sell a little, and write a little. It’s always been obvious that Jason is world class (my only job is carrying his water and I can never forget that.)

Our clients are the best in the world.

The best part? Our soldiers aren’t on the field yet.  I still do what works – make sure 20-25 people see our work each day.  This gets conversations and orders. I handle both OK.  Not great yet. just OK.

Some people – direct response marketers – I tell to stick it. That’s fun. It’s also stupid and self indulgent and doesn’t serve me.   I will need be more tactful about letting people think they don’t want a Simplifilm.

We haven’t fully established what a Simplifilm is – we’ve seen hints – the metaphor in the Scribe SEO video, the interface heavy Headway Themes video.  We’re going to define this more carefully going forward, and establish our style.  I’ll probably write about it here as it happens (probably more than I should).

The order of things we need to address:

  • Define what a Simplifilm is (internally) and what it’s not
  • Coherent communications bring people in to each part of the process (script, VO, initial reveal)
  • Remake the website (it’s an incoherent, ugly, embarrassing kludge).
  • Create a rate card and a pricing strategy (defining a Simplifilm will inform this – my gut says to offer one thing at one price, about a minute long, and priced around $12k).
  • Schedule the trade shows we want to do (Ad Tech, CES, Affiliate Summit West, Blog World maybe SXSW -I’m oddly proud that I’ve never been.)
  • Figure out what we’re gonna give away and what we’re keeping.
  • Figure out an output schedule for the blog and formalize the lead generation methods I’m using (currently : see crappy video, insult it).
Our first movement is done. Simplifilm can support people with full time income. It wasn’t planned carefully, like everything else I’ve done, it just sort of happened. The prior planning and the ad nauseum business planning was far from a waste.  It’s given me the clarity to do this job.
Planning is more or less BS – no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. This is just a todo list that we more or less need to do.

Made To Stick – Executive Summary Notes

I’m currently reading Made to Stick.  I’ve not gotten to it even though Scott told me to.  Sorry.

I’m also gonna grab the papers referenced by the Studies and read ‘em and report here, so it might take me some time, but this book comes highly recommended and seems to be grounded in academics.

Right now, for every “hard” book I read, I get to read something easy.  Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath is easy to read, and is in the “easy” category.

I’ll be updating this post from time to time – but I’m keeping more real-time notes on the chapters in a google doc found here.

I’ll do this, from time to time with the easier stuff I read when I’m at my desk reading.  Some stuff won’t make sense to do this with.  This will go out in the feed, but not on the main page.

Intro:

  1. Sticky Ideas are simple
  2. Sticky Ideas are Unexpected
  3. Sticky Ideas are Concrete –  Human actions, sensory info, etc REAL things – bird in bush, razor blades in apples.
  4. Credible: It is qualified
  5. Emotions: people must feel something for an idea to stick. as much fat as a ….
  6. Stories Spread Sticky Ideas

I’ll perhaps distill the main chapters and some of the Internet available source materials when possible.

This study  (pdf, tiny font, worth reading) was referenced and was in Marketing Science in 1999. The premise is that most creative ads follow 6 recognizable templates below (marked for the skimmers amongst us all)

SELECT STUDIES FROM MADE TO STICK

Jacob Goldenberg • David Mazursky • Sorin Solomo

The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads:

  1. Pictorial analogy template: taking a picture of the product and transplanting it to another place or introducing it into extreme places
  2. The Extreme Situation TemplateUnrealistic situations that demonstrate key attributes: Superglue holding a hat to a metal beam.  Variants: absurd alternative, extreme worth, extreme attribute.
  3. Consequences Template: Indicates implications of executing or failint to execute the recommendation advocated in the ad.
  4. Competition Template: Portrays Situations In Which The Product is subjected to competition  with another product out of its class.   (Car vs. bullet)
  5. Interactive Experiment Template: Ether engage (test drive) or imagine (yourself in a Mercury) the situation.
  6. The dimensionality Alteration TemplateManipulates the dimension of the product in relation to is environment: new parameter, multiplication, division, time leap. Example: speed of aircraft used to measure the size of the ocean.

Sugarman -AdWeek Copywriting Handbook

Most “business” books suck. They suck because be author isn’t grounded. He’s more focused on being an Awesome Author than he is on actually learning what he is purporting to teach. There’s a giant gulf between guys who are the genuine article (Gitomer) and the goons that want you to “master your purpose,” — whatever the hell that means.

