Personal

Back Online

I haven’t posted in a few years due to a technical glitch. The database for this site somehow exceeded it’s storage capacity when I went to upgrade… yada, yada, yada. It took some time to even figure out what happened and then I kept putting off getting it fixed until I completely walked away from it.

But now I’ve created a new database and a new site and tried to bring in everything I had here before. I don’t think I got all the images so you may see some missing if you go back to previous years. I’ve also condensed the categories because I don’t plan to write much more about marketing or try to curate business ideas anymore.

So what have I been doing in the last 3 years? After I finished my Masters of Science in Real Estate (see: http://www.austintinyhouse.com for details), I got into the Arts and Technology (ATEC) PhD program at UT Dallas. There’s a whole story about that and now I’m technically a double major PhD along with GIS or Geospatial Information Sciences (more often referred to as Geographic Information Systems). Oh, and I’m now also a Commercial Realtor with Keller Williams Commercial. As if I wasn’t busy enough.  🙂

I’ve finished my coursework for ATEC and have begun my dissertation hours. But then seeing as I still need a few more technical skills to complete my PhDs, I’ve begun studying data science. I’m doing a sort of self directed boot camp for at least this semester if not the next. I’m enrolled in the data science tracks on both Coursera and Udacity and am reading a couple of O’Reilly books.

The reason I’m back online blogging here is that I’ve been accumulating papers and projects over the years that I want to post. And I’m investigating data science internships and jobs and they’re needing to see portfolio work. I’ve installed a portfolio theme here so hopefully that will work out. I probably should clean some of the work up and submit it for publication in academic journals but I have conflicted thoughts about that given the advent of open data and all.

The next few post will be the work I’ve been doing over the past few years. I’ll backdate the publish date so they appear in order that I worked on them. Enjoy!

Doing What You Do Best

Being yourself

If you’ve followed this blog for long, you’ve seen it morph from a copywriting emphasis to NLP copywriting to NLP marketing and most recently daily small business ideas.

I recently finished reading the business classic, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In it, Collins talks about how great companies figure out what they can be the best at and do that.

In an interesting chapter on technology, it turns out none of the great companies focused on technology even though a casual observer (including the media) might have though it was the deciding factor. The principle was that unless you could be the best at a particular technology, it was probably a distraction.

I think I’ve been having that experience with curation. I first heard about curation about a year and a half ago. I tried it at that time and got bogged down with the daily repetition. And then another big name marketer came out with a product on it and I dove in again.

I hired two different employees in the Philippines to do it for me because I can’t do the daily repetition of it. The first one didn’t want to do it (I had to keep reminding to do things) and the other didn’t have good enough English to follow my instructions. I probably would have gotten a better employee had I paid more.

This blog – under the banner of Small Business Ideas – was my third attempt. I love the idea of innovation in small businesses. I love marketing. But for some reason or other, I can’t make myself read news and write a post more than about 3 weeks in a row without loosing all motivation. Part of me thinks there’s no way anyone is reading this if I can’t even stand to write it every day. Yes, it’s maxing out the SEO – but it’s boring. I wouldn’t read it.

When I ask myself what I CAN do best, it isn’t curation. I strongly suspect it’s NLP modeling. I’ve created five models personally though I haven’t released any of them publicly yet. I’ve been distracted by the technology and other life projects.

Whenever I’ve actually delivered a product, it’s sold and I’ve made some money. I can’t say the same for blogging or any fancy plugins or traffic generating tactics.

If you look at other folks who are doing well with their product/blog mix – Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi for example, you see solid products supported by blogs. No doubt their marketing people are using lots of SEO tactics but that’s not what they’re the best at.

Another issue I’ve had is getting the proper channel for the models. Originally I was thinking of doing something like a Paraliminal from Learning Strategies. Those are dual induction hypnosis sessions. The difference was going to be that I was doing a model of an actual skill rather than just a personal improvement topic like self esteem which you can’t measure well.

During that time I had an interesting pricing experience. I had one product that I’d originally priced at $97. It sold a few but not many. I put the price down to $17 and it started selling more. Then an affiliate picked it up and I sold 100 in under a week.

Then consider the Kindle marketplace and independent publishing. There are companies raking in millions of dollars selling products for $0.99. At that price, the volume is much higher.

When I was a kid, I thought the way to become a millionaire was to get a million people to give me $1. This may be the first time in history that’s possible for the average person.

Back to the model channel. I’d previously hired profession talent for dual induction hypnosis sessions. Part of me thought though that I might be overcomplicating it. If I can get results easily, do I really need to appear to add a black box to the mix? If I were the customer, would I be more likely to buy a dual induction hypnosis session or a straightforward audio recording I could play while driving?

And now that the Kindle has come along (or rather I just got a Kindle so I’ve come along), I think the channel that feels most congruent with myself is publishing the models as individual articles priced at $2.99 each.

I apologize if I seem to be jumping around a bit. There’s another thread I wanted to mention that’s influenced my decision to head this direction with everything.

There was a TED Talk by Rodney Mullen where he was talking about innovation in the context of skateboarding. He got really good and won a championship. But then each year it became about defending his title and less about innovation. Finally his spark went out, he lost the title and all the fame went looking to the next thing.

The main theme of the talk was to maintain your love for what you do rather than chasing the titles or the money. That’s how you keep innovating. A secondary lesson I took from it was the idea of raising up humanity through open source sharing. Most of the innovation happens when more people have more access to more ideas.

I realized that the models I’ve created aren’t helping anyone while I sit on them trying to figure out how to get more traffic or what channel to use to distribute them.

While $2.99 isn’t open source, I’m of the opinion that people don’t value what they haven’t invested in. $2.99 is basically free considering the value. That’s why people buy so many apps, iTunes songs and Kindle books. The power is shifting away from the huge publishing houses to independent publishers and individuals.

Hopefully all that means that we’ll all get better content. More publishers means more variety. Maybe we’ll get to hear more than just the same 5-10 songs on the radio over and over again. Maybe if I publish 10 models, 10 more people will publish 10 and we’ll all be able to learn anything we want much faster than before.

As I write this, the name of this blog is “Daily Small Business Ideas.” I’ll change it. I’m not sure what to yet. I’ll probably start with my name since that’s the domain and see what else inspires me. If you have an idea, feel free to send it.

The good news is that I won’t be trying to post every day, I’ll be posting my models as ridiculously inexpensive Kindle articles, and – most importantly for this blog – each post will have much more love and attention (though probably not SEO) given to it.

All the Jobs I’ve Had

This post doesn’t pertain to NLP or marketing per se.

I was preparing for a speech I gave at my Toastmasters meeting yesterday. I started to make a list of all the jobs or businesses I’ve had that I’ve been compensated for one way or another.

Since this list is so long, I’ll bold the ones that I held for one year or longer. There’s too many for me to try to order them chronologically. Some I can’t remember when I started or stopped exactly.

The total count comes to 43 though I lumped several of the same things together (ie. pizza delivery for different companies or temporary clerical work).

  1. Produce clerk
  2. Deli clerk
  3. Loss prevention
  4. Mover
  5. Courier
  6. Sacker
  7. Vending route owner
  8. Knife salesman (Cutco)
  9. Restaurant cook (Owens Family Restaurant)
  10. Phone book delivery
  11. Pizza delivery (3 different companies)
  12. Carpet cleaning
  13. YMCA after school care
  14. B2B lead generation
  15. Car salesman
  16. Realtor – 3 years
  17. House cleaning
  18. Scored standardized test essays
  19. Misc clerical temp work
  20. Lawn care
  21. Army Airborne Medic – 1 year
  22. Texas Army National Guard – officer candidate – 2 years
  23. Substitute teacher – all subjects and ages
  24. Clinical trial participant
  25. Home remodeling
  26. House sitting
  27. Middle school math teacher (a year when including subbing)
  28. Proofreader – textbooks and paperbacks
  29. Fact checker
  30. Soccer coach
  31. Telemarketing
  32. XBox 360 technical support
  33. Satellite TV service sales
  34. Yahoo classified ads sales
  35. Ghost writing articles and blog posts (not paid)
  36. Created several websites (including this one)
  37. Insurance sales
  38. Network marketing – 2 different companies
  39. Church college staff
  40. Copywriter – part time since 2006
  41. Self published author (not paid)
  42. Online entrepreneur – including this site
  43. Marketing consultant

Books that Changed Your Life

Yesterday, Ryan Healy wrote a post on 12 books that changed his life and encouraged others to do the same. It was an interesting exercise to go back and try to figure out which books actually caused me to live my life differently. I figured if a book only gave me different thoughts, that wasn’t enough to qualify for this list. Here’s my list in the approximate order I read them in:

The Bible

I read it all the way through a couple of times plus just the New Testament many times growing up. I read it regularly and tried to apply it according to my understanding. I eventually cut back to reading Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s letters, Psalms and Song of Solomon. I don’t read it much anymore but I have to give credit where it’s due.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This was one of the first and most influential books I read that told me I could choose my own destiny. Many successful people credit this book with catalyzing their drive toward accomplishment too.

Enter the Zone by Barry Sears

This was the first of many books I read on nutrition. Until that time, I was only vaguely aware that there was a connection between what you eat and quality of life and athletic performance. He’s written several books since then to make it easier to follow his plan. I actually follow a plan closer to Dr. Mercola’s recommendations at the present date.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This was one of the first books that set me in the direction of understanding the nature of government and my relationship to it.

Who is Your Covering? by Frank Viola

This is a bit of an obscure book about church authority. It was a right time, right place kind of read for me. The student was ready and the book appeared. I wasn’t ever able to get any of my friends to read it because it’s one of those “weird” house church books.

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

This book was one of the significant motivators for me to join the military (along with 9/11) . After reading it, I realized I wanted to go all out in pursuit of discovering the masculine heart.

Healing Our World by Mary Ruwart

This was the book that began my quest for understanding liberty, terrorism, government, war, etc. I’d already joined the National Guard when I found it. It appeals to the things almost every political group says they want and then provides libertarian answers. I didn’t know what a libertarian was before reading this and wouldn’t have been open to reading libertarian thought.

Costs of War ed by John Denison

This was the book that broke the camel’s back for my involvement with the military and government. I was in Airborne School preparing to deploy to Afghanistan when I finished it. I actively began the difficult process of getting out after I read this and understood that war irrevocably damages every party involved and leaves everyone worse off for it.

Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch

These books were the ones that started bringing me out of my post military cynicism on life. They were truly an awakening and healing perspective on life for me.

The Internet Business Book(s) by James D. Brausch

I actually read these books as the blog posts they were copied from. Going back and re-reading them (while proofreading them) reminded me of my eventual intention to have my own online business rather than working as a self employed copywriter while giving me the tools to do it.

The Laughing Jesus by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

This was the most recent in a string of over a hundred books on Christianity and spirituality over the years. This one has a unique perspective on history inclusive of a Gnostic view including some spiritual practices for modern times. I finally feel contentment in my spiritual map of reality. It’s not that I’m done learning because beauty and experience is infinite. It’s that I feel like I’ve finally found a spiritual home only to realize I’ve always been home.

* * * * * * * *

While in college, I read that Tony Robbins started as a janitor and read 700 books in 7 years on his way up. That’s when I realized there was a lot more to learn about life than stopping after I had a degree like most folks. It’s taken me a little over 11 years to read that many books but it’s been worth it. Like Ryan, I’ve kept a spiral notebook listing all the books I’ve read for some reason.

Naturally, I’d like to include numerous other business, copywriting, NLP, history, biography, spirituality, or a few fiction titles.

Thanksgiving for the good guys

Something I recently realized that I’ve come to learn over the last five years or so…

First, 9/11 hit and I felt patriotic fervor thinking we were the good guys and it was honorable to go kill all the bad guys.

Then reality hit and I was depressed thinking there aren’t any good guys anywhere. Follow the money to figure this one out.

Finally humanity hit and I was hopeful realizing there aren’t any bad guys either…

…only people doing what they believe is right.

If people want to help, they need to trade or make friends with “them” so they’ll also begin to realize there aren’t any inherently good or bad people groups.

Happy Thanksgiving

Good intentions aren’t always good

When I was a medic in Afghanistan, I observed something that I’ve thought over often.

I worked in the field hospital. We got Americans, locals, pretty much everyone. We got every kind of injury too.

On one occasion, we got some American soldiers who’d gotten the worst of an IED attack. Two were in our ER waiting their turn for the OR where the surgeons were working on two more.

I was sopping up blood from a head wound and holding pressure on the lesser injured of the two casualties. There were a lot of people around – medics, nurses, PAs, and a couple of officers of the unit that had been attacked. A Chaplin was there – I guess just in case.

The thing that stands out in that particular incident was that Chaplin. Most people with serious injuries get oxygen. That’s standard procedure. There’s also protocol if the person can’t take it. Often children are afraid of the mask so you’re supposed to hold it off their face.

This more seriously injured guy near the Chaplin was in shock and probably out of his mind. The Chaplin started giving him oxygen and he started fighting it saying he couldn’t breathe. Obviously if he can shout, he can breathe. But he was thrashing around because of the mask and probably making his injuries worse. This went on for a couple of minutes.

It occurred to me later on that someone should have told the Chaplin to hold the mask off the casualties’ face. The Chaplin had good intentions and was following the proper procedure but he forgot (or didn’t know) that you can’t force people. It doesn’t matter what was good for the casualty. If he was fighting it, he was better off without it. All he would have had to do was hold the mask an inch off the casualty’s face.

Out of respect for all parties involved, I’m going to let you draw your own life and marketing lessons from that one.

You can’t trick the Universe

I’ve noticed what appears to be an interesting coincidence.

I’ve had it happen a few times that when people try to cheat me, trick me, or go against something that might be a huge moral issue, something bad happens to them.

I posted about the guy who got food poisoning right before trying to get away with stiffing me.

What I haven’t told but a couple of people about are some other events in my life.

These are only theories but they’re too uncanny to ignore. There were 2 men I spoke to years ago that ended up dying of natural causes shortly after. One was a church minister. The other I can’t tell you much about because a few people could recognize who he was from the details and be hurt by the story.

I guess some people could be hurt by the minister story too but that was nearly 10 years ago. I’ve been to so many different churches since then that I doubt anyone who be able to guess who it was unless I told you.

I made an appointment to speak to the minister and we talked about how his sermons weren’t relevant to the particular demographic I belonged to. I was speaking on behalf on a significant portion on my peers at the time after much discussion. His response was basically that he had no intention of changing anything but in nicer words.

I began earnestly praying for change. Less than a month later, the minister died of a heart attack. It was sudden and they said he went quickly. I told God at the time that’s not what I had in mind. I felt a little bad about it.

The second guy was a married man who had lots of p0rn in his house. The issue with that was they were constantly traveling and inviting young men over to house sit for them. I didn’t think it was right to expose guys to that sort of thing so I asked him to make sure it was secure before he let more guys stay at his house without him.

I saw him a few months later and he was dying of cancer. A few months after that he was dead. I’m really not sure what to think of that either. I’ve heard that cancer is linked to unresolved guilt.

My only theory about these things is that it’s not a good practice to fight the Universe. I realize the morality is relative but we’re all here together and have to find a way to get along. If you come across someone in a good, positive alignment… don’t fight them. You don’t have to embrace something but you aren’t required to fight it either.

It probably has to do with keeping good Karma. Neale Donald Walsch wrote in Conversations with God, Book 1 , "There are no victims in the universe, only creators."

I think I’ll try to make a humorous speech about this. That’s something that Richard Bandler talks about – keeping your sense of humor and not taking things too seriously. He’s the guy that basically invented NLP. Fascinating guy.

And between The Daily Show and my experience as a medic, I have hope that anything can be made funny with a little creativity.

Letting a time sucking someone go

I recently began negotiations with a potential client.

He was an agency and his website looked pretty good. He knew of Hopkins, Caples, AWAI, etc. I wasn’t going to have to educate him on direct marketing. Big plus.

From looking at his current landing page, I could tell he needed some real copywriting help. It was the one I mentioned in the last post. It was not only full of bunny trails to get lost in but it was actually confusing. I couldn’t tell what the offer was supposed to be.

I recalled Joe Vitale’s post on his Red Flag Theory . I was familiar with the concept about following your gut instincts and waiting for the inner peace before settling on major decisions. Joe’s post explains it well so I recommend you check it out.

I had a few red flags going into this deal. First off, he stated that one thing he liked about my bio was that I had military experience and so I probably knew how to obey directions. Follow directions? Yeah, sure. Obey? Hmm. I’m not sure how that applies to contracting work since I’m a civilian.

Red flag.

The way he described the project was confusing. It was to market to newspapers and offer syndicated video content. I couldn’t figure out how the project would make any money for anyone. I was assured that once I looked at the landing page, it would make more sense. It didn’t.

Red flag.

After spending close to an hour on the phone reviewing the project, I broached the subject of compensation since he hadn’t mentioned it. He balked at even talking about it and said I needed to prove my value first. If I did a good job, he’d pay me well and keep the projects coming.

The words sounded reasonable. I recalled that as a real estate agent, I always discussed money with people before we did anything – even with close friends. And then I was listening to some seminars on marketing consulting and realized that I could really get burned if we glossed over discussing money.

Red flag.

I’ve found that if I’m really being dense and it’s really important – God, the Universe, Ultimate Creative Intelligence or whoever – helps me out. I wasn’t exactly ignoring those red flags but I hadn’t taken positive action accordingly.

I was scheduled to speak to this guy after I’d done some research and sent him some more question. Mostly those questions were about what exactly the client could expect to get, how money was going to be made, and some other revenue sources I was beginning they intended to capitalize on but not tell the newspapers about unless asked. I needed to get some answers.

He called me late in the afternoon and said he needed to go get something to eat. I said fine and waited for his callback. We’d agreed to 30 minutes. When 90 minutes passed, I thought maybe I was supposed to have been the one to call him back. I left a message in his voicemail. I didn’t hear from him.

It turned out he came down with food poisoning. During the time he was out, I couldn’t ignore the red flags any longer so I really dug in and googled all the angles I could think of. I ended up finding a few other websites that he was responsible for and they didn’t look good. A couple looked like they were meant to misdirect folks into thinking they were getting something of value when he was instead list building.

The crown jewel was when I found a copywriter who’d worked with him previously. I submitted the form on her website and got a call from her. She verified that she’d worked with him for 7 months and never gotten paid. He’d strung her along with promises of more projects. And it wasn’t only a little work. She’d basically built her portfolio with all the work and some weeks spent up to 30 hours for him.

I was grateful for the call and for my fellow copywriter in general. Let’s all look out for each other. Don’t let someone take advantage of you.

Needless to say, I sent a short email to this guy saying that I’d done some research on him and that if he wanted me to continue to work with him, he needed to pay half of whatever we agreed on up front.

He did exactly as I predicted. He said I’d negotiated myself out of a deal and called me an amateur. That’s fine. At least I saved myself a lot of heartache for nothing.

Green Flag.

Next time, I’ll pay attention to those flags sooner.

Adventures in Homelessness Mindsets

I’m a regular reader of around 20 different blogs. One of my favorites is James Brausch.

James posted a challenge entitled, “A Mindset Challenge.” He’s challenging folks to interact with homeless folks and do something like give them some socks and report back their experience.

It reminds me of 2 stories:

During college, I belonged to a church group that prepared and gave out sack lunches once a week early in the morning. We would making something like 100 and go until we ran out. It was a good experience. It definitely worked on my perspective.

One time that we went down to a day labor place and a guy actually asked me for my socks. I think it was fall and cold by Austin standards. I thought about it and realized I had more socks back at my dorm and he didn’t have any. I sat down on one of the benches and discretely took off my socks and handed them to him.

It wasn’t a burden to go sockless that day. If anything, it helped to remind me how much I really had going for me already.

Another experience I’d add to the challenge as being instructive is to hang out with a homeless person sometime. Here’s the second story:

Shortly after graduation, I was driving around and saw two homeless girls that were around my age panhandling at an intersection. I wasn’t in a hurry so I stopped by the nearest McDonalds and got them the healthiest, biggest burger I could find.

I parked near the intersection and walked over and handed them the food. They both seemed pretty hungry. One was adequately appreciative and the other immediately began complaining that there wasn’t any secret Big Mac sauce.

In any event, I wanted to find out why these girls were homeless. I thought surely they had some friends or family somewhere that could help. So I sat down at the intersection with them and had a conversation.

I was surprised to hear that it sounded like they wanted to be homeless. There was a story about avoiding the 9 to 5 thing and raising traditional families. I was right there with them on that. Instead, they travel around on whatever money people give them.

I wasn’t able to understand how that led the the thought that it was better to be homeless. They probably wanted me to go away so I’m sure that wasn’t the entire story.

The other interesting thing was the comments we got by passing motorists. These girls weren’t walking up to anyone’s window and talking to them. We were merely sitting there. And still we heard a lot of hateful things directed at us. I think I was more surprised by that than the girls.

I realize that each person has their own reasons for things. I think I saw a statistic that something like 2/3 of homeless people are military veterans. I can understand that as a veteran myself. Sometimes the civilian world seems like Disneyland and you wonder what the point is. Is this the American dream we’re killing so many people to protect? Why not spend your whole day sitting on a milk crate? It makes as much sense as some of the other stuff we did in the military.

That said, I think it’s good to get some perspective and realize there’s more going on than your own immediate issues. Bravo, James.