Where was this video BEFORE my first time skiing?

I couldn’t see through all the snow spraying me in the face, so I just closed my eyes and waited for impact. Another skier was trying to stop before he ran me over, and he barely missed me. I had fallen – again – and couldn’t get up.

This was my first ski lesson. It was not going well.

Even better, the skier trying to avoid me was my good friend and instructor, Scott. He was much better than I was and he didn’t have much patience for teaching a newbie how to ski.

I would just sort of point myself down the mountain and try to maintain some control while zipping down in a straight line. When I eventually got to the bottom, I would either coast to a stop or intentionally wipe out to avoid hitting anyone.

It was awful, and I was content to never ski again.

Then my friends convinced me to give it one more shot, on powder this time. So I’m heading to Colorado next week to try again. They insist it’ll be a lot more fun than I remember.

We’ll see!

It’s a big investment—time and money—for something that could turn out to be really un-fun. So I put on my “learn a new thing, even if it might be unpleasant” hat and started doing some research.

I found this fantastic video on YouTube—it’s exactly what I needed:

How to ski | 10 beginner lessons for the first day of skiing

What impressed me most is how the instructor anticipates almost every fear that I have about skiing. “How do I turn?” “What if I fall?” “What if I accidentally end up on a slope that’s uncomfortably steep?”

He’s been teaching for so long that he’s heard all of those concerns before. His list of “10 beginner lessons” probably came directly from hundreds of terrified students who have said, “What if I fall? How do I get up again?!” as they pictured themselves stuck on the side of a mountain, people zipping by as they struggle to stand up, for hours and hours and hours.

After watching that short video, I have enough confidence to give it a shot. I’m still going to take lessons the first day, but I’m a lot less worried about embarrassing myself than I was before.

Most people feel the same way about getting a raise. Maybe they tried it once before, but it didn’t go very well. So they gave up and decided to just wait for their next raise to come along whenever it happens to come along.

Sometimes, they don’t even get that far—the idea of asking for a raise and having to defend their request may be so daunting that they never even try.

Does that sound familiar?

Now it’s February again and most companies are gearing up for performance evaluation season.

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I’ll be your expert instructor showing you how to get your next raise in just 7 short video lessons with clear action items to help you make steady progress to your goal.

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My first 15k race didn’t go well

I ran my first 15k (9.3 miles) this weekend, and it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. The official race results say it took me about 1 hour and 20 minutes to finish with a pace of about 8:38 per mile.

At first, I was pretty upset with myself because I hoped to be much faster. I tried to go faster, and kept telling myself, “Ok, it’s time to start moving!”… but that extra boost just never came.

Then I talked to a friend of mine, and he reminded me of a pretty important detail: I was recovering from the flu, so I was probably dehydrated and of course I didn’t run a very fast race. I probably shouldn’t have run at all, so finishing with a decent time was actually a great result.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there were a lot of positive things about the race, even if I didn’t run a great time. I ran the race with two friends, and it was fun to see them run well and to encourage each other. I ran further than I’ve ever run before, and I felt pretty good despite the flu. I even experienced my first “runner’s high”, which I previously thought was just a myth.

Plus, I went to Chick-Fil-A for my post-race meal, and I ordered enough food to feed a small family.

My post-race meal at Chick-Fil-A

There were a lot of positive things about the race, even if my time wasn’t what I had hoped for.

Sometimes the value in doing something is the thing itself.

I think this applies to our work, too. It can be tempting to look for “business value” or “promotion potential” behind every little thing we do, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Don’t forget to look for opportunities to do work that you enjoy, just for the sake of having some fun. Not only does that make it easier to finish the hard things, but you might find a whole new fun dimension that you can add to your work.

Using micro goals to achieve macro goals

Goals are my best tool for staying motivated. I have macro goals—big things I want to accomplish—and micro goals that support those macro goals—small things that give me easy wins while making progress toward my macro goals.

Before last January, I had never really been A Runner™. I had run before, but mostly as a social thing where I would join some friends for a run from time to time. I would also occasionally run for exercise, but that was rare.

That changed last January when a friend invited me to hop into a running group with a bunch of other friends. It was the New Year, and I was feeling that post-holiday sluggishness after eating everything in sight for the past couple months.

“Sure, why not?”

Running is hard, but it was especially hard when I first started. My body just wasn’t used to it, so everything hurt. The only way to keep myself motivated was to set some goals.

My first goal was pretty easy: Run and finish a 10k race with some friends in April. But as that race got closer, I realized I would need to adjust this goal to keep motivated.

I knew that if my only goal was “finish a 10k”, then I would lose motivation after I finished that race.

So I set a new macro goal: “Finish this same 10k race with a sub-8:00-per-mile pace.” Now I had one year to improve my pace by a little more than one minute per mile.

But that’s a pretty daunting macro goal, so I set some micro goals to support it:

  • MACRO: 10k (6.2 miles) – Sub-8:00 pace
  • Micro: 5k  (3.1 miles) — Sub-7:00 pace
  • Micro: 1 mile – Sub-6:00 pace
  • Micro: 400m (1 lap around a track) – Sub-60 seconds

All of these micro goals are challenging, but I don’t think any of them are out of reach—that keeps me motivated to keep training.

A couple weeks ago, I hit my macro goal, so now I need a new one. I haven’t achieved any of my micro goals yet, but training for them directly contributed to finally achieving my macro goal.

That’s the value of micro goals—you can win directly by achieving them, and you can win indirectly by achieving the macro goal they support.

So where do you start?

  1. Stop and think about your current macro goal for your career. If you have one, make sure it’s achievable. If you don’t have one, now is the time to set it. An example of a good career macro goal might be, “Become a people manager in the next two years”.
  2. Once you’ve defined your macro goal, support it with micro goals. These goals are related to your macro goal, but much smaller in scope, and thus easier to accomplish. Using that same example, some micro goals might be, “Take a leadership training course in 2018” and “Find at least one junior team member to mentor this year”.

When you set your macro goal and back it up with micro goals, then you can focus on smaller wins with those micro goals while still making progress toward your macro goal.

This isn’t working

Nick Saban did something truly remarkable on Monday night: He benched his starting quarterback and brought in a backup for the second half of the National Championship football game.

It’s hard to describe how crazy this is – it’s never happened before.

Football coaches are notoriously stubborn. They learn a system that they like, and they hold onto that system at all costs. And this often gets them fired as they start losing games to newer coaches who have figured out how to beat their go-to system.

But Nick Saban isn’t an ordinary coach. He’s probably the best college football coach ever because he’s constantly evaluating the situation and looking for opportunities to adjust.

In this game—the most important game of the season—he evaluated his game plan, said THIS ISN’T WORKING and switched to a completely different game plan at half time.

I call this “optionality” – maximizing the number of options available at any time, and having a plan to choose and execute the right option for a given situation.

This wasn’t some sort of knee-jerk reaction to falling behind: They had practiced for this, and they ran a totally different offense with their backup quarterback in the second half.

AND IT WORKED! His team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, came back and won the game!

Optionality and your career

You knew this tie-in was coming, right?

We can all learn a lot from Nick Saban’s strategy in the National Championship. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say…

Always keep an eye out for new options and have a plan to take advantage of the best options when your current plan isn’t working.
An easy way to increase your career optionality is learning a new skill—a programming language, software tool, or soft skill—so you’re ready for an opportunity that might be available soon. A harder way is to earn an advanced degree (like an MBA) or certification.

This is a big shift in thinking, but it’s worth it: Instead of just waiting for new opportunities to present themselves, you can proactively look for new options to take advantage of them.

That’s how you improve the trajectory of your career.

Fearless Salary Negotiation will show you how to proactively pursue raises and promotions using methods that work. Check it out if you’re due for a raise!

>> Click here to learn more about Fearless Salary Negotiation

My 2017 Year In Review: Making a living

In May of 2017, my business was in real danger. I had finished 2016 on a high note, finally breaking even for a few months in a row. But revenue began to slow in January, and my savings account was shrinking. I cautiously began looking for day job opportunities or something to bring in a little revenue while I figured out how to bring my business back from the brink.

One night, I mentioned this to a friend, and we talked strategy for several hours. Long story short, I needed to shift my focus to coaching as quickly as possible.

The next day, I flipped some switches on FearlessSalaryNegotiation.com, updated my onboarding emails to emphasize coaching, and formally narrowed my positioning to “Salary negotiation coach who helps software developers get more high-quality job offers and negotiate higher salaries.”

June was my best month ever and I was cautiously optimistic that I had finally found a formulate that worked. July was strong and so was August. September was even better than June, and I knew I was on to something. Closing out 2017, the streak continues: Every month since May of 2017 has been better than any month through May of 2017.

I’m finally making a living and it’s an enormous relief.

Here’s a Table of Contents so you can jump ahead if you want:

2017 Goal Review

Let’s start out with a look back at my 2017 goals.

Make fewer new products, more new sales

I did pretty well on this one. The new products I made were all versions or subsets of previous products. And all of them were designed to test my own theories about how I could best help people in their current situation.

Focus on helping developers

I did really well on this for coaching, and totally failed for products.

My business has two primary revenue streams: coaching and products. My coaching is positioned specifically for Software Developers (the headline is “Software Developers: …”), and that’s where most of my revenue comes from. I haven’t niched down products because I don’t quite know how to do it given the volume of traffic my site gets from organic search (mostly Google).

Fearless Salary Negotiation was initially written for W-2 employees who want to get paid what they’re worth. So the articles on FearlessSalaryNegotiation.com are deep dives into my strategies and tactics, which are mostly job-agnostic. That makes it tough to niche down my product focus because so many people who could be helped would think, “That’s not for me.”

I’m working on this now.

More traffic

My goal was 100,000 visits from organic search per month, and I missed this goal by quite a bit. I’m currently a little over 50,000 organic visitors per month.

It would have been a stretch to make this happen, but I think I could’ve done it if I moved it up my priority list. The reason I didn’t do that is I realized “more traffic” is meaningless if that traffic doesn’t turn into customers. So I switched my focus from “more traffic” to “more email subscribers from existing traffic” and now to “more customers from email subscribers”.

I’ll loop back on traffic some time in 2018 as a natural part of optimizing different areas of my business.

Make a decent living

Check! I’ll write more about this later on.

Finally finish my audiobook

Fail. I tried to make a push early in the year and even tried to hire someone to help me finish editing it. But that person stopped replying to emails and I lost steam editing it and just sort of let it languish. I’m not even sure how much revenue this would drive, so it’s basically a bucket list item to “Publish an audiobook” at this point. That’s not a strong motivator for me, so I’m not sure when this will get done.

2018 Goals

If 2017 was the year I made a living, I want 2018 to be the year I make a good living from what I’ve built.

Before I quit my day job, I was making a good living. I had a good job on a good team at a good company, and it was a nice life. But I wanted to know if I could build something on my own, and specifically I wondered if I could capture more of the value of my own abilities by doing my own thing.

I don’t talk about this much, but the investment I’ve made in building this business is pretty substantial, especially in terms of opportunity cost. I understood that going in, and it was a risk I wanted to take because the potential upside of learning how to build a profitable business with my skillset could be substantial.

I say all that to emphasize that I did not quit my day job to “do ok” or even “make a living”—I was already doing that. I quit my day job for a shot at making a much better living than I could as a W-2 employee capturing only a small fraction of the value I created. I’m over-explaining this because I realize this next goal may sound greedy, and shooting for even bigger goals beyond that might sound outright ridiculous. But I did not make this move—quitting my day job and starting a business from scratch—to break even. This business is an investment where I want a multiple on my return.

Make a good living

Talking about revenue is a little out of character for me. But once I get past “pay all my monthly business and personal bills with a little left over”, describing the next level of growth without using actual numbers is challenging.

So here’s a quantified goal: I want to make $10,000 per month in net revenue in 2018. More specifically, I would like to do that by selling $5k in products and booking $5k in coaching per month for the year.

This is a stretch goal because averaging those numbers for the year will be very challenging given that I’m starting below that average. But I like shooting for the average because it will incentivize me to keep pushing even if I hit those numbers for a month or two. “Yes, I hit the $10k goal two months in a row, but I need to do better if I’m going to average $10k over the entire year.”

More traffic (continued)

I would like to build my organic search traffic to 100,000 unique visitors a month. I’m currently at 50,000, so I need to double my monthly traffic to hit this goal. In nominal terms, adding 50,000 visitors a month seems like a stretch, but in relative terms, “Double my traffic in 2018” seems relatively easy compared to the growth I’ve seen over the past two years.

There’s also a risk here because almost all my traffic eggs are in the organic search basket. I will also spend some time working to add new traffic sources in 2018, but I’m not sure how I’ll do that just yet.

Improve at Sales

Selling products and services is the goal that I had in mind when I set about building the infrastructure of my business. The entire point of my book, website, outreach, and other business activities is to reach more paying customers.

My goal is that 2% of email subscribers become paying customers within the first 30 days.

This is probably my most important goal for 2018. If I hit it, a lot of other goals will be easier.

Help other businesses get more search traffic and email opt-ins

This one is less quantitative, but is something I’ve really enjoyed in 2017. Part of building a business is learning new skills, and I’ve gotten pretty good at getting organic search traffic and turning some of that traffic into email subscribers.

I can help other businesses do that. I like doing it. And it’s extremely valuable, especially for businesses with established, profitable sales funnels in place. For them, more traffic and opt-ins means more revenue.

Running goals

I set these goals after I began running earlier this year, and I’ve only gotten one of them so far.

  • 10k – Sub-8:00 pace Hit it with a week to go!
  • 5k – Sub-7:00 pace (currently 7:14)
  • Mile – Sub-6:00 pace (currently 6:08)
  • 400m – Sub-60s pace (currently 64s)

I’m confident I’ll get the 5k and mile times eventually. I’m not sure I can do a 60s 400m, but I’m so close I have to keep trying.

These posts are normally business-focused, and this one will mostly be business-y. But this year was a lot about personal growth and experience, so I’ll talk about that too.

A detailed 2017 Year In Review – Business

This year, I focused on building on the foundation I laid in 2016. Last year’s one-sentence summary was “Build infrastructure to turn the book into a business.” This year’s one-sentence summary is “Make a living.”

The real key to 2017 was focus. Early in a new business, I think it’s extremely important to try lots of things to see what works and what doesn’t. As much as we want to believe we can engineer a perfect business, that’s just not how it works.

But once things start moving—people are aware of your product or service, you have some sales, you’ve seen a few things work for you—focusing becomes extremely important. In 2017, I focused on building my traffic, building my brand, and building my business. I avoided distractions and that was key to my survival.

Ultimately, shifting my focus from “build a robust sales funnel for my products” to “leverage my skillset and knowledge in the most valuable way possible (coaching)” was the one thing that saved my business and unlocked real growth for the first time since I started.

Products and Services

Ultimately, my business is all about offering the right products and services to the right people at the right time.

In 2017, my coaching revenue more than doubled; my product revenue more than quadrupled. When I step back and look at my business, those are both extremely encouraging signs, especially considering I feel there’s a lot of untapped potential within the infrastructure I’ve built.

Coaching

In June, I turned my focus to booking coaching clients and it paid off in a big way. I’ve worked with clients negotiating with the Big Five (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) and many other big names. My portfolio speaks for itself, and I’m learning how specific in-demand firms negotiate their job offers. This knowledge is extremely valuable and I am starting to capture the value of the knowledge base I’m building.

I have also begun working with a new niche: graduating physicians. I initially started doing research to write a book for them, but I think the best way to start is to offer coaching. The common wisdom is “doctors’ contracts aren’t negotiable”, but that’s simply not true. Not only are they negotiable, but the value of negotiation is tremendous—even more than software developers in some cases.

The 15-Minute Counter Offer

I’m pretty sure I only created one new product in 2017: The 15-Minute Counter Offer. It was a companion product for the free email templates I give away on my site. I was curious if people would pay a little bit for more help writing their counter offer email, and it turns out they would.

This is slightly different than products I’ve created in the past. Those products were explicitly designed to make money. This product was designed as an experiment to learn more about how I can best help my audience. It’s subtle, but this shift belies a move from “try to make some money” to “optimize my business”.

The Salary Negotiation Crash Course

The Salary Negotiation Crash Course is a focused version of Fearless Salary Negotiation that is designed to help folks who already have a job offer become effective salary negotiators in less than 90 minutes. This is a good product, and it’s also an experiment as I learn more about the best way to offer valuable help to people who are looking for salary negotiation advice.

Stats!

It’s useful to track stats over time, so I’m going to look back at most of the stats I tracked last year and add a few new ones.

Traffic

This was a huge focus for me in 2016. I kept working on it in 2017, but not as intensely as last year. The reason is that I realized I had enough traffic that I should be able to do something productive with it if I would just optimize some things.

Before we look at 2017’s traffic, let’s look back at 2016:

2016 weekly organic traffic on FearlessSalaryNegotiation.com

Not bad! Now let’s look at 2016–2017 for perspective:

2016–2017 organic traffic

First, you can see that things are still improving pretty quickly. Second, you can see that I took it easy mid-year because I was focusing on other business priorities.

As an aside, I’m finding that building a business as a solo founder is really just focusing on one thing at a time until it’s time to focus on something else.

In my case, I got to a level of traffic where I thought, “It’s worth my time to focus on turning traffic into email subscribers. If I can make a meaningful improvement to my opt-in rate, I can grow my email list really quickly.”

So I turned to optimizing my site to turn all that traffic into more email subscribers. This was a wise move.

My email list

Subscriber growth really picked up this year as I got more traffic and increased the opt-in rate for my site. Here are the subscriber counts at the end of the last three years:

  • December 2015: ~700
  • December 2016: ~2,500
  • December 2017: ~11,500

Here’s a graph of my subscriber growth for 2017:

2017 email list subscriber growth

You can see the hockey stick in September. That was the result of finally making a change I had been thinking about for months: I moved my free email templates behind an email opt-in form. That one-hour change quadrupled my site-wide opt-in rate.

I’m getting about 2,000 new subscribers a month now.

I want to pause on that number for a minute to put it into perspective.

The entire year of 2015, I got 700 email subscribers. SEVEN HUNDRED. I typically get that many new subscribers every 10 days now. I remember the first month where I had at least one new subscriber a day (October 2015), and that was a huge milestone for me. Now my slow days are around 30.

Conversion rate

This is a new stat, which logically follows the email list stats. By conversion rate, I mean, “How many of my email subscribers become paying customers in the first 30 days?” For me, the answer is embarrassingly low: Around .7%.

And it’s actually not even that good because that number is propped up by a couple experiments I did with extremely low-priced products. It’s probably more like .4%.

My 2018 goal is to improve conversion rate to 2% within the first 30 days.

