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Giving it all away

February 8th, 2011

Gather around children and let me tell you a story about life a very long time ago. This was before DVDs and MP3s and MOV files and even before the internet. It was before cell phones and laptop computers. It was back in the day when cameras used film instead of digital technology to store their images. It was a time when news was delivered printed on paper and the only way to find your current location was with a compass, a map, and a sense of direction.

In this dark and scary time (known as the “Mid 1970s”) a brilliant company named Sony developed a fantastic medium for recording, storing, and watching video. They called it Betamax and it was amazing. A movie could be stored on a single casette reel of tape small enough to almost fit in your back pocket (very impressive in those days). But Sony kept their Betamax format exclusive and allowed no one to create tapes other than Sony.

So JVC came out with a new format called Video Home System (VHS) and allowed others to manufacture the tapes. The result was that a flood of tapes became available at no cost to JVC. One of the primary reasons people want video players is to watch videos (duh!) So in no time at all VHS dominated the market even though the tapes were almost twice as large as Betamax and the quality was noticably poorer.

Before you dismiss this brief history lesson as archaic trivia, let me remind you that for more than twenty years video tape technology was the ONLY way to record and rewatch television shows. It was the ONLY way to inexpensively record home movies. It was the ONLY way to record audio and video together in an inexpensive format, and it was the ONLY way to watch movies of your choice in your home. And for more than twenty years VHS dominated the market; a market worth more than a trillion dollars over that time period.

During those two decades I was a young lad raised on Macs (back before Macs even existed I was working on Apple II, Apple II+ and Apple IIe). After college (Apple IIgs) I owned one of the first and very smallest laptops ever (Macintosh Powerbook Duo 230) and eventually I got a Macintosh LC and after that upgraded to an iMac which I kept for years.

But before you think this is an article from another Mac-evangelist talking about how Steve Jobs can walk on water I have to confess that several years ago I traded the Mac platform and became a PC owner and user.

That’s not the normal trend. Generally people are raised on PCs and move to the simpler, more user-friendly Mac platform. But I was tired of the decades of never having access to software. Software writers just wouldn’t write programs for Mac and if they did they didn’t support them.

The same was true for hardware. Anytime you’d buy something that was supposed to work on both Macs and PCs it was great having a Mac because things almost always worked exactly like they were supposed to straight out of the box. But if not, you might as well hang it up because finding a tech support person who understood Macs was harder than finding a music store that still sold eight-track tapes.

My timing is horrible however, as Jobs has clearly learned this lesson. Upon opening up the platform for software developers to create and sell applications for the iPhone, he quickly made a fortune for his company as well as for the monoply carrier notorious for dropped calls: AT&T. Once again proving that people will take usable variety over quality of service.

But remember that the variety didn’t come from Apple or Steve Jobs and it definitely didn’t come from AT&T. It came from their collective absence. It came from them stepping back and just allowing others to create on their behalf. It came from releasing the stranglehold of opportunity. When you are willing to let others make a little money when you make money it’s amazing how many people will line up to partner with you.

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How to Make Christmas more Memorable than Ever

December 26th, 2010
Without spending any more than you had planned
This year my 8 year old daughter asked for many things but several of them were “spy” related (walkie talkies, secret book safe, etc.). Other items on the list could also be grouped into the “spy” category even though they were not really espionage items per se (lap top computer, camera, etc.)

So this year I decided to incorporate two important psychological principles into our Christmas ritual. The first was the fact that children have a better time remembering and recalling events that are unique rather than comprehensive. That is, a child will remember the year they had the firetruck birthday cake and visited the fire house on their birthday MORE than they will remember any of the string of five birthdays where they had a moon bounce and a pinata. The idea is to create a “theme” so that the child has an emotional hook upon which to hang their memories.

The second principle we tapped into this Christmas was the idea that a big build up deserves a big finish. Weeks of hype leading up to Christmas can only lead to let down when all the gifts are opened in less than 30 minutes.

But how do you prolong the opening of the gifts?

The idea came to me when I realized that my daughter wanted spy related gifts. So I’ll share with you what I did. This plays well with a spy theme, but can easily be applied to any childhood holiday theme. Think treasure hunt meets Amazing Race. Here’s how our morning unfolded.

At 4:25 my daughter woke us up to open gifts. She asked for some spy gear and a notebook among a few other gifts. Under the tree there was a pink spiral notebook and an invisible ink pen. That’s it. Nothing else. Some gifts from grandparents wrapped off to the side, a stocking of fruit and candy, and a notebook and pen. Rather anti-climactic, eh? She’s not upset, but she knows something is up. She insists that we open a gift from her and we do. Then she flips through the notebook and discovers a page with symbols on it. She recognizes it as a cipher from a book on codes and ciphers I gave her for her birthday last May.

She has to remember about the book, find it, then decipher the message. When she does it reads: “Look in the big brown treasure chest”. I was actually surprised at how long she searched the house before realizing that our coffee table is in fact, a big, brown chest. She opened it to find a single walkie-talkie and a manual.

“What good is ONE walkie-talkie?” she asks.

“Exactly!” I say. But she doesn’t get the clue and decides to abandon the trail and check her stocking for more gifts. She finds a few little things, some fruit, a few mechanical pencils. Not much. A dead end. So she flips through the notebook again, then looks at the walkie talkie and begins thinking.

“There’s got to be another walkie talkie…” she says thinking out loud. “Wait! I could talk into this one and hear where the other one is!”

This is not exactly the outcome I had hoped for. I wanted her to read the manual, learn to use the “Call” function and use that to locate the other walkie-talkie. But I like solutions to problems and all of us enjoyed seeing her creatively solve each level of the mystery all by herself. It was very empowering to her. Using her method she was able to track the other walkie talkie to its location in the guest bedroom. It was sitting on a charger on top of a box with a bow on it and her name in big bold letters.

She found the walkie talkie but was so focused on finding it, she didn’t even see the package. Instead she looked at us. “Now what?”

I shrugged and asked “Have you noticed any patterns?”

She thought deeply. “Um…each present sort of leads to the next one.”
“Yes, so…”

“So these walkie-talkies should lead me to the next present?”

“Maybe they already did.”

“Huh?” Then she began looking around and laughed when she saw the gift literally under her arm. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I didn’t even see it! I am going to have to keep my eyes open better!”

She opened the box to discover a lap top computer! (one of the items on her list and since it was refurbished it cost less than $200). She was ecstatic. She doesn’t notice or care that it is refurbished. She gets the power cord, plugs it in and opens it up. We sort of expected her to watch streaming Netflix (which she does instead of television) but by this time she knew there was probably another gift waiting if she could find the clue the laptop represented.

She opened the computer, found a folder on the desktop with her name on it, opened it to find a folder labeled “Spy Stuff”. She opened that to find a photo clue. It was a spread of groceries on our kitchen counter with the caption “Something is wrong with this picture”.

Again, I thought it would take her some time to figure it out, but it was less than two minutes before she said “We don’t eat THAT brand of food item! I gotta find it!” and she ran for the kitchen pantry.

In the pantry she found the jar, opened it to discover it was a secret hiding place. Yes, I visited a “head shop” and bought my 8-year-old an item that most people use to hide illicit items. I suppose that when she’s in college she’ll recognize what she got, but I hope she doesn’t figure it out BEFORE then. Right now it is “spy equipment” not “drug paraphernalia”.


She opened the container (that will remain unidentified so that she can effectively use it to hide espionage data from my Facebook friends and blog readers and possibly pot from her RAs once she goes to college) to discover a USB SD card reader and an encrypted message. The message says “Use code #11” and so she pulls out her birthday code book to begin deciphering the message.

She spent about 5 minutes deciphering the message which told her to check in the ottoman for the next gift. She wasn’t sure what an “ottoman” was so she got on her computer and did a Google search.

She figures it out and she finds a digital camera (one of the big items on her list) that we have had for years. We recently bought a new one and even more recently upgraded our cell phones to machines that have better cameras than any that we own. So we were happy to give her an old, used, digital camera with all the accessories. And she was ecstatic to have it and use it.

Again, we thought she would begin taking pictures with it and get sidetracked for a while, but by this time she recognized the pattern: “one gift leads to the next”. So she almost instantly says “Can you show me how to look at the pictures that are already on here. I’ll bet there are some clues.” And of course there were. A string of pictures that were a sort of visual map leading to a single CD on a spindle in the office. The CD was homemade and labeled “Lady Gaga Music”.

“I’ll bet there’s not even any music on this thing” she said and I thought, She’s going to get through this whole thing in less time than it took me to set it up!

“Dad, can I put this in the CD drive in my computer?”

“Yes.” She did and sure enough, there was no music, only a text file that explained about fonts and how to change them. There was then a sample of various fonts including a very long passage written in a font of symbols which made it totally unreadable. So she re-read the instructions on how to change fonts, did so and was able to read the passage.

The passage was a set of instructions about how an SD card can be used to store more than just pictures from a camera. It can also be used to store documents, movies, and other computer files. It went on to tell her that there were hidden files on the SD card in her camera and that she was going to have to use the SD card reader to access them.

So she excitedly got three of her previous gifts (lap top, camera, SD card reader) and used them together to find a video file of me acting like a secret agent hiding something in a book safe and putting the safe on a shelf in our home library.

After laughing hysterically at her crazy dad and the lengths he’ll go to, she ran to the library, located the giant book safe and withdrew the next gift along with another message (not enciphered this time!). The gift was a craft project (she LOVES crafts) to build a book safe. The note said to look for a book gift in the library.

“There’s a million books in this room! How will I know which one it is?”

“What do gifts normally look like?” I ask

“Wrapped in paper.”

“Okay.” And in less than 4 minutes she found a book wrapped in Christmas paper. She ripped it open to find a copy of “Harriet the Spy”, the story of a young girl who wants to be a spy and writes her thoughts down in a notebook. “This is just like ME!” she says.

Now, for some reason, at this point she sort of dropped the ball. She set the book down and decided to begin playing with some of her stuff. Don’t get me wrong, her and her mother had been communicating everything through the walkie talkies all morning even though they never left each other’s side. But now this was different. She had reached a point where she just paused for a while. She didn’t want or need any other presents just yet. She wanted to go back and absorb what had happened so far. And with good reason. At this point she had been awake solving mysteries, deciphering messages, and finding hidden presents for more than two hours straight.

Annie started to prod her and I gave her a look that said “NO!” We had a pact to let this unfold naturally. And it did. After about a 15 minute “rest” she came to us and wondered out loud if there were any other presents. Then she announced that she was going to start looking for any more. Five minutes of random searching led me to ask her “How did you find the other gifts?”

“Oh, yeah…each one leads to the next. What was my last present?” She rushed back to the book, flipped through it three times before finding the folded note inside. It was coded in an interesting way. Each word in the note was a string of 3 numbers. The first is a page number, the second is a line number, and the third is the number of the word on that line. So I had to go through and find all the words in my next clue INSIDE the book in order to write the note.

There was no word “pink” in the entire book, but fortunately there was a character named “Pinky” which worked close enough.

It took her just seconds to locate the USB flash drive in the shape of a pink pig that had been hanging on our tree unnoticed for days. She almost immediately realized that the nose came out and knew the USB would fit into her computer.

On the drive was another text file in a strange font. By this time she knew exactly what to do and the next clue told her to check the hall closet for a present wrapped in plain white paper.

She ripped it open to discover a secret agent fingerprint kit. She wondered for about five minutes how she was going to use the fingerprint kit to find her next gift and I realized that she was losing the trail so I cheated a bit. “That’s weird that all your gifts were wrapped in Christmas paper except for this one. Just plain old white paper. Normal old regular paper. Nothing special there.”

“Wait a minute!” and she ran back to her growing pile of spy gear to get the invisible ink pen that was originally waiting for her under the tree. Using the UV light she flashed it on the shredded wrapper and saw that there was writing on it. So she had to carefully reassemble the pieces and then read that she could find her LAST gift in the garage. It was a remote controlled helicopter that she had wanted.

A little over two and a half hours of active searching before she was able to get down to playing with it all! Of course the search was as much fun or more fun than the toys. More importantly, it created a THEME upon which her memories will hang forever.

There are three Christmases we experience every year (and also 3 birthdays, 3 vacations, etc.). The first is the ANTICIPATION of the event. The planning, the dreaming, the hoping, the list making, the talking about it all with friends and family, marking days of the calendar, etc. This buildup is powerful before any major event, but it seems that when it comes to Christmas it has been really blown way out of proportion. That’s not good or bad, but it is important to recognize.

The second holiday is the ACTUAL experience itself. Opening gifts, realizing you got just what you wanted, the delicious treats, the funny coincidences when someone get you the same gift you got them, the tree falling over, the regifting, all the sharing and laughing and joy and disappointment and everything else that comes with experiencing the actual holiday (whether it’s Christmas, a vacation, a birthday, or whatever).

Lastly, is the MEMORY of the event. When we look back and recall the funny things that happened, and the joy we felt during the holidays.

The fact is that for most of us, the third holiday (the memory) will be the one that lasts the longest and yet it is often the most neglected. Our brain is just not evolved to remember lists of gifts or specific dates. We do better recalling themes and categorical events. So when you give your holiday a specific and unique theme your brain has a much easier time storing the memories of what happened.

I don’t think that the spy chase I created for my daughter increased or decreased her anticipation of the event since she had no awareness of it prior to Christmas morning. I think it probably added a little bit of fun to the event itself. I’ll be the first to admit that opening gifts is fun no matter what and putting the gifts into a scavenger hunt sort of gauntlet won’t dramatically change any of that. It won’t make crummy gifts magically more desireable. It won’t make 3 gifts seem like a room full of presents. It won’t save you any money or remind anyone of “the true meaning of Christmas” whatever that might mean to you.

All it really does is set up a mental and emotional peg upon which my daughter will be able to hang the memory of this year (“The Spy Christmas”). Twenty years from now she will probably not remember the helicopter, the fingerprint kit, or maybe not ANY of the specific gifts. But she will always remember HOW she found them. She will always remember the chase from one clue to the next. The specific gifts become less important as time goes on and the theme becomes more critical in the remembering process.

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My “secret” Little Business

June 7th, 2010

I’m lazy.

 

No one believes me, but the reality is that I am really lazy and get a lot done because I’m a believer in systems. I like to set things up and let them run on auto pilot for as long as possible.

 

I’ve got more than 35 little “businesses” that I run, most of them secret, and most of them involve absolutely NO EFFORT on my part. Today I’m going to share with you ONE of those secret little businesses with you.

 

For sure, you have to accept that none of these little guys are making me five or six figures annually, but I promise you that they aren’t taking up ANY of my time, so even if I only make a few thousand dollars, or even a couple of hundred bucks every year, it’s all gravy.

 

So here’s the super simple business I’m sharing with you today:

 

I don’t know much about computers, but I have a lot of geek friends who don’t know much about business. We talk, they share their geeky ideas, and then I figure out how to make money with them. All of us end up better off.

 

CASE IN POINT: When you visit a web page that has been removed, altered, renamed, misnamed, or you just did a typo while entering the URL, you get a very common error message.

 

Try this: go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fksldfkj and you will see a typical error page.

 

Now go to your own domain name and enter a non-existent URL (ex: www.YourDomainName.com/blah-blah-blah )

 

They look rather similar, right? You’ve probably seen these error pages before, but you probably didn’t know that you have control over the error pages that show up on your own domains.

 

Not sure? Visit a fictitious page on any of my sites. (ex: http://JulianSpeaks.com/blah )

 

Pretty cool, huh?

 

Now, here’s where it gets cooler. I’ve put together a short, step-by-step description of exactly how to create your OWN 404 Error pages that you can use to keep people on your site, AND to sell whatever you think they might want.

 

This is what I normally sell on my own error pages (as you can see when you attempt to visit a fictitious page or a broken link on my site), and it has a normal retail price of $27.77 but for this week I’m slashing the price by $20 so you can have it all for just $7.77.

 

Because it is an instant PDF download you pay no shipping charges, so when I say $7.77 that’s exactly what I mean. That’s crazy cheap!

 

But here’s where it gets even better. I like things to be automated. This particular business of mine is completely automated. I don’t have to actually send you anything. Instead it is all powered by The Amazing System (an integrated shopping cart, database, digital product delivery system, broadcast email system, and autoresponder system). That’s why I can offer this so cheap. I don’t do any work.

 

(FYI: Even this email and a matching blog entry were both written weeks ago and scheduled to go out while I am currently in front of an audience).

 

I’d like to expand my automated business and help YOU join me on this particular model that involves no work and no marketing on your part. So, if you purchase the system and decide you’d like to re-sell it to people on your own site who stumble across YOUR error pages, I will set you up as an affiliate and waive all affiliate set up charges.

 

You start an online business in which you do NOTHING and it costs you NOTHING to run or maintain. All you have to do is set up your own error pages which is something you should do anyway and I teach you exactly how to do it for less than you will spend on coffee today.

 

Imagine having a sustainable business that will work for you forever knowing that you spent less than $8 to get it all going.

 

To get started just visit any fictitious page you can imagine on any of my web sites and then purchase the product for a 72% discount. The instructions for becoming an affiliate are included in the INSTANT pdf download.

 

Your automated business could be up and running before your next meal!

 

http://JulianSpeaks.com/dkweo460f346jv8kg4edc

(or any other string of random letters after the “/”)

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Reinvention?

March 5th, 2010

How often do you hear someone talk about “reinventing themselves”? That seems to be such a common phrase as to almost be considered cliché, but the fact is that in this fast-paced, constantly-shifting world we live in, where the internet and communications technology has sped things up to incredible levels, the need to constantly innovate and reinvent oneself has become one of the more valuable skills you can develop.

So, I thought I would share the pattern that I’ve seen among people who consistently and successfully reinvent themselves, their careers, and their companies. It seems that these shifts in direction seem to fall into one of four basic categories, which I have labeled: Complete Redesign, Lateral Reinvention, Vertical Ascension, and Experience Integration.

By understanding these patterns you should be able to better understand the process and exactly how you can use it to continually grow and improve your market position, no matter how big or small your current business model. At the end I’ll share with you how I’ve used these ideas to create http://therealtruthaboutspeaking.com and what it might mean for you if you choose to reinvent yourself as a high-paid speaker.

Complete Redesign is easily recognized in the recent college grad who is moving from student to either employee or entrepreneur. However others frequently find themselves in a position of complete redesign. The internet can quickly change entire industries. Travel agents used to exist in retail locations all over the place but their entire existence was redesigned for them when information became readily available to anyone with an internet connection.

As industries shift, as employees are laid off, as laws are enacted, many people find themselves in a position where they are forced to completely redesign who they are and what they contribute if they hope to stay competitive.

This is a tough position, but for many it can be very liberating to start with a completely blank canvas upon which to paint your vision of who you are and where you are going.

Lateral Reinvention is a more common method of reinvention that involves a shift from one aspect of what you currently do into an other, similar aspect of the same thing. When Mark Walberg went from rap singer “Marky Mark” into being a serious actor it might have seemed like a complete reinvention, but Walberg contends that entertainment is entertainment. Will Smith followed a similar path and seems to agree as do many of the stand up comedians who have successfully moved into acting.

Other examples of lateral reinvention include actors who become directors (Jodi Foster, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, etc), magicians who become high paid professional speakers (Giovanni, Shep Hyken, etc), and employees who (usually after getting laid off) become high-paid consultants to the same companies that used to employ them.

Vertical Ascension is the most difficult to recognize, but the most widely celebrated. The reason it is difficult to recognize is because it is an upward climb within the same field and so there is always the skeptic who contends it is not reinvention at all.

Madonna has done a fabulous job of staying relevant over her 30+ year career by constantly reinventing who she is and what she does, but all within the framework of being an edgy vocalist. Similarly, Steven Jobs has been able to consistently push Apple as an innovator of technology though the technology is constantly shifting and expanding.

Experience Integration is simply blending two or more previous fields of experience into a new endeavor. For years I worked as a teacher and all my life I’ve been a magician so it seems obvious (in retrospect at least) that I would be successful creating entertaining school assembly programs. In fact, the company I created in 2002 offering educational assembly programs has been my most successful endeavor to date just by strategically melding these two fields of experience.

What method are you going to use to create a leap to the next level in your personal and professional development? If you aren’t yet sure, I suggest you consider joining us this August in Houston for a life-changing event.

Garrison Wynn, one of the country’s top speakers is holding a very limited, small-group event sharing the real truth about the speaking business and what it takes to make sure you are able to earn the high fees you are worth. Whether you’ve been speaking for years or aren’t yet sure what you will be speaking on, Garrison will help you pinpoint your unique skill and experiences and then show you exactly how to exploit them for maximum pay-off.

All the details can be found at:

www.TheRealTruthAboutSpeaking.com

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Good News if You’re a Dysfunctional Whack-Job!

June 20th, 2009

For too long now all the lazy, dysfunctional people of the world had to make their way by either sapping the charity of others or living on the government dole.

I’m not talking about un-skilled people who often have to take menial jobs until they learn valuable trades or develop the discipline that will allow them to move up through an organization, adding greater and greater value as they grow. I’m talking about the people of the world who are so emotionally disturbed that they simply can’t (or won’t) hold down a job where they work to contribute to society in a way that rewards them for their labors.

I just learned that T.O. (Tyrell Owens, professional-football-player-slash-gangster-wannabe) is now on a reality Television show. This is GREAT!

He’s following in the footsteps of other world-class losers like the Octo-mom who has no job, no husband or partner, and no source of income but was able to convince a fertility doctor to impregnate her with eight viable, fertilized eggs and gave birth like a bitch to a litter of puppies (I use the term here only in it’s legitimate use, not as the more often used slang definition, though either might apply).

Fortunately for the taxpayers, the Octo-mom was able to secure a deal for a reality TV show as well. While some have lamented this as a sign of the imminent collapse of society as we know it, I contend that this is proof that Capitalism works if we give it a chance.

I still think the doctor in question should have his license revoked as he clearly failed to uphold his moral duties charged him as a graduate of medical school. But I am also glad that this otherwise non-producer (and rabid RE-producer!) is able to earn a living and should hopefully be able to pay for at least the basic needs of her ridiculously large, single-parent family without too much assistance from you and me as taxpayers.

Of course, we owe all this to the likes of Paris Hilton, who had a monthly allowance from daddy bigger than most of us earn in a really good year but was willing to sacrifice her thin wisp of dignity in order to blaze a new trail for fellow whack-jobs who were not so fortunate to be born multi-billionaires. Her willingness to expose her lunacy on national TV for money that she clearly did not need, opened doors for fellow lunatics who might otherwise have to live on taxpayer assistance.

So for all the people who hear voices in the night telling them to shave their heads or drown their babies, for all the washed-up celebrities and musicians who squandered the millions they made when times were good, for all the athletes who could make hundreds of millions of dollars playing a game they love if they could only learn to get along with others, EMBRACE your new career as a reality TV star and thank Paris Hilton for showing you the way.

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Business of Magic Year Six

June 18th, 2009

As many of you know, for more than six years now I’ve been writing a monthly column in “The Linking Ring” (the world’s largest, most widely distributed trade journal for professional magicians).

Distribution of the magazine is limited to the membership roles of the somewhat exclusive and secretive society, The International Brotherhood of Magicians. For those of you who are not members but would like to hear the business advice I’ve been providing the world’s top performers and entertainers I’ve recorded the various articles over the years and released them as audio products.

The most recent edition (Year Six) is now available as an instant, digital MP3 download. I work purposely to keep the total time of the recording under 80 minuts so that if you want, you can burn the recording to CD, if you prefer that format. Here’s the button to buy the MP3 if you want.

Year 6, instant MP3 download with no shipping – $12

Years 1-6 (8 HOURS!) instant MP3 download, no shipping – $59

Alternatively, you can visit my website http://www.julianspeaks.com/ and click the link to products. There you’ll find most of my 20+ books, all my CD programs including Business of Magic years 1-5 AND the entire set of years 1-6 as a “Boxed Set” discount in both downloadable format as well as CD that we can ship to you.

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T.O. Got Cut

March 9th, 2009

So the Cowboys cut T.O. from the team. They were sick of putting up with his ****, I guess. Already there are several team owners who have voiced the fact that they will NOT be entertaining the thought of hiring Tyrell at ANY price.

Tyrell Owens is an amazingly talented athlete. His skills on the field command a premium in the marketplace.

But because he is so difficult to work with and because he causes friction among his team mates his value in the marketplace diminishes. When there are fewer and fewer team owners willing to offer you a jersey, you end up with a lower and lower salary.

So his skills earn him millions of dollars for as long as he is able to deliver, while his attitude costs him millions of dollars and will continue to do so long after he is no longer useful on the field. And the history of football says that he doesn’t have all that many useful years left on the field.

If he manages his money as poorly as he does his behavior (and I would bet he does worse) then my bet is that he will be selling life insurance during his retirement years instead of living the lifestyle of a man who earned what he did last year.

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These four trends WILL affect your livelihood…

February 5th, 2009

There are several trends that you might or might not have noticed that are changing the economic landscape right now. These trends WILL impact your livelihood. For those who see them and understand them and know how to use them to their advantage, the impact will be profitable. For those who are caught unaware, the impact could be disastrous.

I’m going to openly share my personal and professional strategy for dealing with these trends, but first I think it is important to expose the changes that are already affecting your business.

1) The first of the trends is the pervasive encroachment of technology into every aspect of our lives. Things that used to be too ridiculous a concept to even include in a science fiction story are now mainstream toys. Think about the computing power in a typical smart phone compared to what NASA used to get men to the moon.

2) The second trend is a shift away from owning “things” and toward “experiences”. Kids today think of CDs as antiquated and bulky. You don’t want the LP, cassette, or CD, you want the MUSIC. The CD was just the best tool (at one time) to deliver that music and now it is no longer the best tool. CDs can get lost, stolen, or scratched. But the music in a digital format can remain viable forever and transfered to whatever medium is the choice of the time. This trend goes far beyond music into other forms of entertainment and information distribution as we shall see.

3) The third trend is that of the Green Movement: regardless of your beliefs about the cause or even the existence of global warming, it is lunacy to ignore the rising trend toward having a lessening impact on the environment. There is a LOT of potential here for you to capitalize on this trend and I’ll share some ideas with you.

4) The fourth and last trend I’m going to discuss today is the ever-present concerns about the current economic situation. Again, regardless of your personal experience or your belief about what the future holds, you simply cannot ignore the concerns of most of America during this time, and the economic situation ranks #1 in the minds of most Americans right now.

Real quick, I want to share with you a strategy that I’m implementing that I think will take these four factors and use them to my advantage and by extension, you will also benefit.

I’m currently in the process of converting all my information products into digital format so that CDs have become MP3s, my books have become e-books, and DVDs are becoming .MOV files. This not only embraces the technology as it exists today, it also reduces waste, eliminates the carbon footprint involved in delivering physical products in trucks burning fossil fuels, and because there is no shipping costs, those savings are passed on to the consumer in a lower overall product price.

But there is this invisible hurdle to overcome: For those of us born before 1984 (the year 1984, not the book 1984) we still have an emotional attachment to holding physical product. I remember how much I resisted direct deposit checks because I wanted to touch the paper to know it was real. I want to HOLD the CDs to know I have purchased something even though the plastic and paper is NOT what I am really buying.

So, here’s what I am doing…I’ve created a package of some of my e-books, and some of my MP3s, bundled them together and am “selling” them at a total cost of ZERO dollars. It’s like a chance to practice the new economy from beginning to end, with absolutely no risk at all as there is nothing to pay for.

What you do is go to http://JulianSpeaks.com/freegift.html and you will see the “Add to Cart” button. Click that and you will see that it is a zero dollar item. You will also see all the files I’ve included in that bundle. Some of you may already have some of this stuff but no one has all of it.

You’ll “check out” but it won’t ask you for a method of payment. Instead you will be asked for an e-mail address where you want the link sent. This should probably be the same e-mail address you use to get my monthly newsletter, but you can use whatever you want.

Within a few seconds you will have the link in your e-mail account to download all the files. See what you think of digital products. You can burn the MP3s to CD if you really want the plastic. And you can print out the PDFs if you really want the paper. But I think you’ll like the direction these trends are taking my business.

In a few weeks I’ll be sharing more about each of these trends and how you can take strategic advantage of each of them in your own business.

But right now, visit http://JulianSpeaks.com/freegift.html and feel free to tell a friend about the site as well. My goal is to open people up to this technology and open them up to what I offer as well and I think this little “sample pack” is a good way to start.

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A Quick, Simple Question

January 28th, 2009

The other day I went into a fast food restaurant that will remain nameless just because some people will probably take this article the wrong way and I don’t want a good business to suffer because of it.

I ordered a simple combo-meal that included a drink and fries. The clerk, who happened to be a manager named Julienne asked me “Medium or Large?” It was such a quick and innocent sounding question that I almost answered before thinking.

“No, a small will be fine, thank you”. She completed my order and as she handed me my receipt and tray of food I asked her a question that she clearly didn’t feel comfortable answering.

I asked her how many of the people accepted one of her two options and went with either medium or large. She said she didn’t know. I pushed until she admitted that it was at least 85-90%.

This simple upsell adds either 59 or 99 cents to each meal ordered. As each combo normally runs about $5-6 that’s a 10-20% markup on EACH meal sold. The best part is that it costs the restaurant almost NOTHING to fulfill delivery. A slightly larger soda costs them a penny or two in syrup and fractions of a cent for a larger cup. The difference between a small and medium sized fries is non-existent. Only the cardboard box changes size. Basically the same amount of product fits in each size box. The large holds a little more than the small but even then, you’re talking about potatoes: just about the cheapest food product on the planet.

So for virtually no cost at all they are able to increase their revenue by 10-20% just by asking one single, very simple and almost automatic question. The secret is to ask the question systematically, to EVERYONE who orders a combo meal and to ask it EVERY single time.

I’m still trying to work out exactly how this principle can be applied in my business. There is something about the assumptive quality of the question and something also about the two-options format. But basically it is a simple question.

Do you do birthday parties? Are you willing to do Goodie bags? (I do the former, but not the latter). Maybe you could add a simple question like “Do you want us to handle the goodie bags for everyone or are you going to put all those together yourself?”

Not as clean as “Medium or Large?” but it gets that conversation started. I’ll bet that’s got to be worth a few thousand dollars a year for the right performers.

Or, if you do awards banquets you might ask “Do you want to include enough magic tricks for every seat at each table or just one trick per table and let everyone kind of share it?” Most event planners might not have even thought about the idea of including magic tricks for the guests, and when they find out that you can provide quality, PRE-SELECTED tricks for less than $2 per person you might just be able to bump up your revenue for the night by a pretty significant amount.

I welcome your thoughts on this. Remember, I’m not just talking about ways to increase revenue. There are countless thousands of ways to do that. I’m talking about doing it with a question. A single, very simple, question that is asked near the end of each transaction.

What is YOUR question for 2009?

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That Time of Year (not goal setting!)

January 8th, 2009

All the marketing experts right now are writing about how you should be setting goals this week. So there is no need for me to beat you over the head with it. Instead I’m going to give you something they aren’t: real-world, valuable, solid, easy-to-implement advice that you probably haven’t heard before.

How novel.

Every January I try to go through my various web pages and update the copyright notice to reflect the new year. This does four things:

1) It automatically extends my copyright on the material on my web site for an additional year. This is important, but it is really the least important reason for doing this as by the time the copyright expires on the material that is posted on my web site it will probably be of little real value to my surviving heirs anyway. The more important reasons follow…

2) It lets viewers know they are seeing an up-to-date web site. Personally, when I see a website that proudly boasts that it was “recently” updated and the date mentioned is 3 years old, I really wonder why they mention it at all!

Seriously, if you aren’t going to regularly go in and change the copy on your web site, that’s fine. Just don’t be silly enough to put a DATE on the web site letting everyone KNOW! People appreciate up-to-date information when browsing the web. You don’t want to publicize if your information hasn’t been updated in years.

I renew the copyright date on my website, even if the copy doesn’t change as it lets the reader’s know that I am still actively involved in running the business and that I am attentive to details.

3) The third reason is that when you go in and look at each individual page as you adjust the copyright date it sort of forces you to actually read the copy that you’ve posted. You’d be surprised what things you will find when you read your own web site. From information that is no longer accurate, to misspelled words, to references that date the site even more than an old copyright notice.

As an example, there was a competitor of mine who also performed motivational school assembly programs in Texas. Her programs claimed to address specific issues covered in the state mandated test in Texas, however, she was calling the test by a name that hadn’t been used in Texas for almost FIVE YEARS!! I had to wonder how many opportunities she lost simply because her web site was promoting her ability to help students pass a test that had been phased out half a decade previously.

These are the silly sorts of mistakes that can cost you more than not having a web site at all!

So go in and read your own web site. Each page, one-by-one. Update the copyright years if you have them, make sure that all the other references are up to date, and keep an eye out for other opportunities to polish up your site going into this new year.

4) And for the last, but possibly the most important reason to update your web site copyright dates: search engines (e.g. Google and Yahoo) love current information. They can tell when the web page was last updated and that weighs heavily in your search engine rankings. They can’t tell how much information on your site has changed (maybe it was nothing more than “2008” becoming “2009”) but they weigh current information far more heavily than information that hasn’t been updated in a year or more.

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