How to Double Your Money with Your Unique Interests and Skills

How to Double Your Money with Your Unique Interests and Skills

This may sound like a late night infomercial, but I think you have what it takes to double your money in the stock market. That’s right, you have the knowledge and skills to turn $1k into $2k, $10k into $20k, and more! Okay, what really comes to mind when you hear about doubling your money via Mr. Market?

A scam? Super-shady-multinational-conglomerates? Sitting in front of 5 monitors making trades every minute on the minute? Leonardo Dicaprio?

While those may be feasible strategies for some, I’m writing to you about a much simpler approach, IMO. Chances are, you’re already doing 90% of the work required. It begins with your unique outlook on the world and its economy. Your job, hobbies, friends/family, and education all play a part in the hodge-podge that is your undiscovered investing prowess.

Think about it, there’s an industry that you know more about than anyone you know. You follow the trends and news regarding that area religiously and spend most of your free time consuming related content. Maybe it’s cosmetics and beauty products, fashion, video games, biomedical engineering, renewable energy, or whatever – it’s time to monetize your advantage.

Below you’ll find three stories of companies who’ve doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled investments in recent history. The best part? You’ll know two of the three companies very well, and even if you’re unfamiliar with the third, you’ll definitely recognize its products. These companies were no hidden gems that required tons of research or subscribing to a “newsletter” for insider information. Instead, your tip to invest in the companies below could’ve been discovered in places like Twitter and Instagram, chilling with your significant other, or even playing video games.

Note: It’s easy to pick winners in hindsight. That’s not the purpose of this article. The purpose, rather, is that the more you know about the past, the better prepared you’ll be for the future.

Netflix ($NFLX)investing-in-netflix-mason-woodruff

The king of DVD delivery turned streaming has created quite the culture shift over the past few years. From binge watching our favorite past times to entire seasons of their more recent Netflix Originals, this company has quickly become a part of our everyday life. Many Americans are now “cord cutting” and ditching cable TV for options like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video due to their endless content selections. This shift in consumer interest and need has certainly been good for business, and patient shareholders of Netflix have been rewarded, especially as of late.

Netflix has been around for quite some time (publicly traded since 2002), and they’ve certainly seen their ups and downs. But let’s say you were well behind the IPO, like me, when could/should we have started to notice the positive tailwinds?

It actually started years before but in 2014, Netflix started to catch fire in common internet speak and language. Verbs like Netflixing, to Netflix, and the infamous Netflix and Chill took the internet by storm. Nearly a year later, “Netflix and Chill” was officially added to Urban Dictionary. Nikki Minaj and Netflix themselves both joined in on the fun on social media (linked posts). At this point, it would’ve been fair to assume that Netflix was onto something.

In early April of 2015, shares were priced around $60. Compare that to today’s current share price of $131, and Netflix shares are up 120% since, 110% higher than the S&P 500. April ’15 marked the beginning of a bullish run for Netflix, where shares ballooned to over $120 in August of 2015. Who would’ve guessed?

A $10,000 investment exactly two years (1/10/2015) before this writing (1/10/2017) would be worth $28,750.

Disney ($DIS)investing-in-disney-mason-woodruff

With the House of Mouse approaching its 90th-anniversary next year, it’s safe to say that this company is a bonafide piece of American history. Most of us grew up watching their movies, playing with Disney-themed toys, or even touring their theme parks. Personally, I didn’t just like Simba, I was Simba. Disney was an integral part of my childhood, and they continue to be prevalent through acquisitions like the Star Wars franchise.

Disney stock, however, hasn’t always reflected their omnipresence in our culture. In the last ten years, shares of Disney have been volatile, to say the least, with lows below $30/share and highs above $120/share. Despite the volatility, Disney continues to dominate the entertainment and content creation world and make great investments and acquisitions. Here are a few examples of businesses in their portfolio:

  • TV Networks such as ESPN, ABC, A&E, and History
  • Marvel Studios (The Avengers, Iron Man, Daredevil and other Netflix originals)
  • Star Wars
  • Pixar and animated franchises (Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Cars, Up, etc.)

To maintain the theme of “buying signs” and moments in recent history where Disney would’ve been a great investment, let’s look at a few pivotal moves.

Disney acquired Pixar in January of 2006, while Disney hovered around $26 per share. Adding an incredible set of franchises and the top animated movie studio didn’t seem to impress many, as shares increased slightly, only to fall below $30 again in 2008/2009.

Disney acquired Marvel in August of 2009. Two months later, a share of Disney was going for only $28 per share. At this point in time, buying shares or adding to your position would have returned over 350%. ($10,000 invested at the low point of 2009 ($14/share) would be worth $75,000 today.)

Disney acquired Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise in 2012 for 4 billion dollars. That may sound like a lot of quiche, but Disney has already grossed over 3 billion for the first two of six planned Star Wars films. It’s hard to fathom this franchise losing relevance in our lifetime and should continue delivering returns like Pixar, Marvel, and ESPN have done historically. Oh, and BTW, $DIS shares were in the $45-$50 range for nearly all of 2012. Entering at this point would have returned 150% of your investment ($10k to $25k).

Activision Blizzard ($ATVI)investing-in-activision-mason-woodruff

Whether you have personally thrown controllers and screamed profanities at teenagers through your headset or had a significant other ignore you for hours on end, there’s a good chance you are familiar with the Call of Duty franchise. It’s been around since 2003 but didn’t make a significant impact until 2007, when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released. This iteration, along with faster internet speeds and the ubiquity of Adderall, changed the game (see what I did there?) for first person shooters and competitive online console gaming.

If you had taken note of the game’s publisher, Activision, and researched the company, you would’ve discovered other titles such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft (post-July 2008 after an acquisition of Blizzard Entertainment). An impressive lineup, eh?

So let’s say you invested even a year after CODMW’s release, you would have earned nearly 400% on your investment. Even if you were late to the party and invested shortly after another hit release years later in October of 2014, Destiny, you would have nearly doubled your money in the two years since.

The takeaways:

  • Buying a share of a company makes you a part owner of that company. Invest in great companies that you know, love, and want to be an owner in for years to come.
  • Winners tend to keep winning. Don’t let a stock’s recent “pop” or increase deter you from investing. As you see with these three examples, the top is never the top. Great companies will continue to rise along with the market over time.
  • While overreacting to daily market news about a business is a bad idea, being aware of trends and potential cultural shifts that favor one business or another could pay dividends.
  • Do you know any teenagers? What are they into? That’s a great place to start.

Final disclaimer: I may own shares in the companies I mention and this guide, or any other investing and finance-related information on masonwoodruff.com, is not intended to be investment advice. 

How to Use Your Money to Make More Money: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing

How to Use Your Money to Make More Money: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing

Investing is boring. I mean, who wants to put their hard earned money into an account and not touch it for decades? It is downright, not exciting.

What IS exciting is the fact that you can make extra money each day, month, and year by investing or “putting your money to work.” Historically, the stock market has produced an 8-10% annual return. That means $10,000 theoretically produces $800-$1,000 of extra “income” per year. So if you save 10 grand, you’ll essentially make another grand in the next year from that money. Wealth begets wealth.

If you put enough of your money to work for you, and you don’t live an inflated asshole-ish lifestyle, you can live off the interest and do whatever you want with your days. Exciting?

What’s more exciting is that the 8-10% return may be on the low end of potential returns if you learn to leverage your expertise and do a bit of studying. And it’s doubly exciting to think about how your monthly expenses could turn into more than $250,000

For instance, if you’d been a passionate gamer who poured as much money as time into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision Blizzard – ticker symbol $ATVI) when it revolutionized the first person shooter genre in 2007, you would have seen your money grow by 400% since then.

Or maybe in between multiplayer rounds when your focus began to slip, you scurried to your kitchen only to realize how convenient your single-cup-producing coffee maker was and invested. The only thing better than a 3.0 K:D ratio is a 2000% return on your investment, and that’s what you would’ve seen from an investment in Keurig.

Hope you’re still with me at this point. The key takeaway is that investing doesn’t have to be boring or over complicated. What I recommend, and I’m going to outline in the following guide, is to buy shares in great companies that you know/love/understand (and most importantly, want to be a part owner of) and hold onto them until their situation changes or you find a better investment. It’s really that simple.

This guide will go through topics like recommended reading, what to use to buy/sell stocks, types of business and how they affect you, index funds and ETFs, and some lots of mistakes that I’ve made and continue to make.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

I plan on regularly updating this guide as I come across valuable lessons or strategies worth sharing.

Disclaimer: I’m not a financial professional or self-proclaimed investment wizard. I’m just a dude who loves personal finance, business, and making money with the least amount of work as possible. The following information is a simplified version of what I’ve found most useful in my young investing adventures. 

Recommended Resources for Beginners

One up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch – the basics of finding good companies to invest in that you love and know better than most + how to make sense of all the numbers associated with a business

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – “Wealth, like a tree, grows from a tiny seed. The first copper you save is the seed from which your tree of wealth shall grow. The sooner you plant that seed the sooner shall the tree grow. And the more faithfully you nourish and water that tree with consistent savings, the sooner may you bask in contentment beneath its shade.”

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy – motivating tale of the 8th wonder of the world, Compound Interest

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – A must-read, mindset shifter for anyone who’s not investing in some form already. Put your money to work for you. (note: author is not a proponent of the stock market)

Why you need F-you money

A Love Letter to Millennials, From The Stock Market

Tools of the Trade

If you’re starting out and will be experimenting with different types of stocks, set up an account with Robinhood. Robinhood is a mobile app based free trading platform with easy to use interfaces, helpful notifications, and everything you need to begin experimenting with stocks. And did I mention it’s free? Free trading allows you to buy one or two shares of a company you love and believe in when you’re lacking dry powder (cash) on hand.

robinhood-mason-woodruff

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of market orders, calls, shorts, and other investing terms. TBH, for this style of investing you won’t need to know much other than buying and selling, and those are simple enough to learn. If you’re having trouble, Robinhood has a how to use guide within the app and many other brokerage firms and investing sites have complete guides on the basics of investing platforms. (You can use a site like finviz to take a deeper look at the financials of a company.)

With a typical brokerage account, you’re going to pay a flat fee ($5-$10) per transaction. Meaning if you bought one share of Facebook ($FB) for $120, you would be losing 4-8% right off the bat. Even when you shift over to a brokerage account for things like a Roth IRA, it’s wise to make your fee less than 1-2% of the market order. An example would be buying $1,000 worth of shares with a $7.95/trade fee. (This can be advantageous because you’re going to buy with more conviction on a $1,000 order than a single stock purchase. More on this later.)

Note: An account with Robinhood will be a taxable account so anything you sell for more than you purchased it for (capital gains) will be taxed by Uncle Sam. You don’t pay any taxes until you actually sell a stock. In addition, buying and holding will influence the % in taxes you pay. The best way to avoid these taxes would be via a retirement account, like a Roth or Traditional IRA, which are by and large untaxed accounts. You’ll need more than Robinhood for a retirement account and you will run into the trading fees, so they’re not ideal for starting out and experimenting in the stock market. You should definitely have a retirement account and the sooner the better, but if it’s going to prevent you from starting out with investing, go without for now. It’s worth mentioning that many firms will give two months or a specific number of free trades for new accounts. 

Different Strokes for Different Folks

There’s a lot of hoopla and terminology in the investing world. I’m convinced most of it was created to keep the everyday person from taking control of their own portfolio and using professional financial services. I’ve come to believe that investing can be simplified to two strategies, for the most part.

  1. Potential to 10x  your investment + risk of losing 100% of your investment – any income from your investment (small cap growth stocks or “exciting” startups)
  2. Potential to have very little fluctuation in your initial investment + slow annualized returns + quarterly income – the potential to 10x your investment (Think: large cap or “blue chip” stocks & index funds)

The younger you are, and the more risk-tolerant you are, the more you can chase the bigger returns in strategy one. Though even as a young individual investor, diversifying and including both strategies would be a wise decision. As you age, you’ll want to transition into safer and less volatile investments at the sacrifice of bigger returns.

Note: this is a massive oversimplification of things and there are many other investment strategies like mutual funds, bonds, currencies, etc., but I’m not convinced any individual investor needs to bother. 

Small Cap vs Large Cap Investing: Explosive Growth Potential vs Slower Moving & “Safe” Investments

“Cap” refers to market capitalization, or simply put, the total value of all shares outstanding for a company. If you want to fully nerd out, here’s a quick video.

A great example here would be Amazon ($AMZN), which is one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world now and has a market capitalization just shy of 400 billion dollars. Chuy’s ($CHUY) has a market cap of around 500 million dollars.

Chuy’s ($CHUY) on the other hand, has a market cap of around 500 million dollars. They also have the best tortillas this side of the Mississippi and for that, earn a strong buy rating from me.

Which company has more potential to double in size? This may be a poor example because Amazon may damn well double its current size and take over the world. But traditionally, large cap stocks are slower growing, well-established companies while small cap stocks have more potential growth.

So which one is for you? I’ll list a pros and cons of each, IMO:

Small Cap

  • Higher chance of explosive growth – Small caps have to potential to double or triple (or more) your initial investment in the short-term. You also run the risk of losing 100% of your initial investment if an unproven company tanks.

A big winner always outweighs a loser – You can only lose 100% of your money invested, but you can gain 1000% or more from a stock.

  • A company’s price per share means nothing about the value of that company. Cheaper stocks aren’t less value than higher priced stocks and vice versa. That said, many small cap stocks are going to have lower share prices, allowing a beginner to experiment and diversify by investing in many different companies. If you have $1,000 to get started, buying a share of $AMZN, currently priced around $800, would occupy 80% of your portfolio and heavily tie your success to one company. Diversity is good – and fun!
  • Speaking of fun, small cap companies are usually more cutting-edge and exciting companies. Investing in a company that makes paintball shooting drones is a lot more exciting, at least to me, than a company who provides wireless service. BTW, don’t really invest in a company that makes paintball shooting drones. That can’t be a useful product or successful business. Or could it?

Large Cap

  • Dividends – A company like Verizon ($VZ) has a 4.23% dividend yield, meaning you earn 4.23% annually for sitting on your hands. For example, one milli in $VZ would earn roughly $42,000 each year in dividends. You won’t see much growth in terms of share price, but that’s not what you’re after here.
  • Share buybacks – When a company has cash on hand, they may repurchase outstanding shares. This typically, though not always, benefits shareholders by elevating the earnings per share (how much the company makes for every share outstanding). This makes a company and its shares more valuable, and that’s good for your wallet.
  • Less volatility – Using our example from above, a massive company like Verizon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. You lose the chance of doubling your money in the short-term for stability during hard times. In the Great Recession, Verizon did just fine. They even increased their dividend yield during those hard times.

Vanguard and Other Confusing Names 

The last piece of the puzzle I laid out earlier are the index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Again, for the nerds, here’s a great article on the differentiation.

Let’s say you wanted to be a shareholder in every company in the S&P 500 (500 companies) but had neither the cheddar to buy all those shares nor the patience to put in that many market orders. You could save up the funds before hiring a part-time lackey to do the grunt work, or you could buy the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF ($VOO) which tracks the S&P 500’s performance and has an annual return of 14.5% since 2010.

An index fund is simply a compilation of stocks in one specific area of the stock market. They may range from areas like the aforementioned $VOO to the iShares S&P SmallCap 600 Growth ($IJT) to the Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund Investor Shares (VTWSX).

The biggest benefit of this type of investment is the lack of action required of you. All of the management and rebalancing in a fund is done for you, and at a fraction of the cost of a mutual fund. Other than checking in every now and then to see if the US economy is still churning, the only other action step would be perpetual deposits into your money machine.

Oh, and did I mention that some index funds pay a dividend?

Final disclaimer: I may own shares in the companies I mention and this guide, or any other investing and finance-related information on masonwoodruff.com, is not intended to be investment advice. 

What Is $250,000 Worth to You?

What Is $250,000 Worth to You?

Summary:

  • Turning laziness or lack of direction or purpose into motivation and laser focus on your ultimate mission
  • A hands-off strategy for turning $160 into $250,000 (time required)
  • What creating financial freedom looks like and how you can choose what to do with your days over time with short-term sacrifices

I’m one of the laziest people I know. Sure, I work hard and put in plenty of man hours each week. You’ll rarely find me doing “nothing” or wasting time. I’m always moving forward and working on furthering my career or improving as a human being, but that wasn’t always the case.

In my late teens, I could waste a day away with the best of them. Video games, TV, you name it, I was an A-student in Procrastination 101. I eventually kicked it into gear but if I’m being honest, I’d be snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug staying home all day with little to no activity.

My scenario is probably unique in the sense that I love my job 95% of the time. The other 5%, I still love my job but occasionally suffer from man PMS or something of the sort. Seriously, I won the career lottery and feel that I’d be happy/satisfied for a long time.

But I’m not trying to do that. I’m trying to be lazy and “work” as little as possible. At least not work on things that I don’t want to work on, and that’s part of any job, no matter how great.

The potential routes to perpetual laziness, at least the ones that don’t make your family disown you and make jokes at your expense during the holidays, are few and far between. One thing every route requires is money, and quite a bit of it. The best, legal route is saving money from an early age. Furthermore, saving is not enough. You need to put that money to work and let the magic of compound interest do its work.

“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Boring I know, but the good news is that there’s a secret to saving success – momentum and good ol’ addiction.

