Made my first comment on your blog recently and as promised, i'm here to make direct contact via email, officially deleting my name from the list of 900 :)
I'm blown away by the depth of the posts you make in response to emails from other folks for advice, so i'm gonna try my luck seeking some insights from you about my situation.
I just graduated from university about one and a half years ago.
So fast forward to today. Till now, i still only manage a low 4-figures monthly income from the internet business.
Once in awhile i do something big or take part in some profitable venture (like recently) and hit mid 4-figures (i'm talking all SGD here) but feel that i'm earning wayyyyyyyy below what i SHOULD be earning, given what i already know.
I'm involved in multiple projects at any one time, and i really need to ship much more.
Even more tricky is the fact that i am a voracious reader, i love to read.
The future mother-in-law calls me "professor".
I've read all the popular and big self-improvement and productivity and business books out there: 4 hour work week, GTD, Emyth, Ultimate Business Machine, Anthony Robbins, etc etc etc.
I've tried productivity tricks like GTD, pomodoro, assorted iphone apps etc, but the habits never really seem to stick.
I make plans for the next day on the night before, but still end up reading books and a bunch of stuff instead of building campaigns like i should be doing.
I guess the short solution to my problem seems to be self-discipline really, but i'd love to hear your thoughts.
I've been working at it two years, and my dream of a 5 figure monthly income purely from my internet ventures still seems to be nowhere in sight.
I figured a useful solution would be to hire a virtual assistant, so i can simply come up with ideas which i then get others to materialize for me.
This worked fairly well when i had one some months back. She disappeared and i've been having trouble finding good help since.
In short, my plan of attack in 2011 is to hire someone to help me out in the business, and to figure out how to make myself more accountable and self-disciplined.
Phew, what a long email.
It does feel good to be able to tell all these to someone i probably will not see in real life, but whom i know is really smart.
I'm typing all these from my iphone, after i decided to email you upon your last few epic posts.
If i could just be as prolific as you are at creation, i think i can hit my goals really really fast.
Looking forward to your reply!
P.S What do you figure is a good subject line in a personal email to someone? I often use "Hello" but it does feel spammy at times.
Thanks for the kind words. Easiest question first -
Subject line for an email? "Hello" is fine, but more detail would be good. Perhaps "Hi Sebastian, a quick question about self-discipline and increasing income"? Title doesn't really matter with me since I answer all my email, but more detail might help with other people.
Alright, the meat of your question. First off, low to mid-4 figures SGD is nothing to sneeze at, especially if it's somewhat automated or scalable. It seems to that two fast ways to be more profitable would be to sell more to your current customers (who are already super-qualified buyers) and to double down on your most effective sales channels.
Doing more with your current customers: Impossible to make specific recommendations without knowing your specific industry, but let's say you ran a web hosting company. You could regularly reach out to customers with other offers, especially if they're valuable. For instance, let's say you implemented new one-click installs for common software packages - Wordpress, forum software, wiki, things like that. Well, one thing you could do is after someone successfully one-click installs, you send them an email with some good useful free resources, and places to get more. You could potentially sell some premium Wordpress themes, or line up free consultations for your customers with a talented designer, who agrees to pay you for every lead or every purchase sent their way. Things like that get more value/profit by serving your customers. Look at how Mailchimp does this, they've got tons of valuable add-ons. They seem really excellent at both being valuable and offering lots of little paid add-ons. Amazon also excels at this with "Customers also bought" and giving you custom recommendations. Amazon's definitely worth studying for how to do more business with your current customers.
Have you doubled down and tripled down on what's most profitable for you? Seriously no joke, nobody does this. I don't know why. Frequently I wouldn't do this. It's like, "Oh, hey, this three hours I put into this marketing channel made $5000... now let me totally ignore this while I go back to day to day life because I'm an idiot." Or something. I don't understand, actually. People don't double down on what works. I don't know why. I can't explain why. Hell, I still don't do it, so excuse me for being a rank hypocrite and preaching while I'm not exactly saintly myself. I don't know why people don't double down on what works, but they don't. But they should. You should. Figure out what's already working. Double down on that.
Reading books and not taking action: A great Chet Holmes quote: "I realized that becoming a master of karate was not about learning 4,000 moves but about doing just a handful of moves 4,000 times."
That's really the truth. You don't need 4,000 moves. You need to do a few moves 4,000 times.
Anyways, in full disclosure, I'm a reading/knowledge junkie myself, and that's okay. Even the most passive reading will pay a little bit of dividends, and there's a hell of a lot worse ways to spend your time.
