002 – The Power of Creating with Tom Morkes

In this episode, I chat with Tom Morkes, West Point grad and Iraq War veteran turned publisher, author, entrepreneur. Tom shares some unexpected benefits of creating, how he’s taken skills learned in the military and applied them to his businesses, and how spreading ideas can take you places.

Overview
[00:01:14] Mission and vision
[00:04:57] Creating value from nothing
[00:08:44] Step in the ring
[00:12:13] Perseverance
[00:15:23] Shut off part of your brain
[00:22:27] Keys to the kingdom

Resources mentioned:
Tom Morkes’ Blog
In the Trenches Podcast
Collaborate: The Modern Playbook for Leading a Small Team to Create, Market, and Sell Digital Products Online
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Seth’s Blog
Read This Before Our Next Meeting: How We Can Get More Done
The Domino Project
Clay Hebert
Misfit
The Jeff Goins Blog

Note: Some of the resources above may be affiliate links, meaning I’d get a commission if you use that link to make a purchase (at no cost to you).

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to LIFT, a podcast for you – the entrepreneur, the leader, the creative – who leads change with heart. If you don’t have it all together, you’re in the right place. I’m your host, Sharlene Sobrepeña.

In this episode, I sit down with Tom Morkes. Tom served in the US Army for five years and is now an author and entrepreneur. We talk about the benefits of building multiple streams of income (that go beyond financial gains), how he’s taken the skills learned in the military and applies them to entrepreneurship, and how he was able to work with some big names online. My biggest takeaway is that it doesn’t matter if your work sucks at first. What matters is that we make the shift from being a consumer to a producer or creator. And that act of embracing this power of taking control of your life, can lead to opportunities you may not even be able to fathom right now. And that to me, is an exciting thought. Let’s get to it!

Sharlene: Yeah. What’s your mission? What’s the mission of your work and what’s the vision, what’s your vision for the world? So, I guess in other words, what’s the change you want to see in the world and what are you doing to nudge it in that direction? And that can be lofty or specifically with your audience, or both.

Tom: I think the world needs more entrepreneurs and more people who go out and create things for themselves, and less followers and more leaders. It’s especially true, I think, now more than ever. We see the power coagulated, we’ll say, within a few number of large companies and they employ the most people in the world. And so, we give all this as a culture, as a society, we give so much power to these companies because they employ so many people. It’s a double-edged sword, obviously, because on the one hand that’s good. Employment is good. We want people working. On the other hand, when these companies get too big, they have so much more power than I think we think they do have or we recognize that they have. And when it comes to the individual, if you’re an employee, if everybody becomes employees, you have very little negotiation power as just as an employee, as just somebody who is being paid a wage; whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s a high wage or a low wage. It doesn’t matter. To some degree, you are imprisoned by that system. And so, I deeply respect and admire the entrepreneur and the creative, and the writer, and the artist – the person who goes out and does their own thing without permission, without being told to do it, without being paid to do it. And they go out and they create these things that are important to the rest of us. And so, whether you’re a solopreneur just getting started, trying to do something on your own; whether you’re trying to write your first book, whether you’re just working on art in your spare time, it’s like do it. Get it out there because not only does it benefit the world – because that’s going to actually lead to more employment and less of that power being conglomerated by a few, but spread out amongst many. That’s a better society to have. It’s safer. It’s more anti-fragile. But the added benefit is you have more negotiation power in life. You have more optionality in life. You get to now set the terms of your own life, if you have additional streams of income coming in from what you’re doing. So, I’m not saying ‘Quit your job’. I think jobs are great. What I am saying is, even if you have a job, you should be doing something on the side so that you can develop these new streams of income. Or at the very least, if you don’t even care about money, to do things where you’re not being told to do it; but you’re doing it of your own accord, on your own terms, and you’re doing it because you think it’s worthwhile because I think there’s so many other benefits that stem from when you take control of your life that way. Even in the smallest, most insignificant type of hobby you can think of, if you are the one kind of going out there and putting something out there to share with other people, that’s an important thing. And the repercussions, the positive repercussions will echo across your lifetime. I’ve known it. I’ve seen it so many times with the clients I work with, with the people I get to work with on a daily basis, with the people I’ve collaborated with and seeing this happen over the last five or ten years as I’ve kind of been working the space in different capacities and seeing the people who are just starting out as a hobby and seeing it grow as something so much more. And even those who choose to keep it small or choose not to monetize, it’s just their art or their writing, the positive impact it has on their lives. And I can go into tons of examples, but I will just leave it at that and just say, the world needs more entrepreneurs, more creatives, more people just going out on their own, doing their own thing. And that’s you, if you’re listening to this, start doing it. Start it today. Start something and ship it.

Sharlene: Have you always felt this way? Have you always felt this passionately about this? Or was there a particular mindset shift somewhere?

Tom: I’d say that maybe it’s my predisposition to think that way, to some degree. Because if I can trace it back as early as I can remember, recall things, I’ve always been interested in art, in writing, in design and creation. I’ve always been enamored more by the way things are created, who created them, than by the thing itself; which I know is kind of odd. It’s like I’ll watch a movie and I’ll always wonder, how was it made, how was it done? What was the director or the writer thinking, you know? That’s where my brain goes. When it came to video games and all these other things that people spend a lot of time doing, it’s like I’ve always been more fascinated by what led to its existence than what it is. And so, I guess that’s maybe just where my brain has always gone and kind of led me to what I’m doing today and I guess now being able to articulate that message now kind of more clearly. I think the value of the entrepreneur too, somebody who creates value out of nothing or from scratch, or creates more value from a setting or scenario where there’s less value. I mean that’s fundamentally with entrepreneurs, you’re creating more value in the world that did not exist before you came, and put your hands on it and worked with it. And it’s like, I think the combination of those two things, this kind of just desire to understand how things are made, what drives people to create things, these wonderful things that we interact with and use every day. And then on the other side of things, the flip side, the business side, or the impact side from a cultural standpoint, why it’s so important that people are doing that. We need people to be experimenting. If you get complacent, if you get lazy, if you just let the world dictate your terms… Again, I’m not necessarily dogging on the idea of being employed. But if that’s where you stop, even if you love it, what it does is it closes doors in the future for you. And all you will ever be is an employee. But if you start even a side hustle now, you start creating something on the side, you always have the possibility of shifting directions if you want. It gives you more optionality, and I think more optionality is a benefit. So, I look at this and I say, some of these ideas I think I’ve been able to refine and articulate thanks to some great thinkers like Nassim Taleb and his book Antifragile, Skin in the Game, The Black Swan. Who else? He’s one of the more prominent, I think, modern-day thinkers in this way, but it’s fundamentally, you could say, it’s like the same philosophy espoused by Plato or Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius and stuff like that. It’s like these ideas from antiquity, a lot of it, and it’s that you should be the creator. You should be the producer. You should see where you can set your sight on something where you can add value. Even if it’s selfish to begin with, because if you can add value but it’s somebody else that can get value from it, even if it’s a selfish intention that’s still a benefit to the world. And so, instead of it being like how do we become, how do we try to change how other people act and what they do, it’s like maybe focus on yourself and focus on what you can create, what you can do, and that little spark can create a fire. And so again, coming back to this, I think part of it is natural disposition and the other part of it was just living life, having been through the military and my experience with that, and then moving into kind of self-employment and then entrepreneurship, and getting employees and building businesses and things like that, and having had these experiences across the board; I think it just cemented what I already believed to be true from a long time ago.

Sharlene: So, what are you doing now that in your work, that is pushing it that way? How are you creating more entrepreneurs in the world? How are you supporting them?

