The following is an excerpt from a book called The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss. It’s got nothing to do with e-commerce, but everything to do with handling challenges in life, relationships, and knowing yourself.

The core concept is that growing up as children, we are often exposed to positive and negative trauma that can determine how we act as adults. Even a small thing such as dad coming home from work angry, over many months and years can leave a scar that you don’t realize until you do the long journey of introspective work.

But diagnosing yourself is like trying to touch your right elbow with your right hand.

This part of the book lays out an overview on how to get started. Enjoy!


In the beginning

You were born. And like all infants, you were completely vulnerable and dependent, with a new developing brain and no understanding of the world.

In a perfect world

Your parents would be perfect. They would be dedicated full-time to taking care of your physical and psychological needs, always making the right decisions, setting the healthiest boundaries, and protecting you from all harm, while preparing you to eventually take care of your needs without them.

But in the real world

No one is perfect. Neither are your parents, nor the people who play a role in your upbringing. Therefore, along the way, some of your developmental needs don’t get met.

And the problem is

When one of your needs doesn’t get met, however big or small, it can leave a wound. These wounds are known as childhood trauma. Each instance or pattern of trauma can create specific core personal issues and relationship challenges – and if these are left untreated, you’re likely to pass your wounds on to the next generation.

Since this trauma occurs early in life, it can affect social, emotional, behavioral, and moral development.

It’s not always overt or intentional…

Most commonly, people think of trauma as coming from hateful perpetrators who are knowingly and willingly abusive. But even parents who think of themselves as loving or well-meaning make mistakes, cross boundaries, or simply do their best with the limited internal resources they have.

And this covert, often unrecognized form of abuse can, through its constant repetition, leave wounds just as deep as those created by a single malicious act.


It can be an emotional scar…

In your earliest years, you’re the center of the universe. Everything revolves around you. so wounds can come from caregivers who are either out of control or completely detachted from their emotions around you.

When mom is always full of anxiety as she’s breastfeeding, dad comes home in a rage every time he has a rough day at work, or step dad is depressed by his money problems during the rare moments he spends with you, you soak up these emotions like a sponge, often erroneously taking the blame or responsibility for them.

Even if a parent falls ill and passes away, it can seem like abandonment or something you made happen if you’re too young to understand death.

It can be physical…

Most people understand that it’s not okay to physically harm or even spank a child. But here’s an example that’s not as obvious: any invasive medical procedure such as circumcision or getting stitches – may register the exact same as physical abuse if you experience it in your first few years of life.

You may even start to distrust your caregivers for bringing you to an unfamiliar place and not keeping you safe.

Often it’s intellectual…

After the first few years of life, you start to separate from your parents. In this period, it’s their job to help you become your own person and confidently stand on your own two feet in the world.

Here, a whole new set of problems can arise – especially when parents try to over-control you, habitually criticize you, or unreasonably expect you to be perfect. Other families adhere to such rigid rules that any manifestation of a child’s individuality is immediately attacked as a threat.

All these can lead to esteem problems in life.

Or it can take over your entire identity…

Within a dysfunctional family system, each child tends to play a different role that helps the family survive and detracts from its real issues. These can include the revered hero, the trouble-making scapegoat, the neglected lost child, the people-pleasing placater, and the mood-lifting mascot.

Later in life, these roles (as well as birth order) can lead to corresponding personality issues, whether it’s the hero’s judgemental perfection, the scapegoat’s explosive anger, the lost child’s low self-esteem, the placater’s denial of personal needs, or the mascot’s impulsive irresponsibility.


But it’s not easy to see your own core issues…

Your oldest beliefs, behaviors, and adaptations have not just been reinforced by decades of habit, but are built deep into the architecture of your brain, which is busy building neural connections at an astounding rate in early life.

As the saying goes – “Cells that fire together, wire together.

So trying to see yourself with any objectivity can be like trying to touch your right elbow with your right hand. But if you can detach yourself from yourself a little bit, you’ll notice that the things you do and think don’t just come out of nowhere.

Here are a few techniques and tools you can use to better understand the way your past can interfere with your happiness, your relationships, and your life today.

You can work backward…

Are you relentlessly driving yourself to succeed and beating yourself up when you fail? Maybe that’s because when you were a teenager, your parents made you feel as if your worth as a human being was dependent upon your grades, touchdowns, or accomplishments.

Are you out of touch with your emotions because stepdad always told you to toughen up when you cried? Do you feel deep down like you don’t matter because you were often ignored growing up? Are you always trying to save or care for others because you were never able to save mom from her depression or addiction?

Are you in complete denial that anything was wrong with your family because dad acted as if he were infallible and must be unquestioningly obeyed, so criticizing him would be like blaspheming God?

You can excuse my language…

Some of you have a big bag of shit you’re carrying around. And every time you encounter a situation in which you can possibly get more shit to put in the bag, you grab it and stuff it inside. You’ll even ignore all the diamonds glittering nearby, because all you can see is the shit.

This shit is known as “the stories you tell yourself.”

Examples include generalizations like “I make bad decisions,” “If people saw the real me, they wouldn’t like me,” or conversely, “No one is good enough for me.” Each of these beliefs can be formed in childhood by, respectively, fault-finding parents, abandoning parents, and parents who put you on a pedestal.

As a result, you can spend much of your life misinterpreting situations and thinking you’ve found more evidence to support these false conclusions formed in childhood.

One way to recognize when you’re stuck in your own story is whenever you feel less than or better than others. You can examine this chart…

Wounded Child

(Emotionally 0-5)

Adapted Adolescent

(Emotionally 6-18)

Functional Adult

(Emotionally Mature)


Extremely Vulnerable

Extremely Needy

Feed Bad / Naughty

Out of Control

Fears Abandonment

Seeks Attention

Idealizes Caretakers

Idealizes Partners




Feels Blameless/Perfect


Fears Suffocation

Seeks Intensity

Disillusioned By Caretakers

Disillusioned By Partners

Esteemed From Within

Healthy Boundaries

Communicates Needs

Honest And Self-Aware

Flexible And Moderate


Lives In Integrity And Harmony

In Reality About Caretakers

In Reality About Parents


Then you ask yourself...

In a given week, do you exhibit any of the wounded child or adolescent behaviors here? If so, you may have either gotten stuck somewhere along the way in your emotional or behavioral development, or certain situations are causing you to revert to those ages.

Any time you overreact to something – by shutting down, losing your temper, sulking, feeling hopeless, freaking out, disassociating, or any of numerous other dysfunctional behaviors – it’s typically because an old wound has been triggered.

And you’re regressing to the childhood or adolescent state that corresponds to that feeling. Note that the wounded child tends to directly internalize the messages that caretakers give; the adopted adolescent tends to react against them.

However, not everyone reacts the same way…

And children are born with different predispositions and resiliency.

So if you remain loyal to people who abuse and mistreat you, that’s called trauma bonding. If you only feel normal if you’re doing something extreme or high-risk, that’s trauma arousal. If you’ve developed intense self-loathing, you’ve got trauma shame.

If you find chemical mental, or technological ways to numb yourself and your feelings, that’s trauma blocking. And it goes on and on. One pattern of trauma; many different possible responses to it.

We’ve only scratched the surface.

But at least you know the model we’re working with here.

It’s not about blaming but understanding…

In summary, we each spend our adult lives running on a unique operating system that took some eighteen years to program and is full of distinct bugs and viruses.

And when we put together all these different theories of attachment, developmental immaturity, post-traumatic stress, and internal family systems, they make up a body of language that allows us to run a virus scan on ourselves and, at any point, to look at our behaviors, our thoughts, and our feelings, and figure out where they come from.

That’s the easy part.


The tough part is to quarantine the virus, and to recognize the false self and restore the true self. Because it isn’t until we start developing an honest, compassionate, and functional relationship with ourselves that we can begin to experience a healthy, loving relationship with others.

