Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Book Review · The Billion Dollar Secret

Reading The Billion Dollar Secret (2019) by R. Badziag

Recommend. 328 pages. It’s a quick read and starts well. Like much else in life, you may 80/20 the content. In my opinion, you’ll find the 80/20 in Chapter 6 (The Six Skills of Business Mastery) and Chapter 7 (The Six Habits of Wealth).

I won’t give up too much of the book, but the principles outlined probably sound very similar to other books on entrepreneurship and personal development. On the six skills of business mastery, five are people skills. On the six wealth habits, I’d say one can summarize them as constant improvement of the whole person towards a goal.

I enjoyed how the book opens with stories of rags to riches. The one that sticks out the most is the story of Infosys and its founder, N. R. Narayana Murthy. I’ll quickly summarize it here. In India, 1981, at age 35, Narayana founded Infosys with several partners. Infosys is a computer company. He founded the company with frequent power outages and with no computer.

Back then, he needed a license to obtain a computer, and he spent three years and 50 visits from Bangalore to Delhi to get that license. The distance was 1,500 miles, and he was too poor to afford a plane ticket. So, he traveled two days each way (four days round trip). That’s 200 days over three years just commuting, fighting bureaucracy!

So what about doing any computer work during those three years? Narayana found a customer in America who allowed Infosys to program on his computer. Six of the cofounders went to America while Narayana remained in India.

What about communicating? On average, it took about five to seven years to get a phone line back then. Infosys only took one year. In the meantime, Narayana used a public phone at a post office to reach the cofounders and customers in America. However, if they needed to call him, they couldn’t. When Narayana finally did get a phone line, most of the time, there wasn’t a signal, and when there was, it was usually busy.

How did the American team send work back to India? It would’ve taken about three weeks by mail to send programming code one way. Infosys decided to use fax instead, which generated additional problems, which no doubt made for an even more incredible story to hear.


Book Review · The Elite Investor

Reading another great book

From one successful military hustler to all of us struggling up the mountain.

I’ve met Mike and his team. Until recently, he ran his business out of here, Fayetteville, NC, or the Fort Bragg area. Awesome book. Quick. To the point. Relevant to his audience. And coming from a position of years of experience, sophistication, and success.

In his book, Mike adapts concepts gained while serving in U.S. Special Forces into real estate investing. As well as shares lessons on real estate investing while still serving on active duty.

Among many lessons, he points out to newbies the importance of knowing one’s team. Those new to the game may not realize that sometimes nine different people play into a real estate transaction – buyer, seller, lender, attorney, property manager, tenant, contractor, inspector, and appraiser.

Another lesson, which feels very military, consists of backward planning, rehearsing, and contingency planning before coming to a deal. Furthermore, acknowledge Murphy and embrace that something always goes wrong.

A few different parts of the book cover list-building, or what he calls having a clientele database. Most digital marketers I’ve studied identify this effort as their “one thing” that stands out as most significantly producing success.


Book Review · The Agency – Build, Grow, Repeat

Reading another excellent.

A story worth reading on developing a digital marketing agency.  302 pages.  Business management, digital marketing.  I think many would readily connect with Luca’s backstory of years of initial struggle before serendipitously discovering his niche in life.

I love how organized Luca wrote the book.  The title itself outlines the contents and leaves the reader with a way of thinking that organizes into success.  Even if one doesn’t intend to create a marketing firm, he can use this as an example of how to write a book.

Like many other bestselling internet marketers, Luca doesn’t go into the tactics or step-by-step instructions on button-pushing.  Technology today moves too fast.  He aims for a more evergreen approach in sharing his strategies and principles leading up to his success.  The following represent three of my biggest takeaways from each section of the book.


Build.  Purpose-driven, flat, and fast.  Within this section of the book, Luca shares a description of the general structure of his agency.  He emphasizes purpose first.  Our previous generations seem to hate getting asked why, but what other question proves more critical?  What other question drives the team during uncertainty?  Luca also shares the importance of flattening hierarchies and decentralization to achieve the speed needed to win in today’s world.


Grow.  Attend networking events, and conduct networking events.  Among the chapters in this part, the mention of leading a networking event triggered a lightbulb moment for me.  As in, “Oh, yeah.  Why didn’t I think of that?”  Call it a house party in today’s world of COVID-19 or hold a virtual get-together.  But you don’t have to wait for someone else to announce an event.


Repeat (or Scale). Avoid weak language.  Well, among the other principles in this section, this one resonated with me as an author.  Too many written systems, as well as correspondence, suffer from fillers – words that don’t further value.  One easy hack to discover the written equivalents of “umm” or “so…” consists of simply asking whether a portion of writing contributes to the intended message.  It seems obvious, but many of us don’t write the way we speak.  In so doing, we swing the metaphorical pendulum too far the other way, into wordiness and trying too hard to sound smart.


Book Review · List Building Lifestyle

Brian, reading a great book on email marketing

Recommend.  91 pages.  Entrepreneurship and email marketing.  Igor Kheifets, like nearly all of my favorite authors and entrepreneurs, push through the grind for years before finally striking the epiphany (or set of epiphanies) that rapidly precipitated his success.  Rapid, that is, in comparison to the years before.

He hosts a podcast titled “The List Building Lifestyle Show.”  On the show, Igor has interviewed legends in American entrepreneurialism such as Robert Kiyosaki, Russell Brunson, Chris Voss, Anik Singal, and Mark Manson, to name a few.  I’ve read books by all of these men.

In the book, Igor jumps quickly into the meat of his content, adding his personal experiences along the way.  My favorite parts of the book consisted of Igor relating his struggles with such platforms as Facebook, Google, and even within his own niche of email marketing.

My three big takeaways from this book:  (1) marketing success may narrow to just two parts, a great offer, and the right audience; (2) your audience wants to hear about its problems, and not yours; and (3) build your own ladder and climb it.


First, make a great offer to the right audience.  Some writers suggest beginning the entrepreneurial journey with the product – your passion, your unique value.  Others suggest starting with the audience.  Igor subscribes to the latter, and on p. 65, quotes Gary Halbert as saying that the “most profitable habit you can cultivate is to always be on the lookout for hungry markets.”  With the size of the planet, it doesn’t matter where you start, so long as you do.  Although, by beginning with the audience, in a way, you already possess a soft proof of concept.


Second, talk more about your audience’s problems than yours.  Igor brings this up in response to his clients’ questions about what to talk about in their emails.  Emotional connection precedes physical connection, whether that means intimacy or negotiating a deal.  Consistent with advice on allowing for vulnerability and putting “yourself out there,” Igor shares that that does work.  But talking about the other person’s problems works even better on conversion rates.  The market doesn’t care about your hopes, dreams, and struggles – it cares about itself.  Give the audience what belongs to the audience.


Third, build and climb your own ladder.  If you left your job (or intend to) as a way to become your own boss, it follows then that you shouldn’t let platforms like Facebook or Google become your next boss.  When the algorithms inevitably change, expect a slap to your income.  Your email marketing list represents your own ladder, your own platform.

Book Review · The Iceberg Effect

The Iceberg Effect (2020) by Dean Holland

Recommend.  163 pages.  Entrepreneurship, internet marketing, and direct marketing.  Dean Holland began his entrepreneurial journey in the early 2000s.  Today, he collaborates alongside marketing legends such as Russell Brunson, who wrote the foreword.

The book begins with his outward journey of struggling with school and work, wanting more from life, and achieving initial successes and setbacks.  He then delves into the inner journey, citing themes familiar to readers of entrepreneurship and success stories.  He discusses Carol Dweck’s illustration of the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, Sakichi Toyoda’s “Five Whys,” and Vilfredo Pareto’s “80/20” rule.


My first big takeaway from the book is to put it in writing.  The writing becomes the system of systems.  Two sections in the book leave room for writing.  I think most readers prefer to skip the homework suggested by authors.  However, homework like this takes a life of its own in clarifying goals and their necessary steps.  If one hasn’t already done something similar, it carves a path towards success.


Second, the death of traditional affiliate marketing.  For those new to the model, affiliate marketing means promoting someone else’s product.  The link to Dean’s book here consists of an “affiliate link,” meaning that if you click it and buy the book, I get a small payment as commission.  Dean labels as traditional, the model of promoting one product with nothing further.  This worked well enough in the early 2000s.  Since then, the cost to acquire a one-time customer has increased dramatically.  Therefore, it no longer proves as profitable to promote only one product and nothing further.  This brings us to the Iceberg Effect.


Third, the iceberg. Successful marketers, whether affiliate marketers, or other types of entrepreneurs, offer a front-end product (the tip of the iceberg), and a back-end.  The back-end represents the value ladder that a repeat customer, or raving fan, ascends.  Dean describes how he structures his funnel or value ladder.  In general, the further along the customer journey, the more intimate the interaction.

Hitting a financial wall

I suppose it’s a simple math problem: cost vs. benefit, risk vs. reward, and in comparison to my next-best option(s). But right now, it feels like a wall.

I’m coming close to finishing a financial app project, which I call iBankify.com. Right now, the website itself iBankify.com simply forwards to this blog.

Then the app project completes, it’ll forward to the Google Play URL. And from there, depending on demand, I plan to use ClickFunnels.com.

Well, to finish, the project, we need a financial API provider, like Yodlee.com. Initial quotes start at $500/mo for the first 1,000 users. Is that out of my present price range?

Sort of… Yes, I can. But should I?

I have two e-commerce projects underway that measure less costly. They’re starting to look quite favorable.

Seize every opportunity to parent

My two youngest are both 7-yr-olds, boy and girl. The girl was born second. She asked me this morning, “Dad, why don’t we see any new games on Roblox anymore?”

I said, “Roblox game makers publish 1,000,000 new games a month. But your question is, why don’t we see those new games, right?”

She said, “Yeah, why don’t we see those new games?”

We had about 5 minutes before walking out to the school bus, and then, about another 5-10 minutes before the bus actually arrives.

Like a philosopher, I respond to her question with another question, “Is it because out of those 1,000,000 new games, only a few rise to the top and that’s all we see or remember seeing? Well, if you were a game maker, what would you do to get your game to rise to the top?”

My boy responds, “I would add more blue skies to my game.” Interesting response. It’s been cloudy and rainy here in North Carolina lately. I’ve noticed some games adjust with the seasons, making holiday themed updates.

My girl responds, “I would make a YouTube video about it.”

Innovation. Marketing. My son responded with improving the game itself. My daughter responded with improving the story about the game. It’s possible their gender played a role in their responses.

I said to them. “Interesting. It looks like there are two areas we can change to make your game rise to the top: something on the inside of the game, and something on the outside of the game.

By now, my son had walked to the kitchen to grab something to munch on before the bus arrives.

“That something on the inside, let’s call that innovation. The outside, the story, let’s call that marketing; maybe some games stay at the bottom because people just don’t know about them.”

So I started asking my daughter about what kinds of stories could she tell to get people not only interested, but interested enough to share the story. Are there some stories that the mere act of telling them to other people, makes them feel better?

I got the question from Professor Jonah Berger and his book Contagious (2013).

The girl is my little entrepreneur. We had a few months not too long ago in which we’d exercise creative thinking in ways to make money other than getting a job. As the days went by, she got extremely creative for a then-6-yr-old.

She first started by coming up with ideas for things to sell. Led to a great discussion on why some things sell better than other things.

We then noticed how instead of people going out to get things today, the things themselves were now coming to people – e.g., online school, online shopping, online working. Or, replace online with mobile, as in mobile phones, or smartphones.

She likes animals, getting clean, and getting pampered. So, she came up with a concept: a mobile pet spa. And that was just one of many.

I got her started on a product development journal. She kept at it for a few months. We’ll revisit it.

Outside, slightly elevated, balanced detachment

On performance and leadership, it pays to stand slightly outside of the main thinking. Think of Charles Darwin to biology, psychologist Daniel Kahneman to economics or Thomas Edison to engineering.

The factors of supply consist of land, labor, capital, information, and entrepreneurship. Notice entrepreneurship as a factor different from labor. Not better or higher (although yes I use elevated in the article title). Just separate and distinct.

I got the “outside and slightly elevated” notion from Sam Carpenter’s Work the System (2011). He points out that today, in his business, he doesn’t know the details of every task; although when was younger, he made it a point to do so. Now he doesn’t. He shouldn’t. His highest value efforts remain elsewhere. Also, look too closely, and you micromanage away people’s initiative.

And, sometimes, looking too closely creates a certain blindness. Or as Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

I find these as even more reasons why common sense doesn’t prove enough in seeing the whole picture, that it takes reason to see the whole picture, and why I still list “Use your common sense” as an annoying piece of advice.

The act of looking too closely, and in many ways the common sense of looking itself, comes with blind spots and blindness to the fact that the blind spots even exist.

I just finished chapter 13 of Daniel Goleman’s Focus (2013) last night, titled, “System Blindness.” I’m about halfway through the book. By system blindness, he means that the brain evolved quite well to suspect the immediate threat behind leaves rustling.

Maybe it means a predator lurking in the dark. The human beings who presumed so, ran away to survive long enough to reproduce offspring, who in turn survived long enough to become our ancestors.

Systems, or relationships, tend to remain invisible to our common senses. The brain did not evolve to notice the long-term connections between junk food and obesity, cigarette smoke and cancer, pollution and ecological harm, or monetary or fiscal policy and the debt burden on future generations. The more distant the threat, the less likely our common senses will notice – or even care.

So how do we adapt and overcome this blindness? I argue that we do so through making an attempt to stand outside, slightly elevated, and just a little bit attached from one’s self. The attempt itself gets the ball rolling. I do so by moving my body into a different position, by asking off-the-wall questions, scribbling on paper, and seeking contrary views.

It’s not easy, but it helps. In fact, in my line of work, it’s necessary. I tend to find myself in charge of people who are much smarter than me about their particular jobs (and will always be smarter than me about them).

If I look to closely, they may politely comply but they’ll also surrender initiative (and responsibility) in a way to make me do more work than necessary. People feel less responsible for the results of a decision when just following orders.

I think anyone in a leadership position finds himself in the same position. In this area, I like it best when I’m allowed the discretion and top coverage to complete the task in the manner I find best. Likewise, it seems to work best in leading to, rather than to try to give the best orders, to create a feeling of safety by protecting those who are doing the work.

Same too with parenting. I want my kids to explore their creativity and to develop productive skills. Developing productive skills means letting them play with the non-toys that I use. That means being a bit of a lifeguard, because playing with pots and pans, gardening tools, and power tools can be expensive and dangerous.

Copy success, map out a book

I mentioned this in a previous post. It’s worth repeating. Not only does success leave clues, but successful people write books about how they did it. Sometimes, they write the chapters in sequential order. Why not outline the book and build from there, hence standing on the shoulders of giants? Why reinvent the wheel?

Right now I’m reading Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (2013) by D. Goleman, psychologist and bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence. Really good book so far. I started en media res with the chapter titled, “The Myth of 10,000 Hours.”

A couple years ago, I found myself in a psych ward. I didn’t expect to end up there and especially not for as long as I did, but I’m grateful for the time to reflect. People asked why, and if I had a reason, I feel that having a reason itself would imply a rational decision. I didn’t get myself sent to nuthouse because I was being rational.

I always imagined the psych ward as a place with white padded walls and people wearing straight jackets. No. Not this one, at least. We wore hospital gowns and blue socks with a non-slip coating at the bottom. I still have the socks, which I call my crazy socks.

If I could point to some reason that got me there, I’d say it was my focus. I hated my job. Still do, if by “I hate my job” one means rating job satisfaction as 6 of 10 or lower. Hate might be too strong a word. I’m proud of what I do, it just doesn’t fulfill me anymore and hasn’t for quite some time. I’m not alone.

I see it both inside and outside the military. It’s rare to find anyone who honestly likes his job. A job seems to define having to, as opposed to wanting to.

My focus on everything going wrong with my life (divorce, losing my kids, hating my job, getting yet another undesired duty station, another undesired position…) precipitated into my trip to the psych ward. My focus became a daily, self-destructive habit.

I began reading regularly, out of desperation for something more yet not knowing exactly what more meant. I’ve averaged one book a week since then. I started with a book recommended to me by an occupational therapist, You Are a Badass (2013) by J. Sincero.

The personal development category of books seems to overlap plenty with the small business and entrepreneurship sections. I found my way into learning about e-commerce and Amazon FBA. Earning that first dollar online was just amazing. Although, I wouldn’t call that first year profitable. I’d call it educational.

When we moved from Texas to North Carolina this year, 2018, we placed that on hold. I’ve taken more interest in digital products. Learning about digital products fits our need to remain mobile while serve on active duty in the military.

Digital products also more readily allow for scale, performance measurements, and independence between my time (which the military makes unpredictable) and operations and the performance of the product. And so I read books about the business models that I believed I could implement while working my full-time job.

Anyway, if you want to learn about any business model, someone probably already wrote a book about it. Maybe it’s not a great book, but it’s a start. If you read several books about that same model, you begin to think like someone already using the model.

You prime the RAS (reticular activating system) and begin seeing in the world the thing you’re looking for. And if you outline one of those books, the very act of writing it produces discoveries and a more complete picture – like conducting a map recon.

Like a map, its user’s present location and desired destination remain specific to the user. I believe that there’s really no one or no book to help you get to where you want to go, because that’s very specific to you.

