Matt: In our last episode we went deep into limiting beliefs. We looked at how random childhood experiences can shape your worldview for decades; discussed how your outer world is created by your inner world; examined how to reverse engineer bad behavior, and much more with our special guest, Catherine Plano. If you feel like something’s been holding you back, but you can’t figure out what it is, listen to that episode. Today, we have another great guest on the show, Tom Corson-Knowles. Tom is a serial entrepreneur, blogger, and international bestselling author. He started his first business at age 13, and is the founder of TCK Publishing, whose mission is to help every client earn a fulltime income as an author. Tom’s bestselling books include, Secrets of the Six Figure Author, The Kindle Publishing Bible, and The Kindle Writing Bible, among many others. Tom, welcome to The Science of Success.
Tom: Thanks for having me, Matt. It’s great to be here.
Matt: Well, we’re very excited to have you on. Tom, to kind of get started, tell us a little bit about your story, and how you got into the world of publishing and writing.
Tom: Yeah, sure. I kind of started my writing journey... Well, actually when I was 12 years old I would just write poetry on my computer. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had this really old Word processor. No one I knew wrote poetry. No one in my family wrote poetry. It was just this weird thing I did, but I never really thought about it until years later when I was in college—I was a freshman in college—and I was in business school, and all of my classmates, their dream in business school was to go to Wall Street, and become an investment banker, earn six figures right out of the gate, and work like 100 hours a week on Wall Street in investment banking. That, to me, was an absolute nightmare. So, the dream of everyone around me in business school was my nightmare, and I was freaking out. Like, I had to find something else to do because I didn’t want to end up in that career path. It didn’t fit for me, for my personality, for sure. So, I started studying entrepreneurship, I started side business, anything I could do to earn extra money, and one of the projects I started was this random thing. I just opened up a Word document on my computer and just started writing. It was never meant to be a book, really, it was just meant to be my personal manifesto of my personal beliefs of what I thought it meant to live a successful life beyond just having money. For me it was more about freedom, and having great relationships, and being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want; wherever I want with whoever I want in my life. So, I started writing this manifesto, and shared it with a few people, and they loved it, and recommended I actually get it published. So, I started trying to get a traditional book deal, trying to find an agent, trying to find a publisher, and just completely failed miserably. Six years and didn’t get anywhere. Banging my head against the wall, basically. Then about four or five years ago a friend mentioned a comment, “Why don’t you just self-publish your book on Kindle?” I had a Kindle since the day it came out so I knew about how amazing eBooks were. I loved eBooks, I loved my Kindle Reader, but I had no idea you could self-publish because when I first started writing my first book, I looked into self-publishing and it was like, the business model was, you needed at least $25,000 investment to buy 5,000 books to have them all shipped to your garage so you could store them there. And every time you wanted to sell a book, you had to collect the money from the customer, you had to put it in an envelope, stamp it, seal it, send it to the customer; it was just this crazy business model. I didn’t have the money to invest the time, let alone the time and inclination to store 25,000 book...or 5,000 books in my garage. So, when I heard about eBook publishing I was like, “That’s amazing.” I just studied everything I could, and long story short, my first year, I had my first $12,000 month just from eBook royalties alone on Amazon Kindle. That’s when I kind of knew that I had made it, so to speak, in the publishing world, just by myself.
Matt: That’s fascinating. What was the name of that book?
Tom: My very first book, it’s now called, Rules of the Rich. It had a different name back then, but I’ve since rebranded it. That’s my personal manifesto of what I think it takes to live a successful life.
Matt: What are some of the things that you shared in there in terms of success beyond traditional monetary success?
