The young knight, the wise knight, and the oft-relearned lesson.

The young knight radiated painful levels of keenness.

Christina, yes that Christina, sighed inaudibly and said, ”Very well. I will give you space in my pavilion and we shall ride together in the tourney. What was your name again?”

Her name was Liliane, and she had lived a lifetime in a month: first slaying the Demon of Cotterston, then knighted by the Good Queen Elisandra herself, and now, to be mentored by the Queen’s most puissant knight…

”We shall discuss strategy, and she will show me the best way to hold a lance, then she will compliment me on my broadsword technique!” thought Liliane. ”And perhaps, perhaps I shall best her in the grand melee, and as ransom she will offer me the Helm of Incendrius, and I will refuse to accept it, and we shall become the best, the very best of friends…”

Christina watched the young knight, smiled, shook her head.

“Let us prepare.”

They oiled the straps on their vambraces. They sharpened their swords. They polished their cuirasses, reinforced their shields, rolled their chain mail in barrels with a handful of sand. Then ritually, their squires armed and armoured them.

They were resplendent. They set forth.

Later: bloodied, muddied, sweaty and sodden, the knights retired after the first day of jousts and challenges.

Outside the tent smiled a great many young men, determined to show their appreciation of the valourous knights. Liliane giggled as she sat to remove her greaves. Christina, veteran of a hundred tourneys, winked knowingly back.

Liliane was emboldened to ask, ”What will you, um, wh- what are your plans for the evening?”

Christina replied, ”I’m going to take a nap.”

”But… you won the competition today! There are… groupies outside the tent! and Her Majesty’s feast is this night!”

”Oh, I shall definitely attend the feast and drink a cup to Her Majesty’s health. To do so I shall skip the cooing and froing, which is a pity. But since I want to win the grand mêlée tomorrow, I must rest now. Do you not feel tired?”

Liliane admitted that she felt, you know, a leetle bit tired after nine hours of combat and manoeuvring while wearing half a ton of metal in the hot sun.

”But… this a special occasion. And it’s only two days… I don’t want to miss a second of it! I can skip the nap, I’ll be fine.”

”Do as you wish,” said Christina. ”I will not say I told you so.”

Liliane polished her armour, sharpened her broadsword, and left in a cloud of perfume and pomade and pride. Christina settled down on her pallet and thought as she stretched.

She thought, You young fool. So diligent about taking care of your equipment, so lax about taking care of yourself. As if your body was not your most important weapon. As if your mind wasn’t your most important shield.

I could tell you. I could say, ”A magic sword in a weak hand is not just useless. It is dangerous.” I could say, ”The more a sword parries, the more often it must be sharpened.”

But you cannot see past the excitement and you would not listen, young fool. So tomorrow I shall hammer you into the ground in the grand mêlée. Perhaps you will learn then.

Christina rolled dreaming into the blankets, seeing past glories and glories soon to come.

It is five years later and sleep is a pleasant memory.

The wind scythes through the ravine, observing a valiant last stand. The knights of the Good Queen Elisandra are hopelessly outnumbered by the skeletal army of the Dread Necromancer Zod.

The fell and fearsome Christina has stood in the narrowest part of the ravine, holding the pass with sword and blazing eye, for three days and three nights. The bard is at the back, whistling and taking notes.

There is a lull amongst the undead ranks, as the disassembled troops grope to find their skulls and collarbones. Christina plants her sword in the pounded dust and waits for them to come again.

And then she is remorselessly pulled away to sit on a rock, sword replaced with stew, helm replaced with damp cloth. Liliane Traitors-foe, scarred and cynical and already more renowned than any knight before her, looms out of the sun and dust and offers a flagon of wine.

”Fine, sister knight,” growls Christina. ”A quick sup then I will be back to the lines. I thank you.”

The young knight, no longer so young, shakes her head.

”A leisurely meal, a long nap, confession from the archbishop, massage, and THEN you can return to the lines.”

”But… I wield the Sword of Adamant, against which none can stand!”

”True.”

”But… there are none other who can push back the advance!”

”You are correct.”

”But… this army must be defeated, or our land will burn!”

”Yes.”

”Therefore, I cannot rest!”

”We have barricades, and brave milkmaids with pikes to defend them. We have fire archers on the cliff walls. We will not advance, but we will hold while you sleep. Even if we would not, you still must sleep. A wise knight once taught me this.”

