in Book highlights, General

My Highlights from Million Dollar Weekend by Noah Kagan

“If you believe your product or service can fulfill a true need, it’s your moral obligation to sell it.—Zig Ziglar”

Read more on Amazon

The reason most people don’t start a business

 When I was 18 my dad bought hundreds of golden masks from China. The mask was supposed to moisturize and rejuvenate your facial skin — or at least according to the supplier.  

He didn’t have time to sell them, so he dumped them in storage. The masks were sitting idle, their rejuvenating powers wasted.  

One day, while I was lounging in the living room without much to do, he told me I should sell the masks. I was 18, painfully shy, and the extent of my business experience was selling chewing gum in school. He saw me hesitating, so he offered me 50% of the sales proceeds. This piqued my interest. 

I had no idea how to prospect so I got a map (this was 2008), marked all the city’s hotels and spas, put on a nice shirt, stuffed as many golden masks as I could into my backpack and went out into the scorching tropical sun to sell $0.30 cent golden masks at a huge markup.   

I had no idea what I was doing. So, I figured I would knock on their doors. This is how I ended up in the first spa, drenched in sweat and nervous to the bone. I opened the door, interrupting their aromatic serenity with my sales pitch… I thought absolutely nothing was going to come out of it.   

But was I wrong, very wrong. The orders started coming in, one after the other. The owner of one of the spas I visited bought $1,500 worth of product. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he handed me the check. I was shocked at how the mystical world of business was so simple. You just had to go out there and sell

I had a good start in the business world, but then something happened.  

I signed up for business school. Now, professors (who have never started a business) were stuffing my head with balance sheets, EBITDA, the 4 Ps of marketing, human resource management, strategic communications etc. I was learning business from textbooks, not from real life.  

After I graduated, I felt I needed to do something more… complex. I started thinking I am too smart to just go out there and sell stuff like I did before. 

Instead of selling I was pulling out a spreadsheet. Instead of developing a product I was drafting a business plan. Instead of just starting I was searching for investors. College overcomplicated things for me.  

And this is one of the reasons so many people want to start a business but so few do. They overcomplicate things.  

But Noah Kagan, with Million Dollar Weekend makes starting a business as simple as possible.  

I avoid business books because they are a cliche basket and generally do not offer practical advice. But Noah’s book is extremely practical. To the point where he feeds you all you have to do, you just have to… do it.  

…and that is the core lesson of the book. You have to take action. The overanalyzers and couch strategists will re-write their business plan for the umpteenth time while the doer will start to execute. Being an entrepreneur is about getting out there and selling what you have sell. Whether that’s golden masks or your revolutionary AI-powered SAAS.  

Noah Kagan strips down the seemingly unattainable challenge of starting a business to the most approachable timeframe imaginable — a weekend. The brief oasis of freedom that office dwellers have to implement their dreams.  

So, what are some of the lessons from Million Dollar Weekend that will help you launch your business as soon as possible? 

Here are some of my favorites. 

Do first, learn later  

Just take action and the rest will follow…

Successful people just start. I promise you: Who you are, what you have, and what you know right now are more than enough to get going.”

I know your inner negotiator may be saying, “That sounds great, but MY idea needs more time.” Stop! Power comes when you automatically implement NOW, Not How in everything you do. So no more negotiating with yourself. You’re just a doer. Say it to yourself: NOW, Not How.

Any analysis ahead of action is purely speculation. You really do not understand something until you’ve done it. Rather than trying to plan your way into the confidence to act, just start acting.

Overthinking seems like the “smart” way to launch, but it’s far less effective. Super-successful people do the opposite—they take action first, get real feedback, and learn from that, which is a million times more valuable than any book or course. And quicker!

How to quickly validate your idea or product 

Instead of spending gazillions on a complex marketing funnel you can just did what Noah’s former intern Justin Mares did:

To start, he bought the domain bonebroths.com for $12 and set up a basic landing page using Unbounce.

Justin paid around $5 on Fiverr to come up with the simple logo.

After setting up the page and writing the copy, he picked a price. He decided he could make a profit if he charged $29.99 for 16 ounces.

If people were willing to give a stranger nearly $30 for a pint of a product they’d never tasted or even seen, then it was probably destined for success. At the site, people who hit “Order Now” got sent to a PayPal checkout, where they were asked to send money to Justin’s email address for “Beef Marrow Bone Broth.

The  site  was  ugly  enough  to  give  graphic  designers  the  cold  sweats.  But  after Justin bought about $50 of Bing ads, people started actually coming to the site and PayPal-ing him money!

Over the course of the two-week test, he netted almost $500 in revenue. And now Kettle & Fire is a $100 million company.

The law of 100 

If you are pursuing something that requires consistent output, make a pledge to yourself– that you will produce at least 100 of it. 100 YouTube videos, 100 blog posts, 100 sales calls. 100 is a number that gives you ample evidence if what you are doing has potential. 

You will also learn the Law of 100 to help you push past resistance when you feel like quitting.

Lean in and commit to 100 reps. (Think of this as doing reps and practicing as opposed to failing or succeeding.) This changes your mindset and makes it much easier to sustain forward motion when things get tough. The  key  is  to  set  up  a  system  that  helps  you  get  your  100  reps  done  without thinking about the results. The solution to all the doubt that will inevitably creep up on you is to commit to your first 100—whatever it is for you—with complete disregard for your results.

If you want to start a YouTube channel, publish 100 videos. If you’re doing a newsletter, write 100 emails. If  you’re  starting  a  new  hobby  like  chess  or  guitar,  practice  for  100 days. If you’re creating a business, directly pitch 100 customers

Constant experimentation

People take themselves — and their ideas — too seriously.  

When I graduated business school I wanted to build the next multibillion dollar startup, I wanted to do something great. But instead of fueling my growth, my grandiose aspirations kept me paralyzed. I was thinking, planning, strategizing, talking (mostly talking), but did not get started because the fear of failure would make me realize I was not so great as I thought.  

 On the contrary, when you view things as experiments you are much more willing to let the experiment run its course and see if it works.    

 This is the concept of AB testing in online marketing. In most tests the hypothesis is not proven, but once you hit one that works the upside is unlimited.  

 Many struggle to make their first dollar because they are so focused on how to make their first million.

Conventional wisdom said don’t bother trying, and most people would have just accepted that reality, but growing up with my crazy salesman dad had taught me never to take conventional wisdom at face value. My dad taught me to always test things out for myself.

FEAR OF STARTING. At some point people are told entrepreneurship is a huge risk, and you believed it. You figured more preparation, more planning, and more talking to friends would help you overcome your insecurities. But that inaction only breeds more doubt and fear. In actuality, the best way to learn what we need to know—and become who we want to be—is by just getting started. Small EXPERIMENTS, repeated over time, are the recipe for transformation in business, and life.”

Experiments are supposed to fail. And should they fail, you just take what you’ve learned and try again a little bit differently.

Take me and any of the super-successful entrepreneurs and side-hustle champions I’ve met over the years. It’s uncanny, but the one commonality nearly all of us share is the crazy number of seemingly random things we’ve tried to launch—stretching back to our childhoods. Online courses, self-published books, consulting, Airbnbs, affiliate marketing, YouTube channels, a college dating site, and many more . . .And for all of us, almost all of these projects failed!.

If you are interested in the idea of constant experiment check out the Small Bets community. 

Start with your zone of influence

When I launched my first Facebook Ads course back in 2019, from the 15 or so initial sign ups I had, half came from my network — a high school classmate I hadn’t seen for 12 years, a friend of a friend, a few clients, a famous TV presenter (who happened to be a client of a client). They helped me validate the idea and give me the confidence to start running ads.  

 Your zone of influence is the best place to start.  

Remember  to  focus  on  your  Zone  of  Influence  here  (your  existing community): the 150 followers you have on TikTok, the 200 in your local Taco Aficionados group, the 300 in the WhatsApp group for your mountain biking club (not to mention the 143,000 in the subreddit r/mountainbiking). Your job as a problem seeker is to go to a community of yours.

Lots of great examples of how ordinary people start successful businesses. Such as Daniel Reifenberger, who turned working at the Apple store into a $250,000-a-year business tutoring people in how to use technology.”  

Though it’s rarely a part of their official origin stories, the biggest companies in the world—even the viral apps now worth billions—started through personal networks and real human connections.Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in a weekend by emailing friends to use it. Version 1 did well, validating it. And Microsoft started with Bill Gates building software for a guy in Albuquerque..

When novice entrepreneurs search for opportunities, they too often look beyond their Zone of Influence. They think the action is happening somewhere else, in some other location or industry. But seasoned entrepreneurs almost always find and create opportunities within the context of who they are, what they know, and especially who they know.

How to sell online

 *There’s a lot of nuances to it, but it boils down to growing an audience on one platform. It could be IG, Twitter, YouTube, get them on an email list and then sell.     

A community who already knows you, who follows you, who is rooting for you is one of the most powerful forces in business, and it’s created through generosity. Adding value without expectation. Helping them with their journey without asking for an immediate return.  

What gets you to your first $1 will get you to your first $1,000. It’s the leap to $100,000 and then to $1 million that requires you to create a growth machine. The most powerful growth tool today for solopreneurs is a system of content creation, audience building, and email marketing. We’ll set up this system in chapters 6 and 7.At the heart of each chapter is a challenge that delivers a concrete asset for your business. In chapter 8, that asset is the Experiment-Based Marketing approach that helped me grow Mint.com from zero to 1 million users in just six months. It worked so well for Mint, I now use Experiment-Based Marketing for EVERY new product, service, or company I launch.   

The goal here is to document what YOU do, not what you think everyone else should do. When you position yourself as someone who is on a journey and document your process and your progress, you become relatable, and that is what audiences long for.  

Marketing is simple

Gurus love to overcomplicate marketing, when it’s quite simple.    

  • Set a hyper-focused exact goal: something like having 100,000 YouTube subscribers this year.  
  • Do a bunch of experiments (30 days is more than enough to know if an experiment works).   
  • Focus on what works.  
  • Make your 100 first customers happy.

The money is on the list

My  company  AppSumo  generates  $65  million  a  year  in  total transactions. And you know what? Nearly 50 percent of that comes from email. This percentage has been consistent for more than ten years. I have 120,000 Twitter followers, 750,000 YouTube subscribers, and 150,000 TikTok fans—and I would give them all up for my 100,000 email subscribers. Why? Every time I send an email, 40,000 people open  it  and  consume  my  content. 

The number one regret of just about every entrepreneur I know is this: “I wish I started my email list sooner.” Don’t be that person. Email marketing needs to be your new best friend. The only way to consistently monetize whatever audience you build, wherever you build it, is with email. That means that you’re not really “building an audience” if you don’t have their email.

Highlighted passages 

The challenge with YouTube is that it’s harder to create a video than write a tweet, which discourages most people. However, I see that as an advantage since it means less competition if you’re willing to do it. Or  maybe  you  hate  being  on  camera.  But  that’s  no  excuse,  either.  SO  many channels  have  gotten  massive  like  SunnyV2  (two  plus  million  subscribers  to  his documentaries about famous people), and we’ve never seen his face. You also don’t need an expensive studio or Hollywood gear. I started my 750,000- plus subscriber channel shirtless in my living room talking about marketing, shooting with my iPhone 12. Nothing fancy needed.  

 

Jess Dante of Love and London runs a YouTube channel helping viewers plan their trips  to  London  by  suggesting  lesser-known  restaurants  and  stores  to  visit.  Her superstar  opt-in  incentive  is  a  free  London  101  Guide  with  everything  a  first-time visitor needs to know. It’s been downloaded more than 45,000 times.

 

The Million Dollar Weekend process was instrumental in sparking my entrepreneurial spirit. My initial business idea gradually evolved, and within a couple of years, I became the main distributor for a European climbing brand in America. Over the course of the next decade, I closed the business, having achieved something approaching a million in sales. The earnings from the business didn’t just sit in a bank account. I was able to invest and create wealth, which has opened up so many opportunities. It’s allowed me to pursue personal passions, like traveling and training as a freediving instructor in Egypt, and fund my ongoing education in computer science and programming.

 

PRO TIP:  Front-load  your  priorities,  meaning  if  your  main  goal  is

YouTube, focus on it earlier in the week.

 

The more things that are on repeat, the better. If every Monday and  Thursday  you  do  three  hours  of  YouTube  work  starting  at  one  p.m.,  it becomes  habitual.  And  every  Tuesday  night  I  go  biking;  it’s  automatic.  If  the important tasks are automatically added, you free up your brain to focus on the more complex issues that give you energy and move you toward your goals

 

In a j-o-b, you must accept the system you are in. As an entrepreneur, you get to design your own system.

 

This list works for you, not the other way around. If midyear you realize something doesn’t matter, change it. I aim to review and update this list only twice a year. The best way to make sure you accomplish your goals is to see them often. Here’s where I put mine. On the lock screen of my phone On a sticky on my computer On a text file that I look at each week On the mirror of my bathroom On a daily note that I read every day

 

Look for something working in one category and bring it to another. One of the largest drivers of AppSumo’s email list was giveaways. We realized this only after seeing a giveaway in a women’s fashion online site and trying it out ourselves. Sign up for and observe companies outside of your target market for inspiration.

 

Follow Up! Follow Up! Follow Up! Studies show that if you initially get a no, your follow-up ask is TWICE as likely to get a yes.”“At AppSumo.com, almost 50 percent of our sales come from our follow-up emails. Think about that. What a great example that follow-ups are as powerful as your first touch point. Follow up on the things you really want. I use followup.cc for email and Siri very often to remember follow-ups. You can also use the Snooze feature in Google or just write it down!

 

Everyone in business is interested in more customers. I didn’t want to do another business where my product was a nice-to-have (a vitamin)—I wanted to be a must-have (a painkiller). And getting more customers is the most essential business need.

 

It is deadly to build a business without first verifying that there are paying customers.

 

The trick is to desensitize yourself to the pain by repeatedly exposing yourself to it. Embrace the discomfort—actively seeking it out—and use it as your compass.

 

For one thing—and I do this often—I remind myself I’m going to die eventually and none of this really matters. Seriously. And on top of that, would any of these people come to my funeral? No! Which is a pretty effective way to lessen the impact their rejection has on my emotions.`Then I remind myself of Rejection Goals: “This is going to suck. Let me aim to get at least twenty-five rejections.” That alone helps me accept that I will get rejected and turn it more into a game versus a blow to my self-worth. I’ve trained myself to associate anything hard with growth, playing the same little reframing trick my father used on rejection.And it’s not just my father that set me up for success in this way. When she was growing up, the father of Spanx founder Sara Blakely would ask her and her brother nightly: “What did you guys fail at this week?

 

I became an expert at taking leaps. Being unafraid to start new things meant that, unlike most people, I was constantly conducting experiments in my personal and professional lives, in both big and small ways. New industries. New hobbies. New technologies. New roles. New people. New side hustles. That’s where I found my superpower, which taught me a lesson I want to pass on to you: focus above all else on being a starter, an experimenter, a learner.

 

Who is one person you know who would really like this?” Always, always, always ask for a referral! Be specific about what kind of referral and use a number; this makes it highly effective.

 

Active communications—calls and texts—work a lot better than passive ones, like posting on Facebook or Twitter and waiting for replies. Try to Direct Message (DM) people, or whatever enables you to get the fastest response time possible.

 

A classic way to validate your product is to use marketplaces—sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Reddit, or whatever you have locally. The great thing about a marketplace is you have a shit-ton of people who are looking to spend money .

 

PRO TIP: Don’t base your happiness or your self-worth on being the smartest, the most successful, the richest. Being so focused on the end results sets you up for a major fall because there’s ALWAYS going to be someone who’s smarter, more successful, or richer—and every time you see that you’ve fallen short, it will eat away at your motivation. Defining yourself by the things you do each day (the process) will get you to where you want to be quicker and more joyfully than measuring yourself against others.That’s the wonderful thing about experimentation—every experiment has within it the potential of unforeseen rewards that can change your life.But first you’ve got to start.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Write a Comment

Comment

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments