Archive for March, 2018

In praise of the “little guy” in business

March 20th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Which of these 2 entrepreneurs do you admire more?

Mr. X, who came from poverty, started with almost nothing, and
built a business that generates an income in the lower to mid six
figures … and a net worth in the low seven figures?

Or Mr. Y, who came from a well-to-do family, which provided him
a grub stake worth several million dollars, and which — to his
credit — he turned a successful business, making himself
extremely rich in the process?

A lot of people might say Mr. Y … because he built the more
significant business and fortune.

But — even if both entrepreneurs multiplied what they started by
the same factor … say 20-fold … I pick X as my hero hands-down.


Both had to work hard, be smart, and overcome many challenges.

But X had one more challenge that Y did not, which to me makes
his success much more significant.

Namely, that when you come from modest beginnings, and have no
real net worth to start with, you are constantly close to
financial disaster when you start a small business.

Typically you invest almost all your time and also your rent
money in it.

So if the business doesn’t take off, you are up poop’s creek.

Worse, if it hobbles along with minimal success, as so many do
for so long, you — much like Jed Clampett — can barely keep your
family fed.

Plus, many neighbors, relatives, and even friends who don’t have
the guts to start a business as you did take delight in your
struggle and lack of big-time success.

Why? Because doing so somehow makes them feel less threatened by
you and better about themselves.

If you look at billionaire businessmen turned politicians today,
I think ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the classic
“lift-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps” Mr. X — the kind of
success story I really admire.

And President Trump is the “born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth”
Mr. Y, for whom the living is much easier.

Born February 14, 1942, Michael Bloomberg grew up in a
lower-middle-class household in the Boston area; his dad was a

He went on to build a huge media empire … and various sources
estimate he is worth anywhere from $30 billion to $49 billion;
let’s call it $35 billion.

Also, Bloomberg got there from just about nothing. No money or
business training from a rich and successful daddy.

I don’t follow Bloomberg closely, but in the few interviews I
have heard and articles I have read, he seems to me a modest,
humble, kind, and generous guy.

Another example: Daehee Park and John Marino, who started an
e-commerce business, Tuft & Needle, with $6,000 in 2013 and by
2016 had built it to $100 million in annual sales.

Quite an accomplishment, wouldn’t you agree, especially
considering not one rich relative handed them a million or more
and said, “This should make life easier, boys” — as it would

Now on to Donald Trump, who claims that he got his start with
“only” a one million dollar grubstake from his father, a
successful real estate developer.

(By the way, if anyone feels like giving me a million dollars, I
promise not to use the word “only” in reference to your gift.)

But that million was just for starters, according to the Wall
Street Journal.

Their reporters tracked down a 1985 casino-license disclosure
that showed Trump’s father gave him a second loan, this one for
$14 million — a value of $31 million in today’s dollars.

According to Forbes, Trump is worth around $3.5 billion. Other
sources, such as Vanity Fair, say the figure is much lower.

Now, I’m not saying trust-fund babies who build empires aren’t
smart … or successful … or laudable … or impressive.

I’m just pointing out a simple truth:

They never had to deal with what I believe is the toughest,
riskiest, and scariest part of starting a small business: the
early stage where you risk it all, and if you lose, you’re crap
out of luck.

To me, the fact that silver-spooners are spared this anxiety,
fear, and possibility of destitution … thanks to the security
and backup provided by their daddy’s bankroll … certainly
doesn’t negate their accomplishments.

But also in my opinion, it DOES make their achievement
significantly less impressive than if they had, like many of our
immigrant parents or grandparents who built successful lives,
come to our shores from Ellis Island with only $10 in their


Category: General, Success | No Comments »

Why it still pays to be an expert

March 16th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Last week, I related the central idea of a terrific book, “The
Death of Expertise” (Oxford University Press, 2017), by Tom
Nichols, as follows:

“In our culture today, we not only don’t trust our experts, but
openly argue with, ignore, defy them, and at times even treat
them with outright contempt.”

