Leading by Following

Success

I played basketball for 3 years in college. During my senior year, we had the privilege and the pleasure to compete in our division’s national tournament. We actually ended up going all the way to the National Championship game in Oklahoma City in 2006. We led the entire game, but ended up losing on a tip-in at the last second right as the final buzzer sounded. Depressing? Maybe. But it was an incredible learning experience! I’ll share more on this loss in the future but for now, I’d like to talk about why we were able to succeed.

My buddy Jon was (and still is) one of my best friends. At six foot six, 220 lbs, Jon was a bundle of basketball joy. The perfect size for a dominant division III NCAA post-player. Not only was he built for the job, but he had the work ethic and skills to pay the billz (the “z” is added there to maintain my status as a gangsta). In 2005, he was the recipient of the NCAA Field Goal Percentage award. That means out of every basketball player in Divisions I, II, and III, Jon made more of his attempted shots than anyone else (Emeka Okafur [who is now in the NBA] was the Division I leader for the University of Connecticut, came in 3rd place behind my Jonny boy)!

It was a no-brainer that our coach named Jon team captain for the 2005-2006 season (our senior year). Our senior class had 4 solid players (3 all-Americans, and 1 point guard who is the best defender I’ve seen in my life) who had been starters for the past 3 years. A “perfect storm” of talent and hard work was forming, and success looked immanent.

But even though we had 4 pillars to our potential championship team, Jon and company couldn’t do it alone. They needed the help of the rest of the team. The old phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” comes to mind.

I was that weakest link.

The last guy off the bench, I took my job as “bench captain” like it was the greatest job in the world. Fun!

Motivation

So we have a “sandwich” of a team. We have Jon as the top loaf of bread, and Josh as the bottom. Now, how do we motivate all the “meat” in the middle? This is where understanding the Foundations of Leadership really came alive to me.

Our Coach (spelled with a capital letter on purpose) was the very best in the nation. That’s not an exaggeration either. He worked harder at becoming a great coach than anyone I’ve met before. As a D-3 All-American in the early ’90s, Coach led his team (as a player) to a national championship. It was around his 12th year that he took our team back to the championship as a Coach. All of the early mornings, late nights, trips, conferences, scouting missions, and hours upon hours of video and practice got him to be the leader that we needed.

However, just like I’ve mentioned before, Coach couldn’t do it alone.

Let’s get back to the story of our hero, Jon.

Follow Me

Jon bought into our Coach’s philosophy and ideals early. A talented player, he never let his play depend on talent alone. Hard work, trips with Coach, hours upon hours of video, and practice, practice, PRACTICE helped him work to becoming a great player.

Because he spent so much time with our Coach as a freshman and sophomore, he understood how Coach thought. How he viewed the game, what his tendencies were, what our team needed to get to the next level.

The success of our senior year really began in the summer of our junior year. Once Jon started influencing (key word) the rest of our team to follow him, as he followed Coach. He knew the mission, he knew Coach’s goals, and he had a sort of “in the trenches” rapport with the rest of us that Coach couldn’t have. It was through this “following” that we gave Jon our respect and attention, and eventually saw that he was only replicating what Coach had already taught him over the previous 3 years.

The CORE

Because Jon knew how to follow, he was able to influence the rest of us to follow. We jokingly called him our “fearless leader”, but looking back, that’s exactly who he was, a fearless leader. It takes guts to lead.

He didn’t wait for some magic moment to start leading, either. He began right where he was, and learned from somebody who knew the ropes (our Coach).

Maybe you’re like Jon was in the beginning, wanting to lead but not knowing where to start. Maybe you have someone that you view as a leader, and wonder how they got where they are, and WANT to be like them. Maybe you don’t care (but I doubt that, otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far).

We’re all called upon to lead at some point in our lives. Whether at work, play, or with our friends or family. Leadership can jump upon us sometimes if we don’t expect it. Or, it can be brought about intentionally, methodically.

Tim Morris (of Intentional Influence fame) and I have teamed up to bring you the building blocks of leadership. Like the story of Jon above, learning how to FOLLOW is a necessary building block. It’s also one of many characteristics that Tim and I cover in our new book, which I’m proud to announce.

On the morning of November 2nd, the United States will open up the polls to potentially changing the leadership of our country. I hope that y’all will vote and make a difference. There’s also another momentous opportunity for you to “vote” on November 2nd as well.

Vote on changing your own leadership.

Tim and I will be releasing our e-book, “The Core” November 2nd at 10 AM ET. If you’ve been riding the fence, sitting on the bench, standing against the wall (or any other phrases I can think of for not taking action), now is the time to jump in and get your feet wet.

There are more goodies to come concerning The Core, but for now I’ll leave with a question:

What are you doing to change or magnify your influence in the lives of others?

Cheers!

– JC

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The Second Post on Money & a Healthy Dose of Politics

Ahh yes, it’s political season here in America. Let the mud-slinging, yard signs, bumper stickers, and biased news broadcasts begin.

Or not…

(WARNING: I may potentially lose some followers on this post. I’m ok with that. If what I’m talking about here bothers you, it’s been nice hanging with you for a while. I’d love to have you back, but I’m not upset if you leave.)

While I’m not going to get into much “political talk” in this post, I am going to talk about something that drives me nuts (even in my own self-examination) and gets people upset – taking personal responsibility. In this case, we’ll be talking a little bit about economics. But first, a small, mini post-within-a-post.

“Let’s not discuss politics right now”

There are two things that really get people out of their comfort zone “these days”. They are:

  • Religion
  • Politics

The reason that most folks don’t like talking about these two subjects is quite simple: They’re a direct line to an individual’s worldview. You know your worldview, right? It’s shaped by past (and in some cases, present) experiences, upbringing, and education. It addressed the tough questions of life. It makes many of us uncomfortable, because when we really think about it, it’s kind of a serious (and maybe scary) line of thought. It’s the end-of-life type stuff.

Every person’s worldview is unique to them. I’ve even come across some families whose children had differing worldviews. In an age of subjection, words can take on a different meaning. We’ll save that deep stuff for another day though, I don’t want to lose you. 🙂

If you’re not upset at this point, you’ll be alright, I’m not going to go much deeper than this. Before I move on, I’d better say this: I am NOT a philosopher or psychologist. I’m merely offering some observations I’ve seen in my short time here on earth. That said, let’s get back to politics.

I’m Josh Crocker, and I approve this message!

So…Politics. Funny topic, eh? It always starts pleasant, and then either dissolves, or ends up in a shouting match. In fact, (again, my observation is that) many of our fellow Americans really have no idea what it means to have a logical argument. We think “arguing” is when Bill O’Reilly or Elliot Spitzer shouts louder into the camera than their “opponent” does in order to “win” the argument. That’s not arguing, that’s two people showing how loud they can talk, without really accomplishing anything.

True arguing would involve getting into your opponent’s head. It involves respecting them, and their worldview. As I’ve come across many political conversations in the past 8 years (as long as I’ve been allowed to vote), I’ve seen a pattern of the exact opposite. Chap A comes to Chap B with a political idea, but is presenting the idea with only his own presuppositions and worldview. Chap B hears this wild and crazy idea with his own ears (and presuppositions & worldview) and like two positive-on-positive or negative-on-negative magnets, the two get upset until they either no longer discuss the matter again or…….they no longer discuss the matter again.

I’d like to move laterally with our political discussion. I do believe it’s important to have (truly) logical arguments between friends (and yes, it IS possible to have and maintain healthy relationships with people who have different political views). It’s also important to perform a little self-examination during political season. And since politics and money seem to always get talked about in the same breath…

Ok Fun Boy, enough about the friggen politics! You said this post was about money!

And it is. I wanted you to understand something first. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Independent, Progressive, Moderate, Tea Party member, or even a member of the Rent Is Too Damn High party. There’s one thing that each of us is interested in during this election season: our own money.

Politics is easy as PIE. Former U.S. House of Representatives Senator Bob McEwen has taught famously that “politics is easy as P.I.E.” saying that P = I + E, or Politics equals Integrity plus Economics. When voters go to the polls, they’re really voting on two things, Integrity and Economics. I’d like to discuss the economic portion of that idea.

Taxes! Spending! Bailouts! Deficits!

How many times have you or I seen these words flash across the “urgent” screen of CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News? (Hint: it’s ALL the friggen time!).

People love to complain. The weather, the flu, the federal budget. I’m no “holier than thou” when it comes to this stuff either, I like complaining about it sometimes too. Here’s the catch in all of those:

They’re not in our direct line of control.

In other words, energy spent complaining about things that can’t be changed is wasted energy.

It’s time to get proactive

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, leadership master Stephen Covey talks about two circles: The Circle of Influence, and the Circle of Concern. He says the following about those who possess a Proactive Focus:

“Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying, causing their circle of Influence to increase.”

On the flip-side of that, he talks about the opposite type of folks:

“Reactive people, on the other hand, focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.” (page 83)

Woah! Thier Circle of Influence to shrink? That’s not a good thing! Influence is a good thing, especially when it’s done in a positive manner. The Proactive focus mentioned above is what I want to suggest should be the line of thought for this upcoming political season.

Becoming economically proactive

While everyone else will be talking about how their favorite candidate will save them gabillions of dollars this year, and how their opponent has been sucking the taxpayers dry for the last 12,000 years…you can be economically proactive by taking the reins on your own personal economy.

Where do you get your news from?

Or in this case, who do you let influence you when it comes to your own personal economy? Friends? Co-workers? Family?

I have three gurus I follow online and in books when it comes to personal finance. If they had yard signs (in a political-type fashion), I’d proudly post them on my front lawn. They are:

Let me briefly explain why these three dudes are the king cheeses when it comes to money, and why I think you should listen to them as well.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad was the very first book I read upon returning from my military training in 2007, and it’s THE book that was my “gateway drug” to self-education and personal development. Robert Kiyosaki uses much of his own personal story to explain that the REAL difference between the “rich” and the “poor” (no matter what the candidates will tell you) is what they KNOW about money, and that is it. Kiyosaki’s principles have stuck with me since reading this book, and I’ve come to read multiple other books he has written. Each of his books has only continuously solidified to me 2 things: Knowing the difference between a true asset and liability, and the importance of creating (yes, CREATING) multiple streams of income.

Ramit Sethi is my hero. Seriously. I freakin love this dude (but not in a creepy stalker way). My first post on money was all about the mental mind grenade that is his book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Here I am, well over a year since writing that, and I’m still referencing his book for info. Not only that, but I’ve also purchased some of Ramit’s other products, and his blog‘s FREE content is worth more than most paid info on personal finance out there. Ramit is the man!

Adam Baker is showing up all over the online map these days. As a matter of fact, he just launched his second guide for folks wanting to make some extra cash! I came across Baker a few months ago, as I learned about how he and his family sold all their crap, and traveled the globe for a year! There are not too many folks out there who are “able” (or so they think) to be able to pick up shop, and head around the world for a year and some change. Baker did. It’s because of this unique adventure (and his next trip he’s hinted at taking soon), that I’ll listen to him. ManvsDebt is a fantastic website that will help to not only rope in your debt, but crush it all together!

Like-minded individuals

It’s good to hang with people that will help influence you in a positive way. That’s why I stay close to the 3 guys listed above. There is a TON of BAD financial advice out there (Yahoo! Finance and most tv “money” shows come to mind), but there are also some great people doing some great things. These 3 mentioned above are members of the latter crowd.

I Voted Today

Here’s my challenge to y’all: Instead of joining the crowd in complaining about candidates, take an inward look this week/month and find out where you can fix or improve the economy of “you”. Personal Finance is just that, personal. Nobody else can make financial decisions like you can.

Suggestions: Set some goals. Write down some dreams. What do you want to do with your money in the next 3-6 months? Are you going to travel? Eliminate some large debt? Have a really nice holiday season with the family?

What’s next for you?

Some fun extra reading

The idea for this post was brought about by 2 others I’ve read. Seth Godin recently posted on a topic similar to this, and quite a while ago, Ramit Sethi talked about a subject similar to this also. If you’d like to delve further into this topic, you can read Seth’s post here, and Ramit’s post here.

…and that’s all for now folks! Let’s get the conversation rolling on this one. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Cheers!

– JC

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How to get mentored by an online pro and fast-forward your learning…sort of

This post was inspired by my newfound home boy, Joel Runyon. The article that he wrote that brought about this thought can be found here.

***A quick side-note on Joel. There’s some discussion going on throughout the Interwebs over who he most-closely resembles. Let’s settle this debate once and for all in the comments. Who do you think Master Runyon most closely resembles (celebrity-wise)?? Check out a pic of this handsome stud here***

Presenting a new word – “Infolanche”

Meaning: An avalanche of information.

I’m not going to go into a long schpeal about how much information is out there. I’m still wondering if I spelled “schpeal” correctly in that last sentence…anyways, y’all know that the connected Internet has more information available than Shaq has nicknames. In fact, it seems as though we’re in the midst of an information (attention) gold rush right now.

So many wonderful flavors to choose from! Which one do I choose from?

The delicious Information Buffet. Yummmmm!

For you newbies our there (and yes, there are a LOT that read this blog. I love my noobs!), you may be wondering “Where do I start?” Great question! Here’s a quick list of suggestions:

  • Take note of the other people that are linked to and mentioned on this blog. They’re folks that I find very interesting and intriguing (in some cases, entertaining as well).
  • Search Twitter for different topics that interest you (sports, money, underwater basket weaving…whatever).
  • Find out what online personalities your friends end up reading or learning from also (Which really goes hand in hand with the first bullet above)

What I’m saying is this: go through the Internet Info-Buffet and throw a bunch of stuff on your plate. Look around, get a taste for what looks good. It’s not all going to be good, but you’ll find some tasty stuff! Once you’ve figured out what you like…

Go back for seconds

Ahhh seconds. This is the magic moment for me every time I go to Ponderosa or and Old Country Buffet. I usually go for a delicious pizza-esque thing, or some nice fried chicken. But forget what I like to eat, let’s get back to the info-buffet analogy.

You’ve figured out what blogs and info sources you like, now it’s time to dig in and get some good eats! This is where the real magic that Joel led me to comes in. (Let’s be clear that I’m dropping the buffet analogy right……now.)

Getting mentored by your favorite blogger

If you haven’t clicked the link to Joel’s post that gave me this wonderful idea, do it now. If you’re still lazy and aren’t going to click it, I’ll share it with you here.

The archives.

No, I’m not talking about something from National Treasure or Indiana Jones. I’m talking about your favorite blogger’s blog archives. Here’s why reading the archives can help you get (sort of) mentored by your favorite online personality:

At one point in ________’s (insert favorite blogger’s name here) history, they were just starting out. If you’re new to blogging, you’re actually in the same position they’re in right now. Cool, huh?

Going through their archives is like taking a trip back in time to where they were when they first began. You get to see all the mistakes they’ve made, how awkward their writing style (or video/audio presence) was, and in most cases, you can almost detect how “nervous” they were (maybe you’re feeling the same way right now?).

Starting chronologically and working your way through (going to the site map section of their website helps to do this) to the present day gives you the opportunity to learn as they learned. Especially if this is somebody you admire and want to emulate in some fashion.

I’m currently working my way through Tim Ferriss’ archives (here’s his sitemap that I’m using), so I can learn some of the thought-processes that were going through his mind when he was just beginning as well.  There’s much wisdom to be found by doing this!

But won’t this “time travel” reading take a lot of time?

Yes. But that’s why you went through the “buffet” line first to see what you did and didn’t like (ok I brought back the buffet analogy just ONE more time). On your second time through the line, you didn’t pick up the stuff you didn’t like, did you? So, if you’re subscribing to blogs you don’t read, knock that junk out!

Since you’re focusing on someone that you really would want to mentor you, it shouldn’t be a problem to only laser-beam focus on the stuff they’ve written about. They may not have the time to give you the full history of how they arrived at where they are now, but by reading through their archives, you already have this advantage. Isn’t technology just plain wonderful?

Books baby, books!

There’s a future post cooking up here at TFS on self-development and education, but for now I’ll leave you with this quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. I’ll give you the full quote and then modify it a little for the sake of this post (you’ll understand what I mean fo’ sho’!).

“You’ll be the same person 5 years from now as you are today except for 2 things: The people you meet, and the books you read”

and modified for this post:

“You’ll be the same person 5 months from now as you are today except for 2 things: The people you meet, and the blogs you read”

Going through the archives is like spending the past few months/years with that blogger and learning as they learn. I’m loving the process right now, and if you try it, you will too.

Cheers mates!

– JC

P.S. – Don’t forget to answer the question from above about my buddy Joel. He’s gonna love the feedback 😉

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The TFS Dictionary

Various Fun Phraseology

I’ve been known to make up a few phrases here and there that find their way into everyday speak. I’ll just share some of them, and continue to add to them in the future.

  • Backne” (Bak-Nee) n. Acne that forms on the back or backside of a person
  • Crandemonium” (Cran-de-mown-nee-um) n. Any online event, conversation, or feather-ruffling brought upon by David Crandall
  • Sweatpantrepreneur” (Swet-pant-tre-pren-euoor) n. Since I work remotely (and often from home), the most comfortable pants I like to wear are my basketball sweatpants from college. Entrepreneur + sweatpants = Sweatpantrepreneur…Brilliant!
  • Twitzkrieg” (Twits-creeg) n. The event that began on August, 31st 2010 where I Twitter blasted all of the people I follow on Twitter individually to thank them for all that they do, especially all that I’ve learned from them over the past year. This word also became a verb once others started doing this as well to all of the people they follow. Twitzkrieg the verb means the act of thanking people you follow using the hashtag #TK within the tweet. Try it sometime, you’ll love it!
  • Yaga” (pronounced like “gaga”, as in “Lady Gaga”, but spoken quickly and high-pitched) noun, verb, adjective, adverb. This is my grand golden-child of all words. It’s my baby. However, although I cannot claim full creation of this word (it was borrowed from a friend), I can claim full innovation and integration of this word into every day speech. It can really come to mean anything, but the most basic comparison-words/phrases could be “amen”, “yes!” (as in, a very excited yes), or “I am in full agreement”. Chat with me for a few minutes on Skype and you’re bound to hear it. Look for this one to be used frequently, and spread it around as often as ye would like!

Quick action point

I’ll leave on a question: What crazy words do you use as your own that you think need to be brought into this dictionary? Leave it in the comments, and the best one will receive a special prize! (as yet to be determined). Also, I still need some feedback from y’all as to what we should all call ourselves here at TFS Fan-Central. So far the best idea comes from Josh Buisch (pronounced “bish”, which rhymes with “wish”) at sonofabuisch.com with “Yagatians”. Let’s hear some creativity!

Cheers, ye lads and lasses!

– JC

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Super Cool Secret Agent Stuff!

This is a picture of my wife and I now that we have this cool tool at our disposal. (Can’t see it? Click here.)

Short post for Saturday to keep the fun going through the weekend!

I realize not all of my readers are as madly in love with the Internet and its gadgetry as I am, so from time to time I like to share some of the “Digital Discoveries” I come across. This is one of them. 🙂

Recently, I discovered Google Latitude. Wow, what a cool app! I was watching Quantum of Solace with my wife the other night and thought of how cool it would be to have a homing beacon on my friends (not in a stalker type way, but just a cool way) to track them down, help me find the secret cache (of weapons, money, or junk food), and pretty much get me one step closer to becoming 007…

…Okay, that might not happen, but it still makes me feel cool to use it! Thanks Google!

Check this out!

Wow, a program like this really would’ve helped when I was wandering through Central Park trying to find David Crandall on our recent trip to NYC!

Wanna join me on Latitude? Hit me up in the comments with your screen name and I’ll send the invite!

Talk to you guys soon!

– JC

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Shooting for the moon

This post was inspired by a post and then the ensuing comments (it was actually point #3 “The Scale Does Not Define You” that inspired this thought) from Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness. If you haven’t checked out NF yet…well, you already know what to do. 🙂

PT…Good for you, Good for me!

Serving in the Army Reserves, every few months we’re required to take a PT (Physical Training) test that measures the physical strength and endurance of our bodies through push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run. Each event is scored individually, with 100 being the top score for that event. Scoring a 300 on the test means a perfect score, and it’s actually one of my (soon to be reached!) goals mentioned in my motivational fitness guide. But this isn’t a post about the Army (I’m not a recruiter). It’s about a characteristic that separates champs from everyday folks (and it’s NOT hard for those everyday folks to become champs!). This of course, is based upon my own observation.

“What number do you need to get?”

Come test time, this is a question that gets tossed around at different units all throughout the land. The answers to the question however, are arbitrary. Depending upon who you ask, you may get two completely different answers.

MOST people who usually end up failing their test know 3 numbers. The minimum number of push-ups, sit-ups, and their 2-mile run time necessary to pass their test. You’ll hear them say something like, “If I can only get _____ sit-ups, then I’ll pass”.

On the other hand…

MOST of the people I’ve met that always seem to pass their test (and are nowhere close to the minimum numbers required, but are far higher than those numbers) also know 3 numbers. The 3 numbers that they know are the maximum amount of push-ups, sit-ups, and their 2-mile run time necessary to get a perfect score on their test. They will usually say something like, “Only ____ more push-ups until I reach that 300!”

How intriguing…

Focus and Aim

The latter group (I’ve found) aren’t any “better” than anyone else I come across. There’s really one characteristic that separates them from the majority of those who don’t pass – their perspective.

They’ve already got it locked down in their mind that they’re pursuing excellence (a perfect score). If they miss their target, they’re still pretty much guaranteed to pass the test. Because the other group is only aiming to pass, if they don’t reach their target, failure (in the form of not passing the test) is almost guaranteed.

“If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still at least hit the tops of the trees.”

Where’s your aim?

Fun

As you all know, I like to have a good time (who doesn’t?). I thought I’d give a little explanation to those who are asking, “What does this post have to do with ‘Taking Fun Seriously’?” Here’s the explanation:

Nobody likes to lose. Ok let me back up… I’m almost convinced that the Buffalo Bills like to lose, but other than them, NOBODY else likes to lose. With the above true-life story I’ve given, it’s clear that there are winners and losers. I can promise you that the winners are having more fun. A simple change in focus and perspective allows them to have this fun, because even if they miss their own high goal, they’ve still met what is required. That’s a stress-free (distress, of course) environment if I’ve ever seen one!

