My Journey Out of Abuse, Depression and Homosexuality

I guess I grew up like any other kid in the suburbs, looking for ways to enjoy life. Bike rides, building forts, swinging on the backyard swing set, playing ball and swimming, anything to make me feel ‘alive.’ I was passionate, active and fully alive. As a youngster, though, my passion for life was suppressed. Very early I became acquainted with walls or boundaries that limited my ability to embrace life and experience it fully. An overly legalistic church and very restrictive parents kept me from venturing too far into life outside of our little world and instilled in me a timidity in my approach to life. Their motivation was good and loving; the world was changing rapidly in the ’60’s and ’70’s, and there were many unfamiliar and sinful behaviors being promoted as legitimate. The fences that were built for me – far from the actual lines of right and wrong – did keep me from wandering into many areas of sin, but the timidity that grew out of my fear of breaking the rules kept me from embracing life fully and contributed to the secrecy that nearly destroyed me.

At an early age, I responded to an invitation at church to receive Christ as my Savior for the forgiveness of my sin. My decision was fairly utilitarian. I needed my sin forgiven in order to get to heaven and I was afraid of going to hell. In spite of this, I did enjoy some times of spiritual life and growth as a child. I considered myself a Christian but really had no idea about a relationship with God. We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday night and something about the system of that small world felt safe. I knew I was a sinner, we were reminded of it every time we went to church, but I had no idea what to do with the tremendous amount of guilt and shame that this sin brought. When I was forced by others to cross lines into what I considered “horrible” sins, I did not know how to handle the feelings.

I was about ten years old when the name calling began. I was slight of build, intelligent, uncoordinated and musically inclined. The labels of “sissy,” “mamma’s boy,” and “fag” were quickly attached to me by the set of older boys in the neighborhood. It has always been natural for bigger, stronger boys to bully those they see as weaker. This derisive verbal ridicule quickly escalated into physical abuse. Causing me physical pain, watching me cry and reveling in my reactions to their torment became a favorite pastime of these boys. On one occasion they knocked the wind out of me and then stood around and laughed when I couldn’t catch my breath. On another, they led me to a bumble bee nest in the ground, threw a rock and then ran while I stood there, ignorantly, and was stung multiple times. I can still hear their laughter. It wasn’t long before some of the physical activity, fueled by their adolescent curiosity about sex, deteriorated into sexual abuse. I was held down and forced to perform sexual acts with them. I was younger and smaller than they were and the taunting about the size of my genitals and my smooth skin went deep into my mind. This was the final step in shutting me down spiritually and emotionally and the beginnings of my obsession with sex. I knew that these acts, outside of marriage and with the same sex, were wrong, perverted. Any mention of this kind of activity at church came with words like “Sodom and Gomorrah” and “abomination.” It would certainly not be safe to mention any of this at church! To add to my shame for participating in these acts was the shame of knowing that there was some pleasure involved. The pain of abuse would inevitably lead to the exhilaration of sexual release, something I had never experienced before. The combination of adrenalin from fear and hormones from sexual climax made an indelible mark on my young psyche. The enemy began to articulate a lie that ran through my mind; I MUST be at fault if I enjoyed any part of this! The fear instilled in me about these kinds of sin and what happened to “those” people who indulged in them kept me from sharing anything with anyone at home or at church. I suffered in silence, letting the message of the wound sink deep into my soul. I was a pervert! I could not see myself as a reflection of the Father who created me and redeemed me but saw myself as a reflection of my sin and wounds. The label was pervert and the lies built up a stronghold in me that would take years to tear down!

From that point on, I “knew” that there was something wrong with me. The deep sense of shame made me hate myself. Because of my timidity, I didn’t have the courage to face my abusers or my own sin and turn to God in repentance. Instead my shame became contempt, self-contempt in the form of self-hatred. I took every opportunity to put myself down, laugh at myself and I refused to engage in any activity in which I could not be the best. I shied away from anything athletic because my lack of coordination would be a clue to others revealing who I “really was.” The part of me that I hated the most was my masculinity. I hated the “macho” in others but at the same time was drawn to the strength that it represented. I equated the perception of strength with a false definition of masculinity that I knew I didn’t have. Gender confusion had set in. I was so weak, I had given in, I had been dominated, I was not a real man.

The gender confusion only increased my sense of shame. The shame of who I perceived myself to be is what motivated me to look for a way to hide. I was terrified that someone would figure out who I thought I was. Part of me, the true masculine part, simply withdrew. The other part decided that I would disguise my identity of “pervert” by being “perfect.” No one would be able to see past my perfect mask to the pervert within.

This mask of perfection evolved as I discovered ways that my flesh could compensate for the broken parts of my positive identity (virtue, community, power, gender). Having lost all sense of value (virtue) in the depths of my shame, I tried to perform in perfect ways that would generate affirmation. I had to have straight “A’s” in school, I had to be the best son, the first chair in orchestra, the teacher’s pet. When I performed well in these roles, I felt good about myself for awhile and was able to temporarily block out the shame. The problem with this mask, as with any mask, is that it had to be maintained. I could never rest. I must always become better and better in order to keep the affirmations coming. I graduated from high school at 16 with nearly a 4.0. Graduated from college at 20, married at 19, was ordained to the ministry at 20 and became a youth pastor at 21. I must be perfect… in school…at home… at church. I presented myself as self-assured, self-confident and superior but nothing could have been further from the truth.

My sense of my power to choose had been completely destroyed by the acts of abuse. Repeatedly, I was overpowered by the strength of others who were bigger and stronger than I. Regaining that sense of power required that I be in control of every situation in which I found myself. I manipulated the teacher into making me the teacher’s pet, became the president of my youth group, planned family events and bossed my friends around. Closely associated with this need to control was the need to belong to a community. Because of who I thought I was, I never felt like I fit in. My ticket into community was my ability to be in charge. Any group that I controlled became my community. They had to include me because I was in charge. That control was my way of showing strength, it was my masculinity. I had community but it was forced and shallow. Deep inside I believed that if they knew who I really was, they would not include me at all. My career choice was motivated by this desire to be in control. Besides my family, the only other community that I had been involved in was church. The Pastor was in charge at the church, so I was going to become a Pastor.

The greatest part of my wounding was the damage done to my sexuality. I believed the lies and labels that others had placed on me and secretly harbored those thoughts as my identity for years. My secret fear was that I was gay. I hid my true masculinity and used my control to ‘feel’ masculine and ‘look’ masculine to others. As far as leadership was concerned, I was the man. Inside, though, I was confused about my sexuality. This confusion continued to fuel my shame in spite of the mask. This cycle of shame and performance was an emotional roller coaster that was both exhausting and painful.

So, now shame had moved me into bondage. I was now living in bondage to my mask of religious performance and control. I worked hard to prove that I was okay and to distance myself from the labels and lies that plagued my thinking. While it appeared to others that I really was that “masked” person, the thought of who I believed I really was never left me. I was a pervert, trying to come off as perfect.

In my pain, I sought relief. Self-medication is a natural coping mechanism for anyone in pain. What do we do when we have a headache? We look for the pain reliever! Emotionally and spiritually we are no different. We look for something that will bring us pleasure, something that is available and that works to reduce the pain. My medication was closely associated with my journey. Pornography, masturbation and sexual fantasy provided an escape from the pain and pressure of the constant performance required in my role as Pastor but increased the sense of shame. Religious performance eased the pain of feeling like a pervert but led to exhaustion and further acting out. I entered a period of my life where I lived in the destructive cycle of striving and indulging. I worked hard to be the best and most caring Pastor I could be, but then when exhausted or criticized, I indulged my flesh in pornography, masturbation and sexual fantasy. The repetition of this cycle led to a deep depression.

The enemy used depression to create a fog that would lead me down a path of despair. The truth became even harder to discern through the fog and the lies increased in strength. The stronghold of lies and labels was so strong that the truth couldn’t even penetrate it. I began to feel more and more that the wounded identity was the true me and that I would never overcome it. I begged God to take it away but I never addressed what was driving it. I went forward at church invitations and retreat campfires and promised God over and over that I would never act out again, that I would be faithful. The repeated unanswered prayers and the repeated broken promises worked together to create a great disillusionment about God. Maybe it was all made up. Maybe God wasn’t real. Maybe I was meant to be this way. Maybe He just didn’t care. Maybe …

The suicidal thoughts started very subtly, and in the fog, I didn’t even recognize them for what they were. I was tired, exhausted from the endless cycle of striving and indulging. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. As this thought grew in my mind, I began to formulate a plan to make it happen. My double life had already taken its toll on me physically. I was experiencing high blood pressure, passing out spells and migraine headaches. No real medical cause was ever found for my symptoms but the doctors were more than happy to medicate them. I started taking more and more of my medication to help me sleep and help me to forget my struggles.

Finally, the day came when I didn’t care if I woke up or not. The thought that I kept repeating in my mind was that I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I had preached morning and evening messages at church the day before and felt emptier than I could ever remember. I went into my bedroom and began swallowing pills.

I don’t even remember how far I had gotten in the process when my wife came in and I fell apart in front of her. By the end of that day, just 24 hours after another religious performance, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and labeled suicidal. It was a humiliating experience. I was stripped of my belt, razor, shoe strings and anything else that I might use to harm myself. I was put in a room where I could be watched so that I would not attempt suicide. I was heavily medicated. I lost my church, nearly lost my family, lost my perfect mask and lost my capacity to maintain the facade of my past.

The psychiatric hospital was not the answer to all of my problems, but the Lord did use it to provide me with a safe place to let down my guard and share with my wife and others what was really going on inside of me (wouldn’t it have been awesome if the church had been that safe place!). HONESTY. This was my first choice toward life. Maybe it will help you make this choice as well!

When my journey was held inside in secrecy, it had great power over me. I felt like I was the only one who experienced these things or felt this way. Since sharing my journey with others, I have come to understand that we all have a story. Some involve much more pain than mine and some less but we all have a story and we all need to choose life.

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4 Strategic Planning Tools For Business Model Innovation and Business Strategy Design

There are strategic planning tools for pretty much any objective a business executive can conceive of. However, for managers and entrepreneurs wishing to innovate their business model, it can be challenging making the leap from conventional thinking to the sort of creative but realistic thinking from which the next generation of sustainable profits can develop.

Knowing the types of tools you can use for various kinds of business strategy tasks can you get far more innovative results from your strategy development sessions while cutting the time it takes to arrive at good business models.

Tools for Mapping and Dominating Uncontested Market Spaces

1. Strategy Canvas

The Strategy Canvas is a tool first introduced in the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. It is a chart that plots the positions of business competitors relative to the factors important to the customer marketplace. The horizontal axis plots the factors of competition (hopefully established through customer knowledge), and the vertical axis plots the degree of offering or service level.

Using this chart differences between current and potential business competitors can be graphically portrayed. The primary point of the strategy canvas is to illustrate divergence between market and business strategies as it relates to customer needs. By using a strategy canvas, you can create a new value innovation that breaks the conflict between low cost and differentiation – the heart of blue ocean strategy.

The strategy canvas is also a great tool for USP development.

2. Strategic Control Point Index

This is a tool used to assess the level of strategic control a business has in its industry relative to competing businesses and organizations. It was best articulated by management consultant Adrian Slywotzky in “The Profit Zone” (a book which I highly recommend). The strategic control point index classifies these control points according to the level of “profit-protecting power” they confer to a business.

Simply put, it is a simple description of the path to monopoly power (or at least near-monopoly) in any business design. The profit protecting power of these strategic control points go from “None”, “low”, “medium” to “high”. Some examples of strategic control points given by Slywotzky include:

  • 10 to 20 percent cost advantage in commodity product (low)
  • One-year product development lead (slightly higher, but still low)
  • Two-year product development lead (medium)
  • Brand, copyright (slightly higher, but still medium)
  • Customer relationship ownership (High)
  • String of superdominant market positions (Higher)
  • Management of the Value Chain (Even higher)
  • Standards Ownership (Highest)

3. 6 Paths Framework

This analytical tool is another from “blue ocean strategy” and masterfully gives strategists a way to think across the “six conventional boundaries of competition” to systematically construct new assumptions and stimulate product or business design breakthroughs. The idea is that one of these unconventional ways of looking at the competitive landscape may crack open a strategic breakthrough.

a) Look across industries – Compete with alternatives and substitutes for your product/service rather than those you think are your competition.

b) Look across strategic groups – Look at how your new strategy can be developed between the naturally assumed strategic boundaries in your industry.

c) Look across the chain of buyers – Consider how you can change the game by changing the defined “primary buyers.

d) Look across complementary products and services – Thinking about the whole system of your customer’s typically solution (in which your current offering might be just a small part).

e) Look across functional or emotional appeal – Examine how you may be able to create a new value curve by adding emotion to a functionally oriented industry, or removing stripping out emotion and reducing a product or service to its functional core.

f) Look across time – Adjust your time horizon to a different point or cycle than is typical in the rest of your industry.

4. Business Design Matrix

The business design matrix is a great analytical tool that you can use to help understand and analyze “at a glance” the business models of your competitors. It is largely derived from the work of Dr. Adrian Slywotzky. The criteria across which you analyze your competitors as well as your own organization include:

  • Customer selection
  • Profit Capture System(s)
  • Differentiation / Strategic Control
  • Scope of offerings and presence

These core four considerations provide a foundation for deciding marketing strategy – a foundation upon which a larger business strategy can comfortably rest.

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Insurance Telemarketing Scripts: A Step by Step Guide to Creating a Successful Script

One of the biggest challenges when designing a marketing plan is how to create a successful insurance telemarketing script. Agent usually end up with a lot of poor advice that leads to frustration and ultimately and unsuccessful campaign. In fact, the average insurance agents stops their telemarketing campaign within the first five hours.

Although all lines of insurance agents can launch a telemarketing campaign, this article is going to target the sale of individual health and life products. There is a different script and method for telemarketing consumers for senior products such as Medicare Supplements and P&C.

Let’s cover the first issue – that telemarketing or “cold calling” doesn’t work. That is false. Telemarketing can be on of the most successful ways to build your book of business. When an agent says “I tried telemarketing and it doesn’t work” what they really mean to say is “I tried telemarketing and it didn’t work for me.”

What list were they calling? Which insurance products were they selling? What’s their level of expertise? Did they create and practice their presentation before making calls? Where they using auto-dialing technology? All could have been factors that led to an unsuccessful campaign.

I spent years buying internet leads and although I experienced success, I was looking for an additional method of marketing where I had more control over my income. I quickly discovered by trial and error how to run a successful campaign where I earned over $2,000 a week in commissions.

Let’s get into a step by step process of how to design a successful script and campaign:

  1. I recommend calling businesses, not residential. Businesses are far more likely to answer and you don’t have to worry about scrubbing your list to be DNC (Do-Not-Call) compliant. DNC rules do not apply to business to business calls.
  2. Buy a list of small business owners in your state. For the sale of individual life and health products I recommend buying a list with no more than four employees. You can search “business lists” to find list companies. Don’t pay too much for a list if the price is based on accurate mailing addresses. Addresses are irrelevant when telemarketing. You’re looking to spend about 2 to 3 cents per record.
  3. Buy an auto-dialer (power dialer.) This is a crucial step because auto-dialers are capable of dialing over 100 numbers per hour which keeps you on the phone with prospects. When searching for a dialer just make sure you’re not buying a predictive dialer. Auto-dialers are typically a monthly cost ranging from $50 to $200 per month.

At this point you’re set up to run your campaign. With support from your auto-dialer vendor, you simply import and list and you’re ready to make calls. This brings us to the script. Now, before getting into the script it’s important to discuss that at this point you should be very well training on your products, underwriting and rates.

A successful campaign will hinge on one thing: Whether or not your prospect feels that you’re a knowledgeable agent. They either do or don’t. If you come across as meek and hesitant don’t expect to get very far. You need to know your stuff inside and out which requires study.

How to Design a Successful Telemarketing Script

  1. When you introduce yourself and they reply, don’t ask “How are you doing today.” The only thing that accomplishes is the prospect raising the brick wall. Get right into the reason you’re calling. Example: “Is this Tom Smith?” “Yes, this is Tom.” “Tom, my name is John Stevens and the reason I’m calling is…”
  2. You have 15 to 20 seconds…maximum. Time your script. If it goes longer than 20 seconds, ditch is and re-write it.
  3. Have a reason to call. “I’m offering free quotes” is not a reason to call. Is there anything new in your state over the past 12 months? New plans? New rates? Use that as your introduction: “Tom, the reason I’m calling is because two main life insurance carriers have released new affordable products.” Or “Tom, the reason I’m calling is because there are now three new affordable health insurance plans available in
  4. Call to action. The end of your short introduction should tell them the next step: “…all I need if you email address and I can send you the details on the plans and rates.”

So let’s sum up the presentation: “Hi, is this Tom Smith?” “Yes, this is Tom.” “Tom, the reason I’m calling today is there are three new health insurance plans available in Maryland that could have you between 15% to 25% off what you’re currently paying. I’d like to send you the details so you can compare and all I need is your email address.”

That’s a 15 second presentation and gets right to the point. If Tom is interested all you need is his email and also the ages of who will be on the policy. I do not suggest getting into qualification as this point. Simply set a time to follow up so you can go over the plans and rates.

Some Quick Final Tips

  • Avoid calling major cities especially if you’re selling insurance online. The more remote the better. City businesses receive far more telemarketing calls then rural businesses.
  • Voice tone is everything. Avoid sounding flat and boring. You want to raise and lower the tone of your voice to accentuate key words which makes for an interesting presentation.
  • Practice pitch on your family friends who will give you honest feedback about how you’re coming across.
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How Can A Business Benefit From Cartoon Character Licensing?

Animation Sensation
Cartoon characters have an appeal that is indisputable. Think about some of the advertisements you see on T.V. from animated paperclips selling office products to Tony the Tiger selling Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, cartoon characters are popping up everywhere, and for good reason; they capture the consumer’s attention.

Blame it on Sesame Street and Saturday morning cartoons if you want, but those consumers under the age of 50 have been shown in laboratory tests to react positively to cartoon characters and, as a result, marketing firms around the globe have been making a mad dash to develop their own cartoon characters to sell their products.

Sometimes a business will enter a licensing agreement with a ‘known’ cartoon character (such as Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse) in order to sell their product, but this requires a contract between the licensor (the owner of the cartoon character brand) and the licensee (the one who wants to use the character) and the licensor is not going to enter into a contract that they do not think will be financially beneficial to them. In fact, most major brand names or owners of major cartoon characters require that the licensee have a proven product track record before they will sell them a license to use their character on their product, or in order to sell their product.

In response to the desire to have a character to help with marketing, many companies and smaller businesses have been turning to small 3d animation studios who have stock piles of characters to choose from or who will create a character (such as Sedo Dog) specifically to represent the business, company, or product. So, what kind of business will benefit from adopting cartoon characters and looking into cartoon character licensing?

Businesses that Will Benefit from Cartoon Character Licensing
Nurseries and Daycare Centers. This should be self-explanatory. Having a brand character will make the kids fall in love with your center, especially if it is a character that they know and love, and happy kids make for happy parents.

Toys and Novelties. If you are looking at developing a line of toys or novelty products, your business could definitely benefit from adopting a character; something that will come to be associated specifically with your product. This is particularly true if you are marketing to children or ‘tweens’ (both groups who responded high to characters in studies).

Credit Cards. Does this one make you pause? Think about it – if you can associate your credit card with a character, you just might find that you are getting more business than you can imagine. This is true for one major reason; University and college students and recent grads are flooding the workplace in droves, and they are sick to death of boring looking corporate credit cards. Indeed, imaginative use of known cartoon characters on ‘personalized’ credit cards have resulted in huge surges in credit card applications, something that most credit card companies are taking very seriously.

Books and Games. Are you looking at writing a children’s storybook, creating a puzzle book or some sort of self-help guide for adults? If so you may want to consider licensing a character. While this is self-explanatory with the children’s products, you may be wondering how this would work with products aimed at adults; fairly simply actually. Cartoon characters don’t have to look “cute” to work. They can be sleek or funky or just downright quirky (like the Simpsons). If you can manage to match the right product up with the right character for the right demographic area, your book, game or other product may just start selling on the character recognition alone.

These are just a few of the companies/products that would benefit from cartoon character licensing, but they are far from being the only ones! Quite frankly, any business can benefit from adopting a cartoon character, if for no other reason than to give your brand a warmth and honesty that it would not otherwise have, so no matter what business you are in, take a look at the many ways that character licensing can.

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Leverage the Power of Ten in Tenacity to Increase Sales

What would happen if you took every action and multiplied it by ten? How would these actions increase sales? To do so would require tenacity and leveraging the power of ten within that very same word.

For a moment, just imagine all of the improved results that you could realize from loyal customers to increase sales by applying the power of 10 to your daily marketing plan and sales strategies. When the power of 10 is applied, you are truly being tenacious and demonstrating the key word within tenacious – ten.

Let’s put the power of ten to three different scenarios.

Scenario One

Within your sales statistics, you know that for every 100 calls you get 20 appointments. From those 20 appointments, you make 15 second appointments and eventually secure 10 commitments. Your sales to close ratio is ten to one.

To meet your current sales goal, you must make on average 50 calls per week or 10 per day. So it takes 2 weeks to get one order based upon your sales statistics. This is why it is so critical to track all of your sales activities. By increasing the total weekly calls by 10 per day, you now will be getting one sale per week instead of one sale every other week.

Scenario Two

The day is almost over and you still have many unanswered emails that seem to continually grow day after day. Currently, you have easily 100 emails that need to be addressed and some are over a month old.

Instead of leaving, you make a commitment to take care of the 5 newest emails and the 5 oldest emails. Within one month, you have eliminated all of the old emails and are up to date with the incoming emails.

Every day, you continue to address 10 emails at the end of the day. And you now feel less stress and very positive about your own sales productivity.

Scenario Three

You have a proposal and through the technology of cut and paste you have it quickly done and ready to go. Instead of making the call to schedule the face to face appointment because you know not to email proposals, you set it aside for 10 minutes.

Then you take 10 minutes to slowly reread and discover numerous mistakes from simple typographical errors to actual incomplete thoughts and even some number errors. You correct all the errors and reprint it.

When you have that face to face meeting, you now feel more confident about your proposal knowing that is the best that it can be.

The power of 10 is a tremendous sales strategy. When consistently applied (key word is consistently), you will definitely realize your sales goal to increase sales.

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Pros and Cons of Futures Trading

Futures trading is amongst today’s most highly leveraged, potentially profitable financial pursuits. It allows traders to build up their trading accounts fast with only a small amount of capital at their disposal. However, if you take futures trading lightly, you could also wipe out your trading account in a matter of days. Therefore, it’s crucial to your trading success that you diligently educate yourself in futures trading, and trade only with a proven and solid trading strategy.

If you’re new to futures trading, it can be especially difficult to decide WHICH contracts to actually trade. There are a lot of options! The best approach would probably be to start with the more popular commodities, until you have a better idea of which contracts most fit you and your trading.

The more you know about the basics of futures contracts and commodities like this, the better your chances of trading success. With any type of online trading, there are a number of factors that you should take into account. Here are four of those factors, along with an assessment of how futures trading measures up:

1.) The Capital Requirements

In order to trade a futures contract, you need to deposit an initial investment into your futures trading account. Currently, brokers require a minimum of $5,000, though some brokers are willing to open an account with as little as $2,000.

2.) The Leverage

The leverage depends on the futures contract you’re trading and the contract value. Each contract requires an initial margin. Here are some examples for the most popular contracts (as of January 2008):

E-mini S&P – as low as $500 to trade a $75,000 contract

(Leverage 1:150)

E-mini NQ – as low as $500 to trade a $45,000 contract

(Leverage 1:90)

E-mini Gold – as low as $400 to trade a $27,000 contract

(Leverage 1:67.5)

3.) Liquidity

Again, the liquidity depends on the futures contract you are trading. Here are some numbers:

E-mini S&P: around 2,500,000 contracts/day

E-mini NQ: around 500,000 contracts/day

Euro Currency: around 200,000 contract/day

As you can see, the liquidity varies, and therefore you MUST check the volume of the futures market you are planning to trade.

4.) Volatility

You will find decent volatility in the futures markets. The high leverage will allow you to make decent profits, even if the markets move just a few points. Here are some average daily moves:

E-mini S&P: between 1% and 3% per day

E-mini NQ: between 1% and 2.5% per day

E-mini Gold: between 1% and 2.5% per day

Euro Currency: between 0.5% and 1.5% per day

Keep in mind that these moves represent approximately $500-$1,500 per day for each contract traded.

Conclusion:

Futures markets can be very liquid, and the capital requirements are as low as $2,000. The leverage is at least 1:50, and there’s decent volatility.

Futures markets are regulated and the spread is typically 1 tick (minimum movement of the contract). Commissions are usually below $5 per transaction. It’s no surprise that many day traders choose the futures market for their trading endeavors.

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How to Promote A Christian T-Shirt Business – Effective and Low Cost Marketing Tips

Quite a lot of people today are turning towards Christian businesses since these are highly targeted niches that receive much success. Starting a Christian t-shirt store online can be a great way to earn additional income. However, you don’t really have to spend a lot for marketing your business. If you learn how to promote a Christian t-shirt business at low cost, it is quite possible for you to enjoy good revenues. The marketing tips that have been discussed here will provide you several helpful ideas to start with.

How to Promote A Christian t-shirt Business

• One of the best ways to promote this type of business is to get an article or an advertisement published in your local Christian newsletter or church newsletter. If your local church has a website you can also get your company promoted there so that you would be able to target a huge amount of audience. Provide a few good pictures of your t-shirts along with effective text.

• One of the best, free and the most effective way to market your business is by wearing your t-shirts yourself. If your t-shirts are unique you would certainly be generating a lot of enquiries from everyone. Hand out a few t-shirts to your family and friends so that they can wear them and advertise your business for you without shelling out any money at all.

• If you are wondering how to promote a Christian t-shirt business online then you should know that article marketing is one of the most effective marketing methods. Write articles and get them published on various article directories for free. Include a link to your website and you would be generating a lot of traffic in very less time.

• Join a few online forums for Christians and talk to others. Ask questions, leave comments on the profiles of others and answer questions regularly. Ensure that you leave your signature and a link to your website.

• Create attractive, interesting videos and post them on YouTube. This is one of the best and the most effective ways to market a t-shirt business online. Creating videos is not really difficult. If you make it personal your videos would generate even more interest and would be very effective.

• Offer good discounts and attractive schemes on a regular basis to your customers so that they would be able to take the benefit and save money.

These were only a few good and low cost methods in which you can save money while promoting your business. If you learn how to promote a Christian t-shirt business, you would be able to generate more revenues over time.

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Why Online Magazines Are Becoming More Popular

We have seen an enormous growth in the capabilities and opportunities of the online world. The everyday online magazine, blog, listing or website has now become the best accessible, most effective way of advertising anything; whether it is a roll of toilet paper, or the latest addition to the gadget world.

The average person today would much rather quickly read an article or news report on the internet, where it is immediately accessible and available, than going out to buy a specific newspaper or magazine that includes the specific article or news bulletin. Think about it; you hear that one of your favourite soapy stars has been nominated for an award. You are sitting in front of your laptop. Would you rather quickly log onto the internet and search the story in a search engine, or would you waste ten minutes going to the shop and searching for a magazine or newspaper that includes the story? Easy answer, isn’t it?

Well, one of the best ideas of portraying valuable information and adding to the online world is the online magazine. Somebody give the person who thought of that an award! Not only are online magazines more easily accessible than print magazines; they are usually free as well; which is an added bonus! And, what’s more, online magazines are generally a lot more laid back and fun that print magazines. They may contain anything from short stories submitted by readers, to fun, informative articles and advertisements! So, people tend to enjoy them a lot more than print magazines.

Should you start an online magazine to be the online version of a print magazine, you will benefit in regards to exposure. This is because you can ‘piggy-back’ on the print magazine’s established brand and fame and so build a greater online community, because of popularity. More and more brands are taking this route nowadays. Fashion houses and retailers, grocery stores and supermarkets and pharmacies are just some of the types of companies that are relying on their already established business and brand to build a new one and reach more people via the internet.

Brand visibility is extremely important to any business, because that is where the market is going: online and digital. There has been an enormous growth in the popularity in social networks like Facebook and Twitter being used as marketing tools. So, when you do decide to start an online magazine, remember that it is important to back it up with some kind of marketing; even if it is free marketing, like Facebook and Twitter. Use what is out there to build a brand, and then look at spending money on marketing, if it is necessary at all!

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Alternatives to Robert’s Rules

Some people complain that Robert’s Rules is too complex to understand. Some people say that parliamentary procedure itself is too complex or too unfair. They say the act of “making motions” and the processing of “majority vote” should not require a zillion rules.

Well, guess what? It isn’t a monopoly. You can shop around.

If you don’t like the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order (namely, the 11th edition published in 2011 which is titled “Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised”, published by DaCapo Press), then your organization is free to adopt another competing parliamentary manual.

Indeed, before 1876, the first year of publication of the original edition of the little pocket-sized book by Henry Martyn Robert, all organizations necessarily had to draft their own customized set of parliamentary rules, because they had to – there was no neat, complete compilation available to the average civic organization. That little pocket-sized handbook of H. M. Robert filled a marketing niche which had zero competitors.

Or, your organization can adopt no manual at all and draft their own 100% customized rules. That’s right – complete anarchy except for whatever your bylaws specify plus whatever unique rules you create yourselves. There’s nothing stopping you from re-inventing the wheel – indeed, a 200-page, 300-page, 400-page “wheel,” depending on how complete you want your customized manual to be. But do you really have 3 to 6 years free for such an undertaking?

If you don’t want to spend 3-6 years drafting your own parliamentary manual, and if you don’t like the 700+ pages of the current edition of Robert’s Rules, then what is the alternative? Where can you turn to for a set of democratic rules ready to be applied? What real alternative is out there, right now, which can improve upon, or can replace, Robert’s Rules?

Good news on this front: Someone has taken a poll.

One parliamentarian, Jim Slaughter of North Carolina, wrote an article (see footnote) which lists the most popular alternatives to Robert’s Rules. In his poll, he asked working parliamentarians what parliamentary authority their clients were using. Slaughter’s findings were as follows.

• 90% use “Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised”

• 8% use “The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure”

• 3% use some other parliamentary authority

Since #2 on the list is “The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure” (abbreviated “TSC” for “The Standard Code”), then let’s discuss this book for its potential to replace Robert’s Rules.

The author of TSC was the late Alice F. Sturgis (1885-1974) who had some serious credentials working with the United Nations. She taught at Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) and the University of California (Berkeley, CA). Her first book on parliamentary procedure was published in 1925. After the death of Sturgis, the revision of the book has been in the hands of a committee of the American Institute of Parliamentarians. The current edition is the 2000 4th edition.

Some large organizations have taken the big step, and have swapped the Sturgis book for the Robert book: the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, and the United Automobile Workers Union.

What is different in the Sturgis book? To a non-parliamentarian reader, the rules in the current edition of TSC might appear so similar to Robert’s Rules that the differences are not obvious. Indeed, any parliamentary manual you choose must necessarily have a significant overlap with all other parliamentary manuals, due to the nature of 300 years of British customs and traditions being passed on more or less intact to all democratically-elected legislatures. The basics have not changed in 2,000 years. – (a.) Propose an idea; (b.) Debate the advantages and disadvantages; (c.) Vote whether to carry it out or not. The terminology has been likewise preserved down through the centuries. Whatever differences exist will be regarding specific motions, specific applications, and not wholesale changes.

What you get with the Sturgis’ TSC fourth edition is satisfaction for a few of the most popular demands over the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order: (a.) fewer pages; (b.) larger print; (c.) fewer motions; (d.) change of jargon to plain English.

No surprise here. One thing you can count on is that today’s competitors to Robert’s Rules will have simplified something or condensed something. That is, no one is putting out a parliamentary manual of more pages, more rules, than the current edition of Robert’s Rules, namely, 716 numbered pages, and the book lists 86 numbered motions in its table. How many of the 86 motions will you see in your lifetime?

Beware the difference in philosophy. The Sturgis book, plus all similar condensations and simplifications, are meant to be understood as a book of essential rules, with principles covering implicitly what the written rules do not cover explicitly. In contrast, the Robert book is meant to be encyclopedic is scope, and is meant to cover every contingency.

What does this mean? It means that if you adopt Sturgis or a similar simplification, then there will be parliamentary situations which the book won’t cover. Whereas, in contrast, it is highly unlikely that any parliamentary situation you run into for the rest of your life won’t have a corresponding rule in Robert’s Rules of Order.

Here is an analogy. — It’s like the difference between a hybrid/electric car vs. a SUV/Humvee: One vehicle will slowly and lightly get you from point A to point B, as long as points A & B aren’t too far apart and aren’t too steep. But the other vehicle is a monster truck, and there isn’t any place it cannot go. — That’s the difference between a watered-down manual which covers essential things, versus an industrial-strength manual which covers things you’ve never heard of and never will hear of.

That is why one book is 700+ pages long, and the competition is 200-300 pages long. The big book covers everything, and is meant to cover 100%. The smaller competition has deliberate gaps, and is meant to cover 50%-80% of all situations — the easy ones, the popular ones, the non-complex ones.

Here is another analogy using television as the medium: Robert’s Rules versus somebody else’s rules is like the difference in quantity of data between a movie trailer versus the actual film. One contains some sound bites, some highlights, and the core theme. The other contains every line of dialogue, every scene, and all themes and motifs.

Are there competitors to Sturgis? No, not really. All the other competitors are out of print. The paperback knock-offs that one might find in a keyword search are not recognized by any organization which I know of.

Nonetheless, if you are a fire fighter, then there is a fair chance that your parliamentary manual is going to be “Atwood’s Rules for Meetings” (Roswell Atwood, 1956, published by the International Association of Fire Fighters). Even more out of print than Atwood are older competitors: George Demeter’s manual. Franklin Kerfoot’s manual. Thomas B. Reed’s manual.

One more alternative to weigh and consider: State legislative houses use Mason’s manual (Paul Mason, latest edition 2010, published by the National Conference of State Legislatures). But Mason is not a true competitor to Robert or Sturgis because Mason’s manual is meant for full-time legislative bodies, and, as such, those rules won’t work for a once-a-month or once-per-quarter fraternity clubhouse meeting or a Little League board or a computer club.

That’s the situation. If you have reservations, concerns, doubts, or fears, about learning Robert’s Rules, or being victimized by Robert’s Rules, then you don’t have to take it. You can talk your organization into adopting a competitor, like “The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure,” or “Atwood’s Rules for Meetings.” And if you don’t like Sturgis nor Atwood either, then you can cowboy-up and roll your own — yes, draft your own rules of order, uniquely your own. All the inconsistencies and ambiguities will be of your own doing. Good luck.

But be careful what you wish for. If you don’t draft any rules, or if you draft too few rules, then you will be at the mercy of an untrained, unscrupulous chair with a hidden agenda, and you won’t have any way of fighting back.

* * *

footnote:

Jim Slaughter, “Parliamentary Practices of CPP’s in 2000,” Parliamentary Journal, XLII (Jan. 2001), 1-11.

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Mortgage Sales Letter Tips

A good mortgage sales letter that produces leads from a cold list or generates new business from your old client list is worth 1000 times it’s weight in gold.

Lets say you have a list of 50 clients and 50 leads that you haven’t converted. If you send one letter at a cost of just .42, and $100 for printing. That’s just $142 in total costs for a basic mortgage sales letter.

One new loan can generate several thousand dollars in commission. If you get just one new loan from a mortgage sales letter, you are going to be profitable (assuming you aren’t mailing to an enormous list).

As a result, it’s important to create an effective mortgage sales letter to maximize your lead generation efforts.

The key is to write an effective mortgage sales letter that people read and respond to. Most mortgage brokers don’t know the power of effective writing and rely upon hype and trickery in their letters.

The good news is you don’t need to hype up your letter, and you don’t need to rely on tricks like the old ‘fake looking check in the window’ letter (by the way, this does work, but only if you do it without fooling the recipient).

If you want leads and referrals here are the three most important parts of a successful mortgage sales letter that will help you boost response rates and build your book of business:

1. A Compelling Headline. Almost every mortgage sales letter must have a headline. Why? I’ll let the late great David Ogilvy explain it to you:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” -David Ogilvy

The job of a headline is to get people interested and excited about what you have to say. For example, a poor headline might say, “Introducing Your Local Home Loan Specialist!”

A better headline would be, “Susan Johnson Saved $498.95 Per Month On Her Mortgage Payment — Here’ How You Can Save This Much or More!”

That headline needs a little work, but it’s light years ahead of the average mortgage brokers marketing letter.

2. Stories Sell. Nothing gets people more involved and motivated to take action than a good story. Instead of cramming a pitch about your products and services down your prospects throat (which puts them into the defensive mindset), tell them a story about a client who saved money instantly. And as a result of saving this money she could pay for child care or get a mini van, or go on a vacation that she has been putting off for a few years.

They key is to write a story that fits into the mindset of your audience. If you are targeting subprime mortgages, tell a story about how a down and out client with no hope. How he brought his family out of a rental in a bad part of town to owning a nice home in a wonderful school district.

3. Call To Action. The next important area of an effective mortgage sales letter is the call to action. You want your prospect to take action and call you or fill out a return reply card.

For example, a weak call to action would be, “Call me at 555-555-5555 between the hours of 8am and 4pm Monday through Friday.”

A stronger call to action would be, “For a free no obligation consultation to see how much you can save on your mortgage payment call me now: 555-555-5555. We can schedule a time to meet and discus your financial situation, or do it on the phone. You can reach me at 555-555-5555 anytime during normal business hours. Or, you can call my toll-free 24-hour voicemail at 1-800-555-5555 and leave your contact information and I’ll send you more information.”

In addition to a headline, a story, and a strong call to action, your mortgage sales letter should include a Post Script (PS), and testimonials. Studies show that up to 80% of your readers will read the PS first. This is where you restate your benefit in a conversational way. Testimonials are very effective in establish credibility, and they reinforce your claims.

If you follow these simple guidelines to a more effective mortgage sales letter, you will generate more qualified leads and referrals.

Sit down and write a mortgage sales letter tonight instead of watching Fringe or Dancing With The Stars. Send it to your current clients, and old leads. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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