When I decided to enter the real estate brokerage business in my mid-twenties, I was remarkably ignorant and naive. More often than not, when I would talk to another real estate agent about my plans to obtain a real estate license, he would drone on and on about how difficult it was to succeed in the real estate brokerage business and why a newcomer would find it almost impossible just to get started.
Fortunately, I had already reached a psychological maturation point in my business life that allowed me to ignore most of the negative grenades tossed at me. I had long ago concluded that all members of the Discouragement Fraternity had two things in common: (1) Because they were insecure, they feared competition, and (2) they were ferocious about protecting their turf.
In my first book, Winning Through Intimidation, I tell one of my favorite stories about an experience I had in an organic chemistry class in college. The story is far too long to repeat in detail here, but the gist of it is that I came smack up against a “Court Holder” in that very difficult course.
What, exactly, is a Court Holder? Basically, he’s just an average guy who makes a career out of holding court. He’s the jerk at every cocktail party explaining how utterly simple it all is — you know, the one poised with one elbow on the mantel, a drink in his hand, and a group of information – starved puppies flocking around him in a semicircle.
More to the point, a Court Holder is a master intimidator. You should never allow yourself to be intimidated by know-it-alls who thrive on bestowing their knowledge on insecure people. Mentally close your ears and put blinders on your eyes, and move relentlessly forward with the knowledge that what someone else knows is not relevant. In the final analysis, the most relevant factors in your success are what you know and what you do.
It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to ignoring the “words of wisdom” of the established hotshots in your profession and not be afraid to shoot for the moon without asking anyone’s permission. And remember, the quickest way to the top is not by fighting your way through the pack but by leapfrogging over it.
As with a pig, never attempt to wrestle with a Court Holder. When you, and you alone, feel ready to move up in class, simply jump over the swarm of Court Holders in front of you and ignore their warnings of imminent disaster on the horizon.
Speaking of my first book, Winning Through Intimidation, this is precisely how I made it a success. After it was rejected by twenty-three publishers, I made the decision to publish it myself.
What stands out in my mind most vividly is that virtually every person I spoke to about my plans tried to convince me that I was wasting my time. I remember one individual in particular bellowing at me, “Who the hell do you think you are to believe that anyone would pay money for a book written by a first-time author who couldn’t even get it published by a ‘real’ publisher?”
I thanked him for his valuable input and said I’d be sure to check with him in the future if I ever again felt the urge to take bold action. Then, I naively went out and had 5,000 hardcover copies of my book printed up — without having a clue as to how to go about selling them!
Though I didn’t know anything about typesetting, jacket design, or printing — let alone marketing — what I did know is that the fastest way to get ahead in life is to plunge into a project without trying to figure out, in advance, everything that needs to be done to make it work.
After several stutter-starts, I finally wrote an ad for the book that made a profit, and I ultimately graduated to running full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal on a weekly basis. This continued for roughly nine months, and resulted in my selling about 60,000 hardcover copies of the book — the same book that had been rejected by twenty-three publishers.
All told, I spent three years promoting Winning Through Intimidation directly to the public before T. Y. Crowell (later acquired by Harper & Row, forerunner of Harper Collins) agreed to distribute it to retail outlets. Three weeks after it hit the bookstores, it made its first appearance on The New York Times bestseller list. And shortly thereafter, it became a New York Times #1 bestseller.
Ultimately, the book that an army of Discouragement Fraternity experts had assured me no one would buy was listed by The New York Times as one of the fifteen bestselling motivational books of all time.
My purpose here is not to gloat, but to inspire. As in most industries, so-called experts in book publishing work very hard at trying to brand their profession as mysterious and complicated. You should never allow yourself to be intimidated by such gibberish, regardless of your field of endeavor. The more negative the Discouragement Fraternity crowd is, the more it should motivate you to take bold action.
If you’re contemplating trying something that goes against the grain of the norm in one industry or another — especially if a lot of folks are trying to convince you that it won’t work — you may just be onto the next blockbuster bestseller, whether it be a book or some other product.
Remember, when all is said and done, it’s not your idea that carries the day. It’s how well you execute it, how determined you are to overcome the obstacles in your path (especially the naysaying of the Discouragement Fraternity), and how creative you are in your marketing efforts.
Continued in Part II …