There are many things that shaped my views on politics, making money, and life in general…
Until I graduated from college, I didn’t know shit.
In fact, I don’t think I knew much of anything until some years after college, when life’s lessons had a chance to congeal into a set of principles.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
1) All about selling… My first job out of college, I had a quota. Being ranked in the bottom fifth of the group sucks. Being ranked in the top three is awesome.
I’ll never forget the first time I was thrown out of some guy’s office. I had misquoted him and had to add a charge to his order form at the last minute. He was furious. He tore up the contract and sent me packing.
Selling is about relationships. If you can charm your prospect, you’re half way there. If you can help them see how they will do better if they buy, you’re golden.
2) I learned how to use the system. I remember in my second sales job that when management gave a spiff (a bonus payout), I worked my ass off to sell more of that item.
When I look at the mortgage crisis, I don’t begrudge the mortgage sales guys. They had a product set and were just trying to sell more of that which would pay them more. Simple.
3) Layoffs happen. Getting laid off twice in 8 months when the dot com bubble burst was instructive. I learned about razor-thin margins, how costs must be managed, and how companies deal with it.
I also learned that you can’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars on data centers if you have nothing to put into them.
Oh, I also learned that you shouldn’t attempt sell a product unless you have actually have made a product to sell. (That was the dot com I worked for that went from 8 people to 80 people to bankrupt in 8 short months.)
4) Teaching is a hard job and many teachers are idiots. After getting laid off for a third time in the early 2000’s, I taught school for a year at a Middle School. The school had some good teachers, but there were also a ton of very bad ones. Show up, play movie, go home, repeat.
Without an incentive to perform, many teachers will do just enough to get by.
5) Watch out for self-important jackasses. Self-important jackasses are everywhere. You can’t avoid them. In every job, every networking group, every business interaction, I have encountered them. Since you can’t avoid them, I had to learn when to stroke an ego to get what I want, when to walk away, and when to call them out for being a self-important jackass and then walk away. (It’s very important to know which of these options to take.)
6) Communication is key. I’ve found that whether my work is top notch, or suffering, as long as I communicate what I’m are doing to my customer, they will appreciate my effort.
7) Just do it. I have started 4 businesses of my own in addition to my 16 years of corporate experience.
- One business never made sale #1 because my partner turned out to be a total flake.
- The business my wife runs has been going great for 5 years.
- My affiliate marketing business did great back in the mid 2000’s, but is all but dead now
- My marketing company in northern va – is going great. We’re growing.
Across these endeavors, one thing is constant: The biggest challenge is getting up off my butt and doing it.
File paperwork with the State Employment Commission, get Quickbooks set up, Set up merchant account, get the website and email set up, get the product spec organized, create your order forms, start selling.
I failed two out of four times. I learned a lot in those failures. I can’t wait to fail again, because if history tells me anything, for every failure, I have one success.
Why don’t more people just do it?
8) Pick partners carefully. In 2009, when Conversion Pipeline Marketing – my marketing company – launched, I quickly made a partnership with another small company.
The owner flaked out. I think she still owes me a couple thousand bucks.
I’ve tried a few other partnerships too. Only one – ONE – has been profitable.
Partnerships work, but not always. Personalities and goals need to be in synch or they’ll go bad.
9) Learn to speak. I spent 2007-2009 in a different city every week, sometimes two. I traveled around speaking to groups of business people about how to use the web to grow their business.
Learning public speaking was a huge asset. It taught me how to connect with people. It taught me how to deliver lots of information without wasting anybody’s time.
10) It’s up to you. This is the big daddy. No matter the problem… weight gain, no money, unhappy with work, bad friendships – it doesn’t matter what the problem is, there is only one solution. YOU.
Virtually every problem life throws at you can be solved by self interested action.
- Nobody is going to pay your bills for you.
- Nobody is going to go jogging for you.
- Nobody is going to apologize for you.
You have to do it yourself. Nothing will happen unless you do it.
11) A good idea by itself is not enough. I once worked for a company that had a digital rights product. This was before iTunes, before digital shredding. The product worked great in the lab. But there was no usable product.
Without a great plan to market the product and the people to do that, the idea will fail. In addition to the marketing, relentless execution.
In 2010 I spent six months working on a “pay for performance” SEO product. My collaborator was a Kiwi, so I was staying up until ungodly hours each night so we could work together.
It took six months for us to realize that the model was not going to work. Some good ideas have no market, or the math just doesn’t work out.
12) People don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Even nice people you encounter will be looking out for number one. Inherent in human nature is self interest. People are not going toy buy something from you because they want you to hit your quota (though I did know a woman who flirted her way to quote regularly, but that’s a different story).
Realizing that people are self interested, we can model our efforts to use that to our advantage.
These are just some of the life events and observations I have made that have shaped my thinking politically, emotionally and operationally.
I think I’m a conservative because life has taught me that personal responsibility reigns king.
I am a good marketer because I have tried a million things, learned what works, and what doesn’t. And put that into context with what I have learned about people.
What have you learned that shaped the way you think?