Investing is addicting. Once you start seeing your money grow with little to no effort after your initial research/analysis and investment selection, you’ll be hooked on saving. Your dollar-bill-soldiers will be hard at work around the clock. They’ll be making you money while you sleep, while you’re out with friends, and even when you’re dealing with the stressors at work. Where else can you make money for doing zero work? It’s a lazy man’s utopia.

Easier said than done, right? The easiest way to get started, if you’ve never invested anything, is by doing an expense audit. It can be done in less than thirty minutes and could clear up anywhere from ten to twenty bucks to hundreds of dollars. And no matter how much you can save on expenses, every little bit counts. Below you’ll see an example of what I eliminated from my monthly expenses and what that amount could become over time.

I was able to drop the following recurring expenses, along with their monthly cost:

  • Email marketing system I no longer used – $20
  • Cable TV – $60
  • HBO Now (at least until GoT starts up again) – $15
  • Subscription goody box – $25
  • Client management software – $20
  • Pandora One – $5
  • Audible (prefer reading and podcasts)- $15

Total saved: $160 monthly – $1,920 annually

Here we go. Let’s say I invested that $160 each month plus an additional $7 to make my annual contribution around $2,000, for math’s sake.

Let’s say I invest that $160 each month plus an additional $7 to make my annual contribution around $2,000, for math’s sake.

After 5 years with an average, conservative return of 8% annually, I’ll have $13,000 (rounded for pretty numbers). My principal balance, or cash that I’ve contributed, will be $10,000 – nothing mind blowing here.

After 10 years with the same annual return, I’ll have $31,500 with a principal balance of $20,000. Getting better.

After 20 years, I’m looking at $99,500 with a principal balance of $40,000. Daddy like.

Here’s where it gets interesting, after 30 years, a contribution of $60,000 has turned into $246,500.

Okay, I know this leaves a ton of room for error and fluctuation. The main idea here is that the $250,000 is without ever contributing more than that $167 each month or $2,000 per year. I can do better, especially as I earn more throughout my career and life. Also, if I managed to achieve a 10% annual return, the final balance would be around $365,000 on the same monthly contribution.

The big turn off with this scenario is the timeline. 30 years is a distant future and a land far, far away. It’s hard to get jazzed about reaping the rewards of your current sacrifices 30 years down the road, but that’s what could separate you from being a cog in the wheel. What would you rather have, a bunch of “stuff” now or financial freedom (ability to not worry about money and do the things you want to do on a daily basis) while you’re relatively young?

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” – Dave Ramsey

So I challenge you to do an expense audit today. And after you’ve eliminated some monthly expenses, move on to other spending habits that may not fall in the “services/expenses” category. Things like excessive spending on food, alcohol, shopping, or entertainment that could be substituted for other forms are a great place to start. The beauty of this next level of spending audit is its congruency with health and wellness, which happens to be a common goal for everyone. That’s what we call killing two birds with one stone.

Final disclaimer: I may own shares in the companies I mention and this guide, or any other investing and finance-related information on masonwoodruff.com, is not intended to be investment advice. 

How to Be a Loser in the New Year

How to Be a Loser in the New Year
Now that the holidays are behind us, and we’ve devoured everything from turkey and dressing to milk and cookies, many people are suffering from a condition known as Hope Reflux (HRD). For those unfamiliar with HRD, here’s a quick definition pulled from a reliable source:
Hope Reflux
noun
noun: hope reflux; plural noun: hope refluxes
  1. a condition in which hope for an improved, better life is regurgitated into the mind due to the conclusion of one year, causing eventual failure and heartache by mid-year.
The statistics are unclear on exactly how many people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolution each year, but the consensus seems to be somewhere between a 90-99% rate of failure. In spite of the disheartening odds, we continue to set goals for each and every new year without fail. After all, if we fail we can simply try again next year, and the year after, and the year after.
I’m only picking on New Year’s Resolutions due to the time of this article’s writing (December 26th). My beef is less with resolutions and more with goals in general. With roots in the fitness industry, I too started out as a formally-educated-goal-setting-robot, never failing to come up with SMART goals. Eventually, I began to notice that results and success – in all areas of life – hardly ever came from goal setting. Before we dive in, let the following excerpt be the final nail in the proverbial “goals” coffin.
Scott Adams said it best in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big:
To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game… If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and reenter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

The answer to not being a loser in the new year is not goal setting. It’s systems.

System
noun
1. a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.
  • a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network.
    plural noun: systems

Think about your goals. Whether you’re aiming to lose twenty pounds, get a promotion and make more money, or be a better spouse and parent, your goal is to simply improve as a human being. And improvement, growth, progression, or whatever you want to call it is a mechanism or an interconnecting network.

Your body composition is comprised of what you eat/drink and how much you exercise on a regular basis. 

Losing 20 pounds is a goal (albeit a terribly specified goal). Tracking your food daily and maintaining a calculated calorie deficit through diet and exercise for 12 weeks to lose 2lbs/week for a total of 24 pounds is a system. 

Your job performance, or lack thereof, is comprised of how productive you are, how you interact with your coworkers and superiors, and how much value you bring to the business in one way or another.  

Getting a promotion is a goal. Reading a book or taking a course each month to develop/learn a new skill that’s lacking in your company to make yourself invaluable is a system. Likewise, finishing all of your work before noon by avoiding Facebook or other distractions so that you can collaborate on other projects (or maybe start your own side hustle to make more money and forget the promotion) is a system. 

Hitting your monthly sales quota is a goal. Making 50 potential customer contacts, following up with 20 prospects, and setting 5 appointments or meetings daily is a system. 

Your relationship with your spouse and family is comprised of how much focused time you spend with them, your patience and conflict resolution skills when things go awry, and your resilience to fix things no matter what. 

Improving your relationship with your spouse and kids is a goal. Turning your phone off after work, having a designated date night each week, and doing one unexpected act of kindness each month is a system. 

There’s a lot more that goes into every scenario above, but you get the point. Systems rule and goals drool.

As the end of this year approaches, let’s spend more time developing systems and less time worrying about goals. The ultimate goal, after all, is nothing more than growth. And there’s potential for that every second, not every year.

10 of My Personal Systems for the New Year

  1. Read 30 minutes daily – leading to the ultimate goal of reading 50ish books in 2017
  2. Delete and avoid all easy order food apps (pizza, fast food, etc.) from my phone – ultimate goal of maintaining my level of health and fitness with a less intense and less frequent exercise regimen
  3. Avoid checking email before 9 AM – working toward a goal of creating a healthier work-life balance and having a clearer mind in the mornings (i.e. maker vs manager)
  4. 30+ minutes of strength training 3x/week minimum – anything extra is icing on the cake – ultimate goal of maintaining muscle mass, losing a bit of body fat, and continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle
  5. Daily 5-10 minute calls with each of my six managers – ultimate goal of creating great relationships, developing my team and unlocking their potential for success inside and outside of work, and having the best performing team out of our four area managers (competitive much?)
  6. Deposit no less than $450/month in my Roth IRA – goal: to reach yearly contribution limit
  7. Avoid checking on stocks or reading market reaction articles daily – ultimate goal of not selling stocks that I’m holding for the long term based on short-term changes in businesses
  8. Blocking off one hour each week to work on non-work related projects (writing, consulting, creating, etc.) – ultimate goal to continue adding passive income or creating opportunities beyond my day job/career
  9. Dedicate 20+ minutes for one quality conversation (phone or face to face) with both of my parents each week – ultimate goal to show my appreciation for everything they’ve done and further our relationships/maximize my time with them in this life
  10. Read two books from the fiction, history, or any non-self-development genre for every self-development book this year – ultimate goal of being more well rounded, making connections between nonfiction and fiction (more on this later), and exploring new areas of interest

What system(s) will you be implementing in the new year? Let me know in the comments!

How to GROW Your Personal Training Business When You Suck at Sales

How to GROW Your Personal Training Business When You Suck at Sales

Chances are you didn’t get into the field of personal training because of the potential to sell things. No, you journeyed down the training rabbit hole in hopes of working with elite athletes and turning skinny, underdeveloped guys and gals to cover models. But like every other trainer, you quickly discovered the necessity (love it or hate it) for personal training sales.

At least that was the case for me. It took quite some time for me to warm up to sales, and it wasn’t until I learned a great qualifying process that it started to click for me. A qualifying process, in case you’re wondering, is a necessary part of any sales process that uncovers a prospect’s wants, needs, desires, and potential objections. Basically, it’s the difference between great closers and struggling salesman.

Qualifying processes come in all shapes and sizes and there really is no one size fits all. What I’m going to present to you in this article is a qualifying process that has increased our personal training sales by 200% year over year, but I want to stress the importance of not using it as a script. Instead, I’d encourage you to learn the steps, understand the why behind the process, master your questioning and intention, and believe in the power of using a process.

The best part about this, for any trainer, is that learning this qualifying process will improve your new client consultations. So even if you have someone else doing the selling for you, using the process will ensure that you know exactly what your clients want to achieve and why they want to achieve it.

Without further ado, enter the GROW process.

GoalsWhere do you want to be/go?

In goals, we are after the obvious aesthetic/performance goals as well as other health markers someone may want to improve. This is the most obvious step of the consultation process considering every coach, no matter how skilled, nails the goals section of a consultation. It’s fairly easy to sit across from a person and ask them what they’d like to achieve in any area of their life. What’s more difficult, and where you can separate yourself from the pack, is digging into the why behind a person’s goal(s).

A goal of “losing 25 pounds” or “improving blood pressure” aren’t considered goals in our book. We’re after the driving force behind the desire to lose weight or improve health markers or whatever goal it may be. A recent diagnosis or threatening news from a doctor’s visit, for instance, is the powerful, emotional information we’re looking for. More often than not, vanity will be the “why” for most people with weight loss goals and that’s okay. They may not have an upcoming event, recent divorce, confidence issues, etc., that’s behind their desired goal. We can still dig in and create powerful sales levers. In cases like this, we still want to take our questioning a bit further to help the prospect visualize successfully reaching their goal. Here are a few examples:

  • How would your life be different if you reached this goal?
  • When were you the happiest with your fitness level or physical appearance?
  • How long do you think it will take us to reach this goal? Where do you see yourself 1 year from now if we work towards this goal?
  • Can you imagine yourself at “x” weight, a level of performance, desirability to opposite sex, etc.?
  • How does your physique look after losing 50 pounds? Have you been at that weight/fitness level before? How did it feel?
  • I understand you’re wanting to get in the best shape of your life, better than ever before. Is there a particular body type of person that has a physique you’d like to shoot for? (The better the visualization – the more powerful the goal becomes)
  • On a scale of 1-10, how important is achieving this look or improving this area of your health and fitness?
  • Why? – Ask this early and often.

People become more comfortable in situations the more they talk. Asking open-ended questions that create a need for someone to continue talking will create trust and comfortability, two important factors in making a sale, fast. As a person opens up, continue to dig in for more details. The better your questioning is in this section, and the more you can get the prospect talking about the details behind their goals, the easier the rest of your consultation will be. Here are a few example questions to keep a prospect talking about a potentially important topic:

  • Why?
  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • What does that look like to you?
  • Would you care to explain your answer in a bit more detail?
  • How does that make you feel?

It’s imperative that you separate each section of the GROW process. Don’t leave Goals until you’ve gotten as much information as possible and created some excitement within the prospect about reaching their newly discovered goals.  

RealityWhy aren’t you where you want to be right now?

This is where shit gets real, obviously. If the Goals section of GROW is climbing the proverbial emotional excitement mountain, Reality is shoving them off the cliff at the top of said mountain.

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Reality is where sales are made – or lost – depending on your level of commitment and tolerance for slightly uncomfortable conversation. With great questioning, we should be able to take away every possible objection a prospect could throw out during our price presentation and closing. As a prospect explains their struggles with eating out and sedentary habits like binge-watching Netflix, we’re learning about more than their barriers to achieving goals. We’re also learning about their spending habits and hierarchy of what’s most important to them. If during your price presentation, for example, a prospect objects to price after telling you this goal is a 10 (on a scale of 1-10) of importance to them, you could easily conquer the objection with everything else they’re spending money on that’s less important in their life right now.

Always keep in mind, we’re looking for obstacles in Reality. Here are a few example questions to discover a prospect’s current/potential obstacles:

  • Have you tried to reach this goal in the past? Were you successful?
    • If so, why did you not maintain your results?
    • If not, what stopped you from reaching your goal?
  • How did we get to where we are now?
  • What types of methods have you tried in the past?
    • Have they worked with a trainer/coach before?
    • Are they spending money/time on supplements or weight loss gimmicks?
    • What worked for them and what do they enjoy vs what do they hate?
  • What are the two biggest obstacles currently standing in your way?
    • Nutrition is a gimme on this question. Nutrition also unlocks the floodgates for you to learn more about their spending and unhealthy habits. This gives you a better understanding of a person’s reality and a dollar amount they’re spending weekly/monthly on hindrances. Related to nutrition are – fast food and restaurants, sodas or coffee creations, alcohol, tobacco, supplements, medications, etc.
    • Other potential answers will be (in their own words) motivation, knowledge, accountability, support system, time, prioritization, etc..
  • Do you understand the consequences of continuing down this path? OR Where do you think we’ll be 1 year from now if we don’t make any changes?

Taking the bullets out of a prospect’s objection gun is all good and well, but it’s hard to do. It requires walking a fine line between offending someone and asking just the right question to learn about the things keeping someone from their dream body or level of health.

OptionsHow are you going to get where you want to be?

“A plan without action is just a dream.”

In this step, we should be aiming to aid the prospect in creating their own solutions to their obstacles in reality. Notice I said to aid, not create their entire plan of action for them. If you can get a prospect to tell you they need help with accountability, knowledge, someone to push them, and feedback/evaluation – it’s going to be 10x more effective than you telling them they need those things. It’s better to assume the role of “not the expert” or a fitness newbie who is simply asking questions about how they plan to conquer the obstacles from Reality. (Easier said than done for well-trained fitness coaches.) Here are a few example questions:

  • Thanks for sharing these obstacles with me. Let’s shift gears and talk about how we’re going to overcome them. What’s your plan of action to reach your goal(s)?
  • What’s your first step going to be?
  • I think that’s a great idea. Improving your “x” (insert support system, knowledge, technique, etc.) will definitely put you on track to reach your goal. Just out of curiosity, why do you think this will be helpful?
  • What about having some type of feedback in the form of assessments or performance tests, would that be helpful? Why or why not?
    • When a prospect struggles to come up with solutions for their obstacles, it’s okay to suggest something that a coach could help with. As long as you’re not “telling” them that’s what they need, it can still be a win for you.
  • Why?
    • Again, the more detail a prospect can give you on why they need help achieving their goals, the easier your job becomes.

WeAre you cool with me/us holding you accountable to your goals and ambitions?

Of course they will be. Why would they dare say no after you’ve amped them up about reaching their elusive goals? This is a key point because if for some reason you do not close the sale and gain a new client, you now have their permission to follow up relentlessly. No matter how great a salesperson you become, you’re not going to close an ungodly amount of people on your first interaction. Follow ups, in our business, are everything. The better you become at following up with prospects, the more sales you will make and the bigger your client list will grow.

One thing to notice throughout this guide is the repetitive use of “we” and “our” and “us” vs the use of “I” or “me” or “you” because we want it to be a team effort. Using this wordage sets you up to be a part of the prospect’s plan, even if they don’t realize it yet.

After you’ve received the thumbs up, it’s time to wrap up the consultation. If your prospect is ready to go – and they should be if you’ve done a great job qualifying – all that’s left to do is price present and close. The price presentation is another story for another day but remember, the one who talks first loses.

The takeaways:

  • GROW can be summarized as figuring out where a prospect wants to be and what they’d like to achieve, what’s currently standing in their way, how they’re going to overcome any obstacles, and if they’re okay with you helping to hold them accountable to making the changes they need to make.
  • The more you can dig in during the Goals and Reality sections, the easier conquering objections will be in your price presentation.
  • Remember to get specific details about a goal(s). This includes expected timelines, mental pictures or visual reference points, level of importance, and most importantly WHY they want to achieve said goal.
  • Keep each section separate. Remember the emotional rollercoaster we want to mimic. Emotion drives capitalism.  
  • Talk less, listen more.
  • The quality of your consultation depends on the quality of your questions.
  • Create a repeatable process but don’t go off a script. Take notes on which questions work best for you and your prospects.

How to Avoid Business Failures from the Start

How to Avoid Business Failures from the Start

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in the online space is coming out guns blazing from day one and expecting people to buy their product or service. These people haven’t built relationships with customers, and they certainly haven’t provided value to potential customers. Instead, they use social media hacks to gain followers on several platforms only to throw up a “hire me” page or link to buy their product. Nine times out of ten, the same result ensues… crickets.

If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. I was right there with you once upon a time. I did a lot of things right but for every great move, there was a misstep not far behind. Looking back, I still admire my younger self (of course), and I definitely admire the other trigger-happy internetpreneurs. My admiration primarily comes from our conquering the most difficult part of any successful journey, getting started. With many would-be entrepreneurs never taking the leap, the simple act of starting something, anything could be enough to skyrocket the success of a venture.

But first, failure – for most, hearing the crickets chirp a single time is enough to close up shop, marking it up as a complete, debilitating failure. The fear of failure is well known by all us, although some more than others. This fear is what causes indecisiveness and inaction in those with genuine million dollar ideas. It’s this same fear that leads people to think they’ll never be good enough and should stay put in their “safe” corporate job. The fear of failure is a real thing, and it’s a cruel bitch.

I’ll spare you the commencement speech about believing in yourself and how failure is one of the best forms of education. Instead, I hope this article helps you avoid failure from the get-go. Because the truth is, unless you’re resilient from day one, you won’t make it. Failure is inevitable, Mr. Anderson.

I want to help you set yourself up for success. At the very least, enough early success to build up serious steam. A full head of steam will give you a sense of resiliency and confidence, allowing you to shake off most minor failures in hopes of achieving something far greater down the road. Every failure you overcome and small win you notch in your belt; a rising tide of confidence in your work and abilities will overflow into every aspect of your life.

What to look for:

  • One of the most important things you can do when starting an online business
  • How you can make a living with only 1,000 fans
  • The #1 way to get those fans
  • A realistic timeline for success
  • Turning your worst case scenario (failure) into a positive

Providing Value

Value: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged

This may come as a surprise, but I make $0.00 on %80 of the content I create. Seriously, if it’s not a freelance gig for another site, I’m probably losing money for hosting costs, website maintenance, etc.

I could tell you that I don’t do it for the money (which is partially true), but I won’t. In reality, making money and helping people improve their lives are in a constant battle atop Mount Priority.

So if making money is important, and I just told you I don’t make any money from most of my writing, why do I do it? I think Jay Z said it best, “I’m playing the long game.”

You see, I provide value to everyone that reads a post, watches a video, downloads a training program, or consumes any of my content. If you revisit the definition of value above, I don’t just provide value, I provide extraordinary value. I trade my goods and services for free and in return I expect nothing. McDonald’s can’t touch this McValue.

But is it really for free? No, not entirely. While I don’t ask for monetary compensation, I do ask for loyalty in the form of coming back to read more, liking a Facebook page, signing up for my newsletter, et cetera. Essentially I’m asking them to become a fan, without actually saying those words. And why wouldn’t they? If I’m putting out content that’s good enough for people to continue reading and engaging with that audience enough to build relationships, they’ll stick around.

DeathtoStock_Medium4

Let’s take a second to look at two words in the previous paragraph: fan and relationship. Your success in delivering a product/service to someone is largely dependent on your ability to build a relationship and gain a person’s trust. It’s the key. So while you’re after fans, you should really be after loyal, trusting fans that you’ve built a relationship with. Those are the fans that will support your business and make certain you succeed. Here’s my favorite part about this; you don’t need many of these relationships to thrive. Things get a lot less discouraging when you realize you don’t need to be a giant player like Walmart or Apple.

To put this into numbers, look no further than Kevin Kelly’s infamous post, 1,000 True Fans: “A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” If you’re a creative or solopreneur of any kind, I would highly recommend reading the post in its entirety.

To summarize, providing value and earning the trust of merely 1,000 people could be monetized at some point to provide a living for yourself. This could be through products, affiliate marketing, services, or whatever you have to offer. Someone who trusts in your opinion or abilities will buy from you, period.

Do It to Do It

1,000 people is cake, right?

Wrong. It’s going to take time, lots and lots of time. There is no such thing as an overnight success. People that have 1,000 true fans, and I’m talking “true” fans, not followers, did it over an extended period of time. I’m sure it took most of them years to master their subject before they even shared a thought or idea. And once they started sharing their ideas, they did it consistently for several more years before they were noticed.

Expecting fast success or to get rich quick are great ways to set yourself up for failure. You have to trust the process of creating a body of work and be ok with potentially never making a dime from it. If you accept those facts and truly have a passion for your work, you will set yourself apart by nothing more than statistics. Look at how many blogs, accounts, or business are abandoned early into their lifespan. It takes serious grit to continue putting the time in with little to no return and most people will give up, but you won’t. Unlike most, you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing because you would do it even if you won the lottery.

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That level of passion and dedication to your work is what will get you noticed. Even if your passion is underwater basket weaving, there are beweavers out there waiting to connect with your work.

Build a Body of Work (Worst Case Scenario)

Let’s say your work or business never catches on. For some reason, you never get close to the 1,000, or even 200 for that matter, fans that could support your business. Despite your dedication to building a beautiful website, molding your skills as a writer, marketer, or whatever, your business just never grew its wings. Now what?

You get a job.

But not just any job. No, you get an awesome job. The body of work you’ve been building (website, marketing materials, writing skills, customer service) speaks for itself and would make you a candidate for any job you want. Just because you went to college for something totally unrelated to your desired field, you have the skills (and proof of those skills) to bust into whatever field you want.

Your body of work is your CV 2.0.

Maybe you’re not the entrepreneur or business owner you thought you were. It’s quite possible that your personality and skill set serves better in a complimentary role. All you need to do is find the yin to your yang (business owner) and build an uber successful business. Or find a company/brand that you love and join forces. There’s a serious shortage of creative, driven, and growth-minded individuals in the workforce. Use your work and network as tools to find the perfect job for you. There is no shame in joining forces with a team that compliments your strengths for world domination.

arm wrestling

The Takeaways

  • Provide value by solving a problem.
  • Solve enough problems, and you will build a readership or following.
  • Nurture your readers and followers. Engage with them. Create true fans.
  • Maintain a positive give:ask ratio. Giving establishes rapport and trust with your readers and fans so that asking for a sale will always be well received.
  • It’s probably going to take a while to be noticed. Remember, the longer that takes, the more time you will have to master your craft.
  • Do what you do because you enjoy it. If you no longer enjoy it, why do it? If you don’t love your work, why would you push through the difficult times?
  • The myth of the overnight success is just that, a myth.
  • Play the long game. When you get discouraged, remember you’re building a body of work. You are acquiring and putting a unique skillset on display through your work.
  • Remember your worst case scenario. If you fail, your body of work can create any job you want it to.

 

 

 

10 Awesome Tools for Writers, Bloggers, and Creatives

10 Awesome Tools for Writers, Bloggers, and Creatives

Writing and content creation is tough, and that’s why I wanted to share ten of my favorite tools for improving my craft as a writer and online entrepreneur. This list will only scratch the surface of all the helpful tools and resources available. If I left any out feel free to leave additional tools in the comments to help fellow readers.

Pocket (Mobile App+Chrome Extension)

I use Pocket to avoid the dreaded tab overload. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 20+ tabs open in my browser at one time, and I’m fairly diligent about what I choose to read. There are just so many great articles/blogs that I genuinely want to read, even if it’s going to be a week or two down the road. Pocket has solved this and allows me to quickly “pocket” something for later while closing out a tab or window.

A few features I really love are, of course, multi-device synchronization, favorite article archives, and even a saved article archive or delete function. I enjoy being able to save or read articles whether I’m on my phone, iPad, or laptop. And the archive functions are great for keeping a wheelhouse of useful articles to revisit every once in a while.

mason woodruff pocket app

Google Drive

I’d like to preface this by admitting, I’m a Google fanboy. Their tools for creatives are simply hard to beat. Google Chrome has been my default internet browser for the past few years, and I seem to find a new extension to improve productivity or effectiveness every day. Despite my love for Chrome, I remember being resistant to using Google Drive, and I held out until I had a problem that elicited jumping on board.

For the better part of 2015, I ran an online fitness coaching business that required a ton of client management. At one point, I had over 75 clients needing program and assessment organization. Google Drive allowed me to effectively organize and work collaboratively with each client.

Google Drive is essentially like your computer’s hard drive, stored in the “cloud.” You can store documents, pictures, videos, or anything you like. Where Drive differentiates itself is the sharing functions. Instead of emailing a file back and forth between a client or coworker, shared files can be edited and updated by both parties simultaneously. You can even use Google Hangouts to have a conference call to discuss a project in real time.

When I say Google Drive, this includes my affinity for Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms, or as I like to call it, Google Office. I’m not sure we’ll ever get away from Microsoft Office completely, but I certainly hope so. Docs and Sheets are the equivalent to Microsoft Word and Excel without the bloat. Sure, if you’re an accountant, you’re going to be married to Excel. But for the rest of us that need some minimal database management tools, Sheets goes above and beyond. Google Forms is a survey tool similar to Survey Monkey but unlike others, Forms populates an easy to follow spreadsheet (via Sheets) with the responses.

Like anything new, there is a slight learning curve with Google Drive and company. There are several courses on Lynda.com and even YouTube on getting started and improving your Googleyness.

Grammarly

Although I have always loved to read, my educational interests through high school and most of college were as far away from English/journalism as they could be. Thanks to preparing for the GRE, I did some extensive work on improving my poor vocabulary, but my grammar and syntax are still works in progress. That’s why I Grammarly appealed to me in the first place. A Chrome extension that will act as an advanced word processor when I’m typing anywhere – social media, Google, and WordPress included.

Layout & Wordswag 

I’m sure you know this by now, but images can make or break a blog post or article. High-quality images improve both click rates and the shareability of posts. Layout is Instagram’s app for combining multiple images, and I prefer using it over apps like PicStitch to put together collages.

Another useful tool is Wordswag, which is an app for adding great looking text to images. The current trend of motivational and inspirational images with quotes is popular for a reason – they get shared like crazy.

Wordswag

Unsplash

While we’re on the topic of images. It’s a real pain in the ass, for lack of a better term, finding high-quality images to use in your posts. At least ones that you can use legally and royalty free. Shutterstock is a great option for awesome images, but they will run you around $10/photo. The alternative is to find royalty free stock images to use, but most sites lack desirable images. Unsplash.com is by far the best I’ve come across and has tons of stunning “do whatever you want with these” images to download.

Deathtothestockphoto.com is worth mentioning as well. They are an email subscription-based service that delivers new images each month to your inbox for free.

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Lynda

If you noticed my earlier mention of preparing for the GRE, you’re aware that I considered going to grad school at one point. I actually made it as far as registering for classes, twice. But I never pulled the trigger and actually went through with it. When there is so much great information available for free or a MUCH lower cost, it is nearly illogical to consider a graduate degree that isn’t healthcare/professional related.

Lynda.com, for example, has courses on virtually everything you could ever need to know about business, technical tools, marketing, etc. These courses aren’t your run of the mill YouTube tutorial, they are several hour-long courses with professional production quality and top notch information. The instructors are typically industry leaders that are actually taking action on the information they’re teaching, not just teaching it.

Also, Lynda was acquired by LinkedIn so if you’re an active LinkedIn member you’re able to post completed courses to your LinkedIn account – if you’re into that sort of thing. Lynda isn’t the only option in this realm, there are also options like Creative Live that provide great courses as well.

Evernote

A post about increasing productivity and improving your craft wouldn’t be complete without a tip of the hat to Evernote. It goes without saying that this is the holy grail of note taking. The instant synchronization between devices, collaborative features, and overall organizational functions are unparalleled. Having streamlined notes with pictures, videos, and web clippings are always one click away with Evernote. You would think they paid me to write that, but they didn’t. 😦

Canva

If you lack the necessary skills to operate Photoshop like me, Canva.com is the place to go. You can use your own images or use their very high-quality templates to create excellent graphics for your posts.

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Headline Analyzer

Creating headlines is one of, if not the toughest part of blogging/writing. Great headlines can make a lackluster post go viral – look at all the BuzzFeed posts you see shared daily. Use Headline Analyzer to grade your headline and learn more about what makes an effective headline. Their free guides are excellent as well, so be sure to pick those up while you’re there.

creating better headlines mason woodruff

As I mentioned in the introduction, this list is neverending, and I would love to hear what tools I forgot or that I may not even be aware of yet. Feel free to leave them in the comments. Whether you are a budding blogger, freelance writer, content marketer, or a fellow fitness professional, I love to connect with other like-minded individuals so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy writing!