Category Archives: Challenges

Lost Digital History

Many people setup their WordPress blogs a long time ago, including mine in 2006. Since they have all been setup, many of them have had deferred maintenance and are broken. It’s unfortunate, a lot of great content has been lost. However, humanity currently produces so much digital content every day now that I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Almost every time I’ve wanted to blog on wesmahler.com, something has been wrong with the blog.  My servers have been slow, they’re constantly being brute forced attacked & in the past they actually were compromised so there were many malicious executanle files saved on my web server.

One of my first websites that show me the potential of online advertising was, rotaryengineillustrated.com, which I bought for $3,000 during high school.  The site ran on Joomla, but it wS so out of date I decided to pretty much leave it broken because updating it to the current versions of jooma would have been way to much work.  The site still has some old static .html files that render content correct and it still makes, even today around $100/month from Adsense from it. I’ve had it since 2004. Its kind of sad that I put so many hours of work into that as a kid in high school just to have let it decay past a feasible point of returning it to normal.

Rebuildingrotaryengines.com, a site that we used to show videos on how to rebuild a rotary engine no longer has it’s videos any more because they were all hosted on Google Videos at the time but that’s been shut down.  I did recover a few here and there.

I thought about just paying $5/month and starting a new blog, but I didn’t want to start all over again so I just spent another day during my last day in London and I believe I fixed it all for good.  I’ve lost a few images from my blog because I hosted many of my images and videos from several sources.  Had I just hosted them all through the WordPress Media application I would been able to save them all easier.   At one point I switched over to using Facebook’s commenting system because I had so many spam comments. I thought it might be the best platform to collect comments. It’s had a lot of limitations though so I’ve switched over to Disqus now which I think will be much better. I was able to import all of my old comments however I wasn’t able to import all of my latest Facebook comments.   More history lost! Last year I also unfortunately lost 30,000 of my personal photos due to a OS X Time Machine bug that does not back up your iPhotos library when the iPhotos app is open. I’ve lost all of this digital data as someone who knows how to program and administrate servers, I can only imagine all of the digital data everyone else has lost.

That’s finally all being solved now.  For my blog, I’m moved it to a new set up Amazon EC2 & RDS instances using ElasticBeanstalk.  The code is backed up in Github, CloudFlare is used to serve the site quicker, put extra security on my WordPress logins that still continued to get attacked daily, and all of the future WordPress media images that I upload are stored and hosted via S3. It’s kind of expensive to pay $30/month to AWS to host my blog and a few personal sites, but it feels nice having control over my public digital journal, my blog.

For my photos, I’m now using Google Photos. It automatically backs up all of your images, across all devices for free for 1080p quality photos. That’s ok for me because I just use my iPhone to take photos. iCloud photos currently sucks because it doesn’t allow you to store photos remotely without having a local backup.  Google Photos allows you to store all of your images remotely without taking up any local space on any of your devices.

Now that’s all clear, I can start writing again without having my blog be unresponsive & broken every time I visit it.  That’s great because I have a lot to write about.  As I continue my journey to becoming a missionary whose set out to positive impact the world, I’ll need to be good at sharing the ideas that will inspire others to do the same.

Being Uncomfortable: My 14 Month Travel & Work Trip Around The World

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I believe a life well lived, is a life full of great experiences.  Trying new things, lots of things. Experiencing everything that life has to offer you.   Try new things that excite you, scare you, challenge you and make you uncomfortable from time to time.  It’s those experiences that you’ll never forget and cherish when you’re older.   We don’t look back at our lives and think about all of the things we did that were “comfortable” and “easy to do”, we look back at the things that really challenged us, made us grow, made us think, made us ponder, made us better and how we eventually overcame those obstacles and went on to do something amazing with our lives.

I personally love the feeling of being uncomfortable.  I love the feeling of having your heart flutter a bit because you’re thinking of doing something that scares you.  You know what I’m talking about, that nervousness you get when you’re about to do something you’re scared to do.  Many people will back down form whatever they were going to do when they feel that way because it’s uncomfortable & scary, they’d rather not do it because they want to feel comfortable & safe.   Whenever you feel that way, I challenge you to go after it and do what was scares you anyways.

