Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cuba

For the 1st part of my 30th birthday, I went to the F1 races, then Noah threw me a surprise party that night.

For the 2nd part of my 30th bday, I went to Cuba (actually Noah planned this whole trip too…..that was damn nice of him eh!)

Cuba was appealing because it’s this weird “time capsule” of a place.  The United States has an embargo against Cuba, so Cuba has very little importing options….not to mention it’s a communist country (well….I guess technically it’s “socialist”).  This means the government can strictly control the imports, exports, the currency….and thus, the people.

For example, for the locals of Cuba:

  • …they are not allowed to leave Cuba.
  • …they are not allowed to use the internet.
  • …they are not supposed to get close with any tourists.
  • …they are not allowed to openly talk bad about the government.
  • …all sorts of other stuff.

There’s also not a lot of industry going on in Cuba….this means most of the local population is quite poor, many of them making something like $13 to $18 U.S. dollars A MONTH.  That’s right, A MONTH.

A doctor in Cuba, even a surgeon, gets paid only $40 A FREAKIN’ MONTH.

Almost hard to believe.

The way they survive on this small sum of money is because Cuba has two currencies (both of which outside of Cuba are worth nothing).

FIRST CURRENCY is called the Cuban Convertible Peso, and is roughly 1-to-1 with American dollars.  Tourists use this currency, and prices everywhere are pretty decent with this currency.  We could eat a nice lunch, complete with beers, for 6 people, for about $30 to $45.  Not bad.  Unless you’re eating at the really nice tourist-y places, you probably won’t spend a crazy amount on food.

SECOND CURRENCY is the Cuban Peso, and is for locals only.  Tourists aren’t supposed to use it, and the locals aren’t “supposed to” accept it from tourists (notice the “supposed to” in quotes).  This currency is 250 per 1 American dollar.  My friend heard that you could buy things RIDIIIICCCULOUSLY cheap in local areas if you somehow get a hold of this currency.

He found a place that would let him get some, and he decided to change just $20 U.S. Dollars. The lady at the front asked him, “Ummm….are you SURE?”  He agreed, and got a HUGE STACK OF $5,000 IN LOCAL BILLS.  It was like a giant strip-club stack of $20 bills!
Whenever we went to local places that accepted this currency, this is what we spent:

  • 4 bowls of ice cream at a sit-down ice cream parlor (4 scoops per bowl) = $0.20 USD total
  • Bottle of rum + mixers = $2.90 USD
  • Personal pizza =  $0.15 USD

After paying with local currency at every place possible (sometimes convincing is needed), my friend still had $10 USD in local currency left over!

However almost everyone we spoke with about Cuba told us the local currency was useless for tourists.  It worked well for us because 3 of us were brown, and my friend using the currency spoke very fluent Spanish.

However this local currency only worked in certain places, definitely not everywhere.  I still ended up spending about $2,000 in six days (about 20% was skimmed off each money exchange, and much of it was to pay for the big penthouse condo we rented).

BRIBING. 
One of the greatest parts about living in a society that’s “slightly less than 1st world” is bribing (well…presuming you’re rich in that country….otherwise it sucks for you)!

Anytime there’s a long line at the airport, it “can be solved” with some monetary lubrication.
Anytime you need a table at a restaurant with a huge wait…..no problem.

BEST JOBS IN CUBA:
In a perfect society, I’d think doctors, teachers, and businessmen should make the most money…..HOWEVER, in Cuba, we found out one of the best jobs to ever have is a bartender in a touristy spot!

The bartenders sling drinks all day, and get tipped in Cuba Convertible Pesos (about 1-to-1 with American dollars).  This means they can rake in $150+ a day.  And when you consider the average Cuban peasant makes something like $13 to $18 a MONTH, that’s a helluvalot of money.

The next best job is a taxi driver.  The government “owns” the taxis, but the drivers get to keep much of their tips.  Someone shuttling around tourists all day can make decent tips, and support an entire family pretty well on that job.

