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July 3rd, 2012

19 Thoughts About Finding Your Purpose

Those who win are producers, not consumers. The first thing you do each morning should be active, not passive– no Facebook, no email. Whatever you choose should put you in a state of mind for the rest of the day. Choose carefully.

The goals others set for you are usually wrong. The people who give them to you seem well meaning, and they have more experience, too. But your heart will guide you better than anyone. Find internal markers to know if what you’re doing is right.

If you do two things at once, one of them is getting done wrong. No matter how wrong you think this is, or how many exceptions you think there are… I sincerely doubt it.

Any organization that claims it has the answer is either wrong or lying. Sometimes it makes a fun game to try and guess which one it is they’re doing. You’ll also notice that, somewhere along the line, they want you to either buy something or work for free.

Since everything is getting louder, seek out the places that are quiet. Sanctuaries are few and they all get a bad rap. Parks, libraries, and all the rest are places to make sure you have your head on straight. Go there.

Find out what people think of you. Amplify it.

Everything that isn’t your main purpose should be either delegated or dropped. If you do this right, you should make more money, not less.

Pay attention to what’s vulnerable, not just what’s strong. Actually, this also helps you predict trends in the marketplace, which is good for your pocketbook.

Take some time to do absolutely nothing. Meditate every day, if only for a minute. It produces an amazing ability to step back and escape whatever your usual patterns are.

Wear your heart on your sleeve. Do this no matter how many times you get hurt.

Join a movement. Or better yet, create one. The whole world is ready to be changed by someone just like you.

The world is going faster, but that doesn’t mean you should. Slow is good too.

Find the time to think. Freewriting produces more clarity, and reduces stress, more than almost any activity.

Start a gratitude journal. Studies show it is the one thing that produces the largest change in happiness. I’ve had one for the past month and it’s been awesome.

Have a quest. It fills your days with pregnant purpose and makes you live longer, too.

Check out Carl Jung’s archetypes; he knew a thing or two. It’ll help you find your place in the grand scheme of things.

Let everyone be. Don’t try to change them. They’re just following a larger pattern– and so are you.

Go through your childhood and find what interested you. Combine those things and add a trend or two. Do it right and you’ll have a great business.

It’s ok to get sidetracked. Don’t worry about wasted time. Start again today.

(Thanks to bogenfreund for the pic.)

* Filed by Julien at 4:46 pm under tips
* 33 Comments

May 28th, 2012

20 Things I Should Have Known at 20

1. The world is trying to keep you stupid. From bank fees to interest rates to miracle diets, people who are not educated are easier to get money from and easier to lead. Educate yourself as much as possible for wealth, independence, and happiness.

2. Do not have faith in institutions to educate you. By the time they build the curriculum, it’s likely that the system is outdated– sometimes utterly broken. You both learn and get respect from people worth getting it from by leading and doing, not by following.

3. Read as much as you can. Learn to speed read with high retention. Emerson Spartz taught me this while I was at a Summit Series event. If he reads 2-3 books a week, you can read one.

4. Connect with everyone, all the time. Be genuine about it. Learn to find something you like in each person, and then speak to that thing.

5. Don’t waste time being shy. Shyness is the belief that your emotions should be the arbitrators of your decision making process when the opposite is actually true.

6. If you feel weird about something during a relationship, that’s usually what you end up breaking up over.

7. Have as much contact as possible with older people. Personally, I met people at Podcamps. My friend Greg, at the age of 13, met his first future employer sitting next to him on a plane. The reason this is so valuable is because people your age don’t usually have the decision-making ability to help you very much. Also they know almost everything you will learn later, so ask them.

8. Find people that are cooler than you and hang out with them too. This and the corollary are both important: “don’t attempt to be average inside your group. Continuously attempt to be cooler than them (by doing cooler things, being more laid back, accepting, ambitious, etc.).”

9. You will become more conservative over time. This is just a fact. Those you surround yourself with create a kind of “bubble” that pushes you to support the status quo. For this reason, you need to do your craziest stuff NOW. Later on, you’ll become too afraid. Trust me.

10. Reduce all expenses as much as possible. I mean it. This creates a safety net that will allow you to do the crazier shit I mentioned above.

11. Instead of getting status through objects (which provide only temporary boosts), do it through experiences. In other words, a trip to Paris is a better choice than a new wardrobe. Studies show this also boosts happiness.

