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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

      • Phil Janecic

        Aug 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        Wow, sounds awesome. Thanks for the tips!

  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

The 4 D’s to Guaranteed Success From Maglite Founder Anthony Maglica

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Anthony Maglica
Image Credit: Alchetron

I caught an inspiring story online recently about an incredible gentleman with a unstoppable work ethic. His name is Anthony (Tony) Maglica and he’s the inventor of the famous Maglite, i.e. a flashlight that revolutionized the industry. With it’s variable-focus beam light, varying sizes to fit the job and an array of accessories, the Maglite has been at the top of the heap for a long time. And widely preferred by law enforcement. Talk about servicing a large, niche market!

Tony, an 87-year-old entrepreneur, came from humble Croatian beginnings to build a thriving, worldwide business in America. He insists his success is due to using only quality American labor and resources in a time when most people outsource to improve their bottom lines. But that’s not the story. The story is Tony’s mantra. Tony Maglica lives by the 4 D’s: Desire, Determination, Dedication and  Discipline.

So let’s dissect that and see how much of Tony’s 4 D’s principle you live by in your life and business:

1. Desire

What are your talents, interests, capabilities? The dictionary says desire is: “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen”. Are you in a career or business that you enjoy? Do you take your ideas to fruition or teeter off distracted by your next venture or a shiny object? Perhaps you’ve gone to school, learned a profession, only to figure along the way it’s not really what you want.

Without a strong desire to do something, you may have created for yourself just a “job”. So whether you have a strong desire in a particular field or knowing the money makes it all worthwhile, what gets you pumped and jumping out of bed in the morning? In other words, what’s your “why”?

“If you have a burning ambition and desire, absolutely anything can be achieved.” – Jahangir Khan

2. Determination

Tony’s staff says when he has an idea for a product to enhance his line, he stops at nothing to create it. Even if he has to create the machinery to create that extra component, he’s all in. Determination is what drives him. At 87, most think of retirement. Not Tony. He lives for this business he built from scratch.

The dictionary says determination is “firmness of purpose; resoluteness”. So what are you resolved in doing? Are you resolved to be successful? Are you resolved to do whatever needs to be done? To have a standard of excellence?

Are you determined to win? To get training; to stop at nothing; to course correct when needed? Have you thought of a mission statement? What kind of “company” culture would you like to build? Even solo-preneurs benefit from mission statements and company cultures just as much as a Fortune 500 corp.

3. Dedication

How committed are you to your success? And how does that commitment show up? The dictionary says dedication is: “the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose”. If you’re on a deadline but it’s a beautiful day to surf, which would you choose? Honestly, the answer could be both. Figure out the time that the surf is best and do whatever you have to do to work around that to meet your deadline. With deadlines, i.e., commitments, taking priority, of course.

Dedication often goes hand-in-hand with passion. It’s easy to be committed to something when you’re passionate about it. In contrast, if you’re heart’s not in it, you may not be happy. Master marketer Seth Godin, committed to write a blog post each day. And he’s done so, religiously, for something like the past couple of decades. He also says he never commits to a project unless he’s determined to complete it. He’s very cautious of where he puts his time and effort. His motto: “Ship or it doesn’t count”.

“I have not idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.” – Ayrton Senna

4. Discipline

Tony Maglica starts each day at 5:00 a.m. and doesn’t stop until his body tells him to. Similarly,  “Rambo” star Sly Stallone, says he wakes up at 4:00 a.m., readies himself for his daily morning regimen of writing (from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.) before jumping into other endeavors. He says he approaches writing with the same discipline as working out.

Even Shark Tank’s Daymond John, boasts he starts his day at around 6:00 a.m., gets in some form of exercise, and keeps his calendar booked with meetings and shows until evening.

Tony Maglica, inventor, entrepreneur, employer and success role-model maintains: “If you have that (the 4 D’s), you have everything you want to succeed. Doesn’t matter if you use it in your job, your home, your family. Anything you want to achieve. Use this recipe for anything in life and you will make it. Guaranteed!”

  • So I wonder: what’s your success regimen look like?
  • What time do you hop out of bed? (And in what condition?)
  • What are your convictions? Are your actions true to your dreams?

