How things get done in the real world…
I’ve worked directly with hundreds entrepreneurs over the last three plus decades and have probably had conversations with thousands more.
What have I learned?
This: Mindset is everything.
I’m not talking about pumping yourself up (or being pumped up) by feel good/happy talk and so-called positive thinking. I’m talking about real thinking.
Why people fail to succeed
Though it’s getting progressively harder, all in all it’s not that hard to make a living.
What is a challenge and it’s one many people fail at is to live life on your own terms.
What “on your own terms” means is an intensely personal matter.
Some people might actually like to work at the Post Office and can build the life they want around that. If that’s the case for them then that is success with a capital “S.” (Besides the world needs good postal workers so everybody makes out from this arrangement.)
But if you want to be an entrepreneur, someone who creates and/or acquires a business or businesses that you control and profit from then you’re going to need to think very differently from the typical person.
In short, you’re going to need to undo a lifetime of brainwashing, but before we do that a very brief history lesson.
The quote that makes the title of this article comes from Marc Andreessen.
22 years ago yesterday (January 23, 1992), he posted the first Mosaic web browser to the www-talk group with this statement:
“By the power vested in me by no one in particular, X-Mosaic is hereby released.”
There were browsers before Mosaic, but Mosaic was far superior and it received the benefit of Andreesseen’s tireless support and energetic promotion.
The very fact that you are reading this article the way you are reading it (online) traces back to that day. In fact EVERYTHING you and everyone else does on the web (and now on mobile) traces back to it too.
It is literally true that Marc’s “joke” 22 years ago, unleashed trillions of dollars of value in the marketplace.
Permission to excel
Why doesn’t everybody do this?
Why doesn’t everyone use their talents and insights to make their positive mark on the world?
The overwhelming number of people in the world are defined by other people.
For example, when you’re a kid, you’re a “third grader” or a “senior.”
Because some told you you were and you went along with it – just like everyone else around you.
When you graduate and get a job then you’re an “assistant” or “assistant manager” or some other such thing.
Because someone hired you and gave you that title.
This is fine if your aspirations are to work in the Post Office.
It is deadly if you want to live life on your own terms because the bottom line to living life your own way is that you have to make your own path.
Where do you get the authority to do things if you’re not part of someone else’s organization?
Marc pointed the way with his humorous announcement for Mosaic:
“By the power vested in me by no one in particular…”
In other words, Marc didn’t wait around for someone to tell him that developing, then launching and then promoting his web browser was a good idea.
He didn’t wait for permission.
He did wait for a boss to tell him: “OK, you’re the browser guy.”
Most people, to one degree or another, are waiting for someone or something to tap them on the shoulder and tell them “OK, you’re the “fill in the blank” guy.”
Strong hint: It doesn’t happen that way. Success is self made, not bestowed.
What does it mean to be “self made?”
It means you figure out where you want to be, you form a plan to get there based on a study of the terrain, and then you work your plan, adapting along the way as necessary.
It’s not because no one teaches this.
Schools certainly don’t and I seriously doubt your employer is going to invest in training you in this skill. You’re not going to learn it watching TV and you’re also not going to learn it from most seminars.
All these environments have the same goal: to put you in your place.
In other words: In the world of school it’s “Me teacher, you compliant student.” In the world of work it’s “Me boss, you compliant employee.” In the seminar merry-go-round it’s “Me guru, you compliant follower.”
While there are exceptions, it’s a very rare school, workplace or seminar that actually cares about empowering you. (I think the System Seminar as a seminar was one exception and Boardroom under the late, great Marty Edelston as a workplace was another.)
The Formula for breaking out of the trap
The formula for using these insights to your advantage is pretty straightforward.
Step 1: Keep your eyes open and figure out what you like to do, what you are good at doing, and what you could get even better at doing.
Example: You are happiest when you are researching, writing and teaching.
Step 2: Study the world as it is tirelessly and figure out where someone with your skills, passions, and enthusiasm is most needed and the context in which you’ll be best rewarded.
Example: You could be a staff writer for a company (modest pay and low upside) or you can publish and market your own work (much harder, but much bigger upside.)
Step 3: Map out the structure you’ll need to build to get yourself there and set to work at building it.
