The other day my business partner John said something that cracked me up.
We were on a coaching call with a fellow programmer-turned-entrepreneur (aka “entreprogrammer”), and we were talking about the emails I write for our business.
John said, “Josh's job is to find out all the craziest, most embarrassing stuff I've ever done and then tell our whole audience about it.”
Hah, guilty as charged.
Most of the email courses and sales pages I write start with me interviewing John and saying, “What was the worst time that you ever…”
My goal is to dig around and find all the mistakes John's made.
All the times he was arrogant or lazy or shortsighted…
And then tell those stories in the most over-the-top, entertaining way that I can.
Just to give you a flavor of this, so far I've written stories about:
– How John bluffed his way into his first “real” programming job—then got fired when everyone wised up that he couldn't code his way out of a paper bag…
– The time John lost his head and started screaming at his boss (and came within a whisker of slugging the guy). This also led to a firing…
– How John's early career as a programmer was pretty much a trainwreck of lousy jobs and long stints of unemployment…
– The time John quit his job three weeks before they planned to offer him a voluntary layoff (and a fat $20,000 “golden parachute” severance check)…
– The not one but TWO different times that John tried to start businesses with friends, then blew them up (the businesses and the friendships) by checking out and playing video games for a year…
And I've barely scratched the surface here.
I have a whole stockpile of crazy stories like this that we haven't even touched yet.
Why am I doing this?
Don't these kind of stories paint John in a bad light—and hurt his reputation with our audience?
To the contrary.
Every time we tell one of these stories, people LOVE it—and it only deepens the bond John has established with our subscribers.
Here's the underlying reason why I'm doing this…
If you just look at where John is today, he seems “larger than life”—kinda like a superhero.
He runs a hugely popular website…
He's published a best-selling book…
He's a semi-retired millionaire…
He lives in balmy southern California…
He has the chiseled physique of a body builder…
He jets around the world to speak at major programming conferences…
In other words, his life today is about as far from the average 9-to-5 programmer's existence as you can possibly imagine.
And a big chunk of our audience hears John's message of “you can build the life you want too” and says, “Yeah, sure buddy. Easy for you to say. You don't know what I'm going through right now.”
Only John DOES know.
John's story is a long series of slamming into brick wall after brick wall, falling down bloody and bruised, then getting back up and smashing that barrier to smithereens.
And as impressive as his successes are, they're 1000X more inspiring when you know all the backstory—the hardships he overcame to get where he is today.
When it comes to building a deep, lasting relationship with your email list, one of your most potent “secret weapons” is a willingness to be open and vulnerable with your audience.
It takes a certain kind of bravery to be vulnerable like this—and most people are never willing to do it.
They build up an image of themselves as Superman, the invincible and all knowing expert. You laugh as bullets ricochet off their six-pack abs.
Well guess what. Most people can't relate to that.
Chances are you and your audience share common struggles and frustrations—you just happen to be three or four rungs higher up the ladder than they are.
So show a willingness to step out of the lycra suit.
Show your audience the sweat and blood you've shed on your path to success.
I promise they won't think less of you for it.
P.S. There's a hidden danger with this kind of vulnerability.
People will love to hear your failure stories.
And if you're not careful, you can all end up in a cesspool, mired in your own misery.
That's NOT what I'm talking about here.
As an ethical entrepreneur, your responsibility is to use your failings to connect with your subscribers where they are today—then lead them to a better place.
When you do this, you're lifting others up, whether or not they ever buy from you.