Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I Optimize For Minimal Effort

This went out to buyers of my internet marketing video as an e-mail a little while ago; I'm reposting it here.

I stress "epic yagni" in both Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks and its companion, followup video. I want to explain something about that.

One of my favorite books is The Book Of Five Rings by the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. In it, he talks about the long sword and the short sword. The long sword is slow but strong; the short sword is weak but fast. I oversimplify, but it'll do for now.

"Epic yagni", as I use it in the context of internet marketing, is a Musashi strategy. The short sword of epic yangi is that I am an actor, musician, blogger, and programmer in addition to being a marketer. I optimize for minimal effort and minimal time because I want to use my time and energy for other things. Most internet marketers say, "making money is easy, so I made millions." I say, "making money is easy, but life is short, so make your money quick and get on with your day."

That's the short sword - it's weak and fast, because it's a simple explanation, but it doesn't go deep. Let me go deep for a second here, and show you the long sword.

(Yes, that's what she said. Or what I said to her. Or whatever. Blah blah blah.)

The long sword is this: when you optimize for minimal effort, you create business models that are cheaper than has ever been possible in the history of our species and therefore, as far as we know it, in the history of business itself. One thing obvious: if something is cheap, you can get a lot of it for not very much money. So if you create business models that are incredibly cheap, cheaper than anything ever before in human history, then you can create more businesses, with less effort, in less time, while exposing yourself to less risk.

Consider: I've managed to launch a new product or business every month since November, except possibly for February, and some of my products are clearly lackadasical, and/or half-assed. For my upcoming t-shirt, I made the graphic, and then asked my virtual assistant to put it on a web site and turn it into a t-shirt. Total amount of time spent: something like an hour. It won't make me a millionaire, but it'll buy me some food and gas and whatnot. This is how it works. I launch a bare-minimum product, it covers my rent, I go to acting class, or I go to the movies, or I buy a guitar. On a scale from The Dude to The Big Lebowski, it's pretty obvious where I am. But The Big Lebowski would tell me that the bums lost, and he's wrong. The bums won.

Most people, when they come to internet marketing, bring expectations of effort and time that fit the business models of previous eras. Don't. It's like hitching a horse to the front of your car. You are already living in the future. You just don't know it.

Back when I wrote code for a living, I usually managed to only work thirty hours per week, and that's with a definition of work that included reading blogs and billing my clients for going to lunch. I'm one lazy motherfucker. There's no point lying to you. Most programmers I knew worked harder than me - and that's before I discovered a way to make money which allows me to focus my energy on acting classes, etc.

So say you've got this lazy guy who wants to spend all his energy on acting and writing and being a so-called artist - and he discovers business models that make him money with very little effort - but you're happy to expend a lot of effort, if it makes you wealthy.

What you could do is stay in a field where people expend a lot of effort, and a few of them become wealthy, while the vast majority are merely comfortable, at best (and many of those "comfortable" are in fact working jobs they hate). You could do that, like, for instance, if you were insanely attached to the idea of expending lots of effort.

What you should do is apply these same, minimal-effort business models, but work on them with the same feverish intensity and sixty-hour weeks that programmers so often accept as normal.

If you do that, you're going to have more than one business. You might have more than twenty, more than a hundred. Max Klein's idea of building a new nano-business every day which nets you a dollar a day fits well here:

An affiliate marketer named Chris Rempel has a system which works on very similar lines:

(Yep, it's an affiliate link.)

This is the system I described using as a ClickBank experiment in the video.

Another thing you could do is find some happy medium; at one end you have working hard and getting rich, while at the other you have the Giles Bowkett, Tim Ferriss point of view, which is that lightweight, virtualized, highly distributed internet marketing business models make the process of making money so easy you should basically just hire somebody else to do it for you, or build a system to do it for you, set that system in motion, and then go do something more fulfilling.

See, most people identify themselves with the way they make money. That's the Industrial Revolution talking. That's appropriate to pre-internet business models. Identifying yourself with the way you make money is like identifying yourself with the way you do laundry. Yes, in some very tenuous sense, it must say something about you, but if you don't spend a lot of time on it, and it's just a means to an end, then it might not signify anything about you at all.

The main reason I optimize for minimal effort is I have money to make, but I don't have time to lose. I focus on this a lot, because my artistic goals matter to me a great deal, but the reality is, it's true for everybody reading this. Unless you're already wealthy, you have money to make, and unless you're immortal, you don't have time to lose.

A caveat about my laziness: I exaggerate somewhat here to make my point. I am also known to work my ass off, from time to time.