Success isn’t created in a vacuum, it comes from motion. Forward-motion gets us closer to our goals. Stagnation causes atrophy – in our body, and in our business. So whatever you’re going through, whatever level of “stuck” you may be at at any given moment, take a deep breath, maybe a walk to clear the cobwebs in the brain and recall Tony’s Four D’s: Desire, Determination, Dedication and Discipline.

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3 Life Lessons in Perseverance to Achieve Your Wildest Dreams

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I have two careers as an actor and a marketer with each having its own unique challenges. However, the number of parallels I continue to find in my chosen professions never ceases to amaze me. Of these lessons, perhaps one of the most valuable is that of persistence, and the mental resilience I’ve had to learn. You can’t be an actor without resilience as I experience rejection dozens of times per week.

Acting is a lesson in endurance, not a sprint. When you think about it though, doesn’t that apply to any career? It’s not easy to “Keep on keeping on.” No matter what path life has led you down, I’m sure you’ve experienced plenty of bumps. Sometimes, those bumps turn into potholes that the universe seems to refuse to fix.

As an actor, rejection is par for the course. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to persevere in spite of it. When life gets especially challenging, and you are dealing with change, disappointment or missteps, make use of these life lessons and continue pressing on towards your goal.

Below are 3 lessons in perseverance which will help you achieve your wildest dreams:

1. Know when it’s time to recalibrate

Goals are an important and necessary tool to reach our full potential. They keep us focused to help make small decisions on a daily basis such as if I should get up for that 8 a.m. run along with bigger decisions such as if I should take a new job offer. While setting goals is essential, don’t let them overpower you.

Tunnel vision in reaching your goals adds unnecessary pressure. This causes us to make mistakes we wouldn’t have made otherwise. Get too obsessed with a goal and you’ll forget the big picture, such as why you chose this course to begin with. Take a lesson from one of my favorite casting directors, Dave Newman of McSweeney Newman Casting.

Forget trying to “make it big” as an actor. It is normal to wait years before booking work with a decent paycheck. If you’re in the room with Dave, it’s hard not to let the pressure take over your performance.

In the words of Dave, as soon as those words from A Chorus Line enter your head, “God, I hope I get it!” it’s time to adjust your mindset. Dave advises taking a step back, refocusing, and doing anything that isn’t acting. Sometimes the best way to reach a goal is by shifting your gaze just for a moment. Take the pressure off and recalibrate your thoughts. You’ll come back recharged with a fresh perspective to pursue your objectives.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

2. Appreciate the journey

Perseverance requires a heaping dose of appreciation. This means acknowledging all the wins in your life, both big and small. Even if you haven’t yet met your goal, remember that you are moving towards it and that alone is an achievement.

As Linda Gillum, Casting Director at Chicago theatre Remy Bumppo explains, “With everything you do, you’re planting seeds.” It takes time for the seeds of success to grow. As an actor, my seeds take a lot of sunshine, water, and gratitude for the little things. A win can be as simple as improving my technique or getting an audition; I can’t base my happiness on booked jobs.

Persistence becomes much easier when you notice your achievements despite those potholes surrounding you. Celebrate the small wins; they’re what milestones are built on. Even if your manager or co-workers don’t recognize your work, give yourself that pat on the back.

To stay motivated, make a mental highlight reel of your achievements. Afterwards, be ready to hit the play button whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.

3. Embrace mistakes or at least be okay with them

No matter how much you hate mistakes, they’ll keep happening. Some people seem to move on from mistakes quickly, letting them roll off their backs. For others, that’s not the case (If you’re fighting to be perfect or gain confidence I’m talking to you!). The fear to avoid mistakes can be crippling.

This is also true in acting, where you work and wait years for a five-minute audition that could change everything. However, my best work won’t come unless I live in the moment and trust my instincts. And you know what that means, things can go wrong in an instant. But guess what? I still have to dive in, and I mean all in. If I don’t risk it all, my audition will suck, and I’ll lose before I even walk through the door.

We all recognize that positives, including life lessons, come from mistakes. However, that doesn’t stop the nosedive mistakes caused on emotions and confidence. Sometimes, we do everything in our power to avoid that feeling.

“The phoenix must burn to emerge.” – Janet Fitch

Remember that there’s truth in the statement, “The biggest mistake is not making mistakes.” One way to get over your fear of failure is to make your focus on continuous improvement, not perfection. Teaching yourself to be okay with mistakes takes time but is necessary to maintain resilience.

You can allow yourself a learning curve, but it is essential to work on letting go of missteps. It takes practice to let go of the could have or would have statements. The good news is practice and persistence go hand-in-hand.

Take stock of what makes you happy in life, and turn to those things when mistakes happen. Little by little, as you learn to turn your attention elsewhere when missteps occur, you’ll train your brain to move on. This is how mistakes lose their power over you and enable you to pursue your goal with confidence.

Persistence is a state of mind. In the end, it means being kind to yourself. Know when to give yourself a break and pat on the back as you recharge your batteries. Then, you’ll find yourself able to maneuver whatever twists and turns life throws your way.

How do you remain determined in reaching your goals when it seems like the day won’t come? Let us know your advice and tips for your fellow entrepreneurs below!

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Success Advice

Dress for Success: 4 Small Fashion Choices That Make All the Difference

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When it comes to succeeding in business, making a good impression is just as much about your inner qualities as it is about your outer presentation. The fact of the matter is that your clothing and color choices, affect others’ perception of you. Believe it or not, you can achieve fashion-inspired success without splurging on a pair of Louboutins or shelling out $1000 for a designer suit. Just a few striking accessories can often complete the picture.

It may sound ridiculous that small accessories can affect the vibe you give off. It’s true, and certain accessories can even send certain messages. A recent study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire found that well-dressed male figures (whose faces were not shown) were perceived to be more confident, trustworthy, and well-to-do. Even minor adjustments to their clothing, such as adding on an accessory or more closely tailoring the suit, impacted these impressions.

However, our clothes not only impact the way others perceive us, but the way we perceive ourselves. A study conducted by the Scientific American, found that those who “suit up” performed better in cognitive tests. It suggests that being well-dressed releases more testosterone, which in turn increases confidence.

This allows well-dressed professionals to negotiate better deals, and in the long run, potentially make more money. So, maybe you’ve got the clothes, but what are the finishing touches you can put on your outfit to send an even stronger message? See below!

1. Wear a watch

A beautiful watch makes all the difference – and this goes for men and women. Even a simple button-down and jeans, or plain-colored dress, can be exponentially stylized by a standout watch. Charismatic individuals tend to talk more with their hands, too, as this captivates their listeners. Wearing a flashy wrist accessory like a watch will make your points even more engrossing. Furthermore, wearing a watch sends a subconscious message: you’re always on time. Individuals who wear a watch can always keep track of time and therefore, will never be late to a meeting.

“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression – There are hints about who you are in what you wear.” – Marc Jacobs

2. Tie it off with a tie pin

The one criticism of men’s business fashion is that it lacks variety. Let’s face it, while women have an infinite number of patterns, dress lengths, colors, and sleeve styles to choose from, men are pretty much locked into one outfit: the suit. You can buy one in suede, another in navy blue, throw in a paisley tie, but it’s simply not enough.

Adding on a tie pin will make a significant difference. Not only does it add a little shimmer to an otherwise dull suit, but it adds personality too. The kind of tie pin you choose says a lot about you. Maybe you’re a simple guy who just likes sterling silver, or you may choose to tout your school pride by wearing the colors of your alma mater (which, by the way, can also make a great conversation starter).

You can also create custom tie pins that feature the name of your company, or perhaps a saying that you’re fond of. The options are limitless.

3. A quality briefcase

It doesn’t even matter if you have nothing to carry around, the key is to never show up empty-handed. A quality leather briefcase is an important asset for men and women. Backpacks and most handbags don’t signify professionalism. A briefcase, on the other hand, symbolizes professionalism and importance. After all, what else would you carry in a briefcase except for a load of important documents and files, right?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if all you have in your briefcase is a Kit-Kat Bar. All that matters is that it’s by your side and contains the essentials – a beautiful silver pen (perhaps with your name engraved), a notepad or iPad, and business cards that can be pulled out in a flash without having to rummage through your pockets.

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

4. Nice sunglasses

It’s a sunny day and you’ve got a working lunch across town. Rather than squinting your way from Point A to Point B, top off your look with a pair of stylish sunglasses. Not only do these send a more casual vibe when tucked in your pocket, but the right sunglasses can give you a sleek aesthetic (think 007, but with business lunches). Wayfarers a la Audrey Hepburn and aviators a la Tom Cruise are the go-to choices for business professional sunglasses. You can’t go wrong with either of these styles.

The bottom line is that you choose how you wish to be viewed. The lesson here is much akin to the old adage: “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” And if you have the job you want, don’t send your fashion choices to the sidelines. Not only can clothes/accessories indicate our knowledge and experience, but also our authority.

How has a nice outfit helped you in your professional career? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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How Creativity Leads to a More Successful Life

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Human beings are curious, inquisitive and creative. We have a deep desire to make meaning of our world and each other by creating. Each culture brings new ideas and meaning to gain a sense of belonging and purpose. Success comes from understanding your contribution to the world and the spark of this contribution comes from a creative place. Understanding the power that comes from creativity can help to elevate you in many ways.

Mary Lou Cook said, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.” Having fun is part of the human experiment that not only provides a sense of purpose, but builds our humanity and scales our ability to succeed. Too many of us don’t allow ourselves a creative outlet or space because we don’t see the value in it if it doesn’t lead to a specific outcome.

Creativity is ever more important in today’s connection economy, because it is the outcome. As the world continues to race toward innovation, faster, cheaper, and quicker, are what distinguishes us from the crowd in terms of individual creative contribution. The more we share and create, the more we find out how valuable this concept is. Creativity cannot be outsourced, it must be cultivated, challenged, and inspired by human curiosity.

Below are 4 ways in which creativity leads to a more successful life:

1. Creativity Creates Deeper Connection to Work

Creativity is the act of experimenting and learning about what works and what may not. When we see creativity as a part of our work and not something left to a small artistic elite then we can create a deeper connection to the work we are meant to do in the world. If we see work as a part of our bigger purpose then our success will increase when we spend time being creative.

The more your creative footprint can be seen, understood, and felt, the more impact you will have. If you see an opportunity to think outside of the box in a particular situation because you see the world differently than your peers, then you have the edge to provide value that no one else can. And, guess what? Each one of us sees the world differently as part of our own uniqueness.

You already possess that special edge even if you were unsure of it before now. If you constantly avoid sharing your creative thoughts you are resisting your inner talents and hiding from the possibilities that lie within the power of your creativity.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker

2. Incorporate More Creativity into Your Life

One of the ways you can grow in your ability to bring creativity in your life is to spend time having a “What if” mentality. Spending quality time wondering, dreaming and not stressed about the consequences of being wrong can be freeing.

If what we created wasn’t judged or had no real consequence beyond an act of wonder, we might dream up new solutions to old problems. Elon Musk allowed this “What if” mentality wondering what if he created a company that would make commercial space flight possible? His company is built not around what is, but what might be.

By bringing this sense of wonder and playfulness into our work, life and contribution, we can let go of some of the self-imposed limits we have placed on our own success. If we treat our work and life a bit more like play, we will see a growth in our ability to perform and contribute even more to the already exciting and wonderful world we live in.

3. Opportunity for New Thinking

Sometimes when we are working on a project, either in a team or solo, we might find that we are hitting a wall with a project or in finding a solution to a problem. Instead of looking for the answer, sometimes we need to allow our creative brain to play and search for answers that might be hidden.

By hidden, I mean not yet created. Take some time to remove yourself from the work at hand and just wonder. Consider ways that might seem impossible to do but might spark new ideas. New learning can come from adding two crazy ideas together or taking an old idea and making a wild new way of thinking about it.

For example, posing a question and just wondering about a solution might spark a solution that was not seen. How might we improve the passenger boarding process at the airport so that we can foresee new ideas that were not there before.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

4. Create New Learning Pathways and Increase Brain Activity

When we are creative, we start to open our minds to new thinking. We begin to see new thinking and opportunities that we didn’t notice before. We also silence our amygdala or our lizard brain that is often in fight or flight mode to protect us.

When we are in a state of creative flow we silence the need to protect ourselves and find more peace and openness to new ideas and success. Try drawing on paper using colors, images and textures to visually create and noodle over ideas.

By using colors and a variety of mixed media aside from computers, smartphones and other electronics, you will invite a playful, often semi-dormant, part of your subconscious mind to work in upping your creativity game. The subtle connections and associations that occur in our brains when we use visualization can lead us to embark on new discoveries and success.