Subscribe to Build My Online Store in your favorite podcast player, or check out the episode list of our eCommerce podcast.

Last month I read a book called The Martian just before the movie came out in October 2015. It’s about an astronaut named Mark Watney that gets stranded on Mars after his crew mistakenly believes he’s dead after being hit by debris in a violent sandstorm.

Once they leave and the dust settles, he has to find a way to survive, extend his supply, and make it to the landing site of the next Mars mission (2,000+ miles away) nearly three years later. 

While the book is a bit nerdy with science, math, physics, and chemistry thrown in, it’s a great story for bootstrappers when all odds are stacked against you. Here are my takeaways with massive spoiler alerts. You’ve been warned!

“If you want to play it safe all the time, go join an insurance company.”

Shortly after Mark Watney fixes his wounds and patches himself up, he does a quick calculation on what could go wrong and cause him to die. If the oxygenator breaks down, he’ll run out of air and suffocate. If the water relcaimer breaks, he’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, the loss of pressure will cause him to explode. And if none of that happens, he’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

The odds are stacked against him, but he understands what he signed up for. Like bootstrapping a business, you’ve signed up to do something that isn’t provided in a standard life script or path in society.

Lesson #1: Know your level of risk tolerance.

“My asshole is doing as much to keep me alive as my brain.”

As Watney decides that he’s not giving up and wants to stay alive, he quickly does an inventory of how much food and supplies he has left. The mission had enough food for six people, but since he’s alone it can be stretched out to over a year with some rationing. However, the next mission to Mars wouldn’t be there until 3-4 years later, so he’d starve to death way before then.

Being a botanist, he realzies that he can grow potatoes from the food NASA packed in order to stretch out his food supply. The challenge lies in finding fertilizer that will make the potatoes grow. Taking extreme measures, he goes through the waste bin and starts digging up turds to mix with the martian soil.

Lesson #2: Be resourceful and make the most out of what you’ve got.

“It’s awesome to have a bunch of dipshits on Earth telling me, a botanist, how to grow plants.”

Once Watney reestablishes communication with NASA, they start micromanaging everything he does on Mars. From verifying his math on growing potatoes to maintenance of life-critical equipment, he grows impatient with people 40 million miles away giving advice when they don’t have their own lives on the line.

Much like the internet with everyone telling you what to do, there’s a ton of noise out there. In particular for folks that specialize within one area of marketing, they tend to become a hammer and see everything as a nail. In the end it’s up to you to make the decision, move forward, and test things to see what works for you.

Lesson #3: You don’t have to listen to all the advice you get.

“To NASA, equipment failure is terrifying. To me, it’s Tuesday.”

Shortly after NASA hatches a plan to extend Watney’s supplies by sending a probe, they decide to skip the safety checks after much debate since there’s no time left. If they spend another two weeks running tests, the window for delivery will be gone because of how Earth and Mars orbit.

As with Murphy’s law, what goes wrong will go wrong. Inside the supply cache, vibrations during launch cause some foods to liquify and slosh around, which threw the rocket off balance and eventually exploded. Meanwhile, Watney is back on Mars trying to figure out how to make water to grow potatoes by adding hydrogen to oxygen and almost blowing himself up in the process.

Lesson #4: Deal with the punches as they come along, it’s better than sitting around using perfection as an excuse.

“I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.”

In order to get off the planet, Watney must drive 3,200 km across the Martian surface to get on board the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) that will link up with his crew back in space. The NASA rovers are powered by solar panels, and Watney must bring extra ones on the side of the rover in order to recharge and have enough power to make it across.

He makes a bracket similar to how motorbikes carry surfboards, and proceeds to test the durability by throwing rocks at it. Unfortunately on Mars there is no third party agency that can verify the qualify of his work, so this rudimentary system will have to do.

Lesson #5: It’s easy to overcomplicae things so remember to KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

“You just need to solve one problem after another till the end to survive and come home.”

Once Watney returns to earth in the movie, he’s teaching an upcoming class of astronauts on what to expect in space. He provides his simple blueprint of solving one problem at a time and not getting stuck inside the big picture and “what-ifs”.

First it was figuring out how to re-establish communications, then extend his food supply, then make water, then get to the next launch site, and finally link up with his crew in space. While any mistake resulted in death, he always focused on the task at hand and solved them one at a time.

The sharpest store owners I’ve seen have an ability to break big goals down into small tasks that they can accomplish on a day to day, week by week, and month by month basis. Compared with newer entrepreneurs that get pulled in multiple directions, you can see the vast difference in results after a year!

Lesson #6: Focus.

“Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.”

Shortly after NASA finds out that Watney is still alive, they withhold the information from the remaining Ares III crew so that they can focus on the return mission. The head of NASA refuses to let them circle back and rescue Watney because there’s a small chance of killing all six people compared to a high risk of losing just one person.

A big fight ensues with the flight team commander going rogue with a secret message to the crew about a slingshot plan to rescue Watney. The Ares III crew ends up forcing NASA’s hand by going off course and starting the rescue.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help and easier to just suffer in silence. I’m guilty of this myself and it’s relieving when you know there are people willing  talk through some problems or challenges you’re facing.

Lesson #7: Ask for help if you need it…you’d be surprised at the kind response from most folks.

Subscribe to Build My Online Store in your favorite podcast player, or check out the episode list of our eCommerce podcast.

It’s really hard to focus now with so many distractions. I’ve tried things like Steven Covey’s time management grid, blocking social media websites, task-list software, or just plain old pencil and paper. None of them really pushed the needle and it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled upon a new system that’s been working in the past few weeks. Full credit to John Logar in this video for the inspiration.


Four Categories Of Tasks

Most time management philosophy prioritizes tasks around a mix of importance and urgency. But as a small business owner, generating income is what really matters. You’re not part of a large company where life and death of the business is your responsibility. This system ranks your daily tasks based on their ability to generate income or not. They are broken down into four categories:

  • $$$ = Primary Income Generators
  • $ = Secondary Income Generators
  • OS = Outsource
  • TW = Time Waster


#1: Primary Income Generators ($$$)

  • Asking existing customers to buy again
  • Sending out an offer
  • Promoting sales funnel
  • Promote existing product 
  • Implementing cart abandonment emails
  • Sending out invoices
  • Following up on invoices
  • Following up on wholesale quotes older than 3 months
  • Scheduling calls with B2B customers


#2: Secondary Income Generators ($)

  • Developing strategic partnerships
  • Writing email sequences
  • Developing a lead funnel or landing page
  • Creating a new product or offer
  • Creating content, guest posting, interviews, etc
  • Direct mail and offline marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Tradeshows, events, and conferences
  • Managing paid advertisements
  • Negotiating discounts on software and tools


#3: Outsource (OS)

  • Packing and fulfilling orders
  • Managing live chat
  • Implementing technical stuff
  • Programming and web development
  • Graphic design
  • Market research
  • Copywriting
  • Customer support emails
  • Processing refunds and returns


#4: Time Waster (TW)

  • Inbox watching
  • Clicking around analytics
  • Clicking email links in newsletters
  • Reading auto responders
  • Reading forums without intent to implement
  • Browsing social media
  • Reading news
  • Scrolling through iPad
  • Watching webinars
  • Playing Clash of Clans
  • Checking out software and new tools
  • Buying something you won’t use right away
  • Procrastinating


How To Implement This?

  • Step 1: Write down all the tasks you’ve completed in the past week.
  • Step 2: Label them as $$$, $, OS, or TW based on the categories above .
  • Step 3: Block off 1-2 hours per day to focus ONLY on tasks marked $$$.

