Taking the Big Leap

Sometime in your business career, you will have a chance to do something or sell something – and it will be obvious to you that you are looking at a great opportunity. However, you will realize that you simply don’t have the time, the knowledge, or the resources to meet that challenge. If you are sensible, you will probably say “No thanks,” and bow out. But – if the opportunity is really extraordinary – you might want to try the Grand Canyon Jump.

I’m thinking of Robbie Knievel’s now-famous motorcycle jump over the Grand Canyon. (Robbie Knievel is son of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel.) The story I heard was that the idea was based on his father’s failed attempt at the same stunt.

I remember one of the very first times I took a “Grand Canyon Jump” – albeit in a much less bold way. It was nearly 10 years ago. Early to Rise was brand-new, and I was still learning how to apply my direct-marketing background to the Internet. I got an invitation to speak at a seminar about Internet marketing. Trouble was, I knew next to nothing about the subject. Certainly not enough to make a speech about it. (Number One Rule of Effective Speaking: Know what you’re talking about.)

But I agreed to make the presentation, because I figured it would force me to think about this important and growing part of my business. Not only did I agree to talk, I agreed to a title for my speech (“7 Myths About the Internet and 7 Ways to Profit From It”) that was – given my experience at the time – audacious.

Since then, I have made the leap many times. (This is what’s behind my “Ready, Fire, Aim” philosophy.)

When I really want to do something but have no idea how to do it, I don’t just agree to do it – I promise myself that I will do it very well. I set a high hurdle for myself. I suppose what I’m doing is fueling my drive with the fear of humiliation.

But it works. Most of the time.

In the case of my “7 Myths About the Internet” speech, I pushed myself because I had to. By reading about what others have done. Observing what my own employees were doing – what was working and what was failing miserably. Trying some stuff on my own. And I made remarkable progress. In fact, after only two months, I had gotten to the point where 80 percent of what I read about Internet marketing either (1) bored me because it was so simple, or (2) infuriated me because it was so obviously wrong.

As the weeks passed and the day of the presentation grew nearer, I found myself thinking harder about the subject. More than ever, I was aware of how other media (direct mail, print advertising, etc.) reminded me of the Internet. Bit by bit, ideas were coming together.

When the event finally took place, I had come up with about a dozen useful ideas and observations that felt right. Many of these defied conventional wisdom. Then, when I heard what other presenters were saying – their accounts of what succeeded and failed for them – it all made sense.

My presentation worked. It felt good. I was full of energy when I gave it, thinking, “Hey, this really is important!” And I got a good reaction from the audience. Most important, I got what I hoped to get: a foundation of ideas that have helped me – and will continue to help me – make money on the Internet.

These days, trying to do anything in addition to holding onto your job may seem like an enormous challenge. And rightly so. But that’s all the more reason to make the Grand Canyon Jump.

Think about one thing that you have not done or  declined to do that could be very good for your career long term. It could be something general, like learning how to sell on the Internet… or something more specific, like making your next sales presentation or pay-per-click campaign work.

Next step is to announce your intention. Contact the appropriate parties and let them know what you’ve decided to do.

Finally, set a high standard for yourself. Set the standard so high that it seems foolish or pretentious – and then start thinking about how you can actually achieve it.

You can’t change the laws of physics. Robbie Knievel jumped over a “narrow” segment of the Grand Canyon rather than going for its widest section. But he got over it. And it gave him not only the temporary career boost he was looking for but also a stunt that he will always be remembered for.”

So what’s it going to be? When – and how – are you going to make your Grand Canyon Jump?

[Ed. Note: As a special thank you to our best customers, Michael has started a new VIP service in which he gives insider business-building advice usually reserved for his private clients – a twice-weekly newsletter called Ready Fire Aim: The Michael Masterson Dispatch. If you have bought an ETR product or attended a conference and are not receiving Ready Fire Aim, please let us know by sending an e-mail to Michael@ETRfeedback.com.

Correction: In the 2/23 issue of Early to Rise, we mistakenly attributed the Grand Canyon jump to Evel Knievel instead of to his son, Robbie Knievel.] [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.]

  • I think that having the courage to take the leap is more than half the battle. Once over that hurdle it
    is just making sure that you learn whatever is necessary to succeed at whatever it is that you wish to do.

    Michelle Jayes

  • Willard Ferguson

    I met Evel many years ago after his glory days. I was attending a seminar in Atlanta on quality control and had gone to the bar for a drink. He was there, surrounded by two bodyguards.

    He was loud mouthed, drunk and cursing everyone in sight. Whatever respect I had for him disappeared that night. All I could think was what a fool he had been to risk his life so many times. All of the fame was fleeting. It had come down to being a drunken bum who had no manners.