“Mountain Top” Clarity

I appreciate and try to make good use of all of the lessons I’ve been taught over the course of my life, especially the ones that seem to reappear periodically, as if I’m being reminded of their importance and significance. One of these lessons is the value of separating myself and being still for a while in order to be inspired. I remember Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” as Moses, going to the mountain top in order to hear clearly what his mission was. He returned to his people with two stone tablets, inscribed with a set of clear, concise directives. I have recently discovered that my place of clarity, a.k.a., my “mountain top” is my local General Aviation airport.

I love flying airplanes just above treetops. There’s something majestic about seeing the country from 2000-3000 feet above ground level or AGL. I’ve been a student pilot on and off for a while and occasionally take flight lessons. I plan to complete my Pilot certificate one day and whenever I’m looking to be inspired, refocused, or motivated, I just drive to my local airport and watch planes take off and land. It calms me and I can think clearly.

I’ve been struggling with one of my sites in terms of focusing it’s direction and defining my mission. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I leaped before I did good research and as a result, all of my keywords and domain names left a little to be desired, especially for this particular site. It had no single mission. It didn’t have a definitive direction of authority. It didn’t even have a product to offer my potential audience. My site was lost and undefined, somewhere between a niche site and an authority site. I decided my current frustrations were worthy of a trip to the airport.

I arrived with nothing but my cellphone, a notebook and pen, and my alto saxophone. (note: I’m also an aspiring improvisational jazz musician so a trip to an airport is the PERFECT place to practice or just play my sax and it relieves my family of having to hear John Coltrane’s “Naima” with my occasional upper register squeaks.)

Anyway, I sat still for a while and thought about what I wanted to achieve with the site in question. I asked myself a question we should all ask when pursuing a new idea; If I had to describe the project’s purpose in one or two sentences, would I be able to? I tried for a while to simply define what my mission was and I was unable to. It just never came to me and I couldn’t, for the life of me, narrow down what my main focus and mission were. What I realized is that my topic was too broad and undefined. I then decided to narrow it’s focus to target a specific audience, but not to make it too narrow. After writing down a bunch of ideas and doing all I could to try and salvage my uninspired domain name and keywords, I decided that it would be best to rebrand the site. It’s not that big of a deal, since I don’t yet have an audience and changing the direction of the site and narrowing my focus now will keep me engaged, inspire me to write more and improve my confidence along the way. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the airport, writing down a ton of ideas for promotion, planning and designing the new site and constructing outlines for several articles I’m going to write to offer my audience the value that will keep them coming back.

I won’t reveal the new domain just yet because I’m currently working on just how to handle the redirection of my present content and the eventual launch of the new site. My goal is to promote the rebranding in an effective way in order to create buzz and build anticipation. I’m blessed because now that I’ve learned from several missteps, I can proceed with the confidence that the important lessons I learned along the way will be put to good use in the future. I’m even more excited about the possibility of being able to tap into my “mountain top” when I’m suffering writer’s block or just feeling creatively stifled.

I’m not suggesting that you not participate in group meets and mastermind sessions to share ideas with peers. What I am suggesting is that you become acquainted with your “mountain top”, that place of solitude and introspection in your life that enables you to think clearly and make good sound decisions. Find out where that place is and go there from time to time, whether it’s just to clear your head, to ask yourself hard but necessary questions, to be inspired or to find your way back to your goals and I promise that you will return empowered with clarity.

Value First.

I’ve decided to start over with one of my sites. It was my first ever website launched and I was initially very proud of it. Now that I’ve been learning more about the importance of leading with good content, I realize my site was basically a big ad with no real focus.

Have you ever been passionate about a subject, but really had no solutions to offer? I found myself in this predicament. The subject of the site is all about the advantages of building leverage against your day job. This is something I’ve done in my own career, quite successfully, but it’s difficult to articulate in a series of posts without sharing too much of my personal story. I have my own reasons for not wanting to be completely transparent and I hope it won’t hurt my chances of building trust with my audience. I’ve written a few articles for the site, but I’m finding it difficult to consistently add value so I’m presently in search of inspiration. This was one of a few sites I launched without having a full understanding of keywords or brand building so unfortunately, the domain name targets neither.

And wouldn’t you know it, I was listening to SPI episode #77 and Pat was interviewing John Lee Dumas of Entrepeneur on Fire. John quoted Albert Einstein:

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

This quote was EXACTLY what I needed to get me back on track. I’ve been licking the wounds that came from several ill-advised leaps into internet marketing with little or no knowledge so I accept that it’s time to slow down and build these sites the correct way. Because of my site’s lack of focus or lack of a specific product offer, I’ve decided to pull all monetization and I’m going to focus on building an audience by way of providing good content instead.

I believe in my site because I think it’s important to do whatever you can to protect yourself from the unpredictability of your day job. Pat’s and Nicole Dean’s stories are testament of that. They were both effected by layoffs. They just happened to take matters into their own hands and both built amazing businesses as a result. Not all of us will build businesses that will far exceed our day job incomes, but we can all prepare ourselves for the worst as a back up plan, even if we’re blessed to never need it.

I’m still very excited about my first site and as much as my eventual goal is to experience monetary success, I will continue to develop it by offering my audience value first.

Keywords…and Caring.

I have made yet another grand discovery in my pursuit of passive income. My journey is weird in that every time I make a mistake building my business, along comes an SPI podcast to help me see the light. Something’s telling me that I should probably listen to more podcasts before I proceed. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

What’s probably obvious to most of you didn’t exactly click with me until I listened to Smart Passive Income Podcast #66 where Pat Flynn interviews Spencer Hawsof NichePursuits.com. Spencer and Pat discuss the importance of keyword research. As you may or may not know by now, I’m a leaper. I often throw caution to the wind and jump right into something before I research it and while taking action has it’s own merits, it has costs me dearly with my first few website projects. As I discussed in a previous post, I didn’t exactly understand the importance of SEO and particularly keyword research. I chose popular subjects that I knew and was passionate about, but I didn’t take into account my ability to rank for those outrageously competitive keywords. Now I understand that being able to rank for a keyword is essential to being found organically on the web unless, of course, you have either a million friends or a few very influential ones. I don’t have either, which is kind of how I got here.

I worked in sales not too long ago and frankly I hated it because I was bad at it. It was a three year self fulfilling prophecy. I was basically in a situation where I would have to build my business by way of cold calling potential clients. What I discovered is that the market that I was selling in was divided into two groups: those that needed what I had to offer and had to be educated and those that needed what I had to offer and already had it. In order for me to convince anyone to do business with me, I had to establish both trust and likeability. Pounding the pavement trying desperately to convince clients that they needed my product took a toll on my confidence. After quite a few no show appointments and broken promises to do business, I began to resent my potential clients. After all, I had done everything I could to equip myself with the tools to reach these clients. I listened to sales tapes and read books on how to sell and how to relate to people, I attended sales seminars and I even talked to successful salespersons who, like me, struggled when they first started. I got great advice and I was inspired to overcome my inability to close business, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t make a connection. I began to analyze why I couldn’t reach most of the people that I gave good sound information and advice to. I concluded that I couldn’t sell because I didn’t care and my potential clients could tell that I didn’t. They could see right through me.

So, I’m listening to a podcast when I have this epiphany. I can “sell” online, thus eliminating the need to establish trust in me and likeability of me. I can lead with good, helpful information and provide value on a website and NEVER have to deal with debilitating rejection. After all, not many people write you to tell you that they don’t want something you’re offering. This is going to be the perfect solution for my “people” problem. I’ll just put up a lemonade stand. Enter bad keywords. Keywords are so important to driving traffic to your website that you can actually have a great idea, not properly implement it and your amazing site will sit there and never find it’s audience. Sure, eventually someone could stumble on your content and share it, but what if they don’t or worse, what if it isn’t as good as you think it is? That can be a sobering revelation and I’m not certain, but it probably causes some of us to quit. BUT YOU CAN’T QUIT. You have to find your way through your bad writing and poor sentence structure and bad keywords and stupid domain name choices and every other mistake you make because at the end of all of your lessons is a better you.

So, I’ve burned a few bucks taking another one of my leaps and that’s okay. I realize that I will probably never rank for my chosen keywords but I can attempt to rank for other words that are less competitive with a little research and creative writing. All is not lost. I just need to stop leaping and start my next project with taking a nice long look. The greater lesson is this. No matter what I choose to do, whether online or face to face, I should be passionate about it and project that passion into my presentation. The fact is, people don’t care about what you’re selling. People care that you care.