The 4 Step Follow Through Formula for Tough Goals and Resolutions

“Hey mom, I’ve got it all figured out this semester. I’ve got a system and will make sure I stick to all of the work.”

My mom was on the other end of the line, growing more and more impatient with my college exuberance.

“I’m excited for you, but you’ve said this a million times before and it never worked. What makes this time so different?”

Ouch.

I was a junior at UPenn, and my procrastination and desire to do everything fun under the sun left me too little time to be competitive with my fellow Ivy League overachievers.

I still got good grades – just never as good as they could have been had I just “applied myself.” This pattern repeated across everything I did.

That semester, I finally broke the pattern of procrastination (not for good – I had, and still have, a lot more work ahead) and got to see my mom beam over the Dean’s List notification letter.

I can thank my mom’s question for that result. I may have burst into tears after I hung up the phone that night, but it shook me into asking myself some vital questions that helped me stick to my plan and achieve my goals.

This is a very powerful exercise, and you absolutely need it if you’re trying to achieve a goal you’ve failed at in the past. Especially if it’s an emotional one, like working out, losing weight, or getting the results and recognition you crave.

It’s quick – but not comfortable. It will put you face to face with uncomfortable feelings and force you to take action. That’s also why it works so well! [Read more…]

Stop Half-Assing It, Your Success Is Waiting

If you're going to try, go all the way. It's the only good fight there is. - Charles BukowskiI’m a half-asser.

There, I said it. All my life I’ve given less than my very best to almost everything I did.

And then I’d beat myself up for it (for a bit). Before I’d declare that it’s not my fault, because, hey, I was in such a time crunch, so all things considered I actually did a fantastic job.

And I’d finish it all with a solemn pinky swear that next time I’m going to be super organized and start as soon as I put my mind to it and the entire process will be so relaxed and breezy and wonderful…

… only for this ever-so-solemn pinky swear to be solemnly ignored the next time around, when everything would be fun and games until the deadline was staring me right in the face.

That’s when the hustling began – sleepless nights, circles under the eyes, and strained focus.

It took me almost 10 years to break through this merry-go-round of guilt, disappointment, and burnout.

[Read more…]

Taking the leap: my journey from cubicle monkey to creative grasshopper entrepreneur

8-25-14 taking the leapThis story is designed to inspire & give courage to anyone who is on the verge, and feeling called, to quit their job in order to pursue something more meaningful. This is part of the Taking the Leap resource, a database full of real-life stories from people who have successfully gone from job dissatisfaction to career emancipation.

This story includes the truth about what it’s like & what it takes to make the leap — so you can figure out for yourself whether taking the leap is right for you!

So when my dear friend Rebecca Beaton asked me to contribute to her Taking the Leap resource, I jumped at the opportunity. You may have seen Rebecca in our video interview (if you haven’t, go check it out!)

So here’s my story… which some of you may be somewhat familiar with. And some lessons interspersed along the way, for you: so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

I’ve always had authority issues.

When I was a kid, I always insisted on playing my way… even if it meant breaking the toys I was trying to play with. That grew into defiance and rebellion in school (needless to say, I had a lot of bad grades my test scores couldn’t explain…) and continued as procrastination in college and beyond.

When I finished college, I was dismayed that I hadn’t liked a single one of the jobs I had tried (except for tutoring, although even then I had run-ins with the tutoring center administration!) They all just seemed to restrict my freedom and creativity a little too much.

It’s not that I was lazy, or I didn’t want to do work… when given the opportunity I threw myself into anything and committed 110% of my energy into making it amazing, but I needed to not have someone else bossing me around and telling me what I could and couldn’t do.

Unfortunately, as college ended and I was left facing the possibility of returning to my home country of Romania, I had to swallow my pride and return to the company where I did my summer internship the summer before my senior year.

I hated it.

I had a good salary, but no money could make up for being so miserable every day. Soon I fell into the predictable cycle of loving life on Friday and hating it on Sunday. I started developing insomnia because going to sleep meant the next thing that was to happen was getting up super early and going to that place. [Read more…]

The one thing you can’t afford to skip if you want to make your dreams come true

My dream, hanging in my childhood bedroom

My dream, hanging in my childhood bedroom

6 years ago I made my dream come true.

I had been living in Romania for 18 years. I had a couple of friends, a boyfriend, and a loving family. Many of my friends were getting ready to go to college in Germany or Romania.

I was getting ready to hop on a plane and travel across the ocean with two giant suitcases containing everything I wanted in my new life. The destination: Ivy League.

