I recently grabbed a free subscription on Zinio for a handful of magazines, one of which I signed up for was Esquire. In the January issue of this year, a group of people were interviewed from a variety of walks of life on what they’ve learned in their lives. The range of people included former boxer Jake LaMotta, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, model and tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova, actor Mandy Patinkin, and Milwaukee police officer Lt. Brian Murphy.
One interesting interviewee was former California governor, bodybuilder, and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, Arnold has become something of a punchline in recent years, which I attest to the endlessly-cynical nature of our society these days. Truth is, regardless of your political views, Arnold is a great story. He was a hard working bodybuilder and successfully transitioned into a worldwide sensation and recognized actor. The guy was a household name, and even parlayed that into a political career.
I’ve made it a goal this year to get serious about being an early riser, and one quote in Arnold’s interview caught me by surprise in that “I never thought of it that way”-type of manner:
“The day is twenty-four hours. I sleep six hours. That leaves eighteen hours to do something.”
Man. Think about that. EIGHTEEN hours. Take eight hours of work, and that’s TEN hours a day to get something done. To get anything done.
That quote really kicked me in the butt. I’ve taken on a big, more serious workload this year, and I’m sick of feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Ten hours is a long flipping time.
So here’s what I’ve been doing: I’m a firm believer in listening to your body when you do things. So since January 1st, I’ve been keeping a detailed sleep log – the date, the time I turn off the lights, the time I wake up in the morning, and how I’m feeling when I wake up. I put a star next to the mornings where I’m happy with the time I woke up and how I feel, and try to notice some trends.
Here are my reflections on my efforts so far this year – both successful and unsuccessful.
It’s freaking hard.
It really is. Changing your sleep schedule is not easy, and I imagine that winter is the worst time to try it. In Wisconsin, the sun doesn’t rise in January until after 7:00am. That means that 5:00am (my target wake time) is as dark as midnight when I wake up. That’s hard. Last night, I turned off the light at 10:30pm and couldn’t fall asleep. At 11:00pm, I went downstairs to the couch and read for half an hour. After 11:30pm, I went back to bed. This morning, I managed to get out of bed at 5:00am. Five and a half hours of sleep. Not my normal sleep time, but I had to gut it out, because…
You have to be strict with yourself.
Give yourself an inch and you’ll take a mile every time. Looking at my sleep log, I’ve been shooting for 5am. Here is just a small sample of the various times I’ve woken up:
See what happens when you give yourself an excuse? I talked myself into staying in bed repeatedly. You know how I got up this morning at 5:00am for the first time this year? I told my wife, who gets up for work at 4:45am, to walk into the bedroom after she gets out of the shower and turn the light on. That would give me until 5:10am to get up on my own terms. So which would I rather have? Get up and turn on the light when I’m ready, or be shocked out of bed by somebody else? That little extra layer of accountability got me up and out. No excuses – it’s either get up or lose.
The only way my body is going to adjust to getting up at 5am is if I get up at 5am. You know, your body will only adjust to something if you start doing it. Exercising, eating healthy, getting up early, and so on. You have to give your body the chance to get used to it.
How do you adjust to a cold swimming pool? You get in. How do you adjust to a hot tub? You get in. Your body won’t get used to it until you let it.
My mood changes when I get up early.
Even the mornings I woke up at 6am, I felt a sense of accomplishment. A sense of productivity. I feel like I’m getting stuff done. When I sleep in, I’m crabby. I feel rushed. I feel like I’m not getting stuff done. I feel like I can’t do my best work. That puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I don’t like that.
When my wife comes home from a hard day’s work, I don’t want her to greet a scowl on my face. I’d rather smile and show her that I’m happy to see her home. That means I need to get up early.
I have an increased level of control over my day.
When I get up at 8:30am, I look at my to do list and say, “Okay, what needs to get done right away? What do I have to do first?” When I get up at 5am, I can look at my to do list and say, “What do I want to start my day with?” It’s a freedom thing. It’s a control thing. Both of which make me very happy.
I have a crazy amount of time, even going to bed early.
Looking at my mock-up of maximizing my time, when I get up at 5am, I have the following breakdown:
- 9 hours of productive work-related activities
- 1 hour of exercise
- 1 hour of lunch
- 1 hour of breakfast/shower
- 3 ½ hours of quality time with my wife
- ½ hour of guitar playing
- 1 hour of “fun reading”
- 7 hours of sleep
Look that over again. Reviewing my sleep log has revealed that I feel best after anywhere from 6 ½ to 7 ½ hours of sleep. So I’m getting enough sleep for my body. I can work for nine hours. I can get quality exercise time, and I get to take an hour lunch. I get great quality “shutoff” time with my wife. And I can be in bed by 10pm. That’s almost the perfect day.
I get more crap done.
Again, I’m more productive from a mindset standpoint. I can choose what I do and when. And I have a lot more time to do it. That is the absolute definition of productivity.
It relaxes my afternoon.
That schedule gives me five hours in the morning to do my more “intensive” work. That gives me the freedom (there’s that word again) to relax and do the more “fun” and less mindful things in the afternoon hours. So when people eat a big lunch and they struggle to get back to work, I don’t have to worry about it.
5:00am is a different world.
It’s quiet. It’s relaxed. It’s subdued. It’s a great atmosphere to read, write, pray, and warm up to the day.
It’s an amazing feeling.
Not much to add to this point. It feels amazing to be sitting down to eat breakfast at 7:00am and know that you got two hours of mindful work under your belt.
It’s work. It’s hard. It’s tiring. It takes a long time to adjust. I haven’t even gotten there yet. But I can do it. I know I can. So could you, if you want to. Like most things, this is not impossible.
Most importantly, if I want to be a successful copywriter, add valuable content to this site, market myself, read piles of books, read blogs, practice copywriting, learn to play guitar, write a book, and have a social life, then that means I need to set myself up to maximize my time. This is one way that’s working.
What do you think? Are you an early riser? Do you want to be? What are your challenges in doing so?
“The challenge is to focus on the work, not on the fear that comes from doing the work.” -Seth Godin
Technology can do a lot of crazy stuff for you. It makes my life ten times easier and more fun. But too many of us waste technology, or we remain ignorant of its real power. You can put it to use, and not just putz around with it.
So instead of using it for stupid things, take a few minutes to implement these different tips into your life. This is how it’s changed mine:
- Start using Google Calendar. Share your calendar with your wife or spouse or loved one or whatever. Then stop arguing because you “didn’t know” something was scheduled. Sync it to your phone, too. Got a dentist appointment? Pull your phone out at the counter and pop it in your calendar before you even leave the dentist’s office. No more excuses.
- Running a business? Set up your bank accounts with Outright and do your taxes correctly for once.
- Sign up for Pocket, add the Chrome extension, and start putting anything and everything into it. Install the app on your phone. Now you have a personal magazine of articles that you personally added for whenever you want to do some reading. Quit saying you don’t have time to read stuff anymore.
- Create “stacks” of notebooks in Evernote and start organizing your life.
- Jump off the stupid and expensive “upgrade train” from Microsoft and Apple. Install Ubuntu on your desktop – it’ll be zippy, upgrade automatically on a regular basis, and it will cover all the bases for 99.9% of you. Oh, and by the way, it’s free. Spend your money somewhere else.
- Hook up a computer to your TV and get rid of cable. You can do it my preferred way, or you can just use a laptop and an HDMI cord (while on that topic, buy one here – they’re exactly the same). Doesn’t matter. Now you can watch Hulu, Netflix, and pretty much whatever you want on your TV. Again – free.
- While you’re at it, install Handbrake and rip your DVDs to a hard drive. Share the folder of movies and/or TV shows on your home network, and you now have an easy-to-access digital library of all your stuff. You can pull it up and play it on any TV in the house without needing to go find the discs (see #6). Plus, when you pair that with a program like XBMC, it’ll look wicked awesome (like, everybody-asking-you-what-that-cool-thing-on-your-TV-is kind of awesome).
- Sign up for Zinio. They give away magazine subscriptions all the time. Read them on your tablet, desktop, or even your phone. Plus, you don’t have to go out to the mailbox to get them.
- Organize your Twitter feed into a few lists so that you can actually read them. Then sign up for Tweetdeck and get a column for each. Twitter’s website sucks for reading lists.
- Use online bill pay for everything. I mean it. If you’re paying for stamps, you’re doing it wrong. Your bank will even mail checks for you for free.
- Get a Pinterest account. Even if you’re a guy. I guarantee you’ll find some stuff you like. I like to cook, and I want to have a house someday. Guess what? Pinterest is full of stuff that appeals to me. I bet you’ll like something on there too.
- Sign up for ClearCheckbook and put the app on your phone. Don’t have a smartphone? You can text your transactions to ClearCheckbook and check your balance at any time. Stop spending half an hour every month trying to find where you screwed up the math in your checkbook. Give the login information to your wife, and now you both have the always-updated checkbook. Then stop arguing about how much money you thought was in the account.
- Is there stuff you want to be sure to do? Annoy yourself into them with AskMeEvery. It works (props to Sean Ogle for bringing that one to my attention).
- Install Coupons at Checkout and save as much coin as you can whenever you buy something. Then…
- Buy, like, everything on Amazon. Seriously, they have everything. And it’s almost always cheaper. Get an Amazon Prime (aff. link) account and get free two-day shipping all the time. Plus, you’ll have more movies and shows to watch for free (again, see #6).
- Play around with IFTTT. The more you use it, the more you’ll want to use it.
- Install Tabs To The Front on Chrome, because that should be built in anyway.
- Keep your tasks in a place where you can see them all the time. I use Astrid so that I have them on my phone and my computer.
- Store your passwords securely in LastPass and set up Google Authenticator to use with LastPass, Gmail, and Facebook, and everywhere you can. Stop getting hacked. Here’s how.
- Use mobile deposit if your bank offers it. I have accounts with Chase, ING, and Schwab. They all use it. Because going to the bank is for suckers.
- Use Flickr instead of Instagram, because I don’t care that they changed their TOS back, I won’t deal with a company that even entertains the thought.
- Step away from technology once in a while. Turn off your phone and write in a journal. Have a real conversation where nobody is looking at their phones. It’ll be weird, but worth it.
- Because I’ll advocate it until I’m blue in the face, get a Kindle and connect it to Longform.org. Start reading a good variety of stuff.
- Get a headlamp (that’s the one I use – aff. link), even if you think you won’t use it. I got one for Christmas. I’ve used it to fix a closet door, work on a car, and salt the driveway at night. It’s amazingly simple.
- Seriously, remember #6? You can still get awesome, beautiful HD stuff on your TV. Buy this (aff. link), place it in a smart, out-of-the-way place, and laugh at your neighbor’s satellite dish.
- Get a watch and wear it when you’re outside the house. Children check their phones. Adults wear a watch.
- Turn off your notifications. Your email can wait for you. So can that “Like” you got on Facebook. So can that retweet. You’re not that important.
- Sign up for Dropbox. Install it on your computer. From now on, all important documents get organized in your Dropbox folder. And if you want to share something, you can share it through Dropbox instead of uploading it to an email (especially if it’s too big for an email).
- Then, put Dropbox on your phone and set it to always upload photos you take. You’ll get extra storage for free, and now whenever you see something you like or something you want to remember, take a picture of it with your phone and forget about it. It’ll be on your computer by the time you’re home.
- Buy two rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. Put one battery in your wireless mouse and charge the other one. When that one’s dead, switch and repeat. Save yourself some money.
- For 90% of you, a cheap Android tablet from Walmart will be plenty. You’re not doing Photoshop on it, you’re playing Angry Birds.
- Install Boomerang and bulk schedule your emails. Then you can keep your inbox clean and you hold the power over your inbox.
- Do as much stuff in the cloud as you can. Use Chrome’s application shortcuts to fool yourself into thinking you installed a bunch of awesome apps. You’ll save space, and everything will run really fast. I have separate “apps” on my computer for Gmail, Tweetdeck, Facebook, Google Reader, Pocket, Google Calendar, Astrid, and others.
- Your local radio sucks. Use Pandora.
- Learn how to use your keyboard. Using the mouse all the time slows you down and ruins your rhythm.
- CTRL-A selects everything.
- CTRL-L in a web browser jumps up to the address box so you can start typing. So instead of double-clicking on the address box, accidentally clicking twice, double-clicking again, screwing it up again, then clicking and dragging the cursor along the address box to highlight it, still screwing it up, and then clicking the end of the address box and holding the backspace button until you’re at the beginning just so you can type “facebook.com” is a tremendous waste of time. Hit CTRL-L and start typing “facebook.com”. This will work on any browser, unless you’re using an old version of Internet Explorer. In that case, what’s wrong with you?
- Holding CTRL while hitting the arrows will move your cursor whole words.
- Holding SHIFT while hitting the arrows will highlight stuff. Hold CTRL-SHIFT and move your cursor, and you highlight words automatically.
- CTRL-S is “Save”.
- CTRL-C is “Copy”.
- CTRL-V is “Paste”. You now have no excuses for right-clicking anything.
- “Home” jumps to the beginning of a line or the top of a web page.
- “End” jumps to the end. (Neat, hey?)
- Hold SHIFT while hitting “Home” or “End” to highlight to the beginning or end of a line.
- CTRL-TAB jumps to the next tab in your web browser. Hold SHIFT while doing that to go backwards.
- CTRL-W closes a tab.
- CTRL-N opens a new tab.
- Put all your contacts into Google Contacts. Keep it updated. It’ll always be available on your phone.
- Finally, start reading blogs. Lots of them. Yes, you have time. There is a wealth of useful information and tips and tricks out there that will make your life better, and you can have them all in one place. Sign up for Google Reader, and you can start adding blogs related to literally any topic of your choosing. Any time they post something new, it’ll pop up in your Google Reader. Then you can click that little button next to the post title that will save it to your Pocket (See #3). Now you can stay on top of news, stay inspired, and stay entertained anywhere you want (Reader is a nice little app on your phone, too). I’ve grown tired of people who complain about how blogs are stupid or a waste of time. I’ve used info from blogs to completely revamp how I live my life. I’m healthier. Oh, and I run a great business thanks to blogs. So while you make fun of blogs to the guy on the other side of your cubicle wall in between whining about your boss, I’m sitting in my home office reading awesome new content in Google Reader after I just finished up a project that paid me a lot of money without any boss to answer to.
What’s your favorite tech tip?
As I was making dinner the other night, I could hear Christopher Lloyd in the other room, where my wife was sitting on the couch. He was not, however, yelling “GREAT SCOTT!” at everything, so it took me a second to figure out what she was watching.
After checking on whatever it was that I was making, I strolled into the living room to see my wife watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, one of the best and most original movies of all time, in my opinion.
I hadn’t seen the movie in a while, but I sat there in a trance, not just at the humor of the movie, but at the special effects.
