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Thursday, June 17th, 2010

How To Recharge Yourself To Make It Through Life (Happy)


I was discussing ‘recharging’ with some friends over pizza in the Italian North Beach neighborhood of San Franciso the other night.

The concept of recharging caught my eye when I read the amazing book: The Power Of Full  Engagement by Tony Schwartz & Jim Loehr.

I was captivated by the stories that Tony & Jim told of how they studied professional tennis players.

I must have lent my copy of the book out so I’m going by memory here…as I recall, Tony & Jim studied two groups of tennis pros:

  • Group A: The Top 10 Tennis Pros (e.g. 1 to 10) (who make millions per year) and
  • Group B: The Lower-Ranked Tennis Pros (e.g. ranked 100 to 500) (who just scratch their way by career-wise)

When they studied videos of the two groups of tennis pros, they noticed something odd: there was no real difference in the talent of the two groups (a guy ranked 200 had essentially the same quality serve, forehand, backhand, etc. of a guy ranked #1).

Amazing, right?

So, what WAS the difference between the two groups

Answer: careful analysis showed that the main difference was the way the two different groups “recharged.”

Examples of recharging were:

What the players did between points

Group A had a a nice steady breath and a casual glance at their racket (perhaps adjusting a string or two) or looking up at place in the crowd or sky

Group B, on the other hand, spent time in between points getting angry with themselves or an umpire (e.g. about the last point they may have lost), distracted by someone in the crowd, or were otherwise fidgety.

A look at what the players did in between games and sets was similar: Group A player was relaxed and regrouping while Group B player was talking to himself or a fan or the umpire.

I recall that the authors may have also mentioned that they observed differences between how the two groups acted (or recharged) between matches too.

So, how does this relate to you?

Well, Tony & Jim pointed out that business-folks need recharging even more than athletes (because we typically don’t have coaches to help us out, structured training or dedicated time off (such as Spring/Summer for most professional basketball players or Winter for baseball players).

Reading Power Of Full Engagement inspired me to be more conscious of how I recharge my batteries.

So, I set up a new recharging strategy…it’s been a couple of years now and I thought I’d lay out my schedule of recharging.

Here’s a typical day for Rob Kelly:

  • 6:00am to 7:15am:  I wake up and focus on creative works (I read about concepts or play guitar or map out ideas on giant post-it notes) (Check out my article on 5 Easy Steps On How To Be An Early Riser.
  • 7:30am to 8:30am: I work out (yoga or basketball) (RECHARGING)
  • 9:15am to 11:30am: I work my job (and I get up at least once during this time to stretch my legs, drink water, etc.)
  • 11:30am to 12noon: I drink a caffeinated beverage and read the San Francisco Chronicle (RECHARGING)
  • 12noon to 2:30pm: I work more on my job
  • 230pm to 3pm: I take a 30 minute break for food and read the Wall Street Journal (RECHARGING)
  • 3pm to 5:15pm: I work my job
  • 515pm to 6pm: I pick up groceries for dinner (RECHARGING)
  • 6pm to 7:45pm: I work more on my job and do some light other work (perhaps write a blog posting)
  • 7:45pm to 8:15pm: I cook dinner
  • 8:15pm to 9:15pm: I watch quality TV (RECHARGING)
  • 9:30pm to 10pm: I read low-intensity books (usually fiction…so as to ease my way into sleep)
  • By 10:15pm, it’s usually light’s out (7 to 8 hours of sleep — RECHARGING)

I’m also trying to apply consistent recharging to longer time periods such as:

  • Weekends — I recharge through at least one visit to nature
  • Every Quarter — I try to take a long weekend at least once a quarter
  • Summers — I try to spend two weeks each summer with my family
  • Annual — I try to do one off-site family vacation per year
  • Bi-Annual — I try to leave the United States once every two years (that’s something I learned from How To Innovate: 5 Tips From Leading Innovators.

I’m really happy with the results so far. A consistent recharging has made me feel healthier and more balanced.

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Friday, June 4th, 2010

John Wooden Quotes From “Pyramid of Success”


[This is part of a John Wooden Leadership Series I'm doing celebrating his 100th year of life]

The following is excerpted from John Wooden’s amazing book The Pyramid of Success.

He begins with this overall quote:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

And here are Wooden’s 15 “Building Blocks” of the Pyramid of Success along with quotes on each:

1) Industriousness — “There is no substitute for hard work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.”

2) Enthusiasm — “Enthusiasm brushes off upon those with whom you come in contact. You must truly enjoy what you are doing.”

3) Friendship — “Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect and devotion. Like marriage, it must not be taken for granted but requires a joint effort.”

4) Cooperation — “Cooperate with all levels of your co-workers. Listen if you want to be heard. Be interested in finding the best way, not in having your way.”

5) Loyalty — “Loyalty to yourself and to all those depending upon you. Keep your self-respect.”

6) Self-Control — “Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are essential.”

7) Alertness — “Be observing constantly. Stay open-minded. Be eager to learn and improve.”

8) Initiative — “Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it.”

9) Intentness — “Set a realistic goal. Concentrate on its achievement by resisting all temptations and being determined and persistent.”

10) Condition — “Mental-Moral-Physical. Rest, exercise and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Dissipation must be eliminated.”

11) Skill — “A knowledge of and the ability to properly and quickly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared and cover every little detail.”

12) Team Spirit — “A genuine consideration for others. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all.”

13) Poise — “Just being yourself. Being at ease in any situation. Never fighting yourself.”

14) Confidence — “Respect without fear. May come from being prepared and keeping all things in proper perspective.”

15) Competitive Greatness — “Be at your best when your best is needed. Enjoyment of a difficult challenge. “

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Friday, April 30th, 2010

3 Tips To Developing Your Talent (From The World’s Secret Talent Hotbeds)

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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:

  • Moscow for tennis
  • Soccer in Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Dallas, Texas for a vocal studio
  • A music academy in New York’s Adirondacks
  • Baseball in the Caribbean

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).

The 3 Keys To Talent Development

1) Deep Practice

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:

  1. Chunk it Down — Break down the components of the skills into as many parts as you can (and practice those slowly).
  2. Repetition –  Repeat the chunked-down components around three hours a day.
  3. “Feel It” — You should feel in tune with what you’re practicing, especially to identify the mistakes you make (so as to immediately work on correcting them).

2) Ignition

Coyle points out that ignition is key to developing talents — it’s a secret source of energy that we can tap into.

Some examples:

“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.

“Primal Cues”

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!”

3) Master Coaches

Finally, Coyle says that a “master coach” is key to developing talent.

He says that a master coach possesses the following virtues:

  • Vast knowledge
  • Perceptiveness
  • A habit of providing short and rapid feedback
  • High moral standards (honesty)

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.

Buy/read it!

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Monday, April 26th, 2010

Eight Steps To Success By John Wooden


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!).

  1. Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
  2. Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
  3. Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
  4. Be more interested in character than reputation.
  5. Be quick, but don’t hurry.
  6. Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will get.
  7. Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
  8. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
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Sunday, April 4th, 2010

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead


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).

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

So allow me to elaborate on two of my favorite subjects: business…and the Grateful Dead:

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead

1) Moving the “Free Line”

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.

The Dead were pushing the concept of "moving the free line" 40 years before this best selling book on the subject

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!

2) Product First, Profit Later

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:

  • “I want to have a number one record;”
  • “I want to have a number one hit;” and
  • “I want us to be famous”

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).

3) Secret to Being #1: Do NOT Be The Best At What You Do…

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:

  • Making up the setlist every night — They operated without a setlist most nights
  • NOT playing their biggest hits every night — They repeated songs live (including their most popular) only once every 4+ shows
  • Creating their own music category — Because they blended so many musical styles — rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and more! — The Dead were impossible to put into a category…so, guess what: the world created a new one for them: called either “Jam Bands” or just simply “Grateful Dead type music”
  • Being the first band to play at the Pyramids in Egypt — The Dead invested $500,000 to visit Egypt and play at the Pyramids and donated the proceeds to local organizations within Cairo (the final night’s performance was capped off by a full moon and total lunar eclipse)
  • Using two drummers — Hardly any top rock bands were using two drummers. One of them, Micky Hart, played an unusual 11-count measure to his drumming
  • “Spacing” Out — Every night, the band would play music with no words for about 20 minutes (this was called “Drums/Space”
  • Recording when they felt like it — They were known to go into the recording studio only when they felt like it. I’ve heard Garcia admit that they simply weren’t very good studio musicians — live music was their strength!
The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

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!

4) Embrace Your Community

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)


Source: Gypsy Cowgirl's Picture of Some Mail at GDTS

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!).

5) Organized Chaos: “Grateful Google?”

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.

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize the World's Information

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize 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:

  • Touring — They consistently toured 50 to 100 shows per year (including a Spring & Fall Tour) in four regions with very specific dates and locations/venues.
  • Sets of Their Shows — Almost all of their shows were structured into two sets with 5 to 10 songs in each set, followed by an encore.
  • Drums/Space — The second set of almost all shows (from the mid-1970s on) included a section in the middle called “Drums/Space” in which the percussionists jammed out alone for awhile and then the rest of the band noodled around with non-song music. While Drums Space was highly chaotic at times (check out this 1987 show (with some cool visual graphics), it was predictably time in the concert with a handful of songs before and after it.
  • Distributed Management — The Dead’s band members (and some crew) rotated as CEOs on a regular basis — how’s that for sharing accountability!?

6) Co-Opetition: Grow Your “Orbit” By Inviting In Your Competition

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.

  1. They invited bands who were competing for the Deadhead customer base — including Phish and The Dave Matthews Band — be their warm-up band for concerts.
  2. They openly invited competing musicians, such as Carlos Santana and Pete Townshend, to join them onstage to strutt their stuff.
  3. They played cover songs of many other bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Marley) whose products were still marketed at the Deadhead demographic.

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!?

7) Reinvent Yourself

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:

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Saturday, March 6th, 2010

It’s The Freeconomy, Stupid!: Free As a $300 Bil. Business Model


I finished a few books on my trip to Europe last week and one of them –  Free by Chris Anderson — was chock full of stats that I found myself dog-earing throughout my flight.

“Free” is a must-read if you’re passionate about the Internet, or just business in general.

I’m gonna keep this simple and just list out some good nuggets (which are mostly stats).

Let the “freeconomics” begin!

The “Freeconomy” Is An Estimated $300 Billion Market

The Free Economy is roughly a $300 billion per year market.

By his own admission, Anderson defines this loosely, including revenue generated from businesses driven by giving away most of their products or services (e.g. TV, Radio, online advertising Web sites, etc.).

Two sub-economies have emerged in place of money on the Web (though they can later lead to money)

1) Reputation Economy – This is best measured by Google’s PageRank which rates on a scale of 1 to 10 how important each Web site (and each page on a Web site) is, according to Google’s secret algorithm.

2) Attention Economy – This is best measured by the traffic a Web site receives (traffic being measured by number of visitors and page views)

To calculate the Economic Value of your Web site (i.e. how to help turn your Reputation & Attention into CASH), Anderson suggests this formula:

(The traffic your page rank brings from Google’s search results for any given term) X (The keyword value for that term)

note: while he doesn’t clarify how to calculate “keyword value,” I’d suggest you could use AdWords.Google’s CPC)

General Web Statistics Related to Freeconomics

  • The net deflation rate of the online world is nearly 50% (whatever it costs a business to run a Web site now will cost half as much in a year).
  • The Web has around one trillion unique URLs, according to one Google estimate
  • There are 12 million active blogs
  • It costs around $.25 to stream one hour of video to one person (a year from now it will likely be around  $.15)

User-Generated Content Statistics

  • Around 1 in 10,000 Wikipedia visitors are active contributors.
  • YouTube has around one in a thousand users uploading their own videos (meaning the rest are just downloading (viewing) videos
  • Most online volunteer communities thrive when just 1% of them contribute

Two Cool Social Media Statistics

  1. The average number of friends for MySpace members is around 180
  2. Facebook applications receive around a $1 CPM ($1 per 1,000 page views) for advertising revenue.

Interesting Free-Related Trials & Experiments Anderson Mentions

The Case of $.15 Cent Truffles Versus Cheap to Free Hershey’s Kisses

Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) took two kinds of treats: Lindt truffles from Switzerland and Herhey Kisses and offered them for sale to students:

When they priced the Lindt truffles at $.15 and the Kisses at $.01

  • 73% chose the truffle
  • 27% chose the Kisses

When they lowered both prices by $.01 so that the truffles were $.14 and a Kiss was free

  • 69% chose the Kiss

Conclusion: While both products’ prices were lowered by the same amount ($.01), the introduction of free as an option reversed the students’ preference.

How Does “Name Your Own Price” Work As A Business Model?

Matt Mason, author of Pirate’s Dilemma, allowed visitors to his Web site to name their own price upon checkout of downloading his ebook (with $5 via Paypal as the default option)

Results: 6% of the 8,000 people who downloaded the ebook agreed to pay an average of $4.20 each (generating a couple of thousand dollars) (interesting note: Mason estimates he received $50,000 in lecture fees as a result of the publicity of his exercise).

Hope you enjoyed some of these freeconomics!

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Wooden’s “7 Things to Do” (To Succeed in Life)


I was captivated by John Wooden’s childhood stories, especially what his Dad taught him.

In Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations & Reflections On & Off The Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison, Wooden says his dad gave him a piece of paper with a list of things that would guide him for the rest of his life.

He would use this guidance to shape his career, marriage and general philosophy.

The list was titled: “Seven Things to Do.” And when Wooden’s dad handed it to him, he said, “Son, try to live up these things.”

Here are Wooden’s Seven Things to Do (with short comments from me after each):

Seven Things to Do

1. Be True To Yourself

At the end of the day, there is no one whose opinion matters more than your own…so be true to yourself.

And Wooden warns you not to get caught up in how you size up to others:

“Don’t compare. Don’t try to be better than someone else. But whatever you’re doing, try to be the best you can be…”

Keys to being true to yourself include:

  • Be self-aware
  • Understand your values
  • Be honest with yourself

2. Help Others

The old saying: “Give and you shall receive” is a powerful one.

While your motivation for helping others should not depend on others helping you back, it is surely true that you will receive back more help when you take a giving attitude.

Think of this: If we all practiced helping others, we all would be helped…and we surely all need help at some point in our lives!

3. Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

I love this one. A “masterpiece” of a day is of course different for all of us. As Wooden points out:

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

And he warns: “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

And Wooden echoes his #2 Thing to Do (Help Others) with this quote:

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

4. Drink deeply from good books (Wooden’s favorite is the Bible)

Wooden believes reading is a key to success (you may recall that my other hero Charlie Munger echoed the same sentiment when he said:

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” (read here for more Charlie Munger quotes)

Wooden reads the bible regularly and has said that if there were just one book someone had to read, it would be to read a little bit of the bible every day.

5. Make friendship a fine art

Friendship and family (which I find Wooden uses interchangeably) are key to success in life, but they require some work.

Wooden has these tips on friendship:

Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect, and devotion. A sincere liking for all,”

6. Build a shelter against a rainy day

Pretty self-explanatory…however, I don’t think Wooden means this literally.

A shelter could be physical, financial or emotional…family and friendship, afterall, are perhaps the most valuable shelter to be building in your life.

7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day

Wooden certainly believes in a higher power — here’s a video of Wooden reciting a relevant poem (Wooden loves to write poetry).

More John Wooden Videos:

To see more of Wooden, check out this cool talk by Wooden at the TED conference and a John Wooden profile on Charlie Rose (including interviews with Bill Walton and Bill Russel).

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Leadership Lessons From John Wooden


A hero of mine is John Wooden who describes himself simply as a teacher; and who is known by many as the former UCLA College Basketball coach with perhaps the most successful track record in the history of sports.

John Wooden at his 96th Birthday

Some of Wooden’s Records:

  • Won 10 NCAA Championships (in 12 years)
  • 88 Consecutive victories
  • 38 Consecutive NCAA Tournament victories
  • 4 Undefeated full seasons
  • Won 905 games & Lost 205 (won 81.5% of all games) over 40 years

Teacher Wooden turns 100 this year and I’ve decided to share some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from him in this series of postings (note: Teacher Wooden died on May 4, 2010, just short of his 100th birthday).

  1. Seven Things To Do (from Wooden’s father)
  2. Eight Steps To Success
  3. 15 Building Blocks (with quotes) From “Pyramids of Success”
  4. The Top 10 Searches of “John Wooden” Topics on My Blog

What can Wooden’s lessons do for you?

If you practice these learnings I believe that you will be more successful in business and in life.

I recommend you read any John Wooden book you can get your hands on. I’ve read these so far and can recommend them all:  (and I use them as resources for my series):

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