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8 Ways To Become A Best-Selling Author With Your First Book

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I admit it. There are no guarantees—especially with books.

Mini Habits best selling bookBut while I can’t guarantee this will work for you, I can say it worked for me and I’ll do my best to share why. I’ve published one book (so far) called Mini Habits, and it’s been a bestseller for more than seven months straight, almost always being in the top 10 of competitive categories. So when I say best seller, I don’t mean that it peaked at #35 in one category one time and dropped back down into oblivion. It has sold 16,000+ copies in these seven months.

At its peak, Mini Habits hit #15 overall in the US Kindle store (and #1 in nonfiction). That was a fun day!

These are the 8 key factors that made my book a best seller. If you’re a current or prospective self-published author, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This is what made my book a mini-phenomenon… one which continues to grow.

 

1. Give Your Book A Chance To Succeed

Obvious, isn’t it? But how many self-published authors out there are paying enough for skilled editors and talented cover artists? I don’t know the answer, but I know that a lot do NOT invest much money into their book—only their time. The problem with only investing time is that publishing a book takes an alarming number of varied skills to pull off. The likelihood that you can do everything to a high standard is about as likely as North Korea being voted “friendliest country.”

To have a chance, you usually need to take a financial risk. I paid $150 for my first cover. It wasn’t horrible, but I did decide to pay $550 to have another one created that fit the book better and gave a more cheerful vibe. That’s $700 I put into the cover alone. Then you have editing, proofreading, and any other services you might need to fill in your skill gaps.

To compete at a high level in the marketplace, your book must be polished.

 

2. Launch Big Or Go Home

Book launches are like space shuttle launches—if there’s a problem in the beginning, your entire mission is in big trouble. The reason is a simple, yet powerful observation that any of us can identify as true.

The books that sell are the books that sell.

It’s unfortunate that so many gems are buried in obscurity, but it happens all the time. For your book to have a chance, at some point it must rise up the charts to a place where browsing readers can see it, and the best time for that to happen is right when you release it.

It’s not just visibility, either. Who wants to buy a book that has sold one copy in the past year? Psychologically, we’re wired to think that the books that sell the most are the best ones. That’s not always true, and the way in which it is most incorrect is in assuming books that don’t sell aren’t any good.

Perception and visibility make your book’s success or failure.

How do you launch big?

The most reliable way is with your own targeted email list. I had just over 4,000 email subscribers when I launched Mini Habits. It reached as high as #1,503 overall on Amazon in the first couple of days in which members of my list bought 100-200 copies.

The second best way is with another person’s email list. I was fortunate enough that Steve Scott—a prolific blogger and author—liked the book and shared it with his list of about the same size. This helped minimize the dreaded post-launch cliff and kept it visible.

If you don’t have an email list or know anyone who does, you’ll need to get creative and try to build partnerships with people of influence. One good idea that has worked for some is to give out advance copies of your book to bloggers in your book’s niche. Then ask them to share it if they like it.

The point here is that it’s unrealistic to think your book will sell if it doesn’t have a big push to get it into the spotlight. Just think about a best-selling author like Stephen King—the moment he releases a book, there are already thousands of people waiting to buy it, sending it up the charts and making it visible to even more people. That’s what you need to aim for (on a smaller level, of course). I did it by building a platform (my blog). I’m a poor networker, but I was still able to have a big launch. Play to your strengths and leverage email lists for a big launch! Even if you have to pay someone to advertise to their list, email is the best sales channel.

 

3. Publish In The Right Place(s)

Mini Habits is exclusive to Amazon. The reason for that is Amazon’s KDP select. There are three benefits of KDP select, which you gain when you only publish your ebook on Amazon.

Countdown sales (or free sales, which I personally think devalues books) — once every 90 days, you can put your book on sale, and there will be a countdown timer to show readers when the sale ends. Most authors find this helps increase sales over manual price changes (because of the official countdown timer).

Prime borrows — Amazon Prime members pay about $99 a year for free two-day shipping on Amazon. As a bonus, they are allowed to borrow one Kindle book per month. If you’re on KDP select, your book is included as an option. On average, Amazon pays you about $2 every time your book is borrowed. Depending on the price of your book, this is almost like another sale. And as for your book’s Amazon ranking, it seems to count as a full or partial sale too, which is obviously wonderful.

Kindle Unlimited — Amazon just announced a Netflix-like subscription model for books. Readers pay $9.99 for unlimited access to more than 600,000 books. Mini Habits is automatically one of those books because it is enrolled in KDP Select. So if a reader has Kindle Unlimited and downloads your book, does it count as a sale? A borrow? It counts as nothing, actually, until they read at least 10% of your book. After they read to the 10% mark, the transaction is counted just like a Prime borrow (which was explained above).

As a side note, guess what Kindle Unlimited is going to encourage? Shorter books, where the 10% mark can be reached more easily. The 10% mark in War And Peace is about the length of my entire book!

Amazon has a KDP fund that is split by authors in KDP select. Your split is determined by what percentage of borrows your book(s) were responsible for. It usually amounts to about $2 per borrow. Now that they’ve added the Kindle Unlimited monkey wrench, the big question is how—if at all—it will affect this $2 per borrow number authors have come to expect. We’ll have to wait and see the first KDP disbursement.

That’s Amazon’s deal and they control 50-60% of the market, so it’s a big deal. It has worked brilliantly for me, and I love the simplicity of only managing one platform. There are legitimate concerns, however, with putting all of your eggs in Amazon’s basket, especially when they’re making industry-shaking moves like Kindle Unlimited. The good news is that if you go exclusive with Amazon, it’s only for 90 days at a time. After that, you’re free to drop KDP select and put your book on other platforms.

I’ve gained thousands of dollars and hundreds of readers by going exclusive with Amazon through the borrows alone, and the Kindle countdown deal is what drove my book to #15 in the USA Kindle store for a few special days. It’s been beneficial to concentrate all sales in one location for sales ranking purposes, too.

That’s not to say it’s best for everyone. I’ve read plenty of authors who get plenty of sales by going multi-platform. I was going to experiment, but it’s gone so well with Amazon that I’ve stuck with it.

 

A total of seven self-published ebooks will make the New York Times bestseller list this weekend

 

4. Make Your Book Relevant, But Unique

I’m not saying you can’t write another vampire book. I’m saying you can’t write “Twi-lite.”

For fiction and nonfiction alike, it’s smart to look at what’s selling well already. That’s where the interest is, and a crowded market is not usually a bad thing. Many people who buy one book in a category will buy several more in that category! Looking at what people are buying now will help you stay relevant.

Now, I’m forever biased, but I think that “Mini Habits” has some intrigue to it. I know it’s at least a unique concept, and yet it’s within the popular habit formation niche (relevant, but unique).

Also important is that “Mini Habits” is a memorable and easily identifiable title, which helps greatly if someone wants to talk about the book or concept with friends. “Mini Habits” is also perfectly descriptive of the book’s topic—I didn’t just throw a catchy name on the cover (though a few copycats of my book did. One guy had “Mini Habits” in the title despite the phrase not being found one time in the actual book… classic).

And that’s another lesson you probably already know. If you want the chance to become a legitimate author yourself, do not blatantly copy other authors. It can work for blog posts to write “The 7 Habits of [blah blah],” but if you publish a book trying to use the same copycat formula, you’ll take a credibility hit.

That said, you can modify a working concept to make it less-than-obvious that you were inspired by a popular book. Maybe your book would be called “The 9 Beliefs Of Very Happy People.” That uses the same general formula as Steven Covey’s blockbuster, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” but it’s not a blatant copy and it even tackles a different subject (and it’s a topic in demand as evidenced by other best-selling books on happiness).

The idea is to stay relevant to what people are looking for, but make sure your book stands out. It’s simple advice, but it’s invaluable if you want to sell books!

 

5. Price Your Book Like A Pro

Note: This strategy applies to Amazon only. I’m not familiar with how the other book markets operate (e.g. Barnes & Noble and Apple).

Just after I launched Mini Habits, I made a mistake. Seeing it as a premium book with premium information, I priced it at a premium price of $9.99. I quickly learned that selling a short book for $10 is a bad idea, especially with your first book. Sales dropped substantially when I increased the price. I expected a drop, but not that much of one! So I lowered it to $5.99, where it’s been selling successfully for months.

To price your ebook, you’ve got to understand the pricing environment you’re in. My book is exclusive with Amazon (and we’ll get to that soon), and so I’ve analyzed the price of hundreds of Amazon ebooks.

People shopping at Amazon have specific expectations of how a book will be priced. Generally what you’ll see is self-published ebooks in the $2.99-9.99 range (with almost all at or below $5.99) and traditionally-published ebooks are often greater than $10. Since Amazon gives a 70% royalty for ebooks in the 2.99-9.99 range, that’s why you see so many books between those boundaries. Books priced outside that range only earn a 35% royalty for the author.

If you “fight the market” and stubbornly price your book at $15 “because it’s worth it,” enjoy having no sales! If you’re like me and you cringe a little bit at selling your baby for too little, consider the other great thing you get from a lower price point—readers! Writers need readers, right? And generally speaking, gaining a loyal reader is more valuable than making a couple bucks more per sale. So if you’re going to be a rebel, choose another way besides pricing. Believe me, you want to conform to market pricing.

 

6. Categorize Your Book Like A Pro

Let me ask you a question. After you launch your book and place it in the proper categories, what do you do? If you said anything besides “change categories,” listen to this. When I made a change to ONE category Mini Habits was in (you can put your book in two categories), sales doubled. That needs all caps, doesn’t it? SALES DOUBLED.

To properly categorize your book, there are only two factors to consider—where your book ranks in the category and how well it sells there. Generally speaking, my strategy is to get in the most popular category where I can rank well. For my sales volume now, that means a popular category in which I can get on the first page (top 20 books). For someone just starting out with lower sales or a very competitive niche (e.g. Mystery), you might be aiming to break the top 100, which is where the bestseller list cuts off.

Keep in mind that being #83 in a popular category might get much more traffic than being the top 20 of a less popular category. Fiction readers especially are voracious, and will scour the deepest depths of their favorite categories to find a new gem.

To get an idea of a category’s popularity, look at several of the first 20 books. Click on a book and scroll down until you see its overall ranking. If it’s a competitive category, you’ll see several books rank in the top 1,000 books overall. If it’s not a very competitive category, the #1 book might be ranked as low as #5,000-#15,000 overall. Now find your book’s overall ranking to see where it would be in the category you’re analyzing.

These should be your priorities:

  • Break top 100 in a category
  • Break top 20 in a category (first page)
  • Become #1 in a category (this might help with Amazon’s system recommendations, and Amazon shows “#1 best seller in ____” next to your book in search)

You have to think carefully though. Being #3 in a popular category will most likely serve you better than being #1 in a lower-traffic category, but only experimentation can confirm this. I’ve had the best results by jumping into a popular category when my book can rank in the top 20, and when I can’t manage that, jumping down to a less popular category and aiming for the top 5.

Chances are, your book can fit in a number of different categories. Some categories are better fits for your book than others, but choosing the “best fit” is not always the best decision for getting your book more sales and exposure. That said, if you pick a completely irrelevant category, you won’t be happy with the results!

These are good guidelines to follow, but you’ll still need to experiment. And that’s the key. Many authors do not experiment, and let their book die young in the wrong category. Sometimes I wonder where Mini Habits would be if I didn’t experiment with categories.

 

professional writer amateur quote

 

7. Know Your Reader And Overdeliver On Value

When people read Mini Habits, they probably expect to think, “that was a cute idea,” or some adorable phrase like that. But what they get is a compelling and carefully-crafted case for taking seriously this ridiculous-sounding strategy of habit change. I loaded the book with science and straightforward logic. I also know the strategies people currently try to succeed with, so I effectively and ruthlessly attacked them as inferior strategies for change. If you’ve been doing something for 25 years and a person presents a compelling case for why you shouldn’t do it anymore, it will get your attention.

After reading my book, people come away with a new perspective. For many of the people who’ve read it, it’s been a life-changing decision for them. That’s why Mini Habits is rated 4.7 stars from 197 reviews as of writing. I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to explain that people have to like your book in order for it to succeed. But what determines that?

Give the reader tangible results.

Whether it’s a fun experience or a new strategy that solves a problem for them, delivering a result that meets—and hopefully exceeds—what the reader expects from your book is the single most important thing your book must accomplish to succeed.

If your book only rehashes things that have been said and done before, it’s unlikely to make too many waves. One of the most common critical reviews I see is, “nothing new.” That happens when people don’t do in-depth research. They parrot out what other authors are parroting out.

Readers like to be surprised by novel situations in fiction books and novel ideas in nonfiction books. They read books to learn and experience new thoughts and ideas, and if your book doesn’t accomplish that, it will be tough to win people over.

But I want to go a little bit deeper. Overdelivering isn’t just some fancy catchphrase that means “do a good job.” It means to “do more than what’s expected.” And this is critical with books because expectations are largely based the price of your book and how the content measures up to the competition—two things that you can control. We just talked about overdelivering and standing out, so now let’s talk pricing and categories.

 

8. Promote The Smart Way

Note: Some authors will cheat the system and buy positive reviews. People read reviews to see what real people thought of your book. If you can’t get ahead without cheating, you should play a different game! That’s my philosophy, and I think that the trust I build with my book and blog readers will be THE key factor that sustains my business. Not only is review tampering highly unethical, but I find it unnecessary.

Cheating gets you ahead today; honesty builds a foundation for life. It feels good to know that people will look at Mini Habits’ reviews and see nothing but honest feedback. Fortunately, the feedback has been positive, and that’s why overdelivering is important.

Mini Habits has sold like hotcakes for 7 months in a row. Why do you think that is? Whenever sales drop, and even when they don’t, I’m hustling to promote it! Writing and publishing a book is only the beginning. Promotion is a neverending job because when you stop promoting, your book will fade away (unless it’s a rare exception).

Too many authors write a book and wait for the sales to come, but in order to compete, marketing your book is mandatory.

For promotion, the king on top of the mountain is Bookbub. There is no arguing against it, and their role in the book industry is only going to grow moving forward. Bookbub is a book deal site that has email lists of hundreds of thousands of subscribers in different categories. They let subscribers know when there’s a great deal on a great book.

Remember how I said the email list was the key to a big launch? That’s why Bookbub is king. They have, by far, the largest email lists of interested readers (for example, they have 1.5 million emails for the Mystery category alone)!

If you submit your book and are lucky enough to be accepted, you get to pay them several hundred dollars. Wha-whaaat? Yes, and if you know what you’re in for, you’ll have a huge smile on your face when you do it. I often read message boards and laugh when people say Bookbub and “risk” in the same sentence because of the cost. I’ve not heard of one person who hasn’t easily covered their cost with a Bookbub promotion. One measly email from them will trigger hundreds or thousands of sales of your book.

