Why I am leaving London Real Academy

lra

As some of you might know, I have long been a supporter and believer in something called the London Real Academy. LRA is the membership side of the LondonReal.tv website/youtube channel founded by Brian Rose where he interviews successful and interesting people. LRA was founded as a place for like minded individuals to focus on self-improvement across a wide swathe of disciplines – from physical fitness, to finances, to creativity. I have met Brian in person, and attended a ‘focus group’ evening at the London Real studios.

I have not always agreed with some of the views of the guests, but that’s fine. It’s all education.

One guest, and Rose’s mentor, Dan Pena has never been aligned with the intellectual, spiritual, humanistic side of LRA. LRA is not about making money at any expense, it is about making a better person. A better person does not, as Pena does at every event, suggest that participates who are not up to scratch commit suicide. Even saying such a thing for effect (what effect?) is betraying the values that the LRA community supposedly stands for. Pena is an aggressive, violent bully who in the past has participated in attempts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments for money.

The thing that has tipped the scales for me is to have Pena on, uncontested, supporting Donald Trump. This is a very political and moral statement that I will not pay money to support. (Click image for video)

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I do not question that America needs an overhaul of its political and social systems. I just do not believe that a racist, misogynist, pathological liar who condones (and incites) violence on his behalf against those who disagree with him – or he just doesn’t like – is the most positive way forward. I do not believe that it is an approach that is aligned with all the things I hear in the London Real Academy community.

I do not think it is an understatement to say that Trump’s views – and his access to power – make him as potentially dangerous as any great dictator in recent history. To allow his supporters a platform is by extension to support Trump. I do not think that history will view those who allowed his hatred to propagate kindly. It is akin to having Royal Dutch/Shell oil chairman Henri Deterding on the show to discuss his admiration and support of Hitler. And that is not a statement I make lightly.

I turned a blind eye to LR’s click bait, follower grabbing attempts with Pena – which I should not have – but not with Pena as a Trump supporter.

Of course, Brian Rose and the London Real team are free to do with their channel and other outlets as they wish. I am not for a second saying they should not. I am simply saying that I won’t sponsor it.

 

Morning Routines

Rule #1 – Start the day right

My life has drastically changed in the last few years, but, one of the most positive influences has been my change to a morning routine. In this post I’d thought I’d write about what I do, why I do it, and how it has affected me.

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About 3 years ago I started to read – or, more accurately, listen to – books by Jack Kornfield. Kornfield is an interesting guy – an aging hippie but also one of America’s preeminent writers on Buddhism, mostly based on his own personal (and amazing!) life experience of training as a monk in Thailand and Burma in the late 60s and early 70s.

Kornfield writes about a lot of stuff, but one of the things that struck me was his writings about meditation. Now, I’ve been around new age people a long, long time (like, 30 years!) so I’m no stranger to hearing people wax on about meditation. But, either because of my changing life circumstances or my old age, this time I listened.

No amount of meditation, yoga, diet, and reflection will make all of our problems go away, but we can transform our difficulties into our practice until little by little they guide us on our way.

— Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

I think one of my barriers to meditation had always been that I just had no idea what to do. And no one seemed to give the straight poop on it. It was always some elusive thing, that was different for everyone so no one wanted to tell you what to do. Or, in the case of Transcendental Meditation, they wanted a LOT OF MONEY to tell you.

Kornfield talked about the simplicity of it. I came to realise, like much in my life, I was over-thinking it.

And then, about a year ago I saw a video interview with this guy Peter Sage. Sage is a businessman, but, also a progressive looking into self-improvement. And he talked of doing meditation every morning.

Then I saw an interview with photographer, youtuber and founder of CreativeLive, Chase Jarvis. And HE talked about doing meditation. I finally realised it was not just a new age thing.

So I bit the bullet and decided to give it a try. Peter Sage talked about just sitting for 20 minutes, doing a mantra (WTF!?!) and also letting his mind wander into areas of gratitude (WTF?!?!?) and positivity.

