Can you become a millionaire by crowdfunding – without spending a cent?

Considering crowdfunding? The following is an answer that I wrote to this very Quora question this afternoon. It’s the culmination of my crowdfunding trial by fire, Moringa: Coming of the Eternal Vine (a historical epic about the last empress of Korea that I’m helping with), which ends next week. 

Hello, my ambitious bootstrapping friend,

First of all, have you seen this?

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He’s a distant cry from becoming a millionaire, but $55,492 for just making some potato salad – well, it happened. So if you (1) have a sense of humor and (2) get stupid lucky, then sure. Check out How did the Kickstarter Potato Salad manage to raise so much money? Or just check out the actual project here.

Just do it 20 times successfully, and there’s your million dollars.


Now… for the rest of us who would rather work our butts off…
(after all, work has a better success rate than dumb luck)

It could happen – you just have to be smart about it and hustle like mad. Try this process on for size.

1. Idea. Come up with a really interesting product. ($0)

2. Build an audience via a blog, guest posting, youtube channel, podcast – basically, make content that matters to people who might be interested in what you’re making. Be real, make lots of friends, help a lot of people so much that they’ll be eager to help you. ($0 depending on how resourceful you are)

3. BUDGET. Do everything humanly possible to guarantee that if people pay you, you can make good on delivering your product and all perks on time. Understand your costs, your manufacturer, remember that Chinese New Year can really screw up your manufacturing if you’re making it in China (and it’s annual!). Get agreements on paper. Make sure you make money. (if you do it right, $0)

4. Launch. Continue hustling like mad. Bring your audience to your campaign. If you did step 2 really well, they’ll bring their friends and family. Do it so well that you won’t be tempted to drop cash on the consultants who will flock to your page like vultures. And by the way, you should hopefully be guest posting, posting, getting interviewed, or something as much as you can throughout the process. ($0)

5. Win. Collect your cash. (whatever your goal was + bonus if you really did this right, set proper reach goals, etc.)

6. Deliver. Spend the next month busting your backside to deliver the goods. Since you’re hoping to be a serial crowdfunder, it’d be best to overdeliver. (If your budget was correct, you spend from your winnings here.)

7. Repeat. Enjoy your profits and drop them into your next project. Buy a domain, buy libsyn space for a podcast, listen to Amy Porterfield’s podcast and buy Facebook ads, smartly. Come up with a new IDEA (step 1), ideally something related to your first successful project so that your audience will still be interested.

Note that this is not easy money. EVERY STEP REQUIRES HUSTLE.It’s just a way to make money. You’ll have to be really good at this to replace your day job, and really work like mad. You might need to hire a virtual assistant, for example. You’ll need to keep learning to stay on top of your game. And you need to build a reputation from your first campaign. Theoretically, it’s possible. It’d be an awesome story.

But here’s the secret: Kickstarter isn’t meant to be a store or a get-rich-quick site. It’s meant to be a place where dreams get built, and where builders can gather funds from their audiences.

Kickstarter is the final step, not the first step. It’s up to you to bring the crowd, and that’s where most campaigns fail.

So the real first step? Make it your stated goal to serially crowdfund your millionaire dream, and find an audience whose eager to take that journey with you. That is, make valuable content around that dream of yours that others would find useful.

Google Seth Godin’s episode of the “Funding the Dream” podcast to get the lowdown on that.

And if that doesn’t work, you could always make potato salad.

Best wishes.

 This is reposted from my answer at Quora. You can view the original question and answer here.

Your turn: Have you ever considered crowdfunding? Why haven’t you tried it yet? (or if you have, how’d it go?) See you in the comments below!

The Best Ideas Ever – 12 Reasons I Love TED Talks and You Should Too

This past Thursday, I was surprised to discover that less than a third of my leadership club students had heard of TED talks. Okay, not surprised – shocked stupid. Maybe I was overreacting. But I love TED talks. Near religiously. I want to name my first child TED, even if she’s a girl. (Is my wife reading this? I didn’t mean that.)

But WHY? Simple. I know that watching TED talks over the last two years has really supercharged my development as a leader.


1. TED talks introduce me to the top thinkers of today.
TED is elitist. There, I said it.


I went to a U2 concert a long time ago. No Doubt opened. Epic show – and it cost over forty bucks a ticket for nosebleed-awful seats.


TED? It costs more than a hundred times more.  Oh, and one cannot simply “sign up” for a TED concert. You have to be chosen.


This is elite.


Anyway, these are no ordinary speakers and thinkers, ladies and gentlemen. These are the rockstars of the thought world. There’s a reason why this thing is so expensive.


I’m indebted to, though, for giving us everyday folk a chance to hear the talks for free. And they’ve introduced me to thinkers I’d never heard of.


Sir Ken Robinson. Seth Godin. Brene Brown. Susan Cain. Hans Rosling. Simon Sinek.


I never would have known about any of these people without TED – and I’m a better person for finding out about them.


2. TED talks are 20 minutes long – at most!


The best talks are like bottled lightning: Massively affecting (ZAP!) and extremely compact. At less than twenty minutes, there’s no room for filler. A good lecture is like a cup of coffee. A TED lecture is like a double shot espresso. (and let’s not ask about the average math lecture at my university.)


Every now and then you’ll start a talk that you don’t really like. Or don’t get. No worries – even if you watch the whole thing, it’ll cost you less than twenty minutes.


3. TED talks teach me how to make a better Powerpoint presentation.


You’ll rarely see a TED talk where a guy opens up Powerpoint to a slide with more than twenty words. It’s all economy of space and words. It’s all design – gorgeous, impactful, powerful. Some of these presentations really zip along too – check out Scott McCloud’s slide-a-second bursts!


4. Heck, TED talks teach me how to make better presentations, period.


Oh yeah – it’s not just Powerpoint that they use. It’s Prezis. It’s video. It’s just a ridiculously interesting talk with NO visual.


5. TED talks are funny.


Do you know that there are The Ten TED Commandments? (They is serious stuff.) Commandment number eight is “Thou shalt remember all the while: Laughter is good.”


TED speakers literally make a joke every thirty seconds or so. And they’re not lame. Mostly.


6. TED talks help me understand the world.


I’m an awful ignorant dork quite often, but thanks to TED I’m not as ignorant as I was. Some people even say I’m smart now. I know about drug cartels in Mexico, the origins of our modern school system, and how motivation works. I get how play fuels creativity, how billions of dollars to help Africa didn’t help so much, and how painting buildings pretty colors can literally change a nation.


Weighty stuff.


Besides all that, fortune cookies aren’t Chinese. THEY’RE JAPANESE. LIKE ME.


Told you this stuff was important.


7. TED talks teach me how speak better.


I am convinced that listening to TED talks was kind of a turning point in the way I talk to groups of students. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think just listening to my first talks helped me internalize (without thinking!) something about how to speak with more passion and skill.


Later, my dad gifted me Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED. From that book I intentionally grew as a speaker from what I’d seen in TED talks.


8. TED talks spark my creativity.


These people are ridiculously creative. The artists among them are amazing. Sarah Kay’s spoken word, for example, or Tom Thum’s beatboxing in Sydney. Or while we’re at it, there’s guys like Sal Khan, who literally flipped the way school is taught in Oakland. And geniuses we all know, like Bill Gates… opening a jar and sending hundreds of mosquitoes into an audience.


9. TED re-introduces me to people in surprising new ways.


It’s really great fun, though, to see people that I already know say extraordinary new things. Rick Warren speaks on his experiences writing a mega bestseller that opens with the words “It’s not about you.” Ebert (who I didn’t know had jaw cancer) gave a moving talk… without talking. Tony Robbins giving Al Gore a high five – and a piece of his mind – from the main stage.


10. TED talks teach me how to tell a great story.


TED commandment eight is to joke. TED commandment four is “Thou shalt tell a story” – and these people tell some killer stories. Like Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of David and Goliath.


11. TED talks practically change my life.


Best example: Matt Cutts of Google’s idea that I ought to do thirty-day experiments to start new habits. This is how I kicked off my exercise habit – and he laid the framework not just for a number of other new habits and life changes, but even the first book I’d ever written!


12. TED talks move me.


Above all, it comes down to this. These talks push change for the better – intellectually, creatively and practically. And it’s not just all-stars on the stage – there’s a lot of everyday folk who just came up with fantastic ideas as well. People like you and me – and this gives me motivation and hope to throw myself back into my work.


Jim Rohn says that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I’d add that spending time with TED people has will give that average a kick in the pants.


And if you haven’t watched a TED talk yet, stop reading this and get over there already. You’ll thank me later. Let’s have lunch – tell me what you learned. And you’re buying – you owe me, remember?

Ideas that spread win: the Ice Bucket recipe for changing the world

that's me. ibc.

2,330,000 videos.

That’s how many videos are on YouTube related to the Ice Bucket challenge as of August 26th. And it’s probably still growing at a massive rate.

Seriously, I thought it was going to be a passing fad – something cute that some of my friends would do on Facebook (they did) and that would maybe sweep through the States (it did).

The one thing I didn’t expect is that an ocean and half a continent away, someone would pick me. (They did.)

And I’m in Kyrgyzstan! Wow.

What’s most surprising my friends in the States DIDN’T nominate me – it was actually one of my English students here in Bishkek. And she was nominated by others here in Kyrgyzstan! Seriously – how many students in Kyrgyzstan are dunking themselves in ice water right now?

It’s probably safe to say that bucket of ice water, a video camera, and a social media account have never done more to push action and awareness for any cause. But what’s the secret? I’ll break down three parts that I understand.

Here’s the Ice Bucket recipe for world change: 3 ways to win!

1. “Ideas that spread win.”
These are the words of Seth Godin from his massively watched 2003 TED talk, “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.” The Ice Bucket Challenge is utterly genius in how spreadable it is. Do you have a smartphone? Do you Facebook or Twitter? You’re in. You have everything you need to get attacked, er, nominated, and to participate, in your pocket.

And as my friend from Tajikistan told me last week, any place in the world that has access to Facebook or Youtube is a place that the Ice Bucket Challenge can AND will go.

By the way, she did the challenge too. In Tajikistan.

2. Creativity wins.
Stop. Don’t read ahead. Guess how much money was raised for ALS last year? And now guess how much was raised this year?

The answers? Last year, $2.5 million was raised for ALS – which doesn’t even begin to compare with the $100 million raised this year. That’s over TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS a minute this summer!

“Normal” advertising is on its way out. Long live the crowd. What does the crowd love?
Hint: it’s not normal advertising.

The crowd wants to have fun. The crowd wants to get involved. The crowd wants to play a worldwide game of tag – and the crowd can.

3. Purpose wins.
So “Double Rainbow” went viral. How about Rebecca Black’s “Friday?” Or the Harlem Shake?

Did these make any money?

Well, Miss Black does have a net worth of $1.5 million since Friday according to Celebrity Net Worth’s site.

But how do you account for the almost hundredfold difference between Friday and the Ice Bucket?

Purpose. People will give some to those who amuse them. But people will give much to those who move them. Our era is about purpose – and doing work that matters, interestingly, quite possibly could be the work that pays.

It’s a crazy fascinating world we’re living in
The world is not just smaller than it used to be – it’s flatter. Ideas can spread ridiculously fast. And so ideas can now win ridiculously fast. And that’s something to chew on for those of us who make ideas for a living.

Your turn: What lessons can you pick out from the Ice Bucket madness? Leave a comment below and let’s dig in to this!

All statistics on the Ice Bucket Challenge were gleaned from Jerry Ouyang’s excellent SlideShare, The Cold Hard Facts About The Ice Bucket Challenge.

If you liked this, be sure to join my mailing list and pick up my free e-book, The Pursuit of Awesome: The One-Season Guide to Awesome Life Change! Click here to get it from NoiseTrade!

My book is out! Get “The Pursuit of Awesome” today – FREE!

My free e-book, The Pursuit of Awesome – The One-Summer Guide to Awesome Life Change releases today!

It was fun to write, a labor of love spread out over two months’ time – and the sum of much I’ve learned from founding our leadership club. I’m glad for it to be out in the world.

Feels good to publish it – and send it out.

What’s the book about?
Part guidebook, part choose-your-own-adventure, The Pursuit of Awesome is your one-season guide to awesome life change. After all, an awesome impact can only be made by an awesome person.

You’ll learn:
– How to leverage the power of habit to make massive life changes.
– The source of motivation to push through – and do what you already know you need to do.
– To write your superhero origin story – and why you dearly need one!
– 22 habits of ridiculously awesome people – how to get massively more done in less time, how to pump up your body and your energy levels, and how to level up your learning processes
– A five-step recipe for powerful growth – even through failure!

Can it really be done in one season?
Yes and no – The Pursuit of Awesome lays out a framework for repeatable and sustainable change, leveraged across a sixty-day period. And all it takes to start? One season.

You don’t need cash. You don’t need a reputation. All you need is the will to try.
The only question is this:

When will you start?

Be awesome – now.

Get the book by clicking HERE and joining my email list.


A no-energy cola fridge, two powerful ways to deal with email for good, and how to write a book


Busy week? Me too.
But here’s something to inspire you and the two best email tools I’ve seen in years. And after that, why my book didn’t release yet – and how I’m fighting to get it done now!

Coca Cola’s bio-fridge:

The Coca Cola company’s dream of putting a cold Coke in the hand of every person in the world just came powerfully closer to reality this week. A clean, self-cooling fridge was just installed in Colombia. Even if you don’t have time for the article, watch the video. It’s an amazing two minutes. Maybe the future won’t be so bad after all. Read the Fast Company article here.

Batched Inbox:

Do you lose time impulsively checking email? Or do you lose focus when your email service pings your phone? Check this out – BatchedInbox lets you save time and energy, end distractions, and work – and live – better.  All it does is simply hold back your day’s email until a set time that you choose. If that sounds extreme, you can make exceptions easily! And did I mention that it’s FREE?

It takes about two minutes to setup, but it’s worth it. I’m already enjoying the quiet from my inbox, even in my short times online. Check it out here.
How many email lists are you subscribed to? I was subscribed to 273 – that is, until yesterday! searches your inbox for you, and does the hard work of making a list of every last email list that you’re stuck on. Then, as you browse the list, you can instantly either (1) unsubscribe yourself or (2) combine less important emails into ONE daily digest called a “rollup”!

In ten minutes’ work, I unsubscribed from 113 lists (including some really hard to get off lists, like CalPirg!) and rolled up 73 less important subscriptions into a rollup digest. I’ll deal with the last 61 more by hand, but I already feel a big weight lifted off my inbox!

What could do for you? Would you be more present at work and home? Find out for FREE by giving it a shot here!


Last, how to write a non-fiction book:
Here’s a handful of lessons that I’ve picked up in the last month or so.

– Starting is hard. But start by choosing your topic – and then make the best outline (TOC) you can.
Connect with your why. Why would you subject yourself to this? It’s like running a marathon! You better get clear with yourself on why you’re going to give your free time to this.
Set a ship date. Commit –  to finishing by that day. I actually missed my date (June 8th) but I’ve made more progress than I ever would have without a date. And I’ve learned so much through this all.
Do the work. Try to write daily – at least 300 words or so. With your outline and ship date, you’ll know very clearly how much more you need to do each week.

Finally, here’s what’s killing me now:

Never assume that editing a book will take “just an hour.” Even if it’s an e-book. Even if each of its chapters only runs about 1000 words. And do not lie to yourself that when a chapter is 90% done, that the last 10% will just take five minutes.

Give yourself a week – or more! Make it shine. Better ideas come in the editing room.


Writing is war. But for those who supported me in this endeavor – thank you for your support and patience. I’ve rescheduled for next Tuesday. And if you’ve read this, would you like a free copy of my book when I’m done?

It’s scary – making something and giving it away. But I’m thrilled to fight to complete this book.

The Pursuit of Happiness – 32 Habits of Ridiculously Awesome People is on the verge of releasing – join my email list and be the first to get it by clicking HERE!


photo credit: Eyewash design – A.Golden via compfight

Finish what you start.


What’s your secret? That is, your secret to finishing well? I need to know.

I was just reminded the other night that “well begun is half done.” I can attest to that. It’s been a great ride, writing my first e-book this month. Getting started was the hardest part. Then from there, the daily commitment to just sit and write pushed me further than I’d ever gone writing.

But now, as I’m down to writing the last ten percent –  I’ve stalled. I’ve got one week left to hit my self-imposed deadline. I’ve missed three morning writing sessions.

I have acceptable reasons that no one would fault me for. It was my wife’s birthday. We went out to a friend’s place one night, watched a movie another night.

But the fact is, I told myself I’d ship it – this Saturday. Five days to go.

Steven Pressfield says that whenever something beautiful is trying to come into the world, it will face an equal and opposite resistance. I’ve hit the resistance now. I’m in the thick of it.

I’ve pushed through other things before, but not a book. I’ve got my battle plans – and I’m buckling down to do the work tonight, and every day till I’m done.

Well begun is half done. But well finished – it’s a battle hard won.

What’s your plan to finish well? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear what works for you!

image credit: one lucky guy via compfight