Solopreneurship

3 Magic Self-Awareness Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Now

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Text Version

Total Reading Time:  5 minutes.
I want to discuss this idea of emotional intelligence. This idea of increasing your self-knowledge and your self-awareness. At this stage we all know the importance of emotional intelligence.
In fact, we know now based on the science of it that your IQ is pretty much fixed. By the time you’re done being an adolescent, that IQ that you have is mostly permanent. What we do know though is that your emotional intelligence (EQ) is malleable.
 

 
It can change, it can grow, it can increase, whereas your IQ is quite fixed.
[Edit: The fact is, everyone is becoming “more intelligent” over the course of their lifetime, but the IQ scale keeps everyone in the same context.]
 

Why Does This Matter?

What researchers in this area of emotional intelligence have found is that your mindset, your level of emotional intelligence is more likely to predict your success than your IQ. You can have an extremely high IQ but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
By success they look at things like the amount of money that you make, the relationships that you have, your overall level of fulfillment and happiness, so on and so forth. Everybody measures success differently, that’s fine.
What we do know is that when you open that door to increasing your self-knowledge, it’s actually quite fascinating.
One of the things I’ve studied and worked on is Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist, his original theories around your cognitive functions. He broke out the personality into these sixteen different types (more on each type here).
 

 
It was actually quite brilliant because he nailed it better than anybody ever had before and he spent a tremendous amount of time musing on these various ideas of your cognitive functions and the order in which they are.
That might be way further than you care to go but what’s important is that there are a series of questions you can ask people to just even begin to increase your self-knowledge. By doing so you can be more successful, you can be more fulfilled, you can know your unique advantage.
With just the first question alone you could see a radical change in the way you approach your career and the way you approach everything you do in your work because it will help you identify your unique abilities, your unique advantage.
 

Mastering a Skill

The way you go about doing this is you want to identify seven different people of varying distances to you. It might be your coworker, your family member, brother or sister, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, friend of a friend, maybe someone you don’t know that well. Seven different people.
I challenge you to do this exercise by the way, and you’ll see the power of it. Even if you only ask three people these three questions you’ll see the power of it. Find different types of people, not just people you’re super comfortable with, but people you think you could really learn from.
Question number one is:

What is something that I do better than most people?

Why is this important? By getting the answer to this question you’re going to be able to begin to identify your unique ability, your unique genius, and your talent. Something that you do better than most people means you’re above average in this area and most likely you’re either not aware of it, or if you are not appreciating the power you have with that ability.
If you were to just double down and invest even more into mastering that skill, you would become unstoppable at that one thing and all it takes in life is being really good at one thing to get everything that you want.
That’s the path to mastery.
That’s the path to what Alan Watts talks about when he said, “What would you do if money were no object?”
You have to identify that unique ability. People constantly are asking me or telling me things like, “I don’t know what I’m into. I don’t know what my passion is. I don’t know what I’m even good at.”
This question is going to help you get there. That’s question number one.
 

Good/Bad Habits

Question number two:

What is a habit that I may not be aware of?

This is a fun one. If you notice with people, if you ever notice that somebody is doing something and you really want to tell them and you wonder to yourself like, “Are they even aware of this?”
Generally this happens with things that are annoying and that we don’t like about somebody and we wish we could tell them. Chances are, the person that is most aware of that habit is themselves.
If we were to tell that person what to do, it almost never matters to them. It almost never clicks. They almost never make a change. We ourselves have to want to make a change, right?
First step is admitting there’s a problem. Even more so the first step is identifying the problem. We need to identify that problem by asking people around us, “What is a habit I may not be aware of?”
And you’re probably aware of it and you’re going to hear it. Such as you biting your nails or you’re always late or you talk over people or whatever it may be. It doesn’t have to be negative. It might be a positive thing. It might be a positive habit, but by being aware of it we can either decide, this is useful or I’m going to get rid of this habit. And that’s a beautiful thing to begin to increase your self-knowledge.
 

Personal Brand

Finally, question number three that you need to ask at least three people, if not seven people on this challenge, and I challenge you to do this.
Question number three is:

How would you describe me to a friend of yours?

This is actually a really fun one because we don’t generally have conversations like this with people, at least most people don’t. You’re going to hear some things about yourself that I think you’re really going to appreciate and like. That person is going to open up to you and tell you things about yourself that will be great to hear.
You’ll begin to identify more of the things that make you special and unique, and begin to really understand how you’re branded. This is the key, especially for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, people with their own companies, executives, CEOs.
The way people describe you or your brand or your company is critical because if we don’t learn to describe ourselves and brand ourselves, someone is going to do it for you. People are going to do it for you. That’s why this is also really critical.
As an individual it gives you insight into who you really are.
That is all. Those are the three questions. Make sure you do this challenge, and let me know how it goes because I guarantee you if you just ask these questions and you open yourself up to people, and you allow yourself to receive this information, you will be opening a door that is absolutely awesome into increasing your self-knowledge. There is a whole host of benefits to that.
Enjoy.
 
Photo credit: young man with a bookCC license

Surprising Ways Investing in Yourself is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

 

Audio/Video Version

Text Version

Total Reading Time:  5 minutes.
Greetings. I’m Arman Assadi. Welcome to our very first… I don’t know what we’re going to call these. It’s not quite a podcast. It’s like a minicast, an audiocast. We’ll call it a minicast. How about that? Welcome to our first minicast. Today’s topic is really important — about what the number one thing you need to be investing your money and hard-earned cash into.
You work, you work, you work, you make money, and then you have to decide how to spend it. What do you spend it on?
Use your hard earned money to invest in yourself

What I Discovered From the Rich

I recently wrote another post titled—I Discovered What the Rich Know About Wealth and I Can’t Keep It to Myself.
The first thing you need to understand about investing is that you should always be transferring or moving your dollars. Now you may not have dollars. You could have some other currency. But you need to be moving your dollars or cash into assets.
There are two types of assets. Assets are things that grow, they’re more valuable than cash. Assets are what the rich invest in. They’re always investing. It’s not about how much cash is in the bank, it’s about how many assets.
Now I divide these assets in two different classes.
The first class is real, tangible things that you can invest in like real estate and stocks and precious metals. There’s a lot of different things you can invest in. You can invest in a company, you can invest in anything.
Now the other class of thing that you can invest in is yourself.
When you invest in yourself, if you are always on a trajectory of growth, if you are a self-directed learner and you’re constantly growing, you have to invest in yourself.
The number one thing that you should be investing in is education.
Let me explain why…

Education is Key

The more you learn and the more information and knowledge you have, the more you can actually turn that into more cash and more opportunities. You then complete that cycle of taking the knowledge and turning it into some sort of strategy where you implement and take action and do something in your life.
I’ll give you an example.
I have an insane appetite for reading. If I could do anything all day long (and this is actually what I’m working toward) it’s to literally have a life where all I do for work is read and write all day. The input is reading and maybe listening to podcasts and things like that, but that’s an input. That input is in the form of education.
The output is articles, videos, even minicasts like this. That’s  ultimately the direction I want to go because that’s my craft. I already know this is my life’s craft. It’s because I know and I feel alive in that moment, especially when I’m helping people, especially when I take that information and knowledge and make it tangible; make it actionable for somebody else.
I see the difference it has in their lives.
The value of education for you could be something different, but what you have to understand is that the education always becomes something.
It’s always tangible.
You can always do something with that education. In my opinion, investing in yourself through education is even more valuable than investing in tangible assets.
Assets have a fixed growth rate. You cannot control how quickly your stocks grow. You invest and you hope that this grows over time. Generally they do. It’s a smart investment to have actual assets that are growing over time.

Investing in Yourself

By far the number one thing you can do is invest in yourself.

You do that through education. You do that by attending that conference that you’re not sure you should attend. You do that by taking online classes. You do that by investing in personal development and self-development in yourself.
I attended my first Tony Robbins event (Unleash the Power Within—basically like his elementary school, pre-school-level event) four years ago, after I left Google. It completely transformed my life and allowed me to really understand my craft, to allow me to get over some limiting beliefs.
It was a good time. I had a really awesome time and it really transformed the direction I was moving in my life.
Four years later I attended again in order to take some family members, in order to take some really close friends of mine, and decided that it was time to go to the next level. Now this next level event starts at $6,000. That is a major amount of money. Long story short, I was able to negotiate that down to around $4,000, between you and I, by putting a group together. That’s what I’m going to be doing.
Next year I’m going to be going to Australia to the Gold Coast to attend his Date With Destiny event. It’s $4,000. There was a moment that I hesitated. There was a moment that I thought, “Is this the smartest thing to be spending my money on? $4,000? Holy shit!”
The reality is that is going to compound more than anything else ever will, more than any stock ever will, because those little shifts, those little ah-ha moments, as you know, rapidly change your life.
Invest in yourself.
That’s just one example of a way I’ve invested in myself. I’m constantly investing in myself. It doesn’t always require money. Just by getting around the right people you’re investing in yourself and your education.
Ramit Sethi asked his audience, “what is the best investment you’ve ever made.” You can see the answers here. Notice how many of them are people investing in themselves, including Ramit’s personal example:

In college, I flew across the country to meet Seth Godin, which led to an internship, which led to 2 published books, TV exposure, and much more.

Another great article Royale Scuderi over at Lifehack talks about 3 valuable ways to invest in yourself, and gives some great tangible examples that align perfectly with this article.

Conclusion

Note from Arman: I’m back from the event now and I can say the investment has already “paid off”. Everyone’s experience is different since we all go for different reasons/outcomes, but for me it’s delivered a positive ROI through a few specific work initiatives I’ve implemented (which is what most people want to know) and delivered a massive increase in self-development and awareness. Plus, this is only the beginning. An investment in yourself delivers massive “compound interest” over time. 

Always look for ways to educate yourself. There is nothing more valuable in this world.

Information without implementation is absolutely useless.

That is all for today’s minicast. Hope you enjoyed that one. Make sure to take action on it. In any way you can, implement this idea into your life today.

Photo credit: Macro MoneyCC license

Why a Sabbatical Can Massively Boost Your Focus

Total Reading Time: 6 minutes.
I’m going on a blog publishing sabbatical. Before you get sad and feel like you just stepped in a puddle and have wet sock (worst thing ever), allow me to share some reasons why you may want to do the same. I’ll also share my own motivations for doing this toward the end of the article.
I once learned from a brilliant man—Eben Pagan, creator of my favorite program for work effectiveness Wake Up Productive—that it’s critical to be deliberate with our time. Eben is the archetype of the modern-day internet entrepreneur. He has made tens of millions of dollars selling information products, and built a virtual business and team that spans the globe.
He does things that might seem silly to some, like having a dedicated person in his life he calls the meter fairy, who makes sure he always has enough quarters in his car glove compartment to pay for street parking. One of the biggest business-related lessons I’ve learned is how to focus on only the most important tasks.
I’ve been using the method below for a couple years, but have only recently begun to understand its true power. We must be very self-aware of how we spend our time. There is a simple formula we can use to help monitor our activities.

Increase Productivity with Simple Time-Management

All of your time can be divided into these two chunks:
1. High-dollar or high-lifetime-value activities
This is where our priority should be. The most important aspect is what tasks we’re actually working on. High-dollar value tasks are the ones that generate you the most revenue/sales. High-lifetime value tasks are creative activities to help toward your pursuit of grander, long-term goals—and can also lead to more income.
Are you creating a new report in Google Analytics or a spreadsheet for your website? Are you calling your email list hosting company to troubleshoot a problem? These are not high-value tasks. Are you putting together a document for your client? Are you attending a conference in your field to get an education and meet like-minded people? There you go—these are high-value tasks. Do more of this, and cut the rest.

2. R3: Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation
Yes—the rest of your time should be spent—resting. “This is blasphemy, Arman! You’re promoting laziness.” I understand this goes against standard logic for most of us. It’s easy to believe that if you’re not busy hustling 24/7 it means you’re lazy. This attitude and approach work for some people, like Gary Vaynerchuk, who has created a movement around hustling.
In order for you to be effective at what you do (the high-value tasks), you need to keep your mind and body in an optimal state. Taking care of yourself and disconnecting from work is critical. Spending a little time by yourself isn’t a bad idea either, my experiment from an entire year of solitude changed my life. Relaxation is also a time to build the creative muscle.
Meditating, or simply slowing down the mind, can do magical things for your creativity.
I value presence over productivity, and first learned about this from the incredible Maria Popova. The method above does promote productivity, but at its core it promotes a presence and effectiveness that other complicated productivity solutions can’t offer. Alan Watts also spoke of this often and highlighted how our society lives to work, his famous talk on Work vs. Play explains this beautifully.

