“Rock, let’s put it this way. Now, three years ago you was supernatural. You was hard and you was nasty and you had this cast-iron jaw. But then the worst thing happened to you, that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized.”
A true story from the bad old timely days:
Somewhere in late 2002 or early 2003, I remember reading a newsletter John Carlton wrote explaining the weird phenomenon of freelance copywriters spending years being broke, near homeless, going without food, and worse… to suddenly one day waking up to realize they’ve become so successful they have money stuffed in bank accounts they forgot about. And how at that point, you might have to figure out ways to motivate yourself to get up and have the same work ethic.
I was pretty broke back in them days.
And I remember wondering how true that could be.
I realize he was spot on.
And I was reminded of this again while reading Robert Greene’s magnificent book:
“The 33 Strategies of War”
He talks about how certain very successful and powerful people have had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to get things done when they technically didn’t “have” to, by purposely forcing themselves into do-or-die situations.
Like, for example, Cortés sinking the boats.
But a more relevant one to the business man:
The story about what happened to Fyodor Dostoyevsky (author of Crime & Punishment) who was supposed to be put to death for wrong think (literal “cancel” culture back then…) Like a lot of writers, he was slow, procrastinated, would spend a whole day on three pages, etc. And while he was hooded and waiting execution he made a promise to God if he got out of this mess, he’d never waste his life or time again.
And as if God was listening… his execution was stayed at the last second.
Instead they slapped a 10 lb iron on him and put him in a forced labor camp.
He labored there for something like 5 or 6 years.
And during that time he was not allowed to write.
Except in his head.
He “wrote” and memorized entire novels and stories during that time.
When he was released, and had to do a year in the military they let him write and he wrote his arse off. When he got out of there, he became obsessed with writing. All the time. Every spare second, of every day and night. Friends would even see him walking around town reciting dialogue and plots to himself, and thought he was a bit nutty.
But he wasn’t nutty.
He was just driven — he was not going to squander his freedom.
Inevitably, all that prolific writing made him immensely successful.
So successful, he felt his passion for writing going away.
Suddenly it was easier to sleep in, take a day off, not write as much, etc.
He put himself on what Robert Greene calls “the Death Ground.” In this case… he gambled all his money away and became destitute, which forced him to have to dive back into writing, with a fiery passion, just to eat and have a roof over his head.
It’s an extremely powerful story.
And, I can tell you, I’ve been in two such situations.
The first time happened when Email Players became successful.
I literally had that elusive 10-minute workday.
i.e., get up, write some words, done for the day, with a house paid in full, no debt, daily beach walks with my dog, lots of time golfing, wine tasting with my dad, hanging out, road trips, speaking at events all over hell and gone… no real worries or motivation but to do the bare minimum.
But then I decided to be a grown up.
And I knew my business was on very shaky ground.
(Only one real offer, one merchant account, very stupid)
So I did something very radical that was my own kind of Death Ground. And during that first Death Ground, my business almost (literally) doubled in sales, I wrote/launched/created all the copy and emails for more offers than I can remember in a short 8 or 9 month period.
Then, I got lazy again.
And so I found another Death Ground.
And in that time I did even more in sales, etc than the first time.
This Death Ground talk ain’t no fluke.
The key is to figure out what your “Death Ground” is and… what it isn’t.
I sure as hades wasn’t going to gamble anything away.
And the second time, Willis was on the way so I couldn’t do anything too nutty.
But my own Death Grounds I did find.
And it can give you an almost supernatural-like sense of motivation.
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