It was a beautiful Saturday in early September and I was in total bliss.
I was at a lake house, my friends were all around, and we were simply relaxing - enjoying the last days of summer. Then a rush of panic came over me as I realized the truth of the situation.
This was all a lie. In reality, I was doomed.
Willpowered was still operating at a loss and showing no signs of improvement. And I was in the same position that I was back in March. In just 45 days, I would be out of cash and forced to shut down the site.
I spent the rest of the weekend letting the emotions wash over me.
I'm just one of the millions of writers who aren’t able to make their work into a living.
I'm just going to be a statistic amongst the 90% of businesses that fail.
I'm going to let friends, family, and investors down again.
I couldn't get the thoughts out of my head. I knew in my heart that Willpowered was my life's work...how could I let this happen?!
But then I snapped out of it.
I still have 45 days left. This isn’t over. Time to get to work.
This is how I saved Willpowered and helped it become more vibrant than ever.
CONFRONTING THE BRUTAL FACTS
The biggest issue I had up until that point was not confronting the brutal facts. 
Willpowered was not growing. Some ideas that I thought were brilliant were not working. I made some terrible decisions about where to invest my money, and simply ignored the consequences of that.
That Saturday on the lake was the first time I truly confronted the brutal facts of my reality. Once I confronted the fact that everything was coming to an end, I started confronting the other brutal facts as well.
Some classes were not working.
I was spending too much time marketing.
And The Will of Heroes manuscript was sitting there for months without me touching it.
Then it hit me! The Will of Heroes!
The research project that initially ignited my passion for willpower was being ignored. My first draft was just sitting there. Untouched for months because I was distracted by other opportunities.
It was time to get back to work on it. If this ship was going down, I was going to spend my last days on the project that I truly loved.
When your life is in balance, you make steady progress. You achieve an equilibrium and allow small changes to add up to big improvements over time. This is known as the "slight-edge" and it is one of the keys to mastery.
But sometimes in life, balance is not what’s required. Sometimes you need to tip the scales in one direction. And that requires focusing on one thing and putting all of your effort into it. 
So I became hyper-focused.
I revisited the manuscript, updated it with my current research, added pieces to the stories that I have since written about, and added Temple Grandin as one of the heroes.
Everything else – family, friends, exercise, marketing, everything – was put in the “it can wait” pile as I forced myself to focus on The Will of Heroes until the manuscript was 100% complete.
It took me 3 weeks of focus to update the manuscript, re-edit it, and get it ready to be published. That meant I now had only 24 days until the lights were turned off.
The big problem…how do I make this word document into an actual book?
- Try to sell the manuscript to publishers.
- Self-edit and self-publish the book ASAP.
- Hit up friends and family to raise money to professionally edit and self-publish.
- Run a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to professionally edit and self-publish.
As a first time author, I had little chance of even getting a publisher to look at my manuscript in the next 24 days, let alone buy it! Option number 1 was tossed.
Next, although I'm working hard to become a great writer, I am far from a great editor. If I self-edited the book, it wouldn’t do justice to the heroes I wrote about. The end product would be amateur and worthless. Option 2 was tossed.
At this point, I had already raised a total of over $100,000 from friends and family alone in my various startup failures. I couldn’t ask them for any more given the reality of my situation. Option 3 was tossed.
So it was option 4 or nothing. And I didn’t have any time to waste.
Those who succeed on Kickstarter campaigns start marketing months in advance.
They start creating connections, informing their personal networks, and building subscriber lists strictly for the purposes of their Kickstarter.
With 24 days left, I didn’t have time for any of that!
Confronting the brutal facts, I realized that I wouldn’t be successful if I started the Kickstarter right away. But I also couldn’t survive for months to do adequate pre-marketing either.
My only option was to go to the bank and try to extend my line of credit. Luckily, they said yes. They extended a $2,000 business line of credit which would give me 14 more days of oxygen and allow me to invest in some marketing for the Kickstarter.
It was my last bet. Now I really could not fail.
So I started investing in marketing. I read everything I could about who is successful on Kickstarter and why, then created a plan based on that research. With the plan ready, I launched the campaign on October 12th.
30 days. $12,000. Do-or-die.
THE FIRST 20 DAYS
Despite the humbling experience that I endured up to that point, I was still cocky.
I believed that with the popularity of the Willpowered blog, my "genius" book concept, and the marketing plan I had, I was going to make it. After all…willpower! That’s my thing! I can do this!
But, as I outline in this post, I was dead wrong. Things were beginning to look very bad. The only people who pledged the campaign were fiercely loyal subscribers and close friends.
So with 10 days left on the Kickstarter, I felt like I was finally at the end of my road.
I was only halfway to the goal. I was out of friends. Subscribers were tired of me trying to sell them. And I had run out of blogger/press connections.
My hope was dwindling…
IT’S NEVER OVER
It was then that I had a wake up call - I was being completely selfish! I was only focused on myself and my goal.
Since that day out on the lake, where the brutal fact of the impending doom of Willpowered was coming, I was focused on one thing – saving it.
While it was good that I was focused, I realized that I was also selfish. I was waiting for others to come around and help me, but I wasn’t willing to do the same for them.
So I changed my attitude over the last 10 days.
I was going to be the person for others that I wished would be there for me. So even if my dream was going to die, maybe I'd be able to help one or two other people save theirs.
Instantly, everything changed.
- Days 15-20 average of $115 raised/day
- Day 21 - $1540
- Day 22 - $201
- Day 23 - $776
- Day 24 - $397
- Day 25 - $1305
That 5 days put us within $1200 with 5 days left!
THIS IS HAPPINESS
The night of Day 25 my computer crashed at 11:47pm – permanently deleting the blog post I had been working on for the last 3 hours.
I was tired. I was out of willpower. And I couldn't believe I had to redo 3 hours of work!
But then I received a message from a fellow author on Kickstarter right as I was ready to toss my computer out the window.
That message from Roddy Carter gave me the Want Power I needed to sit down and re-write the blog post.
So I re-wrote it for the next 3 hours, I scheduled the newsletter to subscribers which took another hour, then promoted it on social media and other media outlets until 5am. Then I went to bed.
5 hours later, I woke up to a text from a friend…(I edited out some strong language).
I was in utter shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t allow myself to believe it because I didn’t want to feel the disappointment if it wasn’t true. But a man from Russia had just pledged $1200 and took the project over the finish line.
Before I celebrated, I needed to message him to make sure it wasn’t some mistake.
He emailed me back right away.
It's also the honour for me to be your business angel. I think you have enough lessons learned from this campaign and deserve a good weekend”
That was it. It was done. Willpowered was saved.
I instantly thought back to my realization at the lake house when I had to confront the brutal fact of my reality.
I thought about all of the doubts, the fears, the anxiety, and the willpower I expended since that day. Then I allowed myself to feel the emotional weight, and I just broke down.
Much like this…
(I'm not going to say my life was nearly as bad as Chris Gardner's - he was homeless - but if things didn't work out...it wouldn't have been much better).
This was tough to write about. I made some bad mistakes over the last 2 months.
I probably shouldn't have got so close to the edge. I probably should have had a backup plan if the Kickstarter didn't work out. I probably shouldn't have made that last bet which would have put me into further debt if it didn't work out.
But it was precisely because I had no other option that I was able to summon the willpower I needed to think outside of the box, devote everything I have to this, and push my comfort zone in ways I didn't think possible.
But, of course, I really didn't save anything. You did. Readers of this blog, friends I made through the process, and fellow dreamers did. No man is an island. And I thank you for being a part of making the future of Willpowered look brighter than ever!
- Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap--and others don't. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.
- Gary Vaynerchuk: The Secret to a Healthy Work-Life Balance. (2015, March 20). Retrieved November 16, 2015, from http://www.inc.com/laura-montini/gary-vaynerchuk-s-secret-to-work-life-balance.html