Five Things You Can Learn From Fireman Bob’s GoFundMe site.

Posted on October 10th, 2017

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about an 82-year old Fireman named Bob and how Hurricane Irma left him homeless. Along with the post I included a link to a GoFundMe site to raise money to help Bob rebuild his home. Although I’ve used social media very successfully to promote business for myself and my  clients, I’d never used it to raise money before so there was a lot to learn. Of course, creating Bob’s site taught me about how to use the GoFundMe app but it also taught me a lot about how to use social media as a promotional tool.

Help Fireman Bob Rebuild

Up until now, my online strategies have been judged by two yardsticks. The first is outreach and awareness. I could tell how well my online activities were doing based on the number of people who signed up for an offer, followed my tweets or posts, shared or retweeted what I’d posted, or showed up for an event or band gig.

I could also tell by how many people would email or call and invite me to speak at their events or were interested in me doing consulting work for their companies. When I’d ask, “how did you find out about me?” they’d usually answer, “I read your blog” or “I saw you on LinkedIn” or “I saw one of your TV appearances on Facebook.”

But with Fireman Bob’s GoFundMe site, I could track how well we were doing by how much money people were donating in real time. In fact, I became obsessed with watching the site and correlating the money raised to our online activities minute-by-minute.

This exercise taught me a lot. I want to share the five things I learned because you can use what I discovered to increase the return on your own social media efforts.

1. Nothing works as well as relationships.
The people who gave the most money — and gave it the quickest — were people who know Bob. Clearly Bob has meant a lot to a lot of people because his friends are both  very generous and very kind. Moreover, they didn’t just give money, but sent their  donations with lovely thoughts and wishes and they took the time to repost my request to increase our outreach.

This means that the time to start building your blog lists and assembling your followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc is not when you need to reach out to people. If you haven’t started yet, the right time to do it is today. Or, as the old saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. Or today.”

2. People have short attention spans. Strike while the iron is hot.
I screwed up. I didn’t create Bob’s GoFundMe site the first or second day after Hurricane Irma destroyed Bob’s house. In fact, I didn’t even put the site up until a week after the storm. Because of that mistake, I’m convinced that I reached fewer people — and earned fewer dollars — than I would have if I had started immediately. People want to be
involved in something that matters NOW!! The combination of the immediacy of the storm and the significance of the need generated the most donations within the first few days. A week later, when Hurricane Irma was no longer top of mind to most of the world, the need was still just as great but people’s interest had moved on.

Houston’s devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey were pushed out of our consciousness by Hurricane Irma which was in turn superseded by Hurricane Maria which was front and center only until the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas slid Puerto Rico out of the headlines. Sadly, Las Vegas too will soon be old news — replaced by the fires in Northern California or Trump’s next outburst or who knows what.

When you have an opportunity to generate attention based on current events, jump on it. Other than wrapping fish or lining bird cages, there’s not much use for yesterday’s newspaper.

3. Thank you’s matter.
All of the 167 people who donated to Fireman Bob received immediate and personalized thank you notes. Following the thank you’s, I saw the number of reposts and retweets expand exponentially, fanning out from the donor who spread the word to people who didn’t know Bob but just wanted to help. For the most part their donations were smaller than the ones from Bob’s friends but their volume was greater, resulting in us raising significantly more money than if we only heard back from people we know.

Your mother was right. Thank you notes matter.

4. Video rules.
I think I’m a pretty compelling writer. But the collection value of the stories I told about Bob and his personal disaster paled in comparison to the amount of people we reached— and the amount of money we raised — when I posted videos of Bob explaining what happened to the house he built 30 years ago. You can watch them HERE.

The lesson is simple. If you want to communicate convincingly, video is the medium of choice.

5. Keep priming the pump.
Marketing on social media is not a “one and done” opportunity. Instead, you can continue to capture people’s attention if you continue to come up with new and compelling ways to show them what’s going on. Because of this, we keep uploading new videos and photos and we keep people appraised of what’s going on and how Bob’s doing. We have even received interest from TV shows that want to feature Bob and his rebuilding effort and I’m confident that when those shows air we’ll see another increase in giving.

Help Fireman BobAs I said, you can apply all five of these tips to your online marketing efforts — they’re not specifically or exclusively linked to Bob’s site. Instead they clearly lay out the specific things you need to do to make your social media matter.

Speaking of mattering, thanks to your generous help, as of 10/09/17 we’ve raised $32,000 to help Bob rebuild. Thanks to our donors, we have an engineer starting on the plans for Bob’s rebuilt home. If you want to help, there’s still time and plenty to be done — your generous contribution will go a long way to helping an 82-year old put his life back together. You can learn more right HERE.

Thank you.

Numbers Lie.

Posted on October 3rd, 2017

60 Minute’s curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, used to begin his rants with, “Did you ever wonder…?” Rooney would then go on to excoriate whatever or whomever was bothering him that week. Sometimes Rooney’s screeds made me laugh and sometimes they made me mad. But Rooney’s outbursts always made me think. My goal with this post is to shoot for all three. If I only make it past one or two, that’s okay too.

Numbers Lie

You ever wonder about people who misuse the word “literally”? As in the friend who shows up late for your lunch date and announces, “Dude, I’m, like, literally starving.

No, you’re not. If you were literally starving, you’d be laying on the ground too weak to move and in enormous pain.

Or the friend who tells you not to worry because they “literally have your back.”

Also wrong. Literally having your back would mean they were gripping you from behind.

Instead, they are figuratively starving and they figuratively have your back. The words they use are simply illustrations of the idea they’re trying to get across not actual depictions of what’s going on.

I got to thinking about this pet peeve this morning when one of my running buddies handed me an ad for a local South Florida HMO. It read: “513,000 PEOPLE CAN’T BE WRONG. That’s how many of your Florida neighbors already have (our) Medicare Advantage.”

That’s a headline that’s both literally AND figuratively wrong.

Of course 513,000 people can be wrong. Just because a large number of people actually do something does not make it right.

Variety Magazine says 3.19 million viewers tuned into Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

The BBC estimates that over one billion around the world smoke cigarettes.

And CNN says almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump.

How’s that working out for you?

Whether or not choosing the health plan is a good decision, the headline is simply incorrect. 513,000 people can indeed be wrong. So can one billion. And so can any number of people in between.

Just because a lot of people do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Or as my mother used to ask, “If all your friends jumped off the roof, would you do it too?”

Since when does following the crowd result in anything more than a mediocre result?

Most people simply get what everyone else gets because they only do what everyone else does. Unlike the little town of Lake Woebegone “where all the children are above average,” most people do not get exceptional results because most people do not do exceptional things.

Average is average for a reason.

If you want to build your brand, build your business, or build your life, one of the first things to do is consider zigging while everyone zags. Whether you follow Roberto Peck’s The Road Less Traveled or Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, success seldom lies at the end of the obvious path.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


After all, if it were easy everyone would do it.

There Has to be a Better Way to Help.

Posted on September 26th, 2017

As you know by now, Hurricane Harvey drowned most of Texas. Hurricane Irma had its way with a score of Caribbean Islands and South Florida. And Hurricane Maria has devastated our friends in Puerto Rico. Worse still, Mexico suffered a lethal earthquake and 50,000 people in Bali are fleeing the Mount Agung volcano.

Dark days indeed.

My question is this: “What’s the best way to help?”

Red Cross Brand Problems

Giving money to the Red Cross used to be a no brainer. If you wanted to help, you stroked a check to the Red Cross.

But five years after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, NPR and ProPublica went looking for the results of the $500 million the organization received to provide relief. They found the organization had built only six homes and refused to provide information on where the rest of the money had gone. What’s more, they discovered that a quarter of all the money donated after the earthquake went towards internal spending — 124 million dollars.

Now seven years later, Newsweek and NPR report that little has changed. “The Red Cross is either unwilling or unable to disclose what percentage of donations will be allocated toward helping Hurricane Harvey victims.”

“On NPR’s Morning Edition, a Red Cross executive, Brad Kieserman, said the organization had spent $50 million on Harvey relief as of Wednesday morning, noting that the money went primarily toward 232 shelters for 66,000 people.”

“Host Alisa Chang asked, “Through donations, how much of every dollar goes to relief?”

“I don’t know the answer to the financial question, I’m afraid.” Kieserman answered.

Chang asked the executive if these types of issues were still occurring and whether such a “substantial percentage of donations [is] going to internal administrative costs rather than to relief.”

Kieserman didn’t have an answer to that, either.

But during a 2013 speech in Baltimore, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern expressed pride that “91 cents of every dollar that’s donated goes to our services.” But that wasn’t true. Auditors who examined the Red Cross’s tax documents found fundraising expenses have been as high as 26 percent.

Questions and complaints on a list of disasters the Red Cross has mismanaged include Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and the floods in Louisiana.

Still, the organization knows how important their image is to their ability to raise money. According to ProPublica, “During Isaac, Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually deployed to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty instead, ‘just to be seen,’ one of the drivers, Jim Dunham, recalls.”

“During Sandy, emergency vehicles were taken away from relief work and assigned to serve as backdrops for press conferences, angering disaster responders on the ground.”

Regardless of the incompetence, “two weeks after Sandy hit, Red Cross Chief Executive Gail McGovern declared that the group’s relief efforts had been ‘near flawless.’”

Because, as former Red Cross disaster expert Richard Rieckenberg said, ‘the charity cares about the appearance of aid, not actually delivering it.’

Clearly the organization’s brand awareness has gone a long way to help it continue to collect large sums of money from a concerned and generous public. But such a powerful disconnect between their internal intention and abilities and their external image must eventually weaken even a century-old brand. Because as we’ve said so many times before, people don’t choose what you do, they choose who you are. And once Americans understand who and what the organization really is, their largess will be directed elsewhere.

With all the problems in the world right now, that probably won’t happen a moment too soon.

The Wrong Way — and the Right Way — to use Social Media in a Crisis.

Posted on September 20th, 2017

The Wrong Way to use Social Media in a Crisis

From The New York Times, 09/13/17:

“HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The first patient was rushed into the emergency room of Memorial Regional Hospital around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, escaping a nursing home that had lost air-conditioning in the muggy days after Hurricane Irma splintered power lines across the state.

Four were so ill that they died soon after arriving. In the afternoon, the authorities learned that another had died early in the morning, and was initially uncounted because the person had been taken directly to a funeral home.

In all, eight were dead…

The 152-bed nursing home was acquired in 2015 by Larkin Community Hospital, a growing Miami-area network that includes hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities…

Dr. Jack Michel, the health-care network’s current chairman, did not respond to requests for comment.”

Instead, Michel went on Facebook where he wrote:

“@FLGovScott The best way to honor the memories of those who lost their lives in Hollywood Tragedy is identifying root causes and making sure this doesn’t happen again in FL, not finding scapegoats. Due process is a constitutional right.”

Since that September 18 post, 140 of Michel’s followers have posted likes and frowny face emoticons and some 30 or so sycophants have posted comments blaming the power company, politics, and the unfairness of pointing fingers. Virtually everyone’s been blamed, in fact, but the people responsible for the tragedy.

At best, Dr. Michel’s Facebook bleats make him and Larkin Community Hospital look insensitive and self-serving. And even though only one respondent has criticized his actions online so far, that response is inevitable.

Because as we’ve said so many times before, “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

The Right Way to use Social Media in a Crisis

Jim Fried is the senior vice president of Spectrum Mortgage Group, a company that provides commercial property financing. Fried uses his robust social media presence, plus his weekly radio program, Fried on Business, to promote himself and his company.

After the storm Fried posted a five-word message that said simply, “We Are Here to Help!”

Below the headline he wrote: “Hurricane Irma has brought us many challenges, from property damage to cash-flow issues. If you’re in need of cash right now, we can help you turn your real estate property into quick cash with a private loan. Even if your home or property has been damaged, we can lend based on the land value.

Call today! One person makes the decision. We can commit today and close next week.

Let us help you in this special situation.”

Positive, inclusive, and aspirational, Fried made his online post immediately relevant to his readers. He told them precisely what he can do to make their lives better. Then, after making his point, Fried followed up with the Reasons To Believe (RTBs) showing that their property has value, and that they can close on a loan quickly because only “one person makes the decision.”

Simple, direct, and to the point. Jim Fried understands the concepts behind an All About Them marketing strategy.

Defensive, insensitive, callous. Jack Michel clearly does not.

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #10 in a Series.

Posted on September 5th, 2017

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success.  My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.

Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.

If you missed any of the rules, just click on each link: Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE. Rule #7 is HERE. Rule #8 is HERE, Rule #9 is HERE.

Four-word rule for success

Listen to enough writers and sooner or later it’ll dawn on you that the act of writing is thought of lots of different ways, few of them pleasant.

Ernest Hemingway found looking for the muse torturous. According to legend, Papa described it like this: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

And W. Somerset Maugham believed that, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Having spent the last ten years hammering out this blog week after week while also writing new books, countless speeches, articles and TV commentary, and keeping up with my client assignments, I’ve learned a little bit about just how hard maintaining consistent good writing can be.

But of all the things I’ve learned, regular writing reminds me about two universal truths which assert themselves time and time again:

  1. The key to good writing is not just writing, it’s rewriting, and
  2. The muse is a jealous taskmaster.

I’m not the first one to discover these two points, by the way. When I was researching quotes for this article, I’d already determined my two truths but wasn’t aware that others had explained them already.

Vladimir Nabokov said that, “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” And Hemingway was pretty clear on this point when he wrote, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Because I sincerely believe that the most important part of good writing is rewriting, I try to write my posts with enough lead-time to read them over and over and over, crafting them a bit tighter on each pass.

As far as the jealousy of the Muse goes, this point is unassailable. If you want to write – books, ads, blogs, whatever – besides putting in lots and lots of hard work the other thing to always do is stop and write whenever an idea strikes you. Because if you wait until it’s more convenient, your good ideas vaporize.

To benefit from the thinking time I get when I run I keep a miniature Sharpie tangled in my sneaker laces so I can write my inspirations down on the palm of my hand as they pop into my head. When I sleep I keep a pad and pen on my bed stand to capture those 3:15 a.m. brainstorms before they disappear. And during the day I always try to have my laptop, iPad or a simple notebook within quick reach so I don’t risk missing good ideas whenever and wherever the Muse shows itself.

Turns out Steven Pressfield, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art, already knew about the Muse’s demands. Pressfield explained it this way:

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

Saul Bellow said it like this, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

But just because the words and ideas might appear when you pay attention and work at it doesn’t make it easy. Why? Because we writers are always our own worst critics. After all, as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Which is why my four-word rule for business success #10 is Never Ignore Your Muse.

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #9 in a Series.

Posted on August 29th, 2017

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #9 in a Series.

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success.  My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.

Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.

If you missed any of the rules, just click on each link: Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE. Rule #7 is HERE. Rule #8 is HERE.

Hidden In Plain Sight

It was my college roommate’s anniversary and he wanted to take his girlfriend somewhere special to celebrate.

When he asked her where she wanted to go, she didn’t hesitate for a second. “Benihana” she said with a big smile.

But there was a problem. My college roommate had never been to Benihana, had never eaten Japanese food, and didn’t know how to eat with chopsticks.

He was scared he’d do something stupid, so he asked me if I would find a date and go with them.

“We’ll tell her it’s an anniversary party,” he said. “And while we’re there you can show me how the place works.”

When the day arrived the four of us showed up at the restaurant. We were ushered to the teppanyaki table and sat with the two other couples already there. Besides us, there were another eight strangers on the other side of the big table.

My roommate looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“Don’t worry,” I whispered, “they always put you with others. It’s fun.”

A moment later the waitress showed up and offered each of us a steaming hot rolled-up washcloth from a bamboo tray.

As my roommate looked over at me, I whispered: “Take one, wipe your hands, and put it back. DO NOT wash your face.”

He smiled with relief and did as he was told.

After that, things progressed nicely. My roommate chose a drink and found things on the menu to order all by himself. It wasn’t until the waitress handed out the bowls of miso soup that he looked at me with panic in his eyes.

“What’s with the funny spoon?” he said under his breath. “Why is it shaped like this?”

I couldn’t resist.

“It’s because the soup is always so hot. What you do is scoop the soup up in the spoon and then put the other end in your mouth. Just tilt the spoon up and let the soup run down the channel to cool off.”

“Wow!! No way!! I love that. Let me try it.”

He scooped up some soup, turned the spoon around, and let it run down the handle into his mouth. He was so intrigued and excited that he did it again and again, never noticing that everyone at our table —and then everyone in our corner of the restaurant — was watching him.

Finally, my roommate looked up in mid-slurp. He froze when he noticed the whole room staring at him.

He put down his spoon.

“You are such a jackass.” he said quietly.

(Years later my friend and virtuoso drummer Allen Lynch was chaperoning a trip to Washington DC with his son’s sixth grade glass. When they went to lunch at Tony Chen’s, they were served wonton soup with the same little plastic spoons. Because I had told Allen the story about my roommate and Benihana, he sent me this photograph after lunch was over. It was accompanied by three laughing emojis 😂 😂 😂).

Have you ever noticed the arrow in the FedEx logo? If you have, you can’t look at the logo without seeing it. But if you haven’t, you’ll be stunned that the arrow has been there all along.

How about the “31” (the number that represents their selection of flavors) in Baskin Robbins’ logo?

Can you recall how wonderful it smells when you walk into a Four Seasons Hotel anywhere in the world?

Have you ever gotten off a long flight at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport and seen the directional sign for the bathrooms? They’re posters of the bald blue guys from Blue Man Group pointing the way. The only difference is that now the bald blue guys are yellow.

Just like the spoon’s OTHER function, some of the most delightful surprises are Hidden in Plain Sight.

Tesla adds little delightful surprises into their cars’ computer screens. My favorite is a diagram for turning the car into a submarine resembling James Bond’s Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Apple sets the pace of the flashing “on” light on their laptops to match a human heartbeat.

To make your brand All About Them, and to make your business a success, remember that my Four-Word Rule for Success #9 is Hidden in Plain Sight.

Make Business Simple. My Four-Word Rules for Success. #8 in a Series.

Posted on August 21st, 2017

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #8 in a Series.

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success.  My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.

Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.

If you missed any of the rules, just click on each link: Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE. Rule #7 is HERE.

Understand Why You Matter

A few years ago, I was invited to make a presentation on the TEDx stage. I was very excited about this opportunity and spent a lot of time writing my speech, editing my speech and — most of all — rehearsing my speech.

I left nothing to chance. I timed myself over and over to make sure I wouldn’t speak for too long. I worked with a wonderful speaking coach (Hayley Foster) to make sure that my stories, points, and jokes were as good as possible. I selected what I was going to wear, scheduled a haircut a week before, and did everything I could think of to make the best impression possible. I even got to the location a day early and walked the route to the stage to make sure nothing could keep me from being there.

The night before the event the organizers held an organizational briefing. They told us that one of the videographers wasn’t able to attend so they were going to use a locked-down camera. They told us that when we walked on stage we should take the four steps to the white tape X on the ground and stand there without moving. Otherwise, we would wander out of the camera’s range. A small problem for someone who moves as much as I do, perhaps, but not insurmountable.

Finally, it was the morning of the event. I got up early for my run, showered, got dressed, and went down to have a cup of coffee and a quick bite of breakfast before I walked across the street to the venue. I was bending over to grab my bread from the toaster when I felt a little click in my lower back. Instantly I knew I had thrown my back out.

Two hours later, when it was my turn to speak, my lower back had locked up in total spasm. I could barely move. But because the organizers had told us to stay on the white tape X, I knew that all I had to do was take the four steps to the mark and then I could give my speech.

And that’s what I did. I slowly counted to four as I painfully walked onto the stage. Then I turned, smiled at the audience, and began my speech. You can watch it HERE if you’d like. And now that you know what was going on, you’ll realize that throughout the full eight minutes I was talking I did not move a muscle from the waist down.

About this time, I was lucky enough to meet Julie Donnelly. Julie is a massage therapist who specializes in eliminating back pain. In fact, Julie has written a number of books on the subject. Her most recent is titled The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution. Julie’s book is only $4.99, an incredible bargain for anyone who has pain in their low back, hip, groin, knee, or suffers from sciatica.

Needless to say, I was in so much pain that I would have paid any amount Julie asked me to pay. And I would have done anything Julie told me to do. Lucky for me, what she told me actually worked.

But this post is not about my TED talk and it’s not about Julie’s book. It’s about how you can find the perfect moment when you matter the most to your prospect. That’s when your brand value intersects with your potential consumer’s aspirations. Because that’s when the magic happens. Case in point? There was no better time for me to meet Julie than at the very moment when I needed what she’s so very good at.

That’s why my Four-Word Rule for Success #8 is to Understand Why You Matter.

There are a lot of ways you can set you and your business apart: You can be cheaper, you can be faster, you can be better looking, you can be closer, you can be smarter, you can be better, you can be higher quality, you can be better known. You can be all of the above.

But the best way to build you brand value and demonstrate why you matter to your customers and your potential customers is to Understand Why You Matter TO THEM!

Julie Donnelly did it. You can too.

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #7 In A Series.

Posted on August 15th, 2017

Make Business Simple – My Four-Word Rules For Success. #7 in a series.

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about my four-word rules for business success.  My goal remains simple: I want to give you easy to implement tools, tactics, and techniques to make your business better.

Each rule is only four words long because often that’s all it takes to make a huge difference when you build your brand and your business.

If you missed any of the rules, you can find them easily. Rule #1 is HERE. Rule #2 is HERE. Rule #3 is HERE. Rule #4 is HERE. Rule #5 is right HERE. Rule #6 is right HERE.

Old Things. New Combinations.

I have a few friends who are comedians. One of the problems they deal with is that people constantly expect them to be funny.  

It’s a problem I understand. 

One of the problems with being known as “creative” is that people always expect me to be a constant source of new ideas.  

At the same time, people who do not see themselves as “creative” somehow feel the need to explain that to me — “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” they’ll tell me. “I can’t even draw a straight line.” 

Of course there’s nothing inherently creative about drawing a straight line — all you need is a ruler and a pen and a bit of coordination and you’ve got as straight a line as you can imagine. 

But if you spend time looking at great creative concepts you’ll find that most of them are not the big, new, never-before-heard-of idea you might think they are. Instead, many creative breakthroughs are really just interesting new combinations of old things or even revolutionary combinations of new and old things. 

EBay? Despite its incredible success, EBay is simply a combination of old and new (auctions and bazaars + the Internet). 

Facebook? If you went to high school in the seventies or eighties, you’ll realize that Facebook is also a simple combination of old and new (slambooks + the Internet). 

Besides maybe reducing some of the intimidation that creating new ideas might cause, understanding this redefinition can also show you real opportunities for your entrepreneurial self. After all, if you looked at creativity like this, maybe you would have come up with EBay, Facebook, or Twitter (the notes we used to pass in elementary school + the Internet) yourself. 

All you need to do is look at new and emerging technologies and figure out ways to incorporate them into old proven situations. Seen this way, confusing new concepts such as BitCoin, consumer genetic testing, Bluetooth, et al can now be seen as the next opportunity just waiting to be discovered. 

For example, take a look at a traditional industry such as commercial real estate. You already know that lots of the requirements of the trade include studying and examining buildings to confirm things like zoning compliance, accuracy of measurements, leak testing, checking for structural integrity, etc. As you might imagine, doing these things requires lots of people on lots of ladders — especially as buildings get even bigger and even taller. Needless to say, these activities can be both expensive and dangerous (which can make them even more expensive). 

But what if you used my theory and combined something old with something new? Looking at it that way might make you realize that the commercial real estate industry could be well-served with drones. We hear about drones being used for military applications, sporting events, crop dusting, and recreation.  But what if you equipped them with cameras, thermometers, density meters, and other sensors and sent them up to gather the information people used to climb ladders to find? Bam!! Creativity at work and a damn good opportunity to boot. 

By the way, the idea of employing drones in the commercial real estate industry has already been put to impressively good use. Take a moment and check out Volaero Drones ( if you want to see how Volaero did it. And talk about monetizing — the people at Volaero are so confident about their new combination that not only does their home page present information and ways to hire them, it even includes a link to invest in the company!

This way of monetizing new technology and creating opportunities is why my four-word rule for business success #7 is Old Things. New Combinations. All you need to do to take advantage of this is to look at all the exciting new whiz-bang technologies and figure out ways they can fix old problems. 

You do this with Old Things. New Combinations.

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