Five Things People Told Me But I Didn’t Hear

Jennie and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in London, topped by a 2-day leadership and marriage intensive with some new friends.  It was a great time to get away and refocus.

Part of the leadership intensive was talking about my wiring and looking back on my life story.  The result was insight into tendencies and behaviors, as well as how to leverage my calling toward a preferred future.

I say all of this to say I’m great at looking forward but not so great at looking back.  As a visionary, it’s easy for me to run through bad things and even good things to get somewhere else.  But I’m trying to get better at living in the sweet spot of looking back and allowing God to use who he created me to be.

When Jennie and I move to Atlanta to start a church, a lot of people told us a lot of things.  I heard those things, but I didn’t truly listen to some of them.  Here are a few things people told me but I didn’t hear.  I share them in hopes that you’ll both listen and hear.

1.  Put your marriage and family first.  

Planting a church is going to be tough on you and Jennie, they told me.  I nodded my head in agreement, but I did very little to protect against it.  I figured this was something other people would struggle with, but I could move past it quickly. I didn’t listen.

I let the pace and the schedule overwhelm my soul.  I would work hard all day, meet with people, and use up all of my energy.  Then I would come home and need peace and quiet.  As an Introvert, being with people all day was draining, so Jennie got the short end of that stick.  “You have used up all your words,” she would say.

I also didn’t seek help.  We had what I would consider normal marriage issues, but I just tried to power through them.  I viewed professional counseling as a sign of weakness when, in fact, it’s a sign of strength.

2.  What you reach them with you have to keep them with.

This lesson is more about the church rather than my personal life, but it’s a powerful learning for me so I wanted to share.  Our brand new church grew pretty fast, and I adopted some strategies and tactics to help it grow.  Within a year, we had grown pretty large, especially considering the size of our town.  We did pretty bold, audacious things to encourage people to show up.

I didn’t realize that we would have to keep outdoing ourselves if this was our model.  It was hard to move people into next steps because I had unknowingly created a culture where discipleship, missional living, and gospel life wasn’t modeled.  We had great services and we could attract a big crowd, but it wasn’t enough.

In the end, hype doesn’t help.  Today, I tell people it’s not that hard to draw a crowd.  You don’t even have to be that intentional to get people to show up.  But it requires a great deal of intentionality and hard work to take people on a spiritual journey.

3.  It doesn’t get easier when it gets bigger.

People told me this, but I didn’t hear them.  I figured a bigger church would mean a bigger budget, but in reality, it also means more expenses.  I figured a bigger church would mean more people, but in reality, it’s more staff and more ministry.

I sometimes wonder why we equate bigger with better.  Maybe it’s just an American thing. But bigger is not always better.  Bigger is just bigger.  It’s why people that aren’t generous with $100 won’t be generous with $1,000.  It’s why people who are not faithful in the little things won’t be faithful with the bigger things.  More people just magnifies the problems.

For the last few years, I’ve lived in the business world and I’ve talked with a lot of business people whose lives are far worse because their business has grown.  Does God want a business to grow?  I wonder about that sometimes, because a bigger business might make you a worse person.

4.  You can’t do it alone.

As a pastor, I had something of a Lone Ranger syndrome.  I wanted to do things different.  I acted aloof and it was tough for people to get to know me.  Part of me felt like this made me interesting, but in reality, it just kept people at arms distance.

Working on my personality and leadership a little bit helped me realize how much I need partners and people around me.  It’s healthy for me.  My personality type and wiring tells me I excel when I have a small team of smart people around me.  Not working FOR me necessarily, but working WITH me.  The one man band mentality isn’t helpful.

In working with pastors, I see this all the time.  I see it in others because I so clearly see it in myself.  I see it in the pastor who won’t empower a high capacity leader because he will do things different or (gasp) better.  I see it in the leader who tries to mold everyone else in his image.  I see it in the leader who can’t let go.

But we are not superheroes.  We are not saviors.

5.  Don’t neglect your soul.

Over and over, people warned me about this but I didn’t truly hear them.  Heck, Jesus even warned people about this.  “What good is it if a main gains the whole world and loses his soul?” he asked.  I had a big church and a growing influence, but inside, my soul was dying.

Taking care of your soul is one of the most important things any leader – or any person – can do.  Forget this, and you’ll be passing out in the airplane seat trying to give oxygen to another passenger.

You can be a great leader and not be a great Christian.  That happened to me.  Don’t let it happen to you.

