Climbing the Right Ladder

Imagine four ladders propped up against four respective skyscrapers. Each skyscraper has a surprise waiting for you on the roof. For the purpose of this metaphor, let’s ignore the absurdity of climbing a ladder to the top of an 80 floor skyscraper.

Ok, now you’ve got to make a decision. Which ladder are you going to climb? To make that decision, there’s some different things you’ll need to consider. First, you’ll have to ask yourself which ladders you’re capable of climbing. Perhaps some ladders are too tall for you to have energy to climb. Or, perhaps you’re too heavy and the ladders aren’t strong enough to hold you.

Beyond your climbing abilities, you’ll also have to ponder what may be at the top of each ladder. While you can never know for sure, it’s possible consulting with other intelligent people could give you a general idea of what may be at the top. Climbing some ladder may be more profitable than others.

Finally, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you care about the reward at the top of each ladder. Perhaps one ladder has a loving wife at the top, but only a modest amount of money. Another may have incredible riches, but poor health.  One may have an endless amount of great sex with beautiful young women, but a disappointed family. The last ladder may be extremely short with lots of goodies as you climb, but at the top you’ll be ambushed and pushed off the edge to your death.

Life is exactly the same as this metaphor. There will be different ladders for you to climb. Some ladders be easy for you to climb, but ultimately unfulfilling (such as drugs or possibly the corporate ladder for some individuals). Other ladders may be difficult for you to climb, but provide a great reward when you finally reach the top.

The important thing, is you find the ladder that’s going to be the best fit for you. Ideally, you’ll choose the right ladder at a young age and be able to reach the rooftop. You’ll choose to become a programmer, become extremely successful in your profession, and be forever passionate about it.

This doesn’t happen for most us, however. More likely, you’ll “waste” some time climbing the wrong ladders in your life before stumbling on the right one. When this happens, it’s important to ignore sunk costs.

Just because you’ve been climbing the ladder in corporate sales from a young age doesn’t mean you need to continue doing so forever. Doing so could be advantageous, because others would have difficulty catching up. However, it’s important to also be introspective and balance the benefits you’ve accumulated from your past decisions along with the future you’d like to create for yourself.

There is no one right ladder. There’s only the right ladder for you. Climb it. Reach the top. Enjoy the rewards.

Don’t Want to Be Rich? You’re Selfish

Something many young people say, and that I once said myself is that, “I don’t want to be rich. I just want to do something I love and be happy.”

Today, I’d like to tell you why this is flawed thinking. Why thinking this way isn’t helpful, and why it’s even selfish. First, however, let’s talk about why this manner of thinking sounds noble. “I don’t care about being rich. I don’t need the material possessions of this world. I just want to do something that fulfills my soul.”

That sounds nice right? I’d agree with you. Here’s the problem, however. While you don’t need to fly in private jets, or eat $100 dinners, failing to make a solid income is incredibly selfish. Why? You don’t need to be carelessly spending on a lavish lifestyle to be happy, but it is important you at least have the financial reserves to take care of the people you care about.

Mom is stuck in a cold place like Minnesota or Wisconsin? Fly her out on the dream trip of her life to Playa Del Carmen or Bali. Grandma is sick and in poor health? Having a solid income with money in the bank ensures you have the ability to visit her, and make her smile before she passes.

It’s difficult to be happy if you can’t take care of and offer a comfortable lifestyle to the people you love. Living here in Thailand, money is very important. Money is what allowed me to fly my girlfriend and I over to Thailand and enjoy a month-long trip in a beautiful apartment with a pool, gym, and sensational view of the mountains. It allowed us to take a cooking class, go zip-lining, and dine at some nice restaurants.

Increasing your income allows you to do all of these things — without having to worry about whether you’re going to have any cash left at the end of the month. That’s why I encourage you to focus on money more and not be a digital nomad that forever tries to scrape by on $800/month.

Money isn’t the only thing to consider, but it is important. Don’t stay thinking small because of the constant $300/month videos (no hate on Steve, I love the guy). Being frugal can be cool, but expand your income at the same time you’re frugal.

Skipping Starbucks and Investing in Your 401k Won’t Make You Rich

If you asked the average person their strategy for building wealth, they’d probably talk about skipping Starbucks and investing in their 401k. In short, they’d discuss frugality.

Frugality can be useful in building wealth. It is the percentage of your income you save, rather than your income itself that determines when you’ll be able to retire. Yet, frugality is only helpful up to a certain point.

If you’ve ever been a digital nomad, for example, you may have seen people talking about the cost of living between Chiang Mai, Thailand and Saigon, Vietnam. While nomads in Chiang Mai may spend $700/month, perhaps Saigon nomads spend $850/month.

It’s a small amount of money. Perhaps saving a hundred dollars or so per month is important your first couple years as a nomad. As someone in your late 20s or 30s, however, cost of living between two cities that similar shouldn’t even factor into your decision.

The fact is, you can only reduce your expenses so much. It’s possible to live as an expat in Vietnam for under $500/month. I know, I’ve done it before. Yet, consider an income of $2,500/month.

Reducing your expenditures from $1,000/month to $500/month would allow you to bank $2,000/month. Or, you could continue spending $1,000/month and increase your income to $3,000/month. Both would result in you saving 2k per month, yet there’s no limit on how much you can increase your income.

Plus, when your budget gets really low, you start to sacrifice on food quality, social life, networking, and things that’ll give you a higher quality of life and more professional opportunities later on.

In short, the rich get rich from expanding their incomes more than just trying to live off bread and rice. That doesn’t mean to get caught on the hedonic treadmill and hire people to shine your shoes and drop grapes in your mouth.

It merely means to live a balanced life. Spend money when doing do will lead to better health, increased networking opportunities, and leisure activities that will bring you true happiness. Be frugal, but not overly so.

It’s better to invest that excess frugal energy into increasing your income once you’ve already gotten your spending down to a reasonable level.

Fu#% Your Dreams Follow The $$

Fresh from Chiang Mai, Thailand, here’s a post discussing what many would consider to be a controversial quote by WallStreetPlayboys.

“Follow the $$$ not your dreams.

Why?

You dreams are what you *would* be doing if you had money!”

Let’s analyze the motivation behind this. Following your passion means saying I like doing “X”, so, I’m going to do “X”. Unfortunately, following your passion often forgets to take into account the most important factor when considering a career — the market.

You don’t care if I like juggling. You want an entertaining performance for your child’s birthday party or corporate event. Similarly, I don’t care if you appreciate being able to work remotely. I just want someone to help me move my blog from one webhost to another.

Besides the possibility of earning a low wage or creating a business that fails, following your passion doesn’t even guarantee you’ll continue to be passionate about something. Consider the countless examples of people who liked cooking, but found they hated owning a restaurant.

In addition, consider that many employers advertise “doing something you love” as an excuse to pay you less. This is why WallStreetPlayboys is encouraging you to simply follow the $$$. Doing so, will provide you a life of material comfort.

By minimizing your expenses, it’s also possible to retire from a well paid corporate gig in a decade or less (WHAT? See how here). Of course, there’s also a balance to be struck.

I wouldn’t suggest you intentionally go into a field you hate simply because it’s well paid. Being an orthodontist is a pretty sweet gig, but if you hate school, downing an extra decade of your life in education may not be feasible to you.

The best gigs tend to be at the crossroad between compensation and purpose. Teaching English to children in Mexico may be spiritually fulfilling, but doing so is probably going to land you less than $1,000/month. Coding can pay well, but depending on the project, may not be meaningful.

If on the other hand, you designed webpages for English schools, you could feel you were making a contribution while also being well compensated. That my friend, is the quadrant you want to be operating in.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a House in Your Early 20s

I’ve been to many cities in my life. Saigon, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Dallas, Milwaukee, Chicago… the list goes on and on. Only now, am I starting to get some kind of idea of the city I’d like to live in when I’m older. Before I started traveling in 2015, I would’ve had no idea what place I’d want to live in.

That’s the simple and biggest reason you shouldn’t buy a house in your early 20s. You don’t want to commit yourself to living somewhere before you know it’s the best place for you. Your location impacts your happiness almost as much as your career and the people you spend time with.

Do you want to live in a city that’s always warm or that has four distinct seasons? Is living in a primarily English speaking city important to you? Is air pollution a deal breaker? What’s the dating culture like in your potential dream cities? Do you require vegetarian restaurants? Is nightlife important to you? Would you rather live near the mountains, or the beach? Are you a laid back small town guy, or a big city hustler? Is being in close proximity to other countries important for your occupation? Are there likeminded entrepreneurs, a tech scene, real estate opportunities, or something else business related that’s important for your city to provide you? How important is being near your parents when they retire?

We could go on and on and on. I wouldn’t recommend buying a house for residential purposes at a young age at all, but if you decide you’re at that phase in your life, these questions and more are all important for you to consider.

Unfortunately, many of these questions are difficult to answer if you don’t have a wide perspective from living or at least visiting dozens of towns/cities in your life. It can also be difficult to know which city will provide you the best economic opportunities before settling into a specific industry yourself.

