Life is a bitch - that's universally true. However, a growing number of people, "the unlucky," seem to believe they have a monopoly over this state of affairs. I'll be the bearer of bad news - they don't. I have seen poverty in its face and lived a life of luxury, and I can tell you that life continues to be a bitch regardless of the car you drive, the numbers in your bank account, or the breadth of your social circle.
What separates great men and average men is that the great know that this bitch needs to be tamed; the average let it control them and let it seep into every part of their essence. The Great? They smile and get over it, because they know it's just one of life's cruel games that they'll have to conquer.
You see, when you are out there crying because you lost, or you're having another panic attack because of some emotional bullshit, or are taking "days off" to find yourself, you are getting taken over in the line by men who just get over it.
Your best friend ratted you out? Get over it.
Your business partner screwed you over? Get over it.
Your daddy wasn't in your life? Get over it.
You were bullied as a kid? Get over it.
The people who get the furthest in life aren't the ones who get hit but "come back." That's a dumb myth perpetuated to make most men feel good about being weak. The people who get the furthest in life are those who get shot, but aren't even hit. The ones who can internalize that nothing phased them.
When you don't have to "comeback" you didn't waste any time.
There is this romanticized idea that when you are in the gutters emotionally, mentally, and physically we all get a grace period where we "find ourselves" and then the the world will accept us when we're ready. This horseshit. When you're finding yourself, others are still working and are actively stealing your spot away from you. The world is merciless and if you believe that everyone will openly welcome you back now you've "done your shit," you are dead wrong. I have personally taken the jobs of four individuals who were at the time far more talented, but had taken time off to "find themselves." What happened when they wanted to come back? I was sitting on their chair and no way in hell was I going to hand it over to them just because their cry fest was over. Fuck you.
So whatever shit you are going through, get over it. Emotion is a skill and can be trained and those who let their emotions run rampant are a slave to their feelings and as such at the whims of another man's opinion. This my friends, is the downfall of man.
The world is run, changed, and moved by men with missions. A man with a mission will achieve more in a month than ten men will achieve in their lifetimes put together.
The fact of life is that perhaps 10% of men have clearly defined goals, but only 2-3% of men have a mission. The rest are following along; along for the ride wherever the road may take them even if it is (unbeknownst to them) a shortcut to hell. A man on a mission is a man who has sought out what he wants and is dedicating his existence to its attainment - pure, raw, and completely un-phased.
A man on a mission will not seek solutions to his problems externally, but internally; as he is completely in charge of his destiny. A man on a mission will not be slowed down by financial troubles, or threats, or abuses by his fellow men but he will see those as a natural process of his growth and success. A man on a mission may give such appearances, but will never put anyone on a pedestal but himself - for he knows that who would he be if it weren't for him? Everything this man does, everything he is, flows from this mission; and from this very devotion and love of it. Men on a mission have created civilizations, every invention, and every political institution known to man.
So why shirk away? Why does the 98% find solace in wandering the wilderness when they could etch their name in the books of history? Because it is seemingly easier and more noble to cloak inaction with altruism; however this is a mere illusion. At the end of days, a man on the mission is more capable of inspiring, more capable of giving back, and more capable of building for his fellow man; in ways that a wanderer could merely imagine in his wildest dreams.
The irony is that living a life of risk is far less riskier than living a life with no risk at all. The irony is that living a life that is seemingly difficult is actually far less difficult than living a life that is seemingly easy. For at the end of days all men lie on the death bed alone and what we look back upon is what we accomplished and what mark we left on the world.
A man on a mission inspired, created, and molded part of the world in the image of himself; and as such he has defied mortality and has transcended his death. Whereas the man who refused to take risk, refused to feel pain, refused to dare, left no mark behind and as such, when his body perishes, so does he, in all ways.
One of the most important cornerstones of leadership is setting strict boundaries. If we are unwilling to enforce them, we become subject to the whims of other and lose our authenticity. In business, that's deadly, but far from uncommon. There's a reason why we have so many companies, but yet so few brands and even less brand loyalty. Businesses just follow the latest trends without setting their feet down in what they believe in. See, with AZOTH, just like any other strong business, it's not the product we are selling, but ourselves and our own authentic voice. Lose that and you're as reliable as the next street vendor in Brooklyn - you've got tons of things to sell, but if you're gone no one's gonna give a shit. I refuse to subscribe to that.
When I started AZOTH, there were a couple of things I refused cut corners on:
For one, I wanted the product to be produced start to finish in the United States. Yes, this means even the labeling, the plastic tub, the lid, and every raw material used in the process of manufacturing AZOTH was built in the USA. It's matter of principle - we can't say we're proud to be American and then when the chance comes to put our money where our mouth is we flee to China. That's irony at its finest.
Secondly, I had no interest in skimping on doses. I made it a point that I created a profile with ingredients at dosages that were OPTIMAL and NECESSARY to feel an effect, without even looking at the total price and just sent it off to the manufacturer to make. When the manufacturer quoted me, it was a ridiculously high price point, I looked at the ingredient list and decided I couldn't cut anything. Instead I added a few more ingredients and just said screw it.I wholeheartedly believe that if you do something, you either do it at a 100% or you just don't do it all. What's the point if I add a few sprinkle milligrams of an ingredient if I truly know I am scamming my consumers because it's not going to do anything.
A REAL NOOTROPIC
This is a whole topic in and of itself, but the word Nootropic has been "bastardized" to include frankly everything that has any sort of effect on energy or on the brain, which by default would be practically every supplement out there. Seeing the explosion of this category, supplement companies have latched onto it like the last branch in the jungle. I commonly see products (as a matter of fact almost all of them on the first page of Amazon) calling a blend of Caffeine, a few chinese herbs and Indian roots with horribly low doses (several have a 10% specification of a 100mg total ingredient) "POTENT NOOTROPIC STACK." That's garbage.
When people try AZOTH they say it feels different than any other nootropic they've tried, I tell them that's because they've never tried nootropics. They've tried caffeine pills and underdosed herbs. When I set out to create AZOTH, I wanted to make sure it's actually what it says it is.
R&D OVER MARKETING
When AZOTH was being manufactured, the costs were going to be astronomical. I had made a conscious choice, however, that instead of the typical 90-10 split (marketing/R&D), I would flip it to 90-10 (R&D/Marketing). The thought process behind this was clear. With AZOTH I was on the mission to create a flagship product that works. End of story. If a supplement doesn't work, it's not going to last. Yes, I'd probably still get tons of reviews on Amazon with the right amount of ad buys, but that's not what I was going for. I could give two shits about validation. I care about the product working. Making people more productive. That's the goal. No corners cut. As far as marketing is concerned, I am a staunch believer in the notion of "build and they shall come." The ones who need the loudest megaphones are the ones who have little to show for. I was convinced that with a just a few channels to market the product, I could succeed.
"We are a marketing company, not a supplement company."
I have heard this statement so often, that it has almost become the mantra for any new startup looking to get their feet wet in the dietary supplement industry. As a matter of fact, when I was at a recent fitness expo, I met new founders and seasoned CEOs who told me they are spending close to 85% of their budget on marketing alone and a paltry 2-3% on R&D and product development. To add to that, as revenues increase, the strategy is to focus even heavier on marketing and eliminating almost all R&D efforts. A major player in the field told me his company now focuses 96% of its efforts on marketing and has eliminated R&D completely.
Being involved with FMCG for years, I can tell you this isn't really a surprise - it's expected. I am not going to sit here and pretend that Coca Cola and Pepsi are in the business of R&D - they aren't. However, when it comes to health and fitness, there is a distinction. People buying dietary supplements are not doing so to eat or drink something tasty or to have fun - it's more than that. These products are tools to help one achieve the ultimate levels of self-development - physically, mentally, and spiritually. When supplement companies are spending most of their funds on marketing, these costs are passed on to customers and I find that bothersome.
I find it bothersome because I have years of emotional investment into buying supplements and these costs are passed onto consumers like myself when I was a 14-year old. As a 14 year old, I was scraping together money I had made from raking lawns, washing cars, and dishes after school hoping to trade my time and work for the quest for self-development, only to find out it was traded to fund shots of T&A on Instagram, flashy labels, and fake doctors. Can newer companies take a stand?
Here's the kicker - for many new companies looking to get involved in the supplement game, there's now a hidden "pay to play" rule - if you want to be competitive, you better have the muscle to pay as much commission as possible to IG stars, spend thousands on social media and even more on photo shoots and Google/Amazon Adwords. By the time you're done shelling out what probably amount to close to six figures, you'll have little left to actually think about the product and pay for it.
To paint a more accurate picture, I'll use this example: an average bid for the word "pre-workout" is about $3-5 for 1 competitive click on Amazon. Note, as a new company you'll need to spend more to be competitive in order to rank, so we'll use the higher figure. On average, there's a 5-7% CTR resulting in a buy (probably lower, but I'll be super generous here.) So it would take $500 for a company to get 25 clicks resulting in a sale. That's $20 per sale! If the product costs $20 to produce and Amazon's fees are about $8, a company is spending $48 per sale! As a pre-workout, the top tier products are going for about $29-$35. So per sale, a company goes in at least $15+ of loss pricing it at middle of the pack. Since VCs aren't running towards sports nutrition companies to hand them millions of dollars, what do companies do? They create cheaper products by underdosing them, or has recently been the case, just lying on the label.
PLAYING THE MARKETING GAME
The results are evident. Let's take the recent Nootropic category for example. Nearly all top-10 selling Nootropics on Amazon are full of proprietary blends and grossly underdosed. We are talking at levels where the ingredients have absolutely no possible effect.
For example, the top selling Nootropic on Amazon consists of a proprietary blend of about 700 mg of a dozen ingredients combined. Two of these ingredients by themselves, Phosphatidylserine and Tyrosine should combined be dosed about 700 to 1,000 mg to be anywhere near effective. So needless to say 700 mg for a dozen ingredients, is a joke. There's no way it can have ANY effect at all. I for one am amazed at the amount of raving reviews these products get. I find it suspect.
With a proprietary blend, companies can put as little as 0.5mg of one expensive ingredient, and fill the rest with cheap capsule fillers. You have no idea what is in it. When this company started out, they probably spent all their money on advertising and had a paltry budget for manufacturing the product. With a prop blend they're getting a steal on the manufacturing and passing rest of the real cost - advertising, photographs, and other marketing tools onto the consumers who are lining up to buy into it. Once the company is financially healthy, what incentive do they have to suddenly go into R&D when that's not what built it in the first place? None.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE: AZOTH
I can sit here and write this and make a demand to all supplement company owners and founders to change their ways and make an emotional plea to focus on R&D now and screw their profits. But who am I kidding? That whiny, holier than thou attitude is best left to entitled brats who have nothing do in their lives. Let's get to the bottom line: profits are important. They are the engine that drive companies, wages, and products. What's needed is a blueprint to follow. Instead of calling out others to follow suit, I set out to create AZOTH on precisely those terms.
Today, about 6 months into this process, AZOTH stands as a small success story that serves as an example for an alternative strategy for future supplement companies to follow suit.
Man holds this erroneous belief that his thoughts can be kept private.
This is a fallacy for what man thinks about all day he becomes. If man holds vile thoughts, then so vileness will crystallize into his his habits and his habits in turn crystallize into his circumstances and to his very essence - for the world to see.
Thus man is far better off to open his mind and his thoughts for the world to see. Lest be judged, lest be mocked, lest be ridiculed; but lest be free. Money, power, respect aren't worthy of themselves; they are only worthy if they corroborate into freedom of thought. For thoughts become things and if we are free in our thoughts so we can become new things and can offer the world our greatest gifts.
What use is your degree if you are a slave to the opinion of other men? What use is your title if you are to be silenced in order not to offend your neighbors? What use are your material possessions if your actions are but a mirror of socially acceptable conventions?
I see many men in front of me who are the casting agents, producers, and directors but at best have a line or a side role in their own movies called life. Constantly worried about the opinion of others reduces man to a mere side role in his own life; for he is not living his life; but the life of others and the beliefs held by others.
Nobility lies not in knowing thy neighbor, but knowing thyself. Know yourself and you become an unstoppable force. For you shall take actions to correct your weaknesses and take responsibility where others cower. You shall continue on the path of resistance because your concept of reality and possibility is a reflection of your own inward understanding and not those limitations placed upon you by other men. It is at this point where even the most divine forces shall be in harmony with your soul; for you are directing your own ship and not sitting idly while the current and waves set in motion by the boats of other men decide your destination. This is true strength. Garner it. Protect it. Let it intoxicate you and may it become a maddening obsession.
- Know Thyself
Once we come to realization about how powerful we are in changing things, our perception of the world will change. We will find ourselves to transform from a people of thinkers to a people of doers. Our greatest adversary is within and the greatest obstacles we must overcome are those that we ourselves lay in our own paths. To best oneself, this is the greatest victory.
So next time as you see yourself quitting and questioning as to why you are not succeeding, take a moment of self-reflection. Are you really doing everything you can do to be the best? Are you devoting your entire existence to it, to the extent where it is as important to you as breathing? Have you studied every page in the book? Have you never skipped a meal or a scheduled training session? Did you memorize every line of your investor pitch or are you leaving it up to chance? If the answer is no, you are leaving it up to chance.
I firmly believe that at the end of the day, it is within the imposing shadow of our own standards in which we must eternally dwell. If our standards are to be great in what we do to surpass all expectations and to reach the top, then our standards cannot be mediocre and cannot be dictated by the meek, the unwilling and the lazy. They must be dictated by our own cold and honest interpretation of our actions.
Every great journey towards success begins with a single step. Even if that step is nothing more than accepting that you are in need of crutches. Yet it is this very realization that will drive you to the peak of the mountain.
Stop being part of an assembly line.
Be the assembly line.
As you venture on the path of self improvement, there will come a point when you look from one side to the other and notice that there is nobody there alongside you. Internally motivated, real, self improvement will lead you to a point of having less things in common with those around you.
Becoming mentally and physically strong will make you uninterested in the common. Where most flock to you’ll want to avoid. What most enjoy you’ll find no satisfaction in. Where the willpower of the common crumbles, yours will remain standing like a wall erect.
Become used to being alone in your actions and thoughts. The more things you have in common with average men the more average you will be. The average will try their best to pull you back in at the first sign of you breaking off into an improved lifestyle. Their ability to pull you back in will bring them comfort.
Internal motivation is the key to weeding out the bullshit behavior of the common, soft, comfortable man. You will recognize the bullshit behavior and conversations, I don’t need to specify what they are. Tune them out, ignore the desire for comfort, and always remember why you do what you do. You’ll become good at it.
I subscribe wholeheartedly to the concept that out of chaos comes order. Chances make champions. This life is not for the timid. Fear is a great motivator but not when it fills you with trepidation.
Welcome adversity; your character is measured by how you react when faced with it, not just one thing but many things all at once, insurmountable things. Attack today full force. Dive in head first. Sometimes you end up in the bottom of an empty pool. But at least you dove!
No one said it would be easy, not many noble pursuits are. The hard way tends to be the better way.
Maybe this isn’t the path you’ve chosen but it’s the one that chose you.
Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” I say, “I make my own place to stand. Refuse me that place and I will take it by force!”
If you want to make it to heaven you gotta walk through hell. While I share this sentiment, I feel as though the ones who are in this for the long haul make hell their home, not a walk through but a permanent residence. They embody all that is pain and suffering. For if these things become known to you they come as no surprise. It all ends up being just part of a day’s work. Those who went before us did it. Their journey is one of legend and lore to be emulated.
Their shoes tattered and torn from writing their own history, trudging that same lonely road I’ve been walking, the one you embark on now. Walk a mile in them? You couldn’t even lace ’em up! Be your own motivation. Carve your own place.
What have you sacrificed, had to give up, lost along the way? How much fight is in you? Would you die for what you love? So many people would sit idly by and watch something they love get taken from them. Fight for a little maybe but in the end they fall back, listlessly watching as the fight fades from their eyes. As long as there is blood coursing through your veins, there should be passion in your heart and rage behind your eyes. Around here we claim our kill.
All we have in this life is the legacy we leave behind. You can’t take anything with you when you’re dead. Regret can bury any man regardless of his strength. At the end of days, you find yourself standing at judgment with your life’s work in ruins at your feet. Don’t be left with empty hands. Realize your potential now and not ten years from now. Plans are great but it’s the follow through that counts.
We only get one time around; no regrets, only valiant effort.