From Inc.: Where You Focus Will Become Your Greatest Area of Success

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“Distractions are like road blocks. They divert you from the primary goal.

There are valid ways to find success through focus for anyone trying to build up a career, start a company, and attract an audience for a new product. It is true that your focus equates directly to success. And, lack of focus is also one big reason for failure. The challenge is in deciding how to make that work in practical terms and everyday life, not as a cerebral ideal (e.g., you smile and nod, then ignore it).”

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Get e-Citizenship in Estonia + New Opportunities through Airbnb’s City Host Program

In this week’s Brain Boost: e-Citizenship in Estonia, Google penalizes popups, and Airbnb’s City Host Program.

e-Citizenship in Estonia
You won’t get a passport or actual citizenship, but you will have the ability as an e-citizen to set up a business using the Estonian banking system and, in some cases, pay lower taxes. The country sees this as the first step towards a mobile future where countries compete for the best citizens. Very interesting!

Check out a very cool dashboard that the government maintains on the sources of applicants for e-citizenship from around the world here.

Google penalizes popups
Google has announced that, starting on January 10, 2017, mobile websites that have pop-ups that obscure content will be penalized in search results. They say that, given the smaller screen sizes of many mobile devices, this can make usage really hard.

So, using digital marketing technology that uses pop ups when people arrive to your site is going to be bad. You want to make sure that those are not being used when people access your site from a mobile device before January 2017.

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Airbnb’s City Host Program
Airbnb has started to roll out a really interesting new program that provides new opportunities. They’re calling this the City Hosts program and it gives travelers the opportunity to book experiences that are curated by locals, maybe somebody like you.

For example, you can go kitesurfing in San Francisco with a local surfer or go clubbing and Tokyo with a club promoter as your localhost. You can set your own price so this might be a good way to make some extra money and meet some new interesting people.

Do you think you would ever try being a City Host? Let us know in the comments below!

From Inc.: Why You Should Encourage Your Employees to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

entrepreneurial mindset

“Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the workplace – even if it means letting employees take on side projects – is the ultimate growth hack.

It might seem counter-intuitive to encourage your employees to take on side projects. After all, business owners want their staff to be 100% invested in the job they’re being paid for.

But at O2E Brands, we’ve learned there are huge benefits to nurturing an employee’s entrepreneurial mindset. It ignites their innovative spirit, and it encourages them to take risks that push our business forward.

Here’s how you can develop a successful entrepreneurial mindset among your employees.”

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Audience Validation: 3 Characteristics of Every Good Target Market

good target market

As you validate an audience and decide, finally, whether or not you are going to spend your valuable time and energy on them in terms of product design and marketing, here are three checkpoints that will help you make that final decision.

  1. Is the audience valuable?
    Are there enough customers within that audience who can pay that you want to spend your time and energy on?

Also, check the level of demand. Are there similar products and services to the ones that you are developing that this audience is already paying for? If so, that’s a really good thing.

If you’re banking on a new trend that you think is going to provide demand in the future, you want to make sure that that trend is unstoppable because you wouldn’t want to bet on a trend that doesn’t pan out.

Here are some numbers that will help you reinforce whether this audience is valuable enough:

If you are building an organic-based business -what we call and Athlete Business- every audience that you target should be worth at least $5k-$10k a month in take-home cash once you successfully establish a relationship with them.

For startups that are looking to build a large organization -what we call Megatrons- you are going to need to pursue opportunities worth $20mm-$40mm a year or a minimum of $20mm/year once you get that relationship successfully established.

Remember: you are probably going to overestimate the size of these markets or audiences and you are going to underestimate the difficulty of getting them. So, you want to be conservative here.

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  1. Is there a real need within the audience?
    Product designers call this a “pain”. This isn’t necessarily physical pain, but it’s just showing that, within this audience, there’s a pretty intense desire to a particular want or need.
  1. Is the audience reachable?
    You’re going to have to connect with your audience somehow. For example, do they all hang out in the same place online? Are they members of the same professional association or group?

You need to be able to get to them really effectively.

 

If the audience is valuable, if they have a real need, and are reachable, you probably have a winner.

How the CAN-SPAM Act is Creating Foul Play in Digital Marketing

In this week’s Brain Boost, how the CAN-SPAM Act is creating foul play in digital marketing.

You’re going to learn about a disturbing new practice in black hat digital marketing that’s being used by bad actors to bring down the email list of small and medium-sized businesses in the US and abroad.

The CAN-SPAM act was signed into law in 2003 and it’s designed to regulate the use of commercial email. So think: email marketing in the US. Since then, similar laws have been put into place in almost all major economies.

So, now email marketing services that many of us know about (like MailChimp) are forced to take action when any company sends an email campaign that’s considered especially spammy. However, it’s worth noting that this really isn’t working with real spammers who are responsible for sending the bulk of spam emails.

So, those emails that tell you that you have a hundred thousand dollars in a bank account in some foreign land -about 90 billion of which are sent every day- are usually coming from software located in countries with poor law enforcement -not services like MailChimp.

To comply with these laws, services like MailChimp have adopted a .1% rule. What this means for small and medium-sized businesses is that, if one out of every thousand people that the small business emails reports the campaign as spam, then MailChimp will flag the account of that small business.

While this is well-intentioned, Black Hat digital marketers, ex-employees that are mad at the business, and things like that have a crippling arrow in their quiver. For example, let’s say that a small business has an email list with 10,000 people on it. If an ex-employee with just ten fake email addresses was to report an email that that business sent spam, then the business would have their 10,000 persons email list rendered worthless after a few infractions with their mail list provider like MailChimp.

Any business person knows -probably you reading here- that these businesses spend years of investment going to events, providing free value online, running blogs, etc. to build those email lists.

There aren’t a lot of great solutions. However, there are a couple that you might try. First of all, you can have people register for an email list through their social logins. What this will do is it will make them verify that they have a social login associated with the email address.The only problem here is that some people would be happy to give you their email address but not their social profile information.

You can also try the double opt-in method. When people sign up for your email list, they get an email that says, “Hey, did you really sign up?” And while this adds one extra step to the process, somebody committed to bringing down your email list will still be able to say “Yes, I signed up,” and then report your email as spam.

What are your thoughts about these restricting laws that hurt a lot of small and medium sized businesses? Leave us a comment below!

Why it’s Dangerous to be Intellectually Lazy

Intellectually lazy

Have you ever been on a team at work or school and there’s that one team member who just won’t contribute or do any of their own thinking, leaving you or other members with the responsibility of doing their work for them?

Or maybe (*gasp*) you ARE one of those non-thinkers?

In this post, I want to talk about why it’s dangerous to be intellectually lazy and what you can do to 1) Get out of the rut and turn your life around if you are one of those people or 2) Set your boundaries and encourage behavior changes if you are a person who intellectually lazy people tend to depend on.

As an entrepreneur and marketer, I’ve come across many people and situations where clients, colleagues, or customers look to me to do the work and the thinking for them. Now, it’s fine to ask people for advice and we should all expect to work with others and be helpful. Do not be afraid to ask for help or to give it!

But, you need to be careful about distinguishing between something that you have no way of learning yourself versus something that simply takes a little bit of your own brain power and effort to figure out.

There are some things that we are all capable of, no matter your intellectual capacity, and those of us who do our own thinking instead of delegating to someone else and making it their problem can spot a lazy thinker from a mile away.

MANAGER’S NOTE: Using your own brain power is SUPER important when you have team members or managers that have a lot of responsibility (this includes pretty much all of us who are not retired yet).

You’ll be seen as a weak link if you can’t take care of the easy stuff on your own because you might be making others’ work more difficult than necessary. Being this kind of thinker will have many implications for your work relationships, career opportunities, potential business partnerships, and even personal relationships.

