Top Business & Life Lessons Learned from the Last Decade
When the clock strikes midnight this New Year’s it’ll mark the 10th year I’ve been in business online. I’ve been taking stock of my accomplishments, lessons learned and what I’ve done in the span of 10 years.
Here’s a glimpse at part of my list…
- 2 incredible kids (Zak & Zoe)
- Freedom to work at home to see the kids grow up, take them to school any day or go on their field trips or special events without worrying about it.
- Married to an encouraging, supportive and flexible wife. (Thanks Missy!)
- Millionaire before the age of 31
- “Officially” a pro beach volleyball player
- Helped raise over $500,000.00 for Virgin Unite to start a Young Entrepreneurship program in the U.S.
- Directly donated another $500,000.00+ to charities including Caring House Foundation, Tony Hawk Foundation, Village Enterprise Fund, etc.
- Helped thousands of people get their own Internet business and improve their lives and financial situation.
- #144 to go into Space with Virgin Galactic
- Ran with the Bulls in Spain
- Baja racing 3x
- PlayersRun Road Rally dressed as Elvis
- HALO Skydive
- Scuba diving between tectonic plates in Iceland
- Celebrity hockey game with NHL Pros and Gordie Howe
- Rafting the Gauley River
- Bungee 440 feet in New Zealand
- Drove a Lambo 200mph+ (in a green speedo)
- “Real” book ‘Moonlighting on the Internet’ published by Entrepreneur Press in 3rd printing
- Sold out the Underground® Seminar weeks early (for the last 5 years)
- Have over 5 different products that have eclipsed $1,000,000 in gross sales.
- Run two sold-out, high-level MasterMind groups
- Spent time with and interviewed Sir Richard Branson, Jesse James, Tony Hawk, John Paul DeJoria, Frank McKinney, Chip Conley, Carl Banks, etc.
- Appeared or featured in INC, Business 2.0, Fox Business News, Portfolio.com, TIME, Entrepreneur, Outside’s GO magazine, American Way, TechCrunch, USA Today, Denver Business Journal, Boston Globe, Millionaire Blue Prints, Forbes.com, LA Times, Financial Times, Portfolio.com, etc.
- Set the biggest goal of my life of getting 1,000,000 young entrepreneurs (aged 13-23) to start their own businesses by 2020.
Your Own List
Side note: I would strongly suggest you compile your own “Best of the decade” list of how far you’ve come. I’ve also been a big fan of using the power of gratitude but I heard this another way from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach. He has a theory of people being disappointed because they cannot reach their “ideal”.
Dan gives the example of the horizon. We all know it’s silly to think we can ever reach the horizon because it keeps moving as we move closer to it. Same with an “ideal”. We feel despondent and maybe even depressed in our greatest victories if we attempt to measure them up to our ultimate ideals. But the people who are happiest are the ones of take stock of where they are today (Point B) than when they started (Point A). And we can all look back and gain that confidence and awe of how far we’ve come.
Okay fair warning, this is going to be quite a long post but I promise it’ll be filled with some serious insights for you. (In fact, I think there will be so many prominent and buried lessons here that I’m willing to put up a little bit of a prize for the best ‘lesson detectives’ – more details at the end of the post.)
To set the stage, Jan 1, 2000 when this decade started, I was in a 1-bedroom apartment and was engaged to Missy. I didn’t have a website and I barely had an email address.
That same month was when I got an idea at 3 o’clock in the morning and woke Missy up to tell her about InstantSalesLetters.com. (She wasn’t happy!) And then I did what most people probably wouldn’t: I hopped out of bed, registered the domain and got to work on it. By February 2000, with about $1,500 invested, I made my first $29.95 sale. It was one of the most amazing feelings in the world to take an idea and have it turn into cash. And the sales kept coming – about $1,800 the first month…then $3,400…then approx. $7,800.00 and roughly $9,400.00 the fourth month out of the gate. I was on track to hit six-figures with my very first site – and that’s when things really started exploding.
As people started hearing about my success, I was invited to speak at my first Online marketing conference and I started helping others take their interests, passions, hobbies, etc. and create online oil wells.
The unusual way to ‘stumble’ onto success…
There’s a profound theory I heard from R. Buckminster Fuller that says your true success is found perpendicular along the path to your original perceived goal. Instant Sales Letters is a perfect example because my original end goal was to sell it for $500k to Stamps.com or someone like that. But on my way to building up that site – I had so many people ask me how I started making money so quickly that I began teaching. And that teaching became part of my “accidental” success path for the last 8 years, opening up one door after another. I would never have got on that track unless I was moving towards the original goal. And it’s the same thing today – the next chapter in my life is with my Maverick Business Adventures® and Maverick Business Insider companies – which wouldn’t have been formed without the contacts, connections and success delivered from my Internet business.
Starting with the Fundamentals
It’s easy to look back and see my somewhat meteoric rise with Instant Sales Letters and laud it as being an “overnight success”. Not exactly true. Before this decade started I had been preparing and studying direct response fundamentals, inner success laws and psychology.
One of my biggest mentors is Earl Nightingale. He passed away several years ago but you can and need to get everything he recorded at Nightingale.com. He has a program called “Lead The Field” and “The Strangest Secret”. I learned from Earl Nightingale that if you want to be an expert, you spend an hour a day reading or studying on whatever subject that you’re interested in for 3 years. Or if you want to world-class expert you ready or study for 1-hour a day for 5 years.
So I said, “Well, what would happen if I read for two or three hours a day?”
I just started learning as much as I possibly could around these subjects. Let’s cover a few here since I really believe the fundamentals never change.
When I first really started this blog I created a series of posts around the 9 ‘inner secrets’ to success. Those are worth re-visiting:
I would have to say figuring out and learning about direct response has been one of the biggest paradigm shifts for me. Since we’re heading down memory lane, I have to take the story back well beyond this decade to the bi-centennial.
My family is from Russia and immigrated to the U.S. in 1976. My Dad came over with $256 in his pocket for me, my Mom and my Grandmother. Just a year and half later, my Dad started his own company repairing (and then later selling) medical equipment.
I grew up working in the business starting with telemarketing latex gloves at age 14, and then even selling medical equipment to docs in person at age 16 when I got my license. At the time, I thought this totally sucked! My friends were living at the beach having a great time and I was spending my summers pedaling X-ray film and EKG machines. You can definitely look back and see significant turning points in your life, and one of my mine came when a doctor client of mine, Dr. Nathan Wei, gave me a Jay Abraham tape that turned on “the lights” about direct response marketing. I was about 18 or 19 at the time and I basically devoured it.
I loved the fact that I didn’t have to deal with rejection anymore in person and the incredible leverage of ‘knocking’ on tends of thousands of doors and only speaking to interested people. It was endlessly fascinating to me to realize you could write something in an ad or letter (now a website) and have people open up their wallets or raise their hands.
From Jay Abraham I learned to think broadly about how to leverage businesses. From there I found Ted Nicholas. Ted Nicholas is a true gentleman in the direct response world and I found his teachings just as he was transitioning out of his newsletter. I ended up buying all the back issues and previous products. (Actually I remember about 1 or 2 years later writing a note to Ted about our shared immigrant background and how much his teachings had meant to me – Ted responded back to me personally from Switzerland.)
At the same time I was studying Ted, I got a direct mail piece from some guy named “Dan Kennedy”. Dan truly changed my life. He is probably one of 3 people I credit with helping me achieve financial independence at such a young age. I went on to pay a small fortune for his manuals, books, audios, seminars and personal guidance.
I continued learning from direct marketing and copywriting masters who came before me; people like Gary Halbert, John Caples, David Ogilvy, Bob Stone and Joe Sugarman. (BTW – Joe is our business icon guest for the next Maverick Baja adventure.) From there I might find a random reference to someone in a manual or book and immediately look them up, which lead to more influences and original sources. I loved digging through the past to the beginning of mail order since those guys had to truly persuade people without the benefit of instant ordering via phone, fax, online, etc. Their customers had to slog to the post office to place their order. Greats like Claude Hopkins, John E. Kennedy and Maxwell Sackheim. And then I went back even further to find obscure (and extremely rare texts) like “Printed Salesmanship” by Robert Ruxton.
Obviously there is a long history of direct response, but if you boil it all down it comes to:
- An offer (ideally with a deadline)
- A way to respond/call to action (fax, phone, online, etc)
- Measurement of response
A basic example is one I told to a dentist friend of mine. I explained to him a little bit about direct response marketing while playing volleyball together in Turks & Caicos. I told him to mail his patients with an offer; in his case it was raw materials for crowns. The cost had gone up significantly and he would have to raise his price. Because he valued his patients he would give them a window to get any crowns or dental work done at the old price until X date. They had to bring the letter in to get the special. That’s it, pretty basic. And that worked spectacularly, creating his best month ever.
With the web – nearly everything can be measured and quick test results achieved. That’s part of what makes this one of the most incredible times to be around. I definitely believe a true direct response fundamental is a key to understanding the Web. I got my chops by writing ads for my dad’s business, attempting to sell medical equipment that we only previously sold face-to-face and toes-to-toes. My dad would look at the ads I created and say, “Who’s going to read all that?” I had to persuade him to let me try it and see what happened. Quite frankly, it was a revolution in the way we could sell because we had now expanded our reach nation-wide and I only spoke to doctors who were extremely interested in a product (for a demo) or who actually whipped out their credit cards to buy. Here’s one of my original ads:
Understanding Marketing Psychology
And then the next fundamental I stress deals with psychology. I was a marketing major and got my B.S. from the University of Maryland (a top 25 business school when I graduated), but I always say I didn’t learn much in college except partying. All my real marketing insights and knowledge came from self-study and trying things myself. In fact, if I had to do it all over again I probably would be a psychology major. To me, it’s fascinating what motivates people to take action or buy.
One of my first exposures to how powerful this could be was a book written by a professor at Arizona State University, Dr. Robert Cialdini. His book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” is definitely a top 10 book for me. I’ve read this book at least 9 times and continue to find amazing insights each time I do. Joe Sugarman also has a great book on psychology called “Triggers” where he has a slightly different take.
I uploaded a special presentation for you on the 11 Hidden Psychological Hot Buttons to Create Maximum Sales for you. (Please use this material and information ethically!)
The final thing I’ll mention about fundamentals came after meeting one of my entrepreneurial heroes, Sir Richard Branson. I was so inspired that on the plane ride home I started jotting down a list of “rules” and got to 34. I called it “34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs” and it received a ton of excitement. And then it became been the catalyst for a lot of things, including a print book by the same title.
“Maverick Entrepreneurial Philosophy” of Make More, Have More Fun and Give More!
I realized this blog post was going to be a really, really long post so I’m breaking this up into several days – plus a lot of people suggested I put into a PDF. So good news – at the end of this series, I’ll bundle it all up into a neat little PDF with a bow. (Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed or provide your email address in the upper right-hand corner to be notified when each new section is up on the blog.)
* Update: We just completed the PDF of all 5 parts. Download it here *
Part 2 will start where a lot of people believe they need the most help in these interconnecting circles… Make More