September 18, 2014

On Putting Skin in The Game: Earning Trust

by Rob Hanly

“Will you guarantee your results?”

He laughed nervously when I asked.

Here he was. A business on death’s door. He needed help, and he knew it.

And in a split second, it was clear why.

He wouldn’t put his own neck on the chopping block, even though he was touting that nothing would go wrong.

He had no confidence. And as a result, people didn’t trust him.

After all, if you aren’t willing to put skin in the game and hold all the risk for someone, then why should they trust you with a single cent?

The truth is, in every single facet of life, people are expecting to be taken advantage of.

In every commercial interaction, every social interaction, in any instance where there is not already a deep bond with the other parties, we are a mere neuron’s firing away from dropping into fight or flight mode.

Regardless of how you think the world should, or could, be, this is how it is. People don’t trust you.

The question is, then…

What are you going to do about it?

Trust: You Don’t Get It. You Earn It.

Recently, I had a quick conversation with a fitness professional from Australia. It turned out that she’d hired someone I knew to help her with her marketing.

And she was delighted that she’d found him.

It wasn’t because of his marketing talents (which he has many). It wasn’t because of his experience in the fitness industry (of which he has plenty).

She was delighted because after suffering through false promises, amateur attempts and disappointing turn outs from people who promised to help her business…

She finally found someone who would back themselves and deliver on the job.

For him, it wasn’t as simple. He wasn’t simply having to show her that he could help her build her business with better marketing.

The truth was, he had to fight back every mental trauma she’d suffered while dealing with amateurs.

He didn’t get her trust right away — she’d long become wary of anyone promising to do something for money.

Instead, he earned it by demonstrating how he was different. And how he was in it to leave her better than he found her.

Put Your Neck On The Chopping Block

The only person you should ever expect to absorb the risk is you.

If you’re asking someone for money in return for a service, you have to absorb the risk.

If you’re asking someone to spend time with you, you have to absorb the risk.

If you want someone to give — or do — something for you, you have to absorb the risk.

Simply put, you must find a way to completely and utterly remove the risks that are within your control.

And that begins with being honest with yourself. 

Do you have your own back?

Let’s say I had your fees in my hand right now, and put them on the table. Would you accept them and start work?

Or would you address any underlying concerns I had first by promising that I would get every cent back should your work not be delivered on time, and to a high quality?

Only someone who doubts themselves would not back themselves.

Alternatively, let’s say you wanted to seek my advice.

Instead of paying me for a complete consult, you decided to ask to “pick my brain over a coffee” instead.

Would you simply email me and hope that I would give you a free ride equivalent to what others have paid valuable money for?

Or would you do everything you could to make sure that it wasn’t a waste of my time, coming to meet me at a time that suited me — even if it was for a 6am training session?

Only someone who forgets that an agreement requires two people will put themselves first.

Make The First Move: Prove You Can Be Trusted

In life, there’s only one kind of relationship you want. One that is long, and mutually beneficial.

But if you’re always worried about getting screwed, you’re never going to develop these relationships.

Life is not a pure transaction. The intangibles and good will surrounding it are what close the deal.

So prove that you can be trusted. It’s crucial.

If you believe that what you have is valuable to someone, and will improve their condition, don’t make it hard for them to trust you. Take on all the risk, and let them see for themselves.

Because if what you have is truly valuable, and they will truly see value from it, it will become a no-brainer to continue once they’ve experienced it.

Invest Your Own Skin Before It Matters: The Flip Side

We all have a few people in our lives that we no longer trust, but haven’t entirely eliminated.

These are people who reneged on deals, left us in the lurch unfairly, and ultimately broke our trust.

When you think about these people, you know that they’d have to work incredibly hard to regain credibility in your eyes.

And ever since the first time this happened, at the back of your mind you’ve expected everyone else to be capable of doing the same thing. After all, if that first person you trusted could do it… anybody could.

The people you deal with on a daily basis think the exact same way. 

They’ve suffered from false promises before. They’ve been betrayed before. They’ve been left feeling totally used before.

Your job is to demonstrate that you won’t do that. That you’re in for the long haul. That you’re going in to bat for them.

A Final Word On Putting Your Own Skin In The Game: The Importance Of Filter

To put your own skin in the game, you need to mitigate the risks that you yourself suffer.

Otherwise you’ll end up bloody and raw with no skin to speak of.

So for your own sake, and that of your reputation, do not say ‘Yes!’ to everything.

Do the due diligence. Ensure that you can reasonably expect to deliver on your promises.

Eliminate the poor fits. A dollar is not a dollar. A bad fit will give you a dollar once. A good fit, on the other hand, will pay you time and time again with a smile on their face.

Deliver. Do what you said you would, when you said you would. If you’ve filtered out anything you can’t guarantee, this will be the easy part.

Yes, it requires slightly more mental RAM than playing mind-judo and agreeing to do everything. But in the long run, it will pay off.

And when you get tested, and your skin has to be sacrificed?

This is the true test. Cop it on the chin, and go hungry if need be. Ensure that you leave your partner better than you found them.

Because when you think long term, and put other people’s interests first, you prove you’re worth someone’s trust.

And all because you put your skin in the game.

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If you and I were to sit down and have a coffee, and you were to ask me what I did, my answer would be simple:

“I enable people to take specific actions.”

I do this in two ways.

First, I enable my clients’ businesses. From funnels that influence to words that make the phone ring, I enable my clients’ customers to take actions that put money in the bank.

Secondly, I enable my clients. The strategy and tactics we discuss aren’t limited to the making of money. Often, they focus on crushing mental blocks and limiting beliefs to enable those all important profitable actions to take place.

And of those actions, few are as important as knowing how to act when burn out is on the horizon.

Dear You, This Is Your Job

Let’s get one thing straight.

Your job is to keep the world spinning. To take the risks, make things happen and get shit done.

You are an entrepreneur. A commander. A leader.

Without you, and the people like you, the world will cease to spin and the shit will hit the fan as consumption outweighs production.

And just like your peers, you can’t let the dip in the curve hold you back.

The Crash Is Real, And They’ve Been There Too

Before you read the rest of this, let me give you some background.

If you have ever felt like you were crashing, burning, failing or falling, you are not alone.

Every week, without fail, I speak with between 20 and 30 entrepreneurs. Every week, we talk about developing your business, and developing your psychology.

And every week, at least one person is going through a burn out.

This is by no means a startling revelation in the entrepreneurial community. It has been written about more than a handful of times.

But it’s a problem that doesn’t go away, and can be insulated against with the right frameworks.

This Story Begins With Four Men And A Low Lit Room

Recently, while sitting with a group of four entrepreneurs, the conversation turned to inner game and mindset.

Despite having one of his most successful weeks in some time, one of the four had found himself hitting rock bottom. He was angry, upset, depressed and down.

“I set my goals and refined them earlier this week, and was really juiced off them. Now, I just feel absolutely bummed and empty.”

He’d gone from massive high to massive low. And none of us could pull him out of it in that moment.

This wasn’t because of his mood and mindset, or a lack of insight from the other three people in the room.

It was because of where he’d found himself on the roller coaster.

The Roller Coaster Has Started, And You Will Never Get Off

Acknowledge the following as infallible truth:

You are on a roller coaster of emotion. Unless you are a psychopath by definition, this is unavoidable. 

Accept this. Otherwise, the more you try to avoid it, control it, or destroy it, the more it will bite you on the arse.

Admittedly, this puts you in a tough position.

As an entrepreneur, a commander for your troops, you probably have a desire to be invincible. Maybe you think you are.

And whenever you feel down, off or lacking, you try to hide it.

Keeping a strong face is good. Not dealing with reality is bad.

To deal with reality, it is important that you come to peace with the fact that the roller coaster is unavoidable. Some parts will be great. Some parts will suck.

In the same way, you must acknowledge that you are going to die. In 1,000 years, the mountains will be here and you will not.

You are not invincible — in fact, you are little more than flesh and blood with the luck of a good birthplace and a handful of strong decisions. Your life is what it is, and you will see that in reality, it is not all roses.

And like a roller coaster, your only real choice is to go ride it between the ups and downs, to the neutral points.

This It Isn’t About Being Happy. It’s About Being Neutral.

Life is a constant battle between inertia and momentum.

Your emotions, the fuel for the decisions you make, are as affected by this as any other element of your human make up.

And when you’re scraping rock bottom, on the most terrifying part of the roller coaster, you can’t just ‘buck up’ and smile. Because when you’re down, before you can be up, you must reach the mid point.

The easiest framework to view this through is Neuro Linguistic Programming’s concept of ‘State’:

When you’re down, you’re in an unresourceful state.

When you’re up, you’re in a resourceful state.

And whenever you transition from one to the other, you must first reach a neutral state.

Before Anything, Know The Way

“I’m not waving. I’m drowning.”

— Stevie Smith. Not Waving But Drowning.


The Entrepreneurial Transition Curve by Cameron Herold (@)

This diagram has become somewhat of a map for life for many individuals. You might already recognise it.

Personally, I first came across it a few weeks before my 22nd birthday.

A good early birthday present, I’ve used it to identify where I am on the cycle ever since.

And if you’re feeling a burn out, chances are you can identify where you are in the process in seconds by looking at this curve.

As you take stock of your current situation, ask yourself — what’s that feeling?

Is it informed pessimism? A crisis of meaning? Are you crashing and burning?

As you narrow in, and realise where you are on the curve, you will no doubt have two questions:

How do I handle this? Do I have to?

The answer to both questions are best found in a modern take on an Ancient classic:


Getting Right With The Tao, By Ron Hogan (@)

Before you can conquer your states, and truly appreciate the roller coaster and your own growth, you must accept that there is no perfect way.

There is not one path to success.

There is not one way to a happy relationship.

There is not one way to never ending happiness (nor does it exist).

There is simply Tao.

But what does this have to do with beating burn out, and eliminating fall out?

These two resources are your initial primers.

They give you the base level foundation for you to build a philosophy of resilience, self understanding and acceptance on. They put you in the neutral state, preparing you to be resourceful.

Know Thyself, Competitive Beast

“The real benefit of competition is not winning—it is improved performance.”

— Top Dog: The Science of Winning And Losing
Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

Competition is an important part of your journey.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand how to compete in a way that gives them an advantage.

Once you have reached a neutral state, your next step in understanding your journey along the transition curve is to develop your understanding of your own competitive nature: are you a warrior, or a worrier?

The answer to this question inside your body’s genetic makeup, thanks to the 1957, Nobel Prize winning discovery of Julius Axelrod.

The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme.

COMT is the enzyme responsible for maintaing the balance between being alert under pressure, and melting down under pressure — a precarious position that you are no doubt used to being in.

But here’s the kicker.

Some people have fast, hard-working COMT enzymes. Other people have lazy, slow-working COMT enzymes. And yours affects how will you perform under stress and pressure.

This is deeply encoded in your genetics, and you cannot change it. Instead, you must learn whether you are a warrior or a worrier and play to your strengths.

And that is where Top Dog comes in.


Top Dog, By Po Bronson (@) & Ashely Merryman (@)

In modern culture, there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to competitive drive:  you either have ‘it’ or you don’t.

This, however, is a lie. We all compete in our own Way.

When you understand how you perform — right down to a genetic level — your ability to move through the stages of the Transition Curve will be smoother.

Yes, you will have obstacles.

Yes, you will have loss.

Yes, you will fail.

But the deeper your understanding of your genetic drivers, the better equipped you are for dealing with the curve in line with your Way and accepting the pain.

The Wisdom Of The Ancients, Part Two: What Most Successful Individuals Know About Failure That Mere Mortals Don’t


Taylor Pearson (@), COO of Valet Up,
Ian Borders (@), Founder of MergePay and Derek Sivers (@)

talking philosophy, life and business at DCBKK 2012

Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky to have developed friendships with, and gained insights into the minds of, very successful businessmen and women.

Through these relationships, I’ve been able to discover how they deal with potential and real ‘failures’ that most people don’t ever have to even consider: failed multi-million dollar investments, public humiliation, and the risk of losing an empire that employs 200 people.

From CEOs of Financial Publishing companies, to successful independent musicians, the philosophy is shared — life is suffering, but the pain is optional.

Read that again.

Life is suffering, but the pain is optional.

When you accept this notion, the transition curve once again becomes easier to handle. You accept the roller coaster for what it is — pain included.

And then you start imagining how bad things could be.

This is not your standard, run of the mill ‘pessimist attitude’, however.

Using negative visualisation — a staple of the stoics — you enable yourself to quit taking for granted how incredibly lucky you are (remember, most of your battles were one through pure luck at birth).

And as a result, you begin to appreciate each friend — who could die suddenly, or disappear from your life instantly — and each moment you share. It’s a gratitude practice by proxy.

And this is where you should begin:


A Guide To The Good Life, By William Irvine

With the early wins under your belt of knowing your position on the Transition Curve, The Way, and an understanding of your competitive nature, the next step to handling the burn out is your philosophical primer.

Life happens. People die. You are not invincible.

We’ve covered this before. But as you begin to take on the stoic principles and attitudes, as well as practices, you will ingrain in yourself a new sense of neutrality, and then gratitude.

At this point, you have navigated your way north of burn out territory and embraced reality from a multitude of perspectives.

And now, as you continue your journey along the never ending roller coaster that carries you to the grave, you have a system for operating with the ups, and downs.

As I Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death, I Fear No Evil…

“…for I am the baddest motherfucker in the valley.”

— Jarhead

“Courage is acting in spite of fear” is a quote you’ll see attributed to many authors. 

It’s also a quote you should endeavour to live your life by.

Over the past 1,500+ words, you’ve been given a framework for handling the lower half of the Transition Curve:

  1. Acceptance Of The Curve
  2. Understanding Of The Way
  3. Understanding Of The Self
  4. Acceptance Of Suffering, Rejection Of Pain

The burn out will happen. The downsides will happen. The suffering is inevitable.

But the pain will always remain optional.

What will enhance your ability to accept these and move with them, to handle the challenges thrown at you, is your mindset and your mental frameworks.

Your job is to keep the world spinning and to make things happen. To take the risks, make things happen and get shit done.

Without you, and the people like you, the world will cease to spin and the shit will hit the fan as consumption outweighs production.

Don’t let the dip in the curve hold you back.

The Final Action Plan

To create a 2,000 word piece of this nature without an action plan would be unfair to you.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading about these concepts (and want to learn more about how you can navigate the Transition Curve), here’s what you need to do next:

  1. Read The Transition Curve (and thank Cameron Herold for creating it)
  2. Buy and read Getting Right With The Tao by Ron Hogan to discover The Way
  3. Buy and read Top Dog by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman to discover your competitive nature
  4. Buy and read A Guide To The Good Life by William Irvine to prime yourself on stoicism

This will cost you under $50, and give you untold value as you read through each piece.

And once you’ve finished reading, act accordingly.


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If You Want To Learn, Do (or Why Talking About Cooking Rice Doesn’t Cook Rice)

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After driving in monsoonal rain for 15 minutes, not an inch of us was dry. As we’d driven from the restaurant to the stadium, rain had navigated it’s way into every nook and cranny. We’d left behind a group of 10 friends. Friends who’d smartly opted-out of driving through a monsoon rain storm to watch […]

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On Assets and Practical Exploitation

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