When I was a little boy, just six years old in 1st grade, I somehow ended up with a book of Peanuts comic strips.
One day we had a reading period right before morning recess. I became so engrossed in the book that three minutes after the bell went – and all the other kids went outside – I was still sitting there reading about Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the gang.
“Craig, don’t you want to go for recess?” asked Mrs. Blair, my Mary Poppins-esque teacher.
I shook my head – not to say no, but to come out of the trance that Charles Schultz and his storytelling had put me in.
This was the start of a lifetime love affair with books.
Today you’ll still find me missing subway stops in Toronto because I’m glued to the pages of my latest book. Just last week I stayed up well past my bedtime eating snacks and reading two hundred pages of Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – my favorite book this year.
Of course, I’m not just a consumer of content. I’m a creator.
“How do you do it?” my friends began asking me in 2006 when I was writing daily emails for fitness business along with a new workout program every month and posting multiple videos per week to this new fad website called “YouTube”.
You’re a creativity machine, they said.
I was. And I am.
And today I’ll reveal everything you need to become the next Craig Ballantyne, Charles Schultz, Stephen King or Maya Angelou.
Creativity is a learnable skill and comes with its own instruction manual.
Just follow these steps…
#1: Become a “Content Expert”
I recently went to one of Grant Cardone’s sales bootcamps. And while I was there, he did something impressive…
At age 62 he took the stage at 9:30am with no slides and spoke straight through to 1:30pm without a single break – or event a sip of water…
He dropped lesson after lesson about sales and marketing and looked like he could have kept on going for another four hours (which he did after a lunch break for the audience that was far more fatigued than him).
How did Cardone keep the audience captivated so long?
The answer is simple.
Cardone is a “content expert.” He’s done over 20,000 presentations in his career. He has hundreds (if not thousands) of stories from which he can draw on to deliver his lessons. He doesn’t need slides to share his secrets because he’s one of the top experts in his field.
And this brings us to the first key to creativity:
To be more prolific, develop your expertise.
If you look at the most creative individuals in any field, you’ll notice that they all have a high degree of expertise in their industry.
They know the topic as well as – or better than – every other expert, and have no problem creatively illustrating important points and lessons because they have a wealth of experience from which they can draw.
If you want to become more creative, you must deepen your expertise.
Read the essential books in your field. Interview other experts. Attend masterminds and listen to stories of other people’s expertise. Set your ego aside and learn.
Accept that becoming more creative is part of the process of mastery.
It won’t happen overnight. But little by little, as you expand your knowledge and experience and become a master in your field, you will become more creative.
#2: Build an Identity as an “Expert Generalist”
My good friend and coaching client Jason Capital is one of the most well read young men I know.
On a weekly basis, you’ll find him diving into books about quantum mechanics, history, politics, religion, and philosophy.
His reason for investing so much of his time into seemingly “pointless” topics (he’s an entrepreneur, not a professor after all) is simple.
He knows that the more diverse your “intellectual well”, the more creative you can be.
If you ever watch any of Jason’s videos or speeches, it’s easy to see how his “expert generalism” has helped him build an 8-figure business at the age of 29.
He’s able to quote American icons like Rockefeller, Ford, and Carnegie, as well as Alexander the Great, and deliver timeless principles of success through stories about these historical figures, all while connecting them with pop culture references so that his audience can connect the dots – and more importantly, take action on his advice.
To be more creative, you need to be like Jason.
Creativity doesn’t happen by reading the same business books over and over and over again.
It happens by exposing yourself to new (and even uncomfortable) ideas and beliefs.
If you want new results, you must develop new behaviors.
By becoming well read in a wide variety of topics, you’ll learn how to connect seemingly disparate ideas to make a point in a new and unique way. You’ll learn to see trends and patterns that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. And you’ll be able to create completely new ways of looking at old problems.
This week, I challenge you to step out of your intellectual comfort zone.
Spend a few hours reading books that have nothing to do with your specific industry.
For example, in the last year I’ve read several books outside my principal interest, such as:
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
7 Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
Not only did I learn something interesting each time, these books also showed me new ways of explaining old chestnuts of wisdom to my clients.
Likewise, you can watch documentaries that are unrelated to your product or service.
Watch a few interesting Ted Talks like my mentor Mark Ford does every month.
Heck, spend an hour brushing up on pop culture so that you can understand the “Zeitgeist” of modern times and more eloquently speak to what’s happening in the world right now.
The more you diversify the content you consume, the more creative you can be.
#3: Leverage the “Back in Black” Principle with the 5×5 Content Grid
I want you to imagine something…
Imagine that you’re a HUGE fan of the rock band AC/DC and, after years of wanting to attend a show – but never actually going – you finally get tickets to one of their last concerts.
The big day comes and you are so excited. But when you get to the concert, something weird happens…
The band doesn’t play any of their most popular songs.
Instead of Back in Black, Thunderstruck, and Highway to Hell, you spend two hours listening to terrible b-sides that you’ve never heard before.
You’d be pretty disappointed, right?
Now here’s the thing…
Your content works the exact same way.
Most people think that they need to come up with new and original ideas every single day and create new systems and formulas every other week.
But in reality, this isn’t just unnecessary, it’s counter productive.
Most people don’t want to hear to spouting out crazy new theories and formulas every other week. Instead, they want to hear your most popular thoughts and ideas shared in new ways.
To accomplish this, you’re going to use something I call my 5×5 content grid. And it goes like this…
Pull out a piece of paper and write down the five most important lessons or ideas you want to share with your audience.
Then, next to each idea, write down five unique ways that you could teach that material to someone who had never heard it.
For example, you might use the angle of a case study, personal story, facts and statistics, debunking myths, or a celebrity example.
Once you’ve filled out this sheet (which shouldn’t take you more than an hour), you will have more than a month’s worth of unique content that will resonate with your audience and have a greater impact.
Again, creativity isn’t about finding new ideas. It’s about finding new ways to share timeless ideas.
If you want to learn more about this grid, and how you can use it to grow your business, be sure to check out my guide to Instagram where I dive into the topic in greater depth.
#4: Create Powerful “Pre Game” Rituals
My friend John Carlton, a legendary copywriter, and creator of the “1-Legged Golfer” letter, has a “weird” ritual he follows before he sits down to work.
Every day, he stands next to his desk wearing the same outfit–sweatpants and a tee shirt–and walks around his desk once.
This simple ritual serves as a trigger to his brain that it’s time to turn on “creative mode.”
My teenage bedtime storyteller, Stephen King, sits down at 9 am every morning at the same desk, drinking tea from the same mug, with his papers arranged in the same way and then writes until 1 pm. It’s at the same old desk in the same old attic that he wrote the books (It, The Stand, Pet Sematary) that kept me up past my bedtime in high school.
King explains, “The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”
I have my own (slightly less weird) ritual that I follow before sitting down to write any of my articles, books, or newsletters.
I wake up, immediately drink 1.5 liters of water, take Daisy for a short walk, come inside, listen to the same super secret work song (Put a Ring On It by Beyonce) and sit down to write.
Just kidding about the Beyonce
The simple triggers of drinking water, walking outside, and listening to my “work song” helps me immediately tap into a creative and productive state so that I can show up to my “magic time” fully charged.
If you look at the great creatives from history, they all understood the power of ritual.
They all created specific and easily replicable “pre work” routines to help them get into flow states and be more creative.
To max out your creativity you must do the same.
This week, I want you to find a simple routine that you will use to “trigger” your magic time (more on that in my next point) and get into flow.
Whether it’s pouring a cup of coffee into a specific mug, listening to a certain song, or walking around your desk in a worn out pair of joggers, pick something and stick to it for 30 days.
You’ll be surprised by the results.
#5: Delve into Magic Time and Eliminate Distractions
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Your magic time is the time of the day where you can accomplish 2-3X more than you normally can. It’s the time of day where you are more focused, productive, and creative than any other time.
For most people, this time is first thing in the morning, immediately after waking up.
And the key to prolific creativity is to first identify your magic time–using the time journal exercise I talk about in this article–and then protect it with your life.
Your magic time is a time that should be reserved exclusively for your deepest, most important, and most creative work.
Use it to write your book, to build your business, to paint that masterpiece, or create that product.
Meetings, email, podcasts, and social media can all wait.
I’ve discussed the topic of “magic time” in great lengths in many of my other posts, like this one.
So if you aren’t familiar with this concept, review that for a deeper understanding of it, then come back to the rest of this article.
When used properly, magic time is the force multiplier of success. It will allow you to compress a month’s worth of productivity and creativity into a single week. It will allow you to move towards your biggest goals faster and easier than anyone else.
And it will allow you to start every day with a massive personal win.
#6: Have an Anthology of Analogies
If you look at some of the most creative people in the world–at least those outside the fields of science–you’ll notice something interesting that I’ve been alluding to throughout this entire article.
Most of them don’t have new ideas.
Instead, they are able to explain or build upon old ideas in a new way.
And they do this by having what I call an, “Anthology of Analogies.”
When you can break down and explain complex ideas through an easy to understand analogy, you’ll be able to have more impact and influence with your audience.
A great example of this is my friend John Romaniello who built a 7-figure fitness business by explaining the world of health and bodybuilding through the lens of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Marvel Universe.
Nothing that John shares is “new” or “cutting edge”.
It’s nothing more than The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell.
But the analogies he uses to explain age-old concepts are what separated his company from the thousands of other fitness coaches competing for his clients.
Another great example is Mark Manson, the mega New York Times best-seller and multimillionaire dating coach turned author.
Mark is able to break down complex philosophical problems and ideas and explain them in a way that millions of people–who have no understanding of philosophy–can understand.
Whether it’s comparing your life’s purpose to a ham sandwich or success to a video game or Kantian ethics to a Chipotle burrito, Mark has an uncanny ability to explain complicated concepts in a simple and humorous way.
To develop your own anthology of analogies, you must expose yourself to diverse types of content and new ideas.
Not only do I encourage you to read books on a wide variety of topics to become an “expert generalist”, but I also encourage you to intentionally consume great stand up comedies, movies, and TV series.
The keyword here is intentional.
Most of you know I am not a proponent of senselessly consuming media.
However, by intentionally consuming great dramas, comedies, and thrillers with the intention to uncover new analogies and ideas you can USE modern media instead of allowing it to use you.
To make this most of this principle, I want you to complete a simple exercise for the next 30 days.
Right now, head over to Amazon and buy a cheap pocket journal.
Keep it on you for the next month and jot down any new analogies you encounter in your conversations, reading, or TV watching. Jot them down and think of 1-2 topics you could explain using that analogy then start incorporating it into your content.
Do this for a month and you will be amazed by the new and creative ways you’re able to explain old concepts.
#7: Have Strict Deadlines
Dan Kennedy once told me a story (full disclosure: I have no idea if it’s true) about Napoleon Hill.
When Hill was originally writing Think and Grow Rich, he was unsure what to call his book.
His publishers had given him a deadline to title his work and, three hours before that deadline, his working title was, get this…”Use Your Noodle to Get the Boodle”.
With only a few hours before his deadline, and a title that would have resulted in 0 book sales, Hill decided to do something completely unexpected.
He took a nap.
Before laying down he commanded his subconscious mind to create a title for the new book and then he kicked back and went to sleep.
When he woke up, he had his new title. And Think and Grow Rich went on to sell more than 100 million copies in dozens of different languages (something that surely would not have happened with his original title).
Although I’m a big believer in the power of naps and subconscious commands, this story illustrates an even more powerful creativity hack.
The power of deadlines.
For whatever reason, looming deadlines seem to elicit more productivity and flow than just about anything else.
Focus, productivity, and creativity become automatic when the conversation goes from, “I should complete this task” to “I must complete this task…and FAST.”
And implementing this creativity hack is simple.
Set strict deadlines and create painful consequences for failure.
Share a post on Facebook promising a certain product or piece of content by a specific date.
Send your coach or best friend a check for 10% of your monthly income and tell them to send it to a charity you hate if you don’t hit your deadline.
Do whatever you need to do to make the deadline stick and I promise, you’ll be amazed by the creative output you’re able to achieve.
By implementing these seven creativity hacks, I promise you will be creating more unique and compelling content than ever before.
But be warned…
Building your “creativity muscle” takes time. It will probably take a month or longer before you start seeing the payoff of these habits. But if you will stick with it for long enough, I promise, the rewards are worth it.
You could create the next Peanuts … write the next thriller… or simplify complex science into a series of stories that the mass market can understand.
Over to you.
What do you think about these creativity hacks?
Do you have any specific strategies or habits you use to be more creative?
Let me know in the comments below.
Want to achieve your 12 month goals in the next 12 weeks and start down the path to building your billion dollar empire?
According to a recent study published by Social Media Today, the average person will spend, wait for it…
More than five years and four months of their life on social media.
That’s 46,751 hours that they will never get back.
Enough time to become a master (according to the 10,000 hour rule) of nearly five different life-changing skills.
You could, as my mentor and founder of Early To Rise, Mark Ford has done, use those 40,000 plus hours to master the French Horn, learn Spanish, write a book of poetry, and to write and produce an award-winning screenplay and movie.
Or you could use those hours to frantically scroll and scroll and scroll for an hour each day trying to reach the bottom of the Facebook wall.
Now don’t feel so bad if you spend a lot of time on social media.
You have to remember that each day an army of engineers goes to work in Silicon Valley with one mission on their mind – to get you addicted to your phone.
Social media (really all forms of media) has taken over the lives of modern humans to a disturbing degree.
But there is a small group of high performers who have said “Enough!”
Men and women who have learned to beat Zuckerburg and his ilk at their own game and use social media to build their own Empire instead of contributing to the growth of someone else’s.
And today I want to show you how to join them.
This essay is divided into two parts.
In the first half, I’ll show you how to put simple “time bumpers” and “productivity barriers” in place to eliminate the negative effects that social media is having on your life.
In the second, I’ll teach you the strategies I personally use every day to make thousands of dollars from social media without letting it rule my life.
Let’s get started.
How to Beat Your Social Media Addiction
1. Eliminate Social Media from Your Early Morning Hours
The first way to reclaim control of your life and fix your broken relationship with social media is by eliminating social media during early morning hours.
Most people wake up, roll out of bed, and immediately check their email, Instagram, and Facebook.
Before they’ve made their first cup of coffee, they’ve been sucked into a dopamine producing whirlwind of negative news, comparison, and reactivity.
Listen, you cannot perform at the highest levels when you start your day by reacting to the things that the world deems important.
You can’t build an empire and create a lasting impact on the world when you spend your mornings scrolling through a sea of senseless content.
So for the next week, I want you to try something.
When you go to bed at night, turn your phone off (or at the very least put it on airplane mode) and don’t touch it until you’ve been awake for at least two hours.
Spend those early morning hours investing in your dream, your ambitions, and your empire.
Then, and only then, can you open up your phone and check out everything you “missed” while you were sleeping.
If you will do this for just seven days, I promise you’ll never go back.
You’ll have more clarity, more peace, and more focus in the mornings and you’ll change the entire mood behind your days.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below.
2. Unfollow Anyone That Doesn’t Add Value to Your Life
Despite the fact that I have almost 50,000 followers on Instagram, I only follow 13 people.
I have fewer than 100 friends on my personal Facebook account and go out of my way to ensure that I am only following people who I know personally and add real value to my life.
Here’s the deal.
When you follow someone on social media, you are giving them permission to take your time, energy, attention, and willpower.
And this isn’t always a bad thing.
If you’re following an old friend or an inspirational entrepreneur, they will pay back your time and attention with valuable content or meaningful insights into their lives.
But for most of the people you’re following this isn’t the case.
The content they share doesn’t provide value or improve your life.
Instead it takes value from your life. It fuels your fear, sucks you into comparison syndrome, and steals valuable moments that you can never get back.
So right now, pull out your phone and look at how many people you follow/friend on Instagram and Facebook.
Now ask yourself two things.
Do I care about the people I’m following and do they care about me?
Does their content provide real value and tangible benefits in my life?
If the answer to these questions is “no” then hit ‘unfollow’ now.
Sure, you might annoy a few people and a few acquaintances from high school might send a snarky comment to your DM’s.
But you’ll be happier and more productive for doing it.
3. Turn Off Notifications and Reclaim Your Time
If you have your notifications on for any of your social media channels, turn them off now.
