Our second exclusive excerpt from Shed’s latest book “Success Or Your Money Back”
Thomas Edison, the hugely successful American inventor of the light bulb (and many other amazing inventions, including the camera and the record player) famously failed many, many times before he succeeded, and he once said:
‘Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.’
This quote is used by everyone – from teachers to parents to work colleagues.
Now, we all know that a large measure of success is most definitely down to the dogged and relentless pursuit of a goal – ‘hard work’, as it’s commonly known. This is, of course, rather annoying, because it would be wonderful if achieving any success was an effortless process.
Well, unfortunately it’s not. However, the better news is that you can most certainly take shortcuts to make success happen much more easily and way more quickly. Edison’s belief that the process to attain success is mostly made up of ‘perspiration’ is indeed accurate, if a little daunting, but fantastically there’s some brilliant shining light at the end of that slightly frustrating tunnel:
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE YOUR PERSPIRATION
When you look at highly successful people, it might seem as if they’ve got a certain extra skill that other people just don’t have. What no one tells you is that none of these people do it alone. In order to be successful, there’s no doubt that on some scale you must be a good leader, but in reality, all this means is that you need the ability to make good decisions and communicate your ideas clearly.
Then, other people will work with you. And you can learn both of these skills if you haven’t got them already (which all of us have to some degree).
It’s an obvious, but perhaps important fact to remember that…
NO PERSON CAN ATTAIN SUCCESS ALONE
You can (and must) ‘delegate’ or ‘partner’ with, talented people. That is, you must find people to work with you who can help you reach your goal. You can do this in two ways: either by paying others to work with you (the conventional route), or by persuading people to work with you by using some other reward. And I don’t mean sleep with them! (Although…if it works for you…then go for your life!) As long as you bring some value to the party, whether it’s your visionary ideas, communication skills or even that you’re simply a lovely person to be around, then it’ll be much more likely that someone will work with you, because having any of these traits will help get things done.
Working with others and delegating tasks has been the key factor in every successful person’s rise to the top. And, actually, the basic way the capitalist world works is…
(SHOCK HORROR! HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!)
…to pay workers less than the value of what they produce. Outrageous, eh! Now, let’s all become communists or live on a kibbutz. Or, maybe not… The difference between the value that a worker creates and the value they’re paid is simply how ‘profit’ is created. That’s the way society works in the Western world at the moment. Of course, there are always ways to make this arrangement less starkly ‘exploitative’. For example, a much kinder – and softer – model is to give workers performance bonuses or shares in the business, so as the success of the company grows, the workers share in this success, too.
But the good news is that in order to succeed at anything you do, while the ‘inspiration’ is likely to be yours, the ‘perspiration’ doesn’t have to be.
IN FACT, YOU SHOULD USE AS LITTLE OF YOUR PERSPIRATION AS POSSIBLE
This will then free you up to have even more inspiration and thus build more teams and embark upon lots more successful ventures. So it’s incredibly helpful to…
FIND EXPERTS TO HELP YOU
It’s always best to work with people around you who are experts in their areas, or better than you at some specific skill. This is sometimes hard to do because when you’re the leader, it’s common to feel the need to be the most skilled person on the project. But actually, listening to your partners and team, so that you can make great decisions, is all that matters.
People who are more talented than you in a certain area will stay with you if: a) you treat them well (both on a human level and also in a business way); and b) you keep making good decisions that ultimately lead them to being fulfilled, recognised and rewarded.
There’s another famous phrase that’s used a lot when people are talking about ‘succeeding’:
PEOPLE SAY SUCCESS IS OFTEN ABOUT ‘WHO YOU KNOW’ NOW, THIS IS OFTEN ACCURATE BUT ‘NOT KNOWING’ THE RIGHT PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER BE USED AS A REASON NOT TO START SOMETHING. THIS IS YET ANOTHER EXCUSE FOR NOT TRYING TO MAKE AN IDEA COME TO LIFE
Not every successful person is born ‘knowing’ the people that matter! And if you’re one of the people (like myself) who doesn’t know lots of people in lots of industries, then you simply need to think about how to meet – and more importantly, impress – the crucial people you want to work with, and then they’ll team up with you.
The secret to meeting experts…
These days, experts, who can help you achieve any goal, can be found at the click of a mouse. But, sometimes, it might be hard to actually connect with these experts over the internet, as they’re very busy people who often receive a lot of random emails. These messages might well be tough for them to wade through and so it could prove harder to get yourself noticed via email. However, some experts can indeed be contacted this way, so it’s always worth a try.
Another technique I’ve found to be highly useful when finding experts to help you with your goals is to attend TRADE SHOWS.
These are events where experts all come together under one roof, making it easy for you to meet many of them in one spot at one time. Powerful! And you can often easily sign up for trade shows on the web.
Now, I usually attend trade shows on the last day, because by that time most of the exhibitors will have already had most of their important meetings, meaning they’ll be more relaxed and likely to engage with a stranger like you or me.
Once I arrive, I stand back and watch the different stallholders, carefully seeing how they operate, what their products or services are like, if they’re friendly to people who approach them and if, generally, I get a great feeling both about them and what they do. If I do, I then politely introduce myself and quickly ask for their business card.
It’s important to remember that anyone who has a stand at a trade fair is mainly in ‘selling’ mode, so the last thing they want to do is get engaged in ‘buying’, which is what you’re essentially asking them to do if you’re pitching your ideas to them.
So, I absolutely don’t ‘cold pitch’ at a trade fair, I simply make it my goal to get a business card that allows me to contact the company at a later date. Then, around two weeks after the fair (when the company will have dealt with a lot of the orders and meetings arising from the fair), I email or call them and explain where we met.
By mentioning you crossed paths at the recent trade fair, it marks you out as being a little more serious about their area of expertise, an insider almost, and not just another random enquiry.
Then I ask whether they ever work with partners. If they do, and they’re interested in meeting me as a possible future partner, I arrange a date to visit them at their premises (you can tell a lot about a company from their offices and team) and then pitch my ideas to them.
‘W.I.I.F.M.’ and ‘W.I.I.F.T.’
It’s easy to work out ‘What’s in it for me?’ when you meet an expert and ask them to help bring your idea to life. The acronym ‘W.I.I.F.M.’ always makes me chuckle because it’s rather vulgar in a way but, actually, when you’re trying to get an expert to help you, you need to think ‘W.I.I.F.T.’ – ‘What’s in it for them?’ This is because unless you’re offering something they haven’t got, then there’s no reason they’ll disrupt their busy work schedule to bring you into the fold. Experts in their field often have lots on their plate and frequently run successful businesses, so if you want to get their help or to partner with them, it’s completely VITAL you show that you can bring value to their life – and business – in some way.
That’s why your ideas must be really good – and original too. Always check beforehand that anything you’re going to pitch doesn’t already exist in the market or, if it does, that your version is sufficiently different to the ideas that have been launched before, or even that the idea is ripe to be reinvented. You can do this via a simple search on the net.
Plus, when you go to meet someone to pitch to them initial very early-stage ideas, you should always, always, always, always (have I conveyed how important I think this is yet?)…
BRING MORE THAN ONE IDEA TO THE EXPERT YOU WANT TO WORK WITH
This is because your first idea might be something that’s not quite right for them, it might be something they’ve genuinely already thought of, or it might be something they’re currently developing already.
These are all completely valid explanations as to why the person you’re pitching to, won’t (or can’t) take your idea forward – and they’ve all been given to me numerous times. It’s at this point you need to be able to say, ‘No problem, how about this next idea then…’ and launch into your next pitch.
Another reason why you must take lots of ideas to your initial pitch meeting is because of the way people are built psychologically. Every single one of us likes to feel special, valuable – and respected. And so, when you go to anyone for help, and especially an expert in their field, you must give them the opportunity to show you they have value.
In order to pitch successfully, you need to clearly demonstrate to the other person that you actively care about their opinions and advice. And actually, this is only polite too.
Even though it might seem odd, bringing someone a solution that is totally and utterly formed might not always be the best way. When you’re pitching, it’s likely that you won’t have a complete ‘route to success’ fully solved anyway – that’s why you’re asking for help or a partner. But, the fact remains that…
YOU SHOULD BOTH LOOK FOR, AND EXPECT, FEEDBACK AND ADVICE FROM THE PERSON YOU’RE PITCHING TO
And you can – and should – do this in two main ways.
FIRST, by presenting more than one idea – whether it’s in a business meeting or when you’re trying to get something done with a loved one – you instantly show the other person that you respect they should have a choice in deciding between ideas and also that you’re happy to empower them to make that choice.
Most of us humans need to feel we have ‘worth’, and by allowing someone to make choices (and sometimes, even letting them shoot certain options down in flames) we give them authority over the proceedings, and show them that what they think (or do) has an effect. This way, they get to show you they are ‘valuable’. As well as respecting the dynamic between you, by letting the expert chew your idea around in the meeting, you’ll often get feedback that will be highly useful to you. By listening to the expert and allowing them to discuss your idea, you can pick up exactly what they’re looking for at that time, and thus be able to pitch again another time even more successfully.
SECOND, as well as giving choices to someone you’re pitching to, it’s also absolutely vital that you leave some room for their suggestions, not only because their feedback may well be useful and enhance your finished idea amazingly well – or give you ideas for future concepts – but also because it immediately shows them that you respect their input and will continue to do so if they partner with you.
When I say ‘give an expert room’, I mean that (once you’ve shown them an idea) you should let the other person say what they think, then pause and ask a question or two. Often, the expert you’re meeting will add something fantastic to your idea, making it even more attractive and easier to get off the ground.
But, even if the other person says they hate your idea, or they tell you that ‘IT’LL NEVER WORK’, you should resist the (natural) urge to go on the defensive right away by immediately explaining why you created your idea like you did – or even, why they’re completely wrong!
Sometimes, a person’s first reaction on hearing an idea is not really what they think deep down, it’s just a snap decision having seen or heard your idea for the first time.
And sometimes, even a really clever person will feel the need simply to respond immediately in some way, and then (if you allow them) will proceed to talk themselves round in a circle, ending up with an idea pretty much exactly as you first suggested! It’s just the way people often are, so it’s super important for you to be calm, attentive and to let the expert think aloud.
These interactions happen because of the innate human need to want to ‘contribute’ and be ‘useful’. After you’ve pitched to someone who initially tells you your idea is terrible, or that it won’t work, once you’ve given them room and a little time to think about it more clearly, they might well come to another conclusion – and often, it might even be the one that you presented in the first place.
Therefore, when you suggest an idea to someone you want to work with and they say anything about your idea, how you react is a bit like a test. If you react in a measured way and ask some more questions to clarify precisely what the other person is thinking (and make it easy for them to give more input), then explain your thought processes, this will show the other person that you’re willing to listen when they talk and also that you want to understand their point of view (vital to them when deciding whether they want to work with you).
It also gives them room to see you’ve thought things through and gives them time to change their mind. Of course, sometimes you might change yours too. It’s important to have a clear vision for your idea, but at the start of making an idea happen, it’s also important to know that in order to make it happen…
YOU SHOULD BE FLEXIBLE AND OPEN TO STRATEGIES, WHICH COULD MAKE IT EVEN BETTER
I’ve been in lots of meetings where the person I’m pitching to makes a (negative) snap decision about one of my ideas, but after I’ve asked some more questions and given them my thought processes about how the idea came to be, they’ve then completely changed their view and said my original idea could work well. On many other occasions, I’ve gone to meet someone with ideas that I thought were fully formed and totally great, and the other person has made suggestions which completely enhanced each concept, making the final products way better than I’d originally envisaged them.
Whenever you’re attempting to partner with anyone who has more expertise than you, as well as giving them more than one option (for both practical and emotional reasons), and room for them to suggest changes and updates, there’s another important key to getting them to team up with you.
If you want an expert to help you, you have to offer them something they don’t already have, and this can be the idea you present, or the contribution you make that’ll help bring the idea to life – or even, both.
By always thinking ‘What can I offer the other party…’ and making sure you take steps to answer that question well, you’ll ensure you’re superbly prepared for any meetings and set up for success. Now, once you’re in a pitch, the best way to bring your idea to life is to use a method that cuts out some work for the person you’re pitching to. This is exceptionally vital.
YOU MUST BRING YOUR IDEAS TO LIFE
Nurture your nuggets
Once you bring your idea to life (more than simply storing it your head or as a line in a notebook), you’ll both communicate your idea much more effectively, and you’ll also make it way harder for people to snuff your idea out.
Furthermore, presenting your idea as a simple graphic, 3-D model or crude prototype makes it far easier for people around you to suggest helpful ways to get it done. You don’t need a big budget to bring an idea to life, there’s always a cheap way of proving an idea. You just have to find it.
EVEN A BIG IDEA CAN BE BOILED DOWN TO ITS PUREST ELEMENTS
Let’s say your goal is to make a movie. A pretty big task, you might think? Well, if you’re passionate about making a movie, then shoot one or two scenes on a cheap video camera and edit it on a computer – at least you’ll then be able to show that the story and the characters are gripping.
This will help you persuade the experts who can make the movie happen that you’re really serious about your goal and you’ll have the energy and initiative to see it through to completion, crucial factors for them to know, especially if they’re pouring their own money into making your idea happen.
When I first began pitching gift and novelty ideas, I disciplined myself in a couple of ways that became key strategies to getting my ideas off the ground.
First, I trained myself to ruthlessly write my ideas down as soon as I had them (something you have to do, and I still do today). By doing this, I started to create a portfolio of ideas. I used a simple Word document on my computer and then wrote the title for each idea at the top in clear, large type. There was no special technical knowledge needed to do this, which was very fortunate because I don’t have any.
Then the other way I ensured that my ideas would have a chance at coming to fruition was to communicate all my concepts by bringing them to life in a very crude way. This was also done at no cost and with no special software skills either. You’d think that to be able to design new products, you’d need to be a designer with fancy Photoshop skills.
Wrong! In order to communicate any idea, I use any relevant images I find on the internet and stick them together on a page, plus I often use Clip Art too – the premade, line-drawn graphics, which are also freely available all over the web. All you need to do is bring an idea to life to the point where the person looking at it can get the core concept and then begin to visualise how it could be.
This makes it much easier for them to make a decision as to whether it’s something exciting they’d want to be involved with.When I pitched my range of novelty remote controls called
‘Control-A-Man’ and ‘Control-A-Woman’, I showed prospective partners images of real remote controls with ideas for new buttons underneath, like ‘TALK ABOUT FEELINGS’ on the ‘Control-A-Man’ and ‘REMOVE CLOTHES’ for the ‘Control-A-Woman’ (these suggestions neatly reflected my view that women are far more layered than men).
The very basic visuals I presented brought the idea to life just enough so that anyone I showed them to could instantly see what the potential of the idea could be. Fortunately, the first company boss I showed them to had a brilliant mind and got the concept right away.
And, together, we went on to sell more than a quarter of a million novelty remote controls.
These days, I use the internet to find amazing designers who can bring my designs to life quickly, which means it doesn’t cost too much to communicate any concept professionally, powerfully and beautifully. And, if you have no budget at all, you could always persuade a designer to help you by agreeing to cut them in on the deal when you start getting income in, down the line.
Sometimes when you work with a designer, their design comes out so well that it allows a factory, or the experts you’re working with, to be able to skip a step in the design process.
And that means that what you’ve brought them has even more value. You can also make a prototype yourself if it’s not too hard. This is easier if you’re making a novelty gift as opposed to a ground-breaking new car, but the principle is the same:
BRING YOUR IDEA TO LIFE IN SOME WAY OTHER THAN A THOUGHT IN YOUR HEAD, AND INSTANTLY IT GAINS MASSIVE POWER
When I wanted to get a publisher for my first ‘gift book’ called Presents Money Can’t Buy (which was all about thoughtful things you can do for others), I did a doodle for each concept in the book, then got a mock-up of the book printed at a local printer and relentlessly sent these crude prototypes to publishers.
I got dozens and dozens of rejections, year after year, but the publisher who eventually decided to work with me liked my doodles so much that they kept them in the final book.
Anything you can do to help to bring your idea to life and persuade an expert to partner with you, so much the better. And when you have great people working with you, absolutely anything is possible.
Shed’s new book, Success Or Your Money Back is out now, published by Hay House
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