Let me end on a proverb of TFS wisdom (better take notes, they don’t come along too often!):

Set your aim for excellence. If you miss your goal, you’ll still be head and shoulders above mediocrity, and that’s always fun!

Cheers my friends!

– JC

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Odds and ends: I’m going to be (finally) starting a mailing list for my loyal band of merry brethren (and sistren). I have one problem that I need your help with though…what will we all call ourselves? Example: The Ren Men Show’s followers are called “Renmenions”, and if you are a part of ManVsDebt’s inner-circle, you’re a member of “The Militia”. What would you want the TFS “tribe” to be called? Leave me a comment, and we’ll take a vote. The winner will get a super special surprise!!

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Quick Wins (or why most people give up after the first try on life-changing projects)

The screen shot photo above is pretty much how I’ve felt this past week. I call that my “boo-yah!” face. But before we can celebrate, let’s give a brief history… (and if you can’t see the photo I’m talking about, click here)

**This is a lengthy post. If you’re pressed for time, scroll down to the header that says “Quick Wins” and go from there. If you’ve got a little more time, sit back and enjoy the story :)**

Frustration

For the past few months, I’ve been learning, reading, working, and failing – to set up a secondary income from a product-based business. I have considered myself an entrepreneur for the past 2 years based upon the following definition:

“(someone who) shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.”Jean-Baptiste Say (French economist)

However, it’s not the typical definition of what the average person on the street would consider an “entrepreneur”. I’ve wanted to run the biz-nazz! And maybe you have too. If you’ve ever been bit by the entrepreneurial bug, but have lost sight of the goal at some point along the way, then this post is for you.

No expert

Before I give a helpful tip (and it’s just one small tip…as there are HUNDREDS of tips that can and do help) on what has held me back, beaten me down, and kicked me to the curb (and is probably doing the same thing to you if you can relate), I have to give a disclaimer. I am no expert. And that’s for sure! I’ve been following in the footsteps of some real giants, and have struggled along the way to get to where I am right now. But please believe me, I don’t have all the answers on this topic, I’m just excited to help those that might be a few steps behind me. The information that I’m going to share is a conglomeration of 2 years of learning from folks like Seth Godin, Robert Kiyosaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jason Fried, Tim Ferriss, and a large chunk from Ramit Sethi. These guys are the experts, and if you want to get serious about starting and running a successful business, they’re the ones to listen to! Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…

A mental shift

It’s a difficult (but WORTHWHILE) process to shift from an employee mindset (mainly, taking orders from someone else) to an entrepreneurial mindset (taking control of your financial destiny). It’s one that took me over a year and a half just to change how I thought, and that was only 2 years removed from receiving my bachelors degree in college! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone who is an employee for longer when the entrepreneurial bug bites them. The longer you’ve been an employee, the more you’ll have to UN-learn before you can LEARN to think an entrepreneur. This isn’t just my own meandering opinion, it’s what I’ve heard from people who have made the shift later on in life than when I decided to make mine.

I referenced Robert Kiyosaki above. Two books of his that really do an excellent job explaining the importance of becoming an entrepreneur (not for everyone, but if you’re still reading this post, then you’re probably one of the people who needs to consider becoming one) are Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and The Cashflow Quadrant. He really does do a great job explaining the basics and helping to foster that mental-shift required to move from order-taker to decision-maker.

Learning translated into action

Once enough knowledge is captured, a basic business idea may come to mind. You may want to sell a product, or start offering your services (this is more of a self-employment mindset, which Kiyosaki talks about, but for the sake of this post, we’ll also consider it under that category of “business owner”, as it still falls under the basic definition of an entrepreneur). If you are itching to start a business but don’t know where to begin, there are a million different suggestions to finding your passion, finding your product, finding your niche, etc. The easiest method that worked for me was to create a product or service that I myself would use or need, or work to promote one that I already was using (almost like an affiliate type of deal).

After reading the Four Hour Workweek, and after a 2-year stint in the customer service industry (it wasn’t a pleasant one), I began fantasizing about owning a product-based business. There would be less customer service needed, it’d be easier to tweak, and there would be potential to outsource and automate. It just made sense. I won’t go sharing the details with the product that I had in mind (as I still plan on picking this product up, now that I’ve got a little momentum created elsewhere…and yes, this is a physical product I’m talking about), but I will share what happened to me, and what may have happened to you (or may even be happening to you right now).

My gory story

The idea was in my head. I had it all figured out. I would find a supplier to negotiate with, get my product at a fantastically sexy price, implement genius marketing, start local, move to domestic, then sell internationally. I would do it all online so I didn’t have to open a physical store. I’d set it up with a distributor, get a fulfillment house in on the action from the get-go (so I didn’t have to do any of the packing or inventory). As a matter of fact, why would I have to really do any of this at all? I know! I’ll outsource even the research process to a virtual assistant so they can do all my dirty work while I sit on my couch and watch the NFL playoffs!

Boy, was I wrong…

After the first 3 failed VAs (the time and language barrier really didn’t help), terrible research on my part, awful first impressions made on my part with potential wholesale distributors, multiple domain purchases for “potential” business names (I still own them and no, I will not end up using any of them…what the heck was I thinking?!?), hours upon hours of design for said potential domains (again, what was I thinking?!), sample of product after sample after sample, confusing legal paperwork for a business that I wanted to start without even understanding the necessary tax documents I’d need to provide, and a whole laundry list of other failed attempts on my part, I finally threw in the towel and went back to working on things that I knew were working for me (extra time with my Army Reserve unit, and some serious Ebay’ing).

So why did I fail?

The answer is so incredibly simple it slapped me in the face the first time I heard Ramit say it in his Earn1k program:

“Go for quick wins”

(Note: The Earn1k program is designed to teach everyday folks like you and me how to earn your first $1,000 on the side, apart from your regular income. It is mainly an introductory course to freelancing [and seriously, the BEST freakin one I’ve seen, and packed with more useful and actionable information that most of the classes I took in college…and I’m not kidding!], but Ramit is a psychological genius and the truth he shares in his products overflow into other facets of life. I would credit part of the psychology behind my guide on How to Start Motivating Yourself to Start Working Out to some of the wisdom I’ve gained from his teaching. I’m not an affiliate for his products [right now], but I KNOW that they work. Anything this dude is selling is worth FAR more than what you’ll pay for it!)

Quick wins

The reason I failed in my previous product idea, was because there was no opportunity for a quick win in my business plan. If the guy that I am now were to jump back a few months in time and tell the guy that had all these harebrained schemes about how to start a business, I would tell him this: “Go for quick wins!”

What invaluable advice! I had no idea what I was doing, so I went with what I perceived was the right thing to do. Stupid thoughts that entered my head were:

  • You can’t start a business without a proper tax ID
  • You can’t start a business without a website
  • You can’t begin selling a product until you have it designed perfectly, 100%
  • You can’t start without having every single piece of the puzzle in place
  • You need at least (quantity x) worth of inventory before you can begin testing to see if this is a good idea
  • (maybe the worst one of all) You need a set sum of $$ set aside in order to begin. After all, “It takes money to make money”.

Puke. What an idiot! If I had just gone for the quick win, the evil un-virtuous cycle of failure never would’ve occurred, and I probably would have that product up and running by now.

I made a mistake so you don’t have to

And that mistake is this: I didn’t go for the quick win.

What would a quick win look like? Let me also offer you once again, a personal story.

Wisdom applied – Other than Ramit’s Earn1k program, there are 2 books that really hammered this concept of “quick wins” into my brain – Seth Godin’s Linchpin, and Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. I DO want to recommend that you read both of these books if you haven’t already, but I’m going to give a few important nuggets from them right now.

Godin’s book speaks on the topic of “shipping”. Shipping consists of coming up with an idea, setting a date on when that idea will come to fruition (which could be in the form of a product release, a new service, a presentation, an important document, or any other form of “art” which requires “emotional labor” – both terms and topics discussed in the book), and then meeting that date no matter what happens!

Rework talks (among other things) how perfection is really the enemy of production. If a product or service has to be perfect in order for it to “ship”, it will rarely ever ship on time. This book echoes what Godin discusses also in picking a date and sticking to that date no matter what. Interesting…

The nuggets of wisdom gained from these two books and from Ramit is this: Quick wins help to create momentum. (Before you go and pick up a copy of my motivational fitness Guide, realize that this very concept is what can and WILL make the difference in your fitness as well.)

The reason that my business idea before never came to fruition was that I never gave myself a chance to create momentum. Getting quick wins does exactly that!

One more brief story of victory, and then a challenge

Fast forward from the first ugly story 9 months, and you arrive at a momentous event for me in the last 2 weeks. If you’ve been following me for the past month, you may be familiar with this story.

My good buddy David Crandall has begun testing out his business-coaching abilities. I was his first test subject. I think you’ll see that his coaching is working pretty good in a few minutes here 🙂

His advice for me, after listening to my full story and corralling some of the thoughts that were in my head was this: “set a ridiculously, uncomfortably-close date, and launch your first info product. I think 6 days from now is a great time frame.”

