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Why Bigger Goals Can Be Easier to Achieve

An unusual insight about why it’s often easier to achieve goals that seem bigger than anything you’ve done before.

This builds upon the Chapter 1 vs Chapter 2 idea shared on yesterday’s review call, but I don’t think you need to have heard that part to understand this.

[The idea I shared on the review call was based on a common piece of advice for new fiction writers – that you should delete whatever you wrote for Chapter 1 and begin your book with Chapter 2. This is because your original Chapter 1 will typically include too much backstory and exposition, and it’s frequently better to get into the juicy parts of your story sooner. I used this as an analogy for setting goals, suggesting that people ought to skip past the Chapter 1 version of their goals (which often involve overly mental or numbers-based framing – boring!) and get into the juicy parts of Chapter 2 and beyond by focusing on the meaning, ripples, and emotional journey.]

Acknowledging Your Old Story

When I was in my scarcity phase of life, I was very sensitive to prices. Since money was tight, I saw anything free as so much better than anything paid. If something cost $5, that would feel sooooo different than free. Even $1 vs free was a big deal. If I would buy a veggie sandwich at Subway, I would skip the avocado for $1 extra, even though I loved avocado. Would that $1 difference really matter? It felt like it mattered.

There’s still a part of my mind that thinks this way today because I conditioned it to think that way in the past. But it’s also linked up with relatively low-cost expenses because that was my training data set at the time.

As my income increased, I formed different associations to more expensive items. So part of my mind still wants to run extra assessment cycles over the difference between a $5 and $10 option, but when I think about a $500 vs $1000 expense, those land in my abundance training data set, so that seems easy because I don’t have major negative associations to those kinds of expenses. Consequently, it feels like $500 expenses are cheaper than $5 ones because I have less resistance to spending an extra $500 than I do to spending $5.

Same thing goes for taxes. Paying a $50K tax bill seems easy. Paying a $1K tax bill seems more painful. Those two tax bills are associated with different training sets and different chapters of my life.

Even today I will often think more about whether a $5 expense is worth it, but I can spend $500 like it’s just free money.

This also applies to the income side. It feels difficult to try to earn an extra $100. But earning an extra $20K or $50K is easy, and earning an extra $100K just seems fun and flowing. And I think that’s because with respect to those numbers, I’m not struggling with past associations getting in my way.

So that’s an interesting oddity about moving into a fresh Chapter 2 reality. It gives you a chance to break through your old associations and write a new story for your character.

Stretching Your Intentionality

Trying to fight or overcome my character’s pre-trained tendencies keeps me stuck in Chapter 1. But if I skip ahead to Chapter 2 in my imagination, there’s a blank page where I can write something new, if I’m willing to take the leap into unexplored territory.

This is one reason it’s so important and useful to stretch your intentionality further forward. Stretch beyond the story that’s already been written by your past, and extend your mind and goals into open spaces. You can often make much faster progress that way.

This requires the willingness to stretch your character and identity. Can you start seeing yourself as a different person? It helps if you’re able to stretch your character into some unexplored territory where you can begin writing some fresh story, so you can bypass some constraints of your past story.

It’s a bit like moving to a new city or going to a new school. If no one in the new territory knows you as your past self, you have more freedom to write a fresh story. I felt like I became a different person each time I had a significant move or school change. Same goes for getting into a new social circle.

It’s extra crucial to connect with a social group that gives you room to grow and that won’t keep associating you with your Chapter 1 self. It’s best to loosen up those connections that will resist your efforts to write some fresh story for your character. I think we do a good job of this in CGC by fostering a culture that encourages exploration and change, not tying anyone to stick with their past selves. You probably won’t find many members here who’d try to talk you out of writing a fresh chapter of your life story, but I know that some members struggle with other social connections that resist those kinds of changes.

Keep in mind (and in heart) that when you break free and begin writing your Chapter 2 story, you encourage others to do the same, even if they may initially resist what you’re doing. You’re not really serving anyone by clinging to Chapter 1.

The Power of Unwritten Story

One pattern I see frequently in people who have some great transformational breakthroughs is that they stop focusing their attention where the resistance is, and they head for fresh territory. They start writing their new story where the story hasn’t been written yet.

Chapter 1 is the story of the old reality. That’s where all the problems and difficulties are. It’s so tempting to focus your attention there by saying, “I need to clear all of this out, and then I can begin writing Chapter 2.” But that will almost always keep you stuck in Chapter 1, which will just keep generating more of the same kinds of problems to anchor you there. You’ll probably never make it to Chapter 2 with that approach. Usually life doesn’t reward this approach very well either. You probably won’t get much cooperation, so you’ll have to self-power your way through every little problem and project, which becomes exhausting after a while. I really don’t recommend this.

It seems like a cheat to start writing Chapter 2 before you’ve finished Chapter 1, but is it really? If you were writing a novel or a movie script, would your best inspiration and motivation come from writing about the old reality? Do you think George Lucas got inspired to write Star Wars by thinking about a farmer boy with some droids? Did he finish writing Chapter 1 before giving much thought to what would come next? Seriously… who finds the inspiration for great story from anything in Chapter 1? You may begin writing there, but the inspiration for the story comes from much further along.

When people focus on Chapter 1 goals – the telltale signs being that the goals are super objective (often numbers-based), lack motivational fire, and don’t involve any meaningful character or identity shifts – they usually don’t get very far with them. And they often wonder what’s the point. And they’re right. There’s little point in working on such goals. It’s like watching Luke Skywalker setting quarterly goals to optimize the farm.

You’re munching on your popcorn watching Luke on the screen, and your mind is wondering when the real story will begin because you know that you’re just seeing the pre-transformational backstory during the first several minutes.

And oddly it’s easier for Luke to become a Jedi than it would be for him to optimize the farm. When he leaves Tatooine, he’s free to write fresh story. While his new reality may seem more daunting, it’s also 100X more motivating, and that makes all the difference in the galaxy.

He still, however, takes his (newest) farm droids with him on his new journey, so he doesn’t entirely break free from his past. But that doesn’t matter because he’s writing such a completely different story that the droids can’t offer any meaningful resistance. They get swept up in his new story too and become helpful allies. C3PO’s whining serves as humor and to remind us how much Luke has grown, but C3PO is powerless to derail Luke’s new story.

I find that to be the case in real life as well. When writing fresh story, I still carry elements of the past with me, but they no longer serve as anchors to resistance. The new story gives those old story elements new meaning. For instance, fretting over a $5 expense serves as a reminder to appreciate abundance and not to take it for granted, and that actually sweetens the experience. It also makes it easy to relate to people who struggle with finances because that mode of thinking is still with me. I wrote some extra script after that part of my story, but scarcity thinking is still part of my story. The scarcity mindset plays a different role now, anchoring to gratitude and compassion instead of to resistance and frustration. Sometimes I think of it as cute, much as you could see R2D2 in that way.

Finding Your Best Motivational Fuel

Chapter 1 doesn’t provide the motivational fuel to get through Chapter 1. That fuel comes from hooking your body, mind, heart, and spirit into Chapter 2 and beyond. Once you anchor your intentions into your new reality and your new identity, your perspective on Chapter 1 will shift. How this plays out is different for everyone, but it generally involves finding shortcuts that speed you through Chapter 1 and/or realizing that some of the old problems don’t even need to be solved or dealt with anymore.

Did Luke ever go back to Tatooine and wrap up his affairs with the farm? Did he inherit the place from his uncle and aunt after they died? Did the Empire seize it for unpaid taxes? Did he turn it into a rebel burner commune? Does it matter?

It’s hard to find people who regret getting into their Chapter 2 story, even when the transition out of Chapter 1 is messy and inelegant (which it usually is). The #1 regret is that people wish they’d done it sooner, often many years sooner. People regret spending so much time figuring out, optimizing, and trying to advance their Chapter 1 story. In retrospect, they look back and wonder why it took them so long to progress to the juiciest and most engaging parts of their story arc. In many cases they waited until life kicked them out of Chapter 1, and they were forced by circumstances to finally get into Chapter 2, but then it wasn’t the Chapter 2 experience they’d have chosen if they’d done it more consciously and deliberately.

Look at your goals and ask yourself if you’re drawing motivation, inspiration, and story progression from Chapter 2 and beyond… or if you’re still trying to optimize the farm. You can tinker on the farm – that’s your choice – but life won’t likely open up the floodgates of support and synchronous aid till you make a more interesting story pitch.

Your own body is unlikely to cooperate much with a Chapter 1 story pitch either. It probably won’t fill your heart with the best motivation and your mind with the best idea flow until you give it a compelling reason to amp up the energy flow. That compelling reason won’t be found in Chapter 1.

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Spiritual Marketing

"The Seven Sages"

Original Post: March 16, 2021 –

In January I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts, so I launched the new Amplify course without social media and with no advertising. I did share the invitation video on YouTube, but it only had a few hundred views there.

I felt attracted to the idea of pulling my business focus inward. Instead of reaching out to people on other sites and platforms, I wanted to just focus on the community that’s closest to my central online world – namely my blog readers, email subscribers, course customers, and CGC members.

I really don’t need social media or advertising to run a sustainable business and have a good life, and the closer I stick to the core audience, the more I seem to enjoy the experience. That’s good for my motivation too.

One of the key themes I’ve been sharing in the Amplify course is how important it is to focus on your relationship with your creative flow. Be wary of anything that potentially weakens or damages this relationship.

I like to practice what I preach, and every time I develop a new course, it makes me think more deeply about how to apply the ideas to my own life and work. I always make some improvements because of that.

I think this launch would have been a bit higher if I’d spent thousands of dollars on Facebook ads like I did with the Submersion and Stature launches. The ads were profitable in the past. But that requires having a Facebook account, and I like not having one right now. So I willingly let that extra revenue go. Being Facebook-free is worth it.

Alignment, Motivation and Positive Relationships

I’ve also found that when I focus on alignment, motivation, and positive relationships instead of income as a top priority, my income always seems to be just fine. Plenty of support flows my way with relative ease.

Moreover, I also find that when I let go of misaligned ideas, it frees up my mind to receive much better ideas. For instance, when I let go of advertising revenue, the following year I started doing live workshops, and I met my wife Rachelle at the very first one. I’d much rather have her in my life than the ad revenue. And my income is better today than it was with the ads anyway, even though my web traffic isn’t nearly as high as it was back then. Plus I feel a lot more aligned and motivated by my current income streams. I didn’t want to be in the business of selling ads.

There is one very weird thing that I do marketing-wise though. I do it because it only takes a few minutes, and it somehow seems to work. I don’t enitrely know why it works, but I keep seeing evidence that it’s having a positive effect.

Spirit Guides

Whenever I launch a new course, I put out a certain type of spiritual request. In my mind’s eye, I gather a bunch of spirit guides together and ask them to find people who’d be a good match for the course and to nudge them to join, such as by giving them encouraging signs or synchronicities. I picture myself chatting with the guides to tell them about the course and what it will do for people. Then I ask that if they know any humans who’d benefit, to please direct their human clients to the course. I let them figure out how to do that.

To me this is just a frame. No belief in spirit guides is required since it’s just an action. It’s quick and easy, and I figure it can’t hurt. And it does seem to work. I always hear stories of interesting synchronicities and signs that people experience that nudged them in the direction of the course. This encourages me to keep doing it. In fact, I actually have this as a to-do item on my course launch checklist now, so I remember to do it each time.

Would you be surprised to know that I’m not the only creative pro who assigns tasks to spirit guides like this? I know some other people who use a similar method, and they seem to find it effective too. And again, it’s just an action, so you don’t have to believe in spirit guides to do it.