Whenever I start feeling uncomfortable before I do something that scares me, I just do it and dance with my fears.  Once you dance with your fears and do whatever it is that was scaring you, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad and you’ll feel outstanding afterwards, because you faced your fears and overcame then.   The old saying goes, “live an uncomfortable life now, so later on in life you’ll live comfortably”.  It’s true.  If you constantly dance with your fears by going after things even when you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’ll start to actually enjoy that state and really cherish the growth you’ll gain from constantly pushing yourself.

For me that’s what this trip is all about.  My beautiful and loving girlfriend, Gissel and I have begun our 14-month trip around the world.  We like to say world, but it’s really half the world.  As much as our trip sounds fun, which it is, it’s also incredibly uncomfortable because there are many uncertainties surrounding it, specifically around how I will get my work done.  It’s a little nerve-racking, but that has made the trip even more enjoyable & exciting than just taking a vacation for 2 months and not working at all.  Half of the fun will be realizing a dream that it is possible to make more money while traveling than staying at home and having more fun doing it.   That’s a fun thought, isn’t it?  To be even more successful, traveling all the time than you would be staying at home.  While challenging, it is possible to be more successful while traveling (or taking a vacation as some would say), it’s a different belief and it can be true if you believe it.  So going after that challenge, that’s fun, going after that goal is rewarding in itself without the things I’d see everyday traveling.

About our trip!  Our journey starts in Mexico, afterwards we’ll continue to Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, then to Thailand, China & Japan.  We’re basically doing Latin America for the first half, and Asia for the last.   Each country we’ll be visiting for about 1-3 months, we don’t want to just travel quickly to the countries, we really want to live in different places and see what it’s like to be there.  A 2 week vacation is just too short, having a month plus in each country gives us a lot more depth than we’d ever have going to and from places quickly.

I’ve been in San Francisco for almost 5 years now.  It’s been an amazing city; I’ll come back to it when we’re done traveling.  Silicon Valley is just amazing and I love what bay area is doing here.  I could pass on the expensive living of course, but I love everything else about it.  Although as much as I love the city, I’ve been here too long, it’s time to try something new.   Of course other people have lived here longer, but I’ve lived here long enough to figure it out and make it work.  That’s the problem.  My biggest growth curve was dropping out of college when I was 19, getting in my car and moving down to downtown San Francisco by myself with no friends and starting a company.  That was scary, but incredibly fun and exciting.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life and I’m incredibly happy that I did it.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Now a days, although there is still of course always more to learn there, I’ve been doing the tech thing for awhile now and it’s really gotten a bit boring.  It’s getting a bit routine.   Routines are scary for me.  I’m not growing like I did when I first moved here and put myself in an impossible situation that I had to succeed.  Living here has gotten to comfortable because I know I can do it.  Once you know you can do something, there’s no more growth from doing it.  What’s important is doing something more that you never thought you could actually do, challenging yourself.   We need to try things that we think might not actually be possible and then make it possible.  Once you start doing things you know you can do and do it, you will never grow any more, you can’t get any better because you already know how to do it.  Push yourself, become more, try to do things you don’t think you could do, once you try it  you’ll surprise yourself.

So for me, traveling around the world for 14 months feels like dropping out of college when I was 19 and moving to SF to start my first web company, Tracking202.    This trip is about challenging myself and seeing if it’s possible to provide even more value to the world through entrepreneurship than I could if I was staying at home.   I love it.    This trip is seeing if I can do something I’m super passionate about and figuring out a sustainable income from it instead of just creating businesses for the sake of “making money”.  It’s the challenge of seeing if we can have an even more productive team working remotely than if we had a team of people showing up to an office everyday.  It’s about seeing if I can have an even better  & improving relationship with my girlfriend while building a better company at the same time.  It’s an exciting time, it’s a growth time and I highly recommend to anyone out there reading this to try something like it if you haven’t done it before.

I have to say thanks to my buddy Josh Wexelbaum who shared his story traveling while being an Internet marketer for 2 years with me.  It was his story and having other friends travel all the time while I was sitting at the office that eventually pushed me to do this trip.  That and my girlfriend wanted to teach English in Spain for a year but we decided to do something a bit more challenging and exciting.   If you will be traveling to any of those countries and would like to come visit us please send us an email.  If you’re stuck in the office working all the time, challenge yourself and see if you can do it remotely for a month.   Traveling doesn’t have to be a vacation; it can be a lifestyle and a productive one if you change your beliefs about what’s possible and start working on it to make it true.  So challenge yourself and explore the world if that interests you!

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Video Interview On The Importance Of Transparency & Innovation In The Affiliate Marketing Industry

Peter Bordes, the CEO of Media Trust was kind enough to invite me on the keynote panel during this year’s Affiliate Conference in denver. After the event I had a chance to do an interview with Scott Parent from Relevanty Speaking, this is a short video clip of the interview. It is also great to know that California is not allowing the affiliate tax to pass here. This is mentioned in the video.

Video Interview With Paul Bourque From UberAffiliate On Becoming An Advertiser

Paul Bourque is an extremely successful pay per click affiliate, runs the blog UberAffiliate.com and is now on route to becoming a large advertiser in our space. Paul is mainly known for his blog UberAffiliate.com which is focused on sharing tips and tricks to help you generate more revenue using PPC. You can find all of his articles by going to his Affiliate Marketing Guide. Please go through his guide if you have not had a chance to see all of the articles there. Many times we will simply read the most recent blog posts, but we forget that there are a lot of great posts that were also written in the past.

In this interview Paul talks about becoming an advertiser. After you’ve been in the industry for awhile you’ll notice once Affiliates start taking different paths. Some will create large affiliate networks, some will become advertisers, some will become service providers like us and of course some will continue to become bigger and bigger players in the affiliate space. Paul has decided to make the move to become one of the advertisers in the space and in this interview we’ve talked about his experiences and challenges in doing so.

You can read Paul’s blogger over at uberaffiliate.com, and you can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/uberaffiliate.com. If you’ve enjoyed this video post a comment to let us know what you think.

If you haven’t already, you can catch our recently posted video series through TV202:

If you enjoyed this interview, please subscribe to our blog, follow us on twitter and join our newsletter.

How Jonathan Volk Scaled Past $300,000/month (video interview)

We had a pleasure to interview Jonathan Volk, one of our very good friends, and a very successful affiliate marketer. Jonathan is the founder of Surge Marketing, a performance marketing company. Jonathan is best known for his blog “JonathanVolk.com” where he blogs about tips & strategies people can use to increase their PPC marketing efforts.

During Ad:Tech SF 2009, Jonathan and I had a lengthy interview about scaling PPC campaigns. Specifically we asked how he has scaled to over $300,000+/month in commissions, to learn how he did it watch the video! To read more of his stuff, visit Jonathan’s blog, or follow him on twitter at: twitter.com/jonathanvolk.

Stay tuned for theses up and coming interviews:

If you haven’t already, you can catch our recently posted video series through TV202:

If you enjoyed this interview, please subscribe to our blog, follow us on twitter and join our newsletter.

I Do Not Use Email Any More – Letting It All Go

Every week our team gets together and goes over what we call our ROCs. The ROCs stand for (Results, Objectives and Challenges). Our small team of seven will go around the room: review what we were trying to accomplish for the previous weeks, see how well we did, what our challenges were and set our goals for the next 7 days. We starting doing this after meeting with our mentor who we get together with every two weeks. Every friday we do this and this friday I had some challenges.

My challenge was that there were now so many people to talk to that I was not getting any coding done on our applications. Our support requests, which started at slow 18 months ago has now turned into a monster that demands a full-time person. Most people don’t realize this, but Steven and I have mainly answered every support ticket that has come in together for free all this time. To date we’ve probably answered over 10,000 support tickets in over 500 days.

Last month I spent probably on average around 2-3 days on support and over 30+ hours a week talking to other people. Any more I felt like I couldn’t keep coding if I was distracted talking to everyone. So at this team meeting we’ve decided to take a dramatic approach to this issue; I’ve now been cut off from email entirely and I won’t be handling any more support.

