16 Nov 2015

11 lessons I learned from Jeff Bullas in 3 Days

You have seen his caricature everywhere, and almost certainly have read his blog posts. If not, the online influencers you follow have definitely mentioned his name. You cannot deny that.

Jeff Bullas was in Mumbai for the 2-day BNLF event organized by Indiblogger. His keynote on day 1 was awesome, and his masterclass on day 2 was… well, a masterclass.

Where Vinita (of the BlogwatiG fame) and I REALLY got lucky was on the third day, when we got the online marketing guru exclusively to ourselves. Jeff, Vinita and I spent the day roaming around Mumbai. We discussed many topics - culture, sports, experiences, politics, blogging, psychology and more. That Vinita and I learned a lot from Jeff is an understatement. I’ve put together a list of 11 splendid lessons Jeff gave us in 3 days... lessons which you would happily pay money for. But I'm sharing them with you for free!


Clockwise - Vinita, Jeff and me

Disclaimer: This is a really looooong post. And yet, it covers only about 7 percent of what we learned. However, this 7 percent can turn your life on its head.

The best lesson is the last one. So I hope you stay till the end.


1. Our biggest challenge
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” - John Maynard Keynes.

If you have to walk away right now because your spouse is calling, or your child is crying, make sure you take this one lesson with you.

The adage of “thinking outside the box” has been beaten to death. Yet, almost everyone finds it impossible (not difficult… impossible) to do, because we are rigidly anchored to old ideas. “It’s always been like this” is our fallback theory.

Takeaway: Before you think outside the box (or even try), unlearn old practices, and learn new ones. Out with the old and in with the new. Because the day you are through with change, you are through.



2. Re-invent yourself

“I have re-invented myself many times over the years”, says Jeff. The last time he he did was in 2008, when he adopted social media and started his journey towards becoming the guru that he is today. And he continues doing so.

The world is changing at the rate of knots. What was indispensable a few years ago is now redundant. We’re perilously close to Digital Darwinism, where technology advances so fast that mankind is unable to keep up. Yet, most of us stay trapped in our comfort zones because… well, “it’s always been like this”. Remember point #1?

People who have flourished are the ones who have re-invented themselves, time and again. You must re-invent yourself too - repeatedly. Unless, of course, you don’t mind becoming as obsolete as the walkman. (By the way, the walkman can still demand a premium today. Can you?)

Takeaway: If you still are counting the laurels of yesterday, you are not doing enough today. What you achieved in the past may have worked, but that is the past. It’s time to do something new. As Gary Vee says, “do what is relevant in 2015, not in 2007.”

Which bring us to the obvious question: “How do I re-invent myself?” Well, read on.


3. What are you good at?

Jeff firmly believes in Pareto’s Law - that 80% of your results stem from 20% of your work. And he follows it to the ’T’. He focuses on the 20 percent activities which yield him maximum returns. The remaining 80 percent he either delegates, outsources or ignores. This not only lets him focus on what he is good at, but also helps him excel in those areas. And you know that in today’s world, ‘good’ and ‘unique’ don’t cut it anymore. You have to be remarkable.

To find what you are good at, Jeff suggests that you read ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ by Marcus Buckingham. Along with insights on discovering your forte, this book gives you an online test which sheds light on your five key strengths. Based on those strengths, you can take up what you are good at and start a journey towards reinventing yourself.

Takeaway: 80 percent of your results stem from 20 percent of your work. Draw a list of your activities to map out which ones give you maximum returns, and which ones waste your time. Pareto’s Law will make you better at what you love, and drill the much needed focus into your life. And yes, read ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’.


4. Think bigger

“The population of Sydney is about 4 million, and that of Australia is about 25 million, which is less than the population of Mumbai”, said Jeff. He possesses in-depth knowledge of each city and country he visits. But I’m digressing here.

If Jeff intended on catering solely to the Aussie audience, he would have run out of new customers quickly. So his focus is not just Australia. It’s the US, Canada, India and the whole world. A sizable chunk of his readers are from India. Who would’ve thought! Jeff has also delivered keynotes at Kuwait and Beirut too. “Stop thinking local. Think bigger, think global” is his mantra.

Takeaway: The internet is a fantastic platform for you to reach out to every relevant person in the world. So stop catering purely to the audience in your city or country. You have no idea how your work can positively impact someone in a different continent. Think bigger. The world is your oyster.


5. Your purpose in life



Find out what you really want to do in life, and pursue it. Once you do, you will forget phrases like ‘Monday morning blues’ and ‘TGIF’. You will look forward to waking up each morning, and won't have to work another day in your life. You will not only be productive, you will be happy.

Takeaway: “Many people go to their grave without singing their song.” - Jeff Bullas (h/t to Vinita for the reminder). Which song will you sing? Someone else’s, or your own?


6. How we unknowingly waste resources

“I spend a lot of my time working with competition than working against it”, Jeff said to us over tea at the BNLF event. This is popularly known as coopetition. Here is a quote from an ebook by Copyblogger to validate it:
There aren’t many ‘lone wolves’ out there anymore. Partnerships and cross pollination are the name of the game. If you’re building your business on an audience attracted by your authority on a particular topic, you want to spend most of your time working with, not against, the ‘competitors’ for that audience.

Unfortunately, the vast majority spends time competing against each other. This leads to drain in resources like time, effort and funds. And how much do you have to show at the end of these wars?

Takeaway: Collaborate with your competition to offer value to your audience, and reap the rewards faster. You will double your business while investing less than half the resources.



7. Have an audience before you need it

Understandably, full time bloggers want to make money off of blogging. When Jeff was asked how bloggers can get deals to write sponsored posts, there was pin-drop silence in the hall. The whole audience listened with rapt attention - like Batman was speaking to us. Batman… sorry… Jeff, had one thing to say:

"Have an audience before you need it."

Banner ads and Adsense will not help you make money unless you get massive traffic to your blog. Instead, work on building an audience which you will own rather than rent. Build an email subscription base, encourage readers to share your content and return to your site, and strive for simplicity and value addition to offer terrific user experience.

It’s also important to put yourself out there. Brands rarely approach bloggers asking them to write sponsored posts, unless the bloggers are extremely popular. Until you reach that level of popularity, keep approaching brands and pitching your ideas of sponsored posts.

Takeaway: Have an audience before you need it. Grow this audience by offering remarkable value and making them share something personal with you in return. Read GrowthHackers and inbound.org to learn how you can grow your audience.



8. The only way to discover your potential

As a child, Jeff suffered from asthma. Today he runs marathons and is an avid bicyclist. He cycles almost everywhere he goes. He pushed the limits of his body and came out on top. Jeff - 1, asthma - 0.

Likewise, to discover your potential, you must keep pushing yourself to progress to the next level. Read this amazing Zen Pencils comic strip on how Bruce Lee pushed his limits.

Jeff pushes his followers too. Many in his coopetition circle might not agree with his frequency of tweets, but it works for him. “If your audience is not complaining, you are not pushing hard enough”, he says. Amazing!

Takeaway: “If you don’t hear complains, you are not pushing hard enough.” This is applicable to your body, your mind, and your followers. Even remarkable has an expiry date in today’s day and age. Don’t stop progressing.


9. Optimize for conversion

Many businesses start blogging merely for brand awareness. While awareness is important, what matters more is knowing what you want from your audience.

Don’t use campaigns purely to create ‘brand awareness’. Optimize for conversion right from the word go. Conversions don’t have to be sales. They can be newsletter subscriptions, signing up for trial offers or becoming a lead.

Takeaway: If you create guides, DIYs or blog posts for awareness and educating your audience, ask for something in return. Optimizing for conversion makes people return to your property, and helps you build an audience before you need it (see point #7).


10. What to do when your product is expensive

I faced a problem with a specific landing page on which we were selling tickets for an event. The target audience loved the content and gave feedback like “we have never seen anything like this in India.” Yet, nobody bought tickets. I asked Jeff.

“The more your product costs, the more the number of steps to get customers onboard should be”, he said. Jeff has an intricate system of converting users. Using Infusionsoft, he segments his audience. People who show interest in his products by clicking through on the Calls-to-Action are provided with more value-added content before he pitches for a sale. Even in this category, he has sub-categories, and customizes his messages for various groups.


The vast amount of information he shared had my head spinning, and I had to focus hard to avoid ramming into the car in front.

Takeaway: The higher the price of your offering, the more circumspect your audience will be. Increase the number of steps to convert your audience to customers.


11. Done is better than perfect


We’re down to the last, and most critical lesson (thanks for staying till the end). Many of us (including yours truly) have images of how we want things, and refuse to move forward unless something is exactly like that.

