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Launch is an online marketing guide written by Jeff Walker. In it, he describes his Product Launch Formula, a method for selling anything online.

Or is it?

Yes, Jeff talks about all of the elements of building and using a email mailing list to launch new products and businesses. However, what the book really describes is an application of the lessons learned from Dale Carnegie, Robert Cialdini, Norman Vincent Peale, and Mike Cernovich. It combines the positive, high-energy mindsets from Peale and Cernovich with the lessons on influence from Carnegie and Cialdini. Then Jeff tells you how to make money with those lessons. And after you’re done reading, you’ll feel prepared to begin making your first list and planning your first of many launches.

Jeff begins by giving his story of going from stay-at-home dad to making six-figures in a week. How? He had a list.

The key element to the formula is having an email subscriber list. Using the list, you will communicate directly with people who have already shown an interest in you and the products/services you provide. The communication will be a series of emails over a period of around a week to ten days. The communication is what Walker calls a Sideways Sales Letter. One of the best ways to get people to buy things is to create anticipation. The SSL builds anticipation prior to a product launch. The way it creates anticipation is by providing a story and high-value content, such as instructional videos or free tutorials, that provide real value to people before they’ve even bought your product.

That last sentence hides a secret. The secret is an abundance mindset and an understanding of one of the pillars of influence: reciprocacy. If you adopt an abundance mindset—a belief in the abundance of value all around and in us—then you are much more likely to give away high-value things away for free. Generosity is a defining feature of the Product Launch Formula. If you are generous to your potential customers, they are more likely to buy. People tend to reciprocate kindness with kindness, value with value.

Of course, it isn’t only the free goods that do all the heavy lifting. Jeff spends chapter five talking about what he calls “mental triggers”. If you’ve read other books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People, or Robert Cialdini’s Influence, then you are already acquainted with the contents of this chapter. He talks about authority, reciprocity, trust, etc.

In addition to telling the story of his first launch, he gives several other Case Studies that demonstrate other people using his methods to launch their first products, businesses, and gain financial freedom. After reading those stories, I really felt like the results he talked about were entirely achievable for me in the future, if I am willing to do the work to make it happen.

Jeff also provides details on how to get paid to create content, using that content either as free content for future launches, or as paid products in and of themselves. Essentially, Jeff has given the details of a system for continuous product development and launching that is organic and beautiful. Some of the marketing methods and devices you’ll learn about in Launch include:

  1. Opt-in subscription forms
  2. Squeeze pages
  3. A:B testing
  4. Using ads, social media, word of mouth, and affiliates to drive people to your squeeze page.
  5. Questions to get answers to before launching a new product.
  6. Outlines for pre-prelaunch, pre-launch, launch, and post launch emails.
  7. Seed launches (for those without a product to sell currently)
  8. JV (affiliate) launches
  9. Masterminds (business and product idea brainstorming communities)

On top of the pillars of influence, supported by the foundation of an abundance mindset, sits the Product Launch Formula. It is the actualization of that knowledge in the business world.

Do you have a business and want to give it a boost? Buy this book.
Do you have a product that you want to sell? Buy this book.
Do you want to be free? Buy this book.

For those that read until the end, in this video, I talk about what Jeff calls the Seed Launch.

How to Win Friends & Influence People

How to Win Friends & Influence People

Gorilla Mindset, Mike Cernovich
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams
Win Bigly, Scott Adams
Pre-suasion, Richard Cialdini
The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
And now, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

To those that know me, you may be wondering why I am so interested in the “personal development” genre of literature as of late. Of the many inspiring and educational stories, two stories from Carnegie’s book illustrate best what I have in mind while studying the lessons that he and the other great men above have taught. Here I will quote the stories in full. In the chapter titled Make The Fault Seem Easy To Correct, Carnegie writes,

Clarence M. Jones, one of the instructors of our course in Cincinnati, Ohio, told how encouragement and making faults seem easy to correct completely changed the life of his son.


“In 1970 my son David, who was then fifteen years old, came to live with me in Cincinnati. He had led a rough life. In 1958 his head was cut open in a car accident, leaving a very bad scar on his forehead. In 1960 his mother and I were divorced and he moved to Dallas, Texas, with his mother. Until he was fifteen he had spent most of his school years in special classes for slow learners in the Dallas school. Administrators had decided he was brain-injured and could not function at a normal level. He was two years behind his age group, so he was only in the seventh grade. Yet he did not know his multiplication tables, added on his fingers and could barely read.


There was one positive point. He loved to work on radio and TV sets. He wanted to become a TV technician. I encouraged this and pointed out that he needed math to qualify for the training. I decided to help him become proficient in this subject. We obtained four sets of flash cards: multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. As we went through the cards, we put the correct answers in a discard stack. When David missed one, I gave him the correct answer and then put the card in the repeat stack until there were no cards left. I made a big deal out of each card he got right, particularly if he had missed it previously. Each night we would go through the repeat stack until there were no cards left.


Each night we timed the exercise with a stop watch. I promised him that when he could get all the cards correct in eight minutes with no incorrect answers, we would quit doing it every night. This seemed an impossible goal to David. The first night it took 52 minutes, the second night, 48, the 45, 44, 41 then under 40 minutes. We celebrated each reduction. I’d call in my wife, and we would both hug him and we’d all dance a jig. At the end of the month he was doing all the cards perfectly in less than eight minutes. When he made a small improvement he would ask to do it again. He had made the fantastic discovery that learning was easy and fun.


Naturally his grades in algebra took a jump. It is amazing how much easier algebra is when you can multiply. He astonished himself by bringing home a B in math. That had never happened before. Other changes came with almost unbelievable rapidity. His reading improved rapidly, and he began to use his natural talents in drawing. Later in the school year his science teacher assigned him to develop an exhibit. He chose to develop a highly complex series of models to demonstrate the effect of levers. It required skill not only in drawing and model making but in applied mathematics. The exhibit took first prize in his school’s science fair and was entered in the city competition and won third prize for the entire city of Cincinnati.


That did it. Here was a kid who had flunked two grades, who had been told he was ‘brain-damaged,’ who had been called ‘Frankenstein’ by his classmates and told his brains must have leaked out of the cut on his head. Suddenly he discovered he could really learn and accomplish things. The result? From the last quarter of the eighth grade all the way through high school, he never failed to make the honor roll; in high school he was elected to the national honor society. When he found learning was easy, his whole life changed.”

It’s said that Americans love a good comeback story. From poverty to riches, from enslavement to freedom, from failure to success, Americans love the reversal of fortunes. There is something powerful in the idea that humans can overcome overwhelming odds against them. The comeback story tells us that there is strength in humanity, in country, in friends and family, in me. It tells us there’s hope. It tells us when we want something truly, we can have it. It tells us that the fears we have about the future can be defeated.

From brain-damaged to national honor society. From ashamed to proud. From boy to man. I want to have the strength of character to make this happen for myself and my own children if we ever face such adversity.

But, I’m not only looking at my own house. The consequences of not being strong, of lacking strength of character, can be far reaching and tragic. I’m deeply worried about the effects that I can have on the future if I don’t fix myself.

In 1915, in the middle of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson wanted to bring peace. William Jennings Bryan wanted to negotiate peace, but Wilson appointed Edward M. House, Bryan’s close friend. When House broke the news to Bryan, Bryan was understandable disappointed. But, House put it this way:

“The President thought it would be unwise for anyone to do this officially, and that his going would attract a great deal of attention and people would wonder why he was there…”

Carnegie writes,

“You see the intimation? House practically told Bryan that he was too important for the job—and Bryan was satisfied.

Colonel House, adroit, experience in the ways of the world, was following one of the important rules of human relations: Always make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”

Carnegie then tells another story of when Woodrow Wilson made someone feel important and happy to do something for him. Carnegie says of his methods, “He had a delightful way of putting things; he created the impression that by accepting this great honor I would be doing him a favor.”

However, it wasn’t all roses for Wilson. Carnegie writes,

“Unfortunately, Wilson didn’t always employ such taut. If he had, history might have been different.


For example, Wilson didn’t make the Senate and the Republican Party happy by entering the United States in the League of Nations. Wilson refused to take such prominent Republican leaders as Elihu Root or Charles Evans Hughes or Henry Cabot Lodge to the peace conference with him. Instead, he took along unknown men from his own party. He snubbed the Republicans, refused to let them feel that the League was their idea as well as his, refued to let them have a finger in the pie; and, as a result of this crude handling of human relations, wrecked his own career, ruined his health, shortened his life, caused America to stay out of the League, and altered the history of the world.”

The stakes are too high for good people to neglect learning and living the lessons that people like Carnegie have taught. The future isn’t set in stone. We make it. It is the duty of good people to make the future. We can’t let broken, corrupt people make the future, or else we have no future at all.

That’s why I’m reading Carnegie, Peale, Adams, Cialdini, and Cernovich. I believe wholeheartedly that the future of humanity may depend on my actions some day. Will I directly influence the future of humanity, or will I influence someone else who does the influencing? I don’t know.

When Carnegie writes story after story of important people in our history who were influenced by others because they were genuinely interested in other people, I listen. When he tells story after story about the transformative power of praise, I take notes and look inward. I may be able to fix the world through merely recognizing someone else’s achievement. I may be able to destroy the world by ignoring their achievement. That person could be a friend, a student, a neighbor, or a stranger online. I don’t know. Nobody knows what power we have to influence the future. But, we do know that we can influence it. The potential to achieve greatness or cause disaster is there for everybody.

If you want to join the honored ranks of those who have influenced the future toward the good, then you should read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

For those that have made it to the end, here are the top five things I learned from the book.

The Power of Positive Thinking

The Power of Positive Thinking

In Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, he says that we should do everything possible to push negative thoughts out of our mind and replace them with positive thoughts. He believes that positive thinking is the key to solving our many personal and professional problems. Such problems include a lack of energy, anxiety about the future, anger problems, addiction, and having problems making friends or keeping work. Pushing out our negative feelings and replacing them with positive ones is the key to solving all of those problems. Every chapter is filled with story after story of people that have used those methods to fix their problems.

If you’re wondering if the book is worth your time, consider this: Multi-billionaire and US President Donald Trump went to the church Peale ministered at. Peale was a famous minister in his time. His influence on Trump, and therefore the future of the US, is incalculable. What he taught continues to have real, lasting power. I look at results, and the results are clear: Listening to Peale is one method of becoming rich and powerful.

As you might expect from a Christian minister, he talks extensively about things like faith. Faith, or belief, is the core of his thesis. The first chapter is titled Believe in Yourself. Chapter eight is titled I Don’t Believe in Defeat. Belief, faith, is a key element of every bit of advice Peale gives. But, to the person that doesn’t believe in themselves or others, how do they learn to believe?

One of the main tools for developing belief is prayer or affirmations. Take some idea or ideal, write it down (if it isn’t already written down) and repeat it to yourself. For example, the first affirmation he mentions in the book is a quote from the Bible, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) Many more passages are sprinkled around the rest of the book. Prayers are a form of, Peale writes, “sending out of vibrations from one person to another and to God.” He goes on to say,

All of the universe is in vibration…When you send out a prayer for another person…you transport from yourself to the other person a sense of love, helpfulness, support—a sympathetic, powerful understanding—and in this process you awaken vibrations in the universe.

Bible verses aren’t the only form of affirmation, however. He also advocates for personalized prayers. He often speaks of prayers in scientific terms, reflecting the rising popularity of turning everything scientific in his time, as he does when he describes the prayer “formula” he recommends. “The formula is”, he writes, “(1) PRAYERIZE, (2) PICTURIZE, (3) ACTUALIZE.” A friend of his, relating this formula to Peale, said that when he had a problem, “he talked it over with God very simply and directly in prayer”.

While reading TPPT, you see those elements of the formula come up in every chapter. In chapter 7, Expect the Best and Get It, he writes,

Learn to expect, not to doubt. In so doing you bring everything in to the realm of possibility… If you expect the best, you are given some strange kind of power to create conditions that produce the desired results.

In Christian terms, have faith.

He also writes,

Take the best into your mind and only that. Nurture it, concentrate on it, emphasize it, visualize it.

Once you have the best in mind and visualize it, Peale advocates that you act upon that visualization. Since actualizing requires a knowledge of the details of each problem, he has less to say on actualization. He occasionally gives handy lists of things to do during the prayer and visualization steps of his formula, such as at the end of chapter 9, How to Break the Worry Habit. Number six on that list: “Never participate in a worry conversation. Shoot an injection of faith into all your conversations.” And he does give actualization advice in a sense. In Chapter 16, Prescription for Heartache, one form of actualization he advises for overcoming heartache is physical activity. However, for the most part, Peale focuses on the first two steps of the above formula.

I found a lot of good advice in Peale’s book. In the following video, I will tell you the lessons that were most important to me. At the end, I tell you the next book I’ll be review.

By the way, Peale writes about a conversation he had with Thomas Edison’s wife! He knew Edison personally. It’s crazy to think that we are only a short time removed from that guy.

Taking Great Photos of Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in Japan

It’s that time of year again. The cherry blossoms have arrived. For only a couple of short weeks every year, Japan explodes into pink and white. People here often picnic under the cherry blossoms and absorbs springs sights and sounds. The tradition is called hanami, cherry blossom viewing.

Cherry blossoms hold a special place in Japanese culture. Even as far back as a thousand years ago, old poems liken the short-lived beauty of youth to the short time that cherry blossoms are in bloom. The coming of spring is often seen as a bitter sweet event in that interpretation.

It’s not surprising, since people died much early in those days. People didn’t have a chance to witness the cherry blossoms blooming very many times in their life before they faded.

These days are different. We get to witness and capture the beauty of spring, and we have the opportunity to enjoy the rejuvenation of spring for many years. We can do with ease what few people could do in ye olden days: create a picture of the cherry blossoms. And create, we do. The question is: How do you take the perfect picture of the cherry blossoms?



How to Take Pictures of Cherry Blossoms

When taking pictures of cherry blossoms, it’s important to understand the different effects of hard and soft light.



Hard Light

Hard light, like on sunny spring days, will have the effect of creating hard shadows and high-contrast scenes. If you take advantage of the effects hard light provides, you can emphasize shapes using highlights and shadows. In the context of cherry blossoms, their petals are somewhat translucent, so you can also capture the effects of light traveling through layers of petals.

I enjoy the more dramatic, bright, bold look of hard light photography in general. However, what if you want to show cherry blossoms’ softer side with soft light?



Soft Light

Well, you have a few options. You can take pictures on a cloudy day. That is, in fact, one of the best conditions to take photos when you are newer to photography. The soft, weaker light on cloudy days is easier for cheaper cameras and smartphones to deal with. Soft light is also flattering to flowers, giving them a more feminine, calm atmosphere. Instead of accentuating shapes, lines, and shadows, soft light softens all of those and provides more even lighting. With the distraction of the small details, the atmosphere of the flower itself takes center stage.

Another option for taking soft light pictures is to use a reflector to reflect sunlight back on to the shadows of the flowers, softening the shadows. You can also use a diffuser to soften the light before it reaches the flowers.

You can also take advantage of shadows. Instead of taking pictures of cherry blossoms facing the Sun, take pictures of the ones in the tree’s shade. The ambient light will give you a nice soft light.



Natural vs. Artificial light sources

Most people will take photos of flowers under natural lighting conditions. Some people will take pictures of them early in the morning or late in the evening when lighting conditions are more interesting (due to the angle and color of the light at those times of day), but most people want to go out and take pictures of flowers on bright, sunny afternoons. Interesting photos can be taken during that time, but there are some limitations people put up with.

For one, you usually have to take pictures while facing away from the Sun. You do that because cameras can’t deal with the extreme contrast of the bright sun and the comparatively dark flower you’re trying to photograph. Either the sky will be well exposed and your flower will be pitch black (in which case, you might be able to make a cool silhouette), or the flower will be well exposed, but the sky will be pure white.

Another limitation of taking photos in the afternoon is that the angle of light is often less interesting. It tends to flatten all of the details of the background and foreground. That is especially true of cloudy days. If you’re taking pictures of flowers on cloudy days, usually you’ll want to zoom in close on the flowers and ignore the dull background.

People tend to want to see flowers contrasted against a beautiful blue sky, so if you want to take pictures of flowers with a blue sky in the background, you usually only have the option of hard light photos unless you get a diffuser or reflector. Even then, you’ll typically not be able to handle more than a small, hand-held reflector or diffuser by yourself. Reflectors and diffusers are a bit of a challenge to use in somewhat windy conditions. Here in Japan, wind is part of the opening of spring. Taking pictures with a partner who can hold your reflector or diffuser is very helpful.

What this all means is that, if you want to level up your cherry blossom photography, you’ll need to incorporate artificial light into your photography. With artificial light from a flash, you can shape the light, and thus the cherry blossoms, in the way you want. In the next post, I’ll give you an idea of what kind of gear you can use to level up your photography.