Are You Ready for an Adventure?


More than 20 years ago I had a dream.

I was going to bike the Appian Way from one end to another.

Appian Way through Minturnae

That’s about 400 miles heading southeast out of Rome, through the Pontine marshes, diagonally across southern Italy, over the Apennine Mountains, and across the plains of Puglia to Brindisi: The ancient gateway to Egypt, Greece, and all the Mediterranean.

I was going to do the whole thing on a bicycle. Even though I didn’t know the way and I didn’t even know if it was possible.

I didn’t go right away. I thought about it for years and years. Then finally one day I just got on my bike and pedaled out of Rome…

…Even though I didn’t know the way and didn’t even know if it was possible.

Along the journey I learned that the Via Appia is named after a person who once said, “Every one of you is the architect of your own fate.”

Seven years after I first had the dream, I finally fulfilled it and my only mistake was waiting so long to do it.

Which brings me to an important question:

What are you waiting to do?

The people who read Bold Words are mostly entrepreneurs. You’ve worked hard. You’ve taken risks. You’ve made calls and given presentations when you were almost too scared to speak.

You know in your gut what it means to have an adventure, to feel the fear and do it anyway.

But there’s one adventure that might be escaping you. The one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but maybe you deferred it while you were busy being responsible, busy building a business and a family.

Now here’s the irony: That postponed adventure will make your business and your relationships richer than you ever dreamed.Author in front of cafe with Italian cyclists

Your adventure will fulfill you, which is a game changer for personal branding.

The adventure will make you complete, which opens you to receive without hesitation, and empowers you to give more of yourself than you ever could before.

I want to help you set off on your adventure. That’s why I’m putting together something brand new that might resonate with you.

A year ago, I started freelancing for an email platform called beehiiv that was built by and for creators.

I’m testing their platform with a new, non-business email and blog called Ithaka.

(I spell Ithaka with a “k” because I was inspired by C.P. Cavafy’s poem.)

Ithaka could make you rich and famous and happy beyond your wildest dreams. Here’s why.

A bold, new journey

You probably know that Ithaca was the island home of that old Greek vagabond, Ulysses. The Odyssey retells his long and dangerous trek trying to get home to Ithaca after being away for years.

The message in the Odyssey is that the journey is more important than the destination.

I’m building Ithaka to help you set off on your journey.

We’ll be talking about flow states and peak performance and visualization, as well as some practical tips on how to find and carry out your journey.

But Ithaka is more than just a newsletter. You’re going to have the ability to interact with each other and with me.

Let’s start that interaction right now with another question: What were you put into this world for? What do you want to do with your life?

The thing about this question is that whether you ask it when you’re 20 or when you’re 50, the answer is the same.

The answer is to just do something and find out! Give yourself an adventure.

Set a course for Ithaca, knowing full well there will be all kinds of detours and obstacles along the way. All you have to do is embrace those detours, and learn from them.

road into the mountains framed by an archwayAs I mentioned before, your adventure will leave you feeling inspired and fulfilled. You’ll attract interesting people and opportunities. You’ll be more present and authentic as you interact with others.

Virtually every aspect of your life will improve when you’re being true to yourself and following the road that was meant for you.

If you want to take the first step, all you have to do is sign up at this link.

One more thing. The world needs your adventure.

In fact, at this very moment, the Universe is silently begging you to take the first step.

If you’ve been keeping up with local and international events at all, then regardless of your political opinions, you know we’re in a lot of trouble.

I think the only way we’re going to make it through the next 10 years is if everybody plays their best game right now.

This means pulling out all the stops and pushing your limits. It means creating your own adventure.

That’s what Ithaka will help you to do.

Are you in?

Cyclist on Via Appia looking back at you


Testimonials from Former Clients: An AI Experiment


Robot thinking about something newHave you ever thought about getting more testimonials from former clients by leveraging AI?

I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ve got an experiment going on right now that’s related. I want to tell you all about it.

The first thing you should know is that I enlisted Chat GPT-4 to write this article. (Here are some details on how to do this.)

I stacked several prompts to get it just right, and the one you’re reading is probably the fourth or fifth iteration.

Finally, I read through the last draft and tweaked it with my own brain to give it a human voice. (It’s getting pretty easy to use AI to write corporate-sounding messages. But it still takes a unique individual to sound like a unique individual.)