Example: You love to write and teach. Great. One good plan would be to write a great book on the subject you are expert in and then promote the heck out of it. Your book and the promotion campaign around it is your structure and the structure you build, builds your stature.
What do I mean by stature?
It’s HOW you are known and WHO knows you.
For example, take Gary Bencivenga. When he successfully slogged it out in the coliseum of direct mail superstars, he was known by the top direct mail publishing companies as the top “gun slinger” direct mail copywriter.
He didn’t have to be a household name (and he wasn’t), but the HOW he was known and WHO knew him this way in his personal equation worked out to many millions of dollars and an extremely distinguished career in his field.
Here’s another example just to show you how flexible this model is:
Take a random topic out of thin air.
Let’s say you love orchids and want to work with them and make the most possible money doing so, what do you do?
First, figure out how you want to be known (as the world’s foremost expert on orchids).
Then figure out who in the orchid world really matters (probably a handful of magazines) and make sure they they find out how great you are and tell the rest of the world.
Along with this, figure out how to monetize this position: books, home study courses, seminars and workshops, an annual convention for orchid lovers, guided trips to places where orchids grow in the wild, special food formulas for orchids etc. etc.
Quick reality check
I left one important piece out of the “HOW you are known and by WHO” equation which I want to cover now:
Be the best.
My advice is not about snowing people or empty self promotion.
In Gary’s case, he was known as the best direct mail copywriter because he was. Plain, irrefutable numbers and evidence demonstrated it.
Marketing skill is very important and you can’t wait around for people to “discover” you, but you’ve also got to have the goods.
This is where a huge percentage of hot-air “guru”-led trainings fall flat. There are people from that world who actually tell their students: “The product doesn’t matter.”
That’s total bullshit. The product doesn’t matter only if you’re a con artist.
If you’re a serious person who intends real world success, the product matters massively.
I love the television shows “Shark Tank” and “The Profit” for this reason. (If you’re not watching these shows yet, start now.)
The “Shark Tank” panel of investors destroys crap products as well they should. Mark Cuban is particularly outspoken when he whiffs BS on the product side.
Marcus Lemonis of “The Profit” takes it one step further. He declares all business success comes from “People, Process and Product.” In his book, and mine, if your product is not great, you don’t have a business.
So when it comes to advancing your most important product – YOU – make sure that you are excellent and are on the path to further excellence.
How do you do that?
You invest massive time, energy and, when you have it, money in never-ending self development.
This includes reading, listening to audio programs, attending industry events, identifying and reaching out to key players, creating a brain trust, making stuff, selling stuff. etc.
If it sounds like a lot of work that’s because it is. There are no short cuts.
Develop the product, promote the product. Wash-rinse-repeat. And never stop.
If you think this is obvious…
I’m always amused by the lightly experienced people of the world who think advice like this is obvious.
Is it really?
Let’s do a quick test to see how obvious it is.
What have you planned to do today:
1. To increase your knowledge and skill in your field
2. To fine tune your understanding of the marketplace you’re in
3. To raise your profile in your arena
4. To initiate a conversation with someone new who is in your industry
5. To further develop an important existing business relationship
If I paid $10,000 to every entrepreneur who could give a clear, affirmative answer to every one of these five questions and got paid just $10 by everyone who could not, I could bust the vault of a Swiss bank with my winnings.
Don’t wait for the teacher or the boss or the guru to tell you what to do and when to do it.
Vest yourself with the power.
What niche do you want to occupy?
What will it take to get there?
What are the things you need do today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow to make this happen.
Just the other day, I heard a very funny and very accurate self-description of what it means to be an entrepreneur. The guy summed his life up in four words: “I make s*** happen.”
To make “stuff” happen, you have to know to the depth of the marrow of your bones that it’s all on you.
No one is going to craft a roadmap for you and no one is going to vest you with the power you need to get to your destinations.
Make your map. Vest yourself with the power. Make it happen.
P.S. If you want to be involved with a success-provoking organization of like minded people who are actively engaged in following these principles – and learn a ton of practical, proven techniques for profitable marketing and successful business operations – visit this page for more information.
– Ken McCarthy
P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.
If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.