The 25-50-25 Formula for Business Success

“I was quite eager to learn about marketing, and began reading everything associated with it,” one of my subscribers, KM, told me in a recent e-mail. “However, with AWAI’s Golden Thread e-zine, ETR, and, of course your insightful newsletter, I find myself reading more than applying. How do I sift through the worthy (but time-consuming) information that would benefit my business? Sometimes I force myself to read, fearful I may overlook some exceptional nugget. Help! Where do I stop?”

I hear similar stories all the time…

You are interested in some aspect of marketing – whether it is copywriting, Internet marketing, whatever. But you are overwhelmed by all the information being offered on the subject. (After all, we live in the Information Age.)

So you go “information crazy”… buying every course, attending every conference, reading every e-book, listening to every recording, and dialing into every teleseminar you can find.

Before you know it, a month… six months… or a year has gone by – and you are no closer to your business or career goal. That’s because you’ve spent all your time reading, studying, and learning the thing you are interested in… rather than actually DOING it.

Sadly, you are suffering from a syndrome I call “analysis paralysis.”

All the information you are taking in has overloaded your circuits. You can’t process it all, sort through it, and figure out what to do first. So, instead, you do nothing. You take no action – other than to order yet another course or report to read.

You have become a marketing-information junkie – avoiding the harsh realities of the business world by retreating to your favorite comfy chair with yet another neat marketing book.

You spend all your time reading about starting a business. So there is no time left to actually start or run a business. You are an “armchair entrepreneur” – more enamored with the idea of entrepreneurship than the actuality.

Fortunately there is an easy solution: the 25-50-25 rule. It provides a simple guideline to help you get unstuck.

The rule says there are only three ways to learn a process (e.g., how to start an Internet business) or a skill (e.g., copywriting): studying, observing, and doing. The 25-50-25 rule says that to master a skill or process, and put what you learn into practical action, you must divide your time as follows:

  • No more than 25 percent of your time studying – i.e., reading books, going to bootcamps, attending workshops, listening to recordings in your car.
  • No more than 25 percent of your time observing – watching what successful people in your field are already doing. If, for example, you want to become a direct-mail copywriter, this means reading and analyzing the direct mail you get in your mailbox.
  • At least 50 percent of your time actually DOING the thing you are studying and observing. For example, if you want to sell information products on the Internet, you are spending 50 percent of your time creating your first product… designing your website… or building your list.

The idea is similar to Michael Masterson’s Ready, Fire, Aim approach. He says that you should take action right away, and then learn as you go.

Acquiring business knowledge is a worthwhile activity. But without action, that knowledge is worthless to you.

KM’s worry that, by not reading everything, he may miss a “nugget” of information is accurate: You will never know everything there is to know in your field, or even most of it.

But so what?

You don’t have to know everything – or even most of what there is to know – to succeed in most endeavors.

For example, there are hundreds of strategies for making money on the Internet. But you can make a six-figure annual income online using only a few of them, even if you never bother to learn the others.

In freelance copywriting, there are many top writers who write only one type of promotion. Or work in one narrow niche. And they make a fortune doing so.

When we were kids, our parents and teachers told us to study, study, study. But I see many people today much more enamored with studying and reading about marketing and entrepreneurship than actually doing.

Well, I understand that. Reading about marketing is fascinating – and fun. But the money is in the doing, not the reading.

Follow the 25-50-25 rule, and you’ll be doing – and making money – at least half the time.

[Ed Note: Freelance copywriter Bob Bly is the creator of The Direct Response Letter, the author of more than 70 books, and co-creator of ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition program. Learn specific strategies for how to take action on all your business and personal goals with ETR’s Total Success Achievement program. It’s not too late to sign up and learn how to make your longest-held dreams come true. ]