Cover image of The Three Month Vacation Podcast

The Three Month Vacation Podcast

Updated 8 days ago

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Sean D'Souza made two vows when he started up Psychotactics back in 2002. The first was that he'd always get paid in advance and the second was that work wouldn't control his life. He decided to take three months off every year. But how do you take three months off, without affecting your business and profits? Do you buy into the myth of "outsourcing everything and working just a few hours a week?" Not really. Instead, you structure your business in a way that enables you to work hard and then take three months off every single year. And Sean walks his talk. Since 2004, he's taken three months off every year (except in 2005, when there was a medical emergency). This podcast isn't about the easy life. It's not some magic trick about working less. Instead with this podcast you learn how to really enjoy your work, enjoy your vacation time and yes, get paid in advance.

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Sean D'Souza made two vows when he started up Psychotactics back in 2002. The first was that he'd always get paid in advance and the second was that work wouldn't control his life. He decided to take three months off every year. But how do you take three months off, without affecting your business and profits? Do you buy into the myth of "outsourcing everything and working just a few hours a week?" Not really. Instead, you structure your business in a way that enables you to work hard and then take three months off every single year. And Sean walks his talk. Since 2004, he's taken three months off every year (except in 2005, when there was a medical emergency). This podcast isn't about the easy life. It's not some magic trick about working less. Instead with this podcast you learn how to really enjoy your work, enjoy your vacation time and yes, get paid in advance.

iTunes Ratings

144 Ratings
Average Ratings

Every episode is a great lesson with an entertaining story.

By YourEmptyNestCoach - Jan 20 2019
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Love this podcast. Thank you for sharing the fantastic business lessons with us.

Amazing podcasts

By mindbrations - Dec 22 2016
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Really good podcasts with some really thought provoking ideas.

iTunes Ratings

144 Ratings
Average Ratings

Every episode is a great lesson with an entertaining story.

By YourEmptyNestCoach - Jan 20 2019
Read more
Love this podcast. Thank you for sharing the fantastic business lessons with us.

Amazing podcasts

By mindbrations - Dec 22 2016
Read more
Really good podcasts with some really thought provoking ideas.

Listen to:

Cover image of The Three Month Vacation Podcast

The Three Month Vacation Podcast

Updated 8 days ago

Read more

Sean D'Souza made two vows when he started up Psychotactics back in 2002. The first was that he'd always get paid in advance and the second was that work wouldn't control his life. He decided to take three months off every year. But how do you take three months off, without affecting your business and profits? Do you buy into the myth of "outsourcing everything and working just a few hours a week?" Not really. Instead, you structure your business in a way that enables you to work hard and then take three months off every single year. And Sean walks his talk. Since 2004, he's taken three months off every year (except in 2005, when there was a medical emergency). This podcast isn't about the easy life. It's not some magic trick about working less. Instead with this podcast you learn how to really enjoy your work, enjoy your vacation time and yes, get paid in advance.

Rank #1: How To Use Contrast To Create Your Uniqueness In Seconds

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If you were asked: What is the uniqueness of this podcast, would you be able to answer the question? The chances are that you might state one of the features, but not what makes it truly unique.

—What do you have to do to make the uniqueness come to life? —And how do you get clients to pass on that uniqueness? Find out in this case study on our own podcast. How To Use Contrast To Create Your Uniqueness In Seconds

Apr 13 2019



Rank #2: How To Sell A Product When There's No Scarcity Factor

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So much effort goes into the launch of a product, but what happens next? How do you handle the calm after the launch? How do you keep selling products on an ongoing basis? These are the questions we tackle in this episode as we get rid of the "post-launch" blues.

Click here to read the full transcript.

Jan 25 2019



Rank #3: Can We Really Systemise Luck? (Or Do We Continue to Depend Upon Hard Work)

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Luck it seems, is fickle? Or is it?

How come some people are lucky (or as the case may be, unlucky) all the while. There is indeed a system and it may be off a bit, like weather forecasting, but by and large it's quite predictable.

Let's dump the “hard, hard, hard work” mantra for a while and find out how to make luck stick.

Read online: Can We Really Systemise Luck?

Jun 29 2019



Rank #4: The 21-Day Habit Myth (and how you can create a habit in minutes, instead)

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You've heard that it takes about 21 days to create a habit. But what if that weren't true at all? Could it be possible to create a habit overnight? Or even in the next few minutes? Let's find out.

Oct 04 2019



Rank #5: The Overwhelm Virus: How To Get It Out of Your Daily Routine

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We tend to believe that we're more overwhelmed than ever before. Yet look around you and you see people who are doing twice or thrice as much. It's hard to admit it, but often their work is of a higher standard too. How come they're not overwhelmed? Is it because they're more talented, or is there something that we're not quite seeing? Let's find out in this episode.

Jul 28 2018



Rank #6: [Re-Edit]: Two Precise Steps To Getting Attention

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If you're struggling to get attention on your website or when you meet a client, it's because you're not using two core factors: novelty and consequences. When you use these two concepts back to back with each other, something magical happens?you get attention! (Finish Your Book Workshop in Washington DC) (Where I'm speaking at the Copyblogger conference). (for magic, of course)


Sean D'Souza:Hi. This is Sean D'Souza from, and you're listening to The Three-Month Vacation Podcast. This podcast isn't some magic trick about working less. Instead, it's about how to really enjoy your work and enjoy your vacation time. 

On January 15, 2008, Steve Jobs stood in front of an audience and in his hand he had something that seemed quite boring. It was just an envelope, a yellow envelope, a manila envelope but, still, quite boring. Then he proceeded to take out a computer from that envelope, and that's when the audience gasped. What did Steve Jobs do that was so amazing? It's what you should do as a presenter no matter where you stand in front of an audience. It's what you should do when you're presenting something, a product or a service, and that's something that you should work on. It's called attention. 

While we all seek attention, we don't seem to get as much of it as we'd expect. The reason why we don't get that attention is simply because we don't understand the elements of attention. Attention has two elements, novelty and consequences. We'll start off with the concept of novelty. What is novelty? Let's take the example of Sara Blakeley. She started this company called SPANX. SPANX is an undergarment that smoothes the contours of a woman's body, making clothes more flattering, making them more comfortable. 

Sara was having a problem. She was having trouble making her first sale. That's because when you're presenting something, it's usually in a boardroom and some buyer is looking at your stuff and you're in a list of seventeen buyers or seven hundred buyers. For some reason, Sara decided to change the tactics. She decided to go with novelty. Instead of making the presentation in the boardroom, she decided to take the buyer to the Ladies' Room. There she was at a Neiman Marcus in Dallas and they go to the Ladies' Room. 

To really make a point, Sara had worn some form-fitting white pants, and because it was form-fitting and white, well, you can tell it wasn't that flattering for a woman. Then she pulled out her product, which she had called SPANX, and she put it on and the buyer saw the before and after. Right there and then, there was a moment of conversion. There was this flashing bolt of light and suddenly she was able to sell this product that she was having so much trouble selling before. What she found or stumbled on or figured out was this factor of novelty. The whole scenario of the Ladies' Room, the white pants, it being form-fitting, all of that combined to form this moment where it was impossible for the buyer to ignore. That's really what you're doing. You're making it impossible for the buyer to ignore you. 

In this episode we look at the methods that you can use to get novelty going. We'll look at the length of the novelty and finally, we'll look at the connection. Once you've done your novelty act, how do you connect? How do you stay relevant? Where do you go from there? Let's start off with the first one, which is the methods that you need to use to get to novelty. 

When I make the Brain Audit presentation, I do something very odd. I'll step into the audience and pick up a chair that no one is sitting on. Then I will get the chair to the front of the room and I will say, "I'm going to sit on this chair, stand up." Sit on the chair, stand up. Sit on the chair and stand up. Then I turn to the audience and say, "Did any one of you expect this chair to break? Why didn't the chair break?" What you've seen there is a demonstration of novelty. It's breaking that cycle of whatever people are doing. The method that was used in this system of novelty was to use the demonstration. 

You can use stories, analogies, and demonstrations. Those are the most common uses of novelty. Whether you're writing an article, you're doing a presentation, you're in front of a client and you're selling some product or service, one of these three methods, stories, analogies, or demonstrations, are extremely powerful. The reason why they're powerful is more important, and that is because it breaks the pattern. When an audience or a client is expecting something and you've come out from left field, they are forced to pay attention. You are forced to pay attention when someone walks onstage and pulls out a computer from an envelope. You are forced to pay attention when someone starts to pull up a chair and sit on the chair and stand on it. 

In another example, when I was speaking in Chicago, there were about two hundred fifty people in the audience. I don't know about you, but it's very hard to get two hundred fifty people to pay attention to you. The topic that I was speaking about was pricing, about how to increase your prices without losing customers. How would you start such a presentation? I started the presentation with a video of New Zealand. That is novelty. It breaks that pattern in a matter of seconds. It doesn't matter what you are thinking or doing or thinking of doing. The pattern is broken. You have to pay attention. 

When Tom Dickson wanted to sell his blenders, well, how can you break a pattern with blenders? When an iPhone comes out, it's extremely coveted. To destroy an iPhone is crazy. It almost flies in the face of reason, so that's what he did. He broke the pattern by going the opposite way. What he did was he took that iPhone and put it in a blender and crushed it to pieces. That got everyone's attention. He became a sensation on YouTube. The sales have soared since then. Whenever you look at this factor of how people have got attention, it's by going almost counterintuitive, that everyone expects you to go one way and you're going the other way. 

When we go back to the sixties and we look at Bill Bernbach, he started up an advertising agency which is now called BBDO. He had a lot of these things. We had the Volkswagen, which is the Beetle. All of America was thinking big, big cars, big everything, Big Mac. His campaign was completely the opposite. it was think small. They started selling these Bugs, the Beetle Bugs, and they were about thinking small. In the car rental business, Avis and Hertz have been at each other's throats forever. It was such a delight, such an attention-getter when Avis said, "We're number 2. So why go with us?" Immediately, that gets your attention. 

What we're looking at here is this attention-getter, which is this disruption in what people are expecting to get and what you give them. It's done through stories, analogies, demonstrations, and just plain counterintuitiveness, but at the very core of it, what gets attention is the novelty. If you're expecting me to say something and I say exactly that, you fall asleep. You have to find something that's going to wake me up. Yes, novelty wakes me up, but what about the length of that novelty? How long should I go before I stop? 

When we read a novel, we tend to find a lot of description; the character is being built up. The same thing applies to movies; the character is being built up. When you're communicating, you don't have that build-up time. Let's say you're writing an article, you've got maybe a paragraph, maybe two paragraphs of telling a story or a demonstration or creating some kind of analogy. That's it. Then you have to go and connect. You have to continue. You have to go to the next section. You can't stay in the novelty for too long because the novelty wears itself out. 

The same thing applies with presentations. When you're standing there in front of an audience, you don't have half the presentation to get the novelty across. In fact, it would be boring. When you sit on that chair, stand up, sit on the chair, stand up, that's quick. When Sara Blakeley went through the whole routine of changing into SPANX and showing how it made a difference, that was quick. The same thing applied to Blendtec where he spun those iPhones around in the blender. Again, it's quick. It doesn't have to be very quick; it just has to be quick enough. The novelty lasts for a few minutes, and this applies to reading or speaking or anything. 

If you're standing in front of a person, making a presentation, you've probably got a few minutes, maybe three or four minutes. If it's an article or a sales page, you probably have less time; you have twenty seconds, thirty seconds. The novelty of a story, demonstration, or analogy doesn't last very long. It's best to get there, not to be too hurried about it, but to tell the story and get out of there. Pretty much like you've heard in the podcast here. There's a story, it shows up, you get the point, and then we move on to something else. That something else is the third part in today's episode, and that is the consequences. 

When you look at a story like Little Red Riding Hood, yes, it's a story. It's a novelty, it's very interesting and kids love it. The little girl is headed to her grandma's place and she's taking some goodies for grandma. Then along the way, she meets the wolf and there are consequences, not just for the girl but for the grandma as well. There is a moral to that story, but before we get to any kind of moral, we are looking at two distinct phases. One is the whole novelty of the girl meeting the wolf and then the consequences. 

Sometimes the consequences are not so apparent. When Sara Blakeley shows the before and after of SPANX, those consequences are apparent immediately. When Steve Jobs took the MacBook Air out of the envelope, there didn't seem to be many consequences. In the Steve Jobs presentation, the consequences are in the lightness. When you don't have that light MacBook Air, which was billed as the lightest notebook, well, you've got a heavy computer. 

These messages are driven through the media and in the presentation. When you went with Avis instead of Hertz, it was to show you that Hertz is number one; they don't care. Number two, we have to care. In many cases the consequences are either stated or implied. When you're making a presentation, when you're speaking to a client, you cannot afford to let it be implied. You cannot afford to let the client figure out what the consequences are. You need to tell them. 

When I'm making a presentation on pricing and I show them this video of New Zealand, the next thing I talk about is The Three-Month Vacation and how pricing affects your ability to go on vacation and how you have to work a lot harder and money is not easy to come by. What happens is a very unconnected topic like the video on New Zealand then connects nicely into pricing with consequences. When I do the Brain Audit presentation, sitting down, standing up, sitting down, standing up, what are the consequences there? 

Again, the consequences are explained. It's how a chair is built on science and how marketing doesn't work on science, how it falls apart, how we raise thousands of dollars just buying some crazy system that's supposed to be working tomorrow instead of understanding the science behind it and why things work. Then the audience gets it. We've gone from a stage of novelty to a stage of consequences, and that's how you get and you keep that attention. You can do that very, very quickly. It does take some practice. All of the great stories and demonstrations and analogies, all of them have to have this little practice routine before they go live. Once it goes live, you'll see the results for yourself. You'll stand up and people will pay attention. Then you'll drive home the consequences, and they'll want to know how do I buy into whatever it is you're selling? 

Yes, that brings us to the end of this episode. Let's do a quick summary. We started out with the methods of getting attention. We saw that the methods are usually a story, an analogy, or a demonstration, but at the very core it has to be almost counterintuitive. It has to be something that the audience or your client is not expecting to hear, and that gets the attention. It snaps the person to attention. 

The second thing you want to do is you want to figure out the length. The length needs to be short enough. In an article, that means a paragraph, maybe two paragraphs. When you're meeting a client face-to-face, you'll get three, four minutes. Anything more and you're just pushing the boundaries. Novelty lasts only so long, and then you have to move to the next stage, which are the consequences. That was our last section, which was the consequences. Sure, you can have implied consequences, but it's very dangerous because the client needs to know specifically what are the consequences of not taking that action. You should bring that in your presentation, in your speech, in your article, in your sales letter. 

There you go. Novelty and consequences, and you get attention. What one thing can you do today? We covered quite a lot. The important thing that you can do today is to look at whatever you're saying. Whatever you're saying is what you'd call intuitive. It's what you've trained yourself to say. How about going counterintuitive? Let me give you an example. I started writing a series on writer's block this week, and maybe I'll make it into a booklet, maybe a book, but I went counterintuitive. How would we do this intuitively? How would we come up with a title? We'd say, "How to avoid writer's block." Mine was counterintuitive. It said, "How to get writer's block." Notice how it gets your attention? That's what you want to do, that one thing. 

This week, try and do one thing that is counterintuitive and you'll see how it just gets the attention of your audience. Then move to the consequences. 

Yes, that's the end of this episode. If you haven't already rated this podcast, please do so at iTunes. If you have a list and would like to share this podcast with your list, please do so. I'm telling you because unless you tell, things don't happen. On another front, if you've been struggling to finish your book or your e-book, then there is a workshop and this is at It's three days. It's a lot of fun. More importantly, it helps you understand the structure of how to finish a book. 

A book is very frustrating to write, and the reason why it's frustrating is not because of the whole factor of the content. You already have the content in your head. It's how you structure it. When you are able to structure it quickly, put the book together quickly, your client is able to do the same. They're able to read it, to consume it. As a result, they come back for more. They come back for more consulting, for more training, and for more books and products. 

That's We'll see you there on May 5th, 6th, and 7th. That's it from The Three-Month Vacation and If you haven't been to Psychotactics, go there today. Bye for now. 

Feb 26 2015



Rank #7: Why Onboarding is Crucial (And Most Companies Ignore It)

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Is it hard to get a client?

Sure it is, but how many of us “lose” the client within minutes or days? We may not realise it, but without a very clear on-boarding system, clients simply get confused and leave. Or they feel unsafe and don't consume your product or service.

The question is: how do you get an on-boarding system in place and what does it entail? Let's take a sneak peek into what's possible.

Click here to read online: Onboarding is Crucial


There are three distinct stages before we order a meal in a restaurant.

The first stage is when you're standing outside the restaurant, deciding whether to go in. The second stage is when you get welcomed into the new space. Finally, it's when you first get acknowledged after sitting down; you get a glass of water, and a menu. All of this happens so quickly that we don't realise that every stage is essential. More so, the very same steps have to play out when you're getting a client into a new space, like a membership site, course, or even an offline store.

The first stage is before they enter your site or course. The second is how you greet them and the third and equally crucial stage is how you make them feel within “minutes” of entering that new space. These three sequential steps are what you'd call “on-boarding”.

Every stage of on-boarding is vital because if we were to go back to the restaurant, would you be happy if no one received you once you entered? And having been assigned a table, how long would you wait before stalking off when you got no service?

All of these ideas and this very sequence seems particularly vivid when we think of restaurants, yet we fail to roll out these systems when clients sign up.

The importance of onboarding can be boiled down to a single term: safe zone

Standing outside the membership site, course or workshop, you are trying to gauge if you're making the right decision. Once you do get in the door, it's equally important to feel as if you're in a safe space. You need someone real to step up to you and take care of you.

Instead, what you get is an automatic e-mail that confirms you're in the membership site and then it's just a bunch of weekly e-mails that don't have the slightest personal touch in place.

Now wait a sec, no one is saying you shouldn't use automation

What's about to follow is how automation doesn't become a crutch but is a handy companion that allows a small business to keep in touch with clients and prompt them to consume what they've purchased. However, depending on automation alone is a mistake.

At some point very early after the client has shown up to your “restaurant”, a real person (that's you) has to make yourself available. If you're surprised at where this article is going, it's only because of how a large part of the internet works. They take a hands-off method and wonder why there's constant churn.

Which is why they then have to do constant advertising (which in itself takes time), joint ventures etc. to make sure their membership site doesn't look barren. At 5000bc, we like to see ourselves as a restaurant. And here are some of the things that we do within less than a month of a client joining the site.

• Tiny increment autoresponders • Cave Guides • Taking Action • Contact individually • Chocolate • Buddy • Country welcome • Video conference • Tags

In this episode, we will look at three things.

1. Tiny increment autoresponders 2. Cave Guides 3. Taking Action

1: Tiny increment autoresponders Have you noticed how there's a lag when you're talking to customer support on chat?

Let's say you get to a site. On the right-hand side, you see a little button that signals you can talk to someone. You click on the chat button and almost immediately you get a response. It may say something like, “Hi, I'm Maria”, how can I help? You automatically assume Maria is around and start to type your question.

It then seems to stall you for a while, asking for your name and possibly a phone number, just in case you're disconnected. Then, there's a lag after you type in your details. So what just happened? I'll tell you what. You were talking to a machine. All that “Maria bit” of chatter was an automatic back and forth and once you got past a certain point, it handed you over to a real person.

And for the most part, no one is wiser, or unhappy, but it allows the transaction to go ahead pretty flawlessly.

This is what automation can do well, if used intelligently.

Which is why we use autoresponders. It makes sure a client gets into 5000bc and then continues to gain from it. Some clients jump right in, introduce themselves and are off the mark right away. Others may not enter right away, and things go on the back burner.

It's easy to buy something these days, fully expecting to use it, but then other distractions take over. Hence the autoresponders.

There are seven that show up in the client's inbox, over a period.

  • The welcome
  • Meet others
  • Next step
  • Cave Guide
  • Handy tools
  • Two questions
  • What you expected

Every one of these autoresponders is meant to do something similar to what you'd experience in a chat.

They're designed to engage with the client. It means that in the early stages, you're giving a sense of what's where (it's mostly information). But as you go down the line, you're called to participate and given many options to do so. At every single stage, Renuka or I respond back to the client.

If you've ever gotten an e-mail from us, and replied, we write again and keep conducting a conversation, asking questions, etc. It's not just a “here you go, it's automation, and you're in a funnel”. Instead, the emails are designed to help us help the clients to consume what they've bought; to get use of the resources; to find others just like them.

Without the automation, it would be too much for a small business (or any size of business to handle).

It's a nightmare keeping track of who's been contacted, what they've been told, etc. The automation allows us to give the pertinent information to the client and then to work with them on an ongoing basis.

That's the starting point, and there are a lot more elements in place. The second primary factor is the Cave Guides. Why are Cave Guides essential? Let's find out.

2: Cave Guides When I first visited Paris, I got lost for several hours.

I thought I knew my way around, so one morning before Renuka was up, I stepped out for a walk.

I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because I couldn't find my way back. What made it worse was I knew Renuka would be up and getting ready to go out for some croissant and coffee, but she wouldn't know where I was, or how to reach me because we never have any data on our phones. Worse still, though I can read French reasonably well, I can't speak much, if at all.

It was nearing 9 am, when I had an idea. I walked into an Internet cafe, and typed in the destination. It worked out where I was, and where I needed to go. With a printed map I was able to make my way back in half an hour or less. Google Maps had calmed me down and helped me get back when lost in a new city.

Cave Guides perform a similar function in 5000bc

When you get to 5000bc, it's a whole new city, possibly a whole new world. At this point, there are hundreds of articles, vanishing reports, and over 322,000 posts of extremely valuable discussions. When a client signs up to 5000bc, they have a heightened sense of anticipation. However, it's very possible, despite their excitement, that they find themselves on an unexpected road, and get lost.

Which is where the Cave Guides come in. The Cave Guides are 5000bc members who volunteer to help those who are new in the membership site. A guide doesn't necessarily give any business advice, but instead merely gives you the chance to familiarise yourself with the city.

However, it's the feeling of safety that's more important than just familiarisation

When you and I get to a new place, we are apt to be uncertain and tend to make mistakes. Some clients will push through, but others may feel silly when they make a mistake. Others still, may not even attempt to make a move as they think they are guaranteed to make an error and be publicly called out.

And this fear could be justified as there have been numerous instances where people are made to feel small and insignificant, in the full glare of a large group. Having to deal with one person, and a person that's specially dedicated to being a guide, brings a tremendous amount of safety to the entire exercise. Even seemingly “trivial” questions are asked—and they seem “trivial” to the person asking the questions, but in fact they're huge barriers to getting comfortable in that new space.

It's an integral part of the onboarding process

Just like in a restaurant where someone is usually around to receive you, you need to have some guide to help you along. If you walk into an Apple Store, for instance, you'll see this level of guidance occurring as well. When I walked into the Apple store for the first time in 2008, I had been a Windows user for years.

Everything about the Mac was weird and unknown, if enticing in some way. However, because I could make a quick appointment with someone at the Genius Bar within the store, enabled me to get my questions out quickly and safely.

In a course, we have onboarding of a different kind

With the cartooning course, there's a fair bit of posting cartoons and linking to be done, which is why the entire first week is about slowing down the progress. The clients get assignments that enable them to get familiar with the forum and how to get their cartoons to display.

With headline course, or any other online course, clients are given extremely tiny instructions so they can get through the first week familiarising themselves with their environment and with each other. At a live, onsite workshop in a city, we have a meet and greet the evening before.

The clients are often told what to expect the next day, and wherever possible we take them to the room itself so they're comfortable and can show up having gone through a rehearsal of sorts.

Being a guide or having a guide is essential for a company

When you're selling a product or service, it might seem like a big bother to take so much trouble to get a guide system in place. It might seem that a guide might be betters suited for a workshop or course instead. However, every entry point is fraught with the chance that the client may get lost, sometimes for a short while, but often for hours, just like I did in Paris.

That one mistaken turn might put them off getting back and they've lost the chance to be part of your wonderful enterprise and you've lost a potentially fantastic client.

Which is why you need guides or at least a guided system that everyone follows. But that guide is still just one step. What's needed is a sense of comfort. How do you achieve this sense of happiness? We find someone who's familiar. Let's find out how it all works and why it's so imperative.

3. Taking Action

Way back in 2009, Mackay Rippey (a founding member of 5000bc) made a suggestion.

“How about a Taking Action forum?” he asked.

That was the start of a journey that's had a ton of ups and downs, but today is the core of creating a quicker onboarding. Why? Because getting into a new community is always scary. There are far more people than you want to deal with.

The Taking Action section forms a tiny little capsule where you (and just one other member) can create a bond and move ahead in tiny steps.

You'd think a taking action post would be easy for clients, right?

It's not. As Nobel Laureate, Richard Thaler says: It's not that people are dumb. It's that life is hard. And taking action is one of the hardest things that a person can do, but also one of the most critical steps for onboarding. Let's take the example of 5000bc first and experience the journey of a client, before heading out to see how it may work in other cases both online and offline.

In 5000bc, a client signs up to become a member

They do so for reasons of their own, but primarily are interested in relevant information, access to me, priority for courses—but also to be part of a community. The moment they join, they wander in, may add their details and photograph, look around and leave. Will they come back? Sure they will, but to get value out of their membership, they have to come back more often.

They have to not only absorb the information but implement it. This is precisely the point where things start to go off course. The client is often too unsure to ask for advice, and they lurk.

The key is to get them out of lurk mode, which is where the Taking Action forum comes in

At first, the Taking Action forum was just a place where you went and posted your goals. In time, the instructions got refined because it was easy enough to get started, but then lose track because of a lack of planning. When we look at the Taking Action Forum today, it has seven steps.

They read like this:

Here are the easy steps to play.

Step 1: Name your goal. Step 2: List what you'll do. Keep it restricted to 2-3 things. Step 3: List how you intend to do it. Step 4: List how much time you'll spend on it daily x 21 days (this is very important) Step 5: What resources you have/ What help or information you need. Step 6: Start date/finish date. Let's keep it for 21 days. Step 7: Don't miss this step: Get a buddy: It is always good to have someone nudging you along in case you start slacking off. Sean me an email me, and I will assign you a buddy:

All of the steps are important, but there's one that surpasses them all

Naming the goal, the list, all of that organisation—that's all crucial to the success of the plan, but the most critical element of all is Step 7: getting a buddy. It's obvious when you think of it, right? What does a buddy do for you? You're in an unknown forum, a new membership site and are bound to get lost.

You can't depend on the power of the group, but another person—your buddy—is easy to lean on and learn from. Plus, it's easy enough to lose steam when you're trying to motivate yourself. When you have a buddy to keep you going, the very act of knowing someone is waiting nudges you on.

The Taking Action Forum works incredibly well in many cases

And the reason why it works so well is because it gives the newcomer a tiny space and a friend. That's usually all we need when we enter a website—or at least a membership site. However, the dynamics may change depending on the business itself. In the courses, like the Article Writing Course or cartooning course, the group size is larger at about 5-7 people.

The same applies to the group size in live, on-site workshops. And there's a reason why this is the case. When working on an individual goal, the input, often just the nudge from another person is enough. When it comes to learning a skill like writing or drawing, the higher the contribution, the better.

Also when the client is part of a group, they're able to see what the others are doing, and most importantly the mistakes they're making. This in turn, reduces their error rate, and it keeps the group going. However, the moment you start to go beyond 7 people in a group, you're asking for trouble.

About 7 is just right to create activity and keep the momentum going. Beyond 7 you merely have anonymity and it's not hard for clients to slip away.

No matter whether you have a membership site or something offline, you want to get them involved with a human

We get so gung-ho about technology that we forget that we're humans first. And that humans seek humans. But once they're done finding the other person, they also want to contribute. And this contribution needs to be towards their cause (their action plan) but also help the other person. The combination of settling in and getting moving is probably the more natural way for a new client to get going, without being too much in the spotlight.

The final question is: does it work?

For the most part, it does, but it doesn't work automatically. In our case at 5000bc, we make sure that we pair up clients. In the workshops and courses, it's the same. All of this requires a bit of groundwork on your part. When one of the pairs goes missing—and it happens—there needs to be a mechanism in place so that the client can get in touch with you and you can assign another partner.

It's easy enough to dismiss this activity as too much work, but it gets clients in and keeps them coming back. Which in turn means you don't have to spend all that time and money—and energy, I might add—trying to get new clients all the time.

Onboarding is crucial, and a big part of this onboarding is getting people to know each other and start working on a project. When we started out the forum back in 2009, based on Mackay's request, we had no idea how useful it would be. However, it's been one of the main areas for us and I suspect it will be for you as well.

Start up a Taking Action Post to take action on your membership site.

Oh and before I go

If you haven't yet subscribed: Here are the links to get all the Psychotactics articles, goodies and podcasts automatically. iTunes | Android | E-mail (and get special goodies) | RSS

Jul 21 2018



Rank #8: The Philosophy of Psychotactics - Part Two

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We may often hear ourselves saying, we have a long to-do list. Or things that we still haven't completed. Or worse, we may talk about how we have no time. Often, it's just a matter of issues that can get resolved with a touch of philosophy. There's work to be done as well, but the philosophy needs to come first. In this second part of the series, let's find out how philosophy can come to our rescue and serve our business—even save us time!

The Philosophy of Psychotactics

Feb 08 2019



Rank #9: How To Quickly Create Your Uniqueness

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How do you position your products and services?

Finding your uniqueness is incredibly difficult, yet some companies do it consistently well. How do you learn from their ability to position their products and services?

Also, do you really need a uniqueness for every business product and service? The answer is “yes” and this episode will reveal why that's the case.


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: How do you go about finding uniqueness for your business/product/service? Part 2: Do different products/services need their own uniquenesses? Part 3: When you have settled on your uniqueness, how can you test it?

Read in online: How To Quickly Create Your Uniqueness


A patch of grass, is a patch of grass, is a patch of grass, right?

Take for instance the patch of grass near the volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania

Every year around February, the wildebeest calves are born, all at the same time. If you look at where the calves seem to graze, it's on one patch of grass—while completely ignoring the rest of the think.

This particular grass, which stretches for miles, has nine times the phosphorus and five times the calcium as the next patch. The enriched grass nourishes the young calves and gets them healthy for the great migration that is to follow. In other words, you could easily call this grass unique, right?

In business we rarely have this luxury of inbuilt uniqueness

Instead we have to go out and find our uniqueness, or create one. And this is where we seem to run into a lot of trouble. When we look at our products or services, they seem remarkably similar to what the competition is offering.

We too could do with a bit of phosphorus and calcium in our offerings, we believe. Contrary to what we think, we all have an incredibly powerful ability to distinguish ourselves from any competitors.

Yet, the moment we decide to work on our uniqueness, we paint ourselves into a corner

We don't know if we're supposed to find a uniqueness or create one. The pressure builds until we convince ourselves that the exercise of uniqueness is much too tedious, and it's better to use our energy in other areas of marketing and sales. Even as we're veering away from uniqueness, we realise that we pick products and services precisely for their uniqueness. Running away from the issue isn't going to help us move ahead. We have to turn and face it head on.

And here's how you do it. Let's cover three elements:

How do you go about finding uniqueness for your business/product/service? Do different products/services need their own uniquenesses? When you have settled on your uniqueness, how can you test it?

Element 1: How do you go about finding uniqueness for your business/product/service?

Back in 2003, we started a little membership site called 5000bc. It wasn't meant to be a membership site, but so many clients wanted to discuss business issues that it made sense to have a site. At first, it had almost no content, and I spent a good few weeks putting in a dozen articles or so. It was the early 2000's, remember? I was able to get in touch with almost anyone on e-mail and get their permission to use their content. So I contacted billionaire, Mark Cuban, best-selling author and speaker, Wayne Dyer and other such personalities. And so, 5000bc began on its journey.

But 5000bc had no clearly-defined uniqueness

When you're starting out a business, it's hard just to figure out what you're doing. You're trying so hard to find yourself that finding the uniqueness for a product or service seems implausible, if not impossible. Nonetheless, over the years, as 5000bc grew, we went through the process of interior design. We'd add something here, something there and soon it became quite distinct in itself. Even so, we couldn't figure out what was unique.

This is the part where you turn to the outside world

We sent out a bunch of e-mails to clients and time, and time again they'd come up with the same response. They'd say something like this—and this is an actual quote: My favourite part about 5000bc is the character of the community. From knowing that you will personally answer my questions to knowing I can post my own answers without getting ridiculed is really nice.

I'm just getting started, but once my business is rolling, I will certainly pay it back to the community. I've never seen anyone put anyone else down in the Cave.

But then they might add something like this

I also like the depth of content. Before I came to 5000bc, I was very confused about the direction I want to go in for starting my business.  Ever since joining 5000bc, and reading the content I've been getting a lot of clarity and confidence.  I'm no longer running in circles, but moving towards my goals.  I really appreciated the members sharing tips and comments on my post about “getting rid of negative thoughts”.

I also like that people hold you accountable to what you have entered in Taking Action Forum.

See the problem yet?

In that answer, there are several points, and seemingly none of them co-relate with each other. Let's go over them in bullet form: – The character of the community (you can ask questions without getting ridiculed. – The depth of the content that gives me confidence and clarity. – Being held accountable.

But if a single e-mail gets three points, we already have three tangents, don't we?

If we were to poll everyone the list would be pretty exhaustive. We'd get a list that's akin to this: – Kind, helpful community – Restricted membership – The philosophy ensures helpfulness

– Vanishing reports on various topics that may not be found elsewhere. – The critique lounge – The common language of The Brain Audit.

– The that me, Sean, is always around sometimes 15-20 times a day. – That a question asked by clients may end up with a series of articles written especially for that client.

The list goes on and on and the longer the list, the bigger the uniqueness headache

Which is when you randomly pick one element from the list. In the case of 5000bc, enough clients mentioned that they sign up for a membership site and the owners of the site are never around. They just dump information but aren't around to clarify any queries and any such clarification has to be done at an additional price. We took that information—the fact that I'm around and answer the questions—as the uniqueness.

If that seemed like a logical uniqueness, it's not

The Vanishing Reports, for one, are extremely well-regarded. Clients consistently like the Vanishing Reports because they consider them to be yummy bites of knowledge, focused on a single topic. As a result, they don't overwhelm you, and as a member, you get it free of cost, until they disappear. Or you could take the fact that the philosophy of the community ensures that there's no trolling, no pitching of their own business, and introverts—especially introverts—feel very safe when asking questions.

