The Three Month Vacation Podcast: Online Small Business|Marketing Strategy Plan| Sean D'Souza | Psychotactics








May 2017
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Information product sales don't always increase with promotions alone

Often they increase by giving away content that you could easily sell.

But shouldn't you stick to giving away tiny reports? What if you were told to give away a big product instead? Would that reap any rewards?

Find out in this episode on giving as a strategy.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Small value giveaway
Part 2: Big value giveaway
Part 3: How to structure the giveaway and how often

Click to read online:


n South Africa, there's a flower that only one insect can access.

Orphium flowers don't contain nectar. Instead, they provide bees with pollen. Yet, not every insect can access the pollen. If you look closely at an orphium flower, you'll find the stamens are twisted and this, in turn, prevents the pollen from being stolen by visiting insects. Only one insect has access to the pollen in the Orphium flower. That insect is the female carpenter bee.

When she approaches the Orphium flower, her flapping wings make a particular buzzing sound. Yet that sound won't make a difference to the flower. The stamens remain locked. At which point the bee changes the beat of her wings creating what we'd call the C note. That simple act gets the flower to seemingly unlock and shower the bee with pollen.

In our business, we often seem to be like the other insects.

We don't appear to be able to hit that C note and unlock greater products sales. Yet just like the wing beat of the carpenter bee, you can achieve a consistent level of success. So what's that note that you have to hit? And how often?

Let's find out:

1) Small value giveaway
2) Big value giveaway
3) How to structure the giveaway and how often

1) Why Small Value Giveaways or Products Work

If you were a rooster, would you be able to crow at any time?

You'd think so, wouldn't you? After all, it seems like roosters cock-a-doodle-doo at any given time. In the journal, Scientific Reports, a study showed that roosters crow in order of seniority. First, the top ranking rooster initiates the crowing, followed by subordinates, all in descending order of social rank.

In fact, when the top ranking rooster is removed from the group, the second-ranking rooster initiates the crowing. At all times the social rank has to be adhered to maintain the hierarchy.

Fortunately, such a hierarchy doesn't have to maintained when trying to increase product sales. You can start off with a small value giveaway.

So what's a small or low-value giveaway?

When you get to the website at, you're likely to have run into a giveaway called the “Headline Report”. It's why headlines fail, and how to avoid that failure. To date, over 55,000 copies of that report have been downloaded.

That report isn't a top-ranking, highly complex document. Back in the early 2000s, when we first launched a pre-Psychotactics site, I wrote an article about headlines, which turned out to be very popular.

And by this point you're probably thinking, “Ah, it's a report, there's nothing new about a report.”

You'd be right if you thought that way because the report itself doesn't do much. However, if you take a report that gets a client from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, then that report becomes pretty magical.

Which is what the Headline Report does. In under 10 minutes and in about as many pages, it takes you from not being very confident with headlines to getting a pretty good understanding of the working and the implementation of the headline.

All over the Psychotactics website there are tiny reports of this nature

They're all small value giveaways, but they do one thing and do it well. They get you from A to B in a big hurry. The hurry part is important because people are swamped with information. If you're able to create change quickly, they're more likely to decide to take the next step and implement what you've shown them.

Once they implement, they're hooked. I remember a client who came to our workshop, spent $3000 for himself and his wife, purely based on the strength of the report.

But it's not just reports that matter; videos or audio can do the same task

Last week I listened to a podcast about a book by Tim Harford. To date, I've read one book and am in the process of going through the other. The podcast isn't high value, is it? It's free, but the same concept of the podcast can be used on your site. The short video, the short audio, the tiny report, even a string of slides that explain a concept. Your starting point should usually be an appetiser, not a full meal.

At Psychotactics we have appetisers all around the place

It might be an excerpt of a book or some reports that are extremely useful. They all serve to get clients to show up, then sign up on a consistent basis. In fact, our goal—and pay close attention—is to have a report that's suited to every type of article. It's a pretty extensive exercise but think about it.

If you're reading an article on resistance, what would you prefer a report on? Resistance, or overcoming resistance, right? The same concept would apply to any page of your website. Which means that if you bundle up even a few of your best Point A to Point B articles, you should be able to have a few reports ready in a few weeks, at best a few months.

The low-value giveaways don't need to be restricted to just the giveaway on your front page

They can be all sorts of little audios, videos, or any information that is of value to the client. And they cut through the hierarchy. We all believe that clients need to read our book or attend a workshop. No, they don't. They just need a tiny bit of stuff that they can consume.

So why is this consumption bit so very important?

When a client can finish and implement something, they usually come back for more. Which is why it then pays to have not just free, but also low-value products. When you look at Psychotactics, you'll notice that we sell The Brain Audit for $9.99.

There are also other products that have a lower value and are priced at $29 or $39. They're not exactly cheap, but when compared with some of the $3000 products they do come across as lower value. In fact, if you look closer, we even have a button that says, “products under $50”. Clients want to test the waters without too much of a risk. When they find value—and by value I mean they can implement everything smoothly and elegantly—they come back for more.

Nonetheless, free or lower value products are not the only way to go. Which is why you need to have something of high value to give away. Give away? Yes, give away. Let's look at how the high-value products work as well.

2) Let's look at how the high-value products work as well. Big Value Giveaway

Did you know that the modern seat belt was invented by an aviation engineer who worked on ejector seats?

In 1959, it's not like cars didn't have seat belts—they did. But the seat belts were two-point waist restraints, which in car crashes, harmed rather than helped the driver and passengers. Which is when Volvo engineer, Nils Bohlin stepped up to the plate and invented the three-point seat belt—the kind we use today. It was such a remarkable safety feature that Volvo would have made a big pile of money on patents alone.

Instead, Volvo gave it away.

We often believe that we should sell high-value products

However, you may find, as we did, that giving away high-value products can be an incredibly powerful way to build trust and get repeat clients.

On the Psychotactics website is a product called The Brain Alchemy Masterclass which is priced around $2300. The product shows you the core of how to start and build your business, and it's easy enough to get to the sales page and buy the product. Yet, from time to time we give away the product to the entire list.

Another product is the Website Masterclass

This product digs deep into not just websites, but the psychology of what creates “religions” to work. In doing so, it takes you on the magic carpet through the major world religions, Harley Davidson, Football and other such “religions”.

You realise why some marketers never have to put crazy countdown clocks or dump pop-ups on their website. That without any fuss or hoopla you can create a business where clients buy because their trust in you is infinite. Would you hold onto such a product? And yet, a few years ago, we gave it away to those who were members of 5000bc—and no, there was no catch involved.

Giving away a big product seems to be a foolhardy exercise

Why give something away when you can sell it? We've found that giving away a chunk of what we have has been beneficial for our business. At Psychotactics, we have over 20 products, and when we give away big chunks, we've found it builds an enormous amount of goodwill, which, believe it or not, turns to greater sales.

Bear in mind that while this article is clearly suggesting that you should use this giveaway as a strategy, our goal was not originally to garner a greater profit. Our goal was to give back since we'd already received so much. And this goal was stated way back in 2004, when the company was just over a year old. Even so, you'd be happy to know that giving away stuff you can sell, does lead to a substantial growth in profits.

In The Brain Alchemy Masterclass, we cover the early version of The Brain Audit

Yet, the moment clients go through the course, they end up buying the new version of The Brain Audit. And they also buy The Brain Audit workshop. They then join 5000bc, our membership site and end up on online courses.

Consider that a Psychotactics course is quite expensive compared with most marketing courses out there. And if you're doing an online, live, guided course, you are promised skill, but no money back guarantee. So what causes clients to sign up in a tearing hurry? Why do the courses fill up in less than an hour? One of the big reasons is the big giveaway.

But what if you don't have any big products?

No one starts off their business with big products, and yet in time you'll be likely to do a series of videos, or possibly a workshop that you record. Maybe you'll do a bunch of seminars on a particular topic. It's likely you don't have that product in place right now, and even when you get to it, you might not be that keen to give it away.

We had waited at least six years before we gave away our product and another three before we gave away the next. You have to be comfortable with giving away a big chunk of product. Nonetheless, bear in mind that the marketplace gets noisier and crazier by the minute and your best bet is to get clients to trust your work earlier than later. The sooner you can give away a big product, the better. It might even be a good idea to create a big product just to give it away.

If you giveaway big products, will clients ever want to pay?

I have an e-mail software that I use to keep my inbox down to zero. It's called Spark (and it's for the Mac). I've used a lot of software to maintain my inbox because unlike most people; I don't outsource e-mails. And right now Spark does an excellent job. There's just one problem. All the e-mail software I've had before has not been free.

It hasn't been expensive, but they've charged me between $20-$40 overall. This one is a pure giveaway. That makes me really nervous because you can't run a business without charging for it. I'm hoping they can take some money off me as soon as possible.

It may sound bizarre to you, but not all clients are not over eager to get free stuff all the time

There are those who will take endlessly, but there are enough clients who want to pay. If you create good info-products, you will always have clients who'll pay good money to get whatever you put out. Take the case of all the free information you see around you on a daily basis. You'll see entire videos on YouTube, or run into books that are priced at a tiny fee, or even free. A book, by the way, is a big info-product. The book or video then directs you to higher priced info-products or consulting.

Which brings up the next question: Should you structure the giveaway? If so, how? And how often should you give something away? Let's find out in the next section.

3) How to structure the giveaway

Have you walked into a store where some of the goods are locked up and not accessible to customers?

Many years ago, we used to do workshops in Campbell, California—primarily it's because that's where Renuka's sister used to live. And while we were in the U.S. it was always a good idea to do some shopping.

On one of the shopping trips, I wanted to buy a rainproof jacket. Not just any old jacket, but something that would keep me super dry on days when it was super-wet. The logical choice for this outdoor gear was REI, the outdoor gear store. And guess where my prized rain jacket was to be found?

Yes, you probably guessed correctly

It was in a glass case, which happened to be locked. The brand I was looking for, Arcteryx, had a high price tag and there it was, sitting where it could be seen, but not touched. And that's approximately how you need to treat your own big value giveaways. It needs to have a barrier between you and the client, wherever possible and there's a good reason why.

The reason? It's easier to sell something expensive than to give it away free of charge

Think about it for a second. Let's say someone drove up to your house, knocked on your door and gave you the keys to a brand new car. What's your reaction? You should be jumping for joy, but this person who just gave you the car is a stranger.

There's absolutely no reason to trust his generosity. Instead of dancing around the room, you're trying to shut the door in his face, aren't you? Without setting up the barrier and anticipation, even a big give-away will fall flat on its face.

At Psychotactics we go through a routine as though we're selling a high-value product

Yes, the product is still free, but that doesn't mean you don't put up the barriers. When we give away a high-value product, we make the client go through a series of actions. This might involve going on a waiting list, then spreading out the sequence of e-mails so that the product is delivered in stages.

And for some giveaways, we've even got members to pitch in and help out with the work. In short, you shouldn't just dole out your high-value product and should take all the care and effort to treat it like a high-end product. It means a lot of work on your part. Lists to set up, e-mails to write—yup, no one said this would be easy. But when you go through the trouble of running a campaign for a “free” product, the client is in a better position to perceive the value.

What you also need to know is that low-value products can have the same intensity of drama

Just because it's not a high-end info-product, doesn't mean you can't roll it out to the sound of drums and bugles. Let's say I were writing a small report on “how to write perfect headlines every time”, there are two options.

You could get the report right away, without any fuss, or you could sign up in anticipation for the information when it is finally released. Which isn't to say that all small value giveaways need to have pomp. Some of them can just be given away, just as you'd do with a YouTube video or an article.

Even so, most of the items on our site have barriers

To get to a specific type of audio or video or report, you have to sign up. This, in turn, enables us to send more goodies to the client or to inform them about related products or services. If you can't get in touch with a client or can't remind them to buy something, there's a likelihood your info-products will sell, but having those contact details and the permission enables you to keep in touch on a fairly constant basis.

Finally, it's the strength of your info-product that really matters

Many clients will use different e-mail addresses and may not see the follow-up e-mails you send. Which is why your info-product itself, whether big or small, has to deliver the goods. It's not always sales, sales and more sales that matter. In many, if not most cases, generosity matters to an even greater extent. Be generous, and kind, and you'll find that clients are very responsive as well.

Oh and be selective in your giving

We give away products from time to time, not all the time. Once or twice a year, or even longer is a good strategy for a large product. For smaller products, it's going to depend on the type of info-product. I'll give away a report at the end of a podcast or maybe something embedded in the middle of an article or right at the end of the article. In short, even when we're giving away something, we're making sure clients invest in reading, watching or listening before finding the treasure.

Giving is a good feeling.

Do it with passion, but also with structure and you'll get rewards.
Best of all, it will lower risk and increase info-product sales. It's a really warm and fuzzy way to run a business, isn't it?

Next Up: Why Free Products Need To Be Better Than Paid Products or Services

Giving away outstanding content is the magic behind what attracts—and keeps clients?When you're giving away bonuses, it's easy to believe you don't need to give away your best product or service. This podcast episode takes an opposite stance. You need to put your best stuff out in front—free. Yes, give away the goodies, no matter whether you're in information products or content marketing; services or running a workshop.


Direct download: 140-How_Giveaways_Increase_Sales_of_InfoProducts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:38am FJT

How do you maintain a high productivity level when switching tasks?

How do you get the brain and body to handle the transition?

And how do you manage the transitions with a minimum amount of fuss?

Read online:


I was asked in e-mail:

I am curious to know, since you do so many tasks in a day, how do you deal with context switching? I can do a task for 60 minutes, but doing something different immediately, requires some time for the brain and the body to handle the transition. How do you manage these transitions?

The approximate formula is:

High Intensity > BREAK > Low Intensity

Notice how it goes?

High, BREAK, Low.
Then BREAK > High > BREAK > Low.

When you first see the switching formula, it seems like it's just a transition from high to low.

But as you can tell from the emphasis above, the break is pretty critical. If you just go from high to low or even low to high, the brain doesn't get time to recover. And recovery is what's important when you want to keep your attention and focus.

Without recovery you get a factor of tiredness, that may also spiral downwards to exhaustion

But with recovery, your brain and body get a chance to relax and come back to take on the next battle. It's at this point that the high to low bit also matters. Taking on high-intensity tasks one after the other just wears you out and having the high to low allows your brain to make a decent transition—and relax even more after you've had the break.

But how long are the breaks?

The breaks depend on the time of day. During the day, while at work the breaks are short. However, at around lunch time, it might be about 30 minutes or more. At tea time I will take another 30 minutes. It seems like a lot of down-time, but that's the reason why you can achieve more.
A simple alarm or timer that does a countdown enables you to take that break. But there are days when I'll ignore that timer (as we all do) and that's the day when I get more tired. Instead, at the point of the timer going off, I can give my brain and body a break. I lie on the floor (yes, on the floor) and have two books to rest my head in a semi-supine position. Look it up.

It sounds totally bizarre that taking time off gets you to achieve more, but that's precisely the crux of higher productivity

The more you work, the longer stretches you work for, the less productive you're likely to be. And of course, the more tired you'll get. If you're younger, you may brush this off, because you seem to have boundless energy, but in tests, young tennis players were matched against each other, and the top players were always the ones who recovered better. The recovery period forms the core—if that were not obvious by now already.

And it helps in switching tasks as well.

My day starts with high intensity. I will either be writing a book, or be answering questions on a course, or in 5000bc. A lot of these activities involve not just reading, but analysis and giving precise direction. It's mentally draining and after 90 minutes or so (with rest periods in between), I'll go for a walk. That's a longer break. When I get back, I will make breakfast and watch some comedy on YouTube (while cooking up some yummy dosas).

Then it's time to paint for a while. That's all high to break, and now it's time to get back to low intensity, which would involve something like e-mail or something that doesn't require a tonne of resources. The day moves on from there to writing scripts for the podcast and answering 5000bc posts, before it's time for lunch and another break. The day is filled with breaks, high and low-intensity tasks, which enable me to write, draw, and do many other tasks like recording podcasts or doing interviews, etc.

To be productive pay attention to the formula and do the semi-supine.

If you don't have a great floor, get a yoga mat and relax on the ground. The more you fight your brain and body the harder it is to switch. It also doesn't allow you to reach your highest productivity level.

And that, in a nutshell, is how to go about your day.

Next Step: Read—How High and Low Tasks Apply To Projects (How To Be Productive And Not Burn Out)

Direct download: 139-How_To_Achieve_A_Lot_Even_As_You_Switch_Tasks_All_Day.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:20pm FJT

Even if you have the best business idea in the world, analysis-paralysis can stop you in your tracks

You feel frozen, not sure what to do. So you research. Then you do some more research and educate yourself even more. But that doesn't get you very far, does it? Even famous people like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo would get stuck in this mode, just like you. But they still went on to create great art.

So how do you create great “art” as well? Find out and beat the analysis-paralysis once and for all.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Two ways to validate your business idea
Part 2: What makes a viable product? And how do you validate it?
Part 3: How to deal with analysis paralysis?

Click here to read online:


How do you go about validating your business idea to give yourself the best chance of success?

