The process for deciding on your next business opportunity, your next niche, or your next market is equally baked with psychology. How does one choose a business to start? Most people got three or four different ideas and they never know which ones to do. In this episode, host Adam Lyons talks to Ryan Levesque, the best-selling author of the books Ask and Choose. These two books will help you not only decide what business you should be creating, but also how to market to your audience in a way that has them desperate to purchase your products.
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Ask And Choose with Ryan Levesque
In this episode, I’m joined by Ryan Levesque, who is an author, but not just an author of one book. He’s an author of two incredible books that have transformed the entire business world. The books are Ask and Choose. Ryan, am I right in you’re a bestselling author at this point with two of these books?
It’s crazy to think, but these books have both become number one national bestselling books, collectively have sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world, published in all these different languages. I still have to pinch myself because a few short years ago, none of that was there. It’s cool to be able to be sharing what’s worked for me in our business over the last several years and the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.
I think one of the fascinating things about this because the audience doesn’t know this, but we knew each other before you had any of this success. I remember you when you’re in a completely different industry. Obviously, we’ve been friends for a while, but what blows me away is how many people I get nowadays who hire me and ask me if I’m familiar with The ASK Method, which is the method that you created. Is that your entire business now?
It’s our entire business in this market. What’s fascinating, what I think your readers will really appreciate is in my latest book Choose, I talk about why I selected the 23 different niche markets that I went into over the last decade. One of those niche markets was the realm of psychology, specifically in the realm of memory improvement. That’s I think how you and I were initially connected. What’s crazy now is bringing this full circle. That business, we started it several years ago. What’s crazy now is we’re talking about it as one of these 23 markets. You and I at that time were very different stages of our life, family-wise, kids-wise, business-wise and here we are having this great conversation about what’s transpired the last decade.
I’m going to get you to share some of your psychology hacks because our idea for this blog is literally helping CEOs, business owners hack their psychology to think. To have a better business and run it better, which is exactly what we’re trying to do here and exactly what this blog is about. Before we get into that, I really do want to share the story of how you and I connected because I’m going to be honest with you, you saved my butt. I was going to fail. I was going to fail in exam so bad. I was desperate and I was put in touch with you. Looking back, I decided I was going to become a yoga expert. For the readers, I do this every so often. I decided I want to push my own boundaries and do something different.
A big part of psychology hacking is learning the things you don’t know and experience the things you don’t know. I wanted to do yoga but I figured that if I was going to do it, then I’d do it and become a yoga expert. The only courses they do are official courses like to become a teacher. I turn up as the only non-Yogi practitioner of this course and it’s a three-month program and I struggle with remembering things. I’ve got this really bad memory. After three months, you’re supposed to learn 200 Sanskrit words and then I’ve got two days before the final exam, we had a mock exam. I think I scored 32% and so I’m like, “There is no way that I’m going to pass this exam, not in a million years. I’d have to do some super memory thing.”
That’s when I was given your details and you had this program of Rocket Memory. I read the program in eight hours, literally start to finish because one of the skills that I’ve picked up through doing psychology hacking is I’m a speed reader. I can read a 200-page book in literally a few hours. Rocket Memory is a little bit different. The entire program was more than just the book and I had to take notes and I had to learn how to use it. It took a lot longer than a few hours. By applying everything that you taught inside that book with the Memory Palace and everything, I ended up getting 97% on the final exam. That was all thanks to you.
That is the best testimony on the world, how Adam Lyons became one of the world’s greatest Yogi instructors through the power of improving his memory.
It was pretty impressive and I’m really happy that it happened.
This is great that we’re talking about this and I know we’re going to talk about psychology hacks specifically. People always ask me like, “How did you get into what you’re doing now? How did you get into the memory market among all the markets that you went into? How does it all tie together in business?” For me, I don’t know if you know this side of my story. In my latest book Choose, I talk about the markets that I went into and I’ve gotten into some pretty obscure markets. The first market I went into was the Scrabble tile jewelry market and a bunch of other markets. At this point, I had gone to school, graduated from college, quit my corporate career to basically teach people how to make jewelry online through this eBook.The 'what' will come, but the 'who' is the foundation on which your entire business is built. Click To Tweet
My background is one where I grew up blue-collar, first in my family to go to college. I went to college at the Ivy League level to study neuroscience. My parents who worked super hard growing up said their son is going to become the next great neuroscientist or neurosurgeon or neurologist. My best friend in college is actually a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic. He went all the way with this, but after college I decided not to pursue medicine. I didn’t know really what I wanted to do. I worked on Wall Street. I worked at an investment banking for a few years and I knew that wasn’t for me. A few years later, I moved to China. The other thing I studied in college was Chinese East Asian Studies and I wanted to live and work in China.
I did that for a few years. After it’s all said and done, I left neuroscience to work on Wall Street, to work in China. I gave it all up to sell an eBook teaching people how to make jewelry online. My parents, as you can imagine, they’re like, “What?” My mom thought I was having a mental breakdown. She thought, “What is going on? You’ve thrown away your education. You’ve thrown away your career. What are you doing with your life? This is insane.” A few years after, I went into business for myself basically to make my parents proud and to show them that I was going to do something with my degree. That’s the reason why I decided to go into the memory market, to do something with that neuroscience background and put it to you so they would be a little bit happier with their son.
That’s the big long story as to why that market among all the other businesses. My first book, Ask, I revealed there’s a lot of psychology because of my background and because of one of my most important mentors, Dr. Glenn Livingston, who’s a marketing psychologist. He’s a clinical psychologist that entered into the marketing world. Because of his mentorship and my background, there’s a lot of psychology and even some neuroscience baked into everything that I do and then everything that we now teach in our business. In that first book Ask, I revealed the methodology I use to successfully enter 23 different markets. Basically, it’s a process for figuring out what people want to buy in any market. If you’re thinking about starting a business, it’s the process to figure out exactly what people want to buy, exactly what language patterns to use to get them to want to buy it from you and exactly how to give it to them.
It’s a way to ensure that you’re going to be successful whatever business you want to start. That’s the first book that became a runaway number one bestseller. What I realized in that book is that I failed to teach people why and how I chose the 23 markets I went into. Why those markets out of the million possible business ideas you could go into, why those 23? That’s what this next book is about. It’s about the process for deciding on your next business opportunity, your next niche, your next market. It’s equally baked with psychology and even though it came after Ask, it’s the predecessor. It’s the book you should read first is what it comes down to. In it, I talk a lot about different psychological factors. I wanted to provide that context around why things are the way they are, set the stage for our conversation, and then dive into some of the good meat and tips that people can take away.
I absolutely love that and I found it fascinating as well because it’s one of the most common questions that my newest students ask me is, “How do I choose which business to start?” I find that most people, they’ve got three or four different ideas and they never know which ones to do. They’re constantly chopping and changing. I’m sure that you were like that as well back in the day before you found out what you wanted to do. I know I was like that as well. Let’s dive into it. Let’s look at some of the psychological hacks behind what you’re doing. I made a comment that made me think about this. It was one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes which is, “Before you study the art, a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick.”
Once you study it and you learn it, you realize that a punch is no longer a punch and a kick is no longer a kick. Ultimately, when you master it, you realize a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. As long as you understand the basic movements and refine them and you’re doing things correctly, you’re going to be good. This is one of the things that I don’t fear someone that’s learned a lot of different techniques. I fear someone who studied how to punch one way 1,000 times because that’s a lot scarier than somebody who has studied 1,000 different ways to punch. I love that. I think that’s really powerful. I do think this applies to business. With psychological hacks or psychology hacker, what we’re looking for is we’re trying to find the basic nugget that if somebody did just one thing, it would move them in the right direction. I love the fact that in your book, you talk about this analogy that if you jump into the wrong river and that river is rushing too fast, then your boat is going to break. You’ve got to make sure that you go into the right market with the right boat in the right way and everything’s aligned. That’s how you choose correctly.
The thing that comes to mind when you bring that up and this is the first psychology hack that I would bring up. It’s going to sound very simple when I say it, but in reality, it’s profound. We’re defined by the questions we ask ourselves. In fact, if you look at the way you speak to yourself, a question is the language we use for self-talk. We’re constantly asking ourselves questions on a daily basis. Should I wear this or should I wear that? What should I say? What should I write in this email? What should I have for lunch? Was I an idiot when I did that? Was that the wrong thing to do? We’re constantly posing ourselves questions and answering those questions. The implication of that is changing your questions and you can change your life.
In business, what I found in serving tens of thousands literally if not hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs is that there’s this misconception. When it comes to starting a business, the question you should be focused on is the question of what. What should I sell? What type of business should I start? What should I create? The reality is that’s the wrong question to be asking. The question you want to be asking is who. Who should I serve? Who is my market? Who is my ideal customer? The what will come, but the who is the foundation on which your entire business is built. There’s a very profound broad-reaching implication of this conversation. Change your questions and change your life. Pay attention to the questions you’re asking yourself. Start asking yourself different questions. You’ll change your life. In the scope of this conversation, as it relates to starting your business, the whole paradigm shift begins with instead of asking what, start by asking who.
There was a moment that happened in our office. I was talking about changing the questions that we asked to help us move in a better direction. The word what is almost always a bad question. We’re outlining some new projects that we’re going to be doing over the next quarter and for the first three hours of this meeting, it ended up being a very long meeting. We were going over and everyone’s asking all these silly questions and we took a ten-minute break, but then when we came back to the meeting, there were a lot of questions going around and all of the staff was saying, “What are we going to do when this happens? What should we do about this?”
I paused and everyone was like looking at me and I said, “Let’s look at this.” We’ve shifted the way that we talk because before we had the ten-minute break, we had this long meeting, we were problem-solving and we were trying to get things solved, but now since we’ve come back, we’re just trying to identify more problems. “Let’s start simple with some house rules. Let’s talk about how we are planning to do something.” It shifted the entire mentality from a very negative space where we’re constantly asking the what question and rapidly the negativity disappears. What I love about what you’re doing here is that if someone’s trying to start their business, we don’t want to be thinking what or how, but you want to be thinking, who is this business for? I absolutely love that and I think so many people fail to think that through.Pioneers get shot, but settlers get rich. You don't want to be the first to market. Click To Tweet
This who question, it has wide-reaching implications as well. Let’s take another example from the book. I take people through this process that’s called brainstorm, test, choose. You brainstorm the possibilities of what type of business you might go into, what type of niche you might focus on. I take people through a number of exercises to go through that brainstorming process. We can talk about one or two of those for here for sure. I take people through a number of tests and there are seven tests that I’ve discovered basically evaluating every single one of the markets that I’ve gone into and the markets that my clients and students have gone into. These are the seven tests that determine if you have a green light, yellow light or red light with the idea you’re thinking about pursuing.
If you have a green light, then you can proceed. If you have a yellow light, proceed with caution. Watch out there, a couple of red flags you need to be aware of going in. If you have a red light, it means to start over like you’ve put your boat in the wrong river. It doesn’t matter how hard you paddle, it doesn’t matter how good your equipment is, how expensive your boat is. You’re never going to get to your destination, so take the boat out of the river and let’s find a river that’s going to get you to where you want to go. The name of the game is to find a green light. You want something that passes each of these seven tests. One of the tests is around competition. One of the biggest questions I always get is around competition.
Usually, it’s a mistake that I see people make. The mistake happens in one of several flavors. Both of these at the end of the day are mindset mistakes so they are very psychological in nature. The first mistake I see people make is like this. They have this idea that they’re super excited about. They go online, they look and say, “Someone’s already doing it.” Let me close the book on the idea. There’s another shade of the flavor which is like this where people do their research, they have this great idea. They go online and they look and say, “Nobody’s doing this. We’re going to get rich.” The reality is both of those are problematic for different reasons, but we take the second one for a moment and it ties back to the who conversation. You’ll see how it all comes together.
There’s this phrase that one of my mentors taught me. In fact, this was a phrase that I learned from Dr. Glenn Livingston, one of my most important mentors. He used to say, “Ryan, remember this for your entire career. Pioneers get shot, but settlers get rich.” What do you mean by that exactly? What he meant is that you don’t want to be the first to market. You don’t want to be the first to do anything online. If you look at the most successful companies of our generation, if you look at Google, Facebook, Apple, any one of these most successful companies. You’re going to find that none of them was the first to market. Facebook was not the first social media platform. Google was not the first search engine. Apple was not the first to sell smartphones and MP3 players. They just found a market and they either built a better mousetrap or used a combination of better marketing to make their product the dominant product in that space. What does that tell us? It tells us that the secret when it comes to competition is to be focused on this who question. The magic combination that you want to be looking for is you want to go into a market where somebody is succeeding in spite of themselves.
What that means is they’re making money. You know for a fact they’re making money and yet they’re doing four, five or six things totally wrong. If you just go in there and improve on maybe one of these four, five or six things, you are going to become the market leader. Once again, it’s not a question about what, it’s a question of who. Who is succeeding in spite of themselves in the market you’re thinking about going into? I walked through the tests in the book on how to figure that out, but if you find that, then you know you’re on the right track. I found that in the memory market, the market that you and I were first connected on. I found someone who was making a lot of money in that market and I looked at their business and I said, “How are they succeeding despite making these four, five or six big mistakes?” I simply came in the market, built a better mousetrap, build a better product, build better marketing and ended up overtaking their place as the market leader in the market.
I love that you’re saying this. This is exactly what happened in the gaming market that we moved into with the board game market. I originally was at a game convention because obviously I play a lot of board games and there was a guy that was running a YouTube channel where they play games on YouTube. He was asking me for marketing advice and I instantly dismissed him as maybe owning $50,000 to $100,000 a year and not being able to afford my rates. I told him like, “My rate this March is a significant amount of money, but I’m willing to work with people, especially in a market I think would be fun. Why don’t you tell me what your gross revenue is and I’d be more than happy to see if I can give you a discount?”
I messed myself up because I assumed that he didn’t have any money. He’s like, “We’re doing between $1.5 million to $3 million a year.” I shot myself in the foot because I’d already told him I go for a discount and he was making more than enough money to afford my rates, but I realized that they were doing a lot of things wrong. Long story short, I messed up the sale because I basically priced myself so low that they didn’t realize I would be any good. They were like, “We’re going to go with these other guys that are more expensive.” I decided that instead I would jump into the market myself and prove to them. We rapidly are gaining on them. They’re still the market leader, but we’re moving at a rate of knots. We’ve only been in the market for several months and we’re already their top three competitors and all the metrics are we overtake them within the next year or so.
That’s the combination you want to be looking for. When you’re pursuing any opportunity, that’s one of the factors that are critical as who else has already blazed the trail? Who else has already pioneered this space and yet is making a handful of mistakes that if you just fixed one of them, you could become a market leader in a period of a short amount of time? I don’t love the fact that you undercut your own pricing in that, but there’s a lesson in that right there. You can’t jump to any conclusions without knowing all the facts.
I’m so glad because it did turn into a great opportunity. It’s one of my favorite businesses now. To get a little bit technical with you, in this industry, we’ve managed to maintain one advert on Facebook and I know you care about this. Other people might not know, but this is more fun for me. We’ve got one advert that we’ve maintained that irrelevancy of ten for a few months, just one ad. It’s like the holy grail of advertising for anyone reading. One ad, the same ad, it’s still a relevancy ten. I’m really proud of that one. That’s a good psychology hack which is think who not what, first of all. Choose goes into this in-depth. It explains all these elements of how to find, which blows me away because there are people out there charging thousands of dollars to give people market analysis to help them work out what industry they should move into.
It’s funny that you bring that up. There are few things that for literally months, my team and I were debating, “Are we going to reveal this information?” To back up for a moment, the reason why I wrote this book is that with my first book Ask, I had people who are having a tremendous amount of success in business who had read the book, who would write in to me and share their results. I had people like Jamal who was making $17 an hour. He made $600,000 in his first year in business, basically following exactly what I teach in the book step-by-step. Guys like Charlie, who had a little business would make $10,000 or $11,000 a month and he grows his business to $2.2 million a year. It’s cool hearing stories like that.Looking at what separates the successful entrepreneurs from those who are unsuccessful, all roads point back to looking at the market. Click To Tweet
When you write a book, you also get letters from people who say, “I read your book and it didn’t work.” It pained me. It created a lot of pain because that’s my baby. You start questioning yourself and you start all that mental head trash that I know you spent a lot of time helping people overcome things like imposter syndrome and fear of failure and all of these things start creeping in your mind. I became very curious as to what was the reason that was separating those who were successful and those who were unsuccessful. I became really inspired by the work of Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great, Great by Choice, Built to Last. Basically, if you’re not familiar with his work, he has studied publicly-traded companies and has looked for the factors that have separated publicly-traded companies that have been successful for decades from those that are successful for a few years and then disappear.
We all see companies like that, that are successful for a bit and then they fall by the wayside. I was similarly interested in looking at what was it that separated the successful entrepreneurs from those who were unsuccessful. All roads kept pointing back to looking at the market. It’s easy for you and I to say pick a good market, pick a good niche, but what does that mean? One of the dimensions that we are very curious to explore is around market size because that’s one of the most common questions I get. The gaming niche that you’re in, is it a good size niche or is it too small or is it too big?
I get that question all the time and there are phrases that some of your readers may be familiar with like there are riches and niches or go inch-wide mile-deep. What does that mean exactly? I was curious to know as well because I didn’t have a good answer to this question. We started looking at the keyword search volume in every single one of our markets. Candidly, of the 23 markets that I’ve gone into, some have been more successful than others. I wanted to see was there any correlation between market size and success? To expand our data set, I looked at my clients and our students as well. What we found out was fascinating. We found that every single one of our homerun markets, the ones that knocked it out of the park, were all within a very similar market size.
In fact, when we looked at a free tool called Google Trends which many people are familiar with and we plotted the keyword search volume in these markets, they were all within a very narrow band. Every single one of our failures and every single one of the markets that really never took off in a big way was outside this band. You mentioned the information that we revealed in the book that many people would charge tens of thousands of dollars. For months, my team and I debated, “Are we going to publish what our most successful keywords are?” As you know, like in your business, your keywords and your most successful keywords, that’s part of your secret sauce and that’s the lifeblood of your business. I knew that even though the book is to teach people how to choose your own market, we would still get some readers who would say, “I’m going to hit the easy button. I’m going to go to the markets that Ryan has already figured out our home runs because that’s easier than trying to figure out my own market.”
We knew we were going to attract competition. For months, we debated, “Do we reveal what these keywords are or not?” In the end, we made a decision like Elon Musk and publishing the operating system for Tesla and making it open source. We said, “There’s going to be more good in the world if we reveal this data.” In the book we reveal what those keywords are so that literally anyone can take your business idea, compare it to these keywords, and we teach you how to figure out something called your bull’s eye keyword. You compare your bull’s eye keyword against the keywords in these reference keywords. We call them Rosetta Stone keywords. When you compare them against these Rosetta Stone keywords, you can see if your niche is in the sweet spot or is it too big, too small or just right? That’s an example of something that we decided. I wanted to give it away. I want people to get amazing results. This is one of the things that we decided to leave it all in there, include it in the book, hold nothing back, and put it all in.
I think what I love about that as well is when you do something like that, you create a legacy. When you keep it secret, it dies with you, but when you give it out in that way, sure it might impact you in the short-term. In the long-term, it will be a legacy that lives on and will continue to aspire people. What I love about this book is while it is very technical, you need to understand the basics of keywords and stuff like that, the principles will apply for forever even if the internet were to go away. The concept of understanding who in your market needs something, there will be another tool to find it.
The concepts are timeless and the tactics are very timely, meaning it’s something that you can get your head around very easily and you can use it for the rest of your life. At the same time, I’ve tried to make it as tactical as possible. Meaning you can read the book and literally put the book, fold it open on your chair next to you, go to your computer, type in a few things, get some results, pick the book back up, read the next paragraph, and work through it like that as well.
We’re getting towards the end, but I want to get another psychology hack from you. I want to give you something, Ryan. I’ve got a secret for you. I mentioned this relevancy ten ad. If anyone’s interested in Facebook ads or advertising in general, I took what I learned from Ryan and as I did with the Rocket Memory, I applied it to a method of my own and I created something in some way my secret golden ad. What I haven’t told you is I have one in every niche that I have and they’re all relevancy nine or ten and they stay that way. Ryan, it was because of you and The ASK Method.
What’s the secret? I’m on the edge of my seat and I know everyone reading this now. Tell us. What’s the goal?
Full credit, totally got it from listening to you, but we tweaked it. What we do is before we create an ad, we run a survey to the audience that we believe wants the product. We’ll run a survey. We don’t go as deep as your surveys. Our surveys are very simple. We create them in Google forms. The questions are really simple. We have four questions. The first question is very simple, what industry you are in or something basic or what region, where do you live, something like that, nothing important. The next question, here’s the first one. If there were three things that we could help you with this industry, this product or this business, what would those three things be? Please select them from a list and we will give them a list of 40 things.Commitment is a term to describe the process of asking yourself or anybody else to do something that you want them to do. Click To Tweet
We brainstorm as many topics as we can that people might want to learn about. The third question is if there was one thing about this industry, product, business or what have you that frustrates you, what is that one thing? We give them a huge list. Where this differs from The ASK Method for those readings, read the book and learn it for real. The ASK Method will go deep and give you a full analysis and teaches to analyze. Whereas we’re skimming the surface because we’re predicting what people might want, but we’d give them a lot of options. The fourth question is, do you have five minutes to jump on a call and discuss this in further? That’s the survey.
We offer a gift voucher to one of X amount of 100 people that fill in the survey. It’s a $100 gift card and the key point here that is relevant to that industry. If it was a video game industry, it’d be a Steam gift card to download video games so it’s relevant to their interests. We run this survey for about a week or two until we get a relevant amount of data which has about 1,000 people fill it in. It will be rapidly obvious which are the three winning things that people want to learn about and what is their big frustration? We mix this with some copywriting, which is essentially in copywriting for anyone that’s interested, one of the best taglines you can ever use like to control is how to get A, B, or C without X.
Now, we have the three things they want and the one problem they don’t want to have. We then will write four articles, one on each of those topics. The first one will be how to get A, the second one how to get B, how to get C. The last one is how to not deal with whatever the problem is. Finally, we’ll run ads to all of those to make sure that we’ve written them well and we get the comments. Everyone’s like, “I love this. Comments are really important.” At the very end, we compile all four articles into a single eBook and then we run an ad to that eBook using the testimonials from all the articles as evidence of how good the content is. We then run an ad to the original cold audience we ran the survey too that now says how to get ABC without X. “Here’s the testimonial that says how great this eBook is. Give us your email address.”
It really came from the book Ask and using it. This is what I love about your stuff. I resonate with it. It’s so practical. Because of Rocket Memory, I ended up passing my yoga exam. Because of The ASK Method and tweaking it, we now continually get relevancy nine and ten ads that are lead magnets or generating leads every single day for us. It’s super and the opt-in rate is about 70% of that to blow your way on that as well. The opt-in rate is crazy high because we give them an option to get the guide without opting their email in because that makes it GDPR-compliant. I don’t know if you’re interested in the European marketing side of things, but you have to give people an option in the UK if you give them a freebie to not give you their email address.
That is great and it’s truly an extension of Ask and I love the ways in which you’ve innovated on it and it underscores how elegant it can be. You don’t have to guess. I feel as entrepreneurs and in life, we spend a lot of time guessing. The reality is for a lot of decisions, we make so many decisions. By whatever estimate you look at, we make 5,000, 10,000 decisions a day. We suffer from decision fatigue and we’re not really good at deciding things in business. If you can outsource those decisions to your market, which is infinitely more intelligent than you are than I am, than any of us are, you not only relieve yourself from that pressure of having to get it right. As thorough as your knowledge might be at any one of these niches, I’m going to ten times out of ten. I am going to bet on your market to get the answer right versus you. I would do the same thing for me. I’ve learned that no matter how knowledgeable I think I am about a market, I’ve learned to trust what the market says and to figure out exactly what it is that people want to buy, the language to use to sell it to them. You’ve given one example here with that great construction, how to get A, B and C without D. It was a great illustration of that inaction. It’s cool.
It’s so huge and it really did give us some things that we never even thought of. We brainstorm what the problems would be and one of the things that we thought would never be an issue which is how do we find more time to have leisure time? That was one of the things that came up. When you’re thinking about what people want, they want more money or more success, we would never have thought of leisure time being the thing that one. One of our interns was like, “I wish I had more time just to goof off.” It turned out that’s what everyone wanted. That was what our market wanted. These successful people wanted more time to goof off.
I want to leave people one more psychological hack. This is a good one. This is one that’s been more impactful for me both in improving myself and improving my business. It has to do with the psychology of micro-commitments. What is that exactly? Micro-commitments is a term to describe the process of asking yourself or anybody else to do something that you want them to do but breaking that thing down into tiny incremental bite-size pieces. I first learned the power of micro-commitments studying the work of Dr. Robert Maurer. He is a researcher out of California and he spent a lot of time studying the psychology of fear. When I studied neuroscience at Brown, I was a very afraid person. I am the first in my family to go to college.
Here I am going to an Ivy League school, blue-collar kid. I’m with kids that went to the best prep schools in the country and around the world. I felt like a fish out of water. I felt so out of place. I kept asking myself like, “How did I arrive here? Why am I here?” I was very afraid. I started studying the psychology of fear and it led me to the work of Dr. Robert Maurer. Dr. Robert Maurer has published a bunch of academic studies. He’s also published some pop psychology books as well. One of them is called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. Kaizen, if you’re not familiar with it, is the Japanese concept of making small, daily incremental improvement specifically in business, but it’s also something that you can do in your life.
Here’s the reason why micro-commitments work so well on yourself and why they work so well in business. Whenever you ask yourself to make any change in your life, whether that’s a positive change or negative change, your brain’s job is not to change. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe. The way your brain keeps you safe is by keeping things the same because anytime you try something new or different, it’s a risk. You’re putting yourself in a threatening situation. You elicit the fight or flight response in the limbic system specifically in the amygdala in your brain. You elicit that response. Whenever you say, “I’m going to go work out.” Even though working out is a positive change, your brain is firing off the warning bells saying, “Warning. Threat.”
The way you hack that fight or flight response is to use the power of micro-commitments. What do I mean by that? Instead of asking yourself to go work out, asking yourself questions, bringing this conversation full circle. You want to ask yourself what is the step that is so small, it’s literally impossible to fail? In other words, not just go to work out, but the next impossible to fail step could be taking one step in the direction of your running shoes. The step needs to be so small it’s laughable. If you have anxiety and you feel that fight or flight response kicking in around maybe writing an email or writing an article for your blog or writing that Facebook post that you’re talking about, that might be scary. What you do is you shrink the size of the step to be so small, it’s literally impossible for you to fail.Shrink the size of the step to be so small that it's literally impossible for you to fail. Click To Tweet
An impossible to fail step might be typing one keystroke on your keyboard or typing nonsense with your fingers on your keyboard now. That’s the hack that you can use on yourself. You can use that in your entire life. Here’s the hack as it relates to business, you’ve got to remember your consumers in your market are no different than you and me. When you ask them to do something on your website, they have one or two reactions, they fight or flee. What I mean by that is they bounce off your site. The most common thing that you see people do is in that eBook scenario is that they rush to provide an eBook in exchange for someone’s contact information, name and email or name, email and phone number, something like that.
The problem with that is you’re asking people to take a big step and their brain is firing that fight or flight response. The warning bells are firing off because the brain perceives that as a threat. I don’t want to give you my contact information. I don’t know who you are. What spam are you going to send me? Instead, they bounce off the site and they do nothing, but if you shrink the size of the step and ask them to do something that is much smaller than giving you their name and email, you can create what’s called action taking momentum. In the process that I teach in Ask as an example, instead of beginning by asking for someone’s name and email which is a very threatening step, you begin by asking someone a simple multiple-choice question. It’s what we call a grease the wheels question.
Question number one, are you starting an existing business or is this a new business? Question number one, are you self-employed or are you an employee? Question number one, if it’s a health market, maybe are you a man or a woman? You ask a simple non-threatening multiple-choice question which gets a much higher uptake than the name and email. You can ask a series of these simple multiple-choice questions, one question per screen, one at a time. What’s fascinating about this, you know this, Adam, but for anyone reading this is that you might think to ask all these additional questions, isn’t that going to hurt my opt-in rate? 70% opt-in rate is excellent. Isn’t this going to hurt my opt-in rate by asking for more information? Here’s the crazy thing. We’ve done tests on this and literally hundreds of markets and consistently when you ask these additional questions, even though you’re asking for more information, you improve your opt-in rate.
The cherry on top is that you’ve learned all this information about your prospect in addition to just having an email address with no information about them. You know their gender, you know what their business status is, you know if they’re left-handed or right-handed or whatever information is relevant for you to learn about that person in their business. The hack that I want to leave people with is to use the power of micro-commitments. In your own life, whenever you feel resistance towards making a change and in your business as a way to grow your audience and grow your revenue.
Ryan, this is why I knew that I wanted to have you on the show, especially as one of the first guests. It’s so accurate and I love that when you talk about the micro-commitments, you break it down to a step towards your shoe. I love micro-commitments. A lot of what you were saying, I’m sitting here nodding in the background like, “I agree 100%.” I used to tell people one of my favorites is for the gym. A lot of the CEOs that I work with, they have issues in other areas of their life they want to fix. I’ll say to them, “All I want you to do is block off an amount of time to go to the gym. It can be for seven minutes. You have to go to the gym. You don’t have to work out. You can totally come home afterward.” Without fail, they’re like, “Why would I go to the gym and not work out?” I’m like, “It’s to get used to the habit of going to the gym until you feel like you want to work out.” Sure enough, after a day of going to the gym and not working out, they’re like, “This is silly. I’m going to work out.” They start working out.
We talked about the power of asking the right questions and asking the right questions when it comes to your own life. The question to ask here is what step you can take that’s so small, it’s literally impossible for you to fail? I would even challenge our audience reading this interview now, what is one step you can take following this interview that’s going to lead you in the direction that you want to lead? Not sometime in the distant future, but literally right here, right now. In other words, what’s your micro-commitment having read this interview?
Let’s go one further. I’d love you to give it to them because I know that Ask and Choose are two incredible books for people to read. What would you say is the best way for someone if they’ve read this, they’re inspired, they say, “I’m going to do that commitment?” Where do you think they should go? Should they start with Choose? What would you recommend?
If you’ve resonated, if you’re reading this now and you’re nodding your head like, “Yes,” and you want to go deeper into this, I wanted to do something special for Adam and for all of his readers. Adam’s one of these guys that know me from the early days before the books hit it big, when I was a nobody. You remember people the way they treated you at all times in your life. Adam was one of these guys that always really took great care of me. I wanted to do something special for anyone reading this now. You can buy Choose in bookstores anywhere, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, wherever.
It’s $24.99 in the US, $33.99 in Canada, and it’s a bit more in the UK, but I wanted to give away a limited number of books for free, hard-cover copies of the book. All I ask is that you pay a few dollars shipping and handling and I’ll ship it to you anywhere in the world. We’ve got a few boxes of books here in my office that we’re going to do this for first come, first serve. When you do that, I’m also going to include a bunch of bonuses. Number one, if you’re like me and you like listening to audiobooks, I’m going to gift you the audiobook for free, so first thing. The second thing is one of the biggest questions I get from people is, “What are examples of niches, markets that check off all the boxes you talk about in the book?”
I have a list of the 25 niche markets I would be going into. If I had the time, I’m going to give you that list, that’s number two. Number three, this one’s special for you reading this. I have a course where I teach seventeen mental hacks to overcome all the mental head trash that goes through your mind when you’re starting a business. We normally sell this course for hundreds of dollars. I talked to my team. We’re going to give you guys this course for free when you get a copy of the book. There’s a link and you have to do it through this link. You can’t go to our website, it’s not public. You’re not going to find this anywhere. You’ve got to go to this special link. It’s ChooseTheBook.com/psychhacker. We do only have a limited number of copies, so it is first come first serve a free hardcover copy of the book, $200 in bonuses. All you’ve got to do is pay a small shipping fee and we’ll ship the book to you anywhere in the world. Adam, I hope that’s good for anyone who wants to go deeper into this.
Ryan, thank you so much. I hope you get this from reading this. Ryan isn’t like some oaf I met on the internet. We truly have been friends. We live just down the road from each other. You can throw a rock and you could probably hit each other or maybe not, but it’s close enough. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on board with this. To our audience, thank you so much for reading. Please do us a favor. If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to give us a review, give us a rating, let us know what you think. If you’ve got any questions or comments or anything for other topics that you’d like to tackle them, please feel free to leave that in the comments as well. As always, don’t forget that you can find us on Facebook at Psychology Hacker and please go to ChooseTheBook.com/psychhacker to get those bonuses and grab it while you can. Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the episode with us. I look forward to catching up with you soon and seeing all of you Psych Hackers next time on the show.
- Ryan Levesque
- The ASK Method
- Rocket Memory
- Dr. Glenn Livingston
- Good to Great
- Great by Choice
- Built to Last
- Google Trends
- One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way
- Barnes & Noble – Choose book
- Amazon – Choose book
- Psychology Hacker – Facebook
About Ryan Levesque
Ryan Levesque is the Inc. 500 CEO of The ASK Method ® Company, and the #1 national best-selling author of Ask, which was named by Inc. as the #1 Marketing Book of the Year. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Entrepreneur and over 250,000 entrepreneurs subscribe to his email newsletter offering business advice.
He is also a co-founder and investor in bucket.io®, a leading marketing funnel software for entrepreneurs. His latest book Choose, helps readers avoid making the single biggest mistake when starting a business and guides people through answering the all-important question: What type of business should you start?