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 “Myrmidons! My brothers of the sword! I would rather fight beside you than any army of thousands! Let no man forget how menacing we are, we are lions! Do you know what’s waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it! It’s yours!” [Troy]

Creators have a dilemma.

We want the freedom to create whatever, whenever we want…

But the market will only compensate us for what IT wants.

This leaves your average creator (whether entrepreneur, writer, artist, etc.) in a particularly uncomfortable position, with only two real options.

Option 1: Create what you want, ignore the market…

Many creators do just that.  They build for themselves and completely ignore the rest of the world.

There’s only one problem with this: it rarely pays off.

Yes, there are outliers.  But that’s exactly the point: they’re outliers.

If the market doesn’t like what you create, you bear the burden.

‘Do what you love’ sounds fun and sexy, until you realize you’ve been living on your mom’s couch for 3 years.

Option 2: Create for the market, ignore what you want…

Many other creators (probably the vast majority) choose this route.

They ignore their curiosities, inspirations, and passions, and build widgets instead.

There’s only one problem with this: it comes at a cost.

How long can we supply the demand for something we don’t care about?  How long can we commit to creating something personally valueless?  How long until the money’s not worth being a robot in the robot factory?

A False Dichotomy

Of course, this is a false dichotomy.

It doesn’t take a human geographer to realize there are other options besides ‘starving artist’ and ‘miserable cog’ when it comes to the life we choose for ourselves.

Just look at how many starving cogs and miserable artists there are in the world…

I kid (sort of…).

So why do we do it?

Simple:

We create this dichotomy, first and foremost, because it’s easier to process the world this way.  The brain can only process so many things at one time, so simplifying things makes the brain happy (we avoid sensory overload).

Second – and much more insidiously – we create this dichotomy to create an out

The Enemy wants to keep us stagnate.  An ‘either / or’ dichotomy with seemingly brutal consequences is the perfect weapon to make this happen.

If the world is a zero sum game, if it’s either win or lose, if it’s either me or him…well, better reason to just stay put, keep our heads down, and blend into the rest of the tribe

Now that we have a good, rational reason to sit still, we are off the hook for not taking action.  We have our out.

The Real Creator’s Dilemma

But of course this out isn’t really an out.

It’s submitting for comfort and safety (or so we think…).

The real dilemma isn’t: do I do what I love, or do I do what makes me money?

This dichotomy doesn’t exist – it never did.

The real dilemma is: do we acquiesce to a life and lifestyle undesired because it’s comfortable and safe?

Or…

Or do we take the uncomfortable, uncertain, and difficult path…the one we know won’t be easy, clear, or guranteed…the one fraught with hardship, setbacks and failure…

Because we know it will be worth it?

Take it. It’s yours.

You can do important work and make money from it.

It’s possible, I promise you this.

I meet new people doing it every day.

More importantly, they’re doing it their way:  they’re picking the route, choosing their packing list, and drawing the map as they go along.  No, it’s not easy – but it was never supposed to be.

The same reality can be yours.

It’s waiting for you, just beyond that beach…

The question is: will you take it?

Start, finished, and shipped in Cape Town, S. Africa (after hanging out with penguins!)

Total writing time: 5:30 hrs

p.s. interested in taking the beach, but rather do it with an army?  I’m putting together an elite group of people for a new project…one I’m not sure will work.  If you’re interested in finding out more about it, join The Resistance: COMMAND Group today.

Note: this is an exclusive group, different than The Resistance Broadcast.  Only passionate entrepreneurs and artists commited to collaboration and excellence need apply.

Stay on the Path

Categories: Instigate
Comments: 10

There it is.

It’s happened again.

It always seems to at times like these…

Everything is going great – I hit a new high (more praise, more readers, more anything) and I feel amazing…

Momentum is building in the right direction (up and to the right) and it feels like nothing can break me…

I’m on top of the world for a moment…

And then I see it:

A picture of a group of people I would call my friends (at least in the Facebook sense) at a party together.

I wasn’t invited.

Or another of my peers shares a success – and it’s much bigger than the little win I was all excited about earlier.

My ‘win’ doesn’t feel so important anymore…

Or a new list, ranking, top whatever comes out and I see people I recognize highlighted.

I’m nowhere to be found.

Sometimes it feels like I’ll never be…

2 Choices, 2 Paths

Have you been here before?

That place where you see yourself in relation to others and you become critical of yourself and them?

I know I have.  More than I’d like to admit.

And it doesn’t matter that it is so clearly irrational (comparing our first season to another’s 5th, comparing our first year in business to another’s 10th, comparing sales, shares, or likes to the mainstream leaders, etc.) – it still happens.

Only 2 things can happen at a moment like this – only two choices and two unique paths we can take:

Choice #1: Go With It

The first choice is easy: you go with it.

This is the comfortable path: the paved road with a slight decline, good shade and a cool breeze.

This is the path of least resistance. 

It is frictionless.  There’s no drag.

If we let it, the mind will go here automatically with little effort on our part.  It’s self-perpetuating:

Comparing ourselves to others leads to self-loathing, which leads to anger, which leads to critiquing others, which leads to more comparison, which leads to more self-loathing…

You get the point.

When we choose this path, the downward spiral is inevitable.

The end: inexorable.

Choice #2: Go Against It

The second choice isn’t so natural or easy.

The second choice is to recognize what’s happening – The Enemy has started another campaign to undermine our recent success – and to move in defiance.

This path leads us up the windward side of a mountain, against jagged and loose rock, with no steps or trail to follow.

This is an uncomfortable place to be.

This path is difficult because it requires us to recognize the state of things – the status quo, the tribe, the safe average – and willfully say “No, I’ll have no part.”

And it doesn’t stop with saying it, you must actually do it.

This takes courage (and grit…and hustle).

What’s Your Mission

This idea of choosing a path reminds me of the movie The Book of Eli.

The Book of Eli takes place (like all good action movies) in a post-apocalyptic future.

The world’s been devastated by who-knows-what, and all that’s left is a desolate, urban wasteland filled with bandits, marauders, and hooligans, each trying to get their piece (even if it means killing you for it).

And then there’s Eli.

Unlike the rest of the world, merely living to survive, he’s on a mission – to deliver a book.

He doesn’t know how he’s going to do it – the path is long, uncertain, and unclear – but he knows he must.

He understands his why and moves through this wasteland purposefully.

  • He doesn’t choose the path based on convenience, or comfort, or ease.
  • The actions of others do not affect his path.
  • His feelings do not dictate direction.

Because he understands his mission – his why – he always knows which path to choose: the one that brings him closer to accomplishing is mission, no matter how painful, uncertain, or unnatural.

There’s a scene, in the beginning of the movie, when Eli is confronted with a choice.

He sees two people get attacked by a roving gang of bikers.

His compulsion is to help; to influence the outcome of this rather dire situation.

Instead – against his natural impulse – he sits down and (in quite a bit of pain) he repeats to himself:

“Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.  Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.  Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern…”

Stay on the Path

How hard must it have been for Eli, in that position, to not intervene?

He didn’t do it out of cowardice (the rest of the movie confirms that).

He did it because his mission took precedence.

Each of us, like Eli, is on a mission.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, writer, artist, inventor, warrior or leader (and every person in the world is at least one of those things), you have a mission.

This mission differs person to person.

The path manifests in different ways for different people.

My path will not be your path, nor your path your neighbors.

2 things are important to realize here:

#1. It’s Okay.

It’s okay that our missions differ.

That yours is different than mine.  And that each path will unfold how it must, in its own time and way, uniquely to you.

#2. Your Mission is Paramount.

Not his.  Not hers.

Yours.

Superficially, this sounds selfish.

But dig beneath the surface and you realize nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s Not Your Concern

The life of an artist, entrepreneur, or writer isn’t a post-apocalyptic, life-and-death game of survival (although sometimes it feels this way…).

But regardless the setting of your personal story, one thing is very clear:

Once you wholeheartedly commit to your mission, there will arise a million distractions, hurdles, and obstacles along your path.

They will manifest in an infinite number of ways, not least insidiously as the self-defeating, self-perpetuating spiral of comparison.

Which is why, at moments like these – and any other moment in life that seeks to dislodge you from your purpose and throw you off course – it’s important to remember the truth:

The party you weren’t invited to?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

The big win the other guy had?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

The top-50-whatever list you weren’t featured in?

Stay on the path.  It’s not your concern.

All of these things will come in time – if they must.  If that’s where your mission and your path takes you.

But if not, so be it.

It’s not your concern because it’s not your path.

Embrace your mission, stay the path, and keep creating.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

How about you?

Yours in the trenches,

Tom Morkes

* * *

Started, finished, and shipped in Big Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.  Fueled by Cape Brewing Amber Weiss and The Decemberists The King is Dead album.

Total writing time: 5:13  (true story)

Indonesia is a funny place.

On the one hand, you find some incredible artisan craftsmanship – stuff that would cost 10 or 20 times more in the States (minimum).

On the other hand, you have someone trying to sell you something (anything) every ten feet.

*true story: as I was walking down a street in Bali, amongst the offers of lunch, massages, and places to stay, a guy asked me if I wanted a tune up for my car.  I was walking… I had no car.

I’m not going to lie: I definitely got sold more than I’d like to admit while I was there.

Most of the purchases I wanted or needed, of course, but still – I was impressed by this culture of people who are so willing to – and so skilled at – closing a sale.

But nothing tops the two 5 year old girls I met in Kuta, Lombok.

Learning Online Sales from Two 5-Year-Old Peddlers

We just arrived in Kuta after a full day of travel (no, not your conventional travel– think: 1 hour boat ride in a rickety boat that almost capsized multiple times, negotiating a ride with middlemen who triple the rates to get their cut, and finally getting a ride only to find out he’s not taking you where you want to go, etc.).

Needless to say, we were pretty tired and just wanted to relax for a little while before another day of travel the following day.

After finding a place to stay, we dropped off our luggage and decided to explore the small beach town of Kuta.

It didn’t take long after hitting the main road for these two to find us:

I never did get their names, but I do have their bracelets (yes, plural).

And while the value of the bracelets is probably only a few cents, the lessons on selling I learned from them are priceless.

1. Be First

These two girls didn’t wait to swarm: they were on us the first moment we stepped foot on the main road.

They literally raced ACROSS the road in traffic (albeit light traffic) to get to us first.

Why does this matter?

Simple – because I had never been to Kuta before, I had no idea what the town was like.  I would come to realize (just a few minutes later) that the town is full of little girls trying to sell you bracelets.  If I had known that, I probably would have ignored them.

But because these two got to me first (before I knew what I was getting into), they got my cash.

Me saying no to dozens of more salesmen (it pays to be first)

How to Apply This Online

There are millions of people searching for things every day online.

The majority of these searches are for things that are brand new to the person searching.

If we already have a trusted website for something, we go there first.  If we’re unsure, we search.

If you don’t recognize the power of being first (in rankings, in someone’s inbox, and as the first person people recommend for service X or product Y), you’re missing a great opportunity to increase your sales.

*note: being first is mandatory for selling commodities, but it’s also important when it comes to more premier items because exposure to your name, brand, and ideas matter (see: the exposure effect for reasons why).

2. Get in Front of the Customer

These girls didn’t wait for me to come to them.

They ran to me.

If they had waited, I would have walked right by – but because they got in my face (in a polite but demanding way), I felt compelled to stick around and see what they had to offer.

They closed the sale precisely because they instigated the conversation.

But more important than this simple action (getting in front of the customer) is actually understanding WHY and HOW it works.

It works because these girls KNEW their target demographic (white adult males – we’re suckers).  At a young (but wise) age, they knew who they should approach, who they should spend their time ‘selling’, and who they should avoid (time wasters – people not in their target demographic).

These little girls understood the 80 / 20 principle of selling to a T: the top 5% of your customers will bring in the most cash.  Focus on them.  Ignore the rest.

How to Apply This Online

Simple: you need to get in front of your customers.

As in ACTIVELY get in front of them.

A newsletter (like The Resistance Broadcast) is a great place to start – it allows you to get an ‘okay’ from your reader / customer / client to start a conversation in their email inbox.  If they’re on your list, they want to hear from you (or they can unsubscribe).

This is Permission Marketing 101.

Taking this a step further: sending direct messages / emails / video messages makes things even more personal (and therefore even more powerful as a sales tool).

I can’t tell you how many ebooks, programs, and other digital media I’ve bought because someone approached me and asked me to buy.

And honestly, the reason they asked wasn’t as important as the fact that they asked me – directly.  Not a mass email – a personal email, or a personal message.  That closes a sale better than being passively on top of a search engine.

*note: I’m using this technique right now when I promote this blog post to The Resistance and to my social networks – I’m actively getting in front of my target audience – something anyone trying to sell anything (from art, to widgets, to ideas) ought to do.

3. Be Attractive

Looks matter.

They do.

If you like your facts backed up with scientific studies, here you go.

While some might be discouraged by this, it really should be seen as a positive because ‘looks’ are highly controllable (whether we’re talking about how you dress, to your webdesign).

These little girls obviously didn’t deliberately plan this, but because they were so cute (even the one in the hijab – I mean, come on!), I couldn’t help but pay attention.

How to Apply This Online

Make sure your website looks good (enough).

Make sure your sales page is easy to read, your products look sexy, and spend more time than you think you should on the visual aesthetics of whatever you’re working on.

This isn’t just important for closing a sale, but for charging a premium.

The same beer in a high-end hotel sells for double (or more) what it sells for at a gas station (this is true even if you’re not in the hotel, but simply told the beer CAME FROM the hotel).

Is your website (product, or service) a high-end hotel or a gas station?

4. Get the Product in Your Customer’s Hand

The first thing these girls did, once they stopped me in my tracks, was get the bracelet they wanted to sell me on my wrist.

It’s still on there months later.

Me forking over cash…notice the bracelet already on my arm.

Getting the product on the customer’s hand (or back, head…whatever) matters because it increases our perceived ownership of the product.

Once those girls got their bracelets on my wrist, it wasn’t a matter of ‘do I want to buy this?’ but ‘do I like wearing with / could I see myself wearing this?’

And yes, that question changes everything.

How to Apply This Online

Give a piece of whatever you’re creating away for free.

It doesn’t have to be the whole eBook, or the whole collection of digital comics, or the whole program / manual / guide / whatever.

Just a piece of it gives me ownership over the product.

Software companies do this with free trial periods and the ‘freemium’ business model (basic use is free – if you want the good stuff though, it’ll cost you).

Point is, I’m (and human beings in general) more likely to buy when I get to hold the physical product in my hand (and whatever equivalent that looks like in the digital space).

5. As a Last Resort: Use Sympathy (warning: use with caution)

I only agreed to buy one bracelet – from the girl on the right.

She got her money and was very happy.

Then the girl on the left said: “What about my bracelet?”

Me: “I just bought one and it’s great but it’s all I need.”

Girl: “but you bought from her, not from me.  Be fair.”

She got me.

I had to be fair.

How to Apply This Online

I wouldn’t recommend this except as a last resort.

If you’re product isn’t selling, it could be because it’s boring, bad, unnecessary, lame, or something else people don’t want to buy.

In this case, you can use sympathy.

The only problem is sympathy-purchases canabalize sales (and customers), which is to say: once you made a sympathy sale (someone bought because they feel bad for you), you’re not making another sale from that person.

Sympathy sales only work once.

Once your Kickstarter campaign is over, don’t try going back to the same customers to back another product launch.  I’ve seen this done many times before, and every time the second launch is weaker (or fails).

Again, use just for last ditch attempts and realize you’ll be ignored afterward…so count the cost before you decide.

Summary

These are, hands down, the 5 most effective sales techniques for anyone trying to sell anything online (or off).

Nothing beats the hard work and hustle of someone interacting DIRECTLY with her customer.

Is it easy?

No.

Are there other techniques that automate the sales funnel, transactions, etc.?

Yes.

But realize this: none of the big players you see got to where they are by starting with automization.  Even Bezos started in his garage, making calls and closing sales – one at a time.

So if these techniques seem old-school, it’s because they are.

And they work.

* * *

From New Zealand, to Indonesia, to Australia, to South Africa…

So I’ve been on the road for a while now – for the past 6 months, actually.

The Resistance Headquarters is now in South Africa, based in Cape Town for the next month.

If you’re in South Africa, reach out and let’s connect!

If you’re not, stay tuned for more lessons on selling, marketing, artisanship, and entrepreneurship from the road.

- – -

Started, finished, and shipped in Cape Town, South Africa.

Writing time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Formatting time: 55 minutes (because looks matter)