Years ago, as social media gained critical mass, Chris Brogan began to separate himself as one of the most influential voices teaching people what to do with all these new social tools.  And inevitably, some people started calling him a lucky overnight success.  It was a cheap shot by jealous trolls for the most part.

I’ll never forget how he responded.  Chris posted a blog featuring a video of himself leaving his house at 3:30 a.m., headed to another airplane for another engagement.  Leaving his family again, losing sleep again, but grinding it out as he had been doing for years.

His point was multi-fold – that it’s not as glamorous as it looks, that it’s definitely not as easy as it looks, that it’s not for everybody, but maybe most important that it takes a lot of hard work, every day.

I wrote about this a couple weeks ago in general, but let me get a bit more specific.

At a couple recent conferences I’ve been asked what it takes to gain a following, build a business, stay in business, write a book that people want to read.  I don’t have a precise answer to these questions, nor do I have a blueprint.  All I know is what I do.

My family taught me Midwestern values that prioritize humility and hard work.  My grandpa kept his head down, mowed the lawn every Saturday until the year before he died, worked hard and supported his family.  My mom and dad did the same.  They were my role models.

Work hard, live with integrity, do intentional work, do work that you enjoy, put your hard hat on every day.  That may not be how others do it, but it’s what I do.  As an example, here’s what my day yesterday looked like.  Busy, but fairly normal.

  • 5:00 am: Get up, make coffee, set goals and priorities for the day
  • 5:30 am: Follow up on early East Coast inquiries, respond to client emails
  • 6:00 am: Family time (breakfast, get kids ready for school)
  • 7:15 am: Complete Q&A contribution for marketing publication
  • 7:30 am: Prospect call (in the car)
  • 8:00 am: Research findings meeting/presentation with local client
  • 9:00 am: Trade publication interview (in the car)
  • 9:30 am: Internal HR meeting
  • 10:00 am: Webinar presentation on ABM for Salesforce.com & Data.com
  • 11:00 am: Internal new client kick-off meeting
  • 11:30 am: Live recording of Sales Pipeline Radio (featuring the amazing Jeb Blount as our guest)
  • 12:00 pm: Conference call to discuss new content channel with two partners (in the car)
  • 1:00 pm: Presentation at Seattle start-up incubator on sales development
  • 2:30 pm: Call with martech vendor to discuss upcoming roadshow participation (in the car – the call, not the roadshow)
  • 3:00 pm: In-person meeting with local prospect
  • 4:30 pm: Call with entrepreneur peer group to plan upcoming retreat (in the car – the call, not the retreat)
  • 5:00 pm: Pick up kids, make dinner, family time
  • 8:00 pm: Write two new prospect proposals
  • 9:00 pm: Record video for upcoming Hubspot online event
  • 9:30 pm: Follow up on email and inbound inquiries from earlier today
  • 10:00 pm: Journaling, gratitude, lessons from today, plan for tomorrow
  • 10:30 pm: Write this blog post

And of course, throughout the day, sneak peeks at email, texts, Slack, SproutSocial, etc.

I don’t share this to brag, that’s not in my Midwestern DNA.  This schedule, this pace takes a toll.  It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. It would not be possible without my family, my amazing team, our great clients and partners.

It’s what I love, and what I know.  I don’t know how others do it.  But from where I sit, if you’re asking, this is what it takes.