Rule #6: Principles Before Practicality

There is no worse state of mind than desperation.

You forget your values.
You compromise your principles.
You truly lose yourself.

You become so focused on getting out of whatever jam you're in, that you lose sight of the consequences of your actions.

Since starting Willpowered, I have almost always been in the state of desperation to one degree or another.

This desperation forced me to confront a lot of temptation to compromise on my values of integrity, honesty, and long-term focus.

When the rent is due in 3 days, it's easy to see everyone who comes to your site as a means to your own end.

Especially when you can justify such thinking by saying, "I'm doing important work for the practical use of science ā€” I deserve their money!"

But even in my most desperate moments, I avoided this mindset by adhering to Rule #6:

Principles before practicality.

PUTTING PRINCIPLES BEFORE PRACTICALITY

Marketing is a beautiful thing ā€” when done right.

Thanks to this ad by Apple in 1997, when Steve Jobs returned to the company, I will be an Apple customer for as long as the spirit of this message is alive.

It shows me that Apple is building its products for the type of people I want to be like ā€” and even inspires me to approach my daily work with their mindset.

As an Apple customer for the last six years, I can feel the passion behind the products they make, and how they help me become more like my heroes in that ad.

This beautiful mix of marketing and products is what happens when a company puts principles before practicality.

When that ad was released, Apple was a terrible company.It was so terrible that Michael Dell ā€” founder of Dell Computer ā€” said if he were the CEO of Apple, he'd shut the business down.

The practical pressures on Apple were enormous.

Yet, instead of releasing an advertisement touting the concrete benefits of buying a Mac over a PC, they had the audacity to promote themselves as, "helping the next Einstein change the world."

I started out in marketing, and I always tried to follow this method in all of my messaging.

Unfortunately, many of my colleagues have not done the same.

PUTTING PRACTICALITY BEFORE PRINCIPLES

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers today seriously ask themselves, "how can we trick people's primitive brain, so they buy from us?"

You can find endless articles about how to..

Create false scarcity...
Get customers to ACT NOW!
And improve marketing metrics to boost your bottom line...

The worst example of this is when marketers try to lower their unsubscribe rate by making the process unbearably confusing and ineffective.

Think about what is happening here...

You have a college-educated individual using their limited time on this earth to:

  1. Make the unsubscribe link as hard to find in the email as possible.
  2. Naming it something other than "Unsubscribe" so it confuses you.
  3. Then if you do make it to the unsubscribe page, adding options so you only unsubscribe from the particular category that you just received.

They spend their time doing all of this instead of...I don't know...

Working to improve their content!!

Nope, they'd prefer to make life miserable for the people who had the audacity to sign up for their email list and support their work.

Anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

If you are a content creator, marketer, etc. who has done this in the past, I understand. It is a noisy world, and you want to do whatever you can to get an edge to get your voice heard. And this is a very tempting way to improve your metrics.

But this is a waste of your time, skills, and intelligence.

And it will only end up hurting you and your subscribers in the end.

HOW TO AVOID THE PRACTICALITY TRAP

Marketing is just one example, of course.

In your life, I'm sure there is a practical solution you can think of that goes against your principles or what is best for the long term.

The best way to avoid this trap is to remember what your real goal is.

When I faced the temptation above, I reminded myself that my total number of subscribers doesn't matter.

What matters is how many people find my work valuable when they apply it to their daily lives.

With this goal in mind, my total subscribers ā€” or unsubscribers ā€” does not give me any information on how well I'm progressing.

A much better measure is the click-thru rate.

How many people click the link from my email because the idea resonated with them?

That metric is the only one that matters when it comes to the email list ā€” so that's the one I focused on.

And what happened?

Well, a "good" click-thru rate is somewhere around 2-3% in my industry. But I've been steadily increasing mine to 13.6%

Click-Thru Rate.png

4X better than the benchmark for my industry.

How did I do it?

BECAUSE I DIDN'T WASTE MY TIME PUNISHING MY SUBSCRIBERS BY CREATING A CONFUSING UNSUBSCRIBE PROCESS!!

Instead, I spent my time...

Learning who my subscribers were...
Discovering my true value to them...
And writing better content.

None of these things provided immediate results ā€” but they are the reason I'm able to wake up every day and do work I'm passionate about for the rest of my life.

All because I put principles before practicality.

CONCLUSION

Until the day I die, I will always have a short term, viable solution, that is practical at the moment, but goes against my principles.

By recognizing this, I was able to continue making long-term, disciplined decisions; even when I faced moments of desperation.

A practical, short-term, easy way out will always be there to tempt you. The next time you notice it, just remember...

Principles before practicality.