Can you think of a TV series that's generated over US$ 3.1 billion so far?

If you answered, Seinfeld, you're perfectly right. Except for one little fact. Seinfeld almost didn't get off the ground. As author Adam Grant mentions in his book, “Originals”, two entertainers got together to create a 90-minute special. Despite their abilities, they couldn't find enough material to fill the 90-minute special, and so they decided to create a half-hour weekly TV show. And that's precisely where all the trouble began.

The TV Network folks looked at the script and thought it was terrible

Undeterred, they went on to create the pilot for the series. A hundred viewers dissected the strengths and weaknesses of the show. The majority of the test audience decided they wouldn't watch such a show. But a test audience in one city may hate the show and others may love it, which is why the pilot got screened at four diverse cities. Six hundred people in all saw the show, and the results were dismal.

They all thought it wasn't something they'd ever watch again. And at that point, Seinfeld should have simply died. And it might have if it wasn't for one network executive who doggedly campaigned for them to make and air four more episodes. The drama didn't stop there, and Seinfeld lurched back and forth, always threatening to tip itself into oblivion.

Johannes Sebastian Bach is considered to be one of classical's virtuosos

He wrote over a thousand pieces of music in his lifetime. Not far behind was Beethoven and Bach who composed 650 and 600 pieces respectively. And yet, despite their voluminous body of work, they were as unsure as you and me about what would work and what wouldn't. Beethoven, for instance, trashed the final movement of his most celebrated work in the Fifth Symphony. Only later did he decide to put it back. Could he not tell right from the start that it was an amazing part of the musical piece?

Throughout history, experts have failed to spot the superstars. J.K. Rowling, the Beatles, Elvis Presley. History has hundreds of examples of bad calls, and it's not as though the crowd does better. Despite what you hear about the wisdom of crowds, the crowds are pretty hopeless at it as well. Which is why Seinfeld's early episodes got panned so badly.

1) If everyone is guessing, how would you ever be able to validate an idea?

There are two ways to validate an idea, and they're both reasonably bizarre.

—The first way is not to do any testing with audiences at all. Instead, there's another group that can help you with greater accuracy.
—The second way is to create whatever you jolly well please, but then link it to an existing problem.

Let's start with the first point and figure out which group tends to be more accurate than others

When we sit down to create a product or service, we instantly realise that we're not alone. If you're in marketing, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of books on marketing. If you're in health, fitness, nutrition, programming, illustrations—it doesn't matter what you pick—it's all been covered. It's at this point we feel the need to stand out and fit it as well.

There's a reason why we need to fit in

If we go too far away from what everyone else is doing, it might just not be viable. Novelty is hard to cope with because we don't know what to make of it. If you ask an expert, they don't see the world the way you do. Back in the early 2000s as we started an earlier version of Psychotactics, there were already solidly entrenched marketers such as Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy and Brian Tracy.

They were well-established in the field of seminars, delivered their content through massive bookbinders and cassette tapes. If all of these methods of delivery sound archaic to you, it's only because you're looking back in time. Almost no marketer wanted to explore the Internet. It's the very entrenchment that causes you to see something new as a novelty. It's a blind spot. If you were to ask the experts or the audience, you still wouldn't get the validation you seek.

But there's another group that seems to understand the novelty factor a lot better

They're called “fellow creators”. Fellow creators in the very same field have a sense of what's going to work, long before the audience or the experts do. When peers evaluate each other, they are twice as accurate as anyone else. When Justin Berg, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, studied circus acts he found the ones who best predicted whether a video would be liked, shared or funded were when peers evaluated each other.

As a cartoonist, I know this to be true

When one cartoonist sees another great cartoon, the instant reaction is: “I wish I'd thought of that joke”. The same concept applies across industries. Comedians look to their fellow comedians for approval. One of the greatest tribute you can get isn't from an audience or experts, but from a group—yes a group—of fellow cartoonists.

Cartoonists who have the same calibre or even higher. Peer judgments—when evaluated in groups—are more reliable because they see the very same idea through different eyes. So the first thing you've got to do is seek out peers; people who are in the same field and approximately with a similar mindset.

Yet, that's just one way to handle validation

The other way is not to validate at all but to create what you pretty well please but then match it up to the existing problem. Let's take a company like Tesla. What product are they making? If you think of the cars they're producing, you'll be likely to say: They are building electric cars. Electric cars aren't a new thing. They existed long before the gasoline car and still failed repeatedly.

But apparently CEO, Elon Musk doesn't care about the failure because he's not building “electric” cars.

If you pay close attention to Musk, you'll notice he harps a lot about the speed. It accelerates from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. You see the problem, don't you?

He's not drumming the “save the planet” message, is he? Instead, he's building the car of his dreams, and tackling the problem of speed. And if you happen to sit in a Tesla, notice what the owner tends to drool about—yes, speed. Which tells you that if you build a product, they will not come. But if you link the product to an existing problem, you can instantly attract attention.

If we were to go back to the much-used case study of Domino's Pizza, you'd notice the same thread of creating what the owner wants. They just wanted to create a pizza, using their own method. Is that a feasible or viable way of succeeding?

Of course not. But marry it to a problem and see what happens. The problem was: the client was hungry and hence the pizza needed to get to the customer's place as soon as possible.

You're likely to have read this or heard it before at Psychotactics, but the product on “The Secret life of Testimonials” isn't exactly what you're thinking about, are you? It's got over a hundred pages, but it's a product I wanted to write about. And so I did. But where's the problem?

We found, quite by chance, that better testimonials get us better clients. Clients that respect our work pay in advance, etc. And so the problem is “crappy clients”.

You see what's happening when you launch a product?

You're trying to make the product or service fantastic, and so it should be. The Tesla, Dominos Pizza or the Secret Life of Testimonials has to be a solid product. But that's not enough. What if it doesn't sell? It won't sell if you simply talk about the obvious. In every instance, whether it be the first car, the first plane, the first trip into space—they're all beyond the imagination of the audience. However, the moment you link it to an existing problem, you immediately get their attention.

2) What makes a viable product? And how do you validate it?

If you're into testing, find a group of your peers. Your peers are big fans of the profession. A  group of chefs, evaluating your work individually, are more likely to know more accurately which dish will be a hit than just a group of diners frequenting the restaurant.

However, if you care two hoots about testing, go right ahead and create your product or service and then link it to an existing problem. When clients get excited about the problem, you know you have a winner.

One last word about how this validation bit works

For years I've wanted to write a book about “how to teach more effectively”, and it's called “Teacher vs. Preacher”. But who's interested in such a book? I've done an informal evaluation with others who teach online. Those who do courses, workshops, webinars, etc.

This group are likely to be clients, but they're primarily a group of teachers that really care about their students. They don't just want to sell a course or home study version of their product. They want their clients to be able to get the skill.

They love to sell out their courses, but their bigger focus is to be able to transfer the skill to their students.

And when I bring up “Teacher vs. Preacher”, they love the idea. So on one front, that's validation. But what if I wanted to write the book anyway? In such a scenario, I'll write but then connect it to the problem that we at Psychotactics solve so well.

Though our courses are higher priced than most on the Internet, we can sell them out faster than practically anyone else I know. A $3000 course sells out in less than 30 minutes, and with a single e-mail, while other marketers take weeks of endless e-mails, affiliates and joint ventures just to get any traction. That's the problem the book solves, doesn't it?

Validation can come from two fronts: peers or problem.
Try both if you need to be doubly sure.

But we're still stuck with the concept of analysis-paralysis. How do we get over that major hurdle?

3) How to deal with analysis paralysis?

What trigger played a significant role in human evolution?

If we go back three million years ago to our early ancestors, Australopithecus, we find them to be more like a chimpanzee. Its brain volume is a bare 400cc. If we were to fast forward to 1.8 million years ago, suddenly there's an abundance of hominine species, including Homo erectus. And the brain size is double of Australopithecus.

If we move further to 800,000 years ago, we get Home heidelbergensis and another remarkable growth in brain size from 800cc to 1200cc. And finally, 200,000 years ago, we find a skull called Omo 2, and it has a brain size of approximately 1500cc, which is remarkably close to the brain size we have today.

But what caused those changes in brain sizes?

Each one of those brain sizes occurred when the Earth was at its most elliptical and the climate was horribly harsh and changing. Rivers dried up; food was scarce, temperatures rose and fell in rapid succession. Human evolution is considered to have a direct line to volatile do-or-die situations.

Good times, on the other hand, don't seem to lend themselves to rapid change

Think about your situation on a daily basis. As long as you have enough food in the pantry, it seems perfectly reasonable to lounge on the sofa. The moment you're out of food, there's no analysis-paralysis. In fact, even dwindling supplies causes you to act with increasing focus and rapidity. While there are many reasons why we get into a rut of analysis-paralysis, the biggest reason for the rut is the glut or excess.

So what does this excess look like in real life?

Let's say you walked into an ice-cream parlour and you have to choose between two flavours: mango and strawberry. How long did you take to make that decision?

If we wanted to add confusion, we simply have to add excess. Let's add 18 flavours to that list. Now you have twenty flavours to choose from, and you go, at least partially, into analysis-paralysis. You want the coffee flavour and the mango at the same time. You can't decide whether they are suitable, and so back and forth you go.

In reality, you're going through a series of rejections

To get to your unique flavour, you have to, theoretically, reject 19 flavours to pick one. A similar set of phenomena plays itself out when you're trying to achieve a goal.

You've been told it's important to learn about Facebook advertising, that e-mail is important, storytelling is critical and so on. It's normal to jump from one thing to the other like flavours of ice-cream.

What you really need is a lack of choice

People who get things done are not hampered because they create situations where they can't do everything. They are forced to do just a few things, with usually one thing as the big focus. And if you want to get out of paralysis-analysis, here are three elements you need to consider. They are:

a) Drafts
b) Information
c) Deadline

a) Let's start with drafts

Michael Lewis is a relatively unknown name as authors go, but his projects are well known because they're quickly transformed into Hollywood blockbusters. “Moneyball”, “The Big Short” and the “Blind Side” are reasonably well known. When interviewed about the struggle involved in writing,

Michael gets slightly philosophical. “The writing isn't a problem,” he says. “Instead, it's the drafts that require work”. Lewis talks about the multiple numbers of drafts he has to make to get a project going. And in layman's terms, that's simply an outline.

Yes, the very same outline most people hated to do when in school, and still avoid doing whether it involves writing an article, creating a product or giving a presentation. It's one of the biggest hurdles that get in our way time and time again.

An outline has stages of clarification. When we first begin the draft, we are grasping at straws. With every following outline, the brain has a chance to get a greater level of clarity. Three, four, six, eight—it doesn't matter how many drafts you create, as long as you create drafts.

Drafts seem like such an odd idea when you're dealing with analysis-paralysis

When we think of it as a grocery list, it's easier to understand the concept. Show up at the supermarket randomly, and you either end up buying stuff you don't need or end up totally confused about what you have to buy. But a little prep work goes a long way. When you consider a grocery list, it's a reasonably uncomplex set of items. An article, a project, a book—they're so much more complicated and we merrily walk into these projects without going through a bunch of drafts.

J.K. Rowling had zillions of drafts for Harry Potter. Michael Lewis pretty much works his way forward through drafts.

Pixar, Disney—every animation company will create storyboard after storyboard. The reason why professionals work their way through drafts is for one simple reason. When you start a project, your brain has random sets of ideas. Without the drafts, it's easy to get stuck, and no one; not you or me likes being in that situation. So we move along to something else easier to cope with. And the failure looms large, resulting in almost certain analysis-paralysis.

But drafts are only one of the elements we have to deal with when working on a project. The second super-duper favourite has got to be the lack of information.

Let's look at information, shall we?

b) How information plays a role in analysis-paralysis

Back in 2009, I re-wrote Version 3 of the book, The Brain Audit.

It should have been an easy task, shouldn't it? After all, I'd been through hundreds of examples of clients using The Brain Audit. I'd also spent years refining the concepts over and over again as I implemented them in my own business.

But even as I'm describing the trouble of writing Version 3, you get a feeling of déjà vu, don't you? And it's because most of us have experienced this struggle of having to explain the same thing in a different way. We know too much. We have the curse of knowledge, and it's slowing us down considerably.

Knowing too much means you feel the need to stuff everything into your information

Let's take The Brain Audit itself as an example. The book is pretty comprehensive all by itself. However, if you look at the chapters (and there are about seven main chapters), every one of those chapters can be a book all by itself.

How do we know this to be true? Let's take the chapter on uniqueness. We've conducted a three-day workshop on uniqueness alone with separate audio and notes. If we were to choose the topic of testimonials, we have 100+ pages on testimonials in a product called “The Secret Life of Testimonials”. Any of those chapters in The Brain Audit could be expanded into 100-150 pages each. In reality, The Brain Audit could easily be a 1000 page book.

As a writer there's too much information floating in your head

If you were to take any topic, be it photography or karate or any topic you're familiar with,  you'd find a consistent problem to nail down what you're going to cover. I remember taking on an esoteric topic like feedback, and that generated well over ten chapters.

The more info-product you have in your head, the more you're going to get derailed. Which is why it's a good practice to write down all your ideas, and then just choose three of them. Which three? It doesn't matter. Any three will do. Any three will connect. All of the three are valuable to clients, but more importantly for you, as the creator.

Most software is bloated; most books are loaded with information we can't use. If we just had three topics to focus on, we could get going as creators, and the client would be happy.

A vague topic like feedback can be a monster in itself. But really, can we pick any three? Try it yourself, and you'll see you can match any three together. And just in case you think I wrote this up right now, I didn't. I made this mind map back in early 2016, and because I didn't pick three, I've still not started. The irony is not lost on me.

However, what if you're just starting out?

Back around 2008, a client of mine wrote his first book. In it, he put everything he knew, which wasn't a lot. He was exhausted by the time he finished the book, but he was also scared. He felt he'd given his all and there was nothing left in him.

When I wrote The Brain Audit back in 2002, I felt the same way. I couldn't manage more than 16-20 pages (and that included fillers and cartoons). Today, you can see I have the problem in reverse. If I were to write The Brain Audit like it should be written, I'd struggle to keep it to fewer than 1000 pages.

All of us believe that we either have too much in our heads or too little

But there's also a third factor that comes into play. Take, for instance, the series on pricing called “Dartboard Pricing”. It shows you why people pick your product over others, how to construct the pricing model and get 15% more, as well as the sequential pricing structure. In short, it's a very solid (and entertaining) series that pretty much guarantees you'll get higher prices than whatever you're charging today.

When I sat down to write the book, I wasn't sure it needed to be written. If you head to a search engine and type in the terms “Psychotactics” and “pricing”, you'll get enough content to fill up at least a day of reading and listening.

What else could I write, I wondered

Information stops us in our tracks on multiple fronts. We know too much, seemingly know too little, or we've given away so much that we feel another book or course won't make a difference. Incredibly it does make a massive difference. I could sell the Dartboard Pricing series as it is, and do a webinar series and clients would sign up. If I did a workshop in your city, you're likely to attend.

How do we know this to be true?

Because when I was presenting The Brain Audit workshop in Washington DC for the first time, many years ago, I was going through the same fear-ridden routine.

Most of the attendees in the room had not only read The Brain Audit, but many of them had read Version 1, Version 2 and Version 3. What else could I bring to the table? There's always a new angle, new examples, new insight that you as a creator don't even realise you're putting forth. Even if you've published a lot of the information before, the audience receives it from quite another angle.

To get going, you must start with drafts

Write down all the ideas in draft after draft. Even so, that draft must have a deadline by which you start writing. When you write, put everything down into three categories.

What can you fit in those three categories? You'll see how we've done this on the Dartboard Pricing page and also the ‘Black Belt Presentations' page.

Those topics, like any topic, are vast and the only way I know of getting them down to size is to pick three topics and write about them. If I need to write more, I can just write three more later. Or you can expand the topics all by themselves as we have done with The Brain Audit, where topics like uniqueness or testimonial now have their own books or courses.

Easily the biggest thing that stops us in our tracks is that the information already exists. Either we have put the information out there, or someone else has, and no one really needs our product or service. As alluring as this fact may appear to us, it's patently false. There are many ways to present the very same product or service and clients want to find out all the possible ways.

But even if we were to conquer our fear of drafts and information, we still have one great hurdle to conquer. A barrier called “deadlines”.

c) Why External Deadlines Reduce Paralysis-Analysis

Imagine gong to the supermarket with a list.

Yet it's not a typical list. That list has about 150-200 items which you'll need to purchase. Notice the fact that you're not doing anything overly dramatic. All you're doing is picking the item from the shelf and putting it in your shopping cart. Even so, as you get deeper into the list, there's this overpowering urge to quit the task and do something else.

A decent sized project usually has about 150-200 embedded tasksWe start off most projects with a fair bit of gusto, pretty much like picking items off the shelf. Then for no particular reason, we seem to lose momentum, and we get distracted. The more distraction we run into, the more we seek to do some more research. We somehow feel if we do our homework, things will get better. And they rarely do.

