Doing It Your Way

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Robert Ringer


Some years ago, I had a long talk with my good friend John Pugsley, whom I believe was one of the most clear-headed thinkers of our time.  One of the things John and I discussed at some length is a subject that is front and center in the minds of most entrepreneurs and businesspeople today:  how to make money on the Internet.  It’s been my observation that, other than self-proclaimed Internet gurus, most people seem to be quite befuddled by this challenge.

During my discussion with John, I made the point that I believe most people feel overwhelmed by the amount of e-commerce information that’s floating around.  It’s self-evident that you can never learn more than a small fraction of what there is to know about the Internet — and, worse, what there is to know increases daily.

In addition, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the Internet Diaper Corps, those whiz kids who babble incessantly, with an overconfidence that takes one’s breath away, about website optimization, SEO, pay-per-click, list-building secrets, etc.  How can anyone possibly keep up with such an overload?

John and I came to the joint conclusion that the only solution to the problem of feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by all this information is to simply not worry about what everyone else is doing.  That’s right, just ignore conventional wisdom and do things your way.

Don’t get me wrong.  You should strive to acquire all the knowledge you can, but when it comes to taking action, you would be well advised to follow your own instincts.  If those instincts take you in a lonely direction, that’s probably a good sign.

I can’t imagine anyone who would have thought a dull business like selling books could be an online success, but Jeff Bezos concluded otherwise and — presto! — was born.  Bezos started out in his garage, down on his knees wrapping books, just twenty years ago.  His idea seemed crazy at the time, but he later said, “I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”

As if we needed any greater example than that of the founder of, what further convinced both John and me that going against the grain is a sound Internet strategy was what we remembered our own early days in business, particularly the marketing end of things.  Nothing either of us ever did was conventional.

When John wrote and self-published his first book, Common Sense Economics, he knew absolutely nothing about typesetting and printing, let alone marketing books.  He just as well could have been talking about me, because I was in precisely the same situation with my first book, Winning Through Intimidation.  When it came time to market his book, John, the master of common sense, simply asked himself how he could best reach the kind of people who were most likely to benefit from his advice.

It’s a long and fascinating story, but the short version is that he went to the Orange County (California) Yellow Pages and extracted the names and addresses of doctors and dentists.  He then paid work-at-home women to type their names and addresses on plain envelopes, apply postage stamps, and mail out an ad he had written for his book.

Before you start laughing out loud (I did when I first heard John’s story), let me jump ahead to the ending:  Employing this simplistic, unconventional approach was the beginning of one of the most successful book-marketing campaigns in history — a campaign that led to John’s selling a staggering 150,000 copies of his book.

This, in turn, launched him into a highly successful newsletter, followed by seminars, speeches, and more books.  To this day, I find John’s story to be one of the most remarkable testaments to the efficacy of following one’s own instincts, no matter how simple or unconventional they may be.

Now, fast-forward to the world of cyberspace.  When it comes to the Internet, there’s no reason to feel insecure, because everyone lacks knowledge.  There’s no “right way” to approach Internet marketing, so be cautious when it comes to taking advice.

On the other hand, do be a sponge when it comes to gathering information, but use your own instincts when it comes to taking action.  Be bold and don’t be afraid to be different.  Never hesitate to go against conventional wisdom.

Above all, don’t get hung up on planning, because a new Internet train leaves the station every day, and the sooner you climb aboard one of those trains, the better.  A plan too long in the making is a plan for yesterday’s Internet.

General Patton must have been envisioning the Internet when he advised: “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

22 responses to “Doing It Your Way”

  1. Dinnetta says:

    This is absolutely an AWESOME article. Basically because I am not one to "follow the crowd" and do what everyone else does. In fact, when I see that something is overcrowded I turn and do something different. Sometimes it works out in my favor, and sometimes not. However, I would rather try something new than follow in the footsteps of someone. Don't get me wrong, I learn and learn and learn some more, but I rarely do exactly what others are doing. It has made me successful in many areas. I love this philosophy that you shared today!

  2. Ron says:

    Your writing never ceases to amaze me. And, so often you support ideas that I have, like this.

    Thank you very much.

    BTW, I'm a client of Bob Bly.

  3. Clarke Echols says:


    This is a must-read for anyone who thinks you need a flawless "process" to reach Marketing Nirvana. The MBAs who obsess over "Big Data" and other nonsense don't understand the person signing their paycheck is called a "customer". A person. Who couldn't care less about their brand or their image.

    My mind is boiling over with good ideas from this rant. I'm going to go write some more of my own. :-)

  4. John E. Gabor says:

    Marketing a book seems like an overwhelming endeavor. What are the odds of someone just happening to stumble on your book at Amazon? About 1 in 10,000,000? What is your opinion of the companies that advertise they will market your book?

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      After forty years in the book business, I can say unequivocally that I have never found a company that can produce results marketing a book – ESPECIALLY book publishers, who know absolutely nothing about marketing. The reason I was successful in marketing my first two books to NYT #1 bestseller status is because I ignored the naysayers and went totally against the grain. It's worked for me in other businesses as well.

      • John E. Gabor says:

        My gut told me those companies would be a waste of money. I did a lot of plugging my book on Facebook. Now I'm trying to get newspaper and radio station to plug my book. Thank you, sir, for taking the time to reply!

      • RealitySeeker says:

        "I went totally against the grain".

        This is partly the reason why I enjoyed reading your books as much as I did, and yet you still to this very day under-credit yourself by not articulating in more detail that which made you such a successful "entrepreneur".

        Ludwig von Mises offers some of the best insights on entrepreneurs— like Mr. Ringer—on pg. 585 of "Human Action".

        "Yet the real entrepreneur is a speculator, a man eager to utilize his opinion about the future….This specific anticipative understanding of the conditions of the uncertain future defies any rules and systematization. It can be neither taught nor learned. If it were different, everybody could embark upon entrepreneurship with the same prospect of success. What distinguishes the successful entrepreneur and promoter from other people is precisely the fact that he does not let himself be guided by what was and is, but arranges his affairs on the ground of his opinion about the future. He sees the past and the present as other people do; but he judges the future in a different way. In his actions he is directed by an opinion about the future which deviates from those held by the crowd."

    • Jean says:

      Hi John
      No one – not even those who are paid – have as much interest in the success of a book as does the author. Even if you go the commercial publishing route, YOU are pretty much responsible for promoting your book by whatever means is appropriate. Most authors have their own website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. They may post short pieces on their site in order to gain fans, then direct their fans to the Facebook page for updates on "the new book coming out" and when the book materializes, post links on Facebook and on their website to the Amazon sales page.

      One of my customers who self-published a short novel based on his experiences as a therapist advertised to his former clients. They were delighted that they were an integral part of his book, and through word of mouth, helped him sell his book. They also posted glowing reviews on Amazon, which certainly helped gain the attention of browsers. Another client wrote a memoir of his days as a recon pilot during WWII, and first marketed his book at squadon reunions. I sold a copy to a Half Priced Books outlet in Indianapolis, and it was purchased by a guy who promotes air shows nationwide. He got in touch with me, and I put him in touch with the author. They struck a deal so that the author could travel with the show and set up a sales table – truly a win-win situation. Sometimes, things just fall into place, but it does take some effort on the author's part as well as that of the publisher to sow the right seeds.

      • John E. Gabor says:

        Thanks for the information, Jean. I've come to see marketing is a real challenge. I appreciate your advice and ideas!

  5. This is one of the most refreshing posts I’ve read in quite some time. I have dabbled in IM trainings and found that there’s always more and more to learn and that sometimes the advice even conflicts about what to do or what not to do to make money. Oh, so frustrating! It’s so much easier to go offline because the logic is clearer – the “language” of the internet is so diverse and complicated.

    That won’t stop me from trying, though! I think that I will move faster to try out new ways to make money on the internet, to trust my instincts. I certainly can’t make internet money just reading and sitting on my hands, lol!

  6. commonsensebrent says:

    I love the example of how john used the yellow pages because that’s exactly what I did to build one of my more successful businesses. The short version is, through a series of rather comical events, I ended up starting the Comedy Store Traffic School. A very tough business to market since people don’t seek your services unless they MUST attend the class.

    In 1989,WBTI (Way Before The Internet) I purchased the Smith Corona selectric typewriter with the ‘save’ option, the one that allowed you to compose then ‘save’ any particular letter. After drafting my sales letter and leaving the mailing address blank, I simply entered each address separately on my pre-typed letter and sent them to any company who used any type of delivery service or courier /driver in their business.

    I knew my best customers were businesses who utilized any type of over the road delivery system. They needed my services since their delivery personnel’s clean driving record was paramount to their success.

    It worked. My business was a smashing success for over a decade.
    Love your letters Robert and look forward to your daily emails.

  7. larajf says:

    I think one other very important point about Amazon….Bezos was not the first. Once upon a very long time ago, there was a domain called that you would telnet into, search for books, and then be able to purchase. The turnaround time was fairly fast. The owner knew their niche: technical books for technical people who knew how to telnet. But they obviously missed a big opportunity.
    Secondly, it's ok to do what others have done. FedEx was the first to go overnight. UPS, DHL, etc. all do bang up business. IBM had some of the first home computers. Dell and HP are still making money as are Toshiba, etc.
    You don't have to be the first. You don't have to be the best.
    But I believe you do have to be consistent and not be stopped when things get tough. And yeah, getting creative helps a lot too :-)

  8. DOL says:


  9. laleydelexito says:

    Thank you Robert!!!!

    You make me take confidence in taking my own decisions =)

  10. Alan says:

    It's nice to hear your words again in my head
    …Found an old book WTI years ago a great stroy and read.
    It would be interesting to hear that experience and ideas expressed in the online space if possible.
    Thanks Mr Ringer

  11. Dean Black says:

    This was my first newsletter from you and it is excellent. I have always done things my own way in every other area of my life and business.

    Thanks Robert for an informative and inspiring article

  12. Ivan says:

    This is one of your top emails I just love it…remember some years ago I read an old self help classic "A Touch of Greatness" I loved it so much that I contacted author,we become friends,and to make long story short,I purchassed all publishing rights for this book,not knowing anything about promotion,I shared the book with a realestate friend who liked the book himself and he told others,and others told others,and over 300 hundreds books were sold in 2 month,just word of mouth,which is what I still believe one of the best ways to sell any good product, or service.I am still doing it with my present business,without any advertising cost,for me people always come first,before money…and the rest will follow.

  13. johnsonval114 says:

    Here's a tip, especially for local businesses – it's called day parting. As in, you schedule your ads only to appear during business hours of the day. If you follow customer trends in clicks and conversions by the hour of the day, you'll notice the peak hours. You can bully out your competitors on bids by focusing on certain times of the day. Make sure you are constantly optimizing based on these trends. You don't want to miss your customers, but if you're on a tighter budget, just wait for 'the right moment' of the day and bust out the cannons to hit your prospects when they want you most. I have it all managed for me, so no sweat. Simon can set you up to get managed if you're interested, just call him at 240-455-3886.

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