Any of the elements in the list above could easily become the unique factor of 5000bc. And yet, the way to go about choosing a uniqueness is to only pick one—any one. And once you've picked you to need to elaborate why that uniqueness is so vital. It's the elaboration that makes it unique, not necessarily the element itself. Without the elaboration, nothing is unique, or rather everything is unique.

I call this concept the “Attenborough Effect.”

The “Attenborough Effect.”

A forest contains thousands of species of plants, animals and insects. To try and cover them all is plainly a waste of time. Which is why naturalist and TV presenter, David Attenborough, does something dramatic. In one particular video, he falls to the floor and focuses on a single plant: the Venus Fly Trap. The act of dropping to the forest floor is a moment of pure drama, but that's not what you should be getting your attention. Instead, notice that he's ignored all the rest of the plants, animals and insects.

All of them, but the Venus Fly Trap.

This is what I call the Attenborough Effect and it's also the lesson as to how you need to choose your own uniqueness

Your current business may do many things well, but trying to cover your own “forest floor” is a waste of time. Clients can't pay attention to many points at the same time. Even two points are far too many as you noticed when we used the 5000bc example. You couldn't have “helpful community” and “Vanishing Reports” at the same time.

A choice has to be made and while it may appear to you like the choice was very precise, it only seems that way because of the way in which it is presented. Walking around in the forest, the Venus Fly Trap may never get your attention, but by focusing the camera on one—to the exclusion of everything else—is how uniqueness is created.

However, all of this assumes that you already have a business, a product or service

And that's a dangerous assumption to make for a specific reason. All of us, without exception, will have new products or services in future. And as we'll learn in the second section of this piece, every one of the products or services will need their own uniqueness. So how are we to create a uniqueness when we don't have the luxury of hindsight? The way forward is to create your uniqueness. The question that arises is “how do you do that?” How do you pick your uniqueness?

The answer lies in a concept we've covered many times before called a “superpower”

Let's say you're conducting a workshop to learn how to acquire “X-Ray vision”. When the clients walk into the room, what are they expecting to learn? And when they leave? The obvious answer is “X-Ray vision”, isn't it? Let's assume 5000bc didn't have Vanishing Reports. Wait, we're not assuming, are we, because 5000bc didn't have Vanishing Reports.

When we started out, we looked at other websites and there was no concept like Vanishing Reports. So we just invented it. However, let's say everyone suddenly decides to create Vanishing Reports. What are you going to do in such a situation?

You add a little bit of extra description to your offering.

Maybe your vanishing reports are “just 10 pages long.” Maybe they're 50 pages, in-depth reports. Maybe they're full of cartoons which are fun to read. Maybe the report is not just a report but a stage by stage how-to document.

You see what's happening here?

You're deciding in advance what superpower you want to bestow upon your client. You are deciding you want to give them X-Ray vision, or vanishing reports, or specially organised groups. You can simply decide what you want to focus on and then go right ahead and invent your uniqueness. Every feature you see in a new phone model, new software, new product or service is merely an invention.

When sitting down to create your product or service, you will need to do some brainstorming

What features and benefits will it have? And the moment you make the list, you have a choice. Simply pick something that's interesting and elaborate upon it. If you've noticed, that's the second time, or possibly the third that the term “elaborate” has been brought up. We'll cover more about “elaboration” and what to elaborate as we work our way through this piece.

For now, either pick something like David Attenborough, or invent something you'd like to see in your product or service. And that will get the ball rolling. That is your first step on the road to creating uniqueness for your products and services.

Element 2: Does Every Product or Service Need Its Own Uniqueness?

When you look at any family on the planet, what you're actually seeing is an example of products and services

Let's take the eldest child. And let's suggest his uniqueness is that he's calm. Let's paint the second child as having a wild nature. The third may well have an inquisitive nature. If the family were to extend almost endlessly, every child in that family would have a different character, attribute or what we'd call uniqueness.

Therefore something similar applies to your family of products and services too. Yes, your company may have a unique character, but it's equally important for every product or service to have a uniqueness as well.

Let’s take an example. Let’s examine The Brain Audit, for instance.

Did The Brain Audit always have a uniqueness?

No, it didn’t. When we started, we had no uniqueness at all. Luckily we got over 800 testimonials, and that became the uniqueness. Now admittedly, once you have 800 testimonials, your product should stand out quite a bit, shouldn't it? And yes, the product will stand out, provided the format doesn't change in any way.

But The Brain Audit went from Version 1.0 to 2.0—and then to Version 3.2

And this is where the problem lies. If a customer has bought Version 1.0, why bother buying Version 2.0? Or for that matter Version 3.2.? And what if we were to bring out Version 4.0?

It's where uniqueness comes waltzing right through the door.  Many, if not most of our clients have bought several versions of The Brain Audit. And the reason is simple: They can see why version differs from the next. And this difference is simply a factor of uniqueness.

When you define the uniqueness, you automatically get clients interested. And not just existing customers, but new ones as well.

It’s more than likely that the new clients haven't run into The Brain Audit

So for them the uniqueness is pitched against other books of a similar nature. Why should they spend their hard-earned money on this product vs. some other marketing-based product?

And that’s not all…

Let’s say we did put out a version of The Brain Audit on And that price is just $9.99. And the product on the Psychotactics website is $119. What causes the client to buy the $119 version? Once again we have the uniqueness come into play. If a client gets a lot more on our website vs. what’s available on Amazon. Then there’s a point of difference.

When a thick, luscious layer of uniqueness is applied, price and reluctance retreat quickly

But you can’t just depend on the client to figure all of this out. So you have to clearly define the uniqueness. You have to be able to tell the difference between an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 4s. The Brain Audit Version 2.0 and The Brain Audit Version 3.2. The Amazon offering and the website offering. Because in reality, every product or every offering needs to really stand out from the “hoi-polloi” even if the “hoi-polloi” is just a different version of your very own product or service.

In short, every product and service needs a uniqueness

Just like a family member, every product or service is different. And even if you have the very same product, but in different formats or versions, you're still going to have to differentiate it so that clients know why they should buy one product over the other.

And this takes us to the third point- When you have settled on your uniqueness, how can you test it?

Element 3: When you have settled on your uniqueness, how can you test it?

May 27 2017



Rank #10: How To Make Your Product/Service Irresistible (Using Buffet or Specialty Techniques) - Part One

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How do you make your product or service irresistible? With tens of thousands of similar products or services in the market, can you use simple techniques to create a great offer? This episode shows you two psychological methods that we can't turn down?as humans. We love both the buffet and the specialty. No matter if you're a small business or a big one, you can use these techniques and increase your product and service sales. 

In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: Buffet vs. Specialty Principle Part 2: How Studio 54 put out a buffet of fantasy Part 3: What does this mean for you when you’re selling a product or service?

Right click here and ‘save as’ to download this episode to your computer.


What Are The Factors in Play Behind An Irresistible Offer: Part 1 of 3 Imagine you’re Frank Sinatra.

No matter where you go on the planet, people know of you.

Doors open magically for you. People can’t help but gape in wonder as you show up at an event. So imagine a place where the great Frank Sinatra can’t enter.

It’s inconceivable, isn’t it?

And yet it happened. When Frank showed up at Studio 54, he was turned away. So was the president of Cyprus, the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, Roberta Flack, and several young Kennedys. Even the famous movie star, Jack Nicholson was unable to enter on opening night.

Studio 54 was like no other place in New York

From the moment it opened its 11,000-square-foot dance floor, it was packed with celebrities dying to get in. Olivia Newton-John, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger, Tine Turner—you get the idea—they were just some of the visitors to Studio 54. Almost every night since it opened its doors on April 26, 1977, it was packed to its capacity—almost 2000 people a night. If you considered yourself cool, you wanted to get into Studio 54—but there was no guarantee you’d get in.

There was someone stopping the flow…

This someone was at the door Studio 54 night after night. He’d show up at the door at 11:30 pm and get on a step stool above the crowd. He’d pick who could get into the club that night—and who was to be turned away. His name is Steve Rubell, part-owner and the person who made sure the Studio was one of the most irresistible places in New York!

So what made Studio 54 so irresistible, when there were so many cool places in New York at the time? And what makes any product or service irresistible, even without star power? Let’s take a look at three core elements.

  • Buffet vs. Specialty
  • Exclusivity
  • Build Up


Buffet vs. Specialty Principle

If you were to go to you’d be faced with a buffet.

On there are hundreds of tutorials on software, business and creative skills. In 2004 alone, there were over 100 courses on the site. And that course number has gone up exponentially. For the past few years, been adding more than 18 hours of content, almost every single day of the year. That means you’re likely to run into thousands of hours of tutorials topics such as Photoshop, computer animation, 3-D animation, photography—in all about 224,413 tutorials to date.

That’s a huge buffet, don’t you agree?

And as humans, we’re primed for buffets. We love the “eat all you want” concept and it’s even better if the “food” is of an extremely high quality. This means that a potential client of can access all their content for just $250 a year. Immediately you see why this kind of deal is incredibly irresistible. If you decide to learn a program like InDesign, you can easily do so, because there are at least a dozen courses on InDesign alone. If you want to learn to work with WordPress, hey, there’s a mountain of video instruction already in place. No matter where you look, the volume and quality of content tantalises you.

Which brings us to our first principle—the buffet principle

If you’re offering your clients an enormous amount of something, they’re instantly drawn towards it, whether they can consume it or not. When given a buffet option, few of us can stop ourselves from feeling the need to buy the product or service.

When you look at, you get a buffet option

5000bc is the membership site at The moment you get to the sales page at 5000bc, there’s a feeling of a ton of information at 5000bc. There are cumulatively, hundreds of articles on topics such as copywriting, web design, branding, lead generation etc. Which is why most clients tend to sign up to the membership site at 5000bc.

It’s more than likely they’ve been a subscriber at Psychotactics for a while, bought and read The Brain Audit, possibly even bought some other books from Psychotactics—and then they’re exposed to 5000bc. And the buffet concept kicks in. At $259 a year (remarkably similar to, clients can get not only a ton of curated content, but also have the opportunity to ask me dozens of questions—some of which are answered within hours, if not minutes. This concept of a buffet becomes impossible to resist, and has been the main factor in attracting clients to 5000bc since it started way back in 2003.

Studio 54 put out a buffet of fantasy

The magazine, Vanity Fair, describes it as the “giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine and every kind of sex. Once you were within the velvet ropes, you were exposed to raunchiness, debauchery and creativity of an unimaginable scale.

“It felt like you were going to a new place every night,” says Kevin Haley, then a model, now a Hollywood decorator. “And you were, because they changed it all the time for the parties. Remember the Dolly Parton party? It was like a little farm with bales of hay and live farm animals—pigs and goats and sheep. The designer Karl Lagerfield’s party: an 18th century paty with busboys dressed up as courtiers, powdered wigs and then—a live reggae concert at 3 am in the morning. Another night might bring Bianca Jagger popping out of a birthday cake. Some nights might bring in a sea of glitter, another night Lady Godiva on a horse—or Hell’s Angels on Harleys on the dance floor.

Ironically, the buffet-concept represents just one way to create an irresistible offer. The other way is the exact opposite—where you take away everything and create a specialty offer.

Remember where you get over 200,000 tutorials?

Remember the price? Yes, it’s $250 a year. And yet, at Psychotactics we sell an InDesign course that’s $269.

It’s not an entire course in InDesign. It’s not even a partial course. All the course promises is ONE thing. It shows you how to create an e-book in InDesign in less than an hour. If you were to learn a course in InDesign, you’re likely to take at least 18 hours—and that’s the first time around. It’s likely you’d have to go through the entire course (or at least part of the course) a second time. And then when you’re ready to create your snazzy e-book, you have to work out which part of InDesign will help you get the result you seek. It’s not inconceivable to spend 40-50 hours just to get your e-book going.

Now the specialty offer makes a huge difference to the client

Instead of wading through hours of material, they get right to the point. And this specialty concept applies to more than just courses or training. A phone. Most of us want smartphones that have all the bells and whistles. But what if you want just a cell phone that makes calls? The Doro Phone Easy 626 does just what you’d expect a cell phone to do—it makes calls. Like the InDesign course, it’s not meant for everyone, but just a smaller audience that finds it irresistible.

What does this mean for you when you’re selling a product or service?

It means you can have your cake and eat it too. When we sell the book, The Brain Audit, it is akin to a buffet (like most books). It has several chapters and spans 180 pages. Yet, elements of The Brain Audit are then isolated. For instance, one of the elements, uniqueness, is a complete course. Another element, testimonial is a 100+ page book. Clients who buy The Brain Audit are extremely satisfied with the content and applications. However, when they want to go deeper on an isolated topic, they will buy the other products as well.

Studio 54 catered to almost 2000 people a night—yet there was isolation in place

If you were part of the select few, you could go down to the basement. The basement was essentially a storage area connected by zigzagging passageways. The in-crowd was in the basement, away from the party upstairs, mostly talking through the night and drinking bottles of a vodka brand— Stolichnaya.

Even if you’re no Studio 54, you can have a smörgåsbord of goodies while at the same time putting a velvet rope over other product or services. And since we’re talking about buffets, a restaurant could have the buffet, while at the same time offering a special meal for just a tiny audience. A website designer could put together a website with all the bells and whistles—then create a service or product that was very niche and hence, irresistible.

To be irresistible, you don’t have to choose between buffet and specialty items

In reality a specialty item is easier to put together (because it’s less stuff, rather than more). In the grand scheme of things, it’s also easier to market as it has a clear point of focus. While we’ll look at all three elements: buffet/specialty, exclusivity and build up, it’s important to note that specialty is a great starting point. So start small—and charge more.

This takes us to the second element: Exclusivity.

Have a look here—for the continuation on How To Make Your Product or Service Irresistible: Part 2 and 3.

Nov 13 2015



Rank #11: Fritoons Announcement

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This is not a regular podcast episode but a quick announcement about Fritoon... Your chance to receive a funny cartoon direct to your inbox every Friday. Visit , to sign up! Enjoy

Oct 09 2018



Rank #12: How To Create A Profitable Product (Three Core Questions)

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We all want to create profitable products but aren't sure where to start. We hope for some amazing formula, when all you really need are three core questions. When you are clear about the answers to the three questions, you can take an amazingly pedestrian, everyday concept and make it hugely profitable. So what are the three questions you need to have in place and how can you get started today?


How to Create a Profitable Idea for Business

Around July 2000, I was made redundant from my job at a web design firm.

Life wasn’t supposed to unfold this way. I’d just moved to Auckland, New Zealand from Mumbai, India a few months prior. And here I was, barely a few months later, without a job and with a mortgage that hovered around $200,000 (yes, we’d just bought a house).

What do you do when you’re hurled into such a situation?

I turned to Photoshop, but not quite. There’s a story behind the Photoshop story and it began back in India, in July. Back in Mumbai, I freelanced as a cartoonist and work was pretty steady through the year, except around July.

For some inexplicable reason, the phones would stop ringing at that point in the year. At first, it drove me crazy and I’d do everything I could to drum up business. I’d rant and rave and complain about the fickle nature of July when my mother pointed out that things were always quiet for me in July.

From that point on, we’d use July to learn how to use Photoshop

One of the big games at the office (yes, I had staff) was to learn to use Photoshop in Tab, F mode. If you were to turn on Photoshop and hit the Tab key and press F (full screen) you’d find that all your toolbars disappear.

The game at the office was to keep working in Photoshop without any toolbars. A bystander would look in awe as you were able to use the brush tool, increase opacity, decrease brush sizes etc. You could do almost anything in Photoshop without needing the tool bar. It looked like pure magic.

It’s this magic that I had to use when I was made redundant

The moment I was made redundant, I went back to trying to get work as a cartoonist. Since most cartoonists at the time were still using pen, ink and paint, my work in Photoshop stood out when I went to meet art directors at the advertising agencies.

One particular art director got a bit chatty and as we talked she realised that she too could use the magic of Photoshop in her work. And so, while I started out trying to sell cartoons, I ended up charging $60 an hour, teaching art directors how to use the core tools of Photoshop without the tool bar.

Notice something very interesting in the last sentence?

I wasn’t teaching them Photoshop. I wasn’t going into the 2,459 rabbit holes that Photoshop presents to a beginner.

Instead I was just teaching them a subset—the core tools of Photoshop without the need for a tool bar. And this is precisely the kind of advice I’d give to a client if they called me up and asked how they should start a profitable business.

I’d say you need to ask yourself three questions: who, what and when. So why do these three questions matter?

Why Who Matters

I’ve been pretty good at drawing since a very young age. Like every other kid around me, I did the usual doodles and scribbling, and when the rest of the kids decided to give up drawing at the age of four or five, I kept at it.

So you can say I’d be pretty good at drawing after all these years, wouldn’t you? And you’d be right because I’ve never really stopped drawing for a day. But drawing is a bit like cooking.

Just because you’re good at cooking Italian food doesn’t mean you’re going to be any good at Japanese food

Over the years I became exceptionally good at drawing cartoons, loved the structure of buildings and architecture, even dabbled in a bit of caricatures. But there’s one thing I avoided: drawing animals. I’d decided very early in my life that I wasn’t too good at drawing animals.

Then, recently, I was saddled with about 400 amazing envelopes. There’s a story behind those envelopes, but for now let’s just say it was much too hard to throw away those envelopes. So I started drawing animals on them, tentatively at first, but then with a sense of a mission.

The moment I started posting the photos of these envelopes online, there was a flurry of interest

People from different parts of the globe started giving me advice on what I should do with them. You should print them, said one. You could create a collector’s item box set said another. And the advice kept pouring in, and did exactly what advice usually does: it confuses you beyond belief.

The reason you’re hearing this story is to give you a framework of how a profitable idea doesn’t arise from an ability to do something well. A profitable idea arises from the first question you need to ask: Who. The envelope art I just started working on in early June 2016.

So why is who so important?

Without the “who” in mind, struggle is almost inevitable. Think about the boxed set of envelopes, for example. There’s no doubt that they make a great product, but well intended as the suggestions were, there’s no clue who would buy it.

Or why they would buy it? Yet if we took the Photoshop example, we notice there’s an enormous amount of clarity. Sure, the clarity came about by a fluke discussion, but as we’ll find out a lot of profitable ideas are pure fluke.

To get back to the art director, I now had a clear person (what we call in The Brain Audit as the target profile). That one job of teaching the art director not only went on for several months, but led to another job—with the daughter of another art director. I didn’t go down the path of teaching Photoshop to other art directors, but you could clearly see how the “who” helped.

The “who” matters whether you’re writing an article or creating a product or service

Let’s say you’re creating an online product on storytelling. Before you start writing a word, you are peripherally aware of the volumes of story-related material in books, videos and audio. To write another series on storytelling would be nice, but how would it stand out.

Now let’s be fair: there’s a lot of terribly average material online and offline that is very profitable regardless of uniqueness. All the same, when uniqueness is relatively easy, why would you want a me-too product when you can have one that’s clearly outstanding? When you create a product or service for someone in particular, they give you their own specific bent on the problem they’re facing.

Take for example a service on presentations

There are hundreds of books on presentations and services that promise to show you how to be amazing on stage. Yet, when I spoke to this presenter, she felt competent, but not quite.

She felt she needed that last 10% that would take her from good to great. And there you have it. That subset is what gives you the clue. Instead of writing a book, creating a course, inventing a service on “presentations”, you work on the subset of how the “last 10% can take you from a good to great speaker.”

Fluke plays an incredibly important part in this game of finding the “who”

We’re so hell-bent on finding the right person, the right target profile that we don’t dare venture far from our computer screens. When I ran into that chatty art director, I had no clue that she’d talk about Photoshop.

When I spoke to that presenter, I had no idea that a cup of coffee would lead to an idea about “the last 10%”. It may appear that a lot of products or services are built around strategy, but they’re often built around a person.

The mistake we make is we hope we run into the ideal “who” right away

And more often than not, the “who” is a complete fluke. At first, almost every product or service is like Version 1.0. And the feedback you get from that person is going to be relatively limited.

Even if you were to create a product or service for “last 10% presenter”, the product would need refinement to get to Version 1.1 and from there to 1.2 and so on. With every product or service that’s been profitable, we’ve had a Version 1.0 and then moved along refining as we go along.

Every time you fix things, your product becomes better and more profitable and there’s always a “who” who’ll give you feedback and help you take the product to another level.

But even if there’s a “who” in place, how do you deal with the “what?”

The what depends on a simple concept: the idea of a superpower.


Why When Matters

1838 1840 1845 1849 1853 1859

For over 20 years Charles Darwin postponed the publishing of his theory

Then, on 24 November, 1859, Darwin published his theory on, “Origin of Species”. Priced at fifteen shillings, 1250 copies were sold. Yet, Darwin wasn’t keen on the book being published until his death. In a letter to his religious wife, Darwin asked that 400 pound be set aside and enough promotion of his book be done after his death.

Yet, Alfred Russel Wallace got in the way of these plans

Alfred Wallace, a naturalist, spent eight years in Singapore and South East Asia between the years of 1854 and 1862 and is known to have discovered evolution by natural selection as well.

He wrote an essay while in Indonesia (while living on the island of Ternate) and sent it to Darwin in 1858. When Darwin saw the contents of the letter, he knew the “Origin of Species” couldn’t wait any longer. It needed to be published right away or all of Darwin’s work would be attributed to another man.

We are similar to Darwin in many ways

Our work may seem insignificant when compared with the work of Darwin, but if your work changes a single person’s day, it’s significant. You know from your own experience how a single line in a book may have caused you to stop and reexamine what you were doing.

Or a random comment that may have changed the way you went about your life or business. Our work seems insignificant only because we know it so well. For others it can be a major moment in their lives.

Which is why you need to start now

As you’ve probably heard or read elsewhere on the Psychotactics site, most of our work started out unpolished. At this very moment, as I’m writing this article, Renuka is laughing at one of my articles that I wrote several years ago. However the best example of the unpolished nature of our work must be attributed to The Brain Audit itself.

As you’v probably heard before, the “book” started out as just 16 pages of notes. We made over $50,000 selling that book simply because we got pushed into selling it. And when we sold it offline we weren’t ready to sell it online. Again, someone pushed us and our online business got underway.

If you think your work is crappy, there’s a good reason why

Your work is crappy. The Brain Audit was crappy at the start. All our courses and workshops were crappy at the start. Not by choice, of course. We did the best we could but now I can’t even bear to go back and look at the early versions. You too will need to bolster up your confidence and get your work going whether it’s through text, audio, video or presentations. Because if you don’t do it, someone else will.

Darwin had all the material he needed but was still reluctant to publish his work

And here I am giving you this advice but I’m reluctant as well. I’ve been working on the concept of talent since 2008 or earlier. So many years have passed and while I’ve written the odd article here and there, there’s no program, no book, no webinar, no podcast.

Let me ask you this question: Would you like to read about how to become talented in just about any field? Would you like to read about what holds us back?(and no it’s not genes). It’s not like I’m comparing my work to Darwin’s or any one else for that matter. But as a reader or listener, would the information be important to you? Your work is more important than ever

It may appear raw to you, but you need to start and fix it later. You’re hoping for that one great idea but you need to start with a little idea. Will the little idea fail? It might, but from those failures you keep moving ahead and fixing things.  Even Darwin’s work was just the start of his journey. During Darwin’s lifetime the book went through six editions, with cumulative changes and revisions to deal with counter-arguments raised.

In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books. His final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (published 1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

When he died he was honoured by a burial in Westminster Abbey where only royals, generals, admirals, politicians, doctors and important scientists are buried. And to think Darwin almost never started on his journey.

Do you still want to wait? Or are you going to start today?



So how do you create a profitable idea for business?

When you started reading this information, you may have thought there’d be a formula. And that’s the formula you’ve been missing. The formula is so simple that somehow you feel like there’s something wrong.

Like as if you have to pay $2000 to some Internet guru to get the formula. But think about it for a second. Let’s say you’ve got a really good way to grow tomatoes. You can grow thousands of tomatoes in an extremely small space. Is that a superpower? Sure it is.

So let’s start with the who: Who is going to be interested in your tomato idea?

Then let’s get to what: The “what” is about growing thousands of tomatoes in a very small space. Then let’s get to the when: And this is where it all falls apart, isn’t it? You should start now, but there are reasons why you can’t start now. If Darwin could have reasons, so can you and I. We can all have our reasons.

The biggest problem isn’t necessarily that you need a great idea for business

You just need to start but there’s something holding you back. And we’ll explore what holds you back—yes we will. But understand that there isn’t going to be a moment when you’ll get a great idea.

The Brain Audit was not a great idea, it was just a presentation. Every product or service you’ve experienced at Psychotactics wasn’t a great idea and even today is just work in progress. Most ideas are half-baked when they start and it’s in your interest to get started.

Start now!

Identify whom you think will buy the idea, then work on the what you’re going to sell. Make it a superpower, as far as possible. And start now. If you keep at it, the road will change along the way. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll get smarter too. And that’s when the profit will roll in.

Teaching Photoshop wasn’t a new idea.

It wasn’t even a great idea.

Heck, you could even borrow the idea by learning Photoshop and finding art directors. And the best way to get started is to get started. You’re a member of 5000bc aren’t you? Well, get to the Taking Action forum where others just like you have decided to take their ideas and run with it. They’re on their way and so should you.

Useful Resources:

1) How A 3-Step Pre-Sell Creates Product Irresistibility 2) Three Unknown Secrets of Riveting Story Telling 3) The Brain Audit

Jun 17 2016


Rank #13: Three Steps To Getting Your Uniqueness Recognised

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When you create or find your uniqueness, do you need to test it? Incredible as it seems there's little point in doing any testing at all. In this episode you'll find out why testing is practically impossible and how instead of wasting time on research, you should follow three steps to make sure your uniqueness occupies a permanent part of your client's brain.

Click here to read: Three Steps To Getting Your Uniqueness Recognised

Dec 22 2018



Rank #14: How to Accelerate Client Learning (Using Spaced Repetition) Part 1

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Why do we get upset with ourselves when we forget information?

Surely we should be able to remember at least 30-40% of a book. But it seems to slide through our brain like semolina in a sieve. Yet, there is a way to remember things—and there's also a big reason to forget.

Find out why forgetting is just as important as retaining facts. Find out exactly how to go about it in this episode on memory.

How to Accelerate Client Learning

Apr 20 2019



Rank #15: When Quitting Is the Smarter Option (Instead of Just Hanging On)

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In business the advice we get is to hang in, no matter what happens.

Yet, to me that sounds like the wrong advice. You definitely need to hang in a bit when things get slightly tougher than you expected. But there's a time for quitting as well. How do you know if you should quit or soldier on? When Quitting Is the Smarter Option

Feb 15 2019



Rank #16: How To Overcome Mental Blocks That Derail Your Progress - Part One

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Do you have a bad memory?

Well, so does the memory champion of the US Memory Championships. How's that possible you may ask? But that's exactly the point.

We have misconceptions about learning and memory that need to be wiped out and replaced with accurate representations of how our brain works.

In this first episode we look at two of the mental blocks that cause us to stutter, if not fail. And we transform them from failure to success.

Let's find out how.

Read online: Business Mental Myths


As late as the 1970s, women's brains were considered to be inferior to that of men, and especially so in the game of chess.

Chess is a game that demands a high level of spatial awareness, among other skills, and it was erroneously believed that women could never equal men at the grandmaster level. In fact, not one woman had made it to grandmaster level until Susan Polgár came along.

Susan's father, László Polgár, didn't believe in inborn talent. He wrote a book about genius, and in it emphasised the fact that “Geniuses are made, not born”. To prove the point, he and his wife Klara educated their three daughters at home, and while geography and history lessons were important, chess was considered to be the most valuable of all.

At 4, Susan Polgár won her first chess tournament in the Budapest Girls' Under-11 Championship, with a 10–0 score. In 1982, at the age of 12, she won the World Under 16 (Girls) Championship.

In a series shot by National Geographic, called “My Brilliant Brain”, Susan Polgár talks about her first visit to the premier chess club in Budapest. She was still just a little girl. “The room was filled with smoke and there were elderly men who thought my father was there for a game and brought his daughter along.

But the reality is that my father wanted to see how I would against the members of the club”. The club members thought László Polgár was mad. But they went along with the crazy plan and soon found the “pretty little girl” was beating them hands down.

Susan Polgár continued her meteoric rise

She was the first woman in history to break the gender barrier by qualifying for the 1986 “Men's” World Championship. In January 1991, Polgar became the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title in the conventional way of achieving three GM norms and a rating over 2500.

No longer could men claim that a woman couldn't attain the role of a grandmaster in chess. In time, Susan's sister, Judit also became a grandmaster. The third sister, Sofia earned a norm in a grandmaster-level tournament in 1989 when she was only 14.

The mental myth was shattered once and for all.

In business too, the we have to deal with mental myths that hold us back.

As we weave our way through videos online or articles that rarely have any solid research, these myths take a hold of us and create a factor of intimidation. It feels sometimes, like everyone else is moving ahead while we lag behind. In business, as in life, it's not enough to just get and keep the business going. We have to make sure we don't get bogged down in myths have have no basis in reality.

Three persistent mental myths that prevail are:

Mental Myth 1: Copying is not a good idea. We need to be original. Mental Myth 2: You Need To Remember What You Learn Mental Myth 3: You need to speed up your learning (and there are systems to go faster)

Let's find out why these myths need to be banished, once and for all. We will look at the first two myths in this episode.

Mental Myth 1: Copying is not a good idea. We need to be original.

When you look at the Taj Mahal, you don't think of Humayun, do you?

Humayun, who? For over 200 years, the Mughals ruled over parts of what is modern day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In what is surely one of the greatest empires the world has ever known, they were rulers of between 110-150 million people—a fourth of the world's population at that time. The family tree of the Mughal emperors started with Babur, went down to Humayun, Akbar the Great, Jahangir, but it's Shah Jahan who gets most of the spotlight.

And let's geek out a bit on history a bit here because we're talking about the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan. Emperor Shah Jahan was utterly besotted with his wife, Mumtaz Begum. In an age where marriages were simply ties between one ruling family and the next, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz fell in love with each other.

However, Shah Jahan was so in love with Mumtaz that he showed little interest in exercising his polygamous rights with his two other wives, other than having a child with each. Mumtaz, on the other hand, bore him thirteen children, which, if you're rolling your eyes, was a family size quite common back in those times. Anyway, on 17 June 1631, at the age of 38, Mumtaz Begum died while giving birth to what would have been the fourteenth child.

The Taj Mahal is a memorial to the intense grief that followed

It took 21 years, from 1632-1653 to build the Taj Mahal. And today, if you're around Delhi, you're likely to make a trip to Agra to look at this remarkable monument. The Taj Mahal had more than its share of inspiration from another structure built almost a hundred years earlier—Humayun's tomb. If you look at Humayun's tomb and then look at the Taj Mahal, there's more than a striking resemblance. It almost looks like a copy.

Copying is given a bad name because it's often mashed with plagiarism

Before the advent of computers, the best way for an artist to learn to draw was to copy. If you head to Amsterdam and look at Van Gogh's start, you'll notice he copies a lot. In a museum dedicated to Van Gogh, the curators have taken great pains to show how Van Gogh's early work was an almost identical copy of the Japanese art of the time. As it says on the museum's website: Japanese printmaking was one of Vincent's primary sources of inspiration, and he became an enthusiastic collector.

The prints acted as a catalyst: they taught him a new way of looking at the world

But did his own work change as a result? There was tremendous admiration for all things Japanese in the second half of the nineteenth century. Vincent did not pay much attention to this Japonisme at first. Very few artists in the Netherlands studied Japanese art. In Paris, by contrast, it was all the rage. So it was there that Vincent discovered the impact Oriental art was having in the West when he decided to modernise his own art.”

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh says the following: My studio's quite tolerable, mainly because I've pinned a set of Japanese prints on the walls that I find very diverting.

You know, those little female figures in gardens or on the shore, horsemen, flowers, gnarled thorn branches.” He and his brother then proceeded to buy stacks of Japanese woodcuts because they recognised the Japanese art as highly as any Western masterpiece. Van Gogh then went about copying the structure and composition of Japanese art in great detail. In a letter to his brother, he wrote: “All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art.”

Whether you're a writer, singer, golfer or musician—you have to copy

In the Da Vinci cartooning course, we have whole weeks where the participants have to trace—yes, with regular butter paper or tracing paper—just like you did when you were a child. To be able to copy allows you to see what the other person has done. And how you, in turn, can do the same. As a cartoonist, I had whole books of work.

I started out copying Superman, Batman and other superheroes, moving on to comic strips like Hagar the Horrible, and for a good while, even Dennis the Menace. Years later I was copying Mort Drucker and Jack Davis from Mad Magazine. And Ajit Ninan who was a caricaturist for India Today, one of India's largest magazines at the time.

The copying didn't stop there

When I started out in advertising as a cub copywriter, I knew almost nothing about copywriting. I'd leaf through books; advertising books called the “One Show” that were so thick they could be used as doorstops. I learned a ton of how ads were made from those books alone.

When I moved to marketing, I bought endless material from marketer Jay Abraham, learning how he promoted his courses, workshops and home study versions. I'd get his 15-20 page sales letters in the mail, and I'd go through them with a yellow marker, trying to figure out why I was so excited to buy his material.

When you copy, you learn

When you copy from many sources, you start to merge one style into another until you soon have a style of your own. If you keep copying, your fixed style changes. When I look at some of the cartoons I did between 2000-2010, I cringe a lot. I don't like the colours, I don't like the line work, and I want to change it all. Not entirely erase the work, I'm not that daft, but

I've been copying all my life. Which, as we know, is different from plagiarism. Plagiarism is a rip-off. A photocopy of someone else's work is plagiarism. Work that's not yours and is signed by you, that's plagiarism.

Without copying, you quickly plateau

Copying is what pushes you outside your comfort zone a lot. When Van Gogh started to copy Japanese artists, he had to relearn a whole different way of painting and composition. As it says yet again on the Van Gogh website: “Japanese artists often left the middle ground of their compositions empty, while objects in the foreground were sometimes enlarged. They regularly excluded the horizon too, or abruptly cropped the elements of the picture at the edge.”

However, not all copying should be done blindly

It's one thing to copy a style, but quite another thing to blindly copy what others are doing. For instance, when we did our early workshops in Auckland and Los Angeles, catering was included in the cost of the workshop. All the workshops we'd been to, before hosting our own, had always served food. However, we found that just copying someone's else's actions doesn't necessarily work well.

When we'd ask about feedback for the workshop, people would complain about the food. Someone always wanted proteins; some one else wants carbs. And these were in the days before the wave of crazy diets came along. I got good advice from speaker/author, Brian Tracy. “You're not in catering, Sean”, he said to me. And so we gave up serving food at workshops.

In the same manner, it's probably a good idea to find out the strategy behind why people do certain things. It's better to know the story behind the plan, before making some horrible mistake and finding out later.

Despite the downsides, copying is what makes the world go round. The Taj Mahal, Van Gogh's works of art, even Disneyland got a large dose of inspiration from the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. When you're next thinking of creating your website, painting, writing or doing just about any activity, first consider copying. Consider tracing.

Originality is slightly overrated

P.S. Even while this article series was being completed, I found a clear case of plagiarism. The author had taken the six questions from The Brain Audit and palmed it off as his own. What made it weird was the fact that it was on the Intuit site, the company that sells Quickbooks. Through Facebook, they got in touch with me, because someone tagged Intuit. The article was taken down shortly after.

Mental Myth 2: You Need To Remember What You Learn

In 2006, a journalist called Joshua Foer won the U.S.A Memory Championship. He also set a new US record in the speed cards event by memorising a deck of 52 cards in barely 1 minute and 40 seconds.

However, Joshua Foer doesn't consider himself to have a very good memory at all.

He forgot where he put his car keys, often where he'd parked his car in the first place. He'd routinely leave food in the oven, forget his girlfriend's birthday, their anniversary. Despite the onslaught of advertising he'd miss Valentine's Day, and not remember most of the things that you and I seem to routinely forget. In 2005, he was a journalist who wanted to figure out what made memory champions so successful. In 2006, he was the U.S. Memory Champion.

If there's one statement almost all of us have heard before it's this: I have a really bad memory. At first it's some relative; maybe a grandparent or someone much older that seems to complain about memory, but increasingly, even in your teens and twenties, you'll find yourself—and others making statements such as: I can't seem to remember names at all. I have a really bad memory.

Which seems to make sense, because we find there are those who seemingly have memories like elephants and our memories seem to be like a sieve. Trying to remember what we've learned seems hard, and often impossible. Learning seems to go one way where we build up skills and knowledge.

Forgetting seems to land all that hard earned information into the gutter. Forgetting seems to be the arch enemy of learning. Forgetting seems to be about failure, and it drives us crazy. And yet, forgetting is exactly the opposite.

“The brain is nature's most sophisticated spam filter” says Benedict Carey in his book, “How We Learn”

To be able to remember one thing, we often have to forget the other. In his book, he talks about how we're all amazingly impressed at the sight of a spelling bee, a competition where young kids seem to be able to spell incredulously complex words. As all contests go, there's a winner and there are losers.

Yet how do we make every one of those seemingly smart kids lose? Instead of getting them to spell words, let's say we drag them back on stage and run a different type of memory test.

The questions would go like this:

•Name the last book you read •What did you have for lunch two days ago? •Which was the last movie you saw? •What's your sister's middle name? •What's the capital of Ouagadougou? (It's Burkina Faso)

“In a hypothetical content, each of those highly concentrated minds would be drawing a lot of blanks”, says Carey. But why is this the case? And how does this related to what you're learning? Most of us automatically assume that we should remember what we learn.

In many cases, we assume that we've understood what we've just read, seen or heard. In almost every instance, it might take three or four tries for a person to get all the facts right, even if they go back over the information.

Take for instance, this article itself. You probably remember that there was a memory championship. But was it a world championship or based in a specific country? Who won it? Do you remember the year? You possibly remember that the winner was male and that he was a journalist, but there are constant gaps in your memory.

Which is why people tend to write notes

However, while notes might be a better-than-nothing option, they're still extremely poor at pulling up details. All information is dependent on your initial knowledge of the subject matter in the first place. Take for instance, the book called “Dartboard Pricing”. The book goes into a lot of detail about why one product or service can be priced higher than a similar product in an identical market. As you're reading through the book, or listening to the audio, there's a feeling that you're getting the idea.

However, the moment clients put up a pricing grid, they get elements of the grid wrong. Logically this shouldn't be the case at all. You have the book in front of you. The information isn't flipping past you at high speed. Even so, clients will get the pricing grid wrong. To really get the information, you have to go back several times and no amount of arrows and boxes, or explanation will help. The brain is designed to pick up some information and drop all the rest.

The best way to retain information is to follow the way the brain works best

And that's to get to the first powerful idea and then turn off the audio. Close the book. Stop watching the video. If you have to, rewind, or go back. But going forward does little good. Your brain isn't necessarily picking up the details as you progress. Even when reading an article, I will get to a point where I run into something profound, different or difficult.

At which point I stop any sort of progress. If it's on my phone, I freeze the idea by taking a screenshot. If it's on audio, I stop listening to the podcast and yes, you need to do the same, if you really want to remember what you've just read. The breakdown allows your brain to stop at that point. When you go back and review the point, it makes even more sense. Then, if you're ready to go ahead, please do.

Does this method mean you'll progress an inch at a time?

No it doesn't mean that at all. It depends on the information you're learning. I'll listen to some podcasts and it's pure storytelling or information that keeps my brain cells entertained. They may apply to my business or not, but at least at the time, I don't find I need to imprint it in my memory. However, if there's something that's important, I will make sure I stop and come back later.

It's a way of highlighting that information and forcing your brain to remember. I do this at workshops and seminars as well. I will continue to sit and participate in a seminar, but I wait for the first big point to hit me. When that's done, I'm “technically” ready to go home. I notice others are scribbling tons of notes, but I know I will remember nothing when I get back. So I keep the idea down to one. If I'm feeling really generous, I may add a second or third, but that's easily the upper limit.

You don't need to remember everything you learn

It's a myth that your memory, or even the memory of the memory champions are any good. The brain is one of the nature's most powerful spam filters. It remembers what's important. And hence it's your job to help your brain. When you find something that's important, dig in your heels. Stop. Then go back and review it later.

That's how you'll improve your memory and your knowledge over time.

Next up: Is speed reading a bad idea?

Well, not entirely, but you need to know when to use it and why. Find out how speed works for you and more importantly, when it fails—Mental Myth: You need to speed up your learning (and there are systems to go faster)

Sep 23 2017



Rank #17: How To Avoid Overwhelm (And Systematically Complete Projects)

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Whenever you have a deadline, somehow you're able to stagger towards it and get the job done. But other tasks never seem to move forward. You fall behind on your reading, your fun projects, even that movie you'd promised yourself. In life we need to complete projects that are urgent, but also projects that are good for the soul.

How do we get these projects going and how can we sustain them over the long term? Let's find out in this episode.

Click here to read it on the website: How To Avoid Overwhelm (And Systematically Complete Projects)


I remember lying in bed on a Sunday morning and realising I was a hypocrite.

My niece Marsha says she loves reading, which is why we bought her the entire Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson and the Kane Chronicles. She stuttered through the Harry Potter series but made her way to the last book. And as of this moment, she's been stalled on the first book in the Percy Jackson series.

When I ask her if she's been reading, she always nods happily, but she's barely progressed further than 10-15 pages in the last month or two. It bugs me, because I know that reading isn't just about reading. It's about spelling, structure, storytelling and imagination. As you'd expect, I'd nudge Marsha at every chance I got, encouraging her to read, but she still gives me a happy smile and makes little or no progress.

Until that Sunday morning, I didn't think the lesson of the nudge applied to me I'm one of those crazy people. I go for a walk, and sometimes I'll listen to music, or Renuka and I will talk all the way. Even so, I'll get at least between an hour to two hours of audio every week.

I'll read before I go to bed, and sometimes on weekends. I'll even spend Friday morning planning and then get an hour's worth of reading. I'll even watch a TED Talk on while making breakfast every day. Marsha's situation doesn't apply to me, so why did I feel like a hypocrite?

It just so happened that I was browsing through my Kindle collection that Sunday morning As I scrolled through the books, I realised I hadn't read at least 30% of what I'd bought. That among those I'd read, there were several that were half-abandoned.

A good chunk was complete, but how's that different from Marsha?

How's that different from all of us? We start out with good intentions.

We buy stuff; we save stuff onto our computers or devices for future reading and then suddenly it seems to be too overwhelming. We're reading through one book when you get a recommendation to read five others. You're leafing through one article, and a stack of one thousand seem to be trying to be trying to get through the front door.

I don't like the feeling of being a hypocrite, so I devised a system.

And since I like naming systems, I called it “TBM”: the bare minimum. It even sounded nice when written on a piece of paper. Or better still on a car plate. In my crazy mind, I read it as “T BM”. As in the “the bum”. The kind of guy who is lazy and won't do much more than needed to get by. This mindset of doing the bare minimum was my own invention, it seems. And yet it's not. Many years ago I'd read about the financial advisor, Dave Ramsey who talked about his own bare minimum method when paying back loans.

When you have several loans to pay back what advice do financial planners give you? They tell you to pay the biggest loan first. Which means if you have loans of $500, $2000, $200,000, it makes a lot of sense to whittle down the biggest loan, as it also has the largest portion of interest. Ramsey works on a seemingly counter-intuitive method. He gets you to pay the smallest loan first.

Here ‘s How the Debt Snowball Method Works As he explains on his website, it's a bit like a snowball, a debt snowball. The debt snowball method is a debt reduction strategy where you pay off debts in order of smallest to largest, gaining momentum as each balance is paid off. If the task is too big, it's easy to give up. After all, a $100 payment is barely going to tickle a $200,000 loan. But put that $100 towards the $500 loan and you've wiped away a chunky 20%.

TBM—The bare minimum. The idea gelled in my brain on a Sunday morning.

And this series is a bit counterintuitive as well. It's not about achieving any big goals. Instead, it's about chipping away small wins. It's important because we all seem to fall by the wayside when it comes to long term goals. The more personal the goal, the more likely it is to fall into the cracks. Reading a book that you dearly want to read, goes into the must-do-in-future list. And the future comes and goes, and the book is unread.

So what are we and Marsha to do?  The world isn't getting less complicated.

How do we roll this bare minimum plan out and keep at it? Let's find out.

The three things we'll cover are: – What is the bare minimum, and why it's not a mind trick to do even more. – How to use triggers to get the bare minimum going – Why you need to use it exclusively for long-term projects

1) What is the bare minimum? And why it's not a mind trick to do even more

Almost every one of us has seen a progress bar on our computer, haven't we?

It's that little bar that goes from left to right, telling us that a program is opening, or a file is being saved. What many of us might not know, is that the progress bar doesn't quite give us the real situation because let's face it, we're impatient. To counter this impatience, then-student, Brad A. Myers decided that progress bars made computer users less anxious, more efficient and could possibly help them relax at work.

He then got his fellow students, 48 of them, to take a test with and without the progress bars. 86% said they liked the bars. They loved knowing that progress was being made. They were told that the progress bar wasn't an accurate representation of what was happening within the computer, but they didn't care. They still preferred the progress bar, to not having anything at all.

Let's rewind that last line, shall we? Still preferred the progress bar, to not having anything at all. That's what it says, doesn't it? And when we look at the tasks we have before us, we see nothing at all. We haven't started on the job, because we know there's a lot involved. Just the thought of the steps needing to get to the end point seems to overwhelm us immediately.

And we're not talking about learning a complicated program or writing a book. We're referring to something as simple as reading a book. We look at the book, knowing full well we'd like to read it, but absolutely nothing happens. And one book piles up on another, until we have books and e-books that we'd like to read, but can't get started. Or if we get started, a distraction comes along, and we chase down that butterfly-like-distraction right away.

When I first started out in marketing, I didn't have many butterflies to chase

Back in the year 2000, almost all marketing was done offline. You'd get a big package in the mail. Pages, lots of pages, talking about some program that would help you become more successful. But that's all the post box held—one big set of pages.

There was nothing else to see. Unlike today, where you can easily find two dozen courses and programs in your inbox, there was just this one package. You paid a small fortune for the program as they all seemed to start at around $1500 or so, and some were $5000 and even higher. Then you got these three ring binders, your cassette tapes, later CDs and that was that. You didn't see any butterflies and didn't have to invest in any Butterly net.

Today, you and I have a sea of stuff that we can download in minutes, and buy in seconds

And that's only part of the problem. Learning, yes, that's really important, but then so are the other things in your life. They're all piling up, and you can't seem to figure out how to beat that overwhelm. So why not borrow a concept from the credit card companies?

Let's say you have to pay $5000 on your credit card. Logically speaking, you should be getting Mastercard or Visa to deduct the amount directly from your account. But the credit card companies seem like Santa Claus, don't they? They say: Don't worry, just pay $125 on your credit card, and we're good. You and I know there's not a lot of good in paying off the minimum amount, but hey, sometimes we do. And then the insidious debt creeps up.

It may be insidious for paying off credit card bills, but it's perfect for getting things done

Going back to that book that you haven't read, you don't have to do anything but the bare minimum. Let's say the bare minimum is one paragraph. C'mon, you say. One paragraph is a cop out. You're not going to get very far with one paragraph, are you?

Well, there's this story about John Grisham, the famous author. “If I had 30 minutes to an hour, I would sneak up to the old law library, hide behind the law books and write A Time to Kill”, he said in a USA Today interview with Dennis Moore. It took him three whole years of 30-minute segments, but a thousand days later he was done. If Grisham weren't famous and hadn't sold 250 million books, this story might have never been told, but now we know that his entire career was built on 30-minute increments.

And yet, for many of us, 30 minutes seems like a lot My friend, Campbell Such and I had a mini-tussle over meditation.

I happily boast that you need at least 30 minutes of meditation to get any momentum. For the first 20 minutes or so, it seems like you're swatting flies in the vast Australian outback. But as you get to the 30-minute mark, things start to happen. Campbell disagrees. He spends 5-10 minutes every morning, meditating. “That's all I can manage,” he says. And he's right. I disagreed with him at the point we had the discussion. I thought that 10 minutes was barely a warm up and that if a person couldn't do at least 30 minutes, it's better to avoid it altogether.

Which is the flaw with a lot of productivity plans, when you think about it

They seem to suggest you fool your brain. That if you want to go for a walk, you should put on your shoes and then you'll end up going for a 30-minute walk. And the concept of the bare minimum is entirely the opposite. It's pure sloth behaviour. It's not asking you to fool your brain at all. It's saying: do the bare minimum, just like those credit card companies ask of you. Do nothing but the bare minimum. No mind tricks, no additional time, no extra effort. Just the smallest possible thing you can take on, and that's all you should do.

I tried this method for my website In July 2015, I started on the revamp of our website.

I'm super fussy, but I did outsource the website. I got quotes, I got designs, and they were so terrible, I was tearing my hair out in frustration. Anyway, in 2015, I did the website designs in Photoshop and Stresslesweb (they're our coders) put together the site so I could get on with my fussy ways. Two years ticked by. Every chance I got, I thought about the website, but nothing happened.

Then in August 2017, I decided to do the bare minimum. Some days, I'd merely list what I had to do on the website. The next day, I'd do a headline and the first paragraph. Another day, I'd add a cartoon or two. To my surprise, I started getting that silly momentum. I'd want to do more, but most days I resisted like crazy.

It's because I have a lot of other long-term projects as well I paint every day in my Moleskine diary. But that too was falling apart because I felt the burden of painting. So instead of doing another painting, I'd just do the bare minimum. It could involve simply doing a sketch. Maybe later in the day or next day, just doing a wash. It seems almost tedious because you're literally watching paint dry, but I've begun to turn out some amazing art work. I'm painting better than ever before.

And guess what? The web pages are getting done, and I'm going through the book list as well. I read just one or two paragraphs, and then my progress bar is complete.

The bare minimum may not seem like much, but we all need to push psychological boulders

When faced with the task of taking a walk for 30 minutes, writing a book, or doing any long term project, it seems like we're never getting anything done. But think of your progress like the progress bar. You might get just 2% of the task done, and the progress bar in your brain feels like it's 100%.

You follow up the next day, and whammo—another 100% is done. It may make no logical sense, but this isn't about addition or logic. It's about the satisfaction not just of getting something done, but 100% of that something. It's tiny, that something, but you don't care. The goal isn't to take the second step. It's to take the step you need and stop right there. No fancy motivation or momentum—just one step.

My niece Marsha doesn't need to go through the Percy Jackson series

She needs to go through a paragraph or two. That's it. Campbell Such doesn't need 30 minutes of meditation. If 5 minutes is all he has, that's all that he needs to do. The bare minimum, that's all we need, and it's amazing how much slow progress we make.

However, there's still a problem with planning to get all these activities, right? Which is where triggers come into play. Instead of fancy alarms that you merely ignore, how about aligning your bare minimum to a trigger that shows up every day? Let's find out how.

2) How to use triggers to get the bare minimum going

In many Western countries, Christmas brings carols, chaos, and carrots.

Carrots for Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And Rudolph, of course. They also leave a plate of milk and cookies for Santa. That tradition seemed to have originated in the 1930s when the US was deep in the Great Depression. Parents tried to teach their kids that was important to give to others. And also to show gratitude for the gifts they'd received. But what sets off the milk, cookies and carrots? Why, Christmas Eve, of course. It's the trigger that requires no alarm or reminder.

And that's because alarms and reminders don't work very well anyway

You know how it works, right? You put a reminder on your phone, but as the reminder pops up, you swipe it away. If it's e-mail, you're likely to jump right into reading it, possibly even answering it, but any reminder to do a task gets a look of disdain. The way around this system is to have no alarm at all. Instead, you do something when something else happens.

So for instance, I paint right after breakfast No matter what time I have breakfast, I will sit down for about 5-10 minutes and sketch or paint. Renuka on the other hand sketches every time she drops her mother off for Tai qi. When we go for a walk, we talk until we hit the first traffic lights. Then, it's time to put on the headphones and listen to audio books or podcasts. The same applies on the walk back from the cafe. We walk to a certain point, hit the dentist's clinic, and it's back to headphone time again.

This system of triggers is important because we rarely keep to a fixed plan

No one ever has breakfast at the very same minute, and hence if your breakfast is early or late, it's easy for you to ignore the alarm. When an activity like breakfast is itself the trigger, then you know what comes shortly after. We do take our vacations.

Every 12 weeks we're off for a month, and that means the triggers go out of whack. But since I'm not working on vacation, nothing else matters. I can ignore the painting after breakfast, choosing to do it at noon helped by a bottle of Cabernet, instead. Or not do it at all. However, once I get back, and the triggers go off, it's back to normal.

It's important to point out that you should not start with many items on your to-do list

Right now I have about 4-5 long term projects going. I know the website won't last forever. And in a month or two, I should be able to get the hang of how to use ePub. My painting, however, has been on since 2010 and that will go on for a long, long time. Some long terms projects come and go while others need to be done every day.

To make things a habit, you need to choose just two or three things to do in a day

Five minutes each and you've only spent fifteen minutes of activity. And even the busiest person has fifteen spare minutes in a day. Over time, some things become so much part of your second nature that you don't even think of them as part of your to-do list.

Take brushing your teeth, for example. When was the last time you needed an alarm or trigger for that activity? I now wake up to the sound of the meditation chant. It's part of what happens every day, and so that's not even part of the list anymore.

However, when you're starting out, just set up one trigger and the bare minimum time you can spend on that task. And get going. But there's one last caveat. All of these bare minimums are not for urgent or important tasks. They all need to be used only for long-term projects. Let's find out why that's the case.

3) Why Use The Bare Minimum Only For Long Term Projects

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, don't we?

They both set off on race, and the tortoise is slow, taking step by step. As the story goes, the hare falls asleep, and the tortoise wins the race. The story may sound remarkably like a bare minimum tale, and in a way it is. But it's important to note there's a big point of difference as well. A race is not a long term project. It's reasonably finite, in the sense that there's an end point and in many cases, a deadline.

We tend to drop things that have no deadline

There's really no point in learning Spanish, or painting or doing many of the things that you and I do. We do it for our own happiness. You may, therefore, join a dance class or a cartooning course and then find you've given up somewhere along the way. The photographs you planned to put in that photo book—that didn't get done either. We smartly prioritise what's important to us. Things that are revenue-driven, client-driven or have fixed deadlines can't wait, and so they get done. Things that are often essential to the soul, that gets tossed into the corner.

It's sad, isn't it? We feel that sadness.

We feel the pain of taking a course that feeds our soul and then finding we've either abandoned the course or having finished it, don't get the joy of continuation. It's the same with books we haven't read or documentaries we would love to watch.

However, sometimes even the work-related projects, like my beleaguered website, end up in that same to-do pile. Doing just the bare minimum keeps the project going. At all times, however, the bare minimum should be reserved for the long-term project. No one needs to tell you how wrong things can get if you do the bare minimum on something that's governed by a deadline.

But if the project isn't something that has a line in the sand and probably goes on forever, it's best to simply plod along step by step. It's the journey of a thousand miles.

But it's not about taking steps. The bare minimum is about taking just one step.

And then you're done for the day. When you have to take just one step, there's no overwhelm. Yes, the list of things that you need to do can and will pile up. But you're just taking one step. The rest of the world can drive themselves crazy. Like Marsha, you read two paragraphs at a time. Like me, you finally get down to building your website.

You achieve a lot with a single step per day. TBM—The bare minimum. Now do it.

P.S. Ready to start working on your bare minimum taking action plan? Join a whole lot of introverts in 5000bc and take one step at a time to achieving your goals.

Sep 16 2017



Rank #18: How To Use The "Problem" To Get Attention (Without Being Negative)

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Most of us use benefits or solutions when presenting our products or services?and not the problem. So why bother with the problem? Will it actually improve the conversion on our sales pages? Will it improve our e-mail marketing? Will it get more attention when we're making our presentations? The answer is yes, yes and yes. And you can do it without being negative in any way. So how do you do it? Let's find out in this episode. /


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Time Stamps

00:00:20 Introduction: Getting Attention with the Problem 00:01:36 Previous "Attention" Episode 00:02:30 Table of Contents / 00:02:53 Part 1: Underestanding Solutions 00:05:29 Part 2: Creating the Problem 00:10:47 Part 3: Sticking to the Problem 00:14:07 Summary 00:16:07 Action Plan: The ONE thing 00:17:13 Brain Audit Kit + Info-products Workshop + iTunes Review


Sean:            Have you ever been in the situation where you've been in the shower, it's nice warm water, and then suddenly it's freezing cold? That's because someone else turned on a tap somewhere else in the same apartment. No? That hasn't happened to you?

                        How about a computer? Have you had a computer that went vroom, vroom, vroom, ready to start and it started to go slow and slow and then boom? These are problems and problems get attention. The problem is that we don't make use of the problems when we're getting our message across and we certainly don't use it the way it should be.

                        How should the problem be used and why not use the solution instead? That's today's episode on attention getting. On the last episode of attention getting, we talked about how you can use the two concepts of novelty and consequences, but here's another way, using the problem.

                        What are we going to cover today? You like the three things, don't you? We'll cover three things, then we'll do the one thing that you can do and then we'll wrap up. Just in case you haven't heard Episode No. 24, well, listen to it again. I had to do it twice. The first time I did it, I was half asleep and then I had to re-edit the whole thing all over again because the first one really put me asleep. Imagine that? The irony. It was about attention getting and the voice was so slow.

                        If you got that episode or you thought this is really slow, well, there's a new episode. Delete the old one, download the new one again and you'll find that it's much better, much better music, much better tone, and yes, I'm awake in that one. That was Episode No. 24 on how to get attention through novelty and consequences, use the problem.

                        We're going to cover three things in this episode. The first thing is why solutions are less effective than problems, and second is why problems get your attention. The third is the mistake that most of us make with implementing the problem.

                        Let's start with the first one which is why solutions don't work as well as problems. To understand solutions, you have to understand your day-to-day life and your day-to-day life is simply a whole bunch of solutions. When you sit on the chair, that's a solution. When you switch on your computer and it works perfectly, that's a solution. When you get in you car and you turn on the ignition, that is a solution.

                        What is the problem? The problem is the opposite of the solution. Let's take those instances and you know where I'm going with this. You sit on the chair, it breaks. You turn on the car ignition, it won't start. That's where your brain gets activated.

                        You don't think of your chair, you don't think of your car, you don't think of all the things that work. That's because the brain is focused on the problem. It's not focused on the solution. When we get into marketing and when we get onto our website and we get into networking and we get into our presentations, what we tend to do is we start to lead with the solution and that's a problem.

                        The reason why we put our audiences to put is because we're leading with the solution. When someone asks us what we do, what we so is we immediately talk about our solution and you notice that immediately those people start to fall asleep. They are very polite.

                        Let's say you're at a networking meeting, so let's say you're a software developer and let's say you make time-tracking software. Someone asks you what do you do? Well, you spit out your solution. You say we make time-tracking software and this helps you keep track of your time when you're working. That's your solution.

                        Notice how your brain doesn't get very activated by something like that. Now the reason why we do is because we've been taught to talk about our benefits. We've been taught to bring out the solution but the brain kind of goes to sleep every time someone brings out a solution. When you turn that into a problem, that's when your brain gets activated.

                        Now, to be very fair, there is nothing wrong with solutions. Problems increase the heart rate, solutions decrease the heart rate. The question is now that we know that solutions aren't as effective as problems, how do we go about creating the problem?

                        That takes us to the second part of today which is creating the problem because we don't really want to be negative, do we? Here we are in the second part which is how to bring out the problem. Now the biggest objection is what we have to deal with at this point in time and that is we do not want to be negative. We do not want to highlight a problem, and yet to get the customer's attention when we are writing that email, we have to bring up the problem. When we are on the sales pitch, we have to bring up the problem.

                        What is this problem? How do we get to this problem without being negative? Let's take the example of that time-tracking app that we talked about earlier. Let's say you're still a software developer and you have the solution for a time-tracking app. As we go through the internet and look at different time-tracking apps, we find that the solution pops up everywhere.

                        One will say log, learn, optimize your life, every second counts. That's a headline, by the way. The second one says the ultimate timer, it's insanely simple, it's built for speed and ease of use. The third one is find your ideal work/life balance, and it goes on to talk about understanding your daily habit so you can focus and be more productive. The fourth one is a time-tracker that makes it easy to record your work hours and to calculate your income, and to build a customer if you're self-employed.

                        Are you still awake? You shouldn't be because all of these solutions have put you to sleep but then let's go to That's L-E-T-S-F-R-E-C-K-L-E-dot-com. Immediately your brain is locked in because the headline there is my team has gone through four time-tracking apps in the last 2 1/2 years. What is so precise about that headline? It's precise because it's not something that was invented by someone sitting at their computer.

                        You can be the best copywriter in the world but when a client speaks, they have a totally different voice and this one shows the pain of the team going through time-tracking apps and getting frustrated with it. This is some kind of manager and that is what makes it so powerful, that emotion-built voice of the problem they've been having with time-tracking apps.

                        We looked at both the problem and the solution. We've seen that the solution is very important because it reduces your heart rate and the problem increases the heart rate. The issue here is that your problem cannot be manufactured at your desk. It needs to come from a customer. It needs to come from a real customer. They bring up an issue that you would not think of.

                        The best copywriters in the world, they don't sit at their desk and they write. They go out there, they meet the customers, they speak to them on the phone, they take them out to lunch, and then they get the words from the customer. They get the problems from the customer which they then put on a webpage, which they then put on emails. That has more power than you could ever dream of just by sitting at your computer and thinking what I'm going to write today.

                        When you think of it, at Psychotactics, we have an article writing course and what is the problem with article writing? Usually you think, well, it has something to do with article writing. It is about the fact that you can't write quickly enough or you can't complete an article, things like that. Yet, when you go there, it talks about how to stop knocking on clients' doors and to get them to call you instead.

                        Now, you might have a fluke and think of that sitting at your desk but most of the time it's the reason why customers are motivated to do something and they need to tell you that. They need to bring out that pain. You need to put that pain in the headline.

                        Notice it's not negative, not any more negative than, say, the newscasts are telling you that there's a storm or a cyclone or a hurricane headed your way. Not any more negative than someone telling you, hey, your tires are balding and you might skid off the road.

                        When the problem comes from the customer themselves, you will find it is very powerful and it's not negative, and it brings out this whole emotion that you would struggle to work on if you were just sitting at your desk and trying to figure it out.

                        With that, we come to the end of the second part. We did the problem and the solution. We found out that the problem is more intense than the solution. We notice the dog poo, not the sidewalk. We notice the rain, not the sunshine as much. This takes us to the third part and the most important part of all, which is sticking to the problem. Just because you have a problem doesn't mean that you're going to stick to it.

                        What do I mean by sticking to a problem? To go back to that problem of the software developer that has the time-tracking app, well the problem was that the team has gone through four time-tracking apps in the last 2 1/2 years. Now, you want to drive home that problem.

                        Why has the team gone through that? What have been the frustrations of your team as they have gone through the time-tracking app? What have been the consequences? What happened? This is a story. This is an unfolding story. It's like a movie. It's like drama. It's amazing, it's got power and detail that you don't want to let go of. You don't want to jump into the solution right now. You want to drive home that problem before you get to the solution.

                        The second thing is you definitely don't want to go into another problem. You want to stick to the problem. You want to drive home the problem. You want to drive home the consequences. Once you're done, then and only then do you move to the second problem, or if you like, to the solution.

                        What I tend to do is I have a problem in the headline and a very brief solution because you want to increase the heart rate and decrease the heart rate. From that point on, you just stick to that problem. For instance, when you looked at the article writing course, it was how to stop knocking on clients' doors and get them to call you instead.

                        Now, that was the problem. There's a bit of a solution there. It is learn why articles do a far superior job of attracting clients you want and how the right articles make you the expert in your field. Now that's a very brief solution there and now we stick to the original problem, which is how to stop knocking on clients' doors.

                        Knocking on clients' doors can be the hardest way to get business, yet we do it all the time. In order to get the clients' attention, we send out sales letters, we make presentations, we do everything we can to get clients. The more we try to sell, the higher the clients' hackles go up. The more we try to convince, persuade, the more the client wants to say no or avoid you.

                        That's just the first paragraph. Then it goes on to why clients put off the purchase. The first reason why they put off the purchase, the second reason why they put off the purchase, and only then do you get to presenting the article writing course.

                        Sticking with a single problem is very critical and the reason why it's critical is because the problem, which was in your headline, got the customers' attention. Now when you stick to that singular problem, it gets the customers' attention and keep that customers' attention. That's what you're really doing. You're getting their attention with the headline. You're keeping it with a couple of paragraphs. Then you're moving to a solution.

                        That brings us to the end of this episode but let's summarize. What are the three things we covered? We started out with the solution. We found out why the solution is very important. It's important simply because it reduces the heart rate. If you just have a problem, it just gets the heart beating so quickly that the customer's not able to focus for very long.

                        It does attract. The problem does attract but the solution has reason to be there and that reason is that it reduces the heart rate. The problem and the solution both co-exist. The problem comes first, then the solution.

                        Now, the problem is very critical and the way to get the problem is not to sit at your desk but to go out there and speak to your customers and they will come up with something which is mind-boggling, something that you would not have thought of.

                        The third thing that we covered was simply that you cannot just have the problem there for one second and then disappear. Most people do that. They put in the headline, they may sneak in a line or two, and then, poof, they're gone off either to the next problem or they've gone to the solution.

                        You want to make it linger. You want to make it stay there for awhile. People need to know that you know how they feel about this problem. When you drive home the consequences of not dealing with that problem, they can feel those consequences and so it becomes more powerful but it also becomes more natural. This is exactly how life pans out.

                        We look at a problem, we figure out the consequences, and then we take action. If we see a solution, there's nothing to fix so we go about our lives as it were.

                        What's the one thing that you can do today? Maybe you're going for a networking meeting. Maybe you have to write a sales page on your website. Maybe you just have to write an email.

                        The question to ask yourself is this: Do I have a prospect or a client and can I speak with them? Because when you speak with them, they will give you a list of their problems. All you have to do is make them pick which is the biggest problem. When they pick the biggest problem, ask them why it is the biggest problem, how it became the biggest problem, what did they think are the consequences of that problem.

                        If you just stick to those three questions, you'll get at least a couple of paragraphs if not three or four paragraphs. The best part is you don't have to do any of the writing, just a bit of polishing and you're done. You're ready to go with your problem and your solution.

                        To get attention, the brain requires a problem, so use a problem, get to the customer and get cracking.

                        If you would like to learn more about problems and solutions and consequences, then you should get yourself the Brain Audit Kit. You can get this at and I would recommend that you get the Brain Audit Kit. You can get the Brain Audit at $9.99 but what you miss out is on the entire workshop experience so there is an entire workshop in the Brain Audit Kit, and it also has additional audio from all the questions that we've got over the years.

                        The Brain Audit by itself is a very comprehensive book but the Brain Audit Kit goes several levels deeper. It explores the mistakes that people make. It explores the trouble that they've had so your experience is richer and you don't make the same mistakes.

                        I'm not suggesting that you don't get the Brain Audit. The Brain Audit by itself is very powerful but if you get the Brain Audit Kit, you will find that you're able to go deeper and get greater benefits in a shorter amount of time. Not at first, you still have to go through the information but you will find that there is enormous depth that you don't want to miss out on.

                        The Brain Audit, as you know, was one of our first books and since then we've gone on to write many books. The book I'm writing right now is about pricing and how to increase your prices without losing customers but it covers the psychology of pricing, how to increase your prices, and then how to maintain and manage your prices. It's a very comprehensive series.

                        The key to actually getting this book out is what I'm going to explain in the information workshop so it's the structure. Most people think that it's the content that matters, that if you have it in your head, that's fine, but as writers, as creators, we have a big problem.

                        That problem is that we spin in our head. We have so much information that we don't know how to put it down on paper. We just stack it up and when you stack it up, the client gets overwhelmed. When they get overwhelmed, you know what happens. Nothing happens. They don't act on it and they don't consume your book or your product or your workshop, and then they don't come back.

                        The information product workshop in Maryland does just that. We spend three days and not two days or one day because we don't want to hurry through it or we want to make sure that you get it, that you actually work through it. That's on May 5, 6, and 7. You can find out more at

                        Finally, if you haven't already left a review on iTunes, please do so today because it's really helpful to us. That's me, Sean D'Souza, saying get attention today and get it with the problem, and bye for now. Arrivederci.

Mar 20 2015



Rank #19: How To Increase Product Sales using The Brain Audit

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Is it really possible to get a surge in sales with products? And are product sales similar or different from services? In this episode, we go exclusively into the sale of products. But more importantly, you get to see where you need to dig to create the power of your headline and how the consequences that follow make a massive difference. Listen and read this episode. You'll enjoy it.

To read online: How To Increase Sales Using The Brain Audit: Episode 179


You've probably never heard of Ben Curtis

Ben's a client and a self-described fan. In an e-mail addressed to both Renuka and me, here's what he wrote: “I am a massive fan! I listen to all your podcasts and reread sections and chapters of the Brain Audit over and over.

I am constantly applying your tools in every way possible. I am using your advice and information in exactly the way you hoped people would from your book. I also purchased the “Applications for the Brain Audit” too. I am constantly using those tools for headlines, marketing material, and websites.”

But it's not all hunky-dory, rah-rah

Ben also has a bit of a bone to pick with me, in particular.

And here's how he puts it:

“I'd like to make a suggestion, recommendation, or at least make you aware of something when you're writing content.”

“It's not that anything is wrong (I love it), I just wish there was more relatable or direct content for people who have products. That's what I do, and many other people have products too. I have products to sell either online or in retail stores, or both.

In the Brain Audit, there were two examples– Website Strategy Workshop and Allergy Clinic. Both are service-based businesses. It was difficult for me to try and write with a product in mind when there were only two examples, and both were services.

I'm was very happy to stumble upon the Applications to the Brain Audit because I was dying for more examples. I just started it, and already love it. However, I noticed the same thing here. The 15 case studies in Chapter 2 are all still service businesses and not directly relatable or useful for myself. It's difficult to model after the examples when none of them are products. I know that what you write can apply to many industries, but I am talking specifically about examples for products.

There are 15 examples, and there wasn't a product based business.”

Ben's got a point, don't you think?

Well then, it's time to correct this grievous mistake, because it gives us a chance to dive deeper into The Brain Audit. Well, here we go. Let's look around the room for some products and play a game of “I spy”. What do I spy? It starts with the letter M. It's a product, and it's a microphone. Except that I already have six microphones, so why bother with another one? Let's find out, shall we?

In this series, we'll go through the stages of how to get—and keep the attention of the client.

Stage 1: We'll list all the benefits—and narrow down on our problem. Stage 2: This stage calls for us to drive home not just the problem, but also the consequences of ignoring that problem. Stage 3: We'll do an instant check after we've gone through the first two stages.

We didn't start off needing or even wanting the products because the products have been randomly chosen. Has that desired level gone up just a little bit? Let's find out.

Let's start off with three different products. And as you'd expect, I spy something with my eye, and we know, it starts with the letter m. M as in “microphone”.

Stage 1: We'll list all the benefits—and narrow down on our problem.

Microphone? Let's look at the microphone that I recently bought. What problem could it possibly solve? Why buy yet another microphone when there are plenty lying around? As you're probably aware, every product solves many problems, and since we're on that trend of reasoning, every product must have many features and benefits.

Let's list the benefits and features of this microphone, shall we?

• Let's start with the weight: It's just 10 g. That's just 0.35 ounces. That's light, don't you agree? • The usage time on a single charge is 6 hours. That solves a problem too, of having to change batteries all the time. • The operating temperature is from -10°C to 50°C. Which means it would work well in a desert, which is freezing by night and boiling by day. • And finally, it has an operating distance of 65 feet or 20 metres. That's a fair distance away.

But what problem does it solve?

Let's say you're keen to shoot videos of yourself as a speaker. There are two reasons why you'd need to capture the event. The first reason would be to capture the information for a showreel for your clients. The second reason would be to see and hear yourself so you can improve your technique.

However, you've always needed a slightly sophisticated set up with a cordless mic. But imagine a microphone so small that it's just a clip-on. And once you have it on, you can be a whopping 65 feet away and record perfect video—but more importantly, the audio. It's a Bluetooth mic that frees you from cords and cables.

That's it! No cords, no cables, but what about the other points?

What about the weight, the extended battery time, the ability to work under crazy weather conditions? They're all important, but you have to pick one problem if you want to get the attention of your client. It's not like we're chucking away the rest of the points.

We just can't have it all up in lights together. Only one problem needs to be chosen. Think of it as a movie. There's the hero, and there is the supporting cast. The rest of the points; those benefits and features are the supporting cast. The only thing that matters is the “no cords and no cables”. And if you're a speaker, you know exactly what that means.

To be able to simply walk across the room, over even across the bridge to the other side and be recorded perfectly, that seems like a dream come true. It's a big problem and this microphone; this Bluetooth microphone solves the problem perfectly.

That's example No.1 down. Let's take another example: Daniel Smith watercolours.

Now this example is interesting because I've never used these watercolours. Back in 2010, I went for a watercolour class, and my teacher, Ted, told me to do one small watercolour every day. Being a model student, painting every day is approximately what I've done. In the past eight years, I've probably painted about 2500 images—yet not one of them was with Daniel Smith.

My goal today was to find out why I should bother with Daniel Smith watercolours when I already have several tubes with a rival company called Winsor and Newton. So many tubes of paint, in fact, that though I paint every day, I'd still be using those tubes for at least two-three years.

And yet, here we are, looking for a problem to solve with a whole new brand of paints

This diversion brings up an essential fact of customer behaviour. In a majority of situations, clients or prospects may not have a problem. I am reasonably happy with my paints, but that doesn't mean I'm not on the lookout for something different. When we, as sellers of a product fail to get the point across clearly and succinctly, the customer is left in a bit of a limbo. Which is what Daniel Smith colours tends to do when you do your research.

But here's a start from a post online: I love Daniel Smith. What I like about the paint is the pigment load, ease of re-wetting in my palette; ease of handling on the paper. Every tube I have bought is fresh, soft and well mixed with the binder, no separation into binder and pigment. And I love their range of colours. No other paint maker offers such a huge number of colours. It seems Daniel Smith is always looking for new colours to add.

In that short client description we have the bits and pieces needed for a problem, don't we?

Let's look at the features and benefits mentioned in that post. • Ease of pigment load: That's a bit technical, but what I can figure out, is that the paint sits nicely on the brush. • Ease of re-wetting: This is a nuisance with watercolours. They tend to dry up into a hard rock-like mass. Re-wetting is a definite benefit. • Ease of handling on paper: It's a vague description, but we'll take all the description we can handle. • Well mixed with the binder—no separation of binder and pigment: That's yet another winner. • And the final one: Astounding range of colours—especially for those always on the lookout for yet another shade.

Once again, we have to pick, and most of the time, the pick will be based on the target profile

It seems that artists are always on the lookout for new shades, new textures and so the range of colours is a big solution. And the opposite of the benefit is—tah, dah—the problem. Daniel Smith has a massive 252 colours, including the Primateks as well as 48 luminescent, pearlescent and interference colours.

The problem is evident isn't it? With the paints I've been using, I've more or less restricted myself to a range of shades. Daniel and Smith seemed to have gotten me out of my stupor and caused me to investigate a whole range of colours that I may never have considered before. In effect, it's created a problem where none existed.

This takes us to a third product, like the t-shirt I'm wearing.

I'm a big fan of graphic design, and there's probably no greater joy than to walk into a t-shirt store when on vacation. Portugal, for instance, has an astounding design sense, which frankly surprised me. Whether we were in Vancouver, Tokyo or Sardinia, I'd be on the lookout for new, well-designed t-shirts. Yet, for the past three years or so, I've more or less given up buying t-shirts while away from home.

It's a strange phenomenon, don't you think?

The plot, as it were, thickens, because the t-shirt brand I now wear doesn't quite suit my design appetite. Even so, I've made the change to the Icebreaker brand. And the reason why I've made this leap is that it solves a precise problem: it doesn't stink.

It's summer here in New Zealand, in January

And summers here are hot, really hot, and with heat comes sweat and body odour. Which means you have to get yourself some sort of deodorant or wipe rubbing alcohol, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide onto your underarms. If you want to save yourself of the trouble of any of those weird and wonderful methods, all you do is wear an Icebreaker.

That's it. No odour. Wear the t-shirt for a day, no odour. Ten days, still no odour. Forty days? You're getting the point, aren't you? As you can quickly see, Icebreaker solves a problem you didn't know you had in the first place. I wouldn't go so far as to say all my t-shirts are Icebreaker, but let's just say they've taken the whole fun part out of my vacations.

I haven't bought a new t-shirt on vacation in over three years. I ask people to send me vouchers for Icebreaker for my birthday, or if they want to give me a gift. I use Icebreaker in my presentation on Dartboard Pricing at events. I can't even begin to tell you what killjoys this company has been for me, consistently solving my problem.

And there you have it, random picks right in the room with me.

A set of paints from Daniel Smith watercolours (I had to look up the name again). A t-shirt range called Icebreaker that wasn't on my radar but now accounts for 100% of all t-shirt purchases. And a microphone—the sixth or seventh microphone that I own, just because it solves the problem of no cords, no mess. Of course, we could go on and on.

There's a type of cream in the room, shoes, a language course, computers—three of them, a standing desk that I never use any more, drives, etc. All of these solve a problem, but where do we go digging to find the problem?

In the benefits, that's where

We may not be clear which problem is the one we need to pick, but we sure know the benefits. You can pick up any object in your room, or head downtown to any store and randomly pick up a product. There on the side of the packaging are all the features and benefits—what we like to call the “solution”.

The opposite of the solution is the problem. As you'd expect, an Icebreaker t-shirt will happily tout all its benefits, but it's best to stick to one as the lead actor, letting the other problems take a secondary role of supporting cast.

And once we have our problem, you know what The Brain Audit recommends next, don't you? Yes, it's time for the consequences. A problem is a problem, but it's not quite as big a problem unless there are consequences. What are consequences and how do we use them with the marketing of our product? Let's find out.

Stage 2: The consequences of the problem

Imagine you're driving down the road, and in the corner of your eye, you see flashing red and blue lights. What do you do? You slow down, don't you? You're aware that somewhere in the vicinity there are cops and there's no point in flooring the accelerator.

That's how the brain works. It senses a problem and immediately most other thoughts are subdued. The focus is almost exclusively on that problem. However, to stay in that state for too long would be counterproductive, so once the cops are out of sight, you and I tend to go back to our normal behaviour.

When clients are buying products or services, the problem gets their attention, but it's not enough

Once the problem isn't front and centre, there's the risk of the client going their own way. It's akin to spotting a cop car on the highway and then encountering a sign that says: No cop car for the next 300 miles, guaranteed.

Without the consequences, the attention wavers quite a bit. Which is why when you introduce the problem, you need to pick the problem that is top of mind for your target profile (read about target profile in The Brain Audit). If you don't have a target profile, then you're going to have to make a choice, but it's more precise if you use the target profile. Anyway, let's not go off track, because we still have to focus on the consequences.

So what are the consequences of not having an easy-to-use Bluetooth microphone?

If you've ever fiddled with a wired microphone, you'd know what a pain mics can be. The cords and cables run all over the place, someone trips over the cords and cables, or at the very least they need to be taped down. That's great if you're in the sound business because as disaster hits, you have Option B in place.

However, as a small business owner, you're hoping for one take. You want to get your video on YouTube, or you want to record that seminar you're giving. That's one take, in most cases, and there's no going back. With a Bluetooth mic, a simple phone can record the video from anywhere in the room, while capturing very high-quality audio.

Without audio, even the sharpest video is unwatchable. And that's why a Bluetooth mic is so very crucial. One that you can quickly fasten to your clothing and in seconds the wired microphone is history.

That's an example of consequences

Just because you've brought up a problem in your headline or speech, doesn't mean that clients get the point to the fullest extent. There's no doubt they're paying attention, but unless the consequences are driven deeper, there's a good chance of bypassing, or at least not valuing the product to the fullest extent.

The consequences are akin to underlining what's being said, and yet staying on point. We're not trying to cover all the problems the product solves. If anything, you have to be careful to stay on target. When I was writing about the microphone above, I was tempted to talk about the lightness factor and how it lasted for six hours. It took all of my focus to stay on topic of “no cords or cables”.

We can bring up the issue of how it lasts for six hours later in the message. On a sales page, there's a lot of space to bring up features and benefits much later. At first, however, we have to nail down the problem and the consequences to the exclusion of everything else. And the consequences matter.

Take for example another product like “Dartboard Pricing”, a product about pricing on the Psychotactics site

When you look at the sales page, it's clear that the problem—the biggest problem—is about “losing clients if you choose to raise prices”. That message is clear, but just letting the headline do all the work is a mistake. The consequences have to come in quickly. And here's what the page reads like:

How do you systematically raise prices without losing customers? Is it possible to raise prices and still keep customers? And how do you keep those costs going up, up and away—and still keep customers coming back?

We all undercharge!

No matter what our business, we've all undercharged for our products and services. And yet, at this very moment, there are others in our field that charge a lot more—for what seems to be a similar offering to ours.

We know we should increase prices, but we can't bring ourselves to take that leap because we're deathly afraid our customers will leave in droves. And so we charge a lot less for our products, workshops, services and courses.

As if that first section were not enough, there's a story that comes into play that explains the consequence of not being able to increase prices.

I remember the first time we sold a copywriting course in 2006

I was reasonably happy with the price until I read the feedback from one of the participants. “You're charging too little,” she said.”I just did another course on a similar topic, and they're charging twice as much.” I took the feedback but felt the terror of having to increase, let alone double my prices.

This is the dilemma we all face. We don't know how to increase our prices, even by a tiny bit.

So how do we strike a balance between running a profitable business without losing clients and sales? How do stop trusting our mostly inaccurate “gut instinct” and work with a precise system instead? How do we raise prices solely based on client demand? And most importantly, how can we do this price increase step by step, instead of randomly increasing prices?

The consequences put a spotlight on the problem, but because it creates agitation, it also sets up the client for the solution that must follow.

As you read in The Brain Audit, the problem shows up, and then we go to the solution. But sitting smack in the middle is that big consequence that needs its share of the spotlight.

Execute the consequences correctly, and it's clear why Daniel Smith range of colours solves a pressing problem of not quite having the shade you need in your paint palette. Or why choosing Icebreaker as a garment makes for the most pleasant t-shirt wearing experience, because who wants to stink?

The consequence of being inadvertently socially unacceptable or even having to put chemicals (or for that matter vinegar) on your body is a bit of a pain. And it's only when those consequences are driven deep that we're ready for the solution. In fact, we're not just ready; we're hankering for the solution at this stage.

Stage 3: An instant check

Which brings us to the third part of this series: An instant check after we've gone through the first two stages. We didn't start off needing or even wanting.

Did you need a microphone?

If you're recording an event, do you feel like you need one now? And do you need that specific brand so that you don't run into cords and cables? What about the paints? Maybe you're not a painter—yet—but should you wander into watercolours as I did back in 2010, you'd want the best possible colours, right?

And personally, I'm feeling a bit like a dunderhead because I haven't heard about this brand though I've been painting for eight years straight.

What about the t-shirt? Icebreaker has no stink, even if you wear it for a month. Not that you want to wear it for a month, but notice how the problem and the consequence have gotten your attention and kept that attention.

The proof of the pudding is almost always in the eating

If you feel you need the products mentioned above, then The Brain Audit has started to weave its magic. We're not done yet, of course. There are the other “bags” of The Brain Audit that need to be tended to, as well. We still need to go to the target profile, the solution, the objections, testimonials, risk reversal and uniqueness.

All those “seven red bags” need to be taken off the conveyor belt (and you'll know what I mean by conveyor belt when you read The Brain Audit). However, what we've done here is gotten off to a great start.

And more importantly, we've found out that products, physical products or digital, don't differ that much from services. In fact, we just have to look at one thing to figure out the problem and the corresponding consequence. What's that one thing? Let's find out in the summary, shall we?


The three things we covered in this series were: Stage 1: The list of benefits that to narrow down the problem Stage 2: The consequences of ignoring the problem Stage 3: An instant test of desire

This is your ONE thing to do today. Create a list of benefits.

Look around your room and pick on that lampshade you bought. What are the benefits of that particular shade? The bookshelf that's in the corner does it have features and benefits? What about that bottle of wine that's on your desk? Wait, you have a bottle of wine at work? Anyway, all the stuff around you is probably there for a reason.

You could make your work a little easier by heading over to because you won't need to hunt down features and benefits because all packaging has a list of bullets. However, this exercise is a solid one whether you're hunting down stuff in your office, on Amazon or just about anywhere. This exercise shows you that there's no real difference between a product or service or training.

They all have their features and benefits, and one of those points is going to need a flip. You'll take one of those benefits and turn them into a problem.

Which takes us to the second point: consequences.

If you don't stick with the consequences, it's unlikely that the client will continue to pay attention. In many cases, the client may already fee the consequences, e.g. the roof tiles are missing, and a torrent of water is pouring in, but in a lot of situations, you have to drive home the consequences.

For instance, I can tell you that The Brain Audit helps you in removing that last minute hesitation that you feel from clients. However, it's only when I recount the story of the seven red bags that the message really stays with the client. That's the point when they buy The Brain Audit, use it and write those wonderful testimonials.

The entire sequence: from The Brain Audit to 5000bc, to other courses like the Article Writing Course is mostly dependent on taking the time to elaborate the problem with a paragraph or two of detail.

