Monthly Archives: October 2016

25 Other Letters

If Plan A Fails, Remember That You Have 25 Letters Left


Chris Guillebeau | October 13, 2016 | Living, Working

Lesson: Craft backup plans. They will allow you to take more risks and make better choices.

There’s no shame in having a plan B, or even plans C–Z. Use the “if this, then that” method to make a backup plan for every career choice, and then make a backup for the backup. If one strategy doesn’t work, move to the next.

Vanessa Van Edwards had a message to get out to the world. As an expert on social psychology, she spent her days developing business courses on persuasion and influence.

The business was going well, but soon she wanted to expand her audience. She’d set her sights on partnering with Creative Live, an online platform for lifestyle and business instruction.

Vanessa had several friends who’d taught Creative Live courses, so she could easily have asked for an introduction to a high-level decision-maker at the company—but that’s not what she did.

Instead of connecting to one of the producers or executives at Creative Live, she took a different approach. She wrote in to the customer support email that was listed on the website, making her case for why her course would be so effective.

At first, this sounds like a terribly risky strategy. Writing in blindly, with no introduction, to an all-purpose email address that probably received any number of random pitches? It was the online equivalent of cold-calling. Surely the odds of success would be low, if not nearly zero.

But you may have guessed that Vanessa was actually quite smart. She gave the message an unforgettable subject line: “Here’s how I’ll make you a lot of money.” In the email body, she included a link to a slide presentation that went into great detail about why her proposed course was such a good fit for the company.

As an expert in persuasion, Vanessa put her skills to good use, building a case that made it easy for the executives who eventually saw the email to say yes.

The technique worked. Vanessa’s course went on to become one of the highest-grossing Creative Live courses—no small achievement, since there are hundreds of courses taught by experts and great teachers. But that’s not what was most interesting about her technique, at least to me.

When she told me this story over coffee, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the route she had chosen for that initial pitch.

It was a bold move, no doubt, but it also sounded unnecessarily risky. Why not just go through a referral, I asked. Wouldn’t that greatly increase the odds of her proposal reaching a real decision-maker instead of having the message relegated to the spam folder or deleted by an intern?

Her answer was interesting. She told me she had purposefully wanted to build support for her course throughout the whole company, not just in the executive suite. She was seeking true partnership in the project, and wanted the people on the front lines to know about her. (A senior producer for Creative Live confirmed that this is exactly what happened: “We saw Vanessa’s email go through the ranks, being passed around from department to department.”)

Still, though, I persisted—why take the risk of rejection in the first place?

To this question, Vanessa had another quick answer: “Oh, I thought about that. If the cold pitch didn’t work as I hoped, I would have gone to the referral network.” That’s when I understood: there wasn’t actually any risk. Because her initial approach had only been her plan A, she had a whole suite of contingency plans ready and waiting in the event that plan A failed.

In other words, even though the cold pitch was her optimal scenario, she also wasn’t banking on it. If it didn’t pan out, she’d simply change tactics.

When I was starting out in business I used to say things like, “Screw the backup plan! Backup plans are for wimps.” But now I know that this isn’t usually the greatest idea.

Backup plans don’t make us wimpy; they actually allow us to take on more risk. @chrisguillebeau (Click to Tweet!)

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of PursuitThe $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. 
Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Shut Out Toxic People

Shut Out Toxic People

Who do you let into your consciousness? Your mind is the home to your thought-life. To stay focused and accomplish anything of significance you need clarity. It’s hard enough to keep your mind-space clutter-free with your own flow of thoughts. When you add outside visitors – comments from others – it can get messy. Shut out toxic people. I doubt you would appreciate someone visiting your house and trashing your living room. Negativity is like mud. It leaves smears all over your vision and makes your dreams hard to see. Lay out a welcome mat for new ideas while setting ground rules for entry. Be a witness to your thoughts and the language of others. Only let in messages that will serve and support you. Allow everything else to float on by. Make your mind your sanctuary through practices like meditation and you will create a clean slate for creativity, innovation, and peace. Until next time, remember – it’s your divine life, live it to the fullest. The power is in your hands!

With Purpose & Power,


Dr. Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy – Power Living Enterprises, Inc., 116 West 23rd Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10011


Best Boss Eva!

A CEO who gives his employees $2,000 to go on vacation says people are more productive than ever

Mark Douglas, CEO of the marketing and advertising company SteelHouse, has a different analogy.

“If you have a caged lion that was born in captivity, and then you open the cage, they back up more into the cage. They don’t start running free,” he told Business Insider. “When we first started telling people they had unlimited vacation, they didn’t even know how to interpret that.”

That was in 2010, when SteelHouse launched. By 2011, Douglas had figured out a solution: Pay people to take vacation.

If you work at SteelHouse, the company will pay you $2,000 a year to go anywhere in the world and do anything you want (provided it’s not illegal). You can spread it out across multiple trips or blow it all at once; Douglas leaves it up to the team member.

“Our culture is really simple,” he said. “It’s based on trust and ambition.”

The trust goes both ways, he adds. Employees who buy their plane tickets on a Monday will get reimbursed by Tuesday. If the employee can’t front the cash, SteelHouse will let them use the company credit card to book the flight. Once people return from their trips, they can submit their expenses for reimbursement up to the $2,000 cap.

Of course, some people have said they don’t need time off and asked for a $2,000 bonus instead, but Douglas is adamant about how the money is used. “I actually want you to go somewhere and enjoy yourself,” he said.

The results have spoken for themselves, Douglas says. In the last three years, only five people out of 250 have left the company, three of whom left for reasons unrelated to the job itself. “We have virtually zero turnover,” he said. The company has also found that people who come to work recharged tend to be more productive.

Douglas said he believes all industries are capable of implementing such a policy. (Though he shies away from the term “policy,” since, in his words, “policy is policing.”) Many companies just need to learn about the idea so that it doesn’t seem so scary, he says.

Douglas says the policy was inspired by his own positive experience in jobs that encouraged employees to take vacations.

“The first time I got exposed to real corporate culture that had elements of what we’re talking about, it changed my perspective for the rest of my life,” he said.

Douglas says he wants his team members, many of whom are younger than 30 and haven’t had many other employers, to one day create companies that enact similarly forward-thinking policies.

“It’s one thing to say ‘You have three weeks vacation,’ like most companies do,” he said. “It’s another thing to say ‘You have cash, and if you don’t go on vacation and spend this money, the money literally goes to waste.’ It’s another level of saying this is real.”