I’ve been thinking about the tools and practices that have made my life easier in the past few years, and one of the big ones is budgeting.
Now, usually when people use the word “budget”, it is met with a lifeless, ambivalent reaction.
To me, however, budgeting has become a word that doesn’t only apply to money.
To me, budgeting is a synonym for words like preparation, anticipation, and organization.
And usually there is no stigma attached to any of these words, because they tend to be indicative of responsibility.
I mean, would you ever really criticize a coworker for being organized?
How about the goalie who anticipates where the puck is heading?
The accountant who has carefully prepared your taxes?
To budget, whether it’s your time, money, or some other finite resource, is a skill that requires you to be organized, prepared, and anticipatory.
To those who haven’t spent a minute of their lives budgeting, these words may seemingly have no connection with budgeting.
After all, when I login to Mint.com, everything is prepared for me.
I see where my money is being spent, and I can visualize my budget with pretty bar charts and graphs.
But to me, this actually isn’t budgeting at all.
Everything about Mint.com is reactive.
“Oh shit, I spent $500 dining out this month!?”
That’s a reaction to something that has already taken place.
Sure, you could argue that having this information consolidated and laid out with fancy visuals is organized, but clearly you hadn’t prepared or anticipated spending $500 at restaurants.
Does this mean that Mint.com is a useless tool?
No, it does not.
But it does mean that Mint.com is not really budgeting.
Enter: Zero-Based Budgeting
Zero-based budgeting will blow your mind once you understand its value.
The concept does require a severe mindset shift, but once you get over that hump it can be a pretty big game-changer.
It has been for me, at least.
Basically, a finite resource must have each of its parts allocated completely before those resources are exhausted.
Let’s use the example of a cake at a birthday party…
If you have 10 guests who all want a slice of cake, you obviously would need to cut the cake into at least 10 equal slices.
This is pretty common sense.
You’d start cutting the cake, with the first slice being no bigger than 1/10 of the cake. Of course, it may end up being smaller or bigger than the next slice if you didn’t actually cut exactly 1/10 of the cake with the first slice.
This is reactive budgeting.
You cut (or allocated) the first slice of the cake, but the next slice’s size will not be 1/10 the size of the cake. It will be a little bit more, or a little bit less, depending on whether you over-cut the first slice or not.
Budgeting proactively would be using the knife’s edge to outline all 10 slices of the cake before actually cutting the cake.
Essentially, you’ve budgeted out the entire cake before you even started cutting each slice, one-by-one.
OK, so maybe this isn’t the best analogy I could have drawn up, so I apologize if you’re completely lost.
The point I’m trying to make is that the anticipation, organization, and preparation are key components to successful budgeting.
I recently realized the power of proactive budgeting when it comes to managing my time.
I’ve been using the Best Self journal for a couple weeks now, and one of my favorite parts of the journal is the daily planner pages.
From 6am-10pm, you are expected to fill in every 30-minute time slot of the day with what you’ll be doing that day.
While this may seem tedious (it is), I’ve found the benefits to exceed the costs significantly.
I don’t waste as much time thinking about the most important things I should be working on sporadically throughout the day.
Instead, I have a roadmap for exactly what I’ll be doing in a day.
And it doesn’t have to be rigid.
If I haven’t budgeted enough time for a certain task and decide to keep working on it, thus encroaching on another task’s time block, that’s ok.
I’m rolling with the punches.
A budget doesn’t have to be punitive.
Good budgets are merely rough blueprints for how we allocate finite resources.
In fact, my definition above sounds a whole lot like the definition of economics, but I digress.
For me, the anticipation part is still a challenge.
Shit loves to fly in from different directions, unannounced.
Dentist bills. Dirty floors that need to be swept. Clothes that need to be washed. Yearly auto insurance premiums.
It takes a lot of practice to anticipate the shit life throws at us.
But hey, I’m personally not gonna stop working at it.
Yeah, our honeymoon was just about 9 months ago, but I told myself I would get around to documenting it before the details I care about completely leave my mind.
Today, I’ll document what I can remember from our time in Tokyo, where we spent nearly half of our time (6 of 14 days) while we were traveling in Japan.
Going into the trip, we actually had a very loose itinerary, which was probably attributed to the fact that we had been dedicating all of our extra time to planning a wedding.
Even so, it was probably a blessing in disguise, since we had a lot of flexibility and minimal pressure to be anywhere or do anything.
We arrived in Tokyo late Tuesday morning and headed straight to our Airbnb in the Shinjuku neighborhood.
After settling into our Airbnb, freshening up, and taking a much needed nap, we purchased a couple tickets to the infamous Robot Show and headed out into the night for our first Japanese meal.
This was our first exposure to Japanese restaurant culture, and though we assumed ordering food would be the same in Japan as it is in the U.S., it was nothing of the sort.
A lot of the restaurants we were coming upon had vending machines outside where customers are expected to place their orders. These particular “vending machines” (jidohanbaiki ~ 自動販売機) are the type that will then print out a ticket for you to give to your server.
We had no idea that this was how it worked, and because we were so intimidated, we ended up settling on a place that had familiar looking food (Udon noodles) and English menus.
Yeah, this wasn’t a very inspiring start for us, but our brains were so fried from all of the travel, we didn’t really have the patience to dive into the deep end quite yet.
The Robot Show followed our first meal in Japan, and even though it was probably the most touristy thing we could have possibly done, it was pretty fun.
I took full advantage of the countless photo and video opportunities that presented themselves.
Day 2 was our first full day in Tokyo, and we decided to start our exploration with a trip to a nearby coffee shop V had read good things about.
4/4 Seasons is what it was called, and you can read more about that experience here.
In short, we loved it.
It was a perfect introduction to Japanese specialty coffee culture.
After our coffee and light breakfast, we made our way out to the Minato district to have lunch with one of V’s old classmates from elementary school.
Since we had some time to kill before lunch, we walked around the neighborhood, tried some vending machine coffee, and hung out in a Kombucha bar for a quick refreshment before lunch.
V’s former classmate Matt has been living in Japan for a good chunk of his life, so it was great to get an expat’s perspective on Japan over lunch.
We had a lot of our lingering questions answered, as well as some great suggestions for things to do in Tokyo and elsewhere.
One of those suggestions was the Roppongi Hills’ Mori Tower and Mori Arts Museum.
The former has one of the best views of the city, while the latter had some interesting stuff like this makeshift orchestra from household appliances:
By meeting up with some locals on our first day, we got the inside information that Tokyo Tower is overrated in terms of city views, and that Mori Tower was the place to be.
At the top, V met three Filipino women who had married Japanese men many years earlier.
When she broke the ice using some tagalog, their excitement could not be contained.
They were able to grab a few shots of us with the Tokyo skyline (including Tokyo Tower) as a backdrop. I like the selfies best though!
In the evening, we headed to Ichiran, the popular ramen chain that serves you in individual booths, with no face-to-face interaction.
Despite a San Francisco-eque line out the door and half hour wait, it was well worth it.
Ichiran uses the same vending machine system we were totally confused about the night before, so we were forced to learn the system.
The good news is that once we figured it out, we realized it is actually a lot more efficient than having a waiter take your order.
On a mission to check out a new coffee spot every day, we opted for Blue Bottle Coffee for our morning coffee on day 3.
This was a rather disappointing decision in hindsight, because the experience felt way less authentic than it did at 4/4 Seasons the day before.
I also ordered an espresso instead of a drip coffee, and it really wasn’t much to write home about.
After a light breakfast consisting of Japanese pastries at the bakery next door, we headed to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks.
Apparently the park is one of the best places in the city to see cherry blossoms, however, we were in Japan at the wrong time of year for this.
Regardless, there was still plenty of beautiful scenery for us to experience.
We treated ourselves to some delicious matcha soft serve ice cream on our way out of the park.
It was about time for us to check out of our Airbnb and into the Hyatt Regency, which was also located in Shinjuku.
I wrote a bit more about the hotel here, but it was definitely one of the best places we stayed (if not the best) during our honeymoon.
We spent the afternoon exploring the nearby Izakaya alley, Omoide Yokocho.
Izakayas are like casual pubs with Japanese comfort food.
We popped into our first one on the way down the alley for some tasty skewers and beers. We chose the one where we saw the most people, and we parked ourselves into the last 2 seats on the aisle, right in front of the grill.
The food was delicious, and just enough to get our appetites going.
We continued down to the end of the alley to see what some of the other options were.
On our way back up, we stopped at another Izakaya for some stir-fried noodles. We were particularly intrigued with this one because it was being run by a single woman, who had to be well into her 80s.
