The 9th year of my The Slight Edge journey might have been the most tumultuous one. A lot happened to the world, to my business, and to me. I made it through only thanks to my daily self-care habits, which I don’t even recognize as such. They have been a part of my life for so long they became a part of me.
So, despite the heavy blows from life in a few different areas of my life, I survived and rebounded. Like every year since reading The Slight Edge, here comes the detailed report of my progress in the last twelve months.
My health had been excellent… up until October when I got COVID. I was steadily losing a few last stubborn pounds. I wanted to keep my weight at the bottom of the range I planned for myself, instead of bouncing from the top number all the time.
Physically, COVID wasn’t very straining for me. Of course, I was sick just a few times in the last several years, so I wasn’t used to feeling so crappy. I spent a solid eight days in bed with a relatively high fever. Not fun at all.
But it didn’t hamper my physical prowess. I kept doing my morning mini-workout during those eight days. I remember that one day I did 50 burpees in a row! Another day, I did over 100 pushups. My lungs barely noticed the intruder.
But my whole system… that was a totally different story. First of all, the recovery took forever (or it felt like it). After four months, I felt almost like my old self. Almost. But those four months…
The fatigue was a constant companion. Yes, I could do 100 pushups. But then, I needed to quickly catch at least a 30-minute nap. I felt like I slept all the time. It definitely was an after-effect of COVID. One day during those eight days of sickness, I napped FIVE times. I think that was my life record. The lockdown and the weather didn’t leave me much choice of exercises. I walked a lot.
Hunger pangs were terrible. I swear it was another post-COVID symptom. I was ravenous. I gained 4-5 pounds till February, mostly because I couldn’t stop eating. Well, I could. I fasted a lot. But when the hunger pangs hit me, I ate around the clock. I could gain five pounds in one day.
But the worst was my mental state. I wouldn’t called it depression. I had had depression before; that wasn’t it. Maybe, hmm… “a constant discouragement?” Can you imagine how it feels to live for weeks and months in the state of constant discouragement? Let’s summarize it with “awful.” It affected everything – my family life, my job, my business…
In January, as a way to recover from my pitiful state, I tried pullups. I shouldn’t have. My shoulders weren’t ready for that. Plus, I think COVID also supported inflammation processes, so the pain was greater than just caused by straining my shoulders.
I went to a doctor a few times. Initially though, he helped me very little. I got a steroid shot after a month which helped with pain. Then, he just made me visit him regularly hoping that the situation would improve itself. It didn’t! So, I started the real treatment only around April/May. And it went painfully slow.
I got a nice birthday gift from the team in my day job – two rehabilitation sessions with a pro. I booked the first session in the middle of June. That lady inflicted some serious pain, but it helped. Nonetheless, I’m writing those words at the end of July, and my shoulder is still in shambles.
Now, I have my weight under control. Less hunger pangs and more fasting put my weight under 140 lbs., exactly where I want it.
In September 2020, we had a 20th anniversary of our marriage. I prepared some surprises for my wife and I nailed it. She didn’t expect any of what was coming. Luckily, the lockdown measures were very light at the beginning of September. I rented a room in an inn a day before the anniversary. I gave her only a 2-hour warning before we drove there. We’ve been in that place a couple of times, and the food there is excellent. My wife really enjoyed the stay.
I prepared some gifts. Nothing exuberant – the main gift was a funny Power Point presentation made from our photos. She enjoyed it so much that she watched it a few times. 😉
The next day, we went to a nearby park established in 17th century, called “Romantic Park.”
We spent a couple hours there, ate lunch at the inn, and went back home. I also gave her a bouquet of 20 roses.
I felt like we were getting somewhere… for 2-3 weeks. Then, a very ugly situation arose between my wife and my daughter. I won’t get into the intimate details. It just opened my eyes as to how far from mental stability my wife was. The progress made by the anniversary celebration was illusory. My heart ached again.
Frankly, it hurt so much, I lost my desire to work on improving this marriage. What helped me was accountability from my mastermind. I obligated myself to keep alive the communication in my marriage by everyday attempts to strike a conversation with my wife. They have been helping me with this discipline for months.
Ha! I also surrendered the intention of my marriage to Holy Mary. I guess it worked. There were developments which quickly got my wife out of her shell. We got COVID; her mother began to have troubles with her alcoholic son; people we know were dying (which is always a wake-up call for someone who doesn’t live a spiritual life); her mother had a car accident and landed in a hospital…
So, I kept working on my communication and my marriage. The latest development was a conversation with my wife about work-life boundaries. I felt she interrupted me when I was at the home office all too often.
In fact, she saw no boundaries at all. If she wanted to show me a Facebook meme, she was bursting into my office even without knocking. A few times, it was funny how she ran away even faster than she burst in because I was on a video call. We agreed that I will work only till 6 pm – and that she will consider the time of my office hours sacred and won’t interrupt.
It’s still a work in progress, but we made a slight progress. At least, we have a talking point whenever she barges in before 6 pm, and she becomes mindful about her requests of my time.
Family and Other Connections
At the beginning of the lockdown, I decided to reach out to my sisters and other family members more often. Sadly, I must admit I wasn’t on top of that resolution for long. But for a few (several?) months, I called 2-3 family members every week. I also had more calls with my friends. I used my walks to call them (if I didn’t pray).
In my mastermind, in the autumn 2021, we created Come as You Will Be in 2023 visions. Part of this vision for me was working on my relationships. Among other disciplines, I decided to have a call with my fellow mastermind buddies at least once a week. This was another resolution which didn’t ever solidify. Nonetheless, I made a few dozen calls during the months that came.
I also kept a tiny habit of bumping into my kids’ rooms when I was using the upstairs bathroom. This one was spotty too, and I still struggle to maintain this habit.
Encouraged by my confessor, I also had serious conversations with my sons telling them how little time was left for us together (my eldest is going to college this year, and the other son is just one year younger), and that I wanted to spend more time with them.
When my godmother got sick with COVID in April, I kept texting her every day (she had troubles catching her breath and talking) till she recovered.
One more thing about marriage and relationships – thanks to being open and vulnerable about my marital struggles, I got quite a lot of feedback from others, which surprised me. You see, for me it was normal that my wife has been treating me the way she did. But so many people reacted with compassion and outrage to my fate that I realized my marriage is not normal, and my wife definitely has problems. It wasn’t just my imagination and hurt feelings.
I wrote it in Trickle Down Mindset back in 2015 and I was right: people are our input sources. Another place where people’s input helped me immensely was dispersing of a COVID fog.
It’s hard enough to be mindful of your own feelings and actions in normal circumstances.
It’s close to impossible when your own physiology entraps you. However, it’s almost easy, when you need to report those actions and feelings on a regular basis to other people. You need to use your conscious part of your brain to articulate any verbal report at all.
It’s easy to notice patterns in such situations, even if you are almost blinded by your own weakness. When you report the same impotence, neglect or failure for the third time, it’s hard not to notice it. And even if you don’t notice, the people who listen to your reports will notice.
My friends and mastermind buddies helped me to get out of the COVID-induced brain fog. They, and my habits – I’ll tell more about this in the Personal Development part of this report.
I didn’t just get moral support and advice from my relationships in the last year. Plenty of times, I got tangible help.
I admitted my financial struggles, and I got a lot of help. My mentor, Aaron Walker, put me on the support plan – for three months I didn’t pay for my mastermind. The payment is bigger than my mortgage instalment, so you can imagine the relief.
My mastermind buddy – a Texan real estate millionaire – lent me money for the production of The Art of Persistence’s audiobook. Also, he gave me $500 to play with my ads without much pressure. All he requested of me in exchange was to give a report on how I used this money.
My sister, who was bored and out of a job, helped me for free with some Resurrecting Books reporting.
Anthony Smits helped me a lot with different projects – editing, formatting, cover design, and more. He never expected anything in return. I paid him anyway, but I could pay him when I could afford it, not when he delivered the results.
In the middle of December, desperately looking for any ways to make more money, I reached out to Dave Chesson. He immediately responded and generously spent 30 minutes on a call with me. I implemented very little from what he advised, but I was very encouraged by his response and willingness to help.
When I reached out for help with my book launches, fellow authors responded and shared my books with their followers. It resulted in several hundred copies sold.
At the end of December, a buddy from my mastermind tribe asked me to coordinate an update of his book. I told him my hourly fee, and he agreed on the spot. He paid me $250. The money arrived at the beginning of January, exactly when I needed funds the most.
I regularly spoke with Marc Reklau every second week for the whole year. We missed maybe a couple of calls. Marc is a very successful author, which is a benefit in itself – you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. 😉
But he is also a great friend, and I always have enjoyed our conversations. I remember one of our calls in the middle of my COVID brain fog – he practically provided a coaching session for me. It encouraged me in the darkest period.
I was in loose contact with Alex Strathdee from Advanced Amazon Ads for months. About once a month, or even less often, we had a 30-minute to 1-hour call. Around March, he introduced into our small circle Denis Caron who does coaching and ads for fiction authors. We got on the first call on 27th of April.
Wow, what a blast we had! We felt like nerdy nerds who finally discovered that similar nerds exist in the universe. We spoke the same language (the dialect of Amazon book ads). I didn’t have to explain what CPC is, what impressions are or how important the conversion is from clicks to sales. At the end of the call, I proposed we meet bi-weekly instead of once a month. Alex and Denis were reluctant to agree, but they finally did.
Good for them; and for me. Those calls were highlights of my months. I mean, I can share what I learned and learn at the same time. And I talk with the guys who literally understand my meaning in the middle of the sentence. This is simply cool.
We will probably start a podcast or other form of broadcasting. We made each meeting about a specific aspect of advertising books on Amazon and recorded them, so it’s just a matter of packaging this content. Having a specific topic also helped us to stay focused and, keeping in the back of our minds that this content may be published, we restricted the goofiness and expert jargon.
Still, those calls are a s*itload of fun for me.
Around the middle of January, I complained in my mastermind group that I cannot find an accountability partner who could have been a match for me. Thus, I was forced to keep myself accountable. Which works most of the time, but when my mental state degrades (COVID brain fog!) or exhaustion creeps in, I was lost. I had no support.
I’m simply the best accountability partner I know. Most probably, there are better ones out there; I just haven’t met one yet. That’s not bragging; check out the characteristics of a perfect accountability partner according to Darren Hardy:
https://go.darrenhardy.com/accountability-partners-resource/(watch the first video)
I fit the bill.
Soren, one of my mastermind buddies, volunteered to keep me accountable on a daily basis. We decided to have a short call, 5-15 minutes, at the beginning of each working day (six days a week). In the last several months we missed just several days, usually when one of us was on vacation or had a random life event.
Quickly, we narrowed down our accountability to one item a day, according to The One Thing theme. The famous question from that book is: What is the one thing that will make all the others easier or unnecessary?
Well, we don’t exactly stick to this exact meaning. But we don’t let each other name some everyday busy stuff the One Thing. You know, invoicing, prospecting, customer service and the like. It must move the needle. Soren made me hammer out my 12 Week Year goals and then I made a point to connect my One Thing to one of them. This is how I managed to publish 91 Medium articles or publish The Remarkable Power of Consistency despite all the hurdles, health troubles and under-optimal mental state.
We don’t just speak of business. We don’t restrict our priorities to business activities. It was actually Soren, who pushed me to discuss work boundaries with my wife. I helped him when he had a serious parenting crisis. Well, “helped” means I was there to patiently listen to him. This is what friends are for.
My nightmare trip to Greece will probably get its own section. I couldn’t NOT mention in the RELATIONSHIPS part meeting with my friend, Anthony Smits. We had met for the first time during the online Transformational Contest organized by Early to Rise in 2013. He has been my weekly accountability partner for several years. And we finally met face to face.
We spent quite a lot of time together. We worked on a few projects of mine (podcast pitch sheet, BookBub ads graphics, etc.). I helped him with some computer maintenance. His wife entertained my wife. We had together a few dinners and spent at least a couple of evenings hanging out on our balcony and sipping drinks.
August 2020 was almost a record month of mine, approaching nearly $7,000 gross profit. The biggest contributor was my business, Resurrecting Books, which reached the record $4,700 in August.
And then, Amazon announced that they were opening up Canada for all authors to advertise. September wasn’t too bad, only because the revenue from that month applied to my customers’ results from August. But then, the ResurrectingBooks revenue dived below $3,000 a month, and stayed there. In fact, in November I made less than $2,000, which was the worst result since August 2019.
Part of this sudden blow was losing a bunch of customers from the Canadian market. When I had the Advantage account, the whole market was almost solely my own playground. The ROI was great – especially for the amount of work I put into generating those results.
So, all the Canadian ads were highly profitable, but the catch was that I ran them mostly for my author friends, who were managing their own ads on other markets. I had those gigs only because I had the Advantage account in Canada and they didn’t. Of course, it made no sense for them to keep paying me when they could just move to their accounts. One of them commented when cancelling our deal: “You surely have seen it coming, and prepared yourself, right?”
Right, I had seen that coming. Wrong, I didn’t prepare my business for that, not even one tiny bit.
Also, Canada was a solid contributor to my own royalties. I’ve been selling there between 170 and 370 copies every month since March 2019. My sales dwindled to 60-120 since August 2020. My Canadian royalties shrank to about C$250 a month (from C$400). And the clicks got way more expensive.
Dwindling Book Sales
On other markets it wasn’t much better. Lockdowns caused Amazon’s delivery of physical goods to get hectic. And books weren’t essential goods. Messages on the website that “This product will be shipped with a lead time” didn’t instill much confidence in customers. The paperback sales shrank, and the competition for Kindle and advertising eBooks increased severely.
Thus, my overall revenue dropped by 8%, then 21% next month and over 23% on the following one. The race to the bottom stopped in December, but only on paper. Remember:
“Gross is for vanity, net is for sanity.” — Jim Palmer
My costs were actually a few hundred bucks higher in December, so my net income hit rock bottom, less than $1,200. It was less than I was making on some months in my day job prior to my transformation in 2012!
Before the end of 2020, I consumed practically all my financial reserves. Even the bank account for bills had been emptied.
You need to remember that my mental state was pitiful through those autumn months. Financial troubles didn’t help one bit to improve my sanity. Oh, of course I put my trust in God. Yet, everyone who ever went through some hardships knows very well how it works in the dark period. There is always a tiny “but” lurking in the back of your mind. So, I trusted, but I was full of anxiety. I trusted, but I was scared.
Despite my dimmed mental faculties, I realized the financial challenges as early as October. First slowly, then more and more frantically, I tried to generate some additional income. My author friends found some success with bundling their old books, so I decided to do the same. With the help of Anthony Smits, I put together my whole How to Change Your Life in 10 Minutes a Day series and published it in one volume in the middle of December.
I gave him another bundle to create, but we both were so buried with our other projects that this one is still in the back burner.
It was desperation which made me ask my friend to invest into my audiobook. I had no cash to fund this, but I had all other required resources, connections and processes.
I opened my coaching on Coach.me and notified my email list about it. Crickets. I got just a couple of random folks from Coach.me, and the results were as random as usual – one person quit after a week, and another after a month or so. Ironically, I got the only response from my email list at the end of March, when my financial situation improved. One of my readers has been on a quarter-long digital hiatus and read my email after three months.
During that period I took any gig I could. I organized a promo sale for a traditionally published author. I took a manuscript translated from Polish to English and guided the author through all necessary steps to publish the book on Amazon. I coordinated that book update for my millionaire friend.
All the side gigs and money I saved on ads and my mastermind allowed us to survive through Q1 of 2021. Fortunately, the least I made was $3,800 in February; that’s net, for sanity. 😉
In April, some payments cumulated (for example that coaching client paid me for three months in advance) and it was actually my best net month ever! Well, it was about $50 more than the previous record month, but still a record.
May and June weren’t overly abundant (around $4k each), but July was another month when I could pay all the business expenses, bills, taxes and still was able to save some money. Again, it was mostly due to the accumulation in payments (for example, I finally got paid for the work with the book translated from Polish; we had some formal issues with this one).
Nonetheless, recently I got some promising customers and quite a lot of new projects from my existing customers (about 20 books in the last several weeks). It looks like the tide has turned.
In the last year, a few germs of new careers emerged or the existing ones further developed.
I got a few more coaching clients. One of them I remember clearly – a business owner from Azerbaijan who had been an Olympic runner. He couldn’t apply the same discipline he employed to his running into his business. I helped him to overcome the initial resistance and, within a bit over a month, he was able to get his new project up and running.
With a couple of existing ones, I expanded my service to serve them better. Apart from the daily online contact, we have monthly/weekly coaching calls.
Knowing my inclinations, my supervisor in PwC gave me the coaching assignment in our department. I led several 1.5-hour sessions of soft skills workshops. I had a blast! It was so enjoyable! The pure joy I experienced with those workshops took me by surprise. I simply loved doing them – teaching and learning at the same time.
And, I guess, those workshops were also kind of speaking gigs. All in all, I got paid by my employer for those hours. 😉
Oh, and there is a happily ever after story connected to that. In the middle of June, I was hanging out at the company’s event and my supervisor, totally out of the blue, told me she is willing to invest $6k into my business coaching certificate.
OK, that made me interested. She also alluded that once obtaining the certificate, I may pursue the coaching career within PwC. Since I’m sentenced (by my wife) to work there anyway, I would love to switch from the IT stuff into coaching.
I gave several more podcast interviews in the past year. I gave four online presentations about advertising books on Amazon. I gave a webinar for Phillip Morris Poland about motivation and productivity, based on my PwC workshops.
What is worth mentioning, I didn’t ask for more than a half of those gigs. People had awareness about my services, and they came to me and asked me to give some kind of presentation.
I don’t like many aspects of those online events – prepping the slides is the least pleasurable, that’s for sure. Coordinating everything and triple checking all the technical details is not fun either. But I immensely enjoy presenting itself. I know what I’m talking about; I have zillions of personal examples under my sleeve, and I teach. I love teaching.
Progress in this area was reached at the cost of many failures. The most painful lessons are the best remembered.
In November, I lost Nicole, my onboarding specialist. She moved to a full time job, but I expostulate myself the fact I didn’t provide her with enough work. She kept repeating that it was fine, but I guess it wasn’t.
In the beginning of February, I hired a VA. The recruitment process revealed all kinds of red flags, but I ignored them. I decided, I will hire her anyway and train her up. That wasn’t the greatest idea in the history of business.
Yes, she poked hundreds of holes in my feeble processes. Yes, I learned a lot about asynchronous communication with a team member. But I paid a handsome ransom with my time for that; and with my peace of mind. I hoped to delegate some tasks and be freed up. In the effect, I spent my time and energy on training, delegating and then double checking most of the tasks.
At the end of July, I demoted my VA to just creating the ads for customers. This is something she does reasonably well without any supervision. And I’ll look for another VA, and this time make sure a person fits to the role.
My biggest business takeaway from this past year is how much depends on a business owner in small business. Practically all the pitfalls I experienced were due to the after-COVID brain fog. This is when I lost Nicole, lost most of the revenue, and hired the VA. Self-care should be #1 priority for every business owner.
Ironically, I’m pretty good at it. I have my daily rituals to keep my soul, mind and body sharp, and I stuck with them even during the worst periods.
But I was hammered with external events and circumstances. Amazon opening advertising in Canada and the revenue slump, the overall COVID situation, marital struggles and the awful brain fog as the icing on the cake. Hmm, so it was good I already had my self-care disciplines established. Where would I have been without them at such times? I shudder to think of it.
Amazon Ads Expert
The frail connection I had with Alex suddenly morphed into a true mastermind when Denis joined our couple. While exchanging experiences, I realized how much I know about this business. And the guys often look up to me and listen to my opinions.
I mentioned my speaking gigs being an initiative of others. Kris Krimitsos invited me to be a speaker at the Podfest summit. Quite recently, an author who found me through Dave Chesson and started advertising a couple of his books, asked me to be interviewed on his podcast, Writer on the Side. We spent the bulk of the episode talking about the ads.
In January, an author contacted me about reviewing his book. It took us about two months before I finally got my paperback copy. But we also had a conversation about Amazon ads for his book. The book’s rank was quite high, so I said it would be better if I don’t use my random keywords approach. So, he hired me to train his team to run the ads. I priced this consultations at $100 per hour and he agreed without hesitation.
I had two or three Zoom calls with his team, and I also recorded a video about his book description. Recently, he purchased another three hours.
It seems, I actually am an expert. 😉
I will say it again – my good habits are the core of my personal development. The habits I started back in 2012 and 2013 – like gratitude journaling or my morning ritual – are still serving me as well as they served me nine or eight years ago. I owe them not only my progress, but my sanity.
All too often, I tried to do too many things at once. And I tried to do them myself. It had led straight to the burnout. But I never really burned out. I had some dark periods, but I never burned myself to the vegetable level. In fact, I got feedback from my friends, quite a few times, that during my struggling periods (like COVID and afterwards), I was active at normal level (instead of being hyperactive).
I owe that to my habits. Quite a few of them are directed toward self-care: meditation, exercises, drinking enough water, walks, reinvigorating my motivation every morning… And that’s even not mentioning my spiritual disciplines!
I don’t say I made my life fireproof. But I certainly strengthened myself mentally, physically and spiritually. When tough times came, I kept going.
Come as You Will Be in 2023
In October and November 2020, I worked on a vision for my life at the end of 2023. I set some goals, but in the last seven months I made only meager progress on them.
One of them is the mastery of Tiny Habits. I created several such habits to sprinkle my days with them. Some of them stuck. I think the most solidified is pausing before I unlock a screen of my iPhone to set an intention and objective of this usage of my phone. Some other habits are still far from being established. For example, bumping into the rooms of my kids whenever I’m upstairs.
I also want to be a certified Tiny Habits coach before the end of 2023. The only progress I made there was adding Tiny Habits to my PwC workshops curriculum.
And I hopelessly failed at developing myself in the areas of empathy, emotional intelligence, curiosity, listening skills and humbleness. Mostly, because I have no daily disciplines connected to practicing those skills/traits.
The main development in this area was getting a spiritual director – a regular confessor. My spiritual accountability partner had been nagging me for this for a few months before I mustered my courage and asked an elderly priest in the parish where my church community functions. He only inquired why I would want such spiritual direction and agreed on the spot.
Attribute it to the Holy Spirit or to decades of experience of that priest, but he was super-quick to narrow down my struggles to the marriage and family area, and he supported and encouraged me to improve on that front. So, his advice was behind the scenes of some relationship developments I wrote above.
Other than that, I also set a few goals for my CAYWB. Again, I failed with most of them, and again this was due to not having interconnected daily disciplines. The only practice I succeeded at was a daily one. I mentioned my idea to attach a spiritual intention to my every action a year or two ago. I kept trying to do this, every single day. I made it a part of my CAYWB, and it greatly solidified since then.
I had also a few minor spiritual enlightenments ‘on my own’ – meaning probably I studied the Bible and read works of saints long enough to finally penetrate my thick skull.
First of all, I realized (also thanks to the COVID and all the struggles from the last year) how weak I really am. The reality is that I cannot even deal with basic things like my own body, mind, or family. The fate of the world? It is way beyond me. I want to change the world, but it’s not my job to figure out how.
Realizing my feebleness and weakness was the necessary step to a true enlightenment – what it means to have a child’s mindset. It means putting my trust in God – “Daddy will take care of it.”
It’s a half of the old adage that you should focus only on the things you can control. The other half is not “and the things I cannot control be damned.” The other half is “and put the rest in the hands of God.” With full trust. This is the only way I know I can have peace, not anxiety, about the things I cannot control, from natural disasters to dumb politicians. This kind of trust is liberating – hardly anything depends on me in the world’s affairs; it is also soothing – I can take care of my business, and be at ease that Someone really competent has all the other businesses in His hands.
The next enlightenment, which I’m almost certain I borrowed from someone else and adopted as my own, is this:
“Exchange expectations with gratitude.”
One of my readers aptly commented on Quora with an equation he got from a book:
Expectations – Reality = Disappointment
My overblown expectations are the source of 98% of my misery. Also, having expectations means I don’t live in the current moment often enough. Expectations are about future. You cannot fully enjoy, or even experience, the present moment and have expectations at the same time.
The last spiritual realization of mine was the discovery about how self-protective and judgmental I became in my marriage. I withdrew. That’s why it was so hard for me to repair my relationship with wife. It was the gentle pressure from my spiritual director and my friends, which helped me to notice how hard even the weakest attempt of communication was for me. This led me to inquire why it was so hard and conclude that I sealed up in my own self-righteousness.
As depressing as this realization was, it was also sobering. Yes, it was the final push that allowed me to recognize my own weakness. The one encouraging thought I got from all of this was that it seems to be the right path.
From what I reckon from saints’ works, the path to sainthood is not a path to perfection, but rather a path of admitting your own fragility and still going forward. As Jesus said: “No one is good but God alone.” No one is perfect, but Him alone.
I’m fragile. Trying to be antifragile is going against my nature, and this is what I’ve been trying to achieve for almost my whole life.
It’s pointless. Becoming antifragile has as much chance for success as trying to flap my arms and fly. My expectations about myself were highly unrealistic. Thus, my disappointment with myself was severely painful most of the time.
I cannot become a superhuman. There is no such thing, like there are no human-birds flying by flapping their arms. The only way I can become more is by locking my potential with the potential of others, and with God.
Hopefully, I will keep those lessons in mind in the years to come.
COVID and the brain fog were hardly expected, but I want to talk here about the pleasant surprises – things I didn’t engineer, but rather prepared for them.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” — Seneca
Audiobook and Ads Fund
Well, it was me who asked my friend for money for the audiobook. But I have been with him in a mastermind since 2017. I built a relationship in advance. And those $500 for ads? He bestowed it on me out of the blue. He saw me struggling and wanted to recuperate my self-confidence.
A Webinar for Phillip Morris Poland
My efforts had something to do with this, but not much. My friend works there. He attended one of their webinars created by HR department about habits and asked me if I could do something like this. I said “sure thing.” He gave my contact info to the HR department, and I didn’t think twice of it.
They contacted me over a year after my friend told them about me. And during that year, I took a presentation skills course and led a soft skills workshops in PwC.
So, I didn’t expect them to call me, at all. And when they did, I had this funny moment recalling Jim Rohn who said about a call he once got: “Of course, they called me. Who else would they call? I’m getting the job done!”
Scribd Audio Course
Or audiobook, or whatever you want to call it. Scribd found me on Medium and they offered to create an audio course based on my online content. They paid me several hundred dollars for the rights to my content. I took their offer because I couldn’t even invent a better one. All I needed to do was to point them to some relevant pieces of mine, review the outline they created, provide my content and do the same with the final version.
My engagement was limited, my time investment was minimal. And thanks to them, I could address the audience I’ve never reached before. It was a no-brainer for me.
The only thing I did to engineer such an output was getting back on Medium. Well, this, and creating content for the last nine years they could draw from.
I had no big hopes for this project, but since I had a VA available, I decided to perform an experiment. Up to 20th of June, it went predictably poor. I had been making about $15-$20 a month with Medium payments.
On the plus side, I repurposed my content from Quora, so it was no writing effort at all.
On the minus side, it took quite some time to format and publish those articles. Time easily worth $2,000 a month. I was ready to ditch the whole experiment after the second quarter of 2021, when one of my articles took off like a rocket ship. Up until now, this puny article got over 14,000 views! Thanks to it, Medium started showing my articles to more people.
I did everything “wrong” with this article – it was short, it was self-promotional, and it was freely available. Supposedly, they were all good reasons why it should NOT be a hit.
The increased traffic resulted in making over $100 in July (when I published only 16 articles, and only one or two of them were original ones. Oh, and Medium paid me a $100 bonus for “high engagement.”) If I read their info right, it meant I was between 1,501 and 1,001 of the most-read writers on the whole Medium in July.
I had my (un)fair share of failures in the last year. Discovering how withdrawn I was in my marriage was one of the biggest ones, and I feel I already shared a whole bunch of them in the above report. Thus, I’ll describe in details only a couple of my failures.
1. Phillip Morris Webinar.
It was an utter disaster. After the webinar, I had a quick call with my friend. He told me in a very apologetic tone that the webinar sucked big time. He provided a few reasons and I couldn’t agree more.
I talked like a machine gun because I simply put way too much into my presentation. I condensed a 2-hour workshop into 30-minute presentation and added some elements on top on that.
I didn’t have my target audience in mind. I didn’t recognize how burned out their brains were from the remote work done in the last 15 months. One more talking head was the last thing they needed.
And my slides sucked big time. I forgot I’m aesthetically blind. So, I prepared the version for aesthetically blind people, and I was stoked I created such a great presentation. :/
Lesson #1: Do remember about your weaknesses.
The moment my friend told me my slides were a disaster, I realized he was right. I’m aesthetically impaired. I had similar experiences with book covers which design I supervised. I thought they were OK-ish. People were running away in terror when they saw them.
Lesson #2: All you can do is all you can do.
Considering how much they paid me, and how overwhelmed I was, I prepared the webinar as best I could. Adding even an ounce of effort more wasn’t justified. I lived in June with no margin whatsoever.
And I even showed the whole presentation to Anthony. He was just too diplomatic to tell me it sucked big time. So, it’s not like I totally ignored the preparations and didn’t look for feedback. Sometimes, you can only do so much, and if the stars won’t align, you won’t succeed.
#1 Charge Way More
I scrambled to make a living, thus I simply couldn’t prepare better. I had no time to spare, no mental bandwidth, and no energy for any additional effort. But if I charged my nominal $100 per hour, and added a few hours for preparations into the plan, I could invest more time and energy into this webinar instead of investing them in other projects.
#2 Never Take a Job If I Need to Do Anything Visual
When I gave a webinar for the Bellevue University, I created the content for the slides, but they made it visually appealing. And that’s my recipe for success – someone else doing the visual part of things.
My participation in the creative process should be minimal. Period. So, either I charge enough to delegate making slides (see #1) or I don’t take a job at all.
#3 Get to Know Your Audience
Partly, this was the fault of the HR department. I got zero guidance from them. Most of it was my fault – I tried to impress them and packed as much as possible (and then some) into my 30 minutes.
I was overwhelmed, hence I didn’t do my homework. But a small effort at the beginning of the process would have spared me at least part of the pain. I should’ve consulted with my friend way before the webinar, not afterwards.
2. Killing Customers’ Books
That was my biggest failure with Resurrecting Books ever. I stumbled about a nonfiction author who was a great marketer. Her books had high ranks, but I was most interested in her book descriptions. They were perfect. They needed no effort to improve. She fit my ideal customer avatar to the letter.
I asked my mentor, Dave Chesson for the introduction and he complied. I had a call with the author and explained to her how my shotgun approach to ads works. She decided to try my service.
And my ads killed her books. At least, the bestselling ones with the ranks below the 10,000 mark. My ads didn’t provide much, like usual, just a few dozen copies of sales a month. But they utterly confused the Amazon’s marketing algorithm. The traffic brought by my ads didn’t convert even remotely as well as the previous traffic sources.
So, Amazon stopped their marketing for my customers’ books. Or severely restricted it. The final results were the same – her organic sales dropped significantly and she lost several thousands of dollars.
She said she hardly could blame me – I told her how my system works- but she was still mad. Who wouldn’t be? We ended our cooperation in a pretty foul mood.
I hoped to make a small fortune on an ideal customer, and I didn’t even recoup my costs. What is more, I strained my mentor’s credit of trust. But the worst thing was that my actions hurt my customer. The whole Resurrecting Books service is based on the paradigm of providing value to my customers. In that case, I did something totally opposite.
Lesson: Question your assumptions.
Never before had my ads hurt any book. Sometimes, they weren’t very effective; sometimes, they were barely breaking even, so there was no business for me; most of the time, they were moderately successful; sometimes, they made hundreds of dollars a month from a single book.
I simply didn’t see the disaster coming because I never expected that my ads can have so devastating an effect on the bestselling books.
Just one – do not advertise bestselling books with my method!!!
It’s good to analyze your failures and take away something. When David Jenyns inquired about advertising SYSTEMology, I told him right away he shouldn’t use my service. And he hired me as an ad consultant for his team. I made several hundred dollars because I realized what the downsides of my advertising method are.
Summary of My The Slight Edge Report, Year Nine
The last 12 months gave got me a really bumpy ride. That was the most “interesting” year since I started my The Slight Edge journey. The lows were very low, and the highs were high indeed.
This bumpy ride convinced me that my habits saved my sanity. Even when I experienced marital struggles, financial hardship and brain fog at the same time, I kept with my habits. And they put me through those hard times to the other side.
You need good habits before you need them. When life happens, it’s way too late to build them!
Jeff Olson was SO right when he described the way most people operate in The Slight Edge. When we hit the bottom, we feel endangered so we muster heroic strength and we fill a short period of time with a frantic activity. Action always creates results, so we get our nose way above the water. We breathe a sigh of relief. We actually can breathe, because we are not drowning anymore.
And we stop doing what got us to this better situation. So we sink below the surface again, we hit the bottom, and the cycle repeats. The life of most people can be illustrated by a sine wave, not by the upward curve. Ha! Not many people’s lives can be illustrated by a downward curve too, only those truly broken ones. Our survival mechanism kicks in, and we plunge into frantic activity and get above the water… at least for a moment.
But you never know what can break you. That’s why you need to cultivate good habits. I personally know at least three instances when a single event put men into an abyss of mental illness. One guy had a car accident and his baby daughter was killed in it. Another guy’s business went bankrupt. Another guy’s brother died in a car accident; he had zero involvement in this situation, yet he turned into a mess nonetheless.
All three of them cannot function anymore. Their minds are in different realms – realms where the tragic events are not their fault – or other wish-worlds. They are not fully with us anymore.
You may be just one catastrophic event away from madness. I had at least two things which could break me in the last twelve months. Why is it that I recovered and the guys I told you about didn’t?
Partly, it’s pure grace, but grace is hard to pinpoint or measure. And as far as I know, grace is based on nature. My good habits may be miniscule, but they created the base for grace.
If you repeatedly refuse to build good habits, you build your life on sand. You know how it may end (Luke 6: 49). One catastrophic event…
Get busy living a better life. Get busy building good habits – the building blocks of a better life. You need to prepare for the unexpected in advance. And I don’t know a better way for that than a way of cultivating daily consistent good habits.
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