The goal was to write an SEO-optimized article about harnessing the power of testimonials from former clients to boost your business.

It’s a mouthful, but I want to show you how GPT-4 broke it down. This will turn out to be useful at the end.

What Is an Example of a Testimonial?

Okay, this isn’t my favorite approach, but AI likes to start with a definition. You can skip this section if you want to get into the meat. This is what GPT-4 came up with.

A testimonial is a short statement, often from a satisfied customer, vouching for the quality, performance, and reliability of a product or service. Here’s an example from one of my iTestimonial clients:

“Our conversion rate is high because of the credibility indicators that are on the site. And I think the most important credibility indicator is testimonials. Reaching our clients isn’t that easy. They’re all busy CEOs of privately held companies. Yet somehow you’re able to get them on a video call and get their story, and that’s amazing.”
–Brent Whitfield
DCG technical Solutions

How Do You Get Testimonials from Clients?

I’ve been talking about this a lot lately, but I have to say I’m impressed with the way Chat GPT broke it down into basic forms. The AI even included a link to my testimonial service, which is a nice bonus!

So, how do you get testimonials from clients?

  1. Ask Directly: Reach out and ask your clients for feedback. Most people are willing to share if they had a positive experience.
  2. Feedback Forms: Include a checkbox on your feedback forms where clients can give permission to use their comments as testimonials.
  3. Leverage Social Media: Whenever you get positive comments on one of your social channels, ask for permission to repurpose these comments as testimonials.
  4. Use a testimonial service like This service will help you collect, manage, and showcase client testimonials.Decorative only. Scattered people around a futuristic building.

Why Testimonials Are Game-Changers

Getting testimonials from former clients is more than just a “feel good” activity Here’s what the numbers have to say.

According to a study by Power Reviews, conversions for high ticket items increase by 380% when you include testimonials on the sales page. And Impact found a sales increase of 34% across the board when testimonials were added to the mix.

The secret seems to be trust.

In fact, Big Commerce reports that 72% of consumers say that positive testimonials and reviews bump up their trust in a business, and 88% of consumers trust online testimonials just as much as recommendations from friends or family.

In a Demand Gen Report, 97% of their B2B buyers said testimonials and peer recommendations were the most reliable type of content.

And it’s not just about demand. Yotpo claims that websites with testimonials on their pages get 45% more traffic.

Given all of this evidence, it’s not hard to believe Strategic Factory’s claim that if you consistently use testimonials from your clients, your revenue will increase by 62%.

Of course, it’s not just a matter of getting testimonials from former clients. What you get is just as important.

What Should a Client Testimonial Include?

This part scared me, because it looks like Chat GPT somehow got a good look at my templates and checklists. But they hit the five outcomes that I always try to get with my own process:

  1. Authenticity: Genuine comments. No script, no fabrication.
  2. Specificity: What exactly did your product or service achieve for them? (e.g., increased sales by 20%).
  3. Name & Position: This adds credibility. People want to know the feedback is from real individuals.
  4. A Photo or Company Logo: Visuals often enhance trustworthiness.
  5. Clear Consent: Always get written permission to use someone’s testimonial.

Client Testimonials Are the Future

This experiment taught me that it’s becoming easier than ever to create content using AI.

Artificial Intelligence will already tell you what your content should be about, and then create it for you. There are also AI tools that will read, interpret, and summarize articles and videos for you.

Pretty soon we’re going to have AI creating content for AI. And then what happens?

Before we get to that point, you should take a long hard look at why you’re creating content in the first place. There are really only two reasons:

Either you have a very important message that you want to share, or you want to generate more business.

If you’re in the first category, you are a true creator and you probably didn’t need to read this long article.

But if you’re looking to generate more business, client testimonials are the guardrail that will save you from following a hundred lemmings off the AI content cliff.

When the internet is glutted with AI writing for AI, your prospective clients won’t have a choice but to look at what real human beings are saying about you and your business.

Testimonials from former clients are the game-changer that will never change.

If you want to get client testimonials without the work, set up an “Easy Testimonial” at the link below or visit to learn more.


Transform Your Business from a Bigfoot to a Unicorn


Are you a bigfoot or a unicorn?

Some businesses are quiet, mysterious, and almost invisible. Like Bigfoot. Many potential clients don’t know you exist.

Want a quick and powerful way to change that? Try harvesting testimonials from the clients who know and like you. This can be easy to do, and it’s possibly the strongest social proof you can build at will.

I had some fun trying to illustrate this point with the help of AI and a redwood forest. Here’s what happened:

I’ve been interviewing people for bios and testimonials for almost three years, and it’s a powerful way to grow your business. I put together a guide for doing these, and if you’re reading this, you probably already know where to download it.


The 5-Point Secret to a Balanced Life


Here’s a mental model for when you’re planning your next adventure.

It’s a way to set priorities and have a balanced life.

Everyone says they want a balanced life. But nobody spends exactly equal amounts of time on their health, family, career, or other pursuits. Life is a series of rotating priorities.

This week, there’s one big thing that requires the bulk of your time and energy. Maybe you just started writing a book or working on a new business.

You’re juggling all the other important stuff around that.

Your current priority is going to cut into the time you spend at the gym, and you might not have dinner with your family every night.

In a few weeks or months, you will shift your priorities and put the lion’s share of your time into something else.

Elements of a Balanced Life

There are five big things that bring success, meaning, and quality to your life:

  • Purpose (Your values and beliefs about why you’re in the world)
  • People (Who is important to you, and who you want to meet or attract into your life)
  • Health (Both physical and mental health affect your capacity to enjoy life and make an impact)
  • Ability (Your skills, talents, and knowledge—and the effort you make to build on these)
  • Career and finances (How you pay for it all)

I think of these as points on a star. At any given time, the point on the top of the star is your current priority. The two points on the bottom are your support. They’re holding you up. You probably can’t give them the attention they deserve right now. But you will.

For example, suppose you visit your family for the holidays. The top point on your star is People. The two supporting points on the bottom are probably Career and Health.

Because of your career, you have the money to travel and visit your family. Your career supports you and your star. But at the same time, you put less effort into work, school, or business while you visit your family.

The Star model shows you that’s OK. Your career was in a supporting role.

Health is another supporting point. You’re able to endure the stress of holiday travel because you take good care of yourself for most of the year. You may have to miss a few workouts while you visit, and you’ll eat and drink a few things that you normally wouldn’t. But health is your support.

Then the visit ends and you’re back in the fray. January is when many people hit the gym and dry out their livers. By February, you’re bogged down in work and career responsibilities. Health or Career might become the new point on your star. Or maybe you’re working hard to find or fulfil your purpose.

But you’ve got backup. You can lean heavily on your talents and skills. And you have people supporting you too, whether it’s colleagues, friends, family, or a teacher/coach who is helping you along.

Create a Star for Your Adventure

When it comes to Adventure, all five points of the star are in alignment. Every bold new undertaking should be tied in with your Purpose. You will help, inspire, and be helped by the People who are already in your life, and those you will meet along the way.

If your adventure doesn’t make you physically healthier, it will at least improve your mental health. You will also draw upon your strongest Abilities to carry out your quest, even while you discover and develop new ones.

Finally, your adventure might boost your Career, simply from the experience and confidence you will gain from it if nothing else.

Even if an adventure costs you a fortune in the short term, most adventures will ultimately put gold in your coffers and contribute to your earning power.

I’m putting together a special newsletter called Ithaka. It’s all about finding yourself and living a bold, rich life of growth and adventure. If you join Ithaka, you will get a new tip or tool to make the most of a point on your star in every issue. 

By the way, the name of this new bonus comes from the poem by C.P. Cavafy. I have the poem on a cabinet door in my office, so I can read it every day. You can read it here.


The Ultimate Social Proof: How to Ask For (and Get) Meaningful Testimonials that Make an Impact

social proof testimonials

First, an experiment.

Think of something you’ve always been afraid to do.

Now, find a bunch of YouTube videos of people doing that scary thing. Watch a video a day for the next month and see what happens to your fear.

This experiment mimics a study that was done on preschoolers by psychologist Robert O’Connor.

O’Connor made videos of solitary kids watching a social activity. After a short time, the solitary kid in the video would join the activity, and soon they would be laughing and having fun with the rest of the group.

When Robert O’Connor showed these videos to shy, withdrawn children, they became more socially active. In follow-up studies, O’Connor found that the change was long-lasting.

In fact, these formerly shy kids often became social leaders in their schools.

This is the power of social proof.  When we see other people behaving in a certain way, we are more inclined to do what they are doing, even if it goes against our nature.

This phenomenon is deeply ingrained in human nature, and you can use it to your advantage.

If you’re afraid of public speaking, start watching TED Talks—or even go to live speeches and presentations. If you want to exercise more consistently, watch videos of people working out.

A time-tested key to success is to join mastermind groups where you socialize with people who are doing—or have already done—what you want to achieve.

And just as you can use social proof to improve yourself, you can also use it to influence other people.

Using Social Proof to Make People Laugh

In the 1970s, television executives added recorded “laugh tracks” to sitcoms. (If you’re too young to know what I mean, just head over to YouTube and watch any clip from “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Brady Bunch.”)

Even though the audience knew this laughter was fake, surveys found that people thought the same show was funnier when fake laughter was added.

When we see other people enjoying something, laughing, or simply using a specific product or service, we’re more inclined to do the same.

How can you harness this power in your business?

Obviously it’s good to have followers, likes, and lots of people engaging with you on social media. But this has more to do with your content than your actual business.

Positive reviews are a stronger form of social proof, but these are subject to the idiosyncrasies of the people who choose to write a review.

However, there’s one kind of social proof that you can control.

The Gold Standard for Social Proof

Testimonials are the gold standard for social proof.

Each testimonial represents a live human being who used your product or service, loved it, and went out of their way to say something wonderful about you.

When a prospective client is deliberating whether to choose your business or a competing alternative, including the choice to do nothing, they’re going to look at your testimonials to help them decide.

If you don’t have prominent testimonials, most of that potential income evaporates. Your business is losing tens of thousands of dollars that you don’t even know about.

Now for the good news. You can harvest testimonials. Very few businesses do this, but the problem is very easy to fix.

All you need to do is ask.

If you do good work, you have customers and clients who are happy with the results you gave them. Many of these clients would be happy to share their positive stories.

(If you don’t have a lot of happy clients, you need to fix that problem before I can help you.)

How to Harvest Testimonials

To regularly harvest positive testimonials, you need two things.

First, you need a system for asking people for testimonials. You probably already have a process for engaging, nurturing, closing, and invoicing. All you need to do is add a request for testimonials to the client journey.

That’s the easy part. You can simply as a follow-up call or an automated email to your process.

The second thing you need is a way to overcome objections.

This problem can be insidious, especially when dealing with your best clients.

Driving Away Your Top Clients

Because someone likes what you did for them, and likes working with you, they don’t want to say “no” when you ask for a testimonial.

But writing or recording a testimonial takes a lot of work. Thinking about what happened and what to say about it carries a heavy cognitive cost. Plus, many people are self-conscious of how they’re going to look or sound.

Someone may agree to do a testimonial for you, but when they’re dealing with the friction that comes with it, it’s hard to follow through.

They might just throw together something generic off the top of their head, or they might put off doing the testimonial indefinitely.

And it gets worse from there.

Your client is now neglecting something they said they would do, and they’re going to feel guilty. They might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable the next time they hear from you.

Over time, they might forget all about the testimonial. Now they just notice they feel uncomfortable whenever they think about you.

So, not only do you lose the testimonial, but you might lose a valuable client.

An Easy Fix for a Tough Problem

Here’s how you reduce friction, get better testimonials faster, and keep your clients loyal and happy.

When you ask for a testimonial, promise the client that you have a way to get them done easily.

If you’re understaffed and have a low budget, give your client a short survey. Google Forms are good for this, and they’re free.

Ask specific questions so your client doesn’t have to think too hard. Include spaces to write short responses in their own words.

Then you can take these answers and edit them into a nice text quote.

Better yet, schedule a Zoom call and interview the client using the same questions.  You can record the interview, and when you edit you’ll have an incredible video testimonial.

How to Get the Most Out of Each Testimonial

It’s best of all to have a third party do the interview, because people are going to be more candid and spontaneous when they’re talking about you to someone else.

If you can’t get a third party to do the interview, then at least get an assistant or an employee who doesn’t normally interact with the client.

Make sure the client knows the interview is going to be fun and easy.  They’re going to hop on a call, answer three or four questions, and be finished in 10 minutes or less.

A Foolproof System for Dazzling Testimonial Interviews

I have done dozens of these testimonial interviews, and I have a detailed system I’d like to share.

I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but here’s a quick rundown.

  1. Asking for a testimonial simply involves building rapport and reminding the client of why they were so happy with you in the first place. I use templates and calling scripts to make this easier for my clients.
  2. When a customer agrees to do a testimonial, offer them some coaching. This “coaching” preps them for the call so you’ll get a higher quality testimonial.
  3. Prepare for the interview with specific questions that draw out the client’s story. Ideally, ask them for the “before” and “after” pictures of the transformation that you created for their life or their business. If you can get concrete numbers in terms of time saved or money earned, your testimonial will be pure platinum.
  4. Now that you have them raving about all the amazing benefits of doing business with you, ask them, “do you know anyone else who could use these same benefits?” (Put this question in your own words and make it a natural part of the conversation.) You might get a referral as well as a testimonial. If you do, be sure to ask, “Is there anyone else?”
  5. Take the video, audio, or transcript and edit out the small talk. Remove anything that wouldn’t help a potential client choose you.
  6. Move the most dramatic or positive statement to the very beginning of the testimonial. Open with a bang!
  7. Show the final product to the client and get their permission to use it. (Ideally do this through email so you have a written record)
  8. Dress it up. Get a professional editor to remove background noises and make color corrections. Add subtitles and transitions to the video. If you’re a B2B and you have a written testimonial, see if you can put the text on the client’s company letterhead.
  9. When you post a testimonial online, include a photo of the client or their company logo. If you post these on your website, include a link to the client. (Don’t include this link in social media or landing pages, as it may impact the performance.)

How to get all nine of these steps done for you

Does this sound like a lot of work? Believe me, it is!

I’ve gone through this process dozens of times with individuals and business leaders including wealth advisors, parents, lawyers, school administrators, REALTORS®, engineers, retirees, CEOs, students, and coaches.

You’ll get a better result by working with someone who has been through the process.

That’s why I created iTestimonials. This is a hands-off, done-for-you service that covers all nine of the steps above. All you have to do is provide the satisfied clients. My team and I will handle all the scheduling, the interview, and the edits.

Just to be clear, this is NOT a recurring expense where you have to pay to host your testimonials somewhere else.

You will get a high-quality MP4 that you own forever, and can use in any way you wish.

I’m training new interviewers to fill in as this service grows, but currently I’m doing all the interviews myself, and I directly supervise the editing. Just visit and I’ll hook you up.


Change Your Business with Adventurous Thinking

Via Appia shrouded in fog

First, a shiny gold nugget of marketing wisdom that changed my life and might impact yours:

Starting a business is one of the most adventurous things you can do.

Next, a definition:

Adventure is a head-on collision with something you’ve always wanted or something you’ve been trying desperately to avoid. It could be both.

Adventure is the most natural way to grow and evolve and overcome your limits and live your best life. So instead of waiting for the collision to happen, why no hit the gas pedal and drive right into it?

Three Ways to Have an Adventure Whenever You Want One

There are three ways you can have an adventure almost any time you want.

  1. Pick something you’ve always wanted to do, always thought about doing, or something you sincerely plan to do someday. Start it today.
  2. Look at something important you’re already doing or you’re definitely going to do soon. Find a way to make it ten times as fun, challenging, profitable, cool, or beneficial for the world. Do it twice as fast.
  3. Pick something you have to do but really don’t want to do. Do it in the next 24 hours. Get it over with and out of the way. Embrace the fear/pain/embarrassment/tediousness/exhaustion. Learn from it. Then go back to #1 and #2 above with a clear head and a clean slate.

Here are some of the mighty deeds completed by adventurers I have known:

  • Climbing Mt. Everest
  • Enrolling at Harvard without financial aid or a way to pay for it
  • Moving from India to Canada to start a business
  • Leaving a good job in a big city to become a farmer
  • Going on the road with a one-person show without knowing whether anyone would want to see it
  • Ditching an abusive partner
  • Living in a treehouse
  • Traveling across two continents on freight trains
  • Crossing the Bering Strait into Russia and back on a dare
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

If you don’t see yourself on this list, I would love to hear about your adventures so I can add them. Let me know in the comments!


Did Chat GPT write this post?


You heard it here first. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

Actually, it’s from the Large Language Model (LLM)’s mouth.

In case you’ve been holed up in some remote backwater like Crescent City, here’s the lowdown on Chat GPT…

Chat GPT is the Artificial Intelligence language app that has instantly turned 200 million ordinary people into professional copywriters, award-winning journalists, and bestselling authors.

It has been adopted more quickly than any other software or platform in the history of the world.

Ask it almost anything, and it will give you an answer that seems like it came from a real person. An intelligent, well-informed person. An answer as long and as detailed as you wish.

You can even ask follow-up questions, and Chat GPT will elaborate for you.

There are a lot of things you can do with Chat GPT.

But last night, all I wanted to do was coax Chat GPT to write a Bold Words post for me.

Some of the first verbiage it gave me was:

“Your readers can spot a phony a mile away. Stop trying to sound like someone you’re not.”

That’s great advice, especially now that 200 million users are apparently relying on the same tool to churn out new content.

But let’s back up a bit.

The most important business skill to learn right now…

I consider Chris Steins to be an expert at all things at the intersection of marketing and technology. He writes regularly about AI, and some of his recent articles convinced me to give Chat GPT a try.

Since then, I’ve been spending hours every day learning everything I can about Chat GPT:  Watching videos, reading articles, taking 2 online classes, and most of all, playing around with Chat GPT when I should be cleaning the cat litter box.

I still have a lot to learn, but now I know the most important secret. Learning how to engineer good prompts is the skill to master in 2023.

A prompt is the set instructions you give to Chat GPT, and the higher the quality of your prompt, the better the output.

In fact, I’m about to give you the greatest, most valuable business/marketing/career advice of your life. Here it is:

If you want to secure your financial future, get really good at engineering prompts.

The results of a lazy Chat GPT prompt

I wanted to see if Chat GPT could write this email for me, so I gave it the first prompt that popped into my head:

Chat GPT prompt

You are an expert copywriter with many successful campaigns under your belt. As an expert, please write a brief article (500-1000 words) for solopreneurs and owners of small service businesses, suggesting strategies for developing a unique, authentic, and compelling brand voice. Provide specific actions that readers can take.

There are several ways I could have tweaked this prompt to get a better result, and I’ll tell you more about them soon.

But most Chat GPT users still don’t know how to write a strong prompt, or they’re just too lazy.

And truth be told, there’s snow on the ground, pizza’s in the oven, and my wife just opened a bottle of aglianico.

So, giving you the result of “GPT Lite” was my plan.

But then, most of the message Chat GPT put out was unusable. It just didn’t feel like it was coming from me.

Plus I got the scolding I quoted above:

“Your readers can spot a phony a mile away. Stop trying to sound like someone you’re not.”

Chat GPT is calling me out for using Chat GPT!

The Important Takeaways About Chat GPT

AI can really turn your blood into ice. Everyone who has heard about this is asking, “Will Artificial Intelligence replace me?”

For a copywriter, the answer is, “Yes!”

For you, I don’t know… But probably, eventually.

The good news is this: The results are only as good as the instructions you provide.

So, again: Learn to write killer prompts!

And while we’re on the subject, here are a few lucrative skills and assets that will never be replaced by AI:

1) Public speaking

2) Emotional Intelligence

3) Testimonials and other social proof

4) Referrals from happy clients

5) Leadership

6) Interpersonal skills

7) Your own, unique personality

The secret of the Great Pivot

If you’re old enough to remember all the disintermediation from the first years of the Internet, you know who survived and thrived. The winners were the folks who learned to use the new tools.

And now, you have a powerful new tool available. Chat GPT is easy to use, and it’s free.

Cultivate the seven skills and assets I mentioned above, and then amplify their power by leveraging AI.

Chat GPT didn’t write this post. It still can’t. At least not without a lot of manual refining and instruction.

But it might someday. If I ever let it. I still have too much fun writing these things myself. I hope you had just as much fun reading this.


Neuroscience in Marketing: How you can use Meta’s “brain control” trick


It’s almost a conspiracy.

Mark Zuckerberg is essentially using drugs to make hard-working entrepreneurs become addicted to paying for advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

I know this, because yesterday he tried it on me.

Fortunately, I have a background in biology and over the past year I’ve been studying neuroscience for my nearly-finished book.

Here’s how it works…

Math vs. Dopamine

There’s a simple trick that expert marketers have been using for a long time.

And not just marketers. Savvy politicians, the military, and even religious cults have turned this powerful tool to bend people to their will.

You can use this power for good. Or, at least, for good marketing results. Let me explain.

As you probably know, Meta gets their revenue when people pay to advertise on the platform. They want advertisers to spend more and more.

(You want your clients to do the same, right?)

Yesterday, Meta put this notification in my feed:

Instagram feed showing video success

Yes! High conversions compared to other ads in my country! Woo-hoo!

Now, you would think that online advertising is based on mathematical decisions. How much you pay per click, how many of those clicks convert, and your overall Return On Investment (ROI).

You can just look at the analytics and make a rational decision about how to spend your advertising budget, right?

But Meta isn’t going to wait for me to see how smart it is to run more ads. Not only do they make damn sure you’re aware that your ad is working, they do it in a way that feels like you won a contest.

It’s a small victory, but it turns out these small wins have a big impact on the human brain.

Every time you have a tiny success, your brain gets a shot of dopamine. This signals your brain that the thing which just happened makes you happy and is worthy of future attention.

You feel this dopamine when you make a successful free throw, close a sale, see new “likes” on your latest post, or finish a Sudoku.

Dopamine is the reason that gaming, sports, and even trading stocks can be so addictive.

Now, if you can give potential clients a micro-victory of their own, they’ll get a hit of dopamine, too. That’s how you can get them addicted to your products and services.

Of course, you should be contributing to their success in big ways. That’s what you signed up for. But these micro successes are fast, cheap, and easy to provide. It pays to add them to your repertoire.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Point out small successes that make your client look smart
  • Give your readers a quick, one-question test which will make them feel good about themselves
  • Include polls, short quizzes, and games in your marketing.

Here’s an example:

A REALTOR sends a quiz to potential home buyers, asking, ‘“Why are you thinking about buying now?

A. Because the market is less competitive than it was a year ago

B. It makes sense to buy, based on the current circumstances around your life, work, and finances

Regardless of their answer, you can congratulate them on being savvy and knowing when it’s the right time to buy. This isn’t flattery. It’s truthful either way.

And it gives the buyers that important hit of dopamine that makes them want to listen to whatever else the REALTOR has to say.

There’s a ton of research available these days around the neuroscience behind persuasion and motivation. This trick of using small wins to trigger the release of dopamine has an even more powerful use.

I’ll tell you all about it in a couple weeks.


A Mindset Challenge for 2023


road into the mountains framed by an archwayGood news for you: I’m afraid again.

More importantly, I want you to be afraid.

And then I want you come out braver and stronger than you ever imagined. And more successful than you ever dreamed. There’s a formula for this.

Let me back up a bit.

There has been a lot of research on the power of mindset, especially in the fields of entrepreneurship, education, and self-improvement. (1)

I’ve devoured this research,  totally consumed it, and I could easily fart it back out at you and be done. But that’s not why I gave up a secure government job to become a copywriter and a coach. That’s not why I rode a bicycle across Italy, bought a farm sight unseen, and did a lot of other things I probably shouldn’t tell you about.

There’s is one thing I will tell you about, but I’m afraid.

So before I blurt it all out, I’m going to hide behind the research. It backs up everything I learned in the streets of Rome, in the redwoods, and in that roach-infested apartment in L.A. where I made thousands of cold calls just to drum up enough business to pay the rent.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.

Mindset is a key factor in overcoming limitations. It gives you superpowers to do things that previously might have seemed out of reach, or even extraordinary. The right mindset can create miracles when it comes to learning, sports, and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Given the great power of mindset, here’s a mindset for the new year: When working on your biggest, most ambitious goals, think of yourself as a hero on a journey.

A new version of the Hero’s Journey

Now, you may already be familiar with the idea of the Hero’s Journey, which seems to be a universal pattern in storytelling, legends, and our own growth as we go through life.

You become a part of this timeless cycle when you see yourself as a hero on a journey. You are voluntarily choosing a Hero’s Journey, and you immediately take on several qualities that will help you succeed because of this mindset.

For example, seeing yourself as a hero on a journey affirms that what you’re doing is right and correct and involves you in the motion of the world. Unconsciously, you begin to feel and believe that the universe is on your side.

When you adopt this mindset, a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, the RAS, helps you spot the opportunities, tools, and people you need in order to succeed at your goals.

Thinking of yourself as a hero on a journey also gives you greater perseverance and courage. You’re more likely to take calculated risks with high upsides, because you believe that you are meant to do this and meant to succeed.

At the same time, when a hero is on a journey in classic mythology, often the entire fate of the entire world is at stake.

This may not be the case for you, but as an entrepreneur, you are a world builder and a world changer. You are bringing new services and new possibilities into existence.

In this way, you’re also doing something that impacts the fate of the world. Your mindset is likely to give you a greater sense of responsibility, and a respect for the impact of your actions. This can lead to better judgment, which creates better outcomes.

Choose your own adventure

So, how do you create this mindset of a hero on a journey?

The first step is to create the journey. You probably have a list of New Year’s resolutions by now. Start by asking yourself, assuming you stick to your resolutions, what kind of outcome you really want to have 12 months from now? Next, crank it up a notch.

What sort of outcomes do you really want to create?

Make sure your New Year’s resolutions are based on bold, ambitious goals. At least one of these should be a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, or BHAG. (2)

I’ll be talking about these a lot more this year. In fact, I’ve created my own Big, Harry, Audacious Goal, and if you want to follow me, I will be periodically checking in and telling you about my progress and what I am doing to make this goal a reality.

2023 is in the BHAG

Here’s my BHAG for 2023, which is actually a two-year plan. This fall, I’m going to lead a small group of people through an inspiring experience somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Everyone who goes on this trip will return as a hero on an adventure.

cyclist and bike in front of Roman ruins in a green field

Most of the participants are going to be artists, leaders, and entrepreneurs. However, I also want to reserve a few spots for people who are struggling, possibly a single mom with their child, or a teenager living in the inner-city, or someone experiencing homelessness. They could benefit greatly from this experience, and from the people they will meet and begin to see as role models.

In addition to doing something adventurous in the Mediterranean (this will probably involve some kind of volunteer work, a bike tour, or a combination of both–I’m still working out the details), the trip will include group discussions, brainstorms, and other exercises to help participants come up with a new BHAG.

Then, after the trip, there will be some regular follow-up coaching through the end of the year. Participants will spend the last hundred days of 2023 setting up something extraordinary for themselves  for 2024.

This may not work. But lately I’ve seen myself doing it several times in dreams and under hypnosis. I’ve also got a seasoned expert coaching me on the logistics.

Join this Hero’s Journey–or just watch

If you’re ready for an adventure, then follow me in the coming months as I begin to manifest this vision. Whether you choose to join me in the Mediterranean or not, I hope that watching my own challenges and struggles and the ways I overcome them will serve as an inspiration and a model while you pursue your own Hero’s Journey.

So let’s work on this together. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. And it could change you forever.



(1)Here are just a few examples of the effects of mindset:

Wen, Ya, Huaruo Chen, Xindong Wei, Kai Li, Fei Liu, and Xia Liu. 2023. “Examining Predictors and Outcomes of Decent Work among Chinese Female Pre-Service Primary School Teachers” Sustainability15, no. 1: 730.

Mvunabandi, J., Marimuthu, F., & Maama, H. (2022). Longitudinal Analysis of Relationship between Entrepreneurial Mindset Skills Training and Entrepreneurial Knowledge Improvement among Adolescent Girls and Young Women in South Africa. Jurnal Maksipreneur: Manajemen, Koperasi, dan Entrepreneurship, 12(1), 234-258. doi:

Liu Yanjun, Zhang Hui. “Making things happen: How employees’ paradox mindset influences innovative performance.” Frontiers in Psychology. 2022 vol. 13. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1009209.


(2)Collins, Jim and Porras, Jerry. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.


Shot of Espresso #1


It’s important to take breaks, especially to do things that inspire you.

I used to feel bad whenever I took a bike ride or went on any kind of outing. A little part of my brain was always screaming, “Get back to work!”

But you know, whenever I come back from one of those bike rides, I have more energy, I work a lot faster, and I do a better job. I’m also more appreciative of my wife and all the other people in my family.

Doing something wholesome that you truly love is a way of expressing gratitude, which studies suggest is far more important than we ever thought.

So, stop reading this and go write a song or paint a picture or take a hike!