That said, once you key in one some piece of information that solves your current major campaign or goal or problem, I recommend you read and re-read and implement and re-implement the ideas from the book.
A book like E-Myth or GTD or Ultimate Sales Machine can be read and re-read and re-read and re-read, and you'll get different and new lessons each time, and lead to mastery. I've read some of my favorite books half a dozen times or more to try to get at and do the exercises and recommendations in them.
Do it. Don't just get the information once, immerse yourself in it and take action on it. I must've basically read Getting Things Done 3-4 times in a row when I first got it, in order to implement the various ideas. I still refer back to it every few months.
Some other thoughts on being more disciplined about taking action -
1. I recommend you start tracking your time to see where it goes. Yes, I give this same advice a lot, but are you actually doing it? It works. It really does.
I've got a lot of articles here about time tracking. Here's the key post I usually refer people to who are thinking of starting, my newest tracking, and some videos on how to do it -
Do some time tracking.
Beyond that, I aim for a 70% success rate with my goals. So if I'm looking to spend one hour per day doing some major implementation, I'm not beating myself up if I'm only succeeding 4-5 times per week to start. Or if I do a week in a row, but then miss three days. It happens. It's normal when you're doing things. I set my goals such that the 70% level is sufficient, though public accountability and deadlines both help if you want 100%.
Habit installation takes a while. ... sorry. I'm generally micro-level impatient and I want everything to go faster than it does, but things go slowly. Sucks. But it's true. So if you currently don't do something, and want to, it'll probably take longer than you expect. (The flipside is that it tends to be easier to continue habits once they're automatic than you'd expect)
"Deserve's got nothin' to do with it" - So, it's one of the most insufferable things about our generation, and I reckon I should point it out to you even though you didn't ask about it specifically.
"but feel that i'm earning wayyyyyyyy below what i SHOULD be earning, given what i already know."
I like Western movies a lot, and one of my favorite is Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" - amazing movie. Everyone should watch it.
The last gunfight, when the guy is bleeding out and says, "I don't deserve this..." and the reply - "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."
That's one of my favorite quotes. Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.
There's no "should", there's no "deserve" - you get what you go GET, y'know? You shouldn't get income, you don't deserve income, nothing like that. You get what you go GET.
Our generation catches some shit for wanting to be Emperor of the Universe before we've paid our dues. In some ways, I think it's cool because oftentimes we try stuff we're stupid and crazy to try, and sometimes it works. I'm not one for slowly working up the ladder and don't advocate that.
But nothing is deserved, there's no should. You get what you go GET. There's no should, no deserve, nothing is automatic or guaranteed... keep that in mind. Should has nothing to do with it. Deserve has nothing to do with it. You get what you go GET. You could, if you like, go get more. Then you'll have more. And that's how it works.
This might sound like a small thing, but it's actually a huge psychological shift. Once you realize that you deserve NOTHING, and are entitled to NOTHING, and NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE YOU... then it's like, whoa, okay, I've go build some shit, and hustle, and win.
Sounds small, but it's not. Be very, very careful that you don't think you're entitled to income, success, prestige, whatever. There's ways into all of those things, but you need to take the action. You don't get a trophy for showing up, and you don't get rewards just because you should, or deserve, or because you have the talent... unless you apply that talent and go get it.
A lot of winning is shoveling shit. Unfortunately. Or rather, it's not about learning 4,000 moves. It's about doing a handful of moves 4,000 times. I like your idea to hire a virtual assistant, but it's not a magical panacea... you're still going to need to identify between 2 and 5 things that are going to have the highest impact for you, and practice doing those 2-5 things however long you need until it's near automatic.
1. Look at your current customers first. How can do you do more business with them?
2. What's your most successful marketing channel? Why haven't you doubled down on it yet?
3. You don't need 4,000 moves. You need to do a few moves 4,000 times.
4. Thus, once you find a truly excellent book, read it, and re-read it, and re-read it, and apply it, and re-apply it, and re-apply it. Don't just go on to the next book. Dig deep, find the core lesson or two, and apply like crazy.
5. I recommend time tracking if you want to see where your time goes. Also, public accountability and deadlines can help.
6. Success takes longer than we want oftentimes. Stick with it. Perhaps aim for a 70% success rate with your goals.
7. Deserve's got nothin' to do with it. You get what you go GET. You're entitled nothing. Never forget that, and then go GET what you want.
Thanks for the email, good questions, and godspeed with the business.
Excellent article. There is so much about the subject and so many ways to analyze and improve. I'm going to reread that post again and draw some practical conclusions. Thanks again.
Thank you, I have been thinking about getting in touch with you. You have interesting skills, which are very different than mine: I was impressed by you casually mentioning traveling the world, while also making a very good living (as a consultant?). There are some attitudes and skills that I'm not aware off. I haven't yet asked anything because I having no concrete and defined problem at the moment, but when I do, I will gladly ask for help or feedback.
As for the contact information: I deliberately left just my name, since that is enough to contact me through oDesk, and the effort to register as an employer acts as a screen. If K goes up there and registers, I know he is serious and we will not waste each others time. But Skype is fine too: my ID is stefan.t.king
"You get what you go GET . . . you deserve NOTHING, and are entitled to NOTHING, and NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE YOU"
"For entrepreneurs, reading business books is the new television." - Rob Walling - http://tinyurl.com/36mpkn7
As a book junkie, I can relate to K's situation and I was reminded of the quote above. I totally agree with your "read, re-read, implement & re-implement a handful of ideas" process and, as 2010 drew to a close, I resolved to adopt a Tim Ferriss-esque low-but-focused information diet plan while speeding up the process of assimilating and iterating ideas gleaned from books and such blogs as yours.
Thanks everyone for sharing.
Very cool article - Spot on Sebastian!
for people who want to go more in depth about taking action when reading non-fiction I wrote a little something - http://milesfitzgerald.com/self-help-laziness/
Sebastian is right it's about " apply it, and re-apply it, and re-apply it "
I'm willing to interview for being your virtual assistant. I'm a master graduate in AI, have a background in e-commerce and corporate IT, and I'm currently breaking into copywriting and internet marketing. Assuming you don't sell shoddy goods, I'm impressed at you setting up an internet business at all, and I'm interested in learning from you, while helping you succeed in your current and next ventures.
If you want to consider hiring me, I have a profile at oDesk. You can check out my past jobs and test scores there. It also has a complete resume with the rest of my skills.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yesterday, I put up an image Daniella sent me on Ben Franklin's Time Tracking.
After that, we got into a bit of a good discussion on the topic. We shared some thoughts on chaos and structure, and I wrote this -
Re: time tracking, it took me a few attempts and a few false starts before I started doing it. I've gotten a lot out of it, but I'm a big believer that your tools should serve you; you don't serve your tools. Track as much as makes sense for you so you get gains out of it. I'm naturally an unstructured person actually - I try to build structure and routine in the areas that I think it benefits, while letting creativity and chaos reign where it does well. My blog is actually more on the chaotic-just-let-it-flow side - I don't have an explicit pattern or schedule for posting. I just write something every day based on whatever I'm thinking or reading or corresponding about. I try to add more structure/order in areas where it helps a lot - even after doing it for a long time, I still forget to breathe and meditate a little at the start of my day if I don't refer to my time tracking. Likewise, tracking food and spending gives me a pretty good idea of what I'm eating and where my money is going, which adds a lot of value to my life. But again, it should serve you. Try it a little if you want to improve an area, make it work for you, make it yours. If it's not serving you at that time, discard it. I don't know if I'll track forever, but I'm still seeing big gains from it.
D writes back -
Thanks for the quick reply! Have to run to a concert now, but a question did pop into my head as I thought about the unstructured person living a semi-structured life and read your response. I guess I maybe resisted time tracking because it felt like I was self imposing structure on my daily life, which would "bind" me to it in a way. I'm the type of person that naturally resists structure but when I do have it, I do my best to succeed at it.
Almost everyone I know is busy as hell. Running companies, contracting, doing creative work, and keeping a huge mix of projects going on.
Keeping busy is good, but sometimes it turns into a tragedy where you've got your head down doing work and duties, but you never get some of that real juice out of your life that you're wanting.
And many of the busy people I know -- myself included -- periodically have a day where they snap back to reality and really feel it for the first time in a while. "Oh god, I'm out of shape, my energy is low, I feel like crap, I'm not doing some of the key projects I love, I'm passing up a lot of really big opportunities stuck in the grind, I'm neglecting my hobbies and what I want to train... and for what?"
This applies just as much to entrepreneurs as people on salary, maybe even moreso. It's very easy as an entrepreneur or executive to get caught up in running around, getting stuck in the "errands" of business, dealing with what's on fire, and really neglecting the really expansionary projects that aren't urgent, your health, and maybe worst of all -- forgetting to have fun.
Is there an answer? Read on...