"But I'm not as talented as he is..."

If you can't be as talented as someone else, if you can't sell for cheaper than someone else, if you don't have the resources that the other guy does, you can still do well by providing a better human experience.

Build a boutique when you can't compete with the megamall. Specialize in special. Be more thoughtful. Be more empathetic. Show them you care and the ones that care about that will become your greatest advocates.

Don't be afraid to repeat what works

When I find something that works I do it once and think that I need to reinvent the wheel.

It's one of the things that I get most frustrated with myself about. I find it hard to stick to one style of photography because I want to do one and then try all the others, too.

But when you find success, stick to it and make 100 of those images even if they're pretty similar.

Larry King didn't build a new set for each show he did. He just replaced the subject and let the artwork flow from his mouth.

Be more like Larry King, not me.

Just ask

It's hard to ask for what we want for fear of being rejected or fear of appearing vulnerable.

But it's better to not take everything so seriously. Call your cable company and tell them in a fun and relaxed tone of voice that you don't want to pay as much and that, as a loyal customer who paid on time for years, you would like some kind of discount. You'll probably get one.

Often we don't get the things we want because we hype them up in our own mind to the point where it's terrifying to think about being rejected so it's easier to just sit still and not try at all.

Try asking for everything. Ask for a lollipop at the grocery store checkout, ask for a discount when you want one, ask for a higher price for your work, ask for time, ask for funding to pursue your latest corporate venture.

You'll probably get it just because you asked. The dirty secret is that almost everyone is afraid to ask so you're not even bothering anyone when you do.

They want the credit, but not the risk

Staying the same and never moving feels safest. Saying "no" to every opportunity that arises feels like a warm hug. It's easy to say "no" and hard to say "yes" when opportunity knocks.

But to say "yes" and step away from your comfort zone is a mark of leadership. Leaders blaze a trail, they don't follow a path.

Where are they going? Nobody knows because nobody has gone there before. If the trail was blazed, they would no longer be a leader but a follower.

You don't always need to know exactly where you're going or how it's all going to work out. You do need to have faith, imagination, and initiative to make it work out.

Those who are too afraid to risk leading follow and content themselves with mediocrity. They also tend to criticize those who wish to lead.

They offer an opinion or make changes to your work. They're ready to meddle in your work just as long as they don't have to face the risk of failure.

Stick to your convictions and do what you think is best for the trail you're blazing.

So take risks, take initiative even when you don't know the details, and hold fast your convictions. You're the leader, the risk-taker, and the one who see things a little differently. Don't lose that specialness in a world that prefers the safety of mediocrity.

Which surgeon do you want?

Would you rather the surgeon have two amazing days of perfect surgeries each week, or spend seven days sweeping the halls?

Which is a more successful and productive week?

I often get caught in the trap of thinking more work = more production.

The reality for most of us is that more work done intelligently is more productive. Remember that saying "work smarter, not harder"?

Yeah, more of that.

Am I more productive if I manually lift all the wood boards to the upstairs bedroom, or take the time to rent a crane and have it all lifted up there by lunchtime?

The first method takes much more physical labor and therefore may seem like it's the better day of work, but the second method gets the job done, preserves your body, and the rest of the day is free to continue being productive.

Pace yourself and work more intelligently and you'll get more done while having more time to do the other things you love.

Show up every single day

If you've read any of my older blog posts you know how I subscribe to the theory of showing up day after day after day.

Even if all you actually do is the "show up" part.

I've been (surprisingly) pretty consistent posting here since November 2018 when I was sure that I'd only write for a couple days before forgetting about it.

Instead, a habit has been formed and it's turned into something I MUST do every morning.

Showing up every day buys me the equity to mail in a blog post like this on a day like today. I'm busy and I need to pound out a quick post just to make sure I do this.

I don't really even care about the quality of this blog entry, I just want it done. Usually, that means I'll actually run into something interesting.

So that's it. Show up. Every single day. That makes it easier to show up and the people you show up for will give you the benefit of the doubt when you show up like I have today.

I showed up, but not much else. But I did show up.

