The Business Of Writing

(Be fore warned – this is an informational article wrapped in a rant.  So don’t say: I didn’t warn you)

As we sit here today (today being the day after Memorial Day) I felt compelled to state a few insights that I’ve learned over the last few years. Some of you might agree. Others, not so much. Whether you agree or disagree is always entirely up too you. However – there is one caveat which can’t be pooh-poohed away as so many like to do. And that caveat is this: Others talk, write, or speak about what others do. I do – then speak, write, or explain how I did it, and give insights as to how you can to via those experiences.

If you don’t believe there’s a monstrous chasm between those two – then you should stop reading right here. For there’s nothing else I can say, or do, that would be worthwhile for your attention. And quite honestly, we’d both be better off for it.

Some of you have been with me (e.g., reading this blog) for years. Others are new as in days, weeks, or months. And some have been since the very beginning in ’09. As I’ve always tried to make you aware – No one, and I do mean that sincerely, no one appreciates your decision to read even one word of my thoughts more than I do. And I do not take it for granted. Never have – never will.

So with that said, I want to share a few things which both myself and StreetCry™ are quite proud. If you’ve noticed we made a slight change to one of the images on the front page of the site. We changed the graphic from “Read in over 100 Countries” to “Now Read in over 165.” I’ve had people ask me questions like “What? Are you counting every bot or spamming known country also?” As to try to diminish the achievement no matter what it may be at the time. Or said differently – There’s always someone who wants to pee in your pool. Regardless. It’s just the way of the world.

Sometimes as I’ve shared many times “It’s a fair point.” depending on the sincerity of the question. But there are others when you instinctively know the difference. So when I reply “Well…which countries are the biggest culprits?” I usually get a blank stare or a “Well…ah…um….” in which case I say, “No problem, take 10% off the top, that would surely cover it, but since you asked and it seems a concern for you – make it 20, or better yet, make it 50%. Cut it right in half. That would put me somewhere in the neighborhood of over 50 countries  where people are actively coming to my site either to read, or find out more about me. How many people are actively searching for you – daily?” Response? “Well…ah…um….” (and that’s when it was at 100+, now it’s 165+)

I say this not to be arrogant or trying to make some brouhaha about readership. However, what I am trying to impress upon you is this: Know your numbers, know your metrics, measure what’s important to both yourself and your customers – and let the critics and holier-than-thou’s steep in their own juices. Period. And when you know someone’s trying to “make a show” of their intellectual superiority at your expense – shove it right back at them. Be unapologetic about it also. For they’re more or less just trying to swat you for their own ineptitude or flailing results. They don’t give a rats arse about what you think – only how they can possibly upstage you, or insult you. Have none of it. Again – Period.

Back in ’09 when I first began putting my thoughts to digital paper, just like anyone else, I had no idea if anyone would ever read a word. Yet, I had another problem much worse than most – I can barely spell cat without a spell checker. And when it comes to punctuation and grammatical errors? Let’s just say if there was a literal literary prison for my violations? I would surely have been sentenced to life with no chances of parole. I’m not proud of that fact (and have openly stated, as well as, explained it many times) however, I’ve been honest and open about it for the sheer fact that if people are going to pay me as to find out how they might achieve results? I had better be ready to show my own accomplishments along with my failings – warts and all. Which by the way is the antithesis of what most do. Trust me, I know.

However, I, too this day – try to be better. Every single day. I don’t say “Well it’s the best that I can do and that’s that.” No, it is the best that I can do today, but I try harder to be better tomorrow. I search out ways to be better, everyday. I read others and look for clues. Or, search out tricks as to maybe help. Sometimes it helps, sometimes, not so much. But I try.

And that makes the difference between winning and losing more than 90% of the time. Just the sheer act of searching out and trying to improve oneself even by small steps – regardless of the endeavor – puts you ahead of most because the most they’ll ever do is wish, and hope, and complain about how the odds are stacked against them. And most will quit before the real game ever begins.

So with that said, yes, today as well as yesterday was the best that I could do, and that’s that.” But (and it’s a very big but) I put it out to the world signed with my name at the bottom where I stand behind every word that I write. They’re mine, the ideas are mine, the insight is mine, and what you do with it is up to you. I can’t give, nor ask for more.

I would now assume a few of you are thinking, “OK, so what started this post (or rant) to begin with?” Fair question, and It was this…

Early Monday morning (Monday being the holiday) I came into my office bouncing with delight for I have been working on quite a few projects simultaneously and was finally starting to feel I was making headway. (announcements will be forthcoming soon) And so, I decided this day I would open the emails which come into the site. (as some know I usually don’t V.V. at StreetCry does) when I was greeted by the following…

First there were confirmations on people who had recently signed up as subscribers (which I would like to say thank you to all) and more. And then about the third email in I came across the following to the question: How can we help you? To wit:

“I’ve been reading your essays off and on for some time, but less and less frequently. Your grammar and punctuation are so poor that it makes the experience of reading your writings very frustrating.

May I suggest that you either hire a professional editor or take a crash course in writing with emphasis on grammar and punctuation. Doing so will not only make your message clearer but also allow you to rise above the herd of other similarly poorly disciplined or poorly educated financial writers.”

Now one may think at first blush, “Well… they’re just trying to help you. After all, even you know of your challenges.” That would be a fair point, and in some ways, I can agree. But it’s the last part, of the last line (e.g., “…the herd of other similarly poorly disciplined or poorly educated financial writers.”” where it’s obvious – this is meant as an intentional slight, as in: unsolicited feedback as to make themselves feel superior at your expense.

I’m here to tell you, I’ve dealt my whole life with people like this – and they aren’t worth the breath you’ll use to try to convince them otherwise. Far too many people I have deduced shake in their boots the minute someone questions either their abilities or credentials. And with that they end up leading a sullen life of hampered or reined in expectations for their own self-worth.

They’ll dream big, but do nothing to accomplish for fear of criticism from people such as the one who sent me his thoughts. Again: this wasn’t done for my benefit – it was done for theirs. i.e., throw an insult out wrapped in “Oh I’m just trying to be instructive.” Sure you are.. thanks…and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” That’s me just trying to be “instructive” in return.

Because here’s where his argument falls apart: Are you here for my punctuation and grammatical skills? Or, are you here to find ideas you can’t find anywhere else that you can put to work immediately to either improve your business or personal metrics as to leapfrog ahead of them? Because: most if not all of the people who either read my work, or pay to have me speak (and as I’ve iterated – I’m not cheap) do it for the latter.

All they are concerned about is whether or not the ideas I express can either move the decimal point further to the right, add an additional comma to their bank statements, or help them achieve results they didn’t at first know how to go about. As far as the punctuation or grammatical errors that maybe contained within to elicit those ideas? They are inconsequential. And I’ve had that expressed to me, in person, as well as, via other methods far more than once. And if that wasn’t the case – I wouldn’t need to even be expressing this to begin with.

Let me share a little back story here as to possibly help fill in a few details as to show you why (or even have the audacity) to even write what I do, or how I do it.

As some of you know back a few years ago Seth Godin started an online sales/business e-magazine called UpMarket™. A calling for writers was made public and people from around the world were asked to send in submissions to be a charter weekly contributor. The slots were limited. I knew nobody, barely had any readers, but followed one of Seth’s own motto’s of “pick yourself” and sent a submission – and got picked. Who knows how many others sent in the same that were either schooled writers or actual free-lancers. For Seth as many of you know is not only well-known and followed in the writers circuit if not more, than the entrepreneurial circuit alone.

When it came time for my first submission I had a conversation with my editor (and yes, there was even an executive editor!) where I expressed my weakness when it came to punctuation and grammatical skills. What I told her was this, “I’ve tried using writing programs such as Word® and Pages® however, what happens is I spend what seems hours making corrections that either don’t feel right or just seem wrong. And in the end – I don’t know either way. So what I do now is just write how I think or speak, use the built-in spellchecker in WordPress™, and if it passes there I’ve done all I can do. I’ll never forget her response, “No problem. If I have an issue, I’ll tell you. If not – don’t worry about it.” And that was that. She never asked me for a rewrite and ran my articles basically as submitted where I noticed maybe once or twice where one or two punctuation marks were either removed or added in a 1000 word article. And I believe that happened once or twice in total.

Now I state the above for this reason: After months of the viewership and readers growing at a breathtaking accelerated pace Seth and the people of Squidoo™ decided to spin the e-zine off and sold it. I received notice that my submissions were no longer going to go through my editor for she had left. I now had a new one. The difference?

My first submission came back with questions and notations of could I change this, could I change that. Submit a rewrite. Submit another. Maybe change the last sentence it doesn’t seem to fit, and more. And remember – this is my first submission with the new editor!

I decided to say thanks, but no thanks to the last request and dropped out of the contributor list. Everybody else remained. Where are they now? At last I checked the only one’s still writing and publishing at any level is Seth and myself. All the others have either stopped long ago, or moved onto other ventures that seem to not entail writing. For I’ve searched – and they’re nowhere to be found. And that seems to be the same for the editor who suddenly decided I needed to change everything I wrote – then change it again.

The rest they say, “Is history.” But better yet, as I like too say, “The facts speak for themselves. And I no longer have to speak for them.”

So getting back to this “165 Countries” claim. It is a fair point to ask “Is that a tally of every country ever?” The answer is: yes, it is. But there’s also a second part to that “yes” which makes the claim far more credible: As of May, only 5 months into 2016, the site has been read in 122 countries. Not since 2009, no, that is just the past 5 months. On average as I’ve documented previously we get visitors from about 10 to 15 differing countries every day. Some of you may remember when I first started putting the graphic up and it was at 50. Even then I was absolutely awed. Now, I can comfortably state (as well as prove with verifiable metrics) my writings are seen near weekly across the known world.

I have now written over 1,000,000 (yes, that is one million) words on this site. That’s the equivalent of 40 (yes forty) standard business books in well under 10 years. Most people never write the equivalent of 1 in a lifetime.  And all of it has been about ideas or insights one can use in their daily business or personal life. Not what I had last night for dinner or some other mundane topic.

My work has either been listed, run, referenced, or my name mentioned on some of the largest media sites across the globe. Depending on where my articles suddenly appear my viewership ranges from a few million to gusts of over 50 million respectively. And those figures are not pie in the sky. They are verifiable, widely accepted, standard industry metrics. My first book was downloaded in over 30 countries within its first week (again warts and all) with no fan fare, no build up, no nothing along with being released in the worst period for a book role out (the week before Christmas) and hit metrics many a “best-selling” claiming author only wished they had.

That’s not bragging…that’s just stating facts. And those are facts I can be proud of no matter who knows about them or not. It doesn’t matter: for I do. And that’s what matters most. For at least I’m not kidding myself as far too many others do. They’ll waste so much time and energy doing things that matter jack squat. Think I’m kidding? Ask someone how many “likes” they received today, and what it means. Then you be the judge.

I was once asked at a meeting “Well I’ve never seen you in Barrons™ or Bloomberg™ and a few others” To which I replied:

“And you’ll probably never see me in the NY Times™ or The Economist™ either. However, I have been on ZeroHedge™ and a few others which are far more relevant, as well as, important than those others combined. Because the people who really want to know, and here’s the real key: it’s important that they do know. Go there.

The people who are reading the others to near exclusivity just want smoke blown up their you know where as to feel, as if, they’re ‘in-the-know.’ But if that’s all they are reading – they know jack squat. Period. So yeah, I really could care less about being seen there. Too me – it would be as meaningless as getting 100,000 “likes” on Facebook™.”

This is usually when whomever brought me to the room, or meeting, begins to break into a cold sweat. However, this is also the point people who understand real business and ideas want to not only hear more – they’ll pay for it because they understand the difference between an investment – and an expense. Remember: Expenses get relegated to Purchasing and Human Resources Departments. Investments are relegated and handled in the C-suite. If you don’t understand the difference in that one line – I’ll garner you’ve wasted a lot of time and money hearing “Well, we’ll get back to you.” Or better yet…”We want more of a discount to move forward.”

Another place where I make statements like this are usually when I’m speaking in front of a group when someone wants to throw a stab. These are usually from people who only want to justify to themselves that I (or someone else) aren’t doing things the way they believe the rules or markers should be set at. After all, as the thinking will go, “I graduated as an English major and can’t get more than 2 readers on Facebook. Yet, here is this guy who can barely spell cat and he gets actual press?! The absurdity and nerve of it all! He must be paying people under the door!!” or other such nonsense is the insinuation. When I tell them I don’t use Facebook, Twitter™, or all the other social “must do’s” they’ve been told (and sold) must be used? I sometimes think they’ll just about lose their minds right then and there.

Currently when I give my talks I usually start with this brief statement as to set the tone. It may seem harsh for some. For others, it might border on arrogant. However, to the people it’s meant for – it’s not only appreciated – it’s what they’ve paid for. For as some of you know to book one of my workshops – I ain’t cheap.

My first words usually revolve around something like this:

“Let me make this clear as we start. My discussion, ideas, and explanations are meant for the top 1/3rd of the attendees here today. Knowing who or which ones you are, I can’t tell. However, with that said, this meeting is designed to be both provoking, as well as, tip-of-the-spear styled conclusions or applications. In other words – I want to discuss things at the tip-of-the-spear where the information, the premise, as well as, the results are ahead of those who are on the-cutting-edge. As the analogy suggests – this is a concentrated, first to the target discussion. We’re here to be first. I can’t, nor won’t allow as to be bogged down with remedial reviews during our discussion of what should or would be known by the top 1/3rd. If you feel you’re being left behind I’m sorry. But you can easily catch up on your own later with more research or learning as to get up to speed. For those that are already up to speed – they don’t want to go over what they already know. This is where everybody learns. The learned can learn what they didn’t previously know, and those who don’t know they didn’t know – can understand what they may need to know better with less frustration, because those deficits can be learned without being embarrassed on one’s own time. Yet, do not let this point be lost on you: Just you attending puts you into the top 5% of the top 5% of business leaders bar none. Remember that. Most can’t be bothered with furthering their knowledge or insights, which is good for you – for that’s who your competing against.”

That’s not some rah-rah-rah type of message as to get people going. I mean it. For if I work as to not bore the top 1/3 of any group? The entire group benefits, as well as, myself. For if the top 1/3 is engaged? The remaining will also and everyone gains.

Let me give another example as to express more deeply using an old story I learned years ago, followed with an example that is of my own.

I learned early on when I really began to accelerate in sales the old adage of “sell – don’t spell.” It was in relation to a weekly missive we would receive where real life examples were written as analogies for salespeople as to help in motivation. It was a story about a sales order that was left on a salesperson’s desk the night previous and was seen by his fellow sales brethren the next day before he arrived. It written in such intelligible English and so severely misspelled that no one could make heads or tails out of it till the salesman came in that morning to put it into the system himself.

As this salesman went to enter his order he was met with jeers and snickers as to just how “third grade” was the handwriting he used to write the order, and how embarrassing it must be for the company to have such an illiterate representing this fine upstanding well established company. There was an issue with the order, but it was one that took everyone’s breath away leaving most speechless.

Once the order was entered it was verified to be the largest single, most profitable order the company had ever taken in its many decades of existence. Hence its title, “Sell! Don’t spell.”

So how does something like that pertain to me? I’ll just use the following and let you decide.

Back in April of 2014 I wrote the following article: “The Scarlet Absence Of A Letter Of Credit” In that article I made the argument that there was something wrong, or something very peculiar going on within the commodity space that one should be on high alert for.  At that period of time, iron ore in particular, was still holding within its lifetime highs of well over $100. To be precise, at the time of that article it was at $115 there about. Everywhere in the financial press (i.e., your Bloomberg, Economist, Barrons, etc., etc.) was making the case for how the commodity boom was here to stay and why. If you’ll remember, it was China, China, China, China, China.. that would make it so lower prices were a thing of the past. As you can read for yourself I argued something entirely different. What happened next?

Over the next 18 months or so, iron ore went from about $115.00 to about $41.00 That’s a drop of nearly 2/3rds of value. This caught everyone not only off guard but also sent many a commodity producer into not only panic mode, but for some bankruptcy mode. The names are some of the largest global concerns in the world. Don’t take my word for it – look them up for yourselves. This way you are the ultimate judge – not me just saying so. That call or warning?  It’s in the $100’s of BILLIONS of vanished market value. Again, don’t take my word for it. Use your own research. But one thing I can’t make up – the date of that article, the warnings and why contained within, and the resulting market action following.

And as you do your research you’ll find except for myself, and a few others at ZeroHedge – that type of thinking was argued by all the other “business” media outlets as either “misinformed” or “ill-informed.” Here’s a chart to demonstrate. To wit:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.40.00 PMNow maybe there are a few typos, as well as grammatical errors contained within my article. However, if you are a CEO of a company who needs to understand what may be headwinds to your business that you want to anticipate before or competition even realizes they need to take action? Whether it be a hedge against you current inventory demands for your use of steel or other commodities? Or even still, if you’re just a middle man or salesperson within an industry that depends on you knowing first before others as to help decide whether you should or should not take other actions ahead of your competition? You read that article (warts and all) and found information that would significantly impact your bottom line that was basically missed everywhere else. And specifically – not only missed, but pooh-poohed as “Chicken Little” type talk across most of the main stream “business” media.

This is only one example. As some of you know, there have been others. However, I will end with this last one in-particular. And it is this…

Back in November of 2014 another person in my field named Tony Robbins released a book on the markets and how you should go about navigating them. I will only say this:

That book is perfectly edited, more than likely every I is dotted, and t has been crossed, and searched high and low for grammatical errors. I’ll even wager to say, as far as books go – it’s probably right up there with the best as far as that criteria is concerned. However, for the details contained within? And the advice it portends to give?

I’ll stack up mine up word for word, warts and all. And I’ll again wager dollars to doughnuts there are more actionable, intuitive, and understandable reasoning’s as to what to look for, and how to see them, ideas about the “markets” and business contained here – than in his. Period. And too boot: If you’ve been able to look past the typos and disseminate the ideas or information that is useful and pragmatic to yourself? I’ll again wager that you’re far more ahead today, with a better grasp of what is transpiring, and how to view it – than what you garnered from his.

And that’s not some knock on Tony, for as I stated when I made arguments concerning it when released, “I’m a fan of Tony.” But with that said – the facts lie where they do. Only you can decide what they mean to you. And what ever they may be I have only one thing left to say, and I truly mean it.

To everyone who’s ever read, or heard, a word of what I’ve had to say. Whether you took something from it and used it, or not. Thank you. I’m always grateful and humbled.

Other than that – I have no strong feelings on the above matter. And if you’ve read this entire piece? May the good Lord have blessing in store for you. For you surely deserve it after this diatribe.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr