If You Think My Book is Too "Negative", Buy Two Copies

At the end of Woody Allen’s classic “Standup Comic” album, one of the few, if not only recordings of his live standup act of the 1960′s, he says to the audience “I’d really like to leave you with a positive statement, but I can’t. Would you accept two negative statements?”

I was thinking about this yesterday when not one but two people told me that the title of my book “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare” is too negative. “People don’t want to read a negative book”, I was told, not once but twice on the same day. “You need a more positive title.”

Okay - let me make this perfectly clear. My book, “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare” tells the story of how I created one of the first spas for men in the world - my dream business - and how that dream business turned into a nightmare for me.

I don’t think the book is negative at all. What I think it is, is truthful. Which is not to say that the book presents the truth. It doesn’t. I don’t know how any book can claim to present the truth, as there are always numerous sides to any story. But my book presents - to the best of my ability within reasonable parameters, that is, a 126-page account - my truth. And my truth just happens to be that founding one of the first spas in the world for men was a very painful and damaging experience for me. If you want to know why - and feel that by reading my book, you might just avoid making some of the mistakes that I made - then I urge you to buy a copy. And read it.

Helping people avoid making painful and expensive mistakes is not a negative enterprise in my view. I actually believe that it can be a very positive one. And I can assure you of this: I wrote my book myself. I did not have an agent, an editor or a publisher. I told my truth exactly the way I wanted to tell it because it is my truth and it belongs to me. I knew that the first thing that any publisher or agent who came along would do is change the title to something more “positive” - like what? “Your Dream Business Doesn’t Have to Turn Into a Nightmare Just Because Mine Did”.Wow, that is an improvement!

If you have a really good idea for a business - your dream business - and you think that you are going to launch it with someone else’s money - then you might just learn a thing or two from my book. I wish I had read it before I started my dream business with someone else’s money.

And, if you think that the title of my book - or the book itself - is too negative, then follow Woddy Allen’s lead, and buy two copies.

So, Why Did You Write Your Book?

So, why did you write your book?

If you are an author, you have probably been asked that question, or have asked it of yourself.

Why did you bother to write your book?

Writing a book is not easy - and selling a book is even harder.

So, why do it, unless you are an established author with a loyal following?

I wrote my book “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare” for five reasons:

1) I felt that I had a story that people would find interesting

2) I wanted to challenge myself to take a lot of information and distil it down into a cogent, compelling narrative

3) I wanted to add another dimension to my professional arsenal - as an author

4) I believed that my story could help other entrepeneurs


5) I felt that if the book caught on, it could reach a wide audience and make money

Last night, I received an email from a wonderful friend named Tom Berend, a very successful entrepreneur and one of the smartest people I know. This is what he wrote:

Hi Alan:

Just read your book cover-to-cover. It’s been on my desk for weeks, but I had only read the first chapter, and it kinda made me cringe - like that horror movie where you watch Jack Nicholson driving through the forest to accept a job at a hotel, and you KNOW it’s going to end really badly…

I’ve got a small venture running in my basement - it’s a REALLY GREAT IDEA. There’s an angel-finance guy pushing me to accept some investors and build a company. He’s got about $500K lined up for me, ready to go. I drafted and redrafted a business plan 7 times before he was happy enough with it to present it to them - and each time, it got better looking. Of course, we are still figuring out who our market is and what our product is, but that’s OK, everyone does that.

But now that I’ve read your book. Hmmm. I realize that I have a REALLY GREAT IDEA and a really wrong business plan. Add money, and investors looking for fast results, that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve put the finance on hold, will keep running on a shoestring until I learn the business.

Thanks for a really great book, it probably saved my life.

Tom Berend

So, why did you write your book?

Now, you know why I wrote mine.

You Can’t Say the Wrong Thing to the Right Person

In my most recent blog post I related an incident in which I was telling a friend about a nutritional program which has the dual effect of eliminating toxins from the body and also achieving weight loss in people who have excess weight - those who do not have weight to lose can actually gain muscle mass as the product contains very high-quality whey protein - but the point of my post was that my friend - who was gulping down a coffee concoction which has over 1000 calories at the time was very skeptical of the product that I was telling him about - a nutritional product which has been endorsed, by the way, by many medical experts, including the former nutritional advisor to the White House. What I wished to bring out by relating this incident was that it can often be very difficult to convince people that a product or service is good for them, but they have no trouble believing that something is bad for them. We seem to expect bad news and be suspicious of good news - why is that? There are many products in life which are good, and many people who wish to do good things - why be skeptical of them?

I received a comment on my blog from Drew Berman, one of the real leaders in the nutritional company which I was writing about, and a really positive, motivational person. A terrific guy to know. He stated the situation in a somewhat different way, but the point was the same: You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person or the right thing to the wrong person.

Drew’s comment resonated with me because on the very day that I wrote my post, I had a meeting with another long-time associate, and I was telling him about my experience in creating one of the first spas in the world for men. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that when I first opened the spa, I had a burning desire to convert even the most hard-core guys into clients, so that, if a woman told me that her husband or boyfriend was the kind of guy who would never go to a spa, I would say “Just send him to me. I’ll convert him.” This was the kind of challenge I was looking for in the early days.

However, after a while I figured out that trying to convert the guy who was dead set against what I had to offer into a client simply wasn’t worth the effort. I stopped trying to prove something and just focused on attracting perfect customers. And who was my perfect customer - the guy who was looking for the personal care services that we offered at the spa. If someone told me that either they or their husband or boyfriend would never set foot in a spa, I’d say, fine, we’re not looking for that kind of client.

Thanks, Drew. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person or the right thing to the wrong person. Or, as Johnny Carson used to say about sketch comedy: If you don’t buy the premise, you don’t buy the bit.

If you have a business, stop trying to convert the unconvertible and focus on the people who already get your message.

It’s a lot easier and makes a lot more sense.

Why is Good News so Hard to Believe?

Readers of this blog know that I usually use this space to write about my experience in launching and managing one of the first spas in the world for men, called The Men’s PowerSpa.

I have also written a book about that experience called “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn into a Nightmare”.

The incident which I am going to relate in this post occurred during the time that I was managing the business, but it does not necessarily have to do with small business. It has more to do with what I will refer to as human perversity.

While I was still running my spa for men, one of my clients - who was also a good friend - was introduced to a nutritional cleansing program created by a company in the United States called Isagenix.

Isagenix is reputed to be the world leader in nutritional cleansing, and their flagship program is a 30-day cleanse, which not only removes toxins from the system, but also achieves weight loss in most people who follow the program, because toxins in the body are encased in fat.

My friend followed the 30-day program very conscientiously, and he lost 24 pounds in 30 days. Not only that, he reported that he felt great - had more energy, was sleeping better and felt less stressed. I watched the transformation with my own eyes and I can certainly attest to the fact that he looked like a new man.

I was intrigued not only because of the dramatic improvement that I saw in my friend’s appearance, but because I had started a spa, and the 30-day detoxification program seemed to be a perfect fit for a business that had as its mission to help men look and feel their best.

Within a few months of being introduced to the Isagenix nutritional cleansing program, I had the falling out with my investors that I chronicled in my book “Don’t Let Your Dream Business Turn Into a Nightmare”, and was no longer running the spa, but I continued to be involved with Isagenix. To this day - almost three years later - I have an Isalean protein shake for breakfast every day, and I attribute the fact that I have been able to remain healthy despite the stress that I have experienced over the past few years to Isagenix. I have also recommended the 30-day program to several of my friends - guys who had said for years that they wanted to lose weight and improve their nutrition - and the results that they have achieved have been phenomenal.

I have also asked several personal trainers whom I have known for many years to evaluate the products. One of them is Sheldon Persad. I have known Sheldon for over 20 years. He is one of the most straightforward, no-nonsense people I have ever known, and totally dedicated to his personal training practice. I asked him to evaluate the products in the Isagenix nutrtional cleansing program over two years ago. He spent the first year trying to find flaws in it and looking for reasons not to recommend it to his clients. Now, he not only recommends it to his clients, he has put his mother on the program. That is how much he believes in it.

Last night, I went into the back office of my Isagenix website and reviewed some of the training videos from Isagenix University. In video after video, professionals from the world of medicine endorse and explain the benefits of the Isagenix products - one of them is the former nutritional consultant to the White House, while another is a colorectal surgeon. There are chiropractors, gynecologists, gastroenterologists - all expounding the health benefits of the 30-day nutritional cleansing program and the other Isagenix products.

Watching the videos last night reminded me of an incident which occurred while I was still running my spa for men. I was having coffee with another of my clients -another gent who had said for years that he really wanted to lose weight. He had at least 30 pounds of excess weight that had accumulated around his middle - which is a serious health concern for men. Women tend not to develop a “bowling ball” of excess weight in their belly in the way that men do.

When I mentioned the Isagenix program to him, and the phenomenal results that I had seen in several of my friends, he was immediately skeptical - and rattled off a number of people that he would have to consult before embarking on the program - his massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist - etc.

While we were chatting, he was consuming one of those frothy coffee concoctions which has been shown to contain more fat and calories than a cheeseburger and fries. As far as I know, he had not consulted with any of his medical team before pouring that into his body - but he wanted to make sure that the Isagenix products that had been endorsed by the former nutritional consultant to the White House were safe.

This incident tells you why it can be so hard to sell people anything that is good for them - whether it is a nutritional cleansing program or a spa service. We always believe bad news - does anyone doubt that the frothy coffee drink is really full of fat, sugar and caffeine and that it has absolutely no nutritional value? Everyone knows that, and yet people line up to buy it all day long.

But try telling people about a product that is actually good for them - that can help them eliminate toxins, lose excess weight, gain energy and reduce stress. Must be a con, they say.

We believe bad news and doubt the good news. Perhaps that’s why obesity has reached epidemic levels in our society, along with other lifestyle-related illnesses.

Call it human perversity.