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Laying the Foundation – Part 2

June 13, 2024
Laying the Foundation - Part 2

There’s the process of finding problems and making recommendations, but there’s another issue around the mindset. I’m very, very aware of the mindset because it’s something I talk about a lot. Mindset is 90% of the battle — and it’s the core reason for my success.


Now if you aren’t really interested in becoming the very best, then nothing else I can say here will matter. In other words, if being okay, if being mediocre is cool with you, then this message isn’t for you. Everything I say is based on the assumption you want to be the very best.

And so you’ll want to pose these questions to yourself. “Do I want to simply have a job? Do I want to be okay at this or do I want to have a career? Do I want to be the very best?”

For my part, I can tell you that I went through 30+ years of my life being half-ass and it got me half-ass results. I tried shortcuts and found out the hard way that those are rarely the solution.

And then one day I decided, you know what, I’m going to be the shit. I’m going to be the very best at what I do, whatever it is. And my first job turned out to be an HVAC salesman in this industry, over 20 years ago. But I adopted a mindset that no one was going to beat my results; I would be the best.

Writer’s (Cell) Block

Different opportunities arose and I wanted to write books. My early success had a formula that worked for me, so I had plenty to say. So when I started writing books, I asked myself the same questions as above. I decided that if I’m going to write books, I want to be the best at it. I just didn’t know where to start.

So what did I do? I read books on how to write books. There are books out there that can teach you how to write a book. Not to mention YouTube where you can learn anything over a weekend. You could be a freaking brain surgeon in 48 hours with YouTube. So I studied a bunch of books on how to write a book.

But I faced a large hurdle, to say the least.

Keep in mind that during my first stint in prison, I wanted to take a college writing class. And they give you as an entrance exam a sheet of paper to write a 5-paragraph essay. Just basic stuff most of us learned in the 8th grade.

The introduction paragraph is supposed to contain what you’re going to tell them in the paper. Then the body is where you list the main 3 points, followed by the conclusion where you remind them what the paper was about. Pretty basic shit.

Well, guess what? I couldn’t pass that simple test and they wouldn’t let me enroll. Instead, they put me in Remedial Grammar. That’s where you learn where periods and commas go, and basically how to spell. Remedial. Me.

That was my starting point for writing, down in the basement so to speak, and I had to claw my way up. And I was in my 30s. Strike 2.

The Deal

But I remembered the deal I made with myself. I decided if I’m going to do it, I’m going to become really good at it. So I began the long process of grammar, then sentence structure, then storytelling, etc. And after years of writing and practicing, I was proud of where I was. But not content yet.

I made up my mind that with my mindset in place, and my writing skills where they needed to be, I wanted to earn a law degree. Besides, getting a law degree requires a ton of writing, especially legal briefs.

Years later, when I finished serving my time, I remembered that the reason I wanted to learn how to write well was to write a book. So I dove back into that research and practice, reading more than I ever had.

The Payoff

And then I sat down and I wrote a book called The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty and Addiction. It was published in 2009. Remember we’re talking about a guy who only passed the ninth grade.

The book went on to become Writer’s Digest “Book of the Year” that year. It also became New York Book Festival’s “Best Autobiography of the Year.” We’re talking about a guy who 15 years earlier didn’t know where to put a comma in a sentence.

My point is this. I wasn’t gifted with being a good writer. Being the best is a choice. I had to work hard at it, harder than most. And the hard work paid off as I kept my promise of becoming the best. My next book was a New York Times Bestseller and an Amazon #1 Best Seller.

But it didn’t come to me naturally. I didn’t just wake up one day to discover I was a really good writer. I learned it. I committed myself to it.

That’s what being a professional is all about.