Not using email any more is a somewhat exciting and scary thing at the same time, but with more pros than cons.

It’s scary in that I’ve now let go and someone else is now in control. Support is entirely out of my hands; so I can’t be there to make sure it’s done correctly. I just sort of have to hope it does well, but because our of team I know it’ll get taken care of with the best of our ability. Talking to JV partners and other business relationships are now out of my hands so I have to rely heavily on the ability of our team to talk to everyone else and make sure everything goes accordingly.

And I don’t mean I won’t just not have a business email any more, I won’t have a personal email any more either. If you email me it’ll return a message saying I no longer check email and that my emails will now be forwarded to someone else.

That even means if my mom emails me, someone else in my department will get it and take care of the situation and notify me if it is important or not. If our book-keeper tries to email me I won’t get it. Although it is tempting to jump in my email and respond to some stuff because technically I still have access I just have to cringe and let it slide knowing that someone will take care of all of the answered emails. Isn’t that a fuzzy feeling? Somewhat scrazy, but in a way somewhat exciting and a relief.

But we believe it will be a good thing.

Finally now that things are growing we can start scaling out the team and divide the tasks between people. Steven and I no longer have to do everything, with a team of 7 people we are starting to of course get dedicated tasks that each individual needs to accomplish. I can now actually focus on what I do best and develop full-time without distraction. I only use to code full time when we had no customers because I didn’t have any distractions.

A key thing to remember. If you are trying to stay focused on task, the way you do it is by limiting all of your distractions that will take your time away from the task at hand.

For me that is talking to everyone one: completely eliminating that will allow me to focus on building our out applications and development team.

Realize that those 2-3 hours of support each day diddn’t just kill the time I spent on support. It’d killing several more hours because when your working on something and get a distraction it will kill your mommentum. If you have to deal with something else and then jump back it’ll take you a alittle bit to get in gear and you ended up wasted double the time. Time to do the distraction and extra time getting back in gear doing what you were focusing on at the time.

At at heart, the objective of killing email is to protect my time from distractions.

If we can limit distractions I can continue to develop full time and teach Man, who is our new team-mate and how develop on top our platform. Man is steven’s old friend and has quit Microsoft to join our company. So all of my time is now able to be focused on developing myself, and teaching others how to develop on our platform in a team.

So that is it for email now, I won’t be using it.

In all likely hood in the future I will probably get another email, but for now and at least for the next couple of months I won’t be using email any more and I will let everyone know how it goes. Realize that the only reason we did this is because of my situation. I’m the main developer currently and it is important that I spend most of my time doing that, if I was in any different role I’d still have email and be talking to people on a daily basis and building the company that way. But I have to focus on building the internals of our company which many people won’t ever see, but it will be there servicing all those tracking requests all day.

It’ll be interesting. I had some anxiety the first few days of it, but now I’m getting used to it, and we are moving and building momentum. I don’t know anyone else who has completely got raid of their email, I’ll be the guinea pig on this one. The only reason this can work too is because other people can handle everything else now, and I’ll be working full-time, but just all internally from now on.

This picture represents the anxiety of letting it all email go. And the anxiety that goes with it, but at the same time the relief of not having to stress about it any more. So yes I’m a lot harder to get ahold of now, thats the whole point of it really. But you still can through twitter, facebook or if you have my number you can always call. And if you really do email, it will get read but I won’t be the one who replies to it.

I’ll let everyone know in a maybe a month how it goes and if it was a good solution or not.

If I Had To Do It All Over Again

In every one of our interviews I asked the other person, “If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?”  It was interesting to see the responses from people and for the most part they said they’d do it all over the same exact way.  But if I look back on my past and if I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would not have done it the same way.  In fact I know had I done it differently I’d be in a much better position years ago than I even am now.  Even though maybe they said I’d do it the same all over again because their lifestyle is good now, I still find it hard to believe that if they know what they know now, they’d repeat and do the same things over again.  Here’s what I’d do differently and this little bit of wisdom could easily shave off around 4 years of your learning curve, especially if your planning on trying to build a company and create your own product.

