The other day, Bill R., a subscriber, wrote me the following e-mail:
?What advice would you give somebody that is starting out that wants to be a success – as a copywriter or just in life in general? What advice would you give to a son or a nephew graduating high school or college as they go into the world?
?I guess I am looking for the one thing that you think is most important to being successful or most important in life in general…. or any words of wisdom that you have. What is the one thing about life that everybody should know to be happy??
It?s an intimidating request, because the older I get, the less I seem to know.
When Thomas Edison wrote that ?we don?t know one-millionth of one percent about anything,? you can certainly apply that to me and success.
My own accomplishments are fairly modest. I earn a nice living, but I am not in the Donald Trump or the Michael Masterson league ? or even close.
My family and I live a pretty ordinary life, in a pretty ordinary suburb.
I like to think I?m a good dad. But I am not sure my sons always agree. Other than that and work, I?m not much good at most things.
So I am not confident that Bill is asking the right person for advice on how to achieve success in business and in life.
And yet he is not the first to ask me. I get dozens of similar requests a year from my readers.
So to satisfy Bill ? and maybe you — here?s what little I know about prospering and enjoying life.
Please keep in mind that my advice may not be right for everybody. It is merely what has worked ? or not worked — for me:
1?Be yourself. Do not pretend to be someone or something you are not. Your uniqueness will appeal to a certain segment of the market — and may hold the greatest appeal to them.
2?Following your passion ? doing what you love ? does not guarantee financial success. But not doing what you love for a living guarantees a life of boredom and unhappiness at work.
3?The trick, then, is to find a niche where your passions and interests intersect with the needs of the market. As Aristotle said, ?Therein lies your vocation.?
4?Learn a financially valuable skill so you can command a high salary or (if you are self employed) a large fee.
5?Those workers and service providers who command top dollar either (a) perform a service that makes or saves their employer or client money or time, (b) have a skill where the demand for that skill exceeds the supply, or (c) specialize in a narrow niche with little competition.
6?If you can earn a salary or generate a net income as a self-employed service professional or independent contractor of $200,000 a year or more, you won?t get rich. But your life will be easier and you will be financially more secure than 95% of Americans.
7?Given the choice, have your children when you are young and possess the energy it takes to a family.
8?Spend as much time as you can with your children when they are young and still want you, even if you must make sacrifices in your professional achievements to do so. The time passes quickly and once it?s gone, it?s gone for good.
9?Strive to achieve a liquid net worth of at least $2 million by age 50. You won?t be rich, but again, you?ll have more financial security than about 95% of Americans.
10?The best piece of financial advice I ever got was from Florida freelance writer David Kohn, who told me: ?Live below your means.? Doing so further enhances your financial security.
11?With your wealth, avoid buying material possessions that are unnecessary ? especially luxuries that depreciate in value over time. Use your money to buy income-producing assets, assets that appreciate in value, or services that free up your time for other activities.
12?Avoid debt of any kind to the extent you are able. I have zero consumer debt except the mortgages on investment properties. Cars I buy for cash. If you have to get a loan or lease to drive a particular model car, you can?t afford it.
12?If you lend money to friends or family, do it with the expectation that the money is really a gift rather than a loan, and do not expect to ever get the money back. If you are repaid, even in part, consider it found money.
13?Every day you wake up and everyone in your family is in good health, and you have food to eat and a decent place to live, you are ahead of the game.
14?When writers, Internet marketers, and entrepreneurs brag to you about how much money they make, divide the figure they give by three. As my colleague Fred Gleeck is fond of pointing out, the only numbers you can trust are your own.
15?Always in your business, under-promise and over-deliver. Give your customers not their money?s worth, but more than they have a right to expect. Err on the side of being too generous rather than being too rigid or strict.
16?Before criticizing the work of a supplier or vendor, say something positive ? what you like about the work — first. The more insulted a vendor feels, the less motivated they become to do good work for you.
17–Do not allow yourself to be belittled, insulted, or demeaned verbally or in writing by others. When someone makes a snide or degrading comment, your reply should be: ?What was your purpose in making that comment to me?? It will stop them in their tracks, and embarrass them so they never do it again to you.
18?Don’t give unsolicited advice.
19?To paraphrase Dan Kennedy, guard your time like the gold in Fort Knox. You can always make more money, but time lost or wasted is gone forever.
20?As long as a business or life decision does not involve risking the mortgage money, make it quickly. Successful people are able to make swift decisions and carry them out with speed.
21?The #1difference between successful people and those less successful is that successful people act on their ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Without action, ideas are worthless.
22?Do not think you must reinvent the wheel on every new product or business project. Most things have already been done before. All you need to do is add a twist or put your own spin on a product or service to create demand and make it profitable.
23?If you are successful, you can be arrogant and boastful. But why do it? Your bragging makes others who are less successful feel badly about themselves. What?s the point of doing that? Be modest and humble. Don’t push your achievements in other people’s faces.
24?Don?t refer to yourself as a genius or superstar in your marketing copy. If you were a genius, you wouldn?t have to say it ? instead others would be saying it and you could quote them.
25?Focus on your work ? on creating valuable products, giving great service, going the extra mile for your customers ? rather than how much money you want to make.
Can you think of any other items to add to the list?