To use social media effectively, you must use it on your time.
You decide when to scroll through posts, respond to DM’s, and answer comments.
When you have notifications buzzing during every hour of the day, diluting your focus and draining your mental energy, you can’t build an empire.
If you allow yourself to get distracted every time someone comments on a post or sends you a message, you’ll never complete that intense deep work required to succeed at the highest levels.
Luckily, the solution to this problem is simple.
Turn your notifications off.
Set specific times in your schedule to check your Instagram for DM’s or relevant comments that could lead to a sale.
But do not allow your life to be consumed by other people’s schedules and priorities.
Turn off your notifications. Get focused. And build your empire.
How to Use “Business Media” the Right Way
1. Follow the VPS Formula
I once saw a guy who posted a picture like THIS on his Instagram:
The gentleman in question was a health and nutrition coach and was (attempting) to share the importance of proper hydration with his followers.
And, for whatever reason, he thought that posting a picture of a half-full (half-empty?) water glass on his page was the best way to do it.
But no one on Instagram cares about an empty water glass.
So going forward you need to commit to my VPS formula:
Every single post you put on your social media must be Valuable, Purposeful, and Shareable
If it’s not all three, it doesn’t go on the feed!
Every piece of content you post must add value to your audience.
It must catch people’s attention and help them gain a clearer understanding of a problem they are facing or reframe a specific challenge they might have on that day.
Think of Instagram the same way you would a blog post.
Anyone can create a quick article detailing their “7 tips for success” where they churn out tired old cliches that don’t make a real impact on the reader.
But the best writers, guys like James Clear, Mark Manson, and James Altucher, all know how to provide uniquely valuable content that their readers can’t get anywhere else.
On Instagram, you must do the same thing.
Here’s an example from my page where I gave contrarian and valuable advice my followers won’t find in many other places.
And this one…
Always ask yourself… Is the content I’m about to share uniquely valuable to my audience? Will it stop them mid-scroll and give them the “aha” moment for which they’ve been searching all week.
If the answer is “no”, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Every post, video, and story that you share on Instagram must have a definite purpose.
Are you trying to motivate your followers? Convince them to click the link in your bio and share their email address? Sell them on your latest offer? Educate them about an important topic?
In this post, my purpose is to share powerful time management strategies to help my followers be more productive.
In this video, the purpose of my post is to 1) Share a powerful email marketing strategy and 2) Establish credibility and authority to encourage my followers to work with me.
And in this one, my only goal is to acquire new leads for my business growth workshops.
Purposeful content leads to powerful results.
Ensure that every post, video, and story you publish has a clear and concise purpose and, I promise you, your business media channels will explode.
Finally, your Instagram content must be shareable. It must be the type of content that people not only like but feel compelled to share with the people that they care about most.
Creating shareable content comes down to two main factors:
Or this one…
Although these types of posts might not drive immediate revenue, they expand the reach and following of your brand and attract new leads to your business whom you can later convert into paying customers.
2. Use the 5X5 Grid for Endless Content
Now that you understand the type of content that will allow you to turn Instagram into a money printing machine, the question you’re probably asking yourself is, “Wow Craig, this sounds great…But I don’t have that much content to share! What do I do when I run out of new content ideas?”
And this is a valid concern.
However, I’ve developed a simple tool that has allowed me to crank out powerful content quickly and easily without needing to find a new angle or idea every single week.
It’s called the 5×5 Content Grid and it goes like this:
First, you’re going to draw a 5×5 grid on a piece of paper and brainstorm the five most important topics, lessons, or strategies that you’re always teaching or the five questions that you are asked most frequently.
For example, I recently helped one of my clients, a Naturopathic Doctor that specializes in skin care/acne reduction, with this process.
Her five were:
Clearing your skin from the inside out
Foods to eat for clearer skin
Topical skin treatments
Stress related skin problems
Once you have determined your top five lessons, you’re going to brainstorm the five most impactful ways that you can teach this content.
Continuing the example from above, my client’s top five were:
Case studies/success stories
Facts and statistics
Next, you’re going to plug your five hot topics across the top of the grid and the five best ways to share that content on the side of the grid and then insert a little note about your content into the remaining grid boxes.
For example: “A fun fact about how __% of people get breakouts when they eat xyz food… and here’s what to do instead”.
And there you have it!
If you complete this exercise at the beginning of every month (it should take less than 15 minutes) you’ll have 25 ideas for unique and highly valuable content that you can share with your audience to more effectively build your brand, manufacture celebrity, and grow your profits.
Then, once you’ve tested out different content topics and teaching styles, you can repost your highest performing content on a regular basis, streamlining the process and allowing you to pump out even more killer content every week.
3. Build Your Credibility
Finally, to max out your business media and create iPhone income on demand, you must leverage your various platforms to build your credibility and manufacture celebrity.
Humans have a weird quirk known in the psychological community as the “association bias.”
Simply put, it’s an evolutionary shortcut that allows us to make assumptions about a person based on the groups with which they’re affiliated, the people with whom they spend their time, and the beliefs to which they adhere.
For example, if one of your favorite gurus recommends a product or service, you can feel confident that the product or service is high quality. You don’t have to spend eight hours combing through Amazon reviews and reading customer comments on Reddit.
You simply click “buy now.”
On Instagram and Facebook, this bias works the same way.
When people see you associating with authoritative individuals in your industry, it immediately elevates your status in their eyes.
If you look at my Instagram feed you’ll notice that I post a ton of pictures with guys like Bedros Keuilian, Jason Capital, Sharran Srivatssa, and Tim Grover.
For starters, these guys are some of my best friends and closest associates. However, having pictures with entrepreneurs at their caliber on my Instagram feed immediately elevates my status in the eyes of new followers.
They think to themselves, “Woah! Craig is business partners with Bedros Keuilian? I should probably listen to what he has to say.”
And the best part is that you can leverage this principle regardless of your current network.
Remember, celebrity is relative.
If you currently have 5,000 followers, then a “celebrity” would be anyone in your industry with 10,000 followers or more.
Start small and work your way up.
Join masterminds, go to seminars and events and leverage these “photo ops” to get pictures with high level entrepreneurs who will elevate your status and build credibility in the eyes of your followers.
If you will do this consistently, it will become infinitely easier for you to sell on social media and dominate the game being played around you.
Want to achieve your 12 month goals in the next 12 weeks and start down the path to building your billion dollar empire?
I know multi millionaires who don’t start work until 3 in the afternoon. I know others who are still awake and working on their most important projects at 2:30 in the morning… and don’t get up until noon.
There’s no reason to force yourself into a morning routine that doesn’t fit your lifestyle just because the internet’s latest and greatest personal development guru told you to do it.
If you listen to any advice from experts, listen to this quote (from me!):
“It’s not about the hour you get up, it’s about what you do with the hours that you are up.”
Instead of trying to join the 5 am club because “everyone else is doing it”, ask yourself:
“What time do I need to wake up to meet my obligations, feel fully recharged, and have at least 60 minutes of time to myself each day?”
Then go and wake up at that time.
Myth #2 – Successful People Do 14 Different Things Before Breakfast
But they’re also an unnecessary distraction from your most important work.
As the old saying goes, “There is a time and place for everything.”
Or as an even better saying goes, “If you have to eat a frog, the best thing to do is eat it first thing in the morning. And if you have to eat two frogs, the best thing to do is eat the biggest frog first.” (Thank you Mark Twain!)
In his best-selling book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, author Daniel Pink states:
“Our intention, discipline, and will power and greatest immediately after waking up.”
Whether you wake up at 5 am or 10 am, the first 2-3 hours of your day are likely going to be the most valuable and productive. That’s because these are the hours that are under your control. And they need to be used accordingly.
I’m not saying you need to end your meditation practice, stop reading books, or throw your journal in the trash. In fact, I meditate, read, and journal almost every day.
But I follow these habits after I’ve already accomplished my biggest priority for the day.
And I encourage you to do the same.
For just one week, I want you to test out my “Farm Boy Morning Routine.”
Wake up at whatever time you like, drink a big glass of water or brew a coffee, and then immediately get to work on your most important tasks–the “legacy work” that will drive your life and business forward and provide a disproportionate return on investment.
When you’re done–and only when you’re done–you can go back to chanting to your affirmations, saying your “oms” and reading wisdom from your favorite philosophers.
Myth #3: Breakfast is the most important meal
One of the most prevalent morning myths is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
But if you’re at all familiar with the concept of intermittent fasting then you know this idea has been called into question for years.
Breakfast is neither the most important or least important meal.
It’s just a meal.
Unfortunately, what most people choose as breakfast puts their physiological and psychological success at risk.
Even in this day and age of much healthier eating, it’s still far too common for busy people to wake up and grab a coffee and a donut on their way to the office. This leads to a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash – and often hunger, mood swings, fatigue, and a loss of mental clarity.
“But Craig,” I hear you protest, “I start the day with a 14-fruit smoothie – with kale!”
Well, that sounds fine, but many smoothies and juices (especially pre-made bottled brands like Odwalla) pack more sugar per serving than a can of good old Coca-Cola (45 grams for Odwalla versus ‘just’ 39 grams for Coke).
So called healthy smoothies can have the same detriments as Dunkin’s.
You’re no better off… and might even be worse.
(Besides, the tagline “America runs on smoothies” just doesn’t sound as cool.)
My challenge to you is to try this experiment.
Push back breakfast 2-3 hours after you wake up. During that time tackle your most important objectives with a clear head (and empty stomach).
You might be shocked at how you feel more focused, energized, and disciplined because your brain functioning won’t be riding a sugar roller coaster.
Try it for a couple of days and see how you feel.
You might find yourself happier and more productive for it.
Myth #4: The Mornings Are The Best time to Exercise
Again, this is another issue that is not black or white.
There are actually a few reasons that exercising in the morning can hurt you.
Your body isn’t ready for strenuous physical activity. Your nervous system isn’t firing properly. Your muscles are stiff. Your lower back is at greater risk of injury.
Unfortunately, first thing in the morning is the only time in the day when most busy entrepreneurs, parents, and executives can make time for workouts.
However, if you have the option, do what Mark Ford and I do and push your workouts to noon hour — you might find yourself more productive and improve your physical performance.
Or at the very least, exercise after getting ahead on your most important projects–like my friend Bedros Keuilian who trains at 10 am after spending three hours on his legacy work.
Try this for just one week and see what happens. The results will surprise you.
Myth #5: Your Mornings Need to be BIG
I wrote my first book, The Perfect Day Formula, in 15 minutes a day.
Every morning, immediately after waking up, I sat down to my computer, put on Chopin’s Nocturnes and wrote for just 15 minutes.
Most mornings, I could write 500 words during those 15 minutes and then get on with the rest of my day.
Little by little, I made progress until, eventually, it was finished.
And this is what 99% of entrepreneurs miss about the early morning minutes.
You can get a lot done in the ‘slivers of time’, to steal a phrase from Alice Munro, the single mother of three who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013.
Some mornings, you’ll wake up before your alarm, and spend three hours dominating your #1 objective with unwavering focus.
But not every day will be like that.
And it doesn’t have to be.
Success doesn’t happen in quantum leaps.
It happens in 1% increments. By stacking one tiny brick on top of another.
If you can devote just fifteen minutes each morning to your most important task, you will be amazed by how quickly you can accomplish massive goals.
By consistently taking small action towards your #1 priority, you’ll build momentum and arrive at your desired destination faster than you would by pulling 12 hour workdays or all-nighters.
For the next week, I want you to promise yourself that you will spend just fifteen minutes on your most important task.
Do this and you will be living your perfect life faster than you ever believed possible.
Today I’ll reveal what you must STOP doing now with your social media, and how you can dominate in your business with social selling.
Get the Squirrels Out of Your Attic
Cut back to less than 20 (I’m down to 13)
Learn, earn, or burn
Feel free to stop … Twitter
The 5×5 Killer Content Creation Grid for Coaches
This exercise will help you come up with 25 killer pieces of content. You can use this content for stories, main posts, YouTube videos, and even email marketing. Your main messages should resonate with your Best Customer. All you need to do to say is 5 things over and over again. People need to hear the same message so it gets ingrained in them.
There are few people that I look up to in this world.
One of them is a man who was raised in the tobacco fields of Maryland.
He came from nothing and built a billion dollar empire… yet he dresses modestly, often crams his 6 foot 4 frame into economy class seating on economy flights, and despite being about 70 years old, still spends his spare time fixing up old homes and participating in cattle drives on his farm.
His name is Bill Bonner. Bill is such a talented writer that even my mentor Mark Ford, the founder of ETR and multiple best-selling author gives Bill reverence.
But wait, there’s more.
Bill is the “accidental (and unconventional) founder” of a billion dollar publishing company, Agora Inc.
He started Agora in a small apartment in Washington, D.C. in 1978, and armed with only his wits, a trusty typewriter, and only a few dollars to his name, Bill has grown Agora to become one of the largest publishing companies in the world with offices in India, Brazil, Ireland, England, France, and Germany.
Today Agora and its subsidiaries (including Agora Financial, The Stansberry Research Group, Early to Rise, and many others), bring in well over $1 billion a year.
Over the past two decades, I’ve been lucky enough to network and receive mentorship from some of the biggest names in the company (including Porter Stansberry, Matt Smith, Bill’s son Will, Tom Dyson, and of course, Bill’s business partner, Mark Ford).
And along the way, I’ve discovered seven key lessons that allowed Agora to grow to the 10-figure mark and become the publishing behemoth they are today.
Here are 7 of those lessons.
1. Find Your “Big Idea”
To build a billion dollar business, you need one thing…
A billion dollar idea.
Listen. I know that the gurus have told you time and time again:
“You can’t take ideas to the bank.”
“Your idea doesn’t matter, your hustle does.”
And, most famously, “Million dollar ideas are a dime a dozen.”
But the gurus are wrong.
No, a billion dollar idea in and of itself won’t make you any money. But it’s still the first step to building a billion dollar company.
…Every successful and disruptive company started as nothing more than an idea in the Founder’s head.
Agora was no exception.
In fact, Agora’s entire business model is built around the big idea of giving other people a proven platform where they can monetize their big idea (and I’ll explain more about how they do that later).
Every successful business starts with a big idea.
And the most successful businesses start with a contrarian idea that goes against what the masses believe.
At its peak, my Turbulence Training fitness business brand did over $5 million in annual sales and was built around one big idea that “You don’t need to do boring cardio to lose weight” (a very contrarian idea at the time).
Bedros Keuilian’s Fit Body Boot Camp franchise is built around the contrarian idea that “Big box gyms are the worst way to get in shape.”
Today Agora is making millions of dollars selling the big idea that “Pot stocks are the worst way to make money.”
Time and time again, you will see that BIG and CONTRARIAN ideas are the foundation of disruptive billion dollar companies.
Your big idea isn’t enough to make you billions (or even millions).
But it is the first step.
2. Create a Corporate Culture of Laissez Faire
Tony Robbins once did an interview with a successful client of his who had eight children.
When Tony asked his client how he handled the stress of raising (more than half a dozen) kids, his answer was simple.
“Tony,” he said, “I learned a long time ago that the key to raising successful children is not to have too many rules. We focus on the few rules that really matter and let the rest slide.”
Agora Inc. follows this same principle with their children (aka subsidiaries), by adopting a corporate culture of Laissez Faire.
With more than 40 companies under the Agora umbrella, it would be impossible for the executive team to manage and effectively scale them all at once.
Instead, they provide new companies with the training and resources they need to succeed and then push them out of the nest, to learn and fly on their own.
Sure, some of the companies fail.
But the excellent training, structure, and nearly four decades of experience in dozens of niches…most of them are wildly successful.
In my own business, this philosophy of “live and let live” has been one of the driving forces behind our growth in the past two years.
When one of my employees or contractors comes to me with an idea for how something could be improved, nine times out of ten, my response is always the same:
“Give it a try and see if it works.”
No micromanaging. No looking over their shoulder. And no b.s.
Granted, this only works when you have great employees (see the next point on that).
But at the end of the day, no great business was ever built by a team of micro-managers.
You need to give your team the autonomy they need to great work and find solutions to your biggest problems.