Overall funnel

If you haven’t already noticed, I just described my “funnel”:

Traffic -> Email opt-ins -> Conversions
50,000/mo -> 2,000/mo (4% or so) -> .4%

Here’s where I would like my funnel to be by the end of 2018:

Traffic -> Email opt-ins -> Conversions
100,000/mo -> 5,000/mo (5% or so) -> 2%

If I hit those stats by the end of 2018, I should be able to hit my revenue goals.

Leveling up my credibility and profile

This year was huge in terms of publicity. I published several articles on Glassdoor.com and was interviewed live on international TV for the BBC News. The tick-tock of my BBC interview is pretty interesting as it was less than two hours from start to finish.

My work was published or syndicated on Business Insider, Fast Company, The Motley Fool, CNBC, MSN, Yahoo! Finance, AOL, The Telegraph, Forbes, Quartz, The Muse, Monster.com and lots of other sites.

You can see a running list on the FearlessSalaryNegotiation.com media page.

These opportunities have significantly raised my profile and given me a credibility boost that is paying off for my business.

A detailed 2017 Year In Review – Personal

This may sound crazy, but it’s true: Starting in 2009, I basically worked 7 days a week until the end of 2016. I got into that routine because I was working full time while also studying for my MBA. I would work at my day job during the week, then use weekends to do whatever needed to be done for my MBA.

That lasted until I finished my MBA in 2011. As soon as I finished my MBA, I quite my day job for 8 months. Ironically, I worked more during that 8 months because I was playing a lot of poker, writing my first book, and learning how to build web apps. It was a busy year and I worked some very, very long days and weeks in 2011.

I went back to work full-time in 2012, but I was building ShareAppeal (my first web app) and finishing Heads-Up Tournament Poker while I worked full time. We published Heads-Up Tournament Poker in 2013, but then I started working on TaskBook, which was a nights and weekends project.

I switched jobs in 2014 while I was still working on TaskBook, and then I started writing Fearless Salary Negotiation in December 2014 while still developing TaskBook (my second web app).

I quit my day job (again) in September 2015 to focus on publishing Fearless Salary Negotiation, and then began building that business in 2016 after the book was published. Throughout 2016, I was doing the hard work of building underlying infrastructure to run the business, and that work is pretty much a “volume of effort in correlates directly with results out” situation, so I worked long days all year.

2017 had to be different

But moving into 2017, something had to give. I had chosen to invest my time to learn how to build businesses and eventually become independent. But what was the point of being independent if I spent literally all of my time working? Yes, hustle is necessary to get something up and running, but eventually the hustle has to give way to something better than a 9 to 5.

So as 2016 wound down, I made a conscious decision to stop working so much and start enjoying the freedom I had earned by going independent. What did that look like in 2017?

I began working less and started leaving my laptop in my office at the end of the day. I had more energy because I was working less, so I got off my couch. I went from sporadically attending church to consistently attending. I joined a community group. I started spending more time with my friends just for the sake of spending time with them. I made new friends. I joined a running club and found a new hobby.

Am I a runner now?

My diet is typically pretty awful around the holidays. There’s like six weeks of non-stop snacks and big meals, and then I almost always get a truckload of candy for Christmas. I take on the truckload of candy as a personal challenge, so I eat even more candy than normal for the month of January.

And, uh… well the point is I typically gain a few pounds between like Halloween and February 1. This year, someone said, “Hey, we have a running club that meets once a week to do track workouts. You should come!”

Normally, I would’ve said, “I don’t run.” But the Florida winter was unusually mild and I had a few pounds to shed, so why not?

I’ve never been a runner. The longest I had ever run before this was six miles and that was an awful experience that took me over an hour. I had also run a few miles here and there in college, but it never became a real thing.

There were four to eight of us of us at most of the track workouts. I did not have fun at first—those workouts were extremely difficult for me. I had never done a track workout before, and it took some time to adjust.

But by April, I ran my first 10k race at a 9:00 pace and I actually kind of liked running.

Now I consistently train three days a week, mixing up track workouts (sprints) and medium-distance runs (3–5 miles). A few days ago, I finally achieved the first goal I set this year—I ran a sub-50:00 10k. It felt really good. (Emotionally, I mean. Physically, it was pretty awful.)

I’m also lifting weights three days a week. I’m in the best shape of my life and I can eat a lot more junk with all this running.

Time with people

I’m naturally pretty “introverted”. (Those air quotes are to acknowledge that this term may or may not have any real meaning.) I like to sit on my couch and watch TV or read. It’s pretty draining for me to hang out in groups.

Before this year, I had been working so much that sitting on my couch was my go-to down-time activity. While it was comfortable, it wasn’t healthy, and I decided to change that. Spending less time at work meant I had more energy for hanging out, and hang out I did.