12. While you are living on the cheap, solve the money problem. Use the internet, because it’s like a cool little machine that helps you do your bidding. If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, extend that to three weeks instead of two. Then, as you get better, you can think a month ahead, then three months, then six, and finally a year ahead. (The goal is to get to a point where you are thinking 5 years ahead.)

13. Learn to program.

14. Get a six-pack (or get thin, whatever your goal is) while you are young. Your hormones are in a better place to help you do this at a younger age. Don’t waste this opportunity, trust me.

15. Learn to cook. This will make everything much easier and it turns food from a chore + expensive habit into a pleasant + frugal one. I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan, but whatever you like is fine.

16. Sleep well. This and cooking will help with the six pack. If you think “I can sleep when I’m dead” or “I have too much to do to sleep,” I have news for you: you are INEFFICIENT, and sleep deprivation isn’t helping.

17. Get a reminder app for everything. Do not trust your own brain for your memory. Do not trust it for what you “feel like” you should be doing. Trust only the reminder app. I use RE.minder and Action Method.

18. Choose something huge to do, as well as allowing the waves of opportunity to help you along. If you don’t set goals, some stuff may happen, but if you do choose, lots more will.

19. Get known for one thing. Spend like 5 years doing it instead of flopping around all over the place. If you want to shift afterwards, go ahead. Like I said, choose something.

20. Don’t try to “fix” anyone. Instead, look for someone who isn’t broken.

(This post was inspired by an email question from Daniel. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar.)

* Filed by Julien at 1:22 pm under tips
* 216 Comments

January 19th, 2012

100 Tips About Life, People, and Happiness

1. True wisdom and insight is always free.

2. Give your power over to no one.

3. Going into the unknown is how you expand what is known.

4. Get a library card.

5. Spend more time around people that both challenge and respect you.

6. Remain skeptical forever.

7. Fight for what matters.

8. There is a method that works. Find it.

9. Join a movement.

10. Drink your coffee black.

11. Never let anyone photoshop a picture of you. It creates a false sense of self-confidence.

12. Read more. Especially things you disagree with.

13. Get used to feeling stupid. It’s a sign of growth.

14. It’s easy for people to talk a good game, so watch how they behave instead.

15. Learn something from everyone.

16. Find things that inspire you and pursue them, even if there’s no money in it.

17. Starve if you have to, for as long as you need to.

18. Survive on a little just to prove you can do it.

19. Get one big success at an early age. It’ll help build your confidence for bigger things.

20. Do what you say you’ll do. No one is reliable anymore.

21. Be comfortable with abandonment, even of parts of your identity.

22. Learn a new language.

23. Eat more protein.

24. Keep people around you that will tell you the truth.

25. Genius gets you nowhere. Execution is everything.

26. If given the choice of equity or cash, always take cash.

27. Meet new people as often as possible. Offer to help them.

28. Don’t discriminate. Connect anyone in your network to anyone else.

29. If you can’t do a pull-up, you have a problem.

30. Nobody likes a know-it-all.

31. Get a passport. Fill it up with stamps no one has ever seen.

32. Quit your horrible job.

33. Read biographies. It’s like having access to the best mentors in history.

34. Go to bed, and wake up, early. No one will bother you, letting your best work emerge.

35. Scare yourself a little bit every day. It will expand your inner map.

36. Learn to climb trees.

37. Don’t buy a lot of stuff, and only buy the stuff you really love.

38. Be humble and curious.

39. Twitter followers don’t keep you warm at night.

40. Be as useful as you can in as many circumstances as possible.

41. Show up.

42. Repeat people’s names when you meet them.

43. Turn internet access off your phone. Wifi is fine.

44. Get a deck of Oblique Strategies cards. Use them.

45. Make your home a place where you feel safe.

46. Take people up on bets. Make more bets yourself.

47. Take cold showers. They’re better than coffee.

48. Learn to enjoy hunger.

49. Make everything either shorter, or longer, than it needs to be.

50. Always remember those who helped you. Deliver two or three times as much value back.

51. But also, help people who have never helped you, and can’t.

52. When you know that pain is temporary, it affects all of your decisions.

53. Get a tattoo. Don’t worry about regret.

54. Commit to things, regularly, that are far beyond your ability.

55. Meet with friends more often than you think you have to.

56. Learn to meditate. Go on a retreat if you have to.

57. Your stories are both more and less interesting than you think.

58. Learn to really listen.

59. Walk more.

60. Ugly is just a step on the way to beautiful.

61. Get to know your neighbours.

62. Don’t take anything personally, ever.

63. Consider avoiding school. Go to lots of conferences instead.

64. As soon as you can, buy some art.

65. Apologize more than you need to.

66. Find out if there will be food there.

67. A good haircut changes everything.

68. Read Man’s Search For Meaning.

69. Say no to projects you don’t care about.

70. Do things that are uncool. Later on, they usually end up becoming cool anyway.

71. Find your voice.

72. Have some manners.

73. Learn to play chess, go, and bridge. They’ll keep you from going senile.

74. Learn about the Tetrapharmakos.

75. Find ways to cheat the system– just don’t cheat people.

76. Be like Jesus, not like his followers. (This applies to all of them.)

77. At least once, date someone that’s out of your league.

78. Examine your jealousy. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.

79. Good connections are about people, not social networks.

80. Address small problems. They will become big problems.

81. Dress like a cooler version of yourself.

82. Yes, there is such a thing as bad press.

83. Add “adventurer” to your Twitter bio. Then, become one.

84. If the internet is the best thing in your life, you have a serious problem.

85. Give away your best work for free.

86. Find mentors. Just don’t call them that.

87. Actually write on your blog. Nobody cares if it’s hard.

88. Download Freedom. Use it for an hour every day.

89. Join a gym. Lift the heaviest you can. (This applies to girls too.)

90. Do some freewriting. It helps you think things through.

91. When you’re having supper with rich people, pick up the cheque.

92. Learn how to speak in public.

93. If you see someone who needs help, stop asking yourself if they need help. Instead, just help.

94. Bring a bottle of wine.

95. The best conversations are had side by side, not one in front of the other.

96. Protect your hearing. Trust me.

97. Do what’s most important first thing in the morning, before you check email.

98. Everyone feels like they’re not good enough. It’s not just you.

99. Courage is a learned skill.

100. Go to Iceland. It’s worth it.

* Filed by Julien at 9:00 am under tips
* 230 Comments

August 25th, 2011

Guts

My entire life– my whole existence–this is probably the thing I have been searching for.

Guts are composed of two parts: GUTS and GUT. Both are equally important to the whole.

GUT is where you should start. Gut requires you to have instinct, and listen to it. When you need to know what to do, gut should respond with an appropriate direction– even if you don’t understand why. More often than not, it should be right.

GUTS is the second part of the equation. When you have guts, you can do what is necessary. You can do what GUT tells you to do. Without guts, you can’t go where you need to go, no matter how drawn to it you are.

So both parts, GUTS and GUT, are necessary. But how do you get them?

I believe it comes down to environmental pressure. So the question is not “why was I not born with a good instinct” (GUT) or “a huge set of balls” (GUTS), but rather, “how can I set up my environment so these things develop naturally?”

For some people this happened as children. For others, not so much– it needs to be groomed into you, and nobody else will do it for you, because nobody else really cares that much whether you have them.

I just finished a piece of work (stay tuned) that tries to address the problem of GUTS. But I suspect I have only just begun to truly understand it. Then, GUT, its twin, needs to be figured out as well.

A guy could spend his whole life on these things, if he were so inclined. Once you develop these two, I suspect anyone with even an average level of intelligence could do amazing things.

* Filed by Julien at 10:46 am under random, tips

April 25th, 2011

The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck

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Ok, I have a confession to make.

I have spent almost my whole life– 31 years–  caring far too much about offending people, worrying if I’m cool enough for them, or asking myself if they are judging me.

I can’t take it anymore. It’s stupid, and it’s not good for my well being. It has made me a punching bag–  a flighty, nervous wuss. But worse than that, it has made me someone who doesn’t take a stand for anything. It has made me someone who stood in the middle, far too often, and not where I cared to stand, for fear of alienating others. No more. Not today.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, is different.

We’re going to talk about the cure. We’re going to talk about what’s necessary. We’re going to talk about the truth.

Do you wonder if someone is talking shit about you? Whether your friends will approve? Have you become conflict-avoidant? Spineless?

Well, it’s time you started not giving a fuck.

FACT NUMBER 1. People are judging you right now.

Yes, it’s really happening right at this moment. Some people don’t like you, and guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. No amount of coercion, toadying, or pandering to their interests will help. In fact, the opposite is often true; the more you stand for something, the more they respect you, whether it’s grudgingly or not.

What people truly respect is when you draw the line and say “you will go no further.” They may not like this behaviour, but so what? These are people don’t like you anyway, why should you attempt to please people who don’t care for you in the first place?

Right. Then, there’s Internet trolls. That’s a whole other thing.

Regular people are fine– you don’t actually hear it when they’re talking behind your back. But on the web, you do see it, which changes the dynamic drastically. They have an impact because they know you have your vanity searches, etc. But the real problem with Internet haters is that they confirm your paranoid delusion that everyone out there secretly hates you.

Thankfully, that’s not actually true. So the first noble truth is that most people don’t even care that you’re alive. Embrace this, my friends, for it is true freedom. The world is vast and you are small, and therefore you may do as you wish and cast your thoughts of those who dislike it to the side.

FACT NUMBER 2. You don’t need everyone to like you.

This stuff is crazy, I know, but it’s cool, you’ll get used to it. Here’s the next thing: not only do most people not know that you exist, and some are judging you, but it totally does not matter even if they are.

How liberating this is may not even hit you yet, but it will. Check this out: when people don’t like you, nothing actually happens. The world does not end. You don’t feel them breathing down your neck. In fact, the more you ignore them and just go about your business, the better off you are.

You know when they say “the best revenge is a life well lived”? Well, this is true, but it isn’t the whole truth. A life well lived is great, yes, but it cannot happen while you are sweating about who your detractors are and what they think. What you have to do, what you have no choice but to do, is accept it and move on.

So not giving a fuck is actually a necessary precedent to create a good life for yourself. It can’t happen without it. That’s why you have to begin today.

FACT NUMBER 3. It’s your people that matter.

Ok, so you’ve adjusted to the fact that most people in the world are barely aware of your existence, and you’re also conscious of the fact that those who don’t like you are in the obscenely small minority and don’t actually matter. Awesome. Next you need to realize that the people who do care about you, and no one else, are those you need to focus on.

Relationships are weird. Once we’re in one (with family, a spouse, whatever), we promptly begin to take the other person for granted and move on to impressing strangers instead– say, our boss. Then, once we’ve impressed our boss, we start taking him for granted too, and so on, in an endless cycle of apathy. It’s like we always prefer to impress and charm the new than to work on what we already have.

But these people– your champions– they understand your quest or your cause. They make you feel good when you’re around them, make you laugh or make you feel like you can just be yourself. They make you feel relaxed or at ease. You’ve shared things with them. They’re important. Focus on them instead.

FACT NUMBER 4. Those who don’t give a fuck change the world. The rest do not.

So I’m reading this horrible book right now by Stephen King called the Long Walk. It’s a contest where people walk without sleeping or resting, and if they do stop, they are killed. (That’s actually every Stephen King book– “there’s a clown, but it kills!” “There’s a car, but it kills!” etc.)

I suspect this book is a metaphor for war, but it also captures perseverance very well. What it takes to move past anything is to simply realize that your obstacle is unimportant, and that it can be dismissed. This is true whether you’re running a marathon or trying to get to Mars.

If you dismiss the things that do not matter; if you remove those things from your mind and focus on what must be done; if you understand that your time is limited and decide to work now; only then will you be able to get to the finish line. Otherwise, you will be dissuaded into living a life you aren’t interested in.

Side note: You need to handle failure and obscurity better. You may be in a tough place right now where you feel lonely or like a loser. No worries, we’ve all been there. But it’s time for you to realize how common these things are, and that they’re experienced by even the most successful and happiest people in the world. Those people get past them, and you will too.

The eye is watching

You want to know something? This actually has nothing to do with anyone else. It has everything to do with you.

I had a discussion with Jonathan Fields the other week that was about the use of swearing (and “true voice”) on blogs. I watched him on a Skype video as we did this, and I could actually pinpoint the moment where he was about to say “fuck” but almost stopped himself. It was amazing. So I called him out on it. “You felt it just now, didn’t you?”

Everyone has an internetal eye. It always watching. It has been slowly constructed by society at large and by your friends and family, and it checks you for unacceptable behaviour. If you have had it around for long enough, you actually start to believe that the eye is you, and that you’re “being reasonable” or some other rationalization.

But the eye isn’t you at all. It is a prison, and you have justified its existence by obeying it. It’s strong because you let it be strong.

But the secret, the part that’s amazing, is that it can’t do anything to stop you, even if it wanted to. It’s an eye. It can only watch. The rest of you is free to act as you wish.

How to get back your self-respect in five easy steps

STEP 1. Do things that you consider embarrassing.

My girlfriend and I have been breaking in Vibram Fivefingers in preparation for the massive walk we are doing. Have you ever seen these shoes? They’re amazing for you knees and give you no blisters, but they are the ugliest thing imaginable. Yesterday, I wore them with a sweet bowtie I put on for Easter. I looked like a crazy person.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am deeply aware and can become quite upset by people’s judgment– I think a lot of people are, but don’t admit it. But as I walked by people in my techno-clown outfit, not a single person looked at me. Nobody cared, and it slowly dawned on me that even if people did look at me weird, they just walked by. Later, they would forget about me entirely.

You must try this. Find your internal filters and break them, one at a time. Notice how society, like an ocean, smoothes over the waves you make, until what you do gets eliminated, or becomes the status quo. Work with this.

STEP 2. Accept, or deal with, awkwardness.

It’s widely known that interviewers get their best material by being quiet and allowing silence to force words out of a politician or celebrity.

You may be uncomfortable with silence. I know I still am. But I have been working on it and have to say that it is a much more serene state to be in than trying to cover it up with random babbling just to fill up the air. This is one type of awkwardness, a kind that you should feel comfortable about and learn to live with.

Another kind of social awkwardness is this in-between space where you might have done something wrong or been wronged, but don’t say anything. I’ve been given a few harsh lessons in my time and come away realizing that the freedom that comes from talking about an uncomfortable truth is better than the comfort of avoiding that talk altogether.

Someone told me recently that the Clintons’ method for earning respect in politics is this: if someone pushes you, push back twice as hard. This is much better than awkwardness. It’s clear, it’s not passive aggressive, and you know where you stand. Start doing this immediately.

STEP 3. Refuse boundaries.

The video above was taken in 1970, right when the Front de Libération du Québec had killed Premier Pierre Laporte and put his body in the trunk of a car. Trudeau’s “Just watch me” is one of the most famous phrases in Canadian political history. The journalists are trying to trap him into choosing on-camera between a safety/police-state and civil liberties/freedom but Trudeau refuses their boxes.

The Liberal Party of Canada no longer has any balls, but for us, there’s still hope. Walk where you want to walk. Don’t accept false choices. Don’t let people dictate how you should live your life. Definitely don’t listen to the eye.

STEP 4. Tell the truth.

You don’t need to be an asshole, but the world does not need another conflict-avoidant, evasive person. No one wants another individual who steps in line with everyone else. The status quo is doing fine without you, so it’s up to you to call bullshit if you see it.

Don’t mind-read either. Telling the truth means seeing the truth, not adding your own layer of sugar coating or suspected emotion on top of it.

STEP 5. Begin your new life.

This step can’t happen without the others, but once you’ve gotten here, you can safely begin to explore a whole new world– one where anything you do is fine as long as it isn’t seriously hurting anyone else. Wanna explore old abandoned buildings? No problem, as long as you’re ready to live with the consequences. Feel like hanging from hooks or get whipped by a dominatrix? Go ahead, but be safe about it.

Once you begin on this path, you start to discover that practically everyone is capable of understanding the weird things that you do. In fact, it makes you interesting and worth paying attention to, further feeding into your plans of world domination, should you have any.

But none of this fun can happen without you recognizing, and walking past, the eye. Doing this is a powerful act of control which builds momentum and makes you strong.

Take back your self respect. Do it today– try it right now. Wear something ugly. Do something stupid. Tell someone the truth.

It doesn’t fucking matter.

* Filed by Julien at 3:04 pm under guide, tips
* 797 Comments

January 24th, 2011

The Short and Sweet Guide to Being Fucking Awesome

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People will tell you that there are all kinds of yardsticks to measure progress.

What they don’t say is that most of them are worthless.

Money, career, fame… whatever. That’s all fine and good, but the bottom line is that there is one thing– just one– that really matters.

Being fucking awesome.

You can be broke and be awesome. You can be in a wheelchair and be awesome. You can be homeless and be awesome. You can even be dead and be awesome.

You want a purpose to your life? I got one for ya.

From this day forth, your purpose is to be the most fucking awesome person you can imagine being.

Quick story: in my early 20s I used to hang out with piercers and tattoo artists a lot. It was the 90s, and a bunch of us were getting crazy parts of their bodies pierced.

One day I walked up to my piercer friend, Azl, who was pretty much covered with tattoos. Incidentally, he’s now an amazing poker player with a huge backpiece of a king of diamonds (with an axe in his head). Epic.

Anyway, I walk up to him one day in the studio and I ask: “What is it like to look down at your arms and know that all these tattoos are yours– that this is what your arms look like?”

Pausing for a moment for dramatic effect, he answered: “Julien, It is fucking awesome,” and smiled widely.

That’s pretty much it right there.

What kind of friends do you want to have?

What kind of job do you want?

What kind of life do you want to have?

The answer to all of these is simple: you want friends, work, and everything else to be awesome. The more your life is awesome, the better everything is, and the happier you are, whoo!

Seriously, being awesome should be a fucking religion.

There are three– count ‘em, three– standards for awesome. Here they are, in no particular order of bigness.

1. Yourself

I was thinking about this yesterday while I was taking a break from exploring this town in Malaysia where I am right now. I sat down and “counted my blessings” or whatever. Here’s some of what I came up with.

If you put this in the context of my 24 year old self, who worked in a call centre, finished at 2am and walked home in the snow, was pretty heavily in debt, and ate nothing but bread and hummus (not kidding), then you realize that pretty much anyone can become more awesome. This means you.

But wait, there’s more! What’s great about the world of awesome is that it’s totally subjective. You don’t have to care about the ways I do it, and I don’t have to like yours. The main judge is yourself, and whether you like yourself more than you did yesterday or last year.

If you do, congratulations! You are becoming, or already are, awesome. But here’s the clincher.

This is only true if you are honest with yourself.

There are a lot of people (people in public relations, or something) who claim that maybe their job is awesome. Or maybe guys that make a lot of money and think that they can be in on this love-fest too. Wrong.

Doing something prestigious does not equal being awesome. In other words, awesome does not look the same close-up as it does from far away. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Your friends/peers

Who are the people that you care about, and that you work with? For me, that’s people like my family, my close friends, my girlfriend, and people I respect in this industry we call the internet.

People who know you are a great judge of whether or not you are awesome, and also, how to become more awesome. But again, only the people who are willing to tell you the truth.

Yesterday, for example, I got a Facebook message from my friend Jason telling me that Snooki, of Jersey Shore fame, is now a New York Times bestselling author. The kind of person that does this is the kind of person you should be counting on; ie, people that keep you grounded.

So one of the litmus tests for whether you are awesome is the people around you who don’t believe the hype. Hey, speaking of hype, enter your email below. Thanks.

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Your peers, btw, can see things you definitely can’t, or won’t. You’re too used to yourself– this is why you think you’re handsome and that your beer belly “doesn’t look that bad.” (Neither of which have anything to do with being awesome, but you get my point.) Other people will always see you better than you can see yourself.

Do you have people around you that you can count on? Then I suggest you go ask them. Find the most awesome people you know and ask them how.

Optionally, ask Twitter. Seriously. A first impression is often just as good as someone who’s known you your whole life (speaking of which, don’t ask your mom).

If you speak to a bunch of people, and they all think you’re great, super! You might be awesome. But, then again, it’s possible that you actually have another problem. See below.

3. Your world

Ok, so first of all, your world is as big as you want it to be, so it’s not important what you choose here, with one condition.

If you are already awesome to everyone in your world, then your world needs to get bigger.

You do this by getting out of the little pond and doing new things, or having a positive influence on people outside of your sphere. You ever notice how people who volunteer (if they’re not self-righteous) tend to be fucking awesome?

I’m pretty sure there’s actually a relationship between how many people you help outside of your sphere and how awesome people inside your sphere think you are. Makes sense right?

My friend Nicole, for example, just told me about a friend of hers who helps children get out of the sex industry in Thailand. How awesome is that. And here’s what’s particularly cool about it: if you wanted, you could be them.

Seriously, it’s that easy. You can just decide to become more awesome, whichever way you want, and then look it up on the internet to figure out how. The knowledge automagically makes your world bigger, which makes you more awesome. Then you just go ahead and do that thing, which is easy because you just figured out how. Whoo!

Anyway, what was my point with this? Oh yes. Being awesome is now your new religion. Welcome to the Cult of Awesome. It’s very exclusive, but there are lots of perks.

Your job is now to look out to the wide world, and take a look at what impresses you, at what you find absolutely great, and then find ways to become more like that.

We need more awesome people in this world, and I would like you to be one of them.

Thank you for reading. Please subscribe below.

* Filed by Julien at 7:35 am under direction, humour, taking action, tips
* 158 Comments

December 7th, 2010

How to triple your Twitter traffic in 7 days

This is an actual traffic graph for my website last week.

Traffic in general increased by 439%. Traffic from Twitter increased by 10 times. I know it sounds like a line straight out of Cash4Gold, but it’s true. I used no special tricks. I did not pull any favours. I did the same amount of work. I actually posted less. All I actually did differently was correct a simple mistake I habitually made without thinking about it. This is a mistake you probably make too, and it’s very simple to fix.

Like me, you probably have a small-to-medium sized blog, with readers from just a few visits a day to several thousand. Like me, you think you’re doing your best, and you aren’t entirely clear on how to improve. Also like me, you feel that “your time will come” or something, and that slow and steady wins the race. Yet another part of you wishes you had a bigger audience right now.

Well, what if you could get both?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month studying how good bloggers get traffic to their sites and keep it there. Many of these people, I know personally, but never asked them for advice, and didn’t do what they did.

I went at it my own way. That was stubborn and stupid.

The result was a smaller, less responsive audience… an audience I care about a lot, actually, but with a growth curve that wasn’t satisfying for the work I was putting in. Like you, I work hard on the posts I put out and make sure they’re very interesting, and that’s very satisfying.

But the posts were not working for me. They were throwaways– not investments. They weren’t delivering what I needed once they were out in the wild. To do that, they needed more.

So, here it is. Here is the problem I solved and, along with it, the results.

Stop writing 7/10 posts

Be honest with yourself. Like me, most of your posts are probably pretty boring. The content itself may be fine (I’m very proud of mine), but the way in which they’re delivered is probably kind of dull. Some of my favourite posts on this blog have great content. But they need better delivery.

Examples include All Belief is Religion, which I love but was Facebook liked by no one, and The Privatization of Culture and Illusion of Depth, which is so obscure that it’s a miracle it even got any views at all (mostly from existing subscribers, I’m guessing).

If you’re anything like me, you write your posts, and your titles, with yourself as audience. This results in a majority of posts which rank 6, 7, or 8/10 with the outside world.

Last week, if I didn’t have a 10/10 post, I didn’t publish at all. This resulted in three posts instead of 5-7, and many more subscribers than I’ve gotten in previous weeks combined.

The real breakthrough

Here’s the main thing, though– the real transformation. When I stopped accepting 7/10 posts, I also stopped having 7/10 ideas. I started having 10/10 ideas, and suddenly I started recognizing them, and I suddenly had three in the span of one week.

Much of the difference has to do with titles, as well as opening statements. This post from last week started as You Are Nowhere Near the Edge before I realized I could do better. As a result, it became the most liked, tweeted, and commented-on post in the history of my site. But the content was the same.

But that post wasn’t alone– the whole week was better. I was able to produce writing that will work for me longer than any posts I’ve written in probably the last year. I can only imagine if I’d written posts like this one with this principle in mind.

This realization is frustrating, because it feels like a lot of time and effort was wasted. Fine, but this means you already have a bunch of ideas you can call upon and improve– in my case, this means years of backlog you can work with.

This week helped define what I wanted to be to my audience, and it helped me understand what I wanted this blog to be about. It helped me see what people on Twitter respond to. I had a kind of realization, one in which the content really does market itself, and if it doesn’t, it’s because the delivery is simply not strong enough.

You know this already

What’s nuts about this is that I’m telling you stuff you already know. I knew all of these things going in too. I wrote a bestselling book about the social web, for God’s sake. I would never advise a client to write posts like I did– instead, I would advise them to write things like 23 Snacks For All-Night Gaming, which hit the top of Digg pretty much as soon as it was published, and built audience and links very easily, because that’s what it was designed to do.

But I wouldn’t take my own advice. Why? Because I thought I knew better. And yet, I can look at tons of “social media experts” or whatever and point to all this content that simply does not cut it. But they don’t know how to fix it. They don’t know it’s a mistake because it’s inside their own gates.

You have to push how edgy your content is, and how sticky it is. Add handles, make it more blunt, or appeal more specifically to an audience. Push it closer to the edge. If you do this, it will get retweeted, and linked to, more. Your content deserves this.

At the beginning of this article, I stated that you could triple your traffic from Twitter. Using the stuff stated above, I actually multipled it by 10. So I’m being conservative with this headline, instead of hyperbolic. But think about it this way: Triple the traffic means triple the chance for a subscriber, and triple the chance for a comment. It means triple the chance for a tweet, too. Finally, it means triple your chance to have an impact on the people that need it.

At some point, it may not be necessary, and you can be like Seth Godin and publish whatever you like. Until then, follow this advice. If you feel that this is “below you,” and that you’re better than needing to resort to “cheap tricks,” I suggest you read about the archetypes of the fool and the trickster. Realize that the only way to get speak the truth to power (tell people what they really need to hear) is first by getting them to listen. It’s all fine and good if you want to sit in your corner, but I’d prefer to have a wide reach. I imagine you do too.

So try it. And good luck. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment, and please tweet this out if you feel it’s useful. Thanks. :)

* Filed by Julien at 10:00 am under social media, tips
* 49 Comments

October 29th, 2010

Do Not Apologize

You have no choice but to be yourself– so you can do it reluctantly, or proudly.

Either apologize as you do it, or do it with all your heart and every faith in yourself you can muster. That’s the choice.

In learning to do this, you might transition from being awkward and uncomfortable to strong and certain. That’s natural. Take your time, and don’t expect to be perfect.

Small successes will lead to small confidence, which will lead to bigger successes. And so on.

No matter how you feel today, keep on going. You’ll get there.

* Filed by Julien at 11:15 am under challenge, direction, tips
* 11 Comments

May 31st, 2010

Protip: Your inactive blog makes you irrelevant

If you aren’t current, you may as well not exist.

This is my conclusion after reading Sylvain Carle recent post (in French, sorry) that tells me who inspires him in Montreal, the city I call my home. The gist is the following:

Carle lists 21 people that inspire him, and I like him a lot, so I want to find out more about the people I don’t know on his list. I open a bunch of tabs, as you probably would, to look at what these guys are up to. Here’s what I find:

The rest were company pages or landing pages with no content or easy entry point.

If you read this and you were on Sylvain’s list, which are you?

What excuse do you have for only having a Twitter account? Why has your content not been updated, in some cases, since 2009 or earlier**? The only thing this tells me is that you’re inactive and not current and that I don’t need to pay attention to you.

Each one of these people had a chance to reach a few more people by being cited as “having influenced” Carle. A few lived up to the promise. Many did not.

Which kind are you?

** Your “sorry I haven’t posted in a while” update doesn’t count, sorry!

* Filed by Julien at 11:49 am under blogging, tips, writing
* 15 Comments

May 15th, 2010

How To Price Your Services

What is your price point?

We used to have very few options: work a job, start a company, be unemployed. Now there are a million options in between, especially on the web. Choosing where to price yourself will show people what you’re worth.

I just bought Ev Bogue‘s The Art of Being Minimalist for $17. By choosing that price, he shows me his work has value, but he could’ve priced it at twice that and I probably would’ve still bought it with no regrets. But would he sell as many copies? Would he have to work harder? Everyone needs to decide this for themselves.

I think of all of these value points as being a kind of filter. If you want to reach more people, you may want to bring the price down, but that will impact how seriously they treat your work. The barrier to entry (including price) impacts the value of your platform and show people how to treat you.

I learned this important lesson from a friend of mine a long time ago: You show people how to treat you by where you draw the line. If you let people walk all over you, they start to believe it’s ok to do that. If you show people high value and demand a high price, people will believe in that, too.

You decide what you’re worth. Once you believe it, others will too. It’s circular.

Anyway, this blog is free. That might give people the impression that it’s just like any other blog, and that it’s replaceable. That’s one reason to write a NYT bestselling book– to show your value.

But I suspect that many of you actually like this blog a lot. I feel this because I see your comments, but also because I’m really picky, and I’m very proud of the work that I do here. This thing holds some of my best work, stuff I’m very proud of.

So if you like what I do, please tweet it out, link to me, spread the word, or invite me out to speak.  I enjoy communicating my ideas and improving someone’s life a little every day. It’s a lot of fun, and I think I’m pretty good at it.

My price is low but the value, for me at least, is immeasurable. Let’s keep at this. We’re going to a good place.

* Filed by Julien at 7:16 pm under business, guide, tips
* 13 Comments