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The Middle Finger Project

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So, I’ve got a proposition for you.
Unfortunately, it does not involve fishnets, vodka, or smeared black eye makeup, and while we’re at it, I should mention it definitely doesn’t involve any of this bleepity bleep bleep bullshit either.

Nor will it ever, unless, well…there’s pretty much no exceptions. Though I am rather fond of the idea of being called, “master,” or better yet, “mastress.” Which actually sounds a lot like mattress, so, nevermind.

The proposition is as follows. Would you rather:

a) Be secure, but not feel secure

b) Feel secure, but not actually be secure

I’m going to take a big, wild stabbity stab stab in the not-so-darkity dark dark, and I’m going to venture to guess you’d probably prefer Option A: Be secure, but not feel secure. Granted, some might have said otherwise: Ooohhhhh, but perception is everything, and as long as I perceive it to be true, it will be true, so therefore I pick B! If that’s you, please kindly accept this digital eviction notice from this blog. It truly is not for you.


Despite the fact that I’m guessing most people will pick A, logically, it seems that when it comes to implementation, most people will actually continue to live a lifestyle characterized by Option B: Feeling secure, but not actually being secure.

Clinging to a job that makes you WANT TO STRANGLE EVERY SINGLE PERSON AROUND YOU WITH THE LONGEST PIECE OF SCOTCH TAPE YOU CAN FIND, because you feel that it provides a certain level of security, is a prime example. As I’ve talked about before, job security is an oxymoron.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with jobs, and frankly, our world would collapse if certain roles weren’t carried out. But from a security standpoint, they really aren’t the cats meow like everyone likes to think. Though, I’m sure the collapse of the economy has helped to shed a little light.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of a middle-aged balding man whose shirt is covered in doughnut grease, and who spells “you’re” like “your” on a regular basis before playing Farmville for 2 hours straight, having full control over whether or not I have a paycheck tomorrow, freaks me the fuck out.

It’s okay if you’re happy in your job–but just don’t be surprised when you lose it.

Because, that’s what happens when you position yourself as a commodity.

The thing with being a commodity in a job market means you’re interchangeable, because you’re serving as one moving part that’s necessary for an operation to function as a whole. Even if you think you’re a goddamn rockstar, I’m sorry to tell you–you’re still relatively interchangeable.

And the problem with being interchangeable, is that–rockstar or not–you can easily be fired and replaced with another up-and-coming rockstar, as an interchangeable commodity, which happens, oftentimes, in the name of cost savings. After all, once you gain more and more experience, you’re naturally going to want more and more money.

But they don’t need you to have more experience, and they certainly don’t want to give you more money for added experience they don’t need; they just need you to fill the role you’ve been assigned, and for less money. So, they’ll gladly replace you if it means keeping their costs down, and things running smoothly.

So now, not only is your security at risk, but you’re also severely limited in terms of your finances, and, more importantly, in terms of your potential.

Now imagine the creative entrepreneur. Hell, even take this blog for example, to drive home a point. Would it ever be the same blog if it weren’t me writing it? No. Impossible. Would any of the copy that I create for clients ever be the same if it weren’t me writing it? No. Impossible. As a result, I’m not an interchangeable commodity.

And as such, it means a few things:

1. No one can fire me.

2. I don’t have to beg anyone for more money.

3. I can command more lucrative fees.

4. I’ve got full creative control over my career + creations.

5. I can go to the gyno whenever the hell I want.

That’s not the extent of it, for sure, but I’d like to keep the conversation going; I don’t want to continue to beat a dead horse, because you’ve heard this stuff before. But what I really want to talk about goes back to my initial question of security.

There’s no such thing as absolute security, so it’s interesting that we plant our feet firmly and quietly declare that a goal. And while we may be able to gain some levels of additional security, it’s always, always going to require a trade-off. Oftentimes, that trade-off ends up costing our happiness. Worse, it could end up costing you your entire life.

Every security-related decision we make is based on a potential gain or loss.

Here’s an interesting experiment for you to gnaw on: Subjects were asked to envision a disease outbreak that’s expected to kill 600 people, and then to choose between two treatment options.
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I am grateful for lust.

For the lust of the game. For the lust of life. For the lust of next year, and the year after.

Because it’s the lust that makes us feel alive.

It’s the lust that fuels our ambitions.

It’s the lust that keeps us moving–even when we aren’t sure we can.
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We all have an untold story begging to be told. But it’s the entrepreneur who figures out how to tell it.
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1. When negotiating, put on your big girl pants and start with your BIG ask. What’s the most important thing you really want out of this? People usually start with their little asks, and then build up to the big one, because they’re scared to death and trying to warm up to it. But, the other side wants you to do that. They’ll happily throw in your little ones, so when you make your big ask—the thing you really wanted (that they don’t want you to have)—it will appear as if you are greedy and demanding. And they will decline under the guise of already having agreed to all of your previous asks. And then you don’t get what you really want—which isn’t the point of negotiating.

3. You’ve just gotta own it. No one’s going to make you do the videos, or write the thing.

5. Go for the easy cash flow first. There are a million reasons why, including the fact that money is a beautiful tool that will help you get traction, but maybe most importantly is the reason that no one ever talks about: Because it will help you feel like everything’s going to be okay. And when you’re in business for yourself, that’s really important.

7. Unsubscribe from your competitors. You might be looking for inspiration but the truth is that this is the fastest way to drive yourself to drink. They’re going to get in your head, because someone will always be better at you at something—even if that thing is irrelevant for your work—and next thing you know, you’re going to be PARALYZED. You’ll hold yourself to a standard that isn’t your own—or even the standard you’re trying to compete on. And worse, you’ll accidentally drown out your own voice. Have the guts to create and do what feels good for YOU.

9. Never ask your family and friends for advice. They are not your target market. They will fuck you up in the head.

11. YOUR WORK NEEDS TO HAVE A POINT. WHAT’S THE POINT? WHAT’S THE THEME? If you do nothing else, focus hard on creating a signature. The right brand gets whispered about; the wrong brand gets ignored; and no brand doesn’t even have the privilege of being ignored.

13. Tell imposter syndrome to suck it. If you’re out there getting your ass kicked, you’ve earned it.

15. You can’t do as much as you think you can. Whatever you’ve got on your to-do list, cut it by 75%. That last 25% is what you’ll get done today, so plan for that. Trust me. This is great productivity advice, despite it sounding like I’m telling you to do less. I’m actually saving you from you from a god damn mental breakdown—which surely wouldn’t be good for your productivity now, would it?

17. Pitching is the most important thing you’ll ever learn in your business. Answer this question: How can I get them to say, “Tell me more?” And then answer it again and again, until you’re at the bottom of the page. Suspense is your friend. This applies to pitching things on paper and pitching yourself in person—including elevator pitches. The thing about a pitch is that you can’t possibly say everything at once, so your goal is to simply get from the first sentence to the second. And then the next. And then the next. …And keep them listening.

19. Standing your ground on principle will be difficult, but worth it. Principle exists less and less, which means that if you have some, you’re ahead of the game. Because even though sometimes it feels optional, eventually it’s the only thing that will matter. The things that once made you hard are the same that will make you soft again. I promise.

21. Specificity holds power. “I’ll turn the ugliest room in your house into a sanctuary for less than $1,000” is more compelling than “I’ll transform your space.”

23. Use people. By that I mean, when that jerky person or business or experience comes into your life, use their presence to show you what you don’t want to be. I’m pretty sure this is what they call “looking on the bright side,” but sometimes that’s hard when you’re dealing with creeps. Still—use the experience to keep narrowing who you want to be, and what you want to stand for, and what you don’t. Then, make it known what you DO stand for.

25. Important skill: Being able to get your head space back, over and over again. This is another thing you’re going to have to do every minute of every day. I’m making this sound like a real joy ride, aren’t I? But these are nothing more than new skills that you have to acquire. (Which is why #4 is so important.)

27. Use Freckle or Freshbooks to track your time every day. Do it manually – not with an automated program. Manually enter in your work, and review it at the end of each day. (Alternatively, keep a Trello list and write down every single thing you do.) You will always feel like you’ve never done enough; like you slacked off; like you barely got anything done, but the truth will be there on paper.
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Nobody knows what a solution is. Do not offer those. Ever.
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I’m about to cry.
I’m about to cry because I am so filthy proud of one of my former copywriting students.

When wrapping up our last conversation on writing take-’em-to-their-knees product descriptions, I left her with a challenge:-

Look around your room.

The first three items you see?

Sell them to me.

The rationale, of course, is that if you can learn to effectively sell the most commonplace items, you can sell anything.

For our purposes we’re talking about selling through words, of course, but this applies to any type of selling.

It’s an excellent exercise–go ahead. Look around your room. What would you say to someone if you had to sell them your used air conditioner? Your old threadbare carpet? That 1920’s record player? A chipped coffee cup?

As always, it’s about taking whatever you’re selling, and creating an emotional experience out of it–one that’s in line with an emotional experience your target audience is seeking to have.

And my student?

Fucking nailed it.

Here’s what she wrote.

(And Google the suggested soundtrack before reading. Does wonders for enhancing the experience, and it’s worth thinking considering how you might replicate that.)

1. Ceiling Fan

{Suggested Soundtrack: One Direction’s “Little Things.”}–
You took your time picking out the perfect house.

The 1967 Italian hardwood floors reminded you of that one summer you both nestled up during a rainstorm underneath a disheveled, little hut off the coast of Venice.

104 hours of seductively smitten, clothing-optional gratification.

You knew immediately he was the one after he whispered I’m completely yours at 4 o’clock in the morning when he thought you were asleep.

You weren’t.

And you smiled because

Instincts matter.

The tiniest details matter.

You haven’t settled yet, so why would you settle for just any run-of-the-mill ceiling fan in your adorably, perfect sanctuary for two?

Our Monte Carlo Centrifico Ceiling Fan is the perfect mix of unmistakably sensible and devilishly spontaneous.

It says I’m here for you + I dare you not to love me.

Because you thought perfection was impossible to find.

Until now.

2. Mirror

{Suggested Soundtrack: Beyonce’s “Run the World”}-
“You look nice” isn’t going to cut it.

Save nice for your grandma’s sweater and that pink ballerina outfit you wore when you were 7.

Now, look yourself in your Seville Glossy Red Mirror and say you’re sorry.

Because no one ever felt smoldering, sexy, or stunning looking nice.

Well, maybe Beyonce.

But you’re not Beyonce.

You’re you and guess what? That’s more than enough.

Because you don’t need to sell out stadiums or make millions to feel like a million bucks.

You just have to strut like you do.

So tell the world who you are.

And let the others have nice.

3. Chest of Drawers

{Suggested Soundtrack: The Wanted’s “I Found You”}
You play it cool in your fitted jeans and cotton tee-shirt. You’re down to earth. Practical. Level-headed. Unassuming.

But your vintage French boudoir knows better.

The secrets those outfits could remember should only be whispered in the strictest of confidence. Secrets that would provoke a loosening of the tie and a flush of candy-apple red.

Introducing Vanguard’s line of Milk Mirrored Dressers.

It’s not the secrets you put in; it’s the ones you’re willing to take out.

And since your guilty pleasures deserve to be treated with the utmost care

From start to storage…

This secret’s on the house.

We’ll leave the rest up to you.

Go ahead.

Peek inside.

What about you?

Do you dare?

Look around your room –

Whatcha got?

Sell me something.

Selling is good for you.
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Luxuriate in the things you haven’t had time to pay attention to. Let yourself get lost in language. Do it right. And make choosing the right words not a task, but a treat.
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The inevitable truth is that you are going to mess up and so mistakes become much more prevalent as we forge ahead and attempt to make sense of everything.
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The last thing you want is for the actual people in your actual life to unsubscribe.
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Apologizing doesn’t have to be agonizing. Instead, focus on delivering concise, conscious, and hand-crafted concessions to get on their good side and handle any hurdle with grace.
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