Christina rolls her eyes.

”That was tourney and play. This is disaster! We teeter on the edge of destruction. There is no time for… massages.”

”Your arms grow tired. Deny it.”

”I…”

”Your mind grows dull. Deny it.”

”…”

”One more day of this and you will be less useful than the milkmaids. DENY IT.”

”BUT I MUST!” roars Christina. ”The Queen and the land must be defended!”

Liliane held her arm. ”Wise fool, we may need to hold this pass for weeks while the mages find a way to break the Dread Necromancer’s spell. Weeks! No matter how much we would wish to fight without rest, we are mortal flesh. We rest now to fight better tomorrow. We rest now in order to fight at all next week.”

There was nothing she could do in the face of that much sense. Christina found a hay bale and wrapped her cloak around herself.

She drifted off, as ever, seeing past glories and glories yet to come.

Looking for someone to rescue you from yourself? You should join The Provocateurs! All of the wisdom, with less of the contusions.

photo by: pwbaker

I have a confession to make.

I have sucked at affiliate marketing.

I’ve done an adequate job of buying through affiliates, a mediocre job of recommending affiliate offerings, and a dreadful job of managing my own affiliates.

Why?

And why did it take me two years to even ask that question?

When I began this business, I installed the Industry Default Affiliate Program.

It works like this:

  1. Configure your shopping cart to pay a commission when someone buys your offerings using an affiliate link.
  2. Write an affiliate signup page explaining the process and how much the affiliate will be paid.
  3. People sign up to the affiliate program and promote your offerings.
  4. Someone buys through the affiliate link.
  5. You pay the affiliate.

There is one extra common wrinkle in this standard process, which is:

  1. Send emails to your affiliates when you have a course or special offering coming out, letting them know it’s a good time to promote your work.

This is a logical and highly functional system. The buyer wins, because they were introduced to a resource that will benefit them. The affiliate wins, because they made money recommending a wonderful resource. The seller wins, because they made more money selling their wonderful resource.

Everyone wins! What could possibly be wrong here?

It’s just… well. There are lots of people giving affiliate marketing a bad name.

  • Promoting resources that are NOT wonderful, in order to “monetize” – what an ugly word that is – their website.
  • Relentlessly pushing wonderful resources on people who won’t benefit from them/don’t need them/are vulnerable to the hard sell.
  • The feeding frenzies created when everyone wants to promote the same high-paying resource.

That kind of affiliate marketing is graspy and angry and fraught. And it’s freaking everywhere.

But that isn’t the deeper problem.

It’s solvable: if you’re selective about whose work you promote, and vigilant about Never Promoting From Desperation, then your affiliate dealings will stay clean.

It’s not inevitable that you turn into a scumbag just because you work within the affiliate system.

For me, it was worse than that.

Even when I was promoting resources I genuinely believed were wonderful – INCLUDING MY OWN – to people who would be a great match for them, the affiliate relationship has always felt… insubstantial. Flavourless. Meh.

I was discussing this with my wonderful sister/assistant (assisterant?) Ash. With her help, I finally realised why I have never been a fan of affiliate marketing. Even when it’s made me $2,000 in a month.

I said, “Affiliate marketing is entirely transactional. It’s all cash, and no joy.”

Oh. OHHHHH. Well, duh.

There is nothing in my business that I do just for the cash.

I am adamant about wanting cash AND joy for me, and for everyone this business touches.

And affiliate marketing – most especially and damningly my own affiliate program – has failed at that.

It is not enough to say, “Sell my stuff, you will make good money.”

I need to say, “Let’s make amazing things happen. You will make money from them, too.”

First the joy, then the cash. Do my affiliate marketing like I do the rest of my business. Riiiiight.

Announcing: the new and improved affiliate program that totally does not suck this time.

My goals:

  1. To rock our affiliates’ worlds with great information and resources and possibly cupcakes.
  2. To help our affiliates to rock the world of their people.
  3. To connect the work I do to more people who need and value it.
  4. To make extra money for me and my affiliates doing it.

Sign up to the new and improved affiliate program and you will receive:

A monthly newsletter just for our affiliates. It will have resources and recommendations: articles, free amazingness and paid resources to share with your readers.

Sometimes, I’ll create a free resource – a teleclass or workbook – just for you to share.

You’ll have my undivided attention as you tell me what your clients – and you! – are struggling with.

Input into which resources I create next.

And, of course, opportunities to make money by doing so.

WIN.

An actual affiliate relationship, by jingo!

You and me and Ash, working together to create awesomeness for your people.

And making money by doing so.

Good god, I feel so much better about it already.

You too? Sign up today!

And let’s create a new kind of affiliate marketing.

photo by: sidewalk flying

Glide like a swan, paddle like a motherfucker.

I love my work. But like all relationships, it has patches when I want to throw its stereo out the window and scream, “You ain’t no nice guy!”

Ya know?

Like a good Artist And Writer Who Is Clearly Still Self-Conscious Enough To Capitalise It When She Calls Herself That, Can’t You Just Hear The Airquotes, I’ve started a for-reals Creative Practice. (More capitals!)

My creative practice (yay) is:

  1. Get up and get fully dressed.
  2. Half a dozen sun salutations.
  3. Two minutes of breathing.
  4. Visualize what I’m gonna do today.
  5. Half an hour of morning pages.
  6. Breakfast, away from computer.
  7. One hour of writing.

And then my official day begins, with client calls and twitter and all the rest. I feel terribly grown-up just telling you this.

This morning ritual is in a state of constant tweaking as I balance structure with flexibility; I get wicked mulish when I feel I’m being forced, even by myself. But I think the overall structure is here to stay.

So anyway. My point was about me having relationship issues with my business.

And there’s been a trend running through those morning pages that is bugging the everliving shit out of me.

Here’s an expurgated version of my morning pages:

What do I want? Do I have to have a goal, or can I just have standards? Just keep showing up. Who am I when I am at my best? Insightful, high-spirited, creative, irreverent. What would I do if I didn’t do this? I’m running free, yeah. *guitar solo* Why do I feel sad? This is working! Create, connect, stretch, this is what I do. What do I want? Do you notice how much work you do? Drink the juice of this day. You might not need to create a skill for solitude. Be brave, be consistent. Resist the desire to be spectacular and solve it all with one shazam! Focus instead on showing up fully, whatever I am doing. Do not go on Twitter just to see what people are saying about me. Drink more water. Stop waiting to feel ready to act, and ACT. Do I want to be large? Is that my destination?

In short, I have Big Unanswered Questions.

Things like:

Which direction should the biz be growing in?
Why am I doing this, again?
How do I want my time to be spent?
Where am I going?
WHAT DO I WANT?

The longer I do this, the more I realise that this isn’t the kind of thing you solve once and then never have to address again. Nope, it’s a spiral.

Thus, it’s harder to thrash this stuff out once you’ve been in business for awhile. People expect you to know, and don’t automatically give you the same thrashing space they give a newbie. You have to be more like a swan, gliding elegantly over the water while your legs paddle like a motherfucker.

And that is fine, it’s one of the skills you learn – how to keep the business afloat while you retrofit it. (I’d love to do a course about that someday, if people are interested.)

I think the swan effect is actually more problematic for the people watching it than the person doing it.

If you haven’t been in business for a couple of years and you see that swan gliding by, it’s easy to think, “Aw man. I am clearly doing this wrong. Look at the fucking swan, he’s got it figured all out. I have no idea what I’m doing. I suck.”

Because most swans, for a number of selfless and self-serving reasons, don’t want to sidemouth, “Psst. Kid. Look under the water. I am paddling like crazy because I don’t know where I’m going right now. Take it easy.”

So I’m telling you: everyone does this. Everyone loses touch. Everyone is figuring out how to do this, as they do it.

I hope it reassures you as much as it did me, when I finally figured it out.

Hey, this is actually an article that went to Rise and Shine, my weekly-and-spectacular newsletter. This is the kind of thing you’re missing out on, if you aren’t signed up already!

photo by: O3D

Dream logic, marketing and the most unskippablest rule

Startrails over the Autumn foliage
You and I are holding hands and standing on the edge of the universe, watching the stars whoosh by. One of them is made of sponge cake and is spitting tiny crumbs out behind itself as it flies by. A sponge cake meteor.

I turn to you and say I have had a realisation again, and it’s pretty embarassing.

“What is it?” you reply.

So, I think we often create the resources we need for ourselves. Sometimes for our past selves – the thing we wish had existed two years ago – but often we’re creating them for us, as we are right now. Trumpets play the Macarena, off somewhere in the distance.

“And you’re embarassed about that?”

No, I’ve come to accept that. But it becomes a bit odd when I’m relaunching a resource I created nearly a year ago and the process makes me go through the lessons again.

“Dude, you’re the one who talks about spirals all the time.” You move sideways quickly as the floor has become snakes.

Trufax, no denying it. But there’s always this one little voice…

I pull you into a jellybean car and we drive through the stars to a ceramic prison with Delftware bars. Behind the bars a woeful Catherine moans the blues. She says, “How can you teach that when you just did that wrong? You don’t know what you’re talking about, a woah woah woah…”

The me that is holding your hand grins ruefully. She’s wrong, of course. I’m teaching these lessons from a few spirals up. But it’s still embarrassing to realise sometimes that I have to relearn them every damn time.

I present you with a bouquet of bees (non-stingy) and we drive on.

The car breaks down inside a surgical suite and we sit on the anaesthetist’s chair.

You play cat’s cradle and ask, “So, are you going to share this lesson?”

Yes. Absolutely yes. I drag in a chalkboard and begin to write in yellow chalk. So this is my model for marketing:

1. Understand what your Radiant Work is.

2. Identify the people who would treasure that work: your Brilliant Clients.

3. Offer them your Radiant Work.

“Okay, sounds fair enough. Is that the lesson?”

Nope, the lesson is the bit that it’s easiest to forget. I turn over the board and written there is:

4. Make sure that this process is enjoyable enough that you will keep doing it consistently.

“Enjoyable? Why does it have to be enjoyable?”

Suddenly I’m wearing a mortarboard and gown and I enunciate:

Consistency is more important than efficiency.

Consistency is more important than optimal.

Consistency is more important then everything.

There’s a limit to how much we can shove ourselves into doing work we don’t wanna do. The more we eliminate the gottas and focus on the yee-haws, the less shoving we have to do. Thus, more consistency. Science!

“And what happens if you forget rule 4?” you say as you pat a small golden dog.

Well, for me I know what happens is that I start going through the motions. Write the article. Email some people. Have to tweet something. Blegh. I wrestle with a small anthropomorphic pretzel.

“But don’t you like Twitter and writing and all that?”

Not intrinsically. I like doing them in specific ways – like writing articles that came to me at 1am while I was half-asleep, full of totally random imagery.

“So why don’t you do it like that all the time?” You’re wearing a flamingo. It suits you.

It’s easy to forget Rule 4. Sometimes I get too involved in how my heroes and mentors do things. Sometimes I set out to improve a system and accidentally squeeze out the joy. Sometimes I really really want something to happen and all my attention goes there. And every time that happens, I have to relearn the lesson that Rule 4 is not just a nice idea. It’s mandatory for excellent marketing.

“And it’s ironic that you’re relearning that right now.”

Yep, it sure is. Because the reason I got derailed this time is because I deeply want to fill both cohorts for The Pilot Light this month with amazing revolutionary business-builders.

“And why is that ironic?” You say, as the flamingo sues for divorce.

Because The Pilot Light is a framework on how to create a marketing plan that rocks all four rules.

“Oh.”

Oh indeed. It’s a wee bit embarrassing. I water the potted plant with Proust’s coffee mug.

“I didn’t notice!”

You’re very lovely. But my last few articles have been a bit flat and lacklustre. And the rest of my marketing has been likewise efficient, but missing its heart. I’m about magnificence, transformation and play, and that needs to permeate every single atom of my marketing work.

I fold a perfect origami crane from maple leaves.

Usually I have no problem with this, but I’m going through the spiral again and I’m at the point where my plan needs to be refocused, refined and revitalised. So, it is both lucky and embarrassing that this is the time when I’m relaunching The Pilot Light.

“Do you think it’s a coincidence?”

No. I’m now wearing a steel-covered sari. I think it’s shitty and irritating and necessary.

“So, uh… why is this story so crowded with random stuff?”

Creative logjam has broken. It tends to make a mess.

You eat a bouncy donut. “And you don’t want to clean it up before the others get here?”

Nope. Remember, I’m about magnificence, transformation and play. This glorious mess belongs. And my Brilliant Clients will get that.

“And sign up for The Pilot Light?”

I would like that very, very much. But I’ve enjoyed writing this article, and that’s a reward of its own.

“Rule 4?”

Rule 4, baybee.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Gadget_Guru