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Personal Website Tools

13 Things Every Personal Website MUST Have

    If you've read my post explaining how to set up your personal brand, you now know how to get your website up and running.

    Today I wanted to cover what you should start incorporating into your site once you do actually have it set up.

    Specifically, there are 13 things every personal branding website must have.

    Email Capture Pop-Up

    (1) Email Capture Pop-Up

    You've seen them.

    You've been annoyed by them.

    But you've also probably typed your email address into them. Because they work.

    These pop-ups appear on visitor's screens after a particular set of criteria has been met.

    For example, as soon as they show intent to leave your site by moving their mouse towards the top of their browser. Alternatively, it could appear after a pre-determined amount of time passes since they arrived on your page.

    They prompt the visitor to enter their email address, typically in exchange for access to your lead magnet or newsletter.

    As mentioned in my personal branding post, I use Thrive Themes on my website, so below is a video tutorial demonstrating how you can go about setting up a pop-up within Thrive Themes:

    (2) Facebook Pixel & Adwords

    If you plan on doing any sort of paid advertising, one of the very first things you'll want to take care of once you have your site up and running is installing your Facebook and Adwords retargeting pixels.

    Your pixels are what allow you to retarget people who have already been to your site by showing them additional ads.

    This is incredibly powerful for two reasons:

    1. Retargeting Is Cheap
    2. You Build Your Brand
      • Because the same people end up seeing your brand over and over again, you're actually able to build up your brand. It takes more than seven points of contact before you're typically able to make a sale, so you really need to play the long game with your advertising.

    Setting up your Facebook pixel will be slightly more involved because you have to set up a Facebook Page and an ad account if you haven't done so yet.

    The video that follows is from Miles Beckler, one of the single most helpful internet marketers you'll come across. He's responsible for me knowing how to do half of everything I know when it comes to internet marketing, so I'd really encourage you to check out his content.

    Anyways, this is a video tutorial Miles put together showing how to install the Facebook Pixel on your site if you're using Thrive Themes. Even if you're not using Thrive, the process is going to be almost identical for your theme.

    It's essentially the same process with your Google Analytics Pixel:

    The other important piece to note here is that you want to set this up early.

    In fact, even if you don't plan on doing any paid advertising right now, I would still go ahead and set this up.

    Reason being, in order to operate correctly, these pixels need as much data as possible on your site. Installing them early allows them to start “seasoning,” so that when you do start running retargeting ads, you'll be doing so from a good starting point.

    Get More Social Media Shares

    (3) Social Share Buttons

    As I mentioned in my personal branding post, one of the most important components of your online strategy is your social media.

    Probably the single best thing you can do when it comes to your social media is to encourage your visitors to share your content. That's because sharing leverages the credibility of others to spread your message.

    When somebody shares your content, they're essentially vouching for you. Therefore, when that content appears on their friend's timelines, it holds more weight than it otherwise would.

    This begs the question, “How do I get more shares?”

    One of the best ways to do this is to flat out ask your followers to share your content (by the way, know anybody who could benefit from this post? <img draggable=” />). You'd be amazed how well this works.

    The next best way is to, a little more passively, nudge your readers to share your content by providing them with convenient share buttons.

    Enter, Social Warfare.

    Social Warfare is a plugin that makes the process of incorporating these buttons onto your site incredibly easy.

    It creates “sticky” share buttons that remain in the same place on your viewer's screen as they scroll down your post. This makes it as easy as the click of a button for your viewers to share your content.

    Not only that, you can even control the way your content appears when a visitor shares it. This removes one more piece of friction from the process of your visitor actually sharing your content because it's already formatted for them.

    SSL Certificate

    (4) SSL Certificate

    This one isn't quite mission critical, but it is something I would encourage you to at least investigate.

    SSL Certificates are badges issued to you by a Certificate Authority that signify that your visitor has a secure connection to the server on which your site is hosted.

    This is what allows you to have the green “https://” and a lock icon appear before your domain in the URL bar of your visitor's browser when they arrive on your site.

    SSL Certificate

    SSL Certificates are 100% necessary if you're going to be selling products on your site, but you may want to set one up even if you don't intend on accepting credit card transactions.

    Reason being, SSL Certificates help both with search engine rankings and with user experience. Search engines will boost sites that have SSL Certificates because they know it's a more secure site.

    It also assures your visitors that they're browsing a safe website, so people may be more inclined to actually hang around.

    You can purchase an certificate directly through your hosting provider in most cases.

    Since I purchased my hosting through GoDaddy, I simply bought my certificate right through them. This also made it a lot easier to set it up since everything was within their ecosystem.

    You can definitely go about setting this up another way, but that's just how I went about mine.

    Privacy Policy

    (5) Privacy Policy

    Again, this one is not exactly mission critical, but I would encourage you to set this up because it's simply good form and it's also incredibly easy.

    Your Privacy Policy essentially just lays out how you handle your visitors' information.

    You typically place the link for this in the footer of your site so it's out of the way, but still accessible.

    There's two ways to go about actually generating your privacy policy:

    1. Grab a template off Google and edit it to fit your site.
      • Use this option at your own discretion. I didn't want to go this route simply because I wanted to know it was done correctly, but there definitely are some good templates out there.
    2. Buy one off https://privacypolicies.com
      • This is how I did mine. It only costs $30 so to me that was worth it to know it's done the right way. You simply answer a couple of basic questions about your site and within seconds you have a full privacy policy.

    Affiliate Marketing

    (6) Affiliate Disclosure

    This one is mission critical if you're doing any sort of Affiliate Marketing on your site.

    The Federal Trade Commission has stated that Affiliate Marketers need to disclose to their viewers/readers when they are an affiliate of the product they're recommending.

    That means you need some form of disclosure on your website explaining that you are in fact an affiliate of some of the products you recommend. More specifically, there's actually two types of disclosures you may need.

    The first is a general disclosure that will apply to almost all of the affiliate programs you take part in.

    The other one you may need to incorporate is a disclosure specific to a particular merchant.

    For example, Amazon's affiliate program requires that you use very specific language that you literally need to copy and paste on your site verbatim, otherwise they can terminate your affiliate accounts.

    So with each particular merchant or affiliate network, do your homework to ensure you understand if you need a specific disclosure for them.

    Much like your privacy policy, this is something you typically place either in the footer or sidebar of your site so that it's accessible, but not obstructing a visitor's experience on your site.

    You cannot try to hide this, though, as the whole point is to actually inform your visitors.

    Site Navigation

    (7) Navigation

    It's unfortunate, but the bounce rate of most websites suck – big time.

    You spend all this time slaving over your content, only to have people get to your site and barely engage with it.

    This is in large part due to our Goldfish-like attention spans, but it also may be because most of us need to improve our site navigation.

    When a visitor comes to your site, you need to do everything in your power to keep them there as long as possible. The longer they're on your site, the more likely they are to become an email subscriber, share your content, or simply engage with your content.

    One of the best ways to do this is to show the right content to the right people via recommended posts.

    For example, if I have somebody on my site reading a post about real estate, I want to make sure I recommend another post about real estate, not one covering personal branding (bonus tip: one of the other great ways to boost time on site is via internal linking, like the spree I just went on right there).

    The best way to improve your recommended posts is to properly categorize your posts within WordPress.

    Categorize Posts WordPress

    From there, you'll need to incorporate a recommended posts plugin, or, if you're using Thrive Themes, as I recommend, you can simply turn on the Related Posts option in the Theme Options.

    Related Posts WordPress Every Site Must Have

    (8) Cache Plugin

    You're website is probably working too hard.

    Give it a break by using a cache plugin.

    Every time your site loads for a visitor, Word Press calls on your server to load every image and every piece of text required for that page.

    It can be a lot of data.

    But I'm here to tell you about a brighter future. A future where Word Press can catch a breather. A future where visitors to your site are completely beside themselves with how blazing fast your site loads to the point where they build monuments of you.

    Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away.

    Cache plugins speed up your site by storing static parts of it (static meaning they don't change from day to day, i.e. your menu) in RAM instead of on the server. That way, when Word Press goes to access it, it's much easier to do so, resulting in quicker page loads.

    Page speed is incredibly important because not only does it improve user experience, it's also a ranking factor for search engines.

    There's a number of different cache plugins out there, but here's a post covering the top ones.

    Content Delivery Network

    (9) CDN (Content Delivery Network)

    Again, you want to do everything in your power to improve page speed.

    That's part of the reason I use Thrive Themes – everything they do has page speed in mind.

    After choosing the right theme and setting up your cache plugin, one of the best things you can do to improve your site speed is to use a Content Delivery Network.

    A CDN essentially multiplies the number of servers you have working for you. It uses cloud computing and copies the content on your site to multiple different servers around the world so that when somebody visits your site, instead of Word Press only being able to load the page from one server, it can have multiple servers work on it.

    This ends up resulting in significantly improved site speed.

    There are countless CDN providers out there, but I chose to set mine up directly through GoDaddy, again because I've just done everything through them so it keeps it all in the same ecosystem. I also really love their customer support.

    By the way, if you're interested you can test your site speed here.

    Website Security

    (10) Security

    Hackers….they're everywhere.

    No, I really mean that. This is something you need to take incredibly seriously.

    Because Word Press is so damn popular, hackers spend most of their time trying to infiltrate Word Press based sites.

    Why would hackers want to mess with your brand new website? There's actually a variety of reasons, but they typically want to install spyware or malware so that whoever comes to your site ends up with it on their computer.

    This begs the question, how do I prevent this from happening?

    As I mentioned in my personal branding video series, one system you can get up and running right from the start is WordFence.

    Since I do everything through GoDaddy, I purchased a suite through them that offered me a CDN, site security and site backup (which is our next topic) all in one package. Check with your hosting provider as they will likely offer some form of security.

    Site Backup

    (11) Site Backup

    IMPLORE you to set this up.

    If you've gotten started with putting out content, you know how much of a grind it is.

    Putting together posts that are truly helpful to people takes a ton of work. There's lots of research involved, tons of writing, filming or recording, and endless trial and error.

    Now imagine doing this for months or even years, and then all in a flash, everything you've worked towards evaporates into thin air.

    Website crash

    This can actually happen more often than you'd think.

    Maybe a hacker somehow got past your defenses. Maybe you were messing with the code on your site and royally screwed something up by mistake.

    Whatever the cause, having reliable site backup can truly be a lifesaver in these scenarios.

    Site backup is essentially where you have a backup version of your site and all its data stored somewhere separate from the server your site is running on.

    As I mentioned in the last post, I use GoDaddy for this. The way their system works is that at the end of every day, they make a new copy of my site.

    That way, god forbid a hacker does get past my defenses, or, god forbid I (being the technical wizard I am) accidentally crash my site all on my own, I can literally call up GoDaddy and ask them to make my site go back to exactly the way it was the day before.

    You have to be clinically insane to not set this up.

    It's typically incredibly cost-effective and I literally didn't have to do anything extra to set it up other than give GoDaddy the go-ahead.

    It's almost inevitable that your site will at some point crash. When it happens, you will sincerely than yourself for having set this up.

    Comment Spam Blocker Akismet

    (12) Akismet

    I promise, this is the last one related to hacking.

    One of the first things you'll notice once you get your site up and running is comment spam.

    These are typically people wanting more backlinks to their site.

    Akismet is the best plugin to put an end to this. It's powerful enough that it's actually one of the only plugins that comes pre-installed on WordPress, so you won't have to go download it.

    What you will have to do, though, is simply head over to Akismet's website and purchase a plan so you can get a license key. Once you have this, you just need to input it into the plugin so it gets upgraded to the paid version.

    At the time of this writing, I've only had my site up for a few months and Akismet has already blocked multiple spam comments for me.

    XML Sitemap

    (13) XML Sitemap

    You probably already understand the power of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

    One of the best things you can do to jump-start your SEO is to ensure Google is indexing your site.

    The best way to do this is to take matters into your own hands and literally feed Google exactly the information it needs to do this.

    This is where an XML Sitemap comes in.

    An XML Sitemap is essentially a layout of your site that Google can interpret.

    You can create one of these right within the Yoast SEO plugin, which is one of the best plugins out there.

    I'm going to once again turn things over to Miles Beckler since he just recently put out a tutorial showing you how to do this.

    As Miles said, once you have this set up, just let it run in the background. It's not worth any additional time invested.

    Conclusion

    Your website will always be evolving and the only constant will truly be change.

    Having said that, these are some great fundamentals to get in place early on.

    I hope you were able to get some value out of this post. If so, please consider subscribing to my newsletter below so you're notified whenever we post new content.

    Also, if you have a friend or colleague who's building their site (or maybe they already built a site but it just needs to be updated), please share this with them.

    That's all for today! See you around soon!

    -Alex

    Get FREE Tips On Entrepreneurship

    Batch Processing Work

      How do you structure your workload?

      Do you often times find it hard to get into a groove?

      Like your attention is always being diverted and it's impossible to get into a deeply focused state?

      I used to have this same exact problem.

      In fact, I still struggle with this, but today I want to offer up a solution that's helped me cut this problem down to a manageable size – batch processing.

      What Is Batch Processing?

      Let's say you've built your personal brand, and now you're starting to crank out content.

      Let's say you're aiming for one YouTube video, one blog post, three Instagram posts and one email blast a day.

      That's a ton of content. It would drive you crazy to crank all of that out in a single day, constantly switching from task to task.

      Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

      What if instead, you dedicated one day a week to writing and scheduling your blog posts.

      The next day you created and scheduled your Instagram posts and email blasts.

      Then you had three days to shoot your videos and two days to edit and upload the videos.

      Why Does Batch Processing Work?

      Batch processing really allows you to get in the zone each time you go to put in some work.

      Let's look at what's involved in shooting a video.

      You have to make sure your memory card has available space on it, get your lighting and sound dialed in, make sure your camera settings are correct, get in the right mental head-space to shoot, and then actually start recording.

      If you have to do that every single day, it can get exhausting.

      Instead, when you do that one time in the morning and then crank out 3 or 4 videos back to back, it can make life a hell of a lot easier.

      For me, when I start to shoot a video, my first couple of takes are pretty iffy. I usually don't produce anything meaningful for the first couple of tries.

      Why go and unnecessarily put myself through that process every single day when I can do that two times per week and then get in that flow state and crank out all my videos?

      For more repetitive tasks like creating and scheduling your Instagram posts, you're able to really find a rhythm when you're doing post after post back to back to back.

      This gets pretty nuanced. When I'm editing my quote posts in Font Candy, I can really get in the zone and, as silly as this sounds, better remember how to use each function of the app and where each button I need is.

      I know that sounds a little ridiculous, but it's all about eliminating things that can interrupt your flow.

      Nothing New Here

      This isn't a new concept. This was used by Henry Ford with the assembly line.

      Ford discovered that his employees were much more efficient when they were given a single, highly repetitive task to do, rather than giving a single employee a broad range of responsibilities.

      As Entrepreneurs, we don't have the luxury of only focusing on just one task. But, we can try to get as much out of this principle as possible by batching the tasks that we do have into time blocks so we can get in that zone and be as effective as possible during that time frame.

      This Will Look Different For Everybody

      There is no right or wrong way to do this.

      Maybe while you do prefer to shoot your videos all at once, when it comes to writing your emails you'd rather do that once a day because it feels more authentic and makes finding a topic easier.

      There's no one way to do this and it will require a little experimentation to find the best solution for you.

      Having said that, this can definitely be a big boost to your productivity, so I would really encourage you to at least give it a shot.

      That's all for today – just a quick tip that I hope you'll find useful.

      If you did enjoy this post, please consider subscribing down below so you stay up to date whenever we post a new video or blog post.

      Til next time, enjoy!

      -Alex

      Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

      Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

        Entrepreneurship is tough enough as it is.

        The path is not at all clear sometimes and that ends up meaning there are a ton of different mistakes Entrepreneurs make.

        Today we're going to break down the top 11 mistakes Entrepreneurs make so that you can be sure to avoid these pitfalls.

        Let me know in the comments below if you have personally made any of these or if you have any follow up questions.

        Start in entrepreneurship mistakes entrepreneurs make

        Mistake #1 – Not Starting

        The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

        Henry David Thoreau unfortunately had it right.

        Too many of us want to start a business but never do.

        Our minds get awfully creative in coming up with reasons why we can't start a business.

        It's a daunting prospect and a significant risk, so we delay, delay, delay.

        But starting a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. It's empowering, it builds character, and it can provide true financial freedom.

        At the end of the day, you just have to start. Accept that it won't be perfect and just start taking action.

        Even if you fail, you'll pick up invaluable information along the way that will make it that much easier to start your next business.

        Commit Mistakes entrepreneurs make

        Mistake #2 – Not Committing

        Once you do decide to take the leap, the single biggest mistakes Entrepreneurs make is not committing.

        I'm not using that word lightly.

        Entrepreneurship is a fucking grind.

        You're guaranteed to fail and nobody is going to come clean up your messes – it all falls on you.

        So if you haven't firmly decided that you're going to make this work no matter what, it's never going to pan out how you want.

        You have to ask yourself how bad you really want it. If you don't crave this shit with every ounce of you, it simply won't work.

        You have to want it more than you want to spend weekends with friends.

        You have to want it more than you want to take vacations.

        You have to want it more than you want to watch your favorite TV show.

        There are so many obstacles. So many moments where you'll feel defeated and the path won't at all seem clear.

        So when you think about being an Entrepreneur, if you say things like “yeah, that'd be cool,” or “I should start a business,” don't even bother getting started. The level of commitment required is off the charts.

        If you don't feel that level of commitment currently, try out the exercise I mention in my How Bad Do You Want It post. Go burn those ships.

        Perfectionism Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

        Mistake #3 – Planning Instead Of Executing

        This one kills me.

        No seriously, it pains me to think about this one.

        Reason being – it's personal. I've seen this play out not only with myself but also with a lot of people I'm close to.

        So many of us end up waiting until everything is perfect before jumping in. We want the perfect business plan, the perfect business partner, the perfect economic conditions, and every little detail on our website ironed out.

        In reality, business is incredibly messy. Nothing is ever perfect, so there is no sense in waiting and planning till kingdom come in the first place.

        For me, I knew I wanted to start building my personal brand for a long time, but I waited. And then I waited some more. And then I planned. And then I went back to waiting.

        Looking back, I was simply afraid.

        I didn't want to embrace the unknown. And ultimately, I wasn't quite confident I'd be able to figure it out if I did fail.

        Entrepreneurship isn't about making a plan that eliminates the possibility of failure because it's just that good.

        Rather, entrepreneurship is about taking massive action and then figuring out how to adapt when things don't go your way. The person who gets up the most after failing wins – period.

        Finding Mentors Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

        Mistake #4 – Not Finding A Mentor

        I went into a lot of detail on this point back in my post on finding a mentor, but it's so important that it deserves reviewing here.

        As we just covered, business is tough shit.

        There are so many unforeseen obstacles that make the journey that much more challenging.

        But what if you could eliminate (or at least be aware) of the majority of those obstacles?

        That's what having a proven mentor does for you. But giving you advice on how to avoid or overcome challenges is really only scratching the surface of how mentors can help you.

        Mentors help Entrepreneurs in 4 distinct ways:

        1. Advice & Guidance
          • As we just covered, mentors have been there, done that. So when you come across an obstacle, they usually know how to get around it because they've seen that same problem before themselves.
        2. Connections
          • Your network is your net worth. Problem is, when you're just getting started as an Entrepreneur, your network usually isn't too strong. Aligning with a mentor can help you tap into their already established network. This can skyrocket your ability to make progress in your given niche.
        3. Leveraged Credibility
          • Your credibility as an Entrepreneur is one of your single biggest assets. Once again, though, when you're just getting started, you don't have much credibility at all. There's no proven track record you can point to. If you're able to get your mentor on board with whatever project you're working on, you can leverage their credibility.
        4. Motivation
          • Working with a proven mentor is one of the single most motivating things Entrepreneurs can do. Thanks to social media, we tend to think of successful people as superhumans. When we work with mentors face to face though, we realize that their success isn't due to some magical character trait that the rest of us don't have. Rather, it's that they simply wanted it more than most people so they found ways around the obstacles they faced.

        So I implore you, take the time to go find a mentor. It's not as hard as you think and it will exponentially impact your growth as an Entrepreneur.

        For more on how to actually find a mentor, check out my post on mentorship.

        Debt spend too much money business

        Mistake #5 – Spending Too Much On The Business

        It's tempting, I know.

        Your business is like your first child.

        You want to give it everything it asks for.

        Every need seems like it has to be addressed.

        And worst of all, it's easy to justify. After all, if you're going to spend money, you may as well spend it on your business, right?

        While that is correct, it's all too easy to get carried away here.

        As you get started in Entrepreneurship, you'll realize there's an endless list of products and services designed to make your life as an Entrepreneur easier.

        While it's great that these products exist, it's brutal at the same time. With each one, you get that dopamine rush and you wonder how your business could possibly operate without it.

        It seems like it's an absolute must.

        You're smarter than that, though. Right?

        You know that it's not about how much you make, but how much you take home.

        While I'm all about maximizing revenue, at some point you have to actually pay the bills. So you have to be incredibly selective in terms of where and how you spend money.

        If not, before you know it you'll be spending hundreds or even thousands every month and making it too difficult to actually overcome your costs.

        Over Spending Entrepreneurs

        Mistake #6 – Spending Too Much In Your Personal Life

        When just starting out, one of the biggest mistakes Entrepreneurs make is spending too much money in their personal lives.

        Just as in the last point where you can't afford to spend too much in the business, it's even more important to manage your personal spending.

        Every single dollar you spend on yourself is a dollar you can't put towards growing your business.

        Yes, this means making sacrifices. I'm not going to sugar coat it and tell you it doesn't.

        You can't have a thriving business and spend $200 at the club every Saturday night. At least not in the beginning.

        The funny thing, though, is that when you're truly committed to this, it doesn't really feel like much of a sacrifice. It's just part of what has to be done. The option to go out every weekend and blow money unnecessarily isn't even really an option, so it doesn't hurt that much.

        Focus on living small for the first 3 or 4 years. Understand that each dollar that comes into your wallet has one job and one job only – to go out there and earn you more dollars.

        Every dollar you save is a dollar that can be invested. Ultimately, you do get to a point where you're able to spend more freely (that's the whole point, right?).

        But in the beginning, living small is the key.

        entrepreneurs Not staying focused

        Mistake #7 – Not Focusing

        Even if you decided to be super frugal when you go out on weekends, that's not enough.

        Not being laser focused when you're starting a business is one of the biggest mistakes Entrepreneurs make.

        At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I'll say it again – Entrepreneurship is tough shit.

        Why make it harder on yourself than it needs to be by diverting your attention all over the place.

        You have to cut out the distractions. At a bare minimum, you have to dramatically cut back on them. Maybe go to that birthday party once in a while or spend time with the girlfriend once a week. But outside of that, it's one-on-one time between you and your business.

        You can have the best business plan in the world, but if you're not focused, what the hell is the point?

        You can read every business book in the world, but if you keep watching TV for 3 hours every night, how are you ever going to make progress?

        To me, this comes down to this subconscious belief that we always have more time.

        Newsflash – that's a lie.

        Every day that passes where you're unfocused is another day wasted. Those days add up.

        Whether you like it or not, you and I are both slowly marching towards death. I know that sounds morbid, but that's the reality.

        So wake up to the fact that the clock is ticking and get focused.

        don't Reinvent the wheel business

        Mistake #8 – Trying To Reinvent The Wheel

        This is another painful one for me.

        I struggled with this for a little while but I also have friends that struggle with this.

        Too many of us feel like we need to be the next Google or Facebook. We think we need to have a totally revolutionary idea in order to start a business.

        That simply isn't true.

        If you take a look at the Forbes list, you'll see that most successful entrepreneurs didn't reinvent the wheel – they just executed.

        They saw a profitable market, got into it whether they knew much about it or not, and competed.

        While yes, if you want to become an overnight billionaire you're going to need one hell of an idea coupled with incredible execution, for the rest of us there is plenty of money to be made by getting into an existing industry, somehow differentiating ourselves from our competition (not even as much as you might think is required) and outselling/outcompeting them.

        There are multimillionaires who own car washes, landscaping companies, and all sorts of random, boring businesses. I had a client at the bank who owned a fresh seafood delivery business – he made more than $5,000,000 a year.

        These people aren't developing revolutionary inventions that change the whole landscape or create new industries. They're going out into the marketplace and executing.

        Execution beats ideas every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

        Complicated business plan

        Mistake #9 – Complicating The Business Model (Too Many Products)

        Your job as a new Entrepreneur is to go out and collect checks – that's it.

        But in order to have a laser-like focus on sales, you need to keep things simple.

        Put out your Minimum Viable Product, sell the hell out of that and only then should you worry about other components of your product line.

        As I said earlier, your business is like your first child. As Entrepreneurs, we tend to get overly excited about it. This is a good thing, but only in moderation.

        If we spend more time on product development than actually getting customers in the door, our businesses won't last long enough for those products to make it to market in the first place.

        Determine what the market needs the absolute most. Deliver that, get as many happy customers as you possibly can, and then figure out how to further monetize that customer base.

        For more on this topic, check out The Lean Startup by Eric Ries:

        Entrepreneurship gameplan

        Mistake #10 – Sticking To The Gameplan (Shiny Object Syndrome)

        We live in the information age.

        If you spend any amount of time at all online, you're going to constantly be exposed to new ways to make money and different business models.

        Inevitably, things will get tough with whatever business model you're trying to implement. When that happens, it'll be all too easy to just want to switch things up and move on to either a new strategy or a new business entirely.

        You have to ignore these temptations. I learned this the hard way.

        Throughout my life, I've started a number of different ventures that I simply gave up on way too easily. Had I stuck with them, I probably could have made any one of them successful.

        Angela Duckworth, a psychologist who's studied success extensively, determined that one of the most important determinants of success is Grit (basically one's ability to stick with a particular venture for an extended period of time).

        Only once you've dedicated large amounts of time to practicing a particular pursuit can you truly start to make progress. Don't let the temptation to change course get the better of you. Every obstacle has a way around it. Find it and keep moving forward.

        For more on the concept of Grit, I can't recommend Angela Duckworth's book highly enough:

        not having a sense of urgency entrepreneur success

        Mistake #11 – Not Having A Sense Of Urgency

        Did I mention the clock is ticking?

        Well, it is. And that's why one of the most common traits that successful Entrepreneurs share is a sense of urgency.

        If you keep watching TV at night thinking you can just do it tomorrow…

        If you keep going out on the weekends thinking you can just do your work during the week…

        If you keep taking vacations thinking you can just do it next month…

        Your business will never get off the damn ground.

        To me, this is one of the worst mistakes Entrepreneurs make.

        Success in business (or really anything) requires taking massive action. You can't skate by with just a little bit of work here, a little there.

        I hear so many people, both in person and in the comments sections online, talking about how they want to do this or they want to do that…

        THEN GO DO IT!!! 

        RIGHT NOW!!!

        Get FREE Tips On Entrepreneurship

        Why every entrepreneur needs a mastermind

        Top 9 Reasons EVERY Entrepreneur Needs A Mastermind

          As an Entrepreneur, you need to be taking part in an Entrepreneur Mastermind.

          There are very few things out there that offer you a similar return on the time investment you make in a Mastermind group.

          It can explode your growth as an Entrepreneur and make your journey to success a world apart from if you instead decided to go it alone.

          Today's post is going to break down everything you need to know about Entrepreneur Masterminds. This is my most comprehensive and single lengthiest posts to date, clocking in at 4,154 words, which is a reflection of how strongly I feel that every Entrepreneur needs a Mastermind.

          Enjoy, and let me know in the comments below if you have any questions!

          An Introduction To Entrepreneur Masterminds

          Let's start off by defining what an Entrepreneur Mastermind is in the first place.

          Napoleon Hill, famed author of Think And Grow Rich, is credited with introducing this concept. Most people know Hill thanks to Think and Grow Rich, but he actually started mentioning the idea of a Mastermind back in his first few books, starting with The Law Of Success in 1928.

          He referred to it as a Mastermind Alliance, rather than a Mastermind Group, as it's more commonly called today. He argued that when two or more people got together to support one another in achieving goals, it created a third entity – the Master Mind.

          Essentially, a Mastermind is a group of people who meet regularly to discuss their goals and support one another in achieving those goals. It's a place where you can gain incredible feedback, expand your network, and get encouragement from other like-minded individuals.

          The Top 11 Reasons Every Entrepreneur Needs A Mastermind

          There are a number of different ways a Mastermind can benefit Entrepreneurs, and it will vary from group to group and even from Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur within a particular group.

          Having said that, there are typically a couple of common, key benefits Entrepreneurs get from taking part in a mastermind. What follows are the top 11 reasons every Entrepreneur needs a mastermind.

          (1) Motivation

          Similar to how I pointed out in my post on finding a Mentor that mentors can provide a great deal of motivation, taking part in an Entrepreneur Mastermind is also incredibly motivating.

          Seeing others around you take massive action and overcome their challenges immediately makes you think about your own problems differently. You'll start to realize that every obstacle presents an opportunity, and you'll feel compelled to find opportunities within your own challenges.

          The other thing that makes this even more powerful is when you have Entrepreneurs in the group who are at different points in their business.

          Having Entrepreneurs who have “made it” helps provide your brain with the proof it needs that success is possible, while having people at a similar point in their journey to where you are provides you with camaraderie.

          Start or join an Entrepreneur Mastermind and you'll quickly cut any motivation problems down to size.

          (2) Exponentially Grows Your Network

          We've all heard it – “your network is your net worth.”

          But many of us don't take the necessary amount of action to meaningfully grow our networks. That's partly because it's a lot of tough work. Business cards, remembering names, networking events, small talk…it get's tiring.

          That's why I'm always on the lookout for ways to short-circuit or “hack” this process. I've mentioned in previous posts that having a strong personal brand is one of the best ways to do this because it means people often seek you out.

          Outside of having a strong personal brand, another great way to build your network is by taking part in an Entrepreneur Mastermind. The reason I love the networking component of masterminds is that it's such a leveraged activity.

          Because you make meaningful connections with other plugged-in entrepreneurs, it has the effect of exponentially growing your network. You suddenly have access to everybody in the networks of each individual person in your mastermind.

          When you meet with your group, if you mention a problem you're facing, odds are that another person in the group knows somebody in their network who can help you.

          A fraction of the effort with equal, if not better, results. That's my kind of networking.

          (3) Get Unbiased Feedback (Safe Zone)

          Everybody has blind spots. But as Entrepreneurs, ours tend to be even more pronounced.

          When we start a business, many of us have a tendency to think our idea is a lot better than it actually may be. We can be a little romantic with our ideas.

          This can be a good thing because it gives us the motivation to keep going when things get tough. But like anything in life, it's only good in moderation.

          Getting unbiased, objective feedback from others is the best way to make sure you're not missing things when it comes to your business plan or a particular product you're launching.

          This does require a few things are in place first, though. You first of all have to be willing to hear others out and accept criticism. It doesn't mean you have to agree with everybody's input, but you at least need to hear it out with an open mind.

          It also requires that you provide meaningful feedback to others in return so that it's a two-way street.

          This can be one of the single best benefits of Entrepreneur Masterminds because you get your ideas picked apart by a handful of people, each with a different take.

          (4) Partnership Opportunities

          There's strength in numbers.

          When you can successfully collaborate with somebody or perhaps even multiple other people, the result can be something that's greater the sum of each of its individual parts.

          Maybe your skillset is product development, but another person in your mastermind is a Facebook advertising genius. And maybe another person is great at organic social media growth. Now all of a sudden you have the makings of a really strong team, capable of launching a product to much greater heights than any of you would be able to do on your own.

          The best thing you can do to give yourself a great shot at a successful partnership is to take some time to analyze your strengths. Determine how exactly it is that you could fit into a potential partnership. What unique skill set do you bring to the table?

          Once you understand this, whenever possible make it known to the group that you do possess this skillset (obviously without sounding like a conceited prick). You simply want others to know how you might benefit them.

          Then, just be a great listener and keep your eyes peeled for any opportunities that present themselves. Collaborations are one of the single biggest reasons why Entrepreneurs need a mastermind.

          (5) Cross Promotion

          If you can't find a way to do a joint venture with the others in your group, maybe there's at least a way for you to cross-promote each other.

          Perhaps you're one of a couple social media influencers in the group and you can each shout each other out and engage with each other's content, creating exponential growth for each of you.

          Or maybe you have a healthy snack company and one of the people in your group operates a supplement company, there could be some opportunities to cross-promote each other's products on social media, as the two would have similar audiences but cross promoting wouldn't cannibalize each other's sales.

          You have to be a little creative here, but luckily for you, number 1o on this list shows how being in an Entrepreneur Mastermind helps you be more creative in the first place!

          (6) Opportunities To Help Others – Build Lifelong Allies

          The people who win the most in life are the ones who provide the most value to the largest number of people.

          As I mentioned earlier, it's important that this is a two-way street. You need to go into this with a giving mindset as opposed to a taking mindset. Think how you can directly benefit the others in the group. Not only will it make you feel good, ultimately, the more you help others the more you'll receive in return.

          Having a big network doesn't do you any good if the connections aren't at all meaningful. When you truly make a difference in somebody's business and life, you'll create a lifelong ally who will want to support you long into the future.

          (7) Exposes You To New Ideas And Business Models

          If you're not always making an effort to learn, you're probably moving backward.

          The good news: there are lots of ways to soak up new information.

          The bad news: most are esoteric and tough to contextualize.

          Back to the good news: being part of an Entrepreneur Mastermind is one of the single best ways to be exposed to new ideas and new business models.

          Even though I quickly realized Corporate America wasn't for me, one of the things I did enjoy about my job as a Private Banker was seeing how my wealthy clients had made their money. I was always fascinated by how many different ways there were to make a dollar – or, more importantly, lots of dollars.

          The good news is I still get to enjoy that type of insight thanks to the mastermind I take part in.

          If you're anything like me, the trick here is to not get caught up in shiny object syndrome (which I cover in my post on the mistakes Entrepreneurs make).

          While it's incredibly insightful to see how others have grown their business and their income, you have to be selective in how you implement aspects of others' business models. Otherwise, you'll start getting pulled in all sorts of different directions.

          Having said that, if you can be thoughtful and structured in how you introduce these new strategies, it can result in your business plan being much more well rounded.

          (8) Makes You Up Your Game

          The saying, “show me who your 5 closest friends are and I'll show you who you are” couldn't be truer.

          Just by consistently spending time with other successful Entrepreneurs you'll naturally start thinking differently. Ultimately, we get what we tolerate. But what we tolerate is largely reflective of what we see others tolerate.

          If the people closest to us make poor dietary choices, we'll be much more likely to see that as tolerable behavior, so we're likely to start making those same choices ourselves.

          On the other hand, though, if we see the people around us only eating healthy food, we're likely to be more strict with our diet. The science here is pretty conclusive.

          This same concept applies to your business. If you consistently spend time with people who are working diligently on their business, you're going to be more likely to do the same. You'll subconsciously see it as the only

          (9) Accountability

          When you know you've got two weeks left until your next Mastermind meeting, you're going to find another gear.

          You'll be determined to keep up the progress so you can deliver a good report to your fellow Entrepreneurs.

          One of the single biggest characteristics of successful entrepreneurs is accountability. Now, this starts with holding yourself accountable on your own. But where you may fall short, it's hard to overstate the help that can be offered by others in this regard.

          At the end of every meeting in the mastermind I take part in, we document on a Google Doc what each of us expects to have done by the time our next meeting rolls around.

          Then, right at the top of the next meeting, we immediately go around the group getting a progress report from everybody. If you're not where you said you'd be, there better be a good reason for it. Otherwise, we publicly shame that person.

          Okay, just kidding. But we do give them a tough time about it. This has been one of the most helpful aspects of our mastermind because it really puts the pressure on to deliver. I'd highly recommend incorporating this into your mastermind if possible.

          (10) Creativity

          When you're getting input from a variety of different people, each of whom come from different backgrounds and has different perspectives, it can spark your own creativity.

          Being exposed to new ways to think about a problem can allow you to better put the puzzle pieces of the solution together.

          After all, creativity is typically the product of combining other, often unrelated ideas into one new idea. This is why some people refer to creativity as ideas having sex.

          So that leads one to conclude that in order to be more creative, you need to expose yourself to more and better ideas.

          Masterminds are one of the best ways for Entrepreneurs to do this.

          (11) Support

          Being an Entrepreneur inevitably provides you with some challenging moments.

          When faced with these, fighting the good fight all by yourself is entirely too difficult. Point blank, you need the support of others.

          Getting this support is one of the top reasons Entrepreneurs need a mastermind. Not only do you get encouragement and empathy, you get it from others who can truly relate to your struggle.

          People who haven't pursued entrepreneurship themselves or haven't been close to an Entrepreneur will rarely understand the challenges we face. So to be able to not just get support, but also get it from people who can actually relate is a powerful thing.

          They can help you get past your obstacle not just with empathy, but also with tangible solutions that worked for them when they faced a similar obstacle.

          So if you're having a tough time with something, speak up at your next mastermind meeting. Odds are, somebody there knows just the right thing to get you moving again.

          Alright, Alright…I Get It – Masterminds Are Helpful. Now How Do I Actually Join One?

          So you've decided you want to take part in a Mastermind. Great! Now you have a decision to make.

          There are two main ways to get involved in a Mastermind: either join an existing Mastermind or start your own.

          Let's look at each.

          Join An Existing Mastermind

          There are a couple of ways to join an existing mastermind.

          Some groups will be harder to join (if not impossible) than others. Some are paid and some are free, some are open to anybody and others are invitation only, so it really varies from group to group.

          If it's a more exclusive group, focus on how you can actually bring value to the rest of the group. what unique skill set do you possess that might currently be in short supply within the Mastermind.

          If it's a paid group you're going to want to do some homework first and ask yourself what exactly it is that you want to get out of working with the Mastermind. A majority of paid Masterminds focus on a particular subject, so if you're going to fork over some money (usually it's a little more than “some”) you should be very clear on what gap you're trying to fill in your skillset, connections, etc.

          What Are Some Top Mastermind Groups?

          To get you started, here's a list of some top mastermind groups available for Entrepreneurs.

          Dean Graziosi and Matt Larson's Organized Brilliance

          If you've been following this blog from the start, you know I'm a big believer in Real Estate Investing.

          Dean Graziosi is one of the best Real Estate investing coaches you'll come across and his Organized Brilliance Mastermind is one of the largest Masterminds out there. If you're looking to get started in Real Estate Investing, this is a great place to start.

          Brendon Burchard's High-Performance Mastermind

          If you want to perform at the highest level possible, look no further.

          Brendon Burchard is the real deal when it comes to success experts. He's literally started an institute whose sole purpose is studying high-performance individuals and scientifically breaking down their habits. His high-profile endorsements are seemingly endless – Tony Robbins, Oprah, Jack Canfield…the list goes on forever.

          Brendon gets daily requests for speaking or coaching gigs worth over $100,000 (cough, cough, why you should start your personal brand), so obviously it would be impossible to accommodate all of them. In order to get around this, he created an incredibly exclusive (and incredibly expensive) high-performance Mastermind. If you've seen some solid success as an Entrepreneur and are ready to make a big investment in your future, Brendon's Mastermind might just be your best bet.

          Dan Sullivan's 10x Ambition Program

          Dan Sullivan founded Strategic Coach in 1988 and has gone on to become a sought-after and exclusive coach. His 10x Ambition program is designed for already successful Entrepreneurs looking to take things to the next level.

          IVY Social University

          If you want a Mastermind with more of a social twist to it, look no further than IVY Social University. IVY is an organization that does 100+ events each year in each of the cities it operates in. These range from seminars to workshops, dinners, volunteering events, and even international getaways.

          Young Entrepreneurs Club (YEC)

          Once you've really started to make progress as an Entrepreneur, it's time to start really leveling up.

          YEC is one of the best places to make that possible. It's an exclusive, application only Mastermind that has some steep requirements (must own a business that does over $1MM in annual revenue or has over $1MM in financing).

          It's not cheap either, but you get to network with some incredibly successful Entrepreneurs who can open up entirely new doors for you. Usually, the results you get out of it make the cost seem like a small investment.

          Joe Polish's Genius Network

          Want meaningful, helpful connections and a sense of community? Genius Network is the Mastermind for you.

          They do have some pretty strict application requirements (you'll have to have some entrepreneurial success under your belt), but if you're accepted it can be an instrumental tool in your growth as an entrepreneur. Because the application standards are so high, you end up being surrounded by a really powerful group of people, each of whom brings something unique and valuable to the table.

          If you make it through the application process and are accepted, it's important to focus first on giving. How can you help the others in the group? By doing this, you'll make meaningful alliances and people will naturally want to help you back.

          How To Start Your Own Mastermind

          Okay, so you either can't find the type of Mastermind you want to be a part of or maybe you're struggling to get accepted into the right one.

          Not to worry! With a little networking and ear-bending, you can create your own Mastermind and you'd be surprised how easy it can be.

          Where To Start?

          The first step in creating your Mastermind is to start with the end in mind.

          What do you want to get out of your Mastermind? Equally important, what do you want your members to get out of it?

          If you don't have a general structure or theme in mind, it will be impossible to attract the right people. Without the right people, there's no point in a Mastermind in the first place.

          How Do I Attract The Right People?

          When you first start out, a little planning goes a long way.

          Starting in your immediate network is the best way to get the ball rolling. The idea is to leverage your existing connections to get in touch with progressively larger, more meaningful connections.

          Ask yourself who's the most successful, influential person you know who would definitely be interested in your mastermind. Then, do whatever it takes to get them on board. The key here is understanding it only takes one to get things started.

          Once you have them on board, ask them who the most successful person in their network is. Or, if this first person is pretty well known, they may not even need to personally know the next person you go after. The key is that the next person you go after knows the first person you got on board.

          The Ask

          Now that you have the next person in mind, you approach them and say, “Hey, I'm starting an Entrepreneur Mastermind with the following benefits (yes, you may need to sell them on it a little), and the reason I thought you may be interested in it is [insert the first person's name here] is going to be joining in.

          The idea is to leverage the credibility and influence of the first person to hook the second.

          In doing this, you can continue to approach bigger, more influential people and before you know it you're talking with some incredibly successful people. It helps to remember that almost everybody wants to improve themselves and surround themselves with other winners, so attracting the right people is not as difficult as you think.

          This is the key to getting the most out of your Mastermind – the higher the quality of the members, the better the results. 90% of the effort and time it takes to get your Mastermind off the ground should be spent on figuring out how to get the right people into it.

          Ground Rules for Your Mastermind

          Yes, rules suck. But, there are a few rules you should put in place in order to give your Mastermind the best chance at being successful:

          • Confidentiality – It should be expressly stated that what is discussed in your meetings is strictly confidential. In order for a Mastermind to be effective, its members need to feel like they can share their most intimate problems. That won't happen unless there's true confidentiality between the members.
          • Commitment – Each member needs to ideally be committed for at least a year. A Mastermind really loses its power when it ends up being a revolving door where nobody stays put.
          • Timeliness – You need to run your Mastermind like you would any other business meeting and start it on time. One of my favorite ideas for keeping a meeting on time is Grant Cardone's strategy of starting meetings at an odd time like 9:07 AM. This reminds people that being on time is important. Equally importatnt to starting on time is making sure your meetings don't drag on forever.
          • Additions – More isn't always merrier. There need to be rules in place for how people can be added to the group, as it is entirely too easy for things to get a little chaotic when there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

          What to discuss in your mastermind meetings

          You've finally got your group together – great! Now what?

          This goes back to having that strong vision for your Mastermind before you even start. How is it you want your members to benefit? How is it that you want your members to contribute? Is your Mastermind more general or niche specific?

          There are a couple pieces that need to be addressed at each meeting:

          • Accountability – As I mentioned earlier in the post, in the Mastermind that I take part in, we each put down the goals we're working towards on a Google Doc and then take 5-10 minutes at the next meeting to check our progress.
          • Updates – Are there industry-specific news items you could cover? Or, if your Mastermind isn't niche-specific, what are some articles or economic news items that your members may find interesting?
          • Main Topic – A useful strategy is to dedicate a particular amount of time each meeting to a particular topic, such as hiring employees or digital advertising. You could even do a poll to suggest topics and see what people are interested in discussing most.
          • Q & A – Allocate 5-10 minutes at the end for allowing members to pose questions to the group. It's important to set a ground rule here though – the question needs to be something that would benefit the entire group to hear. If it's a question you have for a particular member of the group and it wouldn't really benefit other members to hear, that is something that needs to be handled via email between you and that person.

          Congratulations! You've Got A Successful Mastermind On Your Hands!

          Look at you! With a little hard work and some leveraged networking, you put your own mastermind together.

          The key now is to be consistent and always remember that value reigns supreme. You'll need to continue to find ways to ensure each meeting provides every member with tangible value. Otherwise, the Mastermind will fall apart.

          The more you give, the more you receive.

          Conclusion

          Whether you decide to build your own Mastermind from scratch or join an established Mastermind, I strongly believe that it's one of the single best things you can do as an Entrepreneur.

          It will challenge you to think differently and question your assumptions. It will hold you accountable. It will expand your network. And lastly, it will keep you motivated.

          I implore you to go take action on this right now. Don't wait –  the benefits are too important to pass up.

          -Alex

          The Importance of Mentors

          Why Finding Mentors Is A MUST

            Why Finding a Mentor Is A MUST

            I actually had an entirely different post planned for today.

            It's going to have to sit on the shelf for now.

            I just got back from having a cup of coffee with a mentor who will be instrumental in my success in real estate. This is someone who could completely change the trajectory of my life.

            This was my first time meeting with him, and it really drove home just how important having qualified mentors is.

            So, today I want to talk to you about mentors.

            Let's break down this meeting

            This was a customer of mine at the bank I worked at. I had helped him out with opening an account and we got to talking about real estate somehow.

            I told him a little bit about the project I was working on and then learned that he too was in real estate.

            He started telling me a little about the company he had started 10 years prior. It quickly became apparent that this guy was a serious player in real estate.

            Over that 10-year time frame, he and his business partner had collectively acquired, renovated and repositioned just shy of $2 Billion in real estate.

            Obviously, in order to do that he had to raise significant capital from outside investors. In total, he and his partner raised over $500 Million in equity, with the rest of the money being debt financing.

            After hearing this I was shocked. Not only was it incredibly impressive, it was more or less exactly the type of model I wanted my real estate business to grow into.

            I shared that with him, and he immediately offered to grab a cup of coffee so I could learn more about how he got started.

            I guess Steve Jobs was right:

            We ended up grabbing the cup of coffee earlier today and it went better than I could have imagined.

            He offered me incredible help in each of the four main ways I've found that mentors can help you.

            Mentors offer guidance

            (1) Mentors Offer Guidance

            Mentors have been there, done that.

            They've lived through and overcome the challenges that you're facing.

            They know what worked for them and what didn't.

            When you come across an obstacle, being able to turn to somebody who's seen that same scenario and can give you the “cheat code” for how to get past it can make your life dramatically easier.

            It can cut countless hours off the learning curve and save you the massive headaches that can come with any new venture.

            Now, this type of coaching is what most people think of when they think about how mentors help. It actually only scratches the surface, though.

            There are three other distinct ways mentors can be valuable along your journey:

            Finding a Mentor Increases Your Connections

            (2) Mentors Can Provide Connections

            When somebody has become incredibly successful in a particular industry, they've almost always done it in large part because of their network.

            Simply put, you cannot be successful without the help of others.

            Unfortunately, building up connections with the right people can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. There's usually gatekeepers involved and when you're just getting started, you often times lack the types of characteristics that would make others want to connect with you in the first place.

            Luckily, your mentor can short-circuit this process for you.

            Just in this one meeting, my mentor offered to introduce me to a handful of different people who can dramatically improve my ability to put deals together.

            This is something that you have to be proactive with. When you're meeting with your mentors, ask them if they know anybody you should know. You'd be amazed by the answers.

            Now, you can't just be a value leech. You have to actually offer value in return, not only to your mentor, but also to the people in his network.

            Maybe you're a great web developer and can help them redesign their website. Analyze your unique skills and make sure these people always understand how you can help them.

            Finding a Mentor Cultivates your Credibility

            (3) Mentors Can Offer Leveraged Credibility

            When you first start a new venture, you suffer from a severe lack of credibility.

            You simply don't have a track record that you can point to in order to prove yourself to others.

            As mentioned in the last point, at some point you will need to get others to buy into your vision in order to succeed. Without a credible track record, this can be an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish.

            Luckily, you don't have to actually have the proven track record yourself. If you have your mentor on board with whatever project you're working on, you can leverage their credibility.

            For example, let's say an up and coming actor hustles his ass off and somehow gets connected with Steven Spielberg. If he's able to put together a project that compels Spielberg to jump on board, do you think the actor will have any trouble pushing that project through?

            If I apply this to my real estate ventures, let's say I find the perfect deal but I need to raise $50 Million to make it happen. Do you think I'll have much luck raising $50 Million as some random kid who just finished his first three-flat renovation?

            Nope. Finding a mentor

            But, if somehow I'm able to get my mentor on board, I can leverage his credibility and proven track record when I approach investors. Then it simply becomes about selling the actual deal to them.

            This begs the question, “How do I get my mentors on board with my projects?”

            Once again, it comes back to offering value. Think, “what's in it for them?”

            Maybe you have somebody in your network who your mentor would like to work with. By bringing them together, you can benefit both of them.

            Maybe you offer them 80% of the equity you would normally get on a particular deal.

            Whatever it is, it has to be a win-win for both you and your mentor. Otherwise, you're wasting everybody's time.

            Finding a Mentor Motivates You

            (4) Mentors Are Motivating

            Any endeavor worth pursuing is full of challenges and roadblocks. It can be incredibly frustrating.

            When you inevitably hit these obstacles, the temptation to give up and move onto something new can be all too real.

            If, however, you have a mentor to talk through things with, it can give you a whole new perspective.

            We live in a world dominated by our news feeds. They're constantly showing us these totally unrealistic portrayals of people who seem to have nothing but success. It would appear they never face any difficulties and they're successful because they have some superhuman quality that you're just missing.

            When you sit down and talk with a successful mentor in person, though, these limiting beliefs tend to melt away.

            You realize that they didn't have some superhuman quality that was responsible for their success. Rather, they're just a normal person who simply wanted success bad enough that when obstacles arose, they doubled down and found a way around them.

            This can be incredibly motivating because it can make you realize that success is possible for you.

            When you begin to gain certainty that success is possible, it changes everything.

            Your mentor will fill any gap you have in your certainty that success is possible for you.

            Only then will you start to take the level of action required to get the results you're after. Once you start getting some of these results, it will feed back into your certainty that it's possible. This then turns around and causes you to take even more action. It's one of the most powerful things you can experience.

            So….What Can I Do To Start Finding A Mentor?

            Hopefully I've done a good enough job of selling the benefits of working with a mentor.

            Now you're probably wondering how the hell to actually find one.

            Well, there's a couple of strategic ways to go about this. Let's examine each:

            Analyze Your Existing Network

            Too much of the advice out there for finding mentors suggests that you first need to go out there and build this massive network before you'll be able to find a mentor who can truly help you.

            Personally, I feel this makes the process unapproachable and daunting.

            Keep It Simple, Stupid.

            Think about your existing network. Chances are, there is somebody you know who could be a good mentor for you.

            Maybe they're not in your exact niche. Instead, maybe they're just somebody who's had some solid success in a different endeavor.

            At the end of the day, no matter what path somebody chooses in life, it will inevitably bring challenges. Sometimes having a mentor is more about motivating you to overcome challenges than it is about showing you the nuts and bolts of whatever industry you're in.

            So think about all the different people you're connected to. Maybe it's a friend of your parents. Maybe it's a parent of one of your friends. Maybe it's somebody you're connected to through work (like it was for me).

            Why do a bunch of unnecessary work to find a mentor from scratch when you might have somebody great already in your circle?

            What If You Don't Have That Luxury?

            Don't fret. There's a number of great ways to find a mentor even if you don't have one in your existing network.

            This comes down to expanding your network, being consistent, and offering value.

            There are a couple of distinct things you can do to expand your network in such a way that makes it more likely you'll find a mentor.

            Networking is helpful in finding a mentor

            Join Niche Associations

            This is a great way to interact with potential mentors.

            Search for local meetups online that are focused on your niche.

            For example, I'm part of the Chicago Creative Investors Association, which is an association for people interested in real estate. They bring in some great guest speakers and have a vibrant community of local investors.

            The key here is being consistent. You can't expect to show up once every 5 or 6 months and find a mentor.

            First of all, you have to be there enough to actually build a relationship with these people. Second, if you're not showing up consistently, it just sends the message that you're not really committed – so why would anybody want to mentor you in the first place?

            Join Broader Associations

            If you can't find a niche association in your area, you may want to look at a more general one.

            For example, Ivy Social University is a nationwide organization that connects young leaders. Sometimes your most meaningful mentor will be somebody who's just slightly ahead of you because they'll be the one you can relate to the most.

            Another great option is SCORE, which is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to help small businesses get off the ground via mentorship. It's totally free to get paired with a qualified mentor (yes, you read that correctly).

            Finding A Mentor Online

            Build Your Reach Online

            Although it's not nearly as ideal as interacting in person, there are ways for you to build relationships with mentors digitally.

            You can find people on LinkedIn, forums, Facebook, or wherever else people in your industry hang out online.

            Again the key here is consistency. In fact, it's even more important here than it is in person because there are fewer reasons for somebody to remember you online.

            You need to be putting yourself in front of these potential mentors at every chance you get. Comment on their blog posts. Share their videos. Message them and let them know you think they're inspiring.

            However you do it, make yourself known.

            Two Guiding Principles For Finding A Mentor

            The two key things that underly any of these strategies are:

            1. Being patient and actually taking the time to build the relationship first.
              • You don't want to be meeting people and immediately asking them to mentor you when you find out they're successful. Not only is that weird, it's annoying. Build a relationship with them first. Eventually, good things will come from it.
            2. Making sure it's a two-way street where you're also offering some sort of value to your mentor.
              • While you're building that relationship, always be thinking, “WIIFT? (What's In It For Them?)” I promise you there is something that you can do that would be valuable to your potential mentor. Maybe it's as simple as offering to answer phone calls for a few hours every week. Maybe it's running an errand for them. Whatever the case, do everything you can to ensure it's a win-win.

            Conclusion

            I want to wrap this post up by really encouraging you to go out there and actually take action on this.

            It's entirely too easy in this age of information overload to see another post about finding mentors and brush it off, ultimately never doing anything to actually change your situation.

            But please understand this – there are ultimately two options here: one where you do take action and find a mentor, the other where you do nothing and end up flying blind.

            Because if you choose not to find a mentor, flying blind is precisely what you're doing. You'll end up guaranteeing that you fall into unnecessary traps and you'll make the journey that much more difficult.

            Not only that, when you do fall into these traps, without the guidance of your mentor it will be that much more tempting to give up.

            It will degrade your certainty that success is possible, you'll end up taking less action as a result, and it will ultimately lead to your results being substantially less than what you were hoping for.

            I implore you, go find a mentor.

            I hope you enjoyed the post. If so, please do consider subscribing down below so you're up to date whenever we drop a new post.

            As always, enjoy!

            -Alex

             

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            Build Your Personal Brand

            Why Personal Branding Is Important (Don’t Underestimate This)

              Why Personal Branding Is Important

              Too many people I interact with fail to understand why personal branding is important.

              Personal branding isn’t just important – it’s a must in 2018.

              Think about it – if branding is important enough for Fortune 500 companies to spend millions (in some cases billions) on it, don’t you think you should consider investing a little thought and energy into branding yourself as well?

              Personal Branding Important

              Let’s Define Branding

              Branding is essentially the promise that either a company or an individual makes to the world.  It explains to people what they can expect from you.

              This promise is crucial because humans naturally hate inconsistency. Evolution has designed us to crave predictability because predictability = safety.

              So when we apply this to personal branding, your goal is to let those around you, whether digitally or in person, know what they can expect from you.

              You want your brand to be honed to the point where if somebody were to ask two different people the same question about you, they’d get almost identical answers.

              What Personal Branding Is Not

              Personal Branding Vanity

              Too many people out there are afraid of starting a personal brand because they feel that it’s either extremely vain or they fear the judgment of others.

              Building a personal brand is far from an exercise in vanity. Instead, it’s a way to clearly present yourself to the world so that you ensure people get what they see with you.

              The process of defining your values and getting a clear understanding of who exactly you are is something that actually benefits those around you.

              It’s not (or at least, it shouldn’t be) your new strategy to get more Facebook likes.

              For those who are worried about other’s judgments, consider the alternative.

              People are going to judge you no matter what. At least if you’ve defined your personal brand, you’ve clearly told your side of the story and people now understand where you’re coming from.

              At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is that you know who you are and what you stand for. When you do, you'll care less and less about the judgments of others in the first place.

              Top Reasons Why Personal Branding Is Important

              The list of reasons why personal branding is important could be made a mile long, but let's boil it down to the most meaningful ones. Building a strong personal brand:

              1. States your promise to the world
                • You let people know what they can expect from you. This makes those around you view you in a whole new light.
              2. Makes you more accountable
                • When you're consistently putting yourself out there and letting others know what they can expect from you, it puts the pressure on you and keeps you accountable. You'll find it makes it almost impossible to tolerate your own BS because you'll know it goes against what you truly stand for.
              3. Establishes your credibility
                • Building your personal brand in the correct way will provide you countless opportunities to demonstrate that you're a credible source of information in your chosen field. People will see this and come to their own conclusions that you're somebody who can help them with the challenges they face.
              4. Helps you build thicker skin
                • Yes…there will undoubtedly be haters. But when you start becoming very clear on what you stand for and what makes you uniquely valuable, you'll find that the criticism of others won't really make a difference.
              5. It expands your network
                • You'll be amazed at how many people will be drawn into your network by building your brand. Again, when people see that you're somebody who can help them, they'll naturally be drawn to you. It completely “hacks” the networking process because now people will be reaching out to you instead of the other way around.
              6. It brings you significant opportunities
                • Let's be brutally honest for a minute. Yes – it's an amazing and deeply rewarding experience to be able to spread your message and help others. But it's also fair that in doing so, you are afforded some opportunities to better yourself along the way. When you've established yourself as a thought leader on a particular subject, those opportunities will be endless.

              Get Clear On Your Personal Brand

              So How Do You Get Clear On Your Personal Brand?

              Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that you need to start with the end in mind.

              Before you can start defining the exact characteristics of your brand, you need to understand what your end objective is.

              Do you want to establish yourself as the go-to authority on a particular subject? Or maybe you just want to be a source of inspiration for others. Do you want to get speaking engagements? Or maybe you want to be able to run a coaching business from your computer.

              A big piece of this is defining exactly who it is that you want to help. You need to be detailed here and create a very specific customer avatar.

              If you don't know where you want to go, you'll make it entirely too easy to get lost.

              Once you know where you want to end, you need to hone in on what exactly makes you unique.

              Every single one of us walks a different path in life. No two people are exactly the same.

              You've got to dig in and figure out how your unique life story can bring value to others. What perspective can you provide them? What specialized knowledge do you have? How can you help people solve their problems?

              This can be the part that trips a lot of people up. Too many of us feel like we have to be a certified guru in order to help others. This just isn't true.

              Helping Others Personal Branding

              No matter how far along the path to success you are, you can always help others. Sometimes it's just as simple as inspiring others by taking action towards your own goals.

              That's ultimately what I do with my brand. I don't profess to be somebody with all the answers. I just show you what it's like to get started in entrepreneurship in the hopes that it helps you get started.

              After you figure out how you can help people, determine how to position your story arc.

              Attractive Character Personal Branding

              Despite how unique your life story may be, there will always be people out there who can relate to the challenges you've faced.

              Showing these people how you deal with those challenges can inspire others to take action while also putting you in a position of authority in their minds.

              Russel Brunson really nails what you want to do here. He talks about how you want to build an “attractive character”. Not some unattainable level of perfection (again, this isn't an exercise in vanity). Instead, present yourself as somebody relatable. Somebody who has faced difficulties, but has found a way to overcome them.

              Think about every Hollywood movie you've ever seen. The main character inevitably finds himself in a tough situation, but always ends up finding a way to overcome it.

              There's a reason for this – humans love a good story. Your job is to present your life as one of these stories.

              You want your customer avatars to be able to see some of themselves in you. Only then will they start to see you as somebody who can help them overcome the challenges they're facing.

              Here's a great video of Russell breaking this concept down:

              Putting It All Together

              Ultimately, you need to figure out a way to package the last couple of pieces into a cohesive identity.

              Boil down the value you offer your customer avatar into a single statement and make it a recurring theme throughout everything you do. Think, “What's in it for them?”

              For me, this is “I'll make you a better entrepreneur.

              What Does Personal Branding Actually Look Like?

              Now that we have an understanding of why personal branding is important and you've clarified your image, let’s break down the nuts and bolts. How does it work?

              For most people, the hub for their personal brand needs to be their website.  In today’s world, there’s no excuse for not having your own personal website.

              It’s dirt cheap and incredibly easy to build out. Too many people get scared away thinking they need to be some sort of technical wizard, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

              Platforms like Word Press, Wix, and Square Space have made the process of building your own site incredibly simple. Even when you do run into problems, there’s almost always somebody else who’s had that same problem so you can usually find the way to get around it either on YouTube or a forum.

              If you’re really not comfortable doing it yourself, hiring a web developer has also become dirt cheap.

              What Should I Have On My Website?

              First and foremost, it's important to understand that websites are inherently visual. We don't want our site to strictly be a bunch of text (no matter how informative or persuasive it may be).

              Why Personal Branding Is Important

              This means that yes, it's time to get ready for your close up. There's no getting around it – you'll need some high-quality pictures of you. Luckily, it's now easier than ever to get some great pictures of yourself, even if it's just on your iPhone.

              Ideally, these should be action shots where you're doing something that lends you credibility with your customer avatar. For example, a life coach would want a picture of him either giving a speech or working with a client, a cook would want a picture of her preparing a dish, etc.

              As far as layout goes, the Hero Image is without a doubt the way to go. You've undoubtedly seen this design before. Basically, it features a large image of you (yeah, you – the hero) and that value statement we organized earlier.

              The video that follows is an amazing tutorial showing you how to build this out on Thrive Themes, which is the theme I recommend if you build your site on Word Press.

              What else should I have on my personal branding website?

              Remember, the whole reason personal branding is important is because it clearly states your promise to the world.

              Once you provide a visually appealing introduction to your site with your Hero Image home page, the rest of your site serves one purpose – supporting and strengthening that promise.

              How do you do this? There are a couple main ways:

              Testimonials

              If you're at a point where you have a couple of happy customers (you really only need two or three to make it work), you'll want to take the opportunity to build some social proof.

              Ask the most impressive (and happiest) clients you have to write a one or two sentence blurb about their experience with you and feature it prominently on your home page.

              Portfolio

              Because websites are inherently visual, they're a great place to display some of your previous work.

              Obviously, this means photos or videos are preferred here. For some of us (i.e. photographers) this is easier than others, but there's always a visual way to display your work if you get creative.

              For authors maybe you can post screenshots of some of the passages you've written. If you're in E-Commerce maybe you can post screenshots of your sales figures. If you're in sales, maybe you create an infographic displaying your biggest accomplishments.

              About Page

              About pages are typically the most visited page on your site for a reason – people want to know why they should care about your site.

              So your About page really isn't about you at all…

              It's about your visitors. What's in it for them?

              This will take you back to that value statement you created earlier. You'll basically want to just flesh that out a little further. Using video and/or pictures to do this is ideal.

              Neil Patel has some great ideas on this:

              Here's a list of some great about pages if you need some examples.

              Blog

              Now, this is one I would leave off if you haven't actually put in the work.

              You want people to be wowed by your blog, so if you only wrote a couple posts 3 years ago and haven't touched it since, take it down until you can get it up to snuff.

              Having said that, this can be one of the most powerful components of your site. It's one of your best chances to demonstrate your knowledge or expertise over your given domain.

              It's also an incredible tool to expand your reach. You can reach countless people through the magic of the internet, giving you a chance to really spread your message and establish credibility.

              One of the best ways to expand your reach through your blog is to encourage others to share your content. There's a number of ways to do this, but the best way I've found is through the Social Warfare plugin.

              It's what's responsible for the social share buttons you're currently seeing on the bottom of your screen. It makes the buttons “sticky” so they remain at the bottom of the screen as the user scrolls. The plugin is also specifically designed with page speed in mind, which is one of the most important considerations in web design.

              Lead Magnet & Email Marketing

              Why Personal Branding Is ImportantYou may not have heard the term “Lead Magnet” before, but you've undoubtedly seen one if you've spent any time at all on the web.

              A lead magnet is a tool used to capture the email address (or other contact information) of visitors to your site. It offers these visitors something of value (i.e. a free report, access to a newsletter, etc.) that is only provided to them after they input their contact information.

              You'll need to set up an account with an Email Service Provider (ESP) to do this, but it's well worth it and it's not at all difficult. I personally use Aweber, but you can also check out MailChimp or Constant Contact.

              The whole reason you want to do this is that it provides you with direct, unfettered access to your ideal customers. Unlike social media where you're totally at the mercy of the platform you're using, with email marketing you're in total control and can send out a message whenever and however you want.

              This is the most powerful tool in your entire personal branding arsenal. It's the foundation of your relationship with your followers. This is where you can consistently demonstrate to people that you have what it takes to help them with their problems.

              You can spend all day building an incredible social media presence and the perfect website, but ultimately, the money is in the list.

              Contact Information & Social Media

              Even if you understand why personal branding is important, it won't do you any good if you don't give people a way to get in touch with you.

              This can be very basic, such as simply listing your contact information and social profile links on your site.

              Alternatively, you can easily create a form on a “Contact” page that allows visitors to get in touch right from your site.

              Finishing Touches

              Now that you have your site all set up, be sure to give it a thorough review to check for grammatical errors and anything that seems out of place.

              The last thing you want is to do all of this work to establish credibility only to have it be ruined by a clearly misspelled word and poor grammar.

              If you still need some examples of personal sites to get the creative juices flowing, here's a list of some great options.

              What Else Besides A Website?

              There are countless other ways to build your personal brand outside of just your website.

              The challenge is figuring out which ones to focus on.

              It seems like social media platforms go in and out of popularity faster than high school girls, so it can be difficult deciding where to invest your time and energy.

              Why Personal Branding Is Important

              Video Content

              Your biggest focus when it comes to social media needs to be video. I know, I know…you don't want to get in front of a camera. Honestly though? Too bad.

              Video is absolutely dominating the web right now. You have to be making videos if you want to break through the breathtaking amount of noise on the internet.

              For quite some time now we've lived in an age of total information overload. There are 2 million blog posts being published every single day. That doesn't even take into account the mind-numbing numbers of Tweets, Facebook status updates, Instagram posts, etc. that happen every minute of every day.

              You have to find a way to cut through and capture people's attention. In short, you have to give people the type of content they want. In 2018, people want video.

              Why Personal Branding Is Important

              YouTube

              YouTube is growing at a break-neck pace. It's now the second largest search engine in the world.

              Bottom line? If you want your personal brand to have a meaningful online presence, you need to figure out how to make a splash on YouTube. You might think it's too crowded, but with the right strategy you can still carve out an audience.

              If you're nervous about being on camera, remember that you can always go back and edit your video. It also helps to imagine that you're talking to a friend rather than the camera. If you're still nervous, here's a list of 27 ways to be more confident on camera.

              You might also be feeling like you need to have top-notch equipment or be some sort of editing pro. This simply isn't the case. You can build out a solid presence on YouTube with nothing more than your iPhone – look no further than Tai Lopez, whose infamous viral video ad was filmed on his iPhone.

              When it comes to editing, I'd recommend using Adobe Premiere Pro. Yes, you have to pay for it. To me, though, it's worth it because it's what literally almost everybody uses. That means that whenever you have a question about how to use it, you can always find a tutorial on that topic.

              Focus on putting out solid, helpful content consistently and you'll be on your way to having a loyal subscriber base on YouTube.

              Instagram

              Why Personal Branding Is ImportantAfter YouTube, Instagram is the most “visual” social media platform. It's strictly based on pictures and videos, which positions it incredibly well to be around far into the future with users rapidly devouring this type of content.

              Aside from Instagram being based on the right type of media, it's also one of the easiest platforms to grow organically on. Using a handful of different strategies, you can ensure you consistently have a new influx of people following your personal brand on Instagram.

              If you don't have too many pictures of yourself, don't worry. You can do a mixture of original pictures and curated content such as quotes, inspirational memes, etc.

              For pictures you do take yourself, editing apps can go a long way in making your pictures stand out. Most are very cheap or totally free. Some of my favorites are VSCO, 1967, and Enlight.

              Facebook

              Ah, Facebook…the platform some of us love to hate.

              When Facebook first started, it was an incredible place to build a following and spread your message.

              Unfortunately, it's become harder and harder to produce meaningful results on Facebook.

              Just a few weeks ago at the time of this writing, Facebook announced that they were effectively killing off organic reach for Facebook pages. This means that if you want your audience to see your posts, you'll now need to be prepared to pull out your credit card.

              Obviously, Facebook is a business so it's hard to blame them for this. It may mean, though, that when you're just starting your personal brand you'll want to focus on other platforms where organic growth is feasible.

              Once you do grow to a certain point, Facebook ads can be an incredibly powerful tool to help expand your reach, so don't count them out entirely.

              Why Personal Branding Is Important

              Pinterest

              Pinterest is an interesting one.

              For a long time, almost all of Pinterest's users were women. It's still heavily skewed towards women, but that number has started to change. Whereas it was 81% in 2014, it's now down to 70%.

              It's also growing like wildfire. According to their website, Pinterest has over 200 million active users, which is a breathtaking 40% year-over-year increase from September 2016.

              Much like Instagram and YouTube, their content is incredibly visual. It exclusively features pictures, so if your niche/brand doesn't lend itself well to that, you'll want to focus elsewhere.

              If, however, your brand does lend itself to the Pinterest platform, here's the most comprehensive guide I've found on a Pinterest marketing strategy. It's from Miles Beckler, one of the most knowledgeable people I've come across when it comes to internet marketing in general – definitely somebody you want to pay attention to.RIP Twitter Snapchat

              Dying Platforms

              Personally, I don't see either Twitter or SnapChat going anywhere in the long run.

              Zuckerberg is outsmarting Snapchat at every turn with what he's doing on Instagram. Twitter's user base isn't growing at all and the non-visual nature of tweets puts it at a significant disadvantage.

              I've made the decision to not invest any effort on Twitter and limited time on SnapChat.

              Control Your Traffic

              The fact that Twitter and Snapchat, two social media giants, are on their way out shortly after their rise drives home the point that you need to own your traffic.

              All of these platforms ultimately have a finite lifespan. Not only that, they also completely control your distribution channel in that they can throttle or squash your traffic at a moment's notice.

              That means that you need to relentlessly focus on building up traffic that you control. This all comes back to email marketing.

              All the while when you're building your presence on these platforms, you need to simultaneously be pushing your followers off the platform to one of your lead magnets where you can collect their contact information.

              Email isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, so continuing to build your email list is the most surefire way to build a reliable relationship with your followers. Remember, “the money is in the list.”

              Conclusion

              Hopefully this post has helped you understand why personal branding is important.

              If you're able to get yourself established as an authority on a particular topic, the opportunities that can present themselves to you are endless.

              Not only that, the process of building out your brand is an incredible experience that results in some tremendous personal growth. It helps you clarify what exactly you stand for and how you can be of service to help others.

              If you enjoyed this post please consider subscribing below so you can stay up to date whenever we put out new content on personal branding.

              Until next time, enjoy!

              -Alex

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              Risk Of Being An Employee

              Why Being An Entrepreneur Is LESS Risky Than Being An Employee (Surprising)

                Why Being An Entrepreneur Is LESS Risky Than Being An Employee (Surprising)

                Risk Of Being An EmployeeToday I want to talk to you about risk.

                Specifically, the risks associated with being an entrepreneur and the risks associated with being an employee.

                I find myself surrounded by people in certain areas of my life who think that being an entrepreneur and foregoing the steady paycheck that comes with being an employee is too risky.

                They’ll sit there and tell you statistics about how 9 out of 10 businesses fail and ask you what you’re going to do for health insurance. And don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly some validity to those points.

                But here’s what I don’t get…these people act like being an employee is devoid of risk.

                Every single day there’s people who have loyally worked at their employer for years, if not decades, only to be laid off for reasons that are totally out of their control. Think about the different things that can lead to your termination:

                1. Your employer does a merger with another company, making your position redundant.
                2. Your employer goes out of business or has to downsize due to a bad economy.
                3. Your employer relocates to a different state that you can't move to for one reason or another.
                4. You get a new manager who has unreasonable performance demands.

                Fired from job

                These are just a few examples, and all of these things are totally out of your control. How is leaving your fate up to something like that not equally, if not more risky?

                If you own your own business, at least when shit goes wrong in the economy or if your industry is declining, you’re firmly in control of your own destiny.

                My first investment property is the perfect example of this. Everything that could have gone wrong with it did go wrong. It was a terrible situation.

                But, there was one great thing about the project – I was in control. 

                I could get in there and pull different levers.

                I could fire my terrible contractor (which I did), I could decide that certain projects needed to be put off and others needed to be tackled right away (which I did), and I could literally get in there and do some of the work myself (which I did).

                To me, it all comes down to control. I'll take a riskier situation every day of the week and twice on Sunday if I get more control than I would with a less risky situation.

                This isn't the case for everyone, so if you're struggling with the decision of whether to be an entrepreneur or stay in Corporate America, you need to ask yourself what level of risk you're willing to tolerate.

                The decision can't be, “well, I'll just stay at my job because it's risk-free.” That's simply not the case.  Analyze the risks associated with each and then make the call.

                Employee Vs. Entrepreneur

                There's one more risk that I haven't mentioned yet.

                We all get one at-bat with life…there are no do-overs.

                Knowing this, you have to take into account the risk of not pursuing your dreams. Staying at a Corporate America job means you're going to spend your life building somebody else's dream.

                Every day that passes is another day that you haven't created something for yourself.

                The idea of getting old and looking back on a life where I didn't take the leap scares the living shit out of me. It makes me cringe.

                Jim Carrey gave a graduation speech where he talked about this exact concept.

                He talked about how his dad worked as an accountant for years instead of pursuing his passion to be a comedian. He pursued this “safe” career, only to be fired down the road. This sent their family into a dark period where they struggled to get by. The lesson Carrey took out of this is incredibly poignant. He said,

                “You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

                For me, the thing that finally cemented my decision to leave the “safety” of my job was the realization that I could always go get another job.

                Assuming you have a decently marketable resume within your industry, ask yourself how difficult it would really be to go get another job at a different firm if you decided to pursue entrepreneurship and it didn't end up working out.

                When I thought this through I realized that the fears that had prevented me from leaving my employer for so long were truly unfounded.

                It's about having the confidence in yourself that you'll be able to make it work no matter what. Either the business succeeds or worst case scenario it fails and you re-enter Corporate America with a great experience under your belt.

                So I'd encourage you to think long and hard about these risks and question the validity of the underlying beliefs you may have had about your job's safety.

                Remember, you can always go get another job.

                Until next time, enjoy.

                -Alex

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                Compound Interest

                How The Rich Use Debt (Secrets From A Former Banker)

                  How the Rich Use Debt

                  Loyal reader, meet, Credit Card Connie.

                  How the Rich Use Debt

                  Now, let's also meet Leveraged Larry.

                  How the Rich Use Debt

                  Together, these two are going to help us understand how the rich use debt versus how the poor do.

                  Too many people succumb to victim mentality and tell themselves that the rich are just rich because they had connections, resources, etc. that weren't available to everybody else.

                  In reality, though, most wealthy people end up wealthy because they make distinctly different decisions throughout their life than poor people do. One of these decisions is typically the manner in which they used debt.

                  I know this because I saw it day-in-day-out in my day job as a personal banker. My wealthiest clients weren't superhumans. They simply made different financial decisions than the other customers I served.

                  Having a full understanding of how the rich use debt (and actually acting on it) can be one of the single biggest factors in your overall financial health throughout your life.

                  The tale described below will show you just how powerful this idea is. If you take this to heart and act accordingly, good debt can be the foundation for exploding your wealth.

                  A Word Of Caution

                  One footnote I want to mention is that there are some obvious oversimplifications below. I'm not using this example to be as precise as humanly possible.

                  Rather, I'm simply trying to show the power of leverage.

                  Accordingly, please take this example with a couple extra grains of salt.

                  Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

                  Let's make a couple assumptions.

                  We'll assume both Credit Card Connie and Leveraged Larry make $150,000 a year – a solid salary by most standards.

                  Next, let's assume both Connie and Larry each have $50,000 in savings.

                  How the Rich Use Debt

                  A fork in the road

                  This is where things start to get different for Connie and Larry.

                  Connie rents an apartment in a new neighborhood with fancier homes and starts meeting some of her new neighbors.

                  She takes note of the cars her neighbors are driving, the clothes they're wearing, the places they're going on vacation and where they're going out to eat.

                  Connie becomes jealous and insecure. She decides she needs to start enjoying the same luxuries that her neighbors seem to be enjoying.

                  Meanwhile, things are going a little differently for Larry.

                  Larry was putzing around the internet the other day and came across an intriguing article talking about real estate investing.

                  Feeling inspired, Larry decides he wants to get started in real estate investing.

                  Fast Forward

                  Time flies.

                  Here we are a year later now. Let's check in with Connie and Larry.

                  Life is looking pretty good for Connie.

                  She now has a new Mercedes, she furnished her new home with some beautiful new furniture, and she's feeling nice and pampered after spending the last week in Europe.

                  All of Connie's new neighbors are impressed with her lavish lifestyle and she has tons of new friends.

                  But there's a problem starting to lurk under the surface…

                  This new lifestyle is damn expensive.

                  That Mercedes? Connie took $25,000 out of her savings as a down payment.

                  That furniture? There goes another $10,000.

                  Let's not forget the Eurotrip – another $5,000.

                  Suddenly, with the new car payment, her new habit of always eating out with friends, and the new wardrobe she's always maintaining, Connie's ability to save has all but vanished.

                  Leveraged Larry's Quiet Life

                  Let's check back in with Larry.

                  Life seems pretty boring on this side of town.

                  No fancy new car. No new furniture. No overseas vacations. No extravagant dinners.

                  How the Rich Use Debt

                  While all of this may seem incredibly boring, Larry actually has something very exciting happening.

                  He's about to close on his first investment property.

                  After doing a little more research, Larry figured out that he wanted to focus on “House Hacking.”

                  He found the perfect property. It's a triplex that will allow him to live in one unit and rent out the other two.

                  The triplex costs $400,000.

                  Now, obviously, this is well above the $50,000 Larry has in his savings account.

                  Luckily, though, Larry understands leverage. After doing some research, he's discovered that you can actually use the expected rental income from a triplex to help qualify for a larger mortgage.

                  The appraiser that Larry's mortgage broker uses calculated that Larry can expect a total of $2000 per month in rental income between the other two units.

                  Because lenders will let you use 75% of this income, that increases Larry's income by $18,000 per year in his lender's eyes, bringing his total income to $168,000.

                   

                  Larry decides to put 10% down since he's a first-time home-buyer. This leaves his principal balance at $360,000, his savings balance at $10,000 and his monthly mortgage payment at $2,491.82 including taxes and insurance. For even numbers, we'll round up to $2500 per month.

                  With his newfound rental income of $2,000 per month, Larry's suddenly sitting pretty. He has his monthly mortgage payment almost entirely paid for, only leaving $500 each month for him to pay.

                  To be fair, let's also assume Larry has about $200 in miscellaneous monthly expenses to keep the home in good shape. This brings his total out of pocket housing expenses to $700 each month.

                  Time for a Status Check

                  Let's take a look at some numbers to see how Leveraged Larry and Credit Card Connie are stacking up.

                  Let's assume the following monthly budgets:

                  How The Rich Use Debt

                  Next, let's assume that after taxes, healthcare, and 401K deductions, both Connie and Larry take home 60% of their taxable income. This means each of them receives direct deposits of $7,500/month.

                  Here's where things get interesting…

                  Based on these numbers, Credit Card Connie can only save $1000 per month outside of her 401K.

                  Leveraged Larry? He'll now be able to save a whopping $5,300 every month, totaling a whopping $63,600 per year.

                  By staying disciplined, living small, and understanding how to use debt strategically, Larry will already be capable of buying another investment property just a short year from now.

                  Looking Ahead

                  Let's check in at the end of each of the following 5 years.

                  A couple of assumptions I made here:

                  • Net worth is defined as everything outside of Connie and Larry's 401Ks, which we'll say grow at the same pace for each of them.
                  • Income stays at a constant $150,000 for both Connie and Larry
                  • Larry acquires a new rental property once a year at a price of $400,000. Each time he does this it adds $300/month to his savings ability, totaling $3,600 per year.
                  • Even though, as you'll see, Larry quickly gets to the point where he could buy more than one property per year, we'll say he instead chooses to just invest in the stock market with the extra money.
                  • The stock market is where both Larry and Connie keep all excess cash. They each receive a 7% annual return on this money.
                  • Larry is also able to take advantage of equity gains in the form of paying down the principal on his various mortgages. Again, to dramatically simplify this, let's assume no growth in property values. I'm taking the principal paydown figures directly from the mortgage calculator link I included earlier.
                  • Lastly, we're going to assume that spending stays constant for Connie and Larry respectively in each of the 5 years.

                  How The Rich Use Debt

                  Viewing the chart above, you can see Connie's growth is pretty straightforward.

                  Each year she contributes $12,000 to her brokerage account and receives a 7% rate of return, ultimately netting her $83,034 in savings by year 5.

                  No small sum, but let's look at how she could have done better had she understood the power of leverage.

                  Leveraged Larry, by living small and magnifying his investing ability through mortgages, is able to get himself over halfway to being a millionaire in 5 short years.

                  Let's break down Larry's impressive growth

                  We start in year 0 with Larry having just purchased his first property.

                  This gives him $10,000 in his brokerage account and $40,000 in equity, equating to a $50,000 net worth.

                  Over the course of the next year, he's able to increase his net worth by $69,853.47. Here's how:

                  • He earned $700 in interest on the $10,000 invested in his brokerage account.
                  • He saved $63,600 as explained in the earlier chart. $40,000 of this ends up going to fund the d0wn payment on his 2nd investment property at the end of the year.
                  • He paid down $5,553.47 in principal on the loan for his first investment property.

                  Not too shabby for a year's time…

                  This gives him a total net worth of $119,853.47 with the following breakdown:

                  How The Rich Use Debt

                  Now let's look to the following year.

                  Larry once again sees impressive growth. He's able to increase his net worth by $81,464.26. Here's how:

                  • He earns $2,401 in interest on the $34,300 in his brokerage account.
                  • He saves $67,200, which is his regular annual savings of $63,600 plus the extra $300/month he's now able to save thanks to property number two. Again, $40,000 goes towards his next down payment.
                  • He paid down $6,309.79 in principal on property #1's loan and $5,553.47 in principal on property #2's loan.

                  Larry's net worth now stands at an impressive $201,317.73 with the following breakdown:

                  How The Rich Use Debt

                  Now that you see the breakdown of how his wealth is growing each year, let's summarize the following three years:

                  Net Worth Growth Leverage

                  Now here's the crazy part…

                  The stunning power of compound interest has barely started to take effect here.

                  If we were to continue this chart out over 40 years, Leveraged Larry would end up with an incredibly substantial net worth.

                  Credit Card Connie simply cannot keep up.

                  Conclusion

                  Ultimately, this example is an oversimplification in many ways.

                  Nevertheless, it drives home the point that if you want to pour jet fuel on the process of building your wealth, you need to get comfortable using leverage.

                  The rich use debt in a very strategic way. They only use it to purchase income-producing assets – never to buy the hot new car (at least not until later in life).

                  When you not only understand this but also actually capitalize on it (pun intended), the entire trajectory of your wealth changes.

                  Hopefully this post was helpful in your journey to building financial freedom. If so, consider subscribing below so you stay up to date whenever we upload a new post.

                  Also, be sure to drop a comment down below with your thoughts. Let me know if you think I went wrong somewhere in my assumptions or if you have different feelings on debt.

                  As always, until next time, enjoy!

                  -Alex

                  Books Internet Marketers

                  The 11 Books Entrepreneurs Must Read

                    The 11 Books Entrepreneurs Must Read

                    For many of us, reading is one of those things that we just let fall by the wayside as soon as we graduate from college.

                    It's one of the biggest mistakes we can make though. Entrepreneurship is hard enough as it is. There's a ton of traps you can fall into and things you have to watch out for.

                    Imagine having mentors who have already walked the path and made some of those mistakes, guiding your every move and teaching you the things you need to be looking out for.

                    That's what reading provides you with. You can learn from some of the best business minds to ever walk this earth and shorten the learning curve by a tremendous amount.

                    Here are some of the books that have helped me the most along my own entrepreneurial journey:

                    The E-Myth Revisited

                    (1) The E-Myth Revisited – Michael E. Gerber

                    Michael Gerber is one of the world's best startup consultants and has coached thousands of entrepreneurs along their path towards business success.

                    He realized that all business owners have three main personalities within them: The Technician, the Manager and the Entrepreneur.

                    The Technician is where most people become stuck – focused on the daily tasks involved with their craft (i.e. Baking Pies). The Manager is focused on the things that make the business run: paying the bills, making sure the sales calls are made, etc. The Entrepreneur is the dreamer, the one who has a grander vision of the way their business can grow and can impact the world.

                    Gerber argues that you need to have a balance between the three roles, but unfortunately most business owners are stuck in the Technician role.

                    To get out of this, he suggests implementing the “Franchise Model,” in which the owner gains the freedom to remove himself from the business while having it continue to run. This is accomplished with a relentless focus on systemizing everything for your employees.

                    My key takeaway from this book was that I need to be focused more on working on my business, rather than working in my business. It's those higher-level focuses that allow the business to truly grow to a point where it can provide the type of freedom we're all seeking

                     

                    The Miracle Morning - Hal Elrod

                    (2) The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod

                    If you're going to be successful as an entrepreneur, developing a strong morning routine is absolutely critical. I think this is something all of us understand in the back of our heads, but in The Miracle Morning, Elrod really drives home just how important it is.Elrod actually died in a car accident at the age of 20 (his heart stopped beating for 6 minutes). After being revived and spending the next 6 days in a coma, he finally came-to and was told that he would never walk again. Determined to not let that come to fruition, he not only learned to walk all over again, he went on to become an Ultra-Marathon runner.

                    He traces much of his success back to the way he wakes up each morning with a defined routine. Elrod has an acronym for his morning routine: “SAVERS,” which stands for Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (journaling).

                    This was a huge wake up call for me (see what I did there?). I had always been a morning person but by actually waking up with intention and putting some structure around my mornings, I’ve been able to dramatically increase my overall productivity. This uninterrupted time while everybody else is sleeping is truly invaluable.

                     

                    The Lean Startup - Eric Ries

                    (3) The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

                    Keep it Simple, Stupid.

                    That’s what too many businesses get wrong. As Entrepreneurs, we tend to be overzealous when coming up with product ideas and end up adding too many bells and whistles. We spend way too much time, money and energy on bringing our products to market instead of focusing on what truly drives a product – sales and cash flow.

                    Ries proposes a different model in which we focus on bringing to market as fast as possible the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). He goes on to suggest that we want to only start by including the 20% of features that 80% of the customers for that market would actually use. If you can build a successful product out of that, then and only then should you consider more options.

                     

                    Grit - Angela Duckworth

                    (4) Grit – Angela Duckworth

                    What separates the haves from the have-nots? Grit, Angela Duckworth will tell you.Grit is a person's tendency to stick with a particular undertaking through the inevitable challenges that are presented along the way. Duckworth looks at a variety of successful people across a wide range of disciplines and demonstrates how sticking to the plan in the face of adversity is what ultimately makes the difference.

                    This book was incredibly helpful to me as I had really struggled with follow through when I was younger. I had tried a variety of different things over the course of my life (playing guitar, starting different businesses, playing soccer, etc.) that I ultimately gave up on too early to see any sort of meaningful results.

                    It's only once you've pushed through a number of failures in a given endeavor that you begin to really bear the fruits of your labor.

                    How To Get Rich - Felix Dennis

                    (5) How to Get Rich – Felix Dennis

                    Buckle up Ladies & Gents – this book ain't for the faint of heart.Felix Dennis, the late founder of Maxim Magazine and owner of a massive publishing empire, was an incredible businessman who knew how to tell a story or two. In his book, How to Get Rich, Dennis holds nothing back in explaining his cut-throat approach to business.

                    Not only are some of his business principles invaluable, he also presents, very honestly, some of the pitfalls of becoming incredibly wealthy and discusses the idea of giving it all away upon passing away (which he ultimately did when he passed in 2016).

                    Dennis truly has a way with words and also had a brief stint of severe drug and alcohol abuse halfway through his career (from which he almost died), both of which make for an incredibly engaging read – you won't be able to put this book down once you pick it up.

                    The One Thing - Gary Keller

                    (6) The One Thing – Gary Keller

                    We live in a time where everywhere you look there’s something trying to steal your attention. Your ability to not only focus on getting work done, but focus on getting the right work done, will largely determine your success as an entrepreneur. This means you need to always have a keen awareness of your priorities.

                    Keller points out that at any given point in time, there is one thing you can do, such that by doing it everything else becomes unnecessary.

                    If you take a step back and look at things objectively, you know that there are a handful of things that, if you were getting them taken care of, would dramatically improve your life. Keller drills home that we need to be focused on understanding exactly what those things are and then attacking them with everything we have.

                    For me this is creating content. If I don’t make it an absolute must to create content and deliver value to you guys, my business would go nowhere.

                    As Stephen Covey says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Find your “main thing”.

                    The Conversion Code - Chris Smith

                    (7) The Conversion Code – Chris Smith

                    If you're going to be a successful entrepreneur two of the most critical skills you need to master are the ability to market and the ability to sell. Luckily for you, Chris Smith has already mastered both and lays out what it takes in painstaking detail in his book, The Conversion Code.

                    Most people are now coming to the realization that the internet is the future of marketing as more and more people continue to fast forward through TV commercials (or cancel their cable all together), read the newspaper online and stream music rather than listen on the radio. That's why Smith's focus when it comes to marketing is exclusively on internet marketing, with a primary focus on Facebook advertising.

                    But here's where it gets interesting – Smith is different from many internet marketing “gurus” because he still believes in picking up the damn phone and selling your leads via, you guessed it, a good ole' fashioned real conversation.

                    Before Smith ever learned anything about internet marketing he was one of the top phone salesmen at Quicken Loans. After he started learning the ins and outs of internet marketing, he saw the largely untapped potential in a marriage between the worlds of sales calls and internet leads. He's able to open your eyes to a world of possibility that the vast majority of internet marketers don't even consider.

                    How To Win Friends And Influence People - Dale Carnegie

                    (8) How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

                    I think one of the biggest loads of bullshit that some people out there perpetuate is this idea that most successful business people are evil, cigar-chomping, narcissistic assholes who are willing to do whatever it takes to make more money, even if it means throwing others under the bus.

                    I've been fortunate to spend time around a number of different people who have seen incredible success over their careers in business and this plot line simply couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, in my experience, I've found that the people who make it the farthest in business are generally the ones who are best able to communicate and collaborate with those around them.

                    For some of us, this is a skill that we're naturally born with. For others, this is something we must constantly work at. Luckily, it's a skill that can absolutely be taught and learned. And as far as teachers go, there's nobody better than Dale Carnegie.

                    Carnegie wrote this book in 1936, but every word of it still holds true to this day. He teaches you the fundamentals in understanding what makes people tick. Having this understanding will allow you to better empathize, collaborate and communicate with everyone from your customers to your employees to your mentors.

                    The War Of Art - Steven Pressfield

                    (9) The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield

                    Have you ever found that you know exactly the steps you need to take in order to get where you want to be, but for some reason you just can't seem to take those actions?

                    I know I struggled (and still do struggle) with this for a long, long time with relation to starting an online business. If you boil an online business down to the things it takes to be successful, its not all that complicated (I said not complicated, not easy). You publish great content, get eyeballs on said content and continue to build it from there. I knew this for a year and a half before I ever sat down to write my first piece of content.

                    That was because, unbeknownst to me, I was stuck fighting a powerful force. A force that each of us must face. A force that wants to keep you exactly where you are. A force that wants you to sit down and shut up. To color inside the lines. To let fear run your decision making.

                    That force is known as Resistance.

                    In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield dives deep into the bowels of Resistance, showing us where it comes from and why it is critical to not only understand it, but to also beat it – day in and day out. To wake up each day, stare Resistance in the face, and give it a big “Fuck You.”

                    As an added bonus, check out Turning Pro and Do the Work (also by Pressfield) after you finish The War of Art.

                    How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success In Selling - Frank Bettger

                    (10) How I Raise Myself from Failure to Success in Selling – Frank Bettger

                    Nothing in business matters if you don’t have the ability to go out into the marketplace and create revenue.

                    No, really – nothing else matters when you don’t know how to sell. You can have the best employees, the best systems, even the best product. But if you do not acquire the skillset necessary to sell the product, the business cannot and will not work.

                    Luckily, there are roughly a million sales books out there covering everything you could ever learn about the skill. I’ve read my fair share of those books, and the first one I ever read is still to this day one of the best ones I’ve come across.

                    As the title suggests, Bettger takes you through the story of how, when he first started as an insurance salesman, he had no idea what he was doing; but after learning a handful of different tactics and habits, he was able to transform himself into one of the best insurance sales reps in the entire country. He ended up crossing paths with Dale Carnegie, who was so impressed with his ability to sell that Carnegie insisted he write a book divulging his knowledge.

                    The book was written in 1947, so the language is a little dated (prepare to read the word “fellow” a lot), but it’s lessons are timeless.

                    The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

                    (11) The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

                    “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

                    I’m usually not a fan of fiction books, but Paulo Coelho knows how to write a damn good piece of fiction.

                    In The Alchemist, Coehlo teaches us the importance of truly committing. When we want something bad enough and are willing to wholeheartedly commit ourselves to seeing it through, the world seems to work in mysterious ways in helping us get to where we want to be.

                    So ask yourself what you're willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals. Are you unwilling to stay in on weekends? Are you unwilling to live within your means so you can spend more money on your business? Are you unwilling to wake up early and put in a couple of hours on your business before you go into work? Then good luck getting the results you're after.

                    If, however, you are willing to do these things, you'll find that sooner or later things seem to fall into place when you least expect it. That – Paulo Coelho will tell you – is the whole universe conspiring to help you.

                    Conclusion

                    Being an Entrepreneur is messy, so I don’t know about you but I’ll take all the help I can get…

                    When you read these books, the important thing is to not just be passively reading them; instead, you need to be critically thinking about the author’s message. Challenge their assumptions and for the points on which you agree, determine some concrete things you can do in your life to implement some changes.

                    Every Monday I let my subscribers know what book I read the week before and give a detailed breakdown of the key points I took away from it. Enter your email below to be added to the list and receive these cliff note breakdowns.

                    And as always….enjoy!

                     

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