How to Master the One Trait That Makes You Unstoppable

image of black swan

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about the black swan — the impossible-to-predict event that changes everything. The terrorist attack, the earthquake, the worldwide economic meltdown.

But in the world we live in now, it’s the white swan — the ordinary, predictable event — that’s becoming rare.

Black swans show up every day. Storms and disasters … and positive black swans, too, like world-changing technology.

Unpredictability is the new predictability, and the only thing we can be sure of is that the world will look almost unrecognizably different — even just a few years from today.

You can let that scare you into inaction. That’s a recipe for getting crushed by chaos and change.

But there’s another option. You can let yourself get excited about the possibilities.

Think about some of the things we’ve seen evolve — radically — in just the past few years.

  • Have you changed how you share photos with your mom?
  • How you watch TV or movies?
  • How you decide where to go for dinner, how you find your way there, how you ask friends to join you?

Here’s the thing — you don’t thrive in times of intense evolution by being the strongest, the meanest, or even the smartest.

You survive (and thrive) by being the most adaptable.

The evolution of affiliate marketing

Ten years ago, you could stumble into affiliate marketing and make some real money. Find an affiliate program with a good payout, create some not-great content that would rank for the keywords you wanted, and put lots and lots of ads up.

Serious affiliate marketing today looks very different.

Savvy marketers like Rae Hoffman-Dolan are creating brands that stand alone, not just junk sites with domains like Hoffman focuses on creating points of differentiation — and her favorite way to do that is to create a superb buyer-focused site that’s the best of breed on the topic she chooses.

As she wrote in her groundbreaking article on affiliate evolution:

Instead of developing a site around one affiliate program or revenue stream, a site is developed around a topic where we can create a large and rich site covering everything you ever wanted to know about widgets, and promote along with,,,, and where we know there is a strong presence of advertisers bidding on widget keywords and doing widget ad buys.

Hoffman encourages affiliate marketers to create businesses, not “micro-sites” or other so-called quick systems that end up being more trouble than they’re worth. She focuses on the long game, and she keeps her eyes open.

Affiliate marketing is evolving, and it continues to evolve. Adapt, or die.

The evolution of ebooks

Even a few years ago, ebooks worked best for niche topics with narrowly defined audiences. You wrote and sold an ebook because there wasn’t a big enough market to write and sell a “real” book in a “real” bookstore. (You might also have enjoyed keeping all of the money rather than sharing it with a traditional publisher or printer.)

Today, ebooks have exploded. This May, Amazon reported that for the first time, their sales of digitally-delivered books had passed their sales of paperbacks and hardcovers, selling 105 ebooks for every 100 printed ones.

It’s now “normal” for books to live in your phone, on a lightweight device like a Kindle, or on your tablet. I know one successful novelist who’s looking for a digital publicist, because for the first time her extensive backlist is widely available to any fan who wants to buy it.

Publishing is evolving, and it continues to evolve. Adapt, or die.

The evolution of SEO

It used to be helpful to be a bit of a bad boy to be a good SEO.

It was all very Bonnie and Clyde. SEOs had tricks to stay one step ahead of the search engines, sneaky secrets and complicated technical strategies.

But every day, Google works to make the game less fun for the outlaw.

SEO today requires real content — something people actually want to read.

And that content needs to live on a real site — something that keeps the reader onsite exploring from page to page, not flitting away to read LOLCats. A business that takes itself seriously, that’s ranking on the search engines for a purpose.

(Gosh, does that sound a little like Rae Hoffman’s advice to affiliate marketers? Hm, interesting.)

Search marketing is evolving, and continues to evolve. Adapt, or die.

The evolution of your business model

How do you make money today? How did you make money 10 years ago?

Do you think it’s possible that the way you make money next year, or the year after that, could be entirely different?

Do you think the shifts everyone else is facing could touch you? Personally? Professionally?

Could those shifts touch your customers?

If you’ve got one revenue model — one way that money comes in the door — make this the year to build a second one. And then a third. And a fourth.

Our favorite business model for the 21st century

Our favorite business model today isn’t technology or green business or any of the other top-ten topics in business magazines.

It’s online education — teaching others how to surf these powerful waves of change.

If you want to hear more about it, we’d like to send you our thoughts on:

  • Staying agile in an economy that’s changing fast
  • The three factors that will help you narrow down the right topic for your business
  • How to find your own corner of a juicy market
  • The business lesson you can learn from Best Buy and the Apple Store
  • The five elements of a 21st-century business that works

We’ll also have an educational seminar for you on three opportunities for wild business growth that show no signs of stopping. And we’ll give you a free road map so you can start striking out on your own, if that’s what you want to do.

Later this fall, we’ll let you know more about the re-opening of our flagship course Teaching Sells, designed for those who want in-depth help creating an education-based business.

But whether or not you join us for Teaching Sells, we’d love to get you all the free content.

You’re the only one who can make the decision to adapt — to learn and grow, so you can thrive in an atmosphere of chaotic change. We’d love to give you some tools that can help.

Sign up here to get the seminar, the road map, and all the other free content.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on twitter.

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Reader Comments (34)

  1. says

    I actually love this evolution. I am just starting but thinking that you dont have to compete with trash helps reassure me I’m doing the right thing by having standards.

  2. says

    I agree with you 100% about the evolution of SEO. What used to work doesn’t anymore and websites that refuse to change with the times are going to get left behind. It’s survival of the fittest in today’s marketing world.

    • says

      Out there in the real world of small business, too many SEOs are still promoting keyword stuffing, unreadable meta descriptions, and lame little tricks like stuffing keywords in white text on a white background.

      Real SEO experts are preaching content, but it’s a tough sell because it’s not as easy as the silly games. But if the games don’t work, the effort and expense are simply wasted.

  3. says

    I’ve been seriously thinking about getting into online education/blogging/internet marketing trioka, especially given the state of the economy. Serendipitously, I found your site. Sign me up! (actually, you don’t have to as I already signed myself up). Thanks!

  4. says

    Watching the evolution online used to be pretty scary. There was a sense of “oh crap, what’s going to work tomorrow.” But it gets more and more reassuring when you see that all the trends point to lessons like provide more value, build a real business, focus on the long term, educate. That’s much less scary than chasing down the new strategy du jour.

  5. says


    I love reading your posts, always.

    This got me banging my feet and raising my arms in my chair as I began to read:

    “You survive (and thrive) by being the most adaptable.”

    Oh so true, so true. True growth spawns from this. Here we get to enrich ourselves and become better.

    I have a movement studio where I teach people how they are able to move all sorts of ways that is anything but tight and boring…thus you create an adaptable body.

    Thank you for bringing the meaningfulness of adaptation back to this wild, wild west of the internet.

  6. says

    I like the SEO evolution, it is still evolving and changing. There is no constant market now, so we have to move along with it otherwise we will end up playing a catch-up game.

  7. says

    Great post, thanks Sonia!

    It’s got me fired up to go through the Teaching Sells course again… And tackle a whole new project despite the income it’s already bringing in every month.

    Curious… Do you think the online learning business model might shift in the future as well? But then I guess the content inside Teaching Sells will shift with it, right? :)

    • says

      I do — in particular, I think the variety of business models will expand. In fact, we’re going from the 7 business models we had last year to 10 this year. :) We’ll also have some nifty new tools to talk about that make delivering the education much simpler and more straightforward.

      Teaching will be critically important as long as we’re in this period of intense change (I would imagine it will be a generation at the very least), but how that teaching is delivered will evolve, and yeah, we’ll evolve with it. :)

  8. Eddie Stephens says

    Great post! For those of us who love the craft of writing “something people actually want to read” and actually changing people’s lives, etc. – these are exciting times. Thanks for always cutting through the “noise” and creating thought-provoking content.

  9. says

    You always give good insights into things for people or businesses that have depth, instead of just “surface” information. This business is definitely not easy and it’s always refreshing to read about what could happen if you actually build something with a solid foundation. Thank you.

  10. says

    Great post Sonia – so Darwinian :-)

    As always, your writing is so well organized and substantive.

    I’m delighted to know that I’ll be able to learn a a lot about these topics all in one place.

    Look forward to your course. Thanks.


  11. says

    This post has me so excited because I see the way online businesses are moving and it just gets me all worked up. I am so excited to be in this industry. The online businesses are the new Mom & Pops like the ones that built our country. We are building virtual communities, digital conversations and villages that move at the speed of technology.

    I agree that the future is in teaching, but I think that it will need to be done in a creative way. In my opinion people are going to be watching and following. They are going to be looking for people to ‘show’ them – and they will not be looking for lousy ‘how to’ bloggers. I can’t wait for good SEO to take over. I can’t wait for the great writers and bloggers to earn their place – and hopefully I can inspire others to do it and to ‘show’ them how.

    I am focusing on creating my blog to be a resource of information for personal growth, spirituality, creative writing and marketing for the artistic business owners. I am definitely signing up for your list.

    I love the metaphor of the swan.

    • says

      Nicole, I agree with that — it won’t be enough to teach, we’ll need to teach effectively, for the audience we define and attract.

      As we all remember from school, there’s a big difference between a good teacher and a poor one.

  12. says

    I’ve felt this way for a while now with the escalation of outclevering precedents. But, how do you sell it? It seems like the gatekeepers are trending to implausible wow moments. Is there any way to circumvent the minions of bad writing?

  13. says

    Hello Sonia,

    I’m completly agree with you sonia. evolution in all digital marketing filed is taking place and we have to match up with evloution for being more productive. if not then we remain like dust floating arround internet – they hardly get seen and eventually settle at the bottom of digital marketing basement…..

  14. says

    Adapt or die, that is very true, and helpful to realize, thanks.

    As far as the evolution of SEO goes, I think it’s at a good spot right now. Like you said in your podcast, it’s now easier to understand how to do it, yet harder to actually do. But much better from the standpoint of the person searching, who gets a lot better content.

  15. says

    Loved this! When I open emails from Copyblogger I play a little game and try and guess who the author is as I suck in all the juicy contents. It’s a thrill (OK – tiny, teensy thrill) to get to “About the Author” and confirm I’m right. I’m becoming a bit of a master at it. Today I was spot on! Thanks for another great post.

  16. says

    This is a wonderful post. Just last week I was talking to my friend about the timeline in facebook and how the younger generation is loving it while we are left feeling silly about all these changes.

  17. says

    Great read. It is really true how we do need to evolve, isn’t?

    It almost seems that the ways online are keeping up with the speed of the technology field. This reminds me of Bruce Lee, I think he had a point when he said, “be formless like water”.



  18. says

    Hey Sonia,

    This is a great post. I was especially struck by your section on SEO, as the points you make align so well with my own approach. I have dabbled with ‘grey’ or black hat SEO, but it is something that I am moving away from. Although I recognize that money can still be made with the ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ tactics, I do think that the writing is on the wall. I’d rather be premature in ‘switching sides’ than realizing a few years down the line that my skills are obsolete.


  19. says

    Brilliant post, especially re. the ebook. We’ve just finished our own ebook that is focused on launching a fashion label and it’s doing pretty well so far. Keep up the good work!!!

  20. says

    I should definitely put some more thought into the online education model. That’s one that’s been in my peripheral vision for a while.

    And it’s certainly one that will have tremendous demand moving forward. It’s not just a niche in a new space; it’s a niche that will be stealing “marketshare” from traditional education providers, even those who don’t think of themselves as commercial ventures.

  21. says

    The online education model is truly the best converting type of blog. Whether you are educating your customers or fellow freelancers you are sure to gain a good following.

    This is a great article. Cheers!

  22. says

    The way people do business has changed more over the past ten years than it has for the past fifty years. This is good for consumers as well as businesses. As we all try to outdo each other in terms of the value we provide. Sharing expertise or best practices in terms of effectively teaching others how to do things right is one of the ways we can all cope with the changes we are experiencing.

  23. says

    Sonia, this is a great insight. Blogging has changed much. Ten years ago there wasn’t much competition and the blogosphere didn’t exist. There was nothing called as a crowded niche and all niches were profitable.

    Now things are changed. Everyone wants to get rich quick, make money online, and rank #1 on Google. Crowded, competitive – but sadly the competition is not healthy leading to black hat methods and poor quality content. The competition really adds nothing to the blogosphere but only damages it!

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