Intellectual laziness leads to:

  • Low ceiling for your career and promotions
  • Replacement in the workforce by an active, lifelong learner (you need to be a thinker to compete in the modern economy)
  • Feelings of inferiority

Essentially, it makes you replaceable. And that’s not good in a personal finance, got-to-pay-the-bills kind of way.

What does it mean to be intellectually lazy?
There are a lot of behaviors that might qualify as intellectual laziness, but I want to focus on the few areas that might be affecting your career the most. Here are four of the main behaviors we need to work on eliminating right here. Right now. Today.

  • An intellectually lazy person often hands their thinking responsibilities off to someone else who they feel can do it better. They don’t believe they can deliver satisfactory results themselves and might want to save themselves from any harsh judgement that might result in them owning their own decisions.
  • An intellectually lazy person will often ask questions that have already been answered or are clearly covered in some kind of written correspondence or guide. They have little attention to detail and would rather take another person’s time to get the answer they need than spend their own time looking for the answer themselves.
  • An intellectually lazy person only consumes condensed versions of information, such as blog posts or headlines and neglects to fact check or read long form articles from unbiased sources. The result is often the possession of opinions and perspectives that are a filtered version of someone else’s (most likely non-qualified) and is tainted by misinformation due to lack of research.
  • An intellectually lazy person might lack the discipline, focus, or experience required to truly hear others, consume content, and understand what they’ve taken in to apply the information to their work or life.

How to change non-thinking behaviors
One of the first actions you need to take is accept that your cognitive abilities and actions are not a result of circumstance but a result of habits and behaviors, which you can change…like RIGHT NOW kind of change.

Something I want to ask you to adapt is a Growth Mindset. The Growth Mindset has changed the way that successful businesspeople, educators, and social scientists approach challenges and was pioneered by Stanford professor, Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset”. Her research-backed idea is that you can actually grow your brain’s ability to learn and solve problems.

Here’s a growth mindset meditation that we put together. I’d love for you to try it out if you are struggling with self-limiting perspectives on talent and intelligence.

Some other ways to build your confidence and brain power include:

    • Take online courses. Like, actually take them. Don’t just pay for it and not take it (believe it or not, this is what most people do).

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    • Read, read, and read more. People who don’t read simply aren’t as intelligent as those who do. Reading can help you get ahead in your field, get re-inspired and motivated, and teach you to be a better writer -all things that are essential for career success. A lot of the most successful entrepreneurs and managers are avid readers. You can easily find recommended reading lists from almost any successful business person online. Like this list of Elon Musk’s favorite books.
    • Find intelligent news sources. Our minds are constantly inundated with non-news “news” sources through excessive use of social media. Find out what the smartest of the smarty pants are paying attention to and refer to those sources directly instead of Facebook or Twitter to stay up-to-date with world events. This is not unrelated to career success! The journalists that get real estate in our brains affect our worldview, which has a direct influence on our attitudes and abilities at work. Filling your brain with conspiracy theories and click bait headlines will make your mind cloudy. Put quality content into that beautiful brain of yours! We love NPR, for example.
    • Practice listening to others and responding thoughtfully. 
    • Resist the urge to pass off your responsibilities to a high achiever. Do whatever you need to do to complete your share of the work and collaborate with your teammates or manager. That might mean working late, doing some additional reading, or getting additional help in some other way.
    • Know what your strengths are. If you find yourself contributing the least at work, try to focus on providing help in the areas in which you are skilled. It’s also good for your manager to know so they can create effective teams where you feel (and are) valuable. If you think you don’t have a strength, work on building those right now (see: online courses).
    • Exercise your brain as much as possible. Find thinking activities that you like to do in your spare time like puzzles, crosswords, or problem solving video games. Your brain is a lot like any other muscle in your body: it’s completely miserable trying to work it out when it’s out of shape, but it becomes fun when it is in shape and high performing.

How to fend off a non-thinker
The upside is that almost no one INTENDS to be a non-thinker. Most of the time, intellectual laziness stems from lack of confidence and fear of being wrong. It’s important for those who are intellectually active to have empathy for those with a different mindset but not allow the mundane thinking tasks of others to be rested on their own, busy shoulders.