Each book has something of value, but you have to sift. Sifting is fine – you only paid a few bucks for the book.

Joe Sugarman is different. He’s highly specific and highly specialized. My friend Derek Halpern at Social Triggers told me to go read Sugarman. If you don’t know Derek yet, he started a new blog late last year, and it’s taken over the world. He is the best marketer working today. You would be stupid to ignore his advice. So would I.

I’ve read a ton of books on copywriting.  I plan to read a ton more.  Most copywriting books are crap sandwiches, written by wannabes, never-dids, and people that strut like roosters after writing an open house flyer.

Most copywriting books have something of value, but you have to sift through pabulum to get the gems.

When you read Sugarman, there’s no sifting. Every single page is a gem. There’s nothing to disagree with, just a proven step-by-step system for getting results.  He talks about print a lot, but really, that doesn’t matter –the competence translates.

Sugarman’s Axioms, Elements and Triggers

Sugarman writes book and it’s organized 3 sections, with Axioms, Elements and Triggers. He explains at length what these each do, and the purpose in the ads and context. It feels like you’re at a seminar – his folksy, down home way with words is highly convincing.

Unlike a lot of books, you can retain the value from this one long after it’s gone. Simply memorizing the Axioms, Elements and Triggers in Apendix C will go a long way into making us well informed copywriters.

He has many of each – and I’ll be delving into all of that here in a bit. Mostly, for my own benefit, but you may see some benefit from it as well.

Clever

Clever is not valuable.

Clever is too clever by half.

It’s too easy.

And it’s never interesting. What we call clever rarely is. It’s suface level insights that don’t lead to understanding and behavior change.

It’s tactics, and not strategy.

It’s productivity hacks, lifehacker, and that stupid John Tesh lite-rock-for-your brain show that somehow has been going for a decade.

Clever is  smug because you have inbox zero and have read your email.

Clever is smug because you’ll get back to me tomorrow because you now only check your email once a day, and that’s at 11:30 AM, Pacific Time.

Clever is fascinated with how clever it is, and it doesn’t get anything done.

Clever is easy, boring and bankrupt.

The Internet Fantasy

I am grateful for most of my clients. At every point in my life, I have worked with better people than I deserved to. Even when I worked with bottom feeders. (Eventually, I’ll get to that explanation–the short version: I’m alive by grace and hustle. Nothing else).

There are certain clients – Realtors that barely survive come to mind – that are tough to work with. Everything around them is drama and anxiety. The world is about them their website, their lives, their whims. (Lawyers that suck are just as bad, but great lawyers are great to work with).

When I was a Realtor, I was mediocre. I was lazy. I sold more houses than most others in my office because they were all mediocre, lazy and completely nuts. I was only sorta nuts.

Each sale is vital, they cling to it like it’s the last one they’ll ever make. They do smarmy and dishonest things constantly. To their vendors, to their brokers, to their wives and to each other. Because they are barely make it. They pay their $400 car lease on a credit card, they need this $6,000 check to pay last year’s taxes and the next $8000 check to get their house caught back up.

But that will change. Because the Internet Fantasy will save them. They believe. They find someone, put a blog up and simply share what happens, and poof, people from all over the world will be hanging on every single thing they write.

The $900 they paid me is a fortune, it’s blood money, and it better perform. Because if it doesn’t then they got jobbed, and robbed.  Because they see it all around them: the Intenret is Everywhere.

The $900 is going to change their life! Yes, they believe that a blog that they buy will somehow amplify their magnificence. Their greatness revealed, they will be free to live the lifestyle they wanted.  Internet magic will bring new people to them, and they can finally win.

No wonder it’s dead simple to scam people. Sometimes, it’s seriously hard not to.

Their sites didn’t perform for a few reasons:

  • No work done on it.
  • Couldn’t write past a 2nd grade level.
  • 90% of their content was listings.
  • All the content was “SQUEEE!!! GREAT TIME TO BUY (or SELL) Real Estate!
  • The rest was OMG, TWEET TWEET TWEET  SOCIAL MEDIA SOCIAL MEDIA.
  • Everything was hiding who they REALLY were, but leaving clues THAT they were mediocre.

