In this first example, we're looking at one of the most popular TED talks of all time: the talk titled "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" by Ken Robinson. Ken is an excellent presenter and communicator and in this lesson, we're looking at some of the key points that make him so great (and that we can apply to our own communication).
If you haven't seen the original talk yet, watch the video above first, then click here to watch the talk.
More lessons like this will be added in the future!
In the preceding lessons, you've discovered many tools and strategies you can use to turn yourself into a rapid shipping machine. Not every action step mentioned needs to be followed and I believe that even if you only implement a small number of them, it will make a huge difference to your productivity and success.
In this lesson, let's look at an example of what it could look like to apply many of these strategies to your progress. For this, let's imagine Beth, who's an entrepreneur starting an information product business.
Beth has a lot of experience in public speaking, has done some coaching and teaching on the topic as part of her work and now wants to create an online course on the topic. Her first step is to clearly define her goals, so that she can focus on an outcome and avoid bright-shiny-object syndrome.
Beth knows that she wants to create an online course, so she doesn't have to exchange her time for money anymore. To do this, she needs:
With this, she knows that she can safely unsubscribe from most marketing newsletters she gets and she can ignore all the noise about the latest marketing fads, "business opportunities" and so on. Anything that isn't related to building a website and delivering an online course is no longer of any interest to her.
To get better initial traction, Beth formulates a SMART goal for the longer term:
"I will launch an online course containing 15 video lessons or more, on September 17th."
Note that this goal is simple and consists only of things Beth has complete control over.
She also formulates a separate income goal:
"My goal is to earn at least $3,000/month, so that I can quit my job. At a sales price of $99, that means I need to sell 30 courses per month or 1 course per day, on average. If my sales page converts at 1%, that means I need 100 visitors to my sales page, per day."
This is not a SMART goal, but it's a "know your numbers" goal. It turns the big, intimidating goal of having your own business into something tangible and more approachable.
Beth has often struggled with procrastination. Clearly formulated goals like the above help, but she knows it's not enough to overcome her procrastination.
Because of this, Beth practices mental contrasting once a day. She opens her notes and answers these questions in writing:
Beth spends 5-10 minutes every morning writing our her answers. Sometimes, her answers are exactly the same, but writing them again is a good reminder. Sometimes, her answers are different and she sees new aspects to why she's doing this and why she wants to keep going.
Eventually, Beth will need to learn more about one or several ways to get traffic to her website, but to get started, she decides to follow our Customer First method, so she doesn't have to worry about traffic yet. This also helps avoid the bright-shiny-object problem.
She has to spend some time learning website and marketing stuff, such as how to create landing pages and how to create online courses. But thanks to the 1:1 coaching she's doing, those things never distract her from what really matters: learning who needs her offer, how to teach them and how to reach them.
Through the coaching, she realizes that women respond more positively - she learns that most public speaking coaches are male and that most women would rather learn from a woman than from a man, given the choice. She also realizes that female business consultants have to give presentations to small groups often and have some problems that Beth can help with, very effectively.
As a result, she refines her offering and decides to make her product about presentation training for female business consultants.
Based on her goals, Beth decides to measure a few things that are important for her to make progress and that she has complete control over:
Here are KPI goals Beth sets for herself:
After getting used to video creation, Beth decides to give her progress an extra boost. She starts a 30-day challenge in which her goal is to create and publish at least 1 video per day.
All of this video content doesn't only refine her own presentation and video creation skills, it also creates a lot of content that she posts on her YouTube channel and uses for her courses. This way, even though her main focus is working towards releasing her premium course and building her skills, she is also slowly growing a small audience and some traffic to her site.
At this point in the process, Beth is frequently having free trial coaching calls and she's signed up several coaching clients that she works with 1:1. This constant contact with her potential customers helps her shift her focus away from her perfectionism. She meets all these people who sorely need to improve their presentation skills in order to further their careers (not to mention being less anxious and feeling better about themselves) and she clearly sees that she can help them.
While she does have a nagging desire to make the "perfect" online course, she also feels the urgency of getting a "good enough" solution into the hands of all these people, as soon as possible.
Beth is getting into a working rhythm that she designed deliberately. She gets up early in the morning, does her writing exercise and then spends 90 minutes working on her KPI goals.
Then, she goes about her regular work day.
Lunch break is a useful trigger for her and she uses her time after she finishes lunch to review her goals and reach out to her 4 potential coachees per day.
In the evening, she takes a break after work and she schedules all of her coaching calls for a bit later. This way, her days are framed with regularly scheduled, productive working hours. Beth is very busy, but she can see how she's rapidly making progress towards her goals.
When working on her business, Beth makes sure to work at a clear desk, with no distractions. She turns off her phone during the times she works on her business and she disables all notifications from her computer.
To make use of the power of deadlines, Beth creates milestone goals for herself and she thinks of her deadlines in small units of time.
For example, for her goal of creating 2 videos per week (outside of the 30 day challenge mentioned above), she formulates her deadlines as follows:
"I have 90 minutes, 4 days a week, that I can focus on video work. My milestone goals are to publish one video on Tuesday and one on Thursday. That means I have a total of 180 minutes to complete each video. My goal is to spend 60 minutes planning and scripting a video and 30 minutes recording it. That leaves me with 90 minutes to edit and publish each video. I can realistically do the editing and publishing in about 45 minutes, which gives me a buffer for longer videos or obstacles."
For her larger goal of finishing her online course, Beth set several milestones:
For each of the milestones, she sets a deadline date. The milestones are structured in such a way that she's not always working on the same thing and so that she never has an excuse to get stuck or give up. Any point at which she can encounter obstacles is one where she's already "almost done" with a lot of the relevant work for creating the course.
Through her practice work and her coaching clients, Beth has built up a small audience of people she can reach. A few weeks before her final deadline, Beth announces her product launch to all of her contacts, with a date.
She also invites people to sign up to an early bird list to get a special offer.
As a result, she gets many excited replies and several people signing up to the early bird list, eagerly waiting for her product. This creates accountability. She even opens to sales before she completes all the video lessons. This brings in some revenue and puts even more pressure on her to finish the product in time.
Needless to say, by the time the final deadline approaches, Beth's product is finished and in better shape than she originally imagined.
The product launch is not an instant ticket to financial freedom, but Beth can clearly see that applying the same approach that led to this launch, she can learn whatever skills she needs and create and ship whatever she wants, to help her business take off.
When you face an externally enforced deadline, you usually put things off until the last moment and then get everything done in time. When you set deadlines for yourself, you can easily just change the deadline.
Here are the steps you can take to A) be as productive as you are in the last moments before a deadline approaches, more often and B) set your own deadlines and still manage to get that productivity boost.
Okay, this might seem too obvious, but it needs to be said: make setting deadlines for your projects part of your work habits. To get the productivity benefits from deadlines, it's not enough to just think "I'll get this done by X" to yourself. Write down your deadline and commit to it.
Details on how to do this are covered in the SMART goal section in this lesson.
As we know, we tend to get a productivity boost as the end of a deadline approaches. Fortunately, there's a simple hack you can apply, to get this productivity boost more frequently and also make yourself more likely to stick to the deadline you've set for yourself.
There are several things you can do to make self-imposed deadlines more "real" and they are all related to accountability.
In the lesson about habits we already saw how important it is to have some kind of reward at the end of your desired behavior. This works well in combination with deadlines. A deadline is a clear end point at which you can assess whether you've achieved your goal or not. If you have, you can reward yourself to reinforce the habit of sticking to your own deadlines.
Now we're getting into some really interesting stuff: the idea for this lesson is to give you the tools you need to turn high productivity and shipping into a habit. That means you'll do it more often, better and more easily.
The first thing we need to understand about making this work is the model of the rider and the elephant.
The rider is the part of your brain that you identify as yourself. It's your inner voice, the part of you that plans ahead, thinks rationally and makes decisions.
The elephant is the other part of your brain. And it's the much bigger, much stronger part. The elephant acts on instinct. It's main focus is survival and reproduction and it's where the fight-or-flight response comes from.
If the rider has one idea and the elephant another, the elephant always wins. This is why willpower and "just do it!" don't work.
The second thing we need to understand is that any real habit - a habit that's truly ingrained and happens "automatically" has 3 parts to it:
Why is this important?
Because we mistakenly always focus on just the action. But unless you become aware of your triggers and rewards as well, you can neither change your current habits nor form new ones.
The trigger can be anything internal ("I'm bored") or external (your phone vibrates). The action is whatever you do in response to the trigger (reach for your phone) and the reward is what happens as a result of the action (you see your notification and relieve the tension of not knowing what's going on).
At least once every working day, create one hour of distraction free work during which you focus entirely on one important, high leverage task for your business. Even if you do this only for one hour a day, if you pick the most important task and do it consistently, this will lead you to make more productive progress than most people do all day.
Big tasks can be difficult to start on and this leads to procrastination. To overcome this problem, apply the "lower the diving board" method.
One of the biggest insights from the last decades of social sciences is that our environment is hugely important for our behavior. We may like to think that we are always the same person and will therefore always make the same choices. But the truth is: we think differently and act differently, depending on our environment.
For your productivity, you can use this to your advantage, by creating a highly productive environment for yourself.
Sometimes, the problem with shipping is that you can't get started. But sometimes, the problem is that you do a lot of work, but you can't get finished. You never feel like your product is good enough, so you keep working, tinkering, tweaking etc.
This is a big problem and a very common form of entrepreneurial procrastination. Here are the steps you can take to prevent it:
A KPI is a "key performance indicator" - it's what you choose to measure your progress by. The problem is, if you don't carefully pick your KPI, if you just measure your progress by the obviously available indicators, you're setting yourself up for failure.
We change what we measure, whether we try to or not. By focusing on and measuring the right things, you make it much easier for yourself to make real progress towards your goals. And as you make more efficient progress, you'll find it easier to actually ship what you're working on.
The problem with procrastination by perfectionism is that you're focused on the wrong thing. You're placing your focus on the immediate, short term outcome. Instead, you should reframe and focus on the longer term goal of getting really good at what you do.
I can't overstate how important it is to start producing at quantity.
It's easy to get stuck in procrastination by perfectionism when you're worried about yourself. Worried about how people will judge you, worried that you're not good enough to teach something or create a product, worried that your product won't succeed if it's not perfect etc.
It can be transformative to shift your focus to your audience - to other people - instead.
Do you enjoy creating your product and making it better and tinkering away at every possible detail? Would you much rather keep tinkering than launch your product and do all the marketing and sales stuff?
In that case, teaming up with someone, so you can be the creative and they can be the marketer could be the perfect solution for you.
There's no action step here, because if you don't already have a person to work with, summarizing how to find a good partner for your business would take up more space and time than we have, here (may be a topic for future courses and podcast series, though). If you already do have someone you can work with, it's simply a matter of delegating. Even if neither of you are experienced marketers, simply splitting the responsibilities will help make this happen. If it's one person's job to launch and market the product, it makes shipping a lot easier.
As an entrepreneur, you have to get serious about setting goals and planning how you'll build and grow your business. Unfortunately, "snackable" media content and a shortcoming in the way the human brain works are not on your side. Most advice on goal setting is dead wrong, but you'll like it, even though it's making you worse off...
The worst possible advice for planning and goal-setting is basically everything the book 'The Secret' teaches. That book and dozens of other books, articles and self-help gurus, to be more exact. The worst thing you can do is spend time visualizing the end goal. Imagining how great your life will be when you're a rich, successful entrepreneur. Imagining all the nice things you'll have and how much better you'll feel, etc.
This kind of daydreaming about end goals makes you less likely to actually get to work and see things through to the end. Research by Gabriele Oettingen has shown this in many studies.
That's why our first action step is simple: don't do this kind of visualization. It also doesn't matter how you do it (daydreaming, writing, image boards,...). It's all bad.
With that out of the way, let's get to the action steps for what to do instead.
SMART goals stands for:
The concept of SMART goals is quite wide spread, so I'm not surprised if this isn't the first time you hear about it. But ask yourself: are you really putting it into practice? Because as common and mainstream as this might seem, it really can make a huge difference to your outcomes.
If you want to learn more about SMART goals and how to use them, a good resource is the book Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg.
Important note: if you aren't in the habit of setting SMART goals and measuring your progress towards them, take it slow. Don't go overboard, setting dozens on SMART goals for all kinds of things. That will just lead to overwhelm and make you likely to give up on the concept altogether. Start with one goal, make it a priority and use this system to see it through.
While daydreaming about reaching your goals makes you less likely to succeed, mental rehearsal can boost your performance. What's the difference? Mental rehearsal is about imagining the process, not the end goal. It's about thinking through the actions (A, in SMART goals) before performing them.
Here are some ways in which mental rehearsal can be applied to business and marketing:
The greatest advantage this gives you is that of rapid implementation and iteration. It's much faster to think through something than to actually create it, so you can "rewind" and try again many times over, in your mind. This is a matter of practice, so don't worry if it doesn't come easily right away.
Mental contrasting is like a cheat code for your brain. It's not entirely clear why it works, but it's clear that it works extremely well in getting you to become better at shipping. Mental contrasting is a writing exercise that takes only a few minutes.
That's it. It will take just a few minutes and it may seem too good to be true, but there's a lot of evidence that shows this simple exercise makes you significantly more likely to take action and see your goals through to the end.
Bright-shiny-object syndrome is the downfall of many online entrepreneurs. If you keep chasing after the latest business opportunity, buy too many launch special offers and generally jump back and forth between too many different things, your business will never make progress.
The good news is: you're not alone with this problem and it absolutely can be fixed.
The more marketing newsletters you're subscribed to, the more likely you'll get sucked into bright-shiny-object pursuit mode. The reason is simple: marketers are good at marketing (at least some of them are, anyway). They will write emails that demand your attention and convince you that you must drop everything you're doing now, to buy their latest thing.
It's easy to buy new ebooks, tools and other stuff you may or may not need for your business, especially when everything's seemingly cheap and discounted. But all those low priced purchases add up over time. The sobering reality of what you're spending on stuff you don't need helps you keep bright-shiny-object syndrome under control. And by using our accountability spreadsheet you can force yourself to take action on everything you learn.
As an entrepreneur, you like to be creative and try new things. And you want to be informed of what's going on in the marketing world. This is only natural, but it makes shiny new objects difficult to resist. These steps will help you combat the endless distractions:
Resourcefulness is like an entrepreneurial super power. It helps you achieve your goals with less time, money and resources. It makes you more creative in solving problems and helps you overcome obstacles more easily. And it's the very opposite of chasing after bright, shiny objects all the time.
WPX Hosting has a one-click WordPress installation feature.
By itself, this is nothing special. Most hosting services offer something like this, these days. There's an important thing you need to know about, though: bloatware.
Many hosting services have advertising deals with vendors and get paid to pre-install plugins, themes and marketplaces in their WordPress installation service.
This means that instead of getting a pristine, fresh WordPress website, you get one that's already loaded down with bloatware. The purpose here is always to get your money, so bloatware will often include things like marketplaces that pose as the "official" way get new features for WordPress or pre-installed themes that are limited unless you "unlock" them for a fee.
Basically, they want to prevent you from finding out that you actually don't need all that crap and you can often get better stuff for free.
When you install WordPress and log in to the admin area, here's what you should see:
TK: screenshot of newly installed WP
If you see any other stuff in the sidebar or the main dashboard area, you've been affected by bloatware. If you're lucky, you can go to the Plugins list and remove it.
TK: step by step
The three most important factors when choosing a hosting service are speed, reliability and security.
I recommend that you use WPX Hosting, even if you're building your very first website.
A WPX Hosting account costs $25/month. At first glance, that might look more expensive than hosting offers that are typically advertised. However, saving on a hosting account is false economy.
For example, let's look at the offers of one of the biggest hosting providers - Hostgator:
TK: step by step
To get your domain name, we're going to use Namecheap.
Two things are important:
So, the important point here is that you get your domains registered with an independent, reliable provider, different from where you get your hosting. The service I recommend is Namecheap.
So we're on the same page, here's the terminology for domain names:
TK: illustration of domain name and top level domain (TLD).
Domains are cheap, so if you plan to build a real brand and you aren't on a tight budget, you should get more than one of them. Here's what you need to consider:
Ideally, you have a catchy brand name and you get the .com domain for it. The .com TLD is still the most recognizable and most desirable. And that's why it's also hard to find.
Getting the .com is great if you can, but don't mangle your brand name for the sake of it. In other words, don't change your brand name to mycatchybrandnameomghowisthisstillnotavailable.com just because catchybrand.com was taken.
It's become common practice to get a variation domain name and buy the (usually very expensive) .com version once your business has made enough money. To find an available domain name variation, try the following.
Try these TLDs:
These are just tacky and less trustworthy. They're also more difficult to memorize.
You can also try pre-pending a word like:
Also check out Domai.nr to see if you can get a clever version of your brand name using a different TLD. Be cautious of some of the recommendations it makes, though.
If you operate in a specific country outside the US and want to reach people from that country in their native language, you should get the countrie's TLD.
As in: catchybrand.de - for Germany.
And of course, the brand name should be in the native language or, if English, one that native speakers can pronounce and understand.
Whatever your brand name and country, if you can get the .com of it, you still should.
Check if your full name is available as a .com and in your country's TLD. Even if you don't have plans for using it right now, it never hurts to own yourname.com.
For brand names, I also like to buy up all of the good TLDs that are available. For example, I own activegrowth.net and activegrowth.co, as well as activegrowth.com.
Why does it matter? Because if my brand takes off - and especially if I sell something with an affiliate program - I don't want anyone buying up these domains and scraping/cloning my site. Unfortunately, some people will do this and create a site that "poses" as yours, while linking to you with affiliate links.
You can try to get a short version of your site's URL such as cabr.co, but it's not something I recommend. Short domains used to be popular because of the character limit on Twitter, but that no longer applies. All URLs are now automatically shortened on Twitter, so the number of characters in your URL no longer makes a difference.
The other possible uses for a short URL are:
Keep in mind that in both cases, memorable trumps short.
If my URL is cabr.co/3N9dk, that's very short, but it will be much easier for you to remember catchybrand.com/special.
More useful than a domain for short URLs is a domain for redirects. This serves the same purpose - for visual and audio backlinks - but the focus is on memorability.
Example: to get to a landing page about the ActiveGrowth podcast, you can go to activecast.co
If you already know Namecheap or you can generally find your way around a user interface, you can skip this section. All the principles were discussed above. What follows is the step by step and screen by screen process for registering a domain and setting up a redirect.
TK step by step
Alright, what do I mean when I say this is for setting up a badass website?
Well, here's what I don't mean: this is not a "get your domain here, set up this rubbish cheap hosting and install WordPress" course. This is not, in other words, what you get in pretty much every other "how to create your WordPress site" course.
When you follow the lessons in this course, you'll have a WordPress website that:
And I haven't even told you the best thing about it yet. What you'll be building here is future proof.
You know what happens way too often? Entrepreneurs wasting their time with shit they should have sorted out months or years ago.
Setting up your website is foundational work. Too many people build a crappy foundation because they either don't know better or go for the quick and dirty setup, telling themselves they'll catch up later. Well, guess what: if you build a big house on top of a crappy foundation, fixing that later will cost you way more time and money than if you had just done it right from the start.
This course = doing it right from the start.
You've now heard the complete story and you've got a detailed outline of what I did to launch my first product.
In conclusion, let me summarize what I believe are the 3 most critical factors that helped my make this work, as a beginner to creating and launching products.
This is really what all the market research comes down to: aim before you shoot.
Can you point out, very specifically, who the people are who need your product and where you can reach them?
If you can, you're half way to a successful product launch. If you can't, drop whatever you're doing and work on getting this information.
As you can probably guess, creating a product isn't going to be the easiest thing you'll ever do. It's not going to be smooth sailing all the way from your first idea to the bank.
Be aware that there will be obstacles. There will be difficulties that you didn't plan for and sometimes, things will go a lot worse or be a lot harder than you imagined.
Whenever you encounter such obstacles, you'll feel like giving up. Sometimes, you'll question this entire thing and calling it quits will seem like the most reasonable choice you can make.
This is when you need to keep at it. You need to have the grit to see something through, past these obstacles.
For more on this, check out this post about when to give up and when to keep going.
What I hope, above all, is that you look at my story and see that I didn't do anything you can't also do. I really hope that you're not thinking: "Shane can do this, but it wouldn't work for me because XYZ".
There's really nothing extraordinary about any of the steps I laid out here. And there's no critical step I didn't tell you about. There's no secret formula to success that I'm keeping to myself.
There's nothing magical or superhuman here. It's just a bit of strategic thinking and a whole lot of hard work.
If there's some value you can and want to bring to the world as an entrepreneur, then I hope this course will help you. I want to see the value you have to offer. Me, and the rest of the world, are eagerly waiting.
All the best,