There are, however, some ways to handle those moments when a team member is trying to steal your bandwidth for something that shouldn’t be your responsibility:

  • Send them in the direction of a resource that might help them rather than filling in all the blanks for them.
  • Communicate the value of your time, it’s already limited nature, and how much responsibility you already have.
  • Give compliments and positive feedback when it’s deserved. This will encourage your teammate’s performance and make them feel less dependent.
  • Clearly mark a good chunk of your day as quiet work time to limit disturbances and interruption.
  • Never do all the work for them. This sets a bad standard and encourages repeated delegation onto your already full plate.

Are you struggling with feeling capable at work or with the added weight of a teammate who won’t help carry the load? Tweet at me and let’s have a conversation about your frustrations.

The Growth Mindset Meditation

The Growth Mindset Meditation: Built on Research, You Can Use this to Help Cultivate a Positive Mindset as You Face Challenges

The Growth Mindset has changed the way that successful businesspeople, educators, and social scientists approach challenges. Pioneered by Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, and her book “Mindset”, her research-backed idea is that you can actually grow your brain’s ability to learn and solve problems.

This guided “meditation” integrates findings from multiple business leaders and educators on how to apply the growth mindset when approaching problems. We suggest you use this whenever you’re facing a frustrating issue, you’re feeling stressed at work, or you need to cultivate more power to approach challenges in your professional or personal life.

Bookmark this page for easy finding at times when you need it the most.

Find a whole library of Growth Mindset resources here.

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Making the New Economy Work

new economy

Making the New Economy Work: A View from the Front Lines
The verdict is in. Professionals want flexibility. We want to work when we want and where we want and, as wages in the US hold to a 35-year period of stagnation, people are getting innovative. Right now, we’re supplementing our incomes with passive income sources, short-term consulting engagements and participating in the sharing economy. How does all this stuff fit together? Here, I’m going to put some numbers to the sharing economy, passive income streams, and side hustles — the “patchwork career” — from research organizations and from our personal experience as Airbnb hosts, passive income earners, and part-time consultants.

Self-Publishing and the “Passive Income Dream”
I worked as a recruiter in my first job out of business school. Quickly, I found that being a part of the monthly sales grind was making me into a cranky husband, an upset son, and an unpleasant friend. So my brother and I raised $25,000 to self-publish a video course on “Career Hacking” that packed my recruiter tips and tricks into one place for young job hunters. People loved it and we had ourselves a video education business by the end of our first year. I didn’t even know it, but we had hit the passive income jackpot. Our small business made roughly $100k from self-published online courses in 2015.

Between April 2008 and April 2016, search volume for the term “passive income” on Google roughly doubled. Today, I see hoards of people using passive income streams as a significant part of their “patchwork career.” Most frequently, people are teaching online, running Amazon FBA businesses, and self-publishing books or other forms of media. However, passive income can hold false promises. While some people make a lot of money with their passive income streams (like Rob Percival, who has become a millionaire from his online courses), most people who try their hands at self publishing fail to earn more than $100/year.

We Paid 80% of Our Mortgage Hosting on Airbnb in 2015
The sharing economy is a great way to earn that money that takes you from struggling to saving or spending — particularly, with Airbnb. According to some estimates, the average Airbnb host is able to pay roughly 80% of their rent (or mortgage) by renting out an extra room in their home or apartment. In 2015, my wife and I validated these estimates exactly: we paid 80.4% of our mortgage with the $14,000 that we earned from being Airbnb hosts in Northwest Chicago. Airbnb isn’t without costs though. On average, we receive 12 inquiries from Airbnb travelers per week and spend about 4 hours per week answering questions, coordinating with travellers, and welcoming them to the house.

In our experience, Airbnb is a much better part of the sharing economy than others. Uber drivers, for instance, earn about $19/hr.–not including the cost of their gas and vehicle maintenance. When I signed up as an Uber driver in Chicago I made, on average $18/hr. while driving a few hours here and there to test the system.