Mantra

Ok. I cheated. I found a site that listed the mantras handed out by Transcendental Meditation. Seems they have a formula based on your age and other stuff. Basically, I just picked one. It’s a two syllable thing – one on the breath in, one on the breath out. I know some people say their mantra out loud, but I do this silently. Most mornings I do my mediation sitting in a chair. Which is kind of ironic because here in Japan chairs are in short supply and the ‘normal’ thing would be do to it sitting on the floor! I always have to be a contrarian.

Gratitude

Gratitude, like ‘Mindfulness’, is one of those words that sets off my bullshit alarm faster than my radiation detector on a trip to Fukushima. So, here’s what I do: during my 20 minutes, if (er, when) my mind wanders from my mantra I try to push it into thinking about the positive aspects of whatever it’s gone off to. If that’s not possible, or I’ve exhausted the positive possibilities, I then go back to the mantra.

At first it was very hard not to spiral off into thinking about what I was going to work on that day, or how I needed to check customer support emails or something. It got easier over time.

Building PERMA

I read ‘Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being‘ by Martin Seligman recently. He’s like the father (or grandfather) of Positive Psychology. In his book he talks about the model of happiness and the 5 factors that go into it. As we can do nothing in this life without creating an acronym, he came up with PERMA

  • Postive Emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

I found I was pretty lacking in P + M (and, because I am a bit of a shut in, R). Doing these ‘gratitude’ (shudder!) exercises has given me a boost in the P department.

Technology

I’m a nerd! I use this cool app called ‘Untime’ on my ancient (1st Gen) iPad as a timer. It doesn’t show you the countdown and it makes a funky bleeping sound cascade when it’s done.

Exercise

After my 20 minutes I try to get in 30 minutes of walking. I love to walk and I’ll do 30 minutes at least twice a day. Luckily, I live at the edge of town and I can get in some pretty Japanese scenery as I do this.

P1010868

Coffee

To paraphrase Jack Kornfield, after the meditation and the exercise comes the coffee.

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Results

One year later I can tell you that all of this has dramatically changed my moods. I used to be very manic-depressive and quick to anger. I think the meditation has calmed that somewhat. I enjoy life more. The people around me also notice that I am not as crazy as I used to be (?!) and I credit doing the meditation with my changing attitude towards my work as well – I no longer feel the need for utter control, and I am working on the ‘one man band’ syndrome that has crippled me for years.

As humans, we seem to have a need for routine, but there is no law that says that routine has to be one of going to the office. Find what works for you.

 

hey (accountability) buddy, can you spare a dime

accountable

High on my list of words that are trendy right now that I detest is the word ‘tribe’. Call me a snob (snob!), but I don’t like the primal, wild, chasing bison with spears, image that it brings to mind. It takes me back to my elementary school years when we still called Native Americans ‘Indians’ and they spoke broken English and lived in tribes (not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s the inelegance ‘tribe’ implies I don’t like).

That’s what comes to mind, for me.

But now the hipsters like to use the word ‘tribe’ to describe a group of people that you feel most at home with. For some reason the word ‘friends’ – or ‘community’ – is not right, and ‘tribe’ is used to denote a wider group – so maybe not friends but closer than community… something like that.

Why am I rambling on about this? Because, with the above as context, I hate to admit that a big positive influence in my life has come through something I learned in a tribe, and that is the concept of an ‘Accountability Buddy’.

What’s An Accountability Buddy?

Back in the 90s, in the dot.com bubble, the term ‘accountability partner’ first came up in a business context. Before that the term was used mostly by American Christians as someone who would stop you from doing things you weren’t supposed to, like watching porn, drinking or coveting.

We all realize that we are accountable to God, but how often has that thought entered your mind while surfing porn sites?

— Accountability Partner for Porn addicts

But in the business sense, this phrase took on a different meaning.

Here’s what we mean when we say Accountability Partner (or Buddy) in the business sense

An accountability partner is a business peer who helps you grow your company by offering guidance and by holding you to your commitments. While it’s similar to a mentor relationship, both partners work on bettering their businesses with the feedback and support of each other.

Entrepreneur Magazine

Sadly, rarely is porn involved.

An accountability partner does not have to be in your same industry (actually, I find it much better if they are not). I personally also prefer to have a female accountability buddy (men are such assholes) because there is usually much more honesty and a lot less chit chat. It has to be someone you are comfortable with, because they are going to be hearing your insecurities about your business.

How To Work With An Accountability Buddy

For me, the best schedule seems to be to meet up – usually on Skype or some such thing – every couple of weeks. I find I can’t get anything done in a shorter time than that because I have too many fingers in too many pies.

So, you hook up every couple of weeks and chat for about 30 – 45 minutes. This is how it usually goes:

1. Cover the action items from the last call

At the end of every call you should both set out some actionable items for the next couple of weeks. Stuff like writing a blog post (done!), speccing out a software feature, contacting x number of people about your business, etc etc.

If it’s your first call (look at you, all accountabilitising!) then the first part of the call should be a brief business state of the union, outlining what you’re working on, and what you’re hoping to achieve. Honesty is the name of the Accountability Buddy game. So, if you are a bullshit artist be prepared for pain!

2. Explore possibilities

After you get to know each other a little, a good accountability buddy will pick up on things in the conversation. Things like ‘oh, you don’t like to cold call/email people? why is that? how could doing that help your business?’. Or maybe they will notice that you talk a lot about product, but not about distribution. And call your attention to it.

Again, honesty and questions are the key here. There are no stupid questions! Having to answer a question that your buddy asks will make you think about the answer.

This is the time to also bring up problems or barriers that you are hitting or deadlines that are coming up that are important.

One person could be overpowered, but two people can stand up for themselves. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.

— Ecclesiastes 4:12

(why ‘three cords’ and not two?)

3. Set up actionables

In the last part of your call it’s vital (VITAL, I SAY!) to set up some clear goals for the next couple of weeks. Don’t be stupid and overreach. Because a good accountability buddy is going to whip your ass in the next meeting when you don’t do it.

Why it works

For me, it’s The Motivation Of Embarrassment. Two or three days before I know I’m going to have to talk to my accountability buddy I go into ‘oh shit’ mode and realise I have to get my stuff done or I am going to look like an idiot. Maybe it’s different for other people, but, for me, that’s a huge factor.

There’s other things two, like the fact that it’s usually easier to criticize, I mean, see, other people’s problems. So, your buddy will do that for you, and you’ll do that for them. Being outside of the team that is responsible for making your business go really gives the detachment needed.

What having an accountability buddy has done for me

One word: Progress.

I’ve accomplished a LOT in the last 6 months, and I think a big chunk o’ thanks belongs to my Accountability Buddy. I’m a bit of a shy person. I prefer to sit in my room, grooving with a pict. I can set goals for myself, but, if I didn’t get them done… oh well. Maybe next week. It’s very very hard to keep self-motivation going in such an abstract situation. And self-reward or punishment only goes so far I find.

The Accountability Buddy street runs both ways, and being able to help someone else with their business is also very fulfilling. And it hones your listening skills (do your buddy a favour and listen!) and your analytical skills too.

An accountability partner can help you identify weaknesses in your business, make plans to overcome them and hold you accountable for action. It has changed my life, even beyond my business. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

But most of all

Your accountability partner should look you in the eye and ask: “Have you looked at pornography since our last meeting?”

— Accountability Partner for Porn addicts

Oops. Wrong article.