Tom: I do it in a few different ways. One is with the podcast “In the Trenches” and I do get a lot of feedback from that. I had a lot of positive feedback. It’s interesting because it’s a different demographic than my email list, which is another platform or medium that I use to share ideas, which is also a different audience than kind of my blog where I share and publish other ideas; and then through a whole host of other kind of channels and conduits. But fundamentally, I think what I blog about, what I email about with my newsletter and what I publish in the conversations I have on my podcast, they’re all geared towards creators. And I would say that it’s just kind of coming back to these messages of ‘Start before you’re ready’, ‘Step in the ring’, ‘It’s better to be in the ring and lose than be on the sideline and be that kind of Monday morning quarterback that is fundamentally useless to the conversation.’ But it’s really easy and it’s really lower risk to be that person, but that person is worthless in the concept of this game that we’re playing. So, step in the ring, do the work, that’s kind of the messaging that I espouse. And in as far as additional ways that I try to kind of support and help, again the podcast is completely free. The newsletter is completely free. The blog is completely free. So, everything I write and produce, 95-99% of it is free. And it’s based on that messaging, but then also more practical and pragmatic approaches to doing these kinds of things. So, it started with, one of the fundamental things I started to teach about early on was pay what you want pricing. So, here’s an alternative way to price or to approach the question of pricing. And to this day, it’s gotten tons of great reviews. I have tons and tons of case studies and testimonials from people who have used it and they’ve gotten great results from it. But, it’s interesting because it’s one of those topics where it’s very polarizing. But I think that’s good. It’s like we need to have conversations about these kinds of alternative ideas and ways to do business, ways to create, ways to share what we do in the world. But beyond that, again I help peop;e with now predominantly, I’m kind of focused on more of the business side of things, and how to kind of grow businesses by getting targeted, like high quality traffic, turning those into subscribers, and then turning those subscribers into customers; and how do you do that quickly and efficiently and consistently across time. And then build from there because ultimately that’s what every person, when they start, they’re going to run into those questions. And they’re going to think that the problem is X, Y or Z, but when they get established, the biggest problem’s going to be like, how do I get in front of the right people? How do I get more sales of whatever it is I’m creating? And so, a lot of what I teach now is just kind of focused in around that, which falls in line with a bunch of things from a spectrum of work that I’ve done from affiliate and influencer marketing, to storytelling copywriting, to launch sequences and product launch kind of methodology, and kind of a whole host and range of other things. But that’s where I’m centered. I know it’s a broad, broad range but I just kind of share ideas based on the questions I get, the feedback I get or the things I notice people doing wrong and then I’ll just share my ideas on it. I try to make it a conversation. So, it’s kind of fun.

Sharlene: You mentioned you used to serve in the military. I’m wondering what, if anything, were you able to take from your life in the military to your life as an entrepreneur?

Tom: The number one thing would have to be perseverance. That’s a big one, I guess, underneath it all. It’s like, if you want to go and start something on your own, it’s going to take a lot of grit and strength, and courage. And all of those things rely on your ability to put one foot in front of the other every day and maybe for months at a time, maybe for years at a time. And maybe, for such a period of time before you’ve actually reaped the benefits of what you’re doing, that you want to throw in the towel and you want to quit. So, it’s perseverance. There’s probably 90 out of 100 people have great ideas and they have things that they talk about that they want to do. And of those, say 90 out of 100, there’s probably more, there’s probably 99% – the truth is that only maybe about one or two, maybe upwards of five out of those 100 will actually ever start something. And then the reality is, maybe one of those five that started something will ever actually finish and ship it. And then of those, it’s like a smaller percentage of who will actually do it successfully or do it enough and not fail immediately so that they can keep building, keep producing to scale to something worthwhile. It’s such a miniscule amount and it’s because of that piece, it’s perseverance. It’s, am I willing to make the sacrifice now and tomorrow, and the next day, and for the next year, maybe the next two years or three years, or four years, or five years. For this thing, this idea that I have in my head of what I want it to be in five or ten or twenty years; am I willing to sacrifice that? And the reality is for most people, it’s like nah, I’d rather watch Netflix. And so, with my experience in the military, in the army was just that life can be miserable. But at least I could be miserable doing something that I think is worthwhile and beneficial, and helpful at a very base level. But then on a more optimistic level, I also realized, and learned an appreciation of life and the beauty of it, and the good things that can come from it. But knowing that those good things only come because people commit themselves to creating that better vision. And so, to me, it’s an absolute no-brainer why that’s something I have to do. But, if you do not have that perseverance, it’s just going to be so easy to quit. You’ll quit in three days. You’ll quit in a month. You’ll quit in a year. And at the end of the day, it’s the people who don’t quit who inevitably end up creating the things that we all use and that we share, and that add value to our lives. So, I don’t want anybody to be scared by that notion, that it’s going to take work and effort, but I think I’d be lying if I said it was easy or that that would be a necessary aspect or component of the work, of the meaningful work that you want to do.

Sharlene: So, in your lowest times, how did you keep going? How did you persevere? Do you have any tips for listeners who weren’t in the military? What kind of tips can you give us?

Tom: It’s interesting because I’m guessing – well, the answer obviously very clearly would have to depend on maybe the type of person. But I will say that from my experience and conversations I’ve had and some of the research I’ve done, and it was actually just yesterday I heard the statistic and again, let’s assume that it’s based on truth. I guess you can’t really trust things anymore in a lot of ways, but it was something like the internal chatter we have in our heads, something like 70% of it is negative; or at least that’s for men. It might be higher for men. And so, that’s really fascinating to me because I’m like, ‘Yup, been there, got that.’ I’m probably more like 90%, maybe 99%; as in I am my own worst enemy. So, I will shut things down before I do them. If I listen to myself, I will not do anything and that’s how it was for years because I had all these thoughts and I was looking at what people were doing. I was like, here’s how I would do it differently or this is what I would do instead; or here’s how I’d get better results faster because I understood what was happening, but then I wasn’t pulling the trigger and doing anything. Instead I was like, ‘Well, if I was going to do that, here’s 100 reasons why I shouldn’t do it today, why I shouldn’t start, why I shouldn’t – because I’ll be called a phony. I’m not legitimate. I don’t have money, the resources. My time is better spent elsewhere. My friends are over. I want to go hang out with them. I want to go see my family this weekend.’ And the list goes on. There’s 100 reasons why I should start tomorrow, at least not start today. And that would be what I call the self-doubt propaganda planes inside our brains that are just dumping useless nonsense onto us. And so, what I did was I just shut it off and I said, I’m doing this and I’m publishing it. I’m going to hit publish and I’m going to walk away from it. And I did that for the first 6-12 months of writing online. I just would write it down. I get to a point where I would be like, I felt good about it and then before I even consider how other people might take it, I just hit publish because if I got into that debate up my head of, ‘ Well here are the ways it could be dissected or broken apart, or challenged,’ I would end up inevitably trying to rewrite this thing and it will become the opposite of what I intended it to be. And then more importantly, it just wouldn’t go anywhere. I would actually just end up not publishing it or I’d kill it and then I go write the next thing. And there are tons and tons of things that I’ve written that I’ve never published because of that. So, I’m not saying this works 100% of the time, but as much as you can, I would just say you have to shut off the negative voices that are questioning what you’re doing. Because I’ll tell you what, if you get really critical of yourself, you’ll fail before you start. And interestingly, you have to shut that part off your brain, then you have to get into the practice of doing things with that part of your brain shut off because it’s going to be a weird experience. But once you get into the practice of doing it, with that part of your brain shut off, then you start to build a habit around it. And it is really a habit, and you’ll see the producers, the prolific producers of whatever it is they produce – I just interviewed Seth Godin, one of my favorites. I know you like him too, Sharlene. And I think I’ve read all his books. I’ve read almost all his blog posts. It was actually when I was deployed when I first found him and I think I read through every single thing you’d ever read up to that point. It was like ten years of blogging every day, kind of thing, or something like that. And the way he’s able to prolifically produce is because he created that habit. And you can say, ‘Well that sounds very simple’. But it was like, he did it once. And then he did it again the next day, and again the next day. And he kept doing it every day. So now, I bet when he sits down and actually that’s what he said on the interview or one of the interviews – I don’t know if I asked him about this specifically or it was another interview that I’d heard him on – it’s not really a thing anymore for him. It’s what he does. It’s like breathing, almost. But you don’t get there. It’s not like that’s built into somebody. That’s the result of intention, leading to small action, that is done consistently every day, that compounds over time. And so again, if you’re at that point where you’re struggling, chances are it’s something internal and you need to shut off that part of your brain because I’ll tell you what, most people in real life will never be that critical of you, face-to-face. On Twitter and social media, they will be too, but also if that keeps you in fear, delete that stuff. That stuff is nonsense. That stuff is noise, get rid of it. Publish anyway and get rid of that noise. You don’t need it. It’s not healthy. I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone. And there are people who can leverage social media in positive ways. Fine, great, good for you. I’ll tell you what. I don’t like it. I hate it. I like one-on-one conversations. I like sitting down with somebody. I like looking them in the eye. Because you know what, they’re not going to be awful human beings like you see on social media where there’s this anonymity or even if they’re not anonymous, they think they can just spout off this nonsense and just the vitriol that occurs on it. And it’s, oh man, it’s such a shame. It’s such a shame, because here we have these great platforms that should allow us to just connect with so many different people, and then what comes of it is this nasty dragon, that multi-headed dragon. And it’s sad because then there’s so many people who would have the ability, because it’s at your fingertips to start something and do something. But the same tool that you would use to start something and share something is the same tool that will try to consume you and eat you. So, I just say, shut off the social media too or use it as a tool and nothing more. Don’t participate in those conversations. Don’t be one of those people that’s like a Monday morning quarterback, criticizing other people. In fact, make it as a priority right now to not criticize anyone ever. How about that? Or at least for the next six months, or at least for the next month. In fact, you’re not only not criticizing, but you’re only going to find positive things to say. And so, if you need to use social media, all you’re going to say on social media is something positive. You’re going to find people who are doing something that are positive and you’re going to compliment them on it. Or you’re going to share things that you like. You’re not going to say a single negative thing because you can kind of be that change that you want to see in the world, right? That wasn’t my idea. I’m pretty sure that was Martin Luther King. The point is, it still actually is just as relevant today. So, I could go on and on about that, but just shut off that noise in your head and shut off the noise outside that leads you to be fearful of producing and sharing. Because guess what, the stakes aren’t that high. In the military, people can die. You know when I was deployed, those were the stakes. And I realized when I got into the world of entrepreneurship, those are not the stakes; not with what I’m doing as presumably whoever is listening to this now, not with what you’re doing. Because maybe you’re not trying to invent some sort of medical device, or something like that where maybe the stakes are a little bit higher. But most of us are like doing maybe consumer or B2B type stuff and the stakes are just not life and death. So, don’t make them out to be. And you need to manufacture or set up your world when you do this as if it’s a game. Because a game, you can play and you can lose and you can lose and you can lose again and again. But it can still be fun. You can still grow. And then you can win every now and then, maybe start to win more than you lose. So, you have to approach it as a game. But I think all the negative self-talk, with all the negativity and vitriol out on social media, it’s like the thing that kind of shuts it down before it has the chance to even be planted, let alone flourish and grow into something.

Sharlene: That’s definitely a good point. So, when you made the jump from the military life to entrepreneurship, I mean now you’ve worked with some pretty big names. How did you meet them? How did you reach out to them and did you have doubts in your head when you did?

Tom: Yeah. It’s interesting. I wish – part of me wishes that I still kind of was doing more of what I used to do. But I am in a different way, or it’s a different capacity now. But when I first got started, I was literally just reading all the blogs that I could find that I was interested in. And then any time a blogger that I liked would share somebody else’s blog, I’d read that blog. And if somebody shared a podcast, I’d start listening to the podcast for more on their emphasis. There weren’t many at that time. But I’d listen to those. YouTube was kind of more in its infancy. But I’d try to find the stuff and I was a consumer of it. And then, I started to kind of I guess as I thought about that stuff, part of that was just kind of what you could say is maybe research; or at least that’s what I claimed it to be. Ultimately, the reason I hadn’t started was just fear – fear of all those things I just mentioned. It was actually a kick in the butt from my now-wife who was my girlfriend at the time, who was like, ‘Okay Tom, you talk about these things but you’re not doing it’. And I was like, that’s a good point. I hate being a hypocrite. I was like, I will start then. So, I had to get over that. Sometimes you need an external kick, so it’s good to have good support, by the way. I would say that’s maybe an additional element. Find people that will actually be supportive and push you forward. But, when I was doing that, I was paying attention to what was out there. I was listening to what people were saying. I was reading, paying attention to the words that were being said, what was being shared, who was sharing it amongst whom, what were the ideas that were spreading, seemingly kind of more powerfully what resonated with me. And so yeah, I was just consuming stuff for a long, long time, and then kind of just in my own way taking notes and writing things down and writing down my ideas on things before I ever kind of started. But what was the game changer for me was a couple of things: one was actually starting a blog and actually starting to write, and just share some ideas. That was critical because then all of a sudden, I wasn’t just a passive consumer. I was a creator. Irrelevant of how shoddy that work was, I was still a creator. I was a producer, number one. Number two, then I went to a conference. It was actually a Seth Godin conference. I think the first one I went to was $1500 or $2000 – it was something extraordinarily expensive for me because that was like a month’s wage or something like that. And then I had to fly and stay in New York and stuff like that. It was so expensive. It was easy to have said no and I couldn’t get anybody to go with me maybe because it was expensive. I was like, no, I’ve been reading all of this guy’s books. I want to go see him in person. So, I went and I just took notes. I remember when I was there, there were all these business owners and professionals. They were authors doing all these incredible things. I was just like, “I’m in the army. I’m not doing anything. I’m just here to listen.” So, I took a lot of notes, but from that I connected with a bunch of people and those people, I ended up becoming friends with. Some of them, I thought they were just interesting and doing kind of incredible work, so I interviewed them. One of them was Al Pittampalli who wrote, I think Read This Before Our Next Meeting, which is published by Seth Godin’s “The Domino Project” back in the day. And so, I interviewed him because I wanted to get his ideas and how did he land that, how did he get published through Seth Godin’s “The Domino Project”? The other one was Clay Hebert who also had worked with Seth Godin in some capacity. So, I met him at that event as well. And he is also doing his own kind of entrepreneurial stuff and it was really interesting, so I interviewed him. And then they put me in touch with other people, like AJ Leon who runs Misfit. He’s just doing this really remarkable creative work, so I interviewed him. And then somebody else put me in touch with Jeff Goins, and so I interviewed him. And I was just asking questions and actually it was Jeff who was like – I was just publishing these things in mp3s on my website. It was really ghetto – and so he’s like, “You should actually make a podcast out of this.” I was like, okay I’ll make a podcast. So, I actually created a podcast. I was just asking questions. I just wanted to listen and understand how people were thinking with what they were doing. And then when I did that and people had a good experience being on the podcast or having a conversation with me, they would introduce me to more people. So, it was just one after the other, after the other. And when I was writing blogs, I was kind of doing the same thing. I was pointing out people that I thought were doing relevant stuff or ideas that I thought were powerful and sharing kind of my insights as they started to grow and mine were kind of based more in the military side of things; like how I integrated the military and military decision-making and tactics and military strategy into the world of creativity and art, and writing and entrepreneurship. And so, I can speak to at least the military component and then I would leverage these other brilliant people on the business side of things and just kind of find a mind meld somewhere in there to share. Well, this grew over time because you can imagine the compounding nature of having conversations where that person now refers you to one or two or three more people and that person refers you to one or two or three more people. Pretty soon by the end of the year, I’ve had interviewed dozens and dozens of people and then the conversation would usually oftentimes continue on beyond that. And that’s how I ended up getting started working, was because a lot of people who I interviewed were on my podcast early on and they end up hiring me in different capacities to work with them. And really, really early on it was I think there was a couple of people where I was like, “Hey, you’re doing this really cool thing. I think I can help you by doing this, this and this for you.” And it was pro-bono, and I did that. I just hustled and then I got these testimonials and these referrals and then those people ended up hiring me for other things or putting me in touch with somebody that then paid me. It was like, seriously, if you want a life hack, here’s one: Work for free for a little bit and build up a portfolio. It’s okay. Man, we live in such a world of entitlement where nobody wants to put in the time and effort. They want to get paid on everything they do. I’m so glad I didn’t do that. I’m so glad I didn’t have that mindset, and I think part of my mindset was actually more fear. But it was a positive side of that – so I was too scared to actually charge something. But, I’m so glad because it opened so many doors and it just compounded over time because it was one intro after another; getting a constant source of referrals from big names. It was just awesome because when a big name refers you for something, that person’s really not going to question whether you’re the best or not at it, honestly. I mean, maybe some will but it’s like, whatever, I can do without you because I’m getting all these other referrals too. That’s the position I’m in now because I get to choose who I get to work with. So, if somebody comes to me and I don’t like how they act, I don’t like their attitude or something like that, I just turn them down. I don’t care. Because I have a constant flow of new inquiries and I get to work with all sorts of exceptional people, and even to this day. So, some of the exceptional people I’m working on were because other exceptional people I had worked with still refer people to me. So, it’s like – but it all started by just kind of putting something out there and then publishing a blog and then a podcast, having conversations with no – there was no transaction happening. It was just learning and me trying to share their stuff with other people. That was it. Everything I would do was just sharing their ideas, sharing their insights on my blog, on my podcast, whatever. I wasn’t asking them to buy anything. I wasn’t trying to sell anything. It was just here are their ideas that I’m sharing. And they were very grateful to have and be part of those conversations, and be published on my podcast and to be shared, for me to mention them on the blog. And then so when I went out and they saw what I was doing, they saw this track record of things I was doing, they’re like, ‘Okay, this guy has his hustle and he’s got heart. He’s trying to do things.’ Even probably from their vantage point of how sloppy maybe some of it was, he was at least doing it. So then when I reached out and said, “Hey, maybe I can do these things for you”, and I’m not charging. It was like an easy, no-brainer for them to at least give it a shot. And so, that was the basis of my book Collaborate which was like, hey maybe there are smart people you can team up with and maybe instead of trying to be paid as an employee – if you’re trying to just get started, you just do it for free or even better, just do a revenue split. So, that’s actually what I did after the first maybe one or two projects I did that were kind of small, just to get started. I then would start approaching people and say, “Hey I can do this. We can do this together. You don’t have to pay me anything. I’ll do all the work and then we’ll just split the revenue on the back-end.” And again, another thing that nobody ever approaches me for things like that. I wrote a book on it. It’s so easy. It can be so profitable. You just have to bring some value to the conversation. You have to be able to do some things. But I think that’s it. I think a lot of people are dreamers and they want to do things, but they don’t actually want to put in the work. And so, that’s what I’ve seen. But it’s like this is a practice, a strategy that if you listen to all the smartest people in the world, a lot of them got started in an apprenticeship type model. And guess what? The world just opens up to you because when you work with big names or people who can teach you really useful skills and you don’t have to learn them by yourself or try to learn them by reading any book or try to learn them by spending a thousand dollars on an e-course and not really getting in contact with the person who actually created it because it’s one-size-fits-all and that’s actually not the case. But actually, getting to work with the top thought leaders and smartest people in your industry, guess what, you build a relationship, you do good work for them, they will open doors for you. It’s just the 80-20 principle. I’m like, how do I get to this point I want to get to faster and again, part of it was accidental in terms of just being too fearful of charging. But the other part was after I’ve done that and realizing, hey here’s a value proposition I can make to someone because I don’t have a track record of success yet. But maybe I have a track record of things I produced and little by little, I have more and more testimonials and case studies that I can at least go up to somebody and say, “Here’s where I could see it being a money-making endeavor. We can split the profit. You don’t have to do any work, or your part is really minimal.” It’s the kind of thing, if you’re just trying to get started, that’s it. There it is. I just gave you the keys to the kingdom. Take them, if you want, and open the door. It’s up to you. And that’s where a lot of people just say, “It’s too much work. I’ll go watch Netflix.”

Sharlene: I don’t know! I think we should end it there.

Tom: Perfect. I can’t think of anything else to top it.

Sharlene: I could just keep going but that was, I think that’s a good motivator for a lot of people. Just wondering if you can share where people can find you, how to get a hold of you, how they can work with you.

Tom: I’m going to tell them just to go to your website, Sharlene. You’re going to have show notes for this, right?

Sharlene: Yup.

Tom: Go to the show notes here and check out what Sharlene is doing. Sign up for the podcast and from the show notes, I know you’ll link up my other stuff. But that can be just the simplest thing, listen to this podcast, take notes, listen to it again; really take me up on that challenge there. Those are the keys, man. But you’ll be able to link to me from there. So, go to Sharlene’s blog and podcast and the show notes and you’ll find everything you need.

Sharlene: Cool. Thanks so much Tom.

Tom: Of course.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and listening to LIFT. If this episode resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review. That way, more people can discover this resource, and together, we can accelerate good change in the world. Thanks so much. Until next time.

 

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