What It Takes to Live Your Dream

5,000 Pages. 5 Years.

That’s how long it took before I made my first commercial sale as a writer. Five years of working hard with no results to show for it.

That’s five years, spent trying to squeeze by on as little income as possible, trying desperately to make more time for writing. Five years of worry and self doubt, and mediocre work everywhere else.

The Magical 5,000 Pages

From nowhere, after 5,000 pages things started clicking.

I make my first commercial sale; I started a new blog and grow from zero to 10,000 uniques in a month; I have momentum, I have begun to break the hump of the learning curve. Five years later, almost exactly.

I’m not saying this to brag, I just wish I’d known from the beginning that my success was inevitable. I wish somebody had let me know:

“As soon as you finish 5,000 pages, you will have paid your dues. After 5,000 pages, you will be approaching competency, but you will always be sharpening your sword.”

I would have written twenty pages a day, and stopped sucking a lot earlier.

You Can’t Afford to Wait to Follow Your Dreams

I always thought it was a bit of a bullshit line, when people said “follow your dreams”. But the truth of the matter is, you’d damn well better get started on them today.

When I was working doing freelance web development, I kept being haunted by the idea that I’d be stuck doing what I really didn’t want to be doing at all. And it made me an ineffective freelancer. The quote kept going on in my head, over and over:

“If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will destroy you.”

So I’d stay up late, and I’d write every night for at least an hour. Just to keep myself from being haunted. To let myself know that I was putting in the effort, and that was as much as I could do, until writing began to pay my bills.

Five years later, the trickle started.

You Must Be Willing to Wait and Work

Becoming adept at your dream field, and experiencing Flow should be your top priorities. We know from research that by becoming an expert at something you love is practically a formula for a happy life.

The problem is, those miserable five years you’ve got to put in work before you can see any results outside of yourself. This is why passion is necessary.

Nothing motivates me more than helping people become more successful. I love to see my friends and family become better and more powerful people in the world. I love the power of stories to change lives, and I love modeling worlds.

Discover Your Passion

Passions that last inevitably involve service to other people. Our immediate realities are direct feedback loops to the quality of life we put out to other people. So the only way to experience a better reality is to give a better reality to someone else.

Realistically, what makes you happiest? How can you infect that happiness into people?

A lot of people have no clue what drives them. No idea where to begin. For them, I suggest time off. Save some money and travel. Figure out what is unique about the way you experience and react to the world. Then get to work, ASAP.

And Ignore the Gatekeepers

In any field, especially the glamorous ones, there will be gatekeepers. The people who seem to have the ability to let “the chosen ones” become relevant in their fields. For writers, these are the Editors, the Professors, the Critics.

These people are all irrelevant. They have literally, zero power over your results. Your results will be determined by the quality of your work alone. No matter what, if you focus on the having the best work, you will have a place at the top.

So don’t pay buckets of money for their approval. Don’t pay for gurus to bless you with their knowledge and strategy. Don’t pay for technology that promises to solve your problems. There is only ever one person who can do the work.

And that is you.

Think Like a Capitalist First, a Business Owner Second

Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.

– Warren Buffet

What matters most in your business?

That your product delivers more results than it cost.

Your market must get much more out of your product than what they’ve paid for. Warren Buffet and his fellow value investors call this spread between a purchase price and intrinsic value delivered a “margin of safety”.

For them, an investment is worthwhile with a margin of safety above 90%.

Consider 37signals, and Basecamp. For the price of $24 a month, business owners are getting access to tools to impress and land more clients. This means purchasing Basecamp pays for itself quickly, and becomes an asset in the hands of its users.

But Basecamp improves its “margin of safety” for potential clients by letting them try their product free. If the end user ends up getting more value than $24 out of their month’s usage, they continue paying.

Look at any successful company and you’ll see the same few formulas for business success. Capitalists invest an initial sum of money in product creation, and then minimize the costs for delivering the value to as many people as possible.

Example: The iPhone has millions of dollars of research and development built into it, and we all get a piece of that pie for the steal of $200.

Smart Investing Means Searching for Informational Imbalances

For Warren Buffet, his initial investment criteria was a “margin of safety” of 66%. This type of investing meant he’d look for companies trading at a market value of a third of their actual liquidation price.

To find such steals, he leveraged informational analysis harder than anyone else. He looked at the markets, searching for pieces of information other people has glossed over. Such steals are rare, and so most of his investment time was spent searching.

Later, he came to change his mind, as he acquired vast resources of capital. Instead, his motto became:

It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

In other words, as you get bigger, you can focus on value delivered for investments over haggling for price.

Maximize Investments in Your Business

This is where your informational leverage comes into play. In what areas, realistically, are you weakest? A true investment means getting big results at a fraction of the price.

Throwing money at a PPC campaign sending visitors to your purchase page is not an investment.

Creating goodwill within a community (your target market) is.

We’re past the point now where we can call people prospects. Things are shifting quickly, and people’s BS meters have become very attuned to marketer’s tricks.

Investing in solving your customer’s problems first and build beneficial relationships daily. By investing in positive results for your market, you’re minimizing capital risk, and maximizing potential for geometric growth. A PPC campaign only scales as much as your budget and expenses allow. An active campaign to deliver results freely has the potential for a geometric growth curve (due to social media, etc.) like we’d love to see instead.

As a bonus, we don’t have to act like our customers are morons. No more psychological manipulation or cheesy sales letters.

Beneficial Relationships are what make businesses work.

Instead of focusing on psychological tricks to get people to buy, focus on serving your prospect’s every need. This is the model that will build success.

Invest in delivering more value for cheaper to your customers.