As I progress on my adventure as a solo entrepreneur with love for learning, I like to keep note of some of the ideas from great authors who motivate me to keep going.
The following contains 20 of my favourite ideas that have helped me, and continue to fire me up to boldly move towards my targets. I hope they help you too.
All the following books I have either read or read the detailed summaries of, written by other curators, like the awesome book notes of Derek Sivers, found here.
Some of the links are affiliate links that will earn me some pocket change if you do decide to buy. I do not quote from any book I don’t thoroughly recommend reading.
Let’s start, with a quote from ‘The 10X Rule’ by Grant Cardone:
“Until you become completely obsessed with your mission, no one will take you seriously. Until the world understands that you’re not going away — that you are 100 percent committed and have complete and utter conviction and will persist in pursuing your project — you will not get the attention you need and the support you want.”
Grant’s book was the most motivational book I read in 2014. It made me want to take stupid amounts of action.
From Austin Kleon in: ‘Show Your Work’:
“Regularly post bits and pieces of what you are working on, what you are learning and your own ideas, online. Prioritise this over spending too much time ‘networking’. Rather, spend time sharing with the network you currently have.”
I think focusing on your own network is key, as is delivering value consistently in the way Austin describes. My caveat is that you want to be talking regularly to new people — on and offline — who you could trade skills with — the kinds of people who could potentially bring a lot of value to your business (even if that is simply in the form of money in return for your service).
So by regularly sharing interesting ideas to your current network, as well as actively working on expanding that focused network, you’ll do well.
My own approach to restricted networking, in which my network list is limited to 150 people, an idea that has received a lot of positive feedback, is written in detail in my book: ‘How to Get Illustration Clients’.
From ‘Antifragile’ by Nassim Taleb:
“The Roman statesman Cato the Younger looked at comfort as the road to waste. If you’re tired, go to the gym for some exertion instead of resting.”
Nassim’s fascinating approach to doing the seemingly counterintuitive holds true unless you truly need rest through exhaustion or illness.
A lot of the time, we’re tired because we’re not stressing ourselves enough. Our bodies slow down to compensate for the lack of clarity we have or the lack of exertion we introduce to our own lives. Do more. Fill up your calendar.
You will find energy comes when you’re engaged in something and knowing this is vital for building your income streams.
From ‘Influence’, by Robert Cialdini:
“One of the most powerful forms of influence is the rule of reciprocation. The rule states that people often try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided for them.
The example of a simple mail appeal for donations produces a response rate of around 18 percent. But when the mailing also includes an unsolicited gift (with gummed, individualized address labels), the success rate nearly doubles to 35 percent.”
The law of reciprocation plays a huge role in a lot of modern day marketing, such as in the freemium model for generating customers.
Giving away something for free, and then offering a paid upgrade will see good results, in the same way, that first providing value to someone in some form will tend to lead to better results when it comes to pitching to those people.
Running a blog is essentially a form of this model of marketing, where the blogger gives away a lot of initial value via his blog posts or podcasts, for example before building up an audience to whom he can then sell products.
From ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, by Tim Ferriss:
“Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic. 99% of the world is convinced that they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre — the average. As such, competition is fiercest for realistic goals rather than unrealistic ones.
It’s easier to raise $10m than $1m. It’s easier to pick up the perfect 10 at the bar than the 8s.
Having an unusually large goal provides an adrenaline kick that will provide the endurance you need to see it through. Realistic goals are uninspiring.”
I love these lines from Tim, a guy who inspired me to start Red Lemon Club and travel the world as a nomad, both of which I have done. It is riskier to play it safe and be realistic than it is to be unrealistic.
This is crazy talk for most people. Don’t be like most people. What can you aim for that others don’t dare do? What is an unreasonable target? Go and do that. You will have a huge head-start on a playing field few will have the balls to join you on.
From ‘The Personal MBA’, Josh Kaufman:
Running a business is made up of the following five key components:
1. Value Creation — working out the needs and problems that people have, and figuring out a way to solve it.
2. Marketing — getting out of obscurity by bringing your solution in front of the people that need it.
3. Sales — Turning leads and prospects into paying customers and clients
4. Value Delivery — Giving your customers and clients what they paid for and making sure that they are satisfied.
5. Finance — Ensuring that more money is coming in than is leaving the business
For me, being motivated to do business means having absolute clarity on what is involved in business. It does not have to be more complicated than this.
Business is not rocket science. It is simply the process of identifying a problem and providing a solution in a way that benefits both parties.
From ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath:
“For an idea to stick — for it to be useful and lasting to someone, it has to make the audience:
1. Pay attention (Unexpected)
The best way to grab someone’s attention is to break an expected pattern. Identify what is counterintuitive to the message you want to share. Communicate your message in a way that ‘breaks your audience’s guessing machines.’ Common sense is the enemy of messages that are sticky!
2. Understand and remember (Concrete)
Avoid the trap of delivering messages that are abstract. This is an easy mistake to make if you are an expert viewing it from your perspective. Messages cannot be allowed to grow ambiguous. Concrete language helps people understand new concepts.
3. Agree / Believe (Credible)
Telling stories using real people is the most compelling way to gather attention. Even better, let people try out an idea on themselves, instead of just reading about how someone else did it. My additional note: Use social proof to add more credibility to an idea.
4. Care (Emotional)
If we want people to care, we need to tap into the things they care about. Talk about benefits over features. People ask not only ‘what’s in it for me?’ but also: ‘What’s in it for my group’ — speak to these questions.
5. Be able to act on it (Story)
A story with built-in drama is much more interesting. Instead of just delivering the outcome to a story, bring people on a journey of mystery and discovery. That way they can mentally test out how they would have handled that same conflict. Let people work out outcomes for themselves. This encourages engagement rather than stagnation.”
A large part of building a business that people are attracted to is in communicating ideas that are attractive and make people act, i.e. ideas that stick. These ideas from the Heath brothers provide a really useful checklist to run over whenever you create anything that you intend to make an impact on people.
The more impact you make on people, the more money you can attract. If you can incorporate all these elements into an idea, you will go very far indeed.
From ‘The Innovator’s Solution,’ by Clayton Christensen:
“If you create and attempt to sell an improved version of a product into an already established market to capture the established competitors’ best customers, the current competitors will be motivated to fight rather than to flee.
However, if you take the ‘disruptive innovation’ approach, you introduce simpler, cheaper or more convenient versions of products that are currently available that appeal to new or less-demanding customers.
With a disruptive approach, current competitors are less likely to go after these new products, because they don’t initially cut into their current market share. But over time, these disruptors can innovate and develop their product/s to catch up with the leading competitors.”
Interesting idea for showing how underdogs can slowly take down bigger Goliaths, like the example of Spotify disrupting the music industry, Kickstarter with the finance and retail industries or wireless charging startup uBeam disrupting the electronics industry.
This concept applies well to physical products and digital services, but what about something like the blogging world? How can you be a disruptor in writing?
One example would be to see what some popular bloggers are writing about, take a core solution to a problem, and then share your approach to that area with a more efficient, simpler, more concrete way of communicating it.
Seth Godin, in his book: ‘Small is the New Big’, has a ton of excellent ideas for the independent entrepreneur. One of the things he talks about is the following order in which people experience your business and your products and services:
1. Turn strangers into friends (‘friends’ are prospective clients and customers who you have earned permission to talk to)
2. Turn friends into customers (friends, who have more trust in you, then buy your useful products)
3. Turn your customers into salespeople (let those that experience your remarkable products do a lot of the marketing for you)
Seth also talks some interesting stuff about the importance of staying small as an entity doing business:
“Little companies often make more money than big ones. Small means the founder is involved far more in interacting with customers. Small means the founder is closer to the decisions that matter and can make them quickly. Small gives you the flexibility to pivot and change your business model when your competition changes theirs.
Small means you can tell the truth with the content you share, and be much more personable. Small means you can outsource the boring stuff like manufacturing and shipping while still being able to keep all the power because of your ability to invent things that are remarkable.
There is no reason to build a big company anymore. In fact, it can work against you.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one, as someone who works for myself on small, yet hopefully impactful projects, that this is very encouraging. He makes a good point. We are living at a time where despite being small, we have so many tools available to us that can exponentially multiply the impact we can have while remaining small.
From ‘The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster’ by Darren Hardy:
Refocus your attention to who exactly you are serving with what you do, and why and how you do it. Being successful in business requires being charged emotionally. This enables you to work on the mundane with passion, even though it is tedious.
If that emotional charge comes from your desire to right a wrong, fight the good fight or seek justice in some way, then it’s as good as love or in many cases, even better.
If you’d rather be somewhere else than doing your great work on a Saturday afternoon, then you’re probably doing the wrong thing, or doing it in the wrong way.
Another of Darren’s books: ‘The Compound Effect’ shares ideas on doing things with consistency:
“You already know everything you need to know to succeed. You don’t need to learn anymore. If all we needed was more information, everyone who had access to the Internet would be living in a mansion or have abs of steel.
Small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.”
What small things could you commit to doing every day, without fail, that would lead to remarkable things in your life?
From ‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher:
“Every day write down ten ideas. About anything you can think of. It doesn’t matter if they are business ideas, ideas for surprising your girlfriend in bed, book ideas, ideas for what you should do if you are arrested for shoplifting, anything you want.
It has to be ten or more. These ideas will mate with one another.”
What James is saying is vital for keeping you excited and motivated and focused on solving problems and staying creative. Coming up with daily ideas, and writing them down exercises the creative part of the brain, more than anything else.
Of course, all these ideas don’t have to turn into businesses. The practice is, for me, important for keeping you thinking creatively. This is one of the best things you can do if you want to stay fresh and ahead in your own business.
From ‘Self-reliance’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“It is easy in the world, to live after the world’s opinion. It is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Ralph is encouraging us to stay true to ourselves — to focus on our path and not be swayed by those around us. This is more important than ever today with the voices of others on the Internet often drowning out our own.
Finding solitude allows for this independence of thought. Though it does not mean isolating yourself, it certainly helps to regularly shut yourself off from the voices of the world, and think for yourself.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, in his book: ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’ delivers a nice nugget:
“When tackling any new and difficult problem, one step you will always do first of all: ask an experienced and smart friend how they tackled the same problem.
It’s crazy how often people, and myself occasionally, forget to talk to others before committing to trying something new. You can avoid a lot of failure and heartache by asking someone who has seen success in something how they did it. Straight from the horse’s mouth.”
I have many of my personal clients ask me who their ideal target market should be, or where there is demand for their service. I always tell them to go out into the market to talk to people, especially asking others who have seen success.
From ‘Ignore Everybody’ by Hugh Macleod:
“Everybody has their own personal Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb. You may never reach the summit; you can be forgiven for that. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to climb past the snow line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and you will only feel emptiness.”
What is that major challenge that demands your hacking away at for years on end from this very day? What are you building that is truly yours that takes courage and a commitment to keep at it?
If you are unfamiliar with Robert Greene’s writing, I would get started. His collection of notes on how to gain power (in all senses of the word) in his book: ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ is a compendium of extremely important ideas for anyone wanting to get ahead in business and the making of money.
Law 6 is an interesting one for me because I’ve always been fairly modest in my approach with everything. Modesty has its place, but it should not be at the expense of being lost into oblivion. I’ll let Robert explain the law:
Law 6: Court Attention at all Cost
“Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colourful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.”
A useful hack I found through reading the book: ‘Ikigai,’ by Sebastian Marshall, is to make sure we’re asking ourselves the key question: ‘What am I trying to accomplish?’ every day, rather than the more common: ‘What should I do?’.
This commits us to focus on what needs to be prioritised so that we get real results with our actions.
From ‘Do the Work,’ by Stephen Pressfield:
“Acts that reject immediate gratification in favour of long-term growth, health or integrity will elicit Resistance.
Resistance is a repelling negative force, that stops you distracts you from doing your work.
Resistance will unfailingly point to true North, i.e. that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use an awareness of this Resistance as a compass to guide us to what we need to do over all else. As a rule of thumb, the more important a calling or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.”
Love this idea. We all know that it’s hard to the things that matter the most. We procrastinate, and we find excuses. But Stephen shows how we can use this block as a guiding light, in a similar way that we would use our gut instinct to show us what is best for us.
Taking courage, despite how we feel, to do the hard stuff will reap huge rewards for you.
In his book ‘Lucky or Smart?’, Bo Peabody reinforces an important idea about the type of organization worth working on.
He says there is a pseudo-scientific formula for creating business ‘luck.’ The key element is that lucky things happen to entrepreneurs who start fundamentally innovative, morally compelling and philosophically positive companies.
“The reason for this is that smart people will gather around companies with these qualities. Most people, he says, are constitutionally caring creatures who would, given the chance, prefer to spend their valuable time in a positive environment contributing to the betterment of society rather.”
This is useful to note, not just for those of you planning to build things with others, but also for those of us who are building things on our own, like blogs.
If you work on creating something that is meaningful for others, this will attract interest from supporters of your cause. This will create emotional strength in what you do, and that is what will lead to opportunities, traffic, traction, etc.
In his book: ‘The Power of Less,’ Leo Babauta lists six guiding principles to gain clarity and direction in what you’re doing:
1. Set limitations
2. Choose the essential
5. Create habits
6. Start small
It’s easy to get carried away with things that eventually overwhelm when forging ahead. These elements take me back to earth and refocus my attention to what is essential and elemental.
This minimal approach always makes the difference. When planning, always ask questions that focus your attention on the small, highest priority details. Simplify life and you will have more energy and focus to put on the important things.