Category Archives: Cool Shit You Should Do

Here’s A Radical Idea

Stop and take stock of things.

If you’ve been trying to succeed in the internet marketing game for any period of time, you’ll have amassed a collection of products over that time. Put them all in one place and look at them.

That’s a lot of shit, isn’t it?

Probably cost you a lot of money.

Have you made that money back yet?

Probably not.

So why not get started?

Begin by putting all of your products in categories. Start with the things that you just plain couldn’t do for one reason or another, like something about offline marketing that says “go to all the chiropractors in your local area” but you live somewhere that doesn’t have chiropractors. Or something about CPA marketing that says “get an account at this network,” but you live in Pakistan and they don’t let people in your country join.

Now take the rest of your stuff, and separate out the things you wouldn’t do. Like if you have something about going to nursing homes, but old people give you the creeps, so you’re not doing that. Or something about buying and selling cats, but you’re allergic.

Now you have a little collection of products about things you could and would do.

So go do them.

Go through all these products and find the one you think is going to fit you the best. Then do it. Give it a full thirty days. Don’t give up or walk away or try something else. You’re going to apply just this one thing for thirty days.

At the end of that thirty days, you should know whether you like this and it works. Pretty much anything you apply for thirty days is going to work, so the real question is whether you like it.

If not, go back to your could-and-would pile, and find the next product you think would fit you the best. Give that one thirty days.

Now, if you run out of products, go back through your stuff you wouldn’t do, and ask yourself whether you just need to grow the fuck up. Old people give you the creeps? Come on.

Once you’ve stripped that pile to the bone and tried everything you can, go back through the stuff you couldn’t do, and see if maybe you can change it a little. No chiropractors? Okay. But you’ve got something in your local area. Dentists. Veterinarians. Cattle ranchers. Is there something in your local area where you can apply the same approach?

If you go through all of your products and try everything in the could-and-would pile, but you’re still not satisfied, you do not have the mental attitude necessary to run a business. Go get a day job. There’s no shame in that. Plenty of people have day jobs and work their entire lives in them. They’re perfectly smart, capable, and worthwhile people. If you’re not the “own your own business” kind of person, that’s okay.

But chances are you’ve got a collection of things you could and would do, and one of them is going to work for you. Stop whinging about it and do it.

Stage 4: Recent Adult Victories

This is really the only area I have enough clear and distinct memory to talk with any detail about how things made me feel.

When my son was born, I promised my wife that we would move out of our shitty apartment and into a real honest-to-God house before he was one year old.

I was running my own software development company full-time at this point, but things weren’t going well. She was skeptical. Especially when we started looking for mortgages and all the terms were just insane. So, ultimately, we rented. Which was the smartest decision, the market being the way it was, and so many people getting completely screwed these past few years with mortgages.

That was a defining moment. We had a yard. A fence. A driveway. It was the first time since living with my parents that I’d ever lived in, you know, a house. A real one. Always apartments before that.

It felt like everything was finally going to be okay – like I had my own business, my own house, my own family. It was a great time in my life. We’d ultimately leave that house, close to six figures in debt, when my business collapsed on itself. But that doesn’t make it any less memorable that we made that milestone.

The other major victory was several years later, when I hooked up with Mike Carraway for a JV.

We took a product I’d done in the past, extended and enhanced it, then launched it as a WSO for $8,500 in sales the first week.

That’s the point where I first realised, this can be done. It’s possible. I can, in fact, make thousands of dollars overnight with an ebook and a few videos posted on the WSO Forum with a $27 price tag.

The pressure is really off once you understand that. Once you know you can just pull $40 out of your pocket and make a couple thousand, life gets a lot easier. It stops being about the money.

It starts being about what you want to do.

You realise that “make money” isn’t a goal any more than “pay taxes” is a goal. It’s just that if you want to get where you’re going, that’s going to take money, just like when you make a certain amount of money you have to pay taxes.

And that changes everything.

Stage 3: Early Adult Victories

The first victory of my adult life came about at the end of a long string of miserable failures. I’m not going to belabour those, because this isn’t a blog post about failure. I could probably write a fucking book about my failures.