High-end Gigging is the Future for Many of Us
I recently took part in a Google Developer’s Summit and, while there, met Anish. He interned at NASA and today, he runs a software consulting business that helps app developers get found in the Apple App store. I’ve met lots of people like Anish recently and these high-end giggers tend to have two things in common: they have a high hourly bill rate and they outsource a lot of their work. People like Anish tend to charge $100-200/hr. for their services and, often, they outsource much of what they deliver to clients with people they’ve met on websites like Upwork. By developing a network of people who can support their activities–but who are not their employees–they’re able to handle many projects at once. When I met Anish, he was managing 7 projects simultaneously.

In conclusion, the new economy is like a quilt and your income a patchwork of sources. While there are new challenges–like not having an employer to match your retirement plan contributions–there is a new sense of freedom and security. For example, the business that my wife and I run tends to be slow in the summer, but the summer is our most profitable season with Airbnb. Having multiple sources of income makes professionals pursuing a patchwork career more resilient to negative impacts on one of those income sources. Patchwork careers also provide the flexibility that we know professionals desire, and I believe we’re just seeing the beginning of this new way of making a living.

People who are entrepreneurial will win in the new economy. Check out our free course on Getting Started as an Entrepreneur.

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From Inc.: A Simple Formula for Uncovering Novel Ideas

idea-formula

“How do leading business innovators capitalize on ideas before anyone else? How do the likes of Jeff Bezos, Leila Janah, Bill Gates, or Reed Hoffman, identify and build on ideas that appear to come out of nowhere?

It’s not just their network of experts or the long list of resources available to them. No, what each of the top performers utilize more often than any other resource is their ability to simply ask better questions.

Steve Jobs helped Apple take the standard smart phone and turn it into a historic icon with the iPhone, simply by asking what would a keyboard-less phone look like. Jeff Bezos convinced investors that a retail business without a storefront was the way of the future by asking how automation could move products. And Mark Zuckerberg turned a college forum into one of the world’s most used websites by asking what would connect people in the modern age.

If you want to get ahead and have truly valuable ideas–at any scale–you have to learn how to ask better questions.”

idea formula

How to Use Flare and Keyword Planner to Test Demand for Your Business Idea

In this week’s Brain Boost, how to use flare and keyword planner to demand test your business idea. You’re going to get two ways to get some easy feedback on the level of demand that exists for your business ideas. First, a really easy way and, the second, a way that’s a little bit more complex but gives you more data.

Flare
This is an ios and android app that was developed by the team at Go Daddy and what you do is you upload a photo that represents your idea. You write a short headline and then a short description of your business idea, which should only take you a minute or two. Now that we’ve all grown accustomed to swiping left to skip something like Tinder, this does the same user experience for going through business apps so users who are looking at ideas like yours will either skip it or upvote it.

Ideas that get more than ten upvotes in 24 hours go to a new place in the app where people who have upvoted them can suggest ways to build on your idea.You’ll see how many people have viewed the idea versus how many people have upvoted it, which gives you a sense of popularity of the idea within this particular community.

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Google Keyword Planner
A great way to get real-world data about the demand for your idea is to use Google’s keyword research tool, which is located within their ad space.This will allow you to see exactly how often people within a specific geography search for the kind of thing that you’re thinking about offering.

For example, we wanted to see which group of people searches for “sample contracts” more frequently in the San Francisco bay area. So, we compared three search queries “freelancer sample contract”, “consultant sample contract”, and “developer sample contract”.

What you want to do after you get an idea of how often these queries are searched is benchmark them against something for which you kind of know the level of demand. Like “simple crm software”. Then, you’ll be able to see how much demand there is for the keywords you searched versus the queries that you kind of already know about. I

 

How do you test demand for your new ideas? Let us know in the comments and, if you’re interested in free entrepreneurship marketing and career management resources from Eazl, go here and you’ll find loads of templates and guides. They’re all for free.