Beliefs VS Tools

I think tools are more useful than beliefs – a belief is just a tool that you’ve glued to your palm (or your eyeballs).

I wouldn’t rely only on this one spiritual marketing idea, but it’s a good example of an aligned action that I feel no resistance to doing. Hence it seems like a better tool to keep in my toolbox than being on Facebook, which I do feel some resistance to doing.

Sometimes moving away from resistance and towards new areas of flow takes you in unusual directions. I like it because it adds some spice and variety to life, and it keeps my creative work from feeling too boring or predictable.

I think a lot of people fear that if they let go of a tool or opportunity that’s a partial match, they won’t find anything better to replace it with. Maybe it will just hurt their business. I prefer to have more trust in my intuition and to place more value on my happiness. That makes me feel more resourceful, and I eventually come up with better ideas that feel more aligned and which are actually more effective.

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How to Build a Successful Online Business

How to Build a Successful Online Business

Original Post: February 12, 2008 –

I love the lifestyle that comes from running an online business. I get to work from home each day, set my own hours, choose my own projects, and enjoy abundant income. It’s hard for me to imagine how I’d feed myself without the Internet. When I think about income generation, I immediately think of the web.

I was talking to a successful entrepreneur recently who pointed out that building an online business is an exercise in personal development. He’s absolutely right. I’ve probably learned more valuable life lessons from my entrepreneurial pursuits than from any other areas of my life. Running a business tests you in so many ways — your self-discipline, your intelligence, your communication skills, your focus, etc. If you’re lacking in any of these areas, your business results will reflect it.

The real world of business can be unforgiving. Success is rewarded. Mistakes are punished. The benefit is that it keeps you honest. You can’t settle for weakness, laziness, and bad ideas, or your business will fail. There’s a huge chasm between an idea that sounds good and an idea that actually gets implemented and succeeds under real-world conditions. Anyone can come up with good ideas, but most people can’t successfully implement them.

Some people can’t handle the pressure of running their own business. They worry about the risk of failure. They’re looking at it from the wrong angle though. That risk is precisely the point. Risk is what helps you grow. It makes you stronger. An entrepreneur who fears risk is like a bodybuilder who’s afraid of barbells.

There have been times when I had to deal with tough problems, like having bills due but no money to pay them. These problems made me dig deep inside myself. My business compelled me to grow into the kind of person who could handle these sorts of things. I learned to trust myself to work hard, to stay focused under pressure, and to even enjoy the process.

We all have different levels of risk tolerance. You don’t need to stress yourself out to grow. You just need to challenge yourself in a way that stimulates you. Lift weights that are heavy and which tax your muscles… but which you can still successfully lift. Afterwards you may feel spent, but you’ll also grow from the experience. If you only do what comes easy for you, you’ll suffer from atrophy, and life will become rather boring and pointless.

Why an online business?

In the age of the Internet, I think almost everyone should have an online business if only for the growth experience. It doesn’t cost much to start one, but it will teach you so much. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that you’ll learn you do have something of value to share with the world, something that can generate income for you for the rest of your life.

In a way I’m jealous of the teenagers and 20-somethings who are growing up so Internet savvy. Any of them could start their own online businesses and get ahead financially at a young age. I would have loved to have been doing this in high school or college. It’s terrific that some people are becoming millionaires at such a young age, but I think the real success stories come from those who find a way to generate just a few thousand dollars per month, enough to cover their expenses.

Building traffic

Running an online business is deceptively simple. Look at my web site, for example. The structure isn’t very complicated. It’s mostly just a lot of content. But it consistently generates a nice five-figure monthly income. Anyone can do it, right?

Unfortunately, not everyone can do this. People try and fail all the time. The success stories get a lot of attention, but there are orders of magnitude more failures.

The key factor in building a successful online business is traffic. If you can’t build sufficient traffic, you won’t be able to generate much, if any, income. And unfortunately most people are really bad at building traffic. They apply completely inept strategies that don’t work, and they usually give up within a few months after starting.

Building traffic is not remotely easy for most people. This problem isn’t unique to the web though. You see it in every field. Some authors sell millions of books, while the average book doesn’t even sell 5,000 copies. Lots of people can write a book, but relatively few know how to sell a book. Lots of people can create a web site or blog these days, but few know how to attract large amounts of traffic.

If you can successfully build lots of traffic, it’s fairly easy to generate income from it. You also have time to figure it out. If you can grow your traffic, you can maintain your traffic, and that gives you time to figure out how to monetize the traffic.

In the past I’ve written articles trying to teach people how to build successful online businesses, including How to Make Money From Your Blog and How to Build a High-Traffic Website. Those were long, detailed articles, and both have become extremely popular in the blogosphere. I didn’t charge any money for this content — it’s all free. Those articles inspired a lot of people (hundreds that I know of) to enthusiastically start their own websites. Some of those people are doing quite well now, but most that I’ve been aware of have failed miserably.

Why most people fail

Why did most people fail? I think the reason was that the whole process of running an online business is just too complicated for most people. There are lots of ways to screw it up. It pained me to visit some of those sites and notice a dozen glaring mistakes within the first few seconds — blogs that didn’t enable permalinks, cutesy headlines with no keywords in them, bad choice of topics, page titles that still used the WordPress default format, hideously suboptimal ad layouts, hidden or missing contact info, etc. Any one of those mistakes could cripple a site’s results. More than one is a practically a death sentence. Such mistakes cause problems both for human visitors and search engines.

But at the same time, there were teenagers humming along just fine, generating four figures in monthly income after working on their sites for 6-12 months. They didn’t necessarily get everything right, but they were Internet savvy enough to fix the big problems early.

What bothered me most about this was that people were too often failing because of the technology. Many of them had great ideas and very good content. It was a shame to read some of their articles and think to myself, This is great stuff… too bad no one will ever see it.

The cruel and unfair part of online business is that if you aren’t very Internet savvy, you’ll make mistakes on the technical side that you’re totally oblivious to. You may get the content side right, but the technology will bite you and cripple your results.

In my “How to Make Money From Your Blog” Article, I did correctly identify this problem and suggested that 99 out of 100 people would fail because of it. But it’s still a pretty unfair situation. There are people who can write great content who really deserve to be getting a lot of readers, but because they don’t understand permalinks, RSS feeds, pinging, or other technologies, they’re doomed before they start.

Once I saw this happening, I basically decided I’d better shut up about encouraging people to run an online business. People kept asking me for new articles on the subject, but I didn’t think it was a good idea. I was concerned I’d be doing more harm than good.

A new solution

Recently I came across a good solution to this problem — a way for people to build a successful online business that doesn’t require them to become technology gurus.

What I recommend is a service called Site Build-It — it’s an all-in-one solution for creating and building an online business. You pay an annual fee for the service, and they provide you with all the tools you need to build an income-generating website. They host the site for you, they help you register your domain name, and they provide integrated tools like point-and-click page generators, built-in blogging, form builders, RSS feeds, and lots more. Many of these details will be handled for you, so you don’t have to worry about them.

You still create your own content, and you use their tools (or your own familiar tools) to create a site based on your unique ideas. You focus on the content side. They help you with the technical implementation side.

I don’t recommend this solution for everyone. If you’ve already built a successful website that generates thousands of dollars a month for you, you won’t need this. I don’t need it myself. But if you’re one of those people that have been held back by the technical complexity, I encourage you to check it out. This is the kind of solution I’d recommend for my non-programmer friends who want to get something going online but need help with the technical side.

Running an online business can be a wonderful growth experience, and the income and freedom it can provide is certainly nice too. People really shouldn’t be deprived of this opportunity for technical reasons. The self-publishing power of blogging technology has gotten us partway there, but it’s only one piece to the puzzle. I encourage you to take a good look at Site Build-It, since I think you’ll find that their system fills in the remaining gaps, putting online business success within your reach.

This is by no means a get-rich-quick program. You’ll still need to put in the time and energy to create quality content for your web site, but at least you won’t have to worry as much about the technical side.

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How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession

Original post:

“How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession”

December 9, 2008:


A recession is possibly the best time to launch a new business or to expand an existing one. It’s also a great time to get ahead in your career. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, so let me ‘splain.

First, the media goes nuts during a recession. They turn a little bit of negativity into a mountain of pessimism. This makes a lot of people financially paranoid. People become socially conditioned to expect the worst.

If you buy into this social hysteria, you become a victim too.

But if you tune out such stupidity (not watching TV helps a lot) and maintain a grip on rational thought, you’ll see some amazing opportunities popping up everywhere you look.

During such times people get scared and start cutting back on expenses. They cut some of the fluff from their lives. They stop buying so much stuff they don’t need.

This causes some businesses to do poorly, especially businesses that don’t provide stuff we really need. We can live without new credit cards and gas-guzzling SUVs for a while. Those non-essentials can be put off.

We also become more sensitive to receiving genuine value. When we spend money, we want to make sure we’re getting a fair deal.

Consequently, businesses that provide genuine value can actually do better during a recession. More people will flock to those businesses in tough times, while the fluff businesses will become more and more paranoid.

In the USA there are a lot of fluff businesses. Many are based on the moocher mindset, trying to extract money without providing fair value in exchange. A lot of the dead or dying financial companies are like that. The American auto industry has been contracting as well, at least in part because they’ve been creating inferior products that people don’t really need. (Erin and I own a Honda, despite the fact that we could have gotten a significant discount on GM cars because two of my family members used to work for GM. We looked at some GM cars and quickly concluded they sucked. Other family members weren’t so lucky.)

A lot of people have been learning that job security doesn’t mean much these days. More than 500,000 Americans learned this lesson last month when they lost their “safe and secure” jobs.

The Stupid Approach to Making Money
Lately I’ve seen a lot of people, some of them friends, do some really dumb things in an attempt to earn more money. They buy into lame money-making programs, join and promote useless MLM schemes, and fall prey to scammers.

The common pattern is always the same — they’re focused on trying to make more money. They make it their top priority. They think about it constantly. But they keep getting sucked into trying to make money without providing any real value, and it’s unsustainable.

In the end this sort of thing eventually self-destructs. The only way to succeed with it in the long run is to find lots of suckers and basically rip them off in order to enrich yourself. Most people have a strong enough moral resistance to this sort of thing that they’ll sabotage themselves from going too far with it. This isn’t a path of long-term abundance. It’s a path of scarcity.

As a general rule, the people I know who are most focused on trying to make more money this year are doing worse, not better. In some cases they’re doing much worse. A few have lost or are in the process of losing their homes.

The exceptions are those that are able to sufficiently kill their conscience, so they can remove any incongruencies about ripping people off. But again, this is a pretty rare exception. Most people would rather deal with scarcity than knowingly rip people off to get ahead, so they just make the bare minimum to meet their needs and avoid getting ahead.

The Smart Approach to Making Money
There is a smarter approach, however.

Instead of focusing on trying to make more money, put your time and energy into CREATING and DELIVERING real value. Find a way to give people what they want and/or need.

Take note that the keywords here are CREATE and DELIVER.

Creating value means expressing your unique talents and skills in a way that can potentially benefit others.

Delivering value means ensuring that other people are actually receiving and benefiting from the value you’ve created.

If you don’t do both in some fashion, then it’s going to be hard for you to generate sustainable income, especially during a recession. I’ll explain why.

If you only create value but don’t deliver it, then your value isn’t being received by anyone. So how can you receive value (such as money) in return?

I see this problem a lot with creative types such as would-be artists, musicians, and writers. They may spend lots of time honing their craft, but if they don’t actually get that value into the hands of sufficient numbers of people, they struggle financially, and this hurts them creatively too. A goodly number of these people are currently seeing their homes in foreclosure now.

The sad thing is that some of these people work very hard. But they spend too much time creating and not nearly enough time delivering. They watch people they consider hacks pull ahead of them. The hacks may not be as good on the creative side, but at least they’re getting their value into people’s hands, and on some level people are appreciating their work.

I went down that road myself. In the late 90s, I went bankrupt, even though I was working very long hours and creating a lot of potential value in the form of a computer game my company was developing. My problem was that I didn’t do a good job of getting that value delivered. I relied on publishers to do that, and for various reasons the game was never released. That resulted in years of wasted effort, aside from the valuable learning experience that is. So I know where this road leads because I traveled it.

On the other hand, if you only deliver value but don’t create it, then you’re delivering someone else’s value. This isn’t a terrible approach in the short run, but it’s a short-sighted long-term strategy if this is all you do. There’s nothing particularly special about delivering other people’s value. Anyone can do it. Anyone can sign up for affiliate programs or join an MLM program or become a reseller. If this is your primary means of generating income, your long-term outlook is weak. The better this works for you, the more it will draw competitors into your field. Eventually everyone will be working harder and harder for scraps. This happens all the time. This strategy can be especially weak during a recession, as more people turn to less expensive sources for the same value you deliver, squeezing your profit margins thinner and thinner.

Bloggers fall into this trap when they rehash other people’s content and don’t really have anything unique or compelling to say. A year later their niche is flooded with competitors doing the same thing. And hardly anyone is earning decent income from it.

The most viable long-term strategy is to create AND deliver value. You can mix and match other strategies with it, but this should be your primary method of income generation. If you get good at creating and delivering value, you can basically write your own ticket and enjoy lots of abundance.

A Choice of Mindset
I know a lot of people are dealing with financial challenges these days. Las Vegas is basically the foreclosure capital of the USA right now. I know people who’ve lost their homes. I see “bank owned” signs all over the place.

If you’re going through something like this right now, I totally empathize with you.

However, I have to point out that the pattern of what causes this is so clear, it’s getting a bit ridiculous to see it play out over and over again.

Generally speaking, people who CREATE and DELIVER value are doing just fine. In fact, I’d say most are doing better, not worse. Many of these people are seeing their incomes go up during this time.

People who don’t CREATE and DELIVER value are seeing their finances grow progressively worse. This leads many of them to panic, so they head even further away from creating and delivering value (such as by chasing lame money-making schemes), which only quickens the decline to insolvency.

I know it seems logical that if you’re seeing your finances decline, then you should focus single-mindedly on trying to make more money as quickly as possible. People fall into this trap all the time. I used to fall for it too. This is absolutely the wrong strategy though. I know that must sound counter-intuitive.

The correct strategy is that when you see your finances decline and you want to increase your income, then you need to focus on CREATING and DELIVERING more value. If you do that, then you’re doing the very thing that will generate a sustainable income increase.

What is money? Money is simply a medium for exchanging value. Money is what you receive in exchange for the value you create and deliver. If you can increase your outflow of value creation and delivery, you can increase your inflow of money received.

If, however, you try to increase the inflow of money without increasing the outflow of value, you’re trying to get something for nothing. This approach is untenable and will ultimately collapse. Please don’t waste your time on it.

I actually figured this out right around the time I was declaring bankruptcy. I was totally broke, yet I found a way to focus my energy on creating and delivering value instead of on trying to scrape together more money. Within about six months, I was back on my feet financially, and year after year my financial situation just kept getting better. I started on this path about 9 years ago, and I’ve maintained a nice positive cash flow every year since then.

I know that when you’re in a financial crunch situation, six months may seem like a long time. But it doesn’t matter if it takes you several months or several years to get in the habit of creating and delivering value. The time is going to pass anyway, and this habit will serve you well for life. Be patient and get started. It doesn’t matter what happens to the economy — if you keep creating and delivering value, you’ll do just fine.

A Record Year
Financially, 2008 was the best year ever for Erin and me.

I expect that 2009 will be an even better year for us, regardless of what happens to the economy. How do I know? Because it’s another year we can create and deliver value, adding to what we’ve already created.

Why are we enjoying increases while others are experiencing decline?

First, it helps that we don’t have jobs. I haven’t been employed by someone in more than 16 years. Many people mistakenly assume that being jobless is the riskier route, but that’s nonsense. It’s much less risky to control your own means of creating and delivering value than to be a pawn of some larger entity. No matter how bad the economy gets, Erin and I can’t get fired or laid off. So our career paths enjoy much more stability.

Secondly, while others are tightening up and cutting costs, Erin and I focus our attention on creating and delivering more value to people. The way we go about this may seem a bit counter-intuitive at first glance.

For example, I wrote a lot about diet and health this year, such as by sharing my experiences with the raw food diet.

That may not appear to be a very sexy topic. Some people find it totally uninteresting and would prefer that I write about other things. My health articles never make it big on social bookmarking sites, so they don’t generally yield a major traffic boost either.

However, such articles can provide a lot of value to people who are interested in those topics. Many people have made significant lifestyle changes after reading those articles, improving their health and/or enjoying significant weight loss. For some people the benefits have been amazing.

So even though these articles might not seem too exciting at first glance, they make a difference in people’s lives. Obviously they don’t affect everyone equally, but that’s okay. They certainly do a lot of good. They deliver value.

Many bloggers post content with the intention of getting something, such as links, attention, or sales. I’ve done some of that too, but I generally avoid creating that style of content. Instead I remind myself to stay focused on creating and delivering value. I know that when I keep my focus on that side, the rest takes care of itself.

This is an example of such an article. I didn’t write this piece to get something from you. I don’t expect it will become a huge hit. I know that because of the length, many people won’t even bother to read it.

But I also know that for many of the people who take the time to read it, this article has the potential to create some subtle yet helpful shifts. It may give someone the extra insight needed to get moving in a new direction. Someone, somewhere will receive positive value from it.

That’s all I intend with this article. Just provide some kind of benefit to someone who could use a little encouragement in the right direction. It’s not that complicated. This sort of focus inspires me to share what I’ve learned openly and honestly, even if it runs contrary to the way most people think.

I know this approach sounds overly simplistic, but if you get this — if you really get it — then it’s really not that hard to generate plenty of income.

Turning Value Into Income
So how does one generate income from creating and delivering value? Can’t you run into a problem of creating and delivering lots of value and making no money from it?

As it turns out, making money is the easy part. If you can create and deliver value to people, the income opportunities will literally come to you. People will practically line up with ways for you to make money. I’m serious.

Here’s how this works.

If you get good at creating value, you can connect with other people who are good at delivering value. They deliver your value, such as by selling it, and they pay you a royalty, commission, or licensing fee.

For example, Hay House offered me a book deal last year, so I wrote a book called Personal Development for Smart People, and it was published in September. I received an advance for the book, and I’ll also receive ongoing royalties based on sales. I might even receive royalties from this book for the rest of my life, especially since the content is timeless. Also, writing a book has lead to other opportunities, such as paid speaking engagements. So in this case I created the value (the book), but others deliver it.

Now suppose you get good at delivering value. In this case you can generate income by plugging other people’s value into your delivery system. For example, my blog is great at delivering value. It’s a very efficient medium for that. But since I give my value away for free, it doesn’t generate income directly. However, I can generate plenty of income by promoting other people’s products that I like. Then I split the profits from sales with the publisher. I earn six figures a year just from doing that. The product publishers come to me. I get way more offers for this sort of thing than I can handle. It doesn’t require a lot of work to do this. Once you have a system for delivering value, you can plug other people’s value into it and generate lots of extra income.

If you have the means to create AND deliver strong value, you’ll have so many opportunities it will be totally ridiculous. First, you can plug the value you create into other people’s delivery systems, so you can earn ongoing royalties and such. This is easy residual income. I’m still getting checks every month for deals I entered years ago.

Secondly, you can plug other people’s creative value into your own delivery system. You pay them a royalty on the sales, or they pay you as an affiliate. Once again you generate ongoing residual income. As long as you’re selective about the products you promote, doing your best to ensure that they provide strong value, everyone is happy, and everyone wins.

Thirdly, you can plug your value into your own delivery system. Strangely, this is something I haven’t done yet with my blog, although I used to do it all the time with my computer games business. This is something I intend to explore in 2009. It simply means that I could create and sell my own products direct. Many other bloggers have already done this with great success, releasing e-books, audio programs, DVDs, etc. They create the value and sell it directly to their visitors.

A big chunk of the income I received in 2008 was from work I did in previous years. I could do no work for all of 2009 and just live off the residual income I know is coming. That’s a nice situation to be in. It’s no accident though. Years ago I decided that this is how I wanted to set up my financial life, and then I focused on creating and delivering value to make it work. There’s no reason you can’t use the same strategy. It isn’t trademarked. 🙂

Avoiding Distraction
Once you develop the habit of creating and delivering value, it’s pretty hard to fail. However, it’s very easy to get distracted along the way. Distraction is perhaps your biggest obstacle.

You can’t get sucked into every money-making scheme that crosses your plate. Getting sucked into a job, where you have to trade hours for dollars, is just as bad. These are dead ends you should avoid by any means.

You have to stay focused on creating and delivering value. Everything that detracts from this focus should be viewed as an expense, obstacle, or just plain evil.

This is so important, but most people just don’t get how important it is.

Getting a job is such a bad idea if you want to enjoy long-term financial abundance. The odds of success on that path are so low, it’s not even worth considering.

Seriously, you are better off being broke and homeless, so you can focus on creating and delivering value from that place. You’re much worse off if you have to waste day after day showing up to work for someone else. That won’t move you closer to financial abundance. It will only distract you further.

If I had to choose between being homeless and getting a full-time job, I’d go the homeless route. Having a job would be 10x worse. As a homeless person, I could stay hungry and focused on creating and delivering value. I might not have the means to produce much value at first, but at least I could get out there in front of people and deliver something. It would be a good start on the right path.

A job is just a monstrous distraction. In many ways it’s a modernized form of slavery.

Homelessness is a huge upgrade from traditional employment. Have you ever talked to a homeless person? Some of them find the idea of having a job insulting — it represents a loss of freedom. Sure you smell better and can get a nicer place to live, but you lose your humanity in the process. Perhaps such people realize something you don’t.

Employment is the ultimate form of destitution.

Fortunately, employment is an easy problem to fix. If you have a job, just stop showing up. The rest will take care of itself. Pretty soon you’ll feel some motivation and drive to start creating and delivering value, especially if you happen to like eating.

Genuine opportunities are based on creating and/or delivering value. If you see something that looks like a new opportunity, and it doesn’t require you to create value, and it doesn’t require you to deliver value, then it isn’t an opportunity. It’s a total waste of your time.

Is creating and delivering value harder than getting a job? I would say no, not at all. Having a job is a lot harder. With a job you still have to provide some form of value usually, but all the residual benefits you produce turn into residual income for someone else. So you’re already doing most of what needs to be done, but you aren’t enjoying any of the benefits. In the long run, you’ll probably have to work much harder if you have a job, but the bulk of the rewards will go to someone else. On the one hand, that’s generous, but on the other hand, it’s quite dumb.

I could get a job as a writer and get paid a certain amount for each word I write. But then someone else owns my work, and all the residuals from that work go to them. Alternatively, I could write articles for my own website and retain the freedom to republish them as books someday, use them to generate traffic (and thereby income), license them for various publications, use them to promote my book, etc. The correct strategy is a no-brainer really.