But what happened was, in 1990 I had taken an early out after a positively horrific six months in the military and become homeless. And there, I took stock of what I was going to do with my life and settled on going back to what had worked for me in 1986: computers.

So I laid out this massive plan of what I was going to do with my life, extending all the way to “retirement” age. The first step was getting a real full-time salaried job at a major company, like you’re supposed to, and then to step up my game to a salary of at least $25,000.

Thanks to the happy coincidence that I had a security clearance which was readily reactivated, and lived in the D.C. area where there are never enough security clearances, it wasn’t long before I made both of those things happen. It was my first real career path – something respectable, that “real” people could actually be successful doing.

And it was during this same time period that I developed a particularly useful skill of not giving a shit about the dollar amounts involved. The budgets in the defense industry are unreal. You walk into a room to give a 20-minute presentation, and the quality of that presentation has a quarter of a billion dollars riding on it.

That’s billion – with a B. All riding on whether you can stand in front of a bunch of officers and not make an arse of yourself for twenty minutes.

It becomes reasonably obvious after a while that these officers have got no Goddamn clue what you’re talking about. But what made me the go-to guy for these presentations at several employers was that I figured out what they’re really doing.

They’re running the bullshit detector.

They don’t know the first thing about the technology, but they know body language, facial expressions, nervous mannerisms, tones of voice. Their purpose is not to find out what you are doing, but to find out whether you actually understand what you are doing, how you are doing it, and why it needs to be done.

That little secret kept me highly in-demand around the Beltway, because if you just subcontracted with whatever company I was working for, I could do your presentation and lock down massive contracts on the strength of identifying what we were really doing. I was a fucking rock star.

But the bloom went off the rose after a while, because I figured out… well, more accurately, admitted to myself that I had already figured out… that I was just helping sell bullshit. I was the only one who could do those presentations because I was gullible. I told the brass what they wanted to hear, because I wanted to believe we were actually doing it. But we weren’t, and we never had any intention of doing it. The whole industry was a cesspool filled with parasites, leeches sucking as much taxpayer money out of the government as they could.

I hated it. I hated myself for being part of it. So I came out West, to Seattle.

Stage 2: Teenage Victories

Looking back on my teenage years gives me a lot more material to work with, as far as things that I might call victories.

Mostly because it was in my teens that the whirlwind of moving around all over the Goddamn place stopped. Between the ages of five and twelve, I saw about forty countries and almost all fifty states. (I’d see the last ten or so during my teen years, but as vacation destinations, not outright moves.) So when we finally settled down in Xenia for a couple years, I got to… well, take shocking amounts of drugs and have outrageous amounts of sex.

I guess it’s a victory that I nailed the head cheerleader in junior high, but “high” was the operative word there and that’s a level of debauchery that is simply not appropriate to recount in any detail on a modern blog. It was a simpler time, when chemically-aided coercion was considered perfectly acceptable, and it’s not like she ran off sobbing when she sobered up… on the contrary, she bragged about it. The 1980s were awesome. Someday maybe I’ll tell you some of the games we used to play in dance clubs.

But the first real victory I had was graduating high school, because I was sixteen years old when I did it. See, all the drugs and sex and going out to clubs (and of course I had a fake ID) were seriously bothering my parents, who were simultaneously concerned that I was effectively insane…. and completely clueless as to why. So they sent me to an ongoing stream of psychologists and psychiatrists, who kept putting me on this or that medication, and then sitting there scratching their heads about why it wasn’t doing anything. “He’s a child,” they’d say. “He should be a hair’s breadth shy of a vegetable on that much Trilafon.”

Which, of course, is not what happened because I’d been pumping my body full of recreational pharmaceuticals since I was twelve. My body saw a drug enter the system and swung into action like a team of Marine recon veterans performing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  Cats – terminating the invader with extreme prejudice while guaranteeing the maximum possible entertainment value. On more than one occasion, they needed not only parental consent but FDA approval to increase my dosage of something or other well beyond not only the normal dosage protocols, but also the bounds of reason and medical ethics.

Ultimately, when I was 15, they put me into a “boarding school” which is really just another name for “mental institution.” This is what they did in the 1980s. Look it up – the PMRC, Back in Control training centre, the insurance scams aimed primarily at rich and military parents, the general abuses of the entire mental health system for money. And the common thread of everything was that they had absolutely no interest in helping the patient.

