I’ve been receiving new e-mails from readers of this blog and of my books every single day. I always enjoy receiving them and reply to every single one.
On rare occasion I’ll receive a message which doesn’t really align at all with my worldview or what I’m trying to promote here with OpenWorld. I like to talk about topics that *enable* you, that help you realize that anything is possible… and to motivate you to go out and prove it.
So you can imagine how I feel when I receive e-mails such as this recent one:
Question: I’m still working my way through your site and the information it presents (so forgive me if the answer to my question is there) but do you know of any resources for FINDING ones niche, so to speak? Specifically some autodidactic resources?
You see, I’ve got to do this myself as I have no $ to spend on these things. I’m a full-time “at home” father stuck in the U.S. who is home educating his children and working on-line as a part-time employee for a propagandist/”news” service. I’d very much like to quit my job but I have yet to figure out how to make a decent living, on-line, that pays as much or more and doesn’t involve pushing something that is untruthful, illegal, immoral, or unethical. I already do that and want to change. Perhaps I should start a subscription website that points out what is wrong, or could go wrong, with what others are doing? (LOL – kinda a joke but kinda not as it indicates what I am good at, which nobody really wants to pay for.)
Anyway, thanks for what you do, but sadly I’m not your ideal customer as I don’t have any disposable income to throw out at “consultants.” II won’t be offended if you don’t have time to spend on my question.
Then a few days later, I was browsing around on Reddit (/r/digitalnomad) and saw a post that adopted a similar depressing tone:
Both of these people plead for advice, but what would it matter? No matter if Elon Musk or Richard Branson were to come on to this thread and deliver the best entrepreneurial advice ever posted in an online forum, it wouldn’t make a single shred of difference.
Why? Look at the language the person uses:
“Ever notice the only guys really succeeding in those markets are the ones selling you on how to succeed? Hmmm…”
“The things I’m well versed in… are completely saturated markets…”
“Upwork is a depressing wasteland…”
“Frankly I’m at a loss as to how to pivot…”
This is a person who is clearly not in the right place to realize success of any kind.
People such as this are coming from a place of pain, and that’s no foundation to build from. Instead of growing flowers that eventually bloom and become a beautiful garden they give birth to weeds. And then they use this an example to prove that they were right – that it truly is impossible.
Many of them subscribe to a fundamental misconception that anyone succeeding online follows the same business model, one big oversaturated market of “gurus” who earn money by teaching how to make money.
Some individuals, such as the sender of e-mail, remain firmly convinced of their conclusion as “truth” – and they’ll defend their position fiercely.
But what these people are convinced is true and what I have experienced as truth vary widely.
Here I am in Taipei… living the free-wheeling location-independent lifestyle that everyone these days talks about… and you don’t have to pay me five payments of $9,999 for some master course bullshit to learn how I do it. I have nothing to “sell” you. The secret is here – written in Plain English – in this article.
Is it possible to make money online without being untruthful or immoral?
Some people believe that the only way to earn a living online is to dupe gullible suckers into pulling out their debit cards for things they don’t want or need, perhaps by promising them a pie in the sky dream of automated wealth and escaping the rat race. Or that you have to push some kind of scam like fake payday loans or credit reports.
And through pernicious, self-defeating beliefs like one, people wage a mental war against themselves. Real success is all just a myth, or a result of fraud, so why bother to try?
Not only is this thinking dangerous, it hides the truth of reality: anyone who’s been really successful at anything in life didn’t “try.” They did something far more (more on that below).
The second important point is that the sender identifies what he perceives to be the “problem” that’s holding him back from success. If he can just find the right niche, he’s well on his way to succeeding.
The problem is, it’s not true. So many of us create secret alibis that go like this: “If only I had A, then I could be XYZ.”
Seems logical enough right?
The problem is, this thought loop is a cancer. It’s a pattern keeps many, many people trapped in thoughts, feelings, and actions that render them powerless to write the life script that they so desperately want.
Take what you can
It gets worse.
Doubters locked in self-defeating mindsets fearfully and distrustfully live in a “dog eat dog” world where they hungrily devour whatever scraps become available.
Individuals locked in fear-based thought patterns harm themselves and harm others. They lash out.
Content of the e-mail above aside… that person downloaded several free goodies from me (book, audio book, and e-mail course), and we also had a long discussion in which I offered him a great deal of free advice. Then he promptly unsubscribed himself from my list afterwards.
Like the Chinese tourists at this buffet in Thailand, he readily scooped up whatever was available for free, then bailed, sticking the proverbial middle finger to the host (after the video, the Chinese tourists who scooped up plates of prawns left them unfinished on the table afterwards).
On a deeper level, we can tell so much about a person by the way they communicate (and e-mail is no exception either). In many cases, I can a pretty clear picture of exactly what’s going on inside of their head. I can get an idea of what their self-talk and self-perception is like in how they describe themselves, what their goals are, and how they feel about others.
A person’s inner world reveals itself in the way someone feels about themselves and how they approach the external world. And the tone a person adopts when they communicate betrays the thoughts that linger in the mind.
This is something that exudes from the very core of who we are. I believe it comes down to our degree of self-love (or self-loathing) and acceptance: of ourselves, of the rest of the world, and our place in it.
People who are doubtful, fearful, who lack self-acceptance, who think only of their own wants and take whatever they can, aren’t the type of people who usually get anywhere in life.
Is anything possible? Yes, if you think so
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford
The truth is, I’m pretty much a beginner at making money online. I had never made a dollar through the internet until the beginning of last year (January 2015) when I published my first book to Amazon. Up until that point, I was still even skeptical that I could make it work; that I could move enough products online to people I didn’t know.
I created a membership site in 2012 which sold less than a dozen spots, which isn’t enough to qualify as an “online business.” I’ve also used an Authorize.net account to process recurring payments virtually, and Xoom.com to pay my employees, but that’s about the extent of my previous “online business.”
I started this blog back in 2014. And while blogging and podcasting has never been my primary business, it’s had an interesting effect of “lumping” me into a certain category of web authorities. And because I’ve been publishing a lot of content, I’ve sometimes been confused as some kind of web guru.
Yet somehow, I still managed to earn six figures, as a mid-twenties male, working ten hours a week from my laptop while living in Brazil, despite making ZERO money online.
I did it in 2011, and again in 2012. Without earning a single cent online. I had only ONE income stream. As mentioned above I processed payments online with Authorize.net, but that’s about it.
In fact I tell you exactly how I do – and everything I’ve learned from that business – in Chapters 11 – 19 in this book.
The belief that it’s impossible to earn money on your own in an ethical manner without deceptive marketing or poorly constructed products is simply not true. I am living proof. And I’m no special snowflake.
So whenever you hear a naysayer say that it’s impossible to earn money online (and become fully independent of a job, location, boss, etc) without being dishonest or unethical or “scamming GULLIBLE people” then you can pretty firmly sure that it’s bullshit!
In fact, it’s best to just leave these people alone, because the more attention you give to them, the more they will drag you down in to their mediocrity with a dozen or so ill-informed reasons why there is no possible way out of their unfortunate situation.
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it.”
-George Bernard Shaw
Mindset trumps talent, intelligence, and experience
The only thing that REALLY mattered in the ultimate scheme is that I worked first on my mindset. Somehow, someway – despite bumbling around for a long time, I found a way to enable my life of freedom that I enjoy.
I’ve stuck out the first year of both of my businesses when I wasn’t making any money.
If someone successful gives me good advice, I implement it.
And honestly, many days I believe that I’m a HORRIBLE entrepreneur. I constantly have to learn new things from scratch, sort of like starting the first day of school all over again.
But eventually I make progress. My first business made no money the first year, a tiny bit the second year, and was making six figures in years 4 and 5.
It took me 4-5 years to do what some truly gifted entrepreneurs do in six months. Now, with my new business, I’m confident I can cut that curve in half.
But the point is…
We can outwork the lazy and the indifferent, and persist until we reach eventual success. In life it’s often the last one standing who succeeds.
The thing we should NEVER ever do is write off anything as impossible and make up excuses that support our non-objective view of reality. These are self-defeating BS (belief systems) and if we have them (I certainly did, so I know how it feels), then we need to surgically remove them.
Short-sighted people who need assurances of instant success or immediate return are the ones who always fail. If they start something at all, they usually dip one toe in. But a month goes and they see little traction.
So they give up, and use the experience to enforce their belief that it’s impossible. Then proceed to scramble back to the corporate world and the security of a stable paycheck. So much for giving them the bird.
Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, consider the story of David Hindin whom I interviewed for the podcast. A physician by trade, he succeeded at growing his Instagram by 15,000 followers in the first five months, crowdfunded his magazine through Kickstarter, and even managed to earn more than $10,000 his first year of freelancing through Fiverr (of all places!).
How many people look at a platform like Fiverr and shoot it down as a race to the bottom? Yet David is another example that the naysayers don’t know what they’re talking about, or the real reason why they aren’t successful.
Towards the end of my interview with David, I asked him: why is it you seem to be successful at everything you try while many others who try similar pursuits never see the same return?
“Because I’m obsessed,” he replied, as though it was obvious. His inner game is so strong that he won’t let anything stop from reaching his goal – he keeps plugging and plugging away until vision becomes reality.
Lobotomies are never pleasant
I KNOW what’s it like to be a victim of self-defeating demons. I was pulled down by them for YEARS.
It was a dark, lonely, uncertain, frightening place to be. I remember sitting alone, by myself, in my car crying and screaming out loud in frustration because I couldn’t quite figure my life out.
It seemed like nothing I would do would work. I couldn’t mimic the smashing success stories of others. Any venture I attempted seemed doomed to failure; I was doubtful that anything could be done.
If you had told me that my success or failure came down to something as simple as mindset, I would have called you crazy. But it’s absolutely true.
The first thing to realize is that mindset affects everything. It affects the language you use; both the self-talk you tell yourself and how you describe the things you do. It affects the goals you set for yourself, your motivation, and productive output.
It also affects your framing, which is perhaps the most important of all. I’ve happily done a ton of blogging, podcasting, appearing on other podcasts, all with a very negligible return. Most people would see these activities and the results as failure; but I don’t. I look it as marketing.
Every time I publish a book, I believe that I’m putting out a self-liquidating lead source. The same goes for every guest post I write and guest podcast I record. And so no effort is wasted. By framing these activities as “marketing” (which they are), I consider myself very fortunate that I can introduce myself, my products, and my brand in front of an audience for free whereas many others have to pay.
In his book, “The Magic of Thinking Big,” author David Schwartz provides an anecdote of brick layers and how they approach their work. When asked, “What are you doing?” three different bricklayers give three separate answers.
The first one shrugs and says, “Isn’t it obvious? I’m laying bricks.”
The second says, “I’m making $20 an hour.”
The third says, “I’m building the world’s largest cathedral.”
Many of us might brush aside this anecdote about bricklaying as overly simplistic, and not applicable to us. But take a look at the online freelancing market, where most contractors list their expertise and their hourly rate in large bold letters. I’d wager a good chunk of freelancers adopt the mindset of the first two bricklayers.
Or just look at entrepreneurship in general. Most of us work because “we have to,” or because we need to earn money for survival. There are many business activities I’ve had to do but never enjoyed, which always caused me to drag my feet when it came to performing these activities.
Yet when you frame the work to have a special meaning and purpose, it makes it easier to drive yourself to excel. Instead of thinking that preparing images for Instagram is lame and time consuming, you instead think “I’m a building a passionate audience which will lift my business to new heights I’ve never thought possible.”
It is truly the rarest quality to meet professionals who are deeply committed to their trade, deeply passionate, and enthusiastic about what they do. But these individuals eventually become “superstars” and ultimately succeed.
Know the way forward
One very important thing that can help you from over losing your way. Whenever you find yourself lost in the forest (and it will happen), you must know the way forward.
That means… “If I do X, then Y will happen.”
Example: “If I write more books and market them well, my audience will grow and I’ll be able to earn a living as an author.”
“If I send out 20 e-mail pitches every Monday, I’ll pick up 1 or 2 new clients per week, and in three months time my business will have doubled.”
These are quick examples but you get the idea. Know your way forward – whether it’s creating more content, pitching more prospects, or whatever it happens to be.
Nathan Chan knew that if he focused on creating great content, his magazine would grow to become financially successful.
Justin Cooke received a little bit of income from each niche site he created, and knew all he had to do was create more sites.
If you’re a writer, train yourself to become more prolific.
Be persistent, identify your way forward, and capitalize on your strengths.
This reflects my own experiences and the experience of others I know. And I’ve noticed that the most successful people I’ve met and spoken to aren’t locked in self-defeating thought loops.
Understand: the most important thing is to first believe that anything is possible. Don’t simply try to convince yourself of that. Be firmly, resolutely convinced that the world is full of opportunities. Otherwise, nothing will work.
Choose whether or not to believe anything I write at your own peril.