Read, Apply, Experience Success & Repeat.
Life Lesson: When you diligently implement “best practices” and “success principles” you will win.
**This article was written by the U.S. Small Business Administration Entrepreneur of the Year, Clay Clark. Clay works as a Las Vegas Motivational Speaker, Author and Business Consultant throughout the country.
And so it was from this tiny condo (that I once considered to be a luxury resort) that we started rocking. I worked every holiday. I flew home early from Thanksgiving to put out some DJ fires. I trained all of my DJs from here, and I brought the equipment upstairs and taught the recruits how to become a great DJ from within our living room. It was during our time living at this condominium that we bought “the DJ trailer.” At that point and time, we really needed a trailer; and for some reason, I got caught up in the romantic and fairytale idea of buying the trailer while we were visiting Vanessa’s parents on our family vacation to Kentucky. This idea soon mutated in to a crazy plan to buy the trailer from Amish aluminum-trailer builders that lived in Nappanee, Indiana, which is located within a few hours of my wife’s parents. Looking back on it, I would never ever buy a new trailer (unless it was in foreclosure or something) again. I spent way too much money on this beautiful trailer that quickly got dented and banged. Then I overpaid for artist friends of one of our best DJs to paint the trailer and to turn it in to a viable moving billboard. To make sure that there could be absolutely no miscommunications, I even drew up a full-color 3-D rendering of the van and trailer so that painters would know exactly how the vans were supposed to look when they returned them to me.
However, after having already paid them the majority of the money up front (which was a stupid thing to do on my part), what they returned to me (two days later than they promised) was a ghetto-riffic-looking trailer and a puke-green-dark-colored-mobile piece-of-urban-half-ass-graffiti-art-that-screamed-figuratively, “DO NOT BOOK ME BECA– USE I AM A HOMELESS DRUG-ADDICTED-DJ.” This van and trailer combo was not commercially viable in any way. It was horrible at best, and it was nauseating to say the least. That trailer looked artistically gross and commercially out of place. Oh man, thinking about the $7,000 I spent on that trailer to buy it new and have it painted makes me want to throw up in my mouth while I type this, so I will move on. I really need to get over this before the inner hate that I feel every time I think about this turns me in to Darth Vader.
But it gets better. They also painted my beautiful 1998 Astro van with more of this Yoda-graffiti inspired artwork funk. I seriously felt like I was driving around a piece of Compton’s culture every time I drove the vehicle anywhere. Every time people saw it, they would say, “Holy crap, what happened to your van, Clayvis?” Anyway . . . moving on . . . during our time living at this condo, I was forced to stay up almost two days in a row to move my DJ equipment into a new storage because my hired help did not show up. It was from this condo that Vanessa, the DJ team, and I broke through the $100,000 gross sales mark.
It was during this incredible time of growth that I met every client at Panera Bread (formerly St. Louis Bread Company) on 71st and Lewis. Shelly was the manager of this beautiful restaurant, and Fareed Hussein was the Panera Bread employee that always went out of his way to make me feel appreciated. He was great to me. He always said, “Hey, Clayvis, what is going on? How’s business?” and the whole Panera staff went out of their way to treat me with respect. I seriously was there six out of seven nights per week every week for three years. I always bought something so that our relationship would always be a mutually beneficial one, and I always had a good reason for meeting customers there as opposed to meeting at “our office.”
Obviously the real reason that I didn’t want to meet people at my office was because I did not have one. I was trying to save up to afford one, but I just went with the code language, “We are in the process of creating new office space.” And finally, it was during this time that I first met Josh Smith and Willi Kopp. DJ Willi heard of me as a result of the Debbie-Blossom-written Tulsa World article, and Josh heard of me through our mutual friend Chris Montag. More than any material acquisition or material gain that we realized during this time, meeting and training DJ Josh Smith and DJ Willi was the best thing that we did. As I began interviewing more and more people and booking more and more shows from there, my FAITH in the “DJ Connection Magnificent Obsession” and my abilities continued to soar. And I became emboldened, so I finally told Jeremy Thorn that I really needed to talk to him. This time I determined that I was not going to be weak about it. I was going to tell him that I was going to leave Impact, and I was going to drop out of school immediately or as soon as possible. I told Thorn that I had to do this DJ thing based on what I was reading in Think and Grow Rich, which ironically he had required me to read.
When I finally met with Thorn upstairs at Impact on one of the production couches, Thorn was super supportive and sincerely interested in me and my success. I could not believe it; he really wanted me to do well whether I was at Faith Highway or not. And after much talking on those green production couches, I had his blessing to leave Faith Highway. HIS BLESSING AND SUPPORT MEANT MORE TO ME THAN I THINK HE KNEW AT THE TIME, and we are still friends today. I remember returning home to my wife, Vanessa, after quitting school and after having put in my two-week notice at Impact, lying on our futon and looking up at ceiling of the condo thinking, YES! I have arrived! I’m no longer in school! I no longer work for anyone else! Holy crap, I am scared.
As odd as it sounds, I quit school to begin learning at an accelerated rate. Napoleon Hill preaches on the importance of ongoing and never-ending pursuit of knowledge; however, I was no longer going to be patient enough to learn a skill over a four-year period. Now I would teach myself how to edit videos in twenty hours; I would learn how use Adobetm Photoshop functionally through a series of all-nighter learning sessions. I no longer was going to sit around and wait for the next class session to learn new material. Now my books were my professors, and the customers were going to be the ones grading me. If I scored high, I would get paid well. If I scored low, I would not get paid. In my mind I had graduated to a new and better understanding of learning. I had graduated from studying the theoretical, and I was now ready to study practical things only.
The syllabus that I made for myself focused primarily on STUDYING THE RICH, AND THEN DOING WHAT THEY DID, and AN ENDLESS CYCLE OF READING AND VIGOROUSLY APPLYING ANY NEW KNOWLEDGE. I soon found that this form of learning was meant for me. I felt as though I had arrived intellectually . . . I was now an “entrepreneur.”
During my first years enrolled in the school of “Study the rich, and do what they do. Then read, learn, and apply,” I learned much from my book-form professors: Napoleon Hill, Robert Kiyosaki, Thomas J. Stanley, PhD., William D. Danko, PhD., Jay Conrad Levinson, the late John Rockefeller, Herb Kelleher, Chester Cadieux, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sam Walton, and countless other entrepreneurs. I have never quit reading, but these early books really did shape my thinking, ambition, and daily motivation.
My curriculum during my first few years of entrepreneurship consisted of reading:
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell
In the Words of Great Business Leaders – Julie M. Fenster
Guerilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson
Hip Hop America – Nelson George
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Sam Walton: Made in America – Sam Walton with John Huey
The No Spin Zone – Bill O’Reilly
Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing – Robert Kiyosaki
The Greatest Salesman in the World – Og Madino
The $100,000 Club: How to Make a Six-Figure Income – D.A. Benton
The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve – G. Edward Griffin
The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons – Napoleon Hill
The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
Throughout my super-intense, self-directed entrepreneurship education course, I have failed time and time again, and I am still standing. However, it must be stated that my rate of learning never exponentially increased until began working for myself
If you are an entrepreneur reading this, and you feel like you should apprentice for someone who can teach you the skills you need, I strongly encourage you to do it! If you know what you want to do, go and do it starting now. Now, obviously, if your goal is to be a doctor, you will need formal education. But I am telling you this, if you have a backup plan, you will spend your whole life unintentionally implementing your backup plan (while your major goals and dreams begin to wilt away).
According to Napoleon Hill, 95 percent of us will never find our life’s passion because we are told from a young age to pursue the path of least resistance. This path is filled with the lure of guaranteed benefits and a struggle-free work environment. And so if you take this path, you will end up where 95 percent end up (on a path that does not allow you to follow your dreams). When you were a kid, you dreamed about being a singer, a fireman, a baseball player, an army guy, a __________(you fill in the blank). Very few of us grew up dreaming about working at a job that offered guaranteed benefits. Could you imagine the first-grade conversations if you did?
“Hey Larry, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Larry responds, “Well, when I grow up, I want to make around the national average, and I would like to have a car payment that I won’t be able to pay off before my car dies. I would like to live in an average house, and I would love to have a job that I am not passionate about because it pays benefits! Oh, and I am really excited about exchanging the majority of my waking hours (five-sevenths of each week) for a paycheck. I think that this sounds like the job for me.”
My friends, resistance builds strength. Resistance training with weights builds big muscles. Resistance training in business builds tenacity, focus, and great business plans. You must decide today that you will not pursue the path of least resistance; you must pursue your passions. Thank you, Napoleon Hill, for teaching me this.
From the time I made the commitment to become self-employed, it has been a wild roller coaster ride, but I have learned a lot and earned a lot. Sure, I have had my share of upset clients, near-death and near-financial-death moments, stress, and enormous amounts of frustration. But I have felt the thrill of achievement on more than one occasion. I remember waking up those first few days of full-time self-employment at 7:00 a.m. and thinking, This is the best.
I also remember going to bed thinking, I wish the days were longer because I have so much I want to do. I am excited about life and the unbelievable opportunities that our existence on Earth and in the country of the United States of America presents us with.
Each morning that I woke up, I would put on my blue shirt (anyone who knows me, knows that I always wear blue shirts), a tie, and some khaki pants in preparation to assume the “dial and smile” position. I would then spend the better part of the pre-work day frantically updating training manuals, typing confirmations from the previous night’s bookings (using the Microsofttm Paint program as my database software of choice . . . I know it sounds disturbing, but it was cheap and effective); and then I would do the office work. Precisely at 10:00 a.m. I would hop on the phone. Now in those days, it was a little odd because hopping on the phone meant calling people who had no reason to want to hear from me. I pretty much cold-called as many people as I could every day to pay the bills, frantically searching for my next paycheck. Man, I loved it and hated it. The stress and the thrill combined to make a fabulous blend, like ordering a sugar-free drink at Starbuck’stm and then adding a creamy topping to it with chocolate syrup and chocolate chunks.
Honestly, my friend, during this time I would call everybody. My philosophy was that “IT’S JUST A NUMBERS GAME.” I HAD A GREAT SERVICE, AND I JUST NEEDED TO CONNECT WITH THE RIGHT PERSON. EVERY NO I RECEIVED WAS JUST GETTING ME CLOSER TO THAT ONE YES. If there was a bridal tradeshow opportunity, I was in it; and if there was a company in the phone book, I called them. I actually called every single apartment complex in Tulsa because I knew that one of them was going to need some entertainment for their next resident-appreciation event. And sure enough, I landed a deal with the Wimbledon apartments to DJ for $225—this came after I heard at least fifty direct no’s.
I put Napoleon Hill’s philosophy of “over delivery” to the test every day. If you called me, YOU WERE IN FOR AN EXPERIENCE. If making the DJ Connection viable meant making my voice hoarse in the process, I would have done it, and on many occasions, I did lose my voice after a day of calling. I would bring so much alacrity and power to the phone that many people couldn’t resist booking me. Seriously, I was bringing the fire during each phone call like T.D. Jakes does on Sunday mornings. Every day I focused on STAYING ACTIVE and MAKING 100 CALLS. Over the years I have seen many businesses fail because their owner was not willing to hit the phones, pound the pavement, and hit the streets to get the word out. My entrepreneurial friends, the cruel reality a young entrepreneur faces is that no one cares whether you succeed other than you. Thus, I brought the HUMOR, the PASSION, and the DETERMINATION to the phone on every call. It was the “Passion of the Clay” on that phone. I called that phone the “money line” because every time it rang, it brought me money and new clients.
At this time, DJ Connection offered three different packages: the Solid Gold, the Platinum, and the Double Platinum package. Each package had a masculine name although I was selling my products to women. I gave my products a masculine name because I was not smart enough to market my products to my customers who were nearly all women; I was designing products that could be marketed to myself. If I could have, I would have named my package the Light Saber package because I was a dude, and that is what I was into. Looking back on it, I realize that this is so ridiculous, but it is so true. That is why most disk jockeys that compete with us are dressed like morons and have tattoos on their forearms. They are marketing themselves to appeal to themselves, not to the consumer.
What if Michael Jordan would have had this philosophy? Think about this for a second. Is NBA legend Michael Jordan more marketable or less marketable than Allen Iverson and his thirty tattoos, cornrows, bling, sagging pants, inarticulate speech, baseless opinions, and bad attitude? Of course, Michael Jordan is more marketable. If you are an entrepreneur, you must not dress and act like an idiot because people judge you based on your appearance. So why would you want to discriminate against yourself? People watch and judge in business just like guys and girls watch and judge people at the mall. Right or wrong, people judge you based on the image that you present. So for all that is good and holy, don’t name your packages marketed to women after metals and things that guys like. Mentally marinate on this while asking yourself this hard question. Do I portray the right level of professionalism that I want to communicate to the world through my appearance, my website, my language, my packaging etc.?
And so I went on marketing myself without ever taking the time to think about what I was communicating. I woke up at 7:00 a.m., did my paperwork until 10:00 a.m., then I made my calls until I got enough bookings to feed myself while the Tony Bruno and Mark Weddell sports talk radio programs played in the background. And then it occurred to me like a vision: I needed to go and meet with Lori Montag. She started and owns one of the most successful wedding businesses in town, and she will know what I need to know in order to grow my business.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison
Help give this chapter more meaning than political debates by answering the following self-spelunking (self-exploring) questions:
Most self-employed people start out working alone. Are you okay with the idea of working alone until you can build your team?
Are you afraid of cold calling? (If you are, get over it; people can’t kill you through the phone.)
Write down the daily activities that you can begin doing tomorrow to create your own life momentum. (If you cannot, you must learn how starting today. Learn to encourage yourself.)
Create a regimented schedule that will get you closer to achieving your goals each day, and then force yourself to adhere to it.
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