Omoide Yokocho was one of the first times we were forced to try and communicate without English. It was arguably our first authentic Japanese experience.
The late afternoon and evening were spent indulging in the luxuries of the Hyatt, including the indoor pool and club happy hour at the top of the building.
The pool had an attendant who was literally checking the water temperature every 20 minutes. When do you ever see something like this in America?
Our “reservation” at the Ghibli Museum was set for this day, and this was the one thing we had planned to do before arriving in Japan.
I heard Tim Ferriss rave about the Ghibli Museum on his podcast, describing it as a real-life version of Alice in Wonderland, so I decided we should check it out.
I bought the tickets 3 months in advance online, but didn’t realize how high the demand to attend this museum was until after we visited.
Frankly, I was disappointed with the museum, simply because I’m neither a fan of anime nor Studio Ghibli.
This isn’t to say that I couldn’t be, but this was really my first exposure to the genre outside of a few chance encounters in my past.
The museum was PACKED with people, and I really just felt like we were in an over-saturated tourist trap.
My expectations were also probably way too high going into the experience.
I was expecting a real-life Alice in Wonderland for chrissake! Sure, it had some fun stuff to look at, but I didn’t really feel like I was in a fantasy land.
Despite the somewhat disappointing experience, we still had a good time and wrapped up our visit with some grape-flavored soft serve.
Overall, I’m sure the experience would have been phenomenal if I actually was any kind of anime fan.
When we got back to Shinjuku (the Ghibli Museum is in Mitaka), we decided to drop into Verve Coffee Roasters for some afternoon coffee.
Verve got its start in Santa Cruz, CA (our alma mater’s hometown), so we had special interest in how it compared to its locations back in the States.
The coffee was good!
I got a Japanese style iced coffee, and V got a pour over. She also bought a thermos to take home as a practical souvenir.
That night, we made plans to meet my cousin Evan (who teaches in Tokyo) at the famous Shibuya crossing.
This large intersection consists of 7 crosswalks, each on the exact same schedule. When the lights turn green, this is what happens:
Of course, this is pretty much the worst possible meeting place known to man, so we didn’t actually meet in Shibuya crossing, but instead at an overpass in the train station for a prime view of the action.
My cousin is also a pretty big guy at about 6’5″, so in Japan this is a whole lot easier to spot.
We ended up going out to eat at an Izakaya (this one, a lot larger) in the Setagaya neighborhood.
This was easily one of the best meals we had in Japan, though I can’t remember the specifics of what we ate.
Let’s just say that it was a flavorful variety of food.
My cousin was an excellent host, ordering everything for the table with his best judgment. I don’t remember him picking anything that we didn’t like, so this made things really nice for us.
The restaurant itself was also quite an experience, with the chefs shouting things at each other left and right with a good amount of theatrics in their food preparation.
This was a great ending to the first leg of our honeymoon.
This wasn’t the last we would see of Tokyo, however. In fact, we would be back for a few days at the end of our two-week stay.
Multi-level marketing represents the dark, deceiving, and depressing part of my industry.
We all have a Facebook friend or two who’s wrapped up in an MLM. And at one time or another, we have maybe been part of one ourselves.
If you’re not familiar with MLMs, here are some of the common characteristics:
Representatives (aka victims) are paid a commission of what they sell, and more importantly, they are paid a commission for everything one of their recruits sells
The actual product(s) the MLM sells are usually not very good products (there are few exceptions to this)
MLMs host regular events for their top-representatives to boast about the lavish lifestyles they’re living with luxury cars and white sand beaches
Now, do I think MLMs are an effective way to grow a massive business?
Do I think MLMs are an ethical way to grow a business?
The problem stems from the combination of the 3 characteristics I mentioned above.
Simply put, people who are recruited to “work for” these MLMs are not being taught to sell the product(s) to customers, they are being taught to sell a fantasy lifestyle to friends and family.
Yes, one of the major tenets of an MLM is that the people you are taught to sell to are the ones who you actually know (read: your friends and family).
My experience working for a MLM
Back in the Summer of 2006, going into my sophomore year of college, I received a sketchy phone call.
I was told that there was a job opportunity for me at a company called Cutco, where my friend had been working as one of their top sales people.
The fact that I was being solicited an interview set off my bullshit radar, but I ignored it because a) my friend was already working there and doing well and b) I wanted a job.
So off I went for an interview in San Francisco, which felt especially fancy and official to me, even back then.
The office was in a crummy neighborhood and building, and right then and there I should have turned around and left.
But I continued down the dark rabbit hole.
I waited for my “interview” behind several other people, who were around my age.
The reason I put interview in quotes was because the guy barely asked me anything before telling me to come back for a second round.
The second round was more of a presentation than anything.
The room was filled with about 20 individuals, a good amount of diversity in the room.
Yet, when the presentation was over, the same guy who interviewed me (aka the boss) pulled me and a few other white and asian people to the side and told us he could see something in us that made him think we were going to do well working for Cutco.
The guy didn’t even know anything about any of us. This was one of the most blatant examples of racial profiling I had experienced in my young life, and it actually got worse.
As I was walking to the train, naively feeling good about myself, me and this other white kid ran into another one of the “interviewees”, a black kid.
He told us that the “boss” had told him he wouldn’t be getting the job.
I’ll never forget that moment.
Deep down inside of me I knew how wrong it was, but for whatever reason, I still continued down the dark rabbit hole.
Young and dumb, not acknowledging the white privilege nor the injustice.
In the end though, that kid who wasn’t hired lucked out.
I didn’t mention it before, but Cutco sells premium kitchen cutlery. In fact, I’d argue that Cutco’s products are an exception to the MLM rule of shitty products.
Cutco knives are actually pretty decent.
But let’s be honest, who needs a butter knife that can cut through leather?
Or a pair of scissors that can cut a penny in half?
(These were the demonstrations they had us do for friends and family).
The saving grace is that we got paid hourly to do these presentations, in addition to the commissions we would earn for selling the knives or recruiting someone under us.
I ended up selling a few sets to family and friends, kept my demo kit, and ultimately broke even from the whole experience (not factoring in my time).
I didn’t do it for more than a month or two before finally realizing this bullshit wasn’t for me.
I learned some valuable lessons from the experience though.
The most important lesson?
Never touch a MLM again.
Nowadays, I can smell a MLM from a mile away.
We commonly see them on Facebook, but I’ll also have the occasional victim try and pitch to me in person.
I run like hell as soon as I sense it.
Recently, I went to a retirement party for a dear loved one. It was here that I encountered one of the most egregious examples of MLM behavior I’ve ever experienced.
A guest of this party (a friend of a friend) had the audacity to ask if she could do a 2-hour presentation pitching her product.
This product, by the way, costs $4-6k USD.
My dear loved one felt obligated to compromise (for reasons I won’t go into), so she allowed it to happen downstairs, away from the party.
About 20% of the guests remained upstairs.
This was so unacceptably inappropriate.
Here we were, celebrating someone’s long and difficult career, and a snake oil salesman had somehow managed to infiltrate and potentially brainwash 80% of the guests.
Fortunately, the few of us with sense steered clear, but that’s not the point.
The point is that these companies are built to tap into peoples’ greed and desperation.
Even after this woman had stolen the majority of the guests from the party for more than an hour, she still continued to slither into disingenuous conversations trying to peddle her snake oil.
And I would normally feel sorry for people like her, but she doesn’t deserve an ounce of it. She took a shit on what was supposed to be a happy celebration.
There’s no “easy” button
So if you’re reading this rant, I’ll leave you with one small piece of advice.
As an experienced entrepreneur (I say this humbly…in fact, I hated writing it), one of the most important things I’ve learned is that success does not come easy.
MLMs sell easy buttons.
I would bet that most people would love to be their own boss and rake in boatloads of passive income.
But this isn’t the real world.
If you want any semblance of that life, you’re gonna have to find another way.
A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to The Enneagram, an ancient personality and psyche assessment system.
The system is based on 9 basic personality types. They are the following:
The Perfectionist (aka Reformer)
The more specific characteristics of each of these personality types can be read about here.
Now, what’s cool about this particular “personality test” is its fluid nature. In other words, you are not expected to be 100% of any of these basic personality types.
In fact, you will probably find that you have a little bit of each of these personalities in you.
Does this make the test bogus? Pseudoscience?
Personally, I don’t think so, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Enneagram does not put you in a box.
I am not merely a One/perfectionist. I am mostly a One.
There are no absolutes in this system. And to me, absolutes are what merit skepticism.
So far, I’ve had a good chunk of my friends and family take the Enneagram test to see if their basic personality types are consistent with the things I think I already know about them.
And the results will shock you (click here to find out more)…
In all seriousness, I was pretty amazed by the accuracy of the test in pinning the basic personality types that I expected of a few of my friends.
Sure, initially I didn’t know much about any of the nine personality types (aside from my own, a One), but after more reading and new personality types emerging in my friends’ results, I started to learn more.
Now I’m at the point where I can somewhat accurately guess which personality type my friends and family are, before they even take the test.
I know I won’t be right all the time, but it’s fun to focus on the stuff that goes beyond the surface.
Everything can be categorized.
That’s worth repeating…
Everything can be categorized.
And that includes complex human beings. Don’t be so arrogant to think that you are too complex to be categorized into 1 of 9 categories.
Nobody is saying you are 100% anything.
It’s your choice to decide how much of your basic personality you agree with, but don’t forget that you were the one who answered the initial questions whose algorithm categorized your type.
The only thing you should be dubious about is whether you were categorized accurately or not, which is mostly contingent on how honest your answers were in the initial Enneagram test.
Forgive the tangent, but this is me responding to one of my skeptical friends, who didn’t even read anything about his personality type after getting his result, but immediately called the test bogus.
That’s fine. You do you.
But I will tell you that most of what I’ve read about my type and my friends’ types have been consistent with what I know about them as individuals, and this includes how the various personality types interact with each other.
For example, V is a 7, I am a 1, and when I read the description of the relationships between 7s and 1s my jaw nearly hit the floor.
Again, it wasn’t 100% accurate. Almost nothing is.
Can we agree on this?
But if something is 90% true, then it will usually be credible enough for me.
There are a whole bunch of things I’m eager to write about this week, especially after a relatively long hiatus since my last post (OK, I guess 4 days can’t really be considered a “hiatus”).
However, I’m going to shelve most of these topics for later in the week, because there is a bit of negativity and rant behind some of said topics.
Monday isn’t a good day for ranting in my opinion, so I thought it would be best if I document a snippet of this past weekend’s activities.
V and I are fortunate to have a core friend group that we share from college. I guess this is partially the result of our relationship a) starting in college and b) evolving from an initial friendship.
Regardless, we’re very fortunate to have so many mutual friends.
Our core friend group allows us to share mutual experiences, but still maintain our individual relationships with each friend in the group.
I hate to write about it so robotically, but the point I’m trying to make is that without these friends, life would not be as good.
I do sometimes worry about how things will change as we continue to get older, but as long as there is some proximity, I’m confident we can keep these friend trips going.
This past weekend was one of these cherished friend trips.
We went to visit our friend and check out her new digs in Lake County, CA, a place I didn’t even know existed until a few months ago when she announced she’d be moving there.
Crazy to reflect on the fact that there are places within my home state’s geography that I am completely unfamiliar with.
We spent Satuday boating on Clear Lake, which is apparently the oldest lake in North America at 480,000 years old. It is also the largest natural freshwater lake wholly in California (yes, this is a more specific category than it initially may seem).
We rented a tube to go along with our boat, and I can’t remember the last time I had such a rush of endorphins than when I was being dragged along on that tube.
Simultaneously experiencing fear and laughter is an underrated combo of emotions. Maybe it’s because these emotions don’t usually mix?
This was a prototypical Summer experience. The sun was shining and burning the shit out of us. The water was warm. The laughs were constant.
We may mostly be in our 30s now, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. And I hope we can collectively maintain our twenty-something attitudes well into our twilight years, because moments like these are what life is all about.
The best part is that there is plenty of fun to come.
July has a healthy mix of friends and family, and honestly not much time for work.
But who in their right mind would ever complain about this?
I just want to acknowledge this to start off a post-holiday week.
So much information was shared and consumed this past weekend in Boise at Craft + Commerce 2018.
The Convertkit (now Seva) team did an incredible job keeping each of us entertained, engaged, surprised, and inspired throughout the entire weekend, and it really doesn’t surprise me considering the company culture they’ve created.
The best part of the weekend however, was the connections I made with other entrepreneurs in a similar line of work.
While some of us had nothing in common in terms of personality, simply being on a similar journey can create powerful relationships.
I don’t usually meet people who understand what I’m doing, so it was incredibly refreshing answering the question of “what I do” with confidence, all weekend long.
On top of this, I met people who travel hack, use YNAB, practice Krav Maga, and engage in other random hobbies I obsess over on a day-to-day basis.
This was super-cool for me, because none of the people in my real life have much interest in any of these things.
So in the interest of giving you prospective Craft + Commerce attendees some substance, let me share some of my notes and takeaways from this excellent conference for online creators.
And who knows, maybe some of you who attended the 2018 conference could chime in with your notes in the comments section below. I think it would be helpful to consolidate as many ideas for the weekend as possible, especially while it’s still fresh on our minds.
Early-bird dinner & drinks meetup
This dinner was my introduction to the conference and the moment I realized I had found my people.
Amongst those at my table, there was so much intersection between the things each of us do. On top of this, everybody was humble, friendly, and helpful.
Early morning pickup basketball
This was the meetup I hosted at 6:30am on Friday.
I was the only one to show up, but I didn’t take it too personally since I figured most people at the conference: a) did not bring basketball shoes b) did not want to wake up at the asscrack of dawn c) did not like basketball, or d) had not arrived in Boise yet.
Still, I had a great time hooping it up with a bunch of locals, and I plan to host the meetup again next year, regardless of whether anyone at the conference actually shows up.
But you should show up next year 😛
YouTube creators meetup
Before the conference began on Friday, I attended a YouTube creators conference organized by one of the conference attendees, Charlie King.
There were over 20 people at the meetup, which was both awesome and unexpected!
I got to sit at a table with several experienced YouTubers, as well as a couple folks who were looking to get started on YouTube.
The first huge piece of information I got out of the meetup is that if you want to schedule a video to publish on a certain date and time, but not right when you upload it, you can set the video to “private” instead of “unlisted” (which is what I typically do) in order to have it published at a future date and time.
HUGE! Thanks, Paul!
I was also curious to know how others deal with updating their poorly created videos of the past, because I have several of them.
The burning question for me was: do you delete the old version of the video once you create it?
Several people chimed in to suggest that I keep the old video up, but link to the new video with a card and a URL in the video’s description.
A couple other notes I took:
The content subject matters more than the production and editing
Live video is good training for being more efficient
Thanks to Charlie for putting together such a useful, organized meetup! Honestly, it felt like a well-organized workshop.
If anybody else has notes from this meetup, please share in the comments below and I’ll add them in.
Convertkit (Seva) Feedback Workshop
After the YouTube meetup, I headed over to the Convertkit (now Seva) feedback meetup, where we got to provide direct product feedback to Nathan, Seva’s CEO, and other members of their team.
A few of the suggestions I made:
Allow users to add a broadcast email to the front (or end) of a sequence after it has been sent.
The intention behind this would be to create an evergreen newsletter more easily
Allow users to exclude subscribers from broadcasts if they are part of any sequence
The intention behind this is to ensure that those subscribers who are part of a current email sequence, are not bombarded by additional broadcast emails.
Provide live classes on the web
Since Seva has somewhat of a steep learning curve, I suggested that live webinars may be helpful for those who are looking to learn the software.
Notifications when a rule breaks
The automated rules are great, but they can be intimidating to work with. It would be great if users were notified when a new rule or automation breaks another rule/automation.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember what else we discussed beyond the notes I put down.
If anybody else has notes from this meetup, please share in the comments below and I’ll add them in.
It’s weird not writing Convertkit anymore.
Kinda like how I’m now going to have to refer to Google AdWords as Google Ads.
Main Stage Talks
Below are my notes and takeaways from the main stage talks throughout the weekend. Sorry, I realize I didn’t get everything.
Pat Flynn – The Riches are in the Niches
I’m a huge Pat Flynn fanboy, even if I didn’t necessarily show it this weekend (I was too shy to have any in-depth conversations with him). Not getting past my shyness was probably my biggest regret of the weekend, but my guess is that we will someday cross paths again and I’ll have a chance to redeem myself.
Pat, if you ever read this, let’s get some hoops going at the next conference!
Pat had an entertaining opening presentation on the power of “showing up”, “serving first”, and “staying weird”.
The presentation was titled “The Riches are in the Niches” on the conference agenda, but I don’t recall any specific references to this mantra he often cites in his content.
He opened the talk by reading a children’s book called Llama Llama Red Pajama, before eventually showing the audience Ludacris’ rendition:
The point I think Pat was making in showing this video is that we all have our own unique voice and there are people out there who want to hear it.
“There are no unique messages, only unique messengers.”
“Put more you into your creations”
“Creations aren’t for us, they’re for who we serve”
The anecdotal anchor of the talk was the God Bless You Man, a homeless man named Dwight who used to panhandle around the UC Berkeley (B-town represent!) campus, saying “god bless you” to every passerby.
Dwight exemplified what Pat believes is important to creating a powerful online business.
He showed up. He served first (by offering kind words to strangers). And he put his unique spin on his work.
Overall, the talk was well-executed, even though the takeaways weren’t necessarily new to me (did I mention I’m a Pat Flynn fanboy?).
Cathryn Lavery – Building a Global Brand From Zero to Eight Figures in 24 Months
Another highlight main stage speaker for me was Cathryn Lavery.
She used her own company and others as a case study for how to build an unforgettable experience for your customers.
The examples were excellent, as she cited how major brands like Apple and Starbucks have capitalized on optimizing the customer experience to catapult themselves to the top of their respective industries.
The cherry on top was that Cathryn generously shared her slides with us after the conference.
Best Self was a sponsor of this year’s conference, and quite honestly, it felt nothing of the sort. They provided us with a ton of value not only with Cathryn’s great talk, but our own copies of the SELF Journal in our swag bags.
Chad Collins – Why Now is the Best Time to Create a Live Event
I had the chance to meet Chad Collins and his wife at breakfast over the weekend of the conference, and their story was amazing to say the least.
They organize massive live events for families with interests in things like LEGO and Minecraft.
The more he shared about the business, the quicker I realized what genius marketing is involved to pull it off. In fact, if I tried to reiterate here I’d probably butcher it, so I’m not gonna even try.
How to Get Lucky – Courtland Allen
Courtland closed out the conference with a great talk on how luck should not only be acknowledged for its arbitrary nature, but also accepted as something that we have the ability to control more than we may think.
I mean, I could be completely off the mark, but it seemed Courtland was not trying to completely downplay his accomplishments in selling IndieHackers.com to Stripe, as humble as he may be.
The talk was excellent, but for some reason I didn’t take any notes.
I do however, remember his story about emailing everybody he interviewed on his podcast, Indie Hackers, asking them to share the episode with their audience when it went live.
This alone was a huge piece of marketing advice delivered in an overall very entertaining presentation.
Some of the workshops of the weekend were interactive, while others felt more like full-on talks. Still, I think I was able to get a lot out of each workshop I attended.
Claire Pellertreau & Tony Rulli – How To Have Your Facebook Ads Pay For Themselves: Creating an effective tripwire Facebook ad campaign (Workshop)
This was the first workshop I attended at Craft + Commerce 2018, and it was excellent.
I originally attended the workshop with the intention of learning more about how I can potentially expand my Search and Perch service offerings to Facebook ads, but I left with a great blueprint for a funnel I can create for Coffee Concierge.
The workshop walked us through coming up with several “tripwire” offers that we can start pitching to our ideal audience, with the intention of moving them down the funnel towards higher level products and services.
The workshop was especially helpful for me because it forced me to really think about who my ideal audience is, what their interests are, and what their #1 problem is that my eBook solves.
I came away from the workshop deciding I would sell my current eBook at a lower price as my tripwire offer, and then offer an accompanying video course down the line as a higher level offer.
We also came up some other potential “higher level” offers I could sell down the line.
Super-helpful workshop…thanks, Claire & Tony!
Mariah Coz and Megan Minns – Building a Framework and Launch Plan for Your Online Course
This was an extremely detailed presentation on how to launch an online course.
Mariah and Megan were incredibly generous with the actionable framework they provided.
They opened with a useful quote:
“Launching is a dialogue”
You can’t launch a course without communicating with your prospective customers, so keeping the dialogue open is critical to your launch’s success.
Start the conversation with your audience, and keep it going throughout.
At the end of the launch, you’ll want to use two genuine scarcity tactics to spring your prospects into action:
Increase the price
Close the cart
They call their launches 5DL, which stands for “five day launch”. Here’s what it looks like:
Email 1: What’s Your Why?
Ask your prospect what their why is. Why do they want to solve the problem that you offer the potential solution for?
In my case: why do my readers want to make better coffee at home?
Are they tired of wasting money at Starbucks? Do they want to cut back on their sugar intake and learn to drink their coffee black?
Ask at the end of the email what your prospects’ “why” is after sharing your own personal “why”.
Email 2: Why Now is the Best Time to Start
Explain to your prospect why now is the best time to address the problem they face.
What makes this the right time to learn to make better coffee at home?
Email 3: Milestones: How I got from A to B, One Step at a Time
Share your story of how you transformed from someone like your prospective buyer, into someone like yourself (the expert).
Email 4: Cart Open
Announce that your course is now for sale, and outline exactly what your course offers.
Email 5: Why You Sucked at This and Failed Before
Describe a familiar situation that relates to the failure of solving the problem your course looks to solve.
In my case: the reason you were unable to stop adding sugar to your coffee before is because you were buying new coffee makers expecting them to automagically fix the problem.
The truth is, coffee makers are not the reason your coffee is tasting bad.
Email 6: A Case Study
Share a story of someone successfully solving their problem by using your course.
Email 7: Mistakes I See People Make, and How To Avoid Them
Share the common mistakes and misconceptions of your audience, and how to avoid them.
This seems like a more detailed version of email #5, but maybe somebody can chime in with the distinction by leaving a comment below.
Email 8: Last Chance for Early-Bird Pricing
This email simply serves as a final reminder to act now before the price goes up.
Email 9: Where Will You Be 6 Months from Now?
Describe the full transformation of your prospective customer.
“You’ll be drinking black coffee at home every single day, wondering how you could have ever spent so much coffee on Starbucks, and consumed so much unnecessary cream and sugar.”
Email 10: What’s Holding You Back?
Start the email with what held you, the course creator, back from making your transformation.
Then ask: what’s holding you back from getting started?
Email 11: Last Day FAQ
Compile and answer all of the frequently asked questions from your audience regarding this course.
This happens on the cart-close day.
Email 12: Final Reminder – Last Chance to Enroll
This is the last email you will send during the launch itself. It’s a final reminder that the cart will be closing at X:00 on Friday, the day the final reminder email is sent.
So again, this was an incredibly detailed presentation (albeit: not much of a workshop) on course launches.
Mariah and Megan not only gave us a complete template for a course launch, but they happily answered everyone’s questions as well.
There was also a lot of information on providing live videos as a component of the overall launch sequence. In other words, you are expected to go on Facebook live (or your platform of choice) to supplement the launch’s emails.
Ultimately, I had a ton of questions about the pre-launch (validation) and post-launch (what if they don’t buy), but I understand that these could easily be their own topics for other workshops.
Alexis Gay – How to Launch and Grow A Membership Business: The Key to Financial and Creative Independence
Alexis Gay from Patreon put together a very informative and engaging talk about the benefits of using a platform like Patreon for monetizing a creative business.
The workshop did not feel like a Patreon pitch, so I definitely appreciated the information, as well as Alexis’ approach.
There was plenty of back-and-forth discussion to get value out of the workshop. For example: Alexis asked us to brainstorm 3 goals for having a membership business.
Recurring, predictable income
Motivation to keep creating
Discovering who my “true” fans are
She also asked us to write down 3 benefits to having a membership business.
Discount coupons for various products in my niche
Finally, she asked us to think about marketing avenues for our potential membership businesses.
Text messages (eek, that might be too aggressive)
End screens of YouTube videos
Social media bio links
A few other important notes about Patreon specifically:
Typically there is a 0.5-5% conversion rate among your entire audience size.
Patreon takes a 5% cut of your total sales
Patreon does not currently offer a discovery engine (for potential Patrons to discover you)
Jennifer Quinn – Beyond the ‘Talking Head’ Livestream: Broadcasting to Convert
This was another useful workshop, specifically on how to master the livestream.
Jennifer was not only engaging, but she also provided a useful handout on developing a loose script for live video streams.
The main exercise of the workshop had us write an intro, 3 main talking points, and outro for our live video. This was actually an incredibly helpful exercise in helping me realize that live video may actually be an effective tool for my business.
Also learned about a few useful tools for livestreams such as:
I left the workshop a whole lot more comfortable about livestream than I had felt beforehand.
So there you have it, my notes and takeaways from Craft + Commerce 2018. I hope this was helpful to you in some small (or large) way. If not, I apologize for wasting your time!
If you have some of your own notes from the conference to share, please leave a comment below.
Questions about the Craft + Commerce conference? Leave ’em below and I’ll do my best to answer.