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








March 2017
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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. 

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

Right click here and ‘save as' to download this episode to your computer.


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

Direct download: Episode_129-How_To_Slow_Down_Without_Losing_Momentum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

Part 2 of how working with a partner can be both an upside as well as a downside. How do you cope? How do you take it to a whole new level, without all the drama that goes with partnerships? Find out how to run a two-engine business instead of depending on flying alone. 

How easy is it to work with your spouse or partner? What are the upsides and downsides? These are questions that are asked all the time and there's a good way to know if you're going to work well together. Here's Part 1 of a series of 2 episodes. 

Everyone loves a fabulous year, but the best years for us are those that aren't terribly great. We learn more, and go through a revolution in such "difficult" years. That was 2016 for me. Life took me on diversions I hadn't expected and to me that became the most interesting element of all. Now I look forward to the diversion. Find out how you can be calm even when life takes you off route. And how the off route can be the one thing you look forward to time and time again. 

Direct download: 128_What_I_Learned_in_2016.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

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 in this episode.

In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Learning all you can in your own field
Part 2: Learning all you can in an area where you have no expertise
Part 3: Working with limits


Last month I got an invitation from a group asking me to dinner.

The dinner it seems was a group of startups. They wanted to spend the evening with Renuka and I and have a conversation about how to get started and to keep that momentum going.

What they wanted most of all was the promise of the “Three Month Vacation.” Yes, they were start ups, but what would it take for them to get going and then not spiral out of control. What would it take for them to become successful without being sucked into the mantra of “more, more and even more.”

The answer to their question was relatively short

But as I chugged on my mojito, I got another question that people tend to ask all the time. The question: how do you get really smart? Is there a shortcut? And how do you stay smart? That's what I would like to cover in this piece.

In my opinion, there are two ways to get smart—and one tool to make sure you get there efficiently.

The three elements we'll cover are:

– Learning all you can in your own field
– Learning all you can in an area where you have no expertise
– Working with limits

I wasn't always a copywriter. I didn't always write sales pages or articles.

While I was in university, I decided to earn some money by selling my cartoons to newspapers. A newspaper called the “Indian Post” had just started up in Mumbai, and I was encouraged to meet the features editor, Reena Kamath. Reena, or “Chips” as she was called, was this incredibly kind and educated person.

I was, in my own head a cartoonist, but not a very confident one. What Chips did was to give me enough confidence to push my art a lot more. She encouraged me to learn how to cartoon even better, so much so that I soon published my work in other magazines and newspapers.

By the time I was headed to graduation day, I had two daily comic strips in two big newspapers.

All of this confidence didn't mean a thing when I joined an advertising agency

“Yes, you're really good at cartoons,” said the creative director at the Leo Burnett agency, “but you realise that advertising and cartooning are completely different, right?”

Once again I was back in newbie land. I didn't know enough to get going in the world of copywriting. Fortunately for me, I was given the honorary title of junior copywriter, a small stipend and left alone to do pretty much anything I wanted.

Which is when I found the agency library

If you're in advertising, you'll fondly remember these massively thick books called the “One Show.” These doorstepping books contained hundreds of real-world advertising.

And so began my education in the world of advertising. Which brings us to the first point in this article: learning all you can in your own field.

The very concept of learning everything is, as you know, impossible

Yet, what choice do we have? Everything seems to rush along madly and just to keep on top of things is quite a task. But do we have a choice? Back when I was in the Leo Burnett agency, the library was enough to keep me busy for months on end, and today we have more in a folder of our computer than we had back then.

Armed with little choice, here's what I do

I read as much as I can. I'll plough through as many books as possible. Right now I have eight books sitting on my desk and at least four-five unread on the Kindle.

There are months when I'm reduced to reading books at a snail's pace, so I find it smarter to read magazines articles instead. However, my secret weapon is audio. If I'm standing in a queue at the supermarket, I'll be listening to audio. I go for walks every morning and chomp through an hour of audio.

Even while I'm making breakfast, I'll be listening to a podcast in one earbud. I'll tell you why. On the road, while walking, it's easier to focus on the podcast.

