Mountain music, cowboy boots and the urge to tinker

When I was 12 I started learning the guitar.

I’d order these learn-at-home tapes from a company out of New York and just work through the lessons.

My favorite style was Bluegrass. Think old-timey country with banjos and mandolins. Mountain music.

By the time I was 14, I was good enough to impress everyone in my home school group.

So I decided I was ready for The Big Time. I submitted my name for a Bluegrass pickin’ guitar contest at a music festival in southern Ohio.

I showed up on contest day wearing my cowboy boots, guitar case in hand.

And when I heard the first contestant, I almost threw up.

These guys were pros—good enough to play as session musicians in Nashville. Most of them had full bands to back them up.

When they called my name, I was so nervous I was shaking so bad I could hardly hold my guitar still.

Another problem: Nerves make my hands sweat, and my guitar pick gets slippery.

Fortunately I was all over that issue. The night before the competition I’d put a little sticky resin on my guitar picks so I wouldn’t lose my grip.

I took a deep breath, tried to shut the audience out and started to play.

Within a few seconds I realized what a horrible miscalculation I’d made.

The resin on my pick was causing it to bind tighter and tighter to my fingers.

Pretty soon my fingers were welded together in a lump, and I couldn’t feel the strings anymore.

The missed notes kept piling up until…

I just stopped right in the middle of my piece.

As luck would have it, the referee thought my pick had broken, and he let me grab another and take it from the top.

I didn’t win that contest—probably I came in dead last.

But I finished my two numbers and survived the embarrassment.

And I learned a valuable lesson from the experience (one that I still use today when testing my copy on sales pages) which is:

Change ONE thing at a time.

Going from practicing in my bedroom to sharing the stage with pros was PLENTY of change without monkeying around with my gear.

In your sales funnel, if you’re testing to figure out the highest converting price for your product, don’t mess with your headline too.

If you’re testing different headlines, don’t start adding in new sources of traffic at the same time.

If you’re comparing landing page layouts, don’t add a video to one.

Right now I’m testing 2 different email signup “scroll mats” with Thrive Leads.

Design and layout are identical on both—only difference is the headline.

The one that’s winning is beating the underdog by 40%.

When I find an awesome headline, I’ll move on and test design changes.

Fight the temptation to tinker too much, keep your tests simple, and you’ll see your sales increase as a result.