If I had to do it all over again I would not have wasted my time trying to build out several different unscalable businesses that would never get to be big over the course of 4 years.  Four years…. I wasted alot of time, had I only known.  

I was watching a presentation from Gurbaksh Chahal [vid1, vid2, vid3], and what really struck me is how he built a company from the age of 16, and sold it in a few years for 40 million.  He’d sign a non-compete agreement for about 3 years, after it finished he’d then do it again and later sell Blue Lithium which was sold for over $300 million.  What was most interesting to me about the whole story was not about his humble beginnings of having nothing and then becoming a successful serial entrepreneur who now in his later twenties is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, instead what was interesting to me, is “How He Did It,” but even more than that, it was most interested that “How he got the idea to begin with.”  And HOW he got the idea the way he did, resulted in him being positioned in a marketplace with a product that had an exit that could be capitalized with a high probability if then just executed. 

Gurbaksh was 16 and he was trying to make some extra money, he actually applied to work at McDonalds and got denied.  From there he just decided he could make money on his own.  He began researching how to make money and he found a company called DoubleClick.  He thought to himself, “DoubleClick seems to be doing good, maybe I can just do what they do”.  And what a good idea, and a great place to start.  Right there at that momment he was about to build something, that if he excuted would be worth something, right there he positioned himself in a marketplace that had alot more potential.    And he saw that DoubleClick had an ad-serving technology that was performing well and G, which is Gurbaksh’s nickname, decided to make a DoubleClick Ad-Serving Compeitior.  Which he did.  And then he begun programming the thing at the age of 16 and then later sold the thing in several years for over $40 million dollars. That company was ClickAgents.

Now heres the lesson to learn, and learn it well because this can really help you if you plan on building a product and re-selling it.  What G did, and why it became a quicker success is simply because he took an existing model that was already working well and copied it.  His business plan was simple, make an ad-serving technology like DoubleClick, do some things differently or whatever, and build out a technology that “already has a demand for it”  Build a product that already has a market and a high chance of making money if he could just execute.”   And just by having the right idea, and jumping into an already active and lucrative market he was able to position himself to make alot of money if he could execute properly, which he did, $40 million dollars worth of execution before he was even 20……

And then look at me.  I was building an eBay business in high-school re-selling peoples stuff, I started a car audio and installation business during that time, and then trying to build small websites at the time.  Only if I had chosen something a little more scalable like G did when I first got started…  I spent about 2 years doing that, and working a job. Which was great, but it would have been better if I started doing a doubleclick when I was a kid, instead of working a job and trying this ebay thing.

Then leaving high school I thought it would be great to build a craigslist for colleges.  I spent 9 months on that, which we built well, we built culture just like we do with meetup202 now, but later that’d fail.  Why was I wasting time trying to build a craigslist for colleges, to sell textbooks?  

Then I got in to multi-level marketing which honestly was great because I learned so many personal development skills, sales, presentation skills and communication skills, but I spent 6 months on it and that diddn’t materalize.  After the college sites and MLM I now offically spent a year on two businesses that weren’t really scallable. I diddn’t know what I was doing.

I would later quit that try to do real-estate for 3-6 months, then go back to school where I’d then spend 9 months building a local rental site for college campuses.  Then finally my friend introduced me to affiliate marketing, which was a quick way to produce income for myself, and my friends Sean and Noah over at GetClicky created an analytics company GetClicky that was doing well.  I then decided we could do some type of search analytics for affiliate marketers and Tracking202 began.  I only wish I would have jumped into Tracking202, or even just a more scalable sector more early on.

I mean lets compare, here I’am for 4 years trying to develop some cool website and try to develop my own business model around it, and at age 16 G copies DoubleClick, an already succesful enterprise company and jumps into a competitve market, executes then a makes a fortune.  

Do you see the difference?  It’s so simple.  Because he started with a better idea mocking off an existing idea he instantly put himself in a better position for growth.  While here I’m figuring it out, I would have been so much better had I even just picked a product and competed with the other companies in the space.  

Know that competitors in the space qualifies the market because something is there.  And it sometimes sucks being the first in the marketplace with a new product, it is extremely difficult.  You have to pioneer the business model and make everything work. And if you do succeed and finally make it work, you’ve qualified the market and now competitors will jump in.  If you just take an existing product that is already doing well and already sells tons of items, but you can simply do it better you’ve already put yourself ahead of the game than some silly web 2.0 internet entrepreneurs trying to make some crazy widget that has no model or no business model.  

Listen, I wasted so much time, I hope you can find some value off of this.  If I had to do it all over again I would have chosen a product that already had an existing market, I would not be trying to develop some new web 2.0 product that has no real business model or something that I’m trying to invent.   Luckily now we have finally found a product with a real business model, there is plenty of competitors in the space, most of our competitors are VC’d backed and there is a market here.  And we have many different business models we can spin off of Tracking202 and its all now because we are entering a market that other people are already in and we are going to try to do it better than what everyone else is doing.  I still have friends making silly websites that will never become anything.  

Just Keep It Simple:

  • Wes, age of 16, tries ebay, working job, local craigslist, mlm, real-estate, local rental sites, and then finally finds PPC Analytics a finally scalable product and begins. compared to.
  • G, age of 16, said “Ah DoubleClick looks like a good business to get into, bam— does it and sells outs for $40 million”
  • — G would later do it again selling Blue Lithium for $300 million, by again, making an ad-serving technology.

I hope you get the picture. 

Learn from my mistakes, this is one of the things I would do differently had I do it all over again. I wish I woulda have saw a better model to start with and copy, I wasted 4 years of my time experimenting and only now coming to understand the importance of it.  And the funniest thing is I don’t even think G recognized that idea when he got started.  He just saw that seems like a good idea, I thought ebay was a good idea.  I should have programmed an ad serving technology 6 YEARS AGO, but I didn’t know.  

This is just one of the things I would have done if I had to do it all over again. Another short thing to tack on to this, I should have moved to Silicon Valley 4 years ago and dropped out of college or even high-school honestly.  G grew up in the silicon valley when his parents moved as well, so that also helped him.  Your location does affect your startup.  If you don’t agree with me, try moving to alaska and doing a web 2.0 startup.. Location does matter, its about being in the best spot you can be to build your business. For us that is here, and its one of the best business moves we’ve ever made. If your serious about web development, you should really be here.

If you found this interesting, please comment and let me know what you think. -wes

New Year’s Accountability

It was interesting to see all of the bloggers write their New Years Resolutions when the 1st of the came around. But I thought to myself — how many of theses people declaring their new goals actually accomplished their last years goals?  Or how many actually remember what they sought out to do last year and kept themselves accountable?

New years is not only about making new goals for the year; but it is also the end of last year, and the supposed deadline that you were to accomplish last year’s resolutions.  Many bloggers forgot to write about what they planned on doing last year and if they succeed or failed.  I mean what good is a new year’s resolution if we fail to be accountable and check whether or not we accomplish the goal a year later?  

The most frightening thing I’ve seen is that some peoples’ New Year’s resolutions have the same thing as last year.  Which of course means they didn’t do it last year, and simply forgot to post about it? 

We can’t go around being lazy with our commitments.  Because if we fail to commit to things, telling ourselves we are going to do this or that–we lie to ourselves. And lying to ourself over time weakens our mind, body and soul.  Remember that goals are a double-edged sword, if they are repeatedly failed over and over again–it really shows how much that person understands about goal settings.  And they build a habit of failing goals repeatedly.  And sooner or later they fail enough goals to become weak at setting any more goals, and every goal from there on out seems so elusive.   Remember that, “Everything let down in your performance affects the rest of everything you do.”  

And hitting the goals for what it accomplishes isn’t what is important.  What is important is the person you become during the process.  Are you becoming a person who lets yourself down repeatedly and fails to accomplish goals?  Or are you becoming a person that is becoming consistent at making commitments and keeping them?    

So if you did make new year’s resolutions this year.  You also need to look backwards, and check your last year’s resolutions as well–because if you didn’t what’s the point of setting any goals if you never look to see if you accomplished them.