Somehow spending $800 or $900 or whatever…and writing barely literate, excited posts about “buying or selling a house today,” was going to make them income. Somehow, the website was going to FINALLY allow their throng of followers to congeal around them, like they always wanted.

It wasn’t just Realtors, but Lawyers, Accountants and others had the same shitty reactions.

If I said no to these people, they might spend $2,000 and have nothing. I don’t know if that’s a justification or not. I just know it’s the truth.

They dithered over $600 bucks. Made counter offers. Thought about it. Finally called me weeks later, fresh from a closing,  ready. Expected indentured gratitude over $600 bucks. Figured they were doing me a favor.

They abandoned their sites. Then they saw something or red an Entrepreneur Magazine article and called me wanting more.

This was also an easy way to make (low or almost) six figures.  I played that game. I did the job I was contracted to do, either honestly, or, when necessary, I refunded people.

It was a reasonably honest living, most of the time. Some of my clients had a clue and got it. Others wanted me to just tell them what to do.

I could have continued. But my soul got restless, and I didn’t have a love for it. I

I was all over the map with my stuff. Many sites. I flailed against the unreason of what I was being asked to do. If I wanted to become THEE social media guru, I could have.

Because I’m a natural closer. I do that well. I make it seem logical. It is my only skill, but it’s a skill of importance.

Sites like AG, Realtor.Com and others were making it really, really simple for me to sell stuff. Artilery, whipping up demand into a frenzy.

But an incompetent (realtor, whoever) isn’t going to attain competence just because we got ‘em a blog. The last thing they need is more people looking at their businesst.

Somebody’s Jack

Jack goes to school in a few days. My 6 year old starts kindergarten. I am excited, happy, a little nervous. I want him to make friends, be kind, connect with people, I want him to have a truly good time.  I love him so much. Having a kid saved me from destroying myself.

We chose not to homeschool, or unschool partly because of Heather’s disposition, partly because of the fact that Jack has to start off in the world someday, and partly because of our qualifications.  So Jack will go to a montessori school here locally. I’m excited.

…and a little anxious.

Because, see, I was a vicious little punk  as a kid. For whatever reason, I felt like it was good to make fun and laugh at other people. I was parsing, judging, putting people in a list and on a hierarchy all my life. I said nasty things to people. I read all the Blanche Knott  books.  I pushed my limits. I was (and am) quick with the right put down.

Forever grasping;I didn’t have any identity so I was kind when I believed that I’d gain something for it.  Mean when I thought that that was the case. I was obsessed with ‘popularity,’ and never really achieved it.

I didn’t value others for years, till probably fairly recently. (And even now, I’m not great shakes.)

Jack, my beloved son, will be given choices - to make fun of someone, to be kind. To be mean. He is my beloved beautiful boy. And he’ll have to learn to deal with the world. I hope that I can teach him kindness.

I think of the kids I was mean to as a child. I think of all the things I said to people, the constant needling that I foisted upon people. It occurs to me: this is somebody’s Jack.

Someone loves this kid very deeply. And is probably aware that the pants don’t fit right (but doesn’t have the cash). Someone loves the little boy they sent off to school, but they might be working 2 jobs to keep the lights on and so they can’t pay proper attention to their kid’s hygene.  The kid might have a little bit of a lisp, a speech impedimient, a clef palette.

The kid is someone’s Jack, a beautiful beloved boy that made life better. I pray to God that my beloved boy has the sense to see this miracle for what it is. A miracle. A child to love and protect. I pray that my kid never, ever shows disdain or cruelty or meanness towards anyone.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and treating people with disdain and venom is, by far, the worst of what I’ve done. Every child is somebody else’s Jack, and I hope that my kid knows and values this.

Willy Loman, Rabbit Angstrom

Lately, I’ve been reading and rereading The Death of a Salesman.  

I couldn’t stick with Meditations as much as I’d like, and I need something with a different style of language.

It’s an uncomfortable read. I’m a salesman. That’s who I am, it’s my nature. I’m not yet great at selling – and I’m just now learning about that.

Willie was given over to delusion. There’s a fine line between optimism and delusion. I’m not even sure delusion is bad- from Pollyanna’s perspective, life is pretty sweet.

