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Knowing vs. doing: Let’s compare these 2 friends who try to earn more

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I like this guest post from Erica Douglass (of — about 2 guys who are trying to sell the same product — for 3 reasons:

  1. She learned about it from a guy whom she traveled to meet. She’s an entrepreneur, so she knows about investing in herself
  2. “Sticking with it” is one of those things we all claim we know, but when it comes down to it, most people flake. Knowing vs. doing are two VERY separate things
  3. Erica happens to have extra credibility with me. Beyond her selling a company for over $1m at age 26, she gave me some advice less than 12 months ago that has paid off in tens of thousands of dollars of revenue for me. But the key was DOING what she said, not just nodding and saying “thanks” or hanging up the phone and reading Reddit again.

Read on…

Erica: Do you know someone who’s given up?

“I was in a meeting with a multi-millionaire last week. He is a person who came from nothing; he grew up dirt-poor in the ghetto. Now he makes several million dollars a year. He runs his own business from a small office and has traveled around the world speaking to hundreds of thousands of people.

I paid him a significant amount of money to learn his story so I could replicate it. He is now one of my success coaches.

I spent a weekend with him and a small group at his second home on Lake Texoma (on the Texas/Oklahoma border.) Not only did I come out of the weekend understanding how to grow my next business to $1 million a year in sales by the time I am 30 (which has been one of my goals for years), I gained a massive amount of insight into why most people are not successful.

He used a story to illustrate: two people who set out with the same goal. Since he came from a direct sales background, he used that as an example, but the example works for any industry — including yours.

Two people set out with the same goal. Let’s call them Max and Min. And let’s say they both are selling the same product. Maybe they are both distributors for the same company, or they both run companies in the same industry.

Max and Min work together and set a goal. They are going to contact three people every day who expressed an interest in their product, and their goal is to get those people to start saying “yes”.

Max and Min both start out motivated. They each contact three people on the first day. Then they check in with each other. “How’d you do?” Min asks. Max replies, “Well, they all said no.” Min commisserates. “Mine did too.”

Neither one is ready to give up. They set out again the next day. They each contact three people, and then they check in. “Nope,” Min says. Max nods. “Same here.”

This pattern continues for weeks. They both start reading some books on how to close sales. Finally, around the same time, Min closes a sale, and so does Max. They go out to celebrate.

Then, crap happens. Min gets distracted. “I’m not really making any money with this,” he tells Max. “I’m only making about $50/month after all my expenses are paid. And my family still needs a roof over its head, so I’m going to go find a job.”

Max says, “Good luck, buddy.” He’s not really making any more money than Min, but he sees something that Min doesn’t. The person who said yes is now paying him $50/month in passive income. Surely, if he got one yes, he can get more.

Max spends more time. Each day, he contacts three people. And most of them are still saying no. But things are changing. He’s still reading success books and learning like mad, and he notices that more people are starting to say yes. He’s not making much money, but he senses that he’s about to break through.

18 Months Later…

18 months elapses. Min has found a job that pays pretty well, and his family is happy. He figures he’s doing pretty well for himself, and decides to call up his old buddy Max and invite him out to dinner.

Min arrives first. Then, he sees a brand new Mercedes pull up outside. And who hops out but Max, who tips the valet handsomely and comes in in a nice suit to meet Min.

Min is shocked. He can’t find words at first. He finally manages to gasp, “What happened to you?”

Max just grins. Then he says, “They said yes.”

Get the First Yes

Turns out, if you can get one person to say yes, you can get hundreds or thousands to say yes.

What do you want people to say yes to? Maybe you want them to subscribe to your blog or buy your product. It would be great if they signed up for your email list, or became your partner in some way. But it’s probably discouraging how many people are saying no.

Don’t give up. Get that first yes. From then, it’s just a matter of listening, learning, and continuing to ask.

I find it takes at least 18 months from when you start to when you really notice that people are saying yes. After 12 months of running my hosting company, I was making the grand total of a little over $400/month gross.

But nearly 6 years into it, we did over $76,000 in sales in one month.

I have friends who started web hosting companies when I did. But they all gave up and decided it wasn’t worth it before they “broke through”. Every single one of them had at least 5 people who said “yes.” If you can get 5, you can get 500. Once you get 500, you know how to get 5,000. It just takes time, a personal commitment to hustle every single day, and a willingness to listen and learn.

Do I believe that every single one of you can build a million-dollar business? I do. I just think most of you give up too quickly.”

About Erica: After selling her online business for $1,100,000.00 at age 26, Erica Douglass “temporarily retired.” She now shows you how to grow your own business to $1,000,000 via her online business blog. Quick link: Download her free Blog Success Manifesto — 30 tactical tips to grow your blog faster than you ever have before.

* * *


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  1. Ah. I gotta admit that I got my 3’s then in less than a month got my 30’s (Yes’es that is). But I jumped ship.

    This no longer is an “inspiration” story. But needs some sinking in to realise that this stuff do happen.

    Glad that you’ve shared this article Ramit and to the author, Erica. 🙂

  2. It has been two years of being on my own with my blogging, writing and photography. Though I haven’t found much success, I am slowly beginning to get better at doing things. Although I never intend to quit, there are times when I feel shaken. Reading through stories like this always puts me back on track and makes me take the next step. Thanks.

  3. So…instead of spending 18 months not earning money for his family, Min did something that made his family life livable and is somewhat satisfied with his work and this is a bad thing because he didn’t ‘get rich’ ?

    I guess whoever gave her this story was also reading their ‘success books’ because it follows the same format as all those. This could’ve easily been some lame Jack Canfield story.

    I’m glad your friend’s company did well and I do agree that persistence and experience are much more valuable than only knowing something but I think this story is a bit misguided.

    Apologies for being so curmudgeonly this morning but something about this smacked of the vague platitudes of Zen Habits and other fluffy ‘life’ bloggers.

    • Yeah JM, I totally know what you mean. I hate most of the inspirational BS that floats around. Here’s a good blog post where my friend Ben calls them out. I thought this one was a little different since Erica shared actual numbers, and so did I. But I understand and agree with your general point.

  4. Great story between knowing and doing. But a better story about the power of determination and sticking with it. For most people, the day to day struggles have a way of interfering with dreams and this is a good story of why you should not let that happen.

  5. I won’t go on about your friend’s post; it just left a bad taste in my mouth for some reason.

    I’ve read that post by Ben and completely agree. His blog is excellent – he’s great about breaking himself down and encouraging others to do the same and goes beyond the standard SEO, list-based format of most people who are just trying to make a buck off a blog.

  6. I’m with JM to a degree. I like Erica’s writing on her blog, and the general point in this post is valid, but the story comes off as insubstantial. It’s not congruent with the main argument presented in the post. There are more effective ways to describe the power of persistence than by rebuking a guy who quit a job that was allowing him to put food on the table for his family. The guy’s making $50 a month. What’s he supposed to do? Sometimes you can’t afford to slave away for 18 months before the money starts rolling in.

  7. Persistance is key. When trying to get ahead of the crowd, simply staying in the game past some of the bumps along the way puts you ahead of 85% of folks out there. Stick with it!

    FYI – Thanks for the great book, it was part of the reason I decided to start my site.

  8. I don’t really think the story is misguided at all. It points out the following:

    1. Most people give up too soon. They expect immediate results and if they don’t get them they quit. A lot if it is out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of not having money for your family, etc. I think it’s just as fair to call out BS on comments such as ‘Oh, well Min had to support his family so what he did was good.’ Nobody is saying it’s not good. The point is Max continued on and overcame some initial sacrifices to succeed. The road to success is not easy. There is no such thing as overnight success (Chris Brogan recently did a video series on this).

    2. DOING is the key. If you want something and you believe in it you have to go out there and get it. Nobody is going to give it to you. Nobody is going to feel bad for you if you fail…well, except for your Mom. The people who succeed in life have one thing in common – persistence and the ability to learn and overcome failures. They keep doing. Look at Abraham Lincoln. He lost two runs for congress (one a re-election) and two runs for the Senate. Did he give up? Hell no. He kept on doing his thing. He took the road less traveled. Instead of playing it safe and going back to Illinois to have a normal, boring family life he became the frickin’ President of the United States.

    • Good points. Btw, there’s a balance between persistence…and realizing you’re doing the wrong thing and adapting or strategically quitting.

      As a personal example, the first six months of this site had very, very few comments and hardly any traffic. But as a cocky young kid, I was convinced that the world needed to hear me, so I stuck around and kept writing stuff — and telling people about it. Finally, it got some attention, which in turn generated even more attention.

      But I’ve taken other projects that haven’t worked and basically quit once it was apparent they’d either never go anywhere, or take a prohibitive amount of work to amount to anything.

      It’s key to practice doing many things rapidly so you can tune your intuition as to when to stay or quit.

  9. I think there is a disconnect between going all in, building upon your Yes’s and also managing the risks and supporting for your family. So this isn’t exactly a statement about Knowing vs. Doing but rather a statement about mitigating risks between one’s life obligations and the potential for more, for greater. The people who can manage that win in the end.

    Check out this book The Leap for amazing, successful people who managed risk and still reaped huge rewards:

    Erica’s writing, in general, grates against me like nails on a chalkboard (dig up the old post about offering a waitress 100 bucks to quit her job, classy move) and wreaks of disconnected-from-reality bullshit-self-help. But I see where she was going with this Knowing vs. Doing.

    Maybe a nice question to throw out there is– what do we know that we’re failing to do?

  10. This post from Erica feeds into the “dream” that too many people have of working their plan and believing it will eventually pay off without truly having a plan. At some point when feeding a family, we must join the reality of working the dream AND the job that is funding the dream. I am in that crux currently since I have a non-profit that I founded and a dream business. My business is unique and I found a niche that has not been tapped into. Yet, I have 3 mouths at home to feed and support. What do I do, work like crazy on all of them. Sorry, Erica, this post isn’t realistic for the working class. Besides, who says the other guy wasn’t doing? He’s happily married with kids. He’s “doing” what he wants to do.

    • Definitely. You can’t just jump into something and hope your passion will carry you. Passion is not enough. But notice that Erica was investing in her own education by meeting this guy, who’s done what she wants to do before. That’s one part of the recipe.