Lessons on Fear and Criticism

Last week one of my clients launched her first e-course.

About 72 hours before the first launch, we were on the phone and she asked me, "When did you know you were an expert?"

I had to take a moment to think about it, and I realized that the feeling of "expert" never really comes.

I easily have the 10,000 hours under my belt (also the bad eyesight that comes with staring at paper/computer screens for that long), I have my degree in writing (and the loans to prove it), and I my adult career is as a writer.

All along this path, there was never a moment where I declared myself an expert. No light shined out of the sky giving me super writing powers. No one crowned me an expert.

This is the secret you learn along the path: Even experts realize how far they have to go and how much they can still learn.

You'll never feel ready, that's why you have to start anyway.

Even Napoleon Hill was terrified to write Think and Grow Rich; one of the most popular books of all time. He thought that he wasn't an expert and had no credentials to write that book.

He also mentioned one of the greatest fears we all face besides thinking we aren't experts: Fear of being criticized by those we know.

After being on the internet for over 10+ years now and constantly putting myself out there, it is true that the negative comments can get to you. I haven't figured out a solution to this problem yet, but as soon as I do I will let you know.

Recently I have been getting in my own way and I'm sharing this with you because I want you to know that sometimes even after years of experience, it doesn't always get easier.

Sometimes you still feel like a newbie.
Sometimes you still wonder if you're good enough.
Sometimes you wonder if you should just quit and become a stripper.

You still have to share your gifts anyway. We all have to.

There are so many people who need the knowledge that each one of us has inside of our brain, even if it doesn't feel like it's enough.

You never know who you can help. You never how you might change the world.

Even if you get in your own way as you go, get back on the horse.

The only time you truly fail is when you quit forever.

The Marketing Idea That Changed Everything

Your branding has nothing to do with you.

That's right. I said it.

I wasted so much time trying to "brand myself" and "position myself as an expert" and blah blah blah. Believe me, they're semi-important, but not as much as the marketing revelation my brain finally cracked.

First, a little background story.

Recently, I have been helping a lot of personal trainers build their brand online. (BTW if you're a trainer and you're not on Instagram, what are you doing with your life?)

I have spent months trying to crack the code of what gets a trainer popular online. (Which you could also apply to almost any industry.) Here is what I finally discovered:

Building a brand has nothing to do about the brand owner and everything to do about the customer.

Here is how I wasted my time: Trying to decide my "ideal customer" and "target market". What would they wear? What do they think about? What do they do? What is their personality like?

Fuck all of that. Seriously. Skip it.


If it works for you, that's cool. But I would bet that you have followed all these guru's for months, if not years, and it hasn't changed shit about your business.

So, here's how to position it instead:

What does following and supporting my brand give my customer to say about THEMSELVES?

Let me break it down.

So, one huge brand in the fitness world is Flag Nor Fail.

The two owners, Rob and Dana Linn Bailey, are badass as all hell. Alone, they could have built a pretty cool brand. But that is not the secret to getting to the big leagues.

The secret is in what their brand stands for. Flag Nor Fail stands for exactly what it says: You will never fail or surrender, you will work hard, hustle is everything, you will do whatever it takes to succeed, etc.

By following them, sharing their stuff, and buying their clothes, their fans are using their brand to remind the people around them that they also follow those values.

The problem is that too many people try to build a brand around themselves instead of building a brand based on an ideal outside themselves.

People share information from brands that speak to who they are as a person.

When you create content, ask yourself: "What are they telling their social circle about themselves by sharing this?"

This is why your branding has to stand for something big. Freedom. Happiness. Breaking the rules. Hustling. Seeing the world. It doesn't matter what it is, it has to be something.

Think about all the brands you love, something about each one of them SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT YOU. When you support them, you are reminding everyone WHO YOU ARE.

Now that I have helped my clients identify their big goals and values, we focus on building a brand around those goals and values, not around them.

Too many people are on the internet wondering, "Why doesn't anyone care about me?" instead of asking, "What do I care about and how can I create a rally cry to build a mini army to help us all reach our similar goals?"

List your top three values that your brand stands for.
Build your brand around those values.
Create content that speaks to the heart of those values.
BOOM. Raging fans.

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What I Learned About Writing By Hiking A Fourteener

When I hiked a fourteener last summer, I literally thought it was going to kill me.

In case you don't know what a fourteener is, it is a mountain that goes above 14,000 feet in elevation.

Although that experience was dreadful while it was happening, there are a lot of things I learned after completing it that relate to writing:

1. The journey up is the hardest part.

If you're someone who is trying to become a successful business owner or even a successful copywriter, it is the journey to the top that is the worst. You keep putting one foot in front of the other and the top looks so far away and you're convinced you'll never make it to the top.

But once you're AT the top, the hardest part is over.

Having faith you'll MAKE it to the top is what will really test your internal character.

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Look at that cocky face. "Oh this is gonna be easy."

2. No amount of "reading" or preparation will ever prepare you for the moment when it's actually happening.

Most of us are caught up in the "I just need more information" stage before launching. I could have read every book in the world about hiking a fourteener, but not a single one of them would have made the journey any easier.

I have also noticed this about writing. You can read every blog out there and constantly be stuck in the research phase, but if you don't just put pen to paper and get writing or start building your business, then it isn't going to go anywhere.

Sure, there are tips and tricks to help the process not suck as hard, but none of that information will do the hike for you.

It is less about the gear you have, and it is so much more about the internal toughness you build along your journey. The good shoes and the good backpack surely helped, but it was the internal battle to keep going that made the journey a success.

3. About halfway to success, you're going to want to quit.

Here is a great picture of me after I had almost passed out, thrown up, and thought I was going to die:

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About halfway in your journey, you're going to feel like, "Okay, I've had enough. This sucks. Everything hurts. I don't want to do it anymore."

I have noticed the same thing about writing. You hit a point as a writer where you think, "No one is ever going to care about what I have to say. No clients are going to hire me. I'm never going to finish this stupid book."

Just remember: YOU'RE HALFWAY THERE.

Even if you have to take crying / throwing up breaks, just pause and catch your breath. Relax and then just keep putting one foot (or word) in front of the other.

4. You're going to have to check your pride at the door.

I made the mistake of thinking, "How hard can this really be?"

Well, it was damn hard.

My little Michigan lungs were dying as soon as we hit the point where the trees disappear and the oxygen drops incredibly.

I had gone with a bunch of hiking experts who were three times my age and they literally made it to the top two hours before I did.

There is nothing that will check your pride harder than being around people who consider a fourteener not much harder than a brisk walk around the block.

(That brings me to another point: If you are already successful, you don't have to be such an asshole to the people just starting out. Everyone starts somewhere. You weren't born successful. Keep that in mind after you get to the top.)

But here's the thing: Even though I struggled, and it definitely wasn't as easy for me as it was for them, but in the end, we all hiked the same damn mountain. We went up and down the same trail. Sure, they got there faster, but I'll be damned if I didn't do it, too.

So although you may see people around you who are maybe going faster than you are, and maybe you're struggling more than they are, the view from the top is still the same, great view.

You WILL get there.

Ignore the people doing laps around you, they don't matter. If they're not willing to help you, forget them. Soon enough you'll be up and down the mountain, and when you do it again, you'll be the one helping someone else.

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This character trait is what makes someone legendary. No one remembers the person who was too busy to help others along the way, but everyone remembers the person who helped anyone they could.

All that matters along the way is that you didn't quit. You kept going, whether it was fast or slow, you didn't turn around. THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

Don't quit.