I made a ton of new friends this year and sort of re-entered the social world. I went to Charleston to run a 10k race in April. Spoke at MicroConf later that month. Had a pretty good #SummerOfFun to take advantage of the Gainesville Summer Lull. Split my 4th of July time between a boat and the beach and barely survived a crazy storm. Carved a pumpkin and dressed up like Charlie from Wonder Woman for Halloween. Went to some Gator football, basketball, and volleyball games. Had lots of great dinners with friends. And finished the year off by watching a dozen Christmas movies with friends.

I also spent a lot more time with my family this year, and it was fantastic. No big trips or anything, just small opportunities to have a meal or catch a movie every now and then.

It was a good year.

How I get into the Christmas spirit every year

Every year, my friends and I watch as many Christmas movies as we can between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have an elaborate system to nominate and veto movies until we have three movies to choose from, then we vote for our favorite.

It gets pretty crazy with people forming alliances and using complicated strategies to watch the movie they want, and we spend a lot of time arguing about what constitutes a “Christmas movie” (Die Hard is a Christmas movie, Die Hard 2 is not).

Here’s how it works…

The group nominates three movies. Each person can nominate one movie. Each person also gets one veto—they can veto any movie that’s already been nominated, and they must replace that movie with another nomination.

Once there are three nominations and no more vetos, we all vote for our favorite. The movie with the most votes wins. If there’s a tie, then there’s usually some campaigning before we re-vote for the movies that tied. If there’s still a tie, I think we flip a coin or something.

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is: Sometimes the nomination process is as long as the movie we choose.

We’ve already had four movie nights and my guess is we’ll have five or six more before Christmas. Here are the movies we’ve watched so far this year:

  1. Better Watch Out – Is this a Christmas movie? There were…disagreements.
  2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – One of the best Christmas movies.
  3. Trading Places – Yes, the one about trading pork bellies. No, this isn’t really a Christmas movie—turns out the TV version is quite a bit different than the full version.
  4. Jingle all the Way – What’s not to like about a Christmas movie starring The Governator?
  5. Christmas Vacation – Chevy Chase at his best, and a timeless movie that gets better with time.
  6. Home Alone – The quintessential Christmas movie.
  7. The Santa Clause – A solid Christmas movie with one of my favorite Christmas movie characters: Neil.

A pretty good lineup, but we still haven’t watched my favorite…

Christmas Vacation

There’s just something about Clark Griswold’s dogged determination to have a Merry Christmas despite the universe conspiring against him at every turn. Hopefully I’ll get this one on the list while there’s still time.

And I’m still hoping for It’s a Wonderful Life and Home Alone this year.

UPDATE (12/19/2017): We have watched a few more movies since I originally posted this, so I’ve added them to the list above. We’ve had a really solid lineup so far this year!

Speaking of Christmas…

Give them a lifetime of bigger paychecks

If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift, Fearless Salary Negotiation is the gift that keeps on giving – literally.

For the rest of their career, they’ll know how to ace job interviews, get more job offers, negotiate a higher salary, and get raises and promotions rather than just waiting for them to happen. All because of your thoughtful gift.

Just click the little gift box icon at checkout and I’ll take care of the rest. You can even set a future delivery date to make sure their gift arrives on Christmas Day!

Give the gift of bigger paychecks

My current business challenge: Providing the right solution at exactly the right time

It’s Thanksgiving, so this post will be a little different. I’m going to tell you all about what I’ve been up to with my business. If you’re curious about how I do things behind the scenes, this is for you 🙂

How my business works

My income comes from two primary sources: Salary Negotiation Coaching and product sales (Fearless Salary Negotiation books and courses). The coaching business is doing well—I’m happy with both the volume and quality of clients I get to work with. The product business has been doing alright, but I would like to grow that side of the business.

Obviously, selling more products means more revenue. That’s important since this is how I make my living.

But selling more products also means providing a valuable solution to an expensive problem (“How do I negotiate my salary without leaving anything on the table?” or “How do I get more job offers?”) at the right time. I like helping people, and it’s frustrating that lots of people get some of the help I have to offer while never knowing about other ways I can help from 1-on-1 coaching to a full-on step-by-step DIY guide to negotiating a job offer.

Slow and steady progress

My newsletter will cross 10,000 subscribers by the end of the week. I can hardly believe I just wrote that number. It seems crazy to me, especially considering my newsletter had only about 2,400 subscribers at the beginning of 2017.

The business-y way to describe that is, “My marketing efforts have been effective.” I mostly focus on content marketing—writing long, detailed articles designed to teach people how to do difficult things by following a process. Most of my newsletter subscribers found me through an article I wrote.

That’s the thing I’m best at, so that’s where I focus.

Where I need to get better is at articulating the value of salary negotiation and giving folks the the opportunity to buy products and services to help them negotiate higher salaries and get more job offers.

The business-y way to describe that is, “I need to get better at Sales.” On one hand, I feel a little uncomfortable saying that. On the other hand, “Sales” is a key part of any business.

The timing problem

My primary Sales challenge is that most of the people who find me are looking for a specific tool to negotiate their salary and they are on a very tight timeline to respond to a job offer.

I call this “The timing problem” because there’s such a small window between “job offer in hand” and “compensation package finalized”. For a long time, the challenge was simply enabling those people to find me when they need help. Over the past year or so, I’ve gotten pretty good at that part as I write better articles on salary negotiation and related topics (this is how I know my Marketing efforts are paying off).

The issue is that the folks who find my articles and other tools are in such a hurry to respond to their job offer that most of my advice gets to them after they’ve already finished negotiating. They may not even know that they could have purchased products or services to help with all other aspects of their negotiation and done even better (this is how I know I need to work on Sales).

My current focus

So once a new person finds Fearless Salary Negotiation by searching for help on a specific topic, I need to find a way to make it crystal clear that there’s a lot more help available, and I have to convey that message very quickly (in 24-48 hours or less).

I haven’t worked out the details, but I need to move faster and communicate more when new people find me. This is tough for me because I don’t want to bother people—I want to help them. I realize this sounds cheesy, but it’s true: If I were just trying to make money, I never would’ve quit my day job two years ago.

Instead of saying, “Here is a free thing to help a little bit, good luck!” and then waiting a day and saying, “Here’s a tip to help negotiate your salary” and then another day and “Here’s another tip!”, I need to do something more like:

Here is a free tool to help negotiate your salary – we’re going to move quickly because you probably have an offer in hand and there’s a lot I need to share with you. If you want help right now, here’s where to get it and here’s the monetary value of that help.

These are the key things to consider when negotiating your salary. I’m going to share insight into each of those things over the next few days. We’re going to move fast, so buckle up!

If I can figure this out, I’ll be able to help a lot more people get paid what they’re worth and my business will grow. This is the kind of challenge I love, and it’s why I do what I do.

So that’s where I’m at with my business. Now I’m off to bake a couple of pecan pies for Thanksgiving 🙂


UPDATE: My first attempt at solving this problem is The Salary Negotiation Crash Course. It’s a focused course to help folks respond to a job offer in less than 90 minutes. My intuition is that this could be exactly what people are looking for and it could be a turning point for my business. Only time will tell.

Tough career advice over lunch at a cheap BBQ joint

“What are you doing for lunch today? Wanna go to Sonny’s?”

I was a Project Manager on a team of about 8 people at a company of about 30 people.

Still, it was a pretty big surprise that my boss wanted to go get cheap BBQ for lunch.

I had been doing pretty well, impressing clients and even winning some awards. My co-workers seemed to like working with me. I tried to give good input and share my opinions in the right situations.

But I could sense this wasn’t a back-patting sort of lunch—Humble Pie would probably be on the menu.

Sure enough, my boss had one central message for me:

“Your input in our team meetings is often critical but thoughtful. And that’s good—we need that kind of input to keep improving as a team. But the way you share your input and accept feedback could be more collaborative and less harsh.”

He told me my body language was negative. I didn’t seem to be engaging to find solutions so much as simply venting about my frustrations. When my work was scrutinized, I wasn’t open to suggestions that could help me improve.

This was pretty hard to hear, and I didn’t take it well at first (reinforcing his reason for sharing this feedback).

But the more we talked, the more I understood that the actual words I spoke were only part of the equation. We work with people, not robots, so our facial expressions, body language, and tone all contribute to how others perceive us.

I began to see that he was simply advising me to get out of my own way. By seeming standoffish and resisting input, I was making others less likely to offer feedback that could be valuable for me and our team.

I made two major adjustments that I still use today:

  • I forced myself to actively listen to all feedback without passing judgement in the moment.
  • I decided that I would not criticize something without having at least one thoughtful solution to the problem.

If you’ve sat in a meeting with someone who has no idea what they’re talking about, then you know how hard these things are to do in practice.

So it took a while to make these adjustments, but they paid off in spades.

It became easier to solve difficult business problems because I really listened when my colleagues identified things we could improve.

I also found that I had access to more unique opportunities because I became known as a thoughtful collaborator who could work with a team to solve difficult problems. Those opportunities helped me get promoted faster and get better paying jobs with more responsibility.

I’m glad my boss took me to lunch and shared difficult feedback over cheap BBQ that day. My career has been much better for it.

Something to think about

If you took yourself to lunch to share one piece of career advice, what would it be? That might be a good place to focus your energy as we head into the home stretch of 2017.

I bought this painting

My friend Rick is a an artist who I met in Charleston earlier this year when I went up there to run a 10k race. I was running the race with Rick’s son, so we all stayed at his house in Charleston while we were in town.

While we were staying at Rick’s house, I saw a painting that I really liked. I didn’t say much at the time because I wasn’t sure if it was ok to ask about buying art from an artists’ house.

