9 Tips for Would-Be Warriors


I write a lot of these posts for my sons – that’s the simple truth of this blog. Especially when it comes to martial arts and various other unorthodox subject matter. The thing I love about the Internet is that posts like these will – barring some catastrophic event – be around for years after I am worm food. And so I write these posts with them in mind. Here is another.

You’ll meet a lot of people who talk about being a warrior. It’s a term they’ll bandy about and use to describe themselves. In some cases, it will be appropriate. In others, not so much. Some people who use the term “warrior” are really nothing but bullies or wanna-be tough guys. The true warriors possess many similar characteristics and if you want to follow the path of a warrior, you’ll need to incorporate these into your life. Otherwise, you won’t be a warrior as much as a joke.

1. Never Stop Learning – This is critical to your personal evolution. The moment you think “I’ve got this,” is the exact moment you stop evolving. A true warrior never thinks they know it all, because they don’t. A true warrior understands that the lessons in life are constant and continuous, although they may not look like lessons at first. You are never beyond learning unless you put yourself on some pedestal and believe that you know it all. You don’t reach a point or an age or a number of years of experience and then get to say, “I’m a master.” True warriors aspire to mastery, but know they will never reach it in one lifetime. The aspiration and pursuit of mastery are more important than reaching it.

2. Always Train with Someone Better Than You – After a certain number of years, you will inevitably reach a point where you want to test yourself. That’s natural and healthy. In feudal Japan, these were called musha shugyo – or wandering quests. The idea was for the student to take the lessons they’d learned and put them to the test in the real world. So, too, will you aspire to challenge yourself and be tested in the crucible of real world scenarios. And you should. Because all the training in the world is no substitute for real world experience. However, take care that you don’t stray too long from a teacher. Stay away too long and your ego will begin to delude you with thoughts that you have all the knowledge you need; that you are a master now because you have a certain grade or certain experience; that it’s too difficult to get with your teacher for one reason or another. You should always find someone better than you to train with so you keep learning and evolving. If you can’t find anyone better than you, then you are either deluded about your own ability, or you aren’t trying hard enough to find someone better than you. The reality is there is always someone better than you. There is always someone who has trained longer or harder or better than you. Don’t ever believe your own invincibility because the universe will undoubtedly step in and show you just how vulnerable you actually are. That’s not a fun lesson.

3. Your Ego Is Your Best Friend & Your Worst Enemy – Everyone needs ego. It gives us confidence to try new things, to appreciate the skills we have, and to believe in ourselves when no one else does. But ego is also the enabler of delusion. It is the most skilled and subtle opponent you will ever face. It will lead you astray and off the path with insidious little thoughts that will put down the roots of a dandelion before you even see the danger. When you look into the mirror, you must see things as they truly are – not as you wish them to be. The ability of a warrior to discern truth – to know the reality, no matter how potentially unpleasant – from falsehood is one of your most potent weapons and skills. My teacher warned all of his senior students many years ago to guard against the traps that ego puts forth to waylay even the hardiest of souls. It is a tough thing to come to grips with, but comes to grip with it you must. There are too many who espouse lessons without ever following the principles themselves. If you talk the talk, make sure you also walk the walk.

4. Make Sure You Have People Who Are Truthful Around You – As you grow and become skillful, you will attract people of lower rank who idolize you or worship your ability in some way. You are more advanced than they are; you have some skill they wish to have. Because of this, they will become friendly with you. They will do their best to get on your good side or otherwise ingratiate themselves into your inner circle. Perhaps they will whisper gossip into your ear or play upon your suspicions or fears in order to make themselves seem trustworthy, loyal, or an ally. Their motivations may be innocuous or they may be suspect; they may come from friends or even the person closest to your heart. But just as you guard against inner ego, so too must you guard against exterior influences like these. Real friends will call you on your bullshit. They will tell you your crap stinks. Beware of those who only bolster your pride, only agree with your proclamations, and regurgitate the things you say to reinforce bad assumptions and mistaken ideas. You may love hearing them say these things; you may love the way it makes you feel, but they are surely leading you even further away from the path, rather than checking you and challenging you when you need it most. Those who truly love you will tell you when you are screwing up just as they will tell you when you are doing a great job. Life is a balance and if you are only seeking positive reinforcement then you are not walking the path of a warrior.

5. Never Stop Challenging Yourself – Real warriors always seek our challenge, no matter if it is in your realm of specialization or not. They are adventurers and pioneers, risk takers and explorers, those who dare and dare all the time. If they are truly committed to the ideal of Tatsujin – a complete human being – then they are always seeking new places to explore, new things to learn, new ways to get better. Beware those “warriors” who talk a good game, but never push their personal boundaries or leave the comfort of their fantasy world.

6. Discomfort is a Sure Sign That You Are Doing Something Right – To go along with #5, if you are uncomfortable in an environment or with a certain new skill, then you are daring to more, aspiring to greater heights, and risking something – even if it is your ego. By putting yourself into situations that don’t feel good, you are learning about your fears, confronting the personal demons that inhabit the furthest reaches of your mind, and exploring yourself. You will become a stronger warrior each time you do this.

7. Don’t Preach Dogma – As you gather skill and experience, you will also acquire a set of beliefs about how you have done things. This set of beliefs will color your perception of the world around you – especially if you choose to pass your teachings on to a new generation. Beware of an inflexible mind for it will put these beliefs in a rigid framework that is not open to discussion or evolution. Just because things worked one way for you does not mean they will work that way for everyone else. Each individual is just that – a individual. Life is as varied as each cell in our bodies and there will be no one path that is right for everyone. If you choose to teach, you must ensure that your own mind is not fixed on some ancient ideal or stubborn theory or romantic memory, but rather is always questing for new ways and methods that will help others, rather than simply reinforcing your egotistical assumptions of what is right.

8. Don’t Believe The Hype – You may be praised by others; you may be worshipped; you may gather about you a flock of followers who treasure everything you do and their time with you – all of this is incredibly dangerous. It’s subtle and addictive. And your ego will lap it up and greedily beg for more. Feed this beast and it will only become stronger and more demanding. Believe your own hype at grave peril, because it is surely not true. You may do great things; you may become heroic, but don’t ever fail to remember your own humble beginnings. Humility keeps you rooted in reality when ego wants to take you on a trip to the stars. Real warriors are mild-mannered and unassuming; they are quietly confident about what they are capable of and simultaneously not too proud to admit when they don’t have a clue. Beware those who seem to have an answer for everything, for surely they do not.

9. Help Others – Always. Warriors are protectors of the good and the just. They are keepers of the flow of positivity in the universe and challengers to the negative energy of evil. Warriors help those who are not yet strong enough to help themselves. They show the path that is possible and do so by leading by example. They serve as inspiration and through their actions show others what a human being is truly capable of. Generating positive energy is hard and demanding, which is why it is a precious resource. Generating negative energy is easy and takes little discipline or effort – negativity is the lazy person’s lifeline. Shun negativity and embrace positivity if you hope to help make the universe a better place. Let the way you lead your life be the example that will draw others to the path and lead them to the better place we are all capable of reaching if we try hard enough.

5 Key Tips for Indie Authors in 2013

By Jon F. Merz

I had a great year of sales in 2012. As detailed in my previous post, I did quite well selling ebooks that I released independently. But I try to never rest on my laurels – because, frankly, laurels aren’t all that comfortable.

So what am I doing now that I hope to see bear fruit in 2013 and push my ebook sales goals even higher? Let’s take a look at some of the things indie authors can do to improve their sales over the next twelve months.

1. Invest in Your Business

This may sound more like something “regular companies” do, but if you’re an indie author, you’d better be treating your writing like it IS a business if you have any hope of sustaining or improving sales. To that end, you need to take some of your profits and reinvest them back into your company. How? Here are a few things you could be improving:

  • Website: is it professional enough? Are there any pages that need tweaking? Any that need completing? I’m still trying to get this site completely functional, myself!
  • Book Covers: are all of your books selling enough? Are they meeting your goals? If not, maybe you should try a different cover.
  • Analytics: see below

2. Newsletter

You do have a newsletter, right? It is the single most important piece of marketing you have access to: people who have given you permission to market to them directly by virtue of them signing up for it. Your email list is far more important than most realize and it’s the one source of data you have that isn’t reliant on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. If all of those go away overnight, you’ll still have that list. Make sure you pack it full of good stuff – news, free fiction, and more. Get a reliable email service provider that offers detailed stats on click rates, open rates, etc. This is data you need that will tell you whether you’re doing it right.

3. Analytics

Speaking of stats, do you have Google Analytics installed on your website? Do you know where your traffic is coming from? Do you know which of your site’s pages are the most heavily trafficked or how long surfers are staying on your site? Analytics are a vital tool that will help you refine your marketing efforts. If your landing page isn’t capturing the attention of surfers, then change the landing page until it does. Is your sales funnel channeling prospects to key pages and then getting them sign up for your newsletter or purchase your ebooks? Analytics will help you determine all of this and more. I know next to nothing about analytics and how to make it hum, so I’ve brought in a real pro to help me. This is another investment in my business. Yes, it costs money upfront, but I fully expect to make back many times the amount I’m spending now once I can look at the reports and see how I can improve. If you don’t know much about analytics, find someone who does who can help you figure this out.

4. Read More

You’re shaking your head at this one saying, “Yeah, Jon, we’re writers. We know we need to read more. We do anyway.” Great. Happy to hear it. Are you reading Fortune Magazine? What about free articles on Stratfor? Are you tuned in to key development continents like Africa? Are you thinking ahead enough to see where sales will be coming from in the future? There will be thousands of opportunities in the near future, but only for those who know they exist. Don’t shortchange your future by failing to read about coming waves of business opportunities now. There are a LOT of things happening across the world that indie authors can position themselves to take advantage of. Free ebook programs for disadvantaged youths in the rain forests might not sound like it will add to your bottom line, but in ten years when those kids are grateful your work and have elevated themselves out of poverty, they might just become your biggest evangelicals.

5. Help Others

Again, a lot of you are probably saying that you do this anyway, but do you? It’s not enough to simply retweet another author every week or so. You have to look for ways to positively impact the lives of other people – not just those you’re attempting to sell to. Look at your Facebook newsfeed and find someone you might only “kinda sorta” know. Take a day or so and learn as much as you can about them. Drop them a note. Say hi. Appreciate them. Nothing is cooler than getting a pleasant note out of the blue from someone. They might be having a bad day and your message is just the thing that helps them get through it. It doesn’t take money; it just takes effort and sincerity. Given the pace of our world and the level of insincerity that exists in so many areas, the gift of genuine attention is precious and rare. Even if it doesn’t translate into money in your pocket, it definitely generates good karma. And we can all use a little more of that!

Thanks for reading!

Did you enjoy this post? You’ll love my ebooks then! Available on Kindle here. | Available on Nook here. | Available on Kobo here.

EBook Sales: 2012 Round-Up

By Jon F. Merz

This post is probably a little late by comparison to other yearly round-up posts, but so be it. I thought it would be interesting to run down some of my numbers from the year 2012, now that the year is officially in the books.

As I posted on facebook the other night, my ebook sales for 2012 were approximately 40,000. This number includes only my independently published work sold primarily across three platforms: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. This figure does not take into account any traditional deals, other publishing projects I was a part of, etc.

So, let’s break it down a bit…

The Kindle remained the dominant sales platform for me by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. But my sales last year were actually not helped by the other Kindle global platforms, aside from the UK. I sell fairly decently on the UK Kindle site, but the US side outsells the UK by at least 5-to-1. I sell a few copies each month on the German Kindle site, and a scattered 1-10 copies across all others.