Life has consequences. Willie cracked up under the pressure of all of it. His delusion caused him to not be able to be a good dad. He misapprehended the nature of what makes for success. He screwed up his kids. He didn’t rise through the ranks, he stayed chasing the next deal, payday, chick or whatever.

He sold himself a fiction, had no understanding of the business world he traded in. Sometimes, I’m Willy.

My father likes John Updike. I remember seeing Rabbit is Rich throughout our house as a child. I didn’t understand that Rabbit was a nickname. I thought that my dad was witholding some long epic novel about a Rabbit that got rich.

Rabbit is a bad guy. A truly bad human being. Worse than Willy. He’s a metaphor for America as well. I reread the first three books lately, through the eyes of a 35 year old.

America in the 50s, 60s and 70s had unearned wealth. We sat at the top of the world, and ordinary americans had national pride. We did nothing to earn our place in the world. We didn’t deserve it. Rabbit wound up having a wife he didn’t deserve, a job he didn’t deserve. He ambled through life without thinking anything all the way through. He never got that he was lucky.

His entitlement lead him to burn a house down, have dozens of affairs with people that weren’t his wife, wreck businesses and friendships. In the end, he got by, and had more than he ever deserve.

He wants to get away from the from grown up responsibilities. Rabbit escapes to a woman (and leaves his family behind). He runs from a good life, because he’s no longer the man or the High School Athlete of renown.

When we’re faced with grown up limitations, we can either do the work to become better, or flail. Most people flail. America flails now, as our wealth and demise are being ground to bits by the notion that we’re poor (we’re not). We prospered despite ourselves, and we fail despite ourselves.

All we can do is the very best we can to understand our place in the world and give to it. Rabbit never did. Even Hitler’s dog liked him.  Rabbit occasionally does tender things and shows kindness towards others. Doesn’t make him a better guy – people are inconsistent.

Yet, despite his failures, fortune favored him. I know the feeling. To the last, he was entitled. He was just allowed to exist because of the wealth in America and he never saw it that way. I know that Updike did.

Self awareness is a bitch. It’s hard to really know yourself without feeling too proud or too blue. The best I can figure is that I go through my life feeling extremely lucky to have it, to be here. We all want to inject significance or meaning into our world. It’s nice to believe that we saved the day, did our job right or were somehow the lynchpin.

We’re cogs.We get to be alive – and we get to work together and hang out with one another. Isn’t that enough?

Deserve.

I have a good life.  I’m 35.

I have two kids that love me, are healthy, beautiful and curious.

I have parents that – despite our differences – love me.

I have a marriage that is almost 10 years old. My wife and I have beaten on each other, loved each other, been at war, been at peace.  (Takeaway: don’t marry young). We are both trying hard to figure things out.

I have a new business partner that brings out the absolute best in me. I’m doing everything I dreamt about. Somehow, we’re booked solidly and we’ve lined up months worth of work . He’s delivering on the promises I make, and each month, we build history respect, and we have truly complimentary skills.

I’ve learned to work, really work, and not bullshit people.

I haven’t been beaten yet. I am rarely anxious and never fearful.

I’ve learned to retreat into myself. That is a blessing. Not deciding on things is a blessing, tolerating ambiguity is a blessing.

I’ve learned a little bit of self awareness.

I moved across the country to Oregon. It is intensely beautiful here. We climb mountains all the time.

I’ve made friends, lost friends, and let friends fade away.

I’ve learned to set aside anger, entitlement, bitterness. For the most part.

I’m not perfect. Nowhere close.. But I’m happy.

Thing is – and it’s important: I deserve none of what I have. I didn’t cause any of the technology that makes our times so amazing. I never worked very hard at the right things (more on work habits later).

I am fortunate beyond measure. I know it. I’m living on borrowed time, I’m living by grace.

Somehow, I’ve  come out ahead,. Somehow, I’ve living something close to the best outcome possible for the efforts I’ve had. I have been forgiven many sins. Lies, cruelty, venom, meanness, fraud? I’ve gotten a pass on all kinds of things that I should have never done.

There have been no real consequences for living with indifference to anything other than pleasure.

So, what does this all mean? What do I do with this gift of life?  What can I do in my remaining 45 years?

This is what I want to work out.

Personal Branding Is Not a Business Model [Confessions of a Recovering Social Media Dbag]

You’re going to hate this post.  You should probably stop reading.

