How To Look Fear In The Face – A Case Study

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polls_HHN072_0649_769174_answer_2_xlargeRecently, I finished Robert Greene’s, The 50th Law, which was a follow-up to his book, 48 Laws Of Power. The book was about rapper (and now business mogul) 50 Cent and how he attributed all of his success to overcoming fear at a very young age.

Last week, I was in yet another conversation about the idea of overcoming fear with Big John, who is my (& Gary’s) business partner in our newest venture.

One of the greatest characteristics I admire most about Big John is that he is fearless. Not fearless in the bravado way you may think, but fearless in a very rational, intellectual, and strategic level that I will talk about in a moment.

Fear’s Strangle Hold 

I am a firm believer that learning how to overcome fear is the key to living a successful life (both professionally and personally). Fear subconsciously kicks our asses in so many ways that we are not aware of. It is the reason why we stay stuck on stupid so to speak…

Fear is is why we procrastinate.

Fear is why we don’t ask for help.

Fear is why we don’t ask the pretty girl out to the prom.

Fear is why when we do ask the girl to the prom and she says no, we don’t ask anyone else

Fear is why we don’t knock on the doors of potential customers to buy what we are selling.

Fear is why we go home after the customer who we  finally do ask says no… as opposed to knocking on the next door and trying again.

Fear is why we don’t go to the gym because we are afraid people will judge us.

Fear is why we stay at jobs we hate.

Fear is why we stay within our comfort zone.

Fear is why we accept complacency over eagerness to be better no matter how far we have gone.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

Big John… And The Man With The Gun

Big John’s route to overcoming fear has a lot to do with his extensive training in martial arts and Eastern discipline. He studied with a grand master who taught him that fear serves no purpose.  Naturally, I challenged him as certainly he would be fearful in extreme circumstances. He said he wouldn’t. He re-assurred me that fear is fear and has no purpose no matter what the circumstance.

“OK, Big John,” I paused…then I asked him, “Would you be in fear if someone held a gun to your head? “ His answer I did not expect.

He replied, “Would I be in fear if someone held a gun to my head or do you mean when someone held a gun to my head?”

As it turns out, Big John was no stranger to a gun being held to his head…

I’m not going to go into all of the details of the story but what you need to know is that he had no fear. To him, if he had been in fear it would not only serve no purpose but may have hindered his judgment.

John gave the man his money and his watch and then told the man, “OK, we’re done”… The man told him “What do you mean you’re done? You’re done when I say you’re done”…

John explained to him, “you have my money and my watch, we’re done.” John then turned around and with his back to the man, walked away and headed toward the entrance of his home.

I asked John if he was afraid that the man would shoot him. His answer was that it was not his decision. Either the man would shoot him or he wouldn’t so it would pointless to worry about it. He had already accepted the decision either way.

As you can probably guess, the man didn’t shoot John but very sadly, the man shot and killed another innocent person a few hours later as John was doing a ride along with the police trying to find him after the incident.

{Here is a pic of Big John and I about a month ago}

Big John MJ

Looking Deeper Into Fear

The principles of why Big John was not afraid gets deeper…

When John competed in martial arts tournaments, his grandmaster used to train him to accept death before he got into competition.

He explained to me that the trick is that you have to already have died before the fight.

He explained that when you have already died your opponent can’t do anything to you that you haven’t been through already. It’s only then when you can fight without fear.

Note: To view articles for entrepreneurs starting a business, click help for entrepreneurs .

Just Scratching The Surface

John and I talk quite a bit about fear and how to overcome it. I have had about a million talks with Gary about fear as well. He was the one who turned me on to the 50th Law.

I will talk about Gary’s take on fear in the next post. I will, however give you a hint…

What is the opposite of fear? If you know the answer you will have an idea of what the post is about.

Have a great day!

MJ

 

7 Fail-Proof Ways To Avoid The Plague Of The Status Quo

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When I think about life in total, our stay is a short one. I think we would all like to believe time is on our side, and to a certain extent it is. Life is crowded and full of ‘Stuff’ that we do every day. But my question is, “is the stuff that we do changing us, changing others or making a difference? – even if it’s for our own selfish needs?”

What I’ve noticed is a lot us are neither selfish, nor self-less as we seem to fall somewhere in the grayness of the middle. I think we do this because we get too used to our own routine (whether good or bad), and hit the repeat button every day… like robots.

The truth is, it is much easier to stay with the routine than it is to break the tractor beam of the status quo. It’s as though you are in a trance and the mother ship has beckoned you to fall in line and follow others. It reminds me of the movie, The Equilibrium, where everybody was, well, the same… and they were punished for doing anything other than the norm.

Audacious or Crazy?

I was an early bloomer when it came to breaking the status quo as, when I think back, it was a fairly audacious move when I started out running my first business with MJ. Becoming an entrepreneur during my senior year of college was not my plan and neither was leaving school to become one. The timing sucked. Shipping orders and studying for tests just don’t mix well together, and when you throw a lot of money and risk into the equation, studying just doesn’t have the importance that it once had before.

What I came to understand was that it wasn’t an audacious move for me – the people around me thought it was audacious and probably crazy, but if Steve Jobs, The Wright Brothers, and Henry Ford were called crazy, I’ll gladly wear that title as well.

Finding The Lost Tribe

 I’m a believer that journeys lead to other great discoveries. While in college, MJ and I were a unique occurrence among the status quo, which consisted of students trying to get good grades and eventually move on to a career in their field. We started out just like everyone else, but were drawn into a different direction that seemed more worthwhile and expressive of what we wanted to do for a living.

As you could imagine, there weren’t many people who could relate, or have perspective on what we were doing – initially. As we started to spend more time outside of the college environment,  we began to build connections to other entrepreneurs across several types of business. It was like finding our lost tribe because we were able to gain more perspective on what we were doing.

We began to understand why we were able to break the ‘tractor beam’ of the status quo. It wasn’t because we were born that way, or that we were brought up to think that way. It wasn’t about being different, for the sake of being different. It was simply seeing and believing in possibilities that others may have thought of as pure fiction. If that’s audacious – then so be it.

Being Audacious and Fearless

We can not grow walking a path that has beaten down and trampled by others as that path becomes hard as a rock. You will come to find out that at the end of that path is an endless line filled with people that look, think and act the same. New paths are forged with fresh new foot-prints – ones where the lines are short or non-existent.

So, how do we become more audacious and fearless?  Here are 7 fail-proof ways you can start working on, right now!

1)  Develop Your Dreams (Big or Small) – The 1st and most important step is having a dream or idea worth pursuing… Something that will get you out of bed everyday excited. Your dream has to spark you enough that you will invest your time in learning all you can about it.

2)  Be Yourself – Like this quote says, “One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.” Fighting the status quo is hard but bringing out your true self will eventually showcase your uniqueness.

3)  Challenge Your Past – Your past doesn’t equal your future. Being tied to your story will keep you thinking and acting like you always have. To break that, you must gradually re-write a different story that supports your new outlook.

4)  Accept A New Future – Part of re-writing your past is simultaneously accepting and believing in a new future. Your ability to make the future as real as possible will inevitably be your guiding light to success.

5)  Live with Integrity – Integrity is not some general rule that all should live by. Integrity is what you have developed, and the standards that you live by. Simply said, “Integrity is what we say, what we do, and what we say we do,” – Don Galer

6)  Own the Successes and Failures – It’s easy to blame others for bad outcomes in our lives, and it’s just as easy to give ourselves credit for the good ones. Own everything! This will enable you to take responsibility for your own outcomes.

7)  Plan and Take Action – Planning is what brings our future into reality. “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” This quote is one that you should have on re-dial because planning takes consistency and discipline – that’s half the battle!

Today I challenge you to re-assess your career and life plans. Here are some questions to consider…

Have you been just going through the motions, or have you been challenging yourself to uncover who and what you want to be?

Are you making the sacrifices necessary to succeed, or have you decided not to give up the things that will not make your dreams into reality?

Are you confronting fear with courage, or is fear ruling your ability to start, continue and succeed at the goals and aspirations you have set for yourself?

Ask these questions, give yourself some honest answers, and just maybe you will not only survive the status quo plague, but thrive among it!

Work Hard, Work Smart & Stay Hungry!

Gary

 

 

The 7 Key Ingredients To Create An Unstoppable Power Partnership

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I’ve had a partner in business for the majority of twenty years. In my opinion, one of the single greatest benefits of having a business partner is knowing that I have someone who is not only there in times of success, but also by my side in the trenches when times get tough. That is a feeling that only those who have great partners can relate to. But that only scratches the surface of a successful business marriage.

Just like in personal relationships, careful deliberation is the order of the day. I’ve found that most partnerships are either formed by way of creating a synergy of two existing entities to produce a dynamic outcome, or it comes from a personal standpoint – which is how it happened for me. MJ (my business partner) and I have been partners in a number of different ventures since 1991.

Match Made in Heaven

Our first venture was in college where we built an apparel company that eventually sold merchandise to the best retailers in the country. Our foundation was formed at a very early point in our entrepreneurial careers. We were just two excited guys glad to be doing something new and exciting. Since we didn’t know what to really expect, there wasn’t a lot of pressure initially – just two guys going for it. As the business got more complicated, we gradually understood what each other’s strong points were and divided the responsibilities up accordingly.

Fast forward twenty plus years and our partnership is based on the same things as it was back then – trust, integrity and FUN.

My significant other, and yes, I’m talking about MJ not my wife. Sad isn’t? Or maybe just plain pathetic!  But none-the-less true – I talk to him more than my wife and have probably gone out to dinner with him more as well – yikes!

Power Partnerships Defined

So, how do I define a great partnership? Well if this sounds personal… it’s meant to sound that way – here we go:

1) PassionInevitably a partnership has to start (and end) with both parties possessing equal passion for the business or idea. I believe passion is a mandatory component to create any successful venture.

2) In It To Win It (All In)–  It’s a great feeling to know that your partner is all in and will do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. This often means doing things under pressure situations and under extreme duress. This all in attitude fortifies your posture of being an unbeatable team!

3) Dedication & Commitment To GreatnessWe’ve seen how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created one of the greatest companies in American history, and that takes both partners pushing each other to be better and innovate at the highest level. It’s not about being good, it’s about being great.

4) Respect And HonestyThis goes without saying but deserves saying again. When honesty is lost, dissension bears its ugly head. A lack of respect causes the partnership to rot from the inside out. Conversely, having mutual respect for one another and being honest creates a path to success and acts as an investment each other’s outcomes. There is nothing I am afraid to tell MJ and the same holds true the other way around.

5) Appreciate The Differences You will never see everything through the eyes of your partner. As the old saying goes, ‘Focus on what enriches your relationship, not simply what reflects it.’ Appreciate your differences! MJ and I certainly do not agree all the time. Some may feel this is not good. To us, it’s how we grow. Being able to be willing to view a situation from the perspective of your partner will stretch your comfort zone and make you a better company if you have the respect I mentioned above, and you are open and willing to not always be Mr or Mrs. Right.

6) CommunicationJust like personal relationships, communication is the foundation of a partnership. At the very least, great communication will improve awareness, reduce tension, and create better decision making. At the very best, it makes the company work like a well-oiled machine.

7) Humor – The final component of a great power partnership is the necessity to have fun. In order for a business to last, the partners must enjoy the process of running a business. Not a day goes by that MJ and I are not cracking each other up over one thing or another. Humor is a necessity. Why? Because life is too short not to have fun.

One quick note on egos… Egos destroy businesses. I personally don’t think MJ and I have egos as we believe there is tremendous strength in humility. We weren’t always like that but I like to think we are now. What I can say, however, is if egos are involved, be sure to leave them before you walk through the door so you can reach your goals without interference and unwarranted roadblocks.

Summing It All Up

As you can see, business relationships mirror personal relationships in several aspects. At the heart of all business relationships, small or big, are human beings. Understanding what makes each other tick is an essential tool in being a successful duo. MJ happens to love working very early in the morning. I, on the other hand love to work late into the night. Because of this, we are open for business from early morning to late at night.

When you start thinking about entering into a partnership, ask yourself, what do I want in a partner? Draw up a profile of your partner, and use it as a reference. Going into a partnership based on feelings and gut can be your undoing and create massive setbacks. Think marriage. As we all know, entering a marriage on a bad foundation is costly – both time and money. Nothing is perfect, but you have to understand what you can live with and what you can’t.

If you’re already in a partnership that has it’s challenges, address it immediately. Let the person(s) know what you expect and open up the conversation. Find out what they expect. Often times your expectations are similar, but have gone off-course for some reason. It’s your job to get understanding, so you can right the ship.

Work Hard, Work Smart & Stay Hungry!

Gary

 

 

How To Lose A Business in 24 Hours

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Losing a business in less than 24 hours is easier than you may think. Just to clarify, I’m not talking about a business that is defined by simply printing up business cards with a company name and a fancy, impressive (albeit fake) title. I’m talking about a living, breathing, revenue-generating business with actual sales receipts at the end of every day.

 The second business I had (just like the first), was a fashion brand in the urban contemporary market. One year, in preparation of the holiday shipping season, I decided to double down on my advertising to increase my exposure in the market. I borrowed $100,000 in cash from my finance company (the company that was financing my orders) to pay some of the advertising money up front. The balance of the advertising dollars the magazines gave me a line of credit for… about another $200,000. So, altogether, I had scheduled four months of advertising at about 75,000 per month (300k in total) in anticipation of delivering the product to the stores.

 As it turned out, everything paid off. Or so I thought… I wrote a ton of business, opened up several hundred more locations than I expected and it looked like holiday was going to treat me very well.

Taking My Eye Off The Ball

 That season we were shipping a lot of denim. Back in those days we had to make jean jackets to match every pair of jeans because that’s how everyone wore denim back then. We had some factories in China, and some in Korea that were making all of our products for the season. The vice-president of my finance company was overseeing the production of our tops and bottoms as he had relationships with the factories for many years.

To make a long story short, the jean tops arrived first and they looked great. My partner and I had ordered about 15,000 pieces of the tops that we sold for 40$ to stores (who then retailed them for 80$) so this represented $600,000 in revenue for our company for the season on that category of denim.

When the ‘matching’ denim bottoms came in however, the leg opening on the bottom of the jeans (where you put your feet through) were so small not even a kid could fit their feet through them. Some way, some how, there was a major screw-up.

Vested Interest in Both Success & Failure

The problem was that the vice-president had approved the production, so there was no recourse with the factory as he has signed off on it.

Here’s the key point… the vice-president of our finance company worked for the finance company, not our company. While he wouldn’t make money on a screwed up order, he wouldn’t lose any money either. Truth was, he had caught the mistake but did not want to get in trouble with the finance company for picking a bad factory since he worked for them not us… so he tried to dump the problem on us. And he did.

Double Damage

So here we were with 15,000 jeans that we could not use. These jeans were also 40$ wholesale so they had also a value of $600,000 just like the tops… But we were not only out $600,000 because now that the jean bottoms were of no use, the jean tops had no value either. The result? A 1.2 million dollar hit. My margins at the end of the day were around 30% so I was expecting to make $360,000 out of that $1.2 Million. I was planning to use that money to pay the $200,000 balance to the magazines and I would still have money left over to pay my other expenses and still take a nice profit at the end of the season. But that is not how things went down…

What went down was that lawsuits came flying, and the vice president of the finance company did not come clean with the President about the mistake and the finance company dropped us like a hot potato… and I was out of business in a day.

The Moral Of The Story

Only give decision-making power to someone who has a vested interest in both your success and failure. If their interest is with some other company other than your own, then that is the side where they will be making their decision from, not yours.

Have A Great Day!

MJ

 

7 Things I Suck At That Make Me Great

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I am horrible at more things than I can count. When I was about 10 years old, my parents sent me to play little league baseball at the Con Ed field in downtown Manhattan where I grew up. To this date, I am confident to say I am the worst player that ever donned little man cleats.

Have you ever see those movies when the kid gets up to go into the game and all the other kids start screaming at the coach and begging not to put him in? I was that kid.

The highlight of my career was actually making contact with the ball once. ONCE. It was a foul ball but the feeling sure beat the hell out of probably 74 consecutive at bats without even touching the ball to the bat (or bat to ball… still not sure how it is done). What happened after I hit the foul? I struck out. Hindsight being 20-20… I’m glad I did.

That was my first experience of learning what I sucked at. I HATED it. Now, however, I love it. Why? Well, as far as my business goes, if I don’t have the skill level or time to learn or get good something, I now know to delegate it and move on to something else. So here are 7 things I suck out that make me great:

1)  I Suck At Baseball

OK, by now, both you and I know that I suck at baseball. So why is the great? Because I gave up baseball and proceeded to get pretty damn good at basketball. In fact, until I had to have my hip replaced a few years ago I played almost every day of my life.

Basketball helped me tremendously in more ways than what one would expect. It was an incredible way of taking out my aggression. It became very social. I went out on many dates as a result of women watching me play … I became friendly with a lot of people that became clients and colleagues in my businesses, I met my literary agent (may he rest in peace) indirectly through basketball, and the list goes on. So that’s the great that came out of the suck as far as baseball is concerned.

 2)  I Suck At Working For People

I suck working for people. I did it for about 24 months in total over the last 23 years. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE learning from people that are better or know more than me. In fact, I LOVE IT (although I’ll admit I didn’t always but I do now.) What I hate, hate, hate is when a superior doesn’t take a suggestion simply out of spite because his (or her) title says he knows more than me. To read more on this, read why I never put my title on my business card.

So, what did I do? I started my own business and started working for myself. The great of the suck is that if I didn’t experience sucking at working for people, I never would have had the pull necessary to work for myself.

 3)  I Suck At Designing

This one is truly funny. When Gary and I started our first business in college, we decided that I would be the designer and he would run the operations side of the business. The result? I sucked at designing. So what happened? I walked into his office one day and asked him if we could switch. When I left his office, he was officially the designer and I took over the operations side of the business.

The result? Gary has not only been the design director (as well as my partner) in all the companies we have had together, but also he has been the design director for some of the largest and most recognized brands on the planet… That was the great of the suck as far as design was concerned.

 4)  I Suck At Reading Books

I am a tremendously slow reader. I love reading but I suck at it from the perspective that it takes me forever to read something. I think it’s because I scrutinize the text in such a fashion that I must understand every word. If I don’t know a word, I look it up, if I don’t understand the context I re-read it to think it through, I am a certified nut.

So what did I do? I started writing instead. First it was scripts and screenplays, then it became business plans…then it was articles… then PDF Reports and white papers…then blog posts…then books.  Thus far, I have probably written thousands of pages of literature and I am not stopping any time soon. If you are a frequent reader of Hustle Branding, you know I wrote a book called How To Ruin A Business Without Really Trying. The book highlights some of the most prevalent mistakes entrepreneurs make when starting a business for the first time. I used myself and my stories as the lab rat. I am happy to say that I have actually helped people by learning through my failures.

I have also found a way now to go through tons of books a year… through listening. Since I have been turned on to Audible, I go through a book a week. So, because I suck a reading (eyes to paper), I have become great at listening to books.

 5)  I Suck At Complacency

I am never satisfied. I suck at satisfaction. I am never satiated in my thirst for MORE. The good of the suck? … Well, I keep it moving like the energizer bunny. I never quit. I never ever ever think I have learned it all, thus I love people who know more than me (like I mentioned above). My thirst for reaching a goal that keeps setting new markers in the distance will enable me to learn forever.

Speaking of thirst for knowledge…I have a friend. His name is Skip Prichard. Insanely good person and one of the sharpest people I have ever come across. He has accomplished a tremendous amount in life because of his thirst for knowledge. He reads a book a day. THAT IS INSANE. I suggest you check out his blog on leadership. It is awesome.

 6)  I Suck At Dependence

I suck at most forms of dependence. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE working with others. I just suck at having the patience to work with people who don’t love working with others.

There are very few people who will want to get my agenda accomplished as much as I do. Gary is on the list, my future wife (who I don’t think I’ve met) is probably another (or at least she will be I hope.) Because of this, the great of the suck is that if there is a way to do it myself, as opposed to waiting for a person who doesn’t have the same vested interest in accomplishing the particular task at hand, I will do it myself.

 7)  I Suck At Jumping

Although there is plenty more I suck at, here is the last one in this post. I suck at jumping… well, at least I do now Why? Because I replaced my hip and can’t jump like I used to. What is great about the suck? Well, I am training right now to hopefully be back on the basketball court again soon…only I won’t be jumping. I will work on my shot and play the perimeter. For all you ballers out there, you know what I am talking about. For those who don’t, either Google playing the perimeter  or take my word for it that there is a great in the suck.

OK. Now your turn. What do you suck at that makes you great?

Have a great day!

MJ

 

 

The 3 I’s To Success: Ideas, Individuals & Innovation

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The American government and many economists have gotten it wrong. The launch of a successful business and employment creation does not stem from the efforts of big business. In fact, the big corporations are sitting on more cash than ever in their history and the job market is not growing in the industrialized segment of the economy.The question, why? has not been answered, and it will not be until we look seriously at the role of the entrepreneur in business the world over. Continue reading “The 3 I’s To Success: Ideas, Individuals & Innovation”

How To Brand Like An Idiot [Without Even Knowing It]

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Have you or do you possibly know of someone who created a product or service that they thought was going to be groundbreaking, only to find out that when they launched it, it was not only not the hit they expected but rather found it not to be a hit at all? I know I did.

It happened to me in the very first business that I had back in 1991, a clothing brand I started with my partner Gary while we were in college. Continue reading “How To Brand Like An Idiot [Without Even Knowing It]”