I'm trying to write something personal improvement related every Monday and a story every Wednesday. I hope these are interesting to people, because I generally think that most personal improvement articles are relatively useless.
Every couple weeks I scan through lifehacker.com, and inevitably think "Man... this is a lot of useless junk."
Now... I've definitely found some good stuff there, and have had some of my articles featured there, so it's not ALL bad. I just feel like most personal improvement stuff is geared more towards FEELING like something has been accomplished rather than actually taking action.
My points are these:
1. If you think these posts are fluffy and useless, please send me an e-mail. It's hard for me to judge.
2. Lifehacker probably won't feature any of my articles anymore if they read this.
When I created The Skinny Snob, a diet book, I didn't have excellence in mind. I wanted to create a product as soon as possible and begin selling it.
I wrote the book in a day or two, slapped up the web site, and began selling. The book had fantastic information, but it was incomplete. I didn't spend the time to research every last food. I just wrote about foods I knew about and left it to the reader to use the book as a general map.
People followed the diet, got healthy, and lost weight. It was a good book, but it wasn't excellent. Why not?
Later I wrote Make Her Chase You. I was really happy with the result. I spent more time writing it and more time editing it. I had more pickup knowledge than nutrition knowledge, so it was more complete.
People read it, loved it, and got girlfriends. Despite offering a 7 day free trial and 100 day refund policy, I get almost no refunds.
Is it excellent? Not quite.
Virgin Airlines is excellent. Comparing them to their competitors is like comparing apples to oranges.
Jay-Z is excellent. Every one of his songs is a masterpiece. Most other rappers put out one good song and fill the rest of the CD with junk. Kanye, Eminem, and Dr. Dre are excellent as well.
Xin's Amps are excellent. Comparable headphone amplifiers cost four times as much and are four times the size.
Mercedes used to be excellent.
Calvin and Hobbes was excellent.
Lenovo laptops are, for the most part, excellent. No serious business uses other brands.
Daily Juice, a smoothie place and juice bar in Austin Texas is excellent.
Michael Jordan was excellent.
Conversion Doubler is on its way to excellence, because I now understand what it means and what it takes.
There is ONE thing that these rappers, a juice bar, an airline, and a computer company have in common which makes them excellent. It has everything to do with the PROCESS.
None of the creators of these products (or the people themselves in the rappers' case) compare themselves to the competition. They set, and meet, their OWN standards.
Here's how normal people produce:
1. Determine minimum level of quality to be competitive
2. Work until that level of quality is achieved
Here's how excellent people produce
1. Determine the highest possible level of performance their product could yield
2. Work relentlessly to get it there, passing competitors without even noticing
3. Sell and become uber-successful
Do you think it ever crossed Richard Branson's mind that American Airlines doesn't have TVs at every seat? Do you think he cares? Does Jay-Z consider how popular a one hit wonder like Soulja Boy is?
No. In their minds their competition is totally irrelevant. They make up their own standards and accept nothing less. Their competitors then try to COPY them, which NEVER works for one simple reason:
The reason that these excellence producers reached excellence was because they held themselves to their OWN standards. Their competitors make the same mistake they always make - holding themselves to someone else's standards.
This NEVER works.
What's interesting is that there are only a few players in any field that are excellent. There are then hundreds or thousands of wannabes who produce "competitive" products and fight tooth and nail over them.
They become a COMMODITY and have to fight over price or minor differences, while the people who are excellent have no problem capitalizing on their product.
Daily Juice is a tiny little juice bar that makes truly excellent smoothies. They have every ingredient you could possibly think of to put in a smoothie. None of their competitors have even 20% of the ingredients they have. Even the apple juice they put in your smoothie is made fresh in front of you. Want a smoothie with fresh coconut milk, camu camu, acai, caco nibs, and maca powder? No problem.
I used to drink a $11 smoothie every single day. It's expensive, but it's hard to put a price on excellence.
I think there are two phases to creating a product or a service.
1. Following the leaders. In pretty much any industry there are accepted best practices that are usually pretty good. Daily Juice bought Blendtec Blenders, fresh fruit, and offers 12oz, 16oz, 20oz, and 24oz smoothies. Jay-Z listened to the popular rappers of his time and molded his style after theirs. When I got into pickup I learned Mystery's method, I learned from Tyler, and I learned from Style.
2. Innovating. I'm not talking about "ooh, let's add CHERRIES to the smoothies", but rather taking the knowledge and experience gained in step one and doing something radically different based on it.
Most people never get to step two. They set their sights on their competitors, get to that level, and don't even THINK of taking it to the next level. They think of small incremental improvements and gimmicks to stay half a step ahead of the non-excellent competition, but that's it.
They mistakenly hold the belief that "everything worth doing has already been done."
Of course, no great people have ever come from this mentality. In order for a field to advance, there must be SOME people pushing the envelope by innovating and delivering excellence.
On the other hand, SOME people get caught up in their egos and try to skip step number one entirely.
"I want to be different. I want to be a pioneer!"
They go off in a random direction but get caught in the mindfield of mistakes that other people have already solved.
Internet marketing comes to mind here. There is an established "best" way to make a sales page. It has an annoying heading, a thin LONG column of text, and a huge "BUY NOW" button at the bottom.
Everyone says they hate these pages, but they work. I've seen people say,
"I don't like those pages. I'm going to make mine THIS way."
They're never successful. Hundreds of people have spent a lot of money to figure out the best way to make a sales page.
However, the people making the REAL money in online marketing aren't the ones who are blindly following the formula handed down by the greats of the business. They're the ones who take that foundation of knowledge and try new things on top of it (The Rich Jerk, Neil Strauss' group, etc.)
I used to believe that following the leader and innovating were two separate approaches, but now I believe that they're only effective when both are executed in that order.
Conversion Doubler will be an excellent product. I have a lot of the basic features that competitors have, but I'm also doing many things that NO ONE has ever done before. Not little side features either, but main integral methods of using the program that are measurably more effective.
I didn't know what I was doing at the time, but I never really considered how the other guys did it. I knew that it was a program I wanted for my own personal use, so I built it exactly as I would want it to be - NOT how the best alternative is.
One thing I noticed is that when your goal is excellence, it's actually easier to work in some ways.
I'm excited when I work on Conversion Doubler because I know that I'm creating something new and powerful. Maybe even important. This excitement keeps me motivated and invested in my work.
When I first wrote Conversion Doubler, my code wasn't excellent. I didn't have the proficiency to write excellent code.
I don't really have any standard to hold my current code up to, but I do know that I try to make it as good as I possibly can, and when I have to go back to it it's really easy to work with. Doing things right makes it easier to build upon them later.
As for Make Her Chase You, I'm currently working on a second edition. I've asked my customers what they would like to read more about, and I'm listening to every single comment. I'm also going over the book personally, reformatting it, and adding in sections that I think need to be addressed.
Everyone who bought the first one will receive the new excellent version for free.
This theory of excellence also applies to real life. Do the things that you KNOW are best practices for life (eating healthy, working out, being social, working hard, being happy, saving money) and then experiment and do the unexpected to build on top of that (life nomadic, living in an RV, going polyphasic, or whatever you're interested in).
Don't keep up with the Joneses. Live the life that YOU find ideal. What makes YOU happy? What are YOUR standards?
Ok, I feel like this is a bit rambly. It's six in the morning and I've been working since 2pm (there's that persistence for you). Goodnight!