This post isn’t going to make us friends.  It could even tarnish my “personal brand.”

Really, you should go. The couple hundred readers that followed me here from GenuineChris are gonna be mad.  You’ll think I’ve lost my last marble.  But I’ve got to say this. I have two true-believers left. This has to be said.

Personal Branding is a waste of time. Totally, completely, and without any major exceptions. It might make cash but…only when  you can position yourself atop some ponzi scheme.  When you do that, you lose touch with who you are. When you do that, you become some slithering reptile that monetizes every connection. You lose track of who you are, and you pontificate instead of creating.

I had a teensy personal brand, of sorts.  Real estate people followed me from Lenderama, Bloodhound Blog and other places. I made a couple ridiculous e-books. (Note: that particular one is 80% half joking, to quote yogi berra, and if you want one, I’ll get you a copy, just lemme know in the comments).

Nowadays I have a business.  This site?  Not a business. Never will be. Just some place where I get things off of my chest, and consecrate my thoughts. A sandbox. Something that’s intentionally relatively anonymous.  Not hidden; anyone looking me up can find it. But not “out there.” It shouldn’t surprise too many people.

My business is the real deal. I hustle, I find people that need what we do, and I tell ‘em we do it. That’s about the gist of it.

Together with my partner, we’re looking for great stories to tell, and we’re taking the simple “demo movie” farther than we’ve seen anyone go. Our stuff sells because Jason is a total pro. I’ve learned from working with him, it’s a treat personally, professionally, spiritually.

I’ve barely blogged about it. Because I’m fucking working, you know. Get that? This site is just an indulgence to clear my head and to keep some notes. I have to write or else I’m constipated, and people get irritable when they are full.. But the real work I do has nothing to do with this site. It also had nothing to do with GenuineChris, Guerrilla.Me or any of the other umpteen flailing iterations of what I was trying to do.

It’s Never About You – It’s Always About The Work

It used to be (back in, say, February) that I believed I was some sales supergenius when I netted a couple extra 3 figure sales. I puffed out my chest like a rooster.  Coffee’s for closers, baby. Mmm buddy, text the wife and call your mom, you don’t have to give plasma this week…

I’m operating at a different level now, and the work I’m doing has more numbers before the comma, and the companies I serve have many, many more numbers before their commas. It still doesn’t matter. I’m just one fungible vendor, effortlessly replaced. Many people do the work we do. Adding friction to what I do would be dumb. A personal brand is not going to make my clients get their videos any faster.

Ryan talks about losing confidence, but I know the second I get even a little, I’m toast. Willie tells me I need to spotlight what I’ve done.  Last thing I need. I’m 35, and my net worth is underwater.  That’s part of my “personal brand.”

What do you really do?  What do you make? You don’t inspire people to be more free, the epic conference call almost never is. You might be around when they convince themselves to do something different, but you didn’t cause it. Personal branding is a ripoff, at worst, and an undisciplined sales call at best..  What gets made because of you? And are you selling delusions, or are you being of real live service to others? Do people want or need that help?

I spent 3 years towing my ridiculous brand around, behind whatever I did.  I had to think “is it authentic? transparent?  is it me? Does it fit?”  Really, I did.  ”Is it in your face enough?” I was never less sure of what I was doing. I had traction.  I was too broke to be any of the things I pretended to be. You think I wouldn’t have taken any sort of bribe? Heh. The whole world is lucky my kid never got sick or hurt and I never had to make any real hard decisions.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

-Upton Sinclair

I was ready to “believe” anything because I was scared about as shitless as my wife.

Creating a persona is a waste of time. Do real work.

Even Tom Peters – who is credited with inventing the concept of personal branding pushes out content that says “it’s not about what you say about yourself.

Create character. Cultivate kindness.Fix people’s problems. Listen to the bitching on Twitter, and offer a real solution to whatever’s ailing them. That’s how you use social media – if someone is whining about broken widgets, and you fix widgets, connect.

Personal Branding adds no value. What problems were solved because you became known as “the Firecracker coach?” Or whatever.

What you want to do is be preternaturally competent, you want to make it dead simple to do business with you and you always, always want to be around to help others.  When you do that, things change, you get traction and life gets better for you.

[note: I took a bunch of links out of this thing because it came off as mean. the ones I left are from people that can take it and won't notice a pebble being thrown at a battleship]