And finally, we get to test the power of the problem

I didn't start out wanting Daniel Smith paints. In fact, at one point, I even forgot the name and called them Daniel and Smith. But by the time I realised the problem they were solving, I was keen to buy some and test them out.

The same concept applies to the microphone (yes, there's a link below). I didn't realise how intrusive wires and cables had become until the microphone company brought it to my notice. Did they do a good job of consequences? Maybe not. Most of us are too busy trying to get our message to every possible audience and to line up the features and benefits.

We think the more we load onto our website or marketing material, the better. But in reality, it's the core stuff: the problem, the consequences—that is what really matters. And we can test it because clients don't just say, “wow that's interesting”, but instead ask, “where can I see it or where can I buy it?” That's your test. That shows you that your message is working.

And that's pretty much it. You can use The Brain Audit on products, services or training with equal effect. Try it out today and you'll see how effectively it works.

Special Bonus: The Brain Audit Excerpt

Find out—'Why Clients Buy And Why They Don’t' 

Feb 10 2018



Rank #20: Three Unknown Secrets of Riveting Storytelling

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Storytelling has a lot of guidelines and rules. Yet, some of the critical elements slip under the radar. You don't realise storytelling elements and secrets that are hiding in plain sight. And storytellers can't always explain what they're doing?and so these elements of storytelling get left out. And yet, they're incredibly powerful. Like for instance, the concept of "anticipation" before the "problem". It's nowhere to be found? Unless of course you listen to this episode on how to tell riveting stories. Welcome to Goldilocks land! 

-------------------- Resources

To access this audio + transcript:

Email me at: 

Twitter/Facebook: seandsouza

Magic? Yes, magic:


In this episode Sean talks about how to create stories that are very powerful.

Part 1: How the ‘The Wall’ changes the pace of a story Part 2: The power in using the ’The Reconnect’ Part 3: Why anticipation is so critical in storytelling Right click here and ‘save as’ to download this episode to your computer.  

Useful Resources and Links

The Brain Audit: How to introduce your product in a language the customer understands Read or listen to: How to double your writing speed Special Bonus: How to design the pricing grid for your product


The Transcript This is The 3 Month Vacation, and I’m Sean D’Souza.

I was about 2 years old when I first had a bout of convulsions. It didn’t start up as convulsions. I was standing there on the balcony, looking out on the road, and then I fell off the stool that I was standing on. As the story goes, I ran to my mother. She noticed that I was having convulsions, and she panicked. Now, panic would be the wrong word to use because what she did next was bundled me in her arms and ran with me to the hospital.

To put you in the frame of mind of what India was when I was growing up, there were no phones or most people didn’t have phones. They didn’t have cars. You probably had a scooter if you were well off. That’s just how things were back then. What she had to do was run a distance of 2 kilometers, maybe 3 kilometers to get to the nearest hospital. When she got to the hospital, they wouldn’t admit me because I had meningitis and the hospital was not in the position to deal with cases of meningitis. Somehow, she managed to get them to admit me.

At that point in time, they asked for the mother. Now, my mother was very young at that point in time and they assumed that she was somehow the sister. They said, “No. No. No. You have to get the mother.” This is very odd in India because people tend to get married very early in India and yet they were insisting that they had to have the mother before they could go ahead with anything. There I was, not doing so well and the hospital authorities wouldn’t go ahead without dealing with the mother. Now, she convinced them but once they admitted me, there was one more problem. The doctor wasn’t so sure that I would survive the meningitis. He told my parents, and by that point, my father was there as well. He said, “I have to tell you this. Your son will either die or he’ll go mad.”

What you just heard was the story of my youth. The question is, why did you keep listening? Why did the story work? What is it that caused you to pay attention and not move away from the story?

In today’s episode, we’re going to cover storytelling elements: How to Avoid Boring Articles? The core of avoiding boring articles is to be able to tell stories, but stories are useful for presentations. They’re useful for books. They’re useful for webinars. They’re useful for pretty much everything. What happens is most of us load up our information with facts and figures, and those are very tiring but stories, they encapsulate everything. We’re going to learn how to create stories that are very powerful.

The 3 things we’re going to cover today are one, the wall; second, the reconnect; and third, the anticipation.

Part 1: The Wall

Let’s start off with the first one which is the wall. Every afternoon, every weekday, I go through the same routine. I pick up my niece from school. She’s now 11, that’s Marsha. We speak about stuff in the car. We do multiplication tables. Recently, we’ve been doing storytelling. I usually when I asked her, “Tell me of story about what happened in the weekend.” She goes, “Nothing.” Then I say, “What happened in class?” She goes, “Nothing.” This is the interesting part. You think that there’s nothing happening in your life, but there is a lot happening all the time. Then, we have to zero in onto one little thing and make it interesting, just about anything becomes interesting in the way you dealt it.

I said, “Tell me about your piano class on Saturday.” Her little face brightens up and the smile comes on, and she goes, “I didn’t practice before going to piano class on Saturday. Then when I got to the piano class, I was really afraid because I thought I would the play the piece really badly. But as it appears, I played quite well. In fact, I played it so well that the piano teacher said, ‘I’m going to put you on a more advanced piece.’ Of course, once she gave me the advanced piece, I couldn’t play it. She said, ‘No. No. No. No. No. You’re playing it in the wrong key.’ I should try to play in the right key, but it didn’t worked.”

The piano teacher gave her another chance. Of course, she was not playing the piece well, so they went back to the old piece, which is what she had practice. Marsha was quite happily playing her old piece, but playing it by ear, not reading the notes. Happy as a luck when she looked at the corner of the room and there was her mother. According to Marsha, her mother was glaring at her because Marsha hadn’t improved and she was back to square one. How could the day have been worse for Marsha?

Now, that was a really short story. Why would you hook in to the story? The reason the story works is because there were these little blips along the way, what we call the wall. What is the wall? The wall is … Think of it as like a heart monitor. The heart monitor, when it’s absolutely flat, will go “Beeeep.” There is no sound. Then when the heart is beating, it will “Dub dub, dub dub, dub dub.” There is this little spike that jumps in every now and then, and that creates a wall. That creates that fact that you know that your heart is actually working. This is what happens in storytelling. Most people tell a story in a very boring fashion. The reason why they tell that is because there story would just go from one end to the other without the spikes.

What were the spikes in Marsha’s story? The first spike was the fact that she was afraid she hadn’t practiced. That got your attention. Then she went on to a new problem, which is that she had to go there to the class and then play a new piece. Then when she couldn’t play that new piece, she ran into a whole bunch of problems. She was thrown back to the old piece, which was a good thing, at least, to Marsha’s eyes but bad thing in the mother’s eyes, which is why the mother was glaring at her from the corner of the room. Then as Marsha finished the story, she says, “How could the day get worse?” This is a perfect, little story just told from one end to the other with all of these little blips, these little blips, the other wall. The other wall that you have to climb across so you can get into the alley and there’s a wall there and you have to climb over that wall to get to the other side. This is what creates interest.

The wall can be an obstacle. It can be something funny. It can be something unusual. As long as it changes the pace of the story, it becomes the wall because you now have to get over that wall onto the other side before the story can continue. More stories don’t run that way. For instance, if we look at Marsha’s story, we could say, “We went to piano class. On the way, I almost slipped in a banana peel, but then I recovered because I wasn’t feeling so well. Anyway, I got to the class and I played my piece. Then, I played the second piece.” You can see where the story is going, but at one point in time, when she slipped in the banana peel, you got that spike in your head. Even though you might not have thought about it at the time, there was that spike and you see the spike everywhere.

What’s more important is the spike has been with you right since you heard your first story being read to you as a kid. If you look at something like Red Riding Hood, it’s a very simple story. The girl goes to her grandmother’s house and she’s got this bag of goodies that her mother has packed for the grandmother. What happens along the way? Red Riding Hood runs into the wolf. Before that, there was no problem at all. The forest was not that intimidating. She got flowers along the way. Then, along came the wolf. The wolf creates the spike in the story. Now, this is a wall that she has to get over. She has to solve that problem.

If you look at all the stories that you heard or have told your kids, you will find a consistency in this wall, this obstacle, which means that we have to create stories with these spikes, with these obstacles. Then, we have to climb over these obstacles or rather take the reader or the listener across the obstacle and then to the other side.

Here’s what I do with Marsha. I make her sit down with a sheet of paper. Then I get her to draw a line across. At the starting point, she has, say, maybe she’s going to piano class. The ending point is whatever happens at the end. In between, I get her to draw little dots or little spikes, whatever you want to call them, and she has to put in those obstacles. As soon as she puts in those obstacles, we fill in the rest later. The point is once you identify those obstacles, you are able to turn out far better stories because now what you’ve done is you have created that bounce, you have created an obstacle, you have created a wall, and of course, people have to then go over it.

When I started out this podcast, I started out with a story about meningitis. I didn’t spend time explaining to you how I was looking out of the window. I went straight into the bounce, straight into the wall. I had convulsions. I fell down. I then had to run to my mother. You have been thrown right in the middle of this bounce. Of course, the bounce didn’t stop until we got to the hospital because now you’re thinking, “Okay, things are going to get okay.” Then, we have another wall. They won’t admit me to the hospital. Then, we get over that wall. Now, they were asking for the mother because they don’t believe that my mother was the mother, that they thought that she was the sister. Then, when all of those problems have been resolved, the doctor says the chances are not good. What we have of these bounces all along the way, these walls all along the way, and you have to cross over, get over these walls to create a great story. This is just the first element of storytelling.

Part 2: The Reconnect

The second one is the concept called the reconnect. What is the reconnect? Right at the end of the previous section, which is when I was talking about the wall, I went right back to the story of meningitis. Immediately, your brain went from wherever it was right back to that original story. This is what storytellers use very effectively. They use the reconnect. They connect back to something they told you a while ago. It’s very powerful because that creates a bounce of its own. It takes you from where you are to where you used to be. If you’re to watch the movie Star Wars, there is this concept called the force. It’s used the force. Luke used the force. How many times does the word force show up in Star Wars? Apparently, more than 16 times. There you are in the cinema or watching the movie on a DVD or maybe on your computer, but you run into this concept of the force. Every time that reference to the force shows up and you don’t really notice it, but it just shows up, it takes you back to wherever you originally heard it or saw it.

Why is this reconnection so cool? The first thing is that often, it makes you feel very intelligent. The story is set up in a way that you know what is coming. When it does arrive, it makes you feel extremely intelligent. That’s what storytelling is about. It’s about making the reader feel a lot happier or a lot sadder, that they use to feel. You can feel that happiness or sadness as I edge into the meningitis story. You know what is coming next. You know how that story ended. It makes you feel very intelligent. It makes the reader or the listener feel very intelligent.

The second thing it does is it creates bounce. It bounces you back to wherever you were, and that creates that spike. It’s doing a dual job, but it does one more thing. It closes a loop. You can start off a story, and then knot in the story. Noticek what happened with my story. I can close that loop. I told you that the doctor said I would die or go mad. The loop wasn’t closed. What you can do is if you’re reconnecting at some point, you can close that loop. It’s very trendy to keep the loop open, but it drives people crazy.

This morning, I was on my walk and I was listening to an audio book about the brain. This author was talking about how he was at a David Attenborough conference. He was sitting there with someone else. They were having a discussion. Then he went into the discussion. About 20 minutes later, I’m going, “What did David Attenborough had to do with it?” He never closed that loop, and he will never close that loop. It will leave that gap in my brain, and that’s not a good thing. You want to create that disconnect, but then you want to reconnect later, you want to close that loop. That is the power of the reconnect.

Part 3: The Anticipation

With that, we go to the third part, where we talk about anticipation and why it’s so critical in storytelling. We were doing our workshop in Campbell, California around the year 2006. One of the participants stood up. She was going to tell her story. She told us that her mother was very, very beautiful. She also told us that her sister was a lot like her mother. She then went on to tell us how her father would take photographs, but photographs of the mother and the sister. Notice how we haven’t completed that story. We haven’t really told you what comes next, but the anticipation is killing because you know what comes next. This is the beauty of anticipation. You create anticipation knowing fully well that you’re not leaving any gaps, but that the client, the listener, your reader is filling in the story, that 10%.

This is what Anil Dharker told me when I was growing up and I was just starting out in my cartooning career. Anil was the editor of a newspaper called Mid-day. I was drawing cartoons for that newspaper. One day, he came up to me and he says, “Sean, you’re giving too much away. You need to get the customer, the reader to anticipate that 10%. You’re giving away 90% of the story, but you are getting them to anticipate the 10% because readers and listeners and clients are very intelligent. What you should do is leave out the bits. Don’t give the entire story.”

Now, when you think about the advice you’re getting here on this podcast, you think, “Wait a second, you just said not to leave out gaps.” Yes, you don’t leave out the gaps. You reconnect, but you don’t tell the entire story upfront either. We’re taking the example, you got the story about the meningitis. You’ve got the story about how I got admitted to hospital. What happened next, you don’t know the rest to that story. That gap hasn’t been closed and yet you’re intelligent enough to figure out that there was an ending and how that ending shows up, that we’ll find out.

The reason why we have anticipation is because it creates suspense, it creates unknowing suspense. When you say the boy got on the bus, he would never get off. What you’re doing is you’re going into the brain of the customer and they can see something bad unfolding. When I told you about that father that never took photographs of one of the daughters, you could see that insecurity building up. You could see that loneliness, that detachment. No one had to explain that you, but you can do this very simply by saying, “I woke up expecting it to be a great day.” Within those few words, you have already created anticipation. The reader knows, the listener knows that it’s not going to be a great day.

How is it going to unfold? These are the lines that you have to put in your speech, in your presentation, in your writing because when you put in these lines, they create that pause, they create that white space, they create that breathing space. It allows the reader to anticipate what’s going to happen next. How is it going to twist and turn? Into Marsha’s story, where she talks about just how she went to piano class, she could say, “I thought it was going to be a very bad day.” Immediately, your mind goes [whizzing 00:19:00] forward to, “Wait, she said bad day but she didn’t sound like it was going to be a bad day. Did it turn out to be a bad day or not?” When she got to the piano class and she was able to play, now you’re relaxing. Then she puts in the other spike, and she goes, “I played that piece really well.” That created another problem for me. You notice what’s happening, the anticipation is setting you up for that spike, the problem that comes next. For us, the anticipation, then the problem. The anticipation, then the problem.

Really this is what you have to do when you’re writing great stories. You have to get the reader in the framework, in that frame of mind so that they know that there is something going to change, something I was about to open the drawer when or I walked down the garden, expecting it to be a completely miserable day. It had been raining all morning. You know, even though you don’t know the story is going to unfold, you know that there is going to be a change. You’re creating anticipation. You’re creating that space for the reader and the listener to fill in the gaps in the head. That makes them again feel very intelligent. It also sets it up for that spike that we talked about in the first section.


What we’ve covered in today’s podcast has been 3 things. The first thing has been the wall. The wall creates those spikes. It creates that drama. It creates all of those blips that cause you to pay attention to the story. The second thing we looked at was the reconnect. How we start of something at the beginning; then somewhere in the middle, we connect; and then, we connect at the end, and there are these connections all over.

If you listen to Episode #54, you can hear all of these connects. Go back to Episode #54 and you can see all these reconnects, walls, and anticipation. Of course, that takes us to anticipation, which is that moment that tells you that something is going to change. It creates the suspense. It’s very, very powerful in storytelling. It’s this breathing space, this quiet just before the storm.

What’s the one thing that you can do today? The one thing that you can do today is go back to Episode #54 and listen to that episode because I listened to it just a few days ago. It has all of the stuff. Most of the podcast have it, but I just listened to Episode #54, so I know it’s there, so go back and listen to it. You will see that the wall, the reconnect and the anticipation is there. You’ll get a much better idea because you’ll be able to know in advance when that’s showing up.

I had mentioned that we were going to do some workshops in Nashville, Tennessee and in Amsterdam, which is in the Netherlands. We are still looking for a venue. If you know some venues, let us know. In the meantime, if you would like to sign up for a storytelling workshop, then just email me at We will send you more details. It’s still work in progress. As you know, we still haven’t found venue, which is the first step. If you know something, let us know.

Storytelling is incredibly important. A lot of us leave out storytelling. We give facts and figures. This is why most books and presentation and webinars are so boring. The reason why you find the Brain Audit so interesting is the number of stories and analogies and examples, and then go back and read your copy of the Brain Audit or go to and buy a copy, and you will see how critical it is to have these stories and how it reminds you of what you learned weeks, months, years after you learned it.

In the end, statistics don’t sell. The story, the emotion that’s built in within that story, and a story well told is what sells a product or a service. You go for this year and the years to come must be to tell better stories, not to give more information. That brings us to the end of this episode. If you’re in 5000bc and you’re a member, then, please go in and ask questions about storytelling and I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions. If you haven’t joined 5000bc, then get your copy of the Brain Audit first, read the stories and then join 5000bc.

You know how I started this episode with the doctor saying that I would die or go mad. I didn’t die. That’s me, Sean D’Souza from The 3 Month Vacation saying bye for now. Bye-bye.

Still reading? When we try to tell stories, we get stuck. When we try to learn a new skill, we get stuck. So, how do you dramatically increase your rate of learning without getting stuck? Find out here—Accelerated Learning: How To Incredibly Speed Up Your Skill Acquisition: Episode 52

Aug 27 2015