How To Prioritize Your Time On Income Generating Tasks

Knowing which tasks are primary or secondary income generators is the big takeaway you should get. It’s easy to get muddled in-between them and I hope this gives you some clarity. After this exercise, you should get much-needed focus from the noise that you have to deal with on a daily basis.


Download The Worksheet

Still need help? Check out a printable PDF worksheet that you can use to get started in the Free Marketing Toolkit by joining the mailing list.

Subscribe to Build My Online Store in your favorite podcast player, or check out the episode list of our eCommerce podcast.

Last week I caught up with a few SEO guys to talk about what’s new and changing as 2015 comes to a close. Everyone agreed that it was becoming harder to game the system, and having high quality content was even more important for a site. So what’s considered “high quality content”?

It’s certainly not 300-400 word articles that are keyword stuffed. We’re talking about 1,000+ words as a minimum, partnered with beautiful images, and composed in a strong narrative. These are articles you want to save and read when you’re on the toilet (lol). In my view, that’s a good litmus test on how awesome something is.

A couple of them from my archive:

I know you’re probably thinking “Hey I’m not Wired, New York Times, or some professional writer – so how am I supposed to do this?” Well, you’re asking the wrong question – they should be:

  • What questions are people asking?
  • How can I provide the best possible answer?
  • How will I deliver it to them?
  • How is mine better? (Design, Quality, Length, Depth?)

In those four articles I listed above:

  • What happens behind-the-scenes as a high-end escort in New York?
  • Who is Edward Snowden?
  • Why is SpaceX obsessed with Mars?
  • How do I get started with Crossfit?

The next step involves finding the people that are asking questions. Think about it…if they’ve taken the time to register an account online, create a post, and ask a question – chances are it’s a topic that’s pretty important to them. If I had a blog and store dedicated to selling interval training workout equipment such as clothing, supplements, and kettlebells – here are six channels to find topics that my customer cares about:

  • Wikipedia
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • BuzzSumo
  • Forums

There are plenty of other methods online, but this is just a small list that gets you started without getting distracted by wormholes in social media. Topics that you find here can be used for email opt-ins, long-form articles to get SEO juice, or post-purchase email sequences.

Since most people aren’t ready to buy from you on their first website visit, use it as a part of your funnel to get their contact information and control the channel of communication.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of workout that varies on time and intensity. Instead of jogging on a treadmill, you’d instead sprint for 30 seconds at maximum effort, then job for 1 minute, then cycle through again. The specifics vary, but that’s the 80/20 of how HIIT works. So let’s take a look at what each channel offers if we’re looking for content ideas.



This is the go-to solution for anything you want to learn more about. It’s the first place you go, and anyone can edit or add to an existing article without formal training. However, the key lies in the references. Usually these are high-quality articles that have passed the quality test, so take a look at them to get inspiration. If we plug high intensity internal trianing, here are some ideas that show up in references:

  • Ten ways to get more from your workout
  • “High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion?
  • “The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training”

How To Find Content Ideas For Your Email Opt-In Lead Magnet




Also known as the “front page of the internet”, Reddit is an aggregator of the most popular discussion topics online. Users can upvote or downvote submitted content, making this a self-selecting pool of the best topics. The key is sorting it by “Top” to find the all-time most upvoted topics. A quick and easy way to find out what people are asking about. For HIIT, it looks like there isn’t much action on Reddit, but a few ideas:

  • HIIT Workout routines you can easily mix in your week
  • HIIT workout routines for women

How To Find Content Ideas For Your Email Opt-In Lead Magnet



Known mostly as a site that women use to curate wedding dresses or fashion ideas, Pinterest is a goldmine for infographics and DIY “how-to” tutorials. The key is to identify images that are heavily re-pinned, commented, and liked. The social proof doesn’t get better than that. If we do a quick search on HIIT, here are a few topics we can gleam:

  • Five rules of effective HIIT
  • 15 minute sprint intervals for fat loss and muscle gain

How To Find Content Ideas On Pinterest



One of the best Q&A sites on the internet, Quora has high quality filters on both sides to provide users with the most relevant answers. All content is curated by its community of users, and many high profile experts/celebrities are on there. Like Reddit, users can also upvote answers they find useful. If we put HIIT into Quora, here are some ideas we get based off the top stories:

  • Is it better to do intervals or steady jogging for fat burning?
  • What are the benefits of interval training over traditional cardio?
  • Which is more effective for fat loss?