The Lean Startup – Book Review

Recently I went back and re-read ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. It’s a hugely influential book that rightly had a big impact on technology startups. (I can be, but rarely is, applied outside of tech startups).
I made a video review, but below that are my notes.
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Ries wrote ‘The Lean Startup’ to pop the ballon of this myth
The after the fact rationalisation makes us think that startups just need ‘the right stuff’.
He does so with his 5 lean principles
  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is everywhere
  3. Managed through a unit of progress called Validated Learning
    1. You think your idea is great. But you need to learn if the customer agrees.
    2. “the learning about how to build a sustainable business is the outcome of those experiments”
  4. You test each unit by going through the build measure learn feedback loop
    1. Each cycle gives you insight into what the customer wants
  5. You measure by using Innovation accounting
    1. You have to measure the right things
Lean Startup is really an extension and improvement on Drucker.
  1. Build a product
    1. Know who your customer is BEFORE
    2. Make an MVP
  2. Take a leap of faith and get started
    1. but know what you don’t know (like if people will pay for music in the case of the iPod)
  3. Test
    1. Attempt to attract the early adopters. They are used to bugs.
    2. Points to measure
      1. Registration
      2. Activation
      3. Retention
    3. When making improvements, the only way to know if it was successful is metrics. So test against baseline.
  4. Measure
    1. actionable
      1. has to have cause/effect so you can make improvements
      2. This is why ‘website visits’ is not a good measurement. You don’t know why (and you have a hard time even counting the hits).
    2. accessible
      1. everyone has to understand what the measurements really mean
      2. “What is a website hit? Nobody is really sure, but everyone knows what a person visiting the website is: one can practically picture those people sitting at their computers”
    3. auditable
      1. “We need to be able to test the data by hand, in the messy real world, by talking to customers. This is the only way to be able to check if the reports contain true facts. Managers need the ability to spot check the data with real customers. ”
  5. Pivot/Persevere
    1. Remember, you’re trying to build a business, not sell a specific product
    2. pivot
      1. Zoom in
        1. based on a single feature
      2. Zoom out
        1. make a broader product
      3. Customer Segment
        1. you’re solving for a different group of people
      4. Customer need
        1. you aren’t answering a need, but you found a new one
    3. A pivot needs to be tested
  6. Growth
    1. Check retention

Internet Shopping Fraud in Japan

A friend of mine recently got duped by an online shopping site here in Japan. I thought I’d elaborate a little on what happened, who was involved and what could be done.

What Happened

My friend was looking for a piece of furniture. They found it on one of Japan’s largest online shopping sites, Rakuten. But then they did a search around the net and found it for cheaper on another site: RJAKey.com. The site is quite comprehensive, and they offered a 5% discount for buying by bank transfer instead of credit card. So, my friend made the transfer… and waited.

After a couple days there had been no reply from RJAKey.com, so another email was sent. Another couple days and nothing. Getting concerned my friend asked me to get involved and I sourced the info that is in this blog post.

Who Did It

When the order was placed ban transfer information was given:

銀行名:みずほ銀行  (Bank Name: Mizuho Bank)
口座番号:4593492 (Account ID)
店番号:723 (Branch ID)
支店名:仙台支店 (Branch Name: Sendai)
口座名義:リン ヘイスイ (Account holder name: Rin Hei Sui)

I believe it is coincidence that the branch happens to be in Sendai and we are in Sendai.

The website, RJAKEY.com has the following registration information:

Name: WU JUNHUI
Mailing Address: FENGTING TOWN SHANTOU VILLAGE SHANBIAN NO.17, XIANYOU FUJIAN 300312 CN
Phone: +86.18734440910
Email: JUBIMUS@163.COM

This person registered the following domains:
[table]
Domain,Brand,IP,Host
rjakey.com,Interior Office One,23.252.162.224,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
tmmbba.com,Interior Office One,23.252.162.224,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
qseqan.com,Interior Office One,23.252.162.224,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
oqfcti.com,Interior Office One,23.252.162.224,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
srvohp.com,Interior Office One,23.252.162.224,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
rrrxhh.com,Wine Cellar,23.252.163.50,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
clrlvg.com,Wine Cellar,23.252.163.50,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
cfmvnk.com,Wine Cellar,23.252.163.50,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
lsfzew.com,Wine Cellar,23.252.163.50,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
lsfzew.com,Wine Cellar,23.252.163.50,NexteCloud L.L.C./Hostspace
zgxe.net,Cloud Computing VIP,72.13.85.132,EGIHosting
[/table]

But there’s more. I looked up these IPs and found dozens of other domains and other scam sites hosted on them. A lot of them had been shut down, but, here’s a list of them