But there was one shining light at the end of the tunnel: there was a limit. They couldn’t keep me there past the age of eighteen, and they couldn’t keep me there past high school graduation. So I buckled down, applied myself, and started racking up credits left and right. It was just over a year before they basically scratched their heads and admitted they were over the line and had to give me a diploma.

It was 1986. For the first time in my life, I had won. I got to leave the asylum and go to college, where I would make stupid choices and accomplish nothing because I was fucking sixteen and completely not ready. But fuck it, I won.

The next really big teenage victory came about because I needed to get a job. I had graduated high school, so it was time for me to pay rent and shit. And since I was sixteen, nobody wanted to hire me. So I was going around offering computer maintenance services on a freelance basis, and I happened to walk into a Re/Max office at the office park near my house, where I offered to perform basic maintenance on the computers there on weekends for $20 an hour.

“I can’t just hire the kid down the street,” the office manager said. And then he smiled and winked in a totally non-creepy way, adding “I could hire the company that was started by the kid down the street, though.”

This is where most of the people I knew would have walked out saying “I didn’t get the job,” then gone home and smoked a bunch of pot. Well, I never actually smoked pot at home. My father was working at the Pentagon at the time, and had a top-end CI clearance. Any drugs in his house might have cost him his clearance, his job, and his career. So my stash was not even on my property, but in one of several hidden locations in the under-construction Woodbridge housing development, which thanks to a major dispute over zoning and HOA interaction would not finish construction until I had stopped smoking pot anyway. But I digress, because I didn’t go off and smoke pot.

I got on a bus.

That bus took me north to downtown Alexandria, where I went to the county clerk’s office and asked what the requirements were to get a business licence. The clerk laid it out, and then I asked if I had to be eighteen. After about twenty minutes of pretty much everyone in the office looking up every law they could think of, the answer came back: evidently not. So I filled out some forms and handed over some cash, and they printed off the first-ever business licence for Darklock Communications. It was the 19th of May, 1986. I think. It might have been the 9th, but I’m pretty sure it was the 19th.

I got back on the bus and headed back to the office park, where I showed my business licence to the Re/Max manager again. And he laughed, clapped a hand on my shoulder, and said “$20 an hour, right?”

“Nope,” I said. “$40 an hour. But I think there’s a kid down the street who charges $20 an hour.”

And he laughed, and we bonded and shit. We sealed the agreement with a beer and he gave me a key to the office. Yes, the manager of my local real estate office hired a 16 year old off the street on the strength of a $15 business licence, then gave him a beer. I said it earlier: the 1980s were awesome.

I’d keep that job for a while, but ultimately I left so I could pursue my career in hip-hop, which didn’t exactly go so well. I did release a couple of demo tapes, first as Ricky B. Fresh and later as D.C. Bubba. None of them were particularly well-received, but I did get to be the house DJ for The Complex in Southeast D.C. through most of my college days. Until it was closed down for the massive amount of dust and rock being sold through the fence out back. But that’s another story, and hardly a victory.

Stage 1: Childhood Victories

This was shockingly difficult. When I look back over my childhood, there are just not that many things I can really be proud of. No serious victories. I was kind of a crap kid, honestly.

I did win the election for school president in fifth grade, but I remember next to nothing about that. I recall writing a very weird and egotistical speech about how you should vote for me because I was awesome.

I’m kind of still giving that speech today; I feel very strange saying “I promise I will do this and that,” because honestly most of those promises don’t work. My two opponents in the race were a girl who promised to get teachers to stop giving pop quizzes, and a boy who promised to make sure we don’t get sour milk in the cafeteria.

And even at that age, I was sitting there thinking “what the hell can they do about either of those things?” – because seriously, the school president has absolutely no power. It’s a figurehead position where you don’t really get to do anything meaningful.

Plus, it was just a couple of weeks before the administration decided I was setting a bad example and should be removed from office. You know, to remind everyone that student government is – in the end – a complete sham under the total control of the administration.

Which I guess is a sort of victory. Kind of a pyrrhic victory, though.

