Living and Dying On Third Base

Tomorrow's my 26th birthday, and in the spirit of growing up, I'd like to share a little story about how a recent conversation changed my life for the better.

I was talking to an old college buddy last week. This guy is one of the smartest people I know; he recently left his lucrative finance job to join a prestigious doctoral program in economics.

I knew my friend was passionate about the economy. Moreover, he has a very genuine desire to change the world for the better. Nevertheless, I was a little curious.

“Look buddy, I know you want to create an impact, and that’s great. But what about all the financial upside you’ll be giving up. Going the academic route is a tough gig…and there’s no guarantee of any reward at the end of the tunnel.”

My friend paused for a moment, and then replied:

Continue reading Living and Dying On Third Base →

Dean Graziosi and the Power of the Infomercial

(note: I do not receive any money from Dean Graziosi as a result of this post)

A few nights ago, I was flipping channels on my television when I stumbled upon an “informational program” about how to make money from real estate investing.

The “show” was hosted by Dean Graziosi, a self-made millionaire who has create a whole suite of information products (videos, books, tapes, and membership programs) on how to profit from purchasing and flipping homes.

My first instinct was to turn off the TV, but then I had a thought: this guy is obviously successful. He’s making a ton of money by selling people on informational products and can even afford to promote them with these 30-minute infomercials.

So what is he doing right? I need to find out, and the best way to do that is to keep watching…

I grabbed a notebook and started writing down everything I noticed. Thirty minutes later, I had come to several interesting conclusions.

Continue reading Dean Graziosi and the Power of the Infomercial →

TME Podcast 004: Outsourcing and Personal Branding With Tyrone Shum

In today's episode of the TME Podcast, I am pleased to have Tyrone Shum from Mass Outsource. Tyrone is an up-and-coming blogger, internet marketer, and all-around cool guy. Like Chris Ducker, who was a guest on a previous episode, Tyrone is also an expert and leading authority on effective outsourcing practices. 

As I show in my own monthly reports, outsourcing really is one of the best ways to quickly and affordably scale your business, no matter what your industry or focus, and Tyrone has a lot of great insights on how to successfully build your own operation.

But Tyrone also has some very interesting thoughts on personal branding. In just the last couple of years, Tyrone has quickly gone from an unknown to a leading expert within his niche. He has gotten to the point where people are willing to pay him lots of money for his expertise, and I was intrigued on how he built the right relationships to get him to this point so quickly.

In this episode, Tyrone and I talk about:

  • How to develop, manage, and retain a great outsourcing team
  • The techniques Tyrone used to cultivate his personal online brand
  • Some of the projects Tyrone has going forward in building diversified streams of income.


Untitled from Vik Tantry on Vimeo.

The Difference: Success and Significance

It was the summer of 2003, a few months before I started my first semester of college. I was an energetic but confused eighteen year old kid. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that being “successful” was definitely a part of it.

One night, I watched a movie called the Emperor’s Club. It is a story about a history teacher, Will Hundert, and his students at an elite prep school. On the first day of class, Hundert points up to a plaque on his wall, and asks his students to read it:

I am Shutruk-Nahunte [sic], King of Anshan and Susa, sovereign of the land of Elam. By the command of Inshushinak, I destroyed Sippar and took the stele of Niran-Sin and brought it back to Elam, where I erected it as an offering to my god, Inshushinak.

- Shutruk-Nahunte 1158 BC

Hundert then asks his class whether any of them have heard of Shutruk-Nahunte before. He is met with silence.

How is it that one of the most dominant kings in ancient history is virtually unknown? According to Mr. Hundert, this is because “great ambition and conquest, without contribution, is without significance.”

He then turns to his class and asks a simple question:

What will your contribution be?

Fast forward to 2006. I was at a technology conference featuring some of the smartest businesspeople in the world. The keynote panelist was John Doerr, a legendary investor who has made billions of dollars betting on companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon.

Doerr spent a good amount of time discussing his methods for being successful. But he shifted gears towards the end of his talk. Instead of simply focusing on success, he decided to emphasize the importance of significance.

“We live in a world that focuses on success. But while success is important, it means nothing without significance. Significance is the ability to make an impact beyond yourself, something for the greater good. Success makes a good investor, but significance is what makes a good person.”

My mind suddenly flashed back to the Emperor’s club. Sure, I had goals of being successful, but how was I going to become significant? How could I make a truly positive impact that will benefit others in a significant, meaningful way?

This realization is what drove me to pursue more entrepreneurial endeavors. I started my career at a bank, moving money from Point A to Point B. I was on track to being successful, but I wasn’t doing anything significant. As an entrepreneur, I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’m constantly striving to provide products and services that will help people…while simultaneously putting money in my pocket.

In fact, the idea of long-term significance was a big motivator for me to start blogging. Ultimately, my goal is to build a powerful platform for impacting, motivating, and connecting with the world.

Business should be a win-win, and that’s what the combination of success and significance is all about. Just remember that they aren’t always one and the same.

How do you plan to be successful…and significant? Please share in the comments

Avoiding The Downward Spiral

Back in college, I was working on a group project. Everyone in the group had different ideas on how to solve a problem, and for some reason the discussion got very personal and heated. A couple of us lost our cool and said some things that shouldn’t have been said. I ended up storming out of the meeting in disgust.

I was still in a bad mood when I met my girlfriend for dinner. “Those guys are the biggest @#$@ I’ve ever worked with! It’s impossible…” My girlfriend listened patiently as I ranted on and she made an effort to calm me down.

The problem was that I didn’t feel like calming down; I was still looking for a fight. My girlfriend and I ended up having a huge argument over something silly and irrelevant.

Later that night, I was trying to study for an exam, but I felt exhausted. I was emotionally drained. I had calmed down at this point, but couldn’t stop thinking about trying to reconcile things with my girlfriend and group project team. I couldn’t focus and ended up doing poorly on my exam the next day.

Continue reading Avoiding The Downward Spiral →

How MedHelp Attracts 11 Million Visitors Each Month

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to interview John DeSouza, CEO of online health community Medhelp. Medhelp is an amazing online success story; with more than 11,000,000 unique visitors per month, it is one of the most visited sites on the internet and a powerhouse in the medical answers space. It also generates millions of dollars each year in revenue through its unique and effective advertising model. 

Here are some of the lessons I learnt:

Back To Basics

I like John because he's a very practical guy. In a day and age where people start and run businesses on crazy ideas, John has managed to keep a level head. He focuses all his business decisions around two simple questions – is there a real need, and is there a business model. Everything that Medhelp does is focused around answering these questions effectively. 

This may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many silly business mistakes can be avoided by just asking these questions before jumping into a new project.

Growing The Traffic

John takes a very disciplined approach to growing traffic at MedHelp. The key is engagement. You want to create a community that provides valuable content to the community, while encouraging the community to provide as much information as possible.

To this end, John has rolled out a suite of tools that allow visitors to learn more about their health. He determined which tools to design by asking both patients and doctors what they wanted most. This way, he'd cater to the community's needs more effectively.

MedHelp also has a rigorous process in place to enforce good behavior within the community. Spam and offensive language are quickly detected and removed using automated software. Medhelp also employs a team of 10 people to manually monitor the community 24 hours per day.

John stresses that this oversight is necessary in order to maintain the brand and credibility of the site – this is NOT an area where you want to cut resources. 

The Importance of Segmentation

As a community grows larger, it attracts numerous visitors with very different needs. What works for one type of visitor may not work for others. Therefore, it's important to segment visitors and quickly direct them to areas on the site that will benefit them the most.

Remember, it is trivially easy to leave a website, and adding value from the start is the only way to maximize retention.

This is also true for advertising. Medhelp sells all of its ads in-house, and emphasizes the importance of targeted, interactive ads. Engaged users are much more likely to produce referrals for doctors, which is a major source of revenue for the site. 

What Goes Around…Comes Around

One of the nice thing about the internet is that it rewards people for adding value. If you create good content and let people know about it, they’ll share it with others who might also benefit. This “word-of-mouth” marketing is far more powerful than any spammy advertising could ever be.

This, more than anything else, is the mentality that has made Medhelp successful since Day 1. Give the people what they want, and they will give you a wonderful, thriving business.

It’s that simple. 

Zappos and the “Right People”

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is one of my all-time favorite people. In 1998, he sold his first company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for nearly $300 million. A couple of years later, he took over the helm at Zappos, and grew it into the largest online shoe retailer in the world. The company was eventually bought by Amazon for more than $1 billion.

But what really stands out about Tony is his humility. Even after all of his accomplishments, he gives himself surprisingly little credit.

Instead, he attributes his success to finding the “right people.

When Tony took over at Zappo, he decided to conduct a unique experiment when hiring. Every new employee, regardless of age, experience, or position, is required to take part in a four-week training program on Zappo’s culture and business practices. One week in, all the new employees get what is called “The Offer.” They are told that if they leave immediately, they will receive a check for $3,000 plus all the time they have worked so far.

When Zappos first announced this policy, many people were aghast. They couldn’t believe that Zappos would spend all this time and money on recruiting, just to turn around and give the new hires an opportunity to leave – and not just an opportunity, but an added bonus! Didn’t they want these people to stick around?

But when you think about it, it all boils down to a simple rule of thumb:

Whether you win or lose, find out fast.

On average, approximately 2-3% of new employees at Zappos take the money and run. Chances are that the few employees who left immediately would have bolted for a better offer the first chance they got. At that point, the costs of replacing them would be substantially higher.

The other 97% – the people who stayed – were those who truly believed in the company and culture. They weren’t in it for immediate gains; they actually saw the job as a long-term investment. This has increased employee retention, reduced costs, and allowed the company to devote more resources to the ultimate goal of outstanding customer service.

What do you think about Zappos’ hiring policy?

The Secret To Overcoming Your Lizard Brain

Have you ever really wanted to do something but had this strange resistance holding you back?

I've had this feeling all too many times, and I've never been able to understand it, until I read Seth Godin's “Linchpin.” in Seth’s words, a Linchpin is an “…an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”

When I first heard about the book, the idea sounded like typical, run-of-the-mill self-help advice – not what I would expect from an original thinker like Seth Godin. I couldn’t have been more wrong – once again, Seth has taken a unique approach to explain some timely ideas.

One key concept in the book is “Overcoming Your Lizard Brain.” Seth explains that the Lizard Brain is our natural instinct that kicks in when there’s a big fear or opportunity. That uncertainty makes us want to free, to retreat to where we feel most comfortable. The lizard in us does not want change and resists any chance of discomfort – even if it could result in a huge success.

Here’s the Lizard Brain in Seth’s words:

The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival. A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain. The only correct answer to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is “Because its lizard brain told it to.” Wild animals are wild because the only brain they possess is a lizard brain. The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing. The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.

I suddenly had an epiphany: the Lizard Brain is the reason for the “should-haves” in my life. Every time I wish I had done something – whether it was asking a girl out on a date or starting a new venture – there was always a voice in the back of my head telling me NOT to take the chance. This raw impulse overcame my rational thoughts and clouded my decision. More often than not, I’ve looked back and regretted it.

The effects of the lizard brain are everywhere. We see them in our companies, when we spend months on a project only to decide last-minute that maybe this product just doesn’t make sense any more. We say that we want to lose weight and then decide that it’s an impossible goal – after all, we can’t control our metabolism. We aren’t fooling anyone…except ourselves.

The Lizard Brain exists for a reason. There are times when it’s good to be cautious. But we live in a world where we can’t know all the answers. Are you sure that the product will fail? Are you absolutely positive that losing weight is so impossible? The next time you are trying to resist a change in your life, take a moment and think about it. Is it really that bad, or is it just your lizard brain talking?

So how do we overcome our Lizard Brain? Here are a few ideas:

Stop Procrastinating: It is so easy to put things off until later…especially when there’s a big chance involved. Fight this urge. If you want to do something, do it now. Opportunities are time-sensitive; if you wait too long, it might be too late.

Make a To-Do List: You’ve probably heard this before, but that doesn’t make it any less important. We’re all so overloaded that it gets really hard to stick to your “to-do” lists. The next time you feel like checking the news or your e-mail, take a moment to look at your to-do list first. It’s the single best way to get back on track.

Understand The Endgame: Always ask yourself why you want to do something. For me, I eventually want to write a best-selling book based on this blog. This vision gives me the motivation to keep on putting out the best material I can, even when I feel exhausted or scared of being a failure.

Have you ever wished you’d done something but instead had your lizard brain take over?

TME Podcast Episode 003: Rapidly Building A Profitable Internet Presence with Tyler Tervooren

Today’s episode of the TME Podcast features Tyler Tervooren from the Advanced Riskology blog. Tyler caught my attention because of his meteoric rise from unknown to big-time blogger; in its first few months, Advanced Riskology has managed to grow from a few readers to more than 2,000 subscribers.

Tyler has also monetized his traffic effectively through the launch of his flagship product, the Guerilla Influence Formula, which teaches you his step-by-step process for building a huge audience. Tyler provides a “1,000 subscriber guarantee,” which means that if you don’t get 1,000 subscribers to your blog within 12 months, he’ll refund 100% of your money.

In this episode, we’ll talk about:

  • Tyler’s motivation to start Advanced Riskology
  • His long-term vision for the blog
  • Some of his “ninja tactics” for building an audience
  • Specific numbers behind the success of his Guerilla Influence Formula

Listen to the podcast or watch the video below. You can also download the MP3 audio file here. 

Monthly Outsourcing Report: March 2011

It’s time for the second monthly outsourcing report! I started this report last month to share some of my experience and projects in outsourcing, how much I’m spending, and the types of things I’m accomplishing.

After publishing my first report last month, I received a flood of questions, and I want to take a moment to discuss a few of them here:

  • Do you reveal your monthly income? No, and I don’t plan to any time soon. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest is that I perform certain consulting projects and cannot really talk about what I am being paid on these. If you’re interested in this, my friend Pat Flynn has a very popular monthly income report.
  • These numbers are cool, but I’d like to learn more about the process: Absolutely. Going forward I’ll emphasize some of the processes I use to effectively outsource work, find and retain great talent, and keep my projects moving along at an affordable price point. Please continue the great feedback; my goal is to make these reports as helpful as possible and the best way to do that is to learn from you.
  • What is your “secret project?” Still can’t talk about it too much =). But I will be talking a little more about it in this report, so keep reading. Also be sure follow up in future months for more information!

Ok, on to the report!

Continue reading Monthly Outsourcing Report: March 2011 →