Hosted on NexteCloud’s 23.252.162.224

[table]
Domain,Brand
atgrdb.com,”Craft Mart: スタイルマーケット ちょっといいものを集めたセレクトショップ”
eoynzy.com,”Craft Mart: スタイルマーケット ちょっといいものを集めたセレクトショップ”
tbvwjn.com,”Craft Mart: スタイルマーケット ちょっといいものを集めたセレクトショップ”
zgjwjj.com,”Craft Mart: スタイルマーケット ちょっといいものを集めたセレクトショップ”
dntecy.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
hllepa.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
snidob.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
ukmioc.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
vkpngp.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
vokoty.com,”Solar Modules: 常州亚玛顿股份有限公司”
oqfcti.com,”Interior Office One: 楽天市場】寝具(インテリア・寝具・収納)の通販”
qseqan.com,”Interior Office One: 楽天市場】寝具(インテリア・寝具・収納)の通販”
tmmbba.com,”Interior Office One: 楽天市場】寝具(インテリア・寝具・収納)の通販”
ulinko.com,”Interior Office One: 楽天市場】寝具(インテリア・寝具・収納)の通販”
[/table]

Hosted on 23.252.163.50

[table]
Domain,Brand
auvbhu.com,”浙江金齿集团”
ybszxc.com,”浙江金齿集团”
clrlvg.com,”Wine Cellar「家電と暮らし」のインターネットショップです”
lsfzew.com,”Wine Cellar「家電と暮らし」のインターネットショップです”
ydrtqa.com,”Wine Cellar「家電と暮らし」のインターネットショップです”
uoftyq.com,”Petmart: ペットシーツ・猫砂を送料無料で格安販売!業務用にもオススメ!”
[/table]

There were lots of dead domain names as well (probably shut down after either police involved or they reached some financial target)

[table]
Dead Domain
dgvlyb.com
dzdaza.com
jclfr.com
jejocg.com
jkzrs.com
jndjhh.com
jpwbp.com
jvoanw.com
kblwyd.com
nlbuf.com
nlqtl.com
nltrb.com
nnxzrt.com
npfwlz.com
npgetj.com
nsayj.com
nsxrl.com
rjakey.com
tdoytk.com
vyauh.com
wijfj.com
yubnq.com
yxlznc.com
yzrsde.com
zejivx.com
zetkh.com
jtbyk.com
jtmni.com
[/table]

So how does this work?

The domains are bulk registered. They have a premade database of content.

A key fact is that this content has been obtained by scraping legitimate sites and stealing the data. That way, when you search for something their website will come up in the search.

Here’s an example.

One of the scam sites is The Petmart. I picked an item off the homepage and got this ‘product id’: BHK07601

If you google that you will get dozens and dozens of sites selling it. I would imagine almost all of them are sites designed to steal money, but, perhaps there is a legitimate site in there. In this case almost all the sites actually forwarded on to this page.

 

Another example, where you are looking for a specific product. You go to Rakuten and find something you want. Say, this. You get the description -’65デザイン性溢れるインテリア’ – and google it. Almost all the results are to scam sites, with one legitimate Rakuten link in the mix.

You unknowingly place an order on the scam site (their prices are better and they offer discounts to further entice you). They ask you to transfer money. They withdraw the money then shut down the site after a time.

What can be done to stop this?

1) Follow the incoming money

How do they manage to open a bank account in Japan? I had a hell of a time opening an account. I mean real nightmare! As a foreigner it took me a lot of paperwork to get that account. So, how do these people do it? They must have some legitimate papers and, perhaps crucially, I think they must have help from a Japanese person who acts as a guarantor on the account.

This same scam was reported on this page here. In that case it was again Mizuho Bank, but this time in Nagoya. I think there is a reason that it is Mizuho. Either someone is helping or Mizuho has a process that lets people get the account.

2) Follow the outgoing money

Someone is paying for those domains to be registered. Someone is paying for the servers.

3) Follow the people

These people are all coming from mainland China. But, if the names and contact information are even legitimate, there will be a common bond. I found that many of the people registering these domains came from the same area of China.

4) Connect the dots

In a couple of days I’ve identified hundreds of these sites, with dozens still in operation. Would it be so difficult to place orders on these sites, get the destination banking information and find the people who opened those bank accounts? Someone has to be in Japan to collect that money, unless they can withdraw it from an ATM overseas, but the withdrawal limits would make that very risky.

Conclusion

This kind of scam is unstoppable on a grand scale. But not on an individual scale. The issue of course is that so many jurisdictions are involved that it makes it very tricky. And the criminals know this.