However, when I get home, my wife Renuka will suddenly pop in from the garden and want to give me some news. When I have both earbuds in, it feels a bit like “I'm busy, don't disturb me” and so I have just a single earbud on whenever I want to keep listening, without completely tuning out the world.

Does this mean you have to be learning all the time?

No, it doesn't. You can listen to music, watch videos that go nowhere or simply bounce back into Facebook. Even so, one of the key elements that make people smart is that they don't believe in inborn smartness.

The greatest champions on the planet aren't great because they were born that way. The gold medalists keep pushing themselves long after the silver medalist has gone home for the day.

I was pretty hopeless at cartoons

If you've seen my cartoons, you might not believe me, but I've seen some of the work coming out of the Psychotactics cartooning course. I can tell you quite categorically that even while drawing for the newspapers back in Mumbai, I wasn't as good at some of the work I've seen on the course.

So what makes a person better? It's constant learning. I was an aspiring copywriter, an aspiring marketer, an aspiring-everything you can think of. And this is the first piece of advice I gave the start ups.

What makes you great at your skill isn't some bolt of lightning coming down from the heavens. What makes you stand out is being super-knowledgeable in your field. Learning the pros and the cons of your profession instead of fluffing around trying to impress everyone else.

Is it obvious advice?

Sure it is. Everyone knows that you need to learn a lot in your own field. However, making the most of your time is where it counts. If you can read a transcript while standing in a queue at your supermarket, make sure you do just that. If you can make dosas for breakfast while reading a transcript, then go right ahead.

If on the other hand, you find you're struggling to keep up with your learning, add a bit of audio in your life. You don't have to remember everything you hear and I frankly don't. I have to put down the learning into an Evernote file so that I don't forget. To be brilliant, you have to find the ways t do things that seem impossible.

But do you have to pay attention to everything?

No, you don't. You want to get rid of the braggarts. The people who put those dollar signs on their site to entice you. Those people who make you feel like your subscriber list is so puny and how they're sending tens of thousands of subscribers through their funnels.

Even in the world of everything, you've got to pay attention to the people that fit your life and your philosophy. Which means that having a ear bud in your ear all the time may not suit you at all.

You may well be happy with learning a lot less so that you can be who you are. Even so, remember that the learning is non-negotiable. Do whatever it takes to learn a ton of stuff in your field, and you'll find that's what clients pay for.

Incredibly, tunnel vision learning won't get you as far as you could go. For that, you need to diverge and learn about areas where you have no expertise.

Part 2: Why You Need To Learn In Areas Where You Have No Expertise (And Have No Intention of Having Any Expertise).

In July 2013, I went through a life-changing experience.

My niece Marsha wasn't doing too well at school and as usual, everyone blames the student. I'm not a fan of that school of thought. I don't believe in bad students; I believe the responsibility of the student lies with the teacher.

It's one thing to make a statement and quite another to work through the problem. In this case, my goal was to make Marsha as good as, or better than any of the students in her year.

What I hadn't counted on was the fact that she was going to give me the lesson of my life

Before I started working with Marsha, I knew a lot about copywriting, about marketing etc. What I didn't know didn't bother me because I was in that tunnel focus trying to learn more about the things that affected my business.

When Marsha came along, she brought a thousand questions along with her. How are clouds formed? What are the names of all the types of clouds? Why can we see Venus so clearly at night? These questions led me down a road from which I have never recovered.

Do you know how Prussian Blue got into Hokusai's painting of the “Great Wave off Kanagawa”?

How does Google predict the common cold with astonishing accuracy? Why do wildebeest feast on one area of grass while ignoring the other? And what role does the volcano Oldoinyo lengai play in this epic migration? What are cyanobacteria? Why do geologists find the “boring billion” years not boring at all?

These questions have nothing to do with your business

Sitting down with Marsha—and we always sit down on the ground—near the sofa, taught me so much about the world around me. Then it went a bit further. My ability to write became better.

My ability to tell stories and do podcasts improved radically. In a short period of three years, I realised that I was a walking dummy. I knew a lot about the world of marketing and business but precious little else.

