Dangerous Sales Messages and Cereal Commercials

I would rather my daughter watch violent movies than the children’s cereal commercials I grew up with.

At least the violent movies are honest about their message.

Do you remember the classic 1980s and 1990s cereal commercials? Cute little cartoon characters with funny little taglines.

“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.”
“They’re always after me Lucky Charms.”

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A good marketing or sales message solves a problem that the audience has. The easiest way to know what problem the audience has is to give them the problem. An effective commercial will create the world in which you need their product.

Think of the infomercial where a person opens their kitchen cabinet and an avalanche of storage containers falls on them. Then they offer you a much more efficient set of storage containers.

Never in my life have I opened a kitchen cabinet and had a thousand containers fall on me, but as I watch the infomercial, I am thinking that maybe I should get their storage solution because they’ve drawn me into a world where such problems happen.

Remember the Fruity Pebbles commercials of the 90s?

Fred and Barney are supposed to be best friends, yet the theme of every single ad is that Barney is trying to steal Fred’s cereal.

What’s the moral lesson of this story? If you have something you like enough, then you keep it all to yourself and never share.

How about Trix?

“Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.”

“Silly person whose not like us, you don’t deserve the good things that we have.”

Only the people in the privileged class (kids) deserve the best things (Trix). The conceit of the ad is built on the same philosophical underpinnings as segregation laws.

Now you see why I’d be more comfortable with my daughter watching John Wick than an old cereal commercial.

At least the moral lesson of John Wick is about love and loyalty, not racism and selfishness.

It’s not just cereal commercials

World building is a powerful part of any sales or marketing message, and it is as dangerous as it is powerful.

Think of the events in the coaching industry, the ones built around giving you knowledge as a way to draw you in to make an offer.

There’s nothing wrong with this format, just like there’s nothing wrong with a TV commercial, but where it becomes problematic is when the world created is not entirely accurate.

If you’re attending an event like this, it is likely because you think the host knows something worth learning. So, if they teach you that rapid action is the key to success, and they are successful, you’ll internalize that idea that rapid action is good.

But what if they are only teaching this so that you’ll take rapid action to buy their program.

How about if they teach you that worrying about risk is overrated, and that taking massive risks with limited research is the path to riches?

But they are teaching this because they want you to think less of the risk of buying their program.

Maybe you don’t buy into their program, but you adjust your risk tolerance based on what this expert taught you and you mortgage your house to buy into some risky scheme and lose it all.

The advice wasn’t actually good advice, but was simply advice meant to compel you to a particular self-serving course of action.

Always being in integrity

After 25 years of studying sales, I can sniff out when someone has crafted their lesson to “teach” me what I need to know to make the decision they want me to make.

When this happens, I learn that I cannot trust a single word out of their mouth. If they are always selling and always closing, then when are they truly teaching?

If their lessons are built around pushing me to buy the next program, can I trust them to ever stop selling if I do buy in?

The way we do one thing is the way we do everything, right?

It’s okay to plant seeds in a sales process, but it’s not okay to turn your event into a jungle of manipulation.

What’s the right way?

The reason that people sell this way is that it works. They get you in for three days, live or online, draw you into their world, and after all that time, your reality is shifted enough that you’re ready to make decisions you wouldn’t other.

Unfortunately, if you don’t end up buying, then you leave with your reality warped, not shifted.

The better way is to approach the situation with the primary desire to serve, teach, and support.

The better way is to go into your event with the primary intention that every, single person who has trusted you with their time (and possibly money) will leave that event better for having met you whether or not they buy anything.

The better way is to share the best of what you know and who you are and trust that the right people will be attracted to work with you.

Could you run a summit in a single hour?

Could you host an entire summit with only a single hour of your time?

That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked it.

I offer a fully done-for-you summit running program. Unlike many other summit running programs, this one requires an absolute minimum of involvement from you in the planning phase. I set up the pages. I find the speakers. I write the copy. I push the speakers to promote. And, I’m there as an MC to help everything run smoothly. You show up and get the elevation of being the host.

What I assume my clients do while I set up their summit

The exciting thing about having an offer like this is thinking of new applications.

Continue reading “Could you run a summit in a single hour?”