These scams are specifically set up to take money from Japanese people. As – in theory – the only people who speak Japanese are Japanese, there is a level of trust in the online world (because of the inherent belief here in Japan that they are all honest). That a foreigner could set up a believable Japanese website really is outside of the common understanding.

We’ve involved the police. I don’t think they are capable of doing the kind of investigation that I’ve done, but, it is a start. If you have been a victim of this I recommend also contacting the local police.

I would hate for people to get a general fear of shopping online. But, for now at least, the best recommendation is to buy from a retailer you know. There is some added protection in shopping with a credit card, but really something like PayPal, that puts distance between the criminals and any sensitive information, is an even better bet.

 

 

Bold by Peter Diamandis – Book Review

Rarely have I been as conflicted about a book as I am with Bold by Peter Diamandis. On one hand, there is some great advice in here and the requisite inspirational stories that modern business books seem to thrive on (though I am very, very tired of people using such exceptions as Uber, Twitter and Facebook).

But, large sections of the book seem to be written in some sort of white america futuristic bubble fantasy. Diamandis seems to extrapolate out that because some guys applied to the SpaceX prize that the world is turning into this level playing field.

You can watch my full book review here

[youtube id=SOLZ9BJVFdw]

Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth – Book Review

I’m a big fan of James Altucher. Sometimes his ‘I’m a screwup’ act gets a little tiring, but, set that aside and often he has some good advice. No exception to this is his book ‘The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth’. Yes, it’s all over the place. Yes, it’s a bit crazy at times. But still I found it good.

You can watch the full book review here.

[youtube id=VgpzxbGoSUU]

How Many Times Can I Not Learn The Same Lesson?

Back when I was a kid we had records. Vinyl records. I personally do not miss them, though I miss the covers. One of the reasons I don’t miss them is that they were fragile. I cannot express the feeling of coming home from school and finding a rather bent looking package waiting for me, knowing full well that it contained a long-awaited copy of the first Steve Howe album. (don’t start!)

I was a member of the Columbia Record Club. It was awesome. You could get a bunch of records every month – 13 for a $1 at the start of your subscription!

In those days we didn’t have the internet to look up about artists so the only way to find out about new music was to ask your friends or read magazines – I particularly liked Creem and Circus magazines.

But the downside of the Columbia Record Club, also called ‘Columbia House’, was that you HAD to order. And cancelling was a pain. So you ended up getting the ‘record of the month’ a lot of times because you didn’t order something of your own choosing.

In short, as cool as IT COULD have been, letting me listen to lots of different new things, I usually ended up with Pat Boone’s Greatest Hits or something like that. I never got anything cool.

I should have learned a valuable lesson: people (i.e. me) are generally lazy.

But I didn’t learn that. I didn’t learn a damned thing.

I am still doing the same thing today! I am a subscriber to a few online services right now that I either don’t – or in some incredible cases CAN’T – take advantage of. Money flushed down the toilet.

Why do I do this?

I think because, on paper as it were, these subscriptions seem like a good idea. If I paid attention I’m sure I would get a lot of added benefit in my life.

Or if I paid attention to – or even knew – what I was subscribed to that I didn’t use I could cancel them and get the money. (There is a particularly heinous subscription I have to a cloud-based mind mapping software that I can’t seem to cancel. I have sent emails. I am waiting for my credit card to expire and hope that fixes it!)

Another factor is that these things are areas that I want to be interested in, and I was, for long enough to subscribe. But not long enough to keep using the subscription.

I want to be a cinematographer, so I am subscribed to the (admittedly amazing) Shane Hurlbut cinematography website. I am not a cinematographer. 90% of my video shooting is me in my room in front of a blank wall – though I have a new green screen now. You don’t need to know how to simulate candle light in a multi-camera setup for that! Columbia House Cinematography Club!

I want to immerse myself in a good audiobook every couple of weeks, but I don’t have the time (and there’s just not that many audio books I want to listen to, but then also maybe there is and I just don’t know about them), so my Audible subscription sits there unused. Columbia House Audiobook Club!

I want to make lots of money running (or at least understanding) more about SEO optimization for websites. Columbia House SEO Club!

I want to create videos that have all kinds of cool (remember I came of age in the 70s and 80s) video overlays and swipes and things like you see in wedding videos (or make wedding videos) so I am subscribed to an unlimited service that lets you download ‘cool’ backgrounds etc etc. Columbia House Video Creative Club!

How much do I use all of the Adobe Suite (apart from Photoshop, Lightroom and Audition)? Columbia House Adobe Club!

There’s probably more, but that’s all I can think of right now.

If I try and take away a positive lesson (as I am obviously hopelessly addicted to this behaviour) from this it is that organizations depend on hobbyists and dabblers. I have a friend who runs a bunch of training courses for filmmakers. He knows that 90% of the people who come will never become filmmakers. He will pump them up with advice and inspiration and when they walk out the door they will never write a script or make a short film.

Do you think that people are REALLY going to be cooking Moroccan food at home 3 months after they do their 1 day ‘Flavours of the Souk’ class?

Are we enriching these peoples’ lives? Maybe, actually. Are we keeping these class and courses running for the 5-10% that will ACTUALLY benefit? Definitely.

So, this is a business model.

It’s probably unavoidable.

I guess the only thing is don’t think that you are changing the world by running a course like this. Most people will not use it later. But maybe you will change one person. And that should be enough.

Or focus on changing yourself.

As for me, I’m off to join the Columbia House Coffee of the Month Club.

The 1 Hour Work Week

Tim Ferriss has nothing on me. Well, I mean of course you have to set aside the 10s (if not 100s) of millions he’s accrued. And the empire. And the respect. Other than THAT STUFF he’s got nothing on me.

Because, right now, the majority of my income is generated by about 1 hour’s worth of work a week. The other 167 hours I’m either sleeping (56 hours), eating (14 hours), exercising/walking (12 hours) and working on ideas that are not yet making money (60+ hours).

Should I be proud of the fact that 1 hour pays for my life? It pays for the apartment, the utilities, the travel, the food, the equipment, the ex-wife, etc etc.

On one hand, yes, of course. It’s a major accomplishment.

But really, the answer is no – I should not be proud. The needle should be closer to the ashamed end of the spectrum. Because those other 60+ hours that I am spending try to find other ideas are not yet producing. That is a big problem.

I used to have annual mid-life crises. About once a year I would hit the wall. I’d be frustrated. Nothing was progressing. Money wasn’t increasing – sometimes it was decreasing. Projects weren’t escalating – sometimes they were crashing. In short – I was ‘crossing the desert’ as Key Person of Influence author Daniel Priestley would say.

But here is what I am really ashamed of: some of those past ideas and projects were good. They had potential.

But I gave up.

It’s not a good thing to admit: I am a quitter.

This one factor alone would doom me to failure and marginality.

Except that I know I’m a quitter. I would beat myself up later about it, until I realized something important:

“You Can’t Always Control What Happens, But You Can Control How You React”

I don’t know who said it first. It doesn’t matter.

My quitting things was always a ‘reaction’. Maybe I thought it was an ‘action’. But I was wrong.

I have finally (at almost 50!) reached a point where I understand about learning from my mistakes. And what a gift I gave to myself – I’ve made LOTS of mistakes, so lots to learn from!

So for now, here’s four mistakes.

Lone Wolf Syndrome

Usually it had to do with being out in the desert all alone – rarely did I have supportive (or any!) business partners. You can’t really run a business by yourself. You need either active partners or at the very least some kind of administrative support. The paperwork is depressing! And rarely is someone (i.e. me) capable of all sides of any worthwhile business.

Tip #1: Find a partner

Not enough customers

If you are a consultant you can’t progress if you don’t increase your number of customers. If you can only deal with 1 customer at a time then your a still just trading time for money. If your source of income is just a handful of customers then you’re probably just good at time management but you are still at risk. A ‘real company’ has a wide enough appeal that you can pull in lots of customers.

Tip #2: Bust your butt looking for customers

You can’t scale

Some people hate the word ‘scale’. But my experience is that you have to take scaling up into account from the first day. Pretend (yes, I know we’re adults, but we can still pretend!) that you have LOTS of customers. Pretend your 10 customers that you have right now are just 10 of 1000 (or 10,000). Can you treat 1000 people the same as you are treating your 10 just to keep them as customers? No? Then you are screwed.