It was interesting yet kinda sad how a bartender or taxi driver make literally 100x what a doctor makes.

SAFETY:
The country actually felt VERY safe.  I have a reasonably good “Spidey Sense” of what situations will get me into “fake” trouble (ex: security guard telling you to stop doing something), and what will get me into “real” trouble (ex: going to jail in a communist country).

….and I gotta say, Cuba was pretty safe.  Since their criminal justice system is so harsh on crime, there is very little of it.  I heard pickpocketing and petty crimes are reasonably common, but serious crimes are not.

Actually in Mexico and China I’ve felt MUCH stronger security presences than Cuba.  I really expected to see armed guards everywhere around Cuba, but alas hardly saw a single one.  Even the police officers seemed chill and nice, and about 80% didn’t even carry guns.

Pretty much everywhere we went, the vibe of the country was “super chill”.  It was very safe.

GETTING INTO THE COUNTRY FOR U.S. CITIZENS:
Pretty much any other country in the world can openly travel to Cuba with no issue.  However Americans can’t legally go “just like that” because of the embargo we have against Cuba since 1962.  But there are many options to go:

GETTING A VISA:
American Citizens can go to Cuba legally if they have family members there, going for diplomatic reasons, going for foreign aid reasons……and the most common is “cultural” reasons.  This is for students and tourists.  There are many tour companies that will charge you money and get you a “legal” visa to Cuba…..but I’m almost certain some of these are scams, read the next way of entering the country:

GOING QUASI-ILLEGALLY:
U.S. citizens can “try” this little stunt if so chosen:
Get a flight to some country such as Mexico, Belize, Guatemala …wherever.  Then fly to Havana, Cuba from there.  Your passport will get stamped on the way out of the country, however, Cuba stamps only the Cuban visas (which any person can buy at the airport for $25 each).  This visa is just a piece of paper that’s NOT affixed to your passport.

This means for Americans, they stamp the paper on the way into the country, and the way out of the country.  So your passport is untouched.

For example, one could “just hypothetically” do this:

  • Go to Cancun, Mexico.
  • Buy a flight to Cuba.
  • At the airport, find a place to get Cuban visas.  They’re $25 each.
  • Fly to Cuba, have a good time.
  • Fly back to Cancun.
  • Fly back to the U.S.

From what I understand through research and talking to many people who’ve done something similar, the U.S. no longer takes the Cuban embargo ultra-seriously.

 

 

THE TIME-CAPSULE EFFECT:
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Cuba right now, is the “time-capsule” effect the American embargo has on the country.  Essentially they have a bunch of old cars from the 50’s rolling around, no internet and very limited cell phone use.

I can go to a rural farm in India, and the farmer will be text messaging his kids.  However in Cuba I hardly saw ANY locals with a phone.  The only phones I saw being used were carried by hustlers, tourists, or students.

It was also almost wholly “brand-less” when driving around.  No billboards, no overt advertisements except inside the actual establishments.

 

 

LANGUAGE BARRIER:
You’ll definitely need to know some Spanish if you visit.  However you can make it around the tourist-y areas ok without it. All 6 of us on the trip spoke and understood at least A LITTLE Spanish.  Two people with us spoke damn-near fluent, so that helped a ton for using local currency, getting information, and exploring areas where tourists don’t go.

 

 

CULTURE & MIS-INFORMATION:
Initially I thought we’d see propaganda everywhere, kind of like I’ve seen in China….but to my surprise it was shockingly little.  Instead the people are left relatively ignorant of the outside world through not being able to leave the country, no internet, and mainly: Very little access to outside information.

Their bookstores only sold American literature if it was something like an old classic novel (Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway etc).  There were a lot of books about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.  But completely absent were any new releases.

Almost no Cubans have ever left the country.  Almost no information about the outside world is easily seen.

 

THE CONTINGENCY PLAN:
After researching Cuba, it turns out things were pretty safe.  So here’s how I rationalized it:

  • 98% chance things would all work out completely fine and we’d all get home safe.
  • 1% chance of us getting stopped for questioning….perhaps get a small fine.
  • 1% chance that I somehow end up in a Cuban jail with no way out.

In the REALLY OFF CHANCE that I (or someone in the group) were to end up in some really deep-shit trouble whilst in Cuba, I made a small document called “The Contingency Plan.”  

I sent the document to two close friends who I trust, and also know my family & friends well enough to get things in motion.

The document contained certain contact information, and also instructions on where to find a small envelope which contained some bank account information. This bank account had immediately access to $200k in cash…..so if by some REMOTE CHANCE I didn’t arrive back home from Cuba…..the contingency plan would kick into gear and be well funded.

After going on the trip and seeing how safe the country actually was, I probably wouldn’t deem a Contingency Plan necessary for the next trip……but it was nice to know I had backups coming for us in case something happened.

 

 

 

SCREW ALL THIS WRITING, HERE’S SOME PICTURES! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Here’s some video highlights of the trip (me and my brother bought a $60 guitar in Cuba and made VERY good use of it)!

http://youtu.be/-eRVn5Kib5s

1 story plus 2 lessons = 3 minute video

This is a business AND kopywriting lesson in one, on how to keep things retardedly-simple (with 4 quick examples).

When you watch this vid, try to think of ideas to hone your own business message (or flat out create a new one):


(YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjbnL0fmflY )

 

So you’ll learn two lessons from this one story:
Lesson 1.) A lotta wantrepreneurs over-complicate the hell out of contracts.
Check out the contract Noah and I made for a project (and yes, it’s real).


Lesson 2.)
A lotta people over-complicate the MESSAGE their business sends out….which makes it too damn complicated…and thus useless since stupid people like me can’t understand it. I’ll show you some good examples.
Enjoy the vid!
-Neville


FYI
you can go to Kopy.tv to easily see all my vids.

 

 

1st Edition of the The Neville Letters

Not fully sure about the name yet, but for now they’re called The Neville Letters. 

I’ve loooong wanted to make a physical snail-mail newsletter I send out once a month.

There’s something so intrinsically satisfying to me about writing something, then printing it on paper.  As I hold it in my hand, I think, “I….Neville Medhora…..MADE this thing.”
(I say it in my Caveman Voice) 

 

 

THE REASON IT’S PHYSICAL AND NOT EMAIL OR WEB:
For YOU.

When I just write something and hit “Publish” ….and it’s free …and I don’t really know the people I’m sending to…. the content is gonna be different.

I’ve always wanted to send “Things” to people, not just words.  I personally love sitting in bed with a physical book or newsletter and marking it up with a pen.  I take away MUCH MORE than a simple email to me.

The reason is UNDERSTANDING.

If I just say, “Hey, you should tell a story in your copy to increase conversions.”  ….that’s sort of lame, and won’t stick in your head.

IT’S MY FREAKIN JOB TO BURN LESSONS INTO YOUR BRAIN, so for example…..I’ve always wanted instead to send a box with a crappy little stuffed animal in it, and say something like:

“This stuffed animal rabbit was found on Howland Island towards the end of 1937….just 6 months after Amelia Earhart’s famous disappearance.  Howland Island is over 1,700 miles away from the Hawaiian Islands, making it one of the most remote places on Earth.

Humans had never visited the island till a search crew landed on it’s beaches.

What you’re holding here is not just a small, grey, stuffed rabbit with it’s eye poked out.  This rabbit was believed to be in the plane of Amelia Earhart (the first woman to fly across the Atlantic) when her plane crashed somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.

This rabbit found on Howland Island was the exact type Amelia Earhart use to fly with as a good luck charm (confirmed by her parents).  What you’re holding in your hand is believed to be the ONLY PIECE OF EVIDENCE ever found of Amelia Earhart’s wrecked plane.

…..now look again at this piece-of-junk stuffed animal.  You thought it was a 25 cent item at a garage sale.  But now it’s priceless.  It’s value went from 25 cents to something that would fetch over $1,000,000 at a Sotheby’s auction.

Why?

THE STORY BEHIND IT.

DAMN that was good!

I made up the whole thing about this stuffed rabbit being found, but that person would now fully understand the value-adding power of a great story.  Physically holding that rabbit in your hands will make a HUGE difference in the way you grasp the concept of how stories can work.  It will be the difference between “understand the concept” and “A light switch in your brain turning on.”

I view it as my DUTY to press these lessons into people’s heads……and using a physical medium is still far more powerful than our current experience on the internet.

I think that’s worth a whole helluva-a-lot more than $100 every month.

My plan is so ultra-super-duper-hardcore burn ONE main lesson into people’s brains with each newsletter.

The lessons will primarily be in the kopywriting world……but in my mind, kopywriting and business are the same thing.

 

 

THE REASON I’M CHARGING:
REASON #1.) It’s like….work and shit to send these out.   I’ve long run a drop-shipping business and know it’s a pain in the ass to keep track of physical inventory and all the random real-world things that happen to a package.

REASON #2.) FOR YOU TO LEARN BETTER.  I was long a believer that all my products should be cheap as possible.  Lemme tell you, I HAVE CHANGED.  It has absolutely zero to do with making more money, and everything to do with PEOPLE WHO PAY FOR SOMETHING VALUE IT MORE. 

….and the MORE they pay, the MORE they pay attention.  

I have seen this countless times now…..most poignantly with AppSumo tests we’ve done:

Let’s say something like the wildly-popular and helpful SumoBusinessBlueprint.  We sell it for $69.  People LOVE it, they LEARN A LOT from it, and many go onto create businesses from it, or at least change their entire mind about how to start a business.

But we’ve tried tests where we sold it for $18 also.  It sold well at the lower price, but the engagement was low, the people learned very little since they didn’t value it (not everyone, but there was an extraordinarily noticeable drop in interaction), and people thought it was “just ok”.

We then tried selling this product for $1.  Yup, just 1 buck.

I thought it was going to be the most AMAZING deal people ever got, and they would all love me.

You know what happened?

THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS WERE THE LEAST-MOTIVATED, MOST-BITCHIEST, WORST CUSTOMERS WE EVER HAD!   

That stupidly low price did many things:

  • De-valued the whole product (when did you think something that was $1.00 was EXTREMELY valuable to you)?
  • Attracted basement-bargain hunters.
  • Made the course a total “impulse buy” which people could grab ….and then never use.
  • Lowered the ratings on the course as these non-perfect-customers would say, “This sucks I want a refund.”
We tried this on several courses, and the shitty results were consistant.
The craziest thing was…..when we price-tested higher prices (particularly $89), the satisfaction rate went UP!  The higher price scared away the bargain hunters and impulse buyers….leaving us only with people serious about bettering their understanding of starting a bid-naz.

 

 

—————————————————-

ANYHOW, If you can come up with a better name than
“The Neville Letters”, lemme know.  Current ideas I have are:

  • Nev Letters
  • Nev’s Letters
  • The Kopywriting Kronicles
  • Kopywriting Letters
  • Neville Medhora’s Kopywriting Letters
  • ?????

 

If you would like to start getting The Neville Letters in your physical mailbox, you can signup below.  The 1st edition is ready to send out (I actually already sent the 1st two copies to Noah, and my good friend Ryan):

I’m EXCITED AS HELL ABOUT THIS!  Hope you come join me on this journey.

It’s exactly $100/month (not $97, or $99.99 to help convince you buy….just plain-old $100).

You can signup below (make sure to enter your correct shipping address at checkout):

[NEVILLE'S LETTERS SUBSCRIBES ARE CLOSED RIGHT NOW!]

 

December 2012 Goals

HO HO HO, GOT YO GOALS??

…wait, that doesn’t rhyme at all unless you say it in a ghetto accent :-)

Well here’s my goals for December 2012:

December 2012 Goals

If you don’t see progress, please bitch at me.

I always find December the most distracting year, so having goals set out is EXTRA helpful this month!