'Zen' on being 'stuck' & the value of a 10-cent screw

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Your motorcycle breaks down. In order to fix it, you need to open a little compartment in the engine.

The compartment is held shut by a screw whose threads have been stripped off and you are unable to open it because of a stupid 10 cent screw.

The famous book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” describes this exact scenario:

“Normally screws are so cheap and small and simple you think of them as unimportant. But now, as your Quality awareness becomes stronger, you realize that this one, individual, particular screw is neither cheap nor small nor unimportant.

“Right now this screw is worth exactly the selling price of the whole motorcycle, because the motorcycle is actually valueless until you get the screw out.

“With this reevaluation of the screw comes a willingness to expand your knowledge of it.”

Bryan Todd has been devouring this book and he sent this quote to me. Yes, the guy is absolutely right: Until you extract and replace that 10-cent screw, the whole motorcycle is worthless.

Sometimes ten-cent, seemingly insignificant things become very important in the scheme of your motorcycle or your business.

Sometimes 80% of your results come from 20% of what you do. And sometimes, 100% of your results come from 0.01% of what you do. And sometimes 0.01% of what you should have done cancels out 100% of what you did do.

Sales and marketing is a sequential process. Which means that everything that happens between the introduction and the sale is 100% important. Anything that interrupts this process can be fatal to your business.

Sales and marketing are the most hazardous parts of a business to outsource. Things like payroll and bookkeeping and manufacturing, easy to outsource. Your voice and your identity, almost impossible.


  • Sales and marketing is worthy of your passion, devotion and dedication. It is typically the highest leverage activity in any business. And despite the fact that many “academic types” sneer at it, it’s still true: Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
  • You MUST master two things: ONE way of getting traffic, and ONE way of converting it. If you achieve mastery, it will be perfectly OK to be merely “competent” at the other things and your business will still flourish.

(I am merely competent at affiliate marketing and teleseminars, for example, but my mastery of Google Adwords and copywriting got my business off the ground. They were necessary before affiliates and teleseminars could work for me at all. Others may master affiliate marketing first, and then let their affiliates do Adwords for them; but they still have to master some method of conversion first.)

  • You must not let anything get in the way of your path of mastery. You go wherever you need to go, buy whatever you must buy, seek advice from whomever can provide it, until you achieve this mastery.
  • Your investment in the mastery of these two things will have a 10,000 percent ROI once you achieve it. Sometimes you spend ten thousand dollars to get rid of one stripped screw, and sometimes… that’s perfectly OK.
  • You must be *extremely* cautious about investing time and money outside of your core mastery, and wary of any distraction.

Sometimes “seemingly minor” aspects of traffic generation and conversion are like that stripped 10-cent motorcycle screw: There’s one obstacle, one niggling thing that’s driving you nuts and standing in the way of a big breakthrough.

"So many options for growing my business, but what should I do NOW?" Tell me your most pressing business problems and I'll show you your BEST next step.

It astonishes me how little value some people put on education. Example: Most people reading this message have already purchased my Definitive Guide to Google AdWords, so I’m probably preaching to the choir.

But you should know… there are some people who will spend $200 per month, $1000 per month, $5000 per month and more and will REFUSE to spend 49 bucks to get a book that will help them master it. There are some people who will never buy a book. There are some people who will never spend more than $12.95 on a book.

We’ve gotten so many emails from people who increased their CTR by 50% or 100% and doubled or tripled their traffic, we don’t even try to keep track of them anymore. You can read their testimonials all over this website.

But some people still won’t spend the money.

Google will be happy to take it from them instead.

It also astonishes me how many people will buy a book like that and not read it. My friend, if you’re giving Google $1000 per month for traffic (which by the way probably represents a VERY SMALL business) hey bucko, that’s $12,000 per year.

For most people, reading a 200 page book for the next couple of weeks, so as to maximize the results of a $12,000 expense, is time very well spent. Not to mention if it’s a $100,000 expense.

Some people will say “Perry, what an incredibly self-serving thing for you to say.”

Well yes, absolutely, it IS self-serving. Most everything I do is self-serving. It is self-serving for me to tell you to hire me to show you how to not waste money on Google. If that offends you, feel free to unsubscribe.

Go ahead…. keep giving Google more of your hard-earned money. If that’s your preference, then Google probably wants your money more than you do and they will probably also accomplish more with that money than you would.

I make no apologies for my ability to help you keep more money in your pocket, or for the fact that I charge for my help. I’m running a business, not a charitable foundation. Hopefully you are running a real business, too, not a charity. If it costs $50 to fix the 10-cent screw that’s keeping you from riding your $16,000 motorcycle, spend the $50 and get on with it.

If you don’t think I’m the right guy to teach you this, if you don’t relate to my style, if you don’t like my beliefs or my analogies or my haircut, buy Howie Jacobson’s book. Or Andrew Goodman’s. Or whoever you feel is up to the task.

But don’t stay ignorant.

And don’t be caught dead NOT working to master the most important aspects of your online marketing business.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Google is sneaky. Sleep with one eye open.

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

10 Comments on “'Zen' on being 'stuck' & the value of a 10-cent screw”

  1. Perry, you have a way with words. :)

    It’s just truly amazing how ridiculously cheap (and stupid) people can be if given the opportunity.

