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Give Yourself a Kick in the Pants

“Motivation follows action.” – Robert Ringer

I met Adela eight years ago, while she was attending her first AWAI copywriting bootcamp. (Like ETR’s Info-Marketing Bootcamp, the copywriting bootcamp is now held every fall in Delray Beach, FL.) She was an energetic, recently divorced, ambitious 36-year-old, bubbling with ideas. “This is the best conference I’ve ever been to,” she told me at the end of the three-day program. “I can’t wait to get back home and get to work.”

I was excited for her. If there was ever someone who seemed charged up and ready to go, it was Adela.

When I saw her at AWAI’s bootcamp the following year, I asked her how her copywriting career had been progressing. “Well, I got derailed,” she admitted. First, there was her father’s death. That stopped her in her tracks. Then, she took a new job in another city. By the time she had adjusted to that, she figured she’d be better off not trying to catch up. “I came to bootcamp this year ready to start again,” she said proudly. “And I’m sure I’ll succeed.”

If attitude were all we needed to reach our goals, this woman was a future superstar. But attitude isn’t enough. So I encouraged her to invest in ETR’s goal-setting program.

“I can understand how emotionally devastating it must have been to lose your dad,” I said. “And I know how unsettling a new job and a new location can be. But if you make this goal – becoming a copywriter – your primary goal right now and follow our goal-setting program, nothing will distract you. You will be able to deal with any interruptions in your life. (I didn’t think I had to mention that life is always full of interruptions.) But while doing so, you’ll keep making progress toward your primary goal.”

She agreed to invest in the goal-setting program, and I didn’t see her for two years. When I saw her at AWAI’s bootcamp again and inquired about her progress, she was defensive. “I don’t have the luxury of being able to spend six hours a day practicing my copywriting skills,” she told me. “I’ve got a full-time job, a charity I work for, friends, family…”

I didn’t want to tell her that virtually everyone I’ve ever mentored has been in exactly the same position – or worse. And I didn’t want to mention that when I was her age I held two full-time jobs and was married and had social obligations. What was the point in arguing with her anyway? She wasn’t going to change. At least I was not going to be able to talk her into it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d decided that what she wanted to do was just what she was doing:

  • Continuing with a life that she herself described as “unfulfilling”
  • Investing a week and a couple of thousand dollars every year or so to come to a copywriting bootcamp and make herself feel better about her future

“I just need to be inspired to get motivated again,” she told me.

“Well, I hope this bootcamp can do that for you,” I said.

I suppose it’s okay to live your life this way. Who am I to tell this lady how to spend her time? Still, it makes me uncomfortable to see someone waste their opportunities.

Every year, because of the instruction and encouragement they receive at the AWAI copywriting bootcamps, dozens of people make the transition from employees to self-employed freelance writers. Many of them make the jump successfully after taking the basic copywriting program and even before finishing the Master’s program. There is nothing the folks at AWAI like better than to receive that handwritten note or e-mail telling them, “Wow! I just got my first professional job!” or “Guess what? My latest package became a control! I got paid $5,000 for a job that took me less than a week to finish!”

What makes the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t?

Here’s what I think: Successful “life changers” don’t wait for everything to be “right.” They don’t wait for:

  • their personal lives to sort themselves out
  • or their work to settle down
  • or the projects they are working on to be completed
  • or the new additions to their houses to be finished
  • or the problems with their in-laws to be resolved

Or… to be inspired.

Best-selling author Robert Ringer believes most successful people have this one trait in common: They don’t wait for motivation. They create motivation through action.

“If I had to wait for motivation to write,” he says, “I never could have written all the books I’ve written.” (He’s written about a half-dozen excellent personal-development books, including three best-sellers

“Like most writers, I spend many mornings staring at my computer, unmotivated and without any definite idea of what I’m going to write.”

If he were in the habit of waiting for inspiration, he would spend too much time waiting, he says. What he does instead is “just start writing.” It doesn’t matter whether his initial writing is any good. So long as he keeps at it for an hour or two, he knows that something good will come along. “Motivation follows action,” he says.

Unless you have a goal, make achieving that goal a priority, and find a way to act on it every day, your chances of succeeding are very slim.

As you may know, I am in the middle of writing my next book, Ready… Fire… Aim. With all my other business responsibilities – not to mention the writing I do for ETR – I can come up with plenty of excuses every day to put off working on the book. If I sat around waiting for inspiration to hit before I typed out a chapter, I’d never get anything done. Instead, I do what Robert Ringer does. I just start writing.

Frank McKinney, a multimillionaire real estate developer, has made the same point in a different way: “You don’t need to wait until you are an expert to start making money in real estate. Get to know your local area by doing a little bit of work every day. Before you know it, you’ll have a good idea about what to buy and when to sell, and then you’ll be on your way to wealth and financial independence. But you have to start right away. Start immediately and then keep going. Do something every day, even if it’s only something that takes five or 10 minutes.”

Whether you’re an aspiring copywriter like Adela (who, as far as I know, is still waiting to be inspired to transition from bootcamp attendee to full-fledged copywriter), a would-be entrepreneur, or a mountain-climber dying to tackle Mount Everest, get out there and do something – every day – to advance your goal.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]