Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

016: Lewis Schiff’s Road to Success: Monetization, Innovation, & Failure [Podcast]

Think back to when you were a kid. Did your mom tell you to chase your dreams and the money would follow? Maybe your dad encouraged you to choose a safe, secure career?

They were wrong.

Photo credit: Mark Sebastian via cc

Photo credit: Mark Sebastian via cc

When I read a great book, I’m often challenged to think differently about certain long-held beliefs I’ve carried around with me. The process can be scary, but I grow every time I face the discomfort and embrace change.

Business Brilliant by Lewis Schiff (affiliate link) was, perhaps, the book that challenged me more than anything else I’ve read recently. It made me think deeply about the details and data in the study the author conducted, but there were just as many moments when I felt a shift in my own perspective.

In this episode of The Portfolio Life, we explore the secrets of success in any career and why these are the very things we most often resist.

Click to listen

To listen to the show, click the player below (if viewing this in email click here).


You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

What does success really look like?

Lewis Shiff wanted to understand success better, so he started asking important questions. When he surveyed both middle-class workers and self-made millionaires, he was surprised by what he found.

In fact, when I saw the results of the survey, it blew my mind, too. And just might do the same for you. As my guest put it:

Success doesn’t always look like what we think it looks like.
–Lewis Schiff (tweet that)

For those wanting to do something extraordinary with your work, Schiff says we have to be willing to break the mold most of us were raised in. We have to be willing to question our own assumptions about what it takes to succeed.

If you’ve ever thought of “going pro” as a writer, artist, or entrepreneur, then this next part is for you.

Don’t be afraid to monetize

Cirque du Soleil got its start when a group of artists banded together to found a non-profit, but they had a money problem.

They performed for the love of their art, but one of the founders, a clown by the name of Guy Laliberté, wanted to think bigger. They needed to move beyond being mere starving artists and get serious about turning their passion into profit.

The story of Cirque can seem a little too traditional. They chased a dream and found success, because that, we think, is what always happens when you pursue a passion. But that’s just not true.

Sometimes, we have to get practical. We can’t always hope the market will value what we do. Sometimes, we have to pursue the market. And that’s just what Laliberté and his band of clowns did.

This one shift in focus helped take a regional circus event and turn it into an international, billion-dollar enterprise, influencing the lives of millions of people.

Monetization isn’t just about chasing money; sometimes, it’s about thinking bigger.

Innovation isn’t what you think

When you think of some of the most innovative companies in the world, one company that probably doesn’t come to mind immediately is Kinko’s. But innovation, like success, can sometimes surprise us.

Schiff explains that great innovation is rarely the result of new ideas. It’s not about creativity, necessarily, as much as it’s about better execution.

In the case of Kinko’s, they took the traditional copy shop model and tweaked it into a 24-hour workspace that allowed customers to be productive on their own schedules. It was a small but significant adjustment that took the business to a whole new level.

The idea wasn’t unique, but the way they executed it was.

Sometimes, you come up with a great ideas only to feel deflated when you learn someone else has already done it. Of course, you don’t want to copy someone else’s work. You don’t want to be another Bill Gates.

Or do you?

The truth is everything is derivative. Microsoft Windows was built on Apple’s ideas, and Apple built their ideas by stealing from Xerox. Some of the greatest innovations the world has seen were imitations of someone else’s work.

The secret to innovation, then, isn’t coming up with new ideas. It’s executing on the ones you already have.

Nothing succeeds like failure

After Steve Jobs left Apple in the 1990s, he helped start a software company that quickly started to fail.

His solution? Instead of scrambling to promote the software, he became his own customer. The result was a little company you might have heard of.

It was called Pixar.

Look closely at the successful people in your field, paying special attention to their failures. Everyone has them. The key to that success often lies in how they turned those failures into a foundation instead of treating them as roadblocks.

You can do the same. Every obstacle is an opportunity, if you see it that way.

Don’t miss the rest

By choosing to embrace the idea of a portfolio life, I’ve taken the first step in breaking my own conventional thinking about how to build a career. Now, it’s your turn.

Be sure to listen to the whole podcast for more surprises about finding success for your passion. If you find this show helpful, I’d love an honest review on iTunes. I know it sounds silly, but your feedback helps us reach more people and learn what we’re doing right (as well as what we can improve).

You can also learn more about Lewis Schiff at his website, get his book here, or follow him on Twitter. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of his book. It’s one of the best I’ve read in the past year.

What traditional idea can you challenge today? Share in the comments.

Some of you have heard about a custom WordPress theme I’ve been developing for the past six months (with a friend who is way smarter than me). For the next week, the Tribe Theme will be available at a special low price. To ensure great support, we’re only offering 150 licenses. Based on past response, they’ll likely sell out soon, so check it out here. 

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Nice, Jeff! And it’s so true that monetizing your work is every bit a mindset as much as any efforts you put into it. Breaking out of the mold we were raised in isn’t easy, but it can be really worth it. Thanks for challenging me to question my ideas about success!

  • nusratasha
  • Great episode Jeff. I’m challenging the idea that you have to be a certain kind of writer for your work to be featured in larger places!

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    Great podcast, Jeff. I love how Lewis Schiff took so many norms and flipped them on their ears — backed with data. I’ve already ordered the book.

  • I really enjoyed this episode.

  • Scott Musgrave

    I always enjoy the process of disrupting my values and perspective – and this episode has delightfully done so.

  • Excellent perspective and great resource for idea people. Something solid there for keeping the feet of my passion on the ground… and not only having my head in the clouds dreaming and imagining. Thanks for a very pragmatic view (if not essential) for artists to consider. I am seeing that having or not having (at least in part) Mr. Lewis’s perspective may make or break an artist’s livelihood. Thanks for bringing a strong business voice to the arts, Mr. Jeff.

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