SIX DAYS?!? I didn’t even have enough time to focus on all the reason why I couldn’t do this. I committed to the date, began working furiously, and 6 days later, released my first info product on time and fully-functional. But an interesting thing happened with that entire experience, and you can probably guess what I’m about to say:

I finally got a quick win!

The momentum is rolling now, and after tasting and seeing what it’s like to have a product that I own and am selling (even on a small scale), I am MORE hungry now than I ever was in the past 9 months! A quick win did it all. Now I have plans in place to improve upon the existing product. I’m getting feedback from the first wave of customers who are loving it and offering up suggestions for what they’d like to see next, AND I’ve even made a few bucks from it. Woah! This is fun!

So what’s holding you back?

I don’t ask that question pridefully or in a snotty fashion. I’m asking seriously and humbly. What is the core piece to your entrepreneur puzzle that if you achieved it, would provide maximum momentum? Have you defined what it is you want? Have you identified what it is you DON’T want to do that would distract you from getting there?

If you’re an entrepreneur reading this, what advice do you have for someone wanting to get started that will give them a quick win (and momentum)?

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to be a part of the story. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea. As always, I’m all ears to what you have to say!

– JC

Photo credit: The incredibly hilarious jeremyrowley

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Birthdays, Books, Projects and Dreams

Yo Yo YO!

It’s been a few days since my last post and I want to give a HUGE shout out to all those that gave me a pat on the back and helped out with the release of my first info product. I also want to send out a huge THANK YOU to the growing number of people who took the plunge and bought themselves a copy. I’ve got much more in store for you wonderful folks over the coming weeks, so hang tight and enjoy the ride!

Birthday Fun!

We just celebrated my daughter’s 2nd birthday recently, and boy was it a great time! Not only was it fun recalling the experience the past 2 years have been (and watching some hysterical videos…even leading back to my wife’s pregnancy with our little Kelsey), but it was a real blessing to do it with friends who are an important part of her young life. She (and her little sister) have brought me joy that is indescribable! You parents know the feeling that I’m talking about. I love those little chickos (and their “Modern” Mama)

Books, books, and more delicious books!

I love reading. Lemme say that again with a little more emphasis:

I FREAKIN’ LOVE READING!

I have a post waiting in my reserves on the very topic of reading. As I continue on this writing/blogging journey, it will show its beautiful face, and then all will see that reading is a joyous event, just as I have! And we shall frolic in the fields and in the forests…..ok seriously let’s get back to the topic at hand…

There have been quite a few books and ebooks thrown my way lately. Some paid, some free…but I’m knee deep in ’em and loving it! One such treasure as of late has been Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity book. You’ve probably heard hoards of other people talking about this book…it lives up to the hype! I’m about 2/3rds through it right now at the time of this writing, so I won’t give a review (yet). Just a hearty “go out there and get the book, champ!” will do for now. 🙂

Projects

…or otherwise called “joint ventures”. I’m pretty pumped about all that I’ve learned in just a week’s time from releasing my Guide. That wasn’t the only trick I’ve got up my sleeve, however. There’s more goodies on the way. One of which is…

…In just a few short days, my good buddy Tim Morris (of Intentional Influence and @RustyTim fame) and I will be releasing our first (of many to come) leadership guide, called “The Core”. Tim wrote a little about this momentous work of ours here. I haven’t gotten the “go-ahead” from the man himself yet, but when I do, you’re gonna love what we have to say. The final draft is almost ready and what is done so far is seriously looking GOOOOOOD! It’s looking sweet, or as I say sometimes in my backwards slang, it’s looking “sweaty”………..Sweaty!

Dreams

So with all of this reflection and looking forward going on, there’s a bit of a life-trend happening for me. After I launched the Guide last week, I decided to look back on my first “real” Dreamline sheet and see how far I’ve come.

Once I looked at that (and with the help of Chris Guillebeau’s book), I decided it was time to start making another one. There’s 3 months left in this year, so that’s perfect time to crank out, and implement, a 3-month Dreamline sheet. Have no idea what a “Dreamline” sheet is? Click here and learn my friends! (The links provided in that previously mentioned page will give you everything you need to get started).

In helping others close to me start this process, I’ve realized there are a few points that need to be mentioned, so I’ve made this short video for you to explain it a little bit. Not every question gets answered here, so if you have one that you’d like me to help with, leave it in the comments below and I’ll get back to you for realz! (Also, sorry that I was whispering, but this video was shot somewhere around 2am on a Sunday morning and my little ones were in bed in the next room). Here you go, and don’t forget to comment, share and Tweet this magical info! 🙂

Cheers!

– JC

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