Some of the People We Admire Most Failed Miserably

Moses

Peter

Naomi

Noah

Paul

Abraham

David

Zachaeus

The Nation of Israel

The Disciples.

All failed big time then started over.   In fact, many of the people you admire most failed in dramatic fashion.

They were restored.  They were given another chance.  And they went on to do great things.

Failure is not final.

If you’re not dead, God’s not done.

How Do You Know What To Do Next?

transition

I’m in a period of transition.

In March, I stepped down as CEO of The Rocket Company to focus on helping churches individually.  In June, my family and I moved home to Jacksonville, Florida.  And I’m working to start a new company – figuring out what it will be and how it will be different.

That’s a lot of change packed into a few months.  Naturally, I’ve thought a lot about transition.  And I bet some of you are thinking about making a change.

So how do you know when the time is right?  How do you know when it’s time to make a change?  Here are three suggestions.

1.  Consider your future.

When you find yourself dreaming more about something else than what you’re doing now, that’s a sign a change might be good for you.

Are you constantly asking yourself “what’s next” instead of focusing on “what’s now?”  Do you find yourself dreaming about a different kind of life in a new place?

One of the reasons we moved to Jacksonville is we asked ourself where we wanted to raise our kids over the next ten years.  Since I can work from anywhere, planting some roots near family and friends was attractive.

Tomorrow is not promised, but tomorrow is full of promise.  So when you think about your future, you should be excited about the opportunity.  Dreams should come to life.

2.  Think about your energy level.

If what you’re working on now brings you energy, that’s a good thing.  But if what you’re doing drains you, maybe a change is in order.

I don’t believe there are many jobs where you’re in your sweet spot and working in your passion 100% of the time.  But if you’re only there 20% of the time, that’s not good for your long term health.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, says, “working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

You might not be passionate about every single thing you do, but overall, you need to love what you do.  If you don’t, start taking steps to change something.  This might not mean quitting your job in dramatic fashion, but it might mean using your free time to learn, grow or build something.

3.  What do your friends and family say?

When I was praying through all the changes, I talked to lots of friends, family members and coaches (I learned the power of this from working with Casey).  I highly recommend you get feedback from two groups of people.

First, you should listen to wise people who are disconnected from the situation.  People who aren’t in your shoes are often in a great position to provide great advice.  Since they aren’t emotionally connected, they can give unbiased feedback.  This is where coaches come in.

Be careful when seeking advice, though.  If you ask enough people or spin something just the right way, you’ll find someone to confirm a bad decision.

Secondly, you should listen to wise people who love you and have your best interest in mind.  We all need people in our lives who can’t benefit from knowing us.  We need friends who get nothing from being our friends.  Listen to those kind of people.

Chip and Dan Heath say one of the best questions to ask yourself when facing a big decision is “What would you tell your best friend to do, if he/she was in the same situation?”  That’s a powerful question, built on powerful psychology.  When people are slightly removed from the situation, their advice is far less biased.

 

Six Ways to Clear the Clutter

In my Get Organized Course (registration is currently closed but I’ll do another round later this year), I’m helping dozens of people organize their digital, personal and financial lives.

One of the big principles of organization is to get rid of the clutter.  Whether it’s your desk or your car or your mind, excessive stuff inhibits your ability to focus.  The old excuse of “I know where everything is” just doesn’t cut it.

If you want to be more productive and effective, you’ve got to clear out the clutter.  Here are six ways to get started.

1.  Set a 15 minute timer on your phone.  Work on your desk, the kitchen junk drawer or your closet for just 15 minutes.

org-bedroom-2-donate_300

2.  Make a donate box.  You can go all Martha Stewart and make something pretty and leave it out all the time.  It’s a great reminder to continually de-clutter.

3.  Buy this scanner and scan all papers that come into your house.  Then throw them away.

4.  Get rid of any clothes you haven’t worn in the last six months.  I promise you won’t miss that Cleveland Browns shirt you’ve had for the last 8 years.  It doesn’t fit anymore anyway.

5.  Use unroll.me to unsubscribe from mailing lists.  Just don’t opt out of mine….you’ll want to subscribe, instead.

6.  Implement the 2 for 1 rule with your kids toys.  Kids are clutter culprits.  So make a rule…If they want something new, they have to get rid of two things they already have.

Those are six quick tips.   Leave a comment and share one of your own.

How Long Should a Sermon Be?

is-your-sermon-longer-than-the-lords

How long should a sermon be?

As short as necessary.

We appreciate it when others make their clear point and finish on time. So why do so many messages come across like lengthly wandering?  We know attention spans are getting shorter, so why do our messages keep getting longer?

Here are five thoughts.

1.  You are afraid of leaving something out.

You’re afraid of offending someone, or leaving out a viable argument, so you fill your messages with disclaimers and alternate perspectives.

In the process, youbury a simple idea in a sea of words.

If you have something to say, it’s not improved with more words and paragraphs.  You don’t have to provide disclaimers for six different groups of people.

2.  Your topic is too broad.

Many topics are way to big for one sermon.

But instead of narrowing your focus, you try to cram in everything.

More information does not make a better presentation.  In fact, the opposite is usually true.   Shorter is usually better.  A narrower focus will lead to a clearer outcome.

Your job is to take a topic and make it simple and actionable, not cover everything.

3.  You like hearing yourself talk.  

This one might sting a little.

A lot of presentations are too long because the person delivering it likes to talk.  After all, you’re paid to talk.   You don’t want brevity in a message to turn into scarcity of paycheck.

But the length of your message is not any real indication of how good it really is.  The length of your talk measured in minutes is not the same thing as how long your talk feels to your audience.

Just because you like to talk doesn’t mean everyone needs to listen.

4.  You are not prepared.  

Blaise Pascal once wrote in a letter, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  He knew brevity that leads to clarity takes work.

Too many sermons are longer than necessary because the preacher  is not prepared.  The stage is not the place to think out loud or form your thoughts.  Preparation should lead to more succinct messages, not longer ones.

The opportunity to speak comes with a responsibility to prepare.  This takes hard work, focus and time.  You can rely on passion and talent, but speaking from that place is a well that will run dry.

5.  You believe longer messages are more faithful to the Bible.

You’re afraid to water down the truth, so you decide to keep teaching long past the point of people listening.  In preaching, you have two goals – to be faithful to the text AND to impact the hearts of people.  Sermon prep should start with the Scripture.  And your message needs to be God’s truth rather than your opinion.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s length that makes you faithful to the text.  Shorter messages can also honor God’s Word.

So how long should a sermon be?  As short as necessary to honor God and inspire people to follow him.

The goal is not to fill the time, but to change lives.

Three Inboxes Everyone Needs

One of the best practices of getting organized and streamlining your work flow is creating a place for things that come into your world.  Creating a collection point for work you need to do is a great way to get started.

I actually have three different Inboxes.

1.  Email Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.15 AM

All of my email addresses come to one place, and I empty that Inbox daily.  It’s honestly not that hard if you use a few basic rules.

I try my best to use the OHIO principle – Only Handle it Once.   My Inbox is not a collection point – it’s a holding point and my goal is to get it out of there as soon as possible.

My other email rule is the two minute rule.  If it’s something I can do in two minutes or less, I do it right away.  90% of my email can be handled this way.

2.  Evernote Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.00 AMMy favorite online tool is a free program called Evernote.  It’s a digital filing cabinet and I use it to save everything.  From product feedback to blog ideas to research for projects – if it’s worth keeping it goes into Evernote.

I created a default folder called !Inbox.  Whenever I sent something to Evernote via the web or email it goes to the Inbox.  Once a week, I clean out that Inbox, assign tags and move items to the right folders.

If you want to learn more about Evernote, I highly recommend this eBook by Brett Kelly called Evernote Essentials.  It’s so good I bought a copy for everyone in my Get Organized Now course.

3.  Physical Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.32 AMI have a physical inbox in my home office for papers, bills and other stuff that comes into my house.  It’s a simple two level letter tray.

The top level is stuff to process – bills to pay, items to read, stuff I need to do.  Creating a place for this stuff keeps it from being all over my house.  The bottom level is processed stuff I want to save.  Once a month, I clean out the bottom tray, scanning most of it using my Doxie Scanner and sending it to Evernote.

Those are my three different Inboxes and uses them have really helped me streamline my work.

Leaders Must Challenge the Process

Why?

That’s one of the shortest but most powerful questions any leader can ask.

If you’re the pastor or church leader in a church, you must fight the temptation to maintain the status quo.  This will require both courage and humility, because you will have to often change what you fought to implement.

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner say leaders must continually deconstruct ideas.  Being in the trenches means you cannot see the horizon, so you must intentionally come out of what’s normal and ask questions.  Questions like:

  • What hasn’t changed in your church in the last three or four years?
  • What are you doing because you’ve done it that way for a while?
  • What’s working just good enough to be left alone?
  • Why is the sermon 30 minutes long?
  • Why do we really have that particular ministry?
  • Why do we send that, say that or do that?

These are tough questions, but it’s your job to ask them.  You must find better ways – more efficient and more effective ways – to lead ministry.  You must challenge the status quo, question the process and continually ask WHY.

If there is a better way to accomplish a goal, it’s your job to find it.

Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask

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There’s a great article from Andy Stanley in this year’s Leadercast conference notebook.  In the article, Andy shares six questions every leader should ask.  Here are those questions with a little of my commentary.

1.  Which gauges should we be watching?  In the church world, it’s pretty easy to measure attendance and giving, but those are trailing indicators.  You need to look at some gauges for leading indicators, too.

2.  Where are we manufacturing energy?  Some things churches do simply drain all types of resources.  Cut those things out, even if there are emotional attachments, and put that energy to things that truly matter.

3.  Who needs to be sitting at the table?  You want strategic people in strategic meetings, regardless of their title and position.

4.  Who is not keeping up?  This is a tough question to ask, but there might be someone who isn’t growing with you as the church grows.  It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of them, but you might need to reassign or refocus them.

5.  Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?  You need to do the things only you can do.  If you’re out of your zone, you’re likely acting as a leadership lid.

6.  What should I stop doing?  One of the best questions leaders can ask their team is “where do you need me less?” If you’re involved in everything, you’re making it all about you.

Do any of these questions resonate with you?  Which one do you need to ask yourself?  Which one do you need to ask your leadership team?

Download my full notes from LeaderCast 2014 right here.

Do you need help with something big?

Do you need help with something big?

I’ve got space on my calendar to work with your church over a period of FIVE months.  It’s personal consulting focused on solving one big issue.  The issue might be:

  • Developing a staff and volunteer leadership system or reorganizing your leadership structure
  • Creating healthy ministry systems and practices so things run more efficiently
  • Reaching more people so the church grows in size and health
  • Overcoming a big obstacle you’re facing or getting off of the ministry treadmill
  • Launching another campus or some other big initiative

Imagine working on a big project for about six months.  That time frame would give us time to truly identify the issues, create a solution and implement it.  I’m doing this with two different right churches now and we’re making killer progress.

You’ll get one site visit (with an option for more if you need them), monthly meetings with you and/or your team (can be via Skype), and weekly check in calls focused on the point leader. It’s totally customized for your needs.  And I’ll work with you and walk with you the entire way.  This is what I’m doing for a living, so it’s not free.  But I think it could be worth it for you and your church.

If you’re interested, let me know your challenge and what it would mean to solve it.  You can contact me here.

A Collection of Book Notes

I still read old-school books.  Ebooks are convenient, but I prefer a hardback and a pen in my hand.

Part of my reading routine includes typing out notes and quotes, which I often post to this blog.  Here are some of the most popular book note posts.

Creativity Inc.  
http://michaellukaszewski.com/notes-from-creativity-inc-by-ed-catmull/

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization
http://michaellukaszewski.com/the-five-most-important-questions-you-will-ever-ask-about-your-organization/

Remote
http://michaellukaszewski.com/notes-and-quotes-from-remote-by-jason-fried-and-david-heinemeier-hansson/

The Road to Burgundy
http://michaellukaszewski.com/life-lessons-from-the-road-to-burgundy-by-ray-walker/

Insanely Simple
http://michaellukaszewski.com/insanely-simple-the-obsession-that-drives-apples-success-by-ken-segall/

So Good They Can’t Ignore You
http://michaellukaszewski.com/book-notes-so-good-they-cant-ignore-you-by-cal-newport/

Start with Why
http://michaellukaszewski.com/book-notes-start-with-why-by-simon-sinek/

Start Something That Matters
http://michaellukaszewski.com/book-notes-start-something-that-matters/

Necessary Endings
http://michaellukaszewski.com/book-notes-necessary-endings/

Consistency

Michael Lukaszewski and Bob Barton

Jennie and I have been back in Jacksonville for a few days, and this morning, I had the opportunity have breakfast with my former Junior High pastor.

Bob Barton was my youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville from 1986-1989.  He actually served in that role for 19 years.  This morning, we swapped stories about old times and God’s grace.  And I was reminded of a really powerful principle.

During my junior high and high school years at First Baptist Church, a lot of great people invested in me.  Here’s the thing:  I remember very little of what they actually said.  I don’t remember many Sunday School lessons.  I still have some old notes, but I don’t remember many sermon points.

But I remember people.

I remember Mr. Barton faithfully teaching, preaching and leading.  I remember my high school pastor, Calvin Carr,  inviting a small group of guys over to his home on early Saturday mornings.  I remember the feelings and the community and the impression that something important was happening.

It dawned on me today that it was his Godly example and faithfulness over a long period of time.  It was discipleship, but it was consistency and time.  That’s what made the difference.  And there’s really no substitute.

During our conversation, I reminded Bob of this difference.  “I know lots of people have probably told you this, but you had more of an impact on people than you may realize.”  I shared with him that it was his consistent love for people and Jesus that made a difference.

I’m all for strategy, leadership, programming and systems.  Those things can make powerful, powerful differences.  Heck, those are the things I love to help churches implement.   But no system can compensate for a lack of heart.  No strategy can make up for a shallow purpose.

Bob Barton knew the point of youth ministry.  It wasn’t entertainment.  It wasn’t to keep kids from trying drugs.  It wasn’t even friendship.

It was discipleship.

How NorthPoint Has Shaped Us These Last Three Years

My family and I have attended NorthPoint Community Church in Atlanta for the last three years, and it’s been absolutely crucial to my healing and our growth as a family.

northpoint

For those of you who may not know, I pastored a church for about five years.  After what some call a moral failure, I resigned to work on my marriage.  Friends helped me, a recovery group prayed for me, and a counselor helped us process and understand everything.  I don’t hide this, because it’s a part of my story.  It has influenced me, but it’s not defining me.

That first year, we attended Buckhead Church while renting a small house in the city.  I needed to be at a church where I couldn’t be in charge of anything and I couldn’t find anything to critique.  You see, my issue wasn’t lust or anything like that – it was attention and power and being in control.  So I needed to be in a church where I couldn’t lead anything.  I needed to sit.  So for the first time in a long time, we went to church as a family.

After a year, we bought a house in Alpharetta and switched to NorthPoint.  It was awesome to attend the same church in a different location.  Our kids got involved and their small group leaders have been awesome.  Last week (our last week in Georgia), Matthew’s Upstreet leader took him to Andretti’s and out for ice cream.

And Jennie and I connected with two different small groups.  As a pastor, I always made excuses about how tough it was to be in a group, but at NorthPoint, we knew we needed to make the effort.  Our group in Buckhead and our group in Alpharetta have been incredible in different ways.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years – as a youth pastor and then a church planter – but these three years attending NorthPoint have been some of the most instrumental in my life and faith.

Here are some things I’ve learned about NorthPoint over the last three years – things that will shape my ministry in the future.

1.  There is a focused commitment to the mission.  NorthPoint is committed to reach people that don’t go to church, but this isn’t just something they say.  It’s something they do.  Everything – from the facilities to what is said during the welcome – is intentional.

2.  People will give and serve to an organization that gets this.  I’ve seen so many people give and serve at NorthPoint, because they know they are connected to something truly important.  You can say NorthPoint can do so much because they have money, but I believe they have money because they do the right things and people want to be a part of it.

3. There is an intentional development of other preachers.  Over and over, people ask me what’s going to happen to NorthPoint when Andy isn’t there.  I have absolutely ZERO knowledge of this, but I’m less concerned about NorthPoint than I am about other churches.  Because there are amazing communicators in NorthPoint world.  I believe Andy is one of the best communicators on the planet, and he doesn’t teach all the time.  If one of the best doesn’t have to preach every week, that tells you something about their commitment to develop other people and give them opportunities.

4.  There is a high commitment to family ministry.  A lot of churches say they value families, but NorthPoint backs it up.  Being family friendly isn’t about decorated hallways and quality production.  It extends to not busying up our schedule with extra activities and reimbursing people for childcare so they can participate in a community group.  Our kid’s group leaders and those who work in these ministries are heroes.  They are dedicated and passionate and they love Jesus.  They may not speak at Catalyst or publish books, but their influence in my family over the last few years will not be forgotten.

4.  Community is really important.   For three years, we’ve heard about community over and over.  For as big as NorthPoint is, it’s equally as small.  It’s funny – some of the most uninviting churches are actually small churches, where everybody knows everybody (but you!).  NorthPoint feels small to us because we actually know some people.  And the commitment to lead people into community runs throughout everything.  Lauren’s community group (she’s in 6th grade) has been huge for her life and faith.  They do stuff outside of church and it just “works.”  You can tell that groups are not just tacked on to the ministry menu at NorthPoint.

5.  Quality begets trust.  From the family ministry environments to the quality preaching, when you focus on being good, getting bigger is often a result.  NorthPoint does everything with excellence, and this starts with not doing everything.  When we go to something or participate in something, we know it’s going to be thought through and done well.  That kind of quality leads to trust.

6.  You don’t have to be a bozo to gain attention.  You don’t have to camp out on the roof or give away ski boats to attract people.   I just don’t see a lot of gimmicks at NorthPoint.  It’s quality and consistency that leads to a great reputation in the city.  When you truly know what people want and need, you can address their needs without coming across like a used car salesman.

7.  A consistent strategy over time equals results.  NorthPoint doesn’t change the mission or the strategy every couple of years.  For as long as I’ve known of them, and for as long as we’ve attended, things have been consistent.  Be Rich (the year-end giving campaign) grows every year because it builds on the success of last year.  Their system for recruiting volunteers is awesome.  I think a lot of churches would benefit from having fewer ideas and being more consistent and more creative with the ideas they already have.

8. You can accomplish exponentially more through a team.  Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to know Jeff Henderson and Gavin Adams and lots of other leaders in the organization.  There are some amazing leaders at NorthPoint.  Smart people.  People that get it.  In my next season of life and ministry, I’m carrying this forward.  I want to get the WHO right, and then the WHAT will follow.

9.  Andy is a great preacher.  Duh.  We’ve been so blessed to hear Andy in person over the last few years.  The things he says and the way he says them have been inspiring to me.  Andy has a depth to what he’s saying – you can just tell he’s not saying everything he knows about a topic when he speaks.  There’s so much more under the surface.  Besides, people can tell is you’re saying everything you know on a subject because you crammed for the exam.

10.  It’s been a place of recovery.  Our family is ready to tackle “what’s next” because of the investment NorthPoint has made in our faith, life and marriage.  The best thing I can say about NorthPoint is that it’s a church full of grace.  Nobody backs away from teaching the truth, but everything is saturated with grace.  We’ve heard (and seen) so many stories of restoration, and it’s awesome to see the church at the center of this.

As we leave Atlanta – our home for the last decade – and head home to Jacksonville, Florida, we leave better because of NorthPoint Community Church.  I’m very grateful.

For the friends we’ve met.  For the sermon’s we’ve heard.  And for the grace we’ve received.

How to Get Started with Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing Tree

In my journey from pastoring a church to leading an online company to launching out on my own, I’ve learned a lot about Internet marketing.  I get questions about this all the time, and a few people have even hired me to work with them to create strategies and content.

So I wanted to put together a list of free (or mostly free) resources to help you get started.  If you want to learn about Internet marketing, this list should help you get started.

People to Follow

One of the best ways to learn anything is to watch the people that do it well.  Here are some of the people I follow closely.

  • Jeff Walker.  His Product Launch Formula is a blueprint for how to launch a product online.  Jeff also has a brand new book called Launch.  It looks like it covers a lot of the same material from his high-end course.
  • Perry Marshall.  Perry is known for his teaching on Google Adwords and other forms of PPC advertising.  But he’s got a wealth of knowledge on marketing.
  • Amy Porterfield.  Amy is a Facebook marketing expert.  She’s got tons of training and hosts a fantastic podcast.  Don’t just look at her products, look at how she does things.
  • Michael Hyatt.  Michael made the jump from being the CEO of a book publishing company and now does one of the best jobs marketing his own products and resources.  You should definitely check out his Platform University.
  • Pat Flynn runs a blog and podcast called Smart Passive Income.  He’s one of the good guys in internet marketing world.  You get the sense that he truly cares about people, not just making money.

Books and Ebooks to Read

Here are some of the books and ebooks I recommend.  I’ve read each one of these.

Stuff You Need to Watch or Hear

See it in Action

If you want to see how Internet Marketing works in the real world, check out this free eBook from The Rocket Company called The Five Things That Kill a Sermon.  You’ll get the free eBook, but then pay attention to what happens next.  Yes, Preaching Rocket is awesome (and if you’re a public speaker you should get it), but pay attention to the process.

You might also sign up for the free webinar I’m doing on June 12 called “Three Things You Must Organize Right Now.”  Again, the content will be super-helpful, but pay attention to the process.

Tools To Get Started

If you’re ready to get started, here are two tools I highly recommend.

  • Mailchimp.  I use MailChimp every day to send email newsletters and put people through email sequences (they call them autoresponders).
  • Leadpages.  This is the #1 tool to create Landing Pages.  You don’t need a fancy, custom website.   You can use LeadPages to give away ebooks, get people to sign up for free webinars and sell products online.  I use it every single day to build a mailing list of about 5,000 people.  It’s tool I used to build the sign up page for the webinar I mentioned above.
  • BlueHost and WordPress.  If you need to set up a website or blog, I recommend BlueHost.  You can host as many sites as you want with one account, and they will walk you through setting up WordPress.   Here’s a screencast of me setting up a site in less than 10 minutes.

Internet marketing is hard work.  There’s still much to learn and much to improve, but hopefully this list will give you a good start.

Notes from Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Here are my notes from Creativity, Inc – Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull.  Ed is the President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation and this book is one of the top leadership books I’ve read.  I highly recommend you buy a copy and read it.

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My job as a manager is to create a fertile environment, keep it healthy, an swatch for the thing that undermine it.

When faced with a challenge, get smarter.

You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing the communication structure with the organizational structure.  Anyone should be able to talk to anyone else, at any level, at any time, without fear of reprimand.

Accepting mediocrity has destructive consequences.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up.  If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.   ideas come from people.  Therefore, people are more important than ideas.  Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop and own good ideas.

A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms.  Lake of candor ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.   Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with each other.  Be in charge of the environment, not just the meeting.

Early on, all of our movies suck.  We dare to attempt these stories, but we don’t get them right on the first pass.

The Pixar Braintrust

The Pixar Braintrust is made up of people with a deep understanding of storytelling and usually, people who have been through the process themselves.

The Braintrust also has no authority.  They do not prescribe how to fix the problems they diagnose.  They test weak points, they make suggestions, but it is up to the director to settle on a path forward.  Ideas become great when they are challenged.

In these meetings, the film – not the filmmaker – is under the microscope.  The Braintrust is benevolent.  It wants to help.  And it has no selfish agenda.

People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process.  People need to be wrong as fast as they can.

A good not essays what is wrong, wha tis missing, what isn’t clear, what makes no sense.  A good note is offered at a timely moment, not too late to fix the problem.  A good note doesn’t make demands; it doesn’t even have to include a proposed fix.  But if it does, that fix is offered only to illustrate a potential solution, not to prescribe an answer.  Most of all, though, a good note is specific.  “I’m bored,” is not a good note.

If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake:  You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.   Leaders must talk about our mistakes and our part in them to make it safe for others to do so.

When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work – even when it is confounding them.

“From 1994 to 2010, not a single Disney animated film would open at number one at the box office.  I believe this was the direct result of its employees thinking that their job was to feed the Beast.”

When someone hatches an original idea, it may be ungainly and poorly defined, but it is also the opposite of established and entrenched – and this is precisely what is most exciting about it.  Protect the ugly babies.

If the majority of your people aren’t engaged in the work that drives your revenue most of the time, you rise being devoured from the inside out.

Hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions.

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy.  We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment.  We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.  But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably mor meaningful than our criticism designating it so.  But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.  The world is often unking to new talent, new creation. The new needs friends.

- Anton Ego in Ratatouile, written by Brad Bird

In a freak accident, 90% of Toy Story 2 was erased on a matter of seconds.   To reassemble would have taken thirty people a solid year.

To think you can control or prevent random problems by making an example of someone is naive and wrongheaded.  We want people to feel like they can take steps to solve problems without asking permission.

No one – not Walk, not Steve, not the people of Pixar – ever achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work.

Hindsight is not 20/20.  We aren’t aware that the majority of what we think we see is actually our brain filling in the gaps.  Confirmation bias is the tendency of people to favor information, true or not, that confirms their preexisting beliefs.   Our mental models are not reality.

Pixar Methods

  1. Daily meetings – solving problems together.   Everyone at Pixar shows incomplete work, and everyone is free to make suggestions
  2. Research trips – The Ratatouille team went to France, an Ostrich was brought to headquarters to inspire animators working on Up, many of the crew on Finding Nemo became Scuba certified.   “When we are accurate, the audience can tell.  It just feels right.”
  3. The power of limits.  Popsicle sticks stuck to a wall represented a person-week – the amount of work a single animator could accomplish in a weeks time.
  4. Integrating technology and art
  5. Short experiments – “better to have train wrecks with miniature trains than with real ones.” – Joe Ranft
  6. Learning to see
  7. Postmortems – Consolidate what’s been learned, teach others who weren’t there, don’t let resentments fester, use the schedule to force reflection, pay it forward.
  8. Continuing to learn

Leadership is about making your best guess and hurting up about it so if it’s wrong, there’s still time to change course.

Driving the train doesn’t set its course.  The real job is laying the track.

People should work there because they want to, not because a contract requires them to, and as a result, no one at Pixar was under contract.

Fixing things is an ongoing, incremental process.

Three Things I Would Tell Graduates

graduation

If I was speaking at your graduation, here are three things I would tell those wearing cap and gowns.

1. We need you to be hopeful.

Some would say you’re entering the real world today.  But that’s not true  The world you’ve been living in for the past few years isn’t any less real than mine.  Yours is just full of dreams.  Yours is full of the future.   People who don’t think you’re in the real world are just bitter their world has lost some of your hope.

The world around you may have grown cynical, but we need your bright eyes and hopeful resolve.   We need you to believe you can change the world.

Don’t let a cynical, middle-aged person talk you out of your dream in the name of being realistic.

Don’t let the politicians or the CEOs snuff out your passion for change.

Don’t let the practical kill your passion for what’s possible.

My generation and my father’s generation might not understand.  In fact, they might even laugh at your youthful vision, but don’t listen. They may not know it, but they need you.  We need you.

We need you to hope, to dream, and to believe.  We need you to believe the best about your generation AND the best about our generation.  We’ve had way more time to let the world beat us down, so even though we may not say it, we’re putting a lot of hope in you.

2. Passion isn’t enough.

Back in my day, people thought couples could live on love.  Wide-eyed and holding hands, they threw caution to the wind and dove head first into marriage.  “We’ll prove you wrong,” they said.

A few years, a kid, and a dozen bills later, most finally got the message.  Love is required but love isn’t enough.

Today is a bright day.  You’re standing here full of hope, and ready for the adventure ahead.  Armed with passion, you are ready to take on the world.

But dark days are coming.

I know you don’t want to hear that, but deep down, you know it’s true.  When these days come, and they will come, you will need more than rah-rah energy.  You will need more than passion.  You will need more than love.

Purpose, not passion, is the renewable energy source you must find.  You see, passion will wear off, but purpose will last.

The plan for your life and the projects you choose to work on must be rooted in purpose.

The reason you’re here.

The drive to wake up and do something.

I’m not talking about a job.  I’m not even talking about a career.  I’m talking about a calling.  A deep calling full of purpose.  Find that, and you’ll find something that will sustain you during the toughest times.

You see, projects without purpose lead to activity – meaningless activity that will cause you to wake up one day and wonder if anything really matters.  You’ll work a job, but wonder if it really mattered.  You’ll buy a house, but you’ll wonder what’s the point.

But plans and projects rooted in purpose are all together different.  That’s the kind of connected work that leads to the good kind of tired.

3.  Don’t be afraid to start something.  

As you leave this place, many of you will find fulfillment and purpose in some organization.  Your deep sense of purpose will align with theirs, and it will be awesome.

But some of you won’t find that kind of purpose out there.  In those moments, don’t be afraid to start something.  Starting something isn’t easy.

It requires hard work.  It requires more money than you have, or that you think you’ll have. But mostly it’s hard because you’ll have to leave something safe.

Nassim Taleb says, “The three most harmful addictions are heroic, carbohydrates and a monthly salary.”  That monthly salary – the one you think opens so many doors – might just be the thing that keeps you from accomplishing something great.  If your day job keeps you from your dream job, then don’t be afraid to take that risk.  People will say you’re crazy, and you’ll be afraid.  But kick fear in the teeth and go for it anyway.

There’s probably someone doing something similar, but don’t let that stop you.  Start something you love.

Some will tell you there are too many non-profits, but that’s not true.   But we need you to start something that matters.

Put in the effort.  Keep learning.  And don’t be afraid to fail.  So you can start something that works.

The future is as bright as you let it be.  So stay hopeful.  Find your purpose.  And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to start it.