I just finished reading an amazing book called The Talent Code (I recommend it to any person wanting to further develop their talent).
The author Daniel Coyle visited the the talent development programs responsible for some of the top talent in the world, such as:
But you don’t have to attend one of these talent pools to improve yourself.
Coyle says that the key to talent development is a neural insulator that we all have inside us called myelin.
He argues that every human skill — whether its leadership, computer programming, sports, music or anything else — is created by chains of nerve fibers carrying signals.
And it is myelin that wraps layers around these fibers…and there are certain things we can do to increase the thickness of this myelin, resulting in faster and more accurate movement and thoughts.
He recommends a few approaches to increasing your myelin (and thus your talent).
Focus your practice on repeating core skills, attend to your mistakes, practice those skills again.
“Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”
The “Ten-Year, Ten-Thousand Hour Rule” is indeed valid — This finding from 1899 stated that world-class expertise in every domain (whether it’s cello, chess or tennis) requires roughly a decade or 10,000 hours (that would be about 3 hours a day, every day for a decade).
It’s the Ten-year rule that is often used in developing talent in young people (many parents try to time the beginning of a child’s practice of a skill to be about 10 years before that child will peak physically.
That’s why some children are best to start practicing certain skills when they’re 5 to 10 years old).
Did you know that comedian Jerry Seinfeld practiced his first Tonight Show set 200 times beforehand, according to this awesome profile of Seinfeld in the New York Times.
Overall, Coyle identifies three tips for improving practice:
Coyle points out that ignition is key to developing talents — it’s a secret source of energy that we can tap into.
“I Want To Be Like Them”
There are examples of entire countries being “ignited” by the display of talent of one individual.
For example, in South Korea’s case it was on May 18th, 1998 when Se Ri Pak won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship — she was the first to do so from her country.
Pak “ignited” many women in her country as shown by stats over the following 10 years later: by 2007, 45 players from South Korean had one about one-third of the LPGA Tour events.
Anna Kournikova is Coyle’s other example of “I want to be like them.”
That same summer of 1998, Kournikova reached the Wimbledon semifinals and became an overnight sensation (her good looks certainly helped).
Russia was ignited and within 10 years the World Tennis Association Top 100 was home to five times as many Russian tennis players.
Ignition can come in other forms — one study showed that an extremely high percentage of political leaders (Ghandi, Caesar, Napoleon, Bill Clinton) had one thing in common: they had lost their parents at a very early age.
Coyle reasons that the leader group’s loss of a parent triggered a primal cue that they were no longer safe…and that unlocked a massive energy source for them to tap into.
He points out that of history’s fastest runners, for example, they were on average the fourth child of 4.6 children — in other words, there is a pattern of the younger you are in your family, the faster you can run.
In this case, the primal cue is” You’re behind, better keep up!”
Finally, Coyle says that a “master coach” is key to developing talent.
He says that a master coach possesses the following virtues:
I was thrilled that Coyle identified John Wooden, my favorite coach/teacher, as an example of a master coach.
I hope you enjoyed these highlights on developing talents…but I only just scratch the surface of Coyle’s amazing book.
Are you an entrepreneur? If so, you’re an amazing breed of person.
I coach a handful of you and I thoroughly enjoy brainstorming the creation of new businesses with each and every one of you!
There are a few entrepreneurial tips I have to help you along the way.
Once you have your business idea and are rolling with it, you are walking around 24/7 living and breathing this new baby.
And you’re going to run into numerous people…potential investors or employees or people in general trying to tell you what to do (let’s call this group “Advisors”).
These advisors are going to throw a bunch of creative ideas at you.
First lesson: don’t sweat their ideas too much. If you’re into your new idea, you’ve probably thought about their idea in some form already.
You should focus on utilizing these advisors in other ways (see below).
Those who hang around with Steve Jobs say that one of his most important skills is his ability to determine what NOT to work on (whether it’s a product or a feature).
Just take a look at at the outside of Apple’s iPhone and you’ll get what I mean: it has a couple of buttons, a switch, a jack for your headphones and a glass screen (think of all the features and functionality that other mobile devices have).
Mr. Jobs had to choose NOT to add a great many things to this magical device.
Or take In-N-Out Burger…they didn’t add a single item to their menu for some 15 years (and that first item was 7-Up soda) — again, think of all the things they turned down (chicken nuggets, coffee, juice, salads, etc.).
You the entrepreneur have the same tough call to make: you have a thousand ideas and you’re going to have to pick a precious few to work on at any one time.
While you’re going to have to pick just a handful of things to work on (whether they are business ideas or product features), I have found it useful to use The Law of 7.
The Law of 7 states that you will have to try up to 7 things (around 3 to 7 things is usually about right), and work on them very hard, to find just one success.
This is similar to the Pareto Principal in which 20% of what you do typically creates 80% of your value.
But I wanted to name my own theory so I’m gonna call it the Law of 7.
Here are some Law of 7 examples:
So you entrepreneurs out there should keep in mind that you may need to try about 7 different versions of your business idea to find one that carries you for awhile.
But you don’t have to believe me…check out these famous companies and how they attempted to make one thing while ending up producing something else:
Let me give you examples of the first things that different companies tried:
I made the classic entrepreneur’s mistake when I launched the music Web site Mojam: I attempted to make it very big, very fast, with a small amount of resources.
This was 1998 and I believed the Internet was going to allow a new music brand, much the way television allowed MTV to launch.
So I positioned Mojam early on to be the “MTV of the Internet.”
The only problem was that I had only a small amount of money and no real strategic assets.
So, after studying the music market I found that the music industry consisted of three main markets:
So, I switched gears on my “MTV of the Internet” strategy and instead focused on the one part of the market that the Internet seemed to ignore: Live music.
No one was doing much in the live music space back then and our team was able to acquire a small database of music events and launch a concert listing service.
Interestingly, Wolfgang’s Vault, the company that acquired Mojam, was in the other two markets: recorded music and merchandise.
So, they were a better bet to take Mojam and go after the bigger music market (closer to the “MTV of the Internet”).
So, if you have little in the way of resources, go after some small wins.
Don’t forget: Craig took an email list of San Francisco events and turned it into Craigslist and Mark Zuckerberg took a Harvard alumni network and turned it into Facebook!
There are many other tips to help entrepreneurs — I hope you found these four helpful.
In honor of John Wooden turning 100 this year, I’m doing a series on Wooden including tips for success.
Here’s his “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” from Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations And Reflections On And Off The Court (which I highly recommend you read!).
If you want to know what arguably the most successful angel investor is focusing on these days, check out this Interview of Ron Conway on TechCrunch
He discusses three “Mega-trends” along with some of these highlights:
1) Real-Time Data — Any company that employs crowd-systems.
This is the category for 70% of Conway’s current investments
Examples of real-time data companies Conway has invested in are Twitter, Four-Square and Hunch. Quora (which Ron didn’t invest in) is another example.
2) Growth of Facebook and Twitter — Social media is here to stay.
“The social phenomenon is consumers’ willingness to share more…including sharing where they’re at.”
His comments regarding Facebook
“Facebook’s revenues of hundreds of millions of revenues make it “a very real company.”
“Facebook is becoming the Web — everything you need is there. It’s a walled garden the way AOL used to be…except in this Walled garden, everything is there.”
His comments regarding Twitter
“Ads could be more relevant on Twitter than anywhere on the Web.”
3) Social Commerce or Flash Marketing/(or Flash Sales)
Examples include Guilt Groupe, Groupon, etc.
Conway points out that these are also all real-time data companies.
Conway had an interesting observation about when startup founders (companies like Twitter or FourSquare) should sell out:
“The older I get the more I want to see entrepreneurs (like Twitter founders) play it out…see how big you can get on your own.”
Last year I attended an amazing workshop called Coach for America led by former NFL player (and now coach and Minister) Joe Ehrmann — Joe mentioned something that truly changed the way I think about my life.
He referred to a study of older people who were in the “twilight” of their lives; and the study asked these wise elders a powerful question:
“What do you wish you had done more of in life?”
Their answers were profound. Here they are:
What do I mean by “legacy?”
I like this definition from Dictionary.com :
“anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor”
This really resonates with me. As I get older, and read more about smart folks who’ve lived longer than me (Benjamin Franklin, Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger come to mind), the subject makes more and more sense.
A legacy is your gift to those who will follow you — does it get any more important than that!?
Examples of legacy:
One recent legacy item I worked on was a book of 40 learnings I had by the time I turned 40. I wrote it just for family and friends (not to sell) and it was an amazing experience.
I love the fact that my nephew or niece might pick it up off their bookshelf one day after I’m gone and find some value in it.
When I heard old people wished they had reflected more, I have to admit I scratched my head.
Afterall, if they’re in their twilight years don’t they NOW have plenty of time to reflect?
But then I sat with it for a bit…and it made sense.
Old folks wished they had more often gone to the proverbial “top of the mountain”…to think!
In business, I call this zooming out.
I believe that arguably THE #1 challenge that business-people have is taking the time to zoom out, get altitude.
A mentor of mine Ralph calls this time “sitting under the apple tree.”
In fact, if you read my How To Innovate: The Five Things Top Innovators Do, you’ll remember that the most effective thing you can do to innovate is to “Connect” or “Associate” things that you’re observing in life. That’s certainly a lot easier to do if you’re “sitting under the apple tree.”
One way innovators reflect more is to travel outside their country — that really allows you to reflect on your life.
Old folks also wished they had take more risks in life. This old adage comes to mind:
“You don’t regret what you do, only what you didn’t do.”
I’m not just talking about physical risks/extreme sports type stuff — like when I jumped out an airplane in New Zealand or hanglided in Rio, Brazil (neither of which I’ll choose to do again!).
I’m talking about the many day to day things that I’m trying take more risks on including in my career, relationships and hobbies.
A simple rule I’ve come up with is: “If I have some activity or event I’m thinking about doing — and I’m 50/50 on it (with the alternative being just to do nothing/stay at home, etc. — I try hard to choose to do the activity. I’ve never regretted making such a move.
I do, however, regret some things I didn’t do or simply doing nothing.
So, is there a…
I was so enamored with these three things that old folks wished they’d done more of in life that for the first few weeks after I heard it, I used them as the outline for my To-Do List every day.
I’d write down:
Listen to your elders!
There’s a question that everyone wants answered these days (I’ve heard it repeatedly at the recent conferences I’ve attended)…and it is: “Who’s making money using social media?”
I’ve been asking that question of my friends lately and one guy stood up and said:
“Well, I am.”
His name is Mitchell Cogert and you should listen to him because he’s built a profitable little business selling poker books primarily through the free traffic he’s acquired using Twitter.
Mitchell is a veteran of marketing strategy having worked with Proctor & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Intuit and other leading businesses.
Read on to enjoy his thoughts on such topics as:
…here we go:
Q: Hi Mitchell. Before we get to your poker book business, let’s look at the rest of the world — first off, does Twitter make money yet?
There is an article entitled Twitter is Said to Be Profitable in Bloomberg that stated Twitter earned $25 million in 2009. The revenue came from deals with Google and Microsoft to get access to tweets for their search results.
At the Chirp conference (the Twitter developer conference) last week, Twitter announced a plan to earn money from ads. If you do a search on Twitter, you may see an ad as a tweet at the top of the results.
Q: Do you know of anyone else who makes money off Twitter?
Here are a few companies: DellOutlet, the Coffee Groundz, Zappos, Souplantation, NakedPizza.
You can learn more about success stories on Twitter by going to these Twitter Case Studies.
Q: Let’s get back to you your poker book business — do you make money on Twitter…is it profitable for you?
The cost to be on Twitter is $0. The cost for my Google blog is $0. The revenues from my poker books are priceless…lol.
Actually, using Twitter is very profitable! The most expensive thing I do is the time cost to write posts for my poker blog.
But that is fun to do, because it is my hobby.
Q: Would you break down the steps through which your poker business makes money using Twitter?
It’s a process:
Q: So, “all in,” as they say in poker, how much money does it cost you to operate your combo Twitter/Blog sites per month versus how how much you think Twitter generates in book sales?
Out of pocket cost is for twollow at $7 per month and the websites on Homestead at $20 per month.
The royalties from my poker book sales average at least $1,000 per month.
Q: Do you have any other tips on how to make money using Twitter?
Yes. Let me give you one tip on how to get followers who are the most likely to buy from you.
The trick is to find followers who have “lists” that define your consumer.
For example, let’s say you are selling books to moms on parenting advice. Check out Twitter users who have lists they define as “moms.”
Now, just click the “follow this list” and you have created awareness about your business.
The moms that like what you have to say (tweeted) on Twitter, will follow you back. These followers are prospects!
Q: Thanks again, Mitchell
Thank you again!
Note: see How to Get Twitter Followers (Ones That Buy!) for Mitchell’s thoughts on that subject and for his contact information.
I recently met a neat guy named Mitchell Cogert who gave me some good Twitter tips.
He’s the president of ad agency Johnson Cogert & Strauss and has worked with Proctor & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Intuit and other leading businesses on marketing strategy.
For himself, he has used Twitter to build a profitable little business selling poker books.
Mitchell was kind enough to answer questions on such topics of Twitter as:
Here’s the Q&A on:
Q: Hi Mitchell, let’s start off simple. How do you get followers on Twitter — what are the top few tips?
Here are three easy and free ways to get followers on Twitter:
Q: Would you discuss how to use Twitter’s auto-follow feature to get followers?
Twitter does not have an auto-follow feature to get followers.
Q: I see that you blog — did you get more followers on Twitter as a result of your blog?
Yes. Your blog or website provides the valuable content that you tweet about and is linked to your blog.
An example from one of my poker tweets:
New Blog Post: The 3 most popular Poker Strategies you must Avoid
Q: Do you recommend that businesses buy Twitter followers or should they focus on acquiring free Twitter followers?
I recommend that businesses do both. However, when it comes to buying Twitter followers you need to be careful since there are too many scams about getting followers..
I recommend my clients use twollow. It is inexpensive to use (as little as $80 per year) and it only auto-follows those users based on the keywords you select.
Q: Business folks often ask me “How do I get Twitter followers fast!?” — What’s your advice to them?
You don’t want to get Twitter followers fast. You want to get prospects, not followers.
I mean, do you want to get one million followers who have no interest in what you offer, or 10,000 followers who are prospects; those Twitter users who have an interest in what you are selling?
Twitter is not a get rich quick platform. To be successful on Twitter is a process. If you understand the process, you will get followers that are prospects, and turn them into sales.
Q: What business has the most Twitter followers…and do you know how they did it?
The businesses that have the most followers are usually those that have a well-know brand names and use Twitter effectively.
Q: If someone wanted to get in touch with you about Twitter (I know you do some consulting) or find out more about you and your books, how would they do so?
For consulting, just send me an email at email@example.com. To learn more about my poker books go to APokerExpert. And, of course, if you want to win money playing poker, follow me on Twitter at @Mitchell1969.
Q: Thanks, Mitchell!
You are welcome!
If you want to learn more about getting followers on Twitter, check out Two Tips to Get Followers on Twitter– and if you want to review some beginner Twitter tips, here’s a good primer called Twitter Tips for Beginners.
I’m a big fan of the Grateful Dead — I attended 100+ shows, collected 300+ bootlegs (that are in cassette form still in the hallway of my San Francisco apartment!) and I received an original signed 1968 Grateful Dead concert poster as a signing bonus when I sold the Mojam business.
In additional to bringing me a bunch of musical joy, The Dead taught me a ton about my other passion: business.
Just look at the numbers: The Dead pulled in $95 million a year at the height of their 30+ year journey (according to Booz & Co.) and was referred to by The Altantic Magazine as “one of the most profitable bands in the history of music” (see Management Secrets of The Grateful Dead article).
So allow me to elaborate on two of my favorite subjects: business…and the Grateful Dead:
There’s a lot of talk in Internet business these days about “moving the free line” — in other words, providing more of your products/value available for free and make your money on the back-end.
Well the Grateful Dead were doing this 40 years ago.
The Dead made much of their product (their music) free by allowing fans to make recordings at their shows — they even set up a “taper section” dedicated to the fans who were recording so that all of their tall microphones and other equipment could be conveniently placed in one part of the concert venue.
Those recordings were of course copied and shared amongst many fans (both those who attended that particular show and those who didn’t) and acted as free viral marketing for the band (I had 50 bootlegs of the Grateful Dead before I even attended my first show!).
So, let’s take me as a customer for instance: the Grateful Dead didn’t have any of my money for the first year of my exposure to their products.
But by the time I attended my first show (October 12, 1983 at Madison Square Garden in New York City) I was hooked as a customer– and would invest many thousands of dollars on additional live shows, t-shirts and recordings over the next 12 years.
Think about it: Would you allow me to have some of your products for free for a year if you knew I would be a loyal customer paying you $5,000 for additional products over the following decade (and turn on a number of my friends who would also invest around the same!?).
I think so!
Sam I. Hill, Chief Marketing Officer of Booz-Allen & Company in Chicago, points out that the Grateful Dead were leaders in the “Product First/Profit Later” philosophy later executed by Nike, IAMS Pet Foods, Snap-On Tools and MTV — (e.g. Nike set out to build a better running shoe; IAMS, a high-quality pet food) in this “How to Truck The Brand: Lessons from the Grateful Dead” article from 1997.
Hill added: These companies simply believed in what they were doing and “were smart enough to see when it worked, and to exploit it.”
One former President of the Grateful Dead, Ron Rakow (whose cool business card from the time is here) is an uncle of a friend of mine. Ron once told me a relevant story that I’ll do my best to paraphrase:
Rakow said that early on in the Spring of 1967 he asked the band (before the band was successful) what they envisioned success looking like. A few of the band members responded with such comments as:
But Jerry Garcia, the band’s unofficial leader, said something more to the effect of:
“That all sounds good, but I think we’d just like to have as many people as possible enjoy our music.”
Rakow told me at this point that all the band members nodded their heads in agreement with Jerry, saying “Yes, yes, …lots of people should listen to our music — that’s it!”
As Rakow tells it, the band then agreed to empty all the money out of their pockets (there was a total of $50 or so) and rent a flat-bed truck on which they would play a free live concert in the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco).
The band indeed put on a free show on May 28, 1967 in the Panhandle…Rakow says that initially very few people showed up but the band kept playing for a few hours and eventually many thousands of people joined in.
…and the Grateful Dead product was on its way (with profits very soon to follow).
Music Promoter Bill Graham famously described the Grateful Dead on the Marquee of the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco as:
“They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”
I think you get it? Focus on what is truly unique about you or your business…and then OWN that!
Examples of the uniqueness of the Grateful Dead included:
I can’t tell you how they came up with such unique approaches as above…but if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that these things happened organically, played to their uniqueness/strengths or that they did it just for the hell of it.
One thing’s for sure: they did NOT conform to the industry norms!
The Dead invested a bunch in their community.
I already mentioned the taping they allowed, which helped build a massive community that they could not easily reach on their own.
Another example of community was that they allowed fans to mail in requests for tickets (as opposed to relying on buying tickets from a ticket seller like Ticketmaster) (there was also a Dead hotline).
This gave Dead fans a feeling of connection with the band (as in, we kind of know where they live).
Here’s a cool shot of some of the mail that the Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (GDTS) received in their offices (which last I heard were in Stinson Beach, California)
Other examples of the Dead’s support of community included the Parking Lot scene at shows.
The Dead allowed vending in one part of the parking lot (which Deadheads called “Shakedown Street) and many people made their living selling t-shirts, bagels, grilled cheese and pizza.
One friend of mine sold $70,000 per year in pizzas at Grateful Dead concerts! And the Dead embraced it!
The band eventually brought these vendors in as official licensees, according to Booz & Co.
The Dead also embraced fans making money from small community projects such as Deadbase, a print-out of every concert the band ever played with the setlist of songs (that some people sold (such information is now free)).
The Dead was constantly testing cool new things for its community.
I remember walking up to their sound engineer Dan Healy at a 1986 show in Pittsburgh, PA and he explained how they were testing out emitting a radio signal from their soundboard of each show — so that people could listen to the show on their radio.
I tested it out and it was amazing: I was inside a concert listening to an FM Walkman with higher-quality audio than I was hearing within the arena itself. And the fans in the parking lot (who didn’t have tickets to the show) were even more excited that they could hear the show with nothing more than a radio (for free!).
A big buzzword in business strategy these days is “Organized Chaos” — Google may be the true master of the concept.
Examples of Google’s chaos: employees can decorate their offices however they want, ride around offices on scooters and goof off on company time and the founders have a “we’ll do what we want, whenever we feel like it” attitude.
However, Google is highly organized/structured: Google breaks down most teams into small groups with two engineers co-running them; the recommended allocation of goof-off time is 10% and the entire company is behind Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.
But long before Google it was the Grateful Dead who were laying down the magic formula for Organized Chaos.
I probably don’t have to spend much time explaining the chaotic part of the Dead (picture the band showing up in their t-shirts and jeans jamming out to whatever setlist they felt like that night with their avid tie-dyed clothed fans twirling around in circles (many of them under the influence of LSD).
But in actuality, there was a lot of organization to the Grateful Dead:
Long before Silicon Valley coined the phrase “Co-Opetition” (the concept of cooperating with your competition), The Dead made it a key part of their movement.
This had the effect of keeping such rival music closer within the Grateful Dead “orbit.”
Afterall, if you could get a bit of The Beatles, The Stones or The Who as part of your Grateful Dead experience, isn’t the Grateful Dead orbit even more powerful!?
While the Grateful Dead’s leader Jerry Garcia died August 9, 1995, their music and business lessons live on with members of the original Grateful Dead playing in such bands as The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Rhythm Devils and 7 Walkers.
It’s a testament to the powerful momentum of the Grateful Dead, that numerous successful bands emerged from the ashes of the death of its de-facto leader.
And the business innovations from these Grateful Dead spinoffs keep comin’.
Marcom Professional’s Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead points to his recent experience with the spin-off band The Dead:
So, 45 years after the Grateful Dead were founded, the band’s enterprise value “keeps on truckin onnnnn, on.”
I hope you leverage these tips to design your business to last that long!
One more thing: After I wrote this, I got pinged by a guy named David Merman Scott who said he found this article valuable for his Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead book.
Here’s the Grateful Dead Marketing Lessons Book on Amazon: