A little over a year ago, this business I have today — and any “name” I have now, and infamy, and whatever — didn’t exist. Given that, the fact that this little blogging experiment has led me to a six-figure business and exposure on some of the biggest sites in our own little corner of the Net is something I’m pretty proud of.
But there’s a problem. Let me explain.
My first big break — the first time a decent number of people began to see me in my quasi-developed form — was when I first started writing for IttyBiz, as Naomi’s little experiment. (If you don’t know that story, here’s where it was announced back in early 2009.) That went well, and it was the springboard for a lot of things… like growing an audience, finding a wider customer base, and opening the door to write for Copyblogger. All of that has been fantastic.
You might look back to my IttyBiz debut and say, “If the IttyBiz thing hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t know Johnny B. Truant.”
And then a lot of people will go a bit farther and say, “It’s good that you had the advantage of being on IttyBiz, because a lot of people don’t get an opportunity like that.”
And then a few people just stop beating around the bush entirely and say, “It sure is lucky that you had Naomi stumping for you, or you’d be nowhere.”
I’ve gotten that sentiment in various forms over the past year, and now, right here, I’m going to give my official answer to that statement, and here it is:
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
I could get defensive at this point, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to try and be helpful because frankly, anyone who thinks that luck had anything at all to do with it is punching him- or herself in the metaphorical testicles right now.
If you think I got lucky, then you’ve already chosen to lose in life. If you think it truly is all about luck, then you’re totally screwed because luck isn’t within your control. After all, I got lucky, and unless you get lucky, you’ll never have any success — just like I wouldn’t have had any success if I hadn’t gotten lucky.
Sound about right? We’re all victims, subject to the whims and winds of the universe, helpless to control our destinies?
Fuck that. Here’s how things really work.
How I got lucky with my first big writing gig
The first sizable writing job I got was with a big human resources magazine. My first time working with the magazine, I got $1200 to write a feature – great shakes for a kid who had barely been paid to write before. And check out this stroke of luck: I got that job because my dad knew a guy who knew a guy who was a magazine editor.
I ended up writing over 60 articles for that magazine. And every once in a while, I’d think what some people think about the IttyBiz thing. I wouldn’t give myself any credit. I’d think, “Wow, I have a really great thing going here. Most people don’t get to do this. Most people don’t get to work from home and do something creative for a living.” And on the heels of that: “It sure is lucky I knew Tom, because a lot of people don’t have a connection at a magazine to get them a great gig like this.”
But that’s not how it was. Yes, I had a connection. But that connection would have been useless if I hadn’t been doing the right thing in advance of the opportunity, hadn’t recognized the connection, and hadn’t known the right way to address it.
Tom wouldn’t have referred me to the editor if he hadn’t thought I’d do a good job.
The editor wouldn’t have given me the assignment if he hadn’t checked me out and agreed that I’d do a good job.
If I had turned in a crap article, the magazine would have axed it and would have paid me only the kill fee, and then never hired me again.
And if I had been a shitty writer, shitty businessperson, shitty corespondent, generally shitty guy, or shitty anything else, they wouldn’t have used me over 60 times after that.
Connections and opportunities open doors… but it’s up to you to find the doors, and then to walk confidently through them.
How I got lucky with IttyBiz
The assumption that “I had Naomi to help me” falls apart once you realize that she and I didn’t have any idea who each other was 15 months ago. She wasn’t my drinking buddy. She didn’t owe me a favor. I was one of thousands of readers, one of the hundred pitches and requests she gets every month. If you think she plucked me up randomly to give me a guest spot for the hell of it, you’re wrong.
Pitching my idea wasn’t easy. I had to fight for it. I had to make her an offer she couldn’t refuse. I had to do it in the right way, because she’s easy to creep out. I had to do it at the right time, with the right amount of persistence, through the right vehicles. I had to make her believe that it would benefit her greatly, and I had to do it in a way that wasn’t bullshitty or hypey. I’ve gotten to know Naomi fairly well by now, and I know that people kiss her ass like you wouldn’t believe. There’s a thousand things constantly competing for her attention. Inertia — ignoring me — was very easily the default.