Though I also noted that, despite the growing disdain for experts
in certain fields in some quarters, there are still many who
flock to experts for guidance and advice.

Therefore, becoming an expert — that is, ideally (a) a true
expert who really does know his stuff and (b) is also recognized
as such by his industry or field — can be a big boost to your
career and your business.

Reason: recognized experts or “gurus” are more in demand, have an
easier time getting clients, earn more money, and sell more of
their products and services.

But how do you become a genuine, recognized expert in your
specialty — and gain the kudos, prestige, and financial rewards
that go with it?

Well, on page 30 of his book, Nichols says there are 4
requirements needed to truly become a genuine expert in your

1–Education — What he really means is knowledge gained through

Broadly, to be a genuine expert requires deep understanding of
your subject, and part of the way to gain expertise that is
through diligent, persistent, and careful study.

As an autodidact, you can study on your own. All experts I know

But obtaining some of the knowledge by getting a degree in your
field, especially from a prestigious university, can also be a
plus — and in some fields, like physics and medicine, is

And in many other fields as well, not only does a formal
education accelerate your learning, but people tend to take you
more seriously when you have your degree.

2–Talent — People are typically talented in a discipline through
some combination of training, practice, and natural aptitude.

3–Experience — Malcom Gladwell, Mark Ford, and others have said
that to become good at something you have to do it for a thousand
hours — and to become a master, you have to do it for around
10,000 hours.

4–Peer and public affirmation — It usually takes both
achievement and recognition by both one’s peers and the general
public to be considered an expert.

Examples include movie directors being recognized with an Oscar,
musicians with a Grammy, scientists with a Nobel Prize, and
journalists with a Pulitzer.

Of course, those are at the top of the game, and multiple lesser
prizes and publicity can also help you achieve expert status —
everything from giving a talk at your local library to writing an
article for your industry trade journal.


Category: General, Success | 2 Comments »

Why I won’t write free guest posts for RM’s blog

March 13th, 2018 by Bob Bly

RM recently emailed me:

“Bob, we are simply amazed with your writing style and would want
you to be a part of our community.

“I’m the Head of Marketing at XYZ Marketers. We are building a
community of Marketers.”

“Information that you provide through your blogs could be crucial
for the marketers, businesses, and brands coming to our site
trying to increase their brand exposure.

“We would like to invite you to guest blog. Guest Blogging with
Passionate Marketers will provide you an opportunity to showcase
your thought leadership in the industry.

“As with your informative and insightful content, you will not
only provide value to the new audience, but will establish trust

“We believe the learning curve in a community is always high.
Looking forward to hear from you.”

RM actually thought he was flattering me — rather than insulting
me — by asking me to do for him for free what others pay me a
lot of money to do: write.

So I instantly emailed back a polite “thanks but no thanks.”

The reason I bring this up is: most solopreneurs, self-employed
professionals, freelance writers, consultants, and others in our
boat get requests like this quite frequently.

And if you are typical, you may struggle with how to respond …

… and whether to actually accept and do as asked — whether it’s to
write a guest post for a blog … or be interviewed on a podcast …
or allow one of your articles to be reprinted in someone else’s
e-newsletter or on their website — always, of course, with no
offer of pay.

To help you out in these situations, here are 5 simple questions
you can ask yourself to make quick and smart decisions about
requests for free contributions of your time, expertise, or other
things of value that people want without paying you for it:

#1–Who’s asking?

RM was with a blog and a company I never heard of.

I wouldn’t even write a free article for the Wall Street Journal.

I am certainly not going to do it for a blog I never heard of
that, for all I know, has 3 readers.

Do they have more than 3?

I don’t know.

Because RM didn’t think the size of his audience was worth
mentioning when he made his request.

And even if he told me, how do I know I can trust that number?

Would you run a paid ad in a magazine or a banner on a website
without knowing the magazine’s circulation or the site’s monthly

No. Then why would you write for a blog or website with no clue
of how big the audience is?

#2–What’s the benefit?

So RM is going to help me “showcase my thought leadership”?

Forgive me for not swooning from the excitement.

#3–Do I need the benefit?

So let’s say the benefit is showcasing my thought leadership.

With speaking engagements for some of the biggest corporations
and most prestigious organizations in the world … and 95 books
published … is getting more PR something I really need at this

#4–What’s the ROTI?

ROTI is “return on time invested.”

If I make, say, $300 an hour as a writer, and it takes me 2 hours
to write a guest post, it costs me $600.

Will my post on the XYZ blog make me at least twice that —
$1,200 in orders for my services or products?

If not — pass.

#5–Who owns the content?

Say by some chance your answers to questions #1 through #4 above
line up and say, “Do it!”

Then at least let RM know that you own all rights to your

And just to be sure, type the words “first rights only” at the
top of page one of your manuscript.


Because in today’s marketplace of commerce and ideas, your
content collection is a goldmine.

And you only let others borrow your treasure. You never give it


Category: Writing | 1 Comment »

The death of expertise

March 9th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Today people think that, with a few Google searches, they know
more than their doctors who have 4 years of Med School.

But as Tom Nichols writes in his new book “The Death of
Expertise” (Oxford University Press, 2017):

“Experts are more often right than wrong on essential matters of
fact. And yet the public constantly searches for the loopholes in
expert knowledge that will allow them to disregard all expert
advice they don’t like.

“I have started hearing from professionals not about clients
asking sensible questions, but about those same clients actively
telling professionals why their advice was wrong — dismissing the
idea that the expert knew what he was doing almost out of hand.”

“No one is arguing that experts can’t be wrong. Rather, the point
is they are less likely to be wrong than non-experts.

“The Internet is the enabler of a spreading epidemic of
misinformation, making many of us dumber.

“It’s also making us meaner: along behind their keyboards, people
argue rather than discuss, and insult rather than listen.”

Along these lines, and frustrated by the increasing lack of
reliance and trust on the advice of experts, I asked a fellow
consultant: “I don’t get it. After all, you wouldn’t hire a
surgeon to perform surgery on you, and then tell her what
scalpel, suture, and surgical technique to use — right?”

She said, “These days, many patients would.”

Once, my wife and I hired a gray-haired, grizzled home repair
veteran to tile our bathroom.

When he started working, she questioned his tiling method, saying
she had seen it done differently — on HGTV.

He smiled and said, “Miss — a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing.” And then turned back to his work, tiling the way he had
been for the last 40 years. And the bathroom came out great.

Today, thanks to Google, everyone has that “little knowledge,”
which often harms more often than it helps.

Now, to be fair, I want to make one distinction Nichols does not
make: practitioners vs. teachers.

In the “age of expertise skepticism” (my term, not his), people
increasingly question and even ignore the advice of experienced
practitioners and service providers, including doctors,
attorneys, real estate agents, electricians, masons, and many

However, when it comes to experts who teach, rather than do — a
category that includes professors, authors, speakers, seminar
leaders, trainers, and information marketers — consumers still
look for an advisor they perceive as a recognized expert in his
or her field.

And in my next essay, I’ll show you the 4 keys to becoming that
expert — and how to attain each.


Category: General, Success | 3 Comments »

I am once again embarrassingly transparent

March 7th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Previously, I’ve commented in this e-newsletter on an internet
phenomenon — “transparency.”

It’s the odd but true fact that your email subscribers are, for
some strange reason, not just interested in learning more about
your topic — but also about you.

Apparently, spilling your guts — and sharing personal details —
engages many of your subscribers just as well or better than your
content-rich messages.

So, in the interest of transparency … and Lord knows if you
really care about this, but in case you do …

… here in no particular order are 10 things I like but realize
many others may find stupid, silly, moronic, immature, or all

1–50 Cent. So sue me. I like 50 Cent … though given inflation,
maybe he now goes by 75 cent. I don’t know. But whenever I hear
“In Da Club,” I start moving to the music — and, I do not dance.
(It’s also used in a pretty good new horror movie, “Happy

2–Superman. Seinfeld and I have one thing in common: a Superman
obsession. I have been reading Superman comics since the early

I have a collection of hundreds of Superman and other DC comics.
There are three Superman figurines adorning my office shelves. I
even wrote a book about Superman and other comic book

(Through writing books on pop culture and other non-business
topics, I have managed to turn many of my outside interests into
small profit centers, to partially alleviate my guilt when

3–Waterworld. This post-apocalyptic movie, about our entire
planet covered by water, though widely panned, is one of my
favorites; I never tire of it. Kevin Costner’s other
post-apocalyptic movie, The Postman, is a close runner-up with

4–Bad weather. Dark days, cloudy skies, rain, snow, sleet, wind,
cold, and dreary weather all bring joy to my heart. Conversely, I
find sunny, warm days incredibly depressing.

5–Kosher salami on rye bread with mustard. This was my favorite
sandwich growing up as a kid. I hardly ever eat it now, because
it is not healthy, and also there is no nearby kosher deli. But I
absolutely love it, healthy or not.

6–Anime graphic novels. Lots of adults find anime silly. But my
youngest son gave me a few of his, and I am hooked. I don’t buy
them. But I borrow his whenever I can. As a kid, I watched 3
anime TV cartoons: Speed Race, Gigantor, and my favorite, Tobor
the 8 Man (yes, Tobor is robot spelled backward):

7–Newspapers. I know I can read the news online. But to me, there
are few pleasures greater than reading an actual paper newspaper.
When I was graduating from college in the late 1970s, I had
dreams of becoming a reporter. But it never happened.

8–Paperbound books. Especially old mass market paperbacks sold in
used bookstores; they have a great feel and unique (and to me
pleasant) smell. I also buy a lot of used hardcovers at library
sales, because I like the protective plastic covers.

9–Libraries and bookstores. Wherever there are books to be
browsed, borrowed, or bought, I am there. Remember the Twilight
Zone episode where Burgess Meredith comes into possession of all
the books he could ever hope to read along with all the time in
the world to read them? Sounds good to me. (Of course, a nuclear
war took place to make it happen, but what else could he do?)

10–Horror … books, short stories, movies, TV … like the old
Chiller Theater. Scary is good. Dark is good. Even gory can be
okay. I’m not particular. I just like a good horror movie. Or
even a grade B one. Favorites include David Slade, M. Knight
Shyamalan, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Wes Craven, to name
just a few.

So, what do you think of my picks and taste — good, bad,
terrible, or laughable? And tell me what YOU like!


Category: General | 2 Comments »

Get rid of your Sunday night blues

March 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

Many working people, both staff and freelance, hate Sunday night.

There are two reasons why.

First, their weekend is over. So for many their fun, freedom, and
opportunity to sleep late — is also over.

Second, they dread the Monday morning alarm clock, getting back
to the office, and facing the enormous amount of work they have
to do in the new week.

Well, I have developed a simple method of overcoming Sunday night
anxiety, eliminating the stress of the work week ahead, and
feeling calmer and more peaceful.

Now, I want to share my secret for wiping away the Sunday blues
with you in this email. If you will let me.

Okay. My finding is that having a deadline on a big project early
in the week — Monday, Tuesday, and even Wednesday — creates
maximum Sunday night anxiety.

And that in today’s busy business world, many people have big
early-week deadlines almost many weeks of the year!

Therefore, my technique is to rise early on Saturday and Sunday,
finish the project, and handed it in via email to the client no
later than 11am on Sunday.

That way, I feel more free and relaxed for the rest of the

Personally, I like working early Saturday and Sunday morning,
while everyone else is asleep and the phone doesn’t ring.

You might not.

But either way, try my method — and see if it doesn’t dial back
your Sunday afternoon blues and Sunday night anxiety by an order
of magnitude.

I bet you it will.

Even if not, your diligence in beating your deadline will put you
in good stead with your boss or client.

So either way, you can’t lose.


Category: General | 4 Comments »