Jab, jab, jab, right hook

The title is a book written by Gary Vaynerchuk. I love the way the book looks, but I found the book itself to be very boring. Still love Gary, though.

The principle is that you hit people with lots of free content, videos, fun stuff, and engagement to build a rapport with them.

After doing the work upfront you ask for the sale and make lots of money for your company while actually providing value to people who support you.

The principle is really solid and is applicable to nearly every aspect of life.

In fishing, we let out the line and reel back in bit by bit.

In teaching, we offer lots of interesting and fun stuff before hitting students with the more difficult stuff.

We do lots of nice stuff for a person before asking the difficult question.

My little daughter will come to give me a hug and tell me how much she loves me... before telling me she broke the new TV.

When you learn the principle, you'll start seeing it everywhere.

It's funny though that in the world of YouTube videos people will start to get pretty uncomfortable with your content if you start selling a product in every video or only make sponsored content.

Web users have grown up with the idea that content should be free online.

As a content creator, I find myself creating multiple videos NOT promoting anything and then every few days offering a sponsored video.

But isn't it funny that we're still willing to sit down and watch a TV show or football game that is 40% commercials? Where would that ratio get you with a YouTube video?

Funny how we adapt to different mediums. We all have to adapt constantly to what our customer or viewer expects. I'm still working on finding the best balance.

George Washington didn't ask for permission

Leaders are forged, not chosen. So stop asking for permission to be special.

Martin Luther asked nobody for permission before nailing his 95 theses to the church doors. George Washington didn't ask for permission to carry on the American Revolution. Bill Gates didn't ask for permission to revolutionize the way personal computing would work.

These leaders had faith in what they believed in. That faith is critical to anyone who wants to make a change. Without faith, there is no "leap" and without the leap, there is no change.

Have faith that you can do it and that even if you fail it won't be the end of you.

Lasting change won't be made by asking for permission. You need to do and figure out the rest of the stuff later. While those who have faith are willing to be martyred, they're also fit to be glorified.

Lurking in the shadows is crippling

Do you lurk or do you interact? We all seem to have a natural inclination to put ourselves out there or to withdraw and observe from a distance.

Those who put themselves before the crowd are more natural leaders, those who observe from a safe distance are more naturally lurkers.

Being a lurker isn't a bad thing, but it will make it more difficult to be a naturally strong leader.

How do you increase the chance that something good will happen for you by only watching what unfolds?

Are you more likely to be discovered (or have your work discovered) by sitting back and watching?

It's easier and feels much more safe to NOT put yourself out there in front of the crowd where we can be rejected or mocked. But we also prevent yourself from being discovered as well.

But instead of changing, we find excuses to rationalize our unwillingness to step out of hiding.

Make the choice to overcome your fear and desire for safety. Make the choice to do something. Make the choice to be noticed.

We don't all make it to 50

It's easy to talk about what you want to be doing in your fifties, but nobody wants to talk about what they'll be doing when they're 100.

It's easy to assume we'll make it to 50, but nobody really believes they'll make it to 100. Most don't make it to 100, but many don't make it to 50 and yet we all assume we'll be going strong at 50 years old.

So I'm going to start saying "WHEN I'm 100 years old, I want to be doing X, Y, or Z..." It's easy to do that for age 50, but I want to be more optimistic. So "100" it is, maybe "105" just to keep things interesting.

Eating crab legs in a Bentley

They want you to fit in. Doing things differently makes you a marked man. It takes courage to be yourself. Fit in! Don't fly too high! Don't try to be too special! They will laugh when you fail and they will scorn when you succeed. But I say that doing things differently is the mark of someone who is more likely to succeed.

I heard a story yesterday from a guy who was appalled as he cleaned out a Bentley (you know, the very expensive car) at the dealership where he worked. The owner of the car had been shelling and eating crab legs in the car and dropping the shells on the floor. The smell was awful and the idea that anyone would do that to a $250,000 car was worse!

The car belonged to then-NBA-star, Allen Iverson. He and a group of friends would drive around while indulging in crab legs and throwing the crab bits all over the car.

That brings me to my point. Allen Iverson, one of the great players in NBA history and one of the most prolific scorers the league has ever known was eccentric and very different in many ways. I'm not saying that destroying the interior of your Bentley will make you great at whatever you do, but I would argue that whatever it was that led him to be OK with this crab situation was a contributing factor in what drove him to greatness in the sport he played.

Those who play to blend in never stick out. Kind of redundant, but it's true. If you always try to blend in it will be 10x harder to become great, to stick out, to make a difference.

So be you, be different, embrace what makes you different, awkward, and weird. That's the special sauce that nobody else has. Don't let special be choked away trying to appease others and blend in.

Can't knock out Tyson from your couch

Always show up. Always show up with your best. Always show up with your best even when you doubt yourself or everyone around you doubts you. Actually, don't ever doubt yourself. Reach inside and find a true belief that you belong, that you're able, and that you're good. You'd never believe somebody if they told you the sky is actually orange. You couldn't believe that. Find that belief in yourself and always demand the best of yourself and you won't fear a person or situation on earth.

On February 11th, 1990, Mike Tyson was set to fight Buster Douglas in Japan. Most oddsmakers in Vegas wouldn't even let people bet on the fight and the one place that did take bets made you bet about $35,000 to win $1,000. Everybody knew Mike Tyson would crush this guy like he had been doing to everybody. Mike Tyson was undefeated at 37-0 heading into the fight, having knocked out 14 of his last 16 opponents.

Buster Douglas could have been crushed by the hype, the doubt, the entire world sure he was just the latest victim for Tyson, but instead he came out and fought confidently and knocked out Tyson in the 10th round. It still remains one of the most improbable underdog victories in the history of sports.

He believed in himself even when nobody else did and he did it against the greatest odds imaginable. You're probably not under threat of imminent knockout, so why can't you believe in yourself? You can’t knock out Tyson from your couch. Show up confidently.

Change comes from the inside

When we find that thing that distracts us from work or pulls us away from our diet, or keeps us in bed for an extra hour in the morning (snooze buttons!) we willingly get pulled away from our goal.

The snooze button doesn't press our finger, the car doesn't refuse to drive us to the gym, and Netflix doesn't descend from the heavens and autoplay against our will.

After begin distracted from the things I need to do, I get angry at myself as if I wasn't the one who opened that YouTube video, or browsed twitter for an hour, or found something else to distract me from my work. There is a part of me that thinks "if I can just block more of these websites I could get more work done!"

Wrong. The change does not come from the outside, the change comes from the inside. I make the choice to suffer the pain of self-discipline now or suffer the agony of regret later. At the moment, I choose instant gratification rather than foregoing entertainment now for the longterm success of my project. I should get angry at nobody but myself.

So that's it. This is more a post sending a message to myself. Sacrifice today and be proud of what you did today, tomorrow.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes ever by Lord Chesterfield:

 
A MAN is fit for neither business nor pleasure, who either cannot, or does not, command and direct his attention to the present object, and in some degree, banish, for that time, all other objects from his thoughts. There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time. This steady and undissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of a superior genius.
— Lord Chesterfield
 

They will mock you

We laugh at the person who takes the risk and fails instead of respecting the willingness to take that risk in the face of possible failure. They write stories about his failure and how stupid he was for daring the challenge the accepted norms of "the rest of us." When the risk that is taken fails, he had better have thick skin because they will mock.

Many risk-takers don’t fail. The few that do get a lot of air time. We hear all about them. It's our reminder to stay in line, blend in, and remain mediocre.

When the risk-taker succeeds, they look for reasons to discredit or accuse him of cheating. It is a thankless process. Take risks for yourself, not for the accolades.

For the rest of us, these jeering crowds remind us to stay in line and keep our heads down. And most of us do for fear of being labeled or criticized. We shun risk like it's the Black Plague. We would rather reject innovation and exciting new technology, or something new for fear that we will be criticized if it doesn't work. “The old way was slow, but it works and it’s safe.”

But who are these critics? Have they any value in your life? Do they care about your well-being or are they looking for a cheap laugh? The people who respect the risk, the leap, the moment you stepped out onto the edge are the ones who matter. Ignore the masses who've been conditioned to avoid risk and start the new thing today.

If it fails, let them laugh. For yourself, you can rest assured they would not have had the fortitude to set out on such a risky journey as you. They would settle for less and be content in their safe bubble. You want bigger, better, faster, stronger. With that comes risk. Embrace the whole package.

A highly recommended practice

Yesterday I got together with a few fellow YouTube "creators" and had a no-holds-barred sit-down discussion to talk about business development, content creation for youtube, making money in that business and more. It was a fun few hours bouncing ideas around and exploring how other people do work similar to my own.

It has been about a year since I've really sat down with other creators and talked about these things. It reminded me of how valuable it is to hear the voice and perspective of others and see where that applies in your own life or business. Talking to other people is highly recommended.

The F word

One of my favorite books of all time is "The Icarus Deception" by Seth Godin. It's a fun mix of self-help-sounding quotable bits mixed with things that it'd be nice if we had been taught at an earlier age.

Sometimes I feel like my fear of either failure or criticism will lead me to a position where I stand in the middle of the road, walk with the status quo, or be mediocre. I think I can be comfortable being brown cardboard. Useful, but nothing special. That's pretty terrifying to think about. I kind of hate it.

The fact that I hate it makes me happy, though. I know that I need to do more to stick out and be different. I need to do more to challenge the normal proceedings. I need to make that artwork that garners criticism. Boring business is ignored, boring people are ignored, boring artwork vanishes. Challenge what makes people comfortable and the status quo and you'll make the biggest difference.

Make artwork. Make business. Make speeches. And make them all so that they are worth criticism. Love it or hate it, make work that people can't ignore. Don't be afraid, it will consume you and lead you to a safe, boring life of punching the clock and longing for the weekend. Be fearless, be interesting, be notable.

Less is more

I talk a lot and I overexplain almost always. On this freezing cold Wednesday morning (in Philadelphia) watching snow blowing across the ground in waves like little soldiers of fog and ice drifting here and there (very beautiful to see). I'm sitting here thinking about the concept "less is more" and I'm trying to pound it into my head and make it the way I do the things I do.

Too much of a good thing isn't really a good thing. Less is more.

Ignoring what you have for what you want

Too often we get stuck looking for the next big thing, our next break, the promotion we want, etc... and we miss what's happening right in front of us.

For me, I can sometimes get caught up in the chase for more fans, more website users, or more new customers and I start to neglect the amazing fans, users, and customers I have already.

That's what I wanted to share today. Take care of the awesome things that you already have instead of looking for the next break or the next big thing. You'll end up losing the great stuff you have and never getting the things you're chasing.

Foster & love your community, clients, and fans. They love you now, but nothing bites worse than a scorned lover. So don't scorn them, respect them.

Making pressure evaporate

The other day I noticed that the stress and pressure of writing these daily blog posts have completely evaporated. I like to preach the fact that if you just do something for a few minutes a day, it doesn't take very long before you get better and better at that thing.

In this case, taking 10-20 minutes a day to write a blog post has made getting started with all of my writing projects much, much easier.

I'm wondering if I should be shooting a portrait a day, design a logo a day, make a video tutorial a day, etc... etc... to get really fast and really proficient at doing these things.

Start today and set a goal that is very attainable. Something easy that you can do for 10 minutes a day and you'll look back in a few months and realize you've gotten much better at it.

Now I have to keep it up. Hopefully, this blog post isn't a jinx, but I feel pretty good about the future of these posts. More to come!

Sometimes thoughtfulness is cheap

Just back from a week-long trip to San Francisco and one evening while downtown, I saw a city street janitor who was sweeping the streets was keeping two cans of garbage, one for the trash and one for the food scraps he found.

I watched him move from homeless person to homeless person and dish out the food he'd found and set aside. Politics aside, it was a little reminder to me that sometimes doing something thoughtful or kind for others is very often free and just a matter of us thinking ahead a little bit and trying to help out a little more.

It was cool to see a guy doing as much as he could in his particular position. It inspired me to try to be more thoughtful in everything I do.