What to Do with All the Other Tasks

The question of how to cut the rest is an entirely different one, but here’s a quick primer:

  1. First work on saying no to yourself. Then get better at saying no to other people without being rude.
  2. Now work on identifying the tasks you should not be doing (the ones not in line with your craft and strengths as a solopreneur).
  3. And finally, outsource these tasks to a virtual assistant or intern. I love Fancy Hands and use them daily (here’s a full review of the service).

Why You Should Take a Sabbatical

Now you understand the foundation for how you can approach your work. As always, experiment with this and see if it works for you. Now how do sabbaticals (not the type your professor takes, but a self-imposed break) tie into all this? At times we may find ourselves working too many projects. It’s easy to get caught up saying yes to exciting opportunities, which means it’s no longer possible to dedicate enough time to the high-value tasks.
A sabbatical is a way to say—that’s enough. A sabbatical can be a complete disconnect. Or simply taking a break from a specific business, project, or task in your work. In my case, I’m taking a publishing sabbatical, which means I’m not planning on publishing any content directly on the site, but of course, I will continue communicating with my readers and sharing insights through my email newsletter.
By choosing to go on sabbatical you can disconnect from a task (or everything else) to focus on a bigger opportunity. Or, it can help to regenerate your creativity and enthusiasm for the work. James Clear talks about taking a sabbatical from his writing around twice a year—something I think every writer should consider.
In my case, I’m working on multiple huge projects (the biggest of my life so far), which is both high-dollar and high-lifetime-value work. It would be irresponsible of me to take time away from this, especially since it aligns directly with my grander vision and helps me better serve my readers (you) much better.
Sometimes we just have to go all in. By turning off the mind when it comes to other tasks, we can be fully immersed in a new world and spend more time carefully crafting the new project. That’s what I’m doing right now, and if it resonates with you, I recommend you consider it too. Be specific about what really matters. Focus on a single brand promise and message, then deliver on it with laser focus.
It wasn’t easy to make this decision, in fact, I was initially feeling guilty just considering it. In the end, I asked myself a simple question: would my readers rather receive a few new articles, or will they gain more from the multiple projects I’m working on that I’m certain will provide 10–100X more value in the long-term? Easy answer.
How long will I go on this publishing sabbatical for? The current plan is around 60 days. How much time will I save? You might be wondering how blogging takes away from this—after all—how long does it really take? A 1,000–3,000-word post (the typical length of my articles), takes anywhere from two to eight hours to research and write, and even longer to edit and publish. But I actually spend even more time promoting my articles to reach new audiences than on the creation process—another 10–20 hours a week.

Conclusion

So—think about your own life, your projects, and your goals. Are you avoiding working on the highest-value work? Would a project-specific sabbatical help? If so, start re-structuring your daily plan right now. Keep it to a maximum of 2–3 tasks per day, and focus all your energy and effort around that.
Sometimes all we need is a jolt to realize we’ve been avoiding the real thing all along. Or perhaps you’ve been unintentionally procrastinating, feeling disconnected from your craft, or simply too busy to make an impact. Either way, a sabbatical could be just the thing you need.
To learn more about my projects and get behind-the-scenes insights, make sure you get access to my private email list.
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Photo credit: Unsplash

How to Create a Marketing Persona and Reach Your Audience When No One Is Listening

Total Reading Time: 10 minutes.
I remember when it finally clicked.
I had just finished creating and launching my first venture as a solopreneur, an online course on email management, Effortless Email, based around some education during my time on the Google Apps team. I was ready to finally start bringing in the sales.
Everything I did was brand new to me. Creating screencast videos, editing, teaching online, understanding marketing psychology, creating landing pages, squeeze pages—I could go on forever, it was all brand new.
Needless to say, I had invested a lot of time and energy. In this excellent personas article by Jodi Harris on Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi says:

It’s incredibly difficult to monetize an audience of everybody. – Tweet this!

Or as I often say, “If you try and speak to everyone, no one will hear you.”
A persona is an example representation of your perfect buyer/prospect. I overlooked the importance of creating a detailed buyer persona (or avatar). I thought my product appealed to most people in some way, so I never got specific about who it was for. I didn’t understand how important it was to identify a niche within a niche in the market.
Since then, I’ve turned my focus toward writing and blogging. After experimenting in different areas of the online business world, I realized all I wanted to do was read/learn and write/teach. Ultimately everything came back to writing, and so I declared this as my true craft.
 

Personas Apply for Writers and Bloggers Too

What many writers and bloggers don’t realize is that the same rules apply. If you are writing to please everyone and want to reach the masses, you need to go micro, not macro. In order to find your 1000 true fans, you need to be specific about who you’re speaking to.
As Jeff Goins says in this fantastic post, finding your tribe may be the hardest thing you ever do. But it is also the most important. You must choose and commit to your path, and in my opinion, this is through dedication to self-directed learning. You must pursue mastery (see: video on your vocation and mastery) in whatever craft you choose.
Serving an audience of one eventually creates that tribe, and gives you and your brand a clear voice.
Here are six tips on writing from John Steinbeck, and one brilliant example:

In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one. – John Steinbeck
 

Defining the Buyer Persona

Whether you are marketing a revolutionary new fitness product, a SaaS product, your awesome new app (related: a free 8 day app business plan), or just writing—it all comes down to understanding your target buyer/lead/audience/reader/client—you get the idea.
So what exactly is a buyer persona? As persona expert Tony Zambito says, the original definition is still important.

Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions (today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy).

In other words, it’s all about their buying behavior.
 

Getting Started with Personas

If you haven’t yet created your avatar/persona, now is the time. Buffer blog content crafter extraordinaire Kevan Lee has created an in-depth beginner’s guide on marketing personas. This includes a template and step-by-step guide.
Ultimately you’ll want to identify your personas: name, demographics, job, goals, challenges, values, and fears. It’s important that you go into detail and that you continually keep this updated.
If you have multiple projects and audiences you’re trying to reach, you do need to have separate personas. In general though, I strongly advise against working on multiple projects or businesses at the same time.
It’s critical to have only one brand promise.
Over the years this has been the number one mistake I’ve observed amongst entrepreneurs. Even the successful ones struggle with this, as it eventually causes burnout and a lack of focus. If you have to cut the cord on something, do it now before it becomes painful to do later.
If you’re bouncing from idea to idea, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. I did it too. Many of the most successful people “burn their bridges“, and you should too once you understand why.
 

Example: The Freedom Lifestyle Insider Persona/Avatar

With the theme of being even more transparent and providing insights on my adventures as a solopreneur, below I’ll be sharing the exact reader persona I’m writing for here on the site.
Whenever I set out to do something, I begin with a research phase and begin consuming and dissecting the most valuable information available on a topic. Next, I generally prefer to come up with my own solution, which combines the best pieces from my research—along with an Arman twist, which generally makes things more straightforward and palatable.
You can use this template as a guide and just replace my text with your own. I saved this in Evernote and often refer to it when I need to reconnect to my one reader, Anthony.
 

Meet My Persona/Avatar: Anthony

young professional man
Anthony, my marketing persona. Say hi Anthony!

Name: Anthony
Age: 28
Occupation: Business Development – Corporate
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Hobbies: Travel, reading, writing, podcasts, technology, and sports
Income: $100,000/year
Online habits: Anthony spends most of his time reading about entrepreneurship, technology, productivity, and personal growth. He’s interested in optimizing his lifestyle and creating more freedom for himself. Even though he’s not an entrepreneur yet, he loves learning about it because he’s fascinated and wants to absorb as much as he can before he makes the leap.
Biggest source of pain:

  • Imbalance: He struggles to find a balance for himself between his current life and entrepreneurial dreams.
  • His inner voice says to be free and move on, but his fear and logic stop him.
  • He’s scared of the unknown, and worried about financial problems if things don’t work out.

Biggest hopes and dreams: To be a very successful entrepreneur and bestselling author. To know he’s living an adventurous and fulfilled life. To know with certainty that he’s contributing beyond himself.
Why does he want to have freedom and be an entrepreneur: He feels that this is how he will be most fulfilled in life. He’s always felt a desire for something more and feels limited working for someone else.
What are his biggest opportunities (including ones he doesn’t know about yet):

  • Create and launch an online business in one of the top areas: software, information products, ecommerce, consulting/coaching— e.g., doesn’t know that he can have the software developed for him
  • Build a thriving online business around his lifestyle of travel and adventure
  • Build an influential online brand/community
  • Write a book and become a bestselling author—doesn’t know that he can write a bestselling book and believes only people with connections can

Favorite websites: Brain Pickings, Inc.com, The Art of Non Conformity, Wait But Why, Lifehacker, TechCrunch, and ArmanAssadi.com 🙂
Social Media: Facebook is his main outlet. He uses LinkedIn for work. He follows people he admires on Twitter, uses Instagram, and plays around with Snapchat. He’s open to new technology and is generally an early adopter.
Description: Anthony is a sharp, outgoing, friendly, positive guy. He’s not married, but he’s in a happy relationship with a supportive girlfriend. Anthony has always felt different, and sees the world from a unique perspective. He has huge dreams, most of which he keeps a secret. He knows he’s capable of making them all come true and deeply wants to keep the fire within alive. He’s always been told he as a ton of potential. He struggles to find a balance for himself between his current life and entrepreneurial dreams.
He’s successful, paid well, and gets his work done. Nonetheless, he’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but he’s not sure what his craft should be. Even before reading The Four Hour Workweek he had dreams of forging his own path, but he settled with a traditional career path because it was the right thing to do. He absolutely loves to travel, and that’s a big reason why he wants to work for himself. He values freedom above everything else. More than every other value in life he wants the freedom to do what he wants, when he wants, how we wants, and even with whom he wants.
As an extrovert, he enjoys being around other people and loves to help his friends. He wants to contribute something valuable to the world and leave a legacy. His enthusiasm is contagious, and many people consider him an inspiring person. He loves to write, and has strong ideals that he stands firmly for. He’s always dreamed of becoming an author. When he does work that excites him, he feels alive. Unfortunately, this almost always is temporary and he feels like a cog in a machine. He’s never legitimately tried being an entrepreneur, but he thinks he’s capable and would have the work ethic and focus to be successful.
He’s scared of the unknown, and worried about financial problems if things don’t work out. He doesn’t worry about not working hard enough, but doesn’t want to sacrifice his current lifestyle too much. He would like to build an online business and receive passive income from it. In the long-term he would build a virtual team and manage his business from anywhere in the world. He doesn’t want to dabble, and is more interested in doing things the right way and building a sustainable company. He feels that this is how he will be most fulfilled in life.
 

Create Your Persona and Check It Twice

You can always take this further. Once you have your first draft, feel free to go into more detail. If you already have your persona or avatar complete, it’s important to keep it updated and continue iterating as your brand develops.
Heidi Cohen suggests looking through a 12 point checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the various aspects of a marketing persona. I particularly liked this question from Heidi, “what do they want from your company?”. This is a critical question that will help you lead the entire exercise back to how you can best create value for them.
 

Benefits of Having a Strong Persona

Once you’ve created all this, what can you expect in return? Well, for one, you can expect to begin connecting with your audience on a whole new level. Engagement will likely increase across all fronts, and you’ll begin to win your first true fans.
You’ll also begin to find that your prospects/leads are your #1 source for feedback. When it’s time to create a new product or service, these are the people you need to be connecting with and surveying.
Lauren Sorenson put together a very thoughtful, short post on the HubSpot blog about 6 core insights/benefits a well-defined marketing persona can bring your business, including how to leverage each one.
 

Conclusion

Creating a marketing persona is a must. Skipping this critical step usually leads to frustration from not being able to connect with your buyers/prospects. You’ll find that when you create a persona or avatar and adapt your messaging, your audience will become more engaged.
Many writers assume that they can and should just write freely, but this often leads to an audience where no one is listening. This is even more important for product creators or service providers. Your persona should be specific, and there are a few criteria you must answer. There are also some frameworks you can follow, and you should plan on continually updating your persona over time.

Photo credit: Unfinished Business
Do you already have a persona or avatar for your business? If so, please share the process for how you discovered yours in the comments so others can learn too. If you don’t have one yet, I’d love to hear the initial idea for yours. You can even share his/her name too… 
 

5 Simple Ways to Find Supporters and Grow Your Business

Total Reading Time: 7 minutes.
When I arrived at the El Salvador International Airport (SAL) that early Spring morning in 2009, I was greeted by a young woman with an infectious, heart-warming smile. That woman was Emily Moberly. A good friend of mine who’d recently met Emily convinced me to accompany him as a volunteer and help a nonprofit organization named Traveling Stories build libraries for impoverished children at orphanages throughout the country.
This seemed like an incredible opportunity, but my expectations were low. After meeting Emily and helping the organization build the libraries, interact with the children, and watch the transformation that education and reading can create firsthand—I was hooked. Since then I’ve been supporting Traveling Stories as the Board of Directors President. Every year I have watched this organization continue to grow and make a significant impact.
Emily was featured on Forbes as one of the 10 Female Entrepreneurs in San Diego to Watch. She is a talented leader and incredible networker. Her resourcefulness and ability to cultivate supporters is second to none. Because of this, I’ve asked Emily to share some of her best advice and strategies on creating strategic alliances and partnerships.
Note: Below is a guest post written by Emily Moberly, founder of Traveling Stories. 
Here’s Emily…
 
I met Glenn at the airport bar waiting for my flight from San Diego to San Francisco. He immediately commented on my Reading is Sexy shirt, a fundraising fashion tool that my nonprofit organization Traveling Stories created, and the giant sombrero I was wearing (what, it was Cinco de Mayo weekend!). I passionately told him about the shirt and the cause it supports. I also explained that the sombrero was for a Cinco de Mayo-themed birthday party for a good friend in San Francisco that weekend.

traveling stories reading is sexy
Reading is Sexy at one of our events.

Once on the plane, Glenn saved me a seat next to him. We shared a few drink tickets and quickly bonded over our mutual love for travel and wine. He was on his way to China for business. Turns out, Glenn was an entrepreneur and the owner of several multimillion dollar companies doing business internationally.
He asked how I got involved with the charity and I told him I was actually the founder. This peeked his interest even more. He wanted to know why, how, what, where—everything. He started sharing stories and throwing in snippets of his own entrepreneurial journey. He offered free nuggets of advice that I stored carefully away in notes on my phone, despite the multiple glasses of wine.
Our flight was only 45 minutes, but by the time we landed Glenn had pledged a generous donation to Traveling Stories and invited me to stay in touch. He mentioned that his daughter and I could be kindred spirits and said he’d connect us. We exchanged business cards and went our separate ways.
Fast-forward three years to now: Glenn is still a supporter and donates generously every year. He is still actively involved in the nonprofit. His daughter and I did turn out to be kindred spirits and she, too, is actively involved and has become a supporter.
No matter what kind of business you run, developing relationships with supporters like this is crucial for growth [Arman’s note: don’t make these mistakes while you’re working at it]. If the only people who supported Traveling Stories were friends and family, we’d never grow as big as I dream we can.

As creators and entrepreneurs we must engage people and help them discover a desire to support our work through advice, advocacy, or funding.

I’ve flown hundreds of times and met thousands of people, but I only have a few dozen stories like this. Our goal is not to convince everyone we meet to support our cause or company. Our goal should be to connect with people, test their interest—and then—carefully select the ones that are most aligned and grow the relationship.
Over the years I’ve practiced this philosophy extensively and come up with five habits that have consistently worked.
 

Five Habits for Growing Your Business Using the Power of Networking

1. Stand Out

Not everyone who saw my sombrero and Reading is Sexy shirt liked it, but who cares. I’m not trying to connect with every person. Decide to stand out in a way that is relevant and consistent with your brand. This will immediately help you attract people who have similar interests, values, and sense of humor.
My Reading is Sexy shirt opened the door to talk about literacy and the nonprofit, but it also showed that I’m a bit edgy. The sombrero said I’m fun, approachable, and don’t give a crap about looking funny.
 

2. Lead with Your Passion and Be Authentic

No matter what your business is, lead with the part that you are most passionate about. This is something people can connect with emotionally and respect, even if they’re disinterested. Author Donald Miller writes, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”
You might be describing some boring, technical aspect of the app you invented and launched, but if you are speaking with sincere passion you will have my attention. When I say be authentic, I mean to be honest about where you are at. It’s okay to not have everything figured out.
Supporters need to be able to identify areas they can add value. You don’t want to appear perfect—you want communicate that you are experienced, hard working and not giving up anytime soon. [Arman’s note: our ego’s often prevent us from being fully transparent and honest, but in the end this approach will lead to more genuine relationships that result in the right kind of support.]
 

3. Take Note of Clues

People drop clues in conversation all the time. Be an active listener and physically take notes (this will further help with habit #5). Glenn saved me a seat on the plane, and of course I took it!
He mentioned that he started his first business when he was a child. This opened the door to ask about his motivation. Why did he start businesses when all his friends were playing sports or making forts? These kinds of questions build deep report and allow us to connect on an intimate, memorable level.
 

4. Ask for Help in a Small Way Immediately, and Show Appreciation

During our conversation on the plane I shared a relevant challenge I was facing and asked Glenn what he had done when faced with a similar challenge. I invited him then and there to help me, to invest in what I was building. Showing appreciation for this sort of support is important. It shows the contact that you can be responsible and aren’t just a mooch.
 

5. Practice Diligent and Detailed Follow Up

traveling stories world library
Hanging with some of the kids at one of our international libraries.

Time is your enemy. Follow up right away. Be kind but bold. I emailed Glenn within 24 hours wishing him a safe journey and restating that I’d love to grab wine with him and his daughter when he returns.
Glenn’s donations have helped our literacy programs in a big way, but even more valuable is being able to call him when I am facing a business challenge and need advice. He has become a believer in our work, not just a donor. He wants us to succeed as much as I do. We all need people like Glenn in our corner. These five habits will help you identify and nurture the supporters your company or cause needs.
 


Emily Moberly is the founder of Traveling Stories, a nonprofit organization dedicated to outsmarting poverty one book at a time. She has a degree in journalism from John Brown University and her favorite book character is Nancy Drew.
Arman’s note: I have been supporting this charity for the last five years. I have seen firsthand what each dollar can do, and have directly witnessed incredible transformations in children. But more than anything, it is the integrity Emily and this nonprofit have, and their commitment to using every cent of every dollar toward educational efforts and training for literacy.  Join me in supporting Traveling Stories.
 

Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci on Achieving Mastery in Your Vocation

Total Reading Time: 3 minutes.
Total Watching Time: 6 minutes.

Understanding is a kind of ecstasy. 

– Carl Sagan

If you’re a bibliophile (i.e., certified book addict) like me, the euphoric rush and ecstasy that comes with new knowledge entering the mind isn’t foreign to you. This is what true learners live for — that ecstatic, unexplainable feeling of growth.
In this short video, I give you the framework that greats like Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci used to find their vocation and achieve mastery.

After working with millions of people and carefully studying the most fulfilled humans, Tony Robbins says that growth, along with contribution, is one of the most commonly ignored human needs. We know that all the universe is in a perpetual state of growth and expansion. The physics of our environment beckons us to grow, move, and stay active.
Those who do not grow are likely to fall into a zombified trance-state of depression. They become enslaved to a sort of hypnotic rhythm, as Napoleon Hill explains in Outwitting the Devil. If you don’t act, you become subject to your environment.
Now let’s assume you’ve watched the video above, read the book Mastery, and are ready to identify your vocation. Where do you begin?
You must start by identifying your confluence, which is a model I created to help entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs identify exactly where they should be spending their time. Getting in alignment with your personal interests and passions is the first step in finding this confluence and identifying your vocation.
Although this appears as a simple first step, it’s a very difficult one for many people. Every single day people write in to tell me how much they’re struggling with figuring out what it is they truly care about. We’ve become so disillusioned and disconnected from these basic truths about who we are.
As a child, it was so easy to answer these questions. But over time the disconnect has grown, and the frustration increases alongside it. You can sense it throughout even the most casual conversations. Frustrated people with uninspiring jobs, trading time for money, hoping to have have just a little time left over to enjoy the things they truly care about.
But what if we could have both? What if there was a way to align ourselves in a vocation of our choosing that was positioned to provide the maximum amount of fulfillment and success.
What if our work was so interesting, we were constantly in a state of flow? What if rather than worrying about how we could make the cover of Forbes, we found ways to truly contribute and make an impact in the world through the entrepreneur’s 12th step.
I’ve seen firsthand what this transformation looks like through my network of entrepreneur friends, and I’m now experiencing it for myself. Once you shift into your vocation and dedicate yourself to mastery, everything aligns and new doors open.
One of the best side effects is that you’re no longer worried about where you’re going next or how you’ll get there. You know exactly what your chief aim and purpose in life is, and you have a roadmap to get there.
You also know that it’s going to take time, and you’re okay with that.
Time is your friend, and it’s what will help you gain the experience you need to achieve everything you want in your chosen vocation. Robert Greene’s book Mastery is the definitive guide and resource for unlocking the genius within us. If you follow the concepts in the video and in this post, you’ll experience a shift unlike any other in your work and personal life.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, that perfectly describes what it means to live your vocation:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.
– L.P. Jacks (allegedly often misattributed to James A. Michener)

Be that master. Allow yourself to fall in love with your vocation to the point where the lines between work and play become blurred — here’s a great video by Alan Watts, another great master, on that concept.
Enjoy the journey…

Photo credit: MasterCC license