Zig Zagging in Italy

Friday 17 August 2012 @ 3:53 pm

I wanted to share a brief video from my latest trip. Me, my business partner, and our wives were enjoying a well-deserved vacation in the Mediterranean where we met a fascinating entrepreneur who, I believe, is the very epitome of a bootstrapper.

We met Petro who is the owner of Can’t Be Missed Tours on the train heading down to Florence. He and his team were handing out brochures to the passengers, inviting them to become his touring clients. This channel development strategy fascinated me and I had to learn more. In the video Petro and I talk about where he got his start, his business philosophy, and what the next steps are for his business.


Petro’s information for Can’t Be Missed Tours:

Petro’s Cell Phone: +39-329-129-8182

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Blue Men Chauffeuring Prom: Penta Date on Bicycles Built for Two

Monday 21 May 2012 @ 4:02 pm

There are two key takeaways from today’s post.

  1. It’s all in the marketing.
  2. Surprise broca!

My son Nathan turned 16 on April 4th of this year and has been excited to begin dating and go on his first romantic excursion.

He indeed had several significant challenges.

  • Challenge #1: The law posed a problem. When you are 16 you can’t drive with other teens until you’ve driven with your parents for six months. Nathan and all of his friends had made great plans and had selected the girls they wanted to ask out, however they had no way to go and pickup these girls for the date. How do you overcome that?
  • Challenge #2: Budget. My sons and their friends have enough money to pay for the event, but not the craziness of a $1000 limousine and all the nonsense of an expensive prom. So budget was a constraint also.

Of course, Nathan is a very creative young man who has carefully observed his older brothers. He has also heard his father talking extensively about broca—the frontal cortex region of your brain. I often tell my sons that whenever you are marketing anything, you have to surprise broca and delight broca to get to the processing parts of your brain.

If everything is normal, normal, normal, and then you do something to surprise broca–the brain lets it through. It delights. That is how you get attention in marketing or anything else.

Nathan and his friends came up with a very well formulated plan. They each rented bicycles built for two, and they went and picked up their dates on these bikes. You can imagine the surprise and the delight of these young women as their dates pulled up on their bikes built for two.

They then pedaled up to a picnic setup with all sorts of contrast. They had everything from fancy, non-alcoholic apple juice and crème brûlée to regular old peanut butter sandwiches. They had a delightful time with a very contrasting meal

Then came the time for the formal prom. How in the heck is it okay for your dad to drive you? How obnoxious is that? So my son came up with another great plan to surprise broca.

He had my dear friend, Matt Duffin and me, dress up as blue men and serve as the chauffeurs. The only rule was we weren’t allowed to speak! We could do all the miming and gesturing we wanted, but we just couldn’t speak.

Let me tell you, we laid it on thick and had a blast!

Of course the kids experienced the tension that always accompanies a formal dance. I mean, young women weren’t meant to be in those frilly dresses. The young men take one look at the pretty girls and they instantly freeze.

It was fun to watch the tension dissolve as we hit our first stop sign. Matt and I got out and did a little fire drill jig running around the car in our blue man suits.

Needless to say the teenagers had a delightful time and Nathan indeed hit a broca homerun. While everyone else was pulling up in their fancy stretched limos, Nathan and his friends arrived in a minivan chauffeured by blue men.

Two rules: whether you’re wanting to romance someone or whether you’re wanting to win a marketing competition or whether you are trying to snag some attention online.

Rule #1: It is all in the marketing and presentation.
Rule #2: Always surprise broca!

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Moms Launch a Business

Monday 14 May 2012 @ 7:36 pm

In light of Mothers Day yesterday, I’d like to take minute to highlight a group of mothers that I work with. Anyone who pays much attention to me has likely heard me comment that, “I love my moms!” Their story is indeed fun, and the story keeps getting more interesting and inspiring the longer I work with them.

When I first assembled this mom team a couple of years ago, I promised these women the chance to build their own businesses, and do you know what they did? They kind of blushed and laughed and said they couldn’t do it.

Now here we are two years later, and these moms have launched their first business. It’s called BeautySecrets101.com, a site where women can sign up to receive Ali’s Bling Box—a box full of name-brand fashion and beauty products for 50% to 70% off the retail price.

What’s the story? How did they go from giggling and questioning if they could run a business to successfully launching a big time beauty site?

