The Three Month Vacation Podcast: Vacations | Online Small Business | Sean D'Souza | Psychotactics







September 2016
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The moment we sit down to write an article, need a fair amount of research. Case studies, stories, they're all needed to create a solid article. Yet that very research causes us to spend so much time on our article, that we're exhausted. Is there a way to research without getting tired? In this two part series we explore the techniques I use to write extremely detailed articles. All of these articles are written without the overbearing exhaustion factor that seems to drive us crazy. Let's find out how to go about a strategy that works every single time.

Direct download: How_i_Write_4000-Word-Articles-Without-Getting-Exhausted-part2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16pm FJT

The biggest problem with article writing is the exhaustion factor. It's write, delete, write, delete and the endless cycle goes on. So how do you go about article writing? Can you really write articles and not get exhausted? In this series you get to see how I went from getting really frustrated, to writing 800 word articles and then 4000 word articles. What's the secret to such an enormous output? And how do you do it without getting exhausted? Let's find out how spacing the writing and the timer play an incredibly important role in writing.

Direct download: How_i_Write_4000-Word-Articles-Without-Getting-Exhausted-part1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16pm FJT

Having a vision is hard enough, but where most plans go off track is we scramble after every possible target. To keep our focus we have to have a hatchet person. But what is the role of the hatchet person? In Part 2 of this episode, we take a deeper look at focus.

Direct download: Episode_110-How_To_Make_The_Leap_From_a_Job_to_Business_Part_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

The leap may seem physical, but it's mostly mental. In your head 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 are the questions that spin in your head over and over again. This episode isn't an answer to your question. No one can answer the questions, but you. However, it helps you understand how to keep true to your vision, how to keep your focus in a distracted world. And then, how to take that leap.


Today I sat down to install one of my most-used programs: Dragon Naturally Speaking.

I use Dragon a lot in the membership site, on our courses and also for e-mail. So when I got a notification that a newer version of Dragon was available, I paid my $99, downloaded the software and started to install it.

Except it wouldn’t install

The software informed me I needed to upgrade from Yosemite to El Capitan —which is the Mac’s current operating system. And therein lay the problem. All my computers were humming nicely on Yosemite, and there seemed no need to rock the boat and install a new operating system. At least if I were having some trouble with the existing system, it would be worth the trouble, but I was doing just fine.

Then along came this new version of Dragon and it was forcing me to do something that involved a whole lot of risk.

When you’re in a job, it’s like living in Yosemite land

It’s not the best thing ever and you know there’s a world of entrepreneurship you’d rather explore. But it’s safe in Yosemite-land so why make the leap into the unknown? And how do you know things will work out anyway? You don’t. That’s the whole point of being an entrepreneur. You have no clue if or when things will work out. The only thing you know for sure is that change is happening. That the Dragon wants to be let loose in your world and you’re holding back.

I understand there’s a huge difference between taking a leap from a job into the world of business. I know that the fear is a lot greater when you have a family, a mortgage, and bills to pay. Yet, there comes a time when your hand seems to be forced. You can stay where you are, or you can take the leap.

In this series we deal with three recurring questions

1) Managing the fear
2) Keeping the vision strong
3) Focus—And why you need a hatchet person

Part 1: Managing the Fear

I hated my job as a web designer.
I’d just immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand in Feb 2000 and my priority was to find a job. Compared with India, where I came from, Auckland was terribly expensive. And anyway, I couldn’t see myself starting up in business right away. To my utter amazement, I found a job that was going to pay me $50,000 a year to build websites.

By the second day, I was ready to quit.

My wife, Renuka, wasn’t so sure

To get a job that was reasonably well-paying was not an easy task. At the time she was still in India, and she asked me to hang on until she showed up in the following month and got a job of her own. “Then you can quit your job if you like, ” she told me.

However, things don’t exactly pan out the way we imagine

When Renuka got to New Zealand, she found it hard to find a job that fit her position. For the next few month, she bounced between temporary jobs and at least at the time, my job was the one that paid the bills—and the mortgage. Barely three months after we entered the country, we bought ourselves a house and had a mortgage of $200k.

The week after we bought the house, I was made redundant.
The fat, it seems, was in the proverbial fire.

What I experienced was a no-choice situation

It wasn’t entirely no-choice. I could have clambered back into the job market and got myself another job. After all, I was pretty good at Photoshop, illustration and had a decent track record in copywriting. Instead, I decided to say goodbye to the workplace once and for all.

Put yourself in my shoes for a second: new country, we had no family in New Zealand, Renuka had only temporary jobs (that she hated just as much). Plus there was that small matter of a $200,000 mortgage.

A no-choice situation doesn’t give you time to be fearful

All of the fear comes from waiting. While you’re waiting to quit your job, a thousand thoughts go through your head. You wonder if you’re making the right decision. You worry about your future and the future of your family. And you look for a bit of a safety net online.

This morning as I wrestled with the Yosemite vs. El Capitan operating system, I went through a similar tug of war. I looked for a safety net as I have for the past year or so. I read through the reviews. And there were over 5000 reviews, some new some old.

Some saying the upgrade was a breeze, others claiming it was an absolute nightmare. All of this build up fear and frustration. You’re put in a position where you don’t really know what to do or whom to trust.

And yet the outcome has already been decided well in advance

The reason you’re reading this article is because you too want to escape from that cubicle but you don’t know how. And no one can answer the question for you. No one can tell you the right time to quit. To find out if it’s going to work, you have to force a redundancy.

Bass guitarist, Paul Wolfe had a real problem back in 2008 or so

Paul was a bass player in a band that played at weddings and functions. While the going was good, the band was kept busy and profitable. Then along came the recession of the 2000s. Paul talks about a situation where the floor seemed to disappear under his feet.

Soon gig after gig began to dry up. Paul was in a state of limbo, unsure what to do next. Unlike my situation where I was in a job one day and out on the street the next, Paul’s situation dragged out for months. However, faced with no option and rising debt, he decided to teach what he knew.

And what did he know?

He knew how to play bass guitar. Paul then set about creating a simple site which talked about how to play bass guitar. Then he started buying some rudimentary equipment to record videos. Posting video after video online, he created a sort of catchment area.

Aspiring bass guitarists would see his videos, and Paul used a bit of his marketing knowledge to drive them to his website and list. Today, Paul Wolfe does just fine with his guitar site. He’s into writing fiction novels on the side, bikes to work and lives a life that’s different from the one he once knew.


Part 2: Having a no-choice situation is probably the only way to deal with fear

You have to take the plunge, and so you do. The longer you wait, the more fear keeps you paralysed. When a Psychotactics subscriber, Kai Huang, asked me to write about “how to make the leap” this was one of the first questions: how do you deal with the fear? And the answer is, you can’t.

Once I was made redundant, I enjoyed the quiet for a few days and then I started knocking on doors. I went back to what I knew best and decided to sell my cartoons to advertising agencies, magazines, and newspapers. I was lucky that the Internet was still an unviable place back then.

I was lucky that e-books and fancy software were still to take off. If that were the case, I might have built a website and sat around and waited for a stream of clients to come through the door.

But I didn’t have that luxury

And so I decided to go out and do what freelancers do to this day: they go out and meet clients. They get freelance assignments. They spend time working on those assignments and get paid. If you sit around hoping that something magical will happen, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be back in your cubicle faster than you think.

If that so-called guru is exploiting your fear and telling you that his program will certainly get you to sell thousands of books, then you’re buying into the wrong idea. And it’s the wrong idea because the failure rate is extremely high. You can’t just waltz into a business and expect everyone to pay attention.

I got work freelancing, I taught some people how to use Photoshop, and then slowly but surely I had my first presentation. That presentation was a disaster, and the fear came rushing back.

But with some practice that fear went away. I spoke at tiny events like at a Rotary club. And with every outing, I tried to sell the spindly version of The Brain Audit (back then it was just 20 pages). And the fear diminished.

In 2001, a year after we moved to Auckland, Renuka quit her job

She had a high paying job at the giant beauty and cosmetic giant, L’Oreal. She had a two-hour daily commute; a rancid workplace atmosphere and a boss that took credit for everything. If you’ve met Renuka you know she’s a happy, jumpy person with a mischievous smile on her face. Some days she’d come home with tears in her eyes.

Then one day, she had enough

She just quit. We were still saddled with our mortgage. With all the freelancing it wasn’t like I was earning a lot. But we decided we couldn’t deal with the jobs. We needed to cover our bills, and that’s what we’d do. We cut back on our spending (just $150 for entertainment per month), and we did what we needed to keep ourselves happy.

And yet, Renuka wasn’t quite done with her career.

Even back then we’d go for a walk every day. And every day it seemed like I asked her the same question: “What will you do if something happens to me?” I’d ask. And her response was the same every time. “I’ll just get a job.”

This is 2016.
That was 2001.

We were more scared when we had the jobs than when we had no safety net at all

I’m not saying your story will turn out like ours. I’m just saying that the fear is greatest where you are right now—in that job. That once you get out of that job you’ll have to do something. It won’t be easy, and it may take a year, and definitely more. But the fear, that will be gone.

Gone forever.

That brings us to the end of the first factor: Dealing with fear. But let’s say we make the leap. How do we then maintain a sense of vision and focus? Let’s get started with vision because that’s probably the one thing that will keep you going when things get tough.

Keeping the Vision

Let me give you the short version of my vision.
You probably know this, but back in 2000, my website had the embarrassing name of “million bucks.”

That, in short, was my vision.

And yet that wasn’t my vision at all

Back in India, when I got my first job at Chaitra Leo Burnett, I had a very kind and protective boss: Tannaz Kalyaniwalla. All around me, there were creative people whose company I enjoyed.

And yet, despite the generosity and warmth of the people around me, I yearned to be free to do what I liked, when I wanted to do it. Which meant that if it were a rainy day and I wanted to stay at home and do nothing, that’s exactly what I could do. If I asked for leave, my boss never said no, but I didn’t like the thought of asking.

My earliest vision was to simply be free to do whatever I pleased.

This vision clashes strongly with reality

In the first few years, I could do whatever I pleased, but I had to pay the price for goofing off. I had to make sure I met with potential ad agencies and editors (when I was a cartoonist). When I moved over to marketing, it was all about getting in touch with potential clients and some incredibly mindless meetings.

Meetings where you spent three hours debating whether the logo should go ⅛th of an inch to the left or right. Add early morning drives to make presentations and the endless needing to learn new skills and the vision seems to be nowhere in sight.

Vision starts off being a tiny spark of an idea

In 2004, we’d only been selling The Brain Audit online for little over a year. We’d done two workshops for companies, and one workshop of our own. The few people we had on our e-mail list weren’t always enough, and we reached out to networking groups and friends of friends.

Even so, there was no reason to be optimistic because we were still working quite a lot. We worked all week and then on weekends too. Getting a business off the ground seemed to quite rough, and it’s not like we had a lot of expenses.

We were operating from a spare bedroom

We didn’t even have a computer of our own. Renuka would sit at the computer for an hour; then it would be my turn. And then an hour later, it was her turn again. We didn’t go around buying fancy equipment; even the books we read were all from the library (and we read hundreds of them).

The vision was shriveling. In that year alone we seemed to be moving away from the reason why we started the business. We started it to get more free time, not to double our income or get a squillion clients.

Which is why 2004 became our benchmark year

We were going to do something incredibly crazy: we were going to take three months off—just like that! Your vision may not be to take three months off. It may be to buy that mansion on the hill and take over half the countryside.

You may revel in the fact that you have 100,000 people on your list. We didn’t care much for all those trappings. For us, the vision of the three-month vacation embodied who were—and who we are.

When we take three months off, we have to make the other nine months really count

As a result, we got more efficient. It might seem like it’s easy to just scoot off on vacation, but like any project, it takes a lot of planning. And then when you get back, you need another plan, because you’re so relaxed that you don’t feel like working for quite a while.

I’d like to say it was all in place right at the start—this vision of the three-month vacation. But it wasn’t. And we still keep tweaking the way we work and we take our vacations.

Most businesses lose sight of their tuna sandwich

You’ve probably read or heard about this tuna sandwich episode because it was covered in articles and podcasts before. There’s this story in the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes.
And how Calvin is drawing up his list for Santa Claus. At which point, Calvin turns to Hobbes and says: What would you like for Christmas?

And Hobbes says: I’d like a tuna sandwich. Calvin thinks Hobbes is crazy because Calvin has a list that seems to have rocket launchers, trains, boats, and a whole bunch of stuff he wants for Christmas. And all Hobbes wants is a tuna sandwich.

As is inevitable, Christmas morn arrives

And Calvin is now throwing a massive tantrum because Santa hasn’t brought him all he wanted. And Hobbes sits with a big smile on his face and says: “I got my tuna sandwich.”
The tuna sandwich of your life can be incredibly simple. Hold on to that vision. Never let it go.

We too have our tuna sandwich

But there’s no telling when the winds change. In 2005, Renuka had an accident in the garden that required hospitalisation and three months off work. In 2009, we took on a personal project to help a family member. That made a big dent in the way we did things. And I think about the tuna sandwich every single day, even after all these years.

I’m super-generous with my time and advice (I know that), but I also need that down time to recuperate, to learn or just to enjoy a rainy day (and yes, we both love rainy days. Sunny days can be kind of boring).

Vision is hard to hold on to when you’re making the leap.

It sounds insane to do what you set out to do when there’s so much other stuff to be done.

But we kept the vision simple and worked around it.

You know the funny part about that million bucks?

Today we could stop working, and we could live the life of The Three Month Vacation for the next thirty years or more. We ditched the million bucks idea, and it came right after us.

Instead, we focused on what was important, our work, our clients and our break time. And in doing so, we continue to create the products we want, go to places we want, do the things we want. The vision, if you keep it strong, will breakthrough at some point in time. It had taken almost four-five years before we felt comfortable regarding revenue and clientele.

Even then there were some ups and downs. But the vision was always robust and straightforward. Keep it simple so that you can focus on it every single day. So that you know exactly what your tuna sandwich is all about.

Which takes us to our third question—our third point: why focus is going to need a hatchet person.

Part 3: The Hatchet Person (And Why It Helps Focus)

When you’re making a leap into the unknown, fear is the biggest factor.
Fear of making enough.
Fear of justifying the decision you’ve just made.
Fear of not knowing enough—of wanting to learn more.
It makes you eager to press every “buy now” button online, just so that fear can go away.
But fear is only one part of the leap. The other is focus.

And focus to me, is less about persistence and more about “getting rid of the distractions”

Which takes me to my first mentor Dough Hitchcock—also my first hatchet person

I didn’t know much about marketing, and at the time, Jay Abraham was easily one of the most well-respected marketers on the planet. There were other marketers, no doubt, but Jay seemed to be more eager to teach; to give.

Among those hundreds of books I borrowed from the library, there was one by Jay Abraham. That led to me getting on his list, and buying a book—a big, thick, blue book—that cost $300. We knew so little that the first thirty pages of that book took us months to implement. But now we were well and truly on Jay Abraham’s list. I wanted everything he put out, so imagine the day I got this long sales letter (and yes, sales letters came in the mail back in 2003).

He was having a seminar and to get a seat I needed to pay $5000

I should have been horrified. I lived in New Zealand. I was paying off this huge mortgage. $5000 in US dollars was approximately $11,000 NZ dollars back then. Plus there would be airfares, accommodation, transport and food costs involved. Yet I was happy to go and I excitedly told Doug Hitchcock about it.

You know what happened next, right?

Doug brought down his hatchet. He forbade me (as kindly as he could) from embarking on such a silly adventure. “What are you going to learn that’s worth $10k-15k?” he said. In effect he wasn’t stopping me from learning or buying into products, but he was certainly helping me focus. And being a hatchet person is not just restricted to money—which is the biggest struggle at the start—but also to other aspects.

Most entrepreneurs tend to be restless

They want to do it all. And I wanted to learn everything, do everything and promise everything. And that’s where my wife, Renuka, took over where Doug left off. To this day, I’m the one who conjures up dozens of possible products, workshops etc. and she gently cancels it off the list.

t doesn’t mean we don’t push ourselves. We take the weekends off, take our breaks and our vacations, but when we’re at work we still put in a decently long day. I am so happy for those who say they spend just 15 minutes in the office, but I know that to create great work you have to labour over it and make it better all the time. And yet, this restless nature you need to have a hatchet person.

Someone in your networking group could help

Maybe a friend who you could meet. It could be a coach, but it doesn’t need to be a coach. In 5000bc itself we have a taking action forum and people post their three goals (yes, only three) and they work through it bit by bit. You’ll find that if you ask for help, you’ll get it, but expecting to figure out everything yourself is the hardest task of all.

Your hatchet person has to have a single role

To get you to cut the stuff that you don’t need, so you can focus on what you have to do. And trying to find a mentor like Doug, is a laudable task, but it’s often not necessary. Clients often mention that it would be wonderful to have a “Renuka” around, but when they say that, they’re missing the point.

The point is that you live in a world where you may not have Doug or Renuka

And that you still have to make the leap and keep the forward movement. You can’t hope and wish. You have to find someone who’s good at getting you to stick to the three things you need to do. Once you get that momentum, you can add more, as long as you’re only ever working on three things at any given time. And should we forget, it’s the job of that hatchet person to bring us back on track. Focus is about elimination—that’s it.

Most people are too scared to make the leap and rightly so

I was afraid to go through putting El Capitan—the new operating software—on my computer. And guess what? There was this nervous wait and then it turned out to be almost fine. One of my programs wouldn’t work but it could be easily replaced. And that’s what you’re going to find as well.

Despite this leap into the crazy world of entrepreneurship, you’ll find that some “programs” may not work. But you’ll manage and then start to prosper. Most of all, you’ll never want to go back to a job ever again.

However, let’s see what we’ve learned because these three points are important.


1) The leap into the unknown is always scary

If it’s any consolation, I made it extremely hard for myself. I moved countries, changed into a career where I had almost no experience and then added the burden of a mortgage on top it all. You may find that you don’t want to do something so crazy. And so you give yourself a deadline and put away some money so you can last six months to a year.

Or fate may step in and throw you in the deep end like it did with Paul Wolfe—and with me when I was made redundant. However, one thing is clear. The fear is greater when you’re waiting than when you’re in the thick of things. When you’re in the thick of the action, you have to start executing and changing strategy to keep above water.

Start with consulting but then also do a bit of training and leverage. Please don’t buy into this idea that you can simply buy a program and you will have endless clients and income. And if you make the mistake of buying into it, it’s a lesson well learned. Move on and go out there in the real world and meet clients. The internet is fine too, but it’s not the only source of work.

2) Your vision will be pretty clear at the start and then greed may set in

You can’t help it. You read how some guy is making millions and you want to do the same. Or you may start to work endlessly and the things you set out to do, like spend time with the family, or just have some downtime—all that will get lost in the pressure to get your work done. This battle with work never stops and you have pull out your vision from the rubble and put it up on the wall yet again.

Keep the vision simple. My personal vision is The Three Month Vacation. My work vision is to care, guide and protect my clients. I may go off the road when life brings on its challenges, but the simplicity of the vision brings me right back to where I need to be.

3) Finally get a hatchet person

All this talk about focus seems more about keeping your head on the task. But how can you do that if you keep scampering off in every direction? This is where a hatchet person comes into play. You don’t need a fancy coach. You don’t have to find the perfect mentor.

All you need to do is find a friend in your networking group (someone you can meet once a week) or someone in an online group (like 5000bc). And that’s all you really need. You want to focus on three things and the job of the hatchet person is to ask awkward questions, and to cut down that scampering.

In India I grew up listening to a fable: called the Monkey’s Curse

To catch a monkey, a trapper would put lots of warm, fragrant rice in an earthen pot. The mouth of the pot was small enough for the monkey to slip an open palm, but the moment he clutched the rice, he couldn’t free himself. To be free he needed to let go. But the monkey was desperate for the rice and stayed long enough for the trapper to throw a net. And then the monkey was trapped for life.

We had to battle the Monkey’s Curse many times. We wanted to hold onto what was safe, what we knew. It was no fun stepping into the unknown. I can’t speak for you, but I know that if I could go back in time, I would still be afraid.

Then, I’d jump.

Next Step:

1) Have a look at The Brain Audit to start your journey:

2) Join us at 5000bc and make the leap from a job to starting your own business.



Direct download: Episode_110_How_To_Make_The_Leap_From_a_Job_to_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:07am FJT

So Kathy Sierra and her husband have a bestseller on their hands but we've only seen two of the ideas being explained. What is the third, if slightly confusing idea? Here's Part 2.

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 most 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.


To find out about their open secret, let’s take a trip into Kathy Sierra land.

Part 1: Dependence on memory
Part 2: Not Identifying Confusion
Part 3: The Perfect Life


It was the around the year 2000

Technology companies that just months prior were considered extremely, reported huge losses and folded. These losses created a economic cascade which came to be known as the dotcom crash. Stuck in the middle of this seemingly thermonuclear disaster were thousands of programmers.

One of them was a woman called Kathy Sierra.

If you’ve ever dipped your toes into the programming language, JAVA, you’re likely to have heard of Kathy Sierra

Her book series “Headfirst Java” has sold well over a million copies. If you look back at the past ten years or more, there’s Sierra’s book—one of the longest running bestsellers of the decade.

Yet, Sierra isn’t like one of those in-your-face Internet marketers. Her blog is untended. She jumped off social media back in 2007 and only reluctantly got back online in 2013. She speaks at conferences, but it’s a rare treat.

But back to Sierra’s disaster story

According to Sierra, back in the late nineties and in the year 2000, anyone landing a job in a dotcom company could get stock options. And then along came the implosion of the dotcoms, and her shares were worth nothing. And this is what Sierra says: “Anyway, I needed a job. I am probably as old as most of your parents.

If you are trying to get a job as a programmer when you are competing against people who are half your age — and granted, I was not the most awesome programmer. I was very decent. And we needed regular income. I said we because, my husband, also a programmer, also the same age, same problem. And we had two kids and a dog.”

In short, Kathy Sierra was seemingly at a dead end when she wrote her first book, “Headfirst Java”.

Yet, Sierra believes in the concept of consumption. Consumption is when you create a product or service that’s so easy to understand and use, that progress is inevitable. Instead of floundering and flipping back to Page 3 or 6 or having to refer back, the reader is able to move forward confidently.

Today we’re going to dig deep into that concept of consumption from a Sierra-point-of-view

If you’ve followed Psychotactics, you’ll probably be more than aware that consumption has been a driving force of our business since 2006, possibly even earlier. However, I really like Kathy’s work. I really like her passion. I even like the name “a brain-friendly guide”—that’s the title on all her books.

And though I won’t ever bother with Java, there are three concepts of Sierra’s consumption model I’d like to share with you.

Ready? Well, here goes: Why do people/readers get stuck?

Factor 1: Dependence on memory
Factor 2: Not Identifying Confusion
Factor 3: The Perfect Life.

Let’s get cracking with the first element: dependence on memory.

Factor 1: Dependence on Memory

In a BBC documentary, Michel Thomas, master language teacher, looks around a classroom filled with desks. The sunlight is streaming through the windows, but Thomas’ face is slightly grim, as if he’s reaching for a painful memory.

“This reminds me of my own classrooms”, he says. “As a child, as a youngster in high school. And it was (education) always under stress. One had to associate learning with work, with concentration, with paying attention, with homework. Work, it’s all work. But learning shouldn’t be work. It should be excitement.

It should be pleasure. And one should experience a constant sense of progression with learning. That is learning to me. A teacher is someone who will facilitate and show how to learn.”

Thomas’ classroom looks very different from the traditional classroom

The desks are gone. The students help cart in their own furniture, mostly sofas. Plants show up, so does a carpet and the scene resembles a cozy version of your living room than a classroom.

Yet what Michel Thomas says at the start of every learning session is far more important

This is what he says: I’m going to set up a very important rule, a very important ground rule, and that rule is for you never to worry about remembering. Never to worry about remembering anything and therefore not to try.

Never “try to remember anything from one moment to the next. This is a method with the responsibility for your remembering and for learning is in the teaching. So if at any point there’s something you don’t remember, this is not your problem. It will be up to me to know why you don’t remember, individually, and what to do about it.”

Kathy Sierra calls this phenomenon “the Page Vaporiser” moment

So what is the Page Vaporiser moment? Sierra describes it this way: “Imagine that you’ve written a book, and when the user turns the page, the previous page vaporises. There is no going back.

No one can ever turn back. It’s not even an option. What would you do differently to make this work for them? If you knew they couldn’t go back? Or if it was a  video, they can’t—there is no rewind. It’s just one time. It’s like they’re sitting in a theatre, watching a movie. What would you do?

Michel Thomas died in 2005, but the message lingers on: Never “try to remember anything from one moment to the next. That’s almost exactly what Kathy Sierra is saying. That the dependence on memory is a problem. It means that you as a teacher, writer, video creator—you’ve not done your job as well as you should.

Kathy Sierra and her husband weren’t writers

They just loved Java so intimately. It was the one thing they adored and so they decided to write about it. They didn’t know squat about writing or publishing. They even ran headlong into a mountain of rejection slips until finally the publisher, O’Reilly decided to give them a chance.

But the real magic, or madness, is that they needed the money desperately. With both of them out of a job, they needed to get their revenue from the book sales alone.

When Sierra and her husband, sat down and expressed their source of income, they got a hearty laugh in return.

Their editor said: You’re going to have to be in the top two or three selling books for this programming language. So they look up Amazon and there are not 500, or a thousand results. There aren’t even 10,000.

There are a whopping 27,078 results. They decide to filter the search string to two words, “Java Programming”. And there are still 16,348 results.

“Nobody knew us. We weren’t writers. We had no marketing budget. And the whole Internet said it was just mostly luck.”

But Kathy and her husband knew that the book needed to work. They had kids. There was the dog and being middle-aged meant their prospects of work were terribly bleak. They started out the process by looking at the competition and it staggered them how many books were just fabulous.

They couldn’t beat over 16,000 books by making their book slightly better. So they went for a goal that most books—and I mean any books, not just Java Programming books—miss to this day. They set out to write a book where the page would vaporise the moment after you read it.

The problem was that most people weren’t finishing the books

“They were getting stuck. And everyone accepted that,” says Sierra. Nobody reads programming books all the way through. We thought… How can they actually possibly learn if they don’t keep reading it? It doesn’t matter how great the book is. We realised that a lot of these things don’t really matter if people don’t keep going.

So now we knew what it was that we’d have to do. We could compete on forward flow. Just getting people to keep going.”

Michel Thomas started training language students in a manner that requires no memorisation.

Kathy Sierra’s book—same thing. No need to memorise anything. It’s all forward movement. Of course if you’ve been following Psychotactics for a while, you’ll know how this forward movement works. All of the memorisation problems arise because of intimidation. If I ask you to go down to the store and buy me a bottle of full fat milk, you don’t have much to remember do you? There’s zero intimidation involved. But imagine you’re in a foreign country.

Now you have the burden of having to figure out the location of the store and trying to say full fat in German, or Italian or Hindi for that matter.

The moment you break down things into small bits, your client moves forward instead of being frozen on the previous page

When you look at why you seem to fly through reading The Brain Audit, you can see how the seven red bags create an analogy. Do you have to remember the analogy? No you don’t. But what about the red bags? As you progress through the book, every bag is not only explained in detail but every so often there are graphics and reminders of what you’ve learned.

Not only what you’ve learned but what you’re about to learn

The reason why you find Psychotactics books so easy to read is not because of some great or amazing writing. It’s because of the structure of the book; the way the cartoons remind you about what you’ve learned; the way the summary helps you remember; the way the graphics stick around, not just for decoration but with a perfectly good reason in mind.

That reason is the lack of dependence on memory

It’s not like we haven’t created bad products or training before. We have. When I first started out at Psychotactics, I remember giving a workshop in Auckland. The workshop was two days long, and had a barrage of information. One person literally fell asleep after lunch. And yet I ploughed on with the training. I felt it was my job to keep the workshop going until the very last minute. I felt that books needed to be 200 pages long.

And now I know better

The goal is not information. It’s skill. If you, as the client read Kathy Sierra’s books and don’t learn how to program in Java, she’s failed in her job. If you take on French or Italian or German and Michel Thomas doesn’t make you feel like a native speaker, he’s failed.

I started out with books that were 200 pages long. And sometimes the book needs that much depth and sometimes it doesn’t. The uniqueness course notes were a little over 90 pages (I think). And the Storytelling course notes were a lot less than that.

“We found people were going backwards” says Kathy Sierra. “And they were getting confused. And that takes us to our second point. What causes the confusion? Let’s find out.


Factor 2: Not Identifying Confusion

The moment you bring up the term, “Bermuda Triangle”, many of us think of the word “disappear”.

There’s a reason for why we associate disappearance with the Bermuda Triangle. Back in 1964, writer Vincent Gaddis wrote in the pulp magazine Argosy of the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle: three vertices, in Miami, Florida peninsula, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda. And it was in this “triangle” that planes and ships seemed to mysteriously disappear.

Imagine you’re a captain out at sea in the mid-Atlantic

You probably don’t believe a word about the Bermuda Triangle. You know it’s a myth. There’s no basis for ships or planes disappearing. Yet you know that should your vessel disappear, this would be the place where the crazy stuff happens. You know you’re in crazy waters and you’re expecting the worst and preparing for the best.

Kathy Sierra recognised the Bermuda Triangle of Java Programming

She knew that to-be programmers were getting hopelessly lost at certain points in time. The reason why they lost their way was because they didn’t know they were in rough seas. As you go through a book, for instance, you move ahead progressively. Then suddenly you find yourself struggling. And the way we work through the struggle is to try and barrel our way through the problem. But then the confusion persists and it’s at this point that we just give up.

When we conduct the Article Writing Course, there’s one point where everyone struggles

It’s called the First Fifty Words. The First Fifty Words are the opening portion of your article. We all know how hard it is to get started on an article, but even so, when you’re on a course, you expect that the guidance will keep you going. You’ve read the notes; listened to the audio; gone over the assignment. And the assignment isn’t just a hit and run. The assignment stretches over a whole week. Surely, that’s enough to understand and implement the lesson.

But it’s not. It’s rough work

And as a teacher, I should have realised it earlier. But until 2015, a whole nine years after I first offered the Article Writing Course, I didn’t have the insight to spot the problem. Only in 2015, did I allocate two whole weeks to the First Fifty Words. Only in 2016 did the First Fifty Words section move earlier in the course, instead of later. It was the roughest, toughest patch of ocean and I didn’t tell clients it was difficult.

And when I mean “tell”, I mean I did tell them. But it’s not enough to tell. You have to make changes so that the client doesn’t give up.

A book is different from a course

A book doesn’t have a teacher hovering around your assignment. You’re out on your own and you don’t realise that everyone is struggling at Page 45. You think it’s just you. And if you knew well in advance that Page 45-85 was going to be a Bermuda Triangle, you’d be more watchful, but you’d also know you’d finally be out of the Triangle. And that would give you the impetus to battle through.

This point—this one point—it’s a real pain for me as a teacher

As a teacher, a trainer, a writer—it’s like a big slap in the face. I know there are points in every course where you run into difficulty. Well, sometimes you know and sometimes you realise it when you see clients struggling. And yet, you’re not sure what to do. If you were to tell the client that they’re approaching a difficult patch, would it make things a lot harder? Or do you let them sail right into that stretch and get hammered?

And today I tend to agree with Kathy Sierra

I tell clients: this First Fifty Words stuff, it’s hard. It’s going to make you feel like you can never get to the other side. And yet it’s not you. You’re not the one that’s the problem. The problem is the problem. Of course, the way to get through a difficult learning is to make sure that you break things down into smaller bits. Like my badminton coach did when I was playing badminton back in 2008.

I struggled with overhead shots

The moment the opponent would hit the shuttlecock high in the air, there was a good chance I’d lose the point. Either I’d find the shot to hard to take, or my return was so poor that the opponent would smash it back onto my side of the court. What I didn’t know was that many rookie players struggle with the overhead shot. My coach told me so and proceeded to break up the shot into four stages.

Stage 1: Sight the shuttle and get under it.
Stage 2: Raise left hand up and grip the racquet a bit harder.
Stage 3: Step forward just a little bit, as if to smash (this puts your opponent on the defence).
Stage 4: Smash or just do a tiny drop shot (the opponent would be too far back to get to the drop shot).

In my estimate, we did this routine about 800 times

Not all at once, of course. We’d do it for a while, go back to playing a bit and then it was back to the four stages. At first I was completely foxed with all the four stages, but he’d always get me to do one thing at a time. To make sure I wasn’t distracted by the entire routine, he’d get me to hit an imaginary shuttlecock, over and over again. What you’re noticing here is what Kathy Sierra seems to emphasise upon.

You have to tell the client that what they’re about to embark upon is difficult.
You have to break it up into smaller bits, so that the client can manage the routine.

This step of identifying the confusion doesn’t make the learning easier. But the client knows the stage is temporary, and typical. And that struggling is appropriate. And it’s not just you, but everyone who struggles.

Confusion is part of the learning process

Kathy Sierra’s book started out as a rank outsider, then moved to a million copies. Today it’s closing in on two million copies. In the last decade she’s written just one other book—that’s it. That first book alone has helped her live the life she wants, with her kids and dog and from what I hear, horses.

Telling the client that they’re facing a potential Bermuda Triangle seems to be, um, so tiny.

It seems almost insignificant. And yet it’s what we all want, right? That’s the second point that Kathy Sierra figured in her journey to write a book that beat all those 16,000 books on Amazon.  Sure we dealt with the Page Vaporiser and making things so simple that the client doesn’t have to remember. And that when things get difficult we need to tell them and use isolation to break down the steps.

But it doesn’t stop there.

There’s a third point and it’s called “the rest of their life”.
What does that mean?

Factor 3: The Rest of Their Life

When I bought my fully electric car, the BMW i3, I was excited beyond words.

I’ll tell you why.

The car I drove before the i3 was a Toyota Corolla. Dark blue; never given us a day of trouble in close to ten years, but yes a Corolla. A Corolla with a CD player, no fancy bits and pieces and yes, not even a USB. Which is why I felt like Neil Armstrong going to the moon when I first got into the i3. All these whiz bang buttons, automated parking, and yes, the USB—and bluetooth.

Then my head went for a swim. Overwhelm filled my brain. And I had to read the manual.

This is precisely what Kathy Sierra has been railing against in the past 10 years or so

When you buy a camera, you get all these glossy representations of what the camera can do. Then you pick up that big juicy DSLR camera and you’re stuck in auto mode. So why won’t you go from auto mode to taking pictures like all those great photographers.

It’s because of the camera makers and car makers —and we the book writers and course creators. We pretend that the rest of our clients life doesn’t exist. We somehow expect that a client will buy our book, and that the dishes will get washed. While the client reads our book, the plants will get watered and a perfect three-course meal will be set so we can pick at our food—while reading that book.

We create products and services for unreal people

Instead of seeing them as a readers, we need to see our clients as users. When I buy a car, I need to use it, not read a manual. When I bought your amazing camera, I was already in auto mode, I didn’t need a fancy DSLR auto mode. I need to be thought of as a user, not a buyer, not a client, not a reader. I need to be able to use what I just bought.

But no, we run into stupid manuals (and I can assure you the BMW manual is a real downer)

So then we turn to the Internet. To access the fun features of my car on an app, I had to find the VIN number. That’s the Vehicle Identification Number (no I didn’t know what it meant). So I did a search on Google and guess what? I ran into a bunch of forums.

And I don’t know about you, but there are some real creeps on forums. A newbie like me was asking where to find the VIN number on the car. And these guys on the forums were mocking him. No one seemed to want to answer the question. They simply said, “it’s everywhere”.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my i3

I found how to use it with an amazing video on Youtube (made by BMW themselves). But I wish they’d have treated me more like a user than a buyer. And this is what you’ve got to realise when you create a product or service; a book or course; and yes, even a presentation or webinar.

I should be able to use your advice right after I experience your product or service. I don’t have time to go through yet another manual, because the garbage has to be taken out and dishes are waiting to be washed.

Kathy Sierra goes on and on about this user experience

So does Michel Thomas.

And this idea of “the responsibility of the learning” is important. It lies with the teacher, not the student. When they buy your book or do your course and they can’t get to the end, it’s because they have a life and you didn’t consider that life. You just created something that suits your needs and ego. When you consider that the clients have a life beyond your product, you design it differently.

You stop writing your books like they were a manual

You start writing it as you were talking to a friend at a cafe.

Of all the three points, Kathy Sierra covers, this one, about the “rest of their lives” is the most conceptual. It seems almost like it needs more breathing space and growing space. But there’s a germ of an idea which is why it’s here in this article. The idea that if your product isn’t sort of self-explanatory, then the rest of my life takes over. And I, as the buyer of your product, don’t get to enjoy it as much as I should or could.

Considering that users have a life makes you a more compassionate creator of products; courses; webinars and presentations. That you somehow need to write or create things in a way that bestow a superpower—just one superpower if needed—so that the client can use that power to get another power and another power. And this is despite life sneaking in.

Yes, this last point is a bit shaky. But it’s something we need to think about, because even if we were to ignore this last point, the entire message is strong. So let’s review what we’ve just learned, shall we?


Factor 1: Get yourself a page vaporiser.
Can I remember what you just said? If I have to go back several times, your message was probably too complex. To sort out the problem of memory, you can use graphics, cartoons, captions, and yes, a summary like this one.

Factor 2: The second point is remarkably simple: Tell the clients when they’re headed to dangerous waters.
Clients feel like they’re the only ones who are not getting it, when in fact everyone doesn’t get it. If something is difficult, tell them it’s difficult. Like for instance this last point about “having a life”, yes, the third point. I get the point conceptually, but it’s hard to understand what to do. So I have to let you know that it’s a difficult point and that it’s not just you.

Factor 3: Of course we get to the last point: the one I had the most trouble with. The distinction is between a user and client. Your client needs to be seen as a user so they can use that camera, use that software and not have to wade through a manual. They have a life and if your product or service is not easy, that life takes over.

Of all the three points above, there’s one point you can use right away: Telling your client when things are going to be difficult and then telling them when the all clear has been sounded. That is the simplest, most effective thing you can do today.


The responsibility for the learning lies with the teacher.
If you don’t understand something, it’s not your fault. It’s mine.

So said Michel Thomas.

As a parent, trainer, presenter, coach or writer, it’s easy to blame the student. Michel Thomas would disagree. I’d recommend you watch some of the videos on YouTube by Michel Thomas and also read Kathy Sierra’s non-Java book called “Badass: Making Users Awesome”.

Next Up: How We Sold $20,000 On Stage (In Under An Hour)


Writing a sales page can be a real drag

You start, stop, start and stop. But is it possible that you’re writing a sales page in an inefficient way?

What if you started writing the landing page from the bottom up? What if that bottom up method got you to create a quicker and far superior sales page for your product or service?
Find out a simple, tested method that works time after time using the bottom up technique of writing sales pages.


26 Olympic medals

22 of those medals were gold.
You know his name because almost anyone following the Olympics knows his name.

As Michael Phelps stepped up to the starting blocks, the eyes of the world bounced between Phelps and his biggest rival in the race: South African Chad Guy Bertrand Le Clos. Their short and intense rivalry had fired the imagination of the press.

No one was particularly fixated on Singaporean, Joseph Isaac Schooling

Schooling it seems was the underdog. No pushover in the pool, Schooling had won the bronze at the 2015 World Championships. He’d been clocking up wins in the Asian, Commonwealth and South East Asian competitions. But at the finals 100 metre butterfly event, he seemed slightly outgunned.

When you’re dealing with copywriting and a sales page, the spotlight always seems to veer between the headline and the opening paragraphs. Other elements of the sales page seem to have a much shorter, less important stature. Yet it’s these seemingly obscure elements that are the powerhouse of the page.

If you’ve been frustrated with the process of writing a sales page, there’s a quick, more efficient way to the finish line. And it starts not from the top down, but instead from the bottom up. And this is why we’ll look at three factors in this article.

Factor 1: The bullets
Factor 2: The features and benefits
Factor 3: The target profile (even when you don’t have one).


Factor 1: The Bullets

Last week I bought a new car.

Not just another car, but a kind of car I’d waited for since I was 12 years old. An electric car.

An electric car that was tiny, responsive and had a rich pedigree of car engineering.
I bought myself a BMW i3 and plugged into the socket to charge—yes, just like a toaster.

I’m no car fanatic

I don’t revel in terms like torque.
But a week later if you asked me to describe the car, I’d go into a slight rhapsody. I’d do what most of us would do when asked about a product or service. I’d spit out the bullets.

It’s the greenest car on the market

It’s the most efficient electric car you could buy at this point in time.
It’s not a monstrous hulk. It’s sub-compact.
Did I tell you that you can park it by using gestures? Imagine doing that in a car park.

You could do the same for any product or service

You could describe your house using bullets.
Your computer? Your home town? The cafe you visit? All of them could be described with a series of bullets.

And seasoned copywriters tend to avoid the headline and opening paragraphs of a sales page

They start with bullets instead. They sit down and write 10, 20, 30, even 60 bullets for a single product or service. And that’s what you should do too. When you write bullets, you get into a brainstorming trance of sorts.

Try it.

Try it right now.

Sit down and make a list of a service like a cafe. The way to go about it is to break up the service into sections. So if you’re writing bullet points about a cafe, for instance, you’d have main topics. e.g. the food, the drink, the ambience, location etc. It’s pretty much what you’d expect to see on an AirBNB listing online. Those points, they’re bullets.

When you tackle a product, a similar method applies

Several years ago I wrote a series of books that I was very proud of called ‘Black Belt Presentations’. I realised that people get on webinars all the time and do a terrible job. They also have to make presentations either in person or via audio.

And they tend to be so verbose and unfocused. So this series of books were about three main topics (yes, it’s always a good idea to break up any product into sections). The topics were about “slide design”, “presentation structure” and “crowd control”. And every single one of those books had different elements that when compressed, formed bullets.

For example:
Part 1: Controlling Presentation Design or DIY Slide Design: How to create stylish slides without driving yourself crazy.

Understanding the ‘proximity of elements’ and why it avoids visual chaos
The power of invisible lines and how they help avoid distraction—and increase focus
Why a simple colour palette saves you endless amounts of preparation time
How to avoid ‘unwanted noise’ by choosing uncluttered backgrounds

Why 95% of your slides need just one thought for max impact
The palm test: How to get rid of unwanted and distracting graphics
How to use the power of size to make graphics pop on your slides
Two core methods to instantly increase curiosity on every slide
Why most photos/graphics are flat on slides and how to bring them to life instantly!
How to avoid busting your budget on photos/graphics
Easy ways to stretch your budget without compromising on quality

How masking and transparency make graphics stand out
Why most graphs are confusing—and why to avoid 3-D completely
How to transform graphs into powerful visual data that make audiences sit bolt upright
How to avoid the downsides of animation
The secret of how ‘invisible’ animation helps reduce surprise
Handy presentation resources to help improve your presentation skills

Every product or service has dozens of points that can be covered

If you look at the pencil lying right in front of you, you could cover at least 10 interesting points. In your case, the product or service you’re selling is going to be way more complex. You could easily generate between 30-50 bullets on that product or service alone—provided you break it up into sections first.

I know I’m repeating myself here, but bear with me

I’m looking out of my office and I see a shed. I see the sections: the roof, the exterior, the interior etc. I can’t stress how important it is to break up a product or service into sections before writing the bullets. If you lazily look at the shed, you’ll have very little to write. Break it up into sections and your brain starts to co-operate. Suddenly you have a ton of bullets.

And once you have a mountain of bullets you’re done with Stage 1 of writing your sales letter.
It’s time to move to the second stage: the features and benefits.


Factor 2: The features and benefits

At one point or another, we’re likely to have been to a buffet.
Spread in front of us is a variety of food all beckoning to us at once.

And so we decide on a temporary strategy where we try just a little of everything.

The bridge from bullets to features and benefits is somewhat like a buffet

About 15-20 minutes later, we realise the futility of such a strategy, because we’re clearly overeating. No matter how little we take of everything, the little bits add up to a lot.
With a little work we can drum up between two-three dozen bullets.

And if we try to turn every single bullet into a feature or benefit, we end up with a sales page that’s an overkill. There’s way too much for the reader—they’re stuffed too quickly. The best strategy when moving between bullets and features is to pick about 7-8 of the most valuable bullets.

But how are you supposed to know which ones to pick?

The act of writing bullets is akin to brainstorming. You have some great points and some that are less interesting. In an ideal situation the best judge of what’s interesting or not is the client. But let’s assume you’re working all by yourself, you’re going to have to trust your own judgement.

Let’s go back the ‘Black Belt Presentations’ series yet again and pull up some bullets

How examples can save your bacon when you’re running out of time
How to get a good chunk of your audience to sign up for more information
Why a break in the middle of your presentation improves conversion

Out of those three bullets which ones got your attention?

The least interesting was the “sign up for information” bullet. The “examples” and “running out of time” ranked higher. But there’s not a shred of doubt that the “break in the middle” and “improving conversion” is the most powerful of all. That’s what you need to pull aside because we’re going to take that bullet and turn it into a feature or benefit.

When writing a feature or benefit, use a simple formula

The formula goes like this: problem + curiosity.

Hence the bullet we chose might read like this: Wondering why the audience claps but you get poor conversions? Speakers thrive on audience applause, yet some speakers get a thunderous applause, plus have a high conversion rate. How do you increase your conversion rate by using a little known “break in the middle” technique? How can you improve your webinar or seminar conversion rate almost overnight?

You could clearly spot the problem and solution couldn’t you?

It’s about speakers that get applause but the sales don’t match the audience response. And then right after the problem we had a set of points/questions that ramped up your curiosity. You may have been a little keen to know what the “break in the middle” technique was all about. You’d have been chomping at the bit to figure out who to improve your webinar or seminar conversion rate.

If you’ve got a slightly expensive product or service, go with 7-8 features and benefits

Features and benefits are usually a paragraph of 3-4 lines long, so don’t stuff too much on the reader’s plate. 4 x 8 = 32 lines to read and that’s more than enough for the prospect to make up his or her mind. If you have a less expensive or simpler product, you may want to reduce the features and benefits to about 4-6.

There’s no right figure and if you choose to run with 7-8 every single time, that’s perfectly fine. The only criteria you have to consider is the problem + curiosity. If you have those elements in place, you’ve managed to write some great features and benefits.

What’s even more vital is you’re not stuck at this point

Remember the times when you tried to approach the sales page from the top down? Remember how long it took you to get started? When you start at the bottom with the bullets and work your way to the features and benefits, you’re moving at a relatively frenetic pace. You could spend the morning writing the bullets, take a lunch break and by 5pm you could be well on your way to finishing the features and benefits.

There’s just one itty-bitty problem

Having a client would make this process simple and reliable. But what if you don’t have a client? What if you can’t do a target profile interview in advance? Let’s find out how we clamber our way to the top of the sales page despite having a terrible disadvantage.

Let’s move to Part 3: Getting the top of the sales page (even without a target profile).


Factor 3: Getting to the top of the sales page (even without a target profile)

Do you know when the world had a massive recession that lasted over 19 months?
If your mind automatically went back to the Great Depression, you’d be slightly off the mark.

The correct year was 2009

2009 was what the International Monetary Fund called the Great Recession—the worst the world had faced since World War II. So guess what headline was topmost in my mind as I planned to conduct a workshop in Campbell, California? Yes, you probably guessed correctly. I was conducting a website masterclass workshop, the headline was about how your website could beat the recession.

Until a client told me I was hopelessly off the mark and that she wasn’t interested in the recession at all.

When we write a sales page, we often make a fundamental mistake

We don’t talk to or interview a client about our product or service. Instead, we often write what we perceive to be true. Like for instance the headline I wrote about the recession which had zero interest for the client. And it’s a mistake I made many times over before I realised that the best way to write a sales page is to interview a client.

But what if you don’t have a client?

This is the problem that many of us face when we’re just starting up, or even when starting up a new project. And finding a prospect, let alone a client might seem quite impossible. A lot of business owners start to go around in circles at this point. They can’t find the prospect so they can’t write the sales page and without sales, well, you know how the story goes, don’t you? Which is where you the bottom-up structure comes to our rescue yet again.

We started out with the bullets, chose 6-8 features and benefits

From those 6-8 features, 2-3 may turn out to be really powerful. When going through the brainstorming stage and churning out bullets, it’s hard to know which bullets are great and which are not.

But by the time we get to the features and benefits, we seem to pick the ones that resonate more strongly than the rest. And finally, if we were to narrow it down to 2-3, we could eventually get to just one point and make that the biggest problem on the sales page.

When I first wrote the text for the sales page of The Brain Audit, I didn’t have a target profile

It was early 2002, and hardly anyone was selling products, let alone e-books on the Internet. I had just one client, the owner of a sofa store, who though very friendly and helpful, wasn’t going be of much use with the sales page of The Brain Audit. And so I took a stab at the most important point—the most important feature—and made it my headline.

Which is why you see the headline: Have you seen a customer back out of a deal at the very last minute? on the sales page.

I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote that headline. But it was the strongest headline out of the list of bullets. And so it went to the top. It formed the basis of a headline. Once the headline was in place, I continued to write the rest of the text.

And no, you don’t have to believe me because the proof of how I got to the whole conveyor belt story is sitting on You can see how the features and benefits have the very same idea and how that concept got transferred to the headline and the opening paragraph.

And you can do the same if you don’t have a target profile or prospect

You can work your way up from the bullets to the features and benefits. You can then pick the one that most resonates and drive home that problem and solution. However, this advice isn’t what I’d recommend. The sales copy for The Brain Audit worked and has stayed reasonably consistent since 2002. Yet, it could have gone horribly wrong.

The text I wrote for the 2009 workshop didn’t do any of this “resonating bit” with anyone

Luckily I had the client who said her biggest problem was that her list was too small. She wanted to know whether I could show her a way to run a business even though she had a tiny list. In the case of The Brain Audit, the bottom up method worked—and it might work for you in a pinch. But my advice is to keep searching for a prospect—for two specific reasons.

Reason 1: If you can’t find a prospect, there’s a good chance your product or service is a non-starter

The biggest reason why a product or service fails isn’t because of the quality of the product or service itself. Often it’s because the writer doesn’t understand the pressing problem. If you have the best product or service in the world but there’s no clear need for it, your product or service is unlikely to succeed. If you are endlessly searching for a prospect, it’s a good chance your product or service is a dud.

Reason 2: While you can guess your way to the headline and first paragraph by using the bottom up method, you’re also missing out on the emotional language of the prospect or client.

When a client speaks, they go back in time to the time when they were deeply frustrated. Their language is laced with deep rivers of emotion. This emotion is what makes your sales page come alive.

The reason why many sales pages are boring is simply because they lack the power of the client’s language. Finding a prospect or client is critical to making sure your sales page (and sales text) gets other clients to respond and buy your product or service.

Something is better than nothing

When you’re not going anywhere in a hurry, the most efficient and speedy way forward is to build your sales page from the bottom up. Start with the bullets, work your way to the features and benefits. Finally pick one of the most powerful points in the features and benefits and use that to start your sales page.

And that’s how you quickly get a sales page up and running.
When the media looked at Schooling, we didn’t think about him being an underdog.
They didn’t think of him at all.
They were focused something completely different.

And that’s the problem we have with writing a sales page. We tend to start with the big dogs: the headline and the opening paragraphs. We don’t ignore the bullets but we don’t realise the value of working your way upwards.

The next time you’re writing your sales letter start from the bottom up.

In the race to the finish, it’s the fastest most efficient way to go.

If you’re keen on reading more detail about bullets and features, there’s a really good book called Client Attractors.

Direct download: How-to-write-a-salespage-quickly-using-the-bottom-up-method.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:04pm FJT

Most of us have grand plans to succeed

Yet, the moment we start there are a million distractions in our way. Chaos lurches around in our doorway and there seems to be no way out.

At Psychotactics, we had managed to get around most of the chaos but then I was in charge of mentoring my niece. As she moved from Year 6 to Year 7, it seemed like we were hit by an okinami of chaos. What did we do to find our way out? How did we manage to avoid the madness that we had no control over? Find out in this article.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Part 1: Non-negotiable items
Part 2: Part 2: Just say no
Part 3: The power of drills

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


How To Get Things Done In The Midst Of Unending Chaos

“J’ai beaucoup de devoirs aujourd’hui.”

That’s French for “I have lots of homework today”.
And it’s what my niece Marsha informs me almost daily, when I pick her up from school.

Three years ago, my wife Renuka and I started mentoring my niece, Marsha

While school work is never easy to cope with, there was always time to beef up on spellings, learn about clouds, earth’s subduction zones and the wondrous mysteries of solar system.

Then Marsha moved to year seven (what you’d call seventh grade) and we were suddenly swamped with homework. English, social studies, maths, even that little bit of French came rushing at us from out of nowhere. It seems so maddening when every day you’re thrown deep into yet another onslaught of homework.

This is the kind of chaos that hits us as we go through our business lives

We have every intention to learn more, do more and yet we find ourselves in this spin cycle that we don’t understand. At this point, it’s important to pull back and notice that nothing else had changed in our lives.

The Psychotactics newsletter still went out on time; The Three Month Vacation podcast rolled out on schedule. Every post at the membership site at 5000bc, and the Article Writing Course went out just as planned. But in Marsha’s world such order didn’t exist. The homework seemed to pull us away from what we believed to be important.

Somehow, something had to change.

In this series we look at how to achieve the seemingly impossible

To break free from gravity, we have to have a strategy that enables us to forge forward even under trying conditions. The three things that we’re going to look at are seemingly pedestrian, but it’s something we’ve had to use ourselves—for our business and now for Marsha.

They are:
– Non-negotiable items
– Just say no
– Drills

Part 1: Non-negotiable items

I just finished conducting the Article Writing Course

On that course you have 25 participants all headed towards one goal: to be able to write articles that are far superior to what you’d see on the internet. And to do so in under 2 hours. At the end of the course, I ask every one of the participants to relate their experiences as they went through the course. And that’s when you hear the stories you’ve never heard before.

Stories of how one of them almost lost a child—and still finished her homework

Or the story about how one person had been working until 2 am, then sat down to write an article at about 3 am, so that they could meet the deadline for the day. Every one of these stories starts off in an almost identical manner.

In their world, article writing was all about struggle, about frustration and chaos. And then, 12 weeks later, every single one of the participants who’ve made it to the end point can write an outstanding article, complete in almost every respect.

And do so within that two-hour period. Some of them were taking days, one even took four weeks to write an article and yet at the end of the course those very same people were achieving the seemingly impossible in under two hours.

Not surprisingly, you do the same

In the early part of the 20th century, 1912 to be precise, tooth decay was a massive problem. People simply didn’t brush their teeth. They do so now, twice a day. In the USA, the Boy Scout handbook from the mid-1950’s had a section on personal hygiene.

It stated that ideally a boy should bathe twice a week and shampoo his hair once a week. What we’re doing today, all of us is achieving the seemingly impossible. We’re engaged in time-wasting activities; activities that were considered unimportant for almost of all human history. Our modern lives have made it easier to brush and shower, but you know the reason why we do what we do.

We’ve made it non-negotiable

Marsha’s reading, spelling, and solar system learning became terribly negotiable. The homework rushed in, took control of the evening and soon the important elements were swept away. And it’s not a lot different from what happens in our own lives.

We start off wanting to achieve precise goals, but suddenly a client dumps a truckload of work. And we’re off scampering.

The reason why the graduates of the Article Writing Course can write in under two hours is because they drew their line in the sand. They realised their assignments were non-negotiable. And that meant they got their reward in just 12 weeks.

At Psychotactics, we too have to make a few of our activities non-negotiable.

Renuka and I went for a walk as we almost always do every morning

We lead super-busy lives, and it does get a bit cramped when we’re about to go on vacation. That’s because we need to queue all the newsletters for the time we’re away. This applies to our membership site at 5000bc, Psychotactics, and the podcast. But not just for the time we’re away but also for at least a few weeks until we get back.

The vacation adds a dimension of chaos that’s abnormal

Yet we manage it quite well and do so every three months before we go on vacation. We had to take a similar sort of learning and apply it to Marsha as well. We had to make spellings, reading and learning about subduction zones non-negotiable.

Making something non-negotiable implies just one thing

You carve out a piece of time, and you put up a force field. Every other activity goes around that time. The participants on the Article Writing Course didn’t have two or three extra hours each day (they have to do other things on top of just writing).

Their results are a direct determination to make their performance non-negotiable, even through sickness, late nights and disruptive clients.

Life doesn’t give us time on a platter.

The people who believe they will have time in the future are living in la-la land. Life doesn’t care squat for your goals. You have to snatch a chunk of time from your very busy day and then put a force field around it.

You’re reading this article not because I have to write it. You listen to the podcast that takes up almost a whole day of production. It’s not like I have eight days a week, and neither will you. You have to make some things non-negotiable. And you have to do it right now.

And one of the best ways to get anything done is to say no.

Saying no to some things and yes to others is what makes you progress.
So how do we say no? And what do we need to reject? This takes us to part two.

Part 2: Just say no

“Seanny is always tired when we come over for playdates”.

That was a random, but a bone-chilling comment from my niece, Keira. She would have been just six-years-old at a time, and every month or so we have playdates for Keira and Marsha. At one such playdate, Keira made the “Seanny is tired” comment.

Until that moment it hadn’t occurred to me that a six-year-old would notice

After all, Keira and Marsha were always running around and playing. Why would they need me to participate? I simply used that downtime to lie on the sofa and get back my breath. But then come the statement and to this day it ricochets somewhere in my brain. It was at that point I decided to say no.

We all realise there’s nothing new in the concept of “saying no.”

We’ve heard it a million times before. We use it a lot when we’ve had enough. And we say no. However, that’s not the lesson we need to learn. What we really need to understand is that we have to endlessly keep the “no” re-negotiations open.

This year, for instance, we announced we’d announced an info-products course

It was the start of the year, and among the various courses and products, it seemed plausible to have a series of classes where you learn about information products.

Where you learn what it takes to create an outstanding information product right from the start, though the construction and finish. And yet as April set in, and the Article Writing Course putting a fair bit of pressure on me, we decided to pull the plug on the information products course.

We said no.

Historically we’ve said no to very lucrative offers, some of them our own

You’ve already heard how we said no to affiliates; how we’ve barely done any joint ventures (probably three in sixteen years); how we’ve not gone down the path of speaking at dozens of events, travelling all the time; trying to make our book bestsellers, etc.

Like some chef in a tiny little restaurant on the wrong side of the world, we’ve beavered on our own creations, content to say no to everything else.

A similar theme applies when we look at Psychotactics

You’re likely to have heard of the Protégé Program. We started it as an annual program back in 2006. Then in 2007 and 2008 we had it yet again. Each time we took on just 15 clients, but together they earned us close to half a million dollars.

Would you have walked away from such a lucrative option? Most people wouldn’t have, but we decided the program was too intense for the clients. They weren’t implementing the learning as deeply as they should. And so we said no.

But this series you’re reading about, wasn’t about Psychotactics, was it?

Yes, Renuka and I face a lot of decisions and we say no at a fairly regular clip. However, this series was about Marsha’s sudden burst of homework. Like any of you, she was faced with this weird situation. It’s not like she could pick and choose what she could say no to. And so we had to make those decisions for her.

She gets a lot of maths games as part of her assignment

She loves playing those games endlessly and yes we know, her maths improves. But even at the risk of hearing back from the teacher, we let Marsha play the games for a short while; then she has to stop.

Take for example the recent assignment about the solar system.

She had to find 50 facts about the solar system, then write them down on a sheet of paper. If she took just 2 minutes per fact, it would take almost two hours.

We decided to say no

We’d find the facts; we’d give it to her. She’d write it down. We said no to the mundane manner in which the homework was doled out and the time saved can be used to learn something more valuable.

The reason for chaos in business is simply the inability to say no

When Keira made her “Seanny is always tired” statement, I couldn’t continue to let things stand as they were. I had to refuse to work on weekends. I had to take a nap every afternoon.

The volume and range of the work I was taking on required a ton of energy and if I wasn’t rested enough it wasn’t Keira alone who was disappointed. My clients would find inconsistency in my work. And worst of all, I had to look at this tired face in the mirror.

You’re going to have to do this too

You’re going to have to say no to a lot of those newsletters that are full of fluff. Unsubscribe from newsletters that just keep pummelling you with how rich you’ll be, or how you’ll get 10,000 clients overnight.

That’s crap. Life doesn’t work that way, and neither does business. Your business takes years before it can get the momentum it needs. When you start out, you’re not even clear which direction you’re headed in, until several tax returns have ticked by and you start to forge your mission in life.

When Renuka and I go for our walk, we do so to listen to keep fit

We exercise and listen to podcasts and audio books. But on Fridays we talk about the things that go on our stop-doing list. Things we need to say no to, both in Marsha’s world and our own. We sit down and make a list of the core things we want to achieve.

We made the weekends and afternoons non-negotiable to work and dedicated it to rest. We take three months off because we said no to endless work. It’s all about re-negotiating the things we have to do, but constantly battling what we need to drop.

Which is why when Keira comes over for her playdates, I’m no longer sprawled on the sofa

I’m running the girls ragged. I’m not exhausted like I always was. And to really get things done, find a way to use Friday to your advantage. Make Friday your say no day. Work out the things you’ve done and what you need to drop. If you can, find a friend to go on a walk with, if not every day, at least on Friday.

Just say no.

Chaos understands. He’ll be back on Monday, but you’ve won the battle for the weekend at least.

This takes us to our third part: Drills

Part 3: Drills

When we think of talent, we think of something inborn.

We assume that one person may be talented in one area because of genetics.
This assumption, however, right or wonderful, is pointless when you stop and think about how the brain works.

The brain is a pattern-seeking device

If you think of talent as something inborn, then good luck to you. It means that you can never be talented in anything else but what you were born with. I, on the other hand, have this aversion to inborn talent. And it’s one thing to say something; it’s quite another to prove the point.

We started mentoring Marsha because she was struggling with her studies at school

She’s a bright girl, and I’ve known her since she was three, but it was clear that she needed help. But while I love maths, languages, and science, there were two fronts to work on: confidence and knowledge.

So we set about going through drills. Day in and day out we’d learn about clouds. We learned about cumulus, cirrocumulus, roll clouds, cumulonimbus, cap clouds, mammatus, and one of our favorites—clouds that look like space ships, lenticularis, and clouds that look like waves on the ocean: Kelvin-Helmholtz (yup, that’s a weird name for a cloud).

We rolled out drills for everything

Clouds, then countries and capitals. At the age of nine, Marsha knew 150 countries and 150 capitals, but not randomly. She worked her way from Iceland, all across Europe, then across Russia and the Middle East, down to Africa, up to Asia and so on.

Every country in order from left to right. And she’d spit it out so quickly that if you followed her list with a sheet of paper, you’d find it almost impossible to keep up with her.

So how does this apply to getting things done?

Without drills, your brain doesn’t have the chance to learn a lot. Take the upcoming headline course, for example. In a short period of eight weeks, a client has to go from struggling with headlines to be astoundingly good.

But what does astoundingly good mean? It means that the client can write dozens, even hundreds of headlines if needed. Every headline is genuinely curious and not click bait.

But at the same time, every client (without exception) should become an auditor. They should be able to look at any headline, across any industry and be able to fix the erroneous headlines in a minute or two.

This level of ability calls for drills

With Marsha, we had drills for her “times tables”. Renuka would sit down and write over a hundred tables-based questions in a day. In a week, Marsha was going through over 500 questions, in a month over 2000. Do you think her ability to calculate figures in her head improved?

When you look at the cartooning course, the headlines course, the Article Writing Course—they all have drills

If you’ve done the course, you know how the drills are anything but boring. They’re hard work, but they’re not boring. And yet, when you’re called on to execute the exercises, you do so almost flawlessly. One of the biggest reasons why I see people struggling is because they don’t have the ability to run at high speed.

If you’re going to run a business, no one needs to tell you about the importance of drills

The drills take a lot of effort, but they are only necessary for a short time. Marsha and I started learning a few countries a day in December and by Easter, barely three months later, she knew the countries and capitals in sequence.

At Psychotactics, we’ve done well for a simple reason. We keep to the drills and add skills as we go along, and that’s really how you become smarter. But smarts are just the icing on the cake. What drills really do is help you quickly go through your day.

You learn the skill, you implement it

Talent is a reduction of errors. The fewer errors you make, the more talented you become. Instead of battling with headlines all day long, you get an outstanding headline done in a few minutes.

Struggling with writing an article over a four week period? Drills help you reduce those errors to a point where you can write an engaging, complete article in under two hours.

When we look at what we’re good at doing it’s because we learned a drill

To get things done, you can’t believe in magic. You have to run the same sequence over and over until it’s not something you think about any more.

It’s just something you can do with the minimum amount of energy. In 5000bc there’s a Taking Action forum. If you track the actions of those who report back every day, you’ll notice a vast improvement over time.

What they’re doing is reducing errors

They’re following the pattern of the brain.
It’s down to drills. Engaging drills that help you learn and execute faster than you’ve ever done before.

Marsha knows about clouds, geology, science and yes, countries

She may appear smarter than you and in some ways that may be true.
But how did she do it?

You know the answer.


When I pick up Marsha from school she always has a big grin on her face.

And yes, she’ll tease me by saying: “J’ai beaucoup de devoirs aujourd’hui.”
I know that’s my signal for chaos.

I also know that we can tame that chaos by using the three core elements:

1) We make some things non-negotiable.
2) Say no, no matter how enticing the distractions.
3) Drills. Drills make us amazingly fluent at our skills

Direct download: 107_How-to-manage-incessant-chaos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

Food, drink and sleep. That's my dream for every vacation. And yet this trip to Goa, India was quite the opposite. So what did I learn that almost turned my life around? That's what this podcast is about. And it might just turn your life (and health) around as well. 


Sometimes life takes you down a diversion. And you end up exactly where you need to be.

This is the story of my trip to Goa, India.
It’s where my grandparents came from.
Where I spent many summers under the mango trees in the sweltering heat.

It’s also the place that has led me back to where I need to be.

So what did I learn? I learned a few things:
1- The importance of digestion (and sleep)
2- The importance of food and types of food
3- Breaks are not enough to avoid extreme stress.

Part 1- The importance of digestion (and the avoidance of sleep)

“When you turn 40,” my dentist said to me, “you should go for an annual medical checkup.” There I was on the dentist’s chair having a bridge fixed and my dentist wasn’t giving me dental advice. Instead, he was telling me to go see my doctor, even though I hadn’t been sick a day for almost 20 years.

And since my negligence with my flossing was causing me a small fortune, I decided to take the dentist’s advice. I went and visited my doctor and did my first ever medical test.

It wasn’t good.

My blood pressure wasn’t high, but it wasn’t normal either.
My cholesterol and blood sugar was creeping up too.
And like clockwork, year after year, those numbers edged upwards. Sometimes, they nudged their way downwards, but the general trend was not looking terribly good.

You know me. I’m the 3-month vacation, take weekends off guy.

I work hard, but I take a lot of breaks to rest, think and just do nothing.
And yet all of that nothingness wasn’t dropping the pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar. And then I did something that made a huge difference to my life and health. I went yet again on vacation and this time to India.

I have a love-hate relationship with India

I grew up in Mumbai, vacationed in Goa and travelled through many parts of India before I finally moved to New Zealand. India seeps within you as you hang around that sub-continent. The food, the culture, the languages, history and science going back thousands of years. This trip was about the monsoon (something that’s worth experiencing), the food and most of all to see my parents (who I hadn’t visited in five years).

Yet within days of landing in Goa, my agenda was hijacked

Oh sure I started out with the food and drink, but we also wanted to get a few massages. And that search for massages got us to an Ayurvedic centre. Now you’ve probably heard of Ayurveda, an ancient system of natural healing from India. Some think it’s 5,000 years old, others believe it to be older, going back a whopping 10,000 years.

But I wasn’t there for any medical checkup—I was just there for the massages…
Yet life takes you down this diversion, and it’s just where you need to be.

It was July, the rain was coming down in torrents and the doctor at the Ayurvedic centre was available. And we found out that my blood pressure and cholesterol was pretty high (conducting the article writing course and working through 12,000 posts helps, I guess). But even as he was telling me about the course of action to take, he brought up one important, yet obscure point.

“The reason why we have a lot of problems with our health isn’t the food we eat,” he started.

Food makes a difference, but the bigger problem is digestion. If we don’t digest the food completely, it sits in our system and it becomes like the inner side of a kitchen pipe. It’s got all this junk that starts to accumulate over the years. And it’s that junk that causes a huge number of problems. So he put me on an Ayurvedic course to get rid of the junk.

It was interesting, this course

Spanning over 11 days, it started mildly. All I had to do for the first three days was avoid oily food. But then it got really weird. For breakfast, all I could have was liquid ghee (mixed with some herbs). I don’t know if you know what ghee is, but it’s high in saturated fat. And if you’re trying to get someone’s cholesterol down, it sure seems like the last thing you want to dole out. And yet, it wasn’t just a sip of ghee. On the first day it was 30ml, then it went progressively to 80, 130 and 180 ml (almost a full glass).

As it turns out, the ghee is supposed to permeate all the parts of your body down to your fingers and toes. And then to cut a long story short, the ghee pulls all the impurities and chucks it into the stomach. And you know what happens next, right?

So did it work?

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a “quick fix”. I detest Lemon diets and detox diets of any kind. I don’t care to believe in quick and easy. But there I was, on vacation, and keen to get the cholesterol and pressure down. And 11 days later, we had our results. The blood test before and after could not have been more dramatic. There was a plunge from abnormal to well within normal range and in the process I’d even lost about 3 kilos (about 6 pounds).

But I’m skeptical about quick fixes

So when I got back to Auckland I did another blood test. And I weighed myself again. By now I was down 5 kilos and the blood test showed something remarkable. My current cholesterol and blood pressure was not only normal, but it was the best it’s ever been in 7 years.

“It’s the digestion” said the doctor who put me through this treatment.

Get the digestion right and you’ll find that a lot of things go perfectly well. And part of the issue of digestion was eating foods that digest well, that we all know. But the second part was giving the food time to digest.

I love my sleep because I sleep so little anyway

And I will take an afternoon nap when I can. Yet, it flies in the face of digestion. The moment you wake up, the body is running like a machine and having any nap causes it to slow down. What doesn’t help is that nap is usually right after eating a meal. Now it’s not like I’ve not taken a nap since I got back to Auckland, but the concept of digestion is clear in my mind.

That was the first learning for this trip.

I never realised how much digestion mattered.
I ignored it as much as I could.
And then it proved that once your body is clear of the junk, it works more efficiently.

But that’s only the first part of this learning experience. The second factor was one of food and types of food.

Part 2- The importance of food and types of food

I’m no vegetarian.

If you look at my Facebook page, I’m updating it almost daily with some sort of food. And when you read The Brain Audit or many other books from Psychotactics, it’s quite clear that Butter Chicken takes a place of prominence. Even so, this trip changed my mindset a bit simply because I wasn’t allowed to eat any meat—or fish for that matter.

My diet for at least seven days was pretty spartan

In India, we have a dish called Khichdi. It’s a combination of spices, cumin, ghee, rice and yellow moong dal. It’s a dish that is very easily absorbed by the body, which is why it’s often recommended to older people and for very young children. The version of khichdi I was allowed to eat was more basic. It consisted of no spices, no ghee and on most days all I ate was yellow moong dal and rice, tossed into a pressure cooker.

So when I got to the other side even the simplest vegetarian dish was amazingly tasty.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of vegetarian food and if you’ve ever had the chance to visit India, you’ll know there are over 150 types of vegetarian food for breakfast alone. Once I was off the spartan diet, I wasn’t that keen on meat any more. It’s not like I haven’t eaten any—it’s just that Im not keen any more, especially since I found so many different recipes.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been sidetracked by a diet

Back in 2011, I was told not to eat spicy or oily food. And yet we were on our way to Vancouver and Washington D.C. to do our workshops. That’s when I discovered another side to Chinese, Ethiopian and other foods. But to go back into my own culture—my Indian culture—and find so much to eat took me totally by surprise.

I don’t know if a vacation will make such a change for you

But I think it just might. A trip like this to India or even to an Ayurvedic centre somewhere could change your mindset a bit. I wake up everyday and enjoy exploring food I can make in just 10-15 minutes. Food that may involve something as simple as rice flour and semolina. Food that’s easier to make and digest. Food that’s still extremely delicious and nutritious. And amazingly good for you.

It’s a change, but the biggest change of all was simply following the diversion.

Part 3- Breaks are not enough to avoid stress


That’s how many posts were generated in just three months of the Article Writing Course. And though the course has just 25 clients, there’s a ton of activity and assignments. So to have that many posts is pretty normal for a Psychotactics course. What’s not normal is having to write a whole new set of notes, new assignments and re-recording all the audio.

In short, it was too much—yes, even if you’re a crazy person like me.

And that’s one of the recurring themes from most vacations. Almost always I’ll work myself to a frazzle, then go on vacation. And that’s because I like to do so many things. I like to paint, write, deal with 10,000+ posts on the forum—and most of it fits into my work day. I realised that the additional bit, like having to write the notes and re-recording was just too much.

It seems obvious to you, doesn’t it?

It’s obvious that too much work is too much work. And that all that extra work leads to unwanted stress. Stress that directly leads to health issues. And that while I may take time off on weekends and vacation, there needs to be more paring back. To be hit with such a blatantly obvious idea seems odd.

And yet it’s taken me a long time to figure this one out. For starters, taking weekends off was not obvious but in late 2015 and then in 2016, I got it all under control. This trip underlined why my health was not quite as good as it could be. There’s a direct link between too much stress and cholesterol and pressure.

I get it.
It took a while.
It took many vacations, many weekends.

But now I get it.

I get that we all need to be less frazzled. I get the fact that vegetarian food and fruit is good for me.
And I get the digestion bit.

This vacation was supposed to be about food, drink and sleep.

We didn’t get to eat the food we wanted.
We were told to avoid alcohol during the treatment.
And yes, no sleeping in the day time.

And yet, it’s been one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.

Sometimes life takes you down a diversion.
And it’s exactly where you should be.

Next Step: Do Tell A Friend About The Podcast?



Direct download: 106_What_I-Learned-On-My-Super-Unusual-Vacation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT

Who's Doug Hitchcock? And in a world full of goal-setting exercises, why does Doug's system stand out? Find out why most goal-setting goes hopelessly off the mark and Doug's plan works almost like magic year after year. Find out not just how to set goals, but how to create a stop-doing list (yes, that's a goal too). And finally, learn why most goals are designed for failure because they lack a simple benchmarking system. Find out how we've made almost impossible dreams come true with this goal-setting system. ------------------------------- In this episode Sean talks about Part 1: Why most goal-setting goes hopelessly off the mark Part 2: How to set goals, but how to create a successful stop-doing list Part 3: Learn why most goals are designed for failure because they lack a simple benchmarking system Right click here and ‘save as’ to download this episode to your computer. Useful Resources Chaos Planning: How ‘Irregular’ Folks Get Things Done Learning: How To Retain 90% Of Everything You Learn 5000bc: How to get started on your goal setting ------------------------------- The Transcript “This transcript hasn’t been checked for typos, so you may well find some. If you do, let us know and we’ll be sure to fix them.” This is the Three-Month Vacation. I’m Sean D’Souza. Doug Hitchcock was my first real mentor and he had been bankrupt thrive. When I first moved to Auckland in the year 2000, I didn’t really know anyone. I was starting up a new business, I was starting up a new life. I joined a networking group and within that networking group I asked for a mentor. Well, no one in the networking group was willing to be a mentor, but someone did put me in touch with Doug. The only problem with Doug was he had been bankrupt thrive. Now, when I say he was bankrupt thrice, it doesn’t mean he was still bankrupt. He just pulled himself out of the hole three times in his life and there he was, at about 70 plus, and he was my first mentor. Before he starts to talk to me about anything, he asks me, “Do you do goal setting?” I’m like, “Yeah, I have goals,” and he goes, “No. Do you have goals on paper?” I said, “No.” He says, “We have to start there. We have to start with goals on paper.” That’s how I started doing goal setting, all the way back in the year 2000. Almost immediately, I got all the goal setting wrong. You ask, how can you get goal setting wrong? After all, you’re just putting goals down on a sheet of paper. How can you get something like that wrong? You can’t write the wrong goals, but you can write too many goals. That’s exactly what I did. I sat down with that sheet of paper and I wrote down all my work goals, my personal goals, and I had an enormous list. That’s when Doug came back into the scene, and he said, “Pick three.” I said, “I could pick five.” He goes, “No, no, no. Pick three.” I picked three goals in my work and three goals from my personal life. You know what? By the end of the year, I’d achieved those goals. Ever since, I have been sitting down and working out these goals based on Doug’s method. Doug may have lost his business thrice in a row, but he knew what he was talking about. Most of us just wander through life expecting things to happen. When they happen, we say they happen for a reason, but they don’t happen for a reason. They happen, and we assign a reason to it. In this episode, I’m going to cover three topics. The first is the three part planning. Then we’ll go the other way. We’re create a stop doing list. Finally, we’ll look at benchmarks and see how we’ve done in the year. Let’s start off with the first one, which is the three part planning. Does the San Fernando earthquake ring any bells in your memory? Most people haven’t ever heard of this earthquake, and yet it was one of the deadliest earthquakes in US history. It collapsed entire hospitals, it killed 64 people, it injured over two and a half thousand. When the damage was assessed, it had cost millions of dollars, and yet it could have been the disaster that eclipsed all other US disasters. That’s because the earthquake almost caused the entire Van Norman Reservoir to collapse. The dam held, and yet, if it had collapsed, the resulting rush of water would have taken the lives of more people than the Pearl Harbor Attack, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, 9/11 and 1900 Galveston Hurricane combined. In barely 12 seconds, the top section of the dam had disintegrated and yet, the surrounding areas were extremely lucky. The reservoir was only half full that day. The aftershocks of the earthquake continued to cause parts of the dam to break apart. A few feet of free board was the only thing that stopped a total collapse. This total collapse is what many of us come close to experiencing as we try to clamber up the ladder of success. We try to do too many things and we don’t seem to go anywhere. In effect, this is like water cascading down a dam. There’s too many things and we have no control over it. What’s going to stop it? The only thing that seems to stop anything is some kind of focus and goal setting is focus. The way we go about our goal setting is the way Doug showed me. The first category of goal setting is what we want to achieve at work. The second set comprises of our personal goals. The third, this is the most critical of all, what we’re going to learn. Should we start off with the first one, which is our work goals? Well, that’s not the way we do it as Psychotactics. The way we work at Psychotactics is we look at our personal goals. Our own lives are far more important than work. What we do is we sit down, and first, we plan vacations. As you know, we take three months off. We’ve been doing this since 2004. We started our business at the end of 2002. Yet by 2004, we had decided we were going to take three months off. The thing is that your vacations also need planning. Our vacations are broken up into big breaks, small breaks, and weekends. Now the big breaks are the month long vacations, and then the small breaks are in between that. We’re go away for a couple of days somewhere, and that’s our small break. I’m saying weekends, because before I wouldn’t take weekends off. I’d be working on the weekend at least for a few hours on Saturday morning and a few hours on Sunday morning, and I don’t do that any more. Now that’s almost written in stone. It’s very hard for me to get to work on weekends. I’ll slide sometimes, but it’s very hard. The most critical thing to do is to work out the long breaks. When are we going to have those, and then the shorter breaks. That comprises that whole vacation concept, but you also have to have other personal goals. Maybe I want to learn how to cook Mexican dishes, or maybe I want to learn how to take better photographs. Now, these are personal projects. They’re not not pseudo work projects. They’re things that, at the end of the year, I go, “Wow, that’s what I’ve achieved. That’s how much I progressed.” That’s how you start off with personal goals. You plan your breaks. You plan what you want to do personally. Once you’re done with that, then you go to your work goals. We have a lot of work goals, we have the article writing workshop coming up, we’ve got the 50 words workshop, which is, how do you start up an article. We’ve got a whole bunch of things, because we’ve got products, we’ve got courses, we’ve got workshops. All of this has to sit nicely between, so that we work for 12 weeks and then we go on a break. We’ve decided that we’re not having any workshops next year. We’ve had a lot of workshops this year, no workshops next year. Now, this leaves us the chance to focus on the courses and the products. Now my brain is like that dam, there’s always water rushing over. I want to do a million projects, but then I have to choose. The article writing course is one of the things that I want to do for sure. I want to do a version 2.0 of it. The cartoon bank, I’ve been putting that off for a long time. That’s definitely something I want to do. Then I’ll pick a third one. Do I stop at three? No, but I make sure that I get these three down. The three that I’m going to do, they go down on paper. Some other projects will come up, a lot of stuff that I might not expect, and yet I’ll get all of this done, but these three, they’ll get done. Those three vacations, they will get done. Then we get to the third part, which is learning. What am I going to learn this next year? Maybe I’ll learn a software, or maybe I’ll learn how to use audio better. The point is, I have to write it down, because once I write it down, then I’m going to figure out where I have to go and what I have to do to make sure that learning happens. This is not just learning like reading some books or doing something minor like that. This is big chunks of learning, so that by the the end of the year, I know I’ve reached that point. When it comes to planning, the first thing that we’re always doing is we’re looking at these three elements, which is work, vacation, and learning. If we have to do other sub projects, we’ll do it, but these nine things get done. Year after year after year. This is what Doug taught me, he gave me this ability to focus. I consider myself to be unfocused, I consider myself to want to do everything and anything. That was the gift of Doug. In the year 2008, we had a program, it was a year long program. You probably heard of it. It was called a Psychotactics Protégé program. We would teach clients how to write articles, how to create info products, public relations. Lots of things along the way in that year. As you’d expect, it was reasonably profitable. 15 students paid $10,000, and so that was $150,000 that we would have in the bank before the year started. In 2009, we pulled the plug on the Protégé system. Why would we do that? We started it in 2006, it was full, in 2007 it was full, in 2008 it was full, in 2009 there was a waiting list. We decided not to go ahead with it. We decided it was going to go on our stop doing list. We were going to walk away from $150,000, just like that. Yes, some clients were unhappy, because they wanted to be on the next Protégé program. They had seen the testimonials, they had seen the results. They knew that it was good enough to sign up for. They knew that $10,000 was a very small investment, for a year long advancement. On our part, we realized that we had to walk away from $150,000 that we were getting on cue, every December. This is what’s called a stop doing list. We’ve used this stop doing list in our own lives. When we left India, and got to Auckland, it wasn’t like we were leaving something desperate. We were leaving something that was really good. I was drawing tattoos all day, going bowling in the afternoon, having long lunches, Renuka’s company was doing really well. They were picking up all expenses, and the only thing we really had to pay for was food but, at that point in time, we decided we had to make a break. We had to stop doing something so that we could do something different. We don’t know whether that different is better, but at that point we have to stop it, so that we can explore what is coming up ahead. There are two things that you put on your stop doing list. One, something that is working exceedingly well. The second thing, something that’s doing really badly. Or something that’s getting in your way. Now, the first one doesn’t make any sense. If something is doing exceedingly well, why would you stop it? Well, the point is that if you continue to do something, then you can’t do something else. You don’t know how good that something is until you stop doing it and then you go on to do something else. Last night, I was reading The New Yorker, and The New Yorker is one of my favorite magazines. There’s James Surowiecki saying exactly the same thing. He’s saying that Time Warner should sell HBO. HBO has now 120 million subscribers globally. It has earned over 2 billion dollars in profits last year. It’s stand alone streaming service has got over a million new subscribers since last spring. What does the article recommend? It recommends that they get rid of it, they sell it, they get the best price for it at this point of time, when they’re doing so well. What if it doubles in its value? That’s the answer we’ll never know, but the article went on. It talked about ESPN and how in 2014 it was worth 50 billion dollars. Disney owned it, they should have sold it, they could have banked the money. They could have focused on something else, but no, they kept it. ESPN is still doing well, it’s still the dominant player, but you can see that it’s not exactly where it was in 2014. The Protégé program was doing really well for us, clients were with us for the whole year. They would then join 5000 BC, we’d get to meet them. It was a lot of fun, and it generated a sizable revenue and we walked away from it. It enabled us to do other stuff that we would not have been able to do. When you say stop doing list, it’s not just the bad stuff that you have to stop doing. Sometimes you have to stop doing the things that are very critical, like next year we’re not doing workshops. Workshops are very critical to our business, but we’re not going to do the workshops. Instead, we’ll do online courses. Instead, we’ll do something else. We’ll create that space for ourselves, even though the workshops are doing really well. The other side of the stop doing list is stuff that’s driving you crazy. You know it’s driving you crazy, but you’re not stopping it. For instance, in September of this year, we started rebuilding the Psychotactic site. Now, there are dozens of pages on the Psychotactic site and I want to fiddle around with every single one of them, and do things that are interesting, different. The problem is that there are other projects, like for instance the storytelling workshop. Of course, vacations that get in the way. The point is that, at some point, you have to say, okay, I really want to do this, but I’m not going to do this. I’m going to put it off until later. This is procrastination, but it is part of a stop doing list. You can’t do everything in the same time. Last year, this time, we had the same dilemma when we were going to do the podcasts. I wanted to write some books for Amazon, and I wanted to do the podcast. Every day, we would go for a walk, and it would run me crazy. I didn’t know where to start, when to start, what to do first. I had to sit down and go, okay, what am I going to stop? I just dumped the Amazon books and started on the podcast. Now we’re on podcast number 70, and it’s not even been 52 weeks. It shows you how that stop doing list can help you focus and get stuff out of the way. Sometimes you have to procrastinate to get that point. Now the stop doing list is not restricted to work alone. You can take it into your personal life as well. For instance, I used to get my hair cut by a hairdresser, and I was dissatisfied for a very long time. You come back in, you grumble, and my wife, Renuka, she said, “Okay, stop grumbling. Go and find another hairdresser.” I ran into Shay, now Shay was cutting my hair so well, it was amazing. I wasn’t the only one who thought that was amazing. Usually, I was on a waiting list at a barber shop. I would get there, and there were two people in front of me, waiting for Shay. While a few of the barbers just stood around, doing absolutely nothing because no one was interested. Then, one day, involuntarily, Shay went onto my stop doing list. Kimmy was around and Shay wasn’t and so Kimmy cut my hair. She was better than Shay. I thought, “Oh my goodness. I should have done this a long time ago.” Then Kimmy got transferred to another branch, and now there’s Francis. You’ve heard about Francis in other podcasts. Now Francis is my top guy. There you go, even in something as mundane as cutting hair, there is a stop doing list. You have to push yourself a bit, and at other times you have to pull back and go, “No, we’re not going to do that.” The stop doing list is for good times, as well as for pressurized times. You have to decide, I’m going to stop doing it, I’m going to move onto the next thing. This takes us to the third part of planning, which is benchmarks. Now what are benchmarks? Often when we set out to do a project, say we’re going to do that website. What we don’t do is we don’t write down all the elements that are involved in doing that website because a website can go on forever, can’t it? It expands exponentially. When you are saying, I am going to write books for Amazon. Well, how many books are you going to write? How many pages are the books going to be? What’s the time frame? Where are you going to get the cartoons from? Who’s going to do all the layout? Having this kind of benchmark in mind makes a big difference. When we plan for something, for instance if I’m planning for the article writing course, which is version 2.0. I’m going to have to sit down and work out what I’m going to have to do. When I’m doing the stock cartoons, I’m going to have to sit down and work out what kind of stock cartoons, how many. It’s perfectly fine to write a top level goal. You should do that, you should say, “Okay, I’m going to do the website,” but then you have to get granular. The granular bit tells you, have I reached my destination. Otherwise, people don’t get to their goals, and that’s why they’re struggling, because there’s no clarity. Usually, you’re going to get the clarity when you have only three things to do, but even so, if you don’t have benchmarks you’ll never know when you’re reaching your goal or if you’re going to reach your goal. That brings us to the end of this episode. Summary What did we cover? We looked at three sets of goal setting, and that is your personal goal setting, your work goal setting, and your learning goal setting. Instead of having 700 of them, you just have three things that you want to achieve in the year. Three major things that you want to achieve in the year. Logically, you start with the work, but don’t handle the work. Just go to the breaks. Organize your breaks first, because you get reinvigorated and you come back and then you can do better work. First, fix the breaks and then go to the work, then go the learning. That takes care of the first set. The second thing that you want to do is you want to make sure that you have a stop doing list. Sometimes, things are working, they’re going your way, and they still have to be dropped. That’s what we did with the Protégé program, that’s what we did with our move to New Zealand, and a lot of good things have become better, because we’ve decided to move along. Sometimes, you’re just confused because you have too many things to do, and procrastinate. Go ahead. I mean, I know this about planning, not procrastination, but procrastination is a form of planning, when you have too much to do. Finally, have the benchmarks. Make your goals a little more detailed so that you know when you’re hitting those benchmarks. Plan it in a little more detail. That’s how you’ll reach your goal. This is what goal setting is about. It’s very simple. People make it more complicated than it needs to be. What’s the one thing that you can do today? Very simple. Work, vacation, and learning. Get your paper out, get your pen, and start writing. Three goals. You can start off with seven, or ten, but whittle it down to three. Oh, and make sure you write it down. When you write it down, things happen. It’s like magic when you write it down. Keep it in your head, it’s not as powerful. Write it down, it happens. If one of your goals is to join 5000 BC this year. That’s 5000 BC, our membership site. You’ll find that it’s quite a nice place to be. It’s a very warm and friendly place. It would be great to see you there. It also gives you the opportunity to be first in line for any of the online courses that we’re having. That might not seem like a big deal until you see how cool the online courses are at Psychotactics. It’s not just another information dump, you actually get the skill. If you set out to be a cartoonist, you become a cartoonist. If you set out to be a writer, you become a writer. It’s not just information that you’re getting, it’s all very practical. Being a member of 5000 BC gives you that little edge to get in there before everybody else. You have to read The Brain Audit, however. You can get that at or on amazon. Com. If you’ve read The Brain Audit and you would like a special collector’s edition, then email us at Psychoanalytical. We’ll give you instruction on how to get the special collector’s edition. That’s it from me at Psychotactics and the Three Month Vacation. Bye for now. One of the biggest reasons why we struggle with our learning is because we run into resistance. Resistance is often just seen as a form of laziness, but that is not true at all. There are hidden forces causing us all to resist doing what we really should do. This slows us down considerably. Find out how to work with resistance, instead of fighting it all the time. Click here to get the free report on ‘How To Win The Resistance Game’.

Direct download: 105_Doug_Hitchcock-Three-Point-Planning-system.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm FJT