M.J. DeMarco in his book Unscripted (2017), says that there is no fucking list! That is, no list of steps to what you find meaningful in life. Only you know what you find meaningful in life. Having a map helps.

Meta-systems and writing-poorly block

I heard Seth Godin say on writer’s block that, “Well, you don’t have writing-poorly block.” He suggested that if you run into a case of writer’s block, then you probably instead have a case of perfectionism – a case of waiting for the perfect something to appear before writing.

Perfectionism means procrastination. Procrastination means failing by simply not starting or by quitting too soon. It doesn’t count as a swing-and-a-miss when you don’t take a swing.


When I was about 6 or 7, mid-1980s, California, I remember once noticing how my toothbrush didn’t remove food stuck between my teeth. Also, I didn’t like flossing; I only flossed back then when a toothpick didn’t work.

I looked at my toothbrush and wondered why. I hypothesized that the flat-headedness of the bristles couldn’t reach far enough between my teeth. I figured maybe other people were having the same problem with their toothbrushes.

So, I decided to grab the pair of hair clippers in one of our drawers to add grooves or ridges into the bristles to get between my teeth, just like how toothbrushes today look.

Back then, my family lived in a one-bed/one-bath apartment unit in Los Angeles. The hair clippers needed to plug into the wall, they were noisy, and my parents were either still sleeping or about to get up.

They normally didn’t approve of my tinkering. (Many times, I’d disassemble and reassemble toys or other gadgets. They never worked the same way again, if they worked again at all.)

My memory falls short on what happens after I thought of using the hair clippers. I think my dad woke up and entered the room. I tried to talk to my dad about the idea, and he either got it but didn’t care or he didn’t get it because I sounded like gibberish to him.

My dad and I rarely spoke with each other. Honestly though, as a kid, I probably didn’t make much sense anyway.

When the 1990s arrived, and especially in California, the internet began to take off. My dad is both a computer programmer and an accountant. I remember having a dial-up modem and my dad booking travel once through Prodigy, an online service started in the 1980s.

I first started using the internet in the early-1990s, downloading updates for games through the worldwide web. My dad told me that website domain names worked the same way 800-numbers do. So, I suggested dad that we register popular domain names and wait for buyers (i.e., cybersquatting). I was about 10 or 11.

I reasoned that if domain names were like 800-numbers, then business buyers would eventually want them like they do 800-numbers. He wasn’t convinced. And, registering a domain name in the early-1990s wasn’t as cheap as it is today.

He remembered my suggestion some years later, toward the end of the 1990s with the dot-com bubble, and asked me what I thought about cybersquatting then. I said that it probably wouldn’t be as big a deal anymore.

I don’t blame my dad. I just didn’t think hard enough. I didn’t ask the right questions. I didn’t do enough to really persuade anyone to work with me; I had countless other ideas that remained only ideas. Creativity wasn’t an issue for me. Procrastination was. Is.


Between 9th and 10th grade, I signed up for a Psychology 101 class at East Los Angeles Community College (ELACC). That was in the summer of 1996.

I did it for this girl, María, who ended up sitting at the back of the class while I sat at the front. Our paths never crossed. Not only did we sit at different parts of the room, she preferred to arrive late and leave early, while I showed up early and left after asking plenty of questions.

Anyway, I’d take the public bus system to get to ELACC. Once, an elderly gentleman sat next to me. He introduced himself as a retired math teacher. He noticed I was carrying a textbook and asked:

“Did they ever teach you how to write a formula?”

He went on to explain that when he taught math, he memorized plenty of formulas and discovered plenty of patterns in the math world for which he didn’t yet have a formula.

He said that it would’ve made teaching a lot easier if he just taught a way to create formulas, both to relieve students of having to memorize them and to capture future patterns not yet captured in a formula.

I thought about that discussion for years. He wasn’t asking just any question. He was asking the question of questions, which of course begged the answer of answers. The formula of formulas. The system of systems.

The meta-system. The theory of everything. Years of philosophy later, I’ve come to the conclusion…

It doesn’t exist.

If it does, it’s not knowable. But that’s irrelevant. Like the limit of a function, the direction of movement matters more.

He was asking the right question, which works much like a keystone habit (one good habit that triggers multiple other good habits and replaces the practice of multiple bad habits). In a way, it was a keystone question.

In eliminating writer’s block (and in everything else), I believe asking the right question means looking for the better questions. Finding the better questions involves looking for keystone questions, questions that point to systems of systems.

One type of keystone question I call the meta-question: What questions should I be asking?