Build Community for Your Funeral, Not Your Financials

“My first business was wildly successful except for never making any money,” is something that you’ll often hear me say.

That first business was Phoenix Games, and it created a robust and valuable community that was a great value for many of the people who were part of it.

Ultimately that community was done in by the scarcity created by the lack of money and by my own youthful arrogance.

I’ve always been a community builder. I personally crave connection, and I have never been terribly good at keeping track of individual friends. When I build a community, a space, whether physical or virtual, where the kind of wonderful people I like to associate with can come together, I can find the connection that I seek.

I hope that this also helps the other people in the community to find the connection, support, and love that they seek as well.

As I have been building the Entrepreneur Mentor Community, I have been giving a lot of thought to what would make it successful. Yes, I would like it to be profitable. It’s not a charity. It is a business. But money is a side effect of doing it right.

Too many people try to build “communities” that are nothing more than sales funnels. They are icky and gross. They are a pale simulation of community. Worst, they feed on our deepest desires as humans and feed us fake connection with the intention of manipulating us out of our money.

Then there are some who do an amazing job at building a loving and supportive business community. Joint Venture Insider Circle does an incredible job of this. When I attended their live event in October, it was like a family reunion. Hugs and smiles all around. Sure the event had good content, but what made it worth the trip was the feeling of connection.

So, what is my KPI on the Entrepreneur Mentor Community and other communities I might build? It’s my funeral. And my anniversary. And my birthday party.

I have come to realize that the ultimate measure of success for me is not how much money I can get in my bank account. It’s how many people will show up to my funeral. You show up to the funeral of someone who has touched your life, someone who has made a difference for you.

I want a community where there is true connection. I want the kind of place where if someone in the group hears that you’re coming to town, they’ll say “The door’s unlocked. Come on by.” I want a community of people that I’d trust to teach my daughter.

It’s not that money’s not important. My first community failed because money is the lifeblood of any enterprise. Without it, you can’t keep the lights on.

Money is so important that it must be made the right way.

And the right way is to build that community of trust, support, and love. People want to do business with people that they can trust. Not some artificial “know, like, and trust” but honestly and authentically knowing, liking, and trusting them.

That cannot be achieved through any funnel or any marketing strategy. It can only be achieved by putting good people in proximity (physical or virtual) over time to develop relationships.

As I look at the list of people I have invited as Mentors, and those I am continuing to invite. I give no thought to how much revenue they can bring to the project. I invite people who have the right spirit, the right energy, and the right character. I invite people who can help build this kind of space, and who, hopefully, are as excited as I am to be part of it.

Sure, we’ll make money, but my mission is to create something so much more valuable than that: a community.

What Business and Life Coaches Can Learn From Sex Workers

They identify the right kind of potential clients, tease them with a preview sufficient to get them excited and into the right state of psychological arousal. At the proper moment, when the prospect is at peak excitement, they make their offer, and the client happily hands over their money for the services they are excited to receive.

Of course, what I am describing is the funnel sales process that many successful coaches use. Only a small proportion of coaches are actually able to use this strategy effectively while most struggle to get clients. If you are in the second group, you will find this article very interesting.

What coaches can learn from sex workers
Continue reading “What Business and Life Coaches Can Learn From Sex Workers”

The Great Covid Pivot of Michael Whitehouse

2020 was going to be my year. The year I broke the six-figure barrier. The year I began living my best life. I had never heard the phrase “Covid pivot,” but I was soon to learn it very well.

It had been three years since I wrote my first book, The Guy Who Knows a Guy, sharing how I had built my network in my local area. During that time, I had connected a lot of people, helped a lot of people, made money for a lot of other people. The time had come for all the work I had done to pay off.

As the sun rose on the first day of 2020, I was a publisher for Best Version Media, running two magazines in Southeast Connecticut. Over the previous years, I had laid the groundwork. The magazines were established and popular. All that remained was to line up two new sponsors per month, and I’d be serving the community and making a good six figure income by 2021.

January: two new sponsors. February: two sponsors. March: two more. On track.

For a few months, I’d been hearing news of some new virus out in Asia. It was just a bad flu or something. The media was doing their usual catastrophizing, calling it a pandemic to get ratings.

There was talk of closing our local schools. Closing the schools, for a new kind of bad flu: Ridiculous!

Michael Whitehouse at a networking event
On March 10th, 2021, I thought that holding up this Corona bottle at a networking event was funny. Three days later, I wouldn’t be laughing anymore. This was the last in person networking event I would attend until May, 2021. No single photo represents the value of humility in my life more than this one.

On March 12th, I had a conversation with our state representative who had been briefed by the state health officials. This wasn’t a bad flu.

This was the real deal. This was serious. The Novel Corona Virus, which had recently been officially named COVID-19, required a profound and immediate public health response.

Covid Pivot Online

While I had been blissfully ignorant of the coming pandemic, Dave Durand, the CEO of Best Version Media, had his ear to the ground. In January, he was also following this Novel Corona Virus. As a CEO, part of his job is to look over the next hill and know what might affect the business.

I ran Mystic Neighbors and Niantic Neighbors until the Covid Pivot took me another direction.
The magazines I built continue to bring people together and share good news to this day.

He learned that COVID-19 could spread asymptomatically, and that’s all he needed to know. Lockdowns were coming.

Best Version Media had always been an in person, face to face kind of company.

They created community magazines serving hyperlocal audiences. The only way to build such a publication was to get out in the offices and coffee shops, face to face with our partners and sponsors. There was no other way to to do it.

Until there needed to be.

Upon learning of the coming threat, BVM immediately began the development of a Remote Guided Presentation. What had been unthinkable was now necessary, and the company would be ready.

On Friday, March 13th, 2020, it was announced that schools in Connecticut would be closing. The pandemic was here, and nothing would ever be the same.

Best Version Media was ready. By the middle of the next week, the Remote Guided Presentation (or RGP) was ready to go. While many companies were caught flat footed, we were ready to keep the engine running in changing times.

This was a very good thing. The BVM publications are positive, local magazines that make people feel happy and connected. If there was ever a time that such a thing was needed it, was the spring of 2020.

While there would be dramatic adjustments with remote learning and locking down in our apartment, I could continue my business… sort of.

Networker Gotta Network

I’m a networking guy. I wrote a book on networking. I went to every networking event I could find. That’s how I connected in the community. That’s how I found prospects and new business.

Over two thirds of my sponsors in my magazines came from in person networking.

Opinions vary as to why networking was so crucial to my success, but it was. Regular cold calling, which serves many other publishers very well, did not work for me. Whether it was my style or this particular market or my own limiting beliefs, I could not replace prospecting by networking with prospecting by cold call.

My pace of two sponsors per month became one sponsor per quarter.

While I did find some interesting virtual networking events, none of our local networking organizations were doing much in the virtual space. There was no platform that would allow me to make the connections I had been making through live networking events.

I tried hiring call setters, but that just filled my calendar with low quality appointments.

Some businesses were paralyzed by the fear of Covid, not knowing what would happen so they would not invest. The larger issue was that it was a certain type of business that was a fit to be a sponsor, and the best way to sift through to find the right ones was a conversation. A conversation which was easy to have face to face at a friendly networking event and difficult in the space of a cold call.

Go Ahead, Make My Data

As I was struggling, I spoke to a fellow publisher, and she referred me to a site called Make My Data. They sold lead lists. Lists of business information to call.

I signed up to buy leads from them, and I was contacted for an onboarding call which would change the course of my business and my life.

They had an interesting arrangement with a coach named Brandon Tillia. Brandon would handle their onboarding calls, finding out what the client wanted to do with the data, making sure it was something legal and ethical, explaining how the site worked, and helping them use the data strategically. In exchange for talking to all the new clients, Brandon got to talk to all the new clients.

Pretty brilliant arrangement, actually.

My intention had been to simply take the data from MMD and grind away on the phones, but Brandon taught me about some other technologies that might be effective.

I put them to work, and I was able to book more appointments, but I still was not getting effective results.

He then taught me a selling system, which I would later refer to as Solution Oriented Marketing. It was a powerful selling strategy for coaches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a coach. I was a publisher. It didn’t work well for me as a publisher at all.

You’d Make a Great Coach

I shared with Brendan that the system seemed great but wasn’t doing anything for me to get sponsors for the magazines.

“I think you’d make a great coach,” Brandon suggested across the Zoom link from his New Jersey home.

“I have always wanted to be a coach,” I replied, thinking out loud. “I have always been the person people came to when they had problems because they knew I could figure them out. I do have two decades of varied business experience. I certainly have the knowledge. I just never had an effective way to get clients.”

Brandon allowed me to continue my line of thinking.

“But, I do now, don’t I?”

“Yes, you do,” he said.

Continuing to plug away trying to find sponsors for the magazine, in July I took some time to put this new strategy to work.

Around the same time, a few people who had known me for a while and followed me on social media actually reached out and asked if I did coaching, and I took them on as clients.

I didn’t have any kind of business structure. I didn’t even know what I was going to charge to how I was going to collect payments. I was jumping off the cliff and building the airplane on the way down.

And it was starting to fly.

Around the World Without Leaving My Chair

When the lockdown first began and everything went online, I saw an opportunity. I was a member of BNI and our group had gone online, as had every other group.

I had made the rounds many times, visiting all the chapters in our area. Of course, that was limited. There’s only so far you can drive to a 7 AM meeting to visit.

But not anymore!

Visiting Millennium BNI through Zoom as part of the Covid Pivot
A screenshot from my visit to the very impressive Millennium BNI chapter in Malaysia.

I made a post in the BNI Members Facebook page saying that I’d like to visit groups around the world, and many reached out to me. One of the first I visited was Millennium BNI in Malaysia. It was an incredible meeting. They were so well organized you would have thought there was a producer in a booth managing the whole thing.

I visited groups in Australia, Washington state, Canada, England, and beyond. I made connections around the country and around the world.

I was evolving from The Guy Who Knows a Guy in Southeast Connecticut to The Guy Who Knows a Guy everywhere.

I joined a coaching group called Envision and Thrive Academy, run by Michelle Jacobik, through which I made connections which would lead to larger and larger communities. It was through there that I connected with Nicole Majik who would introduce me to Strategic Alliance Live in 2021. It was there that I met Amy Flores-Young who would introduce me to Matt Ward whose networking event would connect me to many of the people who would become Conference21 speakers the following year.

I had taken a step into a wider world, and there was no turning back.

Following the Path Laid Out Before Me

By October, two things were clear about my publishing business. Nothing I was doing was getting traction. While many other publishers were thriving in the new situation, it was not working for me. At the same, time my coaching business was taking off.

I was making more as a coach than as a publisher. I also felt that I had found my calling. I have always enjoyed helping people. I love solving problems. I am driven to bring people together and create connections. Coaching is all this and more.

It was time for a transition, and in October of 2020, I resigned as a publisher to become a coach full time.

My path since then has not been a straight or simple one. I have had many false starts and corrections, but I have learned from each one.

While I knew a great deal a year ago, today I would say I know many multiples more about the world of business and the opportunities and pitfalls that entrepreneurs face. In the past year, I have had conversations with and learned from over 600 entrepreneurs, experts, and authorities. I have learned what works and what doesn’t.

I now find I can be very helpful to others following the same path, whether they have been in business for 10 weeks or 10 years. I have accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of business. Like the encyclopedia, I know a little bit about almost everything. I don’t have depth, but where depth is needed, I have my network to lean on and refer to.

One year after I left Best Version Media and stepped into coaching full time, I am putting that knowledge and network to work serving other entrepreneurs with my Inner Circle program and the new Power5 Podcast. In the Inner Circle, members can bring any challenge or distraction that they are facing. I can save them time and money. Rather than having to spend days or weeks researching an obstacle or opportunity, I can skip them to the end by directing them right to the answer they need.

While the pandemic has been tragic for many people, for me, it has been a great opportunity to step into my calling, to live my best life, and to serve others at the highest level.

I’d love to share with you what I have learned. Here is a link to my calendar. Let’s schedule a call and see how what I’ve learned on my journey can help you on yours.

The Paradox of Failure

What is the key to success?


Yes, failure.

The one thing that all successful people have in common is that they have failed… a lot! Like a whole lot.

Michael Jordan puts it this way:

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Success only comes from one thing: trying. You will never succeed more times than you try. You will usually not succeed as many times as you try. Those times that you don’t succeed could be called failures.

It’s simple math. To succeed more, you must try more, and the byproduct of that is failing more.

This is one of the places where traditional education lets us down the most. In traditional education, you are taught a thing, given a test on it, and that is your grade: pass or fail. That’s it. Move on to the next thing.

Fail the test? Guess you’re a loser. On to the next thing. Try not to suck so much next time.

When you look at a college transcript, nothing on it tells you how hard the courses were that you took or how you stretched out of your comfort zone. All that it has is that GPA.

I graduated cum laude by taking easy courses. My transcript looks great. I was totally unprepared for real life because I had learned to avoid failure.

Since then, I have learned that failure does not matter. Failure is the background. It is like white on a canvas. Success is all that matters. Success is the paint on the canvas.

Try and try and try. Only the successes make the score board.

The clock keeps running whether you try or you hide. If you try and fail, you learn. If you don’t try, you just lose.

Michael Whitehouse is a networking coach and motivational speaker. If you’d like to have a call with Michael to talk about ways that you can embrace more success in your life, click here to schedule a complementary session.

Covid Part II — What you need to know to prepare your business

(Note added August 10th, 2021): In this article, I suggest that Lambda is vaccine resistant, and will cause a major spike. Since writing this article, further research has shown that Lambda does not seem to be vaccine resistant. However, this does not mean that the events I describe will not happen. It only means that they will not happen right now with that one particular variant. The general point remains valid.

A month ago, I looked at the data available to me and predicted that within a month or two, we would see masking come back and possible lockdowns. Now that these have come to pass, I want to be more intentional in sharing what I am seeing.

Covid is not only not over but what is coming in the next 18 months will be worse than the previous 18 months. The difference is that the warning signs are here and businesses have time to prepare, if they know what to prepare for.

I’m not going to talk about the politics or the underlying causes. The purpose of this article is to share with business owners and anyone else who needs to prepare a general idea of what we might expect in the next 18 months, and what you can do to prepare your business.

What’s Happening?

Delta is giving us a preview of what variants will do. It’s high infectivity and partial vaccine resistance are causing numbers to rise again, mask mandates to return, and uncertainty in people’s plans and activities.

Continue reading “Covid Part II — What you need to know to prepare your business”

Man Who Writes for Living Calls Others Indolent

We should always be suspicious when someone who writes, thinks, and speaks for a living opines on how lazy people are.

The Day, in their July 3rd edition, published a piece by professional writer and pundit Cal Thomas entitled “Getting Paid Not to Work Is Addictive.

In it, he laments that human nature leads people to be lay about, taking advantage of enhanced unemployment to indolently bum around at home. He paints in your mind a lazy laggard who drinks and plays video games as the rest of us hard working folk put money in their bank account.

Nice story. Too bad it is mostly fictitious, and largely classist. The reality is that working is expensive.

When my daughter was in daycare, it cost $270 per week. That’s for one child.

Minimum wage in Connecticut is $12 per hour, which means that a 40 hour week pays $480. That assumes that you can get 40 hours, which you probably can’t.

Take out $270 for childcare, and now you’ve got $210 left. That’s before taking taxes, the cost of getting to and from work, and all the other costs of working. Can you live on $150/week? Didn’t think so.

In his article, Thomas pontificates, “It makes one wonder what happened to…the ‘work ethic’ when work was seen as a noble.”

Perhaps what happened is that work became less noble when wages remained stagnant for 40 years while the cost of living rose. Maybe it’s that workers are treated like replaceable cogs, liabilities rather than assets, due to misguided “lean business” philophies.

Or it could be that the concept of “work ethic” has always been an idea propagated by those who profit from cheap and abundant labor to convince people to work long hours, exhaust themselves too much to think, then sooth their fatigue with consumerism.

I know quite a few millionaires. None of them work more than 40 hours a week. Most of them less than 20. They deploy their resources efficiently, leverage connections, and find the places where their time most efficiently converts into money.

Anyone can do what they do, but it takes time and energy to learn to do it, to make a plan to do it, and to actually do it. Someone who is struggling to figure out how to pay the rent on $150 per week has neither time nor energy.

However, what happens when that person is given the time and the space to decompress, think, and explore? They start to discover opportunities that they were never aware of before. They find that they can start a business. They find jobs that pay considerably more than what they were settling for. They may even find that, net of childcare and other expenses, it makes more sense to be a single income household.

What would this look like in the macroeconomic numbers? Lower labor force participation, higher wages, more business starts. Just like we are seeing right now.

Covid support didn’t make people lazy. It made them creative. Maybe if Mr. Thomas got away from his computer and did some real work once in a while, he’d see that.

Michael Whitehouse is a motivational speaker, mindset coach, connector, and he helps people make a living by avoiding miserable, soul crushing work. If you’re interested in how you could shift from survival work to thriving work, set up a complimentary coaching session.

How Many Actions Points Does that Take?

The idea of time management is being supplanted by the idea of energy management.

My board gaming friends may understand the concept of Actions or Action Points. In a game like Dominion, you get one Action per turn, but some cards will give you additional actions which let you do more things.

We may think that we have 8 hours in a day, what we really have is a combination of time and energy which results in being able to perform a certain number of actions per day. If we were machines, the number of actions we could perform would be a simple function of how many minutes it takes to perform the task divided into the number of minutes we have available.

Since we are human, however, energy ends up being much more of a factor. Most people get as little as 3-4 hours of work done during a typical 8 hour work day. Why? Energy management.

There are some tasks that give me energy, give me additional Actions in my turn. Running a coaching session gives me energy. I do 6 sessions back to back and the last one would be as good as the first, possibly better, because it energizes me.

Creating content is another such activity. I can write 3,000 words in a sitting. I cannot, however, write two blog posts back to back.

Why? Because creating a blog post, is more than just writing. I need to tag it. I need to share it to Facebook and LinkedIn. I need to do other administrative tasks to make sure people see it. That consumes Actions.

Different people gain Actions, gain energy, from different types of activity. Different people find different tasks easier or harder.

A coaching trainer I am working with shared that he does not like to do more than 3, and preferably not more than 2, sessions per day because it wears him out. I could do twice that and be ready for more.

Recently it was suggested that I should repurpose my content. Specifically that I should record video as I record the audio of my Morning Motivation podcast. This makes sense if creating content is hard and repurposing is easy. For many people this may well be the case, but not for me.

Morning Motivation is my fourth attempt at a podcast, and my most successful. It is so successful because it is so logistically simple for me to create. It takes approximately 11 minutes start to finish to record and post an episode. I will usually create all the episodes for a week in one or two sittings. I spend more time recording the audio than I do sharing the content, and that’s just the way I like it.

One of the great things about audio is that I can edit out a flub in seconds as I record without leaving an artifact. Not so in video.

While it may seem like simply recording video as I record the audio would be simple, it would likely double the time it takes to create an episode. When I increase the friction on a task, I increase the chance that the task will stop getting done.

A better use of 11 minutes would be to take my camera and record a second video on the same topic that is 2-5 minutes long and share that. It may seem inefficient to create two pieces of content when I could repurpose one, but it is actually easier, it takes less Actions, to do it separately.

The same is true with transcribing the podcast. There is software that will turn speech to text that I could run the episodes through, but what I would have is a mess of errors with no punctuation. I would have to go back through every word, figure out what I was trying to say originally, and clean it up. Add to that the fact that we don’t write the same way we speak, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

You know what I can do in the same amount of time it would take to clean up an automated transcription? I could write an article!

That’s what I did on the topic of getting 1% better every day. I recorded it as an episode, then I wrote an article, then I recorded a TikTok, then I talked more about it in a Sunday Update of Morning Motivation. These four pieces of content did not feel like work to me because they were creating content. They also are all native to the platforms where they live.

In the same amount of time it would have taken to repurpose the first episode into multiple pieces, I created four pieces of content.

The place where repurposing does make sense is when you have an assistant. I can create content as easily as I can repurpose it. An assistant cannot create content for me, but they can take what I have, reedit it, transcribe it, clean it up, reshare it, and all the rest.

At some point it will make sense to hire such an assistant, but this is not that point for me.

For yourself, it is important to recognize what give you Actions and what consumes Actions. What can you do all day without a break or rest, and what drains your energy. Rather than looking at how much time something takes, look at how much energy it takes and strategize along those lines.

Find the things that you can do most efficiently and do more of that. Find the things that drain you and either hire someone else to do it or do as little of it as possible.