How has using your own creativity helped you succeed? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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The 21st Century Entrepreneur’s Guide to Attracting Ready to Buy Customers

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Unlike some decades ago, the number one challenge entrepreneurs face is not figuring out a perfect name for their startup or getting overwhelmed at the point of bringing the startup to life. Rather, the major challenge of startup founders nowadays is attracting their first (or next) sets of qualified, always-willing-to-buy customers. (more…)

Noman Aqil is a Marketing Manager at Kayako, the effortless customer service software that helps teams be more productive and build customer loyalty. Noman is based in UAE and loves football, traveling and reading books.

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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

      • Phil Janecic

        Aug 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        Wow, sounds awesome. Thanks for the tips!

  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

The 4 D’s to Guaranteed Success From Maglite Founder Anthony Maglica

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I caught an inspiring story online recently about an incredible gentleman with a unstoppable work ethic. His name is Anthony (Tony) Maglica and he’s the inventor of the famous Maglite, i.e. a flashlight that revolutionized the industry. With it’s variable-focus beam light, varying sizes to fit the job and an array of accessories, the Maglite has been at the top of the heap for a long time. And widely preferred by law enforcement. Talk about servicing a large, niche market!

Tony, an 87-year-old entrepreneur, came from humble Croatian beginnings to build a thriving, worldwide business in America. He insists his success is due to using only quality American labor and resources in a time when most people outsource to improve their bottom lines. But that’s not the story. The story is Tony’s mantra. Tony Maglica lives by the 4 D’s: Desire, Determination, Dedication and  Discipline.

So let’s dissect that and see how much of Tony’s 4 D’s principle you live by in your life and business:

1. Desire

What are your talents, interests, capabilities? The dictionary says desire is: “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen”. Are you in a career or business that you enjoy? Do you take your ideas to fruition or teeter off distracted by your next venture or a shiny object? Perhaps you’ve gone to school, learned a profession, only to figure along the way it’s not really what you want.

Without a strong desire to do something, you may have created for yourself just a “job”. So whether you have a strong desire in a particular field or knowing the money makes it all worthwhile, what gets you pumped and jumping out of bed in the morning? In other words, what’s your “why”?

“If you have a burning ambition and desire, absolutely anything can be achieved.” – Jahangir Khan

2. Determination

Tony’s staff says when he has an idea for a product to enhance his line, he stops at nothing to create it. Even if he has to create the machinery to create that extra component, he’s all in. Determination is what drives him. At 87, most think of retirement. Not Tony. He lives for this business he built from scratch.

The dictionary says determination is “firmness of purpose; resoluteness”. So what are you resolved in doing? Are you resolved to be successful? Are you resolved to do whatever needs to be done? To have a standard of excellence?

Are you determined to win? To get training; to stop at nothing; to course correct when needed? Have you thought of a mission statement? What kind of “company” culture would you like to build? Even solo-preneurs benefit from mission statements and company cultures just as much as a Fortune 500 corp.

3. Dedication

How committed are you to your success? And how does that commitment show up? The dictionary says dedication is: “the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose”. If you’re on a deadline but it’s a beautiful day to surf, which would you choose? Honestly, the answer could be both. Figure out the time that the surf is best and do whatever you have to do to work around that to meet your deadline. With deadlines, i.e., commitments, taking priority, of course.

Dedication often goes hand-in-hand with passion. It’s easy to be committed to something when you’re passionate about it. In contrast, if you’re heart’s not in it, you may not be happy. Master marketer Seth Godin, committed to write a blog post each day. And he’s done so, religiously, for something like the past couple of decades. He also says he never commits to a project unless he’s determined to complete it. He’s very cautious of where he puts his time and effort. His motto: “Ship or it doesn’t count”.

“I have not idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.” – Ayrton Senna

4. Discipline

Tony Maglica starts each day at 5:00 a.m. and doesn’t stop until his body tells him to. Similarly,  “Rambo” star Sly Stallone, says he wakes up at 4:00 a.m., readies himself for his daily morning regimen of writing (from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.) before jumping into other endeavors. He says he approaches writing with the same discipline as working out.

Even Shark Tank’s Daymond John, boasts he starts his day at around 6:00 a.m., gets in some form of exercise, and keeps his calendar booked with meetings and shows until evening.

Tony Maglica, inventor, entrepreneur, employer and success role-model maintains: “If you have that (the 4 D’s), you have everything you want to succeed. Doesn’t matter if you use it in your job, your home, your family. Anything you want to achieve. Use this recipe for anything in life and you will make it. Guaranteed!”

  • So I wonder: what’s your success regimen look like?
  • What time do you hop out of bed? (And in what condition?)
  • What are your convictions? Are your actions true to your dreams?

Success isn’t created in a vacuum, it comes from motion. Forward-motion gets us closer to our goals. Stagnation causes atrophy – in our body, and in our business. So whatever you’re going through, whatever level of “stuck” you may be at at any given moment, take a deep breath, maybe a walk to clear the cobwebs in the brain and recall Tony’s Four D’s: Desire, Determination, Dedication and Discipline.

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3 Life Lessons in Perseverance to Achieve Your Wildest Dreams

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I have two careers as an actor and a marketer with each having its own unique challenges. However, the number of parallels I continue to find in my chosen professions never ceases to amaze me. Of these lessons, perhaps one of the most valuable is that of persistence, and the mental resilience I’ve had to learn. You can’t be an actor without resilience as I experience rejection dozens of times per week.

Acting is a lesson in endurance, not a sprint. When you think about it though, doesn’t that apply to any career? It’s not easy to “Keep on keeping on.” No matter what path life has led you down, I’m sure you’ve experienced plenty of bumps. Sometimes, those bumps turn into potholes that the universe seems to refuse to fix.

As an actor, rejection is par for the course. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to persevere in spite of it. When life gets especially challenging, and you are dealing with change, disappointment or missteps, make use of these life lessons and continue pressing on towards your goal.

Below are 3 lessons in perseverance which will help you achieve your wildest dreams:

1. Know when it’s time to recalibrate

Goals are an important and necessary tool to reach our full potential. They keep us focused to help make small decisions on a daily basis such as if I should get up for that 8 a.m. run along with bigger decisions such as if I should take a new job offer. While setting goals is essential, don’t let them overpower you.

Tunnel vision in reaching your goals adds unnecessary pressure. This causes us to make mistakes we wouldn’t have made otherwise. Get too obsessed with a goal and you’ll forget the big picture, such as why you chose this course to begin with. Take a lesson from one of my favorite casting directors, Dave Newman of McSweeney Newman Casting.

Forget trying to “make it big” as an actor. It is normal to wait years before booking work with a decent paycheck. If you’re in the room with Dave, it’s hard not to let the pressure take over your performance.

In the words of Dave, as soon as those words from A Chorus Line enter your head, “God, I hope I get it!” it’s time to adjust your mindset. Dave advises taking a step back, refocusing, and doing anything that isn’t acting. Sometimes the best way to reach a goal is by shifting your gaze just for a moment. Take the pressure off and recalibrate your thoughts. You’ll come back recharged with a fresh perspective to pursue your objectives.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

2. Appreciate the journey

Perseverance requires a heaping dose of appreciation. This means acknowledging all the wins in your life, both big and small. Even if you haven’t yet met your goal, remember that you are moving towards it and that alone is an achievement.

As Linda Gillum, Casting Director at Chicago theatre Remy Bumppo explains, “With everything you do, you’re planting seeds.” It takes time for the seeds of success to grow. As an actor, my seeds take a lot of sunshine, water, and gratitude for the little things. A win can be as simple as improving my technique or getting an audition; I can’t base my happiness on booked jobs.

Persistence becomes much easier when you notice your achievements despite those potholes surrounding you. Celebrate the small wins; they’re what milestones are built on. Even if your manager or co-workers don’t recognize your work, give yourself that pat on the back.

To stay motivated, make a mental highlight reel of your achievements. Afterwards, be ready to hit the play button whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.

3. Embrace mistakes or at least be okay with them

No matter how much you hate mistakes, they’ll keep happening. Some people seem to move on from mistakes quickly, letting them roll off their backs. For others, that’s not the case (If you’re fighting to be perfect or gain confidence I’m talking to you!). The fear to avoid mistakes can be crippling.

This is also true in acting, where you work and wait years for a five-minute audition that could change everything. However, my best work won’t come unless I live in the moment and trust my instincts. And you know what that means, things can go wrong in an instant. But guess what? I still have to dive in, and I mean all in. If I don’t risk it all, my audition will suck, and I’ll lose before I even walk through the door.

We all recognize that positives, including life lessons, come from mistakes. However, that doesn’t stop the nosedive mistakes caused on emotions and confidence. Sometimes, we do everything in our power to avoid that feeling.

“The phoenix must burn to emerge.” – Janet Fitch

Remember that there’s truth in the statement, “The biggest mistake is not making mistakes.” One way to get over your fear of failure is to make your focus on continuous improvement, not perfection. Teaching yourself to be okay with mistakes takes time but is necessary to maintain resilience.

You can allow yourself a learning curve, but it is essential to work on letting go of missteps. It takes practice to let go of the could have or would have statements. The good news is practice and persistence go hand-in-hand.

Take stock of what makes you happy in life, and turn to those things when mistakes happen. Little by little, as you learn to turn your attention elsewhere when missteps occur, you’ll train your brain to move on. This is how mistakes lose their power over you and enable you to pursue your goal with confidence.

Persistence is a state of mind. In the end, it means being kind to yourself. Know when to give yourself a break and pat on the back as you recharge your batteries. Then, you’ll find yourself able to maneuver whatever twists and turns life throws your way.

How do you remain determined in reaching your goals when it seems like the day won’t come? Let us know your advice and tips for your fellow entrepreneurs below!

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Dress for Success: 4 Small Fashion Choices That Make All the Difference

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When it comes to succeeding in business, making a good impression is just as much about your inner qualities as it is about your outer presentation. The fact of the matter is that your clothing and color choices, affect others’ perception of you. Believe it or not, you can achieve fashion-inspired success without splurging on a pair of Louboutins or shelling out $1000 for a designer suit. Just a few striking accessories can often complete the picture.

It may sound ridiculous that small accessories can affect the vibe you give off. It’s true, and certain accessories can even send certain messages. A recent study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire found that well-dressed male figures (whose faces were not shown) were perceived to be more confident, trustworthy, and well-to-do. Even minor adjustments to their clothing, such as adding on an accessory or more closely tailoring the suit, impacted these impressions.

However, our clothes not only impact the way others perceive us, but the way we perceive ourselves. A study conducted by the Scientific American, found that those who “suit up” performed better in cognitive tests. It suggests that being well-dressed releases more testosterone, which in turn increases confidence.

This allows well-dressed professionals to negotiate better deals, and in the long run, potentially make more money. So, maybe you’ve got the clothes, but what are the finishing touches you can put on your outfit to send an even stronger message? See below!

1. Wear a watch

A beautiful watch makes all the difference – and this goes for men and women. Even a simple button-down and jeans, or plain-colored dress, can be exponentially stylized by a standout watch. Charismatic individuals tend to talk more with their hands, too, as this captivates their listeners. Wearing a flashy wrist accessory like a watch will make your points even more engrossing. Furthermore, wearing a watch sends a subconscious message: you’re always on time. Individuals who wear a watch can always keep track of time and therefore, will never be late to a meeting.

“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression – There are hints about who you are in what you wear.” – Marc Jacobs

2. Tie it off with a tie pin

The one criticism of men’s business fashion is that it lacks variety. Let’s face it, while women have an infinite number of patterns, dress lengths, colors, and sleeve styles to choose from, men are pretty much locked into one outfit: the suit. You can buy one in suede, another in navy blue, throw in a paisley tie, but it’s simply not enough.

Adding on a tie pin will make a significant difference. Not only does it add a little shimmer to an otherwise dull suit, but it adds personality too. The kind of tie pin you choose says a lot about you. Maybe you’re a simple guy who just likes sterling silver, or you may choose to tout your school pride by wearing the colors of your alma mater (which, by the way, can also make a great conversation starter).

You can also create custom tie pins that feature the name of your company, or perhaps a saying that you’re fond of. The options are limitless.

3. A quality briefcase

It doesn’t even matter if you have nothing to carry around, the key is to never show up empty-handed. A quality leather briefcase is an important asset for men and women. Backpacks and most handbags don’t signify professionalism. A briefcase, on the other hand, symbolizes professionalism and importance. After all, what else would you carry in a briefcase except for a load of important documents and files, right?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if all you have in your briefcase is a Kit-Kat Bar. All that matters is that it’s by your side and contains the essentials – a beautiful silver pen (perhaps with your name engraved), a notepad or iPad, and business cards that can be pulled out in a flash without having to rummage through your pockets.

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

4. Nice sunglasses

It’s a sunny day and you’ve got a working lunch across town. Rather than squinting your way from Point A to Point B, top off your look with a pair of stylish sunglasses. Not only do these send a more casual vibe when tucked in your pocket, but the right sunglasses can give you a sleek aesthetic (think 007, but with business lunches). Wayfarers a la Audrey Hepburn and aviators a la Tom Cruise are the go-to choices for business professional sunglasses. You can’t go wrong with either of these styles.

The bottom line is that you choose how you wish to be viewed. The lesson here is much akin to the old adage: “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” And if you have the job you want, don’t send your fashion choices to the sidelines. Not only can clothes/accessories indicate our knowledge and experience, but also our authority.

How has a nice outfit helped you in your professional career? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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How Creativity Leads to a More Successful Life

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Human beings are curious, inquisitive and creative. We have a deep desire to make meaning of our world and each other by creating. Each culture brings new ideas and meaning to gain a sense of belonging and purpose. Success comes from understanding your contribution to the world and the spark of this contribution comes from a creative place. Understanding the power that comes from creativity can help to elevate you in many ways.

Mary Lou Cook said, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.” Having fun is part of the human experiment that not only provides a sense of purpose, but builds our humanity and scales our ability to succeed. Too many of us don’t allow ourselves a creative outlet or space because we don’t see the value in it if it doesn’t lead to a specific outcome.

Creativity is ever more important in today’s connection economy, because it is the outcome. As the world continues to race toward innovation, faster, cheaper, and quicker, are what distinguishes us from the crowd in terms of individual creative contribution. The more we share and create, the more we find out how valuable this concept is. Creativity cannot be outsourced, it must be cultivated, challenged, and inspired by human curiosity.

Below are 4 ways in which creativity leads to a more successful life:

1. Creativity Creates Deeper Connection to Work

Creativity is the act of experimenting and learning about what works and what may not. When we see creativity as a part of our work and not something left to a small artistic elite then we can create a deeper connection to the work we are meant to do in the world. If we see work as a part of our bigger purpose then our success will increase when we spend time being creative.

The more your creative footprint can be seen, understood, and felt, the more impact you will have. If you see an opportunity to think outside of the box in a particular situation because you see the world differently than your peers, then you have the edge to provide value that no one else can. And, guess what? Each one of us sees the world differently as part of our own uniqueness.

You already possess that special edge even if you were unsure of it before now. If you constantly avoid sharing your creative thoughts you are resisting your inner talents and hiding from the possibilities that lie within the power of your creativity.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker

2. Incorporate More Creativity into Your Life

One of the ways you can grow in your ability to bring creativity in your life is to spend time having a “What if” mentality. Spending quality time wondering, dreaming and not stressed about the consequences of being wrong can be freeing.

If what we created wasn’t judged or had no real consequence beyond an act of wonder, we might dream up new solutions to old problems. Elon Musk allowed this “What if” mentality wondering what if he created a company that would make commercial space flight possible? His company is built not around what is, but what might be.

By bringing this sense of wonder and playfulness into our work, life and contribution, we can let go of some of the self-imposed limits we have placed on our own success. If we treat our work and life a bit more like play, we will see a growth in our ability to perform and contribute even more to the already exciting and wonderful world we live in.

3. Opportunity for New Thinking

Sometimes when we are working on a project, either in a team or solo, we might find that we are hitting a wall with a project or in finding a solution to a problem. Instead of looking for the answer, sometimes we need to allow our creative brain to play and search for answers that might be hidden.

By hidden, I mean not yet created. Take some time to remove yourself from the work at hand and just wonder. Consider ways that might seem impossible to do but might spark new ideas. New learning can come from adding two crazy ideas together or taking an old idea and making a wild new way of thinking about it.

For example, posing a question and just wondering about a solution might spark a solution that was not seen. How might we improve the passenger boarding process at the airport so that we can foresee new ideas that were not there before.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

4. Create New Learning Pathways and Increase Brain Activity

When we are creative, we start to open our minds to new thinking. We begin to see new thinking and opportunities that we didn’t notice before. We also silence our amygdala or our lizard brain that is often in fight or flight mode to protect us.

When we are in a state of creative flow we silence the need to protect ourselves and find more peace and openness to new ideas and success. Try drawing on paper using colors, images and textures to visually create and noodle over ideas.

By using colors and a variety of mixed media aside from computers, smartphones and other electronics, you will invite a playful, often semi-dormant, part of your subconscious mind to work in upping your creativity game. The subtle connections and associations that occur in our brains when we use visualization can lead us to embark on new discoveries and success.

How has using your own creativity helped you succeed? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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