Once I was on her blog, I had to win over her readers. Nobody was forcing them to read my posts. Nobody was forcing them to follow my links, to take me up on my offers. And even if they were just kind of doing what she tacitly seemed to be suggesting (by having me there in the first place), nobody forced people to refer me down the road. Nobody forced people to buy from me when I raised my prices months later. Nobody twisted Brian Clark’s or Darren Rowse’s arm to force them to run my posts on their blogs.
I know this sounds like chest-beating, and I’m quite certain it’s pissing some people off. But look, you have to stop believing in luck. You have to stop believing that success stories start with the Good Old Boy network handing down favors to people who would fall on their faces otherwise. If you believe that, you’re totally and completely fucked.
I’ve only been “lucky” in business for a year, folks. If anyone thinks I’m patting myself on the back for my consistently great choices, then you don’t have the full picture.
• I took a job in a lab just out of college, an hour away from my house, for $12k per year. My job was counting fruit flies and having severe panic attacks about it.
• I got comfortable in my old freelance job working for only three clients, and then did nothing as they folded one by one, and didn’t so much as attend one event to try to find new clients.
• I borrowed over a million dollars and sunk it into hideously inadvisable, highly overleveraged real estate in bad neighborhoods, then watched in horror as the market collapsed.
All of those things were completely my fault. I was not unlucky. I was negligent. I was where I didn’t want to be each time — and it was totally, one hundred percent my own doing.
The flip side of that is that if I’m going to take responsibility for the stupid things I’ve done, I SURE AS FUCK am going to take responsibility for my successes.
How to make your own luck
I’m about to tell you that you should pick up my new course with Lee Stranahan, called Question the Rules: The nonconformist’s punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life you really want, starting with what you already have. So if that bothers you, stop reading — because I want you to buy it, and am not going to pretend even one tiny bit that I don’t.
Folks, I don’t bullshit. If I were into hawking crap, I’d be selling a formula that will make you rich overnight. I wouldn’t write articles about how AdSense arbitrage is stupid and how the magic ingredient is “persistence.” I wouldn’t tell all of my clients that “it may take a long time, and you’ll have to be patient.”
When Lee and I started talking about creating a course, he had to convince me that we could do it in a way that I would believe. I would not promise that you could quit your job in X months. I would not promise that if you followed a certain set of steps, you’d be able to achieve X spectacular result.
So believe me when I say that Question the Rules will help you. It will not make you a millionaire overnight or make all of your dreams magically come true. But it will help you.
It’s based on the idea that you’re different, or you wouldn’t be trying to do your own thing. If you were “normal,” you’d be doing what normal people do… and getting what normal people get out of life. And as a person who is different — who is a rule-questioner, who is, as we affectionately say, “punk rock” — you need guidance that won’t straightjacket you. You need to know how to operate outside of the norm. And because it’s pointless to give you the blueprints for our lives, we wanted to be able to teach you how to draw the blueprint for your own.
Question the Rules is based on the idea that everyone has connections. Everyone has an in. Everyone has opportunities, or can create them. Everyone can find the right people to help them. Remember, I didn’t have Naomi to help me. I found Naomi and was able to make it compelling for her to help me. Lee interviewed director Kevin Smith as Kevin’s house, writes for the Huffington Post, and wrote, directed, and produced an independent movie. Lee didn’t know Kevin Smith, Arianna Huffington, or his film’s sponsors. He found those contacts. He worked to cultivate those contacts.
We can help you make your own luck.
This post isn’t a disguised sales pitch. This post is a sales pitch. I want you to buy Question the Rules, because doing so benefits you and me both, like any successful connection in the real world.
The price goes up at the end of this week, from $97 to $397. It won’t ever be $97 again.
Here’s the link to Question the Rules. After you’ve gone through it and applied what you’ve learned, come back and tell us how lucky you’ve become. Lee and I are both sincerely dying to hear it.