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Following the Rules

How to Get Your Skilled Friends to Help You For Free

railroad

Can you spot which of these messages would be more effective when asking a skilled friend for free help?

Copywriters:

“Hey man, would you mind writing a landing page for this event I’m having?”

Vs.

“Hey, I wrote up some language for the event, but would love to have your feedback on the copy since I know you’re so great at it! Would you mind taking a quick look?”

Another quick example:

“Hey, can you point me toward a couple great WordPress templates?”

Vs.

“Hi, I’ve been researching websites for the last 30 minutes and came up with these three templates for the new site – which one do you think would work best?”

Imagine how you would feel getting that first message. It’d probably go something like:

“So you’re my friend, asking me to do something that is worth six figures in some markets FOR FREE, and you won’t spend 10 minutes of your time to speed up the process? If it’s not worth it to YOU to do a little bit of research, why should I even bother?”

Now, let’s check out the second request:

“Hi, I’ve been researching websites for the last 30 minutes and came up with these three templates for the new site – which one do you think would work best?”

A top performer is going to look at this and think something like:

“Hmm, all I have to do is open up an email and pick a template, and I’ll be doing a favor for a friend? Yeah no problem, I’ll get on that.”

A top performer reading that second message will see that you care enough about the project you’re asking them to help with — that you took an empathetic approach and realized that they’re at least as busy (probably busier) than you are — and so you are only asking them for a small favor, of something you couldn’t do yourself, rather than asking them to complete an entire project for free.

When asking for help, it’s much better to bring them into a project slowly, ask for small favors and do 85-90% of the work on your project FIRST. Once you’re able to do that, one of your more skilled friends will be more than happy to help you take it to 100%.

Ever do or see a friend do this? Ever had it happen to you? Write back and let me know!

-Alex

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What Happens When A Bootstrapped Company Fails

I remember one of the last stories my dad ever told us: the story of a small company.

There’s this kid, 8 years old, and he invents a new type of jack in the box.

Being a child, he understands everything that should go into a great toy, and uses that knowledge to build a product that’s super attractive.

This kid starts selling jack in the boxes and becomes an overnight sensation: people are practically throwing themselves over each other to get his toys – it’s like the store scene in Jingle All The Way.

After a few months of outrageous sales, the kid becomes very wealthy — so wealthy that his name and picture get published in Wired as one of the top rising entrepreneurs.

And that’s when the trouble starts -

Within a few weeks, customers report defects in the toys and start suing. So many people sue that this kid doesn’t leave the courtroom for 6 months.

Eventually, he’s forced to declare bankruptcy, and because the company was in his parent’s name, they end up dealing with the consequences while the kid makes it out okay.

Dad laughed when he told us that last sentence — like it was a joke that his parents got destroyed.

The story is similar to what my parents went through with their company: inventing a revolutionary product, colored latex gloves, becoming a sensation, selling incredible amounts of them, ending up in court, then going bankrupt – potentially to stop the lawsuits.

That was my first exposure to the business world, and it affects the way I look at people in a professional setting today.

I’ve seen a company that everyone thought was going to keep growing forever burn to the ground in MONTHS, leaving it’s founders bankrupt and, in two cases, dead.

Actually, I’ve seen the same thing happen THREE TIMES in the last 15 years, all within the family: extraordinarily successful businesses that ended in heartbreak for every single person involved.

The WORST part about the fate of these companies is that, even through they ended horribly, nobody started with the goal of hurting their employees or families.

They went into business to make a bunch of money and free themselves from struggling to survive. For my parents it worked a little, but for the others it was a much different, much more tragic story.

How this ties into raising capital - 

As an Account Manager, I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, both funded and not so funded, some with experience and others total newbs, but they all have the same trait: HOPE for their company.

Most founders know, or at least project to investors and stakeholders, that their company is going to successful, and it helps them raise massive amount of capital.

It’s a great perspective, but if my parents had big investors they would have ended up with NOTHING when things went south – no company, no freedom, and a lot of debt to deal with – instead of more than a little cushion.

Bootstrapping allowed them a cleaner exit from their business failure, and I plan on doing the same if possible.

-Alex

P.S. What’s your opinion on raising capital: Like it? Hate it? Why? Hit reply and let’s talk.

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How To Write A Briefcase Document For The Job Search

Starship troopers

The best job candidates understand that the job search isn’t all about finding the right job for them, mostly it’s about making the company that’s hiring them happy, and taking their boss’s risk away.

If you are the least risky of all the candidates applying for a job, it makes it very easy for a company to hire you over somebody else.

This is the simplest way to make you seem like the most prepared and best candidate, and will separate you from every other interviewee in the current job search, and possibly every other candidate the hiring manager has ever seen.

Here’s how you can identify why a company’s hiring for a role, what they’re struggling with, and how you can create a menu of solutions that prove you’re the right person for the job.

This is similar to Ramit Sethi’s Briefcase Technique, but we’re going into more depth on how to create one then anyone ever has. Ramit suggests pulling out a piece of paper from your briefcase during the interview outlining their problems and the ways you’ll be able to solve them.

Use this strategy after you’ve passed the phone screening and are in the main interview. I’ve used it to secure 4 job offers in the last year, and close multiple freelance clients.

When to use this during an interview:

Pull this document out when the interviewer asks if you have any questions during the first in-person interview. If you end up having an online interview, you can email it to them before the interview starts — ask them to look it over as preparation.

Assuming you do even half the research that I’m about to outline, you’ll be guaranteed the job.

Structure of the Document

Write your name, phone number and company name at the top, then separate your document out into the following three categories:

The Need

In this section, write about the company’s top three problems or goals for the next year. You can get the information by asking anyone who works at the company.

At the coffee meeting, ask “are there any big goals your bosses are trying to hit this year?” You’ll be surprised how often people bluntly answer once you’ve built a little rapport.

Goals are also listed on the investor pages of publicly traded companies. The more specific to your department you can get the goals, the more impressive it’s going to look on the document.

The Job Description

You can get this from meeting with people who’ve had the job previously, or had it at other companies by asking what they did, and also by reading any posted job descriptions for your job title.

Then you want to take that information and write your own job description — a list of things you think the company you’re interviewing for is looking for.

Writing this section will show the hiring manager that you know what to expect from the job, and also shows you’ve done enough research to translate the company’s job description into actionable points.

Once you’ve done that, you’re set up for the last step:

Why I’m Right For The Job

This section is similar to a cover letter. Basically you take points from your past and translate them into ways you could help the company on the job.

To come up with a better section, it’s useful to keep a running list of big projects you’re a part of. If you don’t have one, sit down for 15-20 minutes and think about where you’ve contributed to companies in the past, or places outside the job process like volunteering or meetup groups.

Here’s how to gather the information:

1) Look at the company’s website

Try to identify what they’re strategic goals are, how big the company is, and where they want to go in the next few years.

Finding out this information on your own will make you look very prepared when you go into the next step:

2) Talk to as many people at the company as you can

Do this by searching company directories or browsing Linkedin to find people worth reaching out to, and send them an email asking them to coffee.

Once you meet with them, ask about their jobs and what they’re struggling with at work.

The goal is to get a better idea of why the company you’re interviewing is hiring: are they creating the role right now? Did they have a guy in there before who screwed everything up? Or was the last guy so good that another company took him away?

You want to figure out why they need someone to come in and do the job now, as opposed to six months ago or six months in the future.

3) Meet with people who have your position at different companies

After you’ve learned why the company is hiring, go and talk to people that have the job title you’re interviewing for at other companies, and ask about problems they’ve had on the job.

You want to do the same thing you did in the previous meetings, except now you’re figuring out what a similar company is struggling with, learning which problems you might encounter once you start working, and even some of the solutions competing companies have used to solve problems the company you’re interviewing for is currently dealing with.

4) After meeting 3-5 people, take a day to rest

Do something fun to take your mind off the interview process and let everything you’ve just learned settled in.

Graham Wallas, author of the 1929 book Art of Thought, calls it the Incubation Period, and it’s useful for any creative work. Here’s what he has to say:

Voluntary abstention from conscious thought on any problem may, itself, take two forms: the period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems, or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work. The first kind of Incubation economizes time, and is therefore often the better.

After a period of rest, some solutions will pop into your brain, and when that happens, WRITE THEM DOWN IMMEDIATELY.

Then, when it’s time to create the document, open up Word and follow the structure above.

Once you create this document and present it during an interview one time, it’s going to change the way you think about the job search, forever.

Let me know in the comments: Are there any places where you think this wouldn’t work? Why not? Or have you used a similar document in the past? What happened?

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How (and Why) to Find A Role Model as an Adult

Most of us had a role model as kids — someone whose poster we looked up to and tried to be like.

Maybe it was a sports star, an actor, or even a singer. They were somebody who had the life and the qualities we wanted to have ourselves.

But at some point, most of us got rid of that role model in the pursuit of a mentor or something more “professional.”

Well, here is what finding a new role model, as an adult, can add to your quest for a great life.

Why A Role Model Can Help With Motivation

When things are going wrong in our lives — maybe your project isn’t as cool 10 days in as it was in the beginning — we’ll have someone to look up to. Somebody who’s struggled with a big project before making it, and can provide an extra kick to keep going.

Also, reading any biography — even if it’s not from one of your role models — will teach you that passion is gained over time, not all at once, which will push you to keep working toward your goal.

In most biographies, the subjects don’t know what they’re going to do at the beginning, and end up pursuing a bunch of projects that don’t work out. Eventually they find the thing they like, and hit it big.

Another reason to grab a role model is that you can plan your life strategy, and set life goals, based on what the hero would do, which will help you narrow down your dreams into action steps, and get you closer to the life you want.

I get the most out of this exercise by combining traits from multiple people, and using them as an imaginary brain trust to help me stay motivated.

Whenever a problem comes up, I can think about what my heroes would do, and it helps me keep moving — it’s a concept similar to what Napoleon Hill writes about in Think and Grow Rich.

And when feeling down, you can read a biography to realize that life is just a journey of ups and downs, and will all work out if you stick with it.

What To Look For In Your Role Model

Think about the people you’ve looked up to in the past. Celebrities you keep coming back to, or someone who wrote a book you really liked. Then, study their traits.

The easiest way to do this is to get a book with them as the subject and read it all the way through.

Now, ask yourself some questions.

What do you like about their stories and habits? Which mistakes would you want to avoid if you were on the same path as them? What kept them going when they ran up against obstacles?

How can you model those traits in yourself?

It’s best to pick more than one person, so you don’t unintentionally lose your sense of self during this exercise, but it’s better to start with one than not do it at all.

Some Examples of Great Role Models

Choosing any of these guys will keep you moving toward the good life. Click their names and read their biographies for more info on their struggles.

1. Irving Berlin

He was a poor Jewish immigrant who rose to prominence in the early 1900s for songwriting. He became famous as a young man, and kept it up, producing more hits than any writer before 1950, including classics like “White Christmas,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Putting on the Ritz.”

He’s a great example of what committing to a single dream and working hard to achieve it can do.

2. Steve Jobs

Here’s a guy who never got a degree, did a whole bunch of hallucinogenic drugs in college, went to India, and wandered around for YEARS not knowing what he wanted to do, and then started an amazing company that changed the world.

If his back story sounds anything like yours, I’d check out his biography, or at least watch his movie for inspiration, and try to figure out why he did the things he did.

3. Andre Agassi

Agassi was the best tennis player in the world, and the first one to win every championship, but since he was forced to play tennis as a kid by his father, and practiced four or five hours a day until he was 14, he hated the sport more than anything else.

Since his dad made him practice so often, by the time he turned 18, tennis was the only thing Agassi was good at. His book is worth looking at if only to understand how somebody can become the best in the world at something they despise.

4. Dick Cheney

Putting all politics aside, here’s a guy that failed out of college multiple times, was arrested for drunk driving, and had teenage drug problems, yet he went on to run a multi-billion dollar company, and become Vice President of the United States.

Not a bad life, and his book outlines how he got there. It’s inspirational if you’ve had any struggles with addiction in your life.

5. Theodore Roosevelt

He was a very sick child, but he worked through it, and wrote a book before turning 18. Eventually he went on to lead an army and become one of the best liked Presidents of the United States. Roosevelt even held the world record for most handshakes given in a single day.

He’s a great guy to look up to if you’ve ever felt destined for greatness, and have any doubts about reaching that goal.

It’d be great to know: Who do you look up to as a role model? Why, and what would their next step be if they were following your life path?

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How To Dream Big

Sometimes I wish I could lock myself away in a room for months at a time like Howard Hughes.

It would be so peaceful: watching old movies, eating chocolate bars, and growing out your toe and fingernails to super human lengths.

1x1.trans How To Dream Big

Howard Hughes gets such a bad rap when he’s talked about these days, if he’s even remembered, but he was a really awesome dude.

Born into a semi-rich oil family and set for life, he inherited his parent’s company when both of them were killed before his 21st birthday. Sad, but and he actually ran the company successfully.

He took his company, ToolCo, from tool manufacturer to conglomerate, making stops in the film, aviation and casino businesses along the way. By the end of it all, he was the richest person in the world.

He was also batshit insane

Hughes lived for MONTHS at a time with no human contact, choosing instead to lock himself away in hotel rooms eating nothing but chocolate bars and drinking milk, trying to avoid contact with germs and other people.

There’s a human side to the way he acted – just like there’s a human side to everything – which is why I look up to him.

As the richest man in the world, all Howard Hughes did when he went into isolation was live the life he wanted to live, exactly how he wanted to live it, without having money as a barrier.

Would you do the same?

My dream is to live in a haunted house, rigged up by some acclaimed horror director and his team to scare the crap out of visitors when they stop by. I’ve wanted to build it for a long time, and one day I hope to have access to the capital to make it happen.

What’s your dream? What would you do if money was no object?

I’m not talking about traveling the world, something that gets boring very quickly, but something you would create, you’d BUILD, that would be 100% suited to your dream life.

That’s not a rhetorical question, I’d love to hear you reply with an answer.

-Alex

P.S. What’s holding you back from answering the question?

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