3. Invest Heavily in Great Employees
Agora Financial (AF), one of the most successful Agora subsidiaries, recently paid my old friend Justin Goff, a world famous copywriter, more than $30,000 to spend one day coaching their team through the process of creating high converting copy.
When most people read that, their gut response is to go:
“Woah! $30,000! That’s a TON of money…why not just have the team read a bunch of books or check out an online training program or read Justin’s free email newsletter?”
The reason is simple.
The head honchos over at AF know that the majority of their revenue comes from the quality of their copy writing.
And even though $30,000 might sound like a lot. To a company with millions of email subscribers, they can make that investment back with one email.
What’s even better is that they are investing in the appreciating and compounding asset of their employee’s skills.
Too many entrepreneurs cut corners when it comes to investing in their team.
They won’t think twice about spending an extra $50,000 on a new car for themselves or $10,000 for a new Rolex.
But the idea of investing $25,000 in the education of their employees–people who can help them make money while they sleep–is too much to stomach.
Listen, if you are serious about taking your business to the next level, then you MUST invest heavily in your employees.
Let me give you an example of this in my own business…
I recently bought my Editor an $1,500 course on copy writing and email marketing optimization.
In the first week after he went through the course, the strategies he’d discovered directly resulted in an extra $22,000 in revenue in under four days.
More than 10X the initial investment.
And the best part?
Because it was a compounding investment in his skill as a copywriter, the $1,500 I “spent” continues to make the company (and my Editor) more and more money each month.
Invest heavily in your great employees.
They are your biggest asset and, if you follow the next lesson I’m about to share with you, every good investment you make will yield at least a 100X ROI in the long run.
4. Do Whatever it Takes to Keep Great Employees
In addition to their controversial newsletters and contrarian ideas, Agora Inc. has built a reputation as being one of the best companies where a copywriter can work.
Not only do they pay their copywriters handsomely (I believe the starting salary is $80,000 a year), but every writer is given the opportunity to make huge amounts of money through commission.
When your copy goes out to a list of 1,000,000+ people, even a 2% commission rate can mean a multiple 5-figure payday.
The lesson here is simple…
Once you have hired a great employee you need to do everything in your power to keep them motivated, engaged, and excited to work with you.
I recently hired a “superstar” employee of my own and realized that my management skills are not yet what they need to be to keep these types of employees around.
So I turned to my mentor Mark Ford and asked for his guidance.
Here’s what he told me:
“It’s something that is so important. I’ve written about this many times over the years.
And I’m thinking about it right now because I’m involved in an imbroglio over one of Agora’s top marketers leaving one franchise to join another. He’s leaving because the publishers did not listen to the following advice:
Recognize the value of your superstars: You can populate your business with great employees if you put the work into it and create the right environments, but superstars — they are rare. A superstar is worth 5 to10 great employees.
Recognize the fact that you cannot hide them from the competition: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen very smart CEOs try to do this. It works for a while and then one day a competitor discovers them and makes them an offer that is way above what they are making.
When that happens you are screwed. You can offer to meet or even beat the new offer, and you might even retain that superstar, but he/she will never trust you and always resent you.
Understand what motivates them: Superstars are not motivated primarily by money. Nor is praise a sufficient reward. What superstars want and need most of all is the opportunity — the freedom and the support — to accomplish great things. That is what makes an otherwise great employee a superstar
Compensate them strategically: Money is not the primary motivation, but money matters. Superstars should be paid a base and an incentive compensation. The base should be just above — say 5% — of what someone else would offer them to do the same job. (And by that I mean someone else that recognized their value). The incentive compensation should be structured so that they could make a shitload of money — even more than you — but it should never be so much that they are getting more than they clearly deserve.
Don’t overcompensate: This last point is complicated but it’s important. It’s very easy to overcompensate people with incentive plans. And when you do you can spoil them to the point where you will have to let them go. I don’t have time now to get into all of that. But in this case, since he is a copywriter, the challenge is easier to meet because there are formulas that exist that work. You are probably familiar with them. If not, I can send you some examples.
One final thing: Despite what I’ve said, when your business is relatively small, like yours is, you may not be able to compete with the sort of compensation he could get at, say, Agora (a billion dollar company). Even if you gave him the same base as an Agora copywriter (say $80,000) it would be nearly impossible for him to make the same incentive compensation with ETR because the revenues are too small.
In that case you have to make him feel like he is working for a good business that is doing good. From what I’ve seen, you are already doing this. In fact, I’m sure you are already doing much if not all of what I’ve suggested. But I thought I’d write it down this way so I could publish it in my blog and kill two birds with one stone!”
5. Stay Relevant and Speak to What’s Happening Now
In addition to their big contrarian ideas, impeccable corporate culture, and proven systems for hiring superstar employees, Agora’s success is due to their ability to speak to what is happening right now.
If you’re subscribed to any of their newsletters or read any of the company’s copy, nearly every offer and service they pitch revolves around something that is hyper relevant to the reader today.
Whether it’s Trump’s new tax laws or the legalization of marijuana or the rise of cryptocurrencies, everything they do speaks to the “Zeitgeist”–the current social mood during this point in history.
Not only does this make their offers seem more relevant, but it creates built in urgency that incentivizes their readers to take action NOW.
Oh, Canada just passed a bill legalizing recreational and medicinal cannabis?
Well, you’ve only got a few months (at most a few years) to capitalize on this opportunity before the market gets over saturated.
Trump just passed a new tax law that gives investors an extra loophole to reduce their tax bill?
If you don’t know about it NOW, you might not be able to take advantage of it later.
In my own business, I’ve used this idea with my Instagram Social Story Selling System.
And most marketers aren’t even aware of the massive potential the platform has.
However, if you have a proven system for monetizing Instagram (like I offer in my course), you can make 6 to 7-figures a year working less than you do right now.
But here’s the thing…
I’m not lying when I say that this opportunity might not be available in a few years.
Just last month Instagram updated their algorithm and made it more difficult for users to reach their own followers with content. This exactly what Facebook started doing back in 2012.
Plus, every day, more and more businesses flock to the platform and, pretty soon, Instagram will become just as oversaturated and frustrating as email marketing, possibly more so.
And by speaking to this…to the reality facing marketers and entrepreneurs right now in 2019, I’ve been able to make massive profits while helping a ton of people.
Now over to you…
What is happening in your industry right now that you need to use in your marketing?
What real-time events and changes are happening that you can capitalize on to motivate your prospects to action and close the sale?
6. Create a Pure Profit Pyramid
A while back, Stansberry Research ran a promotion titled “The End of America”.
The promotion was so effective that it launched the company into the public spotlight and even allowed them to run TV ads to a VSL.
But the most interesting thing about this particular promotion was not the topic or the product itself…
…Rather the “profit pyramid” the company used to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the promotion.
It went like this..
For $49, you could get access to their basic newsletter. This served as an SLO (self liquidating offer) to help the company break even and pay for their growing ad expenses.
However, after the initial purchase of $49, customers were then given the opportunity to invest in SR’s backend newsletter for a further $3,000.
Then, they were given another opportunity to invest $15,000 for lifetime access to all newsletters.
And the result was millions and millions of dollars in profit and one of the most (in)famous and successful newsletter campaigns of all time.
On the surface, this “profit pyramid” seems relatively simple.
But here’s the thing…
I’ve coached thousands of entrepreneurs over the years and one of THE biggest mistakes I see over and over again is that otherwise smart businessmen don’t give happy customers a chance to take their purchase to the next level.
Listen, in every market, there are a small handful of people who are not only willing to spend more money to get the best offer possible…but they want to spend that money.
For example, you can go out right now and buy a basic Ford F150 for about $28,000. But every single day, someone out there decides to spend $70,000 on the same truck because they want all of the bells, whistles, and extra goodies that come with the top of the line models.
And when you don’t follow up with existing customers and provide them with higher end offers to help them get results faster, you’re actively leaving money on the table and depriving them of the opportunity to get the results they want.
In my own business, I’ve had clients who purchased one of my online programs, loved the content, and then decided that they wanted to work with me one on one.
Some of those clients decide to invest $7,500 in my business growth workshops. Others want the “next level” and invest $20,000 for a one year membership to my Unstoppable mastermind. And others still want one-on-one access to me and pay $25,000 for a single day of coaching.
In fact, most of the profit in my business comes from upselling happy customers on higher ticket items.
But if I didn’t have those offers in place or weren’t actively promoting them to my list, I’d barely break the 6-figure mark each year (let alone each month).
Whatever your business model, you can find ways to create powerful high end offers that will drive tons of revenue for a relatively small amount of effort.
And when you do, your business will never be the same.
7. Consistently Provide Value and Make The Offer
I’m going to let you in on a super secret strategy that only the top 0.0001% of entrepreneurs know.
You ready for this?
Here it goes…
You can’t make money if you aren’t making offers.
Insightful, I know.
Despite my sarcastic tone, this really is one of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making.
Not are they not making high-ticket offers to their best customers…they aren’t making offers at all.
They think to themselves:
“Well, I know I should make more offers, but I don’t want to bug people.”
“I just create great content and hope that my customers will find my products page.”
If you want to make more money, you have to start by making more offers.
One email or Instagram story a week isn’t going to cut it.
Will you bug some people? Yes!
Will you get rich while helping the right people? Absolutely.
It’s up to you to draw the line and strike that fine balance between giving value and asking for the sale.
For example, even though I’m a fan of the controversial Grant Cardone and have invested a significant amount of money with his companies, his email marketing is beyond annoying.
Every day is a deadline, extended deadline, or URGENT final notice. Sure, it works… for a while. But over the long term it’s not the best strategy. (That said it’s getting better now that my friend Frank Kern has gotten involved with Cardone’s email strategy.)
Agora, on the other hand has discovered the “Goldilocks Zone.”
After four decades of iteration, they’ve created a system where they aren’t sending offers too often or too little…but just right.
They send thousands of words of valuable content each week and earn the right to make an offer. And they make multiple offers both within the free content and dedicated promotions.
In your business, you must do the same thing.
Yes, you should send plenty of free valuable content to your customers.
But you also need to ask for the sale.
When you have the big idea and great employees in place, the final piece of the puzzle is consistently providing value and making killer offers.
If you will do this over a long enough time frame (it took Agora 40 years!) you too could build a billion dollar empire.
Want to achieve your 12 month goals in the next 12 weeks and start down the path to building your billion dollar empire?
Parden the interruption – We break from our previously planned Millionaire Math episode (which we’ll save for next week) and jump right into something you MUST hear about…
The five money stealing myths about morning routines that just must die
You see, as the world’s most disciplined and productive man, and the go-to guru for all things morning routine, I’ve seen so many mistakes I don’t want you to make.
5 Money Stealing Myths About Morning Routines – That Just Must Die
Myth #1 – You must join the 5 am club Myth #2 – Successful People do 14 things before breakfast Myth #3 – Breakfast is the most important meal Myth #4 – The Best time to exercise Myth #5 – Needs to be BIG