Tom: A big thing for me was freedom, because a lot people might have a lot of money, and I knew a lot of people in my life, especially when I was growing up, who had a lot of money, but they did not like the work that they did. They didn’t like their family, they didn’t like their wife, they didn’t like so many things about their life. Growing up I observed these older people in my life, family friends and so forth, because my parents were doctors so they had a bunch of friends who were doctors. Doctors are actually one of the professions that have the highest suicide rates, which is crazy. So, I’d see these people who were millionaires. I mean, so much money; they had yachts, they had all kinds of great things, and they hated their life. They were stressed out, they were overweight, they weren’t taking care of their body, and all these different things. I learned really quickly, that’s important to me. I don’t want to end up being 50 being overweight, being sick all the time, hating my family, hating my life, hating my work. I wanted the opposite of that. I wanted the money, right? I’ll take that, but if I have to also have the freedom, the health, the relationships. That to me, were the related keys to a successful life. That’s what I’ve tried to strive for since then.
Matt: That’s great. I think that’s a really great way to think about it and look at it. Shifting directions a little bit, one of the things that I really wanted to discuss with you is the idea of creativity, and obviously creativity is a huge part of the writing process, and something we’ve talked about before on the show. We actually did a whole episode on some of the neuroscience behind creativity and how to spark it, but I’d love to hear some of your insights about what you’ve learned, and how people can jumpstart their creativity and harness it.
Tom: Absolutely. For me, creativity is everything, whether you’re in business, whether you’re writing a book, any kind of project, you’re creating something new. That’s going to require creativity. One of the issues I have with the word ‘creativity’ is that it becomes a stereotype like, if you’re a creative person you’re like a starving artist. Most people think that, right? We think that either you have creativity or you don’t, but that’s just not true. It’s a learned skill. Like everything in life, it’s a learned skill. You can learn to be really, really creative. We all have creative faculties, we all have the creative ability in our minds, we just have to learn how to actually harness that. That was actually one of my big challenges as a budding writer, because in school I was really good at math. I was that math guy; I was the analytical guy; I was very left brain. No one would ever say that I was a creative person when I was in school because I didn’t appear that way, and I didn’t have the skills, but now everyone thinks I’m a creative genius; all the books I’ve written and things I’ve done, but it’s not because I was born this way, or because I was born with special skills, it’s because I learned habits and strategies that actually helped me be creative. One of my favorite creative strategies, Matt, that is hugely impactful in my life and many of my students, is something called thinking time. Just scheduling thinking time. Essentially what it is, is that I’ll actually schedule my calendar like, 11 AM to 11:30—thinking time. So, I’ll lock myself in the room: no distractions, no cell phones, no interruptions whatsoever, and I just sit down with a pen and paper and I write down some questions. Questions could be anything from, how can I improve my health? How can I improve my relationship with my wife? How can I improve my finances? How can I earn more income? How can I grow my business? How can I better serve my clients? Just asking basic questions about how I can actually improve my life. What I’ve noticed is just by writing down a question and writing whatever comes to mind—any idea that comes to my mind—writing that down on paper, I have had the most incredible ideas. I’ve had some terrible ideas, for sure, we all have that, but I found some of the biggest leaps in my personal success have come just from asking myself questions. One of the things I’ve noticed is, for example, Matt, we’re in the Mastermind group together, and in our Mastermind sessions someone will ask a question, and other guys in that group will give their answers, their feedback, on how they would deal with that situation or problem, but you don’t need a Mastermind group. You don’t need a mentor to tell you what to do. A lot of times in life, if you just ask yourself, you already know that answer. You ask someone who’s overweight what they could do to lose weight, they already know the answer; the thing is they’re just not doing it. They aren’t focused on it. It’s very easy to ignore things in life. It’s very easy to get stuck in old habits. For me, creativity is about more than just coming up with the idea, but it’s also changing the focus of your mind to the solution rather than the problem, and actually admitting to yourself that there is a problem, and that you’re willing to fix it. That’s what creativity is about is really getting the ideas first of all, but then also changing your focus and your attention.
Matt: You made a bunch of really good points there. Just kind of starting off, for listeners who might be unaware, could you describe, basically, for them, what a Mastermind group is?
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. A Mastermind group is a group of people who come together to support each other in a common mission. I know there’s a lot of Mastermind groups for business. That’s probably the most common one I know of. Basically, you might have five, or ten, or more people come together in a meeting in Skype, or in a personal meeting, or at an event, and people will ask questions and get advice from other members of the group. A lot of people have read, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, and he talks about Mastermind groups and how important they were to Henry Ford, and some of the most successful entrepreneurs in our history, but he also talks about how he had his own mastermind groups in his head just by thinking about it. Just by, what would Henry Ford do in this situation? What would Rockefeller do in this situation? I think you can do... That’s very similar to what I’ve done with my thinking time process is, instead of asking, what would someone else do? What would I do? How could I improve my life? There’s all kinds of questions you can ask; there’s all kinds of things you can think about, but what I’ve noticed is if I don’t schedule it in my calendar, Matt, if I don’t actually spend the time thinking, I’m not going to think. I’m just going to go by habit. I’m going to wake up, I’m going to go to work, I’m going to do the same thing I did yesterday, and that’s the habit we’re all in. So, I think you have to break yourself out of that habit and have that alone time by yourself without distractions where you can really focus and think new ideas rather than just doing the same thing day after day after day.
Matt: I think one of the other really important points that you made is the idea that creativity is not just for the starving artists, and that a lot of people hear the word ‘creativity’ and step back and think, I’m not a quote-unquote creative; I’m not an artist. When in reality, creativity is a skill that can be applied to literally any field that you’re interacting with. Whether it’s business, physics, whatever it might be.
Tom: Absolutely. Business is a great example. Every entrepreneur is an artist. They are a creative person. They’ve come up with new solutions, and new products, and new services that no one thought of before. Maybe they had the same product and the same service, but they’re doing things in ways that no one has thought of before. That’s all creativity. For me, if you look at life, a simple way to look at life is, it’s just a series of problems; problem after problem after problem. The key is just focus on the solution. How do you find the solution? You want to increase your income? Okay, what’s the solution? You want to find a happy marriage? Well, what is the solution? Creativity is really the process of coming up with those ideas and testing them, and seeing if each potential solution will actually work to improve your life.
Matt: The concept of, what’s the solution? You touched on something a few minutes ago, which is the example of losing weight, which is basically, a vast majority of the time—maybe not in every case but often—deep down you know what you need to do, and sometimes you just have to develop, or cultivate, the self-awareness to say, “It’s not rocket science. I don’t need some sort of epiphany. I really just need to start executing on the basic fundamental of what I want to achieve.”
Tom: Absolutely. I’ve noticed that too, time and time again, people want...a lot of times we want a fancy solution. We want something complex. We want a diet plan to follow, but you don’t need a diet plan to follow. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s just that... Why not just add an apple a day to your diet right now? Why not just do the most simple, easy, obvious thing right in front of you? A lot of people—we step over the obvious stuff to find something fancy, and new, and different, when really just doing the obvious thing could make a huge difference over time. We all make changes slowly. I’ve never seen someone go from broke to billionaire overnight. It doesn’t happen. I’ve never seen someone go from 200 pounds to 140, and their fit, ideal weight, in 2 days. It just doesn’t happen. Rather than trying to get mega results instantly, why not see, what can I do today to improve my situation right now? That’s how you make progress; otherwise you’re just going to put it off. You’re going to put it off for a day, and then a week, then a month, then a year, then 10 years, and you’re going to look back at your life like: Why didn’t I ever eat that apple? Why didn’t I ever take that walk? Why didn’t I ever go to that conference? Why didn’t I start that business? Why didn’t I write that book? Well, it’s because you made it into such a big thing that you could never really do instead of focusing on the next step. If all you do is focus on the next step, you’ll constantly be making progress.
Matt: That is super important. I try to distill...any project that I’m working on, I always try to distill it down to this sort of, what is the next action item, the next thing I can do, to make some sort of progress on that?
Tom: Exactly. That’s where your focus has to go because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. Our minds are our biggest enemies sometimes. If you think, for example...books are a great example. When I first had the idea to write a book, it seemed like this monumental task that would take years and years to accomplish. The truth is it’s not. It’s not really that complicated. It’s not really that difficult if you know what to do, and if you just focus on the next step. Literally, sit your butt down in a chair, open up Microsoft Word, and start writing. Anyone can do that right now. Anyone can start writing a book this very instant. They don’t need a guru to tell them what to do or how to do it; you just start right now. For me, likewise, I’m always focused on: Okay, what is the next step? So I don’t get overwhelmed, so I don’t get stuck, so I don’t procrastinate, and I think that’s crucial to anything in life, for me personally, is just focusing on what is the next step.