Roger Rabbit was released in 1988. Though the movie is 24 years old (and in other news, 1988 was apparently 24 years ago. Yes, I even checked on my calculator), the special effects are astounding. It looks real.
For those not familiar – and if you’re not, you better go find it right now because it’s awesome – the movie melds the worlds of cartoons and live action characters. But the majority of the movie takes place in the live action world/scenery, which means all the props and surroundings are interacted with by cartoons on the screen.
And the items on screen are not drawn. The weasels that hold guns aren’t holding cartoon guns – they’re real (prop) guns. When a cartoon runs by, skirts and hair and papers lying on a desk all blow up as if a fan had just turned on.
If the Movie Was Made Today
I have no doubt in my mind that the movie wouldn’t have had the staying power it does now if it had been made today.
Everything would have been drawn on computers from start to finish. The whole stinking movie would be done via green screen. All the props would have been digitally inserted, or swapped when the toons picked them up.
It would look fake. Like almost all computer animation does.
(Minor rant – here’s the thing: computer animation has grown by leaps and bounds, and it looks fantastic. It is miles ahead of what it used to be. But it’s still computer animation. It’s not the real thing, and people can see that. It spoils our suspension of disbelief because we can’t insert ourselves into that moment like we could with real props and costumes. Anyway…)
Roger Rabbit was an expensive and time-consuming movie to make. The production budget soared over $40 million (way over its given budget). It took 8 months to film and 14 months of post-production.
The result was a classic.
The Downfall of NBC
On the other side, NBC has been steadily declining for years, and it is one network that is most prominently responsible for the supposed suck-age of quality television in the last 10 years or so.
I learned a lot about how TV works through the book Top of the Rock, where former NBC President Warren Littlefield talks about creating the golden age of NBC television in the ’90s.
Littlefield had a simple idea: hire really creative people, give them as much money as they need to create what they want, and stay as hands-off as possible. The result was a long string of hit shows, classic television episodes and moments, and NBC being the Big Dog of network television.
When Jeff Zucker took over for NBC, his philosophy was simple too: create programming that is cheap to make so that the network can pull in as much profit as possible. Shareholders will be happy, and life will be good.
Except television, like any media, can’t just be run on money.
Zucker doesn’t run NBC anymore – but his philosophy is still in place. So, when NBC wants to promote something, they want to promote the stuff that’s going to make a profit. So you see commercials and pop-up ads during shows for The Voice.
Meanwhile, NBC carries three outstanding shows that almost nobody watches, according to the ratings: Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, and Community.
The result? Those shows struggle in the ratings, and they don’t make a whole lot of money, despite being almost universally praised by critics (and rightfully so).
NBC is at the bottom of the heap now, in network programming. They have since decided to focus on producing “broad”-appeal shows, which will almost certainly fail.
Hard Work and Your Work
Your creative work, whatever it is, can’t just be about money.
I understand the importance of feeding yourself and paying rent. I totally do. I’ve suffered through it for years and taken bad jobs that paid.
But if you are trying to pour your creativity into something just to make money, it will fail and so will you.
Focus on the quality of the work you are doing. Write the crap out of that book. Paint like there’s a gun to your head. Sculpt. Film. Sing. Whatever.
Just do it with passion. With conviction. With purpose. With your heart.
There’s a funny thing that happens when you focus on quality: people notice, and they start buying. When you pay close attention to doing the best job you can do, money starts finding you. Success comes over time.
Remember how Who Framed Roger Rabbit? went over budget and way past deadline?
It pulled in a worldwide gross of $329.8 million. It was the second-biggest release of 1988, and the 20th-biggest of all time at the time of its release. It won four Academy Awards.
And it sparked the Disney Renaissance, so I basically owe my entire childhood (and my current love for Walt Disney World) to that movie.
Success takes time and effort to build, but once you put in that time and give a little bit of your sweat, the reward will follow. But there are no shortcuts.
Take notes, NBC. Pay attention, film industry. You’re all tanking because you’re looking at the bottom line. But once you made that shift, you didn’t have a chance. Take a risk and build something that you know is high quality – the audience will find it.
The Internet has turned us all into disagreeing jerks.
Find a blog post about any topic where there might be two opinions. I’ll wait here.
Got it? Good. Now scroll to the bottom of the post and start reading the comments section. I guarantee you will see at least 2-3 of the people in that comments section spit out obscenities or insults that you just don’t hear people say to each other in person.
By taking away the face behind comments, we’ve turned each other into a bunch of detached cynics that enjoy screaming things at each other in caps lock because we don’t have to face the inevitable reactions of: “You’re a lousy human being and I’m going to go stand over here now.”
Why? Because that’s reality. That’s what happens when you flagrantly and angrily insult someone for no reason. You end up alone. So if you do it alone, then you won’t be hurt.
What a life.
How It Should Be
I recently read a wonderful snippet about the Scopes Trial. For those unfamiliar, the Scopes Trial was basically the big debate of whether or not to teach evolution or creationism in schools.
