Category Archives: Success Secrets

BECOME A CONVICTION MARKETER…AND GET POOR

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve lost all respect for politicians, and I think I’ve found the answer. Paradoxically, it’s because they’ve become more like me.  

Let me explain… 

I’ve always admired conviction politicians – people like Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner. I may not agree with what they have to say, but I know when they say it, that it comes from the heart. They truly believe what they’re saying – they truly believe that what they’re proposing is right for the country. 

But politicians like these are of a dying breed. In fact they may have died out already. You’ll note I haven’t given you any examples from the modern era. That’s because I can’t think of any. There’s not really a place in modern politics, for people like this. 

The new approach is characterised by people like Tony Blair and David Cameron – chameleon-like characters who, if truthful, would respond to the question “What do you stand for?” with: 

“What do you want me to stand for. I’m flexible.” 

To my mind, this is morally indefensible, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to forge a political career on that footing. The idea that you form policies on the basis of what people say they want, rather than what you believe to be right, just seems ridiculous. Surely the whole point of going into politics is to bring about changes and improvements in the precise direction you believe to be right – not to deliver some half-arsed compromise, ordered up by an electorate primarily motivated by self-interest, greed and envy… 

If I’m going to find out what people want, and then deliver it to them, I’ll do it in a business thank you very much. The money is better and you get to sleep at night. And that’s what I choose to do. 

In a business, it’s called marketing ~ and it’s ethical and deserving of respect. In politics, it’s called opportunism ~ and it’s unethical, and deserving of contempt. In business, you have to give people what they want, but as a politician you should be giving them what they need. There’s a massive difference. 

If you go into politics, please become a conviction politician. I’ll vote for you at least. But if you go into business, please don’t become a conviction marketer. There’s no surer way to the poor house. 

Let me explain what I mean… 

So many people launch a business or money-making enterprise on the back of a conviction. They have an idea for a product or service, and believe that it’s something people need and will pay for. They have no evidence for this, other than their own firmly-held belief. I speak to people like this all the time. 

They approach me with a product or service they’d like me to sell for them. They’ve often spent months (sometimes years) perfecting their offering, without ever going to the trouble of finding out whether people actually want what they’ve perfected. When I ask them about their market research, their test promotions, or their target market, there’s no response other than: “Well, we haven’t done that yet.” 

And what they’ve ended up with, is something perfectly crafted ~ but something there’s a strong possibility that nobody wants to buy. Such is their belief, their conviction, in the product, that they’re blinded to the realities of the market. That’s fine for a politician on a crusade to bring about change he believes in, and being paid to do it, but out-and-out disaster for any entrepreneur who stands or falls on sales and profit. 

Take a leaf out of the modern politicians book… 

Find out what people want and then set about delivering it to them. Don’t waste time and energy trying to sell what you think they need. Sell them what they want instead. And don’t fall in love with your product. Be prepared to adapt and change it into a form that will attract the maximum number of buyers. 

As a politician it’s what makes you a contemptible opportunist ~ but as a marketer it’s what makes you rich.   

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 John Harrison

The World’s Most Successful Author Shock!

If I asked you to name the most successful author of the millennium so far, I think you might come up with writers like J K Rowling, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown and John Grisham, but I doubt you’d come up with the right answer. And yet he’s a man whose had more bestsellers over the past five years, than all those four – combined! 

His name is James Patterson, and it’s ‘own up to ignorance time’ for me, because I’d never even heard of him until yesterday. Which is a bit worrying because he sells over £60 million worth of books a year. I must pay more attention. 

Anyway, what’s interesting is how he does it, because it carries with it, some invaluable insight for anyone who wants to make a great deal of money – no matter what the field. 

Unlike most other authors, Patterson doesn’t stick to one genre. He creates books that he thinks people will buy, irrespective of the genre. So he starts with the market, and then creates products to fit. Very few authors do this, and not enough business people do it either. They fall in love with a product rather than a market. This is a big mistake. A so-so product put into the right market will always make more money than a fantastic one put into the wrong one. 

Patterson doesn’t write books he likes, or even ones he would want to read himself. He creates books that the maximum number of people will want to buy. 

Once he’s identified a ‘hot’ market, he knows that output is going to be critical to capitalising on the opportunity. So rather than operate like most authors who agonise over every word for years, he employs a team of co-writers who work to his brief and produce the first drafts. This enables him to work fast ~ getting up to six books a year out on the market. So he never has all his eggs in one basket at any one time – and he has plenty of baskets. 

That’s another valuable lesson no matter what business you’re in. If you insist on doing everything yourself, it’s very difficult to fully capitalise on an opportunity, or indeed to create multiple revenue streams. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. 

James Patterson is an author, but he’s clearly very much an entrepreneur too. I’m not in a position to comment on his ability as a writer, but my guess is that there are many others out there of equal talent who are struggling to make a living – let alone raking in sales of over £60 million a year. The difference is that he finds out what the market wants, gives it to them in volume, milks it for all it’s worth ~ and then is adaptable enough to move on to the next ‘big thing’ when a new opportunity presents itself. 