During his keynote, Jeff spoke about someone who was not ready to take her blog live because she wanted everything to be perfect. Here is news flash: Perfection can never be achieved! We will always want something more, and then more, and more. The project never goes live and eventually, it’s shelved. When Jeff said this, I felt like he was looking right through the thousand bloggers present and speaking directly to me.

Perfection is a utopian state, something we are always in pursuit of. Even global influencers like Jeff are constantly working on improvement. So start now, and pursue excellence. Success will follow suit. You have a whole lifetime to pursue perfection.

Takeaway: Done is better than Perfect. Stop waiting for the perfect moment and start now. Period. 


It was one of the best days of Vinita’s and my life. We showed Jeff CST, Marine Drive, and Colaba. We visited Café Mondegar and the Gateway of India. At the end of a lovely day, I shook hands with Jeff and Vinita hugged him. He then looked at me and asked, “Won’t you give me a hug?”

“I thought a hug would make you uncomfortable”, I said.

“Naah, mate. I’m good with a hug”. And we hugged.

Jeff, we’re really glad you came to India and spoke to us all. And dear reader, I’m glad you stayed till the end. If you take something away from this post, you can thank Jeff and me. And if you are upset about not being invited to the day out, it’s Vinita’s fault. She told me not to invite you.

40 comments :

  1. You have done it all and so fabulously, take a bow KM. I am bookmarking this for future reference. Oh, what a day it was! We totally lucked out. Thank you once again. Cheers.

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    1. Cheers Vinita. It wouldn't have been half as much fun without you.

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  2. Vishal what can I say? A fantastic, honest and enlightening post! Hail Jeff Bullas! Hail Vishal Kataria! An eye-opener for scores in the blogosphere I am sure! Thanks for the indepth sharing of such wonderful thoughts, and not just skimming across. Indeed feeling daunted considering what one needs to do to get noticed in this or any field but heartened to see one is not alone, helping hands like yours make it more happenable! Thanks again :)

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    1. Thanks Kala. Even people like me have learned from people like Jeff who freely distribute their knowledge and learnings. And while it sounds daunting, it is definitely worth the effort.

      Good luck :)

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  3. This is a fantastic post, Vishal, one I am sure I will keep coming back to. Points 1, 2, 6, 9, 11 I have lived by and they work. I like the lucidity with which you've explained each point. It is testimony to the fact that you work in this area and understand it beyond the superficial. I am glad that you took away so much from the meeting and gave us much to mull on. Well written!

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    1. Thanks Rachna. You've picked the most apt points to keep in mind for staying on top in a world which forgets things faster than goldfish. I am glad to have been of help. What experts share with us should be shared widely for the benefit of everyone.

      Thanks for dropping by as always :)

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  4. Now this is an awesome post... really! Well done man :) He gave away lots of nuggets but what really stuck with me was done is better than perfect!

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    1. Thanks Ankita. Yes, he did give away a lot of nuggets, but remember how many of us barely listened and simply plugged in our own life stories that day? Still makes me laugh ;)

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  5. Vishal so much to learn only from these eleven and here you got a day! I am jealous already :| Done is better than perfect is something I really need to learn...

    Richa

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    1. Yes, Richa. That's something we all need to learn. Once we do, we will see ourselves become more productive and will evolve better with time...

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  6. Thanks for sharing the invaluable insights with us, Vishal. And yes, the last point is definitely the thing I really need to assimilate :)

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    1. We all do, Sonia Glad that you found something of value here. Hope to see you around more :)

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  7. Fantastic ! You have compiled everything in such a clear and concise manner. Thank you for sharing these gems from Jeff. You and Vinita definitely got lucky ! !

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    1. And I simply love the Zen Pencil comic Strip by Bruce Lee !

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    2. Thanks Ruchira. Indeed, we got lucky, not only because we got to pick on Jeff's brains about blogging but about so many other things... It was just an unbelievable day.

      P.S. If you want to meet the author of Zen Pencils, he is coming to Mumbai for the Comic Con in December.

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  8. And now that I have re-read this on the laptop, you meanieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :P I was over thinking this thing out of excitement remember. Haaaahhaaaaaa but then again, generosity is good. Self indulgence is better, at times. There I said it.. Besides you have given the day on a platter to the world with this post. Seriously, well done once again, Kakdi Man :D

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    1. Thanks Vinita. What we got for free deserves to be spread with others too, right?

      After all, shiksha aur prem baantne se badhte hein na?

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  9. This is a really valuable blog post. Thanks. Bookmarked it

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    1. Thanks Ritu. Hope to see you around more :)

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  10. If only 7 percent is so inspiringly enriching, I wonder what it must be to have the entire 100 percent? That's a brilliant compilation and very well packaged, Vishal! Thanks so much for sharing the gems you took from Jeff and spreading them here generously for all of us to devour. I am taking a lot back from this post and I am sure I'll be coming back, if only to simply remind myself on the many things that I still need to imbibe and also to pat myself for all those that I have tried.

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    1. Absolutely, Arti. A dedicated and established blogger like you should visit this blog. You will be patting yourself on the back for having done almost everything rather than learning from here. Good for an ego boost ;)

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  11. Pretty valuable lessons in life, buddy. Hats off to Jeff and people who can achieve all this...easier said than done.

    Thank you for sharing...I need to go over it again, often.

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    1. That's true Alok. It's even more awe-inspiring when we hear what a tough phase Jeff was experiencing when he turned things around...

      The people who truly flourish are the ones who convert adversity into opportunity.

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  12. You lucky bloke (Blogwati Gee too) would be lying if I said I didn't envy you & an ungrateful fella if I didn't thank you for getting these mind opening thoughts out there. That said, everything looks easily done, but never is. So your words are filed away for return visits & maybe, someday, somehow, put them into practice one tiny step at a time. Meanwhile, take a bow & come join me in a round or two. Cheers 🍻

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    1. Thanks Tanmay. Yes, it is easier said than done, but the result is worth every bit the effort. Good luck.

      P.S. Beer with you, anytime mate. Just let me know the place and time and I'll be there :)

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  13. Interesting lessons, but all are on an inspiration level. Didn't he give any techniques to implement?

    Destination Infinity

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    1. He did. There were great points on writing good content and amplifying it too... You can find most of them on his blog. Also read Russell Brunson's books to get better insights about the online world.

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  14. What an insightful post, Vishal !!! This is going to be my read for days to come, over and over again until I meet either you or Vinita, post which I will urge you to narrate me the entire day's event with Jeff.:) :) Sad that I missed attending BNLF and such informative things :(

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    1. Yes, Rohan. Monish was calling you to find where you were. Pity that you had office that day. These points offer the crux of what he shared with us. How we apply these rules depends on us :)

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  15. Thank you for this compilation! I am certain many people will benefit! Like he said, "Done is better tan Perfect.". how about you keep updating this post with what ever you can recollect from time to time? Bookmarking!

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    1. Thanks Ketan. Certainly will update this post if I remember something. You can also share what you would like to read about :)

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  16. First time at your blog, Vishal and I am glad I dropped by. Jeff Bullas is one person I am in awe of and I am just a bit jealous that you got to meet him. But how wonderful of you to share all these wonderful lessons. I have actually added this blog post to My Pocket so I can refer back to it again and again at leisure. Thank you so much for taking the time to put it all down and may I add, such a pleasure to read a grammatically well-written post? ;) Yeah, I'm a bit of a stickler for those.

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    1. Glad you liked what you read Shailaja (including the grammar). No matter how careful we are, some mistakes always occur.

      And regarding the time taken to write this post, well... Jeff would've wanted me to share all this with you :)

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  17. I found your blog by accident and I consider myself lucky to have landed on such a valuable post. I am left wondering, if 7% of your interaction with Jeff is so inspiring, what would the 100% make one feel.
    Thank you for sharing these nuggets of changing the way we work, think and act.
    Bookmarking the post for future reference :)
    You've got a new follower.

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    1. Thank you ME. These lessons have the power of not only changing the way we work, but also the way we live.

      Always feels special when someone says something on the lines of your last line :)

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  18. This was such an interesting read! I am happy I found your blog, sometimes google plus makes it hard for me to find people's blogs because it only takes us to the google plus profiles and I am not very good with technology!:)
    Anyway I read this with a lot of interest! I especially love the first three points although all are valuable!

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    1. Thanks Colleen. I discovered your blog through Rachna Parmar's, and am really glad I did :)

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  19. Vishal, your post is excellent! It inspires, it motivates and takes you to another world of writing!

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    1. Thank you Usha.

      Mission accomplished *dusts hands* :)

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  20. This was some post. If this is only 7%, I would request you to take time and share the remaining 93% too. Lots of learning this is.

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