I’ve entered plenty of contests in my life, but I never won one. Until now. It’s a weird, wonderful, and scary feeling. This contest didn’t just have some nice little prize that I never would have bothered with if I’d had to pay money for it. This is an incredible prize that demands respect and commitment.

Danny Iny and Firepole Marketing

Danny Iny is one-half of Firepole Marketing. He’s also the most visible half. I first met Danny when we were taking a course together called Traffic School, run by Corbett Barr of Think Traffic. This was in March 2011 when Firepole Marketing was about 6 months old. Danny was the most active person on the Traffic School forums, always giving us encouragement and wise business advice. He was a warm-hearted guy who knew a lot about running a business and marketing.

What really endeared me to him, though, was when I posted in the forums about the crap that was going on in my day job. The medium-sized company I worked for had been bought out by a much larger corporation and I did not like it! I had a feeling the shit was going to hit the fan at some point. I wasn’t afraid of losing my job, but I expected things to go down in a way that wouldn’t make me happy. They did, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Danny had better instincts than I had. He offered to give me free business coaching (he usually charges $250 for a 45-minute session). On July 4, 2011, we had a 2-hour discussion that really helped ground me. I wonder now what Danny must have thought of me. He probably kept shaking his head at my lack of business knowledge. He never made me feel bad, though. But he did emphasize principles that he runs his business by and teaches, sound business principles rooted in focus, a firm business foundation, and building good relationships with the people you serve.

Shit Hits the Fan

At the end of 2011, I got a nasty holiday surprise from the corporation I’m now working for. They cut my hours by 20% for 2012. Anyone remember a little book that was popular in the 1990s called Who Moved My Cheese? It’s all about dealing with change. One point they make there is that major change is rarely a surprise. When we’re surprised by it, it’s because we didn’t understand or chose to ignore the signs. I expected there to be all kinds of unpleasant rules and re-organization from the buy-out, which there were, but I didn’t anticipate that my income would take a hit. Danny knew better than I did what was coming!

After I panicked for a few days and let the anxiety run through me, I could see that this was a door opening and not a door closing. I’ve been wanting to get my business up and running for years. I say “my business” as if I’ve had this stable dream and all it would take was to do business stuff to make it come true. I’ve actually played around with multiple business dreams for the past 15 years.

I wrote to Danny in early 2012 that the hit to my income was a kick in the ass from the Universe to get my business act together. That is my 2012 challenge. In spite of this revelation, I started the year still stuck in old thinking. In January and February, I scrambled to grab extra hours from the companies I work for, putting a few more dollars into my bank account and delaying work on my business for a precious 2 months.

But in March, I started to get serious with my business plans. I followed guru advice (including Danny’s), created a website for the business, opened social media accounts for the business, posted services to my business site, blogged, posted updates to the Twitter and Facebook business accounts regularly, modified and expanded my services, and continued to follow guru advice (including Danny’s). And things began to move very slowly. Little did I know that I was headed for (yet another) Tower experience.

Tower hit by lightening and coming down with people diving into the sea below

The Tower card from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Photo by Jessica Mullen, courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons

Shit Hits the Fan, Again

The first company I work for (the one that cut my hours by 20%) gives me seasonal work. To supplement, I do freelance writing for another company in the summer. That’s how it’s been for the past 4 years. But when I contacted the second company a couple of weeks ago, they told me they were going through a restructuring this summer and didn’t have anything for me. The shit hit the fan a second time.

I had the same reaction as before, panic for a few days followed by seeing this as a door opening. The Universe just isn’t going to let me off easy this year.

This coincided with a really important realization about what I was doing with my business. I knew I wasn’t giving what I really had to give. We’re all born to give something in this world, and it took me a while to figure out what that was for me. I was born to teach. I’ve got 10 years’ experience teaching. I’ve certainly got all the anal-retentive attributes of a good teacher. And I love it.

Tarot enthusiasts know what a Tower experience is all about. The Tower card in the Tarot shows a tower that’s being hit by lightening and crumbling down. People in the tower are diving into the sea below to save themselves. It’s a picture of a structure in our lives that’s coming down because it’s built on a false foundation. It’s a painful but extremely positive regenerative process.

My business is in the Tower stage, which is why this site and my business site have been collecting dust for the past month. I am blasting through so many fears and doubts that I don’t know where to turn sometimes. Some days I think I’m finally getting this right, and then other days I think I’m doing it all wrong. But I’m still doing it, and now I’ll be getting some fabulous help!

The Lifetime Access Firepole Marketing Contest

When Danny ran the contest for unlimited lifetime access to Firepole Marketing, there were like 60 entries already, and I didn’t believe there was any chance I could win. I still chose to answer the question he asked because it was a good way for me to reflect on where I am with my business and where I want to be. He asked us how we thought having lifetime access to everything Firepole Marketing creates will help our business.

After six months of listening to “gurus” and actually getting my feet wet, I finally “get” that I don’t know enough about what it takes to run a successful business. It doesn’t matter if your business is bricks-and-mortar or in cyberspace; if you don’t understand the principles of a successful business, you’re playing Russian roulette with your future.

I also discovered that many online “gurus” don’t know much about running a successful business either. They know online tools and technologies and tactics, but many of them really don’t understand things like business structure, long-term client relations, and making it all come together so that it lasts.

Danny of Firepole Marketing does. This is a guy who dropped out of high school to start his own business, which I think shows incredible initiative. And then he went back to school to get his MBA. I remember last year when he told us on the Traffic School forums that he applied to teach at a local university. I told him I thought he was too good for academia, and I still believe it. As small companies close their doors and large corporations throw us to the dogs, lots of us are turning to online businesses. The business knowledge, first-hand experience, and compassion that Danny has belong online where entrepreneurs can easily get them.

Firepole Marketing has some awesome products, including their Marketing That Works training program and Write Like Freddy program for guest posting, which I’m already doing. It’s serious learning for serious business owners. Winning a contest like this means I have to live up to the prize. I can’t shove the materials aside till “someday,” and I can’t just watch the videos and read the written materials and not do anything with them.

I have always believed that the Universe gives us what we need when we need it. For me, this contest isn’t mostly about getting great business training (although obviously that rocks!). It’s mostly, for me, a gift of accountability. Danny awarded this to me because he trusts that I’m serious, not just in intention but also in action. I’m grateful for the trust Danny’s shown in me and the opportunity to make my life better by creating a meaningful business. I decided to write this post as part of that accountability. This is my promise to follow through.