When you take that approach, almost any idiot can make money… 

And I should know! 

 John Harrison

ARE YOU A FISH OUT OF WATER?

I watched a fascinating programme about longevity on BBC2 the other evening. It featured societies where people tend to live much longer than the average. There was a lot of interesting stuff to come out of it, but what the researchers have found in Japan, has wider implications than for health and longevity. 

In the Okinawa islands, the population routinely expect to live ~ and be healthy ~ well into their nineties. The reasons aren’t totally clear, but it’s thought to be something to do with the traditional soya protein-based diet, and the fact that the people there tend to eat very little by western standards. 

Now here’s what’s interesting… 

The fact that the people thrive on that diet and lifestyle is down to their heredity ~ what their ancestors have experienced and endured throughout the centuries. Their bodies have geared up, and adapted, to thrive on it. If you or I were to take up the same regime, we wouldn’t necessarily get the same results though. 

This is borne out by what happens when the young Okinawa leave the islands and live in the city. When they move to a more western-based lifestyle, not only do they lose all the benefits of their heredity, but they actually fare worse than their contemporaries, who have been brought up in that environment. Their life expectancy actually falls below the average. 

They have evolved to thrive in a completely different environment. Their heredity offers no benefits in the new environment, but massive ones in their natural one. 

I’m sure this is a phenomenon which stretches way beyond the health and longevity arena. We all have skills, attributes and predispositions, and if we’re not getting the results and outcomes we want, it could because we’re applying them in the wrong environment. 

A Formula One car is awe-inspiring on a track, but wouldn’t get you out of your own street in the real world. A 50cc scooter would be totally useless on a motorway, but would get you around the centre of London better than anything else. 

Average natural abilities, applied in the right environment are far better, and more effective, than outstanding abilities applied in the wrong one. 

So are you applying your innate and acquired strengths in the right environment, or are you the proverbial fish out of water…or the Okinawan living on fast food? 

If you’ve ever felt you’ve not achieved as much as you deserve, the answer could lay here. 

 John Harrison

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NOW I WANT TO WIN THE LOTTERY

Saturday 18th January 2020 .

You’ve been reading my column’s for a little while now, so I think I can trust you with one of my more embarrassing confessions. I’ve not really told anyone about this, for fear of ridicule, but I spoke to someone the other day, who made me feel better about it. So here it is… 

I don’t want to win the Lottery!

There, I’ve said it. 

I tell people that I don’t do the Lottery because it’s a ‘Numpty Tax’ and there’s little chance of winning. Both of these things are true of course, but the real reason is that I don’t want to win. I’ve always had a vague idea of why I don’t want to win, but a conversation with Geoff Thompson, brought it into sharper focus last week ~ and maybe even gave me cause to change my mind. 

Conversations with Geoff can be strange affairs. He’s a man of very diverse talents and interests and so you find yourself jumping from progress on his latest film, to religious philosophy, to how to render an attacker unconscious…all within the space of a few minutes. 

Anyway, Geoff was telling me about a friend of his who is struggling for money at the moment. The friend said what a lot of people say in such circumstances: “I could do with a bit of luck – I wish I could win the Lottery”. Geoff’s reply (he was in philosophy mode now, not ‘break-yer-neck’ mode) was… 

“Don’t wish for some luck – wish for a journey.” 

As soon as he said it, I realised why I don’t want to win the Lottery – because when you do, it takes you straight to the destination without going on the journey. And it’s only by going on the journey and experiencing the highs, lows, successes and failures along the way, that you can really appreciate the destination. 

It’s pretty well-documented that very few big football pools and lottery winners are any happier after the win than they were before it – and maybe that’s the reason. Because the destination is nothing without the journey, and a big win robs you of the journey. 

If I were to win a ‘life-changing’ amount of money, I think it would diminish the journey I’ve travelled thus far, and demotivate me from embarking on the journeys I’ve plan to make in the future. And that’s another important point that ‘winners’ rarely seem to grasp… 

Once you’ve arrived at one destination, it’s vital that you immediately embark on another journey. The journey is the thing. There’s no ultimate destination ~ not in this life at least. 

Having thought about this a little more (as you probably realise this book is just a vehicle for clarifying my thoughts…you’re just here to be an unpaid counsellor and nod in the right places) I think that maybe I would like to win the Lottery after all. 

You see, if you have the right mindset, winning £20 million or so doesn’t really rob you of future journeys, it just opens up wider opportunities for the journeys you’re able to make. It means changing your plans ~ stepping out of your comfort zone and into new arenas. It means abandoning your planned journey, and finding a new one… 

And all without the metaphorical kick up the backside that needing to put food on the table provides. 

I think I’m up to the job, and would certainly be prepared to take the risk of giving it a try. So now it’s just a case of winning the money… 

Does anyone know how to buy a ticket? 

 John Harrison

BLAMING HELL!

Tuesday 21st January 2020

A bloke called Graham Calvert recently attempted to sue bookmakers William Hill’s for £2 million. He didn’t trip over in one of their shops. Nor did a ceiling fall on his head. Nothing like that. No, what happened is that he lost a fortune betting with them, and he thinks they should have stopped him doing it. 

Apparently they did try! 

He asked for his account to be closed and they duly obliged. But then he secretly opened up another one and lost even more money. So now he’s suing them to get it back. 

I think this is an excellent idea, and sets an interesting precedent… 

I shall be taking out actions against the sweetie shops that sold me indecent quantities of sherbet fountains and penny chews in the late 1960s and early 70s. I shall be seeking to recover the cost of all the resultant dental work. 

And when I’ve got that one under my belt, I shall be tackling all the pubs that have supplied me with too much alcohol over the past 30 years or so. I’m going for the lot with them ~ possible liver damage, pain and distress of hangovers, dry cleaning bills…everything. 

And then it’s those damned car dealers’ turn. They knew I was a mug punter for God’s sake, but they still pushed their expensive shiny cars on me, knowing full well they’d be worth about half as much in two years’ time. They should have stopped me doing it, shouldn’t they? 

Why the heck shouldn’t I jump on the bandwagon? It seems like everyone else is… 

Tripped over a paving stone when you weren’t looking where you were going? Sue the council. They should have shaved an extra three millimetres off that paving stone. Eaten too much and got fat? Don’t blame yourself…go after the fast food restaurants and junk food manufacturers whose crap you ate ~ even though you had a free choice. On the verge of bankruptcy? Take action against the credit card companies and banks that lent you the money you asked for, even lied on your application to get. They shouldn’t have given it to you. 

I’m not sure at what point we changed from taking responsibility for everything in our lives, to taking responsibility for virtually nothing, but it happened at some point in my lifetime. When I was a kid, only the certifiably insane would ever have been protected from the consequences of their own actions. Today, it seems like everything that ever happens to us is someone else’s fault. 

There are no accidents ~ just culpable parties to be sued. There are no personal errors of judgement…just companies who’ve tricked us or unfairly persuaded us to do something contrary to our interests. There are just things and people to blame for everything. 

Here’s why this is so important… 

Because it’s only a short step, from blaming someone else when we trip up, get fat or get into debt, to blaming someone else when our business doesn’t make the profits we feel it should. 

You see, the very first stage in securing the best chance of success with any project, goal or venture is to accept full responsibility for the outcome. To do otherwise is to give us an early exit strategy…an excuse for failure. It’s remarkably easy to give up when we convince ourselves it’s someone else’s fault. Not so easy when we accept that the blame lies fairly and squarely on our own shoulders. 

Adversity happens to everyone. It’s how we react to the adversity that really counts. And those who accept full responsibility for what’s happened to them, almost always react best. 

Postscript 

Following a version of this chapter appearing in my online newsletter, Mike Lee sent me an email about from something called the Stella Awards. Rather than explain, here’s the email:

STELLA AWARDS 

It’s time again for the annual ‘Stella Awards’! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?

That’s right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head-scratcher handy. 

Here are the Stellas for the past year:

7TH PLACE:
Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son. 

6TH PLACE:
Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbour ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbour’s hubcaps. 

5TH PLACE:
Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. 

Worse, he couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count ’em, EIGHT days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner’s insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.

4TH PLACE:
Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stellas when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next-door neighbour’s beagle ~ even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard.

Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

3RD PLACE:
Third place goes to Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. Whatever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

2ND PLACE:
Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a nightclub in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies’ room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the nightclub had to pay her $12,000….oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. 

1ST PLACE:
This year’s runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home from an OU football game, having driven onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her ~ are you sitting down? ~ $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

Alongside that lot, the bloke suing William Hill’s almost seems reasonable. I find it hard to comprehend the thought processes of people making decisions like these. 

There’s another interesting aspect to this though… 

Why are there so many cases like this in the United States? Simple. It’s because there are more lawyers in that country than the rest of the world combined. It’s important to get the causality right though…

There aren’t more lawyers because the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help. No, the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help because there is a proliferation of lawyers. 

Let me explain… 

For many years now, I’ve sold products and services linked to business opportunities. The one question I’ve been asked about every one of them ~ and more times than I care to remember is: 

“But won’t the market become saturated?” 

In almost every case the answer is no, because what happens is that the market is expanded and extended by the influx of newcomers, creating plenty of new business for everyone as a result. Markets aren’t of a fixed size. The size of any market can be increased: by bringing new customers into the market, by selling more of the product or service to existing users, or by selling ‘range extension’ products to both newcomers and existing customers. 

That’s what’s happened to the legal market in the United States, and is happening to a certain extent here too. 

All these qualified lawyers have to find work, and there simply isn’t enough of the traditional work to go around. So what they’ve had to do is to move into new, related areas ~ of which fleecing large corporations with seemingly ridiculous claims is just one. And they’re making a great deal of money at it. 

How have they done it? By marketing themselves and the services they now offer, as hard as they possibly can. 

Now if the market for services connected to the seemingly ‘cast in stone’ law isn’t fixed, it seems unlikely that the market you’re operating in is fixed either. 

The bottom line is that, although it makes sense to be riding a wave rather than swimming against the tide, there’s almost always room in any market for newcomers to move in and prosper on a massive scale.

John Harrison