Why Conference21

Conference21 has grown into something more unique, more special, more powerful than I ever hoped for. As an event, it has a mission, and that mission has created a community.

When I first came up with the concept, it was born of a simple motivation. I enjoy speaking and teaching, and it seemed that the best way to find a stage to speak from was to build one.

I have been involved in running events, mostly in the fandom space, since 1996, so the basic logistics came naturally.

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How “Positive Thinking” Destroyed Rome

In 527 Petrus Sabbatius succeeded his uncle and adoptive father to the Eastern Roman Empire’s throne to become Emperor Justinian I, and would, through his long reign, completely destroy what was left of the Roman empire in Italy and Africa.

I have been listening to the first season of an amazing podcast called Tides of History by Patrick Wyman in which he discussed the fall of Rome and the rise of the modern world. These historic stories are surprisingly relevant to our modern challenges.

Justinian wanted to restore Rome to a former greatness that dubiously actually existed. He was committed to this goal with a single minded dedication.

At the time North Africa, Italy, and other parts of the former Western Roman Empire were ruled by various Germanic tribes under the “authority” of the Eastern Roman Empire. They continued to follow Roman customs, laws, and traditions. They used Roman imagery and titles, and Roman aristocrats were still prominent.

But Justinian felt that things were not as great as they had once been, and he would be the great emperor to restore it. It was a close advisor of his who would first write that Rome had “fallen” in 476. This would start a movement in thinking in Constantinople that the West had been “lost” and needed to be “restored.”

Justinian was focused. He was dedicated. He knew his Why. He was committed.

He deployed the armies of the Empire first to Africa then to Italy after various succession issues provided provocations for military action.

Ultimately, his forces prevailed, but in the process, the fighting, combined with famine and plague, killed nearly half of the population of Italy and completely destroyed what remained of Roman custom, tradition, trade, and technology in the region.

This was partly due to the war, but it was also because he kept on fighting even when the climate cooled and disease spread. He was too focused on the victory he sought to realize that the conditions had changed and the cost of the war was growing too high.

We often talk about “knowing your Why” and “being focused on your goal” and “commitment” as though that alone will make everything come out well.

In the coaching world, we are often speaking to people who do not have the power of an Emperor or even a billionaire. As such, the result of such didactic thinking is unlikely to collapse an entire way of life.

However, I believe that it is a valuable object lesson to look at Emperor Justinian I. He was all the things that we encourage a good entrepreneur to be. He was highly effective. He was organized and focused. He had a strong sense of purpose and was able to share it with others. He knew his goals, drove towards them, and achieved them as stated. He reconquered the West.

He also destroyed the West in the process.

I don’t think we spend enough time encouraging people to fully evaluate their goals. Focusing on your goals and working with the end in mind is all well and good, but if they are the wrong goals, or if they are incomplete goals, all the focus in the world will not bring true success.

This is why in my goal setting process, I added the first step of “dream.” I ask people to imagine their perfect life with no restrictions. Too often, people choose expected goals like “money”, “power”, or “fame”. Plenty of people achieve these goals only to find themselves more miserable than they were before they achieved them.

What are your goals? Do they truly align with your dreams?

The greatest tragedy is to sacrifice everything needed to achieve your goals only to discover they were the wrong goals.

Are you worried that your goals might destroy the legacy of Rome? Or perhaps you just want to make sure you’re on the right path to success? Schedule a free, no obligation half hour coaching call with Michael Whitehouse.

Networking in the Virtual World

Networking in the virtual world

Are networking events an important part of your business?

If so, the last few months have been quite a shock to the system. The business I started 2020 with was absolutely dependent on local, in person networking, which is why the business I’m running as we start 2021 is a very different business.

There are fundamentally two types of networking: networking through events and networking through referrals.

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High Ticket Coaching Nearly Killed My Business

High Ticket Coaching Nearly Killed My Business

There is a certain area of coaching that teaches that your worth is determined by net worth. They tell you that if you don’t have a $10,000 offer, you ain’t nothing. If you’re not bringing in $20,000 a month, you’re a failure.

This mindset derailed my business off of a successful growth path into the doldrums.

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Time Management – Do the Things That Do More Things

Time Management
Unless you have a Time Turner, I’m afraid you have the same time limitations as the rest of us.

Unless you are a wizard who controls time, you have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. How do you make the most of that time? Time management is about more than blocking time. It’s about prioritizing time.

In a recent group coaching session that I was leading, we discussed how to make the most of limited time resources.

If you can only do a few of the things on your to do list, one way to prioritize is by impact. The highest impact action is that which causes other action to be completed.

For example, if you have a staff member who is waiting for instruction before they can get to work, then your highest priority should be to give them instruction and assignment so they can get to work. Otherwise, they stand idle while you work on something else. Once assigned, now there are two people working instead of just one.

Another high priority is creating resources that facilitate action. If you find that you are explaining the same thing to many people you meet, you could instead create a landing page or web site with that information. Rather than having to explain it next time, you can just share the link.

I created an email sequence that tells people what I do, who I am, and what I offer. When I meet someone on social media, I am able to get their email and share a lot of information with them rather than having to retype my life story for them. This frees us up to have a more productive conversation.

Yesterday, I wrote a motivational article and, because I had created a landing page for my daily motivational message I could just drop that link at the end of it rather than having to explain what it was all about.

All parts of the process are important, but you should prioritize getting the team moving over doing your own work. Prioritize the landing page that you’ll be using for months over the email that will go out once. You should prioritize the automated email sequence over the individal message.

If you fail to create these efficiencies you may find yourself too busy repeating the same explanation to everyone to find the time to write down the explanation one time that you can share with everyone, and that’s just silly.

This topic came up during a recent coaching session of the Skills + Accountability = Success System, where students meet weekly to focus their strategies and burnish their skills to achieve maximum success. Visit the SASS web site to see if any groups are currently open for you to join.

Dealing with Covid Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

As we head into 2021, there is a great deal of uncertainty which can lead to analysis paralysis. Will Covid get under control or are we due for a months of lockdowns? Will the economy stabilize or will it plunge into recession?

The future is never predicable. We only have the illusion of predictability. In January 2020, you may have thought you had certainty, but that was not accurate.

How do you deal with uncertainty and make the crucial decisions that you need to make when planning for 2021?

Avoid Analysis Paralysis By Developing Scenarios

There is a continuum of scenarios that you could encounter over the next year which ranges from everything opens completely to everything shuts down completely.

If we break that down to three for simplicity, let’s call them Scenarios A, B, and C.
A – Covid goes away and everything returns to normal
B – Things continue as they are with uncertainty, occasional shutdowns, and economic instability
C – Full lockdown for an extended period.

Consider any plan you are considering against all three scenarios. The first question should be “does this plan allow my business to survive all three scenarios?” If there is a scenario in which your business fails, then you’re taking a big gamble. This is playing defense, making sure you don’t lose before you can win.

Next you ask “does my business thrive in one or more of these scenarios with this plan?” Now, we’re on offense, finding ways to win.

Within each scenario, figure out the best and worse case scenarios of any plan you’re considering. There’s more uncertainty than just Covid. Will customers respond to your marketing? Will your product supply stay consistent? Will your staff perform as you expect?

Looking at the plan, if it bombs, does it take the business down with it? If it hits big, is the dividend worth the risk?

The Importance of Structure in Planning

Analysis paralysis is often created by not having a rubric to apply to the analysis. By looking through the lens of these three scenarios, you have a structure to your thinking. You can then apply any possible plan to his process and run projections from there.

You may want to get more detailed in the scenarios, applying actual numbers or data or keep them vague like this, depending on your process.

I’d like to know what you think? Is it helpful to look at the uncertain future in terms of scenarios?

Working on figuring out how to best approach 2021? I’m running a series of free webinars to help build our your goals and plans.

Join me for some great planning.

Where Did Michael Whitehouse Come From?

Michael Whitehouse as the chair of Pi-Con in 2006.
That was me in 2006. More hair. Less gut. And running a sci fi convention.

For many people who know me, I sprang full formed out of the Earth in 2014 as a connector and master networker. At least that’s how it might seem. I built my network so rapidly, that my personal brand went straight from unknown to “guy who knows a guy”.

But before 2014, I walked this Earth for 34 years, and there’s a lot that happened in that time.

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One Billion Masks

In a recent article I stated that attitude was the difference between thriving and struggling in these strange times, because the right attitude opens your mind to opportunities. A few weeks ago, I posted on social media that anyone who could sew would be well advised to start making and marketing unique and interesting masks because that market was growing rapidly.

At the time of writing, the best indications are that, when the quarantines end, there will be voluntary or mandatory requirements to wear a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in most of the country. This means that 330,000,000 Americans are going to need masks. More than that, it means that 330,000,000 Americans will have a new opportunity to express themselves in an entirely new fashion platform.

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You’ve Got Time

26 year old Michael Whitehouse. 14 years later, I'd be almost 40 year old Michael Whitehouse.
A 26 year old Michael Whitehouse running a small Western Massachusetts convention called Pi-Con.

When I was in my 20s, I had an urgent sense that time was running out. 30 was coming, and I better have some accomplishments by then. The sense of overwhelming urgency led me to throw hail marys rather than planning and following a process.

As I approached 30, my first business had failed, and I felt that I was running out of time. Around this time, I had the good fortune to be the guest handler for Terrance Zdunich at a convention I worked for. Zdunich had created a cult hit called Repo: The Genetic Opera, which is why he was a guest at the event.

During the course of the weekend, I mentioned to him that I was approaching 30 and felt I had nothing to show for it.

“Michael,” he said, “when I was your age, I had never ever thought of Repo.”

These words changed my life. Here I was, talking to man who had achieved some considerable success in his field, telling me that he was older than I was at the time when he even started down the road to the success I now saw.

Time wasn’t running out. The clock hadn’t even started.

Approaching 40

In my 20s, when I spoke to Terrance, I felt like I was on the runway, but not getting enough speed to take off. Turns out that I wasn’t on the runway. I wasn’t even on the taxi way. I was still at the terminal, fuel being pumped into the plane.

My 20s was a time to learn hard lessons, develop skills, accumulate experience. My 30s was the time to refine the knowledge of my 20s into actionable information.

I moved to Eastern Connecticut at 34. I wrote Guy Who Knows A Guy at 37. Next year, I’ll be 40.

As I approach 40, I realize that, God willing, I still have more years in front of me than behind me, but that these will be the best years. It took me about three and a half decades to learn what I needed to know to get started, and another half decade to get all my ducks moving in the right direction.

The next forty years is for seeing what comes of that. It may turn out that I don’t have the right ducks or they are moving in the wrong direction, but that’s all a matter of constant refinement, rather than the need for total overhaul.

Message for 20-somethings

If you are in your 20s, and you feel like you’re running out of time, this message is for you. Unless you have a terminal illness, you have plenty of time. You have time to try things. You have time to fail a few times.

Do something. Try something. Learn from it. Roll that knowledge back in and try something else. Some people hit it out of the park during their first adult decade, but most don’t. That’s okay. You’ve got time.

Tony Robbins is 59. That's a few years past 40.
Tony Robbins is 59. Imagine what his next 20 years is going to look like!

Message for those over 60

Some of you reading this may be older than 40 and thinking it’s cute that I’m talking as if 40 was old. Maybe you’re 60 or 70 or even 80 and thinking that, if you had as much time as I do, you might try something, but you’re out of time.

But are you really? My first business lasted for five years. The average American lifespan is about 78 years. If you’re 60, you could start and fail three of my five year businesses and have 3 years left afterwards.

What if you’re 70 or even 80? Why not try something? What do you have to lose?

I was recently speaking to local senior living facility about organizing an entrepreneurship program for their residents. Their residents are all retired and not worrying about their day to day bills like young entrepreneurs are. They can build a business that makes $5000/year and call it a success if that’s their goal.

At every stage in life, there are tradeoffs. At 39, I have less energy than I did at 22, but at 22 I lacked the knowledge and wisdom to make use of that energy. At 80, one might have other physical restrictions and possible lack the social resources they had at 40, but they would have a freedom that I don’t at 40. No kids to raise, finances already managed, etc.

If you’ve got a few miles on the odometer, I’ll leave you with one more thought. Purpose aids longevity.

George Burns on age

Unfortunately, I cannot find the exact quote, but I recall hearing George Burns said once that he has to live past 100 because he had a contract with a Las Vegas casino to perform past his 100th birthday, and he wouldn’t want to breach the contract.

Some people are inclined at a certain point in life to give up and just pack it in. For some, that happens at 80, others 50. However, others keep on going right up until they get their final reassignment orders to the hereafter.

If someone is happy relaxing and reading the paper every day in retirement, more power to them. But, if they are lamenting the quiet and lack of excitement, there’s no reason not to get back into the game.

If you’re reading this, you’ve still got time, no matter your age. What are you doing with it?

Michael Whitehouse is an author, publisher, and consultant who is just starting to get it figured out. He plans to live to 140 because that’s how long he thinks he’ll need to really figure it out.