Imagine me lying on a couch, disappointed, in pain, face swollen like a balloon. A toothache (and surgery to fix it) left me reading a book at home, instead of being at a Seth Godin presentation at Hyderabad.

I was reading LINCHPIN... And had an epiphany.

I have always been hyper-competitive. A work-a-holic. Obsessively driven to be very good. Great. World-class. In just about everything I did.

That attitude has led to some interesting accomplishments over the years.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Maybe it was the sudden death of my colleague, or the heart surgery of my good friend, or just 'growing up'. All of a sudden, things that once seemed all-important didn't seem so much any more.

It opened my eyes. I saw I was on a treadmill, running ever faster to stay in the same place.

So, I hopped off!

That was a scary decision. And unsettling. For an over-achiever, not having things to do, or a map/plan to do it, always is.

I started afresh with a modest goal - to fund one child's heart surgery, through an untested approach. I created and sold information products, using part of the profits (along with donations) to do it.

The first led to the second, then the fifth, and twentieth. Today, the non-profit Foundation I set up in 2003 has sponsored SEVENTY heart surgeries for under-privileged children born with congenital heart disease.

This year, in 2010, I am well on track to hit my target (as stated in my book, "47 Hearts") of performing 47 operations...

Yet the thrill from this is not a fraction of when I funded the first one!

Something is wrong.

The feelings of lassitude, restlessness, even frustration had little to do with my toothache. They had been around for much longer. This was my chance to introspect about it.

Lately, I've been comparing myself against others, to my disadvantage. Like the guy who did a million dollar promotion. Or the other who builds his list by 400 new subscribers every day. Or the one whose blog gets 8 million visitors every year.

And the conversation in my head goes:

"Hey, look at what he's doing. You can't match that!"

"Oh, yeah? Sez who? Sure, I can."

"Talk's cheap. Show me."

"Ok, I will!"

That's my Type-A personality kicking in, struggling against the shackles to try and hop back onto the treadmill. Except the treadmill is now going faster than it did a few years ago. And the conscious part of my brain now realizes that however fast you run on a treadmill, you ain't going nowhere!

That's when a passage in LINCHPIN brought about the epiphany. Seth Godin writes about 'art' and 'gifts'. He says:

"Art is the product of emotional labor. Art is a gift. The design of the iPhone is art. It changes the way some people feel. And there is a gift as well. People who see the iPhone but don't buy one still receive the gift. An ugly iPhone would cost as much as the beautiful one. The beautiful part is the gift."

And in one of those magical moments of synchronicity, so many things snapped into place in an instant inside my mind.

I realized that the work I did (create and sell infoproducts to fund heart surgery in kids) is "emotional labor".

And that the 'gift' is how this work inspires many others to reach out for their own dreams, and live them.

The flood of comments, emails, testimonials and feedback from hundreds of people has told me how they drew energy and encouragement from seeing my purpose-driven work.

It motivated them to keep going. It made them take heart in their own purpose. It gave them faith in an industry niche that isn't all sunshine and roses.

Until now, I had ignored that, or hadn't valued it highly enough. I had taken my eye off the ball, to try and focus on things that were more important - to someone else!

Sure, a multi-million dollar promotion sounds attractive - until I realize that I don't need one.

To hit even my ambitious stretch goal of funding 500 heart operations every year, I need (500 x $2,250) = $1,125,000 - which is halved with a subsidy from our State Government, leaving me with a funding target of only $560,000.

But even if that never happens, just having come so far along the path to a crazily impossible goal, to touching 70 little lives (and hundreds of bigger ones) through my 'art', suddenly seems so much more fulfilling and satisfying.

Sometimes, a paradigm shifts when we attain new heights, explore new opportunities, pursue new goals.

At other times, it happens when we see better just exactly where we stand.

Thank you for helping me see better, Seth!

And Happy Birthday, too.


What Every Good Marketer Knows: * Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk. * Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand. * Your best customers are worth far more than your average customers. * Share of wallet is easier, more profitable and ultimately more effective a measure than share of market. * Marketing begins before the product is created. * Advertising is just a symptom, a tactic. Marketing is about far more than that. * Low price is a great way to sell a commodity. That's not marketing, though, that's efficiency. * Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing * encourages the right sort of conversations. * Products that are remarkable get talked about. * Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy. * You can't fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people, once unfooled, talk about the experience. * If you are marketing from a fairly static annual budget, you're viewing marketing as an expense. Good marketers * realize that it is an investment. * People don't buy what they need. They buy what they want. * You're not in charge. And your prospects don't care about you. * What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love. * Business to business marketing is just marketing to consumers who happen to have a corporation to pay for what they * buy. * Traditional ways of interrupting consumers (TV ads, trade show booths, junk mail) are losing their cost-effectiveness. * At the same time, new ways of spreading ideas (blogs, permission-based RSS information, consumer fan clubs) are * quickly proving how well they work. * People all over the world, and of every income level, respond to marketing that promises and delivers basic human * wants. * Good marketers tell a story. * People are selfish, lazy, uninformed and impatient. Start with that and you'll be pleasantly surprised by what you find. * Marketing that works is marketing that people choose to notice. * Effective stories match the worldview of the people you are telling the story to. * Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others. * A product for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone. * Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in a conversation-rich world. * Marketers are responsible for the side effects their products cause. * Reminding the consumer of a story they know and trust is a powerful shortcut. * Good marketers measure. * Marketing is not an emergency. It's a planned, thoughtful exercise that started a long time ago and doesn't end until * you're done. * One disappointed customer is worth ten delighted ones. * In the googleworld, the best in the world wins more often, and wins more. * Most marketers create good enough and then quit. Greatest beats good enough every time. * There are more rich people than ever before, and they demand to be treated differently. * Organizations that manage to deal directly with their end users have an asset for the future. * You can game the social media in the short run, but not for long. * You market when you hire and when you fire. You market when you call tech support and you market every time you * send a memo. * Blogging makes you a better marketer because it teaches you humility in your writing. Obviously, knowing what to do is very, very different than actually doing it.