Looking behind wasn’t even on my radar. [Read more…]

Authentic entrepreneur spotlight: Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income

I was super busy last week showing some family friends around beautiful Philadelphia and its surroundings so I kind of fell under the radar. While I missed writing, I got plenty of time to think (I love just having time to let my mind go into grasshopper mode – it’s so refreshing) and take a little break from being in front of a computer screen all day long. If I have been a little slow getting back to you – sorry! Now you know why. 😉

Authentic entrepreneur spotlights – a new feature

I was delighted to see that a lot of you found my last post on writing great content that gets noticed very helpful, so I decided to take this whole “authentic biz” theme a little further and take an in-depth look at the strategies some of the popular authentic bloggers are taking.

A lot of you were, like me, (let’s put it nicely) disenchanted with the slimy internet marketing strategies.

I have been studying several people who do internet marketing in a way that doesn’t make me want to run for the hills, so I figured the best place to start is to learn from what they are doing!

To start off, I will focus on the three main topics of an online business: the content strategy (blogging, video, podcasting), the e-mail list strategy (super important!), and the sales strategy (because we want to make money without having to feel like a used car salesperson to get it.)

Pat Flynn

Pat has a pretty cool story, and he is one of the first people I found in the online business world who was completely open and authentic.  His e-mails feel like they come from a friend (which has an added benefit – they seem to land in the “primary” Gmail tab more often than other newsletter e-mails), he is completely non-salesy, and he shares a crap ton of useful content and strategies for free (starting with his free ebook, Ebooks the $mart way – one of the best written opt-in freebies I’ve read.)

One of the awesome things Pat does is share his income report every single month. Aside from Kate and John’s monthly income reports on Entrepreneur on Fire and Denise Duffield-Thomas’s reports about her first years in business (year 1, year 2year 3), I don’t know of another person who does this (if you do, please link to it in the comments!). This is super valuable for people who are just starting out in online business, but from what Pat has shared in some of his podcasts it can also get you some serious haters. I guess you win some and you lose some!

An example of one of Pat's newsletter e-mails - short, sweet, honest, to the point.

An example of one of Pat’s newsletter e-mails – short, sweet, honest, to the point.

Pat’s communication strategy

Pat’s strategy is pretty unique. He calls it “Be everywhere“. Basically, he posts useful blog posts, podcasts, has a YouTube channel, and is all over social media as well.

But here’s the best part about it (and the hardest, too): he doesn’t post the same content everywhere! I’ve seen other entrepreneurs post a video on YouTube, include the transcript on the blog, and put the audio into their podcast. But by doing that, they are not differentiating between the different kinds of fans they have.

The reality is that some people will prefer to listen to interviews, others will prefer to just listen to your voice as you tell them about stuff, others will prefer to read blog posts because it’s quicker, and others yet will want to see you talk on the screen or watch a screenshare presentation like my 3 habit success framework.

What’s more, your biggest fans will want to consume your content on more than one of these mediums.

By putting the same content on all mediums you are catering to your basic, one-medium fans. But by being on all of them you are adding more value to your biggest fans, who in the end are also the ones who will help spread the word about you (sneezers as Seth Godin calls them) and buy from you.

Pat takes this philosophy even further with his podcasts. He has two of them- the Smart Passive Income podcast (which is long, usually an hour) and Ask Pat, a quick (2-5 min) Q&A podcast. They are both extremely valuable, and cater to different preferences people might have for a podcast.

He interviews some amazing people on his SPI podcast, and also shares a ton of valuable, authentic information when he has no guests. His Q&A podcast is just a treasure trove of useful information – I love listening to both of them!

At the core of Pat’s engagement philosophy seems to be creating trust by offering insanely useful content over and over again, without asking for anything in return.

In addition, he includes lots of links to useful articles or other entrepreneurs in his blog posts, driving traffic to them and building relationships with them. This is a great strategy that emphasizes collaboration between entrepreneurs rather than competition (which comes from the scarcity mindset – “why should I promote their work? I don’t want to send clients away.”)

When entrepreneurs share each other’s work and support each other beautiful things can happen, and I love how some of the best authentic entrepreneurs do that.

Useful links:

Take action:

Create your own blogging pyramid, and write down a list of topics that you could use as case studies for yourself. If you can’t think of anything from the past, start a “case study” project! Choose something you want to work on (related to your niche – something your readers will be interested in), choose a goal and a time frame, and go to town working on it, discovering what obstacles come up, and finding creative ways to overcome them. Then share your experience on your blog!

Pat’s email list strategy

Pat talks extensively about his e-mail strategy in his posts and podcast (I’m going to list some links below). He breaks down his e-mails between blog and podcast updates (which contain links) and autoresponder e-mails, which are like mini blog posts – he shares little stories, useful and actionable tips (a key feature of his listbuilding strategy).

A great strategy he uses in his autoresponder series is to prompt the reader to respond. In the first e-mail you can ask something like, “What are you struggling with?” or “What kind of content would you like to see?”. I personally use this one too, and have found that it increases engagement and trust when people respond (hint: respond back! I always do, even if it takes me a while.)

I have noticed that Pat keeps doing this periodically, asking people for links to articles they have loved around the web, for instance. All great ways to increase trust and start communication with your list subscribers (helping them feel like real people, not just wallet owners).

One thing Pat does very well is have opt-ins everywhere on his site, but not in a way that is pushy. He has no pop-up (Yay! I hate those. That’s why I don’t have one on this site either. And never will. You can hold me to that.) but he does strategically link to his opt-in when the content relates to it and includes an opt-in box at the end of every single post.

Useful links:

Take action:

Start an e-mail list autoresponder! And include a question in your first email and periodically throughout. I love how Pat just adds a new e-mail to the autoresponder every once in a while – keeps him from being overwhelmed (no need to write it all in one day), and keeps the readers constantly engaged with helpful and personal e-mails that don’t contain links – that’s rare in the online marketing world, right?

I have been bad about doing this as well so I’m also jumping on this task right away. You might want to consider creating an implementation schedule for all (or most) of Pat’s strategies – they work very well for him. He has a 60-70% e-mail open rate! Compare that to 20% industry standards. Wowzers!

Pat’s sales strategy

Pat makes most of his money through affiliate sales and ebook sales on his other niche websites. The affiliate links he just includes in his useful blog posts and podcasts as helpful resources, which never comes across as sales-y.

One thing I appreciate about him is that he never sends an e-mail just promoting something. This is made possible by his business model, but I’m not sure it can be 100% sustainable for those of us with a more direct revenue model.

When you sell coaching or ebooks and programs on your own site, it can be important to communicate this with your e-mail list – it’s pretty tough to just squeeze it into blog posts the way he does with affiliate links. So, as awesome as his 100% non-salesy approach is, I don’t it’s not fully sustainable for coaches, for instance. (You’ll see how his strategy slightly backfired when he finally did have something to sell in one of the links I listed below.)

However, I do believe it’s possible to sell to your list in a completely authentic and honest way.

In my opinion, this starts with letting some e-mails be just informational, to connect with your reader – I have to admit I’m tired of how many e-mails tug at my heartstrings just for me to discover the entire sob story was just to sell me something. Barf.

Pat has a brilliant affiliate marketing strategy too. Compared to many other marketers who promote their affiliate links shamelessly to their e-mail list (because it’s the-next-biggest-thing-you-absolutely-need-or-you-will-never-be-successful-period), Pat creates useful how-to articles that are helpful in and of themselves and reviews or promotes the product he’s an affiliate of throughout the post.

It’s a little bit of a sandwich strategy, but he does it in a way that is completely not sales-y, just helpful. Here is example 1 – a how to, example 2 – an in-depth case study, and example 3 – a huge tutorial. And let’s not forget his resources and start here pages – great website real estate for affiliate links, not to mention just how useful they are to a random person that first lands on his site.

Useful links:

  • The right way to add bonuses to your products – a great guide, and I love how he breaks down the mistakes he made and he has seen others make. Very useful for coaches and those selling online products.
  • Pat’s first course on SPI – a good way to see how he sells and promotes a course on the site. Totally non-scammy. However, since he doesn’t normally sell directly to that list, notice the heated discussion that took place in the comments. A reminder of why it’s good to keep a middle ground going between selling and sharing. However, also take notice to the authentic way Pat responds to those criticisms – great to learn from!
  • Are you taking advantage of your unfair advantage? – this is a great post especially for brand-spanking new entrepreneurs who feel like they have “nothing to offer”. Our connections, experience, personality, and unique perspectives give us the leverage we need in business – but first we need to open our eyes and see them, and then we need to get over our fear and use them. I got crickets on my site for a long time because I either didn’t know what made me stand out or was too scared to use it and share it (see my last post about being vulnerable – gulp!)
  • Analysis of his getting started page – Pat includes a lot of these case studies which are insanely useful and popular.
  • How to profit by giving it all away – a super helpful guest post on SPI detailing Pat’s strategy (that I explained a bit above)
  • Pat’s top 30 tips for successful affiliate marketing – all the way down to the most important thing: the mindset!

Take action:

Figure out what your unfair advantage is (hint: you have more than one!) Many creative grasshoppers feel like they’re “Jacks of all trades” with nothing they really excel in. But the reality is that being a creative grasshopper with a lot of passions puts us in a very unique perspective that gives us A LOT to offer! So I challenge you to figure out your “unfair advantages” and commit to an action plan!

Help me out!

This was a lot of fun for me to write, but to tell you the truth I’m nervous! For one, as much fun as it was compiling all of this information, I felt a bit like a stalker doing it 😉 and two, I want to make sure this is helpful to you!

I would love to hear what you think. Did you like it? Do you want more authentic entrepreneur spotlights? Are there any other categories you’d like me to cover? Are there any other authentic entrepreneurs you’d like me to “stalk” and feature? Tell me in the comments!

And I would love to hear the biggest takeaway for you from this spotlight. What strategy are you going to implement right away?

Finally, if you found this helpful please share this post to help other creative grasshoppers learn how to be successful without having to sacrifice their authenticity, honesty, and passions.

How to write great content that gets noticed (and the mistake you don’t want to make!)

My last post about being your own hero has beenHow to write great content that gets noticed (and the mistake you don't want to make) my most successful one so far. My biggest honor was the fact that Jonathan Fields took time out of his busy day to comment on my post. That meant a lot. (I bet JF is going to get a million karma points just from my gratitude alone!)

Some of you have asked me how I did it, and even though I didn’t want to write this post initially (it could have just been a one-off thing with this post), after thinking about it I realized that there were some strategies I applied this time that definitely helped. [Read more…]

Take charge of your life: what’s your excuse?

Excuses, excuses… those pesky buggers.

I make them every day.

They successfully help me avoid cleaning up, put off cooking healthy foods that take time, and daring to step up my game in my business.

I’m not the only one, either: most of the people I talk to on a daily basis are constantly making excuses for why they can’t have the life they really want to have.

But there’s something very important I have to tell you about that: You can’t afford NOT to live a life you love. [Read more…]

Transform your life without setting goals

A couple of weeks ago I told you why I think setting goals is a bad idea.

That hasn’t changed. I still think that goals set you up for failure more than success.

1. Goals keep you focused on the destination, instead of allowing you to focus on the journey. Whether your goal is to run a successful business, get in shape, or have a better relationship, what you want to focus on is this present moment – not the future. Lofty goals will leave you discouraged, while too-small ones will leave you not motivated enough. Relying on artificial ideas of what you think the destination will look like is the poorest form of motivation I’ve ever heard of.

2. Goals are completely artificial and are usually created by the ego, which means two things: one, you’re setting a destination for yourself without knowing that it’s the right one (you can probably tell the direction is right, but not necessarily the destination).

3. You’re allowing the ego to take charge by setting up a new construct that it can compare you to (and create lots of shame and guilt around not having reached it, having over-reached it and therefore not aimed far enough, or having landed someplace else altogether – even if you’re actually better off than you would have been had you reached the goal in the first place). Fun fun fun.

4. You’re pushing forward with the destination in sight (and only the destination in sight) without considering where you’re coming from and whether or not your beliefs about yourself and the world actually allow that kind of transformation to take place.

That will bring you tons of challenges and resistance that you don’t have the tools to deal with, so you chalk it up to “need more willpower” or “poor time management” and throw your money at yet another course that gives you a boatload of gimmicks and tricks that cover up the issue like a band-aid but don’t actually do anything about the real underlying problem. (Ask me why I don’t believe in time management issues… another video for a future Monday!)

Since year-end has left me seeing everyone boast about their goals (and the inner me screaming NOOOOOOOO) I’ve put together the framework I’ve used to create some huge changes in my life from the inside out. From the bottom up. From top to bottom.

You get the point.

Since it’s kind of complex to explain all in one video, I take you through a portion of it in today’s Shine your Light Monday vlog, and have prepared the rest for a FREE workshop/webinar you can participate in on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. It will take place at 7 pm EST/4 pm PST, and you can sign up for it here.

Of course, I will have a recording for you after it’s over. But there’s nothing like being there in person, so show up!

Without further ado… here’s your quick lesson in un-goal setting! [Read more…]

The secret to love, friendship, and success

People act selfishly.

It’s a big lesson and one that can bring you a lot of freedom when you finally understand it.

What you think people do TO you is probably not their intention at all. They’re just going after what feels good and avoiding what doesn’t, or what brings them fear and pain.

The secret to love, friendship, and success is [Read more…]

Why setting goals is BAD for you and your business

It’s mid December…

…which means everyone is knee-deep in their goals and resolutions for 2014.

I’ve been thinking about it myself. 2013 felt… heavy for me. Tough. Like walking through a swamp. I made a lot of progress in some areas (my marriage, my understanding of myself and the world, mindfulness and spirituality, Link to Yourself), and too little progress in other areas (by whose frickin’ standards?)

2014 feels rich with possibility. Beaming with opportunities and new beginnings. A brand new year at my feet, ready for me to make the best out of every minute of it.

So, I sat down, as I usually do, to do my goals for the year…

…and realized that it no longer works for me.

Looking back over my previous years, I realized that goals have only kept me from going in the direction I really needed to go, and have actually prevented from being successful. (Say what?!?!) [Read more…]