As I was typing and making myself chuckle, I realized something: It doesn't do any good to make people laugh because they soon forget what they were laughing at. So I erased the whole post and decided to go with a more serious tone and tell you what I've learned in my short time in Internet Marketing:
Lesson 1 - There Is No Autopilot
There is no instant money. I got a PM today from a nameless warrior (it's my choice not to name the person) asking me how to make money because he needed "urgent cash." Two weeks ago I got another email from someone who'd stumbled onto my personal blog and kept going on about way after way to make money, always wanting to know what methods would make him money the fastest and could be put on autopilot. I see this as I look through the threads here day after day.
It doesn't matter what business you're in, you have to realize that you're making a commitment. It's not much different from getting into a relationship with a girl or guy. You have to be willing to give part of your life to that business, and it's got to be a very significant portion of your life in the beginning.
If you walked up to the girl (or guy) of your dreams and managed to start dating the person, got the relationship going well, and then put it on autopilot, what would happen? (Hint: Watch the Adam Sandler movie "Click" if you want to see Hollywood's version.) Over time, that relationship would fall apart. A business is no different from this. You might start by putting in 2-3 hours per day and find, over time, that you need to spend 4 then 5 then 6 then 10 hours per day at some points to keep it successful.
Lesson 2 - There Is No Easy
You have a 1 in 10,000 chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime, assuming you live to be 80 years old.
You have a 1 in 100 chance of starting a business and keeping it open for 1 year. If you make it 1 year, you have a 1 in 100 chance of making it for another year. (The odds get better after 2 years.)
If you do the math there, you have the same odds of being struck by lightning as you do of starting a successful business and keeping it running. Do you know the difference, though? It takes no effort to get struck by lightning. It takes monumental effort to keep a business running. I've done it twice now. The first business I had I kept open for over 5 years, and it took really bad decisions on my part coupled with the recent US Recession to kill the business. The second one is still rolling strong.
Lesson 3 - People Are Important
I lost sight of this a few years ago. I spent the first 15 years of my adult life in retail, and I let it poison my view of people. I saw nothing but liars and people who were out to screw me over, and I let it ruin almost every relationship I had. It soured business relationships, personal ones, friendships...to the point where I was 1 day away from being homeless in late November of 2009. Luckily my parents and sister didn't run off when I turned into an SOB and they took me in and let me start to rehab myself spiritually and emotionally.
It's taken the last 3 years, but I've gotten back to the point where I like talking to people again. I like networking here in the WF and other places online. I was recently invited into an awesome Skype writer's group where I really enjoy the conversations and I learn something almost every night.
When people send me a message through email, Skype, or PM here, I try to always be helpful. Sometimes I'll see someone make a post and, even if I've never seen them before, I'll send a PM to them and offer a little hope. I firmly believe in paying it forward...my faith tells me that, even if I never see a reward here, I'll see it Later.
Lesson 4 - Never Stop Learning
I came to the WF 13+ months ago to buy a plugin that someone told me about. I liked it so much I left a review for it. I came back 3 months later to get into a virtual fight with the owner of another product that I felt had ripped me off. In between those two visits, I never even thought about this place.
A few months ago, I was up to around 100 posts or so, and I decided I wanted to do my own WSO because I knew EVERYTHING and I could make MILLIONS selling WSOs here.
My plan was to start posting and build a reputation up.
Well, the more I posted, the more I learned. Instead of posting in every thread, I started reading more and learning who to pay attention to when they posted. Over the past few months, I have learned amazing offline techniques by reading posts from Martin Buckley and Brian Boyd. I've learned to hone my writing technique from great posts by Joe "The Almighty" Robinson, Alexa Smith, MYOB, Tina Golden, AmandaT, Tiffany Dow, and Ruth P.
I've gotten amazing information by reading the posts of Paul Myers, Big Mike, TPW (Bill), Kindsvater (whose real name I don't know), and the lady I call my "cousin on another continent" (even though we're probably not related), Noel Cunningham. (Anyone who shares my last name has to be good in my opinion.)
Above all else, though, I've learned that I can always learn more. I always thought of myself as a good writer, but my writer's group has blown away my idea and has started showing me how to become so much better than I thought I could be. Reading through Alexa's posts (and MYOB's posts) has shown me ways that I can leverage my writing far beyond what ever I knew was possible. All of them have shown me that my writing is worth a lot more than what is charged in any IM forum.
Lesson 5 - The Details Actually Matter
During all of my 34 years on Earth, I've never believed in details. I'm a "big picture" guy and I always have been. It takes a monumental effort on my part to dive into the details and sort them out myself.
Do it. They matter.
In Lesson #4 above, I struggled to make myself go through and find the link for each person's URL that I mentioned...part of me just wanted to tell you to use the search button and do it yourself. That's not fair to those people...even without meaning to, every single one of them has helped me grow on this journey and getting the detail of their URL was a drop in the bucket compared to what they've given to me.
Find out someone's birthday and then wish them a happy birthday on the right day. Guys, give your wife or girlfriend flowers one day just because. Compliment a random stranger on how nice they look today if they look unhappy...the smallest words mean the most.
Final Lesson For Now - Enjoy Your Life
My first business had sales of around $150K per year. I worked 80-90 hours per week, had no social life, no girlfriend, not even a dog. I would go in around 8 or 9 in the morning and not get off until 9 or 10 at night.
In pursuing an online business, it's so easy to forget how quickly the minute hand on the clock rotates. I've had Saturdays where I sat down at 7:30 with a cup of coffee and, when I got up to get my second cup, it was 2:30 in the afternoon.
Force yourself to take 1-2 hours at least 3 nights per week to enjoy your life. Go to the bookstore or the park or the YMCA. Again, speak to a random stranger. TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER ENTIRELY, NOT JUST THE SCREEN. Take a weekend at least once every 3 months, turn off all of your electronics, and drive to the beach/mountains and just escape.
For the love of all things holy, please learn to use the search button!!!!