My parents were less than helpful when I mentioned this assignment to them. Both my father and my mother essentially suggested that I should talk about victories they think I achieved… which I never did.

My father told this extensive story about how proud he was that I taught myself to ride a bike without any help from anyone when I was six. And I scratched my head, then said “Keith Lee taught me how to ride a bike in Italy by pushing me down a hill.”

So he said “you were eight in Italy!” and I said “I know,” and he said “you rode a bike when you were six,” and I said “no, I rode a skateboard when I was six, because we couldn’t afford to buy another bike after the kid down the street stole my Free Spirit that we bought from Sears – so you got me a fluorescent blue plastic Free-Former skateboard instead.”

At which point my mom chimed in and said that happened years later in Ohio when I didn’t lock up my bike outside the Outback steakhouse. So I pointed out that the bike which was stolen outside the steakhouse years later was a Huffy Pro Thunder III, and that we didn’t have an Outback steakhouse in Dayton – it was the Ponderosa next door to the Arby’s.

And then my dad jumped in to complain that he knows we got me the skateboard in Ohio because he remembers wanting to buy me one of the big fat boards and I insisted on the skinny one, which I reminded him was because I was a downhill skater, not a ramp skater. So he said “Then you didn’t have one when you were six!” and I said “but don’t you remember we went to skateboard parks in Italy and Germany?” and then he was confused.

Which ultimately led me to the one real victory of my childhood: I placed 12th for speed downhill in the Free-Former Midwest regionals in 1981. It’s the only real athletic accomplishment I ever earned in my life, earned on an open field among competitors from multiple states.

Had I placed 10th or better, I would have been qualified to compete in the nationals… not that it would have mattered, because there’s no way in hell my parents would have taken or sent me to California for some stupid skateboard competition. It is very nearly the best I could have done – I could have placed eleventh, but tenth or better would have just made it a big suck-bucket.

And I remember absolutely nothing about it.

I don’t even remember competing. All I remember is checking the board when the times got posted, and finding myself second from the top on the little pages. The top ten were printed in large, bold letters, five to a page, and those two pages were posted up on the top.

Underneath it were all the little people, two pages which were really more like a page and a third. About forty or fity people, all told. The top ten from Ohio, Indiana, and two or three other states. I started at the bottom because I was just sure I wasn’t at the top.

I don’t remember the local and state competitions, either. I just liked to go fast. It was the end of the seventies, and I was a day late and a dollar short – while the freestyle and trick skating movement was just getting started, I was still stuck in the “speed is king” mindset.

Almost a decade later, I would be given a motorised vehicle summons for going 48 in a 45 zone, to which I would respond in court by holding up my skateboard and proclaiming that it was most certainly not a motorised vehicle.

Skateboarding is not a crime, after all.

Perry Marshall’s Five Stages Test

So today I’m browsing through my email and find something from Perry Marshall, which points to a blog post, which rambles extensively until getting to a bunch of stuff he tells his friend to do.

And this one in particular got me thinking:

A story of 2 major personal victories from each of the following: childhood; teen years; early adult; recent adult. Tell what happened and what made you feel GOOD about it.

This is different from the crap I usually see. The rest of his advice is pretty much the same crap as always – basic “finding a niche” stuff. Jobs you’ve had, hobbies you’ve enjoyed, groups you’ve joined. That sort of shit. Everybody talks about that stuff.

But this one’s different. This is about personal victories, and not just random things you did. It’s not “I got a library card because I didn’t have enough money to buy books.” It’s something more meaningful.

We often miss that aspect in our niche selection. It’s not enough to be good at something, or to have an interest in it, or to have expertise in it. One of the most powerful stories you can tell – and all marketing, at its core, is storytelling – is the story where you come out the winner.

Especially if nobody expected it. The hero’s journey. Local boy makes good. Even better, redemption – everything was awful , terrible, no good, and very bad; then this awesome shit happened and holy fuck, look how cool things are now.

I sort of need that at the moment. I’ve had rather a dearth of victories lately, and I’m being kind of spiky and bitchy and just a little bit childish about the whole thing. (A bit! A bit! Just a bit. I have got a wart.) So I’m going to tackle this assignment myself over the rest of the week, and we’ll see where it takes us.