Failing Rules (Here’s Why)

failing rules

The other week I was talking to Brent Darnell, the construction industry’s “emotional intelligence” guru. I asked him if there was one thing people could do to improve their emotional intelligence…one action that would give people disproportionate results…what would it be?

His answer surprised me. He said it was taking time each day to reflect.

How do you get away from the interruptions, the daily havoc, and looming deadlines each day to “reflect?” I guess I should have asked that! 🙂

But you and I can certainly find 15 minutes to reflect on our year. What better time than now? So, I’d like you to join me on a journey to reflection town.

My Mistakes And Areas Of Improvement

Reflection isn’t just about what you did well. It’s about being honest with yourself, recognizing the things you could have done better, and where you need to improve.

I hate it when people just tell you the good stuff. Everybody tries to fool you into believing they don’t fail, they don’t trip, and they haven’t identified areas they can improve in.

Hogwash. We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. That’s how we grow. I’ve found failure to be the best foundation for success.

Take a small chance. Try something new. If it works, great! If it fails, figure out why, make adjustments, and keep testing or move on to a different approach.

I’ve had my fair share of mistakes and failures this year in my professional endevours both at my firm and with my ventures.

For example, I tried my hand at affiliate marketing. I decided to pitch the Help Everybody Army a service I swear by called LeadPages, going as far as showing exactly how to use it, divulging my personal results, and getting you a crazy deal. I thought after seeing all that people would be insane not to at least try it.

The result: not one single person bought LeadPages! Honestly, that shocked me.

But I think it taught me that my audience just isn’t focused on internet marketing. And I can’t force them into it.

Then there was the big launch of The Magic of Winning Proposals. Yes, overall, I think it was a success.

But I launched a brand new book on Cyber Monday…

…what was I thinking?!?!

By the time I realized this, it was too late. The wheels had already been set in motion. On a regular day, with the number of books sold, Magic would have easily been in the Top 10 Marketing & Sales best sellers on Amazon. Easily! In fact, it likely would have been #1. But on the year’s most competitive day for book sales, it didn’t pan out like that (more on this later).

I made another terrible mistake with that book launch. I didn’t apply for a new library of congress number prior to publishing, which means libraries won’t likely be able to carry it. 🙁

Of course, I still have my “day job,” where the vast majority of my time and attention goes.

Yeah, I fail and learn from my mistakes there too. Take, for example, our “GSA schedule” contract. I find it to be the most confounding contract I’ve ever dealt with. For years, I’ve been preaching to our team that it was an hourly-based contract. So, I was shocked to learn we can do lump sum task orders through it. I was even more shocked to learn that’s what our contract said the whole time! Whoops.

As always, I end the year with a number of projects and initiatives unfinished. My plans are always bigger than my capacity. Just looking at all the things I’m tracking in my system that didn’t get done…well, it’s a little depressing.

But ultimately life is about making tough choices. And making good choices with your time is a skill you have to cultivate.

Those are just a few of my many failures this year.

My Blessings

It’s important to count your blessings, and I have many.

I love everyone who subscribes to this website. I call them the Help Everybody Army.

I’ve learned more from them than I could ever teach. This year, the Help Everybody Army grew from 1,080 soldiers to 2,817. That’s over a 160% year-over-year increase.

You guys/gals are a force to be reckoned with. Together, we helped raise over $24,000 for a little girl battling an aggressive cancer! Here’s an update on the experimental treatment little Aven has been going through

We resurrected the best proposal writing manual ever written, gave it to over 155,000 people, and still managed to make it the #1 Business Writing and #13 Sales & Selling book on Amazon’s best sellers list on Cyber Monday, the single most competitive day for online book sales.

These things couldn’t have been done without you.

I also have to be thankful for my coworkers at TRAUNER. I’ve been there for over a decade (which is a long time for a marketer or business developer in this industry). I’ve spend more cumulative time with some of these people than I have with most of my immediate family members.

It’s a very symbiotic relationship. I sell their time for a living. And they deliver. And they sort of, kind of, get me…which many people don’t. That’s valuable.

I presented my first keynote and met a lot of wonderful people at SMPS’s Southeastern Regional Conference.

I also have a new child, which is also a blessing. I have an awesome wife and kid. And I have some close friendships that have lasted decades.

I even reunited with my old high school garage band and spent my 40th birthday in the recording studio.

Recognizing Accomplishments and Improvements

Just as my recent failures will fuel future success, I’ve learned from my past failures and was able to accomplish quite a bit this year. traffic grew 21.53% this year. I attribute much of that to my epic SF330 post, word of mouth, LinkedIn, and lots of testing.

Not to jinx anything, but I’m certain to make my money back on the publishing of The Magic of Winning Proposals. It will likely be a profitable venture that will help me fund more experiments to help more people.

At my firm, we’ve had arguably our most successful year with proposals. Although, we did end up losing a big one on price.

We made some tweaks to our firm’s website. Traffic grew over 50%, it now loads faster than, and has become a fairly reliable source for lead generation.

I’ve been able to refine my approach to sending emails to potential clients. This sounds like a minor thing, but it is huge. My response rate when emailing important people who don’t know me has jumped dramatically.

As a result, I’ve been able to get meetings with some important prospects who probably wouldn’t have responded to me before.

Since I started using Omnifocus, I’ve been faithfully doing weekly reviews. My boss is still probably wondering why my desk has been so unusually clean lately. 🙂

I also learned a ton about Federal procurement this year…and here I thought I already knew a lot (What’s a BPA?).

I’ve also had a lot of fun with and learned a lot about outsourcing. I outsourced the entire design and layout of the Magic of Winning Proposals.

Failing Rules

When I think about the failures that led to me learning and achieving more, I can’t help but be excited about what my 2014 missteps and screw ups will lead to in 2015.

Looking Ahead

I’m looking for Big Wins in 2015! “Big Wins” are the projects and activities that will give me and my firm disproportionate results.

Now It’s Your Turn

Ok, I’ve reflected. I’ve spilled my guts. Now it’s your turn. Take 15 minutes to reflect on your year. Then share one personal success and one failure by posting a comment below. Don’t be shy!

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