February 25, 2020
Today our special guest is the incredible Mike Volkin.
Mike is often referred to as the King of Freelancing, and has been freelancing for over a decade with resounding success. He has had dozens of media appearances spanning radio, TV, and podcasts and has also been featured on the homepage of Upwork.
As a best-selling author, Mike continues to inspire entrepreneurs throughout the world helping freelancers break free from the corporate rat race and spearhead their own successful careers.
Mike Volkin is a serial entrepreneur, U.S. Army veteran, and author of five books, one being a best seller. He has built and sold four of his own companies and worked with over 400 companies as a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. Currently, Mike is the lead instructor of Freelancer Masterclass, which is a 9-step online course designed to help freelancers grow their business and increase their time off.
In today’s show, we talk ALL about neuroplasticity and brain hacks for the busy entrepreneur to maximize productivity and memory in the midst of our chaotic workloads. He talks about a memorization hack that will absolutely change your life (trust us, we were SHOOK), time management and productivity strategies that will cut out all the time you’re wasting in your business, and even at the end – one of the most comprehensive lists of marketing strategies that we’ve ever heard. The best part? Every single strategy Mike drops in today’s episode is IMMEDIATELY actionable. So if you’re ready to walk away with a pile of the most tangible business strategies and brain hacks you’ve ever heard… listen up!
Mike started to become an entrepreneur in his early 20s. He joined the army just a few days after 9/11. While in the army, Mike published a book. He decided to teach himself marketing in order to sell more books which led him to a freelance job doing SEO. All of that culminated to where he is now, a fractional CMO. Companies will hire Mike to head up their marketing department or even start their marketing department, do some hires, and set processes and strategies in place.
9/11 brought out a little bit of patriotism but also something inside of him that had never bubbled to the surface. At the time, Mike was in his corporate job as a scientist, getting paid a decent amount of money. He found himself going through the motions like most people do. He didn’t see this as the way that he should live his life. He always had a bit of envy towards people who owned their own business or worked their own hours.
When he decided to join the army, it was a big reset for himself. Although it wasn’t a step in the entrepreneurship direction, it did create a new environment for him. He was hanging around scientists and people who had their PhDs and masters degrees one month and the next month he was attached to the hip of his battle buddy who you do everything with and are responsible for. He was a “go to war or go to jail” type of person. He spent the next eight years in a totally 180 degree turn of the society he was accustomed to living in. This sparked an entrepreneur spirit in him indirectly.
Neuroplasticity is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt to our environment and situations. From the moment our brain starts to develop until the day we die, the connections within the brain cells reorganize in response to our changing needs. This neuroplastic brain we have allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences. We become stronger at the things we do often. Our brains are constantly being shaped by our experience. What is exciting is that in the last decade, because of the advances in technology, scientists have confirmed that our repeated thoughts and actions reinforce the neural pathways. Essentially, your thoughts can actually physically change how your brain works.
You have to understand that you can learn and your IQ can increase. You can increase the capacity in which your brain can absorb and you can increase the speed of what your brain can absorb. Any type of change creates new neural pathways and increases the capacity of your brain to perform.
Everyone has a neuroplastic brain. Neuroplastic means it is moldable and formable. Every human is different. Some people are born able to learn certain skills faster than others. It’s more than just being born with a skill, it is about developing that skill to take you from good to great. That is what really matters. Connections in the brain are constantly becoming stronger, or weaker, depending on what is being used. With that said, younger people change more easily. Their brains are more neuroplastic. Children can learn foreign languages easier than an adult. As we age, change doesn’t come so easily. The brain loses a bit of its neuroplasticity and we become more fixed in how we think and learn in our tendencies and how we perceive experiences.
Think of it like walking in the snow. The first time you are making a path or impression in the snow is like creating a new neural pathway in your brain. The more emotion that is tied to a neural pathway, the deeper it is. Picture walking along that same path in the snow over and over again. That pathway is becoming a deep neural connection in your brain.
Sleep is incredibly important. Your brain needs sleep to reset brain connections that are important for memory and learning. Studies show that just one night of losing sleep restricts the brain’s ability to reset itself which impairs your memory. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a day. The problem is, most entrepreneurs spend a lot of late nights and early mornings working.
Tip #1. Make sleep a priority. Being an effective entrepreneur relies directly on your ability to be disciplined, priority driven, and focused on your goals. You can not do this with a tired state of mind.
Tip #2. Stand up. If you usually sit down at work, try standing up. Your brain is more active when you are standing. Look for a kneeling chair or standing desk.
Tip #3. Continue learning. You need to learn something new. Learn a new language, read a book, learn a new sport. Strengthen your skills as an entrepreneur by taking an online course. Whatever sounds fun to you, do it. To keep your brain neuroplastic you can’t just be so involved in one thing that you are doing. Even if you are learning something new that has nothing to do with your actual task at hand, you are still strengthening neural connections and making yourself smarter, faster, and stronger. Learning something new strengthens the brain’s ability to keep it neuroplastic.
Tip #4. Exercise. It increases the oxygen supply to your brain.
Tip #5. Reduce stress. Daily meditation and mindfulness is free and quick to do and learn. There is no excuse. Reducing stress is absolutely essential to create neuroplasticity in your brain. If you can sleep a lot and keep your stress as low as possible there is no limit to what you can do in terms of your brain’s capacity. It has no limits.
There is a podcast by Jim Kwik where the whole show is dedicated to brain hacks. One brain hack is the method of loci. Loci is a latin word meaning “places”. This is such a useful technique for the entrepreneur who needs to remember things off the top of their heads. For example, this technique can be helpful for memorizing names or a speech. All you need for this is a bit of imagination to associate words with images. Your brain remembers images much more than words, and much faster than words.
For example, let’s say we are going to take a flight and let’s identify some key points. Point number 1 is that you are going to walk through the terminal door. The trigger is the door. Point number 2 is that we are going to get to the checkout counter. The trigger is the counter. Point number 3 is the security checkpoint. The trigger is security. Point number 4 is walking through the plane’s door. The trigger is the door of the plane. Point 5 is when the plane lifts off. The trigger is the plane lifting.
Now imagine you walk through a conference room at work. Your boss says, “Please meet Jack, Jimmy, Diana, Hugh and Phil.” Now associate a silly thing to each of those trigger points. The first trigger point is walking through the terminal door. Picture that you have to squeeze through the door to get past a guy using a jackhammer in the doorway. Associate Jack and door. The second trigger was the checkout counter and the second name is Jim. Picture walking up to the checkout counter and seeing a big pile of jimmies (or sprinkles). The third trigger was the security checkpoint and the third name is Diana. Diana starts with a “die” sound so you can picture a dead person at the checkpoint. The fourth trigger is the door of the plane and the fourth name was Hugh. Hugh sounds like “huge” so you can picture walking through the plane door and it is incredibly huge. The last trigger was the plane lifting off the ground and the last name was Phil. A stewardess could be “filling” your drink as the plane lifts off the ground.
The more you practice this, the easier and faster it becomes. It’s all about associating a series of numbers or names with trigger points.
There is a meditation technique called creative visualization. Mike learned about this technique from Bianca Andreescu, who won the US Open last year at the age of 19. The prior year she didn’t even qualify for the US Open. The following year she won the entire title and beat Serena Williams. Naturally, the media is asking how she did this. Her answer was creative visualization.
Mike looked into a book called The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. He talks about how to do this technique. Creative visualization is a meditation technique where instead of trying to clear your mind and reduce stress, you are filing your mind with emotional thoughts. In Mike’s case, it was winning a tennis match. He would picture himself, in slow motion, hitting a serve or holding a trophy over his head and filling his body with emotion.
The difference here is that your brain does not understand the difference between reality and imagination. So, this gives you this ultimate confidence. Mike practiced this for seven minutes a day for three straight weeks. He played his first tennis match after practicing creative visualization every single day, and he noticed something different from his very first hit. He was on his game, warming up fantastically, and hitting the sweet spot on his racket. Long story short he won 6-0 6-0. He won 12 straight games. He’s never done that before or even come close. Mike’s been playing great tennis ever since and uses creative visualization daily.
You can do this with anything. Any kind of goal you have in life you can use creative visualization. It is fun, it’s easy, it’s free, and it’s only seven minutes a day. That’s all it takes to schedule and make your life amazing.
There is something called the Parkinson’s Law. You can click your whole life and workday and never really achieve anything. You just click, click, click, and click again. Parkinson’s Law says that work fills itself. Instead of having work dictate you, you can learn how to dictate work. There are a couple of things Mike does that are productivity techniques and he combines two things that seem to work for him really well.
Time blocking. Everyone should be using a calendar and everything needs to go on your calendar, not just appointments and meetings. If you are wanting to knock out some work for a client, put that on your calendar.
There is a Google Chrome Extension called Focus Me. It is basically a pomodoro timer. Set this for 20 minutes on and 5 minutes off. Make sure your phone is away (not just out of arm’s length) so it won’t distract you for 20 minutes. Work for 20 minutes on and then you can take a 5 minute break. Do three of these sprints (20 minutes on, 5 minutes off) and then take a 30 minute break. This will keep you so productive that you can do more in a week than you can typically do in a month. This will take practice. Start off with 7 minutes on and 3 minutes off and work up from there.
The amount of work you can get done is mindblowing. You will be amazed at how it can reduce stress but also get you the output.
A quick tactic is to use a stop time at work. Make a stop time and stick to it every single day. This forces you to get more work done.
A few books to read are Deep Work and Peak Performance.
Neuromarketing is a subset of marketing of why people make buying decisions the way they do. People are now studying the rectinium brain and how we surpass these hundreds of advertisements we see every day and create that buying trigger.
If you own an ecommerce store or internet related business, always experiment with different colors. Color scheme is so important in marketing and has an unique triggering the targets by your subconscious and desires. Red is usually associated with urgency. Blue is associated with trust. Black is associated with high quality. Orange, red and yellow are associated with being inexpensive.
Studies have shown that consumers respond to higher to relieving pain than seeking pleasure. Show how your products can relieve pain points rather than how it can make their lives more enjoyable.
Show scarcity. Studies show that people buy items that are scarce in inventory.
Social proof. 84% of people trust online reviews. Go heavy on product reviews and endorsements and go heavy on video endorsements.
Create a sense of urgency. Give potential customers that they stand to enjoy certain benefits if they purchase within a certain time frame.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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