Life is for the Unreasonable

life is for the unreasonable

For the past two months

my wife and I have been vagabonding through New Zealand.

Vagabonding is probably the best word for it – the majority of the time we’ve been living out of our backpack and a tiny red hatchback (The Getzya!).

The first weekend here, we rented a car (buses are too expensive here and a car would give us more flexibility).  Since then, we’ve managed to see more of New Zealand than most New Zealanders (we’re very curious and we don’t waste time).

We started in Auckland in the north (of the north island) and made it all the way to Queenstown in the south (of the south island), stopping along the way to see rocky, windswept coastlines, majestic waterfalls (lots of waterfalls), surreal-looking giant trees, and a never-ending supply of sheep grazing on rolling, green hills.

In a very nerdy way, it reminded me of the Nintendo game Zelda come to life (although there were no boss battles or treasure chests in the caves here).

Our time here has come to an end, but it’s been an incredible ride with just enough misadventures to keep it interesting the whole time.

But the point of this essay isn’t to gush about New Zealand (although, if you have a chance, definitely go visit), nor is it to brag (can you really brag if you’ve been living out of a car?).

The point of this essay is to tell you a story of a couple people whose work has impacted millions (including many reading this, I’d suspect), yet few of us even directly recognize their contribution…

***

Our last stop…

in the north island of New Zealand took us to the windy city of Wellington (they call Chicago the windy city in the States – it doesn’t come close to Wellington, where some days the wind could actually knock you over).

While there, we did what we always do in a new city: go for explorative runs, conduct hands-on research of the craft-beer scene and wander wherever we feel compelled to go.

One of those daily wanders led us Weta Digital.

Weta is the company responsible for the visual effects for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  From makeup, to costumes, to set design, to digital FX – Weta created it all.

Based on the record-setting box-office numbers and gluttony of awards they won, they obviously killed it.  They brought Tolken’s Middle Earth to life, convincing the die-hards that a well-produced film could do the books justice, and convincing the masses that some fantasy stories are worth hearing (even if it means sitting down for over 3 hours to do so).

But what’s even more remarkable is that they did all this under seemingly impossible circumstances:  Weta hadn’t officially been around for 10 years before Peter Jackson picked them for the project, and they didn’t do just one film, they had to do all 3 at once.

There’s no good reason they should have succeeded, but they did.

***

Of course, if this is where the story ends, where you close the browser and say got it, you miss the point entirely.

Weta’s story didn’t start with multiple studies, hundreds of employees and this extremely complex, multi-faceted, million-dollar blockbuster project.

It started as an unreasonable idea in the back room of Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger’s cramped flat in 1987.

It started as the kind idea your peers would tell you to forget about (for your own good, of course), so you can spend more time making time-and-a-half and watching football.

It started as the type of idea that usually goes nowhere, so why waste your time?

It started as an idea that’s for kids and dreamers, not adults.

Lucky for us, Richard and Tonia didn’t care.  Instead, they kept doing the odd thing, the childish thing, the unreasonable thing…

With each small project, they pushed the boundaries of their own creativity.  They put their blood, sweat and tears into every creation, beyond any reasonable expectation of repayment.  And with each new film, they improved, honed and sharpened their skill-set.

They also formed relationships that lasted.

They got their first major film gig in 1989.  Their job: to create bizarre-looking muppets for an even more bizarre black comedy.  The guy directing was a local to Wellington as well: Peter Jackson.

4 years later, they joined with Peter to expand their film effects company (RT Effects at the time) and formed what is now Weta Digital.

7 years after that, they got their big break: the opportunity to work on The Lord of the Rings.

Since then, they’ve worked on dozens of blockbusters, from Iron Man 3, to District 9 to the new Hobbit movies, and expanded into a total of 5 studios running the gamut of film production (from pre through post production).

***

There are at least a dozen good lessons to take from this story, but I’ll leave you with just one:

Life is for the unreasonable.

This goes for everyone and everything.

Your existence on this planet, in and of itself, is unreasonable.  The chances of you being here, right now, just as you are – they’re so slim as to be non-existent.  There is no random chance here.

Yet so many squander this gift by waiting, letting others go first, and favoring the safe and secure bet.

Richard and Tonia didn’t wait.  They didn’t let someone else create the studio they dreamt up.  And they certainly didn’t favor safety or security.

They were completely unreasonable.

And those who love their work and feel their impact are better off for it.

***

Of course, you’ve probably never heard of Richard and Tonia, unless you’re a huge LOTR fan.  Most of us enjoyed the movies and might recognize a few of the actors and maybe the director – that’s about it.

So what’s in it for them if the masses of people don’t even recognize their contribution?  

And what’s in it for the rest of us if no one notices what we do?

I’m not sure what Richard or Tonia would say about this (I’ve yet to interview them for In the Trenches), but I know what one of Tolkien’s characters would say:

there may come a time for valor without renown. [Aragorn]

Don’t wait.

Be unreasonable.

___

Started, finished and shipped at The Sprocket Roaster in Newcastle, Australia. Fuel: double espresso. Soundtrack: Bon Iver

Total writing time: 5 hours

___

p.s. want an unreasonable way to sell your products or services?  Check out my book: The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing. It might just change the way you approach your business, art and writing forever.

Into the Unknown

Maybe I’m Crazy… Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com

In fact, I must be.

Right now, as I write this blog post, I’m sitting outside a Starbucks in Boise, Idaho…

I’m thousands of miles away from most of my friends and family…

And I’m Homeless and unemployed.

That’s right – no job, no predictable income, no home…

And I have no intention of trying to get any of those things back.

Crazy?

Maybe not as crazy as you’d think.

Let me explain…

“Losing” Everything

You might be thinking that being homeless and unemployed is terrible.

After all, that’s the scenario presented to us – no job, no home; it means you’ve lost everything, right?  Pretty soon, you’re running amok inside a fast food joint demanding breakfast for lunch, even after they stopped serving breakfast

For some reason, I feel like that’s Hollywood’s (embellished) take on it.  The reality is often much less dramatic.

And in my case, it’s actually a little boring.

You see, I didn’t lose everything.  I made a conscious decision to give up certain things that weren’t important to me.  To simplify and streamline my life in a way that’s congruent with what I want to do and who I want to be.  To get rid of excess.  To trim the fat, so to speak.

I didn’t lose everything.

I have exactly what I need.

And now I have the opportunity to build whatever life I want.

It’s a choice most wouldn’t be willing to make.

But what good are talents if we keep them buried?

The Transition

About 6 months ago I put my 2 weeks notice into my employer.

Two weeks ago I sold my car and most of my belongings.

Last week I packed up what remained and shipped it to the West Coast for storage.

This past weekend, I signed out of my unit for the last time and started driving across the country with my fiancee (we get married next month).

I have no conventional job prospects lined up.  No massive savings account or trust fund to rely on while I ‘get back on my feet.’  No escape route if things go south.

I’ve burned the boat - there’s no going back.

No more job.  No more house.  No more semi-monthly paycheck.  No more job title.  No more certainty…

In exchange, I get the opportunity to fail.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

What Matters

Why does the opportunity to fail matter so much?

Because without the possibility of failure, there is no possibility of real success.

And real success is the only thing that matters.

Success means triumph.  It means achieving what we set out to achieve.  It means growing, expanding and advancing as an individual (and helping others do the same).

But if there’s nothing challenging us, no roadblocks on our way to the top, no obstacles along the path, then success is hollow.

I’m sure just about any adult reading this could be the best 1st grade soccer player in the world.  But what does that even mean?  More importantly, why would it even matter?

The answer, of course, is that it really wouldn’t mean anything (and it most certainly wouldn’t matter)….

And so we need the prospect of real failure if we want the prospect of real success.

If we want to do something that matters – contrary to the classic expression – failure must be an option.
 Photo credit: RoganJosh from morguefile.com

Guideposts

There’s a very simple litmus test to determine if what you’re going after has the possibility of real success (and thus real failure).

Does it scare you?

If yes, you’re probably doing something that could fail.

Fear is a guidepost.

It let’s us know we’re headed in the right direction; it means we’re doing something outside our comfort zone; it means we’re challenging the conventional, safe and certain approach.

If you’re fearless, you’re probably playing 1st graders in soccer.

And that should be a signal for you to move in a different direction

What’s Next

So here I am in Boise, Idaho, enjoying an iced Americano and thinking about what’s next.

Right now, we’re on our way to the World Domination Summit 2013 (#wds2013) in Portland, Oregon.  We started in Nashville, TN and after several days of cross country travel, we’re almost here.

If you’re not familiar, WDS is essentially a massive, 3-day conference on entrepreneurship, creativity and creating impact.  Obviously, I’m a fan and supporter.

If you’re there, shoot me an email and let’s connect.

After the conference, my fiancee and I will be traveling up to Seattle to get married.  Then we’re taking a year long trip around the world.  For about 12 months we’ll be traveling the southern hemisphere (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Peru, etc.).

While this sounds like a year long honeymoon / vacation, it’s really not.  We’re traveling for a year but we’ll both be working.  We’re just not working conventional 9-5 jobs that keep us tied down in a particular geographic location.

Instead, through conscious and calculated decisions (which I mentioned in the beginning of this article), we’ve created a lifestyle that is sustainable from anywhere in the world.

Believe it or not, this is possible. 

Not only is it possible, I think it’s necessary for any person hoping to survive in today’s economy (a topic for another time).

So how can I sustain myself from anywhere in the world?

Through a number of projects:

Starting an Insurgency…

Well, I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going full steam ahead with my publishing company: Insurgent Publishing.

Insurgent Publishing is a boutique, creative publishing platform.  That’s a clever way of me saying it’s a very small operation right now that focuses on bringing a specific type of content to a specific group of people, via non-standard methods (beyond simply publishing on Amazon, for example).

So what kind of content are we publishing and who is it for?

Well, if you’re a reader of my blog, you’re already savvy with the style of content I want to publish.  Insurgent Publishing focuses on unconventional non-fiction.  Like its namesake, it’s all about bringing insurgent ideas (i.e. the types of ideas that don’t fit the one-size-fits-all mainstream status-quo) to the attention of readers.

Some of my favorite books of all time include The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Poke the Box by Seth Godin and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  I love these books.  I read them several times a year.  I’ve probably read each over a dozen times.

But there’s a problem – there aren’t enough mind-blowing books like this in the world.

What makes them unique is their brevity and power; they’re urgent, critical, and they demand action after you read them.

And they don’t fit a specific, conventional mold.

My goal is to find powerful authors (unknowns and well-knowns), creatively collaborate with them in order to break, build and design disruptive ideas, and publish them in beautiful ways for the happy few who want to read them.

Conceptually, I like to think of it like TED talks in book form (and with more depth).

It’s a company that won’t produce content for everyone.  But I’m hoping it produces the right content for the right people.

The website isn’t complete yet.  It’s taken me about 6 times longer than I expected (which, ironically, I DID expect).  I’m hoping to have it up and running this August.

If you enter your email on the home page of the under-construction Insurgent Publishing website right now, you’ll get lifetime discounts on everything we ever publish…(everything – forever).

My way of saying thank you for taking a chance.

*NOTE: if you’re a writer, designer or artist and would like to collaborate on a project and get your work published, shoot me an email (tom @ tommorkes.com)

Taking On Courage

I’m also in the exploration, research and note taking phase of my next book.

I’m hoping to take the same easy to read, urgent style from my book “The Art of Instigating” (get it free by joining the Resistance) and apply it to the topic of “Courage” – what it is, how it works, and how we can cultivate, learn and teach it.

In the book Decisive, by Chip and Dan Heath, we’re given a framework for how decisions work, and how, ultimately, to make better decisions in life.  It’s a fascinating and useful book as it helps the reader gain clarity before making a decision.  I highly recommend it for those curious about the brain, psychology, and/or marketing – or for people who simply want to make better choices in life.

But it left me wondering: what about the choices in life that are already crystal clear, but the right choice leads you down a path of uncertainty, pain or even death?  Or the wrong choice leads you down a path of safety, security or fortune?

How do we make those choices?

While not the entirety of the subject, I consider this an important microcosm of courage as a whole – the ability to make the right choices in life, even if it means sacrificing our comfort, happiness or even our lives.

I hope this gives you a little insight into my thoughts on (one aspect of) the matter.

Would love to hear what you think – and what you’d like me to explore in the book: courage in business, perhaps?

Or possibly courage in writing, art or entrepreneurship?  Anything goes – just email me – I’d love to start a conversation.

And Still In the TrenchesIn The Trenches

My podcast In the Trenches may be put on hiatus once I start my international travel.

That’s not to say it’s dead – it would just have to be put on pause.  I’m hoping that’s a worst case scenario and the places I travel will allow me the internet access I need to upload and create this type of content.  I’m also hoping traveling will expose me to even more awesome people around the world doing great things so I can interview them for the show.

So I’m not sure what will happen with In the Trenches…but if you want it to continue, you should write a review and rate the podcast on iTunes.

The only way this podcast or blog spreads is through word of mouth.  Thanks to all those who have spread the word already – and thanks in advance to those who help spread the word in the future.

So, again, please leave a review on iTunes if you want In the Trenches to continue!

Super Secret Projects

I also have a few other (super secret) projects I’m working on with several different people in various fields.

I was just brought on as a project manager for a small, potentially disruptive, startup.  Excited to see just how quickly this company can grow and dominate its niche.  I hope to share more details after we launch.

I’m in the works with a partner to develop a new online sales platform (apologies for the purposefully vague description).  It has the potential to be huge, and I have no doubt we’ll be able to develop it into a successful platform – but it’s going to take some hustle.  We’ll be bootstrapping the project using the lean startup approach (i.e. iterative testing until we find a product/market fit).  Again, as soon as we have a working product you’ll be the first to hear about it.

I’m also expanding my business consulting services.  It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a bootstrapper or a solopreneur looking to make sales (or start making MORE sales), or an author who wants to make money from his or her writing, you should definitely connect with me.

This is limited and I can’t accept everyone.

So shoot me an email and we’ll see if it’s a good fit for both of us (a caveat: I only work with hustlers who are totally committed – fence sitters need not apply).

Leading the Resistance…

Along with all this, I’ll continue to write for the Resistance.

Expect the same great writing as always sent directly to your inbox (plus behind the scenes stuff exclusive for subscribers).

While difficult to keep up the pace of multiple quality articles a week, I intend to do it for as long as I’m capable.

And I’ll continue to create free and pay what you want content.

If you enjoy my work and want to contribute, the best way is to grab my pay what you want products and treat me to a cup of coffee or something.

Here are a few of my products you might enjoy:

The Gunslinger’s Guide to Starting and The Gunslinger’s Workbook – Start, finish and ship your project in 30 days or less

Putting on Your Brain Goggles - become more creative instantly

2 Days With Seth Godin – I went to a 2 day seminar/conference w/ Seth Godin.  Here’s everything we talked about (consider this material gold for entrepreneurs and writers)

Thank you so much for contributing to my creative work.

The End (or is it?)

Well, that’s it for today.

Hope it was enjoyable to read a bit more about me and what I’m up too.  More personal than I usually get (and, thus, slightly uncomfortable for me to write), but I hope you enjoyed it.

Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

And of course…

This is Tom Morkes.  If you’re reading this, you ARE the Resistance.

In the Trenches 011: Smart Business with John Corcoran

Prepare for the (smart business) Revolution…

The White House, the California Governor’s Office, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley – these are some of the most well-known and most powerful places in the world – and John Corcoran’s worked in all of them.

John is an attorney and small business advisor with the Corcoran Law Firm outside of San Francisco, where he helps entrepreneurs, business owners and real estate investors.  He’s also the founder of SmartBusinessRevolution.com where he helps entrepreneurs succeed, online and off.

Earlier in his career, John served in the White House, as a Speechwriter and Press Aide in for the governor of California, for a law firm in heart of Silicon Valley, and, at one point, John even worked in Hollywood.

One thing I know about John – he is a networking master and a genuinely selfless person.  He’s personally helped me connect with some really big players in the business world, so I know firsthand his abilities.  I highly encourage subscribing to his newsletter and checking out his excellent podcast.

That’s just a brief overview of Johns working background.  As you’ll find out once you listen to the interview, John’s done an incredible amount of interesting work.

Bottom line, John is a wealth of knowledge and experience in writing, entrepreneurship, and building relationships, and he really is an instigator if I’ve ever met one – someone who starts, finishes, and ships projects all the time.

A great listen for entrepreneurs and writers (we dig into his upcoming book and actually expose some really cool details about successful self-publishing with numbers and stats to back them up!).

Definitely check it out, and leave a comment (and review on iTunes!) when you finish.

What we talk about

  • How John Corcoran networked his way into the White House, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley
  • Why John switched from speechwriting to law to online entrepreneurship
  • How John’s business experience helps pull in the right customers
  • How John uses major news outlets and social media to get leads for his legal, coaching and consultation services
  • How John uses content marketing to target specific audiences for his desired end-state (i.e. how he gets small business entrepreneurs to come to him for help)
  • The slog of doing creative work (and how to succeed at it)
  • The price of success (it doesn’t get easier as you get bigger)
  • The power of adrenaline and how to harness it to take your work to the next level
  • How to harness your dissatisfaction to create brilliance
  • How to abandon your writing to make it better
  • All about John’s upcoming book – and we dig deep into self-publishing, benefits of traditional versus self-publishing, and the power of going your own route
  • Why the blank canvas is a terrible place to start – start with a plan!

 Awesome Quotes:

On business:

“Who are you serving and how can you provide value and assistance to them?” [tweet]

On Life:

“If you’re unhappy with your lot in life, harness that to mobilize yourself to write that book, or to start that blog, or to start that podcast …or whatever it is that you need to do that’s going to make you a happier person in life.”

Where You Can Find John:

SmartBusinessRevolution.com

The Smart Business Revolution Podcast

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Additional Show Notes

The Tipping Point

 

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

 

 

In the Trenches 010: Marketing Strategy with Tommy Walker (part 2 of 2)

[infopane color="1" icon="0101.png"]Today’s broadcast is part 2 in a 2 part series.

Part 1 can be found by clicking here.  In part 1 (broadcast 9), Tommy and I talk about crowd funding.  What it is, how it works, and how to successfully create a crowd funding campaign for your product.

Definitely check it out (then leave a review on iTunes!)[/infopane]

Content Marketing 101

In today’s broadcast, Tommy Walker explains everything there is to know about content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Simply put: it’s content with a purpose (and that purpose is to elicit one of 4 responses – see below).

As Tommy explains, every time you interact with a piece of content, it’s a transaction.  If you’re reading this blog post right now, you’re exchanging your time and attention for information from me.  All content works this way (from youtube to books to live music), but unless it has a purpose, it’s not content marketing.

The 4 types (and purposes) for content:

  1. Viral Content: To be shared
  2. Discussion Content: To be commented on / discussed
  3. Lead Content: To get a lead (filling out a form, email address, etc.)
  4. Sales Content: To close a sale (actually sell your product or service)

Each of these types of content has a purpose – to get a reader to take action.

If you’re interested in finding out how to use each of these types of content, or why they work, listen to the podcast (it’s definitely worth your time).

About Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist, creator of the marketing video series “Inside The Mind” and the producer of the online video roundtable interview series “The Mindfire Chats.

Tommy started his journey in the online marketing world in 2005.  Since 2009, Tommy’s been consulting full time for small businesses.

Tommy has done a number of remarkable things in the online world, from reinventing the way people learn about marketing (via his “Inside The Mind” educational video series), to producing the free, popular and fast growing “The Mindfire Chats” where experts and industry professionals come together to discuss everything and anything marketing related.

For more information about Tommy Walker, check out his website: http://tommy.ismy.name/

 

What we Talk About in Broadcast 10:

  • Why your network is an investment (and you need to treat it as such)
  • How to measure the return on investment of your content
  • How the 4 types of content work (and how to create and use each to get the response you want from your audience)
  • Why you should know who your audience is BEFORE you start writing (creating/designing/inventing)
  • The power of content marketing and how it will help you increase sales and authority
  • Why you need bigger ears (and how to develop them)

Additional Show Notes

Chris Brogan (grow bigger ears)

 

Enjoyed today’s broadcast?

Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes here.


 


Spend Your Best Words Today

Great Work (part 3 of 3)

Photo credit: DTL from morguefile.com

This is the final post in a short series on great work.

To be honest, I originally wrote a short book’s worth of content on this topic.

But right before I hit publish, I decided to scrap everything and get to the heart of what I wanted to say: what great work means at the most fundamental level.

Great work is all about impact. 

And sometimes, the best way to make an impact is with fewer words.

In the follow up post, I wanted to dive deeper into this concept of impact – why do some things impact us so powerfully and others don’t? 

Love it or hate it, the messages, people, and things we remember are those that draw the line, that take a stand, that never compromise.

Easily said. 

Not easily done.

In this final post in the series, I want to talk about a common misunderstanding of great work – the biggest mistake we make in life, actually – and leave you with a final thought on how to create your own great work – this instant if you want.

But first, the misunderstanding…

The Biggest Mistake We Make…

Is confusing doing great work with getting RECOGNIZED for the great work we do.

These are not the same.

When we set out to do great work, we put our heads down and create.  Every now and then we share what we produce: 99% creation, 1% selling.

When we set out to get recognized, we stop creating and start plugging: 1% creation, 99% selling.

As long as we’re doing great work (truly great work), there’s no time to worry about recognition.  It may come, it may not.  That’s not for you to decide, nor for your great work to dictate.

But isn’t there some way to bridge the gap?  Isn’t it possible to create great work that WILL get recognized?  Surely, there must be a secret formula out there…

There isn’t one.

There is no 100% guaranteed 10-step model for creating great work that gets recognized.  It doesn’t exist.

And anyone who says otherwise is probably selling you something.

The truth is there is no secret formula because it’s not a secret and you already know the formula.  You’ve known it your entire life, in fact.

It’s just hard to admit you know the formula because once you do it changes everything.

Owning Action / Reaction

So why isn’t it possible to guarantee your work will be recognized?

Simple:

You don’t own the reaction to your work. 

You can’t control the crowd’s opinion.  You can’t dictate the feedback of the audience.  You can’t determine the response of the client.

These aren’t for you to control – and trying to force it is either malicious or naïve.  In either case, it detracts from your great work.

The reaction shouldn’t concern you because it doesn’t concern you.

You don’t own the reaction to you work, but you do own something much more important:

You own the actions that create your work.

You control the words you put down on paper; you dictate the effort you put into your art; you determine the love, generosity and humility with which you embrace each day and every person you meet.

Your actions are for you to control.

And your actions SHOULD concern you.

The Best Words

In all these empty plans / The ink stains on my hands.

And everyone saves / The best words for the grave.

Are these weary morning tones / I’ll probably save mine too.

[The Airborne Toxic Event]

In every minute of every day is the opportunity to put your mind, body and spirit into doing something worthwhile.

Every action is an opportunity to do something bold.

In every passing moment is the opportunity to change everything.

Want to do great work?

Serve the people closest to you, regardless of their rank, title or following.  Put it all on the line for those who need you most, not those you think you need to impress.  Speak to those who want to hear from you – ignore the rest.

This is generosity. It doesn’t scale.  And it’s what really counts, regardless of applause.

The recognition you think you want?  It doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Stop saving your best words.

Spend them today on the people who count.


Would love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment below!

New to the blog?  Join the Resistance.