I’ve got a kitchen full of ants right now. They are tiny little things looking for something to help their colony live and grow. I don’t know what they want, but it’s obviously tucked somewhere under a placemat or faucet. I watch them a lot as they move up and down the line. They rarely stop or chat things up with each other. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought put into their work. Just a lot of doing.
Their mission is innate. There’s no confusion. We get confused. We question a lot of things as if it’s the first time anyone has ever been faced with it. We need to be convinced. It’s because we’re creatures with feelings. We feel doubt, pride and greed. We feel our knowledge is better than others even when we don’t have a clue what we’re doing. “I’ve got this.” No you don’t. Your feelings are telling you you’ve got this and rushing you right past the people with the answers. It’s really annoying at times. Don’t you wish people would just take your word for it and get on with their day?
I’ll admit… sometimes it’s better discovering things on your own so you can learn from the experience. Other times, like when we’re doing important work, there’s just no excuse for ignoring fact for fiction. Every piece of information we want or need is in our pockets. Information is a tool. Smarter people than us have spent years figuring out the answers to many of our questions. A wise man asks great questions. A fool keeps asking the same questions that have already been answered. Which are you?
I started building my side business more than a year ago. The research I put into it started long before I wrote a single word. I used my phone to order books, read blogs and see how others were turning their ideas into solutions. I learned how to tell stories, prototype, get feedback, find an audience, and get help with a website. I’ve read hundreds of articles, stacks of books, and thousands of posts. I’ve been on numerous email lists - some just to study how people manage their own email lists. I learned to ignore charlatans and bookmark the people who inspire me and share great work. They all focus on different things, but they have a few things in common.
This is an article about those people. The people showing me how to put the pieces together in the right order.
I owe Tim Ferriss a lot. He’s the one who got me off my ass and showed me it’s easier now to go rogue than ever before. I read Tim’s 4-Hour Work Week at a time when I needed a little inspiration. What I like best about Tim is he tests everything he recommends. Every bit of advice or information is based on his research or own experiences. I don’t navigate the grey areas very well. That’s why I like Tim’s black-and-white approach to making sh*t happen.
My aha moment with Tim was when I realized how many tools are now available to anyone wanting to try their hand at running their own business. He reminded me that all of the resources we need are a click away. He was the first one I heard talking about the importance of finding a niche and honing in on a specific audience or customer. His books all go deep on topics to show what works and what doesn’t. He’s great at breaking down perceptions we view as barriers. And he does it all of the time to remind us how often we hide behind our own excuses.
Tim got started selling supplements. He turned those experiences into lessons on everything from finding a marketable project to connecting with the people who can help you build and sell your stuff. Never before have we had so many experts ready to help us manage every piece of our business. There’s a world of manufacturers eager to help you design and build something, and a world of tactical and creative people ready to help you market and sell it. Now that we have all the tools we need to build our own empire, what are we going to do with them?
Ramit Sethi started his I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog from his dorm room and has turned it into an impressive business. I’ve watched Ramit give numerous interviews and presentations and there’s one thing that comes to mind when I think of Remit - LEGIT.
I’ve never been one of Ramit’s paying students, but I have spent hours watching the way he runs things because he’s so damn good at it. He’s polished, well-informed, and shares excellent advice. I’ve seen him say great things on topics ranging from negotiating to marketing. I believe the reason he’s so good at giving advice is because he’s lived through it and done his homework.
I’ve learned a lot from Ramit and his crew about creating memorable experiences. When I first started, I heard a lot of internet wonks say things like, “Just record something and get it up.”, and “Sell people something before you actually build it.” I think that was great advice when speed was the best tactic to getting customers. But, well-built machines always beat out the faster ones. Ramit’s is a finely-tuned, well-built machine that will run for a long, long time.
I aspire to build something like Ramit. Everything he delivers is top-notch. Every email he sends and video he shares looks like it took time to build. I check his stuff out just to see how much he’s raising the bar. His marketing tactics and sales strategies are awesome. My money is on Ramit because he looks like a guy who takes a lot of pride in his work. Hey Ramit, can I spend a day checking out your operations? Because whatever you’re doing is LEGIT.
Every time I think of Neil Patel I picture a mad scientist in a lab filled with oozing smoke and buzzing electricity. This guy’s a machine. Every article I’ve ever read from Neil goes deep and is obviously based on extensive research, testing and results. I’m to the point that whenever I want to learn how to do something the right way I just type in the topic together with Neil’s name. Something great always pops up.
Neil seems to test everything he can get his hands on. That’s awesome because we are the beneficiaries of everything he learns. Online businesses are new in the grand scheme of things. And information businesses are even younger. There are a lot of people trying to figure out what works when the online customer is changing every few days. Neil is doing a damn good job keeping pace with online consumers, their habits, and the direction they’re heading. He looks at their actions and he tells us what they’re doing.
Neil looks at data in ways I can’t imagine. Do you want to find out how to build your email list? Neil’s your guy. Looking for the best way to grow your tribe on LinkedIn? Ask Neil. Curious which article headlines get the most attention. Neil again. The list goes on… and on… and on. I’m convinced if you read all of Neil’s articles you’ll figure out how 80% of the Internet works. That’s impressive.
I think one of the hardest things to do when building an online business is finding your tribe early in the game. I worked on my “idea” for more than a year from the comfortable settings of my own head and home. Every idea was brilliant, until it wasn’t. One thing I learned from many of these pros was the value in sharing my ideas with my potential customers to get their feedback early and often. Getting the right feedback will save you from hours… no, days… no, months of working on the wrong things. People will tell you what they want if you simply ask.
I got lucky when I stumbled upon Tara Gentile on CreativeLive. She was helping a room full of people get clear on their audience and marketing plans. I wasn’t ready to market anything, but I was ready to connect with someone like Tara. She reminded me of that teacher you had who could make you feel like you were the only student in the room. Every piece of advice she gives seems personal. I think that’s why she got back to me immediately when I emailed here with a couple of questions to point me to her site CoCommercial.
I’ve tried a lot of different communities and groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Tara has pulled off is something much different. CoCommercial is not a bolt-on to a social network. It’s a place where people spend time helping each other drive their business. The questions and answers are unique and hit on specific pain points and hurdles. It’s like having a room full of experts lined up on a bench waiting to help you with any part of your business. I think that’s part of the magic of this community.
Tara’s tribe wants you to succeed. They’ve given me the most helpful answers some of my most confusing questions. They do it without pretense or ego. They share their own experiences, introduce me to other like-minded people, and are kind. I’ve met more helpful people through Tara in the last 6 months than I have through any other network in more than 2 years. I know one day I will look back at consider connecting with Tara and her community one of my best moves ever.
I have a bro-crush on Chase Jarvis. Everything he does is fu*king fantastic. I want to take pictures like Chase. I want to be a part of his massive Creative community. And I kick myself at least once a week for not coming up with CreativeLive before Chase and his team. Good on ya’, Chase.
Chase started off small like many of the others on this list. He took pictures. He got noticed. He took better pictures and continued to work on his craft. He started sharing his techniques early in his career. He built one of the first apps exclusively for photographers (his tribe), and got noticed by bigger paying clients. He eventually found his way on some of the biggest photography shoots in the country and he could have stopped there… but he didn’t. Instead, he built CreativeLive.
CreativeLive is an online learning experience designed by and for Creative people. It created a stage for some of the best and brightest people across multiple creative fields to share their experiences and lessons with others. Their freemium model is brilliant. Attend for free when the course is live, or pay to watch it later. In other words, give your best work to the people who need it most and you will be rewarded for it. Bravo.
The thing I picked up most from Chase is his passion and belief in sharing. I’m sure he’s successful. But, I always feel his information and shared experiences are free for the taking. His lead-by-giving attitude is the way I want to do business. I want to give people the things they need to improve their businesses. If I can do that, I’m sure my work will be fulfilling and rewarding. Imagine a world in which people will give you everything you need to run a successful business. It’s here. Now the only excuses you have left are your own.
I read a story long ago about a pastor of a church close to where Hurricane Katrina hit hardest in New Orleans. His church helped more people in the surrounding area than the Red Cross. They gave people a place to stay, fed and clothed them with money from their own coffers. Not a single network station filmed them or told their story. When Brad Pitt was getting press, the pastor was taking care of his neighbors.
People do good things for a lot of good reasons. Others are just good people. Pat Flynn is one of those good people. I first discovered Pat’s podcast a couple of years ago when I was trying to figure out what kind of business I wanted to start. I loved the honesty coming from him and his guests. More than that, I loved his transparency. I’ve been listening to Pat for a couple of years now and I’ve never, ever, heard him gloat or put himself above anyone else.
Pat’s podcasts are filled with words like, “grateful, fortunate, lucky” and “thank you”. They’re also filled with some of the most helpful tips and lessons on running an online business you’ll find anywhere. He’s interviewed hundreds of rookies, amateurs and experts in pursuit of knowledge and things that work. He was the first one I remember who openly shared the money his products make. He also shares his failures, his experiences, and anything else he thinks will help his audience.
I’ve told people for years that some of the best people I’ve ever met were native Southern Californians. Their laid-back beach style and giving nature is infectious. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of that left when I visit So Cal. But I get reminded of it every time I listen to Pat. He’s good people doing good things. Care for yourself and you’ll get so far. Care for others and there’s no telling how far you’ll get.
This is an open letter and “THANK YOU” to all those who’ve helped. I hope these great players will inspire and teach you as much as they’ve taught me along the way.
Gregg Eiler is a Master Course Builder helping creatives take over the world one course at a time.
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This is a disclaimer (you’ll need one too if you are promoting things in your articles). I link to sites or services I use or want to recommend because of their bad-assedness. Some of these sites will pay me a small fee if you purchase their product. All proceeds go to charities aimed at empowering people to do great things.