Here was my last year’s resolution: was I accountable? This is a snippet from Jan 08 of last year.

There is going to be a lot to come, I’ve made my next goal at the top of my blog, you will see us Alexa ranking 20,000 by the end of the year, and we will hit it, I promise you, I’m going to put on my intense goal setting and make it happen, honestly we should probably be 10,000 by the end of the year, but 20,000 is already a done deal, I’ve decided to make it happen. [source]

Tracking202 Alexa RankingSo we did that, and we ended at Alexa 12,000ish.  Now Alexa isn’t really important at all, in-fact Alexa is pretty worthless as it isn’t worth really anything.  But what is important, is that is that slowly but surely we are building a track-record of setting goals and achieving them.  That we don’t mess around, and we mean business when we say and declare a goal we make it happen.  That is more valuable than the Alexa ranking any day of the week.  

Just setting goals does nothing– accomplishing goals is what is important. Not just setting, but accomplishing them.   Setting goals won’t change your life.  Accomplishing goals, and becoming a skilled and accomplished goal setter can change your life.  So are you just setting goals, or are you actually accomplishing them?

So check yourself right now. If you set any goals this year; lets stop right now and check up on our progress.  Any real goal setter who knows what they are doing actually follows their progress on a daily basis and can tell you whether or not they are on track to reaching your goal.

If you just recently set a goal this year, and haven’t checked on it yet…. It’s already been 26 days, and it means your probably not good at setting goals and achieving them if you fail to check your progress. (that is goal setting without goal commitment) and has little value, if any at all–because it does no good to set a goal and do nothing with it.

So if you set your goals–check to see where you are now, and if your on track, and if your not you better get to work.  New Years has passed, and its now about being accountable to what you said you were going to do. 

Are You A Hedgehog Or A Fox?

What’s with this idea that having tons of “projects” is a good thing? Although it may be true that being a shareholder in several businesses that run without your involvement profitably is an ideal situation to be in, but to many aspiring entrepreneurs seem to think having lots of projects for the sake of having projects is a good thing.  Most of the time entrepreneurs try to do way too much.  And the great gift we all have to see an opportunity and go for it, becomes our Achilles’ heel because we then try to chase after all of them.  

Success is not determined by the amount of projects you have going on.  Even though it might sound cool to have several things going at once, to me it sounds amateur.  But not lets just take what I have to say, let’s take a look from Jim Collin’s point of view as well, the author of Good To Great, a book that took 20 years to study the greatest companies in America and what they have done to outperform all of their competitors exponentially over the century.  One of the concepts he talks about, which I absolutely love, is the Hedgehog concept, which I’d like to share with you:

The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty—the fox looks like the sure winner. The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix-up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.

The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. “Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?” Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defense and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.

Berlin extrapolated from this little parable to divide people into two basic groups: foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels,” says Berlin, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, a hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple—indeed almost simplistic—hedgehog ideas. For a hedgehog, anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.

Princeton professor Marvin Bressler pointed out the power of the hedgehog during one of our long conversations: “You want to know what separates those who make the biggest impact from all the others who are just as smart? They’re hedgehogs.” Freud and the unconscious, Darwin and natural selection, Marx and class struggle, Einstein and relativity, Adam Smith and division of labor—they were all hedgehogs. They took a complex world and simplified it. “Those who leave the biggest footprints,” said Bressler, “have thousands calling after them, ‘Good idea, but you went too far!’ ”3

To be clear, hedgehogs are not stupid. Quite the contrary. They understand that the essence of profound insight is simplicity. What could be more simple than e = mc2? What could be simpler than the idea of the unconscious, organized into an id, ego, and superego? What could be more elegant than Adam Smith’s pin factory and “invisible hand?” No, the hedgehogs aren’t simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”

So are you a hedgehog or a fox?

I try to be a hedgehog.  And this is how it relates to my life and business, so you can take this concept and if you like it you can apply it to your own life. 

Our hedgehog concept is simply this, we need to become the absolute best software provider in the ppc affiliate tracking space.  Anything other than that matters nothing to me, real-estate is not important any more, or making money online in general, or starting another project, or even personal affiliate marketing for that matter.  I will only do whatever it is that helps us become the leader in the space, anything other than that is not important whatsoever.  And until and only after we do become the best at that, then we will maybe move on and try to dominate another niche.  It may take 10 years to become the best in the space, that’s ok, because we’d rather be the best in the space than 2nd place somewhere else. 

If we are unable to become 1st place in whatever we do, we won’t do it.  We were thinking about doing some large high volume email marketing with over 15-25+ million email addresses with rev-share deals with affiliate networks.  We could have made a significant income, once email gets going it isn’t uncommon to hear mailers make anywhere around $5,000-$15,000 or more in a drop.   We could have done this. 

We also could have done mass internal search campaigns and utilized our technology only in-house and made a fortune which some other super affiliates have decided to do.  We’ve shown almost half a dozen individuals how to earn over $10,000/day through affiliate marketing, and we could have done this for ourselves as well, but we did not.  We could have scaled out our affiliate marketing business to over $50,000/day or more, and although you think we may be bluffing we have friends who do that and more, even past the $100,000/day barrier on some rare occasions.  But we did not, and I have not worked on any personal campaigns for over 6 months because doing it does not help us become the best software provider in the ppc affiliate tracking space.  We have to give up the opportunities to chase one opportunity, and do something we can really become the best at.

Whatever it is your going to do, do it, focus on it, and really make a big impact when you do it.  If we rated everything we were able to do on a 1-10 efficiency scale, it would be fair to say that most things we can do at about rating of 6 most people wouldn’t want to see.  But things that we could do at a 9 or even 10 rating, people would pay to see.  Do something you can really be proud of, not to be ok at several things, be the best at one thing, once you are the best at that, then move onto something else. 

Don’t focus on your weaknesses, your weak at them, focus on your strengths.  Don’t waste time working on a small side project, when you could be building one really big project and make a huge impact with it.    Stop getting distracted by all the opportunities out there, and chase after the one opportunity that you can do the best.    Distractions are the killers of dreams….

Here is a real-life example of this at work.  My friend Rob is one of the sharpest people I’ve ever met, he is one of the most successful entrepreneurs that I personally know in our age group.  Here is an example of someone who has spent the last 6 years working full-time on his businesses.  Although he started with one, web-hosting and built his customer base, and started acquiring other hosts.  After some time he brought on a partner to manage operations so didn’t ‘have’ to be there every day working on the company

Then he went to build a voip business, and spent a large amount of his time doing that when I first met him.  He has built some technology in house, and after over a year has now hired a full time president of the company to take over, he pays him salary and the manager now runs the entire business.  Rob is now able to work on other projects, because he has built them correctly and then he can move on.  He is now starting a new business with my other good friend and starting to do the same thing. Build it, and then put people in place to manage them.

See the point is this, when he goes and does something, it doesn’t do it ‘half-ass’ he goes in puts in his 10 hours a day over 10 months in a row and goes to work, after he builds it, then and only then he puts someone in place to manage his business.  He isn’t working on 100 things at once; he does things, actually does them, and then puts people in place to manage the projects.  That is the model you want to follow, Rob has done it extremely well and he continues to do it up until this day.  There are several people that rob has manage his projects now.  

Take his story and then compare it with a new entrepreneur, trying to “do several projects at the same time.”  The inexperienced entrepreneur tries to do everything Rob did at once, while Rob did one at a time, then put people in place to manage them.  The inexperienced entrepreneur trying to do them all is unable to focus his time to really build one project huge, he is to scattered, like the fox trying to do to many things.  They do all their businesses half-ass, and the result is a bunch of half-ass projects, when they should have just focused on one and built it.   The inexperienced entrepreneurs excuse is, “having multiple streams of income is good,” even though none of the projects provide any streams of income at all.  If anything they provide streams of distractions and lost progress that could have been made.  In this scenario the inexperienced entrepreneur is the fox, and rob was the hedgehog.

If you want to learn more about this concept read the book by Jim Collins, Good To Great.  Are you a hedgehog or a fox?  How many projects do you have going now?  If you have 3 or more, you are most likely a fox.