    Then again, it proves that we’re not all that rational, are we?


    Ronnie (a past Bobsledder!)

  2. Dear Perry,

    Your Definitive Guide to Google AdWords is exactly that and more! Great marketing and copywriting advice too. I have tried to burn into my brain ‘Talk to him exactly as he talks to himself and others’. I usually start off missing that mark but refer back to your guide and gradually home in on the conversation inside his or her head.

    I think a lot of people skim over the technical details and think that’s it. I’ve learned marketing and copywriting from you too and that makes all the difference.


  3. Perry,

    My reading list has wittled down to yourself, Livingstone and Planet Ocean SEO news. All your recommendations, by the way.

    As you say time and time again, if you try an absorb all the material from all sources you will just drown underneath the waterfall of information overload and never actually get around to implementing anything.

    I can’t thankyou enough for your material. I am one of your generally silent loyal students and am using your information to grow my traditional business. Took me two years to get it to where it was back in February and have doubled it since. Its like magic !!!

    Your email today was priceless. Sometimes you have to hit them straight between the eyeballs.

    I always use the following saying:
    “You don’t know what you don’t know if you don’t know !!”

    Take care.

  4. Perry,

    I had to read that book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence” for my Eng. Lit. class.
    I got through it but never realized the importance of the material until years later. When you’re young and just wanting to have a good time while attending college, I never put the gist of what that book was telling me.
    I want to tell you “Thanks” for all the insight you have given me for the past several years. There are just 5 Guru’s I really take heart and listen to them and take their advice. You bring an analogy of any topic to light with me and I find meaning in what you say beyond what is written.
    What I believe this recent post is about and what I got from it is, “Implementation”. That is to say, do something with the information that you get. Don’t just read it or listen to it or watch it, do something with it. I used to subscribe to many and now I’ve narrowed it down to 5 because you five give me the insight I need to make my businesses moving ahead and being profitable.
    Thanks again,

  5. Perry,

    I’m slowly going “underground”; joining “The Silent Underground Force” as you call it in your Autoresponder Primer (and what a great value that was – only $39!). For a couple of years now I’ve been subscribing and unsubscribing to many, many email lists. Though I find many authors have valuable info, after weeding through all the BS, it’s only your emails that I read month-in and month-out. I read your emails and dissect them like a biology experiment. Equipped with only what I’ve learned from your emails, your bookstore-version “Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords” and your $39 Autoresponder Primer, I’m choreographing my entrance into the marketing world. All behind the scenes right now; just practicing a few steps of the “slow dance”, before stepping out onto the dance floor. With what I’ve learned from you already, I can comfortably guarantee I’ll be sitting at your kitchen table at one of your 4-Man Intensives, paid for with the profits from any one of the several new websites I’m creating.

    Thanks a bunch,

    1. Mike,

      Glad to hear you’re figuring it out. Most people overestimate what they can do in 1 year and underestimate what they can do in 5. Keep up the slow dance.


  6. I am confused. I understand and fully accept your point. I’ve read your book and used a lot of it. I have also created a great negative keyword list that has soared CTRs. But my business is not large, it is very technical and at times is very low. But the flip side is that clients I get pay pretty well. I am in no way involved with the affiliate world and i am a member of the renaissance club. Precisely which of your products are you recommending if I simply want the “guts” of my Google Adwords account improved?

    1. Katharine,

      It sounds like you are doing fine. You might just want to absorb more of the Definitive Guide. You might benefit from the http://www.adwordsblackbelt.com course. You might benefit from a 30 minute consult with Bryan, or the Bobsled Run. We’ve got some great calls for R-Club members in the next few months that will also help you a lot.


  7. Hi Perry,

    Your P.S. says it all…here is a reprint of a post I made recently to one of my blogs:

    Google Suspicious Business Practices

    I thought everyone should be aware of my dealings with Google for the past two days.

    I had an adwords campaign running for a couple of weeks which was receiving ZERO impressions up until midnight on 3/24/2009. When I awoke the next morning on the 25th, I had suddenly received over 100,000 impressions, 141 clicks at approximately $1.00 per click on “The Content Network”. I immediately paused the account and put in a support ticket, within less than 12 hours my credit card was charged and I still have yet to receive a response from Google. The charge was $136 and according to my account details I’m not supposed to get charged until my account reaches $200.

    Why did they charge me so quickly after entering a support ticket?

    Why did they charge me before I reached $200?

    Why did my account “Suddenly” receive all that activity “while I slept?”

    And the kicker – “How in the heck does a click on the content network cost $1.00?”

    Sounds Seriously Suspicious to me!!!

    1. Miles,

      This doesn’t sound all that suspicious to me.

      I seriously doubt the billing has any relation to your support ticket. Google is a HUGE company and one hand does not know what the other is doing.
      Don’t know about the $200.

      The Internet runs 24/7. All kinds of things can happen while you sleep.

      And yes, my friend, there are MANY clicks on the content network that costs over $1, and well worth it in some cases. Obviously you were bidding $1.00 or more for your clicks.

      If you’re concerned about spending money too fast, set a daily budget and CPC bid you can live with.


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