Trying to make money is itself a distraction. When you focus on making money, too many things will catch your eye. You’ll run around like a chicken with its head cut off, chasing down all sorts of things that look like opportunities. You’ll waste a lot of time and energy if you chase dollars.

Creating and delivering value is simpler. This focus is well-aligned with truth, love, and power.

When you create and deliver value, you can be open and honest about what you’re doing. You get to spend most of your time doing stuff you’d naturally enjoy. It’s pleasurable to hone a craft you’re passionate about, whether it be writing articles, composing music, or planting gardens. It’s much harder to do boring, non-creative work day after day. It’s also very empowering to share your value with others and to see that you’re making a positive difference in people’s lives.

Once you make a habit of creating and delivering value as your primary career focus, you won’t want to go back.

There’s More to Life Than Money
Of all the things I do as part of my “work,” making money plays only a small role. Despite having written some popular articles on the subject, I spend little time thinking about money these days.

I don’t even bother to set financial goals anymore. That seems totally pointless to me.

Sometimes months go by, and I don’t even know how much money I’m currently making. I just know there’s always plenty and that I’m earning more than I’m spending. The gap is wide enough that I don’t need to do any special budgeting or fussing with figures.

The reason this works for me is that I focus on creating and delivering value. I know that as long as I keep doing that, I don’t have to do anything special to try to make money. New opportunities just keep showing up. It’s not that difficult to maintain.

I remember when I was at a conference in 2004 where Dr. Wayne Dyer was speaking. He said that people would come up and say, “You know, Dr. Dyer. Some people say you’ve made a LOT of money.”

Dr. Dyer’s response was, “They would be right.” 🙂

He went on to say something along these lines: “It’s not my fault! I just keep doing what I’m doing, and there’s always plenty of abundance there.”

At the time it was hard for me to relate to this mindset. It seems a bit too unrealistic and exceptional. But still… I wondered what it would be like to live at that level, where you could just assume abundance and it would be there for you. No striving or struggling. It took a few years, but I’m finally grasping what that sort of mindset feels like.

I’d say it’s not really a complete mindset by itself though. I doubt very much that Dr. Dyer focuses a lot of attention on trying to make money. I think most of his attention is elsewhere, wrapped up in the material he writes about. And that’s exactly where it should be.

Having written about two dozen books, it’s safe to say that Dr. Dyer has internalized the concept of creating and delivering value. I have it on good authority that his books sell quite well too. (We share the same publisher.)

Incidentally, Erin and I finally had the chance to meet Dr. Dyer in October at the speakers’ dinner for the I Can Do It! Conference. We only spoke with him for a few minutes. He was very warm and friendly.

This whole abundance mindset might sound really annoying if you’re dealing with financial scarcity right now. I can totally relate. I’ve been there, and I’m sure I’d have been equally annoyed if someone said this sort of stuff to me back then. I’d have been vehement that making money was NOT easy because I tried very hard to do that and failed big at it. Ironically the real problem was that by focusing on making money, I was making a huge mistake.

The key is where you focus your attention. If you focus your attention on making money, I can virtually guarantee that you’ll have a long and difficult road ahead of you, filled with setbacks and disappointments. If money is really what you seek, good luck with that. All you’ll do is give more and more of your power away, and you’ll end up living a pretty empty and shallow life.

Another corrupt form of thinking is to focus your attention on attracting financial abundance. Law of Attraction promoters often present this as a good idea. I once thought it was a good idea too. Now I realize it’s a dead end. It will just run you in circles. The irony is that in order to enjoy real financial abundance, you want to be thinking about money as little as possible.

I know it sounds like focusing on money is the right idea. I assure you that it’s a mistake. If you need to take several years to figure that out the hard way like I did, be my guest. But you’ll be really pissed that you could have saved yourself all that trouble if you simply let these ideas sink in a bit deeper. I hope that on some level what I’m saying strikes you as common sense. But I know I’ll be getting emails five years from now from a few people who went the other route. I hope you aren’t one of them.

Try to recognize the truth that focusing on CREATING and DELIVERING value is the smarter, more sane approach to long-term financial abundance. You may start out a bit slow at first, but eventually you’ll learn how to get good at both pieces of this puzzle. Once you have both aspects working reasonably well, it’s awesome. Just plain wonderful. And it leads to a really fun and exciting life too. Lots of freedom. Lots of joy. Plenty of cash. And yet the cash doesn’t even matter.

The nice thing about having plenty of money is that you can largely ignore it. You can focus your attention on doing more important, more interesting, and more enjoyable things. The funny thing is that it’s this sort of focus that creates financial abundance in the first place. Then you come full circle and realize that you never needed money at all. You just needed the courage to go after your dreams full steam ahead, even when you were dead broke. You needed to stop hiding behind a lack of money as an excuse not to live your best life.

If I could learn and apply this lesson while going bankrupt and having less than $100 in the bank, surely you can apply it today. I learned that I could create and deliver value even when I had no money and few resources. It wasn’t the greatest value in the world mind you, but at least it was something. I focused on creating something people would like and enjoy. Then I got it into their hands and made sure they enjoyed it. Back then it was a simple computer game. Today I do pretty much the same thing with blogging. The content is different, but the overall strategy is the same.

The DELIVERING part needn’t be complicated. If you just create something and share it online, other people will spread it around if they like it.

If you’ve been putting your value out there for months and months, and you haven’t been able to generate much interest from others, that should tell you that your mistakes are on the creative side. The feedback is that people don’t care for what you’re producing. You think you’re creating value, but the world is saying, “Not good enough; we don’t need or want this.” So you need to adapt to that feedback and use it to improve. Let it encourage you to go deeper within yourself, so you can be more genuine and authentic. Become more real and less phony. Keep working at becoming a more expressive creator until people start to take notice. Then you’re golden.

What About the Economy?
Personally I think that economic recessions, including the current one, are a good thing. Recessions help to weed out the crappy companies that aren’t creating and delivering value people want. Many of those companies were doing a good job at one time, but they failed to keep pace. As our values change, our companies need to adapt. Companies that can’t do that deserve to die off, and the jobs they created should be eliminated. They’ll eventually be replaced by new companies that have a better sense of people’s current needs and desires. Companies that just don’t “get it” will be replaced by companies that do.

Consider the notion of bailing out the failing U.S. auto companies by having the taxpayers fund them. Is this a good idea? It’s okay except for one small problem — it’s STUPID! It’s one of the dumbest things our political reps could possibly do with our tax dollars. An auto company bailout is definitely not in the best interests of our country, nor is it in the best interests of the auto workers themselves. It’s totally short-sighted. And FWIW I think the whole financial bailout was just as dumb.

I have family members who used to work for GM for years (not in the automobile division of the company though). If they were still working for GM today, I’d sooner see them lose their jobs and have to find new work elsewhere than encourage them to live under the illusion that their company should continue doing business as usual. As I mentioned previously, Erin and I bought a Japanese car in 2006 even though we could have gotten a great price break on a GM model with the family discount. We just didn’t like any GM cars.

During a recession some companies are going to die off. That’s a good thing. To artificially prop up the proven market losers is just dumb. Sure, it will have some rippling consequences. But those ripples are necessary. We need that sort of self-correction to prevent bigger problems down the road. We need to send a message that if you fail to create and deliver value people genuinely want, your business will ultimately fail, and no amount of political lobbying will save you. Of course we get the opposite result when too many people think that the point of life is to chase dollars, especially our politicians. Can you blame them though? Have you ever been known to fall into the same trap?

It’s better — and much more compassionate — for millions of auto workers to lose their jobs and be re-integrated back into society, where they can start doing socially useful work again instead of wasting their time doing work that simply isn’t needed anymore. If it takes years, it takes years. There are other companies that are doing a better job of providing what people want and adapting to the planet’s changing transportation needs. Giving more money to the losers is a stupid strategy.

Similarly, if you work for a company that is falling out of sync with creating and delivering value that people want, you should indeed lose your job. It’s better to retrain yourself to do more meaningful work elsewhere than to waste your time doing work that isn’t needed. Becoming obsolete is a trap that can be avoided. Even if you’re an employee, you still need to make sure you’re contributing to the creation and delivery of real value. If you fall away from that, it’s only a matter of time before you get the axe, so don’t be too surprised when it happens.

A Value-Centered Career
How do you know if you’re creating and delivering real value?

Ask yourself these questions: If you stopped doing what you do, who would care? Who would object loudly? Who would revolt?

If you’re creating and delivering genuine value, and you suddenly stop, people will notice. People will definitely care. Your contribution will be seriously missed. There will practically be rioting in the streets.

Such people may not even credit the value to you directly, especially if your contribution remains somewhat anonymous, but they’ll soon detect that something important is missing from their lives. Even if they don’t know your name, the removal of your ongoing value creation and delivery will have a definite effect.

If, however, hardly anyone cares that you stopped, that should tell you something. It means that people just didn’t value your creative output… not really. What you were doing was either unnecessary or easily replaced. You weren’t yet living as a conscious, self-actualized human being. You held back from shining as brightly as you could have.

You have a choice of whether or not you want this to be your fate. You may have been conditioned from a young age to view your life path in terms of getting a job and making money. Go ahead and live that way for a few years if you think it’s intelligent. You’ll soon see what a pointless, soulless dead-end it really is.

When you finally begin to hear that subtle inner voice screaming at you, “This is just so wrong,” realize that it’s still possible to live a life of fun, freedom, and fulfillment — and still make plenty of money and not starve. But in order to get there, you have to focus on doing what really matters. You must clear your head of all that socially conditioned nonsense and stop doing what everyone else is doing.

Start living as a conscious human being, not a mindless minion. Focus on expressing your child-like creativity on a daily basis. Stop thinking so much about making money, and focus on connecting with people and sharing your creations with them instead.

Create and deliver. Create and deliver.

The correct focus for financial abundance is so simple it’s ridiculous. You learned it in kindergarten.

You: “Hey, look at this picture I made!” (Value created)

Adult: “Wow. That’s awesome! You made my day!” 🙂 (Value received)

My five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter pretty much have it figured out. If they just keep doing what they naturally like to do, they’ll be able to enjoy financial abundance as adults too.

My job as a parent isn’t so much to teach them something new in this area — it’s to prevent them from being brainwashed into thinking like everyone else.

It took me about 5 hours to write and edit this 6,000-word article. I wasn’t even planning to write an article today. But I got inspired by an idea, so I sat down and wrote the whole thing in a single sitting.

My investment of time and energy on the creative side was fixed. But this article will keep delivering value to people for many years to come. That’s a good investment then, isn’t it?

It doesn’t matter whether or not this article generates income for me. I don’t think about it like that. I just know that if I keep creating and delivering value, I’ll continue to enjoy financial abundance, and I’ll feel really good too. Money is basically a non-entity. It doesn’t motivate action, nor does it serve as a reward. It’s just something that recedes into the background while real life is unfolding.

I’d love for you to be able to enjoy similar benefits if this is something that appeals to you. It all starts with the choice of where you focus your attention. The more you pursue your own creative self-expression, the less you’ll have to fuss over money.

The irony is that this is probably what you tell yourself you’ll do when you finally have enough money, but that sort of thinking is a trap that will only keep you stuck. The way you would live if/when you’re enjoying financial abundance, start living that way now, for that’s the very strategy that will produce the abundance you seek. And when you begin to experience financial abundance, you’ll realize that you never needed it to begin with. You just needed the courage to start expressing the real you under the conditions you find yourself in this very moment.

This article has taken so many twists and turns, I think I’ve left the original title far behind by now. But somehow I think it still fits. 🙂