What Makes You The Expert?

Me jumping off a bridge in Ecuador. It has nothing to do with this blog post but it still rocks.

This past June, my wife and I spent 15 days exploring Ecuador.

Unlike the other countries we visited this past year, our Ecuador adventure involved a lot of bus travel.

On the plus side, Ecuadorian bus travel is cheap.

We traveled by bus from the Pacific Ocean to the Amazon jungle, with a couple stops in between for good measure, all for less than $100 USD.

On the not-quite-plus-side, the bus system is entirely unpredictable and you never know how many buses you’ll need to change to get to a particular destination.

On one such night, after about 6 hours of travel (with a few more hours to go), we found ourselves stopped at a standard Ecuadorian bus stop:

  • Old ladies working in kiosks selling laffy-taffy
  • Bathrooms you have to pay to enter
  • And a bus terminal “exit” tax they levy against you when you leave (which I guess means if you don’t pay, you can’t leave the bus station…)

As we waited for our next bus, we came in contact with two other gringos; a couple taking a 2 week vacation in Ecuador. They had spent the past few days in the Galapagos and were now headed to the Amazon jungle.

“Perfect,” I thought, as we were also on our way to the Amazon (and if there’s one thing my Human Geography studies have taught, it’s that foreign travel is safer in packs).

So we got to talking the usual traveler’s talk:

  1. Where have you been?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What place have you liked the best?
  4. What’s after this town / country / continent?

And of course, once these questions come to an end:

  • What do you do?

Our new acquaintances were grade school teachers. They spent the past year saving up for this trip and in about a week they were headed back to the States to teach and start saving again for another trip.

When it was my turn to answer, I told them I do a little teaching myself – on topics like pricing, lean startup, and business growth hacking – and that I basically collaborate on various projects and publish books for a living (my own and others).

“What school do you teach at?” she asked.

I don’t – I teach from a platform I created. It’s entirely online.

“So who do you work for?”

No one. I created the platform myself. I’m my own boss.

“Well, what books have you written?”

I mentioned one of my books, The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing, and told her it’s all about an unconventional pricing technique that helps people increase their reach, impact, and sales.

“What makes you the expert?”

* * *

It’s been months since this interaction, but the question still comes back to me from time to time:

What makes you the expert?

There are dozens of socially acceptable answers to this:

  • I have multiple degrees in the subject matter…
  • I have over 30 years work experience in the field…
  • I won an award from a foreign or east coast institution for my work in this area…

But here’s the thing:

It doesn’t matter.

And I’m not just saying that because I have none of the above…

I’m saying it because it really doesn’t matter – not to you. Not to your work. Not to your life.

“What makes him or her the expert?”

This question is irrelevant.

But there is a question that does matter. It’s the same question I asked our Ecuadorian acquaintance after she asked me what made me an expert:

“Why aren’t you?”

As in:

  • Why aren’t you the expert?
  • What’s stopping you from being considered the go-to, subject matter expert in your field?
  • Why haven’t you shipped anything (book, blog, business, whatever)?

Because I promise you this: it has nothing to do with degrees, or awards, or “dues paid”….

But it does have to do with your actions…

Today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.

And while you don’t have to justify or validate your actions (you shouldn’t), you do have to start.

So maybe the better question is:

“When?”

I hope the answer is today.

Started, finished, and shipped in Denver, Colorado.

Total writing time: 3:41 hours


Just Beyond that Beach (the creator’s dilemma)

 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?

p.s. interested in taking the beach, but rather do it with an army?  I’m writing a new book that will teach you how to assemble and lead a team to take the beach (and own your market). Sign up here.

 

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

Total writing time: 5:30 hrs

The Power of Immersion (the fastest way to change your life for the better)

I wanted to take a moment today to offer some more free content to help out all the creative entrepreneurs and instigators out there…

But before I get to the free stuff (okay, you can just scroll down and grab the stuff if you really want…), I want to talk about why the articles you read, the people you hang out with, and the media you consume consistently, directly shapes your life…

For better or for worse.

In 5th Grade, I knew exactly what I wanted.

It was Fall of 1997, and my oldest brother was finishing up applications to a couple colleges.

I didn’t know much about them, except that they were military schools.  I knew even less what that meant, but I was curious (like a cat).

When my brother was invited to spend a couple days at West Point, NY, I knew I wanted to tag along.

So my oldest brother, my dad and I took a plane (my first plane ride ever) to New York.

I spent a couple days walking around the most bizarre place I’d ever been to in my life: everyone dressed up like they were in a perpetual state of groundhogs day from 1850; students were always in a hurry, running from barracks room to classroom to everywhere in between (and they’d get yelled at if they weren’t doing it fast enough); and after classes, they’d have to walk in formations with their rifles for hours, or play some kind of sport (intramural or core/club squad sports were mandatory for all cadets).

I was hooked.

I wanted in.

And so it happened that a rotund 11 year old set his sights on gaining acceptance into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

7 years later, I got accepted.

In the second semester of my freshmen year at college, I took boxing.

All freshmen had to – it was mandatory.

While most people took it as a haze, I loved it.

There was something about the adrenaline I got from entering the ring, the surge of excitement I got from standing toe to toe with a competitor with nothing but my fists to protect me, and the raw intensity of dishing out (and receiving) a beating…I couldn’t shake it.  I had to get better; I had to keep fighting; I had to make the team.

So a scrawny 21 year old set his sights on competing for a spot on a nationally ranked boxing team.

A year later, I made the team.

When I deployed to Iraq, I didn’t know what to expect.

As a logistics guy, I figured I’d do some “Fobbit” job (forward operating base + hobbit…get it?).

Maybe I’d coordinate some transportation movements.  I’d probably do a lot of paperwork.  I’m sure there would be some danger, but mostly I’d be safe.

At the end of the day, I figured it would be a really long, hot, boring experience.

When I got on ground, our Battalion was responsible for not only the logistics of the Brigade, but making sure those supplies got where they needed to go safely.  This meant securing the convoys that went out every night.

I immediately volunteered to stand up a convoy security platoon.

Over a hundred missions later, a couple close calls, and getting called a “cowboy” more than once, my gun truck platoon of cooks, drivers and warehouse workers returned home without a single combat related casualty (for the record, I think this had more to do with luck / Divine Providence / the Soldiers I worked with than my own skills).

The Reality behind the Stories…

I bring each of these stories up not to gloat, but to point out the reality that’s lost when we tell stories.

In each case, succeeding was never easy.

I spent years hustling academics, sports and extracurricular leadership activities to get into the Academy (not to mention another 4 years hustling to survive and graduate the Academy on time).  I got my ass kicked dozens of times preparing to compete for a spot on the boxing team (and hundreds more keeping that position).  Every single night we rode outside the wire, my brain was focused on what would happen if one (or many) of my vehicles got hit by IEDs, and how I would respond.  Sometimes, the anxiety got pretty bad.

This is the reality of victory.  It’s also the reality of failure.  And it’s most certainly the reality of life.

Life is hard.

We all experience our fair share of bruises, setbacks and failures.

The question isn’t: how do we avoid these trials and tribulations – how do we avoid the pain?  That’s foolish and naïve (not to mention impossible).

The question is: how do we overcome the struggles we will inevitably face?  How do we push through fear, pain and uncertainty?  How do we conquer our wolf?

But most importantly, how do we do all of these things in order to create and live the life we want to live.

2 Techniques for Goal Setting and Achieving

There are 2 techniques I personally used (and continue to use) that helped me get through the darkest, most painful parts of my life.

They may or may not apply to you, but for what it’s worth, here they are:

1) Unreasonable commitment.

When I set a goal, I etch it into my brain (a lot like Edmond Dantes etched words of encouragement into his cell wall).  There is no other option than achieving what I set out to achieve (or die trying).

No, this is not always pleasant.  Yes, sometimes I commit to the wrong things and regret the decision.

Inevitably, however, I make it to the end (bruised and battered, maybe, but still standing).

It’s not a technique for everyone, but if you must achieve something, I highly recommend it…

2) Immersion into the goal.

This is essentially an extension of the first technique, but it’s so important it deserves individual attention.

The person who sets a goal but doesn’t change his behavior is done before he starts.

Setting a goal, by its nature, REQUIRES change.  And it requires the right sort of change if we hope to find success.  But to create the right kind of change, we need to immerse ourselves into the subject/topic/activity we hope to achieve success in.

Just like the fastest way to learn a new language is through immersion into the environment and culture of the language you want to learn, the fastest way to achieve a goal is through immersing yourself into the goal itself.

I immersed myself in the application process for West Point by reading books, strategically creating my resume, and learning from cadets who had recently been accepted.  I immersed myself in the boxing world by jump-roping every morning, hitting the heavy-bag every night, and by watching “Gladiator” way too many times.  When I became the Battalion’s Convoy Security Platoon Leader, I immersed myself in small unit tactics, mobilized and dismounted infantry strategies, and enemy techniques.

At the end of the day, immersion, more than anything else, helped me achieve my goals by forcing me to live and act as the person I hoped to become.

Immersing Yourself in Success

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” [James Allen]

If you’re hoping to find success in any endeavor, the right mindset will be your greatest ally.

Conversely, the wrong mindset will be your greatest enemy.

Changing your mindset takes unreasonable commitment and immersion into the philosophy you want to live.

Which is why it’s essential you:

  1. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and make you better
  2. Constantly feed your brain the knowledge you want to become

For the former: this isn’t something I can help you with directly.  You decide the people you let into (and keep out of) your life.  If you’re not sure who to keep in your life and who to avoid, my best advice: examine their character.

As for the latter, well, that’s the point of this blog, my books and my podcast: to immerse you in a mindset that could change your life for the better.

A Tool to Help Immerse You

A few weeks ago someone expressed interest in having other ways to consume the material I create, in particular, by recording audio versions of my articles.  I

figured I’d give it a shot, so here it is.

Life Improving Audio for Your BrainBelow (or by clicking the image to the left) you’ll find my first ever Resistance Broadcast Audio Session’s CD.  I took 8 of my favorite articles and recorded them into high quality MP3’s you can listen to on your phone, MP3 player, computer, or burn to disk and listen to them in your car or on your boombox at the beach.


Grab Your Copy of The Resistance Broadcast Audio Session CD 1 Today By Clicking Here

 


What’s the point of it all?

Simple: to provide you an additional resource to immerse yourself into the right mindset to fight and win your inner creative battles and create your life’s work.

Will this single CD change your life?

I guess that’s always a possibility, but I doubt it – doing something once rarely changes everything…

But could listening to this CD (and others like it) more than once, reading this blog (and others like it) consistently, and earnestly putting into practice the philosophy you learn in this material change your life?

Without a doubt.

So I hope you enjoy today’s article and I sincerely hope The Resistance Broadcast Audio Session CD 1 inspires you to keep going, even when things get difficult.

And things will get difficult…

Good luck and keep fighting.

p.s. the CD is free, so you can’t lose :)


If you enjoyed today’s article, spread the word by sharing this article with someone you know.   Thanks so much in advance.

If you’re new here, join the growing army of the Resistance today and immerse yourself in content that could change your life:


*Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals

Qualifying

In the Army, soldiers have to zero and qualify with their weapon every six months.

This is a requirement for everyone, regardless of rank or position.

From cooks to pilots, Privates to Captains – everyone qualifies.

Qualifying with a weapon means hitting a certain number of targets from set distances with a certain number of rounds.

The point of qualifying is to validate that you know how to use your weapon and you can use it effectively.

To qualify with the M4, the Army’s standard issue rifle, soldiers are required to hit a minimum of 23 targets (with only 40 rounds of ammo), from 50 to 300 meters out.

To be honest, this isn’t a very difficult number to hit; even the weakest marksman can usually hit in the high 20’s…

If their weapon is zeroed…

Zeroing

Zeroing is the process of confirming your weapon will hit what you aim at.

The general practice for zeroing an M4 involves a process of shooting 3 rounds at a time to judge accuracy (rounds hit where you aim) and “shot group” (i.e. all the rounds hit close to the same area consistently).

A good zero means you’ve got an accurate site picture and a tight shot group.

Sometimes, zeroing a new rifle with a new shooter can take upwards of 50 or 60 rounds.  But once the weapon is zeroed to the shooter, it’s possible to zero in six rounds (two tight shot groups of three to confirm your site picture).

You’d think a weapon would come zeroed – that it would automatically hit what you aim at – but that’s not the case.  Every weapon is a bit different and you almost always have to adjust the sites if you want to hit your target (when you’re aiming at a target from 300 meters away, the room for error decreases significantly).

There are a multitude of reasons for this, but it ultimately comes down to your build, how you line up the shot, and how you’ve set your sites.

Since every person is slightly different, every person needs to zero their weapon before they qualify.

Qualifying an Idea

I’m guessing you can see where I’m going with this analogy…

Zeroing and qualifying applies to more than just rifles.

In the business world, if we hope to qualify an idea, we’d better have our sites adjusted and zeroed.  Just as it would be impossible to believe someone could qualify if they’ve never zeroed, it’s impossible to think someone could hit the bull’s-eye with their business plan in one attempt.

Yet people try to make this happen, over, and over, and over again.

Instead of taking the time to zero, people go for bull’s-eye on their first attempt.

Inevitably, they fail.

More often than not, they quit.

These aren’t talentless people.  They aren’t passionless or ignorant or unqualified.  On the contrary, many of them have years of experience in their sector, some have advanced degrees, and others have even started successful companies before.

But when they get a new idea, they skip the time consuming process of zeroing their idea – who is this product for, what will they pay for it, how do I know they want this, where has this worked before, what are my sales channels, can I do this without going bankrupt, etc. – and they jump right into qualifying – building the product, leasing the space, creating scalable channels, etc.

Their desire is the same desire we all have – we want the win, we want the bull’s-eye, and we want it now.

And therein lies the problem – without taking the time to get a good zero, you’ll never qualify – you’ll never hit the mark.

Missing the Mark

Even the best marksmen in the world zero their weapons before they qualify or compete.

And they do this each and every time.

If you want to be a great entrepreneur (or author, or anything else for that matter), you need to get used to zeroing before you qualify.

This means progressively getting a better site picture and tighter shot group – understanding who you’re writing to, understanding what they want to hear and how they want to hear it, knowing the best way to deliver the most powerful message, etc.

But of course – and here’s the catch – zeroing means failing.

Every round that doesn’t hit its mark is a small failure.  But it’s all for a purpose: with enough failures you can correct your shot group and qualify.

No one brings a single round to zero – that’s foolish.  Even if you hit your mark, you can’t validate your site picture or shot group with one round – it could have been pure luck.  And just because you miss the mark with one round doesn’t mean you’re completely lost or ruined – you could be a small adjustment away from hitting bulls-eye.

The point is this: you don’t know unless you shoot multiple rounds; you don’t know unless you’re willing to fail more than once.

Business and art are the same way.

You can’t expect to zero in one try.  Your ideas need to be progressively validated.  You need to take your time and adjust your sites.  And if something is off, you need to meticulously correct and adjust until it’s on target again.

Sometimes, this requires many, many rounds.

Hitting Your Target

In the conventional business world, your job is to take and execute orders.  Eventually, you’ll be responsible for disseminating orders from above, but at the end of the day, you’ll never have to do too much creative thinking, nor flex your creative brain too much.

Your job is to not fail at taking and executing orders.

On the other hand, if you want to live a life dictated by you and you alone, you need to get used to failing.

Entrepreneurship, art, writing…these things require the creator to fail before he succeeds.  It takes time to adjust a site picture and tighten a shot group.  It takes a lot of failure to finally find success.

Connecting the dots is never easy.  Putting something together from scratch is difficult.  Succeeding is, well, rare.

But if you’re the kind of person who gets restless building someone else’s empire, or living on someone else’s terms, then you’ve got to get comfortable missing the mark.

Remember, trying to hit bull’s-eye on your first try is insane without a good zero.

Focus on your shot group and site picture.  Focus on consistent, small improvement.  Focus on failing closer and closer to your mark.

Failure is inevitable during this process, but stick with it long enough and you’ll discover something incredible:

Winning is also inevitable.

 

Because at the end of the day, you’ll get your good zero.

And if you can get your good zero, you will hit your target.


Photo credit: earl53 from morguefile.com

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In the Trenches 012 : Conquering Mountains with Dan Adams

[infopane color="1" icon="0101.png"]In today’s interview, I talk with Dan about The Higher Purpose Project. It’s an intensive training course designed to help you live a life of courage aligned with your highest values.

It pretty much goes without saying that I support the project and encourage anyone interested to reach out to Dan and apply to be a part of it.

The application process ends mid August so hurry so you don’t miss your chance at grabbing one of the limited slots (they go fast).

Apply through this link.[/infopane]

The Higher Purpose Project

Starting From Scratch

In 2012, Dan Adams did something impossible.

With no experience, no resources and no connections, Dan created an award winning (2012 ESPY Award winning, actually) social project called Mission Kilimanjaro where he and a small team of veterans and civilians summited Kilimanjaro.

Of course, summiting Kilimanjaro, while impressive, isn’t the remarkable part…climbing it alongside a quadruple amputee while raising awareness for disabled kids and veterans (and donating $25,000 to the Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind) certainly is.

The Call to AdventureDan Adams of Athletic Capital

Dan’s story, though, like so many others, didn’t start at this culminating point – it started years before with many trials and tribulations.

Back in high school, Dan knew he wanted to play college football.  While a talented and disciplined player, he was considered undersized for his position as a middle linebacker (at 5’9” 190lbs give or take) and nobody expected him to play college football.

Not only did Dan make the team of a Division I school, he set a record for most unassisted tackles his junior year.  

Possibly even more impressive: he still owns the record for most unassisted tackles in one game many years later (he set the mark pretty high).

After college, Dan entered corporate America.  While he was doing okay for himself financially, he found himself emotionally drained from the unfulfilling work.  At one point in his career, Dan even brought in $34,000 in a single day.  A great day by anyone’s standards, to be sure.

For Dan, it was the worst day of his life.

Dan realized he wasn’t living the life he was advising others to live and this self-reflection led to an epiphany: you can’t change others by telling them what to do, you can only change others by setting the example and living the part.

So Dan set a date to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Kyle Maynard to show veterans and kids with disabilities around the world that regardless of the challenges they face, no obstacle is too great to conquer.

In 2012, Dan and his team conquered Mount Kilimanjaro.

And now he’s off conquering new and greater obstacles.

Dan’s Hero’s JourneyDan Adam's Higher Purpose Project

This is just a short intro to Dan Adams – an incredibly intelligent, compassionate and driven person.  In today’s broadcast, I sit down with Dan to dig into his story and find out how he did what he did (and what he’s planning for the future).

Just one of the remarkable things we talk about: how Dan uses disciplined visualization to achieve success (from visualizing the plays and tackles he’s going to make the night before a game, to the visualization process for creating an award winning initiative from scratch).

Simply put – if you’re interested in improving yourself or your performance in any aspect of your life, you HAVE to listen to this interview. 

Dan’s the real deal and we dig into exactly what he did to create success in so many aspects of his life.  I know I personally took a ton of notes and plan on listening to this podcast more than once as I develop the projects I’m working on.

So enjoy today’s broadcast and please leave a review on iTunes! when you finish.

What Dan Adams and I talk about:

  • How Dan transitioned from corporate America to founding an award winning movement in less than two years
  • How Dan took the leap into doing work he’s passionate about
  • Why the first step is the hardest (but also the most important)
  • The importance of adversity and taking big leaps
  • Dan’s 2 painful and personal experiences that changed his life
  • The importance of embodying the virtues we want to see in others (and living the life we want to see others live)
  • How Dan uses visualization to manifest his life on a daily basis (seriously, he’s set national records and won massive awards using this technique)
  • What it’s like to start with no experience, no resources, and no connections, yet still craft and bring into reality an award winning project
  • The power of focusing on one thing at a time
  • How Dan creates success in his life through persistent focus and discipline
  • How Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” influenced Dan’s personal creative journey
  • How Dan built an award winning mission by learning from others and connecting the dots
  • How fear is an indicator to take the first step and a guidepost that you’re headed in the right direction
  • The power of expressing authentic gratitude for another persons work as a way to start a powerful relationship
  • Why having the mindset of creating value for others will always lead you to success
  • How Dan bootstrapped a massively successful personal change initiative (and how next year will be even better)
  • Why you need to embrace Neverland (the Peter Pan story Neverland, not Michael Jackson’s ranch)

Awesome Quotes:

On the need for adversity:

“When everything is comfortable we don’t take the steps we need to evolve.” [tweet]

On fear (and courage):

“Whenever I fear something I go right at it.  I see fear as the accelerator.” [tweet]

On starting your hero’s journey:

 “The people that succeed are the people that take the first step.” [tweet]

A Short Clip from Dan’s Project: Mission Kilimanjaro:

Where You Can Find Dan:

www.thehigherpurposeproject.com

http://www.athleticcapital.com/

http://missionkilimanjaro.com/

https://twitter.com/AthleticCapital

https://www.facebook.com/daadam07

Additional Show Notes

Joseph Campbell (Hero’s Journey) Collected Works

http://kyle-maynard.com/


**p.s. if you enjoy the show, please leave a review on iTunes and help spread the word.