Learn copywriting and convert words to cash
Learn copywriting and convert words to cash

Copy that Sells: 7 Brilliant Copywriting Tips from Joseph Sugarman

Copywriting is one of the most frustrating and pleasant parts of my job as a marketing professional.

How can something be pleasant and frustrating you ask?

Well! the truth is, I enjoy the skill of selling and convincing prospects to purchase a product.

 Cold calling can be awkward and uncomfortable.  So, for years I have been looking for ways to write quality sales emails which is a more non-intrusive way to sell products in my estimation.

 The art of positioning a product through words can be quite daunting and might seem like something reserved for the talented like Ogilvy & Sugarman.

Prospects have different motivations, needs and wants. Using one script to sell to all of them may seem like a stretch especially for products that have a broad appeal. 

Writing quality copy can lead to a lot of brain racking especially for learners like myself and without persistence there’s the likelihood for writing sloppy copy.

Copywriting is a useful skill a marketer needs and is relevant across all forms of marketing communications because any form of marketing communication requires ad copy to go with it.

Print Radio Internet TV
Newspaper, Magazines, Journals, Newsletters,   Ads, Live Presenter Mentions (LPM),   Display ads, Social Media Posting, e-mail marketing, All forms of Content Marketing   Commercials, Live Presenter Mentions (LPM)

My interest in copywriting has led me to read diverse literature on the subject especially books recommended by Neville Medhora on his Kopywriting Kourse Blog.

One of the books that stand tall amongst most copywriting books is Adweek Copywriting Handbook written by Joseph Sugarman, CEO of one of the biggest and most profitable Direct Mail companies in America in the 70s JS&A Group.

Joseph Sugarman is a multi-talented and multi-faceted creative who is one of the pioneers of the American mail order business.

He wrote captivating direct mail ad copies that resulted in millions of sales for his company’s products

 I first heard about Sugarman on the Mixergy Podcast hosted by Andrew Warner In that interview, he talked about his career successes in the Direct Mail Order business.  

Adweek Copywriting Handbook has become my bible to writing quality copy and I’ve transported some of the knowledge in writing good copy.

The book is jam-packed with knowledge on client behavior, psychology, motivations etc.

Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook

 My top lessons for copywriting from the legend.

The Slippery Slope

 Have you ever read a piece of copywriting so good you read it all?

Especially when you were not interested in the product?

The concept of the slippery slope is an art of making ad copy so fluid that readers immediately move to the next paragraph. The art of the slippery slope is important to keep the reader glued to a piece of writing.

Whether the prospect intends to buy or not, getting them to read till the end of an ad copy comes with an advantage.

Scientific research suggests everything we ever hear, read or experience is recorded in our subconscious somewhere and all it takes is a conversation, an experience to bring it rushing back.

Long Sales Copy from James Altucher, so good you read it all

 if your copywriting is locked in the mind of a prospect who wasn’t ready at the time of reading, and later the need for the product comes, guess who they’re going to contact?

The Seeds of Curiosity

Leading readers on till the end of an ad copy is a difficult task to achieve yet, with practice and persistence it can be done. An effective way of doing this taught by Sugarman is by sowing seeds of curiosity.

How?

Read On!! (I just did it)

By finding a powerful link that connects the current paragraph to the next paragraph. Connecting phrases can be used to do that. Below are examples of such phrases.

There’s more

Let me explain

Here’s how

Etc.

The seeds of curiosity when embedded within the copy proves to be an effective way of getting prospects to read to the bottom.

Harmonize with the Reader

We harmonize with our readers by, stating correct obvious sentences that will get the prospect to nod their heads and agree with us.

Opening a piece of ad copy with a sentence such as “we all hate traffic” will get the prospect to agree.

Because we all actually do hate sitting in traffic as a matter of fact.

Making a series of statements that the reader agrees with combined with a slippery slope creates a powerful ad copy. Every human is prejudiced and gravitates towards people they believe they share something in common with.

The more a reader likes you because you share their perspectives, opinions and values, the likelier they are to listen, read and agree with what you say.

Building that rapport with prospects increases the chance of the prospect patronizing your product.

The Power of Short Sentences

 I didn’t realise the length of sentences had such an impact on readers until I started critically examining my own reading habits after Sugarman pointed It out to me.

 When the opening paragraphs of any piece of literary work have long winding sentences, I roll my eyes.

My subconscious tells me this is going to be a difficult read and I mostly gloss over the words and not necessarily read for full comprehension.

I was never able to put a reason to that habit till Sugarman pointed out its importance.

Keeping the sentences of an opening paragraph short forces the reader to move to the next sentence which provides the opportunity to build the slippery slope.

As Sugarman puts it, the purpose of the first sentence of an ad copy is to get the reader to read the second sentence and the purpose of the second sentence is to get the reader to read the third sentence and so on.

Eg.1

Ghana is a country blessed with resources such as Gold, cocoa, timber and oil which fetches an estimated 234 million in revenue at a growth rate of 4%.

Using Sugarman’s method I’ll write

Ghana is blessed with resources such as Gold, Cocoa timber and diamond.

These resources fetch the country an estimated 234 million at a growth rate of 4%.

This text makes the article reading process easier and more digestible.

Expert Position

In writing copy for a piece of equipment, prospects would like to believe that the expense is worth the amount, therefore, there’s the need to prove that worth with technical information.

Technical information although may confuse the average reader has an effect on the minds of the reader. It gives you, the writer credibility and instantly makes you an expert in their eyes.

The sweet spot is dedicating a paragraph to technical information, prospects want to see proof before they accept someone’s authority, therefore, positioning yourself as an expert is a way to go to get past this mindset. 

If you walk into a hospital and 2 people, one in a white coat and the other without approach you. You will most definitely think the one with the white coat is the doctor and will most likely follow their instructions. Expert positioning is the “white coat” for ad copy content.

It is important this is done it right because too much technicality can turn prospects off.

Guaranteed Returns

No business person sells with the aim of making a loss.

Hence providing the prospect a money-back guarantee seems scary for small business operators, yet it is one of the best routes to take in order to make the client secured in the trade.

That is why it is on us as entrepreneurs to provide the best quality goods we know will serve the needs of our clients.

This lesson from Joseph Sugarman is imperative because even if we cannot provide our clients a full refund, finding a way to state in our ad copy that there is a way to resolve dissatisfaction with products put prospects at ease. This should be highlighted in the ad copy

Edit Relentlessly

Editing the ad copy we write is the final stage of writing good copy. Sugarman teaches us that the first draft of copy will not look impressive, it will be riddled with mistakes and nonsense especially for beginners.

 Reading out ad copy loud or having someone else to review it brings about new insights that will further help us write better. Sugarman teaches us to edit and make the best of our work.

Being ruthless in our ad copy editing is the only way we can create quality copywriting and sell our products and services.

After learning the many principles on copywriting that Joseph Sugarman shares on this great resource, copywriting does not seem like a chore and I’ve come around to enjoy it and look forward to writing as much as possible.

My copywriting has improved ever since I made a conscious effort to apply the principles in the book. Copywriting has become such a pleasurable pastime so much that I constantly catch myself re-drafting sales letters and ad copy that I come in contact with.

Have you read the Adweek Copywriting Handbook? What were some of your favorite tips?

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What’s the ROI on Content Marketing for Small Businesses?

Content marketing is a hot topic in the marketing world.  And this conversation is happening for very good reasons.

The Statics Are Eye Opening    

86% of highly effective organizations has someone steering the direction of their content marketing strategy  (Hubspot)

On average people consume 285 pieces of content every day (Hubspot)

60% of B2C marketers are committed to content marketing (Point Visible)

 64% of marketers want to learn how to build a better content strategy (Marketing charts)

Content creation is a top priority for 53% of marketers, according to the State of Inbound report (State of Inbound)

From the statistics shared above, Content Marketing has real value and impacts the bottom line. I’ve been a champion for Content Marketing in the past as you can read from my articles here and here.

The insights appear all well and good yet for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are considering content marketing, the question still stands.

What will be my Return on Investment (ROI) on my content marketing initiative?

This is a legitimate question because money is limited and has competing demands.

For small business owners, cash invested in content marketing could be channeled into other aspects of the business.

 I’ve had casual conversations with small business owners about implementing content marketing strategies due to its potential strong return on investment and its impact on the revenue bottom line but it appears they’ll rather go for traditional advertising instead.

Business owners categorize content marketing, inbound marketing and social media marketing as the same thing.

Most business owners actually believe social media marketing has more of an impact than content marketing. Their reason being social media is more visible hence there are chances of going viral and metrics such as likes, comments and views can be tracked to review performance.

The returns on investment for content marketing is enormous when content marketing is executed right.

It’s a matter of carefully tracking how much we spend on Content Marketing initiatives and the ROI it returns in sales. I use this worksheet I created for my consulting clients to track content marketing initiatives and its ROI

Content Marketing ROI Worksheet

E.g of the worksheet in use for a hypothetical business owner who makes screens for printing t-shirts at home.

Content Marketing Worksheet

From the worksheet above, a $100.00 investment in creating content led to a conversion of 50 people and sales of $2,000.00 when the content was promoted via ads, the business made an additional $9,000.00 offsetting the price of the content and the ads and making an extra $6,800.00 in return

Do you follow Neil Patel? He’s the founder of Crazy Egg, kissmetrics and Neil Patel Digital

His blog ranks for almost everything online marketing, SEO, email marketing and content marketing related.

Hell!!! His blog even ranks for Joseph Sugarman when I decided to research and write my lessons from Joseph Sugarman’s book that “Adweek Copywriting Handbook”.

Neil is an example of a blogger who has witnessed exponential ROI on content marketing.

His blog has detailed, well-written articles on these niche topics and due to the crazy traffic he gets on his blog other well-know writers are willing to write for his site which further improves his search engine ranking.

By understanding the power of writing helpful, educational and insightful content for his readers, Neil has built successful businesses.

That will also be the case for ROI on content marketing for your small business if you take it seriously.

Content Marketing has a wider reach and appeal  

Content Marketing initiatives that helps prospects has a higher reach and a greater tendency to go viral.  People enjoy sharing content that is quality, educational and helpful. The more content is shared, the higher the exposure it gets.

Relying on search engines for any topic has become a daily ritual for prospects. The higher our ranks and impressions for our keywords, the better we’re at getting our brand in front of people.

Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spa is the poster boy for creating content that was helpful to his prospects and turned around his business. He achieved this by writing educative blog posts for prospects about swimming pools when his business hit a dry patch.

Due to the helpful content he created, he made a lot of sales for his business and his story has been well documented on Hubspot’s courses and Forbes.  

Longer shelf life

Content Marketing initiatives such as newsletters, e-books, guides and educational video possesses a longer shelf-life than content that is created to be consumed in the moment.

An e-book with educational and helpful information can be promoted for many months across various digital channels due to its relevance.  

The same cannot be said for a commercial. Once the prospect has seen it a couple of times, they get dismissive of it as compared to a “How-To” guide that can be referred several times which increases the Return on Investment for your small business

Expert Positioning

By understanding and effectively using content marketing tools and strategies, we as small business owners build expertise in our markets.

Credibility and trustworthiness are important factors in the buyer’s journey, especially in the Awareness and Consideration stage. Having content that is useful and can be referenced helps us to build authority and trust which eventually has a greater Return on Investment for our inputs.

Another advantage of a content marketing approach is the fact that we can repurpose our content into other forms of content initiatives for distribution.

Considering a content Marketing approach today? Go ahead and make it happen, let me know when it is ready so I can check it out.

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How I Built a Website in 10 Minutes

One thing I enjoy doing is helping businesses design a Digital Strategy.  Most of my entrepreneur friends want an online presence for their startups.

Their budgetary allocations for Digital Strategies are usually pretty tight therefore I’m always looking for creative ways to help them without breaking the bank.

One such friend/client approached me a couple of weeks back and he wanted an online presence for his startup Food Processing company but did not have a lot of funds to spend.

I went researching for various free tools and web builders to build a website that won’t require contracting the services of a Web Developer to build a custom site.

 I decided to give Wix a shot. I had seen a couple of their ads on YouTube and their commercials seemed pretty convincing .

The steps for creating the website on Wix was simple an d straight to the point

  1. Signed up for wix, using my email address
  2. Answered a couple of questions regarding the type of website I wanted, the industry the business is in etc.
  3. Chose an existing template
  4. Populated the website with pre-written information on the “About Us” and “Contact Us” content
  5. Filled the site with stock images and I was done.

In all, it took about 10 minutes to go through complete the process of building the site.  I’m a big believer in “Action over Perfection” therefore once there is a minimum viable website up and running I can then update it to the clients needs as and when they request. What matters now is the Client has a fully functioning website that prospects can be pointed to

Check out the site; Note the selected domain has not been hooked yet.

I used Pixabay and Unsplash for all my stock image needs. All photos on there are royalty free and are of high quality.

The purpose of this blog post is to tell you there are no excuses any more especially if you have a desire to build a personal brand, start a business or a movement, then go for it.

Give Wix a shot or try the other free website building tools available

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Are Your Clients Leaving? Have You Tried This Marketing Strategy Yet?

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You Got is a great book by all standards.

This book by Billionaire Executive Coach and Marketer Jay Abraham shares unique insights on customer relationships (he advices readers to call them “Clients” instead of customers) and how the client is ultimate the driver of business.

A key lesson from the book has truly stuck with me

He states

 “it can cost a fortune to acquire a new client – but it costs almost nothing to gain back an old client

in other words

Client Acquisition can cost a fortune but client retention costs almost nothing.

From a marketing and sales standpoint, I totally agree with this statement.

Research conducted by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

The decision to get back past clients (also known as prodigal clients) is a smart one. This is due to the numerous positive benefits. On one hand the prodigal client is returning with additional revenue.

On the other hand, prodigal clients contribute constructive feedback that can be used for improving the business processes.

According to Jay Abraham

Clients leave your business because of three key reasons.

  1. Something totally unrelated to you happened in their life or business that caused them to temporarily stop dealing with you. They intended to come back, but they’ve just never gotten around to taking action and started doing business with you again
  2. They had a problem or unsatisfying last purchase experience with you that they probably didn’t even tell you about. So, they turned off to you or your company
  3. Their situation has changed to the point they no longer can benefit from whatever product or service you sell

Jay Abraham states that, over one-half of the client attrition he sees is as result of loyal, satisfied clients who only intended to temporarily stop doing business but never quite got around to starting back up again.

Rarely do businesses intentionally offend, dissatisfy or fail to acknowledge that client

Per Abraham’s observations, these 3 reasons are legitimate, non-threatening explanations as to why people will stop doing business with you. It is only in extreme cases that clients leave a business because they were deeply unsatisfied as Jay Abraham suggest and if they’re unsatisfied they give the necessary signals to show their dissatisfaction.

Using myself as a case study, there are number of businesses that I continue to patronize that has terrible client service yet I still patronize them.

“My wife and I used to go to a nutritionist every two weeks, and we loved it. Butonce relatives came to visit for three weeks, we stopped going and never went back.

I’d like to go to the nutritionist again, but on my own, I don’t. Why? If I had toexplain it, I’d say because I don’t value the service enough to take action on my own.

Yet, if that nutritionist contacted me, if they came over or called me up or even wrote me a nice little note, I’m certain I’d start back up in a second.”-Jay Abraham

The scenario shared above is heartwarming and throws a challenge to us as business owners to do better in reaching out. We can use the principles of effective content marketing and copy to win back past clients?

Let’s Explore.

Content marketing typically involves the creation of content that a customer in the brand’s target group or demographic will find helpful, useful, or interesting-Hubspot

This statement about Content Marketing highlights three important insights that reflects our quest to win back prodigal clients.

We need to be helpful, useful and interesting to our clients. We achieve this by providing value to them although they’re not currently purchasing our products. By consistently being useful and helpful to our clients, we greatly increase the possibility of their return and increase their Client Lifetime Value (CLV)

Content Marketing is clearly useful for client retention, the next logical step is what type of content and distribution channel must be used to achieve our goals.

 Content type

5 years ago, I was interested in spread sheets and making sense of data with Microsoft Excel. I signed up for a free introductory online course on Data Modelling and Presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed the course but I didn’t take any additional steps to sign up for the paid course because life got in the way.

What I’ve noticed over the past few years is once every three months the course creator sends me a short email.

NON-CONTENT MARKETING APPROACH

Hey!!!

We haven’t seen you in a while

We’ll be happy for you to visit and browse our latest courses

Click to view

Regards,

Although he made an attempt, I never recall clicking to view and taking action

CONTENT MARKETING APPROACH

Hi Kwaku,

We observed that you haven’t visited our Online Program in 2 years.

We understand, people get busy and life gets in the way. That is why we want to make the courses simple and easy for you to learn on the go.

The last time you visited you took a free introductory course on Data Modelling. We have an updated advanced model with new case studies and materials.

The two-minute video below explains the latest additions to the courses and the benefits.

(Insert Teaser for the video)

We have a free 5-day newsletter on the latest in Data Modelling for you to stay updated

Click this link (goes to landing page) to confirm your participation

Type “DATMOD16” to receive a 15% discount on the program.

Regards

This email as a content marketing tool embodies best practices.  

It is useful: Gives me insights on the course

Its helpful: A 5-day free email course

Its Interesting: Getting to know what’s the latest in financial modelling.

This “ideal” real-life example depicts the stark contrast between customer retention initiatives with or without a content marketing approach. One being bland and un-inspiring the other being thoughtful and helpful.

Getting old clients back is like wooing an old lover back, you know their motivations, what got them to purchase in the past and what will get them coming back again and that needs to be carefully considered.

Content Marketing that is good for client retention has to focus on the key motivation that got the client to patronize the first time, which on most counts is the driven by a variation of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

There are various forms of content that can be created to re-engage the prodigal client. What is imperative is finding the right content (video, blog post, social media update, white paper etc) and situating it within the right context to benefit the client.

Content Distribution Channels for Client Retention

Email, Social Media, Websites, Podcast and YouTube channels are all effective form of content distribution based on the goal of the content marketing initiative.  For purpose of re-engaging old clients, a few channels stand tall above others.

This is because re-engagement should come across as personal and well thought through.

 Channels such as email presents a targeted and personalized segmentations that will not make the prodigal client feel they’re part of a prospect-wide recapture swoop attempt.

Email as a form of content distribution seems the most personalized and the most useful in this situation.

Email campaigns have an effective measurement system, (open rate, click through rate) and can be more targeted to the user. Unlike a social media campaign where metrics rely more on awareness and open lead generation.

Email marketing is also cost effective

Beyond email and other personalized content distribution platforms, content aimed for prodigal clients can also be repurposed for other broad channels.

Effective Copywriting as a Client Retention Tool

Effective copywriting skills are necessary in any content initiative. Good copywriting elevates content and has an appeal that makes the client feel respected and valued.  In writing copy aimed towards re-engagement of prodigal customers, we have to figure the key scope of what we need from them and appeal to the emotional senses of prodigal clients.

Remember people buy with emotions and justify with logic.

Some of these include

As entrepreneurs, we have a window to delight the client once again through good content marketing and copywriting opportunities. We need to leverage it.

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Stop Planning and Start Doing

Beyond a certain period of planning, any additional planning is useless.

We know this but consistently get caught in the endless web of reading “How-To” articles and books by our favourite motivational Gurus, obsessing over white papers, listening incessantly to podcasts or any other resource that we believe will help us in our new venture.

Whiles we read, listen and study looking for the nuggets of wisdom that will provide us our breakthrough, we fall into the over planning loophole

We fall into this loophole because we live in denial and we know success in any venture is does not come easy. It requires hard work, discipline, studying the nuances and sustained focus over long stretches of time.

 Subconsciously, knowledge of impending workloads and difficult tasks tricks us into further mental preparation which not checked, lead to long and incessant planning. This planning stage becomes the “Hibernation Zone” where we get hyperactive over our brilliant ideas.

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

The Need for Boundaries

The fear of the hard, gruesome work we know awaits us leads to action paralysis.

The difficulty in achieving our goals gets us back into planning as a sort of relief. We then tell ourselves, “tomorrow I’m going to start doing the actual work”.

When “tomorrow” comes, we need a little more planning before we start, and the cycle continues.

To salvage this challenge, there must be boundaries around our planning.

Planning is good, but planning at the expense of setting realistic achievable goals is wrong.

There has to be a conscious stop gap in place to drive us into action.

My approach to solving this issue is setting a time limit on the dedicated time for planning and plunging right into action after that.

In my notepad, I write sentences such as

Beyond 2 hours of planning on this marketing topic, I’ll start researching and writing this article I’ve been considering.

Beyond 2 months of reading about this business idea, I’ll mock up a website and beta test the idea.

Beyond 3 months of creating this course, I’ll roll it out to my mailing list to figure out whether there’s a general interest.

False Sense of Achievement  

Continual, frenetic planning presents a false sense of achievement

This sense of achievement can be a disturbing blind spot and is a form of mental bias which leads to celebration although no work has been done.

I’ve on many occasions been a victim of this type of mindset.

Celebrating my “brilliant” business ideas and daydreaming of the returns I’ll be making in the future.

We all have that one friend who always has the next breakthrough business idea that will rival Apple, Netflix or Microsoft. Yet those plans never come to pass. (If you don’t know that person, you’re probably that person).

This reminds me of a story where a group of mice came together to plan a way to eliminate a cat that was terrorizing them.

At the meeting, many plans were shared on how this could be achieved.

A tiny mouse presented a plan of hanging a bell around the cat’s neck

“so that when the cat was approaching, we can hear the sound of the bell and attack it” The mouse Explained

This was a brilliant plan by all standards. The mice broke into fanatic dancing and jubilation.

After a few hours of merrymaking an elderly mouse said “This sounds like a great plan but who amongst us will volunteer to hand the bell around the cat”?

None responded and that is how that plan never came to pass.

Start Small, Give It Time

Behind the inaction is the fear of failure, the fear of hard work and the fear of people’s opinions.

Every lack of action has an underlying factor that is yet to be explored.

Take the smallest possible step to achieving your goals. Whiles at it, ease up on success metrics.

How many readers you have, how many buyers you have, who’s watching and what they’re saying should be handled with care or you’ll be discouraged.

The best you can do is to acknowledge those voices but not dwell on it and genuinely seek to make a contribution.

Seek to make a difference with your project, art, business, creativity etc.

Everything takes time. That is what a lot of us forget. Give it a year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years because It will take that long.

 Expertise and craftsmanship is a slow painstaking process.

Let’s wean ourselves off over planning and start making the conscious effort to do more .

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What we get wrong about Happiness

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck; a book by Mark Manson has received rave reviews due to its hard-hitting, gut wrenching opinion about life, happiness, ego and pride.

We love a writer who gives us a stiff dose of reality once in a while and Mark Manson does just that.   

Reading the book made me question a lot of the things I care about and why I actually care about them. I have also questioned my happiness and the things that truly make me happy.

For a long time, I saw happiness as a destination, a place tied with perks, such as fame, status, recognition and money. There are deep flaws in this type of thinking and it’s dangerous.

The truth is enough will never be enough. Physical possessions evolve, new iphones come out every year and the latest models of my favourite consumer gadget will be released without fail. There’s always something new money can buy.

Beyond a certain income, an increase in monetary wealth does not stoke the same joy as it did during the wealth building process. I don’t think Bill Gates will be fazed when he wakes up and an extra $10,000 dollars has been added to his net worth.

I’m sure as he was growing his net worth, having millions got him stoked but at a point it doesn’t anymore.

That’s why he’s shifted to charity and helping the world access clean and environmentally sustainable lavatories, fighting Malaria, Global Warming etc.

Here’re are my lessons from Mark’s book

Collect Little Wins

Mark Manson talks about happiness coming from a place of achieving our goals and finding joy in the process.

This is true. When I reflect on my life, my happiest was when I come back from a 5K run and sweating. Although every part of my body hurts. I feel good. I feel happy. I feel alive.

Waking up right after my alarm goes off and taking a shower gives me joy.  On the other hand, hitting the ‘snooze’ button one too many times and literally having to force myself out of bed makes me grumpy the whole day. Sticking to my personal rule of “1 hour of social media on weekdays” makes me happy when I go overboard, it doesn’t make me feel good.

This type of happiness is not tied to any material possession or money yet sustains me through out the day.

Setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals

 Have you wondered why people set world records?  What is it for? Why do people desire to set records by swimming in freezing waters, jumping off of buildings, cooking large chunks of food etc.? Knowing very well it comes with astronomical time commitments and energy to achieve these things.

They are on a path to happiness, to find joy and pleasure in having achieved something remarkable.

There is strength and happiness in sharpening their skills and an added benefit of being the world best. Notice how the audacity to set world records is not tied to financial/monetary goals. It is more a willingness to test strength, endurance and resilience.

The idea of happiness emanating from pushing myself to my maximum limits currently influences my writing. Writing is a skill I admire and want to sharpen by the use of deliberate practice.

I’ve set out a 90-day writing challenge. Every day, I’m going to write 500 hundred words and deliberately practice various writing approaches to sharpen my writing skills.

We’re Not Extraordinary 

The idea that I’m not extraordinary, I’m normal and maybe nothing extra ordinary will happen to me in my lifetime is disturbing but also freeing. What do I have to lose? This has broken the mental barriers of the false sense of prestige and highbrow ego I have about myself. I am no prodigy!!!

Although this hurts the ego, this frees my mind to try a little harder, to push myself a little further and to take my creative process seriously allowing me to genuinely create things with a growth mindset and a learning approach. My understanding of my own normality has led to increased happiness.

Building Relationships

One meme I enjoy looking at reads “the true miracle of Jesus is having 12 close friends in his 30’s”

 In this social media heavy, superficial world we find ourselves in, finding a friend to share a true bond and connection is rare. As I mature in age and experience, I deeply value the three real friends I have (9 less than Jesus) and cherish the moments I get to share with them.

What happiness means is getting skewed towards materialistic possessions and a jolt to reality once in a while is a good thing. Thanks to Mark Manson

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Your Startup will Fail Because

It’s not about the world class idea you have or the life changing product you want to bring to the market.

Building a business is about who you are as an entrepreneur and what you contribute to make the world a better place.

It’s about you, your resilience, your extreme focus, your good timing, your willingness to learn, your networking skills and the respect you have for the business building process.

Its never about the idea or product, its about you

Who are you?

What are your motivations?

Why do you seek to change the world?

Question your motivations first. If it’s about making millions, fame, respect and recognition. Then rethink now!!!

Because hard times will come, the period of self-doubts, defeats, unreliable clients and lack of funds is looming and when that period arrives, you better have greater reason than being rich to carry on. You need a greater purpose than fame to push through.  

I have failed at a number of entrepreneurial ventures because deep down, I knew I was embarking on a wild goose chase for money, respect and acclaim. The emotional investment, drive, passion and the non-tangible characteristics that make a resilient entrepreneurs was not in me. When I encounter any hard challenge, quitting seemed like the best option which I conveniently did.

The difficult periods in the business building process is a metaphorical fire which will straighten you, sharpen and refine you. This is where entrepreneurs have to be resilient. The stage author Seth Godin calls “The Dip” finding out whether you’re strong enough to carry on or whether giving up is a better option and bearing in mind that hard things have steep curves.

In a world that is so hung up on congratulating people who start new diets, medical school, new businesses etc., the initial applause and accolades of announcing your new venture can sustain you so far.  After the congratulatory messages comes the time to roll up our sleeve and make that dream a reality.

In the Venture Capital Investment world, there is the widely held notion of investing in solid hardworking people and teams not mediocre people with shiny ideas. Smart investors invest in dependable, trust-worthy and hardworking people because startups can always Pivot. The story of the PayPal Mafia is a clear example of a solid team that have moved on to even greater exploits and successes because at their core, they have understood what entrepreneurship represents.

Are you willing to put in the blood, tears, effort and energy it takes to run a successful business?

Are you that person that’s willing to go on when the going gets tough?

Startups fail because humans fail them. As we build on our entrepreneurship skills, we need to build character, resilience and strength in our human capabilities and question our motivations of why we want to be entrepreneurs in the first place.

What we seek to do must be innate, we cannot separate ourselves from our cause. When in doubt about your entrepreneurship journey, focus on yourself, build your skill, challenge and stretch yourself to the highest heights.

That’s where the magic happens.  

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6 Free Online Learning Resources for 2019

In the year 2019, we’re bossing up and sharpening our professional skills.

If like me, one of your personal resolutions is to educate yourself and sharpen your skills, then you’re in good company

There are several online platforms that provide quality education and training.

Below are a few of the online resources I use.

Google Primer

Primer is a free mobile App created by Google to teach users about building and running a business. The Primer App focuses on business building and entrepreneurship hence the courses are directed towards that.

Primer App teaches users various business disciplines such as Marketing, Business Plans, Business strategy, Customer Relationship management, etc.

The App is available for download both on android and the iOS store for free.

Udemy

Udemy houses some of the most diverse courses on any online education platform I’ve experienced. Courses ranges from Business, Personal Development, Marketing, Technology, Forex Trading amongst others.

 Udemy’s approach is a platform-based model where experts can create their own courses and sell it on the platform. The very good courses get voted to the top based on number of students enrolled and positive reviews the course receives. The highly-ranked courses are not free although there are good free courses as well.

The Udemy app is also available on iOS and Android.

Udacity

Udacity is another cool learning platform and resource for online education. A unique aspect of Udacity is their nano degree programmes which is awarded after taking all the lessons and submitting the necessary projects and assignments. Udacity has a combination of paid and free courses

The course outline for Udacity, its more detailed and similar to a University course outline.

Udacity has an impressive and clutter-free user experience which is quite appealing.  Courses are taught by vetted and acclaimed professionals.

Udacity can also be accessed on Android and iOS.

Alison

Allison online learning platform is one of the first sites I visit when I want basic knowledge about a particular discipline.

They have a wide range of courses that can be studied at your own pace. Information on the curators and designers of the courses on the platform is pretty sparse. It is a great starting point if you would like basic knowledge about a particular field.

After that you can move to other resources (free or paid) to gain some specialized and understanding.

The Alison mobile up can only be found on the Google Play Store

Coursera

Coursera is a university online.

The courses taught on the Coursera platform online are actual university courses published by some of the best universities on the globe. Enrolling unto courses on the platform and passing them give university credit that can be redeemed when you decide to physically enroll in the school.

