148: Embrace Reality

For the longest time, I had a very bad habit of lying to myself.

I didn't mean to lie to myself, but I just couldn't accept reality.
I couldn't accept that my businesses were actually struggling. 
And that I wasn't as good of an entrepreneur as I thought I was.

So I lied to myself.

I blamed the outside world any time something went wrong.
It wasn't me. It was the world that was stopping me.

At some point, I had to open my eyes.
I had to look in the mirror and see the truth of my reality.

Despite how great I thought I was at business, my results were shit.

This was a turning point for me. 
This is when I began to seek outside help and advisers.
This is when I really started to revolutionize my life.

But you can't change your life if you don't see it for what it actually is today. 

You have to stop lying to yourself.
And you must embrace reality. 

147: Direct vs Brand Marketing

There are two types of marketing that constantly battle in my mind. 

Direct marketing - The type of marketing where you put in X inputs, and have a formula to calculate Y outputs. 

This marketing is great because it's clear and measurable. But it fails in that it often optimizes for short-term gains in conversion instead of long-term trust and brand credibility.

The second type of marketing is brand marketing. This is where you care less about the analytics behind every conversion, but instead you focus on telling a compelling story. 

You focus on creating something that is different and unique. You focus on building loyal fans and customers who organically spread your message via word-of-mouth.

Brand marketing is much harder to measure, so some marketers have just thrown it by the wayside.

But I truly believe any successful marketer understands that the brand marketing is actually the most important part. It's also the hardest part.

Yet everyday as a marketer, we are faced with choices to optimize for short-term wins, or invest our time in the long-term brand.

There is no right or wrong answer.

But brand vs direct marketing does heavily impact what you build, and what challenges you face as an entrepreneur. 

146: Study every day

"So what do you think we should do for our marketing?"

I got this question from a friend the other day. 
He was asking like I had the answer that would fix his problems.

What I said shocked him.

"Study every day. Your problem isn't that you don't have the right marketing tactic. Your problem is that you suck at sales & marketing and you have no idea what you are doing. Wake up every day and study material on sales and marketing for 5-10 minutes. That is how you fix your marketing problem." 

You don't have a tactical problem.
You simply lack the skills and knowledge to effectively market and sell.

Don't look outside of you for the answer.

Instead, study sales & marketing every single day.

That is your path to mastery and prosperity. 

145: Live at your edge

Your edge. This is the point where you are pushing yourself to your limits, but not sending your world into chaos.

When you are challenging yourself to think bigger, but not collapsing under pressure.
When you are being true and honest to yourself, and not living for others.

As entrepreneurs, we should seek to consistently live at our edge.

To push ourselves to new limits. 
And not just be content with what is. 

We should take bold risks. 
But not put everything on the line. 

The edge is that place right before complete chaos.
Where we are still in control, but are intensely challenged.

The edge is where we should seek to push ourselves to every day.
Because living at your edge leads a fulfilling life, and a successful life. 

And it is your way to ensure you create your maximum impact.

Live at your edge. 

144: Don't fit people into roles

12 months too long... that is how long it took us to let go of the first employee I ever hired. 

When I had my first agency, our first hire was a video editor. 
The guy was amazing, an awesome part of our culture, and we loved having him around.

When we hired him, we were doing tons of video editing. 

But over time, we pivoted to an animation company.

And slowly we did less, and less video editing.

We started trying to "find work" to keep him busy. 
And we felt guilty for not having work for him to do.

And it took us almost a year longer than it should have to finally let this individual go. 
We eventually moved him to a contractor role and hired him as needed.

This was a hard lesson, and I see entrepreneurs do it all the time.
They make a hire, and then their business no longer needs that role. 

And so they try and "fit the person into a new role"

That's a recipe for disaster.

Instead ask yourself "What role does my business need at this moment, aside from the team we have?"

If that person fits one of the roles, great.
But if they don't fit, don't force it.
Cut ties and it will be best for both of you.

Don't try to fit people into roles. 

143: Follow the voice within

"So do you think this is a good idea?" 

I remember asking that question to my business coach all of the time whenever we started working together. 

I was seeking his approval and not confident in my own choices...

Over time, I saw this pattern resonate through all areas of my life.

Seeking approval of my wife, my parents, my team, and the public... 

It's a dangerous trap to fall into because when you seek the approval of others on your decisions, you aren't showing confidence in what you believe is right.

What I have learned since is that when I slip into a place of seeking approval from others, instead of having confidence in myself, my life slips into chaos.

On the flip side, when I keep a clear head and stop caring what others think...

That is when I have certainty.
That is when I have clarity in life. 

Trying to please others, and turning to the outside of you for a direction in life, is a path for chaos.

Clarity and success comes from following the voice within. 

142: Stop looking for the next "hack"

Everyday, I talk with entrepreneurs who are stuck in their business.
And they all seem to be looking for the "hack" or path that is going to give them the success they desire... 

And while you can learn things and find values in what others share, often people are misled as they try to look for the next "hack" to grow their business.

In reality, no one that succeeds followed some completely proven script. 
If it were that easy, everyone would do it. 