But then Rick brought several of his pieces down to Gainesville for an art show, and that piece was among them. It was for sale, so I made an offer, which eventually turned into an agreement. I’m now the proud owner of this original piece:

Here’s the weird thing: It’s a mystery why I like this piece. Rick had lots of great pieces at the show, but this particular piece really speaks to me.

Why? Who knows!

All I know is that I saw it, liked it, and eventually bought it.

I used to think hiring managers felt this way about job candidates. They had a job to fill, they posted a job opening online, they got a stack of resumes, they talked to a few candidates, and one of the candidates just seemed like the right fit.

It seemed mysterious, almost magical.

But then I spent a year building a team of 25 Support Engineers, which meant reviewing scores of resumes and interviewing lots and lots of candidates.

The team we built was very good at what they did, and I learned there’s a very concrete, tactical side to interviewing, which is unlike evaluating a piece of art.

Let’s go back to something I said earlier:

“They had a job to fill, they posted a job description online, they got a stack of resumes…”

Did you catch that?

The hiring manager isn’t hoping for a mysterious connection with a piece of art. They’re hoping to find a candidate with attributes clearly articulated in their job description. They want a candidate who can help the company or team meet its goals and overcome challenges they’re experiencing.

With a job description and a little research, you can position yourself as the candidate for a specific job. It’s almost like you can peer into their mind to figure out what sort of art they’ll like so you can present it right back to them.

Interviewing can be intimidating, but it isn’t mysterious. Your goal in your interviews is to make sure they know that you are that person they’re looking for.

My comprehensive guide to answering interview questions shows you how to position yourself as the candidate they want to hire. Even if you’re not interviewing right now, you should bookmark this for later. And if you know someone who has job interviews coming up, do them a favor and send them this link:

>> Click here to read my guide to crushing your job interviews

How I prepped for hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma smacked the state of Florida last week, and I live in Gainesville, FL, directly in the path of most of the trackers’ projections before Irma made landfall.

When Irma was in the Atlantic, it ramped up to a Category 5 hurricane, which is a pretty scary prospect for us Floridians. A Cat 5 hurricane can do a lot of damage, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared.

Here’s a summary of my #HurricanePrep the day before Irma arrived:

  • My buddies and I played a round of disc golf—I shot one over, which is pretty good considering I haven’t played in a year or two.
  • Then we went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on the essentials. Here’s what we had in our cart:

Groceries for hurricane Irma prep

  • Then we went to Satchel’s pizza for a Satch Pan (Satchel’s take on a deep dish).
  • I moved anything that looked like a projectile out of my yard and into my laundry room.
  • I made arrangements to ride out the storm at a friend’s house where the power almost never goes out.
  • We watched football.

I know, I know: It sure doesn’t look like we took Irma very seriously. The truth is that we probably OVER-prepared for Irma given what we knew at the time.

Prepping for the right things

The worst part of a hurricane is the storm surge, but storm surges require lots of water (like an ocean). Gainesville is land-locked, which significantly mitigates the risks of a hurricane because we’re unaffected by storm surges and hurricanes have to cross a lot of land to get to us. As hurricanes move over land, they weaken, so they’re much weaker when they get to Gainesville than they were when they made landfall.

What I didn’t mention above is that my friends and I are all life-long Floridians, and we’ve seen and prepped for lots of hurricanes. Since we have so much experience with them, we can filter out all the noise coming from the Weather Channel Hype Machine™?, and we know that there are just a few important things we need to do any time a hurricane blows through town:

  • Get some water
  • Get enough non-perishable food and a few batteries to last a few days in case the stores close
  • Find a decent house to shelter in place (preferably one that doesn’t usually lose power in storms)

So when hurricane season rolls around, we know all we need to do is a few key things to make sure we’re ready. As long as we do those things, we’ll be ok for most hurricanes that reach Gainesville.

Irma flooded streets and downed a few trees, but not much else. This is 34th St here in Gainesville – a main road that goes north and south right through the middle of town:

A Gainesville, FL street flooded during Irma

And here’s the view from my house looking down my driveway. You can see the water line in my yard—fortunately my house is raised above the street just a bit!

My house after hurricane Irma

Asking for a raise boils down to a few key steps

Asking for a raise can feel overwhelming. But in my experience as a hiring manager, I’ve learned that there are just a few key things you need to do to to prepare ahead of time. If you focus on these things, then process becomes a whole lot simpler and a whole lot less overwhelming:

  • Pick a time when there’s budget available
  • Ask for a specific salary
  • Show how you’ve already earned the raise
  • Follow up

When you prepare well and take the right steps, then asking for a raise is much easier for you and your manager.

Not sure where to start when it comes to asking for a raise or promotion? Fearless Salary Negotiation will show you how to estimate your market value, and has a step-by-step process you can use to get your next raise or promotion.