Most courses on Coursera are not free although there are a bunch of free courses that can be taken advantage off. Financial aid can also be requested for most courses

Their mobile App can be found on Google Play Store and iOS  

YouTube

Although YouTube is more of an entertainment site, it has served as a great resource for me over the years. Anytime I want to figure out how to do something really quickly, there is a 90% chance someone has created a YouTube video for it. Whether it is how to create a thumbnail on videos or how to format rich text in MailChimp text editor there is a high probability a video resource has been created to help you.

Anytime you want a quick solution to a nagging skills challenge, refer to YouTube first.

Youtube is also on iOS and Google Play Store

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How to Write Anything

I don’t see myself as a good writer

Writing does not come naturally to me, yet it’s an art of self-expression I deeply love and admire. I view writing as a form of innate skill where some are predisposed to do it better than others. But like any activity or skill, writing can be learnt, sharpened and fine-tuned.

 As we sharpen our writing skills, we find our rhythm and which writing style suits us. In my quest to sharpen my writing skills over the past few years, I’ve detected certain steps I take to smoothen my writing process and make it less of a chore.

 Any aspiring writer has to understand on a deep instinctual level that the first draft of any piece of written work will not be good.

Established writers, John Grisham, Stephen King, Malcom Gladwell etc have dealt with it and so will you. With constant, deliberate practice and editing, your writing will greatly improve over time.

Below is my checklist for writing anything

Beginning with the end in sight

Before I start writing any piece, I envisage how the final piece of writing will sound. I go deep into my depth to figure out the type of anecdotes, stories, sentence construction and flow I would like to see in the final work. I ask myself the following questions,

 how will the final piece of writing sound?

What type of stories, anecdotes, data etc. will I be sharing?

How will my writing make the reader feel?

After these questions have been answered, it is time to work my way backwards to achieving what was initially envisaged. Then I ease into the next stage which is the planning process.

Planning

This is where the tiny pieces of the grand scheme are put together to make the bigger picture. Here, I deliberate on sentence structure and flow, data, stories and any other relevant information that will be helpful to the success of the written piece. I think about the stories, data I will use etc. and figure out where I can find them.

Gather Information

This is my favourite stage in my writing process. Here, I get to search for data, web links, article and research reports I’m going to use in my writing (Pro Tip: Create a folder to store links, data and research reports you chance on and would like to use in your writing)

The gathering of data will helps me in writing a concise piece and minimizes the temptation to reference from the internet where I’m more likely to fall in a blackhole of endless entertainment content. This is the main reason I go through the information gathering stage so as to not be distracted when I sit down to write the main piece.

Allocate Time for Writing

I have my sketch or an outline of what I want to write. My data, stories and anecdotes are ready to be used in my writing. Now comes the real deal. The actual process of sitting down to write.

At this stage I dedicate time blocks to write (usually an hour) followed by a 10-15-minute break. Having all the information I need at hand quickens the writing process and makes it a bit easier.

Another way this stage works for me is to set targets. Such as “I won’t stop writing till I have written a 1,000 words or I will take a longer break when I finish the key concept of the piece.  

In the first few minutes of writing, there’s always that distraction lurking somewhere at the back of my mind. Unwarranted thoughts such as opening the fridge when I’m neither hungry or thirsty. Or recounting the last argument I had with someone and thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said pop up to distract me during this stage of the writing process. A wondering mind is part of the early stages of deep work. I have noticed in my case, it takes between 15 – 20 minutes before I can be fully engaged with the piece I’m writing.

I try my very best to bring distractions to a minimum. Such as switching my phone to silent or turning it off.

Edit

Editing is the last stage of the process and I most often take a break between writing and editing.

One thing that has served me well is to have someone else look at my written work, it brings a fresh perspective and insights to the written piece. No matter how confident I am in my editing abilities, I’m amazed that a fresh perspective from a non-attached reader leads to edits that improves the quality of the written piece.

With long form writing such an articles, I usually sleep on it and re-read to observe whether there are things I can edit to make the writeup a good one. I edit out unnecessary repetition, anecdotes that does not go to the point and ensure that the central theme for the piece is emphatic and clear.

Extra Pro Tips

Use more anecdotes, comparison and examples if you would like your writing to be longer

Write without aiming for perfection (Remember, the first draft is not always good)

Having a good snack by you to chew on whiles you write also eases the writing process.

Happy Writing!!!

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