First of all, these women are smart, talented, and passionate about learning and acheiving. They spent time zig zagging. They learned to drive traffic and manage a group of 80 Websites in the highly competitive coupon genre. They took ad campaigns from zero to full force. They sent press releases, built websites, and tracked financials. They fought off malware and struggled with Google algo changes. As they did this I watched their confidence and excitement for building and managing businesses grow. Now when I challenge them to launch a new business they jump on it.

Since the team is made up of moms their number one value is flexibility. Another value is “beleive in it” which means concentrating their efforts on businesses they are passionate about—which is exactly what they are doing with BeautySecrets101.com and the Bling Box.

The Beacon in the Fog for this mom team is to become financially stable and independent. As mothers they face unique challenges from my other teams. During meetings it’s not uncommon for someone to excuse herself to change a diaper or clean up spilled milk. One woman is working to support her family while simultatiously providing care for a terminally ill spouse. There’s PTA and carpool and bedtime stories. But in between it all there’s this passion to sell the Bling Box and to build this business to the point of providing for themselves.

So here we are one day after Mothers Day—and I’m rooting for this team of intellient, beautiful mothers because I’m delighted in their progress and their strength. Please join me in saying, “Go Moms!”

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Engage With Us – 12 Books Group

Thursday 26 April 2012 @ 11:31 am


I am excited to be a part of the 12 Books Group this next month as their featured author during the month of May. Please come join us as we dig deeper into The Zigzag Principle. You won’t want to miss the exclusive giveaways, bonus materials, and excellent discussion with me and other readers.

This really is a unique opportunity because you are going to get a chance to glean knowledge from 8 different business authors from May through December. This will load you with great information to add to your zigzag strategy. 

Go to www.12booksgroup.com to sign up for a free account and keep checking in for reader discussion, video tips from me, and a live Q&A webinar at the end of the month. 


I hope you will come join us! 




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Monday 23 April 2012 @ 6:07 pm

Last week at the Gathering of the Titans I met some incredible people. One person I had the great priviledge of talking with was Bo Eason, of football fame (and much more). He’s a phenominal speaker. If you’ve ever seen him, you’d remember him as entertaining, motivating, and completely memorable. Here’s a short snippet of Bo and I talking about his style and how to present information today. It’s truly informative with a huge dash of comedy.


Rich: Hello everyone. I’m here with Bo Eason and we’re at the Gathering of the Titans. I’ve spoken several times with Bo and I always love to hear him. Bo’s got a really interesting background. He’s come out of the NFL. Bo’s one of the most articulate individuals I’ve ever met and he’s done really a lot of play work. He’s did “Runt of the Litter”, which was an amazing play. But I was fascinated and captivated by what Bo had to say this week. Bo, I want you to tell everyone the phase coming up is and why we need to be able to tell our story.

Bo: Yeah, the phase coming up in our era – we’ve just left the information age. That’s what all the futurists have predicted. And we’re stepping into what they’re calling the transformational age, or the “storytelling” age. So the key to the “key to the kingdom” now, “the golden goose” now is the ability to share yourself, the ability to tell your own story. Because you, as an entrepreneur and a business owner, you are the owner and the global brand and the face and the mouth of your business. So you’ve got to be able to share yourself. What we’re finding is that the more people are able to share themselves, and share their personal life story, with clients or potential clients, they’re making a lot more money and making a lot more difference out there.

Rich: And I think that’s absolutely true. And I think we all intuitively know that and until you see Bo move like…

Bo: vicious tigers on the stage!

Rich: talking about Rick Sapio being a monkey. It’s really interesting how you draw on the animal kingdom to do this. And I don’t even dare, but I’m going to because I’m vulnerable and at risk with my audience here. What animal am I? The big million dollar question…

Bo: Yeah, you’re some kind of predator cat.

Rich: Well, oh, okay. I’m good with that. As long as we’re keeping within the family.

Bo: Yeah, that’s right. I want you to work on that – that predator cat.

Rich: Okay, yeah we’re going to talk more about that offline. Because we’re not going to give all of your secrets away. So, hey everyone, Bo is a great guy, you’re going to love him. I want you to go to the link below and find out a little more about Bo. Great stuff here. Fundamentally aligns with the Pendulum – the concept of swinging back now into a community-type society. You’re going to love it.

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The Pattern of Success – Zig Zag Principle #70

Thursday 12 April 2012 @ 8:23 pm

In the end, we will avoid the “all or nothing trap” if we adhere to the principles we’ve established for ourselves as we zigzag toward our beacons in the fog.  I once listened to Jeff Sandefer, a university professor and Harvard MBA who BusinessWeek named as one of the top entrepreneurship professors in the United States.  Jeff spoke of a final exam he gave his MBA students, who were required to speak with ten seasoned and successful executives.  Jeff further specified that the first three executives they interviewed needed to be highly successful, but under the age of thirty-five.  The next three successful executives were to be in their mid-forties and fifties.  The final four interviews were to be with successful executives who were in the final stages of their careers.  In each of the interviews, Jeff’s students were to elicit information on how these executives pursued and viewed success.

Invariably, the young bucks were beating their chests and chasing after the brass ring, often in ways that put them at risk of losing their balance.  The middle-aged executives were beginning to figure life out.  Some of them had regrets and others had chosen to add some balance to their lives.

Of course, it was the older executives who gave the real insight.  It did not matter what type of business these men or women were involved with.  In each case, they described a pattern of pursuing success that was guided by these three questions:

1)    Was it honorable?

2)    Did it leave an impact?

3)    Who loves me and who do I love?

Many of these older executives were billionaires.  And yet they talked very little about money.  What mattered to them was how their business helped others and whether their business mattered.  They wanted to leave a legacy. And most importantly, they talked about the people who loved them and the people they loved.  Of course, there were those who did not have loved ones, and they talked about that absence with regret.  They were honest and open and direct about their successes and their mistakes. 

Whatever our goals are, whatever our beacon in the fog is, it is critical that we do what we do for the proper reasons and that we stay within the guardrails and values that we have set for ourselves.  If we do, we will get to the end of our lives—which will inevitably come—and have no regrets.


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Maintaining Balance – Zig Zag Principle #69

Thursday 5 April 2012 @ 8:32 am

Now, that doesn’t mean I lost my intensity. It doesn’t mean that I never end up out of balance. But my short session with Dr. Horne brought great clarity to the fact that it’s not worth giving up the things that matter most for the things that matter least.   This insight was part of what helped me see the Zig Zag Principle as a far better way to approach life.  Now, as I zig and zag from goal to goal, I will still put intense effort into achieving my dreams.  But at each turn, I’ve established a reward that for me inevitably includes my family (your approaches, of course, may differ).  And for each goal I pursue, I will set up guardrails that will determine the amount of time and effort I am willing to invest. There are not many ways to succeed without going out of balance for a period of time.  The key is to realize that you are going out of balance for a short period and then bounce back and take some time off to enjoy your life. 

My philosophy involves having a line of balance.  Many people think you achieve this line of balance by being at work exactly at 8 a.m. and leaving within minutes of 5, by getting eight hours of sleep each night, and by controlling life with a rigid schedule.  I don’t live my life that way. At times I live my life extremely out of balance. I’ll work so crazy hard that I think I’m going to die, and then I’ll cross over and go for a cruise where I sleep eighteen hours a day. Then I’ll charge back across the line and spend some incredible family time, then I’ll go work my guts out again and literally not sleep for a couple or three weeks while I start another new business. Then I’ll spend a month in the Himalayas with my family. The way I define balance is not to try walking the perfect line, but to cross that line of balance as frequently as possible.  This is the final form of zigzagging I would suggest.

Added to my own bad example of charging straight toward a goal is the example of an individual who completed his MBA program the same time I did.  He was a charismatic and brilliant man.  He had everything going for him—far more than the rest of us, really.  During school and after we graduated, he was fixated on the same path I was on.  He was going to the top and he was going to succeed at all costs. I guess the only real difference between us is that I am fortunate enough to have a wife who has helped me become grounded and remember what really matters in my life. (Sometimes she has had to beat me over the head, but I count that as a form of help.) 

This man was relentless in his pursuit of wealth.  He racked up frequent flier miles and spent even more time away from his family than I did.  He did whatever it took to get to the top, and he got there.   In fact, by some measures, he has achieved a level of success I might have been envious of at one point in my life.  But now, as I look back over my life and this man’s life, I see some significant differences. He has been married and divorced multiple times.  He has had more flings than I can count with my hands and my toes.  He has no relationship with his children; in fact, they will not even talk to him.

I look at him, and I am so grateful that Dr. Horne took the time to counsel with me—and then put me on a transatlantic flight to think about what he said.  As a result, my son Nathan, who would not let me touch him because he did not know who I was, now calls me his hero.  Success is not worth heading over a cliff or getting so out of balance that we lose control.  Everything in life requires balance.  The best skiers cross that line of balance as often as possible as they race down the hill.  But they know how to keep their momentum and stay upright through the race, rather than crashing and burning.

A key to maintaining our balance in life and in business is not getting so tightly wound up and so intense that we do not get in a rhythm, or what the best athletes call flow.  In his book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked with many of the world’s greatest golfers, talks about the mindset the best golfers have to get into. When golfers are playing at their peak, Rotella says, they are only using a part of their brain while the other part is shut down.  It is almost as if they are in a trance.  Things just come naturally to them.   They are relaxed, and they let the intuitive and creative part of their brain do the work.  That is flow.

Many of us, on the other hand, get so stressed and uptight that we create our own failures.  Our stress then creates a form of reverse psychology, similar to what happens when I’m golfing and see a water hazard off to the left.  If I allow myself to think (which Rotella would suggest I not do!), I tell myself,  “Don’t go left into the water.” And, just like that, the ball invariably ends up going left right into the pond.  The same thing is true as we pursue our beacons in the fog. If we get fixated on the things we think we can’t do or if we get consumed with the possibility of a little error or failure, we get wound up too tight.  And that actually translates into negative behaviors that undercut our efforts.  

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Return with Honor

Monday 19 March 2012 @ 6:16 pm

On December 26, 1990 I rushed my wife to the hospital where she gave birth to our first son, John. I remember the excitement, the joy, and also the weight that came on me when my son first looked at me and I realized that this boy was now dependant upon me.

We took him home to our small basement apartment. The heat wasn’t working, so we turned the oven on and we baked that young man like a Thanksgiving turkey! We set him in front of the oven and got up every hour to check on him. The years that followed have been an absolute joy.

This young man has been a strong, good, honorable son. For the last two years my son John has been serving a mission in Japan.

Approximately one year ago we were woken up at three o’clock in the morning by a well-intending neighbor who asked, “Is John alive?” At that point we ask, “What are you talking about?” Then of course we were informed of the earthquake and the resulting sunami that hit Japan.

Johnny was a part of the cleanup and actively involved in some of the rescue, recovery, and service that took place in the devastated area.

Well, several days ago our entire family went up to the airport to welcome John home. He disembarked the plane, came downstairs to the waiting area, and immediately his mother ran to him and hugged this young man exactly like he was a newborn.

At that moment I actually realized that this young man has reached a new phase where he is the responsible one. He is now able to lead and go forward and teach me great things.

I have to tell you there is no greater honor than having a young man that does good—one who is service oriented, one who is goal oriented, and one who goes forward to do good in the world. It is thrilling to have a son return with honor and at the same time, set a good example for his younger brothers.

One of the businesses that we created as part of the Zig Zag Principle was a business started by Johnny. The last couple years while he’s been off serving, his younger brothers have been running the business. I pay respect and honor to Johnny. I respect him for not only sacrificing to go and live a humble, meager existence and to do good for these years, but I praise him for having the courage to follow the Zig Zag Principle and set up a business.

The final chapter in the Zig Zag Principle is The All or Nothing Trap. Indeed this week highlighted that the most valuable things in life are our family, our friends, and our trust relationships. I hope each of you experience the joys of family too.

I wish my son and this young businessman find success. I look for more incredible things to come from him.

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A Vegas Getaway – Zig Zag Principle #66

Thursday 15 March 2012 @ 10:26 am

Eating Own Cooking:

Last year my wife and I went on a little getaway to Las Vegas.  We had booked our hotel online, and we got a great rate on your normal room at one of the nicest hotels in Vegas.  When we checked in, the woman at the front desk took a liking to us.  She saw that we were on a romantic getaway, and she mentioned that most of the regular rooms were booked for a business convention.  As she handed us our key cards, she mentioned she had upgraded our room, adding, “I am not going to tell you about the room now.  You can thank me later when you see it.”

When we opened the door to our room, we gasped.  She had upgraded our $69 room to one of the presidential suites.  It was on the twenty-seventh floor and had a 180-degree view of Las Vegas.  The suite was 2,200 square feet.  It came with an entryway, a formal dining area, a living area, a huge bedroom, and two bathrooms.  My favorite part was the master bath suite.  It had an all-glass shower and a huge hot tub that overlooked the city.  And we did, indeed, thank this very kind front-end manager.

When I came back after this spectacular vacation with my wife, I was describing to Curtis this hotel we stayed in.  At this point in our business, Curtis was still working full time in his other job, and we were not making the progress we wanted in this new partnership.  As we chatted, it hit me that I knew what would motivate Curtis.  He wanted to take his wife on a vacation and stay at the same hotel my wife and I had just enjoyed—and in the same room!

I told him I had a reward in mind, and we made a list of four or five things that needed to happen.  We posted this list in the hall of our office, along with a picture of this fantastic resort.  The goal was that when those five steps were achieved and our business was stabilized, Curtis could quit his job and come into the business full time.  But equally rewarding to him was that he could also take his wife on an all expense paid trip to stay in this same hotel.  I found a picture of this hotel and drew stick figures of Curtis and his wife staying on the twenty-seventh floor and enjoying the view.  I even added a picture of its world-renowned restaurant because I knew his wife likes to dine at exclusive restaurants.  On the bottom of my artwork, I added a deadline of thirty-five days to earn this reward.  Curtis was salivating, even though we were not sure how this was going to happen.  But we did reach each of our goals, and Curtis and his wife did get to have a fantastic vacation.  And my reward was that I now had him working with me in our business full time.  



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Rewards Must Be Earned – Zig Zag Principle #64

Thursday 1 March 2012 @ 8:51 am

Don’t Give Out Rewards Until They are Actually Earned

Being a fundamentally nice guy, I have made the mistake multiple times of giving a reward when the performance didn’t warrant it.  Every time that I have done this, I have ended up regretting it.  Even though you may feel for a minute that you’ve done the right thing, you’ve likely created a pattern and behavior system that will bite you in the end.  In some cases, being “nice” has been the death knell of my businesses. 

My family and I have traveled to Nepal several times, and I am always overwhelmed by the rampant poverty.  Like anyone who has traveled there, I have been approached countless times by small children who must beg in the streets for what little they have, and I always ponder what I—as one person with limited means—can do to help. 

The last time we were there, several young beggars followed my sons, our two Sherpas, and me everywhere we went.  They were filthy, and their ragged clothes were soaked with urine.  They approached us repeatedly, gesturing to their mouth and then their stomach to show us they were hungry. 

I believe that giving a person a handout does little to change his or her circumstances, but it broke my heart to see these small boys, who were about the ages of my younger boys.  Then I hit upon an idea.

We were in the middle of a central square where countless people gather each day to worship and shop.  While there are numerous trash cans in the square, no one seems to use them, and the area is covered with what looks like years of debris.  I decided I could solve two problems at once, so I offered one of the beggars 100 rupees (about $1.40) for every bag of trash he picked up and put in a trash can.  Given that the daily income for an adult in Nepal is about $2, that seemed like a powerful incentive.

What I was asking would have taken a couple of minutes, but this little boy looked at me like I was nuts and ran off.  Another little boy approached me, and I made the same offer.  He indicated he would do it, but wanted payment up front.  Now, I may be a soft touch, but I’m not stupid, so I told him he would get paid upon completion of the work.  He, too, ran off.

The third boy who approached me was the dirtiest and scrawniest of the bunch.  I really thought my plan had merit, so I upped the offer to 500 rupees.  His initial reaction was to give me a look that said, “No one picks up trash.  Not even beggars.  What kind of crazy American are you?”  But this time, I grabbed a bag and started picking up trash myself.  He soon joined in, and was stuffing trash into his bag as quickly as he could.  There was so much trash that our efforts were like trying to drain a pond using a teaspoon, but we were at least doing something to make a dent.  And soon others were joining in, including a gentleman who runs a humanitarian organization who saw my impetuous project as having some potential.

When we finished working and I paid the boy, he couldn’t have been more proud.  And several shopkeepers around the square began making similar offers to other boys who clearly were in need.

I realize that we made a very small dent in the problems of world hunger and cleaning up the environment that day.  But I also know that those who watched, including my sons, learned that rewards need be based on our efforts, not our wishes—and that the right reward system can provide the motivation to get to work and make a difference.

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Rich Christiansen