Michael’s first computer was the Apple II. It had cost a fortune at $1298 which he paid for out of his savings. When the computer was delivered by UPS, his dad drove him to pick it up at a local warehouse where it was held up.
When Michael got home with the computer, he did something almost unbelievable considering it’s steep price. He took it to his bedroom, unboxed it and then took the computer about. Not surprisingly, his parents were furious.
Michael’s rationale for doing that? How could you understand the computer if you didn’t take it apart? By taking the computer apart Michael got to understand it’s open architecture and other things you could do with the computer such as reprograming it.
This obviously wasn’t the first time Michael was taking things apart and it would not be the last. That process of taking things apart and seeking to understand what they could do helped him develop a deeper understanding of how computers work and what you could do with them. Hence, he was able to start a very profitable business at a young age taking IBM computers apart, customising them to make them more efficient and selling them. This of course was the foundation of Dell as a business.
Michael’s strategy at that time was to customise existing computers and sell them directly to people and it became the foundational strategy for which Dell Computers became known by selling directly to consumers instead of selling through retail stores.
Michael’s curiosity helped him to learn things that others could not learn and build products that were highly profitable.
Curiosity is a key learning behaviour. It will cause you to ask questions, try different things and sometimes take risks with the aim of further developing your understanding of the way things work. By being curious you are guaranteed to keep moving forward because you will keep learning. Lack of curiosity will keep you stuck and stagnant.
No matter how old you are, don’t lose your curiosity. Keep asking, keeping taking things apart and keep learning.
Use your curiosity to understand things better so you can build new products and better services. If you see things the same way all the time, you will keep on producing the same things. But if you seek to see things differently, you will produce different things.
The book I am currently learning from is the latest business autobiography from Michael Dell the founder of Dell Computers. The book is titled Play Nice But Win and was published in October 2021. Michael Dell is one of those understated yet successful technology entrepreneurs who has managed to weather the storm of running a technology company with a decreasing market share. Dell started out as a direct-to-customer personal computer company and with the advent of tablets and other mobile devices, many forecasted the demise of company. While the company is less prominent, it survived and is still thriving.
In this book Micheal tells us a bit about his own personal story by giving some insights into his childhood and family (not much) and also how he started Dell. He then goes on to write about what he did to make sure that Dell as a company did not die, which involved taking the company private from being a public company and taking it public again.
Over the next couple of weeks as I read the book, I will share with you some of the insights I am getting from it and below is my first lesson.
THAT’S A LOT OF CASH!
Michael was 17 when he decided to buy a brand-new BMW 320i for over $15,000. So, his parents followed him to the car dealer for back-up. After agreeing on the car to buy, the dealer looked towards Michael’s parents to pay but they didn’t. It was Michael who paid with a $15,000 plus cashier’s cheque and the rest with a lot of cash. His parents had not contributed a single penny to the car. Yet Michael had paid for it without any credit card or loan debt. How does a 17-year-old pay for a car that expensive. Where did he get all that money from? To answer that question, let’s meet Michael. Continue reading →
The She Approach To Starting A Money-Making Blog by Ana Skyes presents a sincere approach to creating a blog that can generate income. Ana wrote the book based on her own personal experience and this is not one of those books that promises you immense blog wealth by the end of the month. It goes into detail about the hard work and effort that goes into creating a successful money-making blog.
Ana went from making $0 in 2016 to $62,048 in 2020, quite a journey and she shares with us how she did it in this book. The book is divided into three parts and each part consists of a number of sections. Following is a brief review of each part of the book.
PART 1 – CHAPTER 1: SETTING UP YOUR FOUNDATION
Introduction: introduces what you will have learnt after reading this part of the book.
Knowing your why: Ana starts this section with a very important question, why do you want to start a blog. She believes having a clear reason for your blog will make you more likely to follow through with things, believe in the work you do, be determined, consistent and create an awesome blog.
Finding your blogging niche: Once you know the ‘why’ for your blog then it’s time to think about what your blog will do for others. What Ana means by this is that, you will need to identify a niche for your blog. According to Ana:
A blogging niche is simply a way to describe the topics you blog about and a way to categorize your blog according to the relevant industry.
This section goes into detail on how to discover your blog’s niche and it answers some important questions along the way which include:
Do you really need a well defined blog niche?
How much do you need to niche down?
What blog niches earn the most money?
What blogs can’t be monetized?
Identifying your target audience: If you have identified your blog’s niche then you should have an audience in mind that your blog is aimed at. Ana writes that:
We have already established that if you want to start a money-making blog, you have to solve a problem for a specific group of people. It doesnt have to be anything life-changing but, ideally it needs to be something that people are willing to pay money to make go away, fix or improve.
So, this chapter is all about identifying your blog’s audience.
Naming your blog: In this section you will read about actions you can take to give your blog a befitting name. Here’s some advice from Ana about naming your blog:
Ideally, you want the name to reflect your blog’s purpose, speak to your target audience and allow you to cover all the topics you’re planning to write about in the future.
Coming up with a tagline: Ana starts this section by reminding us what we should already know about creating a blog if we have read the book up to this point which are:
Why you want to start your blog
Whom you want to help with your blog
Your blog niche and main topics of discussion
What type of content you want to publish
What you’re going to name it
Here she writes about how to come up with a short mission statement which she calls a tagline. According to her:
To help tie everything together and give you a sense of direction, you need to come up with a short mission statement, also known as a tagline. These are used to explain what your blog is all about and help your target audience connect with you straight away.
She shares her tagline with us which she recently changed from ‘Empowering women to build digital empires‘ to ‘Helping bloggers increase their traffic and income‘. She did this to make it clearer and to better describe what she provides for her audience.
PART 2 – CHAPTER 2: SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE
This part of the book concentrates on the more technical aspects of setting up a website for the blog. At the start Ana advises us not to build our blog on a free platform. With that out of the way she concentrates on showing us how to:
buy blog hosting
set up a wordpress blog
get advanced wordpress help
create blog pages, posts and content
She also shares other blogging tips for beginners which cover areas such as:
using social media
using google analytics
starting an email list
PART 3: CHAPTER 3: HOW TO MAKE MONEY BLOGGING
The first two parts focused on defining a blog vision, identifying an audience and building the blog website. In this part Ana focuses on how to make money blogging and she covers a number of ways to earn income from a blog which include:
selling digital products
selling physical products
offer print-on demand products
sell your blog for profit
host a virtual summit or create a membership
sell ad space
become a ghorst writer for other bloggers or publications
sell on Amazon FBA
The last part of the book before the conclusion focuses on how to form a blog monetization strategy. I have written more on this below as my key lesson from the book.
This is a book that gives you a good overview of how to start a blog as an income source. It is particularly good for those who want to start a blog and at the same time it has some lessons for existing bloggers too.
Following are my key lesson from the book on how to create a blog monetization strategy. I have summarized the lesson as a series of steps.
Have a good knowledge of all the possible ways you can make money through blogging.
Choose one monetization method to start with. Ana suggests that if you are just starting out begin with affiliate marketing and creating a digital product.
Look at how other successful bloggers in your niche are doing things and learn from them.
Don’t be quick to give up, continue working on it. Ana had to work for four months before making her first affiliate sale and it was for $7.
Make a clear plan of how much you want to earn and how to earn it.
Small Habit Revolution by Damon Zahariades is a book that teaches a simple yet powerful technique. That of using small actions to build new habits. According to Damon:
We can learn to speak new languages. We can learn to survive in the wilderness. We can learn to cook delicious, mouth-watering meals. We can learn to parallel park (no small feat for some of us!) And we can train ourselves to adopt new, life-enriching habits that improve our long-term health, wealth, and productivity. That’s the purpose of this action guide. I’m going to show you the best method for creating positive, healthy habits. And importantly, I’m going to show you how to make these habits stick.
This is not a big book, with just about 160 pages but it does teach a strategy which anyone can start using straight away to make changes to their life.
The book is divided into seven parts. Each of the parts are outlined below.
PART 1: HOW DEVELOPING HEALTHY HABITS IMPROVES YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE
In this section you will read about the benefits of developing new habits. Each of these benefits is discussed as a separate chapter. Here are the benefits:
Lower stress levels
Greater sense of joy
Better sleep quality
Improved physical health
Ability to take lightening fast decisions
Greater self confidence
Stronger commitment to your goals
PART 2: TRIGGERS, ROUTINES, REWARDS AND LOOPS
Damon starts this part of the book with this statement:
Every habit, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is prompted by a trigger. When the habit is performed, it is either rewarded or punished. When habits are rewarded, they become behavioural loops, which reinforces themselves over time.
This part of the book focuses on triggers, routines, rewards and loops. These four are crucial in helping us develop habits whether good or bad.
The first section in this part of the book is titled, FIRST THINGS FIRST: DEFINITIONS. Here some key definitions are discussed. The definitions discussed are:
Trigger: A trigger is a cue or circumstance that spurs you to perform an action.
Routine: A routine is an action performed over and over. It’s another way of referring to a habit or behavioural pattern.
Reward: Rewards reinforce routines. They represent what you gain whenever you perform an action or series of actions.
Loop: A loop encompasses the three previous definitions. Every behavioural loop consists of a trigger, a routine and a reward.
Keystone Habit: A keystone habit is a routine that influences, and even triggers, other routines or behaviours.
According to Damon:
These five definitions will help to clarify the ideas found throughout the rest of this action guide. They’ll prove invaluable when we get to my simple 10-step plan for developing new habits that stick.
So, if you are reading the book, it’s important to get a good grasp of those five definitions.
The next section in this part is – THE FIVE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRIGGERS. Here Damon discusses five triggers which are:
Time: We all go through certain routines based on what time of the day it is. For example, waking up to brush our teeth or whatever it is you are used to doing when you wake up. Therefore, time is one of the most common issues. It’s a valuable tool for developing new routines because it’s easy to control.
Location: Habits can be triggers based on settings. We may associate certain behaviours with some specific locations.
State of mind: Our mind plays an important role in the way we behave. Our state of mind affects how we feel which can trigger certain behaviours.
People: The people we are around can trigger us to behave in certain ways.
Preceding event: Our routines are comprised by a series of actions, so preceding actions we take can be a trigger for the next actions we can take.
The other topics discussed in this section are:
How triggers and routines lead to new habits
How rewards reinforce newly-formed habits
How to create strong habit loops
Remember, you’re in control
PART 3: MOTIVATION VS WILLPOWER. WHICH ONE DICTATES YOUR SUCCESS?
This part of the book looks at motivation and willpower and answers the question of whether they can help us succeed in building good habits. The first section looks at why motivation is not enough for us to succeed and four reasons discussed are:
Motivation is not constant. You don’t feel motivated all the time.
Motivation is unpredictable. You can’t anticipate it.
Motivation is short-lived.
Motivation is often dependent on our internal messaging. If you don’t feel like doing something, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do it.
What about willpower? While willpower can help us to take actions, it has it’s own shortcomings and is ultimately not the answer because:
Willpower is a finite resource
It has a short-term nature
Damon believes building small habits is a better solution than trying to find motivation or willpower
PART 4: 10 STEPS TO FORMING HEALTHY HABITS THAT LAST
This is a key part of the book as it outlines ten steps we can take to form healthy habits that last. Here are the ten steps:
Clarify the goal you want to achieve with your new habit.
Identify the habit you want to develop.
Break down your new habit to its smallest iteration.
Create a cue to trigger the habit.
Establish a clear objective.
Design a plan to slowly increase your new habit.
Create a simple reward system.
Perform the habit at the same time each day.
Identify the stumbling blocks that can sabotage you.
Monitor your progress once a week.
PART 5: SEVEN RULES FOR SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
If you have followed the ten steps discussed in the previous section how do you set yourself up from success? Damon discusses another seven rules for setting yourself up to succeed. This rules are:
Start small – big changes encounter greater personal resistance so starting with small changes is much easy and has a higher possibility of success.
Commit to performing your new habit for 30 days – If you can do it continually and consistently for 30 days, it’s more likely to be a habit.
Develop one habit at a time – Damon writes that, ‘one of the reasons so many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions is because they try to do too much at once.’ It’s better to try and develop one new habit at a time, at the most two.
Disclose your new habit to others – Tell people who can hold you accountable about the habit.
Perform your new habit early in the morning – Damon believes that performing a new habit early in the morning is easier because there is less personal resistance to it.
Remind yourself of your reasons – Remind yourself of the purpose for your new habit.
Be willing to forgive yourself if you fail – Occasional failures will happen as you try to develop your new habit. When they happen, forgive yourself, get up and get back on the habit trail.
PART 6: HOW TO GUARANTEE YOUR NEW HABIT WILL LAST
This part of the book has information similar to what has been discussed in previous sections but the information here is still worth reviewing because it gives us a way to guarantee the new habits we are developing lasts. The first question answered here is, why new habits fail to stick and some of the explanations Damon offers include:
When the new desired behaviour or routine is too big of a change for the person.
Many people beat themselves up when they make mistakes along the way. This can be a discouragement to continue.
When people focus more on the outcome than the routine itself.
When people lose track of the purpose for wanting the new habit.
When people fail to create a supportive environment to support their new habit.
When people try to adopt too many new habits at once.
In addition these are things that can help to maintain the habit:
Leverage the power of accountability. This has been mentioned before.
Use Seinfeld’s calendar strategy. If you are interested in this one then do some research to learn what the calendar is. Or better still, read the book.
Link your new habit to a reliable cue. A cue is something that triggers the behaviour that leads to the habit.
Insert your new routine into an existing habit stack.
Put your new habit on your daily calendar or to-do list.
Reflect on the positive effects of your new habit.
PART 7: EXAMPLE HABITS YOU CAN DEVELOP USING THE SMALL HABIT STRATEGY
This is the final part of the book where Damon suggests 23 small habits that we can develop to change our lives. These are the habits:
Practice active listening
Do pushups, crunches and squats
Master the art of conversation
Drink more water
Write in a personal journal
Take short walks
Read non-fiction books
Declutter your workspace
Smile at people
Wake up earlier
Express your gratitude
Keep in touch with friends
Track how you spend your time
Learn new things
Use the time chunking method
Start each day with a to-do list
Learn to breathe properly
Take immediate action
The concept in this book is simple and it works. I can say that because I have tried it personally in areas such as doing exercise for five days a week and writing a first draft of a 50-page eBook by writing for just 10-minutes a day. It’s a simple concept that can have very far reaching positive outcomes if we practice it.
So, I do recommend the book. You don’t have to read it start to finish but make sure you read enough of it to start building your own small habits.