Marketers will try and promise you how easy it is... 
How they have the formula that cures all... 

But that is BS. 

If you want success, you must learn to pave your own path.
You must show up and have confidence and certainty in yourself.
You must become someone more today than you were yesterday.

And in that path of becoming, you might just build something incredible along the way. 

But you will never build something incredible following every hack or system that someone else is teaching you.

Instead, you must follow the voice inside of you and pave your own path. 

141: Marketing is telling stories worth sharing

Word of mouth is the holy grail for any marketer, yet most people think that this is something that just happens. 

But in reality, word of mouth is what happens when one person tells your story to another.

You do great work for a client, and so they tell that story to someone else.
You share your journey online, and someone tells that to a friend. 
You appear on a podcast, and that story resonates with someone. 

Yet most people think that word of mouth is 100% random...

In truth, it can be designed. 

Go out and find any professional author or speaker who is doing a book tour.
Now, listen to the same author do a book tour of 3-4 different podcasts.

What you will hear is the same story, over and over again.
While nuances may differ, they will have a core story that they share.

That core story is by design. 
It is their message and it represents what they believe in.

By putting an intelligent and well thought out story into the world, over and over again, you create a brand and a message worth following.

What is your story? And is it worth sharing?

140: The importance of content

Over 90% of the people who read your content will never buy from you. 

For one reason or another, they may not have the funds or may not be your ideal customer.

BUT, those 90% of people can still get behind your message, and still be advocates to share and promote your message.

They can still become cult followers of your brand and push your message out there to others.

At Lead Cookie, we have audience members who are not a right fit to use our service, yet they actively refer us and share our content with others.

They believe in what we are doing and help spread the word.

This is the power of genuine content. 
It spreads without you even trying.

But when content is forced, its aim is tactical and click baity that... well doesn't spread.
That doesn't build cult-like followers who spread your message.

If you want your brand to have momentum and spread on its own, be authentic.
Put out the best content you can and let the market spread the message for you. 

139: Why we fear paving our own path

"Entrepreneurs look toward frameworks because they don't believe they care creative enough to build their own." - Alex McClafferty

"We believe that if we follow a template and it doesn’t work out, it’s not us who is to blame, but the template... And so we switch from recipe to recipe, hoping that the next one will get us somewhere, but it rarely, if ever, does." - David Sherry

Two people I look up to recently hit me with very similar advice.
Different words, same message.

As entrepreneurs, we are consistently looking for a proven path, a framework, or a recipe for success.

But the truth is that the people we look up to and aspire to be like... they got there because they paved their own path. 

They figured out a path that combined their unique strengths with the opportunities the world presented them and paved a path unique to them. 

When we try to mimic someone else's path, we often fail. 
We don't have the same skill sets, and we often don't have the same opportunities. 

Instead, we need to learn to honor ourselves.
Find certainty in ourselves. 
And become confident paving our own unique path. 

138: You have everything you need

For years, I stumbled around looking for answers. 
I wanted to build a bigger and better business that gave me freedom in life.
And I thought it was just around the corner... just one more book or video course away.

But eventually, I've come to learn something. 

No book holds the secret to your success.
No video course has all the answers.
And no mentor is going to fix it all for you.

Instead, you have everything inside of you that you need to succeed today.

Books, videos, and mentors may help you accelerate your journey, but they aren't the answer. 

And when you look for answers, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Instead, you must realize and acknowledge:

I am going to succeed, no matter what.
Access to knowledge and mentors may help me in my journey, but the keys to success lie within, not without.

When you realize that everything you need is inside of you, your mindset changes.
You stop looking to the outside world for answers, permission, and validation.
And you start making big bold moves from a place of self-confidence. 

137: To all the marketing consultants

To all my marketing consultants out there, this is a wake up call for you.

Stop just pouring your marketing skills into other peoples' businesses... 

Yes, that may be how you make money today but I know inside you there is something more. 

There is something greater that you can build.
Something that is yours. 

You can build it and then use your skills to market it.

Deep down inside you know this.
You get frustrated with clients. 

You just wish you could market your own project...

Well you can.

But you have to step up and make it happen.
You have to step up and take a leap to start building something for yourself.

You must learn more than just marketing.
You must learn systems, sales, and value propositions as well. 

But once you build your own business to market... then you will never desire to do marketing for someone else again.

136: Sales without delivery is a slippery slope

For many people, the challenge is always around selling more customers on your product or service.
But for individuals like myself, the sales part comes easy.

What is hard is delivery.

It is building the systems to predictably deliver an outcome.

It's easy to fall into this trap of saying, "Oh, we will just make the sale and figure things out."

That may have worked when it was just me consulting and I could fix problems through hustle...
But that fails to work once you are hiring teams of people and you are selling to 20 customers instead of 5.

At some point, you begin to realize that just because sales are good doesn't mean that everything else will be rosy.

You have to stop and focus on delivery.
That may even mean putting the breaks on or delaying new revenue.

It's not a fun decision to make, but sometimes it is essential to have.

Because if your delivery sucks,
customers churn,
and your reputation will be tarnished.

Slow down on sales.
Focus on delivery.

135: Build systems to save money

For years, I tried to just save whatever money I had left... That didn't work out too well because somehow I would always find a way to spend it.And then I had nothing left...

Eventually, I realized that the key to saving money is not to just make more and have some left...

The key is to build systems that force you to save money along the way, and then operate off of what is left. 

To do this, I set up a series of rules.

Rules for the minimum amount of cash in the bank account at any point in time.
Rules for percentages of revenue that go into tax and profit accounts.
Rules for when and how much we pay down on debt vs keeping cash in the bank.

Systems and rules for your money are the key to actually keeping the money you make.

Trying to just save whatever is left is a weak system that will most likely fail.

Build systems to save money. 

134: You can never be too grateful

"Jonathan is dead..." I got this call about a year ago and it rocked my world. 

A high school friend, who I had been extremely close with in my youth, passed away unexpectedly due to a health condition completely outside of his control. 

Jonathan had been pursuing a degree in writing and was one of the most creative people I had ever met.

Inside Jonathan were masterpieces yet to be written, records yet to be recorded, and art that would have brought smiles to all who experienced it. 

Yet factors outside of his control cut Jonathan's path short. 

Nothing can change that now. 

But we can learn from Jonathan and through his message, expand ours to the world.

We can be grateful for this chance to be alive and breathing.
This chance to wake up every day and create.
This chance to do what we are called to do. 

You can never be too grateful.
Even if it is just for the opportunity to wake up every morning. 

133: Protect your mental health

As an entrepreneur, you are constantly under immense pressure. 

Pressure to perform.
Pressure to make hard decisions.
Pressure to keep cash flow solid.

Because if you snap under pressure, the consequences can be hard.

You may have to lay people off.
You may go into personal debt.
Or your business may crumble.

These pressures are real, but worrying won't help.

Instead, you must consistently protect your mental health. 
You must keep a calm, clear mind despite the pressure.

You must realize that life and business are a ride. 
You can't control it all.

As an entrepreneur, your mental health is crucial.
When your mind is healthy, so is your business.

But if your mind divests into anxiety, fear, or panic...
Then your business will as well.

Protect your mental health. 

132: Writing is a skill worth learning

Writing- As an entrepreneur, we do it every single day. 

We write emails, proposals, text messages, web pages, marketing campaigns, pitch decks, vision documents, job descriptions, social posts...

The list could go on and on.

Yet many entrepreneurs fall into this trap of saying "I'm not a good writer." 

Well, that is bullshit. 

No one is born a good writer. 
Instead, you become one through practice. 

You don't need to take a course on grammar.
You just need to practice and write more. 

People comment on my writing skills often. 
And I tell them it just comes from practicing every single day.

I use my writing for my business.
To write letters to my family
To journal my own thoughts and feelings. 
To persuade and influence others.

When you improve your writing skills, everything else in life comes easier. 

Writing is a skill worth learning.
So start practicing today. 

131: Retaining customers is all about story

Retaining customers is all about story. 

When you buy a recurring product or service, you tell yourself a story at the moment of purchase that this is the best decision I can make for my business right now.

...yet for many recurring services, 3 months later, your story turns to this was a mistake.

You see, the story someone tells themselves is constantly in flux. 
What they believe true today, may not be true tomorrow.

When a customer signs up for a recurring product or service, they start off with a belief that this service will help them.

As an entrepreneur, it is your job to consistently reinforce and support that original story.

This is the function of Customer Success-
To keep a person's story about your business positive through both value-based action, education, and persuasion.

Because as soon as the customer's story drifts to the thought that the original story I had about this service is NOT true, that is when they churn. 

Your business is telling a story to its customers.

Not just at the point of purchase.
But every single day. 

130: You control your day

As an entrepreneur, you have a million things flying at you every day.

Each ping of your inbox or Slack is someone asking something of you.

Your team
External pitches
Partners reaching out
Social media notifications

It never stops.

And if you aren't careful, it can be extremely easy to let your day get whisped away by other people's demands.

Answering every email in your inbox
Fulfilling other peoples demands

One quote I love is, "Your inbox is a to-do list that anyone in the world can add a task to."

When you keep that in mind, it lets you look at all of those pings differently.

You realize you don't have to do them all.
And instead, you are in control.

You control your day.
But to do that, you must stay conscious amidst the noise.
You must keep a calm mind and focus on what is important.

129: Confidence stems from authenticity

I remember reading some of the first self-help and sales books when I was younger. 

They shared tactics on how to appear more confident such as:

Have a strong handshake
Make eye contact
Speak firmly

But the thing is that these are all tactical elements of something bigger.

They are the tactics that stem from being confident in yourself. 

But just teaching someone these simple tactics won't make them confident.

Instead, they must learn that these simply stem from being authentically confident in who you are and what you are offering the world.

When you are confident, all of these tactics fall into place naturally, and on the receiving end you can feel it.

But if you aren't confident then these gestures will feel forced and inauthentic.

You can't fake confidence.
It can only really work when it comes from a place of pure authenticity.