Imagine I tell you that if you can figure out the password to my bank account, I’ll let you withdraw $1million. You can take as much time as you want. However all you get to know to start off with is that it’s 20 digits in length. What would you do?
If you are familiar with code-breaking as a concept you will quickly realise that this seems like an impossible task. There are so many millions of possible combinations that without some direction or clues you don’t stand a chance.
Not even worth the effort, right?
Well, actually, there is one completely guaranteed way to crack the code. A strategy that will work 100% of the time without exception. Cypher experts among you (and anyone who’s read Dan Brown’s books) will have heard of it.
It’s known as the Brute Force method of code-breaking. Simply put, this is a method where you try every possible combination, one after the other. No attempts to guess which combination is more likely, or trying to extract the password from another source, or guessing. Just simply going through every possible combination without stopping.
So you’d start with 00000000000000000001. Then you’d try 0000000000000000000002. And so on.
Of course in the code-breaking world this can be done by supercomputers. They can crunch through hundreds of combinations every minute without fatigue or despair. Given enough time, they can break any code, no matter how complex.
Maybe you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with success in life. I have discovered an interesting concept that I want to share with you.
When I first started my coaching company The Inspirational Lifestyle, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I was an excellent coach because I had been training, rehabilitating and coaching people for years. But this was for the Department of Corrections. All of my ‘clients’ were either offenders who were legally obliged to see me, or staff who wanted to improve their careers. I didn’t have to find any clients of my own.
I had never started a company before or received any training whatsoever in marketing, business or entrepreneurship. I was as green as they come. In other words, the idea of putting together a successful business was about as intimidating as trying to crack a password that could have millions of possible combinations.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
The right ‘code’ to running a successful coaching business, one that could allow me to live my purpose while getting paid enough to enjoy my dream lifestyle, could be cracked. If I was willing to try every possible combination.
But how do I do this without a supercomputer?
Actually, it turns out that I do own a supercomputer. So do you. It’s called your brain. The human brain is more powerful and capable of solving problems than any computer in the world today. While a supercomputer may be able to Brute Force its way to cracking a code, trying to figure out the most effective marketing and business solutions for a coaching company would be too much for it. But your brain is better than that.
Of course, this is nice to say and all, but what does this successful business ‘code-breaking’ look like in real life? Well that’s what I would like to share with you today. I don’t have all the answers on how to make all businesses a success. I do however have a strategy that you can use to bring the Brute Force method into your life, and use it to create something successful. Regardless of your skills, training, support or even finances, this will work for you if you have the stamina.
The great thing is about using this Brute Force method is that you may discover something that all the recognised experts have missed. While everyone else is doing what they are “supposed to do”, you’ll be the one trying to find what actually works best. Often, this is what others are doing, but there is always a better way.
I will now go through how to apply the Brute Force method to any area of your life, to make constant improvements until you are successful, whatever success means to you. For this article I will use starting a business as an example, but this can also be applied to sports, dating, hobbies and more.
Step One: Research
Unlike the poor supercomputers, we don’t have to start with a blank page (though you can if there is no good information out there). When I started my business I did very little research to begin with. This first step is about just getting some basic information to allow you to find a starting point.
Beware of information overload! Too many people never take action on their goals because they overwhelm themselves with information. You need to consciously restrict yourself to a limited amount of research. Don’t aim to find the best answers, just aim to find something to try first. That’s all. I recommend spending no more than 8 hours in total doing research before you take action.
So if you’re starting a business for the first time and you know nothing about this, not even how to start, begin with researching the first step. For example, I went onto my government’s website because I knew there was some information for small businesses on there. Then I went to my bank and picked up a small business information pack. That’s all I looked at. Yes, there is a tonne of better information out there, but I didn’t know the difference between helpful and scammy, so I chose to start with the least shifty source I could think of.
Whatever it is you want to work on, write down your “research limit”. Then gather that information, and do not get any more (yet). That is the end of step one.
Step Two: Select
Your research at this stage is to serve one purpose only: to find your starting point. This is all about just selecting the first action you are going to take. So read through your research (or watch videos, interview people, etc.) and choose the top things you want to try. No more than that. Don’t worry about getting it right. If there are multiple appealing options, pick one out of a hat.
You are in a sense selecting the first possible combinations of the “code”. If you tried to gather all the possible combinations before taking your first step, you’d probably never get started. It makes far more sense to just start somewhere. And trust me, from my experiences and that of my clients, if you have to choose between taking action or finding more information, always choose taking action. It’s better to make mistakes than get it figured out in theory only. School may have trained you out of making mistakes – start undoing that damage by going out there and getting it wrong! You won’t regret it.
By the end of step two you have reviewed all the small amount of research you have restricted yourself to. No matter how many missing pieces there seem to be, you must choose one method to start with. Give yourself a deadline to choose if needed. Then take that one chosen method and create two slightly different versions of it (more on that in the next section).
When it came to starting my business, I chose promoting my website by writing articles. I chose two different article publishing sites, as two different means of attracting clients (I’ve since discovered more effective marketing methods so these days I just write articles for fun).
So rather than try to implement or learn about a million different marketing strategies, I just chose two different versions of one strategy. Remember this is all just about getting some movement going, taking action instead of just thinking about it.
Step Three: Split-test
This is where we really apply scientific method to your success. We are going to remove the guess-work and other fallacies that everyone else applies to their strategies. Split-testing is all about finding out what actually works in the real world. No assumptions or wishful thinking. This also means that we are about to face up to the real-life struggle of success which no-one tells you about in school.
Those two starting variations you’ve chosen are now going to be put up against each other in a no-holds-barred competition. You need to consciously remove any hopes or biases you have towards one or the other. No doubt you will be secretly hoping that your favourite one wins. In order for this strategy to bring you real success, you must let go of any favouritism.
Give equal energy to both variations. Design and implement them so that to begin with they have an equal chance of winning. So for my example of article writing, this meant that for every hour I put into writing articles for site #1, I had to do the same for site #2.
If you want to improve your dating life, maybe you would try two different methods of approaching people, like direct vs. indirect. If you want to improve your health, you could try two different work-outs, one after the other.
Remember this is scientific method, so you need a controlled testing environment. Everything else must stay the same. If you’re trying to figure out which article-publishing website will get you more traffic, you need to make sure you’re not changing any other sources of website traffic etc. in a way that would affect results.
Step Four: Measure
Set a timeframe and method for measurement. Now that you have two competing strategies or tactics, you need to figure out who the winner is at some point. There are all sorts of tools for this kind of thing, depending on what it is you are trying to do. Mainly you need to focus on how you would be able to know for sure which variation is more effective.
With trying to get website traffic there are all sorts of online measurement tools, like those provided by Google Analytics. But for something like working out you would need other measuring tools, like BMI, weight, energy levels and so forth. Try to ensure your measurement tools are as objective and accurate as possible. Sometimes you even need to split-test the split-test methods! But don’t worry about the complications of that just yet.
Before you really get into testing, particularly if your methods cost money (e.g. advertising), you must be very sure of how you will determine the winner and when you will call the end of the race. In my article-writing example, I gave each article a week and then tallied up the views, comments and clicks to my site.
Split-testing is also a learning tool for dealing with rejection, frustration and failure. Your ‘best’ ideas may prove to be totally useless, while something you thought would never work could be really successful. Split-testing makes sure you judge accurately. Particularly something like advertising. Just assume you have no idea what people want and try all sorts of things. People won’t buy from an ineffective ad, no matter how creative and clever you think it is.
Let science tell you the truth.
Step Five: Keep and discard
Obviously, at some point you will see a clear winner. This is where it gets really tough if the one you wanted to win doesn’t. So maybe you thought that being nice to people was a good way to approach them to get a date, and you tested it against being cocky. Low and behold, being cocky got you three phone numbers while being sweet and pleasant got you none. Science my friend; the facts don’t lie.
You now have no choice but to keep what worked and discard what didn’t. After trying three different article websites only one of them provided me with any decent traffic (and not even very decent at that). So that meant it was time to say goodbye to the other two.
At the beginning of applying Brute Force method to your life, this bit is really hard and riddled with doubt. You will find yourself doubting that you measured it right, or implemented it properly, or used the right combination of tactics. Maybe my articles just sucked, so the site that was actually best got discarded.
Don’t worry about it! The beauty of Brute Force method is that you will learn and make progress even when you overlook important things or make mistakes. As you’ll see in the next step. We all need to let go of our desire for perfection and an error-free life. You’ll discover through using this method that “good enough” is actually better to aim for than perfection.
Step Six: Start over, repeat and expand
You are now at the point where you have taken action and uncovered a small part of the code! Even though you may have put a lot of effort in for only a small amount of ‘success’, you have started something magical. Over time the ratio between success and effort starts to swing the other way.
How is that, you ask?
First, you need to store that little bit of wisdom you have obtained through your first run through the Brute Force process. I keep a journal where I document my progress (or lack thereof) against my goals each week. This serves as a good way to document what works vs. what doesn’t, so that I can do more of the good and less of the bad over time.
Can you guess what the next step is? That’s right: you repeat the process again. Only after you have gone all the way through do you allow yourself the opportunity to do more research (aka no-action learning). Now you can find something else you want to try. After I tried article writing, I also tried Facebook and social media posting, blogging, Google Adwords and so forth, one after the other. Each time started with a small concept and split-test two different versions.
BUT, do you discard the first tactic now e.g. article writing? No. You continue to split-test this while you start the process over with a different strategy on the side. Do you see? So now you are writing articles for different sites and learning to write better articles while you also test social media posting for the first time.
Once you get to the split-test stage you can stay there forever, constantly improving your results by keeping winners and ditching losers. This is where most companies fail, they find something that works and stick with it forever. You can overtake them by never stopping your search for a better way!
Over time the strategy you first attempted gets better and better, while you start adding other successful strategies to it. You are now building up an army of strategies. You are still at risk of over-researching, so make sure you are always learning through action far more than you are through research. I like to follow the 10/20/70 rule of learning: 10% of time into research, 20% of time into receiving coaching/mentoring, and 70% of time into action and practice.
Maybe you get something all the way through the process and it doesn’t work at all. Let’s say you’re trying to start your own plumbing business and you try article writing as a starting point. Well firstly your research must have been terrible! But it’s ok. You will inevitably have these moments. I’ve had hundreds of split-tests where neither tactic was a strong winner. It’s alright to just get it completely wrong. At least you’ve figured out something that definitely doesn’t work. You won’t be making that mistake again!
The key to the Brute Force method is to fully accept that you are trying to crack a really complex code, one digit at a time. You will be surprised at how quickly you make progress when applying this method.
Also, your research will bring you into contact with strategies that make no sense to you. Remember this: you do not know as much as you think you do. Be open to trying things that don’t feel right. I used to think that the best way to find clients would be to advertise and let them come to me. It made perfect sense in my mind. Turns out the opposite is true: I can choose my own clients by going to find who I want to work with. I never would have believed that if I didn’t test it objectively.
So in conclusion, whatever it is you are keen to try and achieve, have a go at simply taking action with only a little bit of information to work with. Then learn from the results, build your knowledge, and just keep trying.