Who decides?

A quick check-in from my bike trip (pictures below). We're riding from Mysore all the way up along the coast to Bombay over the next few days, where we'll meet Phoebe who has taken a plane. It's one of the last experiences I'll get here before we leave India, so I'm enjoying every second of it, despite getting plenty drenched by the monsoon. (And trying to get the hotel to iron dry my jeans is a challenge. They're now completely without wrinkles, but not all that dry. And forget about the shoes. Dry socks into wet shoes sounds nice, anyone?)

I wanted to share a story about the importance of taking home your authority over your life and business. Something that I for one have had to learn over and over again.

When I created my first software product, PublicSquare, I was so enamored by 37signals, I tried to emulate them in every way, from partnering with a designer who was well connected to the US tech ecosystem, to the look & feel of the user interface.

It probably doesn't surprise anyone that it didn't work out so well.

Later, when I got into info-marketing, I tried to study all the teachers I saw there. I immediately discovered that Dan Kennedy seemed to be the guy teaching all the other guys, so i "swam upstream" and hooked up with his stuff. He's an interesting character. He's not that old, in his 50s, I think, but he looks so much older. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Anyway, I went to his events, and bought the biggest package he had - called "The Whole Enchilada". Every info-product he has available, in one big package. I forget the exact price, but I think it was around $16,000.

I still remember the day it arrived. The mailman showed up with 3 big boxes full of manuals and CDs and DVDs. All this stuff. It was both exhilarating, terrifying, and slightly embarrassing. Exhilarating because there was all this good stuff buried inside her. Terrifying because it was a lot of money to spend, and what if it's not worth it. Embarrassing because ... well, there goes that authority thing again: What would people think of me?

I devoured it, studied his every word. I even started to speak like Dan Kennedy, to crack his kind of jokes. And I did learn a ton. But I also managed to sidestep my own judgment in the process. There are so many things that Dan Kennedy teaches that I strongly disagree with. His level of consciousness, for one. His view on employees, for another. That doesn't mean there aren't things I can learn, it just means there's a few things Dan could learn from me, too. And that's how it should be, of course.

Today, all those manuals and DVDs are mostly collecting dust in my Dad's attic. I ripped all of the DVDs and CDs and have them with me on a hard drive, and I listen to some of it sometimes (his "Personality in copy" presentation is absolutely fabulous), but mostly I'm done with Dan.

When zenbilling really started to happen for me was when I really grew into my own. I found my own style in designing and creating software. I found my own style in servicing my customers. I found my own style in marketing.

The things I've learned are now internalized, and I can focus on asking myself how I want to do things. What's my take on a mailing list system or a landing page? What's my take on how to interact with and support customers? What's my take on marketing?

There are no rules in this game. If you're following other people's rules, then you're not creating your own thing. Learn from others, yes, but always ask yourself, what's your take on it?

Now, the trick here is to not delude yourself. You will run into situations where "this is not my style" is just another way of saying "I'm afraid of doing this, and I'd rather stay stuck than face my fear".

That's when you need a good coach, a good mirror, who can lovingly see through your bullshit, and see the fear or emotion that's lurking underneath. No shame, though. We all bullshit ourselves. It's part of being human.

But slavishly following other people's formulas is tantamount to saying "I don't have it in me to find my own answers". And that, my friend, is the biggest bullshit lie of all.

Because you do. You've just forgotten.

Love, -Calvin

PS. A few photos from my bike trip. Yesterday we were off to a late start (4pm) but still managed to drive the 250km  from Mysore to Mangalore on the coast. Today we'll try and reach Goa. It should be about 400km in around 12 hours. So we better get going.

First up, we met a snake on the road. Hello, snake!!

Before that, we saw this beautiful mountain fog in Madikeri:

Then, after we'd been riding on really bad roads (like, really bad, like I don't know how you'd even go about making roads that bad, even if you tried, hard), our tires had lost a lot of pressure. Thankfully, this tiny restaurant knew how to restore it.



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