Now I’m not saying to anonymize your earlier customers. Early customers are GOLD. They help you work the kinks out (unless your in the adult toys business, then they help work the kinks IN). But the day to day, minute to minute stuff that these customers are doing (i.e. USING YOUR SHIT) should pretty much run itself.

Tip #3: Make believe an empire and act accordingly

No Automation

My business didn’t always just require 1 hour a week. It used to require LOTS more time than that. So over time I wrote software that automated as much as possible. I mean like 95%. The 1 hour I spend a week is writing Facebook posts (I like those to sound human) and dealing with ‘corner cases’ (or ‘edge cases’ – you want a nerdgasm? read this blog post! http://bit.ly/1Jy0OpG ). Time you spend (or money you spend, if you are outsourcing the development) on automation – or ‘systematizing’ – will come back to you many fold.

Tip #4: Computers are your friend.

Conclusion

Obviously I am still in the desert. I am not touring the world giving speaking tours or autographing best-selling books at a bookstore in Manhattan.
But I feel a corner has been turned. And unlike when I usually turn a corner, there is not a large truck parked there that I run straight into the back of.
The four tips that I list above are not the only ‘secrets’ to growing your business. They’re just the four secrets that today, right now, are at the front of my mind.
As always, if you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear them. If you need any help in YOUR business, I’m happy to talk it through with you. We’re all in this together.

There’s a monkey in the house

For 2016 I have pledged to myself – as I am the only one listening – to write a blog post once a week. This is to compliment the videos about business and books I am posting over on my YouTube channel. I’ve decided to do this every Friday. It seemed like a good idea, but then I found out that the First Friday of the year is today, January 1st. So, that wasn’t so great, but, as I promised myself, and I don’t like to break promises to myself, here goes.

This year, 2016, is the year of the monkey. In Japan, where I’m currently spending most of my time, people and businesses ring in the New Year by sending all their customers and friends little cards – called ‘nen ga jo (年賀状)’  to let them know they’re being thought of in the new year. This one is from the little company that services our car.

car service nengajo

There’s several remarkable things about this, and not just the outrageous cuteness of it!

First, there is an incredible business here in the designing and selling of these cards. And customizing. They come pre-printed with postage (say that ten times fast!), so maybe it’s a difficult thing to get into but when you have EVERY person and company sending at least a few of these THAT’S A LOT OF CARDS!

Second, what a great way to keep in touch with your customers and still look respectful. One thing this does – which I am a big believer in – is that not every time you reach out to a customer should you be selling. Actually, I think you should almost never be selling. Get them thinking about you, loving you, etc. THEN go in for the sale. That sounds creepy, but, it’s not. Honestly.

kitty nengajo

This is the one I’m sending out. Kittychan with her monkey slaves basking in the view of Mt Fuji. For some reason this card is seen as slightly childish, whereas the other card is not. I think that the Japanese are always using cartoon characters in inappropriate situations. I once was shown a happy illustration info sheet at a bank that explained why I wasn’t going to be able to open a bank account. Cute!

But I think the point I’m trying to make is always be on the mind of your customers. Wouldn’t it be awesome to send out cards like this everywhere? Not with a coupon (that’s selling), not announcing something about your store or business, but just a ‘Hi, we’re here, we’re thinking of you’!

Now, here’s a couple lists I found on the internet.

The Lucky Things for “Monkeys”

Lucky numbers: 4 and 9
Lucky days: the 14th and 28th of any Chinese lunar calendar month
Lucky colors: white, blue, gold
Lucky flowers: chrysanthemum, crape-myrtle
Lucky directions: north, northwest, west
Lucky months: Chinese lunar months 8 and 12

The Unlucky Things That “Monkeys” Should Avoid

Unlucky colors: red, pink
Unlucky numbers: 2 and 7
Unlucky directions: south, southeast
Unlucky months: Chinese lunar months 7 and 11

Missing from the first list is ‘bananas’ and missing from the second is ‘people’.