What Book Changed Your Life? (Here’s The Book That Changed Mine…)

I was recently asked to participate in a round-up of the best self-help books over at SelfDevelopmentSecrets.com.

There are a number of great books that have changed my life and my work, including Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect, Gary Keller’s The One Thing, and David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Each one of these is powerful and I urge you to read them.

However, I chose another (perhaps surprising) book as the best self-help book…

… and the thing is, you might not normally consider this to be a “self-help” book in the style of other similar books on productivity, focus, and personal performance. Yet, I find my particular book choice to fundamentally influence all aspects of my life — from goal setting to productivity; from good habits to vision-casting.

The book I chose?

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.

Read about my choice at SelfDevelopmentSecrets.com’s Best Self Help Books blog post. (You’re gonna have to scroll a bit to find my name).

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about McGonigal’s book. Check out this blog post about willpower and I’ve also listed her book in this blog post about the 10 books that changed my life.

I think about willpower everyday — about how much I have at any given moment and how to optimize the willpower available to me — and it’s entirely because of this book.

If you’re looking to make positive changes in your life, your business, your health, your relationships, your habit, or anything else… this is the book to read.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

How I Leapt Off A 22-Storey Building And Lived To Tell About It

Would you leap off of a 22-storey building?

I did. Specifically, the building in the center of this picture…

Here’s How It Happened…

A few years ago, when I lived in Winnipeg Manitoba, I heard about an event where people raised funds for charity and, as part of the fundraising, they could rappel down one of the skyscrapers downtown. It sounded like SO MUCH FUN!

Unfortunately, I heard about it too late to participate that year. In the years to come I wanted to do it but never had the time or the money or the desire to raise funds all at the same time… then over the years I forgot about it.

Then I moved to Regina Saskatchewan. While searching for fun things to do in the city, and for ways to get involved in a good cause, I stumbled over a website for The Dropzone — the exact event that I had wanted to do in Winnipeg… and it was happening here in Regina too.

The Dropzone is an annual event hosted collaboratively between Easter Seals and the Saskatchewan Abilities Council. Both groups work to help people with disabilities live full and active lives. The Dropzone event happens every year across Canada since 2005 and has raised more than $15 million for this cause.

I signed up and committed to raise the funds to rappel. I was SO excited! Rappelling has been on my bucket list for many years.

Preparation

As a requirement of participating in this event, I had to take some training (makes sense!) and I went in late July. It was held at a safety training company; we learned about the equipment and then rappelled off of a simple 2-storey structure inside a warehouse.

I felt comfortable with the process and the equipment, although the harness was excruciatingly painful and left two very big bruises on my stomach. (I was worried that, if I felt that way during the 2-storey drop, what would it be like during a 22-storey drop! Fortunately, someone identified the problem — the shoulder straps were too loose — and it was fixed for the main drop).

Then, it was a waiting game during which I raised money, waited for the day to come, and took silly pictures like this one…

August 19, 2017

The day of the event finally arrived. I was so excited!

Here I am leaving the house. My game-face is already on!

Aaron Hoos

One disappointment from earlier in the week was that my rappel time was scheduled for between 7:45 and 8:15 in the morning. The whole event is supposed to be a fun and party-like atmosphere that happens in Regina’s bustling downtown core at the same time as a nearby farmers market. I thought the atmosphere would have been very fun but doubted that anyone would be there at 7:45! (Although the early drop time turned out to be a good thing… more on that in a moment).

When I arrived, it was SO quiet downtown. Here’s a picture of me failing to get the perfect selfie in front of the building.

Then I entered the lobby of the building, signed a waiver, and started getting suited up with the harness and helmet and gear. Yes, it’s not lost on me that the helmet would serve no useful purpose if the equipment failed. But safety first, I guess!

Then I took the LOOOOOONG elevator ride up to the 21st floor, signed another waiver (!?!) and then had to climb a ladder onto the roof.

The view was incredible. The building I was on is the tallest in Regina (I think!) so I could see all around. Here’s a selfie of the view. I am excited in this picture but also look silly because the helmet is squeezing my cheeks out to make them look really chubby! haha.

Then, it was time to wait my turn and I got super-focused. Here I am, all ready to go in my gear, with full focus. A couple people tried to talk to me and I probably came across as rude and cold but I was really just getting into the zone.

Finally it was my turn to rappel I approached the edge of the building and my safety rope was tied to the tripod.

Once my safety rope was tied, I had to climb up onto the ledge of the building and then lean out into my harness. The ground below was SO FAR DOWN.

It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I can’t describe how challenging it was to grab hold of the tripod, stand on the edge of the roof, and stick my feet over the building to feel around blindly until I found the ledge… and then I had to lean backward into my harness and trust a rope to hold me.

Here’s a screenshot from the Global News report about the event. I actually look surprisingly calm here but I cannot describe how insanely scary it was to see all those tiny people below!

(You can view the full article and news report at this link, but if you’re looking for me specifically, I appear for one second at about 1:25 into the video. Blink and you’ll miss it.)

I leaned back, gave the photographer a thumb’s up (I’ll post that picture here when they send it to me) and started my descent.

And it was awesome! :)

As soon as I started, the initial fear vanished and was replaced by a rush of adrenaline as I got into the groove. The day was perfect, the view was amazing, and I was doing something that I’d always wanted to do.

Here’s a picture of me very early into my descent. There were two rappellers going at once and I was on the right…

I tried to pause on my descent from time to time to get a good view but that was harder than I thought. I even brought my phone along to get some pictures or do a Facebook Live video but there was no way I could do that because I was wearing gloves and my phone had been tethered to me but was not easy to get to, and I was too busy concentrating on everything.

The thing with rappelling is, it’s trickier than I would have guessed: Your arms and legs are doing 4 things independently of each other, all at the same time. Your right arm is under your butt trying to keep you from getting rope burn, your left hand is up by your chest working with a special lever that controls the speed of your descent, and with your legs you are periodically bouncing off the building and also adjusting for wind.

You’re doing this in windy conditions. In gloves. In the most uncomfortable harness you can imagine. While swallowing your fear. And somewhere in there you need to pause and drink in the experience!

I did stop a couple of times on my descent to enjoy the view but it was harder than expected so I just stuck with maintaining a good descent.

The wind was crazy, actually. It was fine until about halfway down, and then a big gust blew me off course and almost sent me spiralling out of control (which did happen to a couple other rappellers after me). Fortunately I was able to put out my one foot to catch myself against a window to keep from spinning. I believe that’s what the picture below shows: me with my right foot out as I tried to catch myself in a gust of wind.

(Side note: I mentioned earlier that I was disappointed that I had to go so early in the day. However, later that afternoon the wind picked up considerably and they had to postpone the rest of the event so it turned out to be a good thing that I went so early!)

And, as I neared the bottom, I could hear the cheers of a crowd that had gathered, and that was an amazing feeling. And by the time I got to the bottom and got untied, I felt like some kind of rockstar, as evidenced by this hilariously confident swagger…

And here I am after the event. The descent only took about 15 minutes but I was sweating and tired!

After The Event

I was surprised at how exhausted I was after the event. It’s a fast descent but also extremely active the whole time.

Immediately after the event I walked through the farmers market and then took a nearby walking tour of some historical buildings… and then went home and slept.

And then the next day I slept again.

And by the afternoon of the second day I felt stiff in my legs, arms, and back from a combination of the unusual activity and the tension of contorting against the wind in that harness.

But it was fun and I would do it again!

Summary

It was amazing!

A big theme in my life lately is breaking out of my comfort zone to discover new challenges and opportunities. Once you enjoy a bit of business success, it’s easy to get complacent in business and life, and to expect things to continue on in the same way. And this is one way that I push myself just a bit (even while doing something I’ve always wanted to do) to get momentarily uncomfortable and discover new experiences.

On August 19 2017 I raised $1065 for charity, crossed an item off my bucket list, and had a memorable experience that I would do again in a heartbeat!

Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me! It was something I’ll never forget.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Advanced Copywriting Strategies: Why Do We Do What We Do?

In this series of blog posts I’m exploring Advanced Copywriting Strategies.

Aaron Hoos, Copywriter

A copywriter has one job: to sell the damn thing… whatever it is they need to sell.

That sale could be: get the prospect to call, click, subscribe, buy, whatever… and the copywriter worth his or her salt is the one who can get the most, best prospects to take action.

And the way to get the most, best prospects to take action is to persuade them to do so by figuring out what it will take to get them to take action.

A simple example (and a commonly cited one in the world of copywriting) is that people don’t want drills… they buy drills because they want holes.

Although that’s a funny little example, it points to the task of the copywriting to discover the underlying why and to bring it to the surface. All else being equal, an advertisement for a drill as a drill versus an advertisement for a drill as a device to make holes should result in more purchased due to the latter.

Of course it’s not just about the holes. There’s an underlying motivation for ANY purchase, and figuring out what that underlying motivation is, is primary work of a copywriter to fulfill their one job of selling the damn thing.

So, if that’s the one job of a copywriter then there is one question that every copywriter should ask themselves… a question they should keep in their heads at all times… a question that must drive their research, their writing, their testing.

That question, generally, should be: “Why do people do what they do?” That’s the foundational question that underpins all of copywriting. If you can figure out what motivates your prospect to act then you can use that as a tool to persuade them.

So, let’s answer that question:

Why do people do what they do? Let’s dig into various attempts at understanding motivation. This is not going to be comprehensive since, well, human motivation has been an object of study since the dawn of time. But we’ll look at some talking points that I think are helpful and influential.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Need

Abraham Maslow had a lot of good insight to share here, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need persists today as a go-to resource in the area of motivation. In short, he suggested that people have a series of needs: Physiological needs (thirst, hunger, pain, sex); safety needs (protection from the elements); love and belonging needs (the need to be in a relationship); esteem needs; and self-actualization needs. Maslow went on to say that each person needed to address the lower level needs before they could ascend up the ranks to the higher level needs. In other words, if you are dying of thirst in the desert, your thought is of crawling to water, not of how you can feel fulfilled at work.

A depiction of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Wikipedia

But is Maslow’s hierarchy enough? I know it is used as a tool by some copywriters to help them answer the key question of why do people do what they do. It is helpful and I have used it at times too.

But sometimes it can get pretty esoteric and when you’re writing a sales letter for a product or service, you might end doing what I’ve done and struggled with knowing which of levels your offer might fulfill, or worrying about whether your best prospects are at that level in the hierarchy, or trying to find words that match the level (since you might use different words at the “safety needs” level versus the “self-actualization” level.

Whitman’s Life Force 8

Drew Eric Whitman, a marketing consultant who wrote the excellent (if awkwardly titled) book Ca$hvertising had a great list in his book that I think is insightful.

He departs from Maslows’ hierarchy slightly and instead suggests that we are hardwired with 8 drivers, what he calls the “Life Force 8”. You can see hints of Maslow’s hierarchy in here, but these 8 are useful and accurate as the key reasons why people do just about anything…

1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
4. Sexual companionship
5. Comfortable living conditions
6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
7. Social approval

Whitman’s list is good. It’s true, we are hardwired for those things, although I am curious about whether we are hardwired for the enjoyment of food and beverages or rather just hardwired to eat and drink… and the enjoyment is a bonus that we seek after but will happily give up. Ask me next time I’m stranded in the desert and I’ll let you know.

7 Enemies Of Survival

Whitman’s list reminded me of a list from a totally unrelated source but I think it’s instructive here: the 7 enemies of survival. I first heard about this in, of all places, 12th grade geography. I can’t remember why. But the teacher said the list and it stuck with me. Forever. Here I am nearly 3 decades later and I can rattle off the list no problem. (If only I could do that for stuff that was actually on the exam!)

The 7 enemies of survival are: pain, cold, thirst, hunger, fatigue, boredom, loneliness. And I wonder if these are the things we are hardwired to address.

This list doesn’t account for a human sexual drive or for social approval but I think this list can tell us a lot about the need to survive, since many people will go to great lengths in most cases to avoid any of these things.

Tony Robbins’ Pain/Pleasure Values

Tony Robbins (and others, but Robbins is a big proponent of this concept) simplifies the concept further, suggesting that the underlying driver in people’s lives is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. That has merit. I like it. It may not always be true (there are scenarios when we choose the more painful approach), and it’s made more challenging by people’s misconceptions (such as the temporary desire of feeling good by eating junk food versus the long-term reality of the price that someone’s health pays for making that lifestyle a habit).

Still, this pleasure/pain motivation can be a mostly-helpful guide to help us understand human motivation. In most cases, people will take action to help them achieve pleasure and avoid pain.

Here’s My Take…

One concept that I’ve been thinking a lot about, which also simplifies many of the ideas above, is to say that people do anything for one of two reasons: for Preservation or for Position.

That is, they will take action to survive and preserve their life, and, they will take action to achieve a certain social position.

(This concept isn’t necessarily my invention; I think it’s culled and synthesized from many of the concepts I’ve discussed earlier in this post.)

It’s so simple and elegant and true. It fits nearly every scenario I can think of, and addresses the very things that Abraham Maslow, Drew Eric Whitman, and the 7 enemies of survival each address.

On its own, this Preservation/Position concept is good but I wouldn’t call it an Advanced Copywriting Strategy. However, I think we can elevate its usefulness and power, and transform it into a more advanced strategy by bringing together this concept with another one discussed earlier…

The 4 Ps of Motivation

We can actually make this far more useful if we combine Tony Robbins’ pleasure/pain concept with this preservation/position concept. If we put them onto a 2×2 chart, we end up with something very interesting, and way to instantly analyze any person’s motivation…

We all do things (EVERYTHING!) for any mix of the following 4 reasons:

We pursue pleasure in our quest for preservation and position, and we avoid pain in our quest preservation and position.

In fact, we rarely do just one but I would suggest that we do some mix–some percentage– of all four in every action we take in the day and every decision we make in the day.

For example, consider procreation: sex itself is the pursuit of pleasure while the avoidance of pain might be the desire to have babies because of a ticking biological clock; meanwhile, children can add pleasure by watching them grow and they can also help avoid pain in positioning by ensuring that someone will take care of you in your old age.

Nowadays, the care-for-elders isn’t as important of a survival strategy as it once was, so that may diminish as a motivational factor, but the other three factors remain significant (to some degree) for most aspiring parents.

This is a powerful tool for copywriters because it forces you to drill down and get an answer from all relevant angles to the most important question, Why do people do what they do?

When you are copywriting, think about why your prospect would buy, and run it through this simple 2×2 matrix to help you identify exactly what hot buttons you can press to convince your prospect to take action.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

This Cooking School Has An Amazing Business Model — Can You Copy It?

Aaron Hoos

My wife and I both love to cook and, if I may say so, we’re not too shabby at it. But we can always learn more. So, when we moved to a new city last year, we started looking for a place to boost our cooking skills, and that’s when we stumbled upon a local cooking school with a business model I’d never seen before.

(Disclaimer: maybe it’s not unique. I’ve just never seen it before but I think it’s brilliant, and something a lot of businesses may be able to borrow. And if you own a restaurant, and no one else is doing this in your city, you should seriously consider it!)

It’s called Schoolhaus Culinary Arts and it shares a building with a restaurant and a catering company, which is a smart way to double-up on your space and infrastructure for a related service.

You go to their website and look at their upcoming classes. Every day of the week is a class on something — from a type of food (i.e. bread) to a regional cuisine (i.e. Moroccan) to a specific type of cooking (i.e. cooking with beer). There’s something on offer just every single day.

You sign up for the class, pre-pay, and then show up on your selected day. The room is smaller than I thought it would be but it holds about 16 students, with enough equipment and counterspace for everyone. You tie on an apron, sign a waiver, and then the chef instructor leads you through some basic skills you need to know and tells you the order that you’ll be cooking the food in. Then the class is unleashed to begin. Everyone has their own place — including a knife and cutting board — at a table for 4 people. And you work with that group of 3 other people to prepare the dishes. Some dishes you eat as you finish them, others you save until the end.

Throughout the evening the chef instructors circulate through the room to give you tips and advice; oh, and there’s beer and wine for purchase too. Classes are 3 hours long, and at the end of the night the tables are pushed together and you share the food with everyone else in the class.

It’s a great time!

Janelle and I went to one class about Spanish Tapas, and later went back to Global Street Food. (We would have gone to more but our schedules haven’t allowed it, plus the classes sell out very fast so you have to book early — which is a lesson I’ve learned!) Not every recipe is a winner but you’ll end up with some things you love, other things you don’t, but it’s really the experience that is the highlight — as you make new friends and learn new skills and try recipes you’d never normally try. It’s very social.

Let’s Talk About That Business Model

It’s a great business model. It converts an empty space into a revenue-generating space. At about $75 per person plus drinks, it’s not out of the question to have people drop an average of $100 per person per night, so you’re looking at $1600 for a full class (and these classes sell out). You’ll need to buy the ingredients, supply the recipes and equipment, and pay for a couple of instructors and a clean-up person. But essentially you are guiding a sitting of people through the process of cooking their own meal.

It’s popular, which makes it a consistent money-maker.

Will the same business model work for you? Can you build separate brand in your business where you teach them to do what you do? Some businesses naturally do that already (I see that all the time in the real estate space that I work in) but I think this is a new concept to restaurants.

Maybe you own a restaurant and you’re busy in the evenings… but what about weekends? Can you offer a weekend cooking class? Or maybe you’re in the commercial district and you have a heavy lunch crowd but you close down for suppers… can you add a teaching segment? Or maybe you own a large building that is too big for your current restaurant, can you partition it off and run a culinary arts school on one side? Look at your potential clientele and figure out what works for them — you might do a 3 hour session like the one I’ve been to, or maybe you cut it back to a one-hour session that people can prep and then bring home. The details can be tweaked.

And, this extends beyond restaurants. Grocery stores could do this too. Or what about an accountancy that teaches people bookkeeping or business strategy? What about a daycare that teaches parents parenting skills? What about a garden center that teaches people gardening?

I think the sky’s the limit here. Sure, you’ll have to tweak the model a little for your industry and client-base but it’s very powerful.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

‘The Professionals’ By Owen Laukkenan

I read a lot but normally I don’t post about the fiction I read… (unless it’s financial fiction). However, this book was really enjoyable and I wanted to tell you about it because I think the secret to good fiction is that every sentence compels you to read the next one. Or it should anyway. I think this book does a great job of doing that.

Aaron Hoos

The Professionals by Owen Laukkenan is about a group of young adults (recent college grads who don’t want to enter the workforce) and they kidnap people for ransom. They’re careful, mobile, small time, and don’t ask for a lot of ransom, which helps to ensure that they don’t attract a lot of attention. But in this story, they kidnap the wrong person and things go awry and they’re pursued by gangsters, by state police, and by the FBI.

What makes this story so good is that the characters are believable and complex. And interestingly, the titular professionals are caught in the middle between the protagonists (the police) and the antagonists (the gangsters). Sometimes you’re rooting for the kidnappers and sometimes you aren’t. Not only that, the book does an excellent job of making you feel the helplessness of the main characters; you just don’t know what they’re going to do (or, what you’d do if you were in the same situation).

But the very best aspect of the book is on page 44 of the hardcover copy I read. This, in my opinion, is the most compelling page of the book and an excellent piece of writing.

 


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.