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Following the Rules

Today is my birthday – and I’m trying to be productive.

Slowly my life is taking shape but it’s just that… *slowly* it’s taking shape.

I want to run. To get to the end. To set myself up with a steady stream of cash so that my family and the people I care about will be protected after I’m gone.

And I don’t mean physically gone. My mind is shifting more and more every day. My thoughts are slowing down.. Most of the time I’m disassociated. I feel myself acting and saying things automatically.

That’s where I stand on the day before my 23rd birthday. Sitting in a library in NYC and writing words into a laptop.

I’ve been running Following the Rules now for two years. Two YEARS. And I’ve built a small audience – my list is 1200 but only the same 30 people read and open the emails with any regularity.

I just came from watching a movie about Jimi Hendrix. He was a great guy, a guitarist. He also beat the shit out of his women. Often. He was nuts. But he was also amazing at guitar. His skills made people ignore or look past his flaws….. If only most of us were so lucky.

There are very few people in life that can get by on genius or good ideas alone. Usually to get ahead you also have to get people to like you.

I’ve gone down that road before – trying to get people to like me. Last time I tried it I ended up with a family. People I thought cared about me — a girlfriend, a bunch of kids to play with, people to eat with in the morning, and it was great. Then I left and they forgot about me.

Gone for two months and the whole world fell apart. Makes you wonder what was going on.

There are people that have always stood by me. A few that are encouraging, see that I’m doing my best, that I’m trying, or maybe they don’t care about that at all. All I know is they care about ME — they want me to succeed, and the harder I work at the closer we are.

I want to be that support system for other people. It doesn’t make sense that I have people behind me, supporting me, liking me.. it doesn’t make sense that you’re even reading this, but you are. I see you, I have analytics.

And I’m here for you.

Reach out, say hi, let’s get drinks, I’ll support you. At least I hope I will. There’s really no way to tell….

I feel like I’m constantly on the edge of a cliff. Like I’m running full speed toward a goal that I know I want, watching it get closer and closer automatically. And I’m happy, but crazy too.

I’ve gotten to the point where all I know how to do is work. It’s a difficult job with a lot of grunt elements, but I do them, I get better at them, and I don’t do much else.

I’m not going slow, but the success is also not immediate.

One of my friends was looking at big named bloggers and business coaches. He called them “famous,” said he felt envious of all they have. ENVIOUS. I told him to use that envy to inspire himself to make THEM envious.

I don’t believe in envy at all.

I believe more in looking at the people — someone like Ramit Sethi for instance. I’ve only met him a couple times, and only have his blog to go on so I’m mostly guessing here, but this guy has everything the “entrepreneur” crowd wants: money, throngs of readers, the ability to go on cool adventures whenever he wants, but they don’t see what’s under the surface.

Maybe he’s lonely, maybe he feels trapped in a bubble, like he always has to be “on” because his new friends only know him as Ramit Sethi the successful blogger, and his old friends don’t know that area enough to respect it. So he has to hide.. all the time.

His readers expect one thing from him, his family expects another, he has his own expectations and pressures too. So what is there to be envious of?

Everybody is in there own spot. You can make a goal and run full speed at it, but you lose things along the way.

For instance, I’ve given up the chance at a comfortable life at least 5 times in the last YEAR… Potential freelance clients approaching who I turn down because I feel loyal to my current job, offers from recruiters to pay 2x my salary for doing the same job at a shittier (or maybe better?) company, and even chances at free housing in other states… each one was the chance at a different life, yet I turned down every opportunity that doesn’t fit into my goal of becoming CEO of a company, of building something that’ll support my friends and family while we all grow together and deliver value.

You can’t have it all.

I know miserable people where I want to be. I know miserable people where I’ve been. Thinking back, I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who was really happy, content is usually where they cap out…. and that’s all I want for myself.

So on my 23rd birthday I want to leave this message to my future self: it’s working out so far. Keep moving forward, you’ve got this. Go have kids and put down roots – I’m working hard now to allow you to do that.

And if I’m dead in five years and never get to experience the joy that comes at the end of this road? Hey, that’s life… not all stories have happy endings.

But at 23, right now in this moment, I’m as content as I’ve ever been. I’m working for an awesome company, for a great group of people who teach me that anything is possible, no matter how crazy I feel on the inside, as long as I can keep it together run front of clients.. and it’s a great lesson.

Keep it up, Alex… keep it up.

Regards,
-Alex Berman, Age 23

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Bag of soylent

The woman at the front desk of Dom & Tom sent me a message today:

“Alex, there’s a really large box here for you”

“Could it be???!???”

After ordering during beta, and following the updates for the last 8 months, Soylent has arrived!!

For those who don’t know, Soylent is the meal of the future – it’s goal is to give you all the nutrients you need to survive in one beverage.

So I’m putting it to the test. I ordered a two week supply and, starting tomorrow, I’ll be eating only Soylent for the next 9 days.

I’m excited 1x1.trans Eating Nothing But Soylent For 9 Days.... It Might Not Be People, But Its Delicious

Why Solent?

1) I love the idea of all things future and eating only powder is a great way to experience it.

2) The average meal in NYC costs $12…. Soylent costs about $3 per meal — that means if I can get used to eating only Soylent, I’ll be able to 4x my spending money.

3) It’s healthy. If there’s anything I love more than the future and money, it’s systems. Soylent is a great way to eat healthy without even thinking about it.

And so the Soylent experiment begins…..

[click to continue…]

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the following the rules outsourcing twitter experiment header

The Opportunity:

I was in Chinatown yesterday talking to friend, and he mentioned a tweet he sent out.

I told him I didn’t have a chance to respond.

After I said that, he said I was someone who didn’t retweet things very often, even though I tweet all the time, so he expected it and wasn’t surprised.

That got me thinking….. Sure, I’m too busy most of the time to reply or retweet, but what if I outsourced it? Would I get the same results? It was time for an experiment.

The experiment lasted one week, and the goals were:

  1. See if posting on Twitter and favoriting comments regularly makes people reach out more often with invites to social events.
  2. Determine if I feel more connected to my Twitter following.

To further test this, I threw a quick post up on oDesk looking for virtual assistants and social media managers to handle my Twitter account.

[click to continue…]

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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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