The only consistent way to get things done is to adopt the mindset of a programmer

Any programmer on a project knows there's a date to ship the software. Will the software have bugs? Almost certainly it will have a fair number of bugs. A programmer has little choice. They've promised the software will be ready on a particular date and so it launches more or less on time.

But this deadline isn't restricted to programmers alone

You get to your destination, because planes, trains and buses are mostly based on a non-negotiable deadline. The Olympics don't start one week later than planned. And even those 200 things you had to get off the shelves needed to be put there by someone who was following an external plan.

If you make internal plans, paralysis analysis is the default setting

When I first started out writing articles for Psychotactics, I hated writing with a passion. It would take me two days and would involve an enormous time and energy. However, I'd promised that I'd deliver the article on a twice-monthly basis and so I had to finish the job. I'd battle through the process, hating every fifth word with a passion, but the job would get done.

Almost all of us start off a project with a lot of excitement and then struggle to get to the finish line

When we have nothing to lose, we fill our days with something else. The only way anything can done is to have this external deadline in place. Most of the time it involves a cash transaction. When you sell a course, you have to show up and conduct the course.

When you promise to deliver software you'd better be shipping on the day itself or clients will be on your tail. Is all of this a source of constant pressure? Sure it is, but then great work is usually not done with a lot of leisure in hand.

The advice being given to you isn't particularly new.

You already know that a project is going to have 200 sub-tasks. You have to work out the tasks and go at them with gusto. You also know that if you keep the project to yourself, nothing is going to happen.

Very few people have the ability to finish anything if there isn't a fixed deadline, often with a penalty if the job doesn't get done. And whatever you're shipping is going to have bugs. You can fix those bugs later.

There's just one tiny note

We often underestimate the time we need. We take on too much and we struggle. Over the years, I've had to learn that making space is an important part of getting things done. If you're constantly battling all sorts of deadlines, you're running out of energy on a monumental scale. Without space, you have no recovery period. So I create space and set an external headline. And things get done.

Too simple?

Well just as a parting thought, Michelangelo didn't want to paint the Sistine Chapel. Neither did Leonardo da Vinci wanted to paint the Last Supper. They were made to do it. That's why we have these works of art. Now get your work of art finished.
Epilogue: The Segway Syndrome

One of the most spectacular failures of modern times has been the Segway.

In a world that longs for non-polluting transportation systems, the Segway seemed like the perfect answer to our travel woes. It moved swiftly, quietly and after a bit of practice, was easy to handle.

Even so, Segway sales barely got off the ground and have stayed relatively stagnant

If it's evident that the Segway solves a problem, why should it have failed? Sometimes the problem lies not in the product or service itself, but in the distribution or infrastructure, instead. Take for instance the electric car. In 2017, a Tesla now has the ability to go 335 miles on a single charge (compare that with a gas-burning-fuel car that can only do 300).

That, to many people is the infrastructure part that needs to be taken care of. Superchargers have to be built so that they quickly replace gas stations and these super-chargers need to sit near cafes or stores, or in a parking lot. Without all of these elements in place, the car itself becomes redundant.

The Segway struggled for many reasons, including its high price

However, even if you did own a Segway, you couldn't use it on the road or on the pavement. Without setting all the infrastructure and paperwork in place, it was doomed to failure. And this brings us to an important point: creating a factor of destruction.

When we try to validate an idea, we head in one direction

We list all the reasons why the idea, product or service can and should succeed. But we rarely, if ever, create conditions for failure. If you're about to do a copywriting course, what can you do to cause the course to fail?

What infrastructure would you need to remove so that the course crashes and burns? If you're starting up a website business, what would you need to have in place so that clients show interest but don't do any work with you? These are the elements we have to consider before we put our product or services into the marketplace.

Ideas are super fragile

The creator of the product or service may waffle between fear and reason when in fact everyone who launches a product is fearful. Everyone, without exception, feels the same uncertainty. Then we have the issue of validating the product or service, which for the most part is impossible.

However, your peers review can help and it's a powerful form of feedback. Later, when the product launches, clients will tell you what you need to fix. Instead of pretending like the problems don't exist, we need to roll up our sleeves and fix the problems.

Finally there's the issue of analysis, and yes, paralysis. Those that do endless research and wait for the right moment, almost always fail. Instead you need to set a deadline, get your product or service into the market and fix the glitches later. Preselling the product or service ensures that you keep to a deadline and don't wait forever.

The great works of genius in science, maths, language, arts of business weren't fully formed. They were mostly half-baked and got better as they went along. You may decide to start later, when things are perfect.

It's a decision that almost never has a good ending!


Imagine if you invented a set of tyres and they were ridiculed. They called them pudding tyres”. Would you go ahead? Now you can because of the information we've covered so far. So what did we cover?

-How to distinguish between your own voice of fear, and voice of reason
-How to go about validating your idea to give yourself the best chance of success
-Tips for getting over analysis paralysis

Next Up: How to Make the Mental Leap From a Job into Entrepreneurship

You don't know if it's the right time to jump into being an entrepreneur. What about the mortgage, the family and the bills? And how do you deal with the fear? How do you stay steadfast to your vision? And what about focus? These questions spin in your head over and over again.

Click here to: Understand how to keep true to your vision, stay focus in a distracted world and when to take the leap.

Direct download: 138-Validating_Your_Idea-How_To_Beat_Analysis-Paralysis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34am FJT

How do you know whether your business idea is good or bad?

Is there a system of validation for your info-products, courses and workshops, or do you just go with the wisdom of the crowds? This episode shows you exactly what causes one business idea to fail and the other one to succeed.

This series is about the validation of your business ideas. We will explore what  is important when you’re about to embark on a new business idea.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: How to distinguish between your own voice of fear, and voice of reason
Part 2: Good ideas can't be left on the bench; they need to be consumed right away
Part 3: The big picture is usually the biggest problem

Click here to read online:


Imagine if you invented a set of tyres and they were ridiculed.

That is precisely what happened to a vet from Belfast, Ireland. This vet, named John Boyd Dunlop, watched with a bit of angst as his son, Johnnie, as he bounced madly while riding on a bike on a cobblestone street. The solid rubber tyres were clearly not suitable and he set about inventing the first commercially viable pneumatic tyres.

But then they made fun of him. They called the pneumatics, “pudding tyres”.

What would you do if you were in Dunlop’s place?

We know that Dunlop didn’t give up. He didn’t give into the ridicule, but partnered instead with Irish industrialist W. H. Du Cros to create the Dunlop tyre factory both in Ireland and across the world. But what if Dunlop backed away? What if he wasn’t so sure if his invention would be a success?

This series is about the validation of ideas. And in three parts we explore three chunky bits that are important when you’re about to embark on a “pudding sort of idea”.

And here’s what we’ll cover:
-How to distinguish between your own voice of fear, and voice of reason
-How to go about validating your idea to give yourself the best chance of success
-Tips for getting over analysis paralysis

Part 1: How do you distinguish between your own voice of fear, and voice of reason?

If you buy really well-made bread, it goes through a cycle.

At first, it's delicious. It's likely to be crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. But keep it on your kitchen bench for a few days, and it starts to get hard. In a week, it's likely to get rock-hard and possibly get mouldy. The question to ask yourself at this point is: Did you buy bad bread?

And the answer is self-evident

The bread wasn't bad, was it? But if you take the best loaf of bread, made by the most dedicated baker, and you keep it outside for days, you're going to get an almost identical result. This is true for good ideas as well. No matter how great your idea happens to be at the start, the hardness will set in and so will the fungi.

Good ideas can't be left on the bench; they need to be consumed right away

However, this is where things start to go horribly wrong; only we feel like it's going just right. The way things unfold is through testing, research and working out if the market needs our product. Once we've gone around the research block many times, we then wonder if we have anything new to bring to the table. And as we're doing all of this evaluation, the market marches on. The more we research, the more we get stuck in your own trap to the point where the only thing we can do, is to scout for yet another idea. Fear takes over, and we don't know what to do next.

But why are we fearful in the first place?

We're fearful because we can't see the big picture. When you look at most business owners, they don't look confused and composed. They seem to have all these projects going; they appear to be attending events, speaking, turning out courses and books. In short, they seem to have everything well under control. You, on the other hand, aren't able to see so far into the distance, let alone figure out a way to get there. And this lack of the ability to see way into that future, plus the ongoing intimidation from seemingly successful people, puts you in a position of great angst.

The big picture is usually the biggest problem

Entrepreneurs who succeed rarely see the big picture. They're not entirely clueless, either. They know where they want to go, but it's still, at best, a hazy view of the future. What they tend to look at closely is what's in front of them. To understand the analogy, think of yourself in a car. Let's say you have to drive from Auckland to Wellington, a route of almost 8 hours of hard driving. Do you know what Wellington looks like at this moment? It would hardly hassle you because you're focused on the road right in front of you. Your only piece of research is a sort of GPS system that will more or less ensure you don't get lost along the way.

But wait, you already have your GPS system

You did the research; you read the books, you know how to move forward, so why are you still stuck? If we were to go back to the road analogy, you wouldn't be stuck. And that's because you're not figuring out whether you'll have a puncture 24 km from now. You're not worried that there's other competition; other cars on the road. What you're entirely focused on is the road right in front of you. If you get tired or confused, you stop for a break. If you get hungry, a meal does the trick. All along the way, you're just looking at what's in front of you.

Which is completely the opposite of what you expect when you're getting started with a project

A project somehow needs to have all your ducks lined up in a row, or you simply drive around in circles. But what if there were a way to break up a project into smaller bits? When we think of a business or project let's drop the big, seven-silly-figure plan, shall we? Let's just focus on two core elements. The first point is where we're going to get our clients. The second is where we're going to get them to spend their time.

So where do we get our clients?

If you just build a website, no one will come. Despite being online and having a rock-solid reputation, almost no one comes to our website out of the blue. Instead, they come from somewhere else. When we first started our business, that somewhere else was a portal called “”. We'd publish an article at the portal and clients would head to our website after reading the article. When we'd go to a local, tiny event, and speak for about 30 minutes, prospects would turn into clients and buy an e-book, and then a small percentage would sign up for consulting.

In every instance, what you're doing isn't this big, long range planning. All you're doing is this tiny task.

Successful entrepreneurs are like successful comedians

You only get to see the final one or two-hour show, but you never get to see all the small parts along the way. Comedians painstakingly put forward their jokes, only to see many fall flat. Some make the cut, and they go into the final show. Entrepreneurs do something similar. They make a move here, a move there and they keep going forward. By the time you see that fancy course appearing on Facebook or on their websites, they've made dozens, possibly hundreds of little moves to get to that point. And then, if they're good, as in really good, they keep working on their plans and refining it to the sharpest possible degree.

The road right in front of you isn't that scary

When you consider the entire journey, the possibility of a breakdown, deteriorating weather, and crazy drivers, suddenly it seems like a pretty good idea to put some tea on the boil and stay home. But with every experience you have of staying home, you create a whole new layer of fear. After a while, it seems totally impossible to go ahead with any plan and research and further learning seems to be the only consolation prize.

Let me tell you a personal story I've told many times before

I know how to create an ePub file. How do I know this? Because I've been through many hours of practice. When ePub first came out many years ago, I was keen to learn it, and so I followed the tutorial and made an ePub file. But it was a dummy file because I didn't want it to be anything a client would hold. When InDesign started to dig deeper into ePub, I went through tutorial after tutorial, in version after version of ePub and InDesign. To this day, I haven't created a single Psychotactics document in ePub.

You can see the problem, can't you?

I'm trying to create this perfect book, this perfect product. Instead of simply planning out a simple ePub, I'm looking at the big picture, and it's stifling me. All the information and all the research isn't helping at all. The ePub project is many years old, and it's like a loaf of bread that's been sitting there the whole time. You can barely believe your eyes when you read this information, can you? You'd think, what's the problem with a measly epub file? Why can't you just give it a shot? Who cares if it turns out right or wrong?

Same question is headed your way

Who cares if the idea is right or wrong?
How about taking on this tiny project and conquering the fear?

And if it fails, you'll figure out a way to fix it. But if you don't start, you know that idea will get harder by the minute.

Next Up: How do you go about validating your idea to give yourself the best chance of success?



Direct download: 137-How_To_Validate_Your_Idea_And_Overcome_Self-Doubt-Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30pm FJT

How does tolerance play a role in small business?

It might not seem like tolerance is the root for success, but if you dig deeper, you'll find that small businesses struggle without the core concepts of tolerance.

So how does tolerance play a part in something like a successful artwork, or music, or the next product or course you produce? Let's find out in this podcast.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: The Tolerance for Success and Failure
Part 2: The Tolerance to Learn
Part 3: The Tolerance for the Long Haul

Read it online:


In September 2013, Renuka and I were headed to Cape Town, South Africa.

Whenever we leave, we always ask our nieces, Marsha and Keira what they'd like as gifts. Keira was pretty clear about her gift. “Bring me an elephant”, she said emphatically. Now Keira was just four at the time, and an elephant seemed like a pretty plausible gift.

She wasn't taking no for an answer, even when we told her that the elephant might not fit in her house. But then I brought up a point that stopped her cold in her tracks. After she had heard what I had to say, she wasn't keen on the elephant anymore.

So what did I tell her?

I said, the elephant is a big animal and all animals poo. The larger the animal, the greater the volume of poo.

Keira didn't need much convincing

She wanted nothing to do with the elephant or the poo for that matter. And this is the battle we have to deal with every single day. We all want our businesses to grow bigger than ever before. What we don't always think of, is poo.

The bigger the business, the bigger the poo

And in business terms, you could call the poo, tolerance. You need an enormous amount of tolerance to keep the business going. Which is why people struggle so much when they get into a business. They don't see the factor of tolerance needed to keep the business going.

Let's look at the factor of tolerance in three shades, shall we?

—The Tolerance for Success and Failure
—The Tolerance to Learn
—The Tolerance for the Long Haul

Part 1: The Tolerance for Success and Failure

In August 2015, a musical made its debut on Broadway

It wasn't just any old musical. A few months earlier in February of that year, the off-Broadway engagement was totally sold out. And in 2016 itself, it received 16 Tony nominations and won 11.

That musical goes by the name of Hamilton; a hip-hop musical is about the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution. And the musical's producer, Jeffrey Seller is passionate about the need for tolerance.

“People don't have the tolerance”, says Seller who's seen more than his share of failures. “The tolerance for anxiety, fear, bewilderment and pain.

In the book “Originals” by Adam Grant, there's a list of high profile failure

You're likely to have heard about William Shakespeare's work in plays such as Macbeth, King Lear and Othello. But it's normal when you fail to recognise names of plays such as Timon of Athens or All's Well That Ends Well. Those two in particular rank among the worst of his plays and have been considered to be completely underbaked. But that's not unusual, is it? A writer does bad work and then produces better work as time goes on.

What's interesting about these plays is that he produced them in the same five-year window as some of his best plays. Shakespeare is known for his amazing plays, but most people fail to realise that he turned out a grinding 37 plays and 154 sonnets. His tolerance for getting into the heart of failure and getting out of it, was, as it turns out, consistent with any other successful person.

Hamilton basks in incredible success today, but its producer Jeffrey Seller clearly defines success through the eyes of failure.

Success feels good. Success is in its own way easy. It’s easy on my stomach and in my heart. It is also true that failure; the feelings that failure evokes are so much worse than the positive feelings that success evokes. I’ve heard of tennis players who say, “I never feel as good winning as badly I feel when I’m losing.”

“You can't cherry pick”

We must not cherry-pick because it will never get it right. If I lose money in one show and then say, “Oh, I better not do it in the next,” I’m going to be in big trouble if the next one’s the hit. I’ll give you an example. I did an Opera on Broadway in 2002.

We did La Bohème on Broadway in Italian. It was a beautiful production conceived and directed by the filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. I had persuaded this group of Korean investors who I’ve done some other business with, to invest a whopping million dollars. They lose 900 of the million. I asked them to invest in this little show with puppets called Avenue Q. They passed.

Avenue Q goes on to make over $30 million of profit for all of its investors. They cherry-picked. They used the fear that losing money in La bohème generated to guide their next decision.

Picasso didn't cherry pick

We look at Picasso's greatest paintings but what we don't see is the sheer volume that's almost too well hidden. By the time he died in 1973, Pablo Picasso has done over 1800 paintings, 1200 sculptures, 2800 ceramics and a staggering 12,000 drawings. Only fifteen or sixteen of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings are said to exist, yet in his surviving notebooks alone, we have a staggering 7000 detailed drawings.

It's called elephant poo.

If you want to get the elephant you get the poo as well. And success, the success so many of us crave, is just a tonne of fighting through a mountain range of poo. In reality, success is far less frequent that failure. “The tolerance for anxiety, fear, bewilderment and pain.

But what's really happening when we get into this failure zone?

What's happening is we're rooting out the mistakes. Talent, or success, is just a reduction of errors. Mozart is known for a few great works, but he barrelled through 600 of them before his death. Beethoven was no slouch either, producing over 650 in his lifetime. Mahatma Gandhi tried an endless number of ways to get the British out of India when he finally hit upon the “Salt March” in 1930 that would set the momentum for Indian Independence.

The tolerance for fear is the greatest one them all. But it doesn't stop there. We need the tolerance to learn and learn progressively.

Part 2: The Tolerance to Learn

I know, you're probably laughing at me because this system sounds so ridiculous

And it may or may not be ridiculous. It's hard to measure what you can remember, but after years of trying to speed things up, I realised one important fact. I need to slow down. I need to have a higher tolerance for learning.

So what is a higher tolerance for learning?

In my opinion, it's a method of slowing down, rather than speeding up. When I get a book to read, I rarely ever read the book. I'll read a bit, and then dig in my Moleskine bag for my pen and Moleskine diary (yes, I am a Moleskine nut). And then I'll make notes or mind maps.

Not every book makes the cut, but when I get a good book, like “Originals” by Adam Grant, I'll read the book, listen to the audio version, make notes and then write articles and possibly do a podcast too. So why go through all of this trouble? It's the opposite of the TV dinner.

It's like a chef that lavishes time and effort to get a meal ready for dinner. It allows me to get to the very core of what's being stated in the book. Or at least that's what I think.

My memory is like a sieve, sometimes

I remember going back to listen to an audio book after many years. I knew I'd listened to it because it was on my Audible app. I did remember some of the material, but even so, it was like a brand new book. I understood the book at such a great depth, and it astounded me that I hadn't figured out what the author was saying in my earlier reading.

This level of tolerance for reading is not common because it seems so very trendy to say you read many books. To this day if you go to the About Us page on the Psychotactics website, you'll see how I proudly mention that I read 100 books a year. Well, that's hardly possible now, at this slow pace, is it?

Don't get me wrong; I crave books

Just like someone longing for a great meal, I look at all the books I've missed, and there's a definite sense of regret. Even so, it's important to have a tolerance for slow learning. And with slow learning, it's also important to cross-pollinate your learning (which in turn makes it seem even slower). This cross-pollination means you're reading a series of books that often have little resemblance to each other.

At this moment, I'm reading “The Man Who Knew Infinity” a book about Srinivas Ramanujan (we'll get to know him better in the next section). There's a book by Adam Grant about “Originals”. And a book specifically about the David statue sculpted by Michelangelo. While poring through these books at a snail's pace, I'll watch videos about thermohaline currents and ponder over the information I get about high and low entropy in the universe.

All of this learning takes a mind-boggling amount of time

It's easy to feel you always need to be in a hurry. You still could be voracious in your learning. I listen to podcasts and audio almost all the time, while on the move. I'll read when I can, but reading requires you to be focused on what you're doing. And then there's the writing, endless amounts of writing about what I'm learning.

This is what I'd say is the tolerance for learning

To slow down, not speed up. However it's not necessarily about doing less, but instead, abut going deeper into the information and cross pollinating it in a way that makes you far more creative; far more open to seeing things in a way that others simply can't see.

But why go so far?

So many people take the easiest way possible. They say they have no time to read. If you ask them to listen to audio, they say they can't remember anything. And that's not the point of learning. Education comes in layers. I can't remember a lot of what I learn in audio, but if I don't listen to audio, I will miss out on about 300-450 hours of education in a single year (that's because I go for a walk every day and listen to audio).

The tolerance for learning has to be high. Speed is not the answer.
Speed reading is more like a TV dinner—a quick, yet deeply unsatisfying experience. Slow down and absorb the information and that's what leads you to a greater level of understanding and success.

Tolerance to failure is critical.
Tolerance to learning is also extremely vital.
But we still have one factor of tolerance that's needed: the tolerance for the long haul.

Part 3: The tolerance for the long haul

If you could buy Google for US$1.6 million, would you buy it?

Google in April 2017, was worth $560 billion. But back in 1997, Google was still a dream in CEO, Larry Page's brain. While at Stanford University, he created a search engine called BackRub. He tried to sell that search engine to another search engine company called Excite. But Excite's primary investor made a counter offer of $750,000. And Larry Page thought BackRub was worth a lot more. The short story is that today, 20 years later, Google is the most valuable company in the world.

A story that contrasts completely with what you're likely to run into on the Internet.

About a month ago, an ad on Facebook caught my interest. This person was promising you could get hundreds of clients signing up to an e-mail list, per day. And usually that kind of bombastic language just bores me to pieces, but on this morning, I was playing around with my watercolours, and it seemed like a fun idea to sit through this webinar.

The pitch was predictable

The story was about how he struggled to make any income at all. And the rags to riches story went nothing to several hundred million dollars. And before we know it, this person is hobnobbing with big shots including Sir Richard Branson. So why am I giving you the run down of this webinar? I'll tell you why. It's because the webinar talks about hard work as the enemy. How we all work hard and how it never changes our life. And how this person's seemingly magic system will change everything. What he continues to suggest is that you can get the elephant—without the poo.

And that's the reality we know is untrue

But we're often so sick and tired of being tethered to a job, or even feeling like we should be doing so much better in business, that we take the bait. We reject the tolerance for the long haul. We hope somehow there is a magic pill that will solve our troubles. Larry Page almost took that pill back in 1997. He had his reasons, of course, but it's the long haul that has gotten Google to where it is today.

So why is the tolerance for the long haul so critical for success?

The answer is encapsulated in a single word: drudgery. Let's say you are nuts about coffee. You know the beans, you're over obsessed over the roasting process, and you dream of opening a cafe for coffee-snobs. For the first fifty or hundred days, you're probably running on the aroma of the coffee alone, but then one day you feel like sleeping in. Now imagine your client showing up to the cafe only to find closed doors.

Every business has days of drudgery

You may adore your work, and should, but there are days when you simply don't feel like going to work. And ideally someone should and will step in to help, but the core of the issue is that no matter whether you're Google or that guy selling pipe dream webinars, it's all hard work and there are days of pure drudgery.

Days that you'll get over if you take a break. But if you don't have tolerance for the long run, you'll give up. You'll give up that podcast series you started; you'll give up on the blog posts, you'll give up when hardly anyone turns up to your workshop because you think you've failed.

Our membership site at 5000bc started in 2003

I've personally written 49,945 posts so far. Divide that by the number of years we've been running the site, and that's around 3,500 posts per year. It includes answers to clients, articles in response to questions, etc. With the courses, I've also finished over 50,000 posts. Add the podcasts, the books, all the workshops, etc. and you have a long list of stuff that needs to be done, and which I'm happy doing.

But if you think the work stops, it doesn't

William Shakespeare, Pablo Picasso, Hamilton's producer, Jeffrey Seller, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci—they all realised that they're in the long game. That if you think you're just going to get into a business and the business will run itself, well, that's like buying into a webinar and paying a small fortune to get a magic pill. A magic pill that for the most part, is unlikely to work because it too will involve work.

Which is why you need to get involved in something you love

I love what I do. I love writing; I love making podcasts. I adore answering thousands of posts in the courses and in 5000bc. I didn't get into this business to simply walk away. I will take my weekends off, and I will take three months off every year. That's my way to get rid of the drudgery factor and come back fresh and rested. But I know that I—and you—we both need a tolerance factor for the long haul.

As Keira learned at the tender age of four, you can have your elephant, but it comes with poo. The bigger the elephant the greater the poo. If you want to build a business get the poo tray out because you're going to need the tolerance for failure, learning and most importantly the long haul.

How do you Get Smart (And Stay Smart)?

Many of us believe that smartness comes from learning the skills in our own field. And yet, that's only partially true. We can never be as smart as we want to be, if we only have tunnel vision. So how do we move beyond? Click here to find out: How to find the time to do all of this learning? 

Direct download: 136-Why_Success_Is_Hindered_By_The_Lack_of_the_Tolerance_Effect.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

"I wasted too much time getting angry".

So said world-famous tennis champion, John McEnroe. McEnroe and arch-rival, Jimmy Connors had similar temperaments on the court. Both were easily provoked. Yet both of them managed to get to the No.1 ranking in the world for many years consecutively.

Yet McEnroe was gone from the tennis scene by the age of 34. Connors, on the other hand, was still around at the highest level, even at the age of 40.

So what happened?


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Work-Rest Ratios
Part 2: What Depletes Energy
Part 3: The Power of a Backup Battery

Read online:


Performance psychologist Jim Loehr was on a particularly difficult mission.

He wanted to understand what kept the world's top competitors head and shoulders above their competition. He watched hundreds of hours watching live games and followed up by poring through taped matches. Despite the rigour he put into this research, he ran right into a brick wall.

He noticed that during points, high calibre players appeared to be remarkably similar to each other. There seemed to be little or no difference in the way they went about their game.

Then Loehr looked closer and began to look at what players did in between points. That's when he had his Eureka moment.

The best players, it seems, had consciously or subconsciously built up a routine.

As they headed back, they had a type of walk; they held their heads and shoulders in a certain way. And most importantly, their breathing seemed to slow down. These players were playing their shot and then, amazingly, going through a recovery method while getting ready for the next shot.

To dig deeper, Loehr hooked up the top players to EKG telemetry and was able to monitor their heart rates. To his astonishment, he found their heart rates dropping by as much as twenty beats per minute, in between points. Lesser ranked players seemed to have no recovery routine at all.

As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz write in their book: The Power of Full Engagement, the key to being super-productive is to have enormous amounts of energy.

To drive home this point, they give the example of two players of relatively equal talent and fitness.

The players have given it their all as the match has progressed, but as the game reaches the third hour, who's going to be less fatigued? Who's going to get more angry and frustrated? Who's going to push his heart rate even higher resulting in muscular tension and drop in concentration? The one who has been recovering in between points is clearly far ahead because he's got far more energy.

When you think of energy, nothing quite fits the analogy like an electric car.

A petrol-driven car is a car with no fear. You can put $5 worth of fuel in it, and sure enough, you will find a petrol station along the way when you need one. At least at this point in time, in most countries, you can't do expect the same level of topping up for an electric car.

To get to your destination, and back, an electric car requires the driver to move forward without sudden acceleration. Brakes are applied only in an absolute emergency and most slowing down involves a generous amount of anticipation. In short, the electric car has a fixed battery and few, if any, charges along the way. If you manage your drive well, the car even recharges even while moving ahead.

An electric car and Loehr's research align almost perfectly.

Energy needs to be used to propel us forward, but we have to make sure we not only recharge, but also avoid energy depletion. Which is why it's a good idea to look at three core elements of energy so that we too can ditch time management and work on energy management, instead.

Here's what we'll cover:

1- Work-Rest Ratios
2- What Depletes Energy
3- A Backup Battery

1) Work-Rest Ratios

1972 was a scary year for Southwest Airlines.

They had been battling it out on the ground for years, just to get the right to fly. But right alongside their legal battles, there loomed a threat that was promising to put them out of business. They were haemorrhaging on cash and in order to pay the bills, they had to sell one of their four planes.

However, Bill Franklin, former Vice President of Ground Operations and others in Southwest made a bold calculation

They came to the conclusion that three planes could to the work of four. There was just one tiny problem to overcome. The planes had to be in and out of the gates in 10 minutes. Getting a plane cleaned, restocked and refuelled is a precision-driven task that often requires a solid hour.

Southwest had little or no option. They were either going to keep the planes in the air, or they'd go out of business. Years later, author, Kevin Frieberg, author of the book, “Nuts!”, was quoted as saying, “Aeroplanes only make money in the air”.

This kind of go, go, go machine-driven attitude is what we seem to apply to humans as well.

Many of us see ourselves as the product of hard work; of having little or no turnaround time; of always being in the air. Internet marketers boast how they're spending time working at the beach, usually in their underwear. And all of this talk about being able to be always connected, always at work, always putting down rest as if it were a disease—this is what causes us to feel constantly tired. What we need are work-rest ratios.

This factor of work-rest ratios isn't news to you, is it?

It shouldn't be, and yet we ignore it as though we have fuel-driven engines. We fail to see every day has to have a prescribed amount of work, then real rest. Every week has five days of work, and then two days off. Every quarter needs a break; every year needs many breaks. And though not all of us can, at this point, do a three-month long vacation, almost all of us can work with just the day.

It's so blindingly obvious that even reading this information seems bizarre

Yet, look around you, and you find that almost no one but the kids are bouncing around like crazy. Well, those kids aren't watching TV until late at night, are they? They aren't scrolling through their devices endlessly either.

They're doing what performance coaches advise their clients. A good night's sleep—yes, the most obvious thing of all—is what we seem to ignore on a consistent basis just because we don't wind down before bed time. Is it any wonder that we seem to be tired all the time?

So what's the quickest thing you can do, and do today?

Be like a kid. Figure out a bedtime for yourself, then wind down. That alone, this obvious task, is what causes you to have a lot more energy the next day. If for instance, we sleep just half an hour later every night, we've deprived ourselves of a good 3 ½ hours every week, and this accumulates over time.

Weekends or even half the weekend is what we should mark out to rest and recover, but we're always busy doing stuff. If you speak to someone they say that “the stuff needs to be done”.

But there's a downside to being constantly like a plane in the air

You're compromising your performance. As you clock in more hours, you take more time to do the very same task, and there's a greater chance of errors. What's weird about sleep is that the more rested you are, the better you sleep. Think about the times when you're agitated, and it's clear that the sleep was just as disturbed. So without going round and round, we need to understand a simple philosophy.

Get the work-rest ratio consistent, most of the time

In the book, The Power of Full Engagement, the authors talk about how there are times when you have to break away from the work-rest ratios. Sometimes we have to build capacity, and we have to increase our stress level. But even when you increase that stress, it needs to be followed by adequate recovery. You need to do both: push beyond limits sometimes and then to have enough recovery.

But work-rest ratios are not enough. There's something more, something even deeper. And that is to explore what depletes energy in the first place. Let's take a hard look at energy depletion.

2) The Energy Depletion View

It's Wednesday morning here in New Zealand as I write this piece. But this Wednesday isn't like last Wednesday, or the Wednesday before last.

That's because on all those previous Wednesdays

I didn't have the pressure of having to write the script, and then record the podcast. However, this week I've fallen behind and the pressure is building up. The more I delay, the more my mind is focused on the task of writing and then recording the podcast.

Energy depletion isn't something that's immediately apparent

It's all around us. Let's say you have to cook a dish. What does the professional chef do? She makes sure there's a sequence in place. No professional chef does what we often tend to do.

In one morning, we are likely to get the recipe, buy the ingredients, chop and prepare the ingredients and then begin to cook the meal. What we've done is gone through Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and so on. By the time we're ready to cook, we're already tired. That's not how a professional chef works. Every stage is separate so that the chef is at their highest possible energy for each stage.

Here's how I used to write an article back in the year 2001 or so I'd start with the idea, do little or no outlining. Then I'd write, but what I was doing was editing. I'd go a line forward and two lines back.

Eventually, after a brutal two days or so, I'd be done with the article. However, even after all that struggle, I didn't know if I had a good article or not. What's more important is that I'd be exhausted and dread having to write another article in the following week.

When I look at the way I'd create sales pages, write articles, cook, paint—all my activities were amazingly well-designed to create energy-depletion. Today, my methods are radically different. Take for instance the dish I prepared this morning. I soaked it last night, chopped the ingredients early this morning and about 10:45 am, I darted back home and cooked the dish.

Writing an article—this article for instance—involves a similar method of using stages.

I've got a bunch of Post-It stickers on the wall that all have topics that I want to write about. When I'm ready to take on the topic, I go to the cafe or park bench and outline the article.

I'll then split the article into three parts and write the article over three days, taking a day to cover each section. If the task isn't broken up, the energy required to go from one end to the other is often too great. You can expend the energy, but then it takes enormous time to recover.

Completing tasks is only one form of energy depletion

People and situations also play an incredibly important role in depleting energy. Take for instance a workshop we had in California back in 2006. One of the clients was terribly demanding, and we were still new in the business. We bent over backwards to make this customer happy, and I guess she was, but we were so drained at the end of the day. It's a good thing they have giant Margaritas in California because I needed more than one to feel like a human again.

The same applies to situations

We go for a walk and sometimes a car will pull out of the driveway, leaving just a little gap behind for us to traverse back onto the footpath. I'll go behind the car, and then glare back at the driver. See what's happening? It's all a depletion of energy. That small incident can rattle me for the next 10-20 minutes. Put in a few of these seemingly small events in a day, and it's not hard to see why we can be super-drained by the end of the day.

Being constantly distracted is also an energy depletion factor

No one is allowed to be bored any more. If you're bored for about 3 seconds, you reach for your phone to surf the Internet or look at what's on Facebook. Yet this behaviour is remarkably different from the way my parents (and possibly your parents) use the Internet.

My father goes online to look for something, to check the weather, but it's always a specific task. His phone isn't a distraction device. Instead it's a tool, like a hammer. You reach for it when you need it. Always going online and endlessly searching for something to allieviate our boredom is another factor of constant energy depletion.

The key to understanding energy is to see what depletes our energy

It's easy to see where these negative energy fields exist in our daily lives. A job we hate; a person that drives us crazy; a course that's going nowhere; a friend or relative that puts us down; a lousy call to the bank, endless surfing—it's all draining. And there are some energy fields that are hard to avoid.

So how do you cope when you know you're bound to run into energy-depletion zones every single day? What you need is a reserve battery pack and here's how you get one.

3) The Backup Battery

Imagine writing a complete article and finding it's vanished into thin air.

Granted it takes me just about 45-60 minutes to write an article, but this one was longer. It would take me at least an hour and half, maybe two to get the job done. The first instinct is not to re-create, but to go on a hunt. And that's exactly what I did. I searched high and low using all the tools at my disposal, but 25 minutes later I had nothing.

Right before that moment of seeming despair I loaded my backup battery

For 30 minutes every morning I meditate, simply because of the returns I get from meditation. At first, meditation was just something to try out. However, when you go through a day from 4 am and you're still energised at 9 pm, eyebrows need to be raised. Meditation is my backup battery. I don't know how it works, all I know is it just does. If you could stop your day for 30 minutes and get several hours of renewed energy later in the day, would you do it?

Think about time management vs. energy management for a few seconds

We are all focused on time, but at 5 pm you're pooped. You have time, but you have no energy. Now imagine having energy as you go through the day, then through the evening, and even late at night. It sounds so bizarre that I didn't believe it. I once heard the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld saying approximately the same in an interview, but I thought it was not possible. Maybe he doesn't spend long hours like me, I thought. Well, I was wrong, not once but twice over.

The second and possibly better reason for meditation is the capacity to deal with energy-draining situations.

Feel like screaming at the traffic? Angry at some new law the council has passed? Clients driving you crazy? Suddenly you're able to see all these people, events and situations as a bystander. It almost feels like it's not something that affects you, but is happening to someone else, instead. Instead of grumbling, getting mad and clearly draining your energy, you have a feeling of going with the flow.

Remember that article I lost?

I did my best to search for it, but instead of getting upset, I went about it in a calm and composed manner. Even though my problem wasn't solved, I simply went about some other activity. Then, today, while searching for something else, I found my article (about the same time as I was about to re-write it from the ground up). If all of this sounds like gobbledegook, then believe me, I thought it was too.

However, I believe in results too

And if the supposed-gobbledegook is going to help recharge my batteries and more importantly, keep me from draining them, then that's exactly what I need. Hence the meditation every day for 30 minutes. And if you're wondering where you're going to get 30 minutes from, remember the concept of the electric car (because it's remarkably similar to your phone). When you charge a device for 30 minutes, it lasts longer, but even a short 10-15 minute charge is still a charge.

But charge it for zero minutes and you get zero.

The backup battery should be some sort of cola

It really should be some sort of tequila shot or mixed in a cup of coffee. And yet it's just boring ol' meditation. The kind of stuff they've done for thousands of years. So, are you going to charge your battery with a longer, or even shorter charge?

This takes us to the summary where we'll look at the three aspects of energy.

“I wasted too much time getting angry”.

So said world-famous tennis champion, John McEnroe. McEnroe and arch-rival, Jimmy Connors had similar temperaments on the court. Both were easily provoked. Yet both of them managed to get to the No.1 ranking in the world for many years consecutively. Both of them also won Grand Slams.

What's interesting about this story is that Connors was considered to be the lesser player. It was more than apparent that McEnroe had a flair that helped him win even when he was fuming and screaming.

Yet McEnroe was gone from the tennis scene by the age of 34. Connors, on the other hand, was still around at the highest level, even at the age of 40. It's not hard to see what's happening, is it? Energy starts to escape at the very moment you rant and rave. It might seem like you're disrupting your opponent, but by McEnroe's admission, he did better when his temper was in control.

From an energy perspective, we need to look at three core elements.

1) Work-Rest Ratios 

Without the rest, we simply drain our batteries until our system can't handle it any more The more we work, the more we have to rest. When you rest, you come back fresher and more eager to do far better work. At Psychotactics, we take breaks whenever we possibly can. Through the day, on weekends, and then after 12 weeks of work, a month off. You may not be able to take a chunky three months off at this stage but rest and work beckon you. If you want to do better work, you have to have more rest. It's that simple.

2) The second—and more important point—is monitoring what depletes our energy

Losing our cool takes up a huge tonne of energy right through the day. Things invariably go wrong; chaos is almost hovering around us all the time. In the face of constant and overbearing trouble, how do we avoid depletion of energy? There's also a depletion that comes from the lack of stages. Without stages, we take on too much, and we're invariably tired as we move through the sequence. A little spacing out of stages, whether you're writing a book, an article or just cooking dinner, is what's needed to keep your energy at high levels.

3) Finally, we need a backup battery, and that battery is meditation

If you have 12 minutes, that's 12 minutes of backup in place. If you have 30 minutes, so much the better. But maybe 12 minutes will counter 12 minutes of chaos—and the net effect is that you're not losing energy. You're stable, calm and happy. Life takes you on a diversion, and instead of getting mad and upset, you go along like a child, glad to be part of the adventure.

We live in a world hostile to rest. We trust coffee more than meditation as a pick me up. We lose energy all the time and aren't sure how to get it back.

Well, now you know.

NEXT STEP: How To Get Smart (And Stay Smart)
Many of us believe that smartness comes from learning the skills in our own field. And yet, that's only partially true. We can never be as smart as we want to be, if we only have tunnel vision. So how do we move beyond? And how do we find the time to do all of this learning?Amazingly it all comes from limits.Find out more here—How to learn.

Direct download: 135-What_Depletes_Energy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

In a small business, strategy and tactics often go wrong.

Yet all you hear about is success, success and how someone made it big.

This episode is about some bad judgment calls and also about plain pomposity.
It's taught us to be better marketers and better people.


In this episode Sean talks about

Story No.1—The Internet Marketing Conference Fiasco of 2003
Story No.2—A Mess In Wellington: Why Extreme Personalisation is Not A Good Idea 
Summary: How our minus two learning has helped us

To read this podcast online:


I remember one of the early events in my speaking career

Renuka was sitting in the audience. When I finished my speech, I came back to my seat and asked her how she found the speech. I gave you a minus two, she said.

Speaking hasn't been easy for me, and I struggled a lot not knowing what to say when in front of an audience

Luckily, almost at the start of my career, I ran into Eugene Moreau and his 13-Box Speaking system. The 13-Box system was so honed, it was like having a Samurai sword at your disposal. Except, it's not much use having a Samurai sword and not going through “sword practice”.

To get my practice in speaking to a high degree of professionalism, I'd speak everywhere I could. And when I mean, speak everywhere, these weren't at fancy events. I'd speak at the Rotary club, some places where people would meet to network and even at association meetings. In my mind, it was pretty clear that if I didn't get the practice, I wouldn't become a confident speaker.

And I knew I'd reached a good level when I was paid to speak at an event

It wasn't much. I think it was about $300 or $400, but hey, this was a paid gig. The only problem was that my so-called ability had gone to my head. In the first few years, I'd rehearse fifteen, sixteen times before getting in front of an audience.

This event, however, was different. The audience happened to be farmers—not professionals. They still had to sell their products, so they still needed a message like the one that's contained in The Brain Audit. But because they were farmers, I got a little pompous.

I practiced a couple of times, then my wife Renuka and I drove to the event

The signs were not good. Both Renuka and I had spent a restless night, and we had a long drive ahead of us. She kept asking me if I'd done my usual practice runs. I nodded, but I knew I'd taken some shortcuts. And on that day, when I went on stage, I was sleep-deprived and already a bit tired from the drive. Plus, as you can tell, I hadn't done my usual 15-16 practice runs.

Yes, I got a minus two.

This series is a little detour into the world of Psychotactics—and. About times when we got below par results

Some of the results were our fault, and some of them were just experiences we had along the way. In every instance, we learned a lesson, and it helped us move ahead in our business. Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Let's look at some minus two experiences. Like the time back in 2004, I think, where I was a speaker at an Internet conference, and everyone was selling their products, but me.

Why did things go so wrong?

Story No:1—The Internet Marketing Conference Fiasco of 2003

I should have known better than heading to a particular Internet Marketing Conference in Australia.

It was what you'd call a pitch-fest.

Pitch-fests are given that name because the speaker tends to speak for a fixed amount of time, but then reserves at least a third of the given time to pitch their products or services. Think of speaker after speaker getting up on stage and selling like those folks you see on infomercials, and you get the idea.

I was not even part of the original speaker set up, but I was keen to be part of an international speaker group

Even though it was barely 2003, the speakers at the event had substantial lists, exceeding 50,000 subscribers. We, on the other hand, might have had fewer than 1500 people on our list. I watched as speaker after speaker got on stage and made a presentation. Then they'd make an offer, and there would often be a scramble to the rear of the room, where they were selling their products.

It was pretty early in my career, but I was pretty confident of my speaking skill by then

I'd done a bit of selling from the podium as well, and I thought I'd be going home with several thousands of dollars in sales. This dream of mine seemed more feasible when I compared myself to the person who did his presentation just before mine.

His presentation was more about how to run some software, than a real transfer of knowledge. And yet when he made his pitch, there was an almighty scramble to the end of the room. I was sure I could top that act, because my presentation was clearly better than his, and plus in my mind, I was a far superior speaker.

But even before I could get on stage, things went wrong

I was allocated just 45 minutes, and that included my presentation and my pitch. I figured the person introducing me would be done in about 3-4 minutes, but like an Emcee that won't shut up, he went on for a whole ten minutes, maybe longer.

Sure, he was saying good things about me, but I was losing a tonne of time in what I considered to be a pointless introduction. Anyway, I got on stage, did my presentation confidently and made my offer. It was the moment I'd been waiting for. I had dreams of the audience stomping over each other to get to the back of the room to buy my products.

You have a good idea of what happened next, right?

And you're right. Nothing much happened at all. About 15 people gingerly got up from their seats, and casually sauntered to the back of the room. Would they buy the product, I wondered? In my head, I was still doing the calculations.

Since we were selling the product for $100, I'd still make $1500 at the very least. However, maybe 9 of them decided to go ahead with their purchase. And you might think that's still a pretty good deal for a 30-minute presentation, right?

And yes it was a good deal, but not when you consider the expenses

To be part of this event, I had to fund my own travel costs. There was the flight to Australia which exceeded $500, the hotel room which also exceeded $500 for the duration of the event. And then there was food, transport to and from the airport and other incidental costs. Plus, the organisers wanted 50% of all sales to be passed on to them as a commission.

This was a -2 experience

I was out in the cold, and not feeling very good about myself. Any pity I have for myself is quickly tempered by the fact that there's a learning experience in every failure. I resolutely sat at the back of the room and watched what caused clients to scramble like crazy.

That event wasn't my first lesson in scarcity, but it certainly was the first one that was doused with so much defeat. It's the defeat that made me pay close attention to every single presenter. I stopped paying attention to the content of the presentation and instead paid attention to what they did instead. And I learned some very valuable lessons on that day.

But one mystery remained.

Remember the speaker who went before me?

He wasn't terribly good; his content was mostly technical. He made a pitch that involved scarcity just like everyone else. So why did he succeed when I did so miserably by comparison? I knew him well, so I went up and asked him what he thought was the big reason because I frankly couldn't see what caused the audience to rush to the back of the room.

And that's when I learned about the concept of the bonus. Now you're well aware of bonuses when you buy a product or service online, right? But I had bonuses too with my pitch. Why didn't the bonus work as well?

The key was the nature of the bonus

He was offering some software that would enhance their positions on Google rankings (yes, these were the good old days where a lot of crazy stuff worked). But that wasn't what people were so excited about. He had promised that the first 50 people would not only get the software, but he would install it on their servers, so they had to do nothing but run it.


It wasn't the bonus. It was so much bigger and better than a mere bonus. And that's when I learned that you need to make the bonus more important than the product or the service itself. Why? Because when people decide to buy something, they've already made up their mind.

If you've decided to buy a fancy new computer, you already are in the frame of mind to buy it. But what if someone offered you a bonus? Like a nice box of chocolates if you bought the computer from them? The box of chocolates costs just $15; the computer $3000. What are you focused on? What if I told you that you could get the computer without the chocolate box? That's the power of the bonus. That's the lesson I learned from this -2 experience.

I lost on the monetary front.

But when I got back to Auckland, I had a plan in place. We re-looked at The Brain Audit page and made sure we had an irresistible bonus in place.

And the power of the bonus worked!

As a result of the “failure” in Australia, we sold more product than ever before. That embarrassment led to a profound learning experience, and to this day when creating a product or service, I think about the bonus long before I write the sales page for the product.

The bonus—that's what matters more than anything else. And it doesn't even have to be many bonuses. Just one compelling bonus is what makes the client decide they want your product or service right away.

But hey, this isn't about the good, success stuff. These are stories about where we messed up.

Time for Story No.2, don't you think?

Story No.2—A Mess In Wellington: Why Extreme Personalisation is Not A Good Idea

Only thrice have I gone blank on stage. Once was back in school when I was about 12 years old. The next time was the first time I made The Brain Audit presentation, but the third time was really odd. It was at a time when I was confident with my speaking and was being paid to speak as part of a series.

When I first started out in marketing, I read and heard stories of personalisation

One of these stories came from a veteran marketer, Dan Kennedy, who once spoke about how he showed up for a Mary Kay event. Mary Kay Inc. is a cosmetics giant and is famous for its bias to the colour, pink. Superstars—the salespeople who earn 0ver $18,000 in a four month period and build a team—are rewarded with a pink Cadillac.

Dan Kennedy, ever the showman, turned up for the Mary Kay event in pink

Pink suit, pink tie, pink patent leather shoes. Kennedy said he wore pink in order to sell more effectively at Mary Kay events and it clearly worked for him as he'd sell 40% more when dressed in pink. Unlike at the Internet conference, I was not selling anything at this event, but I saw no harm in trying to personalise my presentation.

Since I was working with brokers at an insurance company, I spent hours talking to my liaison at the head office. I then sought out and found examples of insurance-based problems and solutions. All of this research was my aim towards personalisation, and I didn't realise I was making a big mistake.

The first mistake was that it ramped up my nervousness a lot…

When you're making a presentation you're already on someone else's turf. I'd just made it a lot harder by over-tweaking my speech to include many insurance-based case-studies. Trying to force fit their case-studies in my presentation wasn't a mistake, but I didn't have any background of the case-studies. No sooner did I bring up the case-studies than I had people in the room say, “that didn't work” or raise objections to the case-study.

This threw me off guard

Instead of doing The Brain Audit presentation, which was all my own, my entire talk was intertwined with their case-studies. I was not prepared for any pushback from the audience, and yet the cat calls came at intervals.

However, once you're nervous, things start to spiral. I was plainly confused and slightly terrified on that stage. Finally, I just gave up and wrapped up as quickly as I could. What should have been an hour-long presentation was curtailed to a mere 30-minutes. Suddenly the emcee had a nasty problem of filling in half an hour of dead air, as there was no presenter in sight.

This was definitely a -2 moment

Renuka wasn't around to give me those low scores, and I had to self-evaluate my own performance. Why did things go so wrong? Was it Dan Kennedy's bad advice? Or was I at fault? What I failed to notice, and learned a lot later, was that presenters do tailor their presentations.

Kennedy would have worn that crazy, even slightly-ridiculous outfit, but his speech would have barely wavered at all. He might have had a few words here and there that talked about Mary Kay or the kind of business, but he would have scripted his script and nailed it down. The Mary Kay women knew their business; Dan didn't.

In my case, the insurance agents knew their business, and I clearly didn't. To give the audience examples that they could pull apart was a silly move. They knew I was an outsider and my attempt to endear myself to them was easily the worst move I could make.

So what's the learning we got from this experience?

Let's say we're selling a product like the info-products course. That course is designed to show you not just how to create an information product, but to create one that's so useful that clients come back to buy many info-products from you in the future.

Now let's say your current sales page is pretty generic. But then you're going to be introduced to 10,000 coaches. And now you don't want the page to be generic. You want it to speak to the coaches, don't you?

Think of the Dan Kennedy factor: He only wore pink, he didn't colour his text in pink.

If we were selling to an audience that was precisely coaching related, we could change the first paragraph to talk about coaching and the biggest problem facing a coach today. And how the information products would be likely to help that coach. But that's where it would stop. Once we went past the problem, the solution would be as it is on the Psychotactics page right now.

Which brings up an ethical problem doesn't it?

If the product is not specifically created for coaches, would it be right to give the idea that the product was designed for coaches? And that's not what the main problem on the sales page is doing. The solution is to get the info-products course because it helps you create info-products—plain and simple. But we relate better to signage or information that seems to call us, rather than the general public.

The product or course would still have to deliver the goods. It would still need to help coaches (or anyone else) create outstanding info-products. However, there would be a greater attraction factor if the audience felt it was aimed at them.

At Psychotactics, we don't ever appeal to a specific audience e.g. coaches. Instead, we use the concept of target profile, so the question of using this method would not arise on our sales pages. However, there may be several situations where you have to appeal to a specific audience. In such a scenario, make tiny changes at the top, and don't go changing everything else.

My stop at Wellington was pretty scary

I've mentioned in an article and podcast before how I was so petrified of the place that I was not keen to go back to that venue. But several years later it's exactly where I had to speak once again, and once again. And it was a paid speaking engagement, so I couldn't back out of it.

This time, however, I stuck to my original speech, got a rousing applause and didn't have to flee the auditorium in a hurry. I was able to turn my -2 experience into a plus 6 or 7, at the very least.

The third -2 experience was the mistake of tweaking the rules we have at Psychotactics

We have rules because we've run into a problem before and we're not keen to rep area the mistake. Even so, it seems ridiculous to hold on to rules forever. Sometimes we break our own rules.

Retribution follows shortly. This is the story of a workshop where we broke our rules, and things went south very quickly. In fact, there aren't one, but two stories that follow.

The Importance of Keeping to Your Rules

“I don't like the smell of the carpet”. That's the ultimatum we got from a client's wife.

You'd have quickly figured out we're not dealing with a customer, but his wife instead. But what does the wife have to do with the event? And what was the “carpet story” all about?

Rules are meant to be broken, but sometimes we bend over backwards too much, and we pay the price. We've had many such instances where we've sought to bend the rules; trouble has hit us thick and fast. Here are just two instances, where we allowed family members.

Back in the early days, we had a system called the Protégé system

From that Protégé group, we created an Inner Circle which consisted of just a few clients. So few of us, that I thought to myself no harm could come by including their wives or partners.(Just as a matter of clarification: Back then all the clients in our Inner Circle were male, which is why I mentioned wives or partners). Anyway, on with the story.

And that's when our trouble began

We'd booked an intimate boardroom, seeing we were so few. But as the wife of this participant walked in, she stormed right out. “I don't like the smell of new carpet”, she said. I'm not sure what the problem was, or if she was allergic to the smell of new carpet, but we were to start our session, and we were in a fix. She demanded another room, and there was none to be had at the hotel. So she took her grievance to the reception and started berating the staff.

If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's this: When you want to get on a flight, you don't scream at ground staff. And this was no exception. She was yelling at the people who were most likely to help her and help us.

As her screaming got louder, we were forced to step in and take over. As we found out later she'd inadvertently been screaming at the General Manager of the hotel as well. The GM was quite unassuming. You'd never expect that she was the GM because she was low-key and looked more like an employee. And this screaming was aimed at her as well until we decided to take matters into our hands.

With a lot of pleading and apologising, we managed to get another room

The room was super-large, more like a disused meeting room. We were so few of us in the room, and it made the entire proceedings so very un-cozy. However, our little nemesis didn't stop there. When I'd bring up a point in the presentation, she'd object.

She hadn't read The Brain Audit; she hadn't gone through the notes. We thought it was a good idea to have the partners and wives come along, but it was evident she had no context, so she interrupted and argued her way through the day.

At most events and workshops, most clients hang around the meeting room

Unlike other events where people leave shortly after, you'll find that we stick around, and so do most of the clients. We may be around for a good hour or more after we're done, but in this case, we were out of the room like a bolt of lightning. We made our way to our room just to recover our energy and then an hour later to the bar where we inhaled some gigantic margaritas.

But did we learn our lesson?

Apparently not. The lesson was not to allow anyone who wasn't part of the group. Anyone who hadn't read the notes in advance (and we send notes a month in advance) or hasn't read The Brain Audit is not welcome at our events. But there was a pleading tone in the e-mail we got just the day before the event.

Apparently, our client was visiting California with his daughter, a teenager. He asked if we could accommodate her at the back of the room. She'd be very quiet, he said. She would just sit there and not participate, he said.

I don't know why I didn't see the signs

Think of yourself as a teenager. Would you sit through a workshop on Website Strategy for three whole days for no reason? It became evident that there was an ulterior motive, but we only realised it later when going through previous correspondence with this client.

He'd earlier asked us if he could book two seats at the event but finally booked just one. WE didn't think about it at the time. Clients ask all sorts of questions, and we answer, and no one really dwells on such issues. But as the workshop unfolded, so did the chaos.

She didn't participate in the workshop discussions, but in a Psychotactics workshop we have group activities

That's when she'd tow along with her father, which seemed fine at first. Soon enough other clients started complaining. She was butting in, in the discussions, the clients told us. She'd start going off on a tangent, and then her father would defend her, causing a very unprofessional situation in the discussion.

I had to tell the client that his daughter couldn't be in the room or attend any of the sessions

This made him mad. He couldn't see why she wasn't able to attend. It didn't seem to occur to him that she wasn't part of the group, or hadn't even paid for the seat. It was a messy moment and one that we could have avoided. It created a whole bunch of frustration that none of us needed. And while it wasn't exactly a minus two moment, it sure created a bleak, nasty situation.

So what's the learning?

The main learning is never to allow anyone who doesn't have the credentials. In the case of all workshops and courses, those credentials are the purchase of The Brain Audit. If the client hasn't read or listened to The Brain Audit, they're not welcome.

However, at a different level, we needed to stop being overly kind and letting in anyone—wives, husbands, kids or anyone who wasn't required to be at the event. No matter how much pleading is done, this rule is now unshakeable.

And that's how our minus two learning has helped us

In every instance, we've learned more from the bad times than the good. That speaking engagement at the farmer's conference taught me not to wing it and be prepared, even over-prepared. The event in Australia seemed to be a fiasco, but it was a valuable training ground for me, once I started paying attention to what was happening around me.

The event in Wellington, with the insurance agents, taught me never to over-personalise anything. Over-personalisation puts you squarely in the region where you're not the expert. You already have your speech ready, and it's best to do a sprinkling of personalisation and then keep to the original script.

Finally, it was and is important to have our benchmarks when it comes to attendees, whether at events or courses. Making an exception doesn't always lead to chaos, but why bother inviting confusion in the room? Our job is to ensure our clients get the best experience ever and go home with skill. By restricting who's in the room, we end up with a better result every single time.

And then we can enjoy our margaritas. We don't have to guzzle them after an energy-draining day! But these minus two events are only part of the picture.


How do you dramatically increase your rate of learning?

And why do we get stuck when we're trying to learn a new skill? Strangely the concept of boxes comes into play. We move from beginner to average—and then we spin in that middle box, never moving to expert level.
So how do we move to expert level? And how can we do that without instruction?

Listen or read about:  Not just how to learn, but how to teach as well.



When you sit down to write a book you and I can waste a lot of time, if we don't take time to outline

But what are the elements involved in outlining? And how can we make sure we don't make any silly mistakes?

If you're about to write a book or plan to be an author sometime later, this information is for you. But even if you've already published books, you'll be amazed at how this information speeds up your process and gets better results.

In this episode Sean talks about

Element 1: How many points do you cover in your book outline?
Element 2: Why deconstruction is important.
Element 3: Understanding the purpose of the book.

Read online: Outlining Your Book: The Three Crucial Steps


Around the start of 2010, I was very upset with myself.

I'd pre-sold a workshop and as I always do, the notes for the workshop are sent to the attendees a whole month in advance. Since the workshop was being held earlier in the year, I had been thinking about the notes right through my summer break in late December and early January.

Uniqueness is a pretty difficult topic and I needed to find a way to ensure that everyone—without exception—got the concept of uniqueness and was able to implement it. The only problem with writing the notes, was that it seemed like the notes were going to be at least 200 pages long.

200 pages is like a security blanket for a writer

In the mind of a writer, the chunky volume of notes seem to suggest you have something important to say. And yet my wife Renuka isn't a big fan of a ton of notes. “Why can't you write fewer pages?” she asked me as we were sitting at the cafe. “Why can't you get the same point across, so I don't have to read so much?”

A pointed question like this is truly frustrating for me because I know it's easier to fill a book with a ton of information. But a book, or notes in this case, need to be Spartan. They only need to have enough pages; just enough knowledge for the client to get a result. They don't need to be padded or filled with words no one needs. And this meant I had to go back to my outline several times.

When writing a book, the most difficult task isn't the writing

Distilling the ideas down to simplicity is what gets in the way. I have to force myself to leave the office, sit at the cafe for hours at a time, with no Internet connection. Monday's draft gives way to Wednesday's, and will be supplanted by Friday's draft. Sometimes it can take a month of drafts to get my thoughts together.

Except it was already January. The clock was ticking closer to my deadline. I had to make sure I had the book going. Which is why you, and I, we both need an outline.

So how do you outline a book?
What method should you use?
What if you can't write a lot and can only manage a few pages? Should you give up?

Let's explore three elements of book outlining to get us on our way:

Element 1: Why you should ideally cover just three points.
Element 2: Why deconstruction is important to get you going
Element 3: Understanding the purpose of the book.

Element 1: How many points do you cover in your book outline?

When you think of a topic like “presentations”, what comes to mind?

Let's make a list, shall we?
– Creativity
– Crafting stories
– Simplicity
– Delivery
– Audience connection
– Engagement
– Displaying Data
– Creating Movement
– Time Keeping

Those points above represent a tiny list. If you were to look through the books on alone, you'd find at least fifty, possibly a hundred, even two hundred and ten topics on the singular topic of presentations. It's at this time that a novice or unthinking writer decides to do it all. He or she decides to cram as many items as possible into a single book, just to make sure nothing is missed.

Take watercolours, for instance

Back in 2010, I was pretty hopeless at watercolours when the painting bug struck me. How hopeless is hopeless? I painted for three months faithfully following the instructions of my teacher, Ted. After three months, the area had an auction of the artwork. My painting came up on the auction block.

The auctioneer started at $30. No takers

$20? Wait, auctions are supposed to go up, not down.

But there was the painting at $10, and still no buyers in sight. Now that you'll have to agree is a hopeless situation. Anyway, to avoid such a high level of embarrassment in the future, I decided to take watercolours a lot more seriously.

I tramped down to the library and came back armed with at least a dozen books on the subject matter. As I opened book after book, a similar scenario unfolded. Every book seemed to feel the need to cover all the possible topics under the broad umbrella of watercolour.

This is the kind of mistake you want to avoid as a writer

The journey to outlining a book or just about anything—a book, an article, even the weather report—is better served by working three elements; three main topics and then digging deep into the sub-strata of every one of those topics. Ironically, though, you have to start with the entire mess. 

You have to begin your journey by being reasonably crazy and listing everything. Which means you've got to roll out two steps.

Step 1: List all the points you can think of
Step 2: Choose three points

Take for example the topic of “pricing”

If you were to gaze deep into the crystal ball of pricing, you'd be sure to run into dozens of topics and angles. Covering every possible scenario, even at the brainstorming stage should drive you crazy. Well, let it drive you crazy. Writing a book needs to start with a brainstorm, long before you get to the outlining stage.

So let your imagination go on that rodeo as you list everything you could cover. 

An exhaustive list is not a bad thing. It demonstrates how much you know and how much you can cover in the future. However, once you're done with that list, it's time to pick the three elements that will go into your book. You have to wiggle your way into Step 2 and choose three points.

The problem with Step 2 is deciding which points to choose

You'd probably think it's crazy to choose any random points, but that's usually what I do. Take the “Black Belt Presentations” book for example. I didn't set out to write a series of books on the structure of a presentation or webinar. 

I set out to write a single book. And when we look at the huge list we can muster from a single visit to Amazon; I decided to simply choose the three elements that I considered to be important.

And so we had:
1: Controlling the visual aspect (how to create stunning slides)
2: Controlling the structure of the presentation (how to build the presentation with amazing flow)
3: Controlling the audience (why a great presentation can be ruined if you're not prepared for the reality of an audience).


When outlining, take on the role of a GPS. Sure there are a thousand points to cover, but it's easy to get lost. Instead, cover just a few points, ideally no more than three main points.

Were there more topics to cover?

Sure there were. Would I cover it? Maybe in another book, a series of podcasts, articles, etc. But as a writer, creator, weather reporter, you can't really go digging into every single cloud or that spotty bit of sunshine. You have to make a decision to drop stuff. 
To take a simple analogy, think of a sculptor. Or rather a dozen sculptors all with similar blocks of marble.

The job of the sculptor is to remove the bits that don't matter so that you can reveal the sculpture that does matter. Yet, when you look at the finished work of a dozen artists, you'll notice they all end up with different types of sculpture. 

Given the same topic, e.g. presentations, you have to get rid of all the sub-topics you can't possibly cover and stick with just three.

Three? Not four? Or five?

I've got “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz sitting on my desk. First written in 2004, it's gathered a bit of dust, but when I open the Table of Contents, what holds 250-odd-pages of the book together? It's the topics—four, not three.

1: When we choose
2: Why we choose
3: How we suffer
4: What we can do.

And nestled under those four categories are what Schwartz needs to say. Even though you can clearly spot ten, wait, eleven chapters and one prologue, they're still magnificently constrained by the limitations of four topics.

When you look at The Brain Audit, you don't quite see that in the Table of Contents, do you?

The Brain Audit is split up quite clearly into seven chapters. And yet there's an overlying structure to the book. The first three chapters are about attraction. They're solely dedicated to getting the client's attention. 

The next four chapters are all about risk. It's what causes the client to back away, to get all hesitant, even though they seem to be so interested in your product or service.

But what if you don't have such clarity of vision?

How are you supposed to know that one topic will seamlessly fit into another? The reality is that you don't need any such seamless fit at all. Three random topics can fit together. To demonstrate this, um, magic trick, let's take that list we created above. Let's first randomly take the first three topics.

– Creativity
– Crafting stories
– Simplicity

The three topics work together, don't they? So let's take the next lot.

– Delivery
– Audience connection
– Engagement

That works too, doesn't it? Let's move to the third lot.

– Displaying Data
– Creating Movement
– Time Keeping

You may feel that timekeeping may not require an entire chapter. And if that's the way you feel, then simply get rid of the topic, and slide in one that makes you feel more comfortable.

For example:
– Displaying Data
– Creating Movement
– Audience connection

Writing a book may seem like a daunting and reasonably frustrating experience

An enormous amount of frustration bellows forth from the need to cover everything in sight. Instead, if you were to cover three topics, almost any three topics, you could seamlessly stitch them together to create a fantastic outline.

You still have to do a fair bit of work to get the book written, but the battle is won or lost at outline stage. Train your outline to sit, beg and play dead, and you've already vaporised away the first—and biggest headache of all.

This takes us to the second bit where you outline the personality of your book

To get on this fascinating trip of structuring the personality of your book, you have to dig into a whole bunch of books you love. It's time to use the power of deconstruction to get going.

Let's deconstruct.

Element 2: Deconstruction—How To Systematically Outline A Book (So You Can Get It Off The Ground)

Imagine you're the emperor in a far eastern land.

And your son, Kintsukuroi (pron: khintz-ku-roi) is about to go through the ceremony of investiture. The bowl is the most important symbol of this rank being given to the young prince.

And yet, the king opens his cabinet to find the magnificent bowl broken into a hundred pieces. Broken hearted at the wanton destruction of this incredible piece of art, the emperor retires to his private chambers to share his sorrow with his son.

The night passes quietly, but in the morning there's a huge commotion.

The cabinet of treasures has been broken into and not only have the pieces of the bowl disappeared but also the bejewelled crown for the prince, which was to be used for the investiture ceremony. What's worse is the thief was seen running towards the prince's quarters. Could the guards break down the door? Why was there smoke coming out of the prince's quarters?

The mystery was solved the next day when the bowl reappeared, whole again, but glistening with veins of gold where the cracks had been. And the prince appeared at his investiture ceremony later in the day. Except he had a thinner crown, depleted of much of its gold.

Kintsukuroi means ‘to repair with gold’ in Japanese, and is the art of repairing pottery with gold and understanding that the piece is the more beautiful for having been broken.

When creating the outline of a book you have to deliberately break, or deconstruct the work of others, so that you can engage in Kintsukuroi, and reconstruct your own book in a way that's far superior.

And that's exactly what I did back in 2002 when I first started writing the earliest version of The Brain Audit

I was brand new in marketing and writing just 16 pages of The Brain Audit took me well over a week. Even the introduction derailed me quite a bit. So I turned to a book I loved a great deal called “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. 

His introduction seemed to be so un-stuffy, so well put together. And he had a ton of graphics in his book. Right then and there I decided my book would have a similar tone of voice and style.

When outlining your book, it's easy to get caught up in the construction of your own words and pages. And yet, it's pretty important to go through at least six-eight books that you love, if only to understand the underlying structure.

Take for instance most of the Psychotactics books or courses

There's a structure to the book that you may have noticed, but not necessarily paid great attention to.

– It starts off with an introduction.
– The introduction is followed by three main topics.
– Every topic goes deep into the sub-topics.

And as you wander though the pages of the book, you'll run into cartoons, captions, stories, examples, fly out boxes, summaries, a food recipe—and so on. 

This is the underlying structure that makes the book so easy to read.

It's the powerhouse that pushes you forward, making sure you get to the last page. Compare this with a book that has no summaries, no visuals, no captions and examples that are always harping about ginormous companies like Amazon and Apple.

You get the idea, don't you? When you deconstruct a few of your favourite books, you get a wish list of what you'd like the reader to experience in your own books, don't you?

You've gone through the act of Kintsukuroi

The books you looked at were already quite impressive by your own reckoning. That's the reason why you chose them in the first place. But then after you've broken them apart, you get to reconstruct them in a way that's more beautiful and more suited to you than ever before.

And this structural break and remaking process is what helps you put your information under a structural format that you can keep and evolve over the years. When you're outlining a book, it's easier to put pieces of content where there's already a category or space. It's a lot less intimidating when you know what needs to go where in the book structure.

Structural inspiration comes from many places

I love the music of Sting, and in one particular concert he talked briefly about the inspiration behind several of his songs. For instance, did you know that “Englishman in New York” is not Sting singing about himself? In the video it appears as though the song is about Sting, an Englishman, but in reality the song is about famed gay author Quentin Crisp and his experiences as an outcast.

When I first heard that little bit of information, I was quite tickled. And so I decided to add a little story about how we “wrote our books”. Since then the structure of a Psychotactics course or product has included “the making of this book” that includes photos and a little story.

But if I copy the structure, won't it look similar?

Did you know that my introduction and illustrations were influenced by “Don't Make Me Think?” Of course not, and even now if you were to hold The Brain Audit and Steve Krug's book side by side, you're unlikely to find too much of a resemblance. 

The key isn't to make an identical copy.

Remember the procedure? You're breaking first, then reattaching it together. There's a bit of additional input going into the structure. Whether the structure comes from you or from another source, it all helps to create that Kintsukuroi moment. Construction after deconstruction.

This is the kind of deconstruction you want for your book as well

You could see it as a sort of template for all books you create in future. What makes it truly beautiful is that the act of breaking up the structure of other books ends up with a stunning new creation. It's truly Kintsukuroi and helps create a powerful outline structure.

We worked our way through creating just three topics, deconstructed and reconstructed the structure of our book, but finally it's down to purpose. Why are you writing the book? Is it just to put words on paper, or is there some other reason?

Element 3: Purpose

Usually from December 20th to Jan 20th every year, I take a summer break.

The days consist of no e-mail, endless episodes of detective series on Netflix, biographies and beer. Eventually, December gives way to January and New Zealand (and I) wake up from our month long vacation.

To ease myself back into work mode, I start reading business books. And this year started out with an outstanding book called “The Content Trap” by Bharat Anand. Just leafing through the introduction takes you well past 30 pages and yet every moment of the introduction is gripping.

But what is Bharat Anand's purpose?

This is the question most writers need to ask themselves before sitting down to outline their books. Is the book meant to create consulting? Are you expecting to improve your profile? Would you hope to do a speaking tour as a result of your book becoming a bestseller? Would companies hire you to solve their problems? And would it involve big business or small firms?

In the case of the “Content Trap”, my perception was that the book was aimed at bigger companies

The examples within the book were amazing, but there they were: Amazon, the Scandinavian newspaper publisher Schibsted, The New York Times, the sports marketing giant IMG and Harvard Business School's own content management system.

These examples leave me and most other readers in a sort of trap of our own. We have all these utterly outstanding examples, but all of them are companies that are high and mighty. Even if we were to admire the sheer depth of the learning, how would someone like you or me put this information to use?

And this is where the purpose comes right in

You need to be clear about why you're writing the book. In Anand's case, he's got a great idea and scintillating data to back up his concept, but it falls apart at the seams because there's no way to use it.

Could it be that the book is designed to give potential clients an idea of what's possible? Could it be that they then call the author in for extensive consulting? Many books are written with the goal of getting consulting in mind. Could this be one of them?

When I sat down to write an outline, I wasn't always clear about the goal

The early years saw me create sparse outlines and fill content into the early books. This was my way of battling my seeming insecurity. I didn't see myself as a marketing person and saw myself as a cartoonist.

The more pages I had in a book, I convinced myself, the less I had to worry about refunds.

It doesn't help when some early buyers, and we're going back to 2003 or so, said they were returning the books because there were too few pages. 

Back then, most of the world was still walking into bookstores and stepping out with $20 hardback books. And there we were, selling a PDF for $67 that consisted of fewer than 20 pages. Hence the need to “fix the book” by adding a tonne of material that may or may not have been needed.

Today, when I outline the book, the main goal is to get a precise result

If you buy the book on presentations, you could be woken up at 3 am and still be able to put together a very compelling presentation from the ground up. If you spent your hard earned money on the information products course, you'd find an incredibly well thought out template on how to create info-products.

Whether it's photography, article writing or landing pages, the goal is well-defined before I start to write. And this is something you should do. It seems like such a tiny, inconsequential part of the outlining process and yet it's crucial.

What's the end point when the book comes out?

Is it to get you more consulting?
Is it to get you more fame?
Is it to create a permanent source of income and nothing else?

Knowing the end point makes a difference to the examples you give and how you structure your book. The end in mind, it's sometimes called. Knowing where you're going. It applies to everything in life, but especially when you're outlining a book.

Once you know exactly where you're going, you can focus your energy better than ever before.

The Three Elements Needed When Outlining Your Book are:

Element 1: Why you should ideally cover just three points.
Element 2: Why deconstruction is important to get you going
Element 3: Understanding the purpose of the book.


P.S. Since the end of January 2017, Google has been marking sites without HTTPS as non secure. This means that your clients may be driven away from your site. To make sure that clients don't leave your site you have to have HTTPS.
We use (this not an affiliate link) for all our websites, and recently they did a seamless job of moving our sites from 'http' to 'https'. Don't ask me how they do it, but everything worked perfectly after they moved us to 'https'. So, if you are not sure if your website is safe or not read more here.





Direct download: 133-The_Crucial_Steps_Needed_When_Outlining_Your_Book.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:49pm FJT

Why do some landing pages work while others fail? The core of a landing page lies in picking a target profile. Yet, it's incredibly easy to mix up a target profile with a target audience. And worse still, the concept of persona comes into play. How do we find our way out of this mess? Presenting the target profile mistakes we make and how to get around them quickly and efficiently. 

In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Target Profile Blind Spot
Part 2: Person vs. Persona
Part 3: Target Profile Questions

To read it online:


In Mexico, there's a beach that goes by the name of Rosarito.

The rocks on that beach made advertising executive, Gary Dahl over 6 million dollars back in 1976.

Those rocks were a smooth stone that was soon better known as Pet Rock. These rocks were marketed as if they were live pets. They had their own cardboard boxes, straw and breathing holes for the “animal”. People buying the Pet Rock knew fully well what they were buying. And yet they went along with the gag. They leafed through the 32-page official training manual, which included instructions on how to care for the rock. You could, it joked, teach the rock to “sit” and “stay” but “roll over” or “shake hands” was a little harder to explain.

What was important back then and what's just as important right now is that people knew it was a gag; a dummy. They knew they were buying something that couldn't really do much for them. And they went along with the joke. When it comes to marketing or selling our products and services, we often don't realise we're dealing with a dummy.

We think we're doing the right thing when choosing an audience.

In the book, The Brain Audit, there's a whole chapter on why this premise of target audience leads you off the path and into dummy land. And yet the one thing we've heard over and over again is the concept of target audience. It's our Pet Rock moment.

We are stuck with something that seems fun and exciting, but won't do anything but “play dead”.

This episode takes on the issue of target profile and why it's so important for your landing page. Thousands of clients have read the book, The Brain Audit, and yet I see so many of them mixing up the concept of target profile and target audience. So how do we separate the two once and forever?

In this article, we cover three parts (as always).

– The blind spot with target profile (and why we keep repeating the same mistake).
– We go deeper into the concept of the “dummy” as we examine person vs. persona.
– Finally, we'll take a look at some of the questions to ask in target profile interview.

Let's start with the blind spot, shall we? Why do we keep making the same mistake over and over again?

Part 1: The blind spot with target profile

I remember when I took my first driving test in Auckland, New Zealand.

I drove a manual, what you'd probably call a stick shift back then. As part of my test, I was asked by the testing officer to go down a hill. Immediately, I put the gear into neutral and coasted downhill.

You know what happened next, don't you?

As exhilarating as it can be to race down hill at top speed, you shouldn't ever put a car in neutral and when heading downhill. There are a whole bunch of things that can go wrong.  But that downhill drive was my blind spot. I had done it so many times before, that I didn't see that it would not only cause a problem, but would get me a nice big F (as in Failed) against my test.

Most of us make the same mistake when we get down to working with our target profile

When asked about our target profile, we get drawn into the error of describing a target audience. And this mistake is reasonable because almost every marketing book or course talks mostly about target audience. It suggests that we should look for a bunch of people. E.g. people who are afraid of making presentations, or teacher, or people who want to be coaches. It talks about targeting huge groups of people all at once. While this is a great starting point, it's only the starting point.

An audience won't get you very far

You may not be focusing on an audience, but instead on a type of person. So instead of ‘people who are afraid of making presentations', you think of a fictional person. And you say: “Ok, let's call him Chris.” And then you go on to rattle off the factor of how this fictional person named Chris may end up being terrified of presentations. And you think you're on the right track at this point.

But a testing instructor would still fail you

And this is because you're still not paying attention to that blind spot. When we use the term, target profile, it's not an audience, and it's not a ‘let's call him Chris.' Because if you say let's call him Chris, you're saying the following:

Chris is a fictional person. Kinda like a real person, but not a real person.
He kinda lives in a real house. But not in a real house, but in a fictional house.
And he lives in a real city, but not really.
And his dog. Well, he used to be real.
His girlfriend. She could be Lady Gaga or Ellen DeGeneres (well, it's fictional, so who cares?)
He eats fictional hamburgers, and he can chomp through seven hundred at one go, right after he has fifty-three shots of tequila.

You see the difference between real and fictional?

Because the Chris I used to know wasn’t fictional. He lived about 20 minutes from my place. He was a genius at computers. He didn't drink water, only wine and milk. He was grumpy as hell and yet extremely helpful. And if I wanted to go out with Chris for lunch, I know that I'd have to deal with his grumpiness. I'd know exactly what he'd want. And the Chris I used to know wasn't interested in making presentations at all.

But I do know Christina

Christina isn't a big fan of making presentations. She would rather bake two-dozen cakes and have kittens, than speak. And we're not even talking about the hard task of ‘presentations'. We're talking about just standing up at a networking meeting and speaking for one measly minute. Christina knows it's critical for her business. She knows she's in a safe space with friends all around her, but she can't overcome the wave of panic that starts the night before.

She prepares like crazy, but it's the same thing over and over again. She can't sleep well. The drive to the event is an ordeal. She looks at all those people at the networking meeting, so cool and relaxed, and wonders if she can ever be like them. And then, when she's done, she feels like somehow she could do a better job. She's happy to go back to the office, turn off the phone, recharge—and just do what she's good at doing—instead of doing these crazy presentations. But now, she has to make a presentation. And she's terrified…

Now that's the emotion and drama you get with a real person. But there's more

Fictional people can't tell you when you're going on —or off-target with your message.
An audience can try to get a message to you, but everything gets lost in the din.

The only way you can get to a target profile is to have a real person. Just like that testing instructor in the car with me. If he were fictional, I would have passed the driving test. I'd also be likely to win $50 million in the lottery on the very same day. But instead, I failed. I learned from my mistake; spotted my big blind spot.

And today I'm your driving instructor. Instead of coasting downhill and putting others and us in danger, let's keep the car in gear.  Let's use the concept of the target profile as it was meant to be used, shall we?

Let's explore the questions you're going to need when conducting a real client interview.

Which is when we run into our second problem. More often than not, we run into a concept of persona. We are told we don't need to focus on a real person, but we can easily base our marketing on a character. It's almost like a fiction novel. We make up the character as we go.

Except what we end up with, is a little Frankenstein. A Frankenstein with random body parts all stitched together. That's the difference between a person and persona. And we're about to find out why a person—a real person matters a lot more than persona.

2) Persona vs. person (Why a person matters more)

When my niece Marsha was eight, she wanted a dog for her eighth birthday. Then her parents realised that someone had to walk the dog, come rain or shine. There would be many trips to the vet, they figured. And the dog would need to be trained, so there wasn't poo all over the carpet.

Marsha got a toy dog instead. It barked and you could pull it around. And it sounded like a real dog.

But it was a dummy

And that's the problem with persona. Persona is when you assume the role of another person.  You try to walk in that person's shoes. And your shoe size is 10, but that person wears a size 13. You might assume things will be fine and you'll somehow manage. But you don't and you can't. Because while we all can try to imagine what that person is going through, we can only imagine.

In short, we get dummy text, dummy words and dummy emotions from dummies. To get real text, real words and real emotions we have to go to a real person. Not real people, one person. Because a real person won't have “dummy thoughts” or dummy words.

So what do dummy words resemble?

Dummy words looks like they were written by you and me sitting in our office, looking at a computer screen. We churn out words that are stifled and boring. Or worse, we may copy headlines like “Who else wants to…blah, blah, blah, blah” and slap it into our headline on the landing page.

That's not how a target profile speaks

A target profile speaks from a place of real emotion. I remember sitting at a workshop early in the Psychotactics timeline, and explaining my website issues to someone. This is what I said: “I feel trapped with my website. Every little change I have to make, I have to go back to the developer. And then I have to wait, because he's busy, or asleep or something. I feel like I'm at his mercy all the time. And it's a crappy feeling.

I want to be able to have more control over my own website, do my own things and yes, I can understand bits and pieces that need to be added. But for the most part I want the control. I want to be like the person that can drive, instead of being driven.

Feel that raw emotion? Well, with persona-based writing you have to make all that stuff up…

For instance, let's take the Nobis Hotel. They have a persona-based website, by their own admission. Here's what it reads like: The personas are frequent travellers who are sick of sterile chain hotels and want something different. They make their own decisions on where to stay using the web and social media. Buyers want upscale luxury but in a modern style, not the old-world traditional style.

And how does their landing page reveal those problems?

Nobis Hotel is an independent, 201-room first class, luxury hotel in Stockholm, Sweden occupying a prime spot on Norrmalmstorg square, the single most central and attractive location in the downtown area. Nobis Hotel is a new centre stage of Sweden's Royal Capital, defining our own personal sense of Stockholm hotel luxury.

It calls itself modern, elegant and extremely comfortable, but also ethically sound, warm and moderate. It says it provides their guests with true value for their money in a stylish and pleasant setting designed by award-winning architects.

Does that sound like a real person speaking?

A person talks in plain language. He or she has real emotions and real frustrations. And it makes it super-easy for you to take their exact words and put it down on your sales landing page or home page, or any page for that matter.

It's the emotion and the wording that attracts your audience

Yes, audience. Because even though you start out with one person, that one person's voice attracts others just like her. So if your target profile is Rita, all the ‘Ritas' of the world are attracted to that message. And so you get a consistent audience. An audience that identifies with that one big problem. And wants to solve that one big problem. So instead of trying to juggle with different personality types and multiple problems, you solve a single problem.

And it's all being handed to you on a platter. No thinking, no research, no fiddling with key words—and it still works for you. My niece Marsha is much older now, but even as a child she clearly knew the difference between a real dog and a dummy one.

When you're dealing with target profile, you have to deal with someone real. Otherwise, you just have a dummy.

3) Questions to ask in a target profile interview

The worst problem with a target profile interview is really not knowing where to start.

And logically, we believe there must be some way to have a set of questions. And so we create a bunch of questions. But in reality, those questions don't always work. The target profile interview doesn't always follow a path. Suddenly, you're wondering whether it's a good idea to have the interview at all.

It is.
Even if you botch it up, a target profile interview is an amazing experience.

But how do you create the questions?

Well you don't. What you're looking to do is get a bunch of components together instead. I know, I know. It sounds technical. But here's what you're seeking to get:

1) The list of problems. Yup, all the problems that the customer faces when dealing with a product or service like yours.
2) Their biggest problem.
3) Why is it their main problem?
4) What are the consequences of the problem not being solved?
5) Their second biggest problem.
6) Why is it a problem?
7) What are the consequences of the problem not being solved?
8) What are their main objections to buying a product or service—even when they think it more or less meets their needs?
9) What would cause them to give a testimonial?
10) What do they see as a significant risk factor? Are there more than one risk factors? Can they describe it?
11) What would make the product unique (in their eyes?)

So can you ask other questions?

Sure you can. But these set of questions enable you to get a tonne of information that can almost literally be slapped right onto your sales page, or in some cases, even your home page. Of course, there's some re-engineering to do, but for the most part, you have all the stuff you've been looking for. All the bags of The Brain Audit get covered in one fell swoop.

So why bother with this interview at all?

Because in many cases, you'll find that the client's problems are not what you anticipated. There you are in your cubbyhole, imagining stuff, but the client often doesn't feel that way at all. And there's more, of course. You get to hear the client's exact words. Their terminology. Their emotions come surging through in the conversation. And for the first time, ever you can feel the pain.

But what if you've already felt the pain?