Creativity is the ability to connect two disconnected situations or objects together

As a cartoonist, as a comedian or artist, this something you learn quickly or you're doomed to failure. You can't just go around connecting the dots on your sheet of paper. The dots have to join from another sheet or even no sheet at all. To be creative means stepping into a world that's not your own.

When we look at hundreds of inventions, we see this creative streak of the disconnect showing up time and time again. Velcro, the rubber tyre, popsicles, microwave ovens, Post-it even matches were the result of random accidents.

Being smart involves knowing the world around you

History, geography, culture, geology—it all makes a huge difference to your work. Instead of just showing up in Egypt and losing yourself in the Pyramids, you might well notice that almost every block on the Giza pyramid has marine creatures.

There also happen to be sea creatures at the top of Mt.Everest. While this random stuff may seem to make no sense in isolation, you can quickly map the sequence of how things unfold.

Over time you get far more confidence and your brain becomes somewhat like a walking Internet

You realise you can see “shallow oceans” and “tectonic plate movements” where others just see “blocks of stone” at Giza. If that's all you could see and experience it would be fabulous. For me it's amazing to look up at a sunny sky and know, based on the number of cirrus clouds that it's going to get cold and rainy in 24 hours.

Just the confidence it brings you, knowing the world around you is fabulous, but it also brings connections to your work in ways you can't imagine until you start to learn about things that are widely divergent from your business.

The question is: Where do you get all of this information?

It's always been in books and magazines, of course. The New Yorker magazine has almost always jumped madly from malaria to construction; automation to the Suez Canal; The Beatles to Vermeer. And today they continue to do so like so many other magazines that cover a range of extremely interesting topics.

Equally, though are books that you can get on Amazon. Books that explore the concepts of meditation, puppet masters, alongside the Masai. Books and magazines are only part of the mix and you can learn from podcasts of every kind.

I listen to the New Yorker Hour of course, which tackles anything from Venezuela's crisis to a fascinating interview with Bruce Springsteen.

To be single minded in your pursuit of knowledge in your own field is a good idea

However, it's when you step out that you learn a lot more, become more confident and almost always make a connection that leads to a better life. You can almost guarantee that learning more in your field makes for some sort of advancement you can measure.

It's much harder to justify the time spent learning about volcanoes, clouds, Ayurveda and wildebeest. In fact, other than just random facts, it seems like a complete waste of time.

I'd advise you to go down the track of the randomness, even when your work-related learning already demands more time than you have.

To become smart, you need to learn. You need to implement

And sticking to the work-related stuff is already quite a task. Putting on the additional burden of learning stuff that's not remotely related to you may seem crazy, but I'd say take it on.

Which brings us to the most pertinent question of all: where do you find the time? Sure it's a great idea to learn about your work and about the world around us, but where's the time? And this was the most persistent question of all at the dinner. The answer is remarkably simple and leads right into the three-month vacation.

Part 3: Working with limits: the real secret to becoming smart

Imagine you had four months to write a book

Do you think given four months, you'd write the book in three months? This was the question we had to ask ourselves when we started Psychotactics back in August 2002. We were keen to run our business in a way that we had control over the business instead of the other way around. How could we take so much time off and still make our business successful? The answer, it seems, was so simple that it was hard to believe.

Put limits on your schedule—that's it

The most frequently asked question I get is: how do you manage to take three months off in a year? The answer is: we assume our year is nine months long. Yes, read that again: we assume our year is nine months long. Now imagine you've finally started up a business or let's assume you've been in business for a while. How long is your year?

The concept of limits is what makes you smart

If you look around the Internet today, you get two sets of people. People who seem to be working like maniacs to keep doubling their income or those who are supposedly living the Internet lifestyle but still check e-mail, do work at the beach etc while on vacation.

To each their own, I suppose, but hear me out. What makes your brain smart is downtime. Having time to rest allows all that connected and unconnected stuff come together. The brain works best when it's at rest. The way to give the brain a rest is to enforce limits.

Imagine you have only 90 minutes to write an article. What can you do in those 90 minutes?

Imagine you have only a limited number of ingredients in your pantry. How do you whip up a delicious meal?

And imagine you have only 9 months in a year. How do you finish all your work (and a lot more sometimes) without working every single day of the year? If you put limits on yourself, you start to become a lot smarter.

These limits don't have to stop at learning

Today we had a couple of people come around to give us new garbage stickers. The Auckland council is testing some sort of garbage system and as part of the trial we had to buy $20 worth of stickers that would last about 2 months.

When these guys came along to give us new stickers, we still had the same original bunch. In over two months we hadn't needed to use the garbage bin at all.

How's that possible, you say? Same as the three-month vacation, isn't it?

You think a three-month vacation would be impossible but we've done it almost year after year since 2004. The garbage situation takes a little planning. We take our own cloth bags everywhere. We take a container box when we dine out for takeaways (you may call it food to go).

We refuse all coffee in paper cups and have our own glass/plastic cups or we use the ceramic cups at the cafe. We don't take straws, plastic bags and will not buy stupid cucumbers wrapped in cling wrap. Ergo, little or no garbage. The rest of the stuff goes in the compost bin. Impossible? Of course not.

The key is to have a mind that imposes limits

If you really want to change your world, you have to believe you really have no time. Instead of a seven day week, make it a five day week and refuse to work on weekends.

Instead of a 12 month year, nine months should do nicely. Instead of trying to double your income all the time like some senseless woodpecker, try fixing your income to one that allows for tax, savings and a comfortable life.

Smarts come from limits

They also come from learning: both learning in the areas of expertise and totally outside the expertise range. The vast flow of humanity just amble along without really putting in the effort to make their work smarter—or even their breaks smart.

And so it goes, year in and year out without too much of change. It's easy to do average work and just be a hero on the Internet (or even off the Internet) today. It takes a smarter mind to do something really outstanding.

So what's the one thing you can do today?

Limits. Put limits on the world you live in and you'll see how you might never have much use for that massive garbage can. You may also be able to do almost all, if not more work in just 9 months of the year. You may be able to write, draw, sing and dance in a fixed time frame. And then you might have a much better life. A much smarter life.

All of this discussion came from that dinner with those startups. They set down the path of work; we went off tangent into this topic which was totally disconnected. And we could have stayed all night, but we had to leave. We had limits.

Try it. Get smarter in less time. And yes, start working towards a nine-month year.

You've told yourself you shouldn't be a perfectionist.

Yet time and time again you head back to getting things done—perfectly. And in the process you  get nothing done.
Find out :How To Smother Perfectionism With A Timer


Direct download: 127_How_To_Get_Smart_And_Stay_Smart.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

Did you know that landing pages fail almost at the headline stage?

We’re all told to create landing pages. So why do they fail?

The answer, it seems, can be found at any international airport. When planes land, they don’t land all at once. They land one at a time. Yet on a landing page, we scrunch the issues together. We throw everything at the page. That’s a mistake. And this episode tells you why it’s a mistake and how to fix it.

Click here to read: How To Write A Sales Page

Direct download: 126_Re-Release_How_To_Write_A_Sales_Page_From_The_Bottom_Up.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

It might seem like perseverance is a good thing. We've been told to persist in the face of odds. Yet, there are times when you should stop.

How do you know when to stop? And why bother to persevere when failure is waiting around the corner?

Find out why perseverance can be a real pain, and when it can be a blessing.

Click here to read: Why Persevere Even When Failure is Certain

Resistance seems like an overbearing force in our lives

We want to achieve a lot, but as soon as we get started, resistance kicks in. But did you know there are ways around resistance?

Resistance loves a loner. If you’re working alone, you’re just setting yourself for an encounter with resistance. Resistance loves to play the game of winner. We need to put resistance in second place. Here’s how to go about the task of winning the game.

Click here to read: How To Beat The Resistance Game

Direct download: 124_Re-Release_The_Resistance_Game_Part_1_-_Can_Resistance_be_Beaten-.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT