instigate. inspire. lead.

All posts tagged Success

“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success…”  – Jiro Ono (Jiro Dreams of Sushi)

*   *   *

a map of the gilisFor the past two months, my wife and I have been traveling around South East Asia.

We’ve spent the majority of our time in Indonesia, with a one-off stop in Singapore for a long weekend (flights were $9 and we needed to renew our Indonesian visas, so it was a no-brainer).

Toward the end of our time in Indonesia, we made a trip to the Gili Islands, just off the coast of Lombok.

There are three Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short), Gili Mano and Gili Air.

Each island has its own unique atmosphere (Gili T is more party, Gili Mano is basically undeveloped, and Gili Air is that quiet middle ground, more suited for honeymooners or people who prefer less crowded locations but all the essential amenities one might need while visiting an island paradise – like Wi-Fi).

We decided to spend the majority of our time on Gili Air.

Artisanship on an Island Paradise

I knew this place was different the moment our wooden boat floated up to its sand and coral beaches.

Unlike most Indonesian cities (and most SE Asian cities for that matter), instead of being greeted by hundreds of taxi cab drivers looking to take all our money (we stand out here), we saw a dozen horse drawn carriages lining the street with not a single moped in sight (again, for SE Asia, this is bizarre).

Courtney and I had done our research, though – Gili Air is only a few square kilometers, meaning everything is in walking distance.

So we started walking.

We had no set plans or booked reservations – we normally wing our travel and this was no exception.

As we walked along the half-cobble, half-sand roads, we were greeted with the standard set of Indonesian idiosyncrasies (smiles, laughter, offers for a place to stay or eat, and lots of ‘mista’ and ‘boss’ thrown into their sentences for good measure), and passed by dozens of independently owned and operated shops.

One shop in particular caught my attention.

gili air artisan

- How do you NOT stop here? -

A little hut, just off the side of the main road (there’s really only one main road in Gili Air), with a sign that read:

Gili Air Artshop Made to Order. Looking is for Free, Smile Included.

But it wasn’t the warm, inviting sign that drew me in; it was the man sitting outside the shop, hacking away at a coconut that did.

His name is Nin.

Nin is an artist.  He carves, paints, and constructs things from wood and other natural materials.  Today, he is carving a necklace out of a coconut.

Watch him work for just a few minutes and you realize a few things:

1. Nin is a professional.  This is his life.  It’s what he does every day for hours a day.  His craftsmanship shows.

2. Nin is an artisan.  He works with his hands to bring his vision to life.  And he’s skilled at it.

3. Nin’s workshop is sustainable in the perfect sense of the word.  He uses discarded wood and coconuts to make his art.  This isn’t for marketing purposes – it’s out of necessity.

Naturally, I had to buy something from Nin.

gili air artisan

- Nin hard at work -

He charged me 200,000 Rupiah for a coconut necklace.

As a point of reference, that’s less than $20 US.  As another point of reference, that’s more than it cost for one night on our beach front bungalow, and about 2 times as much as dinner for two at a high end restaurant on the island.

Depending on how you view it, it might seem like I got ripped off.  Relative to prices on the island, 200,000 Rupiah is quite a bit of money.  And I never bartered (something you’re supposed to do in Indonesia).

Of course, after watching him work, I didn’t want to.

He spent three days carving this necklace from a coconut shell.  Every day, I watched his progress, forming something from (essentially) nothing.

When it was finished, I wondered if 200,000 Rupiah was too little.

The Artisan in the Digital Age

I tell this story for a reason.

First, to point out that artisanship still exists.  All over the world.  And many people just like me are willing to pay a premium for it.

And second, to beg the question:

  • What does it take in the digital age – in the age of pixels, gigabytes, and high resolution – to create something artisan?
  • Is it even possible?
  • Is it worth bleeding over our work when there’s nothing to physically hold at the end of the day?

The Message and the Message Spreader

In the beginning of this essay, I quoted Jiro Ono, a sushi chef made famous from a little documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro’s an artisan.

He lives and breathes the perfect sushi dish.  He’s been doing it every day for over 70 years and will continue until he physically can’t.

Jiro charges over $300 a meal.

He does because he can – because people want to see a master artist at work.

We’re naturally drawn toward those who perfect their craft, who’ve weathered the inner creative battle for decades and come out on top.  And we’re happy to pay a premium just to be in their presence (Jiro’s sushi shop is booked months in advance).

Again, this might solidify the idea that artisanship only exists in the physical realm…

Until I think about how I heard of Jiro.

I’ve never met Jiro in person, nor been to his sushi restaurant.

It was a documentary – a digital download – that brought his work to my attention.  It was this medley of pixels, gigabytes and high resolution that shined a light on his work and his philosophy.

The digital world made this message possible to spread.

And no other medium could have delivered the message with more impact.

We’re Waiting to Pay You a Premium

As entrepreneurs, creators and instigators in the 21st century, a very big part of what we do is online.

Yet instead of killing off what is left of artisanship, I honestly believe it’s helping to grow and expand the roll of the artisan (just listen to some of the interviews I’ve done with true digital artisans like AJ Leon and Dan Adams, among others) .

The artisan storyteller; the artisan craftsman (online and off); the artisan message spreader…

The roll of the artisan is expanding.

The question isn’t one of accessibility or ‘how’ – anyone can be one if they choose.

The question is: are you willing to put in the hours, days, and years (and the sweat, blood, and tears) to create the perfect product or service for the people who matter – the ones who want to hear from you?

My advice?

Start today – before you’re ready.

Because we’re waiting.

And we’re willing to pay a premium.

Started in Gili Air; thrashed in Sydney; finished and shipped in Perth, Australia (while listening to the song Perth by Bon Iver)

Total Writing Time: 3 hours and 8 minutes

Want to support Artisanship in the 21st century?  Subscribe to The Creative Entrepreneur and support an artisanal publication while helping fund entrepreneurs in developing countries.


The Creative EntrepreneurLast week, I released the first-ever publication from my boutique publishing company: Insurgent Publishing.

It’s called The Creative Entrepreneur, and it’s a semi-annual, donation-based business and arts journal.


*for more information about the journal click here*

As you can probably guess from its name, it’s all about helping entrepreneurs (and creatives of all types) start, run, and grow their small businesses using creative and unconventional business practices.

We do this by getting the best entrepreneurs, artists and writers in the world to contribute content – from educational articles to inspirational works of art.

The donation-based portion of the journal refers to our philanthropic initiative: we’re teaming up with to donate a portion of all proceeds (up to 100% – the subscriber decides) to help fund entrepreneurs in developing countries.

To say I’m proud of what we’ve built here is an understatement.

A-Listers Who Contributed to the First Issue of The Creative Entrepreneur

One of the things people notice immediately is the incredible line-up of entrepreneurs, writers and artists we got to write, teach, and otherwise contribute to the journal in some form or fashion.

One of the taglines I use to describe the journal is: learn from the best in the world.

When I say that, I’m not exaggerating. 

In our flagship issue of the journal, we received contributions from some of the best entrepreneurs, writers and artists in the world:

steven pressfield


Steven Pressfield – bestselling author of Gates of Fire (one of my favorite books of all time – I’ve read it multiple times and every time it’s a punch in the gut), The War of Art (another one of my favorites – it inspired me to start this blog), and most recently The Authentic Swing.


john lee dumas


John Lee Dumas – one of the premier business podcasters on the planet (his show Entrepreneur on Fire gets hundreds of thousands of downloads every month).



pat flynn


Pat Flynn – an author, blogger, and hugely successful podcaster (The Smart Passive Income Podcast is usually ranked top 10 in the world under the business category in iTunes, and he’s one of the leading educators in digital commerce and online business).


chris guillebeau


Chris Guillebeau – bestselling author of The $100 Startup and creator of The World Domination Summit.




natalie sisson


Natalie Sisson – author of the Amazon bestseller The Suitcase Entrepreneur (and founder of the company by the same name).




And many others, including:

John Corcoran – entrepreneur, attorney and networking expert (he literally networked his way into Silicon Valley, Hollywood and The White House…enough said).

Clay Hebert – founder of Spindows and all around creative instigator.

Dan Adams – visionary entrepreneur, creator of the 2012 ESPY Award winning Mission Kilimanjaro, and all around stud (yes that’s him stopping Pacman Jones at the 1 yard line in Pros vs. Joes).

Faith Watson – copywriter extraordinaire and founder of Pen to Zen.

Danny Iny – the founder of Firepole Marketing.

Nick Loper – founder of Side Hustle Nation (in the journal, you’ll learn how he side-hustled his way to $10 million in sales…very powerful stuff).

Brett Henley – author, branding expert and creator of We Craft Stories.

Stephanie Arsoska – writer, poet and founder of (she also has a truly captivating Scottish accent – listen to her spoken word performance on Courage that she did for the journal).

Justin Harmon – founder of Unplugged Recreated.

Leah Hynes and Nazrin Murphie – founders of and The Circuit Breaker Conference Series (which, by the way, I’ll be the keynote speaker for this coming February.  Check it out and grab your ticket here).

Emily Chase Smith – entrepreneur, small business attorney and money management expert.

Jesicka Labud – founder of Tipabl and Two Non Techies.

Jason Van Orden – one of the world’s most sought after experts in the world of marketing.

MP MacDougall – author, American historian and one of the most impactful writers I’ve ever read.

Tom Owens – author of over 50 published books and is now, officially, a poet.

Zander Galloway – entrepreneur and public speaker (his essay in the journal – Stepping Onto the Stage – will give you some of the best tips I’ve ever read for getting up onto the stage with courage and delivering a great presentation).

Kevin Wood – founder of The Counter Culturalist.

Jeremy M. – founder of

Adam Baker – founder of ManVsDebt and producer of the indie documentary: I’m Fine, Thanks.

*   *   *

Artisan Artists at Work:

Beyond the incredible written contributions, I also coordinated with artisanal artists, painters and photographers to create artwork exclusively for the journal:

Lucas Ferreyra – his work is internationally renown and has been featured in numerous publications.  He’s responsible for this amazing piece:

He's Ready from The Creative Entrepreneur

Shari Sherman – her works been described as happy art for happy people – and she definitely delivered on that promise with some very happy art for our journal!

Jesicka Labud – beyond writing an article for us, she also contributed some fantastic photography.

Alysa Passage – a branding and design expert – she contributed some really slick photography for the journal.

Mercedes Calcano – an international artist, writer and musician (she contributed several of the awe-inspiring paintings you’ll find in the journal).

Collin McClain – adventurer, photographer and art director.

*   *   *

How I Got the Best in the World to Help Bring My Vision to Life

The question I usually get asked, after people see the top tier lineup involved in the flagship issue of The Creative Entrepreneur, is: How’d you get these people to contribute to your journal? 

And while they might not say it out loud (probably to be polite, which I respect), what they’re really asking is: how did you, a relatively unknown author and a publisher with essentially zero experience in the industry, get guys like Steven Pressfield, John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, etc. to contribute to your brand new, unproven journal?

That of course is the real question because, let’s be honest – we don’t ask the publisher of Forbes how he gets people to contribute, do we?

Nor would someone ask me, had I failed to get any of these A-listers to contribute, why I DIDN’T get them onboard (“hey Tom, you’re journal is cool, but why didn’t you get Steven Pressfield involved?”…unlikely).

I say all that to say this: it’s a good question and it deserves an answer that dives deeper than ‘believe in your dream and things work out’ (which might be true, but ignores the sometimes uncomfortable truth of real life).

In the following paragraphs, I’m going to show you exactly what I did to get Steven Pressfield and over a dozen A-listers to help bring my vision to life.  For all of you working to bring your great vision to life, consider this your field manual: it will show you the way, but you still have to do the work.

Good luck.

Step 1: I Started Before I Was Ready

I got the first whisper of an idea for this journal back in September of 2013.

In the beginning, though, it was just that: an idea.

I didn’t know what form it would take, who I’d get to contribute, or whether people would even want to pay for it once I’d created it.

These uncertainties were compounded by my own lack of experience in the field:

  1. I had no prior experience in the publishing industry
  2. I had zero formal education in curating, editing or producing a journal
  3. I had no one telling me what to do or how to do it (no board of directors, no publishing mentors, no editing staff  – it was just me and my idea).

With all these things working against me, anyone with a sense of reason would have told me the idea was stupid and to move on.

I started anyway.

ResistanceProTip [click to tweet]: Start before you’re ready.  By the end, you will be.

Even though I had to deal with dozens of hurdles, obstacles and setbacks, I still managed to bring it altogether in beautiful form by the ship date.

But there’s an even more important benefit to all this: now I’m ready to leverage my newfound knowledge for the next issue of the journal and future books I publish through Insurgent Publishing.  Because I started before I was ready, I’m now more ready than I’ve ever been for future projects.

Step 2: I Acted Like a Pro

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield

When I started work on The Creative Entrepreneur, my mindset changed.

I saw the journal in the hands of readers.

No, I didn’t know what the cover would look like, or what they’d be reading inside the pages, or even what it would be called (I settled on the name less than 2 months out from launch)…

I just knew that I would finish and ship this thing, or break myself trying.

When Steven talks about mindset, this is what he means.

Of course – and this is an important thing to realize – I didn’t FEEL like a pro at the time.  There were dozens of times over the past few months I thought this project would fall apart.  I doubted my abilities.  I questioned whether I’d actually finish and ship on time (and whether anyone would care if I did or didn’t).  I mentally beat myself up every step of the way…

Which is why I didn’t worry about whether I felt like a pro or not – I focused on acting like a pro instead: I showed up daily, I did the work, I kept trucking when things got difficult and uncertain (which happened a lot, by the way).

For a better explanation of what it means to act like a pro, here’s Ben Affleck’s educational speech from The Boiler Room on Acting As If…(warning: foul language ensues):

ResistanceProTip [tweet]: The real power behind acting like a pro: eventually, it’s what you become.

I acted as if I was a pro.  As a result, I got professional results.

Step 3:  I ASKED

With the pro-mindset mentioned above, I set to work building the journal.

This meant doing the uncomfortable work of approaching hundreds of entrepreneurs, writers and artists and asking them to contribute.

When I first approached people, I was nervous: I expected to be ignored and to face a lot of rejection.  I wasn’t sure anyone would like the idea.  I was scared not enough people would contribute and that I’d have to scrap the project…

Instead, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Hundreds of people embraced the idea with excitement.  I started receiving dozens of essay submissions.  Even better: many people who submitted essays shared it with other entrepreneurs, helping me spread the message with little effort on my part (this was clutch – it allowed me to focus my attention on the broader editorial scope of the journal).

ResistanceProTip [tweet]: No matter what you’re working on, you’re going to need help.  If you want to bring your vision to life, get comfortable with asking (rejection and all).

In the end, I received more contributions than I could fit in the journal (which created the painful process of cutting submissions, but that’s a topic for another time).

Step 4: I Built Relationships Before I Needed To

In reality, this isn’t step 4, but step 0 – the thing you have to do before you think you have to do it.

While the message behind the journal was powerful enough to encourage many people to give it a chance, regardless if they knew me, the vast majority of contributors were friends or acquaintances of mine.

If you’re wondering about how I got some of the more well-known names on board, the process was the same as above – I asked – with one caveat: I had established a relationship with many of them months and years prior.

ResistanceProTip [click to tweet]: Relationships are important, but when it comes to publishing – they’re everything.

Take Steven Pressfield for example: I met him in person at a book signing at West Point (in 2007 or 2008).  A year later, after having been a fan of his from afar for years, I reached out to him to thank him personally for his work.  Since then, I’ve emailed him several times and he’s always been generous enough to respond (and he might be one of the busiest people on the planet – no doubt inundated with emails from hundreds of others on a daily basis).

By the time I asked him to contribute, he knew who I was.

The same goes for Pat Flynn (who I met in person in Nashville in 2013), John Lee Dumas (who I had on my podcast and since started collaborating on a new project together aimed at veterans), Clay Hebert (who I also had on the podcast and actually met at the Seth Godin seminar I wrote about in 2 Days With Seth Godin), and many others.

Step 5: I Hustled

I’ve written about hustle before.

Hustle is the differentiator between the outlier who successfully bring his vision to life and the vast majority who wait and watch.

It would have been much easier to admit my limitations, accept my lack of experience, and not produce this journal in the first place.


  • I spent a ridiculous amount of time connecting with writers, artists, editors, and designers to bring this journal to life
  • I sent personal emails to hundreds of people
  • I personally edited every single essay, usually more than once, sent them back to the writers for a re-write, did another once over before green-lighting it for publication (where it went through another editor, then back to me for a final edit)
  • I handpicked the fonts and colors and hand-placed every image
  • I went through every line of the journal, making sure every line and every image lined up perfectly
  • When the journal released, I sent another hundred emails to promote and sell the journal.

And I’m still not done.

If you were considering publishing because you thought it might be an easy money-maker, I assure you it’s not.

A Final Lesson

I definitely didn’t do everything right

I put a ton of work into making this journal happen, but I’d be remiss not to recognize that a certain amount of chance plays a part in everything we do.

I got lucky connecting with certain game-changes when and where I did, I’m lucky I have the freedom and the technology at my fingertips to make this journal possible, and I was lucky that many of these amazing contributors had time on their schedules to devote to this crazy idea of a journal…

If there’s one piece of advice I could give anyone in business (or in life), it would be this:

You might not have the experience you think you need, or the connections you want, or the money/background/circumstances that would making bringing a vision to life easy – but you don’t have to.

All you need is 100% commit to your vision and the persistence to see it through, no matter what, and the rest inevitably takes care of itself:

 “Luck, often enough, will save a man…if his courage hold.”

-13th Warrior

*  *  *

If you’re interested in the journal, you can find out more about it here.

The Creative Entrepreneur - subscribe today

*  *  *

Would love to hear your thoughts below.

What vision are you bringing to life right now – tell us about it in the comments?  Or, if you aren’t bring your vision to life right now – what’s stopping you?

I promise to read and respond to every comment.

- Tom Morkes

Founder and CEO of Insurgent Publishing

Started, finished and shipped in Serpong, Indonesia

Writing Time: 7.5 hours

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.