Many of us start up businesses because it seemed like a good idea. But often you start up a business because you feel the pain as well. So for instance, I felt the pain of being a cartoonist that was always on call. I wanted to have my vacations—and not just vacations, but substantial vacations. And so yes, I started out trying to help myself. So yeah, I know that pain. I can go back and feel that pain.

Not really

If you've ever had a big injury or operation, you'll know what I mean. The pain at the point in time is unbearable. Several weeks later, the memory of the pain is there, but not quite there. After a few years, it's almost impossible to recreate that pain. The target profile has no such problem. They're in the emergency ward right now. They feel the torrent of pain and know what they'd like to see as the solution. They understand why they're not keen to take the risk and will tell you so.

And that's what a target profile interview does

Yes, it does sound dramatic, but a target profile can change your world and how you create your landing page and market to your audience.

When Kathy Sierra sat down to write her book on JAVA, it wasn't supposed to be a bestseller.

They had incredible odds with over 16,000 other books on JAVA already on Amazon. And yet they cut through the noise? How did they do it? They didn't pull the stunt that many Internet marketers do. Instead they focused on how people read and why they get to the finish line. The more the readers got to the end of the book, the more popular the book became in programming circles.
Read more: The Unlikely Bestseller (And Why It Sold 2 Million Copies)


Frankenstein's Laboratory by Beef Chavez (audio sourced from "Scar Stuff Blog"). Licensed under Creative Commons "Attributions 3"


Direct download: 132-Why_We_Fail_to_Attract_the_Right_Clients_Target_Profile_Mistakes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm FJT

Why do great inventors, business people, and a ton of smart people have in common?

They have many traits, but one specific trait is the ability to crack a problem. When everyone else has given up, these people are able to figure out what no one has done before.

How do they do it?   This article shows you how to increase your learning speed by using deconstruction. It shows you how to crack puzzles that seemed too difficult by others.'


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Where to start your learning journey
Part 2: How to find learning patterns when there's no one to help you
Part 3: How to stack the layers and accelerate your learning

To read it online:



How to deconstruct complex topics (and accelerate your learning)

What can a single video on YouTube contain?

If you were to look at just six minutes of a NASA video, it might put you off ocean currents forever. In exactly six minutes, the contents of the video contain some of the following:

◦ Atmospheric circulation
◦ Wave formation
◦ Thermohaline circulation
◦ Upwelling and nutrient distribution
◦ Dead zones
◦ Sea surface height
◦ Shifting rain patterns
◦ Population density

That's only the partial list of what's included in the video, and it hits you with rapid succession

If you're confused, you ought to be, because the video is approximately how we approach most topics. A topic, any topic, is incredibly complex. However, the complexity can be quickly deconstructed.

That is to say; you can learn a skill or teach someone a skill reasonably rapidly if you're able to break apart the concepts into smaller bits? The question is: where do you begin? What does deconstruction involve? And how do you know you're going about deconstruction the right way?

To understand deconstruction we need to look at three elements:

– Where to start your journey
– How to find patterns when there's no one to help you
– How to stack the layers as you go forward

So where do we start our journey?

Deconstruction always starts with a choice. But what do you choose? Let's find out.

Part 1: Where to start your journey of deconstruction

A tonne of gold costs about $64.3 million in today's prices.

Indians are reputed to own 22,000 tonnes of gold. That's a staggering $1 trillion dollars in gold in a single country. Gold bars and coins are almost alway bought at festivals when buying gold is said to bring luck to the buyers. But the real obsession for gold stems from wedding jewellery. Weddings alone account for 50% of the demand every year.

And in South Mumbai, if you wanted to buy gold, you'd head to a particular area called Sonapur.

“Sona” is the Hindi word for gold and in Sonapur, you'd see dozens of gold merchant stores crammed back to back in a specific area. Now bear in mind that Mumbai is a big city that spans 603.4 square kilometres. Yet, someone looking for jewellery, and particularly gold jewellery would know exactly where to go.

We have no such specifics when we're dealing with a vast and complex topic

Should we start with wave formation or thermohaline circulation? Upwelling, dead zones or nutrient distribution? Or should we wander right into sea surface height, instead? It's clear that we need to start somewhere and the best way to get started is to pick subject matter at random.

Random? Surely that doesn't seem to be a systematic way to go about deconstruction

Let's pick “dead zones” from our list above, shall we? It's a pretty random pick considering how much material the six-minute video covers. However, as we dig into the topic, one thing becomes very clear. It's easier to dig deeper into “dead zones” and see how they occur.  In under a minute, this video talks about how we get to mass extinction by focusing on a single topic.

Deconstruction becomes clearer when we move into areas we're more familiar with

Let's take a sales page or landing page, for instance. A landing page has headlines, subheads, first paragraphs, problems, solutions, objections, uniqueness, bullets—the list goes on and on. To be intimidated by such a vast amount of moderately unfamiliar information is difficult to cope with. So we go into “random mode”.

We pick something—anything—so that we can get going. Let's ignore the vast majority of the page, and head for the bullets, instead.

What do you notice when you look at the bullets below?

– How to assemble all the elements a customer needs to see to buy
– Why template based construction is key to pain-free landing pages
– Why “How to, how, and why” are your best friends in bullet points
– How to use sequence graphics to keep your reader on the page
– Why Bonuses need graphics for maximum impact
– How to write bullets that sell even if you can’t write
– How to avoid ineffective graphics
– How to construct power testimonials even for a new product
– Why FAQs are the place for “fussy” objections
– Why the target profile is central to growing your tribe

paDidn't find a pattern?

Well, let's look at it another way, shall we?

– How to assemble all the elements a customer needs to see to buy
– How to use sequence graphics to keep your reader on the page
– How to write bullets that sell even if you can’t write
– How to avoid ineffective graphics
– How to construct power testimonials even for a new product

– Why FAQs are the place for “fussy” objections
– Why Bonuses need graphics for maximum impact
– Why template based construction is key to pain-free landing pages
– Why “How to, how, and why” are your best friends in bullet points- Why the target profile is central to growing your tribe

You noticed the HOW and WHY this time around, didn't you?

If you're looking at the entire landing page, you're unlikely to notice the pattern even if someone helpfully placed it in the HOW and WHY format. You'd be focusing on too large an area, and it's close to impossible to deconstruct your subject matter when the area is too vast. Instead, you need to look at all the components available and choose just a tiny area, just like Sonapur, where the gold jewellery is sold. If the entire map of Mumbai were your sales page, Sonapur would represent the “bullets”.

When I was learning badminton many years ago, my coach taught me how to win points consistently

My badminton days are a bit of history now, not so much because I'm getting older, but more so because I'm one of those crazy people you see on the court. You know the type, don't you? They lunge at everything. And all of that lunging and diving just to win the point ended up with a tonne of muscle pulls and strains. Being the super-competitive person I am, I hired a coach to help me win points without having to lunge about so much.

But you see the problem looming, don't you?

Where do you start? The coach started randomly, getting me to focus on the grip. You can try it yourself, even if you don't have a handy badminton racket around. Squeeze your fingers together as if gripping a racket, while moving your hand forward.

Immediately there's a tension in the shot causing the shuttlecock to go back faster over the net. Avoid the squeeze and attempt to hit the same shot, and the shuttlecock goes a lot slower, thus dropping short of the opponent. By focusing on a subtle component of the entire game, the coach was able to get me to practice the grip, and that alone helped me win a few extra points in every match.

Every topic has multiple layers that make up the whole

The reason why we get confused and are unable to decipher, let alone master the topic is that we try and take on the entire 604 square kilometres of real estate instead of focusing on a single area. But what if you focus on a single area, but still can't see the pattern?

What if there's no coach around to show you the grip? No one around to helpfully move the bullets around and demonstrate how HOW and WHY play a pretty significant role in bullet construction? How do you go about seeing the pattern yourself?

Part 2: How to find patterns when there's no one to help you

How do you pronounce S-A-K-E?

If you said “Sah-kay” you're right.

If on the other hand, you said “sah-key”, you've failed to see the pattern. In almost every phonetic language the letter “e” creates an “eh” sound. So when you read the word “karaoke”, you don't say, “carry-oh-key”, but “kara-oh-keh” instead.

Once someone points out the pattern, it's easy to correctly pronounce words in phonetic languages such as Maori, Spanish or Japanese. But what if no one reveals the pattern? In such a scenario, you'd miss the sound of “eh” and instead use “e”, instead. How do you find patterns when there's no one else to help you?

Let's try it now.

How do you say K-A-R-A-T-E?
And how about S-H-I-I-T-A-K-E?

You have it down pat, don't you? Kara-teh and Shee-ta-keh.

And no matter how many Japanese words you ran into from now on, you'd know that the “e” is all about “eh”. This tiny bit of information may make sense by itself, but it's when you see the profusion of the words that have “e”, that you realise how many words you're likely to pronounce incorrectly.

What you might not have noticed is that you've worked out the pattern

For deconstruction, the first phase involves taking a tiny piece of the pie, as it were and focus on that piece. However, unless someone points out the pattern, you may not see it right away. The moment you take many examples of that very same pattern, you start to get a clear understanding.

If we go back to the landing page example, for instance, you might not see the HOW and WHY so clearly on one landing page. After all, there are many ways to write bullets and copywriters take care to see they intersperse different types of bullets in an entire set.

Even so, if you were to go from one landing page to another, and keep at it, you'd see a pattern in an incredibly short period. Try it yourself. Go to about 5-7 landing pages on the Psychotactics site alone, and you'll start to see the pattern of HOW and WHY wherever bullets appear.

But there's an additional bonus in going through many examples

Once a pattern registers, you are likely to see other patterns as well. For instance, a bullet can be written in a very simple way, or it can be embellished to go a bit further. Let's take an example.

How to prepare the room before the presentation

How to prepare the room before the presentation (even if it's already been set up earlier).
How to prepare the room before the presentation (and make sure nothing goes wrong).

We added two other elements in the bullets and you'd notice if you went through a whole set of them

We emboldened those bullets with “and” or “even”. As you go through an entire set of bullets, page after page of nothing but bullets, the secrets of bullets reveal themselves to you. It's approximately how you go about deconstructing just about anything, even when there's no precedence.

For instance, during James Hutton's time, the world was thought to have a fixed creation date

Apparently on Saturday, October 22, 4004 BC, the world was created, or so it was taught around the time of James Hutton. Hutton is called the “father of modern geology” because he came up with the fundamental understanding of geology as we know it today. Hutton was curious about how the earth was formed. The religious texts of the day were pretty clear.

The earth was 6000 years old according to Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland. And that was that—no further discussion was allowed on the topic. Hutton wasn't exactly convinced and he set about his journey of deconstruction.

Hutton's moment of discovery came indirectly because of his whisky and his women

In 1747, Hutton was a young medical graduate, who got drunk and the ladies got too much of his attention. He managed to get his lover Miss Eddington pregnant. The scandal that erupted saw her being rushed off to London to give birth.

Hutton's family too needed to limit the damage to their reputation and he was forced to leave Edinburgh and go off to a small family farm in Slighhouses, Southern Scotland.

It was there that he saw the top soil run off and go downstream

If the land were always going to be eroded, there would be no topsoil and crops couldn't be grown; which in turn would cause people to starve over time. Hutton couldn't buy that the earth would be stripped away to nothing. Working in isolation, he rejected the world view at the time and needed to figure out how new land was formed.

And then on his form his great idea about “how new land could be created.”

Hutton's examples were cliffs. Around his farm were dozens, hundreds of cliffs. In the exposed parts of the cliffs, he'd have noticed the bands of rocks, laid down like layers one on top of the other, and at different times.

He'd figured out how rock was formed like no known person had done before his time. Sedimentary rock that's taught in school these days was revolutionary back in Hutton's time. How did he do it? He looked at example after example until the rock gave away its secrets.

Surely you and I could look at rock all day and the only result would be a big headache at the end of the day

But let's stop to think about deconstruction for a second. You could take apart quite a few things in your house or office today. Over time, and with a little bit of persistence, you'd work out how it was built. The more examples you deconstruct using the very same, or similar product, the more likely you'd be to recognise its structure.

While it may seem that some people are incredibly intelligent at deconstructing and reconstructing concepts, they're probably just as bright as you. The brain works solely through pattern-recognition. If you find enough examples to work with them, and you get working on those examples, the ideas reveal themselves to you over time.

There's no doubt a bit of luck involved

Luck plays as big, if not a larger role than hard work, but to deconstruct just about anything you need time and persistence. And lots and lots of examples. It's hard to believe that you, me, anyone of us can deconstruct, but you can look through historical or even modern times and find not tens of thousands, even millions of examples of people who achieve many deconstruction goals every single year.

Nothing is quite as good as a good teacher

A teacher's job is to reduce the learning curve and make you smart, smarter than the teacher himself. Even so, you can be your own teacher if you start with Phase one and isolate a tiny part of the big puzzle. When you get to Phase two, you'd need lots of examples, possibly hundreds, before a pattern clearly starts to emerge.

Sake, karate, karaoke. That's a pattern.

Writing bullets. That too is a pattern. Figuring out how the Earth regenerates itself, yes that is a pattern as well. Which then takes us to our last phase: reconstruction. Or how to stack the layers as you go forward.

Let's find out how it's done.

Part 3: How to stack the layers going forward

In late October 2016, I gave a presentation at the WeArePodcast conference.

The presentation wasn't about how to grow your audience or monetise your podcast. Instead, the presentation was about the elements of telling a story. For weeks before the event, I struggled with the presentation, and the reason I was so conflicted was due to the length of the presentation.

I had just 30 minutes or so to get the point across.

How do you take a lifetime of storytelling and encapsulate it in a 30-minute module?

You don't. When you deconstruct or reconstruct, the goal should be exactly the same. It's always meant to take a tiny piece of the information you have on hand and then go deep. I happened to talk about the elements of a story in that presentation, but if I were making a presentation on how a dead zone shows up in the ocean, I'd use the very same principle. And that's what you should do too as well.

Instead of taking on the entire subject matter, take on a tiny slice

If you were presenting about dead zones in the ocean floor, you'd probably cover three elements.

1: The ocean conveyor belt
2: The role of cold water currents and warm water currents
3: How dead zones occur

Granted, this is a tiny part of what you're likely to know about thermohaline circulation and the ocean conveyor belt, but it's enough. And how do you know it's enough? There's a precise benchmark to know when you're overcooking your information. That benchmark is the ability of the audience or readers to recall the information.

If you overdose them with information, they'll recall parts of it, but not all

Information that's just re-constructed just right usually allows the client to remember the entire sequence without too much prodding. And covering just three points, even when you have a thousand to cover is usually a good way to go about things.

Three points force you to constrain yourself and go deep into your content. For instance, many podcasts on the Three Month Vacation covers about 4000-5000 words, yet they only cover three points. This article might go well into 4000-5000 words, but it only covers three points. It's likely that the person reading this information may not be able to recall the three points instantly, but give them a summary and it all comes flooding back.

And that's how you know your reconstruct is goody-yum-yum

At Psychotactics, we do this reconstruct at our workshops. Take for instance the workshop we had on Landing Pages in Queenstown, New Zealand. It was a three-day workshop, and on the very last day, I got the group to summarise what they had learned. If you've done a solid job, you'll see their eyes, not the top of their heads.

No one will be looking down at their notes scrambling to remember what was taught. Instead, they'll be looking right at you, reassembling the information just the way it was given to them. This technique is also easy to use when making a presentation to a live audience. You can have 200, 500 or a 1000 people in the audience going through the sequence of what you've just taught them. And that's the real feedback—when the audience can remember it all.

So do you remember what you just learned?
Let's see. What did we cover?


– Where to start your journey of deconstruction
– How to find patterns when there's no one to help you
– How to stack the layers as you go forward

The journey needs to start with a small slice. Instead of taking on a big topic, go down to one tiny part. Want to take apart the car? How about holding back a little and then taking apart just the wheel, instead? If you have someone to help you; a teacher; a guide, then that speeds up the learning process.

But what if you have no one?

What if you're like James Hutton and you're faced with the prospect of doing something no one has done before? In such a case, and in every case, really, you should be looking at a tonne of examples.

Examples help you understand the same problem, see the same patterns from many angles. You may or may not hit the jackpot of how to write bullets on a landing page, but if you look at dozens of examples of bullets, you'll find the so-called secret will reveal itself to you.

Finally, when it comes back to the reconstruct, it's just as important to realise that you have to be a bit stingy with your topics. Instead of covering half a dozen topics, just cover three main topics and go really deep.

You know you're not overdoing the information because the audience can easily recall what you've told them without needing to look at their notes. Even 4000-5000 words later, the reader or listener should be able to remember the points you've covered and pass them on to someone else without too much of a problem.

And that is the short and exciting journey of deconstruction.

Now it's time for some sake, eh?
Do you know: Focus can cause a massive blindspot in our business.
So what's the option? Surely it can't be distraction? Actually it's a mix of both that's required. Using the concept of “spinning plates”, you can avoid the blind spot of success and the mindlessness of distraction. How Success Causes A Blind Spot And Creates A Rip Van Winkle Effect

Direct download: 131-How_To_Speed_Up_Learning_with_Deconstruction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT