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My Phoenix Rises from the Smoldering Ashes of a Love Letter

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As I get involved with more projects aka “butterflies” I’ve found that I’ve gotten further from my roots. First and foremost I am a writer (okay an inventor, product developer, and creative marketer, too, but a writer first). I’ve written everything from resumes to business letters to newsletters to marketing and technical white papers to instruction manuals to direct mail letters and web content (even a movie script).

Just recently I wrote a love letter that fell on a deaf heart. At first I was crushed and felt as if I had lost some direction in my life. But reflecting on that loss I had an epiphany that everything would be just fine – it’s not the right time for me to travel in that direction…and with someone who doesn’t share the same vision with me anymore. And within that introspection I found clarity of purpose for both my personal and business lives.

So why am I letting you inside my personal love life and what could it possibly have to do with my Dummy’s blog? Everything my friends. We don’t have inspirational, a-ha, or life changing moments in a vacuum. We learn from our various lives, our heart, and our gut and move forward wiser and happier and wealthier (yes, one is hopeful). It’s give and take. So sometimes life and those in our life let us know when our direction is right – or just the opposite – when it’s not and when it’s time to say goodbye as it was in my case. This holds true in business as well because at some point we may need to evaluate what’s best for us and our business – after all it is a relationship, too.

I just finished reading a blog post written by John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing. In his post, he describes my recent processing – you need clarity of purpose to really be successful in business and to enjoy your life. Clarity of purpose helps define you, your role with your business, and your business. That got me thinking: if you can’t delineate what it is that you’re doing for yourself and for others clearly – and understand the need or want for what you’re offering – then why are you doing it in the first place?

As I mentioned earlier a business is more than just an idea it’s a relationship…with a beginning, middle, and an end (sometimes). And just as with any relationship, to be successful you need to accept that it’s a living process that needs constant nurturing and food for thought to help you maintain that clarity of purpose. I’ve found through my years that introspection is a powerful tool to bring to the table when you’re evaluating your business for yourself and its intended purpose. How many times lately have you held on to an idea or belief or hunch that what you’re doing is absolutely right – yet little or no fruits from your labor seem to be blossoming? How many red flags have you been missing or avoiding or refusing to acknowledge because this is the way you’ve always operated your business?

Am I saying that the clarity you have right now couldn’t be right about your idea or business? Nope. I’ve read that Colonel Sanders tried selling his chicken seasoning recipe 1,009 times over a two year period driving across the U.S before he had his first sale. So it’s quite possible your idea or business is right on. But keep in mind that Colonel Sanders must have had a total clarity of purpose to do what he did and he was driven – maybe being broke helped.

But what if you’re not sure that you have that kind of clarity for your own business or business idea? What can you do to give yourself a swift kick in the parts and a help you get a clearer vision of what you’re doing and why? Here’s some food for thought to get you started:

Consider asking yourself why you’re approaching your idea as a business for yourself or for someone else – does it make sense in the form that you’re imagining? Does it make sense at all? How do you know? Or even more importantly for a going concern: does it make sense to continue your business in its current operating environment – retail, wholesale, online only, etc? For example, Qualcomm stopped making cell phones and started licensing their technology to companies whose core business was making phones. Can I repackage my idea, product, or service as something else? Is this really a brick and mortar business? Would digitizing it work perhaps as a web application instead of something more labor intensive? Would someone else be better suited to running my business? Can I lease or sell or insert my business, idea, product, or service into someone else’s idea, product, service or business? Should I consider getting outside help – physical or consultative? Have I already been down this road before? Should I close up shop or expand? What do I do best and what do I really have to offer and is it worth it to any of us?

If you’re sitting alone – trying to go it alone – or you feel alone answering these types of questions probably the best thing you can do is visit and participate in discussions on blogs and join Meetup groups. Thousands of blogs and Meetups are out there that you can explore. Talk to friends and family for other points of view. I think you’ll find as I have that someone else has been down your road before. Pick their brains because knowledge and wisdom is out there for those willing to ask for it. When I first started my publishing company I did it all by myself. Research. Writing. Binding. Pitching. It was a lot of work. But one day I just knew that if I didn’t get help nothing was going to happen. So I reached out to my friend in the publishing business and asked for help. You know the rest of the For Dummies® story.

I’m not saying that it’s an easy process. I sure as hell am not 100%…but who is anyway. Look, you don’t have to have to wait for a heartbreak like mine to have your Phoenix rise as mine did. Get clarity, keep it simple, and then move forward with conviction and with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s a safe bet that you can recover from those eventual stumbles and blind corners a bit faster and with more confidence.

It’s working for me – I’m writing again – and loving it.

Your turn.

© 2012 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

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What the Rubba Dub Dubya-T-F!

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Although I rarely if ever swear, I often use acronyms to provide certain color to what I have to say. Sure, more descriptive words abound. But some words and phrases are so universal and their meaning so well understood, it just made sense for me to push forward and put ink to blog.

So in this case I decided to use a favorite wordnunciation of our former Mangler-in-Speak, GWB (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to actually use his name. But I’m sure that you’ll recognize the word “Dubya” as in “W”, yes?).

Now you know who I’m talking about. And now you know what the title of this post means.

Hooyah!

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved.

Mi Vida Dummy Zero™

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Sometimes it’s not easy hearing every atom in your body screaming to be an entrepreneur. It can also be draining trying to handle the constant flow of thoughts and ideas and interconnections coming at you day and night, even when you sleep.

This morning I woke up and wondered if I make sense? Where is all this creative chum getting me? It’s frustrating as hell that I haven’t been invited to another Dummies party yet.

If you’re an entrepreneur like me sometimes you have moments – or days – when you wonder when the “big” payoff is coming. That payoff might me a vacation, some extra cash, recognition, or if you’re thinking Gates-like – retirement!

Don’t give up! Just understand that it’s part of who you are. So take a well-deserved break. Have your primal scream or pint of Ben and Jerry’s or go bowling. Whatever you need just go do it. Then get back to your dream. Trust me, it will all be worth it when your “baby’s” born.

And as for me…aaaaaarghhh…it’s going to be a crunchy day.

Time for lunch. Maybe a nice Marionberry protein shake. Yum.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

The True Story Behind the “For Dummies®” Books Success Story

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I’ve always been an avid reader, tinkerer, and a serial entrepreneur.

One of my first ventures was a mobile marine hardware business catering to the bait boats and sport fishing boats in San Diego. My partners and I lasted about three months before our money ran out and we couldn’t get financing. We managed to liquidate our business and still keep our shirts on. Even so, I continued to try out my ideas. I started a small delivery service called “Two Men Will Shop for You”. I brought in a partner to help with the shopping. We had no budget and no real business plan. Finally, we landed our first customer. But the logistics of shopping for someone’s groceries without much help from the supermarkets was daunting. The business ended as a big flop.

Even though I had regular jobs, I could never shake this entrepreneurial bent. I’d keep a log of ideas and thoughts. Many were oriented around words, text, screenplays, or book ideas, often combined with design ideas. Others were machines or improvements on already-existing products that needed “help” to be what they should’ve been in the first place. I learned to keep a pencil and paper handy next to the bed because I’d wake up in the middle of the night with some fantastic idea that I just know must not be forgotten. So I spent lots of time either solving a problem by creating something new or making improvements to what had already been created. Sometimes it seemed as if there were no rhyme or reason to my scribblings. But I’d write them down anyway.

So here I was with these piles of notes and ideas wondering what it all meant. Maybe I could write a book and get it published. Of course, that meant another trip to the book store looking for some reference material to help me out. That’s when I discovered a self-publishing manual by Dan Poynter. He outlined the whole process for me – perfect! I bought the book and followed his instructions as much as I could and formed my own publishing company. Brookes-Redhouse Publishing was born right there at my kitchen table.

This article is all about  how I created the For Dummies® book concept — the concept, which according to published reports has sold over 200 million books in 30 languages and spawned a new generation of fun, readable, interesting books. The first Dummies book was “DOS for Dummies®” which made perfect sense because DOS was still a viable operating system.  And alliteration has my name all over it.

So I decided to write my first book about how to save money by building your own computers. Yes, I was a nerd at heart (and still am). Part of the research I was doing for the book involved the use of DOS, the operating system at the time. So I haunted my local bookstores for nearly an entire year trying to find some book or resource to help me understand DOS and help me use it efficiently. Needless to say, I became very frustrated with most of the book offerings. All I could find were pamphlet-like books with sophomoric information or monolithic engineering beasts with 200 word run-on sentences. It seemed that nothing was out there that was interesting to read and informative enough to act on. I also talked to hundreds of book and software shoppers about books they were buying or considering. What an earful!

It’s been said that sometimes the best ideas show up when you least expect them. That definitely rang true for me. My car had been having problems all week shifting into gear. And I didn’t have any money to take it to a shop. So I pulled out my trusty how-to car repair manual. I remember the dread setting over me as I figured out what was wrong and opened the manual to find out what to do next. And right there, staring boldy at me from the pages of this book was the author sitting in his garage surrounded by VW parts.  He had just torn apart his car and it looked as if he were sitting in a sea of nuts, bands, and bolts. He was scratching his head and smoking a joint. That’s when the idea for the Dummies concept flashed me the full monty.

And this is where the real For Dummies® book story really begins…sitting next to my car with grease under my fingernails and a clutch cable in my hand…