For that reason, you’re generally better off delaying a house purchase until you’re older and more established. Rent and explore when you’re young. You’ll have plenty of time to settle down and own a house when you’re older… if you even want to at that point.

How You Can Save $100 and 100 Hours Each Month

Cancel your cable television subscription. You’ll save money, you’ll save time, and you’ll be more successful. Bonus points if you sell your television as well. In addition, consider making a more restorative habit your new form of leisure.

Instead of sitting in front of the tube after a long day of work, write a blog, do yoga, go for a walk, or meditate. Besides being better for your finances, all of these activities will also do more than television to restore you. These activities will more deeply recharge you, and leave you in a better position to do quality work the next day.

5 Tips for Your First 100 Followers on Twitter

While it’s been a few years since Twitter was the trendiest social network, Twitter is still a powerful social media platform. Twitter’s growth has all but stagnated. Yet with 300,000,000+ users growing a following on Twitter is still a worthy endeavor.

Aside from promoting your brand or product, Twitter is also great for absorbing concise knowledge from some of the greatest minds on the internet. Twitter is also a powerful networking tool if used correctly. Of course, without any followers, Twitter isn’t going to help you land freelance gigs or push more sales.

If you’re new to Twitter and need to build up your following, here are some of the things you’ll want to do to get your first 100 followers:

#1 Follow Others Daily

If you want to get more followers, a great way to do so is by following new users everyday. When you follow others they get a notification. Many of these people you follow will reciprocate and follow you as well.

While this may not be a productive use of time for someone that already has 1,000,000 followers, it can be a great way to go from 21 or 34 followers to 100 or 245 followers. Let’s make a few important notes on this strategy, however.

The first thing that’s important to understand is that following and unfollowing too many accounts each day may lead to your account getting frozen or banned. The other thing that’s important to note is that you’ll want to follow people that are in your industry.

By following people in your industry there’s a much higher chance they’ll be interested in the things you post and feel inclined to follow you back.

#2 Engage With Others

Another important strategy in building up your Twitter following is engaging with the content of others. If I like your Tweets, comment on them, and retweet your content, it’s going to get your attention.

There’s a good chance you’ll become interested in my content and share it as well. As Dale Carnegie says, “To be interesting, be interested.”

The same thing applies on Twitter. If you want others to pay attention to you, it’s necessary for you to pay some attention to them as well. Twitter is a place to have discussions, not merely another channel to broadcast your message. If you stop listening as soon as you’ve said something, you’ll quickly find others stop listening to you as well.

#3 Promote Others

As I alluded to before, promoting others makes them more likely to share your stuff. If you share someone’s video, they’re going to feel inclined to give your Tweets some attention as well.

Another good idea is to promote others with your content. If you want attention from the founder of Treehouse (a membership site company that offers programming courses), you may want to write a blog post titled 5 Reasons I Enjoy Learning with Treehouse or The Vital Feature Treehouse Needs to Adopt to Stay Successful in 2018.

If you tweet a post like that to Treehouse’s founder, he’s almost certain to read it. People love reading stuff about themselves and the things they’ve done. Writing a blog post called Advice for LeBron James or Why Donald Trump Needs to do X is unlikely to be personally read by your target figure simply because that person is simply too difficult to reach without a connection.

Small to fairly large figures are surprisingly reachable, however, if you can offer them some sort of value. Offer a small to medium figure value, and there’s a great chance they’ll follow you. Even better yet, they’ll likely share your content with their followers which will lead to more potential followers for you.

#4 Leverage Other Social Media Platforms

Creating a Twitter Account in 2017 puts you at a disadvantage compared to professionals and businesses that began using Twitter a decade ago. Fortunately, there is a way to largely combat this disadvantage. You can leverage other social media followings you’ve built.

By promoting your Twitter account on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and/or other social media platforms, you can siphon attention you’ve already built on other platforms onto your new Twitter account. This allows you to greatly jumpstart your new Twitter account’s growth.

#5 Link to Your Twitter on your blog, Youtube, email signature, etc

By linking to your Twitter account in a number of places, you’ll build awareness around your new Twitter account. This allows people who would be interested in following you on Twitter to easily find and follow you.

Conclusion

By applying these tips for getting your first 100 (or more!) followers on Twitter, you’ll be off to a great start. Building a following is always slow in the beginning, but once you have a few hundred or thousand followers, you’ll find organic growth quickly pick up.

Is Twitter Still Relevant in 2017?

Twitter is one of the oldest social networking sites still popular today. Having been around for over 10 years this microblogging platform has changed a lot over the last decade. At its core, however, is still breaking news and the 140 character limit.

Yet, after all this time, is Twitter still relevant? Should you invest time in maintaining an active Twitter account for your business or personal brand? Here’s my experience.

I’ve used Twitter to promote this blog and my Youtube channel. I’ve also used Facebook and Instagram. Besides just promoting my own content, I’ve used Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to try to build relationships with other digital nomads, freelancers, and business owners.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that using Twitter gets me much lower engagement on my content. I’ll get 100-200 likes by posting something on Instagram, but get just a single like or retweet if any, by posting the same thing on Twitter.

I’ve also checked my Youtube analytics. Facebook always drives more traffic to my videos than Twitter. In the last 28 days for example, Facebook has brought 53 visitors to my videos versus just 3 visitors from Twitter.

youtube view analytics

In other words, engagement with my content pretty much sucks on Twitter. You could argue that the reason for this is because my Instagram account is older and more established than my Twitter account. Fair enough. That doesn’t explain the huge discrepancy, however, between my Twitter and Facebook.

Both of those accounts were created the same month. Plus, since creating those accounts, I’ve spent 18.5 hours building up my Twitter account vs just 8.5 hours growing my audience on Facebook (I log my daily time usage). It just doesn’t add up. Except, it does.

If you’ve ever watched Gary Vaynerchuk, you’d know that he always says, “Marketers ruin EVERYTHING.” It’s true. The typical trend for a medium (television, social media platform, whatever) is as follows.

First, regular people begin giving their attention to the medium. Then, a few trendy marketers get the idea to start advertising to these people. The marketers realize they’re getting a great ROI.

They scale up their marketing efforts, and tell their friends. Soon enough, the signal to noise ratio on the platform shifts significantly. Consumers start by trying to tune out the noise. You’ve seen this before. How quickly do you reach for your phone when there’s a commercial on TV?

It’s the same reason Twitter engagement sucks. Too many people just promote their own shit on Twitter without repping the great stuff everyone else is putting out. Even worse, a lot of people just automate their Twitters entirely. Because of this, it’s hard to get your content to stand out above all the noise.

Everybody’s talking but nobody’s listening. Twitter isn’t such a great broadcasting channel because of this anymore. You’d be surprised how few extra views or purchases having 1k or even 10k followers will get you. Yet, that doesn’t mean Twitter is irrelevant these days.

While I don’t find Twitter very useful for promoting my own stuff, I have found engaging with others very fruitful on Twitter. Twitter is how I met the awesome Jake Darby of Nomadic Hustle as well as an awesome graphic designer in Matt Lawrence (reach out to him if you want an awesome design at an awesome price).

I’ve already hung out with Matt in Saigon, and there’s a good chance I’ll be filming some vlogs with Jake later this year. I’ve also chatted with Peter Lievels (founder of nomadlist), Dan Norris, and Robert Koch (the blogger behind 30daystox).

If you want to get the most out of Twitter, you’ve got to understand you won’t be able to do so via endless self-promotion. In 2017 Twitter is a place to easily connect with other high level people, and build relationships that’ll enrich both your personal and business life.

If you view Twitter through this lens, it’s far from irrelevant. In fact, it just may be the best social network out there today.

The Story Engine: 7 Secrets to SKYROCKET Business Growth With Content Marketing

I recently finished reading The Story Engine, Kyle Gray’s new book on content marketing. If you haven’t heard the term before, content marketing is a type of marketing that utilizes the creation of content (written articles, Youtube videos, social media posts, etc.) to generate interest in a brand.

The difference between content marketing and traditional advertising, however, is that while content marketing often stimulates interest in a company’s products or services, the content itself doesn’t explicitly promote the brand.

One example would be a personal trainer releasing videos on how to exercise with proper form or how you could make consistently exercising a habit. In fact, this is the primary way popular Youtube fitness instructor Elliott Hulse built up his brand to over 2,000,000 Youtube subscribers and nearly 400,000,000 views between his two channels.

Yet, growing a brand isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us, and that’s why I was so excited to read Kyle’s new book. Kyle had been extremely successful building up tech startup WP Curve’s blog and growing the company’s revenue with his content marketing strategy.

Although I can’t give everything from the book away, in this post I wanted to share a few key insights I had from reading The Story Engine.

#1 Content Marketing is For Those In It For the Long Game

Like Kyle says in the book, content marketing won’t give you the immediate returns a Google or Facebook ad campaign hypothetically could. In fact, Kyle says it usually takes a great article 6-12 months to generate enough traffic just to offset the cost of creating it.

This is something that turns a lot of marketers and business owners off. Having to wait several months or years for content to have a positive ROI isn’t something most people are willing to do. Yet, the biggest benefit of content is that it becomes more valuable over time.

#2 Documentation is Important

When Kyle took over the content marketing operations at WP Curve he struggled. He had such a difficult time in his first few months at WP Curve that he almost quit. Part of the problem was that he lacked experience with Slack, Trello, and other communication tools remote teams often use to communicate. He was also inexperienced working remotely himself.

More than anything else, however, he cites his difficulties with lacking the proper documentation and processes for himself and his team of writers. The writers and other freelancers you hire will only be able to perform as well as the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) you’ve created for them.

If your processes aren’t well refined, you’re unlikely to get a polished result. Yet, there is one positive spin Kyle puts on this. He writes, ‘“…Every interactions with freelancers or team members will create an opportunity to improve your processes. Remember, “fix the process, not the person.”’

#3 Content Marketing Casts a Broad Net

As a content marketer, you’re not an archer shooting an arrow and aiming for a small bullseye. You’re more like a fisherman with a large net trying to catch all the fish he can. Many of the people that consume your content won’t be your ideal customers. Most of them won’t ever purchase anything from you.

That doesn’t mean they’re not valuable, however. People that consume your content are likely to become what Kyle calls “brand ambassadors”. Although brand ambassadors may not purchase from you directly, if they’re engaged with your content there’s a good chance they’ll refer ideal customers to you when the opportunity arises.

Though hard to track, these recommendations are incredibly valuable.

#4 Content as Recruiting

Kyle suggests that one possible way to approach your content marketing efforts is to write content that would inspire someone to want to join your team. Apart from making a future talented teammate more likely to want to join your organization, writing in this way may also improve the quality of your content. Gregory Ciotti from Help Scout is a big advocate of the content as recruiting frame saying that,

“With the ‘content as recruiting’ concept well understood, you’ll keep higher standards for your publishing, you’ll have an easier time encouraging your teammates to write, and you’ll be more deliberate with transparency…”

#5 Content Marketing Is Best For Certain Types of Businesses

While The Story Engine discusses many of the benefits of content marketing, it’s also transparent in that some businesses are more well suited to content marketing than others.

Content is best for businesses with digital products, recurring revenue streams (such as web hosting or other SAAS products), high-ticket items, and businesses that benefit from educating their consumers.

Content marketing options are more limited for local businesses, however, because their “net” for capturing attention is confined to the local audience. The big exception to this, however, is tourism.

Businesses working in local tourism can easily market to a wide audience by writing content to help potential tourists plan activities during their trip. This is extremely effective, because it sells something a consumer wants at precisely the moment they’re ready to purchase it.

Marina Bay

(A high-ticket tourist destination like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore would be the perfect candidate for content marketing.)

#6 Why Most Blogs Fail

In The Story Engine Kyle offers several reasons blogs commonly fail. I’ve listed his six reasons with a short summary of each (in my words) below.

I. Shiny Object Syndrome — Inexperienced content creators too often shift the tools they use or the topics they cover. This continually changing content makes it virtually impossible to build any traction or trust with an audience.

II. No Differentiation — Content marketing is competitive and “me-too” content simply won’t receive attention in most industries.

III. Isolation — The blog focuses too much on self-promotion.

IV. Keywords over Value — The marketer writes for search engines in an attempt to rank for keywords, rather than writing content that’ll help an audience solve a problem that’s relevant to them.

V. Burnout — People burn out on creating content because they don’t have context and a larger vision to feel certain they’re invested time and energy will have a positive ROI.

VI. Can’t Scale — A single founder creates content an audience loves, but later hires are unable to reproduce the voice of the founder.

#7 Why Retargeting Isn’t All You Need

Retargeting is a type of marketing that displays advertisements or offers to people that have seen your content before. These “warm leads” often do get high conversion rates. The problem is that you’ll quickly deplete your retargeting opportunities if you’re not receiving fresh traffic each month. As Kyle writes, “…Retargeting only appeals to the traffic you currently have.”

Creating new content will lead to new traffic. This steam of new traffic today will be the potential retargeting list of tomorrow. As a bonus, having a block filled with valuable content and being seen as an authority in your field will further increase the conversation rates of your retargeting efforts too!

Conclusion

Beyond all this, The Story Engine will also teach you more about how to manage writers, how to hire a content manager, getting ideas for content, and how to train your team so that you’re able to gradually remove yourself from the content creation process.

In short, reading The Story Engine will be an excellent use of your time. You’ll greatly deepen your knowledge of content marketing, developer new marketing strategies for your business, and become more profitable in the long-run.

Grab Kyle’s book on Amazon now!

StoryEngineBook