Matt: Going back to the idea of thinking time, one of the things that I’m a huge fan of, and it’s a very similar process, is just basically kind of a daily ritual developed by a guy named, Josh Waitzkin. Are you familiar with Josh at all?
Tom: Absolutely. He has a fantastic book on learning. I think it’s called, The Art of Learning, or something.
Matt: Yes, The Art of Learning. Exactly. Great book. He recommends a very similar process which is essentially the idea of structuring your morning around having an uninterrupted period of time before you check email, before the day disrupts you, to just brainstorm on a particular problem or challenge that you’re having, and harnessing the subconscious mind, and the powers of the subconscious mind, to tackle that issue. There’s a whole framework that he goes through to feed ideas into the subconscious and sort of pull them out, which we actually did a whole episode on. I’ll link that in the show notes for people that want to check that out. I think that that... You’ve definitely hit the nail on the head, and that’s a huge piece of developing creativity is scheduling that time, and having it be uninterrupted time, that you can really think, and sort of force, your mind to be creative.
Tom: Absolutely. I think another big key to creativity a lot of people miss out on, especially writers and introverts, is connecting with other people. Mastermind groups are a great way to do it, but you don’t need to be a part of some formal group to do it. You can just go and find someone in your field, find someone in your industry, find customers, find your audience members, find your fans, and talk to them about your passion. Talk to them about what you’re working on. Talk to them about your problems, and your products, and services. Talk to them about what you’re doing, and just listen and get feedback, and you’ll be amazed at how that will spark your own creativity by connecting with other people. We have this idea that the super creative scientists, like Albert Einstein, just sit in their office, just daydreaming, coming up with brilliant game-changing, world-changing ideas, and that’s not really how it works. All successful people that I know, who you would think of as really creative and geniuses, they always connect with other people. They always talk to other people. They’re always learning. Whether they’re learning from a janitor, or someone who you think might not have any good ideas, or whether they’re talking to Nobel Prize winners, they’re always open to new ideas, and to sharing, and to communicating. I think that’s a big part of creating is connecting with other human beings and sharing ideas rather than just thinking you can do it all on your own.
Matt: Very insightful. Dovetailing with that, I’m curious, in terms of...specifically within the context of writing, I know one of the biggest challenges is writer’s block; writer creative block, or whatever you want to call it. What are some of the ways that you overcome that?
Tom: It’s super easy. First of all, you can do that same writing time exercise, but instead of thinking about income, or whatever, just think about, what are the ideas I want to share in my writing today? What are the main ideas that I really want to share? If you’re writing nonfiction, or a how to guide, or something like that, you want to help your audience solve a problem. Just ask: What is the problem I’m solving and how can I help my reader solve that problem? Just really hone in on: What are the major ideas you want to share? Just write that down; jot down your little list. Essentially what that does is kind of warms up your mind. It gets your mind focused on the big ideas you want to share. So, when you sit down to write you’re not just staring at a blank screen wondering, “What the heck do I do?” You actually, “Okay, here is the list of ideas,” so you just get in that flow and start writing. Another big thing that is a really bad habit a lot of writers have, and if you break this habit it will double, triple your productivity, is the habit of editing while you write. There are really two parts to the writing process. There’s the creative writing side where you’re just in the flow; you’re just writing words on paper or on your processor, on your computer, and you’re not thinking about anything else. Some people say it’s like channeling. It’s like from God, or a divine spirit, or whatever. You’re totally in the flow. You’re not thinking about it, you’re just doing it. Words are appearing on the page. Then there’s the left brain part of it, which is the analytical editing part of your brain. That’s when you’re fixing typos and grammatical errors, and you’re fact-checking, and you’re doing research and stuff, and if you try to do both of those things at one time you’re not going to get in the flow. If you do get in the flow, you’re not going to stay in the flow because going to be constantly editing yourself. So, if you separate those two processes... So, you say, “This is creative writing time,” and just focus on getting words on paper, and just getting the flow, you’ll write so much faster. Then get up, take a walk, do something else, and then come back and actually edit it. If you separate those two processes, you’ll be amazed how much more productive you’ll be. I’ve seen writers, they’ll complain that they worked for like, four hours and couldn’t write more than a couple pages, and it’s because they’re just constant... it’s like having one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. They’re writing a little bit, and they’re editing, and they’re writing a little bit, and they’re editing, and they never get in the flow, and they’re never going to be productive that way.