How To Find Content Ideas On Quora How To Find Content Ideas On Quora How To Find Content Ideas On Quora



This is a tool created by Noah Kagan and the AppSumo team that allows you to see total shares on social media for certain topics or content. By having an idea what’s being shared across Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, you can strategically find topics of high interest to your customers. The free version allows you to search within the past year, and you’ll need a paid version to get the historical data. Nevertheless, a year’s time span is enough to keep up with what’s going on and relevant. Here’s what HIIT gives us in Buzzsumo:

  • The Beginner’s Guide To HIIT
  • The 30-Day HIIt Training Challenge
  • HIIT: 10 Exercises That Will Warm You Up Instantly

How To Find Content Ideas For Your Email Opt-In Lead Magnet




There’s a forum for virtually every topic on Earth. Depending on your niche some may be easy to find, while others hide in the dark corners of the internet. Once you find it, check the quality by seeing how many total users are online, registered, and what caliber of quality the last 20-30 posts have. If it’s a high traffic forum with lots of interaction, that’s a good sign. For topics on HIIT, it looks like is a big one although it’s not directly related. HIIT is a topic for fat loss and cutting cycles, so let’s take a look at what’s there.

  • HIIT vs Regular Low Impact Cardio
  • Questions About HIIT
  • When To Do HIIT

How To Find Content Ideas On Forums

Once you have an idea of the most discussed and popular topics, it’s time to combine them together and see where you can add value. Going back to our list of topics, here they are below:

  • Ten ways to get more from your workout
  • High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion?
  • The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training”
  • HIIT Workout routines you can easily mix in your week
  • HIIT workout routines for women
  • Five rules of effective HIIT
  • 15 minute sprint intervals for fat loss and muscle gain
  • Is it better to do intervals or steady jogging for fat burning?
  • What are the benefits of interval training over traditional cardio?
  • Which is more effective for fat loss?
  • The Beginner’s Guide To HIIT
  • The 30-Day HIIt Training Challenge
  • HIIT: 10 Exercises That Will Warm You Up Instantly
  • HIIT vs Regular Low Impact Cardio
  • Questions About HIIT
  • When To Do HIIT

It looks like most people don’t know how to get started, nor do they know the difference between traditional cardio and other workout routines. Whatever topic you end up choosing, you can have a fairly high degree of confidence it’s something people care about.


What Do You Do Next?

Pick one that gives an instant result and is highly useful, instead of a 50+ page e-book that takes time to provide a result. Most people don’t have attention spans that high and will likely just forget about it. The quicker you can deliver a value, the more you have deposited in your customer’s trust bank. For the HIIT topic, here’s a few that might work:

  • The Best 15-Minute HIIT Workout Routines
  • Top 10 HIIT Exercises To Mix In Your Week

This can also form your content strategy around blogs, infographics, FAQs, or post-purchase email sequences to build a relationship with your customer. If you have multiple product categories that aren’t very related, you’ll have to move up to a more general topic. The other option is to just create separate content for each category. It’s a lot more work, but it helps segment your list much more effectively.

The best example is our previous guest Tom from Goodbye Crutches, where he has an opt-in guide for different archetypes of his customer base. Even the photography he uses it a reflection of that, and it allows him to be very precise with his marketing efforts to grow the business.


Still Need Help?

Hopefully this post has given you the tools needed to fix up your email opt-in to get more subscribers. If you still need help with this, we offer a free service to research, create, and publish one if your store qualifies. To find out more, click here.

Subscribe to Build My Online Store in your favorite podcast player, or check out the episode list of our eCommerce podcast.

Scroll to top