I didn’t mention this, but do you know how Mini Habits rose to #15 overall? It sold 4,000+ copies in two days. And it wasn’t just the Kindle countdown deal, it was Bookbub. And the residual effect of moving up the charts like that is substantial. Sales are still higher months after the promotion, because the books that sell are the books that sell.

But it’s difficult to be accepted on Bookbub because of the demand, and you can understand why. Getting on Bookbub with a diamond in the rough book might just change your life. It changed mine!

If you think the whole point of this article is “get on Bookbub,” that’s not correct. You can absolutely succeed without Bookbub, and your book will need to be somewhat successful already in order to have a chance with them anyway. Keep in mind that the reason they accepted Mini Habits is that it was already selling well, was rated 4.9 stars, and it had that combination of unique, but relevant I mentioned earlier. Bookbub just took my book’s success to the next level.

Bookbub isn’t the only one, either. There are dozens of other ebook promotion services. Many of them will give you disappointing results, so be careful and google “[their name] results” to see others’ experiences with them. I’ve found this to be a reliable way to see if a promotion is worth it or not. I’ll go ahead and tell you that Pixel of Ink and eReaderNewsToday are the other two to look at first.

 

Alternative Promotion Strategies

Guest posting—I’ve had success with guest posting and linking to my book in my bio. As expected, it works best when the post is related to the topic of your book. This is easier for non-fiction writers, since the content is suitable for a larger number of blogs.

Funnels—This isn’t a “best-selling first book” approach because it requires multiple books, but many authors have success with funnels. An example of a funnel is having the first book in a series free, which draws in a larger amount of people than a for-sale book would. Then, the second book in the series might cost $2.99, and readers who get “hooked” on the first book will likely purchase the second book. After that, maybe you’ll sell them an even higher priced book or related product. The idea of a funnel is to ask for very little at first until you build trust with the reader. If your books are good, it works very well. If people read your first book and hate it, well, you know…

Advertising—Conventional advertising with Google adwords or Facebook is always an option. I don’t do it, but it’s another way to get sales and increase awareness of your book. Just keep a close eye on your ROI, because losing a lot of money for a few sales isn’t ideal.

GoodreadsYou must get on Goodreads if you’re an author. It’s like the world’s biggest book club. I’ve run two paperback giveaways through Goodreads, and I can’t say it’s done a lot for sales, but I don’t know that for sure. It has greatly increased my presence on Goodreads, which can only help. My guess is that it’s had a small-to-moderate positive long term impact on sales (but no short-term sales boosts).

 

Conclusion

The truth is that most authors give their books absolutely no chance to rise to the top. First, position your book to succeed, and it will have a chance to be read. If it’s read and people love it, it might just become the next blockbuster. But don’t let that get you too excited or discouraged—there’s a middle ground. There are a lot of authors just like me who aren’t in the paper, but are still making a decent living from their book(s).

Unlike any time before now, every writer has a chance. The gatekeepers have been overthrown with the rise of self-publishing. Now it’s the wild west, and these strategies will help you compete.

Check out my book "Mini Habits" to discover the life-changing strategy of taking small, daily actions. Mini Habits has sold 80,000+ copies worldwide. I'm Stephen Guise, the founder of Deep Existence, a blog about focusing, habits, and the power of small steps. Join Deep Existence to gain access to more than 50 exclusive articles, download 40 "focus wallpapers," and read my stress management book for free!

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Cloris Kylie

    Oct 16, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Spot on, Stephen! Great article! This is exactly what I share with my clients–who are authors wanting to sell more books. Thank you!

  2. Cindy Griffin

    May 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    My debut novel is a rock romance and currently at the editor. I wanted to thank you for this article with all of these helpful suggestions. I never considered when I started writing that I would need to be a publisher and have a marketing degree! I simply wanted to write great books.
    Through Internet searches I have now learned so much valuable information about both areas, more than I want to know actually. I am going to follow your advice from these steps and see how my book does. The info makes the most sense to me from ALL of the publishing tips out there (there must be 1000s).
    I do not want to jumble my mind with publishing and marketing info. As I said, I simply want to write great books.

  3. James Jean-Pierre

    May 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Took me a while to land on this post and I can’t say I regret it. I’ve read a lot of posts, and I mean a lot, but this is different, not repeating the same thing everyone else is.

    The three promotions you suggested, I found a while back but had put them in a don’t use folder, but I will bring them back to see if I should reconsider. Thanks a lot, this was really helpful.

  4. Lidiya K

    Jan 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Excellent advise! Thanks for the article.

  5. Rev. g

    Nov 21, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    This was very helpful. Currently in the process of the ‘marketing stage’ of my first book and have just written my second. Both genres are spiritual/inspirational. The first is published and available in hard/soft covers and ebook (we used multiple platforms). I didn’t have much say in the pricing except for the ebook and after reading your article perhaps I need to lower the price (currently at $7.99) My 2nd book going to the production stage. I self-published with the help of a publisher. Since this is all very new to me, your tips have been extremely helpful. I look forward in using them – thanks again… This has truly been a learning yet positive experience!

  6. Mohammad Izdiyan Muttaqin

    Aug 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

    thank you very much for sharing it is a really valuable lessons, i am really motivated to try it

  7. Phil Janecic

    Aug 16, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    This is an awesome post! I’ll be publishing in the future so this was full of really useful information. I only have one question – you only covered the “ebook” part. I see that Amazon also offers your book as paperback.

    How do you set up publishing physical books? I can only assume it’s expensive and complicated.

    • Stephen

      Aug 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Phil. If you publish your paperback through Createspace (amazon Subsidiary), it’s the opposite of expensive and complicated.

      1. Format the book to look good on paperback (this is the hardest part because you have to wrestle with word processing software). As opposed to the ebook, you’ll need page headers, page numbers, etc.

      2. Have your designer create a PDF cover.

      3. Upload the interior and cover for review and they’ll let you know of any issues you need to fix.

      4. I remember it being free. Then it’s print on demand and they take a cut.

      Createspace has info on how to format the interior and also the needed dimensions of the cover. But yeah, I was surprised at how easy it was.

      Cheers,
      Stephen

  8. Ben Kyle

    Aug 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    This is a great article….
    Writing and publishing(Point 3) a book is one thing, but getting it to top the charts is another.

    From what I’ve been able to observe and the extensive market research I’ve done there are a few specific ways you can become a bestselling author:

    1. Luck – think Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

    2. Notoriety – think J.K. Rowling or Anthony Robbins – the simple fact of them publishing a new book almost guarantees it will shoot up the charts to #1.

    3. Buy your way to the top – many Internet gurus have been known to buy massive quantities of their own book when it first comes out and force the book to the top of the chart.

    4. Great writing(point 7) – this is how many new bestsellers reach that coveted position.

    5. Great marketing(point 8) – some authors wrote a decent book, but the power-house marketing behind the launch is what propelled them to the top of the charts.

    Other than the first way to become a bestselling author, I’d say that most of the other types of authors on the list become a bestseller by having a very clear and focused goal.

    By that I mean that you set in your mind that your book will top the charts, you hold that vision and you take massive action to make that happen.

    • Stephen

      Aug 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Ben.

      Based on your list, I think people should aim for #5 and work their way up to #1 as far as strategy goes (though I think #3 is unethical).

      I think that marketing makes a bigger difference than writing quality in many cases (it’s not ideal, but it seems to be the case). But you need both to have a sustainable presence on the bestseller list.

      And your last point is quite true. I believe so strongly in Mini Habits that I’ve been determined to make it highly visible and successful, and that’s helped. If I was half-hearted about the book I wrote or not confident in its value, it’d be much harder to promote it like I have.

      I love Amazon though. Their platform makes it more likely for the cream to rise to the top. Biases are negated through an impartial algorithm, which gives all writers a chance to succeed.

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Success Advice

How to Overcome Stage Fright in 5 Simple Steps

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overcoming stage fright
Image Credit: Unsplash

Fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia (which literally means fear of the tongue) is the apprehension that one experiences when speaking in public. It’s reported that 1 in every 4 individuals reports some sort of anxiety when presenting ideas in front of an audience. Regardless of one’s personal or professional background, being able to communicate ideas confidently and eloquently is of utmost importance. So, how can you overcome stage fright?

Here are 5 simple steps to help you overcome the fear of speaking publicly or in a group:

1. Success Visualization

A great deal of the fear we experience stems from the negative self-talk that goes on in our minds. Thoughts such as “I don’t think I can do it; I’m going to forget my notes; what makes me think people want to listen to me?” The first step in trying to counter the negative self-talk is through what I call Success Visualization. It’s a well-known scientifically-proven fact that the best way to counter negative mental chatters is with positivity.

Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for at least 15 minutes, create a mental image of the speech being a complete success. See the audience cheering and learning. See the equipment working properly. See yourself sharing your ideas with confidence. After all, no one goes to a speech to see a speaker embarrass themselves. Visualize what you want (success), not what you dread.

2. Purposeful Practice

How many times have you heard this well-intentioned advice: “Practice makes perfect”? You might wonder, “I’ve practiced over and over again, why am I not improving?” We’ve been told to practice, but no one ever told us how. In his bestselling book Peak, Anders Ericsson introduces the concept of purposeful practice that he defines as a focused process toward a well-defined and specific goal.

What we’re all engaged in is called naive practice, which is repeating a particular task and expecting to get better. That kind of practice as it relates to public speaking is highly ineffective. There is a myriad of skills that need to be mastered in order to become an effective public speaker. As such, purposeful practice is the right way to go since it allows you to focus on one skill at a time with timely feedback on what is and what isn’t working. Always practice with a goal in mind!

3. Energy Reversal

Science claims that we experience the same physiological changes whether excited or stressed. Our adrenal glands release epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol which are the flight or fight chemicals. From a physiological perspective, being ready to fight, or afraid, ready to run away, are two sides of the same coin. Henceforth, we can channel that same energy resulting from stage fright to psyche ourselves up for the speech.

Positive affirmations such as “I am excited! I rock”, can help trick your subconscious mind into believing that you’re excited. Our subconscious mind is impersonal. It doesn’t discriminate or rationalize, it accepts as true and brings to us whatever we suggest. Positive powerful autosuggestions sink deep into our subconscious mind, and manifest themselves in the way you feel, think, and act. Never tell yourself not to be afraid! Well, I mean always tell yourself you are excited and ready to rock.

4. Action

No great results are to be obtained without consistent and persistent actions. Many of us attend speeches, workshops, and seminars expecting to get the desired outcomes right away. It doesn’t work that way, it never did, and it never will. The three previous steps mean nothing if you don’t have a structure that you can use to help reach your goal.

Knowledge alone won’t bring any result. Knowledge coupled with deliberate, systematic actions, will. What are you going to do? Are you going to join a local Toastmasters Club? How many times a week are you willing to practice? Do you have a support group? You reading this article is vibrant proof that you’ve had enough of stage fright. So, why not grab a pen and paper, and write your next action?

5. Know your purpose, audience, and materials

Three things must be absolutely clear in your mind before giving a speech: Your purpose, the audience, and your materials. First, on a blank sheet of paper, at the very top; make sure you have this question answered: Why am I doing this? Or in the form of a similar statement: By the end of my speech, the audience will have learned. Without a purpose to give you direction and bring value to your audience, you don’t have a speech.

Next, Who am I talking to? Before getting on stage, basic information about the audience’s age group, cultural background, and level of knowledge is essential. Those insights empower you to appropriately frame your message, so you can engage the audience and get your message across more effectively. Speaking isn’t about you, it’s all about the audience.

Finally, make sure you’ve mastered your materials. Specifically, the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Part of why we are afraid results from doubts of not being fully prepared. Never get in front of an audience without having fully mastered your materials. Complete mastery of your materials will boost your self-confidence which will, in turn, reduce your public speaking apprehension.

I hope these techniques serve you well as they have me and the many others who’ve attended my workshops. Your willingness to try, fail, and improve is what makes magic happens. As you may have realized by now, all you have to do to transform your fear from a foe to a friend is to S-P-E-A-K despite your fears.

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3 Steps to Overcome Your Brain Biases and Become a Better Leader

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If I asked you what time it was, you would likely look at your watch or a clock and read the time out to me. And if I were to ask you where you were, you would likely tell me the exact place, city, or state. If I were to then ask you who you were, you would likely identify yourself by your name, demographics, and perhaps a work description. On the surface, answering these questions correctly would indicate that you were not delirious. But are these answers technically correct?

Biological research indicates that superficial orientation to time, place, or person is actually far from accurate. Rather, leaders might benefit from tending toward a non-dual awareness of the world, or at least offer themselves the opportunity to see the world this way. For time, place, and person, the biological realities differ from what we might initially think.

1. Don’t let the past dictate the future

We are not ever-present in the moment, nor should we be. In the human brain, the past, present, and future are all represented at the same time. Although we consciously organize our experiences using this segmentation of time, each of these networks can intrude upon the other. In fact, what you remember can influence what you can imagine for yourself in the future as well.

As a leader, ensure that you frequently examine your memory for positive reminders and biases, take advantage of your presence circuits by incorporating mindfulness practices into your day, and use your “possibility” circuits to imagine or simulate future scenarios. In fact, in the brain, imagination is a lot like reality.

Using all three components at all times will help you to become aware of biases and could also help you escape traps or an impasse. For instance, when a possible solution for product development is vague, thinking in terms of what you want and then reverse-engineering this process to make what you imagine could be helpful.

Walt Disney saw great success after building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, but outside interests began crowding his theme park. When he decided to build another park in Florida, Disney didn’t let the experience of California dissuade him. He expanded his vision to something greater — a city of tomorrow. He created fake companies to secretly purchase acres upon acres of land near where Interstate 4 intersected with the Florida turnpike so his company could develop the area around the theme park.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

2. Think beyond your reach

We are not where we think we are. The notion of “place” has become increasingly irrelevant in a globalized world. With the increasing interconnectedness of societies, cultures, and economies, leaders need to be careful not to think of themselves too locally. When leaders are global in their thinking, they are likely to elicit more widespread cooperation from international markets.

Ask yourself, “What communities beyond my local community do I want to impact?” and “What communities am I impacting?” When you take this approach, it can help your advertising strategies, for example, become more congruous with specific or global markets. Also, leaders who think globally will be more aware of competition from afar and opportunities for collaboration, too.

Jack Ma can be credited with being a global thinker for founding Alibaba, allowing Chinese consumers to access domestic and international markets that they could not previously access. By moving into e-commerce, online banking, and cloud computing, Alibaba has expanded into India and Southeast Asia. Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform has even enabled farmers in Rwanda to sell coffee in China. This is a perfect example of thinking beyond your reach.

3. Connect the body and mind

We are not what we think we are. We are made up of 50% human and 50% bacterial cells. And water comprises 60% of our body weight. So we are basically bags of water and bacteria — with a dash of human cells thrown in for good measure.

Also, though we might think of ourselves as being separate from other people and things, many people or things you encounter in your life are stored in your brain’s memory centers. Our brain tissue contains images, voices, and other attributes of people and things, too. We are not actually as separate as we think.

Take care of your bacteria, and they will take care of you. Having the right balance of bacteria is of paramount importance to effective functioning because the wrong balance can make you depressed or anxious. Taking a probiotic can help restore this balance. Understanding that you are part human, part bacteria can change the way you take care of your moods by essentially reminding you to take care of your gut.

Mindy Grossman, the CEO of WW International — formerly Weight Watchers — is a good example of someone who understands the mind-body connection. Grossman has led the company’s focus from strictly weight loss to wellness through healthy habits. Part of the transformation includes a partnership with meditation app Headspace to help members maintain a positive mindset.

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

When you engage in non-dual awareness by recognizing that your brain fuses and connects time, places, and people, your leadership capacities might also be enhanced. As Warren Bennis, founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, suggests, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” And your “self” is more intriguing and mysterious than you might first imagine.

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3 Ways to Optimize Your Life for Success

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Welcome to the 21st Century! The era of the Internet and computers, lack of focus and superficiality. I know it sounds scary, maybe a little more exaggerated, but it’s true. We live in a world of short posts and 3-minute videos. We barely engage in deep learning, deep thinking, and deep focus to produce iPhone-level products or services. So, the majority of us are actually a failure, thousands of miles away from achieving our life goals and business visions. How do we turn things around? We need to optimize our lives.

Here are 3 tried and tested tips that will help optimize your life for success:

1. Upgrade your sleep

When I started my freelance writing career—about seven years ago—I was passionate and excited at the beginning. I’d fill my To-Do list with 6-10 items, worked until 12 am, set my alarm to go off at 3 am, and had my running shoes close to my bed before I went to sleep. However, I barely accomplished anything. I usually became weak and bored before noon.

I noticed that I was putting a huge strain on myself. I was sleep deprived, which is the primary reason why I didn’t have the energy and the drive to accomplish my tasks. Many studies have shown that sleep-deprivation affects productivity.

As soon as I began increasing my sleeping time from 4 hours to 7 hours, my whole life changed. I started producing a lot and earning a lot more than before while also improving my health. With more sleep, I get the emotional energy and willpower I need to read, learn, and optimize my career.

“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” – Arianna Huffington

2. Read every day

I get it. You’re in the middle-class struggling to survive. You simply have enough to deal with. Reading? That’s not included on your to-do list. Well, if that’s you, then you’re not alone. The global literacy rates are at an all-time high at 84 percent, which means people don’t read as much anymore.

We already have enough on our plates. In fact, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the reading culture among American adults has drastically declined. That’s a big issue in our world.

Nothing can prevent you from reading, not even your plate that’s chock-full of other life’s priorities. If you want to produce more and impact the world around you, you’ve got to read more and learn more.

Take a look at the visionaries and business titans in our world. All of them are avid readers and avid learners. Bill Gates is a bibliophile and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, reveres books. In fact, Knight customized his library to the extent that, before you enter into his library, you have to take off your shoes and bow.

So, what would you do next? Take Roald Dahl’s advice, captured in this beautiful line of the poem: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray / go throw your TV set away / and in its place, you can install / a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

3. Use Pomodoro to time yourself

You can’t go far in life if you can’t stay totally focused on a task. If you want to achieve your goals, you have got to stay laser-focused on a single task before jumping on to another. Why? Because goals are not achieved in one session, they’re achieved in a series of tasks, one after the other.

To install the focus habit in your system; therefore, you need to use a time-management kind of “system” that will keep you firm and attentive on a specific project. Pomodoro is that time-management tool that will help you stay focused.

It’s an excellent app that lets you set a timer for a particular task. You can set it for 30, 60, or 90 minutes and stop working when it goes off. I use it all the time, and I can’t imagine my work life without it.

“I know when I stay focused, good things will undoubtedly happen.” – Marc Trestman

Optimizing your life for more power, passion, and productivity is not about working hard late at night or running multiple projects at a time. It’s about maintaining your health and recharging your energy (having a deep, quality sleep), updating your knowledge (by reading every day), and staying focused on a project—until you accomplished it (by using Pomodoro technique to boost your concentration).

Of course, developing these sets of habits is not easy. You’ll fail and get frustrated, but as the productivity guru Robin Sharma beautifully puts it, “all changes are hard at first, messy at the middle, and beautiful at the end.”

Which one of these three ways to optimize your life resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts below!

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If You Want Your Business to Grow, You Need to Increase Your Capacity in the Following 4 Areas

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Every entrepreneur must come face to face with the reality that there is only a limited amount of time, money, and people that you can use within your current position. The question is how do we increase or maximize the things that we find limiting?

As we walk through our hectic and often over packed ten, twelve, or fourteen hour work days, one of the questions that we should be asking is “What can I do to get more, to do more?” Instead, we just put our heads down and plow through the ever growing mountain of work. We are limited by capacity.

Webster’s dictionary defines capacity as “the maximum amount that something can contain.” As an entrepreneur, we have to be a little more creative than the average person and find ways to increase our capacity.

Below, we’ll identify the four areas where we need more capacity and ways to get more with less:

1. Time

Every human on this planet is granted twenty-four hours a day. That is it. Your capacity is a total of twenty-four hours. Within that amount of time you must manage several different demands. Our goal is to buy back our time, when we can, and operate at peak performance when we are accomplishing our daily task list.

First, without staying in performance shape, you will lose the ability to stay at optimal performance levels. Our bodies are truly a machine with an amazing capacity, but when it is abused by lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and lack of exercise, you are reducing the capacity at which you are able to work and function. The closer you are to peak performance, the more you are able to accomplish in a shorter amount of time.

Second is our mental condition. Here is what my experience has taught me. If I am mentally rested, I can think and make decisions faster because I can reason more quickly in addition to understanding the circumstances and information at an extremely fast pace. 

When your brain is healthy, it becomes easier to absorb and process information at a lightning fast rate. Taking the time to allow your brain to rest will give it the ability to function at peak performance.

Third is our ability to train and delegate. So often, entrepreneurs are control freaks. No one can do it as good, as fast, or with the same passion as they can. While that may be true in most cases, you are only one person with twenty-four hours in a day. 

You’ve got to delegate and accept people’s help. If you add one person that’s willing to give you eight hours of work a day, you have now bought back hours in your day to focus on activities that will generate more income and grow your business. Why wouldn’t you want to add more hours to your day by delegating out the appropriate task to qualified individuals?

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Money

Money tends to be a sensitive topic. We all have beliefs that were formed through our childhood on the concept of money. With many different views and beliefs on this topic, let’s just focus on the fact that money is a tool that will either help grow the company or a tool that limits a company’s growth.

It is always amazing that the faster a company grows, the greater the challenge of money becomes, and this could potentially cause the company to implode on its own success. How do we then increase the capacity and have more money available to keep the company healthy?

Here are a couple of things to watch out for: 

  • Keep an eye on your budget and get accurate figures. 
  • Look at your Accounts Receivables. If they get too long, they could cause significant cash flow issues. 
  • Find investment opportunities. There are many private investors that are often willing to invest in companies that have true growth with solid foundations. 
  • Look at additional profit generators, products, or services that fit within your current business model. 

Each of these are ways to increase the capacity that money contributes to the growth of your business.

3. Space and Supply

I will never forget exactly where I was standing when I had a manufacture call and tell me they were unable to supply anymore products. They had sold us everything they had, and they weren’t going to have anything available to sell for at least another six months. At that time, we were selling customer printed t-shirts and had tens of thousands of orders that we needed to fulfill within the next thirty days.

Space and Supply are tied closely together. Space is often associated with the production. Do you have a space large enough to meet the demands of the supply? If production can only create 1,000 products a day and buyers need 5,000 a day, there is a conflict. 

A business needs to understand that challenge, and there are only 3 solutions to this problem: The business figures out how to increase production within the current workable hours, adds more workable hours with the equipment and space, or adds more equipment and space to increase production.

Space and supplies are assets that can be used towards the business advantage. Here are a few questions to ask when making decisions based on space and supply. 

  • Evaluate your supply channel. Are they able to maintain a solid supply of your raw product materials to match your growth as a company? 
  • Are there back up supply manufactures that can create a safety net for your raw products? 
  • Evaluate the amount of space you have available along with the time the space is usable. Can you run a second or third shift with the current space and equipment?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. People

Your employees are likely going to be the most important way to create more capacity. We talked briefly about delegating to qualified individuals to increase capacity around your own personal time. The next phase is to create more capacity by adding additional, trained people. 

You need to create leaders of leaders instead of you being the leader of followers. Don’t miss this because the greatest of all companies focuses on increasing their capacity by training leaders of leaders and not just a loyal following.

Entrepreneurs tend to be a lonely bunch of souls. Too often, we are misunderstood and looked at with slight amount of annoyance. Others just don’t always know how to take someone that is passionately thinking outside the box. 

People skills are a must in order to have more than just yourself work to achieve that dream. As an entrepreneur, develop the social skills to work with individuals that are different than yourself.  

Here is a 3 step plan to have great capacity with people as your allies:

  1. Start by learning how to delegate your own tasks to buy back your time. Identify the tasks that are easiest to delegate and document how you do them. This will give you a specific job description, set achievable goals, and create a daily action plan that is now something that is teachable. 
  2. Use this system and apply it to the other things you are currently doing. I would suggest building out an organization chart and dividing the different tasks you do within the company. Then create a plan that will allow you to hire the right person and move you onto the next area in the organization that you will systematize. 
  3. Finally, create the culture. Culture is like a child, it will grow whether or not you pay attention to it. So be intentional. Learn what it takes to build a culture that attracts the employees that want to be there and grow with the company. 

Each of these four areas has an incredible amount of potential to increase your capacity, and allow your business to grow. Don’t attempt to tackle everything at once. Identify just one area that you will commit to grow within the next three to six months. Take action and implement. 

What is your next step? Share with us below!

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