The Barnes & Noble Nook site is a consistent earner for me, but again, it pales in comparison to Kindle sales. That said, I like the Nook platform a lot because it’s very reliable. Whereas Amazon had several peaks and valleys over the course of the year for one reason or another, B&N stayed very consistent with marginal fluctuation – sometimes a hundred bucks extra sometimes a hundred bucks less – but always within a comfortable range.

Kobo became a new force to be reckoned with in the summer. But Kobo’s search engine leaves a lot to be desired. Trying to search for my own titles after they’ve gone live on Kobo is frustrating and they sometimes don’t show up for 24 hours in the search results, despite the title being live and on-sale. Kobo’s writer platform is one of the best, if not my favorite, for its ease of use and intuitive design. They get extremely high marks on trying to get things right and they’re incredibly responsive to feedback and criticism. My sales for the last five months of the year on Kobo have been “okay.” I’m not yet blown away by a rush on my titles and one of the reasons may be due to the fact that their search engine still needs fixing. That said, I have no doubt Kobo can become a huge force in ebook sales and look forward to putting more of my titles out on it.

My standout title for 2012 was, without a doubt, THE NINJA APPRENTICE. This is the book that my agent loved and wished he’d had come across his desk when he was in acquisitions. This is the book that also languished for eighteen months while morons in New York cast dispersions on it and said remarkably boneheaded things like “boys don’t read,” and “little commercial appeal.” This, as proven by the thousands of copies that I’ve sold since it debuted in May, is complete and total bullshit. To date, The Ninja Apprentice has sold over 10,000 copies and shows no signs of slowing down. It is consistently one of my bestsellers and was chosen for several summer reading lists last year. I’ll be releasing the second book in this series in mid-2013 and have high hopes for that one as well.

My Lawson Vampire series continues to be a major seller. With seven novels (including the traditionally-published book THE KENSEI), five novellas, and now nine short stories, the series is a consistent money-maker for me. Not everyone digs Lawson (I know, hard to believe, lol) but those who do have plenty of adventures to get lost in with more coming out all of the time. THE CRUCIBLE debuts next month and my freebie Christmas story I write for fans each year, THE SNITCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS was downloaded thousands of times – more than four times as much as last year’s story! Many of those who downloaded the story will be new readers and hopefully new fans who will get lost in more of Lawson’s adventures.

In 2012, I also had The Fixer translated into Spanish along with one short story, Interludio. So far, sales on the translations have not performed as I expected. This is one area I’ll be concentrating on in 2013 – publicizing the translation. I have a global audience and the need for translations of my work is growing. In 2013, I will be exploring bringing out other language editions of my Lawson series.

For 2013, my goals are to double my ebook sales to 80,000 sold. I’ll be bringing out a bunch of new stuff: new Lawson adventures, new Zombie Ryu installments, the next Ninja Apprentice novel, and a standalone thriller I’ve been working on. I’m also investing back into my business by setting up some serious analytics on my website and sales drives. I know next to nothing about analytics, so I’m bringing in a professional to set me up. She’s awesome and I’m looking forward to implementing her suggestions for maximizing my sales initiatives. My newsletter has been migrated over to a new email service provider, which gives me fantastic data reports. I’ve launched a new Birthday Club for my fans and will be unveiling some new stuff out here on the website.

2013 will also see a brand new project from me that I will not be revealing any details about just yet. It’s “related” to writing and will be of massive help (I hope) to both aspiring and veteran writers. Look for that a few months from now.

Overall, 2012 was a great year for EBook Sales. A lot of thinking right now says that ebook sales will slow. I think that’s hogwash. Any good writer will always sell if the book they write is good. And a savvy writer who gets invested in making his business the best it can be will sell much, much more. I intend to sell close to six-figures of ebook units in 2013 – if not more. Let’s see how it goes! And my best to all of you who are doing the same!