I’ve been head-down in a big project all day…
Didn’t really want to rip myself away from it to write this. But I have a standing appointment with your inbox at 4 PM Central time, and these issues come without fail.
Aside from two phone calls earlier, this big project is the only thing I’m working on today.
I’d been making progress in fits and starts, but I should already be over the finish line with this — and I’m not.
So I put the world on ignore, and am cranking away.
And it has me thinking…
Creating big winners in competitive markets is NOT easy…
A very large number of people who are in copywriting came into it on the “retirement” promise. Basically, you get to “retire” and still make a ton of money.
It is true that you get to quit the 9-to-5, if you choose to go the freelance route.
I work from home, don’t have to clock in for a heavy-handed boss, and am mostly free to come and go as I please.
I haven’t worked a normal 40-hour week in more than seven years, and get to ferry my kids around from school to sports to music practice, and occasionally for a fun little trip.
I’m not complaining about that part of it.
But everyone I know who is seriously successful in marketing…
Whether you’re talking freelance copywriting, in-house marketing, building a multi-million- or even fractional-billion-dollar marketing-driven business, or whatever…
All work their butts off!
I track my work time. Not just the total time spent, but what time I spend doing different activities. And at the end of the day, that goes into a spreadsheet. From there, charts are automatically generated to track my productivity. I only have three work days since April 1st where I didn’t spend at least 80% of my tracked work time in some kind of productive activity. Working toward my big future goals, or keeping momentum on the rest of my business. Quite a few are at 100%. And I track any break more than about 5 minutes.
Some days, that’s 5 hours work time. There’s a couple weekend days tracked, where I only worked a couple hours. But most days are 7 to 10 hours (including some very early mornings). And nearly every single one is at 80% focused productivity, or more.
I don’t know about you, but even just 7 hours straight of 100% productive time is not what I think of when I hear retirement!
Again, not complaining. I actually want to be doing this. Just making the distinction.
Success will not be handed to you — you must work for it!
Back to this project. It should have been done, but it’s not.
Well, we’re a few drafts in, putting the polish on it. The narrative arc is right. But the tiny details aren’t. And when you’re going head-to-head with the world’s best marketers, in one of the world’s most competitive direct response markets (investment publishing), you have to get the tiny details right, too.
(Side note: I’m beginning to understand why folks like Dan Kennedy and John Carlton, among others, opt out of working with the A-list direct marketers. It’s not that they can’t compete — both could whip my butt, most days. But big wins are faster and easier when you’re in a market that’s NOT dominated by A-list marketers.)
There’s that famous quote from Abe Lincoln…
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
That’s interesting. Imagine you don’t like work. You hear that quote, and can’t deny its truth. So you decide you’re going to follow it.
But you aren’t committed. So even with the best intention, you spend the first hour sharpening your axe. That axe is getting dang sharp. You start to doubt that the next three hours will be worth it, but you persist.
Another hour in, you think, “this isn’t getting any sharper.” And so you start chopping.
And it’s looking good for you. You’ve got “first mover” advantage, and are laughing at old Honest Abe, still sharpening. In fact, before his four hours of sharpening are up, you’re about half-done.
“There’s no way he can catch up,” you think.
But your cutting is slowing down, just as he’s getting started. It’s a race for the finish line. And over the next two hours, you notice your axe cutting less and less with each swing, while Abe chops away.
You don’t want to give up your lead, so you don’t stop to sharpen more — you keep chopping.
Until in the final minutes, your axe is barely cutting and it’s Abe who did the extra work up front that cuts his tree down first.
Winnin’ ain’t easy…
If you expect it to be, you won’t put in that extra effort that leads to success.
I can talk about my life, and the freedom and flexibility I have. But I’m not doing what I’m doing because I took advantage of that freedom. The freedom isn’t how I ended up working with some of the world’s biggest, most successful financial publishers… And working with my heroes in the direct response business.
I got here, doing what I’m doing, because I’m relentless. Because I enjoy my freedom, but don’t abuse it.
There’s a quote from the Eminem song Rap God that I have on the back of my office door, that I’ve mentioned in previous essays…
“Full of myself but still hungry, I bully myself ‘cause I make me do what I put my mind to and I’m a million leagues above you.”
Success can take you to some pretty tough places. It’s not easy to be sitting there in the fourth hour, sharpening your axe, while you watch others chopping away.
But it’s that extra work and dedication and focus — and yes, sometimes even bullying yourself — that leads to winning in the end, whatever that means to you.
Set whatever finish line you want. Just realize that the path to get from here to there will likely be far harder than you expect. More rewarding, too — and I’m not talking financially.
But the only way you’ll ever know is if you push all the way through.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,