“The number one rule of success in anything—marketing, football, chess, etc.—is work”
Remember the kid you sat next to in school who always got a better grade than you?
Or the person in the cubicle or bullpen that you worked in who was selling the same product or service you were selling but always made more sales (and much more in commissions) than you were making?
Now it might be true that those folks (or folks like them) who you have encountered (and continue to encounter) in your life are simply more talented or smarter than you are…but probably not.
If you look back and think about those people, is it possible that they are putting in much more time than you are at the task at hand and doing the hard work and research necessary to attain a higher level of excellence?
Taking it one step further, let’s explore why those people who seem to be ”outworking everyone” are not simply the most competitive folks trying to show you up…and why it may be irrelevant when it looks like they are only driven to win at all costs.
I believe that watching those around us who are willing to pay the price of doing the hard work are really the most generous people on the planet (despite some of them being super-competitive jerks).
The key is to “follow their lead” instead of mumbling to yourself how obnoxious they are with all that success they are having…and more times than not, assuming they are not completely in the “jerky” category, they will share their secrets to success with you for the asking.
And even if they never share anything with you verbally, it is usually quite obvious…and you can get more education by what they show you with their actions rather than what they tell you with their words.
I’ve talked about this before as it pertains to becoming a world class copywriter and it is a lesson my friend Bo Eason illustrated in his story about playing against (and with) the greatest football player who ever lived, Jerry Rice.
NOTE: I shared a video of Bo telling that story about the generosity that comes from “outworking everyone” at The Titans of Direct Response event in 2014 during my opening session. ”Outworking everyone” was the first of the “Four Pillars to Becoming Extraordinary” based on the life and times of my mentor Marty Edelston. I want to share that entire presentation with you here since we are talking about that fi rst critical pillar today. Please watch it when you have an opportunity.
There are examples of this generosity everywhere: People showing you how to be great by how they act in the workplace, the football field…anywhere.
And it’s also beneficial to realize how lucky you are to be in a position to work harder than anyone else in something you are passionate about rather than something you feel stuck doing to make a living.
I know that sounds a bit idealistic…but it is a great way to get perspective.
Gary Halbert, one of the greatest copywriters of all time, once said:
“I have suggested that you do one hour’s worth of road work every morning right after you get up for six days a week”
Gary then went on to encourage aspiring copywriters to begin to really put in the hard work:
“I don’t know exactly what I am going to write about today so what I am going to do is just keep putting words down on paper until I start to get some direction”
This wisdom from Halbert reminds me of a story one of my mentors once told me…and one that reminds us to complain less about the things that may not be ideal at the moment and focus more on the things that will create the most joy and impact, long term, for you and those around you.
Adolph Auerbacher, a legend in the magazine business at Meredith Publishing (known for iconic and multimillion circulation titles such as Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies Home Journal) used to handle employee complaints in a unique way.
Knowing that his staff had an incredible opportunity to learn the publishing business from the ground up—and that he hired young, up-and-comers, many of whom aspired to be publishing moguls themselves—he had a hard time with them complaining about “the work.”
Meredith’s offices were located in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper (New York City) where there was always a construction site to view out of some window
When an employee complained about “the work” (i.e. the training to be great one day!), Adolph would walk them to a window where they could view construction workers doing difficult physical labor similar to the kind of work Halbert mentioned; and that led to Adolph reminding them that there might be other career choices available to them.
It was especially effective when it was the dead of winter and it was below freezing outside while it was nice and toasty inside the office.
I am by no means saying that working construction is not a noble profession—it is—but we can learn a lot by watching earnest people doing manual labor to get a different perspective on our work (whatever it might be).
It is one way to focus on the ultimate prize of what we are working towards…and a constant reminder that being the best at anything is not so easy.
And that would include to be the best craftsman at that construction site.
Those construction workers…or the great copywriters like Gary Halbert and Gene Schwartz…or the greatest football player ever, Jerry Rice…are showing us, through their actions, what it takes to be great and the benefits that come with outworking everyone.
Here’s the punch line: Working harder than everyone else is all about generosity and not about showing off.
When you are working harder than everyone else you are teaching and being generous; when you are watching those around you working harder than everyone else, you are learning and benefiting from their generosity.
And even if you (or they) are showing off just a little, the examples we set by striving to be the world’s best is a gift to the world.
Feel free to dismiss this post as simply me preaching about “shut up and work harder”—but I hope you see it as much more than that.
It’s about being painfully aware of what makes those around you (and everyone you observe) great…and to pick up on their generosity to help you be great even if you never meet them or ever say one word to them.
Your heroes are everywhere if you pay close attention…which will make you a hero in your own life, whatever your passion.
P.S. Although I never had any intention of making my book The Advertising Solution a New York Times bestseller, my co-author Craig Simpson and I are very proud of it…and two of the legends mentioned above, Gene Schwartz and Gary Halbert, are profiled in the book along with four other legends of advertising and marketing (John Caples, David Ogilvy, Robert Collier and Claude Hopkins).
The way we promoted the book was mostly through interviews and podcasts…not a great way to sell a ton of books but incredibly satisfying.
While we are mostly “done” with promotion for the book, I never turn down doing an interview or podcast…and I always mention the site to buy the book which includes an incredible swipe file, videos and manuscripts from the legends.
It’s all still available at TheLegendsBook.com for the purchase of a $12 book…and I make no money on those sales.
The latest interview that was just released is with my friend Ilan Ferdman.
Ilan’s mission is about “Having It All.”
And my interview with him was also the first one I’ve done that was broadcast on Facebook Live which was really fun.
Here is a link to that interview if you are interested…we got into some neat topics about specialization and mentorship…and it seemed applicable to today’s post too.
If you listen to it or watch it, let me know what you think.
P.P.S. And speaking of Gene Schwartz…I still have inventory of his masterpiece, Breakthrough Advertising — it’s a must for every library, whether you are a copywriter, marketer…or anyone who wants to present your message to the world more powerfully.
Go to www.BreakthroughAdvertisingBook.com and feel free to share the link with everyone you think should own a copy…which, frankly, is everyone…but I am not objective…
Gene’s other “lost classic,” The Brilliance Breakthrough: How To Talk And Write So People Will Never Forget You, will be available the first week of August…with a special workbook (which delayed the publishing date a bit but it will be worth the wait).
Thanks for your patience.
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