I recently ran across three heirloom, handwritten signs that I had pinned on my wall in my early days as a writer. The signs were positioned so that whenever I looked up from my Selectric typewriter, they were staring me in the face. Had it not been for my internalizing the words on these three signs, I doubt I would have become a successful author.
The reason I want to share these signs with you today is because I believe the rules they convey apply pretty much to any profession.
Sign No. 1: Force yourself to write; once you get going, don’t stop to congratulate yourself.
Most wannabe writers make both of these mistakes. They wait to become motivated before they begin writing, which is why they remain wannabes. After more than two decades of experience, trust me: You will rarely be motivated to write.
What separates most writers from non-writers is that true writers take action and start putting words on the computer regardless of whether or not they are motivated. In my experience, after I force myself to start writing, I find that a seamless transition takes place and I become motivated.
There is no mystery to this. What happens is that once you begin writing, it stimulates your brain and body cells and gets your creative juices flowing. Which in turn revs up your motivation. I learned this through experience while writing my first book. I felt it was such an important point that I made up a sign, tacked it on my wall, and read it every morning before I had a chance to start piddling around with procrastination projects. Writing is not about the future; writing is about putting your hands on the keyboard now.
As to the second part of the sign – once you get going, don’t stop to congratulate yourself – I added these words because I found I had a tendency to stop and admire my work every time I got on a roll. While it may have appeared to be self-adulation, the truth of the matter is that I just possessed an ingenious knack for coming up with excuses for procrastinating.
I finally faced up to the reality that I had mastered the art of procrastination. But it wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that the words on this sign applied not only to writing but to just about any other profession. For example, if you’re in sales – which, to one extent or another, just about everyone is – you have to force yourself to make contact with potential buyers.
Every salesperson knows that the most important determinant when it comes to achieving consistent results is his willingness to apply action and rely on a powerful universal principle known as the law of averages. If you want results, the law of averages literally guarantees to deliver them to you, provided you supply the action.
Likewise, salespeople have to avoid falling into the trap of congratulating themselves after every sale. One of the reasons I achieved mega-success as a real estate broker years before I became a writer is that as soon as I got a check in my hand, no matter how big it was, I was off to work on the next deal.
Regardless of the business you’re in, don’t coddle yourself. Celebrating deal closings is for amateurs. If you want to celebrate, do it by quickly moving on to the next deal.
Sign No. 2: Simplicity is crucial. Can the reader quickly and clearly understand what you are trying to say? Eliminate verbal furniture.
I learned this little gem from William Strunk’s timeless classic The Elements of Style. Even though the book is very old, everything Strunk said in it still holds true today, especially the little jewel that follows:
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
Simplicity is a crucial aspect of quality writing. I constantly remind would-be writers that the power of the understatement is enormous.
I’m always amazed at how many extraneous words and sentences I find in draft after draft of everything I write. I’m even more amazed by how many extraneous words and sentences people leave in their finished works – from books to e-mails. Day in and day out, I read words and sentences that detract from the main point that the writer appears to be attempting to make.
Each of the three sentences on Sign No. 2 applies to your business, whatever it may be. For example, when you present a deal to someone, simplicity is crucial. Don’t clutter up your presentation with verbal furniture. If you add unnecessary words or sentences, all you accomplish is to make it more difficult for the prospect to understand your main point or points.
That, in turn, makes it more difficult for him to make a decision. When making a presentation, remember that you’re not there to give a speech or impress the other person with your knowledge. Your sole focus should be on closing the deal.
This is especially true if you’re trying to raise money: (1) Tell the person exactly what you want from him; (2) tell him precisely what you intend to do with the money; then, (3) tell him what’s in it for him if things work out precisely as you have projected. Everything else is fluff.
Sign No. 3: Don’t try to be all things to all people. Go after a specific market, and don’t make apologies to those who aren’t part of that market.
Authors are just like anyone else – they want to be loved. Or at least admired and respected. But this is a human need that can be fatal to a writer. If you try to please everyone – or, the corollary, try not to offend anyone – you become a “mushy” writer. By mushy, I mean someone whose message is not clear-cut.
If you’re an author, you don’t want to sell ten thousand books to sleepwalking people who see you as a politically correct boy scout who preaches conventional wisdom. The idea is to sell one million books to a market of people who see you as different from other writers in your genre who are all preaching the same thing.
However, when you’re different from others in the pack, realize that there will be a lot of people who will not like what you have to say, and some who will even hate it for it. Which is okay. It’s a big marketplace out there.
Regardless of the business you’re in, if you try to be all things to all people, you’re likely to end up without an enthusiastic, loyal group of customers. Go after a specific market, and don’t make apologies to those who don’t like your product or service.
People who have no interest in what you’re selling haven’t committed a crime. They’ve just voted with their pocketbooks. No big deal. They just aren’t part of your market.
Instead of letting it bother you, take your desire to please everyone and convert it into energy aimed at improving the product or service you sell to your market. The people who like what you produce are the ones who deserve your time and attention. A relatively small but loyal following can secure, at a minimum, a very nice lifestyle for you and your family.
Please be my guest and customize these three signs to fit your own unique situation. Then, hang them on your wall where you can review them daily. I guarantee that they’ll make a difference in your results.
[Ed. Note: If you're ready for a treasure chest of proven ideas, strategies, and techniques that are guaranteed to dramatically improve your dealmaking skills - and, in the process, increase your income many times over - you won't want to miss Robert Ringer's bestselling audio series, A Dealmaker's Dream.
Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. His recently released work, Restoring the American Dream: The Defining Voice in the Movement for Liberty, is a clarion call to liberty-loving citizens to take back the country. Ringer has appeared on numerous national talk shows and has been the subject of feature articles in such major publications as Time, People, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Barron's, and The New York Times. To sign up for his e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, visit www.robertringer.com.]