I met Bella for the first time six years ago, while she was attending her first copywriting bootcamp (which, like ETR’s Wealth-Building Bootcamp, is now hosted every year by the Agora Learning Institute). 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 Bella.
When I saw her at 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 again for two years. This time, when I saw her at bootcamp 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 remind her that virtually everyone I’ve ever mentored has been in exactly the same position — or worse. And I didn’t want to tell her that when I was her age I held two full-time jobs and was married and had social obligations. What was the point in fighting with her anyway?
She wasn’t going to change. At least I was not going to be able to talk her into doing 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 few years to come to a copywriting bootcamp and make herself feel better about her future.
“I just need to get motivated again,” she told me.
“Aha,” I said. “Well, I hope we can do that for you.”
I suppose it’s OK 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 the kind of opportunity we are providing.
Every year, because of the instruction and encouragement they receive at the Agora Learning Institute copywriting bootcamps, dozens of people make the transition from employees to self-employed freelance writers. Many of them make the jump successfully after taking our basic copywriting course and even before finishing our Master’s program. (We prefer to “polish” our students before we expose them to the professional world.) There is nothing we like better than to receive that handwritten note or e-mail telling us, “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 that 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.
A little more than a week ago, Robert Ringer made a point of this in his speech at the end of this year’s overlapping wealth-building and copywriting bootcamps. He said that he believes most successful people have this one trait in common: They don’t wait for motivation. They create motivation through action.
He gave his own experience as an example. “If I had to wait for motivation to write,” he explained, “I never could have written all the books I’ve written. (He’s written about a half-dozen excellent motivational books, including three best sellers.) “Like most writers, I spend many mornings staring at my typewriter, 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 said. 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 said.
And he said it again and again in that speech.
And I’ve said it many times too. In fact, it was the primary message of my opening remarks at this year’s bootcamp. “Unless you have a goal, make it a priority, and find a way to act on it every day, your chances of succeeding are very slim.”
Another speaker, Frank McKinney, a multimillionaire real estate developer, made the same point. “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.”
My old friend Bella was back this year. She is 41 years old now and looking a little older than that. After Robert Ringer’s speech, I had a chance to talk to her. “It was great,” she said. “I’m really stoked.”
“What was it he said that made the biggest impression on you?” I asked.
“He made me feel that one of these days I’m going to get a signal from someone, and then my life is going to change.”
“And in the meantime?” I asked.
“In the meantime? Oh, I don’t know. But I’m really looking forward to getting that signal!”[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.]