Matt: That makes a ton of sense. I think I’ve read somewhere about the creative process being split into two phases, which you described. Basically, the ideation or generation phase, and then the selection phase. Even in a business context, if you’re having a marketing meeting, or a brainstorm, where you’re trying to come up with new ideas, or whatever it might be, you’re going to be a lot more productive if you spend one part of the meeting just generating ideas, and not judging them. Then after you’ve generated a ton of ideas, then you come in with a critical lens and start sort of parsing them down and saying, “No, this one doesn’t make sense,” or, “Maybe we should combine these two,” or whatever it is. It’s really hard to create new, wacky combinations when you have that mindset of judging your ideas in real-time.
Tom: Yeah. I remember learning in business school about this idea of brainstorming, and why you should never judge in the brainstorming phase. I always thought that was nonsense. Like, that’s silly if someone gives you these horrible ideas, but I think what I’ve noticed from my personal experience is the problem with judging those ideas right away, especially if you’re in a group setting, is that... Let’s say, we’re talking with business ideas, and you say, “Hotdogs,” and I’m like, “Matt, that’s an idiotic idea. Hotdogs are a horrible business model.” So, what’s that going to do to you emotionally? It’s going to totally take you out of flow. You’re no longer going to be inspired. You’re probably going to be hurt, or resentful, or angry, and you’re not going to have your most creative ideas come up after that. You’re going to be afraid to share. So, your second idea might be an amazing idea, but you won’t share it because that relationship has been harmed. That’s one of the reasons why, in my experience, judging ideas too soon can really hurt, especially in a group setting. Even for yourself, it’s the same thing. If you write down five ideas on a piece of paper and you’re like, “These ideas are horrible,” you just get in this negative mind frame rather than just focusing on coming up with more ideas, which is a numbers game. Everything in life is a numbers game. A person who has one idea versus a person who has a hundred ideas, the person with a hundred ideas is eventually going to be more successful if they can figure out how to find the good ones in there.
Matt: That reminds me of, in a similar context, whenever I’m trying to create something, whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation, or an email, or whatever it is, I always try to treat the first version as a rough draft. If you set out—at least this is my personal experience—and say, “I need to craft this perfect, everything has to be exactly right, presentation,” or whatever it is, it’s really daunting, but if I set out and say, “I’m just going to create the very rough draft, basic 1.0 version,” what I’ll do is just get flowing and starting and create it, and actually do a pretty good job. Then I’ll look back and be like, “You know what? That’s pretty good. I probably could just use this, and maybe make a few tweaks, and it’s going to end up being fine.”
Tom: Absolutely. That’s how it works when you’re writing a book. You just want to get the first draft done as quickly as possible because that’s when the real work starts of doing your fact-checking, and proof reading, and editing, and rewriting. A lot of people never even get the first draft done because now they’ve got bad habits, or they’re constantly self-editing, they’re never really getting in the flow; whatever it is. Get the first draft done, and it’s all easier from there, but if you’re constantly fighting yourself with one foot on the brake, one foot on the gas, it’s going to be a struggle the whole way, and you’re never going to get the first draft done.
Matt: That segways into the idea of writing as a skill set. I think we both probably would agree that writing is a critically important skill. Not just for authors, but for anybody in life. If you want to communicate with people effectively, if you want your ideas to be structured, and really clear, and understandable, it’s important to master the skill of writing. What would you say, from all of the books you’ve written, and all of the work you’ve done in the publishing space, what are some of the key lessons that you’ve found that can help people improve as writers?
Tom: That’s a good question. There’s one book called, 2k to 10k, by Rachel Aaron, and she talks a lot in the book about plotting. It’s actually a book on writing fiction, but I found it to be one of the best books I’ve read on writing, ever. I write nonfiction, I don’t write fiction, but a lot of my clients do. Even just for my writing nonfiction, it’s helped so much. Her basic premise is kind of what we covered before. It’s just planning ahead of time. Doing all of your plotting, planning out your scenes, planning out how everything’s going to go in your mind, so you have a crystal clear picture of where the book is heading, and where everything is going. So, when you actually sit down to write you already know what’s going to happen. It just comes down to filling in the sentences, basically, and filling out the explanations, and the details, and the hyperlinks that people need to see, and the research people need to see, and all that. That has been hugely valuable for me, and for a lot of my clients. When they read that book it’s like a game changer for them because they realize, rather than spending two years of their life writing a 300 page book, and then finding out the plotting was wrong, and the structure is wrong, the organization is wrong, they can spend a day, or two, or three just planning out the entire book. So, not only is the writing process so much faster, but they don’t waste time creating something that at the end they find out is just garbage because they didn’t plan it out properly.
Matt: So, 2k to 10k, is that the idea of zooming out to 10,000 feet?
Tom: No, it’s actually her word count. Her word count went from 2,000 words a day to 10,000 words a day, which is massive for a writer. It’s kind of her process of how she achieved that. It’s her whole system for it, and it’s actually the same system I use today, essentially, with a few tweaks, and it’s very valuable.
Matt: That’s great advice, and I think that a lot of people don’t really think about planning out what they’re going to write before they actually do it.
Tom: It’s the same thing with everything, right, Matt? It’s like, if you’re going to do a business, don’t you want to plan it out? You don’t have to have an official business plan to pitch to venture capitalists if that’s not what you’re doing, but you should at least have some idea what you’re doing. You should at least kind of know where you’re going. For example, I see people who want to start a business, and let’s say they want to sell a supplement, or something, and they’ll just call up one supplement manufacturer and get one quote, and then they’re like, “Okay, we’ll go with them,” and they don’t do any research, and they don’t do any preparation. They don’t plan it out. To me, that’s a lazy way to get through life. I used to be that way. I used to be so lazy. I made so many mistakes in business from not doing my research, and not doing my homework, and not planning things out, but if you just spend the extra time to do that, you’ll be amazed how far you can go, and how many mistakes you can avoid. That’s really what holds most people back is not that they can’t figure out how to be successful, it’s that they make these mistakes that just cost them so much because they weren’t planning. They weren’t planning ahead. They didn’t ask other people for advice, and they just jumped into something, which is ridiculous. You see so many entrepreneurs today—especially where I live—someone will open a restaurant and three months later they’re out of business. Why? They didn’t do any research. They didn’t do any research at all into the audience; who their customers were; marketing; finances; how much money they needed to raise. They didn’t do any research. They just thought, it’d be a great idea to open a restaurant, so they did it. That’s just not the way to be successful long-term.
Matt: Yeah, I think a focus on—specifically within a business context—risk mitigation, and really trying to—for the least amount of time, least amount of money, least amount of energy possible—figure out if it makes sense, and if it’s possible to do something, or if it works, is something that a lot of people don’t really consider before they launch into a venture, and often those are the ventures that don’t pan out.
Tom: Definitely. It’s the same thing in pretty much any area of life. Like, in a relationship, if you go on a date with someone and you’re like, “Let’s get married right now,” you haven’t really done your research with that person. You don’t really know if it’s going to work. So, it’s like anything life. You want to invest the time to learn as much as you can, so you’re educated, so you can make good decisions, rather than just thinking that... It’s just kind of arrogant to think that you now all the answers when you haven’t done the research.
Matt: Changing directions a little bit, for listeners who are listening to this, and maybe they’re looking to...they’ve thought about publishing a book, or they’re looking to build credibility, or establish an audience, or whatever it might be—one of your expertise is in the world of self-publishing—what advice would you have for those listeners, and what would you say about pursuing that strategy?
Tom: Self-publishing, today, is amazing. It’s the most profitable way to publish a book, and that’s just true. There’s basically no way you can argue with that if you look at the numbers. The reason is, when you traditionally publish a book, you’re going to get 10-15% royalties, and when you self-publish you can get 70% royalties, or so. For example, if you self-publish an eBook at $2.99, you earn about $2.00 in royalties, when you self-publish it, every time you sell the eBook. As a traditionally published author, you sell a $25 hardcover book, you’re going to earn a little less than $2 on the royalties. So, you’ll earn more selling a $3 eBook, self-published, than selling a $25 hardcover book, traditionally published. The question is, do you think it’s going to be easier to sell more $3 eBooks, or more $25 hardcover books in an industry where print sales are declining? If you do the market research and really understand it, self-publishing just makes so much sense financially, but it’s like any business you get involved in, you should do your research, you should do your homework, you should figure out, how big is the market where the opportunities is right now? The biggest opportunities, right now, are really with eBooks for most markets. Digital audio books are booming right now. Print books are great for a lot of markets, but for most self-publish authors, you’re going to earn 3, 4, 5 times as much from your eBook as from your print book. Again, it totally depends on the market, and the author, as well. If you’re doing a lot of public speaking, you might sell a lot of books in the back of the room, you might make a lot more money from print books, but generally speaking that’s kind of how it’s going to turn out. I would say, do your research and really get educated before jumping in. A big mistake I see a lot of people make in self-publishing is they won’t get several quotes for work. So, if they want to hire an editor, they’ll hire their neighbor’s best friend, and pay 5, or 10, or 20 thousand dollars for an editor, when they could have gotten much better work done for a much lower price. The same with book covers, and marketing services, and so forth. I have a rule in business, I call it my rule of three, if at any time I’m going to invest a significant amount of money in a project, and I’m going to hire someone to do a job, I want at least a minimum of three quotes. Bare minimum I need to have three quotes. Again, it just stops you from making an emotional decision that you’re later going to regret because you just didn’t do your research.
Matt: That’s a great rule. I think I might borrow that from you.
Tom: Absolutely. Please do.
Matt: In terms of some of the topics we’ve talking about today: writing, creativity, improving your writing skills, etcetera; are there any specific resources, whether they’re books, websites, whatever, that you would recommend listeners check out if they wanted to dig down and understand some of these topics more deeply?
Tom: There’s a lot. It really... I would say, you can find books on pretty much anything today, and I think... I’m and avid reader. I love reading. I’ve read, on average, five books a week for the past ten years, so I’ve read thousands of books. Mostly personal development stuff and nonfiction, and one of the things I’ve learned is, it sounds impressive that I’ve read so many books, but a lot of those books were not totally a waste, but somewhat of a waste. For example, I’ve read books on real estate investing, but it was at a time in my life where I didn’t even have the capital to actually invest in real estate, so I’ve forgotten 90% of what I learned since then. So, I would recommend for most people, if you really want to study something, study what you need to know right now. Like, what do you need right now? Then go find the book on that that you need to learn right now. So, if you’re going to write a book, go study books on writing. If you’re going to publish books, study books on publishing. If you’re going to market something, study books on marketing. If you’re having trouble in your marriage or relationships, study books on relationships. There’s so many amazing books out, and I can send some of my top books, and you can post them in the show notes, but I don’t want to make blanket recommendations for everyone because I think it’s even better if you really just do that couple seconds of thinking of what problems that you’re having right now, what challenges that you’re having right now, and then find the books that will help you with those problems you’re having right now.
Matt: It’s all about planning before you execute, right?
Tom: Absolutely. It’s a lot of investment to read a book, and it’s not that it’s not useful, but if you can read a book right now that you can actually implement right now in your life, it’s going to make much more of difference than reading something that you won’t use for a couple more years.
Matt: How do you retain all of the knowledge from all of the books you read? Do you have some kind of system?
Tom: I do take notes. Notes are amazing. I think it helps a lot. I like to talk too. So, find a book group, or a Mastermind group, or a partner, or a friend, or a colleague; someone you can talk to about the ideas you’re learning. That helps a ton because by explaining the ideas you get to share them again, yourself, and you’ll get to clarify and make sure you actually understand. If you can’t explain to someone else, you don’t really understand it completely. That helps a ton. Actually, one of my clients published a book recently called, Unlimited Memory—actually a couple years ago—it’s a huge bestseller now. It’s like the number one book on Amazon in memory. So, I’m actually studying his system right now on how to improve my memory, and it’s pretty fantastic. He is actually... When he grew up he had learning disabilities, he had dyslexia, he was told he was an idiot, and he taught himself how to improve his memory, and he since broke world records on memory. He memorized pi to 10,000 digits and broke the world record for that memorization test by 14 minutes. It’s not because he was born a genius, it’s because he...there’s simple things you can do if you practice it. It’s basically about using your imagination to remember things better. So, I’m studying that right now. I would recommend that to anyone if you want to improve your memory, that book is amazing.
Matt: That sounds awesome. That reminds me of two things. One, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, Moonwalking with Einstein, but it’s kind of a look into memory champions, and those memory competitions, and actually, the journalist who wrote the book started out just examining that community, and then ended up getting involved, and then, I think, winning the National Memory Championship at one point.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a great book.
Matt: Which just demonstrates how learnable a lot of these memory skills are. The other piece, for listeners who are curious about that, we also have an episode about memory where we actually talk about the strategy you can use to memorize a deck of 52 cards that have been totally randomized. I’ll put that link in the show notes as well, and we’ll get a list from Tom about some of his top picks that we’ll include in there. So, definitely check the show notes out and you can get all those resources. So Tom, is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that you want to share with our listeners?
Tom: Absolutely. There’s one more thing with creativity, and this is actually... I’m big into science and research, but I don’t necessarily follow it for everything. For example, like creativity, I think a lot of my lessons on that are totally experiential—what I’ve learned from experience, and talking to other really brilliant minds, but this one is actually backed by research. There’s all kinds of studies that have been published recently on walking, and how walking actually improves your creativity, and you can actually double the amount of creative ideas you can come up with just by walking for 15 minutes. So, if you’re ever feeling stuck; you need ideas, but they’re not coming; you’re working but you’re not being productive and it’s frustrating; get up, take a 15 minute walk, or a 5 minute walk, and you’ll be amazed. I noticed that as well. I actually noticed this in my own life before the studies came out, and then I saw a study and I was like, “That makes so much sense.” You’d be amazed by how much a short walk in nature, on a treadmill even, can just help you clear your mind and improve your creativity.
Matt: Great piece of advice. That might dovetail into the next thing I was going to ask you, which is: What is one piece of homework you have for our listeners?
Tom: The homework I would have people do is, schedule in your calendar—right now—time to be creative. Time to come up with new ideas. Time to think. It’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day life, and the old habits, and if you really want a change, that’s going to come from new ideas, and applying those new ideas. So, if you schedule this 30 minutes in your calendar right now for the next week, to just be alone to write down questions to think, that will make a huge difference in your life. You’ll be amazed at the ideas you’ll come up with, and how that will affect you and the trajectory of your life.
Matt: That is something simple and easy that anybody listening right now can do. Take 30 minutes, schedule some time on your calendar in the next seven days, and just set aside some thinking time. If you wanted to dig in more about some of the science behind that, which even though Tom said it’s been sort of an experiential learning from him, it’s actually rooted in a lot of neuroscience why that thinking time is effective, check out the link in the show notes, or listen to our episode about creative breakthroughs. Tom, that wraps up the questions I had for you, so I wanted to just say, thank you very much for being a guest on The Science of Success. It’s been a joy to have you on here.
Tom: Thanks much for having me, Matt. It’s been a pleasure.