Now, when you think about opposing viewpoints that divide people online, you may think of any of the following:
- Sports team
- Gun control
- Parenting style
- Writing style
- Global warming
- TV Shows
- Celebrity life choices
…and the list goes on. But at the top of the list has to be religious beliefs. I’m a conservative Christian man who is not overly sensitive to offending comments, but good grief some of the vitriol that is spewed online towards Christianity is just shocking. It’s created a whole new society of oppression towards people of faith.
And some of those people of faith, of course, are not blameless. There are plenty of Christians out there that do the same thing. But then, we all get lumped into them.
This is all despite the fact that we live in a country that celebrates freedom, particularly freedom of worship.
Now, the debate of creationism versus evolution is a high-profile, big-ticket type of debate. It’s one of the core beliefs of our lives, one way or the other. So, you would think that people on the opposite sides of this trial would be using the media to insult each other, call each other names, and talk blatantly about how childish or naive or stupid the other side is.
The two attorneys in the case, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, would have none of that. Instead, they defended their viewpoints aggressively in court, but it never devolved into personal attacks on the other person. They both felt that the other person was wrong – and probably even a little ridiculous – but they didn’t resort to cheap shots and insults.
They treated each other like human beings.
Click on that link above that leads to the Wikipedia entry of the trial. If you scroll down, you’ll see a photograph of the two opposing lawyers sitting with each other and being all buddy-buddy. They didn’t hate each other just because they had different views on something.
In fact, after the trial was over, Bryan sent Darrow a small carved monkey as a token of the battle they had just waged. It was a lighthearted sign of respect.
They knew how to disagree cordially.
We Are a Nation – and World – Divided
There are way too many things that divide us as a people. That’s okay. It’s the nature of the world we live in and it is human nature to disagree. That’s not a debate, nor is it a problem.
But we keep making it a problem by the way we treat it.
We’ve forgotten what “separate but equal” really means. It means that there are groups that are different in certain ways, but we should be celebrating that and not ignoring it. We should be using those differences as starting points for discussion and education instead of pretending they don’t exist.
And most importantly, we should all be treating each other with basic human respect. We all have to live in this world together, so we might as well try to get along.
Think of all the different groups in this world that have devolved into hatred for really no logical reason:
- Men and women
- Gays and straight people
- Christians and atheists
- Whites and [insert pretty much any race here]
- Kids and adults
- Conservatives and liberals
You get the idea. These groups can all have different viewpoints in the world, and that’s what sparks intelligent discussion.
Instead, thanks to the online world, we’ve drawn more battle lines than ever. We’re incapable of having a serious discussion about the issues that affect any and all of these groups, because it turns into LALALA YOU’RE STUPID AND DUMB AND A BIG BUTTFACE AND YOU’RE THE REASON THIS COUNTRY IS IN THE TOILET.
It’s embarrassing. I understand that emotion plays a part, but come on. Let’s get a hold of ourselves.
William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow are lawyers. Most people agree that lawyers can be some of the most despicable and heartless people in the world – particularly the ones that handle high-profile cases. But these two men, despite being in a trial that was broadcast as far as the media could take it back then, remained cordial. They remained respectful.
They remained human beings.
That’s the difference. The next time you want to call someone an idiot for an opposing point of view, shut up for a second. Take the time to analyze what they’re saying. Look at the context of their argument. Stop looking for sentences to take out of context so that you can have your “GOTCHA” moment.
Instead, give people the benefit of the doubt. Learn something from an exchange of ideas. Educate yourself on their views.
And above all, show respect. The other person is a human being with a family, friends, and plenty to offer this world. Quit shutting them out.
That doesn’t mean you have to accept their views. I don’t. My views and beliefs are mutually exclusive to a lot of people’s viewpoints. I believe many people are wrong. But that doesn’t mean I think less of them.
Accept the person as a human being first. Then state your case.
As a copywriter, I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills and become a better writer. After all, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, am I right (cliche alert)?
One way that I do know of, that sadly I had not been doing, is hand copying sales letters and promotions.
This seemingly-rudimentary exercise has been the “secret” of the master copywriters for decades. Gary Halbert, one of the best known and revered copywriters of all time, says this about the practice:
“What you must do now is not just read these classics. No, you need to copy them word-for-word in your own handwriting. If you are really serious about becoming a master copywriter, you will do this over and over. The idea here is not for you to steal these promotions but rather, to be influenced by them. You want good writing to become one of your automatic skills and rewriting superb ads and sales letters in your very own hand is the best way in the world to do this.”
My copywriting career is taking off. If I want to keep up, I need to be doing this to raise my “A” game.
Enter Copy Hour
The premise of Copy Hour is dead simple: “We send you an awesome promotion via email every weekday. You set a timer for an hour, grab a pen and paper, and copy it down.”
It’s an accountability group to do this, and it’s just what I need! Oh, and it’s working: I’ve been spending at least an hour every weekday for two weeks now hand-copying some classic stuff from the likes of Jay Abraham, Gary Halbert, and others.
The group at Location Rebel has opened up a forum thread on the course for us to discuss the course. In the discussion, I see a disturbing trend:
- “I got lazy…”
- “Haven’t been doing them every day…”
- “Just started back up again…”
- “Don’t care for this promotion…”
I’m not here to be a negative guy, or to crap on people who are trying, but I’ll tell you this: they’re never going to be master copywriters. They’ll never make six-figures writing sales copy. Not a chance.
“Do As The Rich Do”
It’s been laid out by more than one of the big-player copywriters in the industry that this is the way to learn. This is the way to go from “good enough” to “great”. Good enough copywriters make a living. Great copywriters make a fortune.
If you’re not willing to do what great copywriters do to become great, then you’ll just be good enough at best.
It’s the same in committing to anything: if you want the results, you have to do what it takes to get them. How do you know what it takes? You have to ask someone who’s already succeeded.
Ever listen to a bunch of broke people sit around and give each other advice on how to manage their money (usually unsolicited)? Or fat people tell you about what’s healthy/unhealthy?
Don’t listen to them. Don’t let someone who hasn’t made it tell you that what you’re trying to do can’t be done. You have to follow the advice of someone who’s done it – and then, get this: you have to actually put that advice into action.
- Lose weight by following the advice of someone who has lost weight
- Be a better writer by following the advice of someone who “made it”
- Make money and get out of debt by following the advice of someone who paid off their debts and built their fortune
- Be happier by following the advice of happy people
The list goes on. As Dave Ramsey says on his radio show and in his books: “If you want to be rich, you have to do what the rich do. Don’t follow the financial advice of broke people.”
It’s Going to be Hard/Uncomfortable
Hand writing stuff for an hour hurts my hand. I almost never write more than a Post-it note in my regular life. I’m a typer. But I tough it out, because on the other side of this is more copywriting success than ever in my life.
If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to make tough decisions about your diet and about your exercise lifestyle. It’s a fact. And it will not only be uncomfortable, but painful at times.
But if you want to lose weight, that’s the only way to do it. If you don’t want to tough it out, then be prepared to be fat for the rest of your life, because nothing will change unless you do.
And so on.
Those people in Location Rebel who aren’t doing all the writing exercises every day, or are cutting corners? They are probably perfectly fine people. They might be great people, actually, and they have great intentions.
But intention is no substitute for action. All the intentions in the world do nothing for you. If you want to be successful at something, you have to do what successful people do or are doing.
If you don’t? Then sit tight, because where you are is where you’ll be at for the next ten, twenty, or thirty years.
Sudden, overnight success is a myth. I’m turning the corner in my copywriting career, but it’s taken me almost six years of work to get here.
And that’s okay. If you want these substantial successes in your life, you have to earn them. This is where you punch me in the face for beating a dead horse into the ground: nothing worthwhile in this life comes easy.
If you want it, go get it. But you’ll need to slog through a lot of crap to get there. The good news is that you can do it – loads of other people in this world have done it, and they’re no smarter or privileged than you.
So roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Breaker, breaker, we’ve got a suspect that just ran a red light!
Bleep, bloop, blip.
It’s filthy in here. Dirt on the floor. Stained office chairs. Probably secondhand. An old pinball machine with a “cop chase” theme. A table with Ms. Pac-man (not “Mrs. Pac-man” because she doesn’t NEED a man!) built right into the tabletop. I look around the room and I see a race track painted on the wall, and tires. Lots of them.
They’re stacked up six high. I almost think that the nerd from a ’90s sitcom just filmed an episode where they all work on a car and he’s been shoved into one of those stacks. All I’d have to do is pull off the top tire to expose his frustrated sad sack expression and the studio audience will roar.
I’m at an old tire shop in a ghetto-ish part of Milwaukee. My tires have needed a replacement for about two years, but I’ve always been too broke to get them. Other stuff gets in the way. But in the last couple weeks, my tires’ air-holding abilities have gone from stopping at the air compressor at the gas station “once in a while” to “several times a month” to “weekly” to “every few days”. My wheel shakes around everywhere I drive. It’s no good. I’m afraid to drive up the street to the store, much less anywhere else.
Thankfully, I was paid today and I can take my car in. While here, I decided to pull out my netbook and knock out my 1,000 words for the day. As I was freewriting, I noticed something: my writing wasn’t repetitive today.
Generally, I have spent the last couple weeks freewriting about the same topics: the new contract I got for my copywriting business, my family, stresses, etc. Just the main stuff that continues to be on my mind. But today, I was writing about pinball machines, Pac-man games, and the Milwaukee ghetto.
Why? I had a change of scenery.
All year so far, I’ve been going through my writing in my office. As much as I love my office, it’s the same surroundings every day. I’m not challenged. I’m not uncomfortable. I’m not seeing anything new. The experience, by and large, is the same.
So now, I plan on spending at least one day a week out “in the wild”. I want to work from a Starbucks, or a park (when it’s, you know, not 12 degrees outside), or wherever I happen to be – like an auto shop waiting room. I want to get out of the office and have some fresh air not only in my lungs, but in my writing.
I think that’s a worthwhile goal to have. It’s like traveling: you love home, and you always want to return there, but you need to get a little perspective once in a while. You need to see other things. Smell other smells. Put yourself in different situations.
The smell of car grease and the feel of a stiff, old, stained office chair sparked new bits of creativity in my writing. I didn’t have to do anything else – I just sat there and experienced it.
What about you? Do you find that a change in scenery can kickstart your writing?
It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready to take advantage of them. - Theodore Roosevelt
I just started watching The Men Who Built America, which is a fascinating look at how the industrious and innovative businessmen of the 1800s laid the foundation for what the United States was going to become.
Heading into watching it, I didn’t realize that it was actually very entrepreneur-focused. While the show features many dramatizations of historical events with actors, it also splices in comments and interviews from famous businessmen who are still living today. As an entrepreneur, I have become completely sucked into it.
Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is an incredibly successful businessman, and you have to at least respect that much about him. I don’t agree with much of what he does, but he is a very smart man, and he has a good business sense. He’s made a lot of money, and even when he used to be watchable on The Apprentice, he had interesting insights and great stories to share about his rise in business.
In the first episode of The Men Who Built America, one story being told is that of John D. Rockefeller, who worked hard and became an oil magnate – and the richest man in America – by the time he was 33 years old. During this, Trump said:
“You have to be smart, you have to have vision, you have to have all of these different things, but most successful people are the people that had the right idea but never, ever quit or gave up. The people that really succeed in life are those that don’t quit.”
Throughout history, we see it. As much as we want to believe in “overnight successes”, there really is no such thing. Success is built out of consistently working on something over a long period of time, even if life knocks you around a bit.
Rockefeller was 33 when he became ridiculously wealthy. But he started working on it when he was 24. That’s seven years of working on the same thing – nights, weekends, free time, family time, and every other time in between.
Opening Up My Journal
I want to share with you what I wrote in my journal on Monday, January 7th, 2013, at 4:55pm.
It was the end of my work day. Over the past couple of months, I’ve struggled to pull in any kind of income. It forced my wife and I to make some difficult financial decisions, especially in the face of the Christmas season.
But this past Monday, I came to a verbal agreement with an investment research company for them to bring me on as a copywriter on a contract basis. They will send me a certain amount of work every month, and I will be paid a monthly retainer, plus a royalty, for my efforts. It’s the biggest moment of my young business.
As I leaned back in my office chair last Monday afternoon, I wanted to capture the thoughts going through my head, and as I wrote, I began to realize how much blood, sweat, and tears led up to this moment.
Here’s what I wrote:
Five years of trying to find a niche.
Five years of doubting whether I picked the right career or not.
Five years of dealing with low-hanging fruit just to get by.
Five years of chasing down invoices.
Five years of unanswered emails.
Five years of working for “exposure”, experience, testimonials, and “opportunities”.
Five years of false promises.
Five years of scrambling to pay bills.
Five years of stress and perceived failure.
Today, I cemented numbers on a contract with a new client: [contract details redacted]
I am ashamed at how many nights I spent during the last 5 years doubting God and His plan for me. He’s been with me every step of the way, whether I saw it or not.
Lord-willing, today marks a huge new and exciting chapter in my career and in our lives.
I’m looking forward to it.
Why You Have to Struggle
I’m not writing this post as an excuse to brag about all the money I’m going to make, nor am I including it to demonstrate that I actually used a hashtag in a journal entry. It’s about a valuable lesson that had hit me. For all the false starts and changes in mindset, I always came back to copywriting. And it took 5 years to pay off.
As Trump, and countless other successful businessmen have said, it comes down to not giving up.
I believe that I didn’t just struggle because that’s the way the chips fell, but I believe that I struggled so much because I had to.
If you have a goal in mind, and especially if it’s a business, you need to work long, thankless hours. You have to put more time in than the money you get out of it, for a very long time. I think that there’s a specific reason for that: God wants to know that you want it.
Think of all the great ideas we’ve had over the years. It doesn’t just take an idea to become a success. If success came that easy, then it wouldn’t mean anything. You would give up anyway, because you wouldn’t have ingrained in you the persistence and stick-to-itiveness to really invest in it and do a good job. That’s why you have to work on an idea for a long time before you see it become a success.
Struggle is good for you. It builds character. It also builds emotion into what you’re doing. Once you’re emotionally invested, you’re that much more driven to win.
After the Struggle, Keep Going
If you study successful entrepreneurs, you’ll also notice that they’re always trying to do something else. They’re always working on something bigger and better. Richard Branson is really known for this. And that’s because they have seen the bottom. They know how hard it is. So they are always diversifying, always improving, always growing.
This contract I signed? As long as I don’t screw anything up, it will guarantee that I make much more money than I made altogether last year. It also gave me 80% of my initial income goal for 2013.
So I went back into my goals, and raised the income goal. I changed my mindset. Now, my goal for 2013 is a number that I thought was years away from happening, and I intend on making it happen this year.
This client is but one name that came out of a spreadsheet of 144 companies. I still have 143 to contact every week. And I’m going to add more to that list – to contact every week.
And I’m working on building an affiliate base for TV Without Limits. And I’m going to write a book this year.
I’m not stopping, nor am I slowing down. It’s not for greed. It’s not for “comfort” or “financial security”. It’s not so that I can brag here.
I’m doing it because I’ve seen the bottom. I’ve lived at the bottom for 5 years. I don’t ever want to be within spitting distance of the bottom ever again, for the sake of my loving and supportive wife, and for the sake of our future children.
Consistent effort breeds success over time. So if I want to keep being successful 5 years from now, then I have no choice but to keep going.
This is a new series that I’m going to add to from time to time. I’ve often been accused of being an “old man” and old fashioned, so instead of shying away from it, I’m going to celebrate it.
What is it?
The good old handkerchief. Basically, for those who are (somehow) unfamiliar with it, a handkerchief is a big piece of thin cloth.
How I use it
Um, for clearing out my nose. Is that the most dignified way I can put it? It’s like a cloth Kleenex.
Why I like it
- It’s less wasteful. This is what prompted the change from tissue to handkerchief. I’m an allergy guy, so I find that I’m always in need of a good nose blowing when out and about. Because of this, I used to stuff a couple tissues in my pocket to carry around in case of emergencies. I don’t care for the “pocket packs” of tissue, because they seem to be more geared towards a lady’s purse than a guy’s pocket. I always feel like a pack mule when I’m carrying big, bulgy things in my pockets. But put some loose tissue in your pocket and carry it around for 2-3 days without using it. It leaves lint behind. It gets worn out and packed together. And if it rains, it becomes a useless wad of crud in my pocket. With a handkerchief, if I don’t use it, I can keep carrying it around for weeks and it doesn’t lose its quality. It’s ready for me, any time, anywhere.
- It’s more distinguished. I get that this is a pure opinion, but think about it: you’re at a wedding, decked out in your finest suit, feeling like a grown up, and then you have to pull out an old tissue to blow your nose. Or even worse, you have to pull out and tear off a little toilet paper you had snuck in your pocket. I don’t care who you are – that instantly makes you feel about 6 years old. A handkerchief at least is neat and clean.
- It’s easier on the schnozz. Tissues get harsh after a while. This is emphasized by rough toilet paper if you run out of it. Nothing like a big red Rudolph nose after giving it a good blow. The handkerchief stays soft and is pretty gentle on me.
- It’s versatile. An unused handkerchief can tie off a wound, mop up a mess in a pinch, and really do anything a rag can do. It’s handy to have it around.
- It’s durable. I’ve already talked about durability, but I mean this in terms of usage. There’s a breaking point in a piece of tissue where you might blow a hole through it, which just causes a mess on your hands. A handkerchief holds up to any blow. And if you’re blowing holes in a cloth handkerchief, you should probably go see a doctor.
- It’s cheap. This was a sweet experiment for me to try, because it didn’t take much to get started. Sure, you can go on Etsy and get some cool ones, or you can spring for monogrammed ones, which I would love to do at some point. But when you’re just trying them out, you don’t want to drop a bunch of money and risk not liking it. In this case, I went to Target, ponied up $5, and got a box of six plain white ones. Beautiful.
Why people don’t use it
- GERMS!!!?!?!?!!! That’s the general reaction I get. “They’re GROSS!” “You carry around your snot in your pocket?!?” Yeah, okay. But…
Why you should think about it
- First, they’re your germs. That snot you just blew? It came out of you. It’s not like you’re going to give yourself a cold.
- Keep it in a different pocket. I keep it in my back left pocket, where nothing else goes. So it’s not like the dreaded germ parade is going to dance over anything else in my pockets.
- Fold it right. I fold my handkerchief to fit in my pocket, and when I unfold it, I have 12 perfect squares to use for my snot removal purposes. I start in the middle. So, after a section is used, it’s covered by, like, 6-8 pieces of cloth. In other words, it’s buried away.
- Ever put a Kleenex back in your pocket? Found yourself in a situation where the Kleenex has to go back in your pocket to see if you can squeeze another use out of it because you have no other resources? Yeah, that’s much grosser. Trust me on this.
- We’re a society that’s washing hands/using sanitizer constantly anyway. Just blew your nose? You probably are about to find hand sanitizer or a bathroom to wash your hands anyway. That’s what we do now. So what is the difference? And heck, I bet there are more germs on your hands from using that Kleenex than there are after using a big, durable handkerchief.
- No doubling up on days. Did you use your handkerchief at all today? Put it in the hamper. The only excuse for doubling up on a handkerchief is if you didn’t use it at all the previous day. These things don’t get “full”, people. You just use it for the day and then toss it in the wash.
Just one man’s opinion. But I was turned onto the idea of using a handkerchief by The Art of Manliness, and I really haven’t looked back. They clean easily. They’re little maintenance. And with everybody being so concerned with being “green”, I’m surprised these haven’t caught on again.
But frankly, I couldn’t be happier with the decision. I may actually get some sweet monogrammed ones or some fancy ones off of Etsy. It was a cheap experiment, and it’s one that has paid off. Now we’re not wasting tissues, my nose is happy, and I feel a little more like a grown up. Mission accomplished.